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Darkness Growing by Evil Otter

Format: Novel
Chapters: 32
Word Count: 120,750
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: General, Horror/Dark, Angst
Characters: Dumbledore, Slughorn, Voldemort, OC
Pairings:

First Published: 01/19/2018
Last Chapter: 08/18/2020
Last Updated: 08/18/2020

Summary:

Tom Riddle prepares for his second term at Hogwarts and readies his wrath for any who oppose him.

Sequel to Dark Beginnings and Darkness Rising

My stories will be moving to AO3 and other sites under the same penname.

This story is on hold for now as I strive to complete the final story in a series.  It will return when I repost in the site that I am moving to. 

 

3-26-2019 Due to a recent death in my family things have been on hiatus, I am finally posting a long overdue chapter.



 



Chapter 1: Thinking Ahead
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Summer was passing slowly, much too slowly for his tastes and he, unlike most other boys his age, couldn’t wait to return to classes. Anything had to be better than this, because the old bat was driving him mental with her stringent requirements for the care of his room and her demands for things that he was no longer willing to supply, such as obedience.

He had, on several occasions, managed to slip away from Wool’s Orphanage to walk the streets of London and wherever he went strange things seemed to happen, sometimes bordering on the tragic. One such case had resulted in a team of horses attempting to bolt as he walked by on the other side of the street and clearly had nothing to do with the situation. Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth as the driver had yelled an obscenity at the boy prior to the happening. The young man knew the boy from the orphanage and disliked him intensely, even though the boy had not done anything outwardly to cause these feelings.

The horses of the team had suddenly acted as though they were terrified of something and then attempted to flee. The driver, busy unloading the cart, had fallen from the back of it after failing to grab the handhold and landed hard on the street. Only the quick action of a passerby had stopped the horses from running amok while spectators watched with terrified fascination. Tom watched as well and, once it was apparent that the incident was going to go no further, resumed his course back to the building which held the Leaky Cauldron.

The mundane citizenry didn’t pay much attention to the decrepit building and those that did enter it found something much different than Tom did. They found a seedy pawn shop filled with the cast off refuse of those who had traded the items for cash and then walked away without returning. Always cold, the shop offered little in the way of enticement for those other than the unfortunates who needed quick funds without having to answer questions. The man behind the counter, who was always suspicious of someone trying to steal from him, had no qualms about taking advantage of the desperate and was perpetually ready to shoo someone who questioned his offer for their item out the door.

Tom opened the door and stepped into the building where he found none of his school chums, although he did recognize a boy who had been a fifth year Gryffindor last term. The boy noticed him and then turned to walk back to a table where a number of other Hogwarts students already were gathered. He knew that they were talking about him; he could tell by the way that occasionally they would look at him and then turn back to their whispered conversation. Not that he cared much; he really had no concern about what anyone thought of him, with the exception of Molly Porter.

The Hufflepuff girl had captured his attention, and a bit of his heart that he had never knew existed, during his first term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and he had wished for owls from her over the break, but living in a Muggle orphanage made that impossible. The girl had, of course, believed his story about having to live in the home of a Muggle and not being able to reveal his true nature. This story had actually generated a bit of sympathy for him from the attractive blonde and he had actually managed to get a few kisses from her.

This didn’t mean that all was completely sweet in the relationship, they had had their share of disagreements and arguments, but the girl seemed to be devoted to him and he was willing to accept that fact for as long as it benefitted him.

His meal arrived in front of him and he dipped the spoon into it quickly to enjoy the flavorful stew. It came with slices of thick bread and a Butter beer and he soon settled down to the task at hand knowing that the increasingly surly group of Gryffindor students, who were doing their best to annoy him, wouldn’t interfere with him as long as the owner of the business was present. Disappointed that he wouldn’t rise to their stealthy taunts one of the boys rose and, as he walked by the younger boy, deliberately bumped Tom’s arm and sent a spoonful of hot stew down the front of his victim’s shirt.

“Sorry about that,” the boy announced as he chortled, “I didn’t see you there.”

The group at the older boy’s table laughed uproariously at the incident while Tom ignored the jeers and used his napkin to wipe away the stew from his shirt. He was nearly done when the boy returned and then leaned down to whisper an insult at the younger boy.

“Didn’t they teach you how to eat with a spoon without wearing your meal, Slytherin scum?”

Tom looked up sharply at the older boy as the hurtful words were spoken and the Gryffindor recoiled as though he had been struck. He knew that the way that his body was positioned blocked the view of the owner of the pub and played it for all that it was worth.

“Oi! What did you hit me for? I said that I was sorry for bumping into you! Tom,” he fairly screamed as he called to the man behind the bar, “this slimy git gave me a jab in the face just because I accidently bumped into him. Everyone heard me tell him that I was sorry, didn’t they?”

The companions of the boy voiced their agreement to his statement loudly and then one carried it a bit farther.

“He hates us because we’re Gryffindors and he is a Slytherin.”

Tom was nearly at his wits end and was ready to respond when a familiar voice interrupted the exchange.

“I do not think it is as bad as all of that and I am quite certain that none of you do either. Am I correct in this?”

All in the room turned to see Albus Dumbledore standing in the room and not for the first time they were amazed at the wizard’s ability to enter a place without being noticed. The professor stepped closer to the scene of the incident and then between the antagonists. A wave of his wand produced a clean shirt on Tom while the older boy appeared unchanged.

“Mister Farley, for some odd reason, despite what you claim, there is nothing wrong with you. I sincerely hope that you are not attempting to get Mister Riddle into a difficult circumstance because that would have an unfortunate result. I would hate to see Gryffindor start the new term with a deficit in points, especially when you have not yet even set foot on the Hogwarts Express.”

“Professor, I…”

“Yes, Mister Farley?”

“I was just having a bit of fun with my schoolmate here and things got a bit out of hand,” the suddenly jovial student responded. “No harm done, now that you have cleaned up that unfortunate mess on his shirt and I feel wonderful. Now, if you do not mind, I need to get back to my chums so we can carry on with our day.”

“Quite so, by all means please return to your table, Mister Farley, and please be a bit more careful around someone who is eating hot stew.”

“Yes, sir, I will, Professor Dumbledore.”

Tom watched as the older boy walked away, occasionally looking back over his shoulder, and then joined the now departing group as they walked out through the back door towards the entrance to Diagon Alley. The door closed behind them as Dumbledore sat down at the table next to the soon to be second year.

“I have to apologize for that, Tom, they can be a little high strung, if you know what I mean.”

“I understand, Professor Dumbledore.”

“How have you been?”

“I miss Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore, the orphanage is not the same as the castle.”

“And well it should not be. Tom, I told you that it would be much different once you left school at the end of the term. You have grown, and not just in the physical sense, for you now know things that will help you in the outside world. That being said you need to know that I am a bit disconcerted by a few of the things that have happened while you walk the streets of this city. Although you may not be doing them intentionally you must be aware that the Ministry will not tolerate happenings which bring the attention of the Muggles. You will be expected to control your thoughts and what they may result in, the incident with the wagon and horses being the most recent. Tom, you have the capability to create a great deal of chaos if you fail to be mindful of what you can do, and that would be tragic.”

“I don’t mean to do things, Professor Dumbledore, they just happen.”

“And for now that is understood, but that understanding will last only so long.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“No, Tom,” Dumbledore answered with a sigh, “you are not in trouble, just be mindful of this conversation. I also came because I have this for you.”

Tom watched with anticipation as the wizard sitting across the table from him produced a small pouch and an envelope.

“I assume that you still have a few coins left from last term, but here are the funds for you to buy your books and other needs for this one. Your letter, school supplies list and a ticket for the trip are within this envelope, keep it safe.”

“I will, Professor Dumbledore.”

“Excellent, then I shall leave you to your meal and the remainder of your break. Remember what we talked about today, Tom.”

“I will, Professor Dumbledore.”

Tom suddenly found himself alone and he hurried to tuck the bag and envelope into his pocket. He had no intention of traveling to Diagon Alley today, there was the very real possibility of running into Farley and his chums there and they knew far more than he did. There was also the fact that he didn’t have his wand, it was safe at Hogwarts in the office of Headmaster Armando Dippet. This had been the one thing that he had not been permitted to take home with him that he missed the most, but he also knew that it had been a fortunate happening. He would have been tempted to use it and that would have meant permanent expulsion from school and a life as a Muggle.

When his meal was finished he rose and then walked towards the door, not even waiting to watch the things that he had used vanish to return to the kitchen. He bade the man behind the bar farewell and then stepped back out onto Charing Cross Road to walk back to Wool’s Orphanage. As he walked he wondered how different his life might have been if he had not been dumped in London’s West End. How different would it have been if his mother had raised him rather than dying and leaving him to fend for himself in the world that he found himself in?

He walked around a corner and found a group of young ruffians that he had encountered before walking towards him. As they approached him, one of them realized who he was and nudged the leader of the pack. Immediately, and to the amazement of onlookers, the pack decided to walk across the street and avoid contact with the boy. Astounded spectators, including a police officer, watched as the boy that they had expected to have to rescue, walked on unmolested until he was out of view.

After a walk that took him into the run-down area of the street, Tom finally rounded a corner to see the stark brick building in which he lived. He slowed his pace, not wanting to enter the structure before he had to, and only sped up when Martha noticed him and beckoned him to approach.

“Where have you been, Tom? Mrs. Cole has been in a state about it!”

“Her state is not my problem, Martha, I am only here for a few more days and then I shall go back to school.”

“It is your problem, Tom! She is threatening to not let you return to that school because of your conduct of late.”

“I should like to see her try!” the boy answered as his temper flared dangerously.

As involved as they were in the conversation, neither noticed the appearance of the matron at the front door of the building. She had seen the boy from a window and now had hurried to catch up with him before he vanished once again.

“Tom Riddle!”

Tom and Martha turned to see the thin woman advancing on them, her gaze set firmly and the fact that she was angry easy to see.

“Where have you been, young man?”

“I went for a walk.”

“You went for a walk? You went for a walk and left your chores for others to do. Well that is certainly what you may have wished, but I am afraid that that is not what happened. Your chores are waiting for you and I expect them done before dinner tonight.”

Tom made no move to enter the building and Mrs. Cole, sensing defiance, spoke again.

“Tom, if you decide to refuse to do your chores I shall be forced to refuse to allow you to leave to go to your school. You can certainly do lessons here at the orphanage and I am quite certain that they are sufficient to allow you to attain employment at some point in your life.”

“I am going to my school in a few days.”

“Then, if that is what you desire, you are going to walk into that building to do your chores in a few minutes. I am not going to budge on this Tom, while you live in the orphanage you are going to abide by our rules like any other orphan. If you cannot do that then I must contact the ministry that runs our institution to inform them that you have no place here and the orphanage on the other side of the city may be a more suitable place for you.”

Tom’s normally pale face blanched as the matron spoke. The other orphanage was widely regarded as a terrible place, rife with violence and misery. At least here the building was clean and he was well fed and there wasn’t much in the way of difficulty. The rules were plain here, while the rules in the other place mainly involved survival. Faced with this possibility, Tom finally nodded and then walked into the building to find that he had been assigned to clean not only the ground floor boy’s lavatory but the one on the upper floor as well. He groaned and then walked to the closet where the supplies for the job were kept before walking into the lower floor chamber to begin working.

While he worked, Tom’s mind wandered to the trip to Hogwarts which would soon take place. He could hardly wait to be free of this place and would do whatever he had to do to ensure that departure. His thoughts were interrupted by Billy and Herbert walking into the room while they talked.

“Oi, Herbert, look who is back! Tom, did you hope that Mrs. Cole was going to make me do this?” the boy asked as he suddenly lashed out with a foot to kick the pail of water from Tom’s hand. The water splashed all over Tom, the walls and the floor as well while Billy laughed hysterically. “I guess that you have more cleaning to do than you thought, Tom. Be sure to make certain that you get the loo that I used clean, you know that she will check, sorry about the mess that I left in there.”

Billy laughed again and reached out to push the other boy while Tom’s anger grew and then finally spilled over. The bully was walking away when his feet suddenly went out from under him and he landed hard on the wet floor. The shriek of pain that erupted from him alerted Mrs. Cole and Martha and they hurried in to find Billy on the floor holding his arm and crying.

“What has happened here?” Mrs. Cole demanded.

“Billy came in here, kicked the pail out of my hand and then fell on the water that was on the floor,” Tom answered.

“He’s lying,” Billy moaned through clenched teeth, “he shoved me and I fell after he threw water all over the place.”

“You are the one who is lying, Billy Stubbs, I never touched you.”

Mrs. Cole looked from one boy to the other and then looked at Herbert, who had been silent the entire time.

“Herbert, I need you to tell me who is telling me the truth.”

The boy looked at the two boys, both of whom scared him terribly. Billy was likely to beat him up when he got the chance, but Tom scared him more because he was Tom.

“Tom is telling the truth, Mrs. Cole,” Herbert finally announced, “Billy was making fun of him and kicked the pail out of his hand. He fell on the wet floor, Tom never touched him.”

“Mister Stubbs, the doctor is on his way here right now. If he tells me that you are not seriously harmed then you shall be doing Tom’s chores. If you are harmed, Tom will do his chores and you shall face other punishment. I do not like being lied to and you shall not get away with it.”

Mrs. Cole turned to Tom and then looked at the mess in the room.

“Tom, I shall have you mop the water up off of the floor so that we do not have any more accidents. If you wish to go upstairs to change your clothing I shall understand, but please get this mopped up.”

“Yes, Mrs. Cole.”

Tom watched as the women helped Billy to his feet and then led the boy out of the room before picking up the mop that he had intended to use anyway. Herbert was preparing to leave the room when a voice in his head stopped him.

‘You are lucky that you told the truth, Herbert! If you had lied, I would have been so very angry and you know what might have happened then.’

Herbert hurried to not only leave the room, but also escape Tom’s presence, as if that would do any good.

Billy somehow had escaped a broken arm and soon found himself realizing the wrath of Mrs. Cole. The matron informed him that he would be doing the chores assigned to Tom for a week, more than enough time for Tom to leave for Hogwarts, and also write sentences for lying.

Tom went to bed that night and lay there for a moment looking at the letter that he had been given at the Leaky Cauldron. It had been retrieved from the place under the cupboard where the truck and the bag of coins resided. The ticket for the Hogwarts Express lay on his bed next to him and he kept a careful eye on the door lest someone walk in on him and demand to see what he had.

‘I leave soon, so soon, but so long from now.’

He carefully folded the letter and list and then placed them and the ticket back into the envelope before secreting them back within the cupboard next to the bag.

“It is going to be so nice to be away from this horrid place and these foolish Muggles. I cannot wait to get back to Hogwarts so that I can learn more about magic and what else I can do.”

He fell asleep that night, keenly aware of the terrified residents that shared the building with him. Amy cowered, as she had all summer, under her blanket hoping that she wouldn’t get another visit from Tom in the night while Dennis would wet the bed once again as the scenario in the cave played over and over in his mind. Other children, Herbert especially, would wonder what the night would bring for them as all had been experiencing nightmares in which a tall bald man in robes visited them to explain what their fate would be. Blood curdling screams were not uncommon and all, save Tom, were showing the strain of sleepless nights.

‘I am leaving in a few days and then you might get some sleep, but I will be back and just think about what I will be able to do after I have studied for two years at Hogwarts. You only thought that it was bad after my first year, wait until I finish the second.’

Tom smiled in his sleep and rolled over to accept the comfort that the blanket wrought as he pulled it around him. Things were going to be so much better once he was back at Hogwarts and his circle of friends was reunited.

He had not slept long before the screams began.
 


Chapter 2: Trouble in Diagon Alley
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Billy grumbled to himself as he worked at completing chores that would have been Tom’s if Herbert had gone along with the story in the lavatory. The git had actually informed on him to Mrs. Cole and Martha and now he was stuck with the chores of two people, much to the amusement of many other orphans.

The adults had gone to great lengths to keep the pair of boys apart to prevent a fight and, so far, had been successful. Billy and Tom were kept apart, even at mealtime, to prevent an escalation of hostilities between them. Now, as he carefully cleaned the stair railings, Billy thought about the revenge that he wanted to enact upon Tom before the other boy left to go to his special school.

Clearly beating the other boy up was out of the question and trashing his room didn’t work either, none of them had enough belongings to make this plan anything more than an annoyance for Tom. There was also the fact that the rooms had been inspected this morning in preparation for a visit from the organization that funded the orphanage. Mrs. Cole would know that he had done it and there would be more punishment.

While the other boy worked at his task, Tom was busy in the kitchen helping in the organization of the shelves and cupboards. He didn’t mind helping Martha in her task and it didn’t hurt that it kept him away from Billy. The last thing that he really wanted was for more trouble with the larger boy to happen. He wanted desperately for the remaining days of break to come to an end so that he could return to Hogwarts, but before that he had to get to Diagon Alley to buy his supplies and that was going to be difficult. Mrs. Cole had been keeping a very close eye on him thus preventing him from making another excursion out and about.

His only chance was today, for once he was done in the kitchen he would be permitted to go out into the yard to play. It would be easy then, because Mrs. Cole would demand that he wear his jacket outside and he would be forced to go up to his cupboard to get it. Once there he could retrieve the bag that Professor Dumbledore had given him as well as the list of needed supplies. Then it was merely a matter of slipping away to shop. Tom at the Leaky Cauldron would hang onto his things for him, he knew that and then they would be ready when the time came to go to King’s Cross for the trip to Hogwarts.

For him to be able to slip away he needed a distraction and he already had one in mind. The fact that it involved Billy helped and he knew that it would be effective in what he needed to happen. The last plate was set upon the stack that he had been drying and Martha picked up the stack to place it on the freshly cleaned space the waited for it. He watched intently as the woman closed the door and then he neatly folded the towel that he had been using over the rail that waited for it.

Martha watched the boy as he finished the act and then nodded her approval after a glance around the room. Tom had worked like a whirlwind to get things done and had earned the freedom that the yard offered.

“Tom, you can go ahead and go upstairs to get your jacket. It’s dreadfully windy out there and you know that Mrs. Cole will want you to wear it. Run along now, before I find another stack of dishes that need to be washed.”

The boy nodded enthusiastically and then raced for the back stairs, the stairs away from Billy, to make the trip to his room. He walked swiftly once up in the hallway and reached his room to enter it and then close the door behind him. The cupboard was soon open, the jacket on and the bag and envelope in his pocket. Tom made certain that the board was back into place as he prepared to leave for his trip and opened the door to see Billy glaring up at him from the landing below. He closed the door behind him and walked away to return to the back stairs. The time for the distraction was going to be soon.

Tom arrived in the kitchen and then made his way to the front door, past a matron that nodded approvingly as she saw that not only did he have the jacket that she had intended to remind him about on, but it was fastened as well.

“Be certain to stay inside the fence, Tom. Do not let me see you outside it or it will be no dessert tonight and sentences tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am, Mrs. Cole, I’ll stay in the courtyard.”

He slipped out the door that she had opened and was nearly out of the entryway when it happened. A wild shriek sounded and then a cascade of water tumbled down the stairs followed closely by Billy. He rolled down the steps head over heels to land in a heap at the bottom while Mrs. Cole and Tom stared at the spectacle with wide eyes. The woman rushed to the side of the boy while Tom hurried out into the courtyard. He would appear to be innocent, how could he be anything otherwise, Mrs. Cole had been standing next to him and he had been lucky that she couldn’t read his thoughts when he imagined Billy falling down the stairs.

Martha, on a mission to find the doctor, never saw Tom follow her out through the gate and then take a different route than she did. He knew that very likely it would take her a great deal of time to find the man and by the time she did he would be safely in Diagon Alley buying what he needed for the school term. He set his curving, twisting course for his destination knowing that his absence would no doubt be noticed and that Mrs. Cole would be incensed by his disobedience. But the lack of dessert and chore of sentences was a minor consideration when he thought about what might happen if he arrived at Hogwarts without his supplies and new robes.

He hurried on his way finally arriving at the Leaky Cauldron, while also making certain that he hadn’t been spotted by someone who might question his presence away from the orphanage and in this area of the city. The reassuring bulge in his pocket told him that the bag of coins was safe and he entered the building to see Tom behind his counter as always and no sign of Farley or his chums. He walked through the pub and out through the backdoor to arrive at the back wall of the small courtyard. He tapped on the bricks that had been shown to him and then watched as they parted to reveal the avenue of Diagon Alley.

Tom smiled as he stepped out among the crowd and then reached into his pocket to pull out the envelope, which immediately straightened out its acquired wrinkles from being in his pocket before removing the list within. The first thing that he needed was his new robes, as the old ones were undoubtedly going to be outgrown by now, and he didn’t want to walk into classes looking like he had not been able to buy new ones.

Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions (J.K. Rowling) was in his sight and he remembered it from his last trip here. Entering the shop, he immediately walked to the rack where school clothing for students from Slytherin House was kept and found a clerk on an intercept course for him.

“Here again I see, Mister Riddle, ready to buy robes for your second term at Hogwarts, are you?”

“I cannot wait to get back into school. It has been a ghastly summer.”

“It is odd that I never felt the same way when I was in school. I was always the first on the Hogwarts Express to go home and the last to board when it came time to go back at the end of break.”

Tom smiled at the comment while he wondered how the old wizard had remembered his name, especially when he didn’t remember giving it the last time that he had visited the shop. The measure that the wizard carried swiftly did its work and then clerk talked to him as it did.

“You have grown quite a bit since the last time that we met. It is definitely fortunate that you came in for new robes otherwise you might have looked as though you were preparing for a flood. The legs of your trousers would have been inching up towards your knees and the sleeves of your robes would have been approaching your elbows.”

It was not long before Tom was being handed his new robes, three sets of them, and then walking out of the shop after paying for them. He would spend the next several hours stopping at one shop after another until the bag that he had purchased was full, although it didn’t feel or look like it. Somehow, through some type of magic that he didn’t yet understand, the bag that he carried could never be filled to full and seemed to expand to carry objects much larger than it was. He imagined that he himself could actually climb into it and never be found, and this thought gave him an inspiration. If he could get back into the orphanage without being seen and make his way to his room, the bag would provide a wonderful hiding spot in which to plan for whatever needed to be planned for.

He exited the latest of shops and ran into Abraxas Malfoy in the process. Of course, Crabbe and Goyle were with the pale boy, they were inseparable and could always be counted on to serve as goats when something happened and someone needed to take the blame. Abraxas stopped short as he realized who he was facing and Tom spoke.

“Malfoy, how was your summer?”

“Not bad, great even, especially when you have servants to do things for you and there are no mud-bloods or professors around. How was yours?”

“Boring as usual, you are lucky, I have to live with that Muggle, at least you can do magic while you are on break. My wand had to stay at Hogwarts.”

“Yeah, I heard about that, Dippet would not budge on that, would he?”

“I should imagine that he was afraid that some Muggle git would find it and end up transfiguring themselves into a troll or something like that!”

The quartet laughed at the thought and then settled back down to conversation.

“Have you seen Molly Porter, Tom?”

“Not yet, I thought that maybe she has already done her shopping and was home by now. Have you seen her?”

“I saw her a few times during break. She was always with her parents so there was no chance to talk to her. I could not have talked to her anyway because her parents do not want me around her. They are still on about me asking her for a kiss once.”

Tom felt his face flush slightly with anger at the thought of Malfoy asking Molly for a kiss. They had been a couple during the last term and he hoped for more of the same this term.

“Have you seen the new schedule for the term, Tom?”

“I looked at it but had not given it much thought, why?”

“I cannot believe that we have to wait until the end of the day for Flying Practice! It is going to be hard as hell to sit in class all day while others are on broomsticks, even some of the mud-bloods.”

“Hey,” Crabbe broke in, much to the irritation of Tom and Abraxas, “at least we are second years this term. There are first years to pick on.”

Abraxas stopped himself as he prepared to dress the other boy down as a smile crossed his face.

“You know something, William, you are so correct! I had not thought about it before you mentioned it; we are not first years anymore! We do have first years to torment.”

The group laughed again, but Tom’s laughter was only half-hearted as his gaze drifted away from Abraxas and down the alley. As he watched, Molly’s parents stepped out of Flourish and Blotts, followed closely by Molly. The other boys, noticing that his attention had shifted, turned to see what had captured Tom’s attention and smiled as they saw the winsome blonde.

“It has been good talking to you, boys, I have some things to take care of,” Tom said as he stepped away from the group.”

“If she gets bored, let me know,” Abraxas called out to the boy, “I am certain that I can find some way to entertain her.”

Tom ignored the remark as he walked towards the girl and her parents. The crowd was thick and the going tough but he finally managed to catch up with the family.

“Hi Molly.”

The girl, hearing her name being spoken, turned and then smiled as she saw who it was.

“Tom, it is so good to see you,” she answered as she hugged him before turning to her parents. “Mother, Father, you remember Tom Riddle don’t you?”

“Of course we do,” Molly’s mother answered, “but I almost did not recognize you, Tom, you really have grown quite a bit.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Porter.”

“Tom, have you done your shopping?” Molly asked with hope filled eyes.

“I just did.”

The hope in the eyes of the girl faded and Tom realized that she had been about to invite him to walk with them. Catching it in an instant he hurried to continue with his answer.

“Can I walk with you anyway?”

The smile that had disappeared from the eyes of the girl returned to match the one on her face and she nodded quickly. The parents of the girl, noting the interest that their daughter had in the young wizard, smiled and then Molly’s father spoke.

“Molly, we have some other shopping to do, dreadfully boring it will be for you, would you and the young man want to walk together while we do that? We can meet back here in a short while to go home since your shopping is done.”

“Yes, Father, I would like that very much.”

“It is settled then,” Molly’s father announced, “we shall continue our shopping while you two catch up after the break. Shall we meet back here in an hour or so, that should give you time to talk?”

“Yes, Father,” the girl replied as her mother stepped forward to hug her while her father shook Tom’s hand.

“You two have a nice talk and we shall see you shortly.”

Tom was astounded by the response that Molly’s parents had given him. Never before had he been treated so respectfully outside of Hogwarts, especially by adults. Normally people, knowing his status as an orphan, ignored him or insulted him, often calling him rather impolite names and regretting it when he got his revenge simply by thinking about it.

Molly reached forward to take his hand and they walked on towards Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour (J.K. Rowling) where they stepped inside and found an empty table. He glanced at the menu and his eyes widened as he beheld the variety. Other than Hogwarts he had never had ice cream, it was a luxury not extended to the orphans, and he couldn’t wait to try some of the treats. The girl, used to such things, swiftly ordered her choice and then Tom followed her example only to see it appear in front of them in an instant.

As they ate they talked quietly while Tom watched for trouble after seeing Farley and his friends through the window.

“Do they have places like this where you live, Tom?”

“Not like this,” he answered after swallowing the ice cream that was in his mouth, “you have to wait for them to bring it to your table. It does not just appear like this did.”

“That is so brilliant,” the girl exclaimed as she thought about it.

“Brilliant?”

“Of course, there you probably get to see them make your ice cream, but here it just appears.”

Tom nodded as he considered what she was saying, not knowing for certain how it worked in a Muggle ice cream shop. He had never been in one, but had seen inside through a window and the lack of knowledge on the part of the girl was helping him tremendously with all of this. They talked quietly as they ate and Tom gradually realized that she was upset about something.

“Molly, are you angry about something?”

“Not angry,” she answered with a sigh, “I just hope that this term you do not spend all of your time with those thick headed friends of yours. It was really very irritating last term, especially when you would ignore me to be with them.”

“I apologize, Molly, I did not know that you felt that way.”

“It should have been obvious, Tom, they are bad-mannered and rather rude when they speak to people. I especially dislike Abraxas Malfoy, Tom; he is the worst of the lot.”

“Why do you not like him?”

“The way that he talks about people who have Muggle parents, calling them Mud-Bloods, it is very rude and I will not be around someone who does that. There is also the fact that he asked me for a kiss last term, it was so inappropriate, especially in public.”

“I am sorry that he did that.”

The girl looked at him strangely before continuing.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Tom, you did nothing wrong. When I kissed you it was because I wanted to, not because you asked me. If you had asked me, I probably would have never spoken to you again not to mention slapped your face.”

“I will remember that.”

Tom glanced up at the sound of the door opening to see Farley and his group stepping into the shop and their eyes fixing on the young couple. The older students set a direct course for the table that Molly and Tom occupied until they stood over the pair.

“Look what we have here, boys, a Hufflepuff girl sitting with a Slytherin scum. How did you manage to get near a good looking bird like this one, Slytherin? Did you do some lying to get her to like you or was it something else?”

“Leave us alone,” Molly growled.

“Oh, well, well, well, she has some bite to her, does she not, Slytherin?" James Farley responded as he looked down at them.  "Maybe she would like to leave with us and we can help her sort out her choices of dates, because right now she is not doing too well in that respect.”

“Farley, she said to leave us alone.”

“And what are you going to do about it if we do not? Dumbledore cannot be everywhere at once, now can he?” the older and much larger boy said as he laid his hand threateningly on Tom’s shoulder.

“Get away from our table and leave us alone.”

Farley looked down at the second year and laughed while other patrons watched the looming problem. The group of Gryffindors was known to have a penchant for giving those that they didn’t like difficulties.

“What are you going to do about it, Slytherin? Are you going to challenge me to a duel or sit there and cry? What will your girlfriend think about you then?”

“Move your hand, Farley.”

“Make me.”

The situation had gone from bad to worse and Tom was very afraid that it was going to get worse then it was. It ended abruptly when the door opened again and Molly’s parents stepped into the shop. Farley’s face blanched when he saw the wizard and realized that he was seeing the father of the girl.  The adults moved swiftly until they stood at the table and faced the group of boys.

“Is there a problem here?” Joseph Porter queried.

“No, Minister Porter, there is not,” Farley stammered after the parents of the girl had arrived at the table. “I was just talking to my schoolmates.”

“Why are you lying to my father?” Molly interrupted before turning to her parent. “Father, they have been horrid to us, that one especially,” she continued as she pointed at Farley. “He has been threatening us and wanted me to go with them to “sort out my choices.”

The wizard glowered down at the now subdued students before speaking.

“I know the parents of each of you and doubt very highly that they would approve of this behavior! I certainly do not approve of it when it involves my daughter. You all need to leave and I mean right now before I contact Professor Dippet and have discipline ready for you when you arrive there at the start of the term. If I hear any more about this sort of behavior from my daughter or this young man I shall certainly see about that discipline, both at school and at home. Now go!”

The group, with Tom and Molly forgotten, stumbled over themselves as they hurried to get out of the presence of the incensed wizard. He did, indeed, know their parents and would not hesitate to contact them. The Slytherin second year would have to wait until there was no chance of interruption.

The adults looked down at the pair of children, who were starting to calm down, as Tom and Molly rose from the table with all thoughts of the remaining ice cream absent.

Neither of the pair had any sort of appetite at the moment, both being glad that the girl’s parents had stepped in to determine what was going on.

“Are you two well?” Molly’s mother asked.

“I was really frightened, Mother.”

“Tom, do you need an escort home?” the father of the girl asked as the family and boy prepared to leave the building.

Tom shook his head.

“Thank you, Mister Porter, but I will be fine on my own.”

“Are you totally certain?”

“Yes, sir.”

The wizard nodded his understanding and then watched as his daughter stepped forward to hug the boy.

“Will I see you at Hogwarts?” she asked.

“I would not miss it for anything!”

Molly smiled and then, in front of her parents and to the surprise of Tom, kissed him on the cheek. She stepped back and then walked away with her parents, looking back over her shoulder to blow him another kiss.

Tom walked away from the scene and was soon through the Leaky Cauldron and on his way back to the orphanage, all thought of his plans gone at the moment. He arrived there to find Mrs. Cole extremely angry with him and no dessert for him after dinner.

As he sat in his room that night, examining the sentences that he had to accomplish over the last weekend before the start of the new term, he thought about what had happened with Farley and his gang. Something needed to happen to teach them a lesson and he knew just what it was, all that he needed to do was to make it happen.

With a sigh he leaned down, picked up his pencil and started to write while he thought about what was to happen in just a few days.
 


Chapter 3: Family Questions
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Despite his anticipation of the trip back to school and near frenzy about the slow passage of time, Tom had been forced to endure the final days before he departed for break. The evening before he left for Hogwarts he carefully packed his traveling bag, secreting the bag that held everything important within one of his nearly threadbare socks. Breakfast the next morning had gone dreadfully slow and the ride in the automobile provided for the trip even slower. Normally, before he had learned about Hogwarts and all that it offered, he would have looked forward to a ride in an automobile, but now it seemed incredibly slow and it was with great relief that he saw King’s Cross Station finally appear before them.

Once the vehicle came to a stop, despite his eagerness to leave it before it stopped moving, Tom rushed to gather his bag and make for the station. Mrs. Cole was aggravated that she had had to drive, which was something that she hated to do, and watched as the boy vanished into the crowd before putting the car back into gear and driving away. Tom was someone else’s problem now, she thought, he would not be her concern until he journeyed back to the orphanage at Christmas.

The crowd within the station was larger than normal and Tom was forced to hang tightly onto his bag. It had nearly been torn from his grasp several times when other travelers had brushed against him in the rush to get to where they needed to be. He finally arrived at the place that he needed to be and glanced up at a clock that hung in his view. The boy breathed a sigh of relief as he realized that he still had nearly a half an hour before the Hogwarts Express left the platform. The crowd of Muggles that could see him prevented his use of the portal to get onto Platform Nine and three quarters and this worried him. Would they stay there watching him until he was tardy getting onto the platform that he needed? The Hogwarts Express departed promptly at Eleven o’clock and not a moment later. Those who were late getting to the train had to find another way to the school or spend the first half of the term at home.

He glanced again at the clock and didn’t notice the filthy, rather ragged, man who watched the bag that the boy carried with interest. The boy was distracted by a clock that everyone knew didn’t work properly and was never right. Inching closer to the boy, he noticed that the grip that the child had on the handle was not a tight one and this presented an opportunity. Gauging his chances and seeing no officers about, he suddenly rushed forward and seized the bag from the child before racing away through the crowd.

Tom cried out in alarm as his bag was suddenly ripped away from him. It wasn’t the bag that he was concerned about; it was his future that was of concern. Without the ticket and supplies that it accompanied, he couldn’t get to Hogwarts. With nothing else to do, he raced after the man, wailing like a banshee for him to stop and return what he had taken. Not overly curious passersby ignored the child’s pleas for the thief to stop as they had their own train to catch or schedule to keep. Tom tried to keep the man in sight and watched as he suddenly made an abrupt turn to the left, towards a set of stairs which would take him to the lower level of the station and out of possibility of capture.

Brian McLoud had his own agenda, he doubted that there was much of value in the bag of a child, but perhaps the boy had a bit to eat or a few coins in the satchel that was now no longer in his possession. He cut left suddenly as he realized that the boy was in pursuit and made for the stairs that led to the lower area of the station. Perhaps he could lose the child there.

Fearing what would happen if he lost the man and the fact that his time to get to school was running out, not to mention the fact that he had no way to let the adults at the orphanage know that he had missed his train, Tom did the only thing that he could, he thought about the man abruptly stopping. The ragged man stopped suddenly as though he had run headlong into a brick wall just as he reached the top of the stairs. Then he fell forward, tumbling down the stone stairs to land in a bloodied heap at the bottom. Tom reached the stairs and, seeing the man motionless at the bottom, ran down to reclaim his bag before bolting back up the stairs while also ignoring the feeble pleas for help from the man.

He ran through the crowd, weaving his way between adult passengers until he reached the arch once again. Breathing hard, he paused to bend to catch his breath before looking up at the clock. His eyes widened when he realized that the hands of the clock had not moved at all. Not believing that they had travelled so fast that no time had passed at all Tom ran around the pillar to look up at the other side of the clock to see what it read with horror. It was three minutes after Eleven , the Hogwarts Express had departed only minutes ago while he was engaged in catching the thief and reclaiming his belongings. Ignoring the possibility of being seen, he raced through the portal and appeared a moment later on a very empty Platform Nine and three-quarters. Only a few adults still drifted about, making small talk or preparing to apparate home. Not knowing what to do, Tom settled down onto a bench and put his head into his hands with one certain knowledge in his mind; he had missed the train and now could not get to school.

Although he didn’t know it, he had created quite a stir in the platform occupied by the Muggles. A crowd had gathered at the place where a man had seen a young boy run headlong at a brick pillar and had expected the child to experience severe injuries. Instead the boy had simply vanished and now the witness was in danger of being declared mad, because the officer that had responded to the strange call could clearly see that the pillar was solid and there was no way that any of it could have happened. Being in no mood for jokes, the officer had threatened the passerby with a citation for wasting valuable official time but had relented after telling the man to go home and sober up.

Tom stared down at the floor of the platform through tear filled eyes and was preparing to rise to go back through the portal to make his long way back to the orphanage when a voice that he had heard before spoke to him.

“Tom? Tom Riddle?”

He raised his head to see Lorraine Porter standing before him and then stood quickly in the presence of Molly’s parents.

“Why are you still on the platform, Tom? You should have boarded the Hogwarts Express with the rest of the students.”

“You got here too late and missed the train, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir, Mister Porter, I did.”

“What in the name of Merlin happened, Tom?”

“A man on the Muggle platform took my bag and I had to chase him to get it back.”

“Please tell me that you did not use magic to stop him, Tom,” Joseph Porter said slowly.

“I did not want to, I simply thought that I wanted him to stop and he did. It all happened so suddenly that I had no control over it.”

“Tom,” Molly’s father announced suddenly, “please tell me that no Muggles saw what happened.”

“I do not know if anyone saw it. He simply fell down some stairs and I got it back from him there.”

“You did not draw your wand then?”

“No, sir, Mister Porter, I do not even have it with me, it stayed at Hogwarts with Professor Dippet over the break.”

Both adults breathed a sigh of relief before Joseph Porter spoke again.

“Thank Merlin for that. The Muggles that did see it will likely think that he fell down the stairs on his own. Still, the Ministry will probably look into it, just be careful from now on.”

“I will, Mister Porter.”

“I think that we can help you get to school, Tom, that is if you want us to.”

Relief flooded through Tom’s mind and he nodded quickly before the adult spoke again.

“Have you ever apparated before?”

“No, sir, I do not think that I have.”

“It is a bit unsettling at first and many people get ill the first time they do so, I personally vomited all over my father’s robes my first time.”

Tom knew what apparation was and certainly knew what it meant to vomit and didn’t look forward to it. Hesitantly, he reached out to take hold of the robe sleeve that he had been offered and a moment later the trio vanished with a POP. They appeared a moment later on Hogsmeade Platform to find Albus Dumbledore waiting for them. The professor smiled at the group before speaking and placing his hand on Tom’s shoulder, while the boy fought back the urge to empty his stomach of the breakfast that he had eaten.

“Minister Porter, Mrs. Porter, how kind of you to help young Tom make his way to school. I assume that he missed the Hogwarts Express because of some calamity or another.”

Tom nodded while keeping his mouth tightly closed for fear of what would happen should he open it. He wanted desperately to retreat from the presence of the trio of adults to tend to what was going to be happening. Dumbledore, sensing the inevitable, removed his hand from the boy’s shoulder and Tom took the opportunity to hurry away to rid himself of the urge that he felt. When he emerged from the bushes a short time later he found only Dumbledore waiting for him, Molly’s parents having departed. He approached the professor slowly, while still clutching tightly to the bag.

“Tom, I understand that you ran into difficulties on the platform in London.”

“Yes, Professor Dumbledore, I did.”

“And, from what I hear, you handled it extremely well. The Auror that was on the platform reports that you refrained from the obvious use of magic, although the Muggle that saw you go through the barrier did have a rather interesting time explaining it to one of their officers.”

Tom looked up into the eyes of the professor and realized that Dumbledore wasn’t angry; in fact, the eyes of the professor were twinkling with merriment at the thought.

“Professor Dumbledore, what is an Auror?”

“Tom, you are familiar with Muggle police, are you not?”

“I have seen them and have spoken to them, why?”

“The Aurors are our police or law enforcement officers, if you wish. They enforce our laws concerning the use of magic, whether intentional or accidental, which is why I caution you on your control of what you can do. Every time that you “lose control” it is noticed by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, lose control often enough and they will contact you, which is not always pleasant. You can be expelled from Hogwarts and face trial in our court for not controlling your use of what you can do, Tom. You are a second year student now and are beginning to be expected to handle your abilities.”

“I understand.”

“Excellent! Now, as you are here several hours before the other students shall be, you may enter the castle and make your way to Slytherin House. Professor Slughorn knows that you are here already and shall allow you entry to your dorm in order that you put your things away. You shall find all that you left behind waiting for you in your cupboard except this.”

Tom looked at the wand that Dumbledore held in his hand and reached forward to accept it, feeling the familiar thrill as his fingers grasped the wooden shaft. He glanced at a carriage that had seemingly magically pulled up to him until he took a closer look at what pulled it and recoiled. Where he had expected to see some sort of horse he saw instead a skeletal thing with wings and eyes that were dead white.

“It is a Thestral, Tom, and you can see it because you have experienced seeing death. Your mother died after giving birth to you and so you can see them. They are actually quite harmless, despite their appearance.”

“And it shall take me to the castle?”

“Yes, Tom, it shall take you to the castle.”

The boy approached the carriage and then watched as its door opened. He climbed into the carriage to sit down and then be transported to the castle, which loomed on the hilltop overlooking the lake. He settled back into the seat and enjoyed the ride, knowing that he had his wand in his hand and he would soon be back to school. The countryside passed by him quickly and he soon was arriving at the castle to climb out of the carriage in the large stone courtyard. From there it was a short walk through familiar corridors to the tunnels that were home to Slytherin House. He rounded a corner to find the door into the warren of tunnels open, the portrait of the witch hidden for now, and stepped through it to make his way to the Slytherin Common Room and then his dorm.

“Tom, my boy, I heard that you had already arrived and am so glad to see that you have returned to resume your studies.”

Tom smiled as Professor Horace Slughorn greeted him and they walked together to the dorm that the boy would occupy this term.

“It is my understanding that you had some difficulty getting here this term, am I correct?”

“Yes, sir, Professor Slughorn, a Muggle took my bag while I was at the station and I had to get it back. Then I realized that I had missed the Hogwarts Express and it was only the fact that Molly Porter’s parents helped me that I am here now. Otherwise I would probably be walking through London to make my way to the place where I live during breaks.”

“I also understand that you had some difficulty with James Farley during break.”

“Yes, sir, Professor Slughorn, I did.”

“He can be a bit of a prat that one can, do not tell anyone that I said that please. He and that gang of hoodlums enjoy picking on anyone that is smaller than they are and most cannot wait for them to finish their seventh year and leave. Unfortunately, we have two more terms with him to endure.”

They talked as they walked and soon were stopping at the open door to the dorm. Tom looked into the room and saw his belongings neatly stored in his cupboard.

“Your cauldron and gloves are safe in my classroom, Tom, otherwise everything else is here. I will leave now so that you can unpack your…” Professor Slughorn finished as he looked again at the bag that Tom carried before finishing, “bag.”

The portly wizard bade him goodbye and then walked away while Tom hurried to not only empty his bag and put things away but also to change into his new robes. He instantly felt better about things and looked forward to seeing the new first years. At last there would be people here that knew less about the school and magic than he did. Now he could have some fun while he tormented them and ordered them around when the prefects and professors were not in earshot. He slipped his wand into his robes and then put his hat onto his head before walking back out into the common room to look at the statue of Salazar Slytherin.

The founder of the House was a stern looking wizard and Tom knew a bit about him. He had been one of the four founders of Hogwarts and had been angered enough to leave the school when his idea that only students of pure-blood status be allowed to study at Hogwarts was rejected by the other founders. Tom, despite his upbringing, agreed with what Slytherin had believed. He didn’t know if he was a pure-blood, but he thought that he probably was, how else had he been able to do what he could before even stepping into the school? He looked again at the statue as a thought came into his head.

‘Someday, when I am a full wizard, I am going to teach here and push the Muggle-born students out of Hogwarts! If they do not have magical parents they have no place here with those of us that do. Malfoy is right, the half-bloods and mud-bloods have no right to be here and someday I am going to see to it that they are not!’

He settled down into an overstuffed chair to read a book about notable magical families that he had pulled from a shelf. Disappointment grew within him as the name Riddle did not appear although the names Porter, Malfoy, Crabbe and even Goyle did. Why wasn’t his family’s name there? Weren’t they worthy of recognition in magical history?

‘Well,’ he thought, ‘I am going to change that! People all over our world will remember the name Tom Riddle for as long as they live!’

He closed the book and then carried it into his dorm to read more, to solve the mystery of the absence of his surname in the book, before walking out of the room to make his way through the castle to the Great Hall and the spectacle of the Sorting Ceremony that was to come.

Molly sat in the compartment that she shared with some friends from Hufflepuff while she puzzled over Tom’s absence on the Hogwarts Express. While it was very possible that she had missed him in the crowd, she should have seen him board his car. Had the Muggle that he stayed with prevented him from returning to school? Had he merely arrived at the platform too late and missed the departure? Or had he decided that he did not care for her anymore and now was avoiding her?

She settled back into her seat to stare out through the window at the passing countryside while her young mind played with the possibilities.

“Are you thinking about Tom again?”

Molly nodded without turning back to face her friend.

“You really need to forget about him, Molly, all that he is going to do is hurt you.”

“No, he will not, Carol. I love him and I think that he loves me.”

“Molly, he does not know what love is! He is going to use you to get what he wants and then leave you crying in the end. You can meet a lot of other really nice boys at Hogwarts. Please take my advice and leave him behind for your own good.”

Molly shook her head and Carol finally gave up when no further answers came her way from her best friend. She watched as Molly closed her eyes and fell asleep. Carol sat quietly while she thought about what others had said about the boy that seemed to have two very different sides to his personality and worried about her friend. She had seen the frightening side of Tom Riddle for herself and wondered how Molly had not. Was her friend so taken by the boy that she was in denial about his dark side and tendencies?

For her own part, Carol decided to do all that she could to dissuade Molly from seeing the boy and, at the same time, persuade her to see other boys. If she could accomplish that, maybe Tom Riddle would fade from her friend’s mind until he was only a dark memory that Molly would do well to forget. Carol finally settled back to follow Molly’s example and fall asleep.

Tom had the opportunity to walk through much of the castle while he waited for the Hogwarts Express to deliver its payload. Although he had seen much of the castle during the previous term he was amazed at the things that he had not noticed before. Portraits that had obviously been there before now gained his attention and as he walked he noticed a trophy case that he had previously ignored. Here was the chance, he could look at the trophies for his family name. His family had to be notable and this was the opportunity to prove it.

‘Riddle, my family name has to be here, it just has to be. There is no way that my mother’s family is in here, she had to have been a filthy Muggle because if she had been a witch she would not have died when she gave birth to me.’

He studied each trophy and plaque carefully, looking and hoping to see the surname Riddle among the many noted names, even going back and reading each one a second time before giving up. But he wasn’t discouraged, there were a lot of cases like this one throughout the castle and he wondered if his father might not have been a Slytherin and only members of other Houses were permitted in this case.

‘I’m going to find my family name, I just know that I am. But if my mother died, if she was a Muggle and not a witch, what does that make me? A half-blood?’ He shook his head in denial of that possibility before his thoughts began again. ‘ No, there is no way possible that I am not a pure-blood, it has to be that I just have not found the names and she died because of an accident! Maybe Mrs. Cole found out that she was a witch and killed my mother during my birth. It would be easy enough to do, but why did my mother go to a Muggle orphanage to have me? Why would she not have found one of our healers to help her? Why would she have even been in that part of London? I need to look through every book that I can find about the subject, there has to be an answer somewhere and I intend to find it.’

He finally arrived at the Great Hall after studying the contents of several other cases and growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of success that he had experienced. Several of the professors had already arrived and they greeted him as they met. He walked to the tables that were reserved for his House and settled down onto one of the benches to wait for the arrival of the students. His friends would arrive soon, he knew that, and Molly would arrive as well.

‘They will all be here soon and then the term will begin after the Sorting and the meal and then I am going to learn all that I can about my family. They had to have gone to school here, they just had to, and I know that I have just missed their names. They were famous, well-known in our world, but I am going to make certain that all in our world know my name above all others. Riddle, not a question but a statement that all will understand and know and never question again. I am going to make sure of it!’
 


Chapter 4: First Day Preparations
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Tom sat happily in the Great Hall after the Sorting Ceremony. He had seen Molly and she had seen him and it was very apparent to his friends that they were still a couple. They had managed a quick kiss before they had been forced to take their seats and now were having to endure the separation.

One thing that didn’t make him happy was the fact that Farley was obviously intent on making it a very long term. A rather rude comment had been hissed to Tom had been heard by many and all knew what it meant, trouble. Tom watched the older boy as more hot soup was ladled into James’ bowl and an inspiration came to mind as he remembered what had happened in the Leaky Cauldron. He glanced at the boy once again just as the ladle began to tip the hot soup into the bowl. James abruptly howled with surprise  as the very warm liquid suddenly doused his front and the ladle, tipping wildly, spilled even more soup onto him.

He rose swiftly and succeeded in splashing others at the Gryffindor table with the soup, causing an immediate commotion in that area. Screams and yells of panic drowned out the normal drone of conversation as those at the table scrambled to escape the incident.

Tom joined the others in looking towards the interruption of routine and watched as the older boy hopped about and yelled in pain, while trying to rid himself of the clinging soup. Several other Gryffindor students were trying to do the same and several professors had made their way, along with the nurse, to the table to offer aid. The afflicted students were soon being herded out of the Great Hall towards the Hospital Wing to have their injuries treated and the normal drone resumed, with a rather heightened sense of tempo.

The large gap in the group of students at the Gryffindor table made for a rather satisfying sight. Farley had gotten what he deserved and, if other Gryffindor students had gotten hurt by it there was no way that he could be blamed. He was all the way across the chamber, how could he possibly have been at fault?

‘You made a mistake, Farley! You never should have made me angry! Next time I will make it hurt more than that did!’

He glanced down his own table to see the new first years cringe while they endured the company of the Bloody Baron. The Baron didn’t normally say much, his mere gaunt and bloodied presence was enough to cause even the most stalwart student terror. Tom smiled as he watched one boy who was trying to appear brave, this one was going to be fun, and Tom knew just what to do to insure entertainment at the expense of the younger boy.

The food vanished and soon was replaced by the desserts and he hurried to fill his plate with his fill. He didn’t have to worry about Mrs. Cole denying him these treats and settled down to eating as much as he wanted of whatever he wanted. The chatter in the room was constant and he glanced up at the High Table to see Dumbledore’s eyes fixed on him.

‘Does he know what I did to Farley? Does he know that I’m responsible for that?’

Dumbledore was also thinking as he noticed the eyes of the boy meet his.

‘Tom, I am not certain if you caused that but I am very afraid that you did. I’m keeping my eyes on you now and I sincerely hope that I do not end up recommending your expulsion.’

When dinner ended the students rose after Professor Dippet’s closing remarks and then began their trips to their respective Houses. The older students knew very well to keep a watch for Peeves, but the first years had had no clue and had already encountered the poltergeist. The way to their House was littered with the remaining fragrance of shattered Dung Bombs and they kept their eyes open lest they become the next targets of the pesky spirit.

Tom reached the bottom of the stairs and soon was walking alongside his chums, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle as they plotted against the first years.

“The lower levels,” he whispered, “are the place that we need to send them when we decide to have some fun.  They need to look for pixies,” he whispered.

“But there are not any pixies down there in the lower levels, it is too dark to find them down there anyway,” Goyle responded.

“Exactly,” he answered, “but there are plenty of gnomes and we all know that they do not like to be disturbed. Remember what happened last term when we were first years and we got sent down there! It is our turn now to have some fun.”

“But the third years that told us to go there got detention and lost points,” Crabbe countered, “are you certain that it is a good idea?”

“Fine, be a first year girl and whimper, Crabbe. Go hide under your bed and let the rest of us have some fun.”

The insult had the desired effect and the larger boy fell silent as Tom and Abraxas fixed him with impatient stares.

“Well, Crabbe, Goyle, are you in or are you not?” Malfoy asked nastily.

“I’m in,” Crabbe answered while Goyle nodded furiously his assent.

“Good, all we need are the right first years and a few sheets.”

“Sheets?” Goyle queried.

Tom nodded as he remembered the stunt that had been pulled in the orphanage with sheets and the terror that Amy had experienced.

“You cannot have ready-made ghosts without sheets and a few terrible screams.”

Crabbe and Malfoy nodded anxiously as the beauty of the plan came to them and Goyle finally joined in after receiving hateful glares from his chums.

They entered the dorm that they would occupy and soon were settling into bed. They were just pulling the covers up over them as a Prefect walked into the room to order lights out, only to find the three already complying with him and other boys hurrying to do the same. The older boy, smug in his new authority, gave them a dreadful glare before pulling the door closed with a bang.

A moment later the children in that dorm heard a muffled thud that followed a surprised scream and they rose to rush to the door and find the Prefect picking himself up after tripping and falling. The boy was doing his best to conceal what had happened, unaware that he was not the only one concealing his deeds. Tom watched with amusement as his victim stalked away with a red face and bruised knees.

‘You really should be a bit more careful when you walk, Norris, the next time that you fall may be when you are walking down the stairs. That would be particularly tragic if you were walking down the stairs from Defense against the Dark Arts.’

The second year boys, all of them snickering at the plight of the older student, turned and went back into their dorm before closing the door and returning to their beds. As he settled back into bed, Tom thought again about the search for his family name.

‘If I can do what I can, with only one term of study, what could my parents and the rest of my family do?’

He fell asleep that night thinking about the glories that he would discover about his family and what was ahead for him during this new term at Hogwarts.

Molly was also thinking about the new term and the caution that her parents had given her concerning James Farley and his group of friends. She was to stay away from them at all times, be polite but not associate with them at all. There was no reason to encourage them into thinking that she wanted their company. Her parents had been very firm on this and the girl was more than happy to comply with their wishes. She already had her mind made up about what she wanted to do after she finished at Hogwarts and fools like the group of boys were not a part of her future that she intended to include.

Tom was another story; she liked him a lot and wanted to spend her free time with him. The problem was that he tended to gravitate towards those that her parents didn’t approve of, Abraxas Malfoy to be exact. They had not forgiven the fact that he had actually been so brash as to ask her for a kiss, in public! In his position within the Ministry, her father was highly respected and she knew that he would not hesitate to deal with the boy and his family should he perceive a threat to the reputation of his daughter.

Her parents also liked Tom and had actually allowed her to accompany him outside of their presence. It had felt very odd to have her parents approve of her keeping company with a young man while there were no adults present. While she loved her parents and would never disobey them, she also felt that they were rather old fashioned, much like her grandparents were. Tom was polite and well-mannered and they respected that, even to the point of overlooking his Muggle upbringing.

The girl really didn’t see in Tom what Carol did. Her best friend abhorred the boy and she couldn’t understand why. Tom, as far as she knew, had done nothing that she was aware of to deserve the distance that Carol maintained from him. But her friend had insisted on placing barriers and space between herself and the dark haired boy that Molly had fallen for and Molly respected her decision. She finished changing into her night clothes and then slipped under the covers to relax as her dorm mates did the same. The lights in the room dimmed and then went out as the children within the room fell asleep.

Molly lay there awake while she listened to the soft breathing of the other girls in the room and thought about the incident in Diagon Alley. She had been frightened of Farley and his friends, but Tom had stood up to them and this made her feel very good about him. He had been every bit the gentleman and had defended her and she respected him for that, even though he had risked a thrashing from the group. Despite her anger at him during the previous term, Molly Porter had a very good feeling about Tom Riddle and she wanted to spend as much time as possible with him, regardless of what her friends thought. She fell asleep that night thinking about the boy and what he meant to her.

Tom wasn’t having a good night as his dreams were chaotic and frightening. He was seeing an old, shabby hovel where a frightening old man, a large hulking man who looked as though he was not in control of his mind and a rather ragged young woman lived in the shadow of a fine house in the distance. That the old man was the patriarch was definite and he seemed to rule the house with an iron fist, even though the other man was much larger than he. The woman seemed to be almost a servant to the men and often afraid of them.

As he watched them move around the hovel he grew more frightened by what he saw, they were all incredibly dirty and their faces, their faces frightened the child. Their eyes seemed to look in opposite directions and they were missing teeth. The larger man seemed to be the most afflicted, appearing to be like the “idiots” that Mrs. Cole said were confined to the asylum outside of London due to their deformities and infirmities. They were weak of the mind and faulty of their physical nature and not meant to be with the citizenry. Therefore the asylum was the appropriate place for them.

The one thing that drew his attention, however, the one thing that he saw in the chaotic scene was a ring that the old man wore. Something about it drew his undivided attention and all that he wanted to do was to gaze at it, possibly because it was the only thing in the home that was not horrible and something about it was vaguely familiar although he didn’t know why. The old man had settled down onto a chair at a table which had obviously seen many years of mistreatment and neglect. It was set for three with battered bowls, goblets and spoons. He looked across the room to the girl who was even then tending to whatever was in the cauldron that she attended.

He cleared his throat loudly, a sound that was imitated by the larger, obviously weak minded man.

“Where is my dinner, girl?”

“I am sorry, Father, it will be ready soon. I am doing the best that I can.”

“Merlin’s Beard, can you not do anything right?”

The old man rose from the table to advance on the girl and, as he did, drew his wand. The girl cowered away from him, obviously fearing harm and the man was soon standing over her with the wand firmly in his hand. The old git lashed downward while muttering and the girl wailed as a dark red mark appeared on her cheek, although it wasn’t apparent if the wand had actually struck her and split the skin or a curse had been cast.

The idiot approached the pair and it appeared that he was going to come to the aid of the stricken girl until he lashed out with his own wand to assail her as well. She cringed on the floor in a helpless ball while they stood over her before the old man turned and strode to the cauldron to peer into it at the simmering liquid that it contained. He suddenly snorted loudly and then lashed out with his foot to spew the scalding mess across the floor.

“Clean it up and fix something proper before I get truly angry, girl!”

“Yes, Father.”

The men walked angrily out of the room while the girl tended to the mess on the floor and the preparation of a new meal. From time to time, he noticed, she would pause in her efforts to look out through the window towards a large and rather grand looking home that stood on a hill far from hers. She would finally sigh in acceptance and then return to her chores to get them completed before the men returned.

“Someday,” she uttered as the dream faded and he woke.

Tom lay awake, puzzled by what he had seen and filled with confusion and questions. He didn’t know any of those people and hoped never to. Obviously they were not Muggles, he had seen the men draw wands, but the woman had not done so. She was a part of the family, she had called the old man Father and he wondered if the other man was her brother or perhaps her husband. Was it possible for a magical parent to have a non-magical child? He had heard about magical folk that were so weak in ability that they were almost Muggles. Had he seen one? Who were they and why had they appeared to him in his dreams? And why was the ring so important to the old man, he treated it better than he treated his child, almost as if he feared harm to it. The most important question was why did the ring seem familiar to him? What was it about that ring that told him that it was important?

He finally fell asleep again while his mind swam with questions that seemed to have no answers and the morning would come far too soon.

When dawn broke and the castle began to stir as children prepared for the first day of the new term, there were a number of grumbling students who had spent too much time awake and too little sleeping. Tom was one of these and it was by sheer force of will that he managed to get out of bed and to the shower area to bathe before dressing for class.

Before long he had joined the river of students flowing towards the Great Hall and breakfast. He wasn’t looking forward to the first class of the day as it happened to be Defense against the Dark Arts, the classroom of which sat at the top of one of the towers of the castle. The boy joined those who trudged into the massive room to settle down for the first breakfast of the day. He only brightened when he saw Molly Porter enter the room amid a group of her friends and then turn to flash him a wondrous smile before walking to her own seat. The second bright spot of the morning was when James Farley and the other afflicted students from the night before walked in. They had spent part of the night in the Hospital Wing having the minor injuries from the soup tended to.

The nurse had been mystified by the incident. The elves always made certain that the soup was never hot enough to cause the damage that the children had suffered and were just as confused by it as she was. But she had managed to alieve the pain as well as made the students well enough to attend breakfast and class.

Tom glanced up at the High Table to see Professor Lands busy with the breakfast that he had placed on his plate and wished not for the first time that it would be an easy class today. The professor believed in keeping his students busy and the amount of parchment that they filled bore out this tendency. He was the quickest to assign classwork and the last to forgive it if it was late. There was no chance that the professor would forgive the student that was tardy to class and even less if they were tardy turning in assignments. It just didn’t happen unless the student was deathly ill in the Hospital Wing or they had a very rare note from Professor Dippet excusing them.

He ate his breakfast slowly while his friends talked to each other and he watched Molly from a distance. Unlike last term, the girl had seated herself in such a position as to be able to see Tom without the need to turn around. From where he was sitting he watched the girl smile at him and he returned the expression of affection. He hoped that the girl would make an attempt to sit next to him in class as she had during the previous term.

A nudge at his side attracted his attention and, remembering the conversation that he had carried on with the girl concerning his friends, he had to be nudged several times before he turned to look at the insistent Malfoy.

“What?”

“Are you still on about her?”

“Why should I not be? She is nice looking and she likes me.”

Abraxas shook his head as he felt his influence on the other boy waning. He had been tasked by Dumbledore at the end of the last term to keep an eye on Tom, but the task had been intensely difficult. He had no way of getting into the Muggle orphanage where he had discovered that Tom lived during break. As a result, there had been little to report and he had reluctantly been forced to tell the professor so. The few times that they had been able to meet, Tom had carried on the lie that he was living with a Muggle doctor, whatever that was, and had been unable to practice what he had learned at school.

“Are we still going to give the first years a bit of fun in the lower levels?”

Tom, his mouth full of breakfast, nodded enthusiastically. He had been planning the event during his free time and knew just how to handle it. The orphans, Amy especially, had been terrified by what he had done with some sheets and had sworn that there were spirits present in Wool’s Orphanage. Mrs. Cole and Martha had, of course, found nothing and had expressed their reluctance to believe what they were being told by the frightened children. Tom had done his best to play along with the scheme by trying to act frightened himself and had been happy when they were merely told to go back to bed and stop the foolery.

“The gnomes will do their part,” Abraxas continued with glee, “they hate it when students go down into the lower levels. The first years will be so busy looking for pixies that they will not realize that the gnomes are getting ready to gang up on them and then the ghosts show up! Are you going to be ready for that?”

“I am already ready. I have done it before with Muggles so first years will not be any problem. They’ll be so scared that the staff might have to use Tergeo to clean up after them after they run screaming out of there.”

The other boys chortled as they pictured the scene and rubbed their hands with glee as they thought about what was to come.

“All that we need is a couple of days to get ready and then we can have some real fun,” Tom announced as he glanced at the first years. “We are going to make certain that they remember their first days here at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”
 


Chapter 5: Searches in the Darkness
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The group of first year students stood before the second years as they listened to the information that was being relayed to them. The otherwise vacant classroom was unused and therefore there was little chance of the plot coming to light.

“If you want a passing mark in Defense against the Dark Arts you have to do this,” Abraxas continued.

“But why do we need to catch pixies in the lower level when we can catch them outside in the trees?” a girl from Ravenclaw asked.

“Because that’s a different kind of pixie and Professor Lands does not give passing marks for those,” Tom added while he tried to appear sullen. “We found out the hard way last term when we caught them in the trees, we all got failing marks.”

The group of second years all nodded, with Crabbe and Goyle giving incredible performances that made the charade very believable. Both of them had simple assignments in this whole thing, be quiet and allow Tom and Abraxas to do the talking. The group of first years, anxious to make a good impression at the start of the term, were buying the whole story and now were poised to go on a pixie hunt in a place where the creatures did not exist.

“When do we go?”

Tom looked at the Gryffindor boy and then responded while trying to appear to as if they didn’t want to be overheard, something that was not far from the truth.

“You have to go at night! That is the only time that the pixies in the lower levels come out. If you go during the daytime you will never find them because they hide when the sun is out. It hurts their eyes and makes their skin blister.”

“But it is going to do that once we catch them, isn’t it?”

“That is why you put them into a dark bag and keep them out of the sun. Please tell me that you knew that!” Abraxas answered with contempt.

The first years, not wanting to appear ignorant, nodded as though they understood completely. They assumed that, as a group of six, they would be able to catch a large number of pixies and ensure themselves a passing mark. None of them knew the second years from Slytherin, but Tom had been able to convince them that he had nothing but their best interests in mind. He had done this with Dennis and Amy when they had investigated the cave and he had more fun in mind with these obviously uncertain first years.

“You will want to go soon, probably tonight, before others find out and go there to catch pixies. I mean, there are only so many pixies and once most of them are gone they will be a lot harder to find,” Tom added.

“Is there a good place to find them?”

“They hide in dark holes in the walls when they hear someone coming!” Abraxas answered the girl. “You reach in and grab them and shove them into the bag so that they cannot escape.”

“Do they bite?”

“No, just get them into the bag before they get away.”

The wide-eyed first years nodded and looked at the dark bags that the older students produced for their “use.”

“Whatever you do, do not tell the others where you are going.”

“Why?”

“Because they will want to come along and that means fewer pixies for you. Fewer pixies will mean a poorer mark from Professor Lands.”

“Do we give them right to Professor Lands?”

“No, you have to wait for him to give you the assignment.”

“But, if they do not eat, they will die.”

“You really do not know anything!” Abraxas responded. “Just throw a Flobberworm in the bag and they will eat that, Merlin’s Beard!”

One girl looked rather green at the thought of having to handle a Flobberworm and appeared ready to vomit as she thought about it more. Tom glanced at her and then then barked a command.

“Do not do that! Are you completely mental? If you do that, and someone finds out, they are going to ask you why you got sick! Then the whole thing is ruined and someone else will get the pixies and you will get a poor mark! Not only that, but these other students will also get a poor mark, you do not want that, do you?”

The girl clapped her hand over her mouth and shook her head while she fought down the impulse to get ill. Tom nodded with satisfaction and then turned his head sharply as a question came his way.

“Why are you helping us? I thought that Slytherins did not like Gryffindors, or anyone else for that matter. And why is it that I do not see any Slytherins here? Is this some sort of prank to get us into trouble?”

“There are not any Slytherins here because they already know about this,” Tom answered. “They were the first people that we told. But,” he said before pausing, “if you want to get a failing mark then by all means ignore this help, but do not ask for anymore because there will not be any more help coming your way. Abraxas, Afred, William, we need to be on our way! These hopeless gits are beyond our assistance!”

The quartet of second years turned to walk away, leaving the puzzled first years to struggle with their thoughts and the images of failing marks this early in the term. Abraxas, in the lead, was nearly to the door when one of the first years called after them.

“Please wait, are you certain that we need to do this?”

Tom hid the smile that was marching across his face as he turned to face the younger children.

“Do you want passing marks?”

“Of course we do.”

“Then quit being such ninnies and take our advice.”

“We will do it,” the leader of the group of first years finally answered after a burst of quick debate between himself and his peers.

“Do we need to bring them back to you?” the sick girl asked.

“No, we do not even need to see them. You do not want them to get away do you? Just keep them to yourselves until you give them to Professor Lands,” Tom responded.

“I also would not tell them that you got help from older students. Cheating on an assignment like this one is an instant failing mark and expulsion from school. We will deny even talking to you about this if we are asked,” Abraxas added.

“Why?” a still suspicious Ravenclaw asked.

“We will deny it because we do not want failing marks or to be expelled! You really are a bit of a troll,” Crabbe broke in, much to the surprise of Tom and Abraxas, who were stunned by his quick thinking.

“I would go tonight,” Goyle finally offered, “it rained today and they come out the most when it is wet.”

The other boys smiled as they nodded. That Goyle was rather dull was obvious, but this characteristic served to allay the fears of their victims.

“Then we go tonight,” the leader of the group answered.

“Just be sure to dodge the Prefects and Peeves. You do not want Headmaster Dippet to know that you were out of bed after hours. It is the dungeon for you if he finds out. I have even heard that people who break the rules find themselves hanging by their thumbs,” Abraxas announced while his friends put on the most worried face that they could manage.

“They do not really hang students by their thumbs, do they?” the sick girl asked as her face turned a deeper shade of green.

“It happened to some members of Slytherin last term! They pulled them right out of class and then took them to the dungeon where they stayed for a week,” Crabbe answered as he made a great show of examining his thumbs and displaying them to the increasingly frightened first years. “I should know, I was one of them and it was terrible.”

“Did it hurt?” the girl asked as she appeared ready to throw up again.

“Have you ever had your fingers slammed in a door?”

“Yes, it was horrible.”

“Getting hung by your thumbs is even worse! It feels like they are going to be torn off. You hang there for days and they do not care that you scream.”

The girl finally lost her battle and scurried away to a dark corner to lose what she had eaten. The remainder of the group watched her vanish until she was only a dark form huddled in the gloom while they tried to block out the sounds of her retching. She emerged a short time later looking very peaked and like she wished that she had never accepted their invitation.

“Sorry,” she announced miserably.

“We need to go before someone discovers that. You need to go tonight and catch as many pixies as you can before others find out about the assignment. And for Merlin’s sake, keep this quiet or everyone in your year will be down there trying to catch them,” Tom ordered as his group started to slip out of the room. “Wait a few minutes and then go back to your Houses, you do not want to all be caught together.”

The first years nodded their agreement as the second years vanished out through the door and waited silently in the gloom until they too slipped out.

“They had better not be pulling a fast one on us,” a Gryffindor boy offered, “I have a brother who is a sixth year, and a Prefect besides that.”

“Your brother is a Prefect?”

“He certainly is, and the last thing that any of those Slytherin want to do is to make James Farley angry at them.”

“We meet at the entrance to the lower levels at ten, make certain that you do not get seen by anyone,” the Ravenclaw boy responded, feeling much better now that he knew that one of his companions had a Prefect on his side.

They split up to walk quietly to their respective Houses as they prepared for the journey and adventure to come. Tom and his group of friends also were making their way back to their House, the plan was going perfectly. The first years would go into the lower levels to search for the pixies and encounter the gnomes and then the fun would truly begin.

“With any luck, they will get so scared that they will make enough noise for a Prefect to hear them and then Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw will be minus a few points,” Abraxas crooned. “If we can keep this up all term Slytherin will not even have to try to win the House Cup, they will just give it to us!”

Tom stopped short as the remark of the other boy struck him, he had forgotten about the potential for noise that might attract the attentions of the Prefects that would be certain to be on patrol. Getting into the lower levels would be easy enough for them, but if the first years got caught they would be certain to tell the Prefect that Slytherin students had put them up to it. Then there would be a bed check and anyone not where they should be would be in for a lot of trouble and a loss of points.

“Change of plan, boys,” he announced as the others stopped as well.

“Tom, what do you mean, change of plans, are we on this or not?” Abraxas queried.

The three boys listened to Tom as he laid out his concerns.

“We need to just let them run into the Prefects on their own. The gnomes will do our work for us and send them screaming out of the tunnels. If they complain about us, they will do a bed check, if we are not in bed when they do it we get detention right alongside them and lose points for Slytherin!”

Expressions of horror crossed the faces of his companions as they realized that what Tom was saying was correct. The beds would be checked when the younger students were questioned and there would be no chance of escape from the lower levels. They could be the ones facing expulsion after losing an incredible number of points for their House.

They soon were hurrying through the portrait of the witch, who barely gave them a moment’s notice, and into the tunnels of Slytherin where they would be quite visible. They settled down in their dorm to chat about the plan that was already in motion and hoped that it would be successful. Tom swiftly seized the book that he had been examining to renew his search for his family’s name and his frustration grew as the name Riddle refused to come forward.

‘Where are they?’ he wondered. ‘Why can I not find them? Surely, if they went to school here, they will be included in the list.’

He sat quietly, carefully examining each page over and over again, quite aware that the time had come for them to be in bed. Tom swiftly changed into his bed clothes and then laid the book aside as he slid under the blankets and begin to relax, quite aware that the children belonging to the other three Houses were likely on their way to the lower levels to perform their quest.

William Farley waited silently in the shadows as he and the rest of the group waited for the last to arrive. Beverly Crandall had been ill the last time that they had seen her and they were beginning to wonder if she was going to accompany them. More likely, they knew, the highly nervous girl had made her way to the Hospital Wing and would not be taking part in their trip.

“We cannot wait much longer for her,” the boy from Ravenclaw announced, “the longer we wait the more likely it is that a Prefect will find us here. If we get caught out of bed it will be detention and a loss of points. We need to go now if we are going to.”

The others in the group quietly agreed and soon the quintet of first years were vanishing into the darkness in search of the pixies that they had been told they needed. None of them realized that Beverly had indeed decided to accompany them and even now was making her way into the lower levels, but from a different starting point hoping to catch up with her classmates.

The group walked through the darkness while their attempts to cast at least some light with their wands met repeated failure. The light in the corridors was very poor at best and many times they were unable to even see each other, let alone look for the creatures that they sought. Every sound that met their ears was a prowling Prefect and, by the time that they had gone a few hundred meters, they were all terrified. The only relief that came to them was the faint sounds of something skittering through the darkness and this led them to believe that they were on the trail of the elusive quarry that they sought.

Beverly was also feeling her way through the darkness while also wishing that she had been able to enter this hellish place with her friends. Her attempts at casting light had been no more successful than theirs and she was incredibly frightened. Each shadow, and there were many of them, was something terrible with rending teeth and claws waiting to tear her apart. She had already lost sight of the entrance that she had used and the girl was not certain that she could find her way out of the labyrinth that she was in. Terror closed in around her and she started to cry when a noise nearby alerted her to the monster that she feared was coming out of the darkness to devour her.

Following the noise that they had heard, the first years walked farther into the maze of forgotten corridors and away from any real source of light. Again, a noise ahead of them attracted their attention and they slowly made their way into a classroom that had not seen a class in a very long time. They heard the noises of something scuttling away from them and made their way towards it as they felt along the walls to prevent themselves from running into something. They were almost to the noise when the hand of one of the girls dropped into a hole in the wall.

“I found one of their burrows!” she shouted as she reached for the creature that she could hear moving within the space.

The others stopped while she rummaged around and then screamed as a terrible scream erupted from her throat as she drug her hand back towards her while also trying frantically to shake the angered creature from her limb. Fighting mightily to be free of the pain, the girl managed to loosen the teeth of the vicious beast and hurl it from her.

William was stunned when the flying creature struck him and he fell over backwards with the unknown assailant attempting to devour his shoulder. He screamed out in pain and terror while at the same time managing to shove the thing away and rise to his feet. The group of children, convinced that they were under attack, rushed from the room and out into the corridor, quite unaware of which direction they needed to go to escape this awful place that they found themselves in.

Beverly, lost, alone and frightened, was slowly picking her way through the darkness and stopped short as a terrible series of howls reached her ears. The echoes in the tunnels made determining which way the sound had come from impossible and she took off at a dead run in the direction that she hoped would lead to safety. Something touched her as she ran and she screamed loudly while also shaking free of its terrible grasp and then leaving it behind, hoping that it couldn’t see in the dark and wasn’t pursuing her.

The group of five, now hopelessly lost, clung to each other in fright as a terrible scream rent the still air and they could hear something crashing through the darkness towards them. As a group, they turned and ran in the opposite direction in an attempt to elude whatever terrible thing was after them. The leading student, far outpacing his companions, ran into something horrible and clinging as it wrapped its tentacles around him and refused to release him. Scream after scream pealed forth from his throat as he felt sharp teeth dig into his outstretched arm and his legs.

“Help me! For Merlin’s sake, help me! Whatever it is, it’s eating me!”

Beverly could hear this call for assistance and it frightened her more than any scream. Someone was calling for help while being eaten and she wondered what sort of stomach her classmate was filling. She was nearly upon the source of the disturbance when something piled into her and she went down in a struggling, writhing mass with the creature. With nothing else to fight back with and do any damage, she grasped the thing and then bit down on its appendage furiously.

William Farley was making some progress at escape from the situation when he was tackled by something that had attacked him. He lashed out to strike it and missed terribly while, at the same time, teeth sank into his other arm. The boy screamed out in pain and jerked his arm backwards while also managing to strike the thing that meant to disable or kill him. The boy and the killer in the darkness rolled over and over again as they fought, creating no small amount of noise to add to the tumult within the darkened space.

A fifth year Prefect, nervous and on his first patrol, recoiled with fright as a terrible howl emanated from the dark tunnel which led to the lower levels. He knew that it had to be something terrible making the noise, and possibly quite dangerous. The idea of a troll making its way into the school frightened him and he backed away from the entrance while also drawing his wand and preparing for an attack. Another Prefect, attracted by the sounds of the disturbance, arrived from another direction and the pair, confidence bolstered by the presence of each other, entered the tunnels as their wands lit the way.

The girl from Ravenclaw had seen a light appear in the distance and raced towards it after breaking free of whatever had abruptly grabbed her. Kicking out in terror, the girl had managed to beat off her assailant and had been rewarded with a groan of pain from the thing. Now she ran towards a pair of lights that had shown themselves and did so like she had never done before. She tripped over something in the darkness and lost sight of the light, as well as her renewed courage. Whatever she had tripped over suddenly grabbed her and she screamed out in terror as it began to pull itself up her body.

Remembering the many fights that she had had with her brother, Beverly finally had managed to lash out with her fist. The thing that held her screeched in agony before releasing her from its grasp and she rolled free to rise to her feet and run. She knew that she needed to escape and raced down a corridor while she screamed in terror and not stopping until she slammed headlong into something that had loomed out of the darkness before her.

The Prefects were startled to see a younger student running towards them, obviously out of her mind and bed, and were unprepared for the impact that came in the collision.

The girl slammed into them and the trio went down in a tangled heap of arms and legs amid screams of fright, pain and outrage. The chaos attracted a passing Junior Professor and Tobias Leeds moved swiftly to investigate the noise. Echoing shouts and screams came from the forbidden lower levels and he drew his wand to cast a brilliant light before striding into the abandoned area of the castle.

William Farley spotted the looming light in the distance and rose to stumble towards it gratefully. He was bruised and battered from the fight with his opponent and wanted nothing more than to escape this place, the higher mark in Defense against the Dark Arts could be damned. Tobias Leeds was stunned as the lone first year boy approached him, dirt and blood streaking his face, the wizard directed the boy along a path that was now lit in order to make a safe escape.

“Just follow the torches and stay at the bottom of the stairs until I return,” he instructed the child.

Tobias Leeds was stunned as, one at a time, students emerged from a place where they should not have been. Two rather battered Prefects also made their way to the lit corridor while they escorted a very frightened and disarrayed Beverly to the gathering place that the professor directed them to. Tobias Leeds followed the students and then spoke to them once they were all gathered at the bottom of the stairs.

“How many more of you are there?”

“It was just us,” the girl from Ravenclaw admitted after looking around to verify the number present.

“Why, in the name of Merlin were you, first of all, out of bed and then in an area of the castle which is off limits to students regardless of the time of day?”

“We were searching for pixies,” Beverly Crandall whispered while she kept her head hung, mostly to hide the blackened eye that she had received in the fight in the darkness.

“Pixies? Why would you be searching for pixies in the darkness?”

“We were told that they live down there and that we needed some to get a better mark in Defense against the Dark Arts.”

“Miss Crandall, there are certainly no pixies in the lower levels and I highly doubt that Professor Lands would have sent you to find them at this time of day.”

“He did not send us.”

“Then please explain yourself, who told you that you needed to go into the lower levels to find pixies? Tell me now, because I am more than tempted to take you to Professor Dippet regarding this situation.”

“We do not know their names,” the girl responded through tears as they began their ascent to the office of the Headmaster.

“Can you tell me anything about them?”

“Yes, sir, I can,” William Farley answered as anger at his predicament grew.

“What can you tell me, Mister Farley?”

“There were four of them, they were Slytherin and I think that they were second years.”

As they walked up the long stairs towards the destiny that awaited the group, Tobias Leeds thought about what had been said. There were a great number of Slytherin second years and this was going to be a job for someone who had more authority than he did.

A short time later, Junior Professor Tobias Leeds, the pair of Prefects and the group of frightened first years entered the office Headmaster Armando Dippet. Not long after that the headmaster sat behind his desk while he listened to the tale that was being told and then shook his head before assigning detention to the group.

The tearful group left the office a short time later to return to their Houses, and the wrath of older students who didn’t appreciate the lost points.

William Farley lay in his bed, fury running through his thoughts as he replayed the meeting in the classroom over and over again. They had been set up and now the four Slytherin were likely having a good laugh at their expense.

‘Just wait until I tell James about this, then you four Slytherin scum will find out what it means to lose points for your House.’

Tom and his friends lay sleeping in their beds, unaware of the outcome of their prank and the retribution that they would pay.
 


Chapter 6: Planned Revenge
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None of the members of Tom’s group were aware of what exactly had happened in the lower levels, but they were quite certain that the other three Houses were now down a substantial amount of points. This was good news for Slytherin as an early lead in points was a tough thing to beat, even at this point in the term.

The news about the escapade had spread all over the castle and many older students snickered with amusement at the announcement that a first year initiation had taken place. Nearly every one of them had been subjected to this very sort of thing and, although no one knew the specifics of the event, what they had heard amused them highly.

It would have been more amusing to the Houses to which the students involved belonged if the points loss associated with the incident had not occurred. This portion of the event angered the older students as they understood that already they had a deficit to overcome. The members of Slytherin House tried to act ignorant about the happenings, but it was hard to do when their House alone had escaped losing points. This had produced the result of an already tense rivalry becoming far more volatile.

Tom and his chums walked towards their first class of the day and soon were climbing the stairs which led to the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom where Professor Lands waited. The professor watched as the door opened and then the second years swarmed into the room to swiftly find a place and settle in for the class. Jacob Lands had no misunderstanding about the episode. His name had been brought into it and he was not amused by the intimation that he was at fault.

The second years quieted as he rose from the tall chair that he had been sitting upon and then strode to the front of the room to stop by his lectern. His expression told the students that he was not in a happy mood and the chatter died swiftly as he surveyed the children.

“Last night,” he began, “a group of first years entered the lower levels of the castle. Now, this is forbidden under any circumstance, but these students were under the impression that they could improve their marks in this class by doing so. How in the name of Merlin they came to this conclusion is unknown, but an investigation into the matter is underway. Clearly, an older student or a group of older students convinced these first years that they should do what they did.”

Barely muffled laughter sounded through the room and this brought the temper of the professor to a boiling point. He straightened to his full height and then bellowed his response to the gaiety.

“YOU WILL BE SILENT! ANY FURTHER NOISE SHALL BE DEALT WITH BY ANY MEANS THAT I FEEL APPROPRIATE! THIS COULD INCLUDE DETENTION IN THE DUNGEONS, WHICH I ASSURE YOU SHALL NOT BE PLEASANT!”

The whispering and laughter died immediately and the second years returned to paying attention to the angered professor.

“Now, one of the afflicted students has said that they entered the lower levels under the advice of a quartet of older students. I feel that to give inexperienced students the idea to enter that area is foolhardy for surely you all remember that occasionally trolls do prowl those catacombs. If those students had encountered a troll we would likely have experienced a tragedy.”

“The student told Headmaster Dippet that the four students that they talked to were boys, so all of the young ladies may leave the room and enjoy this time off. “

A rustle of movement sounded as the girls hurried to gather their things and then leave the boys in the room to their fate. Molly stopped to look back at Tom before Carol urged her on and the door closed behind them.

“That cleared the room somewhat,” Professor Lands exclaimed as he looked around the room before continuing. “The student also said that the boys were believed to be second years, according to what one of the boys responsible said during the conversation and, since you are all second year boys I assume that the four responsible are in this room, but I am going to clear the room further. All boys who belong to Slytherin House remain seated while the others leave the room.”

Tom could only watch with a growing sense of dread as the boys filtered out of the room, leaving only a handful to face Jacob Lands.

“I see ten boys in this room and there were four involved. As I have descriptions of the boys in question, I have a very good idea who I am looking for.”

The professor reached into his pocket to retrieve a parchment and then he unrolled it before looking around the room.

“Mister Malfoy, you bear a very strong resemblance to the description given and Misters Crabbe and Goyle also fit the bill. You three may rise and stand over by the wall while I finish with your companion.”

Tom felt the eyes of the wizard boring down on him and knew. Professor Lands knew who he was looking for, the group was seen together far too often for it to be anyone else.

“Mister Riddle, I believe that I wish for you to stand up and join those three while the others leave this room and I mean now!”

The remaining boys that had not been named hurried to rise and leave their chums behind. Tom and his friends stood together as the door slowly closed behind the departed students. Professor Lands stepped forward to tower over the students and all knew that they were in deep trouble.

“Gentlemen, I assume that I have the correct four students and the expressions on your faces do much to confirm it. I am going to give you a chance to confess because if you do not I shall have the afflicted students identify the people responsible for their incident. If I have to do that, I shall take four hundred points from Slytherin. I will also assign detention for each of you.”

Tom saw the chasm in front of him and knew that he was dangerously close to falling over the edge. There was no way around what was coming and he did the only thing that he could do, something that surprised everyone else in the room.

“I did it, Professor Lands! It was me and only me. I talked them,” he continued as he indicated his friends, “into doing it. I should be the one punished, not them and certainly not Slytherin House.”

Jacob Lands felt his jaw drop as the confession was given and, by the looks on the faces of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle, it had taken them by surprise as well.

“Mister Riddle, am I to understand that you are telling me that you alone bear the responsibility for this action?”

“Yes, sir, Professor Lands, it was me.”

“Very well,” the professor answered with a sigh as he looked at the fortunate three, “you others may go while Mister Riddle remains.”

Tom remained where he stood as his friends hurried out of the room and then Professor Lands rounded on him.

“Mister Riddle, it is only the fact that you are an exceptional student that prevents me from recommending expulsion for you. I am highly disappointed at your conduct, which could have ended in severe injury or even death had they encountered a troll. As you wished, Slytherin House shall lose no points and the points taken from the other Houses shall be returned. You alone shall bear the burden of this punishment and it shall be quite severe. Mister Riddle, I am assigning detention for you for one month. During this time you shall perform chores around the castle that normally are done by the elves, but you shall not use magic. It shall be done as a Muggle child would do it.”

“I understand,” Tom answered as he stood emotionless in front of the professor.

“Your punishment shall start tonight after dinner and you will be informed when you are released. This will go on every night until the month is up.”

“Yes, sir, Professor Lands, I understand.”

“You may go then, Mister Riddle, and I caution you to never do anything like this again. The results would be most terrible.”

Tom turned and gathered his things before walking out of the classroom and then hurrying down the stairs. He was furious and the first year that passed him recognized him and spoke out.

“I hope that you got into a lot of trouble because of that.”

The smaller boy, in full view of many other students, suddenly doubled over as waves of pain shot through his mid-section. Vomit erupted from his mouth as he collapsed to his hands and knees and he only barely escaped falling backwards down the stairs. The wave that was pummeling him abated just in time for another to strike him with equal force and another round of vomiting as his head seemed as though it wanted to split. Through it all he heard something that he had never heard before and it terrified him because it was in his head.

‘You should not have made me angry! You and your friends will pay for this, all of this!’

Tom walked on, ignoring the plight of the first year, his features set in anger and terrible to see for any that viewed them. He soon arrived at the library and flopped down into a chair where the sunlight could beat in on him while his fury poured forth. The stricken first year had been helped to his feet and was being walked to the Hospital Wing when he was struck again.

‘It is because of you that this happened and you are going to suffer for it!’

The boy collapsed again and writhed on the stone floor of the corridor while he alternately clutched his middle and then his head. He vomited repeatedly, making no small mess on the floor and his robes, and it was all beginning to subside when the nurse arrived to apparate with him to the Hospital Wing. The small boy was helped into a bed and given a dose of Pain-B-Gone, a rather foul elixir that children dreaded but which could cure almost anything, before he settled down to sleep.

He opened his eyes to see a somewhat familiar figure standing over him, although he did not recognize his surroundings. The warm, familiar walls of Hogwarts were gone, and in their place dark terrible walls that seemed to crawl with unidentifiable creatures. A hissing noise attracted his attention and he looked once more at the person next to him. His eyes opened wide as he realized that the serpentine noise was coming from the mouth of the person next to him. Frightened, he tried to roll off of the bed that he was on only to realize that he was not alone.

Another terrible hissing noise, not from one source but from many, gained his attention and he looked down at his chest to see a writhing mass of snakes. They were coiled around each other as they struggled to move up towards his face, their mouths open and issuing forth terrible hisses. The fangs of the creatures seemed to drip a viscous liquid as they moved ever closer to his vulnerable features.

'Are you prepared for what is to come? Are you ready to writhe in agony as they feast on your paralyzed flesh? Your suffering will be long and mercy will never come for you. Prepare to die!'

His eyes shifted from the terrible snakes to the face of the person over him and he recoiled as he saw a pale, hairless head with slits for a nose and red eyes that had serpent-like slits for pupils. Long, nearly white fingers reached for his throat as he attempted to squirm away from the nightmarish assailant and found that he could not gain purchase to escape. The very sheets of the bed that he reclined upon seemed to wrap themselves around him as they became apparent allies to the force that worked towards his demise. He had only one thing to do and he did it as the largest of the snakes lunged at his face, he screamed in terror.

The nurse whirled in alarm at the hellish noise that erupted from his throat at a pitch that should have sundered human vocal cords. Thrashing wildly on the bed that he had been placed upon, the boy was on the verge of tipping the normally stable bed over. She raced to his side to attempt to rouse him from the nightmare only to realize that the Pain-B-Gone would resist her efforts. Her patient suddenly began to gasp for breath and his chest heaved as he seemed to lose the ability to breathe. Panic took her as she realized that if something was not done, and done soon, the boy was going to die. She turned and shrieked for help from the nurse that was just entering the room and together they managed to restrain the boy as they vanished with a POP to remove him to St. Mungos.

The boy screamed again, a long, piercing scream that tested the strength of his remaining breath, as they arrived at the hospital. Swarms of healers converged on the wailing child as they hurried him towards a treatment room while all puzzled over what could cause such a terrifying affliction. His bulging eyes gazed at the frightening countenance above him as he was spoken to again.

'They cannot save you, no one can except for I, and I have no intention of denying my allies their entertainment at your expense.'


The boy struggled to withdraw into the mattress as the figure standing over him leaned down to menace him. A young healer, doing all that he could to help the boy that they were frantically trying to save, recoiled as the boy’s face became one of agony and the child began to writhe on the bed while he struggled against whatever was assailing him.
Helpless, the healers and nurses could only watch as the struggles of the boy weakened and they knew that time for him had become short.

The boy, struggling through what he believed was the remainder of his life, suddenly heard maniacal laughter in his mind. Bright lights flashed around the edges of his vision as his mind threatened to shut down into death. Abruptly he was able to take a deep heaving breath that filled his lungs with much needed oxygen.

'Not now, but soon, soon I shall come for you and then there will be no mercy. Until then, enjoy the company of my friends.'

The healers that had surged into the room crowded around the bed as the child settled back into something resembling peaceful sleep. They might have believed it, but the sleep was anything but peaceful as the boy lay paralyzed by the fear of the thing that lay on his chest. The large snake moved ever upwards towards his face until its tongue danced across his chin with every flick from the mouth of the serpent.

Cold slits that were the pupils of the snake’s eyes looked into those of the child and he whimpered with fear as it moved up ever closer to his face. Slithering closer it began a slow gathering until it lay coiled under his chin and he knew that he dare not move, lest he risk a life-threatening bite. The healers stood, mystified, as the child seemed to stiffen as if in fear and a sudden foul odor told them that fear had gotten the better of his bowels.

“What in the name of Merlin is going on?”

The other healers looked at the younger member of their team before one of them answered.

“He is under some sort of curse and it is up to us to determine who is responsible for this. We are also responsible for bringing him back to his parents and good health.”

Tom sat quietly in the library as he thought about the boy that had spoken harshly to him and then he smiled. The punishment that he would undergo would not be pleasant, but he had solidified his bond with the other three by accepting the full blame for the incident. He thought once again about the boy and the pain that the child had to have experienced before turning his attention to something else and letting the matter drop from his mind.

There were others responsible for this indignity and they would all pay for it. All of the first years would be taught a lesson, one at a time, and not all at once. That would be far too obvious and bring unwanted attention to him. Dumbledore knew some of what he could do and it would not be healthy to arouse suspicions.

He turned his attention back to the book that he had selected as he continued his search for his surname. This book was also revealing nothing useful about the name Riddle and he had seen many other names that he recognized but not his. He was also trying to find the significance of the ring that he had seen on the hand of the old man in his vision. The ring was a part of the mystery; he was certain of that, but what part?

The passage of a group of girls from his year attracted his attention and that attention was rewarded when Molly suddenly appeared to settle down next to him. The girl looked into his eyes and smiled before speaking.

“Are you in trouble with Professor Lands, Tom?”

The boy nodded as he tried to avoid looking her in the eyes.

“What happened?”

“We just wanted to do to them what happened to us last term. They told Professor Dippet what had happened and he told Professor Lands.”

“They are not going to expel you, are they?”

“No, but I have a month of detention.”

Molly winced as she thought about what the boy was saying.

“I have to do things the way that a Muggle would while I serve.”

“Can I help in any way?”

Tom shook his head as he looked into the eyes of the girl and saw only sincerity. The girl honestly wanted to help him.

“Thank you for offering, Molly, but I have to do it on my own. I would not want to get you into trouble with Professor Lands.”

The girl nodded and then glanced at the book that he held.

“Looking someone up?” she asked.

“I am just looking for my family name, but I have yet to see the name Riddle anywhere.”

“Surely it is there somewhere.”

“This is the second book that I have looked at and I still have not found any mention of my ancestors.”

“I can help you look, if you want me to.”

Tom nodded and Molly moved closer to him as they scanned the volume for any mention of the surname Riddle. While they worked they were unaware of the presence of James Farley, who stood to one side while he watched the pair of second years. He seethed with anger as he remembered what his younger brother had told him about the second years that had talked him and his friends into going into the lower levels of the castle. The younger boy and the others in his group had emerged from the dark spaces below Hogwarts bruised, bloodied and frightened before being led to the office of Professor Dippet.

Although his brother had not known the names of the second year boys from Slytherin who had caused him such grief, James was very certain that he knew who was responsible. The description that William had given to him matched Tom Riddle and his chums. He watched the dark haired boy as Tom and Molly Porter looked at a book together and occasionally spoke to one another.

'It was you, Riddle, I know that it was. I am going to pay you back for everything that my brother and his friends went through.'

James Porter walked away and disappeared down one of the many corridors that were part of Hogwarts. The plan for revenge was already forming in his head and he would make certain that the plan was foolproof before enacting it.

‘When I am done, Riddle, I will see you thrown out of Hogwarts forever.’

The healers at St. Mungos were relieved, the boy was showing signs of recovery from whatever had laid him low and color was returning to his face. The chalky face of death had been replaced by the normal hue that belonged to an eleven year old and there were no lingering signs of difficulty. Two healers watched as the parents of the child sat next to his bed and ran their fingers over his damp with sweat hair.

“What was it?”

“It was the only thing that it could have been, Zachariah, a curse! It was an extremely powerful one that for some reason released him before we made it do so.”

“Then it is over?”

The older healer shook his head in denial before speaking.

“No, it is not over. Whoever is responsible will strike again and the next time, young Master Williams may not be as fortunate as he was this time. The next time may mean the end of his life.”

They stood silently for a long time after that, watching the boy and wondering what would come next and if they would be in time to stop it before it stopped the child’s heart forever.
 


Chapter 7: Questioned Futures
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With the apparent mystery curse ended, the boy sat in bed quietly while he ate his dinner. The entire thing, although much of it had vanished from his memory, had been very frightening and he wondered just who he had angered enough for it to have occurred. Of course the second year Slytherin boy was a prime suspect, but the first year was fairly certain that the slightly older boy couldn’t possibly know enough to do what had occurred.

Thaddeus Williams reached for the glass of pumpkin juice that was intended to wash down the meal and sighed as he realized that it was nearly empty. A pitcher of the liquid sat on a stand just out of his reach and he knew that he couldn’t possibly reach it by leaning out of bed. His wand was out of the question as well as it hung uselessly in the pocket of his robe, a robe that was secured in the cupboard of the room.

He glanced hopefully at the door to his room, wishing that one of the healers or a nurse would enter the chamber to assist him. They had given him firm instructions to remain in bed and he wanted to do just that. Perhaps he could reach it by leaning out of the bed. It wasn’t truly as far as it appeared, or so he hoped, as a fall from the bed would likely result in broken bones and a slightly longer stay here at St. Mungos.

The boy, his mind made up and his stomach not quite full; leaned over to stretch his arm out for the vessel. His fingers could just touch the stand that it rested on and he felt certain that he could grasp it enough to pull it towards him. All that he needed to do was to lean a bit farther out and the prize would be his.

‘Accio stand,” he announced as he remembered what to say.

The stand apparently didn’t understand that it was intended to move towards him or the attempted required the use of a wand because nothing happened. The stand remained where it was and the pitcher stubbornly where it had been placed. Not to be dissuaded, Thaddeus leaned out once again and was pleased to feel his fingertips gain more purchase on the corner of the stand. He tightened the grip of his fingers on the edge and felt the piece of furniture move slightly towards the bed and his triumph.

It was almost within easy grasp and the boy, growing impatient, leaned a bit farther out to pull it towards him. Apparently it was too far a lean because he felt the bed suddenly tip and then he was falling towards the floor and broken bones. He clenched his eyes tight in anticipation of the impact and was highly surprised at the soft contact that he made at the conclusion of the drop. He opened his eyes to look around at surroundings that did not resemble his hospital room at all. The place that he was in had a strange, almost organic appearance to it and he could smell an earthy aroma that was very unpleasant. A strange breeze that would blow and then stop only to repeat its action again pushed past him and the ground under his feet was extremely wet.

He walked away from where he had landed and towards a dark, nearly frightening cavern that he could see dimly. Abruptly he jumped to one side as a strange serpentine object brushed past his bare feet and he looked down to try to determine just what it was. The darkness revealed nothing about his companion and he hurried away from it, not wishing to have anything more to do with the unknown.

“Hello?” he suddenly cried out. “Is anyone here?”

“Thaddeusssss! It is I, I am hereee!”

The strange voice was eerily familiar and he backed away in alarm as he recognized the voice as the one from his nightmare.

“Who are you? What do you want?” he screamed as if in defiance while his courage began to fail him.

“Who I am is not important! What I want issss!”

“W-what do you want?”

“What I already haveeee!”

“What is that?”

“You!”

It was then that the writhing thing on the floor of the chamber suddenly wrapped around him and he realized, to his horror, that it was a tongue. It tightened around him in an impossible number of coils that stretched from his lower legs to constrict his chest and arms before it then dragged him off of his feet and towards the dark space before him. He screamed in panic as he was pulled down a pulsating tube that ended abruptly in a dark and horrible place that reminded him very much of the stories that he had heard about dungeons. There he was released to find himself trapped in a small room populated by the skeletal remains of unfortunates that had been here long before he had arrived. He turned back towards the portal that he had entered through to find a familiar figure standing before him.

“Who are you?”

“I have already told you, Thaddeusssss, who I am isss not important!”

“Let me go, my parents shall be furious!”

“Perhapsss, but I really think that you should look over thereee.”

The gaze of the boy turned to follow the arm that had directed his attention and he screamed when he realized that the ruined corpses that occupied that wall were those of his parents. They lay there, arms bound by shackles and hung above their heads so that they could not move. Chains bound their legs to the wall as well and they sat silently, their heads hanging so that their faces were not visible.

“Mother? Father?” Thaddeus cried out as he approached the devastated remains.

“Yesss, Ssson, we are hereeee!”

The heads of the remains rose and he recoiled as he beheld the red eyes that blazed back at him and the serpentine tongues that flicked forward from their mouths. A slow rambling motion ensued as the things that had been his parents rose to their feet to stand in front of him, the rattling of the chains that bound them adding to the horrifying scenario.

“What have you done to them?” he screamed as he threw himself at the figure that now stood near him as it flung its insane laughter at the ceiling of the chamber. He hurled himself forward and could only wonder as he passed through the figure to fall through empty space.

A moment later, the crash of the hospital bed onto the floor and the impact with the tile brought him to the realization that he was in his room. He cried out in pain as he felt ribs break and then the stand next to the bed fell upon him to add its wounds to the ones that he had already received. Almost instantly the door to the room was flung open as several healers and nurses, as well as his parents, rushed into the chamber. They rushed to the side of the stricken child as he trembled through a convulsion and then his eyes went blank as his mind retreated to someplace where they doubted that it would ever return from. His consciousness collapsed in on itself and the last thing that he truly heard before his mind abandoned him was the sound of maniacal laughter intertwined with the hissing of a great serpent.

“What is it?” the mother of the boy shrieked as her child went limp in her arms.

“His mind, it has totally collapsed,” a healer announced as an attempt at Legilimency failed horribly.

Tom sat up abruptly in his bed while the woman wailed out her anguish. He had seen it, he had seen it all and it terrified him! The boy, Thaddeus Williams, had been cast into madness and would likely never be able to crawl out of the dark pit that he had been thrown into. His mind had crumbled under the assault and now he represented a threat no longer.

The dark haired boy could feel the fact that he was bathed with sweat from head to foot and this frightened him. He now had nothing to fear from the boy, but he was afraid, afraid that a door had been opened that he could never close. Hurling hot soup onto someone was one thing, but this, this was something far beyond that and far reaching for its victim. Tom whimpered as he climbed out of bed to walk out of the dorm to make his way to the Slytherin Common Room where he nearly collapsed onto the couch that rested in the center of the room. A large portrait of Salazar dominated the room and seemed to glare down on him as he sat with head hung.

'What have I done?’ he thought to himself. ‘What have I done and what will happen next? Will they know who is responsible for this and send me away? Will they send me to some dark place to wither, rot and die?’

Tears fell from his eyes as he sat on that lonely couch in front of a fire that normally would have been comforting. But it offered no succor to him and he glanced up at the portrait of the founder while Salazar glared down at him. Boy and founder regarded one another for a long moment and it was Tom that finally broke the staring match to speak.

“You know what I did, do you not?”

The portrait continued to gaze at him, offering no words of guidance, support or rebuke, and Tom was left to his thoughts for a long while until he finally rose to walk back to his bed. He closed the door behind him and slipped back into bed while his mind replayed what had happened to his victim and something that he had seen but the meaning of which was eluding him. He had seen something, but what, what had he seen that troubled him now more than what had happened to the other boy? Tom fell back to sleep as the wonder went through his mind and awoke in the hovel once again.

The girl that he had seen before toiled over the cleaning of dishes in an ancient pan that had obviously seen many such chores. Chipped and cracked dishes that were covered with the remnants of past meals sat on the counter beside her and she labored to clean them in the absence of the two men who also lived in the home. From time to time, he noticed, she would pause in her chore to gaze longingly out through the filthy window at the fine house that surmounted the hill. No doubt, he thought, she would have given anything that she possessed to even have a chance to look inside the home but that chance was extremely unlikely.

Another bowl joined those that had been scrubbed and placed off to one side to dry. Tom could clearly see that it was not completely clean; it definitely would not have passed Mrs. Cole’s inspection, but the girl seemed satisfied with it and she turned her attention to the next. While she worked she hummed a nameless tune and it startled Tom. He could swear that he had heard it before and suddenly realized that it was one that he himself had hummed on occasion. The boy watched the girl for a moment longer and was just as startled as she when the door slammed open and the old man entered, followed by his younger fellow.

“Why are you still working on those dishes, Merope? I told you to have them finished before I returned! Have you been dawdling again? Well, do not just sit there and stare, answer me, girl!”

“I just stopped for a moment, Father, my arm was tired.”

“If you were any use, you would have been able to use your wand to clean them! How is it that I am surrounded by an idiot and a useless squib?”

Before the girl could answer the rather terrible question the old man advanced on her and struck her hard across the face with the hand that bore the ring.

'The ring,' Tom thought in his dream.  'The ring is what I wanted to see. Something about it draws me, something that I have seen before, but where? Where have I seen this thing that grasps my attention and refuses to release me?'

The girl spun under the impact to land on her backside on the floor where she curled into a ball in preparation for the next attack while the idiot laughed at her misfortune.

“Get those dishes clean before I return again, Merope!” the old man screamed at his daughter. “And be certain to have something worth eating on the table when I return or you shall get more of that.”

“More of that you get,” the idiot chimed in before breaking into laughter as he and the older man left the room.

The door slammed behind them and it was a long while before the girl rose from her place on the floor to resume her duties. Abruptly her head jerked upwards towards a sound coming through the window and she paused to watch as a young man rode by on a horse, not giving the hovel or its occupants any attention other than a look of disgust. She watched until he was out of sight and the sound of his horse had faded into silence. Then and only then did she return to what she was doing while she hummed that tune only stopping to once again look out at the rode where the rider had been and utter a single word.

“Someday!”

The dream faded, as dreams do, but the boy would wake the next morning clearly seeing everything that had transpired.

‘The ring, it is the key, if I can find where I have seen it before I can learn what I need to know.’

He hurried to climb out of bed and then rush to the showers to prepare for the day’s classes. There was no time to waste and his chums were slightly put off by the fact that he brushed aside their greetings as he dressed and then raced out of the common room to make his way to the Great Hall. Students were already gathering for the morning meal and all were surprised to see the faculty already at the High Table and speaking to each other in low tones. Clearly something important was going on and all wondered what sort of announcement would be made that would affect them.

Molly entered the chamber with her friends and Tom was stunned to see her face red and her eyes puffy. Clearly she had been crying and he wondered who was responsible for hurting her. They would pay, whoever they were, he would make certain of it, he thought with anger.

When everyone seemed to be in attendance Professor Dippet rose and walked to the lectern as the room fell silent. This was an uncommon occurrence, the headmaster addressing the students at breakfast, and all wondered what was going on.

“I have been given the sad duty to inform you that last night Hogwarts lost a first year student after an unfortunate accident. As you may be aware, Thaddeus Williams from Hufflepuff suffered yesterday what seemed to be a seizure of some sort which required that he be sent to St. Mungos for treatment. During his stay at the hospital, he suffered a second episode which was far more severe than the one that occurred here at Hogwarts. I am told that the episode was quite horrific to witness and all were grateful when he seemed to once again recover. At some point last night he apparently suffered yet another seizure and fell from his bed with that piece of furniture and another falling upon him. While that would not normally be serious other than the injuries that one can expect from a fall, I am told that his mind has collapsed and that, although they have tried all measures at their disposal, there is very little chance that he will recover from this unfortunate incident.”

Tom watched as several girls, and a number of boys, around the room either cried openly or brushed tears away from their faces at the news. He could see Molly clearly and she was among the students who were weeping brokenheartedly. Carol was doing her best to comfort the girl while also trying bravely to hold back her own anguish.

“To that end, I am excusing classes for today to allow those among you who are most affected to regain your composure. The professors and staff are available for those students who wish to speak to someone about this tragedy and their feelings. When you are finished with your meal you may go about your day as you wish but I will caution all to show some respect in light of this event.”

The students watched in silence as the diminutive headmaster turned and walked back to his chair. Only once he was seated did conversation resume, although it was restrained and barely above a whisper.

“Hey, Tom,” a whispered hail reached him and he turned to see Abraxas looking at him intently.

“What?”

“Was he part of the lot that went into the lower levels?”

“Yes, he was one of them.”

“I guess that perhaps he got a little more than scared.”

Tom looked at the wolfish gaze on the face of the pale boy and then nodded silently before turning his attention to the breakfast that had appeared. Molly was sitting at the table, refusing to eat and instead expending her energy weeping. As he watched, the girl rose and hurried out of the room with her face in her hands and Carol in pursuit. Tom put down his fork and rose to follow the pair, despite the insistent urging from his friends to stay. He walked out of the room and hurried in the direction that the girls had taken, finding them sitting on a bench in one of the corridors.

Carol looked up as Tom approached and the look in her eyes told him that she didn’t welcome his presence. This didn’t dissuade him because he was here for Molly and didn’t care what the other girl thought.

“Is there anything that I can do, Molly?”

“Please leave, Tom, I am with her and I think that we shall be just fine,” Carol answered with considerable venom.

“I wanted to talk to Molly, not you,” he responded.

“Leave now, Tom Riddle, she does not need your kind, now or ever.”

“What did I do wrong?”

“Everyone knows that you were one of the four that told them to go into the lower levels, Tom! You sent first years looking for pixies in a dungeon? Just who is the hopeless git now? It was cruel and ignorant on your part and Molly can do far better than you!”

“I want to hear that from her, Carol.”

“Do you really, Tom? Do you really want to hear her tell you that she does not want to see you again?”

“Let her decide, Carol.”

“STOP IT!”

Tom and Carol stopped to see Molly glaring at them both with pain and fury clear in her features.

“STOP TALKING ABOUT ME LIKE I AM NOT RIGHT HERE! I AM PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF DECIDING WHAT I WANT AND WHO I WANT TO BE WITH! YOU ARE BOTH MY FRIENDS, BUT IF YOU DO NOT STOP RIGHT NOW I NEVER WANT TO SEE OR SPEAK TO EITHER OF YOU AGAIN!”

The blonde girl rose abruptly and then raced away from the scene, leaving the speechless pair behind her. Tom and Carol looked at each other with animosity before the girl rose to follow her friend.

“Leave us alone, Tom!”

Tom watched as the girl hurried to follow Molly as anger grew within him. Carol was interfering with him and Molly and he didn’t like it one bit. Clearly something had to be done, but he wasn’t sure that he wanted it to go as far as it had with Thaddeus. If something like that happened again the Ministry was likely to look into it and then it could lead back to him.

He hadn’t intended for it to go as far as it had with the boy, but his emotions had gotten the better of him and he had lashed out uncontrollably. It couldn’t happen again, he knew that, he had to be much more careful with what he could do before someone caught on to his responsibility in the matter of Thaddeus’ problems.

Giving up for the moment until he was certain that he could be alone with Molly, Tom walked down a corridor that he visited only very rarely. The walls were full of portraits and he was not surprised to see yet another of Salazar Slytherin, as one of the four founders he had a high presence among the portraits and the boy stopped to examine the artwork. While he gazed at the portrait be noticed something that he had never seen before and it drew his attention instantly.

A gold locket on a chain hung around the neck of the wizard in the portrait and the sight of it transfixed the boy. To be a founder of a place like Hogwarts and also have fine things like the locket must have been a pinnacle in the life of Slytherin. This is what Tom wanted, he knew that his mother had died during his birth and his father had no place in his life, save his surname, but the boy wanted more. He wanted to be remembered for as long as the founder before him had been, in fact, he wanted to live forever. To be undying, immortal, the most powerful wizard in the history of their world, that was what Tom Riddle wanted and somewhere in this castle, perhaps in his training, the answer to that desire lay.

He turned and walked away from the portrait, secure in his desires but puzzled by his present and near future. How could he have all that he wanted while also being tied to the girl? Did Molly Porter have a place in his future or would she have to be cast aside eventually? He walked down one of the many corridors in Hogwarts castle thinking about what he wanted for himself and questioning what he would have to surrender to achieve it.
 


Chapter 8: Awareness of Danger
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Albus Dumbledore sat in the office of Armando Dippet while a very tense meeting of the staff took place. The incident with Thaddeus Williams was a source of concern, the likes of which had never before been seen within the walls of the castle.

“What I want to know is how it even was able to happen?” the headmaster queried. “We have a magical shield around the school, in fact it extends far beyond the walls of the castle, and yet this happened to a student under our charge.”

“The healers at St. Mungos are quite firm in their belief that it was a curse,” Dumbledore added as he spoke. “We need to be prepared for the possibility that it was the work of a dark witch or wizard who has found a way to breach our defenses. An examination of the defenses is warranted and should be carried out immediately, before more tragedies occur.”

“I, for one, find it most odd that the boy that was attacked was also one of the children who were involved in the recent prank by four Slytherin students.”

All eyes turned to Tobias Leeds as the junior professor spoke.

“Surely you do not think that a second year student was involved in this sorry happening,” Horace Slughorn retorted angrily. “The fact that they were Slytherin students should have no more bearing than it should if they had come from Gryffindor or another House. There needs to be far less time spent bashing Slytherin and far more time finding out who is responsible for this act!”

“Professor Slughorn, I was not intimating that one of the four students involved in the prank was responsible for this upsetting occurrence. We are all upset about the loss of Mister Williams and even more so that it happened while he was under our care. But the fact is that something foul has happened within these walls and I was merely stating that I found it odd that Mister Williams was also a part of the incident in the lower levels.”

There was a sudden gasp as Filius Flitwick’s eyes shot open wide and the diminutive professor suddenly spoke.

“Surely you do not believe that they stumbled onto the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and managed to open it.”

“I find that highly unlikely, Professor Flitwick,” Armando Dippet answered, “it has never even been proven that such a chamber actually exists. I believe it far more likely that the Chamber of Secrets is yet another mere legend that is a part of the history and lore of this castle and school. I would add that, if they had managed to stumble upon it and also open it, the students involved likely would not have survived to leave the lower levels. No, I do not believe that we have anything to be worried about where that fabled chamber is concerned.”

Dumbledore sat quietly while the other staff debated while a thought circled within his mind.

‘Are you involved in this, Tom? Was it you, or someone else?’

Albus remembered what the boy had said on that fateful day in that small room in Wool’s Orphanage. He had said that he could make people hurt by thinking about it. But surely the still rather untrained boy did not have the ability to do what had been done to Thaddeus Masters. The boy had been assaulted while at St. Mungos, a very secure place, and had been very nearly destroyed in the process.

‘No! It cannot be you. I could not personally have done that sort of thing myself, even if I had wanted to, and I have far more experience and training than you.’

The fact that Dumbledore was deep in thought was not lost on Armando Dippet. The younger wizard was often pensive and distant while he thought.

“At the insistence of the parents of the boy the Office of the Aurors has become involved in this happening. A full investigation shall take place and we can expect an Auror as well as a Ministry presence here at the school for a time. They have assured me that they will do their best to keep the disruption of classes to a minimum and I have guaranteed our full cooperation in this situation,” Dippet continued.

“Then we are to continue as we have?”

“Yes, Professor Lands, we are to continue as we have. I sincerely hope to have this matter cleared up as soon as is possible so that we can move on. Before we close this meeting, does anyone have anything else to discuss?”

When no one else spoke, the small headmaster nodded silently before speaking once again.

“Then we shall close this meeting. The parents of Mister Williams have requested that his school things be returned to them and, as there is no reason not to do so, I have informed them that we shall have the items ready to leave today. I have instructed the elves to prepare the belongings for departure and am certain that they will act in their normal efficient manner to do so.”

The professors and staff slowly rose to make their way back into the castle. The loss of a student in such a horrific way had placed a pall on a term that had barely started and it would take a lot of healing for the pace of the term to recover. The students were all going to react differently and all of the staff knew that they needed to be prepared for the inevitable backlash to the incident.

Tom watched as Professor Slughorn entered the common room where he was seated and then turned his attention back to the book that he was reading. He still had yet to find anything about his family name or learn where he had seen the ring that was on the hand of the old man in his vision. He knew that he had seen it somewhere, but where? Why did he keep having the visions? They were obviously important to him, but in what way?

He laid the book aside and then rose to walk out of the room. A group of first years had entered it and their incessant chatter was nearly enough to drive him mad. Walking past the group, he stepped into his dorm and closed the door behind him. The gold ring with the black stone captivated his attention and all that filled his mind was his desire to see it more often. The stone had a design cut into it and that design intrigued him. He had never seen it before, but it held him in its power and he hurried to grab a piece of parchment as well as his quill before he started to draw.

A triangle emerged first, followed by a circle drawn inside the triangle and then finally a line that rose from the base of the triangle to the tip, bisecting the figure. Once it was finished he laid the quill down to examine his work. It was the design, the design that was cut into the stone and which obviously had some sort of meaning, although that meaning escaped him. He looked at it again and was doing so when Abraxas walked into the room to find his friend absorbed in what he had drawn.

“What are you on about, Tom?”

“Oh, nothing, I was just drawing this picture that I have seen somewhere.”

Abraxas stepped forward to look over his friend’s shoulder and then looked at Tom strangely.

“Do you have any idea what that is, Tom?”

“No, but I know that I have seen it before.”

“That is the symbol for the Deathly Hallows.”

“The deathly what?” Tom asked.

“The Deathly Hallows! That is what that symbol stands for.”

“What are the Deathly Hallows?”

Abraxas looked at Tom for a moment as though shocked by his ignorance and then answered as his understanding grew.

“I forgot that you grew up with Muggles and do not know our legends. The Deathly Hallows are the three most powerful artifacts in our legends. That is the Elder Wand,” he said as he pointed at the line. “This is the Resurrection Stone which can bring back someone who has died,” he added while indicating the circle, “and this is the Invisibility Cloak to hide from your enemies. They were all gifted to three brothers by Death himself, according to the legend. Do you mean that you have never read the legend of the Deathly Hallows and the three brothers Peverell, Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus?” (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

“No, I have never read it. Do you know where I can find it so I can read it?”

Abraxas nodded before stepping away to walk to his bed and then open the drawer to his nightstand. He reached into the drawer and withdrew a book that had obviously seen a great deal of use. The pale boy walked to his friend and then handed it to Tom after opening it to the indicated story.

“That’s it, the story of the Deathly Hallows. When you are finished with it just put it back into the drawer. Please be careful, though, that book is really old. It belonged to my great-grandfather when he was a boy and has been in our family ever since.”

Tom nodded as he settled back to read the story that the pages held while Abraxas left the room. The story captivated him as he realized that the brothers had found a way to cheat Death and he finished it wondering if the items were real, and what would happen if one held all three of them at the same time. Would it prevent someone from ever dying? Could they make one immortal? He slowly closed the book and examined the cover.

“The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” he murmured to himself. “I need a copy of this for myself, although they no doubt have them in the library. Then I need to find out if this was a true story or just a legend.”

He carried the book to the stand that his chum had retrieved it from before placing it back into the drawer. His thoughts were consumed with the possibility of eternal life, not the finite existence of a Muggle or even a wizard, who all knew could live to be very old. But still, even with magic, all wizards died eventually, however the Deathly Hallows could change all of that for the fortunate wizard that managed to gain them all. He would never die if he could find them all!

Tom Riddle walked out of the room to renew his search for the image of the ring, he knew that he had seen it in the castle and he intended to find out where it was.

James Farley was on his rounds when he noticed the second year Slytherin stepping out into a corridor. Riddle paid him no mind and, in fact, made more than a little effort to ignore him. The Prefect sped up to catch up with the other boy and then yelled out his name.

“RIDDLE!”

Tom stopped in mid-stride and then turned to see the older boy approaching him.

“What do you want, Farley?”

“That is a bit disrespectful, Riddle, especially considering the fact that you are a second year and I am a Prefect. Maybe I need to take a bunch of points from Slytherin for insubordination to a Prefect.”

“I have not done anything wrong, Farley. There are no classes today. You know that.”

“I do not believe that I like the way that you are speaking to me.”

“I do not want any trouble, Farley.”

“You may not want it, Riddle, but you certainly are going to get it! My brother was in the group that you sent into the lower levels. My brother could have died if they had run into a troll down there. Then there is the problem that we had in Diagon Alley! Just like the coward that you are, hiding behind Molly Porter and her father.”

“I was not hiding from anyone. Molly’s parents just happened to walk into the shop.”

James Farley felt the reassuring hardness of his wand as his fingers caressed it. It would be all so easy and the second year would have no chance. The wand was about to clear his robes when a voice broke into the confrontation.

“Is there a problem here?”

The Prefect whirled to see Emiline Horst approaching him.

“I was just addressing the behavior of Mister Riddle, Professor Horst.”

“And what was that behavior?”

“He was being disrespectful to me when I asked him what he was doing in the halls.”

“Mister Farley, there are no classes today, you know that very well, and the students are free to walk the halls as they would on any day that there are no classes. The fact of the matter is that I heard a great deal of the conversation and am a bit concerned by what I overheard from you. This is a subject that I will bring up when the Head Boy and Girl have their next meeting with the staff. I am putting you on suspension, Mister Farley, until further notice you are not a Prefect. If there are any further incidents, especially when it appears that you are about to draw your wand, I shall make it my business to see that you are no longer a student here at Hogwarts. Now, I want both of you to go about your business and do not let me find out about more problems between you.”

James Farley slowly reached up to remove his badge and then place it in the waiting hand of the professor before turning and walking away with his head hung. News about what had happened would circulate quickly through the castle and soon all would know that he had been brought low. Riddle had escaped once again, this time with the help of a professor. He walked slowly back to Gryffindor Tower and the derision that he knew would meet him there.

Tom breathed a sigh of relief as he made his way to the library and soon was entering the room. The book that he sought was easy enough to find (the school had many of them) and he was soon settling down in a chair to reread the story of the brothers. His eyes kept returning to the Resurrection Stone and the Elder Wand because, while the Cloak of Invisibility would obviously be useful, these other items would make a wizard that possessed them nearly impossible to defeat. It had only been through their careless use that their owners had been overcome.

‘Where have I seen that ring and what does it mean to me? Am I intended to have it for my own and what will it bring me if I possess it?’

The surname of the brothers in the story had been Peverell, he knew that he had seen that name in the books that he had been searching. It was time to reexamine those books and learn all that he could about the brothers. Perhaps then he could unlock the mystery of the ring and its meaning.

James Farley stepped into the Gryffindor Common Room and dropped heavily into a chair. He had been defeated by a second year student who hadn’t even had to draw a wand and now faced, of all things, the loss of his status as a Prefect. Nothing could be more humiliating for him; the headiness of the authority that he had possessed had turned on him and now the second year had the advantage. If Tom Riddle decided to tell someone that he had been threatened, whether he had or not, James knew that he faced expulsion. Professor Horst would not back down and he knew it, she would make certain that she addressed the meeting about his behavior and then he would be finished. All of his bragging about being a Prefect would bring him nothing except scorn if he was forced from the post. He settled back into the chair and stared at the empty fireplace while he wondered about his future and what was to come.

Tom finally rose from his place in the library and walked to the Great Hall as he joined the students making their way to the mid-day meal. As he approached the doors to the chamber he spotted Molly and paused in his progress to meet her. The girl smiled at him shyly as she approached and accepted the hug that he gave her, much to the disgust of Carol, who had stopped with her friend and now stood off to one side.

“I am so sorry that I yelled at you, Tom.”

“You were upset and I understand, Molly.”

“I appreciate that, Tom, but that will not make it okay. I was very wrong to yell at you and I hope that you will forgive me. My parents would be very angry with me if they knew what I had done. They raised me to be better than that.”

“I forgive you, Molly.”

The girl smiled at him again, but this time with much more feeling as they hugged each other again. She leaned up to kiss him and then allowed him to take her hand as they walked into the Great Hall together. Carol stood back while she watched her friend vanish among the crowd.

“He is going to hurt her so badly and she cannot see that!”

She paused for a moment longer and then walked into the Great Hall herself while she wondered how to get Molly to see what she did.

Molly and Tom had stopped to kiss tenderly before they took seats at their respective tables. They had made plans to meet after the meal to enjoy the quiet time that a day off from classes provided. Molly looked over her shoulder as she walked to her table to join Carol, who had already been seated, while Tom hurried to take his place. He made an effort to keep the girl in sight as long as he could but soon had to concede defeat as she vanished. Soon enough she would be visible once again and he could be at ease.

James Farley walked into the massive room and made his way to his table, while also trying to ignore the loss of points that Gryffindor had suffered because of him. The angry conversation that he was overhearing concerning that loss made him decide to lay low as much as possible, although many students has already noticed the absence of his Prefect’s badge. This one thing would tell them who was responsible for their misfortune and he wasn’t looking forward to that revelation becoming widely known.

The mid-day meal appeared before them and the students hurried to fill their plates with food. The House points were a topic of immediate conversation at all of the tables and Tom did his best to answer questions about what he knew. It was not long before many Slytherin students knew what had happened and were cheering their victory. Not only had their arch rival lost a great number of points, but a Gryffindor Prefect had been removed from office. Very little else could have brought as much delight to them as this and they all intended to enjoy it while it lasted.

“You should have seen his face when Horst took his badge and threatened to have him expelled,” Tom related to other students while they ate. “He thought that he had me beat, but his own big mouth was what got the better of him. If he had not been so loud about it and been ready to draw his wand, he probably would have gotten away with it.”

“I would have given anything to see him getting dressed down by her,” a girl announced, “everyone in our year hates him. He thinks just because he is a Prefect and a Gryffindor that he can do what he wants, especially since Dumbledore protects his House. We all know that he lets them get away with things in Transfiguration and if he sees them doing anything in the corridors he manages not to not do anything about it. I cannot remember the last time that he took points from a Gryffindor.”

“He does tend to favor them,” Abraxas announced between bites.

“I just wish that he would get sacked. Then maybe we could get a real professor for that class,” Crabbe added.

“As much as I hate Dumbledore, I hate Leeds more,” a boy responded. “He is not even a full professor yet, but acts like he is the headmaster.”

While the table of Slytherin students talked about the professors and the hated Gryffindor House, Carol Markham watched Tom. She could clearly see him, not having to turn around to do it as Molly did. Tom Riddle was dangerous, Carol was certain of that even though her friend wasn’t, and she feared for Molly’s safety and well-being.

‘I should imagine that if Molly will not watch out for herself around him that I shall have to do it myself.’

Carol continued with her meal, her eyes repeatedly returning to the boy as she wondered how to deal with Tom Riddle and the danger that he represented.
 



Chapter 9: Story Being Written
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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had calmed a bit in the three weeks since the revelation about Thaddeus Williams. The boy had experienced no improvement in the state of his mind and there was no particular reason to assume that he would. One of the healers at St. Mungos likened his state to that of a person who had experienced the attack of a Dementor. There simply was nothing left of his mind and this worried all concerned as some wondered if one of the foul creatures had somehow managed to attack the boy while he lay in the hospital.

But that, the staff of the hospital had countered, was quite impossible. St. Mungos, they reminded the inquiring Aurors and Ministry officials, was just as protected as Hogwarts was by a magical shield. No, it had obviously been something else and the hospital, although sympathetic, was blameless for young Thaddeus Williams’ difficulties.

Dumbledore paced the floor of his classroom while he puzzled over the unfortunate incident. While Tom Riddle might have had a part in the initial problem, and probably had, there was no way possible that he was responsible for what had happened in London. The distance was too great and he had too little training to have done it. Clearly someone else was responsible and it would be up to the Aurors to determine who that Dark witch or wizard was.

The bells in the tower announced the end of the previous class and he watched as his classroom doors opened to admit the second year students that would soon arrive. As if on cue, the first student walked into the room after sprinting from the Potions classroom. She was followed by the remainder of the class as they surged into the room to find parchments lying on the desks that they were about to occupy. The door closed behind the last to enter and he stepped to the front of the room to wait for them to quiet down. He didn’t have long to wait.

“As we should have had time to prepare for this event I have taken the liberty to provide an exercise for you. Each of you was provided a required transfiguration that you should be more than capable of doing. This is a necessary practice for what is coming for, if you cannot do this transfiguration satisfactorily, the next will be completely impossible for you. Please read the directions carefully before performing the exercise, failure to do so would be tragic.”

Tom picked up the parchment and realized that he had the subject of the transfiguration already. They were to produce a dragon formed from the folded parchment before them and make it fly. This was not hard to do except that all of it had to be done magically; no folding of the parchment by hand would work and in fact would result in a destroyed parchment. Tom drew his wand and cast the charm which would, hopefully, produce the needed dragon. A moment later the parchment was transfigured, but not into a dragon. Instead, a hummingbird appeared before the astonished young wizard and he looked at it quizzically while some of the girls in the room responded with a loud OOOH at the sight of it.

A number of other strange creations appeared as, one after the other; students attempted the transfiguration required of them. Molly looked at the miniature cow that had appeared before her and giggled as it raised its head to release a short moo. Then it opened its wings and took flight, hovering before the pleased girl that had created it. Her hand went into the air and Dumbedore approached the girl.

“Professor Dumbledore, may I keep it like this and make another?”

Dumbledore smiled and then shook his head, much to Molly’s disappointment.

“No, Miss Porter, I am afraid that I cannot allow that. But it is most interesting as I do not believe that I have ever seen a flying bovine before.”

Molly giggled again and then, with rather remorseful look on her face, waved her wand again just as the cow mooed a second time. The echo of the sound followed the parchment as it fell toward the table. She looked down at the perfectly flat parchment while also resolving to reproduce her creation while on her own time, if she could.

A dragon finally appeared in front of Carol after her third attempt; she raised her hand and beamed with pride as Dumbledore nodded his approval of her work. The sight of the creature prompted others to appear and it was not long before a number of dragons were flying around the classroom and a large snowstorm of parchment fragments was falling to the floor after several dragons engaged in battle. Many of the boys were overjoyed by this development, while the girls were aghast and Dumbledore was a bit regretful, having forgotten about the propensity of dragons, even those made of parchment, for fighting. A few of the beasts managed to get back to the desk that they had originated from, but even those few were rather tattered. Molly watched with anguish as hers barely survived the return trip to collapse into a rather ruined and rumpled piece of parchment.

“Second years, I apologize for the damage to your subjects. I quite forgot that dragons love to fight. Perhaps next time it shall be butterflies.”

At this statement the girls clapped while the boys grumbled. Clearly they didn’t have the same enthusiasm for butterflies as they did dragons, especially since butterflies didn’t tend to tear each other limb from limb.

“Class, you are dismissed. We shall perform our next exercise tomorrow and there shall be no dragons!”

The second years, loud with excitement after what they had witnessed, exited the room and Tom hurried to catch up with Molly. His hand sought out hers and they soon were walking to their study hour. The Great Hall would soon be filling with those who had been assigned there this for this class time and they walked quickly to be certain to be seated together. Those who dawdled often were seated in places that they didn’t want to be and with students that they didn’t care for. They stopped at the door to the Great Hall to find Professor Dippet assigning seats. The headmaster looked at the pair for a moment and then spoke.

“Mister Riddle, Miss Porter, as I understand that you are a couple, and you would be distracted seated with someone else, I shall seat you together as long as I have your assurance that you will be working and not just talking.”

“Yes, Professor Dippet,” they answered in unison.

He nodded to them and, smiling broadly, they hurried to find a place where they could be seated side by side while they studied. Carol Markham watched with despair as her friend sat down next to the boy before they opened their Potions text to begin reading the assignment for the day. She walked to her own seat and sat quietly while she watched Tom Riddle. It was no secret that she didn’t like him, but Molly appeared to be totally smitten with him.

‘Oh well,’ she thought, ‘the Muggles say that love is blind. I just hope that she does not get hurt by him because she certainly cannot see in him what I do.’

Carol turned to her own studies, unaware that Tom was watching her too. The girl was getting troublesome and he had no doubt that she was attempting to turn Molly against him. She had proven that during the argument outside the Great Hall when Molly had fled after the news about Williams. Since that argument he hadn’t spoken to Carol and she had made no effort to patch things up with him. There was a clear divide between them and he was certain that there was no way to bridge it. This meant that eventually he was going to have to deal with Carol and the danger that she represented.

‘It will not be today, and probably not tomorrow, but if you do not quit interfering, Carol, you are going to end up the same way as Thaddeus or worse.’

He turned his attention back to the page that Molly was indicating and soon was writing on a parchment. The assignment that Professor Slughorn had given them meant that they had to complete the reading and then answer questions that related to it. Horace Slughorn was a talented Potions master and he expected nothing but the utmost in effort from his students. Failing to provide that would rapidly land a student in an unfavorable place on the attention list of the professor.

Slughorn was widely known to have his favorites among the students and all that cared about their education wanted to be included in that club. Those fortunate enough to make the cut enjoyed the attentions of the master in a way that those who did not could only dream of. For Tom, who desired glory in any way that he could receive it, this appeared to be a pinnacle to expend effort for. The badge that Prefects wore also had its attraction, with bragging rights and authority over those who had not attained that position, even students older than the Prefect. He knew that he had to get through the current term and then two more before he reached his fifth year and candidacy for the post and he intended to do whatever he had to in an effort to reach his goal. Clearly, becoming one of Slughorn’s favorites was a path to his goal and he intended to work on that. There was no way that he wanted to be one of the nameless masses, he wanted every man, woman and child in their world to know his name and intended to make it so.

Molly nudged him as she located another answer and was eager to show it to him. He nodded his understanding while pointing out what he had discovered in the reading. She presented him with a beautiful smile that revealed perfect teeth which complimented the engaging brown eyes of the girl. Molly, oblivious to anyone watching, leaned over to kiss him quickly before starting to write down the answer that he had located. Tom glanced at Carol and knew that she had to have seen the kiss that Molly had given him, she looked too angry to not have. This gave him inspiration, inspiration which would deal a harsh blow to Carol Markham and possibly end her interference in his relationship with Molly.

He glanced again at the comely profile of Molly Porter and knew that he was going to have to do something that he had wanted to avoid. What he was considering doing would cause her pain, a lot of it, but had the potential to end the problem that the other girl represented. If it worked, Carol would be out of the picture and he would be free to enjoy the company of Molly without having to worry about Carol. If it failed, something that he didn’t want to think about, Carol would stop at nothing to end what he and Molly had, and Molly would likely help her do so. Tom didn’t want to think about what would have to happen then.

They sat for the remainder of the time, working quietly while Tom shot occasional glances at the other girl. It had to be done, and soon, before Carol managed to talk Molly into releasing him and moving on with someone else. Finally, the bells rang and the second years hurried out to the practice field where the school brooms waited for them.

Tom stuck to Molly and soon they were standing side by side at neighboring brooms. He knew that they wouldn’t be together the entire time, practice would separate them and he would be free to work on his target. Millicent Trantnor was a second year from Hufflepuff and a known gossip. She knew more about who was seeing whom, or who wanted to see whom, than many of the older students in the school. She was a bit weak minded in other respects, seeing more use in gossip than in study and having the gift of gab and making others believe what she was saying.

The sky was soon filled with student-ridden brooms and he kept a careful watch on Millicent as he thought about what he wanted her to say. It didn’t take long before he saw her shake her head and then glance at Carol, a glance that became a longer look. By the time that practice ended, the girl could not keep her eyes off of Carol, Molly and him. Clearly, the plan was in play, all that he had to do was hope that the seed that he had planted would bear fruit.

He knew that the girl would need more prodding and that would be easy. She needed to see what he wanted her to see and then speak to the right people for what he wanted to happen to occur. Alongside Molly, he walked to the shed where the brooms were stored, quite aware that Carol was watching him, and Millicent was watching her watch him. Carol was going to make his plan easy to pull off and had no idea that she was doing so. The young couple hurried to put away the brooms, pick up the books that they had placed on the shelf meant for that and then walk on back to the castle.

Millicent, always on the lookout for new gossip material, watched as Carol’s gaze fixed on the retreating form of Tom Riddle and thought about what it meant. It was obvious that Carol was fixated on the handsome, dark headed boy and, although she acted like she hated Tom, one had to wonder if there wasn’t another force in play.

‘This,’ she thought, ‘deserves some close attention. Poor Molly, she is so sweet and caring and does not deserve what I think is going on.’

Tom walked on with Molly while he tried to avoid looking at Carol. He didn’t want her to know that she was getting to him. Instead he kept his attention fixed on the blonde girl next to him as she held onto his hand while they walked and spoke. The sparkle in Molly’s eyes held him captive and he didn’t want to ever lose what he had in her. They walked on toward the castle and dinner while Carol trailed them and Millicent trailed her.

When the pair finally arrived at the Great Hall, they hugged each other before kissing and then reluctantly parting. Tom walked toward his table, aware that Molly was keeping her eyes on him as long as possible and his eyes were on her. Carol was also watching Tom as her fury grew and was unaware that Millicent was eyeing her. She strode to her seat and then settled down upon it, her eyes never leaving the boy although she did her best to not stare directly at him. The girl was making plans to remove Tom from her friend’s life and just needed a little more information to make what she had planned work.

Thus the meal went on and Tom did his best to stay involved in conversation with his Housemates while also shooting Molly longing glances, which she returned. Carol was ignored by Tom, although not entirely, he knew that she was watching him and this fell right into his plans. He could see Millicent as well and she was paying close attention to what Carol and Tom were doing. The boy was ignoring Carol but she was refusing to let her gaze stray from him. It was obvious what was going on.

“Hey, Tom, are you on for a game of Gobstones later on?” Abraxas asked.

“Sure, you can count me in.”

“I have a new set that I want to try out.”

“Same here, I got them before the term and cannot wait to use them,” Tom answered as he thought about the items that the excess gold Galleons had helped him acquire. If the merchant had been a Muggle, it would have been easy for him to filch them, but a merchant that was a wizard was another story and he didn’t want that sort of reputation to start. They were attractive and he liked looking at them, they were far better than the set that he had been forced to borrow the term before.

Malfoy was good at the game, although he had much more experience than Tom and also was suspected of cheating at times. He had held the title of first year champ the term before and had not let anyone in their year forget it. His near constant bragging about it had ruffled more than a few feathers and, after a time, the only opponents that he could find where the first years that he could bully into playing or older students who had enjoyed giving him a thrashing at the game. After a game like that he was normally in a foul mood and not much fun to be around, often complaining that they had cheated him and letting no one forget it.

The conversation carried on and it wasn’t long before Abraxas was calling attention to something that Tom was already aware of.

“Hey Tom, Markham is watching you, in fact, she cannot keep her eyes off of you. You sly dog, do you have two of them on the string?”

“You have to be daft. Carol Markham? You have to be mental to even think that I would want her.”

“But she cannot keep her eyes off of you.”

Tom tried to act as though it was a shock to him, and he stole a glance at the girl that was watching him. Carol abruptly shifted her gaze to act as though she had not been watching him. The girl turned her attention to her meal and tried to listen to what Molly was saying, but her glances soon returned to Tom.

“There she goes again, Riddle,” Malfoy stated, “she looks down whenever she thinks that someone is on to her and then, as soon as no one is looking, she is staring at you again. I thought you said that she hates you, but that is not what I am seeing. My friend, I think that she has it for you!”

“Did you get hit by Confundus or something? She hates me and the feeling is mutual.”

“But look at her, Riddle; she cannot keep her eyes off of you.”

Millicent was watching it all and her suspicions were growing. Tom seemed to be ignoring Carol, although Abraxas Malfoy was not, and Carol was totally engaged in watching the dark-haired boy. The girl had heard Carol railing against the boy and now wondered if it all hadn’t been a ploy to throw Molly off of the scent. Carol looked up at Tom Riddle once again and her gaze fixed there as though frozen in place.

Molly was also aware of something going on and she glanced at her friend to find Carol once again glaring at Tom and his friends.

“Carol, for Merlin’s sake, stop staring at him. I really do think that you are going mental.”

Carol broke her gaze long enough to respond to her friend and Molly sighed when the girl was soon staring at Tom Riddle again. Carol was her friend, but Molly was beginning to become annoyed by the vendetta that Carol had against Tom. As far as she could tell, Tom was doing his best to not only ignore the stares that Carol directed at him, but also had done nothing to deserve them in the first place.

When the meal ended, the children rose to walk back to their respective Houses and Tom met Molly at the door to walk her to the stairs which led to Hufflepuff. They stopped long enough to embrace before kissing gently and then parting to walk to their destinations. Millicent watched the couple from afar and then noticed Carol watching them as well. It was all very obvious to Millicent that Carol was jealous of Molly and would likely make her move to claim the boy for her own. She would toss her friend aside to have what she wanted and Molly would be left with a broken heart. Millicent knew that Molly had seen her friend watching the boy and wasn’t happy about it, but how much did she truly know? She watched as the students walked away and then followed Molly and Carol towards Hufflepuff House.

Sooner or later the story was going to get out and she wanted to be the one who told the entire castle about it. Although she was studying at Hogwarts, what she truly wanted to do with her life was to write for the Daily Prophet, exposing dirty little secrets that their owners didn’t want known. It was in her activities at the school that she was preparing for that life and nothing was going to dissuade her from it.

She had been confronted about her gossiping by other students who hadn’t appreciated their secrets being shouted out to the school, but what reporter worth their pay wasn’t at one time or another? Millicent had even approached Professor Dippet about allowing her to write, print and distribute her own little newspaper for the school, but had been rather quickly told that she could not. This made the girl wonder what secret the headmaster was keeping that he was afraid was going to be exposed.

Tom walked into the dorm that he shared with other second year boys while he smiled to himself. Millicent was on the trail and Carol was the quarry. When the time came Millicent would start telling all what she “knew” and then Carol would find herself hard pressed to explain the situation to her friend. When she couldn’t explain things Molly, who had seen some of it for herself, would likely give her the boot and then Carol would be out of his way for good. All that he had to do was to continue to ignore Carol and the picture that had been painted would be complete for Molly to view and react to.

He settled into bed while the plan came together and Carol became the author of her own departure from Molly’s circle of friends while Millicent acted as the quill.
 


Chapter 10: Facts Revealed
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Millicent was having a wonderful time while she gathered what “information” she could about Carol’s “desires” for Tom. It was obvious to Millicent that Carol didn’t care for Molly as much as she claimed to and was using the rather naïve girl to get much closer to Tom Riddle than she would have been able to otherwise. Sooner or later, Millicent knew, Carol would make her move to take Tom from their Housemate and Molly Porter would be left in the cold to watch the girl make the Slytherin boy her own.

It was plain to Millicent that Tom was rather oblivious to Carol’s aspirations; he was far too taken with Molly to be anything else. Carol was painfully obvious as she spent hour after hour staring, quite openly in fact, at the dark haired and rather handsome Tom Riddle. She had even been chastised by the professors for failing to be on task and had lost a number of points for Hufflepuff because of it.

Molly, ever the optimist, felt that Carol was an unwavering friend and refused to see what others did, that much was certain. She spent her days thinking about Tom and ignoring the growing threat that Carol had become. Carol had even resorted to complaining about how “dangerous” Tom was when in fact she was the threat. The result had been that Molly had reached near exasperation with the complaints and had pled with Carol to stop, to no avail. Carol was determined in her mission and her friendship with Molly was suffering for it.

‘I have to tell, Molly needs to know what I have seen! Carol plans on taking Tom away from her so that she can have him for her very own. It is so plain that I cannot understand why Molly does not see it. Carol spends all of her time staring at him, and I cannot blame her, he is incredibly handsome. A bit quiet and stand-offish, but he is so handsome.’

The girl settled back in her chair in the library while she pretended to be reading her Potions homework. From where she was located she could see that Carol was at it again, staring openly at Tom with Molly right there! More than she had noticed, Millicent was certain of that, it was just that none of them had the courage to say what needed to be said, well she was certainly brave enough and she wanted all to know what she did. She rose from her seat and walked towards the exit, but stopped to hiss her message into Carol’s ear.

“Shame on you, Carol, you should know better than that!”

The sudden message shook Carol and she turned, startled, to look at the person who had spoken to her. Millicent walked out of the library and then out into the corridor where she found a pair of third year Hufflepuff girls as well as other students to deliver her message to.

“Have you heard the news?”

One of the girls looked at her strangely before responding.

“What news, Millicent?”

“You have not heard? Well, let me tell you about it!”

The other students gathered around her and soon Millicent was spinning a tale about what she suspected. Some of the students might have thought it preposterous as they knew, or thought that they knew; how Carol really felt about Tom. She had spent many hours talking about how she was afraid that he was going to hurt Molly and that she was actually frightened of him. Carol had told many that she felt that Tom was doing a great deal of lying to Molly and that she felt that he had a dark side to him that all would do well to avoid.

Millicent knew that not everyone would believe her but then not even the greats in literature had everyone believing them. She imagined that the well-known writers for the Daily Prophet had some within the citizenry that refused to believe what they wrote so what did she have to fear?

When she finally walked away from the group she knew that some of them would spread the news that she had relayed, and she was glad for that, she couldn’t possibly talk to everyone within the castle. As Millicent walked away she was aware that one of the girls that had been within the party had scurried away to find her own group of friends to tell what she had heard. The news would get around the castle and quickly.

Carol looked again at the doorway that Millicent had used to leave the library and shook her head as she replayed the message the girl had hissed to her.

“What in the name of Merlin was she talking about?”

“Did you say something?” Molly asked as the comment interrupted her train of thought.

“Oh, nothing, it was just Millicent babbling about something that did not make sense.”

“When does she make sense?”

Carol looked into the eyes of her friend and then shrugged her shoulders in response as they went back to their studies.

Tom glanced up from his own book as he smiled inwardly. The plan was starting to work; he had heard the message and knew what Millicent was talking about. She would broadcast it to the entire castle and others like her would help her. He had no doubt that it would cause Molly pain, that part was unavoidable, but it was going to do much worse to Carol if all went as planned. Molly caught his attention as she pointed out something in the reading. He glanced at the indicated passage and nodded while also sneaking a glance at a very irritated Carol.

He turned his attention back to his reading while he imagined what Millicent was doing. All that she needed to do was to talk to the right people and the news would spread like wildfire. She knew who those people were and would waste no time seeking them out to spread her gossip. They would take it from there and the rest would take care of itself. The best part of it was that he didn’t have to do anything except act surprised and mortified when the news reached him. He hoped that it would happen in front of Molly because he wanted her to see his disgust at the news that she would receive and would be ready to deny anything that Carol said in response.

Molly would be both hurt and furious at the news for she was already a bit irritated with Carol’s efforts to split Tom and her apart. All that he had to do was to continue what he had been doing, ignore the other girl and let Millicent’s magic work.

The ringing of the bell roused them and they hurried to rise, gather their things and then walk to the next class. Flying Practice was the best class for it was both fun as well as being the final one of the day. The young couple, ignoring Carol, walked on towards the practice field and she did her best to ignore the strange looks that she caught being sent her way. Putting them off as normal school behavior, she walked to the place where the class was gathering and soon was standing next to her classmates while Professor Horst waited for the late arrivals.

“I want all of you to practice sudden direction changes,” the professor announced once they were all present. “This is to be done at no more than twenty feet off of the ground because I do not want any serious injuries! If I see anyone higher than that I will have no problem with taking a large number of points from that student’s House.”

The students, always eager to fly, hurried to mount their brooms and then get aloft while Emiline Horst watched them with critical eyes. They were showing promise, these second years, and she hoped to have more than a few stand outs emerge for the Quidditch teams. The older students that would leave within the next year or so would need to be replaced once they were gone. There were several possibilities here, possibilities that did not include Alfred Goyle or William Crabbe. Between them they had forcibly retired seven school brooms as beyond the help of magic. How they had managed to avoid serious injury was a mystery, but they had.

Abraxas Malfoy was an average flyer although he often professed to be leagues above his peers. The boy might make a passable Chaser; if he was able to get off of the bench, but could never aspire to the other positions. There were a number of other students who were in this same position and had little hope of making their House teams.

Molly Porter was a wonderful flyer, showing finesse but lacking bravado and drive. She might be excellent on a broom but refused to take chances that might result in injury. It was obvious that she would never even attempt to attain a place on the squad.

Tom Riddle was also excellent on the broom, but was definitely not a candidate for the team. He thought too much of himself to ever work well with others in a situation like a game. She could see the boy trying to play completely by himself and ignoring the rules of civilized play. No, Tom Riddle would never be on a House team, she was certain of that.

While she watched the students, she also considered the growing rift between two of her favorite students. Carol Markham and Molly Porter had been nearly inseparable the previous term and now seemed to be distancing themselves from each other. The student in the center of the issue was Tom Riddle, whom Molly seemed to be infatuated with and whom Carol detested. While there had been no open hostilities other than an argument or two, the professor could feel an explosion coming and wondered who would be hurt most by it.

Millicent was in high spirits as she flew with one of her classmates. She had spoken to more than a few people about what she knew and already the story was spreading through the massive castle. Although she knew that the story would no doubt change with each telling, the gist would stay the same and before long everyone would know what Carol was up to. The girl didn’t even care if she got into trouble as she had the previous term, the story needed to be told. That much was owed to Molly and Tom, the innocents in the whole thing.

The students spent the class dipping and diving and abruptly changing directions, with only a few colliding with the ground. Somehow the class would end with all of the brooms intact and none of the contusions and scrapes that normally resulted from this practice. In high spirits, the second year students hurried to put the brooms back into the place where they were kept and then race for the castle to enjoy their free time before the evening meal.

Molly was the first to notice the change in the atmosphere of Hogwarts Castle. As she walked through the corridors she perceived other students glancing at her and then hurrying to shift their stares elsewhere before turning to hushed conversation. By the time that the girl reached the entrance to Hufflepuff House, her nerves were jangled and she was more than a bit irritated by the whole thing.

Were people talking about her and, if they were, about what?

She hurried on towards her dorm and settled down on to her bed to calm her nerves. Something was going on, but what? The castle felt different, almost as though she was a center of conversation but she didn’t know why that would be.

Tom was feeling it as well and, unlike Molly, he wasn’t the least bit uneasy about it, although he tried to pretend to be. He had already overheard whispered comments about Carol and he and Tom hoped that it would shove Carol out of the way. If it succeeded, she would be cast aside and soon be forgotten, but if it failed he would be the one considered a pariah.

He lounged back on his bed to relax, not fully understanding the avalanche that he had unleashed. The story was spreading, and quickly, as students heard it from those who had heard it from someone else. With each telling it changed slightly and the versions that he had overheard had the potential to cause problems. All that he hoped was that the staff didn’t catch wind of what he had done and trace it back to him. If that happened, well he didn’t want to think about that. The boy closed his eyes and tried to imagine what would happen when it all came down on Carol.

Carol was also feeling the strain as she overheard whispers and titters of laughter, some of it obviously directed at her. The few students that she had confronted had hurried to become evasive in their answers or had changed the subject as she approached. By the time she reached Hufflepuff she was painfully aware that she was the center of the situation, although she didn’t know what the situation was. Even first years seemed to be enjoying the conversations and didn’t have the wit to hurry to change what they were saying in time to avoid her notice.

She made her way to the dorm where Molly was already resting and crossed the room to flop onto her bed.

“Molly, have you noticed anything strange?”

Molly sat up and looked at her friend before answering.

“In fact, I have! I do not know what is going on but the whole castle seems to have gone mental! Everyone is huddling in corners talking in whispers and snickering about some secret that they seem to be keeping.”

“That is exactly what I have noticed and I thought that maybe I was going wonky.”

“If you are, then I am too, because I noticed it all the way in from Flying Practice.”

“Then do you think that they all know something that we do not?” Carol continued.

“Who knows, Carol, maybe everyone got hit by a giant Confundus!”

It was at that moment that the door to the room opened and another girl walked into the dorm to scurry to her bed to gather a belonging before hurrying out of the room while ignoring their questions.

“That was so totally odd,” Carol remarked. “Usually you cannot get her to close her mouth, but it was almost like someone used a Sticking Charm on her lips and she could not pry them open to talk.”

“Something is definitely going on, Carol.”

“But what? I mean, neither of us was wearing our robes backwards or some other embarrassing thing, but still no one wants to talk to us.”

“We did not do anything to get into trouble, did we?”

“I cannot think of anything that we did.”

Fear raced into Molly’s mind as a terrible thought greeted her.

“Do you think that they are going to expel us for some reason?”

“Why would they do that, Molly? I do not remember doing anything bad; and definitely not bad enough for that. No, it has to be something else.”

A thought came into Molly’s mind and she sat up in bed abruptly.

“Millicent!”

“What about her?”

“Who knows more about what is going on here at Hogwarts than her? We find her and ask her if she knows what is going on. Her mouth definitely will not stop running and then we will know what is going on.”

The girls rose and then hurried out of the dorm to find the entire common room become silent as they entered. Students ceased conversation and watched the uneasy pair as they were surveyed in return. Molly spotted the object of her search and led the way to Millicent, who was still talking to an older girl. The girl left her conversation as the pair approached and Molly stopped before her quarry.

“Millicent, can I have a word with you?”

Millicent shrugged her shoulders and then rose to walk away with the pair, but only after turning back to her partner and speaking again.

“We can talk more about this later, I promise!”

An already uneasy Molly led Millicent and Carol back to the dorm and closed the door behind them before speaking.

“Millicent, there is obviously something going on, something that involves either Carol or I or both of us, so what can you tell me about it?”

The girl shrugged her shoulders again and then started to turn towards the door leaving the puzzled pair behind her. She was almost to the door when she abruptly turned to look at Molly before speaking.

“Ask her,” she responded as she indicated Carol, “she knows!”

“Ask me what?” Carol retorted. “I have no idea what you are talking about!”

“Sure, Carol, play dumb, but it is going to catch up with you sooner or later and then you will have a lot of explaining to do.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I guess that you shall just have to wait and see. I would not worry though, everyone knows and I am certain that you can find someone to fill you in on what you are hiding.”

Before she left the room, Millicent looked at Molly and then spoke.

“Why is it that people like you are always the last to know?”

The door closed behind her and the girls looked at each other in puzzlement.

“What in the name of Merlin is going on, Carol?”

“I really do not know, Molly.”

“Well, she certainly thinks that you do.”

“I have no idea what she is on about.”

While the girls tried to determine what was going on, Tom was having his own difficulties. Horace Slughorn, after overhearing the stories, had arrived in the common room and now had sought out the student that he felt that he needed to speak to. Tom sat up on his bed as the professor entered the room and then sat quietly while the wizard spoke.

“Tom, my boy, have you heard anything odd within the corridors of the castle?”

“Odd, Professor Slughorn?”

“Yes, my boy, very odd indeed. It appears that there is a rather disturbing story concerning you, Miss Porter and Miss Markham, three people that I am extremely fond of. Perhaps you could shed some light on this situation.”

“Professor, I really have no idea what you are talking about. You say that it involves Molly, Carol and I, can you tell me what you have heard?”

“Right now, no, but I will enlighten you once I have conducted an investigation.”

“Is it that serious?”

“Tom, my boy, it has the potential to hurt someone and hurt them very badly.”

Doing his best to pretend that he was confused, Tom put a serious look onto his face before speaking again.

“You said that someone could get hurt. Have we been threatened?”

“No, Tom, nothing like that. But there are a great number of ways that one can be hurt, not all of them physical.”

“Sir?”

“Tom, as I said, there are stories circulating around Hogwarts concerning the three of you and it will not be long before you may be speaking to Professor Dippet concerning this.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“I do not believe so, as long as you are blameless where these stories are concerned.”

“You keep mentioning stories, what stories?”

“I cannot tell you, Tom, but I am very certain that you are going to hear them for yourself and you need to be prepared.”

“I think that I understand.”

“Good, that is what I wanted to hear. Please do not think poorly of those who spread rumors but are not the one who started them. Please do not think badly of me for not revealing what I know.”

“Yes, Professor Slughorn.”

Tom watched the portly professor leave the room and then laid back onto the bed while he thought about what had been said.

‘Oh, I know exactly what has been said and what the stories are about, Professor Slughorn, who do you think started them? Carol really has no idea who she has angered and I intend to see her on the outside wondering how she got there.’

He smiled as he thought about the look on the face of Carol Markham when Molly Porter turned on her and confronted her about the stories.

“It is coming, Carol, it is coming very soon.”

Molly and Carol were joining the throng of students heading for the Great Hall for the evening meal when a girl sidled up to them and pulled Molly aside.

“Molly, what in the name of Merlin is going on?” Victoria Samuels asked quickly.

“You tell me please, because no one will tell me anything even though it obviously is about Carol and me,” Molly answered.

“You cannot be serious; do you mean that you have not heard?”

Carol stood where she had been when they were stopped and tried to hear what was being said over the noise of the crowd.

“What have I not heard? Victoria, please tell me, tell me what is going on,” Molly pled.

The girl looked into the pleading eyes of her friend and then finally spoke.

“Molly, it is all over the school.”

“What is all over the school?”

“The story is that Carol is trying to break you and Tom up so that she can have him for herself and they say that she has been saying that she will do whatever it takes to do it.”

It was at that moment that Molly Porter turned from the concerned face of Victoria Samuels to glare at the confused face of Carol Markham before speaking as everything became clear to her. The constant harping by Carol about the habits of Tom and her fear that the boy was going to hurt Molly had all been a part of a plan to split them. Those around them watched as the normally calm face of the blonde changed horribly as she left Victoria to advance on her friend.

“Molly? What is it?” Carol asked as she suddenly became very afraid of a person whom most had thought would never even consider harming a fly.

“How dare you, Carol Markham? I thought that we were friends or were you lying to me all along? Well, do not just stand there Carol, say something!”

Carol opened her mouth to respond as a tear ran down Molly’s cheek and Tom Riddle, watching with the crowd, smiled inwardly at the spectacle.
 


Chapter 11: Parting of Ways
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“ANSWER ME, CAROL! IS IT TRUE? IS WHAT EVERYONE IS SAYING TRUE?”

Carol Markham couldn’t believe it as her best friend rounded on her and Molly’s voice rose to a level that no one had ever heard before. Around the girls students gathered as they waited in anticipation for the fight to begin, a fight that none would have ever expected before today.

“I AM WAITING, CAROL, IS WHAT THEY ARE SAYING TRUE? ARE YOU TRYING TO TAKE HIM AWAY FROM ME SO THAT YOU CAN HAVE HIM FOR YOURSELF? IS THIS WHAT IT HAS BEEN ABOUT ALL OF THIS TIME?”

“It’s not true, Molly, you are my friend and I would never do that to you.”

Professor Dippet suddenly appeared between the girls with a POP and the other students hurried to vacate the area.

“Miss Porter, Miss Markham, I want both of you to accompany me to my office. It appears that we have something to work out.”

The trio vanished with a POP and the dejected students, who had been looking forward to the unlikely battle, made their way slowly to their destinations. Tom looked across the room at the space normally occupied by Molly and hoped that everything would go as he wanted it to.

Molly Porter sat in a chair that was next to the one occupied by Carol. The girl glared at her Housemate while also trying to prevent the tears falling from her eyes from landing on her robes. Armando Dippet settled into a chair facing the girls and then took a deep breath before speaking to them.

“It is my understanding that there is quite the story going around the school and most of it relates to the two of you. I have heard several versions, none of them flattering, and want to know exactly what is going on here.”

The girls sat quietly for a long moment and the headmaster waited patiently for that moment before speaking again.

“Ladies, I have an enormous amount of patience, but it is nearing its end. Now, what is going on here and I want to know right now!”

“I thought that she was my friend, Professor Dippet,” Molly growled, “when instead she was stabbing me in the back! She was so busy telling me how wrong Tom was for me while she was making plans to take him for herself.”

“I was not doing that Molly!”

“Please do not continue with the lies, Carol! I have had quite enough of them.”

“I am not lying.”

“Carol, I have seen you staring at him and looked past it. I have heard you talking about him and looked past it. I have heard you complain about how terrible he is and looked past it. All this time you that have been “trying to protect me” it appears that you really were just thinking about yourself!”

“I have been trying to protect you, Molly,” Carol answered through tears and sobs of her own.

“Am I supposed to believe more of your lies?”

“I am not telling lies, Molly. I truly am your friend and I would never do anything to hurt you, not ever!”

“You have a strange way of showing it!”

“Please, Molly…”

“Enough!” Molly responded as she rose abruptly. “I have had quite enough of this, Carol! I know what I have seen and heard and now, when things could not possible get worse, I have the entire school knowing something that I should know before I do.”

“Miss Porter, could I have you sit back down?” Professor Dippet interjected.

“No, Professor Dippet, I do not think that that is a possibility! I have heard all that I need to hear and do not wish to subject myself to more lies from someone that I considered a friend.”

Armando Dippet and Carol Markham watched as Molly turned and walked out of the office as she ignored Carol’s tear filled pleas.

“MOLLY! PLEASE, I COULD NEVER DO WHAT THEY SAID THAT I DID!”

The door slammed shut behind Molly Porter as Carol Markham buried face in her hands to sob for a very long time while Headmaster Armando Dippet did his best to comfort the girl who felt as though her heart was breaking. Molly hurried down the hallway and had made it only a short distance before she settled down onto a convenient bench to tend to her own tears. She cried for a long time while she thought about the friendship that had just ended and wondered just how long it would be before she could even look at Carol again.

She never would have believed it had there not been so many that already knew about the betrayal that she had experienced. Her dear friend had been working against her the entire time to drive a wedge between Tom and her. Now she felt like a fool to have believed any of what Carol had said and resolved to ignore anything else said to her by her Housemate.

Tom sat in the Great Hall pretending to listen to Malfoy and the others while the empty seat before him burned deep into his consciousness. Molly and Carol would be back, that was certain, as nothing that they had done warranted even time in isolation. Arguments and differences of opinion were common in the castle and, as long as nothing physical or magical happened, they tended to be solved by a stern warning from a professor or a Prefect and possibly the loss of points. He continued to hope that the girl would reappear and this hope was not unnoticed by Millicent.

‘Poor Tom, now the truth is out and he has to face the fact that Carol loves him and wants him so much that she is willing to do anything to get him, even betray a friend. I wonder if Molly and Carol will ever speak again, I know that I would never speak again to someone who went behind my back after acting like and telling everyone that she was my friend!’

Molly finally rose from the bench and slowly made her way to the Hospital Wing. Although she wasn’t ill, she certainly felt that way and she made her way to the desk where the nurse was seated.

“Miss Porter, are you ill?”

“I just want a place to lie down and rest for a while. Can I stay here please?”

“Certainly, you tell me that you are not ill, but your face tells me otherwise. I want you to lie down on that bed and I will be over to check on you in a moment.”

“Please tell me that you are not going to make me take Pain-B-Gone.”

“I would tell you that, but it would be a lie. You are most certainly going to get a dose. It will make you feel better and also help you relax so that you can rest.”

Molly nodded and walked to the bed that had been indicated while she braced herself for what was coming. Like her mother, who listened to no amount of pleading where Pain-B-Gone was concerned, the nurse was dead set on giving her some and there was no way out of it. The girl sat down on the bed and then laid back while she waited for the inevitable.

As if on cue, the nurse appeared by her side and handed her the glass filled it the hated elixir before looking at the girl with a “take it or else” gaze. Molly tried to hold her breath as she gulped the mixture and then handed the glass back to the nurse.

“Now close your eyes and get some sleep or it will be another dose for you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” the girl responded as she settled under the blanket that had appeared over her and then closed her eyes. She was soon fast asleep and didn’t hear the door to the POP as Armando Dippet appeared in the room with Carol, the front of her robes stained with vomit.

“Oh dear, put her on that bed right there,” the nurse commanded as she used her wand to clean the clothing of the girl of the refuse. “What in the name of Merlin happened, Professor Dippet?”

“She had an argument with another student and things did not go well. The conversation became rather heated and she is very upset by it.”

The nurse looked at Carol once again and then walked back to the cabinet to retrieve the bottle of Pain-B-Gone. Carol watched as the nurse used to fill a glass that had appeared on the stand next to the bed.

“Now, I need you to take this, Miss Markham, you look like you need it.”

The girl nodded as she took the offered glass once the mixing had been finished and then tipped it up to drain it. A blanket appeared over her and she snuggled under it to soon fall asleep as the shoes vanished off of her feet.

Stepping aside as the curtain closed around the bed, the nurse looked at the headmaster as she spoke.

“It must have been a terrible disagreement for her to be in that state.”

“It, unfortunately, was a disagreement with her best friend.”

“Molly Porter?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Because she came in only a few minutes before you brought Miss Markham in,” the witch replied as she indicated the closed curtain around the bed which contained Molly. “She did not look well and I decided that it would be best if she spent the night here.”

“I concur, but it may be a rather contentious meeting in the morning when it is time for them to leave.”

“Professor, I shall make certain that their departure is amicable.”

“That would be appreciated.”

The witch nodded as the headmaster looked once again at the curtains that surrounded the beds and then vanished with a POP. He had another student to speak to, and it was time that Tom Riddle spent some time in his office.

With dinner ending and the girls that had been involved in the argument still absent, the students began to make their way to their respective Houses. Tom was just arriving to begin his detention when Professor Dippet met him.

“Professor Dippet, you startled me.”

“I am sorry about that, Mister Riddle. It was not my intention to create distress. I wondered if you would mind accompanying me to my office. We have, I feel, something of grave importance to discuss.”

“Are you talking about the situation between Molly Porter and Carol Markham?”

“You are quite perceptive Mister Riddle, yes that situation is what we need to discuss.”

Tom reached forward to clutch the sleeve of the robe of headmaster and a moment later was standing in the office of the wizard. A pair of chairs appeared at a table and he slowly sat down while Armando Dippet settled onto the other as they faced each other.

“Mister Riddle, I want to know what you can tell me about the situation between Molly Porter and Carol Markham.”

“Not much, Professor Dippet, Molly and I are seeing each other and apparently Carol was jealous. From what I have heard, Carol was telling everyone that she was going to split up Molly and me so that she could have me for herself. I like Molly, a lot, and although I like Carol, it is not like that. I never had any intention of leaving Molly for Carol because I have too much respect for them both and would not want to get between them.”

“I see. Do you have any idea how the rumors now circulating around the castle got started?”

“No, sir, Professor Dippet, I was just made aware of them myself. Then the argument started down in the Great Hall and you removed Molly and Carol. What I can tell you is that Millicent Trantnor does a lot of talking about things that do not concern her and I know that I overheard her talking about Carol, about what I do not know.”

“Can you tell me anything else, Tom?”

“No, Professor Dippet, I really cannot think of anything else.”

“And you say that Millicent Trantnor may be involved?”

“I do not know if she is involved, Professor Dippet, but I know that she was talking about Carol. What she was discussing I do not know.”

“When did this happen?”

“I heard her talking about it within the last day or so.”

Armando Dippet frowned for a moment and then rose from his chair.

“Tom, I am going to send you back to your chores now. If you think of anything else that you could tell me to help clear this up I would appreciate hearing from you.”

Tom nodded and then suddenly found himself back where he had been. The tools that he was using were waiting for him and he set about his job while he considered what had happened.

‘So my plan worked. Molly is furious with Carol and Dippet will be on Millicent about the rumors. I may have just killed two birds with one stone.’

Millicent Trantnor was preparing for bed when a strange voice entered her head.

‘TELL PROFESSOR DIPPET ABOUT THE RUMORS THAT YOU STARTED!’

The girl was shaking her head to try to clear it when a Prefect opened the door to her dorm and summoned Millicent.

“Millicent, Professor Dippet is here and he wishes to speak to you about something important.”

Millicent nodded and then, after slipping a robe over her night clothing, walked out into the Hufflepuff Common Room to find the headmaster waiting for her. A moment later the girl and headmaster were standing in his office as they prepared to settle onto chairs that were waiting for them.

“Miss Trantnor, I believe that we may have something to discuss. Am I incorrect?”

“I do not understand, Professor Dippet. What are you talking about?”

“The current rumors that are circulating around the castle concerning Mister Riddle, Miss Porter and Miss Markham are what I am referring to.”

“I will not lie to you, Professor Dippet, I was talking about that unfortunate situation and perhaps I told a number of people about what I saw.”

“And because of that I have two students who had been very good friends that will now not speak to each other and a third student who is rather confused about the whole incident.”

“I know what I saw, Professor Dippet, Carol could not keep her eyes off of Tom Riddle. I merely talked about what I saw because I thought that Molly needed to know what was going on.”

“If you had simply talked to Miss Porter about the situation we would not have the problem that we have at the moment. Instead, you chose to inform the entire school and now rumors are spreading like wildfire. I, myself, have heard no fewer than five different versions of the story and none of them were very pleasant. The problem is that all of them have one common element, and that appears to be you. I have spoken to a number of the students that I heard these stories from and they all point back at you as the origin. So I believe that you may have spoken to more than just a number of people and you made certain to tell those whom you knew would propagate the story to ensure its spread.”

“I only talked about what I saw.”

“And that is something that you should not have done in the first place!”

Millicent looked warily at the obviously angered professor sitting in front of her as she realized that she had made a critical error. Her lack of judgement had placed her in a precarious situation and now she faced probable serious punishment because of her actions.

“Miss Trantnor, at the very least you owe the three students involved in the situation apologies which I doubt very seriously that they will be willing to accept. I am going to suspend you pending a complete investigation into your conduct here at Hogwarts and, should I find a pattern of this behavior, I shall immediately commence expulsion proceedings.”

“But all that I did was to talk about what I saw,” Millicent answered as she started to cry.

“I am sorry Millicent, but I am afraid that my decision stands. Tomorrow you shall return to your home for a few days until I reach a decision about your final outcome.”

The girl nodded as she wept softly and then rose to walk out of the office. She traveled the distance to Hufflepuff in a much slower time than normal and a number of students watched in fascination as the girl, who normally had much to say, walked past them silently. When she arrived in the common room the other members of the House watched in amazement as she crossed the space and then vanished without a word into her dorm. There she found her belongings already packed except for her traveling clothes. Millicent slipped under the covers and rolled over onto her side while she tried to ignore the two empty beds in the room that Molly and Carol normally occupied. She closed her eyes and slept a restless sleep.

Tom returned to his own dorm with a sense of satisfaction. Carol was out of the way now and, with Professor Dippet’s help, Millicent would soon be as well. The last thing that he needed was for the headmaster to dig too deeply into the situation and discover what had truly happened. Now he could count on Molly to keep Carol and her suspicions about him at bay while he worked at his control of a growing portion of Hogwarts and its students. Content with the outcome, he slipped into bed and soon was sleeping soundly.

When the morning broke and Hogwarts began to stir, Molly opened her eyes to the increasing sunlight and looked around at her surroundings. She was puzzled at first and then realized where she was. Groaning softly, she rose from the bed and watched in amazement as the wrinkles fell out of her robes. She hurried to push the curtain aside and then nearly collided with the nurse that was preparing to check on her.

“Miss Porter, you look much more chipper than you did last night! Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, Ma’am, I did.”

“Then you should make your way to breakfast.”

The girl nodded and then hurried out of the room as Carol realized who she was hearing just outside the curtain around her own bed.

“Molly? Is that you?”

The curtain opened to reveal only the nurse and Carol gazed at her with disappointment.

“I thought that you were someone else.”

“And who did you think that I was?”

“I thought that I heard Molly Porter.”

“You did hear her; she just left the room to go to the Great Hall and breakfast. I heard you call for her but she must not have heard you.”

Carol hoped with all of her heart that the explanation that she had been given was correct although given the conflict of the night before she doubted it. She rose and then watched as her own robe was freed of the wrinkles that it had accumulated during her sleep. A moment later she was leaving the room and hurrying towards the Great Hall where she hoped that she had at least a chance of Molly listening to her.

Tom was also walking towards the Great Hall where he hoped to see Molly ignoring Carol and Millicent not present. Malfoy was keeping pace with him as he talked nearly endlessly and Tom did his best to act at least interested in what the pale boy was saying. They arrived at the doors to the Great Hall and Tom stopped to wait for Molly as he always did. A glance into the room proved that none of the Hufflepuff girls were present and that meant that he would have to wait to see if he had accomplished what he wanted to.

He smiled as Molly suddenly appeared and stepped forward to hug the girl who fairly threw herself into his arms while also kissing him. The young couple ignored the passage of others and Carol arrived to see her friend in the arms of the boy that Molly was hopelessly devoted to. She silently moved past them and made her way to the table that they sat at, finding her customary place and hoping that her friend would sit where she always did.

“I am so sorry for what happened, Tom.”

Tom felt Molly pull back and he looked into her brown eyes as they gazed at him. He could see the pain in her eyes and felt guilty for a moment for causing that pain. The girl was hurting because of what he had done, but there was nothing that he could do about that now. If he admitted what he had done Carol would be vindicated and Molly would never speak to him again.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Molly.”

“I should have put a stop to what she was doing, Tom. I was listening to someone that wanted to get between us and it was wrong.”

Movement caught their eyes and they turned to see Millicent slipping past them to exit the castle via the main doors. The tear streaked face of the girl and the traveling clothes that she was wearing told them that, at the very least, she had been suspended and sent home. A moment later, trunks that they had not noticed before vanished and Molly gasped as she recognized them as belonging to the girl that had just departed. She looked once again at Tom as the doors closed behind Millicent.

“I love you, Tom, and I am never going to let anyone get between us again.”

“I love you, Molly.”

The young couple kissed once again and then walked, hand in hand, into the huge chamber where Carol was disappointed as Molly took a seat far from where she normally sat. Tom watched with satisfaction as Carol put her head down to cry and Molly settled down to eat her breakfast.

Millicent was gone from the school, Carol had been pushed away from Molly and Molly was now firmly in his court. All that he desired had happened and now it was time to move forward with his plans.
 


Chapter 12: Shattered Pots and Plans
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Carol Markham sat quietly in Defense against the Dark Arts class while Molly sat near Tom. She had abandoned the seat that she had originally claimed at the start of the term so that she could be close to both of her friends. Now one of those friends had been forsaken for the other and had been left to fend for herself during times when they would have studied together. She looked mournfully at the blonde girl that she had gotten close to and now wondered if they would ever speak again other than in passing.

 Molly listened as Professor Lands discussed the difference between a ghost and a poltergeist while she also carefully took notes. The new distance between she and Carol still bothered her and she dreaded what might happen should her parents find out what had happened. Joseph and Lorraine Porter were staunch believers in their daughter being proper and what was going on at the moment certainly was not what they would consider as such. Punishment was certain to follow when they found out what had happened and she wasn’t looking forward to it.

Tom listened to the professor and kept his own notes in order while also sneaking glances at Carol. Millicent had been extremely easy to get rid of although he understood that as soon as her suspension was over she would return. She was a useful tool and he knew that her propensity for gab would be important when he decided to strike once again at any target that presented itself. Carol was out of the picture for now, he was certain of that, Molly was furious with her and he had noticed that the girls spoke only briefly in greeting without much more being said at any other time.

What he had to ensure was that Molly and Carol did not reunite as friends. If they managed to make up his plans were in danger. Alone they were manageable, but together they represented a problem and what he had done via Millicent would only work once. Carol would be much more careful and formidable when, and if, she managed to worm her way back into Molly’s graces.

“Tomorrow the parchment that I assigned concerning what we have discussed this week is due. I expect to see each and every one of you turning one in. There shall be no exceptions and definitely no excuses accepted for not doing as assigned.”

As the bells in the tower rang students gathered their things and hurried to leave the room in preparation for the next group to occupy the seats that they now did. Carol rose and then walked to the door of the room where she paused and Tom knew what she was doing. The girl had been attempting to talk to Molly whenever she got the chance and at the end of class was a prime opportunity. He rose after placing his things in his bag and then watched as Molly took her place beside him. The young couple walked towards the door and Carol took in a deep breath as she stepped towards the other girl.

“Molly, I know that you are angry with me, but can we talk?”

Molly paused for a moment and then shook her head before speaking.

“No, Carol, I really do not think that we can. You were my friend and you did not try to betray me, you did betray me! I really cannot think of a way to forgive you.”

“Molly, please, I did not do what they said that I did.”

“Tom and I have to go to class! We do not want to lose points for being late.”

Carol could only watch as the couple brushed past her to vanish down the stairs on their way to the next class on their schedule. She knew that she would see them there but doubted very much that Molly was going to change her mind any time soon. The girl finally left the room to make her way to Charms class while she hoped that somehow she could get Molly to listen to her.

Tom Riddle had not yet surrendered his search for the ring. He had seen it somewhere within the castle, he knew that he had, and yet it eluded his search. The boy was not certain if he had seen it in a book or elsewhere, but he was intent on finding it and learning more about it. A search through every book that he was certain that he had looked at, and even several that he wasn’t, had revealed nothing and this frustrated him.

The struggle against Carol had shifted his attention but now that she was out of the picture, at least for now, he could concentrate on his search.

‘I know that I have seen it here in the castle, but where?

The door to the Charms classroom appeared and he followed Molly through it and then to their seats. Carol appeared a few minutes later and made her way to a seat where she sat and talked quietly to a girl from Gryffindor. Professor Flitwick called them to attention and they soon were looking for answers in their texts to a question that they had been asked.

Carol watched her friend from a distance and noticed that, despite what he had claimed, Tom really didn’t appear as taken with Molly as he claimed to be. In fact, at times he actually appeared to ignore the girl, something that Carol knew bothered Molly. Even as they sat side by side he at times was distant, almost aloof, and Molly had to actually get his attention when she wanted to speak to the boy.

‘This,’ Carol thought, ‘might be the chink in Tom’s armor that I need. He is going to continue as he has been, only wanting her when it suits him. He is going to hurt her again, like he did last term when they were split for a while. All that I have to do is to wait, because he is going to make another mistake and then I need to be ready to be there for Molly when she needs me.’

She settled down to the task at hand while carefully watching Tom and Molly. The cracks were there, all that she needed to do was to wait for them to grow too large to mend.

The voice of Professor Flitwick called her back to the present and she dutifully handed over her parchment while also drawing her wand. It was a review day and she wanted to be ready for whatever charm he called on her to perform.

Tom had also drawn his wand and he watched as Molly did the same while they waited for their name to be called. There was no way to know who was going to perform what magic and it kept the students on their toes.

The class watched as a large red ball that had been sitting in the center of the floor suddenly rose into the air and then Flitwick spoke to Molly.

“Miss Porter, I need you to push that ball to the other side of the room.”

Molly looked at the indicated ball as she waved her wand and then spoke.

Repulso!

Immediately the ball started an abrupt journey towards the other side of the room but, before it could reach its destination the professor spoke again.

“Miss Markham, the same charm please, do not let the ball hit the floor.”

Repulso!

The students swiftly caught onto the game and it was not long before the ball was making increasingly rapid trips across the room. It soon lifted farther into the air as it was bounced back and forth and the children enjoyed themselves in a room where there were usually no games. Laughter rang through the room as the ball would occasionally either hit the floor or the opposite wall. An ersatz game of volleyball ensued with score being kept by Flitwick.

Molly laughed as a shot that she made bounced off the head of Goyle and her laughter was echoed by many while the large boy scowled at his misfortune. The ball was back into the air, propelled by Abraxas, before Alfred could react.

“You are a dolt, Alfred! It has to stay in the air, not bounce off of your head!”

The large boy grumbled at the comment and then kept a closer eye on the progress of the ball. Tom was enjoying himself as well as the ball moved quickly towards him and he sent it rocketing across the room towards an unsuspecting Gryffindor, who was barely able to fend it off with incredibly funny results.

The entire class burst into laughter as Peeves, always looking for mischief to get into, appeared in the room just in time to avoid a ball sent on a wild tangent by the girl that it had almost hit. He had only just started to recover from that near miss when the ball soared past him again, this time courtesy of Molly. Carol returned it to the other side of the room and watched as it nearly clipped Peeves, who wasn’t enjoying the game at all. The poltergeist screeched loudly in alarm before vanishing just as abruptly as he had appeared, the only trace of him being the loud rattling of the suits of armor as he passed them in the corridor.

Filius Flitwick was laughing just as hard as his students at the plight of the poltergeist when he finally stopped the ball in mid-flight, much to the dismay of the students.

“That was excellent, class! I have not had so much fun in this room in a long time and I doubt that Peeves had much fun at all. You have all achieved high marks today, even you Mister Goyle although I really do not think that using your head to propel the ball was part of the game.”

“He used his head for once, Professor Flitwick!”

The class burst into laughter again at Abraxas’ comment and Alfred Goyle turned a deep crimson that reflected his irritation at being the butt of the joke. He looked around the room and was not pleased to see everyone laughing at his misfortune once again.

“Once you have gathered your things,” Flitwick announced as he wiped the tears from his laughter from his eyes, “you are all dismissed to enjoy the remainder of the time for this class. Good work today, second years!”

The students, still laughing, hurried to gather their things and then left the room to walk on to their next destination. Tom and Molly walked together as they made their way to Herbology and hoped that Professor Beery would not have too difficult a task for them. Carol trailed at a distance but entered the room a short time after they did. The entering students found the professor puttering around a cluster of pots that already contained strange looking purple plants. As they watched the plants they were stunned to see a sudden poof as one of the many pods on the plants abruptly jetted a crimson smoke into the air.

“Greetings, second years, you are the very first class to see our new arrivals,” the professor announced as he indicated the peculiar plants. “These are Patagonian Pitching Plants and they hurl venom into the air to capture small insects which are drawn towards the plant by their aroma. The plant then catches the insect and consumes it. The plants actually have the ability to sense exactly where the insects are, which accounts for their accuracy. Now, the red cloud that you see occasionally entering the air is the venom, which is quite harmless to you, but lethal to any insect smaller than a horsefly. As the plants are rather expensive, they are often found only in the gardens of the well-to-do to keep pesky insects at bay. These specimens were donated to the school by the Ministry of Magic and I must warn you to be careful so that you do not damage them.”

“Professor,” Molly responded after Beery had called on her, “my parents have some of these and they sometimes kill small birds that have gotten too close.”

“Quite correct, Miss Porter, some species of animals can be very susceptible to the poison and die when exposed to it. Their favorite prey is the Billywig and they will actually move as much as they can towards one if there is a chance that they might catch it. These plants, when in the wild, keep large areas free of insects and very small creatures. They would probably be more numerous in captivity if it were not for the very real fragility of the plant. Many have been destroyed by those who did not use caution when handling them.”

Tom watched with fascination as one of the plants sent a small cloud into the air and an insect which had been orbiting the plant entered the poison. It abruptly fell into the waiting maw of the plant only to be sealed within the pod.

“Professor,” he asked, “how long does it take to consume an insect that it has captured?”

“It can take anywhere from three days for a small insect to over a week for a larger specimen. Each plant has a number of the pods so it is always hungry and waiting for a meal to arrive.”

Carol looked at the plants with interest and moved closer to them to examine one more closely. As the girl watched, one of the pods sent its cloud into the air and a small fly that had been buzzing around the plant fell from the air and into the waiting pod. The lips of the pod closed quickly and she had only a brief glimpse of the weakly struggling insect.

“Now, Miss Markham has already decided on a plant and I invite all of you to look a little more closely at them, but please do not touch them.”

The excited students hurried to find an unoccupied plant and watched it carefully as it went about its business of obtaining sustenance. There were a few disgusted noises from some of the girls and more than a few comments from the boys.

“Oi, Alfred, William, these things are like you, always eating!” Malfoy announced as he waved his arms wildly without paying attention to his location or proximity to the plant that he had approached.

The sudden motion, unplanned and unmanaged, clipped a pot and sent it careening off of the table and onto the floor. Abraxas could only stand, horrified by what he had done, as the angered professor rushed towards him and then looked down at the shattered pot and the destroyed plant. The purple plant moved feebly for a moment and then stopped moving forever. Professor Herbert Beery, nearly seething with fury, turned to the boy and then pointed at the door out of the greenhouse.

“Mister Malfoy, you are to leave my classroom immediately and I will speak to Headmaster Dippet about deciding the terms of your punishment for this careless act of destruction! Get out now!”

The boy turned and walked out of the room while his classmates watched silently. All of them knew that Beery would not hesitate to deal with the infraction and that the punishment would be severe. Carefully moving away from the plants, the remaining students walked to the area meant for them to be seated at and soon were listening to the professor as he talked about the care of the new plants.

“These plants do not take much in the way of maintenance! They merely need to be allowed to grow and for their handlers to be cautious when moving them. Mister Malfoy and his family will have an interesting time when they explain to Professor Dippet the destruction of a plant that was donated by the Ministry of Magic.”

The remainder of the class was rather subdued while the professor explained the normal habitat of the plant. It was explained that the plants were actually very much like the castle itself, Muggles could not find or see them. The areas where they lived were, however, prized for recreation by the Muggles due to the lack of bothersome insects in the locale. This phenomenon was unexplainable by those Muggles who studied insect habitation of the areas and the wizarding community was amused by the confusion that the plants caused.

When the bells began to ring in the tower, the students rose and left the classroom while the professor dealt with the clearly dead plant. The vibrant purple normally inherent with the plant had faded to a near grey and the pods hung limply from stems that had assumed the rigidity of a wet noodle.

Molly joined Tom as they walked towards the Great Hall and discussed the incident in the greenhouse. The girl was very aware of the value of the plant that had been lost and knew that Abraxas and his family would have to replace it, at great cost. She was also aware that Carol had been trying to edge closer to her in the hope of getting a chance to speak. It hurt the girl to have to ignore someone who had been a friend and she had very nearly relented and spoken to Carol, but then she remembered Tom. The boy had been very upset at what Carol had said to people about the episode and what Millicent had spread throughout the school. Molly knew that it had come very close to producing an argument between her and Tom, something which inwardly made her question the strength of their relationship.

Had there been any truth to what had been said by Millicent? Was Tom as innocent as he professed to be?

Many things made her question this, the most powerful of which had been the fact that Tom often tried to avoid eye contact when they spoke about the happenings. He wouldn’t do it overtly, but many times he had not looked directly at her. Carol, on the other hand, had done exactly that, she had looked directly in the eyes of her friend as she spoke and Molly also knew that Carol was terrible at keeping secrets. The girl had struggled with keeping a surprise for one of their friend’s birthday and had ended up not being able to speak to the girl without someone else being present.

Maybe it was worth speaking to Carol when Tom wasn’t present. They certainly had the chance every night, once they were safely behind the doors of Hufflepuff House and the girl’s dorm. As much as she wanted to believe in Tom’s innocence, she also wanted to believe her friend.

The crowded Great Hall seemed smaller than normal and somehow, even though she tried to act as though she didn’t want it to happen, Carol ended up sitting next to her at lunch. Tom glanced across the room and his heart nearly skipped a beat as he realized who Molly was next to. They didn’t appear to be talking to each other and that was something positive, but he wondered if they hadn’t come to some sort of agreement to talk later. This was an unwelcome development because if Carol managed to convince Molly that the whole thing had been fabricated by him the girl might drop him for one of the other boys in the castle.

He made his way through lunch watching the girl while also trying to act interested in what Abraxas was saying as he complained about the punishment that Dippet had meted out to him.

“He said that my parents are going to have to replace that damn thing, Tom! But I can only imagine what he is going to hear about it from them, they do not believe in this school anyway and have said that maybe I would be better off going elsewhere. If they do send me to another school I hope that they do not send me to Beauxbatons, nothing could be worse than that place.”

“Why is that?”

“From what I understand they have a half-giant professor there. She is supposed to be enormous, but I cannot believe that she is that great at teaching. Giants are incredibly stupid, I hope that you know, and fierce as well. They eat anything and anyone that they can get their hands on!”

“They let someone like that teach children?” Tom said in surprise.

“Yes they do! It tells you what type of education that you would get there if you went. You would spend more time hoping that you were not going to be her lunch than you would spend learning.”

Tom nodded as he wished, given what he had just been told, that Carol would get sent to Beauxbatons. Perhaps, if what Abraxas said was true, the girl would end up being eaten by the professor. The boy truly doubted some of what Abraxas had said was true; however, the school that he had talked about couldn’t stay open if all of the students were being eaten by the staff. It couldn’t even stay open if a few students had been consumed by a professor. Even if they disappeared without a trace the Ministry would investigate the occurrences to try to figure out what was happening. He finally put it out of his mind as he concentrated once again on the girl sitting next to Molly and he wondered what Carol was up to.

Molly looked across the room as well and her eyes fixed on Tom. Clearly he wasn’t happy about who was sitting next to her because it was plain to see from the look on his face. Perhaps she would give Carol a chance to explain herself once they were in the dorm. Because, one way or another, Molly Porter was determined to find out just who was telling the truth and who was lying.

And once that happened, well, they would face the wrath of Molly Porter.
 


Chapter 13: Unspoken Understandings
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Molly Porter sat quietly on her bed as Carol Markham entered the dorm and hurried to her nightstand to change clothing for the night. The girl on the bed immediately noticed the longing glance that was sent her way by the other child and waited for what was coming. If it wasn’t going to come from Carol, it would from her. Carol, missing her friend badly, finally finished dressing and then turned to Molly to speak.

“Molly, please, I want to talk to you so badly.”

“I know, Carol, and I am ready to listen.”

Carol turned to Molly to see tears running down the face of the other girl. She slowly crossed the room and then sat down next to her friend.

“I did not do what Millicent said that I did, Molly, you are too close a friend for me to ever behave in that way. All that I ever did in respect to him was to tell you what I saw. When I was watching Tom, Molly, I was looking for things to warn you about. He is going to hurt you, Molly, maybe seriously and I do not want that to happen.”

Molly nodded her head as she listened to the girl sitting next to her.

“I love Tom, Carol. Perhaps I am too young to understand this, but somehow I know it, I love him and I think that he loves me. But at the same time, you are my dear friend and it hurts me deeply that we are quarreling and that I shoved you away. I am so sorry, Carol, for the way that I have behaved. Will you forgive me?”

Carol nodded as she felt tears start down her own face and they hugged.

“Of course, I will forgive you! There was never any question of it. Will you forgive me for the things that Millicent said that I did?”

Molly nodded as she offered a shy smile to her friend before her face became serious again.

“Carol I trust you far more than I could ever trust Millicent but I need to know something.”

“What?”

“Is there something that you know that you are not telling me about?”

“Only that I do not trust him, Molly. There is something about Tom that worries me. You are such a warm, compassionate person and he is so cold and impersonal, except when he wants to appear charming. Please be careful if you intend to stay with him.”

Molly nodded once again and then hugged her friend a second time.

“We cannot let him know that we are speaking again, Molly. If we do, he will be worse than before. We need to pretend that we still are quarreling and make it appear as such to everyone else.”

“I agree.”

The sound of someone outside the door and preparing to open it spurred Carol to return to her own bedside with her back to Molly. This was necessary the girls knew that, because the less that Tom knew, the better for it was for all of them. The girl that entered the room looked from Molly to Carol and then shook her head as she thought about the fact that the two had been the best of friends and now were not speaking, all because of a boy that many in the school detested or feared.

The girl hurried to change into her nightclothes and then slipped under the covers of her bed, while wondering if there would ever be a return to the lighthearted chatter that had once filled the room. Knowing that they could not continue speaking, Molly and Carol got into bed to relax while they thought about the progress that had been made.

When they awoke the next morning it was to a Saturday and that meant no classes, not to mention a spot of freedom to do as they wished. The girls hurried to the room used for bathing and soon were joining other girls who had preceded them in preparing for the day ahead. It was hard for Molly and Carol to act as though they didn’t want to associate with each other and they had to be careful to not walk into a room at the same time.

Carol hurried out of the room ahead of Molly and was dressed and out of the dorm before her friend even arrived. It had to look convincing and Carol was certain that the way that they had ignored each other and the fact that she had nearly ran out of the bathroom to get to the dorm ahead of Molly would assure all that they were still fighting.

She walked down the long corridors wishing that the other girl was beside her so that they could chat and ran into someone that appeared suddenly in front of her. The girl recognized the dark haired boy immediately and her heart threatened to burst out of her chest as it beat wildly.

“Hello Carol.”

“Tom, you startled me.”

“Did I now? What are you up to, Carol? I know that you do not like me and that is fine as long as you do not get between Molly and me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you get in the way you might just get hurt in an accident.”

“Are you threatening me, Tom?”

“No, I am just letting you know that I do not like people who stick their nose where it does not belong. Leave Molly and I alone, Carol, because you will not like what happens if you do not!”

“Stay away from me, Tom! I really have nothing to say to you.”

“Then we understand each other?”

“You have been perfectly clear!”

“Good, because there are a lot of stairs here in the castle and I would not want you to accidently fall down some of them.”

“Be careful who you threaten and where you are when you do it, Tom, there are more ears than just mine in this corridor.”

The girl pushed past the boy and made her way to the Great Hall while Tom looked around the area at the many portraits that lined the walls. She was right and he knew it, there were too many ears around here for his purposes. He would have to deal with Carol Markham in a less public place. Until then suggestions that he had placed in the minds of Crabbe and an older girl would have to suffice.

Carol settled down at a table to eat her breakfast and found that she really wasn’t that hungry. The confrontation with Tom had been frightening and she firmly believed what he had said. He had threatened her and she had no doubt that he would arrange for her to have an accident if she got into the way. The girl noticed movement at the door to the huge room and watched as he walked towards his place at the Slytherin table, keeping his eyes on her the entire time. He settled down on the bench and dug into the breakfast that appeared before him. Molly brushed by her from behind and she refused to look up to see who had passed her, her attention was on the boy that continued to send evil glares her direction.

She finally, after giving up on breakfast, rose and walked out of the room to find a quiet place in the courtyard to relax and read a book that her parents had sent her in an owl. She closed the book as a thought ran through her mind and she shuddered as it did.

‘He fully intends to carry out his threat! If he happens to find out that Molly and I are speaking again he might extend that threat to her and I cannot allow that to happen. I need to figure out how to get him expelled from Hogwarts before he really hurts someone.’

Carol returned to her book while she thought and it was not long before she was joined by a number of other students who had also finished their morning meal. She ignored them, preferring to think while she read and it was not until she had the strange sensation that she was being watched that she looked up to see Tom sitting across the courtyard from her and keeping a close eye on her while Molly was not far away. Shaking her head in disbelief at his audacity, she returned to her book and tried to put the idea that he was publicly following her out of her mind.

“Oi, Carol, I have a message to give to you.”

Startled for the second time that morning, Carol looked up to see a larger Slytherin girl that she had seen around the school but had never spoken to standing over her.

“A message? I do not believe that we have ever met and I certainly do not know what you are talking about.”

“The message is this, stay away from Tom Riddle and stay out of his business unless you want to get hurt.”

“Did he put you up to this?”

The question was ignored and then the girl spoke again.

“Stay away from him and mind your own business if you know what is good for you.”

The girl turned and walked away from Carol, much to the disappointment of many students who wondered if there was going to be a fight, leaving the girl trembling. She rose and walked out of the courtyard to reenter the castle and walk to the one place where she knew that Tom could not follow, Hufflepuff House. Carol ignored those that she passed and soon was approaching the entrance to their common room and the portrait that guarded it. She was almost there when someone stepped out of the shadows and shoved her from behind.

Landing heavily on the stone floor of the corridor, she lay there for a moment while the person stood over her.

“Did you fall and hurt yourself, Carol? Next time it might be worse.”

She lay there for a moment while she listened to them walk away and then finally rose to rush to the safety of the common room of Hufflepuff. Once behind the portrait she walked to the dorm to examine herself for injury. Her knees had taken the worst of it and she had a scrape on the palm of her hand, but other than that she was uninjured. She hadn’t been able to see her attacker but she was almost certain that she knew who it was.

Steadying herself, she walked to the bathing area to undress and then slip under a warm shower to allow her tense body to relax. The warm water running down over her body calmed the tightened muscles and made her feel better. Carol winced as the slight injuries that she had received reminded her of their presence as the water coursed over them and she decided that once she was finished with what she was doing to walk to the Hospital Wing to have them dealt with.

‘I cannot tell them what really happened, I fell and that was all that there was to it.’

She finally turned off the water and then stepped out of the shower to dry off before dressing again and hurrying toward the Hospital Wing and the relief that it offered. As she walked toward her destination she became aware that she was being followed and her heart began to race as she realized that the person had sped up in an effort to match or exceed her pace. She was nearly to the door of the room that she sought when a hand dropped onto her shoulder and she turned to see Albus Dumbledore, who was breathing quickly, standing before her.

“Miss Markham, you gave me a bit of a challenge to keep up with you. Are you well? I ask because not only are you approaching the hospital, but also because you appear to be injured.”

“I fell, Professor Dumbledore, I fell in the corridor.”

“I see, is that all Miss Markham, or is there more?”

Carol shook her head but Dumbledore looked at her as he cocked his head and then spoke again.

“Miss Markham, I am quite a lot older than you, but I still understand what it was like to be young. There is a problem between you and Miss Porter that the entire castle is aware of, am I correct?”

“Yes, professor, you are correct.”

“And I saw the uncomfortable exchange of glances between you and Mister Riddle in the Great Hall, so I ask if there is something more going on than just a disagreement between two twelve year old girls.”

“No, sir, Professor Dumbledore.”

“Really, perhaps you are uncomfortable at discussing it in the open like this.”

“I really do not understand.”

The girl found herself being herded into the hospital where her wounds were treated and then she was suddenly standing in the presence of the headmaster and her Transfigurations professor.

“Carol, all of us here know that it was more than just a fall, now do we not?” Dumbledore announced softly.

“You are quite safe to speak within this office, Miss Markham. No one in the castle shall know that you are here. Professor Dumbledore is quite adept at altering recollections in the unsuspecting,” Dippet added in reassurance.

The girl nodded her understanding and then looked up at them with tear filled eyes.

“You were pushed?”

“Yes,” she answered in a whisper.

“Did you see who did it?”

“No, they came at me out of the shadows and from behind. I never saw them, but they spoke and I think that I recognized the voice, but I cannot be certain.”

“Who did that voice belong to, Miss Markham?” Dippet questioned.

“William Crabbe. That is who it sounded like.”

“But you cannot be certain.”

“No, sir, I cannot be certain. It all happened so fast and they came from the shadows and behind me. No, I cannot be certain.”

“I see, and the situation between you and Molly Porter, is that resolved?”

The girl looked up at the headmaster and smiled slightly.

“We have been speaking, and progress has been made.”

“Excellent! I knew that you young ladies could resolve this on your own. Now, about Mister Riddle.”

“I really do not have much to say about him other than he is vile and I wish nothing to do with him.”

“Has he threatened you?”

“I have been warned to keep my distance.”

“Miss Markham, do you believe that you can continue to attend classes here safely?”

“Professor Dippet, I do not understand your question, but I can tell you that should my parents learn about this incident they will pull me out of Hogwarts and send me to school elsewhere.”

“That would be unfortunate, Miss Markham, you are quite brilliant and have much to contribute to Hogwarts.”

“I appreciate your confidence in me, Professor Dippet. But I really do not know what I should do. If he becomes aware that Molly and I are speaking again, it may become uncomfortable for both of us. If he finds out that I have spoken to you and Professor Dumbledore, he will be infuriated and things will get worse.”

“Now that we are aware of these difficulties, Miss Markham, the staff and I can be on the lookout for problems. We will get this resolved, I promise you that.”

“And Tom? What about him?”

“Mister Riddle shall conform to the expectations at this school or he shall be permanently expelled from Hogwarts. I will not tolerate the type of behavior that you have described to be conducted in this castle.”

“Thank you, Professor Dippet.”

“Now, I need to get you back to where you belong without anyone knowing that you were here in this office. As you were last seen in the hospital, I believe that that would be the most likely location for you to reappear. Professor Dumbledore shall deal with any memories that need to be altered.”

Carol abruptly found herself in the hospital once again and she looked around as Dumbledore made certain that they had not been observed. When the wizard was certain that the secret was safe he slipped out of the room while Carol remained for a moment. Then she too slipped out of the sanctuary to walk back to Hufflepuff House and the book that she had left behind.

Tom sat quietly in the courtyard as he thought about the confrontation between Carol and him. The girl had been correct when she said what she had about the conversation being overheard; it had been too public, future warnings had to be much more private lest Dippet find out about it. He had also been more than a little amused by the warning that he had sent via the older girl. Carol had appeared frightened by it and he had been overjoyed by the fact that she had left the courtyard. Crabbe had done his part as well. He had informed Tom that his part of the message had been delivered, with appropriate force. The girl had last been seen walking to the Hospital Wing, hopefully with the message to stay quiet about it all firmly planted in her mind. As long as she was properly frightened, the plan would go off without a hitch, but if she decided to talk to Dippet or some other professor he had an ample number of scapegoats to blame.

He had never directly told the pair to move on the girl, but the power of suggestion planted in their weak minds had been more than enough. It also kept him out from under suspicion because if anyone was going to get into trouble it was not going to be him.

Molly looked around the courtyard and understood that Carol likely would not return to it. She had been given what appeared to be a very bad time by the older girl and it had taken all that Molly had to not interfere. She had been forced, because Tom was sitting next to her, to watch as her friend was tormented and then as the larger girl had walked away looking very pleased but a bit puzzled by it all. For his part, Tom had done a passable job of looking disinterested by what was going on, but Molly could tell that he had been more than a bit amused by what had happened.

She finally rose to walk back towards the castle and was stopped by the hand of Tom clutching her wrist.

“Where are you going?”

“I need to use the lavatory.”

“I can walk with you if you like.”

Molly shook her head before responding.

“No, Tom, I think that I can find my way there.”

“You will be coming back I hope.”

“We will see, Tom. I am not feeling very well. I may just go to find someplace to lie down for a while.”

“Are you upset about something?”

“No,” she lied, “I just do not feel well.”

She pulled free of his grasp and then walked across the courtyard to open the front doors and then step back into the castle. From there she hurried to the nearest girls’ lavatory where she sat in a stall and cried. Tom had known that the treatment that Carol had received would upset her and yet he had possessed the gall to ask if she had been bothered by something. She knew that he hadn’t had the chance to put the girl up to it during breakfast but what about within the area of Slytherin House. Had he done it then? Or was she wrong about him and it had just been a coincidence?

The girl finally rose and then walked out of the lavatory to walk to Hufflepuff House. It was safe there, Slytherin students had no way to enter those spaces and, if Carol was there, she would have a chance to find out what had been said to her friend. As she walked towards her destination her mind questioned all that she had seen and heard this morning. Obviously something was going on, Carol had been the target today, first in the Great Hall and then in the courtyard. Tom couldn’t deny the fact that he had sent more than a few glares Carol’s direction, she had seen him doing it and Carol had been doing her best to avoid looking at him. She had even gotten up and left the room to go the courtyard where Tom had made certain to sit where he could watch her. Then the girl had approached Carol and given her some trouble.

As much as Molly hated to admit it, this morning had done an incredible job of vindicating Carol and all that she had claimed about Tom. It was obvious that there was much more to Tom than he let on and she now questioned if she was right in defending him, in fact, she questioned if she had been wrong about him all along and if he was truly as dangerous as Carol had claimed.

She arrived at the door to Hufflepuff, gave the password to the portrait and vanished through the portal never once seeing the figure that had trailed her from a distance. As the portrait closed behind her and obscured her from his view, Tom Riddle wondered what she was up to and if the time to cut Molly Porter free had finally arrived.

More to the point, he wondered if Molly and Carol’s time had finally come to an end.
 


Chapter 14: In the Open
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Molly didn’t go down to the Great Hall for the evening meal and Tom questioned this. Carol was present, he could see her clearly, but Molly was nowhere to be seen. Had the girls reconnected? Had Carol told Molly about what had happened? A look towards the High Table told him that all of the professors were present and none of them seemed to be paying any overt attention to him, perhaps there was nothing to be concerned about. Perhaps Carol had taken their warnings to heart and kept her mouth shut.

There was also the possibility that Molly was truly as ill as she had claimed that she was. He had seen her leaving the lavatory and she hadn’t spoken to anyone in the corridors. She had also been very alone when she entered through the Hufflepuff portrait.

He glanced again at the one professor that seemed to see through him and the boy knew that some of it was his fault. During the meeting in his room at the orphanage, Tom had told Dumbledore that he could make people hurt and do things that they didn’t want to do. This one mistake had the potential to create a huge number of problems for him and this was one thing that he didn’t know how to handle.

Dealing with Muggles and other students who had no inkling about how to fend his mental attacks off was one thing and he had even had some success with some of the younger professors. But Dumbledore was a problem, he was forewarned and no doubt on guard against such a transgression. The consequences of trying something with the much more practiced wizard were terrifying. He could end up living in Azkaban, or worse, as a Muggle, forbidden to use magic of any kind. The life of a mundane was not appealing to him and he knew that he would have to be very careful to avoid drawing scrutiny.

He was also still searching for the ring that held nearly his every thought. It was so familiar, he knew that he had seen it somewhere other than in his visions, but where? The answer was somewhere in Hogwarts castle, he knew that and he knew that it had to be somewhere in either the common areas where everyone could go or in one of the tunnels or rooms that comprised Slytherin House. It was close, he knew it, but where was it?

The meal was nearly over and still there was no sign of Molly. Carol was sitting at the Hufflepuff table looking lost and talking to very few people. She seemed to speak only when someone talked to her and was carefully avoiding his gaze. Apparently, he thought, the messages worked and I have won.

William Crabbe glanced at the boy whose bidding he had done and hoped that it did not come back to bite him. If the girl reported what had happened in the darkened corridor he could be in for a great deal of trouble. While she likely hadn’t really been able to see him well, he had made the mistake of speaking and she no doubt had recognized his voice. If she did go to the headmaster, he wasn’t going to take all of the blame and pay the price for what had happened. Tom would have to deal with some of the backlash, because Crabbe intended to sing like a canary and tell all that he knew about the plot against Carol if it meant getting out of some of the trouble. It might mean trouble later on with Tom, but Tom couldn’t expel him from Hogwarts.

The students rose after dessert had ended and soon were walking back to their Houses. As they walked, Tom kept an eye on Carol to be certain that Molly wasn’t waiting for the Hufflepuffs somewhere along the way. He didn’t see her anywhere and soon was in a position where, even if she had appeared he wouldn’t have been able to see her.

Dejected and more than a little concerned about the situation, Tom trailed his Housemates as they made their way to the portrait of the witch that guarded the entrance to their home. He scowled as he thought about the absence of Molly and barely paid attention to the portrait of Salazar Slytherin as he walked past it.

Following the students from his year, he soon was in his dorm and changing clothes. He was thoroughly mystified and more than a bit concerned. Where had Molly been and was she playing him? Had Molly and Carol started speaking again? Had what had happened to Carol been relayed to her? Certainly she had seen the interaction between Carol and the older girl in the courtyard, but had she connected him to the confrontation in any way? If she had it could mean no end of trouble for him and very likely the eventuality of them no longer being a couple or even speaking socially. He hated to lose at anything and something like that represented a major loss.

‘If they have begun to speak again,’ he thought, ‘I have to be ready to let Crabbe take the blame for it. He was the one that shoved her in the corridor; there is no way that I can be blamed for it because I was where everyone could see me at the time. He is not much use anyway and losing him would not be much of a loss. The only thing that will be a problem is the fact that he is great for muscle work. He is dumb as an ox and just as big.’

The boy slipped into bed thinking about it all and it was a long time before he was able to close his eyes and sleep.

Molly sat in the common room of Hufflepuff House as she ate the meal that the elves had sent for her. Tom was up to something, she knew that much, she had seen it all for herself. Then he had tried to control her when she wanted to leave his presence. The things that he was doing, including glaring at Carol no matter what she did, led Molly Porter to be convinced of his guilt. But she needed to speak to her friend again, there was more to it, there had to be.

The door to the corridor opened to admit the other members of their House and she spotted Carol immediately. She tried to pretend that she hadn’t noticed the passage of the girl, but gasped inwardly as she noticed the recent injuries that her friend had sustained. This was more fuel on the fire because, while Tom could not have done it he had more than a few thick-headed friends that could and would if they were asked to.

She rose slowly as the dishes in front of her vanished and then walked to her dorm to prepare for bed. Carol was in the process of changing when she entered the room and she had to force herself to avert her eyes as she saw the wounds. The other girl did her best to avoid looking at Molly and it was not until the other girls that were present in the room left to go back to the common room that the pair was able to speak.

“Carol, what in the name of Merlin happened to you?”

“It was Crabbe, Molly, he had a message for me to stay out of you and Tom’s business, he delivered it after shoving me in one of the corridors.”

Molly raised her hand to cover her mouth as it hung open while the other girl spoke.

“The girl in the courtyard had the same message and then there was Tom.”

“What did he do, Carol?”

The girl burst into tears and Molly was barely able to understand her as she spoke words that Molly was afraid that she was going to say.

“He threatened me, Molly.”

“He threatened you?”

“Yes, he told me that there were a lot of stairs in the castle and that if I did not stay away from you and him that I might fall down them.”

“Oh, Merlin. Are you okay?”

“I went to the Hospital Wing to have these taken care of and met with Professor Dumbledore and Headmaster Dippet in his office.”

“Carol, I need you to be clear on this,” Molly responded, “are you very certain that what Tom said to you was a threat? That William Crabbe pushed you and caused those injuries?”

Carol Markham took a deep breath and then nodded as she spoke her reply.

“Yes, Molly, I am very certain about all of this.”

Molly sat down on her bed, stunned, as the enormity of what her friend was saying hit her. Tom, the boy that professed to love her, had threatened her friend and worse than that had had another student attack Carol. She felt tears begin their trips down her face as she understood that Tom was not as innocent as he claimed. He was dangerous.

“What are you going to do, Molly?”

Molly Porter looked up at her friend with tear-filled eyes and then spoke.

“Contact my father, he works at the Ministry of Magic, he will know what to do. I have an owl to write tonight because Tom Riddle is not going to get away with this and neither are his friends!”

Carol nodded as she watched her friend pull a piece of parchment out of her school bag and then turn to the writing desk that had appeared. The scratching of the quill on the parchment meant that the other girl was venting her frustrations and fears to her father and Carol hoped that something good would come out of it.

Their conversation didn’t abate as the other girls began to filter into the room and many of them realized that the friendship had been rekindled. They also realized that nothing good was going to result when Tom Riddle, a boy that many of them detested and feared, learned about this development. It was late into the night before Molly finished her letter to her parent and finally got into bed. Carol glanced at her friend in the darkness and spoke quietly while the other girls in the room slept.

“Are you afraid of how he will react when he learns about all of this, Molly?”

“Not really, Carol, once my father reads the owl he will be here and fast. He will not put up with this behavior from Tom and his friends. If they create a problem with him, they will be out of Hogwarts and fast!”

“Thank you, Molly. You are truly my best friend.”

“I will not ever forget that you are my best friend, Carol.”

They fell asleep in that warm room and the next morning Molly nearly sprang from her bed to shower and then dress before hurrying to the Owlery to send a message on its way to her father. Carol made her solitary way to the Great Hall and Tom was pleased to see that she was once more alone with Molly nowhere to be seen. He was eating his breakfast when Crabbe suddenly choked on the pumpkin juice that he was drinking and Tom looked up to see Molly sitting down next to Carol to hug the other girl and then turn to fix him with a murderous glare.

Clearly Carol had told Molly everything.

A glance at the High Table told him that Dumbledore and Dippet were aware of something as well as the gazes of both professors were firmly planted on him. He turned to look at Crabbe, whose face had turned white, before turning back to look at the wizards once again. Both had left the table and were walking towards the Slytherin table that he sat at. He rose and moved to meet them while also being very aware that all eyes were on him.

“Mister Riddle, if you and Mister Crabbe would be so kind as to join us in a trip to my office I would be most appreciative,” Headmaster Armando Dippet announced softly. “It appears that we have much to discuss including, perhaps, the future of both of you at Hogwarts.”

“I will accompany you, Professor Dippet, because I have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong.”

Molly Porter and Carol Markham watched as Tom and William Crabbe vanished with the headmaster and a short time later as the large girl vanished with Professor Dumbledore. The girls weren’t certain if Molly’s father had already received the owl, but clearly something was happening.

Tom glanced around the office of the Headmaster as three chairs appeared for the use of the students who now found that they were facing angered members of the staff as well as a rather familiar wizard, although Tom could not place where he had seen the man. The boy settled down onto the chair and then faced the trio of adults.

“Tom, William, Portia, I assume that you understand why you are here in my office. I have received a report that you have been involved in some rather odorous activities against another student. These activities have resulted in distress for that student as well as her friend and now we have reached a perilous point.”

“I assume that you are familiar with Minister Joseph Porter, who is the father of Molly Porter. He was summoned here by an owl from his daughter that outlined some very distressing problems that she and Miss Markham had encountered. Now we reach a situation where we need to discuss what to do from here,” Dippet continued.

“I do not understand,” Tom responded as he felt himself on a precipice.

“Mister Riddle,” Joseph Porter stated, “Molly has expressed concern for the safety of herself and Carol Markham. She told me that Carol had been threatened by you personally in the corridors, that she had been assaulted by a person who she believed to be Mister Crabbe and that she was verbally accosted by the young lady here. As a Minister with the Department of Magical Studies, I find all of this approaching the level reserved for those who are expelled from this school. Now, as I am the father of one of the students involved, I would recuse myself from the vote if it comes to that, but I will not tolerate my child being frightened by anyone.”

The girl sitting with them was crying softly as she buried her face in her hands and Crabbe looked as though he was ready to vomit. For his part, Tom felt his future slipping away and the very real possibility of having to return to Wool’s Orphanage looming.

“Is there anything that any one of you can say that will persuade us not to pursue your permanent expulsion from this school?” Dippet declared as his voice reached a level that none of the three had ever heard before.

“I was angry with Carol for doing what she did, Professor Dippet, she tried to come between Molly and I. I may have used words harsher than I should have when I warned her to stay away from us and I apologize for that,” Tom added as he scrambled for a safety net. “I had nothing to do with Portia attacking Carol. I was across the courtyard and had not even spoken to her that day. In fact, I have never spoken to her in the two terms that I have been here. I asked William to warn her as well and he must have taken it the wrong way because I never told him to physically assail her.”

Crabbe looked at Tom in horror as his future was endangered, and then he spoke.

“Tom told me to warn off Carol, but he did more than that. He told me to make it hurt and I did.”

“You liar!” Tom screamed. “I never once told you to harm anyone, not now, not ever!

This is your pathetic attempt to save your skin and I will not suffer for it.”

The arguing match continued for a long while until Dippet used the silencing charm to quiet the room.

“I believe that we have heard enough to make a decision.”

“Please do not expel me, Professor Dippet,” the girl wailed. “I cannot explain why I did what I did and I am so sorry for it.”

“Miss Landers, you are to report back to your dorm and gather your things. I am going to suspend you and sentence you to three weeks in the Isolation Tower,” Dippet announced.

The girl nodded gratefully and then hurried out of the room while the boys awaited their fate.

“Mister Crabbe, you physically attacked another student, a female student, and your punishment shall be severe. You are suspended and sentenced to the Isolation Tower for five weeks, now go!”

Tom watched as the boy rose and then left the room before turning his attention back to the adults in front of him. None of the three of the wizards looked inclined to forgive him and he knew that he might very well face the worse punishment of all.

“Mister Riddle, you not only threatened Miss Markham, but also incited another student to attack her. I could expel you without question from the Ministry, but I shall not. You are suspended, Mister Riddle, for seven weeks and sentenced to the Isolation Tower. Another headmaster might have sent you to the dungeons for more serious punishment, but I shall not do so. You shall, along with your co-conspirators, maintain your studies and shall abide by the rules of conduct while in isolation. Any misbehavior shall result in your immediate expulsion from this school without possibility of return. You would, in fact, be sentencing yourself to life as a squib with use of magic being a punishable offense.”

“I understand,” Tom answered as he hung his head and started to rise.

“Mister Riddle,” Joseph Porter added before Tom could leave. “Molly wishes nothing more to do with you and I agree with her assessment. I do not wish for you to be anywhere near my daughter and you are, in short, forbidden to have any sort of contact with my child other than that which is necessary for school purposes. Do not make me take further action against you because I will not hesitate to do so to protect her.”

The wizard vanished with a POP as Tom walked towards Slytherin House with his eyes filled with tears. His wand now lay, as William and Portia’s did, on the desk of Armando Dippet, he had felt it vanish from his robes. He made his way to a place where one of the Prefects stood waiting for him and stopped when hailed.

“Riddle, your things are already in the Isolation Tower. You will find them in the room marked with your name. Do not believe that the headmaster is not aware of what is going on in those rooms. He knows about everything that you do in there.”

The boy looked at the door which had opened before him and then stepped through the portal to find that he was in the corridor which led to the common room. He made his way to the room with his name on the door in glowing letters and then entered to walk to the bed to flop down on it. As he lay there staring up at the ceiling, Tom realized that it had all gone wrong.

Carol and Molly were friends, everyone in the castle would know what had happened and Molly would never trust him again. He closed his eyes to staunch the flow of tears that threatened to erupt from them. As he fought the tears, he allowed the anger to grow and all of it was directed at Molly and Carol.

“You think that you have won but you have not, Molly Porter and Carol Markham. You both are going to regret this, all of this. I am going to see to it!”

Outside the castle, casual observers were startled to see storm clouds suddenly appear over Hogwarts and the area around it before a hellish torrent of rain, thunder and lightning engulfed the ancient structure.
 

I would like to thank my readers for following my stories.  I do intend to continue the tale of Tom Riddle at the site that I am moving to.

To Jay and the staff at HPFF, the nearly four years that I have spent as a author have been some of the most memorable in my life. I sincerely wish that I would have stumbled onto the site before I did and wish even more so that it was not all going to come to an end.

Thank you, so much for helping me become a better writer.  I sincerely hope that someday, somehow, HPFF will rise like Fawkes to be a palce once again for writers to display their work.

J.K. Rowling, thanks once again for the inspiration.

 

Evil Otter


Chapter 15: Clean Up
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The roar of the sudden thunder was their first warning, followed shortly by the explosion of a harsh rain that pelted them mercilessly. Those students that had already exited the castle to travel to their destinations via the outdoor routes to class scattered and sought shelter as the storm exploded over Hogwarts. They cowered wherever they could find a place to as hailstones began to join the raindrops in their attack on the structure. Shrieks of terror rang though the air as painful reminders of what a speeding hailstone felt like as it hit a person occurred.

Tom glared out through the window in the common room of the Isolation Tower at the tumult that was occurring while his companions felt their gratitude that they had not been caught outdoors. Glass that had withstood storms in the past cracked and broke as the whirling storm punished anything in its path and the residents of Hogsmeade were not immune to the terror as they too came under its assault.

Witches and wizards of all ages did their best to stay away from the unleashed fury that was rumbling over the castle, lake and their village while only a short distance away from the scene clear skies could be seen. Dippet and Dumbledore looked out through one of the windows of the Headmaster’s office at the terrifying storm that was raging outside the structure as they pondered what was happening.

Clearly, they understood, this was not a normal storm as it had appeared far too quickly. This brought them to wonder who was responsible as they believed that none of the students in the castle were capable of such an act. They knew that none of the children in the castle were able to cast such power into the heavens and cause such terror. This meant that someone much more powerful had to be responsible for what was happening.

Molly and Carol were among those who had scurried to find cover from the fury falling from the sky and were huddling in one of the covered walkways along with many other children. They screamed as several of the roof tiles above them fell from where they belonged to crash near the shrieking children. The abrupt opening in the roof allowed a torrent of rain and hailstones to fall upon the previously protected students and more than one of them, Molly included, suffered minor cuts from that tiles that had abandoned the roof.

Clearly the roof was going to collapse and frantic children began to look for another place to be. It was Carol that noticed a much safer area where the wind and flying hazards would be partly blocked by the structure of the castle and she grabbed the hand of her friend to urge Molly to a safer refuge. The girls left where they were and rushed, along with several others, to the pocket where they found the chaos much diminished. A rumble caught their attention and the group looked back to see the place where they had been now in shambles, courtesy of a collapsing roof. Somewhat protected, although soaked to the skin, the children ducked back as far as they could while the fury of nature raged.

The wind outside the castle screamed as it whipped around the castle over and over again, carrying the debris that it had picked up. The massive window at the end of the Great Hall vanished in a rain of shards of ancient glass as a tree, uprooted by the storm and thrown through the air by the gale, was shoved through it and into the chamber. The braziers along the walls and the candles floating above the tables, still lit, went out abruptly as tables and other furniture was tossed about to land sometimes in areas far from their departure point. Slammed shut by the tables, benches, chairs and debris that was unrecognizable, the great doors were pinned closed and those few residents of the castle that were still within the chamber made haste to leave via the only other exit available as the massive roof supports overhead groaned with the effort of remaining in place. The professor and three students who had been kept behind to receive a dressing by the incensed witch rushed through the door which led to the trophy room and kitchen. The sounds of more glass breaking echoed in their wake as the door that they had just used slammed shut, courtesy of a wave of the professor’s wand.

Portia and William cowered under the beds in their rooms while they wondered if the tower, which was much older than some parts of the castle, would remain standing or if it would crumble to pieces and eject them out into the hurricane-like winds that howled. The windows had one by one departed the structure and thus many of the contents had been sucked out of the rooms that they had once occupied to become hazardous missiles to be dodged.

Tom, his fury at the situation unabated, stood in the center of the room while the furniture around him took a battering. He was untouched by all of the chaos other than being soaked by the rain which had been forced into the room in a steady deluge. He screamed out his outrage at what had happened because of his plot and the storm outside the room intensified as the dark clouds grew in size and strength.

Molly and her group, despite their protected location, found themselves in a very real danger of being sucked out of where they were by the wind and becoming missiles themselves. The terrified children clung together knowing that if one of them was pulled out into the storm, they all likely would be. A form appeared suddenly before them with an inaudible POP and they swiftly grabbed the robes of Armando Dippet before he vanished once again, taking them with him to the lowest levels of the castle. Here and there, around the outside of the castle, the scene was repeated as other professors rescued stranded and terrified children.

Tom knew this, somehow he knew that Molly was safe and thus so was Carol, and it infuriated as well as distracted him. The wind outside the tower was growing in strength and would have brought the ancient tower, which was part of the original castle, down. But a small book that had been hurled through the air after being ripped from the hands of its owner flew into the room and struck the boy in the head. Tom collapsed in the center of the room as the storm outside began to subside. Nearly as quickly as they had formed, the storm clouds vanished and the hellish rain of precipitation and debris came to an end. Here and there the surface of the lake was dotted by the splashes of debris which fell into it and wreckage that bobbed on the water.

Slowly, the residents of the castle emerged from their refuges to take stock of what had happened while the citizens of the village below did the same. Smoke rose from damaged structures in Hogsmeade and the baleful orange of flames licked skyward in places. Several buildings were either badly damaged or completely collapsed and the cries of the wounded echoed through the narrow streets.

The students quietly made their way out of their hiding spots and were quickly gathered and taken into the lower levels where they were divided by years and Houses to take attendance or, more to the point, to ensure that there had been no casualties.

Armando Dippet looked around the devastated area where he stood and realized to his horror that the three students who had been sent to the Isolation Tower were not present. He vanished with a POP and appeared a moment later in the common room of the area to find it just as badly damaged as the rest of the castle. Two thoroughly frightened students, having heard the sound of his apparation, staggered towards him from their bedchambers but the third was nowhere to be seen. He vanished with the pair to see to it that they were accounted for before vanishing once again to return to the ruined room. Albus Dumbledore, having been given temporary rights to apparate within Hogwarts and knowing who was missing, appeared a moment later.

“Have you found him yet, Headmaster Dippet?”

“No, Albus, I have not. We need to double our efforts to locate Mister Riddle.”

Dumbledore drew his wand and watched as, after he had cast a spell, the debris slowly lifted into the air to expose what lay underneath. Nearly immediately a small form that had been hidden by the table which had landed almost on top of it became visible, a nasty mark visible on the forehead of the boy. Casting the debris aside with a flick of his wand, Albus Dumbledore gathered Tom into his arms and the pair vanished to reappear in the temporary hospital that had already been opened. Healers from St. Mungos were already rushing about as they assisted the staff from the school in treating the injuries that had been received.

Dumbledore laid the child onto a bed and was immediately pushed aside by a healer who started the process of examining the boy. The professor could only watch as other students, some in far worse shape than Tom, were brought in and sometimes taken immediately away to travel to London and the hospital there. The storm had done incredible damage to the castle and, he feared, the village below.

He was correct in thinking this and it was not long before the injured from Hogsmeade began to appear. Damaged though it was, Hogwarts was a much more secure place than the smaller structures in the village, some of which were uninhabitable at the moment.

Tom moaned lightly as the healer worked on him and finally managed to open his eyes. He looked up at the healer who was tending to him and relaxed as his headache subsided. What had hit him he didn’t know, but it certainly hurt.

“You are a lucky young man,” the healer announced. “This could have been much worse than it is. A dose of Pain-B-Gone will take care of it nicely.”

Tom opened his eyes wide at the mention of the detested elixir that was often prescribed by the nurse at school. It was awful, even worse than the castor oil that he had sometimes been given when at the orphanage. At least this helped him to sleep afterwards, the Muggle remedy merely made him feel a bit worse.

“What happened?” Tom asked, remembering to sound confused.

“There was a terrible storm and a number of people were injured, but thankfully no one lost their life. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are in ruins, but can be repaired. I should imagine that the repairs are already underway, given the efficiency of the elves.”

Tom grimaced at the sight of the glass that was being prepared for him and soon was being handed the vessel. He gulped the contents quickly and fought down the shudders that he felt as the potion went down his throat. The healer too the glass from him and watched as the boy on the bed finally closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Molly sat quietly as one of the nurses tended to the cut that she had received when a piece of a roof tile had struck her. She winced as the wound was examined and glanced around the room at the other injured that had been brought here. The girl could clearly see Tom and wondered if he was okay. She hated him at the moment for what he had done to Carol, but didn’t like to see anyone in pain. Molly watched as the boy was given what was obviously Pain-B-Gone and shuddered, she knew that her mother would treat her the same way that Tom was receiving medication. The healer straightened and then drew his wand.

“I think that we can take care of this rather easily. If you will just sit still for a moment, Molly, we can get it handled.”

Molly sat quietly as the wand glowed in response to the incantation used and was relieved when she felt the damage heal itself. A mirror appeared in front of her and she smiled as she saw that the repairs had been done well enough that she wouldn’t have a scar on her face.

“There you are, it looks much better.”

The girl nodded her agreement and hopped down off of the bed that she had been sitting on. She looked up at the healer and then smiled before speaking.

“Thank you, sir.”

“It was my pleasure, Miss Porter, please say hello your parents for me.”

“You know my parents?”

“Certainly,” the wizard replied, “I went to school here with them. Just mention the name Jonas Campbell and they will know who you are talking about.”

“Thank you again.”

“Have a nice day, Molly.”

The girl walked away from the bed and, as she approached the door, found that she was being directed towards an unfamiliar classroom. She glanced at the Prefect that had sent her on her way with a small amount of irritation, but followed his directions. A few minutes later she found herself sitting with the remainder of her class in Defense against the Dark Arts while Professor Lands kept his students busy. He looked up as the girl entered the room and spoke to her.

“Miss Porter, I am so happy to see you. We are merely doing some reading and will be in this room until the normal one is repaired.”

“I lost my books and other things outside, Professor Lands,” the girl answered as she hung her head in sorrow.

“I am quite certain that they will be recovered, until then you may use one of these books.”

Molly nodded and walked quietly to an empty chair where she settled down to begin to read.

The students would find their routines severely altered while the castle underwent repairs. Through the use of magic, the elves soon had piles of books and other belongings ready to be reclaimed by their owners. The items swiftly sorted themselves according to owner and any damage was quickly repaired so that the students received their things back as they had been before the storm had exploded over the castle.

Armando Dippet stood in the middle of the Great Hall as he watched the damage done to the chamber repair itself. Several elder elves, some of them among those that had helped assemble the castle in the first place, were busy using their abilities to set things right. The tree had vanished to be replanted where it had been while the giant window knitted itself back together and the smaller ones did the same. Tables, benches and chairs moved back to where they belonged and, in some cases, repaired themselves. After several minutes, the braziers and candles relit themselves and the large doors at the end of the room reopened as the last of the wreckage that had held them shut vanished to travel to its needed location where it reassembled to what it had been in the first place.

The headmaster looked with satisfaction at the progress although he knew that it would be at least a few days before the castle was completely repaired. Armando Dippet walked to the entry foyer to glance up the debris strewn stairs as repairs continued there, although at a greatly accelerated pace. The stairs and corridors were needed to facilitate passage to and from different areas of the castle, especially to those Houses that were in towers. As it was, those students who lived in the towers were going to have to be relocated to some of the lower areas that had once been classrooms. It would be inconvenient for the children, but necessary until the stairs were safe and the common rooms and dormitories were repaired.

He walked out through the front doors of the castle to survey the wreckage that had once been a grand entry courtyard. Smoke rose from the village and he knew that things must be as bad, if not worse there, than they were at the castle. Certainly the disaster would have long term effects and Hogsmeade would also be under repair for an extended time while the affected residents wondered just what had happened to cause the disaster. He drew his wand and cast a spell at one of the shattered sections of the covered walkway.

“Raparo!”

Instantly, the damage began to repair itself with missing pieces of stone and tile reappearing from seemingly nowhere. The aging wizard slowly turned from one section of damaged wall to the next repeating the incantation until the stonework was repaired far more efficiently than an expert team of Muggle stonemasons could have done. There was no sign of the damage that had occurred and, as he watched, a bench that had been knocked over stood upright and moved back into the position that it had occupied for generations.

Above him, the tinkling of glass knitting itself back together caught his attention and Dippet stepped out to watch as windows frames mended themselves and then reclaimed their contents. Books and parchments and other things that the students had dropped in their frenzy fluttered past him to rejoin the neat stacks that were appearing on the tables in the Great Hall to wait for the owners return. Yes, Hogwarts would rise again, but first something needed to be done to determine just what had happened in the first place.

Albus Dumbledore stood in front of his Transfiguration class while he too tried to restore normalcy to students who largely appeared to be dazed by what had just occurred. The courtyard outside his classroom was littered with debris which had fallen from above and so he had been moved to a long unused room and had had to cast a charm which would lead the children to the new location. All of the professors had employed this charm and it was not uncommon to see glowing footprints on the floor in different colors, with each color denoting the location of a certain professor.

Throughout the castle, nearly silent children did what was asked of them without question, they were all too shell shocked to even consider defiance. Barriers to prevent them from going into dangerous areas of the castle rose and they soon realized that they were going to have to live with the inconvenience and learn new routes to class.

The elves fought a mighty battle with the most heavily damaged and therefore most dangerous areas of the structure. Here and there, there were echoing rumbles as overtaxed structures gave up and collapsed, usually in a cloud of dust. It was a student who noticed that the heavily damaged Isolation Tower had assumed a dangerous tilt and the elves quickly moved to stabilize it before it could fall. The team of elven elders used their formidable powers to not only straighten the tower, but also to repair the damage that it had received. If one could have looked inside the seemingly mortally wounded tower they would have been stunned to see the shattered supports coming back together and torn framing moving back into place. Gradually, strength returned to the ancient structure and the danger that it represented to the rest of the castle abated as the possibility of its collapse diminished.

Children would eat their meals in the Great Hall as normal and it was not long before the first post-storm meal was being consumed. Here and there, joyous reunions took place and hugs were given as the children encountered people that they had feared for. Tom would receive very few of these hugs when he too entered the Great Hall, his suspension lifted until it was certain that the Isolation Tower was safe to be occupied.

Molly and Carol did their best to avoid looking at the dark haired boy and their concentration on that fact was painfully obvious to him. Tom could only watch as Molly rebuilt the circle of friends around her and knew that he would be a long time in wiggling his way back into her thoughts.

Holiday break was coming soon and he would have to return to the orphanage. This meant that the girl would travel to her own home and the counsel of her parents. He knew, after the meeting in the office of Professor Dippet, that Molly’s father would not tolerate any contact from him with Molly and the mother of the girl would likely feel the same way. He had made a terrible mistake and now he had to figure out just how to make it all right again.

That was, of course, if he could.



Chapter 16: Discoveries and Plots
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In the time since the disaster that he had inadvertently created, Tom had returned to the Isolation Tower to find that things there weren’t any better. Portia and William had nothing to say to him and avoided him when they could. The fact that they had received shorter sentences of punishment didn’t help any either.

He woke one morning to look out through the window in his room to see a fresh blanket of snow on the courtyard far below. It angered him that the students that he could see were free to frolic in it while he could not. He stalked back to his bed and sat down on it while he considered recent events. Somehow, he knew, he had caused what had happened, much like he had caused the terror in London. The Ministry had become aware of his abilities then, so could he expect a visit from one of the Ministers because of what had happened here at Hogwarts and down in Hogsmeade? Would they expel him for it? And if they did, how would they prevent him from using what he could do to lash out?

Stories of the horrors of Azkaban Prison resounded in his mind and he shuddered as he thought about having to occupy a small cell, surrounded by the ever present Dementors, for the remainder of his life. He would die there in that hellish place.

‘It will not happen! I refuse to die in Azkaban! I am never going to die, because I intend to find a way to live forever. I do not care what it takes or who has to die for me to achieve my goal, I am not going to die and be buried in a forgotten grave like my mother was.’

The boy flopped back onto his bed to look once again at the ceiling of the room and finally rose to walk out into the common room where his breakfast would appear. The other students rose from the chairs that they had been sitting in as he entered the room to walk to the library of the area and close the door meaningfully after them. He was alone once again.

‘I guess that this is no different than any other time in my existence,’ he thought as he ate. ‘I have been alone for most of my life, even when the room that I am in is full of people.’

He silently ate his meal and then watched as the dishes vanished after he had finished. Books waited for his attention in the room that he normally occupied and he intended to work on the assignments that he had been given, but there was something else that he wanted to do first.

A long forgotten door had been noticed by the boy and he intended to examine it. Where it went he had no idea, but the mystery that it represented for him was overpowering. Although he had no desire to slip out of the tower, as that would bring severe punishment and perhaps even expulsion, he wanted to learn what secrets it held. Perhaps he would learn the secret of the ring and what it meant.

Rising from the chair he walked down a corridor that the other two had not seen a need to explore and soon was standing outside the door. Obviously it had not been used for a time and the elves hadn’t expended the effort to clean the area. Thick spider webs clung to the door and he brushed them aside, wishing the entire time that he had his wand, before reaching forward to grip the handle and then tug on it. Although he had no clue as to how the door would have behaved prior to the repair of the tower, it opened freely now and he stepped through the portal and into a small room beyond it. As in the rest of the castle the moment that he stepped into an area that had not been entered for a very long time the torches lit to provide him with light. The flickering light revealed a door directly ahead of him and a set of stairs to his left which went downward.

Tom almost paused in his explorations as he remembered what he had done to the first years earlier in the term and the words that had been directed at him concerning the possibility of encountering a troll. He had no wand and he wasn’t certain that he could make a troll hurt enough to leave him alone. If he did run into one, he knew that very likely he would lose the contest and be eaten.

The boy stepped forward and tested the handle of the door before him. It moved easily and soon the door was swinging open and the boy cringed with his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he waited for the attack that he was certain would come. Instead, nothing happened.

He opened his eyes and gazed with wonder at the room that had been revealed. Although it was chocked with spider webs, some likely from spiders that were many decades dead, the room was filled with long forgotten contents and sunlight filled the room through large windows that lined the walls. Clearly it had been a classroom of some sort as rows of desks stood in the room and a lectern stood in front of a board that still held a long ago written assignment, the chalk marks greatly faded.

Tom entered the room and pushed his way past the flimsy barriers until he was at the front of the room. He heard something faint and glanced at the area where students had once studied and was stunned to see filmy figures seated at the desks while they listened to a professor who was just as transparent. The robes that the students wore were much different than what he did and he noted the ancient textbooks that they were using. He had seen one of them in the library and knew that they had not been in use in well over three centuries. Tom realized that he was seeing an echo of the past and turned to leave the room and its eternal occupants behind.

He stepped out of the room and watched for a moment as the ghostly class continued before the door obscured it from his view. The boy brushed the spider webs from his robes and self before turning his attention to the stairs which led downward. Once again his way was lit by the torches as he moved down stairs that had not been used for a very long time. The staircase seemed to go on forever but he finally arrived at the bottom and found a short hallway that had a number of doors along its length.

He followed the hall, trying each door and finding them either locked or swollen shut. He was about to end his expedition when he tried a door and it opened easily into a darkened room. His heart beating wildly, Tom stepped into the room and was relieved when what had covered the windows slid aside to admit light into the chamber. A look around the room showed him that it was the office of a professor and he moved closer to the desk where several parchments lay scattered on the surface. Motion caught his eye and he turned to see a large portrait on the wall, the subject glaring at him hatefully.

“Will you please explain to me why you so rudely interrupted my sleep by opening those windows? What House are you from?”

“Slytherin House, ma’am.”

“Of all of the lies that I have ever heard, you have just told me the most bold. You are not wearing robes belonging to our noble House! I know Slytherin robes when I see them, and those are most definitely not Slytherin. I would expect a student from Gryffindor House to wear something like that!” the witch in the portrait announced scornfully. “If you are from Slytherin, how do you intend to explain them Professor Slytherin himself? Tell me that please!”

“I cannot explain them to Professor Slytherin, because he has been dead for centuries.”

“Dead for centuries, is he? Well, I suggest that you look behind you and see for yourself that he is most certainly not dead!”

Tom turned slowly as he caught motion out of the corner of his eye and was stunned to see a wizard sitting behind the desk, his arms folded in front of him and his gaze firmly fixed on the student who stood unbelieving before him. He stood stock still as his mind tried to rationalize what he was seeing.

“Are you going to speak?” the wizard behind the desk queried. “Why have you come to my office dressed in those ridiculous robes and claiming that I am centuries dead?”

“You… You cannot be Salazar Slytherin. He was one of the founders of Hogwarts and died long ago,” Tom stuttered.

“I am most certainly Salazar Slytherin! And just who are you, young man?”

“Tom Riddle,” the boy responded as his confidence returned.

“Riddle? Riddle?” the wizard repeated as his anger clearly grew at the sound of boy’s surname. “I clearly have no time for your jokes and have no reason to accept them. Now, who are you?”

“That is my name, sir. I am Tom Marvolo Riddle; I am not trying to make a joke.”

“Mister Riddle,” the wizard stated as he rose and moved towards the boy. “Why have you come to my office and what are those robes that you are wearing?”

“Professor Slytherin, these are the robes that students belonging to your House now wear. An enormous number of years have passed since you taught here and many things have changed, including the robes that students now wear.”

“He is lying, Salazar, only one of Godric’s students could have come up with such a tale,” the witch in the portrait snarled.

The wizard raised his hand and cautioned the witch to silence before speaking to the boy again.

“Mister Riddle, you continue to hold to the notion that many years have passed. What proof do you have of this?”

Tom thought wildly for a moment and then glanced at the window.

“Professor, have you looked out the window of your office?”

Tom watched as the wizard glanced at the window and then walked towards it to look out. He gazed out through the ancient glass, seeming to be unaware of the multitude of spider webs that he passed through without breaking them. Finally he turned back to the boy and spoke.

“Mister Riddle, I see nothing outside my window that I should not! I am in no mood for these games and want you to return to Gryffindor and tell him that I am not amused this.”

Tom could tell that the ancient wizard was becoming angry and realized that he had to do something soon and that was when he looked at the witch and his eyes widened with recognition.

“You are her! You are the witch whose portrait guards the entrance of Slytherin House.”

“That is no proof, young fool! Any student would know that, regardless of House.”

“Yes, but only a Slytherin would know your name!”

“Quite correct, so Mister Riddle, what is my name?”

The boy, smiling broadly, stepped forward and then spoke the name that he knew well.

The witch nearly shrieked out her surprise as the boy hissed out her name in Parseltongue. Slytherin’s eyes opened wide at the sound of the language that only persons of the correct lineage knew and he settled back down behind the desk that he had left.

“It is true,” he whispered slowly, “you know the language. You know it and there is only one way that you can.”

Tom studied the wizard behind the desk and his gaze traveled over the body of the image from the past. He had seen the wizard many times before, in portraits on the walls of the castle, in the Slytehrin Common Room, even in books about the school, but none of these had captured the presence of one of the founders of Hogwarts. Tom felt something at that moment that he had never felt before in his life, belonging! This moment was a part of his destiny, but how did it fit in?

“Your family, I do not recognize their name.”

“My father, it belonged to my father, Master Slytherin.”

“I do not recognize it! Are they Pure-Blood?”

“Yes!”

“Then you are truly a Slytherin, descended of purity of blood, untainted by the blood of the Muggles that threaten to corrupt our world.”

Tom felt his being swell with pride at the sound of the praise, yet wondered how the wizard before him would feel if he knew that one of the parents of the boy had been a Muggle woman. Tom was not a Pure-Blood, but a filthy Half-Blood and not much better than a Muggle-born. This was something that the wizard before him could not know and he was about to say something more when the apparition before him vanished and the room became choked with spider webs as the cover began to close over the window again.

‘I will be back,’ he thought, ‘now that I know that this is here, I will be back to learn more and possibly determine the mystery of the ring.’

He turned and found his way out of the room and then back up the stairs as something that he had seen puzzled him. There had been something familiar within the room, something that he had seen that seemed to answer questions that he had, but what had it been? The door behind him faded as the torches went out as swiftly as they had lit and he soon was in the small room at the top of the stairs while he watched the door in front of him open. As he walked back into the common room he was pleased to see that neither William nor Portia had noticed where he had come from and therefore his secret was safe. They wouldn’t explore as he had, he was certain of that.

He crossed the room to enter his bedchamber and then settled down onto the bed while he carefully cleaned the spider webs from his robes and hair. It was important that they not determine that there was more to the tower than they knew. Tom opened one of the books that held his assignment and carried it to the desk that waited for such a need. It held a stack of blank parchment and, once an assignment was finished, the completed work vanished to appear on the desk of the necessary professor. He wasn’t incredibly worried about the quality of his work as he had already proven his abilities and intelligence. The parchment before him filled swiftly as he wrote and it was not long before the completed work was on its way to Professor Dumbledore.

As for the other two, once they determined that they were in over their heads with the work they could come crawling to him for assistance. Portia might be older than he, but she wasn’t the brightest and would seek him out. He would have fun listening to their pleas for help and would finally give in once he got tired of hearing them beg. Then, in payment for his help, they would agree to do anything that he wanted them to do and thus be further under his control.

‘This is only an inconvenience, Dippet thinks that he is in charge here but I know better. He is old and slowly losing his mind, I wonder how much pushing I need to do to make him lose it faster. Then only Dumbledore will be in my way.’

He shoved his Transfiguration book aside to seize his Potions text. It was only moderately difficult and he worked diligently to complete the assignment that Slughorn had provided. As he worked on this assignment he thought about how easily this professor would be to sway. Horace Slughorn loved to have his favorites, and all that one had to do was to show unwavering dedication to the task at hand as well a stroke the ego of the portly wizard. Slughorn often praised him for his results on assignments and Tom had been eager to respond in kind. Yes, Horace Slughorn was already well on his way to being in the pocket of Tom Riddle and the boy couldn’t wait to learn how he could use the wizard to his own gain.

Flitwick was another story; the professor was friendly enough but always scrutinizing his students. Tom knew that he had to be careful not to reveal his true intentions to the part-goblin professor. The professor was a part of a long line of part goblins from the same family that had held the post of Charms master at Hogwarts and would likely be succeeded by another of his relatives when the time came. He would be very swift to report any suspicions to Dumbledore who would, in return, go directly to the headmaster with what he had learned and then, Tom knew, he would be immediately and permanently expelled from Hogwarts.

Professors Lands and Beery held no particular terror for the boy because Tom wanted to get through school as quickly as possible to try to succeed Lands as Defense against the Dark Arts professor. The wizard tended to skirt around things that he felt would be too disturbing for his students and this irritated the boy. What good did it do the skirt things that he might face once he was finished? In fact, why teach it at all? Could not the power held by dark witches, wizards and beasts be of use? Especially to one who wanted to do much more with his abilities than the teaching here at Hogwarts would allow.

Another parchment vanished, another assignment finished, and Tom looked at the Herbology assignment. It wouldn’t take long and Tom made certain that it didn’t. Beery wasn’t known to like to read long parchments and the easiest way to get a good mark was to write a lot on a parchment. The wizard would glance at it at most and then mark it as acceptable before setting it aside. This made exams in the class easy to pass and get exceptional marks.

Binns was difficult to read, how did one read someone who never did anything but read from notes? It was dreadfully boring in the classroom and many times one would fall asleep, not that the wizard took note, he was too busy reading them. Everyone passed the class without fail as the old professor often fell asleep himself, when he wasn’t presenting obscure information that nobody really needed to his hapless students. Every student in the school dreaded having to go to classroom 4F and many professors avoided it as well.

It was afternoon when he finally laid the last parchment aside and closed the book that he had been working from. The quill that he had been using vanished and the stack of parchment replenished itself. The evening meal would come soon enough and, per normal, he would eat it in the common room although he didn’t count on much companionship from the other two students. They would sit silently, unless they had decided that they needed his help and then the fun would begin. Then he could play the injured party and hold off his aid until he had been amused enough. Neither of them had anything that he particularly wanted, except for their loyalty when it came to dealing with less cooperative members of the student population.

He glanced out once again at the falling snow and knew that very soon he would be walking through the front door of Wool’s Orphanage for the holiday break. Mrs. Cole would make the time dreadful and he intended to make the best of it, although there would be plenty of chances for some wrath of his own to be manifested. Once he came back after break, he would once again report to this tower to serve the remainder of his penance and plot against those who had sent him here, including Carol Markham and Molly Porter.

He sat there for a long time watching the falling snow until the bells ringing announced that the evening meal would be served soon. Then he rose and walked out into the common room to take his place at the table and eat a nearly silent meal with the other two students. They were nearly finished with dessert when William Crabbe spoke.

“Oi, Tom, I was wondering if you could give me a spot of help on my Potions parchment?”

Tom Riddle could only smile inwardly as he shook his head and waited for the pleading to begin.



Chapter 17: Kept Secrets
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Snow was falling over London as the Hogwarts Express arrived at King’s Cross Station and Tom looked glumly out through the window that he was sitting next to as Platform Nine and three-quarters appeared. The scene that he was viewing meant weeks in the company of Muggles and no chance at all of being able to look for the ring that held him captivated. Even his dreams had abandoned him for he had not had a vision of the girl and the man who he knew had to be her father.

The train rolled to a stop and the other children hurried to leave the cars that had transported them back to London. It was an almost totally joyous crowd that swarmed off of the Hogwarts Express, but Tom was feeling none of that joy. He slowly reached up to grab his bag and then followed the others off of the Slytherin car. He glanced around knowing that he, unlike the other children who crowded the platform, would have no one to gather him into a hug. Far away he could see Molly and her parents as they hustled away from any potential contact with him. He watched as Molly glanced back over her shoulder at him before turning her head back to face forward. The family vanished into the crowd quickly and he had no further chance to see the girl before she was lost to his sight.

He walked slowly through across the platform and soon was waiting his turn to go through the portal. On the other side of the barrier, he knew, there was little if any magic except for that performed by the street charlatans who preyed in those who knew no better. If the Ministry of Magic wasn’t so intent on keeping underage wizards and witches under control, tracking their every movement, he would show the street magicians a thing or two.

When his turn to go through the portal occurred he wasn’t surprised to see the rather uninterested Muggles going about their business. None of them even noticed the small dark-haired boy that had appeared abruptly and he made his way towards the exit where he knew that either Martha or Mrs. Cole would be waiting for him. He hoped that it would be Martha, at least then he might have at least a chance at a cordial conversation. A short time later he stepped around the corner and his heart fell as he spotted the matron while she waited, rather impatiently, for her charge. She spotted him immediately and waved for him to hurry. Tom was soon at her side and they stepped out of the station to hurry to the waiting automobile. He climbed into the passenger side and then watched as the woman guided the vehicle down the increasingly treacherous streets.

He stole a glance at the Muggle woman and realized that there would be no happy greeting from her. At the moment she was concentrating on the road ahead of her and cursing under her breath at having to drive in the weather that was occurring.

The trip took longer than normal but they finally arrived at the stark building and he was forced to endure her presence until the vehicle was parked and they had made their way into the structure. After the bitter cold outside the building and the coolness of Mrs. Cole’s attitude toward him, Tom was pleasantly surprised at the warmth inside the building. He walked up the stairs to the room that had been his home for many years. He paused outside it for a moment and then reached forward to turn the knob and open the door.

His room appeared before him and his heart sank. Why he had dreamed that it would be anywhere near as inviting as the dorm that he occupied at Hogwarts was beyond him. The room had not changed at all and he felt nothing of the warmth that Slytherin House exuded. In fact, the warmth that he felt was the mechanical and unfeeling heat that came from the radiator. He tossed his bag, filled as it was with the objects of a mundane life, onto the bed before turning to close the door behind him.

Knowing that Mrs. Cole would give him no respite, he hurried to unpack his bag and hang the clothing in his cupboard. The folded clothing went into the drawer meant for it and he finally closed the cupboard door after stuffing the bag under his bed. The knock on the door came a moment later and he stepped to it to admit the matron.

“Tom, I assume that you have your things unpacked and put away.”

“Yes, Ma`am, Mrs. Cole.”

“And they have all been washed?”

“Yes, Ma`am, they have.”

“And that you intend to obey the rules of this orphanage while you are here on your holiday break?”

“Yes, Ma`am, I do.”

“Very well, as it appears that I have no choice otherwise, you shall be allowed to stay. You will, of course, have your chores while you are here. The other children that have been doing them in your absence will be quite pleased to get a break from them. You shall perform them to my satisfaction, am I understood?”

“Yes, Ma`am, you are understood.”

The woman looked down at him while she looked at him carefully as though trying to determine if he was being truthful or merely sarcastic. Finally she sighed and then turned away, but stopped and turned back to him before his door could close.

“See to it that you are not late in coming down to dinner. I am not certain what the school that you attend allows, but my rules have not changed and remember where you are to be seated at the table.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I understand.”

He watched as she descended the stairs and then closed his door while he trembled with rage. The woman was going to make his life unbearable while he was here that much was certain and he had no doubt that she was going to enjoy doing it.

“Well, Mrs. Cole, I can make your life horrible as well,” he whispered as he stood with his back to the door. “You just will not see it coming.”

The matron glanced back up at the door that she had just left and thought about the boy behind it. She had tried everything that she could think of to send him to another orphanage and had failed in her efforts. It was apparent that she was stuck with him until he went back to his “special” school in a few weeks. This meant that the orphanage would have to present him with the normal Christmas presents given to the orphans and that meant that she had to dig into the meager budget of the facility to do so. She walked into her office and closed the door behind her while Martha and her helper saw to dinner for the residents of the building. The chair behind the desk welcomed her and she settled down to relax while she wondered what higher power had decided to complicate her life.

Martha had looked up from what she was doing to watch as the boy walked through the front door and then up the stairs. Shortly after that, as if on cue, Mrs. Cole had ascended the stairs to speak to Tom. She had known that the matron would do it and she felt sorry for the boy. Tom had his problems, everyone knew that, but very few of the children that came to Wool’s Orphanage didn’t. There was very little chance that the matron would be replaced and even less that she would leave willingly. She had far too easy a job to do that.

She turned to the stew pot to examine the thick soup that was bubbling. It looked right and smelled better and she knew that the children would welcome it on such a cold day. The homemade bread that had been baking in the oven now sat waiting to be cut and cookies waited for consumption. If it had not been for the children, Martha knew that she would have sought other employment long before. Mrs. Cole was far too volatile to leave the children, especially those like Tom, to the mercy of because there was precious little of it to be found. The whiskey that Mrs. Cole was fond of saw to that, and Martha needed the employment that she had too much to risk it by speaking to someone about the problem. Another woman had made the mistake of threatening to bring it to the attention of the Ministry that funded the orphanage and had paid for it with her job. Her claim of wrongdoing had fallen on deaf ears and she had had a hard time finding work after that. To accuse someone who had administrated one of the few “successful” orphanages in the city of wrongdoing had been an exercise in futility.

The first of the children appeared and scurried to the lavatories to clean up before eating and she hurried to prepare to transport the food to the table while the other woman cut the bread into thick, even slices. She was a wonderful help and Martha questioned how she could have done without her for so long.

Tom, hearing the other children hurrying down the stairs towards the dining room, rose from his chair and made his way downstairs as well. Billy watched the other boy with narrowed eyes as he considered a sneaky attack while none of the adults were watching. The problem with the setup was the fact that Martha was keeping a close eye on him, remembering the trouble between the boys that had taken place in the past. Tom entered the lavatory to clean up and left just as Billy was preparing to make his move. As he brushed by the other boy, Tom was silent but Billy couldn’t resist the chance to make a comment in passing.

“Martha will not always be around to make certain that I do not give you a pounding, Tom.”

Tom ignored the boy and slowly made his way to the spot that he always occupied, right next to Mrs. Cole. She had decided on that seating arrangement for those that she wanted to keep an eye on and at the moment, as well as far back as he could remember, it had been assigned to him. None of the other orphans would argue about it, because they all dreaded having to sit next to the matron.

As he settled down onto the chair that he would occupy, Amy took her place at a spot further down on the opposite side. The girl did her best to ignore him and that was fine with Tom, perhaps she had learned the value in keeping silent. He noted with satisfaction the visible scars on her hands and remembered how they had come to be there. The extremely hot steam radiator had done its job well and he knew that he would always remember the night that the girl, thinking that she was clutching the rails of one of the great steamships had gripped the scalding hot metal. The fact that he had helped her to believe what she had been had been entertaining to him and he wondered what else he could make her believe.

The children, all present now, waited patiently until they were told to line up and then rose to walk to the place where they would claim their bowl full of soup. Only the smaller children were assisted in this endeavor and woe unto the child that dropped a bowl or spilled the soup onto the floor or table surface. Mrs. Cole’s wrath would seem to have no end at that point.

When his turn came, Tom accepted the bowl that had been placed on a plate and two pieces of bread that held the bowl in place until he reached his seat. Arriving successfully, the boy placed his bowl onto the table and then sat down to wait for the others to be seated. While he waited, he took the opportunity to look over children that had arrived during his absence.

Two of them were boys that were smaller than he and seemed to already be intimidated by his presence. They were too small to be of much practical use, although the thought of scaring them out of their minds was entertaining. The third was a girl that looked a lot like Molly, as she sat down across from him with her bowl their eyes had met and she had smiled at him shyly.

Tom was torn by this development, the girl was a Muggle, she had to be and she had nothing to offer him that a girl of magical blood did not. But, at the same time, she was not unattractive and she knew nothing about him and that made her potentially useful. As they ate, the pair often glanced at each other, their eyes sometimes meeting. This did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Cole or the other adults, the reactions of each woman being very different.

As dinner progressed in silence, Tom glanced at the cabinet where the elephant had been. It was present in the cabinet once again and the key to the display now on a chain around Mrs. Cole’s neck. He was so close to the elephant and wanted it so badly, but he knew that he would never have a chance to attain it. The adults were watching him too closely.

Movement across the table caught his attention and he watched as the girl rose to take her dishes to the sink where they would be washed.

She is so like Molly,’ he thought, ‘even her hair and eyes are the same.’

He rose from his place and walked to the place where he too would deposit his dishes and there they came face to face.

“Hello, my name is Tom.”

“Hello, I am Sarah. It is nice to meet you.”

“Have you been here long?”

The girl shook her head and lowered her eyes before speaking.

“No, my parents died in a fire and only my brothers and I escaped.”

“I have been here my entire life, except while I am gone to school.”

The eyes of the girl lit up at the mention of school and she smiled once again before abruptly frowning..

“I miss going to school,” she responded sadly, “they sent us here to this orphanage and I cannot go where I used to.”

“Sorry,” he apologized.

“It is not your fault, Tom. If our house had not burned I would be helping my Mum clean up after dinner right now.”

Martha watched as the children talked quietly and then walked towards the classroom where they could continue their conversation. She was glad that the boy had found someone to talk to and hoped that nothing would happen to put a damper on the development. A quick look at Mrs. Cole told Martha that the matron did not feel the same way however.

The displeasure that the matron was showing meant that the woman would double her efforts to find a home for the siblings and thus break a connection that Tom had been able to make. Martha knew that the boys would be fairly easy to find homes for but Sarah would be another story. She was approaching her teen years and therefore not as many families would be willing to take her in, regardless of the obvious care that had been taken in her upbringing. Her future was bleak at best and Martha knew that the girl would likely live in an institution until she became an adult and had to find a way to make her living. This worried Martha, for the girl was attractive and attractive girls with no skills often ended up in a less than savory life style.

Sarah sat in one of the chairs in the classroom while she and Tom talked. The boy was charming, but elusive, she noted as he avoided talking about the school that he attended. She was interested in him, but also saddened that he had told her that he was only here on holiday break from his school and would be returning there to resume classes in a few weeks.

‘If only I could get you to stay, Tom.’

Tom was enjoying the conversation and company that Sarah represented and had learned that she was his age. She was so like Molly and yet so different. Sarah was a Muggle, she could not possibly understand his world and his quest for greatness would suffer if he became involved with her. At the same time he was feeling the same things about her that he had once felt for Molly, and this time there was no Carol to get in the way. The girl could offer him nothing except for her company and he realized that quite possibly it was the one thing that he needed the most.

Something within him was tossing the ideas back and forth in his mind when suddenly something soft and warm touched his lips. He came back to the present and realized that the girl, who had abandoned caution, had kissed him gently. For a moment, he saw Molly as she had been before she had betrayed him, but then Sarah came into view and he leaned forward to return the kiss that he had received.

“I think that I love you, Tom,” the girl whispered as she took his hand and accepted the kiss.

“I feel the same way, Sarah. I love you.”

The children were in the process of a shared kiss when the door suddenly flew open and Mrs. Cole stepped into the room, her expression fixed with disapproval at what she was seeing.

“I should have known!” she announced as she strode forward to grab the girl’s arm, jerk her out of the chair that she was sitting in and then forcefully propel her towards the door. “I will deal with you shortly young lady! Go up to your room and wait for me, now!”

Tom watched as Sarah, her face shiny with tears, fled the scene before he turned his attentions to the matron who now stood over him.

“I shall have none of those goings-on in this orphanage! The last thing that I need is for her to end up with child and for that child to have a worthless person such as you as its father! You are to stay away from that girl, whom I intend to place in a home as soon as possible or ship off to another orphanage as soon as I can to keep her away from the likes of you, Tom Riddle!”

“We were not doing anything like that…”

“Not at the moment,” she interrupted, “but I have seen your kind, Tom Riddle, it would not belong before you were. She is still an innocent and I intend for her to stay that way. Now, do as you are told and stay away from her or I shall take you back to King’s Cross and put you back on the train that takes you to wherever you go!”

“But, I cannot go back right now, the school is closed and students are not permitted to stay there over break.”

“Then I should imagine it would be a bit of an inconvenience to both you and the school if I should do so.”

“Please Mrs. Cole, do not send…”

“Enough! Go to your room, Tom Riddle, and be sure to be there when I check on you. If I find you anywhere else, other than the boy’s lavatory, or in the company of the girl you will be back on the train in the morning! Now go!”

Tom rose and walked out of the room, followed closely by the woman, before ascending the stairs and entering his room. He watched as, before his door closed, she proceeded on down the corridor towards the area where the rooms for the girls were. No doubt Sarah would be receiving a visit from the matron and it would not be a pleasant one.

Sarah looked up from the bed that she was sitting on as the door to her room opened and the matron stepped into the space.

“You are to stay away from the young man, Sarah. He will do nothing but to bring ruin for you and you have far too much potential to allow that to happen. You have a good head on your shoulders and are not unattractive and someday will make a man very happy when you become his bride, do not ruin your chances for that by taking up with the likes of him.”

“We were not doing anything, Mrs. Cole…”

“At the moment that I stepped into the room no, you were not, but it would have progressed to other things. I have seen far too many young mothers who leave their children here after the father leaves them to find someone else or cannot afford to pay for the child that he sired. Tom Riddle will be one of those, I promise you that. He will never be a loving mate, for he cares only about himself and what he can gain from others.”

“But…”

“Enough, Sarah, enough, your parents would not want the daughter that they obviously cared for to end up in an unfortunate situation and with a child that had no father to care for it, let alone support it and you.”

“I understand.”

“Good, because if I learn that you have been sneaking to see him I will send him back to his school and you to another orphanage so that there is no way that you can find each other.”

“But my brothers…”

“Would have to learn to get along without their sister, but that is what will happen should I find out that you two have disobeyed me.”

The matron ignored the fresh tears that were coursing down the face of the girl and the heartbroken sobs that shook the shoulders of the child. She stepped out of the room and closed the door, satisfied that her point had been made and that she had halted a problem before it became a large situation. Mrs. Cole walked down the corridor towards the stairs unaware that she had created something much larger than what she had prevented.

Tom changed into his night clothes and then slipped under the thin blanket while he stared up at the ceiling that was hidden by the darkness. They hadn’t been doing anything except talk and kiss and now he was forbidden to see Sarah. Twice in less than very few weeks he had been told to stay away from someone that he cared about. Molly’s parents were more than capable of enforcing their will upon him and he respected that. But the matron had no idea what she was up against and that made her vulnerable.

“I will stay away from her for now, Mrs. Cole, but the time is going to come when there will be nothing that you can do about anything.”

He rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes while ideas began to form within his mind as he slept.

Sarah had also changed into her bed clothing and lay on the thin mattress while she thought about what had happened. Her treatment by the matron angered her and the girl stewed as she thought about it all. Nothing had been happening, but something was going to and no one in the orphanage had any idea at all about it.

The girl had her own secrets.



Chapter 18: Mystery at Wool's Orphanage
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The holiday break seemed to drag after the confrontation with Mrs. Cole and the young couple had experienced some changes that they disliked. Sarah had been moved to different seat at the table and now had no chance to sit across from Tom. The matron had insured that the girl and boy had very little opportunity to communicate and did her best to be present with at least one of them at all times.

Sensing the matron’s ire, the other orphans had done all that they could to avoid drawing her attention. Tom quickly found himself assigned to his old chores, which kept him away from the girl as she was busy with her own. Mrs. Cole arranged the schedule so that the only time that the pair really saw each other was during meals and the carefully supervised playtime outside. During the time when Sarah was in the classroom, Tom was busy helping Martha in the kitchen as she reorganized things and did a healthy bout of cleaning.

Martha watched as the boy struggled to clean burned food out of a pot that had been left on the stove too long. The stubborn residue was fighting him every inch of the way and the progress that he was making was painfully slow. The kitchen helper shook her head slowly as she watched the boy, who she cared for intensely, suffer through the chore. She was busy with her own labors and was grateful when they finally reached somewhat of a conclusion. Only the shopping was left to do and Tom was in the perfect position to be asked along. She left the pantry and approached the boy.

“Tom, would you like to take a break from that? It is almost clean and I doubt that they will take long to remove if we put some water in the pot and let it boil. Mary can watch it for a while because I need help with the shopping and wondered if you would like to come along.”

Nodding mutely, Tom dropped the scouring pad into the sink that he was standing at and watched as Martha filled the pot with water before placing it onto the stove. She gave instructions to the woman who assisted her in the kitchen before leading the boy out to the truck that had been lent to the orphanage during the cold weather. They got into the vehicle and soon were on their way to their destination. Tom had to admit that this was much preferable to having to pull a wagon to the store and was rather disappointed when they pulled up to the front of the store.

Memories of another time here came flooding back as the boy entered the shop and his eyes went immediately to the jars of candy. He was disappointed to see that they were still stationed on the back counter and that there was no way to reach them without being seen. Instead, he was forced to stand placidly while Martha handed the clerk the grocery list and then wait while it was filled. The boy took the chance to look around the shop and noted that it had changed dramatically in his absence. Everywhere he looked he could see that the old shelves were gone, replaced by newer and sturdier successors. There clearly was no way that these could be caused to collapse as the old ones had. Martha suddenly interrupted his thoughts when she spoke to him.

“Tom, I am so very sorry about the way that Mrs. Cole has been treating you. I knew that this was going to happen because she had been complaining about you having to return for weeks before you arrived. Sarah is a sweet child and Mrs. Cole has been very protective of her since her arrival and then, when you two slipped away, she became a bit frantic and went looking for you. I know that you like each other, but there will be time enough for that sort of thing when you are older.”

“But we had not done anything except to hold hands and to kiss. Nothing more happened, Martha, and nothing more was going to happen.”

“I understand that, Tom, and I believe you. But I am afraid that what I believe means nothing. She is the matron and I have to follow her directions the same as you do or risk getting sacked. She would do it too, Tom, because she has done it before to another woman who used to help and then spoke her mind one day. Mrs. Cole got angry and dismissed her on the spot, never worrying that the woman had children at home to feed.”

“Why does she act the way that she does?”

“She is afraid of what might happen if she does not keep the orphanage under control. The matron of another orphanage let things go slack and lost her position and Mrs. Cole does not want the same thing to happen to her. She runs the place like her father did when he was the master of a ship in the Royal Navy. No one in the building dares to defy her; you know that probably better than anyone else.”

The boy nodded his agreement as they watched the helper of the clerk carry a second heavy bag of flour out to the truck. Martha noticed a stealthy glance shot at the candy jar and smiled quietly before speaking again.

“Would you like some candy, Tom?”

“Yes, Ma`am, I would.”

Martha nodded and swiftly spoke to the clerk who turned to the jar that Martha knew the boy favored. Tom watched as the man pulled not one, but three pieces of candy out and placed them into a bag before pulling out a fourth and handing it to Tom. He looked at the woman questioningly and she smiled once again.

“These are for you, Tom,” she told him as she handed him the small bag. “I cannot afford much, but I can afford this. You are not a bad child, Tom, and it breaks my heart to see you treated so. I have something for you for Christmas as well. You will have to slip it into your bag before you leave to go back to school, I do not want the others to see you have it.”

“Thank you, Martha. No one has ever really given me anything before.”

“I know, and it pains me to think about it.”

A short time later, Tom and Martha climbed back into the waiting truck to make their way back to the orphanage. They entered the kitchen with the first of the boxes of goods and soon had managed to shift the bags of flour to the place where they were kept. While Martha tended to putting things away, Tom tackled the reticent pot and soon had the last of the stubborn burned food removed from its space. Mrs. Cole stepped into the room and watched silently as the boy worked on the pot while Martha dealt with the groceries. She stood for a long while until she finally turned and stalked out of the room to return to her office. Tom watched her go as memories of what Martha had said ran through his mind over and over again. Thoughts of the matron hurting ran through his mind and he almost willed it, until he remembered what had happened the day that he had inadvertently used magic in the streets and at King’s Cross at the start of the term. The Ministry of Magic had noted it and now letters concerning the incidents were part of his file. Anger grew in him as he watched her walk away, she would get away with everything that she did and there was little that he could do about it.

Mrs. Cole was nearly to her office door when a strange noise sounded in the hall and she stopped as a thin sprinkling of white dust drifted down past her nose. She glanced up and then leapt backwards as a large section of plaster fell from the ceiling to land on the floor of the hall with a crash. It had missed her by only inches and only her reaction had saved her from serious injury.

The children sitting at the table looked on with wide eyes and those who had been in the classroom soon appeared to satisfy their curiosity at the disturbance. Mrs. Cole, still recovering from the shock, looked upward to see if she was about to be assailed once again and then turned to Billy, who had just arrived.

“Billy, get a broom and a dustpan and get this mess cleaned up. Have some of the others help it you need it.”

They watched as the still shaking woman vanished into her office and Billy turned angrily away to retrieve what he needed for the job. While this was going on Tom stood very still, his eyes as wide as those belonging to other students. Thoughts raced through his mind as he tried to rationalize what had happened.

‘I did not do that! I did not, so how did it happen?’

The boy returned to his chores while a grumbling Billy tended to the mess and a trembling Mrs. Cole spoke on the phone to the man who handled maintenance for the building. The work would take someone who knew what they were doing and it needed to be done quickly before more plaster fell, perhaps on a child. There was no way that anyone was responsible for what had happened; it was merely a case of old plaster deciding to leave the spot where it had hung for decades. The question was, when would the next large piece fall and would it hit someone?

Later that night, Tom lay in bed while his mind replayed what had happened. He had been thinking about Mrs. Cole being hurt and it had nearly happened. But he had not willed it to, he had never even considered part of the ceiling falling and hitting the woman. Had it been just an accident? Or had his undirected thoughts done the work for him? Whatever had happened, he knew that he had to be more careful because the last thing that he needed was to have the Ministry get involved.

He had heard Mrs. Cole talking loudly to someone, obviously on the other end of the phone, as she demanded that the damage be repaired and quickly. Everything had to be in order before a special visitor from the group that funded the orphanage toured the building. This was the thing that Mrs. Cole worried about and she would let no one, neither staff nor orphan, rest until the building was up to her stringent standards. Every space, corner and cranny would be cleaned until it shone. The areas that could not be made to shine would be swept until there was not the smallest piece of debris or dust present. The windows would be spotless, all cupboards and rooms straightened and all clothing cleaned as no unwashed laundry would be permitted. In short, the building would need to be cleaned completely and nothing less would do.

Tom finally fell to sleep dreaming about the incident and wondering just exactly what had happened. Had it been merely a coincidence or something else? Had he lost control of what happened when he got angry? Would Professor Dippet or a letter from the Ministry appear to tell him that he was expelled from Hogwarts?

His thoughts would be troubled that night and much of it would be spent deep in nightmare at the thought of having to either live as a Muggle or in a cell at Azkaban.

The morning came too soon and the boy struggled to climb out of bed while thoughts of strange creatures such he had never dreamed of continued to dominate his mind. They had capered about, appearing almost human at times while at other times becoming grotesque and fiery. They also seemed to sing strangely, in a way that was captivating to many who heard it. He shook his head and then hurried to change his clothes, remembering to carefully fold those that he was done with. Turning to his door at a noise he saw something slip under the barrier before the sounds of someone walking away receded down the corridor and then the stairs. He stepped forward and then bent down to retrieve the item and realized that it was a piece of folded paper.

His heart began to pound as he viewed it and wondered if the Ministry would deliver an expulsion notice in this fashion. When it didn’t open itself to scream at him the way that a Howler did, he unfolded it to read the short message that was handwritten.

I know what you are and someday, when I feel that you can handle the news, I will tell you who I am!

Tom read and then re-read the note before realizing what it meant. Someone in the orphanage had figured out that he was not like them, that he was not a Muggle, that he was a wizard. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he wondered how he had been found out and what the person who possessed knowledge of his secret would do with it. Surely whoever it was wouldn’t run to the first person that they saw and tell them that a wizard was living in an orphanage. They would be thought mad and end up in an institution far worse than this one.

So what could they do with what they knew? Were they entirely certain of what they claimed to know?

He returned to the bed to sit down on it and reread the note once again. What did this all mean? Had someone from Hogwarts managed to get into the orphanage after learning that he was staying there? That had to be it! One of his enemies, perhaps Carol Markham, had found him out and would be certain to tell the entire school that he had been lying all along about his background. Once that happened, once the truth about how he had grown up was revealed, he would have no power over anyone. They would know him as having grown up not in the home of a Muggle doctor, but rather in a filthy Muggle orphanage. He would be forced to leave Hogwarts as he would be the laughing stock of the school. He would never gain the respect in the Wizarding World that he sought, he would be considered worse than a Muggle.

Tom finally rose and walked to his cabinet to look at the board that concealed the toy truck. The board was soon lifting and he slipped the note into that space alongside the truck and the box which contained the candy that Martha had purchased for him. He pushed the board back into place and then looked at the fasteners.

“IN!’

Instantly the board was tightly fastened back into place and he grimly smiled with satisfaction. At least this little bit of secrecy still existed. He walked to the door to his room and soon was descending to the lavatory to clean up before the meal. A workman who was repairing the damaged ceiling looked at him as he exited the room after finishing his washing and then passed but otherwise did nothing to impede his progress. Tom glanced at the man suspiciously but continued on his path as Mrs. Cole gave him a disapproving glare. The boy settled onto his chair and managed to steal a peek at Sarah, who was trying to do the same. When it was obvious that Mrs. Cole would notice what they were doing, the pair turned their attention to the meal that had been placed on the table in front of them.

Tom sat quietly at the table as he tried to determine just who, if anyone, at the table had slipped the note under his door and knew the truth about him. He was still very much convinced that someone from Hogwarts, likely Carol, had managed to learn where he spent his breaks and was prepared to reveal it all to the entire school. Images of him sitting alone at a table, because all would shun him, filled his mind and he was barely able to eat. This did not go unnoticed by Martha, who watched the child with concern.

It also did not go unseen by Mrs. Cole, who idly wondered if the boy was ill and, if he was, if she could get away with confining him to his room for the duration of his “illness”. Then he would be taken to the station to be dropped off and sent on his way, not to be seen again until summer by which time she hoped to have figured out an excuse to be rid of him permanently. She ate her own meal while she thought about the arrangements that needed to be made to make such a thing happen.

Tom sat quietly while the others at the table ate their meal and only managed to choke down a small amount of breakfast. He finally rose as the children were dismissed to dispose of their dishes and fell in with the line to wait his turn. He ignored the matron as she watched him depart and, when he arrived at the refuse can, deposited his leavings before placing the dish onto the counter with its fellows.

Martha watched as the boy vanished back up the stairs before stepping closer to her superior to speak.

“He did not look well, Mrs. Cole. He certainly ate very little.”

“We shall keep an eye on him and, if he does not improve, shall have Doctor Barlow come to check on him. Until we know that he does not have something catching we will have to restrict him to his room, even at mealtimes. We do not want whatever it is to spread throughout the entire building.”

“Yes, Ma`am, Mrs. Cole.”

The matron turned and walked away from the woman leaving Martha to wonder what ailment the child had, if indeed he was ill. It was, she thought, very possible and even probable that Tom was merely responding to the treatment that he was receiving from Mrs. Cole and was preparing to slip back into the shell that he had not fully been able to crawl out of. Martha wondered if Tom would ever have a chance at a normal life once he left the orphanage behind or if the scars that he had received during his childhood in the orphanage would stay with him for the remainder of his days.

Tom arrived in his room and closed the door slowly behind him before walking to his bed and laying down on it. He was worried and almost very certain that someone from the school was now stalking him and waiting for the right time to strike. Who was it? Carol? Malfoy? Crabbe? Or could it be Molly?

That one made a lot of sense as her parents were well connected, with her father being a part of the Ministry and having also warned him to stay away from his daughter. He would be able to find out where the boy stayed during breaks, and perhaps had even allowed his child to have a bit of fun at Tom’s expense. The writing on the note had rather appeared like that of Molly Porter and this strengthened his beliefs that she was the culprit.

‘Molly, if it is you that is doing this, you have made a dreadful error because I will get my revenge upon you. I will make you suffer beyond your pathetic imagination. I will make you and your friend, Carol, writhe with pain on the floors of Hogwarts and maybe even do to you what happened to Thaddeus. Then you can spend the rest of your days in St. Mungos drooling and waiting to be cleaned of your filth. It was a big mistake to do this and I just wonder if you are ready for the price that you are going to pay.’

He closed his eyes while he thought about the vengeance that he was planning and tried to imagine the look on Molly’s face when her actions came back to her. Tom imagined that the girl would whimper and wail while she suffered through the pain that she would encounter and he would enjoy watching it all play out before him.

Martha ventured up to the room a short time later to find him sleeping peacefully. She placed her hand on his forehead and was relieved to find that he did not have a fever. Something was bothering the child, something beyond the incident with Sarah, and Martha wondered how much Mrs. Cole had to do with it.

Mrs. Cole was in her office the hand piece of her phone to her ear as she listened to the ringing of the phone on the other end of the line. A few rings later, her call was answered and a voice came through from the recipient.

“Brower Orphanage, how may I help you?”

She paused for a moment and then spoke.

“Mister Clemmons, this is Virginia Cole at Wool’s Orphanage and I would like to call in that favor that you owe me.”

“Mrs. Cole, I guess that I do owe you one. What can I do for you?”

“I am having a bit of a problem here and I would like to remove a portion of it.”

“And does that portion have a name?”

“It does,” she responded as she clearly heard the scratching of a pen on paper.

“And what is that name?”

She paused again before answering the question.

“Tom Riddle.”

“I shall see what I can do.”

“Thank you.”

The line on the other end went dead and Mrs. Cole placed the receiver back onto its cradle before sitting back in her chair as she reached for the glass of gin that rested on her desk.

If all goes well, Tom Marvolo Riddle, you shall be out of my building soon and then I shall truly have a Happy Christmas!

She tipped the glass and drained it as she closed her eyes and thought about the return to life without Tom.



Chapter 19: Betrayal and Laughter
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Tom sensed nothing out of the ordinary when he encountered Mrs. Cole the next morning. The woman was very ordinary in her reaction to him, colder than the weather outside. As he made his way to the table to eat breakfast a terrible thought came to him, something that he had not thought about before.

His birthday was coming soon and he would have to spend it, like all of the ones before it, in this place with that woman. It rather hurt when he heard Mrs. Cole wish another child a happy birthday and knew that it would not happen with him. She treated the day like any other New Year’s Eve, finding any reason at all to hide in her office where she could drink in private, at least that was what she thought because everyone knew the truth but were afraid to say anything about it. The next day she would have a terrible headache and be a horror to be around. Even the slightest noise would earn its maker her wrath.

Tom remembered enjoying this fact only two years ago when the woman, suffering from a severe headache that she put down to “having one of her spells”, was in the dining room at the table when a large rack containing many pots and pans fell off of the wall. The cacophony that it produced created agony in the woman and she barely made it to the girl’s lavatory before being sick into one of the toilets. When she emerged from the lavatory, the front of her dress coated with the vomit that hadn’t made it into the toilet, she stumbled to her quarters to clean up and change before lying down.

Nearly everyone else, with the exception of Tom, was mystified about how the rack could have torn loose from the wall and fallen. The noise had frightened many of them terribly and the kitchen staff had bemoaned the work that the catastrophe had produced. Tom and the remainder of the orphans had been shooed into the classroom to play, as it was extremely cold outside. The noise that this arrangement had created further antagonized the woman and, in the end, to avoid discipline being meted out to them the children were sent to their rooms.

He watched the woman carefully and, once he had decided that she wasn’t going to go into another tirade about something that he had done, and he couldn’t think of anything that he had done that she would be aware of, quickly ate his breakfast. When he finished, he walked with his bowl into the kitchen where the sink was filling with heated water. It was his chore today to do the breakfast dishes and he set about doing so as they came to him after being scraped clean of the heavy remains of food.

The boy worked quickly and efficiently at his chore while also being careful not to damage the dishes. A girl had once broken a dish and the matron had gone crazy. In the end the girl had spent many hours writing lines over and over again about being careful with orphanage property. The lines that she had left on the blackboard had stayed over the weekend as a warning to the other children to be cautious when doing dishes.

Martha stepped into the room as he was stacking another dish on the rack that held them to dry and smiled at his progress. Tom wasn’t afraid to work and actually did a very good job at anything that he was assigned to do; unfortunately Mrs. Cole was less cognizant of that fact with every passing day. The woman wondered if the matron wasn’t starting to slip and was afraid of what would happen when she did.

A sharp rap on the front door announced a visitor and she left the kitchen to greet whoever was brave enough to go out on a day like today. She pulled the door open and was stunned to see Alfred Clemmons, the master of Brower Orphanage, waiting to be admitted. He gave her a rather perfunctory glare before speaking.

“Are you doing to admit me, or do I need to freeze to death out here before you act?”

The greeting took Martha by surprise and she stepped aside to admit the man.

“I am so sorry, Mister Clemmons, we were not expecting you. How can I help you?”

“I need to speak to Mrs. Cole. Is she available or have I made the trip in this blizzard for no reason?”

“She is in her office, Mister Clemmons.”

“Thank you,” he responded as he shoved the coat and scarf that he had removed into her arms. “See that those get hung so that they can dry and warm.”

Martha shrank a bit and finally nodded meekly. She hurried away from the man to hang his things and could only watch as he entered Mrs. Cole’s office and the door went closed behind him. This was trouble, she was certain of it, and she wondered who it was trouble for.

Mrs. Cole looked up at the master of the other orphanage and smiled. Alfred Clemmons had been in the Royal Navy during the war and had a reputation for being extremely strict with the orphans under his charge. He tolerated no trouble and was not afraid to discipline, sometimes harshly, children who misbehaved. The man was actually quite fond of the switch that he had in his office, marks carved into it representing each child who had felt it. He sat down in the chair across the desk from her and finally spoke.

“Virginia, why is it that you need my help with this Tom Riddle? I have never known you to be unable to deal with a problem before. Why is this one different?”

“The boy is incorrigible, Alfred. He has resisted all attempts to be corrected and the only respite that I receive is when he is gone to school for the duration of the term. He lives here during his holiday breaks and summers and makes everyone miserable. I have tried everything that I know and it has been to no avail. He is a liar, a thief, a bully and much more. I caught him just the other day with a young girl and, had I not intervened, I fear that he would have tried to have his way with her.”

Clemmons recoiled in his chair as his eyes widened in surprise at her statement.

“Surely you do not mean that he was about to…”

“I feel that he had that intention, but I interrupted his plot.”

“Can you not just send him back to his school?”

“I do not know how to reach them or I would. Apparently it must be rather strictly run, I have never heard anything from them bad or otherwise concerning him.”

“How long will it be before he returns to school?”

“It will be after the first of the year.”

“And then he is back for summer break?”

“Exactly,” she responded.

“Virginia, how am I to know that he will not decide to carry on with one of the young ladies at my orphanage?”

“You have girls there now? I thought that you had only incorrigible boys.”

“I did have only boys, at least until they closed down Martin’s Orphanage. The girls needed to go somewhere and I got most of the lot! Some of them are just as bad as the boys and at least two are in a delicate condition, which means that very soon I shall have two babies on my hands.”

“Good Lord, Alfred, I had no idea…”

“I was willing to take him until you told me what you did. I do not need another boy with those intentions in my building, I caught one just this morning preparing to move on one of the girls. He would have accomplished it too, had I not walked in to the room that they were in.”

“But I need him gone, Alfred, I really do,” she answered as frenzy entered her voice.

“Perhaps one of the workhouses would take him,” the man offered, “they are always looking for new help.”

“I thought about that, and it would work if he was older, but the ministry is quite adamant. He is too young to set adrift and go to one of those facilities.”

Alfred shook his head.

“I am sorry, I know that I owe you a favor and am happy to make good on it but this time, in light of what you have told me about young Mister Riddle, I cannot and will not.”

“But Alfred…”

“No Virginia,” he added as he rose from the chair after draining the glass that had been poured for him, “there is nothing that you can say that would make me change my mind.”

She watched as he walked to the door and then opened it to step back out into the corridor and run directly into a dark haired boy, who stumbled backwards in his shock at the sudden encounter. The man reached out to steady the boy and then speak softly to him.

“Sorry about that, lad.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“And what might your name be?”

“Tom Riddle, sir.”

Tom noticed the sudden shocked intake of breath that the man had and the way that his eyes grew wary. It was at this time that Tom wondered just exactly what had been going on in the office of Mrs. Cole.

“May I go, sir?”

“Yes, yes, by all means.”

“Thank you, sir.”

As he walked away from the stranger, Tom spotted Mrs. Cole in her office surveying the situation. He wondered what the adults had been discussing but, by the way that the man had reacted to his name, he knew that it had to be about him. Tom hurried on his way and then darted up the stairs. When he reached the top of the stairs he stopped on the landing to watch through the window as the man, now dressed in his coat and scarf walked across the courtyard to get into a car that had writing on the door. He squinted hard and was able to make out the words on the dark metal.

BROWER ORPHANAGE

It all made sense now, the secret meeting in Mrs. Cole’s office and the stranger that had been in on it. They intended to send him away! Mrs. Cole and the man had been working out a plan to make him leave the only home, other than Hogwarts, that he had ever known. It wasn’t much of a home, but it was his home while away from school.

Anger grew within him as he watched the car begin to move on the icy streets and he remembered the cursing that Mrs. Cole had done when she had been forced to bring him to the orphanage from King’s Cross. The trip had been treacherous and many times he had feared that they were going to crash. The anger growing within his mind about the plot against him spilled over and he lashed out silently at the man in the car.

Alfred Clemmons didn’t like the trip that he had to make, the streets were dangerous and his trip would take him through many areas where they were not maintained. A smart man would have waited until daylight to travel to Wool’s Orphanage to speak to Virginia Cole and he regretted not doing so. Many times on the trip to his destination his car had threatened to careen out of control and he had had to fight mightily to prevent ruin. He turned down one of the streets that he needed to use and cursed as he remembered the fact that he had to risk a short, but steep, hill along the way. Slowing the car, he approached this barrier and inched forward carefully while muttering orders to a crew that was not present.

“All ahead slow.”

He did this sometimes, calling out orders to a crew that he no longer commanded and had not for years.

Unfortunately, the car was not a feeling, listening being and he abruptly felt the first signs that all was not right. Sliding suddenly as the incline increased, the tires of the vehicle lost their grip on the roadway and the weight of the front part of the car and the passenger pulled the rear of the vehicle quickly downward.

“GOOD LORD!” he cried out as the vehicle, now out of control, slid down the hill towards what lay at the bottom. A large brick building stood there, uncaring and immobile as the collision became imminent.

The vehicle slid downward at an increasing speed and then stopped suddenly and harshly as it slammed into the structure. All might have been well save the fact that the car sheared off a column that supported an overhanging roof. Shorn of its support, the roof collapsed onto the car below it and then behind it as the weight of the first section pulled the rest down. Trapped in the pinned car, Clemmons could only sit there in a car that was becoming colder with each passing minute, waiting for help that likely would not come for hours.

Tom walked into his room and closed the door behind him before moving to his bed and sitting down on it.

So she wants to be rid of me, does she? Maybe it is time that she hurts again!’

He flopped back onto his bed and stared up at the ceiling while he thought about what needed to happen. Mrs. Cole had attempted treachery and now needed to be punished for it. To prevent him from seeing Sarah was bad enough, but for her to have acted like he wanted to do what she had accused him of was worse, and this was horrible! Tom concentrated for a moment and then thought hard about the matron.

She was sitting at her desk when it hit her, a sudden nausea unlike any that she had ever felt before. Rising from the chair that she occupied, she hurried towards the door and then suddenly stumbled to fall to the floor. As she attempted to regain her footing, the retching began and she fought to control the sudden and violent expulsion of the contents of her stomach on to the floor and the front of her clothes. She gagged repeatedly as she was sick onto the rug below her and felt her arms weaken as she tried to rise.

Martha, who had been walking past the door to the matron’s office, heard the unmistakable sound and carefully pushed the door open to find the woman in a terrible state.

“Mrs. Cole!”

The woman hurried to her superior’s side to help her to the chair that Clemmons had occupied and began to do what she could to help. She had tended to many children who were ill over the years and this was no different except for the obvious smell that the vomiting had betrayed. She, as a child, had smelled that very same odor before when her father, a hopeless drunkard, would become ill after being out at night drinking. More than once she had been a dutiful daughter and cleaned up the offensive mess while he acted as though nothing at all had happened.

It had gotten worse when her frail mother had died and she had been left to rear her younger siblings while also caring for the home and preparing meals. She had learned about budgeting what money they had and often hoped that her father didn’t decide that he needed a drink. Hunger had been a constant companion in those days and she had often wondered if life would have been any better if she had been an orphan. She soon found out.

One night, drunk and full of bravado that would have served him better at a different time, her father had challenged a younger man to a fight after a card game that had gone bad. A bottle, swung hard, had nearly crushed his skull and he had died as he had lived his final years, without feeling.

Suddenly Martha, herself only fifteen years old, found herself an orphan and trying to be a parent to the five other children that her parents had produced. She had managed to find a job in a local market, ending her education in the process, and was actually doing quite well in her endeavor when the church found out that the children were living in a home that was little more than a hovel, that one of them was very ill and that there were no adults in the house. A knock on the door when the children were eating a meager meal announced the arrival of the constables and their removal from the house. They soon were separated and sent to different places, the younger ones finding homes quickly while Martha and her younger brother found themselves being sent to orphanages.

Martha still remembered walking through the door of Wool’s Orphanage as a frightened child. They had gotten her cleaned up, fed and in a warm bed where she had found sleep impossible as she wept for her lost family. She hadn’t seen any of her siblings since.

She had finished growing up in the orphanage, gaining what education she could and learning to help in the kitchen that fed her. Happy with the new help that had come to her, the matron had hired Martha and the girl had been happy with her new situation. That had changed when her mentor suddenly passed away and Virginia Cole had walked into her life. Long exiled and forgotten demons reemerged in the memories of the young woman and she wondered what she had done to be punished like this once again.

Mrs. Cole had made a terrible mess of herself and the floor in front of her and now sat in the chair while she struggled against the nausea that was still battling her. The woman felt extremely weak and wondered which childhood disease she had been blessed with this time. It had all come on so suddenly, one moment she had been right as rain and now she was like this. Martha fussed over her as she tended to this unexpected patient and wondered if the illness that the woman had suffered had come from the bottle instead of the body. The other woman who helped with chores around the orphanage stepped into the room and took in the scene before turning a bit green herself.

“Charlotte, go fetch Doctor Barlow,” Martha commanded, knowing that the woman would have to walk as she didn’t know how to drive. Hesitantly the woman walked to the closet where their cloaks were kept and soon was stepping out into the storm which was still dumping snow onto the city and whipping it with the wind that rushed between the buildings. The doctor would drive back to the orphanage in his car and be here soon enough.

“Thank you, Martha,” Mrs. Cole managed to croak while fighting back more nausea, the results of which she deposited in the waste can that she had been handed. A strange sound was echoing in her head and Virginia Cole wondered what it was because it was certainly familiar. She settled back into the chair and watched as the woman who ran the kitchen vanished to retrieve a remedy that she often gave to children who were ill.

The noise repeated itself again and she glanced downward into the vessel that she held before recoiling just the same as the previous occupant of the chair had done. She hadn’t vomited much into the can, there wasn’t that much left in her stomach, but the contents of the container were rising swiftly towards her. Virginia Cole watched in horror as the offensive contents seemed to hurtle towards her and tried to cast the can aside, only to find that it seemed to be clinging to her fingers. She tried to scream as it leapt out of the trash can towards her face but no noise would come and Martha reentered the room to find her boss covered with the stinking mess and gasping for breath.

Martha cast the can aside and helped the woman out of the chair, out into the corridor and into the lavatory to at least clean some of the mess off of her. She gagged at the smell that Mrs. Cole was enveloped in and began to believe that she was going to add her own breakfast to the mess if something didn’t happen soon. Silent children watched with wide eyes as the matron, who seemed near to collapse, was assisted into the room to be cleaned up.

Virginia Cole thought that she was dying, she couldn’t command her legs or arms to do anything and she was weaker than she had ever been. She was grateful for the assistance that Martha was giving her but wondered if it was going to be enough. Arriving at a chair in the lavatory, she managed to control herself enough to sit down onto it without falling. The noise in her head was maddening and she struggled to determine just what it was.

A spoon appeared before her and she didn’t hesitate to take what it offered. She had often seen Martha give reluctant children the home remedy and it had helped them quickly. The woman didn’t care what it tasted like; if it would help she intended to take it. The foul elixir coursed down her throat and she felt like she wanted to vomit again as the smell reached her, but she fought back the urge as another spoonful appeared in front of her. She opened her mouth and accepted the next dose while Martha looked her patient over.

“That might not taste the best, Mrs. Cole, but it should do the trick.”

The ill woman nodded slowly and looked up at the woman who had come to her aid. Martha was just getting the woman ready to be cleaned up when the dispatched woman and the doctor that she had summoned hurried in from the freezing maelstrom outside.

Doctor Barlow could smell it, but kept silent, he knew about the vice that the woman kept secret and would honor her decision. It benefitted him to do it, because she had more than once sent a child who really didn’t need a doctor to him thus helping his pocket. He helped the women with the still very weak matron as they prepared to free her of the mess and then quietly departed the room once she was being readied to be bathed. He deposited a small bottle with some pills in it on the table in the dining room along with the bill for his visit.

There was nothing wrong with the woman that staying away from a bottle wouldn’t solve, but who was he to argue with his patient. It kept him in business and he intended to let her have her way and do what she wanted to as long as it helped him.

Later that day, cleaned up, doctored and ordered to stay in bed, Virginia Cole thought once again about the noise that she had heard in her head. It had been a familiar sound, she had heard it many times before when it had pleased her, but now it terrified her.

It had been the laughter of a child.



Chapter 20: Not as It Appears
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The winter storm had finally passed and the orphanage, with Mrs. Cole in bed ill, had become much more tolerable for Tom. Many of the other orphans did their best to avoid him, with Amy and Dennis being the most obvious about their attempts at it. They would make excuses to be out of the room when he entered and it amused him highly. He actually wished that he could do more in the way of tormenting them, but didn’t want to push his luck. The Ministry of Magic had proven that they were keeping an eye on magic use by students while they were out of school and he didn’t wish another letter.

Another development that had occurred had been shortly after a concerning call had reached them from the orphanage that Mister Clemmons was the master at. He had not returned to the building after his visit to Wool’s Orphanage and this had caused a great deal of concern. Immediately the police had been notified and it was not long before a sad discovery occurred. The man had been found frozen to death inside his car, which had been discovered under the fallen portion of a building that it had obviously collided with. There had been no way to escape and he had died a lonely and very probably painful death in the vehicle that had become his death chamber.

With Mister Clemmons dead, a number of children would likely move to Wool’s Orphanage as the structure that he had run was in dire need of demolition. Money that should have been spent on repairs had mysteriously vanished and the building had been in rather dangerous condition. The ministry that funded the orphanage was going over the books to determine exactly where the money had gone and several of the man’s assistants had suddenly quit their jobs when the examination of the finances had begun.

Martha, now in charge of things, had been busy righting wrongs that she had been concerned about for a long time. She knew that Mrs. Cole would not approve of the changes and would likely reverse things, but every little thing done helped the children. Tom knew that he would have to leave for Hogwarts soon and hoped that it would be Martha that took him to King’s Cross. She was a much better driver than Mrs. Cole and a great deal more pleasant to have a conversation with as they traveled. In some ways, he almost hated to leave the orphanage behind when it came to the woman.

Mrs. Cole, still weak from the illness that had hit her hard, could only watch as her assistant took charge and ran things. The few children that came from the other orphanage made Wool’s Orphanage the largest that the ministry operated and definitely the one in the best condition as money that had been earmarked for the now defunct building was sent with the children. Repairs that had been deemed necessary were ordered and the structure seemed to bulge as new residents arrived and rooms which had been unoccupied now had residents.

Tom watched as the newest additions walked down the corridor to their rooms. Wool’s Orphanage had obtained only three new male residents, but ten new girls now called the place their home. None of the girls held any particular attraction for the boy, and one was very clearly with child which meant that a baby would soon join them. As he watched them, a familiar face appeared and he smiled as he watched her direct the new female arrivals to their rooms.

Sarah had been a bit more common in spending time with him, with Mrs. Cole having no knowledge of what was occurring. The young couple had been able to sit and talk without fear of reprisal and many times could be found sitting together while they conversed. Where Mrs. Cole had seen impropriety in the interaction, Martha saw Tom becoming more social with others and this pleased her. The boy had indicated that he had had a young girl that he was fond of at the school, but the relationship had ended badly and the presence of Sarah had helped immensely. Martha hoped that the return of the boy to his school would not create problems with the girl that he would leave behind, but none of this could be helped.

He turned and disappeared into his room where, once his door was safely closed, he examined the note that had been slipped under his door once again.

‘Who knows what secret about me?’ he wondered. ‘And what are they going to do with the information that they have?’

A soft knock on the door gave him the chance to tuck the note into his pocket and he watched as Martha opened the door in response to his answer.

“Tom, I was wondering if you could help me bring some things up from the cellar? I know that you leave soon to go back to your school and I am planning something special for that and your birthday. It is not every day that a young man turns twelve.”

The boy nodded and rose to follow the woman that had summoned him to help. He glanced down the corridor and was mildly disappointed when he could not see Sarah. The trip downstairs brought him face to face with a very pale Mrs. Cole and he held his breath as they passed each other. But the woman said nothing and he went about his way unmolested. Not long after that he was carrying a bag up from the room below the kitchen to place it carefully where Martha wanted it.

He almost hated to leave the orphanage now that Martha was in charge, even if it was only temporarily. She had made life easier for him and he was grateful for that. There were only a few days before he would step back into Hogwarts castle and returned to classes. The place would seem much different now that he could no longer count on the company of Molly Porter and he still had yet to decide how to deal with her and her friend, Carol. An accident would appear too suspicious and blame would immediately fall upon him, possibly ensuring his departure and return to a Muggle life or worse, Azkaban.

With the chore done, he left the kitchen and walked to the classroom to pick up a book that he had enjoyed reading before his life at Hogwarts. Now it seemed so mundane, the pictures didn’t move and thus it swiftly lost its appeal only a few pages into his return to it. Irritated, he slid the book back into its space on the shelf and walked to a chair where he sat and stared out through the window at the snow covered courtyard and the streets beyond the fence.

‘Soon, I will be leaving this place again and I will not have to look at her stupid face!’

He sat there for a long time, thinking about Mrs. Cole and what had happened in the past. She was actually very lucky that she hadn’t had an accident on the stairs like so many had during his stay at Wool’s Orphanage. A fall down the stairs from the upper landing would be tragic and likely life threatening. The sound of Martha calling the orphans for the meal roused him and he walked to the lavatory to clean up along with the other boys.

As he stepped into the room he stopped short as the sound of a fist striking flesh echoed through the area and he watched as Billy lashed out again at one of the new arrivals. Stopping to watch was a mistake. Summoned by the sound of the fight in progress, the adults hurried towards the room and Tom felt the unmistakable sensation as the hand of Mrs. Cole dropped onto his shoulder and pulled him out of the way. Angered, he swung to round on the woman, but the look in her eyes told him that now was not the time to fight. He found himself being propelled towards her office to land in one of the chairs that populated the room. A few moments later Billy and the other boy were in the room as well as the matron, drawing on what strength she had, stood before them with her eyes ablaze with fury.

“I have never seen such a display as the one that I witnessed only a few minutes ago. The three of you should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“But, Mrs. Cole, I…”

“Enough, Tom, I have heard enough! I do not care what part you had in this, you are just as guilty as they are,” she announced as she pointed at the other boys. “You are confined to your room until you depart to go back to your school. Your meals will be brought up to you and you shall eat them there. The only other place that you may go is to the lavatory, if I see you anywhere else I shall take you immediately to King’s Cross and you may depart.”

“But the train that I take will not leave until the last day of the month, I would have to stay and sleep at the station.”

“Then I imagine that you shall want to stay where you belong. Now go clean up and then go to your room, Tom. Your dinner will be along shortly.”

The boy rose and walked to the door to step out into the corridor and walk to the lavatory. Angered beyond belief, he hurried to clean up and then walked out of the room to hurry up the stairs and to his room. The door closed behind him and he crossed the room to flop down onto his bed. There he lay until a light knock announced Martha and his dinner. The woman carefully placed the tray on his table and then walked out of the room before closing the door after her.

He lay there for a while until the aroma of the food attracted him and he moved to the table to eat while he thought about what had happened. He had done nothing to receive this punishment and Mrs. Cole had seen that he had been innocent, yet here he was confined to his room. Forbidden to even take his tray down to the kitchen when he was done, he knew that he was going to become even more familiar with this room than he had already been.

Dawdling over his meal, Tom looked out through his window at the snow that had begun to fall. Large fluffy flakes slowly cascaded downward to add depth to the snow already blanketing the ground. While they fell, he imagined what it must be like to have the power to fly without the aid of a broom. Birds did it easily, but they had wings, they were built for that mode of transportation. They had an advantage that he did not and he wondered if, once he had finished school, he would be able to find a way to fly as they did.

Finally, rising from the table, he walked to the door and carefully set his empty tray and dishes on the floor outside the portal. Martha or one of the other women would check to see if it was present before the other children were permitted to come upstairs. It wouldn’t do for one of them to kick or trip over the dishes that were waiting for their journey to the kitchen.

‘Tom,’ a voice echoed through his head. The boy turned to see who had spoken to him and was stunned to find that he was alone in the room. ‘I know that you can hear me, Tom, I mean no harm.’

“Who are you?”

‘That will be revealed in time, Tom, for now just realize that I know what you are and where you go to school. I have known that you were different from the first time that we met and it did not take much prying to find a way into your thoughts. You actually made it rather easy.’

“Tell me who you are!” the boy commanded as both fear and anger grew within him.

‘Soon, Tom, soon I will and then all will be explained. I will see you on Platform Nine and three-quarters and then all will be shown to you. Be patient for a few more days and then you shall learn everything!’

“Why do I have to wait?”

The voice didn’t respond and Tom turned at the sound of the door to his room opening to reveal a rather puzzled Martha. She had been up to retrieve the tray and had overheard his part of the strange conversation.

“Who were you talking to, Tom?” she asked as she looked at the sole occupant of the room. “Is someone in here with you?”

“No, Martha, I am quite alone.”

The brow of the woman furrowed and she advanced into the room to look first under the bed and then to pull the cupboard door open to look inside the space. When no one revealed themselves, she turned back to the boy.

“I was talking to myself, Martha. I just hate having to wait up here in this room for the time to pass before I can go back to school.”

“I am so sorry about that, Tom, but I have to follow Mrs. Cole’s instructions the same way that you have to.”

“It was better when you were in charge.”

“I tried the best that I could, but we both knew that once she returned to her duties that she would make things as they had been before she got ill. She told me to have you come down and wash before dressing for bed.”

Tom nodded and then followed the woman while they both wondered exactly what had gone on in the room. He stepped into the lavatory to find his bath water ready for him and hurried to bathe and then dry off before getting into the night clothes that he had brought with him. His exit from the lavatory was cut short by the form of Mrs. Cole and he stood silently as she looked him over before nodding her wordless approval of his efforts. The boy turned and walked back up to his room to close the door behind him and then move to the bed where he turned off the light and then slipped under the blanket before closing his eyes. Tomorrow would come soon enough and his forced exile would make the days long. At least there were only a few remaining before the trip back to Hogwarts, but he wondered who knew about the school and Platform Nine and three-quarters. Certainly no one at the orphanage other than he attended classes there, so who knew about what he did when he was at school?

He finally fell asleep and was able to rest while he dreamt about the ring on the hand of the old man and the voice that had sounded in his head. Two mysteries, one frightening and the other just maddening, and he intended to solve both. Perhaps, once the person who knew about him revealed themselves, the other mystery would be solved. The dreams would fill his mind through the night and morning would come all too soon.

Virginia Cole walked quietly down a corridor within her orphanage as she periodically looked in on the residents. Nodding with grim satisfaction as room after room revealed only sleeping children she made her silent way to Tom’s room to open the door and glance at the boy that she was apparently stuck with. The death of Clemmons and the closure of the orphanage that he had run had complicated her life. It was bad enough that there were now far more children in the building and a baby waiting to be born, but she was going to have to wait until the date of his scheduled departure to get rid of Tom.

She slowly closed the door to the room and then walked down the stairs to the lower level where she made her way to her own chamber.

‘I am going to do my best to see that you do not return here for the summer, Tom Riddle. We would all be better for it if you simply stayed away at that school of yours.’

The matron changed her clothing and then turned off the light before getting into her own bed and closing her eyes. The next day would come soon and at least, with the boy confined to his room, it should be a quiet one. The boys that had actually been involved in the fight had been dealt with harshly and she imagined that they were sleeping on their bellies tonight. Tom had been merely in the right place at the right time to be included in the punishment and, although she had not used her switch on him, he was out of the way until the day that he was marched out of the building to go to King’s Cross and the train that would take him to his school. She shuddered at the thought of him missing the train and having to remain behind. He would be deposited at the station well before his train’s eleven o’clock departure so there was no chance of him having to remain. Virginia Cole finally managed to fall asleep only to be awakened a short time later when the nightly routine of screaming began in some of the rooms upstairs.

He may not have heard the noise, but Tom was quite aware of it and he smiled in his sleep.

Sarah lay in her bed as she thought about life here and the way that it had been before. The whole truth hadn’t been told about the reason that she was in the orphanage and the girl was nearly beside herself with rage when she thought about what had happened to send her here. While her mother was most definitely dead, a gunshot to the back of the head had ensured that, her father was alive and somewhere in the country where he could not be found. In fact, he didn’t want to be found.

The fire that had torn through their home had been intentionally set to conceal the true fate of her mother and the children had been fortunate to escape with their lives, although all had been injured in the process. The frightened and bewildered children had ended up in the custody of the constable’s office until they had been placed in the orphanage and the girl had set about mothering her siblings. All of this frightened Sarah, as already two families had expressed interest in her younger brothers and they were expected to be adopted soon. She, however, was old enough that many families didn’t want her and she knew that all expected her to stay at the orphanage until she reached adulthood. But the girl had other ideas about this and intended to do something about it.

The sound of her door knob turning alerted her and she had quickly closed her eyes to feign sleep. She knew that it was likely Mrs. Cole checking on her to ensure that she was in her room and not elsewhere. The incident with Tom had made the woman extremely suspicious of the girl’s intentions towards the slightly older boy. She had shared a kiss with the boy and nothing more, yet the woman had acted as though they had been caught doing much more.

Mrs. Cole had finally closed the door after she was certain that the girl in the bed was asleep and alone in the room. Sarah’s eyes opened as she heard the sound and then the soft tread of the woman’s footsteps as she moved down the corridor. The noise finally faded to nothingness and Sarah sat up in her bed to rise and look out through the window at the snow covered ground below. She hated snow, in fact she hated it when it was cold, preferring the long hot months of summer when most people were wishing for a respite from the dog days.

‘Mother always said that I was just like her! She knew how alike her I am and that father could never be told about it. Did he finally learn about her? Is that why he did what he did?’

Sarah knew that her father would seek to hide from his eldest child, lest she find him and get revenge for the killing of the mother that she had adored. She would do that one day, find him and make him pay for what he had done. Then he would burn like her dead mother had but, unlike her, he would feel the flames that tore into his living flesh. He would die slowly, she would make certain of that, and the last face that he would see would be that of his daughter as she laughed while he screamed.

She finally returned to the bed that she had left and slipped under the blanket to listen to the hiss of the steam radiator. Her bed had been moved closer to it and she relished the warmth as she reached out her hand to grasp the metal. Sarah sighed with relief as she felt the heat move up her arm and into her core and she thought about what was to come in the days ahead.

‘They are different from me and her. My brothers would never understand the life that I will lead because they are too much like him! They are just as plain and weak as he, and they can never experience the power that I will.’

Sarah closed her eyes and no one in the orphanage, not even Tom, could have imagined the secret that the girl was keeping from all of them and the world around her.



Chapter 21: Sarah
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The remaining days before Tom left the orphanage seemed to crawl by and it was only the knowledge that he would soon be free of the influence of Mrs. Cole that kept the boy sane. He had never before been confined to his room as long as he had this time and he had become familiar with things within the chamber that he had never noticed before. Tom had done his best to avoid drawing the attention of the matron and rarely saw her, except after bath time. He had endured her inspections silently and then walked up to his bedroom upon her approval of his efforts. The other orphans had also been ignored by him and he had not missed having to deal with any of them. Only Sarah filled his mind, Sarah and how much she reminded him of Molly.

For her part, Virginia Cole had become increasingly angry with him, even though he had done nothing to garner the disdain. Without her favorite goat to lay blame upon, she had been forced to keep a much closer eye on the other children and only saw him when he visited the lavatory to use it or to bathe. Other than that, it was much as if he was already gone.

Sarah was also becoming angrier with every passing day as the date of Tom’s departure approached. She had been forbidden to be anywhere near his room and had been threatened with punishment if the matron even suspected that she had secretly met with the boy. The girl had spent many sleepless nights thinking about the state of things and often thought about disobeying the woman. Only her fear of what might happen to Tom because of it kept the girl in check.

The girl was also furious that, as had been anticipated, her brothers had been adopted by a couple who refused to even consider the girl. She was too old, they had said, and set in her ways to ever come around in accepting them as her parents. In the end, she had been forced to watch from a window as her crying brothers had been pulled to a car and then vanished once it had pulled away to journey to their new home. Sarah was alone, in a place that was becoming increasingly hostile. Something had to happen soon and the girl wondered if what she had considered would do any good.

Tom looked around his room one last time to make certain that he hadn’t missed anything. The cupboard was empty, except for the things that still lay hidden in the space beneath it. He closed the door to the cupboard and looked under the bed to check for anything that he had missed. When he was satisfied that there was nothing left in the room that might cause difficulties when Mrs. Cole examined the room he picked up his bag and then stepped out of the room to find the matron ascending the stairs for that very mission. She glared at the boy and then stepped into the room to inspect it. The task was painstaking even though it didn’t need to be and the woman finally exited the room. Tom stood silently as she looked him up and down before speaking.

“Martha will be driving you to King’s Cross today. She is down at the car and you need to be on your way so that you do not miss your train. We would not want that to happen, now would we?”

“No, ma`am, Mrs. Cole, we would not.”

“Then go and I mean now! Do not stop to talk to anyone, especially Sarah.”

The boy nodded, even though he wanted to respond angrily. He descended the stairs and then exited the building to cross the courtyard and climb into the car that waited for him. Martha waited until the door was securely closed and then put the car into gear to begin the trip. Tom didn’t look back at the building because he didn’t want to see Mrs. Cole, who stood at the door watching him leave, and he knew that there was little chance that he would get a glimpse of Sarah.

“I imagine that you are glad to be leaving,” Martha stated quietly. “I, for one, will miss you, Tom.”

“Thank you, Martha. I will miss you too. Thank you for your kindness.”

“I wish that things could be different, Tom. I am afraid that Mrs. Cole has her mind made up about you and that things will never change.”

Tom nodded quietly and looked out through the windscreen of the car as they drove towards his destination. It was not long before King’s Cross appeared before them and a short time after that the car was stopping in front of the building. The boy knew that his things would be waiting for him on the Hogwarts Express and he was about to get out of the vehicle when Martha handed him a small package.

“Happy Birthday, Tom, it is not much, but I wanted to give you something for your day.”

“Thank you, Martha,” he answered as he looked at the package. “Should I open it now?”

“Open it on your train, Tom, I would hate for you to miss it.”

Martha leaned across to hug the boy, affection that he returned and then watched as the boy opened the door and left the car. He walked briskly into the building and was soon lost to sight. The woman watched for a moment longer as she wiped the tears away from her eyes and then put the car back into gear and drove away. She didn’t see the slight figure that watched her leave and then ducked into the station.

Tom arrived at the entrance to Platform Nine and three-quarters and then hurried through it when he was certain that he would not be observed. The gleaming Hogwarts Express stood patiently on the tracks at the platform and he smiled. He had escaped from Mrs. Cole and soon would be on his way back to school. As he walked towards the car that the Slytherin students used he stopped and gaped in amazement at a sight that he could not believe, Sarah stood quietly in front of the car, directly in his path. He stepped up to the girl and looked at her strangely.

“Sarah, how did you get here?”

The girl looked at him and then smiled before speaking.

“Tom Riddle, you are not the only one with secrets that you keep from others.”

“But how did you get onto the platform? Muggles cannot get through the barrier.”

“Who says that I am a Muggle? I just told you that you are not the only one with secrets.”

“Then it was you that slipped the note under the door to my room? It was you that spoke to me?”

The girl nodded before speaking again.

“There is far more to me than you know, Tom Riddle.”

“Are you going to Hogwarts with us?”

“Yes.”

Tom followed the girl onto the train and they made their way to the compartment that he normally shared with his chums. He could see his things already on the rack above the seats and some bags that he had never seen before alongside them. They settled down onto the seat and immediately he began speaking.

“How did you get to the station? Mrs. Cole…”

“Mrs. Cole will not know anything about it; in fact, no one in the orphanage will even remember that I was there. My people have ways of erasing the memories of others when we do not want our presence remembered. It has its advantages at times.”

“Your people? I do not understand.”

“There are other magical folk besides what you know, Tom. My mother was like me, but my father was what you call a Muggle. My brothers were mundane as well; they had no magical powers because of my father. Tom, have you ever heard of a Veela?”

Tom’s eyes opened wide as he recalled what he had read and now it all made sense. Veela were highly magical creatures that were female in appearance. Sarah certainly fit the description that he had read, beautiful with blonde hair. He wondered about what he had heard about them when they were angered.

“So you are a Veela?”

“I am only half-Veela because my father was human, my mother fell in love with him and all was well until he found out about her true nature. He killed my mother and then burned our home to hide what he had done. Someday I will find him and then he will pay.”

“He killed your mother?”

“Yes, he shot her and then burned our house. He left my brothers and me in the house to burn, but we escaped. My brothers have a new home now and I have no desire to remain in that orphanage, especially since you are returning to Hogwarts.”

“But…”

“I have a letter to go to Hogwarts, it was that which exposed my nature to my father and he realized that my mother had been hiding a secret from him. My things to go to the school are here, on the Hogwarts Express and soon I shall be in classes there.”

The door to the compartment abruptly opened and the couple watched as Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle entered the space. Tom watched as they looked at the girl curiously before sitting down.

“Who are you?” Abraxas asked.

“Sarah Jenkins.”

“What are you doing here, on this train and in this compartment?”

“Well, if it is any of your business, I am going to Hogwarts,” the girl responded as her anger ignited.

Abraxas was about to say more but stopped as he suddenly found that he could not speak or breathe. His eyes widened as he looked at the girl once again, or at least where she had been seated. In her place he saw an evil looking creature with a vicious bird like face dominated by terrible red eyes and horrible wings sprouting from her back.

“Do not anger me,” it hissed.

Abraxas was suddenly able to breathe again and he took a deep breath before speaking as the girl appeared before him again.

“Merlin’s Beard, you are a Veela!”

“Congratulations, Abraxas Malfoy, you are far more intelligent than your appearance betrays.”

Malfoy reacted as though struck by the insult and glared at Tom.

“Are you going to allow your new friend to say that to me?”

“If you do not like it, stop her yourself.”

Abraxas started to speak to Sarah again and abruptly found that he was unable to speak.

“Tom, I think that I prefer this silence to his prior noise. He shall remain this way until we arrive at Hogwarts and possibly beyond should I decide that I do not wish to listen to him,” Sarah announced to all in the compartment.

Crabbe and Goyle sat silently, not under whatever Sarah had done to Abraxas, but because they wanted to avoid being so. Tom looked out through the window and onto the platform and was not surprised to see Molly and her parents waiting for the girl to board the Hufflepuff car. He knew that she wouldn’t see him, much less look for him and turned his attention back to Sarah, who had the promise of being a very powerful ally.

“I really believe that I like this car, Tom,” Sarah continued, “I think that I wish to be placed into Slytherin with you.”

“I would like that, Sarah.”

The children talked quietly as the Hogwarts Express moved away from the platform and the through the countryside on their way to the castle. Mayfoy sat silently as his mind played what had happened to him over and over again. Somehow the girl had made him unable to talk, which meant that he was definitely under some sort of curse. Of course, if she was a Veela, she would be able to do such things even without going to school or had she not gone to school? Was it possible that she had gone to another of the magical schools, such as Beauxbatons? Beauxbatons was well known for accepting Veela as students and they customarily did well when they were at the school.

What he also knew was that they could be extremely dangerous when angered, as Sarah had proven to him. She hadn’t used a wand and yet he was unable to speak and likely wouldn’t be able to until she released him. He sat in the seat and occasionally threw glares at the attractive girl who was secretly something else; he wondered if Tom had seen what she could become when she was angry. He finally turned his head and fell asleep because, with no way to speak, what else was there for him to do?

Sarah was having a wonderful time talking with Tom and thinking about how she had been forbidden to do so by Mrs. Cole. She knew what the woman was afraid that they were going to do, but doubted that the thought had even entered Tom’s mind. They were both too young for that and had not been considering it, still it had been a bit of fun driving the matron to distraction with her worries about it. Maybe, when they were older, Tom would be a suitable mate but until then she was content to just like him.

She was also having a great deal of entertainment in the curious looks that students walking by gave her. There was no doubt that she belonged on the train, there was no way that she would be on it if she wasn’t supposed to be. No doubt they assumed that she was merely a student that they hadn’t met before, after all, there were four Houses at Hogwarts and it was entirely possible for that to happen. She finally fell asleep, leaving Tom to look out through the window, Malfoy to sleep and Crabbe and Goyle to wonder if it was safe to move.

Tom wasn’t just looking out through the window, he was making plans. The girl sitting next to him was going to be an excellent tool to use in his war against Molly and Carol. Molly had diminished in her usefulness and attractiveness now that Sarah was present. The girl next to him was beautiful and seemed to be devoted to him, but he also knew from what he had read that Veela could be treacherous and dangerous. He would have to be on his guard when she was around and be prepared to deal with whatever problems she created. The boy was willing to allow her to assist him with his plans to control the school, but he wasn’t willing to share the power that he wielded.

Sleep finally took him and while he slept Mrs. Cole was walking through her building in a state of puzzlement. Something was missing although she wasn’t certain what it was. A search of the rooms, including Tom’s, and a questioning of the children and staff had produced nothing of use. Not even the meticulous files that she kept revealed the source of the mystery. There was a frightening sense of confusion that she was unaccustomed to and had not felt since she had come to the building. She had had terrible visions of strange bird like creatures with flaming eyes and bursts of fire coming from their hands. She had briefly considered speaking to someone about these visions but decided that that would create a potential for dismissal from her position. No, it was better to keep it to herself and try to forget about it. She finally arrived back at her office and, after closing the door behind her, she settled down into her chair as the desk drawer that she kept locked was opened and her old friend made her acquaintance once again. The glass of amber liquid steadied her shaking hand and quizzical mind.

Carol was sitting in the compartment that she shared with Molly and some other Hufflepuff girls. Her companions were asleep and she had time to think about things. Unlike Molly, she had seen Tom and he had been in the company of a girl who looked a great deal like her friend. She was quite certain that she had never seen the girl at Hogwarts and wondered if she was perhaps a student that was going to start at mid-term. If she was, Carol hoped to sway her into coming to Hufflepuff and abandoning the boy that she had been seen with. The girl doubted that Tom had changed his ways, there was no reason for him to, and soon she and Molly would be forced to deal with him and his companions once again.

She settled back to read out of the book that she had brought from her home and while she did her mind kept returning to the plot that Tom had hatched which had nearly expelled her from Molly’s life forever. He had to pay for what he had done and not just with time in the Isolation Tower. Her parents had been infuriated when she told them what he had done and had told her that they were considering taking her out of Hogwarts to send her to Beauxbatons. Even though both of them had attended Hogwarts, they didn’t feel comfortable about their child going to school there any longer. The girl had taken their plans as a punishment of her and had disagreed with it strongly. The whole episode had come down to several nights that had been filled with arguments and a great deal of pleading on her part to get them to agree to her return on the Hogwarts Express.

Carol finally, after deciding that she couldn’t concentrate on the book, allowed sleep to take her and she was soon following the example of her friends. There were still several hours ahead of them before they arrived at Hogsmeade Station.

Hours later, as the Hogwarts Express arrived at Hogsmeade, Headmaster Armando Dippet sat behind his desk as he looked at the letter from the Ministry of Magic again. A new student would be arriving with the returning students and he had severe misgivings about her already. The girl was half-Veela and he had had bad dealings with her kind before. They were given to sudden flashes of temper and threats against them were commonly met with violent reprisals. He understood that not all of them were alike, but what he had heard about the child didn’t tell him that about her. The staff at Beauxbatons had been more than happy to see her leave permanently and the recent death of her mother had no doubt sent her into a series of problems. There was also the fact that she had been sent, along with her brothers, to Wool’s Orphanage and he was very aware of the other student who lived there when not at Hogwarts. None of this could be good and the elderly headmaster steeled himself for what was to come.

The worst thing that could happen, and he feared it greatly, was for the girl to join forces with Tom Riddle. Albus Dumbledore had his eye on the boy, Dippet knew this and he knew why, the boy had been very close to expulsion before the break after the plot against Miss Porter and Miss Markham. The parents of both girls had expressed concerns for the safety of their daughters and now he had to be certain that nothing more happened lest the considerable influence of Minister Joseph Porter be brought to bear on the school.

He laid the letter aside and then vanished with a POP to appear with its echo on the platform at Hogsmeade Station. The headmaster watched as the locomotive appeared and then as the train slowed its approach to the very platform that he stood on. Inside the cars the children would have been getting ready for the return to school and would emerge from the vehicle that had borne them here already dressed in their robes. Armando Dippet watched as the doors to the cars swung open and students began to crowd onto the platform before beginning the trip up to the castle and he strained his eyes as he looked for the unfamiliar face that he knew was a mask for what lay underneath.

Tom and his companions stepped out onto the platform and Malfoy realized that he could speak once again. He looked at Sarah and she gave him a warning glance that told him that things would be much worse should he anger her again.

“SARAH JENKINS!”

The girl turned in the direction of the voice as she heard her name being called and left the group to make her way to the waiting headmaster. She was aware of the curious looks that she was receiving as she walked through the crowd and finally arrived in front of the wizard.

“Miss Jenkins?”

“Yes, I am Sarah Jenkins.”

“I am Headmaster Armando Dippet, and I would like to welcome you to Hogwarts.”

“Thank you, Headmaster Dippet.”

“I also wish to inform you that I will not tolerate the problems that occurred while you were at Beauxbatons. Should there be any problems of that sort I shall immediately send you on your way and permanently expel you from this school. Am I understood?”

“Yes, Headmaster Dippet, you are understood.”

“Now, as you have missed the Sorting Ceremony that is customary at the start of the term I shall allow you to decide which House you wish to belong to.”

“I should very much like to be in Slytherin House, Professor Dippet.”

Dippet tried to disguise his concern about her choice but was very certain that the girl had read it in his expression. She smiled brightly at him as he nodded his assent and then spoke again.

“Will you allow that choice, Headmaster Dippet?”

“Yes, Miss Jenkins, I will allow that choice despite misgivings that I have about it. I think that you would do much better if you would choose a different House,” he offered hopefully.

The girl shook her head and he knew that the dice had been cast.

“I think that I wish to stay with the choice that I made.”

“Very well, Miss Jenkins, Slytherin it is.”

The girl smiled once again and then turned to walk back to Tom and his group as they prepared to board a carriage. Dippet noticed immediately how the normally stoic boy brightened as he helped her into the carriage and realized that the worst had happened. He also noticed the apparent fear that Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle displayed as the girl settled onto the seat next to Tom. The carriage pulled away and left the wizard to watch it move towards the castle.

‘I firmly believe that things are going to get a lot worse.’

He vanished with a POP to reappear at the castle before the first carriage arrived and then he waited for what was to come.



Chapter 22: A Secret Revealed
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Tom was enjoying himself.

Sarah had turned more than a few male heads since her arrival at Hogwarts and her introduction into the students that belonged to Slytherin. This had not been well received by the other girls and more than one had voiced her opinion loudly to the boy that she had been with but now seemed to see only this new girl. The result in many cases had been a slapped male face and the end of a relationship.

Molly had also reacted strongly to this new development. Although she had no real interest in the boy, she was more than a bit disturbed by the fact that he seemed to have moved on without her. Carol was also stunned by what had happened and had spent more than a bit of time consoling her friend. Both of them had assumed that the boy would be spending his time alone, but he had somehow managed to get connected to this new girl who was not only beautiful but also highly intelligent. She had been able to insinuate herself into the good graces of professors that she had only just met, sometimes garnering more good will than students who were in their second year at Hogwarts.

They were sitting in Transfiguration while Dumbledore tried to determine just what to do with the new student. She was highly capable, more so than many of the students that he had known for two terms, and didn’t seem to ever need assistance. There was more to her, he had a feeling, than there was apparent on the surface. She was highly secretive about her past, revealing only that which was necessary and that wasn’t much.

The Ministry of Magic was also puzzled about her. Obviously they knew more about her than the school did, but a great deal was hidden from them as well and that had the potential to mean trouble.

Tom could tell that the wizard who represented the greatest threat to him was confused and this gave the boy no end of satisfaction. If Dumbledore was off balance it made things easier for him to get his way. Molly and Carol were in for a great deal of trouble and Tom was looking forward to giving it to them. He had learned a great deal about what he could do and this spelled possible calamity for the pair of girls as he worked out a plan to get at least one, if not both, of them put out of Hogwarts forever.

Carol would be the easiest to get rid of because she didn’t have the connections that Molly did. While her family was respectable and well thought of in their world, her parents weren’t members of the Ministry of Magic and that meant that she would be easy to be rid of. All that it would take was a well-placed attack that would put her in a bad light with Dippet and some of the other professors. Once she was gone, Molly Porter would be next, the connections that her family had be damned. As powerful as her family was, even she wasn’t immune to expulsion and he intended to see it happen.

Sarah had slid rather easily into the space within his heart that Molly had once held firmly. She was every bit as beautiful as the other girl was; in fact, she was a bit more so. The girl was also not as apt to resort to tears when something happened. Sarah took the criticism on the chin and then shrugged it off without emotion being shown. It was obvious that she was a far tougher nut to crack than the simpering little Molly and Tom respected her for that. Sarah was going to be very useful.

Sarah watched Tom out of the corner of her eye as she thought about her own plans. The boy had talent, she had to give him that, but even that talent was nothing compared to her innate abilities. She knew that she could easily best her entire year in a duel and not suffer any damage during the encounter. The children that she was in class with had no knowledge of her origins or her very nature and this was best.

What amazed her was the fact that Tom actually thought that he had the upper hand in things. She knew that his feeble attempts to defend himself against her would do him no good if it ever came to pass that he needed to. The girl knew that he was still trying to determine if he had been the cause of the near disaster when the section of ceiling had narrowly missed Mrs. Cole when it had fallen.

‘They have no idea what happened that night and they never will,’ she thought to herself. ‘I made certain that none of them, except for Tom, have any memory of my even being at the orphanage. The Muggle records have been wiped clean of my presence and not even my brothers would be able to tell them about me. Only my father knows about what I can do and that knowledge will not help him in the least when I find him. When that happens he will face the full fury of the Veela.’

She glanced again at the boy as he performed the transfiguration that Dumbledore had assigned. Although he did it well he had still struggled with it, the same as all of the rest of the class. She looked at the wand that she held and then cast the required spell, making certain to not do it flawlessly. Until the time came to reveal her abilities she needed to appear as inept as those around her.

Malfoy watched the girl with fury. The memories of what she had done to him on the Hogwarts Express still angered him, but he also knew the danger of angering a Veela. His grandfather had often talked about their terrible rage and what happened to those unfortunate enough to earn it. He had gotten off easily as she had shown restraint, but he wondered if she would do that again if he ran afoul of her.

The bird in the cage in front of him became a tiny dragon that was incapable of breathing fire as was intended, not to mention demanded, by Dumbledore. Dumbledore had learned from the experiences of the term before and didn’t want a repeat of the happenings. Several students had received minor injuries from their creations, which had brought a censure for him from Headmaster Dippet. He was to maintain a safer classroom.

“Class, I need to see acceptable transfigurations. A number of you have managed only the basics, although Mister Malfoy and Miss Porter seem to be closer to the final product than they had been. Remember to enunciate the spell that you have studied, we do not want fire breathing dragons again,” he added as he looked down at the spot on his robe where a dragon had managed to score a hit. The professor had decided to leave the damage as a warning and a reminder of his past failings.

Albus Dumbledore liked to learn from his mistakes.

“Once you feel that you have an acceptable specimen call me to your desk so that I can examine it. Only once I have seen your finished dragon and approved it will you receive a passing mark. Should you be unable to produce a finished product in the allotted time you shall be required to join me in detention tonight for added practice.”

Tom glanced up at the professor as he cast his spell once again and then at his new product, a perfectly formed miniature dragon. The creature gave a small squeal as though angered that it had been summoned. It took flight and hovered in front of the pleased boy as Dumbledore walked towards the scene. The wizard bent to look at the creature and nodded his acceptance while Sarah stared at it with amazement. Tom had managed to produce a dragon on his own and she had yet to be able to do what she needed to.

“Excellent work, Mister Riddle, now please return it to its original form.”

Tom nodded happily and then cast a second spell. Instantly the small gold bird reappeared and chirped happily as it rejoined its feathered brethren in the cage that it was returned to. It swiftly fluttered to a branch on the tree within the cage where it proceeded to preen its feathers. The boy settled back in his seat while he looked around smugly, his grin fading as Molly and Carol each managed the task and smiled. Dumbledore nodded his acceptance of their efforts and then the return of the birds to their natural state.

“Wonderful work, Miss Porter, Miss Markham, neither of you have need to show up tonight.”

The other members of the class watched as the girls slipped their wands back into their robes. Malfoy finally managed the feat with only a few minutes to spare and breathed a sigh of relief as his dragon was finally correct. The professor looked at it for a moment and then nodded. An instant later, the dragon was a bird again and being returned to the cage which held the others of its kind.

Sarah looked sharply at the creature in front of her which still was resisting her efforts. The girl was highly confused as a task which should have been simple refused to cooperate with her. A glance around the room showed that she was not alone but it concerned her that those others who were struggling were the ones that normally did, Crabbe and Goyle among them.

The frantic last few minutes saw precious little progress and the heart of the girl sank as the bells in the tower told her that time was up. Instantly the few birds which were still in use became birds again, in some cases reverting from near successful attempts. The girl looked at the bird that was now back in its cage and scowled. It was taunting her, somehow it was taunting her and she hated the sensation of failure that she was feeling. She rose and followed the other students out of the room as they made way for the next group to enter.

Tom stood silently outside the door as he waited for her and refused to give Molly and Carol even a passing glance. Other than the vengeance that he had planned for them, he had no thoughts of the girls. For their part, Molly and Carol stared straight ahead and avoided any sort of eye contact between them and the boy. Their parents had been quite direct when they had spoken to their children, stay away from Tom Riddle! The professors had been informed that they were not to be paired with him during assignments, not even for a brief amount of time. They were intent on protecting their daughters and Molly’s parents were prepared to use their influence to ensure the safety of the girls.

Sarah arrived at his side and Tom felt the pleasurable sensation of her hand in his as they clasped fingers and walked towards the next classroom that they would visit. The girl seethed inside as she thought about the detention that she would have to serve.

‘What,’ she wondered, ‘stopped that bird from becoming a dragon? It should have been simple to make happen. Was someone else in the room stopping me? Could Dumbledore have been doing it or was it someone else?’

She glanced at Tom out of the corner of her eye again as she wondered if he had been toying with her. Sarah doubted it; he seemed too devoted to her to risk her anger. Her gaze turned to Molly and Carol, they might try it but she doubted that they knew enough to be able to strike the way that had been done. That meant only one thing, if it had not been Dumbledore or one of the others it had to have been Abraxas Malfoy. He certainly was capable as his parents had been training him long before he ever started attending Hogwarts. The name Malfoy was well known in their world and stood for witches and wizards who were very good at what they did.

‘If it was you, Malfoy, you are going to regret interfering with me and costing me success.’

They arrived at Charms class and walked to their seats, Sarah very aware that Flitwick was watching her suspiciously. This worried her as the Veela and the goblins had a long history of conflict and knew each other on sight. He was going to be her main concern while at Hogwarts. Goblins were naturally immune to her main weapon, the ability to entrance males with their songs and dances. The fact that she was still a child made the task of such extremely difficult for her, she simply didn’t know enough yet about the ways of her race.

Flitwick watched as the girl sat down in his classroom and frowned inwardly. She was definitely part Veela, there was no doubt about it. He had had her identified as soon as she walked into the Great Hall on her first night in the castle and he wondered if Dippet knew what she was. He was human and at a disadvantage where she was concerned. Sarah no doubt knew that in an open duel with the headmaster she would lose badly and thus had decided that, at the moment, discretion was the better part of valor. She would play the dutiful student, keep her eyes lowered and stay out of trouble to avoid bringing attention to herself. The professor was grateful for that because, at least in the meantime, there likely would not be any trouble.

The students listened as the diminutive professor began to present his lesson for the day and Tom took a chance at glancing at the girl next to him. With class in session for less than five minutes she was already bored, you could read it in her face. Flitwick was noticing it as well and soon began to direct questions at the students beginning with Sarah, who stumbled badly with her response. The professor scowled and left where he stood to approach where she sat.

“Miss Jenkins, if you would spend less time daydreaming and more time listening you would have known the answer to a question that even a first year could have answered.”

“Well, if a first year could have answered it, why did you not ask one of them?”

Gasps sounded at the response that the girl had directed back at a professor and the normally calm Flitwick glowered at the girl for a moment before responding.

“I asked you, Miss Jenkins, because it is my prerogative to do so as a professor. Twenty points shall be taken from Slytherin for your cheeky response to my question.”

The class reacted once again as the eyes of the girl and the eyes of the professor locked. It was obvious that Sarah wanted to say more, but she held her tongue and finally was the one that averted her gaze first. She lowered her head and many were surprised to see a tear run down her cheek and drop to the table in front of her. Flitwick turned and walked back to the place where he stood to present his lessons and then looked at the girl once again as she sat quietly.

“Mister Goyle, draw your wand and summon the ball.”

Goyle, never the brightest, drew his wand and cast a spell that was somewhat similar to the proper one, at least in pronunciation. A loud bang sounded as the ball disintegrated in a bright flash, causing the startled professor to fall over backwards into one of the many piles of parchment that was stacked in the room. Some in the class laughed at his predicament, others sat quietly to wait for his response, Goyle sat stunned at what he had done and Tom took it all in. Sarah was looking at the scene with mild amusement but there was something more in her eyes and the boy wasn’t certain what it was. Not that it mattered at the moment because he was more interested in finding some way into the Isolation Tower, even if it meant being sent there. He needed to talk to Slytherin’s echo or ghost or whatever he was.

The riddle of the ring that the old man in his visions wore was still puzzling the boy, who knew that it had to be something important. The visions were coming more frequently now and with increasing clarity and the ring was always present.

“Mister Riddle!”

The sound of his name being shouted by the professor brought him from his thoughts and back to class as Flitwick, who had recovered from the incident approached him.

“Apparently, Slytherin House is going to lose still more points! I called on you twice to assist Mister Goyle and you simply sat there. Ten points will be taken from Slytherin to go with the five that I took for Mister Goyle’s poor attempt at a simple charm.”

The professor turned from the student that he was addressing to speak to the class.

“Read the remainder of this chapter and be prepared for a quiz tomorrow. Hopefully Slytherin House can redeem itself by producing some good marks.”

Tom shook his head at the thought that his House had lost thirty five points in one class. This couldn’t continue or they had no chance of winning the House Cup at the end of the term. Already Gryffindor was starting to congratulate itself on its victory and this was something that Slytherin House could not allow.

When the bells in the tower began to ring, he rose and walked out of the room just in time to collide with a first year from Gryffindor. He stumbled backward with the impact and looked angrily into the eyes of the smaller student. The younger boy flinched as he realized who he had walked into and backpedaled to get out of the way of the Slytherin second year.

“Is there something that you do not understand about getting out of the way of your betters?”

The boy lowered his eyes before answering in a voice that was nearly inaudible.

“Sorry, I will stay out of your way from now on.”

“You had better, if you know…”

“Leave him alone, Tom Riddle!”

The group turned to see Molly glaring at them with her eyes blazing and a group of students standing around her. She left the group and stepped forward to help the boy away from his tormentors before turning to Tom.

“You truly are pathetic, Tom! Picking on someone smaller than you and doing it when there is one of him and you are with your friends! That is very brave of you, Tom, strange that you used to tell me how much courage meant to you but I guess that only means when you are picking on someone who cannot defend themselves. I really have no idea what I ever saw in you.”

Sarah chose this moment to step forward and was soon nose to nose with the angered Hufflepuff girl.

“You really need to watch what you say to Slytherin students, Hufflepuff! There is no telling what might happen to you.”

“Oh, so you are going to threaten me now, Sarah? Tom and his other friends tried that earlier in the term and it did not go well for them. They ended up in the Isolation Tower under threat of expulsion if they did it again.”

“Is that what you think is happening here now, Hufflepuff? I do not threaten, I act.”

Molly was about to respond when the slap struck her across the face. She staggered as her hand rose to touch where she had been hit, then she rallied and lunged at the other girl. If Sarah and her group were expecting Molly to break out into tears they were surprised as a slap from Molly struck Sarah hard. The attack rocked her backwards just as Molly slammed into her, taking them both to the floor of the corridor in a screaming, slapping tangle of arms and legs.

The students still in the corridor rushed to view the fight between the girls and were soon cheering their favorite on as the combat continued. Molly was giving far better account of herself than Tom and the others with him ever would have believed she would as blow after blow landed on Sarah. The other girl, stunned by the ferocity of the response, attempted to protect herself while also fight back. She was not being very successful and was starting to wish that the fight was going better when she felt it start.

Veela, being magical creatures, can hide their true appearance from others but this appearance is sometimes revealed when they become angered and Sarah had become angry. She was about to lash out at the other girl when Molly simply wasn’t there anymore, pulled off of Sarah by Professor Tobias Leeds, and Sarah found herself being dragged to her feet by Albus Dumbledore.

“What is the meaning of all of this?” Dumbledore yelled as the hall began to clear of onlookers amid screams of terror.

Molly, still held by Leeds, recoiled at the sight of her former combatant and tried to shrink away from her and closer to the stunned staff member that held her. Dumbledore released the arm of the thing that had been Sarah and looked at those few students that remained before looking at Sarah Jenkins again.

Her face horribly transformed and with wings protruding from her back, Sarah Jenkins had revealed her true nature as a Veela to all. A moment later, Headmaster Armando Dippet appeared to survey the scene and Tom realized that all now knew the secret that his girlfriend had been keeping.



Chapter 23: Stern Warnings
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Those few students who had not fled the sight before them, Tom included, stared at the thing that Sarah had become. Armando Dippet shooed the other children onward before turning to the girl that Dumbledore had released. She stood silently as her form began to return to what they were more accustomed to. Sarah hung her head as she understood that more than just a few now knew what she could become when angered and that the mystique that she had held for many had vanished.

“Miss Jenkins, I assume that we were seeing the form that you can become when you are angered?” Headmaster Dippet queried.

“Yes, Headmaster Dippet,” a quiet voice replied.

“Then you are at least part Veela?”

“Yes, Headmaster Dippet.”

“And I assume that at some point in time you were going to tell us about your heritage?”

“I did not think it necessary.”

“Miss Jenkins, as the Headmaster of Hogwarts, I feel that this is information that I was entitled to be privy to. Veela, while not considered hostile by the Ministry of Magic, are considered at least marginally capable of wild magic. While I would not have refused to allow you entrance to this school, I would have ensured that all that needed to know about your capabilities were properly notified, that certainly included the professors in whose classes you sit.”

“I understand, Professor Dippet.”

“Now that we are all aware of your nature and inherent capabilities I believe that it is safe to assume that you will be inclined to behave yourself.”

“Yes, sir, Professor Dippet.”

“Then move on to your next class and I want no further trouble with Miss Porter or any other student. Failure to heed my warnings will result in your immediate expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Sarah nodded numbly as she accepted the books that she was handed and she walked away to join Tom as they walked to their next class. Tom walked silently next to the girl as he realized that much of her usefulness had now vanished. Now that all knew about her, and those that did not were certain to find out, all would be watching her for any misbehavior. If she were to step out of line Professor Dippet would not give a moment’s thought about sending her from the school, then he would be in jeopardy himself.

“I cannot believe that I was so stupid as to reveal myself,” she muttered quietly as they walked towards the greenhouses and Herbology class. Professor Beery watched the pair as they entered and it was obvious that he was going to have an interesting time bringing the class to order. Those few students who had not seen Sarah’s transformation had been told and she was the center of attention through the multitude of furtive glances sent her way by her classmates.

Molly watched the girl while she gingerly patted at the darkening bruise on her face where one of Sarah’s slaps had landed. Sooner or later one of the nurses from the Hospital wing would come to deal with it and then she would be rid of the minor irritation. She walked with Carol to their workstation and listened intently while ignoring the icy stares that both Tom and Sarah sent their direction. Without doing much, Molly had revealed information that had put a huge damper on the plans that the pair were obviously making. The girl knew that she would get a reprisal from home once the news of the fight reached her parents, likely in the form of a Howler, and she didn’t look forward to it.

“Now that I have your attention, second years, I want you to continue with the work that you began yesterday. While we may have finished re-potting the Amazonian Red-Leafed Serpenticulars, we are not finished caring for them. Be certain to where your gloves to prevent direct contact with the plants or be prepared to face the aftereffects of that contact.”

Molly and her friend hurried to slip their gloves on and soon were tending to the plants as they had been directed. The girls kept a close eye on the wildly wriggling tentacles of their subjects and knew that it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. It did soon enough.

A sudden alarmed shout from Goyle announced the mishap and all eyes turned to see the portly boy covered with growing red pustules, the side effects of touching the plant with unprotected skin.

“Mister Goyle,” Beery announced as he approached the victim of both the plant and the titters of laughter from his classmates, “did I not give you express directions about being careful about touching these plants with bare skin? Go immediately to the Hospital wing for the remedy.”

The stout boy hurried from the room while trying to both ignore the laughter of those that he passed in the corridors and cover the increasingly numerous pustules. Carol and Molly continued to take great pains to ignore both Tom and Sarah and soon were deeply involved in the assignment that they had been given.

“Molly, did you know that she was a Veela?”

The girl paused in her efforts before turning to her friend and shaking her head. Molly glanced at Sarah and then spoke.

"My father will be very interested in finding out that a Veela is at Hogwarts, especially if there was no record of her leaving her homeland. The Ministry tries to keep a very tight rein on them, they are so unpredictable and potentially violent especially when they are our age. I am just lucky, I guess, that she did not use some of the magic that she can without trying. Did you know that they can throw fire when they are angered?”

Carol’s eyes opened wide at the news and she shook her head.

“Is she that dangerous?”

“If she got really angry she might be,” Molly responded to her friend. “I have read a great deal about them and from what I have learned it does not take much to make them angry.”

“I guess that you got off lucky then.”

“Maybe,” Molly countered. “Now that she has been revealed, Sarah will be a bit more cautious about her actions. I think that we can expect some sort of response, either from her or Tom.”

“Are you going to send an owl to your father tonight?”

“I have to, Carol, this is that serious. The Veela are suspect in a great many things in the area where they live and if they have started to spread out from there it may mean that there is trouble brewing. I mean, she could just be a rogue, one that managed to leave without being noticed but my father will want to know about it and I think that Hogwarts can expect a visit from the Ministry of Magic because of this. They are going to want to know why they were not notified about her departure from her homeland.”

As the girls talked they knew very well that they were being watched by Tom and Sarah. Both of the Slytherin were at a loss as to how to deal with the pair of girls that now held many of the cards that they had once been denied. Tom knew that Molly was now a very formidable opponent and that a word from her to her father could result in his permanent expulsion from the school. This terrified the boy; he had not yet learned what he wanted to know about his family, or learned the secret of the ring.

A nurse suddenly appeared next to Molly to deal with the bruises and then hurried to do the same for Sarah. Sarah growled internally while the adult that the girl felt superior to dealt with the damage that had been dealt to her face. Molly ignored the other girl and finally turned to Professor Beery with her hand raised.

“Professor Beery, I think that I have finished.”

Tom watched as the wizard approached the girl and frowned as the professor nodded his agreement with the girl’s belief. Molly smiled at the praise that she was obviously receiving and then stood quietly as Carol’s efforts were also accepted. Then the girls, who had received the permission of the wizard, gathered their belongings and hurried from the classroom. They stopped long enough to each take a parchment that contained their next assignment from a stack that waited for them. Then the pair made haste to leave the room behind them. They made their way to a quiet place where Molly wrote a hurried note to her father about the events of the day before they walked to the Great Hall and the mid-day meal.

Neither girl had any intent of dropping their guard for both were certain that there would be certain reprisal for the fight. Sarah might not do anything outwardly, but Tom had demonstrated an ability to get others to do his dirty work for him. Crabbe and Goyle were particularly gullible and Malfoy was not much better when it came to resisting the proposals of their compatriot. They weren’t afraid to hurt someone and thus needed to be watched.

Abraxas watched Sarah too, she had demonstrated what she could do on the Hogwarts Express and he really was not quite certain how to deal with someone of the girl’s heritage. He really was not sure that anyone in his family would know how to either. One thing that was certain was the fact that the girl had replaced him easily as Tom’s right hand and he was not ready to contest the girl to reassume the position. He had to be content for the mean time to work in the shadows to curry favor with Tom and wait for the girl to make a mistake that would get her removed from Hogwarts.

That eventuality had two rewards when it happened, and he was certain that it would, because Veela were not known for being forgiving and she was certain to strike at Porter or Markham again. She likely would not be very subtle about it, discretion was not one of her strong suits not to mention the fact that all knew what she was and she would be a prime suspect when it happened.

‘You will do something, Jenkins, something that will get you tossed out of Hogwarts so fast that even the magic of the Veela cannot protect you. I hate to admit it, but you have more to fear from Porter than I do, because she is certain to contact her father at the Ministry and that will trigger an investigation by one of those offices. You may have already written your ticket on the train ride out of here and just do not know it yet.’

The attention of the boy was drawn by the professor stating that the class was at an end and that they could depart. All were reminded to take one of the parchments as they left and he grabbed one, only to stuff it into his bag. Maybe he would work on it, maybe he would not, he had taken it and in his mind that was all that mattered. He swept out of the room to join the waiting Crabbe, Goyle had yet to return from the Hospital Wing.

“Jenkins is going to be her own undoing, I tell you that,” he announced to the heavier boy. “She is going to do something to get herself tossed out of this castle and I, for one, cannot wait for it to happen. Things just have not been the same since she flounced into Hogwarts on the arm of that prat and I cannot wait for them to return to normal, even if it means that they both get the boot.”

“But how do we do it?” Crabbe queried. “We both know what she can do and I do not want to face her in a duel. My father knows all about Veela and has said that not many wizards or witches can hope to stand up to one in a straight on fight and survive, let alone win.”

“I was thinking about that, William, and it may be that what she can do does not work in all parts of the castle. Why is it that she could not transfigure that bird into a dragon? Something in that room was blocking her from doing it and I wonder what it was. My bet would be on Dumbledore himself! He knows enough about Sarah to block her abilities.”

“If it was him, why did he not block Tom? He was the first to get the lesson done. Porter and Markham finished next and nothing happened to stop them. If it was Dumbledore, why did he not stop you?”

Malfoy’s eyes widened at the sudden, uncustomary spark of brilliance from his companion. Of course, William was right, if it had been the professor, why was it that only Jenkins had been affected? Dumbledore could have made nonsense of any of their attempts but only the girl had been stymied. That meant that something, or someone, else was responsible for Sarah’s misfortune.

The pair arrived in the room reserved for their study time and, although neither had any intent on working on the assignment given by Professor Beery, they both took their assigned places to continue their discussion. This was a fact that did not go unnoticed by Professor Leeds, who made a point to steer a stern gaze in their direction. The gaze had the effect of stifling the talking between the boys and both made a great show of pretending to work.

Sarah watched the pair as well, while also trying to keep an eye on Molly and Carol. This had the effect of failing to placate the rather tousled feelings of Tom, who now questioned just how valuable an ally the girl was. He opened his potions book and pretended to read while thinking about getting back into the room at the base of the Isolation Tower where the office of Salazar Slytherin, and the spirit of the long dead founder, waited.

‘He is the only one in the castle who can answer the questions that I have. I have to know how I am connected to those people in the hut and what that ring means. It has to be important somehow, it just has to be. Then I have to decide whether or not to cut ties with Sarah, it could be a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. I know what she can do and that makes her both useful and dangerous. Just what do I do and how do I do it?’

A direct physical assault on another student was out of the question, that had the possibility of getting one expelled and he had no desire to live the life of a muggle or, worse than that, a squib. If it happened they would destroy his wand and he would be nearly helpless. Misuse of magic could land him in Azkaban, certainly not a desirable outcome. But perhaps there was still a way to get what he wanted without creating too much distress for himself.

His deepness in thought and plotting meant that he did not hear the rather desperate pleadings of the girl that was seated next to him. Sarah finally gave up her attempts as she realized that he was either too deep in concentration on the assignment, not likely, or ignoring her which she found to be more likely the case. This stung deeply and she considered responding in anger, but knew that this meant a likely trip to the office of Headmaster Dippet and possible expulsion from the school. She glanced at Molly and Carol and knew that they had likely been watching her as well, although both had quickly turned their attention back to their parchments when she looked up. The fact that they could do this without possibility of reprisal angered her. Sarah Jenkins finally returned her attention back to what she had been doing.

“I think that she saw us looking at her, Molly,” Carol whispered to her friend.

“”I thought so too, Carol, but there is nothing that she can do about us looking at her. She has certainly thrown us enough glares since we sat down.”

Carol nodded her agreement and turned her attention back to her parchment as the junior professor made his way down the aisle near where she was seated. Professor Leeds was nice enough, but did not allow talking at all in his study sessions. It was a swift and certain way to gain detention and she shuddered at the thought of that. He passed by the girls while also directing at rather stern glance at the children.

As the dreadful silence filled the chamber, Tom realized that there was a way to get into the Isolation Tower. It would not risk expulsion and yet would give him a chance to speak to the founder again. He watched as the professor turned away from him and then hefted a crumpled up piece of parchment before casting at Malfoy and calling to the other boy in a rather loud pseudo whisper.

“Malfoy!”

The attempt had immediate results as all heads in the chamber turned towards Tom, including that of Tobias Leeds. Pivoting swiftly, the professor returned to the table at which the boy was seated to glare down at the second year student.

“Mister Riddle, as you have seen fit to disturb everyone in this room, I trust that you have something valuable to share with all of us. Am I correct?”

“No.”

“Then if I am incorrect in my assumption, I would like it very much if you would share with all of us what you could not wait ten minutes to say.”

“”I do not wish to do that, Professor Leeds.”

Gasps echoed around the room as the boy spoke and the young professor straightened to his full height.

“Mister Riddle, I am giving you one more chance to tell us all what was so important to say that you decided to interrupt my classroom.”

“I cannot do that, Professor Leeds.”

Tobias Leeds looked down at the steely eyes of the child before him and then spoke in a tone which left nothing to the imagination of the others in the chamber.

“Mister Riddle, you shall report to the Isolation Tower for tonight and all day tomorrow. I will not tolerate the cheeky attitude that you have displayed here today. I shall also take ten points from Slytherin for this insubordination. Now, gather your things and go! The door into the tower shall be waiting for you. Go directly there and do not dawdle for I shall know if you have not followed my instructions.”

Tom rose and made a show of being indignant before gathering his things and then fairly bolting from the room. No one, not even Sarah, understood that the young professor had done exactly what Tom had wanted him to do. The boy hurried along the familiar corridors and then up staircases until he arrived at his destination. He watched as the door before him opened silently as though beckoning him inside. Tom Riddle, a smile on his face, walked into the passage way that lead to the Isolation Common Room and did not feel a bit of remorse at the barrier closed behind him.

The remaining students in Leeds’ classroom finished the time with him in amazement. For all of Tom’s bravado, none of them could believe what he had done and all wondered what had possessed him to gain yet another stain on the parchment that reflected his time in the castle as a student.

Sarah glanced again at the seat that he had vacated before making her way to the final class of the day.

What are you up to, Tom Riddle,’ she wondered, ‘and how does it affect me?’

For one of the first times Sarah was alone within the castle. The lack of Tom’s presence near her made the girl uneasy and the close proximity of Molly and Carol, not to mention Abraxas, brought a feeling of near nausea to her. The girls from Hufflepuff knew what she was, a fact that made her extremely uncomfortable, especially given the fact that Molly’s father worked for the Ministry of Magic. If Molly complained loudly enough to her father, Sarah knew that she could possibly be on the Hogwarts Express and on a return trip to King’s Cross.

‘I have to stop her from contacting her father, but how?’ the girl fretted as she sat alone at the table.

The class finally rose when the professor released them and Sarah, minus the comforting presence of Tom, realized for the first time just how large the castle really was. Nearly to tears, the girl slowly made her way the field that was reserved for Flying Practice. She walked silently to the broom that waited for her and, in an uncustomary show of acquiescence, followed the instructions of Professor Horst while wondering what had possessed Tom to do what he had done.

He almost appeared that he wanted to be sent to the Isolation Tower,’ she considered, ‘but what could be so important that he would want to do that?’

While she pondered his motivations for his actions, Tom was already making his way to the office so far below the Isolation Common Room. As his had closed on the handle of the door Tom wondered what he would learn from the spirit of the long dead founder and just how useful that information would be.

‘Here I go, Professor Slytherin, back into your office. Just what will you be willing to tell me and how useful will it be? Come to think of it, if it is useful, will it be enough so that I can be rid of Sarah? Her usefulness is now diminished and she has become a liability. With her at my side anything that happens to Porter or Markham will bring attention right to her and I have no desire to be in the path if she gets put out of the castle.’

He turned the handle and stepped into the darkened room before considering another thought.

‘I guess that I go it alone, but then again there is nothing different about that.’

The door closed quietly behind him as he entered the domain of Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for what he hoped would be a lesson not prescribed in the normal course of study.



Chapter 24: Answers in the Darkness
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The darkened, yet familiar corridors, held no terrors for Tom as he walked steadily to the office that he sought.  He grimaced only when his hand met the cold and rather damp metal of the door handle before turning it and stepping into the room beyond it.  He had barely entered when a familiar harsh voice spoke to him from within the confines of the ill lit room.

               

“Why have you disturbed the office of Salazar Slytherin?”

               

He turned to regard the menacing glare of the witch in the portrait and finally spoke when it appeared that she was preparing to lunge at him, even though he knew that it was impossible for her to leave her portrait and do so.

               

“I need to speak to Professor Slytherin,” he answered.

               

“And just what makes you think that he wishes to speak to you?”

               

Tom ignored the leer that she gave him as he settled down into a chair to wait.  He did not have to wait for long before the misty form of the one that he sought appeared before him.    The boy and long dead wizard stared at each other for a long moment before Salazar Slytherin broke the silence. 

               

“You have returned to my office, young Mister Riddle.  What counsel do you seek?”

               

“I seek to know the meaning of dreams that I have been having.  Clearly they are a key to something in my past and yet their relevance escapes me.”

               

“And why do you believe that I can help you?”

              

 “You are wise, Professor Slytherin, and I believe that you might be able to reveal some of what I need to know.

               

“Young Mister Riddle, as much as I would like to help you I am afraid that the answers that you seek are much like your surname.  I cannot possibly help you when I do not know what you seek.”

               

Desperation grew within Tom as he began to believe that either the wizard could not help him or was refusing to do so.  He was about to speak when the witch in the portrait behind him spoke.

               

“I told you that noble Master Slytherin did not have the time do fret over your pathetic problems.  You are wasting your time here, Tom Riddle, and would better spend your time in your attempts to become a wizard.  Far better than you have come to Hogwarts and failed miserably in their quest to learn the arts of magic.”

               

“But I know that he can help me if he only would listen to what I have to say,” Tom nearly cried out.

               

Salazar Slytherin paused for a moment at the impassioned plea and then turned his attention from the angered portrait and back to the boy that had just spoken.

               

“What is it that you need to know, Tom Riddle?”

               

Tom felt his anguish fade and then spoke.

               

“I have been having visions, always concerning the same people, always in the same place and each time I see a ring that I know is somehow important to my future.”

               

“I do not see how I can be a help in this.  It is hard enough to remember things from the past, but to see things that have not yet happened is impossible.  It is forbidden by law to meddle with time and dangerous in the attempt if one ignores those laws.  One might conceivably erase their own existence in the present if they meddled with events in the past.  One does not know what might happen if they were to tamper with events in the future.”

               

“But I have seen things that I feel are important to my past, and yet do not understand how they are important.  They are always the same and then there is the ring.”

               

“If it is a ring imbued with magic there is no way of determining which ring it is, for there are many such rings in our world.  If it is a ring belonging to a Muggle your quest will yield no useful results.”

               

Tom’s heart sank as he heard what was being said.  Clearly the people in his visions must be Muggles, for no respectable magical folk would live as those in his visions did.  But how was it important?  Certainly he would not see it again and again if it was something of a mundane nature.  He glanced again at the wizard before him, a wizard who was beginning to regard him with impatience and nodded weakly as he rose from the chair.

               

“Thank you for your time, Professor Slytherin, I will not trouble you again unless I have real reason to.”

               

As he turned to leave the room, Tom paused and spoke once again.

               

“It is a gold ring, set with a black stone that is engraved with a strange symbol that I know that I have seen before somewhere within the walls of Hogwarts.”

               

“If you have seen it within the walls of Hogwarts, then I am certain that it is significant and that you shall run across it again,” Slytherin responded.  “Have patience, Mister Riddle, I am certain that you will be rewarded for your persistence.”

               

Tom could only watch as the ancient wizard faded once again and was turning to leave the room when he stopped to regard the portrait of the witch.

               

“You want something do you not, Mister Riddle?”

               

“You have been in the castle for a very long time?”

               

“I have, and how is that important to you?”

               

“You have seen things that many others have not.”

               

“Yes.”

               

“Then perhaps it is you that I should speak to.”

               

“Use care, Tom Riddle, for insulting the great Salazar Slytherin, especially within this chamber, is a fine way to come to a sticky end.”

               

“Oh, I have no intention of insulting him, but I have a feeling that you know some things that he might be unaware of.  I know that he left Hogwarts for a time, so perhaps something that happened in his absence might be what I need to know.  I think that the symbol in the ring might be the answer that I need.”

               

“Perhaps, but I would need to see the symbol or know what it is called before I can even attempt to help you.”

               

Tom nodded and then turned to leave the room.  He stopped as the voice of the witch reached him.

               

“You know where else to seek me if you do not wish to come here.”

               

“I do,” he answered.

               

“Then do not trouble our House’s master again unless you truly have a need to.”

               

The boy nodded silently and then left the room to step out into the dimly lit corridor.  He nodded grimly as he remembered what the witch had said, he needed to see the ring again in a vision and listen to what the old man had to say about the ring.  Only then would he have the information that he needed to answer the questions that he had.

               

But how do I get the visions to come to me?  I have no power to summon them.

               

He walked slowly up the stairs as he tried to remember every detail of the ring that he could, but knew that he did not have enough in his memory to recall them.  Clearly he would have to wait until a vision presented itself to try to fill in the missing pieces.

               

While Tom walked slowly back towards his chamber he thought about what little he had learned.  Clearly he did not yet have enough information to be able to act.  This meant that he was going to have to wait until the visions came to him again, until then all that he could do is be patient.

               

Tom was not the only one who was waiting.  Molly had managed to get to the Owlery to send a message to her father about the incident with Sarah and what she had learned about the other girl.  Carol had joined her friend as they scurried to their destination and then back again.  Both knew that the other girl would likely confront them again, maybe not openly, but she would.

               

As intent as they were on the path before and around them, neither noticed the gathering clouds above them and, even more ominous, the indistinct form that glided effortlessly on terrible wings.

               

The creature far above them, the creature that Sarah had become, watched with dread as the pair of girls arrived at the Owlery and then departed it a short time later.  There was no doubt that, especially with the flurry of owls that had left the building, the message to Molly’s father was on its way to the wizard.  Obviously not all of the owls carried a message to Joseph Porter because owls left the building constantly, but at least one of them did and this worried Sarah.

               

The Veela and the Ministry of Magic had a long and, at times, contentious relationship.  Many within the Wizarding World wanted the magical beings confined to their homeland, while others favored a more inclusive relationship.  Veela were openly welcomed within the halls of Beauxbatons, while being publicly scorned at some of the other magical schools. 

               

Molly and Carol vanished back into the safety of the walls of the castle while Sarah orbited above.  She finally came to a landing a short distance from the outside walls and then became a girl once again.

               

“How do I stop what is coming?” she asked herself.  “Molly’s father may not call for my removal, but he will certainly want to know why I have left the homeland and that will bring uncomfortable questions.  How do I tell them about the death of my mother at the hands of my filthy Muggle father?  How do I explain why I did not return to my kin?  How do I get past telling them that I am on a blood hunt that will not end until I find him and make him pay for what he did?”

               

Terrible thoughts that should not have troubled a mind so young filled the head of the girl as she walked quietly towards the castle in the distance.  So intent on her thoughts was she that she failed to see the form that stood on one of the many balconies of the castle while the person that it belonged to watched her.

               

Albus Dumbledore watched the approaching figure until the girl was hidden by the walls that she had drawn near to.  The wizard finally turned to reenter the castle as he thought about what he had seen.

               

‘You had every opportunity to attack them without being seen, and yet you allowed them to walk back to Hogwarts unmolested.  Veela are known to be mysterious, and you are certainly no exception to this characteristic.  But, as one secret about you has been revealed, I have to wonder if there are more.  What other secrets do you hide, Sarah Jenkins, and how do they effect this school and its students?’

               

Dumbledore sat down to examine the tome that he had withdrawn from the library concerning the creature that Sarah truly was.  She had been extremely evasive when questioned about her parentage and why she had left her homeland.  In fact, the several hours that Headmaster Dippet and he had spent talking to the girl had yielded almost nothing in the way of useful information.  The child had adamantly refused to speak about her father and had been nearly overwrought concerning her mother.

               

Clearly, something had happened to the mother of the girl, quite possibly with her father being at least partly responsible and this thought brought his attention back to the page that he had been examining.  If that was what had happened, if the father of the girl was responsible for whatever had happened to her mother, then things could get very bad indeed.

               

‘Is that what this is, Sarah Jenkins,’ he thought to himself as dread filled him, ‘a Blood Hunt?  Have you sworn on the blood of your mother and ancestors to find and kill your father?  Is he here, near Hogwarts, is that why you have appeared as well?’

               

Dumbledore examined the passage again as he wondered just how bad things were going to get and just what part Tom Riddle had in all of this.  Was he an active player in this or merely someone who had managed to get involved in something far above his ability to survive?  The wizard leaned back in his chair as he gazed towards the ceiling of the chamber and thought about his own family.  They were no strangers to tragedy and had experienced losses so painful that they weren’t spoken of openly.

               

Their family had lost so much not the least of which had been his sister, Ariana.  It had been the tragedy involving her which had sent his father on the course that had resulted in three Muggle deaths and his imprisonment in Azkaban until his death.  The deaths of his mother and sister in a senseless accident had managed to destroy what remained of the family as he and his sole surviving family member rarely spoke. 

               

‘He blames me still Aberforth does, and perhaps rightly so, for I was too involved in my quest for power to give attention to where it was needed.  I was too centered on myself to care about the pain of others, perhaps they would all be alive still had I worried about what mattered most of all.’

               

The lights in the chamber would burn well into the wee hours of the morning and Albus Dumbledore would, like he would so many times in the long years of his life ahead, fall asleep in his chair with a book in his hand.

               

Tom lay in his bed while he thought about what he had failed to learn.  The answers to his questions were in this castle, they had to be, but they were being elusive.  His mind centered on the ring, it was the key to it all he was certain of it.  Was the ring somewhere in the castle?  Had he seen it in a portrait that he had glanced at or in a book that he had read?  Perhaps it had even been in one of the many trophy cases scattered throughout the school.  Irritation filled the mind of the boy as he began to realize that the progress that he felt that he had made in learning more about his family had now become only more setbacks

               

‘Am I ever going to find out more about my family?  Who were they and where do I start to look to find them?  And who are the disheveled people that I have seen, surely they are not my family.  If they are, how are they related to me?’

               

He closed his eyes and hoped as he fell asleep that the visions would come to him again.  Tom was not to be disappointed.

               

The filthy hovel appeared within his dreams, but the people that had always inhabited it were nowhere to be seen.  Apparently they had not been within the awful space for a great while for thick spider webs and other signs of a place long vacant filled his view.   An indistinct face that seemed vaguely familiar filled his vision and he could only watch as the person reached down towards the rotting floor with one hand.  A space that had not been there abruptly appeared to allow the hand of the man to dip under it to withdraw something small that had been concealed under the floorboards.

               

Tom felt his heart nearly stop beating as he realized that the item that had come out of hiding and then vanished into the pocket of the visitor was the ring that he himself sought.  The vision came to an end as the visitor rose and then vanished in a fashion that could only be magical.

               

The boy awoke and found himself staring with dread at the darkened ceiling above the bed.  A single thought ran through his abruptly aware mind.

               

The ring had been stolen!  Who knew where it had gone and who had it now.

               

All that he had done thus far, including being sent to the Isolation Tower on purpose and visiting Slytherin had been for naught.  Would he ever be able to find the ring that he sought?  If he was able to determine who had taken the ring from its hiding place, would he be able to get the item from them? 

               

His mind swimming with the questions, Tom lay awake for the remainder of the night while the rest of the castle slumbered.

               

The next morning the boy rose to find his meal waiting for him and a brief handwritten note stating that he could return to classes.  His transgression had not been severe enough to warrant an extended stay within the confines of the Isolation tower and obviously, probably over the arguments of the offended staff member, Headmaster Dippet had released him.

               

Tom hurried to eat the meal that had been provided and then slip into his clean robes to make his way to classes.  That he would be shunned by some was obvious, Molly and Carol would have nothing further to do with him and he doubted very much that anything could be done or said to change their minds.  His continuing friendship with Sarah also made things problematic, for the entire castle knew what she was.  If it was even possible, and Tom had doubted that it could be, the girl was more of a pariah than he was.

               

Sarah, although powerful, was going to be under constant scrutiny from now on.  Professor Dumbledore was not going to let any of this pass and undoubtedly was looking into the Veela and their ways.  There was also the fact that Molly had no doubt contacted her father about Sarah.  His position within the Ministry of Magic could lead to trouble for Sarah and likely himself as well.  Molly’s parents had demonstrated the fact that they would not hesitate to deal with anything or anyone that represented a possible threat to their daughter.

               

Molly spotted Tom as he entered the classroom for the first session of the day and groaned.  Carol took note of her friend’s reaction and turned her head to see what had happened, only to sigh deeply.  Others noticed his entrance as well and very few reacted in any way other than that that Markham and Porter had.  As poorly as he was reacted to, Tom’s reception was pleasant compared to that which Sarah received when she entered the room.  Students hurried to move away from her and none, save Tom, gave her any sort of greeting.

               

“That is right, Riddle,” a girl from Hufflepuff announced under her breath, “greet the freak because no self-respecting witch or wizard would.”

               

The statement had its intended reaction from Sarah, who settled down into a vacant seat and began to cry while Tom turned to glare at the female student who had made it.  It almost appeared as though he intended to say something rude in response but then changed his mind, most of the students believing that it was the sudden appearance of Professor Lands which prevented it.

               

Jacob Lands scanned his classroom and took in the situation, obviously something had happened and he had a good idea what it was.  The secret of Sarah Jenkins was out and now many of the students wanted nothing to do with his.  It was that or, more likely, they were all terrified of what the girl could do with her innate abilities.  None of them wanted to challenge her for fear of what she might do as a response, things that none of them had any way to counter.  The possibilities were frightening.

               

“I am not quite certain what happened during my absence, but whatever it was you can rest assured that I will deal with it and deal with it harshly.  All of you here are welcome as students otherwise you would not be here, therefore if any of you have a problem with one or more of your classmates you need to see me about them and not take matters into your own hands.  Doing this will only ensure a trip to the Headmaster’s Office and likely the Isolation Tower or perhaps even the dungeons.  I believe that they are still in use from time to time.

               

Students shuddered at the thought of having to spend any time in the dungeon, the stories of punishments past terrified them and none wished to find out if the stories were based in truth.

               

The Defense against the Dark Arts class settled down to studying the creature that had been selected for the session.

               

Only a few eyes did any straying from the books and those that did meant nothing but ill will for Sarah Jenkins and Tom Riddle.  



Chapter 25: Troubling Messages
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“Are you certain that it is she?” the voice growled at the person who had summed its attention.

               

“It is she.  I am very certain of it.  That she is at least part Veela is obvious for she revealed her true self to many when she lost control of her feelings.”

               

“And how has her true nature been received by those not of our kind?”

               

“The girl has been reacted to very poorly and I fear that she will respond with the full fury of the Veela if angered enough.”

               

“That would be very unfortunate, none but the oldest students at Hogwarts would have any chance against her and they too would be at an extreme disadvantage.  She would kill many before being brought down.  Is she aware of your presence?”

               

“No, I have managed to keep my own nature hidden from her, she knows nothing.”

               

“And the human boy, Tom Riddle, does he suspect anything about you?”

               

“Only that he despises me, I have made certain that this is the case.  I believe that the headmaster may have some suspicions about the possibility that the girl is not the only one of our kind at the school.”

               

“Be cautious, Armando Dippet is no fool, we cannot have him learn that there is more than one Veela at his school.  Already he may be on his guard, having learned Sarah’s secret.  She must be brought back to our homeland as swiftly as is possible and without alarming the rest of the Wizarding World.  The Ministry of Magic must never learn that more than one Veela has left our homeland without their knowledge, the consequences would be severe.

               

“Do you believe that we are at risk of all-out war?”

               

“No. but it would not do for the Ministry to further restrict our movements outside of the homeland.  Many things that one can find outside our borders are very easily found within theirs.  That could bring hostilities to bear and this we cannot have.  There are too few of us to fight against the rest of the magical realm.”

               

“Then what would you have me do?”

               

“You must find a way to bring the child home to us.  Right now, she is guilty only of being angry at the loss of her mother because of the treachery of a Muggle.”

               

“But that would mean revealing myself to her.”

               

“That is very true, you will have to reveal your nature to her and thus expose a valued secret that we have held for your time there.”

               

“It has not been without difficulty, listening to their professors explain things that I already know, and doing it rather badly in some cases.”

               

“You were chosen for this assignment for a very good reason and thus we have high expectations of you.  The girl must be returned to the homeland and the staff at Hogwarts must not be made aware of your nature.  The consequences of this would be unfortunate for all concerned.”

               

“I will not fail in this.”

               

“See to it that you do not.”

               

The Veela stepped away from the pool of water that it had been speaking into and watched as the fiery glow faded from that unlikely location before turning to look up at the castle.

               

The nearly undoable is asked of me,’ it lamented, ‘the girl will not willingly leave the school without revealing who and what I am.  The only chance is a confrontation outside of the school away from the prying eyes of the students and staff of the school.  Tom Riddle will be the largest issue, he is not a Veela, but I feel that he is far more powerful than others of his age.  He may be the biggest obstacle in my path to removing her peacefully.  What do I do if she tells him who I am and why I am at Hogwarts?’

               

The path before it hid it from view and none saw the form of the creature assume the form of a young human girl.  She walked quietly up the path back to the castle and then through an opening in the shield that just appeared as though there was no barrier at all.

               

‘Sarah, you should never have left the homeland of the Veela.  If Tom Riddle interferes in what must happen to you I shall be forced to destroy him so utterly that no trace of him shall remain to inform of his existence.  He will have no chance if we duel and I will be forced to carry out this vow.’

               

The girl walked into the castle and immediately mingled with the multitude of other students who were walking towards the Great Hall and the late meal.  She smiled and spoke gleefully to those who greeted her.

               

“Where have you been?” one of the girls asked, “I looked all over for you and could not find you anywhere.”

               

“The moon was so beautiful that I just had to take a walk by the lake.  I just love the reflections of the moon and stars on the water.”

               

“Ever the one musing, I see.  You and your walks, you should be a Herbology  professor or maybe even Professor of Astrology, because you spend enough time outside looking at the sky.”

               

“At least it does not cost the House points.”

               

The other girl nodded as she laughed and then the pair walked into the Great Hall to make their way to the table that awaited them.

               

“Hannah!”

               

She turned to see one of the human girls running towards her and paused long enough for the fifth year to catch up to her.

               

“What do you need, Sandra?”

               

“Were you out by the lake again?”

               

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I was.”

               

“Professor Slughorn saw you and is threatening to take points from Hufflepuff because of it.  He was really angry that a student was outside the castle after dark.  You need to talk to him and fast before he does what he is threatening to do.”

               

‘Damn,’ she thought, ‘of all of the people who might have seen me he would have to be the one.  He is the most likely to suspect me being a Veela and the last one that I can hope to have listen to me.’

               

She glanced up at the High Table to see the portly professor sitting down as he prepared to enjoy the meal.  A glance at their hourglass told her that he had not yet taken points, but likely was ready to if he didn’t accept her excuse.  She really didn’t see him doing it either, he had been less that helpful the last time that she had spoken to him about one of her walks and had taken the points anyway just as a matter of practice.  Hufflepuff House had been less than pleasant to her after the loss and this time it would likely be a greater number than it had been the last time.                                           

               

There was nothing to do now but to wait until she could get a chance to talk to him and that would not be until after the meal.  It was then that she noticed Professor Dippet approaching the lectern and realized that it was already too late.

               

“Before we begin our meal, Professor Slughorn has asked that I make an announcement concerning the late night walks that some of you are enjoying.  I want to make it perfectly clear that no student, regardless of year or status, has the right to walk the grounds outside of the castle after dark.  The shores of the lake are strictly forbidden and points shall be taken from the House of any student who fails to obey this rule.”

               

“Therefore,” he announced as he seemed to look directly through her, “thirty points are being taken from Hufflepuff House for the late night stroll that one of its students decided to take tonight.”

               

A gasp rushed through the students at her table as the gems in their hourglass decreased by thirty.  She noted that several angry glances were sent her way, especially by the members of the Quidditch team which had just added many of the points through bruises gained during a match with Slytherin.

               

Immediately, she felt ill and rose to hurry out of the chamber as she ignored the hissed comments sent at her by the angered members of her House.   She rushed to the nearest girl’s lavatory to lose what she had in her stomach.

               

‘I have just made my job so much harder, all eyes will be on me and there is nothing that I can do about it.’

               

The unpleasant chore finished, she rose from her knees and slipped out of the lavatory to make her way to her dorm.  She was thankful that there were no other students present and changed out of the slightly soiled robes and into her night clothes.

               

‘The nearly impossible has been given to me as a task.  Somehow I need to make contact with Sarah Jenkins.  I need to convince her one way or the other to return to the homeland.  I know that she will refuse to leave Hogwarts, and it is all because of Tom Riddle.  The human boy has her totally devoted to him and she finds his company more pleasurable than that of her own kind.  She knows very well that her father is not present here and that she would have more luck finding him outside of a school of magic.  He is of a mundane nature and has likely taken refuge in one of the large human cities on this continent to escape her notice.‘

               

She considered the human boy who seemed to be much more than he appeared to be.  There was something about him that actually frightened the Veela.  Even as a second year at Hogwarts, the boy seemed to be in possession of talents far beyond that of his age peers and that could prove to be a problem if it came to a confrontation with Sarah.

               

‘She could reveal me to them; the human inhabitants of the castle and then the Ministry of Magic will surely become involved.  If the boy becomes involved in this mess I could be left with only the possibility of having to destroy him and Azkaban Prison would seem pleasant compared with what the Elder Council would do to me.  No, I have to remove her in some other way and the only way possible is to have her expelled.  It will be difficult and very risky but that is the only choice and chance that I have.  Sarah Jenkins must be expelled from Hogwarts and then I can hurry her back to the homeland while retaining my standing here at the school.’

               

A grim expression crossed her face as she wondered what the human Ministry of Magic would think if they knew just how many Veela were in attendance at the schools of magic.  There were three others at Hogwarts and they were all doing their best to escape notice and not draw attention to their activities.  If Sarah had done the same as they, the council would have had no problem with her attending the school, but the inexperienced youth who was on a Blood Hunt had failed miserably in keeping her identity a secret.

               

‘It would have been so easy for her to just blend in with the other students and possibly eventually rise to post of power and authority such as Prefect or even Head Girl.  But that will never happen now, too many know her secret and will never allow that to happen.  There are too many prominent families represented here at the school.  Molly Porter’s father holds an important post in the Ministry and will likely become the Minister of Magic himself in the near future.  No harm can come to those children or any others here.  Nothing would enrage the humans more than for one of their children to be harmed or killed by a Veela.  It would mean a war that we could not hope to escape from without suffering severe losses.’

               

The bed near her beckoned the girl and she knew that her dorm mates would not do anything that would openly incriminate themselves by moving against her for the loss of the points.  They would wait for her to be alone to act and that would be their undoing for minor accidents could take place and thus be untraceable except for being just what they appeared to be.  There were many staircases here at Hogwarts for the unwary or careless to tumble down and, although she didn’t wish harm on anyone, she would be more than happy to see a slip or two to take place.  For this to happen in full view of witnesses when there was no possibility of her being accused was the best thing that could happen.  These children needed to use their wands for something magical to happen, she didn’t.

               

‘Perhaps it is time for one of the Prefects to take a tumble down the stairs, around class change time would be best.  I can arrange to be in the area but make certain to be visibly not at fault.  Professor Slughorn is also a likely candidate for an unfortunate accident on the stairs.  It cannot be anything deadly of course, because I would not want that to happen, but enough to keep them occupied and their minds on other things.  He may suspect something amiss about me, but has no way of proving it, and he especially cannot prove that I am a Veela.’

               

A moment later she was snuggle under the covers and was relaxing when her dorm mates entered and reacted unfavorably when they saw her.  One of them approached her bed and then hissed her message.

               

“I hope that you are happy, Hannah.  Our House lost thirty points because you wanted to take a walk in the moonlight.  It had better not happen again or Hufflepuff may lose points because you are found in some stairwell beaten black and blue.  You will not see it coming or be ready for it, but cost us more points and it will.”

               

“Do I seem to be in some form of fear due to what you are saying, Violet,” she responded as she sat up in bed.  “Do not forget that I can arrange for some unpleasant things for you.  The students in Slytherin owe me a few favors and I would be more than happy to call some of them in if necessary.  Perhaps it might be you found at the bottom of the stairs beaten black and blue.  Maybe some of that pretty blonde hair will be pulled out by the roots in the process or one of those shining blue eyes blackened.  A few teeth missing is also a possibility, so be careful about the threats that you are making.  I might have to talk to the Slytherin about you.”

               

The other girl paused as her face blanched and she considered what the girl in the bed had said to her.  It was widely known that Hannah was a friend with several of the rougher Slytherin, the sort that did not care about the loss of points or detention in the dungeons.  More than one student had experienced their rather rough attention and never had anything been proven because the victim had always been fearful about revealing the identities of their attackers.

               

Hannah lay back down and turned onto her side to present her back to the other girls.  She smiled to herself as she listened to their low whispering about her.  Talk she did not care about, that could not hurt you, but actions would get her attention and then woe unto the conspirators.  Hannah would have no problems with making certain that something ill happened to one of the other girls that she shared the dorm with.

               

As she lay there an inspiration came to her mind.  What if she did not appear to blame for what happened to Violet, what if Sarah looked extremely guilty?  It was no secret that the girls did not get along and that Sarah had made more than one threat against the Hufflepuff.  If she could be made to look as though she was at fault Professor Dippet would be forced to expel her.  The younger Veela was already on notice, especially after the fight with Molly Porter, and had been told that she would face expulsion if anything else happened.

               

If Sarah was expelled, then she would be easily taken back to the homeland instead of being shuttled back to the mundane orphanage where they had tracked her to.  The girl had surprised them by journeying to Hogwarts in company with Tom Riddle and this had made things complicated.

               

‘I can do this,’ she thought to herself as she began to drift off to sleep, ‘I can take care of Violet, teach her a lesson about making threats, and get Sarah expelled and returned to the homeland.  Then my mission will be complete and I can return to my “studies” here at Hogwarts.  It is important that we keep an eye on the Ministry of Magic and its instruction about us.  It is only in this way that we can be aware of the plots against our kind and the misinformation that they are spreading concerning us in Defense against the Dark Arts.  It is a travesty, the things that they are teaching their young about beings that have never moved against them.  Perhaps we should at some point, it would teach them a lesson that they would never forget, especially if we struck at the head of their government and toppled the Ministry of Magic.  Let them crawl in the darkness for a while and learn what we have had to just to survive all of these centuries.’

               

She fell asleep as the lights in the dorm went out and the human girls slid into their beds.  They had felt rather brave about threatening her, but now they were not so certain that it had been a good idea to do so as the girl had not appeared frightened.  Instead, she had appeared ready to strike back at them and would likely not hesitate to enlist the aid of the Slytherin to help her.

               

Magic was allowed to be cast within the walls of Hogwarts, but magic cast to harm another was a different story and had the very real possibility of getting one expelled.  True, a physical assault was not magical in nature, but there were many eyes within the castle and the portraits would not hesitate to report what they had seen.  Why would they hesitate?  They had nothing to fear from the students and nothing but time on their hands to break the monotony of just hanging on a wall.  Something interesting to witness was what they waited for and more than worth a trip from their frame to a frame in the Headmaster’s office to talk about what they had seen.

               

Even if one was not expelled, none of them wanted to spend time in the dungeons serving detention or having to spend time in the Isolation Tower with its many hostile spirits and darken corners that no magic could ever hope to illuminate.  Some students actually liked the place, with its incredible library of books that could not be removed from the room.  If a student tried to remove one the ghostly librarian on eternal duty was only one of the obstacles that they faced.  The books would simply vanish from their grasp and reappear on their shelves and then visits from the ghosts was a given.  The place was also the home of the ghosts of several students of long past who had been burned to death in a magical fire which had killed them, but had left the room and its contents strangely untouched.  No, there had to be a different way of dealing with the girl and they all realized that the best thing that they could do was to get her expelled from the school.  It would be difficult and also extremely risky, but something had to be done to stop her activities and the loss of points by the House that they all loved so much.

               

The girls finally fell to sleep as they thought about what they had to do and wondered how they would manage to do it.  All knew that the risks that they were going to take were many but also that, if they succeeded, the rewards would be greater than they could imagine.

               

In her own dorm, Sarah awakened as a terrible thought came to mind.

               

‘What if the Elder Council of the Veela orders my return to the homeland and sends someone to retrieve me?  They could already be at Hogwarts because I know that many Veela are attending classes at the schools of magic to stay ahead of any plots against our kind.  I need to be mindful of what I do and who is around me and paying too much attention to me’.

               

She lay there in the darkness as she thought one final thing before she closed her eyes in sleep once again.

 

‘I like it here and I want to stay.’



Chapter 26: Making Plans
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Tom looked around the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom as Professor Lands droned on about the differences between ghosts and poltergeists.  Certainly they had examples of both at Hogwarts and all of the students were familiar with them.  Peeves, for once quiet, hovered near to and slightly behind the professor.  He was quiet but not without mischief because he would silently mock the professor and make faces at the students.  Many times the professor would turn to see what was going on behind him as the students laughed at the antics of Peeves, but could never catch him in the act.

               

Sarah was not present today and the boy wondered where she was.  There were precious few weeks left in the term and now was not a time to miss a number of classes.  Already tension was high among the students as they realized that very soon they would be taking their final exams.  The fifth and seventh year students were at near frenzy level as they considered the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams.  For his part, Tom was at least grateful that he did not have to worry about any of these things yet.

               

It was bad enough that he had been forced to suspend his search for what he had been madly seeking, the answer to the mystery of the ring.  Why was it important and who had stolen it from under the floor of the shack?  Perhaps it had all been just a vision, something to be ignored and put out of his mind, but what if it had been real?

               

Then a thought came to his mind, what if he had been the person that he had seen taking the ring from its hiding place.  He had not been able to see the face of the thief only robes so he knew that it could not have been a Muggle that took the ring.  It had been someone like him, someone magical.

               

The class came to an end and he, like the other students, rose to leave their seats or at least they tried to.  Everyone found that they could not leave the chair under them, the backsides of their robes seeming to have been stuck to the chair by some magical force.  Peeves whooped his delight and then soared over their heads to vanish through the still closed door and leaving his class full of victims to sit where they were.

               

A few minutes later, still stuck to the chairs, the students turned as the door opened and the members of the next class started to file in.  The third years stared at the strangely immobile second years and then understood when Professor Lands spoke one word.

               

“Peeves.”

               

Finally, after several uncomfortable minutes, the children found that they could move and they rose to hurry to their next class.  There was no doubt that Professor Flitwick had been informed about their plight and the very real possibility that they might encounter the small wizard as he made his way up to help get them free.

               

Sure enough, the diminutive wizard met the first students as they hurried towards his classroom.  He nodded his understanding while all the while muttering about that “pesky poltergeist and all of his pranks”.  More than a few of the students smiled inwardly as they realized that there was now no way that they could take the exam planned for today and that they now had another day to prepare for it. 

               

When they entered the room the professor walked to the front of the room while his students hurried to their places.  Flitwick was still muttering about Peeves when Tom entered the room and realized that Sarah was still not present.  Obviously something had happened to the girl and he wondered what it was.

               

He settled down to begin the extra review for the exam that the prank had delayed.

               

Sarah sat on her bed in her dorm room as she wondered about the time that was coming.  Here at Hogwarts she was safe from the Elder Council sending an older Veela to retrieve her and take her back to the homeland, but she didn’t have that security at Wool’s Orphanage.  One of the older ones of her kind could very well appear and “adopt” her and that would be the end of her search for her father.  She would be taken home and then kept a very close eye upon.  There would not be another chance to escape as she had done before and then her father would get away with what he had done.

               

She really didn’t mind it here at Hogwarts, even though she knew a great deal more about some of the magic that her professors were teaching than they did.  Many times she had been forced to bite her tongue as they told their students something that was in error.

               

Tom, at least, made things bearable.  He didn’t seem to judge her for what she was, although he had become a bit distant when she had inadvertently revealed her true nature to everyone.  All of Hogwarts knew that she was a Veela and many who had spoken to her before the revelation now openly avoided her.

              

There was also Molly Porter and her friend Carol Markham to contend with.  Molly’s father was a high level employee of the Ministry of Magic and, although not the actual Minister of Magic, he had a great deal of influence within that organization.  He had not demanded her removal and she was surprised by this until she realized why he had not done so.

               

At the moment they knew EXACTLY who and what and where she was.  They could keep an eye on her and were content to leave it at that.  If she was forced out of the school she would vanish into the Muggle masses and they would lose track of her, and that was not a good thing.  An unpredictable adolescent Veela among the Muggles had not only the possibility, but the actual probability of being dangerous, especially if provoked.

               

She leaned back against the wall while she thought about the fact that there were no doubt other Veela at Hogwarts.  Her race prided itself on being able to insinuate its members into the other areas of the Wizarding World, many times without being noticed.  They had no intention of starting a war with the other magical folk, basically because they knew that they would be swiftly defeated, but they did learn a great deal about the others that were not so unlike themselves.

               

The girl wondered what had possessed her mother to mate and have children with a Muggle.  It had been obvious to the girl from an early age that her parents were in no way in love and she wondered if perhaps her mother had hidden her nature from her father at first.  It had all come out, the girl was certain, when their daughter had become angry at a very early age and had accidently revealed what she truly was.  Sarah knew that she had been the source of that revelation because her father had avoided and even despised his female child.  The child was quite certain that she had heard him call her a freak under his breath when he thought she was out of earshot.

               

A tear ran down her cheek at the thought of her parent disliking her and she became angry once again at the memory of her mother’s killing at his hands.  She felt the change starting and managed to fight it down, stopping it at its very earliest stages.  A glance at the clock told her that she should be in Charms class but she made no effort to rise from where she sat. 

               

She could pass the final exam while sleeping and she knew it, so this periodic exam was nothing to be concerned about.  Tired of fretting she slipped back under the blankets and allowed sleep to take her while she tried to put the thoughts out of her head.

               

Tom glanced around the room again and his gaze stopped at Molly Porter.  They had not really spoken to each other in a very long time, only polite conversation necessitated by the fact that they took classes together and could not avoid interaction.  Other than that the girl avoided him and the ever present Carol made certain of that.  He wanted very much to teach Carol a lesson but was not certain how to do so without being implicated in the act. 

               

Dippet and Dumbledore were quite aware that he had put Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and the now expelled Agatha Childs up to making the life of the girl a living hell the term before.  He knew that they knew and he could not devise a plan that would do what he wanted without drawing attention to himself and risking expulsion.

               

That was something that he dreaded, for it would mean having to live at the orphanage until becoming an adult.  Mrs. Cole would continue to make his life a hell and there would be precious little that he could do about it without drawing the attention of the Ministry of Magic.

               

Turning his attention back to what Flitwick was saying, Tom Riddle tried his hardest to concentrate on the task at hand. 

               

The clock tower chimed once again and the students hurried to leave the presence of this professor as they moved on to the next class.  Professor Beery watched as the second years walked in and the Slytherin four took their places together.   Why Riddle spent so much time with Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle was a complete mystery to the professor.  The boy had intelligence and potential while the other three were barely able to keep their heads above water in class.  Malfoy was fairly capable, but the other two were hopeless cases in his mind.

               

He watched as Molly Porter and Carol Markham walked into the greenhouse and hurried to their places.  These two students were among the brightest and he had no doubt would do well as they progressed through their schooling.  Porter was especially bright and eclipsed all of his other second year students, even Riddle, in her capabilities.  He knew that she had once been very friendly with the boy and wondered what had happened to split what everyone, except for Carol Markham, had thought to be a stellar couple.

               

Then there was Sarah Jenkins, the part Veela, she was not present today and although many disliked her for her heritage he thought that she was a wonderful addition to the school.  She was quiet enough and normally did not create a problem.  The girl knew a great deal about his subject which he put down to her race.

               

Many, some professors included, had wanted her expelled from the school when her nature had been accidently revealed.  But he had refused to go over to that way of thinking.  She had done nothing to anger him or make him think badly of her and he wanted her to continue her education.  There was nothing more tragic than a child being denied education because of their heritage he felt.

               

He turned back to watching a pitiful attempt at work being turned in by Goyle and shook his head.  The plants that the boy had repotted the day before were nearly dead and he had no doubt that it was because of the ham-handed boy and his failure to be cautious.  He wondered what the future held for the child.

               

“He would have more luck waving a rotten stick than he has when drawing his wand,” the professor muttered to himself.  “I have been squibs with more capability than he has.”

               

Tom looked at the professor as Beery turned away shaking his head.  Alfred had botched another assignment and clearly would likely not pass the class for the term.  He simply did not understand Herbology and there was nothing that anyone could do about it.  For his part, Alfred really did not see the need for the class and did not put much effort into learning about the “weeds” that they cared for in class.

               

Malfoy tried but was still angry about his parents having to pay for the valuable plant that he had destroyed in class earlier in the term when he had knocked it off the table.  He had been strongly chastised by his father, who had been furious about having to pay for the very expensive plant, courtesy of a demand by the Ministry of Magic.

               

Crabbe, well, Crabbe was not much better off than Goyle.  The only plants that he cared about were the ones that his father used to make a vile potion to drink.  William was, many times, put to work tending to the plants and he could tell anyone about the correct growing conditions for proper results.  The owner of the Hog’s Head was more than interested in hearing about what the young boy had to say.  But clearly none of it was of use in a school dedicated to training young witches and wizards.

               

Tom glanced at Molly, who noticed and turned swiftly away from the boy.  Clearly they were not likely to be on speaking terms again and her parents were going to make certain of it.   They were angry with him and no doubt Molly’s father was looking into what Tom had told Molly about his upbringing.  Sooner or later, the truth would come out and then Molly and her friends would have fun with it at his expense.  When that happened he would lose whatever sympathy anyone had for him, for the girls would be certain to tell the entire school about his lies.

               

He wondered if there was any chance of regaining some of the stature that he had lost.  Tom knew that he still had many of the professors thinking highly of him, but students were another story.  He was openly despised by many and they did not try to hide it from him.  Many times he would over hear things being said about him and then the person would suffer a mishap. 

 

He had become very good at arranging mishaps without being noticed or implicated.

 

Lunch time was soon and he hoped to see Sarah then, although he had sensed that there was something bothering the girl and he wondered if it might mean the end of their relationship.  She had become a liability when she had revealed her nature and now he had to be very careful not to be too closely associated with the half-Veela.  No sense in openly looking for trouble because it could find him all too easily.



Chapter 27: Loss and a Shadow of Hope
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Violet had the uncomfortable feeling that she was being followed and wondered why that was.  Several times she had turned to see who was behind her and never, not once, had it been someone other than it should have been.  Many of her class or Housemates were in the same classes that she was and she knew that Hannah had no reason to be anywhere close to her during and between classes so that fear was laid to rest.

               

The girl remembered what had been said to her the night before by her dorm mate.  She wanted desperately to go to Professor Dippet and complain about the threats the freak had made.  Why the headmaster was allowing a Veela, a Veela, to remain in school was beyond reasoning.  Everyone knew that Veela were dangerous and quite a few of them had seen her change into her true form during the fight, so what were they thinking?

               

Molly Porter had not seemed afraid of Sarah, but then the fight had started before the Veela had revealed her true self.  Even so, Porter had no reason to fear the freak, her father was a member of the Ministry of Magic and could order Sarah Jenkins expelled from the school any time that he wished.

               

A dark portion of the corridor was growing near and Violet always hated to use this path.  Although there was nothing dangerous here she was a bit fearful of the darkness and things did not improve when a figure appeared from the shadows and almost collided with her.

               

“Why do you not be careful about where you walk, Violet?” Sarah Jenkins hissed at the other student.  “You almost ran into me and could have made me drop these vials!  You are as clumsy as you are ugly and stupid!”

               

“As if you have a reason to talk, Jenkins,” Violet retorted.  “Everybody knows what a freak you are.  Molly Porter’s father should have had you expelled and nearly everyone thinks that.  There is a reason that the Veela are restricted to their homeland, Sarah.  Do you know what that reason is?  Do you, Sarah, do you know what that reason is?  It is because you and the rest of your race are barbaric, ugly freaks!  You have to hide your appearance to look normal like everyone else.  It must be terrible to have been born ugly and unloved.   Your mother likely screamed in terror when you were born and did not love you either.   Just save us all a bit of trouble and go back to where you belong!”

               

Tears fell from Sarah’s eyes as the insults struck home and she managed to fight back the beginnings of the change before walking on toward her destination.  She glanced back at the receding form of the other girl until Violet had vanished from view.  Anger still dwelt within the pretty girl and she was doing her best to keep her nature at bay but it was difficult. 

               

A shadow moved back into the darkness of the corridor.

              

 The door that she sought appeared and she stepped into the classroom of Horace Slughorn to leave the vials where he had told her to that afternoon.  She carefully placed them where she had been told to and was almost done with her task when her anger struck her once again and she felt the change beginning and this time there was no way to stop it.  Rage raced through her at the thoughts of the insults, especially the one about being unloved.  Her mother had loved her intensely and she had always known that, even from her beginning memories. 

               

How dare Violet say that her mother had not loved her!

               

Her consciousness left her as the change took place and she hurried to leave the room behind before it was complete.  Fighting back the urge to screech out her anger and thus be heard, the thing that had been Sarah Jenkins vanished into the darkness.

               

Violet was laughing to herself about the hurt that she had no doubt inflicted upon the other student.  Sarah did not dare do anything because if she did she would likely be expelled from the school.  The girl finally emerged from the darker area of the corridor and then arrived in a small round room that held a door which opened to one of the many bridges that graced Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Not for the first time did she thank the builders for making certain that it was impossible to fall from the bridge.  A magical shield prevented tragedy because a fall from this height into the ravine below would no doubt be fatal.

               

She started across the bridge when she had a feeling that she was not alone and she turned to see who had opened the door behind her and then screamed at what she saw advancing on her.  There was no chance to flee and no one visible to help her, all that she could do was to plead.

               

“Please no, I did not mean any of it!”

               

No one else heard her pleas as the great leathery wings spread and claws raked at her.

               

Tom lay quietly in bed as he stared up at the dark ceiling above him.  There had to be some way to bring Molly back into his fold.  Sarah was very good in classes, but she was no match for Molly.  His friend had also been irregular in attendance of late, because she knew that she could pass all of the classes with ease.  Her race had knowledge that was inherent, even to very young Veela, and she truly had no need for the classes but she had told him a secret.

               

She wanted to be more accepted by the humans in the Wizarding World.

               

He settled back into the bed and tried to go to sleep and found that he could not.  There were too many things on his mind at the moment, the end of the term, his friend and most of all, the ring which he wanted more than anything for some reason. 

 

He had to possess it, he just had to.

 

Tom Marvolo Riddle finally just closed his eyes and tried to relax so that sleep could take him.  Events in the castle elsewhere would have much to do with him; he just did not know it.

 

The leathery wings buffeted her about and Violet screamed as a claw ripped a bloody furrow in her cheek.  Again and again she was thrown against the magical shield and the unyielding stone of the walls of Hogwarts.  As she tried to fight back she wondered if she had entered the last acts of her life.

 

In desperation she clawed for her wand and managed to free it only to have it torn from her grasp and snapped into two pieces.

 

“Pitiful human,” a voice rasped, “you need your wand to cast magic.  This is something that a mere Veela does not need and now you shall pay for your smug insults against me!”

 

Darkness surrounded and enveloped Violet as she was thrown once again against the stone wall of the ancient castle.  The parchments and books that she had dropped were shifted by the winds of the great wings as the door at the far end of the bridge opened, screams sounded from the horrified students who had happened upon the scene and the creature vanished into the night sky.

 

Violet was not conscious of the voices around her and one of them speaking with authority.

 

“We need a healer, go to the Hospital Wing and get help.”

 

A frightened second year raced away to find help while the other students gathered around their stricken schoolmate.

 

“It had to have been Jenkins,” one of them announced.  “Everyone knows that she is a Veela, a freak!  Headmaster Dippet will have to put her out of Hogwarts now!”

 

Violet moaned in pain and did not know it when she was transported to a bed in the hospital.

 

The next morning Tom rose from his bed and then stepped out into a Common Room abuzz with talk.  Every so often one of the other students would glance at him and then whisper while indicating him.  He took this only so long before his anger grew and he stepped forward.

 

“What are all of you so on about?” he demanded.

 

“You have not heard,” a third year asked.

 

“If I had heard, would I be asking you what you were on about?”

 

“There has been an attack!”

 

“An attack?” the boy muttered before responding.  “What in the name of Merlin are you talking about?”

 

“A Hufflepuff girl was attacked last night on one of the bridges.  Someone said that they thought that they saw a Veela on the bridge as they opened the door to cross to the other tower.”

 

“A Veela?” Tom answered as dread grew within him.

 

“Tom, the girl was Violet Masters.  Everyone knows that she and Sarah do not get along so well.”

 

“Where is Sarah?”

 

“No one knows!  No one has seen her since last night in her dorm.  She was not there this morning from what I have heard.  The professors and prefects are all looking for her and everybody has been told to stay in their Houses for their own safety.”

 

Sarah awakened, naked and exhausted, in an unused room of the castle.  She looked around and tried to determine where her robes were.  When they did not appear to be present she thought about what she wanted and they appeared before her.  She was rising to put them on when the door to the room opened and a seventh year Gryffindor prefect entered the room.  The older boy recoiled at the sight before him and then barked an order at the girl.

 

“Get dressed and then come with me!  You are in an incredible amount of trouble this time, Jenkins and the only way that I see this ending is by you being expelled and sent from Hogwarts forever.”

 

Now it was the girl’s turn to recoil and her mouth opened to express her feelings.

 

“What did I do?  I went to Professor Slughorn’s classroom to drop off vials from my assignment and then did nothing else.  I do not know why I am here or how I woke up naked but I assure you that I did nothing.”

 

“I do not care about your excuses, Jenkins.  You need to finish getting dressed and then come with me because we are going to Professor Dippet’s office and I do not give you much of a chance of leaving it still a student at Hogwarts.”

 

“But I did not do anything,” she wailed as she finished getting dressed and then left the room.

 

He seized her roughly by the arm and she managed to fight down the beginnings of the change.  The last thing that she needed to do right now was to transform and then attack a Prefect.  That would mean the end of her stay at the school without a doubt.

 

She was grateful, as they walked to what was likely the meeting that would result in her expulsion from school and her return to her homeland, that there were still very few students in the corridors.  That and the fact that they were using an oft unused corridor that led directly to the Headmaster’s Office made her humiliation at least bearable.

 

They arrived at a door that she had never seen before and she was amazed when the Prefect opened it to reveal the stairs that led to the place that they sought.  Clearly she had seen yet another secret of Hogwarts Castle. 

 

The pair approached the statue at the base of the stairs and waited as the statue spoke.

 

“State name and reason for visit.”

 

“Prefect Randall McLaughlin, I have a student that Headmaster Dippet wishes to speak to.”

 

“You may pass.”

 

Sarah and the Prefect stepped past the statue to arrive on a step below the massive griffin that guarded the steps and then stood still as the stairs began their slow, winding ascent.  The movement came to a stop at the beginning of a short corridor that had but one door marring the walls.  As they approached the barrier it swung open slowly to grant them admission.  The Prefect, all business, gripped her arm again and then led her through the door that led to the office of Headmaster Armando Dippet.

 

The diminutive, aged wizard stood in the middle of the floor as he regarded the girl that the Prefect had managed to locate and bring to him.  The entire castle was abuzz with the story of the attack that the girl was blamed for and Headmaster Dippet knew that he needed to act on it and swiftly.  Many families that had children attending the school were influential in some way or another and would expect swift results.

 

Sarah’s revealing that she was at least half Veela was not going to help her in the least.  Many magical families believed that the Veela should remain in their homeland and that they had no business mingling with the rest of their world.  He eyed the girl as she approached with the Prefect and then motioned her to a chair that had appeared a moment before.

 

Taking in a deep breath, Sarah settled down onto the chair and then turned to watch as the Prefect left the room.  His job was done here and he had added an accolade to his record, he had been the one to catch the Veela and thus seal her fate.  He actually hoped that he would get to be the one who escorted her out of the castle and to the edge of the magical barrier where she would leave the school forever.

 

“Miss Jenkins,” Dippet began, “I understand that you and Miss Masters do not get along well.  Am I mistaken in this understanding?”

 

“No, sir, Professor Dippet, you are not mistaken.”

 

“And have you not, in the past, argued and exchanged threats with her?”

 

Sarah bowed her head and then answered.

 

“Yes, sir, I have.”

 

“And do you know why you are here before me this morning?”

 

“No, sir, I do not know why I am here.”

 

“Miss Jenkins, are you trying to tell me that you know nothing about the attack on Miss Masters in the corridor tonight.  She claims that she was attacked by a Veela.  Several other students actually saw the Veela as it flew from the scene of the attack up on the bridge between the towers.  Please explain all of this because, to my knowledge, you are the only Veela that we are aware of in this school.”

 

“But, I did not attack anyone, Professor Dippet.  I would not attack anyone, especially after the fight with Molly Porter.  I have done my best to be a model student and above reproach.”

 

“Are you telling me that you did not argue with Miss Masters last evening?”

 

“Yes, we argued and she said hurtful things but I never attacked her and would not if I could.  I like it here at Hogwarts, please do not expel me and send me away.  The elders will demand that I return to our homeland and it is a dreadful place.  Please do not send me away, I beg you.”

 

“There is nothing else that I can do about this, Miss Jenkins.  We managed to bend the rules after your last incident but the governors of the school were quite adamant about what I must do in this instance.  I have no choice but to do something that I do not wish to.”

 

Sarah knew what was coming and bowed her head as the tears that were running down her face increased in number.  Armando Dippet looked at the girl with pity and regret at what he was compelled to do.  He finally spoke the words that she was afraid that he would say.

 

“Sarah Jenkins, it is my duty as the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to expel you from the school effective immediately.  I must inform you that two members of your Council of Elders are here and waiting for you at the top of one of the towers.  Your belongings are already in their possession and I have no choice but to lead you to that place in order that you leave the school forever.”

 

“Please do not make me go with them, Professor Dippet.  I will leave the school but please do not make me return to my homeland with

them.”

 

Dippet shook his head before speaking once again.

 

“As you are not yet adult I cannot let you leave without supervision.  The Ministry of Magic would have you arrested by the Aurors and then returned to your homeland as soon as you did the slightest thing that they did not approve of.  It is better this way I assure you.”

 

She slowly nodded and then lifted her head to look into his eyes before rising from the chair.

 

“Thank you for listening to me, Professor Dippet.”

 

“Please believe me, Miss Jenkins, when I say that I truly wish that there was some other way to deal with this issue; but my hands are

tied.  I must do what I am forced to do.”

 

The girl turned and then reached out to take hold of the robes of the wizard.  A loud POP sounded in the office and then Sarah found herself standing alongside the professor at the parapet of one of the towers.  Two cloaked figures stepped forward and Sarah gasped as she recognized the leader of the Veela and her consort.  She bowed deeply and then stepped forward to be embraced.

 

“Thank you, Professor Dippet, for caring for this young one whom we have been afraid for the entire time that she was out of our realm.  She will be taken home and there cared for.  No punishment for her transgression of leaving the homeland will be offered but you can rest assured that she will not be troubling you again.”

 

Sarah turned to look back at the headmaster before leaving the embrace that she was in and rushing forward to hug the small wizard.

 

“Thank you again, Professor Dippet.”

 

“You are quite welcome, Miss Jenkins.  I wish you all of the best.”

 

“Please say goodbye to Tom Riddle for me.  We were good friends and I care very much about him.”

 

“I will do that for you, Miss Jenkins.”

 

Sarah turned back to her elders and then stepped to stand beside them as the change took place.  Armando Dippet watched as the girl became what her true form was and then as the trio took to the sky and then winged away in the direction of their homeland.

 

The girl was gone and with her all of the troubles that had plagued the school since the revelation about her true race.  He vanished with a POP to return to his office.

 

Far below that office, Hannah sat quietly in the darkness that she savored.

 

“Is it done?”

 

“It is done!  The girl has left Hogwarts forever and is even now making her way back to our homeland with two elders.  She will soon be within the borders of our realm and thus away from the human influence that she was not yet prepared to face.  Tom Riddle did much damage to her and thus he too must be punished.  You are to find a way to do this and make him regret interfering with Sarah.  I do not care what fate he meets, but he MUST be punished!”

 

She turned away from the fading mists that were being dissipated by the slight movement of the air within the room that she occupied.  One task had been completed; one that had not been easy for the girl had been formidable.  The human boy, Tom Riddle, would be much easier to deal with and she was looking forward to it.

 

Or at least she thought so.

 

Tom entered the Great Hall with his friends to hear it already abuzz with the news.  He noticed immediately that people stopped talking as he passed or changed their tone to whispers until he was out of earshot.  Clearly something was amiss and he wondered what had happened although he had a very good idea.

 

It was Carol Markham, aglow with happiness about the occurrence, who gave Tom the news that he wondered about.  In fact, she shouted it out for all to hear.

 

“Do not bother looking for Jenkins, Tom, because you will not find her.  She has been expelled and will not ever be back.  Perhaps you will be next!”

 

Laughter rang through the Great Hall as Tom took in the news and tears began to run down his face from his eyes.

 

Molly Porter watched and listened as her friend broadcasted the news to the entire school and something came to her mind.

 

She suddenly felt very sorry for Tom Marvolo Riddle and wondered what she could do to help him.



Chapter 28: Battle between Friends
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Tom sat dumbfounded at the Slytherin table while the chatter about the happening dominated the conversation in the Great Hall.  With Sarah gone he had almost no one of any use to help in what he needed to do.  Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle were more or less pathetic replacements for the girl as she would easily have been able to defeat the three of them in a duel, even if fighting them at the same time.

               

With Molly now out of his court and Carol seeming to be in the process of strengthening her hold on things he was at a severe disadvantage.  There was very little reason to believe that others would come to his aid and all that it would take was for a concerted effort by the members of Hufflepuff, with Molly and Carol in the lead, to have him removed from the school.

               

Whatever Sarah was accused of had no doubt been devised by that House and its members and they had been very successful in what they had wanted to achieve. 

               

A despondent Tom Riddle did not pay much attention to the meal that appeared before the students and this did not go unnoticed by Albus Dumbledore.  That the wind had been taken out of the sails of the boy was certain, he had none of the normal brash mannerisms that were normally present and was actually speaking to no one.  He stared off into space or at the spot that the girl that was now absent from Hogwarts normally occupied, the loss of Sarah Jenkins had hit Tom Riddle hard.

               

Molly glanced carefully at Tom because she had no reason to want either Carol or the boy to notice.  Carol would have gone mental had she even had an idea that Molly was having a change of heart where the boy was concerned while a glance at the wrong time might have given Tom a reason to hope that things had changed. 

               

The girl really did not want Tom to think that she had feelings for him once again, because there was no chance of it happening.  Her parents, especially her father, had been quite adamant that she was to have nothing to do with the boy.  His behaviors had put him in a very poor position with them and he had only barely escaped being expelled from school at Ministry insistence.  Only the fact that Molly had pled on his behalf had prevented it.

               

She did have very fond memories of the boy, especially the wondrous first kiss that they had shared.  Although she at times thought him to be quite vulgar she also could see the charming side of Tom Riddle, a side that her best friend could not even imagine.  But then again, she had just seen a side of Carol that she had never imagined could exist.

               

Carol had almost seemed to enjoy the pain that she had inflicted on Tom when she had broadcasted the fact that Sarah had been permanently told to leave the school.  There had been a tinge of cruelty in her voice that Molly had never thought could be possible.

               

Had she been wrong about Carol Markham all along?  Could she offer some measure of solace to Tom without everyone learning about it?  Would Tom even accept the offer if it was made or would he react strongly against it? 

               

Molly knew that she had acted abominably to him, that she had almost wished that he be expelled, but she had had time to calm down and to remember the kind, intelligent boy that she had met during the time before their first year at Hogwarts had started.

               

Did that kind, intelligent Tom still exist or had he been banished forever from existence?  She decided that, if a chance presented itself, that she would make an attempt to speak to him.  Of course, she had to make certain that Carol and her parents never learned about this because it would mean no end of trouble for both she and Tom.  Her father would never ask for her expulsion from Hogwarts, but Tom would be certain to be removed.  She would offer help, a kind person to listen to him and is worries, but nothing more than that.

               

Carol glanced at her friend and worried.  Had she gone too far in announcing the expulsion of Sarah Jenkins to everyone that could hear?  Certainly she had done considerable damage to Tom, but had she done damage to her own standing with Molly?  There had been little doubt, given the sudden change in the expression on her friend’s face that Molly had not been happy about what had happened.  There were definitely some fences to be mended to ensure that Molly did not migrate back into Tom’s inner circle.  If the worst happened, if her friend did go back to the boy, then Carol knew that her only option was to inform Joseph and Lorraine Porter of their daughter’s activities.

               

This option had the very real possibility of ending their friendship forever and Carol did not want that to happen, but if it had to happen it had to happen.  Tom Riddle was dangerous in a way that naive Molly could never understand and Carol felt that it was her responsibility to defend the girl in any way that she had to. 

 

She just wondered if Molly would be open to all of this.

 

With tears escaping her eyes, Carol thought about how she would right the note that she felt that she had to.  Could she simply open it by telling her friend’s parents what she felt Molly was planning?  Would this be too abrupt?  Or would it be better to ease the subject into her letter?  Either way it was certain to bring a response from the protective pair. 

 

Carol glanced up again at Tom and could only see pain within him.  She had scored a telling blow against him and wondered if he would resort to old habits.  Would Tom Riddle have his friends come after her again as they had before, or would he take a more direct approach?  She had seen him in action and it rather terrified her.

 

The boy was more than a bit capable of creating pain within an opponent; she knew that for a fact.  She had seen things that frightened her, both in person and in her mind.

 

Carol wondered if she was not a natural Legilimens.  She could see things sometimes that others were thinking although she had never actively tried to probe the mind of another.  The girl was not certain where to begin if she wanted to do something like that but knew that it could have disastrous effects if something went wrong.

 

Could Tom strike back if she tried and just how capable was he in this respect?

 

Molly glanced once more at her friend and noted that Carol seemed to have fixed her gaze upon Tom.  What was she planning to do next?  Would her friend do what she had to do to try to get Tom expelled next?  The girl also wondered if Carol would go so far as to make contact with her parents.  Would her friend tell them if she made an attempt to console Tom over the loss of his friend? 

 

Certainly, if Carol did something like that, Molly knew that she could expect a visit from her parents and it would not be a pleasant one at all.  They had forbidden her to seek him out as strongly as they had warned him to stay away from their daughter.  Would her parents remove her from Hogwarts if she disobeyed them and did something in an attempt to rekindle some form of friendship with the boy?  There was no doubt that there could never be anything like what they had had before, that was pushing things entirely too far.  But could they be friends again?  Was that too much to ask?  Would her parents allow their child to push past their directives even a tiny bit?

 

As much as it frightened her, Molly decided that she needed to contact her parents and let them know what had happened as well as what she wanted to do.  Yes, they would no doubt be angry, but she would be certain to make them understand that he had not approached her.  That way if there was any sort of repercussion it would be against her.  She could only hope that they would not decide to send her to Beauxbatons to keep her away from him.

 

She idly wondered what her friend’s next move would be.  Would Carol contact her parents?  There was no choice, Molly decided; she needed to get an owl to her parents and fast, before Carol did.  Without thinking Molly rose from her seat and then was beginning to leave when she felt a tug at her robes.  She looked down to see Carol’s hand on them and a confused expression on the faces at her table.

 

“Are you mental?”  Carol hissed.  “Everyone is looking at you, what are you so on about?”

 

“There are just some things that I have to see to.”

 

“Molly, please tell me that you are not going to do something stupid and show some concern for him.”

 

“And what if I do, Carol?  What are you going to do about it?  Are you going to contact my mother and father?”

 

Carol could see everyone at their tables as well as other eyes fixing on them and knew that the conversation had reached a point where more than just those in close proximity could hear it.  The professors at the High Table were eyeing them uncertainly and she knew that very soon one of them would leave that table to approach them.

 

Molly tugged her robe from her friend’s grasp and then hurried from the room, leaving everyone present more than a bit confused. 

 

‘I am so sorry, my friend Molly, but now you leave me no other choice than to contact your parents.  I intend to let them know what you are up to and hopefully get Tom Riddle removed from Hogwarts, and our lives, forever.’

 

Carol Markham added to the confusion at that moment when she too rose and hurried from the Great Hall. 

 

Tom watched all of this with confusion and more than a tiny bit of hope.  With Sarah gone he was largely on his own, but had Molly decided to help him?  Had she decided to move against her parents as well as Carol to come to his aid?  Was she willing to risk that much to help him, to become his friend again?

 

He rose from his seat and then left the room, leaving all curious.  Albus Dumbledore watched, like all others, but he watched with concern.  Tom was, at this very moment, likely rather dangerous.  Carol Markham had made an incredible error in announcing what she had to the entire of Hogwarts student body.  Tom was more than likely to strike back at her, an act which could remove him from the school permanently, especially if he inflicted any sort of harm to the girl.  And what did Molly Porter have in mind?  Would she go as far as to contact her parents to try to sway them to allow her to have more liberal contact with the boy?

 

Carol arrived in the library to find her friend already sitting at one of the tables writing furiously on a piece of parchment.  Molly glanced up for a moment and then returned to her task.

 

“What are you doing, Molly?”

 

“I am writing an owl to my parents, Carol, if that is any of your business!”

 

“What are you so on about?  Please tell me that you are not seriously thinking about helping Tom Riddle get back into the good graces of your parents.”

 

“And what if I am?  What are you going to do about it, Carol?”

 

Carol sat down across the table from the other girl to look into the blazing eyes of Molly Porter.

 

“Molly, if you do not come to your senses I will have to write an owl of my own to your parents.  Do you realize what that will cause?  Your father and mother will go mental and ask for Tom’s removal from Hogwarts!  You know that all that it will take is a letter from your father, a member of the Ministry of Magic, to accomplish this.  They will have Tom on the next train back to London and he will not be coming back!  He will spend the rest of his life with Muggles as a squib.  Is that what you want me to do, Molly, do you want me to write that owl?  I will if you force me to…”

 

The statement was cut short by the sound of the palm of Molly’s hand slamming against the ancient wood top of the table where they were seated and her nearly shouted response.

 

“ENOUGH!  I HAVE HAD ALL THAT I AM GOING TO TAKE OF YOUR CONSTANT INTERFERENCE, CAROL!  Go ahead, write that owl if you feel that you need to, but it is the end of our friendship if you do!  The moment that you place a blot of ink on a parchment you can forget ever speaking to me again because I will not listen.  I forgave you once, but it will not happen again.  Make your choice, Carol, but be aware that it WILL have lasting consequences.”

 

Carol could see the conviction in the eyes of the other girl and wondered if she had already gone too far.  She could see that Molly had begun a owl to her parents and realized that they would read it and then, if another owl arrived from someone else, be forced to decide which action to take.  There was little doubt in her mind that Joseph and Lorraine Porter would respond; likely with a personal visit to Hogwarts, but what would they do when they arrived?

 

Would they order the removal of Tom Riddle?  Or would they listen to their daughter and show compassion?  Molly had clearly already thought all of it out and was prepared to go head to head with her parents and friend. 

 

But were they still friends?

 

Molly’s glare turned back to the parchment and Carol could only watch as the quill moved across the surface.  Her swift and sure script nearly rocketed across the parchment and there was no doubt that the other girl was throwing all caution to the winds.  She had already made the decision to defend Tom, regardless of what she had said about him earlier.

 

Carol silently rose from where she was seated and then turned to leave the room.  She stopped short when Molly’s voice reached her ears, but did not turn around to face the blonde.

 

“Carol, I am totally serious about this, if you contact my parents we are finished as friends.  There will be nothing that you can say that will make me even think about changing my mind.  Decide what you are going to do, Carol, but make the right decision.”

 

Carol Markham felt the tears running down her face as she lowered her head and then answered the other girl.

 

“I already have, Molly.”

 

Molly stopped writing and then looked up at the still form of the other girl.  She did not respond as Carol walked out of the room and then into the corridor before disappearing from her view.  A tear began its journey down her cheek from a brown eye and she reached up with irritation to wipe it away, only to decide to let it reach its intended destination.

 

Let her parents see the reminder of her anguish.

 

She was nearly finished with the parchment when an unexpected voice reached her ears.

 

“Miss Porter, you appear to be more than a little upset.  Is there any way that I can be of assistance?”

 

The girl looked up to see Albus Dumbledore standing at the almost exact spot that Carol had occupied and then shook her head before speaking in response.

 

“Professor Dumbledore, I am about to send this owl to my parents.  It is about someone that I know that they do not approve of but I have decided that many have been wrong about him, myself included.  Tom Riddle is a kind person who merely needs to be surrounded by the right sort of people and I refuse to deny him that.”

 

“Your father was quite adamant about him staying away from you, Miss Porter.  Are you prepared for the reaction that you will receive from him?”

 

“I am,” she responded.

 

“And if he decides to have Mister Riddle removed from Hogwarts, what shall you do then?”

 

“I will do the only thing that I can, Professor Dumbledore.”

 

Albus Dumbledore looked into the set brown eyes of the girl and knew what she intended to say before he asked.  He sighed and then asked her what he had to.

 

“And what is the only thing that you can do at that point, Miss Porter?”

 

Molly took a deep breath and then responded as she looked into the kind eyes of the wizard that had become her favorite professor.  She felt the pain within her but knew what she had to say.

 

“Professor Dumbledore, if my parents demand his removal from Hogwarts the school will lose two students on that day.  I will withdraw from Hogwarts as a student, the opinions and orders of my parents be damned.”

 

“Miss Porter, you are beginning to tread down a dangerous path.  Be quite aware of the ramifications if you decide to continue with your intent.”

 

“I already have, Professor Dumbledore.”

 

“Very well, I shall leave you to your writing.”

 

Molly finished her owl and then read it carefully before placing it in an envelope, rising and walking to the Owlery.  Her owl sat quietly on its perch and, after being rewarded with a treat, accepted the envelope containing what she hoped would not be the beginning of the end of her time at Hogwarts.  She watched as the owl took flight and then held it in her sight as long as she could before it was lost to her in the sky.  They she turned and walked back to the castle wondering if Carol would carry through on her threat to send an owl to the same destination.  She really hoped not but was fully prepared to carry out her threats as well as accept the consequences of her actions.

 

Carol had hurried, in tears, back to the Hufflepuff Common Room where she sat down at a writing desk and pulled a piece of parchment out of a slot before picking up her quill.  So much would change as soon as this communication made its way to the parents of her friend.  It bothered her that Molly had made the threats that she had and wondered if there would be any recovery for their friendship once Joseph and Lorraine Porter received her owl.  Molly had made her feelings very well-known and Carol fought back tears once again as she began to write the owl to the other girl’s parents.  Something had to be done and, although it would likely cost her a great deal, Carol intended to save her friend from herself and the threat that Tom Marvolo Riddle represented.

 

‘I am so sorry, Molly, but someone needs to deal with him and since you will not I will have to.  Please do not hate me forever for what I know that I must do.’

 

She wrote quickly and soon was placing the letter within an envelope before making the same journey that the other girl had only a short time ago.  Carol, as Molly had done, watched as her owl flew swiftly away and knew that what was done was done.  There was no way to withdraw her letter and she knew that the Porters would be infuriated by what their child had done in going behind their backs. 

 

There would be repercussions, Carol knew that, and she could only hope that Tom Riddle would be the one that paid the cost.  Otherwise she had destroyed a friendship that she doubted could ever be resurrected.

 

Tom sat quietly in the Slytherin Common Room not knowing anything about what has occurring and the titanic struggle that was preparing to begin on his account.  Two close friends were now at odds, letters were winging their way via owl to Molly’s parents and very soon things would change.



Chapter 29: In Search of the Truth
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Dear Mum and Dad,

               

This is probably the hardest owl that I have ever had to write and send to you, but you always taught me to do the right thing and this is it.

               

I feel afraid that I have made a dreadful mistake and that there is only one way to correct it.  The problem is that, in correcting it, I have to make what may be another dreadful mistake.  But I believe that, in the end, all will be well and I hope that you understand and are not angry with me.

               

I believe that I was wrong about Tom Riddle and I feel completely anguished about it.  He has been hurt badly by the removal of a friend of his and now Carol has been having a horrible amount of fun about it at his expense.  She actually announced the fact that Sarah had been expelled and removed from Hogwarts to the entire student body while we were seated in the Great Hall.  The look of pain and disbelief on his face was heartbreaking and I have never felt so sorry for someone in my entire life as I was for him at that moment.

               

Since our falling out, he has appeared very despondent and now with Sarah gone I think that he feels even more isolated.  His thick headed friends are no comfort to me and that leads me to my decision.

               

I have decided to try to make amends with him and, although I know that this is contrary to what I desired in the past, I believe that this is a correct response.  In doing this I know that I will likely anger both of you and I am prepared for this.

               

Please do not be angry with him and demand his expulsion.  He has no idea that I am feeling the way that I do or that I am writing this.  All of this is MY doing and he should not be taken to account for it. 

 

Should you decide to have him removed from school I will have no choice but to withdraw from school myself.  I do so hope that you will understand what I am doing and why I am doing it.  I am merely following the leads of two very wise people who taught me to do what was right.                             

 

With all my love,                                                                                                                                                     

Molly                                                           

 

Joseph Porter read and then reread the owl that he and his wife had received from their daughter with disbelief.  He was more than a little angered by the actions of his daughter, but he could also see what she was saying.  Both he and Lorraine had instilled a sense of doing right within their children and their daughter had taken it to heart.  Clearly she had taken a sense of conviction in what she was about to do and he wondered how to handle the situation.

 

Molly was more than likely very serious about her resolve to leave Hogwarts should the boy be forced to leave by her parents and the Ministry of Magic.  She had sounded mortified at the actions of her friend, Carol Markham, and he could understand her feelings.  Carol did have a propensity to be a bit loud, especially when she felt that she had scored a victory.  There had been no secret that she did not like Tom as she had railed against the boy on more than one occasion.

 

Was Tom the danger to his daughter that he had been led to believe?  Or had circumstances led to a slip in the boy’s character that had overshadowed his actual being? 

 

Either way, he was left with no choice.  He and his wife would need to travel to Hogwarts to speak with their child as well as Professors Dippet and Dumbledore.  They might also need to speak with Tom as well to try to determine his motives as well as his current state of thought.  Joseph was more than willing to listen to the boy since Molly had come to his defense, but there would be no second chance if he or his wife perceived that Tom represented a threat to their daughter.

 

He was about to rise from the desk in his study when a tapping at the window caught his attention.  An owl that he did not recognize waited patiently for entry and he hurried to admit the raptor.  A moment later he was taking the letter that it bore and treating it before returning to his seat and waiting for the envelope to open.  It was not long before another young female voice was speaking to him and he recognized it instantly as that of Carol Markham.

 

Dear Minister Porter,

               

I hate to have to write this owl because I know that it likely means the end of my friendship with Molly.  I am afraid that she may attempt to get closer to Tom Riddle once again and I cannot express enough how concerned I am about her decision.  She is quite angry that I have decided to contact you but I feel that you need to be aware of what is going on and the very real danger that Tom Riddle represents to her.

               

I may have made an error in announcing that Sarah Jenkins had been expelled from Hogwarts and thus removed from the school, but I was almost giddy that a part of what I believe to be a very dangerous duo has been excised from this castle.

               

Neither of them is as harmless as they represent a darkness that I fear but yet Molly seems oblivious to.  She really does not seem to see the side of Tom that he reveals on a regular basis to anyone that takes the time to pay mind to it.

               

Tom seems obsessed with the teachings of Salazar Slytherin and, although he is a member of that House, appears to show an almost unhealthy desire to learn all that he can about the preaching of that founder.  He seems to agree that only pure-blood children should be here at Hogwarts and that those who lack this standing should be put out and forbidden to learn magic.

               

He also possesses, as you remember, an almost cruel streak and seems to relish it when pain is inflicted on others.  I have seen him express joy when someone is hurt and remember very clearly that he is not above having others inflict this on his victims while he stands to the side to watch.

               

Please do not think badly of me, I want only the best for my friend and hope that she will be able to find it within her to forgive me because I firmly believe that, in the end, she will see that I am correct in doing what I am.

 

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                                                  

Carol Markham

               

He laid the letter onto the surface of his desk while he considered the two very different letters.  Each had something to do with his daughter as well as Tom Riddle.  Both of the girls had been more than a bit direct in their letters and he knew that this was going to take some sorting out.

               

That Tom wanted to follow the lead of his House’s founder was no surprise to him.  Many young Slytherins led this sort of life and that was not bothersome although it did tend to offend many other students.  He did not have a problem with it as long as they did not try to put their beliefs into practice against others.  They could even announce their beliefs publicly as long as they were prepared to deal with the response from those who felt otherwise.  To his credit, at least as far as anyone knew, Tom had never tried to get Molly to follow him to the beliefs that Salazar Slytherin had preached.  That, he knew, would have turned the girl against young Riddle instantly.

                ‘

It appears that I must travel to Hogwarts to speak to Molly, Carol and young Riddle.  One way or the other this must be handled before it affects their studies.  If anyone’s studies need to be interrupted I intend to make certain that they are not the ones of my daughter.’

               

He rose from his desk and then vanished with a POP much to the surprise of the house elf that had just arrived with news that the lady of the home wished to travel to Diagon Alley to shop.  The moods of the master of the house had become more mercurial than normal and this worried the ancient elf.

               

Had the wizard discovered the liking that the elf had taken to some of the spirits kept for the master’s pleasure? 

               

The elf shuddered at the thought of this and then vanished from the room to inform Lorraine Porter that her husband had left suddenly without explanation.

               

Headmaster Armando Dippet stood on one of the many parapets of the castle as he considered a very bad feeling that he had.  There was trouble brewing, the expulsion of Sarah Jenkins and then the announcement of that expulsion by Carol Markham to all of the student body while they were seated in the Great Hall, the reaction of Molly Porter to that announcement and the seemingly trancelike state that Tom Riddle had gone into since then made the headmaster worry.

               

There was going to be a response from outside the castle.  Professor Dumbledore had spoken to him only a short time ago about the actions of Molly Porter and he knew that Joseph Porter would be visiting the school.  He had that right, both as a parent and as a member of the Ministry of Magic, and he would exercise that right.

               

As he stood there he distinctly heard the POP of apparation and watched as a tall man walked towards the school gates.  There was no doubt who he was seeing and he vanished with a POP of his own to meet the wizard that had come to visit in response to communication from his child.

               

Joseph Porter was not surprised with Headmaster Dippet appeared in front of him and stopped mid-stride.

               

“Headmaster Dippet, I assume that you know why I am here.”

               

“I do, I was informed by Professor Dumbledore that your daughter had sent you an owl and assumed, apparently correctly, that you would be paying us a visit.”

               

“Once again I find myself arriving here to speak to you about young Tom Riddle, although this time it does not appear that he is guilty of wrong doing.  Were he, I would be demanding his immediate expulsion, but this time I sense something much different at work.”

               

Dippet nodded as he fell into step with the taller wizard.

               

“Does young Riddle represent a danger to my daughter?”

               

“No, Minister Porter, he does not.  If anything I have never seen him so defeated after Miss Jenkins left the school.  While she had her faults, and there were many, she managed to hold him into check much as your Molly does.  He has been extremely silent since her departure and shows none of the characteristics that cause us so much concern earlier in the term.”

               

“What do you mean?”

               

“He comes to class, does his work, turns in his parchments and assignments and goes about his business as though he does not have a friend in the school.  I do not believe that I personally have heard him utter a word since her departure.  The boy seems to have almost withered to the point of vanishing and I am more than a bit concerned about him.”

               

“Do you believe that he needs to leave the school?”

               

“No, I do not believe that he does.  In fact, I believe quite the opposite; I believe that he needs to be here for his own benefit.  I foresee great problems if he is not held into structure for he wields great instinctive skill that is not yet totally harnessed and needs to be controlled.  Outside of the school, in a world filled with Muggles who are unable to defend themselves against him, he would become a great evil that would be hard to control.  The only alternative other than sending him to live among the Muggles would be to send him to Azkaban and that is a tragedy that I wish no part of.”

               

Joseph Porter nodded and they walked on until they arrived at the main entrance to the castle.  Porter looked around at the massive courtyard as he mused.

               

“I remember clearly being a student here myself and having a wise professor that I could always go to when I needed advice.  Thank you for still being here for my child.”

               

“She is, I fear, a great deal like you, Joseph.  Molly is headstrong, although she uses that to great effect when standing up for something that she feels is right.”

               

“You feel that she is doing that right now?”

               

“I do, Joseph, I do.  You came here for my counsel and I am giving it to you.  Much harm can be done by removing the boy from Hogwarts and that is why I have not done so.  It is better that he remain here, where we can keep an eye or two on him.”

               

The taller wizard nodded and then sighed.

               

“I need to speak to my daughter, Headmaster Dippet.  It is time that I sort this all out once and for all.”

               

“Do you want her to come to my office?”

               

“No,” Joseph Porter responded as he looked around the courtyard.  “This courtyard has seen a great many problems talked over within it and what is one more.  Have her come here to meet with me.”

               

The tiny headmaster nodded and then vanished with a POP.

               

Molly was sitting quietly in the Hufflepuff Common Room when a figure appeared before her.  She looked up from the book that she was trying to read and her eyes widened as she recognized Dippet.

               

“Headmaster Dippet!  You startled me.  Is there something that I can do for you?”

               

“Miss Porter, your father is waiting for you in the Entry Courtyard.  He has arrived in response to your owl and I should imagine that you should make haste speak to him.”

               

The girl nodded as she put the book aside and then stared at the arm that the headmaster had extended.  She knew what she needed to do and rose before taking the robe that sleeved that arm.  Instantly the world whirled around her and then went this way and that before they appeared in the courtyard in front of her parent.

               

The girl, unused to apparation, blinked for a moment and then hurried forward into the outstretched arms of her parent.  She looked up into his eyes with a smile upon her face, a smile that quickly turned serious.   Armando Dippet nodded and then vanished as swiftly as he had appeared.

               

“I came as swiftly as I could, Molly.  Now, what are you so on about?”

               

Molly sighed and then spoke to her father as he would have her had she done some misdeed.

               

“Father, I fear that I have been very wrong and unfair to Tom Riddle.  He is not all of the problems that I have been experiencing here at Hogwarts.  It is a very large part of the problem and it is a part that I have overlooked for far too long.”

               

“What are you talking about?”

               

“Carol Markham, Father, Carol is who I am talking about.  I thought for so long that she was a friend of mine that I could count on even after we left school, but now I am not so certain.”

               

“What makes you think this way, Molly?  I thought that you girls were very close.”

               

“We were, that is until she started displaying her true nature.  She was unforgivably cruel in front of all of Hogwarts when she announced that a student had been expelled and would never be back.  It hurt Tom terribly and he did not have to say anything to make that clear, you could read it in his face.”

               

“She announced the expulsion of a student in front of the entire school?”

               

“And she took a great deal of pleasure in doing it, Father.  She was actually almost giddy about the whole episode and smiling the entire time.  I have never been so disgusted with her in the time that I have known her.  Then she threatened to write an owl to you telling you about my thoughts.”

               

The girl looked into her father’s eyes and then sighed.

               

“She DID write you.”

               

“Yes, Molly, she wrote me an owl telling me about all of this.”

               

“Then our friendship is ruined because I told her how I would react if she did.  She defied my wished when she got involved in all of this and I shall never forgive her.”

               

“Molly…”

               

“No, Father, my mind is made up!  Carol is an unforgivable gossip and almost borders on being a bully.  I shall have nothing further to do with her and that is all that I have to say in the matter.”

               

“If that is your decision then I will abide by your wishes.  But you need to know that I came here to speak to both Carol and Tom as well.  I want to know all that there is to know about this sad affair.”

               

“I understand,” the girl responded before looking up at her father with blazing eyes, “that you need to protect me but I was sincere about what I said about leaving Hogwarts if you have Tom expelled.  I will withdraw immediately and go to Beauxbatons if you have him expelled.  He has done nothing wrong and I will not stand to see him punished for no reason.”

               

“You, my dear Molly, are ever the beacon for justice for those who are being treated unfairly.  I applaud you for this, but be careful that your forgiving nature does not do you harm while you protect another.”

               

“Yes, Father.”

               

“Now, there are only a very few weeks left in the term.  How are your studies going?”

               

“Very well, Father.  I stand to get at least one Best in Class this term.”

               

“That,” Joseph Porter exclaimed as he hugged daughter again, “is what I wanted to hear.”

               

The girl smiled again as she looked up at her father, this time a smile that lasted as he bent down to kiss her blonde tresses gently before releasing her from the embrace that he had held her in.

               

“I shall need to speak to the others involved Molly and I would implore you to not judge Carol too harshly.  What you see as interference might actually be friendship.”

               

“I would like to believe you, Father, but something tells me that Carol has made up her mind and that nothing will ever change it.”

               

Joseph Porter sighed as he looked at his daughter.  She was set in her mind and he knew that it would take much to make her see things in any other way.

               

“Where would I find Carol?”

               

“I really have no idea, Father.  She and I have not spoken or seen one another since our falling out.”

               

“Then I suppose that I shall just have to have her summoned to meet me.  Where would I find Headmaster Dippet?”

               

“He is probably waiting for you inside the front doors of the school.  He knows that you will want to speak to them.”

               

He smiled at his child as he put his arm around her shoulders and then they walked across the courtyard to enter the castle.  True to her word, they found the wizard waiting quietly in a chair that he had summoned.  Dippet rose as they approached him and then watched as parent and child embraced again.  Molly pulled free and then looked at her father.

               

“I have to go to finish studying for an exam.”

               

“Well then you should be off, you little scamp.  Get good marks on your exam.”

               

“I will, Father.  Good bye and I love you.”

               

“I love you as well, my dear.  Now go before the Prefects find you.”

               

The girl smiled and then gave him a brief hug again before hurrying away to return to her studies.

               

Joseph watched as his child vanished and then turned back to the waiting headmaster.

               

“Headmaster Dippet, I think that I need to talk to Carol Markham next.  Can you arrange that for me?”

               

“I can indeed, Joseph.  She will be here very soon as I anticipated your need to speak to her.  Will you need to speak to Tom Riddle as well?”

               

Joseph Port sighed and then nodded slowly.

               

“Yes, Headmaster Dippet, I think that it would be best if I did.”

               

“I shall see to it immediately,” the aged headmaster responded before vanishing with a POP.

               

Joseph Porter, with much on his mind not the least of which was the conversation that he had just had with his child, stood patiently while he awaited the arrival of the first of the two students that he needed to talk to.  It would not go well for one of them he was certain, but he intended to get to the bottom of things for the good of his daughter.

               

“One of you two has a lot of explaining to do and you both had better hope that you can explain to me just what is going on or you may very well be leaving this school forever.”



Chapter 30: Solutions
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Carol looked up as Headmaster Dippet appeared in the room where she sat.  It actually had taken the wizard no time at all to find her, being a wizard had its advantages.  She rose to her feet as he approached her and somehow knew why the professor was approaching her.

 

“Miss Markham, I am her to inform you that you have a visitor of some importance waiting for you in the entry foyer.”

 

The eyes of the girl widened at the words and she knew somehow who the visitor was, but she asked the question just the same to be certain.

 

“Headmaster Dippet, is it Molly’s father?”

 

“It is indeed Minister Joseph Porter,” the headmaster verified, “he is here in response to your owl.  He has already spoken to Molly and very soon shall visit with Tom Riddle.  I am afraid that he is here looking for an explanation for the situation that has occurred and he does not appear to be happy at all.”

 

Fear entered the girl’s mind as she considered the last conversation that she had had with Molly Porter and the vow that the other girl had made.  The pair had not spoken, even though they had classes together, since their argument and she was certain that Molly was going to carry through with what she had threatened.

               

She had known that it was wrong to do what she had done when Sarah Jenkins was expelled but the whole thing had made her very happy.  The girl was gone and soon, she hoped, Tom Riddle would be too.  Then it might be possible to sit in a class and not feel as though his eyes were boring holes in her.  While he had not actively been staring at her, it would be difficult for him to as he normally sat in front of her; she had the distinct impression that if looks could kill she would be dead.

               

Sighing deeply, the girl rose and gathered her things.  Her heart was threatening to beat out of her chest as she wondered how her friend’s father was going to react to her.  Molly’s father was friendly enough, but the few times that she had met him had told her that he was not likely to put up with something that might harm his child.  Who knew what Molly had said to her father but it was not likely that she was going to say that she was pleased with what had happened, especially with Carol going against her wishes and contacting her parent.

               

Molly Porter was going to prove to be a formidable opponent.

               

She reached out to take the offered arm and then vanished with the headmaster to appear an instant later in front of a very unhappy Joseph Porter.  Carol stepped away from the wizard that she had just apparated with to face the adult as Dippet vanished again.

               

“Mister Porter, it is good to see you again,” she managed to stutter.  “I assume this is in response to my owl.”

               

“You are quite correct, Carol.  I was a bit distressed about the content of your owl as well as that of my daughter.  Now I am put into the position of meeting with not only her, but you and Mister Riddle as well.  I will tell you now that I intend to get to the root of the problem and sort this all out.”

               

Carol looked up at the obviously angry wizard and nodded.

               

“What is all this business about you announcing the expulsion of a student to the entire population of Hogwarts when you knew very well that it would upset terribly another student?”

               

“I was so happy that Sarah was gone that I did not think properly before doing what I did.”

               

“Then you acted on an impulse without giving thought to the results of your activity.  Miss Markham, you behaved in that instant in a way consistent with what you accused Mister Riddle of.  You put aside all thoughts of another’s feelings for your own satisfaction.  It has been no secret that you do not like Mister Riddle since the start of your time here at Hogwarts.  I do understand that you and he have not gotten on so well and that there were incidents in the past, but what I am hearing from Professor Dippet now is that Tom Riddle has been a mere shadow of a person of late.”

               

“I know,” she answered in an almost whisper.

               

“I am very disappointed with you in all of this.  Molly had spoken so highly of you in her earlier owls and now it has come to this.  She told me only a short time ago that she will not be able to look past your interference in contacting me.  There is no doubt that she will stick to her words and avoid you when she can, she can be dreadfully stubborn.  If you wish a chance to be friends with my daughter again you are going to have to prove that you are willing to work with others, and that may include Tom Riddle.”

               

The girl shook her head in response before speaking.

               

“That is something that I will never do, Mister Porter.  Nothing that you or Molly can say will ever convince me that he is anything other than what I have claimed all along.  Tom Riddle is dangerous, dangerous to me, dangerous to everyone here at Hogwarts, possibly dangerous to our world and that of the Muggles and most certainly dangerous to Molly!  He will hurt her in the end if he gets the chance, possibly badly and I only hope that you will not stand by and allow him to damage my friend.”

               

Clearly she had struck a nerve with her comments because the wizard stiffened his eyes wide and his nostrils flaring.  He was almost trembling with anger and she wondered if she had gone too far in her conversation with him.

               

“Miss Markham, while I understand and appreciate your concern about my daughter, I believe that you may be very close to overstepping your bounds.  I am quite aware of Mister Riddle and the possibilities that may be.  Professor Dippet and I have had a number of conversations concerning this school and the students within its walls.  In the future I would appreciate it if you would contact the headmaster with your concerns.  Thus far I see no reason to deal harshly with Tom Riddle but you, Miss Markham, have brought me very close to speaking to the Department of Magical Education concerning your conduct.  I will speak soon to Tom and, once I have finished that conversation, I will call all of you to a meeting with me.”

               

Carol trembled at the thought of this and looked up at the wizard once again.

               

“Are you going to recommend expulsion…?”

               

“That remains to be seen,” he answered as he cut off her question.  “Now, you should probably return to your studies.  I have another student to speak to.”

               

She nodded and then turned away to walk back to the library.  Her eyes were filled with tears as she wondered what, if any, future she had at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

               

Joseph Porter watched the girl as she vanished as he thought about what she had said.  Carol had been dreadfully forward in her responses to him and he was not certain that he liked it one bit.  A chair that he had summoned waited for him and he settled down onto it while he awaited the arrival of Tom Riddle.

               

The boy sat quietly in his dorm room while he contemplated things.  He had not done much in the way of searching for answers of late as his mind still swam with the expulsion of Sarah.  For some reason that he still did not understand, the girl still had him within her power.  He wanted nothing more than to be in her presence because it was nearly as intoxicating as being within Molly’s.

               

Molly!  She still occupied a great deal of his thoughts and he wondered if there was any chance that she might one day be willing to resume what they had possessed.  He still cared for her and hoped that she would feel the same way about him one day.

               

The sound of apparition caught his attention and a moment later the door to his room opened to admit Armando Dippet.  The eyes of the boy widened as the headmaster approached him and he rose to meet the wizard.

               

“Mister Riddle, you have a visitor waiting for you in the entry foyer.”

               

“I have a visitor?”

               

“Yes, Molly Porter’s father is here to speak to you.”

               

“Is he angry with me?” Tom answered as fear filled him.

               

“I do not believe so, Mister Riddle.  I believe that he is here on your behalf actually.  He is here to look into Miss Markham’s behavior after Miss Jenkins expulsion and removal from Hogwarts.  It is my impression that he merely wishes to speak to you.”

               

Tom glanced at the arm that had been offered to him and gently took ahold of the robe sleeve before they vanished with a POP. 

               

Joseph Porter looked up at the pair as they appeared before him and nearly recoiled at the appearance of the boy.  Tom Riddle was a handsome lad, but those good looks were overwhelmed by a tired expression, he looked almost gaunt.  His eyes had none of the shine that they once had and he seemed to be almost in a daze.  Clearly the boy was in a great deal of pain over the expulsion of Sarah Jenkins and the actions of Carol Markham.

               

“Tom, it is good to see you again,” Joseph Porter said.

               

Dippet vanished and Tom had the full attention of the wizard that had summoned him.

               

“Am I in trouble, Mister Porter?  I have been doing as you asked; I have been staying away from Molly unless we have to work together in class.”

               

“Relax, Tom, I am not here to recommend your expulsion.  What I am here to do,” he continued as the boy relaxed visibly, “is to look into the happenings after the expulsion of Miss Jenkins.  I understand that that expulsion had a great deal of impact on you.  Am I correct?”

               

Tom nodded quietly while he tried to make sense of what was happening.  How had a member of the Ministry of Magic found out about how he was feeling?  His eyes widened as he realized what the answer was.  Molly had to have contacted her father about what Carol had done.

               

“Am I correct, Tom?” Joseph Porter asked again.

               

“Yes, Mister Porter, it has had an impact on me.  She was a friend, someone that I could talk to and now she is gone.  Carol was more than happy that she had to leave and had to make it worse by announcing it in the Great Hall when all were there to hear it.  She looked right at me when she did it and was laughing about it afterwards.  All that I could do was to sit there and look at the spot where Sarah always sat and see how empty it was.  Now I feel empty inside, I have lost Sarah and Molly wants nothing to do with me.”

               

“Tom, Molly contacted me about all of this,” Porter answered after taking in what the boy had said.  “She is quite worried about you and contacted me out of that concern.  That is why I am here, to determine what we can do to help in this matter.”

               

“Molly contacted you?”

               

“Yes, Tom, she sent me an owl and actually presented quite a case on your behalf.  She can be quite headstrong when she wants to be.”

               

Tom nodded as the wizard before them talked about the girl that both were very fond of.

               

“It is one of the qualities that I found to be wonderful about her, Mister Porter.  Despite our differences I still think very highly of Molly.”

               

“And I believe that she feels the same about you, Tom.  But that does not erase the misgivings that I have felt concerning you and she.  I will not stand to see her hurt and you gave me the impression that her feeling harm was a distinct possibility.  I am afraid that it will take a great deal of time for me to feel differently about you being around her.  But that is not the reason that I am speaking to you.  As I said earlier, Molly has expressed concern about your well-being and I am inclined to agree with her now that I am meeting with you.”

               

Tom stood silently as the father of the girl that he still cared about spoke to him.  He might have been silent but inside he was full of turmoil and a bit of hope.  Molly, unlike Carol, had expressed her sympathy to him after Sarah’s departure.  She had actually sought him out and taken time to speak to him in a way that only Martha had done before.  In his heart he knew that he could never harm Molly, any more than he could harm Martha, while Carol was another story.  He wished nothing but pain for the other girl and now began to believe that there might actually be a way to achieve this.

               

“Tom, is there anything that I can do for you or arrange to do for you that will help you while you recover from the loss of your friend?”

               

The boy shook his head before speaking.

               

“I really cannot think of anything, Mister Porter.  Sarah is gone and, unless you can arrange for her return to Hogwarts, I doubt that anything but time will correct things.  That and Carol remaining silent about Sarah leaving.  I would also appreciate it if she would stop her incessant talking about me, especially when I am in the area and she makes certain that I can hear what she is saying to others.  As it is she has other students involved now as they too have begun to spread hurtful and hateful rumors about me.  Hogwarts might be a large place, but it does not take long for a rumor to go from source to the remainder of the castle.”

               

“I can see where that would be distressing, not to mention distracting, Tom.”

               

“I simply wish to be left alone, Mister Porter.  If Molly wishes to speak to me in an amiable manner then of course I will appreciate it.  I cannot and will not demand or expect friendship from her given the nature of our prior relationship.  All that I would like from her is to be able to speak to her in settings other than in class when she cannot avoid doing so.”

               

Porter nodded quietly as he listened.  The boy was not making unreasonable requests of his daughter and the wizard agreed with the requests.  The demands that the boy had made about the cessation of the rumor spreading were also reasonable and had been on the mind of the wizard anyhow.  Even though the rumors were not about his child they no doubt had the potential to affect her.

               

While he listened he took the time to study Tom.  Nowhere did he see the self-assured and nearly arrogant boy.  Tom seemed defeated, like a great deal of it having to do with Carol Markham’s activities.  It did not take a great deal when a person was alone in a castle containing hundreds of people, the majority of whom had heard the rumors and were enjoying spreading a few themselves.

               

Clearly the time to do something had come.

               

Tom was doing his best to hide his glee behind the mask that he had adopted whenever another person, especially an adult, was around.  Carol had walked herself into trouble, that was apparent, and Tom realized that he had to do nothing to see her get into that trouble.  The wizard, and Molly, were going it see to it that Carol paid for her transgressions.  All that he had to do was to watch it unfold while at the same time continuing to act as he had been.

               

True, it had hurt him deeply when Sarah had departed, but he had nearly gotten over that and now wanted nothing more than revenge and it seemed that he was going to achieve that goal.  The best part of it was that Carol had done a great deal of the work for him.  Oh, he would have to contend with her on a personal basis as some point but right now he was content to let Molly’s father and Professor Dippet deal with the thorn in his side.

               

'Carol, you may have walked yourself right out of this castle and I do not have to do anything to see that.  I hope that you enjoy what is coming because someday we are going to meet again and I will be certain to repay you for what you have done.’

               

Joseph Porter looked at the boy once again as the decision in his mind began to collate.  Something needed to be done and now, the rumors that circulated needed to be quashed and the students responsible punished before the problem escalated.  He reached out to gently place his hand on the shoulder of the boy before him before speaking.

               

“Tom, I would like it very much if you would remain here while Professor Dippet retrieves Molly and Carol.  I have come to a decision that should bring an end to these rumors and I want all involved in my trip here to hear what I have decided.”

               

Moments later the headmaster had once again brought Molly before her father and then, not long after that, Carol.  The girls looked at each other with mixed emotions, Carol with hope that things could be mended and Molly with near open disgust.  Carol could only watch as her the other girl hurried to step away from her and she knew that the hope that she had felt was not going to help.  The group stepped into a small room for privacy as students began to pass to enter the Great Hall for the coming meal.

               

Joseph Porter watched as the trio of students settled down onto chairs that had appeared and then Professor Dippet assumed a chair as well. 

               

“I came here today hoping that the differences that now exist could be mended and now, after speaking to all of you I see that there is little hope of that.  Hogwarts is a school, not a place to bring harm to others with spells called rumors that cannot be undone.  They should be among the Unforgivable Curses because of their destructive nature but they are not.”

               

“The fact that a student was expelled from this school is not a reason for hateful things to be said about them or hurtful things to be said about another.  Students who engage in activities have no place here at this ancient school and, as a member of the Ministry of Magic not to mention a parent; I am most distressed that this is affecting an institution that I attended myself.”

               

“Never should a student take pleasure in announcing the punishment of another to the whole of the school.  Miss Markham, you made a dreadful error in doing this and then you exacerbated the problem by beginning the rumors that are attributed to you by both my daughter and Mister Riddle.  A rumor cannot be erased once it has been spread and it does immeasurable harm to the person that it is about.  You should be ashamed of yourself for doing this and I would assume that your parents will be notified of your activities.”

               

“As a result of all of this, things cannot be as they were.  Mister Riddle can no longer walk these corridors and attend classes here without wondering who is formulating the next rumor.  This is unless I recommend a course of action that will set an example for all others who might decide to do what Miss Markham has done.”

               

Carol gasped as she realized what was happening.

               

“Professor Dippet, as a Hogwarts Regent I recommend the immediate expulsion for the remainder of this term of Miss Carol Markham.  She has engaged in activities that affect the entire student body of this school and hopefully will, over the summer before the next term, learn from her mistakes.  I do not make this recommendation lightly or without thought as it means an interruption of the education of a student.  As a Regent I am prepared to make possible an alternative so that she may return next term as a member of her year without loss of educational progress.”

               

Carol felt her jaw drop as tears began to flow from her eyes.  She was going to be expelled and the father of her friend was the person who was recommending it.  The girl sat quietly and then turned her attention to the headmaster who was now preparing to speak.

               

“Although I had hoped that this situation could be resolved in another fashion, Miss Markham, I cannot forget the fact that I have overheard some of the rumors personally and they have been most distressing.  Therefore I agree with the recommendation placed by Regent Joseph Porter and expel you from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the remainder of this term.  You will be permitted to return next term as long as you can maintain proper behavior.  Your parents will be notified of my actions immediately.  Now, you need to go to your dorm and retrieve your belongings so that you may depart today.”

               

Molly had gasped as well, she had never thought that this would happen, but she knew that it was necessary to bring the situation under control.  She avoided looking at the other girl even as Carol rose and ran from the room in tears.  The girl felt a tear run down her own cheek as she thought about her former friend and then looked up as her father spoke again.

               

“Mister Riddle, I know that what we have done will not erase the harm done to you but it is my hope that others who have been engaging in these activities will see what has happened and cease.  I hope that you can complete this term with a minimum of problems and that you will come to us if you need anything further.”

               

Tom nodded and then, after a look back at Molly, rose and left the room.   Molly looked at her father and then rose to step into his arms.  He hugged his daughter gently and then kissed her on the forehead before releasing her.  She turned and left the room to hurry to the meal in progress where she would avoid looking at the empty space that Carol would have occupied.

               

It would not take long for all of the school to learn what had happened to Carol and the rumors came to a standstill as word that similar punishment waited for others who engaged in spreading rumors.

               

Tom sat silently as he too stared at the empty spot that the girl should have been in.  Inwardly he smiled because it would not do for others to see his happiness.  He thought to himself as well while he thought about the remaining three weeks in the term.

               

‘Thank you, Carol, for putting yourself out of school.  You have made my task so much easier by leaving.  No one else has seen through me the way that you did and, once I have what I need, no one will be able to touch me.’



Chapter 31: New Beginnings
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Tom had never been happier!  Carol Markham was gone, Molly Porter was back in his court and there were only three weeks left in the term at Hogwarts.  There was the fact that once the term ended he would once again have to return to Wool’s Orphanage and spend the summer under the thumb and ever watchful eyes of Mrs. Cole but at least he knew that it was only three months.

               

Unfortunately, as with the last time he had spent away from the school, he would have to leave his wand behind.  It would take up residence in the desk of Professor Dumbledore and not be returned to him until the next term when he came back as a third year. 

               

He smiled as he thought about the fact that he was becoming an upper classman and that he knew a bit more than those who would come in knowing nothing at all.  These newcomers would be easy to intimidate, not to mention persuade into doing things that likely would get them into no small amount of trouble.  He would just have to remember to avoid the forbidden areas of the castle and not convince some of them to venture there.  That episode earlier in this term had gotten him into an incredible spot and it had taken a lot to get out of it.

               

The boy thought once again about the look on Carol’s face when Molly’s father had recommended expulsion for the remainder of the term.  While it was only three weeks it gave him time to work at Molly.  If he could get her to feel better about him than she already did perhaps there was a chance that they could rekindle their relationship and leave Carol completely alone when she returned.  There was always the hope that Molly would refuse to befriend the other girl and thus leave Carol without someone to turn to other than the staff.

               

The sunlight coming in through the window beside him in the library made him feel better.  While his search for more information about the ring had been fruitless he refused to give up.  He was determined to know more about the ring and the people that he had seen in the dreams.  Clearly another visit to the office of Salazar Slytherin was not likely to produce much of value.  It was no doubt better to wait until he had located information in other places.  Tom knew that it would be slow going but he was determined.

               

Movement at the end of the room caught his attention and he glanced up to see Molly enter the room.  She was with several other girls and he doubted that she would leave them to visit with him although he hoped so.  The two days since the expulsion of Carol had produced a wave of change in the school.  Now, people who had been happily spreading rumors about him were tight-lipped as no new rumors had surfaced.  The threats that Joseph Porter had expressed had produced the desired effect.

               

He glanced at Molly again and was pleasantly surprised when she smiled at him and waved.  It was a start at least, before the whole thing with Carol the best that he could expect for was for her to look at him.  Usually it had been merely a turn of her head to avoid seeing him or her walking away.

               

Abraxas, Alfred and William were at a loss to explain why the girl was suddenly taking a visible interest in their associate.  They really could not call each other friends because there was not that much fondness between them.  It was enough that they managed to tolerate each other’s presence.  Actually, their association relied on their acceptance of each other’s activities.  If there had been any inkling that one of them was even considering relaying potentially damaging information about some misdeed the quartet would have disintegrated and thus its members would have found themselves much less of a threat.

               

As it was, Tom had noticed that Molly still avoided him when one or more of the other three was in his presence.  She might tolerate him, might even eventually become close to him again, but she would never forget the incident when Malfoy had asked her for a kiss.  He had crossed a line that she would not tolerate and Abraxas knew that he had angered her parents as well.  A strongly worded letter from her father had arrived at his home and Abraxas’ father had warned him to steer clear of the girl.

               

Molly Porter’s father was not one to be trifled with.  He had more than enough connections within the Ministry of Magic and the rest of their world to make life very difficult for someone that he disliked.

               

It almost appeared that Molly was going to leave the group that she was with to approach him, possibly even speak to him, but then Alfred appeared and sat down across the table from him.  Immediately Molly settled back onto her chair and turned her head away from him while also renewing what she was doing at the table with her group.  Alfred noticed this as well and shook his head.

               

“You would think that she is still angry with you, Riddle,” Alfred stated.  “I know that I have not done anything to make her mad at me.  The way that it looks, my friend, I do not think that you have any chance at all of getting her close to you again.”

               

Tom did his best to avoid letting the other boy see his reaction to what the girl had done or to the statement that had just been made.  He shrugged his shoulders while at the same time wishing that the other boy would find somewhere else to occupy space.  Alfred did not do much in the way of studying; in fact, he did not do much at all.  The only thing that he really did was manage to be one of the first to appear in the Great Hall for the meals.

               

Tom doubted that the boy had much in the way of ambition, or future, at all.

               

Alfred settled down as he produced a piece of parchment and his quill.  If it had been any other student Tom might have believed that the boy was preparing to write but this was Alfred Goyle.  As he watched the other boy a crudely drawn image of a dragon appeared on the parchment.  The common belief among the staff was that if the Goyle boy did half as much of his time working as he did drawing, and very poorly at that, he might have a spot of a chance of having marks farther away from failure.  He only barely avoided failing marks, just squeaking by in most cases.  How he ever planned to pass the O.W.L.s, let alone the N.E.W.T.s, was beyond anyone.

               

Again Tom shrugged his shoulders and then returned to his studies.  They had an exam coming in Potions, a critical one, and he had every intention of passing it.  If one could not pass this exam, they had very little chance of passing the final one for the class.  Failing a class such as Potions now, as a second year, normally set up a student for failure down the road.  A third year that was barely able to brew a passable simple potion was indeed in a great deal of trouble later on.

               

As he worked on his dragon Alfred began to hum the bars of a highly disliked, especially among respectable witches and wizards, tune that was fit only for the rooms of one of the seedier taverns of their world.  It certainly was not tolerated within the confines of the walls of Hogwarts and Tom prepared to leave as the other boy began to sing the song quietly.  Tom knew that it was not going to stay that way and hurried to rise as the volume of the singing did the same.

               

Alfred was far too involved in his song to realize that his companion was leaving the table, and certainly too involved to notice that his singing was being heard by students and staff.  Disgusted looks shot his way and Tom was settling down at a different table when the librarian was arriving, with a thoroughly furious look on her face, at the table that he had evacuated.  Moments later, the singing stopped and Alfred was on his way to Professor Dippet’s office.

               

Another detention was ahead for the boy.

               

Tom noticed that the fact that he had left Alfred behind seemed to impress Molly.  As he looked at her the girl gave him a smile that seemed also to light up her eyes.  He watched as she gathered her things and then rose from where she sat to walk to his table.

               

“Tom,” she asked, “do you mind if I join you?”

               

“Please do,” he responded.”

               

The lithe blonde settled down onto the chair across from him and they began to study for the upcoming exam together.  It seemed rather odd to the girl to be working voluntarily with a boy that she had loved and then despised to the point of contacting her father.  She had come dangerously close to telling her father that Tom needed to leave Hogwarts and now was of the mind that if he had done so this last time she would have left Hogwarts herself.  Molly was certainly glad that she had not; going to Beauxbatons was not an option that she treasured.  There were many stories about the other school that circulated among the Hogwarts students, obviously not all of them were true and no doubt there were stories about Hogwarts that were similar circulating at the other school.

               

The pair studied for a long while, oblivious to the looks that were shot their way by students who believed what they had heard about the boy and who found it astounding that Molly Porter, of all people, was actually spending time that she did not have to with him.  It had been widely known that her father did not want his daughter spending time with Tom Riddle, but here she was sitting next to him as they studied.  She had actually left a group involved in the same activity to sit with him and it had stunned many at her table.

               

When the bells in the tower tolled announcing the class change the pair rose almost as one to walk together to Flying Practice.  They would walk side by side as they talked and many wondered when they would join hands.  It had been seen before and all had the impression that it would again. 

               

Tom turned his head to look at the girl who was walking with him and wished that she would take his hand.  It would not happen this time and, when they arrived at the practice ground, he was mildly disappointed but hopeful.  The girl was openly comfortable with him being near her and he knew that he would have to be patient if he wanted any chance of her becoming closer.

               

Today he flew better and higher than he ever had before, much to the amazement of Professor Horst.  The witch had no way of knowing, although she suspected, what was lifting the spirits of the young wizard.  Molly Porter had appeared with him at the field and both had seemed especially pleased with that fact.  There was little doubt in the mind of the professor, however, that Tom was happier about the absence of another girl.  Carol Markham had been a problem for him and now she was gone.

               

The witch wondered how things would be once the new term started in the fall and Carol Markham returned.  She was not an especially talented young witch, but could no doubt hold her own against Tom Riddle. 

 

‘That would be a duel to see,’ she mused, ‘and perhaps then we might see young Mister Riddle taken down a bit.  I would give quite a few Galleons to see that outcome.’

 

Tom was busy keeping track of what was going on around him as he flew.  They had been assigned a series of rather complex maneuvers and he had already seen two brooms skim the ground and throw their riders.  A collision with the earth was not his idea of a good time and he did his best to learn from the mistakes of others.  He watched as Molly, who was leading him, went into her dive and then executed the maneuver nearly flawlessly.  Cheers and shouts from other students showed their appreciation of what she had been able to accomplish.

 

The horizon tilted crazily before him as he tipped his own broom towards the ground in imitation of the successful display that he had just seen.  Cheers filled his ears as he too managed to avoid striking the ground during the task.  He had managed to do what he had been afraid to attempt and joy filled him as his broom tilted upward.  The world had stabilized and was coming upright again when he heard a yell of alarm and then saw a shape hurtling towards him. 

 

There was no time to avoid what was coming and, although he accelerated his broom, he knew that the collision was inevitable.  Seconds later the impact occurred and Tom felt as though he had flown into the side of the castle.  Once again the world tilted insanely as his broom whirled out of control and then began a plummeting descent towards the ground.

 

Screams of alarm sounded as a tree appeared before him and he knew that he was going to strike it.  Seconds later the branches and limbs drew him in as he left the broom to fall through the foliage.  Sharp pains filled him as he bounced off of limbs and twigs clawed at his flesh.

 

Then he was free of the tree and falling to the ground below.  The impact was not as bad as he had assumed that it would be and he had a brief image of people running towards him before the world went black and he knew no more.

               

When he awakened he was lying in a bed in the Hospital Wing.  He could the witch that oversaw the room and cared for the inevitable injuries and illnesses that came with the fact that they had many students in the school.  Children were notoriously known to have a propensity to injure themselves and loved to share illnesses, a school term kept her very busy.  She noticed that his eyes were open and hurried to his side.  When she arrived she looked down at him with eyes that were filled with both concern as well as disapproval.

               

“You very nearly did severe harm to yourself, Mister Riddle.  I would have assumed that you would have noticed the fact that Mister Crabbe was too close to you when you gained altitude.”

               

“Did he hit the ground too?”

               

“Somehow, no, he managed to regain control of his badly damaged broom.  That does not mean that he avoided injury but he certainly received nothing on the order of what you did.  He did have to be rescued from the top of a tree where his broom came to rest.”

               

This brought something of a smile as the thought of Crabbe being trapped in a tree brought visions to him.  Certainly Crabbe was not a friend, he was merely an acquaintance that was expendable.  He, like Goyle and Malfoy, were merely buffers should a scheme go bad.  Any of them would not be missed should they be lost.  The only thing that Tom Riddle would feel was relief at not being the unfortunate one walking out through the front doors of the castle, possibly never to return. 

               

“You had some visitors a bit ago, but you were still unconscious and I wanted you to get what rest that you could.”

               

“Who was it?”

               

“Well, Professor Horst was here to check on your well-being as was Professor Dippet.  Your friends, Albraxas Malfoy and William Crabbe, were here as well.  I imagine that Mister Goyle would have been as well, but they are still patching him up from his encounter with the tree.”

               

Tom was beginning to feel some disappointment until she continued.

               

“Miss Porter was here as well and she seemed more than a bit concerned about your condition.  She acted as though she wanted to sit with you until you woke up but I insisted that she leave.  You were not going to be much in the way of company at the time.”

               

“Did she say if she would return?”

               

“I had the impression that she intended to.”

               

The conversation was interrupted abruptly when Abraxas entered the room and walked towards the bed.  He had a broad smile on his face and Tom sighed inwardly.  This was not the company that he had desired.  Tom would much rather have seen the face of Molly Porter smiling at him.

               

When Malfoy did not get the response that he was expecting he replaced the smile with a frown.

               

“I guess that you were expecting Porter instead of me.”

               

“She is better looking and I would much rather get a kiss from her than I would from you.”

                 

A quick, and not truly sincere, laugh issued from the other boy and Tom could tell that Malfoy found no humor in the response that he had given.  The boy paused for a moment and then responded to Tom.

               

“Riddle, I truly think that the rap that you took to the head has done you serious harm.  You still are under the illusion that Porter truly cares about you but we both know the truth.”

               

Abraxas faltered for a moment as he caught the angered glance that the boy in the bed threw to him.  But, nonetheless, he continued.

               

“Tom,” he began, “we have been here at Hogwarts for two terms now and I would hope that you believe what I am saying.  If you do not then I am afraid that you are in for some severe disappointment in the future.”

               

“Porter does not truly care for you and never has.  She is doing her best to make you think that she is, but nothing could be further from the truth.  You have to understand that she is a Hufflepuff and you are a Slytherin.  Her parents might tolerate your presence now, but they will not allow anything to get into the way of the path that they have laid out for her.  She is from an influential family and you are not and have no real chance of securing her attentions for very long.”

               

“She is using you, Tom.  She is using you for a distraction and amusement while she is here at Hogwarts.  I have heard about some of the things that she has said about you and none of them are flattering.  She is not the princess that she makes out to be and talks about you as soon as she is done talking to you. “

               

“You might be thinking that getting rid of Markham is going to help you but nothing could be further from fact.  Porter is totally incensed that her friend is out of school and will very likely never forgive you.  Oh, she will act just as guileless as she has in the past but she is just waiting for a chance to shove the dagger into your back.”

               

Abraxas paused as he regarded the other boy and knew that he was walking a fine line.  The fact of the matter was that he wanted Molly Porter for himself and saw Tom merely as a roadblock.  As long as Tom was infatuated with Porter he was a situation to be dealt with.  Once Tom was out of the picture Malfoy felt that he could use the work that Riddle had done to capture Porter for his own benefit.  All that he had to make sure of was that Tom never discovered what he was up to.

               

Tom lay quietly in bed as he considered what his housemate was saying.  Much of it rang true, although he really did not want to believe any of it where Molly was concerned.  One of them was lying to him and he intended to find out whom.  Then the responsible party was going to pay a steep and painful price.

               

Tom Riddle wondered just which of the two it was going to be.



Chapter 32: Final Decisions
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The injuries that he received during his collision with Crabbe and the tree had not taken long to heal, thanks to the skills of the nurse and also his forced ingestion of a noxious potion that nearly all children who visited the Hospital Wing were forced to take.  It had not taken much to convince her that he was well enough to return to classes and he was soon leaving the room, while she choked down some of that very potion to cure the sudden pounding headache that had very suddenly come upon her.

               

Tom smiled as he walked away from the room.  His mind was filled with the vision of the nurse suddenly looking very ill and offering no objection to his desire to leave.  She had more than willingly sent him on his way while she tended to her own medical needs.

               

As happy as he was about being free once again, Tom was more than a bit perturbed about a conundrum that he faced.  Who was he to believe?  Both Abraxas and Molly had appeared at his bedside while he was being treated, albeit at different times, and both had professed to have only his best interests in mind.

               

But one of them was clearly lying to him, and he fully intended to find out who that was.

               

Whichever one of them it was they were going to regret it.  Retribution would be swift and he intended for that person to feel pain such as they had never experienced before.  The guilty one might just have to be forced out of Hogwarts as Carol Markham had been.  Neither of them was indispensable, although they both likely believed that they were, but for different reasons.

               

Of the two it was Molly Porter that he had to tread most lightly around and be more careful in dealing with.  Her father was a force to be reckoned with, having the authority and power to have him removed from Hogwarts.  He had enough influence with the Ministry of Magic as well as Headmaster Dippet to ensure that such a departure might be permanent.

               

Yes, he had to be careful in dealing with Molly Porter.  She was much more pleasurable to be around than Abraxas was anyway.

               

Abraxas had a number of things working against him anyway.  Tom had long suspected that the pale boy had desires for Molly and would stop at nothing to possess her.  His request for a kiss when he encountered her in Diagon Alley was more than enough evidence to support this suspicion.  But he also knew that he needed Malfoy.  Of the three fellow Slytherin that he tended to work with closely, Malfoy was the one in most possession of a sharp mind.  Neither of the other two, Crabbe or Goyle, had enough wit to be of much use if it came to a quick decision.

               

The only quick decision that they tended to be capable of was making their way to the Great Hall at meal times.  That was about the lot of their brain power.

               

He did not have to worry about Malfoy influence at the Ministry of Magic either.  While the ancient family still garnered some respect, many within their world disliked the clan.  All of the members of the family, especially the male members, had a perceivable superior persona around them, whether they deserved it or not.

               

Abraxas was reckless as well.  He tended to act without thinking about the consequences, while Molly Porter was sure to weigh all possibilities before doing anything.  She would be the most likely to consider the effects of her actions, especially if lying about her feelings for him.  He still had enough sway with her for the girl to think hard about something like this before making a dangerous decision.

               

There was also the fact that he had observed both of them from distances.  Never once, even when the pair was in close proximity to one another, had he ever seen anything approaching affection being shown to Malfoy by the girl.  She had, more than once, given him a fiery response to something that he had said, much to the amusement of bystanders who found a Malfoy getting told off highly entertaining.

               

Even the loss of Carol was not having the effect on the girl that Malfoy had tried to portray.  Certainly Molly had been upset by the actions of the other girl, with Carol’s public glee over the expulsion of Sarah being displayed in the Great Hall, in fact she had been enraged by the display.  Molly Porter, among all of the other things that she was, was a proponent for the afflicted and downtrodden and had seen that in the effect that the girl’s expulsion had had on him.  She had actually come to his defense when her father had come to Hogwarts to look into why his daughter was so upset.

               

As he journeyed towards Potions he made up his mind that the guilty party had to be Malfoy.  There was simply no other answer.  There had been truth in what the pale boy had said and tom realized it.  Although Molly was being kind to him at school once they were finished with their seventh year he had no reason to expect it to continue. 

               

Being from an influential and well to do family, Molly would be expected to marry well.  Tom knew that while Joseph and Lorraine Porter thought well of him as a friend to their child, they would never accept a marriage between the pair.  Their daughter’s future was assured, she would finish school near or at the top of her class, take up a good career and marry a wizard who could give her everything that a boy growing up among the Muggles could not.

               

Tom Riddle had nothing to offer their child or family.

               

As much as this angered him, Tom knew that they were correct in their thinking.  Before Dumbledore had handed him the pouches of coins with which to buy what he needed for school, Tom had never even seen a gold coin much less handling a bag filled with them.  In fact, had it not been for the wizard seeking him out, Tom was relatively certain that he never would have handled so much money ever in his life. 

               

Orphans in England did not tend to do well once they left the care of the orphanage where they had grown up.  Most ended up in filthy, menial jobs and living lives filled with poverty. 

               

This is the life that the boy had known was ahead of him had not Hogwarts interceded.

               

As he approached the door to the Potions classroom he grew angrier.  Both Molly and Abraxas would be in the room right now and he wondered what he would see when he entered the space.  The final corner appeared and he stepped around it to see that the door to the room stood open.  He would be able to see into the room before entering and perhaps get an idea of what was happening between the pair in his absence.

               

Professor Slughorn was busy at his board while he lectured and did not notice the appearance of Tom.  Neither did Molly or Abraxas and what Tom saw made his blood boil.

               

Molly was completely fixed on the lesson that the professor was given, her eyes never leaving him except when she needed to write something down for later use.  Crabbe and Goyle stood stock still at the front of the room with their noses against the wall and a small dish balanced on their heads.  This was clearly Slughorn’s idea of a punishment for some transgression or another.  Obviously, given the fact that they were both facing the same discipline, both boys had been involved in whatever had happened to anger the wizard. 

               

And that left Abraxas.

               

The pale boy had forsaken the seat that he normally occupied to appropriate the one that was normally Tom’s.  Molly was doing her best to ignore whatever comments that Malfoy was making and not being very successful at it.  True, she was paying attention in class but the disturbance being produced by the clearly unwanted attention from Abraxas was getting to her. 

 

And she did not appear happy about it at all.

 

Her normally fair face was reddened and shiny with tears that had escaped her eyes.  She was trying to keep her back to him as best as was possible but that did not dissuade the insistent boy.  As she turned her face away from him he reached forward to caress her blonde tresses.  She lurched forward at the touch and made some sort of noise that attracted the involved class and professor. 

 

Slughorn turned from his board and, still not seeing Tom, advanced on the girl.

 

“Miss Porter, is there some reason that you have elected to disturb my classroom?”

 

“I was not me, Professor Slughorn,” she responded.  “I may have made that noise but I am very tired of Abraxas Malfoy, his

inappropriate comments to me and his touching me.  He is not even sitting where he was assigned to.  He has been bothering the entire class since he knows that Tom is still in the Hospital Wing and not here to keep him away from me.”

 

“Porter is daft, Professor Slughorn, why would I bother a girl that would see the likes of Tom Riddle?  She is no better than he is, a Pure-Blood seeing a Half-Blood at best.  She deserves to be with him, living among the Muggles and barely scraping out a living.  If her parents ever find out about the attention that she shows him they will disown her and throw her right out of their house.  She is a disgrace to her family!”

 

There was a sharp intake of breath from several in the classroom, not only because of what had been said but also because some of the students had noticed the appearance of Tom.  Then there was another reason to gasp.

 

A blur of motion occurred and Abraxas found himself staring at the end of a drawn wand that was held firmly in the hand of Molly Porter.  Her normally kind features were filled with rage and she snarled at him as she spoke.

 

“Tell me why I should not do it, Malfoy!  Tell me why I should not use some of what I have learned to end your miserable existence.  I should reduce you to a pile of smoldering flesh and bone for what you have said to me.  You are a truly fine one to talk, I am a disgrace? 

 

Why do you not tell everyone here about the time that you asked me for a kiss while we were on Diagon Alley?  Why will you not tell Tom about all of the things that his “friend” says about him?  Why do you bother keeping those thick dolts around and calling them your friends?”

 

Her eyes were filled with tears that ran in a torrent down her face as she spoke.

 

“Perhaps it is because you fear getting into trouble and would rather it be one of them when one of your schemes falls apart!  You do not have the moral courage to take the blame for anything that you do, or the decency!  You are a pathetic person who is descended from a pathetic family that is laughed about or ignored by the respectable people in our world!  Yes, Tom is living with Muggles, but he is also managing to be a lot more respectable than you will ever dream about being.”

 

Abraxas stood frozen while the tip of the girl’s wand pressed against his throat.  He knew that the wrong thing said might be his final words and wondered which of the spells or charms that they had already learned would end his life.

 

“Miss Porter…”

 

“Stay out of it, Professor Slughorn,” she snarled once again.  “He is about to receive something that he has been asking for, and he has been doing it for a very long time.

 

“Miss Porter, I need you to drop your wand and I do mean right now!”

 

All eyes turned to the doorway where Headmaster Dippet stood.

 

“We can all get out of this situation quite painlessly as long as you do not leave Mister Malfoy as a puddle on the floor.  It would be dreadfully hard to clean up and even harder to explain to his parents.  Imagine what they would think if I had to send him home as the contents of a cauldron.  Please, Molly, lower your wand and let me deal with this.”

 

The girl glanced at the headmaster for a moment and then her features hardened again as Malfoy made a slight move to escape.

 

“Molly,” a new voice announced with a touch of pleading, “please do not do it.  Malfoy is not worth having to leave Hogwarts and maybe go to Azkaban.”

 

Tom stepped forward from where he had been and slowly advanced on the girl with his hand extended.

 

“Please lower your wand and give it to me.  He is not worth all of this.  I know how I feel about you and I hope that you feel the same about me.  I love you, Molly Porter, I love you and do not want to lose you.”

 

Molly looked at Tom for a moment and then back at Malfoy, who was trembling.

 

“I should do it, Malfoy, I should destroy you.  But that would mean that the elves would have to clean your smelly, loathsome remains off of the walls and floor and I do not want to put them through that.”

 

“Mister Malfoy will be dealt with,” Dippet interrupted, “but you need to put your wand down.”

 

“Molly, please give it to me,” Tom continued as he stepped to her side.  “I will never let anything happen to you, I promise.”

 

Molly looked at the boy and then nodded her head as she lowered her wand and then handed it to Tom.  Held breaths in the classroom were released and Molly collapsed into Tom’s arms while she sobbed uncontrollably.  Malfoy stepped back out of the range of the girl as Headmaster Dippet stepped forward to take the arm of the girl.

 

“Miss Porter, I am taking you to the Hospital Wing and then, once they have seen to you, will be discussing this incident with you in my office.  Mister Malfoy, you may also count on spending some time with me and it will not be pleasant.”

 

Tom handed the wand of the girl to the wizard and then was stunned when Molly threw her arms around him to kiss him deeply while she sobbed.

 

“I love you, Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

 

A short time later she and Dippet vanished with a POP.

 

Malfoy stood where he had been while he regained some of his bravado.

 

“What did I tell you all,” he announced with wide spread arms.  “Porter is daft, she is a mental case, and no one can see through it because of her pretty face and blonde hair.  Once they are done with her at the Ministry of Magic you can count on finding her working as a barmaid down at the Three Broomsticks…”

 

There was probably going to be more said but it was interrupted by Tom’s fist striking the other boy squarely on the jaw.  Malfoy fell backwards, tumbling over benches as he went and upsetting a brewing potion that luckily did not land on him.  He fought wildly to regain his balance as Tom piled into him again, striking him in the face over and over again while the pale boy did all that he could to defend himself.

 

“This is what I learned from living with the Muggles, Malfoy.  I learned how to fight.”

 

Malfoy, reeling from a blow, collided with Crabbe and spilled the contents of the dish down off of the head of the larger boy.  Instantly both of them were stained a wonderful shade of green, some of which speckled Tom as well but the dark haired boy was too enraged to even notice it.

 

“Petrificus Totalis!”

               

Instantly all three boys, Crabbe included, were frozen in place with their arms and legs snapped closely together.  A still breathing hard Slughorn slipped his wand back into his robes and then he turned back to his class.

               

“All of you are dismissed.  I expect each and every one of you to be prepared to brew an acceptable potion tomorrow.  Now get out of here and I mean right now!”

               

Crabbe stirred as he was released by the counter to the spell and then hurried to leave, ignoring his emerald state, while casting a strange glance back at the pair that still lay on the ground.

               

A short time later the pair would sit in chairs in the office of Headmaster Armando Dippet while they waited for him as well as Molly Porter.  Professor Albus Dumbledore sat quietly with them, thus preventing any further hostilities.  The sudden appearance of Dippet and Molly made all of them look up.  Molly walked slowly to a chair that had appeared for her while the small headmaster looked at the trio of students.

               

“I must say that this is an unprecedented occasion.  I have three different types of students before me and am not quite certain how to proceed.  I have a student who is no stranger to my office and I can tell you, Mister Malfoy, that this does not improve my mood.  Mister Riddle has also been here before but there have been explanations as to his actions.  You, Miss Porter, are a relative new comer, I do not believe that I have ever had to have you in my office before, but you are here nonetheless.”

               

Dippet paused as he surveyed the three children before him.

               

“I am going to deal with all three of you tonight and I hope that this discipline teaches you all something.”

               

This was suddenly interrupted by a POP that announced the appearance of Joseph Porter.  Molly buried her face in her hands at the sight of her father and sobbed quietly.

               

“Mister Riddle, you did an incredibly brave and heroic thing when you stepped into the middle of that confrontation, especially when there was a drawn wand.  You could have been injured in the process, perhaps seriously, but you saved two classmates.  One from possible death and the other from life in Azkaban.  But then you chose a path that I understand was driven by the comments made by another of you here.”

               

“Mister Riddle, I am going to sentence you to the remainder of the term in the Isolation Tower.  You will not be permitted to journey into the lower levels as you have in the past.  Instead you shall remain in the main level where you shall work on your studies.  Each of the professors will send you tasks to complete and I shall be available to help you with any difficulties.  I need you to leave now and your wand shall remain here.  It will be available to you when and only when your studies require it.”

               

Tom rose and turned to leave the room pausing only when he heard Molly’s voice.

               

“Tom,” she whispered, “thank you for stepping in when you did.  You truly do love me I can see that now.  I love you too.”

               

The girl rose from her chair to embrace him and then kiss him while her father looked on without an attempt to intervene.

               

Molly sat back down as Dumbledore escorted the boy that she loved out of the room.

               

“Mister Malfoy, what am I ever going to do with you?  You persist in believing that whatever you want is yours for the taking and you are quite mistaken.  Miss Porter is not a piece of furniture for you to say is yours.  She has a choice in things regarding her life and has expressed this to you on a number of occasions.  But you refuse to listen to her wishes and this habit has brought us to now.”

               

“You did, in front of a group of your peers, make very crude and inappropriate comments concerning Miss Porter and Mister Riddle.  You persisted in attempting physical contact with Miss Porter, which she has made very clear that she does not want.  You have, on a number of occasions made life here at Hogwarts unbearable for the pair of them and now I need to deal with this.”

               

“Abraxas Malfoy, I am expelling you from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the remainder of the term.  You shall be permitted to return at the beginning of the next, but shall need to walk a very fine line.  Your behavior shall be monitored and, should I deem it necessary I shall have no issue with removing you from this school permanently.  As you have been expelled I could take your wand and destroy it.  But I shall take it into my custody and it shall be returned, unharmed and whole, to you upon your return.  I need your wand now.”

               

Abraxas hesitated for a moment and had started to pull it from his robes before stopping.  Dippet looked at him sternly and then spoke once again.

               

“Mister Malfoy, if you do not hand me your wand I shall make the expulsion permanent right now and you will find yourself getting a visit from a team of Aurors that have orders to take the wand into their custody.  Make your decision now!”

               

With a deep sigh the pale boy withdrew his wand from his robes and handed it to the headmaster.  Then he rose and walked out of the room, nearly colliding with Junior Professor Tobias Leeds.  Together they walked away toward the Entrance Foyer where the boy would find his things, and his father, waiting for him.

               

Armando Dippet looked at the occupant of the remaining chair for a moment before speaking softly.

               

“Miss Porter, I have the utmost respect for you and your family.  You are an exemplary student that shall go far in your life.  I know that you were severely provoked down in that classroom by what Mister Malfoy said about you and Mister Riddle.  I understand that emotions got the better of you and that normally you would not even consider drawing your wand in anger while here at Hogwarts, but you did and that cannot be ignored.”

               

“Miss Porter, your actions have placed me in a delicate position.  I agree with your feelings but disagree strongly with your solution to those feelings.  This puts me at a decision that I had hoped to never have to make.  Clearly I cannot refuse to punish you the Malfoys would never stand for that and, even though they do not have the influence that your family does, they would make a convincing argument with the Ministry of Magic to have you charged.”

               

Molly cried softly while her father looked on quietly.

               

“Miss Porter, I have no choice,” Armando Dippet announced after taking a deep breath, “but to expel you from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the remainder of the term.  You shall be allowed to return at the commencement of the next school term but, like Mister Malfoy, your behavior shall be closely watched.  As your father is here, I shall permit you to leave with him but leave you shall.  I also, as was the case with both Mister Riddle and Mister Malfoy, require you to leave your wand with me.  It shall be returned, unharmed and whole, to you when you arrive at Hogwarts in the fall.

               

Molly nodded quietly as she drew her wand from her robes and then rose to hand it to the headmaster before speaking.

               

“I am so sorry for what I did, Headmaster Dippet.  I shall spend the summer thinking about my missteps and learning from them.”

               

“That, Miss Porter, is all that I can ask for.  I am certain that you are concerned about the marks for this term and can tell you that the scores that you have achieved thus far shall be sufficient to award you a satisfactory completion of your second year here at Hogwarts.  You have nothing to be concerned about in that respect.  Have a good summer, Miss Porter.”

               

“I shall, Headmaster Dippet,” she responded while also taking a longing glance at the wand that he had placed on the table next to him.

               

Joseph Porter put his arm around his daughter and then the pair vanished with a POP leaving Headmaster Armando Dippet to consider what might have been if not for the fact that Tom Riddle had stepped into the middle of things.

               

Tom stood in the middle of the common room of the Isolation Tower while he wondered what had happened to Abraxas and, more importantly, Molly. 

               

He considered how the remaining two and a half weeks remaining in the term would be, especially since he could not venture towards Slytherin’s office.  A swift examination of the door which led to the staircase proved that it was solidly locked.  There was no way that he was going through it.

               

Although Tom did not know it, things were changing in the world outside of Hogwarts.  The Muggle world was in the beginnings of a conflict which would last for years.  It would have an effect on him, and other Hogwart students who were Muggle born, that would steer his course into the future.

               

Tom spent the remainder of the term quietly studying everything that he could and discovered a wondrous library that he had never known existed.  It did have an odd habit about it because any book that he removed from the room to look at during the evening would vanish from his room and be found the next day back on the shelves.  He also was forced to deal with the presence of the ghosts of long dead students that wandered the halls of the Isolation Tower at night.

               

None of this truly bothered him, it just reinforced his resolve to find a way to live forever.

               

Finally he was permitted to rejoin his classes to take the final exams.  He was more than prepared for them and they seemed to almost be too easy but upon return to the Isolation Tower he found several parchments with Best in Class written at the top.

               

He had done it!  He had finished his second year at Hogwarts and was now able to return to the ancient school as a third year. 

               

The next morning he found that only his traveling clothes remained and he changed into them knowing that soon he would have to start with the beginnings of a summer in London with Mrs. Cole and her constant nagging.  But the summer would be short and soon he would be back here where he felt that he truly belonged.

               

Dippet and Dumbledore met him as he prepared to leave for the summer and, regretting that he had to do it, Tom handed over his wand.

               

“Mister Riddle, I sincerely hope that you have a wonderful summer in London.”

               

“I shall, Headmaster Dippet, I certainly shall.”

               

Dumbledore walked out of the castle with the boy and then the pair stopped as the professor spoke. 

               

“Tom,” he began, “there are dark clouds coming and things will change for many.  Do your best to not become a part of what I fear is going to be a terrible conflict.  Do you understand?”

               

“I believe so, Professor Dumbledore.”

               

Albus Dumbledore nodded quietly before shaking the hand of the boy who was starting to become a man.

               

“Have a wonderful summer, Tom.”

               

“And the same to you, Professor Dumbledore.”

               

Albus Dumbledore watched as the dark haired boy climbed onto one of the carriages and then as it vanished down the lane to Hogsmeade Station.  Only when it was out of sight did he turn away while he thought to himself.

               

‘Tom, I would prefer to believe you and what you say but I fear that you shall, perhaps without even knowing it, become part of a large conflict.’

               

Albus Dumbledore walked back to the castle thinking about the boy and, inexplicably, crying.

 

 

This concludes the third story in The Early Life of Tom Riddle series.  The series shall be continued as it seems to be popular with my faithful readers and the first chapters have already been written and, once they have been typed and edited, shall be posted to a new work that has yet to be named.  I wish to thank J.K. Rowling for her splendid works that serve as an inspiration for these stories.  I also would like to thank HarryPotterFanFiction for providing this wonderful forum for our use.

 

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