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Haunted

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It was a cool, early March day in 1943. Spring term had long since begun, so one would think that the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry would be calm and settled into their routines. Instead, terror had struck again. 

For the second time that year, a Muggleborn student had been found Petrified in a corridor.

The students pondered the reason for the attacks, who could be behind them, and what might happen if the culprit were not quickly apprehended. Everyone spoke in hushed tones over breakfast, not wanting to create any disturbance. 

Well, almost everyone.

The Slytherins were unusually relaxed, and some even seemed to gloat. They were notorious for hating anyone who wasn’t Pureblood, and weren’t afraid to show it. Even now.

Alera Vega, a fifth-year Slytherin, seemed especially at ease. Though her hatred of all things Muggle ran deep, she remained mostly silent that morning and was careful not to say anything that might arouse suspicion. She’d had nothing to do with the attacks, but she also kept a secret that she knew would incriminate her if it ever came out: she didn’t only hate Muggles; she possessed a sharp hatred for most of humanity. She was happy to hear that an annoying student had been harmed.

Alera had a few friends, but mostly kept to herself. She never went out of her way to act like she cared about people unless she felt it necessary.

Instead of joining in the hushed conversations around her, she sat back, quietly ate her eggs and bacon, and observed the students around her.

Her best friend Lucretia Black and her boyfriend Ignatius Prewett sat nearby, debating who might be responsible for the attack. Alphard Black and his sister Walburga expressed annoyance that students from the other House tables kept shooting glances their way. Alera had noticed this as well, but chose to ignore it and focus on her fellow Slytherins instead. 

Abraxas Malfoy and his girlfriend Amanda Burke were plotting ways to antagonize anyone who dared accuse them of culpability. Alphard and Walburga ignored their friends’ childish antics, as they often did.

As Alera’s eyes traveled down the row of students, she noticed that Tom Riddle, a fellow fifth-year, looked unusually deep in thought. She knew he was a very focused individual, but he was usually quite friendly around others. Alera found Tom’s behavior peculiar, since he wasn’t even attempting to socialize.

As everyone filed out of the Great Hall to attend their morning classes, Alera felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and saw Tom looking at her quizically. She raised her eyebrows in response.

“Why were you watching me at breakfast?” he asked.

“Uh...what?” she replied. She knew she had looked at him a few times, but didn’t think that qualified as watching.

“You kept stealing glances at me and I want to know why.” 

Alera shrugged. “I thought you seemed...unusually quiet. You’re normally very social at mealtimes, so it seemed a bit weird.”

He stepped in front of her, blocking her from walking any further.

“Weird how?” he asked, his dark eyes boring into hers.

“It...it’s nothing,” she stammered, suddenly uncomfortable. She stared pointedly away from Tom. “I’m going to be late for class.”

She stepped aside and started walking again, but Tom was in front of her in an instant.

“Not if you tell me why you were observing me,” he prodded with a smirk.

Alera pressed her lips together. “I just thought your behavior was a little unusual, that’s all. It didn’t mean anything.  Now, if you’ll excuse me....” She stepped aside again and continued walking, but stopped again when Tom gripped her shoulder.

“Why are you so anxious to get away from me?” he demanded. “We both have double Potions now, in case you’ve forgotten.”

She sighed. “Right.”

*   *   * 

Alera deliberately ignored Tom for the entire class period—which wasn’t that hard, seeing as they had different partners for their in-class assignment. Tom usually worked with Abraxas, and Alera usually worked with Lucretia, and today was no different. Alera was tempted to tell her friend how Tom had irritated her on the way to class, but thought it best to keep silent. She didn’t want him to overhear and take that as another invitation to start harassing her.

After Potions ended, Alera collected her things and walked briskly out of the classroom. She was still a bit annoyed by Tom’s behavior, and wanted to take a walk to clear her head. Unfortunately, she had two more classes before lunch, so she had to wait.

Tom caught up with her again on the way to the Great Hall.

“It wasn’t nothing,” he declared, before she could say a word. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

She shook her head and let out a humorless chuckle, realizing he had her cornered. “I was curious because you don’t usually keep to yourself at mealtimes. It made me wonder.”

“Wonder what.”  

He sounded like a bomb waiting to explode, which only cemented in her mind that he was acting strangely.

“People don’t realize how much they give away with their body language,” she informed him. “I pay attention to this shit, and you stood out this morning.”

“I pay attention to this as well, you know. There’s no need to condescend to me.”

“What the hell, Tom? I’m not talking down to you!”

“So get to your point.” 

“You’re normally very sociable, but you didn’t want to talk to anyone this morning. And considering the circumstances—honestly, it made me wonder if you know something no one else does.”

Tom cocked his head to the side and stroked his chin. He regarded her in this pose briefly, before a smirk crept onto his handsome face. “I’m highly impressed by your powers of observation,” he praised.

Alera stood up straighter, eyes widened. She couldn’t help smirking back. “What do you know?” she demanded eagerly.

“You seem excited by the prospect of me knowing something about the tragedy, rather than recoiling in fear and running to a professor.” Tom smiled. “I find this highly amusing.” 

“And you seem highly evasive today,” she drawled, alarmed that she had unknowingly let her guard slip and now doing her best to cover it up. “What are you hiding?” 

“Who says I’m hiding anything? For all you know, I’d recently had a serious argument with someone and needed time to think about it alone. Am I not allowed to be thoughtful about my personal life, simply because someone else is hurt?” 

“Come on, really?”

He only sneered and walked into the Great Hall, leaving Alera to wonder.

*   *   *

The tension within the school slowly dissipated until one afternoon in late May, when yet another Muggleborn student was found Petrified in a corridor. However, it wasn’t the Petrification alone that shook the Hogwarts occupants to the core. The girl’s Petrified body was found below a message written in blood: 

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the Heir beware.

Few students had heard of the legend that was The Chamber of Secrets, but the professors knew what the message meant.

Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts, had fought bitterly with his three cohorts because he’d only wanted Pureblood students admitted. He threatened revenge when the others thwarted him. Legend told that Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in the castle, dubbed The Chamber of Secrets, which housed a vicious monster. The beast could only be summoned by Slytherin’s heir when he arrived as a Hogwarts student. Together, Slytherin’s heir and the monster would be able to rid Hogwarts of all the students who were not Purebloods.

Of course, this tale had never actually been proven true, but the professors knew at once that the story was no legend. They hastily removed the blood from the wall, and subsequently toned down the seriousness of the issue so as not to upset the students. The younger children paid their instructors rapt attention, truly believing that the Chamber was only a tall tale. It surely must have been a prank!

Many older students were skeptical, but kept their suspicions to themselves.

*   *   *

Alera’s instincts told her to watch Tom more closely after the May attack. Unfortunately for her, he was also highly observant and didn’t miss a beat. They weren’t even friends. She had no good reason to suddenly start caring about his behavior. 

He followed her to the library one afternoon, intent on getting the truth out of her. She was so absorbed in her essay that she didn’t realize Tom was standing right behind her.

She was about to get up to find another book when she heard someone clearing their throat loudly. She exhaled in frustration when she saw who was standing there.

“Tom, what are you doing?” she sighed in exasperation.

“Alera, you are constantly watching me and critiquing my behavior. I can see it in your facial expressions. Tell me why.”

She was alarmed that Tom was still onto her, but downplayed it by rolling her eyes at him. “Tom, I don’t know what you’re playing at, but you need to stop flattering yourself,” she scolded. “I’m not paying any extra attention to you, as I have no reason to do so.”

“Flattering myself?” he demanded. “I’m simply noting your behavior toward me as of late; and I find it unsettling, given the recent unfortunate events.”

“Fine, then. I find your behavior unsettling...given the recent unfortunate events,” she shot back. 

His eyes narrowed. “What are you implying?” he responded, lowering his voice. 

Alera lowered her voice as well, and almost seemed to sneer. “I wonder if you’re really as innocent as you make yourself out to be,” she ventured.

“It appears you couldn’t care less either way.”

“Why should I?” Alera asked, as if this were a no-brainer. “I don’t care about the students who were attacked.”

“Now, tell me,” Tom chuckled, “does anyone else know your heart is this cold? I sincerely doubt it.”

“I might say the same of you,” she challenged. “Not that it matters.”

Tom regarded her with a hard stare. She returned the gesture. Neither of them even blinked. It was a battle of wills until Tom broke the silence.

“I’m tired of your word games, Alera. Stop watching me so closely, or I’ll make sure you’ll regret it.”

“You just keep telling yourself that. You don’t scare me.”

“Continue trying my patience, and I guarantee that will change.”

Alera rolled her eyes again and turned back to her homework. She was tired of Tom’s bravado and seemingly empty threats. Something told her that he truly meant what he’d said, but she doubted that he actually could scare her—hardly anything ever scared her, anyway. She knew he was still standing behind her, but chose to ignore him. She wanted nothing more to do with him.

I need to keep an eye on this one, Tom thought, then briskly walked away.

He couldn’t believe the girl’s nerve. He could never have imagined having such an unusual exchange with anyone. He was also boiling with anger—since he was a small boy, if he’d wanted to inspire fear in anyone’s heart, he could easily do so. 

Except for Alera.

He knew from a very early age that he was different from his peers. Special. Superior. He was unusually intelligent, for one, and had set himself apart from the other children at Wool’s Orphanage with his ferocious self-sufficiency and persuasiveness. And even after Professor Dumbledore had visited him at the orphanage to tell him he was a wizard, he knew that he was meant to be a special wizard.

He had been at the top of his class since his first year at Hogwarts and had won the hearts of almost all of his professors. He earned his reputation of being perhaps the most brilliant student Hogwarts had ever seen. By the end of his third year, he had learned complicated spells and developed abilities that most students would never be able to master without advanced training.

All of Tom’s professors knew that he was a genius and loved watching him grow academically. He used this admiration to his advantage. He played the part of a warm, hardworking student, and fit in beautifully with everyone. It also didn’t hurt that he was devastatingly handsome. Having surpassed the awkward preteen stage quite rapidly, he now appeared a few years older than sixteen. Girls were always staring at him, and many boys envied him and the respect he commanded. He acted like none of it mattered to him, in order to project an image of modesty. It worked beautifully, as his exemplary behavior had earned him a Prefect badge at the start of his fifth year.

No one knew that he possessed a violent imagination and often entertained thoughts of wielding complete control over others he deemed inferior. His façade fooled everyone—with the exception of his too-sharp Transfiguration professor, Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore tried, several times, to warn the other professors that Tom was dangerous, but he convinced no one. Though Tom hated that Dumbledore could see through him, the professor lacked the influence or evidence to change the minds of his colleagues and pupils. Tom had them all under his thumb.

Except for Alera.

From his brief interactions with her, Tom suddenly realized that he’d never met anyone whose personality so closely resembled his own. This both fascinated and infuriated him. Like Tom, she was exceedingly bright, hardworking, attractive, and self-reliant. A fair amount of professors liked her. However, many students were also afraid of her, or at least cautious around her, so as not to ignite her explosive temper. She never seemed truly afraid. Unusually guarded, she did not put her emotions on display, so her friends often wondered what she was thinking and feeling. 

Many students tried to project fearlessness out of insecurity and low self-esteem, but it was obvious to Tom that Alera couldn’t have cared less what other students thought of her. He figured that she already had her own plans, which were likely solitary and had little bearing on her relationships with others. Because of this, she didn’t feel the need to hide her darkness as much as Tom felt the need to hide his. She didn’t have nearly as much to lose as he. She probably didn’t want most people to know how cutthroat she truly was, but she didn’t seem to have a problem revealing bits and pieces of her true personality to a select few. The episode in the library had shown him that. 

If Tom didn’t know any better, he would have thought she approved of his potential involvement in the attacks on Muggleborns. He was, in fact, more involved than Alera could ever have guessed, but she didn’t need to know that. He made up his mind to watch her closely and find out exactly how much the two of them had in common—she could be of great use to him and his quest for power, as long as he could convince her that she could benefit as well. He wasn’t sure if she actually would benefit from being a part of his plan, but somehow the idea of her reaping a reward didn’t bother him. He figured he could only gain from finding out more about this girl, and decided to learn as much about her as possible.

Chapter Text

Tom felt lucky that he and Alera shared almost every class, as he could easily observe her without anyone noticing. He also found reasons to be in the Slytherin common room more often than he normally would, where he could keep an eye on Alera and learn more about how she interacted with people outside the classroom. He knew he couldn’t be around her at every opportunity, though, since she would surely pick up on his attention. She already wasn’t his biggest fan. He needed to tread carefully here. He figured that as long as he could watch her from a measurable distance in the common room, she would have no reason to suspect that she was the reason he was there in the first place.

It seemed to work.

He quickly figured out when she would likely be in the common room throughout the day, during which he would often bring a book and sit down a fair distance from her. Sometimes he would read, and sometimes he would watch or listen to her while pretending to read. 

After a few weeks, he felt that he had her figured out more than anyone else ever would.

Meanwhile, Alera remained oblivious to Tom’s scrutiny. She still couldn’t stand him, and made a point to act like he wasn’t there when she knew he was. OWLs were approaching, anyway, so she had no time to waste on the attention of a pompous boy. Tom quickly faded to the back of her mind.

*   *   * 

Tom may have lost Alera’s attention, but he was far from idle. He’d recently come across the term Horcrux in a book, and discovered it to be an object in which a person could conceal a piece of their soul—after splitting the soul through murder. Being intelligent enough that he didn’t need to study too hard in class, he began researching the art in earnest. He devoted his free time to studying disciplines outside the Hogwarts curriculum, eager to soak up as much knowledge as possible.After weeks of investigation, he felt confident in his ability to complete the task. When the appropriate time came, of course. Smug was an understatement.

The only downside was having to contain his excitement in public—especially given everyone’s stress over the Petrified students. 

It’s such a shame, he thought, that I have to wear a mask of subdued regret to match everyone else’s dreary mood, when I feel on top of the world.

It was a small price to pay for godliness.

*   *   *

A few weeks passed, and the lull about the school came to a screeching halt. Most students had forced the Chamber of Secrets issue to the back of their minds, so they were shocked when another student was found Petrified in the library. The Hogwarts nurse had been working tirelessly to prepare a Mandrake draught that would cure the Petrified students—but unfortunately, the draught took several tedious months to complete, and everyone was still anxiously waiting. Remaining calm was becoming increasingly difficult. Students and staff alike were constantly badgering the nurse to finish preparing the draught; but with no assistance, she could only do so much. 

Fear gripped the school as the professors struggled in vain to find a way to protect the students. The tension could be felt everywhere. No one seemed to even smile anymore. Students became suspicious of each other, and the other three Houses seemed to hate Slytherin even more than usual. The Slytherins obviously didn’t care; but they still worried that they could be implicated for the attacks, simply by being Slytherins. They knew that the masses always needed a scapegoat in times of trouble. And scapegoats at Hogwarts often wore green and silver.

Just when everyone thought that morale couldn’t possibly sink any lower, it plunged.

In mid-June, only days before the end of the school year, a Muggleborn student died in a bathroom. Everyone thought she was Petrified at first, not wanting to believe the truth until Headmaster Dippet confirmed the gruesome news.

Myrtle Warren had never been popular. She had been the object of many students’ taunts, but no one had seemed to want her dead. The news of her death forced the staff to consider closing Hogwarts for good. They held out hope, however, waiting for both the completion of the Mandrake draught and any new leads in their fruitless investigation. 

The Slytherins had mixed feelings about Myrtle’s death. Though they viewed the Muggleborn girl as inferior, they didn’t necessarily entertain thoughts of her demise. Alera was an exception, as she often wished people dead simply for walking too slowly in front of her. Myrtle’s mere existence had aggravated Alera; she had viewed the overly-sensitive Ravenclaw as nothing but a waste of space. She wisely kept her glee to herself.

*   *   *

The day after Myrtle’s death, bumbling third-year Rubeus Hagrid was implicated in the crimes against Muggleborn students. The half-giant, who lived in special quarters to accommodate his size, was notorious for consorting with dangerous magical creatures. This fact alone cast immediate suspicion on Hagrid, but no one could prove anything until Headmaster Dippet received a tip that Hagrid was secretly raising an Acromantula in his room.

Alera was not surprised to learn this, but she was shocked upon hearing that the tip had come from none other than Tom Riddle.

She didn’t want to start another confrontation with him, but was also itching to find out the details of how Tom had tipped off Headmaster Dippet. Had he been observing Hagrid secretly? Or was he somehow involved in the attacks, and now he'd found the perfect target for everyone’s suspicions? His behavior seemed too coincidental.

She passed Tom in the library that afternoon. He was scanning a nearby bookshelf, and gave her a small smile when he saw her looking at him.

“How’d you get Hagrid?” she asked softly, trying to keep the smirk off her face. “Were you stalking him?”

“The unfortunate fellow was not that hard to figure out,” Tom replied, returning her sneer. “At least, not for me. I’d heard rumors of Hagrid’s vicious pet spider and discovered it when he was out of the room.”

“So you...snuck into his room and just so happened to find a monstrous creature in there?” 

“Well, yes. Not until I was certain, but it seemed someone needed to look into the matter. Dippet was running in circles until I pointed him in the right direction. In fact, he just granted me a Special Award for Services to the School because of it. Have no fear. Hogwarts will remain open because of my superior sleuthing skills.” He was positively gloating now.

“He what?” Alera squeaked. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Well, congratulations....” she trailed off, hesitant to say what was really on her mind.

Tom detected her unease. His grin vanished.

“You don’t really mean that,” he drawled, stepping closer to her.

“I—”

“Just try to deny it. Lie to my face, yet again! I dare you.” His voice was soft, but his eyes were on fire. And his face was now inches from hers.

Alera inclined her head defiantly and replied, “You really don’t know how to take a compliment, do you.” Though her heart was pounding, she masked it by shaking her head with a huff, before whipping around and strutting away.

“Nice deflection, dear. It didn’t work,” Tom snapped, but his words had no effect. Alera kept walking. And Tom couldn’t just reach out and grab her in the middle of the library—nearby students were already glaring at him for raising his voice. He stood rooted to the spot, seething with pure adrenaline as he watched Alera walk away. 

*   *   *

The altercation in the library was the last contact Tom had with Alera for the remainder of their fifth year. Alera now knew for sure that something about her classmate was off, but she wasn’t sure if she still wanted to understand it completely. He knew that she suspected him of less-than-pure character, which he obviously hadn’t wanted anyone to discover. As she was also morally ambiguous, to say the least, she wasn’t sure if he was the type of person she wanted to be around or not. She chose the latter. She didn’t feel the need to rally people around her the way Tom did. She kept away from him to the point of even leaving the common room if she saw him there, and told no one she was doing this. She finished out the school year on tenterhooks.

Tom was also on edge. He fought with himself over his desire to get to know Alera and the urge to kill her for her ability to read him as well as she could. He needed to silence her. He couldn’t take a chance on anyone knowing his true nature—without him choosing to reveal it, of course. Along that vein, he had already begun making plans to gain immense power in the Wizarding world, and had recently begun grooming a few of his Housemates to take his orders. They considered themselves his closest friends and thus felt important, but they were only playing into his manipulations.

Tom had no friends.

He only associated with those who served his interests. He had deliberately excluded Alera from this venture because he’d previously had no contact with her beyond occasional greetings, and now he wasn’t quite sure what to do about her. Until recently, he had simply viewed her as a pretty Housemate who kept to herself; so he saw no reason to pay attention to her, much less indoctrinate her into his cause. Now, though, he wondered if excluding her from his plans might be a detriment to him. She was clearly powerful in her own right—though he had the highest grades in the fifth year, she was right behind him. And he guessed that her reputation was the only reason she hadn’t been made a Prefect. She was a solitary creature who always put herself first, and she didn’t care who knew it. His brief interactions with her thusfar had planted seeds in his mind that she may not be that different from him, but he’d never actually met someone to whom he could relate so profoundly. And he never thought he would even be interested in such a concept.

The more he thought about her, however, the more intrigued he became. How had she been able to see him so clearly, from knowing so little about him? And given her comments about her distaste for others, how cold wasshe? She couldn’t possibly be as malicious as he.

Or could she?

And why did he suddenly want to know so badly?

A powerful image briefly flashed through his mind: dragging her into a secluded location and demanding answers, and then raping her as punishment if she was untruthful. 

Why did he suddenly think about that? Where had that idea come from? He shifted uncomfortably as he realized that he had absentmindedly allowed his hand to glide down toward his groin and he had begun stroking himself over his pants. What was that about? He’d never cared about her physical appeal, but he couldn’t deny that she was beautiful. Very beautiful.

What would it be like tono. He scolded himself and noticed with horror that it took effort to move his hand away from his organ.

This girl had to be punished. He couldn’t let her get away with this.

*   *   *

Alera calmed down significantly when she returned to London for the summer. She’d passed her OWLs with exemplary scores and was happy to be free of academic worries for a while. She could lock herself in her room with a book for a few hours every day—when she had no social obligations. 

The Vegas were friendly with the Blacks and the Malfoys, and had raised their children in close proximity. For as far back as Alera could remember, summers were always busy with dinner parties, lunches, weddings, and other such events. Such was the lifestyle of close-knit Pureblood families.

Busyness aside, Alera chose not to tell her parents about her run-ins with Tom; she didn’t want to even think about the irritating young man. She had no idea where he lived, but hoped it was somewhere far from London to eliminate the chances of running into him. She had more pressing concerns anyway: relaxing and trying to convince her parents that she wasn’t cut out for an endless stream of social gatherings. She craved solitude and didn’t have enough of it at home. Her parents kept ushering her from one party to the next, all the while telling her to mind her attitude so as not to detract from her chances of finding a suitable husband.

Alera didn’t want to think about such matters, however. She wasn’t even sure she’d want to marry and have children, even though she understood her parents’ motivations. All her friends knew the importance of keeping their bloodlines pure and passing on their genes; Alera simply didn’t know if she wanted to be a part of that. She could barely stand her family’s social schedule; so how on Earth would she handle small children tagging after her, requiring all her energy for years? The thought made her shudder.

Though she did enjoy spending time with her friends, she sometimes rejected their invitations in favor of reading books behind her closed bedroom door. She wasn’t interested in gossiping over the latest juicy news, or obsessing over who might marry whom once everyone graduated from Hogwarts. She simply wanted to be alone to recharge, and block out the noise telling her to behave differently.

Part of the reason her parents wanted her to socialize more was for etiquette practice—whether or not any young men expressed interest in her. Since other adults had privately complained to the Vegas about their daughter’s attitude, they now worried that Alera might sully the family’s reputation. The girl wasn’t explicitly rude without provocation, but it was clear that she didn’t give a damn what others thought of her. (Truthfully, she just didn’t give a damn about others.) She had a razor of a tongue and had been known to send younger children crying to their parents if they annoyed her enough. Members of her family’s social circle were offended that Alera found them so insignificant as to not even pretend to care about their feelings.

The Vegas weren’t quite as strict as some of the other upper-crust Pureblood families; but they weren’t laid back, either. Occasionally allowing Alera to skip a party due to “not feeling well” was about as far as they went, and their comrades' distaste for their daughter only reinforced their decision to leave her at home every so often. This was also why Alera didn’t get together with her friends as often as everyone else in the group.

Alera’s parents had mixed feelings about her introversion, hence oscillating back and forth between urgently dragging her to parties and allowing her to skip them. Lucretia and Amanda seemed to understand her the best, being closer with her than the others, but Abraxas and Alphard found it strange that she rejected so many invitations to go out with the group...even going so far as to ignore their owls sometimes. Nevertheless, she was always welcome into the group when she chose to engage.

Regardless of everyone’s thoughts on Alera’s behavior, they had all grown accustomed to her quirks by this time. They didn’t see her reserved nature that summer as especially memorable. She went through the motions as usual, not giving much thought to the future.

*   *   * 

Unlike Alera, Tom had an eventful summer. Though he was forced to return to the orphanage where he’d lived his whole life before being admitted to Hogwarts—which he revealed to no one—he had made some shocking discoveries about his lineage that year. He now had some unfinished business to complete before returning to Hogwarts.

He had already discovered that his late mother had descended from the great Salazar Slytherin, which filled him with immense pride—and relief—after obsessing over his heritage and researching his relatives at Hogwarts with a fervor. He’d initially assumed his father had been the magical parent, but was later forced to accept the opposite. There were no records of a Riddle family anywhere. Finding his mother’s lineage had almost healed that wound, but not quite. She had still died after giving birth to him, and magical folk surely shouldn’t die! Regardless of her ancestry, she had been weak to succumb. He would not do the same. He was better than that. 

Late in August, Tom tracked down his uncle Morfin Gaunt to learn more about his mother’s family. And oh, the look on the man’s face when Tom walked through the door of his hovel. Morfin assumed that Tom was his father! Until he spoke to Morfin in Parseltongue, of course. That was a treat. Morfin told Tom that he looked “mighty like that Muggle” his mother had married, and informed Tom of the Riddles’ whereabouts. Tom was astounded.

His father was still alive. The man had deserted his wife and unborn child. Tom didn’t know the reason for his father’s abandonment, but suspected it involved his mother’s magic.

As if he needed another reason to despise Muggles.

Tom immediately decided to rectify the situation—both for revenge, and to prevent anyone from ever discovering that he possessed the very ancestry he so despised. He didn’t feel like a Muggle. He was Wizarding royalty! He was the most talented student at Hogwarts. This was an outrage! He wanted nothing to do with Muggles. He felt a pulsing need to stamp out this stain on his ancestry immediately...especially after hearing his bedraggled uncle’s story. Tom knew at once that Morfin would take the fall for Tom’s retribution.

After Stupefying his uncle, Tom used Morfin’s wand to murder his father and grandparents. As they sat in their posh living room inside their sprawling mansion. Where Tom should have grown up, instead of that filthy Muggle orphanage. The rage he felt upon seeing Riddle House was incomparable. It was a manor house fit for a king—a Wizarding king, nonetheless. Those repulsive Muggles had not deserved it. They had defiled the house simply by living in it. Not that Tom really wanted to live there now, with the knowledge of the Riddles’ behavior.

This rage spurred him to return to Morfin’s house quickly, where he placed a Memory Modification charm on his uncle to frame him for the murders. Morfin was quickly carted off to Azkaban, screaming about how proud he was to have annihilated the Riddles. Justice was done. Tom returned to the orphanage feeling more calm than he’d been in a long while.

Now having ample time to himself until the end of the summer, he reflected on his life thusfar. A Halfblood orphan with Slytherin lineage was unheard of. He still cringed at the thought of his Muggle ancestry, but the shudder was quickly replaced with a triumphant grin. 

He had just culled his Muggle family in revenge for their abandonment. He had created a Horcrux in his first attempt at achieving immortality, his biggest goal in life—he’d stolen Morfin’s ring, a family heirloom, and was now wearing it as it carried a piece of his soul through the murder of his worthless relatives. Though he enjoyed commanding power and admiration, those were mere tools necessary to help him get his way. He wanted freedom to act as he wished with impunity—which he could not do without power. As an immortal wizard with aspirations to split his soul even further, he realized that gaining power would be the best way for him to achieve his goals. How powerful could he become? What were the limits on magical ability? He could surely push these boundaries farther than anyone ever had. And considering his ability to charm almost everyone at Hogwarts, he likely had a shot at building an army there. Maybe he would one day become a professor, and use his authority to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic!

Truthfully, he wanted to be left alone to research magic in peace for eternity, but he knew that goal to be unrealistic. He needed others to do his bidding. Some of his classmates were already doing just that, but now it was time to test their loyalty and convince them to carry out even more complex tasks. He would form an organization devoted to promoting blood purity in the Wizarding world, promising his followers power and glory if they obeyed him. He cared about blood status as well, but he was more interested in having enough power to do whatever he wanted, and using any means to achieve that. All he had to do was convince his followers that he shared their goals, spitting their fanatical beliefs back at them, and they would be kissing the hem of his robes in no time.

He could hardly wait.

Chapter Text

Near the beginning of the new school year, Tom asked Professor Slughorn, the Potions instructor, a question which would set the course of his life forever.

After a Slug Club dinner party, in which Slughorn’s favorite students gathered every so often for a meal, Tom stayed behind and asked his professor about his new favorite subject: Horcruxes.

Unbeknownst to Slughorn, Tom had already created his first Horcrux; but he knew he needed to play the part of the innocent, inquisitive student in order to glean any more information from his favorite professor. The purpose of his question wasn’t to learn about Horcruxes; he’d done that already: he wanted to know if it were possible to split the soul into multiple pieces. Seven, to be exact. The most powerful magical number.

Slughorn had been flabbergasted. But yes, he told Tom, it was likely possible to split the soul more than once.

As Head of Slytherin House, Slughorn had quickly grown fond of Tom from the start of his schooling—so, of course, even though the boy had come to him with a question on a banned subject, he couldn’t help but assuage his student’s curiosity. Tom had convinced him that his interest in the subject merely came from a desire to understand all aspects of the magical arts; when really, he wanted to cheat death and become immortal, no matter the cost.

Slughorn had played right into his hands. Tom now possessed all the knowledge he needed to secure his immortality. Having already created one Horcrux, and with plans for several more, he felt unstoppable.

*   *   * 

Alera was not part of the Slug Club. Given her reputation, her intelligence was irrelevant; she had not earned a Prefect badge or a seat at Slughorn’s dinner table. She didn’t mind. She didn’t value either of those status symbols the way Tom did. She did, however, find secret relief in Slug Club meetings because she didn’t have to worry about Tom being closeby during dinner. 

She noticed with alarm that she now tensed up whenever Tom was near. Though she couldn’t quite pinpoint why, she almost felt like a small animal hiding from a predator. This mentality went against her very nature, and so confused her wildly—she didn’t explicitly fear him, but she also didn’t want to attract his attention. He made her uneasy. As she’d told Tom several months before, she had a keen eye for reading people, but she’d never paid him mind until recently. Why was he suddenly setting off alarm bells in her head? Had he changed, or had he always been a person to avoid...and she only noticed this now because of his sudden inquisitiveness? She didn’t even want to know at this point. She simply wanted to eschew his scrutiny at all costs.

Tom had ceased bullying her like he’d done during fifth year; but she still felt his eyes on her every so often, trying to pick her apart. This bothered her more than overt aggression. He had occasionally spent time with her group of friends over the years, but not enough to be considered part of the group—not until now, that is. Whether he was only doing it to irritate her or he had other motivations, his closeness made her distance herself from her friends. She disguised her apprehension with her need for alone time, which her peers accepted.

Alera was correct to be nervous about Tom’s close proximity. He was developing quite an unusual interest in her, spawning from their bizarre interactions in the spring. Brilliant boy that he was, he had begun teaching himself Legilimency and was now using unsuspecting students for practice. Alera had quickly become one of his favorite targets. She was also the most challenging, as he had to work to maintain eye contact with her. She averted her eyes any time she saw him looking at her. He hadn’t been able to discern much from her whirring thoughts thusfar, but what he had seen only increased his curiosity: like he’d suspected, she didn’t seem to care much about other people and was only out for herself. Outside of immortality, her ambitions appeared in line with his.

Tom figured he could use the girl. There was no telling whether he could convince her to cooperate and do as he asked, what with her being as independent as he. The challenge excited him. Though relatively impatient to set his plans into motion, he knew he had to charm Alera first if he had any hope of collecting her. That would take time—probably a year, at least—but he could wait. He already had enough henchmen to focus on for the moment.

He called his group the Knights of Walpurgis. Their goals were purifying Wizarding society and rewarding those who assisted them. Tom had rounded up a gang of Slytherins from Pureblood families and promised them power and glory in the new world they would create, where Purebloods would reign supreme. In addition, he had also fashioned himself a new name, Lord Voldemort, which would surely command respect and fear throughout the Wizarding world for all eternity. During meetings, his classmates-turned-followers addressed him as “My Lord” or endured torture from Tom’s wand.

Tom forbade his followers from disclosing their activities to anyone. Some of the Knights were friends with Alera, and secretly wondered why he wasn’t even attempting to recruit her, but he didn’t feel the need to explain himself. He knew that the sweetest rewards often came from the greatest struggles, and bringing her into the fold one day would be worth all the time spent grooming her.

Alera would not make things easy, however. Tom’s conventional methods of charming and manipulating people did not work on her. She viewed his flattery as an insult to her intelligence, and his threats were met with more threats. Usually with a snarled “fuck you” at the end.

The most neutral interactions he could manage with her were quietly handing her potions ingredients when he’d gotten to Slughorn’s cabinet before she had. He began retrieving enough supplies for both of them during each class, and she wasn’t sure if she liked it or not. She certainly enjoyed not having to wait in line, even if only a minute, and often sat close to the supply cabinet so she could grab her ingredients before anyone else. She knew it was petty, but she didn’t care. Sitting near the cabinet was one of her more subtle methods of exerting dominance over the group. But now, Tom insisted on sitting in that area, too. She knew exactly what he was doing and hated him for it.

She also despised having simple tasks completed for her, just so that someone else could feel helpful. She didn’t want or need help. She didn’t need to be nurtured or coddled like an insecure child. And Tom had clearly figured this out. By taking her usual seat, he was daring her to sit near him, just to see which power play she’d succumb to first: allowing herself to endure his presence, or allowing him to help her, since she couldn’t refuse his offer of potions ingredients without making a scene.

He had to bite back triumphant laughter when Slughorn saw him handing her supplies one morning, and smiled adoringly at the pair. “Oh, Tom, how sweet of you!” he praised. “Are you helping Alera with her potion today?”

“Thank you, sir,” Tom replied smoothly, grinning at Alera while he spoke to the professor standing behind her. “I don’t believe she requires assistance; she’s certainly talented enough to complete the assignment on her own—she just gets a bit impatient and likes to get a head start whenever possible. I’m merely making her life a little easier.”

“Ahh, I see! Always the picture of politeness, aren’t you! You make me proud, m’boy. Five points to Slytherin!”

Alera’s jaw dropped. Her upper lip twitched in fury as she snarled up at Tom. She wanted to throw a Draught of Living Death onto his smug, stupid face and watch it crumble.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she snapped at him on the way out of the classroom an hour later. “You’re not really trying to help me. You know I am perfectly capable of retrieving my supplies on my own, whether I have to wait in line or not; you’re just being an arsehole. And now you’ve brought fucking Slughorn into it?! This is bullshit, Tom! Stop. Now.”

“If you insist,” Tom sighed, feigning surrender. He’d get her later. 

He stopped trying to take her seat in class and retrieving extra supplies for her, allowing her to return to her old routines—other than occasionally passing her in line and staring her down with a wicked smirk. She only glared back. She didn’t want to give him any more satisfaction than she already had.

*   *   * 

As the school year progressed, Tom and his Knights grew more sophisticated. They met in the Forbidden Forest every month to discuss various ways to improve the Wizarding world according to Pureblood values, and how to indoctrinate the masses. During one of these meetings, Tom renamed his group the Death Eaters, as a reflection of his desire to conquer death. None of Tom’s followers knew his reason for changing the group’s name, but they didn’t object. Death Eater sounded more formidable than Knight anyway.

Since more Slytherins were joining the ranks, Tom decided to make each new recruit pass an initiation before being allowed in. They were limited in that they were still only students, but the goal was less to create carnage and more to send a message to dissenters. A boy named Mulciber killed an enemy student’s pet owl after a fight. Another named Avery destroyed a classmate’s Transfiguration homework after hearing that she despised the concept of Pureblood supremacy. Victims often suspected the Death Eaters of their crimes, but there was never enough evidence to convict the perpetrators. Tom had trained them well.

*   *   * 

The sixth-years often received career guidance toward the end of the year, as professors had encouraged them to begin thinking about employment the year before and wanted to follow up with them. Several branches of the Ministry were interested in Tom, who had no desire to work there. Conversely, Alera was interested in joining the Ministry—specifically as an Unspeakable or an Obliviator—and yet no one in those departments wanted to hire her. Her academics were superb, but her reputation preceded her. She wasn’t terribly concerned about her lack of prospects, coming from an affluent family who seemed more concerned with her ability to find a wealthy Pureblood husband than a job, so she figured she’d continue studying at school and then see where life took her after graduation.

Tom told Slughorn he would consider applying to a few Ministry positions—partly to appease his enthusiastic professor, and partly out of curiosity. He knew he wouldn’t want to stay at the Ministry permanently, having more important plans with his Death Eaters; but he couldn’t deny the appeal of observing his country’s power structure from the inside, to learn how best to exploit it. Perhaps he would work there briefly, and then plant a few Death Eaters in his place so he could continue to work behind the scenes. 

His true plans were to remain at Hogwarts as a professor, and later Headmaster, in order to influence more students to his way of thinking while he built up his army. He adored Hogwarts more than he'd ever loved—or at least felt fond of—any human being, with an uncharacteristically sentimental attachment to the edifice. The ancient school was the only place he'd ever felt at home. It also provided an endless source of knowledge that set his adrenaline pumping and made him thirst for more. He would stop at nothing until he’d discovered all of the castle’s secrets. 

*   *   *

Alera began feeling slightly alienated from her friends that summer. No one was overtly hostile to her, and everyone still invited her to their gatherings with the usual frequency, but something was off. There were a few times when she traveled to the Malfoys’ or the Blacks’ house, only to find everyone dramtically ending their conversations when she walked in. She thought she’d heard the phrase Dark Lord during one of these episodes, but her friends insisted that she’d misheard them. And immediately began an entirely new discussion.

As the girls were getting older, their parents were increasing the pressure on them to find suitable husbands. The girls discussed the subject more and more as summer dragged on, and the conversation peaked in late August at the Black home. Lucretia shared with the other girls that she and Ignatius would marry, as would Abraxas and Amanda, so they no longer had to worry about searching for partners. Their parents were immensely proud.

Walburga and Alphard would likely have to marry their own relatives at this rate, as no one outside the Black family had expressed interest in them. Alera found this concept disgusting, but begrudgingly accepted the practice of incest as part of Pureblood high society—as long as she didn’t have to partake. She remained silent as her friends discussed potential partners and wedding plans, until Lucretia nudged Alera playfully.

“You’ve been oddly quiet all afternoon,” she remarked. “Anyone you fancy?” 

“Not at the moment.”

“Well, Tom Riddle seems to like you.”

Alera cringed. “I highly doubt that.”

“Oh, come on. How can you not see it?”

“He doesn’t like me, Lucretia! He’s a bully who likes harassing and intimidating people! That’s not affection. He couldn’t be romantic if he tried.”

“Do you want him to try?” Amanda teased.

“Absolutely not! I wish that dolt would stay away from me!” 

“All right, all right...” Amanda scooted away from Alera ever so slightly.

“Honestly, Alera, I’m not just teasing you,” Lucretia insisted. “Even though we don’t know much about his family, he’s obviously Pureblood or he wouldn’t understand the importance of maintaining blood purity. And he’s...powerful. Influential. You two have quite a bit in common. Maybe he’s just annoying you right now; but if he expresses sincere interest, you’d be a fool to reject him.”

“I agree!” announced Walburga. “You’d make quite a suitable match. And think of what your parents would say if you turned him down.”

“I haven’t told my parents about him,” Alera mumbled quietly. She shifted nervously as her stomach fluttered. In revulsion, of course. Nothing more.

“What?!” Lucretia blurted. “Why ever not?”

“Like I said: he’s a bully. I really, really don’t think he likes me. He wouldn’t be acting like such a prat otherwise. And anyway, don’t like him. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“Alera, you know how important it is to marry well,” Walburga stated proudly. “Compatibility is an added bonus that many of us won’t have. And he’s—well, he’s extremely handsome, too. You’re lucky.” 

Alera wanted to slap the other girls. She had no feelings for Tom whatsoever, other than contempt. None. She couldn’t stand the thought of marrying, especially while so young—and especially someone like him. What in the world were her friends thinking? How was she lucky to have the attention of a bully? Pureblood or not, attractive or not, she wanted nothing to do with Tom Riddle.

“Where does he even go every summer?” asked Amanda.

“His parents are dead, so he’s probably at some orphanage,” Lucretia mused. “Maybe it’s one of those awful Muggle ones and they don’t let the kids out too much. Filthy people, they are. I hope we can burn them all to the ground.”

“You think that’s why he doesn’t spend any time with us over the summer?”

“More than likely,” said Walburga.

“Thank Merlin,” murmured Alera.

“Alera! Come on!” scolded Amanda. “If your parents knew that you—”

“Stop bringing my parents into this! I’ll date who I want, when I want! And can we stop talking about Tom? I can’t stand him. This is getting irritating.” 

Her friends begrudgingly accepted that she wasn’t moving an inch on the issue, and turned the discussion to other matters. 

*   *   *

Alera wanted to tell her parents about Tom, and yet she didn’t. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had no romantic feelings for the boy; and hoped that if she complained to her parents about his behavior, they would validate her concerns and encourage her to stay away from him.

But what if they didn’t? What if they shared her friends’ opinions and encouraged her to be more receptive to his attention, in whatever form it took? She may not have feared him, but she was slightly fearful about not knowing his intentions toward her. If she at least knew what she was dealing with, then she could formulate a plan to protect herself. But she had nothing to go on. She still thought it best to stay away from him.

*   *   *

Lucretia was correct that Tom spent his summers at a Muggle orphanage, but he was allowed to come and go on his own. He could socialize with his comrades if he chose to—but he was naturally reclusive and saw summers as a break from pretending to care about his classmates. Though he detested the orphanage, and being around Muggles, he liked that he could shut his bedroom door all day and no one would bother him.

As Tom had no visitors at the orphanage, he had plenty of time to think about the dramatic events of his sixth year at Hogwarts. His Death Eaters were growing in numbers, and word was spreading to adults who wanted to join him. The Blacks and the Malfoys all but worshipped him now, and gave him an open invitation into their homes. He would definitely take them up on their offers once he’d completed his education.

He smiled as he thought of returning to Hogwarts. He’d recently received an owl congratulating him because he’d been made Head Boy for his final year—this meant he’d have even more power at the school. More people would respect him and even fear him. It was a perfect arrangement. 

Tom was also pleased that his most loyal followers were intermingling. He would more than likely attend the Prewett and Malfoy weddings the following summer, and later recruit their children when they were of age. That would be far off into the future, however, and who knew what lay ahead for the up-and-coming Dark Lord? He was certainly succeeding in expanding his army—with the exception of a particular girl who continued evading him whenever possible.

He was shocked to discover that, despite how much Alera riled him up, he was beginning to think about her often, and as more than an experiment and potential recruit. He wondered what she was doing. Where did she live? What did she think about on a regular basis? How much did she truly care about others? Did she love and respect the people close to her—or, like him, was it just an act of self-preservation? How was she able to read people so well? Did she have a boyfriend? Had she ever had a boyfriend? He didn’t think he had seen her date anyone before. He realized, to his dismay, that he couldn’t stand the thought of her dating anyone.

The more the summer dragged on, the more he craved the answers to these questions. He had to confront a startling realization as August drew to a close.

He wanted her. 

He wanted her badly. He may never have loved, but he certainly desired. He could no longer deny how much the girl was affecting him; and he decided that he would have her, whether she went with him willingly or not. He had his ways. And he would inflict lasting damage on anyone who tried to keep her from him.

Chapter Text

The morning of September 1, 1944 began like every other start of term, with all the students hastily gathering on Platform 9¾ to await the Hogwarts Express. Alera was talking to Lucretia and Ignatius as they boarded the train, and didn’t notice the new Head Boy eyeing her up from a distance. He stared at the back of her head until a tap on his shoulder jerked him back to the present. 

“What’s going on, mate?” asked Alphard.

“What?” Tom narrowed his eyes.

“You’re staring off into space. What’s on your mind?”

“Nothing.” 

“Well, you looked quite deep in thought—”

“I said nothing.

The other boy’s eyes widened. “Um, okay. I’ll—I guess I’ll leave you alone, then.”

Tom sat by himself on the train, brooding all the way back to Hogwarts.

*   *   * 

Alera heard that Tom had been named Head Boy when she and her Housemates had returned to the Slytherin dungeons after the feast. She hadn’t thought of him much over the summer, other than that one conversation with her friends, but this news quickly reminded her that she was not safe at home in London anymore. Tom was, once again, in close proximity. A bolt of nervousness shot through her when she heard his name. She assumed that, now having his own room, he would spend less time inside the Slytherin dungeons, so she wouldn’t have to work so hard to avoid him. And she hoped he didn’t know how uncomfortable she felt around him. He would definitely use that to his advantage.

He sat opposite her at breakfast one morning during the first week of term, just to see how she would react to his presence. Though her heart was in her throat, she kept her face blank and her head down until he finally spoke to her near the end of the meal.

“You must find that cereal quite fascinating,” he teased.

She looked up at him in disbelief. “What is your problem?” she snapped.

“My, my, aren’t we moody this morning!” he exclaimed in a sickly-sweet tone of false anger. “I’ve never seen you pointedly stare at your food like that. I found it amusing.”

“Why are you watching me when I’m eating?!”

“Noticing a classmate who’s always near me is not the same as watching, sweetheart,” he drawled, purposely using her own argument against her. “And besides, spotting you isn’t that difficult. You don’t exactly blend in.”

She slammed her spoon down on the table and scowled at him with pure malice, narrowing her eyes and firmly pressing her lips together. Her nostrils flared as she began breathing a bit more loudly than what was considered polite. The few Slytherins sitting nearby suddenly stopped what they were doing and gawked nervously at their enraged Housemate. 

He had her.

He’d already figured out enough about her to know that she could never move undetected in a crowd, no matter how hard she tried. She didn’t actually want to blend in, but she knew that had to try. Just like he did. Tom obviously realized that she was not as successful at this venture as he. He would make sure she knew he had the upper hand. 

She continued glowering at him until he finally smirked and returned to his own breakfast. 

She finished her meal in a hurry and left the Great Hall as soon as possible. She knew that Tom was in her first class of the day, but she didn’t want to give him any more opportunities to torment her. As always, though, he picked up on her distress signals. He followed her at a distance until they were a few feet from the Potions classroom, noticing that she had relaxed considerably since she thought she had gotten away from him. He reached out and firmly squeezed her shoulder just before she walked into the classroom. She gasped and whirled around. He simply stared her down, expressionless.

“Tom, stop this!” she spat. “Stop harassing me, or I will—” 

“Or what? What are you going to do?” he challenged, stepping in close to her. “Who will ever believe that I am harassing you? Making you angry with everyday conversation is not harassment just because you can’t handle normal pleasantries. Especially with the popular, charming, newly-minted Head Boy. So rude!” He was now smirking victoriously, eyes wide.

“You can’t possibly—” 

He chuckled at her astounded expression and stepped even closer, talking over her again. “Remember,” he taunted softly, so that no one else could hear, “I’m the model student, and you’re the little firecracker who keeps scaring everyone. Who would ever believe you?” 

“Dumbledore,” she sneered, lifting her chin and staring him down for good measure.

Murderous rage flashed across Tom’s face.

Alera was torn between anxiety and triumph. “Leave. Me. Alone,” she growled, and stormed into the classroom.

She was unnerved by Tom’s continued interest in being near her, and his refusal to respect her boundaries. She also didn’t understand why he couldn’t take a hint. She had made it abundantly clear that she was not interested in speaking with him—and besides, there were so many other students who admired him and wanted to associate with him. Why couldn’t he bugger off and go bother them instead? They would actually enjoy the attention.

She angrily stalked back to her dormitory after mulling on these thoughts all day long, and sat down on her bed with a loud huff.

From that day forward, Alera always made sure to sit far away from Tom in class. He attempted to make small talk with her on occasion after he’d taunted her in the Great Hall, and was angry that she wasn’t the least bit interested. The more aggravated she became, the more determined he was to win her over. He’d find her “by chance” in the library every so often, and attempt to strike up a conversation about a topic he knew she found interesting. She always responded with short, clipped answers that made it clear she didn’t want to interact with him. His arrogance had completely turned her off. 

Tom was enraged that, other than Dumbledore, Alera was the one person he couldn’t wrap around his finger—and she was the one he wanted the most. It was oddly ironic. Didn’t she know how popular he was? Didn’t she realize that she should be flattered that out of all the boys at Hogwarts, the devastatingly handsome Head Boy was the one pursuing her? Didn’t she know how many girls would kill for his affections? He unsuccessfully tried alluding to the fact that she was missing out by rebuffing him, but she didn’t care. And he hated that she didn’t care.

And he hated that he wanted her to care.

He tried to put her out of his mind while focusing on his more important goals—academic excellence, learning as much as he could about magic, and continuing to build a following at Hogwarts so that he could he could have more minions at his disposal. Despite these ambitions and successes, Alera was always lingering in his mind. He packed his schedule tightly, keeping himself inhumanly busy just to try and avoid thinking about her, but it was no use. She always found a way back into his thoughts. By the middle of October, he realized he needed to do something about it. Watching her and attempting to befriend her clearly weren’t working, so he decided to leave her alone for a while and then try a new approach to take her completely by surprise.

The number of Death Eaters was growing larger anyway, and he needed to focus on them. He had manipulated enough of his classmates that they felt honored to be the ones he'd chosen to obey his orders. Though most of Tom’s instructions involved swearing undying loyalty to him and his desire to restructure the Wizarding World according to Salazar Slytherin’s wishes, one order seemed peculiar: they were still forbidden from mentioning their activities to Alera. If he ever revealed his plans to her, he wanted it to be special. She was special. And he didn’t want to risk bringing her in too soon, lest his intense determination and fanaticism put her off even further. He needed to woo her in more ways than one. 

Would he incriminate himself by telling her about his organization’s activities, or would she be excited and ask to join him? She was clearly no angel, but what if she would turn him in just to get back at him for tormenting her, even if she supported his goals? He found himself wanting to tell her all about his plans, and also speaking to her candidly—something he had never done before with anyone—which would reveal his true nature. Would she respond in kind? Would he scare her? Offend her? Or might she grow eager at the prospect of discovering their obscure similarities and stand by him? He wanted her to stand by him. The thought of possessing her sent a surge of adrenaline through his body. He wanted her to join his ranks, but he had a hard time picturing her as one of his minions. What would her role be? And why was he so determined to bring her close to him? He needed to know, but now was not the time. She wasn’t ready for him yet, either. All would be revealed at the proper moment.

*   *   * 

Summer turned to autumn, and students began discussing the Winter Ball. Though the gala wasn’t until the week before Christmas and Halloween had just passed, the ball was still a hot topic among the older students. Many had purchased outfits before the start of term, and some were anxiously awaiting dressrobes that would soon arrive by owl. Alera had already bought a dress; however, she felt a bit awkward as she listened to her female friends talking excitedly about the boys who had asked them to the ball. Though Alera was not attracted to anyone, she hoped to attend the ball with a male friend. The event seemed a fun experience.

Alera ruminated on the subject while walking to Hogsmeade with her friends a few weeks after Halloween. It was unusually warm for mid-November, and the girls wanted to take advantage of the weather. After meandering around for about ten minutes, they settled into The Three Broomsticks for a few drinks. 

The girls began discussing a brutal Transfiguration exam that was fast approaching. Amanda and Alera, who were sitting next to each other, decided to compare notes for the essay portion of the test when they returned to their dormitory. The two began planning a study session when Lucretia looked over Alera’s shoulder and noticed the Head Boy sitting a few tables away. He was alone, and his eyes were fixated on their table. Lucretia quickly figured out that he was looking at Alera, and with more than just passing interest. She couldn’t keep this to herself. 

“Alera,” she said softly. No response. 

Lucretia lightly touched her arm. “Alera,” she repeated, a little louder.

Her friend looked up. “Yeah?” 

Lucretia lowered her voice further and whispered, “Tom Riddle is staring at you.” 

Alera scowled and turned around. Lucretia had been right; Tom was looking directly at her. Her eyes narrowed, and he smiled slyly. She rolled her eyes and turned back to her friends.

“He can stare all he wants,” she replied with a huff.

“Alera!” Amanda exclaimed. “Most girls would kill to have him admire them, and you just brush it off?!”

“Are you serious?” Walburga cut in. “This is Tom Riddle. We told you he liked you! He’s probably the hottest bloke in the school, and he’s staring at you!”

“He’s also obnoxious and full of himself,” Alera retorted. 

Lucretia shushed the other girls. “He’s coming over here!” she whispered loudly.

Amanda giggled. “This should be interes—”

“I heard my name,” Tom interrupted. He was suddenly right beside Lucretia and Alera.

Lucretia looked up awkwardly. “Well, we saw you looking over here, so—”

“That I was,” he replied. His eyes traveled to Alera, who was making a point to look away from him. He smirked.  “Why are you ignoring me, Alera?”

She scoffed and looked up at him. “I’m not ignoring you.”

“Well, now you’re not,” he responded quickly, forcing back the jolt of indignant rage that she would lie to him so shamelessly.

Alera gave him a withering look.  “Do you need something, Tom?”

He softened his facial expression and smiled ever so slightly. “Come for a walk with me.”

“Wha—now?”

“Yes, of course.”

She looked at Lucretia, her face saying, Can you believe his nerve?!

“You don’t need Lucretia’s approval,” Tom chuckled.

“I don’t need anyone’s approval!”

“Then what are you waiting for.” His voice was barely audible, but he was not asking. He was daring her to refuse. It was an order.

Alera stewed for about fifteen seconds, weighing her options, before sighing loudly. Tom wouldn’t leave unless she went with him; and the sooner she got this conversation over with, the sooner she could get away from him.

“I’ll see you guys later,” she mumbled to her friends, and stood up sharply.

“Have fu-un!” Lucretia teased in a singsong voice, to the delight of the other girls.

“Haaahaaa....” Alera drawled, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She shook her head and followed Tom out of The Three Broomsticks.

He led her away from the bustle of Hogsmeade, in the direction of Hogwarts.

“Where are we going?” Alera groaned.

“The lake by the school,” Tom responded evenly. They walked in silence until they approached said lake. Then Alera spoke up.

“Okay. What’s so important that you need to talk to me now?” she snapped. 

Tom smiled. “I just want to get to know you better.”

“What?!” Alera looked at him incredulously. “We’re in the same House, we’ve shared pretty much every class since our first year, we’ve barely ever talked, and now you suddenly want to get to know me better?! I was in the middle of a conversation with my friends!” 

“Now seemed as good a time as any,” Tom replied with a shrug. “We just so happened to be in the same place at the same time.” You clearly didn’t realize that I followed you to Hogsmeade. Not as aware of your surroundings as you should be, my dear.

“We’re often in the same place at the same time, you jerk. Stop with the Mr. Smooth Talker act. I fucking hate it.”

Tom only chuckled.

Damn it, Alera thought. Why does he always find my insults funny? Can’t I just make him mad, so he’ll go away?!

“Take a deep breath, Alera. Cheer up. I’m not punishing you.” Yet. “And besides, you’re here now, so there’s no point in protesting.” He sat down on the grass beside the lake, and motioned for her to sit next to him. She shook her head and obeyed.

“Why do you suddenly want to get to know me better?” she asked, making no effort to hide her aggravation. “You’ve been harassing me for ages and I have made it more than clear that I am not interested in talking to you! What is your problem? Why are you doing this? Why can’t you take no for an answer? Why won’t you leave me alone?”

Her voice grew progressively louder as she spoke. Tom regarded her calmly, waiting patiently for her to finish fuming at him before he answered all of her questions with only three words.

“You fascinate me,” he said quietly.

“I—what?! How?”

“I see more of myself in you than in anyone else.”

“Wait. You just said you wanted to get to know me better, and now you’re assuming that we have a lot in common? Get your lines straight. You are really confusing me.”

“I’m saying I see much of myself in you, just from superficial interactions, and I want to explore this further. That’s all,” he chortled. “Nothing to be confused about.” 

Alera nodded slowly. “And what exactly do you think we have in common, other than being in the same House?”

“Well, first of all, you’re clearly the brightest witch in our year. You’re right behind me in marks, remember? I can’t see myself having an intelligent conversation with many other students, apart from you.” He paused, noting the faint smile that briefly ghosted across Alera’s face. “That one fact may seem obvious, but I’ve also observed more aspects of your personality that others don’t pick up on, simply because they don’t know what to look for. I notice these details because I am the same way—as I believe we discussed briefly a few years ago.” 

“For example?”

“You and I are both very...sinister. You gave me a glimpse of this back in fifth year, when you told me you couldn’t have cared less about the students who had been Petrified. Not only that, but I see the way you act in class—with the hateful looks you give some people, I’m surprised they haven’t dropped dead from simply ending up on your bad side.”

Alera tried unsuccessfully to suppress a giggle. He might be on to something here, she thought—and immediately hated herself for it. She shouldn’t have been laughing at his jokes; she should’ve been punching him in the face and storming off. Was a part of her enjoying this?

He pressed further. “In our last Defense Against the Dark Arts class, I saw the look on your face, and remember well the spells you cast during duelling practice. You looked like you wanted to kill that Gryffindor girl.” 

Alera giggled again.

Tom’s smile widened. “Am I right?”

“Something along those lines.”

“I have felt the same,” he replied softly, “and not just when practicing dueling. I sense that you do this as well.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, and then Tom spoke again. His question caught Alera completely off guard.

“Have you given any thought to the upcoming ball?”

“I—I bought a dress before term started this year.”

“What does it look like?”

“It’s mostly black with some green accents...the skirt is layered with black lace, and the bodice is something like a corset, so it’s...somewhat low-cut.” 

Tom raised his eyebrows and grinned. “Somewhat low-cut?”

“Yes....” she replied with annoyance.

“And how low is that?”

She looked at him disbelievingly. “Low enough!”

“So, around...here?” He reached out and tried to place his right hand where he thought the dress would cut off, but she swatted his hand away.

“Hey!” she exclaimed, glaring at him in disgust.

“Forgive me,” he drawled with a devious grin. 

She sighed and shook her head.

“Do you have a date?” 

She exhaled slowly, looking out over the lake. “I don’t.”

“Really.” He paused. “I’m shocked.” His eyes were glued to her, and she had to will herself not to squirm. She could feel his intense scrutiny like little pinpricks on her flesh.

“Why?” she asked, still looking away from him.

“Oh, come now, Alera,” he replied slowly, dropping his voice down about an octave. “You’re the most beautiful girl in the school. I’d have thought all the boys would be clamoring around, lining up to ask you.” His voice had faded to a whisper by the time he’d finished speaking, but still commanded authority.

He knew his flattering words would likely have no impact on her, the way they would on others, but he simply couldn’t help himself. The fact that she was so difficult to charm only increased his determination to win her over.

“Well, no one has,” she replied flatly. And he was correct: she was not impressed. Her jaw set and she rolled her eyes. 

“Maybe they’re all afraid you’ll hex them,” he teased, keeping his voice low.

She chuckled nervously. “Who knows.”

He regarded her for a moment, studying her reaction to his words before speaking again.

“Well, either way...I’d like to take you.” In more ways than one. 

Alera sighed. It was true; no one had asked her to the ball. She had bought a beautiful dress and wasn’t even sure, as of late, if she’d be able to wear it. But now, a golden opportunity was dangling in front of her face—an opportunity that most of her peers would kill for. And this was only one dance, not a lifelong commitment. It couldn’t be all that bad....

“Um...sure, why not,” she finally replied in a monotone.

“Fabulous.” Tom’s face broke into a broad grin, and it took concerted effort not to pounce on her and pin her to the ground in excitement. “Now, when do I get to see that dress?”

“You’ll see it at the ball,” she responded, as if he should have already guessed that.

“I want to see it sooner.”

She sighed again and turned to look at him. “You’ll see it at the ball,” she repeated, and stood up. He was in front of her before she had taken three steps. She started, and stepped back a bit.

“But I’m your date,” he insisted with a half-smirk.

“It doesn’t matter. No one else has seen it.”

“The other girls in your dorm?”

“No. No one.”

“But still...I’m your date.”

“You’ll see it at the ball,” she said with finality.

So, now he wants special privileges? That’s just lovely, she thought as she glared at him before walking away.

“I do want special privileges,” he called after her. 

The blood drained from her face. She stopped dead in her tracks and whirled around, eyes widened and mouth agape. “Did you just....”

Tom grinned mischievously. Alera shook her head as he approached her. “Are you a Legilimens?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. 

He nodded, grinning wider.

Shaking her head again, she started to back away from him and tried breathing more slowly, as her heart had just begun to pound. “But, that’s—that can’t be. You’re only seventeen! How in the world—”

“I have my ways,” he responded slyly, once more closing the distance between them.

“How?? How is that even possible?”

“It’s possible because I’m a genius.”

“And you’re so modest, too!” Alera huffed and looked away from him, in the direction of Hogwarts. She was suddenly dying to return to her dorm. Alone.

Tom reached out and ran his thumb over her chin, coaxing her to look back at him. “Are you afraid?” he asked silkily. 

“No....” she groaned impatiently, averting her eyes.

He stepped closer to her and began stroking her cheek. “Yes, you are,” he whispered. His face was grave as he gazed into her eyes. She didn’t see his other hand fisted inside his robes, twitching as he willed himself not to reach out and grope her.

“No, I’m not!” she insisted, feeling her face flush with embarrassment. She turned away from him and began walking back toward the castle, wanting to be back in the safety of its walls as soon as possible...and also to banish the warm, heavy feeling building in between her legs. The strange sensation frightened her more than anything Tom had said.

He grabbed her left wrist, preventing her from moving any further. 

“Let go!” she ordered.

“Where are you going.” His voice was soft, but his tone was firm. He was frowning as he stared intently at her.

“Back to my dorm!” she growled through clenched teeth.

He held onto her wrist for another moment before slowly letting go, passing his hand through hers as he did so. “I’ll walk with you,” he replied, falling into step beside her.

She gritted her teeth and looked toward the castle, imagining that Tom wasn’t next to her.

“Pretending you’re alone won’t make me go away,” he reminded her.

“Stop it!” she exclaimed. Tom snickered.

They walked in silence until they entered the Slytherin common room. Alera turned toward the girls’ dormitory, and noted with annoyance that Tom was still beside her.

“What, are you going to follow me into my dorm now?”

“Don’t tempt me,” he threatened with a cunning smile. 

She sighed loudly. “I’ll see you later,” she snapped.

“Later, gorgeous,” he responded, stroking her cheek one more time. 

Alera cringed and raced down to her dorm, completely unnerved. After removing her shoes, she climbed onto her bed and angrily pulled the curtains closed. She needed some time to think. A lot of time to think.

Tom lingered in the common room a moment longer, trying to hear anything Alera might be saying to anyone, or to herself.

“You’re mine and you don’t even know it yet,” he chuckled. “Poor girl.”

And with a slight spring in his step, he turned around and strutted back to his room.

Chapter Text

Lucretia’s voice brought Alera back to the present.

“Alera! Are you in here? What happened??”

She and the others came bursting through the door of their dormitory, anxious to hear what had happened between Tom and Alera.

Alera chuckled as she saw her friends’ jumpy silhouettes through her bed curtains. “Over here,” she replied unenthusiastically, with a hint of annoyance.

Lucretia practically ripped the curtains away, and the girls piled onto the bed. Alera scooted back so she’d have some room to breathe. 

“So? What happened??” Amanda asked excitedly.

“Well...he said he wanted to get to know me better, because he sensed that we had a lot in common.”

Her friends stared in disbelief.

“It was a bit strange, honestly. I can’t say I was expecting that.” She chuckled nervously. 

“Even after what we talked about this past summer?” Lucretia challenged with a smirk.

“Yeah, I—”

“So, now what?” Walburga interrupted. 

“Does he JUST want to get to know you better?” Lucretia giggled. “I think he’s got a lot more than that on his mind.” 

Don’t blush. Don’t blush. Don’t you dare fucking blush. “Well, he also...um—” 

“He what?” Walburga piped up.

Alera bit her lip. “He...asked me to go to the ball with him.”

“Merlin!!” Lucretia reached forward and grabbed Alera’s shoulders. “I told you he was interested!! Tell me you said yes!!”

“I did.”

“Oh, congratulations!!” Amanda squealed with excitement.

Alera forced a tiny smile, trying not to roll her eyes. Wow, Amanda, really? she thought.

“Guys, could we maybe...not make such a huge fuss about this?” Alera asked her friends. “I see why you’re excited, and I’m glad you’re so happy for me, but it’s only one dance. It’s really not that big a deal.”

“I disagree!” Walburga whispered loudly, to Amanda’s amusement. 

“Oh, it’s more than one dance,” Lucretia insisted. “Mark my words.” 

Alera rolled her eyes. “Come on, stop it,” she insisted, visibly annoyed by this point. Her friends gave up after a few minutes, but Alera could still hear them whispering and giggling amongst themselves long after she’d asked them to give her some time alone. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and sighed. 

*   *   *

The news that Tom was taking Alera to the ball spread rapidly through Slytherin House. Tom was visibly the most popular boy in Slytherin; he was enviably handsome, brilliant, confident, and ambitious. He was everything a Slytherin boy wanted to be, and many of his younger classmates tried to emulate his behavior with the hope of gaining more respect from their peers. Tom milked the attention for all it was worth, both inside the classroom and out. He was perfectly aware of the way most girls looked at him, and used their infatuation to his advantage. He often did small things like help a girl with a difficult assignment, even if he would rather have thrown her in the Black Lake, in return for her helping to cement his solid reputation as a student who could do no wrong.

Alera, on the other hand, was known for her temper and solitary nature. While most teenage girls were concerned with being popular and having sexy boyfriends, Alera cared more about her solitary pursuits and achieving academic excellence. She always put her alone time before her friends. Also, most of her friends were a bit scared of her, often worrying that they might say or do something to trigger a violent reaction from her.

A few Slytherin boys were slightly disturbed when they heard the news. Abraxas, Ignatius, and Alphard were the first to hear it from Tom; the four of them were chatting in the common room one evening, and conversation drifted to the Winter Ball. Ignatius was taking Lucretia, and Abraxas was going with Amanda. Tom smiled and acted happy for his Housemates, politely agreeing with virtually everything they said about their dates. Which was mostly centered on their physical attributes and potential talents in the bedroom. 

“Who are you going with?” Abraxas asked Tom, realizing that the Head Boy had volunteered no information on the matter.

“Alera,” he replied with a superior smirk.

“You serious, mate?” Alphard asked. “Damn. That girl creeps me out.” 

“She has that affect on many people, it would seem.”

“But not you?”

“Of course not,” Tom laughed. “I find her quite intriguing, actually.”

“I won’t lie; she’s pretty hot,” Abraxas put in.

Tom’s burning glare told Abraxas he had made a mistake. “Keep your wandering eyes away from her,” he warned.

Abraxas cleared his throat and looked at his feet. “I’m—I’m sorry. I didn’t realize....” He trailed off, not knowing quite how to finish the thought.

Alphard, who was a bit more bold—and a bit more clueless as far as how to wisely handle Tom’s formidable presence—filled in for Abraxas. “Are you dating her?” he asked. 

Tom turned his attention to Alphard and grinned. “Not yet, but I will be soon enough. Just watch.” 

Alphard smiled back. “Well, congratulations, mate.”

Tom thanked him, and left for his room. 

He cared not for his peers’ juvenile discussions. Alera was not just his date or a potential shag, and he hated having to speak about her as if she were something so insignificant. Though he wasn’t sure what word would describe his growing interest in her, he knew it was unique. He was thinking of her more and more as time passed—his wasn’t simply a desire to touch her or induct her into his secret group. If only he could figure out exactly what that desire was. Did he want her as a Death Eater with special responsibilities that only she could handle? A bedfellow who would relish his diabolical nature, without him having to break her down and condition her first? Or perhaps both? Surely, time would tell. At least he knew he was finally rubbing off on her.

And he certainly loved the thought of rubbing himself on her. But such a thrill would have to wait.

*   *   *

Alera tried to downplay the recent events, but to no avail. Girls she hardly knew now either gazed at her in awe, or stared disgustedly at her as if she had stolen their prized possessions and gotten away with it.

So this is all that girls care about? she thought. How good-looking someone else’s date is? Wow. And then people wonder why I hate them so much.

Alera couldn’t believe what she’d gotten herself into, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of the situation. She knew that Tom was arrogant and full of himself, but she couldn’t deny that she also liked having things in common with him that others would never understand. Still, being around Tom unnerved her, as she knew he could and would probe into her mind at every opportunity. On the bright side, she figured that there was no way he could have already mastered advanced Legilimency; she’d have to be looking directly into his eyes, or at least be within arm’s length, for him to read her thoughts and feelings. Or so she hoped.

She was an uncommonly private person, and couldn’t stand the thought of being around someone who could learn anything they wanted about her. There were reasons why she never truly opened up to anyone. She was terrified of Tom learning all her secrets and then using them to his advantage; and there was no doubt in her mind that he would, given the chance. She saw only one way out: avoiding him altogether was out of the question, but she decided to keep as far away from him as possible outside of the classroom. 

Alera felt more tense than she had perhaps ever been in her life. She didn’t even want to be around her friends, for she knew she couldn’t tell them what was wrong. One Saturday afternoon, she decided to do some homework in the library, away from any people and any questions they might have about her mood or wellbeing. 

It didn’t take long for her to find a suitable table. Being one of the only students who regularly did homework on Saturdays, she savored the peace and quiet she could find in a secluded corner, surrounded by books. Dropping her caudron onto the floor, she sank into the chair with a heavy sigh. She leaned forward and massaged her temples for a little while before straightening up and beginning her homework. The plan was to throw herself into her studies until she could no longer concentrate, and then retire to her dormitory for the night.

After arranging her textbooks, quills and parchment on the table, she began outlining a Charms essay with more enthusiasm than she usually felt for such assignments. She made rapid progress and felt very pleased with herself. After about half an hour of intense work, she set her quill down and flexed her fingers a few times. She was about to pick it up again when a voice nearly made her jump out of her seat. 

“Alera.”

To her dismay, Tom had brought over a chair from the nearest table and was now sitting inches away from her. She only afforded him a brief glance before looking back at her parchment and smoothing it over nervously. 

“Hi,” she breathed softly. She refused to look up from her parchment, though it was clear her study session was over.

“Alera, I am not as dense as you seem to think,” Tom scolded, placing his left arm over the back of her chair. “You agreed to come to the ball with me; and yet you do everything you can to keep away from me, just like you did last year. You oppose my presence like nothing else. Tell me why.”

“I’m not, I—I’ve just been very busy with homework.” Wow, that’s the best I can come up with? Damn. I’m pathetic, she thought.

“You and I both know that’s a lie,” Tom replied quickly, with a barely-perceptible growl. He took a deep breath to calm his temper, and then spoke again more gently. “Alera, you can avoid me all you want and pretend nothing is wrong, and you will be miserable during the ball; or, we can talk it out now and fix the problem, so you will be happy to spend the evening with me. It is your decision. Just know that no matter what you choose, for the duration of the ball, I will not leave your side.”

Alera drew in a shaky breath but refused to speak or look at Tom.

“Tell me what’s bothering you,” he offered. “I don’t want you to resent my company.” 

“You already know, so why are you pretending you don’t?” She looked up from her parchment, staring forlornly at the bookcase in front of her.

“I want to hear you say it,” he whispered.

She sighed loudly and dropped her gaze back to the table. “I just—I need my privacy. I need it more than most, which I’m sure you’ve already figured out. I can’t stand the idea of someone being able to just look at me and know what I’m thinking. What I’m feeling. All of my secrets. I don’t want anyone to know everything about me. I can’t handle that. And no one else has to deal with that! It’s not right!” she blurted out. She was practically panting with rage—not fear. Or anticipation. Only rage.

Tom had her exactly where he wanted her. She was conflicted, certainly, but her reaction to his sudden presence next to her told him that her past indifference was gone. He meant something to her now; she was simply not ready to admit her shifting feelings, meaning he'd have to coax her along. And he would enjoy every second of the challenge.

“Alera, in case you haven’t noticed: yes, I have learned an awful lot about you, but I’m not running away. In fact, I only want to learn more.” He smiled and lightly touched her arm. “And I will.”

“You are impossible!” 

After hastily gathering her things, forcing her hands not to tremble, she stood up abruptly and stormed out of the library as quickly as she could.

Tom had to grip the table to stop himself from following. Not yet, he told himself. Not when she's expecting it. Take her by surprise. Wait until her defenses are down, and then trap her.

Relieved to find the hallway deserted, Alera immediately broke into a run. Her heart was pounding out of control, and she needed to stop and catch her breath after only two minutes. Attempting to ground herself, she pressed her hand to the cold stone wall and inhaled slowly several times, refusing to move until the shakes died down. She felt as if she’d been standing there for an hour before finally trusting herself to walk again. She continued on her way back to the Slytherin dungeons, relieved to feel the nervousness oozing out of her.

And then she was suddenly slammed against the wall. Tom’s eyes burned into hers. 

“I know why you truly detest my presence,” he declared, gripping her shoulders tightly. 

She jerked her head away from him, trying desperately to avoid looking into his dark, probing eyes again. 

He wouldn’t have that. He kept her right shoulder pinned to the wall with his left elbow and grasped her chin, yanking her head back forward and forcing her to look up at him. She was now too afraid to even attempt to look away.

“I know what it is you try to hide from me. No one else can see it, but you cannot fool me!”

“Oh? And what might that be?!” Alera snapped, futilely attempting to cover the tremor in her voice.

“For the most part, you’re just like me,” he said softly, a smile spreading across his handsome features. “Your heart is cold. You despise almost everyone you know, but conceal it well with false friendliness. You are vicious. Cunning. Selfish. You fantasize about torturing and killing people just to calm your raging temper. You never help anyone unless you can benefit as well.”

“No shit....” she grumbled.

“But a very small piece...” He pressed his body firmly against hers and continued, whispering slowly into her ear. “A very small piece of you is just like everyone else. You feel. You hurt. You love. There are a few people you genuinely care for. And you hate it. You feel as if you’re caught between two worlds, and it exhausts you.” 

Her heart sped up. She could hardly breathe. “Tom, this isn’t—”

“You know as well as I do that love is weakness. You know that the second your heart aches, you become vulnerable. Too human. And you want to be perfect. You don’t want anyone to hold a shred of power over you, because you look down on everyone and want no association with their normal, disgusting frailties. You want to be more like me, more than you already are. I know you do.”

He loosened his grip on her chin, and seemed to almost caress her jaw line. “I want this for you as well,” he said softly, “and I can show you. Let me teach you.”

“Let me go!” she protested, clenching her teeth and trying to maintain a last shred of dignity.

“I will,” he replied quietly, and kissed her below her ear, “for now. But know this: you cannot evade me forever. I will always find you.”

Lifting her chin, he placed three slow, firm kisses above her collarbone. He held her in place for an agonizingly long moment, breathing deeply while brushing his lips against her neck, before suddenly—and reluctantly—releasing her. She turned and ran all the way back to her dormitory, clutching her cauldron as if it were the only thing keeping her alive.

It took all of Tom’s energy not to grin at her flushed face when he let go of her. He was winning.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” he murmured to her quickly-disappearing form. “Let’s see how long you can hold out before you drown.”

*   *   *

Alera was relieved to find the girls’ dormitory empty as she burst through. She figured everyone else was in Hogsmeade, and she had no desire to join them. She dropped her cauldron on the floor beside her bed, kicked off her shoes, and collapsed on the mattress. Her heart was still hammering out of control. She sat up and pressed her fists to her forehead, rocking back and forth to try and calm her nerves. 

“Oh my god....” she whispered over and over. 

Even though she knew Tom was a Legilimens, she still couldn’t believe that he had basically figured out everything about her, without her having to say a word. It made her feel vulnerable and weak: two emotions she rarely felt, and for which she utterly despised herself when they crept into her psyche.

She was also terrified. Not only did she feel more uncomfortable with Tom than ever before, but she also couldn’t deny that he was starting to affect her more than she could have possibly imagined before that fateful day in Hogsmeade. She would only be lying if she told herself she hadn’t felt a jolt in her stomach—and a bit lower down—when he had pinned her against the wall, whispered in her ear, and kissed her neck. Her heart had been pounding purely out of fear—or had it? As no one else had been around, she realized that he could have done so much more to her, and now he was probably just biding his time until he could lure her into an even more secluded location and completely penetrate her mind and body. She moaned and shook her head violently, trying unsuccessfully to banish these dangerous thoughts from her mind. She couldn’t stand the idea of him being able to trap her and completely saturate her.

Or could she?

Would she try to fight him off and escape, if this happened? Or maybe—

“No...stop it....” she scolded herself, pressing her warm thighs together and taking several deep breaths to try and soothe herself. It didn’t work. She needed a distraction, and soon.

“My essay...right. Perfect,” she growled. “Then I can come back here and read whatever I want for hours...maybe write in my journal for a bit...about something else...!!"

She got off her bed and slung her cauldron over her shoulder. With a deep breath, she headed for the common room, determined to get lost in her studies until she had finished all her homework for that week, and possibly the next.

Chapter Text

Alera was still very much on edge the following week. Thankfully, she managed to conceal her inner turmoil well, for her friends suspected nothing. 

Tom, on the other hand, was feeling more confident and powerful than ever. He had managed to inspire fear in the heart of the most fearless person he had ever met, and knew it was only a matter of time before she would be thinking about him constantly, desiring him as strongly as he desired her. If she wasn’t already, of course. 

He spent many late nights in bed replaying the scene outside the library—but without the possibility of being caught. He would have continued kissing Alera’s neck for a while as his hands groped and explored her skin under her robes, seeing which caresses affected her the most. Given the opportunity, he knew he could melt her remaining resistance into a flood of arousal with the proper touches. And perhaps she’d even begin to touch him back. Maybe he would have hiked up her skirt and taken her right there, up against the wall, relentlessly pounding into her until she cried his name. He shuddered with need at the thought of it, urgently stroking himself under the blanket until the pressure burst forth.

As difficult as it was for him to let her be, he decided to give her some space for a few days before approaching her again. A plan was beginning to form in his brilliant mind, which he knew would change her opinion of him in his favor. He simply had to craft his words and gestures carefully. He had to be gentle with her so that she would choose to open up to him.

Yes, she would be his. Very soon. 

About a week after the incident in the library, Tom felt ready to approach Alera again. He knew that after dinner that evening, she would either be in the Slytherin common room or her dorm, as curfew was approaching. He went into the common room and found Lucretia relaxing on one of the couches.

“Hello,” he said pleasantly.

“Hi, Tom,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Very well, thank you. Do you know where Alera is?”

“Um...she’s in our dorm, probably reading in bed. She likes to do that at night.” 

Tom smirked. “Mind telling me which bed is hers?” he asked impishly.

Lucretia figured it would be a bad idea to deny the Head Boy any information he desired. “It’s the third one from the right when you walk in,” she replied, trying fruitlessly to muffle a giggle. 

“Thank you,” he said smoothly, and swept down the stairs to the girls’ dormitory.

Alera had no idea that she had company until Tom spoke. 

“Alera, are you in here, love?” he called out gently. 

WHAT did he just call me?! she thought. Oh, good grief....should I even respond? Maybe he’ll go away—fuck, no he won’t. He’ll just search every bed until he finds mine. That’s it. I’m done for.

“I’m here,” she replied with reluctance, trying to ignore the flutter she felt in her stomach when she heard his voice.

He approached her bed and opened the curtains. He found her lying on her back with her knees drawn up, and her head propped up by her pillows so she could read comfortably. A stab of electricity shot through her as soon as she saw him. She prayed that he couldn’t tell.

“May I?” he asked, gesturing to her bed. She nodded, knowing there was no point in telling him he couldn’t sit there.  If he had come to visit her in her dorm, then he certainly wouldn’t leave her alone until he had said or done whatever he’d planned.

He sat down a few feet from her, regarding her for a moment before speaking.

“You seem tense,” he offered.

“Yeah, well, what you did last week was a bit of a shock,” she retorted. 

He reached out and gently squeezed her knee. “Alera, I need you to understand something.”

She immediately sat up straight and crossed her legs, so no part of her body was within his reach. He was tempted to move closer and change that, but decided to wait. That would not win him any brownie points. 

“What is it.”

“I know you are uncomfortable with me knowing so much about you. I know you have never truly opened up to anyone, and I don’t blame you for that. I don’t hold it against you. I think it is a wise choice, considering how most people think and feel, but it is useless with me.” 

“Yeah, ‘cause not every seventeen-year-old is a Legilimens!” she whispered harshly.

“That’s not what I mean,” he insisted. “And there’s no need to whisper. No one else is in here.”

She wasn’t sure if she felt more relieved or scared to be completely alone with him. Not knowing what to say, she simply blinked.

“As I told you before,” he continued, “you and I are more alike than you realize. Like you, I have always felt separated from society, as I am vastly different from most people. And, like you, I keep my true nature hidden well. If I did not, I wouldn’t have nearly as much respect and admiration from everyone here at Hogwarts. Well...almost everyone.” He grinned secretively. 

Alera knew that was a reference to Dumbledore, but didn’t care that Tom was trying to be funny about it. Her face remained expressionless.

“I am not trying to scare you,” he insisted. (This wasn’t entirely true, but she didn’t need to know that. Not yet.) “Do you realize why I’ve been so persistent in getting to know you and grow closer to you?” 

“I don’t know. I—I thought—maybe you were just trying to....” she trailed off, unsure of how to finish the sentence and worrying that she would anger Tom again. And considering how he’d acted the last time she’d made him mad, she didn’t even want to imagine what he would do this time.

Tom smirked at her anxiety, but there was a slight fondness in his eyes as he looked at her. He fought off a bizarre urge to reach out and stroke her face, and not stop until she relaxed.

“Since I first noticed you watching me, I began to pick up on how similar we are,” he said. “And I relish that fact. I know you’re used to hiding your innermost thoughts and feelings from everyone, but those traits are what I like most about you. Your personality doesn’t frighten me or make me want to distance myself from you. I know more about you than anyone else ever will, and I’m not running away. You...who you really are...it only makes me want to be near you more.”

His words had the desired effect. Alera bit her lip and looked down, a blush gracing her beautiful face.

Tom felt like seconds had turned to hours as he paced himself, not wanting to speak too soon after delivering each little chink in her armor. He couldn’t wait until there was nothing left to keep him out and she would be rendered utterly defenseless against him.

“I want you to enjoy talking with me about all the things we have in common—things we cannot share with anyone else,” he went on. “I promise, you will never incriminate yourself by opening up to me. I will keep your secrets safe. And I will gladly assist you, should you decide to kill the parts of yourself you despise and enhance those you enjoy—those parts that only I will ever understand. I’d consider it an honor.”

“You’d consider what an honor?” she spat. His words sounded too much like that blasted Mr. Smooth Talker persona, and she wanted to smack him. How gullible did he think she was?

“Your trust. Your complete, unwavering trust. Your faith in my ability to help you become the most powerful witch you can be. Only I can help you achieve that; no one will ever relate to you the way I do. And you know it’s better this way. Anyone else who really knew you would abandon you the instant they saw your true colors. I, on the other hand, never will.”

“And what do you get out of such an arrangement?”

“Would I ever associate with someone weak? Someone as powerful and ambitious as you only stands to become more so with time. I’d be pretty thick to not want you near me.”

She slowly raised her head and bit her lip again—she couldn’t deny that his offer seemed worth her while. Even if he were trying to use her, but she would become more powerful as a result, was that really such a bad thing? And wouldn’t she just be using him in return, as a resource to increase her strength? She’d have to think on that.

He eased a bit closer to her, and pursed his lips in annoyance as she scooted back as far as she could and drew her knees up to her chest. He edged closer still. He wanted her to enjoy being overwhelmed by his presence, but she was still too uneasy for it to be pleasurable. He concealed his exasperation well—though she thought she detected a flash of frenzied lust in his eyes. She wasn’t sure. She immediately banished her suspicion. 

It was a blessing that she couldn’t read his thoughts: he wanted more than anything to plunge on top of her and hear her cry out in protest. He visualized her struggling to break free as he pinned her arms over her head, pried her legs apart and began grinding against her pelvis. He then imagined her naked, sobbing, and tied down as he viciously pounded into her and bit into the soft skin of her neck. At that second image, he barely suppressed a shudder. (He was also thankful that his robes were concealing the sudden strain in his pants.) 

To prevent himself from acting on his reckless desires, he breathed slowly and forced his facial muscles to relax as he looked at her.

“Outside of anything I may teach you, I want you to enjoy my company—the way I enjoy yours,” he said softly, while running the back of his hand down the outside of her leg. He thought he felt her tremble a bit beneath his touch, but he could have imagined it. 

“I’ll try,” she whispered shakily.

“Good.” Those two words were music to his ears. 

Granting her a warm smile, he stood up and gently squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He briefly considered asking once more to see her dress, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to control himself after she put it on. Especially since they were alone in the dorm room. He knew she wasn’t ready for what he had in store for her, even though he could barely hold back as it was. With a colossal amount of willpower, he forced down the adrenaline and the pulsing ache in his groin and quietly left the room.

Alera listened to his footfalls fade away, then hit herself on the forehead with the book she was reading. “Damn it,” she groaned. “What the hell am I doing....”

*   *   * 

She fell into an uneasy sleep around eleven o’clock. In the middle of the night, quiet footsteps by her bed slowly dragged her back to semi-consciousness. Somehow, Tom had crept into her dorm and slipped into bed with her, and then woke her up by climbing on top of her and gently nipping at her neck. She would have cried out in surprise had he not covered her mouth with his hand.

“Shhhh,” he whispered in her ear, and quickly replaced his hand with his lips to kiss her deeply. She moaned in his mouth and suddenly realized that he was naked, as was she. How? she thought groggily. Where are my pajamas? Where are his? How did Tom get in here? How did I not wake up before he.... 

She tried to protest, but he gripped her hair and continued kissing her until she had given up on that idea. And the sensation wasn’t all that bad. His lips were soft and smooth, and his tongue massaged hers with a firm persistance. She began to breathe faster as he kissed his way down her neck. Goosebumps blanketed her skin. 

He moved lower and kissed her breasts several times before taking a nipple in his mouth. She jumped and grasped the sheets in both hands as he sucked hard. She entertained the thought of reaching up to touch him as his mouth worked her, but she was too afraid to move. She wasn’t supposed to like this, anyway. And where would she touch him? He kept moving his head, sucking one nipple and then the other, and then back again. He couldn’t seem to get enough. And his hands were everywhere—massaging her breasts, squeezing her shoulders, rubbing her arms, stroking her face.... 

She couldn’t think. She could hardly even breathe. The air felt too thick around her body. But she supposed he wanted it that way.

After licking her breasts, he slid down her torso and pried her legs apart to lightly trace her folds with his fingertips. He did the same with his tongue, and then began sucking on her clitoris while running his hands up and down her waist. Her hips arched violently and she bit back a moan.

“Tom...” she gasped. “What...why are you—”

In response, he draped his left arm over her stomach while slipping two fingers inside her. He briefly stopped sucking and nuzzled the area just above her entrance, inhaling deeply and murmuring something unintelligible. She felt a gentle vibration from his mouth as he groaned in satisfaction. He slipped a third finger inside her and she moaned again, louder this time, as he resumed sucking her quivering nub. He pumped his fingers in and out of her, faster and faster, until her orgasm ripped through her. She wasn’t sure what scared her more—how easily he’d brought her over the edge, or how much trouble she’d be in if her moans woke up her Housemates. Surely, they couldn’t sleep through something like this! Someone would turn her in! What was she going to do?

Her fears quickly faded as Tom withdrew his fingers and licked them dry, before diving in between her legs once more and hungrily lapping up the rest of the fluid. She was panting heavily now. Spreading her legs wider, she pressed herself against his greedy tongue, no longer caring to keep her moans quiet. She wanted to freeze time for the next ten minutes, at least—the way Tom all but worshipped her body was unreal. 

After a few minutes, Tom licked his way back up her torso and resumed squeezing her breasts while sucking on her neck. She felt his stiffness pressing against her stomach, and her sex throbbed violently as he kissed her hard once again. He forced his tongue so far back in her mouth that she almost couldn’t breathe. Tossing her fears aside, she finally wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.

“Your skin is so soft...you taste delicious....” he murmured in her ear, coaxing his hand in between her legs again and easing his cock toward her entrance.

Before she could respond, he hoisted her legs over his shoulders and forcefully thrust into her. She felt a sharp pain and whimpered loudly. Though she moved with him for a moment, she suddenly realized that she didn’t want to be with him this way, especially with so many people around. Were they watching? Were they getting off on the carnal shadows playing against her curtains? She didn’t want that. Her bed was no one else’s business. Regardless of her body’s responses thusfar, she was no longer enjoying this little late-night romp. She struggled violently and somehow fought Tom off...and he quickly disappeared.

She woke up with a loud gasp and bolted upright, terrified that Tom would reappear and harm her for resisting him. After her breathing had slowed, she looked around and realized with relief (and embarrassment) that she had been dreaming. And no one appeared to have noticed. The room was blessedly still.

She collapsed back onto the mattress and was disgusted to find it drenched in sweat. And to make matters worse, her sex and thighs were uncomfortably moist. She groped around her nightstand for her wand, and cast drying and cleansing spells on her sheets and body.

“Oh my god, this is insane,” she whispered. She turned over on her side and curled up in a ball, only dozing on and off until the morning. 

*   *   * 

Tom awoke in an unusually good mood. Reliving the previous evening’s events in the Slytherin girls’ dormitory, he knew that his carefully-crafted plan was now falling into place. He had not planted the dream in Alera’s mind—not that she would know either way. She couldn’t exactly ask him about it. He would tear her apart.

Before breakfast, Tom pulled Abraxas aside before they headed to Transfiguration. The two boys always sat next to each other, while Lucretia sat with Alera. It was time to change that.

“I need you to do something for me,” Tom said with a smirk. 

“What’s that?”

“Tell Lucretia you want to sit with her during Transfiguration today.”

“How come?”

Tom scoffed, annoyed that Abraxas didn’t make the connection. 

“Why do you think?” he hissed. “I’m going to sit with Alera.” 

“Oh, all right,” Abraxas replied. He looked away from Tom, feeling quite silly for not taking the hint initially.

“You do that,” Tom snapped, and stalked away. 

*   *   * 

Alera wasn’t sure what to feel that day. She went about her morning as usual, trying not to think of Tom’s visit to her dorm or her dream. She was certain that he had fed her the lascivious images somehow—when it came to Tom Riddle, it seemed anything was possible. He was terrifyingly brilliant.

She hardly said a word to anyone until she walked into the Transfiguration classroom after breakfast. Lucretia walked in shortly after Alera sat down, and paused at their table before walking over to Abraxas. 

“Um...what?” Alera narrowed her eyes.

“I’m, uh...sitting with Abraxas today,” Lucretia responded awkwardly. 

“O...kay—” 

“He told me it was important. I don’t know why.” She gave Alera a strange look and then headed over to Abraxas. Alera glared at her friend’s back until the realization suddenly hit her. 

“Oh, fuck....” she whispered. As soon as the words escaped her lips, she saw Tom approaching from the corner of her eye.

“All alone today?” he asked, smirking at her.

“I suppose so....”

“No matter,” he said cheerfully, and sat down next to her. Alera closed her eyes and shook her head, her lips turned slightly upward in disbelief.

“What was that for?” Tom teased.

“What was what for?”

“You just shook your head. Is something wrong?”

“Do you really need to scrutinize every move I make? It’s really annoying and—”

“Good morning, class!” Professor Dumbledore’s voice interrupted Alera, for which she was relieved. After the previous evening, she was in no mood to put up with Tom’s antics—or Lucretia’s giggles as the girl turned around and discovered the meaning of Abraxas’s request. Alera refused to even make eye contact with her best friend until the class period finished. 

*   *   *

Over the next few weeks, there was a noticeable shift in Tom and Alera’s interactions. As he suddenly insisted on sitting next to her in every class they shared, they started talking more, and their conversations grew more casual. They worked together on assignments, pooling their vast knowledge and offering each other suggestions, which often led to in-depth discussions about the concepts they were learning. Even during mealtimes. Tom had a way of making Alera think about their coursework from several different angles, revving up her curiosity to learn more. He could turn even the most boring lessons into jokes that had her stifling fits of laughter. Alera found herself looking forward to their study sessions in spite of herself.

And it was all Tom could do not to smirk triumphantly whenever he yet again said something that made Alera’s cheeks redden, which happened more frequently as time passed. He found this development especially thrilling because he’d never even seen her blush before deciding to pursue her. She wasn’t the blushing type. She wasn’t the type to lose her head over a boy and forget who she was. This meant that his impact on her was special. He was special, and she was finally realizing that. It was about time.

He spent as much time with her as possible, taking care to be on his best behavior to allow her to grow accustomed to his presence and slowly begin to enjoy it—rather, to admit that she enjoyed it—and eventually crave it. 

It was strange because, though he had solidified his exemplary reputation by telling people what they wanted to hear, he knew that Alera required a different set of rules. And he would never let her know that he, too, was a bit scared—scared of how similar they were, and thus how little he could hide from her. Yes, he had revealed more of himself to her than he’d ever shared with anyone, but that didn’t mean he harbored no reservations about her impact on him. He couldn’t pull out his usual bag of tricks with her. She made him vulnerable in a way that he never thought he would be, and he both hated her for it and wanted her more because of it. I guess she’s not the only one caught between two worlds, he thought one afternoon.

He often found himself deep in thought for hours, wondering how he could balance his desire to coerce and manipulate with his now-urgent need to keep Alera close because he realized, to his horror, that he genuinely respected her. How many people had he actually respected in his life? How many people had he wanted to admire and revere him, and not just so that he could get what he wanted from them—but because he enjoyed the thought of being himself with no filter? He couldn’t think of anyone besides the raven-haired beauty who had so captivated him. The little firecracker who keeps scaring everyone, he had once called her. 

Firecracker indeed. He was amazed he hadn’t exploded yet.

Chapter Text

Alera grew both nervous and excited as the day of the Winter Ball drew near. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect; and her Housemates weren’t exactly helping, teasing her about what Tom might do. She hated how tense and warm her body felt at their suggestions, and the way her pulse quickened at the images her friends put into her head. Not that such images hadn’t already weaseled their way into her mind late at night—but she would never admit that out loud. Oh, no. She was too proud for that. 

On the night of the ball, Alera didn’t start getting ready until all the girls in her dorm had left; she didn’t want to arrive with her friends fussing over her and making a scene. Tom would never let her live that down. 

Unlike her Housemates, who had taken around an hour to get ready, she didn’t need much time. She always wore her makeup the same way and rarely styled her hair. Tonight, she left it loose, and charmed it to make it shine more and prevent tangling. She regarded herself in the mirror for a moment, telling herself to breathe, relax, and just have a good time.

The other Slytherin girls stood near the entrance to the Great Hall, waiting for their dates and discussing everyone’s attire. And then Walburga mentioned the one outfit that no one had yet seen.

“What’s Alera’s problem, anyway?” she wondered aloud. “It’s just a dress.”

“She’s probably freaking out about Tom and doesn’t want us to see,” Amanda replied.

“Probably,” Lucretia agreed, “but I think it’s more of Alera just...being Alera.”

They watched as several couples greeted each other and walked into the Hall to dance.

Walburga sighed. “Why are boys always late?”

“I know; this is getting irritating,” Amanda remarked.

“Well, not all boys—Tom is already here,” Lucretia said, gesturing to the dapper Head Boy. He was standing about ten feet from the stairs, patiently waiting for Alera. 

“He looks really hot,” Walburga whispered. The other girls giggled. 

“Damn, Alera is lucky,” Amanda sighed.

As if on cue, Alera appeared and began making her way down the stairs. She walked slowly, trying to focus more on her movement and less on the butterflies in her stomach. 

Lucretia saw her best friend out the corner of her eye and gasped.

“Oh, she looks like a goddess!” she exclaimed. The others quickly concurred.

The girl in question didn’t even notice her Housemates. When she had cleared the stairs, she looked around and quickly spotted Tom, who was grinning at her. She smiled back, in spite of her nerves.

“You look absolutely ravishing,” he said softly as she approached him. He made no attempt to hide the way his eyes roved over her body. 

“Thanks,” she replied, trying her hardest not to blush. Again. Damn him.

“Come on,” he encouraged, smiling wider while he hooked his arm through hers and led her into the Great Hall.

Alera found herself relaxing as she surveyed her peers, all of whom were a perfect picture of joyous excitement. Tom, on the other hand, noticed Dumbledore looking at the pair with a concerned yet suspicious expression. He scowled at his professor, and turned away as he and Alera began to dance. 

“What was that look for—ohh.” She followed Tom’s gaze and noted Dumbledore’s countenance.

“Just ignore the old fool,” he murmured, while pulling her closer.

Dinner was served after an hour. The Slytherins, as usual, stuck together at separate tables and allowed no one from the other Houses to join them. Not that they’d even want to.

As Tom and Alera approached one such table, Lucretia rushed over, dragging Ignatius with her. 

“You look beautiful!” she gushed. “That dress suits you perfectly! I’m so jealous!”

“If you were really jealous, you wouldn’t be smiling,” Alera replied with a smirk.

Dinner went smoothly; everyone was happy with the good food and conversation—everyone except Alera, of course, because Tom was as slick as ever. He found reasons to lightly stroke Alera’s hair or back or upper arm, playing it off as an accident while speaking to someone else and not even acknowledging his date. (Though he didn’t care who noticed his gaze meandering all over her, when he chose to look.) He was daring her to voice her discomfort just so he could paint her as uptight, after which he would embody innocent teenage love and make his classmates fall over themselves with adoration and envy.

Alera wouldn’t let him. It didn’t matter to Tom, though; he still had her where he wanted her and knew the best was yet to come. He could be patient for a few more hours. 

Near the end of the meal, Lucretia began discussing the wedding she and Ignatius were planning for the summer, oblivious to her best friend’s apprehension with her date. Ignatius was happy as well, but he was content to sit back and let his fiancée do all the talking. Pureblood marriages were serious matters, after all.

As Lucretia toyed with her engagement ring, Tom subtlely laced his arm around Alera’s back and grasped her waist. She tensed up immediately, but couldn’t react beyond that point, or everyone would see his arm around her and start teasing them. He knew she would despise such attention.

It was at this moment that Lucretia glanced at her best friend and asked, “So, are you two, you know....”

“We’ll see. We haven’t talked about that yet,” Tom replied.

“Yet?!” Alera demanded, whipping her head around to stare at Tom. “We haven’t talked about what yet?”

But she didn’t really want to know what he was implying. And she certainly hadn’t just leaned back against his arm ever so slightly...oh Merlin, no. Not her. 

He merely smirked before returning to the conversation, acting as if he weren’t still gripping her waist tightly. Alera did her best to act nonplussed, while Tom basked in her discomfort as he engaged with their peers.

Tom took Alera back onto the dance floor after dinner. Though he wanted her powerless against him, he knew he could only push her so far before she retaliated—and they were in public. Such an outburst could hurt his reputation. He reluctantly distracted her from her unease by discussing harmless topics: their last Transfiguration exam, the Prewett wedding, and possible plans after Hogwarts.

Tom offered to get them drinks a little later. She thought for a moment, then told him she’d come with him.

“Do you not trust me to get you a drink without poisoning it?” Tom asked, half in amusement and half in disbelief. 

“No, no, I just...ugh, you know I’m not—” 

“You don’t trust anyone, I know,” he replied, stepping closer to her. “But that will change.” He cupped her chin in his hand. “You must learn to trust me,” he insisted, softly but firmly. Alera sighed, knowing there was no way out of this.  She was a bit worried that he might sneak something into her drink to make her blindly follow him to his bedroom, but he left no room for negotiation.

“Now, what would you like to drink?” he asked. He still hadn’t let go of her chin.

“Um...I’ll have a glass of pumpkin juice.” She looked over his shoulder instead of directly at him. His stare unnerved her. 

“All right, I’ll be back in a moment.”

Alera slumped into a chair, drumming her fingers on the tablecloth and trying to relax.

“He really knows me too well,” she mumbled to herself. “Damn.”

Tom arrived with two glasses of pumpkin juice shortly thereafter. They finished their drinks in silence, and then returned to the dance floor. As the last dance of the night was very slow, Tom pulled Alera close, snaking his arms around her waist while she tentatively placed her arms around his neck. He absolutely would not take his eyes off her. She knew it would be futile to try and prevent him from probing into her thoughts while in such close proximity, but she still tried not to lock eyes with him too much.

“Look at me,” he commanded softly, tilting her chin up before tucking her hair behind her ear and snaking his arm back around her waist. She sighed and did as he asked, knowing full well that her face was burning fiercely.

“You look lovely when you blush,” he whispered, pulling her closer still. She noted that now they were barely even moving, much less dancing—his grip on her was far too strong for easy swaying back and forth.

“Have you enjoyed yourself tonight?” he asked.

She nodded. 

“I have, as well. Very much so.” He leaned in closer so his lips lightly brushed her ear as he spoke.

“However,” he continued quietly, smiling as he felt her shiver at the contact, “I think we could have a lot more fun away from the ball—away from everyone’s prying eyes.” 

He kissed her ear and withdrew to look her in the eye again. He smiled at her nervousness, and then his face grew serious. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispered. 

Before she had a chance to respond, he firmly grasped her hand and led her out of the Great Hall. He bit his lip hard enough to cause pain as he attempted to maintain his veneer of calm for these last few moments—he couldn’t screw up now.

Sensing Tom’s intentions, Alera’s heart pounded and her core ached uncomfortably. Not knowing how to react to these sensations, she simply sighed and allowed him to lead her through the castle, up to a hallway she had never seen before. They arrived at a portrait hole and were asked for the password. 

“Cobblestone,” Tom pronounced, and the portrait hole opened. Alera followed him through, walking down a narrow passageway until they approached a door. He opened it and gestured for her to enter his room.

“Oh, wow!” she gasped, as her eyes swept across the luxurious chamber—being Head Boy certainly had its perks! She was so busy looking around that she didn’t notice Tom closing the door, locking it, and casting a Silencing spell. 

“This is a beautiful room,” she remarked as she walked toward the chest of drawers, situated against the wall in front of a gold-rimmed mirror. She regarded her reflection, happy with the way her hair still shone.

“Yes, it is,” Tom replied, creeping up behind her with a predatory stare. “Although...” He tucked her hair behind her left ear and brushed it over her right shoulder. “It’s not nearly as beautiful as you,” he murmured in her ear, while resting his hands on her shoulders. She sighed as he placed a firm kiss on her cheek, then one below her ear, and several down the side of her neck. After another kiss where her neck met her shoulder, he bit down hard and gripped her shoulders tightly. She gasped and clutched the chest of drawers. He bit her neck again and again, and wrapped his left arm around her shoulders to pull her against his chest. As alarmed as she was, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from their reflections. The image was oddly arousing. 

Tom could barely hold himself together. He had restrained himself around Alera for what had felt like years, and now he couldn’t seem to pull her close enough. He couldn’t hold her tightly enough. He couldn’t bite her hard enough. He wanted to rip her to pieces. He wanted to devour her until there was nothing left but that which he forced inside. And she could tell. The pain in her neck was almost unbearable.

She whimpered loudly, and he reluctantly pulled away before lightly running his tongue along her shoulder and back up her neck.

Though he had devoted a lot of time and energy into pursuing her, she couldn’t help but wonder if his motives had been less than pure. Like her, he never did anything for anyone without an ulterior motive, and she worried that he had only charmed her to get her into bed.

“That’s not true,” he slowly whispered into her ear. 

Stop it!” she hissed, trying unsuccessfully to break free of his hold.

“No,” he breathed, chuckling softly. “I’ve told you before—your mind fascinates me. Why would I deny myself such valuable information?”

She rolled her eyes.

“And, as for your current worry,” he continued, stroking her hair, “I assure you that if I only desired your body, I would not have gone to all the trouble I did to get into your good graces. We have too much in common for me to be able to do that, don’t you realize? I doubt that any other girl would still be suspicious if someone pursued her for so long. And anyway...you’d be blind not to notice all those girls who stare at me and follow me around like dogs. If I only wanted a physical release, I could have chosen one of them. They’re easy targets with no substance.” He squeezed her shoulders and kissed her cheek again. “And you, my dear, are no easy target.” 

Alera saw his logic, but remained silent.

“I know you want this just as much as I do,” he insisted, meeting her gaze in the mirror. “You are strong and do not back down under pressure. If you did not desire me, you would have refused to leave the ball with me. You knew where I was taking you. Had I’d brought you here by force, you would be screaming and kicking and punching—anything to keep my hands off you. You would not just stand there, letting me touch you.” He pressed his lips to the wound he’d inflicted, and then slowly began to unzip her dress. She whirled around. He smirked and stroked her lips with his thumb.

“Come onnn,” he goaded, stepping in closer. “Let’s have some fun.” He gently cupped her face in his hands and tilted her head up to brush his lips against her jaw. He smiled as she inhaled shakily, and then gripped her skull and crushed his mouth over hers. As he shoved his tongue into her mouth, she moaned in spite of herself and let him finish unzipping her. 

When he finally pulled away from the kiss, he hooked his index finger under one of the straps of her dress. “Take it off,” he growled into her neck, breathing heavily. She reached up to do so, but too slowly for his liking. “Now,” he commanded, eyes blazing. She bit her lip and complied. Tom watched, transfixed, as she gingerly stepped out of the dress and placed it on the floor beside her. Her hands had barely left the fabric when he grabbed her hips to roughly hoist her up onto the dresser and wrap her legs around his waist. He laced his right arm behind her back and leaned forward, pushing her backward as he kissed her fiercely.

She wanted to tell him to slow down, as her mind was racing and she wasn’t quite sure if she really wanted this—at least not with such overwhelming intensity—but he would not release her mouth. 

How would her friends react if they could see her now? What would they say if they knew she was wrapped in Tom’s arms, allowing him to kiss her senseless while he caressed her half-naked body? She’d insisted that there was nothing between the two of them, and she despised being wrong, but look at her now—

Tom placed frantic kisses all over Alera’s neck and throat before devouring her mouth once again. She gasped and pressed her elbows down against the dresser to stop herself from toppling over. After a few minutes, he pulled her back up to a sitting position, then knelt down and began unlacing her boots. She thought it curious that he wasn’t using magic for such a task, but she guessed he was aiming to drag out the anticipation. And it was working. She had to exert effort not to squeeze her legs together. 

“These are lovely,” he said of her fishnet stockings, before gliding his hands and mouth up her calves. He gradually peeled off the stockings and tossed them on the floor by her dress, and then wrapped her legs around his back again.

“Hold on tight,” he whispered. She gripped his shoulders, and he carried her to his bed. After all but throwing her on the mattress, he stepped back and began to undress. He had to keep reminding himself to slow down and not rip his clothes off like a madman—she was here, she was in his bed, and she wasn’t going anywhere. Still, he struggled to appear calm and collected to mask the firestorm raging inside him. 

Alera’s heart pounded heavily as she watched Tom disrobe, unable to look away. How is this turning me on? she silently screamed at herself. I should be back at the ball, talking to my friends! I shouldn’t have allowed him to bring me here! Why did I let him? Why am I lying on his bed in my underwear?! Why am I—oh, Merlin.... 

He smirked when he saw her eyes traveling down to his erection. She had no time to hide her mortification as he caught her gaping. When he had removed all of his clothes, he climbed onto the bed and straddled her.

“Do you like what you see?” he asked with a smug grin.

“Yeah,” she whispered, looking down again as he propped himself up and slowly ran his cock up and down her belly. He was massive. She only looked away when he tilted her chin up and kissed her hard once again. Her thoughts were swimming in a pleasant haze by the time he finally withdrew.

“Get rid of this,” he mumbled, as he traced the outline of her bra. All hesitation now gone, she unhooked the garment and threw it to the floor. Tom grabbed her breasts instantly, squeezing hard before leaning down and sucking her nipples. She squirmed beneath him, barely aware that she was panting and running her fingers through his hair and pressing herself against him. He kissed his way down her belly and then unceremoniously ripped off her panties. 

She looked down at him apprehensively, knowing full well what he was about to do and not sure how she felt about it. In a way she was relieved that he could read her thoughts, as she didn’t know how to verbalize her uncertainty, but part of her wanted to grab her clothes and disappear from his room. She knew she couldn’t, though. He would never let her. 

And then a scene suddenly flashed through her mind—Tom in this exact position in her dream not too long ago—and she blushed at the memory. How fiercely she’d wanted to pause that moment and experience absolutely nothing but his tongue feasting on her. Would she really leave right now, if she could?

Tom grinned victoriously. “Ahh, had ourselves a little fantasy, did we?” he taunted. “And you have the nerve to hesitate as if you don’t want to be here. Maybe I should just leave you in my bed for hours and let your arousal torment you—the way you’ve been tormenting me.” He bit her stomach sharply.

She whimpered in pain and embarrassment. Shit, maybe it isn’t so good that he’s a Legilimens....I really didn’t want him to know about that dream. At least now I know he didn’t plant it in my mind.

He chuckled in response, and kissed the top of her pubic area. “Oh, a dream. Even better. I wish I’d known sooner—I would have brought you to my bedroom ages ago. I was itching to take you for months!” 

“I—I suspected.” 

“You didn’t suspect; you knew. You’re a perceptive girl. And you wanted me just as badly; don’t deny it. I’ve been making you blush since I cornered you outside the library. Now, tell me about this dream—how many times did I make you come?”

“Once...it wasn’t—”

“Merlin, Alera, that’s pathetic. I’m almost offended. Why only once?”

“I...I woke up before we—”

“What a shame, doll. At least you’re finally here now. Any scene in particular that you wish me to repeat? I’d be more than happy to indulge you.”

“Just stay where you are,” she whispered.

“I planned on it.”

Tom pried her legs apart with a smirk and pushed his face in between them. He grasped her hips and began sucking hard on her folds, growling with excitement as he heard her moaning and felt her arousal leaking onto his tongue. She was a bit disturbed at how much her body was reacting, and her mind only distantly registered her gripping the back of his head to pull him closer and spreading her legs wider for him.

After slipping his tongue inside her, he began firmly rubbing her clitoris. She writhed beneath him and screamed, which only fuelled him to rub harder and push his tongue deeper into her. He didn’t stop until her legs shook and she thrashed violently. Two of his fingers soon replaced his tongue, and he placed several bites and hard kisses to the swollen pink flesh before adding a third finger, pumping hard until the orgasm wracked her entire body.

That better have been more enjoyable than your dream, he thought. And you’re going to pay for concealing that from me. You’ll be crying by the time I’m done with you.

He chuckled against her skin as he licked her dry, before moving back up until they were face to face. 

“So tell me,” he murmured softly, before kissing her cheek. “Are you a virgin?”

“Yes,” she answered, closing her eyes for a moment. 

He smiled and licked her neck hungrily. “Not for much longer.”

Without waiting for a response, he reached across to his nightstand for his wand and placed the tip on her abdomen. He recited a strange incantation and she gasped, feeling as if her womb had turned to ice. She looked at him uncertainly when the bizarre sensation had passed.

“So you don’t get pregnant,” he said, answering her unspoken question. After placing his wand back on his nightstand, he wrapped her legs around his waist and placed the tip of his cock inside her. “I’ll make this quick,” he breathed, and pushed into her at full speed. She gasped and dug her nails into his shoulders. He hissed at the sudden pain. 

“No, my princess,” he warned darkly, grabbing her wrists and pinning her arms above her head. “If anyone will feel both pleasure and pain tonight, it’ll be you.” 

He began violently thrusting into her, savoring her cries and the expression of agony on her face. He thought of the day he’d finally begun to win her over, sitting on the edge of her bed and inching closer and closer to her, knowing how uneasy she’d felt. Though he had already realized that he’d wanted to be with her, her actions that evening had angered him so much that he’d wanted to rape her. He’d felt trapped by his impulses, an uncommon sensation, and he wanted to make her feel the result of all the frustration she’d been causing him.  

At least it had all been worth it. He loved holding her down and causing her enough pain to make her eyes well up. She’d had a bloody sex dream about him and hadn’t told him! How on Earth had he missed that while roving through her thoughts? The captivating little bitch deserved to be punished for that.

“Stop...” she begged, “just for a minute...please....” A single tear ran down her cheek, and he licked it up. 

No,” he growled, pounding into her harder than before. The bedsprings creaked and the headboard slammed into the wall in time with his thrusts.

“You’re more alluring than ever, like this,” he drawled in her ear. She whimpered and attempted to break free of his hold, which shot sharp jolts of energy straight to his cock and down his legs. Smiling wickedly at her pleading expression, he hoisted her legs over his shoulders to delve even deeper inside of her. Her pain had dulled, but it was still very prominent and visible on her face. Tom didn’t care; her struggling only intensified his arousal. He abandoned all semblance of control and lost himself inside her. 

“Tom, please...” she begged again. 

No. It’s not over yet. Not until I say so!”

She bit her lip to stifle another loud cry as he continued thrusting hard and fast. He’d be damned if he allowed her to stop him now. He tucked one of her wrists under the other so he could hold them both with his left hand, while he tugged her chin down with his right.

“Tom...oh my god...could you just—”

“I want to hear you,” he growled, fingers tightly gripping her jaw. “Every moan, every whimper, every cry—I want to know what this is doing to you! Just like I want you to know what you have been doing to me!!"

She growled in frustration, trying to think of something other than sex, but he had succeeded in completely saturating her. Her mind and body were full to capacity. The pain, the pleasure, the confusion, the primal urges...all she knew was him. Just the way he wanted it. 

After a few more minutes, Tom finally slowed his relentless pace and released her arms. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her passionately. Her body relaxed significantly as she gave into the kiss, happy for a brief reprieve from the pain in between her thighs. She reached up and placed her hands on his biceps to trace the taut muscles. He smiled down at her, enjoying the feel of her fingers on his skin, and soon began thrusting again. She found that the pain was almost gone now, replaced by pleasurable sensations that made her only want more. Tom had slowed his pace considerably, and Alera found herself wishing he would speed up again. Her moans told him what she wanted; but he refused to oblige, just to tease her.

He did eventually pick up the pace, causing waves of pleasure to ripple through her. She clamped around him and moaned his name as her body tensed.

“Don’t hold back,” he commanded, driving into her harder than ever as the pressure built inside his body.

And so she screamed at the top of her lungs as pleasure engulfed her.

Yesss,” he hissed. He violently exploded inside of her and collapsed onto her sweaty form, breathing deeply as he slid her legs off his shoulders. He buried his face in her neck and gripped her head in his hands.

They lay in post-coital bliss for a while before Tom spoke again. 

“You’re mine, Alera,” he declared, and kissed her throat.

She exhaled slowly, not knowing how to respond.

“Say it.”

She closed her eyes. “I—” 

“Look into my eyes when you speak.”

“I...I’m yours,” she breathed softly, looking back up at him.

Tom smirked and leaned in until their faces were almost touching. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear that,” he replied sternly, with a hint of disapproval.

Alera bit her lip. “I’m yours,” she repeated, more audibly this time.

“You certainly are. And you always will be.” 

“Always?”

Always.”

“Wow....”

“This is not something to be taken lightly,” he continued. “In case you haven’t noticed, I do not enjoy sharing. No one touches what belongs to me.” He cupped her face in his hands and ran his thumbs over her cheeks. “Especially this gorgeous girl.” 

“I know,” she whispered, before he kissed her hard again.

*   *   * 

The next morning, Alera awoke to Tom kissing her neck. She chuckled and tried to stretch, but found that she was still secured tightly in his arms. After he placed a few more gentle bites and kisses to her neck, he finally loosened his grip on her. She stretched and moaned softly before he climbed on top of her and began massaging her breasts.

“Already?” she chuckled.

“I waited long enough to have you here,” he replied gruffly. “I restrained myself for longer than what should have been necessary. I won’t waste any more time.”

She sighed and stroked his shoulders as he sucked her nipples. Not the worst way to wake up, she thought, closing her eyes and allowing herself to drift.

“I love the taste of your skin,” he murmured, interrupting her thoughts. She bit her lip as he glided his hand down her body and slipped a finger inside her slick warmth. He moved it in and out very slowly, watching her face intently. As she still wasn’t fully lucid, he knew he could analyze her responses better. Her usual tension and suspicion were gone, replaced with blissful relaxation. Her eyes were still closed and she was idly stroking his arms, with no focus on her prior distaste for his attention. Her thoughts were moving much more slowly as well—she was still roving through her dreams, the ball, how pleasantly surprised she’d been to enjoy his company so much over the past few weeks....

Smirking at his success, he added another finger and began pumping forcefully. She arched into his hand, squirming to try and relieve the throbbing ache building inside her body. Biting his lip, he reminded himself to keep control...though hearing her cries and feeling her tighten around his fingers made that difficult. He abruptly removed his fingers from her body and crawled back onto her, smirking as she moaned in frustration.

“I’ll give you what you want later, if you satisfy me first,” he hissed in her ear, grasping her hips and pulling her on top of him. 

She groaned in protest as he pushed the top of her head down. Why couldn’t have just finished her off now?

“Come on, doll,” he urged. “I’m craving that pretty mouth of yours right now.”

Sighing reluctantly, she moved lower and circled her tongue around his lower belly. 

“Now,” he barked, clutching her hair and forcing her head down lower. He was out of patience and sick of her hesitation, lucid or not.

She winced as he gripped her hair tighter, and finally placed a long, velvety lick up the underside of his cock. He shuddered. After flicking her tongue around his testicles a few times, she took him all the way in and then slowly eased him out, gently gliding her teeth up his shaft.

“Alera...” he whispered, and released her hair to caress the top of her head.

Closing his eyes, he willed his mind to shut out everything except the warm mouth deliciously working him up. No plans for how to punish her later...no thoughts of the next Death Eater meeting...no ideas about what he’d use for his next Horcrux...he needed to remain focused and fully aware of himself. One task at a time. He’d thoroughly enjoyed throwing self-control out the window the previous night, but he didn’t want to make such recklessness a habit. Power was never gained through impulsiveness and volatility, and Tom was nothing if not methodical. He would never become a slave to his urges. Even now. 

Alera chuckled at his expression of extreme concentration, and began sucking hard on the tip of his cock while squeezing and releasing the base. His eyes rolled back, and she could almost feel him wrestling with himself as his breathing grew louder and more labored. She begrudgingly understood his motivations for having been so brutal with her the night before—she likely would have behaved as he did, had the roles been reversed—but she was still aggravated. And she wanted him to pay. Maybe she could undo him after all.... 

After a few minutes of her teasing him, Tom growled and grasped her hair again, forcing her to move at his pace. He knew what she’d been thinking, and thus grew even more determined not to relinquish control. He had her move slowly at first, and then gradually increase her rhythm as his heart sped up and his thighs quivered. When he finally let go of her hair, she began massaging his testicles while bobbing her head up and down until his release flooded into her mouth. He arched up with a loud groan and held her head down until she’d swallowed every last drop.

“That’s my girl,” he praised as she moved back up his hard body, letting her nipples lightly brush against his chest before he flipped her over onto her back. Grabbing a fistful of her hair, he jerked her head to the side and sank his teeth into her neck. She cried out and tried unsuccessfully to move her head.

“Do you really think you’re any match for my strength?” he challenged, speaking directly into her ear and breathing heavily enough to make her shiver.

“No,” she whispered.

“Then stop resisting,” he hissed. “I will always overpower you. You must accept this.” He kissed her neck and then bit all around her shoulder several times. He loved feeling her writhe under him, knowing that he now affected her body just as much as she affected his. He vowed to never let her forget that.

When he let go of her hair, he began kissing his way down her body, stopping to lick her breasts and suck her nipples again. He kissed a line down her belly and traced the slope of her waist before prying her legs apart.

“All ready for me, I see,” he remarked, before slipping his tongue inside and sucking hard. She grabbed the back of his head and spread her legs wider, allowing him more room as he rubbed his thumb up and down her clitoris. Her hips bucked until he stopped suddenly.

“I’m tempted to conjure a rope and pin your stomach against the bed,” he snapped, grabbing her waist.

“What?! No! Don’t do that!”

“Then stop squirming. Stay still,” he growled softly. “You can’t possibly feel my full effect on you if you’re moving this much. And if I have to tie you down to make you see this, I will not hesitate.”

“No, don’t—”

“I’ll use my other arm then.”

She grabbed her own hair as he shoved two fingers inside her, gasping as he firmly pressed his left arm against her abdomen. He was right—she had been still trying to deny his impact on her. Still. But she couldn’t shut him out with her movement sharply restricted and his fingers working so deftly. 

Once more, he removed his fingers just before tipping her over the edge, and pressed his tongue against her skin. He smiled as he felt her legs shudder in protest. Just as her breathing began to slow down, he spred the skin around her clitoris and bit down. She shrieked. He alternated biting the nub and sucking hard on it while his fingers pumped, knowing that she was both enjoying him and struggling with the pain. He didn’t stop until she climaxed four times—the last two of which she hadn’t wanted. Serves you right for making me wait so long, he thought.

He allowed her a moment to regroup, and then crawled back up her body and thrust into her. Seeing her face streaked with tears, he couldn’t help but grin victoriously.

“Tom...the spell...” she whispered, her forehead creased with worry.

“It lasts a full day,” he replied, not breaking his rhythm.

He continued pounding into her relentlessly for ten minutes before allowing himself to orgasm. She closed her eyes as he kissed her face and neck several times.

As he moved off of her, she turned away and sighed. Though happily worn out from such intense pleasure, she was also aggravated with Tom for causing her enough pain to make her cry. He grinned and snaked his arms around her, pulling her tightly against his chest. 

“Don’t think that was the only time I’ll do that to you,” he whispered in her ear. There was no mistaking the threat in his declaration, and he didn’t even care. She belonged to him now. The time for charming her was mercifully over. 

She tried to move away from him, but he tightened his grip. “You’ll never escape me, so don’t even try,” he chuckled, placing firm kisses to her neck and shoulder. She mentally cursed the goosebumps forming on her arms—she was supposed to be mad at him for being so cocky! Why was she reacting exactly the way he wanted?

“Because I understand your desires better than you do,” he whispered, answering her thoughts. 

“Could you maybe stop with the Legilimency for five bloody seconds?!”

“Nope.”

 She sighed loudly and rolled her eyes.

“And why would I even want to?” he taunted. “You’re my favorite study.”

“I’m your favorite what?!”

“You’re one of my favorite people to practice on. I’ve been honing my skills since fifth year. I find you infinitely more interesting than most students; you actually have a unique personality.”

“I don’t know if I should be flattered or furious.”

“How about you just relax and enjoy being with me? Throwing a hissy fit won’t change anything.” 

Alera bit the inside of her cheek, but did manage to calm herself down after a few minutes. Tom released his grip on her and stroked her hip as he collected his thoughts. She was grateful for the quiet, in no mood to argue further.

“Let’s go get something to eat,” he said blandly, as if the past half hour hadn’t even occurred. “I’m starving.” Alera merely nodded.

Not wanting to waltz into the Great Hall in her ball gown, she summoned clothes from her dormitory and dressed in silence. Tom followed suit, and took her waist as they left his room. 

The Great Hall was nearly empty, as many students were sleeping in after a long night of frivolity. Tom and Alera ate without speaking, lost in their own thoughts. The past day had been a whirlwind for both of them.

Tom walked Alera to the Slytherin dungeons after breakfast, and instructed her to return to his room that evening. 

“I’ll see you tonight,” he whispered in her ear, before kissing her soundly.

Chapter Text

Alera had wanted some privacy upon entering her dormitory, but her hopes sank as soon as she walked in. All the girls were there, gushing about the ball. They looked up as Alera appeared. 

“Well, there you are!” Lucretia exclaimed excitedly. “We were wondering where you went last night.” She raised her eyebrows and gave her friend a mischievous grin. Alera looked away from her Housemate.

“You slept with Tom, didn’t you!”

Alera blushed before she could stop herself.

“I knew it!” Walburga called out. “Where else would she have gone?”

They all innundated Alera with questions, none of which she would answer, with the exception of sharing that yes, she and Tom were now a couple. The girls gave up after finally realizing that Alera was keeping the details to herself, and returned to their previous activities. Alera then grabbed her schoolbooks and headed to the library for the day. She didn’t want to hear one more Finally! or I told you so! and pretend it didn’t irk her.

*   *   * 

Tom couldn’t stop smirking. He wanted to, but his triumphant glee was too powerful.

I have her. I have her. I finally have her. She is mine. The words echoed in his mind nonstop for the next several hours, and the anticipation over what he would do with her was almost too much to process at once. 

He would fuck her senseless whenever he wanted. He would make her a Death Eater. He would get under her skin and make her crave his company. His touch. His voice. His power. His approval.

He’d been serious when he’d offered to help her morph into the most capable witch she could become. Through various methods psychological and magical, he would encourage her to fully embrace her maliciousness without fearing repercussions. They would practice the Dark Arts together while he explored her thoughts and told her what he saw—she’d eventually learn to accept that she could keep nothing from him, and finally cease resisting his influence. And she’d grow stronger for it.

This would all have to be done before he would initiate her as a Death Eater. She wasn’t ready for that yet. She was still too paranoid, too uneasy about dating him, and certainly unsure what to make of his declaration that she belonged to him for life. He’d never tell her that even he wasn’t sure why he’d said something so dramatic; but it had felt right at the moment. And it still did.

If only he could figure out why.... 

*   *   * 

Alera could hardly believe that she was dating Tom. She had hated him! She had thought so little of him! He had aggravated her more than anyone! How had she gone from detesting his existence to screaming his name? She shuddered at the thought.

She also shuddered at the ease with which he worked her body, and the urgency of his desire for her. His appetite was insatiable. She was now sleeping much more deeply as he insisted on exhausting all her energy before consciousness slipped away. The last time she’d slept in her own bed was the night before the winter ball. 

In the five weeks they’d been together, he’d spent every night atop her. There’d been a few times when she had only wanted to sleep, but he hadn’t allowed it. He’d quickly learned exactly how to touch her to make her give in—kissing her neck while running his fingers over her nipples, slowly kissing his way down her stomach, and finally coaxing her legs apart with several enticing licks before devouring the throbbing pink flesh. And then he’d be thrusting inside her, sometimes while her center was still quivering from the effects of his tongue. She was amazed that his Silencing spell adequately muffled her erotic screams.

When Tom wasn’t shagging the life out of her, he was completing his homework beside her in the library, discussing their classes with their Housemates at meals, or going off by himself for a few hours and refusing to tell Alera why or where. There were a handful of nights when she’s woken around 3am to find herself alone in bed. He never returned until after she’d fallen back asleep. Doubting he was with another girl, she figured he must have had trouble sleeping and gone for a walk to clear his head. Perhaps he’d charmed one of the professors to allow him “patrol duty” when it wasn’t his turn, because he needed extra time alone. Many teachers pitied him for his homelessness and lack of family, and would surely have turned a blind eye if he’d made such a request.

He could get his way with virtually everyone. She was living proof of that.

*   *   *

Alera retreated into herself for the first few weeks she spent as Tom’s partner. His intensity overwhelmed her—not that it hadn’t previously, but there was a difference between studying with him and bedding him. A small part of her still wasn’t sure if she even wanted to be with him, needing more time to get to know him better outside of his literally charming the pants off of her, but he’d never let her push him away. She figured that if the tension between them came to a head and she needed to get out, she could probably protect herself.

Probably.

She tried to shrug off her paranoia as time passed, especially given her friends’ excitement. However, she noticed a strange shift in their behavior as well. They were still teasing her about her new relationship, but the girlish innocence had subtly been replaced with serious questions and abrupt segues into different subject matter when Alera didn’t catch a hidden meaning behind certain inquiries—such as So, how well do you really know each other? and Have you two spoken about your plans after Hogwarts? They couldn’t tell her that they were trying to figure out how much Tom had revealed to her about his plans, anxious to be able to speak openly with her. Sadly, they remained bound to silence. And Alera remained dreadfully confused.

She couldn’t understand why such topics were so touchy, and why her friends glared at each other when one of them tried venturing into forbidden territory, but she didn’t know how to express her suspicion. And what was there to be suspicious of, anyway? Everyone knew that she and Tom were quite close, and they’d discussed potential jobs at the Ministry a handful of times. Why branches of these topics were suddenly off-limits was beyond her. She wished she possessed Tom’s Legilimency skills in order to read the meaning of her friends’ bizarre expressions—she began seeing apprehension, curiosity, and mild annoyance in their eyes almost every time they discussed her relationship with Tom. And anytime she mentioned this to him, he simply brushed it off and changed the subject as abruptly as her friends had done. Her head was spinning.

Despite her unease over everyone’s evasiveness, she couldn’t deny that the way Tom made her feel was uniquely pleasurable—in and out of the bedroom. This wasn’t an innocent schoolgirl crush, or she would have felt disgusted with herself by now. Instead, she felt excited and anxious. Tom was magnetic. Powerful. Potent. There was something about him that both unnerved her and made her want to learn more about him. Some days, she wanted to hide from him and his all-knowing smirk; and other times she wanted to see how far she could run before he caught her and never let her go. His charisma and blatant sadism spiked her morbid curiosity. Perhaps her friends had been correct, and they were a suitable match after all, but she would need to find that out for herself. And she still didn’t know him as well as he knew her. Like her, he was extremely guarded, but she figured he would open up more when he was ready—she already knew him better than anyone else as it was. 

Still, Tom knew Alera wasn’t yet ready to hear about the Death Eaters. He could tell that she was struggling with herself over how well he understood her, Legilimency notwithstanding. Discovering something else so monumental would likely make her isolate herself again—something she always did when she had a lot to process—and she would only share her thoughts after developing a solid path forward. Her need for privacy wrestled with the thrill of his affection, as perverse as it was. Be that as it may, he knew he would win eventually. He always did.

In the meantime, he did his best to distract her when she came to him with questions about her friends’ avoidance. He feigned ignorance over their actions—read: their responses to his orders—and told her not to put too much energy into their Housemates. He would, of course, be more open with her than the lot of them combined! Though she suspected he was turning on the charm again, she admitted that she did enjoy spending time with him and so spoke with her friends less frequently.

Tom didn’t tell her that he was also facing some conflict with his comrades-turned-minions: tension between Abraxas and himself had escalated since all the boys had begun discussing the ball. Tom knew Alera had rebuffed Abraxas a few years prior, and it appeared that the blonde still fancied her—his comment on her appearance, delivered as a flippant thought, had obviously been a cover for jealousy. Jealousy that he was not hiding as well as he should have been.

Tom and Abraxas had always had a turbulent rapport—Abraxas proudly considered Tom his best friend, not understanding that Tom had no friends, and tagged after the charismatic boy in hopes of further improving his reputation. He hadn’t a clue that the Head Boy socialized for appearances only, and to attract new followers. Abraxas fancied himself Tom’s favorite Death Eater. Tom let the pompous boy think whatever he wanted, as long as he followed orders without complaint. The Malfoy name had been synonymous with power and prestige for decades, and Abraxas would do whatever was necessary to continue the tradition—even if it meant following orders from a domineering peer. He would never admit that Tom often scared him, with his callous disregard for others and the brutal tests for his initiates.

On top of that, Tom was now dating the girl he fancied. Granted, his interest was fading as other girls had virtually thrown themselves at him over the past few years, but he was still a bit sore from Alera’s rejection. Malfoy men were not accustomed to being spurned! And Abraxas could have sworn that Tom was flaunting the relationship in front of him, finding reasons to touch Alera whenever they socialized in the common room. He didn’t realize that Tom wasn’t even thinking of him. Tom saw Alera as a prize he’d earned through the fruits of his labor, and saw no reason to downplay his smug attitude in public.

And Merlin, the Head Boy appeared quite smug these days. 

*   *   * 

One Saturday afternoon, Tom and Alera were relaxing together in his room, having finished their homework for the weekend. They were lying on his bed in silence, until Alera turned to Tom and propped herself up on her elbow. A memory had suddenly surfaced in her mind and she needed to discuss it with him.

“Remember when you talked about...killing the parts of myself that I don’t like?” she asked tentatively.

“Of course,” he replied with a smirk. “How could I forget such an eventful evening?” 

She chuckled nervously. “Well...what did you mean by that, exactly? What did you...plan on doing?”

“You mean what do I plan on doing.”

“Oh! So you’ve—” 

“I would have broached the subject soon, anyway, yes. I knew you’d come to me eventually. No one can help you the way I can.”

“Okay, so...what do you plan on doing?” 

He climbed on top of her and pinned her wrists down by her head. She struggled for a moment, not at all interested in sex, but froze when she realized that he didn’t seem to be, either. He was staring her down, jaw set, barely blinking. 

“Tom, what are you—”

And then the memories began assaulting her.

Her erotic dream about Tom visiting her dorm...

How many times she’d imagined him touching her before the ball, before scolding herself for succumbing to his charm, even alone inside her head...

Her first crush in fourth year, which had alarmed her because she’d previously doubted her ability for romantic feelings...this had made her feel proud and superior to her classmates...Merlin, she hated feeling weak...

She whimpered at that last memory, and willed herself not to cry from sheer humiliation.

“Be strong, Alera!” Tom hissed into her ear as he brought her arms together to hold them down with one hand. “Feel your mental discipline increasing. Don’t let anyone take that from you. Know your own power, and use it!”

He caressed her breasts with his free hand, and then buried two fingers inside her.

“Ugghhh!” she growled. “Stop! Get out of my head, I can’t—”

He released her arms and slapped his other hand over her mouth. “If you want me out of your head, then force me out. Focus on that which will not interest me. Don’t make me even more curious—you know I don’t take no for an answer. I am not leaving your mind until you give me a reason.” 

She wasn’t able to achieve this just yet. The memories kept racing by— 

Abraxas Malfoy’s father making snide comments about her attitude after she’d rebuffed the boy’s request to dance at a party a few summers ago...

Her father yelling at her for, in Malfoy Senior’s words, how hard it would be for her to find a husband if she continued being such an uptight bitch...

Her parents forcing her to apologize to Abraxas for embarrassing him and rebuffing his advances—after realizing she was not courtship material, he exaggerated her rejection to his father in retaliation...  

Her desire for revenge, which she knew she couldn’t achieve as intensely as she wanted, because Abraxas had a better reputation than she...

Her ecstatic triumph when she’d caught Abraxas cheating off of her on an exam and yelled at him in front of the whole class...  

Her disgust for the petty romantic insecurities held by all, even families as privileged as the Malfoys...

Her vow to never sink so low as to allow her heart to control her—if she couldn’t reject a boy she didn’t fancy without having to apologize, then she could at least have the upper hand by increasing her immunity to such matters...  

“Yes, an admirable goal,” Tom drawled from somewhere inside her head. “Perhaps you still resist me because you know I can control you like no other. But don’t worry, gorgeous. I’ve no interest in romance, either. You’re safe from all of that nonsense with me.”

She merely groaned in response, futilely trying to block him from seeing more of her memories. How is he this powerful? she thought. He’s so young, and yet he feels ten times as powerful as I am! This is absurd.... 

“If you find your susceptibility to my probing so deplorable, then strengthen your defenses!” he snapped. “I want you to be powerful. Prove to me that you can achieve this!” 

“And what the fuck do you think I’m doing now?!” she shouted over the whirr of her memories.

“Being grossly unsuccessful. Prove to me that you’re better than this, Alera! Prove to me that you’re not weak. I chose you for a reason. Show me that my choice was wise!” He drove his fingers deeper inside her, sneering at her struggle to succumb to his touch over punching him for his mental invasion. She focused all her effort onto thinking of a boring homework assignment instead of her current position, which only worked for a brief moment as her inner walls tightened around Tom’s fingers. 

“I know how much my power arouses you,” he growled in her ear. “Perhaps you’ll one day block me from your mind, but you will never block me from your body. Give in. Now.”

His teeth clamped down on her neck while her body convulsed. She screamed in ecstasy and relief, noting that he was slowly withdrawing from her mind as pleasure tore through her. When she finally opened her eyes, he was kissing her throat and cupping her breasts. She stared blankly at the ceiling, unsure how to make sense of this bizarre altercation.

“You’re wondering what I just did, yes?” he murmured against her skin.

“You have to ask?!” 

Tom only smirked, lifting his head up and squeezing her breasts hard.

She pressed her palms against his shoulders to make him roll of her. He wouldn’t budge. Instead, he grabbed her hands and pinned them down again.

“Come on, let’s talk about it,” he teased in mock defeat while he smirked triumphantly. “Don’t push me away....” 

Alera rolled her eyes. “What’s there to talk about? You just invaded my privacy and now you’re fucking smiling about it while holding me captive.”

“Ah, yes, but you know me well. You should have come to accept this by now. And you know I have reasons for everything I do.”

“Questionable reasons at best.” 

He glared at her and gripped her face. “Don’t trifle with me, Alera. I’m trying to help you. If you stop being such an ungrateful brat, we’ll actually achieve something here.” 

They argued over Tom’s motives for a little while longer, the conversation ending with Alera begrudgingly accepting that he had a point: gaining strength required facing adversity head-on. Though he refused to elaborate, he told her that he’d had an enormously difficult childhood, and he would have likely ended up in a mental institution had he not pulled himself together and learned to grit his teeth through all the obstacles he’d faced.

“Are you calling me weak?!” she snarled.

“You have strength within you. You know this. The problem is that you’ve been avoiding the part of yourself you don’t like, assuming it will go away on its own. It won’t. you must tear it down like the impediment it is to remove it effectively. Only then will you achieve your full potential.”

“And you plan on eradicating this by reading my mind while...touching me?”

“Yes.”

She blinked. She couldn’t understand how such a procedure would ever work.

“That first foray was easy, dear,” he sneered. “In the future, I will withhold your climax until you attain the results I’m after.” He hiked up her skirt and ripped off her panties. “You’ll be strengthening your mental barriers the more I provoke you, and your reactions to the memories I see will gradually decrease over time. This will result in fewer embarrassments and more orgasms.” 

“Are you fucking serious?”

“Absofuckinglutely, you chaste, ladylike little princess!”

Before she could think of a smart retort, he buried his face in between her legs and began licking her clitoris. She gasped in surprise, hoping to simply lie back and enjoy the sensation, until a new wave of unpleasant memories came flooding through. As her legs shook and her hips rocked against Tom’s face, she bit her lip and resolved to increase her mental fortitude as soon as possible. And there was no telling how long that would take. Tom wouldn’t settle for less than the best.

*   *   * 

A few weeks into these bizarre sessions, Alera begrudgingly admitted that Tom’s plan was working—she wasgetting stronger. Every other night, he touched her while roving through her mind, repeatedly bringing her to the brink of orgasm and then pulling away until she learned to wring the emotion from her memories. On the off days, they simply talked. He picked apart her weak spots with brutal honesty, telling her exactly where those flaws had originated and how to best cull them. She found herself blushing from embarrassment less and less as the weeks passed, as she learned to see humiliation as a lesson to help her grow stronger.

As unorthodox as Tom’s methods were for whipping her into shape, a part of her began looking forward to his treatment. She felt proud for each soft spot she’d successfully stamped out with Tom’s help—namely her fear of losing her freedom and self-control. This fear currently manifested in worrying that she’d eventually care for Tom too much, which he could use against her. She’d grown accustomed to him taunting her about this fear, but he also kept her anticipation raging: his observations on her memories, and suggestions for shrinking her flaws, both scared her and fascinated her. He knew her better than anyone, and always had a new trick up his sleeve for making her think. He wouldn’t allow her to relax.

Soon, it wasn’t a matter of simply stimulating her and willing her to compartmentalize. She was getting better at that, so Tom decided it was time to up the ante. One night, her eyes flew open to find her wrists tied to the bedposts as Tom roved through her memories. 

“Concentrate,” he hissed in her ear. “Let nothing distract you. Show me how strong you are.” 

She jerked her arms, testing the ropes’ durability. They didn’t budge. “How did you—”

“The ropes don’t matter. Focus!”

And so the process continued. The stronger Alera grew, the more Tom challenged her. Sometimes he bound her wrists and ankles while she lay beneath him and slowly removed her clothing, leaving kisses where fabric had been as he tore through her thoughts. Other times, he blindfolded her and flipped her onto her stomach, holding her arms together behind her back and cutting off her circulation until she finally viewed a memory as a simple past event instead of an emotional rollercoaster. 

He praised her when she turned humiliation into murderous rage toward someone who had hurt her, and encouraged her to channel this anger into further strengthening her self-control.

And he punished her when results didn’t come fast enough. He often gripped her hair and sharply pulled her head back, allowing him room to viciously bite her neck until her thoughts veered away from self-loathing and powerlessness. Such reprimands usually worked, but he did need to slip in the occasional Cruciatus curse when she remained stuck on a negative thought pattern. She hated him during these moments, but he at least had the sense to pleasure her into oblivion afterwards. 

Unbeknownst to her, she wasn’t the only one exerting effort to remain focused during these sessions. Every time Tom surprised her with another act of dominance, he had to restrain himself from abandoning his forays into her mind and just letting loose. He usually fucked her as soon as he felt satisfied with her psychological progress, doing what he knew she liked, but he found himself wanting to push her sexually as well as emotionally. How much could he test her trust in him? How much could he scare her before she broke? How much pain could she withstand?

He’d spoken honestly after the ball, when he’d told her that she was his favorite study. He didn’t simply enjoy observing her thoughts; he was also using her to further test his ability to mold others in his image. This was an easy task with most people, who were gullible and easily swayed, but Alera was a different breed. Being wired much like he was, she could spot a mind game a mile away. He, too, was feeling challenged as he experimented with new ways to push Alera past her perceived limits and increase her faith in him. The task excited him, and he began craving these sessions with her.

He couldn’t simply speak charming words and make her yes him to death—though of course he loved when his Death Eaters parroted back his orders and sought his approval. They followed him out of fear and admiration, while Alera required more complex methods of coercion to make her respect him. And these methods were clearly working. 

Her unease around him never fully abated, but he eventually brought her to the point that she accepted his power over her. She answered his probing questions more readily, erected less resistance as he delved deeper and deeper into her psyche, and accepted his influence as a necessary ingredient in her growing strength. He was proud. Tom always wanted to influence the people around him, having already entertained thoughts of becoming a Hogwarts professor to further this agenda, and knew Alera’s progress was a product of his success in this venture. 

Her mental faculties strengthened considerably over the next few months, earning her a break from Tom’s “training.” He praised her progress one evening, as she lay beneath him with her arms bound together over her head. 

“You have achieved remarkable results over the past several weeks,” he purred in her ear as he freed her arms. “You make me proud.”

She was particularly exhausted from this session, which he’d spent digging through her early childhood. He had mocked her inability to blend in with the other Pureblood girls, with their frilly tea parties and plans for growing up to be dainty housewives. Little Alera had scoffed at such behavior, earning her the occasional slap from her father or tongue-lashing from her mother. Their punishments had not had their desired effect, instead making their headstrong daughter resent all rules and expectations. Now, years later, Tom was roving through these memories and reminding her how superior she was to these mindless brats who wanted nothing more than their parents’ approval.

Why would you even try to emulate them? he taunted inside her head. Why would you want to sink to their level? You know you’re better than they are. Show them. Show ME. 

She had done her best, replaying the memories with her speaking her mind instead of succumbing to peer pressure, and Tom was clearly pleased. 

Her head felt fuzzy as she grounded herself in the present moment. Though she was grateful to Tom for helping her grow stronger, she still resented him for taking such pleasure in her struggle to get there.

“Nothing to say, beautiful?” he teased. 

She shook her head.

“No matter. Your mouth can thank me another way.” 

“Did you really just say th—!” 

“Come on, my little fighter,” he interrupted. “Show me how much you appreciate my assistance.” He unbuckled his trousers and moved up her body until his groin was level with her face.

“Seriously?” she drawled as he propped her head up with an extra pillow and gripped the back of her skull.

“Seriously.” He wasn’t smiling anymore. 

Alera sighed and took him into her mouth. She moved robotically at first, licking the throbbing muscle as he slowly thrust in and out, before a surge of demonic rage overtook her. After all the time he’d spent gleefully tormenting her, she wanted revenge. She wanted to make him feel weak.

She grabbed the base of his cock, eliciting a low growl from his throat, and began rapidly moving her lips and tongue over the tip. He shuddered and squeezed her hair tighter when she gripped his testicles in her other hand. He nearly withdrew to curse her again, knowing that she was trying to take control, but he was enjoying her mouth too much to stop her.

They glared at each other as she worked him up, each vying for the upper hand and wanting to punish the other for taking it away. He twitched when he felt her teeth lightly press down a few times, before she began bobbing her head up and down. He clenched his teeth and moaned loudly. Merlin, the girl was talented....

It suddenly occurred to him that he couldn’t imagine engaging in such behavior with any other witch. This wasn’t just about sex and manipulation; he wanted her to reach his caliber—of emotional strength and magical prowess. He wanted to help her power grow to unparalleled levels, especially knowing that no one else could. He was training her to be stronger, so that she would be more useful to him; he also wanted bragging rights for being the only person who could get under her skin and improve her perceptions of herself. She was the most capable witch he’d ever met, and he saw her as a feather in his cap. He wanted to own her. And if another wizard existed who wished to compete with him, Tom would kill the man just to keep Alera all to himself. She was his. 

Just before his release hit, a snap of revulsion coursed through him at the thought of ever having a partner other than Alera. No one else would stand by him after seeing the blackened depths of his cruel heart. No one else would ever be attracted to more than his handsome face and superficial charm. 

He wondered how long it would take for Alera to realize exactly how serious he was about her.

*   *   *

The fire between Tom and Alera cooled a bit after he ceased digging through her mind every other night—and also as they devoted more of their time to NEWT preparations. The bulk of their time was now spent studying. 

Late one Saturday afternoon, Alera was working alone in the library. She and Tom normally studied together, but he’d cited needing some air that day. It was nearing dinner time and she had not seem him for several hours. She didn’t believe his reasons for disappearing, but knew better than to pry. She figured he would reveal more of his secrets eventually. 

Tom had, of course, slinked off to his latest Death Eater meeting, during which time he told his minions that he was planning to stay at Hogwarts after graduating. With Headmaster Dippet wrapped around his little finger, he felt confident that he could secure a teaching position—specifically Defense Against the Dark Arts. He would toe the line between teaching Defense and the Dark Arts themselves, slowly shaping future generations of students to adopt his beliefs until no one even batted an eye over his teachming methods. Later on, he would unabashedly teach the Dark Arts, presenting them as a method of protection. The gullible students, and their parents, would likely eat it all up.

He didn’t tell the Death Eaters his other reason for wanting to teach: he was positively attached to Hogwarts. He adored the school more than any person he’d ever met, and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it behind. Hogwarts was his home; and as such, he would ruthlessly defend his right to be there for the rest of his life.

Alera remained blissfully unaware of Tom’s hidden activities, and focused hard enough on her work that she didn’t even think about him much that day.

As she was reaching for a book, a pair of arms encircled her waist and abruptly pulled her away from the bookshelf. She gasped in surprise.

“I hope you haven’t been too lonely without me this afternoon,” Tom murmured.

She shook her head and slapped his arm playfully. “I don’t do lonely, you pain in the arse. You know that.”

Grinning, he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the corner of the bookshelves. No one could hear or see them from there.

“I cant wait to see you tonight,” he whispered in her ear, pressing her back against the wall. Before she could respond, he began kissing her deeply and rubbing her breasts. She would have protested, but he refused to let her pull away from the kiss. He reached around, grabbed her behind with both hands and pulled her closer so she could feel his arousal. She moaned softly and wrapped her arms around his back as he grinded into her several times, refusing to release her lips until breathing became difficult for both of them. 

“You can’t wait, can you!” she chuckled as he squeezed her buttocks and kissed her neck.

“I never can,” he whispered. “But that’s not the only reason I want you in my room. I have an important matter to discuss with you.” 

“Oh? What’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you tonight,” he replied, before kissing her forehead. “Come to my room immediately after dinner.”

And with that, he turned around and swept away. Alera slumped into the nearest chair with a heavy sigh.

Chapter Text

On her way to Tom’s room, Alera pondered the issue he would share with her. What could be so important that he couldn’t have just told her in the library? Her mind raced with the possibilities.

She planned on asking him as soon as she walked in the door, but he greeted her by slamming her against the wall and kissing her hard.

“I’ve been thinking about you all evening,” he murmured in her ear while unfastening her robe and tearing it off. It quietly fluttered to the floor.

“What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Later.”

Damn this girl! he thought as he buried his face in her neck and rubbed her hips. He’d planned on having a serious conversation, but the sight of her still often turned him into a lusting animal. And there was no sense in holding back when she was in his bloody bedroom.

She was about to protest his seduction, also hoping for this serious conversation, until he shoved his hand in between her legs and began rubbing. Her head fell back as she gripped his shoulders, her breath spiking as he continued kissing her neck. Her head was swimming by the time he pulled her forward forward and roughly pushed her down onto his bed. After peeling off her underwear, he hiked up her skirt and spread her legs wide.

“I see you’ve been thinking about me as well,” he remarked, smirking at her glistening folds. He hoisted her legs over his shoulders and pushed his tongue inside her. She grabbed the back of his head to pull him closer, but he moved her hands off of him and withdrew his tongue. Grinning wickedly, he forced her arms down above her head and rendered them immobile with a quick swish of his wand.

“You are the most evil man I know,” she groaned, trying hard not to return his smile as he crawled up her body. His power really was seductive.

“And you wouldn’t have it any other way,” he purred. He kissed her cheek and began massaging her breasts. 

She arched her back to try and increase the friction. He only chuckled before sliding two fingers inside her, moving them in a gentle rhythm.

“Faster,” she breathed.                                                        

“When I see fit,” he snapped, tightly grasping her hair with his free hand. He slipped in a third finger and slowed his pace even more. 

“Now...come on....” 

Instead, he removed his fingers and gripped her head in both hands. “If you tell me what to do one more time, I will bind your legs as well,” he threatened. “And you won’t like where I put them.”

He sneered as her eyes widened.

“You thought I hurt you after the ball,” he jeered. “I assure you, my little beauty, I can do much worse. And your reaction would thrill me to no end.”

Her heart began to pound as she tried to imagine what he could be thinking of doing to her. Would he bind her tightly enough to cut off her circulation? Cut her skin open? Use the Cruciatus curse again? All of the above? And Merlin, why was she so excited?

He grinned at the knowledge that she was both afraid and anxious to see how far he would go to exert his dominance over her. After kissing her forehead, he waved his wand over her body and her clothes disappeared. She gasped as the cool air hit her skin.

“I’ve wanted to do that to you for quite a while,” he chuckled. 

“How long?” she breathed. 

“Longer than I care to admit,” he mumbled against her breasts. She whimpered as he lightly sucked a nipple. He gradually sucked harder and harder, and she bit back a cry as pressure turned to pain.

“You know I hate when you do that,” he warned, tugging her chin down. “Don’t try to keep quiet. Let it out. Show me how much I affect you.”  

He slid down and pushed her thighs upward to lick them slowly. With every stroke of his tongue, he moved closer and closer to her entrance, never quite touching it. She whimpered as he firmly kissed the top of her pubic area, feeling her muscles clench in desire. He grinned at the desperation etched into her face.

“Remember what I told you,” he said darkly. “This can be very pleasurable, or very painful. It is your choice.”

“What...” was all she could muster in her delirium.

He smirked and pinched her clitoris hard. She squealed and arched her back. 

“Oh my god, fuck me. Please!” she growled, before even realizing what she’d done.

He shook his head. “Have it your way, then.”

Standing up to retrieve his wand, he slashed the instrument across her legs. Ropes materialized and wound around her ankles. Tom moved his wand upward slowly, and the ropes fastened themselves around the top of his bedposts. Alera’s legs were now spread wide, and the ropes allowed her no leeway to bend her knees. She began panting heavily, struggling against her bonds—and her rising panic. This was not an enjoyable position. 

Tom regarded her, expressionless, while he removed his clothes. Only after he’d climbed atop her shaking form did his face break into a broad grin. 

“I have never seen you look so beautiful,” he murmured in her ear.

“I can’t...I don’t like this....”

“That’s the point of this exercise. I bloody warned you.” 

After running his thumbs over her nipples, he began massaging them between his thumb and index fingers. She moaned as he squeezed harder, not stopping until she cried out in pain. He bit his lip to counteract each twitch of his cock every time she screamed—he couldn’t give in just yet. She hadn’t earned it.

“Do you regret defying me now?” he asked softly. 

“Yes....” she whimpered as he nuzzled her breasts and kissed her swollen nipples.

“Good,” he replied with a smirk.  “However, I’ve half a mind to provoke you again...”

He nipped at her neck.

“And again...”

He lightly brushed his lips against hers.

“And again...”

He kissed her cheek. 

“Just so I can torture you like this more often.”

He smirked victoriously while stroking her hair, loving the way her breath hitched each time he touched her.

She growled and turned her head away from him, while struggling in vain to free her legs.

He grasped her hair near the top of her head and forced her to face him again, before smashing his lips onto hers. Massaging her scalp, he forced her head back and left a trail of hard kisses down her throat and across her collarbone. She moaned loudly as he bit into her neck and roughly squeezed her left breast, before releasing her neck for a brief moment while shoving two fingers inside her. She was panting so hard by this point, she worried that she would hyperventilate. However, those sensations were minimal compared to the moment he bit down harder than ever, while stimulating her even faster. She screamed and wailed as he opened his mouth wider and bit her harder still, along her shoulder and up her neck, drawing blood each time. A few tears leaked from her eyes as he licked the carmine marks, pressing his tongue down hard against her neck.

“Shhhhh,” he whispered before kissing her tears away. After a few deep, shaky inhalations, her attempt to control her breathing flew out the window when he bit her again, practically crushing the skin. He tasted blood again and sucked harder, driven mad with morbid, selfish desire. Nothing mattered to him now except satisfying his brutish cravings. He no longer cared about taking the time to make her feel close to him; all he wanted now was to permanently brand her as his whenever he could, whenever the urge struck him, regardless of how she felt about it.

Perhaps losing control around her wasn’t all that bad—as long as he kept her under his control. He begrudgingly admitted that letting loose with her was too enjoyable, anyway. 

He continued biting and sucking harder, relishing her anguish and the blood now flowing freely, and only pulled back when he felt the skin detach. He admired his handiwork while removing his fingers from her body, hoping to stall a bit longer before turning his attention to her desires. Had he possessed a camera, he would have taken a few pictures. Maybe one day.... 

Placing his wand on her neck, he murmured a spell to heal the skin. As her breathing gradually returned to normal, he took a minute to regain his self-control. He knew he had to satisfy her now, so she would keep coming back to him for more; he couldn’t just ravage her and then leave her out to dry.

“I will reward you now,” he whispered in her ear. He slid down her body and traced random patterns on her sex with his tongue. Her breath hitched again. He placed several firm kisses over the pink flesh, then grasped her hips and shoved his tongue inside. She moaned as he stimulated her, not stopping until her explosive release flooded into his mouth. He parted his lips wide and sucked all the fluid out, groaning with pleasure—he loved the taste of her more than he wanted to admit. She bit her lip as he placed soft kisses across her lower belly.

“My legs....” she begged softly.

“Of course,” he replied with a sigh, barely hiding his disappointment. He stood up and moved his wand horizontally above his head. The ropes vanished and her legs slumped back onto the mattress. She moaned in relief, not five seconds before he began thrusting inside her. 

“I’ll release your arms if you promise not to use your nails...much,” he drawled. “I’m curious now.” 

“Curious about what?”

“I released my inner beast, and now I want to see yours.” 

“Then how come you said not much?”

He sighed, knowing she was right. He didn’t want her to inflict the kind of pain he had caused her; but he was also dying to know how far she could go, knowing he wouldn’t punish her for it.

“We’ll see,” he replied, pointing his wand at her wrists to free them. She wrapped her legs around his waist and snaked her arms around his back, panting hard as he slipped his hand in between their bodies and began rubbing her clitoris. She arched into him and dug her nails into his shoulders.

“You bitch....” he growled.

“I could do worse,” she replied with a sneer. “I’m just as twisted as you, remember?”

“I can’t argue with that, love,” he drawled, circling her clitoris harder and thrusting faster. She bared her teeth and scratched her nails down his back as roughly as she could. He growled in pain. Noting his struggle with himself, she decided to milk this opportunity for all it was worth. She cackled and continued raking his back, until he grabbed her wrists and pinned them down. 

“No more!” he declared, as he continued pumping viciously. “But let’s see you try and change that.”

She struggled to free her arms, but he only sneered and held her down more firmly.

“You know you’ll never escape, but I want you to try, just so I can show you this. Struggle as hard as you can. I dare you.” 

She writhed and tried in earnest to break free, though his brute strength prevented her from moving much at all. He continued thrusting harder and harder, and she arched her hips to meet his every time. They kept up their heated rhythm for several minutes, panting and moaning until he exploded inside her and collapsed onto her body. 

Fully spent, he closed his eyes and rested his head in the crook of her neck, kissing it occasionally. She slipped her legs back down to the mattress and placed her hands on his biceps, but otherwise made no attempt to move.

They lay still until he finally stood up and cast a cleansing spell on both of them. Once they’d dressed and made themselves look presentable, he took her hand and led her out of his room.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“I’m answering your earlier question. There’s something I want to show you.”

Alera followed Tom out of his room and down to the second floor. She hesitated as he walked toward the girls’ bathroom, but he merely smirked and motioned for her to follow him inside. Alera’s eyes narrowed as they approached one of the sinks. She was about to ask for an explanation when Tom opened his mouth—only, it didn’t sound like he was speaking. He was hissing like a snake.

“Oh my god!” she exclaimed. “You did not tell me you’re a Parselmouth!”

“I just told you now.” He smirked as the sinks slowly began to separate, leaving a gaping chasm in the floor. Alera’s eyes widened as she peered over the edge.

“You’re joking.” 

“Not at all.”

Before Alera could think of a clever reply, Tom plunged straight into the abyss.

“Are you INSANE?!” she called after him. She heard Tom land with a soft thud.

“Your turn!” he called out cheerfully.

“I’m not coming down there!” she yelled.

“Oh, yes you are!” 

She scoffed. “And what happens if I don’t?” 

“Do you really want to try my patience?” He didn’t sound so cheerful anymore. 

She shook her head. “I must be out of my mind,” she mumbled to herself, before taking a deep breath and jumping in.

She began falling down a gigantic slide. After about ten thrilling yet terrifying seconds, she crashed to the floor.

“Ugh!” she groaned, feeling several pointed objects digging into her. Tom was standing a few feet away, grinning broadly. When she stood up, she noticed that the floor was littered with bones.

“Oh, wow!” she breathed. She had completely forgotten about the bizarre entrance into this room and was staring at all the bones as if she were in the largest volt at Gringotts.

“You think it’s beautiful, don’t you.”

“Yeah!”

“I knew you would, you morbid little minx.”

“What is this place?” she giggled. They were surrounded by huge stone archways, which formed tunnels leading in different directions.

“You’ll know soon enough.”

“Oh, come on. Tell me!”

He simply shook his head and motioned for her to follow him through one of the tunnels. She obeyed. They soon arrived at a circular door with seven stone snakes embossed around it, spread out from a shared point to form a web. Tom hissed, and the door rumbled open.

Alera smiled and shook her head in disbelief, still shocked to learn that Tom was a Parselmouth. It almost didn’t surprise her, though; he was the epitome of Slytherin aesthetic. Salazar Slytherin himself would surely have been proud of the young man. 

“There’s a ladder here,” Tom announced, bringing Alera out of her reverie. She watched as he turned around and climbed down the ladder before following.

Before them was a room the size of the Great Hall. There were seven stone statues of gigantic snake heads on either side, forming two rows from the ladder to the opposite end of the room. Tom took her arm and led her to the very end, where the figure of an old man was carved out of the entire wall.

“Who is that?" 

“I’ll tell you soon. For now, just watch.” He wasn’t sure what thrilled him more: what he was about to show Alera, or how she might react. And it wouldn’t hurt to keep her in suspense for another moment.

She sighed as he raised his right arm and spoke more Parseltongue, prompting a loud rumbling to resonate from behind the statue. The mouth of the statue began to open to reveal a dark tunnel behind the wall.

“What’s that noise?” Alera demanded as Tom moved behind her to slip his arms around her waist.

“Tom, let me go!” she protested, squirming in his grip. “Tell me what’s going on!”

He only held her tighter and smirked before delivering the ominous warning. “Close your eyes, love.”

Chapter Text

Alera couldn’t move. And she certainly wasn’t closing her eyes. She turned to look at Tom suspiciously, and he placed his hand over her eyes.

“Tom, what are you doing?!” she screeched. She tried to scoot away from him, and he shook his head in frustration while strengthening his grip on her.

“Trust me,” he snapped. “I’m saving your life.”

“What?!” 

Alera’s heart raced as the distant rumbling grew louder, finally morphing into a colossal growl. Tom uttered more Parseltongue, and Alera felt something cold and rough brush against her legs. She would have jumped back had Tom not been holding her in place.

“What was that?!”

“That was the tail of a basilisk, the largest and most deadly snake in the world.”

“What?? What do you mean? Why are we even near one?! How—”

He clamped his other hand over her mouth and spoke directly into her ear. “Look directly into its eyes, and you will perish.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” she shouted, as soon as he lifted his hand.

“Alera, calm down. The snake already knows not to look at me. It obeys my every command.”

“WHAT?? Why does it listen to you? I don’t underst—”

Tom covered her mouth again before dropping the bomb. “I am the Heir of Slytherin!”

She stopped breathing momentarily, even after he took his hand off her mouth and began stroking her arm.

He spoke to the basilisk again and it seemed to grow calmer, judging by the sound of its movements. 

“What did you just say to it?” 

“I’ve instructed it to evade you the way it evades me.”

“How—are you serious?” 

“Completely. Now, open your eyes.” 

Alera inhaled as Tom stepped back, and cautiously looked around. The basilisk was slithering around the chamber before the couple, making a point to look away from them. Alera stared at the giant beast in awe, only returning her focus to Tom when he slipped his arms around her stomach and pulled her back against his chest. 

“You should feel honored,” he murmured, and placed a firm kiss to her neck. “No one else gets to see this, unless they’re a worthless Mudblood with the great misfortune of looking into the snake’s eyes.” 

He let Alera absorb this information before releasing her. After standing silently for a moment, she whirled around and gasped. 

“This is the Chamber of Secrets!”

“Yes. And that,” he continued, gesturing to the statue, “is Salazar Slytherin.” 

“Holy shit...” she laughed softly, shaking her head as Tom took her hand.

He led her to the right and behind the last snake statue, where a narrow opening in the wall led to a bedroom. A black desk and chair were situated against the wall to the left, next to a few rows of bookshelves. Against the opposite wall was a large bed. Tom pulled Alera toward it, where they sat facing one another.

“How did you...” Alera didn’t know how to verbalize all the questions racing through her mind.  

Tom smiled. “I discovered the Chamber purely by accident. I’ve always known I could speak with snakes, and somehow that bathroom caught my attention in fifth year. I wasn’t sure why, but when I walked in, I discovered that one of the sinks had two snakes carved out of it. I spoke Parseltongue, asking whatever was behind the carving to reveal itself, and the entrance to the Chamber opened up to me.” 

“How did the basilisk not kill you?”  

“The first time I entered the chamber, I asked whoever or whatever was behind the statue to speak its identity, and the basilisk revealed itself. It also told me that I was Salazar Slytherin’s last remaining ancestor. His heir.” 

“Oh, wow,” Alera whispered.

“I already knew of Slytherin’s mission before entering the Chamber, so all I had to do was tell the basilisk to kill all the Mudbloods in the school. Unfortunately, it’s only succeeded once so far.” 

“That’s what killed Myrtle.” 

“Yes.”

“I knew you had something to do with this; I just had this feeling.” She looked down at the blanket, suddenly feeling overly exposed. She worried she had revealed too much and he would hurt her again.

Tom scooted closer and tilted her chin up. “I know you did,” he replied sternly. “That’s what piqued my curiosity. I noticed immediately when you started staring at me during meals. I knew you were trying to read my response to the...unfortunate events.” 

He grinned, and Alera found it difficult to suppress a smile of her own, as overwhelmed as she was.  

“You insisted that I was weaving meanings where there weren’t any,” he went on, “but I knew you were lying.”

Alera bit her lip and averted her eyes.

“Look at me,” Tom commanded.

She couldn’t.

He pushed her down onto the mattress, and straddled her to trap her legs between his. Sliding his hand into her hair, he bunched it into his fist and tugged her head back. She winced.

“Look. At. Me.” 

She tentatively looked up and bit her lip again as his stare pierced through her.

“What do I have to do to convince you that you can hide nothing from me? Alera Desiree Vega, I know everything about you. You need to accept that. You have no other choice.” 

He moved her head to the side and ran his nose along her shoulder and up her throat. 

“Your scent is intoxicating,” he whispered in her ear before biting her neck with a low growl. He chuckled against her skin as she screamed, and licked her skin slowly before looking into her eyes again.

“Now, as I was saying,” he continued, as if nothing had happened. “You are an open book to me, now that I have you in close proximity all the time. I got a glimpse of your mind before I really began to take an interest in you, and what I saw caught my attention. Your suspicion of me...the way you responded when I confronted you about your scrutiny...your dismissal of my threat to make you fear me if you didn’t stop trying to figure out my involvement in the attacks...all of that drew me in. You flat-out lied to my face and didn’t even flinch. No one else could ever do that! I only knew you were lying because I read your mind, and what I saw made me want to learn more about you. I told you this already, but you don’t seem to fully understand. You still try to hide from me, and you still resist my power.  What do I have to do to make you stop this dangerous behavior?”

“Dangerous?” she shot back incredulously.

“Dangerous for you, my beautiful girl. I’ve warned you never to resist me. I’ve told you how my mind works, and you know I have no problem using anyone for my benefit. Even you. Though I admit to becoming partial to you, don’t think that that will save you if you continue to defy me. I told you this less than an hour ago. I’ve told you that when you resist me and I punish you for it, your pain becomes my pleasure. The more I violate you, the more I enjoy you.”

Her heart rate sped up dramatically—whether from fear or arousal, she couldn’t tell, though it was likely a mixture of both. Her body reacted when he talked like that, whether she wanted it to or not. 

“What are you thinking about?” she asked him suddenly, desperate to change the subject. 

“Earlier tonight.”

“What about tonight?”

“In my room, I disrobed you with a quick swish of my wand—remember I told you I’d wanted to do that for a long time?”

“Yes....” 

“I won’t tell you how long I’d harbored that desire, but I’ll share this much now: when I visited you in your dorm after our little incident outside the library, I was dying to take you. Your resistance infuriated me so much, I wanted nothing more than to rape you on the spot.”

And she wanted nothing more than to punch him in the face. For the umpteenth time that year. And so much for changing the subject! 

“If I hadn’t been treading such a fine line with you, I would have tied you down the first time you tried to move away from me that evening,” he jeered. “I would have cast a Silencing spell around your bed, ripped your clothes off, and fucked you until you accepted that you were mine. You caught a glimpse of that frustration after the ball, as I’m sure you recall.”

She nodded slowly, glaring up at him. I knew there was something about him, she thought as her lips curled into a snarl.

“You’re only noticing this now?” Tom laughed loudly. “You giggle when I tell you I’m a murderer; and yet you fear the slightest hint of my impure intentions toward you. Merlin, Alera, you are one peculiar girl.”

She sighed loudly and rolled her eyes. 

“...And yes, there is quite a formidable something about me. That something is what makes our Housemates do whatever I tell them. That something allows me to wrap anyone around my little finger without them even realizing it. That something makes me want to maim and kill anyone I deem inferior. That something drew me to you and spawned quite a unique attraction, intensely physical and uncommonly possessive. That something makes me want to slit the throat of any male who looks at you with even a hint of lust in his eyes. And trust me, this has happened more than once.” 

He paused to run his tongue up her throat. “You don’t realize how impossibly gorgeous you are, do you,” he continued. “Your luscious body...your brilliant mind...your lawless heart...you thought I was joking when I suggested that no one had asked you to the ball because they feared you. I meant it. A few boys had their eyes on you, but they were too afraid of you to make a move. They may not realize what you’re capable of, but they have enough sense to steer clear of your temper—and your wand.” He chuckled. “This is what attracts me to you. This is why I can never get enough of you.”

Alera started to respond, but Tom clamped his hand over her mouth. “We’re not finished yet,” he declared, and ripped her robe open.

“I love what I see here,” he murmured, running his hand across her forehead and kissing it. “You fear me and you desire me. That’s what I’ve always wanted from you. You’re finally accepting your fate, and that makes me proud.” He slowly glided his index finger down the side of her face. “It makes me want to reward you.”

His words caused goosebumps to race down her arms, and she sighed as he once again waved his wand and made her clothes disappear. After casting the same spell on himself, he pulled her arms together above her head. A rope sprang forth from his wand and bound her wrists together, and then extended outward on opposite sides to latch onto the bed posts. She balled her hands into fists and squirmed.

Merlin, he loved restraining her. It was in such a position that he could best see her fear and desire rolled into one—she had no choice but to accept that he would do what ever he wanted to her. And even underneath her independent spirit, he knew she liked it. 

“I love watching you writhe,” he murmured, and began squeezing her breasts. She arched into his hands and sighed. 

“Don’t move your legs,” he commanded. He climbed off of her and ran the tip of his wand across her ankles. Ropes wound around them and spread to the other two bed posts.

“Now move them back as far as you can,” he instructed. She thought he was just tormenting her, but found that she could move her feet back and bend her knees to expose herself to him.

He sighed in delight and ran his palms down her stomach. “I want to reward you,” he repeated. “I promise you will enjoy this.” He slipped two fingers inside her and slowly massaged.

He stopped after a little while and licked his fingers clean. How was he so enthralled with such an activity? How did her taste making his bloody mouth water? His neck twitched as he wrestled with himself over the girl’s effect on him.

“I could drink you up,” he mumbled before he could stop himself.

Her eyes widened. He merely sneered.

He kissed his way down her lower belly and inserted his tongue, opening his mouth wide as he sucked. Pain shot through her and she bit back a moan; he was roughly nibbling on the swollen flesh as he drove his tongue deep and growled softly. She was panting by the time he stopped.

“Had enough?” he taunted, holding her hips down to further restrict her movement. 

“I—” 

“I’ll take that as a no.” 

“Ahh...” she moaned loudly, trying to squirm as he licked her clitoris. He stopped for a moment and regarded her flushed face. “I’ll release your hips if you move as little as possible.”

She nodded, biting her lip and balling her hands into fists.

“Press against me if you want, but keep your hips raised. Don’t move them.” He roughly groped her, making sure his palm pressed against her clitoris. “This is mine,” he declared. “Show me you understand this. Offer yourself to me.” 

Without waiting for a response, he began licking her again. She immediately arched her hips, pressing her throbbing sex against his face as much as she could. He licked faster and with more pressure until the pleasure rippled through her body. She gasped and tried not to move, but instead pressed into his face even harder as her hips rocked up and down. He let her ride out her orgasm, and then forced her hips down again. 

“I warned you not to move,” he admonished. 

“I’m sorry...I’m sorry....” she gasped, hoping desperately to avoid another punishment. It was not to be.

Tom grabbed his wand and traced it across Alera’s lower belly, and a new rope formed. It pressed her hips into the bed and wound around the bottom of the bed frame, completely trapping her. She couldn’t move her hips at all now.

“That rope will dig into your flesh the more you struggle,” Tom warned her, smirking triumphantly as she took in another shaky breath. He watched her face for another moment, and then resumed his sensual assault on her clitoris. She moaned loudly and growled, trying her hardest not to struggle against the new rope.

“Tom, please....” she begged, but he would not relent. He was enraged by her impact on him, frustrated with her resistance, and beyond aroused. And he wanted her to pay.

She wailed and her legs convulsed as several more orgasms rapidly ripped through her. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and she lost track of how many time she’d come before he finally stopped. 

She felt a sharp pain across her lower belly as he sucked out all the fluid. When he seemed satisfied, he touched the rope with his wand and it disappeared. He grinned broadly, noting that his earlier prediction had been correct.  Rubbing her waist, he licked all the blood off of her stomach.

“You are beyond delicious,” he breathed. “I want more.” 

He crawled up her body to grip her hair, and forced her head down to the side. She didn’t even have time to catch her breath before he sank his teeth into her neck, intent on breaking the skin as quickly as possible. He easily could have used his wand to accomplish this, but he wanted the satisfaction of feeling her flesh give under his teeth. He growled deep in his throat as he tasted blood. Alera screamed, eliciting an erotic shudder from Tom. He didn’t release her neck until the tension locked his jaw. 

Lifting his head up, he saw that her face was streaked with tears. He slowly licked them up and then sucked the fresh drops of blood off of her neck. 

“You are my favorite taste,” he whispered in her ear. She sighed loudly as he touched the tip of his wand to her abdomen, producing the now-familiar coldness enveloping her womb just before he plunged into her. As ravaged as her core was, she did enjoy the feel of him thrusting deep. She wanted to arch her hips upward to meet his, but she had no energy left. All she could do was helplessly lie there and receive him. She lost track of time as her thoughts blurred.

Tom felt more fulfilled than he had in months. He’d finally shown Alera just how much she impacted him, by letting loose and performing all the horrendous acts he’d wanted to commit since the previous summer. And she was clearly still attracted to him, little masochist that she was. In his eyes, she was perfect—dark enough to appreciate his sadism, while headstrong enough to warrant punishment from time to time. He couldn’t get enough. 

After he rode out his release, he nestled his face in the crook of her neck and reached into her hair to massage her scalp. He inhaled deeply and kissed her neck several times before pointing his wand at her wrists and ankles. The ropes disintegrated. Alera winced as she tried to move her stiffened arms, which she only accomplished with Tom’s help, massaging them to ease the soreness. She moaned softly in relief.

Sitting up, he propped her ankles up on his legs and rubbed the rope-burned skin. She gasped loudly, having been unaware of the sensation with her adrenaline pumping. Calm had now given way to searing pain.

“Shhh,” he whispered. “Relax your body, Alera. You should enjoy this. This should soothe you.” 

She sighed and focused on breathing deeply for the next few minutes, until Tom stopped massaging and kissed the inside of her right ankle. Her breath hitched when he trailed several slow kisses up her leg. As his lips traveled up her inner thigh, her heart began to pound again.

“No more...please....” she whimpered.

Tom chuckled. “Don’t worry, beautiful. I just want to kiss you now.” His lips moved farther up her thigh, and he spread her legs to place firm kisses all over her pubic area. She was about to protest when he buried his tongue inside her, sucking for a moment before dragging his tongue up to the valley in between her breasts. He sucked her nipples before kissing his way back up to her neck, taking his time on both sides of her body. She moaned quietly and wrapped her arms around his back. After a few minutes, he pressed his lips to hers and coaxed his tongue into her mouth. They kissed slowly until Tom withdrew. 

“We’ll sleep here tonight,” he murmured, and moved off of her. Alera merely nodded as Tom snaked his arms around her and pulled her against his chest. Just before she fell asleep, she thought she heard Tom whisper in her ear, “Any normal man would be a fool not to fall in love with you.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Tom and Alera laid awake in silence long after they woke. As it was Saturday, they didn’t need to be anywhere in particular. They simply lay together without speaking, until Tom untangled himself from Alera and sat up. She stretched and turned over to face him. 

“Did you...” She wasn’t sure how to phrase her question. 

“Did I what?” 

“Did you...say something about love last night?” 

His expression turned cold. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Really.” She was not convinced.

“What do you think I said?”

“You said something about falling in love with me, but—you told me you see love as weakness. I was really confused; but I was half-asleep, so maybe I heard you wrong...”

Tom continued to hold her gaze with his frosty stare. He said nothing.

Alera’s eyes narrowed. “What? What is it?”

Tom laid down next to her, propped himself up on his elbow and rested his chin in his hand. “Are you in love with me?” he asked with a smirk.

He wants me to love him so he can use that as one more way to overpower me, she grumbled inside her head.

Tom climbed on top of her with a growl.

“Oh, Alera, if you try my patience one more time....” 

“I wasn’t trying to! I just thought—” 

Tom pressed his lips together and leaned in, so his mouth touched hers as he spoke. “Answer me,” he commanded.  “Are you in love with me?”

“I—I don’t know...I’m not sure how I feel. I may not be capable of love, either...I’ve never—” 

“Don’t even try it,” he shot back. “I know you’re capable of love. Your family loves you, even though they don’t know all about you like I do. You know how to love because you have been loved. I have not. I’ve never had a home. Every summer, I return to the cursed orphanage where I grew up, with no visitors apart from that old bastard Dumbledore, who came to see me when I was eleven so he could tell me about Hogwarts.”

“What??” 

“I’m not joking. This is my life. That is how I grew up. And this...” he gestured to the room and the main chamber beyond, “this is where I want to be. I am done with the Muggle world.”

Alera was speechless.

“This is not about me, though,” he continued. “I’ll ask you one more time: are you in love with me?” 

I don’t know,” she insisted.

He sighed, knowing it was true as he probed into her mind.

“You want me to love you.”

“I want your admiration and respect in whatever form that takes,” he said gruffly. “I told you before that you belong to me. I want your mind...” He glided his fingertips over her forehead. “Your body...” He caressed her waist and her left breast. “And your heart.” He splayed his palm in between her breasts, feeling her heart beat. “All of this is mine.” He began to kiss her hard before she had a chance to respond, gripping the back of her head in one hand and her breast in the other. He released her after a few minutes and then kissed her neck. “Mine,” he breathed. 

“But you told me—you said love was weakness. I thought you liked me strong.”

“I like you strong overall, but powerless against my will. I am your biggest weakness—as I should be. I own you, Alera.”

“I—I don’t—” 

“I dare you to protest,” he jeered. “I dare you to tell me that I don’t have complete control over you.”

Her eyes dropped to the mattress and she flexed her fingers nervously.

“I repeat: you are mine. In every conceivable manner. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

He smiled down at her, basking in her unease once more. She only relaxed when he sat up and motioned for her to do the same.

“I told you yesterday that I had an important matter to discuss with you,” he began.

“...And being the Heir of Slytherin wasn’t it?” Alera drawled.

“Not exactly,” Tom replied with a smirk. “It certainly helps, but it’s not enough.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“It’s not enough for me to command the basilisk to kill Mudbloods; I despise having to keep my violent desires to myself. I don’t want to hide anymore. I want an army at my fingertips, ready to do my bidding at any given moment. I want to kill those who betray me. I want to take over the entire Wizarding world.” 

“WHAT?”

“I’m completely serious, Alera. I want the Wizarding world under my thumb, and I want you beside me. I want you to rule with me. I want you to help me defeat our opposition. There will be a war at some point.”

She blinked, staring at him in bewilderment, before her lips pursed into a sneer. “And if I choose not to pick a side?”

“Why on Earth would you do that? I am offering you power and glory and—”

“Would you hurt me if I remained neutral? I’ve no interest in the stresses of ruling the world and making enemies. I have no interest in politics. My biggest concern in life is my freedom and safety, and to Hell with everything else. You know that. Would you hurt me if I just sequestered myself alone and spent my life doing my own thing?”

“I can’t believe you would even ask!” Tom snapped. “You’re either with me or against me, Alera. You cannot afford to seek a middle ground that does not exist. And I don’t have to tell you what happens to those who stand against me.” 

Alera’s upper lip twitched as her eyes burned in fury. She said nothing.

“Do you want to rot on the Chamber floor for refusing me? I’ll feed you to the basilisk right now if you protest.”

“Are you shitting me?!” 

Tom turned toward the main hall and began speaking Parseltongue.

“OKAY, OKAY! Merlin, don’t fucking kill me!” 

Tom folded his arms and regarded her with a frown, eyebrows raised expectantly. 

“I—I need some time to think, Tom. I never would have expected you to say something like this. I never—I’ve never wanted something like this.” 

“Of course. I realize that it’s a lot to take in, and I will give you some time to mull it over. Also, know that I have already started to build a following here at school, and my recruits know not to turn against me under pain of death. We’ve been meeting every so often for the past couple of years—sometimes in the Forbidden Forest after hours.” 

Alera’s eyes widened. “So THAT’S where you’re going in the middle of the night!”

“Yes. I’ve always wanted you to be a part of this, but I delayed telling you until now. I wanted to make sure I had brought you close to me first.” He reached out and stroked her cheek, and then moved his hand down over her heart. “I also didn’t tell you because I don’t view you as a mere follower—you’re better than that. You’re worth more to me than a servant. I want you by my side. Always.” 

She opened her mouth to speak, but could find no words. Her breath was now coming in shallow gasps. 

“I still—I don’t know know, Tom. This all sounds a little ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous?! How dare you say such—” 

“I really would like to just live out my life in peace and ignore the world as much as I can. I don’t want more responsibility than is necessary to survive. I don’t care about people. I want to do what I want, and I’m sick of having to do what other people want me to do, just to stay out of harm’s way.” 

Tom looked at her like a disobedient child scrambling for an excuse to escape punishment. “Ruling with me, you could do what you wanted! You’d have power! Freedom! How could you even consider the alternative?” he admonished. “And besides—you know me, Alera. You’re far too logical to stand against me.”

Silence.

“You know I’m right; don’t even think about denying it.” 

More silence. 

“I told you that your becoming mine was not something to be taken lightly,” he added, more gently. “This is why.”

She glared at her lap.

“Take some time to think it through,” Tom insisted, resting his hand on her knee. “You should know that accepting my offer will mean that you’d never have to downplay your temper to anyone. The world will fear you as much as it will fear me. Together, you and I will be unstoppable. Remember that.” 

“I’ll think about it,” she muttered.

*   *   *

Alera was highly distractable for the remainder of the weekend. She tried in earnest to focus on her homework, and went so far as to virtually live in the library, but Tom kept creeping into her thoughts. 

Together, you and I will be unstoppable.

She couldn’t deny feeling extremely flattered that someone as powerful and intelligent as Tom wanted her as his partner in crime, but she also wondered how clear-headed he was. Apart from that maniac Grindelwald from the East—whom she doubted would succeed in England—she’d never known anyone to want to take over the Wizarding world, and she was struggling to process everything Tom had told her. Why did he want the responsibility of being in charge of so many people?  

I want you by my side. Always. 

He had all but asked her to marry him. How could he be so sure that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her? Everyone knew that some of their peers were marrying young for political reasons, but Tom didn’t seem to be thinking about privilege and convenience; he simply wanted her. And she wasn’t trying to leave the relationship. Since no one was pressuring him to marry young, what was the rush to make their union permanent? They were still only teenagers—though Tom seemed to have bypassed typical teenage immaturity, and was already thinking and planning out his life like an adult. A highly maniacal adult, Alera thought as she packed up her books on Sunday evening and began walking to the library door. She was so lost in thought that she nearly jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She quickly turned around and sighed. Tom was looking down at her with a quizzical expression, his head cocked to one side.

“You need to stop sneaking up on me like that,” she scolded.

“You’re not that hard to find,” he replied with a small smile. “I don’t need to be a Legilimens to know that you’re hiding in the library again. Are you now finding your schoolwork too difficult? Your marks haven’t dropped at all, last I checked.” His grin broadened. “I could certainly help you if you’re having trouble. NEWTs are very important exams, you know.” 

Alera rolled her eyes and strode out of the library. 

He was behind her in an instant, grabbing her shoulders tightly. She slumped and he loosened his grip on her. Keeping one hand on her shoulder, he guided her down a hallway away from the library. She turned to face him when he released her.

“Don’t turn away from me again,” he murmured, taking a step toward her. She edged backward until she was up against the wall.

“What is it?” she asked softly as he moved closer.

“I just wanted to see how you were doing. And I’m glad I did. You seem very stressed.” He stroked her cheeks with his thumbs and then slowly ran his hands down her arms, stopping to take her hands in his.

“I don’t know what to do, Tom,” she confessed. “I never thought I’d be in a situation like this. This is all happening so fast. We’ve barely been together for any time at all, and now I’m supposed to commit myself to you forever?” 

“Yes.”

Her eyes widened.

“What’s the problem? I made my intentions clear—not that you needed clarification, perceptive as you are. Why the surprise?”

“Tom, I...look, you told me to take some time to think about it, and I need more than the weekend. I can’t make a snap decision about something like this. I need time to think. I need space. I need—I need to be alone for a while.”

Tom visibly tensed, then closed the distance between them. Planting his legs on either side of hers, he pressed his forearms against the wall behind her to box her in. He leaned in and kissed her cheek.

“Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me to be away from you?” he purred in her ear, trying to melt her resistance once more. He brushed her hair back and kissed her neck several times. “You’re asking a lot of me.”

Alera shivered, as his face was still buried in her neck as he spoke, and then she laughed sardonically. “I’m asking a lot of you? Tell me that was a joke. You’re just trying to charm me again....” 

Tom frowned and withdrew to look into her eyes. “I don’t like it. I don’t like being away from you and not knowing how you are.” 

“You mean you don’t like being away from me because you can’t read my mind when we’re apart!” Alera shot back. “Don’t you dare make me sound neglectful and selfish because I need to take care of myself. You can’t manipulate me like that! I need time alone.”

“Alera—!” His eyes were smoldering.

No. You want to be the boss of me in the bedroom? Fine. But not out here. I tell you I need time, and you give me time. You’re asking me to make the most monumental decision of my life. You said you view me as more than just a follower, but you don’t treat me that way.” She narrowed her eyes and tilted her head up so her mouth was less than an inch from his. “If you really want me to own the fucking world right next to you,” she hissed, "then you better start treating me like your equal. I’m not your little follower and you know it. I am better than that. And you better prove to me that you believe it.”

Her eyes were blazing as much as his. The air crackled between them.

Tom’s breathing spiked and he balled his hands into fists, trying to stem the rage boiling inside him. His nostrils flared as he snarled at the fiery girl he cared for much more than he wanted to admit. 

No one had ever openly defied him. And no one had ever threatened him. He thought he finally had Alera completely in his clutches, but her fiercely independent nature had just sent him reeling again. Why couldn’t he bend her to his will? Hadn’t he finally gotten it through to her that she should fear him...at least a little bit? Why was she the only person who could see him for what he was, but she still had the nerve to fight back when she didn’t like his behavior? He closed his eyes and pressed his lips together as he slowed his heavy breathing. He could think of nothing else to do.

He wanted her under his thumb, but he also wanted her for everything that made her who she was—her brilliance, her ruthlessness, her ambition, and her self-reliance. Before he had entered her life, she would never have let a man hold her back from getting what she wanted, but he had been fully confident that he could change that—at least somewhat—until this moment.

Watching Tom grappling with his internal struggle, Alera tried not to laugh in triumph. When he finally opened his eyes, she had a ghost of a smirk on her face. 

“I’m not scared of you,” she declared.

“I can see that,” he snapped, his jaw still clenched.

“Give me a week. I need more time to think this over.” 

The silence that ensued dragged on painfully before Tom finally spoke.

“One week,” he growled low in his throat. “And don’t think I’ll wait a minute longer.”

“Thank you.” 

He nodded curtly. 

He was tempted to reach out and twirl a lock of her hair around his finger, but he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to control himself after that. He inhaled slowly and moved his arms off the wall, letting Alera know that she was finally free to go. She held his gaze for another moment and then walked away. She wanted to run, but thought it best to keep her movements as smooth as possible to help slow her heart rate back to normal. And to convince Tom that she felt more confident than she really did.

*   *   * 

Alera’s nerves had calmed significantly by the time she returned to the Slytherin dormitories. Her thoughts were racing, but she realized that she was safe from Tom’s wrath when she’d walked half the length of the castle and the young man had not followed. 

Half of her wanted to laugh hysterically and dance around for having stood up to Tom and actually gotten her way. She knew no one else could ever do that and escape unscathed—proof that she had the power to impact him on her own terms. He wasn’t completely invincible, at least where she was concerned. 

However, the other half of her was boiling with fury. She couldn’t believe that he had acquired a following right there at Hogwarts without her noticing...and she was certain that some of her friends were involved. Why hadn’t they told her? What made them think they were so special? Why was she the last to know? 

Ruminating on that last thought, her movements sped up as she approached the dungeons and stormed into the common room. She violently shoved past the students who were blocking her path to the girls’ dormitory, and met with several protests, but ignored them all. She raced down the stairs, flung her cauldron onto the floor by her bed, and flopped on the mattress with a huff.

“UGH!!” she shouted. Though she tried once more to slow her breathing, she found herself unable to keep still. She shot up and started taking her books out of her cauldron, making a point to put them away as loudly as possible, after which she stalked back into the common room and took stock of her surroundings. Everyone there pointedly avoided her gaze. Lucretia was near the back of the room, reading a book. Alera made a beeline for her best friend and stopped directly in front of her. 

“Are you okay?” Lucretia asked. Her brow furrowed as she saw the look on her friend’s face. 

“We need to talk,” Alera snapped. “Right now.”

“Um...can I finish this chap—” 

Alera growled and ripped Lucretia’s book from her hands, forcefully throwing it to the floor. “Right. Fucking. NOW!” 

“Merlin’s beard, Alera! What’s going on?”

“You’re about to find out. Now get up!”

Lucretia’s jaw dropped.

“I’m not going to leave until you get up. And if you think I’m kidding, try me! I will rip that fucking book to shreds if you even try to pick it up!”

Lucretia blinked a few times and stood, shaking her head as she followed her raging friend into the girls’ dormitory.

“Alera, what on Earth is this about?”

“You knew!” Alera shouted. “You knew all about this and you didn’t fucking tell me!”

“Tell you what?” Lucretia looked confused for a moment, and then the realization hit her. She forgot to breathe. She wasn’t ready to deal with the other girl’s fury. 

Alera lowered her voice to a hiss to prevent the others from hearing. “You knew about Tom’s ambition. His little following. You’re in on it, right?!”

Lucretia looked at her feet. “Alera...he made us swear not to tell you.” 

“What the fuck for?!” 

“I don’t know! None of us do! He just told us that you weren’t supposed to know!”

“And you were perfectly okay with that.”

“He threatened to kill us if we told you!” 

“I don’t fucking care! Why was I the last to know? He only just told me now!” 

“What did he say?” Lucretia asked softly.

Alera sneered. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Actually, yes, I would! I never understood why we couldn’t tell you. We all thought you would be the first person he’d want to recruit! We told you he was interested in you last year! We didn’t just mean romantically. Sometimes he looked at you with lust and sometimes it almost seemed like he was...sizing you up.” 

Alera laughed maniacally. “Ahh, it all makes sense now...!” She wanted to scream in frustration and continue cackling at the same time. 

Lucretia just stood there and stared at her best friend. She’d always known that Alera had a hot temper, but she’d never been on the receiving end of it before and had no idea how to react.

“What did he say?” she asked again, more cautiously this time.

Alera sighed and sank down on her bed. Lucretia timidly walked over and sat down next to her.

“He said...” She paused, not knowing if she would face Tom’s wrath for telling Lucretia his reasoning for keeping his goals a secret from her until now—and then she remembered standing up to him moments earlier. She decided to take a chance.

“He said he wanted to make sure we were...” She laughed nervously. “He wanted to make sure we were close first, because he doesn’t view me as a follower. He said that he—his exact words were I want you by my side. Always. I don’t know if—”

“Oh my god, Alera! He wants to marry you!”

“Maybe. I don’t know. He didn’t use that word. I—I’m not sure what to do with this. I told him I needed some time to process everything, because I can’t just make a snap decision like this in two seconds. I had no idea I’d even be thinking about a serious relationship until I was much older—much less...whatever you call what he’s doing with you guys.”

“If he asks you to marry him, you must accept. You know that.” 

“Lucretia—” 

“First of all, I doubt he’d let you reject his proposal; and second...you can’t do better than Tom. No one can do better than Tom. You don’t even know how lucky you are.”

“Are you jealous?” Alera teased. 

“Merlin, no! He’s super hot, I’ll give him that; but I could never be with someone as, well—as...you know how he is. He’s not a normal man.” 

“Not even close.”

A brief silence ensued, until Lucretia tried to lighten the mood.

“Has he told you what he’s calling himself now?” 

Alera’s eyes narrowed. “Um, no....”

“Lord Voldemort.”

“What??? Lord?!” Alera squealed. “Are you kidding me?” She burst into giggles.

“I know. I don’t know how he came up with that or why...but—”

“It’s a bit much.”

“Possibly,” Lucretia chuckled, “but you can’t deny that the name commands authority. I mean, he’s always commanded authority, but the name does add a bit of flair to his presentation.” Her face broke into a broad grin. “And just think...soon you’ll be Lady Voldemort!”

Alera’s eyes widened. “Easy there...!”

Lucretia grinned. “You’re blushing." 

Alera turned away, suddenly uncomfortable.

“I was just teasing....”

“Kay.” 

“Well, I—I guess I’ll see you later then.”

“Yeah.”

Alera was only vaguely aware of Lucretia getting up and leaving the room. She was already lost in thought.

Chapter Text

Tom paced back and forth in his room, trying to reel in his anger. He felt as if Alera had made him weak outside the library by standing up to him—and he had allowed it to happen. Why couldn’t she just accept that he was in charge? He wasn’t accustomed to being told off, and Alera had done it so brazenly! It made him want to drag her up to his room and do whatever he pleased, whether she liked it or not. And right now, he wouldn’t want her to like it at all.

His mind raced.

Why did I let her get away with that? How can I be sure she won’t do it again? What if she turns down my offer? How can I make sure she’ll say yes? I should be able to just...REMOVE her if she doesn’t satisfy my wishes, but why don’t I like that idea? Why can’t I stand the thought of NOT having her by my side? Why do I feel like I’d be worse off without her? She is valuable, yes, but could be easily replaced...any girl would do what I asked if I performed the right spells—so why do I only want her, and without coercion? How could she have done this to me?

Despite his lack of capacity for love, he wondered if she was making him soft in some way. He had definitely become partial to her—not to mention incredibly possessive of her—but that fact hadn’t disturbed him until now. He worried that Alera would discover this fact and use it to her advantage; after all, neither of them had a problem manipulating people to get what they wanted. Hell, he hadn’t even told her his real motivations for seeking control of the Wizarding world—like her, he had no interest in politics; and yet he understood that the path to immortality lay in acquiring followers to help alter the fabric of society, and thereby shield him from the justice system. He had fed Alera the same lie he’d fed all his Death Eaters to convince them to do his bidding, and he assumed Alera would jump right onboard—but here he was again, pondering killing her simply to stop her from retaliating. If she did join him and he kept her alive, would he have to worry about her motives for the rest of his life? Such was not an exciting prospect.

I’m not your little follower, and you know it, she had announced. am better than that. And you better prove to me that you believe it.

He wanted it both ways: he craved her reverence and obedience, but he also wanted her beside him in public as an equal—especially knowing that she restrained her sadism and selfishness. She would no longer have to do that if she ruled with him, and her presence would make him appear even more formidable. And he couldn’t help but find the concept arousing.

“What is this girl doing to me?!” he shouted to no one. He suddenly realized that Alera wasn’t the only one who needed a week to think about everything. 

*   *   *

Alera lay awake long after getting into bed that night, replaying the weekend’s events in her mind. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Tom would not take no for an answer. She also wondered if a week was enough time to make her decision...but did it matter? He had already decided that he wanted her to rule the Wizarding world by his side, and Tom always managed to get his way.

What would it be like? she wondered. She couldn’t deny loving the way most students feared her, which allowed her space—she didn’t like dealing with people, anyway—and her reputation all but eliminated the chance of her being harassed. Her peers were afraid of what she would do to them if they mistreated her. 

Though she shared Tom’s hatred of Muggles, Wizarding blood status wasn’t something she found particularly concerning. As a Pureblood, she had never been mistreated for her heritage, and cared not how others’ blood status impacted their social standing.

She cared not for much of anything that didn’t directly impact her. 

As she’d told Tom hours earlier, she wanted a quiet life where she could live for herself and disregard the world whenever possible. And this was not a recent development.

She had been teased as a child for her loner tendencies and lack of interest in “normal” activities, but this mistreatment hadn’t led her to believe that Muggleborns were inferior—she had merely developed a strong hatred for humanity overall. And she hated having anything in common with inferior individuals. She was special. Just like her partner. At least he knew how superior she was.

Like Tom, Alera had always cringed at the thought of Muggles infiltrating the magical community; she feared that Muggles would start to influence and then wear away the fabric of magical culture to the point where it would one day cease to exist. That thought both disturbed and infuriated her. Tom, on the other hand, wanted all Muggleborn and Halfblood students killed. Alera would prefer altering their memories and those of their families—this would keep more magical beings alive, but ensure that the Muggle and magical communities remained separated. Were she to rule the Wizarding world beside Tom, she would have to talk to him about that.

She imagined everyone she hated bowing to her and doing whatever she told them, and started giggling—until she envisioned getting arrested by Aurors and then rotting away in Azkaban. 

What makes Tom so sure we wouldn’t get caught? And what happens if I don’t want to bother bossing people around and I just want to be left alone? Well, maybe I could leave most of the bossing around to Tom and I could do my own thing instead...yes, I think I like that idea.... 

Even though she had told Tom she needed a week to think everything over, she felt pressured to make a decision sooner. She knew how impatient he was. He was probably jumping out of his skin, trying to hold himself together.  The thought made her stomach clench. She had a feeling that he would keep his word and give her the rest of the week, but she still felt on edge.  With troubling thoughts swirling through mind, she drifted off into a restless doze that carried over until the morning.

*   *   *

That week passed much too quickly for Alera’s liking. She kept going back and forth between telling Tom she would love to rule the Wizarding world with him, and confessing that she was too scared of getting caught. Her stomach was in knots and she hardly ate. She dreaded meal times, when she knew Tom would be eyeing her and trying to figure out what she was thinking. She would locate him as soon as she entered the Great Hall for meals, and make a point to sit as far away from him as possible without attracting too much suspicion from her Housemates. She was both amazed and relieved that Tom actually allowed her that much space. 

Her friends asked her what was wrong a couple of times, but she dismissed their concern. Lucretia suspected that Alera’s nervousness had sprung from Tom’s request, but she knew better than to approach her friend about it. Alera clearly wanted to keep her thoughts private, even more than she normally did. Having witnessed the girl’s outburst not too long ago, Lucretia kept away from her friend and told their mutual friends to give her space.

Exactly a week after Alera had stood up to Tom outside the library, he found her reading in the Slytherin common room. He sat down on the couch next to her and ran his hand down her arm. She started. 

“Hello, my dear,” he murmured. A small smile crept onto his face. 

Alera’s heart began to race and her stomach dropped. “Hi,” she whispered.

“It’s been a week.”

“Oh, I know.” 

Tom chuckled. “Let’s go to my room and talk.” 

Alera didn’t move. 

Tom frowned, stood up, and moved directly in front of her. “That was not an invitation,” he declared, softly but firmly, so only she could hear. Exhaling shakily, she took his outstretched hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet. He gripped her hand tightly and led her out of the common room.

When they arrived at Tom’s room, he sat down on his bed and motioned for her to join him. She sat down across from him and crossed her legs before making a show of examining her fingernails. He regarded her thoughtfully for several seconds before reaching out and gently lifting her chin. She bit her lip as she looked at him.

“I’ve missed you,” he murmured. He barely even blinked as he regarded her. 

She merely nodded.

“You’re obviously very nervous,” he observed. “Talk to me.”

“Tom, I—I think I like the idea, but I’m afraid we’d get caught. I don’t want to rot in Azkaban.”

Tom smiled. “We won’t get caught. I promise you.” 

“How do you know?” she demanded. “I realize you’re a genius, but you’re still human. You can still make mistakes. If we’re running around England on a killing spree, who’s to say the Aurors won’t catch up to us? And even if you develop an impressive following, someone might...talk. How can you be okay with risking your safety and your freedom like that? And mine!” 

“Alera—” Tom started, but she cut him off.

“I find it very hard to believe that, at eighteen years old, you’ve already figured out a foolproof way to take over the Wizarding world and not get caught. And I am NOT going to Azkaban!” 

Tom scooted closer to her and cupped her face in his hands. “Alera, no one will want to stand up to me. When I have acquired enough of a following, anyone who dares to defy me will be killed—either by my hand or by one of my followers. Or should I say...our followers.” He smirked.

“How long do you think that would take?”

“Probably a long time. Years, in fact. But once our numbers grow, the effect of our cause will snowball. Everyone will realize what is happening and they’ll either join me or die, or go into hiding. I promise you that.” He stroked her cheeks and leaned in to place a light kiss on her lips. “Join me,” he whispered. She said nothing. 

Tom slithered behind Alera and slid his legs around hers while pressing his chest against her back. He reached around and tucked her hair behind her ears.

“Join me and you will have everything you’ve ever wanted. Power...” He kissed her ear. “Freedom to be yourself...” He kissed her neck. “A man who desires you to the point of obsession...” He nibbled on her neck and began squeezing her breasts. “Anything you want, I will give you. You will be the most powerful witch in the world. Your brilliance and your ambition have shown me this. I want to see you realize your full potential, right next to me.” He stopped stroking her breasts and snaked his arms around her waist to hold her tightly. “Put your fears aside, Alera. I can see that you’re paranoid about getting caught, but I promise you that will never happen. Now, will you join me?”

Alera took a deep breath, trying to slow her racing heart.

“Answer me,” Tom commanded, tightening his grip on her. 

Alera closed her eyes and whispered, “Yes.” 

Tom smiled against her neck, then kissed it slowly. “Good girl,” he praised. “You won’t regret this.”

She was about to respond when he pushed her onto the mattress and climbed on top of her. “And now,” he continued, “let’s make up for lost time.”

*   *   *

Surprisingly, Tom sent Alera back to the Slytherin dungeons after fucking her senseless. She had thought he’d have wanted her in his bed, having slept without her for a week, but he claimed that he needed time to think about something important. Something she was not yet ready to hear. He didn’t need to tell her twice.

She returned to her dorm in a daze. Felling extremely nervous, scared and excited, she decided to shut down until she was ready to sift through the recent events. She was only vaguely aware of her movements as she got ready for bed, and fell asleep with surprising ease—all of the tension that had built up inside her for the past week had been released. Though it was replaced by new hopes and fears, Alera didn’t feel rushed to make up her mind about anything, and knew she could afford to put her new feelings on the back burner. 

*   *   *

After Alera left his room, Tom paced back and forth, determined to come up with a special test for Alera’s Death Eater initiation. And he couldn’t think about the subject clearly with her lying in his bed, tempting him once again—hence sending her back to her dorm.

Each one of his followers had taken a similar test, in which they had demonstrated their inventiveness and skills in the Dark Arts, but Tom wanted Alera’s task to be more challenging. Her intelligence and ruthlessness excited him both physically and mentally, and he wanted to show all his followers that they must respect Alera as his equal. He wanted everyone to know that she was the only girl worthy of standing by his side; no one could ever approach her caliber. Other than the goal of achieving immortality, she had become his prized possession and he couldn’t wait to start showing her off. 

And then he stopped suddenly. The realization had finally hit him: he wanted to marry her.

The antisocial, weakness-loathing Dark Lord wanted a wife. He bit his lip in consternation. Such a practice was so common.Why did he want to engage in such frivolous traditions?

Because SHE wasn’t frivolous. And he had already decided that a powerful wizard like him would only be more powerful with a strong witch by his side. 

There was nothing frivolous about that, he decided.

He would have to buy her a ring. He liked the thought of her wearing something he’d given her—but how to bloody afford it? He came from nothing. He had no money, only having purchased his school supplies with the funds Hogwarts had set aside for underprivileged students. He was, however, quite friendly with a few wealthy families who had long since professed their loyalty to him. He grabbed a piece of parchment and penned a letter to his most faithful.

 

Mr and Mrs Malfoy,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you with a most unusual assignment. I have—unexpectedly, I’ll admit—chosen a wife. I will be proposing before the end of the academic year. As my funds are lacking, I require assistance in procuring a set of rings. You are my most loyal servants, so I know I can count on you to execute this task properly. Please send the jewelry to me at Hogwarts as soon as possible.

And, of course, you are forbidden from sharing this venture with anyone. You will all know my lady’s identity in a few months. I will know if you have disobeyed.

—TMR

 

He never wrote his chosen name in correspondence, given the notoriety it would soon carry, and he didn’t want to write his given name unless absolutely necessary. This wasn’t a problem, however; the Malfoys would understand their orders just fine.

He chuckled at the surprise his letter would bring the family. Not only would they be shocked at his desire for a wife, but they’d also be itching to know who it was. Perhaps they’d already know it was Alera, if Abraxas had been writing home to complain about his jealousy, but that information would never leave the Malfoy fortress without Tom’s permission. 

The jewelry arrived in an inconspicuous box three days later. He pocketed the parcel, showing no emotion at the sight of the Malfoys’ owl, and only allowed himself a broad grin when he briefly returned to his room after lunch.

The wedding bands were both white gold, and Alera’s was encrusted with diamonds. Tom knew the engagement ring would make her blush—a large square-cut emerald flanked by tiny diamonds would take any girl’s breath away.

The Malfoys had sent a hearty congratulations to their young Lord along with the jewelry, and a promise to keep his secret until the proper moment. As he knew they would.

But Merlin, Tom would hardly be able to keep his secret until the proper moment. 

*   *   *

Alera’s initiation took place a week later. Tom informed his followers of the occasion a few days before, and made sure they would all attend the event in the Forbidden Forest. 

To demonstrate her cunning and ruthlessness, Tom instructed her to place a near-deadly curse on a classmate and get away with it. Part of him worried that she would get caught, after which he’d have no choice but to kill her, but he knew that she would do anything in her power to succeed. He had faith in her. 

Alera decided to corner a random student with whom she had no connection, to minimize the chances of her actions being traced back to her. On the night in question, half an hour before curfew, she snuck up behind an unsuspecting second-year Hufflepuff boy who had been on his way to his dormitory. After making sure they were alone, she whispered, “Imperio!”

The boy stopped walking and his shoulders slumped.

“Turn around and follow me,” Alera commanded softly. “And keep quiet.”

Staring at Alera but seeing nothing, the boy followed her on tiptoe to a secret passageway leading out of the castle.  Alera took a deep breath as she stepped onto the grass and made her way across the grounds. Tom was waiting for her at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

“What have we here?” he asked with a small smile.

“I don’t know,” Alera responded. “I don’t even know his name. Let’s call him my little experiment.” 

Tom chuckled and grabbed the front of her robe to pull her close to him. “Let’s call him...the opportunity for you to show me what you’re capable of,” he sneered, touching her lips with his as he spoke. “Now, come on. Everyone is waiting.”

Alera followed Tom deep into the forest. She didn’t know what to expect. How many people would there be? Were there only older students? Any professors? Her mind was racing again, and she didn’t like it. She stopped short when they approached a clearing, filled with a large circle of Slytherin students. She nearly gasped when she saw almost everyone she knew in the sixth and seventh years.

“Greetings, my friends!” Tom called out cheerfully. “As most of you know, this is my partner, Alera. She was not initiated into our ranks previously because I decided to save the best for last. Now, watch her.”

He motioned for Alera and her ‘experiment’ to enter the middle of the circle. Once there, Alera pointed her wand at the boy and lifted the Imperius curse. He was about to scream in protest when she called out, “Petrificus totalus!” The boy went rigid and fell to the ground.

Alera circled him a few times, shooting stern glances at her classmates to see how they were reacting. Most looked nervous and scared. She chuckled, and then knelt down by the boy’s head.

“Your parents don’t love you,” she whispered, disguising her voice slightly. “They told me. They’re friends with my parents. They told me that you were born by accident, and they couldn’t wait until you received your Hogwarts letter so they could finally get you out of the house. You’re nothing.”

Tom raised his eyebrows in surprise and confusion. This was not what he had imagined her doing. He thought about interrupting her and demanding that she explain herself, but something held him back. He had been anticipating a couple of standard curses or hexes—not her whispering nasty words in a child’s ear—but he sensed that she had a plan and needed to stick to it. He allowed it.

She continued whispering bleak words of failure and hopelessness in his ear, paying no mind to the looks of shock and discomfort on the Death Eaters’ faces as her own visage contorted into a knot of villainous rage. Most of them couldn’t even hear what she was saying—all they could hear was her hissing voice. All they could see were her demented facial expressions, interspersed with the occasional pokes in the boy’s side with her wand, and sporadic casting of a spell to levitate him a few inches off the ground and then callously drop him back down again. This disturbed them more than any loud, violent curses.

By the time Alera had finished berating the boy, tears were streaming down the sides of his rigid cheeks and pooling on the forest floor. She lifted the Body-Bind Curse and commanded him to stand up. He robotically obeyed.

Alera brandished her wand again and barked, “Obliviate!” 

The boy’s eyes suddenly took on a glassy sheen. He was rooted to the spot. Alera crept up behind him, grabbed the back of his robe, and dug the tip of her wand into his neck. 

“If you repeat a word of this to anyone, or so much as turn around to look at me, I will kill you. I know who you are. I know the password to your common room. I know where your bed is. I know everything about you, and I will use it to destroy you if you disobey me. Go back to your room, and stay there. Act normal around your Housemates. And then tell them you’re tired and go straight to sleep. And remember: if you deviate from my orders in any way, I. Will. End. You. Now go.” 

The boy began walking shakily toward the castle. Alera followed at a distance, with Tom and his entourage slowly approaching from behind. Alera pretended not to hear their whispers. This was her moment, and she wouldn’t have anyone ruin it with their judgments. 

She stopped walking to watch the Hufflepuff boy finish staggering back to the castle so that she wouldn’t be seen near him, only resuming her stride when she saw him slip through the front door. Tom and the others quickly caught up behind her. 

As everyone hurried back inside the secret passageway, Tom grabbed Alera’s robes and pulled her close.

“What on Earth was that?!” he hissed into her ear. “That was not what I was expecting.” His face was a mixture of shock, anticipation, and mild disapproval.

“Sometimes simple words can be more damaging than physical wounds,” she replied silkily, with a smug smile. “And plus, there’s no proof that anything happened. He won’t even know what hit him tomorrow morning.” 

Tom merely blinked. He thought back to all the other initiations he’d witnessed—the torture, the blood, the threats, the damaged schoolbooks—but he had never seen anything like this. He recalled his determination and pumping adrenaline as he had gathered students to join his cause and encouraged them to explore the darkness in their souls. He remembered forbidding them from mentioning his organization’s activities to Alera once he had made up his mind to claim her and groom her at his own pace. A few students had wanted to ask for the meaning of such a strange order, but knew better than to question their leader. 

He had waited anxiously to bring her into the fold—not just to bed her, but also to help her realize her potential as a Dark witch under his tutelage, as he had first told her after cornering her outside the library before the ball. 

Once he finally had her in his possession, he had been itching to see what she would do to prove herself—but what she had ended up doing was completely outside his realm of understanding. He was slowly learning how to inflict lasting psychological damage using Legilimency, but had not mastered it quite yet. And clearly, she hadn’t either—so whatever had possessed her to behave that way?

His mind burned with questions, but he decided to bottle them until a later date. He had more important matters to discuss with his mysterious, unusual girl.

“Are you coming with us?” asked Lucretia, when she turned around and saw that the couple had stopped walking with the rest of the group.

“Leave us,” Tom commanded, his hands still firmly grasping the front of Alera’s robes. “She’s staying with me tonight.”

Lucretia nodded, and departed with her classmates for the Slytherin dormitories.

*   *   * 

When they returned to Tom’s room, they sat facing each other on his bed. And then he reached for her left arm.

“What are you doing?” she asked. 

Tom didn’t answer, or even acknowledge her question. Instead, he pointed his wand at her forearm and whispered an incantation she didn’t understand. 

“What was th—oww!”

She watched in shock as a dramatic image burned itself into the creamy white skin of her forearm: a black skull with a snake protruding from its mouth. She stared at the tattoo, mouth agape. The contrast was striking.

“Tom, what the hell did you just—”

Tom looked back up at her and grinned. “It’s called the Dark Mark. It will burn whenever I summon you to me. All of my followers have this tattoo on their left forearm.”

“Oh! I—” 

“It looks beautiful on you,” he praised, cutting her off. He ran his index finger down her Dark Mark. Alera bit her lip as he leaned down and kissed the tattoo a few times. 

“I told you after the ball that you would always be mine,” he continued. “Your Dark Mark certainly helps enforce this, but it’s not enough. There’s one small thing missing.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?” 

Tom reached into his robes and produced a tiny black velvet box, which he opened slowly. Alera gasped at the jewelry inside.

Tom’s eyes blazed as he looked at her. “Marry me, Alera.” 

Alera gaped at the gorgeous ring, having lost the ability to speak.

Tom moved closer, took her left hand, and brought it closer to him. “Will you? You’ll have the world, with me.”

Alera inhaled shakily, and then heard herself whisper, “Yes.”

“Say it louder.”

She took a deep breath. “Yes.” 

Tom slipped the ring onto her finger and then crawled on top of her. “You are forever mine,” he declared, and kissed her deeply.

Chapter Text

Hogwarts was in an uproar the next morning. The Hufflepuff boy Alera had cursed was acting dangerously drunk, having been traumatized the night before. He had fallen down a flight of stairs on the way to breakfast and taken a few nearby students with him.

Tom and Alera were already at the Slytherin table when the fuss erupted on the other side of the Great Hall. Though they were now in the habit of sitting together during meals, they made a point to appear clueless and avoid eye contact. They were the perfect unsuspecting bystanders.

Students shrieked as teachers frantically searched for the source of the calamity. After the commotion had spread throughout the Great Hall, Headmaster Dippet took to his podium and commanded everyone to be still. He announced that a young boy had severely injured himself and was being taken to the hospital wing. After clarifying that no one else was in danger, he gestured for everyone to finish their breakfast.

Tom slowly reached under the table and stroked Alera’s thigh without looking at her. Though his face remained expressionless, Alera could tell that he was proud of her. He was showing her this privately, in a public place, because he knew that he could trust her not to react and thus implicate them in the attack. A rush of smugness coursed through her.

Of course Tom had been wise to choose her as his life partner. She shared his rare conniving brilliance and ruthless ambition, unlike any person he would ever meet, along with the moxie to carry out his criminal orders and remain unscathed. Sure, she was still apprehensive around him sometimes, but at least she knew that he respected her more than everyone else. And the fact that a man as brutally selfish as Tom wanted to make her happy—“Anything you want, I will give you,” he’d declared—only proved how valuable she was. 

She was set for life. She had what she needed. She had achieved her deepest desires with minimal effort. She would have smirked had she been alone.

Lucretia jolted her back to the present by grabbing her left hand.

“ARE YOU ENGAGED??” she squealed. 

“Yes!” Tom proudly answered for her, tucking Alera’s hair behind her right ear and lacing his arm around her waist. 

Alera flushed and Tom grinned victoriously. He hadn’t planned on making a grand announcement, but his chest puffed out with pride as all the students within earshot stopped what they were doing to gawk at him and his new fiancée. Now everyone would know she belonged to him permanently. He had to stare down a few crestfallen boys, and smirk at a few heartbroken girls, but otherwise met with no opposition. He relished the attention. The other Slytherins clapped and cheered as he cupped Alera’s chin with his free hand, turned her face toward his, and pressed his lips to hers. When he finally withdrew, she shook her head and looked at him with an expression that read, I adore you, but I cannot believe you just did that. He had caught her completely off-guard. He smirked at her reddened face and stroked her cheek.

“Everyone knows you’re mine now,” he murmured triumphantly, his eyes boring into hers.

By now, virtually all of Hogwarts’ occupants had turned to stare at the couple. Most of the teachers appeared amused by Tom’s flagrant display of testosterone, but Professor Dumbledore eyed the pair with apprehension. They both smirked back at the concerned professor, daring him to admonish them and rain on their parade. He merely shook his head as his eyes dropped back down to his breakfast.

Dumbledore had found it curious that within minutes of a student being injured, something as joyous as an engagement just so happened to be made public. Maybe it was mere coincidence, but he wasn’t sure. Either way, he still suspected that Tom was not all that he appeared—and clearly, Alera was no saint, either. Not that he’d ever thought she was. He’d have to watch these two more closely.

While everyone was finishing their meal, a hush fell on the Slytherin table. Dumbledore wore a grave expression as he approached the gloating Head Boy.

“Mr. Riddle, as...happy as I am for you, please refrain from such public displays of affection,” he scolded quietly. “It is not appropriate. We have very young students here, and you should be setting an example as Head Boy.”

“Of course, Professor,” Tom drawled with a broad grin. “My apologies. I suppose I got carried away. I promise it won’t happen again—in public.” He grinned mischievously at his teacher.

Alera snickered and turned away from the exchange. 

“That applies to you, too, Miss Vega,” Dumbledore added sternly before walking away. 

The older Slytherins surrounded Tom and Alera as the students all herded out of the Great Hall. The boys clapped Tom on the back with several rounds of “Congratulations, mate!” and the girls jumped around Alera, cooing over her beautiful engagement ring. Instead of rolling her eyes, she forced herself to appear just as childishly carefree as her friends until they finally settled down for their first class of the day. Alera privately wished that she could hide her ring to avoid any more reactions to her elevated relationship status, but she knew that Tom would throw a fit if he ever saw her without the jewelry. Especially in public.

She barely paid attention to her lessons that day, and needed to review all the new material several times after class before it finally cemented in her mind. She hated how distractable she had become, but understood that major changes were occurring and she needed to learn to adapt. That would take time.

*   *   *

The next few days passed in a blur for both Tom and Alera. As triumphant as Tom felt from being able to publicly claim his now-fiancée, he was also shocked. Despite harboring no reservations about his ability to get his way, a small part of him was still amazed that he had succeeded in claiming Alera. Given her hardheadedness, which rivalled only his own, he’d often worried that he might have to kill her one day if she became more a liability than an asset. Thankfully, these worries were diminishing daily as he spent more time with the girl.

Even though he’d grown accustomed to calling her his, he still couldn’t believe that he had finally completed the task of winning her over—well, almost completed. There was one more final piece to this puzzle. A piece that would likely send Alera into a fit of rage before she understood his motivation. 

Tom faked a dizzy spell as an excuse to be in the hospital wing and thus observe Alera’s victim. He learned that the boy’s name was James Creavy, and he was suffering from delirium and mild psychosis. Tom befriended the boy and “slept” in the bed next to him, in order to listen to his conversations when his friends came to visit him. Tom was most interested in learning the boy’s schedule, so that he could sneak up on him and orchestrate the final act of his demonic play at the proper moment.

The proper moment came a week later, a few days after James had been released from the hospital wing. Before heading to Defense, Tom excused himself from his conversation with Alera. He slipped through the crowd of students to locate James on his way to Charms, and tapped the boy on the shoulder. 

“How are you feeling, mate?” Tom asked with a mask of concern.

“I dunno...I guess I’m well enough for class.” 

“That’s good to hear. Say, would you mind doing something for me after lunch?”

James hesitated. “Uh...” 

Tom flashed the boy his most charming smile. “There’s a girl that’s bothering me, and I’m wondering if you’ll help me play a prank on her,” he said in a conspiratorial tone. 

“Sure! She must be really annoying.” James began giggling—he was young enough that Boys vs. Girls was still an exciting activity.

“Merlin, yes.” Tom rolled his eyes dramatically. “Now, you’ll find her heading to Potions right after lunch. What I want you to do is pretend that you’re sending her a message from Dumbledore, telling her that she’s in trouble.” 

James giggled again as Tom handed him a blank piece of parchment folded in half. “Who is this girl?”

“Her name is Alera. She’s a Slytherin, about a foot taller than you, with long black hair. She’s very pretty—I’ll give her that—but she needs to get off her high horse. She thinks she’s invincible. Go find her after lunch. A little scare should knock her down a peg or two. Or twelve.”

James grinned and took off with the parchment, feeling important and anxious to impress the charismatic older boy. Tom sneered and hurried off to class. He could hardly wait for the impending firestorm.

*   *   *

Tom left Alera alone after lunch that day. He made up a story about needing to scold Alphard Black for failure to complete a Death Eater assignment, and set off. Alera shrugged as she headed to Potions, reviewing the previous day’s lesson in her mind until she felt a tug on the back of her robes. She turned around and gasped.

The boy she had tortured was standing before her.

Time slowed for both students as the boy’s expression quickly morphed from excited anticipation to confusion, and then to abject terror. The blood drained from his face and he staggered backward.

“You—y-you’re in t-trouble with Professor D-dumbledore, Alera!” he called out, raising his voice to an obnoxious level to try and drown out his fear. He didn’t understand why the sight of this girl nearly made him wet himself, but brief flashes of his recent nightmares tugged at the corners of his consciousness, and he could almost swore he’d seen her in them....and maybe somewhere else, as well.... 

“I’m in trouble? Says who?” Alera demanded. She grabbed the parchment from his hand and her eyes narrowed when she saw that it was blank.

Something was wrong. This wasn’t normal. Was it a trap? She knew she needed to act clueless in order to exit the scene cleanly—a few people were already watching, with more gathering around.

“What is this? What are you playing at? Is this your idea of a joke? And who even are you?” Look, everyone! I’m the victim here; not him! I’ve never seen him before!

“I know you,” James whispered meekly, shaking his head. “I’ve seen you before. Did you—you...I think you hurt me....” He burst into tears and took off, tripping up a few students along the way. People stopped walking and eyed Alera suspiciously. 

Her heart raced. Her thoughts blurred. Her stomach roiled. Had the boy been trying to prank her? He’d looked so mischevous in the split second when she’d turned to face him, so he was obviously up to something. But what was it? And why would he prank her if he hadn’t known who she was before seeing her face? Was it a dare from someone who didn’t like her, who was too afraid to confront her themselves? The whole episode made no sense whatsoever. 

Alera put on an expression of fear as she hurried to Potions, not wanting to add tardiness to the reason people were staring at her.

“Everything all right?” Tom asked as she slumped into her seat beside him. “You seem a bit out of sorts.” His act was so believable, even Alera fell for it.

“I’m fine,” she mumbled, hoping he wouldn’t inquire further. The last thing she needed was someone to overhear her telling Tom what had happened. She doubted that she really was in trouble with Dumbledore—the professor certainly didn’t like her, but he also didn’t punish students for no reason. Still, the young boy’s behavior deeply troubled Alera. 

Tom was cackling inside his head, observing Alera’s body language and roving through her thoughts. He didn’t expect her to lose her nerve after James had lost his, but he delighted in her discomfort and her determination to conceal it. 

Halfway through the class, a student walked into the room and interrupted the lesson. “Excuse me, Professor Slughorn?” the girl asked.

“Yes, Miss Weatherby? What can I do for you?”

“I have a message from Professor Dumbledore—he asked me to send Alera Vega to his office.” 

Alera’s eyes widened as she turned to face the messenger. She barely registered Slughorn saying, “Not a problem! Tom, please give her the homework assignment today.”

“Of course, Professor,” Tom replied smoothly as he watched Alera follow the messenger out of the classroom.

*   *   * 

“Have a seat, Miss Vega,” said Dumbledore, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk. Alera gingerly sat down, eyes widened in both confusion and mock fear. There was no way someone had figured out that she’d attacked that Hufflepuff—it was impossible. The boy wasn’t even sure of it himself. He couldn’t make a case for himself based on emotion alone. Alera took a few quiet, deep breaths and reminded herself to remain calm. She also forced all thoughts of her initiation from her mind, knowing that focusing on neutral images would improve her presentation.

“Is there a problem, Professor?” she asked politely. 

“I’m sure you’re aware that little James Creavy had a fit at the sight of you today. Would you mind telling me why?” 

Alera pretended to be taken aback—eyes narrowed, mouth slightly parted, a look of mild offense, a quiet voice.  “What do you mean?”

“Word has reached me that this boy shouted that you were in trouble with me, and then began shaking like a leaf. Many witnesses heard him accuse you of hurting him. He wasn’t completely sure of himself, but I doubt he was targeting you for a prank. Now, why might he have been so afraid of you?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t even know how he knew my name. He started spouting off, like you said, that he thought I’d hurt him—but that’s impossible. Why would I have hurt him?” 

“You tell me.”

“Professor, this boy handed me a blank roll of parchment, pretending it was a message from you, and began screaming that I was in trouble, loudly enough to make sure everyone heard him. I apologize if this sounds too forward, but...that doesn’t sound like genuine fear to me.”

“Do you still have the parchment?”

Alera produced the material for Dumbledore to examine. He turned it over a few times and cast some spells on it before setting it on his desk. “You are correct,” he muttered. “There are no enchantments present; it is merely a blank sheet. But that still doesn’t explain the boy’s reaction when he saw your face.”

“Perhaps his conscience was eating away at him. Maybe an older student who doesn’t like me tried to use him for a prank, and he felt guilty.”

“I’d be inclined to believe you if not for the reports coming out of the infirmary.” 

“I’m sorry?” 

“James moaned in his sleep an awful lot. He talked about a girl shrouded in black, whispering in his ear and threatening his life. The nurse asked him about this girl, assuming James had merely been delusional and dreamed her up, but I find his behavior today far too coincidental. Are you quite certain you have never seen Mr. Creavy before?”

“I’m certain, Professor.”

“And you have no reason to wish him harm?”

“Of course not.” 

She pictured the boy as a wounded, adorable baby animal that she wanted to pet—the only way she could try on the emotion of concern and pity for her victim, and mask the alarm that her Memory Charm had clearly not worked as well as she’d have liked. Her facial muscles softened further as she relaxed her shoulders. She sighed while staring at nothing. 

A polite girl feeling sympathy for an ailing classmate, and concern over being questioned about his condition.

Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed as he observed the young actress, unsure of her culpability but certain that she was up to something. Being an expert Legilimens, he’d been exploring her thoughts since the beginning of her interrogation, but had found nothing alarming—save a few flashes of Tom’s sexual violence. Sadly, he couldn’t expel students for their bedroom habits alone. And Alera was clearly the victim in these images, anyway. Perhaps he could one day convince her to leave the monster that was Tom Riddle, but that would be a discussion for another day.

Had Alera committed a crime to impress Tom? Had the Head Boy directed her to harm James or face harm to herself? She certainly seemed happy to be with Tom—so she was either more gullible than he suspected, or more demonic than he feared. And he was leaning toward the latter.

He doubted the girl had been learning Occlumency, though there did appear to be a shield somewhere in her psyche. Whether the information behind it related to Creavy’s condition was unclear, however. Was she, in fact, learning to block a mental invasion, or was she simply adept at such skills without any coaching? She was extremely bright.

The professor regarded his student as he pondered his next move. He had visited the young Hufflepuff in the hospital wing and sorted through the boy’s thoughts long before summoning Alera—there had been a girl shrouded in black, tormenting James in his nightmares, but her features had been blurry. There was no proof that this huntress was more than a figment of the boy’s imagination. 

No concrete facts could incriminate Alera; only hearsay and circumstantial evidence. The villain James cried about in his sleep could be anyone, if a real person, and an older student could have simply used him to prank Alera on a dare.

Or the girl could have orchestrated a horrific attack and left nary a trace. She was engaged to the school’s master manipulator, after all, and Dumbledore doubted that Tom would desire a partner as brilliant as Alera if her moral compass were aligned properly. The two students were a much greater threat as a couple than they were separated, and the professor only wished he had the means to bring them both to heel. Especially if they had harmed little James.

The lack of evidence frustrated Dumbledore. He wanted justice. Perhaps if Dippet had listened to his fears of Tom’s true nature, none of this would have even happened, but he wasn’t about to procure a time-turner and risk damaging the present. For now, all he could do was to remind Alera of her place as a rule-abiding student and hope she would behave.

“Miss Vega,” he began, “as proud as I am of your academic prowess, I have never admired you beyond your studiousness. I’m sure you’re aware of this, given your numerous detentions for your attitude over the years. I know you think quite highly of yourself because of your abilities; however, academic excellence does not counteract unethical behavior.” 

She blinked, and pretended to be mildly offended by this false accusation, but remained silent as her professor spoke. 

“I don’t know what has happened in your personal life since you’ve become involved with Tom Riddle, but I must admit that I am concerned by your hurried union.” Dumbledore gestured to her engagement ring. “His possessiveness of you is alarming, as is your smug countenance as you strut about the castle on his arm. I am inclined to believe that he is influencing you to act immorally—whether he is pressuring you, or simply making you feel like you should be above the law so that you’ll do his bidding, I am not certain—but I will not take pity on you if you commit a crime at his bequest. You are a smart girl with a good head on your shoulders; deep down, you know right from wrong. How much of your narcissism springs from Tom’s encouragement is questionable, but I do not trust either of you and will not make an exception should you act under his influence.

“If you wish to leave Tom and you feel unsafe doing so without help, I will gladly assist you; but I somehow doubt that that will come to pass. Nevertheless, my offer still stands. I want the best for all my students.”

Alera seethed. Though she took care to appear fearful instead, she couldn’t believe that Dumbledore would speak to her like a battered woman helpless against an abusive husband. How dare he insinuate that she was weak! She was miles higher than a pitiful, pathetic little waif who would latch onto the first man who showed interest in her, even if he mistreated her, just to feel worthy of love! She didn’t need love. She didn’t need a man, or anyone, to bless her with self-worth; she already knew how special she was. Others' opinions were meaningless. The nerve of this professor!

“Now,” he continued, “if I find evidence that you have harmed James Creavy, whether on Tom Riddle’s orders or not, I will expel you. I care not that you are one of the brightest students I have ever taught and you are months away from graduating; if you think it acceptable to grievously injure a fellow student and feel not an ouce of remorse, you do not deserve a place at this school. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Professor,” she breathed, continuing her act of feeling unfairly targeted.

“I will be watching you, Miss Vega. Don’t think that because I am not punishing you today, that you are free from suspicion over Mr. Creavy’s condition—or any future crimes committed at Hogwarts. I will not hesitate to employ swift justice if I find evidence of your wrongdoing. And I will continue searching for such evidence. This is not a closed case.” 

“I understand.”

“Good. You are dismissed.”

Alera nodded and quietly exited Dumbledore’s office, wishing that she could tear the head off his pet phoenix in retaliation for inconveniencing her.

She avoided Tom for the rest of the day, immersing herself in her studies and sitting with her friends in class. She would have a lot to say to her partner tonight, and needed time to compose her thoughts beforehand. He thankfully allowed her space. Little did she know that this breathing room was Tom’s unspoken reward for having passed his test.

*   *   *

“What’s wrong, love?” Tom asked as Alera stomped into his room after dinner. 

“I nearly got expelled, that’s what!” she growled. 

“Oh, do tell!” 

“What’s with the excitement?” 

Tom merely snickered.

“Tom Marvolo Riddle, you wipe that smirk off your face right now! It isn’t funny. Just because you weren’t the one who nearly got thrown out—”

Tom cupped her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. “Calm down, Alera. You didn’t get expelled, so there’s no reason to be this grouchy.”

“Why are you being so lackadaisical about it? You don’t even know what happened!”

“Of course I do.”

“What? What the hell are you on about?”

Tom’s grin widened as he relished Alera’s apprehension. “That empty parchment was mine, darling. And I directed James to give it to you.”

Chapter Text

Alera’s jaw dropped. Adrenaline shot through her veins. She couldn’t even speak a full sentence as her mind raced. And it didn’t help that Tom was still snickering while he revealed his ploy. 

“You—you...WHAT?! I can’t believe this! How DARE you!!”

“Why the surprise, love? I was testing your nerve. You expect me to trust in your abilities as a Death Eater simply because you like to torture people? Your lack of a conscience isn’t the only skill required to succeed in my ranks. You think you’ll never again have to think on your feet to avoid punishment?” 

Alera sputtered, but could form no words.

“Acting properly under pressure is an invaluable skill, which you obviously possess. You should be proud of yourself, Alera. Instead of storming around like an angry child, you should be—” 

“YOU. FUCKING. ARSEHOLE!” she bellowed. “Don’t you DARE accuse me of being childish; I have every right to be enraged! Proud of myself?! Hell, I’ll be proud of myself if I don’t murder you by the end of the night! I swear to Merlin, I will fucking stab you!!”

Tom threw his head back and cackled. “Merlin, Alera, you are adorable when you’re angry. I think I should rile you up more often. How about a little romp in bed to cheer you u—” 

SMACK. 

Tom gaped. Had she really just slapped him?! He rubbed his cheek, now sporting a glaring handprint, and shook his head. A vein in his forehead twitched.

In a flash, he had her pinned to the wall and began viciously biting her neck. She struggled mightily, and even managed a kick to his groin before he shoved his leg in between hers and held her wrists tighter.

“Like I’d want to romp with you after you pull something like that!” she shouted, struggling hard as his teeth tore her skin open. “Good luck getting shagged tonight! I’m going straight back to my dorm after—”

His hand closed around her throat and he snarled. “You’re not going anywhere.”

She tried to yell Fuck you, but he had swiftly cut off her air supply. Was he really going to kill her?

No, but he wanted her to think he was.

“You crossed a line, you beautiful little bitch,” he growled in between leaving more angry marks all over her neck. He wanted her in pain. He wanted her crying and bleeding and begging forgiveness. He almost wanted her dead. 

Almost.

Not quite. 

He squeezed her throat tighter and tighter, until her eyes bulged and she began twitching. Merlin, he was enraged...how many times would he have to remind her of her place? How far would he have to go to keep her in line—and would there be a breaking point after which she’d cease coming back to him? 

He needed to find out.

He released the pressure just a hair, allowing her a shallow wheeze, and then slammed his hand back onto her reddened throat. 

“If you ever hit me again, I will kill you,” he barked. “I warned you, in the Chamber, what happens to those who defy me. Since you need a reminder, let me tell you again: you are either with me or against me. There is no middle ground. I want you, and I want you badly, but not enough that I will remain passive if you lash out at me again. I tested you for your own good. You really should be grateful for my trust—I gave you the hardest test of all because I knew you could handle it. Take it for what it is and show your appreciation, or die right here and never be seen again. You’ll rot in on the Chamber floor like a filthy Mudblood.”

She nodded quickly, and he finally released her. Slumping against the wall, she pointedly stared at the floor while wiping her eyes. She wanted to cry, but not in front of him. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. At least the ordeal was over. 

Or so she thought.

When she finally raised her eyes to look at him, he was gripping his wand and looking daggers at her.

“What?” she asked, her heart pounding faster and faster, the longer he glared at her in silence.

“Tom, what is it? What are you doing with your wand?”

“Imperio.”

Tom sneered as his fierce fiancée slipped from raging lunatic to dazed mannequin. You’ve earned that, he thought as he explored her foggy thoughts. 

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“I’m...floating...on a cloud...and it feels...quite nice....” she breathed, swaying ever so slightly. “You should...come over here and join me...it’s so warm and fluffy...and soothing....”

“We should do this more often, then. A nice little tranquilizer, hmm?”

“Yeeahhhh....”

“I suppose I deserve a proper thank-you for calming you down so efficiently. You would like to reward me, would you not?” 

“Always....”

“That’s what I thought,” he murmured while unbuckling his trousers. “Get on your knees.” 

Alera slid to the floor and gazed up at Tom adoringly, knowing that there was nothing she’d rather do than please him. Especially when she felt so serene...like she was half-asleep in a warm bed....

“That’s it,” he praised as he eased himself into her mouth. “That’s my girl. Show me how much you appreciate my trust. Show me how grateful you are that I have chosen you...because you know I am your superior. Give me all your power. Worship me.” 

She shivered in delight, loving his praise almost as much as she loved the feel of his rigid flesh pumping into her mouth. Releasing the pulsing muscle, she fondled his testicles and enthusiastically moved them around in her mouth while rubbing his lower belly and gliding her fingers over his shaft. Her own core began clenching with need, but she was more concerned with satisfying the man giving her orders. She could do this all day long. She wanted nothing more than to service him and hear his encouragement. Merlin, she was one lucky girl.... 

Her hands slid up around his thighs and stroked him as her lips lovingly caressed his cock. When she sighed in her hazed contentment, he shuddered at the vibration and gripped her hair tightly. She winced.

“Faster,” he growled. “Come on. You know what I like. Don’t tease me. If you want to slap me like an uncontrollable child, I will happily treat you like a slave. Now give me what I want!”

Pressing his free hand to the wall to steady himself, he began forcefully thrusting into her mouth. “Open wide. Take it all the way in. That’s it...good little slut. You’re mine. My prized possession, to toy with as I wish. I own you.”

He smirked through his spiking arousal, knowing that Alera would never allow him to speak to her that way while lucid. Which was the whole bloody point. His own thoughts began to blur as she dutifully sucked him, faster and harder until hot fluid exploded into her mouth. She swallowed eagerly and looked up with doe eyes, anticipating his next command.

Until he lifted the curse.

In a flash, blind worship switched to homicidal rage. With a growl that all but rent her vocal cords, Alera bared her teeth and launched upright to shove Tom as hard as possible. Which would have been quite cathartic, had he not grabbed her wrists and twisted her around to throw her onto his bed.

The skilled Legilimens could always anticipate an adversary’s next move. 

“FUCK YOU!” she shrieked, bucking her hips and contorting her body to try and break Tom’s hold as he climbed atop her. She almost managed a punch to his cheek as he freed one wrist to grasp her hair, but he was too quick. He held her wrists under one hand while clamping his other hand over her mouth. That didn’t stop her—she continued keening and growling for the next several seconds. He regarded her in this position, expressionless, until she finally went still. Her eyes were brimming with tears of fury. 

“You assaulted me!” she croaked. “How fucking pathetic are you, that you have to curse me to get off? You could’ve just used your bloody hand, for Merlin’s sake! I hate you! I hate you! What the fuck is wrong with you!!”

Tom’s expression remained the same, as if she hadn’t even spoken.

“Alera, be honest with me,” he scolded gently while rubbing his thumb over her lips. “Look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t have done exactly the same if the roles were reversed.”

Silence. 

“Or would you prefer that I curse you again, and degrade you even more? Now, answer the question. Would you have done the same, in my stead?”

She turned her head away and stared at the wall. “Whatever, arsehole.”

Rolling off of her, he hooked his hands under her arms to hoist her up.

“Go away,” she grumbled as he snaked his arms around her waist and pulled her against his chest.

“Not a chance. And that was a ‘yes’ if I ever heard one,” he whispered in her ear. “But I still need you to say it.” He groped her breasts and kissed her neck firmly. 

“Fine. Yes!” she grumbled. “You fucking know I would.” 

“Exactly. Lose the attitude and stop acting like I don’t respect you; you know you’re special to me.”

“If I’m special, you don’t fucking call me a slut and a slave!” 

“That was mere punishment, my sweet girl. You know this deep down. Stop performing at aggravation when you know you earned that. Especially since I’d had half a mind to slit your throat instead.” 

“But then you’d miss me too much. Stop performing at murderous rage.”

“Touché, my dear.”

“But seriously...if I’m not just a follower, why treat me like one? You call me valuable, and then put me in harm’s way like I’m a disposable—” 

“Stop complaining, Alera. I mean it. It’s adorable how indignant you become when you feel slighted, but you must not take it out on me.”

Alera broke out of his arms and faced him.

“When I feel slighted? Are you—Merlin, Tom, setting me up for possible expulsion is a bit worse than that!”

“Well, sure, but again: I gave you a special test because you are special. That should make you feel smug, you know. I know how much you love feeling superior to others—or, what was the word Dumbledore used—narcissistic? Thinking too highly of ourselves, are we? Do I need to remind you of your place once again?”

“Oh, shut your mouth. Like you don’t think too highly of yourself, Mister—what’s the word I’m hearing now? Lord?” She enunciated that last word with a mocking sneer. 

“That’s right.” He wasn’t smiling. He looked deadly serious. “And you should be addressing me as such during Death Eater meetings. At least until we’re married.”

“Are you for real?!”

“Do you have a death wish?” 

Her jaw dropped.

“Lose the attitude. I’ve warned you enough times. And, in case you were wondering, I would kill you if you tried to use Dumbledore to help you leave me.”

Alera snarled. “Would you stop threatening my life already?! I never said I would try to—”

“Just making sure. I saw your conversation with him in your mind.”

“I gathered that, funny enough! And you know damn well you don’t need to make sure of anything; you’re just saying Look at me, I’m still the boss! in any way you can. But guess what: you don’t need to. I fucking get it.” 

Tom shook his head. “You’re towing the line again, love. Testing your limits with me is not a sport; it could get you killed. You value your life, don’t you? Because you know how special you are?” he sneered. “You know how much you need to succeed—not just for yourself, but to flaunt your superiority to the world? Do that all you want, but you must not cross me.” 

Once more, the air crackled between them, until Alera finally dropped her eyes to her lap.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, her voice thick with reluctance.

Another long silence ensued. And then Tom grinned mischievously. 

“I didn’t know you liked baby animals,” he teased.

“What?!”

“You were trying to think of James as a wounded baby animal to impress Dumbledore.” 

“Puppies and kittens are pretty cute...” she grumbled. “I’ll admit that. I like petting them.”

“Would you burst into tears if I tortured a puppy in front of you?”

“I’d rather you torture anything that’s not me,” she growled. 

“That’s my girl.” He leaned in and kissed her neck. “Now how about that romp?”

Alera scoffed. “You’re out of your bloody mind, Riddle.”

“We’ll see about that.” 

He pushed her down and climbed on top of her, grinning at her protests before silencing her with a deep kiss. Despite her determination to rebuff his advances, she felt herself succumbing as his lips traveled to her neck and began nibbling softly. Slowly. And even though he was pinning her wrists to the mattress, he was employing more gentleness than he normally did. It threw her off-balance. She didn’t know what to make of it. Was he trying to hypnotize her through sex and then hurt her again while she was defenseless? Was he simply in a better mood? 

Tom’s cheerfulness was, in fact, questionable. Of course he wanted her helpless against him, and was happy to know just how to touch her to melt her resistance, but he was also enraged at her recent behavior. And he hated that he truly didn’t want her dead—he feared that she was an asset too valuable to lose. As Dumbledore had implied during his lecture to her, Tom and Alera were much stronger together than apart. And Tom despised this cold, hard truth. Perhaps that was part of the reason he enjoyed hurting Alera so much—regardless of her attitude, she deserved punishment for making him feel like he’d be worse off without her. As long as she accepted her position and allowed him to treat her as he wished, perhaps the raging storm of their relationship would one day grow calm.

But that day seemed a long way off.

Be that as it may, he couldn’t help but burst with pride over Alera’s success in evading expulsion. Instead of punishing her further, he wanted to reward her. He wanted to make her feel as cherished as she was. He wanted to make her whole body shudder in rapture.

“You are perfect,” he murmured into her neck. “You are everything I need. I do hope you won’t force me to punish you again.”

That last statement was far from the truth, but he knew that such words would make her shiver in delight.

She struggled against his grip, trying to free her arms, but he wasn’t ready to release her. He still had to work her up some more. He wanted the satisfaction of hearing her beg him to take her, mere minutes after telling him to bugger off. Angry makeup sex would be on the agenda if he played his cards right.

“Don’t punish me,” she whispered. “I promise I won’t—” How could she phrase this without sounding like a simpering weakling?

“You won’t disappoint me again, I know,” he filled in for her. “Because you are smart and logical and you know how to adapt to changing circumstances. Just the way I need you to be. My favorite Death Eater and my favorite girl. So brilliant....” He kissed the bruises his hand had imprinted on her throat. “So beautiful....”

“You don’t have to butter me up, you know.”

DAMN her! “I beg your pardon?” 

She swallowed hard. “You know I like your pretty words, but there’s no point in saying them if you don’t mean them.” He opened his eyes and expected to be met with a fiery glare, but the resigned serenity in Alera’s eyes took his breath away. He’d not been expecting it. But Merlin...it was everything he wanted from her. At least in bed. 

“I’m not gullible, Tom. There’s no need to talk like that. Just...do what you want.” She smiled wanly. “Even if it involves torturing a puppy.”

Tom chuckled. “I don’t actually care about puppies,” he drawled. “If you want to pet them in your spare time, be my guest.”

Alera’s giggle was cut short when Tom lifted up her blouse and began kissing her lower belly. She gasped in surprise.

He slowly unbuttoned her from the bottom up, trailing slow kisses up her torso until she was panting. He could take his time now—she was mellow, pliant, and blessedly aroused. His efforts had finally paid off. 

Burying his face in between her breasts, he reached behind her and unhooked her bra while lapping at the soft skin. She gripped his shoulders and moaned, throwing her head back to give him more room.

“Gorgeous girl,” he whispered before tearing off her bra and closing his mouth around a pert nipple. He sucked eagerly while rolling her other nipple between his thumb and index finger. She was practically screaming by the time he released her breasts—the sensation was overwhelming, coupled with the sensation of him stiffening against her thigh. She could almost feel him pulsing through his trousers. And she could certainly feel the damp warmth in her panties. Part of her still wanted to shout at him and leave him alone with his hand for the night, but he’d never let her escape his room. Willing or not, she knew he would soon take her; so she may as well enjoy it. Fighting him gleaned her nothing but pain.

And, as much as she hated to admit it, she was tired of fighting against him.

She wanted him...she felt some semblance of caring for him...but she also harbored no doubts as to his true nature. As much as she loved indulging her dark heart with him, she also still feared his temper on occasion. She didn’t give  a shit how he treated others, as long as she was safe—and she knew that the best way to keep herself safe was to avoid angering him.

If any other girl had expressed similar feelings about a partner, Alera would have scoffed. She would have told that weak bitch to Crucio the offender and move on—but Tom wasn’t just any partner. He was a budding Dark wizard with more power and brilliance than half the Hogwarts student body combined. And he wanted her. She was obviously more special than even she knew, or Tom would never have claimed her. She felt lucky to be his chosen, and yet also cursed—such was the price of being with someone as demented as she, but with more power. Her predicament haunted her. 

Did she really want to share all the power Tom was seeking? She enjoyed the idea of having people both fear and idolize her, but a quiet life also appealed to her solitary nature. Perhaps, over time, she could learn to strike a balance between the two extremes, if she pleased Tom enough by completing her Death Eater assignments successfully.

She wanted a partner as wicked as Tom, but she also wanted total freedom. And she hated that, realistically, she couldn’t have both; so she’d just have to give him doe eyes and let him have his way when he was in one of his moods. At least he rewarded her obedience—as evidenced by his current behavior.

He’d removed the rest of their clothes while she had been lost in thought, and was now letting his gaze roam up and down her naked body as he stroked her skin. He was looking at her differently—the hunger in his eyes was evident, but he also looked almost...caring. In awe. As if he were the one worshipping her. She smirked at the irony. 

“You are a goddess, you know,” he murmured with a smirk, clearly having read her thoughts again. “Allow me to treat you like one. You’ve earned it.” 

He dragged his tongue up the inside of her legs, caressing the skin as he moved closer and closer to her throbbing heat. Her body tensed in anticipation as he pulled her thighs apart and kissed them softly. When he finally shoved his face in between her legs, she cried out in sheer relief. He seemed more urgent this time—like he was just as desperate to pleasure her as he was to sate his own hunger for her flesh. His hands gripped her thighs tightly enough to bruise, and he growled loudly as he licked and sucked. 

The sound of his tongue frantically lapping at her aroused her as much as the feel of him. She spread her legs wider and grabbed her breasts as she arched her back, aching to increase the pressure. Tom wouldn’t allow it. He teased her by switching between frenzied feasting to long, langourious licks. His thumb rubbed lazy circles around her clitoris while he slipped his tongue inside her, causing her to shudder. He shivered at the sensation of her muscles clenching around his tongue. Merlin, he really couldn’t get enough of her. Her moans, her (often reluctant) need of him, her scent, her taste....

She was addictive. She was perfection. And she was his.

“Please!” she begged after several minutes of his teasing strokes.

He smirked at her flushed face and white-knuckled hands, gripping her own breasts like lifelines.

“Please what?" he shot back. 

“What? What do you mean?! Don’t stop, Tom, come on!”

“That’s not what you call me. Not now.”

He can’t fucking be serious, she thought. I get that he wants obedience, but this is taking it too far....

He raised his eyebrows and regarded her like a stubborn child. “You know I’ll leave you alone like this if you don’t address me properly. And I’ll tie you down so you can’t take care of yourself.” 

She rolled her eyes and growled. He bit her thigh in response.

“Don’t you roll your eyes at me,” he snapped. “We just made such progress. Let’s not erase it.”

She opened her mouth to counter him, but he drowned out her protest by licking her clitoris until she was just shy of peaking. Every nerve in her body was quaking, and her heart pounded so heavily she thought it might burst. 

“Ple-ease!” she moaned, clutching her hair as tears leaked from her eyes. 

“Please. What.”

She swallowed hard and bit her lip. Pride be damned—she needed release. And she needed it now. She would die without it.

“Please...my Lord.”

“That’s my girl.” 

He smirked triumphantly and shoved two fingers inside her, earning him a squeal of surprise. He massaged the sweet spot deep inside while his tongue once more went to work on her clitoris. He was determined to drag out the anticipation as long as possible. Though he’d pleasured her numerous times before, he wanted this time to be special. Memorable. For both of them. And despite her addressing him the way he wanted, he decided that he still wasn’t done toying with her; she’d been too reluctant. He really did want her to worship him. 

He licked her rapidly, bringing her to the edge multiple times before slowing his pace and tasting all of her, relishing the sensation. She growled in protest each time. Sadly, he knew he couldn’t keep this up for much longer, as she was already beyond wound up—her violent shudders and piercing cries told him she was nearing her breaking point. But how much more could she endure? He had to find out.

He dragged his tongue back up and began licking again, wondering when the proper moment would come.

“Please, my Lord, please...oh, god, please!!” she screamed without even thinking.

And that was the cue he needed.

He pulled her even closer and opened his mouth wider as he flicked his tongue, determined to feel the shock waves he was about to create. He wanted to drown himself in the scent and taste of her. In the split-second before the orgasm ripped through her body, he closed his mouth around her clitoris and began sucking hard.

And she came undone. 

Her screams echoed off the walls as he clutched her thighs and pulled them around his face, determined to remain latched onto her sex until she came back down to earth. His head bobbed up and down as her hips bucked violently, and his arms shook with the exertion of keeping her trembling legs bound tightly around his head. They both lost all sense of time until she finally collapsed and lay still. 

Tom lay still as well, nestled in between her limp thighs as he lazily licked and sucked her dry.

Not that she would stay dry for long.

His own pulsing need had not abated, even with her mouth having worked him so expertly mere minutes earlier. He wanted more. Keeping her legs over his shoulders, he crawled back up her body and thrust into her. 

He finally had her where he wanted her. It had taken months, often driving him into a murderous frenzy as he catered to her needs to warm her up to him, but the reward now far outweighed the pain. The frustration, the punishment, the continuous power struggle...it was all worth it, as long as he could continue seizing these glorious moments atop her. He needed this. 

And he knew that underneath all her pride and stubbornness, she needed it, too.

Chapter Text

“We’re going to be very busy for the next several months,” Tom announced the next morning. “Taking over the world requires a lot of careful planning, you know.” 

Alera could only imagine.

“What will we be doing?” she asked him.

“First of all, we need to build as large a following as possible—not only within the student body, but with outside influences. Political figures and non-humans. I’m going to be searching for werewolves and trolls to join our cause, as I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to indulge themselves.”

“Yeah—and everyone is terrified of wolves and trolls.”

“And giants.” 

“Those, too.” Alera giggled at the thought of trolls and giants following Tom around. “But how are we going to make it happen?”

“I’m going to apply for the Defense position at the end of the year.”

“You want to be a teacher?”

“Well—sort of. I’m sure you’ve already noticed my pedagogical tendencies during Death Eater meetings, as well as our personal sessions, but I am not interested in teaching merely for the love of the craft. I am more concerned with molding future generations of students according to my ways of thinking, as impressionable young minds are often the best defense against an opposing force. I want to build empires of followers and admirers who believe in magical superiority, and are willing to examine the current prejudiced views against the Dark Arts. Defense is important, certainly, but I also want future generations to understand a more comprehensive study of magic. I am tired of this censorship disguised as protection for our own good.”

“What censorship? What are you talking about?”

“The Dark Arts are banned here, Alera! Haven’t you noticed? There’s a bloody Restricted Section in the library that no student can access without a pass! Withholding knowledge should be criminal, and I intend to make it so. I want to use my power and influence as a teacher to encourage everyone to open their minds and stop fearing that which they don’t understand.” 

Alera blinked. As fanatical as Tom sounded, he did have a point.

He smirked as he read her thoughts. “You understand, don’t you? You want to help me build a legion of followers who will revere us and shield us from harm?”

She nodded slowly. 

“And this is why your role is so important.”

“What will you have me do?” 

“You will be assessing the student body and punishing dissenters, both in and out of Hogwarts. We obviously need to work on your memory charm skills, given your near-miss with James Creavy, but I am confident that you will improve with enough practice.”

Alera scowled at her lap, annoyed that Tom had brought up her recent failure, but she knew better than to counter him. 

“Assuming Dippet gives me the teaching post,” he continued, “I will be living at Hogwarts and thus keeping you with me. I know how much you despise being out in the open, so I will allow you to work behind the scenes.”

“How will I be allowed to live at Hogwarts if I’m not working here?” 

“Dippet is wrapped around my little finger, love. If I ask him to allow you to live with me, he’ll almost certainly grant my wish. However, if he doesn’t, I'll simply keep you hidden from view.”

“So...I’m going to be locked up like the classic princess trapped in the tower? As much as I hate people, that doesn’t sound too appealing. What if I want to go outside?” 

Tom laughed. “You plan on finding work, yes?” 

“Of course. I’m not going to be like my friends, sitting on my hands and expecting a man to take care of me.” 

“So you’ll come and go through the school’s secret passages, possibly under a Disillusionment charm. It’s an easy fix.”

Alera stared at nothing, mulling over the possibilities. Tom allowed her the silence for a moment, before giving her further instructions.

“Whether you’re allowed to remain at Hogwarts or not is irrelevant; you will still be living here with me. You’ll be spending your free time either in my living quarters behind the classroom, or in the Chamber of Secrets, depending on the assignments I give you. I may have you use the basilisk to kill certain individuals if they grow too meddlesome—you’ll remember that I’ve instructed it to mind you.”

“As long as we’re not in danger of getting Hogwarts closed again, like you did in fifth year....”

Tom sighed. “A most unfortunate event. I won’t be so brazen as to kill students or staff; it would be those unaffiliated with Hogwarts so that the murder couldn’t be traced back to the Chamber. Or us.”

“That sounds like a safer bet.”  

“Yes. Outside of the Chamber, you will be assisting me in striking fear into the hearts of rebels—doing what you did to James during your initiation. You will use your admirable torturing skills to break down dissenters’ minds to the point that they fear even speaking against us. And since you will be more well-versed in memory charms,” he added, raising his eyebrows and eyeing her sternly, “we shall remain free from suspicion. I’m sure I can count on you to execute this task.”

“You know I love any excuse to hurt someone I don’t like.” She threw her head back and cackled.

“That’s my girl. Now, let’s go have breakfast.”

*   *   * 

Tom and Alera began plotting and scheming every night after dinner. In between Death Eater meetings and studying for NEWTs, they still stayed up well into the night, fueled by the excitement in the air as their followers grew stronger and more determined.

However, their successes were not without hiccups. Alera despised having to refer to Tom as My Lord during meetings, and tried to evade this by simply not using any moniker when addressing him, but he would not back down. All the Death Eaters felt the resulting tension, and avoided eye contact with the pair until they’d calmed down.

Alera felt snubbed when Tom gave her an assignment along with his followers, instead of keeping her close and making her feel special. Though Tom enjoyed making Alera happy, he also got a sick thrill out of her frustration over not being promoted to “Lady” just yet.

At least they would be married within the year, and Alera would no longer have to grovel like the others. 

Though she always stood by Tom’s side in the center of their circle of followers, Alera still resented the others in the group when Tom lumped her in with them. And they noticed. They also found it surprising that Tom was treating her as less than his equal—her barely-veiled snarl, when he forced her to address him properly, made her compatriots wince. They were secretly relieved to not have to witness whatever quarrels the couple got into in their private time.

Most of them, that is.

“I’m surprised he makes you call him that,” drawled a voice next to Alera after one meeting ended. She turned and saw Abraxas smirking at her.

“What’s it to you?” she countered, folding her arms as she appraised the blonde.

He shrugged. “I just figured you’d be the one person allowed to call him by his real name since, you know, he’s marrying you and all.” He nudged her arm and smirked wider. “You reckon he’ll extend that dynamic to your wedding night?” 

Was the boy truly surprised by Tom’s rules and engaging in a spat of playful teasing? Or was he being an arrogant prat yet again and trying to provoke her? Probably the latter. Alera knew she had to choose her words carefully.

“I’d advise worrying about yourself only,” she replied coolly, staring him down for good measure. She wouldn’t let his inappropriate remark affect her sensibilities.

“I was sticking up for you, you know,” he insisted, as he reached out and squeezed her shoulder. “Loosen up a little. It won’t hurt you to—” 

“You keep your hands off my girl!” Tom growled. He had suddenly appeared between the two of them and shoved Abraxas hard. Alera raised her eyebrows as Abraxas stumbled backward before regaining his footing.

The two boys glared at each other in silence until Tom turned his head toward Alera.

“Return to my room,” he ordered. “I’ll be there shortly.”

Alera nodded and left the forest with the others. 

“You have nerve, Malfoy,” Tom scolded, grabbing the other boy’s robes and pulling him close. “What in Salazar’s name were you thinking!”

Abraxas sputtered and shifted on his feet. 

“You fancy yourself special? Above reproach? You think the Malfoy name renders you immune from punishment?”

“I—no, I...I, no, my Lord, I didn’t think that—”

“You didn’t think. Full stop. Who gave you the authority to question how I treat my fiancée? And who gave you permission to touch her!” 

“I only touched her sho—”

“Answer me, Abraxas! No excuses!”

“I just...I didn’t mean...I was just surprised because you seem to—I mean, I thought she would address you differently because she’s your partner! It was meant as respect, not a denigration!”

“I assume your comment on our bedroom habits followed the theme of respect as well, then?!”

The blonde flushed a deep red and struggled to escape Tom’s hold. The Dark Lord only held on tighter.

“It was just a joke!” 

“And I’m a Squib. How thick do you think I am?!” 

“Okay, okay! I was curious about the—the stability of your relationship. Everyone can see that Alera hates calling you ‘My Lord’ and I just wondered if she—”

“You don’t have a chance, Malfoy. There is nothing to wonder about. Our relationship is more stable than any relationship of yours, I might add. And I don’t ever expect that to change.”

Abraxas flinched at the insult. He knew his parents respected Tom more than their own son, and the budding Dark wizard would never let him forget it.

“I will make your position clear,” Tom warned. “If you ever again lay a finger on Alera, or so much as look at her with a hint of lust in your eyes, I will slit your throat. And no one will ever be able to link me to your death. Do I make myself clear?” 

“Yes, my Lord.” 

“I will publicly grieve with your family and convince them that I miss you—and the end of the Malfoy bloodline—as much as they will. Merlin, perhaps they’ll even take me into their home in your stead, as a way of assuaging their grief! I could just imagine the life of luxury I’d be ushered into...such a beautiful house, guardians who all but worship me—”

“ALL RIGHT!” Abraxas shouted. “Merlin, Tom—my Lord—I...don’t kill me! I promise I won’t come on to her!”

“You certainly won’t. Not if you value your life. Now get out of my sight.”

Abraxas chewed on his lip and hurried out of the forest. 

*   *   * 

Tom paced for a few moments, as he often did when fury coursed through him. Who did Malfoy think he was? He was a servant; not a competitor for his fiancée’s affections.

Tom did not truly want to kill Abraxas; the boy was as loyal as they come, and his family belonged to the Sacred Twenty-Eight. With no other heirs to spare. Though he was less interested in Pureblood supremacy and more interested in getting people to do his bidding, he couldn’t afford to lose the loyalty of such a family. The image of being taken in by the Malfoys amused him, but he didn’t really want to live in someone else’s house; he wanted to be alone. With Alera, of course. 

Speaking of which, the girl in question was striding through the halls of Hogwarts, approaching Tom’s room with a scowl creasing her features. She’d refused to speak to the other Death Eaters after the meeting ended, too angry and irritated for more social activity. She barely even registered Tom entering the room ten minutes after she’d sat down on his bed, and continued staring at the comforter without actually seeing it.

“Why so glum?” Tom asked, sitting opposite her and tucking her hair behind her ear. “Abraxas has been dealt with. He will not bother you again.”

“That’s good,” she mumbled softly. 

Tom reached forward and lifted her chin. He met her gaze with a small smirk and one eyebrow raised in inquiry. “What’s got your wand in a knot?”

She sighed. “I’m not mincing my words, Tom—I’m having a really hard time with this Lord thing.”

“So I’ve noticed. Why does it bother you so much? You know me and you know how I operate. You should feel honored that I’ve chosen you, in more ways than one; the appellation I require in public shouldn’t matter to you.”

Alera sighed again, and looked down at her lap to avoid rolling her eyes. She knew how Tom would react to that.

How could she express herself without angering him? And how come she even needed to, with him being a Legilimens? This situation was awkward enough. Couldn’t he just read her mind and then leave her alone with her thoughts?

“Speak, Alera,” Tom scolded. “You will not close yourself off from me, no matter how expertly I can sift through your thoughts. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“I want to feel like your equal all the time,” she blurted. “I hate being relegated to ‘follower’ status in meetings when I’m supposed to be your equal. It’s not the same. Just because I have the same tattoo that they do doesn’t mean that I should be treated as less than your equal. You told me that you want me by your side when you take over the Wizarding world. I don’t always feel like I’m by your side; I feel more like I’m beneath you.”

“I have no equals, love.”

“Excuse me?”

“You are beneath me. Engaged or not, I am still your superior. You may skip the formality in public once we are married—unless you grow to enjoy it too much—” he teased with a smirk, “but you’re not truly on equal footing with me. No one is. And no one ever will be.”

Her jaw dropped.

“Don’t worry; you’re the closest thing to an equal I will ever have—hence that beautiful ring I gave you.”

“I’m torn between feeling privileged and insulted.” 

Tom scoffed. “As I’ve told you many times: you should be honored by my faith in your competence. You should be flattered by my devotion to you. And, in case you failed to notice, I never thought anyone could ever become as important to me as you have. In fact, I’ve often wished you harm in retaliation for inspiring such...such a...stirring in me.” The side of his mouth twitched, but Alera couldn’t tell if it was a smirk or a repression of fury.

She sighed as the realization hit her. “That’s why you like to punish me, isn’t it.”

“How astute of you. That, and I simply find the practice arousing.” 

“Of course you do, you sadistic bastard.” 

“As if you’re the patron saint of kindness. You’re one to talk.” 

Alera chuckled humorlessly and flopped onto the mattress. Tom was right—she was flattered by his affection, as she had frequently reminded herself, but she often still found herself aggravated by his haughtiness.

Tom sneered as he read her thoughts before climbing on top of her.

“Stop complaining, gorgeous. I know you love the way I overpower you in bed; so just think of Death Eater meetings as an extension of our private dynamic.” 

“What? What are you talking about? What on Earth is sexual about Death Eater meetings?!”

Tom laughed at her expression before leaning down and kissing her neck. “You know the way you must address me when I take you. It’s the same in meetings—you submit to me, you trust in my authority, and you do what I tell you. And you relish it. Just as my followers do. I obviously don’t frolic with them in the bedroom, but the power dynamic is similar.” 

Alera chewed on her lip as she pondered Tom’s words. He made sense on some level; and yet she was hesitant to display even a hint of her sexual preferences in public. She was still fiercely private as ever. It had been difficult enough to allow Tom to get as close as he had...to get to know her as well as he had...but behaving publicly in a way that mimicked her bedroom behavior made her stomach clench.

“Who has to know how you act in my bed?” Tom reminded her. “No one will know about our sex life unless you choose to speak about it. Why does this proposition bother you so much?”

“Maybe they won’t know explicitly what we do in bed, but they’ll probably have an idea if they see me bowing to you like a—” 

“You think they haven’t gotten a whiff of that already?! Alera, you act like you’re the only one who knows how cutthroat I am. All of them know. They’ve seen me torture people and animals. They have tortured people and animals. And so have you! You really think they imagine our sex life as something out of a fairytale romance?” 

“A fairytale spawned in Hell is more like it.” 

“Exactly,” Tom laughed. “Don’t worry about what you’re revealing, love. Everyone has surely pondered the details of our private life, whether we like it or not, and your submissive behavior during meetings will shock no one. Honestly, I think their only surprise will be in how long it took me to glean the proper responses from you. Everyone else began addressing me properly without a backward glance. I have given you more leeway than any of them.”

Alera exhaled slowly as Tom began kissing her neck, determined to force all the tension from her body. Holding onto such powerful resistance wasn’t worth it, anyway, if Tom always had the final say.

She did enjoy passing him the reins in the bedroom—given the power she wielded in her external world, it was a relief to be able to be passive in this one aspect of her life. But she didn’t want to give him complete control. Behavior was one thing, but dialogue was another; and using words like “Lord” made her wildly uncomfortable. However, being frantically, obsessively desired by the most attractive young man at Hogwarts was certainly a treat. He made her feel beautiful. And he would surely reward her further for following his instructions.

“Ohh!” she cried out as said young man slipped his hand into her panties and began probing her moistened flesh. She spread her legs wider and made to wrap her arms around his neck, but he grabbed her wrists with his free hand and pinned them above her head.

“Don’t forget your place,” he hissed before biting her shoulder several times. She gasped—less in pain, and more in delight as his fingers curled inside her. He increased the pressure slowly, building her up and savoring the feeling of her body tensing underneath him.

Only he could impact her like this. Only he could control her like this. No one else could morph his fiery girl into a mewling, trembling siren pleading for more.

And speaking of pleading, he was mildly annoyed that she hadn’t reached that point yet.

“You would like release, would you not?” he purred against her throat, moving his fingers faster and faster. 

“Yes...please....” she panted. “Please...oh...ohh....”

He sharply withdrew from her body and peeled off her underwear as she squealed in protest. Her body jerked. 

“So address me properly. And enjoy it.” He dragged his soaked fingers across her lips and then kissed her hard.

Alera closed her eyes and reminded herself that revering Tom gleaned her rewards. He only degraded her when she disobeyed. And it wasn’t as if giving in to him was a strike against her worth—quite the opposite, in fact. Slipping into the role Tom required in bed showed that she possessed the courage and fluid grace Tom required in a partner. He needed someone who could embody various personas to fulfill his orders—as evidenced by her Death Eater initiation and subsequent brush with Dumbledore. Tom trusted in her ability to adapt to changing circumstances. So what if he wanted her to address him a certain way in bed? Sure, such an act made her uneasy, but it also tested her ability to face her fears with dignity. She realized that he had drawn his line in the sand, and she no longer wished to cross it.

She was strong. She was brave. She could handle this challenge.

“Please, my Lord...please...” she begged, looking up at Tom with a mixture of desperation, anticipation, and quiet respect. He grinned broadly.

“Of course, love. How could I possibly refuse you when you beg so sweetly?”

Clamping his teeth around the nape of her neck, he slipped his fingers back inside her and pumped furiously until her hips bucked.

Once the shockwaves abated, Alera sank back into the pillows and watched Tom unbuckle his trousers. She kept her wrists in position above her head.

“Good girl,” he praised as he positioned himself in between her legs, while once more grabbing her wrists. He entered her and began thrusting in slow, forceful motions as he stared her down. Determined not to let his stare intimidate her, she met his gaze, towing the line between obedience and defiance. She only looked away when he released her arms to squeeze her breasts. She arched into his hands and moaned, fiercely gripping the pillow.

“You may touch me now,” he whispered, struggling to keep his voice even as he pounded into her harder and harder. She threw her arms around his back instantly. 

Gripping her waist in one hand and her hair in the other, he buried his face in her neck to muffle his own cries as he allowed his arousal to engulf him. Neither of them even heard the bedsprings creak as they shuddered and moaned, so lost they were in each other.

When Tom collapsed onto her body, Alera closed her eyes and allowed herself to relax. Other than the motion of her hands stroking his shoulders, neither of them moved for several minutes. 

“You behaved wonderfully tonight,” Tom murmured before casting cleansing spells. “I am proud of you.” 

Despite all he had accomplished in his young life, he decided that bringing Alera into submission had been one of his crowning achievements. The girl was as strong-willed as he was, and yet he had impacted her enough to make her see the value in obeying him even when his orders disturbed her. Perhaps she’d never worship him the way his followers did, but her current stance was enough.

Alera also reflected on their relationship as they undressed and slipped under the blankets for the night. She was still on the fence about Tom’s bedroom expectations, but hoped that the arrangement would begin to feel normal over time. She had no other choice, anyway. He wasn’t giving an inch. In fact, as time went on, he only seemed to saturate her more and more. She felt as if he were swallowing her whole. 

But maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. He had helped her grow interminably stronger and more disciplined over the past year. Getting to know him as intimately as she had, she now knew how to navigate his moods. She knew how to please him. She knew how to motivate him to please her. And, as he had often pointed out, no one else would ever understand her so thoroughly and still respect her. Their union really did embody some twisted version of a fairytale.

Tom quietly pulled her close as she began to drift off. She found herself relaxing faster with his arms around her, and smiled faintly just before falling asleep—she was proud of herself as well.

For all the stress he caused her, Tom certainly knew how to expand her comfort zone.

Chapter Text

For the next few weeks, Abraxas avoided Tom like the plague. The blonde shook slightly whenever the Head Boy came within his ten-foot radius, terrified of the prospect of even speaking to him in class. As Tom now sat with Alera all the time, this venture wasn’t terribly difficult. 

Tom also wanted nothing to do with the other boy. His most loyal “friend” had had the nerve to flirt with his fiancée—in full view of many of the Death Eaters—and was actually arrogant enough to think he could evade punishment! Merlin, having Malfoys around really could be a double-edged sword.

Alera observed the tension between the two boys and thought it best not to intervene. She pretended not to notice when she caught Tom glaring at Abraxas, or Abraxas immersing himself in a crowd when he caught sight of Tom. It was a frivolous argument, she decided. Had Abraxas not been such a prat at the last Death Eater meeting, and had Tom not overreacted, none of this would have happened. So what if Abraxas had made an immature comment? He hadn’t actually harmed or threatened her; he’d just been an idiot. Alera would have just punched the blonde and been done with it, had Tom not exploded over the issue. She privately thought that both boys needed to get over themselves and move on.

Tired of the childish drama, Alera extricated herself from Tom’s clutches to go for a walk with her friends one Saturday afternoon. The girls knew that something was bothering Tom, but hadn’t felt comfortable asking Alera about her moody partner when he was almost always next to her. 

Alera was surprised that Tom had allowed her so much space—until he cited needing some alone time of his own that weekend. He’d refused to elaborate. All Alera knew was that she’d have the next two days entirely to herself. She relished her freedom. As much as she enjoyed spending time with Tom, she never objected to a break from his overwhelming presence. It was a relief to speak of lighthearted topics with her friends as they mozied out of the castle, in no hurry and with no goal in mind. There was no talk of NEWTs, Death Eater responsibilities, or petty drama; they only discussed the improving weather and the upcoming weddings in their social circle. Alera hoped the wedding discussion would remain on the Prewetts and the Malfoys, but of course she couldn’t be that lucky.

“What’s got Tom all wound up?” Walburga asked as the girls sat down by the lake, having already discussed the Prewett wedding for a while. “I’d have thought he’d be happy because you’re marrying in a few months.”

“He’s still ticked off about what Abraxas did after our last meeting.”

“Still?” Lucretia demanded. “That was almost a month ago! Is that stupid comment the only reason they aren’t speaking?” 

“Yup. Tom threatened Abraxas pretty severely and scared the pants off of him. Now he just runs when he sees Tom coming, fucking coward that he is.”

“Guys, come on!” Amanda protested, hating to hear her friends call her fiancé nasty names. Her comrades had not revealed the truth of Abraxas’s comments, not wanting to upset her, so she remained oblivious to the truth. She believed that Abraxas had merely made a joke about the “Lord” issue with Alera and Tom hadn’t appreciated it. The group didn’t need the drama of a possible broken engagement on their hands. Pureblood marriages were a community event, and the wedding schedule for this summer simply couldn’t be disrupted. It would be a disgrace. 

Amanda remained blissfully unaware of her partner’s attempt at philandering, and unknowingly steered the conversation back onto the subject of Tom and Alera’s dynamic. Alera confirmed that she was having issues with Tom’s expectations in Death Eater meetings, but she understood his motivations and admitted to simply needing an adjustment period. None of the girls felt comfortable prying beyond that point—they, too, would be at a loss if their partners ever ordered them to call them Lord. They did not envy Alera over the issue. 

“And where is Tom this weekend, anyway?” Lucretia interjected. 

“I’m not sure,” Alera replied. “He wouldn’t tell me where he was going; only that it was important.”

“Are you—are you two all right?”

“Yeah, we’re fine. He didn’t sound angry or anything.”

“So you’re still marrying at the end of August? Right after Abraxas and me?”

“Yes! I promise we’re fine.”

“Okay, okay...it just doesn’t seem like him to...leave you alone like that. He’s obsessed with you.”

Alera bit her lip, feeling equal parts treasured princess and entrapped animal after hearing that statement. “He assured me that everything was fine and he would tell me about his trip when he got back.”

The other girls nodded, silently hoping that Alera was correct—and hoping that she would appease their curiosity.

She never would.

*   *   * 

Tom was, in fact, still at Hogwarts, though undetectable. A few weeks earlier, he had stumbled upon The Room of Requirement. And he had told no one. Believing that no one else would ever be smart enough to discover this room, he deemed it a safe hiding place for his next Horcrux. Plus, placing a Horcrux there would give him one more way to tie himself to his beloved school. 

He was currently holed up in this room, browsing through all the mysterious objects that, unbeknownst to him, had been left there by many people over time. He wondered how this room had come to be—if it had only revealed itself to him, or if others had discovered its existence over the centuries. He figured that all the objects had landed there by magic; no one else could possibly have been brilliant or lucky enough to make such a discovery! He was the most brilliant student to ever attend Hogwarts. No one else could tap into the school’s secrets the way he could!

Smirking over these thoughts, and preparing himself for the task that lay ahead, he left the Room of Requirement and stalked up several flights of stairs. He’d heard rumors that Helena Ravenclaw, the ghost of Ravenclaw Tower, possessed knowledge of her late mother’s most treasured possession: a silver and sapphire diadem hidden away somewhere far from harm. This was no ordinary tiara; it possessed a rare type of magic by which the wearer could tap into higher levels of consciousness to attain superhuman knowledge. Legend told that many people had sought the diadem for selfish reasons, hence Rowena Ravenclaw’s paranoia. She had hidden the object somewhere obscure, and no one had seen it for hundreds of years. 

Tom decided that it was time to change that. 

He approached Ravenclaw Tower with a soft gait and inquisitive facial expression, so as not to alarm Helena. She was the shyest, most reclusive ghost at Hogwarts and Tom knew he had to tread carefully in order to wheedle the information out of her.

“Helena?” he called out softly. “Helena Ravenclaw? I’d like to speak with you, if you don’t mind.”

A whoosh sounded in the corridor after a minute, and a transparent young woman materialized a few feet in front of Tom.

“Who are you?” asked the ghost. She spoke in a dainty, breathy voice that echoed her quiet poise as a human. She was always apprehensive about talking to people, but this particular boy seemed different. Rare. And she couldn’t figure out if his quirkiness was a good thing or not. 

“Forgive me for startling you,” Tom replied in as kind a tone as he could muster. “My name is Tom Riddle. I’m a student here.” 

“I can see that.” She gestured to the Slytherin crest on his school robes. “What is it that you want with me?”

“I have come to ask you a question. I’ve heard rumors surrounding your mother, and I am interested in finding out about—”

“You seek my mother’s diadem.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Knowledge, of course.” Tom flashed Helena a megawatt smile to disarm her. She merely shook her head and floated backward a few feet.

“That’s what everyone has told me. Everyone wants knowledge, you know. People think that being more intelligent or worldly than their peers will make them superior...and then they cannot live with the information they unwittingly call upon themselves. They are ill-prepared for such enlightenment. Most cannot handle it. Even I couldn’t. I tried to—”

“Oh, Helena, I assure you that I can handle anything. I am nothing like my peers, and I care not for the approval of others. I merely seek to enhance my skills in the magical arts so that I may accomplish great things. My thirst for knowledge is insatiable, and mere books alone cannot satisfy me. As the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw, valuing knowledge as highly as she did, might you not wish to assist me?”

“You are a strange boy, Tom Riddle. A strange boy with a strange name. Why should I help you?”

“It is who seeks to help you, Helena,” Tom insisted, biting back anger over her insult. “By claiming the diadem for myself, I will use it to empower others with the knowledge I seek. I want to be a teacher one day, you know. Wouldn’t you feel more at ease, knowing that a teacher was carrying on your legacy and helping you repair your old wounds? And a teacher from a different Hogwarts House, might I add. I surely don’t need to remind you that inter-House enmity is still strong. Especially against my House.”

“Yes, Tom, I know of this. And I have heard many people express confidence in their ability to correctly harness the diadem’s power without losing control. Unfortunately, I fear that my mother was the first and last to harness it properly.” 

“What makes you think you couldn’t handle such knowledge?” 

“I stole the diadem,” she mumbled. “I don’t want to help someone else repeat my mistakes. I just told you—everyone thinks they know what they’re seeking from the object, but they cannot fathom what will happen once they acquire it. And I—I don’t want to tarnish my mother’s memory.” 

“That’s something I can certainly understand.” 

“How? What do you mean?”

“My own mother, rest her soul, perished after giving birth to me. I never even met her. I suppose my thirst for knowledge comes from my need to uphold her memory. Especially with my father being the lecherous failure that he was, abandoning her in her time of need....” his voice trailed off and he masked his rage with an expression of regretful loneliness.

Helena was taken aback. “You mean—you want to make your mother proud.” 

“Of course. Who doesn’t? It’s only natural.” But I am nothing if not unnatural, Tom thought smugly. I can work this in my favor.

He told Helena a sob story about his father abandoning his pregnant wife—which had been true—but neglected to inform the ghost that his mother had ensnared his father via a love potion, a crime tantamount to rape, and the man had only left when she’d stopped drugging him. Tom then claimed that he’d never located his father; Helena certainly wouldn’t cooperate if she knew that Tom had deliberately murdered the man, thereby culling his own bloodline and beginning the process of reinventing himself. 

He needed the diadem, and he needed it now. The next Horcrux. Another link to Hogwarts forever.

“Tom, I do not wish to cause anyone harm. I understand your motivations, but I fear that I may be setting you up for immense shock and overwhelm and—”

“Helena, I promise I won’t blame you if something goes wrong. I asked for the information. What I do with your words is my responsibility, and mine alone.” 

The Dark Lord’s eyes were burning in determination, enough to mildly terrify the poor ghost. 

“Tom, I have seen this ambition in so many others, even after I warned them about my own mistakes; you are not the first....” 

“What mistakes did you make, Helena?” 

The ghost looked at the floor as she pursed her lips, debating whether or not to confide in this stranger. He seemed off, in some way, but perhaps that was a result of growing up orphaned. Maybe she could redeem herself by motivating this stranger to help her right her wrongs. 

She decided to take the risk. What was the worst that could happen, anyway? She was dead, her family was dead, and this boy possessed a spark for life unlike anything she’d seen in centuries. He was just a boy, anyway. Barely of age. He surely couldn’t be as powerful as most of the people who had sought the diadem for selfish reasons. 

“I stole it,” she finally whispered to the eager young man. 

“What did you steal?” 

“The diadem. I stole it from my mother and ran away with it. I was jealous. I was foolish. I—my greed is what got me killed. I don’t want to see someone else repeat my failures.” 

Now Tom was intrigued. If such an object had not only inspired greed and betrayal but had also led to murder—why, it must be even more valuable than he’d ever imagined! He had to get his hands on the diadem immediately. Perhaps if he convinced her that he, too, was now disgusted by the greed of those before him and wished to destroy the object, then maybe she would share her secret. He had to tread carefully.

“How—I mean, I apologize, I don’t wish to be indelicate, but how did stealing the diadem get you killed?” 

“Well, it wasn’t the diadem itself; it can’t end lives on its own. My mother fell ill, see, more than likely of a broken heart...she wanted to see me one more time before she died, even after I had run off with her prized possession. She sent an admirer of mine to fetch me in Albania, where I was hiding, to try and convince me to return to her. I didn’t want to return—and certainly not with him, as I had rebuffed him several times before—so he killed us both. I had already hidden the diadem by this time...but you see, I wouldn’t have died so young had I not betrayed my mother and run away.”

Tom was silent, absorbing all that Helena had revealed. He could certainly understand why she had reservations about sharing such information. Speaking to her in her current state, he could be at his most convincing.

“Helena,” he spoke quietly, “would you tell me its location if I promised to destroy it?” 

The ghost’s eyes widened. “I don’t understand. You just expressed confidence in your ability to harness the diadem’s power, and now you want it gone? Just like that? How could you change your mind so quickly?”

Tom looked down at his feet, pretending to be feeling humbled. “You are a descendent of Rowena Ravenclaw. I realize you understand knowledge better than most—its power and its pitfalls. If the diadem’s mere existence can inspire murder and suicide, then...perhaps we’re better off without it, after all. Maybe I was a little foolhardy.” He kept his eyes on the floor and mouth turned downward in a façade of shame, waiting for Helena to speak.

Helena swooped around the corridor, appraising Tom from different angles while pondering her response. He certainly was a strange boy, and she was hesitant to believe his words, but his body language did seem to indicate sincerity. And besides, no one had ever sought to destroy the diadem before. Perhaps this boy possessed more discipline than others, and could simply see the error in his ways because his mind was more open. Maybe he really was mature beyond his years. And if he were lying, well...he would be merely one more person to fall prey to the diadem’s power. Would she really be worse off that way? She had warned him.

Maybe she could take a chance on this Tom Riddle character. He certainly was a riddle all on his own.

“Where—” Tom cleared his throat and softened his tone, realizing he’d begun speaking too forcefully. “Where did you hide it, Helena?”

“In a tree,” she sighed. “A hollow tree in the Albanian forest. It looks like any other tree, except for the extra few branches a bit lower down than all the others....” 

If ghosts could cry, Tom noted, Helena would be weeping. It was a curious sight. And certainly a display of vulnerability. She trusted him now. He made a show of consoling Helena as best he could, so that she wouldn’t be tempted to share their conversation with anyone, human or ghost.

“How do I find this tree?” he asked softly.

Helena paused before responding, and still hesitated every couple of words as she revealed the last piece of her secret. Tom’s eyes widened, but he did not otherwise allow his body language to betray his greedy excitement.

“Be careful with it, Tom,” she warned. “Don’t make the mistake of others before you. Understand its power.” 

“I will not allow it to seduce me. I promise you, Helena, I will destroy it.” 

“Please.” 

“I will. I swear it. Thank you for your confidence in me.” 

The ghost nodded and flew away without another word. Only then did Tom allow himself to grin maniacally, striding back to his room like a triumphant king returning home from an epic battle, covered in his enemy’s blood. 

The Dark Lord had won. Again.

Chapter Text

“So, how was your trip? Where did you go?” 

Tom grinned secretively and resumed kissing Alera’s neck. She’d gone to his room a few hours prior, and he had jumped on her as soon as he’d walked through the door. In an uncommonly good mood after his successful coercion of the Ravenclaw ghost, he’d craved an immediate celebration. Alera hadn’t objected.

He now lay atop her, evading her questions by trying to seduce her a second time. 

“Why won’t you answer me?” she giggled as he nipped at her earlobe.

“Why can’t you ever learn patience?” he countered with a searing kiss.

“You were gone all weekend! I waited for—”

“I’ll tell you later.” 

“Why?”

“You’ll understand when the proper moment arrives. Trust me.”

Alera’s eyes narrowed. “Why can’t you just tell me now? Does this have anything to do with me? Should I be worried?”

 “No need to worry, love,” Tom murmured. “It’s got nothing to do with you. You have nothing to fear.”

“Why do I feel like it has everything to do with me, and you’re deliberately not telling me because you want to see me get anxious?”

“You feel that way because you’re paranoid. Stop it. I have no reason to lie to you.”

Her protests were drowned in more kisses and caresses until she forgot why she’d been apprehensive in the first place. 

*   *   * 

Tom’s evasiveness quickly faded in Alera’s mind, with the bulk of her free time dedicated to NEWT preparations and job applications. As Tom didn’t require as much study time, he devoted more hours to whatever Dark Arts research he could cram in. He wasn’t interested in filling out job applications, convinced that Headmaster Dippet would grant him the Defense position within the week. Professor Merrythought was retiring at the end of term, and Tom knew he was the perfect replacement. Dippet would be daft to disagree. 

While Tom was rehearsing the speech he would give Dippet, Alera was fielding one rejection letter after the next. She was a brilliant girl with remarkable grades, but no one at the Ministry of Magic wanted to hire her. Her reputation preceded her. Only a handful of teachers had written recommendation letters for her, and the missives were lackluster at best. All the Ministry higher-ups could tell that the professors were less than enchanted with the girl. And no one wanted an employee they couldn’t trust. 

Tom, on the other hand, was receiving as many employment opportunties as Alera was receiving rejection letters. All teachers but Dumbledore adored the young man, and had even gone so far as to recommend him to various positions before Tom had even gotten a chance to apply—not that he’d have wanted to, however. He had one goal, and one goal only. Working at the Ministry did not fit in with his plans.

Alera wished him luck on the Saturday afternoon he met with Dippet to discuss his employment. She couldn’t wait to hear all about their meeting and finally find out exactly how Tom would fit her into his grand scheme. Perhaps she wouldn’t even need to find work if Tom remained at Hogwarts, as long as she pleased him enough with her Death Eater assignments. She smirked at the thought of being able to spend most of her time reading in Tom’s room while he taught Defense, and occasionally torturing someone on his orders. Perhaps she would even explore the Chamber of Secrets after feeding yet another victim to the basilisk—she’d found the underground lair enchanting and loved the thought of meandering about the dark halls alone with no goal in mind.

Her daydreams were cut off twenty minutes later, excitement turning to dread as Tom stormed into his bedroom and slammed the door. His jaw was set and his eyes were blazing. 

“What happened?” Alera asked quietly, appraising his rigid form as his hands balled into fists.

Tom sighed and rolled his eyes. “Dippet says I’m too young to become a professor. He loves the thought me teaching, but not when I’m only—”

“But that’s still good news! Why are you so angry? That means he’ll more than likely hire you in a few years. That’s not a flat-out rejection, like what I’ve been getting....” She scoffed and tossed her hair over her shoulder. 

“Alera, that’s not the point!” Tom fumed. “I’m tired of waiting! I’m tired of having to play the calm and polite student, sneaking around just to gain the knowledge I seek. This school, and the Wizarding world at large, needs my influence! They don’t even realize what they’re lacking! And I am sick of being told I can’t have that which I desire!” 

Alera pressed her lips together and stared at the wall before responding, making sure she could phrase her thoughts without further riling Tom up.

“People generally don’t say no to you, Tom. You get what you want pretty much all the time. It seems you’re forgetting that. Getting told no once doesn’t cancel all that out, or suddenly become a stain on your persuasiveness. And anyway, the Ministry wants you,” she reminded him. “I know you don’t want to work there, but you don’t have to work there permanently. What’s wrong with taking a job there for three or four years, and then coming back to Hogwarts to teach? People at the Ministry are frothing at the mouth, desperate to hire you. You should be relieved! You have options! What other student has the Ministry begging them to take a job without even having to apply?!”

“I’m not interested in options! I am not partaking in a bloody popularity contest with these fools. I want the teaching position; that’s the only way I’ll be able to remain at Hogwarts!” 

“And you almost certainly will, in a few years! It’s not even about your competence; it’s about your age. You’ll get older, like everyone else! Why are you acting like this is the end of the world?” 

Tom’s eyes flashed in anger at the reminder that he, too, would age—but he would certainly be able to put a stop to that with a large supply of Horcruxes. Merlin, he hated having such bloody normal things in common with everyone else....

“Don’t you trivialize this!” he snapped. “I shouldn’t have to compromise or bargain for the job I deserve! No one is more qualified than I! And damn it, you know my objective is not simply to be a teacher!”

“And you can still make that happen! Hell, you can learn more about the way our government works by being inside it. You should be excited about that. That can help our cause.” 

“That’s what my followers should be doing. I am meant for greater things than being a corporate bloodsucker!”

“I never said you weren’t! But why are you fixating on the one job you can’t have, when you will surely have it later? Just because it’s not happening right this minute—” 

“I despise the thought of having to leave Hogwarts!” Tom hissed, stepping in close. “It’s the only—” 

He paused and glared at the floor, unsure of whether or not it was wise to reveal the truth to Alera.

“It’s the only what?” she pressed.

“Hogwarts is the only thing I care about besides you,” he mumbled. And immortality. But you’re not ready to hear about that quite yet. 

Alera blinked. 

“Hogwarts is the only place I’ve ever felt at home. I don’t belong anywhere else. I want to remain here forever, and I want you with me.”

“I want that, too,” she replied quietly, trying to soothe him with her softer tone. “This isn’t a brick wall; it’s just a detour. You’ll still get what you want eventually...just like you always do. I mean, just look at me.” She nudged him playfully. “I wanted nothing to do with you for years.” 

One side of his mouth twitched upward for a moment, and then slipped back into a frown. 

“Oh, come on. Lighten up.” 

The snarl was back. “I warned you not to trifle with me, Alera.”

She giggled as she realized his real issue. She simply couldn’t help herself.

“It’s not even about Dippet, is it!” she exclaimed. “You just hate being wrong! This is about your ego! You based all your plans around getting this job and building up your army while at Hogwarts—you were so certain that you would get your way, as always, and now you have to pivot. You don’t know what to do with yourself.” 

Tom grabbed Alera’s robes and slammed her against the wall as his face contorted in fury. She continued laughing, which only enraged him further.

“You can’t hide shit like this from me; I’m too much like you. You told me that right over there—” She pointed to his dresser. “—right before you ripped my clothes off after the ball. Remember?”

“I should Crucio you to the ends of the Earth.” 

“But you’re not going to, because you know I’m right.”

Tom pointed his wand at her throat, seething more than ever.

“What are you doing?” she demanded. “What will you accomplish by torturing me? The truth doesn’t stop being true just because it’s hard to swallow.”

“I’ll give you something hard to swallow,” he growled.

Alera couldn’t help but laugh harder. “You can’t have it both ways! You can’t say you want me for me and then go apeshit when I say something brutally honest! What advantage will you gain by torturing me?”

Tom dug his wand into Alera’s throat for a long moment, weighing his options, and then dropped his arm suddenly. Without even glancing at her, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the room.

“Just work at the fucking Ministry for a few years!” she called after him. “It’s not that big a deal!”

Her only answer was the sound of his footfalls fading as he stormed off.

*   *   * 

Tom was exceptionally moody for the next few days. He still studied with Alera and sat with her during classes, speaking with her when necessary, but his act was not quite as polished as it normally was. All the teachers chocked up his brooding attitude to NEWT stresses—the exams were now days away and everyone was frazzled, so Tom had a bit more leeway to show his true feelings. 

One teacher, however, was not fooled: Albus Dumbledore. Observant and aware as ever, the professor sensed the shift in Tom’s mood and knew he had to discover the source. Doing so wasn’t too difficult, given Dippet’s offhand remark about Tom over lunch one afternoon. “The poor boy is probably still mopey about our meeting,” he said.

“What meeting?” Dumbledore asked. 

“Tom asked me to grant him the Defense position when Merrythought retires.”

Dumbledore bristled. “What?!”

“Relax, Albus. I told him he was too young. He’ll surely apply again in a few years, if the position opens again.”

“I strongly advise against hiring him, Armando.” 

“Whatever for? The boy is the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen. He would be an outstanding professor.” 

“Please—let’s talk about this in your office. I don’t want to cause a stir.” 

The older man eyed his colleague strangely, as he often did, but agreed to a later meeting. 

*   *   *

“Tom Riddle is dangerous.” Dumbledore warned the Headmaster that night. “Please do not hire him, now or later. He may be brilliant, but he will surely use his intelligence and cunning nature to undermine the integrity of this school. I can’t sit idly by and watch him—” 

“Merlin’s beard, Albus; we’ve been over this!” Dippet sighed. “You’re far too hard on him. He grew up unloved in a bloody Muggle orphanage; of course he’s going to be moody sometimes.” 

“Moody?! That’s absurd. You know I’m not referring to his sudden change in body language over the past few days. I’m saying that he knows how to pinpoint everyone’s weaknesses, and he preys on them. He knows exactly how to evade punishment. He tells people what they want to hear in order to get his way. Tell me, have you ever seen him get angry? Have you ever known him to receive detention? His record is tooperfect. No student is that well-mannered without an ulterior motive. Think about it.”

“I have thought about it. We have discussed the boy many times. I think you’re reading too much into his mannerisms.”

“And I think you’re seeing what you want to see because you don’t want to admit that Tom has pulled the wool over your eyes.” 

“How dare you!”

Dumbledore pinched the bridge of his nose. “We are on the same side, Armando! I am not attacking your character nor showing disrespect; I am trying to protect all of us! I am not some mad lunatic lashing out at invisible foes; I have been observing this boy since he was eleven and he’s—he’s not right! There is something sinister lurking under his calm veneer and I have never seen such—” 

“Albus, if you truly are concerned for our safety, then stop fixating on a boy who is barely an adult, and instead go confront Grindelwald! He is a real threat who is only growing stronger; Tom is simply a boy with a troubled past! Your fears over him are ridiculous. Focus on the danger that looms now.”

Dumbledore sagged where he stood. He knew that his former flame was advancing across Europe and he was the only person capable of defeating him. The professor was loathe to fight the man he still loved, but he knew that Gellert Grindelwald was a monster who would destroy the fabric of society if Dumbledore let him. Dippet was right: the experienced Dark wizard posed a much greater threat than an eighteen-year-old boy. At least for the time being.

“And you have never seen such what?”Dippet added, wanting to hear the rest of Dumbledore’s thoughts on Tom Riddle.

“I have never seen such behavior from anyone before...except Grindelwald. I’m actually glad you mentioned him. They are similar in character. The charisma, the charm, the chameleonic nature—” 

“The what?”

“The ability to slip into whatever persona necessary to make someone drop their guard. Like a chameleon changing colors to blend into its surroundings.”

Dippet blinked. 

“How do you not see it?” Dumbledore demanded. “I understand that you don’t know Grindelwald personally, the way I do, but how can you not trust that I know how to spot this behavior in others? I’ve seen it before! Grindelwald and I were...we grew up together. We met as teens and we—look. I understand that everyone adores Tom, and no one wants to believe that someone they admire is capable of criminal activity, but our opinions of others don’t define their morality. Please at least consider what I’m trying to tell you.” 

“Honestly, Albus, you’ve been ranting and raving so much that I’m not sure what you’re trying to tell me.” 

“Do not ever hire Tom Riddle. No matter the circumstances, do not ever allow him back into this school once he graduates.” 

The Headmaster appraised Dumbledore the way an elderly father would view an adult child who had gone off the rails—paternal fondness laced with concern. Dumbledore found it maddening. 

“You really need to learn to relax,” Dippet sighed. “Your fanaticism over Tom’s supposed wrongdoing is unbecoming and worrisome. Focus on Grindelwald and let Tom be.” 

“You’ll wish you’d listened to me, one day,” the younger man muttered.

“I doubt that, Albus. And I suggest that you return to your chambers for the night. I am done arguing with you, and there is no sense working yourself up further. Get some sleep.” 

Dumbledore opened his mouth to retaliate, but didn’t trust himself not to say something he’d regret later. Biting his lip, he shook his head and exited Dippet’s office.

*   *   * 

Back in his own office, Dumbledore sank into his chair and sighed. In a way, he couldn’t blame Dippet and his colleagues for seeing Tom with rose-colored glasses—the boy was an expert manipulator who could slip out of any conflict unscathed. Most people would encounter very few individuals with such abilities. Dumbledore, on the other hand, had become intimately acquainted with Grindelwald, a man equally as deceptive as Tom.

Dumbledore had tried to educate Dippet about the ways such a bond had opened his eyes. He could now spot a conman, no matter how young, and would never again let himself be fooled. If only the Headmaster would listen....

Dumbledore reflected on his relationship with Grindelwald as a young man. He had been Tom Riddle’s age, and therefore more susceptible to Grindelwald’s seduction—both physically and verbally. Perhaps Tom had ensnared his fiancée through similar methods, though Alera didn’t strike Dumbledore as the type to fall for pretty words. She was too smart and too self-absorbed to put that much stock in a handsome boy’s opinions. The professor was also certain that she and Tom were much more alike than Grindelwald and himself: while teenage Dumbledore had been full of spunk and a desire for power, his conscience had eventually stopped him from following Grindelwald’s path. Alera, on the other hand, appeared to share Tom’s lack of a moral compass and she reveled in the boy’s malevolence. Perhaps Tom’s ambitions were not quite as grand as Grindelwald’s, but that didn’t mean that the Head Boy and his partner in crime should be set free on the general population. It drove Dumbledore mad that he had no tangible proof of Tom’s transgressions.

He may not have had the power to stop Tom, but he certainly had the power to stop Grindelwald. And it appeared that such an opportunity would present itself sooner rather than later. If Dumbledore dueled the Dark wizard and won, perhaps Tom would mind his behavior—Dumbledore was the only person Tom seemed to fear, and he hoped that a victory against Grindelwald would strike enough fear into Tom’s heart that the boy would think twice about whatever plots and schemes he was brewing.

Only time would tell. 

*   *   * 

After a long night of tossing and turning, Dumbledore decided that Dippet was right about Grindelwald. He alone could defeat the Dark wizard, and he needed to do so very soon. He’d been fielding owls for months, from Ministry officials echoing Dippet’s sentiments—the mounting pressure of which had convinced him to at least take one action against the man: he destroyed the blood pact he and Grindelwald had made as young men, in which they had vowed to never fight one another. With the pact destroyed and Grindelwald’s tyranny quickly approaching Britain, Dumbledore knew he had to act fast. 

He took comfort in the knowledge that, despite his failure to stop Tom Riddle, he could at least stop Grindelwald. And, to avoid the temptation to change his mind, he announced to all at Hogwarts that he would duel the Dark wizard. He would do so during exams, so as not to tempt students to sneak out of school and watch. The fight would likely be deadly. Dumbledore couldn’t bear the thought of any of his pupils dying...not after the duel that had killed his little sister. This fight was his and his alone. 

Neither Tom nor Alera knew that Dumbledore’s conversation with Dippet had prompted the professor’s decision to duel Grindelwald. Still, they both found the news fascinating and resumed talking casually—albeit in a more subdued tone—once Dumbledore told everyone about his plan. The pair discussed possible outcomes in the duel, and what that would mean for the Wizarding world at large.

Tom knew Alera had been right when she’d called him out about his tunnel vision. Not one to apologize, however, he skirted around the issue and offhandedly remarked that he would hold off on attaching himself to particular plans until after the duel. Perhaps he would choose a job at the Ministry, or maybe he would work at a shop in Knockturn Alley in order to find more followers and Dark magic artifacts.

Alera knew exacty what he was doing. She bit back a giggle while agreeing with his new attitude, and even went so far as to commend his practicality. Part of her wanted to antagonize him further, but she knew she didn’t have to—the young Legilimens surely saw her smug self-satisfaction as he roved through her thoughts. And, mercifully, he did not harm her. She waslooking out for him, after all. He’d be a fool to mistreat her over the issue. 

Despite this, Tom continued to keep his distance from his partner outside of classes and NEWT preparations. She didn’t care; studying was taking up more and more time as it was. 

The night before the seventh-years sat their NEWTs, Alera lay awake and wondered what the next phase of her life would bring. If the Dark wizard prevailed, would Dumbledore’s death encourage Dippet to change his mind about Tom and hire him now? Quite possibly. However, if Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald, would the professor be more revered and thereby given more influence over Hogwarts? Tom would have to be extra careful. Alera hoped that, no matter the outcome, she and Tom would remain safe and free to do their work in peace. 

Tom lay next to her, silently echoing her thoughts as he explored her mind—though not in the mood to speak to her, he still remained curious as ever about the girl’s thoughts. He was glad that she still championed his cause, even when they were arguing. A worthy wife-to-be. Whether through agreement or fear, he knew she would stand by him through any obstacle...even one as large as the threat of Dumbledore’s influence expanding.

No matter how the duel ended, the following day would bring many changes to the Wizarding world. All Tom and Alera could do now was succumb to sleep and take the next day as it would come.