Chapter 8 : Conflict and Catastrophe
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The pair hadn’t spoken in several days and she had requested that she no longer be paired with him in classes. Aware that the pair was arguing, the professors had been accommodating and she was now working with a girl who was less proficient than Tom was but far more pleasant.
For his part, Tom could only glare at the girl from a distance. He had considered many times having one of his allies strike at her but something kept him from doing that. As angry as he was with her and as happy as he was to be free of the fetters that his relationship with her had created, he still cared for her in a strange way. His feelings for her easily surpassed the feelings that he had held for the toy truck at the orphanage and the hurt that he had felt when the girl had closed herself to him rivaled the pain that he had felt when the truck had been severely damaged by Billy.
He watched as his own bag closed and knew that soon he would be on his way back to the orphanage to spend the holiday there with the other children. His room had been kept for him, that much he was certain of as Mrs. Cole had told him that it would be ready when he returned. He hated the thought of leaving Hogwarts and having to wear old clothing once again. At least his Muggle clothing was in good repair thanks to the spell that Professor Dumbledore had used on it to repair it and Tom himself had used a spell to clean it.
The boy, like his classmates, was becoming more adept with each passing day with simple spells and charms. They had, for the most part, managed to master tasks that had impressed their professors although there were exceptions by the names of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. Of the three boys Abraxas Malfoy was the most capable with the other two lagging behind him clearly at the bottom of their class.
When the task was ended Tom put his wand back into his robes and then hurried to make his way to the Great Hall for the feast before they boarded the Hogwarts Express. He entered the Great Hall to see that Molly still had not arrived although there were very few students who had not entered yet an as he looked down the corridor he could see the girl in the distance.
When she arrived at the doorway to the Great Hall Molly ignored the boy who had been waiting for her and proceeded to the table where she normally sat. Tom could only watch as she talked with her Housemates and then he was suddenly furious when an older Hufflepuff boy walked up to the girl and kissed her gently on the cheek. Molly looked up at the boy with a smile on her face before she leaned forward to return the kiss that he had given her. It was obvious to Tom that the couple knew that he was watching them and that they were enjoying the discomfort that it was causing.
“I see that Molly has moved on without you, Tom. You aren’t going to stand for that are you?”
Tom turned to see Abraxas Malfoy looking at him and several other Slytherin students who were also watching to see what his reaction would be. The boy had become rather brash with his boasts that the girl belonged to him and that any other boy who paid her some attention was in for a thrashing from him. Now it seemed that they were waiting for him to make good on his threats. Tom rose from the table where he had been sitting and strode briskly towards the couple while conversation in the Great Hall lowered to a near whisper as all eyes watched to see what was going to occur when the boy reached his destination.
Molly was the first to see him and her face blanched as she realized that trouble was coming while Thomas Cowell had no idea that he was being approached. The older boy caught the look in the eyes of the girl and looked up from her to see the smaller Slytherin on a direct course towards him. He moved away from the girl as he started in Tom’s direction to intercept him. The boys met in the middle of the aisle as the confrontation began
“Stay away from her, Thomas!”
“Why should I do a thing like that? Am I supposed to be frightened of you? Maybe you’re forgetting that I’m bigger and know a bit more than you and, at any rate, I heard that you and she had broken up and that makes her available to anyone who wants to treat her better than you ever did.”
“Stay away from her!”
“Make me, Tommy!”
Without thinking about the difference in size Tom lashed out with his fist and was satisfied when his attack struck the older boy in the jaw, but he hadn’t counted on the response. The older and larger boy struck back with a blow that spun Tom around and dazed him. He was still trying to rally when the larger boy struck again with a blow that shoved Tom to the floor. Students at the tables in the vicinity scrambled to get out of the way as Tom lashed out to kick Thomas in the shins with enough force to fell the older boy. A second kick hit the Hufflepuff in the face, causing him to recoil as several teeth were damaged.
As the gathered children surrounded the fight and cheered on their favorites Tom realized that the fight was going against him after they had risen and Thomas hit him several times in the face. Staggered, Tom fell backwards as blow after blow rained down upon him and he had no time to think about anything but trying to remain in the contest.
Abruptly the gathered crowd around them parted as Professor Dumbledore and several Prefects rushed into the fray. Tom felt a firm hand drop onto his shoulder and he was abruptly being propelled towards the door of the chamber by Albus Dumbledore while the other boy was escorted by Professor Lands. The trip to Professor Dippet’s office would be short as the headmaster met them in the corridor and they abruptly appeared in his office far above the scene of the battle.
Armando Dippet wasn’t a large man and, in fact, was seen by many as rather frail physically, but now he seemed a giant as his anger boiled over at the boys standing before him.
“In all of my years here at Hogwarts I have never seen such a display as I just witnessed in the Great Hall. To see two students flailing at each other like Muggle ruffians is quite distressing, especially right before they were to get onto the Hogwarts Express for the trip home. Now, I do not care why this happened, but I do care that it happened and I will not tolerate it.”
“Both of you shall have a letter of reprimand put into your file and an owl will be sent to your home Mister Cowell. Mister Riddle, as your parents are deceased and you reside in a Muggle home I shall not send an owl to them, but you shall face the same punishment as Mister Cowell. Therefore, when you return from the holiday break both of you shall serve time in isolation as well as detention. The length of that time shall be no less than ten days, during which time you shall be in the Isolation Tower together! If there are any further issues between you I shall begin expulsion proceedings against you and put you out of this castle forever. Am I understood?”
“Yes, Professor Dippet,” was the response from both boys.
“Now, you are both to go with Professor Dumbledore, he has something for you to do to keep your minds occupied while you wait to board the train. Now go!”
Both boys abruptly found themselves in the classroom of Albus Dumbledore and the wizard that had accompanied them immediately directed them to seats on at a single desk so that they were seated side by side. Parchment appeared before them as well as quills, it was only then that a sentence appeared at the top of the page with instructions to copy it until they left to make the trip to Hogsmeade Station.
While he wrote, Tom glanced up occasionally to look at the professor who had returned to his desk. The wizard was pointedly ignoring the boy and Tom realized that, not only had he gotten into a fight which he had lost, he had severely disappointed and angered the person who had sponsored him to attend school here.
The boys would write continuously for over an hour before the parchments vanished along with the quills.
“I trust that you both know your way to the Entry Foyer and then on down to Hogsmeade.”
The boys rose and walked out of the classroom to make their way through the castle to join the line of students who were walking to where the carriages would take them to the station. Tom could only watch as Thomas joined Molly in the walk to the waiting area and seethed as the girl kissed the boy and then ran her hand over the bruise on his cheek.
“You aren’t going to let it go that easy are you, Tom?”
The shadows of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle drifted onto the ground around him as his friends stepped up beside him.
“I will deal with them both, maybe not now, but they will both pay for this.”
Less than a half an hour later all of the students were on the train and it was pulling away from the station. The students could look out through the windows to see the staff waving to them as the Hogwarts Express gathered speed and began to the journey to take the children to their homes.
‘Home? What home? They all get to go to stay with their parents while I get to go back to that damned orphanage. They could have let me stay at the castle; they just did not want me anymore than those at the orphanage did. They got stuck with me, and that is the only reason that I have to go back to Mrs. Cole and her staff of inept fools.’
The train ride back to London and King’s Cross would seem to fly and it was not long before Tom was stepping out onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. He reached into his pocket to find the ticket back to Hogwarts that he would use when break was over. Glancing again down at the Muggle clothing that he wore he reached down to pick the bag that contained what he had brought with him and then joined the line of students and parents waiting to go through the portal and out into the station proper.
From where he stood he could only watch as Molly and Thomas kissed once more before the girl was herded through the portal by her parents. Then Thomas vanished with his father and Tom remained in line, only able to watch as child after child was reunited with their parent or family members. He was the only one who was totally alone and something inside him seemed to fester as the anger swelled at his situation.
When his turn came he hurried through the portal and was soon trying to make his way through the throng of travelers that were hurrying to and fro as they tried to get to their destination on time. Finally, he managed to get out of the station and out onto the streets of London for the walk to the orphanage.
As he walked through familiar streets he became aware of how mundane they appeared. Before he had gone to Hogwarts he had, at times, been mildly frightened of some of the residents of the city. Now he could walk through the filthy byways confident in his ability to defend himself if he needed to. He didn’t need the wand that lay on his night table back in Hogwarts. He could do plenty without it.
The state of his clothing helped too as they were clean and in good repair. They made him feel better about himself and he wondered how he would be received by the other children at Wool’s Orphanage. Not that he cared, none of them could do anything that made him afraid.
Increasingly familiar surroundings came into view and he knew that he was nearly to his destination. He had been walking for nearly an hour and his feet were getting tired when he finally saw the building next to the orphanage. He turned down the side street and saw the building that he had grown up in. No one was in the courtyard and, in fact, there was no sign of life at all except for the smoke that rose from the chimneys. He pushed the gate open and then stepped into the courtyard before crossing it and walking up the steps to the front door. Taking a deep breath, he turned the doorknob and pushed the door open before stepping into the wide hall that led into the heart of the structure.
Memories came flooding back as he took in the familiar surroundings and heard voices that he had never forgotten. He turned and walked up the stairs to find the door to his room closed, a sign on it bearing his name. Reaching forth, he grasped the knob of the door to turn it and then he pushed it open to reveal the room. Everything appeared as he had left it, except for the fact that obviously Martha had given it a cleaning and had put fresh sheets and a clean blanket on the bed. He stepped into the room and then closed the door behind him before turning to the cupboard and opening its door. Quickly he opened his bag and began to place his clothing into the compartment.
One thing that Hogwarts had taught him was the necessity of neatness and the clothes were soon neatly placed where they belonged. He pulled several books out of the bag and laid them in the top shelf of the cabinet before closing the door. He actually hated the books as they were Muggle books, the pictures stayed the same at all times and exhibited no movement whatsoever, and they had become very mundane to him.
A light knock at the door caught his attention and he turned to it before answering. The door opened and Martha stepped into the room to look him over.
“I thought that I had seen you, Tom. The school that you go to now seems to be agreeing with you because you look wonderful. You have definitely filled out so they must be feeding you well. I am so happy to see you and that you are well.”
“I am happy to see you too, Martha.”
“Well, because we knew that you would be returning today Mrs. Cole told me to make your favorite for dinner tonight, so Pot Roast it is. Do you have any laundry that needs to be tended to?”
“No, Martha, everything is quite clean.”
“I wanted to see that you had everything that you need. I made certain to put fresh sheets on your bed and a clean blanket. Not much has changed here except that Benjamin has left to go to a family member who wanted him. Everyone else is still here and there are two new arrivals, two girls who are sisters, but I doubt that you will spend much time with them.”
“How has everyone reacted to me coming back to the orphanage?”
“Amy and Dennis are apprehensive about you, Tom. They still will not talk about what ever happened in the cave and break into tears when it is mentioned.”
“I do not understand that, Martha, all that happened was they encountered me in the darkness and there was a dead rabbit lying on the floor where something had left it. They found the rabbit and were running from it when I ran into them. They got frightened and ran out crying, that is all.”
“Children can be strange, Tom, and they can imagine things that they do not actually see. Mrs. Cole wanted me to tell you that she wants to see you as soon as you are settled. She will be waiting in her office for you. You might want to hurry, Tom. She is in a bit of a state and has been rather short with everyone.”
Tom nodded and then left the room with Martha. They talked quietly as they walked down the stairs and then the hallway until they reached the door to the matron’s office. There, Martha knocked quietly before opening the door and announcing him. Then Tom stepped through the opened door and into the office of Mrs. Cole.
He glanced around the room before sitting down in the chair that the woman behind the desk indicated without speaking. Once he was settled the pair took stock of each other before the woman finally broke the silence created by the closing of the door behind the boy.
“Tom, it is good to see you.”
“It is good to see you, Mrs. Cole.”
“Well, I do not know anything about this school, but at least they seem to have taught you manners. You look like the school has agreed with you although I have to wonder about the state of your face. Have you been in a fight, Tom?”
“Yes, ma’am, I had a disagreement with another boy this very morning.”
“And will you be punished for this disagreement?”
“Yes, Mrs. Cole, I have already been told what my punishment shall be when I return to school.”
“And when shall you be returning to this school?”
“I shall return to school on the thirty first of this month.”
“And you have transportation back to this school?”
“Yes, ma’am, they have provided transportation.”
“Very well, I suppose that you must stay here although I have to question your return. I was under the assumption that as a boarding school you would be remaining there during break.”
“No, ma’am, I shall have to return during every break including at the end of the term.”
Mrs. Cole took in a deep breath before continuing and Tom found himself wishing that the line of questioning would end. Finally, the woman sighed deeply and then motioned him to the door of her office. Tom understood then that he was being allowed to remain only against her judgement. He rose and walked to the door only to stop when the matron said his name. He turned back to the woman behind the desk as she uttered the last few words of the meeting.
“Tom, I want you to understand that if at all possible I shall arrange for you to stay elsewhere any time that you have a break from school. As you are here and there is nothing that I can do about it but be aware that I shall not tolerate any trouble with any of the other children or thefts of property. Any occurrences shall be turned over to the authorities and dealt with harshly. Am I understood?”
“Yes, Ma’am, Mrs. Cole, you are understood.”
Tom opened the door and then stepped back out into the hallway to return to his room at the top of the stairs. He closed the door behind him and then crossed the room to pull out the chair and sit down on it as he stared out through the window.
‘She thinks that I am frightened of her, well, I will show her who is frightened of whom. You have just made an incredible mistake by threatening me, Mrs. Cole, and you are going to regret it!’
None of the residents of Wool’s Orphanage had any idea of how dangerous Tom had become or what he was capable of. Although the boy knew that he had to be very careful about how he used his abilities, lest the Ministry of Magic get involved, he also knew that he had nothing to fear from any of the residents of the building and that he could have some fun at their expense.
It was going to be a long holiday for the children and staff at Wool’s Orphanage and one that they would never forget.
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