Louise boringly poked the lumpy apple crumble that was smothered with even more lumpy custard. If there was one thing that the meals at Stuggle's had gotten right, it was that they maintained their consistency of quality throughout. The time was four-ish as all the children had returned from school (not necessarily the same one) and dove into the unsatisfactory food that was being served. Louise always wondered if this place was even suitable for rats let alone children. This poorly made dessert was nauseating to the sickly colour. She had enough.
She went over to the bins to empty her tray of unfinished food and left for her room. The first week of school had been grateful enough to give her a booklet of homework that was due on Friday. It wasn't like she couldn't do it; it was a matter of if she felt like it. Getting into trouble at school sounded a lot better than to torture herself for three hours. Louise was still in her new school uniform as she was one of the new year-sevens of Richardson Secondary School. She had expected to go there with Theodore since last winter, but look how that turned out.
The door swung open as she pushed through. She didn't even realise what was laying on her bed in plain sight. As she changed into her casual clothes she then turned to her desk to tackle the dreadful assignment because was it really worth the trouble? She dropped into the chair with her hair that was tied in a ponytail bouncing along with her. Louise had found that she liked the hairstyle as it made her see better through her thick locks; granted that she had to use several hair bands as one was not near enough.
Louise groaned continuously, wanting something to release her from her boredom at that very moment until finally she realised the package. She literally dived onto the bed and savagely tore through the box, hoping that Theodore had sent another letter and sweets despite the lack of an owl anywhere. The parcel did not come from Theodore, but came from Mr and Mrs Reagul instead who she was slowly warming up to now.
Inside was a purple floral dress with glamorous sequins woven onto the lower parts. She wasn't really the type of girl to wear dresses exclusively, but this one could change her mind. Three pairs of diamond earrings came with the dress as did a letter. She didn't want to read it now and stuck it in her desk while she hung the dress inside her wardrobe. The earrings were hidden behind her bed so that she wouldn't have to worry about anybody stealing them when she wasn't around. Once everything was cleared away, she returned to her homework and prepared herself for an age of exaggerated hell and anguish that was waiting for her.
Almost two hours had passed, and Harry, Ron, Neville and Hermione were still not here. All of them had their own reasons to leave the dorm and all were very stupid. To Theodore at least. Neville had gotten a pass due to the fact that his own bad luck was his undoing during the Quidditch Lesson on that day; everyone else left all because of a skirmish that happened in the Great Hall with none other than Draco. Theodore told them all to go back to bed, even to Hermione who had the same objective, but knowing Harry and Ron as loose cannons and being the rule-abiding student that she was, Hermione left after them.
Theodore was sleeping happily in his bed ignoring the other children's foolishness, enjoying the peace and quiet completely undisturbed. Hedwig ruffled sometimes in her cage, but it didn't annoy him. The sound of feathered wings fluttering against the metal bars sounded relaxing to Theodore. All was well and calm.
"Theodore, wake up!"
The angered boy threw the covers off his bed and glared at the disturbers of his slumber. Ron and Harry looked out of breath as if they were running for their lives while Neville slowly paced to his bed with an expression of complete fear. What the hell happened?
"Theodore, you'll never believe what we just saw!" Ron spoke breathlessly.
"Maybe I don't want to believe and want to go back to sleep! Leave me alone!"
"But it's important! It's about the package from Gringott's! You know, the one Hagrid took!"
"We can talk about it in the morning," mumbled Theodore as he pulled his sheets over his head.
Harry pulled them back and came closer to Theodore, face to face. "There was a three. Headed. Dog."
Ron threw his hands up. "You're impossible, you know that? I thought Hermione was supposed to be the stubborn one in this House."
"Did she see it too?"
"Yeah, and Neville too. We found him sleeping outside the Fat Lady's portrait."
Theodore didn't want to hear that story, or the other one, or anything else for that matter. Right now, sleep was everything and everything was being denied by two rule-breakers. The two other boys gave up and went back to their beds. Theodore had blown off their agreement to go to Hagrid's place to ask him about the Gringott's break in, and the two weren't particularly pleased. The only other person who was tactical and knowledgable was Hermione, but after tonight, there was no way that they would ask for her help. They guessed that finding that secret out would have to wait for another day.
The weeks had rolled by, and now the end of October was dawning upon Hogwarts. Theodore was regularly requesting stash from Fred and George to send to Louise by Hedwig, who was more than happy to oblige. Even Harry, who was ticked that Theodore dropped out last minute, was okay with him using Hedwig. Perhaps Theodore had more of an impression on him than he had thought.
The Thursday morning of Halloween looked like a good way to end the month. The Halloween meal that was being prepared left its smell to linger within the hallways, snatching the students' noses by the second. The first class of the morning was Charms with the small and gentle Professor Flitwick. The lesson today was the Levitation Charm which was looked forward to by literally every single child in the class.
"Swish and flick is the key! Remember, swish and flick!" Flitwick squeaked.
The class was told to be paired up, with Hermione and Ron (not the best choice), Harry and Seamus, and Theodore with Neville. The boy was hoping that Neville would choose somebody else, but unfortunately, Lavender was the only other contender. Theodore was just giving Neville advice on how to perform the charm properly instead. Almost everyone had attempted but failed, except for Hermione.
"Absolutely well done, Miss Granger, just splendid! Everyone, please look at what Miss Granger has done!" The feather that they were supposed to levitate was flying freely in the air at Hermione's whim. Ron did not look all that happy.
Neville had given up some time ago and was also watching the feather in awe. "Why don't you give it a go, Theo? I'm sure that if Hermione can do it, so can you," Neville said as he kept his gaze on the flying feather.
"Don't you want to try it again? I can give you more tips on how to swish your wand properly." Neville shook his head. Theodore shrugged and brought out his wand. He pointed it at the feather and flicked his wand. "Wingardium Leviosa!"
Just as Hermione's, their feather flew into the air a few feet away from the ceiling. Neville was highly impressed and so was Flitwick.
"You too, Mr Riddle? My, Gryffindor sure has a talented lot! Well done!" he said while following the feather that was racing around the room. This was too easy.
"I can't take it anymore! She's gotten on my last nerve!" Ron exclaimed after class had finished.
"So, what? Theodore did the charm as well; why aren't you getting mad at him?"
"Because Theodore doesn't act like he knows everything all the time…! Okay, he does, but Hermione is just as bad! No wonder nobody can stand her!"
"I can stand her," Theodore chimed in.
"You don't count. She's a nightmare, an absolute nightmare." As soon as he finished his sentence, Hermione knocked past them wiping the tears in her eyes. Ron looked slightly regretful of the things that he just said.
"Erm, maybe you should go after her Theo. I mean, you are her only friend."
Theodore rolled his eyes. "You can be friends with her too, you know. No matter how annoying she is." The boy left the others and tried to find Hermione who became lost within the crowds. In the next class, Theodore came empty-handed as she was nowhere to be seen.
The feast in the Great Hall was beginning as the Halloween decorations covered the walls and doors. Bats and pumpkin candles were everywhere to be seen. As the other Gryffindors were eating away, Theodore couldn't help but worry for Hermione. Knowing her, if she skipped class then she was definitely sad. He lifted a forkful of rice when somebody screamed down the Hall.
"There's a trooollll! Troll in the dungeons…" Quirrell, the bringer of these news, fainted before sending the students in a whirlwind of fear.
Everyone was screaming their heads off. Theodore was feeling a bit weary himself. He was talented sure, but what could he do against a troll? Running away was the best option. Everyone was silenced by Dumbledore who produced a large bang with his wand. He instructed the prefects to take them back to the dorms to which Percy shot up and began to bark orders.
The first-years were huddling behind Percy and the older students in fear for their lives. Theodore wanted to hurry along, but was pulled to the side by Harry and Ron.
"What the hell is wrong with you?! There's a troll in the dungeons and you drag me behind without any warning! Are you crazy?!" Theodore hissed.
"Stop acting like a child and come with us! Hermione doesn't know about the troll!" Ron explained.
"I'd blame you, but there's no time. We have to go quickly though. The teachers would be in the corridors looking for the beast."
The three boys slipped away from the Gryffindors and snuck around the back past the Great Hall doors and down the stairway. They had almost been caught by what seemed to be Snape, who was walking in the other direction of the dungeons.
"Why isn't he- He's going for the third floor!" Harry said behind the wall from where they were hiding.
"Never mind him; we have to find Hermione before the troll-"
A disgusting stench suddenly invaded their noses. The ground shook as a large figure from across the hallway slowly pulled its atrociously disproportioned body along. The troll was easily twelve-feet tall with a face that seemed too ugly to look at. Its fat belly rippled with every thud its stumpy feet made in the floor; its tree like appendages that were so long that the wooden club it had in its hand was dragging behind it. The boys were petrified by the sight.
"Hey look, i-it's going inside that room over there with the key. If we lock it, it'll be trapped inside," Harry suggested.
"G-good plan. Um, we'll all go together and run, lock the door and come back. Plan?" Ron stammered. Harry and Theodore nodded their heads fearfully. They counted down from three and dashed towards the door, only to realise one thing beforehand. The troll went into the girls' toilets. They could tell from the blood-curdling scream that came from within.
"Hermione!" they all said in unison.
They pushed through the door to see Hermione crouching in the corner while the troll was motionless, probably waiting for its tiny brain to send orders around its massive body. Its brain had finally decided as the troll swung its club all over the place, destroying the stalls and sinks around it.
The boys all chucked the debris from the destruction, but it didn't faze the troll one bit. It didn't take to this kindly as the troll went after them instead. The trio split around the creature, taunting it from different angles. The troll was confused on who to pulverise as its club was still held above his head, almost touching the ceiling.
Suddenly being the logical one there, Ron pulled out his wand and without giving any thought, shouted the first spell that came to mind. "Wingardium Leviosa!"
The club escaped from the troll's grasp and was airborne. The troll looked at his hand, stupidly confused as to where it went, before being smacked by his very own weapon on his head. The behemoth twirled until it crashed on the floor, its head smashing right next to Harry. The troll's mouth released a spray of saliva, rotten gunk and a dreadful waft of troll breath all over poor Harry, who didn't see it coming. Hermione came out of her hiding place, and came closer and away from Harry (she wasn't trying to be rude).
"Looks like you could've done it on your own, Ron," Theodore said. He was shaken, but ultimately glad that he wasn't killed in a bathroom by a troll.
"It looks dead."
"Doubt it. It's still breathing, look," said Ron as he tucked his wand away proudly.
"Now that we're done playing hero, we all have to go back to the common room, especially you, Harry." Theodore turned to walk out the door, but stepped backwards when three teachers had burst through instead. McGonagall was the first, followed by Quirrell, still scared as ever and Snape, who had a slight limp to his step. McGonagall was the first to scold them, and boy was she livid!
"Tell me! Tell me what possessed you on this Earth to come here! Why didn't you do as you were told?! You could've been killed!" She looked over to Hermione. "And you even dragged Miss Granger in your little masquerade!"
The three boys felt like they weren't going to hear the end of this. Ron was probably expecting an applaud for his actions, but instead received a lecture and possibly a detention.
"Um, Professor? It was my fault," Hermione quietly spoke up as she faced the floor.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I-I tried to deal with the troll myself. I thought that I could handle it because I've read about them before. But I was wrong. The troll would've killed me if they hadn't come for me. It was Ron who knocked the troll out with its club. Please Professor, don't punish them for what I've done."
Everyone was dumbfounded. The boys were shocked as they heard the lie from Hermione, Hermione Granger herself. The teachers couldn't believe that she had broken a school rule as she was probably the only first year enforcing them.
"This is… very disappointing news, Miss Granger. To put yourself in danger like that was very reckless. You're lucky that your friends came in the nick of time. I didn't expect such foolishness to come from you."
Hermione looked as if her life was over.
"Five points from Gryffindor. I suggest that you go up to the infirmary if you are hurt. If not, then it's back to the common room. Off you go." Hermione left with her head low and ashamed. Theodore opted to follow her, but McGonagall was not easy to slip away from.
"As for you three, taking on a mountain troll without any previous encounter should deserve a reward of its own, despite how idiotic it may seem. Five points for each of you. The Headmaster will be informed. Leave."
They then scurried away up to the common room without looking back once. They weren't dead, they weren't expelled, and food was waiting for them inside the common room. All was well. At least, for them.
Hermione was sitting inside the common room in the far corner with a plate of food by herself. Through the crowds of people, the boys passed her and thanked her quickly before going back to eat. It seemed that the first near-death experience that the four just had, brought them closer together, oddly enough. Battling mountain trolls in the girls' bathroom was a very weird way to form friendships, but who cared? It was Hogwarts. Nothing should've made sense.
Theodore went to go sit next to Hermione as she gave him a half smile. "That was really stupid of you, you know."
"You don't have to remind me."
"Well, at least you're not dead. Would've been boring if I didn't have any competition around here." Theodore gave her one of his sincere smiles that she returned happily. She was glad to have him as a friend, no matter how cocky or pretentious he tried to be.
"I'm here, okay?! I'm here!"
The day had finally come for the first Quidditch match to arrive in the early November. Even though he knew that Harry was a proficient flyer, he wasn't told that he made the team as the Seeker until two days ago. By Lavender Brown. When he confronted him about it, Harry fought back with a valid reason, reminding him how he pissed them off when he didn't go with them to Hagrid's. Thinking about that now made him realise that he was taking advantage of their friendship. But wasn't that the main goal? After all, Theodore was still convinced that he and Harry were connected, relatives maybe, through his mother. But that wasn't the main focus now.
At that moment, he and the other Gryffindors were inside their respective stand that stood many stories from the ground. It was only appropriate as the match would take place in the air. Hermione and Ron made it before Theodore who stayed behind to wish Harry good luck.
"Theo, come on, it's starting!" Ron said as he jumped up and down like a child.
The players were on the ground level of the pitch, surrounding Madam Hooch, who was a woman almost as fierce as McGonagall. She seemed to be telling something to all of them before she blew her whistle. The players shot around the air as different sized balls were tossed all over the place. Theodore tried to focus on where Harry was, but could not think over Lee Jordan's commentary that was getting under McGonagall's skin.
"Can you see Harry," asked Hermione, tiptoeing as much as she could.
"Yeah, and he's doing nothing!" Ron replied after spotting him in the air. Ron was quite right as Harry was sitting on his broom idly, watching his teammates and opponents playing the game. He must've been bored as hell.
"Why isn't he moving around like the others?" Theodore asked Ron.
"He's a Seeker. You see, the Seekers have to catch the smallest ball in the game called the Golden Snitch. It's worth one hundred and fifty points, and would end the game right there.
"Huh. This is nothing like football at home."
Hermione, Theodore and Dean all looked at him like he was crazy before realising that their football was Ron's Quidditch. They continued to watch Harry do nothing as they heard Lee making inappropriate jokes about the Slytherin's captain and complimenting Angelina Johnson's appearance, later to be scolded by McGonagall.
"One more time, Jordan. One more time…"
The Gryffindors cheered as Angelina scored another point for them. As Theodore was clapping, he was suddenly shoved forward by an unknown force behind him. If it weren't for all the other people in front of him, he'd surely fall to his death. He turned around to see who it was, when it was none other than the Gamekeeper himself, Hagrid.
"Decided ter come up from me hut to get a betta' view. Oh, 'Ello der! You must be Theodore! I've heard a lot abou' yeh. Sorry abou' pushin' yeh. Big fellow an' all."
"So, I hear tha' yeh're quite the brains in yer classes."
Hermione coughed intentionally.
"Along with 'Ermione as well! Great things I've heard. Lucky yeh were picked fer Gryffindor, otherwise we'd- Look at 'Arry go!"
Everyone turned their heads as Harry finally moved as he cut through the air. They knew that he must've seen the Snitch somewhere. The Gryffindors cheered for Harry as he dove and zoomed everywhere, all while fighting the Slytherin Seeker at the same time. The two continued to butt brooms until Harry was pelted by one of Slytherin's players.
"Is that allowed?" Theodore asked Ron, who looked redder than his hair.
"HE CAN'T DO THAT! THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH QUIDDITCH TODAY! REFEREE'S NOT TAKING ANY ACTION!" Dean and Seamus decided to join Ron on his rant as they screamed for the foul. They had their wish granted and Gryffindor was awarded a penalty, which was scored easily.
"Sorry about screaming. It's just that this game gets me all riled, you know?"
They all went back to playing and the spectators went back to cheering. Lee was still going off about the foul while McGonagall hushed him at every jab. When Slytherin had scored a point, everyone in the Gryffindor stands groaned, including McGonagall. Slytherin were still in the lead, and by a hefty difference as well. And Harry looked like he had no luck at looking for the Snitch. In fact, Harry wasn't looking good at all.
In the air, far from the ground, he was shaking violently, struggling to hold onto his broom. Hagrid was the first to notice this, prompting everyone else to confirm the sight.
"What the hell is he doing? Is he trying to fall off?"
"Highly doubt that, Ron. It looks like he isn't in control of his broom! Does that usually happen, Hagrid," Hermione asked anxiously.
Hagrid shook his scraggly beard and fixed a pair of binoculars to his eyes to get a better view.
"I bet you Malfoy did this!" Seamus exclaimed.
"Nah, on'y powerful magic can mess with the broom. Malfoy's jus' a kid. Ey, 'Ermione!"
The girl snatched Hagrid's binoculars and traced her eyes along the opposite stands. She kept on looking until she gasped, "Ron! Theodore! Look!"
The boys took turns to see her discovery. On his turn, Theodore could see Snape in the Slytherin stands, locking his eyes onto Harry while saying inaudible words.
"You see? He's jinxing the broom! We have to stop him!"
"I… er… OK! Ron and I will stay here to keep an eye on Harry, as pointless as that may be. You go do something to Snape to make him stop!"
Hermione nodded and left the stand quickly. Theodore and Ron both had worried looks as their friend continuously bucked in the air. Everyone was screaming and groaning at every moment Harry would almost lose his grip.
"Do you think she stopped him?"
"Well, Harry is still not on his broom properly, so I would say no." Theodore peered at Harry who had a look of terror on his face, and back to Snape whose eyes did not shut for a second. He had lost all hope until Harry sat on his broom like nothing happened.
"I think she did it! Look!" He handed the binoculars to Ron who looked, then jumped for joy.
"Yes! Yes! Bloody brilliant girl, Hermione. Even if she's a bit annoying."
Gryffindor's spirit was brought to new heights as they screamed for Harry. They followed the boy like a baby looking at keys for the first time, up and down until they winced. Harry had crashed into the ground while attempting a ridiculous dive. But he looked far from hurt. He looked sicker than anything. The spectators saw him kneel over before holding something in his hand that glinted with gold.
"I've caught the Snitch!"
Gryffindor's cheers couldn't be any louder. Their screams of victory thundered across the pitch and probably over the castle itself. They didn't care that they won by a fluke; they beat Slytherin. And that was more than enough for them.
November had raced past just as quick, as December was set in motion. The Slytherins were still sore about the match, and tried in every possible way to spite the Gryffindors. Accusing them of cheating, spreading rumours that Harry faked being in peril and downright insulting them straight in their faces. But the Gryffindors fought back with just as much force, defending Harry for his performance.
"They're just being twats, Harry. You should've seen the look on Marcus Flint's face; he looked even more uglier than usual!" Ron said while crushing a ball of snow in his gloves.
"I wouldn't say that they are… 'twats' but he's right. As far as I know, catching the Snitch with your mouth isn't against the rules," Hermione added as she fitted a hat on her head with immense difficulty.
The trio was walking along the courtyard with the snow beneath them crunching at every step. They saw Hagrid dragging a large tree through the snow without any sign of strain. The half-giant noticed them, and happily stopped for conversation.
"Yeh kids all right? Real chilly out here. Yeh'd be betta' off with me coat instead!"
"Thanks Hagrid, but we're off to the library for some research. You know, on what you told us."
Hagrid became gruff in a second. "A… What is with children these days, not listenin' ter what they're told ter do? Fer the last time, drop it! Strictly teacher business with no kids," he said while wagging a thick finger at the trio.
"Oh, come on! We already know that Flamel is a part of what was hidden under Fluffy. You might as well tell us!" Hermione stated.
"No means no! End o' story, no more questions! Where's Theodore?"
The three of them frowned.
"Snape held him back to speak with him about something. I reckon it's because he's always showing Malfoy up in Potions, the blue-blooded git."
"Rather be a blue-blooded git than a filth-searching mouse like you, Weasley!" Malfoy was walking past on his own, smiling at his own taunt. He was more persistent on challenging the trio ever since the match.
"Shut up, Malfoy."
"Don't you worry, Potter. I'm sure you'll fit right in their family. You were quite the scavenger yourself with those Muggles."
"I said, shut up!" Harry's blood was boiling. Malfoy and Snape were two of the worst people that he had seen in Hogwarts so far.
"Or what? I can't believe Theodore could like such trash as you. Makes me wonder if he should've been with us instead."
Ron stepped towards Malfoy, who almost flinched due to Ron being a bit taller. "Theodore likes us because we're his friends. Gryffindor is where he belongs," Ron gritted through his teeth.
"So why doesn't he act like a Gryffindor then? Oh yes, because he's not a red-headed tramp like you!"
Ron had enough. He was about to raise his fist to hit Malfoy square in the face when Snape came out from nowhere.
"WEASLEY! Five points from Gryffindor for fighting!" Snape harshly snapped.
"But he started it!"
Hermione kicked the back of his leg to stop him from losing anymore. Ron retreated and went back over to Harry, Hagrid and Hermione with his ears burning.
"Come along, Riddle. We mustn't waste time."
Theodore peeked out from behind a nearby pillar and followed Snape. His neutral expression made it very hard to decipher what had happened after class.
"Where are you going," mouthed Hermione.
Theodore shrugged and continued to follow the Potions Master. They walked through the corridors and along the steps, going through a familiar pathway. It wasn't long until Theodore recognised that they were going to Dumbledore's office. They went past the gargoyle, up the stairs and into the room.
The office was still as bright as ever, with all the paintings of the recent Headmasters and Headmistresses still moving and talking. The phoenix perched on a rail nearby, looking a lot smaller and younger from the last time Theodore had seen it.
Dumbledore was standing near the corner, enjoying some sweets that he had in his hand before taking notice of the two. "Severus! Theodore! How nice of you to come by! Please, come over."
Theodore looked at Snape whose gaze remained with the old man only. He then sat down while Snape stood beside him.
"Why the long face, Theodore?"
"Hmm… Well then, I shouldn't waste any of your time and will cut straight to the point. I believe that you will be going back to Stuggle's for Christmas?" Theodore nodded. "Well, we had to make sure that you were… ready for returning."
"What do you mean ready?" Theodore swallowed. He wasn't being sent back forever, was he?
"You know that I am aware of how you were treated in that orphanage, Theodore. I know how the children other there tormented you since. The unexplained happenings, the incidents. We know."
Theodore looked at Snape one more time, confused, before turning back to Dumbledore. He understood what was going on.
"If you're implying that I'm going to use magic against them, then you're mistaken." He swallowed once more.
"I only want the best for you. It'd be a shame to have a talented boy like you, be expelled for misusing your abilities. I hope that you understand that."
"As for the 'thing' we discussed," Snape drawled.
"Ah, yes! Professor Snape has recommended that you'd help him after Christmas as a helper for his after-classes. You have a great affinity for Potions, I've heard."
"I guess that wouldn't hurt… Would it go on my record?" Dumbledore nodded. "Sure, fine."
"Excellent! Now, you only have one more day until you leave, so I suggest that you go with your friends to the feast. Off you go!"
Snape followed him on the way out, and paced in front of Theodore as they reached the end of the corridor. What he was about to do was probably going to be the most idiotic thing that he'd do, but he did it anyway.
"Is your leg okay, Professor?"
Snape turned around. He paused, then grunted to imply that it was. Theodore was not going to do that again. Right now, he was more than hungry, and it was only one more day until he would see Louise again.
After saying goodbye to Harry, Ron and Neville, Theodore walked out of the castle along with Hermione to Hogsmeade Station. Draco was heard gloating behind them about what he and his family planned to do during the Christmas Holiday. Hermione and Theodore ignored him as they talked about what was going on for them.
"We might go to the London Eye and see the sights! We were supposed to go to France, but my dad said maybe next year."
"Sounds fun. I don't think I'm even leaving the orphanage. Going on trips is only for the corner shop, and even that is the only interesting thing that you can do over there."
"I'm sure that you're going to have fun. You must be looking forward to seeing your friends again."
"Friend, as in singular." He suddenly laughed as Hermione almost slipped over on a frozen puddle, earning a hard slap on his arm.
The two finally reached the station and boarded onto one of the compartments that was warm and cosy. They then settled down and continued their conversation as the train started to move. They talked and talked until Hermione was fast asleep, sprawling herself on the seat opposite to Theodore as her reddish button nose wrinkled infrequently.
The boy was feeling a little drowsy himself until he decided that he needed the toilet. He quietly left the compartment and made his way through the hallway, noticing how quiet it was now that the whole school was not all on it. He carried on walking until he stopped. Somebody had called his name.
"Riddle! Over here!" Draco had his compartment door open as Crabbe and Goyle sat opposite him, scoffing all types of sweets in their faces.
"Well, sit down then!"
Theodore hesitantly sat next to Draco, hoping that the conversation would be short enough so that he could release himself in the toilets.
"I heard that you're going back to the Muggle orphanage. Unfortunate, is it?"."
"I agree. I hate it over there."
"How come you're going back though?"
Theodore had to think of a lie. Draco obviously didn't like Muggles, so any mention of Louise would be a bad call.
"For the attention… The Muggles will ask where have I been. They're a gullible lot, all of them."
Draco smiled conceitedly. "Couldn't be any more truthful. I don't know about you, Riddle. You think like a Slytherin, act like one, yet the Sorting Hat put you with the other dunderheads of Gryffindor. Strange, isn't it?"
Theodore's eyes ticked at 'dunderheads', but carried on like nothing happened.
"Well, I thought that it was bewitched. The Hat knew that I was supposed to go to Slytherin. Something obviously went wrong."
"Obviously." Crabbe coughed violently while Goyle punched his chest to help him clear his throat. "You idiots can't stop eating, I swear!"
"Well, I have to go now. Kind of tired, you know." He stood up, as did Draco, and went over to the door.
"Probably would've enjoyed having you over on our side instead of these two. Just know that you have friends in Slytherin. I know that you were meant to be with us anyway." Draco stuck out a hand.
Feeling as if the blonde boy was right in a sense, Theodore shook it and left. He quickly went to the toilet and back into his shared compartment.
Hermione heard him dash inside and was half-awake. "Where d'you go," she asked as she yawned.
The train was finally at King's Cross, and the young witch and wizard hopped out with their things appearing already on the trolleys. Hermione's parents were in full view near the front of the train, and Theodore was willing to bet that Gretchen hadn't even arrived yet.
'Probably pigging out in the car.'
Hermione carted her trolley next to her parents as they hugged each other tightly.
'Must be nice.'
He was almost near the enchanted barrier when Hermione came to his side.
"Hey, Theodore! You're going to leave without saying goodbye?"
"My carer is probably outside right now, and I know that she won't help me with carrying all of this."
"Well, I hope you have a great Christmas." Hermione hugged him quickly and ran back to her parents.
Theodore smiled for a second before he caught the faintest smiles that were aimed at him by her parents, then ran through the wall onto the Muggle side of King's Cross.
Nobody had noticed him appearing from nowhere, except the guard from earlier who tipped his hat to him. Theodore pushed his trolley outside the station and saw Gretchen's car parked. He fumed internally as he slowly pushed the trolley further to the car's side, and peered into the windows to see Gretchen's ugly face. Only it wasn't Gretchen's ugly face.
"Madam? What are you doing here?"
Madam opened the car door and instantly grabbed him in a tight hug. She must've missed him badly. "Oh child, how are you? I'm terribly sorry for not coming inside to get you; Gretchen is sick, so I had to take her place quickly! Now, there's no need for any smiling! Let me help you with your things."
The two stuffed the boy's belongings in the boot and entered the car. On the way back, Madam bought him a takeaway dinner, since the current time was after eating hours. He tucked in the bag to munch on a beef burger, chips and Coke. Not as good as Hogwarts, but still more than satisfactory.
They pulled up to the orphanage which looked the exact same from when he left, except for the massive blanket of snow on top. The lights were all off and so were neighbours'. It must've been really late. Madam helped him quietly to bring his stuff to his room, and wished him goodnight before leaving. Theodore gazed around his room that looked absolutely untouched and clean. His small bed was still small and tidy, and his wardrobe was still fixed in the same position. He opened the draw to check if anything had been taken out. Nope. He closed it and went to change into his pyjamas, feeling as if he were a stranger in his own room.
Theodore climbed into bed and pulled the sheets over him until he remembered something. He got out of bed and snuck through the hallways without making a sound. Sneaking around Hogwarts had given him some experience in the act. He came across a familiar door and opened it so, so gently. Theodore then began to tiptoe slowly to the bed, closer and closer. He stretched his hands out and grabbed the bottom of the sheets, clenching onto the small feet that were poking out.
Louise gasped and jumped out of bed. She looked like she had a bad dream. The person who did this was going to pay, if it wasn't Theodore. She squealed as she practically wrapped herself around him.
"Louise, be quiet! We're supposed to be sleeping!"
She didn't care. She squeezed harder and harder, almost choking Theodore. He tapped her shoulder rapidly to show that she was depriving him of oxygen.
"Oh, sorry! I didn't to hurt- Oh, who cares, you're back! Wait, did you come now or before-?"
"Just a few minutes ago." He sat on her bed while she plopped next to him giddily.
"You have to tell me everything! How's it like in… in…?"
"Right. Such a weird name."
"Yeah, it's amazing! You wouldn't believe how great it is! The school is basically a massive castle, and there are so many rooms and stairs that I was almost lost for a week!"
"How was the food? Tell me!"
Theodore placed a hand on her shoulder and looked her dead in the eye. "It. Was. Heavenly."
She widened her eyes. He told her how on the first day, he stuffed himself with more food than they could imagine. He told her about the steak, the chicken, the tarts and Pumpkin Pasties.
"Wow! Hogwarts sounds wicked! If only I could've gone there with you."
"Yeah… If only…"
"Do you want to know what I did with the Reaguls?"
Louise told him about how they went out one night to an exquisite restaurant that served French and Spanish food. Mrs Reagul had given her a dress and a little make up on the day to make her feel all grown up. Theodore, for a moment, wondered how she would look with make up on. She also told him how they brought her to their house which was grand. There were so many priceless antiques and Mr Reagul told her about every single one.
Both of them were ecstatic to know that they weren't moping around for each other, even though secretly they did. They just swapped stories and stories, till Louise got tired and fell to sleep just like that. Theodore tucked her in, with difficulty, and went back to his room with a smile on his face.
I should've known you'd go back to the Muggles… Why am I not surprised…?
'You… You stay out of my head...'
I'll never leave! As long as you remain in that traitorous House, I'll never leave!
'Why are you still here?'
You're so weak… Friendships with Mudbloods and Muggles. Slytherin would've been ashamed… Your father would've been ashamed…
How is it that you've carried his blood for all this time…?
…but haven't fulfilled your purpose as his Heir?
'I SAID LEAVE!'
He woke up in a cold sweat. The window in his room was opened; he scoured across to see if anybody was there. Nobody. He thought so. That nightmare… It felt so real… Like there was somebody in his head. It couldn't be, no way.
Theodore got out of bed and wrapped his dressing gown on to protect him from the cold. The morning was fresh, and the snow was piling up outside; he didn't notice the Christmas tree in the corner of the entrance corridor, but there it was. It looked quite beautiful as well. He went into the kitchens to see if anybody was cooking any breakfast, but it was vacant. At least he could grab something without anybody looking. He made a piece of toast and buttered it before going into the living room. It was wide and big, perfect for most of the children to run around in. Tinsel and other Christmas decorations were all over the room, giving life to the grim building. They hadn't done this since he was three years old.
He went over to the back table and sat down, chewing his toast slowly. He could've went back to his bed for more sleep, but he figured that another nightmare wasn't worth the trouble. Theodore finished the toast and roamed around the empty orphanage that was silent. So silent that he could hear the aerial above the building swivel and squeak. He walked past many corners again and again until he bumped into someone. Simeon.
"Oh. Simeon. What are you doing up so early?"
"It's Christmas. I just wanted to see if I had gotten any presents." The bigger boy seemed to have lost all of his thuggish behaviour as he talked to Theodore like an acquaintance.
"Well, I haven't seen any so far. Maybe it's under your bed."
"I hadn't thought about that. Thanks, Theodore!" Simeon turned around and went straight into his room.
Theodore looked creeped out at his drastic change. He might've done a real number on him the last time they met. He paced away and went back into his room to see Louise lounging on his bed like it was her own. Again.
"Sound a little bit happy; it's Christmas!"
He gave her a fake smile to which she giggled at. Theodore reached under his bed and brought out a big brown parcel that was for Louise. He handed it over to her to which she opened with curiosity. Inside were Liquorice Wands, Jelly Slugs, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs and many more. He, along with Hermione, made sure to put Anti-Charms over the sweets so that they wouldn't make Louise suspicious about the way they jumped and blew up. And she wasn't troubled in the slightest.
"Yes! I love these! Chocolate Frogs? Are these new? Ooh, Jelly Slugs…!"
"Okay, now where's mine?"
Louise fumbled in her pockets and brought out a gleaming gold pocket watch. Its design suggested that it took a lot of money to buy.
"Whoa… How much did this cost?" Theodore asked he dangled it in front of his face.
"About… two hundred pounds, I think?"
"Two hundred pounds, are you nuts?! Did the Reaguls let you get this?"
She nodded her head and explained, "Mr Reagul asked me what you're like, and I said a small boy with a man brain, and he brought me to the watch shop to get you this. Do you like it?"
"Yeah, I like it, but… I barely paid like twelve pounds, and most of it wasn't even mine."
Louise tied her hair into pigtails and rolled her eyes. "You bought me Liquorice Wands and other sweets. That's all I need, Riddle. All I need."
Theodore was shocked. Nobody had spent that much on him. She could've gotten a houseful of sweets with that money.
"It is a nice pocket watch... But next year, we get something of equal price. I don't want you outshining me again."
"Always have to be the best, huh? Fine."
The two shook hands and carefully took their presents to the living room which was full of children. Most of them gave Theodore a quick look before turning back to their presents, some actually giving him a smile as he walked past. Perhaps they weren't so bad after all. Perhaps.
"Everyone come in for breakfast!"
A stampede of children ran to the dining room, ready to devour the food that was prepared. They all feasted on the surprisingly good food, chatting away to each other like it wasn't the worst place in the world. Theodore may have been a wizard, but in his heart, was always a Muggle in Stuggle's.
Boom. Second chapter in a single day; what do you think about that? So yeah, this story is mainly going to be about Theodore's innocence mostly before it gets eroded over time. It was the same for the original trio (well, for Harry), but it started around book four. For Theodore, it's a little earlier. Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Later.