I stepped over the wooden bench and sat down, glowering at the decision of the Sorting Hat. Slytherin? I had begged and pleaded to it for the entire duration of the sorting, promising anything just as long as I got to be in Gryffindor. Opening my mind to the Hat, I had let it see the countless brave acts I did, the ones that saved me from being beaten and shamed by the others at the orphanage. But the Hat had mumbled something about having the blood of Slytherin running through my veins, and that was that.
“Welcome to Slytherin!” said a tall girl with ebony curls cascading around her shoulders, “You must be Tom. I’m Dorea Black, Head Girl.”
“Good evening, Dorea,” I replied, a bit awed by the fullness of her presence, “Thanks for the welcome.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling, “If you ever need any help, don’t hesitate to ask me or Septimus Weasley. He’s the Head Boy, from Gryffindor. Oh, and the Prefects will be helpful too, just look for their badges.”
“Thanks, I’ll ask if I ever need anything,” I told her, smiling for the first time since I sat down at the Slytherin table.
“That’s all right,” she said, and clasped my shoulder in a welcoming gesture, “Now, I must be off to welcome the newest additions to our house. Enjoy the feast! It’s been nice meeting you, and we’re so glad that you’re in Slytherin.”
I smiled at her retreating back, feeling a warmness surging up in my heart. As I let my eyes scanned down the Slytherin table, I met welcoming smile after welcoming smile and a few hearty greetings. Perhaps Slytherin isn’t so bad after all. It wasn’t every day that I got to feel as wanted as this. In fact, in all the eleven years of my life I’ve never heard a single person utter that they wanted me. Those spiteful orphanage children had always done their best to leave me out, and the nurses were more than lacking of love. My eyes shone as I leant forward into the Slytherin table, eager to move myself that extra inch further into the core of Slytherin house. A little shriek across from me made me lift my head, and my jaw line dragged on the floor as I witnessed a procession of ghosts floating above the table.
“Holy gods!” squeaked a small girl from the other side of the table, her pale hands clutching the arm of a boy who was identical to her.
“Calm down, Ari,” the boy told her, trying to shrug her hands off him, “They’re just ghosts.”
“Real ghosts?” I couldn’t help asking.
“Yes, real ghosts,” the boy answered, putting up a hand to sweep his blond fringe out of his face, “I don’t think you can even have fake ghosts. Why, haven’t you ever seen a ghost before?”
“No, I haven’t,” I answered, not knowing whether this was the right thing to say.
“Say, are you two twins?” I asked, trying to deflect the conversation away from my lack of ghost sightings.
“Yes, how did you guess?” the boy said, then winked at me jokingly, “Well, I’m Alfred Avery, and this is my sister Arielle Avery.”
“I’m Tom Riddle,” I said, extending my arm across the table to shake hands with the twins.
“Nice to meet you, Tom,” said Arielle, her pale face breaking into a smile, “Call me Ari. And you can call my twerp of a brother Freddy.”
“Hey, if I’m a twerp then so are you!” Freddy said, grinning at his sister.
I looked on to their mock fight with a twinge of jealousy. I was feeling jealous a lot these days, now that I was no longer in the company of pathetic little orphans. Hearing Ari’s tinkling laughter as her brother whispered in her ear made me want a sibling to share my stories with too. I looked down at my golden plate, not wanting to witness this joy that I could never have. Suddenly I wished that the feast was over. Then I could leave this joyous hall and climb into my solitary bed with my lonely thoughts.
“Welcome all to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” began the voice of the headmaster from the dais, waking me from my self-pity.
I tuned out halfway through his speech. He was telling of the Muggle war and its consequences, nothing that I didn’t already know. I began counting the number of emeralds set just below the lip of my goblet, my fingers tracing over the precious gems. Professor Dippet finally finished after I traced the emeralds for the fifth time, and at the snap of his fingers food started to appear on the previously empty platter before us. I picked up my cutlery and dug in, forgetting for a moment that I was at Hogwarts and not at the orphanage. The old habit of fighting for every morsel of food was still strong within me. With my mouth full of potato and roast lamb, I made a mental note to remember proper eating etiquette next time.