Molly Porter sat quietly in her bedroom at home while she enjoyed the final few days of holiday break. It had been peaceful at home, actually rather boring, as her older siblings had not returned for Christmas. The result had been that her mother had been rather upset with them and it had affected the girl.

What had affected her more, however, was the conflict with Tom Riddle. She still truly cared for him although she now understood that he had very little in the way of similar feelings towards her. What she had mistaken for affection from him had actually been carefully veiled derision. The boy was actually very cold when he dealt with others and she had been a fool to believe that he had any true feelings for her. Her friends had been at her frequently to leave him behind, for they could see through him easily and understood that their friend was going to be hurt in the end.

The girl glanced at her wand as it lay silently on her bed beside her. Her parents had been instructing her while she practiced what she was learning at Hogwarts and she was grateful for their help. Her mother was quite accomplished in potion making while her father had been at the top of his class in charms while he had attended Hogwarts. The young girl was benefiting from their expertise and her marks at school reflected that.

A brisk knock on her bedroom door gathered her attention and she looked up to see her mother poking her head into the room.

“Molly, dear, I’m going to Diagon Alley and wondered if you wanted to go along.”

The child answered by nearly springing off of her bed and gathering her coat from the closet where it had been hung by one of their house-elves. She hurried out of the room and to her mother’s side where she took hold of her mother’s cloak. A moment later they were appearing on the snow covered cobblestones of Diagon Alley.

“I have a few things to get for a potion I am preparing. Here is some money,” her mother said as she handed the girl a few coins, "in case you see something that you would like to have. I will find you when I finish at the apothecary and then we can have a bite to eat.”

Molly watched as her mother walked into the building that she needed and then turned to hurry to Flourish and Blotts to look for something to read. The girl enjoyed browsing in the shop and her mother knew where she would find her child. Most children would have gone to the local Honeyduke’s or something of the like, but not Molly; she preferred to immerse herself in a book of some sort.

The girl stepped into the shop and immediately walked to a display of brightly colored books which bore a picture of Hogwarts Castle on the cover. She grinned as she pulled one from the stack and opened it to look at a large picture of the Great Hall. The child imagined that she was one of the many students pictured moving about and sitting at the long tables during one of the meals. She could clearly see Hufflepuff’s table and the rest of the chamber.

Molly stood there for a long moment looking through the pages before closing the book and looking at the title “Hogwarts: A History”. She knew that she had seen a much older edition than this one in the library at school and glanced at the writing below the title that stated “The Very Newest Edition!”

Tucking the book under her arm she walked over to another table to see a textbook like one that she had. She gave it only a passing glance before walking to the counter and placing her selection in front of the clerk who looked at it and smiled.

“The very newest edition indeed, I remember buying the very newest edition myself when I was a child about your age. But I suppose they find new information about the castle every year, especially when the new class graduates and new students start there. Do you attend Hogwarts, dear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What House did you get sorted into?”

“Hufflepuff. My parents both were in that House.”

“Ah, you are a legacy then.”

“I suppose. Did you attend Hogwarts?”

“Yes, I attended Hogwarts many years ago, probably before your grandparents were born. I was sorted into Ravenclaw, though.”

Molly enjoyed the conversation while she handed the requested amount to the clerk. Then she watched as the book was wrapped and tied before taking it back into her arms.”

“Enjoy the book, young lady.”

“I will, sir, thank you so much.”

“You are certainly most welcome.”

Molly waved good-bye and turned to leave only to run into Abraxas Malfoy. She blanched as she realized who she had collided with and, after apologizing, tried to walk around him. The boy stepped back into her path and she understood that she would have to endure his company.

“Where are you going in such a hurry? Anxious to get away from me are you?”

“Leave me alone, Abraxas! Go have fun with your thick headed friends, Crabbe and Goyle.”

“They’re around here somewhere, but it’s you that I want to spend time with. Tom was fool for letting you get away, but I am no fool. Will you come with me so that we can talk?”

“I have no interest in talking to the likes of you or spending any time more than necessary in your company.”

“There is no reason for you to be so rude, Molly, I just want to talk to you and maybe get one of those kisses like you used to give Tom. He told me all about them and how you made him feel when you gave him one.”

“Get away from me.”

Abraxas suddenly backed away and Molly turned to see the clerk that had helped her standing behind her. The elderly man didn’t look happy to see the harassment that the girl was experiencing and intended to deal with it.

“Is this young man bothering you, young lady?”

“No, sir, he is getting out of my way right now and is going to stay away from me if he knows what is good for him.”

“I shall see you to the door, nonetheless, to make certain that is what happens.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The boy could only watch as the girl that he desired was escorted to the door of the shop and then leaned up to give her escort a kiss on the cheek before she left the building to join her mother. The elderly wizard turned back to the boy and fixed him with an angry glare that would follow Abraxas as he too left the shop.

Molly had hurried to her mother’s side and the pair walked to a nearby café to enjoy a quiet meal together before they returned home. The girl watched as Abraxas rejoined his family and breathed a sigh of relief when the group did not make its way to the café that she was in. This sigh of relief did not go unnoticed by her mother and a frown crossed the face of the older witch.

“Are you having problems with the Malfoys?”

“Abraxas is so vile, Mother. He accosted me in the book shop and only the intervention of one of the clerks made him leave me alone.”

“Surely it could not have been all that bad.”

“He wanted me to give him a kiss.”

The sharp intake of breath from her mother told the girl that her parent was shocked by the statement and the look in her mother’s eyes betrayed the emotions going through the mind of the witch. The Malfoy family lived not far from them and had often been in their home as guests, but Molly knew that those visits, as infrequent as they were, would be sharply curtailed given the turn of events.

“Are you angry with me, Mother?”

“Not in the least, Molly. Abraxas should have been taught better than that. It does not speak well of his family that he should be so forward as to expect a kiss from a young lady, especially given your age.”

Molly knew now that she could only hope that Abraxas, stung by her rejection of him, never revealed the fact that Molly had kissed Tom Riddle several times. To make matters worse, the girl knew that she had been seen kissing the older boy several times after she and Tom had parted ways. Her parents were horribly old fashioned and still held a sense of propriety that should have been left in the time of her grandparents. This boiled down to the fact that should her secrets ever become known she would face punishment by one, if not both, of her parents.

The meal was finished quickly and, if Molly had expected her mother to rise and lead her out of the café she was mistaken.

“Molly, we get so few times to talk, that I thought that we could visit for a time. I have missed you so much since you have been away at Hogwarts and I wondered if you had made any friends there.”

“Oh, yes, Mother, I have met so many wonderful people and have a lot of friends to spend time with. The professors are so nice, especially Professor Dumbledore, and they help me if I have questions.”

“I had wondered if Dumbledore was teaching there now, he was a junior professor when your father and I were students there. What does he teach?”

“He is my Transfiguration professor and the head of Gryffindor House.”

“That makes sense. Dumbledore was a Gryffindor himself when he was a student at Hogwarts. Professor Dippet is the Headmaster now?”

“Yes, I like talking to him. He is so funny and kind.”

“Are there any of the boys that you like?”

“I like some of them, but only from a distance.”

“I sincerely hope that it stays that way for a few more years.”

“Yes, Mother.”

Abraxas had noticed where Molly had gone, but had no desire to have to deal with the mother of the girl. Lorraine Porter was known to have a swift temper and also a burning desire to protect her children, having been likened to a mother bear with a cub. He had no reason to desire to have his family brought into this or to have the visits to the Porter home that they often enjoyed brought to an end. The Porter family was influential and well thought of in the Wizarding World, having a reputation and standing that even the Malfoys envied.

The boy walked up to his bedroom and flopped back onto the bed as he stared up at the ceiling. Tom was out of the way, Molly had said that, and he doubted that she really cared for Thomas, so how did he work his way into her life. His parents had often stated that they hoped that he and the girl would someday wed and bring their families together. How could he tell them what he had done in the book shop and how Molly had reacted to his advances?

While Abraxas pondered his problem, Molly and her mother sat quietly in the café while they enjoyed tea and cakes. Molly watched as her mother displayed polite etiquette and tried to emulate what she was seeing. Nothing less than an honest attempt at such would please her mother and the girl did the best that she could. Molly would breathe a silent sigh of relief when her mother finally rose and they left the nearly silent room to return to their home.

Neither Molly nor Abraxas could have realized that Tom was facing his own problems. Life in the orphanage had taken a turn towards the unbearable after his accidental use of magic in the streets of London and the letter from the Ministry of Magic. He had been trying to keep his emotions in check as he attempted to ignore provocations from the other children as well as Mrs. Cole. The matron had been watching his every move and he found this extremely aggravating. As he sat in the small room that was his sole sanctuary he thought back to Molly.

She was the only person that he could remember that had ever told him that she loved him. Not even Martha, as caring as she was, had ever expressed such affection for him and he had often wondered if anyone ever would. Now the girl had and he had tossed that affection away like a piece of discarded refuse. He wondered if she would even consider speaking to him when they both returned to Hogwarts and knew that it would probably take a supreme effort to get her to even consider looking at him the way that she once had.

He flinched as he heard the voice of Mrs. Cole calling for him and he rose from the chair that he had been sitting in to walk to the door and open it in time to hear her call all for dinner. To delay in reporting for dinner often meant that one would do without it and he had no desire to miss a meal. He left the room and trudged down the stairs to join the queue of boys that was gathering at the door to the washroom. Soon enough he was washing his hands and face before walking to the table and taking his seat.

As luck would have it, his seat had him facing the small cabinet that held the elephant. Mrs. Cole had come upon the key to the curio and had replaced the item where it had been for years. Now that key was on the chain that hung around the neck of the matron and he knew that there was no way that he would ever get it from there or that the elephant would ever be his again. He could only glance at it longingly and the boy knew that the matron was enjoying his discomfort. He could see it in her eyes.

Martha made haste to fill the bowl in front of each orphan with a thick stew that she knew was a favorite of them all. Tom waited quietly, as all of the children did, until all had been served and the adults were seated. Then the waiting continued while a blessing was said. Only when that was finished were the children allowed to begin eating. Conversation was kept to a minimum, not that Tom noticed because no one talked to him. He was largely ignored by those who had known him before he had left for school and totally ignored by those who had come after that day and had been told about him. The boy would spend this meal much as he spent all of them, eating in silence with only the query by Martha if he wanted more stew to break the quiet.

When the meal had been finished Tom, along with all of the orphans, rose to take the dishes to the kitchen to be washed. This was one of the only chores that the children were spared, too many dishes had been broken by careless children to chance the survivors. Instead, they were sent to begin their baths in preparation for bed time. Woe unto the child, boy or girl, who did not get themselves clean, for Martha would march them back into the washroom to ensure their cleanliness and also to deliver a sharp scolding.

He waited silently for the chance to bathe while the boys who had preceded him worked vigorously at cleaning themselves, especially the areas where Martha or Mrs. Cole was certain to look. When his turn came, Tom worked to swiftly clean himself and then dry briskly before dressing for bed and emptying the bathwater that he had used. He examined the tub to make sure that he had missed no dirt or suds before stepping out into the hallway and directly into the path of Mrs. Cole.

“Did you think that you would get past me without being looked over, Tom?”

“No ma’am, Mrs. Cole.”

The matron began to examine the boy and Tom could sense her distaste for him as she poked into often neglected areas. She paid close attention to behind his ears and, when she could find nothing, snorted and sent him on his way.

“See to it that you go to bed directly, I shall be around to see to it.”

“Yes ma’am, Mrs. Cole.”

He walked up the stairs to the closed door to his room and could hear the soft closing of the door to Mrs. Cole’s office. Tom had no desire to find out what she did behind the door and even less desire to have to deal with her further tonight. He pushed the door open and then stepped into the room to walk to his bed after turning off the light. The cold, stiff sheets and thin blanket did little to offer comfort, but the boy was soon asleep and dreaming about the return to Hogwarts that was only days away. He didn’t hear the door opening or sense the gaze of the matron who had crept up the stairs and walked directly to his room. Mrs. Cole would stand there for a long while and watch Tom Riddle sleep while she wondered what had brought this child into her life in the first place and was continuing to keep him as a part of it. She would finally close the door silently and walk back down the stairs to her own room where she would fall asleep pondering this mystery.

Molly Porter would have much more comforting surroundings as she bathed and then prepared for bed. She would dress in her nightclothes and then a robe before going to her parents for kisses goodnight and then snuggling under the warm blankets that covered her bed. She too was thinking about the coming return to Hogwarts and wondering what would happen when she saw Tom Riddle again. Would he approach her? How would she respond if he did or, she wondered, if he didn’t? What would Abraxas do after he had rejected him in public? Would he tell his parents her secret and would his parents tell hers? She too was soon asleep and her dreams weren’t much more pleasant than those that Tom was having as she wondered how the not so distant future would play out.

Abraxas was also pondering the future as he thought about what had happened when he had encountered the girl in Flourish and Blotts. He was still angry about her rejection of him and the fact that he had been asked to leave the business. The boy couldn’t remember ever being asked to leave some place and it didn’t sit well with him. Obviously the clerk needed a lesson about how to deal with his betters and the boy hoped that his father or grandfather would give that lesson to the old wizard.

The boy had no intention of telling Tom about what had happened because he was more than a little afraid of the boy with the piercing eyes and silent but frightening demeanor. Angering Tom was a swift and certain way to meet with an “accident” that normally left victims bruised and bloody. Although he was only a First Year, the boy already controlled a number of followers and many of them weren’t afraid of getting into trouble. This lack of fear made them valuable when a problem needed to be dealt with discretely and swiftly. Already several of them had proven their worth and Abraxas didn’t want to experience that first hand.

He too was soon asleep as he wondered how to handle what he knew about Molly and what he feared about Tom. His night would go just as restlessly as that of the other two children and he knew that it would only be a matter of days before they were all back at the castle once more.


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