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Chapter 6 : The Wolf and the Sheep
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image by Fireheart @ tda
As I stepped into the Great Hall with Tom, the warm smell of bacon washed over me, making my mouth water. The Hall held only a scattering of students; stragglers with pitiful expression who lifted their bags as if they were full of bricks. But the breakfast dishes were still out, and that was all I needed. Tom directed me toward the empty end of the Slytherin table with a gentle push on the small of my back.
“Come sit,” he said, his voice always sounding so controlled. “You shouldn’t be alone.”
I sat, feeling uncomfortable, and glanced around nervously across the other three long tables. Fortunately, there were no Gryffindors in sight and none of the other students looked our way, so I turned back to where Tom was filling a plate of eggs and bacon for both of us.
I watched him, biting my lower lip. Wasn’t he supposed to be arrogant and mean like Finn’s other Slytherin friends? “Why are you being so nice?”
Tom blinked, handing me my plate. “I don’t understand.”
“Well, I’m… Gryffindor…” I mumbled.
Tom nodded slowly, but waited until he had chewed and swallowed his sausage before he answered. “It’s not the house crest you bear,” he said. “It’s who you are.”
I stared at him sluggishly. “What?”
“But, if you want to talk houses,” Tom continued. “You’re not like other Gryffindors.”
“Smarter?” I asked, jokingly, picking up a piece of toast. “Bigger swear word vocabulary? Better looking?”
I froze. My appetite was gone so I set my toast down. He was looking at me, I could feel it, but I wouldn’t meet his eyes. My heart was beating so hard against my ribcage there’d surely be a bruise there later. I watched my wrist instead, where Tom had lightly lain his long fingers.
“I see it in you,” he murmured. “It’s… intoxicating. You’re dangerous.”
I looked at him then. And it wasn’t the intensity of his dark eyes that made my breath come short. It wasn’t the feel of his skin on mine. It wasn’t even that I found myself wondering if his lips felt as soft as they looked. It was that I couldn’t quite find the words to tell him he was wrong. What kind of Gryffindor came from a family of Slytherins? What kind of daughter disappointed her parents?
“Hippogriff shit,” I said under my breath.
Tom looked startled. “What?”
I moved my hand out from under his. “Can we go to class now?”
We were late to Potions, of course. As Tom and I stood together in the doorway, we were met with every pair of eyes from the rest of the class, already seated with their notebooks out. Tom apologised to Professor Slughorn with a smile. It was the smile I was beginning to refer to as his teacher smile, because that’s the only time I saw it. It looked rather like a Blishwick smile.
“Not at all, Tom, Hero,” Professor Slughorn nodded to each of us. “Take a seat. It’ll have to be that one there.” He pointed to the only free desk in the back corner and turned back to the blackboard, where the words resumed writing themselves with a flick of his wand.
I didn’t look at Tom as we obediently took our places at the desk. To look at him was to remember him calling me intoxicating. It made something under my skin shiver, but not unpleasantly. That was the problem.
Half the class was still watching us. The other half probably was too, and just weren’t as obvious about it. I smoothed my hair down self-consciously and looked around the classroom as boldly as I could. Theo was glaring at Tom. Emory looked at me excitedly. Finn began making out with his hand.
Throughout the period, I brewed the Calming Draught we were working on with half a mind. I couldn’t stop thinking of the girl petrified on the ground. Dark Magic, Madam Flint had said. But what student could really be capable?
Tom leaned past me to grab the bowl of poppy seeds and brushed my arm with his as he did so. My arm prickled as if an invisible energy source surged between our skins, and I flinched. He didn’t seem to feel anything, his concentration dedicated to his cauldron. Maybe I was over tired, my senses hyper aware. After all, he was the intoxicating one. The dangerous one. I was just a teenage girl with a temper and a troll for a twin.
“…but I think two or three should suffice. Hero?”
“Hm?” I looked up, startled out of my reverie. Tom was looking at me expectantly.
“Have you heard a word I’ve said?”
“Ah… no. Sorry.”
The sound of whispers reached my ears and I looked up. Across the classroom, two of my Gryffindor classmates had their heads bent close together, shooting glances my way. They hastily straightened when they caught me watching them. I sighed and stared down at my cauldron. Its contents resembled thick mud. A disheartening glance at the recipe said it should be a pale blue.
“And how are you two getting along?” Professor Slughorn boomed from across the classroom as he headed toward us.
In a series of hand movements so quick his fingers were a blur, Tom dropped an assortment of ingredients into my cauldron, and hissed at me to stir it. I did so, dazed, and my potion turned a pale blue. Professor Slughorn reached us and peered into each of our cauldrons. He clapped his hands delightedly in front of his red waistcoat.
“I expected nothing less from two of my star pupils!” he beamed. “OWLs will be a breeze for you, I’m sure.”
OWLs. I couldn’t let my parents down. Not again. I looked sadly back down at my potion and slouched lower in my chair, rubbing my eyes against the tiredness that washed over me.
“Professor,” Tom began cordially. “I wonder if you might excuse Hero. She’s had a long night. I’m sure you heard, sir, a trusted member of staff such as yourself…”
“I did, I did,” Professor Slughorn said heavily.
I’d meant to look at Tom with appreciation; a kind of silent thank you that showed Professor Slughorn that I wasn’t behind Tom’s asking, but it turned into more of a gape.
“You may go, Hero,” Professor Slughorn said. Then, lowering his voice so just the two of us could hear; “Watch for my owl, you two. I’m planning the finest Halloween party for my most gifted students!” He walked away rubbing his hands.
“See you in Transfiguration?” Tom whispered to me.
I nodded and mouthed, ‘Thank you.’
Climbing Gryffindor Tower, I expected the common room to be empty, but, once the Fat Lady let me in, I saw a boy lounging on the couch with a book. My heart warmed as I recognised him. Messy brown hair, constantly in a state that suggested he had just stepped off his broom, even when he hadn’t, and friendly hazel eyes that could only be described as puppy dog: Morgan Morris, fellow Chaser of the Gryffindor Quidditch team of which he was our new captain.
He looked up as I entered, face splitting into a grin. “Hey, Ro.”
“Hey, Mo. Why aren’t you in class?”
“Free period. What’s your excuse?” He moved his legs to the floor and patted the cushion next to him in invitation.
I walked over and threw myself onto the couch next to him, depositing my feet in his lap. “Just needed to get away.”
Morgan looked at me sympathetically. “The demands of fifth year catching up to you already, are they?”
I draped a hand over my face, hiding in the crook of my elbow.
“And Quidditch practice hasn’t even started yet,” he added brightly.
I groaned. I had almost forgotten about Quidditch. I closed my eyes against my arm; the crackle of the fire and the easiness of being with Morgan was lulling me further into drowsiness.
He drummed his fingers on my ankle. After a short silence he asked, “Finn been expelled yet?”
“Unfortunately no, but it’s still early.”
“I bet your parents would still favour him more than you.” He didn’t say it maliciously – I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad thing come out of his mouth – he just said it as the fact it was. “Are they breathing down your neck in double time?”
“And then some.” Especially after seeing a Muggle in secret. I sighed. I’m the ultimate Blishwick black sheep.
“Sometimes,” Morgan mused. “I’m glad both my parents are Muggles.” He patted my leg. “You’ll be okay, Ro. You always are.”
I hoped he was right.
“I’m telling you, it’s nothing,” I whispered, but I really needn’t have bothered; the classroom was full of chatter and owl hoots. “The three of us are prefects that happened to have rounds at the same time.”
Emory went back to doodling on the corner of her parchment. “Okay then,” she said; she sounded disappointed and a little bit unconvinced.
I wanted to say more to her. I wanted to gush about what Tom had said and how it made me feel, but I couldn’t do that without telling her about Noah. I wanted to scream why I was scared, but I couldn’t tell her about the petrified girl. I wanted to admit how I had come to spend the better part of the night with Tom, but I couldn’t tell her about Theo.
So I settled for poking my owl, Villain, with my wand instead, trying to transfigure her into a pair of opera glasses. Villain. Isn’t Finn hilarious? But the little brown owl and I get along fine, I don’t think she minded when she was replaced with a big white owl and handed down to me. I don’t think she minds the joke behind her name. Villain knows it’s not personal.
She did mind being poked with my wand, though, and eyed me agitatedly. I looked around the classroom for Professor Dumbledore, poised for attempting the spell for real should he be near, but he was at the back of the room, hovering around Tom’s desk, his blue eyes intent. Tom had his own wand poised before his owl.
His owl was so black that, were it not for its bright yellow eyes and tufts of feathers on its head, it could have been a raven. Something about it had me repressing a shudder, and it didn’t take me long to figure out why.
There had been a raven on the road before Noah swerved off the bridge.
I closed my eyes, suddenly feeling nauseous, but whether it was from the memory of the raven or the memory of falling I wasn’t sure. Perhaps both. When I opened them again, Tom’s owl had become a perfect pair of black opera glasses, complete with a gold ornate trim.
“Excellent work, Tom,” Professor Dumbledore said, pleased.
Tom didn’t smile his teacher smile as he nodded once in thanks. In fact, none of the familiar friendliness he showed Professor Slughorn was evident on his face. But Professor Dumbledore said nothing more as he drifted toward the front of the classroom. I turned back, chin in my hand and poked at Villain again.
“Miss Blishwick, Miss Baxter.” Professor Dumbledore stopped in front of our desk and gazed down at us through his half-moon spectacles. “How are you coming along?”
“Nothing yet, Professor,” Emory said, subtly inching her hand over to cover her idle drawing.
We obediently recited the incantation and performed the wand movement. Mine almost worked; Villain transformed into what looked like a pair of opera glasses, but were still covered in feathers, so they resembled more of a fancy masquerade mask. Emory’s owl didn’t change at all.
“Practice,” he said. Then, lowering his voice, “And try the manoeuvre more slowly.” He gave a tiny wink and walked away.
I dropped my head into my hands. I never struggled with magic and now I was being shown up by Tom Riddle. How did he stay so focused? Did he really have nothing else bothering him in his life? I cast a glance over my shoulder at him.
“He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf,” Emory said casually, flipping through her transfiguration book.
“I’ll take my chances,” I said dryly.
I found him sitting at the same desk in the corner of the library, dark head bent, intently reading. I almost felt bad as I approached, ready to interrupt. Almost.
“I need help.”
He looked up, his eyes trailing up and down my body as if it were physical help I was referring to. “Can you elaborate?”
I huffed and sat opposite him. “I have to pass my OWLs. With colours of the flying kind.”
One of his eyebrows twitched in amusement. “And you want me to tutor you?”
“Unless you want to find out just how dark I am inside if you refuse, yes.”
He smiled. It wasn’t his teacher smile, it was a smile that made my heart skip a beat. “I wouldn’t dare refuse,” he said, closing his book and pushing it aside. A quick glance at the spine told me it was Great Wizards of the Nineteenth Century. “Okay. We’ll start with Transfiguration. You’ll need that book by Dusty Laroux - No, wait.” He held up a hand to stop me as I went to rise from the chair.
He flicked his eyes to the bookshelf behind me and I turned. A large tattered book had wiggled itself out of the shelf and was floating toward me. Once it was in reaching distance, I grabbed it. I looked from him to the book to him again. His wand was lying on the desk, untouched, next to a small block of dark chocolate he appeared to always have on him. Had he done that with his mind?
Tom’s smile widened at the confusion that must have been plain on my face. I had time to note he had very straight teeth before I raised my eyes to his. They were so dark, and had his lashes always been that long? My heart skipped another beat.
But I wasn’t the only one.
A/N: A quote (from Emory, who else?) borrowed from William Shakespeare's King Lear and a lot more thanks to Julie (banshee) for her incredible help!
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