It was hoisted high into the air, along with the exultation that was coupled with it. Theodore was struggling to keep his focus on it, as its reflections bombarded his eyes, making it near impossible to look at. Glimpses of silver and white were all that he could see through the gaps of his fingers, forcing him to push through the exuberant Gryffindors so that he could face away from the sun.
Theodore could open his eyes without the fear of being blinded by the Quidditch Cup, which was raised by Harry on various shoulders on the flooded Quidditch field. The stakes had never been higher, but they were met and conquered by the sheer determination of Gryffindor's team. Theodore had never seen them so driven to win a game, and it was so much deserved and more. There he was with his fellow Housemates cheering his cousin on as he shook the Cup with pride and merriment, ignoring the downhearted Slytherins that stared at the winning House with such animosity. But none of their glares was returned as the silver Cup snatched them all.
Theodore was pushing through the tightened gaps in between the crowd as he searched for Ron and Hermione. He had somewhat lost their company when Harry made the catch and the Gryffindors spilt onto the field. They were separated, but they couldn't have gone that far.
"Hey, Oliver," he shouted above the nearby screams that surrounded the tearful captain. "Oliver! Have you seen —?"
Theodore had no time to react when Oliver grabbed him in a hug that was too intimate for his liking. He felt himself being swung around as Oliver was sobbing in his ear, crying tears of joy down his sweaty cheek.
"W-we won! We a-actually won! After al-all these years! I-I…!" Oliver cried some more as Theodore was desperate for him to let go, but he didn't stop there. His victory only granted him more energy as he swung Theodore around some more until the latter became too dizzy to resist.
Finally, his feet were planted to the ground once more as his balance was rocking dangerously side to side. Theodore placed his palms on both sides of his head as his vision became less blurred and easier to see. Eager to seek out his friends once again, the Parselmouth stuck his hands in front of him to divide the other supporters when he felt his body being dragged back a second time.
"I swear to God, if another person hugs me…" He turned his body to see Fred and George discarded of some of their paddings as their faces were red, joyous, and had a fair amount of mockery as well.
"Don't worry, we're not one of your little fan-girls," Fred spoke as he wiped a sweaty brow with a smirk.
"Hugging you is the last thing we want to do right now. We saw the way Oliver grabbed you as if you were his precious offspring," said George whilst swinging a Beaters' bat, "and he was dripping a shitload of sweat right about now!"
Theodore awkwardly brushed his hands over his clothes as he asked, "So why did you pull me over here for? I know that you two are the type to look for praise, although after what you did to Flint, you definitely have mine."
"Your congratulations are most endearing, my dear Theodore, but we actually have a proposition at hand."
"Proposition?" said Theodore with an eyebrow raised. "What kind of —?"
"Short, quick, very menial as well as appropriate for this situation," Fred interjected as the twins wrapped their arms around his shoulders.
"If it's menial, then why can't you do it?" Theodore asked until George released him as he tugged at his damp Quidditch kit.
"Our proposition, unfortunately, requires that of a wand which we are severely lacking in. Fred and I think that it's the perfect time for a little bit of light in the air, if you catch my drift."
Theodore caught onto this all right and looked over to the chanting crowds to see McGonagall reaching for the Cup, which was now being held by Oliver himself who invoked the most deafening roar so far, with tears streaming down her face. It surely would've meant that he would get into trouble; he already felt as if the cheering was enough. He was even given the treat of seeing Flint flinging his broomstick across the pitch in anger, only for it to poke him in his chest when it flew back to him. Theodore was more than content with the air of victory surrounding him, but a little bit of fireworks wouldn't hurt, would it?
He reached for his wand inside his back trouser pocket as he said, "I guess I could do something that's a little flashy. But my wand isn't really good with that sort of stuff, it might be a bit tacky and —"
"Oh, stop it, you overachiever you. We know how perfect you are in your classes, kid," Fred mocked as he thumped Theodore's back quite painfully. "Just make the sparks red, and you're good to go."
"Go the extra mile and add a bit of flair to it as well, if you can."
Theodore rubbed the stinging area where Fred smacked him as he glowered at him briefly before gripping his wand tightly in his hand. Although he had accomplished such a mundane feat before, Theodore knew that his type of wand was not attributed to show off-y magic. He remembered the day after getting his wand when he read up on what little resources he had on Ollivander's self-written notes on his profession.
But the Parselmouth shook off his annoyance and pointed his wand to the sky, narrowing his mind to envision what he would conjure in the air, when a single red spark erupted from his wandtip. As it moved upwards at full pelt, the cheers momentarily faded as gasps of awe replaced them when everybody's attention was snatched by the ascending spark.
Theodore was also trapped in astonishment upon looking at the spark as he was about to proudly stash his wand away, when he turned his attention to the snickering pair. "Why are you two laughing? I did the thing, didn't I? It hasn't even —"
"I-I can't believe you fell for it!" Fred choked between laughs. "Why the hell would you do that?"
Theodore was about to make a retort to the twins, but was suddenly taken aback when an explosion in the air forced him to swivel around rapidly. The spark had gone off as intended, and was slowly starting to dim in the air until the remnants of the dying firework unexpectedly started to spiral instantaneously to form an accumulation of scarlet and golden showers of light. The gasps grew even louder as the lights clumped all together, subsequently creating what seemed to be a colossal sentient lion's head that released a fearsome roar across the field.
The Gryffindors, not at all surprising, screamed even louder as they cheered for the lion. Theodore, however, felt something eating his stomach as he stuffed his wand away in his pocket, but was too slow in the end for McGonagall had already seen him with the wand in hand.
"Professor, I didn't – well, I did, but —!" stammered Theodore when she came over to him. Fred and George had already hidden themselves in the crowd as they pointed at the lion which was now doing tricks in the air. But he was especially surprised by how well McGonagall took this sudden interruption. In fact, she looked incredibly elated for that matter.
"Oh, put the apology aside, Riddle! I was going to have the pleasure of doing exactly that myself, but I guess I am in too good of a mood to care. I have to say, I am rather impressed by your charmwork. I'll have to tell Professor Flitwick about this, although I doubt that he cannot see it from the castle. Ten points for Gryffindor."
The Parselmouth stood there amazed by what just happened, and watched McGonagall walking away with a very slight, and very rare, bounce to her step. He remained still until Ron, Hermione and the twins appeared on his side after pushing through the crowd.
"It wasn't you who did the firework, did you?" Hermione asked as she crossed her arms with half a smile on her face.
"As a matter of fact" — Theodore glared at Fred and George, who beamed straight back at him — "I did make the lion. And I didn't even get into trouble. Ten points for me," he said as he dug a thumb in his chest.
"Can't lie, I was a bit scared when the thing started to roar. Then I noticed McGonagall marching over to you when you had your wand in your hand. I thought you were a goner until she came back all merry-looking," Ron added.
"You've got balls, little Theo," jested Fred as he smacked the same area from before, "I'll give you that. I just hope that next time you'll think twice before —"
Theodore swiped his arm away and snapped, "I will!" before caressing the surely reddened area of burning skin.
"Well, I wouldn't recommend that you should do something like this again, but I really liked what you did with the lion. Pretty neat."
"Thanks, Hermione," Theodore replied as he scratched his hair. There was a slight twinge of heat in his cheeks as he could feel himself starting to become flushed, but it was soon smothered right after.
"Sure, when I don't even do anything, I get a week's detention for not setting off fireworks, but when the little pretty boy does it out in the open, she fucking bows to his feet and gives him points! I could've done that easily! What the hell makes him so special?"
"Oh, can't you ever just shut up, Cormac," yelled Katie as she threw off some of her padding to the ground. "You always find something to complain about, even when it's absolutely unneeded!"
"But look at him! He's there, acting all smug because he escaped from getting a detention! I bet you that he was the one that framed me. That little arsehole was the one who nearly made us lose in his first year with his girlfriend and Potter —" McLaggen was quickly silenced, or rather, was cut off as he gave a shrill yelp while clutching his backside that was smoking with scarlet sparks and cinders.
"Riddle! Just when I commended you! Five points from Gryffindor!"
Theodore didn't know whether to feel incredibly conflicted, immensely happy or downright agitated, as May seemingly sped along without giving anybody a moment's notice. It had been nearly two months since he last stepped into Snape's classroom after any Potions lesson, and Snape didn't give any indication that he noticed this. Hell, Theodore was half-expecting Dumbledore to call him up to his office to give a more condescending lecture about his absence. But to his surprise, no such thing happened. Dumbledore was either happily chattering away at dinner times, or was inside his office doing whatever he did in his free time.
Yet, Theodore made sure to steer clear from the old man as he always had an uncomfortable feeling that he didn't need to speak in order to know what was on the boy's mind. He also felt the same way with Snape, although this lessened with both men over time. For some reason, Theodore could feel some 'resistance' building up inside of him; it was all too vague.
As for May moving hurriedly along, exams were sure to appear rather soon as they entered June. The air grew increasingly hot as the external uniform was shedded and discarded for the remaining weeks. Many students had their ties loosened, buttons undone and sleeves rolled up as they shuffled in and out of the Great Hall for revision sessions, and Theodore had to admit that it was better to be inside than out. How could he complain when the tables were littered with refilling goblets and ice cream (courtesy of the Deputy and Head of the school)?
Theodore had to put a hold on his research on Animagi, Sirius Black and Scabbers for the exams needed his full attention. Several extensive notes on the topics that he learnt throughout the year replaced his time on Black, and, unfortunately, Hagrid's appeal. The four had received no news from the half-giant, and due to Black's attack on Theodore, everybody had to be restricted within the castle at specific times, Theodore being completely stripped of even stepping outside without a supervisor. So, for the time being, they were stuck with what they had, and kept their heads down for the final month until the third year would eventually come to a close.
"Three-way Transfiguration requires intricate thinking on how to perform the perfect wand movements in a short amount of time…" Theodore grumbled to himself as he wiped his damp forehead. He was sat on Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, as the common room was much too noisy, in just his white t-shirt and trousers, shuffling the notes in front of him while keeping his wand steady in one hand. Practicing on goblets was a way to go, but he feared that he was too sluggish in the heat. He could afford to have a small break however…
"This heat is killing me! I don't know how you're able to keep turning your goblet into a mouse, Theo," Ron pointed out as his quill accidentally sprayed ink over his sheets.
"Neither do I. I've been trying to turn it into a bat for the past hour and a half."
Ron reached out to take a swig at his goblet, quickly drawing back when he realised that it was the idle mouse that he grabbed, and said, "At least you've got a chance in actually changing something. I'll probably blow whatever we have to transfigure into smithereens!"
Theodore gave him a weak smile. "Don't worry about that. That's Seamus's department, and I'm sure you won't be replacing him anytime soon."
Ron flopped his head on the desk and sighed. "I just can't wait until we can go back home! The Quidditch World Cup was supposed to start this year in May, but got postponed until the last day of summer, and I know that Mum won't let us go by then!"
"Well, with all this moping around that you're doing instead of working, I wouldn't be surprised if she kept you locked in your house. Work," Theodore muttered as he too squeezed the mouse before turning it back into a goblet.
"Speaking of my house, are you coming this summer? Mum and Dad would love to have you around, and I think that Harry and Hermione could join as well."
"I have to see if the orphanage owner would be okay with it. She wouldn't be all that happy if I just up and left the —"
Harry waved at the two boys as he held a letter from the other side of the table. He and Hermione snatched their things from their spots, and sprawled them over their area.
"We've got news from Hagrid," whispered Harry as they all leaned inwards to listen to what the letter read. "He said that Buckbeak's appeal is on the twenty-third — hey, that's good! I thought it'd be much closer! Hang on, there's more… His inspection is going to happen on the sixth when we finish our exams —"
"Does it go into detail about the appeal?" asked Hermione as she slowly hauled a sturdy book from her bag.
"Yeah, it says that Fudge's going to be there, the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and — I don't believe it! They're bringing the executioner!" Harry gasped before lowering his head again.
"That's disgusting," hissed Ron under his breath, "they can't make a decision yet! The appeal hasn't even begun!"
"I wonder who's the other Ministry official that's coming to see this," chimed in Hermione.
"Whoever he is, Lucius Malfoy probably scared him into bringing the executioner," Theodore added with an odd tone of roughness to his voice. "That, or the guy's just as much of a pure-blooded racist scum as well. Wouldn't be surprised anyway. Did he give any names?"
Harry shook his head and handed the letter over to Theodore for him to read. Through Hagrid's messy handwriting, Theodore could make out some of the details in the letter, but anything that was important had already been established by Harry. There was nothing for them to lead onto. The twenty-third sounded like weeks away, but the year was almost already over. An outcome where Hagrid would keep his job, Buckbeak would keep his head seemed to become more impossible as the days went by, and the other three knew that. They just didn't want to show it.
The timetables for the exams had been given out to each student on the next morning of the weekend as stress was seeping into everyone in a matter of hours. Study groups were formed around the common rooms as arguments about who was making the most noise was thrown back and forth; multiple classrooms were issued for some of the third-years who didn't have a place to revise, and the Great Hall was always a last resort. Theodore couldn't help but notice that there were much more people in his year upon looking closely. But that was irrelevant.
"Hermione, you know you got your exams mixed up, right?" said Ron as he peered over the Muggle-born's timetable.
"No, I haven't."
"But you —"
"I haven't mixed anything up, Ron, so don't worry," returned Hermione irritably. The bags under her eyes returned on the recent days, and her sleeping schedule had to be drastically divided in order for her revision to be effective.
Unbeknownst to Harry and Ron, Theodore was told that the Time-Turner was starting to act up again, and wouldn't send her back to the time that she wanted. It was chance that the Parselmouth managed to find her in a broom cupboard lounging next to a singing cloak in the middle of the day. She explained to him that she was sent back twelve hours and had nowhere to hide, leading her to miss some of her classes. Theodore suggested to turn it in, but she refused out of fear of being accused of breaking it.
"When do you think we should visit Hagrid again," suggested Harry as the four packed up to leave for the common room in the late evening.
"Harry, as much as we want to, we can't go to him. Even if we were allowed, somehow, Theo wouldn't be able to come."
"I just hate that we're not doing anything about it!"
"We are, remember?" Ron said as they passed through a relatively empty hallway. "The appeal is going to be ready soon, and the inspection for Hagrid will go smoothly, if he behaves that is."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him. "What do you mean by that?"
"When it comes to magical beasts, Hagrid isn't exactly sensible…"
Theodore drowned their voices as he momentarily paused in between a junction of two corridors. From where he was standing, he had a perfect view of the Whomping Willow which was calmly swaying side to side. Theodore knew better than to carelessly wander into the vicious tree's vicinity, fully aware of how it nearly killed Harry and Ron almost two years ago.
But it wasn't the tree in particular that caught the boy's attention, no. It was the animal that flew out from the tree's roots, which soared across the castle grounds before it disappeared across the Black Lake. Theodore could easily tell that the animal, which was a bird, was a raven, but it had a distinguishing feature of its beak being terribly big and noticeably hooked. Other than that, it looked perfectly normal.
He merely shrugged and rejoined the others as they returned to the common room. Here he was, worrying about animals with body parts that were out of proportion, when he had exams on the very next day.
'You got too much on the brain, Theo. Too much.'
"You may now place your wands down. The exam is now over."
Theodore gave a hearty sigh of relief that attracted multiple glares from his fellow classmates. Not letting the venomous stares get to him, the Parselmouth pocketed his wand as he handed the written work to McGonagall at the front of the classroom before anybody else.
Hermione was quick to follow, yet was fretting to release the parchments from her fingers as McGonagall grabbed hold of them. She eventually let go and took a nervous breath of air as she and Theodore went over to the corner to retrieve their bags. Hermione was on the verge of asking Theodore on how he found the exam, but was silenced when McGonagall called him back after.
Once the classroom cleared out with the whimpers of defeat and self-esteem being ripped away soon turned into nothing, McGonagall invited Theodore over to her desk.
"Do not worry, I'm not going to ask about your exam. I wouldn't be able to, under certain restrictions. However, I wanted to discuss about your interest in Animagi," McGonagall clarified as she summoned a box from the corner to collect all of the parchments on her desk.
"Professor, I already said that I'm not planning on turning into an Animagus anytime soon, so there's nothing to worry —"
"Hmph. Well, that's a shame. I would've enjoyed having the pleasure of teaching you myself."
Theodore cocked his head to the side a little. He didn't know if it was the Quidditch Cup or if it was just him that McGonagall seemed to be in a rather good mood. A smile on her face had never been so… consistent before.
"T-teach me? But… why?"
"It's obvious that you do, indeed, want to become an Animagus. Or have I taken your interest in the subject too literally," she continued with her forehead wrinkled in a half-frown.
"Um… I wouldn't… mind, but… aren't I little too young for that?" Theodore asked as he rubbed his elbow. He didn't think that being an Animagus at fourteen would be allowed as much as doing it illegally. But McGonagall seemingly read his mind.
"Of course! Far too young! I couldn't allow you to do that, not after the last — I shall see if I can allow you to undergo my tutelage when you're seventeen, sixteen minimum, if you continue to impress me."
"Great," exclaimed Theodore as he rubbed his elbow a little more vigorously. "I'll — I'll keep note of that. Sixteen?"
Theodore nodded at her and left the room courteously as he slung his bag over his back. She didn't actually take him seriously, did she? Not a single thought of turning into an animal had occurred in Theodore's head the second he touched that book. He couldn't see the uses of it, unless his form would land on the spectrum of phoenixes and other magical beasts, but even those sounded completely ridiculous.
'What does it matter anyway? That's almost three years away from now, who the hell even knows what'll happen by then?'
"Good, you're out now. Now you can tell me all about your exam," Hermione demanded as she broke away from the classroom door.
"Where are they, Harry and Ron," asked Theodore.
"They went to lunch, now, come on! Don't leave me guessing, Theodore!"
Theodore shot her a haughty grin as he remarked about the exam being simple, to which wasn't an entire lie. He only had a slight problem on the rapid Three-Way Transfiguration, where he had to switch a toy ball from a bowl, to a mouse and back into a toy ball again. But other than that, his performance was flawless.
Hermione rolled her eyes, still reminding him of the wager that the two of them had.
"What made you think that I forgot, Granger?" Theodore jabbed with much more arrogance in his voice.
"Just making sure. Didn't want you to start getting soft near the finish line, Riddle."
The two discussed their answers all the way to the Great Hall where they met Ron and Harry scoffing down sandwiches while looking at their Charms notes at the same time. Theodore eagerly joined the two as he filled his mouth with bacon sandwiches, and gulped down several goblets of Pumpkin Juice before being quite full.
The quartet entered Flitwick's classroom as they proceeded to collect their writing equipment from their bags that were left in the corner, and walked over to the desks for the first forty-five minutes. When parchments were finally filled, the third-year Gryffindors were then partnered with the same people from their previous lessons, Theodore subsequently working with Elvira, who didn't seem nervous in the slightest.
Theodore was the first to perform between the pair as they were being tested on the Cheering Charm. He gave steady flicks and swishes, along with the muttering of the incantation, as Elvira's face grew into a pretty smile that came with a slight giggle.
The Metamorphmagus shook the feeling off after a few minutes, and pointed her wand at Theodore to which she, yet again, casted the charm flawlessly, earning a bright smile from the Parselmouth. Flitwick waddled over to give the girl praise, but quickly turned his attention to Ron, who was barking with laughter.
"Come along, Mr Weasley, and you too, Mr Potter. He'll need someone to test his Cheering Charms on when he's finished guffawing."
Theodore waited outside the classroom with Neville, Hermione and Elvira as they talked endlessly about how well they performed.
"Don't worry, Neville," comforted Hermione as she patted the downhearted boy on the back. "You managed to make me crack a little smile."
"But I was grinning like a madman when it was your turn!"
Waiting became tediously exhausting as the four children decided to leave for dinner when Harry and Ron didn't come out thirty minutes later. Up in the common room later that night, Theodore had his head stuck inside his Ancient Runes notes and books, while Hermione was furiously organising her own while keeping her head up from slamming headfirst into their shared table. It was difficult for him to concentrate on differentiating between hieroglyphs and cleverly-disguised Greek symbols when the Muggle-born's head would sometimes land on his shoulder; he even suggested that she should just go to sleep, but Hermione wasn't having it. Her insistence that she would stay awake was commendable, but faltering.
The next morning arrived so suddenly as Theodore found himself being split away from the other two as he made his way to Ancient Runes instead. He was accompanied by a very weary-looking Hermione, dragging herself to the door till the last second when they entered the room.
Unsurprisingly, Hermione managed to keep her head up for the entire exam, scribbling and circling just as quickly as she would during a normal lesson. Once they were finished and were handing in their parchments to Professor Babbling, Hermione lazily brought out her wand as she fixed several hair-bands that were snapped from inside her pockets.
"I" — Hermione gave out a loud yawn without covering her mouth, displaying her front teeth quite prominently — "don't think I can take it anymore. My — My eyes are burning and my hair is a mess…"
The perfect retort was on the tip of Theodore's tongue, but he held it inside himself for Hermione's sake. The last thing he needed was for her to be angry as well as tired. She had recently grown to becoming quite snappish in the passing days of exam week; Theodore saw this coming from before the year even started.
He said goodbye to Hermione as she travelled back to the morning for her Magical Creatures exam, and quickly chewed on his lunch before making his way to the common room. The next exam was Potions, and the only thing that Theodore had to prepare himself for that, was to rebuild his resilience from being in the same room with Snape for two hours. If he could do that, then he was set.
"Are your exams going well," Viripin asked quietly as Theodore was well hidden on the back tables of the room.
"So far. But my next one is with Snape, and I don't know if I can take another two hours with him, Viripin." Theodore hauled his bag onto a chair on his left and continued, "The guy hasn't done anything to me, so what if he tries to sabotage my exam for revenge?"
"Hmmm… I don't doubt for a second that Torturer is conniving, but he wouldn't go that far, would he? The Headmaster would surely oversee the situation, should it happen, if you were to fail."
"As far as I know, Dumbledore doesn't get involved in final exams, except for cancelling them," Theodore responded as the Maibian Adder curled herself into a ball on the table. Theodore didn't want to give Snape anymore thought, and decided to revise for Defence and Astronomy instead, to take his mind off him.
Loosening his tie, Theodore lethargically flicked his fingers towards his bag as five books all flew out and levitated in front of him open-paged. He had practiced the Levitation Charm so much that it was now effortless to enter the mindset of casting it without his wand. Sure, it was just the Levitation Charm, but who knew what else he could do when he was older? Besides, making books float without his wand wasn't exactly new to him anyway.
"How did you do that?"
Theodore lifted his gaze to Ginny slightly gawping at him. The girl had appeared from out of nowhere, and she too had taken on tying her hair back into a ponytail like most of the other girls, as well as leaving her robes and jumper behind.
"No, I'm talking about your hair. Yeah, the books! How did you just make them float like that? I didn't see you using a wand!"
"I — It's not that difficult, I guess. You just got to focus properly, that's all. See," he went on as he flicked his finger again for his Astronomy book to whizz straight past Ginny's ear and into his hand.
"Wow! Always knew that you were a smart guy, but I never knew that you could do wandless magic like that," Ginny said as she crossed her arms, nodding her head as she was impressed.
"Yeah, well, I try. If you want to sit down, please don't speak to me. I've got Potions and Astronomy in a few hours, so…"
Ginny complied and sat down in the opposite chair to Theodore as she pushed the floating books away, before turning her attention to Viripin. The Adder recognised her as friendly, and brushed her snout against the red head's palm. Ginny stroked the serpent adoringly while sending curious looks at Theodore, who didn't seem to notice her looking at him.
"Did you ever get nightmares?" Ginny asked, breaking the silence that was only filled with Viripin's subtle hisses.
Theodore removed himself from the book and said, "Nightmares?"
"Yeah, nightmares. Did you get them sometimes, after last year?"
"Um… They stopped. Why?"
Ginny stroked her finger against Viripin's spine before replying. "I still have them, just sometimes. They don't really come up that often now, but… I can sometimes still hear him —"
"Hissing in your ear." Theodore set the book down on the table and looked at Ginny who lost some of her joyfulness as there was less energy in petting Viripin. "It feels like he hasn't really left you, doesn't it?"
"But how do you do it, to look so happy on the outside after everything that happened to you?"
"I could ask you the same thing. You never mentioned anything like this before."
"Yeah, but you and I both — you know? Nobody else can really understand except you," Ginny uttered silently as she removed her hand from Viripin.
Now that… That definitely sparked something inside him. The only person who he truly confided in after the previous year was Dumbledore. He never broke down in front of Ron, Harry or Hermione, and never gave a single thought about talking to Ginny about it. If he did, would he have come to peace with it a long time ago? Ginny didn't look like she did. Maybe she was doing what he should've done when they left the Chamber last year: talk to each other.
Theodore blinked when a book brushed against his nose, and snapped back into focus as Ginny started to leave the table.
"Well, I won't disturb you any further. You've got a lot of revision to do, so I'll let you be. Good luck!" beamed the girl as she skipped back over to her friends on the sofa.
'She's been getting nightmares because she hasn't gotten over it. She probably didn't have Dumbledore to talk to her, because he was busy with talking to me. No wonder she came to me: she has nobody to speak to about it! And she wants to speak to you. But she always seemed all right…'
As heartless as it was, Theodore had to forget about Ginny. Potions was right around the corner, Ministry officials were soon to arrive for Hagrid and Buckbeak, and Black could strike the castle again at any second. For a second, with so much going on around him, Theodore felt just a sliver of Hermione's pain and laughed to himself a little. Only just a little.
"…and you will have one hour to brew the Confusing Concoction. Begin!"
Theodore exhaled deeply, and waved his wand to light a flame underneath his cauldron as he collected all the necessary ingredients. The dungeons felt more damp and drab than usual, as if a Dementor was hanging from the ceiling. Theodore spent most of the afternoon prior going over Astronomy and Defence, not giving a single care to Potions. He knew that he could easily gain a perfect grade in the exam, so why did his fingers refuse to remain steady?
From the corner of his eye, he could see Snape sending him those venomous glares that hadn't invoked any further action in the recent months.
'He's trying to throw you off… Just don't look at him…'
His hands continued to tremble as he carelessly dashed Spider Juice against the edge of his cauldron, almost squandering his portion as he attempted to scoop it up from his table. Theodore swore to himself quietly, and carried on, foolishly turning his head towards Snape to see if he saw his blunder.
Surprisingly, Snape was on the other side of the classroom, glaring down on the students (the Gryffindors to be more specific) with a daunting stature. He circled around Neville once too many times, and grinned nastily when Neville grabbed a vial of purple sap, causing the boy to place it down quickly in shame.
But the second Snape moved onto Hermione on Neville's right, Neville immediately reached for the sap and emptied it out in the cauldron, flinching a little as the potion spewed a little fire and effervesced.
'Nice one, Neville. Don't let him get to you. Doing a better job than I am at the moment…'
The hour had finished and Theodore was stirring his Concoction to test its viscosity, and sure enough, it had thickened to perfection. He glanced over to Neville and saw a very mild smile on his face, but it was the opposite for Harry. Theodore squinted his eyes to his cousin's cauldron, and realised that it was more watery than sludgy. Snape scribbled something very quickly across his parchments and moved onto Ron, then Seamus, Crabbe, Pansy, Draco, and finally Theodore.
He merely lowered his head over his cauldron, and and wrote something quickly before moving back to the front of the class to dismiss everybody. All without acknowledging Theodore's presence in front of him.
The dungeons was cleared out as Theodore joined the other three to dinner before waiting in the common room for their Astronomy exam. Hermione had calmed down since Potions, and did not hound everybody into telling her how they found the exam. It was for the better, as the majority of the third-years had been scowling the second they left Snape's classroom.
Theodore flicked Neville's ear, waking him up on the sofa next to Elvira as the time was fifteen to twelve. The third-years trekked up to the tallest tower of the castle to be met with Professor Sinistra, the professor for Astronomy. After two hours of gazing up at the stars and recording patterns on their star charts, the Gryffindors returned to the common room and flopped into their beds, most being too lazy to remove their uniform. Having Ancient Runes, Potions and Astronomy all in one go sapped a lot of Theodore's strength; he wondered how well he would fare in the morning with History of Magic.
History had left the Parselmouth drained and dry as he left Binns's classroom with heavy-lidded eyes. It was bad enough that he almost crashed into Flint, who was still unable to let go of the Cup Final, but now he had Herbology in the afternoon. His second-to-last exam went somewhat all right, due to being hidden in the far corner in the shadows. However, that meant enduring two hours of snapping plants trying to bite his ears off when potting slimy bushes at the same time.
Theodore threw off his muddy apron and clothing, and headed for the showers in the common room. Even though he wasn't exposed to the sun through the window panes of the greenhouse, there was too much sweat to ignore. After going through Defence one last time, specifically Boggarts, Theodore fell asleep and didn't even bother to go down for dinner until Viripin reminded him in the dead of the night. He was truly thankful for his friends as they managed to sneak some food for him when they returned, resulting in a small midnight feast before they fell asleep once more.
'Okay, that Hinkypunk was of no help. Don't know why it told me to go the other way.'
Theodore weaved through the Defence exam, which was more of an obstacle course, feeling some rush of excitement as he manoeuvred past another pool of Grindylows. He barely caught a wink during the previous night, but here, he was running on the fun that had been absent for the entire week. None of the other exams held a single spark to Lupin's idea.
The seemingly final part of the course was an open worn-out trunk that was lying in the sun. Theodore dropped to his knees and realised that it had been enchanted to hold much more space on the inside. He slipped inside quite easily and moved one step forward in a simple room that was lit by a single torch. In the middle of the room was the same wardrobe from the first Defence lesson, perfectly reconstructed and no longer swaying.
The Parselmouth instantly knew what was inside, and started to move backwards until smoke dribbled from the bottom gaps of the wardrobe door. They quickly clumped together and created the shape of his fear as he stepped back even further.
"Ridd — Riddikul — Riddik…"
It wasn't working. He couldn't say it. Theodore backed away quickly and climbed out of the trunk, desperately trying to hide his distress as Harry and Ron came over with Lupin.
"Are you all right, Theodore," asked Lupin worryingly, noticing how pale he had gotten. "I thought that — The Boggart wasn't too much for you, was it?"
Theodore shook his head and gave a fake smile. "It was fine! I'm fine, there's no need to worry about me…"
"What happened with the Boggart," Harry asked as Lupin turned away to watch Hermione in the course.
"I — I froze, and I couldn't even say the fucking charm. I'm going to get marked down for this, I know I will!"
"It's all right. I messed up with the Hinkypunk," Ron admitted as he craned his neck to see Hermione slipping into the trunk."
"But you didn't mess up with the Boggart, did you?"
Theodore felt just a little less worse when he saw Hermione hysterically clambering out of the trunk, worrying over her Boggart. It didn't lift his mood at all though. He had a full year to work on Boggarts, yet he utterly failed in the end. So much for a near-unmatchable work ethic. Harry's face was almost about to tear apart from how big his smile was when he left the trunk. Ron was grinning as well, even though he was tricked by the Hinkypunk.
'Divination better not piss me off. I already can't stand Trelawney and her stupid —"
The same big-beaked raven was flying out and around the Whomping Willow, and settled on a branch as the tree was unusually stationary and unresponsive. The bird lowered and twitched its head, glancing across the school grounds like it was searching for something. But the way it darted its head left and right seemed too… human. At least, to Theodore.
The boy had definitely caught the peculiar bird's attention. Their moment of locked eye contact was severed quickly as the raven squawked and dove down to the ground, speeding along the grass before it turned towards the direction of Hogsmeade, and disappeared into the village as it left Theodore wondering…
"Professor McGonagall, Hermione? Really?"
"Don't you start, Ron! Being scared of spiders is childish!"
Lupin had finally allowed the four to leave after Hermione regained some sense and composure. Theodore and Harry actively ignored their bickering, instead, wondering about what their final exam could hold for them, regarding Trelawney's fateful implication that they shared the same destiny. It had sunken in Theodore's brain about all the nonsense that Trelawney had theorised over the year, and how exactly did Dumbledore hire her. The subject in itself was useless, and Theodore wished that he left the class the same time as Hermione.
"Guys, you remember what the date is today, right?" said Ron as he and Hermione cleared their hostility from their system. "The sixth! Hagrid's inspection!"
Harry led the group into the castle and across the corridor sighing. "We couldn't go, even if we wanted to. Snape surely must be spying on us, and if he sees us on the Map going too far from the castle, then…"
"We only talked to him once about it during our exam, and it was barely anything!" Hermione added.
"I hate that we can't see him, but there's no point in taking that risk, even if school's ending soon," Theodore said as they reached the bottom of the stairs in the Entrance Hall. "Remember, it's all up to Hagrid now. There's nothing for us to do at the moment except to hope."
'And even that seems useless.'
Their heads were all turned as the oak doors swung open for three wizards stepped through. The first wizard earned a scowl from Theodore as he was instantly recognisable. Fudge was fanning his portly self with his bowler hat, puffing through his mouth loudly while blinking tiredly. He, unfortunately, took notice of him and Harry, and was about to say something when one of the other wizards caught his attention.
This wizard had, surprisingly, a good amount of hair on his head as it was stylishly combed to release a single curl that dropped over his eyebrow. He was, however, noticeably old. White, snowy hair and the wrinkles on his forehead and cheeks said it all. He was relatively thin, was dressed in expensive-looking robes and was even brandishing a silver cane that was not too dissimilar with Lucius Malfoy's.
"Again with this one? How he avoided Azkaban is beyond me, Cornelius. Twice now, if you count all of the accusations," said the other wizard with a strong voice.
Something prickled Theodore's brain as the unknown wizard's voice sounded familiar to him, like he heard him speaking on multiple occasions, even though they had never seen each other before.
"Don't worry, everything will be taken care of. Mulciber, be careful with that! You don't want to go chopping our heads off, as well as any poor child walking past, do you?"
The burly man who was dressed in average-looking robes that was clutching a heavy-looking axe, lifted his palm to show that he was sorry. But he didn't look like he cared at all.
"Boys! How nice to see the both of you! My, it's been far too long since the last time we met, no," greeted Fudge as he walked over to the bottom of the steps.
"Yes. Far too long," muttered Theodore. He was trying his best not to growl, or give away any hint of anger to the Minister.
"Well, I expect that you heard about Hagrid's… problem?"
Ron came down a step and said, "It's more than just a problem, it's unjust!" He annoyingly turned back to Hermione as she jabbed him in the shoulder to stop him from speaking any further.
Fudge didn't change his expression, and responded calmly. "You must understand that circumstances like these are rare to avoid. I feel terrible for Rubeus, I do. But we cannot just change the chosen decision so abruptly —"
"But you can," interrupted Ron again. "The appeal is still valid, right? Can't those change the final outcome at any time?"
"Well…" Fudge started to fan himself again, and looked around as if the conversation had ended. "We'll just have to wait and see. These are just standard Ministry procedures, nothing more."
As Ron huffed and crossed his arms, Theodore was unknowingly staring at the older wizard, and vice-versa. The man was looking more familiar by the second, and it seemed the same for the other wizard as well, possibly even quicker. It was right there at the back of his mind… He knew this man — but from where?
The bells for lunch rang, startling Theodore a little as he brushed his nose with his wrist.
"Ah, I expect it to be around lunchtime for you children? I would hate to hold you hostage for your food, especially when the weather is like this, on top of your exams. Good luck to you all."
"Thank you," said the four altogether.
"Oh well. To meet with Rubeus, I suppose," spoke Fudge as he began to walk across the Entrance Hall to a diverging corridor. "Goodbye, Harry and Theodore."
"Yes," interjected the old wizard with an odd, sinister-like gleam in his eyes. "Goodbye, Harry. And to you too, Mr Riddle."
Theodore was left speechless. He watched the wizard follow Fudge into the corridor with Mulciber tagging behind, slapping the flat side of his axe against his palm while smirking. The three wizards were soon out of sight as the four walked straight up the stairs, and towards the Great Hall as they finally spoke.
"Do you know that guy, Theo," asked Ron in a huffily voice as his shoulder came into contact with a husky-looking Ravenclaw.
"Never met him before in my life," Theodore returned in a low voice.
"Well, how does he know your last name?"
"Fudge said something about my name going around in the Ministry. I still think it's weird that people know who I am from outside here."
As he entered the Great Hall to see a wave of happy faces stuffing themselves with food as it was the final day of exams, Theodore's ear caught onto familiar laughter from behind him, and told the others that he'd join them really quickly. He then backed away from the doors, and turned to his left as he reached the end of the hallway to see Draco, Crabbe and Goyle shoving and tripping first-years as they appeared from around the corner, laughing menacingly while at it.
"Watch where you're stepping, kids, otherwise, you might lose something like — Theodore!" Draco lifted his chin and grinned while crossing his arms to greet the Parselmouth. "What brings you here?"
"Tell your sidekicks to clear off. I want to speak with you."
Draco took one look at the towering boys and said, "Well, you heard the man!" They scurried away as they were left alone with the first-years that scowled at Draco. "So, what can I do for you?"
"Tell your dad to drop Buckbeak's case," Theodore demanded.
Draco stood still for a bit, then rolled his eyes as his grin grew larger. "I think it's a little too late for that, don't you think?"
"No, I don't think it is. I'm sure if he started this whole thing, then he can end it whenever he wants to."
"And why would I even bother asking him to do that? I didn't start anything, the beast attacked me."
"After you provoked it," Theodore shot back as he came closer to Draco. "There's no reason to keep the case going. You're not dead, your arm's perfectly fine —"
Draco cut the Parselmouth off as he scoffed, losing his smirk as he dropped his arms. "I don't think you understand. This is the second time I got attacked at this school because of that oaf —"
"Don't call Hagrid an oaf! It was your fault, and you know it!"
"Now you're defending him. Of course, why wouldn't you? You're a part of Potter's gang, I should've expected this. Didn't think that you would care for such a brainless creature —"
"You barely know me," seethed Theodore as his hold on his anger was thinning quickly.
"I know enough. Father told me a little bit more about you last summer —"
Theodore came even closer as they were almost face to face. "Tell him to call it off," he enunciated with a dangerously low voice.
"Trust me, you do not want to play that game with me, Draco."
Draco curled his lip into another pretentious smile as he backed away with an arrogant stride. "Father did say some things about you, but I can't even see it right now. You're getting soft, Riddle. But I guess that happens when you hang around with scar-heads, Weasels and Mud —"
He immediately cowered back as he saw Theodore's eyes flash scarlet with slitted pupils, his face shifting into something almost evil-looking before it turned back to normal. Draco was nearly choking on his spit as it was hard to swallow, and walked off to the same direction where Crabbe and Goyle went, not turning his head once. He knew better than to stay.
Theodore shook off his spike of anger and released his right fist, rubbing his reddened palm while walking back to the Great Hall. If Draco'd finished that sentence, Theodore would've finished him then and there. Absolutely no hesitation to give him his worse.
Harry was at the doors of the Hall, and asked Theodore why he was talking to Draco. He simply replied that it was just a wasted attempt of solving this mess, and that he wouldn't be talking to him anytime soon.
"The prick is unreasonable," said Ron when Theodore told him and Hermione what happened in the corridor. "I doubt his dad would be any different. Why are you smiling, Theo?"
Theodore grabbed his plate and started to fill it up as he was indeed, smiling rather maliciously. "Nothing. Just got a feeling that dear old Lucius is going to regret ever coming at Hagrid."
"And how do you know that," asked Hermione as she opened up her Muggle Studies book.
Theodore shrugged, and chewed on his baguette after saying, "Just a feeling, nothing else. But it's one of those good ones that you can't really explain, you know?"
"You are… something else, Theo."
Lunch carried on steadily until the bells signalled its end, clearing the Hall of excitable students who were looking forward to their final exam. The boys saw Hermione off at Muggle Studies as they wished each other good luck before they separated. After taking many infrequent breaks in the journey up to the seventh floor, they finally regrouped with their classmates, and found a place underneath the trapdoor to settle on.
"A whole bunch of nonsense is what I'm expecting," Ron said tiredly as he leaned against the wall.
"Oh, Ron. I'm sure you'll do well." Parvati said this confidently as, unlike the rest of the other students, she didn't have her book out for last-minute checking up.
"I was talking about expecting nonsense from Trelawney."
"She only speaks the truth," snapped Parvati as she angrily crossed her arms. "You and Theodore are both the same, mocking Professor Trelawney instead of respecting her. How would you feel if —?"
"Theodore Riddle!" called Trelawney from the trapdoor as Seamus came down from the ladder.
Theodore butted his head against the railings, groaning miserably. He picked himself up and walked over to the trapdoor, getting a 'Good luck!' from Parvati as he climbed into the classroom. He stopped midway as for a second, a sweltering wave of choking air smacked against his face. He thumped his chest and entered the room, feeling his skin leaking with sweat, and sat in front of Trelawney on her desk.
"Hello. I hope you are ready for your exam. Mind you, the easiest part of this is keeping your eyes on the crystal ball. All you have to do is to See inside, and interpret the messages, symbols and signs that may appear," she explained as she used a brown cloth to wipe the smears off the orb.
"So, I just look inside?"
He combed his damp hair back with his fingers, and lowered his face so that his nose was but an inch away from the crystal ball. One deep breath, and he widened his eyes to see if anything was forming inside the floaty mist.
He brushed his hair back again, and focused harder. Nothing seemed to be happening. It was all just mist. He wondered if she'd know that he was lying if he tried.
"Um… wait, I see something…" This, oddly enough, wasn't a lie. The mist in the ball was still swirling on the inside, but something was forming, becoming nearly solid in fact…
"What do you see?" Trelawney whispered as she lowered her head as well.
"Well… there's a person, but… I think they have two faces, like they're on either side of the head…"
"Good, good! Carry on," encouraged the witch as she gave Theodore a toothy grin.
'Not serious at all.'
"Both faces are — I think they are — screaming… They're being ripped apart and… wait, it's changing… Now there's a cauldron, and five shapes are surrounding it… I think they're people…"
"So? What do you think it means, dear boy? What is your Inner Eye trying to say through you?"
'It wants you to accidentally knock yourself out, that's what it's saying.'
"Um… this is just a complete guess, but — No! It's not a guess, it's a prediction! Sorry, I worded it incorrectly… The cauldron could mean that I'll have a career in Potions, because I'm good at it at the moment, and that thing with the faces could be —"
He instantly thought of Quirrell when he had Voldemort hanging on the back of his head.
"It could mean that I'll show a different side to myself in the future…?"
"What about those five people? What does the number five mean to you, dear?" Trelawney asked as she wrote down notes on a parchment sheet with his name being the title.
"I honestly don't know." Theodore had enough. Hagrid's inspection was in a few hours, and the room was sucking out every ounce of energy inside him. Fudge, Mulciber and that wizard probably lied to Hagrid, and were going to kill Buckbeak today instead. Divination served no importance, and it never did.
He slowly began to lift himself on his knees, bringing his face closer to the crystal ball. The mist dispersed and became uninteresting again, until something very faint caught his attention.
"What? Do you see something else," Trelawney said on the edge of her seat as she lowered her head again in level with Theodore.
"No, I… I…"
The cauldron reappeared, but the five figures didn't. It rotated slowly in the centre of the orb, turning and turning when something rose from the inside. It was so faint, and would've vanished if Theodore blinked just once. He squinted closely, watching the cauldron as a skull emerged from the brim, with a single serpent protruding from the inside of its mouth.
"I see… I see…"
What do you see, Theo? The buildup during this year has been quite slow for me, and if it was for you then I apologise. But while I was writing this chapter, I had an epiphany about how I should end this year off and I literally scribbled it on paper so that I wouldn't forget so here's hoping that it'll be good. Also, Theo is starting to get a little more fluid in magic. Wonder how that'll turn out. Hope you enjoyed this chapter and I will see you later.
And I also decided to keep this chapter separate as well, and keep the previous ones as a two-parter. Just a little heads up.
Guest: Sorry if it isn't your cup of tea. But I hope that you'll find a better fic where you can still call 12 year old girls bitches. Good luck my dude.