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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.
 

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