Progeny of Slytherin: The Beginning of the Riddle

The Chosen Champion

"… and by the sixteenth century, wizards had made sure of the restriction of wands for the non-human magical community, thus sparking the first major rebellion from goblins, which was then led by none other than Bloodjaw the Barbarian, a notorious goblin who delved into Dark magic, such as blood maledictions and other insignificant methods to battle wizardkind, then leading to…"

Theodore lifted his head just a bit from being sunken in his crossed arms on the desk to see Hermione scowling at Professor Binns two desks to his right. It was a wonder how she even managed to keep upright when it was just ten minutes into the lesson, and he was shocked with how he still managed to retain anything Professor Binns had to drone on about.

But trying to stay focused in his History of Magic class was the least of Theodore's concerns when they were measured to each other. It had only been three days since he learned that the pain in his head was just a branch of magic that he couldn't control — Legilimency. How he couldn't tell that was the case, he didn't know at all. And somehow it wasn't all that easy grasping Legilimency like he did with everything else. Theodore tried to clear his mind of emotions and thoughts, but they'd always return with the intent of sticking and showing no sign of bending to his will. Sure, the pain lessened as he walked through the school, but it was still there — and he wanted it gone.

"… I don't think she does," whispered Parvati on his immediate left to Lavender on the desk to his right. "Padma says that she won't consider coming to the common room at all for any reason."

Lavender pouted and put her quill in her ink bottle. "Well, we can't go to Ravenclaw Common Room, wherever that is. We'll get outed by everybody there!"

"Believe that. I'm sure that she'll come around soon, after all, I don't think Padma talks to too many people in her dorm — but that's just me."

Theodore had his eyes trained on the board, even if his mind was entirely somewhere else, and just ignored the two girls whispering next to him. It was unlucky for him to anticipate that being early would get him a decent seat without considering Parvati being right behind him — it was an 'oh well' moment in his —

"Do you have a girlfriend, Theo?"

Theodore lazily blinked and turned his head to Parvati. "Huh?"

"I asked if you have a girlfriend," said Parvati in a lowered voice with a teasing smile. "Well, do you?"

"No, I — what? I don't have a girlfriend!" spluttered Theodore before noticing that his voice had grown a little too loud. "Why do you keep on asking me this question? Since Monday —"

"I thought that you would've gotten the hint right now, but I guess I wasn't clear enough."

"Um… Parvati…?"

Before she could speak any further, the bell for lunch saved the Parselmouth from what he knew to be Parvati's next words. Parvati huffed but shook it off as she reached for her bag and happily walked away with Lavender as if nothing happened. The class soon cleared out with Theodore as the last one through the blackboard, clearly stuck in his own thoughts once again.

'It's been how many days since Nott gave me this stupid challenge! How the hell am I supposed to get into Slytherin Common Room when no Slytherin wants to talk to me? He's got them all under his thumb — sort of impressive, to be honest…'

He walked away from the classroom when everybody had left and made his way to the Great Hall. Once he arrived, Theodore then sat down next to Neville and Ron, claiming a plate of his own until everybody began to break out in fits of laughter.

"Elvira, you've got her spot on!" cackled Seamus with a pointed finger to Neville. "I-I can't stop —!"

"Wha's 'oing on?" asked Theodore and Ron with stuffed mouths, leaning forward to see what the cause of everybody laughing was.

Theodore widened his eyes in shock before remembering the apparent gift that Elvira held among everybody in Hogwarts — sat next to Neville was, who Theodore barely remembered seeing in the past, was Neville's grandmother in the typical uniform, grinning at the heavily blushing Neville.

"Neville, do you remember when you accidentally pushed the short man on stilts into the fountain, and your grandmother made this face?" said Elvira before twisting her wrinkly face into a haunting scowl, then changing back to her usual self to laugh out loud.

"Y-yeah," stammered Neville with a small smile. "She was pretty mad when that happened…"

Elvira elbowed him softly and started on her food. "I thought it was funny, and I'll never forget that!"

Laughter turned into chuckles as Seamus, Dean and the twins ceased their wheezing to eat. Meanwhile, Theodore's mind was still everywhere — he was having one of his 'moments' as Hermione would put it, and it was mostly because of her. Because of her, he couldn't truly eliminate his emotions to control his mind from going haywire again. He didn't at all forget when they were in the common room alone together, lips so close that if he had moved forward, he could've had her right there.

'And she hasn't said anything about it. She hasn't said anything about… anything! The elevator, the train, now the common room.' He lifted his eyes to Hermione right in front of him. She was intently listening to Ron and Harry saying something… something that maybe he too should've been listening to…

"All right, he's not listening," muttered Ron before snapping his fingers in front of the dazed Parselmouth's face. "You with us now, or are you going to keep gawking at He—?"

"So you were saying, Harry," Hermione expertly cut off Ron. "Sirius sent you a letter with some stuff he found in his room at his old house?"

Harry nodded and brought out a letter from his robes. He folded it open and said, "He sent it last night, which is why I didn't show it earlier. You're not going to believe what it's about."

"What?"

"You know how the Ministry was supposed to help Sirius get back on track since it was technically their fault for him being in Azkaban? Just two days ago, he was at the Ministry to make sure that he wasn't being conned or anything —"

"Makes sense for him not to trust them," Ron interrupted before letting Harry speak on.

"Well, Sirius did a bit of 'wondering' and wound up finding something that we should've known would come after the trial was finished," Harry continued in a lowered voice before bringing his head closer. Theodore, Hermione and Ron did the same as he said, "It's about Umbridge: Sirius said that Umbridge might be looking into making anti-werewolf movements and legalisation of hunting all werewolves, not just insane ones."

Hermione gasped and covered her mouth with one hand. "But — but that means that Professor Lupin —"

"Is in danger from the Ministry if this is made legal," finished Harry, handing the letter around for them to read. "This can't be good at all."

"You think?" Theodore returned darkly, pressing his thumbs into the letter harshly with Umbridge in his mind. "The worse thing about this is that she'll probably keep it under wraps if it's allowed. Professor Lupin wouldn't see it coming before it's too late."

"They won't do that, though. I mean, Fudge isn't paranoid enough to allow this. Dad said that there's already a unit dedicated to capturing werewolves — only the nasty ones. There've been loads of laws about werewolves over the years to change it again now suddenly."

"Whatever happens, I hope he'll be OK," Hermione sighed, looking over to the empty chair that should've been occupied by their new Defence teacher. "Do you ever wonder where he could be right now?"

The boys shrugged but were sure to have their own ideas on where their former teacher could be hiding. Theodore guessed somewhere that had a relatively small population, just to avoid hurting anybody. Seemed like the best speculation so far.

Behind Hermione could Theodore see Nott getting up from his seat and leaving the Great Hall, once again, on his own. But the urge to go up to him as he did before wasn't present in Theodore as he carried on eating, slowly going back to glancing at Hermione again.

When lunch finally finished, the Gryffindor fourth-years then set off for Transfigurations as their final lesson of the day, the perfect way to end it off — for Theodore and Hermione anyway.

"Five people," scolded Professor McGonagall at her desk, "only five people have handed in decent Cross-Species Switch Spell homework, the topic that we'll be focusing on for the whole term!"

Nobody said a word in fear of causing any more trouble. Sticking to her code of conduct, Professor McGonagall then began to hand out several detentions to everybody except Theodore, Hermione, Elvira, Ron and Dean, leaving Harry perplexed by what was wrong with his own.

"Don't blame me," snapped Hermione on the same desk as Harry. "You shouldn't be copying my homework in the first place! Now, look at you!"

"So how come Ron is off the hook? He looked at your work as well!"

Professor McGonagall hushed them before Ron could come up with a retort at his shared desk with Theodore. The lesson then started with changing bats into mice and back again, a lesson that half of the class struggled to deal with. As Lavender shrieked from Seamus essentially murdering his own mouse, Theodore effortlessly turned his mouse into a bat, then he decided to change it into a white rabbit with no lingering tail; then he transformed it into a small snake and back into a mouse before clattering his wand on the desk in boredom.

"Showoff," smirked Ron before he tried to catch the mice flailing on its side with a single bat-wing.

Theodore hadn't touched the Slytherin book in days and knew that it was a matter of time before Madam Pince would hunt him down for it. Sure, he could ask for another note to get it back or even sneak in during the night to take it like Harry attempted to do during the first year with the Flamel situation. But there was also Nott's 'quest' on the side as well. One clearly outweighed the other, especially when one had a much better chance of opening to him when he wanted to.

"A little bit of help, o' great and wise Riddle?"

"OK, OK. Look, if you hold your wand this way and bend your wrist like this, then it'll be easier for you to do it."

Ron took three turns at waving his wand to the suffering mouse before it flapped around the room like the bat it was, desperate to escape from the embarrassed Ron. Theodore commended him and offered his mouse for Ron to practice on before the bell signalled the end of the unusually dull lesson.

As they left Professor McGonagall's classroom and walked up the staircase back to the common room, Elvira pointed out an owl that was flying too wildly for Theodore not to recognise him as his own. Sawer fluttered down to his master's arm and demanded a scratch above his beak, nipping slightly at Theodore's bicep when he wouldn't.

"I thought Viripin was supposed to be the attention-seeker between you two. And I don't suppose that you have a letter for me, do you? You've been gone for a while now." Theodore finished scratching the owl's head and took the attached envelope from his leg. "I wonder how Louise is doing…"

He slipped the letter in his pocket and turned back down to the first floor, briefly announcing to the others that he needed to have a chat with Professor Snape regarding of a previous 'encounter' when he was stopped by Hermione. "You said that you were going to help on charming pamphlets and honorary coins for JIM PICKENS, Theodore," she reminded him bluntly.

Theodore tilted his head at Harry and Ron, who both pretended that they couldn't see him at all. An awkward smile grew on his face as he replied with, "Right, I almost forgot… stop pecking my ear, Sawer!"

"Great!" grinned Hermione before she trotted right past him and down the staircase.

Ron and Harry said they'll wait for the both of them to talk more about Sirius's letter and went up to the common room, leaving Theodore to turn around and follow Hermione to presumably the library grudgingly, and Sawer to race behind Ron and Harry.

'I shouldn't be complaining at all: this is good, right? Just me and her alone… but… I have to get to the dungeons and at least find where Slytherin's common room is! But I don't want to do the same thing last year either…"

Theodore was surprised to see Hermione keeping herself so close to him as they walked through the fairly busy corridors, chattering away about what they needed to do with something on the side as well. She suggested that they should try and look up anything on house-elves since there was nothing that she could find in her 'trusty' Hogwarts: A History. Agreeing with her to hide his disappointment, Theodore then scoured the library before taking multiple books and setting them on their table.

"Now, I was thinking that we should use the same spell that I did for the badges to make them display different things," started Hermione when she shoved her mountain of books to the side to bring out several, several parchments, all empty except one, "but we could just imprint this one onto all of these instead! Isn't that a great idea?"

Theodore thought for a while before asking her, "Couldn't you find a spell that could multiply the pamphlets instead? We have to be a little bit realistic and think that not everybody is going to keep their —"

He didn't finish his sentence when she frowned at what he was about to say. Hermione then cleared her throat and mentioned that she did find a Doubling Charm, but the copies would eventually rot away quicker than usual, leaving them useless in the end.

"Ah… got it. So, house-elves…" he said to himself as he opened the first book. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, boredom was attempting to drag Theodore by the neck, slowly forcing him to hold on a single page for several minutes as he blinked lifelessly at the book. If he had gotten lucky, he could've coerced a first- or second-year to let him in the common room without them uttering a word to Nott…

"Theo, do you really want to be here?"

"Hmm? Of course, I do. Why — d'you think I don't want to?"

Hermione dropped her wand on the table and crossed her arms. Her eyes were narrowed at the Parselmouth, who kept completely calm in the face. "You didn't seem all that happy when I reminded you earlier. Do you want to be here?"

"Yes, I do!" stressed Theodore with an odd smile creeping on his face. "You asked me to help you, so I am, Hermione."

"You seem distracted," Hermione commented as she picked her wand up again to wave it over the plain parchments, "like always."

"You know me, always thinking about something else…"

Silence returned as Theodore flicked through pages of elves fighting one another — but no mention of house-elves — without looking up at Hermione. He could see and hear her continuously flicking her wand over the stack, enchanting them so that they'd arrange themselves on her left. She still had her golden earrings in that complemented her tanned complexion, and although her hair was loose and free this time, her curls were more defined and a little less 'bushy' than before.

Theodore sighed and lowered his head onto the desk to look further down the aisle they were in, only seeing a few seventh-years collecting books, along with a lonesome first-year. By this rate, he'd never find out his wizarding family on his father's side with all these distractions —

"You can go if you want to," stated Hermione bluntly without looking at Theodore. "I won't stop you."

Theodore lifted his head, confused by the sudden coldness. "But I just said that I'm going to stay and help you. Unless you want me to go, that is."

"Do you want me to go?"

"Theodore, nobody's forcing you to stay, so leave if you want, I really don't mind."

"Do you want me to go?" Theodore asked again.

"If you want to go," she emphasised each syllable, eyebrows now scrunching, "then you can —"

"OK, but do you want me to go —"

"No!" Hermione then quickly covered her mouth when the seventh-years stared at them. She went back to charming the pamphlets as the silence once again filled their area; so did the awkward tension as well. "If… if I'm being a bore, then you can go if you want, Theo. I really don't mind, honestly."

"You're not a bore," Theodore returned softly, reaching for his bag until he stopped when he had the straps around his fingers. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"

Hermione nodded her head, slid the books that he collected over to her side and started on the highest one. Theodore stood up and swung his bag around his back before walking off to the door, but he suddenly turned back and stood next to Hermione, both surprised and puzzled by why he was still there.

He then gently tilted her chin up with a finger, smiling down at her eyes that blinked in befuddlement before she couldn't resist a smile coming over — Theodore reassured her that he was not at all bored by her, gaining a roll of her eyes and a squeeze of the hand before he left her on her own.

Theodore crossed paths with Gioveri slipping through the library door, who seemed to be more sociable upon their last encounter — he still went red in his cheeks for some reason. The Parselmouth simply said hello and didn't waste any time in going down to the dungeons, just passing Professor Snape's office door in the cold hallway. Another part of the school that he never visited, Theodore had to be cautious, just in case his intuition was correct. He didn't want any random Slytherin catching him out.

He reached stone steps as the air grew colder and damp, and the corridor itself was losing light, despite the numerous torches on the sides. It felt as if he were going down to the Chamber of Secrets again. Theodore just stopped at a small archway where the steps came to an end and listened intently to the noises further down, for he could hear murmurs from three different people before it went quiet again.

'OK, I think I remember this place from when I was inside the diary — lucky me, eh? I sort of had to go up through there, so if I come down here, then…'

Theodore shimmied along the tight passage and turned right until he reached a dead end with a slimy stone wall in front of him. He touched the wall with his palm and twisted his head to face away from it, now remembering in vivid detail of him following the manifestation of his father within the diary, leaving the common room to kill in secret.

This was it. He found the entrance to Slytherin Common Room! Now it was just a matter of guessing a password out of nowhere.

"Pure-blood," he uttered quietly directly to the wall. Not even a single drop of water moved down. Theodore then blurted out, "Salazar," earning no results from the obvious answer.

Merlin was next, then it was purity, ambition and a few more others until it became apparent that Theodore was utterly stuck.

"I'm seriously underestimating the Slytherins right now. Come on, Theo, think! You've got a common room that's been here since Slytherin himself, and he was all pro-purity and that nonsense. The guy is obsessed with his bloodline, so…"

Without thinking at all, he perked up and hissed, "I'm the Heir of Slytherin…?" to the wall, waiting for something to happen. At first, the wall began to shake as if to judge whether his method of entering was acceptable. Fortunately, it was as a stone door concealed within the wall slid open, revealing the common room to him.

"You're too good at this, Theodore. Way too good," he said to himself smugly with a grin. "Now all I have to do is wait it out until —"

"— so I didn't have time for it at all," moaned a seventh-year Slytherin girl as she trotted down the stairs. "Flitwick is punishing us, isn't he? Never gave us this much work in the first-year…"

The boy next to her of a similar age scoffed and said, "Don't be stupid, Elisa. Of course, we won't get the same work from before, it's — hold on a second. Why is this still open?"

Elisa lazily lifted her shoulders and slipped inside, leaving the boy to stare around the area suspiciously before going through the open door. Just as it was about to slide back to its original position, Theodore leapt through from his hiding place behind a tight area of two statues of unknown wizards, biting his tongue when his heel was barely caught between the closing door.

But the pain didn't last long at all when his discovery of knowing how to enter the common room filled him up with incurable joy. Theodore ran up the steps and down the dungeon corridors, briefly running into Professor Snape — it still felt awkward from their Occlumency lesson — and going up to Gryffindor Tower before swerving to the library instead. If he was going to be secretly happy, then he might as well be with somebody who'd make him happier. Right?

Eleven fifty-seven. Theodore had gone up to the dorm after losing fantastically to Ron in wizard chess three times in a row and used that as an excuse to wait it out until later on in the night.

Once the rest of the fourth-year boys went to bed, Theodore waited it out some more until he hissed at Viripin to carefully retrieve Harry's Cloak and the Marauder's Map, covering his actions by saying that he was merely 'borrowing' it for the time being.

Viripin didn't question him and did as she was told, coming back with both items before she curled up in her basket. Theodore thanked her and crept out of the dorm; then common room and began his way down to the dungeons.

As he had the Cloak above his entire self, Theodore made sure to check the Map and his footing periodically, just so that he wouldn't accidentally fall off a moving staircase from following Filch's movements for too long — not that he would've died. The only obstacle that was a threat to him was Professor Snape drifting along the dungeon corridor, but his label on the Map soon moved away to where his quarters presumably were.

Theodore then hurried along the dungeons without slapping against the ground too hard and reached the stone wall. "I am the Heir of Slytherin…" he hissed softly again — he suddenly froze at the thought of anybody on the other side thinking that it was odd for the door to open with nobody behind it.

'You're invisible, idiot.'

Restfulness returned to him as he walked through the closing doorway and into what could've been (should've been?) his own common room. Long and low, much lower than the inside of Gryffindor Tower — lamps with green fire swung all over the place, giving off a greenish hue to the entire area, just like the Chamber of Secrets.

Theodore could recognise the fireplace underneath the still portrait of his ancestor and the sofas, chairs, the low stone arches that led to the dorms of Slytherin House. He remembered it all, but he couldn't quite put a finger on something that felt off right there — it was… homely. Unlike in his father's memory, it looked less tense and somewhere you'd kick back and relax. Or maybe it was just him.

His suspicions were right about one thing, and it was that people were still awake at this time. However, nobody seemed to realise that the door had been opened — good for him Theodore supposed. And it only got better when the person he'd been looking for was right there —

"— and all he ever talks about is Potter and Riddle," clucked Pansy on the table to Theodore's immediate right — he had to make sure to move as far away as possible as Pansy was gesticulating frantically. "You'd think he had a thing for either of them with the way he always mentions them."

Daphne had a silky beige dressing gown that complemented her hair, and she crossed her legs while boorishly staring over at the boy near the fireplace. "You think so? Potter is… whatever, but I honestly wouldn't blame him if he were secretly pining for Riddle."

"You know that he's a half-blood, right?" said Pansy with a mocking grin. "I don't think that 'Daddy dearest' would like you eyeing someone with Muggle blood inside them."

"Riddle's an exception," Daphne shot back cooly, flicking her hair before spitting it out of her mouth. "Compared to every pure-blooded boy in our year, he's got them beat. I wonder if he's really a half-blood… And it's a shame as well that he didn't get into Slytherin."

Pansy waved it off and said, "You'd be better off with… Blaise, or even Theodore — Nott. Even if neither of them are… you know…"

Daphne's face became neutral as she crossed her arms and leaned her head back to look up at the ceiling. "To be honest, I wouldn't care if he was a half-blood. Mother and Father always talk about getting a nice pure-blood boy, but here we are, stuck with Crabbe and Goyle. Vile…"

"I'll give you that. So then, Miss Greengrass, why is it that you've never tried to speak with the pretty boy? It must be because he's in that stupid House, right, or that h;e's friend with the Buck-Toothed Mudblood?"

Pansy was so invested in her snickering that she didn't realise Daphne's face not even twitching a little. She just carried on staring upwards towards the sky in deep musing, narrowing her eyes to focus on something until Daphne declared that she was going to sleep — Theodore didn't realise that she was considerably tall, just a few inches underneath his nose.

But he soon forgot about the two — Pansy a little harder after her comment — and drifted along the carpet that went up and down the circular stone floor, occupying himself at the same time dodging the remaining Slytherins that soon went to bed.

It finally came down to the final one, the person who had the ridiculous idea of him being there, sitting by himself on a chair at the fireplace and doing what seemed to be Ancient Runes homework. Theodore slowly walked up to Nott, but then he halted when he looked over at the portrait of Slytherin in his youth: sharp-faced; flowing, jet-black hair with a prominent widow's peak; deep-green and silver robes and laying on his chest was the oddity of the portrait, besides the fact that was still.

There was an indentation around his neck, something missing that could be fixed inside if found. Theodore thought that an oval locket was what it could've been, judging from the chain that led around Slytherin's neck.

'That's weird. Someone obviously didn't do a good job with this one right here. It's almost like the portrait in our common room… where Gryffindor also doesn't move… and his sword is missing in the picture as well…'

Theodore pushed portraits out of his mind and spun around one last time to make sure that the coast was clear. No, just him and Nott alone together. Now he could finally get over the stupidity of this challenge.

"Well, I'm here," said Theodore casually after taking off the Cloak and stuffing it under his shirt.

Nott yelped and hit his knee under the table, dropping his work all on the floor. Theodore quietly sat down and grinned with victory and contempt for being forced to do something risky (and nourishingly thrilling).

"Surprised? I thought you would be."

"How did — b-but you were —! That's impossible!" spluttered Nott on his knees. He threw his things back on the table and stood up with disbelief on his face, gawking at the relaxed Parselmouth. "How did you get in here?!"

"Theodore, what's with all the noise?"

Theodore immediately ducked behind a wide armchair and covered his mouth — that was Daphne's voice, but he heard another deeper voice saying, "You're always like this every night — just go to sleep!"

"Sorry for ruining your precious beauty sleep, Blaise. I thought… I thought I saw like a Murtlap or something running in the corner…"

Theodore looked around the corner of the chair and saw Blaise scowling at Nott and Daphne shaking her head as they both called him pathetic at the same time, turning back to their dorms. When they left, Theodore then stepped out from his hiding place and sat back in the seat — however, he kept his eyes trained on the arches instead.

"How about you don't go screaming your head off at nighttime, OK?" the Parselmouth mocked. "You didn't expect me to come in during the day with everybody here?"

"But how did you get in?" Nott asked incredulously. "I had to beg the prefects to make the password into a word you'd never guess — and I'm still not telling you what it is."

"Pfft. I wouldn't need it if I got in without it. All you had to do was… pretend to be a snake and hiss at the door. It's pretty simple, Nott."

"Are you mocking me?"

Theodore rolled his eyes and looked at Nott with seriousness. "Look, stop wasting my time. I did your stupid dare, so hold up your end of the deal. I want to see the book."

"Don't think that you can just command me —"

"Is… is that Riddle?" Both Theodores twisted their heads to look over at the dorm entrances to see Daphne with her hair tied up, looking incredibly confused. "Why is he here…? Did you give him the password, Nott? You know you're not allowed to do that."

Nott jumped up from his chair and clasped his fingers together as he said desperately, "Daphne, he got in on his own because I — look, I'm begging you, OK? Me, begging you. Don't say anything about this to any of the prefects! Please!"

A sly grin grew on her face as her eyes fell on the frozen Theodore, whose heart was clenched with anxiety. "You'll get into a lot of trouble if this were to get out. I can't just simply forget that I saw some Gryffindor in our room, especially Riddle…"

"I'll… I'll get you the thing that you wanted for your birthday…" sighed Nott in defeat.

Daphne clapped her hands, called it a deal and walked back over to the arch before she looked over her shoulder to look at the silent Parselmouth up and down. A curl of the lip was all that was shown when she left the two boys alone to whatever they were going to do.

"So…" started Theodore after the silence passed, "can I see the book, please?"

"Sure," Nott replied politely in a quiet voice. He went into the boys' dorm, then came back out three minutes later with a sturdy brown book with leaflike patterns everywhere except the spine, which was coated in scratched silver and gold.

He shoved it over to Theodore and leaned on his cheek with his eyes closed until Theodore asked him how much time did he have. "All night if you have to," Nott grumbled, "but you're not going anywhere with that book."

Theodore said nothing and turned the first page of the book titled A Pure-Blood Directory, with no mention of a Cantankerous Nott, inside or out.

'Abbot… Black — that was obvious — Crouch… Flint… Gaunt… wait, Gaunt?'

Theodore's finger landed on the section belonging to the Gaunt family when it seemed like it was déjà vu of some sort. "Gaunt…?" he whispered to himself, forgetting that he was alone.

"Is that who you're related to?" asked Nott curiously, bringing his head closer.

"Uh… I'm not too sure yet; it's too early to make assumptions. It says here that…" Theodore didn't bother to read out loud as he'd rather read it himself: Nott thought the same way as well.

House of Gaunt

Hailing from the grand castles of Northern Ireland; carefully obscured from Muggles by deep magic in the unwelcoming mountains, the House of Gaunt was once a wizarding family of absolute status and wealth. Many believed that they were innately powerful from such a rich lineage of recognised wizards and witches.

As the prominent family made a name for itself through their notable members, such as Cervise Gaunt, who was believed to be the founding father of the title as he was described as 'gaunt' throughout his lifetime of sickness, the House of Gaunt had made several connections with other recognisable wizarding names as well: Sayre, Ollivander, Potter(excluded from the Sacred Twenty-Nine), and the two that they took absolute pride in, Peverall and of course, Salazar Slytherin himself.

Many believed that Cervise Gaunt and Sabina Slytherin, the famed Founder's youngest, and only daughter, who was beloved by her father, had grown together in the castle of early Hogwarts, later to fall for each other and carry on the bloodline that is the House of Gaunt. But it's unknown what happened to the couple after Salazar had disappeared from his school after disputes with his fellow Founders…

Theodore stopped there. There was more, but he stopped. So much… so, so much more. This wasn't even half the information on his blatant family, for there were at least four more pages about the Gaunts. And the families that they were connected to: Sayre, like Elvira's name; Potter, which evidently belonged to Harry, and Ollivander. Somewhere, far across his father's side was he very distantly related to all the Ollivanders he met; Elvira, and —

"They can't be your family, can they?" Nott spoke up with furrowed eyebrows. "I mean, not only are you not a Parselmouth — because wouldn't that be the case if they were Slytherin's lot — but it says here that they've almost driven themselves into infertility."

"What? I — yeah! Right, of course! All that inbreeding and shit…but look here. It says that they're related to the Ollivanders and Potters. And also these Peveralls, do you have a clue about who they are?"

Nott crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, lifting an eyebrow which ended up with him doing the same to the other. "You seem awfully invested in a family that you claim isn't yours."

"That's ridiculous."

"Is it, now? Well, everything you need to know about the 'Peveralls' is right there in that book. Or you can just give the book back, thanks."

Theodore yawned loudly and slid the closed book to Nott. It was getting awfully late for the busy day ahead of him, and he wasn't looking to be caught off guard by any of his teachers — he was still at war with Hermione, after all.

"Well, thanks for letting me see the book," announced Theodore as he stood up from his seat and aimed for the entrance wall. "But never ask me to do that again next time, OK?"

Nott laughed. "Next time? There won't be a next time, Riddle, we're done. This is probably the last time we'll ever speak to each other anyway."

"Or so you think…"

The words Peverall and Gaunt rotated in his mind like a spinning top, never attempting to settle down to let him think. Theodore left Nott on his own and waited until the sliding door was firmly shut to throw the Cloak over his head and carry on to Gryffindor Tower to clear his head.

The Gaunts had to be his family, and he firmly believed that without question. Who's to say how far the name went until it came down to Riddle — obviously to his father; what about his grandmother, the mother of the Dark Lord? It was a frightening thought to think about who could give birth to such a monster.

'And Marvolo,' he thought to himself when he opened the Fat Lady's portrait and climbed through, 'that's a wizarding name, so maybe it could be a Marvolo Gaunt…? Argh, I should've stayed and read the whole thing! Nott's probably not going to let me see it again as well. And Peverall. Who are the Peveralls…?'

"'S not… working…" panted Theodore. He wiped his face and rubbed his eyes which stung a little from straining them too much.

Professor Snape slipped his wand back inside his robes and turned back to his desk to wave his hand over it. "Hmph. You're progressing faster than I would imagine — I guess you were blessed with talent like your mother and father…"

"Huh…?"

"Nothing," said Professor Snape flatly before sitting down at his desk.

Theodore staggered on his feet until he found balance and held his head tightly. The pang in his brain was fresh, and he could barely get a full sentence out. "I… I can't fully protect my mind. I try pushing you out, but… but you're too strong —"

"There are people out there far more powerful than the likes of me," Professor Snape interrupted, his face without emotion. "If it ever comes to a point where you'll be cornered, your strength alone will be the only thing to save you."

"Yeah, but… nobody's going to try and destroy my mind. Right?"

Professor Snape huffed again and crossed his arms. A curl of the lip appeared on his face as he muttered, "I doubt that you'd lose time to defend yourself when your mind confuses them: especially when they see you trying to win the heart of Miss Granger."

Theodore choked on his words and grumbled as he looked away. Of course, he'd know about that — and he wasn't trying to win her heart! It was just really… He wiped his forehead again and said nothing, trying to pluck anything from his mind to smother his godfather's snide remark.

"So… the Trials of Doomspell," began Theodore, scratching his hair, "seems like it's a pretty big deal, especially if Hogwarts win. It's not that far from now, is it?"

Professor Snape's brow arched a little behind his hair, possibly because he wasn't expecting such a casual conversation between them. "It's just the Ministry flaunting the school's reputation after last year's fiasco. Nothing more, nothing less."

"But that was a good thing. Pettigrew's in Azkaban so… well, aren't you happy about that?" Theodore saw no change in his face as the unpleasant tension filled the room.

"Why is your Patronus a doe?" Theodore asked off the top of his head when recalling the Dementor army in Hogsmeade. "Is it —?"

"Stop asking questions," Professor Snape cut in irritably as something glimmered in his hand, something small and silver.

"I'm — I'm sorry, but it's just that I've been trying to make a Patronus for months and nothing's working. I've asked around about how it works, so maybe if you could —"

"You have Potions first thing in the morning, and I won't give you a free pass if you're late or doze off during my lesson. Go back to your common room — we're finished for today."

Theodore wrinkled his forehead in disappointment and lifted himself from his chair to turn to the door. It was only one measly thing that he wanted to know, just one thing. And just when he thought that they were getting somewhere.

He sighed and thought that sleep would be best, seeing as how he barely got any during the past few nights. He decided to hold onto the Slytherin book a little longer than he was allowed to; he had to think of a way for Nott to lend him his book again, and Hermione had persuaded him to help her with charming the pamphlets. He'd just ask Harry and —

"Hope…"

He caught it just in time for him to stop with the door partially closed behind him. Professor Snape's head was hung low, and he was scribbling on sheets of parchments without looking up. Theodore then closed the door without slipping a word out, caught up in his own head with what possible significance hope could have with making a Patronus.

'Hope? Why hope?'

Unlike many of his nights, Theodore was restful and woke up the next morning feeling on top of the world — even Viripin was livelier today. After he had gotten ready for the day and Viripin was hidden in his pocket (she never went to lesson with him, so it was a first), he then entered the common room with Harry and Ron and was taken aback by what they saw — and heard.

"We all need to see the bigger picture and make a stand for the oppressed within our society!" announced Hermione from the middle of the common room. In her hand was a collecting tin labelled 'JIM PICKENS' and above her shoulder was the floating badge box, which seemed pretty full from the rustling noise that it made. "Inheritance Tests, people — more like Inheritance scams which purges families into oblivion — took you guys long enough to wake up."

Ron coughed and sunk his hands in his pockets and said, "So… any reason why you're being extra aggressive this morning?"

"I'm not aggressive, Ron," snapped Hermione before quickly regaining her composure. "Theodore and I are both cofounders of JIM PICKENS, which means Justice for Inhumane —"

"Hold on," Theodore broke in, "I'm a cofounder? I thought I was just helping you to get you started, I didn't think I was actually a member."

"Well, you are. That's why I gave you the coins — to signify that you're a high-ranking member of JIM PICKENS. The same would go for you two if you hadn't lost your coins," seethed Hermione before fiercely waving her tin in front of a frightened Gervaise's face.

Both Harry and Ron looked offended as Harry said, "But Theo also —!"

"Shut up, Harry!"

"OK, but we helped you out with the pamphlets," continued Harry after narrowing his eyes at his cousin. "It's not really our fault that Peeves grabbed hold of half and decided to bomb first-years with flaming parchment balls."

"— only for two Sickles. Why, thank you — hey! These are ten pence coins! Don't think that I'm an idiot: I'm a Muggle-born!" A few of the fifth-years snickered as they walked away, leaving Hermione to scowl at them before turning back to the boys. "I don't get it! Why can't I get them to join? It's as if they're writing me off as a waste of time!"

"That's because they are writing you off as a waste of time," Ron gibed. "There's no way that you'll ever get them to at least see what JIM THICKENS —"

"PICKENS," corrected Hermione.

"— is about when you're scaring people. I mean, look at Neville!"

Neville heard his name from afar and awkwardly waved his badge in the air as if to show that he hadn't been pressured at all to buy one — and it seemed as if Hermione was oblivious to this as she stood proudly, stating that Neville had more heart than anybody in the room.

After a petty squabble between Ron and Hermione arose, Harry and Theodore put it to a stop with the latter then suggesting that he would try to get some badges for her.

Hermione rolled her eyes and snorted. "I'm sure that I can handle this, Theodore."

"Then that means I won't do as good as a job, right?" Theodore reached out for the collecting tin and badge box that she reluctantly gave up and went straight to Katie, McLaggen, Angelina and a few other elder Gryffindors. "Morning, everyone! May I interest you into something… interesting? Wait, I messed that up."

Angelina and Katie giggled; McLaggen didn't look impressed. "What do you want, Riddle? Your girlfriend already came around to us waving that thing in our faces, and we're not interested."

"Hem hem. Hermione is not my girlfriend," stated Theodore flatly before forcing a smile. "No, as cofounders of JIM PICKENS, we're raising awareness of Inheritance Tests that subject innocent Muggle-borns with blood curses. Surely, you must've heard about these."

One of the other girls called Victoria Ann gasped. "Uh huh! My grandmother died from a blood-curse when she was only forty-four, and she was a Muggle-born! Wait, could it happen to me as well?!"

"No! No, no, I'm not saying that at all! We just want to show that we won't stand for this injustice against Muggle-borns, who are just as magical as everyone else in the wizarding world — and we're fighting for civil rights of house-elves and other non-humans."

"What?"

"What?" said Theodore quickly before lifting the tin in front of them. "Just two Sickles is enough. By supporting JIM PICKENS… you'll be fighting for a greater cause," he appealed in a heartfelt tone. "So all we're asking is… is if you help. Please."

"Ah, what the hell…" grumbled McLaggen as he reached into his pockets and chucked two silver Sickles into the tin before opening his palm. "Well? Where's the stupid badge?"

Theodore's mouth refused to close until McLaggen threatened to take his Sickles back. "Yeah! I-I didn't think that you'd be first — I'm starting to waffle right now." He left the badge box floating and opened it up to hand one over to McLaggen, who muttered thanks before sticking it on his robes and going for breakfast.

'Holy shit, I just convinced Conrad McLaggen of all people to join…'

Angelina, Katie and Victoria threw in some Sickles as well (Victoria actually gave in a whole Galleon) and stuck their badges on proudly before walking off, along with the other Gryffindors who donated. Although it wasn't nearly half of the House, the tin was considerably fuller when he returned to the others.

"Look at him: what a people-person he is!" Ron clapped Theodore on the back and continued, "You chose the right partner, Hermione. Theo can be like your… spokesman or something, you know, to get the people flocking."

Theodore grinned and looked at Hermione for his smile to fade away quickly. Her arms were crossed, and her face was inexpressive and stony — a rush of emotions, not as painful as before could be felt as she briefly glanced straight at him before turning away.

Theodore could feel the jealousy and self-disappointment that was brewing inside of her from being bested by him. She didn't feel that way whenever he'd show her up before, did she — so why was he feeling guilty all of a sudden?

Hermione's mood seemed to stick for the entire day, even though she'd talk with the boys as if nothing happened — Theodore could sense that the jealousy had burned out, leaving her just dispirited. Lessons finally rolled over as they all went inside the Great Hall for dinner.

In between Ron and Ginny, Theodore tapped his finger on his empty golden plate as the Hall was beginning to fill up, staring up at the soothing, starry ceiling. 'This is good for the whole JIM PICKENS thing; so she shouldn't be that moody. And when the hell is our Defence teacher going to show up? It's been more than two weeks —'

"When the hell is our real Defence teacher going to show up?" exclaimed Dean further up the table. "Don't get me wrong, Dumbledore's amazing, but it's been more than two weeks!"

'Huh. Weird…'

The Great Hall filled up with the last of the Ravenclaws and Gryffindors, and everybody seemed to be discussing Doomspell as the end of term felt like an eternity away. Hermione ceased her sulking and spoke across the table about the potential schools participating until she, and everyone else was silenced by Dumbledore clearing his throat.

"Thank you, thank you! Now, before we enjoy our lovely dinner, I would like to make an unexpected announcement that has only been directed from the Ministry to me, and now onto you regarding the Trials of Doomspell.

"I am proud, and also excited, to announce that the entire school will be leaving the castle together to gather up with our fellow schools across the globe for the selection of champions… on this very day!"

The entire Hall exploded into absolute cheers. Fred and George roared with jubilation and violently shook Lee by the shoulders until he got dizzy and forced himself to sit down again. Ron had a similar reaction and tried to shake Theodore's shoulders as well, which would've worked if Theodore did not try to do the same thing to him.

After letting a pure minute of celebration pass, Dumbledore politely raised his hand, sending a hush across the students in an instant — what other delightful announcements could he possibly say to top this one?

"We have also decided — the school board, that is — that because such an event is so sacred among wizards and witches across the entire world, Hogwarts students will temporarily present themselves dressed in our traditional robes from where our roots lie.

"Each and every one of you will find a set of a plain black robe on your bed after dinner, which will be worn together with your pointed hat. Your current uniform will not be required, as simple clothes underneath will do. Now, pip pip! Eat away!"

It seemed as if everybody's speed of eating matched Theodore's as they all scoffed down their food like wolves, eager to race back to their dorms to get dressed.

After the plates were polished off cleanly, everybody got up from their seats and squeezed past the Great Hall doors and separated to their common rooms. The four were all incredibly giddy, squealing at the thought of seeing other schools from the other side of the world. Harry, Ron and Theodore said bye quickly to Hermione before they leapt up the stairs and dove for their beds.

"Smells fresh," sniffed Neville before removing his tie. "We don't have to keep our uniform on, do we?"

"I'm not," said Theodore, already halfway through slipping on his Muggle clothing with his favourite green shirt. He tied his laces together, then pulled the robe over his head until it nearly hid his trainers. "It feels…"

"Light and freeing?"

"Exactly! That's perfect, Ron! You've worn these types of robes before, haven't you?"

Ron's ears went red, and he mumbled about going to a random wedding as the ring-boy before he threw his own robe on and stuck his hat on his head. Harry asked if they should take their wands, which all the boys agreed to do — anything could happen, right?

Theodore waited until it was just him, Harry and Ron in the room to lay Viripin down in her basket after refusing her request to go with him. The little garden snake grew into a sulky Maibian Adder that butted her nose against his temple to say goodbye before she curled up in her basket.

"You know what I don't get," said Harry when the Gryffindors waited for Professor McGonagall to collect them, "is that even though these robes used to be the normal uniform, the ones that we got now sorta looks like the Muggle uniform in secondary school."

"It was because of Nobby Leach, the first Muggle-born Minister for Magic," blurted out Hermione.

"Who?"

Hermione sighed condescendingly and explained, "When Leach was appointed as Minister, he was all for Muggle connections, seeing as how he was a victim of prejudice all his life. So he somehow managed to influence Hogwarts into changing the uniforms into something similar to Muggles in 1963, in a way to show wizards' 'appreciation' towards Muggles. Obviously, none of the 'cautious' wizarding families really liked that."

The boys and Elvira just stared at her with blank faces.

Hermione sighed even louder. "It's from —"

"Hogwarts: A History," they said in unison. "We know."

Professor McGonagall entered through the portrait and handed out registers to the prefects for each year, and she registered the fourth-years. "Just say yes so that we can go down quickly: Brown."

"Yes," chimed Lavender.

"Dunbar."

"Yes."

"Finnigan."

"Here."

"I said to say 'yes', not 'here'. Granger."

"Yes!"

Professor McGonagall carried on down the list as everybody seemed to be present, until… "Longbottom… Riddle."

"Yes."

"Riddle."

"… I said yes," said Theodore, confused.

Professor McGonagall frowned at him, crossed her arms and tapped her finger against it. "Riddle, why aren't you wearing your hat? The Headmaster specifically instructed you to do so!"

"It sort of… shrunk."

"Excuses. Hand it over." Theodore handed the evidently small hat over, and she snapped her fingers inside it until it grew in an instant. "Wear it, and don't let me catch you trying to take it off."

"Yes, Professor," mumbled the Parselmouth. 'I shrunk it for nothing — I hate wearing this thing!'

Everybody had been registered and was soon lined up in an orderly fashion. First-years went first, second-years went second, and so on. It was killing them to suppress the exhilaration building up inside when they marched down the stairs and… away from the Entrance Hall?

Theodore was confused. If they were supposedly all leaving the castle, then shouldn't they be outside instead? He'd have thought that they had several Thestral carriages out to accommodate the entire school — that would've been a lot of Thestrals, however.

Gryffindor was the second-to-last House, in front of Slytherin as Professor Snape glided into the Great Hall with his House following behind like soldiers as if they practised marching regularly. When everybody was seated, Dumbledore stood up from his chair and smiled… and then he started to giggle.

"What the fuck is going on —" whispered Ron to Theodore.

"I haven't got a fucking clue," he whispered back. He knew that Dumbledore was a little mad, but… not this mad. Childish as well.

When the odd giggle died away, and people forced themselves to forget about it after seeing that it was beyond their comprehension, Dumbledore then simply asked, "Does anybody here suffer any unfortunate effects from forms of motion sickness?"

Ten shaky and confused hands went up in the air, including Theodore and Gioveri from Ravenclaws table. Dumbledore sighed and straightened his purple and yellow hat with regret in his voice. "Alas, this was a last-minute decision…"

He gave those who raised their hands a guilty smile and clapped his hands together. "Ahh, it should be time now — right on schedule! Everyone! Please hold on tightly to your respective tables!"

"Wait, why do we have to —?" Harry started to ask out loud before, suddenly, everything disappeared around him: the stain-glassed windows; the floating candles; the torches along the walls — all except everybody else on Gryffindor table, who were reduced to shrieking in complete fear.

Everything was spinning, and everybody was scared out of their minds — it was like Floo Powder, but ten times worse. Ron's face was distorted like a powerful fan was right in front of him, and he could barely see Harry or Hermione when his own vision was utterly unfocused.

They were flying through the air, as if they were dragged by the shoulders until the table came to a complete stop, slamming onto the ground without breaking any legs — not even a creak. Some of the Gryffindors panted; some shivered in fear, and Theodore almost fainted and fell backwards until Ron and Ginny caught him in the nick of time.

But they weren't the only ones that had arrived at the unfamiliar area, which was merely the middle of nowhere. Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff seemed to have arrived at the exact time as Gryffindor, judging from how they also had their own people crumple to the ground.

"Breathe, just breathe," said Ginny quietly to Theodore as she patted his back. "You've got this, just don't throw up like Goyle over there. Urgh…"

"W-What was that…?" stammered Hermione. She frantically looked around the area, which was clearly outside in a field in the early evening. "Does anyone know what happened?"

Harry said, "We thought you would," but his attention was then brought to the sounds of multiple car engines exploding around the front of the tables.

Dumbledore and the four Head of Houses Apparated on the spot and walked over to their respective House to retake the registers once again while Dumbledore casually explained the rapid change of environment. "I'm so sorry for anybody who is uneasy with such methods of transportation: I had no time to explain back at the castle. What just happened is that you all travelled by Portkey, which I'm sure most of you have heard about.

"Seeing as how the Ministry could not give us enough carriages in time, I charmed the tables into Portkeys while you prepared to travel — actually, I don't think 'prepared to travel' should be used here —"

Professor McGonagall coughed.

"Yes, of course. Again, I apologise for the inconvenience, but it was the fastest way to travel in such little time. And we'll be going back the same way, just to let you all know," Dumbledore added when wincing at Goyle throwing up again. "Heads of Houses! Please lead your students and follow me this way, if you will."

Theodore burped into his hand and suppressed the disgusting urge to vomit all in front of him as everybody around scrambled out of their seats. The best that he could make out of the scene were slopes of orange fields in the distance, and further down could Theodore see small shapes that could've been a village.

But what was in the distance didn't matter or compare to what stood nearby just a few yards from the displaced tables. An ancient colosseum of dirtied-grey and white that stood tall shadowed everybody as Professor Flitwick led Ravenclaw through the crumbling entrance first.

"I didn't even see this," said Theodore quietly to himself — his balance returned, and so did his vision. He followed behind Ginny when Gryffindor entered last and lifted his head up so high, he could topple backwards.

At first, there was complete darkness through the entrance that felt buzzy and sent chills down Theodore's spine. It didn't last long, however, as light quickly returned — but it wasn't the same as the outside. Almost as if they jumped a few hours forward in time, the entire sky above them was of a rich black-blue with massive stars flashing and the moon itself providing the only source of light.

The inside of the colosseum was grand and wide, maybe even five times the size of the Quidditch pitch back at the castle. Rows upon rows elevated up to a point where Theodore couldn't see, as they disappeared into the surely false sky.

The other three houses had already found their seats well above the ground level and were meticulously seated without a single person looking out of place — Crabbe and Goyle even displayed their best act of decency, a rarity among the two.

Professor McGonagall waved the year groups of Gryffindor in ascending order (she didn't notice that nobody bothered to line up in alphabetical order) and sat down at the end of the curved row where all the other Heads were — Dumbledore was nowhere to be seen, however.

Ginny elbowed Theodore's left side and began pointing on the entire of Hogwarts' left, prompting him and several others to see what she noticed. "I can't believe nobody saw them," she hissed with a look of awe. "It's another school!"

Everybody soon turned their heads to the left and didn't look away when they saw the collection of students sitting in prim order, not giving any attention to Hogwarts at all. Having a similar number of students to Hogwarts, they all wore uniforms of pale-blue silk, white flowing capes that dropped around their shoulders, and short, pointy blue hats that completed the look. They made Hogwarts' robes look mundane and simple; nobody seemed to care, anyway.

"They are Beauxbatons Academy of Magic," whispered Elvira from down the row for all the fourth-years to hear. "I was almost admitted in there, had it not been for… something else."

Parvati whispered back, "So they're French, right — or they're at least in France? No wonder they look so fancy and — wait a second… doesn't that girl over there sorta look like you, Elvira…?"

Parvati's question went unanswered when somebody from Slytherin pointed out the next school that appeared out of nowhere on Hogwarts' right — Professor Snape hissed at them to be quiet as they were "making a fool out of us!".

The new school also had a comparable size to Hogwarts, but unlike Beauxbatons, they did seem to notice them — in fact, Theodore dared say that they were very much interested in them as well. Robes of blue and cranberry, all noticeably fastened by looping golden knots. But underneath were black waistcoats and golden patterns on them, closely resembling what Muggles would wear instead — it was a shame that Theodore couldn't tell what school it could be from first glance. Oh well.

Theodore didn't even need anybody to tell him that another school had just arrived, just further down right to the school with red and blue robes. Like Beauxbatons, this school simply dimmed Hogwarts from the sheer colour of their robes — a sea of silky pink robes with a considerable amount of shimmering golden robes in every row. Not only was their scheme of clothing unique and different; so was each student and teacher, who were all evidently of Asian descent (Theodore was guessing maybe Japanese?).

Nobody spoke about the school in pink — Michael Corner waved over to a gorgeous girl from Beauxbatons with silvery-blond hair, earning a glower of disgust before she looked away. Theodore counted four schools present, including Hogwarts, and spun his head side to side with Ron to look for the fifth.

Suddenly, the sounds of rumbling feet from the opposite end to Hogwarts echoed through the colosseum until the fifth and final school popped up under the moonlight's whelming beam. They were easily the largest school of them all, having at least five times the number of students in Hogwarts. Faces couldn't be made out at all from a distance between them, but Theodore could tell that the vast majority of them were black and were all wearing deep yellow robes that stopped at their shoulders and divided at their fronts to reveal underclothing of colours scarlet red, mundane brown, light blue and bright silver.

'Wow… I couldn't even imagine that there'd be these many people our age learning magic as well, and there's probably even more schools out there…'

Once the final school settled down in their seats, the moonlight then focused all of its light down to the centre of the colosseum, sparking something in the back of Theodore's head when he made the connection — Hermione beat him to it. "Guys, isn't it just like the courtroom with all the spinning rings?" she whispered across to Harry, Ron and Theodore.

The boys nodded and watched intently to the giant rings that made up the ground, noticing how Crouch, Dumbledore and four other wizards and witches (presumably the other headmasters) walk into the centre and each pointing a wand into the ground, circling around Crouch.

Just like in Courtroom Seven, the rings rotated in different directions and slowly raised the wide circular platform that they were all standing on. It soon came to a sudden halt when it reached a considerable height for everyone to see clearly as the light fell upon the Headmasters and Crouch.

Crouch pointed his wand to his neck and mouthed something inaudible before his voice amplified several times louder, possibly even being able to reach the outside of the colosseum without too much effort. "It has finally come! I want to thank each and every single one of you for arriving on this day to take part in something sacred among all of us, and I'd like to apologise for the late notice, Hogwarts."

Nobody dared to speak — not even to squeak just a little.

"Here we are as fellow schools, coming together to make history once again: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry —!" Crouch shouted as he pointed at them, somehow guiding the moonlight to shine upon them —

"Beauxbatons Academy of Magic —!" the moon fell upon them, brightening their robes so much that it dazzled everyone else before it moved away to —

"Uagadou Magical Institution —!" Crouch exclaimed, spinning on his heels to guide the light onto the possibly African school.

The light then roamed over to the Asian school as Crouch said, "Mahoutokoro School of Enchantment and Sorcery, and last but not least — Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!"

Theodore looked over to the school on their right and heard just a few whispers from them before they were silenced by one of their teachers.

Crouch hastened at fixing his hair before he spoke again, producing his wand and flicking it towards the empty sky. "Now that we have all learned our fellow schools and rivals of the competition, we shall now proceed. The selection of each champion will be based on their magical potential, judging on whose hidden magical strength is the highest amongst your respective school. And this…"

Everybody lifted their heads as something big came out from the dark and descended slowly in midair, becoming more discernible in shape once it touched upon the centre of the platform as Crouch moved out of its way. "This right here is our judge: The Ring of Judgment!"

A man-sized, thick spinning ring that was composed of withered, black wood came into vision for all to see. Theodore blinked again to see if it wasn't a false image — it looked completely ridiculous than to what he had in mind. He was expecting to see something that would cause things to explode in flames or something, not an ancient loop of wood.

Dumbledore, along with the other Headmasters, lifted their wands again and chanted an incantation between them, moving their hands in mirrored fashion without a single mistake being noticed by Theodore. He leaned forward and stared at the giant witch, who towered everybody else, but he sat back when the ring suddenly burst into flames.

'You got your wish, Theo. But it's not going to burn for long — wait…'

The deep-blue flames licked the wood gently without any smouldering bits falling to the ground beneath it. Magic fire, of course! How could he be so stupid? The ring spun and spun until it stopped at Crouch's command with a wave of the hand.

"The Ring of Judgement will donate a single flame to a Headmaster of a school, which will be flung over to their students," explained Crouch without displaying any change in his demeanour. "The flame will then cast itself above the entire school and seek the greatest potential hidden among you all.

"Once the champion has been chosen, the flame will burn red and will be safe to hold in one's hands — you'll then wait on the pedestal at your location and return the flame to the Ring. When all five champions have been chosen, the flames will be given back all at once. Understood?"

Crouch didn't care for any reply to his question. He tapped the Japanese teacher on the shoulder, an old short wizard in black and golden robes, buttoned up his middle and to his neck. Mahoutokoro's Headmaster then brought out his wand and tapped the edge of the Ring and caught a blue flame at its end before flicking it behind his shoulder.

The flame instantly whisked in the air above their heads, not stopping for a single moment — it finally did. Remaining still in front of a girl with golden robes in the lower rows of Mahoutokoro, the blue shifted into red as the entire school applauded for her. She quickly clasped the flame and held it in her palm before shuffling out her row and onto the pedestal nearby — her face was inexpressive, but Theodore could barely tell from how far away they were.

The Asian girl's pedestal then broke off and lifted her all the way up to the central platform where she bowed to her headmaster, who looked up to her with extreme pride. She stood in front of her headmaster and kept upright and stiff like a complete statue.

Crouch leaned in on her and heard her mutter something in his ear before his voice boomed across the colosseum, "May I present Mahoutokoro's champion: Shizuka Watanabe!"

Next was the giant witch who flicked her wand onto the Ring before sending a flame over to Beauxbatons. Just like at Mahoutokoro, it swirled above their heads without stopping until it burned bright red in front of a girl sitting right next to the pretty girl Michael tried to flirt with. The girl with the silvery-blond hair hugged her tightly and allowed her to pass on her right, giving Hogwarts a more unobstructed view of her as she trotted down with grace.

Even from the quickest glance could Theodore see the resemblance with the girl and Elvira. Her hair was purely black, however, and it was long and flowing like her friend, reaching down to her lower back.

When she arrived at the platform with her flame, she whispered something in Crouch's ear, who in turn shouted, "Beauxbatons's champion: Nicolette Pierre!"

"Pierre?" said Hermione immediately, turning to Elvira — everyone in the fourth-year did the same thing as well. "Elvira, don't tell me that's your —"

"Sister," said Elvira in a lowered, clear voice beneath the clapping from Beauxbatons. "Yeah, that's her." Her hair suddenly changed from her usual blue to a deep-pink as she sunk a little in her seat — she didn't seem particularly happy.

Half of Hogwarts stood up — as did most of Ilvermorny — when it was Uagadou's turn for their champion to be selected, for they could barely see them from afar.

"Hope they get a bloke," whispered Ron to Theodore and Harry. "I have a feeling that it's going to be —"

Hermione hushed Ron when thunderous clapping came from the other side as a tall, strong-looking boy walked down to a pedestal with a red flame in his hand. "Uagadou's champion is Kofi Sefu!"

Ilvermorny was the next school as the blue flame flew all the way from the tip of their headmaster's wand and instantly landed on a girl with red hair, not even bothering to judge the others — it was like an iron nail to a magnet. She received the greatest of praise from the chosen champions as they gave her a standing ovation when she walked down to her pedestal — more like tripped down.

She awkwardly laughed it off and was brought up to the platform, where her name was revealed as, "Christina Sayre!" earning Elvira another wave of stares from her fellow fourth-years.

Elvira was just as shocked. Her mouth hung wide open, and she blinked several times when keeping her eyes on Christina. "I-I… I don't know who she is. Perhaps it's only a… coincidence?"

"In the wizarding world?" Ron responded. "Fat chance. There's no way you aren't related —"

Ron hushed himself when Dumbledore finally tapped his wand against the Ring of Judgement and lifted it up towards Hogwarts. A smile of encouragement preceded the swift motion of his arm as the flame zoomed across to them and sped around their heads uncontrollably.

It didn't stop, and it didn't seem like it would stop anytime soon. But it did, right above Cedric Diggory's head did the flame come to a stop — before he could instinctively reach for it, the fire escaped and carried on whizzing above them. The other schools looked onto Hogwarts with cautiousness, unable to gain an inkling from the flame's supposed actions.

Crabbe snickered next to Malfoy and swiped his hand in the flame's path before he squealed in pain. Professor Snape hissed at him and threatened him with a week's detention, not even asking if his hand was all right. The flame circled around some more, now taking the most time to choose a champion until it stopped at Harry — right before shooting off again when his fingers barely lifted off his thighs.

Out of nowhere did it finally stop down near Ravenclaw's area, descending slowly in front of Gioveri's unmistakeable head. The flame slowly flickered to the side, despite there being no wind present. Gioveri nervously stared around as people prepared to clap, but they noticed that the flame hadn't changed colour at all. So they held back. Nobody clapped or moved until it'd change, or if Gioveri would do something.

Gioveri then, with hesitation, reached out for the idle blue flame and clasped it in his palm — no yelp of pain came from him. "Hey… it doesn't hurt. I — I don't feel any pain! Look, it doesn't hurt, e-even though I — oh. It disappeared…"

"Disappeared?" asked Professor McGonagall without thinking for a second that she wasn't in a classroom. "What do you mean 'disappeared' — how could it…?"

Confusion turned into discussion as everyone darted their heads around for the missing flame. Some pointed fingers at Gioveri, claiming that he stole it for himself (Professor Snape hushed Malfoy and Pansy — Theodore had never seen him act so snappy to his own House before), causing him to hide his face in mortification.

"Why can't Dumbledore just take another flame and throw it over here?"

"I don't think it works like that, Ginny," Theodore answered as he rubbed his chin. "Crouch said that that Ring is donating fire, so I'm guessing you're only allowed to take the part that you were given."

Ginny lifted an eyebrow and then frowned dismissively. "Seems awfully complicated for just choosing someone. They should've just chosen their favourite pick and… and…"

Theodore looked at her from the corner of his eye and said, "What is it, Ginny? You think we wasted our time by all coming here, don't you? I'm not going to lie, I'm…"

His sentence didn't go anywhere when he saw everybody's stares, from Hogwarts to Uagadou, fixated on him and him alone through a slight blue tint — and then he realised.

'No… no, no, no…'

The flame materialised out of thin air as if it were hiding just for a moment until the time was ready to strike. Theodore could feel the heat washing over his eyes, but he didn't blink. All that he could think of was to wish the flame to move away or disappear as it did with Cedric, Harry and Gioveri; to force itself to smother up into sparks and nothing more.

'I can't be chosen. Surely it can't be me… I don't want to be a champion. I'm not a champion — it's going to float away o-or vanish like —'

It was odd, this fire. The way its colours worked against the sensation that it sent across his skin, confusing the senses; coldness brushing against his face. Theodore was still — he was no longer begging not to be chosen. Why would it matter? As the crimson flames twisted and turned softly in front of his unresponsive eyes, as if the Devil had left his mark after inflicting onto him a curse of the extreme kind, Theodore could only stare. Hogwarts' Champion; Son of the Dark Lord — his life could be destroyed like that, but all he could do was stare…

Still alive, and so is this story. Just had a lot of school stuff to work, guys, so sorry for the unexpected hiatus, so sorry.

If you called it, give yourself a pat on the back. Theodore is chosen as a champion — but wait. Why doesn't he want to be it? The obvious answer will be answered in the next chapter, but I'm sure you'll all know it right away.

And not only do we have that, but we also have the Gaunts, and Theo's familial connection to Elvira's family (and also Christina), the Ollivanders and Peveralls.

Gah, so much stuff! Like I always say, I won't spill everything, so make sure you keep posted for the next chap. Hope you liked my selection process which will immediately pick up from the end of this chap on the next. Later.