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Chapter 1 : Things Worth Caring For
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The Taylor household was in chaos.
It had every right to be, of course; the annual holiday party was soon to commence, and Margaret Taylor was notorious for leaving things until the last minute. Violet always found herself in the middle of this mess, considering she was known for doing the dirty work that her brother was uninterested in, and she was not surprised to find herself in the same place as she was every year.
However, she had taken a break from the chaos, though she was sure that her mother would get her for that soon enough. She sat down at the dining room table in the grand room where the party was to take place, watching idly as her mother scurried around and made sure everything was perfect.
Her mother was a perfectionist- her father not so much. Violet had always felt that she had inherited her mother's way of looking at things, though as far as this party went she was rather unenthused. There was something about the atmosphere; she was not really sure exactly what it was. It could have been the large crowd- the same crowd that she saw stumbling over their own feet by the end of the night. It could have been how impersonal the whole event seemed to be, considering it was embedded in her winter holidays that she was meant to spend with her family.
Both were perfectly logical reasons for Violet's distaste, but Violet supposed that it was not that that made her so unhappy for this. In reality, the largest motive behind Violet Taylor's attitude was that she had always been, and always would be, someone that was not in favor of parties.
She did not see the allure of a party. Maybe it was that she did not have many friends- she was reserved by nature- or maybe it was the aforementioned reasons, but no matter what it was it all led to the fact that this was not an event that she looked forward to.
Violet sighed, standing up from where she sat and observing the room at a whole. It was very well done, as her mother had wished for, looking as perfect as it had every year. A large stage stood at the northern end, a piano in the center and seats littered with string instruments lined up in neat rows in front. On either side of this stage there were two narrow and long tables- one held foods of every kind, foods that could be spicy or sweet but were equally delicious, and the other was simple but elegant, an ivory tablecloth covering its entirety with plates and silverware neatly resting on top.
Both had been examined and reexamined by her mother, but yet Margaret still panicked, especially as the guests began to arrive. Violet watched as her mother counted the seats once more; she always carried anxiety for this party in a way that Violet could not even fathom. However, they had always seemed to be calm on different topics.
Actually, they had been told multiple times that they were polar opposites, and neither disagreed to this statement. In appearance, it was definitely true; Violet had been told that, besides her hair, she resembled her late aunt most, whom she had seen pictures of to validate this comment. As for personality, it was only true for the most part, as they both shared the trait of perfectionism but failed to share anything else. Where her mother was energetic and upbeat Violet was not. Where her mother was stern Violet was actually lazy, though in Violet's opinion her mother got stern over the silliest things.
It was all a matter of caring, really. Where her mother cared Violet did not, though Violet assumed most mother-daughter relationships were the same. Violet cared about the things most teenagers cared for- boys and exams and teachers that seemed to be biased. Her mother had lost this care, believing it trivial, and had a maternal care- the care that Violet would listen to her disciplines, the care that Violet would pay attention to what she had to say, and, quite frankly, Violet was too immersed in what she cared for to care.
It was the oddity of caring.
The word in itself was simple for Violet to understand but not to elaborate upon. Care could be concern. Care could be interest. Care could be affection. It took on different meanings with different situations, as it certainly had for Violet and her mother; it morphed in every time it was used, adapting to the situation, whether it was significant or insignificant.
So when Violet said that her mother cared about this party, she believed it was significant, and when she said that she did not, it was not significant in the slightest. They both held things in different regard- it was the way care operated- simply. Sensibly. Care was always sensible.
"Violet!" her mother yelled, and Violet snapped her head slightly as if she had water in her ears- somehow her mother had paced over to her in her quest of perfection. "Violet, the party is almost about to begin- are you ready? Are you dressed? Do you have your glamours on and is the dress all right?"
Violet looked down at the dress, straightening out its pleats. The dress was her mother's, something that she had kept over the years, though it did not seem to fit in with her mother's other dresses. For one, it was muggle- that enough was obvious by the uneven stitching and the fact that no robes matched it perfectly, though Violet appreciated it for what it was.
She had also never seen it, had never heard of it, until just that day. It was a fleeting thought of her mother's, it seemed, when she had tossed the dress to Violet. "Dear," she said, already flipping through her robes for a dress of her own, "would you wear this tonight? It would mean a lot to me, thank you."
Though Violet was sure that her mother really didn't care what dress she wore and her words were not genuine- she likely could have worn whatever she wished- she had grown an attachment to the dress almost immediately for reasons she was not really sure of. It did have a beauty that could not be seen in her mother's other dresses; it was not nearly as flashy, glimmering dimly in a way that could only be seen in the correct light.
It also seemed... special; it was an instinctive feeling as well as logic piecing what she knew. The dress had been in the delves of her mother's closet- she had never seen it- it was, of course, different- but there was something else about it. There was an air about it that gave it importance.
It fit Violet perfectly, too. It slid down her body and clung, the fabric a dark blue and suiting her pale complexion. It was not risque, but it was not a dress that a prude would wear. It was not ugly but did not demand attention.
It was perfect for Violet.
Violet nodded, her head still rather adrift, and her mother shook her head at her daughter's absent-mindedness. "People are beginning to come in," her mother said. "Marc-Andre and his wife are already here, if you would greet them and take their coats... and, sweetie," her mother said, and she walked up to her daughter, putting her hands on her shoulders and kissing her on the cheek. "You do look marvelous in that dress. Thank you for wearing it."
Then, as if it had meant nothing, her mother walked away from her to look over any last-minute details, leaving Violet Taylor with her eyebrows furrowed.
Maybe Violet had been wrong about her mother and the dress. Maybe it did have the importance that Violet believed it had; maybe it really did mean something.
Violet put a hand through her hair as she thought this over, and she sighed, looking down at the dress again. It was funny how something that seemed at first glance insignificant was not at all. No, not funny- ironic. It was ironic- the object should have been nothing, but yet it seemed to be so much.
Caring... caring was confusing. Caring felt sensible normally- caring about stupid things like homework and chores were sensible.
However, Violet realized then that the only way to care was to be insensible. Caring wasn't supposed to make sense, she discovered with a jolt. The things that she had thought were caring- boys? chores?- were not a true demonstration. It was a contrived version of the word- it was generic and silly and shallow.
All this Violet could say without knowing of the dress's origins. She did not need to know the events that transpired to make this dress important. She just knew, knew somehow, knew in her gut, that it was, that it mattered...
Knew that it was something worth caring for.
Lord Voldemort detested parties with passion. He normally didn't attend, as he had so much to plan, so much to organize- the organization was just beginning, after all, much slower than he had thought- but he had become a guest of honor recently and felt that it was his duty. He guessed that it would be better, much better, than the parties he had been to so long ago, because no longer would he be shoved aside for his blood.
His purity was no longer an issue. He had proven himself superior to the dolts that had the fortune of clean blood, and they were now below him in his quest. It was just as he had always envisioned, envisioned as far as first year, proving that he had Slytherin's ambition: he was the best. He had always fought for this, the opportunity to be the best, and it was finally upon him.
He, a half-blood- someone that had been made fun of until he had established his intimidation- had become better than purebloods. He had become better than those older than him, better than those that had had connections, and the reason was his ambition. His ambition and that only had kept him determined to get what he wished for. His ambition had given him opportunities that convenience couldn't provide, and here he was, nineteen years graduated and planning to overthrow the Ministry.
He was impressive to anyone, even those that were aware of what was being planned and detested it. He was impressive and intimidating, and this impressiveness had not yet been taken to its fullest advantage.
Voldemort had done much. He had established his Death Eaters and began to ally with the other magical creatures, namely the giants but promising to encounter the centaurs as well. He had grown a name for himself, the name Voldemort. He had done everything in his power, and it was only the inconvenience of time that kept him from being the supreme ruler among wizards.
This was not to say that Voldemort didn't appreciate time; on the contrary, he very much did. Time demanded appreciation the same way Voldemort demanded fear; it was a requirement, not something that could be shifted.
Voldemort did not mind giving time appreciation because time deserved it. Time made things happen. Time made good things blossom and bad things fade away into obscurity. Time was the ultimate controller of everything- action as well as emotion, logic as well as feeling. It dragged occasionally and sometimes sped, but, despite those flaws, Voldemort gave time what it deserved- slight annoyance but recognition.
So, no, nothing had truly begun yet, but it was beginning to feel as if it had. He had his Horcruxes, slowly accumulating as time wore on, and though this sluggishness looked negative at first glance, Voldemort believed that it was only giving the Horcruxes their respect.
And they did deserve respect. Every single one of them deserved respect and utmost care, because his soul was woven into every bit of every relic. They had been painstaking to find, and it had been a very careful process to determine whose death would create the Horcrux.
In regards to the Horcrux, the death was significant. The deaths that made his Horcruxes were likely the biggest honor any of those that had lost their lives had. He was always joyful when they were dead; it was just another bit of proof that he was supreme to anyone that tried to think otherwise.
However, it was only the Horcrux deaths that Voldemort cared for. Other deaths- both the deaths that he had brought about and the deaths that were not at his hand- were unimportant to him. Death was a weakness, the most crippling one of all, because once life was lost it was impossible to regain.
Death was like Voldemort in the sense that once it bested its opponent it proved its superiority, and Voldemort loathed death for it. Voldemort believed death was trying to steal away what he had worked for- the opportunity to be the best.
So Voldemort would never, ever let himself be beat by death, of all things. The competition almost seemed unfair- Voldemort, by ripping his soul in half, assured that he could and would never die. Through death's arrogance it was easy to see- Voldemort always was supreme.
This party signified that- it illustrated perfectly where he had been and what he had become from that. This venue, the Taylor manor, had been where he had experienced his first pureblooded party, and now, instead of being an escort, an uninvited guest, he was the core of the party. The party depended on him and he was attending because he wanted to prove himself better than anything else.
He came alone. Nobody, none of his Death Eaters, were worthy to walk with him, because by doing that Voldemort would state silently the Death Eater's importance- and Death Eaters were not important. Death Eaters were merely aids, another step required.
It was not the minds. It was the physical bodies, the people to do his deeds, that Voldemort needed. He was not interested in their opinion, not interested in them, because all they were were puppets. Dull puppets, puppets that Voldemort easily ordered around. They were needed but not liked, and, besides the fact that they were able to do things for him, the only other thing that Voldemort relatively cared for was their admiration and fear of him.
They gave him glances that mirrored this as he stepped through the front door. None approached him, something he was thankful for; after all, their thoughts were nothing but unwanted noise. Just that look, just that glance, was all Voldemort needed to feel satisfied.
It was all rightfully deserved.
He walked into the grand ballroom then, and was not surprised at how recognizable it was. Everything was the same; the piano still rested where he remembered and the dance floor, not quite crowded yet but certainly not empty. There were only slight differences- maybe a variation of a recipe, the final result resting in the same spot the original had, and he could see families whom he had talked to aged, wrinkles now lining their face and teenagers now worn into adulthood.
In fact, he did recognize people that he had gone to school with, people that had belittled them, and it pleased him to see that they now looked at him in a way that indicated their intimidation. He saw Abraxas Malfoy- a boy he had truly loathed and a man that was one of his more displeasing puppets- stand nearby the punch table, nearly identical to how he had been nineteen years ago, though his face was eternally cross and did not carry the youth he had once had. Marc-Andre Devous, another classmate of his that he had never really minded but never cared for either, looked relatively happier, one arm around his wife's waist and the other on his younger daughter's shoulder.
They had been believed to be his equals at school, nineteen years long past, but now... Now, it was clear to anyone who was superior. It was obvious who had followed what they had always believed, who had achieved the unachievable, cheated death, found himself opportunity- it was obvious who was the best, who had always been the best. It was obvious just how much Voldemort had done- how he had accomplished every obstacle that stood in his way-
And, now, here he was. Since the last time he had been here, he had grown from someone great into someone better. He had done everything he had ever envisioned, and now this was it, coming full circle, finally proving that nothing was a vulnerability to him, nothing could take away from who he was-
Suddenly, tucked away somewhere in the crowd, Lord Voldemort's eyes found Violet Taylor, and, most importantly, a rather familiar dress...
The night had been nothing spectacular for Violet.
Everything was typical that party- the majority of them were drunk by the time Violet was finished playing her violin. It was the reason she stayed on the stage much longer than the rest of them; she had a deep loathing for alcohol and, more importantly, what it seemed to do to people.
Alcohol had the ability to make people unreal, out of character. Alcohol was able to spawn embarrassment and passion and unwarranted anger, was able to make friends enemies. It changed things, frankly; though some things would be better off changed Violet actually preferred they stayed the way they were.
Drunkenness made reality contrary. What had been white, what had been up, was black and down when alcohol was added into the equation, and people inebriated made Violet seek solitude as quickly as possible. She was so against drunk people that she was able to tell the signs instantly: a slight stumble was obviously tipsiness, slurred words indicated more, and, finally, the actions they took to make themselves look like asses last. She had grown to identify these characteristics from the stage, and she watched as people ate, their footsteps steady and their minds sober, and then drank, sobriety wearing off. She could see each person going through the motions, the same routine that they had done year and year before.
There was only one distinct difference Violet Taylor saw that New Years Eve; Lord Voldemort, a man that her parents respected and feared but did not follow, had come for the first time in her life and, according to her mother, nineteen years. What made this night different than any other Violet was not really sure, but it did not seem to matter as the night wore on, because she was sure that if there was a difference it was not for her to know.
The night was perfectly monotonous.
It was only after her hand cramped from playing for so long- three hours or maybe four, that's how much she detested drunks- that she reluctantly stepped off of the stage, being careful to avoid those that did not have a sense of balance or a strong stomach.
It was nearly midnight, to Violet's delight; she was aware that they had to leave in the next hour or two, the party already known as a success. This gave her relief; though she did not make her lack of interest for the party a secret it all she also made no attempt to disguise how much she cared for her mother and her mother's happiness.
However, the one disadvantage to it being almost midnight was the tradition of sending sparks to the sky, one that Violet tolerated but did not really like. It seemed truly irrational, especially considering the amount of alcohol that had to be streaming in the guests' blood, and dangerous, Violet always ducking away in case something went awry and she was injured.
Violet was not someone that hated fun; as a Ravenclaw she threw herself headfirst into both her work and her friendships, a trait that she had acquired from her mother. Though she did not have many friends, many not being able to keep up with her studiousness, the friends she did have were close and dear, and she could think of many moments that resulted in laughter.
However, as far as this party went, her general sweetness became sour. Everything about it, save for her mother's happiness, was negative to her, because it did not fit with her idea of fun. Fun, in her mind, was shopping in Hogsmeade. Fun for Violet Taylor did not need to include parties or alcohol, because that was not her personality.
In fact, the combination of those two with this tradition was enough to make Violet feel a strong need to get away. It was her own personal tradition; as soon as she heard the first countdown until the New Year she ducked outside to celebrate the beginning of a new year on her own. She appreciated the moment when it came because it was no one else's. It suited her perfectly, complemented who she was, and she loved it because it was her moment- her own memory.
"Ten!" she heard, and immediately she strode to the door leading away from the ballroom, her heels clicking in the desolated halls.
"Nine!" many more voices called out in response.
It was funny, really.
Violet Taylor felt disappointed.
Here she was, in a beautiful dress that suited her, walking towards a perfect moment-
But yet nothing had happened. Nothing had happened that night, just like nothing had happened the last seventeen years, and this disappointed Violet in a way that she had never experienced before.
Violet did not know what she had been expecting. The only changes to the night were her dress and Lord Voldemort's appearance, but she could not help but feel a strange desire, a feeling, for something to happen...
She felt like she deserved something... she felt like this night was holding something for her but she did not know what it was...
She twisted the doorknob, bracing herself for a cold gust of wind even as a frown appeared on her face. What could have happened? She wondered. What did she really expect?
Fitting to her expectation, a large breeze hit her, sending her hair in disarray. She sighed as she turned to the side to lean against the brick wall she had occupied for years upon years upon-
"Oh," she gasped at what she saw, instantly- albeit clumsily- turning around and heading towards the door. "I'm so-"
"Go," Lord Voldemort hissed, his voice not allowing any compromise except death, his eyes narrowed and flashing bright scarlet, and the sight of him, deeply in contrast to the perfect moments she had remembered from years before, shot fear straight from her toes to the panic in her head and made her race as quickly from the area as possible to the ballroom again with her breath short and her body shaking.
Whatever Violet could have imagined, even in the most outrageous of fantasies, did not compare to that.
His expression had been so... cold. He looked furious- he looked like he would have actually killed her if she had stayed another moment. His gaze held nothing but the deepest, most tormented hatred, a feeling so evident in his glance that she could not stop shivering even as she stood in the crowded ballroom, could not stop her arms from wrapping around her body to try and keep her composure-
Violet Taylor knew, in that moment, that Lord Voldemort had not been human.
He had been more than that, but was somehow less than that as well. He was monstrous, chilling, and the image would not leave Violet's mind, try as it might. It haunted her, even as she began to regain her composure, because she had no idea, could not have had any idea, that anyone could manage as inhuman a glance.
She had no idea that anybody could lose enough to lose their humanity.
British socialites were a very traditional group; Voldemort had already known this from his past experience. These parties had taken place at the Taylor manor for as long as any participant there could remember. The same appetizers littered the table, and the same songs played with the same orchestra. Everything had been planned and done before in tradition.
But, despite the supposed tradition of the night, despite the worn tracks the night followed, and despite his previous experience, Voldemort found himself again completely and horrendously intoxicated.
He had regressed entirely. He had felt himself shedding the guard he had put on himself as soon as he had entered the building. Though he had been prepared, nothing could have prepared him for what he had encountered, and it was that that had caused this. If it hadn't been for-
It hadn't even been the location; he was cold enough to disregard it. It hadn't been the surname, either. Everything had been going fine, perfectly fine for him, when the party had begun; he had not spoken to anybody, instead savoring the glances he had got. Everything had been going fine, going right...
Until, of course, he saw the dress.
He recognized it instantly. It was impossible not to recognize; it was blatantly muggle amidst a wave of robes. It was plain, too, still harboring a small glitter from the first time the dress had been worn, but otherwise just blue, no fancy cuts or textures taking away from its original beauty.
As soon as he had seen the dress, it was impossible not to think back to that night nineteen years previous. Everything else he had blocked, but it was the dress that had grabbed a hold of who he had been nineteen years ago - Tom still, instead of Voldemort- and brought him to surface.
Though it wasn't good of him, he wanted to rid the dress away, because seeing it reminded him of Irene. Even the one wearing it now resembled her slightly- she had the height and the large eyes, though not the ridiculously bright blue irises Irene Taylor had once had-
And it was impossible to ignore, but Voldemort tried to make it possible, so he drank a glass of the alcohol-infused punch-
Then he recalled her death and recalled the foreign grief he had felt, grief he had not felt for nineteen years-
So, he drank another glass-
But then... then he remembered how he had done this before, how this was a slippery slope, though before he could stop himself he had remembered what had caused the drinking previously-
So he drank another-
And then, the memory long buried, Tom remembered their kiss-
And so he drank another, and as he finished he was horrendously and completely intoxicated.
He had learned from his mistakes, though, albeit only slightly. His drunkenness was impossible to detect, and the only way he was sure that he was was that Irene Taylor would not escape his mind and, what was more, began to become a welcome presence, because he had almost forgotten about her-
Not forgotten, really. He had not forgotten about her the way people forgot about homework. It was more or less that he had been so determined, so damn determined, to bury every thought of her away, because she was a vulnerability. She, more than anyone or anything, was his vulnerability, and he had thought that she was gone and so was his vulnerability. He had allowed himself to think he had forgotten about her.
But he hadn't. Because, as he stepped out into the cold, the exact same place him and Irene had conversed nineteen years previous, it was so easy to remember all of the events that had transpired their seventh year.
He remembered when he had met her and had been unimpressed... he remembered when he had been shocked to find, for the first time, himself becoming attracted to someone.
His stomach clenched when he remembered the first time she had been in the Hospital Wing, when he had so foolishly believed she had been faking... when everyone had thought that the worst she had had was a cold or a particularly powerful hex. He remembered being invited to this party, this exact same party, nineteen years ago and remembered him attending.
He recalled the jealousy he had felt. Recalled the way she had looked when they had been out here, her hair curly with bits of snow embedded. Recalled the way that she had smelt, disastrously, like chamomile.
He recalled her, every detail about her that he had not thought of for those nineteen years. He thought of her wide smile and her big eyes and how polite she had been. He thought of her having to deal with him and Leslie and Abraxas, remembered seventh year, remembered everything that he could have remembered until he was out of memories.
This was the curse of drunkenness. Here were the things that he had buried away, but now they were back and once they were it was impossible not to feel grief. It was impossible not to wonder what could have happened, what would have been of everything and of him, if she had not died.
And, because drunkenness was cruel, he swore he could have... heard her voice... within the breezes that flew about him.
"Change," he swore he could have heard. "Tom... change for me."
The scariest thing was that he considered it. He considered ending this vicious cycle, considered becoming Tom again, considered feeling and changing just for this woman, this one woman that had only had a year with him but changed him-
But, before he could decide, young Violet Taylor walked outside, and everything came back to him when he saw her in that dress.
In one brief moment of clear thinking he realized how stupid he was being, how drunk he was acting. Here he was, contemplating changing his life, and for what? The peace of mind of someone dead?
What was the point, anyway? What had Irene Taylor ever given him but grief and pain? When he stared at Violet Taylor, he realized that that dress would never be worn by Irene Taylor again. She was dead, dead and gone and never coming back, and she was weak for being so! But he, he was the exact opposite- he was strong for staying alive, strong for assuring that he could never die, and even considering changing for someone who was not even weak enough to survive was ludicrous.
All this from Violet Taylor, and he focused all his anger on her. How could he have ever slipped so terribly, ever lured himself into the false train of thought that he even wanted to change? He didn't. He didn't want to get away from where he was going, never wanted to feel grief again for missing Irene Taylor, and never wanted anything like this to happen again.
He blamed this on that girl- that stupid girl- that had worn the dress that had begun everything. He loathed her more than any other person because she was now the only thing alive that would bring out his vulnerability. Her resemblance to her aunt was impossible to deal with, and, barely controlling his voice, he hissed "Go," before he had the opportunity to kill her.
As soon as she had left, the consideration was over. Irene Taylor's voice was not heard in the wind anymore. As he walked away from the building and apparated- soberness now a part of him because no longer would he allow himself to think the way he had- he began to forget about her once more, began to bury the things that made him vulnerable, made him Tom. He became Voldemort once more...
It was the last time Lord Voldemort allowed himself to become Tom Riddle. It was the last time he opened himself to his vulnerability.
It was the last time he ever considered changing, ever considered caring, for Irene Taylor.
Irene Taylor was shaking slightly.
She had hardly slept the night before, though she probably should've to try and make recovery as speedy as possible. However, no matter how hard she had tried, it had been impossible to fall asleep. No matter how many sheep she counted or how many times she tried to focus on the comfort of the bed she kept being pulled towards the memory of her kiss- their kiss.
How- how had she been given such luck? In any other instance, she would have been shoved away cruelly, would have been unappreciated, but with Tom it had been so different- he had saved her from trouble and expressed nothing negative about her. She could not get her mind off of the kiss, could not get her mind off of him, because as every minute passed she felt herself caring more and more for the boy. Every action that he had expressed to her from August to now in April played in her head without ceasing, and she grew attached to every memory.
But this... this was taking her fancy too far, what she was planning on doing then. It was stupidity of the best kind. She should have run away then, should have left at that moment, but she could not help- could not help wondering-
Irene sighed as she leaned against the wall outside the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, putting her hand through her entirely-too-curly hair. She took deep, uneven breaths, contemplating what she was doing, why she was doing it, and if she had the courage to follow through.
She hoped she did. Oh she hoped she did, because she needed to see him and needed to talk to him. She needed to say goodbye. She did not know when she was coming back from St. Mungo's, and this was her last day. She did not want to leave on that note, the note of confusion. She needed to clear things up, absolutely needed to.
She was terrified to.
Finally, taking a deep breath, Irene straightened her posture against the wall. She felt her determination zoom throughout her bloodstream, and she worked on that and adrenaline. You can do this, Irene convinced herself, or at least tried to. You have talked to him before. You have talked to him before. You can do this. I know you can.
Finally, with the air of determination, with the air of getting something done as quickly as possible, Irene Taylor grasped the doorknob and turned it, ready to do the stupidest thing she had ever done before.
The entire class looked at her as she entered, though could only focus on one face. "Miss Taylor," the teacher stated aloud, sounding neither amused nor scolding. "What brings you to interrupt my class? Do you need your work for the rest of the quarter?"
"No, I've already got that," she said, her voice low in volume. Clearing her throat nervously, trying to contain her jitters, she continued. "I hope that this isn't too much of an issue- I'm sorry to interrupt your class. But..." she gulped, anxiously fingering the tips of her hair. "I was wondering if I could speak to Tom for a second on Head stuff? I'm leaving today, and I just need to tell him some last minute details."
Irene was shocked that she had lied, but more than anything she was triumphant, and the teacher believed her, nodding. "Sure. Irene, don't keep Tom too long, if you don't mind."
"Oh, of course not, Professor." She grinned as innocently as she could manage. "It won't be long."
She did not look at Tom's face as she exited the room, and only turned around when she heard the Defense door shut. Her nervousness overpowering her adrenaline, she rubbed her eyes, looking downward at her feet.
Tom spoke first. "Impressive."
Irene blinked. "Pardon?"
Tom smirked. "That excuse. I can tell when someone's lying."
Irene blushed. "So," Tom continued, "what do you need?"
Feeling suddenly stupid, Irene took a breath. "Well," she started, "I guess... that I just wanted... to say goodbye." She almost laughed at how stupid she sounded. "And... I wanted to... thank you. In case I never come back to Hogwarts."
Tom didn't say anything. "And..." and then she did laugh at herself, shaking her head at how pathetic she sounded. "That's all. Sorry for interrupting Defense."
Tom nodded. "Just Owl me if there are any problems," he said, the request coming from his lips almost reluctantly, as if he had never said words like it before. "And... goodbye, Irene."
"Goodbye, Tom," Irene said mutely, and before she could even comprehend what she was doing she gave him a light peck on the lips, turning around and walking away with her head bowed immediately after.
And Tom Riddle watched the only person worth caring for walk away from him for the last time.
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