Chapter 21 : His Only Heir
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The train pulled away from King’s Cross, and I had never been more excited to start the year. I don’t know if I was imagining it, but it seemed everyone had gotten a lot older this year. Marcella had chopped her blonde locks into a stylish bob like I had considered, and it suited her well, framing her bubbly face. Bess had slimmed out a bit and apparently learned a few makeup tricks to make her plain face, well, a little less plain.
Rachel was Rachel, her fox face as freckled as ever and her hazel eyes envious. The four of us had gotten a compartment and I was dying to be with Tom, but there seemed to be no way I could escape without Joey seeing me.
I didn’t need to cause any problems for him in public, so I stayed put.
“I don’t think those are quite within the dress code, Anne,” Rachel said, pointing at my heels, which were propped up on the seat across from me.
“Oh, you’re no fun at all,” I told her, reluctantly removing my feet for her to sit down. “Don’t tell me you’ve made prefect.”
Rachel smiled coolly. “No, but now that Brian Fentley’s gone, we’ll need a new house prat, won’t we?”
“My vote is for John,” Marcella said irritably, plopping down next to me. “He’s so impossible.”
“What’s wrong with you and Avery?” I asked, since I had been unaware they had ever so much as looked at each other with less than puppy eyes.
“He spends all his time with his stupid friends,” Marcella said. “All he ever does is sit with them, hang out with them…and then when we’re together all he does is talk about them!”
“Them?” I asked, already knowing what her answer would be.
“Them, them! Lestrange and Nott and Riddle! All I ever hear about is how brilliant bloody Tom Riddle is. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear John is queer over him!”
“Cella!” I scolded, but Rachel just cackled.
“Who could blame him? Tom Riddle is gorgeous,” she announced. “I shall die if I can’t have him!”
I thought privately that I would prepare the casket quite cheerfully.
“He’s perfect,” Bess agreed, sighing. “But isn’t he terribly strange, Anne? You’ve been friends with him forever.”
“Terribly strange,” I said, nodding gravely. “He would make a terrible boyfriend.”
“I don’t care,” Rachel said, staring off somewhere, probably imagining all sorts of sickening scenarios involving Tom falling in love with her. Tramp.
“He’s never said anything about wanting a girlfriend either,” I said, more pointedly this time. Rachel glared at me for a split second before pasting an utterly fake smile onto her face.
“Just because he didn’t tell you, Anne,” she said lightly, trailing off suggestively. It took all my self control not to smack her smug face.
Marcella broke a tense moment of silence by wondering aloud if she should dump Avery just to show him he couldn’t ignore her.
“If you’re not happy, Cella, dump him,” Bess said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. I thought cruelly that she wouldn’t know the first thing about relationships. I wasn’t happy being with Joey, but I couldn’t just toss him to the curb like I didn’t care about him at all!
“You’ve gotta think about it though,” I chimed in. “I think…I think you’ve gotta consider what you’d feel like without him. If you’d be fine, then maybe you should get rid of him. But if you can’t stand being away from him…”
I trailed off, thinking of the handful of times I’ve tried to stay away from Tom. I sighed and said,
“Then you’re really meant to be together.”
That night, as I sat between Tom and Avery, I wondered if the latter was aware he was in danger of being dumped. I could see where Marcella would be annoyed; the way he looked at Tom, you’d think he was a god.
Not an inaccurate comparison, I thought, watching Tom gaze coolly around at us as Lestrange sat down, completing our five person circle of chairs. We were seated in the antechamber we had sort of adopted over the last few years as our club headquarters. A fire danced in the hearth, and there were a few books of questionable content strewn across the round table we were seated at.
Tom smiled. “I trust you’ve all had enjoyable summers?”
There were a few murmurs of ascent around the table, along with looks between us. Since when did Tom care how our summers were?
“I also trust that you’ve given some thought to what I said when we last parted.”
He looked around at all of us, a rather amused gleam in his dark eyes.
“It’s clear that you’ve all returned to me, that you believe yourselves to be ready for my latest…project. I am very glad of this, but it remains to be seen if you are worthy of such a task.”
Nott leaned forward slightly, as if eager to prove himself. Bloody prat. I didn’t know what he and Tom talked about privately, but it was pretty obvious Tom only kept the buffoon around for his intimidating size and his willingness to complete grunt work.
“I would be correct in saying that all of us here consider purity of blood of rather high importance, would I not?”
Again, murmurs of agreement. I nodded and smiled confidently, as if I were the purest pureblood witch of them all, and I didn’t know Tom’s very own father had been a Muggle.
Tom opened his mouth to speak again, but there was a clunk and the door leading to our chamber opened. Instinctively, my hand went to my wand, but it was not a teacher or a prefect at the door.
It was Abraxas Malfoy.
He looked surprised for a moment, but soon his features rearranged themselves into a sly smile.
“Oh, I seem to have interrupted a meeting…my apologies. It’s a rather confusing maze of tunnels we have down here in the dungeons, isn’t it?”
We all just stared at eachother until Malfoy squinted at our table and said, “Leo? Leo Lestrange?”
Lestrange looked bewildered for a moment until recognition crossed his surly face.
“Malfoy! You’re at Hogwarts now?”
“Just transferred this year,” Malfoy said, crossing the room to clap Lestrange on the back. “Father decided we’d keep the Slytherin legacy in the family…how’s your father?”
The two of them talked for a minute or two, clearly not having seen each other for a while. I got the impression that both of their fathers ran in some exclusive, pureblood circle of wizards that held some sort of social power in Britain.
I worried for a moment that Tom would grow irritated with the interruption, but when I looked at him, he was only sitting there as relaxed as he had been before, twirling his wand and looking at Malfoy with mild interest.
“Well it’s good to see you again,” Malfoy said, grinning at Lestrange. “I, well…I’ve clearly interrupted something.”
He let his declaration hang in the air, begging for the situation to be explained or refuted.
“If I heard correctly, you’ve transferred from Durmstrang?”
It was Tom speaking, sounding as polite as if he were having tea with Malfoy on a Sunday afternoon.
“Then you must be wonderfully educated…Durmstrang is renowned for their Dark Arts program.”
Malfoy nodded again, an eyebrow shooting into his silvery blond hair. “That’s right, er…”
“Riddle. Tom Riddle.”
“Maybe we could talk about it sometime, Tom,” Malfoy said, crossing the room in an easy stride to shake Tom’s hand. I had a strange urge to push them apart, but I obviously refrained.
Tom’s eyes glittered. But if it was amusement or something else this time, I couldn’t tell.
“Perhaps we will.”
“I’ll see you around then,” Malfoy said, nodding one last time at Tom. He turned to Lestrange. “See you around, Leo. We’ve gotta catch up sometime.”
Lestrange actually looked happy, as he agreed; a first I’d ever seen. Then Malfoy turned to me.
“Don’t think I haven’t seen you, Anne. I hope to spend time with you in the future as well.”
I felt oddly embarrassed and could only manage a phony smile. Tom watched everything with an air of pleasantry.
Malfoy was finally gone then, and Tom resumed speaking to us as if nothing had happened, after locking the door with his wand.
“As I was saying…blood purity. The idea remains important. There are texts about it’s importance, of the evidence that any so-called wizard born of Muggle parents may have in fact stolen their magic. It is quite undisputable, really. Muggleborns…they’re a counterfeit and reprehensible class of the magical community, and frankly, their records of incompetence and insanity make them dangerous to those of us who have inherited our magic rightfully.”
No one had any objections to this fantastic statement. I didn’t point out that there were, in fact, many Muggleborns here at Hogwarts, and no one had ever had a problem with them acting insane or endangering anyone.
But my very heart was beating quickly in anticipation of what Tom was about to share with us, what could be so terribly important that it had to be said only in whispers and the shadows of dungeon chambers.
“What if I told you,” Tom continued quietly, “That I have a way to remedy this? That I have discovered something that would rid Hogwarts of this degenerate race of people we call Mudbloods? Would you be interested in being a part of this solution?”
It was silent. Then, most surprisingly, Avery’s voice broke the quiet.
“The Chamber of Secrets?”
Tom’s eyes flashed, and I could tell that whatever this Chamber of Secrets was, it was indeed what he had been referring to, and he had not expected any of us to be aware of it.
Well, at least the rest of us were in the dark, since I had no clue what Avery was talking about, and Nott and Lestrange looked just as confused as I felt.
“Ahh, the Chamber of Secrets. So, you’ve heard something. Why don’t you share with us what the Chamber of Secrets is, Johnathan.”
Avery swallowed, looking immensely uncomfortable at being put on the spot.
“Well, er, I think I read about it somewhere once…it’s, there’s a legend that Salazar Slytherin built a secret chamber in the school. I think it was supposed to have some, some monster in it that would kill Mudbloods…?”
He looked to Tom for approval. Tom smiled and nodded once.
“Tell us more, you seem very knowledgeable on the subject.”
Avery looked a bit more confident, and continued, “Well, the other founders didn’t know about the chamber, and Slytherin wanted to only admit Pureblood students….I think that was why he built the chamber, because he was angry they didn’t agree with him and so he took matters into his own hands.”
“You’re very clever,” Tom said, encouraging.
“And it can only be opened, to let the monster out and everything, by a Slytherin.”
Tom raised an eyebrow. “Any Slytherin?”
“Er, maybe, I can’t remember…I think so, as long as they find it—”
There was an unnaturally loud bang, and both Avery and his chair were thrown backward from the table. Avery landed sprawled on the stone dungeon floor, apparently unharmed but terrified.
“Wrong,” Tom said simply, smiling a sympathetic smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He tucked his wand back away and stood up. I couldn't help but watch the way his white school shirt was perfectly hugging his body, but I looked away, blushing, before he could see me.
“You see, my friends, there are things you think you know—things you could have been sure of for your whole life—that are, in fact, wrong.”
Avery was still on the floor, surreptitiously trying to massage his probably bruised backside. I knew it wasn’t funny, but I couldn't help the little giggle that escaped my lips at the sight of him.
Tom was at my side in a moment, and I was sure he was going to accuse me of laughing at him and probably throw me on the floor too, but he only chuckled softly.
“It is a bit funny, isn’t it, my Anna? Avery believed that any Slytherin was capable of opening the Chamber of Secrets. That perhaps Brian Fentley could have waltzed up to the entrance of it to unleash terror upon the school.”
I laughed aloud this time, imagining the scenario. Tom started to laugh too, so infectiously that soon Nott and Lestrange had joined him. Even Avery smiled nervously, laughing at himself as he slunk back to his spot at the table, dragging his chair behind him. Like an obedient pet.
“Yes, yes, what a thought…but in reality, there is only one person who is capable of opening the Chamber of Secrets. Only one person, since Hogwarts first opened, has that ability.”
We were all quiet, and I tried to ignore the churning in my stomach caused by Tom’s closeness; I could literally feel the heat of his body as he leaned against the back of my chair.
“That person,” Tom said conversationally, “Is me.”
I couldn’t manage to take in the gravity of this statement, since I was wondering how it would feel if I simply leaned my head back into Tom, against an abdomen that was sure to have become as hard and muscled as the rest of him.
Oh my God, why do I think about these things in public? I felt myself heating up again, which was not aided in any way by the fact that Tom had swung around my chair and was now in front of me, a single white finger under my chin.
“Would you like to take a guess as to why that might be, Anna?”
He was asking me why he could open the Chamber of Secrets? Why was he the only one in a thousand years with the ability to unleash a power that would wipe Muggleborns out of Hogwarts?
My eyes met his and I lost my train of thought. He knelt down to my level and smiled gently.
“Tell our friends why I am the only one who can finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work,” he whispered, inches from my face.
I couldn’t breathe, but I felt something click in my brain. Slytherin. The House of Gaunt. Salazar Slytherin built this chamber…none of the Gaunts had attended Hogwarts, Tom was the first…he had Slytherin’s blood.
“You’re his heir,” I said, my voice shaking with both thrill and nerves. “You’re his only heir.”
“You’re very right,” Tom said, and I wished more than anything that I had the guts to move my head a few inches forward and press our lips together, stop all of his silly talk about Mudbloods and chambers and just finally know what it felt like to be kissed by Tom Riddle. I couldn’t bring myself to care about what he was saying when his beautiful lips were just inches from mine.
I didn’t have time to worry, because I blinked and he was gone, away from me and walking around the table. Nott looked utterly aghast at this development, Avery a bit confused, but Lestrange was frowning. I would bet anything that he had made the connection faster than the other two; that Tom was a Parselmouth, and that was what Salazar Slytherin was famous for.
“Now, what Annamaria has just told us is something I have known for quite some time,” Tom said. “I am choosing to share this with all of you because I wish for you to aid me on this quest. I wish for you to trust me. I will utilize the assistance of any of you who choose to help, but with or without you, the Chamber of Secrets will be opened here at Hogwarts. And it will be done before the end of this year.”
I began to register what he was saying, but only slowly. Tom was Slytherin’s heir, and he intended to open this Chamber of Secrets and purge the school of Muggleborns…
I started to panic internally, listing off my friends in my head. I didn’t think any of them were Muggleborns…I didn’t know! I didn’t even know if Joey was! Oh my God, Tom wanted to kill half the school, and he had been talking about it for a while now and all I had been worried about was what his lips might feel like.
I hate myself so much sometimes.
“So in the simplest terms, I am proposing an agreement between us. Because no matter how great of friends we may be or become, nothing is ever for certain, especially concerning a situation of this magnitude. Clearly it is essential that my plans and operation of them go undetected by any outsiders. That is why I must ask for a…concrete promise from those of you who wish to help me.”
The room was silent, yet another time. Then:
“I’m obviously going to do whatever I can to help you,” Lestrange said, his voice low and rumbling barely above the fire. “This is…incredible. Never in a million years would I think I’d meet…Slytherin’s heir…it’s the greatest thing I could have hoped for. My family would be ashamed of me if I were to pass up such an opportunity.”
Tom smiled. “Very well.”
It was quiet again.
“Me too,” came Nott’s grunt. “I’ve got no problem killing some Mudbloods.”
I nearly rolled my eyes, and I think I was the only one who noticed the slight twitch in Tom’s jaw as he said, “A worthy attitude.”
Then all eyes were on Avery and I. Tom, however, was focused solely on Avery, his gaze too pleasant for the occasion, never wavering from the flushed face of the boy next to me.
Then I remembered the day at Kings Cross in June, when I had said goodbye to Tom and he had grabbed me and pulled me away…I had told him I was with him, with him no matter what. That he could count on me, be sure of me. He had said he needed me.
I had no choice. Not now.
It felt like something cold had been dumped over my entire body as I realized that I would either help him, or walk away from the beautiful boy in front of me; I could either delight him and help him or I could enrage and betray him after I had given my word. I could stay or I could go.
We both knew I would stay. And so he looked only at Avery, our only unsure club member.
“I, I’ll help,” he said, after what seemed like an eternity. Tom only stared.
“You know, you don’t want to make this decision lightly,” he said, and suddenly all of his amusement, all of his charm, was gone. He was eyeing Avery coldly, and if Tom were looking at me like that, I’d be begging him to believe I was wholeheartedly going to help.
“I’m not,” Avery said, but he sounded shaken to the core. He was frightened, obviously and deeply.
Tom was clearly as unconvinced as the rest of us. His eyes were black and flickering with the light of the fire, focused on Avery’s frightened blue ones. It struck me that perhaps Tom had improved as a Legilimens, and was in fact looking into Avery’s thoughts.
The idea terrified me so much that I had to promise that the first thing I’d do tomorrow is practice Occlumency.
“Would you like to know what I think, Jonathan?” he asked, so quietly I could barely make out his words.
I couldn’t help the pang of pity I felt for Avery, who looked as if he didn’t know how to answer this, if at all. I knew the feeling.
“I think you’re a liar,” Tom said, and he was fingering his wand in a manner that would be inoffensive if it was anyone else. But the simple fact that Tom Riddle had a wand in his hands and was less than pleased with you would make anyone nervous.
“I, I’m not! I want to help, I—”
For the second time that day, Avery was thrown from his chair. This time though, blood spurted from his face, and I caught a glimpse of a gash on his cheek before he covered it up with a gasp of pain.
“Never lie to me, Avery. Come back when you’re ready to tell the truth. I don’t want to see your face until you are.”
My hand had flown to my mouth at the shock of seeing Avery’s blood, and the casualness with which Tom had cursed him. I removed it in fear that Tom would see my reaction and turn on me as well. I tried to look impassive as Avery scrambled to his feet, face dripping blood onto the stone floor.
“And though I shouldn’t need to say anything…” Tom paused, an odd little half smile appearing on his face. “For good measure, I should remind you that this should stay within the club. If you tell anyone, I shall know.”
He didn’t tell us what the punishment would be for telling, which made it all the more evocative.
Avery looked for a second like he was going to say something, but only turned and left. Tom looked back at us, tucking his wand away.
“The rest of you are dismissed. We will meet again next Monday. I may give each of you separate assignments until then. But we will study the legend of the chamber more closely and I will begin to formulate a plan for finding it. You are in for quite the…experience.”
He flashed a grin and we all got up, Nott still looking a bit thunderstruck, Lestrange unreadable as usual.
Though I was simultaneously hoping and dreading that he would, Tom held me back from exiting with the others.
“Are you ready?”
Such a simple question. Was I ready? Was I prepared to help the heir of Salazar Slytherin release a monster on the school? The idea seemed so preposterous that it couldn’t possibly be real.
The chances of us succeeding were microscopic…we were chasing what was only a legend after all. Perhaps we could study and search for it all we wanted, but we’d never find it. Tom would be angry, surely, but he’d get over it. And I would be spending so much time with him researching this thing, just like the times we’d searched for his parents. I couldn’t say no.
I smiled what I hoped was a confident, dazzling smile. “ Am I ever anything but?”
Tom laughed his real laugh, and I nearly melted. “I can’t say you are. But I hope you’re prepared for the level of dedication this will require. Especially from you, Anna. I expect you to be the most useful…I can’t count on those fools.”
“I would never leave you with them,” I said, laughing lightly as if the idea was ludicrous. As if I hadn’t just seen Tom maim a scared boy for no reason other than the fact that he was, indeed, scared. “Do you think I’m some kind of coward?”
“Only sometimes,” Tom shrugged, leaning against the dungeon wall, blocking my exit. I didn’t know if this thrilled or alarmed me more.
I opened my mouth in a faintly offended expression. “When’s the last time I’ve done something cowardly?”
Tom surveyed me. “Well, I remember you crying after you killed that Foresatte woman.”
“I wasn’t crying!” I said loudly, trying desperately to remember if I had indeed shed a tear. The memory still brought me a faintly nauseated feeling, so I stopped.
“Does the sight of death still frighten you, Anna?”
“No,” I said stubbornly.
“Do bodies and blood make you want to run back to your Mother? Are you still the little girl who cries over murder?”
I didn’t know how he did it. Moved like that. I didn’t remember him moving, but somehow we were closer together now; I could have lifted my hand and laid it on his chest, wrapped it around his loosened green tie, or raised it to his dark hair and ran my fingers through its wave.
“I’m not a little girl anymore Tom,” I said, sounding only slightly more self-assured than I felt. “Just like you’re not the little orphan boy I met a few years ago.”
His eyes flashed with something, and I couldn’t tell what it was.
“Clearly,” he said quietly, his gaze flicking from my eyes downward, until he had taken me in from head to toe.
I wondered how many times in a day I could blush before boiling over. I wanted to both knock his head into the wall for turning me into such a fool for him, and wrap my arms around him in the hope that this time he’d do more than just hug me back.
I did neither, of course.
Something had broken and Tom was away from me again, distant in both space and demeanor.
I had done things for him before. Things I regret, things I wish I hadn’t done. I’m ashamed of many things I did for and with Tom Marvolo Riddle. But the first night I heard about the Chamber of Secrets always sticks out in my mind, in my memories. I remember wanting him to love me so badly, being so preoccupied with his beauty. I had forgotten myself completely, and agreed to become a potential accomplice to the murders of my classmates.
He could have asked me to kill anyone with him, and I would have agreed. I would have agreed to anything for just one kiss that night.
And so is the way with love, isn’t it?
A/N Hey guys, another short chap but we're movin toward both the chamber opening and some definite romance ;) I want to keep getting these out quickly so they might be short but I think that's better than going a few weeks without one! Haha as alwaysssss I want to hear every little thought you have, so leave a review! More soon!
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