Chapter 32 : A Family Affair
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Rachel was an idiot just like everyone else, I concluded, shutting the journal. Evening sunlight streamed in from the window above me, illuminating the parchment of the open page. Rachel’s hand was slightly messy, but it was easy to read the last sentences she had scrawled.
Tom is the Heir, I know it. Anne denies it still, but I saw the nervousness. She knows. They’re both in on it, and they won’t budge to let me in. There’s still the locket though, I still have that. My father will never give it up. When Tom sees it he’ll forget all about Anne.
I bristled again, even though I had already read the words a dozen times. I had read the whole stupid diary, every word of it. Rachel was even vainer and more self-important in words than she was in real life, and her infatuation with Tom was as real as I had imagined in my most ridiculous dreams. It made me hate her even more.
The show-off in me wanted to throw the journal in her face and burn it before her eyes, taunting her for being such a fool as to tell me about its existence. Did she honestly think I wouldn’t find it beneath her knickers in the dresser? She had even less brain than I thought beneath those luscious red waves of hers.
I resisted the urge though, and tapped the book with my wand. It duplicated instantly, its twin appearing beside it. A few more whispered words and the second diary was still an exact mirror copy of the original, except its words were no longer meaningful. It was filled with gibberish in Rachel’s hand—it would be no cause for suspicion unless she actually tried to read it. I slipped it back into Rachel’s drawer.
The original diary I held for a moment, hesitating. Tom should know that someone was so close to discovering all his secrets. I should have brought the diary to him, shown him what Rachel was up to. I couldn’t bring myself to do it though; I didn’t want him to worry. With a final swish of my wand, the book disintegrated into ash, never to be read again.
Now all I had to do was wipe Rachel’s memory, and there would be no reason at all to cause any further damage. No memory of any suspicions should effectively silence Miss Burke, however enjoyable it would be to get rid of her some other way.
As if the school needed another dead student. More importantly, I didn’t want to have to fake mourning for anyone else I really didn’t like.
Acting had gotten exhausting.
Finals had been cancelled in celebration of the Heir being caught. We had little to do but daydream through another week of classes and wander lazily around the grounds. The mood at Hogwarts was the lightest it had been in over a month, thanks to Rubeus Hagrid’s expulsion.
I hadn’t seen the third year after he was named the Heir, and it was easy to forget about the injustice I did him with Hogwarts so happy about it, and the last days of May bringing both warm breezes and excitement to the student body.
I shook my curls out and touched up my lipstick in the mirror, and with a final spritz of Chanel perfume, I skipped down the stairs, leaving any thoughts of Rachel, Hagrid and the Chamber of Secrets behind.
Slughorn was roaring with laughter. I entered his office to see him rolling around on his little pouf of a seat, clutching his belly. I couldn’t help but giggle at the sight: he looked a bit like a brightly colored puffer fish that had exploded with mirth.
Tom was smiling wryly at his side, clearly the cause of Slughorn’s amusement. Tom could be quite funny when he tried, and Slughorn was an easy audience. Nott was grinning stupidly, Lestrange looked sulky and Avery was smiling nervously, all per usual. Malfoy smirked slightly, his unnervingly light gaze flicking towards me as I entered the room.
“It seems I’ve missed quite the joke,” I said, seating myself beside Tom. By now the boys knew to leave the spot beside Tom open.
Slughorn slapped his belly again. “Oh, Miss Harley, such a pleasure to have you join us!”
“Please, eat! Have some of the goose, it’s exquisite. I’ve had the elves learn the recipe, it’s one of Agatha Twindy’s, marvelous! I taught her, you know. I always knew she’d do wonderful things in the culinary world!”
I took a slice of goose, noticing that I had filled the last available seat at the table.
“Is this all of us?” I asked innocently.
Slughorn nodded. “I wanted to keep it cozy, just Tom and his closest friends. Such an accomplishment needed to be celebrated a little more intimately, I thought!”
“Oh, of course,” I said, smiling and taking a bite of goose. It was as good as Slughorn said.
Slughorn prattled on about Tom for a while, causing Tom to accept the praises with quiet humility. He then moved on to Lestrange, asking after his father and laughing heartily when Lestrange told him of their lavish vacations and parties with the elite of Pureblood society. I tried not to roll my eyes.
I didn’t really see the point in humoring Slughorn, but Tom insisted on my attendance to his celebratory dinner party. I thought it was unwise to tell Slughorn he wanted all of The Club, and only us, to come. But Again, Tom seemed to see Slughorn as an ally of some kind, as the sort of antithesis to Dumbledore’s acute suspicions and saintly nature. Slughorn was a glutton for power and a sucker for cleverness, two things Tom was very, very good at. I just didn’t see what use the mustachioed professor would ever be, but I did as I was told and showed up looking pretty.
It was another hour and a half before we were free from the potions office, after Slughorn had insisted I turn a few leftover goose bones into doves and bellowed in joy over the result. Everything seemed to have gone well. I followed Tom into our annex, as I usually did, only to have him turn suddenly and glare.
“Do you want something?”
I was taken aback. “I…I was only…is something wrong?”
Tom was biting the inside of his lip, his eyes alive with irritation. For a moment I thought his hand twitched toward his wand, but then he only sighed and shook his head.
“Right.” I said, crossing my arms.
Tom eyed me for a moment, then, “We only have a week left at Hogwarts.”
“So?” I said dumbly, and a split-second later I realized: Tom wouldn’t be leaving school to lounge by the beach and wander the pier like I would. He’d be leaving his life as prefect and school hero to rot in the orphanage he grew to hate more and more every year.
“Dipet still won’t let me stay. Even after we gave him that halfwit oaf as the Heir…”
“Tom, wait. What if you…what if you lived at my house for the summer?”
The words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to think.
Tom flared up immediately. “I don’t need your—”
“I know!” I snapped. “I know very well you don’t need anything from me, Tom. I would be a complete fool if I ever thought you needed my help!”
My outburst seemed to have temporarily shocked Tom into silence. I took the opportunity to explain.
“But that doesn’t mean you have to stay in that bloody orphanage again this summer! I want you to stay with me, not because you need to, but because…because….”
I couldn’t find the words to explain that charity was the last thing this was, or name every reason I’d want Tom with me all summer.
“Because I would like it very much if you did,” I finished lamely.
Tom was quiet for a very long time, thinking. Then, he nodded. He said nothing, signaling to me that yes, he would come live at my house over the summer, in the smallest way possible.
It didn’t matter. That little nod was enough to make me the happiest I’d been since he had opened the chamber.
However brilliant Tom was, he had always been blinded by a need to be completely self-sufficient, utterly alone in responsibility and triumph. He nearly always shunned my attempts at helping him, and I would wait in anguish for him to seek out my skills on his own.
I remember the day I asked Tom to stay with me because I believe it was the moment Tom started to understand my feelings towards him. He started to see that I really thought the world of him, that I only asked to help him because I wanted to be near him, and I wanted to share in his ambitions. I didn’t offer because I thought him incapable. I offered because I knew he was, and yet I wanted desperately to be of use.
I liked to think that Tom said yes because he wanted to be near me as well. It almost makes me laugh now, to think of myself as an idiot lovesick teenager, daydreaming about Tom and I together all summer.
I think that day was the first time Tom understood that my unconditional love for him could be of use. It was the first time of many that he’d exploit the fact that I had become his in every way, his to use, to cherish, to torment.
The end of the school year took what seemed like forever to arrive. Perhaps it seemed elongated due to the fact that I’d have an entire summer with Tom ahead of me. I almost giggled to myself thinking about it as I scooped Scarlett into her carrier. The dorm I left behind looked bare and empty, ready to accept next year’s fifth year girls. I wouldn’t miss it.
Marcella and Beth hugged me goodbye, promising owls and such. Rachel smiled wryly and kissed me on the cheek.
“Be good over the summer Anne,” she said.
“You do the same,” I replied, taking solace in the fact that she should no longer be any sort of problem. With her diary gone, and the ease of knocking her memories away while she slept, Rachel Burke would have no reason to bother me anymore.
I did my best not to run down the stairs and over to Tom’s room, and ended up doing an excited half gallop into his dormitory.
“Time to gooooo,” I sang, tossing my purse on Avery’s recently vacated bed.
Tom was still packing; there were books scattered on the floor that he had yet to stuff into his trunk, along with various pieces of potions sets and quills. It was the messiest I’d ever seen any of his things.
Nagini was coiled up on his bed, and she raised her head and hissed at my voice.
“Oh, be quiet,” I told her.
Tom snorted, throwing another book into his trunk. I spotted the little black box that I had once discovered animal bones in. Such a long time ago. It was funny how horrified I had been at such a little thing. Due to the past few years, I’d be only slightly surprised if I found human bones under his bed.
I stood up, too excited to stay still. I was teasing Nagini with the end of a shoelace when I spotted the thin black book on Tom’s bed. It looked like a journal or planner of some sort, and was inscribed with tiny golden lettering on the back. The initials TMR. Tom Marvolo Riddle.
“This is pretty,” I said, picking it up to admire the leather.
“Don’t,” Tom snapped, ripping the book out of my hands.
“Merlin, Tom, I wasn’t going to read it,” I said, exasperated.
“Yes, well…just don’t touch anything else,” he said evasively, tucking the journal safely into his robes. I rolled my eyes once he turned his back. Even Tom’s silly, over-suspicious nature wasn’t going to ruin my mood. It was perfect out, and soon we’d both be on the train to London, and then soon after that, headed to my house on the sea. Nothing was going to get in the way of my having a wonderful summer with Tom.
Not even Nana. She had come to pick me up at King’s Cross, just as she usually did. My father was most likely off somewhere chasing the very man I had all but aligned myself with, oblivious to this thanks to my memory charm. My mother was still in her cell-like room in the mental ward of St. Mungos. I shuddered at the thought; at the memory of the last time I had visited her.
But here was Nana, not impaired in any way, and perfectly surprised when I informed her Tom was to be staying with us over the summer.
She eyed the boy next to me, undoubtedly concerned that having such a handsome houseguest would lead me to do something improper. I took advantage of her pause to silently Imperius her.
Her face glazed over in a vaguely pleasant expression.
“Of course, what a great idea…I’ll fix you two your favorite pecan pie tonight to celebrate,” she said, nodding.
I beamed as Tom chuckled. “You’re the best, Nana!”
And so Tom and I would essentially have my seaside palace to ourselves; Mother was gone, father would pop in only once or twice if I was lucky, and Nana was nothing to worry about now that she was my puppet.
Tom tried to hide his annoyance when we arrived. He took in my home, with its tall white columns, bay windows and brick, with silence, but I could almost feel the waves of enmity he was releasing. I felt embarrassed to call this place my home when he came from nothing.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, trying to divert him. “Or we could just go upstairs and I can show you your room?”
“I’m very tired,” Tom said. “I’d like to sleep.”
“Oh. Okay then.”
I brought him upstairs to the neat guest bedroom we always kept prepared. And so Tom disappeared into his room alone, leaving me standing in the hall with my trunk.
That was the way that it was for many days. I would wake every morning and make myself beautiful; I’d try my best to have Nana make breakfasts that Tom would enjoy. I suggested that we go out and walk by the ocean, that we go explore the pier. I did everything I could to try to draw Tom out of his secrecy, but nothing worked. I was growing more and more depressed with only the Muggle newspapers and a few spell books to divert me.
I had imagined a wonderful summer of doing whatever we wished, of learning and exploration, but it seemed Tom only wanted to do these things alone. It occurred to me more than once that perhaps I should make some headway on procuring Slytherin’s locket for Tom, but I couldn’t think where to begin. I knew it would be folly to walk into the shop undisguised and begin asking questions—Burke already knew who I was, and it would be most suspicious. I thought about devising a plan to steal it, but I knew nothing about the defenses Burke might have set up for a treasure of such magnitude. I even, for an insane moment, considered asking him straight up how much he wanted for it, and taking the necessary sum from my parents.
I needed Tom’s help. I couldn’t do this alone, but I couldn’t shatter my pride and his belief in me and ask him for assistance. I spent my days instead studying Apparition—I needed to learn the art so Tom wouldn’t have to pull me along every time. We’d be expected to learn next year anyways, and I wanted to be ahead of the curve.
It was a beautiful day; the sun was beaming down through the windows, throwing triangles of light onto the hardwood. The ocean was an impeccable blue, its salty scent carried to the house on warm breezes; I was making myself apparate from my kitchen to the foyer when Tom came downstairs.
He so rarely left his room that this in itself was shocking.
“Tom!” I said, “Do you need something?”
He shook his head. “I will return shortly. I must do something important.”
This caused a pang to hit me. “Are…are you sure I can’t do anything to help?”
Tom smiled vaguely. “No, Anna. Stay here and become the most expert Apparator Hogwarts has ever seen.”
His tone was condescending, but before I could frame a response, he was out the door, the corner of his robe slipping out of the house. I could no longer concentrate, of course. What on earth could Tom have to do that was such a secret? Why couldn’t he tell me? He always told at least me, had he decided I was no longer worthy of knowing his plans?
I read about the German Muggles advancing in Russia, but I lost interest rather quickly. I tried to make a peach cobbler out of Nana’s cookbook, but ended up messing it up and cursing it into ash in frustration.
Ugh. Get it together, Anne. Stop. I needed to collect myself and go back to the way I knew how to succeed. The way I knew how to win back Tom and win everything I had ever won. And that wasn’t by losing it and blasting innocent baked goods to smithereens.
It was by being the clever and calm right hand, the smartest, most beautiful witch in the school. I could get Tom to share what he was doing with me, just as I always had.
I retreated to my bedroom to make myself perfect. I would wait for Tom to return, and when he did, I’d be his Anna, the one he could tell secrets and ambitions and ideas to. I dusted my eyes with a shimmering powder and made my lips an irresistible red. I took my mother’s loveliest loungewear and found with satisfaction that the ivory silk made my skin look radiant.
I looked simply wonderful, I knew. And so I grabbed a few Transfiguration books from my room and went downstairs to wait.
And Merlin, did I wait. The sun traveled from high in the sky to begin sinking into the Atlantic in a magnificent orange haze. I was trying to focus on the theory of conjuring heavy metals, but my mind kept slipping away. I had to light a candle as the last of the light was swallowed by the sea, tiny glimmering rays of blue and purple the last colors remaining in the sky. A faint roll of thunder sounded in the distance as the sun finally died. I fidgeted and moved around, sitting, lying, draping my legs over he back of the large couch I was on.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t relieve myself of the feelings flooding me. Anxiety, wondering what was taking Tom so long, annoyance, that he had taken off without me and wasn’t returning promptly, and excitement, simply at the prospect of seeing his face. Even this couldn’t sustain me for hours, though.
I forced myself to read. The words became blurry, swimming in and out of focus in the flickering candlelight as I struggled to keep myself awake. I rested the heavy book on my chest for a moment, watching shadows dance on the wall across from me, moving in time with the claps of thunder that were coming more and more frequently now. Even the sound seemed to swim in and out of my mind. I’d only rest my eyes for a moment. I’d be up and waiting when Tom finally decided to come back.
I woke with a start. At first I thought it was the storm that woke me; the wind was howling at an alarming volume, and the sky was moaning with thunder. My candle had burned out and left me in darkness. It was the lightening that illuminated the boy beside me, the boy I’d been waiting for all night.
Tom had knelt at my side, his hair dripping with rainwater. He was only illuminated for a moment though, and it was dark again.
“Anna, my Anna,” he said, his hand finding mine. “I’m finished with them, finally…”
I couldn’t find the words to respond. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to hit him for making me worry so badly and for leaving me alone, or if I wanted to laugh and be happy that he had done something he wanted to do.
I wasn’t really given a choice. Another violent clap of thunder made me jump involuntarily, and Tom laughed and moved to me, pulled me into his chest, burying his face in my neck and hair so I felt the breath of his chuckle on my skin.
I gasped so softly I couldn’t hear it with the rain and the wind screaming outside, but somehow I knew Tom had heard me.
“I needed to do this so badly,” he murmured. His lips moved against my skin as he spoke, sending little sparks of sensation down my neck. “It’s over.”
Some small part of my brain wanted to know what he was on about. What had he ventured out and done all day that gave him so much relief? But this part of my brain was being bound and gagged by another, much stronger part of me that didn’t want to know anything but how Tom’s lips would feel everywhere else.
I needn’t wonder long. As if he had invaded my mind, he took my neck and pulled me to him, crushing his lips to mine. I could barely breathe; it had hardly been a moment since I’d woken to thunder and his beautiful, terrifying presence at my side.
Tom was still wet from the storm, but I barely noticed the water dripping from his hair and the cold wetness of his cloak against the delicate material of my blouse. He pulled said cloak off in one motion, letting it fall beside the sofa in a wet clump as he pushed me down onto the cushions, all the while coaxing my mouth open with his.
It was so funny how I could forget everything I wanted to know, all of my worries and needs to be informed and powerful. When I was with Tom, like this, nothing else seemed to matter anymore. I vaguely wondered if he experienced the same thing, but of course, the thought was only half formed before I lost it in a haze of longing.
Another flash of lightning illuminated the room for a moment, before disappearing and throwing the darkness back onto us. I had never before experienced the whole weight of him before, or noticed how truly tall and heavy he was. The heat of his body was welcome though, even though his rainwater was probably ruining my clothes. Again, as if he had read my mind, I felt his hand slip beneath my shirt, warm on the skin beneath.
Instinctively, I sighed and arched my back. Tom Riddle laughed quietly into my mouth.
I nearly lost my senses then, lost every lesson I’d ever learned about the way the world works, about boys and girls and right and wrong. The sensation of feeling his body vibrate with a laugh and having his lips on mine and his hands on my bare ribs…it was almost enough to make me say to hell with all of it, for nothing about this could be wrong. Almost.
It took every ounce of brainpower I had left to pull away from him. It was as if I had stepped away from a fire and into the storm raging outside; the way my body seemed to deflate in disappointment, the sinking sensation I couldn’t keep away from my chest.
“Tom, I…Tom,” I said, making myself grip him around his upper arms, moving him away from me and slowly putting inches between us. He only looked at me, no annoyance or anything detectable in what I could see of his face. “Just, just wait a moment.”
Tom removed himself from me in silence, and I very nearly cried out and pulled him back. I didn’t though, instead fumbling beneath me for my wand, which I used to light the candle on the table beside me.
The room regained the same golden glow it had had when I dozed off, but now there were two people instead of one, two shadows that were multiplied in grotesque sizes and exaggerated shapes on the walls. Tom sat on the other end of the couch now, his robes a bit crooked, his hair in disarray. He looked so utterly endearing I very nearly forgot everything all over again. It was silent for a moment.
“Tom, what is going on?”
Tom, most unexpectedly, smiled his half smile. “A great deal, Annamaria. A great deal has gone on today. Or should I say, yesterday.”
He was right of course; it had to be well into the early hours of morning.
“Well would you like to share any of this before I go mad with curiosity?” I asked. Curiosity wasn’t the only thing driving me mad, but I figured I could keep that part to myself.
Tom was quiet for a few seconds. “I would. But you must promise me that no one—absolutely no one— is ever to discover any of what I am about to tell you. Not Avery, or Lestrange, or your dimwitted girlfriends…or Malfoy.”
I thought he gave me a sharp glance when he said that last one, but perhaps I had imagined it, because he looked as tranquil as he was capable of looking when I said, “Of course, you have my promise. I won’t breathe a word.”
“Good. I have been working for a few weeks on something related to what we did in our first year. Do you remember, Anna?”
First year…the first time I had set eyes on Tom, the secretive little boy he had been, the impatient and attention starved eleven-year-old me trying to break down his walls. But what...?
“Oh! That book, the—”
“That’s right. My heritage. It is how I came to know I was Slytherin’s Heir, and for that I was grateful. But still, it has bothered me for years now.”
Tom paused, his face hardening.
“I wondered what happened to my mother, who my father was. I needed to know.”
He stopped again, throwing me a glance. “Not that I need anything from a family, of course. But I needed to know if there were any other connections, objects, things of that nature…”
“Yes, naturally,” I agreed quickly, thinking privately that it was astonishing how badly Tom wanted to show me and everyone else that he was self-sufficient. It was only natural to feel a need to know your parents, to want someone to love and care for. But it wasn’t natural for Tom; the very idea was shameful. I wasn’t sure if I believed him, but I acted as if I did.
“I’ve been searching for the last Gaunts for weeks now,” he continued. “I did not bother to tell you…I did not need your assistance, and there was no progress to be shown until now.”
“Right,” I said, hiding my irritation with the fact that he didn’t bother letting me in. “So what progress is that?”
“I traveled to a small town called Little Hangleton yesterday, where I believed the last living members of my mother’s family resided. I was right. I came across the only living member of the Gaunt family besides myself…” Tom trailed off, looking disgusted. “This man was not worthy of the honor that came with being in Slytherin’s direct line. He was a disgrace of a wizard.”
I listened, rather than voicing any of the concerns that had erupted about how he had gotten there, how he had found this man, and the true nature of his last living relative.
“Though he gave me information that proved…useful. It was for this reason that I have only just returned.”
Tom paused. He looked caught between pride and lingering disgust.
“I found my grandparent’s house.”
“Your…your grandparents?” I asked. “You mean, you mother’s—”
“No. My father’s parents.”
It didn’t make any sense. How had he come across his paternal grandparents after seeking out his mother’s family? These grandparents must have been Muggles then, since we couldn’t find the proper Riddle in any sort of magical record…
“My pathetic excuse for an uncle led me to them,” Tom said, answering my unfinished question. “He mistook me for my father, drunken state he was in…it was not difficult to gather that my real father lived only paces away in a mansion atop a hill.”
My lips parted in surprise. “You found your father?”
Tom was still. “Oh, I found him. A pompous, disgusting Muggle unworthy of touching the hem of my mother’s dress. They sat there all dressed up and dining on the finest, laughing and having the grandest time…he had no idea…no idea what had happened to my mother. No idea what had become of me.”
I sat, shocked, in the dancing candlelight. I couldn’t begin to understand what Tom was feeling, mostly because I believe he didn’t even know what he was feeling.
“I watched them for a time. I very nearly revealed myself, but…I…”
He stopped. I wanted to prompt him, to know what had happened, but something stopped me. This was one thing I could never push him on. For no matter how absent and dysfunctional my parents were, they had always known I existed, always cared if I lived or died. I had no right to speak on a subject of such magnitude that I did not understand.
“I didn’t need to,” Tom erupted suddenly, his voice echoing off the vaulted ceilings of my home and making me jump. “Why should I, the heir of Salazar Slytherin, need to present myself to a dirty Muggle? Why would I talk to him, hear his side, know what went on in that worthless brain of his? There was no point in words. I had nothing to say to any of them.”
Tom rose, no longer looking endearingly unkempt. He was a full-grown man, angry and dangerous, his black wand gripped tight in his hand. When his dark gaze met mine, a chill raced down my spine. Funny how different the many chills he gave me could be. This one sent fear spiraling down with it.
“And so I entered the house that they didn’t deserve to sit in. I said nothing, for my father had already spoken for himself in the way he abandoned my mother, over all the years he never looked for me, and in the pathetic fear that came over him at the sight of me. I looked each one of them in the eyes before I killed them.”
I shouldn’t have gasped. Somehow, I had known this was the way it would end from the moment Tom began his story. But still, Tom had murdered his own father, his grandparents…and there was nothing in his eyes. Nothing but triumph and cold, cold fury.
It was silent for a long time. I had my hand over my mouth, and after a moment I knew the sight of my shock was irritating to him, so I took it down and told him what I knew he’d need to hear.
“I’m glad you killed them. They deserved it.”
I heard his sharp intake of breath, and for a split-second, I thought Tom was angry with me. But then he sank back onto the couch beside me. He looked suddenly exhausted.
“But Tom I hope…I hope…what did you do with the bodies?”
“I left them,” he said simply. Spotting my concern, he said, “Don’t worry, Anna. I’ve taken care of it. Tonight I took care of all the family I had left. Morfin will be of no more concern than my dear old father, for he is the one that murdered the Riddles. At least, that’s what the world will see. I have no family anymore. I am just the same as I ever was. Alone.”
“You’re not,” I whispered.
A/N Hiiiii everyone! Sorry for sucking again and taking forever to update. Life keeps getting in the way! I wouldn't blame you for ditching the story...but for anyone still here I love you and won't abandon. We've got 6th and 7th years coming up, which are the most intense parts of the story! Grindelwald, Malfoy, Rachel, Dumbledore, Slughorn...everyone has drama coming up! And of course there will be endless Anna/Tom stuff, getting crazier and darker and everything in between.
I love reading your reviews so if you have any comments at all or just want to yell at me for taking too long, I would love to hear :) Thanks again for sticking with me, it means so much! More coming!!