“The chamber!” Tom finished, taking my arm and tugging. “Come on!”
I stumbled out of bed in shock. Tom had found the chamber. After all this time, all this searching, all of my hoping and praying that it really was just a myth…
I vaguely registered that I was wearing nothing but my thin nightgown, but knew it would be futile to try and stop Tom for something so petty. He pulled me through the dungeons, not even bothering with a Disillusionment Charm. We swept up the staircases to the second floor, and into the girl’s bathroom.
“So it was a bathroom!” I couldn’t help but say, my less direct way of saying ‘I told you so.’ “But how could we have missed it, the bathrooms were the focus the last couple weeks…”
“This was the floor I had assigned to Lestrange…I’ll punish him later for his immense carelessness. It was only by chance that I decided to do some searching on my own tonight. And it was so simple.”
I foolishly felt a pang of hurt that Tom had searched on his own tonight, but was quickly distracted when he again pulled on my arm almost painfully. He directed me to the circular center of the bathroom, where the marble sinks made a ring around a mirrored pillar.
I followed his finger, which I could have sworn was shaking in excitement, to a sink that looked the same as all the others. I reached my hand out to the tap, pulling it towards me. Nothing happened. I frowned, wondering why I had never noticed this sink not working. I bent closer, tracing my fingers across the marble.
With a cold lurch, I saw it. Etched in the side of the pipe, so delicately and elegantly that a passerby would not notice it, was a coiled serpent.
It was real. The Chamber of Secrets was real. And it was right beneath my fingertips.
“Oh my God,” I whispered. “Tom…”
I turned to see him standing there, arms crossed over his robes, a look of smug satisfaction on his face.
“I have found the key to Slytherin’s legacy. I have found my purpose at Hogwarts. Now all that’s left is to carry out the plan that has been delayed for a thousand years.”
He looked away from me, to the pillar in the center of the room. The room was filled with the sound he made—but the hissing noises I had heard him whisper to Nagini so many times sounded so much more sinister here, so much darker.
There was a thud somewhere deep in the ground beneath us. Then things started to move. I jumped back as the sink beside me shifted, seeming to melt into itself, sinking back into the pillar behind it. The mirrors shuttered and fell to the ground but did not break. The stone that reached the ceiling was folding inward, a large hole opening in the ground that seemed to be eating everything surrounding it.
Then, as suddenly as it had started, everything stopped. The silence was more unnerving than Tom’s hissing or the sound of the bathroom rearranging itself. In the middle of the floor was a gaping hole, a deep black oblivion. I was terrified, but I instinctively leaned closer. I could faintly see that I had been wrong—it was not only a hole, but a slide.
Tom walked forward, standing at the edge of the hole. I heard him inhale, and I realized what he was about to do only a spit-second before he moved again.
“Wait!” I cried, causing him to start and put his foot back on solid ground. He turned and glared at me.
“What, Anna? What could you possibly want right now?”
“I—I just…give me a second,” I said, trying to regain the feeling in my limbs. I cautiously approached the hole. “You aren’t going to just jump down there, are you?”
Tom looked at me as if I were insane. He was the one teetering on the edge of a giant hole fabled to hold a deadly beast, and I was the one who deserved to be looked at like I was a loon. Right.
“What else would you have me do?” he asked acidly.
“Well! What if there’s something sharp down there, or the thing is loose and just slithering around, or…”
I stopped talking, because in his most Tom-like manner, he had swapped emotions in an instant. Tom was laughing, the laugh that I had always thought was oddly mismatched to the rest of him was echoing all around me, amplified by the deep depression before us.
“This is why I am Slytherin’s heir, and not you,” Tom said, snorting. I ignored this dig.
“Well, you go first at least!”
Tom laughed again. “First? You don’t think you’re coming!”
I didn’t know what to say at first, with him just standing there looking all amused at what he must have thought was silliness.
“Oh no, no, no… you can’t have thought I’d allow you to enter the chamber of my most legendary forefather alongside me?”
The anger finally hit me and I snapped, “Well sorry, how dare I. Why did you bring me all the way down here, just to show off?”
Tom’s eyes, though still amused, flashed. “Excuse me?”
I didn’t know if it was the late hour of the night messing with my sense, or just the flat out unfairness that was making me so bold. But I felt so infuriated so abruptly that I couldn’t stop the words from pouring out of my mouth.
“You heard me. You woke me up and dragged me down here. I’ve been searching for this place for weeks with you, and it was me who came up with the idea of the pipes! You can’t do this. You can’t tell me I can’t see it, I may not be his heir, but I’m a Slytherin too, and I’ve dedicated my whole year to finding this place. I want to see it.”
Tom moved so quickly I didn’t see him. His wand sliced through the air once, and I was thrown against the wall, my head knocking into the stone painfully. Stars exploded in my vision as he approached me.
“Ah, my Anna feeling a little too entitled, isn’t she?”
I tried to move, but it seemed he had pinned me where I stood against the wall. He was only inches from me now, casually twirling his wand as if he hadn’t just assaulted me with it. I wished I could find it in me to hate him for it.
“Oh, now you’re upset with me. Pity. But it seemed you were upset with me last night and it didn’t take too long for you to recover from that…”
Shame coated my insides, and I looked away from him. My head pounded from its collision with the concrete.
“But I had to show you that no one, my dear Anna—not even you—is worthy of entering this chamber alongside me. You are neither an heir of Slytherin, nor a Parseltongue, and therefore have no right to break the seal of this sacred place.”
I broke my short-lived attempt to ignore him and tossed my hair out of my eyes.
“No, I’m neither of those things. What I am is the person who has never left your side when you needed me, or gotten any rest for the last six months, all because I’ve been searching for this place, all on behalf of you.”
Tom tilted his head to the side, and I couldn’t tell if he was silently mocking me or considering my words. Eventually, he shrugged.
“So can I—”
I was outraged all over again. “But—!”
Tom rolled his eyes, hitting me with a Silencing Charm. “You may not enter with me. I will do this alone, as I was destined to do, as I am meant to.”
I could do nothing but glare. Tom laughed again.
“But,” he said, “Perhaps if I believe it will not affect my plans, and if I do not feel that your presence will disturb the sacredness of the place, I might allow you to see it.”
I perked up at this.
“But for now, stay here. Stand guard. Wait for me.”
He released me with a single flick of his wand, and I had a fleeting, stupid thought wondering why he needed the Elder Wand at all. He was already the master of any magic he attempted.
Without another word, he swept around, hesitated only slightly at the edge of the hole in the ground. Then he let himself slip off into the darkness.
There was no sound for a long time. Then, a slight scuffling sound that must have meant he had found solid ground. He was gone. Tom had gone down into the Chamber of Secrets.
I felt strangely alone, even though I was standing in a bathroom I had been using mindlessly since first year. The moon was shining through the high windows, illuminating the U-Bend carved into the wall. I paced around, unable to sit still.
I caught my reflection in one of the mirrors that had not been taken down with the opening of the chamber. I looked like a ghost in my nightdress, my hair incredibly dark around the pale oval of my face. I amused myself for a while by twirling my dress around, watching the way it flared out around my legs, making me look like I was floating. I giggled, in awe of how much I really did look like some sort of spirit.
Ghost of the bathroom. How depressing.
I walked around, watching my bare, white feet on the stone. I circled around the gaping hole in the floor, daring myself to get closer and closer every time I passed it. Soon I had mustered enough courage to get very close, within inches. I leaned over, trying to see anything but blackness. I didn’t. I backed away when I thought of what would happen if I fell in, or if Tom suddenly emerged to find me snooping.
Eventually, I could find nothing more to do with myself than slide down a wall and sit, waiting. I waited for a very long time. It could have been an hour that I just sat in that bathroom with no one but the giant hole in the floor for company. All I know is that I was somewhere between sleep and consciousness when there was a whooshing sound, and I was alone no more.
“Tom?” I asked, rubbing my eyes. “How…?”
“Are you ready?”
“Ready? You want me to…now?”
Tom nodded curtly. I climbed to my feet, swaying a bit with my exhaustion. I wasn’t going to question it. If Tom wanted to show me this now, I would take it. I may not get another chance. No matter how horrified I really was, I could bury it within me to sate my curiosity, to see what we had finally found, what was said to be myth that was really real.
Tom led me to the hole he had just somehow emerged from. It stunned me how keenly he directed me towards what he had previously withheld. It was as if he had been spurred to show someone, anyone, what he had seen. Whether it was to show off what his ancestor had created, or to show me what he now had control of, I didn’t know. All I knew for sure when he told me to jump was that he desperately needed to show someone, and that I was absolutely, certifiably insane for being that person.
I let myself fall into the hole before me. There was a rush of cool, damp air, and I was sliding down what seemed to be a stone pipe. I shut my eyes as nausea began to swirl about inside me. I reached out for Tom but couldn’t find him. Before I could build a panic though, I was unceremoniously dumped onto a hard surface.
I scrambled to get up and arrange my nightdress so it wasn’t revealing anything. Tom, of course, slipped from the stone as gracefully as a cat…or rather, a snake. He eyed me struggling with my dress for a moment, then swept ahead of me.
“Now there are certain things you must keep in mind,” he announced to me, as we began to make our way down a dimly lit tunnel.
Little sconces lined the wall, and I found myself wondering, of all things to wonder about inside the Chamber of Secrets, how they had stayed lit all these years.
“First and foremost, touch nothing, and go nowhere without my permission. You stay by my side unless I expressly allow otherwise.”
“Yes,” I said, knowing in the back of my mind how meek and submissive I sounded, but unable to draw any concern over it. I was not planning on doing anything to mess this up.
“Secondly, you will never speak of this to anyone. Not Avery, Malfoy, or your silly friends. No one. No matter that this may be the greatest privilege any Hogwarts student will ever have. No one will ever know.”
We had come to a door. It looked like a vault, but it was covered in snakes. Carved snakes, of course, but the way they wove among each other and the way their eyes seemed to glisten had me shrinking back.
Tom whispered something in Parseltongue and the door clicked open. I instinctively reached out and found his hand.
As we walked over the threshold, I realized how silly it was that I was frightened. This chamber was Slytherin’s chamber. Tom was the heir of Slytherin. It was his.
But this did not prevent me from gasping as the room before me came into view. We were standing at the entrance of an enormous space, taller than I could have imagined would fit beneath the school. We must have been very deep underground.
White marble blanketed the place, from our toes to the grand ceiling. Large sculptures of serpents jutted from the corners, the ceiling, the floor. Everyhwere I looked there was a snake of some sort, whether it was a statue or an etching. Water was trickling everywhere in little falls.
But the most striking feature of the chamber was the statue. It must have been at least fifty feet tall, his feet as big as me, his stone robes falling with beautiful detail. His face was strangely primal, with a very long white beard.
Salazar Slytherin himself stared down at us from above.
“It’s incredible,” I murmured.
Tom looked satisfied.
“Can I look around?”
He nodded. I examined the snake statues and the glistening emeralds in their eyes. I followed some of the twisting passages that wound all around. It was like a maze and a sanctuary and an atrium all in one…with only one minor detail that failed to manifest while I was exploring.
“So where…where is it?”
“Oh, Tom, don’t act dumb. The snake! The basilisk! Where is it?”
Tom raised an eyebrow. “You want to see the basilisk?”
I hesitated. “Well that depends…do you want to show me the basilisk?”
My favorite half-smile captured Tom’s face, and I was struck with how beautiful and at home he looked here. His jet-black hair and robes against the marble, the ease with which he carried himself among the stone snakes and water. Underground, hidden away with centuries of secrets…this was where Tom flourished. It made me sad to know, deep down he’d never be as at home anywhere any normal person could be.
“Do you trust me?”
I didn’t hesitate, despite how I should have laughed in his face. “Yes.”
“Then close your eyes.”
I let my eyelids fall shut. Tom’s voice cut through the blackness that was now my world.
“Keep them shut until I tell you, do you understand?”
There was a moment of quiet, and only the trickling sound of the water all around us entered my ears. Then Tom hissed again, differently, more complexly than I’d ever heard before. I couldn’t decide if the sound was frightening or beautiful. But then again, so many things in this world were both.
There was a clunk somewhere deep in the chamber. Then a grinding noise. Silence.
It started softly, then grew in volume. A slithering noise, getting louder and louder, then…thud. Something hit the chamber floor. The basilisk. It was here, feet from me. I could die at any second if Tom wished it.
I swallowed, trying to squash the fluttering inside my chest. Tom said something else in Parseltongue, something that sounded like a warning. Then something else, something softer.
“Give me your hand,” he said, in English. I hesitantly put my hand out, and he enclosed it in his. There was something nearby, I could sense it. I couldn’t help the little trembles that began to shoot down to my fingertips, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of Tom or the basilisk.
“Are you ready?”
I could only nod.
Tom raised my hand, outstretched it in front of me. When it met the cool scales of the beast, I jumped a little. But Tom didn’t let go of my hand, instead covering it completely, flattening his over mine on top of the snake’s skin. It was surprisingly dry for being underground all these years…I was touching a thousand year old snake.
“Wow,” I whispered.
“She’s quite beautiful, is she not?”
“I can’t see it, Tom,” I pointed out.
“No, and you never will.”
There was a sort of finality in this statement, so I didn’t push. Tom said, well, hissed something else, and the snake moved beneath my hand. I was feeling the head of the snake, I was sure of it. I stroked it slightly, earning a low purr.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“She must have been lonely down here all alone,” I said, appreciating the little groves and ridges in her coat. Tom didn’t answer me, but just kept his hand over mine as I moved it. We stayed there for a moment, just us and the deadly serpent calmly lounging before us. I tried not to think too much about how odd it all was, because there was no point.
“Time to go,” Tom said quietly. I pulled my hand back and the basilisk gave a little whine.
“Bye,” I said, keeping my eyes shut to protect myself from the creature I had just been stroking. There was slithering, another clunk, and another grinding noise before all was quiet again.
“You can open your eyes.”
I blinked a few times, readjusting to the dim light of the chamber.
“You should get to bed now. That was certainly enough excitement for you in one night,” Tom announced, businesslike. I felt an urge to ask him to cover my hand with his again, to touch me with such gentleness again. I stifled it, and it passed.
“Of course. Thank you, for…well, for bringing me here.”
Tom looked at me, dark eyes unreadable. He simply nodded and led me out of the chamber, back to the twisting passageway through which we came.
I couldn’t focus on my transfiguration textbook. I was supposed to be reading some tripe about Conjuration and learning the basic theory of it…little did Dumbledore know, I had mastered conjuration about third year.
Thre was too much swirling about in my tired brain. My mother, and her glazed look of confusion. Grindelwald’s casual announcement that he wanted me dead. The beautiful look of Tom standing in the chamber we had finally discovered. The feeling of Basilisk skin beneath my fingertips.
There was no way I could even fake paying attention. I was quietly turning the legs of my desk into ivory when a shadow fell across me.
“Beautiful work, Miss Harley, but slightly non-curricular, don’t you think?”
Dumbledore was looking thoughtfully at the artful spindles I had created. “Since you seem to already be adept at conjuration, would you mind accompanying me to my office for a moment?”
I didn’t really have a choice, so I smiled and agreed. I sat across from Dumbledore, watching him lace together his long fingers and look at me over his half-moon glasses, just like he always did.
“How have you been, these last few days, Anne?”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “That is remarkable, considering what has happened to your parents. I offer my condolences.”
I could only nod, trying not to think about my mother, and the way that I had wiped my father’s memory clean.
“I just wanted to see how you were doing…I know how traumatizing it can be to see your family hurt.”
“Yes, sir. I’m all right though. Thank you.”
“Your O.W.L.S. are coming up, so I hope you remain focused.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, privately thinking that that taking the O.W.L.S. would be the equivalent of being tested on the alphabet.
Dumbledore stopped speaking, and there was a moment of silence. I fidgeted, avoiding his gaze and trying my hardest to think of nothing. Eventually a small sigh escaped his lips.
“I hope you are telling me the truth, Miss Harley,” he said simply. “I hope so very much.”
“I am, sir,” I lied bluntly. “There’s no need to worry.”
There was every need to worry. But no one could ever know that.
“I recommend you get some sleep before your exams, since I know you’ve already mastered the material.
I nodded, and Dumbledore dismissed me. Thank God. I hated lying to him still, even after all these years of practice. There was something about the way he looked at me that made me think he already knew everything—but he couldn’t possibly. All the same, that mixture of pity and disapproval and sadness was unnerving and inspired me to squirm in my seat.
The club was already gathered in our dungeon chamber when I arrived. Tom must have already told them about the chamber; Nott’s mouth was open slightly in awe, Lestrange looked alight with some dark fascination, Avery slightly nervous. Malfoy was off to the side, leaning against a wall with his light hair falling across his forehead. I avoided his gaze as I sat down.
Tom spoke as if continuing something, with no sign that he recognized my entrance.
“And as you all know, it will be an operation that must be executed with the utmost precision and premeditation. Every move, every victim, every death must be carefully planned. I cannot afford any mistakes.”
I felt my throat tighten slightly with the idea of killing our fellow students, letting them fall victim to the evil eyes of the Basilisk, from which I was so dutifully protected. The idea was no longer a fantasy, a sick ambition of Tom’s. It was upon us now, and I could think of no way to further delay the horror that was about to be released upon the school.
“And so, to secure your…loyalties in the most foolproof way, I have decided to implement a most ancient and useful piece of magic. The Unbreakable Vow.”
I had never before heard of the Unbreakable Vow, but my near five years of magical education signaled to me that it must be, in fact, a vow that was somehow unbreakable.
“Each of you will come before me now, and pledge to me your silence to all others in regards to the Chamber of Secrets.”
I noticed that this time there were no options; there was no opportunity for escape. Tom offered no chance to slink away and claim cowardice or inability to comply. We had chosen our paths and there was no turning back. I found myself frightened of what declining this vow would bring upon me. They were consequences I did not wish to suffer, for sure.
I watched as each of my fellow club members approached Tom and had their hands bound together with his by some golden strand of energy. They each repeated the words he said; Lestrange proudly, Nott dimly, Avery nervously. Malfoy smiled as he pledged not to speak a word of our activities to anyone outside our circle, as if there was nothing else he’d rather be doing.
It was my turn too soon. I hesitated a moment too long—Tom’s eyes flashed.
“Having second thoughts, Annamaria?”
I fidgeted, still far enough away that he could not reach out and grasp my hands together like he had done to everyone else. I tried frantically to reason with myself. In theory, an Unbreakable Vow should be of no worry to me. I planned on telling no one about the chamber. I had no reason to ever betray this secret…so why did my insides turn to writhing snakes at the mention of being bound forever by magic to this deadly plan?
“No second thoughts…and yet, here we wait,” Tom said to no one in particular, examining his wand. “How peculiar.”
“I’m not having second thoughts,” I said, my voice shakier than I would have liked. “I just…why are you making me do this?”
Tom looked up, equal parts surprised and amused. “You need me to explain why I can’t have you running about, spilling my secrets?”
“I wouldn’t do that!”
“Is that so? What if you were interrogated for hours? What if someone tortured you?” Tom asked quietly. “Would you be so silent then?”
“I wouldn’t tell anyone, Tom,” I said, suddenly wishing there weren’t four other boys in the room. “You can trust me.”
Tom laughed, the high echoes bouncing around the dungeon and sending chills down to my very toes. I immediately was back in the chamber in my nightgown, Tom asking me so quietly and sweetly if I trusted him. I had told him I did, that I trusted him enough to bring a killing machine right beneath my fingertips.
“While that is very lovely of you, Anna, I require a bit more assurance that my plan will go accordingly than trust.”
I could think of nothing to say, because trustworthiness was all I had to offer in the way of keeping his secrets. And clearly, Tom felt that wasn’t enough.
“It is expected that all of you make this vow,” Tom said, breaking the silence of the room. “Did you think you’d be an exception?”
His comment stung—I had assumed I was the exception to many things.
“You know you’ll have to do this,” Tom said, a light smirk gracing his face. “Or do you think I should have just trusted all of you with the greatest secret this school has ever known? The plan is that no one will hear from any of you a word about this…about the chamber, the basilisk, or about me being Slytherin’s one true heir. Not a word, and I am making sure this happens. This is the plan. There will be no negotiations.”
We all just sat there in uncomfortable silence for a few moments, everyone looking at me expectantly. Tom fiddled with his wand, an air of little worry emanating from him. Avery was wide eyed, Lestrange looked sultry and annoyed, as usual. Nott was probably barely following, and Malfoy was staring at me with a curious look that made me uncomfortable. Eventually, Tom sighed.
“It seems Anna is upset over the plan,” Tom commented idly, his eyes sliding up me to my face.
I felt myself heating up. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just agree like everyone else? The stupid gits all laughed at me, and I knew they did so only because they had permission from Tom, whose lips were twisted into a smirk. I could have easily silenced every one of them…I felt a dull pang and the familiar pull in my fingers that always accompanied the idea of the Killing Curse.
I knew then that my concern was not over having my ability to tell these secrets torn from me, but over Tom’s certainty of this vow’s necessity. He had shown me so much, and made me feel like his confidant, but when it came down to it, he trusted me no more than any of the others.
“Would you care to explain your uneasiness to the rest of our friends?” he asked, as if reading my mind.
Hurt--heavy and sticky--slid down me. I was not special at all. Not when it counted.
“I’m going to bed,” I snapped, turning on my heel and heading toward my dormitory. I half expected Tom to stop me from leaving and force me to make the vow, but I left them laughing in my wake.
I couldn’t sleep of course. I rolled around in bed, goosebumps covering my body—it was unseasonably chilly for the first night of May. After a few hours of tossing and turning, I gave up and threw on a silky white bathrobe. I thudded down the stairs to the common room, curling up in front up in front of the fire. I was there for only a few minutes by myself before footsteps came from the boy’s dormitories. I couldn’t tell who it was, and found that I didn’t care much. I stared into the fire, still freezing.
I knew that voice. I turned to see Tom, with the shadows from the fire in all the right places on his contoured face. The effect was devastating. Why on earth did he need to come find me when all I wanted was to be alone? Could I not ever be without him?
“What?” I asked stupidly.
He said nothing, but extended a small, neatly wrapped package toward me as he sat beside me on the sofa. I realized that it was certainly past midnight. It was May 2nd, my birthday. I had forgotten about my own birthday in all the excitement of the last few days. I stared.
“Since when do you care if it’s my birthday?” I asked, the edge seeping into my voice. He surprised me by not snapping back or just hitting me with some gruesome spell.
He shrugged. “You’ve been hard to please of late.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not going to torture you into agreement, Anna,” Tom said. His lips curled into half a smile, as if he were fantasizing about what it’d be like to try. “So there are different ways to persuade you…”
I laughed derisively. “So you thought you’d buy me off?”
“That’s actually the idea.”
I grunted in disgust and snatched the package from him. Inside the paper was a box no larger than my hand. I wrenched it open and immediately gasped. Nestled in the plush interior was a silver ring with a clearly authentic, rather large emerald on it.
I stifled my immediate reaction of shock as quickly as I could. I examined the thing, and the more I looked at it, the more beautiful it was. It had to have cost a fortune.
“Where did you get this?” I demanded. “You didn’t steal it, did you?”
The ring was heavy from the stone, glinting in the fire. There were even tiny diamonds running around the outside of the emerald, winking at me.
It was absolutely stunning. And how had Tom known that emeralds were my favorite? He had to have known I wouldn’t be able to say no to something like this. It was perfect.
“I thought you’d like it,” Tom said softly, leaning in to take it from me. “But of course, if you hate it, I won’t force it on you…”
“No!” I squeaked, holding it to my chest protectively.
Tom smirked. “So?”
“What?” I asked, admiring my new treasure now that it was in no danger of being taken from me.
“How am I doing buying you off?” he asked shamelessly. I was torn between anger and repulsion at his brazen cheating, and elation that this gorgeous emerald ring was now mine. And my Tom Riddle had given it to me. Only to trap me into making some deadly vow not to speak his heinous secret, but still…
“It’s working,” I said grudgingly.
“Splendid,” Tom said, taking the ring and sliding it onto my finger. “It matches your eyes, does it not?”
I blushed despite my better judgment. Somehow, with only the brush of his fingers, Tom could make me forget about the deaths I had just preemptively allowed, the horror I had just agreed to be a part of…the evil that was beginning to consume us both.
I had to know Tom was only playing with me as he placed a ghost of a kiss on my hand, which was now adorned with the jewel he had given me. I knew he was only showing off his charm as he raised his scorching eyes to mine, but I lost my breath all the same. I knew he was just being his cruel self, teasing me.
But I started to lose my certainty as he moved closer to me, his lips pressing a kiss onto my cheek as well. The clean scent of him filled me as I inhaled in another short gasp.
I heard him laugh quietly as he tilted his head, leaning in so his mouth met the skin on my neck.
Something hot and dangerous flared inside me. Even though his kisses were light as they trailed from my jawline to the hollow of my neck, they sent electricity through my body. I felt the breath coming to my lungs faster, and I unconsciously tilted my head back in pleasure…he pressed further into me, his breathing even and controlled compared to mine.
It’s real, I thought faintly, watching his hand go from my fingers up my arm. I realized with a jolt that I could be on the verge of what I had promised myself only my first year…that Tom would come to me, fall in love with me as the rest of the world had done. As I had fallen in love with him.
“Tom…” I whispered, my lips forming the word without permission from my brain. A split second later, I regretted it more than I could bear. Tom removed his face from the crook of my neck, causing a disappointed sink of my stomach. He didn’t look away from me, but was no longer touching me.
No, no, no, no….
I was speechless, my quick mind failing me for one of the first times in a long time. There was nothing I could say as he studied me, his eyes burning, burning…but differently than the flash of ambition I sometimes saw there. I knew him well enough to see the difference. I couldn’t put my finger on the change.
I hadn’t time to think for long though, because he moved toward me again, and as my heart leapt, he paused, his face but an inch from mine.
“Anna,” he murmured, but his voice didn’t sound like I thought it would. He sounded almost frustrated; I would have said he was upset with me. I would have thought so, that is, if he hadn’t leaned in and touched his lips to mine.
Finally, the gap between us was closed. After all these years of waiting. I had been kissed before, lots of times…mostly to try and make Tom jealous.
But no kiss I had ever received was like this.
It was just like him: searching, powerful…but intoxicating. Forgetting how dangerous and volatile the man in front of me was, my hands went to his chest, traveling of their own accord. I felt his fingers in my hair, tangling themselves in the mass of black that fell over my shoulder. A delicious thrill snaked down my body as he deepened the kiss, pulling me toward him by the hand behind my head.
I couldn’t help but gasp, for some reason between pain and bliss. But again, the moment I made a sound, it broke the connection. He untangled himself from me, deliberately, like I was some toxic substance that he had to get away from. Something he couldn’t believe he had touched. Then the only sound was the crackling of the fire; I didn’t dare say a word.
“Goodnight, Anna,” he said, without a trace of warmth in his voice.
“Goodnight,” he hissed, and I saw the anger creeping into his eyes. I didn’t give him a chance for another word, for I left at that moment. Equally afraid and furious and weak with longing, I slowly made my way to the door to the dormitories, one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t resist; with my hand on the doorknob, I glanced back at Tom. He was sitting before the fire, his head buried in his hands.
My Sixteenth birthday is still the one I remember best.
A/N Yes, it finally happened! Hahaha sorry to keep you waiting so long for any real bit of romance between Annie and Tom, but I always knew it would have to take a frustratingly long time ;) I reallllyyy wanna know how you felt about this chap, obviously some Anne/Tom happened that I'd love your opinions on. It means the world to me that you're still here reading my stuff, I never thought I'd get so far! More sooooon <3