Billy Stubbs lay at the bottom of the stairs that he had just fallen down as a group began to gather around the child. Tom was among those standing around Billy as Martha examined him. He was trying to look concerned about the welfare of the other child and hoped that the ruse was successful. As he had been talking to Martha when Billy had fallen there was no chance that he could be blamed for the mishap and nothing could make him happier.

Since he had returned to the orphanage he had managed to test the waters and pull a few pranks on the unsuspecting residents of the building. He knew that he had to be careful as Professor Dumbledore had warned him about the use of magic outside of school and the consequences that could arise should he do so.

As he watched Martha help Billy to his feet, Tom was amazed at the ease he had experienced in arranging the little “accident” for the boy. Before he had started attending Hogwarts Tom had found that he had had to concentrate hard to make things happen, but now it was relatively easy to do so. He didn’t even need the wand that he had left at Hogwarts to do some of the things that he wanted. A simple thought was all that was required and the deed was done.

Billy was soon in the office of Mrs. Cole and the door was closed which left many of the children to their own devices. Tom thought about leaving the building and walking to the shop where the candy had been purloined so many months before. Memories of the shelves falling and candy filling his pocket dominated his mind, as did the thought of nearly being nicked by the officer who had entered the shop. It had all turned out well until the owner of the shop had come to the door of the orphanage to recover what had been taken. Tom could still see the covered body on the courtyard ground after the man had died a mysterious death that was no mystery to the boy.

The thought about leaving was dispelled as Mrs. Cole’s office door opened and the matron stepped out into the hallway to shoo the children on to their tasks. Tom was grateful about the fact that he didn’t have to worry much about the lessons that the children had to endure. A bit if concentration had given Mrs. Cole the impression that the boy did not need to attend class with his peers as he had already covered the material at school. The matron had been confused at first until Tom had pushed a little harder, something that gave Mrs. Cole an incredible headache.

He watched as the children filed into the classroom, followed by Mrs. Cole, and the door closed behind them. As he listened, he could hear the lessons begin and he smiled to himself as he walked back up the stairs to his room. While he ascended the stairs, his mind drifted back to Molly Porter, the one thing that he had ever cared about as much as the toy truck that still lay concealed in the cabinet in his room.

Despite their argument in the corridor outside the Great Hall, Tom still had some semblance of feelings for the girl. True, her absence freed him from the constraints that she had represented, but he missed her presence already. Molly Porter had represented a kindness that he had never experienced before and now she no longer wished for him to be around. What he feared the most when they returned to Hogwarts after the holiday was the probability of seeing her with another boy and he wasn’t certain that he could control what would happen then.

One thing that he was certain of, despite his initial angry thoughts, was the fact that he could never bring himself to harm the girl. Memories of her brown eyes warmed his being as he thought back to the way that he had felt when he had looked into them. He also remembered the hurt and then rage when he had looked into them last and realized that her will was probably as strong as his.

He entered his room and sat down on the bed to look at a book that he had “borrowed” from another student during the ride home on the train. Although he doubted that suspicion would fall on him, he fully intended to leave the item on the train when he returned to school. It would have to be tucked down beside something to make it appear as though it had fallen there and been missed.

Tom smiled as he looked at the book with its pictures that moved. Muggle books had no fascination to him now and he wanted to avoid them as much as possible during break. The sound of knocking at his door made him jump and he jammed the book under his pillow just as Martha opened the door.

“Tom, I need to do some shopping and wondered if you would want to come with me.”

“I will be right down. I just need to get my coat.”

“I shall see you there, but be certain to dress for the weather. It is getting frightfully cold out there.”

He watched as she turned and then closed the door behind her before grabbing the book and hurrying to his cabinet. A moment later, the truck saw daylight again as the board that concealed it was lifted and the book carefully placed in the cavity beside it. He put the board back into place and watched as the nails sank back down to hold it tightly. There was now no chance that the hidden objects would be found by anyone who decided to snoop.

Pulling his jacket off of the hook it occupied, he hurried down the stairs to see Martha waiting for him at the door. She smiled at the boy as he arrived at her side and then opened the front door so that they could go on their way.

They had soon crossed the courtyard and were walking towards the shop while Martha talked to him.

“Do you like your school, Tom?”

“It is incredible, Martha, I have learned so much from the professors there.”

“Well, they certainly seem to have made an impression on you. You are such a polite young man now and I could not be happier. That rather cold child that left here to go to school must have gone forever because I see no sign of him now. This morning, when Billy fell down the stairs, you actually were at his side before I was.”

“It frightened me, Martha. They have taught me to care about other people and I have taken the lessons to heart. I know that what I did in the past was wrong, such as stealing from others, and I have no intention of repeating my actions.”

The boy was satisfied as he watched the woman nod while she listened to what he was saying. He had been afraid that she would see through him, but she seemed entirely convinced by him. It actually almost hurt Tom to lie to Martha. She had been his one source of comfort at the orphanage while other people had made him feel unwanted.

They continued their trip to the shop, Tom pulling the wagon behind him, and talked about Tom’s school. He was careful to not let any details about the school escape, telling her that it was a boarding school where bright children learned from accomplished masters. Lie after lie piled up as he wove a story about the school and his growing importance there. His marks were stellar and he never once had been reprimanded by the professors or headmaster and Martha seemed to accept it all as the truth.

While the boy talked, he had no idea that Martha suspected some of what he was telling her was untrue. The seed of doubt had been planted when his thefts had been revealed before he left to go to school and, with no way to check what he was telling her, she tended to not believe all that he was saying to her.

The shop appeared before them and they were soon entering the structure that Tom remembered so well. He could see the shelves that had fallen to cover his crimes and the rest of the shop looked the same as well. But what he didn’t like was the fact that the jars that the candy was held in now rested on a shelf behind the counter. There was no way to get to them without being noticed.

He watched as the shopkeeper approached and then as Martha handed the man the list that she needed filled. A boy a few years older than Tom stepped forward to take instructions from his employer and then walked towards the back of the store to begin carrying the sacks of food that was required toward the front of the shop. Tom remembered that soon the boy would carry the sacks out to the wagon that he had pulled from the orphanage and, once the wagon was filled, Martha and he would begin the trip home. He cast a longing glance at the jars of candy before following Martha around the interior of the shop while she pulled jars from the shelves and placed them in the basket that she carried.

When the shopping finally ended, he walked with Martha to the counter and watched as she handed him the piece of paper that always changed hands. Then she looked down at Tom and smiled at him.

“Would you like a piece of candy, Tom?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said as his expression brightened despite the gloom outside which foretold bad weather coming in.

A moment later, he was popping the piece of candy into his mouth as the transaction ended and he joined Martha in carrying their parcels out to the wagon. The woman carefully placed the items into the wagon as Tom lifted the arm to pull the vehicle home.

As they walked, Tom realized that the wagon was heavier than normal. Martha had obviously done her shopping for the holiday meal and intended to fill the shelves in her pantry. The mouth of the boy watered as he remembered that Martha always served ham at the Christmas meal and he loved ham. They talked quietly down the street and very soon were stopping outside the shop of the butcher where Martha bade him to stop while she went in to get what had been ordered.

He watched as she vanished into the building and then whirled as a voice he remembered called out to him and a rock sailed harmlessly past his head. As he turned he could see the boys that had given him such grief about the toy truck so long before.

“Oi, Jimmy, look who’s here, it’s that filthy bastard from the orphanage!”

“”Ave you figured out who yer father is? Or is he too ashamed to admit that yer his?”

Tom stood silently as the boys hurled insults at him and it was when the larger of the two boys stooped, picked up some horse droppings from a nearby pile and then hurled them at him that he responded without thinking. The boys suddenly were picked up and thrown several yards through the air to land on the street behind them. Uncertain about what had happened, the boys lay there stunned for a moment before they were abruptly assailed by a cloud of horse droppings from a nearby pile that a worker had been gathering. Astounded passersby watched in disbelief as the manure struck the boys again and again until they were soiled heavily by the refuse. They managed to climb to their feet and then ran from the scene, crying as they went, while a crowd gathered around the scene of the activity.

Tom stood stock still as he realized what had happened and remembered the warning that they had all been given prior to getting onto the train to leave Hogsmeade. He could still hear Headmaster Dippets clearly in his head as the wizard spoke to the gathered first years.

‘You all need to remember that you are forbidden to use magic outside of the walls of this castle. Any use of magic by underage wizards or witches will be dealt with harshly by the Ministry of Magic and could result in expulsion of the offending student from Hogwarts.’

As he thought back to the words of the headmaster, Tom felt a cold sweat form on his skin and his heart pounding frantically. He hadn’t meant to use magic, it had just happened, the way that it always did when he was angry or scared. The boy dropped the handle of the wagon and sat down on the steps to the building as he began to weep and fearful thoughts entered his mind.

‘What will become of me? If I get expelled from Hogwarts will I have to go back to that damned orphanage until they throw me out as a grown-up? What will I do then?’

Summoned by the commotion, Martha stepped out of the building to find Tom sitting on the front step in tears. She looked around and saw only curious gazes being directed, not at the boy, but at the street in front of the pedestrians.

“What happened, Tom?” Martha asked as she knelt next to him.

“The boy has done nothing, ma’am, there is no way that he could have done what happened here.”

Martha looked up at the male voice to see a police officer standing over them.

“I have never seen the like, two boys were picking on the lad and suddenly they were thrown through the air. Your lad had nothing to do with it! He was several feet from them when it happened. Then that pile of horse manure flew into the air and started to hit them over and over again. Your lad never raised a hand against them, he just stood there while they gave him an incredibly hard time and one of them threw some of the manure at him.”

Tom raised his head to look at the person who was speaking and then started as he saw a familiar face in the crowd behind the police officer. Set apart from the normally dressed Muggles was a figure in a brightly colored suit. The eyes behind the half-moon glasses and the auburn hair and beard could only belong to one person and Tom knew very well who that person was.

Martha noticed Dumbledore as well as he stepped forward from the crowd, oblivious to the stares that he was drawing from the gathered passersby. The approaching gentleman, although apparently a bit eccentric, looked familiar and it was only when he arrived at their side that she recognized him.

“Sir, you came to the orphanage a few months ago, didn’t you?”

“I did indeed.”

“I am quite sorry sir; I have forgotten your name. Please forgive me.”

“No apologies are necessary, ma’am. I am Albus Dumbledore and I teach at the school that young Tom attends. I just happened to be passing by when the commotion occurred and, when I saw Tom here, I thought perhaps I should stop.”

Although Martha believed every word that Dumbledore was saying, Tom knew the truth. The professor had apparated here to investigate the disturbance, which meant that Professor Dippet was also aware of the trouble and probably the Ministry of Magic as well.

“Tom, I believe that I shall walk with you and this kind lady back to the orphanage. We have something to discuss and it cannot wait.”

Tom nodded numbly as he rose from where he was seated and then took the handle of the wagon before the group continued on their trip to Wool’s Orphanage. As they walked, Tom had a horrible thought; he wondered if Dumbledore also knew about the book that lay hidden in his cupboard. The professor had been quite adamant about the lack of tolerance for theft at Hogwarts and he had no doubt that that lack of understanding extended to the train.

When they arrived at the structure, Dumbledore graciously assisted the pair with the job of bringing their packages into the building. Once the wagon was emptied Tom led the professor up to his room and then sat down on his bed as the door closed behind them. It was only then that Professor Albus Dumbledore spoke to Tom Riddle.

“Tom, you need to be aware of the fact that Professor Dippet is aware of this incident and the Ministry of Magic is as well. This is a very serious matter Tom; the Ministry could expel you from Hogwarts if they think that you intentionally are using magic outside of school.”

“I did not do it on purpose Professor Dumbledore; it just happened because I got angry.”

“You have to be very careful with your abilities.”

“Are they really going to expel me?”

“Tom, I am going to be perfectly honest with you. I have no idea what they might decide to do but, given the fact that you have exhibited this tendency before, they are going to look very strongly at this incident.”

The boy nodded solemnly as he thought about what the wizard before him was saying. He could end up living in this orphanage until Mrs. Cole decided that he was old enough to be on his own. Then he would have to find a way to support himself and the chances of that were small. His future was bleak indeed if things did not change. Tom felt wet warmth flowing down his cheeks from his eyes and realized that he was crying again. He reached up to wipe the tears away as he looked up at Dumbledore.

“Tom, there is also the matter of the item that does not belong to you that is hidden in your cupboard. You were told that theft was not tolerated at Hogwarts but you took another person’s belonging just the same. I will ask you for that item so that it can be returned to its proper owner upon your return to school.”

Tom nodded and then rose from his bed to walk to the cabinet. Very soon, the book was once again in his hands and he was giving it to Dumbledore. The tall wizard looked down at the boy for a moment and then tucked the book into his robes.

“You must refrain from further actions such as these, Tom. While I believe it highly unlikely that you will be expelled from school, this incident will be noted in your record both at Hogwarts and at the Ministry. You would do well not to draw further attention to yourself.”

Dumbledore turned and stepped towards the door and Tom watched anxiously as he did so. When the tall wizard left the room the boy hurried to the cupboard to ensure that the board once again concealed the truck in its hiding place. When all appeared normal he turned back to his room and was stunned to see an envelope appear out of thin air. It hung silently in the air until he approached and then opened on its own. A piece of cream colored parchment with neat black script unfolded itself and then began to speak after forming a strange face that addressed him.

"Dear Mister Riddle,"

“It has come to the attention of the Ministry that at 1:34 p.m. you, Thomas Marvolo Riddle, performed magic on a street crowded with Muggles. This is a direct violation of the Decree for the reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery.”

“The result of this activity, while not intentional or severe enough to warrant expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, led to the deployment of an Obliviator squad to remove the memories of the incident from the minds of the affected Muggles.”

“A notation of this incident shall be attached to your file in the Ministry until such a time as you become an adult. You shall be permitted to return to school after the holiday break, but you must understand the severity of the punishments that could be dealt to you should you repeat this activity.”


Mildred Abernathy Deputy Minister Department of Magical Law Enforcement                                                                                                                                                                               

A moment later, the letter simply vanished leaving no trace and Tom understood why. The Ministry of Magic was not about to leave a letter on their letterhead lying around for a Muggle to find. As bad as what he had done was, if such a letter was found by Muggles, the damage to the Wizarding World might be irreparable. Certainly their world would be exposed to the knowledge of the mundane Muggle society and then who knew what could or would happen.

He sat down on the chair at the window and looked out at the snow that was beginning to fall. How he wished that he could be at Hogwarts with all of its warmth, instead of here at this forlorn building where, even with the steam radiators working efficiently, there was always the coldness of disdain and lack of love. Tom promised himself that, once he was old enough, he would leave this horrid place and never return to it.

Deep within his heart Tom knew that the holiday would be anything but joyful and, because he had to be careful about the use of magic, he would be condemned to spend the time as one of those that he despised, a filthy Muggle.

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