Progeny of Slytherin: The Beginning of the Riddle

Chapter 32

Going to be out of Hogwarts for a bit. Don't worry about me or Beaky. We'll be fine. I know how you're like, so don't even think about coming down. Here's hoping that it'll blow over.

Hagrid

Hermione read Hagrid's note as shakily as the half-giant's scribbling, handing it over to Harry, who was the last of the four to arrive at the empty common room. Theodore watched Harry trailing his eyes up and down the note deadpanned, until he scrunched it a little in his hand.

"They're going to fire him —" Ron started.

"They won't," snapped Harry as he stuffed the note inside his trouser pocket.

"How do you know that, Harry? The inspection was all down to Hagrid — we can't do anything about it," Hermione said quietly.

"But we can! I mean — Theo, don't tell me you're thinking the same thing?"

Theodore sighed, and scratched his chin which became rougher as the year passed. "But what can we do, Harry? Go up to Fudge, and convince him not to fire Hagrid? Seems to me like this is out of our control."

"Then we've got to go! Who says that we can't convince Fudge to reconsider?"

"Harry —"

"You're telling me that after what we did, after what you did for Hagrid, you're just going to let things be?"

Theodore instantly stood up and frowned at his cousin. "If you think that I'm giving up, then you're simply just wrong. There's nothing that we can do. If there was, then we'd be doing it. But now? Out of our hands."

Talking like he accepted defeat was destructive to Theodore's ego, his way of thinking, even his whole reason for being at Hogwarts. Saying that there was no other way to help Hagrid was poison on his tongue, but the truth hurts sometimes. What were four teenagers going to do against the Minister for Magic, in all seriousness? The absurdity of it was much too confusing for him to understand.

Harry crossed his arms, and blew out of his nose sharply. The steady shaking of his head told the other three that his thoughts were unwavering, and so was his next decision. "No. No, we're not going to stay here, and let it happen. We've got to do something before they take Hagrid away."

"Harry, if Hagrid said that we shouldn't come, then we shouldn't —"

"Harry's right," Hermione cut in, "Hagrid needs us. You said it yourself to him, it'd be cruel not to go."

Theodore rubbed his left temple and said, "I don't think you guys are actually listening to me. We can't go. First of all, we haven't got the Invisibility Cloak to cover us, and even if we did, Snape has the Map in his office. We couldn't go get the Cloak without him knowing."

"It's only Harry that's on Snape's radar, not us three. OK, us two, seeing as you and him are having a… whatever. But I could just go to the place and —"

"Hermione, don't. It's risky, and you could get into trouble!"

"Theo, we've all done things that should've gotten us expelled," said the Muggle-born nonchalantly. "This is nothing compared to the past."

"Yes, because somehow, the teachers in this school weren't competent enough to see four kids sneaking around the castle," he hissed. "There's a man out to get us, so we shouldn't take any chances!"

"As long as it doesn't look like we're going to get the Cloak, then we'll be fine," said Harry as he turned to aim towards the portrait hole.

"I'm sorry, we? What do you mean — where are you going?" Theodore asked Harry as he pushed the portrait open.

No answer was heard as Harry climbed out of the hole, and stamped his feet onto the platform outside the common room, startling some of the security trolls that were guarding the Fat Lady. Theodore gritted his teeth a little, and turned to his left to ask the others if they were staying. Quick blurs of bushy and red hair told him without a single word.

"Hey! Don't just leave!" Theodore called out as Hermione disappeared out of the hole.

Ron turned back and said, "Then get off your arse, and come along! If Hermione wants to break the rules, then you should want to ten times more. Come on!" And he too jumped through the hole.

'You'd be an absolute hypocrite to say that you shouldn't go to Hagrid. Grow a pair, Theo!'

"Wait for me, at least!" Theodore got out of his seat, and charged towards the closing portrait. After having a brief confrontation with the security trolls (they were told to keep an extra eye out for Theodore) the Parselmouth finally managed to escape their clutches, and joined the others on the stairway at the last second. The other three beamed at him, but he waved it off, and put on a scowl which withered away quickly enough.

The stairway suddenly stopped moving, and the quartet bustled off to the lower floor, hastily rushing through the corridors, and briefly stopping at the corners before making their way down to Hagrid's Hut.

When they reached the fourth floor, Theodore suggested that they should at least try to retrieve the Marauder's Map, just to make sure that they could be safe from Snape.

"There's no time," whispered Ron, while Harry and Hermione turned their heads in opposite directions as lookouts. "It's almost time for dinner, and if we go down to the dungeons, it'll be too late. And Snape could be waiting for us down there as well."

"It'll be quick! It'll be really quick; I broke into his office before —" Theodore was about to turn back to the Grand Staircase, but was yanked back by Hermione who refused to have him at the back of the group.

They descended each floor, awkwardly waving at passing students who glared at them as if they were insane, almost scrambling in broom cupboards whenever they heard something resembling Snape's voice, only for it to be the sound of doors closing very slowly. The four were being especially cautious at every turn, at every corridor, and Theodore couldn't help but think that they were drawing more attention to themselves than anything.

The four reached the second floor, and hurried along the corridor in an attempt to pick up more speed to save time. This part of Hogwarts always seemed to be bleaker, compared to the rest of the school. Maybe it was just him, but Theodore's skin would crawl instantly upon setting foot there, and his breath would suddenly grow cold and dry, like he had a Dementor living inside of him. For a brief moment, he turned to his right to see the faded words of his message and Ginny's etched into the wall, faded by a large margin, but still discernible. No wonder he avoided this area of the castle as much as he could: it made him feel filthy. It was only a few feet from Myrtle's tomb, and the resting place of the still-living Basilisk. He wondered if —

"AIEEE!"

Hermione's shriek almost crushed his heart as Theodore thought that she saw Snape coming towards them. Fear grabbed hold of his legs, and refused to let go as he remained rigid in the second-floor corridor. Suddenly, he felt his arm being yanked again, as Ron pulled him into the entrance of Myrtle's bathroom, while Harry barged inside with Hermione's wrist in his hand.

They all spilled inside the abandoned bathroom, which was still as foul as ever, and puffed loudly. It seemed as if fear hadn't only gotten to Theodore as well. Although his face held a deep scarlet shade down to his ears, Ron looked near-terrified by what just happened, and so did Harry. He was propped up against the door, peeking his eye through the gap, while whipping his head nervously at the others.

"Harry, d'you see Snape coming over here," Ron whispered as he, Hermione and Theodore were hidden behind the circular sinks.

Harry took some time to answer, which he responded with a shake of a head, and a sharp sigh of relief.

Ron sighed as well, walking out from the hiding place, and went over to join Harry, before turning to Hermione. "Why d'you scream for? Snape wasn't coming for us. And what's wrong with your neck?"

Theodore turned to Hermione to see that her hands were clasped to her neck and chest, as if she was trying to choke herself, wincing slightly as her breathing became louder. His hands held her shoulders as he looked at her worryingly. "What's the matter? What happened?"

"N-nothing! It's — It's nothing, I'm fine," she stammered. She was trying to smile, but it all looked so false.

"It's obviously not, since you screamed," said Ron as he came closer with Harry. "What happened to you?"

There she went with the fake smile again. "I'm fine, guys. I was just scared for a second. I saw a shadow coming around the corner, and I thought that it was Snape, so I screamed. I'm sorry if I scared you."

"Yeah, I'm not buying it. Hermione, tell us what —"

Theodore hushed when the pattering of approaching feet echoed in the bathroom, keeping him in place. His eyes were looking into Hermione's, as she too remained still in her place, hands covering her neck and chest while she trembled a little with the Parselmouth's hands being on her shoulders for so long.

The door creaked a little, swinging inside the bathroom by just a few inches, allowing the sounds of foreign breathing to come through.

They started to fade away, the breathing, the footsteps. They subsided into nothing, as the four released their diaphragms to breathe normally, once again sighing in relief. They all walked over to the far end of the cubicles, just so that they were as far from the door as possible.

"See? I told you Snape was coming," Hermione said quietly.

"You didn't know that," Ron returned.

"I did!"

"Stop it, both of you. We wasted enough time. Hagrid might still be in the school, and we have to make sure that Snape won't catch us again," Harry whispered to the others. He volunteered to be lookout once again, and brought Ron along, in case he and Hermione would start arguing again.

Theodore waited until they were out of sight and an earshot, as he slowly pushed the Muggle-born into a cubicle. Hermione didn't resist at all, telling him that she wanted to speak with him only. Theodore left the door ajar, and finally spoke up in a whisper.

"What happened to your neck? Why did you — fucking hell, what's that smell?!"

The two scrunched their faces in disgust, backing away from the direction of where the stench emanated from. It took him a second to realise that this was the cubicle where they were going to brew the Polyjuice Potion, before they completely abandoned it, of course. Theodore raised his head above the toilet to see his old cauldron containing a brown sludge-like substance, that bubbled and popped, like it was still over a fire.

"So, that's what happens when you don't finish the Polyjuice Potion," the Parselmouth muttered nasally. "It turns into literal shit."

He lifted his finger as the infected cauldron flew into the air, and tipped over in the next cubicle. The soft clunk of the cauldron assured him that it landed quietly, and the smell was diminishing as well. Theodore wafted his hand in front of his nose, and turned back around to Hermione, whose hands didn't move at all.

"All right, that's taken care of. Now, what happened to you?"

Hermione turned her head to the door, then closed the space between the two teens, as her arms fell to her side, albeit, shakily. "Is — Is it bad?"

"I — don't know what I'm supposed to be looking at," Theodore replied, as he looked at her perfectly normal neck.

"Are you sure," asked the Muggle-born, "because it felt like it was burning me."

"What burnt you?"

"The Time-Turner. I — I think I might've broken it," she squeaked as her hands returned to her neck. "And it hurt so much! Are you sure you can't see anything?"

"Maybe it's just underneath your collar, although, I'm sure that it's nothing." Somehow, Theodore wasn't sure of his words. She was perturbed to the bone, and her grasp on her neck made it seem as if she had been stabbed in her throat. There was very little that he could do.

"Do you want me… to look at it?" he suggested.

"Um… I think that it's all right, to be honest. You don't have to do that."

"If you don't want me to see it, then go to Madam Pomfrey."

Hermione shook her head as she lifted her collar a little higher to her neck, while saying, "I can't. If it's serious, then she'll ask me what happened, and I can't tell her about the Time-Turner. Plus… I don't want to tell anyone that I broke it."

"You told me. Hermione, if you don't tell someone like McGonagall, then —"

"Back again in the same toilet, are you?"

Theodore and Hermione instantly exited the cubicle, rather in annoyance than in fear. Myrtle came floating behind, face scrunched up in a nasty smile. The two didn't doubt for a second that Myrtle wasn't going to stay quiet, and they were right. The ghost girl circled around them, taunting and teasing as they ignored her in silence.

"Here to snog it up because it's the end of the year, Riddle? You know, I heard that he takes most of the girls up in here to suck their faces for hours over time. Isn't that right, Riddle?" Myrtle said with a slight bitterness to Theodore's name. Her attempt to provoke the Parselmouth was not working, as his back was turned to her. She then swooped down, and came onto eye level with them, not wanting to ever stop until she drew a reaction from him.

"Or maybe — maybe you're just using her! That's right, you're using her just because you can! Probably got her trapped under a charm so that she'll be in love with you forever."

Theodore was quick to turn around, but Hermione was even quicker to stop. She grabbed hold of his wrist, and whispered to him that she'll eventually leave when she'll get bored. But that was a lie. Theodore knew that Myrtle wouldn't stop until she'd somehow make him mad enough to do something stupid — funny thing is, it was almost working.

"Theodore Riddle, and Tom Riddle — Theodore Riddle, and Tom Riddle. Different names, same person, hmm? Daddy's boy, are you?" Myrtle goaded, grinning as she saw Theodore trembling a little. Harry and Ron walked over to the scene, rather intrigued by the noise as they came to Hermione's side.

"Is your neck all right then? What's with all this racket — somebody could've heard us," Ron remarked. He stopped when he saw Theodore scowling with slight ticks in his eyes as if he were about to explode. "What's your deal, Myrtle? Why can't you just be quiet like all the other ghosts?"

"Well, it's not my fault that I'm dead, is it," she returned, eyeing Theodore. "I'm just here to warn Hermione, after all. The last time a Riddle and a Muggle-born were in the toilet together, somebody died. I'd hate for it to happen again, and quite frankly, Theodore is just like his father —"

"SHUT UP!" Theodore bellowed as Myrtle cowered away, stiffening in the air before retreating back into her cubicle. He could feel his eyes burning as he stared at the cubicle with the desire to blow it up, breathing loudly before driving the back of his hand underneath his nose. It was simmering down, but he still felt angry.

"Nutcase, she is. Never really liked her —"

"What the hell is wrong with her?! I said I was sorry! I didn't kill her, did I?!" Theodore snarled while checking in the mirrors to see if his eyes changed.

"We know you didn't," said Hermione quietly, "and that's her problem if she can't realise that. Look, just keep your voice down. We still need to go to Hagrid's."

"We've been checking all this time, and we haven't seen anyone so far, but we'll have to double-check now, just in case —"

Theodore shook his head, and said, "No. We've already been inside this place for too long. You said that we shouldn't waste any more time, Ron, so let's go now before it's too late."

The other three nodded back at him, and crept to the door to stick their heads out. Harry left first, then Hermione, then Ron, and lastly, Theodore. They hurried along the rest of the tainted hallway, and went down the stairs to the first floor. The bells for dinner hadn't rung yet, so they knew that they were in the clear. If they just managed to slip through the oak doors, and across the field, they'd reach Hagrid in no time. It would be even faster without them balancing the Cloak over all four of them. They were nearly there...

Harry skidded, and came to an abrupt stop as his arms were spread to stop the others from going any further. Theodore and Ron broke from Hermione and Harry as they hid behind the two pillars that were on the left-hand side of the Great Hall. Theodore knew the reason for stopping, and was glad that Harry reacted so fast.

"We've been kept in the dark for too long, don't you think?" asked Fudge, as he strode alongside the familiar wizard. The Minister had a look of confusion and worry on his face, which opposed the other wizard's now bored expression.

"Nonsense, Cornelius! We haven't been kept in the dark at all. Dumbledore's reasons for keeping Hagrid and his Hippogriff at bay, will only prove to be inconsequential. He cannot act against my Department — it's not in his nature to do so. Hagrid will have to come by at the end of the day, that's for certain."

"I suppose. I do feel for Rubeus, but I can't help the feeling that he brings this over to himself. I hope that this doesn't change a thing between us, although I fear that it is out of my power to predict his judgment."

The older wizard thumped his chest quite firmly before saying, "Well, when you've been in the business for as long as I have, the tendency to feel for others diminishes over time. Come next week, and it'll all be behind you."

"Yes, I — I suppose you're right," replied Fudge.

The two were about to descend along the marble staircase, but halted on the top step when the other wizard opted to speak what was on his mind. "Cornelius, I've been wanting to ask you something — something that has been on my mind since we got here."

"Ask away."

"Yes, you see, you and I both know about Riddle, don't we?"

"We do. A fantastic student from what I heard. Wouldn't be surprised if he landed in the Ministry!"

The wizard bobbed his head up and down, while smiling. It made him look even older. "And that's why I've taken an interest in him. Surely, a boy like him would need guidance in his life. It's tragic to see that he grew up without his mother and father, but he could prove to be… valuable to you, and the Ministry."

Fudge narrowed his eyes before patting his belly as he chortled a little. "Oh, I see. Another protégée. Well, with the way you train them, I can see young Riddle overthrowing the Ministry before he's of age! Now that would be frightening!" He broke out into a hearty laugh, and fixed his hat.

The older wizard carried on smiling, but his eyes were screaming with selfish motives. "So. Do you think that there's any chance of me speaking to the boy, one to one? The Ministry needs more men like this one. He can't go to waste — not with his potential."

"I'm afraid that you'll have to take it up with Dumbledore. He's the one who allows those to take apprenticeships in the Ministry. But I don't see him refusing Theodore. Now. Let's get going to Hagrid's before sunset. Mulciber should be there by now."

"After you."

The two wizards walked down the stairs, and towards the oak doors. Harry motioned the others to follow, and broke into a quick run to behind the top of the bannisters of the marble staircase. Once there, they waited until they'd hear the doors closing, but no such sound came to their ears.

Peering his head up a little, Theodore saw that they instead, were conversing with Snape, who had a piece of parchment in his hand that looked too similar to the Marauder's Map.

"Come on," whispered Harry with defeat in his voice, "he knows we're here. Let's just go back to the common room."

They reluctantly moved away from the stairs, and started to walk towards the Grand Staircase, feeling more useless than ever. If Theodore hadn't been so stubborn in the beginning, they could've made it to Hagrid.

'Snape would've still seen us.'

That was true.

"…however, you should be cautious. Theodore is arrogant to think that he can do anything because he feels entitled to do so. I wouldn't if I were you," drawled Snape from afar.

Theodore ignored this, and followed the others up the stairs, wondering why the bells for dinner had kept silent. He was the last in the common room, which was relatively empty, apart from Ginny and her friends near the fireplace, and joined the others as they propped up against the windows that had a full view of Hagrid's home.

"What do we do now?" Ron asked.

"What is there to do," muttered Theodore. "Snape knew we were going to Hagrid's. He knew we were inside Myrtle's bathroom, and just didn't want to come in. He was probably waiting all this time at the front doors for all we know."

"But — we have to do something! It's not fair for Hagrid to leave without us doing everything we can! If Snape's stopping us from doing so, then we'll have to find a way past him. What can we do to get to Hagrid's?"

"We could split up, and move around the castle in different directions," Ron suggested, after tapping loudly against the wall. "Snape will see that we're not together, and won't try to come after us."

"Great! We'll do just that. Theo, you go around the back, and Ron—"

"Um, guys?" Hermione mumbled from the window.

"—you go through the side of the castle. It's the second fastest way to—"

"Guys! Hagrid's leaving!"

The boys immediately bustled to their feet, and scrambled to the window. Theodore and Ron were at the back of the clumped four, but they could see the view perfectly. Hermione was right. All the way down on the field, it looked so tiny, but very recognisable. Fudge, the old wizard, and Mulciber all triangulated the half-giant and Buckbeak as they were being led to the front gates, trailing slowly across the grounds until they vanished without a trace.


Dear Madam,

I know that it's a little late in the year, but I was wondering if you would allow me to spend the next summer with my friend's family. If you want, you can meet them before I go. I'll even stay behind a week if I have to, although I'm sure that you'll like them. Hoping to hear from you soon.

From Theodore

P.S: Tell Elise I said hello (and I hope she's not going through my stuff).

Theodore attached his quickly-written letter to a Great Grey Owl that looked vaguely similar to Sawer, and slipped in a Galleon in its pouch for the journey to and back from Stuggle's. As the owl hooted and took off to the orange and violet horizon, Theodore made sure that the last of the Galleons that he'd spend, was safely in his pockets before he left the Post Office in Hogsmeade.

Sawer had just been sent off a few days ago with a hefty parcel for Louise, whose birthday passed recently. He figured that since she was much closer to him than when she was at Stuggle's, Sawer would've come back on time, but it seemed as if there was a hindrance on the owl. Knowing that he wouldn't make it back, Theodore almost begged McGonagall to let him go to Hogsmeade to post a letter to the Madam, instead of using somebody else's owl. Once again, he didn't know how he did it, but after being alone in her classroom, McGonagall came straight back in, and told him that it was the first and last time. Theodore was in such disbelief, that he kept quiet for the entire journey, much to the teacher's approval.

"Come on, Riddle, I haven't got all day," McGonagall said quite irritably. "I'd very much like to get back to my classroom to finish marking exams."

"Are you marking—?"

"Ah! No more talking! Let's just get back into the castle, and we'll be done with this. I cannot believe I allowed you to do this…"

The Parselmouth followed McGonagall through the streets of the village briskly, eager to get back to the common room with the others. It had been three days since Hagrid left, and three days since they had gotten no answer from anybody. Not that they asked. Other than Dumbledore, who was probably too busy with helping Hagrid himself, who else would know such a thing? They never saw Hagrid being 'close' with any of the other professors before. Regardless of Hagrid's possible, or lack of, friendship with his colleagues, the quartet spent most of their time in Hagrid's Hut, taking care of Fang. They had to fight especially hard for Theodore and Harry to leave the castle, and even had Flitwick to guard outside the door, and quite frankly, Theodore was sick of it.

The two passed under the golden archway, and steadily carried on walking to the castle without saying a word to each other. Perhaps the heat was a little too much. Oh well, thought Theodore to himself. If he saw a clear opportunity, it was against his nature to ignore it.

"Professor, do you know anything about what happened to Hagrid," Theodore asked tiredly. He was slowing down a little, and so was McGonagall.

"Professor Hagrid. The least he deserves is students calling him by that title. And no, I know nothing of what is to become of him. It's all in the Ministry's hands now."

"But Professor Dumbledore will save him from losing his job, right? Only he can fire Hagrid — Professor Hagrid — right?"

McGonagall paused for a while. Theodore couldn't tell if she was signing in pity, or in tiredness. It was almost crazy to think how wizards and witches wore robes in such weather, even the hats as well.

"The Headmaster is doing everything in his power. But now, we will just have to hope that Professor Hagrid pulls through."

The silence returned as they walked across the grounds of the school. As they trekked along the lengthy carriage path, Theodore took in all that he could from Hogwarts, trying to remember everything from the Black Lake to the Quidditch field, for he would be separated from the school for another two months.

Of course, he could be spending the summer with the Weasleys, if the Madam was willing, and with Harry and Hermione. He, oddly enough, never gave it much thought. Well, when a madman who could possibly change into an animal tries to kill you multiple times, your thinking may be diverted away from normal things. Speaking of shape-shifting madmen…

They soon passed Hagrid's Hut, hearing the faint whimpering of Fang from the inside. Theodore instantly felt bad, and wanted to relieve the hound from his loneliness, but knew that it would be a bad idea. His eyes and ears didn't turn away from him though. Fang whimpered; Theodore just listened.

'Maybe if I asked McGonagall to let me take him to the common room… Well, you convinced her to let you go to Hogsmeade, so what's stopping you from —?'

The growling could not be heard, but its hulking form was easy to make out from the very outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. The black dog, or should he say, Black (he stopped referring to him as the Grim a long time ago) had his back arched, legs readied in position like it was about to set off towards the boy for one final attempt to slaughter him.

Like hell he would. Theodore didn't care if McGonagall was with him or not. If Black so much dared to even come a few steps closer, Theodore'd pull out his wand so quickly, Black wouldn't even see it coming. The Parselmouth stood still, almost moving forward to the dog to show that he was not afraid, hand reaching for his wand. He could see the white soulless eyes, the saliva dripping from its yellow jaws as it sized up its prey. Theodore was just praying that he'd come.

'Come on, Black. If you want me, I'm right here…'

The dog, however, did nothing. In fact, the dog did something that was completely out of the ordinary. It sat. Like a normal dog. Theodore thought he was losing his mind. Now, he knew that this was Black, or at least, the animal that had been attacking him throughout the school year, so… why wasn't it trying to kill him? All sense of hostility… gone. Theodore honestly felt a little disappointed that he didn't do anything.

The dog wagged and thumped its tail against the ground, the whites of its eyes being replaced by a slight grey tinge, and its tongue was lolling out of its mouth as it panted.

"What the fuck…?"

"Riddle! I've been calling you for over a minute!" McGonagall said angrily as she beckoned him over. "Stop daydreaming, and come along with me to the castle! Nightfall is coming soon"

"Yes, Professor, I — I'm sorry," Theodore apologised, shaking his head while following the teacher to the oak doors. He had to get one more look at it. Something definitely was not right. Black was supposed to come and attack him like he always did. After slicing his face up, you'd think he'd take his chances.

He turned one last time to the dog as it followed Theodore's movement with his head. It flicked back and forth from the castle to Hogsmeade, even using its hind paw to point to the village. But by the time Theodore reached the oak doors, the dog slunk off into the Forbidden Forest, immersing itself in the darkness of the trees, while Theodore finally entered the castle.

'Does he want me to go to Hogsmeade? He wants to tell me something… But that's insane — he's insane! It's a trap, it has to be!'

Theodore diverted from McGonagall as she entered a corridor to the left of the Entrance Hall, and walked up to Gryffindor Tower to talk to the others, all while processing similar questions in his head repeatedly. It just didn't make any sense to him. After speaking the password, he climbed through the hole. The common room was much livelier than the recent days. Everyone was either playing Exploding Snap or Gobstones, gossiping about people in the other Houses about where they were going for the summer, or they were just being loud.

Theodore had to shake off Katie, who teased him quite frequently, before joining the other three in the far corner. The closer he got to them, the drabber their area seemed to be.

Ron was the first to notice him coming towards them, and asked, "Did you get her to talk, Theo?"

"I did, but she said the same thing as Flitwick did this morning: she doesn't know anything. The only person who would know about Hagrid, would be Dumbledore," Theodore sighed as he sat down.

"So why don't you go ask him?" Hermione suggested.

"I can't keep on leaving the common room all the time to get answers from people!"

"But you can! You haven't failed so far."

"OK, let me rephrase that. I don't want to carry on leaving the common room to get answers from people. It's exhausting, and I'm tired. You guys do something."

Harry leaned his head back on his chair, and sank a little. "McGonagall was the last person that could've known about this, except for Snape. But we can't go to him."

"Did you send your letter," asked Theodore.

Hermione nodded, and told him that they sent a letter to Hagrid using Hedwig. She also said that she'll be staying with him until he can write back, meaning that they could wait for a few days.

"Let's hope that it all be OK. I can't even imagine what he's going through…"

"Yeah…" muttered Theodore, while looking out of the window to the orange sky. Everything was going downhill for Hagrid, and Black was trying to get him to go to Hogsmeade. Theodore didn't detract from the idea of Black being mad, but something — something quiet in the back of his brain was telling him that there was more to it. And that thing was sure to take over him any second now…


"Yeah, I'm not playing anymore."

"Stop being such a sore loser, Theo," choked Ron, as he was struggling to keep his laughter within himself.

"It's a stupid game, and I'm not playing anymore," Theodore ranted. He used his sleeve to wipe off the god-awful liquid that had spurted onto his face by his Gobstones. Ron had challenged the Parselmouth into playing the game with him, and Theodore unwittingly accepted without having any prior experience. And of course, he paid the price for failure.

Ron collected the Gobstones, and threw them in a satchel as he carried on chuckling. "Aww, don't be like that, Theo! It's only a game!"

"A game that spews shit in your face, is shitty game overall. Why can't it be like normal marbles?"

"He says this whilst being inside a school for magic," Ron whispered to Harry as he elbowed him.

"I'm going upstairs; this stuff is disgusting." And he did just that. Theodore lazily said goodnight to the others, and walked up to the bathroom to clean his face, before returning to the dorm room. Although there was no trace of the liquid still being on him, he could still feel it clouding his nostrils and throat. It was a miracle that he didn't gag, let alone vomit all over the place.

"Hey, Viripin. Are you awake?"

The Adder slithered onto his pillow, and curled up as she opened her jaw wide to 'yawn'. Theodore knew that she was too lazy to ask for food, so he brought her last bags of mice, frogs and bats on his bed so that she could feast.

"I heard — about Hagrid and — his Hippogriff. Did he — really — leave?"

"Yeah, he did leave." He sat on the edge of the bed, and shifted her food to the side to make more space for himself, as he leaned against one of the posts. "He left with the Minister for Magic, and two other wizards. One of them was looking at me like he knew who I was. It was… creepy."

"Do you — know who he — is?"

"I — I think I do. I mean, I know that I met him from somewhere, but I can't remember. Was it from Knockturn Alley…? Or was it somewhere else…?"

Viripin ceased her eating, and rested her head on the boy's lap. Theodore noticed that she was getting bigger and bigger almost every week. "Maybe you saw him in the Daily Prophet with Black as well. If he's part of the Ministry, then he's bound to have his name in —"

"Black," whispered Theodore like he missed something that was so vital.

"Pardon?"

"Black! How did I forget about him?! I-I need to do something; I have to get to Hogsmeade!"

"Why on Earth do you need to go to Hogsmeade?" Viripin asked as she lifted her head from Theodore's lap, luckily saving herself from having her head being thrown off as he sprung from the bed. "Black must be hanging around there, right?"

"He sure is. That's why he was pointing to it…"

"Theodore, I don't understand —"

The Parselmouth knelt down, and held her face as if she were a child. "You don't have to understand now. What I want for you to do, is to fly to Hogsmeade as fast as you can, get into Honeydukes' cellar, and you'll see a secret trapdoor somewhere. There will be a passageway, and inside should be Harry's Invisibility Cloak."

"Theodore, I don't want to —"

"Please, Viripin? Just trust me, like you always have. Please?"

"Snape won't be able to see you, if you're flying straight over the school. Come on."

"Pick me up, and let me go through the window," she demanded after musing for quite a while. "The things that I do for you deserves peace and quiet, but no!"

"I love you, Viripin! OK, remember. Honeydukes. Get into the cellar, and get the Cloak, then come back to me when everyone's asleep. See if there are any open windows, holes in the building, anything. Just stay clear of people, and possibly Dementors."

"Dementors?! Fine, I'll do it! But the next time I'll ask you for something, I don't want to hear anything else from you!"

Theodore crossed his heart, and picked her up as he walked over to the window. In all truthfulness, Theodore didn't want her anywhere near Hogsmeade, but he couldn't go to the one-eyed statue that Harry told him about, or ask Hermione or Ron to get it for him. They'd be onto him like glue, and he wouldn't be able to get them off until they'd reach King's Cross. She was his only hope, and if he could switch places with her, he'd do it in a heartbeat.

'Suddenly, having a phoenix as an Animagus form doesn't sound so ridiculous…"

After wishing her good luck, and for her to be extremely careful, Theodore opened the window and allowed Viripin to slip through. He quickly stuck his head out as she fell out of his grasp, feeling his heart clench at the thought of her splattering on the ground, but sighed happily when a phoenix flew straight up in his line of sight, and across the school to the direction of Hogsmeade.

'If anything happens to her, then it's on you. Remember that…'

A few hours later…

Theodore sat up in his bed, alert with sounds of subtle hissing entering his left ear. He lit the tip of his wand inside his closed-off bed, and separated the tapestry just a little to make sure that he could see outside. Everyone had gone off to sleep, with Harry being the last one. Harry's sleeping schedule mirrored his own, making it near-impossible to determine whether his cousin was awake or not. But he heard no ruffling from his bed, only the hisses that belonged to a bodiless form.

"Viripin," he hissed quietly, "Viripin, where are you?"

"I'm right in front of you. I'm invisible, can't you see?"

"Haha, just get out here so that I can see you."

Viripin's head emerged from thin air, and so did her body afterwards. She slithered onto the bed, and used her tail to hook the silvery Cloak that felt light and cool across the Parselmouth's skin.

He felt it slide and flow in his hands, grinning as he kissed the serpent on her head multiple times. "You're brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! Oh, Viripin, you're amazing! How did you —?"

"Dementors are blind. They didn't even notice me around the corners, and just glided right past me. But it still felt like they were sucking the soul out of me by just being around them. I almost forgot the first time we met…"

"That's your happiest memory?"

"Of course! Now, if you don't mind, this rare breed has to sleep. Goodnight, Theo —"

"About that…" Theodore interjected as he kept his wand floating by itself in the air.

"No…"

"Could you come with me?"

"No!"

"I'm — I'm a bit scared. Only a bit though. And if Black really is a madman, although I don't doubt it, you'll be there with me. I mean, you saved me from him the first time."

"Please?" he pleaded. He wasn't lying.

...

Theodore tiptoed past the sleeping boys in their beds with an even grumpier Viripin draped around his shoulders, his wand in his back pocket, and the Cloak in his hands. The snake refused to let the boy go alone to the wizarding village by himself. That was two favours he now owed her.

He crept down the stairway, zipped across the empty common room, and threw the Invisibility Cloak over them. The Cloak made him feel ten times lighter, for some odd reason. The security trolls were bound to still be standing guard outside the Fat Lady's portrait, and if he could guess it timely, he could go at full sprint ahead to the staircase without the trolls acknowledging a single thing. He just had to get it perfectly…

'Go!'

Theodore pushed the portrait right open, and jumped through the hole quite impressively, then charged straight towards the Grand Staircase. He ignored the stupid grunts of confusion from the trolls behind him, and carried on running while Viripin was shaking on his shoulders. He saw the staircase facing towards him, moving; he had to do it. He had to jump.

He bent his knees, and pushed off the ground as hard as he could, still feeling lighter than air as he stumbled onto the staircase that was moving away from the platform in front of Gryffindor Tower. Theodore held onto the bannister for stability, calming Viripin down as she hissed violently in his ears.

"It's like you don't care for your life anymore, Theodore! What's wrong with you?!"

"Relax," he replied casually as they began to descend each floor. "If I fell down, we wouldn't die. The castle's enchanted. Come to think of it, if I fell, wouldn't I just fall slowly straight down…?"

But there was no time to ponder on the castle's protective charms. He was outside his common room, and if Snape was awake, then there was barely any time for conversation. He hurried down the stairs, careful not to trip on the Cloak. Filch or Mrs Norris wouldn't be a problem, but he couldn't afford to stop. Not when Snape was probably after him at the moment.

Fourth floor, third floor, second floor, first floor… finally. Theodore made it to the marble staircase, staring at the front doors as the wind from the outside pushed against it, releasing a deafening creak through the Entrance Hall. This was it, now or never. He trained his eyes on the entrance to the dungeons with every step he took. Snape wouldn't be able to see him, but he must've known about the Cloak if he was friends with Harry's father. He found his footing on the solid floor of the Hall, his eyes still gazing at the dungeons. Just a little more, then…

He quickly slid through the oak doors, and closed it behind him, before breaking into a run to the gates. He did it. He was outside, and Snape didn't get him. The euphoria was almost too much to handle. He almost felt the need to skip in his step, but judging from how moody Viripin was, he decided against it. His sides were starting to ache, and he gradually began to slow down until he reached the front gates. He huffed and wheezed as he leaned on his knees, sliding the Cloak off himself while tying it around his waist, before covering it with his hoodie.

The Entrance Gates towered against Theodore's height, and he had no clue on how he'd be able to get over them. Perhaps he could levitate himself over it, but then what if there were jinxes to prevent that? Surely, the school must've been drowning in such protection.

"Um… shit! What the fuck am I supposed to do now?!" He reached for his wand, thinking that he could try to lift himself over the gate when something so sudden, happened that he could not register it. One second he was on the ground, the next he was at least thirty meters in the air. But he didn't even use his wand. How was he —?

Above his head was Viripin as a phoenix once more, clutching at Theodore's shoulders without digging her talons inside him. Theodore could feel himself becoming queasy and faint from being up too high, and started to swirl his head round and round, not knowing if he was going higher in the sky, or falling back onto the ground. He thanked God for the latter as he felt the fresh, cool grass underneath him, holding his head in discomfort as his vision began to clear up.

"Sorry! I forgot how you are with heights! Are you all right?"

"I'm — I'm good… I'll be fine, just give me a minute…" he rasped, holding his chest to ease anything that wanted to regurgitate itself from his stomach. After a full minute, Theodore wiped his burning face, and stood up as Viripin flew onto his shoulders before she changed back into her normal self. He followed the normal carriage trail to the village, somehow thinking that it would've been better to keep the Cloak on instead. But Black could probably still smell him, right?

The further he went along the trail, the more he thought to himself that his actions were completely asinine. Was he seriously going to face a mass murderer with a few tricks up his sleeve? Sure, Theodore knew some things that people his age had no clue about, but could he actually perform them? The Unforgivable Curses wouldn't work with the half-hearted, and he couldn't see himself actually killing Black. Not even torturing him.

The golden archway came into full vision, glinting from the exuberant moonlight. It looked… dead, to be honest. Dementors were sure to be around. He felt Viripin squeezing him by the neck a little, and he held onto her tail a little tighter.

"We can turn back, you know," Viripin whispered in his ear, almost fearfully. "We don't have to look for him."

Theodore stroked her gently, and pressed onto the High Street, not knowing if it was stupidity, or bravery that made him do so. The cottages and shops on either side of the street looked deserted, and rundown. Zonko's from afar looked like it had the joy ripped away from it, and Honeydukes… just didn't look like Honeydukes. Was this his imagination, or could Dementors affect buildings as well? It was like he was walking through a graveyard. No, a ghost-town, more like it. It was horrible, sickening; it felt —

He ducked over to the pavement as he heard the rasping breath of a nearby Dementor, gliding past the Post Office with its hood still obscuring its face. Theodore was hidden in an alleyway next to Honeydukes, trembling uncontrollably as he started to feel a little drowsy. His skin tightened over his bones, his breath was becoming sharp and quick, and he was just trembling. Viripin nuzzled against his temple to calm him down, but it didn't do much. He crouched himself even lower, waiting for the accursed creature to disappear…

The Dementor swirled around with its drab cloak brushing against the floor, collecting the dirt and anything that it came into contact with. It looked like it 'heard' something, something close by… It ignored this feeling, and moved back on its usual path, lifting its scabbed hand to touch the wooden structuring of the Post Office, making it rot slightly and splinter. It guided its hand across the wood and the glass until it vanished around the corner, completely out of sight.

Theodore cautiously looked side to side along the street. No Dementors. His chest was starting to clear up, and he was feeling less empty by the second. Even from several meters away, it still managed to affect him. God forbid he came right in front of one. The Parselmouth scoured one last time for any Dementors, then stepped back onto the street, scaling across the buildings and corners, instead of being in a vulnerable position in the middle of the street.

"OK, that's one Dementor gone. I wished I knew what the hell was the thing that Harry casted in the last match. Would've been really useful…" said Theodore quietly to himself. Now, all he had to do was to find Black, check for himself to see if he was a madman or not with the possibility of bringing him in, and it would be over, right? Easy enough.

Theodore skipped over to the other side of the street, and moved quickly over to the four-way junction. Black should be around here somewhere, he thought to himself. The least he could do was — oh no. His chest was constricting again. He felt like he was choking, his brain was slowly starting to become fuzzy, and couldn't think straight at all. Rasping breath after rasping breath was surrounding him. Three Dementors were closing in on him, wheezing loudly as their scabby hands were reaching for their hoods.

"No… no, not me. I'm not Black," Theodore whispered weakly. But they didn't listen. They just carried on coming closer and closer, not showing any signs of stopping, or even slowing down. Viripin felt lifeless on his shoulders as her body nearly fell off him, and he was beginning to feel the same way as well. "Help me… Help her… help us… help…"

"Expecto Patronum!"

Something white and powerful flew over his head, and crashed into the Dementors like a truck going at full speed, slamming them into various shops and posts. The Dementors attempted to get back at the boy, but the white light refused, ramming into them again and again until the Dementors dispersed and vanished away from the scene. Theodore clumsily got back onto his feet, still feeling shaken and cold. Viripin was still unconscious, and he wrapped her around him twice to make sure that she wouldn't fall off.

The white light was still strong, almost blinding. Theodore had to peer through the gaps between his fingers until the light subsided a little. But it wasn't a light. It was, but it wasn't. It was a goat composed in a purely white light, translucent and lifelike. The goat stamped its hooves on the ground, trotting up and down playfully like it hadn't just defeated three creatures of darkness seconds ago. Theodore recognised this light-being the same from the Quidditch game, and tried to get a closer look at it, until it suddenly faded like dust in the wind.

"Hmph. Damn things can't even do their job. Going after kiddies now, hmm?"

Theodore whipped his head around, and saw the same gruffly man from before, the owner of Hog's Head who looked very similar to Dumbledore. He had his wand outstretched, and an actual goat by his side which was restrained by a rope.

"Are you going to come inside, or let those things come after you? Because I'm not going to save you again."

"Err…"

"Make a decision, boy! In, or out?" yelled the old wizard as he held his inn-door open.

Theodore hurried inside without hesitation. No way was he staying outside, not when he had no clue on how to fight Dementors. The innkeeper closed the door behind him, and snapped his fingers for the candles around the pub to light up, brightening the already dirt-ridden tavern. Theodore had only seen parts of the room, seeing the front counter and barely anything else. It'd looked bigger if weren't for the excessive number of tables and chairs littered all over the place.

The Parselmouth walked over to the front counter, where the innkeeper had kept himself to, and said, "How did you do that?"

The innkeeper turned around, and frowned at the boy. "Don't they teach you any manners up in that school of yours? A thank you would be much appreciated."

"Sorry — Thank you, sir."

"Ehh," mumbled the wizard as he waved it off. He ducked down, and pulled out something from underneath the counter. He reached inside, and unfolded what seemed to be a box, allowing the goat to stick its head inside as he chortled to himself. It looked rather weird, but it explained the smell.

"Can I ask how you did that, sir? With the Dementors," Theodore asked again as leaned over the counter.

"Stop calling me sir. I'm not one of your teachers."

"But I don't know what to call you."

"Aberforth," revealed the wizard as he stood back up, and fumbled around the back, clattering plates and cups around. "And don't you go calling me Mr Aberforth either. It's uncalled for."

"Aberforth, what was that thing that you made to make the Dementors go away," Theodore asked quietly, still shaking. Viripin hadn't woken up yet, and he was growing fearful for her.

For the first time, Aberforth displayed a smile to Theodore, but it looked crooked, almost mocking in a way. "Has all these awards and fancy titles, but none of his students can produce a Patronus."

"That's what it's called? A Patronus? How come it's not taught to people? You'd think that Fudge would spread it around with all these Dementors flying about, don't you?"

"You tell me. Seems that my brother would rather trust that the school would take care of everyone, instead of doing the smart thing," Aberforth retorted, as he swished his wand to make various things fly behind him.

"Your brother? Hold on…" A bulb lit up in Theodore's head instantly. "You're Dumbledore's brother?!"

"Be quiet!" Aberforth snarled. "People sleep here, you know!"

"Oh, right… Sorry, again." Theodore felt Viripin stirring on his shoulder, but he didn't feel her trying to get up and nuzzle his temple like she always did. "So, he does have a brother… Wait, so —"

Aberforth quickly put his palm up, and said, "No questions. You shouldn't even be here. Go back up to the castle."

"But I need to be here!"

"I will not have my brother coming down here, storming into the place because I let one his students take refuge here for the night! Go back to the castle," hissed Aberforth as he turned around again. He swore under his breath as a tankard smacked his temple, and threw it over to the sinks that could've been the goat's area for relief for all Theodore knew.

Theodore felt a little too scared to scowl at the old man, staring out through the door. There had to be more than at least ten Dementors hanging outside the inn, and Viripin was still out cold. He couldn't fly, he couldn't produce a Patronus, or probably one that wasn't as strong as Aberforth's, and the Cloak would be useless against a horde of Dementors. Plus, he hadn't found Black yet. As dangerous and idiotic his goal was, he wasn't going back to the castle with failure hanging over his head.

"Umm… Aberforth?" Theodore asked meekly, wiping his brow. "Can I get a drink, please?"

Aberforth turned his head only, to Theodore. He just stared at him. "Got any money?"

"Well, I think I have a Galleon, but I don't know if you're selling the same price as the other place —" Theodore replied as he dug through his empty pockets, but stopped when Aberforth softened his face, and waved it aside.

"Don't worry about it. Just a little drink. What are you having?"

"A Butterbeer, please."

"No."

Theodore now scowled. "No? You just said —!"

"After having three Dementors ganging up on you, you'll need all the chocolate that you can get. I'll get you a full tankard."

Aberforth turned around again, and swished his wand to summon more things around, as Theodore sat there silently. He almost forgot that chocolate made him feel better when the Dementor was on the train. It was weird that he never heard about Patronuses as well. After reading (briefly) on what Dementors were, not a single mention of light-animals or chocolate could be recalled. Granted that it was for the Dark Arts, not the Defence against it.

He took the hot chocolate after thanking Aberforth, and walked over to a table in the corner near the fireplace with a moving painting of a girl, who smiled brightly at him. She gave him a wave, to which he waved back, and went back to whatever she was doing.

As he sat down on a rickety table, Theodore set the tankard down, and unwrapped Viripin so that she could rest on his lap. He had no idea if she was awake or not; her eyes were wide open as always. He held her close to his stomach, regretting his decision for bringing her along, and took a sip of his hot chocolate. He felt over the moon with just one sip. Theodore took a deeper gulp of the drink, and wiped under his nose.

"This place isn't so bad. It's no Leaky Cauldron, but it's something, isn't it, Viripin?" He stroked her head, and felt her little heart beating as he stopped midway her body. At least she was alive.

However, Theodore and Viripin weren't the only occupants of the shady pub. Theodore had walked past them, but didn't want to acknowledge their presence, thinking of them as a resident who enjoyed the night instead. He wouldn't be surprised if it were a vampire. Lupin told him all he needed to know to protect himself from one, should the situation arise. But now, whoever it was had caught his attention, for they were staring at him. Theodore could only assume so, as they were hooded in shaggy robes. Their head was facing Theodore, and he was the only person there, other than Aberforth, so they had to be looking at him. Maybe it was one of those devious wizards that always used to trick Hagrid into sneaking illegal monsters into the school. Maybe they noticed Viripin, and knew her rarity and worth…

"Theodore…?"

He looked down, and saw the snake looking up to him rather weakly. "Shhh… It's OK, it's OK. I'm here, don't worry. The Dementors are long gone, they won't hurt us in here."

"I feel sad… I feel empty…"

"I know. It'll go away soon, OK?" He looked back up at the stranger, who was still staring back at him. Theodore ripped his gaze from them, and focused his attention on Viripin. "Look — I don't know how to get back to Hogwarts without running into the Dementors. I know that you're tired, and that you probably can't turn into a phoenix to get us both out of here, so we're sort of stuck at the moment."

"Theodore…?"

"Yes?"

"Somebody's coming towards us…"

"What?" Theodore lifted his head, thinking that it was the person underneath the hooded robes who was really Black all along, but he wasn't half-wrong.

The stranger scurried over from the other side of the tavern, and looked a lot shorter standing up, than sitting down. Black was much taller than Theodore himself, yet this person was like a foot or two taller than a goblin.

The table almost collapsed as the stranger slammed their hands on top of it; Viripin was suddenly awake, and hissed menacingly at the intruder. The stranger flinched more than a normal person should, revealing their appearance as their hood fell back. Theodore had to say that this person was quite… revolting. It was a wizard underneath the hood, and he looked, as Theodore thought before, revolting.

His skin was dry and hairy, his face scrunched and plump, like he heavily indulged in eating, while his hair was patchy and thinning. His small nose was pointed and upturned, and his eyes were beady, almost fully black. And Theodore couldn't help but notice that his teeth were sharp with a massive overbite, frequently spitting specks of dribble and other things that the Parselmouth found ill-mannered. What did a man-hag want with him?

"I haven't got any money, so you can leave me alone," said Theodore as his hand was reaching for his wand.

The watery-eyed wizard was shaking more than Theodore did. "N-no… I don't want your m-money, dear boy!" he squeaked. It was rather fitting for his ratlike appearance.

"Don't call me dear boy, you don't know who I am."

"B-but I do! I do know who you are! T-Theodore! That's your name!"

"How the hell do you know my name," hissed Theodore, causing the wizard to flinch back again.

"I-I know who you are! You see, I used to work in the M-Ministry just recently —!"

"I don't believe you."

"But I did! I did work in the Ministry! I was part of the Wizengamot! I-I was standing behind Barty Crouch when he sentenced Black for life in Azkaban!"

Theodore crossed his arms while Viripin coiled around his neck, piercing her eyes with her mouth slightly open, ready to attack in case it was Black in disguise. "That's general knowledge with Barty Crouch sentencing Black to prison. Everyone knows that. Who are you, what do you want with me, and how do you know my name?"

The wizard darted his eyes all over the place, sniffing the air like he was trying to catch a scent. "I can't tell you who I am, dear boy — I'm sorry, I won't say it again! Black, he's after me! He s-saw my face when Barty sent him to Azkaban, and now he wants to kill me! Please! Protect me from him!"

"So, a man is trying to kill you, but you still decide to stay here where he can clearly get to you, and not only that, but you flee from the Ministry when they probably could've helped you as well. Maybe Black should get to you for how stupid you're acting."

"Noooo! Please, Theodore! Protect me! He's going to kill me for revenge! I'm innocent, you must believe me!"

Theodore looked over to Aberforth, whose interest was on them instead of his goat. Judging by the expression on his face, he must've been a stranger to the place as well. "Look, just leave me alone! If Black wants to kill you, then you're fucked, simple as. You shouldn't have came here in the first place. Now —" His hand was grabbed by the wizard's stubby ones. For a moment, he saw a shortage of fingers on one hand, but the wizard dragged his hands back again.

"But I'm not the only one in danger, aren't I? You-you're in danger as well. Black wants the both of us, me because he wants revenge for what I did to him, and you because of what your mother, Valerie, did to him as well!"

"What?! What did you say," said Theodore, raising his voice a little higher. "How do you know that she's my mother?!"

The wizard held his head, and realised that he said the wrong thing. "I shouldn't have said that… I shouldn't have —" He sniffed in the air again, rising from his chair until he widened his eyes in fear. "Run, Theodore…! He's here…! Run!"

"What do you mean run? Black isn't here, is he?"

The ugly wizard gave one last sniff, and tripped over his chair before crawling over to the toilets. Aberforth yelled from the counter, and tried to climb over the goat while Theodore stood up, and tried to see where he was going. Who was this guy, and how did he know who he was?

"Hey," he called out, "Hey! If he's here, then where the fuck are you going?! He'll catch you if you leave —"

The Parselmouth looked down to the ground, and bent down to pick up the object that fell out from the wizard's robes. It was a wand that was very unlike the others that he had seen in the past three years. White with black indentions along its side, and a white hook as a handle which resembled a bone more than anything. For such a sinister-looking wand, it surely didn't match its owner who apparently vanished into thin air.

"Where did he go?" asked Theodore as Aberforth finally came around. The innkeeper pointed at the toilet. Theodore dashed towards the door, and pulled it open to see a very filthy, but empty toilet. It was much too small to hide a fat person like the stranger, but he wasn't there. "What did — did he Apparate or something?"

"Always get the nutty ones," grumbled Aberforth as he walked back to the counter. "You're the least weirdest person to ever come inside here, and that's a fact. Above my brother you are, and especially that looney witch who thought she could see the future. What a day that was…"

Breathing heavily out of his nose, Theodore felt angry that he let someone like that slip from his hands. If Black was really after him, he could've been good bait to lure the lunatic out. Then again, the stranger was probably mad as well. No way could he have worked at the Ministry with robes like that. He guessed the most menial job over there would allow you to have decent clothing at least. He brought the white wand to his face, and studied it briefly. It felt… odd in his hand. Like it was ready to go off at any second. He could've sworn that he had seen this wand at least once, or dreamt about it.

He shook his head, and stored the new wand in his pocket with his own, and went over to his table to finish the rest of his hot chocolate before saying goodbye and thank you to Aberforth, who returned a half-smile.

"Be quick. In fact, here," said the innkeeper as he casted his Patronus that flew out of his wandtip. "It'll stay with you until you'll reach the end of the High Street. Once you're there, you run like hell, all right? Now, get going."

Theodore slowly pushed the door open, and hurried over to the side with the goat following him in the air like his guardian. He guessed that was the sole purpose for the Patronus anyway. Once he got back to Hogwarts, Lupin was going to teach him everything he knew before school would end on Patronuses. He didn't think he could stand being near another Dementor again.

"Expecto Patronum," he muttered to himself repeatedly. The very, very faintest wisp of white light dribbled out of his wand before fading away into nothingness, and that was on his fifteenth try. This was much harder than it looked. He swished his wand randomly around and around, trying to get the wisp back. "Expecto Patronum… Expecto —"

"Theodore, look over there!" Viripin pointed out.

Wagging its tail like it did previously, the black dog was sitting near an alleyway next to Tomes and Scrolls, whimpering slightly to catch the Parselmouth's attention. Theodore gripped his wand tightly, and even thought about using the other one just in case. The dog kept calm, and strolled into the alleyway.

"We can leave, and go back before anyone would find us…"

Inhale… exhale…

Theodore straightened himself, and tiptoed through the empty pavements, past the street signs that swivelled and popped, and stood in front of the alleyway. It was completely dark, nothing to it at all.

'It's an ambush.'

He quickly casted "Lumos," and grabbed the other wand from his pocket as he was ready to attack. This wand was vibrating in his hand a little, sensing some of his ruthlessness through his hands. It still felt odd to him, but now it felt… good. What he expected to see was the shaggy mutt, cowering from the light as it tried to hide behind discarded boxes and other rubbish. But instead…

"It's all right, Theodore," said a low voice that sounded broken beyond repair. "I thought you'd understand my message. Please, put the wands down. I mean you no harm —"

"I think it's a little too late for that," whispered the Parselmouth in an oddly cold voice. His eyes fell into a scarlet shade as he remembered all the pain that had been inflicted on him and Viripin.

"I — I don't understand," said the voice in a shaky voice. "Theodore, please…"

"I've got you cornered, and there's no place where you can run now…" hissed the boy sinisterly, closing in at every single second.

"Please…. Please, understand…"

"You don't know what you just did, did you? It was foolish of you to come here, Black. Very… very… foolish…"

Theo's got Black cornered, he just ran into a mysterious man, and he met Dumbledore's little bro. I wonder what's going to happen next? Once again, this chapter was going to be much longer, but the word count was a bit too much. But that means little cliffhangers, doesn't it? And trust me folks, that 'new' wand is going to be pretty important right about now. But I'll just leave you to think about that. For now, later.