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The Closest Thing To Caring by fashionist
Chapter 10 : My Crazy Angel (May)
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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A/N: Well, this is it for CTTC. I love it so much and I'm happy it finished the way it did. By the way, this is one of my favorite chapters that I've ever written for anything. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you enjoyed the whole series. I'll see you guys at SIHE!
(xbreathtaking, by the way, is my username out of HPFF)












Chapter 10 - My Crazy Angel

 









Tom Riddle




The bright morning in May was one that was met without emotion, similar to many of the other days Tom Riddle experienced. It was sunny; the rains of April had made way for the flowers of May, some of which were blooming in the windows as children happily made their way from class to class. It was almost as if the weather had influenced their moods, the sun greatly shining on the sheer excitement that each of their faces held.

Tom Riddle did not find himself swayed by the weather, however, but by a certain Irene Taylor, who had left the school three weeks ago, accompanied by a very bony and red-haired woman. She had written notes since then, and they were normally lengthy and rambling, as if she didn't know that it was just her signature that made him feel rather strange.

After the kiss, there had been nothing to do but to be honest, though not completely. He admitted to fancying Irene Taylor in his head, and he even admitted to something more than just a fancy. After all, after he had kissed her, he had felt odd in the head for days.

Because that was the disease of Irene Taylor; it had many qualities that could control his thoughts, his common sense, and even every action he participated in. No matter what he did, Irene Taylor and her kiss were there, sweet and tasting something like honey.

Now, Tom Riddle found himself in the Great Hall, where hundreds of students gathered to eat their meals, some accompanied with homework or studying material for the NEWTS, which Tom had barely thought about as time progressed and the classes became less about learning and more about review.

Above him, the sun shimmered, met with the occasional gray cloud that did not seem to sway the mood of anyone, including Tom, who didn't seem to be in as cross a mood as usual. The students were laughing, the food was delicious; the day held promise, unlike many others.

Suddenly, a flurry of wind entered the Great Hall, and some of the more naive students looked up as the bundles of owls came in. Some covered their food, thinking of the Owlery as an example for what their food could look like; some looked at the birds in awe, the colors of brown, red, black, white, and the few gold fluttering above the shining sun.

Tom looked at the owls for a different reason, and this was for the most logical; the post came in. Normally, in his first seven years of Hogwarts, the post wouldn't have even been thought of, being just another inconvenience of the morning. Now, he looked up at them, scanning for one that was white and had the discreet mark of 'ST. MUNGO'S' on it.

Irene and Tom had been sending notes to each other since she had left, and they had begun with a more serious tone, evidently evading things like their kiss and the result being rather awkward. As time progressed, the tone became lighter and more enjoyed, and instead of cringing away from the post Tom found himself enjoying it, waiting for the note of Irene Taylor's to come through.

A certain group of birds flew towards the Slytherin table, most black and looking as if they hadn't eaten in days, with the one exception being a white owl with golden eyes and aged parchment in its beak. Even the sight of the bird was enough to raise Tom's spirits completely, and as the bird approached he did not waste any time in taking the post out of its beak and opening it.

The note was long, littered with the swoops of Irene Taylor; though he had once claimed them to be illegible, he now saw them as rather reassuring.

And, taking a deep breath, he read:
Dear Tom,

How is Hogwarts doing without my unequaled guidance? Now, according to the nurses, this note is going to come pretty late, but I can only hope that you'll manage without this absolutely terrible and rambling note.

Anyway, how are you doing with that gadget of yours? Have you figured it out yet? I made a sloppier version for Dumbledore, but I really do hope my spellwork is good enough for Dumbledore to even take a breather before getting it. (Joking. Did you hear that he's going to defeat Grindelwald? If he does- and I'd bet my life he would- then there is absolutely no way in the green earth that my creation is going to stump him).

No offense.

So, according to the doctors I have something called SMMS- Severe Magical Morbillius Disease, something with the lungs- but they told me that I should be fine. They still have to run more tests, though, but who knows? Maybe I'll make it back to Hogwarts to take my NEWTS.

I don't know how it's going to go, though. I want to say 'Definitely' but the doctors are claiming that I'll need more treatment. Furthermore, I don't even know what I really have, and it's up to street smarts to decipher if I'll be okay or not. The prediction is yes, though, haha.

Bloody hell are those going to be hard, especially since I haven't been in school for ages. I never thought I'd miss school, but St. Mungo's is boring- there's one nurse that I've been talking to- Ann- but otherwise there's been nothing to do. Ann is normally busy and can only talk to me whenever the rest of her work is done (she works in the Intensive Care Unit, but even she told me that it's mostly people that end up healing). Otherwise, I have nothing to do but write letters to you.

Don't you absolutely love them?

Anyway, I'm basically out of parchment, so consider this an IOU for a longer note. However, before I say goodbye, I just have to check up on one person.

How is Abraxas Malfoy doing? The boy never talks to me because - oh, and this is a shocker- we absolutely loathe each other. However, I am still very intrigued on the business between him and Gloria- which, according to Margaret, is publicly known now. I'm interested on how he handled that, and I'm almost happy that I'm in St. Mungo's because now he can't strangle me.

Woops.

And speaking of IOUS, I still have not figured out the two nominations to give to Dippet for next year's Head Boy and Girl. I know McGonagall seems worthy, but I'm still a little skirmish, especially because of her absolutely enthralling personality. You've seen it, I've seen it- now, is she capable of running a school? Seeing as we managed, I think so.

Give it time.

But how are you? What's the craziest thing you've done lately? I know that you don't particularly fancy answering these, and that's all dandy, but don't think that I don't wonder if you're secretly ramming your head into a wall day after day. Please write back, even if it's just an "I'm fine, thanks" or a "Stay the hell away from me". To tell you the truth, I






"Tom, can we talk to you for a second?"

He looked up from the letter and into the faces of who he hardly recognized as Irene's friends. They were both very pretty, of course, though different; one was a short blonde and the other was a tall and lanky brunette. There were similarities, though- they both were looking down at him expectantly, for one, as if they thought he would clap them on the back-

- but they also looked like they had not slept. The blonde's cheeks were a bright pink, her face unnaturally sober, and the other, while carrying a stoic face, looked worse for wear. Her hair was haphazard and there were circles under her eyes.

"No," Tom said, glaring at the both of them, though neither shrunk away in response. "In fact, if you wouldn't mind, I do hope you'd never speak to me again- you know, I don't particularly fancy people coming up to me if they don't have anything important to say."

"But we do," the blonde insisted, putting her hands on her hips and looking at Tom Riddle with malice that was almost intolerable. The brunette, taking it a step further, went so far as to sit next to him as if they were bosom friends.

"Really," Tom said sarcastically, looking down at the letter and trying to find his place. "I'm not going to nominate you two for Head Girl, if that's what you're looking for, and if you keep talking to me I might as well just kill you now-"

"It's about Irene!" the blonde screeched, and as if it were impulse Tom looked over at her, an instinctive chill of panic rolling up his spine. The blonde, in response to her outburst, took a deep breath, and the brunette sighed, rubbing her temples with her fingers.

Regardless, it was every nerve of common sense that ceased Tom from acting concerned, and he looked over at the blonde in a gesture that was supposed to indicate a lack of care. "Does she have nominations for Head Boy and Girl?" he asked irritably, and the brunette glared at him from where she was sitting, a mutinous look that seemed better suited for someone that was not as intimidating as Tom Riddle.

"You know," the brunette said in a forced voice, "you know, Irene told us a lot, and whenever she told us about you, I really thought she was just too stressed out to be unbiased. But you- you-" she took a deep breath to calm herself, though this didn't work- "you are just an ass, just like Abraxas."

"Did you want something?" Tom asked angrily; he did not want his morning to be interrupted with the unkind words of the two, however somber they might be. The blonde looked at him in surprise, as if she could not believe what she had heard, and the brunette narrowed her eyes in disgust.

"It's about Irene," the brunette said, and her voice seemed to struggle to stay at an even and level tone. "Did she tell you? About SMMS? Is that letter from her?" she added, looking over at the worn piece of parchment in Tom Riddle's hand, and he hastily hid it in his robes.

"No," he lied, and the blonde looked over at him. "Why should I be concerned, anyway? I don't even know who the hell either of you are," he pointed out, and the brunette sighed, looking at her fingernails for almost a minute before turning back to him.

"I'm Catherine," the brunette introduced, "and this is my sister, Nancy." Nancy put up a hand in hello, though her face was still very sour. "We're Irene's cousins."

"Why do I need to know?" Tom snapped, though neither of them showed a flicker of fear on their faces. "Why is this relevant to me, and, bloody hell, why are you even talking to me?"

"Merlin," Catherine muttered, and Nancy rolled her eyes. Catherine leaned in closer to Tom, and her voice dropped tones as she swiveled her gaze from one side of the room to the other. "Merlin, we told you, Irene tells us everything... we know," she continued, her voice dropping so low that their heads were almost touching. "I mean, about the kiss."

Tom's wand was out of his pocket and facing towards Catherine so hastily that it hit her on the side of the face, though he didn't seem to notice. Taking another look around his surroundings, thanking Merlin that no one was nearby, he said lowly, "You'd better keep your mouth shut."

"Merlin," Nancy muttered, and it was then Nancy leaned towards him, her wispy blonde hair hitting her in her face. "You're good at it, you know," she muttered. "Being like that and pretending you don't care. I almost believed you. But, see," she continued, giving Tom such a look of knowing it was almost as if she had been there while they'd kissed, "I know better than that. And Catherine knows better than that, and, you know, the whole school knows better than that. So you keep your damn mouth shut, put your tail between your legs, and stop talking about Irene like you didn't give ten pence."

"Dumbledore," Catherine said, muttering it at the side of her mouth, and Nancy looked over at her, not bothering to notice the glare headed her way from Tom, before turning towards the teacher's desks, where Dumbledore was beginning to sit down. His eyes immediately sought Nancy and Catherine, as if they had had an appointment to see him, and Tom could not help noticing that he also looked ashen, the sparkle in his eye absent from his attire.

"We have to go," Nancy said quietly, any evidence of rudeness or anger gone, an almost peaceful look settling over it instead. "Merlin, I'm sorry," she said to Tom, pulling a letter out of her pocket that lacked crinkles or deformities of any kind. "When you're done with it, that's it," she said softly. "You can do with it what you want. We've already showed it to everyone else."

"And, Tom," she said, standing up from where she sat, Catherine following in her lead, "I'm sorry, I am."

With that statement, the two left, their footsteps steadily making their way towards Dumbledore, who met their eye again and nodded, though not before glancing at Dippet, who seemed to enjoy himself as he sat next to the equally plump and enthusiastic Slughorn. The contrast between the couple and Dumbledore was very strange.

Something, evidently, was not right, and Dumbledore looked over at the girls again before standing from his seat and making his way towards the tall wooden podium, sitting in the middle of where the faculty sat. At once, the student body fell silent, and Dumbledore looked at them all, smiling a small smile before speaking- a softer tone than normal, but enough so that everyone in the room heard it.

"Good morning," Dumbledore greeted, not allowing a pause for the students to wish him the same. "I hope you have had an excellent breakfast, courtesy of the house elves, who have been working with us for almost fifty years now." Again, however, he did not allow applause, instead continuing mercilessly.

"It's not about that, today, though," he said softly, and Tom then noticed whispers of confusion, as if he were about to announce that Grindelwald had vanquished all those in foreign countries. Dumbledore still did not allow this, and he trudged on, his face still wrapped in an emotionless mask.

"There has been a tragedy," he muttered, and the whispering still increased, though Dumbledore ignored this. Dumbledore looked down at his feet, shaking his head slightly, as if he were trying to get water out of his ears, before looking up at the students, a light layer of tears smothering his eyes and making them very bright.

"Irene Taylor has passed away."
]---[





The sudden pain in his stomach did not vanish away, nor did Dumbledore's exclamations. The students of Hogwarts took this news with eagerness, as if the gossip mill had run dry so Irene Taylor could soothe it, as if that had been her only purpose.

But it was still very unexpected, even though there had been signs, flashing signs, that had warned him for the blow. Catherine and Nancy even being present was an oddity, and the sober and grave mood that had settled over the morning now had a reason and an explanation.

But, still, she could not be dead. She had been fine a few weeks ago, hadn't she? She had been walking, living, breathing- she had had no signs of death in her future. She had maybe had a coughing fit once or twice in the year- surely it was not enough to kill her.

The story felt very odd; for the whole time as the tale was told, the letters and the conversations and even the kisses were remembered, there had been no sign of a death. There had been, of course, some signs, but there were not enough, and Tom Riddle could not believe she was dead.

An incredible part of this revelation was that most of Hogwarts didn't seem to care; after Dumbledore had said a thank you for their time and then talked to Catherine and Nancy, the school continued onward, their whispers containing "Oh my gosh" and "So, did you hear"s. It was enough for the logical part of him to feel outraged, even though that part had seemed to die with the announcement, leaving raw emotion to handle it. It wasn't doing a very good job.

But even normal conversation did not seem to be coming correctly. It felt as if something had permanently damaged his head, something that had hit him hard and fast but having an everlasting effect. He had to have been one of the last people in the Great Hall; there were a few late sleepers, but the rest had left, leaving him to grieve quietly.

He felt like he could not breathe, but he didn't feel like he was going to cough himself onto his death bed. No, it was a different kind of suffocation. It was not one caused by pain, and it was not one caused by lacking air at all.

But it felt like, for a second, that he was inching closer and closer towards tears, but Tom Riddle never cried... Tom Riddle never cared...

He looked down at what Nancy had given him. It was a note, definitely, one that had been preserved by a spell, and Tom wondered if it was Irene Taylor's will, her last goodbyes.

Observing it, he noticed that the note was written rather sloppily, and the bottom of the note was lined perfectly, with 'Nestles Writing Emporium' written in the finest calligraphy with an address written carefully under it. It must have been the last scratch of parchment at St. Mungo's, the last wish of Irene Taylor's fulfilled, and she had certainly not taken the wish for granted; the whole paper had little tidbits of writing on it, as if it was her will, with each small paragraph dedicated to each person, giving goodbyes and last requests.

When Tom's was finally located, he realized that it was actually rather long. It was almost illegible, and he could only assume that she was trying to get in as many goodbyes as possible before she- she died.

Looking at it with closer examination, he realized that the note was written to three people:

Dear Catherine, Nancy, and Tom,

Don't you wish that this note could start out in a more casual and upbeat way? That you could actually send a reply instead of reading it and maybe throwing it in the rubbish bin? Wouldn't that be absolutely fantastic? Believe me, all of you, that I wish it could be just as happy too.

Before you continue reading this, please understand that this was my choice. Death, evidently, was not; but dying as early as I did was my own choice, not my mother's or any of yours. I was either to be on death row, never knowing if I could have an attack on my lungs that would kill me, or to have a peaceful death now, injected with something fatal. I cowered out; and I'm sorry.

The disease I had was a genetic thing, so never for one second believe that it was your fault or anyone else's. It was a weakening of many things- my growth, which made me shorter- my hair, which the doctors said would have fallen out in the next year- or my lungs, which were weakened by stress, which I undoubtedly had in the last years of my life.

But never believe it was your fault. I chose this, and though even now I'm questioning it, I couldn't face my alternative. I face death with fear and guilt, and I'm sorry for any grief I caused.

I know that it's very awkward for the three of you to have to read this equally. While I can only hope that you will hold this note with any regard I am positively sure that none of you are going to fancy meeting the other. Regardless, I would like my sentiments to be spread, and, after all, doesn't everyone hold the dead's wishes in highest priority?

First and foremost, thank every single one of you. I know that I would not have become the person I, well, was- especially to Catherine and Nancy, who I have known for most of my life. No offense to you, Tom- you are just as equally revered in this letter as Catherine and Nancy are.

This brings about the question as to why I wrote to the three of you. From what I am sure you suspect, I was unaware of death. Death, you supposed, could not hit someone who was only eighteen. I didn't want it to hit and I hope that none of you did. But, you know what? When has anyone cared about what I thought?

I apologize. If you read Abraxas' note, or my mother's, I am sure you will understand.

Anyhow, I would like to say my goodbyes cordially. I have many things to say to all of you, many things that I want you all to know about me as I cannot say them anymore.

I don't believe I have much time. Sorry about the writing.

Catherine, I know we got into skirmishes. I am wholly aware that sometimes you took me for granted and I am aware that I tended to be a stubborn prick from time to time. However, that isn't what I want to write about. Why, after all, would I spend my time writing such a long note to you if I wanted to chide you for your sins?

Catherine, I have to thank you for your contributions in the letter you sent me in February. The letter quite possibly changed everything about my life; you could ask Tom or Gloria or Abraxas (who I quite favored slapping). Coming with your dog could not have been a sweeter thought. Dolly is absolutely adorable and I want for you to send my love.

Nancy, you are so sunny. And I know that sounds stupid, and I know I sound stupid. Don't give me grief. This is very hard to write. I have to thank you for every single thing you have done for me. Standing up to Abraxas can only just be one of the things you have done. You've visited my father's funeral service for me and you have found time to write to me despite being in Auror service.

I have but two favors to ask of both of you, and one is regarding a certain Michael Valentine that we met in Glasgow- and while this letter admits my slanderous behavior to Tom, I find myself unable to care. It must be because of medication.

However, all I ask of you is to tell him my goodbyes. The boy was truly sweet and if time had permitted perhaps I could have met him on another date. I hope you can track him down- the boy seems very outgoing so I suppose the townspeople can lead you to him.

I would also appreciate it if you could please try to give me my funeral service at Hogwarts. Hogwarts has been my home for the last seven years and unlike my father I would like a place that requires easy access. I know guard is up, but Dumbledore is a nice person and I would greatly appreciate my service to be in a place that I loved.

Finally, I have to thank you, Tom. I could still utterly argue with you about the trivial things like Easter decorations. I could even ask you such a silly and abrupt question like if you could fancy me. I know it's embarrassing, and I know it's unnecessary, but in my last minutes of living I would like to add in my soppy personal confession.

I have fancied you, I really have. And I don't know if you fancy me or not. I can only hope that you have and that everything I did was not in vain. I want to think you do, but that is a dying girl's petty wish, and if you do not I understand.

You know, I always thought death would have answers, and maybe it does. Maybe I'll be so fortunate that I will know what everyone thought of me. Whether you actually cared or not. I don't know you well enough, Tom Riddle. I don't. I didn't have time to actually instigate a relationship with you, to actually see if you are truly as intimidating on the inside as you are on the outside.

From where I am now, I can only hope. And maybe it's far-fetched. Maybe, in the end, you are staring at this note without any reason as to why it's there and why I am telling you this. But I can only hope, you know? I can only hope that you do care- at least a little.

I'm not ready to finish this note. I know once this note is finished I will die. I have told everyone I am ready to sacrifice my life two or three weeks before I could have died to save myself the pain. I am afraid of pain, and I am afraid of death.

I'm not ready to die.

And, I don't know, this letter is keeping me alive. Even though I know my fingers are feeling frailer, even though I will never be able to take another step again or drink another thing again or speak to anyone again, I want a way to live. I want to survive. If I could do anything, I would. I would even kiss Abraxas Malfoy again.

Is it so wrong to hope that you wouldn't like that? I think so. But at times like these it's all I could hope for, these juvenile things. I have lost out on life. I have lost out on love, and I have lost out on opportunity.

And this is to all of you- all of you; the only thing I could wish for is that you could do the same. Nancy, you don't even have to hesitate to live. Catherine, how sure can I be that you and your boyfriend will marry! It will be an undoubted shame to miss the marriage. Tom, opportunity is waiting right next to you. I have no doubt that you will do astounding things.

I know I am getting tired. I only have but a few minutes left, and then I will be as good as dead! I have asked the nurse to give this letter to Dumbledore for him to distribute to those necessary. Tom, as I have not finished all of my Head Girl duties, I would like to nominate Minerva McGonagall and Andrew Clearwater. I can only hope that you think the same.

This letter is almost about to end, and I can only repeat my sentiments from before. Thank you, Catherine, for your love. Thank you, Nancy, for letting me live. And thank you, Tom, for giving me an opportunity. I hope that when the corny words of this letter become more serious to you that you will take them to heart.

I love you all, and you will be in my heart until my very last breath.

I have no more words; may my spirit live with you all. As Dumbledore has said, death is but an adventure, and when I can believe that I will truly die in peace.

All my love,
Irene Taylor





The words were only words that, at that moment, could only be absorbed and not interpreted. It was as if she had written them in foreign language. He recognized some words- he could recognize every sentence- but it did not click. He just could absolutely not understand.

Minerva McGonagall and Andrew Clearwater. Such fine nominations, after all, and as a dying girl had made them than they should surely be fulfilled. He would simply have to see Dippet on the last day of term and tell him the last wishes.

The thought seemed much too stoic, which was absolutely foreign in the mind of Tom Riddle. After all, shouldn't all of his thoughts be stoic? Shouldn't they all be emotionless, angry thoughts? Why would the death of someone mediocre sway him at all? He had killed before; surely a death wouldn't faze him.

Death was but the next great adventure- a silly statement, believed by fools. Dumbledore and Taylor- two wizarding families that only had the unsteady leg of hope to stand on- would believe it without a doubt. And his name- Voldemort- could truly rise now, with Taylor gone and Dumbledore getting ready to meet his death against Grindelwald.

Logic very much liked the idea, though logic lately seemed to feel more and more overused and worn. The part of him that felt, becoming more and more used every time Taylor was mentioned, however, was more hesitant. Maybe there was still time to try to be a decent person, someone that did not hate quite so much. He had opportunity, after all, and he had talent.

How was he going to use it?

It was just too much to think about, and Tom found himself escaping the prison of the school to look at the weather. It was really rather beautiful; flowers were beginning to bloom nearby the school, making the scenery shine. The ground beneath him, however, was very wet, though the mud sliding on his shoes and the faint squish with every step seemed to be unnoticeable to his thoughtful mind.

Death was inevitable, Taylor had repeated again and again in her letter. She was going to die or pass, she had repeated again and again and again. She had talked so fervently of hope, but did she not believe in life? It was an almost hypocritical statement- though, when Irene even spoke, she was hypocritical- making a fuss over marrying Abraxas when they had kissed, writing letters to him but not to the precious boy in Glasgow...

And now she was dead, preaching hope but not really having any on her own.

Death had taken his mother early on in his life. The tragedy had struck early, and it had struck, but he had overlooked it. Like everything else scary or unheard of, Tom Riddle ignored it, instead lurking towards the known and almost predictable- though he thought these more unpredictable than anything. But he had not overlooked death- he had vanquished it. What was death to him, its greatest captor? Death was for the petty like Irene.

He found himself inadvertently wincing at the name. His mind fled to 'Taylor' out of pure instinct or grief- surely an after-effect of the disease.

Because the disease had had to be gone, like Irene was. The disease couldn't haunt him with notes or even her voice anymore. He would never see the inquisitive mind of Irene's at work again, and he would never see her flushing at something ridiculous that she had said. He would never see- he didn't know- her eyes- or her smile- or even her merry kiss hello-

And, for some reason, that hit very harshly, like he had said that the world was for muggles or life was beautiful- except it seemed to tremor in thought and body alike, and the careful whirrings of his logical mind refused to work, exploding in flames. Now, going to the emotional part of him- though it was small and still very brand-new- didn't work, instead going just as haywire, just as stricken.

His head was very cluttered, but there was one inconvenient truth, one smidgen of true grief, that overtook his mind:

Maybe that statement had been rejected because there was some part of him that was well aware the disease was still fervent. There would never be a time, like some diseases, where it would be dormant, lying forgotten in memory until something stirred in his head. No, this disease was still there, still annoying, still, for some strange reason, making the day unbearably depressing, killing the scenery, and making it similar to the cold and murky corridors in February or the clustered ballroom in December, just as cold, just as unwelcoming... it was ruining absolutely everything...

She was ruining everything...

He looked down at the cleaner and happier note- the note that he had started the morning with- the bloody one he had expected to be true, at the very least. It was full of falsehoods; full of 'I'll be fines', things that maybe she had known were lies from the beginning.

Finding where he had been cut off, he read:

To tell you the truth, I miss you.


That was the end of the note. There were no goodbyes, as if she had even known then that she would write a whole letter full of them. And even though the note was still so fake, so full of reassuring words, that sentence still buzzed throughout his system like Irene Taylor had never gone.

Irene would probably never be gone, and that was a truth that defied the emotionlessness of his head. She was every single note, every single dream, and every single thought that flickered through his head. Even when the kids murmured about her, that would be her spirit, too, floating through his ears and plaguing him like before.

A small sphere was in his pocket, one that he rolled again and again in his fingers, outlining every detail and every fatal flaw. He toyed with it, his mind trying to distract itself, until finally he pulled the strange mechanism out.

Irene had created something well beyond what her age should have allowed. The sphere had small lines of gold in it, and he identified the letters on the center to spell out 'Glasgow'. She had used her resources- whatever there was in a stuffy hospital room- to create something flawless from some cheap souvenir from Glasgow.

But it was just more than perfect.

The sphere was something like a Remembrall, except it was not a haze of red mist in the center. From what he could see, the shape was something like a phoenix, though it was constructed entirely out of fire. The piece was also very warm, as if the fire from it was warming everything else, and the letters in Glasgow glittered in the flame.

She had constructed this as a goodbye- as if she had known that at St. Mungo's she would meet her fate. She had said he would know when to work this strange mechanism, this odd widget that had no honest explanation. There was no manual for this thing- she had expected him to figure it out on his own.

But Tom found himself in no mood to figure things out. He found himself with grief so pitiful that it was unnoticeable, and he duly noticed two laughing children play with the rocks at the lake's edge. If only the day could have had more of an optimistic feel instead of an agonizing one...

Except he was not wishing, really, for optimism. It was not as if he believed that with a happy outlook on life he would be jolly and happy. He had always veered away from optimism, always finding himself in agony and misery.

This was different. This was sadness that really preferred not to be defined, because the definition was frightening and Tom Riddle never found himself frightened. Then again, he had never found himself so unbearably disorganized.

He looked again at her gift. Since he had turned a corner of the lake, it had turned a different color- it was now the shape of a dolphin, except it was created entirely out of what was water, moving almost like waves in the small piece, something so astoundingly spectacular that it was for a few seconds that he was distracted from his misery.

It was a compass.

However, it was still very warm, and the letters in 'GLASGOW' flickered still in the shimmies of the waves. He looked down at it, some weight settling down upon him, seeing, just for a second, the beaming face of Irene Taylor's in the glass...

He began to walk down the long dock, dryer than the grass, where bushels of students lingered, their feet tickling the water's edge, ripples appearing from nowhere. A very strange emotion fell over him and the atmosphere, like the calm before the storm, became a forced tension in every single movement.

The chattering voices faltered on the mood, though Tom didn't miss a step, walking evenly down to the very end of the dock in a fast pace. Students were looking at him in a questioning and dull look, tests clearly on their mind, as if Irene Taylor simply did not exist.

And Tom liked to think that it was more out of fury- coming without reason, though truth differed- that he threw the sphere with as much fervor as possible into the lake, it making a very neat swoop in the air before splashing into the lake, a quiet ripple protruding from it before dissolving. The students looked at Tom again, though they looked more fearful than anything, and Tom snarled at them, a very strong glare emanating from his gaze.

Walking away from the dock as if nothing had happened, Tom took a deep breath, looking back towards the lake. The compass was surely gone- the last trace of Irene Taylor's genius was now sinking to the delves of the lake. Every trace of her- from every person forgetting her presence to her seat in every class being filled by someone's books- was vanished.

But for some reason she was still in his head, still smiling, still laughing, and still bickering where he felt he would go insane. He found himself sprinting, away from the lake, all the way to the castle- past every laughing student, who looked at him in curiosity before turning back to their busywork.

When he finally reached the castle- his head whirring, his body shaken, taking deep, though hasty, breaths- he found himself again thinking about Irene Taylor, and his throat closed in what he hoped was due to exhaustion.

Anything but grief.

He could not care about Irene Taylor. He had fancied her; maybe he had, a small smidgen, respected her talent. He had not known her in August, disliked her in September, disregarded her in October, loathed her in November, fancied her in December, ignored her in January, questioned her in February, fancied her- again- in March, worried about her in April, and now-

Now, she was dead.

It had been naught a year, and she had driven him crazy before leaving existence, hitting him with one last, final punch.

But he did not care about her. Care, he assumed, was bad. Care was for muggles, with family parties and mindless love and things that were even more disregarded than death. Like death, however, there was still a bias for it, and, though he'd never admit it, still a legion of fear for it.

Irene Taylor was not someone he cared for. She was just a wisp, just a person that had fled in and out of his life. Hopefully it would not be long before her existence was nothing in his existence, and he could continue with his plan, because he did not love, did not even like, and, above everything-

Tom Riddle did not care.

Not really.




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The Closest Thing To Caring: My Crazy Angel (May)

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