Marcella let out a frustrated growl beside me, shaking her head as a Gryffindor chaser swooped by, holding the quaffle he had just taken from Slytherin.
“That’s rubbish,” she said, sitting down grumpily as Gryffindor proceeded to score. “We have to win, this’ll break our streak if we lose the cup! What is it, seven years now?”
“What?” I asked, just realizing she expected me to engage in a conversation.
Marcella rolled her eyes, not even bothering to answer. She must have been used to how distant we’d become. My halfhearted attempt at showing I was still her friend, and that I could still enjoy mundane things like quidditch was failing miserably.
I couldn’t focus on the players zooming around the pitch, I couldn’t help but find it funny that everyone in this enormous stadium was so concerned about a ball going through a hoop. There were so many things to do, so much to discover, and this is what they spent their time on?
My fingers twitched around my wand, buried in my cloak. I could be learning to apparate with Tom, or practicing a new curse to help when we went to France with Grindelwald. I could be cursing the life out of some poor animal in the forest. The idea made me shudder in anticipation. That rush had gotten no less intoxicating, no more routine. Each and every time I killed it only made me want more.
I thought jadedly that this was probably how serial killers started their careers.
But I couldn’t think about that now.
I had to focus on Tom, on the chamber that he claimed we were so incredibly close to finding. I had to worry about how Malfoy was around more and more, and I saw Tom speaking to him alone almost as much as he spoke to me. A sick, churning feeling stirred my stomach. I couldn’t lose him, not now, and not to someone as devious as Malfoy. I knew I’d have no problem killing him if it weren’t for the annoying fact that it was, in fact, illegal. But it wasn’t as if that stopped me from doing most things.
For the rest of the quidditch game (which we did indeed lose), I tried not to entertain the multitude of ways I could make Malfoy just disappear, and have all of Tom’s attention again. Malfoy made me nervous, and I couldn’t pinpoint why. There was something about the way he looked at me with those icy gray eyes, something in his sharp toothed smile that made me want to do something, anything, to get away. Perhaps I was jealous, perhaps I was intimidated. Either way, I didn’t like it.
I was walking back to the castle, Marcella walking a few irritated paces ahead of me, when I collided with something very big and solid. I nearly fell down, but an extremely large hand reached out and caught my arm. I looked up to see Hagrid, that huge kid I had met a long time ago.
“Uh oh, sorry,” he said worriedly, hoisting me upright a bit roughly. “I didn’ mean to knock you down.”
A sudden recognition caught his face, and his eyes light up. “Oh, Anne Harley! Nice to see you after so long!”
“Oh, er, yes it is,” I lied, smoothing out my robes. I had no desire to remember the circumstances under which I had met this boy—in a dungeon room with an enormous spider.
“Aragog is gettin’ so big,” he whispered to me. “Do you wanna come visit him? You’re the only other person who knows ‘bout him, and he gets lonely, I think…”
“No thanks,” I said, trying not to show the horror I felt at the idea of that thing getting any larger than it had been.
“Oh…are you sure?” he asked, looking oddly shy and small considering how enormous he was.
I actually felt a bit bad when I refused again and saw his face drop. What was the matter with me? I felt guilty for not visiting an illegally harbored giant spider in the dungeon? I should have bloody cursed it when I had the chance.
I escaped from Hagrid before he had the chance to bring up some other sort of deadly creature he wanted me to see.
I was almost safely back to the dungeons when an even less welcome face greeted me.
“Harley,” McGonagall said stiffly, tilting her nose in the air.
“Get out of here, Minny. You’ve got nothing to do here unless my walking is now against the rules.”
McGonagall looked affronted. “No, but mouthing off to a Prefect is.”
It took all my self-control not to curse her. I smiled.
“As it should be. Good day.”
I really had no desire to be a Prefect. I didn’t want to chase around stupid first years with banned items, I didn’t want to patrol the halls at night (not that I didn’t already) or assign detentions for minute infractions of school rules. I wasn’t exactly known as a rule breaker, but nobody in their right mind would have picked me for the position. Beth had been rightfully chosen, and the only grievance I had with being a regular student was this—the power prats like Minerva McGonagall unrightfully held over me.
Sure, I could assert myself and give her what she deserved, but I’d have to spend the weekend scrubbing tables or cleaning the kitchen without magic, or something else awful. No, it wasn’t worth it.
I finally made it to our dungeon chamber and my heart leapt when I heard that the room was not empty.
I shook off my cloak and eagerly peeked into the antechamber, expecting Tom. With a disappointed sigh, I saw that it was not Tom, but Malfoy that was sitting before the fire. His white-blonde hair fell over his eyes as he read, sleeves pushed up and tie loosened.
He looked up at the sound of my footsteps.
“Anne, what a pleasant surprise!”
I couldn’t muster more than a faint nod. What was he doing here? Did this mean Tom had officially let him into the club? Did he know everything? Did he know more than me?
“I was just finishing up on some reading,” he said, choosing to ignore my icy greeting. He held up his book, Warfare for the Willing Wizard. “Tom thought it was rather useful, and suggested it to me. You know, before France.”
I closed my eyes. This couldn’t be happening. Malfoy in France with us? But it had always been just Tom and I whenever it came to Grindelwald. Why had he decided to let Malfoy, of all people in on it? What was so special about him?
“Oh. Yes, of course,” I said, swallowing my annoyance. “Have you any idea what you’re doing when it comes to combat?”
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “We had rather extensive training back at Durmstrang. I can hold my own.”
“Can you?” I asked acidly, unable to mask my hostility.
Malfoy was unruffled. “Indeed. I could show you, if you so desired.”
I knew I shouldn’t have taken the bait. I knew it was foolish to challenge a Durmstrang student to a duel. Especially one that Tom himself had deemed competent and worthy of battle. But I was competent as well. And for some strange reason, I needed Malfoy to know that I was more important than him, better, and closer to Tom.
“I doubt it.”
“You doubt my abilities?” Malfoy asked, a small smirk touching his lips. “I hear you’re quite talented, but I warn you, Anne. I am not someone to underestimate.”
“Neither am I. You may have won Tom over, but now its time to impress me. I only fight alongside the best.”
Malfoy’s silver eyes sparkled. “It would be a pleasure.”
I picked his wand off the table and tossed it at him. “Don’t speak too soon.”
Malfoy chuckled, standing up. He was taller than me, but not as tall as Tom. I took my position at one end of the room, never turning my back to Malfoy, even though I knew with all sense he would never strike before the duel had begun. I couldn’t help not trusting him.
“Are you sure you’d like to…do this?” Malfoy asked, gesturing at the space between us that was soon to be filled with the sparks and blazes of a duel.
“Trust me,” I said. “I do.”
Malfoy nodded. “Then let us begin.”
We bowed, and before I could move, a silver streak flashed by my ear, missing me by inches. He was quick.
I tossed a stunner at him, which he deflected easily, sending it bouncing off into the fireplace. I recognized the curses he was using, and they were nothing to scoff at. He knew what he was doing? Fine.
I slashed my wand through the air, the lights blinding, beautiful streaks of purple and red. It was like art really, the sight and feeling of a duel indescribable. It was like cutting my way through the air with color, watching as Malfoy became more agitated dodging the sizzling streaks I was throwing at him.
Malfoy was good, I thought, ducking to avoid a well centered body-bind curse. But I was undoubtedly better.
“You know, I was actually worried you might be better than me for a while back there,” I commented, flicking my wand and tossing a few books at Malfoy. They turned to cement seconds before smashing into the wall behind him, inches from his stupid blonde head. “Silly of me, really.”
“You haven’t won anything, Miss Harley,” Malfoy panted, attempting his usual slimy tone but achieving only a faintly pathetic imitation.
I remedied this by animating the very table Malfoy had been reading at, and while he was trying to fend off its creepy, stiff-legged advances, I was able to aim a stunner right at his chest. I smiled when the jet of red light hit him and he keeled over, hitting the dungeon floor with a satisfying thud.
I uncharmed the table and crossed the room to kneel next to Malfoy.
“Ennervate,” I said, keeping my wand pointed directly at his throat. Malfoy blinked, his gray eyes slowly focusing on my face. “And that, I believe, is a win for me.”
Malfoy pushed himself up into a sitting position and shook his head, the dazed look leaving his face to be replaced with an odd little smile.
“Perhaps?” I asked indignantly. Listen, I just stunned you and you’re completely vulnerable and—”
I was forced to stop speaking when Malfoy kissed me.
I was so stunned, I didn’t react immediately. I suppose I felt his lips on mine, and I suppose I could feel the light warmth of his hand that came up to my face. I just couldn’t understand what was happening. Malfoy was kissing me? And I didn’t hate it? What?
Before I could tear myself away from the disturbingly enjoyable pressure of his lips, I was being flipped over, and Malfoy had recovered his wand to poke painfully into my throat.
“Are you sure you’ve won, Anne?” he breathed, his obnoxious smirk much too close.
“You can’t—I’d already won, this doesn’t matter,” I complained, tearing my arm out of Malfoy’s grip. “You bloody prat.”
Malfoy wouldn’t stop smirking. “What?”
“You’re just bitter you lost,” I said primly, standing up and walking over to the table to flip it back upright. “I beat you fair and square and you’re just trying to mess with me now.”
“I am doing nothing of the sort,” Malfoy said, following me to the other side of the room and picking up the books I had thrown. He carried them over to me and set them down on the table. “I just felt like kissing you.”
“You can’t do everything you feel like doing,” I snapped.
“My apologies. I only thought I would rather like kissing you. I was right.”
“And again, forgive me,” Malfoy continued, “But it appeared you enjoyed it as well.”
It took all my self control not to slap him across the face. How dare he? I drew myself up and gave him my most practiced look of loathing. You know, the one that normally made people wince and go away.
“I assure you, if you ever try anything like that again, I will curse all of your limbs off. And you’ll never get them back.”
Malfoy grinned and started to say something, but I stopped him by pointing my wand between his eyes.
“You think I jest? Try it. I’d be happy to prove you wrong, just as I did by annihilating your sorry arse in a duel.”
“You know, you’re very striking when you’re angry, Anne,” Malfoy said, leaning against a chair.
I stared at him.
“You had better hope Tom likes you a lot,” I said quietly. “Because when you’re up against the most powerful wizards in France, someone may need to rescue you. And you can be very sure it won’t be me.”
With that, I turned away from Malfoy’s glittering silver eyes and left. Left the dungeon to fume, to hide, and to understand what in the world had just happened.
I hated trains. I really did. I hated the stupid little compartments. Why did they have to be so small and claustrophobic? I glared out the window into the bright March morning, trying to ignore the presence of the two boys sitting with me. Next to me was Malfoy, his hand lying annoyingly close to me on the seat, his shining hair combed perfectly, the faint scent of expensive cologne emanating from him. He had not mentioned the kissing incident since I threatened him, but there was something between us now, some awkward feeling I couldn’t ignore.
Every time I was around him now, I couldn’t help but remember how suddenly he had pushed his lips to mine, and how I had, for some ungodly reason, not immediately pushed him off. Or pushed him off at all. I hadn’t been kissed at all since I dumped Joey, perhaps I had just been shocked. Maybe I didn’t react because I was surprised.
…okay, fine. Maybe Malfoy wasn’t a bad kisser. But still, no. Just no. It was bad enough he still triggered every internal alarm I had that warned against liars and creeps, but then I had to face Tom.
I stole a glance at him, sitting there across from me, reading as usual. The gloss of his dark hair, the delicate bow of his lips, the brush of his lashes against those perfect cheekbones. He almost hurt to look at.
For a few hours after the incident with Malfoy, I had entertained the silly thought that maybe I was actually attracted to him, and I had actually enjoyed kissing him because I held some romantic interest for him. Malfoy was certainly intriguing, and I suppose he wasn’t terribly offensive to look at. But I couldn’t entertain the thought of being with him for even a moment after I saw Tom again.
Malfoy could be anything, but he would never be able to compare to Tom. The memory of kissing Malfoy paled in comparison to even the thought of Tom holding me in his arms, or kissing me like I was his and his alone.
I shivered. I was as in love with Tom Riddle as ever, and no slimy, pale little boy would be able to distract me. It was like comparing a candle to a wildfire.
The train stopped in London and I wordlessly followed Tom to where our Portkey to Paris had been placed. Malfoy’s presence beside me was more and more unwelcome—I couldn’t believe he was here with me, about to go into battle alongside Tom and I like he was our trusted partner.
I was stuck inside my own head as we traveled, noticing only vaguely how beautiful Paris was, with its cobbled streets and gothic architecture. I was silent as we passed a group of the Nazi soldiers that used to cause me such anguish. We walked for nearly twenty minutes before Tom approached a brick building and rapped on the door.
One of Grindelwald’s followers opened the door and asked Tom something in Norweigan, to which Tom swiftly and confidently replied. The man smiled and gestured for us to come inside.
As always, there seemed to be a downstairs, from which many accented voices floated. In the parlor though, sat Grindelwald, at ease and wearing his devilish smile, Katarina leaning against the arm of his chair, her thick black hair tied back into a plait. She was dressed for battle, all of her jewels gone.
“Ah, my favorite teenagers have arrived!” Grindelwald announced jovially, waving us over to his chair. Tom shook his hand and smiled that little half smile that made my heart turn over.
“Mr. Riddle, it’s always a pleasure, and Anne Harley, you’re more beautiful every time I lay eyes on you,” Grindelwald said, taking my hand and kissing it. I forced myself to beam and thank him, ignoring the way Katarina seemed to tense up in annoyance.
“And you…a Malfoy!” Grindelwald looked at Malfoy with surprise. “Are you by any chance Abelard’s boy?”
Malfoy nodded, clearly a bit awestruck at meeting Grindelwald. I restrained myself from rolling my eyes at his amateurish behavior.
“Your father has actually donated a sizeable amount of money to my cause,” Grindelwald said approvingly. “We’re glad to have you, boy.”
“I’m glad to be here, sir,” Malfoy said recovering from his dazed state and shaking Grindelwad’s hand.
His father was donating money to Grindelwald, helping him take over Europe? Helping him kill muggles and innocent workers from ministries across the continent? It was one thing for us to feign allegiance to Grindelwald in order to defeat him and take his wand, but another thing entirely to really support him. I didn’t know much about the Malfoy family except that they were incredibly wealthy, but now that I knew they were using that wealth to support Grindelwald’s campaign of destruction? What scum.
I glanced at Tom, wondering if he had known this, and this was why he had decided to so decisively include Malfoy in our plans. Tom, with his nonexistent family and equally nonexistent money, might have thought that a bit of influential family was just what we needed. Especially considering the fact that my family was hunting Grindelwald, this made sense. A bit of a weight lifted from my chest. Tom was just using Malfoy. He didn’t actually like him, he couldn’t. I was still his right hand.
And so I shook back my hair, smiled my most dazzling smile, and did my best to enchant everyone while Grindelwald ironed out the final details of overthrowing the French Ministry.
It was night, and we entered the sleepy ministry building as silent as death itself. I could see the faint glow of Grindelwald’s wand, which was lit and guiding us through the marble halls. We had entered the building undetected. It seemed too easy…and just as Grindelwald began to set up a perimeter, the lights flashed on, and we were ambushed.
Before we had left, Grindelwald had decided to pair us off, to make sure we had eachother’s backs and would duel with the best interests of the group at heart. I silently thanked Merlin when he told me to partner with Tom, leaving Malfoy with a frightening looking, bearded Norweigan man.
So as dozens of wizards and witches jumped down around us, already throwing streaks of shimmering light past our ears, Tom and I sprung into the battle at eachothers’ side. This was different than what we had ever experienced before. This was not the frightened scrambling of ministry people who had been attacked unexpectedly. This was a battle, a battle in which both sides knew what they were fighting for, and both sides were ready for the confrontation. These witches and wizards had been ready for us, waiting in the shadows until we were cornered.
And yet still, somehow, we seemed to succeed. It was hard to tell who was on which side—dark cloaks swirled around our bodies, jets of light flew in every direction like a light show of the deadliest kind. I heard windows breaking in the heights of the ministry building; the entire ceiling seemed to be made of glass, and little bits kept breaking off. I vaguely noticed the cracks forming in the walls from the immense amounts of magic being thrown around within their confines.
I slashed my wand instinctively, as I learned that this yielded the best results rather than when I tried to think. I cut down everybody that approached me—the witch in front of me fell to the floor when a sizzling purple streak of mine hit her in the chest, and I saw briefly in the corner of my vision a man coming towards me. I spun to take him out, but he was already falling, the victim of a curse Tom had thrown into his temple.
I grinned at him. “Thanks.”
Tom smiled and performed a mocking little half bow. It was becoming harder to find a target to duel now…there seemed to be only a half a dozen or so French defenders left dueling. They fell slowly at the hands of Grindelwald’s army—we truly were a force to be reckoned with. And then, as if fated, as if God had set up the scene just for me, there were only two defenders left. Everyone began to crowd around and watch. The enormous room grew quiet but for the sounds of the two duels going on.
Grindelwald dueled the man and Katarina took the woman. A couple. My mother and father. I couldn’t seem to breathe properly. I couldn’t think. This couldn’t have happened, it couldn’t be real. It was as if every nightmare I’d ever had was coming true as I watched my mother’s dark hair only narrowly escape a Killing Curse. My mother, Killing Curse? How could these two worlds of mine be colliding? Why?
And in what seemed like a single split-second, I broke out of my haze.
“Stop!” I cried, my voice coming out both hoarse and piercing at the same time. “Stop it!”
I had always rather liked attention. I relished in it, whether it was good or bad really. But never before had I had the attention of over a hundred people, a hundred pairs of eyes staring at me as if I had lost my mind. I felt the weight of all of them as I pushed to the front of the crowd, but none weighed more heavily than Tom’s gaze. I didn’t dare meet his eyes. I couldn’t.
Grindelwald stopped as I commanded, and Katarina followed his lead. Then there was that horrible moment where they too looked at me, and their opponents, my parents, looked as well. I didn’t dare look at my mother. If it was possible, I was almost more worried of facing her than I was of facing Tom.
I never needed to face her. I heard her horrified little gasp, and it was enough for a lifetime. Shame had never been a concept I was overly familiar with. But at that moment, when I was revealed to my own mother for what I truly was…
I can barely attempt to describe the depths to which shame can truly burrow into the human heart.
“Ah, Anne, I thought we might run into this little roadblock at some point,” Grindelwald said pleasantly. It was deadly quiet. I stared at him, forcing myself to look into his golden eyes. “Family ties do get in the way of progress sometimes.”
I said nothing. What was there to say, really?
“This really is a useful lesson to all of us I believe,” Grinedelwald said, clasping his hands behind his back and taking a few steps, looking out at all of us, the Foresatte. “We must decide our loyalties at some point. Some of us have more…intense decisions to make than others.”
He stopped walking, only feet from me. “So Anne. Would you like to demonstrate the ultimate sacrifice? Would you do me the honor of showing me how truly devoted you are?”
Still I said nothing, a large lump caught painfully in my throat.
Grindelwald approached me, catching my hand. He didn’t pull at it or grab it painfully, but rather caressed it, bringing it up before his eyes.
“Such a lovely wand, and in such lovely hands…and yet I know you to be capable of some very powerful magic. Would you care to explain to your parents how wonderfully adept you’ve become at the Killing Curse?”
There was the smallest ripple of laughter through the crowd. I looked away from Grindelwald for the first time, focusing instead on my own hand, and on the rosewood wand that had never failed me.
“Would you care to show them?”
I was silent still.
“I asked you a question, my dear. Would you like to show your parents your Killing Curse?”
I noticed a slight pressure on me, a gentle push to answer his question. I had been Imperiused before of course, and I could resist it. I couldn’t find the necessity to avoid the question.
“No sir, I wouldn’t.”
“Ah, but I think you should.”
The pressure grew, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from agreeing with him. It was quiet again for a long time as we struggled against each other, a silent battle of wills as he pushed his magic against me, trying to break my mind.
Grindelwald smiled at my stubbornness. “Do you know what I think, Anne Harley?”
I looked up at him, my lips pressed into a thin line from resisting his curse. He leaned down so his breath was on my ear, and whispered so no one but me could hear him.
“I think you should show your mother how talented you’ve become. Show her your Killing Curse, Anne. Your father isn’t the duelist she is anyways. No one will miss him.”
Horror coursed through me as I realized what he was saying, what he wanted me to do. It didn’t matter what the consequences were, it didn’t matter who would hate me or what would become of me. This was something I could never do.
“You heard me. No.”
Grindelwald looked taken aback. Even Katarina, who had been smiling gleefully at my downfall, looked shocked. After a few moments, Grindelwald recovered and smiled down at me again.
“I take this as you resigning your place in my army then,” he said loudly, for everyone to hear. Another stifled chuckle from the crowd. Katarina was the only one who threw her head back and let out a loud, throaty laugh. I felt a sudden ripple of hatred towards her; didn’t she know that the man she loved was completely and utterly insane? Didn’t she care that he was trying to rip a family apart right in front of everyone’s eyes?
“Yes, I suppose I’ll have to,” I said, doing my best to keep my voice steady.
Grindelwald nodded. “Indeed, we certainly can’t have you around anymore, with these…complications. Sadly though, my dear, I don’t believe resigning will be enough.”
“Sorry?” I asked.
“I can’t have you running about with my plans and secrets now can I?” he asked, actually clapping me on the shoulder like a friend. “I’m going to have to dispose of you, as an example. Everyone will learn from this, don’t worry. You won’t die in vain.”
I heard my mother’s scream only vaguely, until she was silenced by Katarina. So this was it. This was how I was going to die. How was one supposed to react when they were told they would be disposed of? Should I cry? Should I draw my wand and fight to the death?
All I could do was try not to faint as a tingling overcame me. Grindelwald raised his wand and I closed my eyes. I wished I could have been holding on to Tom as I died.
And then, as if I had ordered it there with my thoughts, I felt a warm hand on my arm, a hand I knew was Tom’s.
Well, dying wasn’t so bad. I was already in heaven. Or hell?
I opened my eyes. I wasn’t dead at all…Tom’s hand really was on me, and then he was in front of me, close enough that I could smell his familiar scent of clean soap.
A surprised murmur ran through the group. Grindelwald lowered his wand half an inch, but held it up, a smile creeping across his face.
“Oh…oh no,” he said, shaking his head. “Isn’t this precious?”
Tom was standing in front of me, his arm firmly holding me behind him, his other arm holding his wand aloft.
“Now sir, don’t you think we could find a more agreeable way to deal with this little…dilemma?”
Grindelwald started laughing. Katarina soon followed, then everyone was laughing, the room seeming to shake with the sound. The whole scene was strangely unreal, swaying before my eyes. I vaguely clutched onto Tom’s arm, feeling his warm hand beneath mine.
“Isn’t this just darling?” Grindelwald asked everyone, gesturing towards Tom and I. “Look at this…young love!”
Another shout of laughter rang out from his army.
“Ah, Tom…you’re another talented one. So very talented…I hope you don’t really mean to throw it away on this one girl?”
Tom remained impassive. “Just let her go.”
Grindelwald chuckled. “Not that she isn’t a pretty one, I’ll give you that! And brilliant too! But let me tell you something Tom, when it comes down to it, loyalty is the only thing that really matters.”
Tom didn’t move, except perhaps tightening his grip on my hand a little.
“And this one,” Grindelwald continued, gesturing to me, “is a traitor. She betrayed her parents, God only knows, by joining me. She betrays me, by daring to interfere in my plans. She is nothing but a lying little snake, my friend. She needs to be exterminated.”
I had to hold back a retch as I heard his cold analysis of me. I was being referred to like an animal; exterminated…killed for my wrongs? Perhaps it wouldn’t be unfitting. I had done all the things he accused me of.
“Perhaps you could do the honors, Tom. You’ll only be saving yourself future trouble. Once a betrayer, always a betrayer, I like to say,” Grindelwald went on.
Tom stared at Grindelwald for a moment more. Then:
“I apologize for this, really. But if that’s the way you’ll have it…”
With that, Tom threw his wand up so it was pointed directly upwards. Before even Grindelwald could react, Tom sent a blast towards the roof—the completely glass roof. The shatter was deafening; I shut my eyes and waited to be impaled on a million pieces of glass, happy that I at least had Tom’s solid warmth to hold onto.
But that solid warmth was moving—with a sudden yank, he was being pulled away…a whirring started, and I felt like was being sucked through a very tight tunnel. I gripped Tom’s arm as hard as I could, not knowing what was happening, hoping only that he could guide me through it, bring me to safety.
Then, as suddenly as it had started, everything stopped. I hit solid ground and my knees buckled. The last thing I remembered was seeing the tall gates of Hogwarts and the beauty of the night sky.
I was by a fire. It was very hot on my face, and I couldn’t decide if I liked it there or not. I didn’t want to open my eyes…I was nauseous, and my head hurt. Then I remembered.
I opened my eyes to see the blurry back of a person, sitting at the table nearby. Tom. He was reading. I pushed myself up and looked around, realizing I was inside the castle, in our dungeon chamber, on what appeared to be a hastily conjured bed.
“T,Tom?” I asked, my voice barely audible above the crackling of the flames. But he heard me. He turned, and with a jolt of fear, I realized I didn’t know what to expect. He could be furiously angry with me. I regretted waking up, I wished I could have just lain back down to sleep.
He was as expressionless as always as he walked over to me, sitting on the edge of my bed. It was quiet as I just sat there, trying to defog in my mind exactly what had happened over the course of the night. Tom only sat, watching me.
“I caved in the ceiling to cause a diversion and pulled you along apparating. I mastered it only a few days ago, we were lucky we returned in once piece. Your parents weren’t directly beneath the glass, and they’re competent. I’m certain they escaped. I signaled to Malfoy what I was doing beforehand. He stayed only long enough to secure his allegiance with Grindelwald. He returned moments ago—I sent him to bed. You were unconscious for about two hours.”
I couldn’t think of what to say, where to begin. My parents, Grindelwald…how Tom had saved my life, again. Words failed me, and though I hated it, and under all normal circumstances I’d be mortified…I started to cry.
The tears just started pouring down my face before I could stop them, before I could even realize that I wanted to. I avoided Tom’s gaze, though I knew it was on me, watching as I just sat there and wept. I reached up to swipe away the wetness on my face, but he caught my arm. Firmly, but gently, he took my hand in his and pulled me into him.
It was some parallel universe, this. This place where I could cry like an absolute fool and Tom could see it, could watch me break down in the most vulnerable way. I couldn’t understand how his arms were around me, or how his warm breath was in my hair. My body shook with sobs and I saw his shirt, dirtied by battle, grow wet with my tears. I’m not sure how long we stayed there, but I cried myself dry, until my head pounded and I couldn’t possibly produce another tear. He held me there, like stone—immovable, solidly there.
It was only after I had quieted myself that I found the strength to pull away from him, to look at him. His face was smooth and calm, showing not sympathy or anger, not pity and not disgust. He just watched me, those deep brown eyes taking in my tearstained, red face.
“Tom, I…I’m sorry.”
The first words that came to mind escaped my mouth.
He silenced me with a finger to my lips. He was so near to me that I could differentiate his dark eyelashes, and I heard my breath catch. He was going to kiss me. This had to be it.
I let my eyes fall closed as I felt the warmth of him move towards me and then…
He stopped. Inches from me, I watched his eyes change. It was as if someone dropped a shutter behind them; the bright, beautiful warmth I had seen only seconds ago was now shielded by a dark veil, closed off. He looked away from me, giving my hand one last squeeze before he pulled his own away, nearly making my cry out at the pain of it.
How could he just rip himself away after that? How could he leave me here after showing me a part of him I was certain no one else had ever witnessed? Why couldn’t he just be with me, love me like I so desperately loved him? What was wrong with him?
“You should get to your own bed,” he said quietly. “I’ll—”
“No,” I cut him off. “Please. Let me go alone.”
He looked at me, and again, he was muted, far away, lost. I had lost him yet again.
“Whatever you wish.”
I stood up and ignored the wave of dizziness that accompanied this action. I was still half weeping, still terrified, still in love and heartbroken all at once. I followed the dungeon tunnel back to the common room. The thought of being alone made me want to scream. I needed him back, I needed someone. I had to have someone; I couldn’t be alone. I couldn’t.
Nearly blindly, I felt my way to the staircases and then, almost without thinking, I turned to climb the boys’ stairs instead of my own. I followed the spiral to the fifth floor and saw that the room was dimly lit by only a single candle.
He was the only one still up, and he looked as I entered the room.
I probably looked like hell, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. He stood up and I went to him, taking his face in my hands and pressing my lips to his. His surprised gasp was soon swallowed, and he wrapped his arms around me, coaxing my mouth open with his.
I let him overtake me, squeezing my eyes shut, pretending with all my might that the blonde silken hair beneath my fingers would turn to thick black, and that the hands around my middle were warmer, that the boy I was kissing was inches taller. I pretended he was Tom because it was all I could do, all I could do before I went insane, before I could accept that the boy I loved, for some reason, couldn’t love me back.
We didn’t break apart, and Malfoy had me pressed against the stand of his bed when the smallest noise disturbed us. I pulled away from the faceless boy in front of me to see a different one at the opening of the dormitory. But this was the boy that mattered, the boy I loved, the one I would do anything for. Tom looked at me, and I could do nothing but look back, both of us locked in eachother’s gaze as if Malfoy didn’t exist.
He frowned, a funny look on him. It looked as if he didn’t understand what he was seeing. His mouth was open slightly, startled. Then the shutters were back and he pulled himself together, the impassive face I knew and hated taking him back over.
“Pardon me,” he said quietly, ducking away and into his own bed, pulling the curtains around him.
I was paralyzed, numb. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to. Now instead of the wild flood of emotion I had been feeling only moments ago, I felt nothing. I was empty. I don’t know how I made it to my room.
I still have no idea what happened after Tom caught me with Malfoy. I only remember falling asleep wishing, with every particle in my body, that I would never wake up.
A/N I'm baaaack! I won't spend a paragraph explaining how sorry i am for being such a slowpoke becasue i hope you can imagine...let me just say that I love you all for sticking with me and if I could send you each flowers and chocolate, I would! Without your feedback and positive comments I would never be able to keep writing. So here's the latest! Its frustrating, I know;)
But its all part of the master plan muwahahaha so watch out for more chamber stuff, results of the Grindelwald fiasco and obviously tons of drama with Anne's messy love life. Stay tuned and I actually PROMISE this time I will get the next one out faster. I just try to make sure they're just the way I want them before I post! Thanks so much, and as alwaysssss i wanna hear your comments! <3