I could hear the waves crashing outside of my window, pounding rhythmically against the rocks not far below my house. If I wanted to, I could have gone down to the sea and dove into the salty waves, but I was perfectly content where I was.
I lay on my canopied bed, Nagini curled up beside me. I absentmindedly stroked her smooth head as I read.
One becomes an Animagus not through heredity, but by learning and skill. The process is completed only by the most powerful witches and wizards, and is very dangerous to attempt, as it can go horribly wrong. If successful, one will then possess the power to transform into one animal at will, without a wand. This skill is often considered the pinnacle of Transfiguration magic and prowess.
I had already read through the book Dumbledore had given me many times, but the part about Animagi was still my favorite. Obviously, I had learned about dozens of new spells that I was itching to try out, but nothing was quite as fascinating as this page. I liked to read it over and over, imagining what animal I would become. I had long since decided that I’d start trying once I got back to school. If it was the “pinnacle of Transfiguration,” then I wanted to do it.
“Oh, what time is it, Nagini?” I asked, tossing the book to the end of the bed. “Grandpa should be here by now.”
Nagini looked at me blankly.
“You’re no help,” I told her, hauling myself off the bed and padding over to my dresser. The mirror above it lit up, as if a ring of candles had been placed around it. I glanced at the clock next to it to see it was a bit past six. Grandpa would be here any minute.
My mother had been home for only a day before she set off again, hugging me close and saying that this year, she’d try to make it back for Christmas. I wasn’t holding my breath. I spent the first few weeks of my summer pouring over my book, trying to learn Parseltongue on my own with Nagini, and lazing around the house alone.
Nana was always here, but she often had things to do and I no longer needed to be cared for every second as I required as a child. The maids were no fun at all, they whisked about the house like shadows, giving me shocked and frightened looks if I so much as spoke to them.
All in all it was quite lonely at my big sea house, but I couldn’t complain. I thought of Tom a lot, and how much better the summer would be even with his silent company. I had sent him a few letters, but there wasn’t much to talk about, seeing as I couldn’t do magic and I wasn’t planning on telling him I wanted to become an Animagus. I didn’t want him to steal my idea.
Anyway, one of the few sources of entertainment over the summer was getting visits from my Grandpa. My only living grandparent, and my only living muggle relative, he would drive his car up to our house and endlessly fascinate me with his funny muggle inventions and habits.
He’d take me to the beach and tell me stories, we’d go out to eat at little muggle restaurants where the food took forever, but best of all, he’d take me to the movies. I saw him much more than I ever saw either one of my parents, and loved him that much more. I couldn’t help it.
I caught a reflection of myself wearing my muggle clothes in the mirror. Rita Hayworth beamed down at me from a black and white photo above the dresser; she was my favorite actress in the world, and I wanted to be just like her. It was such a pity she was a muggle and her picture couldn’t move.
I heard the doorbell and galloped downstairs to open it.
“Grandpa!” I said happily, “I thought you’d forgotten about me!”
“How could I forget about my favorite granddaughter?” he asked, his crinkly face splitting into a smile.
“I’m you only granddaughter,” I said, rolling my eyes and slipping my shoes on. “Where are we going?”
“How about down to the dock for seafood?”
I nodded vigorously, shutting the door behind me and stepping out into the warm night air.
I enjoy your letters—they remind me that I hadn’t just imagined Hogwarts and everything that happened last year. It’s just how I remember it here, the stupid muggles running around, always so loud. They look at me like I’m crazy, more now than ever. I try to do my homework when they aren’t looking, and it’s hard not to curse them all… they have no idea who I am and wouldn’t even understand if I told them. If it weren’t for the rule against magic outside of school, I’d have them all bumping into each other with their legs dancing underneath them and falling every which way because I’ve glued their feet together.
I’ve told Mrs. Cole that I have to collect my school things on the 31st of August. Come with me.
I can only imagine things are going better for you, whatever you’re doing, than they are going for me.
My elation at finally receiving back a letter from Tom faltered slightly. If I was to believe this, he was completely miserable and there was nothing I can do about it. He had said nothing about me visiting, and last time I had seen him, he’d made it very clear that wasn’t an option.
But he had written back, that was the important thing. And he had asked (demanded actually) that I come with him to buy his school things. I toyed with the idea of sending him back a letter asking that he say please, but I decided against it.
The entire summer went like this. For every three letters I’d write him, I was lucky if I got one in return. They were all the same anyway, saying that there was nothing new to report around the orphanage.
I told Tom how Nagini had grown a few inches, and we were beginning to understand each other better through crude sign language on my part and Nagini’s tongue flickering. I told him how the house was empty and I had nothing to do all day, but didn’t mention anything about my parents. I knew that no matter how few times I got to see my parents, it’d still be more than Tom saw his.
My father stopped by one night in early August, barely having enough time to hug me and speak a few swift words to Nana before he disapparated. I shouldn’t have expected that he’d want to stay for more than ten minutes.
I felt like a prisoner all August now that I knew what was waiting for me on the 31st. I’d get to go back to Diagon Alley and prepare for school, use magic again, and see Tom.
August 31st, 1939
“Nana, I swear,” I said through gritted teeth. “Tom’s mother is coming with us.”
My nanny of twelve years scrutinized me wearily. “If you’re lying to me and I find out you were running about in Diagon Alley all by yourself…”
“I wouldn’t! Trust me.”
“Maybe I should wait and meet this woman…”
“You’re going to be late; you can’t miss your appointment at St. Mungo’s! You need to get better from that cough,” I said, shooing her away. “I’ll be okay. You’ve raised me well.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle. “Alright, Anne. Be careful!”
Finally, she hugged me tight and disappeared in the crowds. I looked around. I was completely alone, and I had a half an hour before I had said I’d meet Tom at Flourish and Blotts. I slung my bag, which was full and clinking with gold coins, over my shoulder and headed off toward Ollivanders. I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing the rather creepy man who had sold me my wand, but it was looking rather dull, and I decided I wanted it cleaned.
The door jangled merrily as I opened it up, and I had only a split second to gather in the shop before a shower of sparks whizzed by me, missing my cheek by inches.
“What the he—”
“Ahh, dear, I do apologize,” Mr. Ollivander called to me from behind his counter. “Mending a wand is a tricky business…”
He looked fondly at the wand that had just shot sparks at me. “But I do believe its back in working order! Mr. McGill…”
A sandy haired boy about my age reached out for the wand. After examining it for a moment, his face split into a slightly lopsided grin. A rather cute smile, but that was irrelevant.
“Thanks, I thought I was done for!”
“You were lucky, most broken wands are past repair…”
“Thanks again, Mr. Ollivander,” the boy said, his accent unmistakably Scottish. He spun around and crashed right into me in his excitement. I nearly dropped Nagini’s cage, and she hissed angrily.
“Excuse me,” I said coolly, throwing him my best look of annoyance.
The boy didn’t seem abashed. “Oh, sorry, ah…I don’t know your name.”
“Anne. Anne Harley.”
“Nice to meet ya, Annie,” he said, sticking his hand out. “I’m Joey McGill, I think I’ve seen you around Hogwarts…?”
I pursed my lips. “It’s Anne. And yes, I’m a second year. Slytherin.”
I added the last part and waited for the cringe that people usually experienced when told my house. It didn’t come. He simply nodded and said, “I’m in Ravenclaw myself, but second year as well.”
“Sorry about the sparks too,” he said, blue eyes glittering with laughter.
“It’s alright…what was wrong with your wand anyways?”
“My dog got a hold of it. Poor mutt couldn’t eat right for days.”
“Oh,” I said again, but this time I giggled. He looked thrilled.
“I’ve got to go, my Dad’s waiting, but I hope I see you on the train or something…” he trailed off rather hopefully.
I couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. “Bye.”
I watched him go, then turned back to the counter Ollivander was standing behind. “Hello, Mr. Ollivander, I was just wondering if you had any wand polishing kits, mine’s getting a little dirty…”
“Miss Anne Harley,” he said, those odd colorless eyes studying my face. “May I see your wand?”
I pulled it out and handed it to him.
“Ahh yes…rosewood and dragon heartstring, a most unusual combination…beautiful and dark, yet possessing a powerful core. The heartstring of a particularly fierce Chinese Fireball, as I remember, quite dangerous…11 ½ inches, flexible…your ideal match to be sure…”
I cleared my throat to remind him I was still there. Mr. Ollivander had been cradling my wand and reminiscing as if it were his firstborn child. I wondered if all wandmakers were so strange.
“Yes, yes…polishing kit.”
I finally paid two Galleons for my polishing kit, and could barely keep myself from bounding to Flourish and Blotts. Honestly, what was the matter with me? Tom wouldn’t be interesting at all, all he had done was spend the whole summer at a Muggle orphanage, why was I so eager to see him?
I forced myself to walk at a leisurely pace, looking around at the colorful venders, pretending to be nonchalant incase he saw me. I didn’t want him thinking I couldn’t wait to see him.
I reached the store and didn’t see him, so I poked around aimlessly; waving to a few of my classmates I saw picking up their newest books. I sat down in one of the squashy armchairs by the fire to wait. I picked up the newspaper next to me.
Grindelwald takes Poland, continues through Europe
I frowned, the name jerking something in my memory. I had heard that name whispered by my parents, by my nanny…I never read the paper at home so I never knew who exactly he was. I was always forbidden to ask as well.
Naturally, I delved into the article, reading about a man named Gellert Grindelwald, and his takeover of Poland, his thousands of followers, and his horrific dark powers. I recalled my grandfather telling me that trouble was brewing in the muggle world as well, some man was trying to take over Europe.
How odd. I was examining a blurry picture of him laughing and twirling his wand, when someone behind me said: “He doesn’t look like the greatest dark wizard in Europe.”
I gasped, turning to see Tom frowning down at the Daily Prophet in my hands.
“You know it’s rude to read over people’s shoulders?” I asked, trying my best to seem as cool as he did as he swept into the seat next to me, black robes swishing behind him.
I observed him carefully. He was taller now; I had a feeling that I would never be even in height with him again as I was our first year. I was beginning to think he had grown into an adult over the summer, but he looked up and his face was the same, still beautiful and cynical and young.
“Nagini looks well,” he said, plucking her cage off the table beside me.
“She’s been very well behaved,” I managed, tossing both the paper and any thoughts of its contents aside. “I—she’s missed you though.”
Tom glanced at me for the first time since he’d appeared. “Has she?”
He smirked, but said nothing. I fidgeted slightly, forever uncomfortable with his silence.
“Let’s get our books then, shall we?”
“I’ve already bought them,” Tom said quietly, letting Nagini nudge his finger from between the bars of her cage.
“Oh…alright, well I’ll just get mine,” I said awkwardly. I rooted around the store for all the books on our second year list, as Tom studied a beautiful hardcover book called Legilimency: The art of navigating the mind.
“How much is this?” I heard him ask the shopkeeper.
“Four galleons and five knuts.”
Tom’s face darkened. He put the book down. I bit my lip, more aware than ever of the heavy bag of gold I had slung over my shoulder.
“What’s that?” I asked, scooting up behind him.
“Nothing. Forget it.”
“You want it? I can buy it, Tom, it’s no problem at all…”
He turned on me unexpectedly, such a look of disgust on his face that I actually took a step back.
“I don’t need you to buy me anything,” he said acidly. “I can take care of myself.”
“I was just offering,” I said defensively. “You don’t need to act like I was insulting you.”
He sneered. “You’re always trying to help, aren’t you?”
A disbelieving noise escaped my throat. He had gone from placid to venomous in only a couple of seconds, and I could barely gather my thoughts quick enough to get them out, let alone censor them.
“Sorry, I didn’t know it was so annoying. You know, most people would just say ‘thank you’ when someone tries to help…”
“I only want you to ‘help’ me when I tell you to! I don’t need you all the time!”
“You didn’t seem to mind having me around when I found out who your parents were for you!”
I had said the wrong thing. Tom looked, for a moment, as if he would curse me right there. It passed, and he turned on his heel and left without sparing me another glance. I stood alone in the middle of Flourish and Blotts, a few other customers looking at me curiously.
It took me a few seconds to realize what had just happened. Tom was gone, unexplainably angry at me. Angry at me for being too helpful? What was the matter with him? Why did he have such a complex about being so independent all the time? So much for a reunion with a friend.
I started to leave, but turned slowly back around, picking up the stupid book that had caused our fight. I glared at it, and then stacked it on top of the other books I had collected. He could watch me reading it later and be sorry he had yelled at me.
I met Marcella and Rachel later that day, and we ate ice cream, picked up potions supplies at the apothecary, and poked around the Magical Menagerie. I listened to them coo over the snowy owls and cats; I made sure to glare at every snake I saw. They giggled over the boys in Quality Quidditch Supplies, and I tried my best to look interested too.
Stupid Tom Riddle. Tom Marvolo Riddle. Good riddance, he could go back to school with no friends, for all I cared.
Marcella chided me for not writing to her over the summer—I apologized vaguely, some lie about traveling all summer. I was promptly alerted of all the gossip they’d found out only by being in Diagon Alley for a few hours. Apparently, I was really behind on the times. They told me how Druella Rosier, the Slytherin seventh year and member of the notoriously pureblood house of Rosier, was to be married as soon as she graduated.
“But she’s already going with someone else,” Marcella whispered, “Word is that she has no intentions of breaking it off. Her parents are livid.”
“That’s horrible,” I said, thinking of the mysteriously pretty girl I knew to be Druella. “Why are they making her marry someone else?”
“The boy she’s with isn’t a pureblood,” Marcella said matter-a-factly. “They’ve got to keep the family pure. They want her to marry into the Black family.”
“I suppose her parents are right though,” Rachel chimed in. “I mean, she’ll regret it later, once she’s saddled with a half-blood husband and a bunch of kids not fit for the best kind of wizardry.”
I stared at her. The fanaticism about blood coming from students never ceased to amaze me. I suppose Rachel, like so many other Slytherin’s had been taught at a young age that anything less than one hundred percent pureblood was useless. I thought of my grandfather and felt a surge of irritation at toward her and her snotty face.
Marcella shrugged. “I suppose, but it just seems so cruel to her…”
“It’s only her duty,” Rachel said dismissively. “I’d do it for my family. Here we are!”
We had arrived at Borgin & Burke’s, where Rachel proudly showed off the curious objects inside. There was everything from skulls to books to strange plants. There was even jewelry; I caught sight of a large silver locket hanging in a high up glass case in the back.
Rachel went on about how powerful some of the objects were, about her father’s connections. The sun was sinking behind the buildings before Nana showed up to get me. I said goodbye to Marcella, but I couldn’t manage more than a nod at Rachel.
I woke the next day determined not to think about him. I was going to board the train, sit with my friends, and have fun. I didn’t need some sulky loner bossing me around and snapping at me. At least, I wasn’t going to seek him out. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and no matter how much I knew I wanted to figure him out, I wasn’t about to follow him around and apologize for something stupid.
I had been on Platform 9 and ¾ for a while, laughing and chatting with everyone I even recognized, determined to convince myself that I had enough friends I didn’t need bad ones. I was just lugging my trunk onto the train when I saw the one person I didn’t want to. Tom was lurking around the back of the train, perfectly alone. I was watching him when someone bumped into me from behind.
It was Joey McGill, that foolish boy from Ollivanders. Clumsy, too.
“You’re always running into me,” I commented. I didn’t hear what Joey said in his own defense because I was too busy seeing Tom turn his head at the sound of my voice. Huh.
Making sure Tom could hear me, I looked back at Joey and asked, “Sit with me on the train?”
The boy looked as if he couldn’t believe his luck. “Y,yeah, of course! Sure thing!”
“Lovely,” I said, smiling sweetly.
Poor little Joey McGill never knew what hit him. Now I wish I’d never met him. He could have been spared a whole lot of trouble and a whole lot of pain if he had never met me. But the truth was, I was selfish, and I found I liked him. He was funny and sweet and he made me forget about Tom Riddle.
He would always be there when I needed to forget about Tom Riddle.
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