Chapter 4 : Repondez S'il-Vous-Plait (November)
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Irene Taylor had been admitted into the hospital wing on November first.
Of course, the gossip well was very unimaginative, and their theories, though reasonable, seemed extremely off the mark. One, for example, claimed that Irene had fallen off of a broomstick in the dead of the night and broke her leg in the process. Of course, the mere concept of Irene- or any Ravenclaw, really- flying a broomstick in the middle of the night was ridiculous, and considering he had been on rounds on Halloween and hadn't seen her at all only confirmed that people were, as always, ridiculous.
The more likely though by far not as exciting theory was the common cold, but because of its low interest factor the theory was abundantly ignored. The only person that actually believed that theory was Tom, and as he didn't bother conversing with the gossipy type and didn't care in the slightest his opinion was utterly ignored.
Because Tom Riddle didn't care.
In fact, the only reason he knew about Irene's condition was because of the buzz it created on November first. In fact , the only reason that he didn't forget about it was because he had to waste his free time cleaning up from Halloween while she wasted her time doing absolutely nothing.
Irene, to be honest, had become quite a chore in the last three months, and her usefulness seemed to be sinking to where all the other Prefects stood. This was especially infuriating because Irene was the Head Girl, and if she slacked off than he would have to do everything in her place.
So November didn't start well, altogether. It was cold, for one, and the lake was beginning to ice over because of it. Frigid winds in Scotland were not uncommon, and they came with a vengeance on the first of November, nearly leading Herbology to be cancelled, but unluckily not.
Tom didn't really mind the weather- to be frank, there hadn't been a November without cold winds- and with the castle heated perfectly it did not come up as much as someone would think. Classes still continued, save for the occasional Herbology, and seeing as Herbology was a very redundant class Tom didn't mind.
But such a trivial thing- weather- was definitely not the reason why November was so unbearable.
No, it was because Irene-bloody-Taylor decided to admit herself into the hospital wing on November first, which was, really, one of the most inconvenient times. He had to deal with the Prefects and the Halloween reports and assigning Hogsmeade days- of course it was infuriating. Why should he have to do all of the work anyway? Who did she think she was? Did she think she was above him?
Because that was not at all the case. Tom Riddle, according to all of the teachers, was a brilliant, clever, charming person. Tom, personally, considered himself all of these things, but above all he considered himself the best. And that wasn't even opinion- it was sheer fact. He could outduel Dippet, if he had to. Maybe even Dumbledore.
Of course, considering his high reputation with the teachers, they wouldn't be expecting it in the slightest.
But, nonetheless- just because he was all of those things- brilliant and wholly spectacular- did that give her any right to give him the tedious work and the actual and only difficulty of being a Head, which were the Prefects?- not that it was difficult for him. But it was, undoubtedly, tedious- recording every misdoing of anyone in the school almost stole an hour, and recording every complicated spell used in the Halloween decorations nearly took another.
What right did she have?
It was around, approximately, the ninety-eighth card when Tom Riddle finally abandoned the amount of work he had. He was sick of repeatedly writing down the same names, the same bloody troublemakers, doing the same pranks again and again on the parchment.
And, more than anything, he was sick of the Prefects. Their sass , their supposed rebellious manner, their laziness and incompetence and ridiculousness. Frankly, it seemed like it would be easier if they were done away with completely and he himself handled everything.
It seemed as if everyone else was too stupid to do so.
So, it was November first when Irene-bloody-Taylor was admitted into the hospital wing.
It was November first when Tom Riddle decided that she didn't deserve to rest and didn't deserve to heal from whatever pseudo-illness she had. Even if she looked legitimately sick- probably even dead- she was still going to deal with these stupid reports.
Because, really, who did she think she was?
Storming up to the hospital wing, tightly gripping the other uncountable unfinished records, Tom Riddle scowled, unintentionally sending a layer of tension and intimidation into the atmosphere. First years, sixth years- no matter the age, they all shied away.
It was something enjoyable, he supposed. It was useful, for one - people had a tendency to be annoying quite often, and if they were afraid of him, well, so be it. It was a break from the sounds of people complaining and cluelessly asking him questions as if he cared about their curiosity- like the Prefects.
Oh, how he loathed the Prefects. And here he was, having to cover up all of their shortcomings, of which were abundant. Really, who did Irene think she was? To back out on every assignment she'd had to do? She hadn't yet done rounds on Fridays, she hardly ever talked to the Prefects, and he still had a stack of records that needed to be, well, recorded. And she wasn't helping in the slightest.
Impatiently, he opened up the door to the Hospital Wing, and there Irene was, almost directly across from him. Her legs were bent, so the book she was reading could be rested comfortably- and, he noticed, a completely recreational book.
Looking towards her face, he took in her features extremely observantly. There were extremely light circles under her eyes- in fact, if he hadn't been acutely looking for a sign of sickness he wouldn't have noticed them at all. Her skin was probably a shade paler, but, otherwise, bloody hell , she didn't look sick in the slightest.
She looked evidently surprised at his appearance. She calmly picked up her bookmark (which seemed to be very thin and hard to see) and placed it where she had finished reading, resting it on a small mahogany table nearby, finally looking up towards him.
"Oh, hello," she said placidly; her voice was extremely hoarse. He scowled, putting the records neatly on the edge of the mahogany desk. The pile was rather large, and it was only because of the undersized lamp that they did not fall off. She looked over at them in interest, picking a sound few off of the top and beginning to write.
"Is there anything else you need?" she asked quietly, putting five or so completed records on the empty bed space next to her. "Not to be rude or anything," she continued hastily, "but Madame Lenore's about to give me some medicine, so she wouldn't really favor visitors. Sorry."
"What happened to you ?" he asked sourly, abruptly, as the question had just come to him, and he could almost imagine her response: a cold (or something equally anti-dramatic)-
"I don't really know," she said thoughtfully, putting another few cards in her completed pile. "I think Abraxas cursed me. He's good at nonverbal curses," she said offhandedly, "so I wouldn't be able to tell what it was anyway. It's a load less dramatic than falling down three staircases and landing at a trick step, but it's a lot less painful."
Tom, in all honesty, was not really listening; he looked down at the pile of completed records and said angrily, "That's not legible." Bloody hell, would he have to rewrite all of these, too?
She looked down at the pile too, surprised, her eyebrows rising as she looked at them, and said, in an oddly offended tone, " I think they're easy to read, but if you want to write them, feel free."
After this outburst, Irene looked up at him, still a rather surprised expression on her face, and said (in a very unsurprising way), "Sorry."
Riddance to Irene Taylor.
It was an especially warm day in November.
After a very heavy rainstorm, the bad weather seemed to give them all a wide berth; the sun had decided to appear, a last hurrah, and all of the students, Slytherins, Gryffindors, first years and seventh years alike were outside, splendoring in the sunshine for one last time before heavy snowfall would come to Hogwarts.
This weather was very useful; not only did it lead everyone out of the castle but it seemed to make them all much more tired afterwards and less prone to going out after hours. It worked as a chain reaction: if the weather was good, the students would tire themselves, and he wouldn't have to do as much work.
School was tiring, redundant, boring ; there was little to learn so there were no difficulties- after all, he hadn't expected there to be- but with little difficulty these tasks were finished, leaving Tom with the things he truly loathed to do but did anyway with a straight face.
Evidently, those were every single one of his Head Boy responsibilities, of which he still did; it was unfortunate that the Prefects had still not learned, but had he ever really expected them to? And it was unfortunate that Irene still didn't do her worth, but had he ever really expected her to?
Irene Taylor had been released from the Hospital Wing, at most, two hours after he had seen her. Even that day, when she left, she looked fine, and he scowled, wondering why she didn't just resign and let someone else take her place.
Of course, he had to begrudgingly admit that Minerva McGonagall as her replacement would be much worse than Irene Taylor herself, as McGonagall was, as he so aptly put it, like every other Gryffindor - smart-mouthed, sassy , and very, very annoying.
Which, frankly, sounded like every other Prefect as well, and it was probably because of her that all the other Prefects acted the same. In fact, if he ever got the chance to, he would gladly place Minerva McGonagall in the middle of a very large and inescapable forest.
Of course, that was only if she lived long enough for him to do so.
The fact that Tom favored Irene over Minerva, obviously, did not mean anything. It was as simple as Gryffindors versus Ravenclaws, and he would pick Ravenclaws again and again until the Gryffindors' self esteems were low enough that they would quietly dispose of themselves.
Tom Riddle didn't even like Irene Taylor. In fact, she would probably be joining Minerva in the very large and inescapable forest so the two could stop attempting to give him headaches, of which he seemed to get every time he was in Irene's presence.
And, as Christmas was approaching, he had to be in her presence more and more to discuss decorations around the school, along with what was to be the new rotation in Prefect partners (which in the end, he assumed, would be the Prefects' choice, not theirs, due to Irene's lack of spine and Tom's lack of caring). There were Hogsmeade visits and yet still more records and arranging meetings so that it would not interfere with all the extracurricular activities in Hogwarts.
This made November nearly unbearable, and even though Tom wanted it to be December, he knew that the tediousness would probably not go away. It was just so he could cross off another month on his own personal calendar and move along.
Not that he didn't like Hogwarts- he loved Hogwarts- it was just that he would see Hogwarts with much less bore when he became the Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher. That was his aspiration, really, along with his Horcruxes, of which he had one- the diary.
Subconsciously he looked at the ring on his finger, a dark green, coat of arms and all.
Regardless of Hogwarts, Tom Riddle still hated November, simply because there was still the baggage of October and the startings of December. A different month - May, maybe - would be so much more relaxing .
So it was angrily - annoyed and tired and with promises of a headache coming - that Tom Riddle succumbed to his own fate, deciding that the sooner he got it done the better (he was not on rounds, so he had the whole night to do whatever he wished). Of course, the task in itself was absolutely revolting.
That task, inevitably, was talking to Irene Taylor.
Really, just thinking it was bad enough.
Walking outside, he was immediately cut off by what seemed to be two third years, running, regrettably, without anything he could take away. He fingered his wand, watching their retreating backs, before finally continuing to walk.
It wasn't necessary.
He didn't really know where he was going, however- he was looking for Irene but he didn't know where she was. He definitely knew that she was outside; Irene was increasingly predictable, and as everyone else was outside she would surely be as well.
He considered the outside of Hogwarts - there was a very large, grassy field, filled with small stone fountains all around, with groups of people huddled around them. There was a bridge adjacent to this, and the woods nearby. And then there was -
Oh, of course. The lake .
As he walked towards his destination, the sun abruptly disappeared under a large, dark cloud, a brief, though chilly wind pausing the activity all around. Some people went inside, looking up at the sky, which had resumed good weather but still held the air of a soon storm.
When he finally reached the lake, he started to circle it; it was rather large. Another wind blew, though much more warm than the last, and the people around the lake relaxed, some jumping in from the dock and some splashing their friends with the water.
The excitement of warm weather was extremely over exaggerated.
He made a swift turn, still considering where she was- there was no doubt in his mind that she was here, because he knew people, and he knew people like her - extremely simple minded and very predictable.
And as he turned again, he finally saw her.
She was sitting in a very secluded part of the lake - because she was so evidently a wallflower. She was sitting down on the grass, her knees bent, a book partially opened on her legs and something akin to a violin in her hands. Her shoes and socks were both messily thrown to the side, and her feet were slightly dipped into the water - her heels still stayed firmly on solid ground.
She looked up, then, as if she knew he was headed towards her, and nodded. She still kept a heavy grip on her violin, though, playing a large variety of notes from it in a very short time, as if she was trying to fit in half-hours of practice before they started talking. When he finally got to where she was, she sighed, putting the violin down, picking a quill up, and writing something on the corner of her book.
"Um, yeah, sorry," she said, clearly flustered, as she hastily put her violin into her bag nearby. "Sorry, I was just practicing. But, uh," and she stood up, still incredibly short, "was there something you needed?"
He neglected her question, however, looking over at her bag; the top of her violin was still blatantly sticking out. "Having fun?" he said, rather sourly, and she flushed, standing up, her socks and shoes still lying on the ground.
" No ," she said fervently, shaking her head in unison. "No, I hate the violin. My mum's really big on music, though, because I'm not really good at Quidditch or anything. That's my brother."
" Was there something you needed? " she asked, again, though indefinitely more irritated than before, which was so very amusing. He smirked, and in response she frowned, crossing her arms across her chest.
"Well?" she prompted, and easily he took out a piece of parchment, which she ran her eyes over, grabbing it with one arm, her other still firmly crossed. Her eyebrows raised, and she sighed, before handing the paper back to him, her arm re-crossing itself. "This is about Christmas."
"Well, aren't you clever." It wasn't a question, and it was very far from a compliment, said in what could only be described as deep, deep sarcasm.
"Okay, well," she started, ignoring his comment, "I'm going to be gone over Christmas, so you're going to have to do the decorations, but I can schedule the Hogsmeade date before holidays start. Actually, I can go up to Dippet today."
"And the meeting?" He said it in an extremely flat voice, as if he was not expecting any favors. She sighed, rolling her eyes quickly at this, and he scowled, because more than anything he loathed the Prefects. Merlin.
"Well, then," he began, and she brightened, as if she expected him to say something like 'that's that', "I'm not doing the decorations. You could probably get a Prefect to do those anyway."
She frowned very deeply at this, and whatever hope on her face was completely extinguished. "You know what, if you really don't want to do it, really don't want to, you could just ask Rubeus. I know you don't like him, but- he's nice." She finished this elaborate alternative feebly, and he glowered at her, temporarily furious at the mention of the giant who had so easily set himself up for expulsion.
"I talk to him sometimes." She curtly said, and then she paused from her apparent moment of strength, putting her finger on her chin, looking, apparently, very deeply lost in thought. It took ten seconds or so to realize that she wasn't going to come back to reality anytime soon, so he said, very clearly and impatiently, her name.
She snapped her head slightly, her cheeks flushing an extremely deep color of red, putting a hand through her still very curly hair, only barely passing it through. "Sorry." She said, and it was extremely apologetic, and he rolled his eyes.
The wind made a grand appearance, then, heavily rippling through the area, and it was then that Tom noticed that they seemed to be the only two in the vicinity of the lake. A storm looked very ready to approach, and Irene looked up as well, her mouth quirking downward into a frown.
"So, are you not staying at the orphanage, then?" she asked off-handedly. Looking at his expression- however angry he looked- she seemed momentarily shocked, raising her eyebrows. "Well, people talk. "
When he did not answer, she frowned, though it was more thoughtful than anything. "You know," she said, bashfully, "if you- don't want to- spend Christmas at Hogwarts..." she hesitated, before her words and hands seemed to increase in speed.
"Well, there's this ball that my aunt throws every year, and she's very pureblood-friendly, so she has a lot of people that you could talk to if you were- you know- interested, you could just get a train to London, it's not very hard to find, really standoffish, some wizarding village only a few miles away, big castle type building- but anyway, you know, you could just take a train back to London and then to Hogsmeade, probably get Dippet to let you, but there's some empty - um- rooms in my aunt's, but if you wouldn't want to I would completely understand, really."
She paused, and there was one extremely strange moment- one very brief, instantaneous moment- that everything seemed to pause. Irene's face was extremely flustered, a deep blush covering the whole of her face and ears and neck, a very old looking piece of stationary in her hand. Her eyes seemed slightly larger, more excited, and her face seemed to be flushed not out of embarrassment but because of eagerness, enough so that for that one short-lived second he felt temporarily stymied by her appearance.
And, thus, the rain began.
Merlin, what was he getting himself into?
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