Chapter 7 : A Growing Void
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Tom sat down in his first class of the day and was swiftly joined by Molly, who had returned to her common room to gather her book and had just run back to the classroom. The girl was breathing heavily as she sat down in the seat that Tom had saved for her. Professor Dumbledore smiled at the girl, who had explained her temporary absence, and was already excusing her lateness.
“I just made it,” she said quickly while she attempted to catch her breath.
“At least Professor Dumbledore is easy to get along with. He likes you anyhow, you never cause problems.”
“He likes you, too.”
“Not as much as he likes you.”
“Miss Porter, Mister Riddle, class has commenced and I need your attention immediately.”
Both turned swiftly to see the professor towering over them as he stood next to where they were seated. Hushed whispers from other students sounded as they waited to see what would happen to two students who rarely were reprimanded. Finally, after a long moment, the professor turned back to the lesson at hand and the pair wondered for the remainder of class what repercussions would befall them.
When the class ended, Dumbledore dismissed the class and the pair stayed seated as the wizard watched their classmates leave the room. The door closed behind them and now the boy and girl faced the angered teacher.
“I rarely issue punishment as I would prefer to talk out differences, but this time I feel that I would be remiss if I fail to deal with you. Therefore, each of you shall serve detention with me tonight and I shall also take five points from your Houses.”
Tom remained staring stolidly ahead while the girl beside him began to sob quietly. Albus Dumbledore looked down at the pair for a moment and they wildly hoped that he would change his mind about the punishment. But instead he mere motioned at the door and it swung open to admit the waiting class beyond it as well as allow Tom and Molly to depart. The pair rose quickly and hurried out of the classroom to rush towards their next class.
The trip to the potions classroom had never seemed so long as the corridors seemed to grow in length while they traveled. Finally, however, they stood outside the door to their destination and then opened it to enter. Professor Slughorn looked up as the pair stepped silently into the room and then hurried to their workstation. He cast a disapproving gaze at them, but knew the reason that they were tardy and let them begin their work without interference.
“Now that we are all present, I shall expect you to pick up where you left off yesterday. As the potions have been brewing for several hours you shall find that they should have the consistency of pudding and they should be a pale orange in color. If either of these qualities is not in evidence there is a mistake in your mixture and you need to call me to your station in order to try to salvage the potion. There should also be a slight honeysuckle odor about your potion, if you can detect the aroma of peppermint your potion has soured and will need to be disposed of.”
Molly and Tom looked down into their cauldrons and were pleased to see the proper appearance of the thick liquid. A sweet aroma filled the atmosphere around them and they swiftly looked at their texts for the next ingredient and instruction. Molly swiftly picked up a root that was laying on the table and began to slice it into small pieces which were soon being diced even smaller before being added to the brew. The girl was rewarded with a slight poof and her potion turning a brilliant emerald green.
Professor Slughorn, aware of progress, walked swiftly to the girl’s side to gaze into the bubbling mixture. He smiled broadly as he surveyed her success and then announced it to the class.
“Class, Miss Porter has managed to produce a very satisfactory potion and you would all do well to emulate her product. The size of the pieces of root is the key; pieces that are too large will not produce the proper effect and will actually cause the potion to immediately coagulate into a rather solid mass that is devilishly hard to remove from the cauldron.”
A moment later, a rather large poof sounded across the room and Horace Slughorn hurried to the side of Abraxas Malfoy to see a large lump of goo sitting in the bottom of the boy’s cauldron. He fixed the boy with an angry stare before speaking to him.
“Totally unacceptable, Mister Malfoy, not only will you be resorting to some rather Muggle methods to remove that from your cauldron but you shall also be responsible for producing a proper potion in detention. It may take you a night or two, but perhaps then you shall pay closer attention in class!”
Another loud poof sounded and a swift glance in the direction of William Crabbe proved that he too had failed miserably in his attempts. He too was soon getting the terrible news that he would also be resorting to digging the goo out of his cauldron and having to spend several nights in detention producing a proper mixture.
Tom held his breath as he introduced diced roots into the hot mixture in his cauldron. A moment later a mild poof sounded and the orange liquid was replaced with a one of brilliant emerald hue. Professor Slughorn, drawn by the sound, was immediately at Tom’s side and looking into the cauldron where the boy had been working. He smiled broadly before slapping the boy on the back and moving on to the next student while issuing instructions to those who had managed to complete the assignment correctly.
“You will now decant the mixture into the provided flasks using the method that I taught you. It may surprise you to find that even though the potion was just boiling hot you can now safely put your hand into it. The most that might happen is that your fingernails will be spotlessly clean when they emerge. We use this potion to clean the many windows here in the castle and it is extremely effective.”
The announcement was interrupted by a loud BANG and all heads swiftly turned in that direction to see Alfred Goyle covered from head to toe with a horrible smelling crust. Professor Slughorn stalked towards the boy and then the rest of the class prepared for what came next.
“Mister Goyle, of all of the dim-witted, bungling attempts that I have ever seen in all of my many years of teaching potions this one has to be the worst! Not only have you managed to fail the assignment you have also created a mess that shall require several hours on your part to clean, using the most Muggle-like implements that I can find. I should imagine that cleaning that mess out of this stone shall take quite a bit of effort on your part and it shall not be finished until I am satisfied with the results. You shall remain after the rest of the class is dismissed to begin cleaning up after yourself.”
The professor turned to see flasks filling rapidly and smiled at the progress that was being made. When the children finished emptying their cauldrons they watched as the metal was cleaned magically and then the cauldrons vanished to reappear in the place where they were stored. Minutes later, the children were hurrying out of the room while the three hapless students listened unhappily to what their sentence was.
“I wish that Potions wasn’t at the bottom of the castle and Defense against the Dark Arts at the top of a tower,” Molly exclaimed as they climbed the seemingly endless stairs to their destination. They were winded as always when they arrived in the classroom of Professor Lands.
Professor Jacob Lands watched as the diminished class entered his room and swiftly found their seats to find parchments on the desks before them. Many of them, Tom included, moaned as they realized that the professor had prepared a surprise exam for them.
“You shall have twenty minutes to examine your notes before we begin the exam. I suggest that you get started now.”
Students hurriedly pulled notes out of their bags and began to look them over as the professor turned a large hour glass over to allow the sand within to begin its downward journey. After what seemed like only five minutes the hourglass turned into a crowing rooster to announce that their cramming time was up. Their notes vanished and a quill appeared in front of them while the exam questions began to materialize on the parchments.
Abraxas, Alfred and William hurried into the room to find only places at the front of the room available. They trudged forward and sat down to groan as they noticed the parchments before them.
“You have only a few minutes to study before you need to start the exam, gentlemen. I would think that you wouldn’t want to waste any more time than you have.”
Tom was too busy working on his exam to pay attention to the plight of the other boys. He was grateful that he had at least paid attention in class and was familiar with the material that they were being examined on. Professor Lands had produced a dreadfully difficult test for his students and groans sounded frequently as students found themselves facing questions that they were unprepared for.
When the time ended, too soon for many, the parchments vanished and all knew that they were in the hands of fate. They looked up to see the reading assignment on the board at the front of the room as well as the writing assignment that went with it.
“The assignment shall be due at the beginning of class tomorrow; I expect two full pages of parchment on the material, and no huge writing to take up more space, Mister Goyle,” Professor Lands announced as he fixed the boy with a glare before turning back to his class.“ You may use the remainder of class to begin reading the passages that I have assigned. I suggest that you get started as this passage is rather lengthy.”
A series of muffled comments of displeasure sounded as students opened their books and began to read. Some immediately pulled out their quills and began to write while others concentrated on the reading. The children paid attention to their assignment while the professor walked silently between the rows of desks and were distracted when the silence was interrupted.
“Mister Goyle! I expect you to use this time to complete your work not draw pictures on your parchment. Five points shall be taken from Slytherin House for your open defiance.”
Groans sounded from other Slytherin scattered around the room as they realized that the House Cup had moved farther from their grasp. Although he made effort not to show it, Tom was angry at Professor Lands for taking points from them.
‘That was totally uncalled for! Taking points for drawing a picture! Who ever heard of such a thing? But then, these professors are all mental and should be in St. Mungo’s. Maybe then we would get some proper teaching because we are never going to learn anything at the rate we are moving.’
Suddenly, a large window in the room exploded outward as Tom’s anger swelled. Startled by the shattering glass students screamed and rushed away from the newly formed void in the wall as the wind whipped pieces of parchment around the room. Professor Lands calmly drew his wand and cast a spell at the damaged glass.
The amazed first years watched as the glass reassembled itself in the frame and then began to retake their seats. The professor stepped back to the front of the room as he surveyed the faces of the children. One of them had done it, probably unintentionally, but one of them was responsible and he wanted to know who.
“I wish to know which of you is responsible for that. I am not angry as I am aware that it was probably not done on purpose, but I would like to know just the same.”
When no hands rose and no student stood to take responsibility Professor Lands shrugged his shoulders and appeared to surrender to their silence. None of the students was prepared or even aware of what the next step in the mind of the professor was. Jacob Lands was an accomplished Legilimens, a talent that had served him well during the brief time that he had spent as an Auror. He began to walk with his slow, even stride between the rows of desks as he touched upon each young mind in the room. Many of the minds were consumed with the desire to be out of class and doing things that were less than productive. Others were so thick headed that the only thing that came to him were dull thoughts about how to avoid work. He was nearly to the seat occupied by Molly Porter that he encountered something that he had never expected, a mind so disciplined and maintained that he could not find a chink in its armor. He paused for a moment and looked down, not at the girl but at the boy sitting next to her.
Tom looked up at the professor who was standing next to Molly and noticed the strange look in Professor Land’s eyes. The boy had the impression that the professor was aware of what he had done to the window pane and also the strange feeling of something attempting, quite uninvited, to sift through his thoughts. The gaze that the professor was offering was met by the steely glare of the boy and each knew what the other was thinking.
The rest of the class fell silent as each in the pair looked deep into the eyes of the other and only the chime of the bell in the tower broke the contest of wills. Students hurried to gather their things and race from the room, Molly among them, while Tom remained in his seat.
“You know, don’t you?” Tom finally said when they were the only people in the room.
“Yes, I know, and I stand by my statement that I am not angry about it. I just wish that you would have spoken up, Tom. There is no harm done, the window is repaired, and you need to move on to the mid-day meal. Run along now, before you lose your favored seat at the table and I would also wager that you do not wish to keep young Miss Porter waiting.”
Tom responded with a curt nod and hurried to gather his things before rushing out of the room. Jacob Lands stood where he had been as he looked back down at the seat that the boy had just occupied. Then and only then did he speak again, this time to himself.
“Yes, Tom Riddle, I know.”
Molly was standing at the foot of the winding stairs while she waited for Tom. Although she would not admit it Tom was becoming increasingly frightening to her. The seeming distance between them often felt incredible and she wondered just how much longer their relationship could survive. There was no doubt in her mind that Tom was responsible for what had happened to the window and that gave her cause to wonder just what else he was responsible for. His approach broke her out of her thoughts and she fell into step with him as they walked towards the Great Hall in near silence.
“Tom, are you okay?” she asked hopefully.
The stony gaze of the boy never wavered as he walked down the corridor and ignored her query.
“Are you angry with me, Tom?”
If Molly had hoped for a response she was once again disappointed as the boy continued his fast walk in silence. Molly stopped where she stood and watched as his stride continued without hesitation. As he vanished around a corner she noticed that he had never looked back to determine why she had faltered in her accompaniment of him. Quietly the girl sat down on a nearby bench and began to sob as she realized that, no matter what he said, there was no hope of a reciprocation of her love for him. It was over.
Tom arrived at the Great Hall and walked towards his normal seat, never once looking back to see if the girl was watching him. She was becoming boring and, at times, a crybaby, sobbing when he didn’t talk to her like she had hoped. He was furious about the incident in the classroom far above and wondered just how much Professor Lands did know about his thoughts.
“Tom,” a voice said as it broke into his thoughts. He turned in irritation towards Abraxas Malfoy, who had been trying to get his attention.
“What do you want?”
“I am just wondering what you did with Molly? She didn’t come in with you the way that she normally does.”
It was then that Tom realized that Molly was nowhere to be seen, the spot that she normally occupied on the bench was empty. He looked up and down the length of the table occupied by Hufflepuff House and understood that the girl was not present. Professor Dippet entered the room and he knew that it was too late to hurry out of the room to find the girl and wondered just what she was thinking. The mid-day meal would be full of uncertainty for the boy as he pondered the reason for her absence.
Molly had returned to the Hufflepuff Common Room and was now sitting silently in an overstuffed chair while she thought about the developments of the day.
‘I have been such a dolt, thinking that he actually cares about me. He is just as bad as those gits that he calls his best friends, callous, cruel and self-serving. I’m done with him! He can figure out how to pass the classes without my help, if it had not been for me he would be down in Professor Slughorn’s classroom digging the potion out of his cauldron. He certainly would not be getting the marks that he is in Charms without my help.’
She sat in silence and finally drifted off to sleep in the chair as the mid-day meal ended and Tom made his way to Professor Flitwick’s classroom. As he entered the room Tom could see no sign of Molly and even after the tiny professor had closed the door behind the last late arrival the seat next to him remained empty. Filius Flitwick looked around the room and was shocked to see that one of the most determined members of the first year class was not present. Molly Porter never missed class and usually was one of the first to arrive.
“You all need to continue to prepare for the exam that will take place before we begin Winter Break. Failing that exam will certainly fail you at the mid-term, and that will make passing the term very difficult.”
When that class finally ended, Tom raced to the room where they studied and was stunned to find the seat that Molly normally sat at empty. He sullenly sat down at his assigned place and often found himself glancing at the worn wood of the seat that the girl normally graced. Somewhere in his mind he knew that the girl had finished with him and that reclaiming what he had enjoyed with her would be nearly impossible.
Molly would remain in the Hufflepuff Common Room for the remainder of the day, only emerging to walk down to the Great Hall to eat at dinner time. Tom felt a leap of excitement and hope as he watched her walk into the room with a number of her friends, but it was a hope that swiftly died when the girl failed to even glance in his direction. Instead she sat, laughing and talking with her Housemates, with her back to him and, once the meal was over, she hurried to leave the Great Hall with her friends even though he had rushed to try to intercept her to talk to her.
As she swept out of the room he ran up behind her and grabbed her arm. Her eyes filled with fury she turned on the boy who, until only a few hours before, had been the center of her life.
“What do you want, Tom?”
“Are you angry with me, Molly?”
“It is strange that you should ask the very question that I asked you this afternoon, but the difference is that I am going to answer you. I tried to talk to you and all that I got was silence, and that is something that I have been getting with increasing frequency from you. You are more interested in dawdling about with the dolts that you call friends and I will have none of it! I have had it with you and your self-serving attitude and I really just want you to leave me alone. We are finished, Tom Riddle, and I want you to stay away from me.”
The boy stood frozen with disbelief as the girl whirled on her heel and hurried away to rejoin the friends that she had left the Great Hall with. He had no way of seeing the tears that were flowing down her face and could only watch as she vanished in the distance.
“What’s she on about?”
He turned to see his friends behind him; they had also witnessed the explosion and secretly hoped that they would have an opportunity with Molly now that the girl and Tom were split. Tom felt confused, hurt and angry all at the same time, but he also felt relief. Now he didn’t have to worry about what Molly thought of his plots and deeds. She had actually done him a favor and now could be discarded as she had ended her usefulness. Just the same, however, Tom hated to lose and now the girl would face the same dangers as everyone else.
He walked down the stairs with the rest of Slytherin House, speaking to no one. Many in the group wondered what he was thinking and several would have been shocked had they known. Only Tom was privy to the dark thoughts in his mind and too soon they would be known to all.
‘You think that you are free of me, Molly, you are no different and are no safer than Amy was in the orphanage. It will not be long before you find out just how large a mistake you have just made!’
Both of the children fell asleep that night one thinking that he knew what was coming, but actually neither of them could have foreseen what lay in the future.
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