Chapter 6 : Persuasion
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I glanced around hopelessly and watched as the Hufflepuff girl I sat beside in potions passed me quickly, avoiding my eyes. Suddenly, an idea struck me: if Tom was going to send messengers to fetch me, I would send a messenger back refusing him. That way I would not have to face him at all. “Hey,” I said loudly, moving at last. The girl whirled around, looking terrified. “Hey,” I said again, reaching her. I racked my brain for her name. “It’s Ellen, isn’t it?” She nodded mutely, clutching her book bag as if her life depended on it. I felt like I should be assuring her that I wasn’t going to kill her. “Could you do me a favour?” I asked, trying to make my voice gentle. Ellen looked even more apprehensive, if that were possible.
“I – I guess,” she replied in a tiny squeak. We were starting to attract curious glances from passing students, and my time was ticking away.
“Great,” I said, attempting to smile. “I need you to go to the entrance hall and find Tom Riddle.”
Ellen let out another frightened squeak. “Th – the head boy?”
“Yes,” I said firmly, hoping she would not lose her nerve. “I need you to tell him that I can’t meet him tonight because I have detention with Slughorn. Can you do that?”
Ellen’s eyes darted around, begging her classmates for help, but nobody came to her rescue. I waited impatiently, glancing again at my watch. I had one minute to get down to Slughorn’s office. “I – ok,” Ellen whispered.
I smiled at her gratefully. “Thanks!” I said. “He should be down there now, right by the front doors,”
“N – now? But wh – why don’t you just tell him yourself? You have to go through the entrance hall to get to Slughorn’s office - ” She stammered, looking terrified again.
I suppressed my annoyance with difficulty. She had no reason to be afraid of Tom. “But I want you to do it,” I said, turning her around and pushing her down the hall. She skittered away from me towards the entrance hall, sending one terrified glance over her shoulder as she went. Clearly, she would not dare refuse me. I smirked slightly as I glanced at my watch: 8:01. “Shit!” I muttered, taking off down the hallway. I took the back stairs to avoid Tom and made it to Slughorn’s dungeon at 8:06. I skidded to a halt in front of his door and knocked.
“Enter,” came Slughorn’s rather irritated voice. I pushed open the door and sidled into the dim room, casting a glance at the Professor, who was seated behind his desk.
“I’m s - sorry I’m late, Professor,” I panted. “What would you like me to do?”
He regarded me for a moment. “Miss. Cortes, your continued lateness is unacceptable.” He stated bluntly.
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “I know,” I said instead, hanging my head in what I hoped was a submissive gesture. “I’ve just been really…overwhelmed lately, Professor,” I said softly, thinking fast and hoping I could guilt him into not giving me more detentions. I studied the cold stone floor silently, waiting for him to speak.
“Very well, Miss. Cortes. You can help me bottle some new potions ingredients, and then you may go.”
“Thank you Professor,” I said softly, still not meeting his eyes. We set to work bottling various slimy things in green liquid.
“How is your great aunt, Miss. Cortes?” he said, after awhile. My aunt owned a very successful chain of potions stores, and held purity of blood above all else. I avoided her whenever possible.
“Fine,” I muttered. Then, feeling as though a little sucking up couldn’t hurt, I added, “She speaks very highly of you, Sir.” Slughorn looked delighted and began to prattle away about the many other high-profile witches and wizards he knew. I let his voice drift over me, focusing on my own thoughts. After awhile, I interrupted him. “Professor?” I said, holding a particularly disgusting specimen in my gloved hands while Slughorn filled another jar with liquid.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” he said easily, holding out the jar so that I could drop the slimy mass into it.
“I was wondering if you knew anything about…horcruxes.”
Slughorn nearly dropped the jar. “What?” he whispered hoarsely, looking at me with fear in his eyes. A chill spread through me. What could possibly make a teacher look at me that way? “Why are you asking me this?” he whispered softly.
“I – I just – I was curious,” I stuttered, fear growing in the pit of my stomach. What the HELL was a horcrux?
Slughorn looked completely distracted. He was wringing his hands and his eyes were darting around the room. “I – think it’s time for you to go, Miss. Cortes,” he said finally. I didn’t need telling twice. After pulling off my gloves and throwing them on Slughorn’s desk, I shouldered my bag and swept out of the office, more confused than ever before.
Much later, I was sitting before the common room fire, fighting my furious curiosity. How could a simple question have frightened Slughorn so terribly? Even if horcruxes were considered the darkest of dark magic, surely a question was harmless? I simply wanted to know what they were, not how to use one or make one. I could tell by Slughorn’s reaction that he at least knew what they were. I could find him and try to press the answer out of him, but somehow I didn’t think he’d let me.
I lowered my face into my hands, feeling the warmth of the fire wash over the top of my head, and tried to take my mind off horcruxes. I closed my eyes and focused on the room around me, trying to breathe deeply. The dungeon common room was becoming colder as winter progressed. It would be Christmas soon…not that it meant much to me, I didn’t have anywhere that I really wanted to go home to. Usually I would be expected to go to my Aunt Rachel's (my mother's sister, with whom I lived when I was not at Hogwarts), but maybe there was some way that I could get out of it. She didn't seem to enjoy my stays with her any more than I did. If I could convince her to let me stay at Hogwarts, perhaps I would use the time off to research horcruxes…maybe if Tom went away for the holidays, I would perk up the courage to speak to Dumbledore. I shivered as I thought about Tom and hugged myself protectively. I knew that he would be angry that I’d missed our meeting. I hoped he hadn’t done anything to the Hufflepuff girl. He would probably send another message with Malfoy, since he was in almost all of my classes. I groaned audibly at the thought.
“Problem?” sneered a voice quietly in my ear. I stiffened as hands began to massage my shoulders and neck. “Maybe I can help you alleviate some tension,” continued the voice, its owner climbing onto the couch behind me and continuing his massage. I sat up and twisted around, and was met with the iron-grey eyes of Abraxas Malfoy. Speak of the Devil.
I pulled away from him and rolled my eyes. “I told you, Malfoy, I don’t date scum.”
“Oh you wouldn’t have to date me,” he said, moving so that he was sitting beside me. “Just the one night will do.”
I raised my eyebrows. “You’re disgusting.” I said calmly, and made to stand up, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me back down.
“You’ve made him very angry you know,” he said softly, brushing a stray curl out of my face. I snorted. He smirked at me. “You’re not afraid of him at all, are you?”
“Of course not.” This was a blatant lie, but I wasn’t about to let Malfoy have an advantage.
He chuckled and wrapped his arm around my shoulders, pulling us both back so we sank into the cushions. “You should be. You have no idea what he can do.” He said with admiration clear in his voice. I glanced sideways at him, and noticed that he had an almost adoring look on his face. He really did worship Tom. Suddenly, it occurred to me that he was probably the closest thing Tom had to a friend; surely, if Tom were going to tell anyone about horcruxes, it would be Malfoy. And I had something Malfoy wanted…well, to be fair, I was something Malfoy wanted…
I snuggled in further to Malfoy’s arm, leaning my head on his shoulder. “He must share everything with you. Tell me about him, Abraxas,” I murmured softly. He tightened his arm around me. I could imagine the smirk on his face without looking up at him.
“Well,” he said softly, picking up my hand and rubbing his thumb gently across my palm and over my wrist. “What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” I whispered, nuzzling my face into his neck. I turned further towards him and reached a hand up to his cheek, guiding his face to mine. “Let’s start with an easy one. What has he told you about…” I paused, amazed at my own daring, “horcruxes?”
Immediately, his face became guarded, though he didn’t pull away from me. I could almost see the internal conflict taking place. He was finally getting what he wanted from me, but by telling me about horcruxes, he was probably disobeying Tom. He was trying to decide whether to give in to his desire or to his fear. I decided to help him along. I smirked and slid my leg over his lap until I was straddling him, and wrapped my arms around his neck. I leaned in close to whisper in his ear, letting my cheek brush against his. “Come on,” I breathed. Then, hating myself, I added, “I’ll make it worth your while,” I leaned back slightly and forced myself to look into his hungry eyes. A smirk curled his lips once again and he placed his hands on my waist, pulling me against him. He slid his cold hands up the back of my sweater, and expertly undid my bra. I arched my back as he trailed his fingers up and down my spine.
“Why do you want to know about horcruxes?” he said, spreading his hands on the small of my back and pulling me closer.
“Power fascinates me,” I whispered, looking straight into his cold eyes. Then, fighting my repulsion, I closed the gap between our lips and kissed him insistently. Just as he began to kiss me back, I pulled away and put a finger on his lips. “Tell me first.” I knew I was driving him crazy. I could tell by the way his hands tightened on my back.
“Well,” he said, removing one hand from beneath my shirt and moving my hand away from his mouth. “A Horcrux is a piece of your soul.” My eyes widened and he smirked, running his thumb along my cheek. “The piece can be hidden away in an object, and if the physical body is killed, the soul lives on and can eventually re-manifest itself.”
I let out my breath in a whoosh. “So it would make you – ,”
“Immortal,” he breathed, brushing his lips against mine. It was a mark of how shocked I was that I barely even noticed.
“But – how could you possibly – split your soul?”
His hand snaked around to the back of my neck. “You kill someone.” He said simply, and then his lips crashed hungrily down upon my own. I tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t have it. He held me strongly against him, devouring my lips roughly. When he finally pulled away slightly to breathe, I braced both hands upon his chest and pushed myself away from him, struggling against his hands.
“Oh no you don’t,” he sneered. “You’re not going anywhere unless it’s to my bed.” I looked up into his eyes and for the first time throughout the whole encounter, I felt afraid. I had never seen a look of such obvious lustful desire on his face. He wasn’t about to let me get out of this. I reflected that I might have made a mistake. “What’s wrong?” he said softly, caressing the back of my neck. “You seemed so…eager a few minutes ago.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his wand sticking out of his back pocket. I looked back into his eyes and let a seductive smirk grace my lips. I leaned back into him and ran my fingers down his spine. He groaned and arched into me, his fingers gripping my back painfully. I ran my hands lower until they came within reach of the wand. Gathering my courage, I yanked it out of his pocket, sat back and pressed its tip into his chest. A look of rage passed swiftly over his features, and he gripped the tops of my arms roughly. “Let go of me.” I said coldly.
His eyes flickered back and forth between mine. Then, a self-satisfied smirk appeared on his lips, and he held his hands up in mock submission. “So you like it rough, do you Cortes?”
I didn’t bother to hide my disgust. “You’re such a git, Malfoy, I don’t even feel sorry for doing this. Petrificus Totalis!” A look of shock crossed his face as the body bind took hold. I immediately climbed off of his lap, unperturbed by his look of rage. I knew he wouldn’t be able to move or speak for several hours. I picked up my own wand from the chair across the room and placed Malfoy’s on the coffee table in front of him, feeling a great sense of satisfaction as he eyed it longingly. It amused me to think about him sitting there for hours, with his wand seemingly so close, and yet so far away. I smiled at him as I turned and left the common room.
As soon as I was out in the moonlit corridors, I made straight for the Prefect’s bathroom. I stated the password the house-elves had provided me with and waited as the door swung open. I dashed inside and locked the door magically behind me, before stripping off all of my clothing in disgust. Leaving it in a pile on the floor, I turned the taps on and waited impatiently for the tub to fill. I felt absolutely filthy, and could think of nothing else except scrubbing myself raw. As soon as the swimming-pool sized tub was full, I dove in and began cleaning my skin vigorously. After washing my hair twice and my body at least four times, I finally relaxed and just let myself float.
Despite being disgusted by my own methods, I had achieved what I’d wanted. I knew what a horcrux was, and how they were made. As I stared up at the moonlit stained-glass windows, I wondered if Tom had already made a horcrux the night he’d killed his father. If he had, I pondered what sort of object he might have used.
I turned over and swam a few lengths, trying to clear my mind. I understood now why Slughorn had been so reluctant to tell me anything. He probably thought I was trying to make one myself. I hoped he wouldn’t go to Professor Dippett…although, I didn’t think he would want to jeopardize his relationship with my great aunt. No, Slughorn would stay quiet. I figured Malfoy would too. He wouldn’t want Tom finding out what he’d told me.
Finally, when my skin became frighteningly pruny and my eyelids could barely hold themselves up, I decided it was time to get out of the tub and go to bed. I pulled myself out of the lukewarm water and wrapped myself in one of the fluffy white towels from the pile in the corner. I cleaned my discarded clothing with my wand, and then transfigured it into a pair of comfortable pyjamas. After pulling them on, I exited the bathroom and padded barefoot all the way back to the Slytherin common room. I slid through the door and immediately looked toward the couch, where the top of Malfoy’s blonde head was still visible. I stifled my laughter as I made my way up the stairs to the girl’s dorms, shutting the door quietly behind me. As I slipped beneath the covers, I glanced at the clock over the door. It was past three in the morning. Unless the house elves released Malfoy, he would be sitting there until breakfast.
I lay on my back feeling very pleased with myself. I had finally discovered what a horcrux was, even though Tom obviously didn’t want me to know, and I had definitely won a battle against Malfoy. I felt like I had proved to the two of them that I wasn’t as helpless as they’d thought.
Still, as I sank into sleep, I had a nasty nagging feeling that I would pay for my actions.
When I awoke the next morning, I immediately knew that something was wrong. Very wrong. There were arms around me, muscular arms, and somebody’s hard chest was pressed into my back.
I tried to calm myself and think logically. I concentrated on the person behind me, trying to figure out who they were. I didn’t remember going to bed with anyone the night before… Judging by the slow, steady nature of his breathing, he was still asleep, whoever he was. I tried to slow down my own breathing. If I could just roll out of his arms without him waking up, I could get away.
Slowly, I began to tilt my body away from his, feeling goosebumps arise along my back where his body had been keeping me warm. Just as I thought I was going to make it, his arms tightened and pulled me back into his chest. I froze, my breath catching in my throat.
“Nice try.” I’d recognize that arrogant drawl anywhere. Malfoy. I tensed, my eyes straying to my night table for my wand – but it wasn’t there. Fear blossomed through me as I realised we were alone in the dorm.
I struggled against his arms. “Let me go, Malfoy,” I snarled. With a heave, I wrenched his arms from around me and made to scramble away, but I was caught. He threw me on my back and pinned me with his body, jamming his knee between my legs. “Get off me, you slimy git!” I yelled, struggling madly and trying pound my fists against any part of him I could reach. He caught my wrists and slammed them down on either side of my head.
“I don’t think so,” he hissed softly. “I gave you what you wanted last night. Now it’s time for you to hold up your end of the bargain.” He pressed his lips against mine, and I tried to turn my head away, unable to do anything else. He chuckled, and pinned both of my wrists with one hand against my chest. With his other hand, he pulled out his wand. Pointing it at me, he muttered something, and immediately I was dressed in nothing but a lacy black bra and underwear. I shrieked and struggled madly once again, but he was just too strong for me. He threw the wand across the room and grabbed my face, forcing my lips up to his. He kissed me lustfully, moving his hand along my inner thigh, higher and higher until –
“Abraxas!” A sharp male voice interrupted. Malfoy released my lips and looked toward the door. I gasped for air and tried to hold back my panic.
“Tom?” he said with confusion. I followed his gaze and beheld none other than Tom Riddle. And suddenly, I felt sick with fear.
“What are you doing, Abraxas?” Tom said in a voice of deadly quiet.
Malfoy raised his head defiantly. “Teaching Cortes a lesson.”
“And what lesson would that be?” Tom said softly, drawing closer to us.
Malfoy pulled out a second wand that I recognised as my own. Pointing it at me, he muttered, “Incarcerous!” Ropes wrapped themselves around my wrists and tied them securely to the bedposts above me.
“You COWARD!” I yelled desperately, losing my head. “Let me go! Let me – arrgh!” I cried out as his hand connected painfully with my cheek.
“Shut up!” he snarled, and pointed the wand at me again. With my eyes watering from his slap, I tried to yell again, but no sound came out. I pressed my lips together and watched the two men fearfully. “I’m teaching her,” he continued, turning back to Tom, “That she should never break a promise.” His eyes slid lustfully back to mine. “And that a Malfoy always gets what he wants.” I closed my eyes as he leaned toward me again, but his lips never met mine.
“Abraxas, I think you should leave the teaching of Miss. Cortes to me. I shall call if I have need of you again.” Tom said dismissively. I opened my eyes and glanced at Malfoy, who was clearly angry.
“But Tom – ,”
“Now.” Tom repeated, and I could have sworn his eyes flashed red once again. Malfoy snarled and rolled off of me, letting his hand run the length of my body as he went. I shuddered as he smirked at me once again.
“We can finish this later, Cortes.” Meeting Tom’s angry glare once again, he straightened, picked up his wand off of the floor, and swept out of the room. Leaving me alone once again with Tom Riddle.
I struggled against the ropes binding me as Tom pushed the door closed and locked it with his wand. I pulled myself into a half-sitting position with difficulty, and the ties cut into my wrists. “Stay away!” I said loudly, trying to hide the fear in my voice. I was very conscious of the fact that I was wearing nothing but a bra and underwear. I tried to slide back under the covers as Tom approached, but he gripped the bottoms of the blankets and yanked them off the bed. I crouched against the headboard, ready to fight in whatever way I could. Tom sat on the bottom of my bed and watched me, twirling his wand between long, white fingers. He let his eyes slide appreciatively over my body.
“I’m surprised,” he said softly, locking my gaze.
I glared at him, wondering what the hell he was talking about. “What?”
He moved closer to me on the bed. “What could Malfoy have possibly given you that would have made you agree to have sex with him? He’s only been trying to get you in bed for, what, two years?”
“I didn’t agree to have sex with him!” I snarled. “I don’t sell myself for anything!”
“Really?” Tom said, bringing his knees up onto the bed. “Surely you must have given him some sort of indication that you would,” he began to crawl toward me on the bed, a slow smirk spreading across his face.
“Stay away!” I yelled again, and tried desperately to free myself. I tried to kick him, but he grabbed my ankle and pulled me down onto my back. “Let me go! Get off!” I yelled, struggling, but I had no chance with my hands tied. He straddled me and then reached into a pocket in his robes and pulled out a silver dagger. I froze, and a small whimper escaped my lips. “What are you doing?” I whispered.
He smirked down at me and placed the cold blade of the knife flat on my chest, with the tip pointing up toward my throat. I tried not to breathe. I had never been more afraid of anyone in my life than I was of Tom at that moment. “Tell me what Malfoy gave you.” He said softly, pressing the flat of the blade against me.
“N – nothing. He was angry because I left him in a body-bind all night.” I stuttered, trying to control my gasping breath.
“And why did you put him in a body-bind?” Tom said, picking up the knife and dragging its tip up my neck and under my chin. I stared up into his face. His black hair hung into his brilliant eyes as he looked down at me carefully.
“Because he – he – wouldn’t let me go.” I stated cryptically, dragging my eyes away from his.
“Don’t play games with me, Maura. Tell me what he told you.” My eyes snapped back to his. How the HELL did he always know everything?
“He told me nothing.” I said, trying to ignore the cold blade he still held against my chin. He moved it higher still and pressed it to my cheek, bracing his other hand on my chest.
“Do not lie to me,” he hissed dangerously, putting his face very close to mine. He stared into my eyes and I knew he was reading my mind. And I could do nothing to stop it. His eyes widened, and he regarded me with surprise. “Horcruxes?” he whispered.
I gasped, and tried to pull my face away from the blade. His weight on my chest was suddenly suffocating. “I – I was just curious – I won’t t-tell anyone,”
“Shh,” he whispered, pressing the blade against my lips. I pressed them tightly together, terrified, staying perfectly still beneath him. He stared at me silently for a few moments, as though deciding what he should do with me. Then, he slowly moved the blade away from my lips and up my right arm towards my wrist. I closed my eyes and turned my head away, expecting at any moment to feel it slide into my flesh – but instead, the harsh tie around my wrist fell away, and my hand was lowered onto the bed. I didn’t dare move as he repeated the process with the other arm, and I left both arms lying where they fell. I tried to control my gasping breath as he squared himself over me again, looking once more undecided. He glanced at the dagger in his hand, and then back into my eyes. I’m sure he could feel me trembling beneath him. Suddenly, a smirk graced his lips and he replaced the dagger in his robes.
He rolled off of me and sat at my side on the bed, looking down at me. Still, I could not bring myself to move. He placed a hand on my bare stomach and goosebumps raced over my flesh. “You don't need to fear me if you tell me the truth always, Maura.” He said quietly. He picked up my wand from the floor beside the bed where Abraxas had discarded it and placed it on the night table, glancing at me as though waiting for me to lunge at it. I, however, stayed perfectly still under his hand, which still rested on my stomach. He looked pleased. “Now,” he said softly, “I want you to meet me at eight o’clock tonight by the front doors. No excuses this time, or I shall be very…displeased. Do you understand?” I managed a slight noise of assent. I was still too terrified of him to do much else. This seemed to satisfy him though. He dragged his fingers with agonizing slowness across my navel as he stood up. Sending me one last smirk, he turned and swept from the room.
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