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Chapter 30 : To Find A Monster
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The girl lay half inside one of the bathroom stalls. Her head wasn’t visible from the doorway of the bathroom—one could only see her black robes and dowdy little shoes poking out past the wall of the cubicle.
The teachers were trying to keep everyone back, but it was almost futile. Students shoved into the bathroom, all trying to get a glimpse of the latest casualty of the Chamber of Secrets. Headmaster Dippet eventually pushed his way through the crowd, firing off a few loud bangs to get everyone’s attention.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion for me. We were all corralled out of the bathroom, people sobbing and shrieking.
She’s dead. She’s dead. She’s dead.
They were all whispering. The shock of the Chamber’s first mortality ran through the crowd like a current.
Olive Hornby was right next to me, tears glazed all down her face. She looked at me and choked down a sob.
“It’s all my fault,” she whispered. “It was me.”
“Don’t say that,” I said mechanically. “It’s not your fault. It wasn’t you who killed her.”
I was convincing myself as much as her.
I walked away from the bathroom—that stupid, wicked bathroom—and tried to think. What should I do now? I had failed, Tom had won. Myrtle was dead. That irritating girl would never again breathe and it was all because of Tom and his beautiful monster.
Tom was in the common room of course, always there to see me when I least wanted him to. I did my best to glaze a look of confidence and satisfaction over my face. I slipped my hand into his and he pulled me into our annex without a word.
The rest of the club was there already, buzzing with excitement. They were happy, happy that a girl was dead, thrilled that one less Mudblood would be roaming the halls of Hogwarts. I felt ill.
Tom was talking, explaining what we were to do, how to act. I wasn’t listening. It was only when everyone rose to leave and I went to follow them that I was snapped out of my trance.
“Wait,” Tom said, and I turned. He gestured for me to come closer. I did. He studied me, his dark gaze unwaveringly on my face.
“Aren’t you happy for me, Anna?”
“Of course I am.”
“You don’t look it.”
“I am,” I assured him, trying to put some enthusiasm in my voice. “I’m just, er, worried. I’m afraid we’ll be found out.”
Tom laughed. “Don’t be.”
I nodded. We stood in silence for a few moments, silence and the memory of Myrtle’s body pressing down on my mind. I studied the grooves in the floor.
“Work with me tonight,” Tom said, in his usual manner of making demands rather than requests.
He shrugged. “There are a few things I’ve been researching. You can never know too much. Now that I’ve begun to succeed with the chamber means I can continue with other projects as well.”
The idea was weirdly comforting, sitting by the fire with Tom and a bunch of books, just like we used to.
“I’d like that a lot,” I said.
“I’m glad. Meet me back here at eight.”
The school was in lockdown. I was harangued for trying to leave the common room by a chalk white Professor Slughorn. I was told that all students were to remain in their common rooms until further notice. Dinner would be arranged to be brought to us.
I suppose this was for everyone’s safety, but it only made me feel claustrophobic. I would have liked nothing more than to shed my clothes and go streaking through the Forbidden Forest in my wolf form.
I wished I could at least be out around the professors and other students, to know what they were saying, thinking, feeling about this tremendous occurrence. I wish I could have told you about the sheer panic that was rippling through the school, about the sobbing students in other houses that outnumbered the even mildly upset Slytherins.
I wish I could have known then just how seriously Headmaster Dippet and the rest of the school was taking this death. Maybe then I could have come up with a plan, some way to fix everything. But I couldn’t, and so I didn’t—and I’d end up doing something so sickening that it still makes my stomach turn every time I think about it.
I paced around my dormitory, fingers fraying a stray thread on my robes. Marcella sat on her bed, quietly sniffling. I tried to suppress my urge to snap at her. The sudden impulse I had to smack her really wasn’t fair, but it didn’t go away. Beth was downstairs, Rachel was scribbling away at a letter to her parents. There was nothing to do but wait, nothing to do but sit around and think about what had just happened.
Rachel began clicking her pen rhythmically, almost in time to Marcella’s pathetic snivels. I couldn’t take it anymore. I left without knowing where I was going, knowing only that I had to leave before I cursed one of them. I went down to our dungeon annex to find no one there, only the faintly glowing ashes from that morning signaling that anyone had been here recently.
I didn’t know what I wanted. Being around my dorm mates annoyed me, but I didn’t want to be alone with my own thoughts. I was afraid I’d break down if I let myself wander too far into my mind. I really only wanted to be with Tom. He was the only one who could distract me so wholly that I’d be okay again, the only one who could show me how right we were in doing this terrible thing, the only one who could make me feel alright again. But he was gone, without a care of where I was or how I was feeling.
Frustrated, I kicked one of the chairs beside me. It toppled over with a loud bang.
“Someone will hear,” came a voice from behind me.
I whipped around to see Avery, of all people, sitting with his back against the stone wall, elbows on his knees.
“I, I didn’t see you there,” I explained weakly, hastily righting the chair. “What are you doing?”
Avery shrugged. “Same thing you are, I guess. Just trying to get through today.”
I opened my mouth to answer him, but nothing came out.
“How you holding up?” he asked.
An acidic response bubbled to the front of my tongue; I should have asked what the hell was wrong with him. I should have told him I was proud and happy that Slytherin’s will was being carried out, and that filthy Mudbloods were beginning to be purged from the school. But somehow, I couldn’t. It seemed Avery could already see through me, see that I was frightened and sick about what had happened, shaken to my core.
I could see that he was too. But still, I couldn’t spill my guts to him, tell him everything I was feeling. I could never trust anyone in the club again. Avery may be sweet and the least sadistic of everyone Tom had handpicked, but he had still been chosen for a reason. No one Tom chose to help him could be fully good.
“I’m fine,” I answered evasively.
Avery didn’t seem to notice I had answered, instead just fiddling with his wand. It was silent for a while.
“What do you think they’re going to do?” he asked, looking up at me. His eyes were the same pretty golden color I remembered from when we had first interviewed him for the club. They had the same wide innocence about them, even after all this time.
“I don’t know. Hopefully they decide and let us out soon.”
Avery shook his head. “They won’t, though…”
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, tapping his wand against his knee. “Now that that girl has…has died, they’re not just going to let school go on like normal.”
I frowned. I didn’t know what I had thought would happen. “No, I don’t suppose they will.”
“So what does Tom want to do? What if they keep us locked up like this except for class? What if they don’t let us out until they’ve found the chamber? What if they shut down the school altogether?”
I hadn’t thought of this. Neither, I believe, had Tom. In his excitement of finding the chamber and finally reaching success, Tom had neglected to think about the aftermath. Surely he hadn’t thought that he could go about killing a student per day and have the school look the other way.
“I can’t stay locked in this stupid dungeon,” Avery said, his voice cracking. “I can’t.”
I felt the same way. But I only tossed my hair over my shoulder and raised an eyebrow.
“Well you’re going to have to pull yourself together. It won’t be forever; they can’t keep us here for long. We should get back to the common room so no one thinks we’re up to something.”
Avery nodded, eyes to the ground. I felt a strange leap of pity for him; it was accompanied by the equally strange thought that if I were to have a friend within the club, a true, good friend, it could have been Avery.
8 o’clock couldn’t have come soon enough. I had spent the day in an uneasy balance of making myself seen in the common room and hiding away in my dormitory, killing any moths or bugs I could find with little flashes of green light.
So when I finally came downstairs to see Tom waiting for me in our dungeon, it was relief of the most divine kind.
“On three?” Tom asked without prelude, referring to the disillusionment charms we had mastered. I nodded.
The familiar chill of the charm washed over me, and Tom took my hand, just barely discernable from the gray stone behind him. We slipped out of the dungeon with ease, sweeping up the grand staircase unnoticed, perhaps felt by the patrolling Prefects and professors only as a gentle breeze that required no second thought.
I took no care in where we were going, only taking pleasure in being led, no longer having to fret and worry about what to do with myself. When I was with Tom, I never had to be uncertain of what to do.
We went to the library, and as I slowed down to sit at one of my usual tables, Tom pulled me away. I followed him into the Restricted Section. I caught my breath; there was really nothing separating these books from the rest of the library but a bit of rope, but there was something different about them. It seemed to get colder the farther we went, and the books almost groaned, as if they could sense our presence. I inched closer to Tom as we walked.
We snaked through rickety shelves and piles of fat books until we reached the back wall of the library. I had never been so deep into the shelves of Hogwarts’s library, and for good reason. It was cool and damp, and the shelves almost bent over us like a canopy. I was caught with the unnerving feeling of being watched.
Tom waved his wand, and I felt the disillusionment charm fall away. He swirled it once more and a snake of fire hovered a few feet above us like a halo, casting a slightly more comforting orange light about the area.
“Won’t someone see?” I asked quietly, glancing back the way we had come from.
Tom shook his head, running a finger along the volumes stuffed into a shelf beside me. I waited, sitting down on the sill of a stained glass window featuring a particularly gruesome looking gargoyle.
Tom pulled out a book and, conjuring a simple wooden table and chairs, sat down.
“I want you to read this,” he said, bidding me over.
I rose and took a look at the passage to which Tom was pointing.
“…perhaps the most terrifying of potions, in which all aspects of physical weakness manifest. Intense dehydration, body aches, and in extreme doses, a burning sensation within the drinker’s organs. The most remarkable aspect of this potion is, perhaps, the idea that the drinker will not suffer any lasting physical harm, but only the illusions of pain and discomfort. Once the potion has run through the drinker’s system, the drinker will suffer no adverse affects. This is a drink that must be brewed with the utmost care and meticulousness, for one miscalculation can be the difference between imagined pain and poisoning.”
“What about it?” I asked wearily.
“I never knew potions could be so powerful,” Tom said, his voice with that edge of excitement that I knew too well. His interest had been piqued, and once that happened, there was rarely any chance of derailing whatever plans he was concocting. “We should focus on brewing for a while. I’ve been looking in a few different books, and it seems there’s much more room for creativity and invention in potion making than in spell work.”
“That makes sense,” I admitted. “What is it exactly that you want to create?”
“Nothing specific,” Tom said, shrugging. “There are just a lot of ideas I had never thought of. Imagined pain…it’s like the Cruciatus Curse, only more mild and ongoing…it could be useful, could it not?”
I nodded. I wondered vaguely if Tom ever got tired of thinking, of constantly wanting more of everything.
“And this one,” he said, flipping excitedly to another section, “it feeds on your deepest fears, your darkest memories, and brings them back to life. It’s almost like a Dementor, but in a potion. It’s brilliant. If only there were a way to meld the two—”
“Tom, I’m scared.”
“…if we just took the—what?”
Tom frowned, and visibly bit back a nasty comment. “Why?”
“I’m worried they’re going to do something drastic. About the chamber thing, I mean. What if they…I don’t know, close the school?”
Tom stared at me for a moment, and I could have sworn I saw a flicker of fear in his eyes as well. It passed though, and he shook his head.
“How do you kn—”
“They just won’t, okay?” he snapped.
“Okay,” I said quietly. I glanced back down at the book. “Sorry. What were you saying?”
Thankfully, Tom continued his stream of consciousness without a hitch. I listened to him, half registering his intelligent, graceful train of thought, half wandering off into my own worries. I couldn’t imagine a world without Hogwarts. If it closed down, I’d surely be sent to Beauxbatons. My mother would never stand for me going to Durmstrang…oh, yes, my mother was in no state to have any say in my magical education. I held back a retch as I remembered the cold white ward I had left her in.
It was hard to comprehend the consequences we might have earned the school by opening the chamber. What would Tom do if the school closed? He had nowhere to go but the orphanage that I knew he hated with all his heart. It would kill him.
I was overcome with a wave of sympathy for the boy beside me, who was telling me about a complicated blending method. I nodded, watching the way his perfect lips moved as he talked. How was it that a boy scrounged from a dirty orphanage was able to enchant me, a witch of considerable background and wealth? How was it that this half-blood could create the most havoc that Hogwarts had ever seen by releasing a pure-blood fanatic’s monster on his peers? How could I love him so much when I knew he had killed a girl and felt no remorse?
I tried to reason myself through this, but the harder I tried, the more my head hurt and the urge to cry seemed harder and harder to control.
Stop it, Anne.
I took a deep breath. Tom stopped talking and threw me an inquisitive look.
“What?” I asked, when he didn’t let up.
“You’re just acting strange. Anything else you’re scared of?” his voice was taunting, but in the mostly harmless, almost playful way he usually was.
I smiled. “No.”
“What then? You’re never so quiet. Normally by now my Anna would be talking my ear off trying to convince me of her own ideas.”
I giggled. “I, uhm…”
Tom raised an eyebrow. I hadn’t time to think, so I had no choice but to blurt out what I was really thinking.
“You’re just…you’re just…amazing,” I settled on, cursing myself internally a split-second later. God, could I sound anymore pathetic? What in the hell came over me that told me that was an okay thought to let slip? Kill me.
Not surprisingly, no meteor crashed through the ceiling of the library to put me out of my misery. But on the more surprising end, Tom didn’t immediately dissolve into peals of laughter, nor roll his eyes or do anything else I expected him to do in response to my idiocy.
He only cocked his head, dark eyes glittering in the orange light produced by his ring of fire.
“Is that so?”
I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell if he was mocking me or not.
“Yes, Tom,” I whispered, wishing I could sink into the floor.
“In what way?”
Okay, that’s a weird response. Weird as it may be, how the hell could I answer it? In what way did Tom amaze me? In what way didn’t he?
“I just…everything. You opened the chamber; you discovered everything about your mother. Everyday you show me things I never thought were possible…I just…I’m impressed.”
Tom laughed once.
“You’re not one to give a compliment when it isn’t earned, Annamaria.”
“No, I don’t suppose I am.”
“Well it’s about time you realized with whom you’re spending your time.”
Normally I would have scoffed and rolled my eyes at such an arrogant response, but Tom had taken my hand and brushed his lips against it in a light kiss, so any animosity I had melted away.
“I’ve known all along,” I said, trying to muster up disdain and failing miserably. “I only choose not to shower you in compliments.”
Tom laughed again, my hand still in his.
“Fair enough, I’ll always know that only my most spectacular doings will garner praise from you.”
“As it should be,” I said, turning my nose up in an imitation of snobbishness.
“But tell me once more,” Tom said, placing one finger beneath my chin and guiding my face closer to his, “what it is, exactly, that I am?”
I sucked in my breath. The only other time he was so close to my face was the night of my birthday, the night he gave me the emerald glistening on my finger, the night he…
I closed my eyes at the memory of his kiss, of his hands tangling themselves in my hair.
“Amazing,” I whispered, giving up my charade of disinterest. Tom must know by now that he fascinated me, that he could demand anything of me, that he could have every part of me.
And before I could open my eyes, I felt the shock of his lips on mine. If I had had any shred of autonomy left, it dissolved at this. It really was sickening, the power he had over me, but I was learning to accept it as inevitable. There was no way I could ever resist this.
I kept myself from melting into him and let him take control. He pressed into me softly, teasing my mouth with his as calmly and smoothly as if I were another experiment. I tried to keep myself still so as not to break the spell, but I couldn’t help the way I reacted; I could feel my heart fluttering, my fingers curling into his.
It was nothing like the rushed, terribly unfulfilling kiss he had given me on my birthday. He was unquestionably in control of me this time. Every touch intensified what I was feeling, which was something of a whole different kind than I had ever felt with anyone else. I couldn’t think clearly, I didn’t know how to move, what to do, or why. All I knew was that I wanted Tom closer to me, to cure me of this burning that had manifested deep inside me.
I gave up on being still, wrapping my arms around his neck. I could feel the surprise travel through him, but he overcame it, accepting the change. His calm, disciplined way began to ebb; I could feel his hand at the small of my back, and his tongue against mine. The realization made a shock of, well, something, go through me, and I accepted him in every way, pressing myself into him with a little sigh.
It all stopped. Tom pulled himself away from me, his breathing only incrementally heavier than a few moments before. I tried to gather my wits about me, preparing for another odd outburst like last time, but nothing happened.
“It’s late,” Tom said, pushing my hair behind my ear. “We should head back.”
I wish I could say that Tom began the next morning by sweeping me down the stairs of my dormitory and kissing me in front of everyone. I couldn’t, of course. He was gone by the time I woke up, and Lestrange, the first member of the club I could find, informed me that Tom had gone to a meeting with Professor Dippet about the attacks, as all the Prefects were required to do.
We were still in lockdown: all classes were cancelled, all meals occurred in our common rooms. If I hadn’t snuck out the night before, I’d be going crazy by now. Many of my classmates seemed to be experiencing just this. A second year girl sat curled up by the fire, responding to nothing. Rachel was telling anyone who would listen that her father would be hearing about this and wouldn’t be very happy about all the uproar the school was causing over the death of one Mudblood.
I went upstairs and penned a long letter to my parents only to toss it in the fire. I couldn’t tell them anything. I had my most advanced Transfiguration book propped open and was learning the theory of making one’s nails grow into their skin when Tom appeared.
“Come,” he said shortly, and I could sense the anger rippling beneath the surface of his voice.
I followed him to our dungeon, where he sealed the door behind us. Only a moment had passed before, with one great sweep of his wand, he sent the table and chairs flying across the room. They hit the opposite wall with a great crash that made me flinch. He didn’t stop there; he blasted a hole in the stone, broke the high, prison-like window. I sunk back towards the door to avoid his wrath until he turned on me, wand high.
Instinctively I pulled mine from my pocket. We stood there for a few moments, wands raised to eachother. Tom snorted and lowered his. He kicked one of the pieces of broken chair, making it skip across the floor.
“So you were right,” he said finally, panting.
“You. Were. Right,” he said, annunciating each word slowly, as if I was in danger of not understanding his English. “Dippet means to close the school.”
I could think of nothing to say to this that wouldn’t further enrage him. I only swallowed, tucking my wand away.
“And to think, I thought I might be able to stay here for the summer,” Tom continued, blowing another hole in the mantle without a second thought. “I can stop them closing the school. But for a price. There’s no way I can release the Basilisk again. Another attack would mean the end of the school for sure. It’s over.”
On this last word he threw a Reductor Curse at the remains of the table, and it exploded into a fine ash.
“It’s no longer safe to carry on Slytherin’s will. I’ve failed.”
“No,” I said reflexively, earning only a scowl from Tom and a Silencing Curse to the abdomen. An annoyed pang hit me, but I didn’t dwell on it.
“I must stop this, but how to keep them from closing the school. How to convince them it’s over?” Tom began pacing, the way he always did when he was thinking.
“I’d have to prove to them that the person who did this would never do so again. How? Show them the chamber? No, they’d wonder how I knew, and who could I possibly blame for that? No, no, no….”
I crossed my arms, useless in my silenced condition.
“They’d destroy the chamber if they found it anyways, which would destroy the Basilisk….no. I could find another monster, yes, something else to blame this destruction on…find someone else to curse into believing that this was their doing.
“But where to find a creature so fearsome and deadly as a Basilisk? Where to find something that they would have no problem believing did this? The Forbidden Forest? The mountains? Abroad?”
With a frustrated snarl, Tom set fire to the pile of dust that used to be the table. I watched it burn, creating spirals of thick black smoke.
“Think. Think. Where to find a monster…”
I couldn’t imagine anything in the chamber beside’s the Basilisk…no other creature would thrive in that damp, underground palace of water and stone. But Dippet didn’t have to know that. They’d be happy with any explanation, would they really bother to inquire further if a monster was presented and the attacks subsequently stopped?
But Tom was right, the biggest problem lay in finding a monster and someone we could pass off as Slytherin’s Heir. The idea almost made me laugh; no one could be Slytherin’s Heir but Tom.
Tom was still pacing around, occasionally destroying parts of the dungeon that were not yet laid to ruin by his hand.
This was going to be a bit of a dilemma. Not only did we have to find a creature fearsome enough that it was believable it could be Slytherin’s monster, but one that we could bring into the castle undetected, one that could plausibly live a thousand years…
I nearly fell over with my realization. I tried to shout out to Tom, but the curse inhibited me. I began banging on the wall, stomping my foot to get his attention. I knew of such a monster. A monster that was already most conveniently placed, already with an owner that I knew would not easily give up his pet.
Tom frowned at me, lifting the curse.
“I know what to do.”
And I did. It disturbs me to this day that as soon as I realized I could help Tom, I didn’t hesitate. Not a second of thought went to the fact that I’d be destroying this boy’s life, ruining him forever, branding him a murderer. We’d be falsely accusing an innocent whose only crime was being a little too dumb, a little too trusting. But there was no room for mistake in our time at Hogwarts.
My betrayal of Rubeus Hagrid still bothers me sometimes; I’ll wake up to nightmares of being strangled by spider web, of facing the Dementors at Azkaban for falsely accusing a young boy of an atrocious crime he didn’t commit. The crime that the boy I loved so deeply had committed without a second thought.
He was proud of me that day, and that was all that mattered. I didn’t care about truth or honor or anything anymore. The only thing that mattered was earning his smile and his praise and perhaps another shadowed, searing kiss.
A/N I am SOOOO sorry. Sorry x a million. I suck so bad for leaving you guys so long. College is a big mess of being busy, and I've finally found some time (and some much needed inspiration!) over spring break and got a chapter out. We're moving along to 6th and 7th years, which are by far my favorite parts of the story! If anyone is still here, i'd love to hear what you think, what you hope is coming, and you're totally welcome to tell me how awful i am for leaving you guys haha. I will do my best to never have any major gaps like that again, hopefully this gets me back on my writing grind!
I LOVE you all so much, i would never have gotten this, or a lot of the other chapters out if it weren't for your support :)
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