"Eat up, Mr Riddle. That's it, nice and slow." Theodore brought a shaking spoonful of porridge to his dry mouth, barely able to enjoy the taste of it. After his recent episode, the boy could only feel pain throughout his entire body, from the stabbing stomach pains to his bones searing at every single movement. He was in complete agony, both in body and in mind. The separation from the diary felt damaging, like it was a part of him. And now it was gone. It was gone and she took it. Hermione had his father in her hands and she didn't even know it. Theodore needed it back. What he had seen, what he had realised was beyond her nature. He needed the diary so bad…
"I'm really thirsty," choked the boy as he tried to swallow what little saliva he had left in his mouth.
"Here, some Pumpkin Juice. I know that it's not exactly helpful but you look terrible, my dear. What caused you to become like this?" Theodore shrugged as he sipped the juice from the silver goblet. He knew exactly what had happened. The diary was gone and he needed it back.
"How long have I been like this?" Theodore asked weakly as he finished half of the Pumpkin Juice.
"Six days, dear boy. You're lucky that Christmas is tomorrow, seeing as how your friends must surely miss you." Theodore craned his neck to see his bedside table empty. No letters, no get well cards or sweets. Nobody had sent him anything.
"Did… did anybody visit me at all?"
"Yes, there was a ginger girl who was most likely a Weasley, the Malfoy boy and the Gryffindor girl in your year. Parvati, I think her name was."
"Draco came to visit me," asked the boy to himself, almost forgetting that Draco had existed. The resentment for what he did, still stuck with Theodore as he knew that he could not forgive him for what he said to Hermione. Hermione… Everything was coming back to him now. It all flowed back inside slowly, careful to not push the boy into the depths of insanity with his barely functioning mind. The diary was calling to him, yearning for his presence to connect entirely with the memory that lived inside of it. But he was punished for what he had felt to Hermione, and the four victims. All for something as simple as regret.
"Come on, Mr Riddle. You haven't got all day to finish that bowl."
"I-I don't feel so good." Theodore looked queasy from his pale, hollow cheeks. He looked thinner than ever with his eyes slightly sunken into his sockets, and his hair losing that sheen which made it look so healthy. Underneath his clothes, his rib cage was protruding oddly, further indicating the boy's lack of food. He didn't know how he could become so skinny in such a short amount of time. He was ugly, inside and out.
"Wait there, sweetheart. Here, drink some-" Vomit and blood spurted out from the boy's mouth as he lurched to the side, holding his stomach in severe pain. Madam Pomfrey refrained herself from shrieking in anxiety, and instead rushed to her trolley of medical equipment to find anything for Theodore. The Parselmouth groaned and felt his chest close in again, choking on the little air that his lungs allowed in. "Stay strong, Theodore! Don't you dare slip away!"
"Can't… breathe…" Madam Pomfrey came quickly to his side and placed something in his mouth before pointing her wand to the boy's chest. After she muttered a single word, Theodore felt his chest expand as the oxygen flooded into his lungs again. "What's wrong with me?"
"I don't know. I've never seen anything like this. I mean, you're supposed to be getting better, not worse…"
"I'm getting worse? I'm dying?!" The nurse held the boy's cheeks gently to stop him from breaking down completely in tears.
"You are not dying. You will not die, Theodore. Listen to me. You will not die." Theodore stared into Madam Pomfrey's eyes as he trembled. He felt like he was dying. His heart would sometimes stop all of a sudden, just slightly before it would beat its unhealthy rhythm again.
'I need it, the diary. I need the diary. But she has it… Hermione's got my diary. She has the diary and I need it back. She… She doesn't know what's she's doing… He's going to kill her.'
"Theodore? Are you listening," asked the nurse worryingly. The boy had completely dozed off into the horrid abyss of his mind, not acknowledging the question asked before he was given a little shake. Theodore nodded his head before claiming that he wanted to go back to sleep. "Sure, darling. Anything you need."
As he laid over to his side, Theodore kept his eyes wide open as he planned on doing something disastrous, something that could easily go wrong. If he had gotten caught, then everyone would accuse him as the monster that he truly was, an actual killer hiding among innocents. The Aurors would come to take him away to Azkaban, where he would remain rotting away for his crimes. But he had to do it. He needed it back before he'd kill her for what she was. He had to save her before she too, would fall victim to the cursed Riddles. He had to…
'Seek me, Theodore. Find me. I need your help… I need you, son.'
'I can't let you in anymore. Please, leave me… please…'
'You can't? But you already did, Theodore... I am a part of you, just like you are a part of me. Our bond can never be broken. You and I, are the same. And you can't deny it…'
'I'm nothing like you… I will never become like you! Y-you're a piece of vile, cruel filth just like Vol-'
'Seek me, Theodore. Seek me…'
He rose from his bed, completely silent in the dead hospital wing. Not even the whirls of the snow outside could penetrate the windows as the only noise that could be heard was the thunderous beat of Theodore's heart. Draped in his pyjamas and a thin white blanket, Theodore stepped away from his area, and stood in the centre of the wing. All six of his victims surrounded him like demons who had arrived to drag him to his damnation. Only they were still and silent. Each one displayed a permanent face of horror, probably petrified to the very soul that it was the only emotion that they could feel at that moment. He walked over to each one in order, gazing upon each moonlit face, somehow unable to feel regret. Theodore couldn't find anything near remorse to seeing Colin stuck in his petrified state. Not even a single shred. The diary had twisted him into such darkness, that he was incapable of feeling affection to others. A hollowed out boy, overdosed with hate and corruption. He needed the diary. He needed to find Tom before it was too late.
The doors of the hospital wing swung open just enough to let the boy through, without giving him away by the screeching of the metal hinges. The corridors were even colder than before. Some ice had crawled up to the portraits on the walls, spreading so profusely that it had even formed icicles from the ceilings above. They refracted the moonlight across the corridor where Theodore stepped, lighting his path like they purposely led him to where he wanted to. Theodore struggled to keep his balance while he covered his nose to stop the cold from entering. No matter how empty the hallways had become, something would always be lurking around the corner, a teacher, a prefect, a cat or even his best friends. Sleeping in Hogwarts seemed near damn impossible these days.
Theodore curved around every corner, stopping at each one to see if Snape or McGonagall would be on the lookout after what had happened last week. They'd be foolish for not having any teachers guarding the hallways when the castle slept, and even more foolish to allow prefects like Percy, to roam the castle like he was an officer.
"…you'll love it, I promise."
"I think you'll like my present as well, although you might want to open it away from your brothers. I know how they get around you, Percy."
"Don't worry, Penny. I'll keep them in line, after all," said the red head as he pointed to his prefect badge. Theodore watched them from the hidden shadows in the corner, confused by what were they doing there together. Sure, Dumbledore would have all of the prefects out and about like obedient policemen, but it was odd to see Percy and Penny, or whoever she was, here in an area far from any of the other's where Theodore had intended to kill the Muggle-borns. The two prefects babbled some more until they instantly smacked their lips against each other, practically sucking each other's faces. Theodore backed away quickly from the growing moans of Percy's 'friend', not wanting to see a second more.
'Is that what it means to be a prefect? To snog in the corridors when there's terror in the castle? If it ever came to that then-'
His knees turned weak instantly as he saw the doors of the haunted bathroom lie before his eyes. Series of whispers and hisses came from the inside, making the boy think that Myrtle was doing whatever the ghosts did during the night. Theodore fought and conquered the urge to return to the bathroom, and carried on down the frigid hallway. He ascended the multiple stairways of Hogwarts Castle, still feeling the icy air slice his skin, finally arriving to his anticipated destination. Gryffindor Tower. The password remained unchanged as the half-awake Fat Lady allowed the freezing Heir into the common room, replenishing him of the scarce heat that was full within the Tower.
Theodore set the blanket aside as he rubbed his hands while walking to the fire. Gryffindor Common Room had must've been the best place to be in the castle during the winter. Theodore couldn't think of a room better than here.
"I still can't believe that I'm in Gryffindor. It's funny, almost." Theodore whispered to himself. Now that Theodore was here, he had no idea how to get the diary from Hermione. He knew that the girls' dorm was inaccessible to all the boys, and that if he waited outside the dorm all night, he'd fall to sleep soon enough. Now he had to leave all the way back to the hospital wing in the cursed cold. Theodore was thinking to himself that it wasn't such a great plan to search for the diary this late at night. Surely, Hermione would take it with her to the feast tomorrow, giving Theodore the slim opportunity to save her.
"Harry? Is that you?" A voice from the stairway of the girls side, called out. Theodore dived behind one of the plush armchairs in the obscurer parts of the common room. "Harry! Harry, where are you?"
"We're the only ones here, Hermione. Relax." Another familiar voice replied. Hermione and Ron both walked out from their respective stairways, followed by Harry who was wearing a thick maroon jumper and striped pyjama trousers. Ron was clad in similar clothing and Hermione wore a short-sleeved nightdress with a red dressing gown. The three looked like they hadn't noticed Theodore, neither did they look like they were sleeping at all.
"I thought I heard something else… anyway. What are we going to do about our current 'situation'?" Hermione asked as she tied her hair back into a bun.
"I still think it's bullshit," muttered Ron as he rubbed his chin. "I don't believe it one bit."
"Come on, Ron. We've told you everything that we know, how could you not believe us?" Harry protested.
"Because! To think of something like that is… bollocks! Not only are we not doing Theodore's plan, but you honestly suspect him as the Heir of Slytherin? I won't believe it." Theodore's heart sank to depths of his stomach. They knew that he was the Heir of Slytherin? That's the reason why they didn't visit him in the hospital wing, because they knew that it was him all along. Everything that they went through for the past year and a half, had been obliterated. His friends hated him.
"He's been lying to us, Ron. Every time when we would ask what was wrong, he'd lie to our faces and would turn away from us. He did that to his friends, and now… it all makes sense, don't you see? It makes sense!" Hermione spoke through a suppressed flurry of wild emotions. Seeing her this way almost made Theodore feel timid. Ron looked angry at the accusations towards the boy, then looked hesitant to accept the truth that was shielded by his friendship with Theodore.
"Not him… it can't be him… He's supposed to be our friend…" Ron sadly stammered. Theodore wanted to feel something for Ron, sadness and regret that he had betrayed his friends' trust. But all of that was stripped away. He couldn't feel. His heart had nothing to offer as the boy watched silently.
"I… I wanted it to be so wrong. I really did. Theodore was the last person in my mind to ever do something like this."
"Yeah," mumbled Ron, "he was. But what do we do now? Do we tell someone? Nobody will believe that Theodore is the one behind the attacks."
"We could try and convince him to turn himself in." Harry suggested with hesitation.
"And let him attack us if he doesn't comply? Come on, think of a better one." Hermione said. Ron and Harry looked at each other, then to Hermione. The Muggle-born didn't seem to catch onto their sudden idea, despite her keen intuition. "What is it?"
"You should be the one to convince him, Hermione." Ron finally said in slightly grim voice.
"That's… a terrible idea!"
"It's the best one that we have! Out of all three of us, you're the one closest to Theo." Hermione couldn't find anything to say. Theodore was the Heir of Slytherin, tasked to kill the Muggle-borns of Hogwarts just like herself. There was no telling what horror he could inflict on her, if he was beyond saving.
"I really want to help him, but I'm- what was that?" The sound of a door closing came from the portrait door. All three of them were stunned by the possibility of their conversation being heard from unwelcome ears. While they decided to put forward their plan to uncover Theodore's horrific endeavours, the Parselmouth sprinted through the castle, ignoring the pain from his brittle bones.
'How do they know? They couldn't possibly… I'm going to get expelled. They're going to send me to Azkaban and it's all his fault. I need that diary, right now. I need it…'
Theodore slipped through the hospital wing doors and jumped underneath his bedsheets, forcing himself to go sleep. The turmoil prevented him from falling asleep, constantly reminding him that he had no friends as his psyche began to pull apart. Retribution was upon the boy now, as his short-lived life at Hogwarts would come to an end. He'd never graduate from Hogwarts to become the great wizard he was destined to be. He'd never reveal to Harry that he was Theodore's only living blood relative. He'd never even get the chance to see Madam, or Erveris and Ms Padalin, Tom, Viripin, Sawer, Elise or Louise again. The last name broke his heart when he realised how he hadn't talked to her in weeks. This was all his doing. This was all because of Tom Riddle, his own damn father.
'I don't want to go…'
The morning didn't feel a thing like Christmas when Theodore woke up from his dreaded slumber. The formation of ice on the windows didn't excite him at all. The decorations that Madam Pomfrey herself sprawled along the walls didn't once make the troubled boy feel happy in any sort of way. They barely even scratched the surface. While he still looked a bit thin on the bones, Theodore was allowed to go to the Christmas Feast, something that he used to look forward to.
There were only three presents that he had received and none of which came from Harry, Hermione or Ron. A full box of sweets came from Parvati in a neatly wrapped present with a red and yellow ribbon. Ginny had sent him a 'Get Well/Merry Christmas' card which had a detailed paragraph, apologising for something vague. Theodore had to admit that her gesture was sweet but it felt odd that Ginny out of all people, would send him a card. The final one was from Ms Padalin, another letter which was slightly soiled, but nevertheless heartfelt and slightly uplifting. Theodore only wished that his mother had given him some sort of inheritance so that he was able to give something to the Padalins. It was a shame to see foul people like the Malfoys, drowning in wealth when those who deserved it didn't even have three Knuts to their name.
Theodore hid his presents under his bed after taking a few bites out of the Pumpkin Pasties, then was finally excused from the hospital wing, after the multiple checkups which led to the afternoon. Despite the Great Hall's splendour with the glorious Christmas Trees, flying ornaments and the snowy enchanted ceiling, Theodore was still compelled by his paranoia to not feel joyous about the day. The amount of students were not as small as Theodore was expecting, having a decent amount of people on each table. Hermione, Ron and Harry were nowhere to be seen, allowing Theodore to pick a seat without feeling awkward. He sat himself beside Parvati at the very far end of Gryffindor table.
"Theodore, you're finally out! How are you?" Parvati asked quickly as she clutched the boy's right arm tightly. Theodore heard a few wolf whistles from the Slytherins and Ravenclaws alike, and managed to pull the girl away from him.
"Still feel like shit. I can barely keep my head on my shoulders. Feels like it's full of lead."
"Well I'm glad that you're almost okay. Did you see my present? I hoped you liked it." Theodore smiled a little as he replied to Parvati.
"Yeah. Thank you, Parvati. Really." Theodore scratched the back of his hair as he nervously looked away. Parvati tried to follow where his distant eyes led to, but gave up in the end.
"Is there something wrong? Wait… you don't like it, do you? Oh god, I'm such an idiot! Sweets are the most basic of presents, how could I be so stupid?!" Theodore held her shoulders firmly to stop her from drawing attention to themselves. After she become silent, Theodore leaned in to whisper.
"I do like it, I really do. I just… I don't really have… any money to buy you anything." Parvati simply shrugged and fixed her winter hat on her head as she spoke a bit louder.
"You don't have to get me anything. Although, a kiss under the mistletoe would be nice…" Theodore's cheeks became red as he frowned, embarrassed. Parvati giggled as she punched him in the arm. "It was a joke, Theo. You know, that thing when after it's told, you laugh? Lighten up, it's Christmas!"
"I guess so." From the very corner of his eye, Theodore saw the trio walk in together with the spirit that was lacking inside Theodore. Harry was wearing what looked like a hand-knitted sweater, as well as Ron, and Hermione also wore a sweater which looked store-bought. The Parselmouth had no clue if they had noticed him at all, and carried on talking with Parvati, who was much less annoying without Lavender. The teachers and the remaining students were all gathered in the Great Hall, ready to tuck in to the long awaited feast.
"A time where we join with friends and family, let us not forget of these times where we are together. Do not let these terrors shake you, for we are strong enough to fight our own… demons." Dumbledore spoke clearly, turning his eyes for a second to Theodore. "Now! Let us enjoy our feast! Dig in!"
Theodore piled his plate with all the things that he could eat. Turkey strips, turkey legs, mashed potatoes with gravy, roasted potatoes with gravy, boiled potatoes with gravy, you name it. Theodore took his time to chew, careful to not choke in the middle of the feast. If he was sent back to the hospital wing, he'd probably never leave. He ate alongside Parvati, who still managed to find a way to eat and talk.
"Are you coming up to the common room, tonight? The twins got fireworks which we're going to fire outside of the window." Parvati asked as she finished a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
"Maybe. I don't know. I'd rather just stay here or go somewhere else."
"Well, I can't think of a place where you can go besides up there. Don't you want to be with Hermione, Harry and Ron?" Theodore's face fell in colour as he didn't respond. He continued to eat the succulent turkey legs, still unsure on how to retrieve the diary. If he somehow presented it to somebody, like the Minister of Magic, maybe they will see what he- no. That wouldn't work. What would a simple diary have do with the reopening of the Chamber of Secrets?
"I'll come up. I promise." Parvati grinned then elbowed him gently. As stupid as the promise may have looked like, Theodore knew for a fact that his father's diary was in the Tower, and that there was no other way possible. If they tried to tell him to give himself up, he'd deny everything. All of this was because of him, so it had to be only him. They couldn't know, nobody could. The main dinner was finished off and the Christmas puddings took their places. The taste was unlike anything else. Theodore had just finished two when his eye alerted him of somebody coming closer to him. A familiar bush of hair bounced as Hermione walked closer from the other side of the table. Theodore shakily grabbed his goblet of Pumpkin Juice, as he drunk it quickly.
"Careful, Theo! You're going to drown yourself. Here, take a napkin." Theodore took the napkin and wiped his mouth as Hermione neared. She didn't even look like she wanted to come over in the first place. Theodore was ready to swivel out of his chair and walk straight past her when he heard his name from the front table. Professor McGonagall called out to him, saving him from what could've been the worst conversation of his life. He hurried over to her, not seeing Hermione having already turned back, to see what the Head of Gryffindor had to say.
"Good afternoon, Mr Riddle and Merry Christmas to you."
"And to you, Professor. Is there something wrong?"
"Oh no! Of course not, dear boy. It's just good to see you well enough to join the feast. After what happened last week, I dreaded to hear what could become of you. But I am glad that you are alright," said the Transfiguration professor, smiling once again to the boy.
"Well, I hope that you have a good one, Professor. Merry Christmas, again." Theodore said as he slowly backed away. Professor McGonagall nodded as the boy returned to his seat next to Parvati. Although brief, Theodore valued that McGonagall cared for him. Of course, she would as she was the Head of Gryffindor, but to Theodore it felt more genuine. Everyone ate and ate until they could eat no more. The stomach-stuffed children of Hogwarts all finished their wonderful feast to return to their beds where sleep would welcome them. Theodore was especially tired and was partially glad to receive news that Madam Pomfrey had sent his things back up to the dorm, from Sawer himself. The owl was beyond overjoyed to see his owner again, as it had been far too long since they had last seen each other. Before leaving with the rest of Gryffindors, Theodore snuck a few half-eaten turkey legs for the owl and Viripin, if she was even still in the dorm. Theodore had no qualms into thinking that Viripin would've left his bed after the way he had treated her. He hated himself for that.
Percy led the remaining Gryffindors up the stairs with Theodore trailing behind. Sawer was perched on his shoulder and Parvati made some effort to talk to him while making sure that she didn't accidentally fall off to the side. Everyone spilled out to different corners of the common room while Theodore went straight to the dorms. He had to know if Viripin was still up there.
"Viripin," asked the boy in Parseltongue, "are you here? Viripin? Viripin… she's gone, isn't she?" Theodore looked under his bed to see the shedding of the snake, but not her. The boy didn't even deserve her, anyways. She was probably better off wherever she was, away from him. Sawer hooted sadly from seeing the boy's face losing all the happiness and life that he once had.
"Theodore? You in here?" Theodore whipped his head around, expecting Harry or Ron but he wasn't that far off. Percy stood by the doorway, wearing his jumper with a smile on his face. "Oh, hello. Aren't you coming down? Everyone else is going to be awake for a while before they go sleep."
"I'll come down soon." Theodore said quietly. He hadn't forgotten about him and Penny in the hallways, sucking the life out of each other.
"Sure thing. See you later." As the elder Weasley left down the stairs, Theodore opened his suitcase and brought out his writing equipment. Viripin was probably long gone, further away than what he even thought. He couldn't do anything about that. But the least he could do was to tell the remaining people he cared about what they meant to him before he'd get locked up like a caged animal. They deserved better than to care for a monster like him.
Theodore walked down to the main room and towards the back tables, alone with Sawer. The Weasleys were playing Exploding Snap in the middle of the room and caught sight of the boy sitting by himself. The twins called him over to play but Theodore politely refused, wanting to keep to himself. The Parselmouth kept his head down and wrote away on three long parchments.
"Theodore?" After half an hour had passed so quickly, Theodore looked up to see Hermione standing on the other end of the round table. Her façade of an emotionless expression masked the hurt that dwelled deep inside of the girl. Theodore could read her just like that, and she could probably do the same vice-versa.
"Yes?" He replied in a monotone. Theodore made sure to not break under pressure, no matter how strong it was.
"Can I sit down?" Theodore only lifted his eyebrows. The girl drew out the chair from underneath the table and sat down in front of the boy. She sat there in silence, not knowing what to say after not visiting him for a week. She had her reasons to why she did that.
"Well? I'm sure you didn't come over here to stare at my face. You already had a nice angle all the way over there."
"H-how have you been?" Theodore scoffed at the question.
"How have I been… How have I been?" The boy could feel the anger trying to leak out from his tongue to curse her out when he regained his composure.
'That isn't me. Relax, Theo. Relax.'
"I've been better." Hermione nodded slowly as she kept silent again. The fear in her eyes was too blatant for even the most oblivious to miss. If she knew that he was the Heir of Slytherin, then why did she even care to keep his secret under wraps? Wasn't it in her nature to do the right thing? Shouldn't she save herself from him?
"The dinner was nice, wasn't it? I didn't expect it to be that good but-"
"What do you want, Hermione?"
"I know, Theodore."
"You know…?" Hermione's eyes were starting to go red. She was fighting tears but Theodore couldn't do anything about that.
"I know what you did, Theo. You don't have to hide it anymore, we know." Theodore looked over Hermione's shoulder to look at Harry and Ron.
"Did what? Killed somebody, stole something, what?" There it was. Silent tears. They streamed down her face as she watched him act clueless in front of her.
"You're doing it again…" Hermione muttered under her breath.
"Lying to me! I know that it's you who did the at-" Theodore twitched his neck as he closed his eyes. The bloodlust from inside of him was returning, but he couldn't stop it. Hermione froze upon her words as she expected the red eyes to emerge when he reopened them. But all that she could see was his usual hazel. "I… I know that you're a Parselmouth. I heard you speak it with my own two ears last year, in the Forbidden Forest. I know that you were… o-obsessed with Slytherin because you had some connection to him. I know that you're the Heir of Slytherin, Theodore… Theodore…?"
Theodore could barely hold back. The diary's imprint of its devilish nature was infecting him, killing the already dying compassion he had for Hermione. He didn't want to hurt her. 'He' wanted to kill her and 'he' was using him, like a parasite. Theodore didn't care that Hermione didn't visit him when he was dying in the hospital wing, or that she knew everything. He had to save her, but he couldn't. Everything good about him was dying, and he couldn't do anything.
"I'm not going anywhere, Theodore. I don't want Dumbledore, or the Minister of Magic to find out later when it's too late. Just…" She didn't know what to say. Even if he admitted that he was the Heir, he'd probably still be expelled, maybe even to Azkaban. They weren't helping him at all.
"Leave… please…" The bloodlust was rising.
"I'm not leaving! Tell me! Please!"
"Hermione… help me…" It was almost funny how they truly spoke through their eyes alone. Hermione saw not evil, malicious intent or bloodlust. No, she only saw a broken boy who was heavily damaged. He looked tortured, fearful and destroyed. Hermione promised herself to not let the boy get to her. She promised that no matter what, Theodore Riddle wouldn't make her feel sorry for him again. She promised, and she broke. Hermione held the boy's thin hands as she leaned in closer, desperate for the boy to let her in, once in his life.
"Theo? Talk to me, please… Why do you need help, i-is it… what is it?" She whispered frantically.
"He's… going to kill… you. He's… going to kill you…" Theodore said through pauses. He tried to think of her soft hands against his own for they eased the influence of his father. Tom was growing, stronger and stronger…
"You don't have it? The diary?" Hermione shook her head and held his hand tighter than before. If he was telling the truth, then that diary must've been the cause of all of this. But who was 'he'? Did the diary warp Theodore's mind so much that he made such an attachment to call it a he? "I… I shouldn't have told you… stay away from me… before I hurt you…" Theodore released her grip on his hands and took everything away to the dorm room. Hermione watched him trudge weakly up the stairs and out of sight, changing almost everything. Theodore did open the Chamber of Secrets. But not because he wanted to, but because of something else. That damned… his father's diary. Theodore needed them to save him. They had to save him or otherwise…
'You left me…'
'I was never with you in the first place! Get out of my head!"
"I SAID GET OUT!'
'I won't. You'll know who you truly are, Theodore. You will know what sacredness, what power flows in your very blood. And soon, you will know who 'I' am."
"This voice… I know this voice…
The Heir snapped his eyes open to the sudden change of balance and smell. That familiar stench which crossed his nose every time he left through the snake-door. He was inside of the Chamber. The wet floor, the half-sunken statue and the snakes on either side. This was no dream. The accursed dungeon was like his own prison, unwelcoming and cold. He didn't want to be here. He loathed the Chamber. He hated the Chamber, he hated his father, he hated Slytherin and anything to do with him, including himself. Theodore blinked as his eyelids scraped along the dry surface of his eyeballs. He went to wipe his brow when he realised that something was in his hand. Tom Riddle's diary. He threw as hard as he could down the middle of the pathway, and ran towards the Chamber doors.
'No, no no no… please, save me. Anyone, save me please! Don't let him take me… Don't let him take me!'
"Somebody help me, please!" He screamed as the door refused to open. He tried to hiss in Parseltongue but it all sounded like English to him. He was trapped in the Chamber, for it would be his tomb. His skeleton would lie in here forever, never to be found…
"Theodore?" An unfamiliar voice called out from the other end. Theodore began to panic as his breathing became harmful again. The air was too thick and he was already in so much pain. Whoever was there brought him down here, probably to execute him for what he did. He was an animalistic bastard, deserving to be cut down where he stood.
"I-I'm sorry! Please, I'm telling you that I'm sorry! I'm sorry for everything! I'm…" Somebody stepped out from behind the snake pillars, revealing themselves to the disturbed boy. It was a boy of about sixteen years old, draped in an old-looking Hogwarts uniform. The green trailings showed Theodore that he was in Slytherin, but none of his uniform intrigued the boy in the slightest. It was the face. It was as if Theodore was looking into a mirror that had aged him. The older boy didn't share the dark brown texture of the younger boy, but he had the exact same cheeks and eyebrows, chin and forehead, lips and eye shape. Even the way he stood told Theodore that this was his father. This was Tom Riddle, sixteen years old but not exactly in the flesh. He was somewhat faint, translucent and not solid. Theodore could see that clearly when he walked up to him. "Stay back! I said stay back!"
"With no wand?" Tom retorted. His smirk was exactly like Theodore's. Tom then softened his face and held his hands up. "Relax, I'm not going to hurt you. It's not like I could anyways."
"You're outside the diary," said the younger Riddle as he pointed a shaky finger to his father. "H-how are you doing that? Why are you outside the diary, and why am I here?!"
"You can thank Ginny for that. After your little… breakdown, Ginny merely borrowed the diary to keep it safe until later purposes. She knew how that Mudblood friend of yours would take the diary to Dumbledore and-"
"Shut up! Shut the fuck up! Don't call Hermione a Mudblood!" Tom laughed in a high tone that hushed Theodore from how disgusting it sounded.
"Awww, my 'little boy' has got a little crush on a Mudblood! How… insulting. You almost killed two Muggle-borns, a filthy Squib and three others yet you still have a soft spot for Hermione. How pathetic." Theodore felt trapped in a corner. For some reason, he was unable to speak Parseltongue, and for all he knew, Tom could probably set the Basilisk on him. No wand, no protection, Theodore could only speak and nothing more.
"You… you talked to Ginny first, didn't you? That's why I found her in the bathroom with the diary. You were going to use her, like you used me."
"I never used you, Theo. I just brought out the me… in you. You and I are the same. You don't think that I haven't listened to those dreams that you have every night, always convincing yourself that you're 'good' and 'brave'? Ginny proved to be emotionally flexible and naïve, easy to manipulate. I was going to use her to reopen the Chamber when I crossed none other, than my own son. The next Heir of Slytherin." Theodore didn't want to hear anymore but he was tormented to give in. He wanted to die, quickly and painlessly, just to be away from here. "Finally, one of my many tasks that I wanted to pursue had happened after my time. I had a child who would carry on my work at Hogwarts, purge the school of the filth that walked through the halls. You made me realise that I must've accomplished wonders in my future."
"You're dead," said the younger boy bluntly. "You're dead because you were destroyed by the Dark Arts. There's probably nothing left of you now. Destroyed and broken. You didn't achieve nothing and you want to know why? Because NOBODY… knows who you are." Tom grinned evilly at Theodore's words. Theodore knew that smile. He did that when people said things that were true, but they had no idea what they really meant. "Why are you smiling?"
"I'll tell you later. I want you to hear everything. After you found the diary, I had to peek inside of your mind, searching to see if any of me resided within you. I had to scour through the filthy lies of Dumbledore and the pain you endured in the Muggle orphanage. I know that pain all too well. It wasn't until then I saw it. Deep deep down, was me. I was there, buried under everything and so I sought to bring it out, day by day. You let me in entirely, so I released me in you. You and I became closer every time your quill touched the diary. You became ruthless, hungry for power and worthy of carrying the name of Salazar Slytherin. I was proud of you, Theodore. We were going to do great things. Until the Mudblood came closer to you. Every time you'd talk to her or even thought about her, my influence was slipping. I couldn't hold on because something that you have, stopped me from entering in. Something that I can't fight. But it's alright. It's alright."
"What's alright…" Tom walked closer and closer to Theodore until he stood above. He was much taller than him, thin like him as well but much more threatening. He was like Theodore, an devil disguised as an angel.
"It's alright, because you're going to kill her."
"You are going to kill that Mudblood with the Basilisk and you will do it because I command you to do so. Do you hear me, Theodore? I command you to kill that Mudblood for our ancestor!"
"NO! I WON'T DO IT! I WON'T! I WON'T!"
"You can scream all you want but nobody can hear us down here," said the elder Riddle calmly in Parseltongue. Theodore just thought of anything to make him go away. Louise, Hermione, Harry or Ron, he needed someone to save him. Why did nobody save him? "You're a fighter. Good. This will benefit me most when you release me from the bondage of the diary. Release me, Theodore. Release me." Theodore shook his head as he backed up against the snake door. He could only think about Louise, how she'd lost her first friend without knowing it. How the boy she knew died months ago. That was all who he could think about. Nobody else. He heard Tom groan in frustration as he backed away, holding his right temple painfully. "Clever! Thinking about that filthy Muggle to keep me out! I respect that. But you won't keep me out for so long. I will take you, Theodore."
"I won't do it. If I can't stop you, then Harry will. And if not him, Dumbledore." Tom's face lit up when he heard Harry's name. Suddenly strong again, the elder Riddle straightened his back as he walked up and down in front of Theodore, eager to tell his son what was on hanging off his tongue.
"Ah yes. Harry Potter. Ginny's told me a lot about him. Her bounded infatuation for the boy, the way he talks, the way he smells. She had given me so much in the past week that I knew everything there was to know about him. I knew what he had done that made him famous. The Boy Who Lived." Theodore caught on quickly.
"He defeated Voldemort, so what," spat the boy.
"Yes. He destroyed the greatest sorcerer in the world from when he was a mere baby. How is that, Theodore? I'd like to know." Theodore thought long and hard on how Harry managed to defeat Voldemort at such a young age. It was impossible if it had been of his own power. No baby could resist someone as powerful as Voldemort. He couldn't think through the pounding of his brain.
"Because he was a failure. He may have killed and inflicted terror within everyone but he was just a failure. He even tried to come back to power last year but we stopped him, me and Harry. He's just a filthy parasite, clinging onto life like a disease who deserves far less than to roam the earth like one. He doesn't scare me at all. Not anymore." Tom's grin became so wide that it stretched his cheeks unnaturally. Theodore wanted to run. The elder Riddle came closer to a frozen Theodore and leaned in to his ear to destroy what little will he had, with the those wretched ten words.
"Now is that any way," whispered Tom with such horrid nature as his eyes flashed scarlet, "to talk about you father?" Everything just froze. Theodore's body became limp as he slid down to the ground, holding his head in denial.
"You're lying," whispered the boy who's throat became hoarse. "You're a liar. Don't lie to me."
"When have I ever lied to you, my son? I've been honest from the moment you spoke to me. I have no reason to lie."
"DON'T LIE TO ME!" Tom moved backwards as his sincere face was unmoved. "Oh god… oh god… no," whimpered Theodore as tears ran down his cheeks. "No… No…" He couldn't hold back at all. Theodore cried in front of Tom, absolutely broken beyond repair. He was so utterly destroyed that he couldn't think about Louise no more. He gave himself completely up. There was no reason to fight back. How could you find the strength to fight back, when you carried the blood of the darkest wizard to ever live? How could he live with himself knowing that his father slaughtered his aunt and uncle in cold blood, all to kill Harry, his own cousin? Theodore didn't want to live anymore. He wished that death would take him where he sat, snatching him away from a life of suffering. He didn't want to be the Son of the Dark Lord. He didn't want to.
The tears became silent but the revelation had killed him on the inside. His body still limp against the snake door, Theodore hung his head above his knees, unable to speak. To move. To feel. All he wanted was death. Tom knelt and brought his son's face up by his chin to look at him with something resembling sorrow but it wasn't that at all.
"Look at me, Theodore. I will never… lie to you. That bastard Dumbledore has interfered with both of our lives for so long so we must fight back, the both of us. Be strong, Theodore. Be strong for me. Be strong for Salazar. Please. Please, be strong." Tom stared into the hazel eyes that was void of Theodore's spirit. He had taken the boy under control, ready to use as a medium to carry out his work. Or rather, to carry out his objective. The objective that his future self had suffered for nearly fourteen years. "Harry Potter…"
Within the depths of the broken boy's mind, Theodore was almost docile, barely conscious to his father's words. Voldemort was his father. Theodore Riddle was the son of Lord Voldemort…
"Sleep, Theodore. Sleep…"
The nightmares had turned into hallucinations in the daytime. Everywhere he'd look, there was Tom standing in the corner smiling or Voldemort perched in the shadows inside of the castle. No matter how far he'd run, his father was always there. No matter where he disposed the diary, it would always come back to him. It leeched itself onto him with such force that it was unshakable. Theodore was losing his mind and was quickly spiralling into insanity. He tried to destroy the diary many times, failing at every turn with the burning pain returning. He'd stab it, burn it, tried to rip it but it never succumbed. The diary was impenetrable and invincible, and Theodore was its slave.
The rest of the holidays was beyond torturous for him. Almost every night, he'd find himself waking up in the Chamber of Secrets, reminding him of what he was, a spawn of Voldemort. Theodore would always find a way out but it only meant that he'd return against his free will. He could never stay awake for so long that he'd resist his father's control, but was aware that he was lurking inside of his head. Tom was like a virus that he could not get rid of. He was always there.
"Riddle! Careful where you put the Baneberry, it's highly poisonous! Riddle! Do you not hear me?!" Theodore had his back turned to Snape who was busy rearranging the notes he had on his desk. The boy didn't say a word as he stuffed the Baneberry vial in the cupboard without that much care. In an instant, Snape swooped to his side and caught the falling vial in his hand, placing it carefully among the other ingredients while he closed the door firmly. Theodore stepped backwards, still unresponsive to the present anger that was boiling on Snape's face. "You do that again boy, and I'll make sure that you won't step in this classroom again. Do I make myself clear?"
"I said do I make-" Snape stopped in between his sentence to see the boy's face. Pale, distant and emotionless. Theodore looked like a doll who wasn't given their permanent emotion. If he couldn't move at all, he might as well could have been dead. Snape lowered his head, and for the first time, showed genuine worry for the broken Heir. "Theodore," whispered the Potions Master. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Professor. I'm… fine." Theodore forced a smile which looked all too fake to Snape. His eyes had no life to them as did his voice. Like a puppet.
"Theodore… tell me… what's wrong." Theodore shook his head, still dead in the eyes. Snake blinked as lifted his head. His black hair fell in front of his face as some hid his beady eyes that for a while, showed compassion in a long time. "Alright. You're excused. I'll finish up myself. Leave." Theodore quietly grabbed his bag and walked out of the room. Unbeknownst to Snape, the boy's father loomed above him like a spectre who haunted him. He spoke in his ear, hissing in Parseltongue, sometimes as Tom, sometimes as Voldemort. Theodore barely spoke a word to him or to anyone, pacing the castle like a zombie. He screamed for help, for Hermione or Harry or Ron or Dumbledore to save him but nothing came out. All that he was, vanished.
January punished Theodore by stretching out so thin, still enduring the horrid nights of waking up in the Chamber. Some days, he'd even remain down there for the night, desperate for sleep despite the murky slime on his pyjamas. Hermione tried so hard to break through to him, not knowing that he grew a little stronger when she was close, but he'd instantly falter the second she'd leave. Tom chanted 'Kill the Mudblood' in his ear multiple times, almost urging the boy to rip his ears out. He told her to stay away before she'd get hurt? Why didn't she listen?
February came along as Theodore couldn't take it anymore. The pain of clawing his sore fingers up the pipe every night, had driven him to the edge as he wanted no more. No more of sleepless nights, climbing back up to the girls' bathroom. No more pain. No more.
The worst of days had come around for it was Valentines Day. A day where everyone else felt so hopeful while others felt despair, all for different reasons against Theodore's. Everyone was gathered in the Great Hall for breakfast, heavily decorated with sickening pink flowers and heart-winged butterflies who carried letters to various people. Hermione watched Theodore, two seats and on the opposite side away from her, remain uncaring for the mountain of Valentine cards that towered in front of him. He only sat neutrally, eating spoonful after spoonful. The fact that he wasn't talking unnerved the Muggle-born. She removed herself from Lavender and Seamus and walked around the table to sit next to the silent boy. Theodore side-eyed her then carried on eating without a word.
"Looks like you're going to need help with opening all these letters, huh?"
"Will you open them?"
"I don't know." Hermione looked at the boy's handsome face, wondering what was going through his head. Something horrible, she was sure of it. Hermione placed her hand on the boy's own, feeling him tense up before relaxing again. He did this every time. Hermione sighed when she saw the boy still paying no attention to her.
"I'm not going to tell anyone, Theo." She whispered under the noise that filled the Hall. "None of us will. Alright? You don't have to tell us anything." Theodore's bottom jaw was quivering. Something was trying to get out.
"Message fer Theodore Riddle," shouted a dwarf in a white nappy, wearing golden wings and strumming a small harp. Five others were lined up behind him, eager to get their message across to the boy who wanted to be alone.
"Nope. Now listen. 'A-"Theodore whipped his head around and struck them a stare so terrifying that all six dwarves scurried off with their scruffy wings flapping behind them. He turned back around to his bowl of cereal but carried on rotating until he faced the Muggle-born on his left. He looked her up and down with his eyes only, somehow unable to take his gaze away from her.
"I told you to stay away from me. Before I would hurt you again." Hermione sighed again as she looked away, hand still clasped to Theodore's.
"You know I can't do that."
"I'm begging you. Please leave me al-" Theodore saw the elder Riddle stand right behind Hermione, using his hands to 'choke' Hermione while grinning viciously. He snapped his eyes shut as he locked fingers with Hermione under the table. 'Go away… go away… leave me…'
"Theo, your hand is cold…"
'Go away… just go away…'
As he opened his eyes, Tom was nowhere to be seen near the two, vanishing only for now. Theodore unlinked their hands together and returned to eating his cereal. The bell rung for the first lesson as Theodore carried his bag out of the Hall. Numerous people pushed past him, chasing or escaping the dwarves but it didn't irk him like it usually did. Nothing really did now these days. Alongside with the other Gryffindors, Theodore aimed to Charms class when another dwarf, much more burly than the others, blocked him from moving any further.
"I already told the others. Leave me alone." The dwarf grabbed his ankle and stopped the boy from leaving. The grip was almost painful, if not uncomfortable. "What the fuck? Get off me!"
"Please get off him! Now is 'not the time'!" Hermione pleaded as she ran over to the sudden commotion. Theodore watched her trying to pry the muscled dwarf off his leg as he looked puzzled.
"Now's not the time? Time for what?"
"Time for yer Valentine, now stay still," grumbled the dwarf as he spun around to send the two children on the floor. Theodore's bag spilt out onto the floor as the dwarf sung the poem that was hidden underneath his hairy-ridden armpit. He ignored it all as he collected his things in a desperate attempt to run away.
"Theo, are you alright?" Hermione asked as she knelt next to him to help him with his belongings.
"Yeah. Stupid dwarves. I can't believe that idiot was even allowed to do this. Who the hell even sent me that stupid Valentines anyways?" Theodore caught her blushing as she collected his cracked ink bottle. He turned to his right to see the diary next to his feet, and snatched it up the instant Hermione looked over his shoulder. The Parselmouth discreetly tucked it in his robes, out of sight before being handed his things by Hermione. The two brushed themselves off and walked away, ignoring the fact that they were the centre of attention in the corridor. As Hermione stuck rather closely to his side, Theodore could feel just an ounce of himself return. An ounce. Nothing more. It didn't heal the damage that was inflicted by his father. Nothing could aid that. Nothing. As the two entered Professor Flitwick's classroom and sat beside each other on the third row, Hermione asked him the only question which he'd falsely reply to.
"Are you okay, Theo?" Tom/Voldemort was standing in the corner, eyeing the boy with a vacant expression, not uttering a single word. Theodore nodded as he gave her a smile.
"Yeah. I'm okay, Hermione."
Well. Who didn't see that coming right? Totally the story twister(sarcasm)! So he knows! Our little Theo knows who his father is and he is a little more than distraught. In fact, I'd say he's been magically lobotomised, if that's a thing. Because I wanted to write so much more than this, we're having another three parter with the next chapter starting straight off at the end of this one.
Also, if you guys are ever just wondering(not saying that you are or should) about the OC pairing, just know that it's obvious yet not really at the same time, if that make sense. It will be far from now anyways, so you don't have to worry(again, not that you should). That's all I'm going to say for now. Look out for the next chapter guys. Later.
johnjohn1970: thanks. Love the support :)
Pattonatom: For a second I got scared there, lol. But thank you man, really made my day. Hope that you're enjoying the story (and I am a bro) :)