Hogwarts (1938/11 years old)
Chapter 5: Like reminiscences
There were some voices, then the door of Mrs Cole's office closed itself after a long moan, as only a door with unoiled hinges could do.
Is it him? Tom asked, very excited.
I'm not sure, Harry said cautiously. -It must be Dumbledore-damn it, he took his time-
The child got up, all excited, with the idea of going downstairs to spy on the Matron's and the unknown man's discussion but Harry held him back.
You won't make a good impression on him, eavesdropping. Don't forget, he's a wizard, he can't be fooled.
But I wanna know what she says about me! If she talks to him about Turnip or about the other problems, he won't take me with him-I've waited all my life-This old bird would pay for that-
Tom, you're a wizard, Harry interrupted, sliding into bed. Your place at Hogwarts is safe. And now, we'll resume our story, okay? I wannna know what'll happen to Arthur.
He'll succeed in removing Excalibur, obviously , Tom whispered with disdain but he took his novel and pretended to read, although neither he nor Harry were deceived.
All his thoughts were directed towards his room's door which refused to open. He was so tense his magic escaped him for a moment and his wardrobe trembled violently.
Finally, someone knocked twice.
“Tom? You've got a visitor. This is Mr Dumberton – sorry, Dunderbore. He's come to tell you – well, I'll let him do it," Mrs. Cole said, as lucid as an old dying fish, before leaving.
Dumbledore entered the room with his extravagant purple velvet robe and his long brown hair.
Harry and Tom devoured him with their eyes. The first, because god had he missed the wizard, even if he hadn't care for the agonizing creature in Limbo. The second, because he had waited for that day all his life. Tom narrowed his eyes in spite of himself. So that was a wizard.
I'll never wear purple robes, he said indignantly.
Me neither, Harry confessed with an invisible smile.
After examining Tom from head to toe, Dumbledore came closer to him, his hand outstretched, and asked:
“How do you do, Tom?”
Go ahead, shake hands with him.
Tom hesitated – despite Harry's obvious affection for him, he did not trust the man – but he followed his friend's advice.
Dumbledore sat down on the hardwood chair next to his bed. They looked like a sick person and a visitor in the hospital. To look less fragile, Tom straightened up. He put his book on his bedside table.
"I am Professor Dumbledore," Professor Dumbledore said.
“Professor?” Tom repeated, wincing.
Didn't you tell me it was the Headmaster who would come to get me? The doctor of last time was also a "Professor", according to Cole.
No, Harry denied, panicked. In my case, it is Hag – the gamekeeper who has fetched me. Dumbledore is a teacher. The Headmaster can't pick up everybody, you might have misunderstandood.
I was sure that...
Tom was stressed. He did not like this man very much. He had believed real wizards to be as frightening as the Muggle tales's ones, dressed in smart suits, long black cloaks and a mist of mysteries. This man looked mad, typically the kind of people who were kept in the asylum.
“Is that like 'doctor'? What are you here for? Did she get you in to have a look at me?”
Stop that, Tom!
How can we know this man is telling the truth? He may work in the hospice!
I tell you he's a Hogwarts Rrofessor, so calm down!
You know him then? Aaaah, I remember now-Dumbledore, you were always thinking of him-I don't remember why-Why now?
Please focus, Tom.
"No, no," Dumbledore assured him with a smile Harry and Tom found fake.
"I don't believe you," the child replied. “She wants me looked at, doesn't she? Tell the truth!”
He uttered these last three words in a shrill, almost shocking tone. It was an order that Tom, despite Harry, was used to give.
I did teach you some manners, didn't I? Harry shouted silently.
I don't like that guy. I've waited four years to go to Hogwarts! Why haven't they sent the man you got? Dumbledore is downright shady.
That's no reason to disrespect him. I totally trust him, okay? Isn't that enough?
When they realized their internal quarrel had to be visible, they blinked, softened their tense mouth and forced themselves to look at Dumbledore, who displayed his usual soft smile.
This man is powerful, Tom admitted, but exactly like you, he hides things from me. I don't like it.
One doesn't judge someone without knowing them , Harry grumbled. Shit -Everything happens like the first time-History repeats itself-Why am I there, then?
Okay, I'll talk to him and I'll see.
“Who are you?” the child asked in a suspicious tone.
Is that what you call striking up a discussion? Harry sighed.
What did you want me to say? If you're so smart, you can do it.
"I told you," Dumbledore replied, with patience. “My name is Professor Dumbledore and I work at a school called Hogwarts. I have come to offer you a place at my school – your new school if you would like to come.”
Hogwarts! You were telling the truth! Tom exclaimed. It's crazy, this is the first time I hear this word out loud!
He was so happy, so amazed to finally have a proof Harry had not lied to him, that he jumped from his bed and stepped back as far as possible from Dumbledore, as one moves away from a painting to see it better. As if to verify that all this was real. The older wizard did not seem surprised.
Then Tom remembered he should not be aware of the school of witchcraft's existence, let alone of magic. It was better to continue to act the part of a misunderstood child.
Wise decision , Harry encouraged him, even though he knew Tom's little to-be monologue would seem badly familiar.
And truth be told, Tom used the same words as memory-Tom did.
“You can't kid me! The asylum, that's where you're from, isn't it? 'Professor', yes, of course – well, I'm not going, see?” the boy exclaimed, caught in the game. "That old cat's the one who should be in the asylum? I never did anything to little Amy Benson or Dennis Bishop, and you can ask them, they'll tell you!”
"I am not from the asylum," Dumbledore corrected him. “I am a teacher and, if womm sit down calmly, I shall tell you about Hogwarts. Of course, if you would rather not come to the school, nobody will force you –“
Tom sat down fast.
Take me! he cried mentally. I've been waiting for you for years! Dumbledore, let's go right now!
"I'd like to see them try," he said mockingly.
"Hogwarts," Dumbledore continued, "is a school for people with special abilities –"
“I'm not mad!”
Please shut up , Harry got angry. We know you're not nuts.
If I don't look kind of surprised, he'll find it suspicious, Tom explained slowly, as if he was the big one.
"I know that you are not mad," the wizard said. “Hogwarts is not a school for mad people. It is a school of magic.”
There was a silence. Tom was as frozen as an ice cube. His eyes alternately fixed each of Dumbledore's, as if he were trying to detect the lie in one of them. In fact, Harry and he were inwardly fighting over the control of their body.
You're still going to talk rubbish, let me talk at your place , Harry said.
It's my body, it's me he's come to see, he doesn't know you're here, Harry!
Well, he's waiting for a reaction!
“Magic?” the child finally whispered.
What was all the fuss about? Harry sneered. You should've let me talk-It's like in the memor-shit-
Stop thinking! I'm enjoying this moment. Why do you always have to spoil everything?
It was one thing to be convinced you were special, it was another to hear it. Until then, Tom still had a very small doubt about his status as a wizard. He never had been able to destroy the tiny probability that Harry was a clever and misleading spirit, whose aim was to torment him. But he was indeed a wizard, he was really extraordinary! Why did not his friend share his joy?
"That's right," Dumbledore confirmed.
I knew it! the boy roared without a sound.
"It's … it's magic, what I can do?" Harry asked, for Tom was too busy jumping mentally.
Why do you tell him that? I look dumb. Of course it's magic, the child thought.
We're not supposed to know we have powers, remember? Harry retorted.
Then he remembered with despair that memory-Tom had expressed his doubts in exactly the same way: "It's … it's magic, what I can do?"
"What is it that you can do?" Dumbledore asked politely.
Tom decided to please Harry who wanted the big show. He had a monologue in mind that would impress Dumbledore for sure, if that was what his soul wanted, what Harry wanted. The Chosen One sadly listened to words he knew by heart and that he had provoked in spite of himself.
Tom had so badly misunderstood what I wanted-if only I could stop everything, he thought, as if he could not stop his other self.
“All sorts. I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt, if I want to.”
Tom shuddered, his tongue jammed and his hollow cheeks colored: Harry had gotten out of his torpor and prevented him from uttering worst phrases. But the child pulled away. He wanted to scare Dumbledore.
“I knew I was different. I knew I was special. Always, I knew there was something.”
Stop that, Tom!
My special thing is you, it was an implicit compliment, the child pointed out.
Harry could not blame him any longer. That was Tom Riddle's big problem: he was adorable.
He listened, impassively, to the adorable Tom ordering Dumbledore to prove he was a wizard. Dumbledore asked him to call him "Sir" or "Professor." The boy did it at once. The wizard appeared satisfied, took out his wand and pointed it at the wardrobe.
Harry, that's a wand, isn't it-oh hey what is he doing - my stuff!-
Tom jumped up when his cupboard caught fire. His thoughts were a panicked enumeration of his books and clothes.
Calm down, Harry said softly, it's not going to burn. Dumbledore isn't a cruel man. He just wanted to give you a lesson.
It's still very mean, the child commented breathlessly, not screaming, which disrupted Harry.
Had he screamed in the Pensieve? Yes, Tom had yelled. In any case, according to Harry, he had yelled. But was it his memory that played tricks on him?
“Aren't you afraid for your belongings”? Dumbledore inquired with curiosity.
Tom did not answer and walked to his shaking wardrobe. There was something wrong again. In the Pensieve, the kid has asked where he could find a wand, hadn't he? The Gryffondor did not remember, he was not sure...
I'm afraid, T om said. Why is it trembling?
Don't worry, Dumbledore's magic won't hurt you.
He put fire to my wardrobe! the child replied indignantly. You call it a fair act?
Not having much to say for the defense of the wizard, Harry opened the inflamed wardrobe and took out their old treasure box. It contained, unsurprisingly, some objects collected here and there: a harmonica, a thimble and a yo-yo, as well as all the brownie points Tom had accumulated over the years.
Dumbledore gave them a little speech about robbing, controlling magic, about the ethical and cool school Hogwarts was. Tom listened to him half-heartedly. He already knew all this. Harry had told him everything in more details. Hence, he just had to say "Yes, sir," and to rage inwardly.
Why hasn't he noticed all my brownie points, my pictures and my tickets of honor?
"I haven't got any money," he said, more to put an end to Dumbledore's speech than out of real anguish, for he knew there was a fund for those who needed it.
The professor handed him a leather purse. Tom was so anxious to look at the coins Harry had described him that he forgot to thank Dumbledore.
Is that a Galleon? he asked, looking at a large golden piece.
Yes, the biggest and the gilded coins. But remember, you're not supposed to be aware of anything!
Yes... Then, I have to say...
“Where do you buy spellbooks? he inquired, answering himself: On Diagon Alley. Now he'll give me my list. Will he come with me?-I don't want him to, Harry will be enough-Harry will be much more discreet than him.
As in the Pensieve, Dumbledore agreed he could buy his books and other school supplies on his own. He explained to Tom how to get to the Leaky Cauldron but, of course, Tom did not need to listen. Harry knew the way.
The more he compared Dumbledore and Harry, the only two wizards he knew for the moment, the more Tom found the first displeasing. He thought all his fellows would be like Harry and him: mischievous, reckless and secretive. But Dumbledore was just a joker. Very powerful, certainly, but imprudent. If he had been in his position, Tom would never have let a child go to Diagon Alley unaccompagned, especially if that child was Muggleborn.
Dumbledore was totally unconscious , unlike him who had two consciences .
"Was my father a wizard?" Tom asked curiously. ”He was called Tom Riddle too, they've told me.”
I would love to know who my parents were!-Damn ut you can't help me, Harry, can you?-But maybe him, he knows -
Harry imperceptibly curled up. He had always been afraid of letting the few information he knew about Tom's parents leak out. If Tom learned the whole story, he would want to kill his father. But could Harry stop him, when this crime would avenge the pitiful Merope Gaunt? He himself had so many times wanted to kill Peter Pettigrew, and many more times skin Bellatrix Lestrange alive.
Yet his murderous impulses had never been anything but impulses while Tom's anger could easily become an act. Harry knew Tom could do it, he was destined for it. The boy should not know.
"I'm afraid I do not know," Dumbledore said softly, before getting up.
Too bad, I thought he would learn me something new! Tom groaned. I still don't like him-I don't want him to leave, though-He could at least tell me I'm super mature for my age-that my powers are awesome-that he doesn't regret coming in this hole to recruit me-
Then, to held back the first of flesh and blood wizard he had met, Tom confided to him one of his secrets and Harry let him do so, justifying himself this way:
He doesn't think wrong-He only needs some attention -He's a kid-I've been like him-Hagrid was so much warmer with me-
"I can speak to snakes," Tom said with a proud smile. “I found out when we've been to the country on trips – They find me, they whisper to me. Is that normal for a wizard?”
He knew his ability was not common, Harry had told him. That would shut Dumbledore up.
Why in the countryside? Harry asked him. Our first snake was at the sea, with Dennis and Amy.
No, at the sea, it was you who've spoken to the snake , Tom retorted. The first time I've spoken to a snake, it was this summer .
"It is unusual, but not unheard of," Dumbledore replied, looking up into Tom's face for what was so disturbing.
It was not the fact he was a Parselmouth. It was in his eyes that there was something disturbing, as if there were shared, as if his conscience was constantly oscillating between two poles. The child seemed haunted. But it was impossible...
"Goodbye, Tom," he said chillyly. “I shall see you at Hogwarts.”
He did not close the door behind him.
Xxx xxx xxx
Harry and Tom spent long minutes analyzing their encounter with Dumbledore. Tom found his cursed child show very funny, his friend was much less enthusiastic. Apart for a few details, it had been the same scene than in the Pensieve. Of course, he could not explain to Tom what was troubling him so much, which annoyed the child a lot.
What's the matter with you? Harry, we're going to Hogwarts! Be happy! Why care about the inflamed wardrobe or the old fool or even Cole! Tom groaned accusingly. What's wrong? Seriously, he haven't been impressed by my powers and I'm not complaining about that, so why are you acting like a brat?
Sorry, Tom, Harry sighed. I can't tell him-Tom shouldn't know-Pensieve-Hey, Tom! What do you think: we ask Mrs. Cole if we can go to Diagon Alley today?
With his purse in his hand, the boy ran out of his room. Harry hid many things from him, he had known for years. But as long as he remained faithful, he could have secrets. After all, Tom also had secrets Harry did not know.
What? Harry asked with astonishment. What can Tom keep for him?-I wanna know-Come on, tell me Tom! Tom, tell me!
But Tom ignored him. He knocked at Mrs. Cole's office, mentally chanting a silly rhyme to annoy Harry, and went into the room before being invited to. The office was as shabby as the rest of the establishment. The furniture was worn and mismatched and the chairs shouted: "I'm uncomfortable!"
The Matron did not seem to have noticed them, which was incredible, as the room was only slightly larger than a cupboard.
She may be dead , Tom suggested with hope.
Don't talk nonsense, we wouldn't be alive but thanks to her!
Thanks to her?-Harry doesn't make sense-Oh, chocolates-they look so good-
Harry prevented him from helping himself to chocolates and came nearer to the Matron, who was slumped in her rickety chair.
"Mrs Cole," he called, anxiously. “Everything alright?”
She nodded gently, without looking into his eyes. Harry noticed there was a sheet of virgin paper and a dirty glass on her desk.
Pensieve's images immediately filled his mind. Mrs Cole having been too curious, Dumbledore had hexed her. She was Confunded.
Pouah, Tom silently cried. She stinks of alcohol! Look at this bottle, doesn't surprise me she is in this lame state!
You're right, she must be drunk , Harry added. Let's go.
The boy and his other soul escaped from the orphanage in unison.
Xxx xxx xxx
She's going to scold us, when she'll realize we left without her authorization , Tom thought nervous.
Despite his boastfulness, he did not walk so regularly in London. After school, he sometimes made a detour by the city but he relied on Harry's indications. If left alone, he would be utterly lost.
You remember where it is, huh? he insisted. I'm not afraid, it's just that...
Tom, this is it.
Tom looked up and read aloud:
“The Leaky Cauldron. Yay, as welcoming as the place we come from!”
You don't judge a...
I know, I know, Tom grumbled as he walked in the pub.
The door had not closed yet behind him but his eyes were already everywhere, in search of grand magic and extraordinary things. He was terribly disappointed. The furniture was as basic as the orphanage's and on top of that it was dirty . Hooded and shady people drank funny mixtures in a dirty and greyish decor and the worst part was that there was no carafe pouring water on its own or self-cleaning glasses. It only smelled of dust and misery.
Cockroaches-glasses covered with fingerprints-is this pub really held by wizards?-Is that really my first contact with magic?
"Hello, little one," Tom the bartender said. “You there to pick up your stuff for Hogwarts, I guess?”
"Yes," the child replied in a disdainful tone. "Happy someone notices finally."
“You alone? Come on, I'll show you how to get to Diagon Alley," the wizard suggested as he passed to the other side of the bar.
“I don't need you. I know how to do it," Tom said, before making for the inner courtyard.
"Thank you," Harry added over his shoulder with a slightly twisted smile for Tom wanted to keep a contemptuous expression.
You didn't need to be so mean , the Gryffindor grumbled. N ow we're stuck.
Are you sure they're the right bricks?
Yeah, but one needs a wand to open the archway. You can blame your excessive pride.
When Harry was going to force them back into the pub to ask for help, a woman and her children entered the small garbage yard.
“Are you stuck, my boy? she asked gently.
"Yes," Tom replied sadly, as if it were splitting his heart to admit it.
The woman smiled at him, walked over to the wall and tapped the same bricks Harry had tried to strike, caress and demolish earlier. This time they rearranged themselves to form a passage.
Wow, Tom whispered, but he kept his face neutral. It's like you said. It became an arch. Brilliant!
“Are you gonna be okay by yourself? the witch worried. “These two can't do anything without me and yet they are...”
"I'll be okay," Tom interrupted. “Thank you.”
And he made his first steps into the magical world.
Xxx xxx xxx
Unlike the Leaky Cauldron, which had not impressed himself at all, Diagon Alley was exactly as Harry had described it: fantastic.
All the shops lined up on either side of the alley promised marvels and wonders. He was so excited his thoughts swirled at a dizzying speed. He was reading every sign, observing every wizard who passed by him – it was crowded, only two days before the start of the school year – and commented everything mentally, giving Harry a big buzz.
Where is Florian Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour?
Oh, err... my memories were perhaps confused , Harry panicked. Let's go a little further.
Tom went further into the aisle, noting the names of the shops he wanted to visit. There were so many! But it was a strange sensation to be in a place he had dreamed about all his childhood. He knew every sign by heart. Flourish and Blotts, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Madam Malkin's, the Apothecary, Quality Quidditch Supplies: all these names looked like reminiscences, as if he had already been there as a child or in another life.
Hary had described so well the shopping alley to him that it was as if Tom had already walked it.
When they passed in front of Gringotts, Tom stared at the goblins in uniform patrolling over the steps. That was hot stuff.
Will I have to open an account?
Oh, errr... I don't know, actually. We'll see later, right?
And you, how did you manage when you were eleven?
My parents had left me some money , Harry said awkwardly.
Maybe mine have too. Let's go!
But Harry pulled Tom away from the bank, assuring him he was too young to worry about his finances. What if Tom made a scandal to access to the vault of his friend Harry who-lived-into-his-head?
They finally arrived in front of an ice cream stand Harry did not know, Ricardo Regal's ice cream.
It's not Florian's , Tom commented, surprised.
But it will still be very good. I've got mixed up, that's all.
Tom did not try to find out more because he was hungry. Harry and he ordered an ice cream which five flavors changed randomly.
"That will be one galleon, please," Ricardo Regal said.
With assurance, the little wizard handed him a big golden coin and began to eagerly lick his ice cream. It was delicious, it was magical . He was so happy to have a taste of his world at last!
Well, first, we have to buy a wand , Harry said when they had finished their ice cream.
Let's go to Ollivander's, then, Tom ordered, resolutely heading for the wand shop as if he were going there regularly.
"Good morning," he said tentatively, when the door closed behind him.
Harry had described the shop to him many times, but it was not the same to be there for real. In spite of himself, he found the place intimidating. It was small and gloomy, but the silence which reigned there, in comparison with the hubbub of the exterior, made the place mysterious, holy.
As he examined the green boxes piled on the shelves, a young Ollivander appeared.
"You're heading to Hogwarts in two days, aren't you, little sir?"
He's not as old as I thought , he commented.
Don't you tking he looks like a wise and honorable wizard? I tend to see him older than he truly is , Harry answered cleverly.
"Measure him, please," the artisan asked the vacuum.
Magical measuring tapes came out of his desk's drawers and began to measure with precision the length of Tom's left forearm, his spine, the space between his eyebrows and the size of his wrist.
This is just to show off, isn't it ?
I don't know, but it was the same sketch for me , Harry confessed nostalgically.
The shop was a special place for him and certainly for every wizard. It was there that one meets his wand, where one synchronises for the first time with his aura. While Tom raised his arms so that Olivander calculated the distance between his ribs, Harry finally located the green box he had been looking for since they had entered the store. He was almost certain it was the one containing his future wand. Suddenly he felt like standing on tiptoes to get it back, but he knew it had to stay there for half a century.
Ollivander finally summoned his measuring tapes back, consulted them, mumbled a few arithmancy formulas and grabbed a holster at the bottom of a pile.
“Well, well, try this one. Swirl it, go ahead...”
Tom grabbed the wand with confidence for Harry had already explained the procedure to him several times. He turned his wrist, expecting to see red sparks spring up, but nothing happened. He felt very foolish.
Maybe it's a mistake-I'm not a wizard -I'll be sent back to the orphanage -My purse'll be taken back-
It's normal it doesn't work the first time, Harry comforted him. For me too, it took time to find the one .
After twenty minutes of unsuccessful attempts, Tom wanted to yell at the seller. Why did he take all his measures, even the most intimate, if it was to chop the wands at random?
“A tough customer, isn't it? Ollivander mumbled, handing him a new wand. “Try that one, then. Holly, 11 inches long, rather supple, easy to handle...”
Harry recognized it at first glance. It was his wand. So Voldemort had tried it before him! He resisted the urge to catch it, to make it roll between his fingers, to conjure a Patronus. It was Harry Potter's wand, not Tom Riddle's.
Yet, when Tom got hold of it, they both felt a powerful wave of magic in their arms. It had been so long since Harry had experienced this strange harmony between a piece of wood and his hand! It was like going home after a very long day. It was good. For the first time in a decade, the flow of his magic surrounded him like a protective spiral, causing the atmosphere around him to vibrate, modifying his perception of space, as if everything was now within his reach.
There were sparks. Even through time, the wand had recognized his master. While Olivander was nodding in agreement, something suddenly was off. Tom's muscles clenched, as if he had violent cramps. Sweat dripped behind his ears and his tongue suddenly secreted an abnormal amount of saliva. All his pores were opened at once, in a exudation reflex, liberating physical and metaphysical lymph.
It rejects me! It rejects me, but you felt it too, eh? It had accepted me! What is the problem?
I-I don't know Tom-Calm down-
"Let go of that wand," Ollivander gritted nervously. “You're going to hurt yourself. It's curious, really curious, almost strange... “
"What's so curious?" Tom asked imperiously, throwing Harry's wand on the desk. “It seemed to work well!”
"At first, yes, no doubt... But it has changed its mind. Don't take it badly, it's not unusual. Try this one instead. Yew, 13 ½ inches, rather stubborn, that said... Perhaps...”
Just as Tom closed his sweaty hand on the wand Olivander held out to him, a bunch of sparks exploded.
It's the one! Harry, it must be it, I've never felt so good! And you?
Oh, it does suit you , Harry whispered, his eyes fixed on the wand that would kill his parents.
"You see, that wand and that one," Ollivander said, pointing successively at the wand in Tom's hand and at the one on his desk, "have a feather from the same phoenix. They are somehow twin. Perhaps the other one will one day recognize its true owner. It's curious, very curious, however, that one but not the other...”
After placing several Galleons on the desk, Tom left the wizard to his rant. He had no time to waste and so much to do!
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to his other school supplies' purchases: spellbooks, a cauldron, vials, a scale, a portable telescope as well as many clothes. Tom did not follow Dumbledore's and Harry's advice and got everything brand new. At the end of the day, he had not enough money to buy himself a pet, let alone a trunk.
How am I going to carry all that? I onl y own a Muggle schoolbag! he lamented, picking up all his bags.
We 'll cope with it, but it serves you right , Harry snapped.
Xxx xxx xxx
The morning of the first of September finally came. Anne had told the other children that before dying, Tom's mother had enrolled him in a very remote boarding school, and that he would only come back during the summer now.
No one, not even Margaret, pretended to be sad. Everyone was relieved to say bye-bye to the strange kid who spoke by himself and who caused inexplicable and frightening incidents.
"You know how to get there, don't you?" Mrs Cole asked, still a little Confunded. “Everything's okay, come on.”
Harry had kept his word: at the Leaky Cauldron, just before they had returned to the Muggle world, he had thrown a Reductor Curse on Tom's purchases so they fit in their messenger bag. He just hoped the robes would not be too fucked-up when turned back to their initial size. After more than ten years without magic, it was already a feat he had managed to cast a spell correctly.
So they took the bus to King's Cross with only Tom's bag tightly squeezed in their lap. It certainly attracted less attention than the enormous trunk Harry had wandered with during his schooling.
How can wizards lack so much practical sense? he wondered when they saw a wizard family dragging five or six trunks.
Harry, they don't need practical sense! We don't need it, we have magic! Tom replied, amazed.
He knew King's Cross rather well, as they used to take the train for the countryside or the sea every summer at this station, but it was the first time he had ever been there alone. He felt free. That night, he'd be at Hogwarts! It was a day he had waited all his childhood, so to speak, all his life. He hardly realized that his new existence awaited him, just a few steps from him.
Platform 9... 10... That's it! he exclaimed mentally, with the burning desire to point at the barrier.
Harry smiled. He did not bother to explain to him one last time how to get to Platform 9 3/4 and completely abandoned him their body.
No Muggle seemed to notice the overexcited boy who leaned resolutely on a solid metal ticket box, a schoolbag glued to his chest, and no one realized that a moment later he had disappeared.
Tom let out an exhilarated laugh when he saw the Hogwarts Express, whose scarlet locomotive was spitting large clouds of steam.
I'm really going to Hogwarts! Harry, finally, the time has come!
In the train, there was an empty compartment where he would be able to talk to Harry with ease. The latter told him how important it was to socialize, but the kid did not listen to him.
If it is to get on my nerves and spoil my joy, shut up, he growled.
Three seconds later he was babbling again:
All those blissful parents who watch their children go to Hogwarts... Oh, look at this one, she's crying! She's certainly jealous of her siblings going to Hogwarts and not her. She's tall, she must be at least eleven though... maybe she's a Squib! That'd explain why she's staying on the platform! Harry, are you sulking?
Harry did not speak to him during the whole journey. Curled up, he listened to Tom chatting with other children who had sat in their compartment. Tom answered to them politely but, and Harry could not help but find it amusing, he insulted them vigorously in his head.
This boy is a dumbass, my word! And that one with his treats isn't better. Come on, Harry, don't pout, you're the only one who is interesting enough! I'm dead bored. Even if they're wizards, they're still kids. Harry, Harry, what flavour is this one?
He was holding a Bertie Bott's bean whose color was a delicate bogie green. Just to contradict, Harry told him the candy was mint flavoured and carried it to their mouth.
You traitor! the child thought indignantly. You got revenge, now, stop sulking. Pleaaase.
Harry finally consented to reintegrate his conscience and they locked themselves in a chatty silence.
The hours passed. The students sharing their compartment judged Tom depressing and went to visit other schoolmates. Tom was pleased to be alone, watching the landscape becoming more and more wild, while harassing Harry with questions whose answers he knew by heart.
When he literally recognized the last few kilometers before Hogsmeade, he took out his miniature dresses from his bag and thought:
Don't worry , Harry sneered, taking out their wand without looking at it – this wand made him sick.
“Amplificatum ," he murmured.
The robe which was smaller than a post-it note turned back to a normal size. It was a bit crumpled, with a sleeve slightly shorter than the other but, on the whole, it looked like a robe.
Magic is wicked, the child said, putting on his uniform with delight.
Xxx xxx xxx
Just like Harry the first time he had seen Hogwarts' shape, Tom could not hold back a happy grin. The castle, with its towers with pointed roofs, its large and old stones, its narrow windows scattered over the walls, commanded respect. It was sublime and it was home.
Harry had told him that first years were traditionally taken to school by boats, but Tom and he were surprised to be lead to the carriages drawn by the Theastrals.
Didn't you tell me that...
It must have changed since I was a student , Harry quickly retorted.
That's right, it's been almost twelve years... You're not gonna cry, are you?
Harry would have given him a little punch if it was not for the three other students in their carriage. They were third year and looked smarter than the kids who have shared their train ride.
"What House do you belong to?" Tom asked.
The three friends looked at him for the first time.
"Ravenclaw," said one of them, pointing at his blue and bronze necktie. “And you?”
“Don't you see he's a first year?” another intervened, before bending over to Tom. “Hey, little one, what House do you want to be sent?”
"Ravenclaw isn't bad," Tom said cautiously.
"Did you hear that?" the first boy laughted. “Ravenclaw is the best, you'll soon realize it!”
Some wizards are stupid , Tom thought with amazement. I thought everyone knew Slytherin was the best one.
I never said that! Harry protested.
Yeah, I know. Gryffindor is good too, for people like you.
What does that mean? Hey, Tom!
But Harry knew very well what Tom meant by that, because he had access to all his thoughts.
After getting down from the carriage, Tom insisted on caressing the invisible Theastral who had brought them there. Some pupils looked at him in terror. Some, those who saw the winged horses, gave him a shy smile.
Stop bragging , Harry grumbled, but he was disturbed by something else.
Hagrid was the one who had domesticated the Theastrals, he was sure of that. So why were they already pulling the carriages in 1938?
When they reached the castle's gates, they were inspected by a man Harry did not recognize, but who was probably this time's caretaker.
“Your pockets! Why do you have a messenger bag?” the wizard barked, looking suspiciously at Tom, as if his bag contained dangerous artefacts.
"I had no trunk," Tom replied brusquely.
The wizard nodded, cast him a Revelation Spell and, satisfied, pushed him into the Entrance Hall.
It's beautiful, huh?
It's like you said, Tom whispered. It's like I imagined. To say you lived there for seven years... And to say I'll live there for seven years too!
In the Entrance Hall, a teacher had gathered all the first years to explain the Sorting Ceremony to them. Tom was not listening at all, he preferred to look around himself, amazed. He suddenly recognized Peeves, the poltergeist.
It was the same as for Diagon Alley. Harry had told him so much about Hogwarts that he felt like he had already been there. Besides, some portraits greeted him, as if they had seen a former student, Harry, into his eyes.
Tom, listen to what the professor...
Harry, look, Peeves is putting wax everywhere!
Don't pay attention to him. If he notices you have noticed him, he won't leave you alone. Come on, it's time to see the Great Hall.
Tom followed his schoolmates without looking at them. He was trembling with impatience, and when the professor pushed open the Great Hall's doors, revealing the immense hall, he was nothing but euphoria.
Candles hovered above the tables, as Harry had promised. The ceiling imitated a peaceful and starry sky, as Harry had told him. Four long tables, at which older students were seated, represented the four Houses, and at the front, at the High Table, the staff was seated.
The golden plates were empty, for the Feast would not begin till after the Sorting Ceremony. With disdain, Tom noticed that the other first years were stressed, even frightened. He had only one desire: sit on the stool, put on the Hat and be sent to Slytherin! The House of Snakes would then bring him to glory.
He wanted to do great things and nothing would stop him, because his faithful Harry would always be with him to counsel, assist and comfort him if something went wrong. Of course Harry had told him a scary number of times that all the Houses had their qualities and flaws and that it would not be so bad if he was sent to Hufflepuff but... Harry himself had a preference for Gryffindor.
He had praised his own House's virtues so much Tom did not find it interesting to be part of it. It was as if he had already been a Gryffindor: he knew everything from the Common Room with its brown leather armchairs and its warm hearth, to the dormitories decorated in red and gold, to the fraternal atmosphere that reigned between the students. He wanted to discover the mysterious Slytherin and Harry's macabre stories would not stop him.
“Tom Riddle!” he was finally called.
Some students stupidly laughed at his name.
Don't mind them.
No need to patronize me. We're used to this, with the other kids in the orphanage. Let's go.
The child sat on the stool and put the Hat on his head. The artefact was so wide it covered a part of his face, as Harry had described to him and a voice rang inside his skull. It was a strange experience. They were now three in there, it was getting quite busy.
Would we have already met? the voice said.
No , Tom thought, dumbfounded. He added, to Harry: This hat is nuts, isn't it?
Harry did not answer. He tried to make himself very small but he had the impression the Hat had already noticed his presence. He hoped the artefact would not tell Mr Dippet. It would make things complicated if they learned that a student had two consciences, and that one of them came from the future.
But... Well, if you don't want to confess anything, the Hat renounced. I see an already seasoned heart, a will to prove yourself. A lot of bravery, but also intelligence, a certain coldness, an impressive maturity for your age. Hum, Gryffindor could help you enjoy your...
Gryffindor! Tom protested. Slytherin, send me to Slytherin, you pointy... hat!
I maintain what I said, there is a large part of you telling me that Gryffindor could... But so be it, then...
The Slytherin Table applauded him loudly. Some of the pupils greeted him and congratulated him when he sat down, but as soon as the dishes appeared on the table, everyone began to drink and eat without paying attention to him.
Tom helped himself to all that Harry recommended to him and began to eat, thinking.
What did he mean by Gryffindor? Besides, how can your house help me? Enjoy what?
Hum , Harry answered, hesitating. I think it meant "enjoy your youth", something like that.
Pff, the only thing Gryffindor has to do with me is you.
It's still half your soul , Harry replied.
I just have to split my soul in two, then, Tom said casually. Hey, what's going on, why is our belly so twisted?
Sorry, I'm not hungry anymore .
Xxx xxx xxx
After the Start-of-Term Feast, the Head Boy and the Head Girl accompanied the first years to the Slytherin dungeons. They stopped before a bare wall, dimly lit by two torches. The other ten new students were puzzled, but Tom was displaying his usual superior air.
"You need a password to enter," he informed a little girl who seemed terribly lost.
“How do you know that? You've got a sibling in Slytherin?”
“I know it, that's all.”
Stop showing off, Tom. If you haven't heard, the password is "bifid tongue", that means...
"Forked", thank you Harry, but I do have a brain too.
The Slytherin Common Room was remarkably similar to Harry's time's one. The black and dark green leather armchairs were perhaps brighter and the pictures hanging on the walls sharper, but overall, it was the same dark, cold room.
Tom was a little tensed being under the lake, with no other light than candles. All this made him think of a posh orphanage but he did not show his angst to Harry, lest the latter rushes to the Headmaster to get them transferred to Gryffindor.
The Head Boy showed them the first-year boys' dormitory, reminded them not to divulge the password to anyone and abandoned them without further ado.
“Amplificatum ! Amplificatum ! Amplificatum !” Harry repeated, tapping each of the miniature stuff Tom was pulling out of their schoolbag.
Their canopy bed was quickly congested with school supplies and clothing.
And now, what do we do with all of this?
You'll have to buy a trunk, I guess , Harry sighed, sliding his wand into their bedside table's drawer.
I'd rather keep it under my pillow , Tom said as he opened the drawer.
What use will it be if you can't cast a spell?
But you, you know magic , Tom put his wand under his pillow. Why is he looking at us?
“You can already cast some spells?” the blond kid who had settled himself on the next bed was astonished. “You must come from a Pure-blood family.”
Harry, what's a Pure-blood?
Harry grimaced mentally. How did he put this? All these years he had conscientiously left the Blood Theory out of their conversations, not wanting to give Tom bad ideas. He had not even spoken to him about the House Elves' condition.
Harry panicked. Not knowing how to react, he sank into his comfortable bubble, as if ignoring Tom's interrogations would make them disappear. He soon realized it was a mistake that would cost him dearly.
“What is a Pure-blood?” Tom asked the other boy.
The latter, who had hitherto looked impressed, did not conceal his contempt.
“You're a Slytherin and you don't even know that?”
He came closer to Tom, most likely to scare him, but Tom did not move. He did not even get up.
Harry, what are you doing? This guy is looking for trouble. What is it, a Pure-blood?
Harry immediately emerged from his bubble and his magic, through Tom, crackled, as if to dissuade the other Slytherin from coming closer to his protégé.
Harry, shit, what's a Pure-blood? What is his problem?
"You're Muggle-born, aren't you?" the other Slytherin laughted, without noticing his bed's curtains were waving while there was no airstream in the dormitory.
Tom was worried, he did not understand why the other guy was bugging him. Fortunately, Harry took control of their body, assuring him that he had nothing to fear. Tom sighed. He had absolute confidence in Harry. If the other guy had insulted him, it would never happen again.
"No, I'm not a Muggle-born," Harry replied firmly. “I know more about dark magic or about magic in general than you, so I'd strongly advise against provoking me.”
The other Slytherin gauged him with a look that was intented to be threatening, but Harry let out a laugh. The kid was beardless and surely unable to cast more than ten elementary spells. Tom sneered silently with glee. Harry was an extraordinary guy.
"I'm from the Avery family," Albert Avery finally said, his face humble again.
He held out his hand to Tom, who shaked it without hesitation.
"I'm Tom Riddle," he said, scrutinizing the other boy's reaction.
Does my name evoke anything?-What a pity, it doesn't look like it-I was sure my father was a wizard -
Harry censured his thoughts, which were all about the Gaunts and the Riddles, which inevitably annoyed his friend.
It's useless to hide your thoughts from me, I know what you're thinking. I know you Harry, you thinking my father is no wizard, right? You think I'm pitiful, clinging to my family name.
You're wrong , Harry retorted, I don't find it ridiculous. But is that really important?
It was not the right thing to say.
Don't you care about my parents? Tom said, shocked. I wannna know and I'm sure I can find answers here. We'll have to go to the library as soon as possible.
Yeah, we'll go there ASAP , Harry whispered, pulling the blankets over their body.
Ah, and what is a Pure-blood, by the way?
To Be Continued ...