Chapter 11 : The Crumbling
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Amaya rubbed her eyes, lifting her head from her pillow. She squinted at the bright light that greeted her, then remembering the events of the previous day, she let her head fall back onto her pillow and groaned.
Her eyes and cheeks felt sticky from all the crying she had done, and her dress was crumpled between her legs. She hadn’t even bothered to take her boots off, and her feet felt uncomfortably hot inside of them.
Still, she made no move to get out of bed or kick her boots off. Maybe, if she stayed in bed long enough, she would never have to start her day or deal with what had happened the day before.
She was only sixteen. Why did they have to plan her marriage now? She knew that her parents wanted her future to be set and all that, but she wasn’t going to get married for two years.
And she knew that she would not marry Cygnus Black. She would not be subjected to that kind of a life.
The problem was breaking the news to her parents.
She wanted to lie in bed for the rest of her life. At least then, she wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Not school, not marriage, not Tom. If it wasn’t for Tom, maybe she would have been okay with marrying Cygnus. She wouldn’t really have a reason not to, if that was the case. She should be blaming Tom for this mess. If not for him, she might even be happy with her future.
But she knew that she couldn’t possibly blame Tom. If anyone, she should blame her own parents for assuming she would be happy with the arrangement.
She was going to have to face them in a few minutes.
The thought was enough to make her throw her pillow across the room, but she refrained. Instead, she sat up groggily and pulled off her boots. Her mother would go into hysterics if she found that Amaya had slept in this dress, so Amaya then pulled off the dress and pulled on the first nightdress she could find.
When she at least looked like she had slept properly, Amaya opened her trunk, which had appeared at the foot of her bed sometime in the middle of the night, and extracted a piece of parchment and a quill.
If she could tell anyone about this, it would be Anabel.
She scrawled a letter, only somewhat caring about her terrible penmanship. It wasn’t her most eloquently worded letter, but it got the point across. She placed it in an envelope and sealed it. She would give it to the family owl to deliver once she went downstairs for breakfast.
Amaya had just finished with the letter when she heard a soft knock on her door.
“Come in,” she said groggily.
The door opened and her mother entered, looking worried.
“How are you feeling,” she asked.
“Better,” Amaya answered truthfully. She did feel a bit better than she had the previous night, but it wasn’t much.
“I’m glad…” Her mother looked awkward, as though she wanted to tell Amaya something important but wasn’t sure how to say it. “You know, I wasn’t happy when I was initially told that I was going to marry your father. I had never met him before, and I didn’t want a life with someone I didn’t know. But I’m happy now. I love your father, I really do. Even though you might not be keen on the idea now, I’m sure that you will also grow to love Cygnus in time.”
Amaya only nodded curtly. She knew she couldn’t be happy with Cygnus, no matter what her mum said. “Mum…” she started slowly, so many words at the tip of her tongue. She picked through them carefully, trying to choose the right ones. “Is this…is it set in stone? If…if I could find a better offer, could things change?”
Her mother looked surprised. “Why yes, I suppose so. Everything’s almost settled but you’re not bound to him or anything. But really, Amaya, where could you possibly find a boy better than Cygnus?”
Amaya shrugged, though inside, she felt a huge surge of hope in her heart. If she could get Tom Riddle to love her, she knew that convincing her parents would be no trouble. She wouldn’t have to marry Cygnus after all.
“Thank you, Mum. I’ll be down for breakfast in a few minutes.”
“All right. Don’t be too long.”
Amaya snatched the letter up from her writing table and scurried out of the room after her mother. She stopped a House Elf on the way downstairs and gave him the letter to take to the owl before sitting down at the table with a slight glow returning to her eyes.
Tom Riddle was deep in thought. It wasn’t particularly unusual for him to stare into the fireplace with his chin on his fist, thinking about something or another, but this time, the contents of his ponderings were strange.
He was thinking about a secret admirer note he had received several months in the past. Tom wasn’t one to dwell on such things, especially as there had only been one letter so whoever had placed it there had probably done it on a dare or something similar. But it wasn’t the letter itself that he was concerned about. It was the idea of an anonymous note.
He wasn’t an idiot. He knew that most people would be unbelievably excited upon receiving such a note. He wanted to use that.
The truth was that Tom was becoming rather bored with life at Hogwarts. He had already planned out enough attacks on mudbloods to last the entire year and without the excitement of trying to learn about his heritage or the Chamber of Secrets, life had suddenly become monotonous. He wanted to do something new.
Christmas holidays had always been Tom’s favorite time of year at Hogwarts. The common room was always close to empty and no one disturbed him if he wanted to sit in the chair next to the fireplace and think all day. So he knew that he had to formulate his plan before the holiday ended.
It had taken him a surprisingly long time to think of what exactly he wanted to do. He wanted a challenge, a test of sorts. He wanted to see just how much power he really had in his group and what he could do with it. It would be so elegant if he could manipulate them into doing what he wanted with nothing more than a few simple words.
He had been mulling over how exactly he could do this without revealing himself when a small thought tugged at the back of his mind and he remembered the letter he had received so long ago. He had laughed softly to himself, the pieces of his plans falling into place.
He would write letters to some girl, first just complimenting her. He would get her to trust him, though his reputation would already help that. And then, he could get her to do his work for him. She could kill the damn roosters and write the bloody messages while he sat and lorded over it all. He wouldn’t say anything outright, of course. He would disguise his commands as harmless requests so that she would have no reason to suspect him. It would be a game, one that he was sure he would win. He would be, quite literally, a prince. No, more than that. He would be a king. But that didn’t sound quite right either.
He would be a Lord. He grinned as the title flashed into his head. Yes, that was exactly what he was. He was a Lord that would someday be the most powerful wizard in the world. He was sure of it.
He cast the thought to the back of his mind, focusing instead on the task at hand. He had to figure out which girl he wanted to manipulate.
The obvious choice was a Slytherin. He would be able to slip letters into their things much more easily, and he knew the Slytherin girls better. He pondered for a moment. Perhaps Lidya Scamander would be the right choice. She was easily the least confident of the girls, and thereby the easiest to manipulate. But no, she had too many friends. Too many people would know about the letter and he didn’t want to attract too much attention to it.
His thoughts fell on Anabel Davies and Amaya Fitz. The two of them were close, but he had never seen them spending time with many other people. And while they weren’t the least confident of the girls, they certainly weren’t the most confident either.
So which would it be? He didn’t particularly have a preference…except, Amaya had sent him a Christmas present and Anabel had not. Amaya clearly liked him better, and so she would be easier to manipulate. His eyes flashed with delight as he pulled out a piece of parchment and quill from his bag.
A row of letters at the top of it caught his eye, and he glanced up to see his work trying to make a better name for himself from several weeks ago. A thought crossing his mind, he wrote “Lord’ at the top of the parchment and crossed off an “L”, “O”, “R”, and “D” from the list of letters. It would be fitting to have Lord in his name.
Then he tucked it back into his bag and pulled out a fresh piece of parchment. It was time he got to work.
“There’s a letter for you, darling.”
Amaya glanced up from her porridge and at her father, who was holding an envelope out to her. She smiled, reaching across the table for it.
“Don’t open it at the breakfast table,” her mother scolded as Amaya slid a finger under the flap. She nodded, placing it next to her bowl and beginning to eat faster. It was from Anabel, and she was anxious to see the response.
Once she had finished, she excused herself and ran to her room, ripping the envelope open as she went. She was sure she would find encouraging words enclosed.
I don’t know how you could possibly be so ungrateful. Cygnus Black is the dream for most purebloods. The Black family? I would kill to be a part of it. Your parents must have pulled a lot of strings to arrange this, and yet you want to throw it all away? Face it: Tom Riddle is never going to fall in love with you. You’ve been deluding yourself for half a year and it’s about time you stop. You’ve got a perfectly lovely future planned out for you, yet you’re letting yourself obsess over a silly schoolgirl crush. Pathetic.
I’m sorry for sounding so harsh, but someone needs to snap you out of this. I strongly encourage you to reconsider what you said to me and I hope that I will see a change in you when we meet back at school.
Amaya stared at the letter in shock. Out of all the possible responses she had imagined, this was most certainly not one of them. She had known that Anabel had doubted she had a future with Tom, but she had never expected her to say it so bluntly. All Amaya really wanted was a little more freedom to make her own decisions, and yet even her best friend had turned against her for trying.
She felt a tear roll down her cheek, but she did nothing to stop it. She tore the letter into shreds, casting it into her fireplace and watching it turn to ash. She would not marry Cygnus, no matter what anyone else said. If she had to continue alone, then so be it.
One thing was certain. She had to get Tom Riddle to fall for her by the end of the year, whatever the cost.
Amaya took a deep breath, wiping the tears from her face. She couldn’t afford to cry about this any longer. Her situation had become desperate, and she needed to remain strong. She would be back at Hogwarts tomorrow, and then she would take every risk possible to ensure a better future.
After all, she thought to herself, Cygnus may have power and money. But she wanted love.
The prospect of seeing Tom soon was all that kept Amaya going through the rest of the day. She packed her trunk sullenly, taking as much time as she could to be in the solitude of her room. Lunch was a painful affair, as Amaya wanted nothing more than to hit one or both of her parents, but she managed to keep her face composed. She told herself that none of this would matter soon, and so she was able to keep calm while eating her soup.
Still, it was hard not to lash out at her mother when she corrected Amaya’s table manners. Amaya simply rolled her eyes, reminding herself that Tom probably didn’t give a damn about her table manners. Cygnus, on the other hand, would expect her to be a perfect little lady, which was exactly why she refused to marry him.
After she had eaten, Amaya returned to her room on the premise of finishing some last minute homework, but in reality, she curled onto her chair and began making a list of reasons why Tom was better than Cygnus. She felt slightly mollified as she listed everything she liked about Tom, and conversely everything she did not like about Cygnus. It made her feel like she had made the right decision despite what everyone else said.
She fell asleep quickly, the thought of Tom carrying her into her dreams.
By the time Tom arrived in the Great Hall the next morning, the train had already brought the students back to Hogwarts. They mingled with their friends, sharing their holidays and smiling to be back at school. Tom never understood why so many students chose to go home for the holidays. Surely a school of magic was much better than any other place.
He scanned the crowd for Amaya, spotting her standing by the Slytherin table across from Anabel. Classic. Tom walked towards them slowly, stopping once he got closer. Both girls were red faced and appeared to be arguing, though he couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. He smirked to himself. They were clearly distracted, and Amaya’s bag lay open on the bench behind her.
Tom slipped from the crowd and took the envelope with the letter out of his pocket. He walked casually, passing the girls and letting the letter drop into Amaya’s bag before straightening and walking to the other end of the table, where he took a seat and breathed a sigh of relief. He had been right in thinking that Amaya was too distracted to notice him walk behind her, and he hoped his body had hidden the letter well enough.
Now he just had to wait for her to find his letter. He slid an inch to his left so he could see Amaya in his peripheral vision, then helped himself to a piece of toast and began buttering it. He could wait days for her. He was good at waiting. But at the same time, some part of him wished she would open it immediately so he could continue his work.
Tom turned slightly to see Cygnus Black standing behind him.
“Morning, Cygnus. How are you?”
“Doing well, thanks. How about you?”
“I’m brilliant,” said Tom with a small smile.
“Great,” Cygnus replied somewhat absentmindedly. “You wouldn’t have happened to see Amaya Fitz, would you?”
Tom nodded. “She’s over there.” He pointed to where she now stood alone, glaring at Anabel’s retreating back.
“Thanks,” Cygnus said, turning away.
“Why?” Tom asked before he could stop himself.
“Oh, I just need to talk to her.”
Tom blinked. It took a lot to surprise him, but Cygnus Black needing to talk to Amaya Fitz? Something seemed off with that statement.
Perhaps Cygnus registered Tom’s surprise, because he hastily continued. “We’re, er…we’re set to marry once she comes of age and leaves Hogwarts.”
Tom nodded, giving him a small smile, though his mind was whirring. Was that what Amaya and Anabel had been arguing about? He knew that most pureblood girls would love to marry Cygnus for his wealth and power, and he wondered how on earth Amaya had managed it. But this could be very bad for him. If Amaya was set to marry Cygnus, she most certainly would not want to have anything to do with him. His pulse quickened, thinking of the letter in Amaya’s bag. He had to get it out, lest he risk revealing himself.
Tom eyed Amaya, who was now speaking to Cygnus, but her back was turned so he couldn’t see her facial expressions. He hid a grimace upon noticing that she had picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. He had to get the letter back one way or another. This could ruin everything. He mentally scolded himself for being so stupid, so rash, and not thinking this out properly. He had to operate alone, so that no one else could give him away.
Tom felt his heart race. For one of the first times in his life, he was scared.
A/N: Reviews would be lovely! And a quick shoutout to MoonPrancerxoxo who reviewed all of this in a few short days. Thank you!