Chapter 8 : Complications
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“Nothing,” I snapped irritably. “Go back to sleep.” I turned my back on her and muttered to myself as I rummaged in my bedside drawer for a candle.
“So, Maura,” I cringed as the girl’s voice continued hesitantly.
“What?” I turned around and glared at her with my hands on my hips.
The girl seemed to be struggling with herself. I couldn’t remember her name. Lizzie? Vicky? I was quite sure she went by one of those annoying perky short forms. She seemed the type. “Uh…umm…I was just wondering…if you…if you,”
“If I what?”
“Are you dating the head boy?” At this point a nervous giggle escaped her, and I felt a strange swooping sensation in my stomach.
“No,” I said firmly, starting to turn away from her.
“But you’re with him all the time! He’s always staring at you…and tonight in the great hall, he kept Malfoy away from you…if you’re not dating him, what was that all about?” She had opened her curtains fully now, and was leaning toward me eagerly, her eyes shining in the half-light.
I narrowed my eyes and she shrank back a little bit. “I am not dating Tom Riddle. There is nothing between us. In fact, I wouldn’t even go so far as to call him a friend. Does that answer your question?”
The other girl looked deflated, and I thought that would be the end of our conversation. I was wrong. “But surely if he showed interest…I mean, it’s not like you’ve refused other people, and he’s so attractive, anyone would…”
I shot her a glare that would have wilted a thorn-bush and she fell silent. “For the last time,” I said in a voice of deadly quiet, “I care nothing for Tom Riddle. And I would appreciate it if you stayed out of things that don’t concern you.”
With that, I turned my back on her and returned to my pillage of the drawer. I tried to ignore what she’d said about me ‘not refusing anyone’. She made me sound like some sort of slut. Is that what they all thought of me? It wasn’t as if I just slept with anyone who approached me; that much was clear by my treatment of Malfoy. And I hadn’t even dated many guys, though many would have been willing, and had even made passes at me…having located the candle, I slammed the drawer and reached for my wand – and then I remembered the reason I’d been searching for the candle. I groaned. How was I supposed to light the damn thing without magic? I glanced toward Miss Know It All’s nightstand, where her wand sat safely. Silently, I reached for it, watching the slight gap in the curtains to make sure the girl did not show her face again. My fingers touched the wand and I eased the point toward the wick of the candle. “Incendio,” I whispered and the candle lit with a flare of light. I had just replaced the wand when the curtains opened once again.
“Wh-what are you doing?” she whispered, eyeing the candle in my hand and its proximity to the curtains around her bed.
“I’m not trying to burn your bed down if that’s what you’re thinking,” I snapped. “Go back to sleep.” I made my way to the door, and I had almost reached it when her small voice came from behind me once again.
“Maura, I – I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just that…” I had stopped with my hand on the door handle, but I didn’t turn to face her. “It’s just that…you should be careful…Riddle…he’s dangerous.” Finally, I turned around and met her earnest eyes. She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something more, but then closed it and just looked at me pleadingly, as though begging me to understand. I didn’t. Where had this concern for my well-being come from? I had spoken more words to her that night than I had in the entire time I’d known her. Why should she care what Tom did to me? Unless he’d done something to her…
“What’s your name?” I said softly.
She looked slightly confused. “Cecily,”
I nodded. “Well Cecily, thank you for your concern, but I can take care of myself. I’ll be careful,” I added, as she opened her mouth to protest.
She nodded, but then blurted out, “I’ve just heard things about him…from other people…” she fell silent and gave me one last look of distress before disappearing behind her curtains. Feeling slightly rattled, I retrieved my cloak from the floor and slipped though the door and down the stairs. I looked carefully around the common room, hoping against hope that I would meet no-one. It wasn’t until I had left the common room and was walking in the dungeon hallway that I allowed myself to ponder Cecily’s words. What could she have been talking about? We all knew that Tom was dangerous, but she seemed a lot more worried about it than the rest of the Slytherins. I burned to know what she knew about Tom. Maybe once I retrieved my wand, I would persuade her to tell me the truth. I held the candle close to the floor and searched around in the corners, but I wasn’t really looking; my thoughts were occupied by Tom’s disquieting eyes…
Suddenly, something clicked in my brain. I remembered where my wand was. I’d left it on the ground beside the rock where Tom and I had been practicing Legilimency. I stood up straight and let out an angry breath. I really didn’t feel like traipsing halfway across the grounds in the dead of night. On the other hand, I would not be sleeping without my wand with Malfoy on the loose. I sighed with exasperation; there was nothing for it, I would have to brave the grounds.
Shielding the candle’s flame as I walked, I made my way to the entrance hall and out the front doors. I paused at the top of the flagged-stone steps and let my eyes sweep over the dark lawns. Berating myself for being stupid enough to leave my wand by the lake, I set off across the lawns at a brisk walk, hoping nobody was looking out the windows. I made my way down to the rock without incident, and was relieved to find that Tom had vacated it. I jammed the candle into a crack on the rock and knelt in the dew-soaked grass to search for my wand. After ten fruitless minutes, I was beginning to lose my composure. “Oh come ON!” I burst out finally, sitting back on my heels and brushing my hair angrily out of my face. I glared at the candle as though it alone had initiated my failure.
A cold breeze suddenly raised goose bumps on my flesh and caused the candle to sputter wildly. I shivered and hugged myself, looking around nervously at the black water and looming trees. A second gust of wind completely extinguished the flame and left me in near darkness, with only the faint, silvery starlight to aid my search. I took a rather shaky breath and felt around on the ground for a few moments, before I stood bolt upright. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end; I was not alone.
“Lost something, have you?” a voice said from the trees to my left. I whirled around and watched as the sneering face of Abraxas Malfoy emerged from the shadows. Cold fear clenched at my stomach. I was without a wand, dressed in nothing by pyjamas and a cloak, and far enough away from the castle that no-one would hear me scream.
“Of course not Malfoy,” I said dismissively, burying my fear. “I fancied a walk, but I’ve grown rather cold, so I think I’ll return to the castle.” I turned my back on him with my heart pounding and began to walk away.
“Crucio.” Suddenly, all I knew was blinding, paralysing agony. I screamed and crumpled to the ground, writhing…and then just as suddenly, it stopped. I lay gasping facedown on the ground, my nails digging into the wet grass. I heard footsteps approach me and suddenly Malfoy was beside me. He rolled me onto my back roughly and pointed his wand at me once again. “That was for telling Tom that I told you about Horcruxes. Payback.” He licked his lips as he stared down at me, prostrate before him. “And this is for not keeping your end of the bargain. Crucio!” Again, I was seized by pain; I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe except to scream. And then again he released me. I was curled on my side, dragging in as much air as I could between unwilling sobs. I hated to show weakness in front of him, but I couldn’t help it. “And this,” he said softly, and I braced myself for the pain once again, “Is for refusing me for so long. I will have you yet. Crucio!” I screamed again, thrashing about wildly, unaware of where I was or even who I was. And then finally, mercifully, it was over. I lay completely limp on the ground, drawing in tiny, shallow breaths. Malfoy knelt down beside me on the wet lawn and brought his lips close to my ear. “You see, Maura? I shall always win. You are nothing more than a stupid little girl. And if you ever tell Tom about this, you will wish you were dead.” A branch snapped somewhere close to the edge of the forest and Malfoy looked up quickly, listening intently. Then, he leaned back down toward my face and whispered, “Until we meet again, my love.” He brushed his lips against mine and then rose and melted back into the shadows.
I lay still on my back, choking back the sobs that threatened to overtake me. I hated Malfoy, hated that he could make me feel so powerless and alone. Aches and occasional stabs of pain were still pervading my body from the Cruciatus curse enough that I couldn’t force myself to move, despite the rage that was boiling inside of me.
Suddenly, I heard running footsteps approach on my right. I braced myself and tried to roll over to defend myself, but a wave of dizziness overtook me and I lay still again. The runner skidded to a halt and dropped to his knees beside me. “Maura!” he gasped panting, and I recognised Tom’s voice. I closed my eyes and turned my head away from him. “What happened? What are you doing out here?”
I tried to speak between my gasps. “My – wand,”
“I have it. Here,” he said, pressing it into my hand. “But who else was down here? I saw red light –,” I let out a little sob. “Tell me Maura!”
“I – it was,” I took a deep, shaking breath and tried to quell the rage flowing through my veins. For now at least, I had to let Malfoy win. “It was nothing. I need – to go back to the castle.” I clenched my wand and tried to pull myself into a sitting position, gasping as pain raked through my body. Tom’s arm was suddenly around my shoulders, supporting me until I was sitting up straight. I brushed a sweaty tendril of hair away from my forehead and fought the urge to retch.
“You’re lying to me again, Maura,” Tom said softly, still with his hand on my back. I stiffened, and then cringed, noticing that I was shaking uncontrollably. I could not deal with him at the moment.
“Please Tom, I just want to go back to bed.” I said quietly, avoiding his eyes. When he didn’t reply, I started to get to my feet. He remained kneeling on the grass, looking up at me strangely. I turned away from him and took one step, but then I stumbled and would have fallen if Tom hadn’t caught my elbow to steady me.
Suddenly, an inexplicable wave of rage overcame me, and I wrenched my arm out of his grasp. I was sick of him and sick of Malfoy, and sick of being weak and controlled and manipulated! “I can do it myself!” I screamed at him, ignoring the tears gathering at the corners of my eyes. “Why can’t you leave me alone? Everything was fine until YOU came along, you arrogant bastard!” I took several steps away from him and then turned and stumbled into a run towards the castle, ignoring the aches leftover from Malfoy. I had barely made it fifty feet before I stumbled and fell to my knees; there seemed to be something wrong with my legs. The muscles quite simply wouldn’t work. I slammed my fist against the ground in frustration, and then slumped facedown to the ground in defeat. After a few moments I heard slow footsteps approach. “Just go away.” I whispered. He stayed silent for so long that I thought he actually had gone.
Then, my wand was pulled gently out of my hand, which was clenched around it so hard it was probably near the breaking point. Slowly, Tom turned me onto my back and then, without a word, he looped one arm under my knees and the other under my arms, and lifted me easily. “Tom, don’t,” I tried weakly, but he didn’t answer. He carried me wordlessly all the way to the castle, down the stairs to the Slytherin common room, and then up to my dormitory after muttering a spell I couldn’t discern to disable the staircase. There were gasps from my doormats as Tom walked past their beds with me in his arms.
“What have you done to her?” Celily’s voice was shrill and terrified as she stood at the foot of my bed facing Tom. He stepped past her and laid me down on my bed. He stood still for a moment and held my gaze. I glared up at him and then averted my eyes, more angry at myself for being so weak than I was at him. He drew my wand from within his robes and placed it on my bedside table. Then, with one final glance at my face, he turned to leave, but found his way barred by Cecily. “What’s wrong with her?” she demanded.
“Why don’t you ask her?” Tom said delicately, and by the hint of bitterness in his voice, I could tell he was still angry that I hadn’t told him the truth. He tried to sidestep the girl, but she blocked his way.
“I know it was you that killed Myrtle, Riddle,” she said shrilly. “It couldn’t have been anyone else! I – ,” she gasped as Tom took a step toward her. From my vantage point just behind Tom, I watched as the other two girls went to her sides.
“It is not wise to accuse the head boy of such a crime. People will think that you are trying to draw away suspicion from yourself. You didn’t exactly make Myrtle’s life easy, did you?” Tom said softly, shifting his gaze between the three of them. A slight flush crept up Cecily’s face.
“If anything happens to Maura, all three of us will know for sure who it was.” She said softly, clenching her hands into fists. “And we won’t keep your secrets for you this time.”
Tom’s hand strayed toward his wand, but I reached out quickly and pressed my palm to his bare arm. Please, I thought to him, willing him to hear me. Please just leave them. I’ll tell them it wasn’t you. He turned his head slightly toward me as though he might have heard. Please Tom. I’ll tell you everything later if you just leave them alone. He looked over his shoulder at me and I met his gaze pleadingly. “Please Tom,” I said shakily out loud. His gaze flickered between my eyes and the other girls. Then he bared his teeth at me and let out a snarl, before shouldering past the girls and striding out of the dormitory, slamming the door behind him.
I let out the breath I’d been holding and let my head fall back against the pillow. Cecily and the other girls approached my bed cautiously. “Maura?” Cecily said hesitantly. “What did he do to you? Are you alright?”
I took a deep breath and sat up against the pillows. The aches and pains from the Crutiatus curse were starting to subside, and I was feeling a little better, and I wasn’t shaking as much. “It wasn’t Tom,” I said softly to the other girls. They drew closer, and Cecily sat on the edge of my bed. “Tom…found me hurt and brought me back here.” They looked at each other dubiously.
“If Tom didn’t hurt you, then who did? What happened?” I looked around at the three of them; they looked genuinely concerned.
“Look, I appreciate your concern but…why do you care? You barely know me,”
“We’ve shared a dorm for six years.” Said one of the other girls, whose name I thought was Felicity. “And we’ve been keeping Riddle’s secrets for too long.”
“What do you mean?”
The third girl spoke. “Do you remember Myrtle, the girl who was killed last year when the Chamber of Secrets was opened?”
“Of course,” I said. “She was found in the bathroom,”
“Yes. She was killed by whoever commanded the monster, and the only person who could have commanded it is Riddle.” Cecily said, and the other two nodded.
“Why would he be the only one?”
“He’s a parseltongue.” I shivered. Yet another thing I wished I hadn’t found out about Tom. “Slytherin sealed the chamber to all but his true heir. Slytherin was a parseltongue, and Riddle is the only parseltongue at Hogwarts. And,” here Cecily lowered her voice conspiratorially, “Felicity heard Riddle speaking parseltongue in the third-floor girls bathroom, and then she heard something heavy hit the floor and slither away.”
“I’m sure it was some kind of snake or lizard. It sounded huge though,” Felicity added, shivering.
“Did Tom know you were there?”
“No,” Felicity said. “But it wouldn’t have mattered anyway – I’m a pureblood, the monster wouldn’t have attacked me.” Somehow I didn’t think that would have stopped Tom.
“So you think Tom opened the Chamber of Secrets?” I said sceptically.
“Wouldn’t you?” I had to admit I did think Tom was the most likely candidate.
“Why didn’t you tell Professor Dippett?” I asked.
“He wouldn’t have believed us,” Cecily said scornfully. “He thinks Riddle’s a saint.”
“And Riddle might have killed us,” Felicity added softly. The three of them were silent for a few moments. Then Felicity’s head came up and her eyes burned. “But we can’t let him hurt anyone else. You have to be careful.” She looked at me fiercely until I nodded, and then dropped her eyes. “So…what did happen tonight?”
I looked at the three of them with a new respect. They had stood up to Tom for me, knowing what he had done and how dangerous he was. I wasn’t at all sure I would have returned the favour before that night, and I felt ashamed for it. The least I could do was tell them the truth. I took a deep breath. “You understand that what I’m about to tell you can’t leave this room, right?” I said quietly. The three of them nodded seriously. I reached for my wand and magically locked the door and cast a silencing charm around the room, just in case Tom had decided to stick around. “It wasn’t Tom who attacked me tonight…it was Malfoy.”
The girls gasped. “Malfoy?” Felicity said, her eyes wide. “Why?”
I pondered my answer. I knew I couldn’t tell them about the Horcruxes – Tom would kill them, and probably me too. “Well, a couple of reasons. I embarrassed him in front of Tom, and I…refused to sleep with him.” I looked at Cecily as I said this, and she blushed slightly.
“What I said earlier, I didn’t mean it that way and…it’s really none of my business,” she mumbled.
“Forget it,” I said, and gave her a small smile. “Anyway, Malfoy found me tonight and he…used the Cruciatus curse on me,” Felicity gasped and Cecily looked horrified.
“That’s terrible! You have to go to Dippet!”
I let out a hollow laugh. “Do you really think he’d believe me, of all people?” They dropped their eyes; we all knew it was true. “If Tom hadn’t found me when he did, I think Malfoy would have…had his way with me,” I muttered, feeling my anger beginning to rise once again.
The third girl, who I now remembered was called Carissa, sat down beside me and put her hand on mine. “Don’t ever let him,” she said with such ferocity that I was taken aback. Then, she abruptly stood and went back to her bed.
“Carissa was in love with Malfoy in our fourth year,” Cecily said softly. “He stayed with her just to sleep with her, and then never spoke to her again. It broke her heart. We’ve been telling her he wasn’t worth it, but it doesn’t undo what he did.”
I nodded, glancing over at Carissa, who met my gaze fiercely before looking away. Felicity spoke up again, prompting me to continue: “So did Tom see Malfoy with you?”
“No,” I said heavily, “Malfoy ran when he heard someone coming, then Tom carried me back up here.” We all sat silently for a moment, then Carissa spoke up from across the room.
“What were you doing down there in the first place?”
“I left my wand down there,” I said simply, and they all nodded; we all knew that to sleep in a Slytherin dorm room without a wand was asking for trouble.
“Well, I don’t know what Tom means by helping you, but it can’t be good. Be careful, and don’t be afraid to talk to us,” Cecily said, meeting my gaze seriously.
I nodded. “Thanks,” I said softly, feeling a strange lump in the back of my throat. Felicity and Cecily gave me a small smile and then made their way back to their beds.
I settled myself against my pillow and slid my wand underneath it, pondering the new, strange friendship I had developed with the dorm-mates I had shunned for six years. In only a few moments, exhaustion had overcome me and I sank into blissful sleep.
I was woken by Felicity, who informed me that if I didn’t hurry I would miss breakfast. My stomach was grumbling with hunger, so I thanked her and scrambled to get my robes. My body was still sore from Saturday night, but not nearly as much as it had been, and I found that I could move normally again. I made my way down to the Great Hall alone, but Felicity beckoned to me when I entered. I started to walk toward them, but I was cut off by a tall, dark-haired someone. “I need to speak with you,” Tom said gruffly.
“But – I’m,” he steered me back out of the great hall and into a small, unused classroom near it, “hungry,” I muttered. He locked the door behind us and cast a silencing spell on the room before he turned to face me.
We stood staring at each other for a full minute until a particularly loud growl from my stomach broke the silence. Charming, I know. I sighed deeply. “Tom…I wanted to…thank you. For helping me.” I said awkwardly. His expression did not change, and he remained silent. I looked around the room nervously, taking in the dusty pile of desks and chairs and the grimy window. I knew what he wanted, but my fear of Malfoy kept me silent.
“You need to tell me what happened Saturday night,” he said quietly, not taking his eyes off me. I avoided his gaze, knowing he could read my mind more easily if I made direct eye contact.
“Tom, can’t this wait, I’m starving,” I said evasively, moving away from him toward the window. After a few more minutes of agonizing silence, I turned around irritably and found Tom’s face inches from my own. “Oh!” I gasped and took a step back against the windowsill.
He stepped with me and wrapped his fingers around my chin, forcing me to look at him. I dropped my gaze. “Look at me!” he commanded, and I couldn’t help it. I tried to block the memory from my mind, but I could tell he was seeing anyway. Quite suddenly, he released me as though he had been burned. “The Crutiatus curse?” he said softly, and I nearly choked.
“Please, Tom, I – ,”
“Who did it?” he snarled, and I leaned away from him as he wrapped both hands around my upper arms, preventing my escape.
“Tom, let go, you’re hurting me!” I cried, squirming in his grasp.
“Tell me who did it!” I succeeded in freeing myself and took off across the room. He had caught up to me in three steps and slammed me against the wall, putting his face so close to mine, our noses were practically touching. His eyes searched mine, and try though I might, I could not hide my thoughts from him. “Malfoy?” he growled, and I gasped.
“Please, Tom, you must leave him alone, don’t do anything rash – ,”
“Why?” he snarled, pushing himself away from me. “Do you have feelings for him? If he did that to you, why wouldn’t you want to see him hurt?” he was pacing across the room in agitation while I cowered against the wall.
“Of course I don’t like him, I despise him, I just –,”
“You what?” he spat, coming to a halt in front of me. Suddenly, a new thought seem to occur to him. “He didn’t – what exactly did he do to you?”
“You saw,” I said, knowing what he was referring to. “He didn’t finish what he started the last time you interrupted, if that’s what you’re getting at,”
“Good!” he snarled. “Why wouldn’t you tell me?” he added, taking a step closer again.
“I – why would I tell you?” I said, suddenly realising something. “When I left you last night, you were screaming at me and throwing me toward the castle. How was I to know you weren’t just going to continue what he was doing? It’s not like you haven’t done it before – or did you forget that you nearly killed me?” I yelled. He grabbed me by the arms again and slammed me against the wall. We stood panting and glaring at each other for a few silent moments. Then, I whispered, “See? You’re hurting me right now.”
He released me abruptly and backed away. “He threatened you, didn’t he? I bet he said something like ‘you’ll beg for death if you tell Tom,’”
I was drawing in deep, calming breaths. “Then you see why you can’t retaliate, Tom, it would only make things worse –,”
“Don’t think you can control me,” he snarled suddenly. “I left your friends alone last night because I was too tired to be bothered with them.”
I pressed my lips together and stared at him desperately. “Please Tom, just leave it alone.”
His eyes flickered back and forth between mine. “Malfoy will not harm you again,” he said quietly, before turning abruptly and leaving me alone.
I let out the breath I’d been holding and sagged against the wall. Even when Tom’s wrath was not directed at me, I still found him terrifying. And I didn’t see why he was so shocked that the Cruciatus curse had been used on me; after all, he’d done it himself not too long ago! The stirrings of anger were beginning in the pit of my stomach once again. Why would Tom think that I wanted him to protect me? He was the one I needed protecting from!
I pushed off of the wall and strode angrily toward the door before I caught myself; I did NOT need to get myself on Tom’s bad side as well as Malfoy’s. I slammed my fist against the wall in frustration. I hated to feel powerless, and it seemed lately that powerless was all I ever felt. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I left the classroom and made my way down the hall to the girl’s bathroom. I strode over to my mirror and stared at my reflection. I barely recognized the girl who looked back at me. She was pale and scared-looking, with dark circles beneath her eyes. Gone was the young woman who commanded respect and submission from everyone she encountered. She had been replaced by a girl who allowed herself to be manipulated and controlled.
I stood up straighter and lifted my chin, and some semblance of my old self returned. I pulled out my wand and pointed it at my lank curls until they returned to their full, glossy potential. I pointed the wand at my face; the dark circles disappeared and a little colour came back to my cheeks. “There,” I said softly. I regarded myself critically. “I won’t be controlled,” I said softly, watching as anger flashed in my eyes. “I will not be controlled!” I said loudly, and then whipped around as the door opened and a frightened-looking first year appeared.
“Oh!” she cried, as I stared her down. “I – I – I – I’m sorry to disturb you!” she stuttered, looking terrified.
I softened my gaze, satisfied that I could still induce fear in my peers. “It’s alright, I was just leaving,”
“O – Ok,” she said, standing aside so that I could pass. I gave her a small smile as I passed, and she beamed, looking proud of herself for gaining my approval.
I made my way back toward the great hall with a new purpose in mind. I decided that I would not be pushed around by Tom or Malfoy anymore. I wouldn’t exactly seek trouble with them, but I would do my very best to remain two steps ahead of them. And I wouldn’t have to do it alone.
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