Chapter 9 : Growing Up
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I glared at the Hogwarts Express, willing it to vanish into thin air or start off down the rail again. Unfortunately, I was not so adept at wandless magic that I could make gigantic trains disappear at will. It remained resolutely there, bright red and spewing steam. I sighed, succumbing to the fact that I was going to have to board it.
I was more reluctant to leave Hogwarts this summer than I had been the previous year. I had had more fun my second year than I had ever had in my life.
I was learning all sorts of magic, and the more I learned in class, the more I wanted to know. Who would have thought school would be so fun? Tom and I pulled books from the library and found new spells to try, ones that were better and more difficult than the ones in class. We’d sit in the common room and try them out, making objects swell to twice their normal size, or shooting them across the room like rockets.
Oftentimes we’d have to test the spells on each other, which resulted in a few awkward trips to the hospital wing for the both of us. I expect Tom will never let me live down the time he produced such a good freezing charm that my hand wouldn’t move for days. I had to have Madam Bellhurst thaw it out for me, Tom howling with laughter at my side.
If I ever tore myself away from Tom and our magical exploits deep in the dungeons, there was often another friend waiting for me. Marcella would never let me down if I was ever in a girly mood; we’d sit up in our dormitory and paint our nails, set our hair up in elaborate curls, or gossip about the upperclassmen and their dating habits. Occasionally Rachel would join us, adding her haughty, yet satisfyingly sardonic voice to our discussions. Bess would tag along, relying on her flattering to keep her in good graces.
Joey grew on me to the point I wished he could come back home with me over the summer. If only he was my twin brother, and could supply some company at my house with his loud, Scottish voice and his endearing inquisitiveness. I would have liked to bring him with me, but alas, he had his own parents waiting to see him, and couldn’t just be hauled away to my seaside mansion.
“You gonna join us, Annie, or are you gonna sit with that mute all the way home?”
Speak of the devil. Joey’s voice shook me back to the present, and I focused on his freckly face.
“It’s Anne,” I corrected automatically. “And don’t call him that, he has a name.”
Joey rolled his eyes. “Tom then.”
“I already told him I would,” I said. Okay, so it wasn’t true. I hadn’t technically had a conversation with him about it, but I just assumed I would be sitting with Tom, or “the mute” as Joey so kindly referred to him.
“You’re gonna miss out on a good time,” Joey said temptingly, hauling his suitcase up onto the train in front of me. “I’m the reigning Ravenclaw exploding Snap champion, and we’re going to have a last tournament.”
“Sorry,” I said, gracing him with a pretty pout. “I wish you the best of luck though. I’m sure you will continue your reign.”
“Sure will,” he said, winking.
He really is an idiot, I thought, though smiling to myself.
He opened the door to his compartment, revealing a few Ravenclaws I had vaguely come to know. I felt a funny pang that I really was going to miss out, but I shook it away. Joey rounded on me.
“I’ll see you at King’s, you better not leave without saying goodbye!”
“I won’t!” I promised. “See you.”
I found Tom in one of the back train compartments, surrounded by both Nagini and a dozen large bubbles that were floating lazily around his head. I shut the door behind me and pulled out my wand. Instead of popping, the bubble I poked simply bounced off the tip of my wand, flying happily away.
“Very nice,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “How’d you manage to make them unbreakable but still so flexible?”
Tom smiled. “The softening charm has to be applied almost simultaneously.”
“Mmm,” I hummed my understanding and took a seat across from him. The more Tom and I had learned this year, the easier it became to be with him. He was more at home learning and discovering than doing anything else. He thrived on conquering new and difficult magic, and enjoyed even more showing off his wisdom. It seemed nothing in the world gave him more pleasure than mastering a spell and occasionally watching me beg him to tell share the secret.
At first it infuriated me, but as of late, I found I didn’t mind much. It wasn’t often that I was far behind him in accomplishments…always a bit slower, but not by much. I liked it this way anyway, because Tom would slip into a foul mood if I was ever better than him at anything, so I preferred being a tad less skillful to his moodiness.
It was quite simple; as long as Tom was successful, entertained, and better than I was, he was in a good mood. Needless to say, I liked his good moods. I only wanted to be with him, indulge in the strange allure of being with someone I didn’t look down upon; or on the contrary, might actually admire.
“Nagini!” I laughed, watching her attempt to puncture one of Tom’s enchanted bubbles with her fangs. She succeeded only in making the bubble ricochet into the window and bounce back at her, consuming her acid green body so she was now floating around inside of it.
The train started off into the countryside, and Tom and I watched Nagini hover around the compartment, twisting around inside her bubble prison. Tom eventually waved his wand in one great, sweeping motion and the bubbles disappeared, Nagini gliding safely back to the seat beside him.
I bought a Daily Prophet from the trolley and spread it out on my knees.
“Grindelwald is in Germany,” I said, glancing up at Tom.
Tom scoffed. He didn’t seem to think much of Grindelwald. Apparently the man who was being deemed the most dangerous dark wizard of all time was no match for Tom Riddle, precocious second year.
“He’s killed their minister,” I said, becoming increasingly alarmed. “Bloody hell.”
“What for?” Tom asked, reluctantly switching his seat to sit beside me, craning his neck to read the article.
“Why? What’s the point?”
“He sounds pretty mad, I don’t think he needs a point,” I said, frowning. I looked down at the picture of the wizard himself, in which he was clearly blasting the photographer with a spell—he repeatedly turned and pointed his wand, a black and white flash filling the little square of the newspaper.
“That’s odd.” I pointed at Grindelwald’s chest. For a split second before he shot his curse, a symbol was visible, as though hanging from a necklace.
“What?” Tom sounded annoyed.
“There. What’s he wearing jewelry for?” I started laughing, amusing myself for a moment as I imagined Grindelwald sitting at home, trying on different rings and necklaces.
Tom, however, didn’t laugh. “I’ve seen that before.”
“I can’t remember…some book,” he yawned, signaling that he was already bored with our topic of conversation.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the golden fields of Britain pass us by outside the window.
“I suppose there’s still no chance of you coming to see me over the summer,” I said, letting my bottom lip pout ever so slightly. “I can only imagine you get so bored, and I would hate for you to have nowhere to go…”
“I don’t need you looking after me,” Tom said, the warning creeping into his voice.
I heaved a sigh. “You know, you don’t need to be so lonely all the time. I know most people are idiots and I really don’t blame you for not wanting anything to do with most of them. But I’m on your side, in case you haven’t noticed.”
Tom looked as though he was going to snap at me, but suddenly, his face fell into an odd, dreamy expression. He looked at me, frowned in thought, and even glanced at the discarded paper once, watching Grindelwald whirl around again and again.
“Brilliant,” he whispered.
“I’ve been told I am,” I said, taken aback. “But would you mind telling me what you’re on about?”
He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, momentarily distracting me by looking insufferably adorable and tousled.
“Go get Nott for me,” he said eventually, looking up at me.
“Nott. The beater.”
“Wh, why?” I asked, staring in bewilderment. “That git almost killed Nagini!”
“Go get him!” Tom snapped. I didn’t take very kindly to being ordered around, but out of pure, bitter curiosity, I vacated my seat and left the compartment. I wasn’t a bloody dog, who did Tom Riddle think he was, ordering me about on errands?
I awkwardly passed by a few compartments before I glimpsed Nott sitting with some third and fourth year friends. I opened the compartment door and endured the inquisitive stares of him and his friends.
“Er…Nott, could you come here for a moment?”
He looked bewildered. “Me?”
No, idiot, the other three boys in this compartment with your last name.
“Yes, you. Alone.”
His friends broke the silence by guffawing and performing very sorry impersonations of wolf whistles. I shot them a death glare that effectively silenced them. Nott threw a nervous grin around and rose without another word. I should have expected it; it probably wasn’t every day that an even relatively attractive girl asked to speak to him alone.
Rolling my eyes, I led him down the hall to Tom and mine’s compartment. Nott stopped dead.
“What’s he doing here?”
“Tom wanted to talk to you,” I said sweetly, nudging him into the compartment and closing the door behind us.
“Anne, I need to talk to Nott alone,” Tom said, businesslike.
My jaw dropped at the injustice. “Wha—?
His eyes flashed. “Later.”
I took deep breath, glared at him once more and wrenched open the door, leaving them alone.
I prowled around the train until finally, Nott emerged about ten minutes later. He looked strangely smug, and even had the nerve to throw me a condescending look as he set off back toward his friends. I vaulted myself back into the compartment, fully intending to strangle Tom if he didn’t tell me anything.
He didn’t. All I got that day was vague, would-be comforts and an exceedingly cheerful Tom as we pulled into King’s Cross.
Clearly I know now what that little meeting must have been about, but it disturbs me to this day how early on Tom was thinking of what he was.
I had been the first. Nott was soon to become Tom’s second “friend.”
“Grandpa, that was positively the best movie we’ve ever been to see,” I said happily, twirling on the spot under the muggle lights of London, lit in the early hours of the night after the showing of Gone with the Wind. “Scarlett was so brave and smart, and she was so beautiful all the while!”
Grandpa laughed, leading me over to our favorite ice cream parlor. “I thought of you the first time I saw it. She reminded me of you.”
“Ohhh, really?” I glowed, skipping up to the window to order a sundae. No matter how old I got, I always felt five again with Grandpa. He would treat me like a child by buying me everything and laying praise thick, but I still lapped it up like the spoiled little girl who never really escaped me.
“Of course, Anne. The report card you showed me was terrific, and you’re just as beautiful as Scarlett O’Hara.”
He handed me a mound of ice cream with chocolate and a cherry on top. I took it and immediately dug into it, making him laugh.
“And that color changing lamp you got me is sitting right in the living room,” he said, sitting beside me. I snorted, recalling his face as I showed him the enchanted lamp that changed color on command. “Of course, I’ll have to keep it normal when my ‘Muggle’ guests come to call…”
“Aw, Grandpa,” I laughed; he always sounded so funny saying that word, that word that the wizard world had branded him with.”I’m glad you actually like it, I thought it was a bit annoying, I wasn’t sure…”
“It’s brilliant,” he said reassuringly. “And luckily, I have something for you too.”
We went back home and he pulled a big, cardboard box from his funny little “car.”
“I know you’re allowed to have pets at school, so…I hope you like her,” he said, opening the top of the box. I peered down to see a black kitten, peering up at me with inquisitive eyes.
“She’s so cute,” I squealed, scooping her up, hearing her soft mew of surprise. “Thank you! I love her!”
“What will you be naming her?” Grandpa asked.
I paused for a moment. “Scarlett, of course.”
I watched my grandfather howl with laughter. “She isn’t red!”
“I don’t care!” I said, pressing her to my chest. “I’m naming her Scarlett, because I want her to be named after someone so beautiful and powerful.”
“Powerful?” he asked, the laughter slowly fading from his face. It was quickly replaced with a cynical smile. “You are so like your mother, Anne. Just remember that Scarlett’s need for power was her eventual downfall.”
“Mhmm,” I hummed, not really listening; I was busy scratching the side of the box and watching the kitten jump up and try to attack my finger with her little claws.
I wish I’d listened to him. It was the last time I ever saw him.
The last week of August before school was scorching, slow, and restless. I had to constantly keep Scarlett away from Nagini, since they weren’t naturally inclined to each other, and I didn’t have Tom to call Nagini off. I had Marcella over for a bit one day, and we swam in the ocean, talking the whole time about how excited we were to get back to school, especially since we were third years now. We could go to Hogsmeade and take advanced classes now; we were officially not the lowest on the food chain anymore.
We were growing up, and it couldn’t happen fast enough.
The days were torturous after that, but I survived, knowing I would be back at school and surrounded by magic so soon.
Finally, finally, it was September 1st, and I had managed to shake off Nana and go about Diagon Alley with the girls. We bought all our new books and flipped through them while we ate at the leaky Cauldron, either complaining about the difficult looking illustrations or, in my case, pointing out how fascinating Arithmancy was sure to be, or how much fun we were likely to have in Divination.
“It looks dreadful,” Marcella countered, pointing her wand at a complicated looking map of the solar system. “What if I fail all of these subjects? Can we drop them?”
Rachel and I laughed, while Bess looked apprehensive.
“Come on, it can’t be that hard, students have been getting through it for years, and no one’s died yet,” I said, nudging Marcella’s shoulder.
“If I fail Care of magical Creatures, my Dad will murder me,” Bess said, biting a nail and shaking her dull brown hair away from her face. Her father was a dragon keeper, and had forced her to take the class in the first place.
“It’s impossible to fail that class,” Rachel snorted, shoveling some more mashed potatoes into her mouth. “Have you seen the people who get out of that class with O.W.L.S.? It’s a joke.”
“Still…” Bess looked weary.
“Go take Muggle Studies if you want an easy class then,” Rachel snapped, wrinkling her freckled nose.
Bess gasped. “That’s not fair, that’s not what I said!”
She looked highly offended. Needless to say, none of them had opted to take the Muggle centered class. I would eat my own hand if anyone in Slytherin had even considered it besides me. I had ended up opting against it, knowing that I would never live it down. Besides, I already knew about Muggles.
“I certainly hope not,” Rachel said. “Merlin only knows who would want to waste their time learning how those filthy savages live, eh?”
I pursed my lips. “Shall we move on then?”
We set off down the street and stopped in Gambol & Japes joke shop, distracted by the fireworks whizzing around the front of the store. As we were milling around, looking at various trouble-making aids and joke equipment, I was seized around the waist by a rather strong grip.
I started to scream, but the person turned me around and I was face to face with Joey McGill, sparkling blue eyes, mischievous grin and all.
“Joey!” I said, throwing my arms around him and laughing. “I thought you were trying to kidnap me!”
“Nah, I’m no criminal, Harley,” he said, easily encompassing me into a warm bear hug. A funny little chill traveled down my spine, but I barely noticed. Joey had held up a bulging bag of stuff he had already purchased. “Yet,” he added thoughtfully.
I punched him in the arm, and we spent a few minutes trading stories about summer and talking about which classes we were taking this year.
“Divination’s bound to be an adventure,” Joey said, “You know, crystal balls and all that. We’ll have fun.”
“Maybe if I don’t end up predicting your death or something.”
“Not if I can read your fate in the stars first,” he challenged.
“You’re on,” I said, tossing what was labeled as an exploding confetti ball in his direction.
He dodged it easily, and it exploded into a shower of glitter behind him. “You’re done. I’m gonna show you what being a real seer is all about.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” I said smugly. “For your sake though, we won’t put money on this one.”
I didn’t see Tom all day, and I was nearly onto the Hogwart’s Express when I first saw him. Robes still ragged, trunk still small, he was still the same Tom as last year.
I didn’t ask how his summer was, because I knew the answer already.
“Excited?” I asked simply.
“Always,” he replied, the ghost of a smirk flitting across his face before he climbed onto the train. I didn’t follow immediately, and he turned, raising an eyebrow.
Always, I thought. I nodded and followed him up the stairs.
Life was good, and for one week of my third year, I thought it might be as happy and carefree as my second had been. But no, no…Nana had to show up on that lazy Sunday night. She had to come and ruin my fantasy by sobbing and telling me that she was so, so sorry. She just had to inform me that yesterday, my dear, only Grandfather was killed in a Nazi bombing.
Nana just had to show up and say that the only person I loved besides her had just been destroyed in a hail of blood and metal, dying alone in the bleak Muggle world of war, where those stupid people insisted on destroying themselves.
If it weren’t for their stupid little war, I would still have my grandpa. If it weren’t for their Muggle ambitions and weapons of metal and fire…
I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know what else to do. No consoling words or empty promises could make me feel better.
I hated them. I wanted revenge.
A/N Hi everyone! Thank you for reading this far, I hope that means you like it. If you've got time I'd love to hear what you think, any constructive criticism you have, or just any crazy thoughts you might have on the story :) It brightens my day when I see someone reviewed, and I really appreciate it.
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