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Chapter 20: Abraxas
For the remainder of my fourth year, I remained in a constant state of melancholy. Not only was I confronted daily with both Tom and Joey, but I was sick with thoughts of my connections with Grindelwald and what they could mean. I was plagued with visions of my mother being blown up by Grindelwald, of coming home to an empty house and finding out that I was now an orphan like Tom.
I worried that my parents would somehow discover what I’d done in Belgium, or that Grindelwald would decide he wanted to kill me like he killed my aunt, or that he’d find out that Tom and I were really plotting against him and he’d come after me in the night. I had done everything in the worst possible way, I was convinced. I had lied to too many and created a mess for myself.
The only thing I was sure of was my allegiance to Tom. He had become my number one priority; I did nothing without considering how it would affect his happiness, or my favor with him.
So when he asked me, I told him the truth.
We were on the train—me, Tom, and the rest of the club. For the first time in my life I was glad to be leaving Hogwarts for the summer; perhaps I’d be able to straighten everything out over the shining summer months, get some time to think out by the ocean and decide what I was going to do.
Avery and Nott were talking about quidditch, but I had no desire to join their conversation. Lestrange was brooding on his own as usual, occasionally shooting me suspicious glances. Tom sat next to me, a book in his hands that he didn’t seem to be reading.
He seemed as tense as I was—I could see his fingers tapping restlessly on the cover of his book and even the muscles in his arm seemed tight when he’d accidently brush against me.
After a couple of uneasy hours during which I might have dozed off, Tom cleared his throat, signaling that he wanted us to listen.
“This next summer will be a pivotal one for all of us,” he began. “For John, Anna and I, it marks the beginning of our OWL year, and for Leonard and Theodore, you two will be beginning your NEWT studies.”
We were quiet, wondering why Tom was pointing out the importance of our exam years.
“But most importantly, it must be the summer that all of us decide where our loyalties lie,” he said lightly, looking around at the group of us. “To Hogwarts, surely. To Slytherin, obviously. But the loyalties I require assurance of are those of a more…delicate nature.”
Tom’s gaze paused on me for a moment, but he quickly looked away.
“I ask the four of you to use this summer to decide how far you are willing to go for what you believe. You must be sure of what you want, of who you will trust, and what you will do.”
Avery caught my eye with a rather bewildered look, but I ignored him.
“You have been wondering, perhaps, what the purpose of our gathering is. If, after the summer, you have decided that I, and of course, the rest of the group, have your full loyalty, you will find out.”
Nott’s eyebrows were knit together, and I wondered briefly if he understood half of the words Tom was using. Lestrange’s face betrayed nothing of his inner thoughts. Tom smiled coolly at us.
“You may think you are ready to do whatever it takes to prove yourself as a Slytherin, and as a member of our most esteemed organization. I assure you, you are not. Not yet, at least. So think hard over the summer, gentlemen,” he said, then turned to me, “and of course, my lady. When we return to Hogwarts in the fall, I will be holding a meeting for all those who wish to achieve glory, and become a true demonstration of the finest inhabitants of Slytherin House.”
He paused again, and the compartment was silent.
“I assure you, no harm will come to those who decide against returning. Everyone cannot be great, for then it would mean nothing. But for those of you intelligent, brave and bold enough to return, I promise you a year of discovery and some of the greatest magic you will ever encounter.”
I had said goodbye to Joey, to Marcella and Bess and (to my annoyance) Rachel. I was moments from exiting the platform to find Nana, to go home.
But he caught me by the arm and pulled me away from the people and trains and noise. Of course. How could I be so optimistic to think I’d be able to get away without having to say goodbye to Tom?
“Have you given any thought to what I said on the train?” he asked, without any prelude.
I’d thought of nothing but it.
I stared at him. Tom still had a grip like iron around my wrist, and his dark eyes never left mine; they bored into me and slowly started to turn my legs weak.
“W, what do you mean? I’m coming back, naturally. Did you think I’d choose otherwise?”
Tom released my arm and looked somewhat pacified at this. A few seconds passed during which we said nothing.
“I wanted to be sure of you, at least,” Tom said somewhat defensively. “I needed to be able to factor in at least one other person over the summer. I have to start planning.”
“What are y—” I began, but Tom shushed me impatiently.
“I don’t have time to explain now. I have a plan that can make Slytherin house the most famous and revered in all of Hogwarts history, and anyone who helps me will receive the same glory. I just need to know if you’re with me or not. I need you, Anna.”
These words, despite their businesslike tone, made my heart flip over.
“Of course I’m with you, Tom. I love y—Slytherin. You can count on me to help you.”
He nodded, apparently unaware that I was just about to die, right there on platform 9 and ¾. What was wrong with me? Honestly, if I hadn’t shut myself up in time, I would have just told Tom Riddle that I loved him. I could feel my face heating up at just the thought.
Tom touched me on the shoulder and said, “Good. I’ll see you in September, my Anna.”
I could only smile faintly in response.
I am going to kill myself. I have issues. I couldn’t be trusted to open my mouth ever again. In what universe would it be okay to say something like that to Tom Riddle? I love you? Really?
Why would I say that? It had just come out, but why? I don’t love him, maybe I like him rather a lot, and he was probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, but, but…
Oh my God.
I do love him. I love him, how could I not? I had all the symptoms, in every story I had ever read, in every movie, it was the same.
I was always thinking about him, I was terribly distraught at the thought of him with anyone else, and everything about him fascinated me.
I, Anne Marie Harley, am hopelessly, desperately in love, and I’ve only just figured it out.
I stood there for a very long time on the platform alone, but when I finally managed to get to Nana on the other side, I was sure of it.
I am in love with Tom Riddle.
I was quite a romantic back then, wasn’t I?
My new realization carried me through the first weeks of summer in a bit of a haze. I could come to no other satisfactory conclusion as to why my life was the way it was, what these funny feelings I had meant, and why Joey had suddenly lost his charm. I was in love with Tom.
I would repeat it to myself both in my head and aloud, even shouting it outdoors with no one but the crashing waves of the Atlantic to hear me.
At first I let my girlish excitement take me over, and I just roamed around the house like a lovesick fool, because that’s always what the lady in the movies did when she first found out she was in love. I quickly grew distressed though. This wasn’t a movie, and this was Tom I was mooning over.
There was no way in hell he was going to venture out here to start throwing rocks at my window and declare his undying love for me. He wasn’t going to suddenly decide I was the only thing he needed in his life and buy me a diamond ring and ask me to marry him.
I may as well wait for him to announce he was transferring to Hufflepuff.
No, no…Tom was not going to be so compliant with my stupid fantasies, because he most certainly wasn’t an ideal boy to fall in love with.
I had never meant for this to happen. Sure, I had decided long ago I wanted to win his affection, but not because I actually wanted it! I had only wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that I could force the strange little boy I had met out of his shell and make him love me.
What a mess. Why did I have to go and actually like him for? Then fall in love with him? Dammit.
There was only one thing to do. Tom wasn’t going to reciprocate my affection, of course not, but perhaps he didn’t even know I held them! Surely Tom didn’t even know I loved him! How could he?
And why would he love me? I hadn’t made any effort at all to make him see how wonderful I was! Why would he fall in love with me if all I ever did around him was study and fight and plot? That wasn’t attractive in the slightest.
I would have to work harder than that! I could make it so it would be impossible to ignore me! I’ll show him I’m the best, prettiest, smartest girl at Hogwarts and there will be no way he can resist me, even though he’s as odd as he is. He’s still a boy, isn’t he?
“Nana, where are Mum’s curlers?” I yelled down the stairs, standing at the top of the spiral staircase in my bathrobe.
“Why do you need those?” she asked suspiciously, poking her head around the wall. “You don’t need to be making your hair any curlier than it is!”
“Nanaaaa,” I whined, “I look like a child without my hair properly done!”
“You are a child!”
“No I’m not,” I said indignantly, pouting at her. “I’ll be sixteen next year, and I need to look like a lady, not a five year old!”
Nana didn’t answer me, and only continued to make lunch. I grumbled and turned around, bursting into my mother’s bathroom to root through her things.
For being an Auror, my Mum sure was glamorous, I decided, examining her jewelry box full of sparkling gemstones and the tray of lipsticks sitting on the counter. She wasn’t home, so why should all of her beautiful things go to waste?
I tried on one of her diamond pendants and swore it suited me very well. I examined myself in the mirror, deciding mentally what I’d have to do to transform myself into a fanciable young woman.
I discovered that in the last few months I’d spent moping around, I had finally begun to grow into myself. I was no longer as thin as a twelve-year-old boy—I found I could actually fit into some of Mum’s clothes without looking ridiculous. I could actually see an hourglass where there used to be straight lines.
I leaned close to the glass and saw with satisfaction that the skin of my face was still smooth and white, without the slightest trace of a blemish or, God forbid, a freckle. My eyes were still emerald green and sparkling.
But I looked like a kid.
I spent hours at my mother’s vanity, trying on her jewelry and trying not to poke myself in the eye with her mascara wand. I pinned my hair up so that when I let it down hours later, it fell in shiny ringlets past my shoulders instead of it’s usual slightly messy curls.
I knew to be totally in style I’d have my hair cut to a bob, but I couldn’t bear to part with it.
I picked a deep red for my fingernails, and was sure to clean away any smudges. I decided my Mother wouldn’t miss her diamond studs, so I fastened them into my ears.
By the time I was finished, I still looked like myself, but a much better, more mature version of me.
I was certain no other fifth year would be able to compete with me. Tom would have to notice me now!
The only thing standing in my way was Joey, and I knew it now more than ever. I didn’t want to think about parting with him, but it was inevitable.
I would have to tell him somehow, because like Tom said, it was time to decide my loyalties.
And I knew with whom they lay.
“OW!” I cried, leaping out of the way of a first year that had just rolled their trolley over my toe. “Watch where you’re going!”
I only felt mildly bad as the kid skittered away terrified, but I couldn’t just let people run over my shoes—they were the latest style straight from Paris! I pulled my robe up to cast an admiring look at one of them…they weren’t exactly what the school uniform called for, but where did it say heels weren’t allowed?
I leaned against my own trunk, trying to hide my nervousness. I had spent all summer both dreading and waiting for the moment when I’d be able to come back to Hogwarts.
On the one hand, I didn’t have any idea what I’d do if I saw Joey. Should I just break it to him clean, or should I sit him down and talk it out? I didn’t want to think about him.
But on the other hand, I couldn’t wait to see Tom; to show him how much I had grown over the summer, show him I was ready to be the perfect Slytherin, and that I could be perfect for him.
Someone bumped into me from behind and I was about to tell them off, thinking they were another first year, but as I whipped around I quickly realized it, or rather he, wasn’t.
“Oh, excuse me miss,” he said, nodding his head slightly. “I didn’t see you there…how unfortunate it is that I’ve bothered such a beauty.”
I gave him a frosty once over. His sleek blond hair seemed to shimmer like silver in the morning sun, and his eyes were an odd, shining gray. He wasn’t particularly handsome, but there was something arresting about his pointed face and the way his eyes moved.
“Who are you?” I asked, rather rudely. “I’ve never seen you before.”
“No, you wouldn’t have,” he said, leaning against a pillar. “I’ve only just transferred. My father had me being shipped off to Durmstrang for the last few years…but he eventually decided Hogwarts is the better option.”
“Ah,” I said, wondering why he was talking to me. I was trying to keep an eye out for Tom.
“But how rude of me not to properly introduce myself…I’m Abraxas. Abraxas Malfoy.”
“It’s truly a pleasure to meet you, Anne.”
“Charmed,” I said, somewhat through my teeth. There was some creeping quality of oiliness to him beneath his niceties, and I found I didn’t like it at all.
“Would I be too optimistic to assume you’re in Slytherin?” he asked, pointing to the hem of my robe, which was green.
“I am,” I responded.
“That’s wonderful! My whole family has been in Slytherin, I’m sure that when they sort me I’ll be placed there…perhaps you could show me how things are done here at Hogwarts?”
“At Durmstrang, there’s none of this train business…”
Abraxas Malfoy began to talk, and there seemed to be no way I’d be able to escape. At least, until I saw him.
“I’m sorry, I see someone I know, nice meeting you,” I lied, giving a halfhearted wave to the boy next to me.
His back was to me, but it was so unmistakably Tom, with his beaten trunk and robes a bit too short. I took a deep breath and stepped up behind him.
“Boo,” I whispered, then watched him turn and suppressed my gasp of surprise.
I was not the only one who had changed over the summer. It was the same Tom I had always known, with the same piercing dark eyes and thick, smooth black hair, but everything about him was somehow more defined. I had never noticed before the beauty of his cheekbones or the perfect shape of his jaw…or perhaps they hadn’t been there before.
He had grown again, and was now at such a height that I could lay my head on his chest and just have the top of my head touch his chin. But he was no longer scrawny, no longer bookish and lanky. I could tell even beneath his robes that his arms had developed a coating of slim muscle that I couldn’t help but desperately imagine unclothed. I felt my skin heating with a faint blush at even the idea.
I barely noticed that we had both just stood there for a few moments, staring at each other. Tom seemed to realize this at the same moment I did.
“Anna,” he said quietly, my favorite little half smile playing at his lips. “How lovely it is to see you after all summer.”
And then he took my hand and kissed it, actually kissed it, like I was some exotic princess that had to be greeted with the utmost respect. My complete and utter happiness won out over my urge to faint.
“Oh Tom, I’ve missed you,” I laughed, throwing my arms around his neck. “I’ve been thinking about you all summer. I can’t wait to see what you’ve been planning!”
I added the last part in an undertone, leaning close to his ear. I could smell the clean, simple smell of soap and nearly passed out again because I felt him wrap me up in his arms.
What a way to start the year! I could tell it was going to be different, this one. I was going to keep calm, be perfect and charming and win him over. This was going to be the year. The perfect year.
I slipped out of Tom’s embrace feeling like I was floating. That was when I saw Joey, and my heart dropped like a stone.
Nope, life wasn’t perfect yet.
I hadn’t thought it was possible she’d get any prettier. But it was Annie, of course she did. I think she was born to prove people wrong. She was always showing everyone that beautiful girls could be smart, that just because she couldn’t leave the dorm without the perfect matching jewelry didn’t mean she couldn’t know about quidditch. She had showed everyone that just because she was a Slytherin didn’t mean she was evil.
At least, not all evil.
She pulled away from Tom Riddle, her eyes wide. I tried to force a smile onto my face, but it was no damn use. I would never be able to smile when that creep Riddle was around. I had an urge to pop him one square in that smug face of his—forget magic and fooling around with his fancy spells. I’d knock him out and have no problem doing it either.
But Riddle wasn’t looking at me, he was looking at Annie. She said something quiet to him, touching him on the arm. Then she was walking over to me, her brilliant smile on, making something in my stomach lurch that had nothing to do with wanting to kill Tom Riddle.
But trust me, I still did.
Especially now. I had never liked him, but at least before I could be confident that he was just a freaky little bookworm. Some loner that Annie had decided to be friends with just because they liked to study together. A study partner. I could handle that.
What I couldn’t warm up to was the way he was taller than me now, or how he had somehow managed to turn his scrawny self into something resembling a man.
But the worst was how he was looking at her.
She was in front of me now, standing too far away. I wanted to pick her up and kiss her until she couldn’t breathe, make her laugh again how she always used to. I didn’t, but just greeted her the same way she greeted me—distantly.
Riddle was still standing there, a glint of laughter touching his eyes as he met my gaze. He looked away before I had a chance to flip him the bird.
At least before, when all else failed, I knew that even if she liked him a little too much, he held no such affection for her. He had always treated her with the same coldness he used with everyone else. At least, as far as I could tell.
But I had seen his face when he turned to see her, and when he dared to touch his untrustworthy mouth to her hand. I knew that look. Annie received it a lot, really. She was beautiful, and men always looked at her. But never Tom Riddle. At least until now.
“How was your summer?” she asked, blinking those striking green eyes up at me.
I shrugged, seeing her face fall slightly.
I guess I should have known it would happen eventually. A guy couldn’t be bestfriends with Annie and not notice her. I guess I had just hoped Riddle was a freak, and he somehow didn’t care he had the most beautiful girl in the school at his side.
“Oh…” she trailed off, removing her gaze from me. We were silent for a few moments. Her eyes were focused on some far off place, and that glazed look came over her face. I knew she was thinking about him whenever she got that look.
Funny how she was supposed to be mine, my girlfriend. It didn’t feel like she was mine at all. There had always been a little part of her I could never have. I couldn’t have it because he did.
And now we were just standing here not talking, acting like strangers. It was all his fault. If Tom Riddle never existed, I could have her and make her happy and just love her like she was meant to be loved. But I couldn’t, not now. A dull ache went through me at the idea of letting her go.
She was slipping away from me, and I had no idea how to recapture her.
A/N Sort of a short chap, and again I'm sorry for the lack of action or, honestly anything but love woes. Haha nothing really happened but I wanted to get something out before I start delving into 5th year. Betcha didn't think Malfoy was coming in anywhere, did you? Ha! And I totally wasn't counting on doing a Joey pov, and I definitely won't be doing different povs back to back like this again, but it just seemed like a good time.
Pleaseeeeee let me know what you think!! I love reading and responding to your reviews, they're what keep me going! Feel free to make predictions and suggestions as well!
Love you all :)