Chapter 19 : Temptation
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“Yeah, but,” Malfoy groped for his wand, “It’s really expensive! We won’t have enough – ,”
“Use the money you took out yesterday!” Tom snarled. “Do it! Now!”
Malfoy said a quiet spell and an ornate silver ‘M’ emerged from his wand-tip, folded itself into four and zoomed out of sight. “It’ll be at the Gringotts!” he panted.
“Good!” We dashed down the stairs, through the bar and out the door. “Slow down,” Tom muttered, catching me by the collar. “We shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves. Blend into the crowd.”
I tried to control my gasping breath, looking around wildly, terrified that Matthew would emerge snarling out of the masses. Unconsciously, my hand searched for Tom’s and gripped it tightly. To my surprise, he didn’t let go, but pulled me along through the crowd beside him. Malfoy followed just behind. We made our way down the main street, looking over our shoulders all the while. I was prepared to bet that both Malfoy and Tom were clutching their wands inside their robes. I wondered if Mathew and Grindelwald would dare attack us in the middle of a crowded street. I looked back over my left shoulder past Malfoy’s tense face – and then my heart stopped. Matthew, along with about eight other black-robed men, was skirting the crowd and making their way towards us. “Tom!” I choked out, and my wide eyes slid to Malfoy’s alarmed face and then to Tom’s. “Matthew,”
“By…Ollivander’s,” I whispered. Tom followed my gaze, then swore and pulled me faster.
“We’re almost there,” Tom muttered in my ear, “Don’t look back.” We shoved our way through the crowd until we were in a stumbling run. Shouts began to erupt behind us as Matthew and the others no doubt began to push people aside in pursuit.
We made it gasping to Gringotts and there, waiting by the curb, was a large black and silver carriage pulled by four, pure white winged horses. I did not have time to stop and admire them, however, because I was lifted bodily and thrown headlong through the door of the carriage under the nose of the staring coachman. Tom and then Malfoy piled in after me and slammed the door. “Go, go!” Malfoy shouted to the driver.
“Anywhere! Just fly!” Malfoy roared. I looked past him out the window of the carriage and saw two black-cloaked men emerge through the crowd with drawn wands. I yelled and pointed, but a split second later, they were tiny specs far below. I leaned back into the seat and closed my eyes, gasping. That was too close. A few moments later, I heard Malfoy tap on the front window and converse in a low voice with the driver.
As I gradually got my breathing back under control, I opened my eyes and looked over at Tom. He was glaring at the back of Malfoy’s head with such venom that I was taken aback. I opened my mouth to speak, but at that moment the blonde turned around and caught Tom’s murderous gaze. “What – ”
“How did he find us?” Tom snarled.
Malfoy looked extremely confused. “You told me to call a carriage – ”
“Not the driver you idiot – Matthew!”
Malfoy paled. “I – I don’t know how they found us – ”
“Do not lie!”
“I’m not lying! I swear I don’t know how it happened!” Malfoy insisted. He looked over at me. “Maura, you know I’d never – ”
“You’re the one that got her captured in the first place, Malfoy! It’s not a far stretch that you should betray her again!” Tom thundered.
Malfoy raised his hands in submission. “Tom, I did not betray her or you. Use Legillimency if you want! I don’t know how they found us, but it wasn’t me!”
“I used all of my skill to conceal that cabin – there is no way that we could have been discovered unless they were tipped off!” Tom hissed.
Suddenly something clicked in my mind. “Or followed,” I whispered, biting my lip.
“Impossible. I made sure they couldn’t follow us,” Tom snapped, not taking his eyes off of Malfoy.
“Not us,” I muttered, edging away from him, fearing his reaction. “Shadow.”
“What?” Tom spat, rounding on me angrily. “What are you talking about?”
“He – he came to visit me. When I went out for a walk,” I began hesitantly.
“Who’s Shadow?” Malfoy cut in.
“Shadow is her bloody owl. Owls do not just come to visit when people have hidden themselves! How the hell did it find you?” Tom demanded, seizing my arm to stop my retreat.
“I don’t know how he found me!” I snarled, trying unsuccessfully to wrench my arm out of his grasp. “He – he knew I was upset and I guess he came to comfort me,” I muttered.
Tom looked extremely incredulous. “And how the bloody hell did it know that you were upset? And you still haven’t explained how it found you!”
“I don’t know!” I repeated angrily. “He’s just always been able to! I can’t explain it Tom, but – isn’t it possible that they followed Shadow to find us?” I looked over at Malfoy for confirmation, but he merely shrugged. I scowled at him; my confession was getting him out of trouble, he could at least be a little helpful.
Tom stared down at me with a muscle twitching in his jaw. I swallowed and clenched my teeth, waiting for him to hit me or something. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, looking down at my knees. His fingers tightened painfully on my wrist for a moment; and then he released me and turned away. I rubbed my arm and watched him as he bowed his head and rubbed his temples. I glanced at Malfoy who shrugged again and leaned back in his seat. I took a deep breath. “Tom?” I said softly.
His cerulean eyes glared at me sideways and then closed. He leaned back in his seat with a groan. “If I ever get my hands on that bloody owl I will break its neck,” he muttered.
A wave of hot anger ripped through me. “You will not touch him!” I hissed, drawing out the quartz wand unconsciously from my pocket and levelling it at his chest. His eyes opened and stared at the wand in surprise. “Shadow is the only one who cares one ounce for me! He came to comfort me because he could tell that I was upset from hundreds of miles away, and you two didn’t even notice when I was right beside you!” I raged, and white sparks shot out from the end of the wand. “If you harm one feather on him I will kill you Tom Riddle!”
Both of them stared at me in awe. I had never made a death threat before. But then Tom’s eyes darkened and quicker than I could follow, he’d grabbed the wand from my hand. He flipped it around so that it pointed at me and said in a long-suffering voice, “You’re going to get yourself in trouble, Maura. Just keep that damn owl away from me and he’ll keep all of his feathers.” Then he dropped the wand back into my hand and turned to Malfoy as if I were of no more consequence than a mosquito. I harrumphed and fell back into the seat, crossed my arms and glared moodily at the inside of the carriage.
After awhile I began to actually notice my surroundings. The plush seats were silver velvet and extremely comfortable, and they ringed the entire carriage except for a small section where the door was. The carpet beneath my feet was thick and of a deep, lush green. Small, shimmering orbs hovered near the ceiling, casting a soft glow over everything. It was beautiful.
We didn’t talk much throughout the ride. After examining the carriage, I continued to ignore the other two and stared out the window at the countryside far below. After awhile, Malfoy and Tom began to talk, but I didn’t pay attention until I heard my name. “Maura,” Tom said quietly, beckoning me over to where they were sitting. I glared at him and then returned to looking out the window. “Fine, stay there.” He said nonchalantly. “I just wanted to tell you that we have decided that you should always stay with one of us while we are at Hogwarts.”
“What?” I said, turning around and staring from one to the other. “But – but you said we’d be safe there – why do I have to stay with – ,”
“Felicity will be at Hogwarts, along with countless other Grindelwald supporters, especially in your dormitory – ,” Malfoy pointed out.
I snorted angrily. “If you think I’m going to come and have a slumber party in your dorm, you’ve got another thing coming!”
A devilish grin lit up Malfoy’s face but he stifled it quickly at a murderous look from Tom. “You will not be sharing with Malfoy. There are Grindelwald supporters in his dorm too. You will have to stay in the Head Dorms with me.” I swallowed my protests as he glared at me coldly. “Malfoy will keep an eye on you during classes.” I crossed my arms over my chest and glowered. They were treating me like I was a stupid child. I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I did not need babysitters. “Malfoy has acquired another wand for you to use. It will be too dangerous to use the quartz wand in classes still, but I suggest you keep it on your person at all times.”
Malfoy handed me a new wand, but it didn’t feel right in my fingers. I knew without trying that it wouldn’t work very well for me. “Um,” I began, “Why don’t I just put the wand back in my vault at Gringotts? Why did I even take it out in the first place?”
Tom and Malfoy exchanged a significant glance before Tom spoke. “You need to have a wand that will work properly for you in the event that we are attacked. The quartz wand will work better than any other because you won it from its last owner.” This seemed like a plausible enough answer, but I got the feeling that they weren’t telling me something. “Lastly, you will not tell anyone about the events that have transpired over the holidays – ,”
“Obviously!” I burst out angrily, “I’m not stupid!” Tom raised his eyebrows and a smirk flashed across Malfoy’s lips. “Is that all?” I demanded.
“No,” Malfoy said, looking out the window suddenly. “Also, we’ve arrived.”
After changing into a school uniform that Tom produced for me out of his black canvas bag, I could be found sitting between the two of them at dinner - but I still refused to speak to either of them. Felicity sat a little ways down from us at the Slytherin table and kept a death glare directed at me throughout the entire meal. I ignored her and instead glanced up at the staff table, searching for Dumbledore’s silver hair and beard. I met his light-blue gaze near the end of the table and froze. I felt like I was being x-rayed, like he was reading everything that had happened over the holidays in my head. A look of surprise, then anger, then disappointment crossed over his face quickly before he looked away. I gasped and stared down at my plate, my skin crawling. Had he seen? Did he know?
“What is it?” Tom muttered in my ear. I shook my head.
He seized my wrist under the table and I turned to meet his cerulean eyes angrily. “Tell me!” he searched my face and I knew he was reading my mind. His eyes widened and he looked towards Dumbledore. “He can’t know. It’s impossible. Grindelwald couldn’t read your mind, why should Dumbledore be able to?”
“You can,” I pointed out softly.
He glared at me. “That’s different.”
“How is it different?”
He looked irritated. “We can’t talk about this here. Finish your dinner. And don’t worry about Dumbledore, there’s no way he can know what happened.” He released my wrist and re-applied himself to his plate.
I looked down at my own plate, but found that I was no longer hungry. I wanted answers. Why could Tom read my mind but nobody else? Could Dumbledore? If he could, why the two of them only? What made them special? I turned to Malfoy curiously and studied the side of his face. Could he see my thoughts, I wondered? I decided that the next time the two of us were alone I’d ask him. He raised his silver eyes and regarded me when I continued to stare at him. “Do you need something? Decided to join me after all?”
I snorted and rolled my eyes, turning away from him.
After Dippett’s welcome back speech, we exited the great hall with the other students and Tom propelled me toward the Head Dorms. “What about the Head Girl?” I asked, after saying goodnight to Malfoy. “Won’t she notice if I’m living here for the rest of the semester?”
“She will do as she’s told,” Tom said ominously. “She will not be a problem.”
We entered the Head common room and then made our way to his bedroom. “Um, Tom?” I said softly. “What about my books and my other clothes? Everything is still at my Aunt’s.”
“I will go retrieve your things tonight.” He replied, ushering me through the door and closing it behind me.
“I want to come with you,” I said immediately, sitting down on the arm of the chair and pulling off my shoes and stockings so that I could change back into jeans.
I paused and looked up at him. “Why?”
“Why do you think?”
I glowered at him. “How are you going to get there without being caught?”
“I told you, I have my ways.”
“But – ,” I protested.
He rounded on me angrily. “Maura!” he said hotly. “For once, could you just – ,” he paused suddenly, as though struck with an idea. “Ok,” he said, sitting down on the bed. “I will let you see how I get into your Aunt’s house unseen, but you have to force me. Use your gift.”
“Tom.” I said, standing up angrily. “My gift doesn’t work anymore. I can’t.”
“Well, I’ll be on my way then,” he said infuriatingly, standing up.
“SIT DOWN!” I roared, striding over to him angrily and shoving him back onto the bed. I stood in front of him with my hands on my hips and glared. “Now, I can’t use my gift, AS YOU WELL KNOW, but I want answers. You will tell me how you get into my Aunt’s house, you will tell me why you can read my thoughts and why nobody else can, and you will tell me the REAL reason that you wanted me to get my wand out of Gringotts!”
He stared up at me with an inscrutable look on his face. Then, “The answers are here in my mind. I’m not stopping you.” I clenched my teeth, restraining myself from hitting him.
“FINE!” I snarled, pouncing on him so that he fell back onto the bed. I straddled him and grabbed his face harder than was necessary, and then concentrated with everything that I had. I tried to channel all the anger and desperation I was feeling into a beam of magic that would allow me to see into his mind – but nothing happened. Tom’s pale face remained stubbornly visible between my hands. My rage began to turn into fear. Was it really gone? I had hardly ever felt such strong emotion as I did now – why wasn’t it working? Maybe I didn’t have enough physical contact? I sat back and picked up his hands. I pressed them desperately to my cheeks and then grabbed his face again, willing my power to work. It HAD to. If it didn’t – Tom would probably just leave me to my fate. He might even take the quartz wand from me! A desperate sob escaped my lips. “Please,” I whispered, closing my eyes, but still, nothing happened. I stayed that way, praying to Merlin that my gift would work, but minutes passed and I saw nothing. Eventually, Tom’s hands softened on my face.
“Maura,” he said quietly, brushing a stray tear from my cheek with his thumb.
“Just – just give me a few more seconds,” I said desperately. He brought his feet up onto the bed and pulled my hands away from his cheeks so that he could sit up. I stared at my knees in defeat, unwilling to meet his eyes. “It’s really gone,” I whispered. I pulled my hands out of his and stood up, turning my back to him. “It’s been days; I’ve slept, I’ve eaten, I’ve been healed – there’s no reason that it shouldn’t have come back. But it hasn’t.” I took a deep breath. “So, since I’m no longer useful to you,” I spat bitterly, “You can stop pretending to care.” He didn’t say anything, which only confirmed my suspicions. Fighting the tears that were beginning to overflow, I picked up my stockings and shoes and strode quickly to the door. My hand was on the latch before he spoke.
“Maura!” he said, in such a strangled voice that I had to turn around. He was standing by the end of the bed, his hair dishevelled, his eyes blazing and his hands held out helplessly. Before I could say a word, he had crossed the room in three strides and pressed his lips to mine. His cool hands wove through my hair as he kissed me hungrily, but I pushed him away, thinking that he was only doing it to try to provoke my gift.
“Tom,” I said pleadingly, “It won’t work. Please, you’re – you’re making this so difficult,” I ended in a whisper, putting a hand on his chest to hold him off.
“No – Maura,” he caressed my cheekbones with his thumb.
“Stop, it won’t work – ,”
“I don’t care!” he snarled, pushing me back against the door and causing me to drop the stockings and shoes. “Maura, I don’t care about your gift I – ,” his tortured cerulean eyes darted between mine and his fingers tangled themselves in my curls. He let out a noise of exasperation and then closed the space between our lips once again. And then, a very strange thing happened. Something deep inside me seemed to shatter into a million tiny pieces and float away. And then I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him back fiercely, forgetting my gift, forgetting Grindelwald and Malfoy and everything else that was not the feel of his body against mine.
Without knowing how it happened, I found the backs of my knees pressed against the edge of the bed. Tom’s hands slid down my sides and over my hips, slipping my skirt down until it pooled on the floor. I fell back onto the bed, pulling Tom down with me, deepening the kiss as his tongue vied for entrance. His nimble fingers moved down to begin unbuttoning my school shirt. I moaned as he left a burning trail of kisses down my throat and over the skin he exposed with each button he unfastened. He paused as he pulled the shirt open and stared down at the scars on my skin with a pained look on his face. He traced cold fingertips along the white lines, causing goose bumps to race across my skin. “These are my fault,” he whispered. He raised smouldering cerulean eyes to mine. “I’m sorry,” he said, so quietly that I barely heard him. But I did. I stared at him for the space of time it took for me to take one shaky breath – and then I sat up, seized his face in my hands and pressed my lips desperately to his. He put his hands on my cheeks and pulled his mouth away from mine so that he could look into my eyes. Slowly, his hands moved down my neck and over my shoulders, gently sliding the shirt off of my arms, leaving me in nothing but my bra and underwear. I shivered as his hands slid down my back in a lingering caress, relishing the feel of his breath on my lips, caught in his intense, penetrating gaze. “Tom!” I gasped, managing to push away from him with a huge effort. I scooted backwards on the bed until my back hit the pillows and clutched my bare knees to my chest. “Tom,” I repeated in a steadier voice. I had to know. “You’re – are you just doing this because you’re trying to provoke my gift?” I whispered unwillingly. I didn’t know what I’d do if he said yes.
He stared at me with a hard, blazing look in his eyes. Then, a slow, devilish smirk spread across his features and he crawled towards me on the bed. “Oh no,” he said in a low, husky voice. “I want both of us perfectly aware for the next while.” He kissed my bare knees and then gently eased his body between them. “I want to see all of you,” he crooned, pressing his forehead against mine and deftly unbuttoning his own shirt. “I want to feel all of you,” he whispered, pressing his bare torso against mine. He placed a searing kiss on my lips and then trailed his lips along my jaw to nibble on my earlobe. “I want to taste every inch of you,” he breathed into my ear, causing a hot ache to erupt at my core. I was rapidly forgetting everything again, I realized.
A few minutes later the last remaining shreds of clothing between our bodies lay discarded on the floor. Tom’s hands were everywhere, teasing, caressing, even as his lips and tongue devoured me. Our breathing became more and more ragged, and then he suddenly pulled his face away from me. “Maura,” he murmured, his voice sounding strained. “Are you – do you want this?” he breathed. I stared into his desperate eyes as he hovered above me, waiting for my answer. I had never imagined that he would look at me like that. The need in his eyes was so strong, and yet he was holding himself back, letting me decide; and I knew, without a doubt that it was what I wanted. He was what I wanted.
I smiled up at him and ran my hands down over his muscled abdomen. “More than anything,” I whispered. A true smile spread across his face, the first I had ever seen from him, and he closed the distance between us to recapture my lips. Our breathing became rougher and it became difficult to discern where my body ended and his began. Pleasure and adrenaline raced through my veins, making me feel almost intoxicated. And then, as we reached the peak of bliss, something inside of me seemed to snap.
Suddenly the pull of his mind returned and became unbearable and I plunged into his memories more deeply than I ever had before. And there was something else; I could feel his emotions. I could sense the feelings that he kept hidden from the world behind his unreadable cerulean eyes. The memories slowed down, and suddenly I was standing behind Tom as he stared out of a window in the castle. I could feel guilt and sadness radiating off of him in waves, though his face betrayed nothing. I moved to stand beside him to see what he was watching so intently, and felt a strange dropping sensation in my stomach; it was me. I was standing by the lake with my wand pointed at a boulder, slowly smashing it to pieces. I watched myself sink hopelessly to my knees in the dust, and then glanced over at Tom. A pained look crossed his face and his pale hand on the stone sill curled into a fist.
And then the memory changed; Tom was standing in my dorm at Hogwarts before the Christmas holidays, staring down at me with a strange look on his face. “You would trust me to protect you?” he asked me softly. He took a step towards my past self and I stood my ground, but I knew what came next. He raised his hand to my face, full of fear and hope and something else that I couldn’t fully identify – but I watched my past-self flinch away from his touch. His hope dissolved into a deep-rooted anger and sadness, and also a heartbreaking acceptance. It was as if he had expected me to flinch, but had let himself believe for a second that somebody could trust him; and I had destroyed his hope. Full of guilt, I watched as darkness flooded his eyes and he dropped his hand. “You do not trust me.”
And then I was back in the present, caught in the throes of ecstasy in Tom’s arms. He collapsed against me, gasping and I gripped his shoulders tightly before releasing him with a moan. We breathed each other in for a few seconds, and I felt closer to him than I’d ever felt to anyone in my life. Then, “Tom,” I whispered, “Did you – ?”
“I felt it,” he whispered, rolling off of me. He pulled me to him and moved a sweaty tendril of hair off of my forehead before resting his hand on my cheek.
I swallowed, feeling suddenly nervous. Would he be angry that I’d discovered his true feelings? “Tom, I – I felt your emotions. In the memories.” I panted, avoiding his eyes. To my surprise, the hand on my cheek did not tighten with anger. Instead, it moved down to my chin to tilt my head back so that he could look into my eyes.
“It’s okay,” he said, very quietly, and then placed a shockingly gentle kiss on my lips. I studied his expression as he pulled away and realised that he needed my acceptance as much as I needed his. This time, I decided, I would not hurt him. I smiled and scooted closer to him, threaded my fingers through his dark hair and buried my face in his neck.
I felt his breath catch as I turned my lips to his throat and whispered the only response I could think of, “Thank you.”
He sighed and wrapped his arms around me tightly. I relaxed into him, feeling unbelievably happy and I felt his mind tug at me once again. I let myself fall into his mind and memories flashed by until I saw Tom and I standing in the courtyard before Grindelwald’s manor, wrapped in each other’s arms. I remembered distinctly what I had been thinking at that moment and immediately felt a blush rise in my cheeks. I circled to the other side of Tom and me, so that I could see his face. He held my past self tightly and stared back at the manor with a pained look on his face. I watched myself take a deep breath, inhaling his scent…and then a look of pure, unadulterated happiness settled on his features and his eyes closed.
So he had heard my thoughts.
The scene dissolved and I found myself back in Tom’s tight embrace, with no more pull from his memory. I drew away from him and looked into his eyes, searching for his reaction. How I wished I could read his mind as easily as he could read mine!
A slight smirk played across his lips. “I told you that your thoughts were interesting lately,” he pointed out, and his smirk widened into a wicked grin.
I pursed my lips and turned my back on him, deliberately elbowing him in the stomach as I went. I wasn’t really mad at him, but he should know better than to joke about such things. My irritation dissolved, however, when he slid his cool arms around my body and pressed himself into my back. He buried his face in my hair and I shivered as he brushed it aside and let his lips graze the back of my neck. “Just go to sleep, Maura,” he murmured contentedly, tightening his hold. I let out a sigh and finally let my exhaustion overcome me.
I awoke to the feel of Tom’s cold fingers tracing patterns on the bare skin of my back. “Mmmm,” I said, shivering and turning over. “You’re cold,” I complained, pulling the sheets up to my chin and gazing at him blearily.
He chuckled. “You sound like Malfoy,”
“Ew!” I exclaimed, widening my eyes and looking at him properly. I couldn’t help but let my eyes wander down his naked, muscular torso…I blushed as he caught me staring.
He smirked, looking enormously satisfied. “It’s time to get up, we have class.” He rose, walked across the room and began to pull on his pants.
I resisted the urge to stare and groaned, “It is WAY too early!” I flipped back onto my stomach and put a pillow over my head. For a few moments, I thought he was going to let me sleep…and then I felt him kneel on the bed and slowly begin to pull down the sheet. Goosebumps raced across my body but I stayed still, wondering what he would do. His cool fingertips ghosted across my skin and then traced a line up my spine, causing yet another shiver to race through me. He placed his hands on the bed on either side of my chest and leaned in so close that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck.
My own breath caught as his lips left a burning trail up the side of my throat until they reached the sensitive spot just below my ear. “If you don’t get up and put on some clothes, you might not get to class at all today,” he crooned, sliding his hand underneath my stomach and moving it downwards in a teasing caress. I gasped and flipped over to face him, but then realised that this was a bad idea; his burning, lustful eyes pinned me to the mattress even more than his body did. He stared down at me with his hair hanging into his face, looking incredibly attractive. I decided that I didn’t need to go to class; the first day back was always review after all.
He chuckled. “But you need review. Don’t you remember the transfiguration theory test from before Christmas? I wouldn’t want to keep you from your studies,” he grinned devilishly.
I scowled and crossed my arms. His face softened, “Come on,” he whispered, sliding off of me and propping his head up on his hand. “It really is time.”
Suddenly something occurred to me. “Tom,” I said softly, pushing my hair out of my eyes. “My books and school things…they’re still at my Aunt’s,”
“No, they’re not,” he said quietly. “I called one of the house elves and had them bring your things here,” he gestured towards the corner of the room where my stuff was piled neatly.
“Oh!” I said, surprised. “Er, thank you,” I added softly. A small smile lit up his pale face as he turned away from me and rose from the bed again, this time in search of a shirt.
I groaned and rubbed my eyes, then sat up carefully, keeping my naked body wrapped in the sheet. I waited until Tom had finished buttoning his shirt, hoping he would retreat to the bathroom so that I could get dressed.
No such luck.
He turned to face me again and waited expectantly. “Well? Are you getting out of bed or do I have to force you?”
“I’m getting up,” I muttered.
“Well, go on then.”
I glared at his smirking face. Then, keeping the sheet wrapped firmly around me, I stood up and made my way past him to my trunk. He chuckled and followed me. “Maura,” he said softly, placing his hands on my waist. I tried to ignore him and reached for a clean school uniform, but he wouldn’t have it. He turned me around to face him and began to slide the sheet down off of me.
“Tom!” I said, my heart pounding.
“Maura,” he said cajolingly. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you…and tasted you,” he added with a wolfish grin.
“Well…yes, but…you said you…you said I should get dressed,” I finished lamely, and I felt a hot blush climb up my cheeks.
His smirk became gentler. “I just want to see those scars. Maybe I can do something about them,”
“O – ok,” I said hesitantly. “But – can I please put on at least a bra?”
He threw back his head and laughed. “Alright, alright!” He let go of me and turned around. “Go ahead,”
I made a face at his back and then quickly pulled on underwear, a bra and my skirt. “Ok,” I said reluctantly, and he turned around and let his eyes slide over my body.
His smile faded as his gaze fell on the scars. He knelt in front of me and placed his cool hands on my hips. He examined the marks closely and then drew out his wand and tried several different spells, but nothing happened. He let out his breath irritably. “I will find a way to get rid of them,” he vowed, looking up at me.
“Tom, it’s okay, they don’t hurt,” I began, but he cut me off.
“I do not want you marked by him,” he growled, standing up. “I will find a way.” With that, he turned around and disappeared into the bathroom. I shook my head, bewildered at his constant mood swings.
I finished getting dressed, used the bathroom after Tom, and then walked with him down to breakfast. As I sat at the table, it occurred to me that I had Transfiguration first – with Dumbledore. I glanced up at the professor, but he was not looking my way. I wondered again if he could read my mind from so far away; Tom seemed to need either physical contact or a wand.
“Morning,” a voice said from behind me. A moment later, Malfoy slid into the seat next to me. I made a mental note to remember to find out if he could read my mind too. “How’d you sleep?” he asked, smirking knowingly. I ducked my face to hide my blush.
“Abraxas,” Tom said tersely. “I have to go to class. Keep an eye on her,”
“I’ll do more than that,” Malfoy murmured so that only I could hear. I ignored him.
“Maura, please just stay with him?” Tom said pleadingly with a glance around the great hall.
I sighed. “I will,”
“Good. I will see you at dinner.” Without another word, he swept from the great hall.
This routine went on for a few months – I was dropped off like a helpless child by Tom to Malfoy at breakfast, Malfoy effectively babysat me throughout the day and then delivered me back into Tom’s arms at dinner. The only time I didn’t feel like a child was after dinner, when Tom and I retreated to his bedroom…a blush still crept to my cheeks whenever I thought about our nightly exploits. I hadn’t been able to see into his mind again as easily as I had that first night though…if I really concentrated I could do it, but I didn’t experience his emotions again. I was pretty sure that my gift would not work on other people anymore, but Tom had surprisingly not asked me to try. He, on the other hand, could still read my mind as easily as ever; it annoyed me to no end that he could discover my thoughts so effortlessly when I had to work so hard just to get a brief glimpse into his memories.
Dumbledore, it seemed, could not read my mind; or, if he could, he wasn’t saying anything. The first day back I’d walked into his class feeling extremely nervous, but he hadn’t treated me any differently from anybody else. He was still threatening to fail me on my transfiguration theory, so I figured that was a pretty good indicator that he didn’t know about my holiday adventures. I still wondered how much he knew though; sometimes when we were all supposed to be reading or working, I would look up and get caught in his light-blue gaze. Whenever this happened, it felt as though he could see right through me in a way that even Tom couldn’t achieve.
It was after one of these occurrences that I remembered my intention to ask Malfoy if he could read my mind. I glanced over at him, watching him scribble lazily in the margins of his textbook, ruffling his blonde hair with his fingers. He hadn’t mentioned the marriage proposal in weeks; I was surprised that his father hadn’t come barging right into the school and forced me to sign his stupid contract. I suspected that Abraxas had something to do with it; maybe he’d convinced his father that I was not going to be won over by force. I didn’t want to ask him about it though…I was afraid that he’d start harassing me again if I brought it up.
The blonde in question suddenly glanced over at me and raised his eyebrows. I dropped my eyes to my parchment, feeling a slight blush creep up my cheeks. I hoped he wouldn’t get any ideas. “You okay?” he asked out of the corner of his mouth, eyeing Dumbledore warily. I nodded without looking at him. A few moments later, he added softly, “You don’t look okay.”
I glared over at him. “I’m fine!” I hissed, and when he didn’t look satisfied, I continued grudgingly, “I’ll tell you at lunch.” I caught Dumbledore’s eye again and bent over my textbook guiltily.
When the professor finally released us, I packed my bag and avoided Malfoy’s questions all the way down to the Great Hall. He stopped talking when we caught sight of Tom sitting at the table. I made my way over to him and slid onto the bench beside him, feeling Malfoy plant himself on my other side. Tom glanced at me out of the corner of his eye with a small smirk tugging at his lips…and then I gasped as his hand grazed my thigh and began to travel up under my skirt. His smirk widened when he heard my gasp and he removed his hand, looking enormously satisfied with himself. I leaned close to him and muttered, “What was that for?”
He turned to me with his cerulean eyes glinting devilishly and brought his lips close to my ear. “I wanted to make sure that you’re still mine,” he breathed, causing goose bumps to race down my spine. He pulled away and I studied his expression with a trace of annoyance. His words made me feel like a possession, like something he obsessed over and coveted and protected jealously from the rest of the world. Despite my…care for him, I didn’t like feeling like a trophy. His eyes softened as he studied my face, obviously reading my thoughts, and he raised a gentle hand to my cheek before returning to his lunch. I sighed; of course he could never show real affection in front of the other students. He wouldn’t want them thinking he was going soft.
Tom finished his lunch before Malfoy and I, and he headed off towards his afternoon classes. As soon as he was out of sight, I turned to Malfoy, intending to find out once and for all if Tom was the only one who could read my mind. “Erm, Mal – Abraxas,” I began. He raised his eyebrows. “I have a question.” His stupid smirk faded and a painful look of hope crossed his face. I flinched, feeling inexplicably guilty. “Can you read my mind?” I asked quickly, before he could ask me again if I’d thought about his marriage proposal.
He put down his fork and gave me a strange look. “What do you mean? Do you want me to?”
“No, I – I just meant in general. Can you see my thoughts like Tom can?”
“I’ve never tried.” I nodded and took a bite of toast. “Do you want me to try?”
I swallowed and looked at him uncertainly. I didn’t really want him to see my thoughts…but I was extremely curious. I really wanted to know if Tom was the only one who could read my mind. “Um…yes,” I said hesitantly. “But not here.” I added, looking around. I glanced at his empty plate. “Are you finished? Will you try before class?”
His silver eyes regarded me shrewdly, but he nodded. The two of us stood up and exited the great hall together, drawing more than a few curious stares.
We walked along a deserted hallway and then slid into a tight alcove that was concealed behind a tapestry. Feeling very uncomfortable, I raised my eyes to meet his silver ones. “Ok, do it. I’m thinking of my favourite food,” I said. He raised his hands to my face and cupped my cheeks gently, staring intently into my eyes. I concentrated on an image of chocolate and tried to ignore the way his cold eyes softened as he looked down at me. “Do you see anything?” I asked softly.
He shook his head. “Nothing.” He dropped his hands and pulled out his wand. “Shall I try Legillimency?”
I nodded apprehensively. “Ok.”
He pressed the wand-tip to my forehead. “Legillimens!” Nothing happened. I sighed, feeling a strange sense of relief. “I can’t do it.” Malfoy said, sounding irritated. “Are you trying to block me out?”
“No,” I said. “I just wondered if anyone but Tom could read my mind. So far, nobody can.”
His silver eyes narrowed. “That doesn’t make sense. Why would Tom be the only one?”
“That’s just it, I don’t know,” I said exasperatedly, running a hand through my hair distractedly. “But I think Dumbledore might be able to. But if that’s the case, why only them?”
Malfoy shrugged. “Have you asked Tom?”
I snorted. “He won’t tell me anything. But he says Dumbledore can’t read my mind, and I’m sure he at least has a theory as to why only he can do it.”
“Hmm,” Malfoy said, pocketing his wand. “Well I think you have a right to know something like that. He should tell you. I would tell you if I knew.”
I looked up at him suspiciously, suddenly aware of how close we were; his chest was only an inch or so from mine. Was he trying to turn me against Tom? He said he’d tell me if he knew anything…I decided to test him. “Abraxas,” I said softly. “Why did you and Tom make me get the quartz wand out of my vault?”
He took a deep breath and looked at me uneasily. “We told you,” he drawled after a moment. “You need to have a wand that actually works for you. The one I gave you is my old one; I know it doesn’t work properly. If you’re attacked, it won’t be any help at all. You’ll need the quartz wand – ,”
“Ok, let me re-phrase that; what is the REAL reason you had me take the wand out of Gringotts?” I stated irritably.
“I – can’t,” he said, avoiding my gaze.
I poked him hard in the chest. “You just said – ,”
“That I would tell you if I could, and I can’t. Literally. Tom guarded the information under a Fidleus charm and I’m not the Secret Keeper.” Malfoy explained, grabbing my hands to stop me from hitting him. “I’m sorry.”
I snorted. Yeah, right, I thought. But his words had made me even more painfully curious to know the real reason that I had to remove the quartz wand from my vault… I let out an angry breath. “Fine.” I snarled, and then tried to pull away from him, but he held onto my wrists tightly.
“Maura – please listen to me – just leave it. Don’t ask him about it. It’s not important.”
“Of course it’s important!” I snarled, pushing him against the wall. “Why the hell would he cast a Fidleus charm if it wasn’t important?”
“Maura, listen to me,” he said loudly, pushing me back. “You need to let this go. Ask him about the mind-reading thing, but don’t bother him about this.”
“I’ll bother him about anything I want!” I growled, trying to push past him and get back into the corridor, but he pushed me hard against the wall.
“Maura, for once just listen! Why can’t you just co-operate!” he hissed. I opened my mouth to retort but he clamped a hand over my lips. “Shh!” he said, very softly. “Listen.” I listened, and heard a thump and a muffled curse. I raised my eyes fearfully to Malfoy’s. How long had the person been out there? How much had they heard? He took his hand off of my mouth and drew out his wand. “Stay here,” he breathed in my ear, and then he disappeared into the corridor.
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