I took the vow the very next day, my hands wrapped in Tom’s, my voice quietly repeating the words he whispered. I pledged that I wouldn’t speak of the chamber to anyone besides those who already knew, and that I would keep forever the knowledge of this secret within me. The emerald on my finger glinted in the fire as he released me, and I will never forget the moment.
I had just laid my life on the line for Tom, for this insane, evil, beautiful thing we were about to split open. I had promised I’d rather die than betray him. No matter what he did, or what became of us, we would always be bonded together with this. There would be no forgetting, no getting away from him.
I terrified myself by feeling no desire to do either. And so my need for Tom Riddle continued consuming my morals, my logic, my life.
The rat in front of me no longer looked like a rat. Instead of a rodent, a pretty miniature horse trotted around the dungeon, tossing its mane. With another lazy flick of my wand, it transformed again, this time into a flowering plant. Ivy-like tendrils were wrapping themselves around the leg of the table when Tom entered, carrying a very large, leather bound book.
I swept my wand through the air and the ivy twisted into itself, looking very much like it was being tortured. It folded inwards until it disappeared into a cloud of smoke.
Tom tossed a rather approving glance at my work before sitting down at the table.
I still couldn’t understand what had happened between us the night before. I was half convinced I had dreamed it—Tom showed no change in demeanor, mentioned no exchange involving a ring and a kiss and a promise. The only evidence I had to show that I wasn’t imagining it was said ring, glistening as beautifully as ever at my finger.
Tom dropped the book in front of me.
“What’s that?” I asked, leaving my seated position on the floor to sit beside him.
“This year’s enrollment book,” Tom said, flipping the thing open.
I opened my mouth, but he cut me off.
“It’s got the names and information on every student who attended Hogwarts this year. It just came out. It took me twenty minutes to convince Madame Pince to let me see it.”
I bent over the book, seeing the names of students listed first by year, then alphabetically.
“Pity they don’t list by blood type,” Tom said carelessly, causing an icy slither to assault my insides. So this was about the chamber. Of course.
Tom tapped the book with his wand, and to my surprise, the page shimmered and changed, a profile of a Hufflepuff sixth year appearing, complete with wand information, course load, blood type and a moving headshot.
“What do you think?”
It took me a moment to register what he was asking me. I came to the realization that he was asking my opinion on this Hufflepuff girl. Not the same sort of opinion as when he asked what I thought of Avery, or Malfoy. He was wondering if I thought she’d be a good victim. If I thought we should set a basilisk on her. If we should kill her.
“Er…” I stalled, looking at the girl’s beaming face. She was a little overweight, had an awful pair of glasses, and her hair needed a set of hot rollers most desperately. “Why her?”
“She’s as big of a Mudblood as anyone could be. And look at her concentrations.”
I scanned the page, seeing that Elise Mallett was taking advanced Muggle Studies courses, probably aiming to work with them somehow.
“I believe I’ll set it for tomorrow.”
I gasped. “So soon?”
Tom glared at me. “You don’t think I’ve waited long enough? What more is there to wait for?”
“I…I just…” I struggled to come up with a reason not to kill this girl that Tom would find valid.
“Have you thought about what happens after?”
“She dies, I send a message that the chamber has been opened, and then Hogwarts will be as it always should have been,” Tom said simply, as if massacring nearly half of the students here was a menial and easily dismissible task.
No matter how hard I had pep talked myself, and no matter what kind of promises I had made to Tom, I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to be sick all over Madame Pince’s precious book.
Tom sensed my uneasiness and rolled his eyes. “If you’re going to inhibit my progress, get out of here and send in Lestrange and Malfoy.”
“No!” I snapped. The idea of being excluded for the sake of those two was more powerful than the nausea.
Good to know I had my priorities in order.
“I’m ready. I want to help,” I said, cringing inwardly. “She’s perfect.”
Tom smiled coolly. “That’s what I thought.”
I glanced once more at Elise’s broad, smiling face. Goodbye, Miss Mallett.
They entered the common room together, heads bent in quiet conversation. Typical, but an irritated twinge tickled me anyways. I looked away quickly, as if I hadn’t noticed them at all. They surprised me by not ferreting away to some dark corner together, but instead sat themselves down at the table I was sharing with Avery.
Anne sat beside me, and I caught the musky vanilla scent of her perfume. I resisted the urge to get closer. Raising my eyes to her, I inclined my head only slightly in greeting. She nodded once, then looked away quickly. I couldn’t help but smirk.
She could try to ignore me all she wanted. She could try to be cool and coy and act as if she didn’t notice I was there. But it was no use now. I had seen behind that pretty little mask of hers, and there was no way she could hide behind it again.
“It’s going to be tomorrow,” Tom said, his voice so quiet, I thought I imagined it for a moment. “You know nothing, of course. There will be jobs for all of you in the aftermath, naturally, and I will discuss them with each of you when the time comes. But for now, play dumb and mourn publicly and believably for the first victim of Slytherin’s heir.”
So it was to be tomorrow that Tom would release the Basilisk. It’s taken long enough, I suppose. I wondered briefly whom he was planning on killing, but it really didn’t matter. One less Mudblood in the world. Pity.
Tom shot one last, meaningful glance at all of us, then rose from his chair.
“I have preparations to do, I’ll see you all in the dungeon at four tomorrow. Let Nott and Lestrange know.”
He went to leave and Anne rose as well, looking as if it were a reflex. Tom shook his head and she sank back into her seat, the disappointment clear on her face. Tom swept away, leaving her at the table with Avery and I.
Avery, after one wide eyed look at the both of us, shook his head and went back to his Ancient Runes chart.
“Don’t look so down, Miss Harley,” I whispered, leaning into the girl beside me. “You’re about to be a part of history.”
She flinched away from me. I chuckled.
This earned a withering stare and a sharp: “I’m not down. I’m perfectly happy and proud.”
“And I’m a dragon.”
Anne only looked away from me, that careful look of indifference glazing over her face. It really was remarkable, how well she could pretend, look at ease and comfortable only seconds after being obviously rattled.
“I must say, you’re a bit underwhelming. I’ve heard dragons are among the most glorious of creatures,” she said coolly, smiling that slow, teasing look I’ve seen used so many times. It was almost endearing that she thought it could still work on me, that with a simple flare of her charm I would forget about everything, forget the cracks in her armor, forget that she had come running to me only a few nights ago, throwing herself into my arms.
The mere thought of it caused a flicker of excitement to lick my insides. I hadn’t the slightest idea what was happening when she burst into my dormitory, out of breath and awash in tears. I barely had a moment to take her in before she pressed herself into me without thought or hesitation. I didn’t need more than a moment to draw her into me and kiss her like I had wanted to since I first saw her. She tasted like salt from her tears, but her lips were as perfect as I had imagined they would be.
I knew it would only be a matter of time before I would find out. There had never been a girl I hadn’t been able to charm or flatter or otherwise woo enough to have them eventually hanging on my every word and desire. Women were simple, and Anne Harley had proved to be no different.
She was a bit different from the average girl; it was true. Dangerously intelligent and ruthless in battle…but these things only seemed to add to her appeal. And they did not change the fact that she was a girl; easily frightened, a mess of emotion, in need of someone to run to when she was crying and alone. She had already broken once, she wasn’t invincible. Like a wild mare that needed taming, I only had to find her weakness and she would be mine.
“I believe you’ll find me quite glorious in time, Anne,” I said, matching her light tone.
She laughed her jingling laugh. “Doubt it.”
“Why so skeptical?”
“There’s nothing glorious about you,” she said acidly, breaking her cool demeanor again and shooting me a look of real hatred.
Though her anger was puzzling, it didn’t bother me. Girls so often interchanged lust and hatred that either one from Anne was a sign of victory for me.
“What have I done of late to offend you so?” I asked, crossing out a line of my essay for Potions.
She had no answer, and only sat back in her chair, pouting those red lips. Oh, what would she do if I told her what I had really done for her back in Paris?
I wondered what reaction would grace her face if I told her that the reason she was not in jail or shunned from her family or disowned was me. I remembered the night so clearly.
I had known what Tom was about to do only moments before he did it. The fact that he was willing to risk everything he had worked for with Grindelwald just to save Anne had shocked me—like Grindelwald said, she was beautiful, brilliant, sure…but there were other girls in the world.
I wouldn’t have done it. But he did, and I knew that I would have to play my part in the recovery. I stayed and displayed my shock, my loyalty. Then the hard part. I sought out her parents and put such a powerful memory charm on her mother that she would never remember the events she had witnessed. Her father couldn’t stop me in time; he had been a bit too slow and was bleeding heavily from the glass that had pierced his body. I had to leave it up to chance that he’d die. I left them, quite a gruesome pair, all bleeding and, in the woman’s case, dazed. But she would survive. And she would be no bother to Anne ever again.
And she had no idea. I debated telling her, but ultimately decided to let it be. I didn’t want her coming to me because she thought she owed me. I could capture her without such a debt.
And I would, despite the way she was so obviously infatuated with Tom Riddle. Sure, he was intelligent and blessed and had the very blood of Salazar Slytherin pumping through his veins. But he was a fool to think his great ambitions would turn out flawlessly, and a fool to have a beautiful girl at his beck and call that he never seemed to notice. He referred to her as a servant, as a valuable tool at his disposal.
But I could see, despite however many could not, that this was all she’d ever be to him. And this is where I knew I had the advantage; how I knew I would get her eventually. Anne Harley was just a silly girl, and one I’d be able to capture just like any other.
It happened during fourth block. Strange, since I had assumed Tom would carry out his most evil deed yet during the long hours of the night, when he was most comfortable. But then, perhaps it was brilliant, doing it now. Everyone is in class.
At least, everyone was
in class a few moments ago. Now we were all clustered in the halls, following the screams and excitement coming from the second floor. I knew what it was about, but I pretended, I looked with wide eyes to Marcella, hoping I came off as confused as everyone around me.
It didn’t seem real to me when I finally pushed my way to the front of the crowd to see what everyone was squawking about. It was blood on the walls, no doubt.
The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. She is only the first.
And on the ground before the writing lay Elise Mallett…dead? Was this how people looked when they died at the eyes of the Basilisk? Rigid, with an expression of pure terror, literally frozen with their arms outstretched to stop what was inevitable?
It was so strange…but she had to be dead.
What else could she be?
Tom’s shout echoed around the dungeon, and I privately thought it was very lucky we were so deep into the maze of corridors underground.
He yelled the word again, and I sat and waited for his temper to abide so I could ask what in the world he was talking about.
After Headmaster Dippet found out about Elise Mallett, he cleared everyone out and sent us all to our common rooms. Tom, as a prefect, managed to worm his way into helping the professors calm everyone down and get us all to safety. Apparently, he had overheard in the hospital wing that Miss Mallett was, in fact, not dead.
Tom was pacing around the way he always did when he was angry; I had only seen him so angry on a rare few occasions, but I ignored my reluctance and finally interrupted him.
“Tom,” I said softly.
“What?” he snapped.
“What does petrified mean?”
Tom growled, sweeping his robes behind him and looking very much like he’d rather hit me with a Silencing Charm rather than answer me.
“There’s more time, don’t worry. We can figure this out. You have a Basilisk, for Merlin’s sake, I’m sure you won’t have a problem killing people,” I said, irritated. The least he could do was explain what was going on before he ranted to me.
“Apparently I do have a problem,” Tom spat. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yelling at me won’t help!”
“What won’t help is you sitting around here slowing me down! I have work to do, I don’t have time to explain things so you’ll understand,” Tom said acidly.
My mouth fell open. “Why are you being like this to me? It’s not my fault she didn’t die!”
“Just shut up
Tom stared at me for half a second before he was beside me, a white hand gripping my face.
His voice was deadly quiet.
“You heard me,” I said, shaking my instinct to curl up in fear of his cold fury. “Don’t tell me to shut up, I’m just trying to understand so I can help.”
“I will tell you whatever I please, and you’re going to listen,” Tom breathed. “I don’t know where you got this malformed idea that you’re privy to anything and everything that has to do with this chamber, but it needs to be knocked out of your head right now.”
Where could I have gotten such a silly idea? When he took me and only me to search with him for hours on end? When he spent forever in this very dungeon bouncing ideas off me? When he took me down into the chamber and let me feel the beast he was releasing? When he gave me an emerald ring and kissed me?
“This is ridiculous,” I said, wrenching my face away from him. For some reason I wasn’t scared, but outraged. “I haven’t done anything wrong, stop taking this out on me.”
“Get out,” Tom whispered, his mouth so close to my ear that I could feel his breath. He straightened up and was feet away from me again before I could gather my thoughts.
I stared at the boy in front of me, took in the beauty I would never become accustomed to. The familiar chills I always felt looking at Tom mingled with the dread beginning to form in my stomach.
He snapped, in that terrifying way I had only seen him do a few times. In an instant, the cool quiet was gone, and he had whipped his wand out to point between my eyes. Instinctively I mirrored him, and a half second later I realized that crossing wands with Tom Riddle was an awful idea.
But I couldn’t back down now.
“Tom, what on Earth
, just talk to me!” I cried, “Why are you doing this, I’m only trying to—”
“Help!” Tom finished with a snarl. “But you forget something, Annamaria
. I don’t need your help!”
“Of course you don’t, but—”
Tom threw the spell at me before I could finish. I knew it was probably only a Silencing Charm, but I slashed my wand and deflected it anyways.
A flicker of something lit Tom’s eyes, and without another word, he threw something else at me, which I ducked away from. Again, and again I deflected them.
I was in shock—was Tom trying to hurt me? Duel
But after a few ducks and deflections, I couldn’t help but want to…fight back.
I didn’t think. I couldn’t. If I tried to think of something I could do that would possibly harm Tom Riddle…my wand wouldn’t listen. So I let it work on its own—defending me with sizzling streaks of gold that I couldn’t identify, with sparks that Tom deflected as easily as one would imagine.
Tom was beautiful when he dueled—it was a wonder I could pay any attention at all to my own magic. I would never achieve what he could, the elegance, the simplicity…it looked so easy…he wasn’t trying. With an irritated realization, I noticed the slight laughter in his eyes. He wasn’t working hard; this wasn’t a challenge for him.
The thought simultaneously made me swell with pride at his brilliance and feel a sharp pang of anger pierce me. He thought I was a joke? Fine.
The bricks behind Tom exploded with the strength of my curse, forcing him to throw up a shield charm to save himself. I went to hit him again, but he was too quick. I had to dive to avoid whatever he threw at me, ungracefully and painfully hitting the table.
Tom still had a slightly relaxed, amused expression on his face that made me want to strangle him. Huh, I could try that.
I snapped my wand forward, and it elongated, forming a whip that wrapped itself around Tom’s waist. I couldn’t help but laugh as I went to yank, finishing this. But again, he was quicker than I.
Tom swept his wand and my whip melted away, my wand strangely heavy in my hand.
It was in this split second that Tom won, hitting me square in the chest with something that made me seize up. I was falling, but then somehow, Tom made it to my side before I hit the ground.
I don’t know what he hit me with…I wasn’t board-like, but I couldn’t seem to lift my limbs.
I glared at Tom, helpless.
“Oh, Anna,” he said, easily summoning a chair over and setting me on it. “Whatever will I do with you?”
I tried to swear at him, but my lips were numb.
“Ah, and this is why you need to listen,” Tom said pleasantly, kneeling before me so our eyes were level. “I feel it’s wasteful to have to punish you. But sometimes…”
Tom placed his wand on my forearm, and a creeping, stinging sensation flooded upwards to my shoulder. I tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip on me.
I whimpered slightly—it felt like my arm was on fire.
“…a reminder is necessary,” he finished, raising his dark gaze to mine. “I do not wish to spend time on this foolishness. But know this. The next time you expressly disobey me, you will not escape this wand so easily.”
I tried weakly to pull my arm away from the point of his wand, but it was futile. After a few more seconds of what felt like fire flooding my veins, Tom removed the tip of his wand. I felt sleepy and numb, and Tom’s face was swimming in and out of focus.
“You’re my best helper, Anna, you know that,” Tom said, cupping my face in his hand. “But you must remember that you only help when I give you an order.”
Disobey? Order? Tom was talking like I was a servant. But I was so sleepy. Perhaps I was imagining it.
“You will always listen to me,” Tom said, raising an eyebrow as if daring me to contradict.
I was very warm, tingling and still a bit numb. But Tom’s voice was lovely, so I did my best to nod. He smiled.
Then he slipped his other arm around me, and I could have sworn I felt his lips on my forehead before I drifted into oblivion.
I woke in the morning pleasantly warm, with Scarlett purring at my side. Yawning, I pulled my curtains back to find sunlight streaming through the skylights, the only windows we had since we were underground. There was no one else in the dormitory; I must have slept late.
I was lazily brushing my hair when I saw a blotchy dark spot beneath the translucent sleeve of my nightgown. I pushed my left sleeve up and gasped, my hairbrush clattering to the ground. There was an ugly black mark on my arm—I would have said it was a tattoo if it wasn’t so blurry. I could barely make out a crude snake and skull design. I rubbed the mark with my other hand, but nothing happened. I stared at it in puzzlement for a good minute before I realized.
“Tom!” I gasped. What had he done to me last night? What was the point of defeating me in a pointless duel only to stick an ugly mark on my arm? Was it on purpose or was it some bizarre side effect of a curse?
I looked dejectedly back at my reflection. The goddamn thing better not be permanent. It was hideous and most unladylike.
But I had better things to do than worry fruitlessly about something Tom had painted onto my arm. I had to get to the library and find out what petrification was, and find Rachel to see what she had been bothering me about the other day at dinner. If she really did have something in her father’s scummy little shop that Tom would be interested in, I had better take a look.
I threw on my robes and made my way through the common room and up through the great hall to the library. I was just pulling the door open when I heard an all too familiar voice.
I turned, most reluctantly, to face Dumbledore, who was standing before me in robes of midnight blue.
“You shouldn’t be wandering alone, in light of recent events,” Dumbledore said, pulling the heavy door open and gesturing me inside. “It isn’t safe.”
“I…” I trailed off, since I had forgotten completely that Tom’s opening of the chamber was the reason for all of this. I had forgotten that the school would be in an uproar, in fear. This could be inconvenient. “I’m sorry professor, I didn’t think.”
“You know classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week…what could you possibly need in the library?” Dumbledore asked, casually strolling beside me. He lead me to a table bathed in sunlight near the restricted section. I awkwardly sat down.
“I er…” I stalled, trying to think of an innocent reason I could be in the library. “I was just…well, curious, sir.”
“Yes. About the, er…” I dropped my voice to a whisper. “The Chamber…the one that was written about on the wall. I don’t understand, sir.”
Dumbledore looked at me for a very long time. I didn’t look away, and focused on closing off my mind, letting go of all emotion. I suppose it worked, because Dumbledore took his piercing blue gaze off me and sighed.
“The Chamber of Secrets,” he said. “It is a legend as old as the school itself. There has never been any proof to support its existence…at least until now.”
I tried to look enthralled, even as I was wishing Dumbledore would just leave me alone so I could find out why Elise Mallett wasn’t dead and get back into Tom’s good graces. Dumbledore gave me an overview of the chamber’s legend, and I was struck with a sudden fear.
What if what had happened to Elise was only something a Basilisk could do? Had whatever went wrong alerted Dumbledore and everyone else to what Slytherin’s monster might be? It had taken Tom long enough to figure out what it was, had he messed up so royally as to let everyone else know?
“Professor?” I asked, doing my best to sound timid, “What…what was it exactly that happened to Elise? She didn’t die, did she?”
“No, Miss Mallet is not dead. She has been petrified.”
“Petrification is the state of being where one is essentially frozen. They do not see, hear, or feel. They cannot move, and cannot gain consciousness.”
“So…can she be fixed? She’s not going to stay like that forever?”
Dumbledore hesitated. “There is a cure, but it is nevertheless a serious condition.”
“You can’t tell what did that to her?”
Dumbledore shook his head. “There are dozens of things that can cause petrification.”
“How awful,” I said, looking at my lap.
There was a beat of silence.
“Miss Harley, do you recall your first year very clearly?”
Dumbledore’s question threw me off balance.
“Do you remember when I asked you to look after Tom Riddle?”
Dumbledore surveyed me, his half-moon glasses glinting in the sunlight, the silvery gray streaks of his hair glistening among the auburn.
He patted me on the shoulder and swept away, just like that, leaving me feeling more ashamed of myself than I have in a long time. And that was saying something.
“I don’t see why Tom can’t come,” Rachel was grumbling, walking beside me in Diagon Alley. “I really thought he’d enjoy it.”
“What, am I not important enough to merit a visit to your father’s shop?” I asked, only allowing an edge of acid into my voice.
“Of course you are,” Rachel said primly, leading me down a side alley.
“Well good,” I commented. “I’ll be sure to make Tom come next time, he’s just so busy all the time, and I figured we could use some girl time.”
I’d sooner spend an entire day with McGonagall than Rachel, but I went along as pleasantly as I could anyways. Whatever Mr. Burke had procured had better be worth all this.
We wound around a cobbled road and went down a cramped staircase. After a few more moments we were in front of a small, dark shop.
Rachel pushed the door open, and it creaked loudly. I was privately thinking that it was highly unlikely this hole in the wall place had anything that would be of interest to Tom or me.
“Hi Pa,” Rachel said, running over to hug the man behind the cashier’s counter. He was a tall man, with silver hair and eyes just like Rachel’s. “This is Anne Harley, I brought her to see your best treasure!”
Mr. Burke surveyed me from head to toe in a manner that made me slightly uncomfortable. I crossed one arm across my chest and stuck out the other.
“How do you do, sir?”
Mr. Burke took my hand and kissed it instead of shaking it. “Very well, my dear. Welcome to Borgin and Burkes. Rachel says you’re interested in seeing a piece I’ve only just decided to put on sale?”
“Yes sir, she says it’s most fascinating.”
Burke studied me for a moment.
“It is,” he finally said, ducking behind the counter. I heard a few locks click, and he resurfaced, placing a wooden box on the counter. He pushed the latch open.
Inside was a locket. I almost rolled my eyes, thinking that Rachel had brought me all the way down here for a pretty piece of jewelry, but then I paused after closer look.
A serpentine “S” was inlaid into the front with green stones that looked suspiciously like emeralds. I self-consciously ran a finger over the large stone on my ring. The locket in front of me was no doubtedly gold, and most certainly worth thousands of galleons, but the part that struck excitement into the core of me was that it looked like it could be—
“Slytherin’s!” Burke said triumphantly, picking up the thing and handing it to me. I took it, stunned. “This belonged to Salazar Slytherin himself. That makes it damn near priceless.”
The locket was heavier than I expected. I examined it, popping open the tiny latch. It was empty inside, the black velvet with no picture to hold.
“Where did you get this?” I asked breathlessly.
“No need to worry yourself with that, dear,” Burke cackled. “All that matters is I’ve got it now.”
But that wasn’t all that mattered. This locket had belonged to Salazar Slytherin. Where could it have gone that it ended up here, in Knockturn Alley, with a slimy man who knew nothing of Slytherin and his legacy?
Another jolt went through me as I realized that the rightful owner of the locket was probably Tom. Here he was, carrying out Slytherin’s most glorious plan, and there was an artifact of his just lying around here.
But I couldn’t say anything. Not now. If I could get this locket for him, Tom would be so happy with me that he’d forget all about our fight.
“May I?” I asked, tossing Mr. Burke a coy look from beneath my lashes. He nodded, rather stunned.
I took the locket to an old silver mirror standing a few feet away, holding it up around my neck.
I couldn’t help but think that yes, perhaps this was rightfully Tom’s locket, that perhaps it originally belonged to a wizard of which I knew comparatively little, perhaps I would never understand fully what Tom was doing, why he was the way he was, or what it meant to be Slytherin’s only heir.
It looked lovely on me all the same.
A/N Everyoneeeeee I could go on and on about how sorry I am for maing you wait (AGAIN)! I know how frustrating it is when it feels like an author has abandoned or doesn't care anymore, but i want you to know that's not the case! I've been super busy at school, and a little bit of writers block hit me (nothing too serious, don't worry haha) so it took foreverrrrr to get this out. Not my favorite chap, but it had to be in here.
So as usual, lemme know what you think, what you like and what you don't. We're in for more chamber stuff obviously, and some interesting things happening with both Tom/Anne and Malfoy/Anne next time. I'm getting into a lot of my favorite parts of the story, but the in between is hard to get down sometimes. I love you SOO much for sticking with me. Hopefully i get the rest of the story out while we're still young haha more sooner this time! <3