Author's Note: Now before you read this chapter, there are two things that you will need to know beforehand. First of all, this is a long-ass chapter, as it took me two hours to read through it, and almost double the time to write so be prepared. Another is that if you think that I forgot any certain characters in this chapter, I didn't. It'll make sense later but now, you have a chapter to read:)
"Put… the wand… down." The two children were held at wandpoint by the slightly crazed-looking professor, all three of them occupying the heavily humid area beneath the school. Lockhart was brandishing Theodore's wand, aiming at them with such rigidness, a simple gust of wind could topple him over. They weren't even halfway there and the problems were now arising.
"I don't think I will. You already know too much about me. I can't risk the both of you exposing me to everyone else," declared Lockhart as he gripped the wand tightly.
"Just so that you can expose me?" Theodore replied with his hands up. It was a mistake to bring the cowardly man along. An absolute mistake. "You can't just go back up without us! They'd… they'd…"
"Believe me, dear boy. My charm cannot be seen through, by any wizard or witch on this Earth! They'd eat up any story that I'll tell them when I escape. A man who was taken hostage as one of the Heir of Slytherin's final victims escapes, only just while the bodies of the innocent children remains as... remains."
"You can't do that!" Hermione exclaimed as she remained in her spot. "Not only are you a fraud and a coward, but you would willingly leave two children to die without feeling guilty! I can't believe I ever looked up to you!"
"My sweet, I thought that you were one of the smart ones, because you miscounted. Not just two children…" Lockhart heaved in a large amount of air and blew it all out through his mouth. "I'm awfully sorry that I have to do this, but don't worry. You won't remember a thing."
"Theo, I think he's going to-"
"Yeah," whispered the boy nervously as he recognised the hand movements for the Memory Charm. They were so close to rescuing Harry and Ginny but it was all over now. Every single thing that he experienced and treasured within his mind was to be erased with a single incantation. What was even worse, was that it was his own wand to be the one to clear his memories.
"Goodbye… Mr Riddle and Miss Granger. Obliviate!" Theodore kept his eyes open to see the man shred him of his own self, wanting to reel through every single thing that he knew before they'd vanish. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Louise, Dumbledore, Erveris and Terly, Viripin, Hogwarts, Stuggle's… wait. Why could he still remember Stuggle's, the place where his earliest memory had originated from? That memory wasn't vacant from his mind. In fact, Theodore didn't even feel any change to his state of mind at all. So many questions were racing through his mind until his eyes presented the answer, right in front of him.
The acacia wand was spitting a shower of emerald light from its tip, into the conceited man's eyes like a little flashlight. Lockhart was trapped in a daze as he refused to release the backfiring wand which was purging every memory from the man's being. His eyes swirled in an odd fashion, each eye rotating in separate directions. It wasn't until the wand decided to come to an abrupt stop, did Lockhart snap back into reality.
"Huh." The two children looked at each other worryingly, lowering their hands to their sides. "How did I…"
"Um, Professor," asked Theodore meekly. Lockhart didn't respond, blinking furiously with a face of complete confusion. "Professor?"
"Professor Lockhart!" Hermione called out. Her voice traveled through the dark tunnel leading further away to the main part of the Chamber. An eerie echo replied from the other end, making the duo's skin crawl. Lockhart's attention was suddenly captured as he lifted his head to the Muggle-born, smiling quite stupidly. So far, he was still the same.
"Oh, hello there! How are you? Um, could you tell me what exactly am I doing here?" Lockhart asked cheerily.
"You're… we're in the Chamber of Secrets. We're underneath the school. You don't remember…?"
"I'm sorry dear boy, but I haven't got a clue about any… Chamber of Secrets. Is this it?"
"Yeah, that's… literally what I just said," mumbled Theodore.
"Oh. It's quite homely… may I ask who you are exactly?" The blank-minded Lockhart asked as politely as possible. Theodore and Hermione ignored the confused man as they closed in on each other to whisper amongst themselves.
"What happened? I've never seen a Memory Charm do something like that before!" Hermione hissed. Theodore shrugged his shoulders as he was just as bewildered as the girl was. The boy never seen a wand do something like that ever. Even if the wand belonged to him, it shouldn't have meant that others were incapable of using his own, right?
"Me neither. Wands aren't supposed to act like that. Or I think that they aren't supposed to act like that… Do you think that he can still help us?"
"He was useless the second he came along."
"Then why did you consider him in the first place?"
"Leave it, Theodore. I'm being serious."
"So am I. We can't have deadweight upon us when we- hey! Put the wand away from your face and give it to me!" Lockhart was fiddling with Theodore's wand as he inspected it with such intriguing precision. He was acting like a child who lacked any control over themselves.
"What is this thing? Do you conduct in an orchestra?"
"What? No, it's a- give it to me." Theodore commanded as he walked over to him with a palm outstretched.
"Just for a little longer, young man. I could've sworn I felt it shudder a little in my hand."
"Lockhart, give me back my wand!" Lockhart was close to gorging his left eye out of its socket as he ignored the Parselmouth's instructions. Even when he had no recollection of his former self, Lockhart was still just a plain old, annoying twat. Theodore had enough as he stomped over to the man to take it by force. He possibly had to face a Basilisk and his father on the other side, so he needed every single aid that he could collect. "Give me my wand!"
"No! Give me my wand!"
"Now young man, there's no need to raise your voice with-"
"GIVE ME BACK MY WAND!" The Thestral-tailed wand seemingly complied with its master's wishes as it blew a large spark in the blonde man's face, instantly knocking him out while it 'jumped' all the way to the boy's hand. Theodore snatched it mid-air and stuffed it inside of his robes as he tried to calm himself down. He had almost lost himself for a near moment that he didn't touch upon his wand's sudden 'sentience'. Not caring for the unconscious man, Theodore rotated to face Hermione, still trying to tame the unnatural anger that had been attached to him like a cancer for so long. "We'll just leave him here. If we're lucky, then we can… Hermione, what's wrong? Why are you staring at me like that?"
"Y-your eyes… they're red…" The Muggle-born made no false statement as the scarlet snakelike eyes that belonged to his father, re-emerged. The boy was glaring at the girl with such aggression that Hermione took a few steps away from him. Seeing her watching him in rapid fear caused Theodore to turn away quickly, clamping his eyelids so tightly while he thought of anything other than Tom. Reopening his eyes after a few seconds of an internal struggle, Theodore turned back to her to gain the confirmation that his eyes had returned to their usual hazel. She sighed in relief, nodding her head so slightly as she lost her anxiety. Theodore was going to be fine. Nothing to worry about.
"Sorry. Got a bit carried away," said the boy regrettably.
"It's alright. Now that we've gotten rid of the 'deadweight', that just leaves it up to the two of us to find Harry and Ginny. Still can't believe that he's a fake. I just can't." Theodore smirked a little as he briefly patted Hermione's shoulder before walking off to the direction of the familiar tunnel. "Hey! Don't go so fast!" She zipped straight towards the Heir's side as the two beckoned towards the lulling whispers of Death.
The pair trudged past the landfill of animal bones, almost dying of complete horror from seeing the Basilisk's shedded skin propped up against the slimy walls of the tunnel's entrance. They cleared the distress from their system as composure was vital upon what they would face rather soon.
"This is just vile! I don't know why anyone would even consider coming down here," said the girl, narrowly dodging a viscous stream of slime, hanging from the unlit ceiling.
"It's not that bad, to be honest."
"Not that bad? It's nasty, it's… just horrible! To think that Slytherin built all of this, just to get rid of Muggle-borns. Makes me glad that I was never considered for the House anyways. I'd hate to be in there or even related to him…"
"No! I didn't-"
"It's okay. At least we're on the same page about what we think of him." Theodore replied quietly. His whispers blew through the tunnel like a song from a bird, not strong enough to echo back by being tarnished of its innocence. He didn't feel any of that rage when Hermione insulted his ancestor the first time. He only felt scorn and contempt for the Founder, but that wasn't even fathomable when compared with the hatred he had for his father. The Heir of Slytherin was a title that he'd no longer hold with pride, only with shame. It didn't mean anything to him anymore.
"How did you find out?" Hermione asked after illuminating the tip of her wand, having qualms on whether it was necessary to ask that question.
"All of it. The Chamber, the bathroom, how you knew that you were the Heir of- you know. Surely, you must've done a lot of background searching about your family."
"It was all just luck, I guess. When I first met Viripin in the dungeons, she told me that my dad was claiming to be the Heir of Slytherin. She told me about Parseltongue and how I was the second Parselmouth to arrive at Hogwarts after him. That's why I was so obsessed with knowing why the Sorting Hat put me in Gryffindor. It made no sense to me so I had to find more about him. About him and my dad but…"
"And the Chamber?"
"Hermione, I don't really want to talk about this." Theodore whispered, his current emotional state fluctuating between annoyed and ashamed.
"Why not? It's just me and you."
"Because! I don't want… I don't want you to look at me differently, okay? Not only do I have two of the worst people flowing inside my blood, but I did the things that they would want me to do. To get rid of all the Muggle-borns and now…"
"How did you know about your mother?"
"I… From her old neighbours. I mean, Dumbledore told me her name but, her neighbours knew her the best. Or at least, that's what I think." Theodore thought to himself that the tunnel felt conveniently long, just long enough for the girl to get every question out before they'd reach the other end.
"Do you have a photo of her?" Theodore nodded. "Maybe you should show it to us sometime. I think I've seen her name somewhere in the castle. It was quite a while ago."
"You saw my mother's name," asked Theodore curiously. He should've been more vague with the fake surname. "When? Where?"
"It was last year, when we were looking for anything on Slytherin, remember? The trophy room…?"
"Ohhh. Wait, you saw my mother's name there? What, was she-" Hermione almost slipped backwards from a pool of water upon the rough stone ground, and grabbed onto Theodore's arm to find equilibrium again.
"Sorry," apologised the Muggle-born as she awkwardly brushed herself off. "Oh, I remember! She was Head Girl! How could I forget that?"
"Hmph. Isn't that a coincidence?" Theodore drawled as he could hear the echoes of their footsteps from the end of the tunnel, bounce back much quicker. They were almost there.
"Was your dad Head Boy?"
The steel snake door came into full vision as the once brilliant, now loathsome, emerald serpent reflected its vivid green hue from the girl's wand onto their faces. Hermione was unable to keep her gaze away from the coiled snake as she could've sworn that it was looking back at her. Maybe the Chamber was sentient and could smell the Muggle within her. If Slytherin was capable of constructing an entire dungeon away from the eyes of his fellow Founders, then it'd be foolish to think that it wasn't enchanted to keep Muggle-borns away. She turned to face Theodore as the boy remained silent, idle upon looking at the snake as well. Maybe this was a different way of opening the next door, who knew? A full minute dragged on by, until Hermione had to elbow the boy in his shoulder to bring him back from his momentary dazing.
"Sorry, sorry! I just got a bit lightheaded, that's all." Theodore remarked. He didn't attempt to open the door however, and remained still in his place. His face was growing pale from the flashes of what could be present on the other side. Limbs scattered across the flooded floors of the Chamber, ranging from Ginny's arm and leg near the entrance and the head of his cousin being crushed within the jaws of the Basilisk. He felt another jab, only this time it was softer, and looked back at Hermione. Theodore did think that she worried about him just a little more than she should've, but did not think to reject her concern over his wellbeing.
"Can't you open it?"
"What if you knew something about a friend, something that was so terrible that even they hated themselves for it?" Theodore asked rapidly. If he was going to die underground where nobody would find his skeleton, the least he could do was to share the secret that had been haunting him ever since it ripped and lodged itself into his brain.
"Um… err… what do you mean?"
"Like a secret that they kept. What if it was so horrible, you'd never look at them the same way again? What would you do?" Theodore insisted.
"I-I don't know!" Theodore pulled back once again and sighed heavily. This wasn't the way to reveal to someone that your father was a tyrannical maniac. Not to one of his best friends. It was impossible. "If there's anything that you want to say, say it now. Because you may not get the chance later on, Theodore." Brown to hazel. The Parselmouth closed his eyes and then reopened them. This was probably the last chance to say what he wanted. But it didn't feel right to say it here. Not when they were lurking on the edge of Death's cliff. To tell her now would mean that he was accepting death without hesitation, but wasn't that the reason he came? To rescue Harry and Ginny, knowing all the consequences if they failed?
'Arggh, why can't I tell her?! Just tell her! Tell her now!'
"It's nothing, Hermione. I was just… I'm going to open it, okay? Get ready." Theodore told Hermione as he looked back at the false serpent. Hopefully, he would never see that damned snake again, or this Chamber. This would be the last time it ever reopened, and he was going to make sure of that. No more Heirs, no more Slytherins. It would end with him, right here.
"Open," hissed the boy in skin-crawling sibilance. Hermione shivered and jumped from the combination of the sinister tone of Theodore's voice, and the snake clicking and slithering along the perfect winding trail. It looked so real. The emerald serpent reached its final position as the door unlocked upon the Heir's permission.
"Come on, let's go." The snake door had swung the entire way as it was easy for him to mount through the slippery hole, coming from past experience. Hermione was an adept climber as she required very minimal help from the boy upon entering the area of his birthright, the area where no Muggle-born has ever ventured to. The Chamber of Secrets. It was a lot more murkier than she had imagined. She took in large amounts of air as it felt choking and almost painful to her lungs from staying too still. Theodore brought a finger to his pursed lips and motioned her to follow him. His heart was pumping furiously as it tried to dissipate the fear that was boiling his blood. From a quick press against his left arm, Hermione could feel his heartbeat doing its best to keep his blood flowing, not caring if he were to die right there. There was no point trying to hide within the light-absent corners. Tom knew he was there.
They edged closer and closer to the end of the Chamber while keeping their senses at their peak levels. One single hiss, a splash of water that sounded larger than a drip or even a squeak, and their eyes would be snapped shut. The two were unusually close together, Theodore's arm squeezing against Hermione's. They both secretly wished that it was just like the Forbidden Forest all over again, only it was. The two of them were to slowly enter a place of secrecy and fear, soon to meet the Dark Lord in a 'mutilated' form. It was just like the Forbidden Forest, but they'd both die here. Not just Hermione, but him as well. The silver submerged serpents on the opposite sides of the pathway were leering at the boy and girl with such disappointment and disgust. It was like Salazar lived through each pillar, insulted and belittled by his descendent for bringing the one thing that he loathed above all others. The Heir of Slytherin bringing a Mudblood to the glorious Chamber of Secrets was worthy of damnation in the Founder's eyes. But the boy ignored that. All that mattered was-
"Harry! Ginny!" Both children exclaimed as they saw the scar-bearing boy submerged halfway inside of the statue's cheek, face covered as his head was hung so low. Ginny was lain in a sprawled manner, like she had been shot from afar and was untouched by the hands of others. She looked deathly pale, even worse than how Theodore looked most of the time. The two needed to act fast before Tom would arrive with the Basilisk. Hermione bounded to Harry while Theodore knelt down to Ginny. Her freckles were completely absent from her chalky skin, as if she was having the very life within her being siphoned dangerously fast.
"Hermione! How's Harry?" Theodore asked as he saw the girl tugging at the boy to release him from his entrapment. The feeble stone that was enchanted to smother Harry gave way pretty easily as Harry stumbled down to the puddles of the Chamber, tattered robes covered with dust and slime.
"I think he's alright. Yeah, he's fine! His eyes are open. Harry? Can you hear me?" Theodore only heard groans as he tended back to Ginny. It was he who had started all of this but she was the unlucky victim of Tom's early manipulation. And now she was going to die because of that.
"She's so cold," whispered the boy to himself. His hand was pressed against her cheeks as they leeched off his own heat, spreading the unnatural plummet of temperature onto him. Theodore drew his hand back and touched her neck to check for a pulse. Faint. Barely detectable, most probably slowing down, but faint. They weren't dead. Theodore could almost rejoice if he didn't see that thing hidden under her arms.
"Theo, Harry's okay. He's a bit groggy but he'll manage. How's Ginny doing?" The Muggle-born asked as Harry was leaning against the lip of Slytherin, holding his chest tightly. Theodore didn't say a single word as he shifted Ginny's limp arms to pick up the battered, crumbling and heavily blackened diary of Tom Marvolo Riddle. The golden words were mostly etched away from the fire but it was blatantly the same diary. He could feel something swirling and writhing in anger inside of the book, the second he touched it. "Why did she have the diary?"
"I-I don't know but we have to leave. I'll use my wand to lift Ginny out of here and hopefully, they'll alert Dumbledore that we're missing. I hope…"
"He's here," mumbled Harry as he limped over to his cousin. His spirit looked decimated. There was no sign of the Harry that Theodore knew. His green eyes looked dead. Theodore brought himself up from his knees and held the other Parselmouth by the shoulders.
"Who? Who's here? Is it Tom?! Come on, Harry, say something!"
"I'd thought it was customary for a boy to introduce a girl to his father, regardless whether it was a filthy Mudblood or not." The trio was instantly drawn to the sudden voice that was unfamiliar to all but Theodore. He knew it. The diary was weakened but never destroyed. Tom was never dead in the first place and here he was. A reflection of the diary's current state. Tom's robes were faded from all colour, losing the emerald to being replaced with charcoal black all over. His skin was rough and wax-like, forming permanent ridges across his defined cheekbones. His hair remained somewhat similar to what it was before, yet it now looked unnatural on the sixteen year old. His eyes however were no longer the handsome brown which fooled even the sharpest of minds. Scarlet, full to the sclera, with slits that portrayed the suppressed viciousness of the Horcrux manifestation.
"Give Ginny back to us, now!" Theodore shouted, careful to hide anything resembling weakness to Tom. Tom grinned as he twirled what looked to be Harry's wand in his hand.
"Oh child. I can't do that. Ginny is to be my vessel upon the new Earth. I depend on her just like I depended on you."
"Shut up! Stop talking, I don't want to hear whatever you have to say!"
"Remember! I never lied to you, Theodore. I only showed you the truth, it was just that you were too weak to see its entirety. Your bond, your… attachment to this Mudblood, has tainted your mind from seeing what our ancestor intended for the both of us! You were destined for great things yet you squandered it all for a lowly thing like her!" Hermione stepped in front of Theodore slightly and removed all fear from her face as she faced Tom.
"Theodore is destined for great things! Things that you could never amount to in your lifetime! You're just a piece of a sick cruel man who'd torture his own son for his selfish goals!"
"Son," said Tom to Theodore as he glared at Hermione with such hate. "Do you let this filthy mongrel speak for you? Do you let her talk over you when it's in your blood to dominate her dirty kind?!"
"You call her dirty one more time…" Theodore snarled as his eyes began to reflect his father's. Tom grinned upon seeing this and cackled disgustingly for the Chamber to echo it endlessly.
"Hmm, interesting. A half-blood who's ancestry forbids him from caring for a Muggle-born. No doubt that this compassion must originate from your mother. My significant other. Valerie, wasn't it?" The urge to pounce and tear Tom into bloodied shreds bubbled and exploded within the younger Riddle, as he became infuriated that he spoke of his mother's name.
"You don't deserve to say her name, you evil fucki-"
"Silencio!" Theodore became mute as the words were only heard within his thoughts. The air was leaving his mouth but that was it. He couldn't speak a single word. "I've had enough of your foul-mouthed attitude, Theodore. You may have been raised among the litter of Muggle children in an orphanage, but that doesn't give you an excuse to curse aloud. Must I teach you some manners?"
"Stop it, Tom! Let him go!" Harry bellowed as his vitality became renewed rather quickly. The Horcrux stared at him with such hunger in his bloody eyes, Harry would've thought that he was more interested in him than Theodore. He certainly did look like it. With a simple flick of the stolen wand, Theodore and Hermione were sent to their knees as the weight of their bodies increased almost tenfold, feeling their spines cracking.
"I'll let them go. Once we're finished… 'talking'. You see, I've been waiting for you, Harry. After everything that I've heard, I must meet you. And what better place to speak than the Chamber of my noble ancestor?"
"Why would you want to meet me…?" Harry questioned as the older boy's gaze became hungrier. Tom began to circle the four children like a preying shark, eager to spill every single ounce of knowledge that he had amassed so far. It was in his nature for those who feared him, to know everything when they would kiss the lips of Death, by his own doing.
"Harry Potter… the Boy Who Lived. Such a title for such an average wizard. To see how everything has changed over the years has made me cautious about you. The more Theodore wrote to me, the closer we were to becoming one entity. I didn't feed on his soul, he lent it to me. He invited me into his heart, dreams, passion and interests. Even those futile attachments which connected him to those he 'loved'. To see him value a Mudblood over his own life and heritage was beyond sickening. No doubt that this was the old man's doing. But I was patient. I never once showed any signals that exposed my true intentions. Theodore was just a boy who missed his father. And so, I placed it upon me to uphold my role. I was going to be the father he never had before."
"That doesn't answer my question. I know that you tricked and used Theodore. What I don't know is why you wanted to meet me."
"No. I won't tell you right now. I want to see you realise what kind of monsters we are. I want to see your face when you'll know the TRUTH." Tom twisted his neck to face the younger Riddle as if there were no bones to restrict his movement. He looked even more snakelike than usual. Theodore shook his head slowly, trying to scream for Tom to keep quiet.
'They can't know now, not now! If you're going to say what I think… please! Don't say anything! Please!'
"What truth," blurted Hermione. Tom looked at her with disgust but remembered that it was her who kept him at bay from conquering Theodore's soul. She'd be most pleasurable to slaughter in front of the younger Heir's eyes. All in good time.
"The truth? You don't know the truth? And I thought that Theodore would promise that he'd never keep secrets from you. His best friends! How do you not fear him when you know who's blood runs through his veins, hmm? What made you overlook the nature of his ancestor? Tell me!" Tom hissed.
"I knew that he was the Heir of Slytherin for a long time. I heard him speak Parseltongue in the Forbidden Forest last year. Everything that there is to know about him, we already do. I'll never be scared of Theodore. Not even when he has a father like you!" Hermione was struggling to keep her back up straight, as well as Theodore.
"So you don't know…"
Theodore was screaming for him to keep quiet but it was no use. The charm was too effective against the younger boy. Harry knew that if he attempted to free them, Tom could kill them all with a simple swish. He had to watch his two remaining friends slowly being crushed by nothing, all while Ginny was dying.
"Don't know… what?"
"You don't know who he is, do you?"
"I don't under- what are you talking about? Theodore is one my best friends. Of course I know who he is." Harry replied quietly.
'No! Stop! Don't tell them! Don't tell them!'
"Okay. But do you know who I am, Harry?"
"You're his father. Tom Marvolo Riddle, that's who you are." The elder Riddle flicked his head back as he inhaled greatly in slight frustration. As always, he'd have to take control over the situation. He was counting on the boy to tell them everything, but even his own blood could have moments of weakness. How pathetic.
"Tom Riddle is not my name. It's not the name that I chose. I was named after my father, a wretched Muggle who I resented with so much passion. Every time I'd hear his name, my thirst for seeing him squeal in his own blood strengthened, filling my upmost being. I constructed a new name, a name which would soon to be feared across wizardkind and Muggles everywhere!"
"It doesn't matter! Tom Riddle is nothing! Nobody knows or cares about who you were! They even cleared out your trophies and achievements in the school. That shows how much the name Tom Riddle meant. Absolutely nothing!" Hermione was almost sprawled across the wet floor, still feeling the pressure crushing against her. Theodore's eyes were watering as he gritted his teeth against the pain and something else. He didn't want to see Harry and Hermione's faces if they knew. Maybe he could've told them on his own but not here, not now. He was begging in his mind for Tom to stop but he didn't listen. Nobody could.
"A Mudblood who knows better. I'd say I'm impressed, if you weren't so filthy. Yes, I agree. Tom Riddle was a nobody. A mere façade of what was dormant inside me. My true self. Nobody would fear me if I took on the name of my father. So that is why I changed it. I hoped for fear and I got it. I became nightmares and carnage from the mere whisper of my name! My name! I did that! It was me!"
'Don't say anything! Please, don't say anything!'
"Sorry to break it to you, 'Tom', but someone already beat you to it. Whatever name you chose, it was snuffed out by You Know Who. You're probably one of his pathetic followers that left him when he was destroyed. You're nothing, Tom. Nothing." Tom never felt this devious before. When he had told Theodore of his true heritage, he bathed in the boy's self-torment. It was most quenching to his core but now? It was something else entirely. The naivety of children were somewhat the hardest to corrupt, but the easiest to destroy when done properly. And he was going to do just that. Tom paced towards Harry at such an alarming speed that Harry could feel his knees stiffen as he approached. He almost looked like Theodore, but he looked like someone else… someone who he knew and hated…
"The Dark Lord, correct? His name is taboo among the 'bravest' of souls. You simply mention him and just like that… any hope or false strength is instantly stripped away from a man's being. He holds that much power within his name alone, right?" Tom asked aggressively as he closed in on Harry. Hermione was slowly falling into unconsciousness and Theodore could feel himself doing the same. His brain was screaming in pain and pleading for Tom at the same time. Harry was going to know that his best friend and cousin, was the son of his parents' murderer. The Child of the Dark Lord. The revelation was soon upon him and there was nothing to barricade it. No more lies, no more running away. They were going to know the truth.
"I'm not scared," said Harry quite courageously. "He may have killed my parents but he couldn't kill me because of my mother. My mum sacrificed herself so that I could live."
"Sacrifice… so that's how you survived. Not by your own power, but from another. Hmph. You're famous because of a Mudblood's sacrifice! To think that you were an adversary worth researching! You're nothing special! A normal boy, without a prodigious mark except the scar on your forehead. A mark of dark magic. How is it that a thing like you could destroy him, hmm? How?!"
"It won't help you! Why would you care? Voldemort is nothing more than a wreck! He's never coming back, ever!"
"Not only do you question my powers, but you also say my name without fear. Why?" Tom said as his towering presence loomed above the scar-bearing boy. Harry's face fell instantly as he recognised the eyes. The eyes that he faced last year. His eyes…
"W-what…?" Harry stammered as his body began to perspire with so much heat.
"Don't you know? Voldemort, is my past…"
"…and future." Tom finalised as he left Harry stupefied with so much weight crashing onto his brain.
"NOOOO!" Theodore screamed as it pierced Harry and Hermione's ears alike, allowing his parentage to sink inside permanently. Tom was smiling maliciously from the utter horror upon Harry's face. The curse which made their bones heavier than anchors, was lifted upon the revelation as Theodore tucked his face near his chest, shuddering with undetectable emotions. He told them. It could've been anyone, anyone else to be his father but it had to be him. Him! Why? Why him?!
"You're him… you're- no. I don't believe you. You're not Voldemort. Stop lying." Harry trembled. Tom came much closer to him, desperate for Harry to see that it really was him. The Darkest Wizard of All Time.
"Then look me in my eyes, and say that I'm lying, Harry. Look." Harry's lower lip quivered as the truth was right there, all in his eyes. Those slits that were drowned inside pure scarlet. That skin which looked more like shedding than skin itself. Waxy and rough. It was true. There was no denying it. Why would he? It was all right in front of him. Tom Riddle was Lord Voldemort, killer of James and Lily Potter, his own mother and father. The father of his best friend…
"Why did you tell them," whimpered Theodore as he squeezed his skull with crushing force. "Why?"
"Because I don't want you to hide anymore, Theodore. For far too long, has your secret been kept from everyone. Everyone that matters. You wouldn't keep secrets from them? Right?" Tom taunted as his son began to break down.
"But you did," hissed the older Parselmouth. "You've ruined what was sacred between you and them. Friendship. Love." Tom said the word 'love' like poison in his tongue. "How can you ever expect them to accept you now? When you're the Son of Lord Voldemort? How, Theodore? How?"
Hermione was on her feet, listening to the incomprehensible conversation that was sinister to the very bone. Harry wasn't the only one feeling near destroyed by what the Horcrux said. She looked at herself oddly for she felt overwhelming sympathy for Theodore. It was the last thing that she had expected to feel but it was present. The boy had no mother to go to for comfort. Manipulated, used and tortured by his father to carry out his ancestor's prejudicial will onto the school. To Muggle-borns. To her. And now, his father was the most evilest wizard to ever grace throughout wizarding history, responsible for so much death and destruction. She thought that she would instantly detest him for who he was, how everything made sense about him but it was impossible. She couldn't hate him. Maybe she should have, but she could never hate him.
As Tom turned his attention to his mortal enemy, the Muggle-born trudged over to the disturbed boy, not caring about who he was. She knew him as her friend, and nothing less. Nothing would change that. Theodore was still clasping his head while he dug his fingers into his temples. The desire to tear the flesh from his face, rip his ears off and gorge his own eyes out, was spreading through him. It didn't help so much that Hermione was attempting to comfort him while the Horcrux carried on speaking with Harry. He was losing what little composure and sanity that he had left.
"Theo, we have to help Harry! Please, you have to get up!" The girl pleaded as she tried to lift his face to see him properly. Theodore was resistant and kept his neck stiff, muttering under his breath like a madman, cursed to speak a single phrase.
"Why did you tell them… why did you tell them…?"
"This is no time to be- look at him! He's going to hurt Harry unless we help him! Please, Theo! Get up, please!"
"What do you mean you can't?! Just get-"
"What did he say," whispered the girl as she rotated her bushy head to face Tom and Harry. Theodore's skin tightened as he instantly grabbed her hand to make her face him again. Hermione was about to protest but Theodore didn't care.
"Close your eyes…"
"D-did he call-"
"Close them!" Tom had his thin pale fingers pointing at the Statue's mouth, commanding the serpent to heed his call. Harry was backing away from the Horcrux, almost tripping over Theodore as he stumbled next to his friends. The three of them made it easy for Tom to kill them by sticking together. A swift beheading from the Basilisk's powerful, venom-saturated fangs. Theodore was shaking as he felt Harry and Hermione trembling beside him. Death was all that he expected. Nobody to save him.
"The Heir of Slytherin," declared the elder Riddle as the Basilisk emerged from Slytherin's stone mouth, "versus Harry Potter. No Parseltongue, no Dumbledore and no Mudblood mother to save you. Just me and you, like it should be." The serpent coiled herself around Tom as she poised her head patiently for the Heir's command. She was reunited once more with him, bowing to his presence even if he was a spectral imitation of the real Tom. He was the Heir and she was his servant.
"Theo, what's happening?"
"Run. The both of you. Just… leave! Now! Get out of here!" Theodore could feel them clinging onto one another like it would make them safer but it was the far opposite of that.
"How can we when we can't see?"
"Stop asking questions for once, and-"
"Kill the Mudblood and the Potter boy."
"GOOO!" Theodore screamed as he pushed the two off him for them to make their escape. Hermione's fingers were still clamped on the boy's robes but they were separated a split second after as Harry grabbed her to run. He must've heard the command as well. The utter fear that consumed them, forced them to leave Theodore behind as they regrettably sprinted back to the snake doors. They had every chance to go back for him but knew that it would be in vain. They'd all die in the end.
Eyes shut and knuckles pressed against the cold wet floor, Theodore's body stiffened as the Basilisk shot right past him, ignoring her former master to catch her new prey. Her newest victims. She had been dreaming of murdering another Mudblood ever since that day in the bathroom. Theodore was stuck. He couldn't help Harry and Hermione as the snake hunted them at that moment. He couldn't save Ginny from the diary and he couldn't escape his father. He was worthless, lower than the rats that scurried along the Chamber floors. A weakling, soon to be punished because he was 'his' son…
"They're going to die, Theodore." Tom said gently above him. "They're going to die and it's all your fault. You couldn't save Harry, Hermione and Ginny. The stupid girl. Lord Voldemort, the greatest wizard of all time, inhabits a lowly pure blood. It's insulting. I needed you, Theodore. Just like you needed me and now I-"
"Bullshit," muttered the boy weakly.
"What?!" Tom snapped as he grabbed Theodore's chin to speak to him, face to face.
"It's bullshit. You're not the greatest wizard of all time. You're not even the greatest wizard alive. That title belongs to someone else."
"And who may that be," hissed the elder Heir. Theodore smirked as he didn't need to say the name. Tom knew from his eyes alone and his eyes were now of pure fury. He gripped his chin tightly and threw him aside as he turned rapidly to watch the other two children evading the Basilisk. Something faint was chiming in the younger boy's ear. "Dumbledore is a fool! A senile old man who couldn't see through me and you! My presence scared him outside of the castle because he knows who I am!"
"Dumbledore saw through me, and he definitely saw through you. Not matter how you come back, you'll never be as great as him. You hear me? NEVER." The boy thought to himself that he was being ridiculous for trying to aggravate Tom, knowing fully well that the Basilisk could be turned on him. But he didn't stop. He didn't want to. Theodore wanted Tom to know how much he despised and thought low of him, to spite him so much that he'd look upon him like an enemy rather than a son. The chiming grew by just a little, but still not loud enough to make out. Singing?
"Your tongue will be your undoing, boy. Once the Basilisk mutilates your friends, Ginny will die and I will have form. Lord Voldemort will return! Dumbledore will fall and-" Theodore ungracefully stood up and eyed his father, scarlet to scarlet. Tom allowed himself to be silent. He wanted to hear him spew out all the nonsense that he could muster from his pathetic heart.
"You won't beat him, Tom. Dumbledore will come back and when he does, he'll-" He was soaring through the dingy Chamber as he flapped his wings to beat so majestically in the air that it gave life to the dead dungeon. The grand, now beautiful Fawkes was flying atop of the fabled beast, who halted his attack on the two children to watch the phoenix in all of its glory.
Harry and Hermione were pressed against the entrance door, blinded and fear-stricken. Harry could hear the snake's unintelligible sentences above the mysterious singing and was holding onto Hermione's hand tightly. The Basilisk stopped for some reason but he didn't know why. There was some singing and flapping but he had no clue what was happening. Was it waiting for them to open their eyes, just for it to snatch their lives away with a simple gaze?
"What is it doing?! IT'S BLINDING THE BASILISK!" Tom shouted as he stepped away from Theodore. Fawkes was repeatedly stabbing the snake in its deadly eyes, bursting them with excessive blood pouring out as she screamed in complete pain.
"My eyes! Master! My eyes!"
"Go now! Go now, Harry! Open the door and go!" Theodore bellowed from the other end of the Chamber as the two scooted away hurriedly from the snake. They were going, not to the snake door, but to his direction instead. Did they not want to live?! Theodore was furious that he was being ignored as he ran to them, ready to drag them if he had to. "When I tell you to go, you go! Why aren't you leaving?! GO!"
"We can't leave Ginny behind, or you!" Harry said firmly. "It's all of us, or none!"
"Why won't you ever listen to me?! I got you here so now I'm going to get you out! So leave! Don't look back at me and leave!" Harry and Hermione listened to none of Theodore's commands as they grabbed him by his arm to where Ginny laid still, probably minutes, or seconds, away from death. Her skin was so chalky and white, that she could've been dead all along.
"YOU CAN SMELL THEM! KILL THEM, KILL THEM! HURT THEODORE IF YOU MUST, BUT KILL POTTER AND THE MUDBLOOD! KILL THEM, NOW!" Tom screamed as he watched the three lifting Ginny awkwardly to the end of the Chamber. The Basilisk was entirely blind as her sockets were now full of fleshy debris and blood. But her tongue was fully intact. She flicked it out dangerously as she pinpointed the four children moving away. In an instant, the Basilisk raced along the slimy floors towards them.
"Come on! We have to make it there," insisted Harry as they carried Ginny's body to the circular door. We're almost there, just-" The snake was too quick as she rammed her head against all of them, sending each child skidding in their own directions. Ginny slumped to the ground as Harry smacked his face on the stone floor, along with Theodore. Hermione was lucky to roll across her sides but she still felt searing pain in her left ear. Theodore was sure that he had broken his nose, as well as damaging his right eye as he couldn't see out of it. He was still sprawled on the floor when he heard footsteps approaching him. Tom was still twirling Harry's wand, sneering as he approached the younger Heir.
"It's all over, Theodore. They're going to die, and it's all because of you. You killed them, Theodore. Not me, but you." Blood was spilling from the boy's mouth as he opened it up to speak.
"I didn't… didn't kill them. I would never kill… my friends."
"And that's where you're right. You could never kill another person, not again. Especially not them…" He leaned a little closer while his eyes grew so much wider than before. Whispering, he said, "…but I will."
"Kill the Mudblood."
"NO! STOP!" Theodore and Harry screamed in unison. It was too late. She may have been quick to not be entrapped inside its massive jaws, but she failed miss its fang, which pierced and sank deep within her arm. Hermione didn't release a scream, not even a single gasp. The venom which was corroding her veins and insides, stopped her from showing any pain. The broken off fang clattered on the ground and blood was pouring from the gaping wound as she knew that she was going to die. Hermione lowered her head silently, as Theodore thrashed wildly at Tom, clawing at him with such ferocity that he never tapped into. The wand fell out of Tom's fingers as he toppled over. Theodore had him by the neck as he pressed his thumbs against his throat, too enraged to know that it wouldn't work.
"Are you going to kill me, Theodore," laughed Tom as he spoke through a choke. "Are you going to kill me like I did with your Mudblood friend?"
"SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP AND DIE!" He clenched his teeth near breaking point, not noticing that Tom wasn't dying. Why wasn't he dying?! "WHY CAN'T YOU LEAVE ME ALONE?! WHY?!"
"Be-cause… you are like… me…"
"NO! DON'T YOU EVER SAY THAT, I'M NOTHING LIKE YOU! NOTHING!"
"Yes… you… are…"
"Hermione! Oh god, Hermione! I-I… we should've left, and… oh my god!" Harry panicked as he crawled to the dying girl's side. Hermione was just shivering, staring down at the green-hued floors as her breaths became short. She felt the pain searing on her leaking wound but the rest of her body felt cold. Death never really crossed her mind, and she never thought about how it would truly feel like. Maybe if she did, it'd feel a little less… cold. Harry was kneeling in front of her as he used his robes to plug the blood flow while she slowly placed her head on his shoulder. "Hey, Hermione, don't do that! Don't you dare go, you have to hang on! Hermione, don't leave, just stay strong. Theo! She's dying, Theo, help!" Theodore heard his cousin calling from where he was but was overtaken by rage and the desire to kill Tom. He was pressing as hard as he could but he wasn't dead. He had to die! Hermione was dying and he had to die for that! Why wasn't he dying?!
"Every second that you keep… your hands on my neck… Hermione slips away… are you just going to let her die, Theodore…? Or are you going to… kill me?!"
"Your choice… son!"
"Oh my god, she stopped breathing…" Theodore's shaking hands released themselves from the elder Riddle's neck as he backed away to Hermione's side. He managed to push through his anger for just a while. Just until she was okay. Theodore dropped to his knees as he moved some of the girl's damp hair to see her pale face as she laid along the floor. Harry was right as Theodore couldn't see her chest moving at all. Her hand was cold as he held it in his own, forcing himself not to cry. His eyes were filling with tears but he wasn't going to cry. They streamed down his face but he wasn't going to…
"Ahhh… Another Mudblood down. And it was all thanks to you, my son! Salazar would've been proud!"
"She's gone…" That was all that Harry could say. Theodore was empty for words as her lifeless hand was held in his. If only she had left when he told her to. No. If only she didn't come down when he told her not to. No… if only she never cared in the first place. She had to die because she cared too much for him. Because she was just a Muggle-born. Both boys wept silently as the Basilisk kept still, awaiting for Tom's order to strike.
"And now, Lord Vol-" Fawkes cried out as he descended from the shadows, next to the boys and seemingly deceased girl. Tom swallowed uncomfortably, trying to remember something crucial about phoenixes. "What is it doing…"
"Fawkes," said Harry sadly, eyes red and wet. The bird stared at the two almost humanlike, reading their faces to try to understand their apparent pain. Like he could see that pain, hurting within them. That bond with the dying girl… their best friend…
Fawkes joined them as he too, wept for the girl. His tears glided gently from his eyes, dripping into the hole in Hermione's arm. Theodore had his head so low that he didn't see the phoenix crying over Hermione's body, but Harry watched him with confusion. The tears carried on falling into her wound until they overflowed to the side.
"Theo," said Harry so faintly that Theodore couldn't hear him. "Theodore…" The Heir raised his head slightly.
"Look… look at what he's doing."
"Look!" Harry pointed at Fawkes as he bowed respectfully to the children. "He was crying. And his tears… they went inside her arm." Theodore brought his head up fully, feeling something clicking at the back of his mind.
"Yes, tears! The bird was crying!" Theodore felt something so small inside of him ignite, but barely. Could it be…
"Phoenix tears… it's a phoenix, Harry. It's a phoenix, Fawkes is a phoenix!" Theodore looked at the girl's face, hoping to see a flicker of life. "Come on… Come back. Come back, Hermione… come on…"
The faintest twitch of an eye. Just the faintest. But they saw it. The two boys leaned in closer, that thing inside Theodore now growing into something resembling hope. Hermione's eyes still twitched slightly, barely noticeable. It was their only sign of her being alive when he felt her squeeze his hand. Theodore looked down quickly and looked back to her face, just as fast. Never had he been so glad to have Fawkes by his side. The Muggle-born's hand started to absorb the heat from the Parselmouth, now squeezing his hand more tightly. Harry brushed away his tears as his eyes twinkled with so much bliss. Hermione was alive. Fighting so hard, but alive.
"Hermione! Hermione, can you hear us?" Harry asked desperately. No answer, no reply. Hermione didn't say a word. Theodore and Harry's spirits were starting to die again until her brown eyes came into full view. Hermione struggled to sit up as her hands were on both sides of her head.
"Ughhh… my head hurts so much… even though it was my arm that-" Theodore grabbed her in a tight hug, leaving her sentence unfinished. Harry wrapped his arms around the two a second later, almost crushing the revived Muggle-born as they squeezed her tighter. The hope in his chest flourished wildly as he couldn't let go of her. He didn't stop the tears from leaving his eyes again, too full of joy to care. They almost lost her. He almost lost her…
"You're hurting my neck!" The scar-bearing boy pulled back as well as the young Heir, as Theodore held the girl by her shoulders, eyes hazel and bright.
"I thought you- You almost died, Hermione. I thought that you were dead…"
"Same," chirped in Harry. "Just for a second there, we thought that you were really gone." Hermione clenched her now wound-free arm as she smiled weakly at the two boys.
"I thought that I was dead, too. Everything was slipping away until I heard someone crying and saying something to me…"
"Like what," asked Theodore, blood still pumping with restrained exuberance from the girl's survival. Hermione looked at him, eyes wide as her mouth fell slightly open. It was barely visible but Theodore could see something gleaming in her eyes, almost too quickly. He didn't understand or know what that thing was but he wanted to see it again. It was something odd, almost otherworldly but he wanted to see more. Theodore shook his head as he saw what was becoming an awkward situation from a perilous one.
"Doesn't matter. Let's take Ginny and get out of here!"
"You won't be leaving so soon, children!" Tom hissed as he was back on his feet. His hands were now clawed and his hair was thinning slowly. His nose started to look a little smaller as his eyes grew more serpentine by the second. Tom had lost all forms of composure for the children, if there was any to begin with. He looked like he wanted their blood to soak and infect the flooded Chamber's waters, to see them dismembered by his hand alone. Harry and Hermione, who was completely fine after a near death experience, jumped in front of Theodore instantly to barricade him from the Horcrux manifestation. Theodore wanted to say something but was hushed from his father's demented laugh. It was pure with vileness and malign, to the very depths of his stomach.
"If you even lay a finger on him, I swear, Tom…" muttered the Muggle-born quite threateningly. Tom spat on the ground like a snake as he was left disgusted from the girl's usage of his real name.
"How dare you?! You speak my name, you filthy Mudblood?!"
"It's over, Tom." Harry uttered in a similar tone. "Not matter what you do, you can't hurt us. You don't have Theodore, you don't have anything!" The elder Riddle grimaced as he cracked his neck gruesomely.
"I have a Basilisk." He hissed before facing the docile creature. "Kill them! Kill all three of them! Kill them, kill them, KILL THEM!"
"But him… he's Slytherin's blood…"
"DON'T DEFY ME! KILL THEM ALL!"
The Basilisk became hesitant for the first time. For a creature with such an underdeveloped mind, this was something to be marvelled at. Nonetheless, the serpent obeyed her master as she lashed her tongue against the humid air, tasting where the children were. No… no… yes. There they were.
"This is the end for you Potter," screamed the maniacal boy from afar. "You and that traitorous boy, I call a son! You aren't worthy of holding that title! You're no Heir of Slytherin, only his disappointment and my mistake. I should've never given life to you! Kill them! Kill them, now!"
Harry and Hermione both winced and cowered back slightly as the Basilisk lunged its hulking body to the three children. Both of their hands were clasped together as the Chamber of Secrets was to be their tomb. The place where Lord Voldemort finally vanquished the Boy Who Lived. Jaws snapped open with strings of filthy saliva hanging from her fangs, the Basilisk was ready for her newest three victims when…
Her mouth was fully exposed in front of the two standing children as they couldn't move for fear was keeping them in place. The snake's breath was horrid, like carcasses of ancient creatures were still digesting within her body. Drips of potent venom exuding from her branch-like fangs, Harry and Hermione saw the nightmarish beast in its entirety. But the fact that she hadn't ripped them apart, scared then even more. What was she waiting for?
"What are you waiting for?! Kill them!"
"No! Listen to me. Know who your true master is!" Theodore hissed from behind his two friends. He paved way through them and stared the Basilisk in her punctured, powerless eyes.
"I am the true Heir of Slytherin! I killed the Mudblood, I attacked many others, I am the greatest wizard alive! I command you, creature, to kill them! Kill them, now!" The Basilisk opened her mouth again to strike but Theodore didn't back down. She'd have to kill him for that.
"Am I not just the same as him? Aren't I purer than him? Doesn't my heritage also place my power over you?"
"No," screamed Tom.
"I am Slytherin's Heir, therefore you will listen to me. Are you listening?"
"Don't! Don't you dare turn on me, snake! Don't!"
"Who is your master, creature? Is it I, the Heir who comes forward to you as flesh and blood, or is it a pale imitation of your old master? Who?" Theodore gently hissed as he took a single step towards the Basilisk. She violently jerked her head as she was conflicted between her loyalties. The pain of making a decision for herself was destroying her simple mind, she had to choose. Tom or Theodore? The first or the second? The father… or the son?
"YIELD TO ME! PURGE! PURGE!"
She winded her blunt, boulder-sized head around the younger Heir protectively. She had given herself to him, submitting, devoting herself entirely to the thirteen year old boy. Tom gazed at her, fear now spreading across his face. The Basilisk was now under his complete control. He had no power here. For the first time, he felt… helpless. And he loathed that.
"Treacherous snake! How dare you leave my side when I command you! I am the-"
"Not anymore," said Theodore gently as he returned gazes of revulsion. "You're just a mere memory and nothing more, Tom. Nothing."
"That'll all change when I've finished sucking the life out of Ginny! I'll soon be reborn when I am freed from the diary and-"
"You mean 'this' diary?" The Riddles turned their heads to see Harry holding the damaged diary in his right hand, and holding a Basilisk fang in the other. The boy was smirking at the elder Riddle's face dying from seeing him with it.
"Y-you wouldn't," stammered Tom as he reached his hands out in slight submission. "D-don't…"
"How did you…" Theodore mumbled in awe. Harry winked and threw the diary onto the ground. Tom was panicking madly, his jaw juddering uncontrollably as he knew what Harry was about to do. Harry brought the fang above his head, ready to pierce the diary with so much force, it'd crack the ground. The Boy Who Lived ignored Tom's pleas of reason as he drove the fang cutting through the air, plunging it into the centre of the diary.
Tom's body began to crack and flake as he screamed with the pain of the Basilisk fang stabbing his heart, and injecting him with its fatal venom. His hair withered away into nothingness as his body began to blacken, spreading across his body like a disease. The diary was bleeding excessively with ink as Tom was writhing on the ground, twitching like a headless snake. He couldn't think, only feel. Harry stabbed the diary repeatedly, sending Tom over the complete edge until he became nothing. All that was left of the memory, was but ashes and dust, floating within the place that he thought was his destiny, only to be his tomb. The diary finished gushing the ink contained inside as Harry wiped himself off with his sleeves, almost doubtful that it was over.
"Is it over," whispered Hermione as she looked at the decimated diary on the floor. "Is he gone?"
"I think so." Theodore sighed as he wiped his sweaty hair to the side. No, he didn't think that Tom was gone, he knew it. That feeling of triumph which was missing the first time he threw the diary into the fire, was burning intensely in his chest, filling him with such warmth that he almost thought Tom was still around. He shook his head. Tom was gone, at least this Tom. The real one, his real father, was out there. He didn't know where, but he knew that he was out there, feeding… dying, who knew?
"Harry?" A familiar meek voice emanated from a distance as Ginny was conscious on her knees, still pale and sickly-looking. The trio ran to her side and helped her up, only for her to cry on Harry's chest. Harry patted her back, not caring if it seemed awkward as they all nearly died a few moments ago. He and Hermione comforted her as Theodore was standing away from them, watching her bawl even more in Harry's arms. Their victory over his father became nothing as the realisation that they knew who he was, crushed him internally. Everything would change now. Even if they'd say he was still their friend, Harry, Ron and Hermione would never look at him the same way again, especially Harry. Not only his best friend but his cousin. It all felt so wrong.
"… a-and he told me to give him to T-Theo! I didn't want to, and I tried to help by taking it away and destroying it b-but he… made me attack Ron… he told me to take Theodore, but I chose the w-wrong one and he punished me… I hurt my big brother and I… I…"
"It's alright, Ginny. It's alright. He's gone now, you don't have to worry." Hermione said gently as she rubbed the red headed girl's back. "The diary is gone and Theo is-" There it was. It hit her too. Theodore looked away in shame and walked over to the obedient Basilisk, who he had gained mastership of. He couldn't kill the wretched creature but he could still do one thing to it.
"You still listen to me, right? I am still your master and because of that, you'll do anything that I tell you to do?"
"Then you'll stay in here forever. You'll never leave this place because nobody will come back here. Not me, or any other Parselmouth. The Chamber of Secrets, will remain a secret forever. This is the last time that an Heir of Slytherin will come down here. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Master…" The Heir commanded the snake to return to its place of slumber, where it would remain asleep for all eternity. As long as Theodore lived, no one was coming back. No one. As he watched the snake vanishing into Slytherin's Statue's mouth, the soft hand that he recognised as Hermione's, intertwined with his fingers. It was paining him to think that they would still accept him after everything but he kept silent. Silent and still.
"Remember when you said that you didn't want me to look at you differently?"
Theodore nodded his head, still facing away from the Muggle-born. Hermione sucked in a large amount of air, and then released.
"I don't. We don't, Theo. I understand why you kept that from us. I can't even imagine what you were going through when you knew that he was your… dad. All this time, I thought you just didn't trust us when it was because of him. What I'm trying to say is that, you are still my friend, Theo. You're still Harry's friend, Ron's friend and nothing will change about that. I've known you long enough to see that you're nothing like him. Not a single thing. And if I can look past that, then so can you. I know you can."
"But is so hard…"
"That's why you have us. Your friends." Harry said with Ginny standing a little too close him but otherwise, not clinging to his body.
"And you," directed Theodore to Harry, face full of regret and melancholy. "You don't care about that? That I'm his son?" A smile of comfort and green eyes which reflected that, was given by Harry, having no need to speak. The Heir bit his bottom lip, still feeling down. It was hard to forgive others, but impossible to forgive himself.
"So?" Hermione, still holding his hand, looked at him along with Harry and Ginny, waiting for anything to come out.
"I… when everyone is back to normal. When Hagrid and Dumbledore come back. Yeah… I'll do it."
"That's good enough for me. You, Hermione?" The Muggle-born nodded her head as her hair shook the partial slime that was trapped within the thick locks. Hermione had forgotten that their hands were held together, and embarrassingly pulled hers back, mortified that she held on for what seemed to her, a lengthy amount of time. Even though he was now fully aware that she was 'attached' to him, Theodore had to set that aside for the time being as they had to return to the castle to explain their sudden disappearance. Night, morning, whatever the time was at that moment, it was going to be a dragging one.
Harry pocketed the diary and retrieved his wand as Theodore reopened the snake door to allow everyone through, and closed it behind him. It would be the last time he'd ever speak Parseltongue to that snake ever again. The journey through the tunnel shot past so quickly that they reached the end without the hinderance of turmoil or fear holding them back. Fawkes was singing a tune so sublime that Theodore couldn't help but feel happier. He deserved just a little bit, at least. Lockhart was sleeping against a curvature in the walls, and was woken up abruptly by Hermione, who was still sore.
"What's her problem," whispered Harry.
"You'll see. It's so obvious that it's hilarious."
One minute, the five children and man were standing underneath the massive pipe, the next, they were all hanging onto Fawkes for dear life as the phoenix used its immense strength to lift each and every one of them out of the Chamber and into Myrtle's bathroom. The moon was absent through the windows but the bathroom was near completely dark, save for Fawkes shining like a raging firestorm. The ghost girl was floating near the bathroom doors, glaring at all five of them with disappointment, especially Theodore.
"You're still alive." She said to the Heir as he wiped the blood off his lips.
"Yeah, I am." Theodore replied blankly. Myrtle looked like she wanted to say something, but chose to drift away into her cubicle instead. The boy felt stiff in his heart while he heard the others complaining about the heavy amount of slime on their robes.
"So where do we go now? To the common room?" Ginny asked hopefully. Harry shook his head and answered.
"We can't, Ginny. You know that we can't. It'll be okay, don't be scared. We'll be behind you the entire time, okay?" The girl sniffed and nodded her head. She just wanted it all to be over and done with. Theodore was feeling the exact same, still scared that they'd find out it was him and Ginny all along. Without Dumbledore there to defend him, he was better off down in the Chamber than wherever he'd end up.
'That's all I'm asking for. A miracle…'
"Please, sit." Theodore sat down on the chair opposite to Dumbledore's after they were left alone to talk by everyone else. Theodore didn't want to say anything, knowing that he'd have another breakdown in front of the old man, and that was the last thing that he wanted to do. But he had to find out everything. Everything that the man knew about him because he couldn't go another day being kept away from the whole truth. He just couldn't. It would kill him.
"You knew, didn't you?" Theodore asked blankly as he looked down to his feet, twisting his thin fingers against each other.
"And… and you didn't tell me because… you knew that it would've ruined me, right?" Theodore's voice cracked just a little.
"Are you alright, Theodore?"
"No…" The detail of McGonagall's office floors started to blur as he held them back with as much will as he could. Of course, he wasn't alright. He'd never be alright after everything that happened. Nothing would be the same after tonight, after this year.
"Theodore, I… you must understand why I didn't tell you. I didn't want you to come into the wizarding world with your keen eyes, only for you to know the truth so early. I was going to tell you when you were a little older but…"
"Why didn't you stop me?" Theodore asked, eyes closed to plug the tears. "Y-you knew that it was me all along, didn't you? You knew that it was 'him' who opened it before, so… Why?" Dumbledore was hesitant in what he wanted to say, but found the raw courage that he was known for to say it.
"Because I believed in you, Theodore. I believed in you from the day that I met you. I was scared… scared that if I brought you to the school… you'd follow the same path but when I first met you, the real you… I couldn't see a trace of your father. Yes, you were both interested with what you were capable of, and both had a thirst for knowledge. But I saw it in your eyes, hidden. I saw the compassion, the childhood innocence that he lacked. You are so much more different than you realise, son. You may not see it but I do. How is it that you sought to sacrifice yourself so that Harry and Miss Weasley could live? An act of true bravery. An act that Tom Riddle could never perform. It's all right in front you, Theodore. You just need to see it. Open your eyes."
"He took me inside the diary. Made me see him kill Myrtle in the bathroom. It was like I was really there, as him. I couldn't fight back because every time I'd fight, he would get stronger. Every time I would push, he'd push back even more. He drew so much out of me and I thought I was about to go mad until I thought about my first best friend from the orphanage. Louise. And then, he started to crumble. He tried to make me remember every single thing that I feared or hated in my life but… it didn't work. No matter how hard he tried, I was becoming free of him. He brought out the complete worse in me but then I heard her voice. My mother's voice. I never heard her voice before in my life… She saved me, Professor. Even if she's dead, my mother saved me again. I don't understand…"
"Another thing that sets you apart from him. Love. A type of magic so strong that Tom doesn't understand it and in turn, is completely defenceless against it. The love for your mother and the love for your friends. That is what saved you from him."
"Oh… I think I understand." It made some sort of sense. He never thought of love being such a powerful force, able to damage a Horcrux detrimentally. Theodore could understand most of that, but he couldn't understand how out of all people, excluding his mother, Hermione was the only one who managed to crack the surface when he was at his lowest. If it was really love that saved him, then what was she doing to him? I mean, Theodore could openly say that he was close to her but he didn't love her. He was far too young to be in love, at least that's what he thought. But that was besides the point.
"Do you forgive yourself?"
"Do you forgive yourself, Theodore?" After everything he's done and after everything that was told to him, could he forgive himself? It was hard, much harder than anything.
"Losing… consciousness… need… air!"
"Sorry, Ron!" The red headed boy was greeted with such a welcome that he didn't mind being crushed with all the attention that came with it. The second he walked through the portrait hole, he was ambushed by his three brothers and little sister, who sobbed upon seeing him uninjured, all displaying the love that they shared deep down with one another. Fred and George hoisted Ron on their shoulders while Percy lost his snobbish behaviour for the sake of seeing his little brother again.
The trio became the quartet once more as the four children reunited in the common room, eager to tell Ron everything that he missed. Harry explained how he and Theodore heard the Basilisk in the walls before he was attacked, and how Hagrid and Dumbledore were forced to leave the school because of that. Hermione told him how Harry and Ginny were taken inside of the Chamber, forcing Theodore and Hermione to go down with Lockhart to rescue them. She purposely left out detailed chunks of what really happened down there, as it wasn't her place to tell. The Heir didn't say a word as he sat there, listening quietly like Ron. Maybe it was for the best to just listen than to talk.
"Wait, so… the diary wasn't destroyed in the fire… Ginny must've taken it from the ashes and was the one who opened the Chamber again, as well as doing the next attacks… and Theo's dad came out of the diary, Hermione almost died but you stabbed it and he was gone… is that pretty much it?"
"An extremely watered down version, but yes." Harry said.
"Huh. That's pretty wild. Hey, no offence or anything, but I don't know how your mum managed to end up with a psycho like that," said Ron to Theodore.
"Me neither," replied the Parselmouth quietly. Theodore's blatant sadness was too obvious for Ron to ignore as the red head asked him what was the matter. "It's nothing! I'm alright, you don't have to worry."
"Awesome. But now, I've gotta eat!" Ron declared as he walked to the portrait hole.
"But you just came back from being petrified!" Harry called out.
"Exactly! I haven't eaten a thing since… forever! Come on, then! I wanna hear the story about how Lockhart was exposed again! This time, Theodore can tell me!"
"That's not funny, Ron!"
"I know, it's hilarious, Hermione! Absolute gold!" Theodore chuckled as he, Hermione and Harry followed the tall boy to the Great Hall where they feasted on the greatest breakfast ever, and it was in fact, the greatest day of the school year. As they arrived in the Hall, Theodore and Harry were met by Ernie and Justin who apologised dearly for their accusations, an apology which Theodore was reluctant to accept, and Colin who acted as if he wasn't stuck in a single position for the entire year. None of them seemed to remember their little confrontations with their unknowing attacker, causing Theodore to think that Lockhart was not the only person exposed to a Memory Charm. But otherwise, all was well. Draco was sat comfortably on Slytherin's table, a lot more quieter than usual. Theodore and he, made eye contact and simply nodded at each other before turning their attention to their respective tables. He couldn't guarantee that they would be friends in the future, but after that birthday card, maybe some things could change. Maybe.
Exams cancelled, Hagrid and Dumbledore happily returned, Lockhart out of sight, Gryffindor winning for the second time in a row and nights where he didn't hear a mutter of his father's voice in his dreams, Theodore could really say that it was over. Hogwarts was now how it should've been and the Chamber of Secrets was locked forever. He even felt positive about seeing Filch reuniting with Mrs Norris near the second floor bathroom. The term carried on through with such high spirits that the four children felt sad that it was time to leave for their homes. Harry to the Dursleys, Hermione and Ron to their own families, and Theodore back to Stuggle's. Theodore had spent the entire last few weeks searching for Viripin, but she didn't turn up anywhere. He didn't know why he tried. She had been gone for nearly six months now, but the pain was still as strong. He just hoped that wherever she was, she was safe. That was all that he wanted.
The students arrived at Hogsmeade as they loaded themselves onto the Express, still disregarding the orderly fashion like the year before. The Weasleys, Hermione, Theodore and Harry boarded the train and found an empty compartment to fit everyone inside, excluding Percy who wanted to leave with Penny. Although a bit livelier than before, Theodore was the quietest of the bunch, quieter than even Ginny. The twins told numerous jokes which eventually broke through to him nearly every time, paining his sides greatly, and a bucketload of treats were bought by Harry, dishing them to each person with enough to last a whole week.
They all scoffed and chatted until the Express lost its speed and halted at Platform 9¾. The crowds of families waved and called out to their children in the train, some in mighty clumps, others in pairs. They all grabbed their sweets and treats, and hopped off the train to finally end another year at Hogwarts. The Parselmouth watched the Weasleys and Harry embracing each other, especially Ron with his mother despite how things were at the start of the year, as he stood by his trolley. Sawer was inside of his cage, unusually dismal that the snake was not beside him.
"I'm sorry, Sawer," said Theodore apologetically. "I miss her too." The owl hooted sadly and buried his head underneath his wing. The boy sighed and was prepared to say goodbye to everyone when Hermione appeared in front of him to talk for a while. "Are your parents not here yet?"
"They're over there, but they said that I could stay for a while to say goodbye."
"Are you going to be okay for the summer?" Hermione asked as she tapped the handlebar of the trolley.
"I'll be fine. It's just a few weeks at Stuggle's, what's the worse that could happen?" Hermione raised an eyebrow while crossing her arms. "I said, the 'worst'. Surely, running away isn't that bad!"
"It is if nobody knows where you are!"
"Well when you argue with that logic…" Theodore remarked sarcastically. The girl rolled her eyes but then smiled, tying her hands behind her back. Harry told her in secret about him going berserk when she was bitten by the Basilisk. She wasn't near brave enough to tell him that she thought it was sweet in its own weird way, but would keep it at the back of her mind for as long as she could. It didn't matter if he didn't know that she knew. She was perfectly happy with keeping it to herself.
"Hermione, it's time to- oh hello, Theodore! How are you?"
"Hello. I'm fine, Mrs Granger, thank you." Mrs Granger appeared behind her daughter as her husband carted Hermione's belongings to meet the boy again.
"Hello there, Theo. How you doing? Had a good year?"
"Um, yeah, I guess." Theodore nervously smiled as he scratched the back of his head.
"Well that's good to hear. Say, didn't you have a snake with you? It looked rather exquisite, at least from a distance."
"I let her go. She was better off in the wild than being held down as a pet."
"That's a shame. I liked looking at snakes when I was a child. I even had a pet snake once until I lost her… Well! Say goodbye to Theodore and we'll be on our way, darling."
"Can I have just one more minute, please?" The girl asked. Mr Granger nodded and walked away with his wife near the magical barrier, leaving the Muggle-born and Heir alone again. "Write to us, okay? Don't forget. Promise."
"I won't forget."
"Yeah, so promise." Rolling his eyes, the boy made the promise. "Good. Anyways, I've got to go now."
"Bye, Hermione." Hermione tiptoed to wrap her arms around the boy as Theodore returned the hug. He felt her nuzzling against his neck for a quick second, and then released him. She said goodbye quickly as she skipped away to her parents, leaving Theodore to touch his neck gently. Something odd and very brief washed over him. He couldn't tell what it was but it felt familiar, like he felt the exact same thing before. Theodore shook his head and pushed the trolley to the Weasleys, who were departing. Mrs Weasley hugged him for an extended amount of time and gave him words of encouragement to stay strong, regardless of his year-long ordeal. He took the words to heart and said goodbye to the rest of the family. As they vanished through the barrier, Theodore noticed that Harry was the only one left of the group.
'Now. Now I'll tell him. Go on, Theo. You can tell him. Go.'
The Heir carted his trolley to the bench where his cousin sat, and joined him. This was it. He was going to tell him. Right there, right now.
"Still waiting for the Dursleys?" Theodore asked as he sat on the lefthand side.
"Waiting? I might as well go back on my own! I don't know why they're always late. Actually, I do… Still waiting for Wretchen?"
"I believe she's called, 'Gretchen'," said Theodore snootily.
"I know what I said." Harry returned, showing off his infrequent sassy side. The boys guffawed as the platform began to empty in quite large numbers. They watched the Malfoys cradling Draco as they left through the barrier, and they saw Luna talking with her equally quirky-looking father before they left as well. The afternoon sun started to die as the evening was dawning upon the two. Flocks of birds cried out overhead as it was just Harry and Theodore left on the platform. Theodore thought through this thoroughly on how he was going to do this until he found the perfect idea. Reaching inside of his suitcase he brought out the one book from the year that he'd never regret receiving.
"Hey, Harry. Can I show you something?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"Just a second… here." The photo book was placed on his lap gently as Harry touched the golden binding, asking what it was. "It's a photo book. From my mum's side of the family."
"Cool. How long have you had it?"
"Since last summer," replied the Heir as he opened up the first page. "I met a woman who knew my mum. They were neighbours before she died. They had this for a long time, then gave it to me when I was at the Leaky Cauldron." Harry watched attentively as Theodore flicked through the pages. Pictures of unfamiliar Potters smiled and moved in the images as they looked back at their two descendants. Theodore was hoping that Harry would make the connection, but he kept quiet. Maybe he knew already, and was waiting for him to say something instead.
"Who's that," asked the scar-bearing boy as he pointed at a young couple placed within the middle of the book.
"Them? Oh, umm… They are er… Oh! These is my grandparents! Fleamont and… Euphemia." Theodore saw Harry's eyes twinkle as he looked closer to them. Did he know now?
"Wow. They look familiar. Actually, I think I've seen them before…" He was almost there. Theodore smiled a little as he saw him coming around. It was working.
"Do you want to see more?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I want to see more." Harry was fully invested as he could've sworn that he saw those two before sometime last year. He watched closer to Theodore flicking through while he tried to remember who they were. Page after page, Potter after Potter, the two boys looked at their family which flourished to many different people. Some were wizards and witches, and some were Muggles. It didn't matter because they were family. Their family. Theodore turned each page over until Harry stopped him from turning any further.
"What is it?"
"Her! I know her!" Harry had his finger firmly planted on a young Valerie's face as she smiled alone under an apple tree.
"Y-you know her?"
"Yeah! That's my dad's sister, Valerie! I saw her in a photo once when she and my dad were kids. But how do you…" Harry widened his eyes in such shock that speechless wasn't even the word. He stared at Theodore as the boy looked down on his mother, smiling while he traced his finger against her face. Theodore's insides were shuddering violently but he kept calm on the outside. This felt better than he had ever expected, even if he was nervous to the very core.
"S-she's your… that's… you're my…" Harry couldn't get the words out as he was completely overwhelmed. Overjoyed, more like it. Theodore nodded, still smiling as his cousin finally knew. Harry drew in heavy breaths until he could speak again. "I… I always had a feeling… I didn't know what it was… but you're my…" Harry didn't finish his sentence as he hugged his cousin in an instant. The photo book almost fell out of his lap, but Theodore didn't even notice that. The final weight which was hanging off his heart was removed as he felt completely liberated from everything. The secrets, the lies, everything. Harry was trembling as he patted Theodore's back, probably shedding a tear or few in secret. They held onto each other for a while longer until they separated, both pair of eyes misty and red.
"Sorry. I'm just…" Harry mumbled as he rubbed his eyes clear. "To think that I had someone else, other than the Dursleys, and that someone was there the whole time. I just can't believe it."
"Well I guess we're on the same boat, huh?"
"Yeah… yeah we are."
"So where do we go from here?" Harry asked. Theodore shrugged, rubbing his elbow after placing the book back inside of his suitcase. "Do you think that you could visit me over the summer?"
"I mean… I would if I could but I ran away last time and…"
"Dursleys," said the boys together. They both chuckled and sighed loudly.
"I think that the Dursleys have arrived now. If one listens closely, they could hear the pig squeals of Dudley on the other side."
"I still can't believe that we're stuck with horrible people. Are you going to tell them what you did during the year?" Harry scoffed as he stood up to push his trolley through the barrier.
"And give them an excuse to put me in an asylum? No thanks, I've already had my fair share of craziness for two years."
"Don't forget underground dungeons."
"That too. See you later, Theo."
"Bye, Harry." The cousins hugged each other one last time before the scar-bearing boy left through the barrier, leaving Theodore as the last person on Platform 9¾. It felt exactly like the start of the year, all on his own yet he was far from that. He wasn't alone. He had Harry, Ron, Hermione, the Weasleys, Dumbledore, Louise, Madam, Erveris, Terly and even Viripin. He had all those people and above them all, he had his mother in his heart. Valerie Potter's boy. That was who he was. Not the Son of the Dark Lord, no. Valerie's boy. The soothing orange sun began to set as they brightened the boy's hazel eyes. He closed them, finally ridding his heart and soul of Tom Marvolo Riddle completely.
"Yes… I forgive… I forgive myself."
And that is the Chamber of Secrets finished. I was having the time of my life writing these chapters and I hope you guys did too. I really think I outdid myself with this one. Prisoner of Azkaban will be coming soon after I finished my exams but as of now, Progeny of Slytherin is on a small hiatus. Just a small one. I want to thank all the reviews, favourites and follows and everyone else who is reading along. I'll be looking forward to when I'll come back. Wish me luck on my exams and I hope that you'll like this chapter. I wanted to say more but it's the end of the story, right? Later.
Fast Frank: Fixed:)