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Chapter 16 : Chapter Sixteen
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"Yes…yes… my Lord."
"That's what I thought." He glowered as he let go of Alphard's neck.
"I'm so sorry, my Lord."
Tom paced inside the circle of men surrounding him, his hands behind his back. He eyed each as he passed them. They were all so pathetic, no more powerful than the first years that entered Hogwarts. Tom stopped in front of Abraxas and smirked.
"Abraxas, I can't help but notice that you've not been around as often as usual. You seem to be sticking abnormally close to that Sterling dog lately."
Abraxas winced as he looked into Tom's eyes. "I'm sorry, my Lord. My father has become increasingly concerned with my school wo-"
"-Ah-ah, Abraxas. I'm not the least bit concerned with what your father expects of you. I expect much more dedication." He spun around quickly. "From all of you. If I say to meet me in the forbidden forest at half eleven, I mean half eleven. Not a quarter to midnight. Isn't that right, Alphard?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"Now, on to my business. As you all know, I didn't get to carry out my purification plan last year, due to a serious snag in the plan. It was my genius, and my pure ancestry who led me to the basilisk, but I should have known Dumbledore would have gotten in my way." He rubbed his hands together and cracked his neck. "So, I've decided on a new plan. Something that you can all help me with. As you may know, it is important for me to remain in good graces with Headmaster Dippet. Next year, if I'm chosen as Head Boy, I'll be allowed free reign of the castle, which could be of vital importance, especially if I were to have access to student records."
"My Lord," Currier Avery piped up, "you're not considering going after the mud-bloods again, are you?"
"Not at school, Avery. However, we certainly wouldn't be to blame if, say… a mysterious string of seemingly unrelated instances led to a number of deaths in a quiet muggle town, now could we? How tragic, an entire family falling deathly ill." Tom smiled wickedly. "Now, you can help me by making doubly sure the other sixth year prefects look dreadful in comparison to me. You all know how to use the imperius curse, so use it. And use it well.” He pointed a long, thin finger at Gregory. “No more sloppy wand work, Goyle. Black, Malfoy. “He turned on his heels and glowered at the two before him. "You stay, the rest of you can go."
Tom rubbed his forehead as the men quietly sneaked out of the forest, carefully watching for passers-by. Black and Malfoy stood silent in front of Tom.
"Now, may I ask either of you a question?"
The men shot each other a confused look and nodded slowly.
"Why is it that I cannot catch Jade Sterling for more than 30 seconds as of late?" She had been blatantly avoiding him the past two months. It was perfectly all right with him if she wanted to squander away her time and fill it with meaningless studies. But, when he wanted her attention, she should be more than willing to comply.
Alphard cleared his throat. "Dahlia told me she's been rather foul lately."
Tom scoffed. "More than usual? What useless information. When are you going to get rid of that girl, Alphard? She isn't helping me anymore."
"I've grown quite fond of her," Alphard whispered.
Tom's loud laughter rang through the forest like a high-pitched bell. "You've what?! That is so charming, Black. I never knew just how pathetic you could be!" He could hardly believe his ears. Pathetic Alphard Black falling for a half-blooded brat, whose lineage reigns from Hufflepuff. “If I were you, I’d be thoroughly embarrassed of myself. Let’s hope Walburga doesn’t see you around with her.”
Alphard's face flushed. "I'm sorry, my Lord."
"Well, Alphard, since you've been absolutely no help, once again, maybe Abraxas can explain?" Tom raised an eyebrow at Abraxas.
"I'm not sure, my Lord," he breathed, hardly audible above the wind blowing through the trees.
"Speak up, Malfoy, only fools are afraid of the words they speak."
"I'm not afraid, my Lord."
"Then speak up! You've been following the girl around like a lost puppy; why should I truly believe you've no idea why she's avoiding me?" Tom was not an idiot -- he’d seen Abraxas in the hallways, standing behind statues, watching her walk by. Surely it wasn’t just to admire her abysmal beauty; he had ulterior motives.
"She doesn't speak to me, so I cannot say with certainty why she's avoiding you." Abraxas looked downward at his feet, his blonde tresses falling over his face.
Tom breathed out through his nose and pursed his lips. Why must it be so difficult to get the truth? “You are lying.” He leered at Malfoy; if he wasn't going to tell him why on his own, he would find out for himself by force.
"You will never be able to understand him, Jade. Never. You will never win with him. You would never have a chance."
Abraxas gasped and stumbled over himself. Tom narrowed his eyes. How interesting, Abraxas had been warning Miss Sterling to stay away from him, even after explicit instructions to ensure her attention was pointed toward Tom. He inhaled a slow breath to calm himself.
"I see, Malfoy. You're a coward and a traitor." His words were calm, and they dripped with animosity. He pulled Abraxas close by the fabric of his cloak. "I could kill you now, and I would feel nothing. Do you hear me? Nothing. You will obey me, and you will not sabotage my plans with that girl. Remember, Malfoy, I am the most powerful wizard you will ever meet..." His mouth twisted into a sick smile. "Ask your grandfather."
Without a word, Tom turned and began his walk back to the castle. Before taking the last step into the moonlight, he turned back toward Alphard and Abraxas. "One last thing, Malfoy."
Abraxas grimaced as he looked up at Tom, the trees casting an awkward shadow over his pale face. Tom relished this moment. The look on the faces of his victims before being punished, or killed, was one of the best things he had ever seen. The look on his dirty muggle father’s face the moment he realized he was going to die was the best moment of his life.
With a deep breath Tom ripped his wand out of his robes and rubbed the smooth wood between his thumb and index finger. A small smile turned at the corners of his mouth as he spoke, "You will not lie anymore. "Mobilicorpus!" Abraxas's pathetic body was lifted from the ground, and promptly flew deep into the forest. Tom laughed when he heard the sickening smack of his body colliding with a tree. "Lesson learned, I hope."
He flipped the ever-present lock of hair from his forehead and stowed his wand away in his robes. Fools. It was as if they hadn’t learned in the past two years where their loyalties need to lie. Perhaps they needed more encouragement, more training to truly succumb to the will of their Lord. They were all scared of him, undoubtedly; he had made doubly sure to go out of his way to prove that they should fear him.
A lone crow sung solemnly as it landed onto the large stone steps leading into his beloved castle. Tom raised his lip into a sneer; birds were such nasty animals. He pushed his way through the castle doors, inexplicably nonchalant. He knew full well that he was not to leave the castle doors at night during his patrolling hours. However, he had never been much for rules. Besides, it wasn’t as if anybody would reprimand him. As for the other men, well… Tom wasn't concerned with their fate. Not his life, not his problem.
He gripped his hands behind his back and began to stroll around the foyer, peeking up the stairs. Miss Sterling was surely on her patrol, as well. Tom had personally ensured that they shared the weekend shift together for the next few months. Having Jade close could prove extremely useful to him in the coming years. She was sharp, quite witty, and took to Tom's flame like a moth.
She wasn't particularly attractive; quite plain for Tom's usual tastes, with her mousy brown hair that fell just below her mediocre breasts. Her full lips looked quite out of place on her face. The only redeeming physical quality she had going for her, in Tom's humble opinion, was her eyes. He had always been quite partial to the colour green.
Footsteps circled the entrance foyer of the castle. Tom eagerly glanced at the staircase, hoping his luck had picked up.
He sighed outwardly. Aoife Maher. A ginger-haired bimbo who insisted upon hurling herself at him whenever she had the chance; she had fully exhausted his toleration of her irritating antics. Nevertheless, she was good for a midnight romp if he ever needed to relieve himself of some stress. Silencing spells often came in handy.
"Oh, Tom! Where have you been?" Aoife threw her arms around his shoulders and did her best to press the entirety of her body against his.
He tapped her on the shoulder before shrugging her grip off of him. "I've been quite busy lately, Aoife. I do want to be head boy next year."
"Oh, Tom! You know you're going to be picked, Dippet adores you! I've put in a good word, as well!" She winked at him before pinching his stomach just above his belt.
Unimpressed, Tom grabbed her hand. "I appreciate that."
"Aww, what's the matter, Tom? Don't want to play today?" Aoife wiggled her hips before stepping closer toward him.
"No, Aoife, I have business to take care of tonight that does not involve you at all."
She stuck her lip out and crossed her arms. "I see. You've been ignoring me since Christmas."
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
"Is it somebody else?"
Tom stifled a laugh. Somebody else. This girl was quite pathetic. "There are an infinite number of women, Aoife. I would never date you, and we've never been in a relationship. Something that you forget quite often."
"But, you… you always say how much you like me."
"Leave me be, Aoife." Under normal circumstances he would never treat somebody in a powerful position with such crassness. However, his toleration level had plummeted rapidly in the past hour. Telling her off and having her sulk for a couple days was much more worthwhile than it was cursing her until she couldn't breathe.
"Fine, Tom! Fine! We'll see if I ever speak to you ever again!" Aoife flipped her hair and stomped off.
"Gutted," he said sarcastically. It didn't seem like Sterling was going to poke her head into the foyer tonight. Perhaps he'd be lucky enough to see her in the common room sitting in the same damned spot on the couch she always had. Her predictability was increasingly irritating -- she was always in the library at 2:30 until 4 on Thursday and Friday; sitting in the middle of the love seat closest to the fire daily at 8; having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Black and the lanky blonde girl; and continuously looking over her shoulder in the hallway to avoid him.
He strolled down into the dungeons and hummed a song he'd heard over the holidays with the Malfoys. Some melancholy melody Hermia had been singing on the way to the Sterlings’ home. A trivial thing, music; art didn't do much for Tom. If it had some sort of healing powers, fine, but it was just as useless as muggles themselves.
"Salazar." The wall melted in front of Tom and he tiptoed into the ever-familiar common room. His dark eyes immediately darted for the couch, and his heart nearly skipped a beat when he saw a curly dark ponytail falling down the back of the leather sofa. It had to be her, and they were all alone. Perfect.
Quietly, he sauntered toward the couch and twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. He fully expected a hand across his face, and was rather bemused when he heard a small groan followed by a short snore.
He picked up her ponytail and smelled her hair. The ever-present scent of lavender and vanilla filled his nostrils. He dropped her hair and smirked. How should he wake her? He briefly considered a stinging jinx; the shock on her face alone would be worth the punishment that would inevitably come. Jade Sterling did not often play fair.
Instead, he opted to be kind. He needed to kiss up a little more to get her interested again.
"Jade," he whispered as he gripped her shoulder. She grumbled and rolled her head onto his hand. Tom rolled his eyes. Females. "Jade!" He shook her once more.
"Okay, I'm coming, Dahlia." She yawned before throwing her arm over her face.
Tom did not have time to play this game with her. She needed to wake up. He placed his other arm on her opposite shoulder and jolted her forward quickly. "JADE!"
She gasped loudly and stumbled face-first off the couch, her wand pointed directly in the air. "Wha… what? Who?!"
Tom cackled as he stared down at the mess of her on the floor. Her skirt nearly exposed her panties. "Good evening, Miss Sterling. Did you decide to forego your patrolling tonight?"
Jade glared up at him and immediately popped up off the floor. "For your information, you nosy bastard, I did not. I just try to stay away from you." She picked up a small book from the floor. Tom leaned over the couch, attempting to get a good look at the cover.
"So touchy, Jade, so touchy. I was just curious." Of course he wasn't just curious, he was extremely annoyed that she was purposefully going out of her way to avoid him. “What are you reading tonight?” That book looked terribly familiar. A very important and interesting book...
"I'm sure you're curious, Riddle. I'm going to bed." She was nearly running around the couch, trying to keep her distance from him.
"Oh, no you don't." He lunged forward and grabbed her hand. "Come here." He pulled her to his chest. He immediately wrapped his arms around her waist and held on tight, despite her constant wiggling to be released. "Stop."
"No!" she cried as she pushed on his chest with her palms. "Tom Riddle, let me go right now, you bastard!"
He would be lying if he said that this wasn't immensely amusing. "Please, Jade, I am much stronger than you are. Just give me a moment."
She pulled her head back and looked at him curiously. "What?"
"If I let go, you're not going to go running off?" He pulled her closer to him, his arm resting on her lower back, with his hand clutching her wrist and letting it rest on his chest.
"It depends on if I like what I hear." Her chest rose and fell rapidly, Tom grinned at the feeling of her body pressing against his. This was precisely where he wanted her.
"I wish I knew why you have been avoiding me. I thought Christmas Eve was absolutely lovely. You looked marvelous; you were marvelous. I didn’t know you had a charming bone in your body."
She pushed out of his grip and backed up toward the couch. "Well. Let me think why I’m avoiding you, Tom." She cleared her throat and counted the reasons on her fingers. "One, that diary that you thought was so clever. What in the hell is that, and how did you do it? Two, what have you been telling Alphard? You know full well that he and Dahlia are disgusting love-sick children amongst each other, and if you really think I'm not going to find out what you say about me, well, you're much less intelligent than I thought. And third, what in the fuck have you been doing staying in Amelina's room?"
Tom held in a laugh at the face in front of him. Her eyes were wide and erratic, and her hands were on her hips. He raised an eyebrow. "Let me answer in sequence. One, the diary is an extraordinary piece of magic that I'd invented this past year. Quite brilliant, if I do say so myself. My own little project, I'm not about to just go off and give up my secrets." Lie. Of course he couldn't tell this damn girl openly about his horcrux. She was going to have to do the research and learn what a horcrux is on her own. The chances of that happening were slim-to-none; she wasn’t that smart, surely. But, the book did look familiar...
"Two, Alphard is a liar and a cheat. You're a smart girl, Jade, use your head. If I wanted to say something rude about you, I'd let you know." Lie. Alphard would be punished for his mouth tomorrow. "And three: Amelina? That's disgusting. Please believe me when I say that she has been pursuing me from the moment we were stuck together in those boats on the way to the castle in our first year. What could she possibly offer me? Nothing." Truth. Tom would kill Amelina if he attempted to spend time alone with her. And, although that would be quite satisfying, murdering on school grounds was out of the question after last year. "Satisfied?"
Jade lifted her head slightly. She chewed on her bottom lip and nodded.
"Do you know how to use your words, or have you deduced to chewing on yourself like a dog for communication?"
"Oh, of course not. Don't be such an arse."
"I'm hardly the arse in this situation, girl. You are the one who's been ignoring me for blatantly asinine assumptions. If you're ever curious about what I'm up to, you can simply ask." He slowly inched near her. This was working exactly the way he wanted. Her eyes flickered to his, her pale skin turning rosy.
"Okay," she whispered. She looked up at him. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and felt her body melt into his.
He pressed his nose into her hair, allowing his lips to lightly trace the top of her forehead. "What do you want right now, Jade?"
"I want you to kiss me."
Success. He picked her chin up in his palms and pulled her face into his. “I want that, too,” he whispered, their lips brushing together. Lavender and vanilla filled his senses. “You always smell so nice.” He pressed into her. She was, surprisingly, a wonderful kisser. Her full lips were soft, and her mouth was sweet.
He could conquer anything, including the worthless little bitch in his arms. "I really like you, Jade," he murmured in-between kisses. Yes. This idiot girl was going to be perfectly useful in the future. So smart, yet stupid enough to trust him.
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