"For Merlin's sake Bradley, just crush the damned worm!" Jade’s eyebrows were furrowed heavily toward her idiotic partner in double potions. "How I got stuck with you in this class is beyond me, I'd rather be with one of the Ravenclaws! At least my sanity would be spared!" It had been over two hours since the encounter with Tom in the library, and she was now stuck with Goyle over a burning potion.
"But… but… look at it… it's still alive!" he groaned at the worm while he poked it with the tip of his finger. Never in her life had she seen a man as robust as Bradley Goyle worried about killing a flobberworm.
"Are you kidding me?" She grabbed the pestle and slammed it down. Green innards oozed from the flobberworm. "You are sixteen years old and you can't squish a bloody worm?" Goyle was just about to open his mouth with what she was sure would have been a riveting excuse when they were interrupted.
"What is the problem, Miss Sterling?" The jovial ringing of the voice gave her a headache on several occasions, this one being no different. Slughorn had noticed the commotion and was going to attempt to remedy the situation, most likely by being no help at all.
“Goyle just needed a little… inspiration. He was concerned for the flobberworm’s feelings." Slughorn’s deep laugh caused his belly to shake so tremendously that it nearly knocked over her ingredients. She fumbled to catch her standing vials from crashing all over the floor.
"Oh, Mr. Goyle, you had better just listen to your partner," Slughorn patted Bradley on the shoulder kindly, "or you may end up melting another one of my cauldrons!" Bradley's face was pink by the time Slughorn had moved on to the next table.
"Why do you always have to do that when he's around?" he grumbled as he threw beetle eyes into his cauldron. She shook her head and grabbed the jar from his hand.
"Because you couldn't even squish a flobberworm, Goyle. And, by the way, the beetle eyes were supposed to be added two weeks ago when we first started this potion. Now just read the directions more carefully and perhaps you'll save it from absolute destruction. Although according to the directions it should be bright green and runny at this point, and yours is like tar.” She peered into the cauldron and attempted to poke the concoction with her swizzle stick. “Can you even get your spoon in there?" The students surrounding them giggled.
She had her own self to blame for Goyle being in her class – had she not helped him every step of the way for six years, perhaps he wouldn't have managed to barely scrape an OWL. Jade dropped a unicorn hair into her cauldron and stirred three times, smiling at the results. Billows of pink ringlets streamed out from the yellow liquid in her cauldron, the smell of pine trees wafting across the room.
"Oho! Sterling has done it again! Ten points to Slytherin! Beautiful job, m'dear!" Slughorn rejoiced.
She replied in silence with a modest grin as she scooped potion into her vial. With a flick of her wand she wiped away the remaining liquid in her cauldron while Bradley stared at his with a disdainful frown.
Potions – In Jade’s opinion -- was the easiest class at Hogwarts. There was no true secret to potions. If you could read and follow directions out of a book, you would be more than capable of doing well.
"Oh, my dear girl! I'm just so pleased to have you in my class! Your father was quite a wonderful student, as well! You know, I introduced him to the Minister of Magic himself when he graduated! And now look at where your father is! Head of his department!"
She smiled at the story she had heard at least ten times in the last year. That's wonderful, Professor, my father was so lucky to have you as a teacher. You are the best potions master Hogwarts has ever had."
Slughorn giggled uncontrollably. "Oh, you stop that, girl! You're making an old man blush!" He rested one of his many chins on his hand and grinned foolishly.
"I would hardly call you old, Professor." She batted her eyelashes innocently at Slughorn. Like she had always said, there was no true secret to potions.
"So sweet, Jade, so sweet!" His eyes grew even larger as another vial was sat on his desk before him. "Ah! Tom, thank you, thank you – lovely potion as usual! You and Jade are just wonderful students!" She felt a flutter of nervousness course through her. Her hands began to shake so she shoved them into her robe pockets and eyed Tom curiously, hoping he had not taken notice to her sudden change in behaviour.
"Charmed, Professor. We would not be able to do it without a great teacher by our side." Tom flashed a prize-winning smile at Slughorn, who had nearly fallen out of his chair at the comment.
"You two just run along now, have the rest of the period to yourselves! You've certainly earned it!" He smiled as he waved his hands at them. "Just don't tell Professor Dippet that I've allowed you to break the rules!"
Slughorn shoved a piece of chocolate in his mouth and hummed as he stored the two vials of potion in his briefcase.
At moments she could not stand how happy that man was. What was there to be so damn jovial about? Fat, lonely, and teaching a load of underage idiots for a living; she could not imagine anything more dreadful. Collecting her belongings and ignoring Goyle's final plea for help, Jade strolled out of the classroom, Tom a few short steps ahead of her.
"You really know how to make him happy, don’t you?” Tom was emotionless as they walked through the corridors.
"I have talents that I tend to utilize to my advantage, is all." Jade slung her bag across her body.
"I have to speak with you about something, but I don't want to do it in a busy area…" She raised her eyebrow at the request. Jade did not tend to follow people she hardly knew, let alone care for.
"I suppose I'm just expected to follow you into unknown territory with no questions asked?" she inquired.
"Precisely.” Tom nodded matter-of-factly. “Why, do you not trust me?"
"No." she stated simply and placed her hand on her hip.
"I wouldn't trust me either." He looked toward her and chuckled at her sudden change of expression. "I was only joking, you do not have to take me so seriously all the time."
"Tom, I've heard many stories about you – I promise that I will always take you seriously, and I will assume that every single story I've heard is one hundred percent accurate.” She bit the top of her thumbnail.
"You shouldn’t always believe everything you hear. I do not believe everything I have heard about you." Jade shot him a questioning look. "Mostly because we haven't been in bed yet."
"I hear that one about myself quite often; however, I'm not sure exactly where it started. Have any ideas?” There were two different men Tom could have gotten the impression of her immorality from: Abraxas Malfoy or Currier Avery. Had he heard it from another source, they were spreading fraudulent tales.
"Avery," Tom stated casually, not bothering to look toward her.
"I knew I'd regret that one day." They walked in silence up stairs and around winding corridors. She pulled her jumper closer around herself, the halls getting darker and much more cold.
"Where are you taking me?" Not a soul could be seen or heard in the hall, her suspicions began to rise.
"I'm not taking you anywhere, you're just following me.”
"Excuse me.” She reached up and grabbed his shoulder. “You have just been walking around to watch me follow?” Jade could feel her face grow warm. She had been fooled; it was not a situation she was proud of.
"Well, you're behind me, I can’t very well watch you, can I?" he replied unabashedly. Jade snorted at his snark.
"You told me that you needed to speak with me, and if you don't tell me what you want right now, I will be leaving you and going to my room."
Tom rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Oh, you have me so scared, Sterling," he replied in a mocking tone.
She stomped her heel on the stone floor, a loud sound reverberating throughout the halls. "I will not allow you to speak to me with your sarcasm. I would not let my family speak to me that way and I’m not about to allow some arrogant brat like you do it, either!”
Tom smiled and met her eyes. He grabbed her arm and pulled her inside an empty room, and pushed her gingerly against a wall, his knee digging into her hip. "Of course not, Jade. I should not and will not speak to you like that." He picked her hand up in his, and bowed down, kissing her fingers, slowly inching the sleeves of her jumper up her arm.
"You are intelligent," his lips met her wrist, "cunning," his lips met the top of her arm, "witty," his lips met the side of her elbow, "powerful," his lips met her bicep, "talented," his lips met her neck, "and beautiful." His lips left her bare skin burning. Tom's eyes were soft as he stared through her. A wave of discomfort suddenly drowned her; her vision became clouded and her head began to ache.
She gasped for air as a memory crawled through her head. Her mother’s hand reached down toward her; she was only a young child. A large pink package topped with a bow was laid in front of her. The younger Jade began to scream and she shoved the package off the table. Jade began to shake her head violently, trying to get the image away from her mind. The memory was a parasite that needed to be killed.
Her stomach twisted. "I shouldn't be doing this." She pulled her hand from his and tugged her sleeve back down her arm. He reached for her hand once more, but she recoiled quickly. "Really."
"Why are you resisting me?” he questioned while attempting to make eye contact once more.
"I can't." The young man inched nearer, and rubbed his fingers along the top of her pleated skirt. His knee continued deeper into her hip causing a sharp pain to roll through her stomach.
"Of course you can,” he whispered into her ear. "You can trust me." He ran his hand up her back and twirled a lock of hair around his finger.
Struggling with an internal battle, Jade let out a small groan. Under no circumstances could she have ever imagined herself being stuck in this situation. Never would she have followed any person out of a classroom. Never would she allow them to lead her around aimlessly for fifteen minutes. And never would they have had the audacity to attempt to take advantage of her in an empty classroom.
Light shone through the window, the sun had begun to set. The room was illuminated only enough to display the outline of his face. He untucked her oxford shirt from her skirt, and ran his cool fingers across her stomach. Under normal circumstances the sound of rustling clothing goes unnoticed; in a dark and empty classroom the noise was loud enough to rupture an eardrum.
"I can't… I can't…" She shifted her body weight forward and pushed his arm out from underneath her shirt. Jade hesitated for only a moment before rushing out of the classroom, knowing in the pit of her stomach that Tom had let her leave.
She wanted to get far away from the man who was coming dangerously close to making her lose all common sense. Jade refused to be one of those pathetic girls who gaped at him as he strutted by, refused to conform to the stereotypical female type who wanted to be seen with him; and absolutely refused to let her others see that he had power over her. It was rather unlike her to allow any man to get that close without initiating the situation herself.
Tom had a power over others that she could not describe. He was soft-spoken, charming, and would allow others to dump their problems on him while he listened as if he actually cared. Getting whatever he wanted out of others was a trait that had earned Jade’s disgust -- not because she thought it was despicable, but because he had managed to fool others better than she could.
The reason that she had been losing her influence amongst her friends could be nothing other but Tom. Black, Malfoy, Avery, and Goyle -- they had all been abandoning her to spend hours with him. She had been forced to attend the last Quidditch match alone because Goyle had told her on their way to the pitch that he'd just remembered Tom had formed a “study group”. Study group on the day of Slytherin versus Gryffindor? Not only was the notion of a study group suspicious, it was highly unlikely.
Sounds of laughter and forks clanking against plates greeted her as she slunk into the Great Hall. "Oi! Sterling!" She climbed in the bench next to Dahlia. "I cannot believe you stabbed Abraxas in Charms! You should have seen the way he carried on about it the rest of the day!" Dahlia shoved a heaping spoonful of stuffing into her mouth.
Her friend droned on and on for the longest time, allowing Jade to tuck into her meal awaiting the conclusion of the lengthy story. It could easily go on for over an hour; Dahlia was long-winded and would divulge her life story to anyone who seemed willing to listen. "Wait, where have you been?” she demanded.
"I’m glad you finally realized that I was late. And, unlike you, Dahlia," she added, seizing a pumpkin roll from the plate in front of her, "I do not need to eat dinner for two hours." Dahlia shoved a large dinner roll into her mouth.
"I rerarrly uurve burreadr!" Patting her dear friend on the back, Jade shook her head.
"You know, Dahlia, Alphard Black might see you eating like such a troll. That would be just dreadful, wouldn't it?" Dahlia swallowed loudly.
"That’s right git, he was supposed to meet me here for dinner!" she said as she inspected the Great Hall.
"Oh, so he's finally decided to spend time in public with you?" Jade smiled as she took a bite of her pumpkin roll.
"For your information, you evil girl," Dahlia elbowed Jade playfully, "I am Alphard's girlfriend!" She puffed out her bony chest at her proud proclamation.
"Oh, really?" Jade shot coolly. It would take at least a month before Jade would be willing to forget the image of Alphard and Emilia on the couch.
"Really! Is that so hard to believe?" Dahlia questioned. “What are you suggesting?”
Truth be told, she was not amused when Dahlia and Alphard had first started to "visit" each other at night. Dahlia belonged to her, and she did not like being forced into sharing her. "No, Dahlia, it's nothing."
"Oh, Jade, come off it! You know I won't be spending every moment with him, I'll still have time for you!" Placing her hand on Jade’s shoulder, Dahlia smiled. Jade smiled back at her friend and tucked a piece of her blonde hair behind her ear.
"Ah, young love!" A stream of black hair flew between the two girls, pushing them aside and causing Jade to spill pumpkin juice all over the table. "I remember when I fell in love for the first time."
"You're a right git, Black,” she groaned while wiping away the pumpkin juice with a flick of her wand. The eyes of students down the table were narrowed at the trio.
"Now, now, Sterling, after the day you've had you shouldn't be so mean to me!" he chimed in a singsong voice.
Alphard Black was very nearly the bane of her existence. He was a self-proclaimed “Quidditch God”, which was a completely worthless talent seeing as it held no true value in real life. His stringy black hair was always a complete wreck and looked as if he hadn’t bothered to brush it in nearly a month.
"And what is that supposed to mean, Alphard?" Jade raised her eyebrows and expected a bloody good answer.
"Well, you did stab Abraxas in the hand with a quill!" Alphard smirked. "Not that anybody is exactly complaining; that one bloody well deserves it every now and then, he does!"
"Just as I'm sure you do, Black," Jade hissed. He was quite possibly the most infuriating man she had ever come across. Constantly gallivanting around thinking he was full of interesting stories and vast amounts of knowledge. She rolled her eyes.
"I'm only joking, Sterling! Geesh!” Jade stood up hastily, pulling down her skirt. “Where are you going? You can stay and have a chat with Dahlia and me!" Jade threw her bag over her shoulder, her green eyes full of fire.
"I believe that I can think of at least a hundred things I would rather be doing than having a chat with you, Alphard." He rolled his eyes. "Dahlia." Jade nodded her head as a goodbye to her friend and stomped out of the Great Hall.
Unfortunately, this annoyance was one that she was going to have to learn to live with. She needed to learn to let go of her controlling habits she tended to have over Dahlia. That girl just needed some serious guidance. Her family had all reigned from Hufflepuff, and Dahlia had ended up in Slytherin; it was no wonder the poor girl always looked so lost.
Tom escorted a seventh year Ravenclaw named Aoife Maher into the Great Hall. Fitting for him to be hanging around with the head girl. Aoife giggled uncontrollably and attempted to shove her tanned arm through his. Tom caught her eyes as they crossed paths and lingered longer than necessary. Aoife sent a glower Jade’s way and lifted her nose into the air. Jade waved her hand toward the head girl and rolled her eyes. Pathetic.
Usually the castle was quite warm and inviting, but at the moment the air felt damp; the lukewarm atmosphere made Jade feel sick to her stomach. Her head still throbbed from the short-lived rendezvous with Tom. What exactly had brought up the memory from her birthday party ten years ago? Had Tom been attempting to infiltrate her mind?
"OOOIEEE! It's wittle ickle baby Jadey!" Peeves flew near the ceiling, tossing wads of paper at her heady. "You'll never guess what I saw wiv my own two eyes, I did! I saw you and that evil old Riddle boy in that empty classroom!" She stopped cold. "'Dere I was, sittin’ in me old urn near ‘de window tryin’ to catch some sweepy-poo and I hear JADEY AND TOM! SITTING IN A TREE!” The young poltergeist doubled over in laughter.
"Piss off, Peeves." she spat.
"OOOH, PEEVESY IS TELLING PROFESSOR DIPPET, I AM!" Peeves shouted, his opaque finger pointed at her forehead.
"Yes, and I'm sure the Bloody Baron will be so pleased to hear that you're attempting to sabotage one of the Slytherin students,” she replied coyly. “And may I remind you, Peeves, that I am a prefect!” She ran her finger over her small silver badge.
"Oi, you ain't really gon' tell 'im are you!" His eyes were wide. She could not guess why the annoying young boy was so terrified of the Bloody Baron. As far as Jade was concerned he was a wonderful ghost; he had the most interesting stories of battles and bloodshed thousands of years before Jade’s existence.
"When have I lied about it before, Peeves?" Peeves blew a large raspberry before popping out of sight. She sighed while pulling spitballs out of her long hair. Precisely what she had needed to end her night with. She just wanted to read her book and forget all about Tom Riddle.
The wall dematerialized in front of her and she pushed her way inside the common room. Luckily enough the room was nearly empty, a few odd students scattered in the shadows pouring over their studies. It was what Jade had needed to see. Happily taking her spot in front of the fireplace, she pulled the bright pink book from her bag. She had no desire to change her looks in any way, but she would love to turn unsuspecting humans into objects - a muggle into a nice armchair that she could rest on would be preferable. Jade laughed at the thought as she sank into her book.