Chapter 4 : Friends
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I buried my hands into the pockets of my coat, but I still couldn’t help but shiver. I hated the cold, and hated Herbology as a result—for no other reason would I ever be trekking about the grounds on a day that the wind was blowing ice crystals off the roofs. It was bloody March and the weather hadn’t budged from freezing.
Beside me, Marcella Bright chattered amicably about her family back home. I didn’t mind the girl; she was sweet and always meant well. A bit of an airhead, sure, but I liked her besides. She talked more than I did, which was weirdly endearing. Marcella was one of the other four girls assigned to my dormitory.
“So really, my brother doesn’t look like me at all since he looks like my mom and she has dark hair. I obviously don’t hahah…” she pulled on one of her blond locks. “He’s a third year and he’s good at charms I think he wants to work for the ministry…”
I smiled vaguely, not hearing her. I was looking for Tom. He hadn’t been in the common room when I woke up, and I hadn’t seen him all day. We never planned to meet before classes, but we normally went together anyways.
I suppressed a pout thinking that he might have found something, or worse, someone better.
If there was one thing I had learned about Tom Riddle it was that he was not the orphan boy in need of rescuing I had initially thought he was. He didn’t need, nor want to be saved from anything.
The teachers loved him as much as they loved me, perhaps more, since he possessed intelligence I did not. He was polite and quiet, in all ways a nice boy. His manufactured sweetness could help him mellow even the crabbiest teachers and I felt a mix of admiration and envy at his power of persuasion…one I had been convinced I mastered.
But he seemed to have no interest in me at all.
Sure, he’d let me stay with him and sit next to him in class. We’d be partners when the situation required it and we’d sit together at lunch. But it was always I who made sure this happened, always me who sought him out. I’m almost positive he wouldn’t have noticed or cared if once day I just didn’t go near him at all.
But of course, he had beaten me to it and abandoned me before I could blink. And of course I thought about him the entire time he was missing.
He wasn’t even fun to hang out with. I don’t know why I felt the need to see what he was up to and stay by his side. I suppose it could be curiosity. Or just pure stubbornness, my own need to prove to myself that I could make him like me.
I had promised I'd be his friend!
It was becoming desperately difficult to do so, since all Tom did now was read. Every time I saw him, his nose was buried in some book, oftentimes one that even the upperclassmen would balk at. He would lug huge dusty volumes from the library on a multitude of subjects. He would read spell books and history books that weren’t assigned in class; he would tear his way through chronicles with such speed that even I had to admit I was impressed. His favorite subject seemed to be genealogy.
Sometimes I would sneak a look at something he was reading only to see a large, complicated looking family tree. I didn’t know what he was looking for, or if he was looking for anything at all. Every time I’d get near asking, he’d change the subject. He was just so strange.
I made other friends of course, albeit none as intriguing as Tom. Marcella was my favorite so far, she was a cute girl, very ditzy, but able to make up for not being so good in school with her sugary attitude toward teachers. She was already quite popular, so I figured it’d be smart to join forces. I judged the other girls in my year to be nothing exceptional, so I would never go out of my way to befriend any of them.
The older girls, however, I found more interesting. They hung around with the troops of elder boys, and I couldn’t help but want to be like them, kicking their feet up on the chintz chairs in the common room, hiking their skirts up to heights that were just enough to be defiant without being obscene.
Some were nothing but trash, hanging around their thuggish boyfriends and giving Slytherin house a bad name. Some were quietly rebellious, some as outgoing and mischievous as the boys. I wanted to learn secret passages and know the ways of being a teenager, but none of them really seemed to notice me. I would just have to wait.
I hated waiting, and I hated being left out. Never before had I been left out before I came to Hogwarts, and never before had I felt so strong a desire to be in the center of things and know everything.
Looking back, I had always had a shifty affinity for dirty secrets. I just wasn’t old enough to be ashamed of it yet. Or know that all it would ever bring me is trouble.
I was pulled from my thoughts when we finally entered the greenhouse. I scanned the area for Tom, and found him waiting quietly for the class to begin. I smiled and parted with Marcella, less than heartbroken to leave the one-sided conversation.
“Where were you all day?” I asked casually, sliding up beside him and pulling my gloves on as if I didn’t really care where he had been.
I waited for him to elaborate, but of course he didn’t.
I took the bait. “For what?”
He paused, toying with the idea of leaving me in the dark. I bit back my annoyance for curiosity’s sake and smiled what I hoped was a dazzling smile.
“Oh, please tell me Tom, I’ve been wondering where you’ve been!”
Tom picked up the plant we were apparently supposed to be observing and taking notes on. I was sure he wasn’t going to answer me—he had already started jotting down characteristics of the slimy green thing in his hand—until he paused.
“Would you like to help me?”
“Depends. What would I be helping with?”
“I’m going to find out who my father was.”
I laughed, wondering how I could be so stupid as to have forgotten. “That’s all? Of course I’ll help. Why the big secret?”
Tom looked annoyed. “Everyone doesn’t need to know everything.”
Naturally, I jumped at the chance to have a secret with him. “Oh, yes. I won’t tell anyone. It’s none of their business.”
We worked in silence for a few moments, both of us creating impressive lists of characteristics for the repulsive plants in front of us.
“Have you any ideas so far?” I asked, glancing at him. I never knew how far was too far to pry with Tom. I couldn’t read him, and sometimes he refused to answer the most nonthreatening questions.
Predictably, he looked uncomfortable. “No.”
“What about your mother?”
“She doesn’t matter. She was only a Muggle.”
“How are you sure?”
He shot a sharp look at me. “Because she was, Anne. You don’t know anything about it.”
I waved away his anger with my gloved hand. “Alright, alright. I don’t mean any harm by asking, you know. And I’d never tell anyone anything you tell me. You can trust me.”
He was still eyeing me. “We’ll see.”
I pouted. “I thought we were friends.”
“Friends…” he snorted. I scoffed audibly. He looked back up at me and I could see that behind his eyes, he was thinking. He was calculating something, and I burned desperately to know what it was.
“Yes, we’re friends,” Tom declared, though there was a note of irony in his voice.
“You’re very convincing.”
Tom smirked, the ironic air still about him. “I mean it.”
“How could you not? You’re so social anyone would guess that all you want is total popularity and heaps of friends.” I snapped, tossing the ooze covered pliers onto the counter, finished searing the plants leaves.
Tom actually laughed. It was an odd laugh. Too high pitched for him, almost like a bark or cough instead of a laugh.
“No, no…but you will be my friend Anne. And friends help each other.”
I smiled. I was finally, officially, Tom Riddle’s friend. His first and only friend here at Hogwarts.
“Of course they do,” I said sweetly.
That night I sat with Tom in the library, taking a corner in the back of the cavernous room. He pulled out one of the huge books I had seen him reading earlier. I read the cover. The Greatest Wizarding Families of Britain: Edition XIX.
Someone had some high hopes, didn’t they?
I didn’t comment, instead sliding it across the table to look at it. It was a strange book, the words seemed to shimmer and the pages curiously expanded to accommodate the huge family trees they contained. Families were listed alphabetically…I scanned down the table of contents. There was no Riddle family listed. I didn’t point out the obvious, and waited for him to explain.
“If my grandmother married a Riddle, he’d be listed under her family’s page. Their son would be my father,” he informed me.
The assumption that someone in his family came from one of the “greatest wizarding families of Britain” seemed a lofty one to me, but I bit my tongue and opened the cover of the book.
The pages were plated in gold and showed family trees dating back to the 1400’s. I scanned along the bottom of the first page. The most recent wizards had been born around 1910, but those who didn’t carry on the family name were mentioned only by first name. I tried doing the math in my head, but it had never been my strong suit.
“Mrs. Cole once said that my mother was around eighteen when she had me,” Tom said quietly. “So assuming my father was around the same age, he’d have been born between 1902 and 1909.”
I could tell he had thought about this many times before.
“Got it,” I said, not being able to help but add: “Wouldn’t this be easier if we asked Professor Dippet if there’s a list somewhere of all the students that attended here?”
“I don’t need his help,” Tom said.
“Right,” I grumbled.
I went to work flipping pages and checking the bottom of the pages for a Tom. I noticed after a while that anyone who married a Muggle, family name continuing or not, had their lineage cut off afterward. They didn’t even write the Muggles’ names.
Filius Greengrass, for example, had married an “unidentified Muggle” in 1867, and any uninformed person would have assumed they didn’t have any children. Just like everyone else with a Muggle spouse. And curiously enough, all the Muggles in the book were “unidentified.”
I snorted in disgust. I had never had a problem with Muggles. My own grandfather was a muggle, for God sake. I liked their funny inventions and sense of nostalgia. I liked seeing the still photographs of my Grandfather’s childhood. I liked watching “movies” (pretty moving pictures that kept going and made stories) with him and I liked how muggles worked so hard to get through life without magic.
The only thing that bothered me about my Hogwarts house was the fact that everyone here talked about Muggles as though they were something disgusting, or poisonous.
Tom was sitting across from me, his nose buried in a census from 1910. I tried to concentrate on the book in front of me. I noticed the Black family —there was a girl with the surname Black here at Hogwarts, though she was a few years ahead of me. I read other names that were vaguely familiar to me, until I stopped at the top of a page.
Salazar Slytherin (967-1050) m. Damenia Corwell (972-1064)
The lineage then jumped ahead to the 1400’s, where all of the other families had begun. Clearly, someone had thought my house’s founder was important enough to mention, even though he wasn’t recent enough to really matter.
I looked at the top of the page. The House of Gaunt was inscribed at the top, next to its coat of arms, a really rather ugly black thing with a snake entangled in it. Something was written in Latin across it as well, but I couldn’t make it out.
I scanned down the page, noticing that the family had a particular affinity for inbreeding. Cousins were marrying cousins all over the place. There were only two names at the bottom of the page.
Morfin hadn’t married. The name next to him, Merope, was linked by a thin gold line to an “unidentified Muggle.”
The house was, in pure-blood terms, extinct. I flipped the page.
Tom and I stayed in the library until we were nearly cursed out of it by the librarian, Madam Leanna Pince. I didn’t like her; she looked like a bird ready to feed on every one of us students.
Tom insisted on bringing the books back to the common room. I yawned and collapsed in one of the common room chairs when we got back.
“Did you find anything?” Tom asked, though I knew he knew I hadn’t.
I shook my head. “You?”
Tom’s eyebrows were knitted together. “I think he might have been from somewhere else…there are no Riddles anywhere…he must have been from Scotland or something.”
“There weren’t any Riddles?”
He didn’t respond. I frowned. It was beyond reason that his father had been a wizard that attended Hogwarts and wasn’t mentioned anywhere…but maybe Tom was right. He could be from Scotland.
I got up, heading to my dormitory. “We can look more tomorrow, then. We’ll find him, I’m sure of it, Tom.”
“Give me that back.”
He was pointing at The Greatest Wizarding Families of Britain: Edition XIX. “Of course…aren’t you going to bed though?”
He took the book from me and sat down at one of the wooden tables by the fire. “No.”
Tom didn’t answer me, instead flipping the book open and propping his head up on his hand to read.
The next morning we had transfiguration first thing. I saw, with a jolt of self-satisfied happiness, that Tom was waiting for me by the door.
“Morning,” I said cheerfully. He said nothing, but the simple fact that he had waited for me put me in a fantastic mood. He looked dead tired; his dark eyes were heavy lidded, and he kept stifling yawns with his palm. I didn’t ask if he made any progress. I hoped he would have told me on his own.
We filed into Professor Dumbledore’s classroom on the first floor with the Ravenclaws. I couldn’t help but love his room. It was filled with whirring objects and old mirrors, spellbooks filed neatly on a shelf by the window. The back wall was covered in caged animals, everything from toads to mice to tropical birds.
“Good morning, students,” Dumbledore greeted us from the front of his room. He was wearing obnoxiously purple robes, which clashed magnificently with his silver streaked reddish hair. I smiled to myself. “Today we will be beginning with animate to inanimate transfiguration.”
There was a ripple of moans and sighs through the class. Many of my classmates had been convinced that turning matches to needles was hard enough transfiguration for them. I, on the other hand, liked it. Transfiguration seemed to be the one subject I was just as good at, or I even dare say better, than Tom at.
Tom hated this class. He consistently complained under his breath about the seemingly pointless tasks we were assigned, such as changing spoons to knives and changing the color of flowers. He hated Dumbledore right along with our Slytherin housemates. I searched everyday to find something to dislike about Dumbledore, but never really came up with anything.
“Your task today will be to transfigure an animal—” he pointed his wand at one of the cages on the wall, and it burst open. A rainbow colored pelican swooped over to him. “Into a work of glass.”
He tapped the bird lightly with his wand, and in an instant, its colors disappeared and it shrank into a beautiful crystallized glass bowl. There was some scattered applause. I joined in. Tom rolled his eyes.
“Your work will be done on a snail today, as they are much less complex, due to their lack of bones. I really shouldn’t be teaching you this yet, but you have proven yourselves to be a rather advanced class…” his eyes flicked to where Tom and I were sitting. “And I have the utmost faith that you will be able to accomplish this.”
He went on to teach us the incantation and the mechanics of wand movement. I was bursting to try, and when he handed me my snail, I grabbed it and placed it directly in front of me. Tom lazily pulled his from the box.
“These things are disgusting,” he complained, wiping the slime from the snail’s foot on the table.
I ignored him.
“Fera verto,” I said, flicking my wand at the snail. It did nothing but begin to trail ooze across my desk.
I tried again, with more conviction. “Fera verto.”
I thought I saw it twitch.
Tom poked his snail half-heartedly a few times, muttering the words of the incantation under his breath. After two tries he sniffed and flipped the snail over onto its back, so it waved its foot helplessly in the air, unable to escape. He watched me make a few more failed attempts. The weight of his staring spurred me to do better.
I glared at my own snail. “Fera Verto!”
With a shudder, it suddenly elongated, stretched and turned…it now resembled a simply designed goblet of glass. Rather dingy, almost slimy looking glass, but unmistakably glass.
I laughed with joy. “Yes!”
Tom looked like he had swallowed one of the snails from Dumbledore’s box. Dumbledore had looked over with the sound of my laugh.
His face split into a disbelieving smile. “Miss Harley! That has to be the fastest I have ever seen a student pick this up. Well done!”
“Thank you, Professor,” I glowed.
Dumbledre glanced down at Tom. “Don’t be disheartened, Tom, let’s see you too.”
Tom shot a look of pure venom at Dumbledore. He picked up his wand.
His snail began to shudder as mine had done, but instead of forming anything as recognizable as a glass, it stopped short in a shiny, brownish lump.
Dumbledore nodded. “Very well done, you too. I rarely have any students accomplish anything near this the first day they are taught. Keep it up.”
He left Tom and me in awkward silence. I was torn between elation at being better than him, and apprehension that he was now mad at me. It was as if I desperately wanted to triumph over him and be his closest friend at the same time.
Oh, how little I knew that I would be caught with that peculiar feeling for the next six years of my life.
That night, Tom went to bed late again. It was not because he was searching for his father, no. It was because he had sat in the common room transfiguring a rat over and over again until it finally became an elaborately beautiful, incandescently clear glass goblet.
He had managed to eliminate my only triumph over him.
A/N Hi guys, thanks so much for reading my story! If you have any opinion at all I'd love to hear it, along with any constructive criticism you'd like to share :)
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