The more he thought about it, the more it waned on him to hold back. The more he thought about it, the more it dwelled upon him that he needed it in his hands, the outer envelope ready to be torn so that its contents could be revealed to him. The thought of Snape tarnishing his mother's last will while he was sitting idly in class, like the fool Snape thought he was, just maddened him. Theodore was forced to endure a sleepless weekend, tortured by his anger and obsession, all because of the Potion Master's trivial temperament from the week before. What did he have to gain from hiding the letter from him? Was he wallowing in self-comfort from keeping a letter that belonged to his 'friend', without so much as acknowledging its actual purpose? Snape wasn't the first person, and definitely wasn't the last, who the boy expected to feel genuine contempt towards, but it was there. He felt it. And Theodore could only see it growing stronger every passing second when the will wasn't in his palms. This wasn't stemmed from childish behaviour, no. He swore to himself that his past, his reason for walking on this Earth, would be uncovered from the moment Dumbledore left his room on that day. He swore to himself that he'd find out, and that meant that nothing was going to stop him. Nothing and no one, especially Snape. Determination; obsession, whatever you wanted to call it, it didn't matter. All that did was getting that letter.
"…which is why I advise you to take extra precaution, should you encounter such a beast. Now! Before the lesson finishes, feel free to have a good look at the Hinkypunk in the corner. Please, it will do you no harm, so do not worry." Theodore's head suddenly lost its equilibrium as someone shifted his arm that was supporting his head during his stirring of thoughts, almost crashing his jaw against his desk. Hermione apologised briefly before she told him that they were allowed to view the creature of the day, prompting the boy to lift himself from his chair as he joined the crowd.
"Look at that," said Lavender in awe as she pressed her face against the large glass cage containing the Hinkypunk. The creature sidestepped inside the tank eerily with its one thick leg, bearing no distinguishable features that even resembled a face while the Gryffindors gawked at it with such interest. Theodore stood around the back of the clumped students, not even mildly intrigued by the gasps and squeals of his peers as his mind was somewhere else. His eyes roamed across the classroom, finally landing on Lupin's desk as he couldn't keep his gaze away from the goblet that he presented to the shabby man.
'A werewolf. An actual werewolf is teaching us right now. Here he is, acting as if nothing is out of the ordinary while casually teaching kids. Dumbledore's seriously lost it. No wonder why Snape doesn't seem to like him. Yet again, why would I care about what that parrot-beak nosed, filthy scum of-'
"Are you alright, Theodore? You haven't looked at the Hinkypunk yet," said Lupin as he jogged the dazed Parselmouth's shoulder lightly. Bewilderment, then a lucid expression grew on the boy's face as he gave the scarred teacher a little nod before the bells rang throughout the castle. Returning to his desk to retrieve his bag; aiming for the classroom door, Theodore couldn't rid himself of the scowl that had become quite permanent in the past few days. His repressed anger had almost clouded him from responding to Ron and Hermione's voices calling his name inside of the hallways, requiring a nudge from Dean as he spun back around.
"Where are you off to in such a hurry," asked Ron as he caught up with Theodore. The Parselmouth shrugged lazily with his eyebrows still furrowed.
"Got the biggest headache. I just want to get this day over and done with."
"Go to Madam Pomfrey" suggested Hermione as they waited outside the door for Harry, who was held back by Lupin. "I'm sure that she'll do something about it."
"It's a different kind of headache, Hermione. You know, the ones when you can't think straight, and you need to sleep on it. My head's not actually hurting." Theodore said in a slightly irritable tone. Ron and Hermione glanced at each other with concerning looks, looks that were reserved for Harry whenever he'd complain about his scar. Theodore's sudden shift in behaviour didn't go unnoticed by them, not even by Harry. Although it had only been roughly two days since Snape's cover lesson, the Parselmouth looked exceptionally sour ever since, not even curling his lip at the twins' stupidity in the common room. They both knew the problem, but they were certain that there was more to it. The real problem was for them to get him to talk about it.
"Does that mean you're not going to Snape's right now?" Hermione elbowed Ron hard in his rib, causing him to squeal and shoot dirty looks at the Muggle-born. Theodore ignored her blatant attempt to shut Ron's revival of the conversation and decided to continue it.
"He's lucky to even see me in his lessons. I swear, if we could drop Potions, then I'd do it in a heartbeat." The Parselmouth muttered as he clenched his fist tightly.
"You don't mean that," said Hermione quietly. "You loved Potions from the first day, and you know that. I know that you and Snape aren't on good terms, but it doesn't mean that you should ruin what's going on for you here. I'm sure if you go down there and-"
"Not happening, Hermione."
"But… Alright. Do what you want to do." He raised his eyebrow at the girl's strange choice in avoiding conflict with him. Ron copied his expression as well, taken back that a girl like Hermione wasn't going to oppose a decision that was reckless in her eyes. She took her time to look at the two, finally asking why they were staring at her in such a way.
"Nothing…" The boys spoke in unison. She opened her mouth to possibly harass the boys into asking again, but was silenced when Harry came through the classroom door, face oddly full of unwavering determination and boldness.
"What's gotten into you," asked Theodore to his cousin as the four made their way to the common room.
"Nothing," replied the scar-bearing boy coolly. "Lupin just wanted to know about the whole Dementor thing, that's all." Theodore was curious as to what really happened behind the closed doors of the classroom. No doubt that they had to be talking about the Dementors, given Lupin's title in the school and the category that the Dementors fell into as 'Dark Creatures'. But the anger returned, fogging whatever Harry was hiding from the three as the letter and Snape resurfaced. Theodore kept quiet along the journey up the moving staircases; through the portrait hole and into the boys' dorm room, throwing his bag onto his bed before he changed into his Muggle clothes.
The Maibian Adder was sleeping soundly underneath his mattress as he sprawled himself above it, no hisses being heard from below. He was hoping that he could talk to Viripin, seeing as how easy it was to just spill these things to her, but he refrained himself from doing so. Lifting himself from the bed once more, the boy trudged towards the door, and left the dorm to regroup with his friends below. Hermione and Ron were sitting on the fireplace sofa, their area and conversation being quite tame compared from before, with Harry and the Quidditch team being huddled in the corner, Oliver standing tall above them as several broomstick manoeuvres and techniques were drawn on the black board.
"…don't care if she's forty. I still think she's proper fit."
"I can never understand you, Seamus. The things you say, man…"
Theodore followed the conversation to Dean, Seamus and Neville, who were sat around one of the common room tables near the back, surrounding a large copy of the Daily Prophet as it was turned to an article that spanned over a page and a half. The headlines read Black's Escape a Blunder, Or A Set Up…? with Black's crazed portrait being centred in the left page. The Parselmouth's eyes skimmed across the moving images until he found the subject of the three boys' conversation. Although slightly faded and in black-and-white, Theodore could feel the exuberant colours of the woman's clothing bursting from the image, nearly glowing in the photograph as she made exaggerated poses. Heavy-jawed, curls that didn't seem to naturally bounce on her head, and her glasses twinkling from the flashes of the camera led the boy to read the byline underneath the headline.
"Rita Skeeter…?" Theodore mumbled as his head was looming above Neville's. "Who's Rita Skeeter?"
"She's a-" Seamus popped up, but he was instantly blocked by Dean's hand as his other grabbed the newspaper and forced it into Theodore's hand.
"Please take this as far away as you possibly can. I can't deal with another 'I'd actually shag her' monologue from this kid." Dean said wearily as Theodore took the Prophet under his armpit. The Irish boy's face became flooded with anger and blood as he removed Dean's hand away.
"I didn't say that, Theo! He's lying, you know he is! I mean, look! He's smirking! You have to believe me," emphasised Seamus defensively. "Neville, you believe me, right?"
Theodore turned his back around to ignore Seamus's utter embarrassment as he lethargically turned each page over whilst he heard Seamus storming upstairs with the other two following him. Each page seemed similar from the previous one, most of the articles revolving around Black while a few elaborated on the endeavours of the magical world inside and outside Britain.
'Bulgarian Minister of Magic Makes Amends with President of the MACUSA After Recent ICW Conference... Barty Crouch Off Sick for The Third Week in A Row… Public Demands Retrial of Durmstrang's Headmaster After Suspicious Disappearances… Didn't know that there was a Ministry of Magic in America or Bulgaria. Learn something new everyday.'
The boy became immersed in the various articles and advertisements that littered the newspaper, unknowingly finding his way to the sofa as he sat on Crookshanks's tail.
"Watch where you're sitting, Theodore!" Hermione shouted as the cat screeched, nearly slicing the Parselmouth's shirt as it clawed at him. Theodore managed to stand back up in the nick of time with Hermione grabbing the furious cat in an even more furious embrace as they both stared at him.
"Sorry," apologised the boy half-heartedly as he sat back down again with the newspaper in his face. The Muggle-born's tutting went unnoticed by Theodore as he carried on through the article concerning the Durmstrang Headmaster.
"Ahh, you saw that as well? Yeah, Igor Karkaroff. Dad told me about him. Said that he was one of You Know Whose lot that managed to escape life in Azkaban, although a lot of people have petitioned for him to stand on trial again." Ron explained as his head was leaning over to the newspaper.
"How did he avoid Azkaban?"
"Ratted out a lot of his own people, apparently. Guessed it was enough for a shorter sentence." While she was still rather annoyed by Theodore's uncaring attitude towards Crookshanks, Hermione found herself listening in to the conversation between the two boys.
"Hmph. So much for loyalty," remarked Theodore as he folded the Prophet and placed it onto the table in front of him. "The Ministry is run by idiots to let him free, especially letting him be a headteacher for a school. Would've left him in Azkaban without question."
"Probably safer in there than out here. Sucks for him if he crosses paths with You Know Who again."
"Yeah… sucks for him…"
"Theo, you know about the Hieroglyphs homework? I was wondering if you got the same answers as-" A chorus of ear-splitting shrieks erupted from the boys' dorm, snatching everybody's attention to the stairway. Theodore and Ron were the closest ones to the archway, and were the first to run up to their dorm where the screams came from, with most of the House tagging behind them. As they reached the third-year boys' dormitory, they then frantically burst into the room, heads darting everywhere, trying to find the source of the random wails.
"Neville? Dean? Seamus? Where are you guys," called out Theodore, suddenly remembering that he heard the three leaving the main room. "Neville? Neville!"
"Everyone move out of the way, please! Let me through! Head Boy, coming through!" The crowds of Gryffindors all spilled into the room to make way for the eldest Weasley as he entered the scene with an authoritative stance which made him look winded instead. "What's going on? Why are you screaming your lungs out at a time like this?"
"We weren't the ones who screamed, Percy. And it's only six thirty…"
"Then who was the one that scre- ARGGH! SNAKE!" The screams multiplied a hundredfold as the hysterical Gryffindors backed away through the door and out of sight, tripping and falling over each other to leave behind eleven children: Theodore, Ron, Hermione, Harry, Fred and George, Neville, Dean, Seamus, Ginny and Percy, who was unfortunately overwhelmed by the crowd as his robes was sullied with dusty footprints after being trampled by nearly everyone. Ginny helped her older brother to find his glasses as Theodore quickly dived under his bed. Viripin wasn't there.
"Viripin, where are you," hissed the boy in English as he furthered himself under his bed. "What the hell were you thinking, leaving your basket so recklessly! What was one of the first things that I told you? 'Don't leave', yet it's like you- huh? What?"
"Viripin is over here, so you can come out now." Hermione said from above after tapping the boy's leg. Theodore slid out from underneath and brought himself to his feet, slapping off the dust from his shirt as he asked where the Maibian Adder was. They all pointed at the top of the bottom right poster, which the snake had winded herself around so elegantly, head poised against the boy.
"Neville, Dean, Seamus. You can come out now." Theodore ordered to the hidden boys as he frowned at Viripin. A quick scuttle across the room and it was down to eight. "What the hell are you doing?! Why are you exposing yourself to them like that? What if they tell McGonagall that I have a snake in the room?"
"It wasn't my fault! Seamus kicked your bed because he was angry at something, which woke me up, and I went to peek my head out from under the bed, but Neville nearly squished my head flat so I tripped him up, but realising my mistake, I quickly slithered onto your bed because he looked underneath, but then he told Dean and Seamus about my basket and wouldn't stop staring at it so I couldn't go back, then they came back up and could clearly see me on the bed and got scared, and then I heard everybody else coming and I panicked so I went up the post, thinking that nobody would see me but Percy did, and everybody went crazy and-"
"Okay, okay! Alright, Viripin! I can barely understand half of it, when you're speaking that fast." Viripin stooped her head low guiltily, realising what this could mean for her stay in the Tower, let alone the boy's grasp.
"Are you angry with me?" He lifted her head and gently pulled her growing body from the post, allowing her to slink along his arms as he gave her a smile which had become a rarity from the boy these days.
"No… Of course, I'm not mad with you. I just don't know what's going to happen, now that everybody else knows about you."
"It was the stupid glasses-wearing idiot with the badge that gave me away! If it wasn't for him, then nobody would've seen me!" Theodore suppressed his laugh as he could hear Harry doing the same.
"But, Viripin, somebody did see you. Neville, Dean and Seamus, remember?" She dropped her head again in shame as the other three, the twins and Ginny closed in, Percy still being too shaken up to confront the Adder.
"It's still his fault, the twat."
"What? What did she say," asked Percy nervously as the sight of the younger children, especially Ginny, crowding around a snake that large was quite alarming to him. Theodore covered Viripin's mouth to stop any more churlish comments from leaving it.
"She was just apologising! Yeah, she's sorry about scaring you, and she just apologised." Theodore reassured as Viripin moved herself away from his hand, clearly annoyed. Percy straightened himself again, nodding courteously at the Maibian Adder as he spun on his heels, and out through the door.
"Pompous dick…" Harry and Theodore couldn't hold it in as they sniggered loudly, infecting the others as they had a good idea on what she had said to the older boy, who speedily turned back around to face them all.
"What's so funny? What did she say this time?"
"Nothing, Percy. Nothing… at… all…"
"So, I can't come with you?" The Maibian Adder murmured as she was being carried by Theodore up the stairs, and to her basket.
"I wish I could, but bringing you to Hogsmeade is crossing the line a bit too much after everything that just happened," reminded the Parselmouth as he set her on his bed sheets.
After Percy had 'accidentally' slipped out the previous commotion in the dorm room, along with some others as Theodore suspected, Viripin was trialled with an examination by the teachers, namely Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, Sprout and a few government board members who were alerted by the snake's presence. Nearly four weeks it had been since he last saw her, nearly four weeks when his mood took a turn for the worst after many people 'apologised' for giving her up. Theodore obviously accepted none of these (except for Neville, Dean and Seamus's), and regularly stayed out of his fellow Gryffindors' paths as he patiently waited for any news on Viripin. Granted that the majority of the adults involved, including Snape, were against the boy keeping such a rare and dangerous snake among other vulnerable students, their thoughts and contributions to the situation meant nothing as the final decision landed ultimately on Dumbledore, who didn't hesitate to allow the Parselmouth to keep Viripin. Heavily thankful that he prevented the two from being separated permanently a second time, Theodore returned with the Adder from Dumbledore's office early in the morning, grinning smugly as he carried her through the common room like treasure while ignoring the shocked faces of his peers. If he had to thank them for anything, it was that Viripin didn't need to hide anymore under his bed. He could have her in the common room and nobody could complain about her.
"You know I can just disguise myself on your shoulder, or inside your hat. Come on! Everyone knows that I'm here, yet I can't come with you? That's unjust!"
"You can't just look at something that you don't like and call it unjust." Theodore responded as he began to remove his winter clothing from his trunk. "This'll be a fun experience for the both of us. You can roam around the common room with Harry, in the daylight mind you, while I'll be going to Hogsmeade for the first time. That's relatively fair, right?"
"Relatively fair doesn't mean equally fair, or however you want to phrase it. Must I stay?" Theodore jokingly pouted his lips as he displayed a 'sob face' to the Adder, annoying her greatly as she slithered back into her basket, hissing quietly to herself.
"That doesn't mean that I didn't miss you, because I did."
"Yeah, yeah. I missed you too…"
After he tore open the Maibian Adder's breakfast near her basket, the hazel-eyed boy then quickly dressed himself in his clothes for the excessive weather that was currently raging outside. Madam had taken it upon herself to buy the boy new winter clothes as his old ones from last year had been severely outgrown by his limbs' sudden growth, forcing him to replace them. And like every year, Gretchen was always the one that knitted his hats, something that killed the boy to admit that she was quite good at. After finally wrapping his scarlet and yellow scarf around his mouth, the boy eagerly grabbed his sack of Galleons, brought his scarf down briefly to give the grumpy snake a kiss on her broad head, and made his way down the stairs to join his friends.
Theodore met up with Harry, Hermione and Ron near the portrait hole, and climbed through to the Great Hall for breakfast before they'd set off for Hogsmeade without Harry. The scar-bearing boy did his best to hide his glumness, smiling every time Fred and George would discuss the next set of joke items that they would salvage from Zonko's; when Lavender, Parvati, Neville and many others would ramble on about Honeydukes. Theodore could feel his pain from across the table, but that pain was to soon be forgotten the second he'd step outside of the castle.
Waffles, eggs and bacon alike were wolfed down savagely by the Parselmouth, readying him for the seemingly exhilarating day ahead. Who knew how much fun was being held in the wizarding village? Hermione and Ron did. They wouldn't stop going on about it, even when they entered the line in the Entrance Hall.
"Theo, you must come to Tomes and Scrolls! The number of books that are inside of there is amazing!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Honeydukes is where it's at! You should've seen Neville trying two Acid Pops in one go! Classic!" The two's vivid descriptions of the shops became faint in Theodore's ears as he noticed Harry standing beside him, probably hanging onto each word to paint a picture in his head about Hogsmeade. Hermione and Ron's attention turned to each other as Theodore leaned into his cousin's ear, whispering so that the other two wouldn't notice.
"Don't sulk. Viripin is going to keep you company."
"Thanks for that, Theo. I feel tremendously better already." Harry sarcastically returned. Theodore placed a sincere hand on his shoulder before the line shifted forwards so that the three were closer to Filch. They waved goodbye at a sullen Harry and reached Filch, whose fingers trembled upon crossing Theodore's name off the list. The slicing breeze of the frigid air slapped his face instantly the second he walked through the Entrance Doors, forcing him to lift his scarf above his nose. This weather was no joke, he was lucky that he had such thick clothing.
The walk over to Hogsmeade was admittedly sluggish for the Parselmouth, the trio having to halt numerous times whenever the piercing gust of wind blew too harshly against their small bodies. The wind had created a blast of air so mighty that Ron was being held onto by the relatively shorter boy and noticeably shorter girl like a lamppost with great fortitude. This linkage carried on all the way until a towering golden archway with the word Hogsmeade touched the boy's eyes, the beginning of the Main Street being visible to him. Theodore compared it to Diagon Alley at Christmas time, only the High Street was a little wider with several junctions branching off; shops and little cottages lined up on the sides that were covered in snow, and countless wizards and witches going in and out of buildings, some empty handed; some not.
He tried to take it all in at once, then realising his mistake as some of the early morning sun's glare reflected off the snow and into his eyes. He then felt two hands on each arm dragging him blindly underneath the archway as the two pulled the Parselmouth into Zonko's first. Although a surprising number of objects piqued Theodore's interest, such as the Whizzing Worms and Sugar Quills, he couldn't help himself from staring at the building opposite to the prank shop. Call it an unnatural attraction to ominously-obvious things and places, Theodore had his eyes fixated on the inn where a hunched-back dodgy-looking witch had entered after suspiciously darting her head around, as if she were being followed. And she was. Before he knew it, Theodore had already found himself on the other side of the street without Ron or Hermione noticing. The crisp layer of snow beneath his boots crunched quietly as he neared closer to the chipped black door.
"Hog's Head Inn…" He read off the hanging sign that was making a futile attempt to fight against the growing blizzard. It seemed as if it were mandatory for every wizarding village/market to have an inn, although he said this as if he visited many. Feeling no hesitation, and oddly no fear, Theodore gently pushed against the door and peered his head through inside. One word. Dingy. Three words. Dingy as hell. It was like a layer of dirt had encompassed every square inch of the main room, which was too cramped to begin with, however, he only assumed this as the hole-ridden bar that was swaying under the weight of something large, was all that could be seen. He entered through the door a little further, silently astonished by how nobody could notice him sticking his head through the open door.
'This place smells like gone-off Butterbeer and shit… and goats…? This place is terrible, I mean, who would want to sleep here of all-"
"Professor Dumbledore?!" The man behind the counter scowled as he twisted his head to face the trespassing boy. Nope. Definitely not Dumbledore. He had a similar grey beard, the same thin frame with their eyes being near identical, but it wasn't the old man. The lack of a crooked nose explained everything to Theodore. "I'm… sorry. Didn't mean to come in like this, so… I think it's best that I leav-"
Theodore was yanked out of the sketchy inn, and back into the dazzling white streets of Hogsmeade as the Muggle-born held a firm grip on his forearm, wearing disappointment across her face. Ron, however, was grinning at the fact that Theodore had just went inside of Hog's Head so discreetly, possibly eager to give him a pat on the back.
"Stop smiling, Ron! It isn't funny!" Hermione chided as she released Theodore. "You shouldn't be going inside of there, Theodore. Hog's Head is the one place you want to avoid here, apart from the Shrieking Shack. It's full of dodgy people."
"You don't have to tell me twice," mumbled Theodore back as he rubbed the area on his arm where Hermione clenched onto for too long.
"Why did you even go in there? It's literally screaming no place for kids."
"Just wanted to look around. I'm allowed to do that, right? That's part of the whole reason for coming here." The bushy haired girl rolled her eyes and held onto the boys' shoulders to keep them from running off as if they were her children. That was to be expected when you were the only girl among a group consisting of an arrogant boy, a sarcastic one and the famous Harry Potter. But nevertheless, they had to press on.
The trio soon arrived at Honeydukes, which had a wafting aroma of sugar in multiple forms hanging near the end of its street alone. And my, was it overwhelming! Sweets stacked onto shelves high above that he was familiar with, sweets that he had never seen before being displayed lower down for everyone to hound on like it was the last piece of food on Earth. All of it was thrilling, invigorating if you will. And Theodore wasn't going to waste a single second.
"I'm going to look for some Pumpkin Pasties. Don't bother following me because I'm not leaving."
"My god, Theo…" Hermione muttered as she facepalmed. "Don't you think you've eaten enough Pumpkin Pasties to last you a lifetime?"
"No." He replied bluntly before he spun around to disappear into the crowd.
"I'm telling you, Ron, if it's not all these stupid life-threatening adventures that'll kill him, it's Pumpkin Pasties. He's crazy for them!"
"Mmm hmm…" Hermione gave him a haughty glance from the side as she knew he had something off the tip of his tongue, eager to spill it out in front of her. Arms crossed, face red from the cold, the Muggle-born asked the red head what was the problem with what she said to which he responded with, 'Nothing. Simply nothing, Hermione. Absolutely nothing to worry about."
"No, you can tell me now, thanks."
"I just think how it's funny that you and-" Ron flinched instantly at the sounds of rampant shouts that caused him to spill all of his Jelly Beans onto the floor. Ron bent down to clear away his mess quickly before the owner of the shop arrived, cursing under his breath as Hermione helped him grudgingly.
"You were saying," hissed the girl as she poured the handful of beans back into the container that weren't covered in dust.
"I prefer not to say it anymore. The moment's ruined."
"The moment isn't ruined! You just don't want to say whatever came up in that head of yours! How is the moment ruined?"
"For starters, you guys are picking up Jelly Beans off the ground with people staring all over." They both shot their heads up and smiled nervously at the crowd of intrusive students, with Theodore munching on a pasty whilst grinning mockingly at the two. "Not about to make a scene in here as well, are you?"
"Of course not! Anyways, I thought that you were going to buy more of those," pointed out Hermione as she fitted her hair comfortably inside her spacious woolly hat.
"I was, but there was only two left. Apparently, somebody bought the lot before I got there. Bet you it's those fat idiots, Crabbe and Goyle…" Theodore took another bite at the pasty.
"Actually, it was me." Theodore might've had a mouthful, but that didn't stop him from producing a garbled noise from his throat. He felt somebody slap his back as he coughed loudly, clearing his airways as he saw Harry holding several Pumpkin Pasties in his arms. Ron and Hermione were also shocked by the green-eyed boy's sudden appearance, but were fortunate enough to not have any food in their mouths.
"Sorry, Theo. Didn't mean to scare you." Harry apologised as Theodore straightened himself.
"You mean kill me! Jesus, Harry, you can't just sneak up on people like that!"
"How did you get past Filch? Did you freeze him? Apparate? Just walked out like it was nothing?" Ron asked rapidly. Harry was about to answer, but looked back and forth before closing in on the other three. Carefully reaching into his jacket, Harry pulled out a folded piece of parchment that looked like, to Theodore, absolutely plain. Well, until Harry explained to them what it was.
"Really?! Everyone in the castle can be shown?!" Ron nearly shouted in amazement. Harry, Theodore and Hermione hushed him to let the scar-bearing boy speak at a quieter volume.
"Yeah. You can even see Dumbledore in his office; Filch, McGonagall, Snape, pretty much everyone. I used these secret passageways, that only show up on the map, to get to the Honeydukes cellar." Theodore's eyes glowed a little, his brain now functioning at high speeds that only happened when ulterior schemes were forming only so quickly. He greedily scoffed down the rest of his pasty, and dropped his head for further inspection.
"'Ow does it work? Tell me," spoke the hazel-eyed boy through a covered mouthful of pasty. Harry shook his head, nearing closer to him in a lower whisper that could barely be heard by Theodore, through his insistent munching.
"I can't tell you here, not when everyone's around. I'll show it to you later."
"All righ', let me see et then."
"Swallow, Theodore! Good god…"
Harry, once again, refused Theodore's 'request' to look at the Map more closely, already fearing that people were starting to give him suspicious looks from behind their backs. They bought all that they wanted from the sweet shop, and returned to the chilling village outside. Theodore's thoughts on his sudden quench for something to drink, was read by Ron as he suggested that the four should go for a Butterbeer. The Parselmouth's initial guess was that they would go to Hog's Head, seeing as it was the only place that would serve the beloved beverage, but instead he was led to a place elsewhere. The red head and the Muggle-born led the way through the numbing blizzard, with the two cousins trailing behind them, into a different inn called The Three Broomsticks.
"At least it's always warm in here," chattered Hermione as she shook off the melting snowflakes in her hat. This inn in particular, was noticeably smaller than the Leaky Cauldron, but still held a similar air to it. Clumps of wizards and witches downing several pints in one corner, hags waving their hands flirtatiously at the younger wizards who walked by, clearly disgusted. Theodore's neck was overcome with a creeping sensation that was similar to the wizards' reactions. He couldn't forget his first meeting with Ms Padalin, no matter how much his opinion changed about her later on.
"You guys find a place somewhere, while I'll get the drinks," proposed Ron as the others nodded. As he parted ways with the other three, Harry and Theodore followed Hermione to a table near the left of the front counter, where a pretty woman with blondish hair was writing down the red head's order. The table was for four, Harry and Hermione on one side with Theodore and an empty seat for Ron, on the other. They all settled in quite comfortably until another thought, which slightly irked him, crossed his mind.
"Harry? Where's Viripin?" Harry looked up from the table and made no change in his expression.
"Well, when I went back up into the common room after you guys left, she came to me because she thought that I was staying, and I was going to. We talked for a bit, until she suggested that we should walk around the castle. We did that for a while until I found Fred and George, and you know the rest of the story."
"But you didn't tell me where she is." The scar-bearing boy scratched his messy hair guiltily and tried to avoid his cousin's annoyed gaze. "Harry, where is Viripin?"
"She kinda… flew off and vanished… But it's not my fault! I didn't know that she was going to do that! I'm certain that she just went back into the common room through the window, or to the owlery with Sawer. Right?" Theodore slid down his chair a little as his levels of annoyance and concern for the Maibian Adder became more apparent in his face.
"Yeah… sure…" He said quietly, tapping his fingers against the table. The silence between them became disturbing for Harry as he broke the silence by pointing out to Ron, who was returning with a tray full of Butterbeer tankards. Theodore pushed Viripin's possible whereabouts out of his mind as he made a small smile, taking his Butterbeer from the tray, as did the others. He brought the warm beverage to his lips, the second Ron stood up with something to say.
"Now, you guys may, or may have not noticed, that this is actually our first Christmas together as a four. I'm not the type to be soppy and stuff when it comes to this, but considering what happened last year, which I will not mention for Theo's sake…"
"Gee, thanks, Ron…" Theodore remarked sarcastically.
"…it's times like these where I ask myself, 'how in the hell have we not been killed yet'? Makes me appreciate this time of year and with that, I say, Merry Christmas, you bunch of maniacs." The other three applauded the red head in a jokingly-pompous manner, pretending to chuck roses at him while Ron bowed humorously.
"You're a treasure, Ron. An absolute treasure."
They all clanked their tankards against each other, and chugged the heavenly drink that drowned them in pure delight and contentment. After downing their Butterbeers, the quartet panted slightly, grinning as the Butterbeer did its job to rid them of the snow's effect from outside. Theodore was wiping the remnants of the drink under his nose, sucking on his fingers until he felt something chilling slicing against the back of his neck, followed by a firm closing of the front door. His head rotated to see who was responsible for dampening his mood, but stopped halfway, and turned back around when he saw Hermione stuffing Harry's head underneath the table.
"Hermione, have you gone mad," spluttered Ron in confusion and irritation. "What are you doing to-" Hermione used one hand to point at the front area of the inn while forcing a resisting Harry under the table. Theodore didn't realise it at first when he saw Hagrid, McGonagall, Flitwick and Fudge walking up to the front counter, casually talking amongst one other like the quartet would do, but immediately understood the Muggle-born's actions afterwards. Ron bent his head under the table to see if Harry was perfectly hidden; Hermione was tapping her fingertips together very nervously, while Theodore sat calmly, balancing his head against his arm.
'Really inconspicuous, Hermione.' The girl kept on darting her eyes to the side, looking as if she'd crumble under complete pressure if McGonagall so much as turned towards them. Luckily and strangely enough, none of the adults batted an eye to the three children as they ordered their drinks at the bar, smiling happily at the innkeeper, who went by Madam Rosmerta, settling into a booth that was right behind Ron and Theodore's backs.
"Rosy, you're a lifesaver. Thank you. One needs a good drink or two, these days. Come along, have a seat." Fudge. His voice was slightly obscured by Hagrid, whose hulking body blocked most of the sound from the others as he was the one who was behind Ron and Theodore. Didn't mean that they couldn't hear them at all.
"It's quite nice of you to drop by, Minister. I guess you're here for 'obvious reasons'." Madam Rosmerta hinted as she motioned a vacant chair towards her with a flick of a finger. "You should've seen the entire place last week. You'd think it was a graveyard, the way nobody left a single building! Dementors…"
"Don't 'ave to tell me twice." Hagrid chimed in as he took a swig of his mead from a keg-sized tankard. "Those things bin loomin' round the castle, even near my hut. Scary creatures, Dementors. Really scary creatures, they are." He took another gulp.
"Agreed. It was right for the Headmaster to chase them away when they came intruding during a recent Quidditch game. A student in my house nearly died because of them, Minister. If it weren't for Professor Dumbledore's intervention, I'd hate to see how Potter would've looked like against the ground from such a height."
"Harry Potter was attacked by the Dementors," asked the pretty landlady with widened eyes. McGonagall confirmed this with a nod as she took a gracious sip of her Gillywater. "That boy can't catch a break, can't he?"
"Unfortunately. But that is the way it goes. We can't afford to let Black out of our grip again. There's already enough embarrassment roaming about in the Ministry. Not only is the public being paranoid over everything, but Skeeter is going off at the quill. I admire the Prophet for putting up with a person such as herself." Fudge added. All four of them mumbled in agreement, prompting Theodore to think what kind of a character was Rita Skeeter.
"But you know, what I've heard," said Madam Rosmerta in a low whisper as she clinked her manicured nails against her tankard, "is that the ICW is getting in on this. Don't ask about my sources though." Fudge let out a small huff as he took a sip from his cup.
"That is true, Rosy, I cannot lie. Barty was in Bulgaria and Albania this year and was supposed to update me on what was happening, but I guess even the toughest has their lowest days. Of course, Albus, being Supreme Mugwump and all, has been quite kind to let me in on a few things over there."
"Wasn't Mr Crouch the one who sent Black to Azkaban without trial?" Flitwick squeaked curiously.
"Yes. Quite brash, but very well deserving. Barty took one good look at him and didn't even need to raise a finger."
"I still can't believe it," said Madam Rosmerta a little louder than before. "Sirius Black, a Death Eater. Didn't strike me as the sort to join You Know Who. You put him next to his family and he'd stand out like a massive Galleon in a cup full of Knuts. Sirius was such a nice boy." McGonagall nearly snorted lightheartedly as she drunk some more of her beverage.
"Sirius Black? Nice? Sirius was no Death Eater back when he was at Hogwarts, but he certainly wasn't a saint either. Far from it, in fact." The three professors and Madam Rosmerta began to chuckle.
"Ahh, yes. He was quite a handful back then. Him and his group of friends, always together, the five of them. I've never seen a group of boys crazier than that lot. Especially the Big Three."
"I beg your pardon?" Fudge said, confused.
"The Big Three. That's what I used to call them, Sirius, James Potter and Severus Snape. The three leaders of their little gang." Theodore felt Harry dropping his tankard on his foot, earning a kick from Ron.
"Was definitely something to be admired at. James and Sirius were inside of my own House, but they still managed to make a best friend in Slytherin. The rivalry between the two Houses didn't mean a thing to them on the day that they met, I suppose. You wouldn't believe how many times I caught Severus sneaking into Gryffindor Tower, even when I was right there. They always seemed to find a way in."
"There is something quite odd, though. I remember seeing all the boys walking cheerfully into here one day, the next without Severus. This happened around the time they should've been starting their O. , mind you." Madam Rosmerta said casually as she flicked her finger again for another drink for herself.
"'Ad a massive fallin' out, I heard. Words wen' back and forth, wands brough' out finally, something very nasty happening on that day until nothin'. That was the end of their friendship. Poof! Like it never 'appended! You should've seen James's sister break up the fight! Seemed to be defending Snape for some reason." Fudge's face slowly darkened upon remembering who she was, but he didn't say a word, choosing to swirl his near empty cup as McGonagall carried on the conversation.
"Valerie Potter. Oh, how I loved that girl, even though she wasn't in Gryffindor. She had clear ambitions, much clearer than her younger brother. Top of her classes, always in control of her own life. For me, she was the perfect student. Couldn't have asked for anyone better!" Fudge scoffed. Theodore swallowed painfully. "Care to share your thoughts, Minister?"
"Well… we all know what Potter did after she left Hogwarts, right? I don't deny the brilliant academic record that she left behind, but we shouldn't forget what horrors she inflicted when she turned." Everyone's faces fell, including Hermione's and Ron's. Theodore didn't look at them as he continued to listen silently.
"Couldn't believe it," muttered Hagrid sadly as his mead was finally finished. "When I 'eard bout what she did ter the Shafiqs… A family full of Aurors, completely wiped out by a single person. Jus' couldn't believe it."
"It only got worse, Rubeus. Potter wasn't just any Death Eater. She was You Know Who's most dangerous and loyal follower, possibly more dangerous than Black himself. Taught her everything he knew, he did. Everything. No wonder why she was so powerful, and not only in magic as well."
"What do you mean?" Flitwick asked. Fudge told them all to lean in closer, with Theodore doing the same as well as Hermione and Ron.
"There was a time when Sirius was an innocent man, free of corruption. You know that, right? His entire family were pureblood fanatics, while he was the only one to not care about this. That's why he befriended James. Even made him Harry's godfather during his wedding with dear Lily. But there's a reason why he went to the dark side. You Know Who had everyone in the Black family under his finger except from him. He saw the potential in him to make him a useful Death Eater, but did not concern himself with personal recruitments at the time. The only probable cause of action was to order his most faithful servant to induct him into the Dark Lord's ranks. From what I heard, Sirius refused at first immediately, noting that she was everything that he hated. Unfortunately, just like a typical schoolboy, he fell under Potter's charm as she seduced him to join her."
"That can't be true!" Hagrid exclaimed, completely outraged.
"I'm sorry to say that it is, Rubeus." Theodore was breathing heavily now, his forehead pounding with so much blood pumping through, heat created from his intense rage desperately trying to dissipate into the air. It was seeping, trying to spill out from the smallest of cracks. He could barely hold onto it at this point.
'How dare he! How dare he accuse my mother of being… a whore! What the fuck does he know, other than carelessly letting prisoners escape?! The fat bastard is so much of a coward that he can't even say Voldemort!'
Hermione saw the flickers of unyielding rage being held back by the Parselmouth as he sat in his seat, his pupils thinning slightly as they almost looked snakelike. His knuckles were paler than usual as he pressed them against the table, his body even shaking as if he was about to detonate right there. Her hands remained on her lap as the quartet carried on listening.
"She did everything for the Dark Lord. Every single atrocity she committed against the wizarding and Muggle community was all for You Know Who. She worshipped him like he was her god, and I think he knew that. According to some of the inmates over at Azkaban, Valerie was thought of so highly by You Know Who, that he rewarded her with anything that she wanted. A fulfilment of a lifetime among the Death Eaters, for sure."
"What did she want from him," asked Madam Rosmerta quietly, longing for an answer yet hesitant to hear any more. Fudge breathed in heavily, setting down his cup before he muttered his answer to the other four adults.
"She had the Dark Lord's child." Flitwick gasped as did Madam Rosmerta. Hagrid leaned backwards slightly, pushing Theodore forwards as he held onto his silence. McGonagall pursed her lips against her own drink, but didn't sip at all. The thoughts of an offspring coming from the Dark Lord darkened their thoughts greatly. Still, nobody said anything until Madam Rosmerta spoke up again.
"Does… anybody know where the child is? Is it a boy, is it a girl, I mean… how comes nobody ever heard of them? Because I certainly didn't."
"Didn't know myself until a few years ago. Tried to get it out of the prisoners but they went back into their 'usual' state of mind when the Dementors came around. Felt like we were hogging them to ourselves. Nobody knows who or where this child may be. Most likely out there alone, resentful… maybe even trying to emulate their father's actions. Rather upsetting to born by two of the worst kinds of people. A cursed child. So tragic."
"The Dark Lord's child… Valerie really was a lost soul…"
"Wouldn't know the half of it. Crafty woman, she was. Rosy, do you by any chance know of the Fidelius Charm?" Fudge asked the innkeeper. Madam Rosmerta shrugged while Flitwick explained how it worked briefly. Her eyes grew upon realisation as she made the connection quite quickly.
"So, the Potters' Secret Keeper was Black? That would make perfect sense. But he gave them up, didn't he?"
"Yes. Yes, he did. And none of it would've happened without Valerie's actions. The Dark Lord had divulged this information with his closest follower, and devised a ploy which involved the murders of her brother's family. She was merciless against her own blood, willing to fulfil any command her master gave to her, even if it meant her brother's death. She was lost, I tell you. The Dark Lord knew that Black was their Secret Keeper, and that he had been a double-agent for a long time, however, he must've still had a soft spot for James. But Valerie didn't hesitate to bed him, stooping to a new level of low just to please her master. Demented, I'll tell-"
Fudge almost screamed in pain as his cup blew into many glass fragments, shooting in nearly every direction as Madam Rosmerta ducked, Flitwick sank under the table and McGonagall quickly transfigured the incoming glass shrapnels into snow. Hagrid brushed the broken glass away from his grizzly beard, however the Minister was not so lucky. Fudge's hand was now pouring with blood, bits of glass sticking inside at every angle quite deeply as a few grazed the skin on his face. The innkeeper nearly screeched as she used her wand to summon a medical kit quickly, but the oddly calm Fudge assured her that he was fine.
"You have bloody holes in your hand, Cornelius! Part of your bone is showing! Here, give it to me!" She took his wounded hand and cleaned away the blood and glass with a simple swish, and wrapped a tight bandage around it with another flick. "My cups don't do that at all, Minister! I… I don't know how it happened!"
"It's alright, Rosy. Perhaps I was getting a little too carried away there. Anyways, what was I saying? Ahh, yes! Valerie Potter and Sirius Black! Black couldn't face his former friends when the Potters were unfortunately found and killed in Godric's Hollow on Halloween night. His master vanquished by baby Harry Potter, the Dark Lord's temptress out of sight as she fled with her child, Black surely went mad. No surprise that he'd blow a couple of Muggles up in You Know Who's name. He didn't even hesitate to slaughter his own close friend, Peter Pettigrew, who was foolish enough to get in his way." McGonagall tutted as she tilted her hat.
"Oh, Peter. Such a hopeless young boy. Always clenching onto James, Sirius and Severus, like they were his heroes. They always seemed like the popular ones during their time at school, so he'd obviously draw himself towards them. Not once did I think that the Sorting Hat made the right decision to place him in Gryffindor. Poor, poor boy… was it true that all was left was his-"
"-finger, yes. Black used a Blasting Curse in the Muggle street and killed them all. The maniac was laughing the entire time! All the way to Azkaban, mind you! Pettigrew was posthumously awarded the Order of Merlin, while one of his friend was dead, and the other imprisoned. Terrible week, that was. So many casualties. And You Know Who and Black weren't the only ones to fall after their reign of terror. On the night after the deaths of James and Lily, Valerie's body was found in Lambeth in a morgue. She lost so much blood, and her body looked broken beyond repair. Her fatal wounds were no doubt the cause of Dark Magic."
"So… ya think that You Know Who and his lot, killed her? After everythin' she did fer him? But why?" For the first time in this conversation, Fudge had no answer for that question. Whatever reason the Dark Lord had to turn on his favourite servant was a mystery that would never be proven, lost to time. He was gone, she was dead, and her associates were now reduced to mindless beings that were rotting in their cells. Nobody had the answers, and neither did he. Hagrid rubbed his eyes roughly. He refused to believe it all. He knew that Valerie fell into the wrong sort of crowd, but he didn't think that she was capable of doing all of… that. He just couldn't. Not little Valerie…
"But now that he's free, nobody's safe, aren't they?" Madam Rosmerta blinked at the Minister, face drained from colour. Weakly nodding, Fudge rubbed his bandage and spoke back to her.
"We'll catch him, Rosy. Don't you worry. He can't run from the Dementors for so long. All we'll have to do is pray that Harry pulls through all of this. Having a homicidal madman as a godfather would be most unnerving."
"Potter is well protected. Black wouldn't so much as touch Harry with the Dementors around, let alone around Albus. He's a strong boy."
"I hear that." Hagrid said proudly.
"Oh, would you look at the time! Albus has invited me to dine with you later on. I wouldn't dare miss it for the world"
"Well, we should get a move on then, I suppose. Thank you ever so much for the drinks, Rosmerta." McGonagall expressed as she slowly stood up from her area in the booth. Flitwick, Hagrid and Fudge followed suit as they rose from their seats, thanking the innkeeper before they briskly strode to the front door, and vanished into the blizzard. Madam Rosmerta sighed quietly before returning to the back of her counter, clicking her heels against the wooden floor, not noticing the children that she passed by.
Rage. So much rage and confusion. That was all that could be felt by the Parselmouth after all of that. That rage slipped out for a moment when he caused the glass to explode in Fudge's hand. And he would've done so much more, something that was downright unlawful, to him if he didn't try to hold himself back. He didn't know what to say; what to think. Everything became blurred by unadulterated anger, clouding his thoughts, and a bit of his sight as well. His instincts told him to follow Fudge, make him pay for talking so vulgarly about his mother and that's what he went to do. He left his seat and tried to get to the door before Fudge would get away, but was held back by a strong arm on his left one, and another on his leg.
"Theo… don't. Don't do what I think you will." Ron said quietly, hand grasping Theodore's bicep. Harry held a firm grip on Theodore's shin, but was silent underneath the table. Why wasn't he saying anything?
"Sit down, Theo. Please," urged Hermione, unable to get a reach on the Parselmouth, but still keeping him in place with her words. He didn't look at her, knowing that his anger would come down if he did. He wanted to feel hatred. Hatred to everyone who thought that his mother was truly like this. Hatred to his father and everyone who ever followed him, including Black and his moth… It couldn't be true. Theodore knew that his mother wasn't the greatest woman in the world, but she couldn't be a complete monster like his father, right? What would that make him? He knew now. A product of his mother's wish to be closer to his father. She probably never really wanted him, for him.
'No… why am I thinking like this? She… she couldn't… That wasn't her… none of that could've been her… please… not her as well…'
He didn't say a single word on the way back, to Hermione or Ron. His face was nearly completely hidden underneath his scarlet and yellow scarf, his hazel eyes was his only feature to be shown to the thick snow that was encountered on the way back to the castle. Theodore shook off all the snow from his clothes and was the first to make his way up to the Great Hall, eyes still unable to see anywhere else but the ground below. The Hall soon filled up with excited students, all happy to wolf down the last meal of the year before they'd return to their homes with their families.
Gryffindor table was as lively as ever, with several Christmas Crackers continuously being spewed out from the grand Christmas Tree in the corner, courtesy of Flitwick who charmed it with an unknown spell. The atmosphere of Christmas burned strong within the children of Hogwarts, except for the two Parselmouths, who didn't bother to speak to Ron; Hermione, or anyone for that matter. It remained that way from dinner, all the way to when they returned to Gryffindor Tower. Harry immediately went up, with Theodore staying with the other two as Viripin was there waiting for him. A quiet hello was all that he gave and nothing more, forgetting what she had done earlier as a result of Fudge's words. He sat there listening to Hermione and Ron talking over something unimportant, noticing their glances towards him as if they were inviting him to speak. Fat chance. Theodore just sat there, holding Viripin. Silent.
"Guys, I think I'll just go to sleep. My eyes are burning." The Parselmouth declared as he wrapped a sleeping Viripin around his neck while standing up. "Good-"
"Theo, please stay," said Hermione quickly as she blocked his path. "You and Harry haven't said a thing all evening. I'm sure if we talk about this, then-"
"Not this time, Hermione. I really need to sleep, right now. Goodnight." He moved around her and said goodnight to Ron as well, whose gaze also followed him up the stairs. Theodore pushed into the dorm silently, but heard ruffling of bed sheets the second that he entered. He closed the door a little bit and walked into the centre of the room, watching his cousin as he 'slept'. Theodore knew that Harry knew that he was only pretending to ward him off. But he didn't give himself up though. He waited, still, until he felt the prodding of a few fingers against his back.
"Harry?" No response. "Harry. I know you're not sleeping, Harry." The scar-bearing boy slowly turned on his side and sat up as he reached for his glasses on his bedside table. His sullen, dead expression mirrored his cousin's as they stared at each other, not speaking a single word.
"Do you want to-" Harry shook his unkept hair, nearly throwing his glasses into his lap. "Yeah. Me neither… Hermione may want to, though. If you want, that is."
"I'll be going to sleep, then. Goodnight." Theodore moved away from Harry's bed, and to his own. He gently lifted the Maibian Adder from around his shoulders and brought out her basket to set her in. As he pushed her back under the bed, he quickly changed out of his clothes and into his pyjamas when-
"Do you believe what he said?" Harry questioned from afar. It felt like he was miles away. Theodore could barely hear him.
"The things that Fudge said about your… Do you believe him?"
"I don't know…"
He left it there as he closed the tapestries hanging on the sides of the posts, blocking all sources of light from outside. He wanted this. He needed this. To be alone with his thoughts, no one to disturb him. He knew that his mother was a Death Eater, that part was true. He knew that she must've done terrible things when she was under Voldemort's rule. That had to be true as well. But never did he stop to think that she was so devoted to the Dark Lord, to being directly connected to Harry's parents' deaths. Her own brother, her baby brother. How could she do something like that? How could she betray her own flesh and blood… for him? Why? He wanted to know so bad, but he couldn't. Fudge was right about one thing. His mother was dead, his father was wherever the hell he was, and all the other Death Eaters were locked up in Azkaban. He'd never know the truth and because of that, it would always hang heavy in his heart. He didn't want that. He needed… he needed…
The boy took out his wand from underneath his pillow, and reached his arm through the tapestry to guide him to his trunk nearby. He peered into the little hole and rummaged through a little compartment on the side of his open suitcase, searching for that one thing that kept him calm, ever since he first stepped into Hogwarts, ever since he was told that he was a wizard. Theodore dug some more until he felt it in his hand, bringing it back onto his bed as the hole closed.
"Wingardium Leviosa… Lumos!" The tip of his wand glowed instantly with white light, hitting each corner of the closed-off bed with such intensity. Theodore had to shield his eyes momentarily, not because of the spell, but because of what he caused to levitate above his face. Louise's necklace was floating in the air, completely weightless and free. There was a time where he knew none of this. He didn't know that his father was the evillest wizard on Earth, he didn't know that his mother could've been just as bad, he didn't know that he actually had a cousin; had Slytherin's blood running through his veins. He never thought that he would be a part of something that he hated so much, all because of his father, and mother. Back then, when he first touched this necklace, all he knew was Stuggle's and Louise. And now, he found himself wishing for it all back, wishing back the days that he never truly knew Tom Riddle and Valerie Potter.