Chapter 4 : The Slug Club
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Tom jerked up, looking around to identify the voice. “Sorry, what?” he said to no one in particular.
“You were staring off into space,” Ella said gently.
“Oh, er, sorry,” Tom said again, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. Pull it together, he thought to himself. You promised yourself that you wouldn’t let this get to you. It had been more than a week since Tom had found the clue to what he was positive was the entrance to the Chamber. Since then, he had been spending his breaks hovering around the girl’s bathroom, waiting for it to be empty, but there always seemed to be either someone in the bathroom itself, or in the corridor. He was becoming increasingly frustrated, drawing back and losing some of his presence. The fire and determination that was in his eyes a week ago was gone, replaced with a dull sheen.
“What were you thinking about?” she asked in a sugary sweet voice.
“Has Tom got a girl on his mind?” Orion Black said with a smirk.
Tom smiled good-naturedly. “Not this time.”
Ella flipped her hair over her shoulder. “This time? When have you had a girl on you mind?”
Tom’s smile widened, but he said nothing.
“I hate her,” Amaya whispered. She and Anabel were sitting a few feet away from the main group, farther from the fire. She didn’t care much for the spot, as it was far away from Tom, but the one thing she liked about the it was that she could talk without being overheard. It was worth it, in the end, to have some privacy “Why does she have to be so bloody perfect?”
“Tom obviously isn’t interested,” Anabel said distantly, curling a strand of hair around her quill.
“I know, but still.”
Anabel shrugged and glanced down at her watch. “Hey, I need to go. I promised Ellie I’d meet her in the library today.” Ellie was Anabel’s younger sister, but she had been sorted into Hufflepuff, much to the distaste of her family. Ellie herself had not liked the choice of her House, and she spent the majority of her time trying to get away from the Hufflepuffs. She considered herself a Slytherin, and everybody knew that, but Anabel and her didn’t talk often, mostly because they didn’t see each other. They tried to make it a point to meet every now and then, so Amaya figured it was just one of those times.
“Oh, all right. If you must.”
“I’ll see you tonight, then.”
“Okay,” Amaya said dully, expecting an uneventful evening. She supposed it would be a good enough reason to actually get some homework done, but it was more likely that she’d end up doodling on a scrap piece of paper while letting her mind wander. Resigning herself to a thoroughly boring evening, she picked up her Transfiguration book and began to stare at the pages, reading the words, but not taking in any of the meanings.
“Amaya!” came a deep voice behind her. “We need to talk.”
Tom inwardly sighed. They were getting to be so bloody annoying. He wished they would leave him alone. He couldn’t even think anymore, without them swarming on him, demanding to know what was on his mind. Still, what could he do? He couldn’t just demand that they all leave him alone. If anything, that would make them more eager to learn what he was going to do. And he had learned that lesson the hard way.
Several years ago, at the orphanage, when he had first discovered how to use his powers, a small boy and girl had come across him practicing moving things without touching them. He now knew that to be a less sophisticated version of locomotor mortis, of course, but at the time, he didn’t know what to think of it. At first, he researched his powers, but soon gave up on it. It didn’t really matter what it was, he realized. It only mattered that he could do it.
The boy and girl had seen him moving a marble. Just a marble, rolling across the floor, like it was being pushed by a gentle breeze. But there was no breeze, and Tom was the only one in the room. He had made the mistake of telling them it was his own special power that they couldn’t know about. To go away and leave him alone. They had followed him for days, demanding to know what he was talking about. He had eventually scared them into being quiet, but in the process, he had learned his lesson. If he had simply told them that he was trying to figure it out, too, he would have never had the problem. From it, he had learned how to tell half-truths and partial lies. From it, he had learned how to act.
“I have a letter to give to Mr. Tom Riddle,” a tiny voice squeaked by Tom’s ear, shaking him out of his reverie. He looked down to see a small boy, no more than eleven (and a short eleven too), looking up in awe at him.
Tom plastered his kindest smile onto his face. “Thank you.” He took the letter from the boy’s hand and shook it open in one motion, scanning it briefly.
“What is it?” Ella asked breathlessly.
“We have a Slug Club meeting tonight,” Tom answered, speaking over the top of his letter to the other boys gathered around that were also in Slughorn’s private group of prized students. “The first one of the year. It’s rather later than usual, don’t you think?”
“Definitely,” Cygnus Black said quickly.
“It’s at seven. Sluggy says he has dinner prepared, so we shouldn’t bother eating before.”
“As boring as his dinners are, no one can argue that he has the best food,” Orion Black said with a laugh.
“Well, look at the size of him! What else do you expect?” Cygnus added, laughing harder.
Tom laughed quietly. “It’s always something to look forward to. I’d better go and dig out a box of something sweet in that case.”
“Blimey, you always have something for him,” Orion said, his eyes widening.
“Always nice to get into his good books,” Tom said softly. He glanced at his watch. “Twenty minutes. You go on ahead. I’ll meet you there.” He rose swiftly, waving his wand so his books and papers neatly stacked themselves and hovered behind him, following him as he walked up the stairs. The remaining boys watched his retreating back almost longingly, as if they wished to be him, but no one moved. Even if Tom wasn’t there, no one dared to sit in his seat. Incoming first years soon learned that lesson. Tom had never been out rightly rude to anyone who did so, but one who did would find himself ostracized from Tom’s group of friends. It simply wasn’t done.
Amaya whirled around, finding herself face to face with Demitriov Avery, a Slytherin seventh year boy who was already expected to rise to the top of the Ministry once he graduated. She wrinkled her nose in disgust.
Avery was a typical pure blood. Prejudiced, hateful, rude. More than that, he seemed to be cruel. He seemed to like being cruel.
Unfortunately, the Avery and Fitz families had been close for centuries, so Amaya was forced to spend time with him. She tried to avoid him the best she could at school, as their dislike was mutual.
“What do you want, Avery? And I wasn’t aware that we were on a first name basis.”
“There’s no need to be so rude, Fitz. I just have a message from your Mummy.”
“Why would she give it to you? Why not send it to me directly?”
“Don’t ask me. I’m just the messenger.”
“Fine. Tell me what you need and go.”
He tossed her a letter. “In there. Basically, it’s saying that you’re getting a huge surprise when you come home for Christmas.”
“You read my mail?”
“I had to make sure it was safe for a pretty girl like you.”
Amaya swung out at him with her free arm, but he dodged it easily. “Shut up, and leave me alone.”
Avery stepped back and mocked fear. “Wouldn’t want me to tell Mummy you were so rude to me, would you?”
“What do you want from me?”
“Nothing. I already said that.”
“Then why aren’t you going?”
He laughed. “You have to read the letter first.”
Amaya held in the urge to hit him again and opened the envelope. It had been resealed, but clumsily, and Amaya could easily tell that it had been broken before. She shook the letter open and immediately recognized her Mother’s thin script.
You, my darling, are growing up so fast. Just think: in a month, you will be sixteen. This is now a time to begin thinking about your future.
We, that is, your father and I, are very proud of our one and only daughter. We only want your happiness. But at the same time, we have to do what is best for you, and for our family, and for this reason, we have been searching or a suitable husband for you for some time. After much negotiation, we have three boys in mind for you, all of which will help you rise to a position of wealth and power. There is still much to be done before we can arrange the match, but we hope to have the name of the boy we have chosen by Christmas. We are certain that you will be just as happy as we are, though we will of course let you approve the match.
I have sent this letter to Demitriov Avery as you don’t seem to receive my letters at times. I trust that he will deliver it to you in confidence. We look forward to seeing you at Christmas and giving you the name of the boy we have selected for your approval.
Amaya read the letter through twice before its meaning registered in her brain. She glanced up to see Avery smirking at her.
“There. I’ve read it. Now go.”
He shrugged, and turned to leave. “Ickle Amaya is growing up!”
“Don’t you dare tell anyone!” She yelled, suddenly realizing that he would love to embarrass her in any way possible.
He simply smirked again, and left, leaving Amaya to focus on the letter.
She had always known that her parents would expect her to marry a respectable pureblood, but never had she fathomed that they would find someone when she was fifteen. She hadn’t even taken her O.W.L.’s yet, let alone thought about marriage. And once she had become fixated with Tom, the idea of an arranged marriage had been pushed to the back of her mind. If anything, though, the letter had made her more determined to get Tom before Christmas. Then she could always tell her parents she didn’t like their choice, and introduce them to Tom. She was positive that they would love him as soon as they met him. She didn’t see how they couldn’t.
Tom straightened his tie and checked that his collar was creased neatly. He had to look his best for Slughorn. He was the one teacher Tom could wrap around his finger. He was almost positive that Slughorn would kill someone for him if he asked him nicely enough. Tom needed to keep that favor. He rummaged through his trunk until he found a box of Honeydukes chocolate. That would do for today. Tom stocked up on Honeydukes sweets at every Hogsmeade visit, for this reason alone.
Tom hurried down the stairs and back into the common room, glancing at his watch. It was ten minutes to seven. He quickened his pace, not wanting to be late. Pushing past several first years impatiently with a blunt “excuse me”, he walked out of the common room and down the hall. Thankfully, Slughorn’s office was in the dungeons, so it didn’t take long.
He caught up with the other boys just as the clock began to strike seven and Slughorn’s office door opened.
“Tom, m’boy!” Slughorn said happily, slapping Tom’s back and motioning for him to come in. “Lestrange, Black, nice to see you both,” he said after a pause, ushering the other five or six boys into the room. “Mulciber’s been here all day, asking for help with his homework, bless his soul, so I decided to let him stay for dinner with us.”
The scrawny, fourth year boy shot the others a proud smirk before resuming his quiet grin.
“Thank you,” he said politely.
“We were working on the Sticking Solution. He was determined to make it perfectly, so we made a good four batches of the thing together. It’s almost as if he wanted to pull a prank on someone!” Slughorn laughed loudly at his own joke.
The boys chuckled politely.
“Al lright then, sit down, sit down.”
“Sir,” Tom started, moving toward him. “I brought a box of Honeydukes’ finest chocolate for you. As a welcome back present.”
Slughorn laughed. “You always know how to make an old man happy, Tom! Thank you, m’boy. Do have a seat now. How about here, to my right. Sorry, Lestrange, but you’ll have to move over one. Thank you.”
Tom took his seat, still smiling, though his mind was elsewhere.
A Sticking Solution would fix his problem immediately. It was a potion that, when touched, would attach whatever had touched it to the potion. He honestly couldn’t believe that he hadn’t thought of it before.
There were still problems with it, of course. He would have to maneuver through the potion. And he needed a reason for why he had the potion in the first place. He couldn’t just walk through Hogwarts with a Sticking Solution and expect the teachers to not be suspicious.
As he spooned mashed potatoes into his mouth, Tom reasoned through his options. He could either carry it himself, or ask a student to do it for him. The latter would probably be easier. He could be very convincing when needed, and that way, the spilled potion wouldn’t be his fault. A younger student would work best, as they would be less likely to question him.
But then he had to work out how to make the kid fall. It couldn’t seem intentional, of course. The kid, whoever it might be, had to believe that he accidentally tripped and fell. So scaring the kid was out, but he could always hit him with a jinx from behind. A trip jinx would do it.
And then there was the problem of getting through the potion himself. There was an antidote to the Sticking Solution, of course, a sort of counter potion. If he could get his hands on that, he could get through the potion, but no one else would be able to. Slughorn would probably have some of the counter potion, come to think of it. It would be easy to get it from him.
Tom ran through the plan once again in his mind. He would ask a younger student to carry the Sticking Solution somewhere for him, and then hit the kid with a trip jinx from behind so the potion would fall. Then he would put the counter on his own shoes, and go into the bathroom while everyone was trying to figure out what had happened. No one would be able to get in though, so he was safe.
Unless, of course, they had the counter. He’d have to make sure he took Slughorn’s entire stock of it. It was a complicated potion to brew, taking over a week to simmer before it could be completed, so there was no danger of him being visited. If anyone saw him coming out of the bathroom, he could say that he was in the corridor when it spilled, and then jumped inside the bathroom to stop himself from being drenched by the potion. Altogether, it really was the perfect plan.
“Pheasant, Tom?” Slughorn asked. Tom looked up, focusing on the table once more.
“Yes, thank you, Sir.”
“Take as much as you like. Gravy?”
“So, Black. Orion. Tell me, did you go to the Minister’s Summer Ball this year?”
He swallowed hastily and took a sip of water before answering. “Oh yes, of course Sir. We have very close ties with the Ministry, of course. It was brilliant.”
“Meet anyone special?”
“The Minister himself, actually.”
Tom effectively tuned out the rest of the conversation. It was the same as any other dinner party; Slughorn questioned the boys about who they had met, and bragged about the people he had taught. Luckily, being orphaned, Tom was excused from this part of the conversation, and he could eat in peace. Afterwards, he would have to talk to Slughorn and get the potion, if he had any. If not…Then Tom would have to rethink, and fast.
“Alright, boys, goodnight. We’ll have another little get together soon. Look out for my message, alright?” Slughorn grinned as he waved them out the door, then turned to face Tom. “Now why am I not surprised to see you still standing here?”
Tom smiled patiently. “It seems as though I always have something to ask of you, Sir. This time, pertaining to a specific potion.”
“Indeed. And what would that be?”
Tom let his expression slide into a slightly sheepish grin. “Actually, Sir, it’s a simple Sticking Solution. You see, I wanted to examine it and see why the unicorn hair is needed. It seems like such an unnecessary ingredient.”
“Well, you’re quite right about that. Though it does help to give it that sheen, I can’t think of much else it would do.”
“What I really wanted, was to study a potion that was already made. Of course, I could do it myself, but I thought, if you already had one readymade…”
“Nonsense! Mulciber made a perfect batch today; I’ll just give you that. How much do you want?”
“I think I better just take the whole thing, Sir, just in case. Thank you.”
“Let me just put that in a bottle for you, then.”
“And if I can just bother you for one more thing. Terribly sorry, Sir, but just to be precautious, I might need some of the counter. Do you, by any chance, have some of that?”
“I did keep a little on hand. I’ll give you what I have if that’s okay.”
“Perfect. Thank you again.”
“No problem at all, m’boy.” He handed Tom two bottles, one considerably larger than the other, and held open the door.
“You best be going then.”
“I suppose you’re right. Thank you for the evening, Professor.”
“And thank you for the chocolates. I do love them.”
Tom smiled. “Bye, Sir.”
So... I wanted to add a new element in for Amaya. What did you think? And thanks for all the lovely people who have been reading and reviewing this, and to everyone who favorited this. I was shocked when I saw that, but you all make me grin. As always, I love reviews :) Even if it's as simple as, this was great or horrible, let me know!
Edit April 2012; This chapter has been close to rewritten in some parts. I hope it makes a lot more sense now.
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