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Chapter 29 : Spirals
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I woke bathed in sweat, my hair tangled around my neck like a noose. The Basilisk, Grindelwald and Tom all lingered in my head, remnants of my latest nightmare. My mother’s vacant face floated around the back of my mind as well, and I tried my best to push it away.
I slid silently out of bed and to the bathroom. I splashed water on my face, trying to wash away the image of a great, terrifying snake coiled over the bodies of dozens of dead students. I felt nauseated as I stared at my pale face in the mirror. My sleeves were wet, clinging to my skin and showing that the mark on my forearm had disappeared as suddenly as it had come. I had bigger things to worry about.
It was only a matter of time before Tom tried again, picked another victim. A victim that would fall dead at the first glance from Slytherin’s most precious beast. It was a sure thing—what were the chances that another student could be somehow saved, escape the inevitable? I leaned over the sink, grasping both sides.
But Elise Mallett had survived. There was a way to escape Tom’s monster, but how? I focused on my own eyes in the mirror, lost in their green as I tried to think. How had she managed not to drop dead? How had she escaped dying after staring into the eyes of a beast that was guaranteed to kill you with a direct gaze?
I must have stood there at the sink for nearly an hour, fighting off waves of nausea and nearly giving myself a headache by thinking so hard. I almost gave up when I caught sight of something moving behind me in the mirror. After a jump, I realized it was only the reflection of my own shadow. Wow.
I was going to crack if I stayed in here much longer. For the love of Merlin, how was I supposed to figure anything out if I was jumping out of my skin over my own reflection?
And then it hit me.
The realization came to me so quickly and so clearly that I gasped aloud. Reflection. My reflection wasn’t dangerous. Perhaps no reflection could be.
Elise Mallet didn’t die. She didn’t die not by grace of some mutation of the Basilisk’s—it was as deadly as it needed to be. She simply didn’t look it in the eye.
Was it really possible that something as simple as wearing a pair of lurid glasses could be the difference between life and death? Could that be the secret to saving the lives that Tom was determined to take away?
It had to be it…there was no other way. If the Basilisk didn’t meet your gaze directly, uninhibited, it wouldn’t kill you. I was sure of it. A quick check in the library would surely be enough to confirm it.
I stared at my reflection, and I looked as terrified and pale as ever. What now?
I suppose the real question was what could I do, or rather, what would I be willing to do to use this revelation to save my classmates?
I knew in that moment that I had power over Tom, power over him for the first time in a very long time. I knew something he did not. I had information he’d kill for. I knew what had happened and why his victim didn’t die neatly and quietly like she was supposed to.
I loved Tom, more than anything in the world. I wanted his approval and his affection and his protection.
But still I could not do nothing. There were still enough scraps of morality left in my sixteen-year-old heart to keep me from disregarding this most crucial discovery. I still couldn’t have lived with myself if I had the deaths of half my peers on my conscious.
However mangled and essentially nonexistent that conscious would eventually become, I was still young enough to feel the need to do something, anything, to save my classmates from Tom’s dark, beautiful brainchild.
Though I loathed my confliction, I would grow to envy it. To envy a time where I was still able to resist Tom’s pull, however weakly, and however pitifully.
He had not yet eclipsed me completely.
I was running through the forest. I wasn’t supposed to be here, of course, but I figured I was in little danger currently. I padded across the soft dirt, sniffing a clump of wildflowers. Their scent was overpowering and sweet.
My mind was clearer as a wolf. I wondered briefly why I didn’t do this more often; transform into my animal form and wander the grounds, completely free.
But I wasn’t free, not completely. No matter how much more I tended to enjoy the outdoors, and the little beautiful things about the forest I never would have noticed as a human, I couldn’t shake my thoughts.
I hadn’t been able to sleep much the rest of last night, my mind whirring with what I had just realized. I slipped out of bed at dawn, taking nothing with me but my wand. I changed into a wolf the moment I got to the forest and was sure no one could see me. Running across the grounds had released only a fraction of the tension I felt, but still, it was something.
I trotted for a while longer, circling the greenhouses and making my way back up to the castle. I took a quick check around before I transformed back into myself with a dull flash.
I was making my way back to the common room when I ran into one Rubeus Hagrid, who dropped his wand in surprise at the sight of me.
“What are you doing up so early?” I demanded, reminding myself of a prefect. I was nothing of the sort of course, but Hagrid didn’t seem to realize this.
“Oh! Er, nothing! I mean…Anne Harley...hi,” he finished lamely. He looked half terrified and half hopeful that his knowing me would stop him from getting in trouble.
“Don’t worry, I’m not a prefect,” I said, causing him to exhale in relief. “I was just curious.”
“I was, well…I guess you already know, don’ you?”
He jerked his enormous head towards a door and with an unpleasant twinge, I remembered the creature he was hiding.
“Ugh, you haven’t gotten rid of that thing?”
“I can’t just get rid of him! He isn’ fully grown, and I’m scared tuh move him, especially with what happened yesterday…”
“I doubt your spider has anything to worry about,” I said dryly. “Rumor is, the monster only goes after Muggle borns.”
Hagrid was wide eyed. “So…so it’s true then? What everybody has been sayin’? That that girl was hurt by somethin’ from…Slytherin? Some monster that’s been hidin’ in Hogwarts for a thousand years?”
“I wouldn’t know,” I said coolly. “We’re all as confused as anyone.”
“Oh,” Hagrid said, nervously eyeing the Slytherin emblem on my robes.
I don’t know why I felt the compunction to reassure the giant boy in front of me, but there was something endearing about him that stopped me from being outright rude.
“I’m sure Headmaster Dippet will figure it all out soon. Hopefully no one else will get hurt,” I said, forcing myself to look into his wide brown eyes.
“You really think so?”
I nodded. “I have to go, but er, have fun with your…spider.”
“You sure you don’t wanna visit ‘im? He gets mighty lonely and I’m sure he’d like a friend.”
“I’m sure. Goodbye, Hagrid.”
I returned to my dormitory and showered, getting myself ready for the day with extra care. I had to look lovely, and completely at ease. I made sure my hair had a lovely curl, made my lips shine, and fastened my mother’s diamonds into my ears. I smiled at myself in the mirror. I had to be perfect, like nothing was different.
Tom could not get the slightest inkling that I’d been up all night, sick with nightmares and realization. I had to earn back his favor, be sure that I knew exactly when and where he was planning to strike next. I could not mess this up.
With a final spritz of perfume, I set off to find Tom and go to breakfast, his right hand and best helper as always.
“Tom, honestly, remind me why we have anything to do with him?” I asked quietly, tossing a disdainful look at Nott, who had just dropped his entire breakfast onto the floor, his plate shattering and eggs flying everywhere.
Tom rolled his eyes. “I forget.”
I laughed lightly, leaning closer to him. “Let’s go, I fear I’m getting dumber just by watching him.”
Tom obliged, finishing his orange juice and rising from the table. Everything seemed to be fine. Like always, Tom showed no change towards me; it seemed that no matter what tremendous event had occurred the day before, whether it be a duel, a kiss, or a terrible row, Tom never seemed to pay any credence to it the next day.
I couldn’t decide if this was a blessing or a curse, but I accepted it all the same.
Tom Led me to our dungeon and he tossed his books onto the table.
“I must act quickly with regards to the chamber,” he said. “The longer I wait, the more people will believe this a joke.”
“Of course,” I said.
“I must be sure the next one dies.”
I nodded, carefully thinking of nothing as his dark eyes met mine, sending little sizzles of electricity down my spine. Tom was quiet for a while, drumming his finger on the tabletop.
I was dutifully silent; my mind wandering to the locket Rachel had shown me the other day…just lying around in Borgin & Burke, waiting for me.
“I don’t understand,” Tom said, so quietly that I barely heard him. It was a rare admission of inadequacy from him, and I said nothing so as not to anger him. “How did she survive? Why didn’t she die?”
I swallowed, trying my best to forget about last night, standing in my bathroom realizing exactly why. But Tom wasn’t interested in seeing into my mind; he was staring at his own wand, lost in thought. I sensed his need for solitude, and this time I wouldn’t make the mistake of trying to help. Because I knew it would only bring me his anger. And because this was one thing I didn’t want to help him with.
I left him at the table without a word, only a slight nod of understanding.
“Anne, you look stunning today, I must say.”
“Shut it, Malfoy.”
“You know, most girls would respond to such a compliment with ‘thank you.’”
I tossed my hair away from my face and tried to focus on the Potions essay in front of me. The Draught of Peace was child’s play really, but it was still hard to concentrate on explaining it with Malfoy lurking next to me.
“I’m rather offended you classify me among most girls,” I said primly, dipping my quill in ink and carefully tapping off the extra ink.
Malfoy chuckled. “Touché, it was careless of me.”
I didn’t answer him, hoping he’d go away. He didn’t. Instead, he scooted his chair closer to me and put his mouth inches from my ear. Instinctively I flinched.
“Would you care to accompany me on a walk?”
I couldn’t help but snort. “I would not.”
I had no immediate response for this. Why not? Because you are annoying me, because you scare me a little, in some unidentifiable way, and because I don’t want to think about the last time we were completely alone together.
“Because,” I offered lamely.
“I insist,” Malfoy said, pushing my essay away from me. My mouth dropped open in a half-hearted protest, but he pressed a finger to my lips. “You have plenty of time to finish that. Come on.”
Unable to come up with any satisfactorily logical reasons not to accompany Abraxas Malfoy on a walk, I rose from my chair after the blonde boy beside me.
“Have you ever been to the observation tower?” Malfoy asked. I shook my head.
Malfoy led me up and up and up…I thought we were going to the owlery when he took a sharp right turn into what looked like a solid brick wall. Not unlike the door to Diagon Alley, Malfoy rapped on a few bricks and an entryway melted open in the stone.
“How…?” I asked, half impressed, half annoyed that Malfoy knew about something I didn’t.
“Don’t worry about it.”
I followed him up a tight spiral staircase, irritated. We emerged in a spacious, round room; it was beautiful, I had to admit. There were only columns and windows, no walls. The sun was beginning to set behind the mountains, and the lake was visible, glistening in the early evening light.
“Lovely, isn’t it?” Malfoy said, leaning against a pillar. A piece of white blond hair fell over his forehead, and he brushed it away.
“Yes,” I said grudgingly. I wondered what Malfoy was trying to do. Woo me with Hogwarts’ beauty? Trap me up here and kill me? The funny part was that I found each option equally likely.
“I just wanted to talk to you for a bit…alone.”
“What about?” I asked, moving closer to the glass and watching a few birds, startled by something, soar above the trees of the forbidden forest.
“I was up here this morning, as a matter of fact,” Malfoy said. “I couldn’t sleep. I like to come here and think sometimes. No one bothers me.”
“Good for you.”
“I saw something most peculiar though,” Malfoy continued, coming to stand next to me. I could look directly into his strange gray eyes, not having to tilt my head up as much as when I looked at Tom. “Standing just about where you are now.”
I frowned, looking out at the grounds. It was quiet as I waited for Malfoy to get on with whatever he was trying to tell me.
“You make a beautiful wolf.”
My heart flipped over. Dammit! Why did I have to be so stupid? How did I think it was a good idea to transform in the open, how did I think no one would see me? With my luck I could never afford to take such luxuries. I closed my eyes, hating myself.
“Don’t be upset!” Malfoy laughed, seeing my reaction. “I rather enjoyed the show. I should have known you’d have learned the art of becoming an Animagus. You’re astounding with Transfiguration.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked, opening my eyes and wanting to push Malfoy off the tower after seeing the laughter in his.
“Oh, I just thought I’d congratulate you. It’s quite a feat. How many people know you can do that?”
I pursed my lips, waiting a long time to answer him. “Tom knows.”
Malfoy rolled his eyes. “I assumed so much. You worship him.”
“Excuse me!” I snapped. “I do not worship anyone!”
Malfoy laughed again. “Oh yes you do.”
I turned on my heel to leave, but stopped in my tracks as I saw nothing but window surrounding me, no trace of an exit to be found.
“Let me out of here,” I demanded. “You’re a prat and a liar and I want to leave.”
“Looks like I’ve touched a nerve,” Malfoy said, still chuckling.
I drew my wand. Malfoy did nothing but give it a passing glance.
“Oh Anne, stop being angry with me just because I understand you.”
“You don’t know the first thing about me. Let me out.”
“I think I know a fair bit,” Malfoy said, shrugging. “I know about you special little talent. I know you aren’t as tough as you pretend you are. And I know you’re hopelessly obsessed with Tom Riddle. I can’t pretend I see why, though.”
I hated hearing it said aloud, in such an ugly, unflattering way. I wasn’t obsessed. God damn Malfoy.
“You should take a look at who really gets you, who understands you.”
“Shut up,” I said dumbly.
“Tom doesn’t see you like I do. He doesn’t care about you.”
It was my turn to laugh. “I’m sure you love me deeply, Malfoy. Get out of my way.”
He moved closer instead, and I faltered slightly, not as ready to curse him as I had been pretending. With a single, swift movement, he pulled my wand from me and tossed it away. It hit the floor and rolled away with a clatter.
I went to pick it up but Malfoy took me by the upper arms, cornering me with my back to the window. A flicker of fear licked my insides as I imagined the window breaking and my body tumbling the many stories to the ground.
“Stop fighting me, Anne. Open your eyes and see how much we make sense.”
“Let me go!” I demanded, avoiding his silver gaze.
“How dare you—”
And he kissed me, despite my struggling against him. I was backed against the window, the cool glass against my back as I tried to push Malfoy off me. He was unyielding; not moving much in response to my infuriation, only calmly pressing into me, his cool lips on mine, such a paradox to Tom’s kiss.
Despite his aggression, I still couldn’t help but think of a cold sip of water as he coaxed my mouth open. It was like the wet press of an ice cube against me, and despite my initial resistance, it was a strangely soothing experience.
I really hate myself sometimes.
I knew it didn’t make any sense to allow this. But he seemed to suck the fight out of me as I felt his hand massaging my spine in little circles. I melted against him; it was like a fresh remedy to the near pain of wanting Tom so badly. It didn’t make any sense at all. But since when has that mattered?
Rather than getting lost in a haze of desire as I had when Tom kissed me, I felt only vaguely curious as Malfoy slipped his tongue along my lip. I frowned, pulling away slightly.
He kissed me again and again, his hands moving to my front, tracing light patterns along my ribs. They somehow made their way beneath my blouse, cool against my skin. I felt a funny ache in my abdomen as he pushed his entire body against me. Something clicked in my brain as I thought of Tom, as I always ended up doing.
“No, Malfoy, stop,” I said, holding him away with a hand on his chest. “Just stop.”
“Why?” he asked, bringing a hand to the back of my neck, very nearly succeeding in persuading me to stop talking.
“Because,” I said, continuing my apparent theme of being an idiot tonight. “We just can’t.”
Malfoy looked annoyed for the first time, ever, I think. “Seriously? Are you really going to stop something you want because of him?”
“It’s not because of Tom!” I shouted, surprising myself with my outburst. “Just stop!”
I picked up my wand.
“Let me out now,” I said, as calmly as I could.
Malfoy stared at me, no emotion traceable in his pale face. He turned and tapped a window, and it melted down to reveal a passageway.
“Ladies first,” he said, nodding his head in a little bow. I passed him without looking back.
It only took a few days for Tom to choose his next victim. A boy this time, younger than Elise had been. I tried not to look at him as Tom discreetly pointed him out in the dining hall. He looked barely old enough to attend Hogwarts—freckled, a round face and a smile like a light. I had felt a little sick and pushed my eggs away from me.
Today was the day. Tom was going to attack this little boy, this Mudblood who might die today if I wasn’t smart. I had all the power to save him, I just had to be careful and not mess this up. His life literally depended on it.
I needed to do something right, anyways. After the episode with Malfoy I didn’t know what to do with myself. Seeing Tom upset me of course, so I went off on my own, back to the very part of the forest Malfoy had seen me transform by. I knew I shouldn’t have reverted back to my old habit, but something about the killing curse calmed me. I really was messed up; Malfoy’s kisses could soothe me, and the taking of life could calm me down. It was like my whole internal balance was wrong, and the only one even wronger than me was Tom.
But I pulled myself together, as always. I smiled in response to Tom’s latest target, never betraying my fear or disgust. I had to keep this from him like I had never hidden anything before. Everything counted on me saving this boy’s life undetectably.
And it was time.
I really couldn’t have been in a better position to help this boy. I ended Ancient Runes just as the boy exited his Transfiguration class. He had to take the stairs right by me to get to his next class, Astronomy. I knew because I had stolen a copy of his schedule.
I hit him silently as he passed by me, and he went strangely limp for only a moment before continuing on his way. No one noticed in the bustle of getting to class.
He was now mine, under my control. God bless the Imperius Curse.
I knew Tom would strike as the boy entered a bathroom, and apparently Tom had been watching him long enough to know he stopped at the same time every day, in the same bathroom. Tom was waiting. And he wouldn’t be disappointed. At least, not because the boy didn’t show up.
I had him enter the bathroom with a yawn, eyes shut tightly. I steered him towards the mirror, where he would stay. It was odd, controlling this boy when I couldn’t see him. But I knew, when the thin thread of connection was broken, that the Basilisk had found him.
Whether I had been successful and he was petrified, or if he was dead I couldn’t tell. I’d have to wait. Wait and pray that I had done this one thing right.
Tom was livid again. He was gripping his wand so tight that his knuckles were white, and red sparks were flying uncontrollably from the tip of it. I would have been frightened to death if this was directed at me. But instead of me, Tom turned and smashed the mantle of the fireplace in our dungeon annex, making me flinch.
“What am I doing wrong? Why won’t they die?”
I was silent, keeping my gaze directed at the ground as Tom let out another frustrated growl.
“I don’t have time for this! The idea of the chamber is turning into a joke!”
This wasn’t exactly true; the night the second attack, Hogwarts was in something akin to a state of panic. The professors were fluttering around, visibly distressed and wondering what to do with us, who to question, what to do to stop this. Students were gossiping amongst themselves and for the most part refused to leave their dormitories if not in large herds. Some students left…if I were a Mudblood with no idea what was happening, I would have considered it too. I spotted Minerva McGonagall flapping her mouth to a bunch of terrified first year Gryffindors—normally I would have done something to disrupt this, but even annoying McGonagall couldn’t make me happy now.
Yes, I had saved a boy’s life. But he was still petrified indefinitely, and Tom was dangerously angry. It was a toss up as to whether he’d ever find out it was I who was the reason his victim didn’t die. If he ever did find out, it was pretty safe to say I’d die instead.
“Just go!” Tom shouted, and I didn’t need telling twice.
I left, feeling incredibly alone. I knew I was doing the right thing by protecting these kids, but could I keep doing it if it was going to push Tom away from me? He would love me more than anything if I could tell him exactly why the Basilisk was failing. I paused at the entrance of the Slytherin common room, debating returning to Tom and telling him everything. The promise of his happiness and appreciation of me was almost enough to pull me back. But no, I couldn’t help kill my fellow students. I couldn’t.
But I couldn’t have Tom ordering me away every time he saw me. I had to find something to distract him, to make him happy and forget about the chamber. Impossible, really.
My mind wandered though, to the pretty locket in Borgin & Burke. It was Tom’s rightful inheritance wasn’t it? And he loved stuff like that. If I could get a hold of the locket, it would make him so happy.
I returned to my dormitory, alone. Marcella was not there, probably out laughing and gossiping with the group of girls I used to be a part of. I saw them only occasionally now, in passing almost. The idea made a wave of sadness wash over me. Who were my friends now? Did I have them? Malfoy? Avery, Lestrange and Nott? Tom? No. I knew so many people, but when I racked my brain for someone to find and be with simply because I wanted company, I came up with nothing.
And so it was only Scarlett who stayed with me that night before I fell asleep, back into my fitful nightmares. Grindelwald was always looming, my mother was never the same. Tom was angry at me, for he had found out I betrayed his plans.
He was surely about to kill me. I kept my eyes squeezed shut.
I opened my eyes and Tom was above me, a wild happiness on his face. I had seen that face before, and it was all too familiar. He had burst into my room at night to tell me he had found the chamber, and now he was here to tell me—
“I did it. She’s dead.”
It didn’t make any sense. He couldn’t have killed someone already. His latest victim had been petrified that very day. It was too soon. And I hadn’t known it was happening. This couldn’t be real. One of Hogwarts’ students couldn’t be dead at Tom’s hand. No.
But it was real, because Tom had that inane happiness about him that made him look more animalistic than human. I hated that look, but I couldn’t look away. He was like the sun—beautiful, but painful at the same time. I felt nauseous over the fact that a small part of me was happy that he had achieved his goal, and that he’d be happy again.
“Who?” I managed.
Tom shrugged. “Some Ravenclaw girl. It was an accident; I didn’t know she was in the bathroom. But it worked. It worked.”
Tom sat on my bed, looking a bit dazed. “Hogwarts is never going to be the same.”
“No, no, its not,” I whispered. I had thought I had this under control. How silly of me. How silly of me to believe for even a second that I could outsmart Tom Riddle and get away with it, or that he would just give up on the chamber when it didn’t work out. Of course, everything had to spiral out of control at some point.
It always did.
A/N Hey everyone! Thanks for sticking with me even though I'm slow...I hope you liked this chap even though it was a little short. Things are about to get real crazyyyy at hogwarts! Things are already getting real crazy with Anne and her many men hahaa more to come soon, with chamber drama, malfoy drama, and some anne/tom moments :) As always, i live off of your reviews, so drop a line or two to lemme know what you think!
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