Chapter 1 : A Tale of Two Alleys
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As he walked his mind looked back at the day that the visitor had come to his room, the visitor that had provided him with incredible news and had answered many questions that had troubled the mind of the youth. He could hear the conversation clearly even now as he rounded a corner on the way to the place called The Leaky Cauldron.
“You’re a wizard,” Dumbledore had said to him before demonstrating the abilities that he possessed. Tom had been terrified as well as angered as the cupboard that held his belongings had burst into flames. Then as swiftly as they had appeared the flames had vanished, leaving the cupboard and his belongings untouched. It was then that the secrets that he had kept form Mrs. Cole and the other adults had been revealed.
The box containing the stolen items had made its presence known and Dumbledore had instructed him to return the items to their proper owners with a sincere apology. Tom had reluctantly agreed, although he knew that not all of the items could be returned because some of the orphans that they had belonged to no longer resided in the orphanage. He hoped that the efforts that he had made in returning the items satisfied the wizard who had said that he would know if his directions had been followed. In the end, only the toy truck had remained hidden in the cupboard and the items that he could not return had been given to the rather dismal supply of toys that the orphanage possessed. Tom had no idea about how to return the truck, much less explain its state of repair and had decided to leave the toy where it lay.
He was following the directions that Dumbledore had given him to get to his destination and, not for the first time, reached down to feel the bag that he had tucked into the pocket of his rather threadbare jacket. He had no interest in revealing what the bag held especially considering the fact that people often got robbed on the streets of the city. He knew from the directions that he had been given that he was only a street or two from the building when he heard the voice behind him.
“Where do ye think yer goin, boy?”
He turned to see three young men emerging from the shadows between two buildings and knew that they meant no good. They were dressed nearly as badly as he, but were far less clean. The one who had spoken to him sported a scraggly beard and hair that had obviously not been washed or combed in a very long time.
“I asked ye where ye were going, or are ye deaf.”
Tom quickened his pace in the hopes that the trio would lose interest in him and move on the pester someone else, but his hopes were dashed as the trio of men moved to surround him.
“Yer either deaf or just stupid, I asked ye a question and ye better answer if ye don’t want to get hurt.”
It was then that Tom noticed the knife that the man had drawn from his pocket and now held menacingly in his hand. The small boy looked around him as he hoped that a police officer would notice the scene but there were none in sight.
“Keeps reaching into his pocket, he does,” one of the other men said, “show us what’s in yer pocket and ye might get out of this with yer skin in one piece.”
“Ye heard him,” the first man said, “show us what’s in yer pocket before I start carving.”
Fear filled the mind of the boy for an instant, but only an instant, and then it was replaced with something else, anger. He was a wizard, Dumbledore had told him, and he knew how to deal with problems such as these men. He had done it many times at the orphanage and the only difference was that these were much larger people.
Nathan Crandell was getting angry as the small boy continued to ignore the order that he had been given, but he was also becoming concerned. The longer that the confrontation went on, the more likely it became that it would be noticed by a passing officer. That was the last thing that he needed, he had just been released from jail and the magistrate wouldn’t be as lenient as he had been if the young man appeared before him again. Moments later, he had something else to think about when Tom let his anger explode.
The young man who had stepped forward to grab Tom just managed to touch the boy when he was hurled across the street to land face down on the surface of it while the other accomplice found himself slamming back against the side of the building he stood next to. Nathan was stunned as he watched the blade of the knife that he held suddenly vanish and he was still looking at it blankly when Tom spoke.
The young man wasn’t certain if the boy before him had spoken or not but he heard the message clearly in his mind. He took one look at the state of his chums, dropped the useless knife and then turned to scurry back down the alley that he had emerged from. Tom watched as the would-be thief vanished and then turned to the unconscious man who lay next to the building. He stepped towards him and looked at the sprawled figure.
‘REMEMBER THAT NEXT TIME I WILL NOT BE GRACIOUS!’
He ignored the man lying in the street; there was no way to approach him without gathering more attention. Already a crowd had formed and a police officer was approaching to deal with what was obviously a drunkard who had passed out in the street. The boy hurried away as he continued his passage to the Leaky Cauldron. He finished the trip swiftly and was soon looking up at the sign that announced the business, the sign that Dumbledore had said that the people around him could not read.
‘Muggles? That’s what Dumbledore called the non-magical people who cannot do what I can. They cannot even read this sign so they must be ordinary.’
The boy finished his musing and stepped forward to step through the door of the ancient structure. No one even paid attention to the child who had entered the abandoned structure, although they did wonder how he managed to get past the door that was solidly bolted shut and had been for many years.
Tom was amazed as he stepped into a bustling pub and felt instantly at ease when he realized that these people around him must be like him, special!
“Can I help ye, lad?”
He turned to see a man behind the counter smiling at him as he spoke to him.
“I need to get to Diagon Alley and the letter that Dumbledore gave me led me here.”
“Well, ye have come to the right place. I can help ye get to where yer going. Tom’s the name and what would yers be, lad?”
“Tom. My name is Tom Riddle.”
“I’m pleased to make yer acquaintance, Tom. Let’s get ye on your way, school starts soon and you’ll need to get the things that ye need.”
The man stepped out from behind his counter and was soon standing next to the boy as he looked down at him.
“Come with me and we’ll soon be where ye need to go.”
Silently the boy walked beside the man as he was led through the building, out through a back door and into a small courtyard that lay behind the structure. A solid brick wall stood before them and Tom suddenly wondered if he had been duped and was going to be robbed. Instantly he was frightened, a fright that wasn’t eased as Tom lifted a large stick from the floor of the courtyard.
“What are you doing?” he asked as fear and anger grew in him.
“Why this, of course!”
Tom watched as the man tapped the wall several times with the stick and was amazed as the wall began to move aside to form an arch and reveal what lay behind it. A bustling shop-lined narrow avenue filled with people in strange clothing appeared before him and instantly the boy knew that everything was going to be fine.
“There ye go, Tom, this is Diagon Alley. You’ll find everything that ye need for school here. Will ye be needing any help finding things?”
“No! I can do it myself!”
“Very well, lad, enjoy yerself and I’ll probably be seeing ye later.”
Tom stepped out through the gateway and wasn’t surprised when it closed behind him. He stood looking around in bewilderment and, for a moment, wished that he hadn’t turned down the offered assistance. Then he reached into his pocket to draw out the list that Dumbledore had given him and, after spotting what looked to be the right shop, hurried in to the structure to buy his school robes.
He stepped into a shop that was like nothing that he had ever seen before.
Everywhere that he looked robes hung from hooks and, at times, flew away from those hooks without anyone touching them. A moment later an elderly man, who appeared older than anyone that Tom had ever seen before, approached him and looked down at the boy with a smile on his face.
“Can I help you, young man?”
Tom’s tongue seemed glued to the inside of his mouth and, at first, he was unable to speak to the very old looking person before him. The smile on the face of the clerk was replaced momentarily with a consternation fuel frown, but soon returned when Tom found his voice finally.
“I need to buy robes for the start of the term.”
“Well, certainly you’re here to buy robes; I didn’t assume that you were here to buy a cauldron. Which school will you attend?”
“I will be going to Hogwarts, sir.”
A quick nod was the only response and then Tom was startled when a tape measure flew from the hand of the man and swiftly coiled itself around him like a serpent. The item took measurement after measurement until finally it returned to the hand that it had left and a robe detached itself from a hook on the wall. The clerk reached out and caught it without effort before handing it to the boy. Tom looked at it strangely before he was handed the remainder of the clothing that he would need for school. He was directed to a changing room where he was soon dressed in the clothing that, amazingly, fit him like it had been made with him in mind.
He looked into the mirror that lined one wall at a person that he had never seen before. To see himself in brand new clothing, clothing that no one else had ever worn before, was alien to the boy and a shock to his mind. Reluctantly he changed back into the clothes that he had worn into the shop and carried the new clothes, which had refolded themselves, out to hand them to the clerk.
As he followed the clerk to the counter he was asked a question that he had no idea how to answer.
“Do you know which House you want to be sorted into at Hogwarts?”
“There are four Houses at Hogwarts, young man, and you shall be sorted into one of them.”
“What does that mean?”
“You really have no idea about where you are going do you?”
“Well, no worries, they shall set you right once you get there.”
Tom watched as the robes were placed on the counter and suddenly brown paper unrolled itself from the dispenser to wrap itself around the clothing. Just as strangely tape appeared to fasten the bundle together before the man looked down at Tom again.
“That will be four Galleons for four sets of robes, young man.”
Tom pulled the bag that Dumbledore had given him out of his pocket and, under the guidance of the clerk, placed four of the large gold coins onto the counter. The clerk nodded his acceptance before handing the bundle to the boy.
"I see that you have a list of needed supplies, do you need any help finding the next store?”
Reluctantly, Tom nodded his agreement and was soon being led to the door to be directed to his next destination.
Not long after that Tom was struggling to determine just how to maintain the balance of the increasing number of bundles. A swift glance at another student who was gathering supplies gave him the answer and his bundles were soon placed carefully in his cauldron. He sat it down only briefly to look at the list to see that he had only his wand left to obtain and he knew that he had seen a shop with wands displayed in the windows that faced the street. He hurried towards that shop and was nearing it when he stopped short to gaze curiously down a side alley.
The alley that he was looking down seemed to gather none of the sunlight that Diagon Alley did, in fact, it was gloomy enough to be frightening. All manner of strange and unsavory people were wandering back and forth in the shadows and this made the boy wonder just what he was looking at. A sign on the side of a building announcing Knockturn Alley gave him the answer to the mystery.
Something within him told him that this was not a good place and he knew that he needed to proceed to the shop to buy his wand so he put the strange place out of his mind and hurried to the shop with the wands in the windows. He glanced up at the sign above the door that proclaimed the place to be Ollivander’s before opening the door and stepping into the building where the lone clerk was busy tending to a young girl who was waiting for the box containing her wand to be wrapped and handed to her.
This gave Tom a chance to look around the inside of the shop and he was astounded to see more small boxes, which he assumed contained wands, than he had ever seen before. There had to be thousands and he wondered how the clerk reached the ones at the very top for the boxes were stacked in cubicles that reached the very ceiling, well out of reach of a person. A layer of dust covered many of the boxes and this made him wonder just how many years they had spent in the building sitting on those shelves.
Finally, the girl and her mother left the shop and Tom stepped forward to stand before the counter. He looked up at the elderly wizard behind the counter and their eyes met as the boy wondered how to proceed.
Garrick Ollivander had seen a great many young people stand before him over the years but there was something about this boy that gave him pause. The boy seemed to be looking through him instead of at him and it was unnerving to say the least. Neither of them spoke for what seemed like an eternity and finally he managed to break the silence by speaking first.
“Here for your first wand, I would imagine. You have the very same look about you that so many children do.”
“What look would that be?”
“Uncertainty about what you are facing!”
“Well, maybe a little.”
Ollivander noticed that the child didn’t return the smile that he was given and decided that now was the time to begin the process of finding a suitable wand for the boy. He stepped around the counter as he drew out his measure and then allowed the device to measure all of the important distances although the boy looked a bit startled about some of them. Finally the measure coiled itself and then returned to the hand of the wand maker before being tucked back into the pocket in which it normally resided.
The old man hurried away from the boy to a shelf that held a great many small boxes and was soon pulling one of them from the dust covered stack. Tom watched curiously as the man turned back to him and was by his side.
He opened the box that he had retrieved and, after unfolding the paper that was visible, lifted a wand from where it lay. Tom reached forward as the wand was offered to him and, just as he accepted it, he dropped it to the floor as an uncomfortable heat filled his hand. The old man took note of this and bent to pick the wand back up.
“What happened?” Tom asked. “That hurt!”
“Wand making is not an exact science; it is also composed of feel. The wand decides who it belongs to and this one has decided that it does not want to belong to you. But, no fear, I have many others to choose from, one of them will accept you and you shall know instantly when it does.”
Tom stood silently while the old man brought wand after wand to him and always the reaction was the same from the wand, it did not accept Tom as its master. The boy was becoming angry about the state of things when the old man stopped and turned towards a shelf that he had not yet visited. He pulled two boxes from the shelf and then pushed one back onto the stack. The other he carried back to Tom before opening it.
“Try this one, young man, thirteen and a half inches, yew, phoenix feather core, yes, try this one.”
Tom accepted the wand with reluctance as his hand was beginning to ache from all of the rejections he had received. Instantly he knew that this was his wand as a warm, almost comfortable sensation ran up his arm. The old man nodded as boy and wand accepted each other, then he smiled down at the boy.
“It has accepted you as its master. That is a very powerful wand and will serve you well,” he said as he took the wand from the boy and placed it back into its box. Tom watched as the box was wrapped with paper and then sealed shut with tape. Then he looked at the old man with a question.
“You started to bring two boxes, but put one back, why?”
“The wand in the other box is the twin to this one. The phoenix only allowed two feathers one of which is the core of this wand. The other feather lies within that wand, which shall continue its wait for the one who will wield it. Somehow that wand told me that you were not the one that was meant for it.”
Tom nodded silently as he pulled the required coins out of the bag to hand to the old man. Then he turned and stepped out of the shop never seeing the strange look that Garrick Ollivander was giving him.
‘That boy shall be known to many, I only hope that it is not for the wrong reason.’
Tom looked down the still bustling street and found his attention drawn to the mysterious dark alley that he had passed on the way to the wand shop. Even though the multitude of people that passed the entrance to the alley seemed to, by and large, ignore it Tom found himself intrigued by it. He walked down the street until he found himself staring down into the gloom.
“You do not want to go down in there,” a voice said from behind him.
He turned to see an old witch looking down at him with a concerned look upon her face.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“I said that you do not want to go down into that place. It is filled with those who are up to no good and is not the type of place that a young person such as you should be frequenting. It would bring notice from the Ministry and that is something that you do not wish to happen.”
Tom nodded and watched as the old woman hurried on her way before looking around and, once he knew that he was not being observed, hurried down the dark alley to explore what it held.
The darkness that nearly enveloped him was almost palpable and he was soon standing in front of a shop that bore the name Borgin and Burkes. He stopped short at the sight of the many odd and, in some cases, frightening objects that filled the windows and were visible within the store himself. Tom was about to enter the building when a large person stepped into his path and he had no choice but to stop and look up into the face that towered above him.
“What brings ye to the alley? Did ye get lost? Forget to hold yer Mum’s hand, did ye?”
Tom looked into the grime covered face of an ancient hag as she grinned at him with teeth that had long forgotten what it was to be clean. Her crooked nose and piercing eyes made her all the more frightening as she reached forward to grip his hand with her own claw-like appendage.
“Why don’t ye let me help ye find yer way?”
Tom was already frightened by what was happening and the fact that the witch was now joined by others who were just as filthy scared him even more. A crowd was gathering around him and he feared that he would never see the sunlight again.”
‘LEAVE ME BE AND GO NOW!’
The gathered crowd reacted immediately as though struck by an invisible force. They hurried to leave Tom’s proximity and watched quietly as, after he had gathered his wits and belongings, the boy hurried out of the dark alley and back into the welcome safety of the masses. He stepped out onto the street and was startled to hear a familiar voice in his ear.
“Tom, you need to steer clear of that place. Knockturn Alley can be dangerous and you certainly cannot hope to defend yourself there.”
The boy turned to see the crowd that was continuing to shop for what they needed, but no sign of Dumbledore. He knew that it had been the voice of the man that he had met in the orphanage, but could see nothing of him. He took a nervous glance back down into the darkness of the place that he had fled before walking on to look into the many shops on Diagon Alley.
It was many hours later that he slipped out of the Leaky Cauldron after enjoying a meal of the hearty stew that could be bought there. The food and drink was incredible and the barkeeper had offered to provide a place to keep his bundles until he needed to go to King’s Cross to get onto the train that would take him to Hogwarts. He walked back to the orphanage almost cheerfully and it was a different Tom Riddle that climbed the stairs to his dingy room where he knew he would spend only a few more nights.
As he slept he dreamed about the day that he had spent nearly without care and wondered what it meant to be “sorted”. Well, no matter, soon he would be away from this place and headed into an adventure that he had never considered.
He had no idea how large and far reaching that adventure would be.
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