The next morning students began to crowd into the Great Hall while Thomas Cowell gathered the last of his belongings for the trip home. The house elf that had been sent to assist him made short work of the preparations and his trunk vanished to appear in the foyer just outside the Great Hall. The boy knew that many would see him and guess that, based on his traveling clothes; he had been expelled from school for attacking James Bernard.

He took one last look around the interior of the Isolation Tower Common Room and then left the rooms to begin the descent to the foyer far below. He would encounter many students that were making their way down to breakfast and try to ignore their whispered comments although he knew fully well what they were discussing. Arriving at the base of the stairs he tried to stay out of the way of those who were still clad in the robes of a Hogwarts student. He would watch friends vanish into the Great Hall and doubt that he would ever see or speak to them again.

Tom was among those that walked past Thomas and could barely hide his glee at the fate that the boy was suffering. He entered the Great Hall with a broad grin on his face and hurried to the table where his friends waited.

“Did you see the pathetic git standing in the foyer in his traveling clothes? I guess that we know what happened to him! That’s what you get for attacking a Prefect.”

The others around him nodded although many knew that Tom had been the architect of Thomas Cowell’s expulsion. They had to keep up appearances and not let the cat out of the bag that they had arranged everything. The student who had been sent to obliviate Maxwell Amner was supremely confident that he had succeeded in his part of the mission. What none of them knew was that he had, in fact, failed at his task and that the larger, older student remembered all about plot. He sat with his own friends at their table as he shot glances towards the dark-haired first year.

‘You do not know the mistake that you made, Tom. I know everything about your plans and, unless you want Dippet to find out about them, you will do whatever I tell you to do. You had better not make the mistake of sending another to try to obliviate me. I would not take that very kindly and you will likely feel my wrath if you do.’

Molly entered the Great Hall with her group of friends and noticed Tom immediately. She realized that he was watching her and could not take her eyes off of the boy. She walked with her group to their table and soon was seated so that she could watch him. None of this went unnoticed by the other students at the tables that the pair occupied and both would receive ribbing from their Housemates. They were involved with breakfast when Thomas Cowell walked out of Hogwarts Castle forever. He would spend the rest of his schooling at Durmstrang and come to hate the school where he had once been very happy.

Tom rose with his group when the meal was finished and hurried along with them to Transfiguration class so that they could try to finish the assignment that nearly all had neglected to put any effort toward. The boys would enter the classroom to huddle around their parchments as they compared notes and answers. The opening of the doors to admit other students would interrupt their efforts and they glumly took their places as the seats began to fill. Tom was surprised when the seat next to him was suddenly filled and he turned to see a sheepishly smiling Molly Porter looking into his dark eyes with her own brown ones.

“Hi Tom, do you mind if I sit here next to you?”

Tom was stunned but also pleased by this turn of events and could only nod his head furiously as the feeling that the girl had always generated within him returned with a vengeance. They talked quietly until Professor Dumbledore entered the classroom and then turned to face the front of the room.

“It is my guess that a great many of you neglected the assignment that you were given during the last time that we met. As that is hardly acceptable I shall give you a few minutes to work on this before we go over it together. Do not fail to take advantage of this opportunity to redeem yourself. If you have completed the assignment and wish to read forward in your text the required passage is on the board. At any rate if I see you idle I shall assume that you have completed everything and wish to take a short exam that I have prepared for such an occasion.”

Having experienced such an examination none of the students were much in favor of doing it again and all swiftly settled down to work on the tasks before them. To his surprise, Tom realized that Molly also didn’t have the parchment done and so, with Professor Dumbledore’s approval, the pair settled down to work together. The professor walked quietly between the rows while his students labored with their tasks and, at times, nodded with approval of their progress or frowned at their lack of such.

Finally he called them to attention and was met with a quiet mix of responses depending on the degree of completion. He clapped his hands and the air of the room was suddenly filled with parchment colored birds which landed on his desk and then became parchments once again. Molly watched the flight of the parchments with fascination while Tom had to carefully mask his disdain. While it was interesting he simply could not be as impressed as the girl was.

“Today class, we shall be transfiguring worms into thread and back again. Successful transfigurations which leave the worms unharmed shall earn your House five points while unsuccessful transfigurations shall cost your House five points for each student who harms the specimen. You all know the spell which is used and it is my hope that you have been paying close enough attention. You may begin.”

Tom looked at the worm that had appeared on his desk and then drew his wand before casting the spell that they had been preparing. Nearly instantly a rather furry worm that was nearly two feet long appeared on the wooden surface before him and he looked at it curiously. A moment later his jaw dropped as a number of bright yellow spots appeared on its purple surface. Molly giggled suddenly and he looked at her area to see an orange worm with ears that resembled those of a rabbit. She cast the spell again and was rewarded with blue flower-like appendages on the orange creature.

Albus Dumbledore could not help but smile as he watched the attempts of the students. He remembered clearly his own experience with this spell and the results, results that had escaped and were likely still roaming the area under the castle. He had managed to clear the classroom when the large worm with venom dripping fangs had appeared and then had taken flight with wings that none had seen until then. It had vanished through the classroom door and then had last been seen passing the window to the office of the headmaster. Many had believed that it was some sort of juvenile dragon, but the students who had been in the classroom at the time would vouch otherwise.

A sudden loud thump attracted the attention of all and laughter burst out as they realized that the large, green caterpillar that was festooned with purple dots had once been Abraxas Malfoy. Alfred Goyle, who had been intentionally jostled by William Crabbe, had accidently cast the transfiguration spell on his Housemate. He sat there aghast at what he had done as the large serpentine creature left the place that it had been to slither up the aisle between the rows of desks. Albus Dumbledore was about to cast a counter when he realized that the robes of the boy were still at the place that he had occupied. Reversing the spell now would place the child in a revealing situation and he had no desire to deal with his parents. He decided instead to transfigure the creature into a small bird that was swiftly captured and placed in a cage until the end of class.

Molly managed to recover enough to transfigure her worm into the required form and then back again, although she was rather in the hopes that the professor would leave Abraxas in his current location. She watched as Professor Dumbledore examined the work that she had done and then gathered her books to leave. Her work finished, she had been dismissed to go to the library to research for an upcoming project.

Tom realized that the girl was about to leave and redoubled his efforts to complete the task. He soon was rewarded with a proper transfiguration and counter of the spell. Seeing that his student had completed the assignment Albus Dumbledore released the child and Tom was soon rushing to catch up with Molly. He found her sitting at a table reading a book while she wrote notes on a piece of parchment and sat down to join her. She glanced up and him and grinned as she remembered the incident in the classroom that they had just left. Only a stern glance from the librarian kept her from bursting out in laughter. The class time ended soon enough and the pair rose to race out of the room to the corridor where they both burst out in laughter.

“Did you see that his robes were still sitting on the bench after he left it to crawl up the aisle?

Molly stopped laughing and her eyes widened as she realized what the statement that Tom had made meant. Her mouth opened wide as she stopped in the middle of the corridor and then she began laughing hysterically again.

“You mean that he was …?”

“He did not have a stitch on him! All of his clothes were right there on the bench and floor!”

“Poor Professor Dumbledore, he had to see that when he reversed the transfiguration,” the girl said with a shudder.

“No doubt Slytherin lost a lot of points over that one,” Tom responded with a scowl on his face. “We are never going to win the House Cup if those clowns do not stop fooling around. We are already in third place and this could put us in fourth.”

Molly nodded her understanding of what the boy was saying but said nothing. Her own House, Hufflepuff, was in a strong first place and refused to give up that lead. She talked quietly with Tom as they walked to Potions and they arrived at the classroom with both thinking that they had moved past the argument that had sundered their relationship. They were a solemn pair until a thoroughly angry Abraxas Malfoy entered the room and several students broke out in uncontrollable laughter. The boy threw his books across the room to crash against his workstation a fraction of a moment before Professor Slughorn ordered him out of the room. The members of Slytherin present in the room groaned as they realized that more points had been lost for them.

A moment later Crabbe and Goyle entered the classroom to sheepishly walk to their places. A glance at them told the remainder of the class that they, like Malfoy, had received a royal chewing out and likely had lost points for Slytherin. They were just being seated when Horace Slughorn re-entered the classroom and strode to his lectern.

“Let that be a lesson to all of you! Throwing items in this classroom will get you sent out of the room, assigned detention and a loss of points for your House. Being cheeky when you are speaking to me will get you a trip to Professor Dippet as I shall tolerate nothing of the sort. Now, as I am in no mood today to deal with imbecile-like behavior, we shall spend the class period cleaning. You all have your assigned areas and I expect them to be spotless.”

Wanting no part in trouble with the professor students stifled their arguments and began to clean the areas around them. They were careful to deal with areas that normally were neglected, but were certain to be examined by the angered professor.

Occasionally a titter of laughter sounded as someone remembered the situation in Transfiguration and it was only when Horace Slughorn approached Molly that he found out what had happened. The pretty blonde had related the story to the professor, aided by Tom’s input, and soon the portly wizard was laughing just as hard as his students had been. He walked up to his chair where he sat laughing until tears were running down his face. He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief as he attempted to regain control. Images of the situation kept coming back to his mind and he finally released the children from their tasks and instructed them to read for the remainder of time.

The remainder of the class and Defense against the Dark Arts were much the same as the story spread throughout the castle and, by the time that lunch came, all had heard the story. Abraxas Malfoy was in a rather irritated mood when he realized that he had become both the object of conversation and the butt of several jokes that were enthusiastically told at the tables in the Great Hall. What was not amusing was the level of emeralds in the hourglass for Slytherin House. The incident in Transfiguration and Potions had severely depleted the level of gems as well as placing the House in a solid last place. The three first years would spend a lot of time explaining to older students the loss of so many points in one morning.

The remainder of the day would pass with much laughter and, after dinner, all were happy to return to their House common rooms or other common areas of the castle to rehash the stories that they had heard. Tom and Molly stopped at the junction where they would go their separate ways to their Houses to look into each other’s eyes while they held hands. The girl leaned forward to kiss the boy gently before breaking away to run up the stairs to the receding group of Hufflepuffs that were on their way to their common room. She stopped briefly to look down at the boy who was watching her and then sent a last message to him.

“I love you, Tom Riddle.”

“I love you, too.”

The girl smiled and then hurried on after her Housemates as the boy walked down the stairs to join the remainder of Slytherin in their warren of corridors under the castle. He passed the large portrait of the scowling witch who allowed him passage after receiving the password and then made his way to his dorm. He found the room immediately unpleasant as an argument raged between Malfoy and the pair that had managed to humiliate him in class.

“Just wait until my father hears about this! You idiots transfigured me and left me naked in the classroom in front of everyone.”

“But no one could tell that you were naked,” Goyle offered hopefully.

“You moron, they could see my clothes on the bench and floor. I think that most of them are smart enough to figure out what that meant. You, on the other hand, are so dense that they could use you as a wall section if they ever decide to add on to this poor excuse for a castle.”

“You’re the one who lost points from Slughorn for throwing your books,” Crabbe responded.

“How about if I transfigure you tomorrow and leave you naked. We will see how you react when everyone in the castle is talking about you and what happened to you. I will be hearing about this until I leave this castle in six years, in fact, I will probably be hearing about this for the rest of my life!”

Tom stood quietly for a moment before crossing the room to sit down on his bed to remove his shoes and change into his bed clothing.

“You are being very quiet, Riddle!” Abraxas snapped. “Do you have something to say as well?”

“I have nothing to say at all, leave me out of your argument.”

Abraxas and the other two boys would argue, with considerable venom, for quite a long while until a Prefect stepped into the room to order them into silence. They glanced around the room and realized that a number of their dorm mates were either sleeping or attempting to. Sheepishly, they had changed and then had gone to bed; each determined to resume the argument the next day.

Tom, for all appearances had not been asleep. He had been lying in bed listening to the argument while information was fairly handed to him. Now he had what he needed and he intended to use every bit of it. He would be a companion to every one of the three and use what he knew to appear to be on their side while at the same time doing the same for all of the rest. The information that he had was explosive in nature as things that the other boys had wanted to keep concealed were revealed. The exposure of any of it could bring an enormous amount of trouble to the one who wanted it kept hidden. He was where he wanted to be, in the middle and yet out of the line of fire, not to mention in possession of knowledge that could put any of the three out of school for good.

Maxwell Amner also had no idea that Tom was plotting his downfall, although he suspected it. The plan that had removed Thomas Cowell from Hogwarts had gone off without a hitch and the dolt was gone from school forever. He was also facing charges from the Ministry of Magic and that meant the possibility of Azkaban if they decided that he was guilty. Either way he was out of their lives forever. That left Tom, who was much more of an adversary than he appeared to be. The first year actually frightened the older boy, who tried to avoid Tom when he could. Maxwell lay back on his bed while he began to form a plan of action unaware that his opponent was also doing the same.

Molly lay in bed while she thought about the time that she had spent with Tom. He had been positively charming and she sensed no deceit in what he was saying, but the girl still wondered if he had ulterior motives. The boy had proven that he could be cold and filled with lies before and she wondered if any of that had changed. Her parents didn’t want her seeing boys yet and she was taking a terrible risk by doing so with Tom. If word got back to them about her activities the punishment from them would be swift and certain. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep but visions of Tom kept appearing in her head and they frightened her.

In her visions she could see Hogwarts, but it was clearly a different time because Professor Dippet was no longer present and Professor Dumbledore seemed to have advanced to the post of headmaster. She could see Tom as well, but he was much different. He had grown tall and pale and horribly changed, not only in appearance but in deeds and she wondered if this was what truly awaited the boy.

She had been having these visions for a long time and many times they came true. Somehow, she didn’t know how, she seemed to be able to see what was coming in the future and she wasn’t certain that she liked the ability. The girl had also noticed that she was becoming much more capable with her wand, although she hid this as well and many times merely pretended to struggle with their assignments.

A dark cloud was looming on the horizon in her visions and she wondered if Tom was involved and how. What she knew for certain was that someday, maybe many years in the future, the truth about Tom Marvolo Riddle would be revealed and when that happened something would occur. The question was just what?

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