The ritual of watching a young lady walk down the stairs was a horribly boring pureblood tradition. Whenever he visited one of his friends at their homes, he had to sit through this ritual with feigned enthusiasm. Not surprising in the least, Bradley had some very unattractive females in his family.
His eyes glazed over the slender woman standing at the top of the stairs. Her black robes seemed to hug all of the right curves, and her normally horrendous hair fell into long curls around her shoulders. He eyed her collarbones and raised an eyebrow as she descended the steps.
She usually walked like a troll, but tonight… tonight was different; she seemed to glide down the steps with great ease. It was quite obvious that she was doing her best to not look at any of the people awaiting her arrival at the bottom of the stairs. Her pointed nose sat high in the air, and her eyes were nearly closed.
Hermia, Pearl, Audrey, and Faye were nearly drooling as they watched her, hoping that one of their sons would catch her eye. Of course he alone knew that she would never bother with any of the pathetic little boys standing at the bottom of these stairs. Tom pushed his way between the row of people and held his gloved hand out to meet hers.
A sweet perfume of lavender and vanilla filled his nose before he grabbed her hand. He bent at the waist and kissed her gloved finger, his eyes never leaving hers. She looked about him carefully before bending her knees slightly and bowing her head. Without a word she shook his grip away.
It took everything in his power to resist grabbing her nearly nude shoulders and pull her into his embrace. Of course he had normal feelings like every other man. But, he was generally much more able to control them. Something so different about her this evening made him feel like he could lose control. Like he may do something completely unlike himself.
Perhaps it was his evening plans that caused his jitters.
The women pushed her into the kitchen, applauding her perfect posture and beautiful robes.
"What the hell was that?" Abraxas spit as a loud cackle rang from the kitchen.
"Yeah, that was a bit…well, odd," Currier mumbled.
Tom turned on his heels toward the men behind him. "I was greeting a lady like a proper gentleman, unlike you lazy oafs. Each and every one of you disgust me." His voice dropped into a whisper, "May I remind you that she could be of great use to us, and if you don't start at least pretending that you like her it could ruin everything." His dark eyes narrowed. "And if you ruin it, I will see to it that you are punished most severely."
The men said not a word more as they followed Tom into the library where the older men were enjoying pre-dinner drinks.
"Oh! That Riddle is a handsome boy!" Faye shrieked.
"I know! My mouth nearly fell off when he arrived with Pruflas this afternoon! Those eyes!"
"Currier brought him around once during their third year, but I can't believe what he looks like now! Should I feel badly about thinking such a young boy is so good looking?" Pearl giggled.
"Not at all, dear. What do you think, Jade?" Audrey questioned.
Jade felt the weight of eight very heavy eyeballs on top of her. Obviously she nearly fell over when Tom extended his hand to her. And, of course she thought he was beautiful, and his intelligence far exceeded most of their age. His power over their peers was absolutely tantalizing.
"A bit pompous, but he's alright, I suppose. Hangs out with the wrong crowd."
The mothers of the boys she just insulted pursed their lips together. Audrey immediately leapt out of her seat.
"I believe it's time for a drink!"
Jade slunk out of the kitchen and tiptoed up the stairs to let everybody enjoy their social time before dinner. She would much rather spend the time alone in her room than be poked and prodded about how knee weakening, drool inducing, body temperature rising, Tom Riddle truly was.
She collapsed onto her bed and traced the lines of the corset with her fingertips. Tom's soft touch ran through her mind briefly. Damn. He looked so handsome in his suit, and the way his eyes travelled very slowly over her this evening...it was too much.
She sighed heavily and rolled onto her stomach and buried her head into a pillow. These thoughts needed to get out of her head. She was still furious about the diary magic, and she refused to continue allowing Tom to control her. No matter what, she promised herself that he would only spend time with her on her terms. Not his.
The swoosh of the opening door surprised her.
"Go away Olfie," she grumbled.
"What an awful name. Nearly as dreadful as Tom." A small chuckle followed. Jade quickly turned over and pulled a pillow in front of her chest.
"Excuse you, what makes you think you can just barge into my bedroom without so much as a knock? You are intruding upon my personal space!"
"Oh, Merlin." He rolled his eyes as he swaggered toward her bed. "Don't pretend like you're disappointed to see me tonight."
Jade coiled her legs close to her body as he sat on the end of the bed. "Don't… you… you can't just sit on my bed! What is wrong with you?"
"I felt your body shiver when I grabbed your hand," he said nonchalantly. "I liked the way that felt. I know you did, too."
"Get out of here, or I'll…I'll curse you!"
"I've seen your sloppy wandwork in Defence Against the Dark Arts; let me assure you, I am not afraid of your curse."
Jade didn't have a response. She simply continued to pile pillows on top of her. Maybe, she thought, just maybe, if the pillows could cover her entire body he wouldn't be able to look at her anymore. She wouldn't be able to feel so attracted to him. He wouldn't be so attractive. She wouldn't want to jump on top of him and ignore the guests for the entire night.
"What in Merlin's name are you doing, you ridiculous girl?"
"I…uh…" she stuttered as she tossed the pillow in her hand to the side. "I'm cold."
"Cold? Really, Jade? I know it can't be just me who can feel the heat in this room." He scooted toward her and grabbed a pillow. "Can't you feel how hot it is?"
Before Jade had a chance to answer, by the good grace of Salazar Slytherin himself, Goyle, Malfoy, and Avery burst through the door.
"Ooh. What are you two up to in here?" Goyle teased.
"Shut your fat mouth, Goyle," Jade snapped.
"You have quite the mouth on you, Sterling. It's quite unfortunate, as you do look rather attractive tonight. I mean, much better than you did yesterday." Malfoy chuckled.
Jade didn't entertain him with an answer. She simply threw her hands up in the air. "All of you get out of my room. I do not want you in here. Get out."
The boys laughed as they left the room. Tom made sure to linger a second longer than the rest and glanced back at her one last time.
"He was right, you know. You do look wonderful tonight." He went to shut the door before she cleared her throat.
"You owe me an explanation."
"Oh?" He raised an eyebrow and slid back inside the room.
"Close the door."
He leaned against the hard wood, the familiar sound of a small click resonating around the room, causing Jade's heart to pound.
"Yes. You owe me an explanation," she repeated slowly.
"And why do you think I owe you anything?"
"You tell me everything. Why not about the diary?"
"You really think I tell you everything?" He stifled a laugh. "You know me better than most, Jade, you should know that I certainly do not tell you everything. It's for your own good."
How is one supposed to respond to that? She scoffed and furrowed her eyebrows; what did he mean 'for your own good'? Was she not of equal intelligence? Their grades were comparable; they could have conversations without confusion of the subject.
"You think I need protecting?"
"Now, now, do not put words in my mouth. You don't need protection. Perhaps it is myself that needs protection."
Jade laughed out loud and pushed through her barrier of pillows. "You need protection?" she said, her finger pointed toward him. "From what?"
Tom sighed as he shook his head. "I don't know, Jade. I'm just trying to get you to shut your mouth. It looks much better closed."
"Oh, piss off with all that talk! Tell me about the diary."
"You've read my diary, Jade? That's very personal stuff," he said, a crooked smile inching across his face.
"You are unbelievable."
"Says the girl who goes poking around in people's diaries." He threw his hand on his chest to feign embarassment, "How invasive."
"You told Abraxas to give it to me…I…" She knew she didn't have to justify why she'd opened the diary. He knew what she saw. He was trying to agitate her, and she was letting him.
"You think too much."
She glanced up and saw Tom standing over her. "I…uh…"
His finger pressed her lips closed. "Shut up," he whispered as he leaned in and kissed her cheek.
The kiss burned right through the skin and was left to tingle. It was unnerving that something as simple as a kiss could suck the air out of her lungs. She put her hand against his chest.
"Why is your heart beating so fast?"
"Why is your face so red?" He ran his hand over her hair and tugged lightly on the end. "It's nearly time for dinner."
He grabbed her hands and pulled her off of the bed and they left the room together. Their fingers were entwined as they walked down the hallway. Olfie watched them with tears welling up in his eyes.
"Oh, ma'am. You two is looking so nicely tonight!"
Jade never took compliments from Olfie. A house elf does not have the intelligence to properly formulate a sentence. They are disgusting, they smell, they're the bottom of the food chain. Not to mention they were a mutated species, born and raised to perform every single duty demanded of them for their entire life. However, she would be lying to herself if she didn't stand a little taller, and hold that hand a little tighter after hearing the compliment.
It was hard to ignore the pulse in his finger. The ring he wore seemed to grow hotter with each step. She had to be imagining it. Silly objects like rings can't mimic a beating heart. She had to learn control her overactive imagination.
"We shall play along tonight and be back to school soon," Tom whispered as they walked into the dining room, eager eyes devouring the site of them.
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