Chapter 1 : Wings
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Thank you to the wonderful Rachel, for all her help, and to George, for acting as a wall for me to bounce ideas off. Thank you so much, both of you!
You hurry along the corridor; books nestled in the crook of your elbow. The heels of your boots click against the flagstones, and your bun bobs up and down in time with your footsteps.
You have no destination, yet your pace does not slow. Sometimes, you walk for the sake of walking.
The toe of your shoe catches on the edge of a flagstone, and you find yourself tumbling towards the ground. Your books spill from your arms, and your quills scatter themselves across the stones. You curse inwardly, gathering up the objects closest to you.
“You’re not the first girl to fall at my feet, you know.” It is a voice you do not recognise. Your blazing eyes snap up to meet the arrogant, handsome face of a young boy. You know him by face, if not by name. You are convinced you already dislike him.
“Tom Riddle,” he says, offering you his hand. You shake it against your will.
“Minerva,” you reply. He nods curtly, and begins picking up your books and parchment as well. Defying all reason, his aiding you annoys you. When he returns your objects to you, you say nothing to him.
“Do you have anywhere you need to be?” he asks, a delicate smile curving the corners of his lips.
“Yes,” is your clipped, untruthful reply. You gather up your books once more, and sigh. It would be childish not to thank him. “But not right away.”
He engages you in a conversation about the literary merit of Frieda Dearborn as you walk. He makes a point which you disagree with, and despite yourself, you find you actually enjoy conversing with him. You imagine it to be a verbal jousting match, and at the end, you fancy that you have won. You can’t help but realise why some of your friends fancy themselves in love with him.
“I guess you win,” he laughs as you make a point you're proud of. His voice is laced with charm.
Somehow, winning against Tom Riddle is sweeter than you could have guessed.
You amble between the rows of books, occasionally sliding out one which catches your eye. The scent of paper clings to your fingers, and reminds you of the paper angels you used to make at Christmas. It makes you long for home.
Your fingers meet the cracked leather spine of ‘Hogwarts: A History’. You have missed the library, and you wonder why you have kept away. You have formed no conscious decision against it, yet you have not set foot in here for months.
You head over to the table you usually commandeer, only to find it taken. Even if he was turned away from you, you would have no trouble guessing who it is.
“Tom,” you say. You have not sought out his company, yet here he is. Perhaps it is fate, although you do not believe in such things.
“Minerva,” he says, and you hope he is pleased to see you. You are not sure if you are pleased to see him. Your hand inches towards your bun, scraped back from your head in its usual style. You have never been one for change.
He notices. “You should wear your hair down,” he tells you. You doubt you will ever do so. You are not sure it would suit you, and anyway, you have worn your hair in buns for years.
“How have you been?” you ask him. As if shaken from a reverie, he gestures to the chair opposite.
“I’ve been well,” he says.
“What are you reading?” you ask, gesturing to the thick tome he holds before him. The title is printed in faint gold ink, which you cannot read.
“A History of Muggle Wars,’ he says. Your brow furrows in confusion.
“Why?” you ask. You cannot quite see the point of reading about this subject. You are surprised at Tom’s desire to. You would certainly never have guessed it. You know all too well the disdain he holds for muggles.
“There’s something so fascinating about their wars,” he says. “I want to find out what could drive men to such lengths.” Something in his voice is chills you to the bone.
“And did you?” you ask. You are not sure you want to know at all.
“Yes,” he says. You wait for elaboration. Eventually, he murmurs, “It’s surprisingly easy to understand”. His voice lets you know the conversation is over. You flee the library. Somehow, even his very presence leaves you feeling like all the joy is bleeding from your life. Tom does not even acknowledge you leaving.
This is the way it’s meant to be, after all.
“What are you doing?” he asks, his voice dripping with amusement. You stay focused on your task, your fingers deftly folding the paper. You will not give him the satisfaction of distracting you. He repeats his question, his voice coloured with annoyance. He knows perfectly well, perhaps even better than yourself, the game you are playing.
He does not like the fact that he is losing.
“Folding paper,” you say petulantly, and you feel sickened by yourself. You should know better than to indulge in your stupid game. But to win… there is no sweeter taste.
“I can see that,” he snarls. “What are you making?”
“An angel,” you say, and you see him smile.
“An angel?” he asks incredulously. “Why Minerva, I’d never have expected that of you.” Each of his words is measured, designed to cause as much damage as possible.
“You don’t know me then,” you say. You know this is not true, for he knows everything about you. For all you know of him, he may well be a stranger.
“I think I do,” he says
You ignore him, your brow furrowing with concentration. He sighs, tiring of the game. He drifts away, and you cannot admit to feeling loss at his leaving.
The angel begins to take place before you. Your fingers move swiftly over the fragile surface, teasing every nuance into place. At last it stands before you, its wings spreading behind it as if it is about to take flight.
There is something so tragic about an angel with paper wings. A paper angel cannot fly.
Freedom, glorious freedom is finally yours, after months of being chained to your desk. It tastes sweeter than you had dared imagine. You tuck your legs underneath you and watch the countryside glide past your window.
“It feels so good to be free,” you say to the boy opposite you. Fate, if there is such a thing, has thrown you together once more. You had resolved not to be the one to break the silence, but once again you have cracked. You can see him smirk as he counts it as a point against you.
“I’m sure it does,” he says.
The silence once again grows between you. This time, he shatters it.
“What are your plans for the future?”
“I’d like to teach,” you say, although the truth is you are clueless. You would rather see where life takes you. You would rather not be tied to anything set in stone.
“So would I,” he says. For all his flaws, you cannot deny Tom would excel at teaching. He has always been keen to impart his knowledge. You wonder whether you’d be scared of him, if he taught you. Deep down, you know he would terrify you.
“I hope we can do it together,” you say. A lie which came from nowhere. He sees right through it, as he always does.
He nods, his eyes flickering to the window. He is reading ‘A History of Muggle Wars’ again. It sticks out of his leather satchel. You had forgotten his obsession with war. You pull a book from your case, turning to a page at random. When you next look up, he has gone. It is too much to hope he has left for good.
You are glad to be rid of him. Nothing about him compels you to be around him, and to be in his presence only causes you pain.
Maybe it has always been so. He deceived you once, that is certain. Maybe you were just to blinded by- blinded by what? It certainly was not love.
Well, he will not deceive you anymore. Not while blood still races through your body and breath pours from your lips.
You will not let him.
The river slithers through the forest, the water gliding over fragmented rocks. If your boots were not so tightly laced, you might have paddled in it. Instead, you hover on the bank, deftly skimming stones across the surface.
You turn around, coming face to face with him for the first time in years. Your fingers inch towards your plait, winding the end around your fingers. It is something you had told yourself not to do, but around him you feel yourself slipping back into old habits.
“Tom,” you say, working to keep the fear from permeating your voice. “It’s been so long.” He nods, for it has been so long, although not long enough for you. His hair has grown, and around his neck he wears a paper angel on a fragile silver chain. Your paper angel. You wonder what it means, if it even means anything at all. You certainly do not remember giving it to him.
Something has subtly shifted in his face. He looks older, and somehow more terrible. His eyes have changed, and for some reason, this saddens you. Something about him chills you to the bone, and you wish to be back at the house.
“What are you doing here?”
“I had an interview for the Defence Against the Dark Arts job,” he says, a joyless smile gracing his lips.
“No,” he says, and despite everything you feel your heart sink for him. You know how much this must mean to him, and to have lost it must be a terrible blow.
“Oh Tom,” you say. “I’m terribly sorry.” He waves away your words, as if they do not matter. Perhaps they don’t.
“What are you here for?” he asks you.
“I’ve been ill,” you say. “My mother wished me to go to the seaside, but I told her I’d rather come here. My aunt lives over the hill.”
“Will you teach?” he asks delicately, and with a sinking heart you realise he already knows. No point in concealing the truth, for he will always draw it from you.
“Yes. I…. I’m going to teach Transfiguration at Hogwarts,” you say. A shadow fleetingly crosses his face, tainted by anger and pain. You didn’t know marble could feel pain.
“Tom!” you shout, as he storms away. Why you follow him, you have no idea.
“Tom,” you say, softer now. You are weak, so weak, and your voice quavers. You stumble towards him, the edge of your boots catching on errant pebbles. You hate that, after all you told yourself, he still has power over you. You are disgusted at yourself.
“Don’t!” he shouts, his fingers closing around the paper angel. A crumpled wing protrudes from his clenched fist.
“Tom, what happened to you?” you ask, reaching out a slender hand towards his face. He slaps it away, his face contorting in rage.
“I said don’t,” he hisses, spinning on his heel. Like the fool you are, you follow him once more. He will not stop for you.
Your boot once again catches on a stray rock, and you fall with a strangled cry. Seemingly against his will, he turns and towers over you. His marble face delights at your pain, at your finally losing. You are the weaker one, something he knew all along.
The game is over.
“I win,” he whispers, and a crushed paper angel floats softly, softly down towards you.
A/N Thanks for reading! This is far from being my best work, but would still love to hear any thoughts or comments you have.