Progeny of Slytherin: The Beginning of the Riddle

My First Home

Theo,

I got news about Sirius's trial just today: it's going to be on the twenty-third of August, and I wrote this the second I found out when Sirius sent the letter. He said it'll get public probably in a day or so, but he also said that we shouldn't have expected anything else.

Professor (can't really call him that now, can't we?) Lupin apparently left pretty quickly the week after we came back. I guess it was for the best. I don't know if he'll be a witness as well.

And I forgot that you're going to Ron's in a few days. I'm not even kidding, Theo, I think I'm losing it over here. Dudley's on a diet, which means that everyone's on a diet. I barely get any food as it is. I wouldn't even mind if they dropped me off at Stuggle's: they probably would have.

Anyway, this letter's getting too long. I want to ask about the house, but it can wait. Say hi to Ron and Hermione and hopefully, I'll be there soon. Let's just hope that Pettigrew gets what he deserves, yeah?

Harry.

P.S: Hermione, for some reason, asked what was your favourite colour. Don't know why she didn't just ask you instead.

Hedwig cooed loudly from the opened window for food, unable to watch Theodore's face from his bed as he read Harry's letter in silence. Theodore only read it three times to take what he needed to know: August twenty-third, Lupin was gone, and Harry wouldn't mind living at Stuggle's. He kept sombre at that thought and didn't feel his lip lifting by not even a millimetre. Nothing at this point could make him feel even a spark of joy for what just happened less than three hours ago.

Theodore took the letter to where he had the others stacked in a neat pile next to his trunk and folded it on top of there, then took a handful of seeds for Hedwig to eat from. He dropped it rather uncaringly in that he earned a stare from the snowy owl that looked a little disdainful before it vanished as she pecked at the pile. Theodore didn't take notice of his carelessness when he walked back over to his bed. He held himself still in front of his desk, looking across the area that he left untouched when Louise left.

Twelve years old, stupid enough to run away from home, stupid enough to send a moving picture to a Muggle, so naïve that he had no clue about the year ahead of him. He felt so stupid for lying to her straight in the face. And she was right: she knew that he was lying. She didn't even need any magic for that. She just read him so simply from a glance. Nobody could've done that to him that quickly, not Harry, not Hermione, not even Dumbledore. Just like that, and she knew.

And for a moment, somehow able to cling onto rational thinking in his wallowing of guilt, Theodore thought back to how it was she who wanted him to remember her always, yet he didn't. The time they spent away from each other must've made Louise try harder to keep him in her mind from when she last saw him. She gave him the necklace, she wanted the photos; she kept every letter as he did. He didn't want to think that he was ignoring her pouring her soul out to him because he was too focused on himself. But if he had known, what could he have done?

Theodore groaned irritably and pulled at his hair from overthinking too much — it always made him feel stupider than what he really was. He'd always put himself through so much trouble that it was a more-than-necessary guilt trip, one of the many problems that he had with himself.

'Tomorrow's going to be just great. A whole day with her… As if she'll talk to you.'

Hedwig started to squeak — oddly enough — from her place at the windowsill before she flapped down to the desk clumsily, looking particularly bothered from being forced out of the way from the returning owl.

"Sawer!" Theodore exclaimed, pushing Louise slightly to the side in his mind to see the grey owl. "Took you long enough! Why did he keep you over there for so long?"

Sawer hooted and bent his body to point at his leg which had a plain white envelope attached by a flimsy string.

Theodore's stomach lurched painfully. 'He wrote back? I didn't think that he'd write back…'

Sawer pecked at the string irritably and hunched himself over at Hedwig's pile of seeds when he was freed, earning a squawk and a minor scuffle from Hedwig herself. Theodore ignored the owls, staring at the blank envelope that felt so heavy on his fingers. What could he have written back to him? Nothing bad, Theodore hoped. Last year was shoved right behind them; there was no need to bring up any unhealed, salted wounds.

"I guess it took you just as long to write one back," he muttered, feeling a little cowardly. Hedwig flapped onto his shoulder and nibbled at his ear gently when he told her that he had no letter to send back yet. The snowy owl left soon after — she 'screamed' at Sawer, who didn't seem disturbed at all. "I should open this later. For some reason, it doesn't feel right to do it now…"

"Boy, she was not… too happy with him." Viripin was curled up comfortably on the corner of Theodore's bed in silence. Her scales were of the colour of Theodore's sheets, but her eyes were indistinguishable in her camouflage.

The Parselmouth laid himself next to her and picked her up onto his stomach, petting her along her broad head whilst saying, "What did she say?"

"Something along the lines of 'I always knew that you were such an idiot, now I know that you're a greedy one'. Roughly that, anyway."

"He doesn't look insulted at all, though."

"Yeah, I've noticed that. Sawer is an… odd owl. Criticism just bounces right off him. Makes me wonder what's going on in that brain of his… Anyway, you look like you have a problem."

"That obvious?" he groaned.

"Well, you were attempting to pull out your hair a few moments ago, so yes. Very obvious. Talk to me."

Theodore sighed. "It's abou—"

"Louise, yes, I know. Before you go asking, I was here the whole time when you were lying to her straight in the face."

"But I had to! How was I supposed to explain the picture without telling her that magic's real, that I've been a wizard all this time! It's because of these stupid rules: I would've told her from the get-go if I was allowed to, but I can't. And now she's mad at me because… because she saw right through me, yet I was making her look like she was crazy. Great going, Theo, you're an absolute charmer…"

"Why do I always make things worse, Viripin, especially when it's this sort of stuff?" Theodore asked, staring at the bleak ceiling.

"What, with girls?"

"No, with Nargles. Yes, girls! What else could it be?" he replied sorely.

"Watch the attitude. And what on Earth is a Nargle?" Viripin asked with confusion by the term.

"It's a thing that was inside this scrap magazine I found from — whatever, look, the point is that stuff always goes to… goes to shit whenever there's a girl involved! I always do something stupid to make them angry or sad with me! I mean, Hermione didn't talk to me for nearly a week, and that was only last year. The year before that, she avoided me at Christmas because of the whole 'Chamber' thing and even before that, she was mad because I didn't say anything about sneaking Norbert out of the castle. And that's just her! Louise, she — how could she have known that I was lying to her? I've lied to so many people in their faces, but they never suspected a thing! And she just picked me apart! I never lied to her before I knew I was a wizard, so how could she possibly tell? This is just — I just don't understand why girls are… are…"

"Attracted to you? Always wanting to be around you despite you being a clueless dunderhead that is indifferent to their obvious feelings towards you?" Viripin finished cheekily.

Theodore was not impressed. "I was going to say 'hard to understand'…" he gritted through his teeth, but his face shifted back into one of unhappiness as he thought about Louise almost crying yet not being able to. Probably because she didn't want him to think that she had grown soft. She only cried during sentimental moments, and those were mostly shared with him only. He never saw her cry out of anger before…

"Well, I'm glad that you're not just pushing it away like you always did before," the Maibian Adder hissed soothingly. "But certainly, you must know what needs to be done here, right? Just… apologise to her as you did with Hermione. It'll be easy, all you'll have to do tomorrow is —"

"Louise is not Hermione, Viripin. It's different with her. She… she won't take an apology without an explanation. If I apologise to her, then she'll want me to tell her everything about the photo, and I can't. I just can't. And it doesn't help that it's my last day here. She won't talk to me on the way to Elmbridge, no way…"

"Theodore… you're her best friend. You should know how she feels, especially right now when she's… looking at you. If she wants to know about the picture, then… you have two choices. Tell her… or leave her in the dark. But either way…"

Viripin slumped onto his shoulder blades tiredly, reduced to muttering and weak flickers of her tongue as Theodore sat up, worried. "Viripin? Viripin, what's the problem? You're not hurt, are you?"

"No, no, nothing like that, Theodore! Nothing… to worry about. No, I've been getting really tired recently for a number of reasons, the first is because of my recent 'phase'."

Theodore looked at her with confusion across his face. "What 'phase'? Are you about to shed your skin again?"

"You sheltered, innocent child. Theodore, I'm talking about my fertile phases. You know, the ones where I'm… you know…"

"Oh! R-right, I knew that! Knew that perfectly… Has it been this way since we came back?" Theodore felt her lifting her head slightly to indicate that she was nodding in confirmation. "You could've told me. Instead, I was getting at you for being lazy. Didn't know that you were… you're not actually…?"

Viripin gave a sharp snort and hissed, "Don't worry, Theodore. You won't have baby Viripins slithering along your bedroom floor. This'll all pass very soon, that is, until the next four years when… it'll come full cycle…"

"Are you able to transform for tomorrow, though? I don't want people to be tipped off when they see you on the outside," said Theodore, thinking how the Muggle public would react to a pet snake being uncaged and on his shoulders.

"I prefer… the bag… Get me in the bag, it'll be fine…"

"Have you ever met another Maibian Adder, like family members or something?" Theodore thought to himself that he was slightly crass for never asking this question before. They have only known each other for at least two years and a half.

"Had a mother… had seventeen other siblings… all eaten by seagulls. My mother vanished instead of fighting them off… she was an odd Adder… I would never abandon any of my children…"

Theodore also forgot that she too was from a tragic home: left behind by a mother when she was just a child. Speaking Parseltongue was probably the greatest thing that he inherited from his father; he didn't think he could feel so much more for an animal than a different person.

Sawer flapped over to his cage and tugged at the metal wiring for the boy that was lost in thought to let him inside. Theodore laid Viripin over and covered her where he sat for warmth and opened the cage. The seeds were half-finished, but Sawer seemed satisfied that he managed to clear Hedwig off his food.

Theodore swiped the seeds off out the window and rubbed his palms together to clean off the remnants as the unevenly levelled floorboard in the very corner of his room kept his eyes focused on it without him blinking once. The floorboard didn't look broken from a distance; you'd have to get to your knees to see what was wrong with it. Underneath it, perfectly hidden within several folds of old newspapers, was his father's wand.

So chillingly haunting, Theodore knew that he wouldn't think straight for a second had he kept it in his trunk with all of his other school belongings. The first five minutes of his return used entirely to hide it from everyone else, including himself. He didn't know why he hadn't broken it the second he got back. It was strange, sick even, that he was harbouring a wand with such a dark history that spilt so much blood. Surely, keeping the wand was just as bad as keeping his father's Horcrux. If he couldn't bring himself to break it, then he could give it to someone else to do it for him.

"I'll just give this to Dumbledore when I get back. Or maybe I'll show it to Ollivander instead. He already knows who I am, he'll be happy to get a wand back in return. A dangerous —" he stretched his arms and yawned "— dark… dark wand. Viripin?"

Viripin's hisses were quiet and barely detectable.

The sun had disappeared behind the houses in front of Theodore's window, leaving rays of orange light shooting upwards like they were flicks from a paintbrush. Theodore heard two men screaming at each other in their own cars outside as he changed into his pyjamas, thinking about the next day ahead before not thinking about anything at all. He lifted the sleeping serpent and moved her next to him when he slipped under his covers, too tired to notice that he had never slept earlier on a summer's day, let alone any other from the day he knew that he was a wizard.

The night had passed by so smoothly that Theodore didn't think that he was awake until he heard the banging on his door by none other than Gretchen herself. Today, the older children were going to start off their weekly 'contribution to the environment', which meant cleaning up the neighbourhood after lazy dog-owners and rabid drug addicts in simpler terms. But not for Theodore. He'd have the entire day looking around his mother's house that would surely have something magical about it, something that he was desperately missing, instead of picking up dog droppings from the ground, topped off by leaving for the Weasleys. The perfect afternoon, minus Louise being angry at him.

After a quick breakfast, Theodore rushed back to his room to start on his packing as he figured that there wouldn't be enough time for him to do so when he'd get back. He hauled his trunk out from the cupboard and flicked it wide open to see his books, equipment and uniform — it took him several tries to use the washing machine correctly at the dead of the night for his robes — all in a disorderly fashion, so he started at the Muggle clothing that he'd bring along with him.

All the clothes that still fitted him were folded nicely in neat piles so arranging his books was the next thing. Theodore had discarded most of his old books, such as every single copy with Lockhart's face on the front cover, leaving him some room for the ones he'd get from Flourish and Blotts. The only book that remained in his cupboard was Secrets of the Darkest Art; Theodore still didn't want to look inside of it. Yet, just like the wand, he couldn't seem to let it go either. Speaking of the wand…

Theodore crawled over to the floorboard and used his fingernails to dig underneath the small jut of the wood and managed to pull it back just enough so that it wouldn't snap in two. Not that Theodore was strong enough to do that. He used his other hand to quickly grab the clumped mass of newspaper that was shaped like a baguette before letting go of the floorboard that snapped back down loudly.

"What the hell was that," Gretchen snarled from outside his door.

"Nothing."

Theodore shook his head, not even bothering to say something under his breath as he peeled the newspaper layers away until the wand revealed itself underneath, like a snake's skeleton shedding its skin all through the flesh and down to the bone. Theodore then quickly stuffed it in a small compartment that was meant for his underwear and zipped it up.

He threw just an extra pile of clothes on top before he heard knocking on the door. His heart skipped a beat when he thought that the Reaguls had finally arrived and that Louise was going to come inside, happy and joyful like nothing happened. But he was wrong, quite far from it. Instead of seeing curly hair bouncing on the way in, Theodore lowered his head to see Poppy slipping through the doorway before closing the door behind her, grinning widely with a tooth missing.

"Madam Geoffrey told me to tell you that the Re— the Recalls — that your friend is here!"

"Thanks, Poppy," he returned as he checked to see if he managed to make the photo album fit comfortably under his potions book. Theodore suddenly looked back over his shoulder when he realised that the sound of his door closing wasn't heard, for Poppy was still inside of the room watching the painting above the doorway as if it were moving. "You can go now, Poppy, I heard what you said."

"Is Louise your girlfriend?" asked the little girl, ignoring him whilst keeping her eyes on the image.

Theodore didn't feel himself being flustered like usual and calmly responded with, "No, Louise isn't my girlfriend."

"How comes?"

"Well, she's my best friend, so…"

"But you can have a girlfriend who's also your best friend, right?" Poppy pestered.

"She's not my girlfriend, Poppy," Theodore said, now annoyed. "I'm sure that you can have a girlfriend and best friend in one, but she's not, OK?"

"Don't you think she's pretty?" Poppy asked, sitting next to his bed with her knees tucked near her chest.

"She — yeah. But just because someone's pretty, doesn't mean that you should go out with them. It's called being shallow."

Poppy looked over at his trunk but turned away at the sight of the half-opened cupboard door. "I think she's really pretty. She's got really nice eyes, but I only have boring brown ones. You have pretty eyes as well. I wish I had them," she spoke airily.

"Thanks."

"She looked really, really sad when she left. I saw her crying when she left your room, although, I don't think that she was crying. Why was she crying?"

Theodore said nothing and zipped up the trunk after finally arranging everything before he slid it next to the door. He then walked over to Sawer's cage and checked to see if he was as happy as usual before he took Snape's letter inside his pocket very carefully. He didn't question the sudden sense of care for it.

"Will you come back here next summer?"

"I live here, Poppy."

"Is that a yes?" Theodore nodded his head and brushed flecks of breadcrumbs off his shirt. Poppy gave him another smile and beamed, "Yay! You're a nice person. I like you."

"We've barely spoken to each other," Theodore replied, finding her a little endearing that he smiled just a bit.

"Yeah, but I'm in the same room as Louise, so that means you have to be my friend."

"That — that doesn't mean that — sure. But I won't be here for long next summer either."

"Because you'll be with Louise?"

Theodore shrugged and opened the door to let her out. "Come on. You don't want to stay in here unless you like big, scary snakes."

Poppy trotted over to the door and grinned. "I like snakes. I think they're cool."

Theodore watched the small girl skipping down the stairs with her hand held tightly to the bannister before he turned back into his room. Everything had been packed away, everything had been hidden, including the — Theodore became frozen at the thought of the Madam finding the Dark book in his cupboard. She'd think that he actually went off to join a Satanic cult from a single glance inside. It was an amazement that she never saw it before.

He hastily took the book out and jammed it inside his trunk, then took his wand from his pillow and scooped Viripin, who was still sleeping, up around his shoulders instead. He didn't want her being cramped up inside a bag, and she never complained when she was around his shoulders. The Parselmouth poured a large pile of seeds for Sawer in his cage and reassured him that he would be back soon before he left his room and went downstairs.

"— so it's all right if you leave him over at — ah, Theodore!" Madam took notice of him coming down the stairs at a slow pace. "Have you finished packing? Got everything you need for school?"

"Yeah, I'm done. Hello, Mr Reagul."

"Good morning," said Mr Reagul cheerfully with a hand stuck out that Theodore shook. "Good to see you looking well for today. You wouldn't happen to have the document on you, by any chance?"

"Oh, I think I left it inside my trunk. I'll go get it if you like —"

Mr Reagul stuck out his palm and waved it aside. "Don't worry about it. Was just curious, that's all. And, Cherise, were you going to tell Theodore something?"

Madam perked up from her sudden daydreaming and held Theodore's hand with a smile that was a little sad. "Theodore, the Weasleys called me this morning through the phone — quite loud, I could hear them clearly — and said that they were coming to pick you up."

"I knew that," said Theodore, a little confused. "I didn't think that you'd drive me all the way to Devon."

"But you see, the thing is that Mr Reagul thinks that it'll take some time for you all to reach Elmbridge and that by the time you get back, you'll be too tired. I didn't want you to fall asleep coming back, so I called the Weasleys again to ask them to pick you up straight from Elmbridge to save time."

Theodore looked over at Mr Reagul's distant face and back to Madam's as he realised what this meant in a near instant. "So… I won't be seeing you until next year then… This is goodbye?"

Madam flung her arms around the boy's shoulders, not caring about Viripin's presence and sniffled just a little in his ear. "Oh, don't you go saying it's goodbye! You'll still be here next year, and the next, and the next until you'll have to leave… for real… You never left so early before, Theodore…"

"But you said it yourself: I'm coming back next year and all the next ones. It's already going quick."

"For you, not for me," said the matron quite tearfully as she moved his hair around for it to look neater. "Now, remember what I told you: don't go looking for trouble, all right? Don't go wandering off where you're not supposed to, and don't give Mr and Mrs Reagul any trouble. They don't know how restless you can get sometimes. I see you itching to jump out of the window at lunchtimes."

Theodore laughed and hugged her one last time before he excused himself to bring his luggage down. He caught Elise halfway up the stairs and was accompanied by her to help take his things from the room, Sawer included. First was Theodore's trunk that took a lot of effort on their part before Madam took Elise's place on the bottom half. Theodore then took Sawer inside his cage and looked around the room that he wouldn't see in a year before he closed the door behind him.

"Thanks, Elise. Please don't let anyone in my room, especially Glaise and Watson. The last time I saw them at breakfast, they seemed to be plotting against me," he said to the girl at the doorway.

"If anyone's plotting against anything in this place, Theo, it's you. I'll promise to keep your room in pristine condition. I've only been doing it for the past two years."

"You have?"

Elise waved her hand aside and continued, "You can thank me later. Well, see you next year. Have fun with your… animal-training." She gave him a quick hug to avoid Viripin and lightly punched at his shoulder before backing away as he pulled the trunk with Sawer in his other hand out the door and towards the expensive-looking car out front.

Mr Reagul was still at the front door speaking with the Madam about something before he came back to the car to help Theodore lift his belongings in the boot. Theodore wanted to have Sawer with him in the back and insisted that he didn't like being cramped up in tight spaces, but this was just so that he could distract himself with Louise next to him. Viripin was still sleeping, so Sawer was the next best thing.

Theodore gave a final wave at the Madam, Elise and Poppy, who was worming through their legs to wave back at him, and slid inside the car with Sawer's cage held tightly against his chest. This was going to be a long and very awkward journey.

As the car started up and pulled away from the orphanage, Theodore faced his home and his window, never noticing how small it looked from the outside. It only shrunk the further away he was from it, further and further until Stuggle's had disappeared from his line of sight for another year.

Theodore then settled in on the plush car seat but turned his attention to his right to see an obscure image of Louise, who hadn't noticed him coming inside the car at all. The girl was balancing her head against her hand whilst leaning on the window, staring blankly forward without her eyes moving to the left. Her hair was in her usual ponytail with small strands coming down next to her ears, and she had a nice dress on with a thin jacket on top. A massive contrast to Theodore's slightly shabby trousers and hoodie, along with his grubby shoes.

He turned back over to Sawer and tapped continuously at the cage absentmindedly, wishing that Viripin would wake up so that he could at least try to speak with her. Murmuring from his right forced him to look back at Louise, albeit a little more than from the corner of his eye. Louise's face went from a blank expression to one of annoyance, furrowing her eyebrows at the sound of his flicking against the cage. He immediately stopped and looked out of the window to see several trees and parks.

"So, Theodore," said Mrs Reagul cheerfully, who noticed that it was unusually quiet in the back, "where are you going after?"

"I'm going to a school friend's house. His family's big, so their house is probably big as well. It's all the way down in Devon, so it's a pretty long journey."

"Seems so. Are these good friends?"

"Uh… yeah," Theodore answered, thinking back to every perilous situation. "They're good people."

Silence was imminent again. They passed by several flats that were covered by graffiti, and many people were carrying shopping bags from the shops that were lined up along the road. Theodore caught onto a woman screaming at a man from outside a beauty shop as she held a chair threateningly above her head. Everybody around her seemed too scared to come closer, and if Theodore wasn't magical he'd act the exact same way.

They soon left the main part of Lambeth and drove into its outskirts, soon arriving at the woodlands with trees that towered over them by so much, the sun seemed to not exist. As the car began to pick up speed steadily, Theodore's boredom was flying all over the place in his mind: it was a wonder how he kept still. Elmbridge was not that far away from his home, but it was still far enough that his interests would be left unfed. Small talk was the Reagul's way to go, but maybe he could try it out as well…

"What happened in Little Hangleton?" Theodore blurted out without a single thought. The car suddenly juddered and swerved just a little to the right, forcing everyone to hold onto anything they could. Theodore's heart rate spiked up as well as his fear. What did he say?

Mrs Reagul was holding her chest and the car handle tightly. Her pale face told Theodore that she was also scared, but also extremely anxious? "Damien, are you all right?! Goodness, don't let go of the wheel! Louise, Theodore, children, are you OK?!"

"Yes," said the two teens in unison. Louise was also pale and was breathing heavily through her mouth. Theodore felt himself calming down after a few seconds but didn't account for the tight feeling on his wrist until he saw Louise's hand holding onto it. She pulled away quickly enough and folded her arms, turning her head away to hide her face completely.

"All right, I'm sorry, everyone! I didn't… mean to lose control, but it's all right now. Theodore, I'm not going to answer that question," said Mr Reagul firmly after the car had realigned itself in the road after the chorus of beeping from the other drivers.

"But I already know that —" protested the Parselmouth.

"I'm not going to answer that question," repeated Mr Reagul in the same tone.

Theodore slumped back in the chair and stared at Sawer, who was shivering in his cage. The boy told him to relax and to take it easy as he opened the cage to stroke him behind his skull. He quickly caught Louise's face looking at him before she turned around yet again, then closed the cage when the owl had calmed down.

'That was stupid. I'll just ask him when we're at the house. Then he can tell me whatever happened so that I can be over and done with the Riddles. Nothing can compare to what happened in the wizarding world for sure — hello. What's this?'

Theodore reached inside his pocket, for he felt something quite sharp poking at his side after the little swivel of the car. He suddenly remembered about Snape's letter and brought it out in front of him to see that it had a large crease going diagonally across it. Theodore used his thumb to smooth it out while at the same time thinking about the letter that he first sent to his godfather. It was brief, very brief for any letter that he had written so far. He only expected a short one back from Snape as well. But he'd never know unless he'd open it.

He peeled it open from its corner slowly and took the plain parchment sheet from inside without wasting any time. Theodore folded it open and saw that his assumption of his godfather's reply being brief was correct as six words made up the entire letter.

It's all right. You keep them.

Theodore thought that less was much more here. And he was getting worried over a short letter. What was he expecting, a Howler in return? Theodore felt a sense of relief upon scanning the words over and over again in that he became so engrossed by it; he didn't realise that Louise was leaning towards him slightly with her eyes facing down on the letter. Louise stopped her peering when he turned to face her and stared outside the window once again to watch the passing trees. He pocketed the letter and didn't turn away from his right. He had to at least say something, it was far too quiet for his — and her — liking.

"Louise…?" whispered Theodore from the other side. Louise immediately turned her head to look straight at him, expression unbothered and remote. Theodore swallowed before saying simply, in the quietest voice possible, "I'm sorry."

She didn't respond, nor did she react. Her face remained the same as she carried on looking at him as if he were a stranger in the car. Suddenly, her face softened from looking annoyed at him, but a smile didn't appear. All that Theodore could see was sadness; all that Theodore could hear from her was a sigh that felt too heavy in his heart. Louise brushed back a lock of hair behind her ear and leaned back in her seat facing forward, her emotions disconnected from him. He still couldn't see what she was feeling.

'I'm a wizard, Louise. The picture was magic, I can do magic and I'm a wizard.'

They soon left the woodlands behind as the blazing sun reappeared above their heads, shining through each window. Although they had already passed the trees, green fields spread out from either side of the wide road, leading far across the horizon where small villages and towns could be seen from a distance. Several blocks of boxy houses were passed by every five minutes or so to be replaced by the fields and vice-versa. The way the hills sloped up and down reminded Theodore of his journey to Hogwarts, although the hills where usually mountains in his case.

Town after town they passed as everything looked repetitive to the wizard. Similar houses, similar churches, everything made it seem as if they were driving in circles without stopping at all. Theodore's stomach reminded him that he only had breakfast to eat for the day, and he held it in thinking about what the Weasleys were up to with their surely massive dinners. Just thinking about them made his mouth water.

"All right! We're finally here, everyone! Hope none of you fell asleep back there," Mr Reagul announced as they stopped in front of two hedges that had their branches intertwining across a fenced, rusted door beneath them. "Everybody stretch, get those bones popping! I know that you must have cramps everywhere, I know I have!"

Theodore took Sawer out of his cage and allowed him to stretch his wings as he soared above their heads underneath the trees that were hanging like shade from high up, but they didn't obscure the sun that much. Theodore could still feel the warmth from it. Viripin was still sleeping but tightened her body around Theodore's neck when she became exposed by a sun ray. He still wished that she'd wake up right about now.

"Theodore, over here!" Mr Reagul was standing by the fenced door with a bunch of keys in his hand, ready to insert it through the keyhole that didn't seem to exist. "Louise, come over as well, dear! I know it's been a long journey."

"I can barely feel my left foot," muttered the girl as she shook it around.

Theodore took a step back to see anywhere along the road if another house was anywhere in sight: he might catch sight of the Padalins' old home. Alas, he couldn't see a thing beyond the hedges and walked over to the Reaguls as they were gathered by the fenced door.

Mr Reagul was using his finger to guide his way through the vines to search for the keyhole as he spoke to Theodore at the same time. "You see, there's something — very odd about this — door. I've only been here — once, and we had to cut through the hedges — Didn't work; they were too thick. So are these — things. Could only find the keyhole twice before losing it…"

He carried on struggling while Mrs Reagul used her fingers to prise the thick branches away to help her husband. Sawer was squawking up above and vanished over the hedges, grabbing both teens' attention when they instantly looked up at him. Mr Reagul's final grunt of pain and the clattering of keys on the ground, stole Theodore away from his owl as he came over to pick them up for him.

"Can I help?" he asked thoughtfully. He didn't want to waste more time staying outside as the day would drag on.

"It's fine, Theodore," muttered the man whilst sucking on his finger, "I've got this. It took me a very long time, but I almost got in before. I know how to —"

"Maybe you just didn't find the right place," Theodore interjected as he moved his hand in between the vines in search for the hidden keyhole. The vines felt like paper against his effort, and the keyhole was found in five seconds flat. Theodore asked for the keys and used his other hand to fit the correct one inside, twisting the rusted lock until it popped, along with the door.

Mr and Mrs Reagul widened their eyes at the boy in silence, Louise included, not even noticing how the vines slithered back inside the hedge like sentient tendrils.

"Guess it just needed the magic touch, huh?" Theodore suggested with a charming smile. He handed the keys back to Mr Reagul and said, "After you?"

"Th-thank you, Theodore," stammered Mr Reagul before he led the way inside. Mrs Reagul followed him quickly as she looked for the vines briefly, and Louise rubbed her elbow when she passed him.

After Theodore closed the fenced door behind him — he saw the vines grow back in their place — he then took in the sight that he had been waiting for, and he could honestly say that he was not underwhelmed at all. It was different from what he was expecting but still vastly greater than what he had envisioned.

The house was big, much bigger than any other house he had ever seen, but not so much that it resembled a mansion of any sorts. No, Theodore thought of it as homely, or rather, it probably used to look homely. The colour that was most prominent was of a deep maroon shade, covering the front and sides of the house in uneven patches. The maroon seemed to be painted onto a layering of shingles which were weather-beaten to death from the looks of it. Splinters ranging from imperceivable to exposing mossy wood was found on almost every square foot of the house, including the purely black roof that had dips and holes all over.

The layers of wood had been battling against age for so long that the foundation of bricks could be easily seen from standing so far away. It looked so run down, but its faults were endearing to the Parselmouth: he didn't care at all. Theodore looked up at all the windows to see most of them grimy and opaque, some even cracked and broken, but each one had been boarded up quite lazily. Some of the boards looked like they had been rotting for hundreds of years, and some fell to the ground in a forgotten pile right in front of the main door that was arched.

Over across the sides of the house were two grand oak trees that shielded the house from the sun, keeping it in the shade, even against the sudden powerful gusts in the air. The flanking trees swished loudly together while they both had little crevasses that Theodore could notice led to an area that looked like a garden. Whatever was behind there had to look better than the front yard, thought Theodore to himself. Dry grass that came up to his shins, severely patched with large spots of cracked soil being scattered across. The shrubbery that sat directly in front of the house were all dead, not a single one gave any indication that it wanted to carry on. Two small pools of pebbles were divided by a weed-ridden pathway that led to the front door: it looked like the only thing that could've stayed the same from many years ago, but Theodore would never know that, of course.

"Yeah," said Mr Reagul loudly to break Theodore's immersion of his house, "this is it. Obviously, you know how hard it was for us to get inside here, so you understand that we couldn't keep it in shape."

Theodore nodded at him as he leaned over to see a sliver of the garden through the gap. "So you never been inside?"

"Me? Oh no, I haven't been inside at all! This is as far as I ever went, me… Well, onward, perhaps?"

Everyone followed Mr Reagul along the pathway and up the little number of steps towards the door and gathered onto the spacious porch. The white tiling beneath their feet highlighted every dead insect and leaf that it could possibly show. Theodore didn't think much of it, but Louise skipped around them and bumped into Theodore before she apologised quickly and kept to herself again.

Mr Reagul found the key to the door and held back for a second before he attempted to open it. A proud look on his face became evident when he didn't require a fourteen-year-old boy's help with opening a simple door as he swung it forward; it emitted a deafening creak as a result.

Theodore was the second-to-last one inside before Mr Reagul. He expected to be inside complete darkness because of each window being covered up, but, to his surprise, it was oddly bright enough that he could make out nearly everything in his sight. The foyer was easily bigger than his room back at Stuggle's. The red carpet with swirls resembling fire and water had a layer of dust coating it with some specks of something thicker and darker on top. A small glass chandelier was hanging above their heads with an unlit candle centred inside it. Theodore quickly tore away from it knowing that if he looked at it for too long then Louise would look too.

'Floating chandelier. Got it. This is a magical house, all right. Oh shit, what about any portraits hanging in the hallways?! They're going to see them!'

Louise was checking the large drawer with the broken mirror laying above it, while Mr and Mrs Reagul were discussing over a document that looked similar to Theodore's mother's will. None of them looked interested in the chandelier at all, which was good for Theodore. Now, all he had to worry about were the portraits that could be hanging around somewhere…

Theodore moved away from the foyer soon after looking around the area and walked through a doorless frame, seeing the very spacious living room on his left and the wide dining hall on his right being divided by stairs that had dulled velvet being plastered onto it. Most was peeling off but still clung onto the wooden steps for dear life. Theodore took a quick look at the living room where the chairs had been moved to the edges of the room while a shiny square shape on the ground suggested that a carpet had been recently moved from that spot.

'That's weird.'

The living room led further back to where Theodore couldn't see, but he was definite that no portrait was inside there: they would've started to talk right about now. The dining room also led on further than he could see with a table carrying on down and several black-velvety chairs with golden rims being on either side. Both rooms had shelves full of ornaments of odd proportions that you'd only find in Dumbledore's office, so naturally, they drew the boy in from their outlandish appearances.

Theodore slowly entered the living room first when he caught sight of a ball that was supposed to be spinning on a finger, except that it was. He quickly looked away from it and opened up the cabinets from the ground and above to see them bare and naked with only cobwebs and spiders as their contents. A sudden clunk from behind him came out of nowhere, so he looked behind his shoulder to see Louise picking up a book from the shelves hastily before sliding it back into place.

Theodore removed himself from the cabinets and wandered past the worn out chairs from where his family must've sat in. He should've been jumping from each one of them like a madman if life were ever normal for him. He should've been held tightly in his mother's arms as they sat near the fireplace if they managed to hide from his father. If only… The fireplace was a collection of soot and ashes that were covering a rusty grill. Theodore didn't notice a chimney on top of the roof. He crouched down and stared inside of it closer to maybe see where it led to. It was quite stupid of him to put his head near something so filthy, but since when has he ever —?

"Whoa!" he exclaimed so suddenly that Louise yelled and knocked herself into an armchair. Viripin tightened herself even more around Theodore's neck as he frantically crawled away from the fireplace upon witnessing it coming alive from a mere touch of a finger. A deep violet flame burst from the ashes like it were automatic, then suddenly changed into an emerald green shade before it snuffed out completely.

"What's wrong?! Did you cut yourself on anything?!" questioned Mrs Reagul when she appeared at the doorway of the living room.

"No, I — I just saw this mole-thing in the fireplace. It looked sort of rabid, so…" Theodore made up on the spot as he got to his feet quickly. He knew exactly what happened or had an idea. It was certainly magic, but there was the question: did he make the fire, or was it just the fireplace? He didn't want Fudge coming to Stuggle's again for another lecture.

Mr Reagul grabbed an iron poker on the side and prodded it in the ashes, then pulled it out when nothing moved underneath. "I guess it must have burrowed downwards or something. We'll have an exterminator deal with the infestation. For the time being, the both of you are to stay out of this room. We don't know what other pests are lurking around here."

"Then I'll go upstairs," suggested Theodore quickly before making his way up the solid staircase.

"I'll go too," Louise added as she skipped past her parents to follow the Parselmouth upstairs.

The hallway upstairs was long, and the velvet flooring carried on down both ends that carried on to Theodore's left and right. Taking the opportunity to look for his mother's room, Theodore took a large stride to his right the second Louise made it to the top step to start his search.

The walls had a coat of dust that was uneven in some places like someone had smudged their hands across it. This was especially weird when a cleaner surface would reappear before every passing door, although Theodore had a thought that portraits had been hung in their place before being taken down. But by who, the Ministry? People who wanted to tear down the Potter name because of his mother's reputation?

The Parselmouth stopped at a door which was opened halfway with colours gold and scarlet being the first to hit his eyes. Pushing through the creaking door, Theodore found himself in the middle of a large room that was littered with so many wizarding objects that Theodore instantly recognised whose room this belonged to.

His uncle's memorabilia from Hogwarts could be found from several corners of the room, ranging from cracked Sneakscopes in a pile, a broomstick mounted on the wall with a jagged crack running in the middle, several Gryffindor hats and scarves hanging from the wardrobe, and a large stack of parchments on the desk near the bed in one corner. Theodore turned the pile over and couldn't help but grin a little when he saw several counterfeit-looking scribblings that looked like the Marauder's Map today. Each one of them had words that were scrambled all together like somebody stuttering, unable to get the words together. The only thing that seemed to remain perfect on each one were the prints of a hoof, two paw prints with one being very small, and a mark in the shape of a bird's claw.

"You guys must've been so happy together. Now…"

On the pile's immediate right was a bleak Golden Snitch lying still on the desk's surface with its feathery wings not fluttering as it should've. Theodore gave it a tap, but the dead Snitch was unresponsive to his touch.

'I bet Harry will like this as a birthday present. It still sucks that I can't buy him something instead of going through his dad's old stuff,' he thought to himself as he pocketed the Snitch.

"Are you even allowed to take that?"

Theodore jumped a little. Louise's face went back to being emotionless and unbothered when she entered the room. It didn't change when she clearly saw him getting spooked by her sudden entrance. "Relax, I'm not a mole-thing," she remarked sarcastically.

The Parselmouth said nothing and held Viripin's head to see if she had been disturbed before he looked around the room again. The mirror that was stood up on the wall gave him a clear view of Louise shooting glances at him as if she wanted him to say something back to her. But he didn't. Why would he?

"What's Gryffindor?" Louise had said this so quietly that Theodore didn't know if she was asking him, or if she was thinking out loud. Oh well. He went with the former.

"It's a House at Hogwarts. I'm in it."

She looked over at him and gave the smallest nod before she turned back to where James's old uniform used to be.

Theodore took everything that he could from his uncle's old room and quietly slipped out to find his mother's, and also hoped that Louise would follow him as well. Knowing Harry's dad, he probably would've had multiple pranking items that would make most wizards faint-hearted. He had to get her out of there without making it too suspicious.

Theodore walked into the bedroom opposite James's and twisted the handle before he pushed through. The door was silent this time, and the feeling that washed over him was much different from when he walked into his uncle's room.

It was almost surreal to think that he was standing where Valerie Potter, his own mother, stood at his age, probably preparing for her next year at Hogwarts while her little brother just finished his first. She would've had friends over, she probably would've gotten mad at James when he'd bring his lot over to annoy her. And here. Here is where she slept. A four poster bed that was identical to the beds at Hogwarts, only more suited for somebody of class like Valerie.

Her room was much neater than James's, whose room was in a rather good shape, despite not being touched for more than a decade, but was very empty. All that stood inside was her bed, her bedside table with a wilted flower on top and empty picture frames, and an empty rocking chair that was near the boarded window. It made some sense to him since she might've been the last one inside this place in a long time. Just some sense.

Theodore wondered if she had him here in the house. Is she did, then what happened here? He wanted to think that it was just him and her, a mother and her baby boy living together, but the truth was plain in his mind: his father had to be here as well if that was the case. And what did he think of him back then? Theodore didn't fully know what his father thought of him now. A potential servant, most likely.

He brushed the dust off from the duvet with golden embodiments going along the seams and sat down to hear Sawer hooting joyfully outside the window. He was home, yet he wasn't. This should've been his home where he should've been growing up, he and Harry. Him and his mother, Harry and his parents all living under one roof like a proper family. And what would he need his father for? He'd have Sev—

A loud pop stopped him short in his thinking that he jumped up from the bed and nearly tripped over on the uneven floorboard. Theodore luckily found his balance quickly and looked underneath the bed to check if he had broken any springs under the mattress, but choked a squeal when he saw something humanoid scurrying towards him from the other end. Not looking where he was going, he suddenly smacked his head against the bedside table, knocking the frames onto the ground whilst rubbing his head.

"Shit!" he hissed when he felt a stinging pain on the back of his skull. He quickly gathered the frames as he ignored the loud pangs in his ears and was about to tidy it up when the humanoid creature crawled out of the bed to reveal itself to the wizard. "A house-elf, here? What the hell…?"

The house-elf, which looked sort of female, was wearing a purple pillowcase that fell to its feet like a dress that was dragged through manure and sewage water and was brandishing a toilet brush as if it were a club. Theodore almost thought that it was threatening him, and he thought correctly.

"Twiggy told them already," squeaked the house-elf as she advanced at the boy menacingly with the brush. "Twiggy told them to leave my mistress's house, Twiggy told them that there's no Mistress's gold, but they didn't listen. So Twiggy threatened them, scared them off with pigtails and cow tongues!"

"Hey, be —!" Theodore pleaded as he looked over at the door to make sure that Louise wouldn't come inside at the wrong time.

"No other wizard or Muggle can command Twiggy except for the Mistress and her family! No one! Twiggy only serves her mistress, and that won't change! Intruders can't have the family gold! Twiggy will melt your bones until they seep from your skin, and Twiggy will —!"

"Shut up!"

She froze and dropped her brush. Suddenly, the house-elf picked it back up and started to bash its head with it violently over and over again without showing any signs of stopping.

Theodore grabbed the brush and threw it across the room before shaking the elf for her to get a grip on herself. "What the hell are you doing?! Why are you beating yourself up with a brush?! And — and why the hell are you crying?"

The elf's bulbous blue eyes were red as tears flowed down her grey wrinkled cheeks and blotted her grubby pillowcase that could've made it cleaner from the looks of it. "T-Twiggy do-doesn't follow anybody's orders, except the Mistress and her fa-fa-family," she snivelled as her pointed nose turned a little red.

"Mistress? Who's your mistress?" Theodore asked, still glancing over at the door just in case.

The house-elf didn't answer his question and instead lifted a small, clawed hand to his face and brushed a grubby finger along his cheek, more tears flowing downwards. "Tw-Twiggy only ever once s-saw eyes as be-beautiful as the Mistress's on a boy… Mistress Valerie's own little boy…"

"Mistress… Valerie…?" Theodore said in disbelief.

"Master Theodore… you came home…!" she said with a toothy smile that made it seem as if mother and son had reunited once more.

"Master Theodore? I —!" The door started to swing open. "Go away, now!"

The elf vanished with a loud crack just as Theodore stretched his leg behind him to knock over the picture frames again to make it seem as if he dropped them on the ground.

Louise walked into the room and looked over at the boy who was collecting the broken frames from the ground whilst brushing away fragments of glass to the corner. "What happened in here? I heard a loud bang and somebody crying."

"I'm not crying," he replied quietly as he showed his perfectly fine face.

"So… you're not hurt? You're OK then?"

Theodore nodded and stacked the frames on the bedside table before he rubbed his hands against his shirt. A house-elf belonging to the Potters? A house-elf that belonged to him? What were the odds of that being possible? And how was Viripin sleeping through all this? Theodore tickled underneath her chin but got nothing in return. She must've been really tired from her… 'phase'.

Louise took a step closer in the room and observed it the way Theodore did, peering at all the corners to take in every single detail, even if there weren't any in the plain bedroom. The wilted flower was final place that she looked before she spoke up in the silence. "That room that we were in just before. Who was that for?"

"My uncle. He was my mum's younger brother, James."

She took a few more steps around the bed, grazing her fingertips softly over it before she asked, "And this room… is your mother's?"

"Yeah. I think it is, anyway… You know, I have this odd feeling that I've been here before. Like I've seen that chair and that window, but I just can't remember properly…"

Theodore watched Louise looking down on the bed like she could see something he couldn't, then she turned away and brushed the dust from the rickety rocking chair before she sat down on it. It was brave of her to assume that it wouldn't just collapse unexpectedly. Louise was facing the boarded window that had gaps in between to let sunlight through. Maybe she was trying to find something that he couldn't see. A clue as to why he was abandoned by two families that were more than capable of raising him, how he could've had a much better life here than inside Stuggle's, trapped waiting for anyone to —

A hand appeared right next to her face holding something in between the fingers. She instantly recognised the photo of Theodore from the condition that it was in and tutted loudly. "I don't want it back, Theodore. I'm just going to go even crazier after looking at it. Maybe I was wrong, maybe it was never moving in the first place, and I —"

"Look closer," said the Parselmouth softly.

Louise hesitated for a moment but took the image in her hand and stared at the back of it, not knowing what to expect. She half-accepted that she was going mad, so to hell with it. Louise flipped the photo over, ready to see a twelve-year-old Theodore smiling in a still image like he always said to her.

"It's moving… Theo, it's — it's moving… Theo, can't you see it here, it's moving!"

"I know."

The girl looked down at the moving image and back to Theodore with an unsatisfied look on her face. Was he mocking her, trying to get on her good side by agreeing with her? No, he wasn't like that. If Theo ever wanted to right his wrongs and wanted to be on someone's good side, he'd do it for real. He'd never suck up to anyone.

"Theo, why is this happening? How — What is this? Yo-you're moving in this picture when that shouldn't happen, and I…" she stammered, unable to get all the words out.

"Louise, I'm sorry for lying to you, OK? I'm sorry for making you feel stupid because you're not stupid. You… you know me better than I thought. You were right when you said that I forgot that."

"Please… please just tell me what's going on because I've been looking at this for two years, Theo. Two years. I just want to know, please…" Louise pleaded as she stood up in front of him, eyes desperate for him to give her the truth.

'Go on, tell her. Tell her that you're a wizard.'

"Louise, I'm not… normal, OK? I'm more than that," he tried to explain.

"I don't understand…"

"OK, OK! I'm not normal because my family's not normal. Nobody who I know is normal, not my parents, not my other friends at school or the school itself, not Viripin, not Sawer, not even that old man you saw on that day. We are not… normal."

Louise stared at him doubtfully, soon falling back to where she was before.

Theodore saw this immediately and dropped the image on the bed then took her hands in his own. She seized up for just a split second before she calmed down again, but her nose became red again like before. "Louise, I'm not normal. Things have been happening to me, and they have been happening to other people because of me! Because of me… And there's a reason for that. A reason… that I can't tell you —"

"Theo, enough is —!"

"— yet. I can't tell you now, but I swear on my life, I swear on my life that I will tell you what it is. I promise, Louise, just… please. Please be patient for me…"

Louise looked down on their hands and tapped her thumb against the back of his hand, head forever full of doubt. "You've been acting really weird in the past days. It's like you're the same when really… you're an entirely different person."

"Sorry," he apologised quietly. "I wanted it to be like before, but those days are gone. I didn't think that three years was going to change us so much. I mean, look at you…"

"Look at yourself," she said back, managing her first small smile since yesterday. The smile withered away when she drew both her hands back with one little finger sticking out in front of her. The look of seriousness on her face was never seen before by him, it was unreal. "Promise that you'll tell me? You won't lie to me at all?"

Theodore locked his pinky finger with hers and nodded his head firmly, somehow finally being able to see everything that she was feeling at the moment, but… something was wrong. It was wrong, it was different. There was no more love. There was the joy that she always had when she saw him, the strong attachment that he also felt towards her as well, but there was no love, none of her love that she felt towards him. Did he just make her fall out of love with him for a secret he couldn't reveal…?

Mr and Mrs Reagul called the two teens down after they had gotten a call from the Madam that the Weasleys had arrived in Elmbridge to pick Theodore up. Louise's face fell but picked right up again after being told that they still had to drive him over to a rendezvous for them to meet up. Theodore gave a final sweep of the house that he'd soon take, not worrying too much that he didn't see much of it before he followed the Reaguls outside with a much happier Louise linking their arms together to the fenced door.

After helping Mr Reagul open the obviously charmed door, Theodore called Sawer down from the tree and allowed him inside his cage before they entered the car. Viripin was stirring and was hissing nonsense, but Theodore petted her and told her to go back to sleep, an offer that she didn't refuse at all.

"I think I'll stay longer next year," stated Theodore as the car drove away from the Potter House. "That way, we'll have more than three days together."

"A week, at least. Three days isn't enough. Hey, maybe next year I'll see you grow your beard even more. It really does suit you. I wouldn't even be surprised if you had a tattoo as well."

"Please, Madam Geoffrey would kill me if I came back home with a tattoo."

Louise snickered at the thought and stroked Viripin's head before asking the question, "But you'll write to me still, right? You won't forget?"

Theodore smiled at her and nudged her arm as he replied, "I'll send you one the second I get there. I'll send you so many letters that you'll get sick of me."

"Never," she grinned, and she leaned her head against his shoulder with Viripin's head laying flat on top of her hair, nuzzling into the softness that smelled of apples and bliss.

The car finally stopped at the driveway of a church which had a gardener tending to the crisply-cut bushes out front as his wheelbarrow spilt a mound of dirt on its side. Mr Reagul helped to take the trunk out of the boot while Louise had Viripin around her shoulders, who had woken up after a very long period of sleeping.

"It was hard for me to get rid of all those hormones. I could barely —" The Maibian Adder caught a flash from his eye to tell her to stop talking which she did.

Mr Reagul shook the Parselmouth's hand tightly, wishing him good luck for school and that he wished to see him the next summer. Theodore secretly wondered if he was going to tell him about the Riddles the next summer as well. He'd be fifteen by then, a good age to start learning about adult things or whatever happened in Little Hangleton. Mrs Reagul gave him a light hug and thanked him for being such a pleasure before she disappeared in the car, which only left Louise.

"I'm gonna miss you, you know," Theodore admitted as he balanced Sawer's cage on his trunk. "Don't think I could survive another year."

Louise snorted and crossed her arms. "You'll be fine. You have a whole boarding school that has shenanigans that you all get up to. You will tell me, right?"

Theodore wagged his pinky finger before he embraced the girl like he did three days ago. Louise hugged him tightly and wept a little, not wanting to ever let go again. But she had to. After a minute had passed, Louise tiptoed and kissed his cheek, turning his face red as she said goodbye for the last time. And oddly enough, Theodore didn't want to let go either. He was that close with telling her that he was a wizard; he would've done it on the day he found out if he weren't told. It'll be another whole year before he'd see her again…

The Reaguls said their farewells and waved him off before they drove in the opposite direction back for London again. Through the tinted windows, Louise's eyes flashed the same emotions without that love before they became disconnected by the distance that Theodore couldn't measure when the car vanished into the woodlands. And there he was, alone. Well, not completely alone.

"So, what did I miss? Is it big? Will we live there soon?" Viripin asked curiously.

"It was pretty big, although there's a lot of cleanup that's needed in there. But I don't think that I should mention this to anyone. If they find out that I own the house, they'll connect it to my mum, and then they'll found out about my dad as well…"

"We're still going to live there, right?"

"Yes, Viripin, we're going to live there. Me, you, Sawer, maybe Harry and —"

"Uhh, Theodore Riddle?"

Theodore got his wand out instantly as Viripin hissed in the direction of the stranger. The man was not alarmed by the wand or snake and did nothing to provoke either to attack him. The man was thin and tall, wore clothes that were thick and nearly punkish. Theodore recognised the boots being of dragon hide, and his wrist bracelet having pearls similar to Moondew pellets. But it was the face that made Theodore lower his wand just as quickly as he grabbed it as it was so distinctive. He looked like an older, much more worn-looking version of Ron that had decided to grow his hair out in a ponytail with a fang for an earring.

The man smiled and walked up to the Parselmouth with a hand outstretched, glad to see that the boy recognised his face or his hair to be more specific. "Thanks for not cursing me, Theo. Ron told me that you're quite unpredictable with a wand."

Theodore shook his hand as he tried to remember what brother this had to be. "Umm… I thought that Mr Weasley was going to pick me up..."

"He was, but Dad's got Ministry stuff to sort out, so he sent us to come instead."

"Us?"

"You'll see. By the way, my name's Bill. The original Weasley kid," introduced Bill with the same smile on his face.

Theodore looked at him up and down, unable to connect him with the sarcastic Ron, the trickster Fred and George, the pompous Percy or the coming-out-of-her-shell Ginny and just simply said, "Cool," for no other word could describe Bill Weasley as such.

Had to punish my brain to force a realistic image of a house that would belong to the Potters. Not massive, but big enough for a family to live inside comfortably. And that was only just the front of the house, we haven't even seen what's behind it! So now we've got Bill finally in the picture, we're saying a temporary goodbye to Louise (yikes, that's gonna stick to Theo), we've got a house-elf, magic house, and FINALLY to the Weasleys. I think it's safe to say that the magic is back and so is the story. Can't wait for this year. Later