Progeny of Slytherin: The Beginning of the Riddle

You're Not Alone, Theo Pt1

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…

Thunderous heartbeats were reverberating inside his ear, and the surface of his eyes stinging from his refusal to blink — Theodore's body refused to do anything that would exhibit any reaction to the flame that had chosen him.

While he sat still among his school that didn't exult for their Champion, Professor Snape rose up from his seat, beady eyes unusually wide and unusually filled with considerable astonishment — but Theodore didn't react to seeing his godfather stare at him from a little down below. Red… all he could see was red…

"No…" murmured Professor McGonagall in complete denial. "No, no, no…"

Why didn't anybody clap? Why didn't anybody say something instead of staring at him like he displayed freakishness unseen in the entire wizarding world? However, he didn't notice, still held prisoner by the flame that spun around with life right in front of him.

Ginny gripped Theodore's shoulder firmly and roughly shook him, whispering sharply, "Hey! You're chosen — stop sitting down and go down there, Theo!"

"Don't know why nobody's clapping for you," said Ron with a grin reaching to his ears as he took hold of the unresponsive boy's other shoulder. "All the other schools are staring at us, Theo, so you better —"

The smile that was etched upon Ron's happy face faded away in an instant when Theodore didn't move his gaze away from the fire. He shook him again and repeatedly asked why he wasn't moving while Harry and Hermione whispered across the row. The flame kept hold of Theodore, not letting the whispers break through to him —

"May the chosen champion from Hogwarts, please come down," bellowed Crouch's amplified voice from the platform below.

The explosion of sound broke the flames temporary hypnosis on Theodore, and he rubbed his eyes harshly before looking fretfully all around him — he quickly slapped his hands over his eyes when overwhelming pain cut through inside.

"Theo, if you're having your headaches again, then —"

"I won't do it…" said Theodore with unusual sternness, despite hissing clearly before everyone in discomfort. "I'm not going down there."

Professor McGonagall scoffed loudly and held tightly to her robes as she said across to him, "You bloody won't, that's for sure! Riddle, you stay right here — I won't stand for this!"

"Hogwarts's champion? May you come down with your flame, please?" Crouch added with traces of rising irritation within his voice.

"He will not be going down there!" shouted Professor McGonagall, now standing on her feet — the whole of Hogwarts, Ilvermorny and Beauxbatons turned to her, most mouths open. "Don't you dare move, Riddle!"

"Why don't you want to go down?" asked Hermione under the booming voice of Crouch. "You're chosen, so this is gre—!"

"I'm not going to do it!" Theodore repeated harshly, staring at his feet until the flame followed his line of sight. He angrily swatted it away, only for it to return as if to taunt him further.

"But you — you can't refuse it, Theo. You were chosen —"

"I don't care if a stupid magic ring decides that I'll be a champion in this: I won't do it — fuck off…!" he hissed at the persistent flame.

As Theodore gave up destroying the fire and lowered his hat just above his eyes — thoughts were still piercing into him — a crack could be heard all the way down at the platform. It took everybody's attention away from Theodore for only just a moment until they all started to whisper under their breaths; they had to be talking about him.

Through Theodore's fingers could he pick out Lestrange being the one who Apparated into the colosseum, speaking to Dumbledore as Crouch didn't refrain from lifting his voice higher and higher. However, it was faded, pushed to the back as the thoughts of everyone else vanquished all of the Occlumency that he ever learnt from Professor Snape.

'They're so loud… but my eyes — my eyes are closed… empty your mind, Theo… empty… it's not working!'

"This is ridiculous!" Crouch yelled from the top of his voice. "Hogwarts's champion, can you please come down with your flame?! We are waiting!"

"… absolutely not, Severus!" snapped Professor McGonagall down two rows — Professor Snape's stature was stiff and confrontational. "Champions of Doomspell have always been sixteen at least, or did you forget that Riddle is still fourteen?!"

Professor Snape scoffed and argued back, "No champion has, nor will they ever, gone against the Ring of Judgement's decision. It chose him, so he must go down there immediately!"

"I'd expect you of all people to be against this…" she slipped in a near dark tone of voice. Professor McGonagall ignored Professor Snape's widened eyes of shock from her words as she spoke on. "Riddle is far too young to compete in this — this entertainment of children fighting for the death! If I have to go down there and speak my mind, then I'll —"

A new but easily identifiable voice replaced Crouch's, hushing both Professors Snape and McGonagall as the calm and clear voice said, "Please, we have wasted enough time as it is travelling over here. I only ask that Hogwarts's champion come down with their flame to avoid any delay. Thank you."

Professor McGonagall's jaw was shaking when Dumbledore's voice fell silent, and so did everybody else. On the fence, she had no intention of letting Theodore go down to certify his title — but to go against Dumbledore… it wasn't like her ever to think that he was wrong at all. But…

Theodore's gaze finally moved away from his feet and slowly met with his godfather's. Underneath the relentless ambience of mixed feelings towards him from everyone else, all Theodore wanted to see was for Professor Snape to understand his reason not to move.

Theodore removed all his teachings of Occlumency to let him in and feel what he dreaded would come out of this — but nothing. He felt none of the swishing hand trying to reach into his mind, not wanting to empathise with him. He could see it in his eyes returning to the coldness they were so accustomed to.

'Why…?'

Dumbledore's voice returned as he politely asked for the Hogwarts champion to take up the flame without losing an ounce of composure as Crouch did. Nobody whispered to Theodore to take the fire and go, except for Ginny on his left — nobody had to whisper: they were surely all leering at him hiding his face from his pain.

Dumbledore asked one more time for him to come down, still not growing angry at all when something snapped inside Theodore, the thing that was commanding him to stay put in his place. He pulled his pointy hat down above his eyebrows to where his face wouldn't be discernible even from a distance — Theodore then slowly took the patient flame in hand, noting how his fingers fell cold from its presence and stood up gingerly to shuffle along the row.

"Riddle — Riddle!" repeated Professor McGonagall when Theodore didn't stop moving towards the end of the row where she was sat. "Riddle, wait, I —"

Theodore didn't slow down at all as he pushed past his friends, not even glancing over to them when they whispered for his attention. Hermione's fingertips discreetly caught his own when he passed her, but he didn't even stop for Hermione. Everything still didn't seem real enough for him to react to anything. A blank mind behind a blank face: all that there was.

Professor McGonagall's disbelief from what was occurring went unspoken when Theodore finally moved past her as the last person on the row. Theodore turned and started to move his way down, rejecting Professor Snape's stare as he carried on without turning his head to him: but what everyone thought was Theodore closing himself off to everyone was, in reality, the flame capturing his conscious-thinking once again. He couldn't look away…

"Whoa, man, look at him," a murmur from his right that could be heard from Ilvermorny, "he doesn't look that tall."

"Yeah, dude, and did you see his face from before he pulled his hat down? This guy's gotta be a kid or something?"

But on the other side, the side that was supposed to be supporting him spewed out whispers like, "Of course it had to be him. Why is it always him?" or even, "Bet you he doesn't know a thing about this stuff when he's been living in a Muggle dump for his whole life…"

His fingertips almost felt numb from every passing second with the flame flickering softly in his hand. Although his eyes were unable to rip away from it, Theodore took careful steps, making sure that he wouldn't trip up, not even stumble just a little. The whispering was left behind as he carried on forward, and he suddenly became mindful of his footing.

The pedestal trembled before it broke off from the ancient stone steps and lifted Theodore towards the platform — the silence was unnerving; he wanted to throw the flame away, crush it until it was nothing more than cold air. But it was too late.

He halted abruptly on the platform, causing him to slip forward just a little bit before his balance was regained. Theodore could barely see the faces of the other occupants on the pedestal and took only a brief moment to lift his gaze from his flame. Looks of curiosity mixed with shock were plastered on Dumbledore and Crouch, both opened-mouth and still.

Lestrange had his back turned to Theodore as if he refused to look at him, to believe that he was chosen — he didn't do this to himself. Why would he? Did they blame him for being picked by the Ring of Judgement?

'It's not my fault… it's not my fault…'

The lower bodies of the other champions were where he forced himself to look. He didn't want them to see his face: he didn't want to be chosen at all. Lestrange then, in a blink of an eye, moved over to where Dumbledore and Crouch stood motionless and brought them in to whisper amongst themselves.

'Why isn't anybody talking…?'

"No need of me to ask of your name," muttered Crouch finally when the secretive talking came to an end. "Our fifth and final champion for Hogwarts: Theodore Riddle!"

Forced applause from his school rang out across the colosseum, reverberating almost everywhere — Theodore was desperate to be stuck in his head again.

Once Hogwarts was done 'congratulating' their champion, Crouch then instructed each of them to face their respective school and hold out their flame. "Now take a good and long look at your champion! They'll be depending on you for your unconditional support if they are to bring your school to victory!"

The combined applause of every school was more powerful than just one, almost like thunder on an unbridled rampage. Theodore lifted his hat only just to make out the faces of his peers and gritted his teeth so hard that his eyes instinctively became closed. A legion of voices all screaming in his head, not one being identifiable when they attacked his mind mercilessly.

'Control your emotions…'

Theodore's pain subsided soon enough when Crouch told each of the champions to turn back around and return their flame to the Ring of Judgement. The other champions, inevitably wooden in their faces reached their hands out to the Ring, and Theodore followed suit as the last one.

Deep-blue fire shifted into scarlet in an instant the second Theodore's flame returned to the Ring. The Ring suddenly began to spin onto its side, then came to a stop. Theodore felt himself becoming tensed from the sudden crack nearby and deduced that somebody had Disapparated on the spot — Lestrange was nowhere to be seen.

"Now, champions," Crouch continued with his voice being back to normal, "please hold onto the Ring with one hand only — don't worry, the flames are completely harmless. Headmasters, please remain behind for a… discussion."

Theodore was once again the last one to clasp the rough ring of burning wood, and his fingertips quickly fell into numbness after touching it for a moment. He was so close to the other champions, but he couldn't look away from his feet to look at any of them in the eye, not even Dumbledore.

It didn't matter, however; Theodore felt the numbing chill suddenly racing along his arm and clawing to his face — and it was the same with the others. The fire had licked itself onto their clothing and fully encompassed their entire being until absolute darkness had enveloped their surroundings.

Theodore wasn't given nearly enough time to panic, for whatever happened happened in a damn near instant. His fingers regained their sense of touch, and he noticed that the Ring of Judgement was nowhere to be found in… where were they? Almost forgetting that he wasn't the only person in their new setting, Theodore lifted his hat only just to take in where they had been transported to.

It was like the inside of a pentagonal prism, only the interior was hollow and was dissimilar to any room Theodore had ever seen before. Five different sides held five different sections with a large school crest mounted on each wall, and each champion had been perfectly positioned to where their crest was. Hogwarts's Coat of Arms was right behind Theodore, gleaming from the swinging lanterns nearby, each House mascot clear as day.

"Uh, is there a way outta here or…?" said the girl with red hair nervously in an obvious American accent. "I can't see a single door anywhere…"

The other tall boy who was from Uagadou raised his hand politely and said with a thick accent, "I am sure that we are safe right here — look over there. If you can see close enough, then you can make out the door frame."

The red-haired girl breathed out with solace and fixed the golden knot at her neck, then proceeded to fan herself. "Thanks for that! I'm not that big on staying in closed spaces when there's no way out so… anyway, Christina Sayre, if any of you were wondering," she grinned amicably to everyone with an enthusiastic wave.

"Kofi Sefu," greeted the black boy formally, being the only one of the other four to bother shaking Christina's hand. "You are from Ilvermorny, yes? I've read about your school quite often in recent years."

"Cool! Although I can't say I heard of…" Christina sheepishly rubbed her shoulder and made incomprehensible noises under her breath.

"Uagadou."

"Right! I think it's best that I shouldn't butcher its name by not saying it at all — it's me, not the name!"

Kofi simply nodded his head and crossed his arms before removing the tension between the two by saying, "I have to admit, I was very impressed when the Ring of Judgement chose you. It was in an instant, faster than any of us."

"Thanks. You know, I used to be so crap at magic that you'd think I was almost a wizard-born!" Christina said airily. "That was until last year: I had to break myself to be the best that I can be so… here I am!"

Christina then shifted her attention to the Asian girl, who stood silently with her eyes drifting to an unsuspecting Theodore from time to time and said, "You're… you're Shizuka, right? Shizuka… Watanabe!"

Shizuka looked away from Theodore and merely lifted her thin eyebrows at Christina.

"You were chosen pretty quick as well," Christina continued as she came closer to Shizuka. "That means you gotta be good!"

"It was only expected that I would be chosen," said Shizuka flatly in impeccable English, "nobody else would have had the tenacity to follow through in this… competition."

Theodore was tugging quite viciously at his robes as they adhered to his sticky, burning skin. None of what the others were discussing about had been taken in by him when he was trapped in his mind once again.

'When the people back home find out that I was chosen… why me…? I didn't want it to be me…"

"Are you not going to say something?" a voice out of the blue asked Theodore, who released his tight grip on his robes to turn to his left. For a brief moment, his eyes met with the stunning cerulean of the girl from Beauxbatons, Elvira's older sister.

Her skin was fair and bright, a sign that she took her hygiene like it was a religion. Like Elvira, she was a noticeable pretty girl, albeit a little rounder in the cheeks compared to her younger sister's more sharper features.

Once Theodore pulled away from looking at her — Nicolette, as she was the only other champion whose name stuck with him, she crossed her arms haughtily and said, "I said are you not going to say something?" in a French accent that was bleeding through her tongue.

"I… haven't?" Theodore croaked as he pulled his hat down even lower.

Christina suddenly caught wind of their secluded 'conversation' and trotted over to the two, or to be more specific, Theodore, with a gleam of excitement in her eyes. "Hey there! This is so crazy like I'm from Ilvermorny, but you're from Hogwarts! That's… crazy, right!"

Theodore didn't respond to her enthusiasm and used his sleeve to brush against his nose. Where was Dumbledore, Crouch and the other Headmasters? Were they talking about him?

"… and that's pretty much why it's so cool that I'm meeting you here! Our history at Ilvermorny goes way back with one of our founders actually going to Hogwarts — 's matter of fact, both of them are my —"

"You," Shizuka bluntly interrupted the rambling Christina to direct everybody's attention to Theodore. "How old are you — take off your hat."

"I'd — I'd rather not do that…"

As if it were by perfect timing to hold off Shizuka's interrogation before he'd probably lose his composure, the masked door that was in between Mahoutokoro and Uagadou's section on the walls suddenly swung open with a mass of people spilling inside. Crouch was the first one through, followed by all five Headmasters; Lestrange, who had strangely returned with Rita, and Professors McGonagall and Snape as the final one.

"— no, Albus, this is ludicrous! Theodore will not be competing, I refuse it!" screeched Professor McGonagall among the riled adults.

"Minerva, please. Let's be civil about this."

"Civil?! I — Albus, you must see what is wrong with this…"

The towering Headmistress who must've stood at least ten feet tall secluded herself with Nicolette in Beauxbatons corner before speaking out — olive-skinned and a nose that resembled Professor Snape's: she had to be a giant or at least half like Hagrid.

Beauxbatons's Headmistress swished her black satin robes that were like curtains and tapped a male Headmaster on the shoulder, almost shoving him to the ground. "Is it true, Percival? What you said about him — he can't be, right?"

Percival rolled his shoulder and grunted under his breath. Dark blonde hair that was flecked with grey: a hard-faced man with a jaw too strong to be considered handsome — but at the very most quite good-looking — a blue and red cloak fell behind his back, covering his Muggle-like clothing underneath.

"Of course it's true!" Percival shot at her, his accent along with his clothing making it apparent that he was the Headmaster for Ilvermorny. "I could tell from a mile away — you, boy! Take your hat off!"

Before Theodore could retaliate to his aggressive demands, Crouch came to his defence by telling Percival to back away before he fell silent.

Kofi had retreated to his corner with Uagadou's Headmistress close by. She was noticeably shorter than Kofi, and her hair was completely hidden underneath a thick wrapping of multicoloured cloth that complemented her fluid robes. Both decided to remain outside the conflict but conversed in silence as they observed Percival's relentless intimidation on Theodore.

"Barty, Imma be straight with you," huffed Percival, rubbing his stubbled chin, "I could see from the moment that kid stepped up with everyone else that he was… a kid! Now, if he isn't of age, he can't compete, simple as! Kid, how old —?"

"But you don't see us harassing any of the other champions standing in this room, do you, Graves?" Lestrange stepped in front of Rita, who was discreetly scribbling away, and asked, "Maybe neither of them are of age — care to reveal them to us, champions?"

"I am seventeen years old," said Kofi and Nicolette at the same time.

Christina twisted her curly, short hair with an awkward grin and disclosed that "I'm still sixteen — but it's gonna be my birthday in three days, so… yeah!"

"Eighteen," muttered Shizuka.

Lestrange should've felt ashamed, but no such expression on his face displayed the sort. He stopped Graves from asking Theodore the question that he desperately wanted to be answered and did so himself.

Theodore's fingers became latched onto his robes once again. "I'm… I'm fourteen…"

This time, Uagadou's headmistress joined in with the sudden uproar amongst the others that was matched with Crouch and Lestrange diffusing the situation with Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall only adding onto it.

Theodore pushed his hat back up to where he could see clearly but not enough for everyone to see his face in full. Where everyone else was concerned that he was too young to compete in Doomspell, they couldn't see the true problem behind it all — Dumbledore, Professor Snape and Lestrange should've known, but here they were squabbling like children.

Hold on for second… Dumbledore was not anywhere near the argument between them, and neither was one other Headmaster. Theodore looked past Shizuka's piercing gaze and saw Dumbledore harmoniously conversing with a much shorter, and slightly younger man in black robes that came up to his neck and golden designs which fluttered on the fabric somehow.

His beard was comparatively as long and silvery as Dumbledore's, although his lounged on his left shoulder instead. The two were smiling as if they were attending a formal get-together with very old friends — Mahoutokoro's headmaster seemed a lot more inviting than their best student.

"All right, enough!" bellowed Crouch. He carefully fixed his hair back and continued at the same volume, "Now, despite what any of you think about Riddle's age being accounted for Doomspell, the binding magical contract has already been made! Therefore, he or any other champion chosen cannot refuse to compete and —"

"Magical contract?!" Theodore broke in, incredulous and suddenly furious. "Nobody said anything about — I didn't agree to any magical contract!"

"Riddle, quiet!"

"No, I —!" Theodore directed back to his godfather, but his words remained unspoken when Dumbledore politely waved his hand for him to stop.

"Uh, thank you, Dumbledore — before I was interrupted, a magical contract has been made between the student and the Ring of Judgement the moment they threw the flame back. The Ring has old but powerful magic, and if it believes that Riddle is worthy to compete, then it's the truth."

None of their faces wanted to change to show that they were considering Crouch's words. Students glanced over to their headmaster and barely made any noise with their mouths until Crouch spoke up again. "If you don't believe me, then I'll ask you all one thing. The student that stands beside you right there: before you came here today, would you say that they are one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of your current set?"

The three argumentative Headmasters gave unwilling nods before Shizuka surprised them all by taking centre stage in front of Theodore. Up close, her nose looked smaller and had a light dusting of freckles like Louise. She was pretty — as in 'threateningly' pretty, if it made any sense in Theodore's head.

"Excuse me for making such a scene, but Professor Dumbledore —"

"Miss Watanabe," Dumbledore smiled.

"I just want to know from you: do you honestly believe that this little boy —"

'I'm taller than you, you overconfident…'

"— possesses the greatest magical potential in your school, surpassing even those at the very top, those who are my age?"

"With all my heart," Dumbledore responded without hesitation — Theodore didn't seem to believe that, or rather, he didn't want to for some reason. "I've been telling him from the day we met that he was capable of great things, and my thoughts haven't changed since then."

"Hmm…"

Theodore was breathing heavily and took his hat off when it felt as if it'd squeeze and burst his skull from how tight it felt. He didn't meet anybody else's look as he used his sleeve to wipe away at his hair sticking to his forehead. Rita was still writing but hadn't said a word. 'Going to expose me to the world, are you? Of course, you fucking will…'

When Crouch repeated that the magical contracts had been cemented and that there was no turning back, all that Theodore could do was crush his hat without showing any hint of the fury inside. He felt used, like a plaything by people who couldn't understand what could happen, what could go so wrong. Used and tricked…

"Hogwarts is also welcomed to any of the champions who wish to stay, along with a few selected students and, of course, their Headmaster," said Dumbledore once Crouch was done. "It'd be less taxing than jumping back and forth country to country, don't you think?"

Mahoutokoro's Headmaster kindly said back in a low voice, "Thank you, Dumbledore, you are too kind. However, we will manage with our place of stay in England, while Mahoutokoro stays behind."

Beauxbatons and Uagadou also refused Dumbledore's offer with similar reasons — the only person who wanted to take it up was Christina, who went wide-eyed at the idea. "Professor Graves, can we stay at Hogwarts? Please?! It'll only be like five of us and you there! Please, sir, I've wanted to go there for nearly my whole life!"

Graves lifted an eyebrow at her then looked over to Dumbledore. "We'll manage as well just fine, Dumbledore, but thanks." He lowered his head near the pouring Christina and whispered, "they're all a bit off, anyway. Who knows what's over there?"

"Plenty of space, I can assure you," said Dumbledore as if he were right next to them, "especially for Ilvermorny. That's the least Hogwarts can do for their sister school, correct?"

"Right… well, we don't want our students 'mingling' with each other when they're supposed to be rivals. We're fine, I promise. But thanks."

Dumbledore shrugged and allowed Crouch to speak once again. "Now, champions, the details of your first trial will be revealed to you all on Halloween night at Hogwarts."

Christina squealed then looked to the ground.

"How many trials are there exactly?" asked Nicolette. "Five?"

"Four," corrected Crouch. "Five was too much for the founder of Doomspell to come up with, and so he settled with four.

"I want you to give it your all and fight to win — otherwise, what is the point? I wish every one of you good luck in the near future."

Kofi, Nicolette, Christina and Shizuka all said, "Thank you," but Theodore's lips didn't move at all. He heard, all right, but why would he ever say that? His heart was racing with lividity, and his eyes felt like they were being pressed back into his skull, burning like — he rubbed them just in case somebody had seen them change. It had been a while since it last happened, but right now…

Graves was the first to leave with Christina through the door, and she gave a look of pity and kindness to Theodore before the two left. Kofi also gave him a friendly nod before leaving, and that was the end for his kind rivals. Nicolette didn't even care to look at him as she walked past, keeping her chin up in a manner that contradicted Elvira's carefree demeanour (wasn't so carefree a few moments ago, however).

Shizuka looked Theodore up and down and furrowed her eyebrows when he didn't seem to care. She turned away and followed her Headmaster out the door, which left just Theodore; his professors; Lestrange and Rita in the room, who still hadn't spoken a single word. How strange.

Professor McGonagall straightened her glasses and turned to Dumbledore, then breathed, "Albus… do you honestly think that Theodore can go through with this without… without his life being in complete peril? Think about last year. He almost…"

Dumbledore looked over to Theodore still squeezing his hat in silence and said, "The best thing that we can do is hope that he'll do his best —"

"Albus, that wasn't what I was looking for —!" she nearly exploded before Lestrange cut her off.

"Minerva, what's done is done. There's no point in arguing over something that is not in any of our hands except for Theodore. He was chosen, not us."

"You seem to be quite content with the fact that he is Hogwarts's champion, aren't you, Theodore?" Professor McGonagall nearly growled accusingly. "I've heard about the apprenticeship you decided to flash to Riddle over the summer. That's so like you —!"

"Minerva, please."

Nothing was said after that, not anything about Theodore. Dumbledore led the way out of the room with Theodore at the back, remarking how the rest of the school will be able to stomach the Portkey back home. Rita had managed to refrain from asking Theodore a single question as they traversed through the rocky tunnels that could've been underneath the colosseum for all Theodore knew.

Professor McGonagall didn't say a word either, and neither did Professor Snape as well. None turned to ask him how he felt about any of this — not even a single glance towards him. Theodore focused on keeping his stare vacant up until orange light came through an archway from where they first came inside. Everybody else carried on forward while Dumbledore stayed behind with Theodore.

A rise of chatter from his school was heard until it died down to the average level in the Great Hall. Dumbledore was twiddling his thumbs as if something were about to happen, but instead slightly turned to Theodore and said quietly, "If you like, we can Apparate back to the castle instead of you walking out there."

"What makes you think I don't want to walk out there?" Theodore asked, not caring that his voice was louder than usual. He shook his head and stuffed his hat on, almost about to ask if they were going to Apparate or not when Dumbledore's left arm was lifted for him to hold.

Theodore took it without question and in an instant felt his insides twist and stretch as they were being sucked through an unending, thin tube. It felt longer than all the other times he had to Disapparate, and by the time he felt the hard ground beneath his feet, he bent over to hold his stomach tightly.

However, it oddly took much less time for nausea to leave him — maybe he was still so bad-tempered that motion-sickness paled to his anger. Theodore's breathing eased after a few seconds from appearing, and he looked around the area to see shining armour, moving pictures that were bathed in the clear moonlight. Moreover, just behind him was the Fat Lady's portrait, apparently in shock from their sudden arrival.

"Theodore," Dumbledore called out to him when he began to head to the common room, "if there is anything that is troubling you, just know that I will always be there to talk to, OK? Anything."

'You should know what the hell it is… all of you should've known…'

A grin grew on Theodore's face when he told Dumbledore that he'd be the first one he'd go to before he wished him goodnight and spoke the password. An empty common room soon to be quickly filled. For some reason, the fire had been snuffed out, making the place unusually dark. Of course, he wouldn't catch a break after this — nobody could ever leave him alone.

The false grin was nowhere to be seen when he quietly walked over to the boys' dormitory. Just an empty stare in the darkness of the common room from the hazel eyes that were no more, just slits swimming in scarlet…

Crookshanks screeched and stretched on Hermione's lap before he curled back into a messy orange ball where he laid lazily like always. Hermione had her legs up on the squashy armchair support, stroking Crookshanks in a messy pattern, clear that she was perturbed by something — or someone for that matter. Just a few more hours before the weekend would come to an end, and here she was, unable to think properly.

"Harry," she said finally after turning to him and Ron sitting by the table around her Transfiguration homework, "have you seen Theo anywhere recently?"

Harry put a finger to his chin and shrugged, then elbowed Ron to see if he knew. "Don't know either. Last time I saw him I asked where he was going: said that he was going to read up on Doomspell to get prepared for it. I offered him some history tips, but he said he wanted to do it alone. Why d'you ask?"

Hermione lifted an eyebrow and said, "Because he hasn't said a word about being chosen to any of us, other than on the day when we came back? Haven't you noticed at all?"

She sighed and put Crookshanks down to the ground, twisting herself to sit properly. "It's been more than a week since then, and… so I'm worried for him."

Harry and Ron both looked at each other then tilted their heads to the side a little when Hermione caught both their gazes.

"Well, of course, I'm worried for him!" Hermione nearly snapped, although it came off more like a shrill than anything. "He's my — our friend who's been acting weird ever since he was chosen for Doomspell, so obviously I want to know what's wrong with him!"

"Someone's in denial," muttered Ron under his breath as he dipped his quill in his ink bottle — he then defensively put an arm around Hermione's parchments when she nearly leapt for them. "Wait, I was joking, Hermione! Come on; it's due tomorrow!"

Hermione stared him and plopped back down on the armchair, grabbing Crookshanks to stroke him aggressively. She could always 'count' on Ron to push her buttons, even when something more significant than them was right in front of them. She hadn't seen Theodore at all during the day and barely saw him for a minute on the day before… didn't he want to speak to her anymore…?

"Maybe he's with Snape," suggested Harry after collecting his parchments and putting them in a careful stack before a scowl grew on his face. "Seems to be his favourite student at the moment. Why the hell does he still hate me when his own godson is my cousin? Petty arsehole…"

Hermione's flare of anger towards Ron died away quickly when no words were spoken between the three as Theodore ran through her mind yet again and refused to leave. Crookshanks lazily swatted in the air where Aquilina was zooming around Ron's head, occasionally perching on his shoulder to tickle his ear.

"Oi, stop it, you…" grinned Ron when she did it for the fourth time.

It must've been serious for Theodore to avoid them for so long. He'd been so distant from them, not saying the right words whenever they'd ask — and Hermione knew that it was about Doomspell. Why wouldn't it be? In her mind, she tried to find reasons for him to close himself off, but in the end, couldn't find a single one that would've made sense.

Also, she wanted to go and look for him, despite how close it was to curfew. He'd always return to the common room late without saying where he was — he could've been anywhere in the school, with Snape, the library, maybe even —

'No, why would you even think that? Theo'd never go back down there. Never ever ever.'

Ten minutes of stroking Crookshanks couldn't distract her for long enough when she looked over to the portrait that hadn't moved for the past half hour. Call her meticulous, but she noticed earlier on that Theodore had always arrived at a particular time during the evening, but this time he was late by five minutes. Then, where was he?

Hermione set Crookshanks down again, who slinked off at not being able to rest in a single spot and told the boys that she was going to look for Theodore. Both Harry and Ron told her to wait as they scribbled quickly on their parchments while Hermione weaved through the other Gryffindors to reach the portrait hole. The first place she'd go to would be the dungeons, then maybe the library if she was lucky —

Just before she could pull the portrait towards her, Hermione had to instinctively jump back to avoid the moving picture from hitting her square in the face. Theodore jumped through and brushed at his clothes; then he closed the portrait before he stopped and stared at Hermione.

The slightly blank expression that hadn't changed since they came back — Theodore's gorgeous eyes just seemed lifeless. Hermione remembered the morning after they came back from the colosseum — after Professor McGonagall chastised the entire school for not applauding Theodore when he was chosen, the Great Hall broke into cheers when he stepped inside for breakfast.

Gryffindor sang the loudest and so did Hufflepuff; most Ravenclaws and a few Slytherins at best (what a surprise, yet not really). Just a twitch of the lip and that was it, his only reaction to it — not even a smile.

"… Hermione!"

"Yes! Yes?" Hermione bleated out before realising that Theodore had said her name. "Yes, Theodore?"

"Are you OK?" he asked as he walked to the side just a little bit.

Hermione nodded and smiled and watched him walk off with a bag around his shoulder. He completely ignored Dennis and Colin badgering him to tell him what it was like being the 'Champion of Hogwarts' as people liked to dub him before he banished himself up to the dormitory. That was probably all that she was going to get out of him today, and nothing more.

'He's not OK,' she thought to herself, breathing loudly. Whenever he'd stop talking to people, it was never for a good reason, not even once.

Hermione then walked over to collect Crookshanks, now apprehensive at her touch and told the boys not to lose her homework before she walked up to the girls' dorm for the fourth-year girls.

"I'm not going to have any fingers by the time the year ends," moaned Fay Dunbar as she sat on the edge of Elvira's bed, newer-looking than the others and on Hermione's immediate left. "Hagrid is going to kill us with those evil Skrewts!"

Elvira held up the back of her hand and grimaced at the sight of a large burn that was red bordering purple. "I can't even get rid of this without focusing extra hard in this area for a long time! And when the Skrewts were… were…"

"'Getting it on'?"

Both girls shuddered and laughed at the dire situation with their subject. Hermione loved Hagrid, but she knew when to cross the line with the Skrewts possibly being the worst thing he had ever taught them compared to the Flobberworms in the third year.

Hermione placed Crookshanks down in his fluffy bed on the side of her own and sat on the edge, oddly remaining still to look down at her feet. She shouldn't think of the worst possible thing that Theodore could be doing when he disappeared, but…

"Hello, you," greeted Elvira as she sat next to Hermione with a smile, even mimicking her hair. Her hair soon returned to its normal colour when she noticed Hermione's uneasy face as she continued, "Sorry — wait, is something bothering you?"

"No, Elvira."

"Then it's someone. Is it 'him'?"

Hermione felt her cheeks become flushed and looked behind her shoulder to make sure that Fay had left Elvira's bed for her own. When she saw that she was on the other side of the room, Hermione grabbed a large book from her stack on the bedside, crossed her legs on the bed and began to read through rapidly — she didn't even care if she jumped a few chapters ahead.

"Just because I told you about it, doesn't mean that you always have to bring him up, Elvira," muttered Hermione, embarrassed. Her heart was thumping like crazy, always when Elvira would mention Theodore in any way.

Elvira crawled next to her and nudged her arm. "I'm sorry. You know… I have also noticed that Theodore doesn't talk to people much these days. Maybe he's just acting strange for another reason — has this happened before?"

'When the Chamber of Secrets was — no, he's not doing that. Stop thinking that.'

Hermione just shook her head and carried on reading, now feeling stupid for spoiling the book that she'd been reading quite recently.

"Wait, it's your birthday soon, isn't it? In two days?!" Elvira gasped with hands on her cheeks. "Maybe he's getting you the perfect present!"

"You — you think so? I don't know, Elvira. Theo's very thoughtful, but… I don't want to doubt it either."

"Then it's most likely to be Doomspell that's affecting him. After all, it's… it's affecting me as well…"

Hermione took her eyes away from the book and looked to the side to see Elvira's face hanging a little low with her happiness towards her and Theodore ebbing away. She closed the book and knew what was wrong but still asked. "Why aren't you happy to see your sister, Elvira? She's… your sister! I don't understand."

"It's a family thing. We're not full sisters, you see, only sisters under my father. I told you already that he remarried. And that's not the only thing — the Christina girl who was chosen from the American school: she had the same surname as me. It's all too strange for me."

"Sayre… it's your mother's name, right?"

Elvira nodded. "From an Irish family. Very rare — that's why my mother insisted that I'd take her name as well as my father's…"

Her face fell even more as Hermione couldn't pinpoint just what was wrong. She was never too good with getting people's feelings, and she blamed it on not having any friends before Hogwarts. Her mum always told her to keep trying, no matter what, but in the end, to no avail — until she met Theodore at least.

"You shouldn't worry too much about all of it," she said after placing her book back onto the pile. "If you want to talk about anything, then I'm here. Or we don't have to if you want, that is."

Elvira closed her eyes and breathed out through her nose with a smile. "Of course — but I'll only tell you my secrets when you tell me yours: that you are desperately in love with —"

"OK, goodnight, I'll be going to sleep since we have school tomorrow early in the morning!" Hermione shoved Elvira off the bed and jumped into her pyjamas, squeaking out another three goodnights before whisking the tapestries around her to surround herself in darkness and a lack of sound.

Why did she ever tell her that on the first day that they saw each other on the train? It was just both of them, and she got ahead of herself when uttering the answer to her question without thinking — and she didn't even take it back when she realised what she said. She wouldn't because… why would she? She did, right? Right?

Hermione sat in the darkness and fumbled slowly underneath her pillow for her hair-bands, her heart beating too fast for it to be healthy when she thought back to the conversation she had with Elvira back then…

'Mum said that this could mean only one thing… and she's right. I… I do love him. My gosh, I love him…! Right? Right…'

A graveyard littered with graves that went uncared for… five of them… five Riddles, surely less than bone right now because of him… Thomas and Mary Riddle… Cecelia Riddle… and them… siblings… Henry and Louise Riddle…

Harry shot up from his bed and slapped his scar from the prickling heat it caused. Again did he see the name Riddle, again and again. Tombstones being brushed against by a bony hand… he couldn't even remember where it was, where 'he' was…

"Hey, Theo," Harry groggily said to his cousin on the opposite side of the room. He put his glasses on and noticed how he was already dressed head to toe in his uniform as he knelt to the floor, presumably hissing to Viripin.

Theodore's eyebrows lifted a little when he heard Harry, and he stood up to face him. "Hey, Harry," he said back quietly so that the others wouldn't wake up. "You're up earlier than usual."

"Couldn't stay asleep for too long, you know. Cursed scar and all that…" Harry took a glance at the book that Theodore had under his armpit and could make out that it was called Mystery of the Soul by an unknown author. "You haven't spoken that much. Hermione reckons that something's up with you."

Theodore shrugged and slid the book into his bag, replying, "I've got to make a start somewhere if I'm going to compete with the other schools. After all, I am the youngest champion out of the five."

"Makes sense." Theodore zipped his bag shut and threw it around his back before aiming to the door until Harry jumped out of bed and said quite loudly, "Theo, wait up! I'll get ready quickly."

"Um, OK…?"

As Theodore said that he'd wait at the bottom of the stairs, Harry dashed off to get clean and get dressed, now starting to see what point Hermione was trying to get across to them. When he was fully dressed, Harry stepped out into the common room at the same time as Hermione and mirrored her to stare at her weirdly before looking at Theodore.

An awkward tension suddenly brewed between the three that Theodore seemed to be completely unaware of — he just wrinkled his eyebrows at the two not doing anything else rather than standing still.

"Hi, Harry! Hi, Theo!" Hermione said to both boys. "Um, know what's the first lesson today?"

"Potions," Theodore flatly answered before digging into his bag to retrieve Mystery of the Soul and walking over to the portrait of a still, young Gryffindor without his sword, observing it while stroking his chin.

Harry gave Hermione an uneasy look, and her vice-versa. "You all right, Theo?"

"Yes," he muttered without looking back at his cousin, "why wouldn't I be —"

"Because you've been acting the same way recently as you did two years ago!" Hermione divulged without restraint — she pressed her lips together as if an explosion was awaiting.

'What the hell is wrong with you, Hermione, I mean the actual hell is wrong you?! Why would you say that?!'

Harry's uneasiness wasn't helped when Theodore's face didn't change from his newly adopted stony demeanour. He stared at the two, shifting from Hermione to Harry until he chuckled and shook his head — as of course, an unexpected reaction.

"You don't have to worry, guys, I'm not going to set the Basilisk on anyone," Theodore joked as he rolled his eyes.

"Too soon?" When all they could manage were just grins, Theodore simply shrugged again and said that he was going down to breakfast with or without them and left.

"Where's Theo?" asked Ron when he came down with the other fourth-year boys. "Did he go down to breakfast again without us?"

"Yeah, and he's still not telling us what's wrong with him — and, Hermione, don't go saying that to him again, please?"

Hermione crossed her arms but didn't say anything when Ron continued, "Don't you think this has been going on for a bit too long now? I suggest that we follow him to know where he's going — just a quick peek at the Marauder's Map and —"

"We're not going to stalk Theodore, Ron," Hermione interjected brashly. "He's our friend, not somebody we have to spy on. I can guarantee you that he'll come around by the end of today and tell us what's bothering him."

Harry was swirling his ladle in his cauldron as Hermione snapped at him for the second time that he was swirling in the wrong direction. The two were paired up to make an antidote for common poisons, and Hermione seemed all right with working with him until their partnership was slowly starting to decline.

As she took it upon herself to swirl the murky concoction, Harry didn't take his stare away from Theodore sitting where the divide between Slytherin and Gryffindor was, working with Nott, who was his new partner after Malfoy found a new one with Pansy. Theodore and Nott seemed friendly enough that it looked as if they were having a regular conversation…

"Maybe I should get the Map," whispered Harry when Snape was out of hearing distance. "Then we'll know where he goes to all the time. I should've thought about looking at it before if I'm honest…"

Hermione just huffed and added Lionfish Spine Extract into the cauldron and carried on stirring. Harry rolled his eyes but forced himself to look invested in Hermione's stirring when Snape took five points each from Neville and Seamus for melting their table.

"… might stay behind…" was what Harry could hear only just from Theodore speaking to Nott when the lesson was over. He told this to Hermione, who huffed again and packed away her things before stating that they could at least wait for him outside the door. Ron agreed to as well, and the trio stood outside the door, ready to wait until Theodore would exit.

"We shouldn't be doing this because he isn't doing anything suspicious…" Hermione said through gritted teeth as she tapped her foot.

"We know that, but we're just making sure. Isn't that what we have to do as friends, Hermione?"

Before Hermione could retaliate, the trio all jumped back in fear when Snape's face stuck out from the door and glowered at each of them. "Unless you want to continue disturbing me outside my door and earn detention from it, I suggest you take your sidekicks and leave, Potter!"

"We're waiting for Theodore," Harry blankly retorted, trying to calm himself down with a shaky fist.

"Riddle isn't inside," Snape snidely said. "He's already left the dungeons, and so should the three of you! Away with you!"

Harry was too dumbfounded to be angry when Snape slammed the door on their faces, and so was Hermione and Ron. Theodore had to be inside the classroom. There was no way he managed to slip by them unless he took advantage when they all agreed to wait for him. But even then…

"Where d'you think he might be then? Common room, Great Hall… Myrtle's Bathroom…?"

The two boys looked at Hermione. She didn't seem to fight against it, nor did she believe it one bit. Harry followed through with Ron's suggestion and led the way to the second-floor bathroom, his insides crawling if this was the case. There was no way in hell it could ever be true, but just in case…

Harry pushed into the bathroom when they reached it and stared at the central sinks to notice any slight movement to indicate if it had been opened recently. Theodore didn't seem to be anywhere which was a good sign, but also a worrying one.

Myrtle suddenly floated out from a cubicle on the end and crossed her arms, pouting at the three. "Finally remembered me again? Why's it always you three coming inside and no one else — what are you doing here anyway?"

"You haven't seen Theo inside here, have you?" asked Ron. "You know, Theodore Riddle —"

Myrtle cackled and held her stomach as she descended to sit on the central sinks. "As if I'd let him inside my bathroom ever again! I don't want to see his stupid, gorgeous, handsome face ever come around here again! Ever!"

"That doesn't confirm my question…"

"No. No, I didn't see your friend-who's-the-son-of-the-boy-who-killed-me, thank you very much. Now leave me alone!"

Well, at least that told them one thing: Theodore wasn't going in and out of the Chamber of Secrets like two years ago. Harry mentally slapped himself for thinking of such a thing, to suspect his cousin of doing something like that under his own free will.

"Guys, let's leave Theo be and wait for him to say something to us. We've got Charms soon."

Harry nodded as Ron and Hermione walked in front in the direction to the Great Hall while his mind couldn't think of anything else other than Theodore. The two hadn't spoken about much, at least more than the year before. If anything were troubling Harry, Theo'd be the first person to go to, maybe even before Sirius. No, it was always before Sirius. Did Theodore not have the same level of trust that Harry had in him? Not even a bit…?

Theodore right now was too many things. He was deathly tired, completely drained of energy — it was a wonder how he could talk let alone move. Yes, it was true that he was exhausted to the core, but none of his fatigue could compare to the suppressed, utter rage that he had been feeling ever since the day they came back from the colosseum.

He remembered the overwhelming praise that came from his fellow students that were seemingly lost when he was chosen (Theodore didn't forget their whispers towards him), and not only them but the Daily Prophet as well. His name, now just his name being plastered on the front page in nearly every issue — his picture couldn't be seen, funnily enough.

All in all, Theodore loathed all of it. He hated it all so much that it was killing him not to lash out and to pretend to act calm in a false front with everybody else. Dumbledore offered him the chance to let out his frustrations should he have any, but Theodore knew better than to rage in front of him. He didn't need anybody's help, just himself. He was enough.

Theodore was sitting half crossed-legged on the floor with his back against one of the many bookshelves of the library, particularly the Restricted Section. Next to him were stacks of books that he wouldn't be allowed near, even in his sixth year that he had been going through ever since he woke up the day after he was chosen. He had to start somewhere.

Magical contracts. Theodore had been desperately searching for methods to destroy such inhibiting magic, delving into the obscurer parts of magic which involved magic within the soul. Magic of the Soul was the place to start, giving him some idea that the contracts were embedded in the soul where it was near impossible to reach, like the Fidelius Charm.

Of course, he could only find two methods to destroying them after searching hours on end for a proper solution — destroy the object that created the magical contract beyond physical repair, like a Horcrux, or maim the soul of oneself (or the casters of the magic) to make the contract null… like a Horcrux.

'Fuck! You're telling me the only way about this is to rip my soul into pieces? I'm being used as a puppet here; I have to get out of this thing!'

Theodore closed his current book and shoved it back into the place where he got it from, not caring for the noise that rang across the library. He was tired and hadn't gotten a decent amount of sleep in days. He was lucky that none of his teachers caught him out, although they were too busy congratulating him anyway.

He took himself on his feet and returned all the books into their spots before leaving the Restricted Section finally. Just a little to his left could he see Gioveri with parchments all over his desk, writing several letters upon letters. Theodore didn't see any use in talking to him, deeming him irrelevant to his mission to back out of Doomspell and instead walked away to leave the library.

"Hiya, Theo!" Hagrid's gruff voice came out as he walked across the Entrance Hall with two torn off, giant stingers under both his armpits. "'S bin a long time, hasn' it? How yeh bin?"

Theodore held down the pang of guilt from having not visited Hagrid in a while and replied, "Great, sorry. I've just been really… occupied with this whole Trials of Doomspell stuff, you know. Supposed to be all tough and other things."

"Ahh, yes! Forgot ter congratulate yeh! Great job on getting' picked."

Theodore shrugged and looked over at the hourglasses in the corner: Gryffindor was last, dead last in fact. Yikes.

"Theodore."

"Hmm?"

"Are yeh really OK?"

"I'm fine," Theodore let out, exasperated. "Why does everybody keep thinking that I'm not OK when I am?"

"Well, the others have bin askin' abou' yeh. Bin thinkin' tha' summat's botherin' yeh fer some reason."

Theodore looked all the way up at Hagrid widening his beady eyes that were barely seen under all the hair on his face. "OK, maybe I haven't been talking with them as much as before these days, but I didn't pick myself, did I? I've got to start focusing on doing this… this stupid thing if I'm going to win."

Theodore felt the left part of his body sink when Hagrid placed a heavy hand on his shoulder. "Theodore, friends are supposed ter be there ter support yeh, no matter wha'. They're not there ter push away, understand?"

Theodore nodded and rubbed his shoulder as Hagrid began stomping up the marble steps and disappeared to the side. It was still a few hours after lessons had finished, and there was still enough time until he had to go back to the common room. Maybe she'd let him stay inside again...

Harry, Ron and Hermione went running through his head as he walked up two flights of stairs — he didn't notice that they were going to Hagrid's without him, but when did he pay attention to any of them recently? Now it was like as if he was ignoring them for something else… but he didn't ask to get picked.

'Wait,' he thought to himself when he suddenly stopped at the end of the second-floor corridor, 'tomorrow's something… what am I forgetting…!'

Sudden wails of despair broke Theodore's concentration from down the corridor, forcing him to forget what important thing was on the back of his mind. Theodore didn't know why he was doing this so frequently these days, for he knew that his twelve and thirteen-year-old self wouldn't go anywhere near the area. Sighing with deep confusion towards himself, he heaved his bag higher on his back and strolled towards Myrtle's bathroom.

When he slipped through the door that was slightly opened as if he were an awaited guest, Theodore stopped and stared at Myrtle swooping and diving in the air through cubicle doors and the sinks, setting them to explode with water and sully the floor. Even the marble flooring beneath the central sinks was a victim to her boredom.

Myrtle had gotten around to the last toilet and was about to float over to the U-bend when Theodore's boorish figure caught her attention. She scoffed at him. "You're here again? Why are you here again?!"

"You never tell me to get out or never come back inside," Theodore returned with a tired grin, walking closer to the central sinks.

"That's because I was ignoring you, you idiot!"

"Well, you just failed, so who's the idiot now?" Theodore carefully stepped in the puddles to avoid slipping over and looked at himself in the mirror to see dishevelled hair sticking out nearly everywhere and purple bags under his eyes. God, did he look terrible.

Taking and pointing his wand to his trousers, Theodore thought for a while, then lazily muttered "Impervius," feeling his trousers heat a little before he sat down in the puddle — no sensation of wetness could be felt along his backside. Good.

Myrtle suddenly popped up from the ground next to him and had half her body sticking out from the floor. "Even when you look disgusting, you're still too good-looking. Bleurgh!"

"I've just been…" Theodore yawned without covering his mouth. "I've just been really busy with stuff… you know?"

"No, I don't. I've been dead for fifty years, thanks to your dad. Anyway, your friends came in here earlier today, thinking that you were here as well. Did you know that?"

"Oh," said Theodore, leaning his head back until it hit a sink. "Did, uh… did Hermione come back inside more than once?"

"Yes," pouted Myrtle as she swam through the solid floor to walk through his legs — they went icy-cold in a second. "I don't see what's the appeal in you that she sees, other than your face."

Theodore snorted and shrugged.

Myrtle narrowed her eyes at him. Somehow, being a ghost meant that Legilimency was ineffective against you, which made Theodore glad that he couldn't feel what she was at the moment. "I don't understand you — why don't you just hurt Hermione the same way Tom did to me? Huh? It's the same thing, isn't it? A Muggle-born and both of you."

"For the last time, I'm not my father, Myrtle. I'm nothing like him, I'm — I wouldn't hurt Hermione in any way, and I mean that." 'Well, I try not to at least.'

Myrtle's face scrunched up into a scowl as if she were disappointed by something. "You shouldn't be different from him. You look just like him, walk like him — what makes you different from him? Hmm? What, is it because you're in love with Hermione —?"

"No!" Theodore cut in quickly, almost forgetting that Myrtle didn't have a mouth to cover. "I'm too young to — love is a very, very strong word to use here, Myrtle, a-and I think that…"

"Awww!" Myrtle cooed, fluttering her eyes at him. Well, that took a massive turn. "So you do love her, aww, how sweet! Oh, I've been hoping for a little romance between both of you in my bathroom! You're both welcome to come and snog anytime if you like —"

"And that's my cue to leave," said Theodore, grabbing his bag and checking to make sure that his trousers were dry. He heard Myrtle repeating his and Hermione's names, mixing them until he closed the door behind him and promptly made his way back to the common room. "One second she hates me, the next she doesn't. What a weirdo…"

The hallways seemed emptier now these days. Understandable since there's been a new wave of clubs that started this year, but this time around it was way too empty. Theodore had only seen at most three people walking around, and that was it. All for the best he supposed. The very last thing that he wanted now was for more people to show him false praise in front of his face.

Seeing as nobody seemed to be around the area, Theodore held off going to the common room, despite it approaching curfew (which is probably why the castle was empty…?) and sat down on a still staircase to try and wrap his head around it all. But he couldn't. He just couldn't. Too much anger pointed everywhere, towards Dumbledore, Crouch especially, even Professor Snape and Lestrange.

Why did it have to be him of all people? Couldn't none of them tell that he was beyond frightened of what the outcome of this entire thing could be? Did they not know…?

It's him! Right there! THEODORE RIDDLE IS THE SON OF THE DARK LORD! THE SON… OF LORD VOLDEMORT!

Theodore's fingers trembled as everything around him felt cold as if a barrier had shut him away from the entire world and made it seem as if he was alone, always alone.

'Everyone will know… and when they do… they'll want to kill me… everyone…'

It's him! Right there…! THE SON… OF LORD VOLDEMORT…!

'I don't want to do this… please don't make me do this…'

Two parter, people! Next chap will start right off from here! I hope you like the multi POV in this chap, seeing as we can take a look into how the others feel about Theo being chosen, which is now apparent why. I wonder if him being self-secluded will be resolved soon…

That's where I'm going to leave it, and I hope you have absorbed everything for the next one. Hope you enjoyed this, look out for the chapter, and I'll see you later.