"It can't be.."
"Professor Quirrell?" The timid professor stood firmly inside the wide stoned chamber, only he wasn't looking so timid. While still garbed in his usual purple robes, the expression that Quirrell bore was not of his own as malicious intent was bleeding from his eyes.
"What are you… I thought…" Harry stammered.
"Snape? Ah, yes. I thought that you would suspect him. Severus was always that type, to turn eyes away from those who needed closer… observation. I myself, am quite glad for that." Theodore instantly reached for his wand but Quirrell was quick, snapping his fingers and instantly bonding Theodore in chains. The boy sunk straight to the floor as the sheer weight dragged his little body down.
"Theo! Let him go!" Harry shouted as he tried to pry the links off Theodore's body. Quirrell tutted. "Why are you doing this? It doesn't make sense!"
"Then let me make sense, of it," hissed the teacher. "You were never in danger from Severus. Not in the slightest. In fact, pissy old Snape was actually trying to save you. From me." Harry narrowed his eyes in confusion until he figured it out.
"S-so, it was you who jinxed my broom. You tried to kill me on my first Quidditch match!"
"Ahh, right you are, Potter! I was sure a quick plummet to your death would've been the end for you, but of course I'd be foiled. Snape was countering my curse as I performed it! And I would've done it sooner if your little friend hadn't gotten in my way earlier before!"
Theodore was listening to all of this but was feeling the stress on his body. The thick chains were tugging on his neck and back and soon enough, his bones would probably distort in the most gruesome of ways. As Harry and Quirrell carried on to converse with one another, Theodore slowly tried to lay down flat so that the pressure would even all over but it was proving to be a difficult task. He quietly winced as he twisted his neck and bounded wrists, fighting against the increasing crushing weight of the chains.
"This final barrier… it's frustrating! Dumbledore was always so vague in everything that he has ever done. No surprise there. But when we are finished, the fool wouldn't even see a single trace." Quirrell remarked as he studied the obvious mirror that sat in the middle of the chamber. The golden, refined framing held a sheen, perfect mirror which had captured all the light in the room from the torches.
"What… do you mean… we?" Theodore asked weakly. The chains were getting heavier and heavier, and Quirrell didn't look like he cared. All of his attention was on Harry and the mirror. But he didn't ignore the question.
"Yes, young Riddle. We. My Lord has always been by my side, never wavering even if I fail him. My master has been disappointed in me recently."
"Probably because you're a weak fool," said Theodore under his breath. Quirrell had heard this and twisted his head with a grin on his face. The man had found content in this insult from the boy.
"Hmph. Is that Valerie's tongue I hear? You know, I went to school with your mother. She was a useful asset to the Dark Lord, until she-"
"Hush, Quirrell and get the Stone," a voice hissed. Its emphasised 's', sounded ugly inside the boys' ears. Quirrell stammered like 'usual', and replied to the voice that seemed to come from nowhere.
"Y-yes, my lord! Of course!" He went back over to the mirror and observed it further while muttering to himself. Harry was desperately trying to release the chains off of Theodore, who felt his own lungs fail him. His thin cheeks were full of blue and his throat felt like it was clamped in the strongest vice. It was torturous. Harry was trying everything he could but they wouldn't budge. And he wasn't even sure if he could do anything with Theodore's wand. He attempted once more until he was called over by Quirrell to look inside the mirror.
"I won't do anything for you until you let Theo go!"
"Come here now! Or I will kill your friend where he lies!" Quirrell screamed.
"Release the boy…" the haunting voice said. Quirrell swallowed nervously and snapped his fingers, making the constricting chains around Theodore vanish into thin air. Theodore coughed and spluttered over the stone flooring as his body was free from bondage. Harry went over to help him up but Quirrell forced him to walk towards the mirror. Theodore was sprawled on the ground, clinging on the edge of consciousness as he felt his body burn.
"Fool! You were supposed to leave him unharmed!"
"Master, I didn't think. I-I'm sorry…" Quirrell sounded like a child being told off. Quirrell then screamed in agony as he clutched his head, pressing down on the turban. He panted heavily as the screaming subsided. He motioned Harry to come to his side and the boy obeyed.
"Look… LOOK! What do you see Potter?!" Theodore stood up slowly, reaching to a nearby pillar for support. His back was searing with pain but he pushed past that. All he had to do was to reach for his wand and attack Quirrell without being seen. Seemed simple enough, right? He shook his head to rid his haziness and took his wand in his right hand. Just as he was about utter a spell, the chilling voice returned once more, filling the entire chamber.
"Quirrell… the boy behind you… he's about to-"
"I understand, master!" Quirrell snapped his fingers and Theodore's wand flew out of his hand and straight to Quirrell's. Theodore cursed under his breath and slowly walked over to the two others. Harry was still frozen as he stared into the mirror. The temptation to kick Quirrell and run away with Harry was growing strong but the stupidness of that idea stopped him from doing so. He stood right next to Harry as he gazed onto the mirror. It wasn't anything special apart from the fact that it was perfectly clean. How did Dumbledore make this a barrier for the Stone? It made no sense.
"Perhaps you'll be of better use than Potter. Look! What do you see inside the mirror?" Theodore's neck was burning.
"I-I can't see anything," he truthfully said. It was just a plain old mirror. Nothing special at all. Quirrell placed his deathly pale hands on Theodore's shoulders and lowered his head to the boy's ear level.
"Look… closely. If you focus then you can see whatever you desire." Quirrell whispered. Theodore was not sure if the foul odour was coming from the professor's breath or the turban. He squinted his eyes as he looked onto his reflection, as well as Harry's. They both copied their movements like normal reflections did, until Harry's waved at the two. Theodore could see that in the corner of his eye, Harry was as still as ever but the reflection? It waved and danced inside the mirror, and prompted Theodore's to do the same. Theodore couldn't believe it. Their reflections were dancing like maniacs while Quirrell was acting as if he couldn't see a thing. Unless he couldn't see a thing. It came to him.
"The Mirror of Erised…" whispered Theodore.
"Yes yes yes, I know that, but what do you see?" Quirrell hissed. Theodore couldn't tell him that he saw him and Harry dancing wildly. There was no telling what Quirrell would do after his revelation. He had to lie.
"I see… I see…" he stammered as he tried to come up with a lie. 'Dammit, Harry! Say something instead of just standing there! Wait… what's that in our hands?' Theodore understood why Harry had been mute for this entire time. Inside the mirror in between their odd dancing, was their reflection's holding a blood-red stone in between their palms as they circled around each other. They played catch with it, chucked it up in the air and pretended to smash it. It wasn't until then that they stopped and the stone was in Harry's reflection's hand.
"What is it that you see, boy?! Do not waste my time!"
"I… I think I see myself as headmaster of Hogwarts. Dumbledore has stepped down from the position and is giving me his blessing. E-everyone is below me and…"
"And? And what? Spit it out!"
"…that's it." Quirrell looked at him suspiciously. The boy was falling over his words, he could very well be lying. But after everything that his master had told him about Theodore, it could be the truth.
"Use… Potter." The voice hissed. Quirrell whipped his head to Harry. Harry still looked entranced by the mirror.
"Potter! Tell me! What do you see?" Quirrell screamed. Theodore could see his face lose colour and his eyes slowly beginning to sink in his sockets. Almost like he was being drained.
"I-I've won the House Cup. Dumbledore is awarding Gryffindor with the cup." Harry spoke. Theodore had a feeling that he was lying as well. They both saw the same thing, he knew that. But how exactly was the Stone supposed to come out of the mirror? Did they have to break it?
"Tell the truth!" Harry found himself moving backwards, noticing that Theodore was planted on the spot. He wanted to scream for him to make a run but Quirrell would strike them down the second he'd yell 'RUN'.
Theodore was breathing heavily. The pain on his body had gone mostly but the fear was sticking inside of him like a disease. He continued to stare into the mirror at his own reflection, which did everything a reflection was supposed to do.
"Let me speak to them… face to face… I must!" The voice spoke.
"But, Master! You are still weak! I'll find the Stone soon enough, please!"
"Release me, Quirrell!" Theodore's stomach was lurching violently inside of him. It was like it had been sliced and its acid had spilt all over inside. He felt deathly nausea infect him as he saw Quirrell unwind his turban through the mirror. Theodore could see Harry further away but he looked just as shocked. Maybe even more. Quirrell unwrapped and pulled, gradually building the suspense that had pierced through the boys the second they stepped in. The professor's turban fell to the ground and exhibited what it had been hiding for all this time. And it was horrifying.
Through the mirror, Theodore could see a face on the back of Quirrell's bald head. A horrid face. A vile, disgusting, loathsome face that could conjure nightmares from one glance. It had a chalky-white tone, with worn out skin. Its eyes red with serpentine slits inside of them. And the most distinguishing feature that this face did not have was a nose. Instead, it had small slits, resembling a snake of some sorts. It was all, just… sickening.
"Theodore Riddle… and Harry Potter…" the face wheezed. It had said Harry's name with such spite and hatred. Theodore could only watch the face as words failed to come out.
"You…" Harry whispered.
"Yes… look at me. This… was because of you, Harry. You left me like this. A broken soul, unable to regain his body… I have been so weak during these past ten years… I had to live off others, for my own soul was diminishing into something lesser of a ghost… I needed a form… I'll have form!"
"Not without the Stone."
"That's why I'll gladly take it from you. Hand it over… boy." Theodore was sure that face had not taken any notice of him as he tried to shuffle behind the mirror discreetly. He closed his eyes as his heart thumped wildly, pressing against his lungs and rib cage. He felt as if it could explode. He ran his fingers through his hair and tried to think of something. If he could push Quirrell over and take his wand back, he probably bring the place down with the traitorous teacher and leave with Harry. He ran through this crude plan again and again, making sure that it would follow through without any problems.
"I know you hide from me, Theodore… come out, now…" said Voldemort. Theodore's blood halted. He could feel it freeze in his veins. If he knew that he was there then why didn't he stop him? Theodore's eyes twitched as he slowly came out from behind the mirror. He was directly facing the darkest wizard of all time, in his face. Those snake-like eyes gazed into his own. Theodore could feel his soul being tarnished by mere eye contact.
"Theodore… do you know who I am?"
"You're him. Voldemort." Theodore replied quietly.
"Good… it's nice to see that the old fool has not tried to rid my name from the world… of course, my name is to be feared by the likes of mere wizards. But you, child. Are no mere wizard." Voldemort hissed. He had a hair-raising smile on his face, bearing no lips which revealed his mustard-yellow teeth.
"I… I know that."
"Of course! Do you know what sacred blood runs through your veins? What your blood means to this school that has been corrupted by Dumbledore?! Come! Join me, Theodore! And I can show you true power! Power that is rightfully yours!" Theodore looked down on the stone ground. The Dark Lord himself was trying to… recruit him. Voldemort, the wizard who had destroyed so many, and who slaughtered his friend's parents, wanted Theodore to join his ranks. He didn't know what to say.
"You know who I am?"
"Yes," hissed Voldemort. "I know what you are, and what you desire… I'll give you everything! Just get me the Stone!" Theodore glanced over to Harry, who slightly shook his head. To side with the Dark Lord was the ultimate betrayal to Harry and Dumbledore. Theodore wouldn't dare. But…
"Master, we didn't come for the boy now! You said that he would be useful later!" Quirrell protested.
"Silence! Give him his wand, Quirrell… he'll prove himself to being more worthy than you could ever hope to be!" Quirrell reluctantly handed Theodore's wand back to its owner. Theodore gripped it tightly and looked up to Voldemort, who's eyes were wide with curiosity and malice. Theodore pointed his wand to Harry and walked closer to him. Harry was scared, frightened that his friend had been convinced by his parents' murderer. He stumbled backwards but kept eye contact.
"Theo… don't. Please." Harry whispered.
"Do it now! Take the Stone! Kill him if you must!" Voldemort screamed from the back of Quirrell's head. Theodore's wand tip pressed against Harry's scar, as Harry was shuddering. His own friend was going to kill him. Harry grimaced and gritted his teeth. Theodore looked serious. He stared into Harry's eyes… then winked. Harry was confused.
"Just play along, don't worry." Theodore whispered. Harry nodded. He slowly reached inside of his pocket and lifted the Philosopher's Stone, gripping it tightly. Theodore snatched it and turned around.
"Yes, Theodore! You are most loyal! Now, give me the Stone!" He looked at the Stone closely, observing its rough edges and its red gleam that made it seem as if it was alive. He lifted it above his head for everyone to see.
"So this is the key for immortality." Theodore stated.
"Yes… now hand it over," said Voldemort, who looked confused. Quirrell had the same expression on his face as the boy stood still.
"Hmm… I think that we'll keep it for a while."
"WHAT?!" Voldemort screamed. Theodore chucked the Stone behind him and hoped that Harry's reflexes were still sharp. He aimed his wand at Quirrell and shouted:
"Flipendo!" Quirrell crashed into the mirror as Voldemort's screams echoed inside the chamber. Harry and Theodore ran to the door and pulled the handle to try and pry it open but it wouldn't budge. Theodore tried the Unlocking Charm but was pulled backwards by a powerful force, casted by Quirrell who had gotten back up. He lifted Theodore in the air and spun him vigorously without a second's thought. Theodore could feel his brain being squeezed and stretched repeatedly as he couldn't tell if he was upside down or right side up. Although, he could hear the livid commands from Voldemort hit his eardrums, despite sounding distorted.
"STOP! LEAVE HIM AND GET THE STONE! THE STONE!" Theodore slowed down and dropped to the ground. His balance was entirely shaken and he couldn't stay upright, even when he was balanced on his hands and knees. He saw a blurry Quirrell leap towards Harry as Voldemort continued scream. Harry's screams made Theodore feel helpless but that feeling diminished as he heard Quirrell scream in agony as well. Theodore shakily got up and walked over to Harry, who clasped his head in pain.
"Harry! What did you do to him?"
"I… don't know. Move!" Harry pushed Theodore out of the way as Quirrell attempted to kill Harry once more. Harry grabbed his face and dragged him down, sending him into a screaming frenzy. Theodore was on his knees, watching closely as he saw Quirrell's face blister like he was being scorched by Harry's hands. Voldemort was screaming even more as his host proved to be futile and weak against an eleven year old boy.
"KILL HIM, KILL HIM, KILL HIM!" Quirrell fell back as his entire face was flaking with red and white skin melting from his face. His left eye hung out from his socket and his right cheek had been corroded to expose his jawline and teeth. His tongue feebly dropped to the ground, scorched and black. Theodore couldn't keep his eyes off him. It looked even more foul than Voldemort's own. Theodore turned to Harry, who laid on the ground. He was motionless and didn't respond to Theodore's desperate shouts. Harry was out and Quirrell still looked alive, disregarding his decaying body. The disfigured professor staggered towards Theodore, murmuring something nonsensical as his tongue had shrivelled up on the floor somewhere. Voldemort's screams could not be heard but Theodore didn't care about that. He raised his wand at Quirrell, knowing that he wouldn't stop. He said the first spell that came to mind but the results were quite haunting to him.
From his left shoulder to underneath his right rib cage, Quirrell's entire top half was severed from the bottom, leaving two large parts on the ground. The darkened blood seeped into the stone cracks and trailed in between the stone blocks. Quirrell's mutilated body was almost still, as his swollen, blistered hand twitched before assuming its final position. Theodore was horrified by what he did. He killed him. He took his wand and used it to kill Quirrell... He was a murderer. It suddenly felt hard to breath. His chest tightened, his head felt heavy and his skin began to crawl. He dropped to his palms and grunted in pain. Theodore could feel something almost… rip inside of him. He clenched his stomach but it didn't make the pain go away. Something was definitely ripping all right. He inhaled deeply in rhythms, easing his mind in reassurance that he wasn't a killer. More tearing. He screamed as he rolled over, holding his abdomen in agony. The pain was too much to bear. He didn't mean to kill him. He didn't mean to put him down like an animal which was suffering. He didn't mean any of it. Dying underground with his last thought being the death that he caused. 'I'm sorry! I-I'm sorry…" The tearing stopped. The pain was numbing and he released his hands. But he didn't get up. That excruciating episode had sent him into shock. Three bodies in the hidden chamber, unable to escape. All that Theodore could hear was that voice that haunted his nightmares, speak to him softly in his ear.
"Fresh blood… Slytherin's blood… my blood…"
Theodore opened his eyes, staring at the raised ceiling. 'Am I dead? Is this still Hogwarts? Where am-' A bush of hair was propped against his left arm. He could feel something hold his hand very tightly as he could barely feel his own body. Recognising who this was, he tugged his arm slightly to wake her up. Hermione jolted up and instantly hugged Theodore, ignoring his obvious yelp of pain.
"Hermione, don't hug me so hard! My chest still hurts!"
"Oh, Theo! I thought that you and Harry died! It took Dumbledore hours before he came back from the Ministry!" She pulled away and started to well up slightly. "I honestly didn't know what to…" Theodore rubbed her shoulder and gave her a little smile.
"You… were amazing. If it weren't for you, both of us would've been dead. In fact we would've been dead from the very start. You saved me. Thank you." Hermione wiped her tears and beamed as happily as she did the first time they met.
"You would've been fine. What you did with Snape's task was brilliant. Oh! I saw Snape earlier in the morning with the other teachers, but it didn't look like he went down there after the Stone. Did you see who was behind it all?" Theodore explained everything to her: how it was Quirrell who was after the Stone; how Harry managed to get the Stone from the mirror; how Voldemort was on the back of Quirrell's head like a parasite. Hermione was especially disgusted by this but carried on listening. He told her everything except on how he it felt like his soul was about to rip to shreds after killing…
"Theo, what's wrong?" Theodore buried the thought and gave her a weak smile. He shook his head and looked down to his feet. Whatever happened down there, stayed down there. He would take it to his grave and beyond. Nobody was going to find out. He looked around to see if Harry was inside the hospital wing as well, but looked at the clock.
"Hermione, aren't you supposed to be in the Hall?" She gave an anxious smile.
"Um, I excused myself from the Hall to come up here. I'm going back so I'm not playing truant or anything!" Theodore gasped sarcastically while Hermione pouted. He joked around some more until he heard Madam Pomfrey make her way into the room. Hermione squealed and dove under Theodore's bed, waiting for the right time until she would dash straight out of the room. Theodore shook his head.
"We really are a bad influence on her." Theodore had spent the rest of the day inside the wing, being informed that he had been there for two days. During the night, he had gotten out of bed and sat next to Harry, who was still unconscious. He quietly told him about what he did to Quirrell and what he felt after it. He told him that he could speak to snakes and that he was the Heir of Slytherin. He didn't know why he did it, but with Harry being unable to hear him and his confession bursting out, he felt that it was the right thing to do. He ate the various sweets from Hermione, Parvati and Lavender (guess she wasn't mad at him) and thought about if Viripin had left. He guessed he would be saddened that he'd lose her but right now, sleep was needed. And for the first time, in a long time, his dream was pleasant and joyful.
The next morning, Theodore was well enough to leave the hospital wing. He gathered his sweet packets and made it to the common room while everyone else was inside the classrooms. At least there wouldn't be people staring at him like he came back from the dead. He reached the Fat Lady and was lucky that the password did not change in the past three days. He walked through the silent room and up the stairs. He dropped everything on his neatly arranged bed and heard a familiar hiss come from under the sheets. He ripped them off and saw his companion curled up, and overjoyed to see Theodore.
"Master, you're alive! Oh, I'm so happy!" Theodore picked her up and allowed her to wrap around him.
"Hey, Viripin! You didn't leave."
"Of course! I couldn't bear to leave this place. It's my only home."
"Well, I'm glad you didn't leave. I honestly thought I'd die down there."
"I was almost caught by the boy called Dean. He noticed that you were gone and looked through your bag. He was lucky that I did not bite him."
"Good. I don't want somebody dead because I let you go." He placed her down on the bed and allowed her back into the bag, before changing for the Great Hall. As he walked to his seat, as he expected, everyone stared at him. Malfoy even stopped as he looked at the boy before resuming his conversation. He sat next to Seamus and looked down onto the table without saying a word. Two minutes passed before Seamus tapped his arm.
"You alright, Theo?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Seamus nodded and carried on talking to Dean. It seemed odd to be sitting with the people in his year. A few days ago they all hated him, now it looked like they didn't mind him at all. Isolation was always Theodore's friend, but his time at Hogwarts broke those ties. No matter how much he hated to admit it, he had made friends here without a doubt. He just wondered whether his friends would know what kind of a monster he was.
"Theo!" Theodore turned around and saw Ron, along with Hermione, run towards him. Theodore was glad that Ron wasn't looking too bad, despite the plaster on his forehead. Other than that, he looked great.
"I thought you were in the hospital wing when I was there!"
"Actually, I woke up after the whole chess thing. Hermione came back to help me and we made it back to the top, somehow. Can't lie, I was glad to see her. I don't think I could've taken Fluffy on my own."
"So where did you guys go?"
"To see Harry," said Hermione. "He's finally awake."
"He is? Let's go see him right now!" Theodore jumped to his feet. Hermione stuck out a hand.
"Madam Pomfrey kicked us out. She won't be too glad if we came back with another person." Theodore sighed and sat back down. Hermione was about to sit next to him, but was cut off by Ron, who wanted to hear the entire thing from Theodore.
"Harry already told you, Ronald!" She said angrily.
"Yes, but Theo was still awake when Harry fainted!" Theodore explained everything, excluding the obvious parts, leaving Ron in awe. Hermione even looked at him like it was her first time hearing it. Theodore had to eventually shut down Ron's persistent questions and they all waited until the end of year feast began.
Green and silver flowed all over the walls of the Great Hall as it celebrated the victory of Slytherin winning the House Cup once more. At the front of the Hall, up near the ceiling was a green banner with the silver Slytherin serpent winding on it. This would've been glorious for Theodore, if he was in the correct house. He and the rest of Gryffindor sulked as the Slytherins were merrily talking amongst each other. It slightly irked Theodore but enraged Ron. He and Seamus were cursing repeatedly while Hermione hissed at them to stop. The Great Hall was full of chatter until everyone stopped talking. Wondering why was that, Theodore turned his head to everyone's general direction. Walking through the doors, was Harry. He looked at everyone else before everyone resumed their loud conversations. He quickly sat between Ron and Hermione and greeted Theodore. The two boys had confronted death in its face and denied it. They came out victorious and unscarred (well, one of them unscarred).
Unknowingly to them, Dumbledore watched them both, as he sighed with gladness that it had gone well. Seeing the two bond together was all that he wanted but not all that was needed. He stroked his beard and consoled a disheartened Minerva, who tapped her goblet furiously.
"As another year passes, we all get a little older and wiser. We've all been through so much in the past year, and I hope that you will keep this resilience till the very end. Because we never know what our own fates hold for us. Now, enough of my babbling! I know that you are all dying to dive into the feast! Let us commence with the House Cup places: In fourth place, Gryffindor with two hundred and ninety three points; in third, Hufflepuff with three hundred and twenty nine points; second place, Ravenclaw with four hundred and one points and Slytherin with four hundred and sixty seven points."
Slytherin broke out in celebration as they clashed their goblets against each other. Ron put his head in his hands as Hermione patted his back. Theodore and Harry shrugged but they were deeply saddened as well. After all, they were the ones responsible for losing Gryffindor's lead in the first place. They could see Snape smirk as the points were declared.
"Thank you, thank you," said Dumbledore. "I'm sure that you are most ecstatic about your victory. But before we continue, there are a few points that I'd like to hand out for recent events. Hmm, let me just… ahh."
Ron flipped his head up as he heard this. Slytherin was suddenly silent and so was everyone else.
"To Mr Ronald Weasley! I award him thirty points for excellent problem thinking skills in the game of chess and his willingness to self-sacrifice for the ensured victory!" Gryffindor bursted into cheers as they excitedly jumped up and down in their seats. They may still be last in the table but at least they weren't far behind. But that wasn't the end. Ron went as red as his hair but smiled happily to himself.
"To Miss Hermione Granger! I award her thirty points for utilising her knowledge in the devil's grasp and her strong hold on doing the smart thing!" Hermione hid her face in her hands. Everyone could see her cheeks turn pink as well, giving the impression that she was boiling or embarrassed, most likely the latter. The cheers died down once more as Dumbledore began his next announcement.
"To Mr Harry Potter! I award him fifty points, for embodying the spirit of Godric Gryffindor in the face of death itself!" Gryffindor screamed loudly as they almost caught up with Slytherin. They were two points above Ravenclaw and if the old man was feeling generous, he'd could easily make them wipe out the House. Harry smiled as everyone clapped for him, throwing away their past resentment. If they didn't win then at least they were second. The students hushed once more.
"Bravery was not only shown by Mr Potter over there, as a boy who stood up not to his enemies, but to his friends, for the greater good. I therefore award Mr Neville Longbottom twenty points.!" Everyone, except for Slytherin, clapped for Neville as he grew pale and red at the same time (because that's possible) at his award. He sat oppositely to Theodore and leaned in to his friend.
"I'm sorry for trying to stop you earlier," he said under the clapping. Theodore leaned in and patted his shoulder.
"Don't be. You did good, Neville! I'm proud!" Neville grinned as he moved backwards and for once, looked proud of himself. The clapping diminished and everyone was quiet. While Gryffindor steamrolled everyone in the table, Slytherin was still forty four points ahead. Ron was still not satisfied but did not say anything. Theodore noticed that he didn't get any points. He shouldn't get a single one, anyways. If Dumbledore had really came down there, then he would've seen what Theodore had done. He would've been utterly disgusted and disgraced that it was he who had enrolled him into Hogwarts. Theodore leaned on his arm and flicked his goblet until it was his turn.
"To Mr Theodore Riddle!" Everyone was silent. Everyone turned to him. He lifted his head and stared straight into Dumbledore's eyes, which oddly eased his nervousness. "I award him twenty five points for his professionalism in completing a complex concoction with his life and others on the line, and twenty five points for proving himself wrong that he did belong in Gryffindor and to rise gloriously!" And that was that. Every single Gryffindor jumped up, including Theodore and Hermione and practically screamed until their throats would rupture. Seamus and Ron slapped Theodore on the back as he could feel his eyes grow a tiny bit wet. Not from the pain on his back, but from actually proving himself wrong. He was a coward before he had gone down the trapdoor but never wavered from his friends. If that didn't prove that he was supposed to be in Gryffindor then nothing else could. Except that he was the Heir of Slytherin. But maybe it was okay to not follow what had already been set out before you.
The green and silver decorations changed into scarlet and gold, and the scarlet banner showed the golden Gryffindor lion, proudly roaring for its respective house's victory. Theodore dove into the feast and ate until his belly was as full as his heart. He felt on top of the world with nobody able to bring him down. He looked down on his right to see his three friends, chowing down happily, and knew that Hogwarts was his true home.
Exam results was forgotten by many and shocked almost everyone when it came around. Theodore was happy, but not surprised, by his results as he got second highest in the year. Hermione had beaten him by only one point in the Charms exam during their practical, but Theodore congratulated her. She almost seemed cocky that she was the highest but retained it by being a good sport. Although they weren't as good Theodore's or Hermione's, Harry and Ron still gained good results, even Neville. His good mark in Herbology managed to save him from his poor result in Potions. Theodore plucked up the nerve to go and ask if Malfoy had received any good marks and to his surprise, Draco told him without a hint of detest in his voice. Theodore was going to find out why he didn't mind him so much, but that could wait until next year. Now it was time to go back to Stuggle's and talk to Louise all summer about everything he had went through. In a completely watered down version, of course.
All the trunks were packed and gone, Viripin was safe and sound in Theodore's bag with a bag of dead mice and McGonagall handed notes about not using magic outside school. He was a bit disappointed at this but didn't mind. While everyone was crying over being away from each other soon, McGonagall had informed Theodore that he was needed by Dumbledore in his office. Walking away from the crowds, Theodore walked up the steps, taking in the silence that was all around him. He made it to the gargoyle and spoke the password. Once he was inside the office, Dumbledore was standing near the bookshelf, looking as happy as ever for the boy.
"It seems that the year has flown by, dear Theodore. Soon, you'll be taking your O.W.L.S and off you go!"
"You called for me?"
"Yes, I did. Please sit." Theodore sat down as did Dumbledore. "I know that this was a… peculiar year for you. I didn't expect for it to end on such an odd note for you or for Harry." Theodore raised an eyebrow.
"Odd? We almost died, Professor. Your employee… died." Theodore choked when he said 'died'. Darkness was flowing back into his heart and mind. He felt his insides tug a little as he rubbed his chest. Dumbledore noticed this.
"We all do things that we deeply regret, Theodore. I myself, have allowed terrible things to happen because of what I believed in. It doesn't go a day when it doesn't haunt me. But if you are willing to accept and to hurt, expect yourself to heal when it is all over." Theodore looked down to the table, then back to Dumbledore.
"I… I didn't mean to… something just took hold of me and made me… I'm so sorry," said Theodore as he felt tears stream down his face. He hated himself when he'd cry. "Voldemort was there and… he wanted me to join him… I… does that mean that I'm just as bad as him?" Dumbledore jumped out from his seat and quickly knelt to Theodore's side.
"No! No no no! Do not let him make you believe that, dear boy! You are much stronger than he can ever wish to be! You have something that he does not have. Love. And don't let him EVER take that away… from you." Theodore quickly wiped his tears and then nodded.
"You… you won't tell anyone?" Dumbledore held the boy's hand tightly between his own.
"Not a soul." Theodore gave him a small smile. Dumbledore was many things in this world, but he was by far, one of the greatest men that he had ever seen before. Dumbledore jumped back on his feet like a young man. "Well! You must hurry downstairs! Hagrid may be off with all of the other first years and- Oh my! They're already over the lake!" Theodore ran over to the window and observed the lake. Sure enough, tiny boats sailed across it with miniature people on board.
"How am I supposed to get there? It'll take me forever to go down the stairs and through the- oh no." Dumbledore had a hand outstretched. Theodore knew what was going to happen but he detested the idea. He looked back down to the others as they were halfway over the lake. He turned to Dumbledore who had a smirk on his face. Frowning, Theodore held the old man's wrist and in an instant, the office was empty.
The journey home had been just as fantastic as the first one to school. Theodore, Harry, Ron and Hermione were all in one compartment as they talked and laughed about what could happen next year. They scoffed sweets, traded small gifts for memories over the summer and soon enough, Platform 9¾ of King's Cross Station was in full vision. They left the Hogwarts Express and gathered their things to go through the magical gate. Everyone was on the Muggle side of the station, and the four friends spoke among each other.
"You guys have to come over in the summer. It'll be wicked, the three of you!" Ron said.
"Sure! I'd like a summer away from the Dursley's."
"I'll try to. Although we might go to France." Hermione stated.
"What about you, Theo? Fancy staying over at the ol' Weasley abode?" Theodore wondered what it'd be like spending the summer with his three new friends. It definitely would be better than to stay at Stuggle's for almost two months, but Louise would be all alone as well. It was a tough decision to make.
"I'll think about it. No, Ron. I'm not saying no."
"But you're not saying yes!" They all talked and hugged one last time before going off in their different directions. Ron went off with his grand family, Hermione with her parents and Harry with his supposed aunt, uncle and cousin. They didn't look a thing like him and didn't look quite happy to see him as well. Harry always told him that they weren't the nicest of folk, but intended to have some fun with them when he went back home. Theodore had his fair share of horrible careers as Gretchen was sitting on the bench, pigging herself on donuts before noticing Theodore.
The ride home had been fairly silent, apart from the hisses from Viripin, and it sat comfortably with Theodore and Gretchen. They had nothing to say to each other. If only Gretchen had stuck to that code.
"So, did you learn anything in that freaky school of yours? Or was everyone there a pitiful loner?"
"For your information, I'm not a loner, nor am I pitiful. And yes, I did learn a few things." 'Like how to curse a gorilla hybrid such as yourself.' Gretchen scoffed.
"Oh, Theo. Little, little Theo! You haven't caught up with what happened, have you?" He looked at her uncertainly.
"What are you talking about," he asked quietly.
"You'll see." Theodore had gone completely silent. Was she trying to scare him? What happened? He sat still in the seat until he dashed out of the car when the engine had finally stopped. Ignoring Gretchen's yells, he ran through the hallways, inhaling the familiar scent that was gone for so long.
He ran up the stairs and made his way to Louise's bedroom. He burst in through the door and saw it. He knew it. Wardrobe was empty. The desktop was cleared. Mattress was bare. It was like nobody had lived there at all. He blinked again and again to see if this was just all in his head but it was real. All too real. 'Where are you?' He ran back down the stairs and narrowly escaped Gretchen who tried to grab him as he ran past. He halted at the Madam's office and knocked. He entered quickly and got straight to the point.
"Louise is not in her room!" He exclaimed.
"I know that."
"She's… she's supposed to be there, she was supposed to wait for me, where is she?!" Theodore spoke this all too quickly. The Madam's face saddened as she walked over to Theodore. She knelt down to her knees and held his hands. He looked at her with anxiety and sadness. She couldn't find the words.
"Theodore… I'm sorry to tell you this but… Louise was adopted by the Reagul's shortly after your birthday. She wanted to tell you but there was no way to contact you. I mean, your school had no number or telephone… she was so sad to leave without you knowing but she made that choice on her own." Theodore closed his eyes. That would be the second time that he had cried on that day. He silently wept as his head faced the floor. Tears rolled down his face as he didn't say a word. She left him. Just as he could've left her.
"Oh, sweetheart. I… I…" Madam embraced him as his arms fell to his side. He felt… empty. Like he had nothing. Like everything that made him 'him', had vanished. Suddenly, his heartstring had been tugged so hard, the force of the snap made him gasp over the Madam's shoulder. How odd. How very, very odd.
Annnnnddd the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone) is done. Or mostly. I'm not going to skip straight past the summer as I feel that it will be vital to what's going to happen later on. Like I said before, this is end of his 'childhood innocence', which was is much earlier than the trio in the original books. Let me know if you think I should be a bit more emotive with the emotional parts, as I feel like I could've done better, idk. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and understood any little references that I sprinkled in. Later.
ShadowWing: I deeply appreciate your words. I'm still relatively new to the site in terms of writing, but at least I'm trying my best. I'm happy that you're liking the story :)
JokerAka: I guess you're right. You can't expect for everyone to love your story. But thanks, really.