Chapter 1 : The Weakness of Love
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Her soulful refrains reverberated around the smoke filled dungeon room, touching him as if they were a physical being, moving through him, surrounding him, as if she was singing to him, and only him. He chose a table in a dimly lit corner, trying to remain unnoticed, and watched her; watched her as he had never watched her before.
She was in the same year he was, he had seen her for six years now, but had never really cared to know her. She was too close to Dumbledore; his pet, as it were. Tom had always been leery of a connection with the girl, but now he realized she was everything he needed. He would charm her, as he had done countless others, into giving him what he wanted; access to the thoughts of the man that would most likely stand in his way on the road to power. Besides that most inviting prospect, she was a Gryffindor, and what better way to get your hands on a historical item of your enemy house, than to charm its Head Girl; its own, in-house celebrity.
If they wanted, they cold rule the school together. Him, the most accomplished student in the school, the most charismatic, the most powerful. Her, the most beautiful, the most sought after, and the second most brilliant student in the school. The mighty Slytherin and the beautiful Gryffindor: what couldn't they do with each others help. But in reality, Tom didn't need her, he didn't want her, but he could use her, and he would. She wouldn't say no. No one ever said no. He would charm her, and she would fall in love with him.
He knew of the weakness of love.
He knew that when he made her fall in love with him, she would give him anything he wanted. Any secret, any favor. And when he had what he wanted, he would dispose of her. He supposed it was cruel to have her pine for him for the rest of her life, but that was her problem. If she was weak enough to succumb to the sickening depths of love, then she deserved the pain it brought her.
He could see, now, why she was so popular.
She was beautiful, charismatic, smart. Her voice was like no other he had ever heard. As she stood there at the head of the room, pouring her heart and soul into her music, every man in the rooms eye's twitched her way as they struggled through a tedious, inconsequential conversation. He knew what they saw; the way she moved, although sultry, was also unassuming. Tom wondered if she really didn't realize how sensual she was, or if that was all part of the act. If it was only an act, then she was much smarter than he gave her credit for. If it was only a show, she knew how to maintain power. That was a quality he could admire.
Her rich laughter filtered back to Tom through the enthusiastic applause of the room. The song was finished, and he could put his plan into motion. His eyes never left her face as he moved through the crowd to her, ensuring that no one else would speak to him; no one would divert him from his mission.
Professor Slughorn had ushered her from the stage, and around them now stood the steady crowd of admirers she was so often seen with.
“Miss Madoc, I do say, you've been writing this summer, haven't you?” Slughorn's eyes twinkled with delight as well as mead as he nodded ardently at the young girl. “I've never heard that one before!”
“Yes, Professor, I did a little writing over the break,” she said sweetly, her eyes flitting to Tom's as he stepped up beside Slughorn.
“Ah! Well if it isn't my favorite Slytherin!” Slughorn merrily welcomed Tom into the group, waving his hands in amusement. “Did you enjoy Liliana's new number?”
“Very much, sir,” Tom said, allowing a twinkle to adorn his eyes as he smiled at Liliana.
Just as Tom had wanted, this did not go unnoticed by Slughorn. He smiled knowingly between the two of them, then clapped for drinks. Tom knew that Slughorn would like nothing more than two of his most famous Slug club members to become a couple. He would love to be able to tell everyone he met that he had been instrumental in the relationship of the most adored Minister for Magic and his stunning wife, the most celebrated musician of her time.
“So tell me,” Slughorn said after their drinks had been served, “what do the two of you see yourself doing after your education is over this year?”
“Definitely something with the Ministry,” Tom said slyly before taking a sip of his mead.
“Good, good, m'boy,” Slughorn bellowed. “And what about you, Miss Madoc?”
“I think it's obvious what I aim to do with my life,” Liliana said with an innocent glance at the stage she had previously occupied.
“Both very ambitious, I see,” Slughorn rambled as if he hadn't known Tom and Liliana, and they each other, for six years. “Got your heads in the right place. I see an amazing career for the both of you in the future.”
“Thank you, sir,” Liliana said, her bright smile captivating the admiring crowd.
“Yes, I know just who to introduce you to this year,” Slughorn continued with an air ofmystery designed to incite eager questions.
Tom's admiration of the girl grew as he recognized the signs of responses fashioned to suit the appeasement of Slughorn. The light in her eyes glimmered as she leaned forward, her face alight with excitement.
“You don't know what that means to me, Professor,” she said in a soft but fevered voice, “I know your pulling some very hard strings to introduce me to those who could advance my career.”
“Oh, it's nothing, m'dear, nothing at all,” Slughorn said merrily, nearly sloshing his drink on Tom as he waved his arms around joyfully. “Oho! Look sharp, Tom! Dreadfully sorry about that!”
“It's nothing, sir,” Tom said charmingly, vanishing the mead from the floor. “No harm done.”
“Lucky you have excellent reflexes, dear boy,” Slughorn said joyfully. “Isn't he, Liliana?”
“Right as always, Professor,” Liliana smiled.
“You know where else those reflexes come in handy?” Slughorn said with a devious smile, glancing behind Liliana at the dance floor. “Look here, Tom, why don't you take our dear Liliana for a dance? She's been on stage all night, bless her, and hasn't had a chance to enjoy the party!”
“It would be an honor,” Tom smiled at Liliana in a way he knew to be captivating, holding his hand out for hers. Slughorn's large wireless had replaced her on stage, and it pumped a slow, mediocre tune throughout the room.
Liliana looked almost as if she wanted to turn the dance down before placing her hand on top of his.
Tom hid the rage that coursed through him at her near rejection as he led her onto the floor amidst the others. Liliana's hand suddenly tensed on top of his own, but he barely noticed. He was too caught up in his own anger. No one turned him down, not when he relinquished the full power of his charm onto them. He had underestimated the strength of Dumbledore's voice in the girl's ear. No doubt the man had shared his worries about Tom with her. It didn't matter. He would just have to try harder. He would win in the end.
“Do you not wish to dance with me?” he asked coyly as he spun her around to face him.
“Why do you ask?” she said nonchalantly as she focused on everything but Tom's face.
“You don't seem very agreeable at the moment,” he answered. “You didn't look at all as if you wanted to dance. Why is that?”
“I think the better question would be why did you agree to dance with me?” she said, finally looking up at him. “That's not the first time Slughorn has pushed us together in all these years of the Slug Club.”
“Well, I have to be honest,” Tom said meekly. “I've always been a bit intimidated by you.”
Liliana smirked as if she knew Tom was being anything but honest.
“And now?” she asked.
“I've realized that my avoidance of you has been foolish, and I intend to redeem myself. I only have a year left to do it in. I've decided it's time to get to know you, as I've wanted to all these years.”
Her eyelids fluttered as if calling him a liar, making his pulse race. The easy charm did not cross his lips as it had so often done. For once in his life, he didn't know what to say or how to react. He only knew anger at her casual rejection of his charm. As he fought to hide his flared nostrils and angry eyes, Liliana let out a sudden, quick gasp. He looked down at her in question, but she stared resolutely at their joined hands.
“So tell me,” he said lightly, trying to recover the situation, “surely you don't need Slughorn's help in meeting influential people in the music business...why do you spend every one of these parties seducing Slughorn into furthering your career?”
“First of all, I do not seduce,” she said firmly, even though her tone implied she liked this channel of conversation much better than the first.
“It's just an expression,” Tom replied with an apologetic smile.
“And second of all,” she continued, “I like singing. If I don't enjoy it now, what makes me think I would enjoy making a career out of it?”
Tom smiled genuinely as Liliana's tone lightened. Maybe she wouldn't be as hard to sway as he thought.
“And as for the first part of your statement,” she said, looking up at him as they swayed in time to the music, “that I don't need Slughorn's help meeting my future boss – what did you mean by that?”
“Well, I just – ” Tom stuttered expertly, “Slughorn isn't the only Professor that favors you – ”
“And you mean?” she asked.
Tom's irritation grew. She knew exactly who he was talking about, and she was going to make him say it.
He lowered his head closer to hers as if he were about to share a secret. “Dumbledore. I know you're somewhat of a pet of his. Surely he could introduce you to anyone you needed to know.”
“Yes, he could, but he doesn't hold parties that allow me to fine tune my craft,” she answered innocently.
“It's obvious you enjoy the stage,” Tom said, giving her a brilliant smile.
The flash of teeth she gave in response was mostly for what he had said, but Tom could tell she had been slightly enamored by his understanding smile. He decided to press his advantage.
“Are you seeing anyone?” he asked, coloring his tone with hope for a no.
“You mean you don't know?” she laughed mockingly. “You've wanted to know me all these years, and yet you don't know whether I'm seeing anyone?”
Tom decided to ignore her derision, and kept his tone jovial.
“A lot can change over the summer.”
A taunting smile crossed her lips as she said, “I'm not so sure.”
She removed her hand from his and gracefully stepped off the dance floor and out of the room, leaving him to wonder just how much progress he had made in his pursuit.