The room was empty when I walked in, and so I strolled down between the rows of desks to pick out the best vantage point. Dropping my books on the wooden desk near the front corner, I sat down on the chair and stared at my books. It hit me then that I was at Hogwarts, a real life school for magic, a place for superior people like me. I leafed through my textbooks, all old and falling apart at the bindings like everything else that I owned. Simple spells greeted me, charms to turn a matchbox into a mouse and to turn paper into concrete. Useless things really, the most absurd collection that could be made into a textbook for children of power like us. I skimmed through to the end of Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration, my eyes devouring the information like hungry beasts despite having felt disdain a moment earlier. The slanting sunlight coming from the high windows were perfect, and I was almost enjoying myself when someone else walked in.
“And you believed him Gus?” said the cheery voice of a boy, “This is John Lupin we’re talking about, the boy whose main aim in life is to tease people like you.”
“Aw come on Gary, John had never lied to me before,” replied a very familiar voice, “And who would’ve known there really were...”
Her voice broke off as she saw me, curled up in my chair at the front of the room. The Gary boy took a while longer to realise that they weren’t completely alone, his brows furrowed in a confused expression that made me want to burst out laughing. Augusta Harris looked at me strangely, and I dropped my eyes as I realised that I’d been staring at them.
“Weren’t you with Professor Dumbledore at Diagon Alley the other day?” Augusta started talking, “You’re Tim Riddle aren’t you?”
“Tom Riddle,” I corrected, “Nice to meet you again, Augusta Harris.”
“Please, call me Gus,” she said, her mouth beginning to curl up into that infectious smile of hers, “And this here is Gary. Gary, Tom. Tom, Gary.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Gary, extending his large hand to me.
I shook it, feeling the pure strength of this boy’s grip. He was a Gryffindor for sure, what with the easy air of grace around him and this amazing strength. The wave of jealousy surged within me again, and I hastily pull my hand away from the hearty handshake.
“So where have you been before Hogwarts?” Gary asked conversationally.
I swallowed, not wanting to tell the pathetic story of my existence in a Muggle orphanage. “I... Umm...”
“Tom’s a first year, Gary,” Gus said, punching Gary’s arm affectionately, “Did you forget all about the Sorting already, Mr Scatterbrain?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Gary told me, “I assumed you were a second year, what with you being in the second year’s Charms class and all.”
“Wait, this isn’t Transfiguration?” I asked, punching myself internally for already making stupid mistakes from the get-go.
“That’s next door with Professor Dumbledore, it’s Charms with Flitwick here,” Gus told me, then kindly added, “You still have plenty of time, no one’s here yet.”
I gathered up my books and stood up awkwardly, not knowing how to leave the room without making a fool of myself.
“Thanks,” I murmured to both of them, striding down the rows of desks to leave as quickly as I could.
“No problem,” said Gus, “Perhaps we’ll catch you later?”
I was halfway out the door by then, and her words made me hesitate for a long time. By the time I figured out what to say, she had already resumed her conversation with Gary, her voice tinkling with laughter as she talked of John Lupin and his great tricks. I stepped silently out of the Charms classroom, and slipped into my own class to see Professor Dumbledore seated at his desk, his bright blue gaze piercing through his half-moon glasses.
“Ah, Tom Riddle,” he said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”