Chapter 2 : He Came for Her Company
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I’ve sent this chapter to my beta, but she might be busy with college and all, so I thought I’d post this ahead because I probably won’t have enough time to do it next week. All mistakes are my own. I previewed this five times, but if you find any, let me know. =)
This story is still giving me headaches, but I’m getting the hang of it, I think. But would you agree?
“That is really lovely on you, my dear.”
Minerva cast a wry smile at her mother’s reflection in the mirror, careful not to look ungrateful. “Thank you, Mother. But you really should not bother. I still have plenty of dress robes.”
“Well,” Mrs. McGonagall replied, “there are going to be a lot of social gatherings and parties you and I need to attend, now that I have returned and you have finished school.” An expression of subtle concern passed over her face as she continued, “You need to mingle, my dear. I do not like to see you always locking yourself up in your room, reading. You need to find a good suitor and...”
“Mother!” Minerva groaned exasperatedly. “I have told you a thousand times...”
“Yes, yes, you do not wish to be married yet,” Mrs. McGonagall interrupted calmly, “but there is nothing wrong with socializing, is there, darling?”
Minerva gazed at her reflection, tugging at the white ruffles on her new dress robe with a sigh. Minerva did not like shopping, but her mother was difficult to refuse once she had her mind set on something. “I suppose not,” she answered. “But promise me you will not...”
Whatever it was Minerva wanted her mother to promise was lost as Mrs. Ardolf, the boutique owner, poked her head into the room. “My, you look just stunning, Minerva! Edythe darling, the sea clearly did you good. Look at you!”
Minerva rolled her eyes, but the older women were too busy hugging and gushing over each other to notice. Mrs. Ardolf was a pleasant woman, but when it comes to picking out clothes, Minerva found her unbearably indecisive, just like her mother.
“You are too sweet, Darlene,” Mrs. McGonagall replied brightly. “I’m sorry for dropping in so suddenly, but Minerva and I need new dressrobes for the Malfoys’ party this weekend...”
“Say no more,” Mrs. Ardolf held up her hand, beaming. “We’ll find you the perfect attire, even it takes all day.”
Minerva suppressed another groan. Merlin help me.
Fortunately, it didn’t take the whole day. Two and a half hour later, Minerva sighed in relief as she exited the store alone. Mrs. Ardolf and her mother still wanted to catch up, so Minerva excused herself and made her escape.
Diagon Alley was busy today. Witches bustled past her with their shopping baskets in one hand and a list in the other. Students walked in groups with their new book bags and new set of books, laughing and chattering. Minerva couldn’t help smiling as she passed a group of giggling girls around sixteen or seventeen, thinking wistfully of her Hogwarts years. She would be back in the castle next year, but it would not be the same. She would be a professor.
She smiled to herself. The image of her standing up in front of a class and teach made her queasy, but she couldn’t wait to do it.
A bell tinkled pleasantly, announcing her arrival as Minerva pushed open the glass door of the ice cream parlour. The man behind the counter looked up and beamed at her. “Why, Minerva McGonagall! I thought you were still away in that teacher academy you enrolled in.”
Minerva returned the smile. “Hello to you too, Florean. I’m just home for the summer. How’s business?”
Florean grinned and gestured to his surroundings. “Quite well, as you can see. And what can I do for you today, Miss? Oh wait, don’t tell me,” he shook a hand in front of her. “I know exactly what it is. Find yourself a seat and your order will be up in a minute.”
Minerva raised an eyebrow, amused. “Are you sure?” Florean answered with an affirmative. Minerva shrugged. “Alright then, I’ll wait.” She turned around and headed to an empty table close to the window. Once she was seated, she glanced around, taking a good look at Florean’s shop.
The little shop was quite packed with people, mostly teens and some younger kids, but there were some adults as well. One of the kids sitting at the outdoor table was eating an ice cream taller than him that was threatening to topple over him at any time, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. Minerva hid a smile, reminded of a similar scene in this very shop several years ago.
She turned so sharply, there was a crick in her neck. Standing close to her table, looking out of place in the colourful shop, was Tom Riddle.
“Tom!” she greeted, wondering how she could have not heard him coming. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted some ice cream,” he answered, “and I heard this place was the best.”
Minerva resisted the urge to laugh as she pictured him eating an ice cream. It didn’t seem right.
Tom seemed to have read her mind, because the corner of his lips turned upward slightly. “Do you not believe me?”
Minerva smiled sheepishly. “Well, I did not know you like ice cream, that’s all.”
Perhaps she had only imagined it, but his smile changed at her words. “There are many things you do not know about me.” He said it airily, yet Minerva couldn’t help feeling nervous. Tom didn’t seem to notice the discomfort seeping into Minerva, because he then gestured to the seat opposite her. “May I sit here?”
“Of course,” Minerva replied as sincerely as she could, for what else could she have said?
Tom slid into the seat just as Florean approached the table, balancing a tray with one hand. His gaze flickered to Tom as he set down the glass of ice cream on the table, but his face didn’t betray any sort of curiosity as he turned to Minerva and said brightly, “Here you go, one vanilla ice cream with extra chocolate sauce and just a dash of mint. Enjoy!”
Minerva couldn’t help smiling up at him. “You remember!”
“Of course,” Florean beamed back, “you hardly ever order anything else, after all.” Then he turned to Tom and assumed a politer tone, “Would you like to order something, sir?”
Tom nodded. “I will have what she has,” he answered.
Minerva raised an eyebrow at this, but chose not to say anything. Instead, she spooned up a good amount of her ice cream and started eating. However, it was difficult to truly enjoy it with Tom’s dark eyes intent upon her. He had a vague smirk on his face, as if he was silently mocking her in his head. Unable to stand being stared at, Minerva decided to pick up the conversation, but Tom beat her to it.
“You seem very familiar with Fortescue,” he commented, his eyes flickering across the room, where Florean was serving a young couple who had just walked in.
“We are good friends,” Minerva answered, her eyes following his gaze. “I was one of his first customers.”
Tom nodded, shifting his gaze back to her. In this closeness, Minerva could see how flawless his face was, how the darkness of his eyes contrasted against his pale skin, and how difficult it was to understand what he was thinking. She wondered if he was ever spontaneous, and remembered how suddenly he had asked her out for dinner less than a week ago.
“So,” she began rather abruptly, not wanting to think about that invitation at the moment, “I hope I did not get you in trouble with Mr. Borgin because of the painting.”
“You did not,” Tom answered, scooping up his own ice cream. “Mr. Borgin was upset, but he understood.” He frowned and hesitated for a while before he spoke again, “If I may ask, what is the painting about? Mr. Borgin only mentioned that it is valuable, but he never spoke of its subject.”
“Well,” Minerva began cautiously, “it’s a portrait of Hogwarts and its’ founder on the day it opened its door for the first time for students. Aside from the fact that it is the first magical painting ever made, there is hardly anything special about it.”
She was telling a half-lie, but Minerva didn’t see it necessary to tell Tom the whole truth about the painting. She did not trust him enough. But when she caught a shadow of annoyance on his face, she began to wonder if he was telling her the truth, if Mr. Borgin had truly stopped pursuing the bargain.
She couldn’t quite place her finger on what it was that unnerved her about him, but there was something there. Perhaps it was just the Gryffindor versus Slytherin animosity rubbing in on her after seven years and she was being prejudiced. But she knew there was more to it than just some silly school rivalry, and it annoyed her to not be able to figure it out.
The conversation came to a stop as Minerva ate her ice cream, while Tom simply put down his spoon and folded his hands. Minerva frowned, “Do you not like your ice cream?”
Tom didn’t answer for a minute, a smile slowly creeping up on his face. Minerva didn’t like that smile, it sent shiver down her spine. He lifted his hands in a surrendering fashion, “I cannot lie. You were right, I don’t enjoy ice creams. If it were not for you, I would not have even thought of coming in here.”
Minerva smiled faintly. “Oh?”
Tom shrugged. “Well, you didn’t want to go out for dinner, so when I saw you walk in here, I thought I should take my chance.” He smiled that smile, and Minerva found herself shivering again.
The bell tinkled once more, and Minerva twisted in her seat to see who had just walked through the door, glad to have some kind of distraction from Tom. But to her horror, it was her own mother, who gave her a small wave and crinkled her forehead upon spotting her and her companion. Minerva started to tell Tom she had to leave, desperate not to give her mother a chance to speak to him, but she wasn’t quick enough. Mrs. McGonagall had already stood by her table before she could even say ‘goodbye’.
“Minerva dear, I didn’t know you had a previous engagement,” her mother began, looking at Minerva incredulously. “No wonder you were fidgeting so much. If you had told me, I would have let you go earlier.”
“Mother,” Minerva began exasperatedly, catching the look on Tom’s face, “this is Tom Riddle. Tom, this is my mother.”
“It’s wonderful to meet you, Mrs. McGonagall,” Tom said, immediately standing up to take her hand. Minerva followed suit, her mind racing. Her mother looked pleasantly surprised as she shook Tom’s hand.
“Pleased to meet you too, Tom. I wish Minerva had told me about you, or I wouldn’t have held her back.” The last remark was directed more to Minerva, accompanied by a raised eyebrow. Tom turned his gaze toward Minerva as well, a small smirk on his face, apparently enjoying her embarrassment. Minerva restrained the urge to glare at him.
“We just bumped into each other. Tom and I were a year apart in Hogwarts,” Minerva replied, trying hard to keep her tone nonchalant. She could read through her mother’s smile, and she knew what would come up next if she didn’t put a stop to this conversation.
“Well, the timing could not be better,” Mrs. McGonagall beamed at Tom. Minerva watched his face warily, trying to gauge what was going through his mind. She couldn’t. Tom was a master at masking his feelings. “The Malfoys are throwing a party this weekend, and I’m sure Minerva would be bored to tears if she had to stay by my side the whole night...”
“Mother,” Minerva quickly interrupted, “I don’t...”
“Minerva, please, let me finish,” Mrs. McGonagall waved her off pleasantly, too absorbed in her invitation to scold her about manners. Tom once again threw her an amused look that didn’t quite reach his eyes, a look that made her even more nervous about the Malfoys’ party. Minerva shot a warning look to him, wordlessly asking him to refuse the invitation. Her mother, however, didn’t seem to notice this silent exchange as she went on, “I would be very happy if you can come to the party with us. I’m sure Minerva would be too, wouldn’t you, dear?”
Minerva struggled for words. “I would certainly appreciate it, but don’t feel obligated, really.”
“Oh, but I would be happy to come,” Tom replied immediately. “I will be there.”
“Great!” Mrs. McGonagall clapped her hands enthusiastically. “See you Saturday night then. Minerva will owl you about the details, right, dear?”
Minerva pasted a smile on her face, “Of course.”
Tom returned the smile, though there was a little bit of mischief in it. Minerva suspected that he purposely accepted the invitation just to annoy her, but what was the point? “Thank you, Mrs. McGonagall. I must go back to work now, but it’s been a pleasure meeting you.” He shook their hands, lingering a little longer at Minerva, the smirk still plastered on his face.
Minerva nodded stiffly, her mind still racing for the answer to her own question. “The pleasure’s all mine, Tom.”
This time his eyes were laughing as well, and Minerva was surprised to find that the look made him more humane, even if it did seem a little out of place.
The moment Tom was out of earshot, Mrs. McGonagall turned to Minerva and demanded, “Why did you not tell me you had a boyfriend?”
“Because he is not my boyfriend,” Minerva answered incredulously. “We are hardly even friends.”
“Well, he seems to like you,” Mrs. McGonagall chuckled, clearly delighted at the prospect that a man was interested in Minerva. “He’s handsome too, and there is just something about him, don’t you think, dear?”
Minerva glanced behind her mother’s back, catching Tom’s retreating back just in time before he disappeared among the crowd. She looked back at her mother and gave a small smile. “Yes, Mother, I think there is.”