Chapter 1 : Wizards and Wardrobes
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It was an ordinary day. I was living in the orphanage, sitting on my bed and staring off into space as I always did. I would think about my dad, who, I hoped, would one day come get me and take me away from this place. He would be rich and powerful and be in a high position in the world, like a prime minister or a member of parliament; he would be someone who controlled the people. I liked that idea. I wanted control.
There was a slight knock on the door that I almost missed and then a tall, middle-aged man walked into my room. He has neatly-trimmed beard, long, scraggly auburn hair and he wore half-moon spectacles over his piercing blue eyes. What was really odd was that he was dressed in a purple suit. Who wears a purple suit?
We stared at each other in silence. I’m sure he wanted me to speak first, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. I wanted him to tell me who he was and why he was here. Then, he opened his mouth and spoke.
“How do you do, Tom?” I suppressed a groan at the name. Tom. I hated it. It was my mother’s dying wish to have me named after my father, Tom, and my grandfather, Marvolo. I also got my father’s last name, Riddle.
The man held out his hand for me. I took it hesitantly and shook it. He spoke again.
“I am Professor Dumbledore,” he said. Professor? What was a professor doing here? Then, a realization dawned on me. Mrs. Cole had always thought I was crazy, but now she was finally getting someone to check me out. I was not crazy!
I looked at up at the professor and decided to call him out.
“Professor?” I asked. “Is that like doctor? What are you here for? Did she get you in to have a look at me?” Instead of looking as if he were caught, Professor Dumbledore just smiled at me, warmly.
“No, no,” he said, shaking his head. His auburn locks shook from side to side.
“I don’t believe you! She wants me looked at, doesn’t she?” I yelled at him. He was lying and I knew it.
I continued on. “Tell the truth!” I waited for him to answer me, to tell me that he really was a doctor, to tell me that Mrs. Cole wanted me institutionalized or sedated, but he just continued to smile at me. It was getting irritating. So I decided to try a different approach.
“Who are you?” I asked, but my question sounded more like a command. If he was impatient or angry at me, he didn’t show it through his smile.
“I have told you. I am 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.” I jumped up off my bed. How stupid did he think I was? I wasn’t going to some asylum with him. I didn’t want to! I wouldn’t!
“You can’t kid me! The asylum, that’s where you’re from, isn’t it? ‘Professor’” I said, adding on the last word with heavy sarcasm. Then, when he said nothing, I continued to ramble on.
“Yes, of course—well, I’m not going, see? 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 lied through my teeth. I kept the smile off my face as I remember leading them into the cave off the coast. They followed me so easily. Next thing they know they are writhing on the ground in pain. Now, they’re both too shaken up to say anything. That will teach them not to annoy me. They know now.
The so called professor looked genuinely surprised at my outburst. I was scared that I had said too much. Didn’t Mrs. Cole tell him about that?
“I am not from the asylum,” He said, his face unreadable. “I am a teacher and, if you will sit down calmly, I shall tell you about Hogwarts. Of course, if you would rather not come to the school, nobody will force you—“
I cut him off. “I’d like to see them try,” I spat out, but he continued on as if I hadn’t spoken.
“Hogwarts is a school for people with special abilities—“
Again, I interrupted him. “I’m not mad!” I assumed that he was just trying to down play that I was crazy by calling it “special abilities”.
This time he acknowledged my outburst and said “I know that you are not mad. Hogwarts is not a school for mad people. It is a school of magic.” I was shocked when he said magic. That would explain it all. My abilities. How things just seem to happen. If it were true, of course, it would explain everything. If not, then he was definitely a doctor. But I believed him already. It was the only solution. I always knew I was different, unique. I could do things that no one could explain, which is why I got away with so much here at the orphanage. I wanted to believe him so badly that I had to ask. I had to make him say it again.
“Magic?” I asked. The professor nodded his head in agreement.
“That’s right,” he assured me. I was thrilled. Not only was I going to escape this hole they called an orphanage, but I would be able to become powerful with magic. I would be the best!
“It’s… it’s magic, what I can do?” I asked. I had to make sure it wasn’t a dream, because this was just too amazing. It couldn’t be happening.
Instead of answering me, he asked what could I do. I couldn’t help it. I got dreamy eyed and told him all my abilities.
“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.” I told him. Pride rushed through me. Surely he must be impressed, too. I was so happy that I couldn’t stand anymore and my legs gave out, making sit on the bed again. I didn’t mind, though. I just stared at my hands, my magic hands.
“I knew I was different,” I whispered to myself. “I knew I was special. Always. I knew there was something.” And now I know what that something is. It’s magic. I, finally, looked at Professor Dumbledore, expecting a look of awe on his face, but it wasn’t there. Instead, he appeared to be studying me, evaluating me.
“Well, you are quite right,” he said, still looking at me curiously. “You are a wizard.” A smile appeared on my face. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty, as I was imagining all those who would feel my wrath. I would get revenge on them. I was a wizard and I was powerful and I would make everybody know my name… well, maybe I would come up with a different name. I didn’t like Tom.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. Why didn’t I see if before? Professor Dumbledore must be a wizard, too. I asked him.
He nodded his head. “Yes, I am.”
I was curious. What could he do? I came up with a plan. I wanted to see him use magic.
“Prove it. Tell the truth,” I commanded. The professor just raised his bushy eyebrows at me.
Then, he said “If, as I take it, you are accepting you place at Hogwarts—“
I butted in. “Of course, I am!” I exclaimed. He was really dense. How could I not accept his offer? It was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Again, he continued on as if I said nothing. “Then, you will address me as ‘Professor’ or ‘sir’,” he finished.
I hated when grown ups spoke like that. He was patronizing me. I could feel it, but I put aside my dislike and faked my most charming smile that I used while meeting potential parents and always charmed them. It would have worked in getting me adopted, but Mrs. Cole always told them about the things she thought I did. I really did do them, but she didn’t have the right to tell my future parents about them. I spoke to him again, this time using my most flattering voice.
“I’m sorry, sir. I meant—please, Professor, could you show me--?” The professor grabbed a long stick out of his jacket. I must’ve been a wand. He, then, pointed it at my wardrobe. My throat swelled up with fear as he set it on fire.
My objects, my possessions, my treasures, all gone! They were ruined! I jumped up and yelled at him in anger and rage, but then I saw the flames die down, leaving the wardrobe unharmed. I breathed a sigh of sheer relief. Thank goodness, my stuff was okay. It was all I had, even if it wasn’t really supposed to be mine. Then, I took a closer look at the professor’s wand. I wanted one. I wanted one badly.
“Where can I get one of them?” I asked, not bothering to hide the greed and possessiveness in my voice. It didn’t matter. Professor Dumbledore didn’t believe my charade.
“All in good time,” he answered. “I think there is something trying to get out of your wardrobe.” Right after he said it, I heard a faint rattling noise. He knew about my belongings and even though he didn’t say it, I had a feeling he knew they weren’t mine. I don’t know how, but he just knew. I suddenly felt scared. What would he do to me? He knew I took them without asking. I stole them.
“Open the door,” he said kindly, though with much authority. I had to obey. I walked over to the doors and opened them all the way. There were a few articles of clothing hanging on the rack in it and there was a shelf above them. My box of shaking goodies was on top of it and the professor was staring at it.
“Take it out,” he said. I did as I was told. He, then, confirmed my fears. “Is there anything in that box that you ought not to have?” He asked me, but he already knew the answer.
“Yes, I suppose so, sir.” I answered him. I suppose he wanted me to feel something like remorse or shame or maybe even guilt, but all I felt was anger. He was making me give up things that I cherished, when I had nothing to my name. All the things in my room weren’t really mine. The clothes in my closet belonged to the orphanage and would be taken away once I turned 18, because I knew I wouldn’t get adopted. When I went to Hogwarts, I would have nothing.
“Open it,” he commanded nicely again. I slowly took off the lid, and poured the objects onto my bed. There was a small harmonica, a yo-yo, and a shiny silver thimble. It didn’t seem like much, but it was all I had, even though it wasn’t really my own. I would play with each thing in my room, away from the other children. It wasn’t much, but I enjoyed myself.
The objects stopped shaking as they hit my bed. Professor Dumbledore looked me in the eyes and said in an authoritative voice that I would return them to their owners with an apology.
“I shall know whether it has been done. And be warned,” He said gravely, “That thieving is not tolerated at Hogwarts.” My rage built up even more. Return them? They were mine! I wanted to say something. I wanted to argue with him and make him see that he was wrong, but I had no say in the matter. I had to give them back. I had nothing. He continued talking.
“At Hogwarts we teach you not only to use magic, but to control it. You have—inadvertently, I am sure“ But by the look on his face, he didn’t believe that. He knew I used them on purpose to hurt and control people. “—been using your powers in a way that is neither taught nor tolerated at our school. You are no the first, not will you be the last, to allow your magic to run away with you. But you should know that Hogwarts can expel students, and the Ministry of Magic—“I looked up with surprise. Ministry? As if he could read my thoughts he said “Yes, there is a Ministry—will punish lawbreakers still more severely. All new wizards must accept that in entering our world, they abide by our laws.”
He saw right though my innocent guise that I tried to put on. He would watch me closely, I knew, very closely. I was both scared and angered by this. Professor Dumbledore was a force to be reckoned with and I knew that he shouldn’t be underestimated, but I knew that I could out smart him; keep under his radar. I was cunning and resourceful. It would be easy. I didn’t voice my thoughts. I just nodded my head and said “Yes, sir.”
I looked back at my belongings and again was reminded that I had nothing. Wait a minute. I had nothing. No money. How would I buy things for school? Surely I would need supplies and books. I voiced this to the professor.
“I haven’t got any money,” I said to him gloomily. I already knew I wouldn’t fit in. I was like the scholarship kid surrounded by the people with rich mommies and daddies. I was the charity case. I would have hand-me-down books and never have the latest supplies or any of the coolest things. I would have to make do with cheap, worn out things.
Professor Dumbledore spoke. “That is easily remedied,” he assured me. He pulled out a brown pouch that clinked and clanged like the sound of money. I was already getting hand outs. I hated this.
“There is a fund at Hogwarts for those who require assistance to buy books and robes. You might have to buy some of your spell books and so on secondhand, but—“
Curiosity struck me again and I blurted words out before he could finish his sentence.
“Where do you buy spellbooks?” I asked as I snatched the pouch from his hand. I opened it and looked at the money while he spoke. I liked the big gold coin.
“In Diagon Alley,” he replied politely, even though I hadn’t bothered being nice to him. “I have your list of books and school equipment with me. I can help you find everything—“
I stared at him in disbelief.
“You’re coming with me?” I asked him. I didn’t need a babysitter. I could do it on my own.
“Certainly, if you—“ I cut him off again. He is probably used to it by now, though.
“I don’t need you,” I stated bluntly. No point it putting on my act. He didn’t even slightly believe it. Especially since he knows I stole and he knows how I use my powers. “I’m used to doing things for myself; I go round London on my own all the time. How do I get to this Diagon Alley—sir?” I sir on, almost forgetting it. I stared straight into his eyes while saying this, daring him to argue or disagree with me. But he didn’t. Instead he gave me directions to a place a called “The Leaky Cauldron” and an envelope with my list of supplies in it.
“You will be able to see it, though muggles around you—non-magical people—will not. Ask for Ton the bar-man—easy enough to remember as he shares your name—“
Unfortunately I couldn’t hide the grimace when he said that. I also had a slight spasm that occurred as he said the name Tom. He, of course, noticed it right away.
“You dislike the name ‘Tom’?” he questioned me.
“There are a lot of Toms,” I replied. I hated being ordinary. Average was something I refused to be, even if my name was. I started to think of my father again and how his name was Tom. It dawned on me that he might have even been a wizard. “Was my father a wizard? He was called Tom Riddle, too, they’ve told me,” I said.
His voice softened as he said “I am afraid I don’t know.” I barely heard him. My head clouded with thoughts of my unknown father. I now dreamed, instead of him being in parliament, he would be in the ministry. Not at the top, because if he was Professor Dumbledore would have told me, but working away in a high position.
“My mother can’t have been magic, or she wouldn’t have died. It must have been him.” I said in dreaming that my father would be proud of me for being a wizard like him. “So—when I’ve got all my stuff—when do I come to Hogwarts?” The professor smiled at me again.
“All the details are on the second piece of parchment in your envelope. You will leave from King’s Cross Station on the first of September. There is a train ticket in there, too.” I nodded, understanding. Then, he got up from his seat and held out his hand again. I took it more assuredly this time. As I shook it, I found myself not trusting him. He seemed to be a pleasant man that most people would get along with, but he obviously didn’t trust me and he was suspicious of my intentions. I was going to keep an eye on him as he was on me.
Even though I didn’t trust him, I found that my curiosity and need to impress him took over and I blurted out my secret.
“I can speak to snakes. 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?” I asked him, hoping it was extremely uncommon.
He was obviously hesitating, giving me the impression that something was wrong with speaking to snakes. But I was filled with delight because it sounded as if it wasn’t a common occurrence, but I didn’t let it show. I feigned innocence.
Dumbledore spoke finally. “It is unusual.” I smiled triumphantly, but I wasn’t happy that I didn’t detect a hint of jealousy or admiration on his face. In fact, he looked troubled. What could be so wrong about talking to snakes? I had power, so what? Was it so bad that I intended to use this gift and that I liked having it?
I was so lost in thought that I was slightly startled when he continued speaking. “But not unheard of.” He finished. We stared at each other for a few minutes, each judging the other’s reactions.
He, then, dropped my hand, and went to the door. But before he left he turned to me.
“Goodbye, Tom. I shall see you at Hogwarts.” And then he was gone.