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Chapter 26 : They're All Around Us
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I had nearly drowned once, when I was seven. The feeling isn’t one that can be forgotten. I remember being tumbled about in the waves, narrowly missing the jutting rocks of the cliffs behind my house. I remember gasping for air only to choke on the salty water, to feel that paralyzing panic that accompanied the knowledge that I was very close to dying. There was nowhere I could turn or look that would save me, nowhere gave me any solace. I was certain I was going to die.
Waking up the morning after the events in France was very much the same. To this day I recall the paradoxical combination of my existence. I simultaneously felt dead and alive, my body like cement but my heart beating so rapidly I thought it would fall out of my chest.
If ever there was a time to panic, it would have been then, when I was drowning in my own life. But no, no…I had already allowed myself to ruin everything by being foolish and crying and letting my stupid anger and hurt take me over. I remember wanting to be like Tom, to be able to pull those shutters down behind my eyes and never let the world know what I was thinking or how much I was hurting. I was Anne Harley, I was brilliant and beautiful. I could fix this.
At least, I remember telling myself that over and over again to keep myself afloat.
Scarlett was pawing at me, her fuzzy black body against my back. She kneaded at my head, which was still buried in my pillow, still sticky with dried tears and makeup. For a one beautiful moment, I wondered what was going on. But then everything—Grindelwald, my parents, Malfoy, Tom—came crashing down in my mind and I remembered why I had so valiantly tried to stay asleep forever.
But the world had other plans. I opened my eyes to the morning sun streaming into my dormitory, and Scarlett’s curious eyes on me. I forced myself out of bed. Seeing myself in the mirror I shuddered. I didn’t think I could have looked any worse…there were black streaks down my face, my eyes so swollen they were like slits. My hair had the faint likeness of a lion’s mane, and my cheeks looked as if my pot of rouge had exploded onto them.
I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu as I stared into my own eyes, recalling the last occasion I had looked so dreadful and felt so terribly empty. What would Grandpa say if he had lived long enough to see this? I snapped my eyes shut.
I shakily made my way back to bed, sitting down. I couldn’t help but also think of the words that had calmed me last time. What would Scarlett O’Hara do?
Come on, Harley. You have to keep going. Think. What do you need to do?
The first, and most pressing, problem was my parents. I had no idea what to expect. Would they come bursting in here at any moment and haul me back home? Would they turn me in to the ministry and let me rot in Azkaban? Were they curled up bemoaning their evil daughter? Were they even alive?
For the sake of my own sanity I assumed they were alive and angry with me. I could more easily handle their anger, or even hate, than I could handle their deaths. My first instinct was to find them as quickly as possible and wipe their memories. But they could be anywhere, and they could have already told others about what happened.
There were no witnesses from the ministry…there couldn’t be, Grindelwald would have killed them all or carted them off to Nurmengard. So if my parents hadn’t told anyone, they were the only free souls who knew what had happened and had seen me. If I was lucky enough to find them while they had not yet told anyone else, I could make it so none of it had ever happened.
I worried that the magnitude of the memories I needed to erase would be too much, but I had no choice. There was no way I could explain my presence there, no way I could explain away the familiarity with which Grindelwald had talked to me. No, even I couldn’t come up with enough lies to cover this. I had to make my parents forget. But I had to find them first.
They had to come for me eventually. They wouldn’t ignore me. They’d come to get me, to punish me or throw me away or disown me or cry over me, but whatever for, they would come to me. And when they did, I had to be ready.
It was early. Too early for breakfast, so instead of heading to the dining hall after I woke, I made my way to the library. I tried to focus on the public records I had requested—after all, it was this summer that I planned to find the last, pathetic remnants of my once great family. I needed to prepare.
But something kept me from my reading, and I found myself distracted. There was no logical reason for me to be distressed.
The fiasco with Grindelwald could have been costly, it’s true. He now had me branded as a traitor, and would no longer welcome me into his plans.
But I knew so much already. It was only a matter of time before Grindelald’s army would fall. Then only a matter of time before he himself fell in battle and forfeited his control of the Elder Wand. I could defeat him in a duel if the circumstances allowed it. And if anyone else somehow got to him before I did, becoming the wands owner would become even easier, since it would be most likely that their victory was won by fluke. Either way, I would win the wand. In time. I could be patient.
No, this did not worry me. It was not my immediate goal.
That was the chamber. It had been postponed long enough. I needed to get back to searching. The chamber needed to be opened this year, without fail. I needed to show the world that I was the true manifestation of Slytherin’s greatness, and that it was I who deserved anything anyone might have regarding Slytherin himself. It was I alone who could bring glory back to the name Slytherin.
But I knew I would find the chamber soon. I felt it in my very bones.
So why did I fail to focus, why did I have the strange urge to get up and walk, to go somewhere, anywhere? I had never failed to complete a task that was necessary. My restlessness disturbed me.
And out of nowhere, even though I had been trying so hard to think of anything but her, Anna’s face flashed through my mind, and I knew, that for some reason, she was the problem.
I honestly should have let Grindelwald kill her. Or at least banish her or torture her or something akin to such suffering. She deserved it for ruining everything. If it weren’t for her saintly parents showing up everything would have gone accordingly and I’d be one step closer to Grindelwald and his wand.
But if I had just let him have his way and kill her, I would have lost my most valuable helper, the only person I could sometimes count on to do a job well. I could get to Grindelwald later. But Anna? She would be harder to replace. Possible of course, but to go to all that trouble? No. I had been right to save her.
Her reaction had confused me. I often forgot that no mater how long I spent with her, or how often she surprised me with her skill or logic, Anna was still—at her most basic level—just a girl. And that night after Grindelwald she stunned me with her weakness, with the crystalline tears that had made tracks down her face without warning. My first reaction had been to recoil, to point out to her that crying like a child never helped anyone, and tell her she was making a fool of herself.
But the words had refused to manifest.
So I had let the girl cling to me, to cry for quite a while. I remember feeling her body shaking with sobs. I couldn’t muster my disgust for weeping, and for weakness. I knew what she was doing was pointless and silly, but still I could not stop her. I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand what she could be feeling so strongly that made her curl up and cry so hard, and so I couldn’t criticize her. I had never known a parent. Perhaps the possible loss of them forever would inspire such a reaction in anyone. I simply didn’t know. I hated not knowing.
But what I hated the most was the way she had looked at me, the vulnerable glistening of her familiar green eyes as she took me in after finally crying herself dry. That one glance from her had shot fear and anger and chaos through me all at once. I hated her and wanted to pull her back all at once. I wanted to curse her for dissolving into a mess of tears, but something--something odd and deep within me--wanted to make sure she never had to again.
Mostly I couldn’t help but notice her closeness, and the change in her mannerism. She was looking at me as if she expected me to always comfort her, as if she was thanking me for being there. I didn’t want her to feel this way. She should not be getting used to my acceptance. I had to keep her in her place and remind her that such meltdowns will not be tolerable again. I realized I had been giving her reason to believe I’d always console her. And so I pulled away.
Her face had changed again and turned to something akin to thunder. She swept away upstairs, lost to me. And then the most puzzling, hideous thing happened.
I had entered my dormitory to find her there. Not alone, no. But my Anna was pressed against a bedstand, Abraxas Malfoy covering her body with his, his hands all over her, his mouth claiming hers. There they were, like any two silly teenagers who claimed to be in love, who sickened me with their fleeting mortal affections.
I had wanted to blast him away. I had wanted to drag her back to me. I couldn’t bear this loss of control, of power over my best servant, of her. She was mine. Anyone who had any part of her posed a threat to her loyalty, and this included if Abraxas Malfoy had decided to pursue her in that deadening ritual of mating most of Hogwarts engaged in.
I couldn’t have it. I could not lose her. I could not have her losing her focus.
They broke apart and both stared at me with a faint look of horror. I swallowed my thoughts and greeted them most politely, climbing into bed to plan how I would tear them apart. Whatever it took, I would do. I didn’t rescue Anna from Grindelwald only to lose her again.
I was called down to Headmaster Dippet’s office at breakfast. I had snuck down to the dining hall, hoping to avoid Tom and Malfoy, when Olive Hornby ambushed me.
“Oh, Anne, I was looking for you!”
“And why would you be doing that?” I asked wearily, thinking privately that if she was about to spew some gossip about me I would deck her.
“The headmaster wants to see you in his office, he didn’t say what for, but he didn’t look too happy…”
Whatever was left of my stomach dropped, as I couldn’t help but imagine one of the many terrible things he could want to discuss with me. But I had nowhere to run.
I entered the office to find Headmaster Dippet looking grim, his hands laced atop his desk.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” I asked.
“Yes, Miss Harley, come in. I think you had better sit down.”
I sat, bracing myself for him to tell me I was being expelled for colluding with the greatest dark wizard in the world. But instead, Dippet sighed and said:
“I’m sorry to tell you so suddenly, but your parents have had an accident. They are both in St. Mungo’s and it’s been advised that I pull you out of school so you can be with them in this difficult time.”
“A—an accident?” I stuttered. “Are they okay? What—”
“It seems they found themselves caught in an unfortunate place at an unfortunate time,” Dippet said evasively. “They are both alive, but the hospital told me little more. I was simply instructed to send you there. I’m sorry.”
I tried to align my thoughts. They were both alive. And they were both holed up in St. Mungo’s recovering from unknown injuries. So they would be powerless to resist my memory charm. This could be exactly what I needed to make it so none of this mess had ever happened.
“Of course, Professor. Thank you for telling me this. I would like nothing more than to see my parents,” I said calmly.
I had never been to St. Mungo’s before, and had to be escorted to the fourth floor by a bored looking receptionist. I caught her jealously eyeing my red cloak before stopping at a door halfway down the hall.
“Here’s your father,” she said, opening the door.
I had no idea what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it. The man on the bed before me looked like half a mummy. His right arm, hip, foot and head were all bandaged, but the most disturbing part was that he had one covering his mouth. He could not speak, but his cold emerald eyes took me in with more emotion than I had ever seen him wear.
“Pa,” I whispered, kneeling next to his bed. “Pa, I’m sorry.”
But I knew it was pointless to apologize or try to explain. It didn’t matter.
“I’m sorry for everything,” I said, pulling my wand out. “Please, Pa. Do your best to forget. Don’t fight it.”
I believe he realized what I was doing a split second before it happened. His eyes widened only to fill with the flash of light I produced when I wiped his mind free of yesterday’s events. The charm’s strength nearly burned me—I could take no chances that he’d ever recall what had happened, so I gave it all my strength. The same man who had always pushed me to be the best, who was never satisfied, lay dazed in his hospital bed at my hand.
I knelt next to him and went on about how happy I was that he was okay after the train crash. I told him Ma was okay, and that I had come from school to see him. I asked repeatedly if he really didn’t remember anything from the accident, and was grimly satisfied when he gingerly shook his head, confusion in his eyes. My father would be nothing to worry about. My work here was done.
I went on to visit my mother, and the nurse in the hall looked at me funny when I told her I wanted to see Jane Harley.
“Oh dear…you must be her daughter,” she said.
“Yes, where is she?”
The nurse hesitated, but then had me follow her. The words Janus Thickey Ward were printed on a double door at the end of the hall. The nurse pulled out a thick key ring and stuck one into the keyhole.
I was about to ask why on earth this hall was under such security when she turned to me with a sigh.
“Has anyone told you about your mother?”
“No…what do you mean?”
“I mean that she’s in a somewhat more…serious condition than your father. The damage she suffered from their accident wasn’t purely physical.”
Something cold seemed to slither down my body. I pushed past the nurse, not wanting to hear her.
“Mother?” I called. “Ma?”
Through another door was a lounge type room, filled with people playing chess and watching the television. They were all dressed in the same depressing white hospital gowns. A few people smiled and waved at me as I rushed past, a few sat and stared. One man rocked back and forth slowly, ignoring the game of checkers in front of him.
I turned desperately to the nurse, who looked at me with pity. She pointed to a closed door.
I turned the knob to reveal a room that didn’t look unlike the one my father was lying in. And on the bed sat my mother, her dark hair loose and tangled about her shoulders, her white hands clasped on her lap.
“Ma!” I cried, stumbling forward to kneel in front of her. “Ma, are you alright?”
She blinked once, tilting her head to the side. “Anne?”
“Yes, Ma. It’s me. I’m here.”
“Oh, Anne. Why are you out alone? You should be with Nana. It’s much too dangerous.”
I frowned. “Ma, I’m nearly sixteen. I had to come to see you.”
My mother gazed up at me, puzzled. “We must be careful. They’re all around us. They're everywhere. All I want is for you to be safe, my dear.”
“Ma, wha—? What are you talking about? Don’t you remember—?
The nurse by the door cleared her throat rather loudly. I turned around and stared at her.
“What happened to Ma?”
“She’s been…odd. Ever since they were admitted she’s been talking to herself, mostly about you actually. From what I’ve heard she seems to think you’re still about ten. There wasn’t much physically wrong with her. But she won’t…she won’t listen. She doesn’t seem to understand where she was or what happened. It seems she has suffered some mental damage. We’re not sure of the cause yet, but we’re trying.”
I heard the words leave her mouth but couldn’t absorb them. I turned back to my mother.
“Ma,” I said loudly. “Look at me.”
My mother vaguely focused her gaze on me.
“Do you remember what happened to you?”
“They’re everywhere. You must go home, Anne. Nana will fix you up something if you’re hungry. I can’t have anything happen to you.”
My body was slowly going numb.
“No, Ma, listen to me—”
“Oh, Anne, I’m not sure if I want to send you to Hogwarts, its too dangerous…”
Ma’s gaze slipped from me and she continued to mutter, more to herself than anyone.
“Ma!” I cried, my voice cracking. In an instant, the nurse was beside me, saying “I think that was enough of a visit for today. Your mother needs her rest.”
I couldn’t find the strength to argue, and what would be the point? My own mother barely saw me, thought I was a child, and didn’t seem to have any memory of how she had gotten this way.
And it was entirely my fault.
I was back at Hogwarts in time for dinner. I intended to grab something to quell my rumbling stomach then hide away, but to my dismay, Rachel Burke saddled up next to me on my way in.
“Anne! It’s been so long,” she said, pouting at me. “Let’s eat together!”
“I’m not really in the mood, Rachel.”
“Oh, phooey, everyone’s gotta eat. Plus, I want to tell you something.”
I reluctantly followed her into the dining hall, debating whether or not I should just ignore her and leave. We sat and Rachel wasted no time.
“So you know how my Papa owns that shop down in Knockturn Alley, right?”
I considered informing her that anyone who didn’t know this was messed in the head, since she had let everyone know by the second day of first year.
I just nodded, wondering why she was going on about it again.
“Well, he just showed me the most fascinating thing over Easter, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to invite you down to see it, because I know you’d appreciate it.”
“What in the name of Merlin is it?” I asked impatiently.
“It’s incredibly old,” Rachel prefaced. “And absolutely priceless. Papa has had it for a while now, but is finally putting it on display for everyone to see. I wanted to show a few people first. You know, because I feel like you’d really get it.”
I very nearly told Rachel to shove her priceless artifact up her arse when she said,
“It belonged to Slytherin himself.”
“I—what?” I stammered.
Rachel nodded importantly. “My Pa owns something that Salazar Slytherin himself created. And I want you to come see it before anyone else. Think of it as a little…private viewing.”
I ignored Rachel’s maddening smugness. Something that Salzar Slytherin had owned? Naturally I thought of Tom. And as if she was reading my thoughts, Rachel cleared her throat and spoke again.
“I was thinking of heading down tomorrow after classes…by the way, bring Tom, I think he’d like seeing this too. You know, him being a Parseltongue and all…I bet he feels a real connection to Slytherin. I’d love to show him something so fascinating.”
Yeah, I’m sure. You’d like to show him your knickers, more like.
“Oh, um, yeah sounds great. I’d love to go,” I managed. No matter how much I would like to pull all of Rachel’s red hair out, I had to admit I was curious. What kind of piece of history could Mr. Burke be hiding? What of Slytherin’s could have found its way into his greedy hands?
“I’ll let him know.”
“Well….make sure he knows how rare this is. He really should come,” Rachel said, casually brushing off her robes. I barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes. But again, she was right. If I knew about something like this and didn’t tell Tom, he’d murder me. If he wasn’t already planning my death because of last night’s events.
My heart dropped at the idea of facing Tom. I vaguely said goodbye to Rachel and headed back to my dormitory. In all the drama surrounding my parents, I had had enough distraction to keep me from thinking of Tom, of what he had done for me, then what he had seen.
God, why did I have to be so stupid? Why couldn’t I have been strong enough to shut up and go back to my room alone? Why did I have to take everything I felt and pour it all out to Malfoy? But why did it even matter? Tom clearly hadn’t wanted to kiss me, why shouldn’t I kiss someone else? Ugh.
I wished I could take it all back, but I couldn’t. I might have charmed my father out of his senses, and my mother might be lost to herself from shock, but there was no way I’d get away with pretending none of this happened. There was no way to get both Malfoy and Tom to forget. And I’d be too frightened to try and put a memory charm on Tom anyways.
What if he stopped me or it didn’t work? I shuddered at even his imagined anger.
I dropped my clothes and climbed into bed when I finally reached my dormitory. The churning, sick feeling I got when I wasn’t sure if Tom was angry with me sat in my stomach. The Last thought I remember having before I fell asleep was that this feeling was becoming all too familiar. I fell into a fitful sleep, often floating in an odd half slumber, distressed by what morning might bring.
It was very late, and the curtains around my bed were rustling. They parted and smoky moonlight leaked onto my bed. Tom was here with me, his black hair tousled, and yet still perfect in its gentle wave. His face was alight with something so powerful, my breath caught. I had to be dreaming, so I didn’t have to be afraid.
“Tom,” I sighed. “I’ve missed you.”
“Anna, listen to me. It’s finally happened. I’ve done it.”
“Oh, you’re not angry with me,” I said, relived that his face was an odd mixture of elation and puzzlement. “Oh, Tom.”
“Anna! What’s wrong with you? Listen!”
I only stared, impressed with my mind for creating such a vivid, perfect dream Tom. He seemed to understand that I was only half conscious, and he took my by the shoulders, giving me a shake. I started. This wasn’t a dream.
Tom was really here, at my bed, in the middle of the night? And he wasn’t angry?
“Anna. I’ve done it. After all this time and all the work we’ve done, and all the nights spent searching…”
“W—what?” I asked dumbly.
“I’ve found it.”
A/N Eeeep another chapter done with! Personally I feel like this was kind of a lame short little chap...not a lot of action or romance or any of the good stuff, but there were obviously some aftermath issues that had to be dealt with! And I originally wasn't planning on a Tom pov but it just seemed right and I felt like I needed a little insight on how he was feeling. More soooon, with chamber stuff, malfoy drama and a hell of a lot of Anne/Tom! Thanks for sticking with me guys, even through these random loose ends chapters haha, as alwaysssss lemme know what ya think! I live off your feedback:) Love you all!
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