I stumbled up the stairs in the dark and made my way down the hall. Over the banister I barely heard the muffled whispers and hisses that faded behind a slammed door. The wheels in my mind were whirling and spinning with such force that they seemed to strike electric sparks. At the same time, I had no clue as to what the strange scene in the room below had meant. Blunt's confrontation with the oddly dressed man was perplexing to say the least. The part of me that had first been thrilled to discover my burgeoning power was being sucked away, and an intense fear flooded me in its place. What was happening around me, to me? Mrs. Blunt's voice kept ringing in my ear -'Demon! Demon!' There had been more than mere anger in her eyes. She had been full of disgust, skirting away from me like I was a plague upon her society. But wasn't I?
My eyes focused on the reality in front of me then, taking in the torn rags upon the floor. I walked dully over to the smudged mirror that hung in the musty bath. I stared into it, examining every inch of my face, looking for something--what, I didn't know. All I saw was a tall, scrawny boy, pale by nature and b the confining walls which ensured he saw little sunlight, his hair curly and dark while his blue eyes seemed to change hue to suit his mood. Right then they were a dark, midnight color, mirroring the circles beneath. I gazed into myself, staring back, becoming lost in the empty reflection of my eyes, until -
"Looking for fleas?" I knew the voice without even turning. It belonged to Sean Reilly, another lifer at the orphanage. Sean was sixteen and heavyset, though nobody knew how. He was a father figure to most of the younger boys, acting so nurturing it had made me feel sick and envious at the same time. Jealous of what, I had no idea. Emotions rarely made sense, no matter how hard I tried to understand them. Often, I found it easier to ignore them if I could. In any event, Sean and I had an uneasy relationship. For some reason he avoided me, as did all the children, probably due to the Blunts' warnings. When he did speak to me, it was always with a rough edge, as if he had to prove he didn't fear me. And then, in stark contradiction, he sometimes stared at me with a softer gaze, which we both seemed to find equally discomforting. Most often, he stayed away in seeming wariness.
I laughed at the irony. Here I was, scared of myself, yet still inspiring fear in others. Imagine if I actually tried to do so? But I had no desire to make others afraid. Well, maybe Mrs. Blunt... followed by Trevor and all his friends who called me a half-life, spit on me, tripped me, and beat me repeatedly. Oh, and let's not forget the nurse, who wouldn't touch me even when I was sick. I looked at my reflection again, catching sight of the little snake still wound around my hand.
I suppose I had been quiet for a while, for Sean actually asked, "you okay, Riddle?"
I shook my head. Avoiding eye contact, I said softly, "didn't get a present this year."
I didn't know if Sean understood what that meant or not. Either way, I half-grimaced as he then became maternal instinct incarnate. "Riddle, I'm--" He suddenly paused, as if realizing who he was talking to. He backed away quickly, saying, "too bad. Nothing good anyway."
"I wouldn't know." Instinct overtook me, and I spontaneously decided to face him. I turned my tired gaze towards him, for once not covering it with a smirk or a guarded expression. He was taller than me, and I obliged, tilting my head upwards. I wouldn't cry, but this was as unassuming as I could get. I told myself that I was just doing this as an experiment, to see if he would comfort someone like me. Not that I would allow it--or like it--or needed it-
Sean stared back at me. A moment of silence followed. He seemed torn, but maybe I was superimposing what I wished or expected to see. Finally, his mouth opened, and he let out an indistinguishable noise, then turned and left. I turned as well, back to the mirror. Experiment over, I said to myself, fighting back the urge to choke. Tears came, and I hastily wiped them away. At that moment, little Jiminy chose to enter, and he let out a gasp at seeing me.
I spun around, embarrassment and fury overtaking me. "What the hell are you looking at? Get out, or I'll sic this snake on you!" Jiminy squealed and fled, causing a commotion in the next room. He was probably spilling his little heart out to Sean. I whirled, fuming, letting myself relish the feeling. It helped me to forget the pain and embarrassment. Still, my chest heaved beneath the threadbare shirt as I heard Jiminy's voice. I struggled to calm myself and think logically. There was noway that I was upset over Sean not comforting me. It wasn't his place to, and more importantly, I didn't need it. I was used to this treatment, for it had been always been that way. Trevor and Mrs. Blunt were always kind enough to inform me I was never worth being cared for. The response I always gave myself was that I didn't need their care, repeating it to form a shield with which to deflect their words. Pathetically enough, it wasn't sufficient at that time. I could only hope that one day it would be hardened enough to keep anything at all from piercing me.
I saw my quivering lip, my blazing eyes, and I heatedly smacked my face. It left streaks of prominent red across the whiteness of my skin, but sunk no deeper than that. The action was calming, and I watched its effects as I drew myself back under control. Through gritted teeth I whispered, "Like I want them around me anyway. They're all weak and pathetic - I'd rather have twenty demons in me than go crawling to someone like Sean!"
Immediately my expression changed to steel. An implacable wall now replaced the sniveling, pitiful glaze over my eyes. The small snake had slithered up my arm and was now residing on my shoulder, having watched the transformation. In a low hiss it said, "Amazsssing -"
As I looked at myself, I was the same on the inside as I appeared outwardly. I felt nothing, I was hollow and empty, like nothing could penetrate me. Still, I noted that my hard gaze seemed to be protecting nothing but air, which was a disconcerting thought until I shoved it away. I turned and walked out into the narrow dormitory which was lined with broken beds. A few faces turned toward me, visions of silent disgust. I had spent years trying to decipher exactly what the expressions people turned on me encompassed. The distanced eyes, narrowed and drawn, the mouths curling with repulsion, the nostrils flared, the unconscious movements away from me - many words could be used to describe this phenomenon. By having devoted my time to objectively analyzing them, I ensured that their gazes no longer fully achieved their desired impact.
I was prepared for such a greeting and ignored them, calmly striding to the end where my bed was located. Sean was waiting there with several others, including little Jiminy. They were standing with arms crossed, lined behind the figure of Jiminy on the floor. I sighed outwardly, my hand automatically going to my throat for the chain.
Sean looked as puffed up as ever, a peacock trying to preen in oiled and shorn feathers. "Riddle, what the hell is wrong with you?"
"I'm evil, remember?"
Sean's eyes narrowed. "Not funny." I shrugged, tossing Snicks onto my bed. At that several of the children flinched, which brought me mild satisfaction. Even Sean had jerked slightly, and in response to the flush that he must have felt creep up into his face, he added hotly, "Cute trick, but it didn't work. Why should I be afraid of a skinny little thing like you?"
"Good question. Let's sleep on it."
Sean stepped forward, placing his hands protectively on Jiminy's shoulders. "Apologize to him, Riddle. Now."
I glanced at Jiminy, whose eyes were red and huge. I felt a pang of guilt, but then, it wasn't my fault! If Sean hadn't acted like such a rat to me, I wouldn't have lashed out, I reasoned. Still, Jiminy looked so sad that it was hard to look at him. Pitiful, but sad.
Sean was waiting, looking ready for a fight. My ego was ready, but reason clearly stated that a fight wasn't the way for me to go. As diplomatically as I could, I looked back down to Jiminy and said, "I am sorry you got hurt, Jiminy. Truly." I turned then to my bed, but felt Sean's hand grasp my shoulder painfully, digging into that bony structure.
"That was hardly an apology."
I shrugged, uncomfortable with his touch, but he merely leaned in closer to me. His face inches away, he lowered his voice so that only I could make out his next comment. "Listen, you--you might have been born with a lot of tricks, but none of it's real. You try to hurt one of my boys and I'll kill you before they can throw your arse out, you soulless git."
The look in his eyes was deadly serious, daring me to strike. I shook loose from him, my temper flaring, feeling my lips curling into a mirroring snarl. "That's sweet, Sean. Nobody wanted you, so you actually feel the need to protect the one place that will have you - an orphanage. I admire that, I really do. Simply inspirational. But tell me, what are you going to do when the last of your litter has been auctioned off like Jiminy here?" I turned to Jiminy, on a roll now. I tried to stop, but I was too heated. "Congrats on that, Jiminy. I heard a really nice couple bought you. Just make sure you don't sneeze or drop anything on the floor, and they might keep you this time."
The moment of silence that fell over the room after the words left my mouth was deadening. I felt every vein in my body pulsing. I didn't want to but I stayed focused on Jiminy, whose face absolutely collapsed. He ran from the room sobbing. I wanted to run after him, to apologize - there was no excuse I could think of for my behavior towards him. More importantly, I realized I didn't want to come up with an excuse for my actions. For a moment, it had been wonderfully cathartic. Yet, as I stared at the door he ran through, shame, guilt and anger at myself washed over me in frightening waves. Never in my ten and a half years could I remember being so vicious to someone who so clearly didn't deserve it. My soul had vertigo.
Sean had backed away, and I thought he was preparing to strike me for sure. Instead, he merely looked sick with revulsion. I couldn't blame him. The feeling behind that look was mirrored within me. In a whispered voice filled with hatred he asked, "Does your heart beat?"
I tried to focus on him. Dully, I responded, "Sometimes. Not enough, I'm beginning to think."
Sean made for the door, leaving me standing there. I don't know how long he was gone, but when he returned I realized I hadn't moved. It couldn't have been that long, for he threw me an angry look as he said, "He won't come back in yet. He's hysterical. I'll give him a few minutes. Hey -" He called this loudly out to me as I left the room, but did not follow.
I found Jiminy curled up against a wall next to the staircase, sobbing into his knees. I felt horribly evil, and desperately wanted to make it up to Jiminy, but I hadn't a clue how to go about it. I was never let in on how to be comforting, or comforted. In truth I didn't want to be witness to a crying child, but I couldn't leave. Perhaps it was ego to prove I could comfort, perhaps concern over what Sean would otherwise do, or just plain guilt - whatever the reason or reasons, I didn't leave. Awkwardly I knelt down in front of him, waiting patiently for his sobbing to decrease. Finally he peeked at me through his fingers.
I took a deep breath, and said slowly, "Jim, I'm - I'm really very sorry. I had no right to say what I did. I was mad, but that's no excuse."
Jiminy shook his head, whispering, "You're right. You're right about it, but only you have the courage to say it."
I stared back at him, dumbfounded. "Right about what?"
Jiminy sighed. "The way we get treated. The fear that if we aren't the perfect sons and students for whoever takes us in, that if we disappoint them, they'll send us back. They'll never be a real family to us, whoever adopts us, will they? The uncond - uncondation..." his brow furrowed a bit there.
Automatically I offered, "Unconditional?"
He nodded, wiping a sleeve across his stained cheek and finishing, "Unconditional love, and all that. The fear will never go away."
No, I thought to myself. "Perhaps," I said lamely. Jiminy was staring at the floor, and I sighed, torn between comforting him and telling him the truth I had come to believe in. "Look Jiminy, I don't know if you'll ever feel secure. I don't know if any of us will." I hated to include myself, but hoped it would reach him better. Giving him a faint, forced smile, I finished, "But if anyone has a chance, it's you. You're exactly what everyone is looking for - you're a really good kid. And the people who come here, they can't all be bad...I don't think..."
Jiminy turned to me, showing some spunk. "But you don't know that, you don't know that they aren't all bad."
I had no answer to that. In my experiences, well, I had yet to be impressed. If people could just dump children like Jiminy in here, leave all the kids having to parade around for families and love, and the children actually following this wretched choreography - no, I was not impressed with people so far.
The floor was getting cold as I knelt in my thin pants. Somewhere a clock chimed, and I felt a smoothly scaled body slip onto the floor between Jiminy and myself. The look the snake gave me was one of clear disapproval. "Sssay sssomething to him," it hissed.
"I'm trying!" I said out loud, not realizing my mistake. Jiminy looked at me curiously as I fumbled to cover up. "I mean - I'm trying to -" All of a sudden an idea came to me. I looked at Jiminy, pulling him to his feet. "Come with me," I said.
I hastened downstairs, shushing his questioning protests, and sneaked us into Blunt's personal office. It was different than the work office I had been in earlier. Surprisingly cozy. Dark redwood furniture lay about with burgundy pillows, the walls were encased with bookshelves and paintings and family portraits. Nothing in there was new, but it was used and therefore had a welcoming atmosphere about it. I lit a candle and pointed Jiminy over to one of the walls, where a small oil painting hung meekly among its superiors. It was of a small dusty ranch house, with a garden and field before it. On one side the father was raking the fields, while a primly dressed woman was reading to two beautifully cherubic little girls under a hanging. Before her, three boys were sprawled on the ground, tussling playfully. Everyone's expression was serene and lighthearted, earthy and ideal.
I turned to Jiminy who stood mesmerized before it. "What's it of?" he asked.
"It's a painting by Arnold Crevanti, called The Family," I answered. "I read about it in one of Blunt's books in here. I've sneaked in and read everything here at least twice." I kept my gaze upon his face, watching his reaction. In truth, I didn't enjoy staring at the picture. Sometimes my eyes were too drawn to details to examine and pick apart whatever I was looking at. I noticed that the mother seemed poorly dressed; yet, her black hair was appealing to me. On occasion I even imaged she looked like my mother would have, before rebuking myself for such silly notions. The image in the picture was a farce, and such thoughts were pointless. Clearing my throat, I turned my gaze from Jiminy to examine the cuff of my sleeve, saying, "It's supposed to capture a moment of reality."
Jiminy didn't seem to acknowledge me. His eyes were still focused on the painting. "Is it real, though? Is it of real people?"
I shrugged, managing to look sincere. "It must be. I mean, even if these exact people don't exist, something like this must exist for him to have captured it. Some people must have this, a real family. Why not you?"
Jiminy turned to me shyly. "You really think so?"
I smiled at him, feeling a bit of relief. "Sure," I said.
Jiminy looked back up at it wistfully. "I hope so," he said quietly, then turned back to me. "Thanks, Riddle. I don't think you're all evil. I'll do what Blunt tells us to, I'll pray that you get a soul even with demon blood in you. It seems possible, no matter what Mrs. Blunt says."
The smile on my face froze. My heart, which I think had been beating, felt as if it had been sucked out and dropped to the floor. "Thanks, Jiminy. Have a good life."
Jiminy turned to head back up the stairs. "You, too," he said, as sincerely and earnestly as before. He smiled sweetly at me, trying so hard to be good to me, while I numbly waved back.
With a final wave, he exited the room. I sank down into one of the chairs as the snake slithered onto my hand. It was the only thing that had touched me in a non-threatening manner in as long as I could remember. I looked at it, but I could think of nothing intelligible to say.
"Interesting night," was what finally came out of my mouth.
The snake nodded; curling up on my knee with his cold, dry skin glowing. "I'll sssay," it agreed. "One moment I'm minding my own busssinesss in a nice de-gnomed orchard, and them sssome man picksssme up, throwsss me under hissss cloak, and dragsss me here where I get thrown on the floor and meet sssomeone who can talk to me." It sighed morosely. "I hope I am not going crazsssy."
I nodded, a small, empty smile forming on my face. The candle was almost out, and shadows were playing on the wall, their indefinite form as real to me as I felt myself to be. "I'll second that," I agreed. The snake nodded once, then was silent, leaving us to our own separate thoughts.
The next few weeks carried a lost sort of feeling to me. I stared out the window, wondering why all the snow here seemed determined to turn to slush, and then the slush to mud. Even now, in the summer, the weather was still horrid. I was surprised this wasn't blamed on me as well. Sighing, I turned away, feeling depressed enough already. It was several months after the Christmas party, or maybe mere days. It was hard to tell at times, though the calendar in the dining hall supported the former time frame. Everything around me seemed blurred, unreal, although not much had changed. Mrs. Blunt still made me eat at a separate table in another room because I was not able to partake in the worshipping part of the meal. She'd done this on occasion in the past, but now it was routine. Often, she just neglected to give me food altogether. Trevor still beat me up, though perhaps a bit more now, since Mr. Blunt did not seem too keen on protecting me at all. In fact, whenever I breathed it seemed Mrs. Blunt would sharply reprimand me, saying my behavior was unfit and I should be turned out. Nothing new on her part, of course... only, now, Mr. Blunt was looking thoughtful as she said it, instead of slightly upset or embarrassed.
In truth, Trevor and Sean took turns with thrashings, and they were often encouraged or helped by others. Sean at least had the minimal reasoning of protecting his younger students, though I dismissed it as a thin excuse concocted by a feeble mind. I did little to fight back, feeling I almost deserved the pain. It at least gave me some feeling other than guilt at my actions, or confusion. Evil should be punished, be beaten, shouldn't it? What I had done to Jiminy was definitely not good. And if someone like Jiminy thought that I was a demon, even if it was solely because that foolishness had been pumped into him by a passel of ignorant others, it said something, didn't it? If I really was good, it would show - or else everyone around me was just as bad. Or blind. The uncertainty of which answer was the truth, if either, plagued my thoughts constantly, and it frustrated me that no answer materialized. I began to almost welcome the few moments of relief which came with the blackouts Sean and Trevor ever so kindly gave to me.
I grew quite fond of the snake, which I found out was a male (a strapping male, he informed me proudly). To me, he just looked like a garter snake, but since he was the only one who would talk to me, I didn't say so. He couldn't tell me his name, because apparently snakes kept their true names concealed with select family members, and we were not close enough yet, or something like that. He offered me the nickname Snicks, which I accepted. I stayed inside often. Locked away in the dorm room, safely out of reach of the others, I curled up with Snicks or a book. It was warmer that way, especially since I was underfed, nursing bruises and sprains, and had no warm clothing. And I wouldn't have to interact with anyone, which I had no reason to.
It was on one of these miserable afternoons that I was sitting cross-legged on a chair, shivering slightly as the drapes shifted in the breeze, rereading The Wasteland with Snicks hanging around my neck, that everything changed.
The windows were open because the glass had been broken and left unfixed years ago, and often odd things flew in; insects, some birds, once a bat. Still, I was unprepared for the soft, cooing hoot behind my head. Snicks was first to shift, as I was absorbed in the poem and had no desire to move. Then I heard the fluttering of wings, and suddenly a small brown owl perched itself on the arm of the chair. It eyed me curiously, extending a stumpy leg with an envelope attached to it. It leaned forward, hooting and watching me expectantly.
My first reaction was to swivel my head to the door, searching for some sign that this was a prank. Not seeing anyone, I hesitantly but curiously reached out and took the letter. It was done on some thick type of parchment, and the handwritten address had an odd, loopy slant to it. It was addressed to: Mr. Thomas Marvolo Riddle, Orphanage Dormitory Without Windows.
I had never received mail before in my life. Why would I? Why was I now, for that matter? I carefully placed the book aside and hurriedly ripped open the envelope and shook out a letter written on the same parchment, my hands trembling from excitement and wonder. Inside the letter it stated:
Dear Mr. Riddle,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at HogwartsSchool of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Albus Dumbledore, Deputy Headmaster
Psychosis seems a reasonable assumption, doesn't it? I thought to myself as I turn to the next page, which read:
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Uniform First-year students will require: 1. Three sets of plain work robes (black) 2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear 3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar) 4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings) Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name-tags
Course Books All students should have a copy of each of the following: Standard Spells (Grade 1) by Martin Goshawk A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling Beginning Transfigurations by Mordicus Wibclick One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phylllida Spore Potions and Drafts: A Beginners Guide by Clamitus Hisserling Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander Dark Arts Defense Techniques by Trip Arfittle
Other 1 wand 1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2) 1 set glass or crystal phials 1 telescope 1 set brass scales
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS
I realized that I hadn't been breathing in awhile and sucked in great gasps. My mind was floundering as I read the pages over and over again, completely lost. What were they talking about? What was Hogwarts - what was a magic school at all, anyway? My mind raced, stimulated but wary. Did it have something to do with those two people who had crashed the Christmas party?
I was still stupefied when Snicks slithered up onto my arm and read over my shoulder. "Ahh," he said knowingly. "You are accsssepted into Hogwartsss. Congratulationsss, it isss a very well known sssschool."
Immediately I turned and pounced on him (figuratively, of course.) "You understand what this means?"
Snicks looked at me as if my stupidity was beyond comprehension. "You don't?"
I shook my head. "I've never heard of any of this before-what is it?"
Snicks looked curious. "I just assssumed, "he began thoughtfully, "that you would know. It ssseemed obviousss. Well, Hogwartsss isss a ssschool for people, children really, who have great magical talent. It isss a place where they are trained."
It didn't seem real.
It couldn't be real, my mind decided. But then, neither could my speaking with snakes, or floating and hurting Mrs. Blunt be real. They decidedly weren't normal events. I'd always been told, though, that those acts were demonic behavior... "It's incredible," I said softly. "I don't know anything about magic!"
Snicks snorted. "What are you talking about? You possesss great capabilitiesss, even I can senssse that. I cannot think of anyone else who can ssspeak with ssssnakes."
"But that's just an abnormality, a-a deformity." Snicks began to look very indignant, so I quickly rephrased. "I mean, I always thought that, - well, I'd always been told that such things were because I was part demon. N-Not that I was-that I was-magical." I fingered my chain. "That things like that were wrong." I'd never wanted to believe that I was demonic, but a part of my stubborn refusal had belied a wondering of whether that label wasn't true.
Snicks looked very upset, his pale tongue flickering. "Who told you thisss? The people who live here? Do not lisssten to them, they do not understand. Ssssome people use sssuch powers for evil, but there are some wizsssards who do nothing but good."
A chill came over me at the sound of my new designation, and a smile spread. Wizard, I thought. The word brought exciting images that I'd read about to my mind; pictures of great, powerful figures who could control time and matter, who were wise and gave guidance, people who were - respected. Not evil, but valuable. People whose oddities had meaning and a purpose, not to be shunned but cultivated. Of course, the Blunts' wouldn't agree with such things; I'd had to sneak to the library to teach myself anything of use or find things of interest. And now, fantastical whimsy was made real.
"So you really think I belong here, Snicks?"
"Of courssse. Yesssterday, when the mop attacked Mrs. Blunt, you thought that was coincidencssse?"
The memory made me laugh. "I really didn't mean it," I confessed. "I thought everything I did was so wrong, even if I also thought it felt right. I never did such things on purpose. It felt good, of course, but - now -" I looked as Snicks, feeling my eyes flash. "You mean I can learn to really do these things on purpose? I can control them, use them when I want?"
Snicks looked a bit uncomfortable. "When it isss right," he counseled. "Not on a whim -magic is carefully regulated by the Ministry of Magic, and there are laws -"
"I didn't mean illegally!" I said hotly, feeling my face flame. Why did everyone assume the worst about me? Certainly, the thought of leaving Mrs. Blunt, Trevor, Sean and his goons somewhere in the Arctic Ocean to freeze, or zapping them into baboons, had crossed my mind. But what was wrong with dreaming?
Snicks looked apologetic. "Of courssse not," he hissed, and then slithered away. I didn't give him any attention, focusing my eyes on the Hogwarts crest. A huge relief welled up inside me, a feeling of freedom and lightness I had never experienced before. "I'm not evil," I whispered. Tears came; it was as if all the tension and adrenaline in my body was giving way, allowing emotions to come. For once I didn't force them away, and they didn't hurt.
I heard voices then, and quickly stuffed the papers under the cushion, trying to look inconspicuous. My hands were still shaking, so I clenched them in my lap. Sean and several others crowded into the room, including Trevor. I groaned inwardly. Even though Trevor had always made it a point to not associate with the orphan riffraff, he and Sean seemed to have bonded over their intense dislike of me. Sweet, wasn't it? I hurriedly brushed away the few trickles of tears, fighting back the humiliation of crying even though they didn't seem to have noticed.
Instead, they looked over my head and began talking loudly. Trevor said, "What is that stink in the air? It smells like something rotting - like some wimpy soulless skeleton has been sitting here rotting the air for real people."
"Shove it, Trevor." Subtlety, thy name was Tom.
Sean and the others formed a circle around my body, with Trevor standing right in front of me. His red face flared in haughty amazement. I hadn't fought back in so long, and never this boldly. He wheezed out his next words, trying futilely to sound enforcing. In fact, nothing about him seemed commanding, especially now. And I never gave credit for simple effort.
He roughly said, "What did you say, half-life?"
I stood calmly and looked him in the eyes. Although he was much more filled out than I, and my elder, we were the same height. I didn't raise my voice, simply saying, "I-said-shove-off. While it is such a clever bit, to pretend I am not here while insulting me, the subtlety wore off-oh--when I was two. I would say try to think of a new act, but I hate to smell the frying scent which taxing your brain tends to cause."
Was I asking for it? Absolutely. Trevor's eyes narrowed and he pulled his hand back, ready to strike. However, rather than taking the swing a dim light went off in his eyes. He backed off, smirking, leaving the others and myself gawking in anticipation. His entire face defined smugness. Folding his arms, he said, "Oh, that's very clever, half-life. You are very clever."
That was unexpected. I knew I was walking into a trap, but I was more curious than afraid. "Thank you."
Trevor looked like the cat that ate the canary - except he resembled a deformed hippo more than a feline, but I digress. He said loudly, "Of course, we can't give you all the credit for your cleverness, can we?"
I admit I was still intrigued, and I played along. "Well, I guess I owe some of it to you all, for being such incredibly easy targets. I don't thank you nearly enough."
"No, that's not what I meant. What I meant is, you are possessed. A sick little half-demon. You wouldn't be anywhere near as clever or smart if you weren't controlled by that dark stuff."
The direction this was heading was no longer entertaining for me. Trevor and the others, on the other hand, appeared as if a second Christmas had come. I stayed silent, though hearing the fears in me being voiced was making me fidget.
Trevor did not let up. "Yes, demons can be clever, can't they? At least for tricky sayings and trying to hurt innocent, good humans. But you can't even be good at being evil, can you?"
"Stop it, Trevor, I mean it!" I threatened, feeling defensive rage boil up inside me, taking the place of the fear that he was right. I fought to maintain the commanding coolness I'd felt when first speaking to him after discovering my magic powers.
Trevor was remorseless and unrelenting. "Oh no, since you're only a half-blood, I bet whatever created that side of you is just as disappointed. Compared to others like you, you wouldn't measure up, even with your cleverness!"
"That's it." My voice was hardly quiet, sounding high but chilled. Without thinking, I held out my hand, willing with all my might that now one of those strange occurrences would happen. Turning Trevor into a toad, floating him out the window, floating myself--anything. Anything to prove that he was wrong. I shook my hand furiously, pleading for words to fly from my lips as they had so flawlessly before without a thought.
A moment went by, where nothing happened. Then, after everyone realized that I had failed to materialize anything, they all broke into uproarious laughter. It was mocking and harsh, and as the blood flowed to my face I stared at my hand. Words like failure, half-life, worthless, hopeless, thing ran wild inside my mind, turning my fear and humiliation into a frenzy.
"Riddle." Trevor's voice was slow and taunting, silkily low. I had to face him. As much as I wanted to bolt and never come back, I had to face him. I turned my sweaty, broken countenance towards his.
Trevor had never looked bigger as he clicked his tongue in triumph. "See? You're a pathetic excuse for a human, and obviously not a very good demon, either. You really don't serve any purpose for living, now do you? It doesn't matter where you live, anywhere would have given you up, being the plaguing burden to every society that you are." He approached slowly; relishing the way this slow torture twisted my face. He had me broken and defeated, and there was no way he would let this opportunity go by. "But we can fix that, can't we, boys? Fix it so you'll never be a bother to life again. No one would care, who even thinks you're alive now anyway? Do you?"
This last question he punctuated with an uppercut to my jaw. Still, I doubt I would have answered anyway; words had failed me, everything about myself had failed me. I lay there limply as they proceeded to kick in my ribs, grinning with each crack, slapping each other's backs with glee as more blood came out of me. The pain was overwhelming. Trevor lifted me so Sean could angle at my stomach and face easier, while others had taken wooden planks to my shins and knees. Instinctively I howled out, but it sounded base and unnatural even to me. As if the sound was raw and empty, inhuman. After a while, I didn't feel any of it anymore. I collapsed into the pulsing sensation I felt as my heart tried to continue beating. I didn't remember willing it to do anything. Time ceased to exist, and everywhere I was numb. Consciousness was fleeting, and I found myself welcoming the blackness, wanting to escape into my own mind rather than face the beating.
After a while it all stopped. I didn't even realize right away that it had ended, so hazy was my consciousness by that point. Eventually, though, I was pulled back to reality to find Trevor leaning over me. His eyes were passionately alive with the zeal that only seems to come from deep hatred. In a voice breathing malice he said, "You'd better find someplace else to be, half-life. Once I tell mum and dad what you tried to do, though you failed miserably, they'll be throwing you out faster than you can get the shit kicked out of you. You know it's true, you might as well leave before they call the police." He stood up, sniggering at his and the others' handiwork. In a voice dripping with sarcasm he said, "If you can, that is."
With that, he and the others left me there on the floor. Snicks drew up close to me, stained with my blood. He'd had to crawl through it to get to me after the fight was done. During it, he must have been hiding. All I could say was, "It's true." My voice was soft and cracked, and as I coughed, I tasted metallic fluid. I could not move yet, but soon I would have no choice. Where was I to go? I didn't seem to possess any magical talent after all. The letter was a fraud, a joke - a mistake.
And yet, I couldn't just lie there. I couldn't give up and do nothing but wait to be carted off. The humiliation and self-loathing remained, but it was partially tempered by the beating and an instinctive defensiveness that never fully left me.
Snicks waited with me, leaving only to fetch me the acceptance letter. I had no doubt that they would retract their admission once I got there, but I had no choice. Trying to see though the blood crusting near my eyes, I read the letter again, trying to reclaim some semblance of the joy it gave me. I listened to Snicks say that he couldn't guide me, that all he knew was that the train I needed to catch was at a 'platform nine and three-quarters', which he had heard from another snake.
Talking was painful. "Well, we don't have a choice, now do we? Why should anything be easy? We'll head for there."
A coughing fit overtook me, sending waves of agony though my broken body. I felt a chill sweep over me, and my voice shook as I whispered, "There's nothing here."