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Chapter 7 : The Kiss
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“What are you doing up?” I asked. I picked up The Daily Prophet left on the table, scanning the front page. More attacks in France, led by Grindelwald. More Muggles dead without reason. I shivered despite the warmth of the room, glad his movements hadn’t yet reached Britain.
Theo stirred sleepily, as if I had pulled him out of a trance. “I had rounds,” he replied. “I need to talk to you, actually. About your cousin.”
“Which one?” I asked wryly, thumbing through the pages of the Prophet.
I snapped my head up, paper forgotten. Sebastian wasn’t the cousin I had been expecting. At thirteen, he was kinder, quieter and more sensitive than the other Blishwicks put together. He wouldn’t hurt a flitterby.
“What’s he done?”
Theo rubbed his face with his hands. “The usual blood traitor gibe, that I’m the brother of a dirt-blood whore and Bonnie’s no better than the Muggle she married.” He picked at a spot on his trousers. “But I’m not mad at him. It was a half-hearted effort. I think Finn put him up to it.”
I sighed. “Most likely. Sebastian would never say that on his own.”
Theo continued to stare into the fire, a forlorn expression on his face. I tentatively laid a hand on his back.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
Theo was tense under my hand, but I felt him relax after a moment, and he gave a small smile. He sat up and jerked his chin toward the dormitory steps that Morgan had just climbed.
“I don’t think your parents would approve,” he said, a wry smile on his lips.
I followed his gaze. “We’re just friends.”
Theo quirked an eyebrow. “I don’t think he sees it that way.”
I gave him an exasperated look. Theo could think what he liked. It wasn’t the thought of Morgan’s face that made my skin prickle; it was Tom’s, even after he had made his views on Muggles known. I rubbed my arms, a shiver passing through me despite the fire. I wished I could use a vanishing spell to rid myself of the feeling Tom gave me; it left me confused and hurt. After a short silence, Theo rose and said goodnight with a squeeze of my hand.
It was my turn to stare into the coals of the dying fire.
Thank you for returning the book. What Finlay says is true, the Muggle police couldn’t get the driver door of the car open. You know how primitive Muggle transportation is. The strapping device on his side was faulty and stuck, too, which also goes to show.
We hope you’re keeping on top of your studies. You don’t need us to tell you how important OWL year is.
From Mum and Dad.
Villain nipped gently at my arm, so I fed her a bit of bacon from my plate as I stared at the letter. Apprehension threatened to bring up my breakfast but I fought against it, my mind buzzing with questions like the excited weekend chatter of the students around me. For Noah’s door to be locked and seat belt to stick seemed like too much of an awful coincidence. Was it a result of crashing into the water? Was my wand really capable? I thought of how Noah must have struggled, how trapped he must have felt, like I did in my dreams. Did someone else have a hand in this? I swallowed the lump in my throat, my eyes burning. Hands shaking, I took a hasty gulp of orange juice, as if I could swallow the feeling down. Why hadn’t I gone back? What if I could have saved him?
Emory sat down beside me and I jumped. As she reached for a plate, I quickly wiped my face with my sleeve. She had already been asleep when I returned to the dormitory last night and she hadn’t been there when I woke up this morning. Her brown hair hung in messy waves and when she turned to look at me, I saw the purple bags under her eyes. Her eyebrows furrowed in worry and she asked, “What’s the matter?”
I leant my head against Emory’s shoulder so she couldn’t see my eyes, giving them a chance to dry. She smelled faintly of sweat, not her usual flowery perfume.
“I could ask the same of you,” I said.
“You’ve been crying.” She pushed food around her plate, her shoulder moving under my cheek.
I ignored her comment. Beside me, Villain stretched her wings and took flight. I lifted my face to follow her movements, keeping an eye out for Morgan, as we were going to Hogsmeade today. She flew over a small, familiar figure standing in the entrance to the Great Hall. Sebastian.
“I’ll be right back,” I murmured to Emory as I rose from my seat. I hastily shoved the letter into my pocket as I approached my cousin, who was rifling through his leather bag, dark hair sticking up at the back.
Sebastian looked up, brown eyes wide. “Oh, hey.”
I slipped my hands into my pockets. “How are you?”
“How’s Uncle Kagan?” I asked of his father.
Sebastian looked wary. “He’s fine too.”
“Alright, look,” I said briskly, “Stay away from Finn, okay? You’re so much better than his crowd of idiots.”
Sebastian looked startled. “I don’t -” He broke off as two men and a woman in matching purple uniforms approached us, grim expressions on their faces. They carried small silver cases, and as they passed us and entered The Great Hall, I glimpsed at the words on the back of their shirts: Magical Creature Control. Sebastian’s dark brown eyes were wide as he watched them disappear into the room behind the staff table.
I lowered my voice and crossed my arms over my chest. “Theo told me what you said to him. Just stay away from Finn, alright?”
Sebastian looked up at me and said in a small voice, “I just want to be friends with Tom Riddle. I-I want to be like him. You should hear how my dad and Uncle Jameson talk about him, after he stayed at yours.”
I bit my lip. I hardly saw Tom during his stay over the summer, but I could imagine all too well how much my father would approve of someone like Tom. Especially compared to someone like me.
“Uncle Jameson would never talk about me like that,” Sebastian said glumly to his feet.
“Hey,” I said gently, and he looked up. “That’s not a bad thing, you know. My dad has a pretty shallow view on what makes a person worthy of his time, and Tom’s not perfect.” I thought of our conversation by the statue. “You’re in Slytherin at the very least, it could be worse.” I gestured to myself.
I turned to see Morgan walking down the stairs toward us, jumping the last one. I smiled at him in acknowledgement before turning back to Sebastian. I ruffled his dark hair affectionately, earning a weak smile.
“You and I have to stick together,” I said. “We’re different from everyone else in our family, and that’s okay.” I hoped I sounded convincing; it was something I desperately wanted to believe.
Sebastian’s smile grew wider as he nodded, hitching his bag over his shoulder and disappearing among the throng of people in the Great Hall.
Morgan reached me and grinned. “You ready?”
I glanced across to the Gryffindor table for Emory, but she was gone. With a shrug, I turned back to Morgan. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
As we stepped through the castle doors, the cold air outside bit through my coat. The sky was filled with slate-grey clouds, and thunder rumbled behind the mountains as we walked along the road to Hogsmeade. We kept up a conversation about O.W.Ls, under the workload of which I was slowly catching up, until we were passing through the main street. Morgan grabbed the end of my red scarf and tickled my face with the tassels. “So, where do you fancy?” he asked.
I pulled my scarf out of his hand and elbowed him playfully. “As long as it’s warm and sells coffee, I’m easy.”
He grinned. “Is that so?”
I punched his arm. “How rude.”
The Bean and the Pod was at the end of the street, and as we entered, the warm smell of cinnamon and coffee washed over me. I breathed it in deeply. Morgan sat down at a table by the window, but I remained standing, my eyes fixed on a black dot with eight legs on the window sill. Morgan furrowed his brow at me before following my line of vision. He saw the spider, clucked his tongue and trapped it under one of the empty water glasses from the table.
“You know how rare mastilios actually are, right?” he asked.
I sat down cautiously, eyeing the spider in its glass prison. “When one is as allergic as me, one cannot be too careful.”
Morgan rolled his eyes good-naturedly and tapped at the glass, making the spider scuttle around the tiny space. I shivered, remembering the first time I had been bitten, as a child. Thankfully my parents had been nearby, so that when my throat began to close and my skin began to burn, they had Floo’d me to St Mungo’s. I pushed the memory of the pain firmly out of my head.
We ordered two coffees off the young waitress who approached our table, and when she left, I leaned back comfortably in my seat.
“What are these new Quidditch tactics, then?” I asked.
Morgan waved a hand vaguely. “Plenty of time for that. Did you hear about the latest attacks in France?”
The waitress returned with our coffees and we continued to talk about Grindelwald until our second cups were empty. Morgan pushed his cup and saucer to the side, took a deep breath, and said slowly, “There’s something I wanted to ask you actually…”
He reached over and covered my hand resting on the table with his own. A sinking feeling began in my stomach as I realised, perhaps too late, the meaning behind Morgan asking me to Hogsmeade, and that Theo had been right.
“I was wondering… if you’ve ever considered being more than friends. With me.”
I licked dry lips. Of course I had considered it once or twice; when I’d glimpsed the smooth hard muscles of his arms through his Quidditch uniform or tried deliberately to make him laugh because it was such an infectious sound. But he was Muggle-born. If my parents wanted me to end my relationship with Theo just because his sister had married a Muggle, what would they say if I brought Morgan home? So, I lied.
“Oh… I’m really sorry Mo, but no. I’d rather we just be friends.”
Morgan’s face fell and my heart gave a painful squeeze in my chest. He shrugged and one side of his mouth lifted up. “It’s okay. Was worth a shot, right?”
I smiled and squeezed his hand still in mine. Loud laughter sounded outside and I turned my head to look, and instantly regretted it. Finn, Tom, Lestrange and Avery were walking past, and Finn caught my eye. He stopped, a zealous look crossing his face. I snatched my hand away from Morgan’s, but too late; Finn waggled a finger in a ‘No’ action. My stomach did a backflip.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled, and quickly stepped outside the café.
Finn grinned maliciously as I approached him.
“Tut tut, Hero,” he said. “Up to your blood traitor tricks again? I wonder what dad would say?”
“Finn, please, don’t,” I begged, low voiced.
Morgan had followed me out of the café and now focused his gaze on me, apprehension dawning on his face. “Is that what this is about? Your parents?”
I said, “No,” at the same time Finn said, “Yes.”
I glared at my brother, then looked at Morgan helplessly.
Morgan shook his head and turned away without another word. He headed back up the street, shoulders hunched, feet crunching on the gravel. I made to follow him, but a hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“Let him go,” Tom said softly.
I shrugged out of his grip and took a step back, as much to get away from him as to discourage the traitorous heat that rose in my cheeks when he touched me. I watched as Morgan’s back grew smaller.
“Fucking Mudblood,” Finn spat.
My hands began to shake. I drew my wand from my pocket and aimed it at Finn, but my spell missed, shooting past his shoulder to hit the brick wall behind him in a shower of sparks. Caught by surprise all the same, Finn stumbled back, but before I could get closer to him an arm slipped around my waist and yanked me swiftly back.
I thought I heard Tom say my name - it was him holding me back - but I couldn’t hear over the blood pounding in my eardrum.
Lestrange and Avery had their wands drawn too, but Tom called them off, his voice full of warning. Finn straightened, wiping his nose on his sleeve as he looked at me.
“I’d be careful if I were you,” he said.
“And why is that?” I was aware of Tom’s arm still around me and quickly stepped away, adjusting my scarf as I did so.
“Making friends with the little Mudbloods like you do.” Finn came closer to me but I stood my ground. “You’ll end up with no friends at all.”
“What in Merlin’s name are you talking about?” I asked. I couldn’t help swallowing nervously.
Finn’s eyes, amused, darted to Tom again, then back to me. “Make way for the Heir of Slytherin,” he whispered.
Avery and Lestrange sniggered. I narrowed my eyes at them, but thought better of asking. I shook my head, turned on my heel and stalked back to the castle.
I sat with Emory in Defence Against the Dark Arts. She was quiet, staring out of the window to the raincloud-filled sky more than she usually did, but I didn’t have the chance to speak with her before class started, when Professor Merrythought walked between the desks of the classroom, giving every second student a folded piece of blank paper.
“In a moment,” she said returning to the front of classroom, footsteps clicking on the floor. “You will open your paper and the name of your practice partner will appear. It is completely random and there will be no swapping in order for you to be paired with your friends.” She stood at the front of the classroom, hands behind her back and looking sternly at us down her long nose. “I don’t care if you don’t fancy your partner; perhaps it will motivate you all the more to defend yourselves against them.”
I looked down at the piece of paper, feeling dread in my stomach. I knew exactly whose name would appear once I opened it.
“Alright, you may find your partner now.”
The sounds of ruffling paper, mingled with whoops of joy and groans of dissatisfaction filled the room, but I waited a long moment before I finally unfolded the paper, staring grimly at the name that appeared.
I glanced over my shoulder at him. Tom was scanning the classroom, and when his eyes rested on me, I held up the piece of paper. The corner of his mouth turned up. Emory murmured a “Fare thee well,” to me, and no sooner than she left to sit with her partner, Tom slid into the desk next to me. I refused to meet his eye, busying myself with lining up my books and quill into a straight row.
The sound of my name on his lips sent a pleasant shiver down my spine, but I ignored it.
“Look at me. Please.”
I did, chiding myself for noticing that his hair was slightly more tousled today than it usually was.
“I want you to know that I’m sorry,” Tom murmured. “For what I said about the Muggle. It was thoughtless of me. Do you forgive me?”
I chewed my bottom lip as I regarded him. He looked genuine; his dark eyes pleading as he searched my face. The way he had dismissed Noah’s life was wrong, but he seemed to know that, more than my family did anyway. Apologise was a word in a language most Blishwicks didn’t speak. I sighed, inwardly swore at myself, and nodded. He smiled and looked so relieved that I found myself relaxing as well. Professor Merrythought began explaining our assignment - practicing three offensive and defensive spells of our choice and an essay on the wand movement of each. As we opened our books to decide on spells, I lowered my voice and asked, “What was Finn talking about the other day? The Heir of Slytherin or something?”
Tom didn’t look up from his book. “What do you know?”
“Only that it sounds better than the Heir of Blishwick,” I said, “and that they’re probably more intelligent.”
One side of Tom’s mouth curled upward. “When the school was built, Slytherin created a secret chamber to hide a monster. A monster designed to dispose of Muggle-borns.”
My mouth went dry. “Dispose?” My thoughts went to Emory and Morgan. I glanced over my shoulder at Emory, her pretty mouth nibbling on the end of her quill as she listened to her partner, Libby Mackenzie.
When I turned back, Tom’s mouth still held the hint of a smile. “It is said that his heir would one day return to the school and release it.”
I swallowed. “So it is a student, after all?”
Tom looked up from his book, stern as he said, “Hero, I know you’ve been involving yourself in finding who’s behind it, but please stop. It could be dangerous.”
I looked at him slyly. “I thought I was the dangerous one?”
He shook his head, seriousness on his handsome face. “Not this time.”
As class finished and we were packing our things away, Professor Merrythought called Tom over. As I watched, distracted, Finn passed by my desk, latest girlfriend in tow, and knocked my bag to the ground with a snigger. The contents of my bag scattered around the floor, and with a defeated sigh I stooped to pick everything up. By the time I straightened, the classroom had emptied but for Tom and Professor Merrythought, who were speaking at the front of the classroom in low voices. I lingered, but they had clearly finished their conversation. Professor Merrythought walked to the classroom door, smiling at me as she passed, her long grey hair swinging down her back. The door shut silently behind her.
“What was that about?” I asked Tom as he joined me by the desk.
“She gave us permission to use the classroom for practice. We have a free period now, want to start?”
I felt a stab of jealousy so fierce it surprised me. I was working to be the student he was, receiving privileges for being the teachers’ favourite, so that my parents would be proud. I bit my lip as I thought on what I said to Sebastian. If dad approved of Tom, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. He had helped me study in the past, after all. I nodded.
We set up cushions to practice stunning jinxes, one of the offensive spells we had chosen. After half an hour of practice, one of Tom’s spells rebounded off my shoe, making me stumble back and fall onto my backside on the cushions. Tom let out a snort of amusement as he looked down at me, and I was reminded of that night in the library, the first time we had spoken. Instead of offering me a hand up, Tom sat down beside me, so close our shoulders touched. The movement sent a lock of hair into his eyes. He drew his knees up and rested his chin on them, head turned toward me. Without thinking, I raised a hand and pushed his hair back, the skin on his forehead smooth and warm. I flushed, suddenly aware of what I was doing. But, before I could yank my hand back, Tom caught it in his and turned to kiss my palm.
My skin burned where his lips touched it, as if they were made of fire, and my heart raced in my chest. He leaned closer, his breath stirring my hair, and pressed his mouth to mine. The kiss was small and gentle, and his lips were as soft as they looked. I closed my eyes, letting everything about him wash over me. He tasted faintly of chocolate, the kind he always had with him; not sweet, not bitter, but always leaving you wanting more. Like Tom himself. His fingers tenderly pushed my hair back over my ears, and all too soon, he he broke the kiss.
“Are you free tonight?” he asked quietly.
I shook my head softly, fighting to keep a goofy smile off my face. “I have patrol.”
I let out a short burst of laughter. “And you a Prefect!”
“I’m serious. The school has magical creature experts patrolling the castle at night now. I’m sure they can manage without you for one night.”
I tried to look at him dubiously, but my eyes kept darting to the fullness of his bottom lip.
“Okay,” I whispered.
I couldn’t stop glancing behind me as I climbed the steps to the Astronomy Tower. Not only was I skirting my responsibilities and wandering the castle on my own with a beast on the loose, but the Tower was out of bounds at night. My palms were sweaty despite the warmth of my coat and I wiped them on trousers. I shuddered as I thought of what my parents would say if they found out about my rule-breaking.
As I climbed the final step, I saw Tom standing by the parapet on the balcony, hands clasped behind his back as he stared up at the sky. A small thrill went through me at the sight of him. I smoothed my hair down and went to stand beside him.
“Why did you choose to meet here?” I whispered, still looking over my shoulder nervously.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
I had to agree with him as I followed his gaze; the view from this high up took my breath away. I couldn’t see the ground in the dark, nor the outline of the forest. The blackness gave the illusion of being in space, surrounded by thousands of stars, twinkling like light caught in diamonds.
“Come here,” he said softly, pulling me gently by the shoulders to stand in front of him. I placed my hands on the cold stone of the parapet.
“Can you see Corvus?” he asked.
“I’ve never even heard of it,” I replied, scanning the stars all the same.
“Apollo’s raven,” Tom said from behind me. “Cursed from white to black for not protecting Apollo’s wife.”
I shivered, then asked impatiently, “Where?”
“It’s right there.” He pointed over my shoulder. “Next to Virgo.”
I turned around and raised an eyebrow at him exasperatedly. Tom sighed and took a step closer to me. He crouched slightly so that his chin was just above my shoulder, but not quite touching. Butterflies erupted in my stomach at our close proximity. I was having a hard time making out any constellations while his hair was tickling my cheek.
“There,” he whispered. His breath was warm in my ear and I suppressed a shiver, goosebumps erupting over my body.
Tom stepped back, but before I had time to feel disappointed, his hands came up to rest on my shoulders. The warmth from them seemed to travel all the way down to my toes. Then, the pressure on my shoulders increased as he turned me around to face him. In the moonlight, his pale face almost glowed, like he was a light in the dark.
“You’re trembling,” he said softly. A light breeze ruffled through his hair and mine, a lock of it brushed across my face. Tom raised a hand and pushed it tenderly back behind my ear and let his hand rest there, cupping my cheek.
“I’m just… cold,” I said breathlessly. My heart was beating so loudly, there was no way he couldn’t hear it. It quickened as he leant forward, then stopped altogether when he pressed his lips to mine. It was gentle at first, as it had been in the classroom, his mouth soft and firm. But this time, I didn’t want gentle. I nipped his bottom lip and was rewarded with a gasp. His mouth opened against mine and the kiss deepened. His hands trailed from my shoulders down to my waist, and I lifted my arms around his neck, fingers wrapping around the hair that curled at the nape of his neck. It felt like minutes, hours, or days had passed before we finally broke apart. He looked down at me and said quietly, “Hero Blishwick.”
“Yes, Tom Riddle?” I replied, sounding breathless.
His grip on my waist tightened, but only fractionally; I thought I imagined it. His voice was husky as he asked, “Will you go steady with me?”
My heart spun in my chest like a sneakoscope, a wide smile spreading across my face. “Yes,” I said, surprised and pleased at how steady my voice sounded. The starlight reflected in his eyes like it would on the surface of a dark lake, and I thought I could swim in them forever.
“I don’t have anything to give you,” he said apologetically.
I unclasped my hands from around his neck and brought them down to either side of his face. “You’re enough,” I whispered, and kissed him again.
I had my back to the stunning view of the night, but it didn’t matter, nothing did. The sky could keep its stars. Because the two of us were individual balls of light, burning where our skin came into contact, and when our lips met, we became a supernova, so blinding and beautiful I shut my eyes against it, until there was nothing but him and me.
What were the stars when you belonged to Tom Riddle?
A/N: Julie, this is for you, because you are amazing.
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