Chapter 21 : Erasure - Part One
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“Well, good morning to you too!” he stated groggily.
“Abraxas, let go of me,” I requested, trying not to snap at him. I was NOT in the mood this early in the morning to deal with him.
“Mmm, but you fit so nicely here,” he murmured, pulling me closer and inhaling the scent of my hair.
I sighed and looked around, hoping an audience would deter him from trying anything. To my unease, I saw that we were alone in the dorm. I swallowed my nervousness and tried to sound confident and demanding. “Abraxas Malfoy, let go of me this instant! I’m going to be late for class!”
His deep chuckle reverberated through my body, sending goose bumps racing across my skin. In a movement that was too fast for me to struggle against, he’d rolled on top of me and pinned me to his silk sheets. “It’s Saturday,” he said. “You don’t need to be anywhere but right here.”
I snorted and braced my hands on his chest, trying to push him off of me. “Malfoy I swear, if you don’t let me go –,” My breath caught in my throat as he grabbed my wrists and slammed them down on either side of my head. For the first time that morning, real fear gripped me. My heart began to pound and I stared up into his silver eyes uneasily. For a moment those eyes were smouldering with lust…and then he seemed to shake himself and he let go of my wrists and cupped my cheeks instead.
“I won’t hurt you again, Maura,” he said softly. Then, he rolled himself off of me and released me. He propped his head on his hand and stretched out beside me, watching as I sat up shakily. I glared at him warily.
“Can you pass me my robes?” I asked finally, gesturing to the pile of clothing on the floor on his side of the bed.
Without a word, he leaned over, picked up my cloak, shoes and stockings, and passed them to me. “Thanks,” I said softly.
He nodded, watching as I dressed hastily. When I finished, I walked to the door and then paused with my hand on the handle. Where was I going? What was I going to do? I couldn’t even get to my trunk, since it was in Tom’s room. My shoulders sagged and I turned back around to find Malfoy in the exact same position, watching me. Much as I didn’t want to, I felt like I had to ask his opinion. I let myself slide to the floor with my back against the door and said, “What do you think I should do?”
Malfoy sighed and pulled himself out of bed. I blushed as I realised just how little he was wearing; only black silk boxers covered his body…and they didn’t leave much to the imagination. He smirked at my embarrassment and walked towards me. I stood up quickly to avoid any unwanted glimpses. “W-what are you doing?” I asked shakily.
“Would you just relax? I’m bringing you your other wand. I’m assuming Tom still has the quartz wand?” He drawled, holding out the thin strip of wood. I nodded and accepted the wand from him, tucking it into my pocket. “As to your question,” he leaned against the wall beside me, “I think we should go get something to eat, and then find Tom. I’ll come with you if you want me to,” he added, speaking over my protests.
“But – but you’re loyal to Tom, aren’t you? What if he told you to leave me alone with him? Would you do it?” I asked worriedly.
He contemplated me carefully. “I won’t let him hurt you,” he said finally. I glowered. That wasn’t much of a promise. “Look, will you please just try? I know he cares about you…” a look of pain crossed his face, “And I know you care about him, so…”
I sighed. “Shouldn’t you be happy that Tom and I are fighting Abraxas? Why are you encouraging me to talk to him?”
He looked down at me with a peculiar expression in his mercurial eyes. “Because I want you to be happy.” He muttered finally, before disappearing into the shared bathroom that was attached to the dorm.
I heaved a shaky breath and suddenly felt like crying. I’d always thought Malfoy was a foul git but…lately I felt like I could actually trust him. Marrying him didn’t seem like such a death sentence anymore. I stared at the dust motes swirling in the sunlight that filtered through the window across the room. I knew I couldn’t marry him though…but where before I hadn’t felt bad about hurting him, now it was eating me up inside. I felt like letting him help me was leading him on, but I really didn’t know who else to trust.
He re-emerged from the bathroom and began rummaging in his trunk for some clothes. “I’m going to wait in the common room,” I said, feeling distinctly hot around the collar. I reached for the door handle but Malfoy’s voice stopped me.
“Not a good idea,” he warned.
I paused. “Why?”
“Because Felicity and those other harpies are probably down there waiting for you, I’m sure one of the guys told them. They probably think that without Tom’s protection you’re vulnerable.”
I snorted, feeling reckless. “I should go down there and show them just how defenceless I am!” I snarled.
“Without the quartz wand? You’re more likely to hurt yourself.” Malfoy drawled, coming to my side. I turned to see him buttoning up a shirt over his sculpted abs. I shook my head – why was I looking at him? I was with Tom. At least…I thought I was.
I glowered and tucked Malfoy’s old wand back into my robes. I needed to get the quartz wand back from Tom A.S.A.P. “Ready?” Malfoy asked, interrupting my thoughts.
“Yeah,” I muttered moodily. I just caught his smirk out of the corner of my eye as he passed me and exited the room.
We made our way silently down to the Great Hall, ignoring the glowering faces of my old dorm-mates as we passed them in the common room. My stomach fluttered with apprehension as we walked through the door, but Tom was nowhere to be seen. I sat down beside Malfoy at the Slytherin table and poked at the food he scooped onto my plate. What would I say to Tom? Would he still be angry with me? Would he even give me back the quartz wand?
We sat through the whole of lunch and Tom did not show up. I fidgeted nervously as Malfoy finished his last few bites of dessert. “Well,” he said finally, “What do you want to do? Should we see if he’s in the head dorms?”
I shrugged. “I guess we could try…if he hasn’t changed the password,” I muttered.
I followed Malfoy wordlessly through the nearly empty hallways until we came to the portrait that hid the entrance to the head dorms. “Erm…carpe diem,” I said uncomfortably. The portrait swung open and I entered the empty common room with Malfoy at my back. “Umm…I guess we should look in his room,” I said uncertainly. Malfoy placed a hand on the small of my back and propelled me gently towards the stairs. We ascended and then entered the bedroom I’d shared with Tom for so many months – but he wasn’t there. There was, however, a box sitting on the bed addressed to me. And beside it… “My wand!” I exclaimed, striding across the room and picking it up. I twirled it in my fingers happily and then pushed it into my pocket before turning my attention to the box. Malfoy came to stand beside me as I opened it up. A small piece of folded paper sat on top of a velvet cushion. I glanced at Malfoy quizzically and he shrugged.
“What does it say?” Malfoy prodded.
I unfolded the paper and scanned the small, slanted writing.
I will be waiting at the front door tonight at eight o’clock. Bring the box with you. I have something for you.
I spluttered indignantly. “That’s it? He tries to kill me and this is his apology?”
Malfoy chuckled. “At least we know he’s back to normal.” I glowered at him fiercely. “What? He still wants to see you – ,”
“Will you come with me?” I interrupted, putting the box and note down on the bed and brushing past Malfoy on the way to my trunk. “Please?” I added, digging through the trunk for some jeans and a shirt.
Malfoy sat down on the bed and re-read the note. “I dunno, it – it sounds like he’s expecting you to come alone.”
“Mal – Abraxas,” I pouted, turning to face him. “You said you would come with me.”
He put the note down uneasily. “Well…it seems like he’s not going to hurt you…he even has a gift for you.”
I crossed my arms. “The gift is probably another curse!” Malfoy ran his hand through his hair again. I walked towards him and sat down beside him. “Please don’t make me go there alone Abraxas,” I whispered, looking up imploringly into his eyes.
“Stop what?” I said innocently, sliding closer to him.
He glared down at me. “You’re lucky I have such good self-control.”
I snorted. “When have you shown even a speck of self-control?”
“Well,” he said, allowing his silver eyes to fill with lust. I pulled away a little uneasily. “Right now, for instance, the thing I want to do most in the world is…” he wrapped an arm around my middle and moved his hand down to the waistline of my skirt in a slow caress. “Slide your clothes off, admire every part of you and then ravish you on this very mattress,” he crooned, leaning in close enough that I felt his breath on my throat. I swallowed nervously, and then took a chance.
I relaxed in his arms and tilted my head back, exposing my neck to his lips. “Please come with me Abraxas. I need someone who I can trust.” I breathed.
His hot breath spread over my skin for a few seconds and his hands tightened around me – then he groaned and dropped his head onto my shoulder. “Alright,” he muttered in defeat.
I smirked, and then pulled away from him a little. “Thank you!” I said brightly, and gave him a quick hug. Then, ignoring his odd expression, I retreated to the bathroom to get changed.
Malfoy and I passed the rest of the day in the library, doing homework and studying; I'd almost forgotten that our final exams were next week in all the excitement. We were cloistered in my usual corner; I was curled up in the window seat and he had dragged a squishy armchair over to where I was sitting. We didn’t talk much, but I looked up a few times and caught him staring at me. He looked away, however, as soon as I opened my mouth to ask him what his problem was. Finally, the third time this happened, I slapped my book down on my lap and glared at him. “What are you staring at?”
Malfoy dropped his silver gaze. “Nothing.” He stared at the book in his hands as though reading intently but his eyes didn’t move.
I sighed and closed my book. “Spit it out.”
He glanced up at me and opened his mouth – then shook his head and closed it. “You don’t want to hear it,” he muttered.
“Will you just tell me?” I snapped. He let out his breath in an angry huff and dropped his head into his hands.
“I – I just wanted to know if you – if you’d thought anymore about – about my offer.” He said softly without looking up.
I swallowed. “Abraxas, I – ,”
“Just – just let me finish. Please,” he said, looking up finally and locking me in his gaze. I sat up straighter and leaned back against the wall, watching him expectantly. “It’s – it’s just that – uggh,” he stood up and came to sit beside me. I watched the side of his face as he looked over through the bookshelves to make sure that nobody was listening. “My father has been pressuring me to – to force you somehow to sign a marriage contract. I’m worried that if I don’t do something soon, he’ll show up at Hogwarts and force you himself.”
I snorted. “Fat chance. There is nothing he can do that would make me sign that contract.”
“Maura,” he said, turning to me earnestly. “You can’t just brush this off! My father has powerful friends…even some of the teachers at this school are at his beck and call! And he has people in the ministry, he’s close to Grindelwald – he could really hurt you! You’ve got to be careful,” here he reached out as though he was going to touch my face but then pulled his hand back and sighed. “Look, I – I had an idea. I was thinking…if you signed a contract that I made, instead of one that my father makes, then I could make it so that you’d be bound only to me, and not to the Malfoy family in general. He couldn’t touch you. You’d be safe.”
I rubbed my eyes tiredly. “Abraxas,” I began. “You’ve – you’ve been,” I swallowed. “A good friend,” I said softly, avoiding his eyes. “But I – I can’t marry you,” I said vehemently. Then, “I’m sorry.”
His silver eyes seemed almost to pierce my soul and an unexpected wave of guilt shot through me. “I understand that you can’t – love me, but – just please think about the practicality of it – ,”
“What would I have to do to make the contract stay valid?” I interrupted suddenly, watching him carefully.
Malfoy looked uneasy. “Well, we’d have to actually get married at some point in the time period that the contract dictates,” he started.
“Mhmm,” I prompted. “And then being married to you would protect me from your father. But is the wedding enough alone? I mean, would I have to visit you every couple of years to make sure the magical bond is still in place and your father can’t touch me?”
“Well,” he leaned back into the wall and ran a hand through his hair, a sure sign of agitation. “That’s – that’s not exactly how it works.” I stared at him. “You’d have to share a house with me. I mean, we can leave the house for a little while, but we would generally have to live together. And…the marriage would have to be consummated in order for any permanent magical protection to become effective.” I stared at him, shocked. I had had no idea that magical marriages had to be consummated. I supposed it should have occurred to me – but the idea was just too disturbing to contemplate. His face dissolved into a look of bitterness at my reaction. “Am I so disgusting to you,” he whispered suddenly, “That you would die rather than marry me?”
“No, Abraxas, I – there just has to be another way!” I said desperately.
“There isn’t!” he snarled unexpectedly, leaning forward. “You need to take this seriously! My father will use any and all means to force you! He doesn’t care if you get hurt, as long as you are bound to the Malfoy name!”
I stared at him desperately, feeling the beginnings of fear in the pit of my stomach. “But – you’re saying I can avoid that, being bound to the Malfoy name, if I sign a contract that you make and not the one that your father wants me to?”
“But won’t – won’t that just make your father angrier? Won’t he come after you too?” I asked hesitantly
Malfoy scoffed. “It’s possible. But he won’t be able to do anything if you’ve signed, as long as we fulfill the conditions of the contract.”
“So,” I continued, trying to wrap my mind around the idea, “So you would betray your father? For me?” I said softly, watching his face carefully.
He looked at me fiercely and his jaw tightened. “Yes.”
I let out my breath. “Abraxas, I can’t let you do that.”
“He’s you father. And you said yourself he’s dangerous. What if he does come after you?”
Malfoy’s face settled into a mutinous glare. “He can’t control me anymore.”
I squirmed uncomfortably. “Can I – can I just think about it a little more please? I mean, I’ve barely even decided that I can call you a friend let alone…consummate a marriage with you,” I muttered. His expression softened very slightly.
“He’s given me until the exams are finished to get you to sign willingly.” He said in a would-be gentle voice.
“What?” I shrieked and he clapped a hand over my mouth. He looked around furtively and then released me with a warning look. “What?” I repeated more quietly. “That’s next week! What’s he going to do?”
“I don’t know. Just – just think about it quickly, okay?” Malfoy murmured. Then, he glanced up at the large ornate clock that hung suspended in midair over the teetering shelves of books. “You should go meet Tom.”
I followed his gaze and saw that it was indeed almost eight. I sighed with frustration and began to pack up my books. Malfoy retreated back to his armchair and did the same. Once I had stuffed everything into my bag I paused and looked across at Malfoy’s bowed head. “Um,” I said very softly, with guilt eating at my insides once again. “Will you still come with me?”
I watched his broad shoulders rise and fall in a sigh. “Yes,” he muttered, then stood up and began to walk towards the exit. I struggled to keep up with him as he strode quickly through the hallways to the front door.
Tom was already waiting as I arrived panting at Malfoy’s side. I avoided his gaze and concentrated on breathing deeply. “Hello Abraxas. Thank you for taking care of her. You may go.”
I looked up quickly and gazed pleadingly at the side of Malfoy’s face. He cleared his throat nervously and glanced at me. “She wants me to stay.” He said with a slight quaver in his voice.
Tom’s eyes flashed red. “You will leave us. Now.”
Malfoy stood his ground. “Are you going to hurt her again?” he demanded more strongly, and I saw his hands curl into fists.
Tom’s lips pulled back into a derisive sneer. “Are you forgetting all the times that you have hurt her, Malfoy? Who are you to defend her against me?” Malfoy swallowed his reply and a faint pink tinge appeared in his cheeks. Tom’s eyes narrowed threateningly. “Leave. Now.”
Malfoy turned but I grabbed his arm, feeling a fluttering of panic begin in the pit of my stomach. “Please,” I whispered. Then, I turned to Tom. “I want Abraxas to stay.”
Tom lunged suddenly and caught my arm in an iron grip. “I don’t care what you want,” he hissed through clenched teeth. “Malfoy, leave!” he snarled, pulling me through the front doors of the castle.
“Abraxas!” I said in a high-pitched voice. “Please, don’t let him – ,”
“Let go of her!” Malfoy said loudly, drawing out his wand. Tom turned back and with a sweeping motion of his empty hand, he had sent Malfoy careening across the room until he collided with the marble staircase and lay still.
“Abraxas!” I yelled desperately, but Tom clapped a hand over my mouth.
“I do not want to hear his name leave your lips again!” he snarled, dragging my struggling form across the sloping lawns.
He pulled me all the way to the other side of the lake until we reached the flat rock where he’d fist made me practice my gift. He threw me to the ground and my back slammed painfully against the stone. “Tom!” I gasped. “Please, you’re hurting me!” I reached desperately for the wand in my pocket – but found nothing. I looked up to see Tom twirling the wand in his long, pale fingers.
“Looking for this?” he said quietly. I swallowed and huddled against the side of the rock, searching the trees beyond him desperately for any sign of rescue.
“Why did you leave it for me at all then?” I snarled suddenly, glaring at him over the tops of my knees.
“I thought – and clearly I was wrong – that you could act civilised.”
“Woah, the great Tom Riddle admits he was wrong!” I said mockingly, widening my eyes in mock surprise.
“Enough,” he hissed and I fell silent. “I have brought you here for a purpose. I do not wish to fight with you anymore tonight. Will you co-operate with me or will I have to force you?”
I swallowed, watching the pale sphere of his face carefully. “What do you want me to do?” I whispered finally.
He regarded me silently for a second; then, with a suddenness that made me gasp, he knelt in front of me and brought his face very close to mine. “I have found a way to get those marks off of you,” he said softly.
“W – what?” I said confusedly, laying a hand on my stomach. “But – Tom, they don’t hurt, it’s fine, I don’t need – ,”
“You enjoy bearing his mark?” he asked harshly.
What was his obsession with marking? They were just scars! “Of course not, but it doesn’t matter,”
“I have found a way to get rid of them.” He repeated. “Come with me.” Without another word, he stood up and strode away across the velvet lawns.
I paused for a moment and leaned my head back against the cool rock, staring up at the star-spangled sky as though it held the answers. I figured it couldn’t hurt to see what Tom was planning. I was curious about the box too – I’d brought it along in the pocket of my cloak. And he hadn’t really hurt me yet…maybe if I went along with him, things would go back to the way they were. I sighed and pulled myself off the ground, following him reluctantly through the front gate.
When I caught up to him he pulled me to him without a word and apparated us back to his manor. I followed him inside nervously, looking furtively into the dark rooms as we passed them. He led me upstairs and back to the room I had been healed in months earlier. “Lie down,” he said, gesturing to the bed. I did so, feeling very apprehensive. “Now, the only way that I could find to get rid of those scars is a little…unconventional,” he said quietly, drawing out his wand. “You need to co-operate fully. For your own safety as well as mine.” I nodded. “Wait here.” He walked out of the room.
I stared around the dimly-lit room, feeling jumpy. What was Tom planning? Why all the cloak and dagger? I watched the doorway nervously as I heard Tom’s footsteps returning. He entered the room – and behind him stalked the most beautiful and terrifying creature that I had ever laid eyes on. It was a man – but he couldn’t possibly have been…human. He stood just a little taller than Tom, but his skin was so pale it looked almost translucent.
He made Tom look positively tanned.
“Maura,” Tom said firmly. “This is Marius.” I stared at Marius’ face, mesmerised. His deep auburn hair flowed in a silky wave over his shoulders, but it was his eyes that held me frozen; they were of a vivid, piercing violet.
“Hello,” he said softly in a voice like velvet.
“H – hello,” I murmured breathlessly.
I gasped as he moved across the room faster than I could see to stand at my side. Close-up, I saw that the violet irises of his eyes were outlined with a deep crimson ring. I let my gaze travel down to his blood-red lips and then it suddenly dawned on me.
He was a vampire.
“N – no,” I said, backing away across the mattress. “I – d-don’t want -,”
“Maura,” Tom’s voice hissed in my ear. His arms locked around my body from behind and held me still. “Marius has agreed to help us. You are being very rude.”
“Tom!” I breathed. “He’s a – ,”
“Vampire, yes,” Marius crooned, sliding onto the bed. “Thomas, lay her down.”
“No!” I said wildly, struggling against Tom’s hold. “Let go of me! I’m sorry, I’m sorry Tom, please don’t let him – ,”
“I am not going to hurt you,” Marius whispered and I became mesmerised once again by his violet gaze. “If I had wanted you dead you would not be speaking still.” He added ominously. “Lie down.”
I struggled weakly against Tom as he placed his back against the headboard and held me against him. “Hold her arms,” Marius commanded, and Tom’s fingers curled around my upper arms and pulled them behind me so that my midsection was completely exposed to Marius.
“No,” I protested, but then I froze. Marius’ icy hands were travelling up underneath my shirt. He pulled it up carefully until all of the scars were completely exposed.
His violet eyes studied me for a moment, and then rose to look at Tom over my head. “I will need to re-open the wounds to suck the remaining poison out.”
“Wha – there’s no more poison! It’s been months, if there was still poison in there I would have been dead!” I protested, struggling fruitlessly against Tom.
“There is only a small amount, just enough to make sure they wouldn’t heal properly. No potion would have been able to get rid of it – but I can.” Marius smiled, revealing pearly white fangs. My heart skipped several beats and I’m pretty sure I forgot how to breathe for a moment. “I will help you.” Without waiting for an answer, he placed a razor sharp fingernail against one of the white scars and drew it across, raising a thin scarlet line against my pale flesh. I hissed in pain and looked away as he repeated the process with the other two scars. I felt his arms brace themselves on either side of my hips and then, a most peculiar sensation swept through me. I looked down and froze again; Marius’ head was bowed over my skin – and he was dragging his lips and tongue over the wounds he’d made. I watched first in terror, expecting to feel his teeth penetrate my flesh at any moment; but then my fear turned to awe as I noticed that the places his tongue touched were healing instantly, without any trace of a scar.
He finished the second and third line of blood and then sat back, admiring my now flawless stomach. Tom released one of my arms to run his cold fingers over my skin. “It’s perfect.” He murmured.
I looked up at Marius, who was licking his lips. I noticed with unease that his violet eyes were darkening; now they looked almost black. “There is the matter of my payment,” he said with a hint of eagerness that made me feel slightly nauseous. Tom pushed me aside and held out his arm. “No,” Marius said, shaking his head slowly. “I want hers.”
I shivered as his eyes swept over me and came to rest on my throat. “Blood is blood,” Tom said coldly. “You can have mine, not hers.”
“I’ve already tasted hers. I want more,” Marius said, pushing Tom aside and seizing the back of my neck with a marble hand. I couldn’t even struggle, lost again in his disturbing eyes. “Where do you want it?” he asked in an excited whisper. All I could manage was a tiny whimper. I saw Tom get to his feet out of the corner of my eye. I hoped he had a plan. “I can drink from you here,” Marius said, picking up my wrist and inhaling deeply. “Or, here,” he laid a cold hand over my breast. “Or perhaps, here,” he slid the hand up my thigh and I gasped. “Or maybe from your lovely throat,” he breathed. “Yes, I think that would be best.” He smiled at me and I saw the fangs glistening, ready.
“No,” I whispered feebly but he tilted my head back and brought his lips to my throat. I felt his strangely cool breath against my skin for a split second – and then I felt the fangs penetrate and I let out a long gasp. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt; it was agony and ecstasy combined, equal parts pain and pleasure. I fell limp in his arms, no longer protesting. He chuckled softly deep in his chest and I shivered, feeling strangely aroused. I decided I didn’t mind having my blood sucked.
I didn’t mind at all.
Then Tom’s face swam into my line of vision. “Stop.” His voice said, but it sounded very far away. “That’s enough.” Marius ignored him and I felt myself beginning to drift. Then, so faintly that I barely heard it, Tom’s voice said, “Lumos Solis!”
A loud shriek filled my ears as bright light accosted my eyes. I screamed as Marius tore his fangs from my throat and dropped me, then practically flew across the room out of range of the beam of sunlight emitting from the tip of Tom’s wand. “I said enough,” Tom hissed, ceasing the spell but keeping the wand trained on the vampire. “You’ve had your payment. Go.”
A cruel smile spread across Marius’ face. “Her throat will need to be healed or she’ll bleed to death,” he commented.
I could barely move on the mattress, still dazed. I watched as Tom looked towards me and then nodded curtly. “Do it quickly then.”
Marius approached me again and I didn’t struggle. He sat beside me and held up my limp body with one hand, ignoring the way my head lolled back. He leaned in close and drew his tongue over the area of my throat that burned and I felt the wounds instantly heal. “Mmmmm,” Marius crooned, running a cold hand through my hair. “Perhaps we shall meet again."
“I doubt it.” Tom’s face swam into view again over Marius’ shoulder. “Leave.”
Marius rolled his eyes at me. “If you ever leave this mortal, please, send word. I will take his place,” he said softly. “I can show you a life you could never imagine – ,”
“Enough!” Tom shrieked and a flash of annoyance crossed the vampire’s features. “Leave or I will make you!” Faster than blinking, Marius whirled and struck Tom hard across the face, sending him crashing to the floor. In another flash of motion, Marius had pressed his lips roughly to mine and I inhaled the strange metallic scent of his breath – then he was gone, swallowed by the shadows beyond the doorway.
I coughed and rolled over to see Tom lying on the floor, unmoving. “Tom,” I rasped. I clutched my throat where I’d been bitten and felt two tiny bumps. “Tom,” I tried again, and then I was overcome by a wave of dizziness. “What have you done?” I whispered.
Suddenly, I heard Tom stir. He groaned and pulled himself to his feet, wiping blood from his cut bottom lip. He glanced at my prostrate form and then strode over to the dresser and picked up a bottle of potion.
“Drink this,” he said, tossing it to me. It landed on the mattress beside me and I struggled to pick it up.
“Wha – ,”
“It’s a blood replenisher,” he snapped, groping for his wand on the floor.
I tried to reach for the little bottle again and succeeded in curling my fingers around it, but was then thwarted by the cork. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t open it. Tom watched me out of the corner of his eye and I saw a flash of pity cross his features. He walked to my side and took the bottle out of my fumbling fingers, uncorked it deftly and held it to my lips without a word. I took a few sips, but it tasted disgusting, as usual. I grimaced and glanced at Tom. “How mu-,”
“All of it.”
I sighed, then closed my eyes and downed the potion. After a few seconds, Tom asked softly, “How do you feel?”
I opened my eyes and sat up, feeling Tom’s hand slide between my shoulder blades to support me. Most of the dizziness was gone, but I still felt a little weak. “I’m better,” I said softly. Then, feeling irritated again, I demanded “What were you thinking? He could have killed both of us! Why did he agree to help us anyway?”
To my surprise, Tom did not look angry, only resigned. “He owed me a favour, and it was the only way. I’ve been researching for months. And we didn’t die,” he added, smirking very slightly.
Hesitantly, I looked up into his cerulean eyes, wondering what he was thinking. Would he be satisfied now that my scars were gone? Had their presence contributed to our fight last night? Was he going to apologise properly? Should I apologise? I didn’t want to, but the truth was, I really did care about him…I wanted things to go back to the way they were before the fight. I tried to quash my irritation…I supposed that Tom thought he was acting for the best with the vampire thing. Still, if he thought I was going to throw myself on him thanking him profusely, he had another thing coming.
He looked down at me silently for a few seconds. Then, “Did you bring the box?” he asked quietly.
I nodded, trying to block my thoughts from him, and gestured to my cloak. “It’s in one of the pockets.” Tom retrieved the box and handed it to me.
“It is a gift for you.”
“Another one?” I asked apprehensively, without thinking. A trace of annoyance crossed his face, but I could have sworn that I saw a glint of amusement as well.
“I think you will like this one better. Although you should be grateful for the first one as well.” I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes with difficulty. He tapped the box in my hand with the wand and then said, “Open it.”
I sent him one curious look and then opened the box cautiously, expecting to find a slimy toad or something equally disgusting….but then I gasped when I saw what was inside.
A glittering, deep blue sapphire surrounded by a serpent made completely of diamonds rested on the once empty velvet cushion. The stones were inset in a pool of white gold, and a long chain trailed over my fingers as I lifted the necklace with another gasp. “Tom,” I breathed. “It’s – beautiful,” I looked up at him uncertainly.
He looked slightly uncomfortable, but when he met my gaze, his face became smoothly unreadable as usual. “Sapphires have curious powers,” he said emotionlessly. “They heal the mind and allow individuals to have more control over their magical powers, especially those related to the mind such as Occlumency and Legilimency.”
I looked closely at the stone in my hand. “So – so do you think it’ll help me control my gift more easily?”
“Perhaps.” Tom said softly. “Here,” he took the delicate chain out of my fingers and knelt behind me on the bed to hang the pendant around my neck. Then, he helped me up and guided me to the mirror. I stared at my reflection; I looked even more pale than usual, but it only made the blue of the sapphire stand out more. I raised my eyes to look at Tom’s reflection as he stood behind me. “It suits you perfectly.” He said in a self-satisfied way. I felt that he wanted to add, ‘As I knew it would’.
I shook my head. I didn’t think I’d ever understand him. I looked down at the diamond serpent. “Why the snake?” I asked.
He smirked slightly. “That is my mark.” I shivered a little at the power in his voice. I wasn’t sure how I felt about being marked by him. At least his wasn’t permanent; I could take it off if I wanted to. And I had to admit, I loved the way it shimmered in the light, and if it helped me to control my gift and avoid an overload like the one in Grindelwald’s dungeon, I would wear it day and night.
“Thank you Tom,” I whispered, dropping my gaze to the floor.
“Hmmm,” he muttered indistinctly and I couldn’t help but smile. Did the boy not know how to say ‘You’re welcome’? He truly was the most emotionally awkward person I had ever met. He sighed again and I glanced up at his reflection. He seemed to be having an intense internal battle. Then, to my complete and utter astonishment, he muttered, “I’m sorry.”
I was so shocked that I almost had to ask him to repeat himself – but then I reflected that it was quite a feat to get Tom Riddle to apologize once, let alone twice in a row. I stared at him as he raised his cerulean eyes to meet mine. We watched each other warily for several long moments – and then Tom cleared his throat. “We should get back to Hogwarts.”
“Yes,” I said immediately, glad for the distraction.
He looked down at me for another long moment, then draped my robe around my shoulders and led me back outside.
We arrived back at Hogwarts and made our way up the sloping lawns to the massive front doors. After letting ourselves quietly into the castle, we realised how late it was; it was past even Tom’s curfew. Consequently, we crept very cautiously through the hallways and passages on our way to the Head Dorm, but luckily we made it there without being discovered.
We changed into pyjamas and got into bed in awkward silence, but I was still so tired and weak from having my blood sucked that I barely noticed. Once under the covers, I turned my back to him and promptly fell asleep.
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