- CHAPTER FOUR -
Sunday 15th November
I haven't written in this in ages… as usual. It's just hard to keep it up when McGonagall drowns us with homework.
Riddle is really beginning to grow on me. What is wrong with me? Now that the dreams occur every few nights, I'm both hoping and dreading that they'll end. Because of that, it's sort of become like a series on television that I know will soon end. Even I can't deny that he's had a huge impact on me, both positive and negative.
For example, I had a vision that he was practicing some really advanced spells in an abandoned classroom. I concentrated on how he was doing it and practiced myself earlier today. I managed to do most of them but I took longer than he did to learn them. Why does he spend so much time searching for the stupid Chamber? If only he spent more time learning spells, I'll come top of the year this time.
Something amazing happened in the week I was with the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon tried to get me to wash his car for him and I said no. He started shouting at me but I managed to silence him with a look. Can you believe that? I just got really angry and stared at him. He started mumbling then left me in my room. I tried it with Dudley and it worked again! The days when the Dursleys got to me are a thing of the past.
The Quidditch World Cup was brilliant. I really got a taste of wizarding life. The tents were the size of houses, the campsites were vibrant and Terry, Hermione and I learnt so much from the wizards from other countries, particularly the Bulgarians. The match itself was great - the difference in class between the professionals and school matches was obvious from the beginning. Quidditch is the best career a man could ever want. Ireland won.
We went home straight after the match and Hermione stayed for another few days at Terry's house. Summer at Terry's was the best I've ever had. His dad, a Pureblood, works at the Ministry in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and his mum, a Muggleborn, works at St. Mungo's as a Healer. Since he is an only child and his parents earn more than the Weasleys, they had a nicer house - a cottage in the Cornish countryside.
We spent most days playing Quidditch and lazing about doing nothing. The best day was when we took an ageing potion from Mrs. Boot's private store and went down to the local town. There's a club there that we sneaked into. After a lot of beer, which Terry said was nothing compared to Firewhisky, and a lot of flirting with the other clubbers, we staggered home. We would've done it again had Mr. Boot not realised what we'd done. He told Terry off but didn't tell Mrs. Boot.
A tournament called Tri-Wizard has come to Hogwarts this year. I knew since the summer because Terry's dad is good friends with Ludo Bagman, the co-judge for the tournament. Terry wanted us to try and enter. I didn't know if I wanted to, to be honest. On one hand, it's a good replacement for Quidditch, which I really miss, but on the other, I couldn't have been able to stand everyone watching me, knowing what I know.
Another nightmare is the Yule Ball. Well, it's not as big a nightmare as it could've been, but it's a nightmare nonetheless. Hermione said I should hurry up or all the good girls will be taken, so I dove in at the deep end and asked Cho Chang. Can you believe it, she said yes! Terry got over his jealousy when Hermione said yes to him.
Since we're going to the Ball together, Cho is spending a lot of time with me. She's quite nice but I don't like the way she flaunts our relationship. Like, she comes up to me in the middle of a crowded corridor and grabs my hand when everyone's watching. I really hope she doesn't make a scene at the actual Ball.
To make matters worse, I've fallen back to my old habit of staring at that Slytherin girl - Tracey Davis - when I'm bored in class. Hermione says that it's only natural that I want what I can't have. Strange thing is, I sometimes catch Tracey looking at me, or at least I think I do. Maybe I'm imagining things.
Terry introduced me to a boy called Blaise Zabini the other day. The Gryffindors say that he's an arrogant pretty boy but I actually got on really well with him. He was quite cutting but Terry warned me about that. Hermione didn't like him much, but that might have had something to do with Blaise's blatant flirting. Terry kept trying to tell her that it's what he does to most girls he meets but she wasn't having any of it. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
What else has happened…oh yeah! The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is an ex-Auror called Moody. He is without a doubt the best teacher I've ever had. Lupin was good, but Moody goes beyond the curriculum in a big way. I saw my chance and hung back one lesson. I fed him some lies about how I wanted to be a celebrated Auror and now he's giving me weekly lessons on some complex pre-Auror material. Hermione wasn't too happy.
My hand's hurting now. So until next time…
Sunday 15th February
Oh dear - another big gap between entries. I might just stop doing this altogether - I looked at the old entries and it was so embarrassing.
Anyway, Valentine's Day was an absolute mess. I had an absolute nightmare of a Valentine's gift from Riddle. He turned up at his father's house and murdered his dad and grandparents. It was horrible. As if the weather knew, it poured down with rain the whole day; I'm surprised we weren't swimming to Hogsmeade.
All of this was nothing compared to the disastrous date with Cho. Even if I weren't already getting bored of her, I would have hated it. We went to Madame Puddifoot's, which she knows I hate. If that wasn't enough, she kept moaning loudly about how bad her Quidditch team is - people were staring at us. I tried to get her to shut up but that only made her more unbearable. To make matters worse, Tracey Davis and a couple of her Slytherin friends were sitting at a nearby table sniggering at us. The thing that made me snap was when she confronted me about Hermione - apparently her friends have been saying Hermione and I are closer than Cho and I. Very annoyed, I told her it was true and left the nutcase.
As I stormed back up to Hogwarts, Malfoy decided it was a perfect time to make jibes at my dad. I made a few snide comments about his father and he turned his wand on me. He's in the Hospital Wing now. Hermione caught up with me and started telling me off; something about how I should have risen above him. Being in a crabby mood, I snapped back at her so she didn't talk to me for the rest of the day.
I confided in Terry this morning and he found the whole thing hilarious. Hermione didn't find it as funny but said it was for the best. I feel a little bit better than I did yesterday since Blaise told me Tracey Davies might be interested in me. I can never tell when he's joking or not, though. I'll see what happens in lessons tomorrow.
I found myself on platform nine and three-quarters, much as it was in the present day. I kept my eyes peeled for Riddle. It wasn't long before I spotted him some way down the platform. He was stood quite still, within touching distance of the gleaming Hogwarts Express, staring at something I couldn't quite see. I drew closer to him and noticed that his trunk was shabby, moth-eaten and miniscule. I wondered why he didn't just use money from his Gringott's account to buy a better one.
His clothes, too, were of a similar scruffiness. He wore a faded white t-shirt, a brown flat cap and brown shorts, failing to hide his knees, which were adorned with scars. I looked over Tom's shoulder and followed his gaze. It was a mother with long, blonde hair reassuring her equally blonde son. From the look of nervousness on his face, I could tell he was a first year.
"I don't want to go to Hogwarts anymore," the boy was saying.
"Why ever not, dear?" replied his mother lovingly. She brushed a long lock of hair from in front of his eyes and tucked it behind his ear.
"I don't know any magic," he said, "the others won't like me."
"Don't worry about it, love. They'll come to love you almost as much as I do. The girls won't know what's hit them."
"Mum!" cried the boy, alarmed. They shared an embrace nonetheless. Tom, his face unreadable, looked away and hauled his trunk onto the train.
Most of the carriages Tom walked past were full of excited witches and wizards chatting to one another. However, when he made to open one of the carriage doors, he found himself on the receiving end of a sea of disapproving faces. They took one look at his attire before turning their noses up.
Finally, near the very end of the train, he found a carriage holding only one person. He also looked like a first year, judging by the way the sleeves of his robes hid his hands. I could not help but stare at the boy and wonder where I'd seen him before. It may have been his eyes, which were a dark shade of brown, or his jet black hair, which stuck up at the back. He pushed his round glasses up his nose and looked up from the first-year Transfiguration book resting on his lap. There was no scorn in either his eyes or smile.
Tom hesitantly walked in, giving the boy a piercing look. "Can I sit here?" he said.
"Why not?" replied the boy pleasantly. He pulled up the sleeves of one of his arms, so that his hand became visible, and offered it to Tom. "My name's Maximus, Maximus Potter. Almost everyone calls me Max, though." I noticed a glint in Tom's eyes. Was it jealousy?
"I'm Tom, Tom Riddle." He shook Max's outstretched hand. I turned my attention back towards Max. Was this my grandfather? Was it possible?
"Nice to meet you, Tom," said Max. "I'm guessing from your name that you aren't a Pureblood?" Tom stiffened, probably because he didn't recognize the word, but I wasn't sure. Max took it as an angry gesture. "Oh, don't worry; I won't judge you for of it. I've heard enough of my Nan's angry supremacy rants to put me off the idea for a while." He smiled weakly. "So, when did you find out you were coming here? I guess your parents were pretty shocked?" Tom paled and ran a hand through his hair.
"Sorry," said Max quickly, his eyes wide, "did I say something wrong?"
"No," said Tom quietly. "My parents weren't shocked because they're dead. At least, my mother is." The contempt as he said this did not go unnoticed.
"Sorry," said Max somberly. He hesitated and shot a mildly hopeful look at Tom, as if judging him trustworthy for some grave secret. Finally, he said, "my parents are dead too. They were Aurors - Dark Wizard catchers. My Nan raised me since I was about six." There was a heavy silence. Seeing that Tom wasn't going to break it, Max said, "What house do you want to be in?" Mingled with Tom's reluctant look of confusion, I saw something I had never seen before - was it understanding?
"House?" said Tom. From what I already knew about Tom, it was evident that his ignorance was beginning to irk him. I remember vividly the memory of Tom asking for some money to buy books, money the orphanage didn't have. A harassed Mrs. Cole had told him Hogwarts would provide him with books when he got there.
"Sorry, forgot," said Max sheepishly. "There are four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. My Nan said she'd go mental if I don't get sorted into Slytherin. She says only the best wizards go there. But I'm in a bit of a pickle. You see, my dad's family's been in Gryffindor since before anyone I spoke to can remember, but my Nan traced my mother's side all the way back to Salazar Slytherin's niece. It's the first thing she ever says whenever she meets anyone. As long as I'm not in Hufflepuff, I'll be happy."
I sat transfixed throughout the monologue and lapped it up with more eagerness than Riddle did. I'm related to Slytherin? No wonder the Sorting Hat was stuck between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Just as this thought sunk in, a far more terrible one followed. I was related to Voldemort.
The remainder of the train ride passed quickly and uneventfully. Max spent much of it explaining the wonders of the Wizarding World to a captivated Riddle as the train tore through the sleepy countryside. It took Tom at least an hour to truly contribute to the conversation. He had been warily quiet until that point, perhaps worried that Max would turn on him as the other students did.
As the train pulled into Hogsmeade station, the two boys were chatting amicably, sharing theories about what the Sorting Ceremony entailed. Very soon, they were in the Great Hall waiting to be sorted.
"It's only a hat!" exclaimed Max, as Michelle Adams was sorted into Hufflepuff. Tom, however, was not listening. His gaze was fixed on the younger Dumbledore, who was carrying out the role I was so accustomed to see Professor McGonagall fill. I glanced up at the staff table and felt a jolt as a number of unfamiliar faces stared back. It was strange not seeing the likes of Snape, Flitwick and Sprout lazily watching the sorting.
One by one, the first years were called up and were sorted. I was brought out of my musings when Dumbledore said, "Moody, Alastor." A scrawny boy with a shock of brown hair hopped onto the stool and put the Sorting Hat on. It almost engulfed his entire head. Not long after it had covered Moody's head did it cry, "SLYTHERIN!"
My eyes never left Moody as he jumped down from the stool and took a seat next to a blonde first year girl. There was only a light smattering of applause. Moody was a Slytherin? While I never gave any thought to what a younger Moody would be like, he seemed to exemplify everything Gryffindor stood for. In our private lessons, he never gave anything away about his past - not that I asked. Was he friends with my grandfather?
"Potter, Maximus." My eyes flicked back towards Dumbledore. Max seemed very pale as he walked up to the stool holding the Sorting Hat. It may have been my imagination but I was sure that Dumbledore winked as Max passed him.
It seemed to take an age for Max to be sorted. Muttering broke out. Even I got a little bored with waiting anxiously. Did it take this long for me?
"Maybe the hat's not working," whispered a girl from the nearby Slytherin table.
Finally, the brim of the hat ripped open and it shouted, "SLYTHERIN!" I could feel my eyes widen. My grandfather was a Slytherin? If only I had known that on the train journey in my first year. Then I'd have gone with the Sorting Hat's first judgment, which seemed now to make so much more sense than mine did.
"A Potter in Slytherin?" whispered someone from the Slytherin table. "He doesn't belong here."
"His grandma's a Peverell, though," said another voice, "mother said so."
Dumbledore's loud cough brought silence to the Hall once more as Max walked nervously to the Slytherin Table. He shared a small smile with Tom, whose turn it was to turn a pale shade of white.
"Riddle, Tom," said Dumbledore, after Veronica Reed became a Hufflepuff. Tom slowly walked to the stool. He looked at Dumbledore. There was no smile on his face, let alone the wink he had sent Max. Indeed, he shot Tom a stern look, one McGonagall would have been proud of.
I expected Tom's sorting to take almost as much time as Max's, or at least longer than Moody's. However, no sooner had the hat touched his head, did it shout, "SLYTHERIN."
Again, there was discontented murmuring. Max was one of the very few students who were clapping.
"Riddle, did he say?"
"That's not a name I've ever hear of."
"A mudblood in Slytherin?"
Max pointed towards Moody, who was sitting opposite him. Tom coldly cast his eye up and down the table. As he finally shook Moody's hand, everything went black. No! This one memory I wanted to experience in full!
Someone was shaking me.
I opened my eyes and yawned loudly. I looked down at my hands, where this week's Transfiguration Today lay. Hermione was standing over me, a disapproving look marring her features.
"What?" I said, louder than I had intended.
"Shh!" she said, looking around. Madame Pince, who was leading a procession of books to their shelves like a conductor, shot me and affronted look.
"Why'd you wake me up?" I snapped. I had the rarest of opportunities to find out what my grandfather was like and I had been robbed of it. Judging by the fact that my parents died by Voldemort's hand, Max and Tom's friendship must have been fleeting. While I knew Hermione could never have known what she had interrupted, I couldn't help but feel supremely annoyed.
"The library's closing now," she said waspishly. "Even your girlfriend's left." I looked around bleary-eyed, and indeed I could not see Tracey, who I had asked out only a fortnight ago.
"What?" I said, glancing down at my watch. "Crap!" I jumped to my feet and tore out of the library - I should have been knocking on Moody's door five minutes ago. I knew how he hated lateness, especially since this was our last lesson before the summer. A minute later, I was knocking on his classroom door, panting.
It was not Moody's rough growl that greeted me, but Snape's sneering tones. What was going on? I drew my wand as a precautionary method, as Moody had taught me to, and opened the door.
As usual, the tables and chairs that usually occupied the centre of the classroom were stacked along the walls either side of me, giving the room a strangely empty feel to it. Occupying the very centre of the room, as if he had chosen the spot meticulously, was Snape.
"What are you doing here, Potter?" asked Snape coldly.
"I am here for a remedial lesson with Professor Moody," I said, hating the tired excuse I had used with everybody but Terry and Hermione. "Why are you here?"
"It seems that you are under the unfortunate impression that you own this castle," said Snape, his upper lip curling. "It reminds me of another foolish Potter. He too strutted around the castle, expecting all in his path to bow down -"
"Shut up," I snapped. I didn't care if he was a Professor; there was no way I was going to let him get away with insulting my father. Perhaps it was the memory of Max, but Snape's comments made me want to hex him more than they usually did.
"Detention, Potter," said Snape, looking like an ugly spider that had eaten a particularly juicy fly.
"Where's Professor Moody?" I asked, trying to control my anger.
"I had banked on your rudimentary skills in observation," said Snape slowly, "clearly even this is beyond your grasp. Let me explain; Professor Moody is not here. I know this because I cannot see him. If he were here, you would see him. Do you understand this concept?" He smiled condescendingly at me.
I did not trust myself to stay in the room with Snape any longer. I turned around and clutched the cold, brass handle of the door. The next thing I knew I was lying on the stone floor of Moody's classroom, a wand in my face.
"You've forgotten my golden rule, Potter." Despite my vulnerable position and rising feeling of embarrassment, I was glad to hear Moody's familiar growl.
"Constant vigilance," I said monotonously. I hoisted myself up to my feet with a groan and shook the dust from my robes. I should have known that Moody would never let Snape anywhere near his classroom unsupervised. The near-perfect jibe at my father had put me off the trail.
"What did that exercise teach you, Potter?" snapped Moody, his electric blue magical eye looking frantically left and right. Any other teacher, and I would have come up with a witty retort. But not with Moody.
"Firstly, to check that people are who they say they are," I said. "Secondly, not to let personal feelings get in the way and, finally, never to turn my back on someone I don't trust." Moody grunted approvingly.
"It's a coward who attacks a man when his back is turned," he said gruffly, "but the scum of the Wizarding World are all cowards."
"Even Voldemort?" I said quietly. Both Moody's eyes rested on me momentarily and I felt as though I was being cross-examined.
"Aye," he growled, "especially Voldemort. His last act was one of cowardice, son." He pointed a gnarled finger at my scar.
"Have you ever seen Voldemort?" I asked, hoping I wasn't giving away any of the eagerness that was bubbling inside of me.
"Seen him?" barked Moody mirthlessly. "Last time I saw him was almost the last time I saw, see?" He pointed at his magical eye.
"Did you know him at Hogwarts?" I asked. In a blink of an eye, Moody had me pinned against the door, his wand digging into my chin. I winced as the pain shot through the floor of my mouth.
"Immediately after the lesson on Unforgivables," he snarled, "what did I give you?" I thought back to that memorable lesson. Moody mistook my interest for fear and called me back after the lesson.
"A picture of my parents with a group of their friends," I rasped, struggling to breathe.
"And what did I say about your father?" he said, refusing to release me.
"That you shouldn't have favourites as Head Auror," I wheezed, "but he was yours." He released me immediately and I rubbed my chin where his wand had been seconds before.
"Sorry, Potter," he said gruffly, "but when folks start enquiring about Voldemort's past, I start to get suspicious, see?" I nodded. He rubbed his bicep and his magical eye disappeared into the back of his head.
"It's just that next to Voldemort's award for special services, I noticed two awards dated for a year after. One was the Bilius Digby Ancient Runes award and the other -"
"- the Helga Hufflepuff Award for Outstanding Improvement." There was a glint in his small, dark eye; I had the feeling he was impressed. "Aye, I was at school with him - your grandfather too. In fact, those were the only two awards we could manage between us since Riddle got everything else. I wondered when you'd work it out." Moody flicked his wand and I flinched. I soon felt very foolish as two of the chairs at the side hopped towards us. Moody took one, I the other.
No matter what I did, I could not calm down. I was going to find out about my grandfather! The thought was too great, too wonderful.
"We were all friends at one stage," said Moody, "Maxi, Tom and I." He rubbed his bicep again before continuing. "It was natural for three outcasts to turn to each other for friendship. The Slytherins hated my Dumbledore-loving family, Max's surname and, of course, Tom's heritage."
"But he's the heir -"
"- of Slytherin, I know. Hell, we all knew - he wouldn't stop obsessing about it. But the others couldn't bring themselves to believe him. A half-blood heir of Slytherin!" He laughed dryly. "They refused to accept him, especially considering who his friends were. Between you and me, which all of this is, this had a phenomenal effect on Tom. It consumed him, Potter. There came a time where he had to accept that he would never have a place in the Slytherin house hierarchy." Moody's magical eye became fixed on a point through the far wall.
"What then?" I asked, enthralled.
"Your grandfather, Tom and I formed a group. We were all gifted, all wildly ambitious, all in similar circumstances. It isn't unusual for a group of such young wizards to come together. Hell, just look at your father and his friends." I remembered the conversations I had with Professor Lupin last year and smiled faintly. "Of course, our aims were a little more serious and dangerous than humiliating Slytherins on a regular basis. We were working towards fixing something that had affected all our lives, something that affects everyone -" Both Moody's eyes flicked towards the door.
"What -" Moody silenced me by jabbing his wand at the space between us. A table materialized in a blink of an eye and with two flicks, a piece of parchment rose up from inside the table itself. Moody scribbled furiously on the parchment as a knock resounded throughout the room. Moody stood and indicated for me to follow suit.
"And that is why, Potter," he said, slightly louder than usual, hobbling towards the door, "we use a simple stunner rather than that disarming spell you can't get enough of. Especially if your opponent is a Muggleborn. It's all part of my golden rule - which is?"
"Constant vigilance," I said for the second time, greatly annoyed that we were interrupted in this of all lessons. Moody opened the door where Dumbledore stood, looking at us both quite serenely.
"I hope I haven't interrupted, Alastor," he said with a smile.
"No, we were just finishing," said Moody gruffly. "Follow the instructions on that sheet and you'll live when I'm not here to hold your hand." He folded the parchment and placed it roughly into my hands.
"Reassuring as you ever have been," said Dumbledore pleasantly. I stepped out into the corridor.
"They're here to be taught," said Moody irritably as Dumbledore stepped into the classroom, "not mollycoddled. And if you think you can convince me to ruin my retirement again next year…" He slammed the door shut and I was suddenly alone. I glanced down at the brusquely folded parchment. Soothing it out, I read and re-read it, feeling my eyes narrow.
NEVER ASK AGAIN
NEVER MENTION IT
THE SECRET BELONGS TO THE KNIGHTS OF WALPURGIS