Chapter 1 : Prologue
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(PS: If you've reviewed the previous version, please know that I appreciated your review very much. Before deleting the story, I backed up all reviews and use them for reference whilst editing and writing.)
Platform Nine and Three Quarters is filled with children swarming through the crowds, the laughter filling the air intermingled with parents' shouts demanding good behaviour whilst at school and queries about whether they've forgotten anything. A tall wizard steps out from the barrier, two equally tall boys quickly on his heels. Moments later, a small boy follows them, and the wizard puts his hand on the boy's shoulder, guiding him away from the passageway lest anyone behind should collide with him. The boy's eyes are wide open as he stares at the grand train in front of them, his awe clearly evident upon his sharp features. The wizard smiles wistfully, recalling the first time that he saw the Hogwarts Express as a child.
“This is how you get to the platform from King's Cross,” the wizard explains. “I have to see off my sons – will you be all right now, Tom?” Tom Riddle nods, and the wizard smiles. “Enjoy Hogwarts – I'm sure you'll love it.”
Before Tom can utter a word, the wizard lets go of him and slips into the crowd, following his sons' trail. The boy is left alone, a small suitcase sat upon the trolley he clutches onto. His eyes search through the crowd as he wonders if there are other children like him: children without family to guide them through the important step of starting school.
Or is he more special than most, and the only one without a family?
Tom is so busy staring at the crowds and the train, transfixed by the sight in front of him, that he does not notice the onslaught of people behind him rushing to catch the train until he feels cold metal collide with the back of his legs and his bottom land rather abruptly on somebody else's trunk.
“Sorry!” cries a boy who looks about his age.
Tom stands up again and brushes the back of his trousers, glaring at the boy. Now that he is not looking from an upside-down position, he can see that the raven-haired wizard is wearing robes similar to Tom's school uniform and that he has long, curly hair ending at his shoulders. Next to the boy stands a girl who looks a little older, already wearing her Hogwarts uniform. Her hair is tied back with green ribbon, and Tom can't help but wonder if her intent is to be placed into Slytherin House, with its colours of silver and green.
He does not realize that he has spoken his internal question aloud until the girl nods.
“My name is Walburga Black,” she says, proffering her hand for him to shake. “Do you want to be in Slytherin, too?”
Tom thinks for a moment, recalling the differences between the Houses as outlined in a battered second-hand copy of Hogwarts: A History that he found at the bottom of a sale pile in Flourish and Blotts, before smiling and nodding.
“Yes, I do,” he answers, shaking Walburga's hand. “My name's Tom Riddle.”
“Walburga, Alphard!” a woman's voice shrieks, audible over even the whistle of the conductor as he attempts to warn the passengers that time is running out. “Hurry; you must not dawdle!”
“Come with us,” Walburga says, motioning for Tom to follow. “Alphard, don't slouch.”
Tom glances back at Alphard to see him straightening up, and immediately resuming his former posture as soon as Walburga looks forward once more. He follows the older girl as she guides them through the teeming mass of arms and legs until they reach the train door and board. Quickly, Walburga rushes ahead while Tom stops to remove his trunk from his trolley and help Alphard carry Walburga's, as the raven-haired boy has her trunk in addition to his own.
“Where did Walburga go?” he asks.
“She went to find an empty compartment,” Alphard explains. “Look – there she is, waving. That means she;s found one; we can go in that direction.”
It takes mere moments for Tom and Alphard to join Walburga in the compartment and store away all three trunks – although with difficulty, since none of them are tall enough to reach into the rack as easily as older students could.
“So,” Alphard says after they have finally seated themselves, “how come we've never met you? Wali and I know pretty much everyone in decent pure-blood society, and we thought we knew all the Slytherins in our year.”
“You're Sorted into your Houses before Hogwarts?” Tom asks in bewilderment, and for a brief moment the siblings look at each other nervously before Alphard turns back to Tom.
“No,” he answers, “but everyone who's pure-blood is either in Slytherin or a blood traitor. There's the occasional one of us who's a Ravenclaw, of course, but you share a House with half-bloods and Mudbloods, so it's not really ideal. Anyway, all the Blacks are Slytherins, and we know all the proper pure-blood families.”
Alphard then proceeds to explain the full details of what constitutes a blood traitor, a half-blood and a Mudblood, and by the end of his speech Tom is nervous. Since he discovered that he is a wizard, he has pondered over his mother's demise and father's absence, and has come to the only conclusion that he can make: his mother was a Muggle, because if she had been magical she would have been able to save herself from a pitiful death, while his father was repulsed at the idea of becoming intimate with a Muggle and abandoned her, not knowing that she was with child.
Tom has spent his entire summer planning the future and convincing himself that he will make his mother turn in her unmarked grave with his wonderful success. And now, two children far more educated in the ways of wizarding society than he is are declaring that having a Muggle mother would mean he has dirty blood, and is unworthy of being respectable. He clenches his fists, angry, and silently vows that while he is at Hogwarts, he will learn the most painful, horrible curses in existence and use them upon his father for inflicting a tainted bloodline upon him.
In the silence, Walburga retrieves a book from her handbag and turns to a bookmarked page, surveying Tom carefully before she speaks.
“If you are not in Slytherin when we get Sorted, then our conversation on the platform and the fact that we share this compartment will be forgotten.”
Tom nods in understanding, and then Alphard retrieves a chess set from his bag.
“Want to play?”
“How do you play?” he asks.
The raven-haired wizard sighs. “Bloody hell, Riddle, there's a lot you need to learn.”
“Alphard!” Walburga's screech is loud and harsh, and Tom winces at the unexpected sound. “You do not use such inappropriate language! Our parents raised you to behave in a far better fashion.”
Alphard shrugs casually, unfazed by Walburga's words before looking up at Tom once more.
“Would you believe that she's only a year older than me? Sometimes I can't tell the difference between her and my mother; if she keeps up with this it'll be a nightmare having her in my classes all year.”
Tom is curious as to why Walburga and Alphard are classmates if they are a year apart in age, but before he can ask the question, there is a knock at the compartment door. Through the window, he can see a small flame-haired girl with a forlorn, lost expression, and leans forward to slide the compartment door open.
“Hi,” the girl says, and Tom can detect an accent in her voice. “Can I sit with you, please?”
He turns to the Blacks, and when Walburga gives a small nod, stands aside to allow the girl in. She immediately lifts her trunk into the rack before sitting next to Alphard and opposite Walburga by the window.
“I'm Fee,” she says, but to Tom's surprise, she does not hold out her hand upon meeting like Walburga has. “What are your names?”
“I'm Alphard, this is Tom and that's my sister Walburga,” the raven-haired wizard says before either of the others have a chance to. “Is that an American accent I hear?”
Fee nods. “My mother was American.”
She does not elaborate further, and although Tom notices her use of past tense, he is careful not to ask. This kind of information, he knows, can be gained in other ways and kept up his sleeve. Surprisingly, neither of the Blacks ask either, the subject of America quickly changed to Hogwarts.
It gives Tom hope that he is not as different from them as previously thought; that he may still be pure.
Albus Dumbledore stands by the lake, awaiting the arrival of Hogwarts' new first-years, who he can now see rowing across the waters. He smiles when he hears the sound of their gasps carrying over the water as they take their first look at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, recalling his own first experience of witnessing the castle. Ogg, the gamekeeper, is first to arrive and quietly moors his boat, before he and Albus quickly begin the process of assisting young eleven-year-old students out of their boats, most of whom are unfamiliar with sailing and wobbling precariously as they struggle to disembark their boats. Albus' eye catches the sight of Tom Marvolo Riddle, a young boy who he'd met at a Muggle orphanage in London and who he has promised himself he will keep an eye on.
In the same boat as Tom are two girls and another boy; Albus surveys them carefully as he extends his hand towards them. He is almost positive that the dark-haired, dark-eyed girl is Walburga Black, whose terrible bout of dragonpox the previous year had caused her attendance at Hogwarts to be delayed. Consequently, by the way their features are so similar, Albus can easily deduce that the other boy is Walburga's younger brother Alphard. And of course he remembers the young flame-haired girl who accompanies them; he had paid Fiona Phoenix a visit personally over the summer, just like he had with Tom. Unlike the boy, the girl had been full of indignation at having no choice but to attend boarding school, declaring that she didn't want to become “one of those posh toffs” despite Albus' reassurances that witches and wizards from all walks of life attended Hogwarts.
“Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” Albus announces, watching the young students standing in front of him carefully. “My name is Professor Albus Dumbledore; I am the Deputy Headmaster and Head of Gryffindor House. Follow me or Mr Ogg, and we'll take you to the Entrance Hall. Please do not wander off; these passages are dangerous to navigate for children your age, and I'm sure none of you have the desire to get into trouble on your first night.”
“He'd be wrong,” Alphard whispers to the redhead walking next to him. “I've got a jar full of spiders and I fully intend to let them loose in Cousin Abraxas' bed tonight to get him back for putting frogs in mine.”
Fee laughs, her emerald eyes sparkling with mirth.
“Is he scared of spiders then?” she asks curiously.
“That'd be the understatement of the millennium,” Alphard answers with a grin. “Once, Abraxas was sleeping at ours and he saw a spider in the bath, so he ran out of the bathroom screaming while he was still naked! It was the funniest thing I've ever seen!”
“If he's that scared, don't you think it's overly harsh to prank him like that?” Fee frowns as they reach the Entrance Hall. “Shouldn't you use something different? What about frogs? He pranked you with frogs so you could do the same in return.”
“I'm not a copy-catter,” the boy replies scornfully. “Besides, frogs could easily get into our dorm and wreak havoc; I don't want my prank biting me on the backside.”
Albus stops in the middle of the Entrance Hall and holds both of his hands up in the air in a silent request to all the students to quieten, before indicating towards the doors leading to the Great Hall.
“This is the Entrance Hall. Through those doors is the Great Hall, where all your meals will be served. It is also where you will be Sorted into your respective Houses. The people in your House will be considered somewhat like family whilst you are at Hogwarts. You will share dormitories, a common room and your classes with your House. There are four Houses here at Hogwarts named after the four Founders of the school; Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Each House has its own noble history and all have produced spectacular witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your accomplishments will be rewarded with House points, while misbehaviour leads to points being taken away. At the end of the school year, the House which has the most points will win the House Cup which is considered to be an honour. I hope that each and every one of you will thrive in your House and be a credit to the school. Now, before we enter, do any of you have any questions?”
None of the first-years speak up, something that Albus finds unsurprising. He smiles at them gently once more before leading them into the Great Hall and promptly indicating where they should queue, conjuring the scroll of names into his hand as he does so. While the Sorting Hat opens its brim and starts to sing its annual song, Albus waits.
“It has been almost a thousand years
Since the day I was newly sewn
A day when four wizards lived
Whose names remain well-known
They worked hard to fulfil their dreams
And eventually Hogwarts School began
They divided their students into four
Each Founder having their own plan
While alive they chose their worthy ones
From the incoming throng
But they feared for when they died
How could they choose when they were gone?
So Gryffindor whipped me off his head
And the Founders put brains in me
Now, when I am placed atop your head
I can tell you where you should be
Will you be in Ravenclaw, who only takes
Those with great intelligence?
If you have an eagerness to learn
There you'll find you can make a difference
Or will you be in Gryffindor, where
Dwell those with courageous hearts?
If you're known to be daring and chivalrous
There you'll find those with similar pasts
Will you be in Slytherin, who only takes
The purest blood and the most dignified?
If you're full of cunning and ambition
There you will find your kind
Or will you be in Hufflepuff, where
You'll find those unafraid of toil?
If you'd never betray a friend
There you'll find those also loyal
Now allow me to look in your mind
And I'll tell you where you belong
For in almost a thousand years
I've never yet been wrong!”
“When I call out your name, you are to come forward and sit on the stool, and I will place the Hat upon your head,” Albus instructs. “Alphard Black!”
The long-haired boy stumbles orward, and it doesn't take the Sorting Hat long at all to declare, with a loud shout, “SLYTHERIN!”. Walburga is called forward next, and walks in a more smooth, refined manner. The Hat is millimetres away from her head when it Sorts her into what she then dubs “the house of my fathers”. A multitude of students proceed to be Sorted into their Houses, and consequently the queue shrinks until only ten children are left.
Fee walks over to the stool and sits on it, and the Hat is duly placed on her head.
Hmm, that's interesting.
That you can read my mind? Yeah, I know – talk about crazy.
I didn't mean that, Miss Phoenix. I was remarking on how a mother could possibly leave her daughter in the street, abandoned and alone. It's interesting in the sense that in all my years Sorting young sorcerers, I've never seen a child treated like that.
You don't need to tell me I'm a freak of nature; I already know that. Besides, I thought you were supposed to announce which House I'm in, instead of discussing things better forgotten?
May I ask you a question, just to confirm my suspicions?
When you grow up, what would you like to be?
I'm only eleven! Not all eleven-year-olds can answer that question, you know. I can, though. Ever since I found out I was a witch, I've been reading the Daily Prophet and I've decided: I want to be the Minister for Magic.
You do know that there hasn't been a female Minister for Magic for several decades?
Then it's probably long overdue for one to be elected.
I think you might be one of the most ambitious people I've ever met since Salazar Slytherin himself, Fiona Phoenix. Good luck – although I must admit, I'm sure you probably won't need it.
Fee flinches when the Hat shouts, its voice sounding much louder from atop her own head. She gets up and begins walking to the Slytherin table, where Alphard is standing on his bench clapping and whooping uproariously, earning himself glares from his sister. Behind her, she hears Albus call Tom's name and, when they passed each other, she gives him a friendly smile. At the Slytherin table, she discovers that Alphard has saved two seats next to him, the boy explaining that he'd glared so convincingly, no-one had dared to take the seats he'd demanded were for Fee and Tom.
“Thank you,” Fee grins.
“SLYTHERIN!” the Hat shouts, and Tom approaches the friends, smiling as he rejoined Fee and Alphard. Walburga does not say anything, but she gives a small smile and when Tom sees it, he knows that it is her way of conveying her acceptance of him and Fee, despite their lack of knowledge about the wizarding world.
“So how do you two know Walburga and Alphard?” a blond boy with shoulder-length hair asks, pushing aside the boy sitting next to him to gain a better view of the newcomers. “I've never seen either of you before and I know all the pure-blood families. I'm Abraxas Malfoy, by the way.”
“We met on the Hogwarts Express. And as for why we've never met, I was raised in a Muggle orphanage after my mother died in childbirth,” Tom explains. “It was the worst place on earth.”
“I'd agree with you there, Tom,” Abraxas says with disdain in his voice. “Well, you're certainly pure-blooded, since Slytherin House has never taken in any half-breeds or Mudblood filth. How about you, Fiona?”
“I grew up in America,” she answers with a neutral expression, “but when my parents died, the incompetent Muggle police couldn't find any of my relatives, so I was taken in by a Muggle couple who wanted children and couldn't have them.”
“Nevertheless, Abraxas,” Walburga interjects before the blond has an opportunity to speak, “I think that it's quite clear from their placement in our noble House that both Tom and Fee are deserving of our friendship. Neither of them spoke with particular regard of the Muggles who raised them, so I am confident that they are not blood traitors, but victims of circumstance. I understand the rules dictate that we shouldn't socialize with those who were raised by filth, but if they had been tainted, I am sure they would have been Sorted elsewhere.”
It is a rare moment, but Alphard nods vehemently in agreement of his sister's words.
“Alphard, you shouldn't nod so over-eagerly.” Abraxas sneers, ignoring Walburga's opinion. “Anyone would think you were mentally retarded.”
Fee nods in agreement, and for a moment Alphard has a crestfallen expression. “I'm sure even that spider next to Abraxas agrees.”
The blond boy yelps in terror and scrambles out of his bench in fright, frantically searching for the spider so quickly that he slides off his seat and falls unceremoniously onto the floor. Alphard laughs hysterically at the humourous moment, and when he glances at Fee she gives him a wink, signifying that the spider is mythological. Even Tom and Walburga cannot resist smirks as they witness the blond wizard crawling upon the floor in desperate search of a non-existent spider.
“Best friends,” she whispers.
Alphard grins in response.
And then the four of them, sitting together in a row, laugh unconditionally. The weight of the world has momentarily lifted from their shoulders, and in that fragile moment, all are acting with sheer abandon.
Author's Note: So! I hope you like this prologue, and that it didn't confuse you too much if you read the original version (which didn't have a prologue). It actually ended up longer than I intended, and therefore I had to make it shorter than expected. (I really hope that made sense, it's 2:30am here at the moment...)
Oh, and I did a little research for this story, as I wanted to keep it as canon as possible, and came across some inconsistencies or even a lack of information, so here is a comprehensive [I hope!] layout of date of births, years attended at Hogwarts et cetera. Some of those have been changed to fit in with this story, although I have tried to keep it as canon as possible. :)
Pollux Black was born in 1912 according to JKR, but as that would make him 12 or 13 when Walburga [his eldest child] was born, I have changed the year of his birth to 1902.
Walburga Black was born in 1925. Technically this means she should have attended Hogwarts during either 1936-1943 or 1937-1944 depending which month she was born, but for the purposes of this fanfiction she attended during 1938-1945. [This could very well be canon, as several people in real life are delayed a year for some kind of reason, so it stands to reason that this could happen in the wizarding world too]
Alphard Black was born between 1925 and 1929, so I have decided to mark him as born in summer 1927 and attending Hogwarts during 1938-1945.
Fiona Phoenix was born on 31st October 1926 and attended Hogwarts during 1938-1945.
Tom Marvolo Riddle was born on 31st December 1926 and attended Hogwarts during 1938-1945.
Orion Black was born in 1929 according to JKR, however I can't imagine a wizard from a “practically royal” family would marry a witch who was older than him, so for all intents and purposes, in this story he was born in late 1919 and attended Hogwarts during 1931-1938.
Cygnus Black III was born in 1938 according to JKR, but the same mathematical error has occurred as with Pollux, where he is 12 or 13 when his eldest daughter is born. Therefore, I have marked his date of birth as early 1928, and he is a year below Alphard at Hogwarts and attended Hogwarts during 1939-1946.
Druella Rosier Black's date of birth is unknown, however if she was the same age or younger than Cygnus, the very latest she could have been born would be 31st August 1934, when she would then attend Hogwarts from 1944-1951 and give birth to Bellatrix shortly after she graduated, which is the age I have marked her as.
Abraxas Malfoy's date of birth is also unknown, although to father Lucius at eighteen he would have to have been born by 1937 or 1938 at the latest; however as it is possible that due to years of inbreeding in the pure-bloods, he had infertility problems and fathered Lucius aged 30. Therefore, for the purposes of this story, Abraxas was born in late 1925 and attended Hogwarts during 1937-1944.
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