Chapter 5 : Is This Love?
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The fact that she and Tom were still together wasn’t sitting well with older members of both Hufflepuff and Slytherin and she had been the target of many rumors. This had brought the child to tears on many occasions and no one except for Tom had come to her aid. The boy had mended the distance that he had been displaying and was now more attentive to her. Molly was grateful for this, but had no clue as to the real reason for it.
Tom had, in the space of a month, gathered several people that he could count on to do his bidding. Many of them had no idea why they were doing what they were, but did it anyhow. This often brought loss of points to the Houses of the involved students and Tom was careful to make certain that if something could lose points it would not be Slytherin that suffered.
The young girl looked up as yet another whispered conversation reached her ears and she turned to see several older girls watching her from the Slytherin table. Molly quickly turned back around to gather her things and then hurry out of the Great Hall. She had just reached the stairs that led to the common room of her House when she heard the voice behind her.
“What makes you think that you are good enough to see a Slytherin boy?”
She attempted to continue on her way but was suddenly blocked by a larger girl that had stepped in her path after catching up with her. There was no way around the older girl and the others that she had seen at the table were soon surrounding her. She looked down at the floor as the girls continued their activities.
“Are you going to answer me or do I have to beat it out of you?”
“I like him,’ Molly responded in a voice that was so soft that the larger girls could barely hear it.
“I like him,” Molly repeated.
“I cannot believe what you just said! You are out of your mind if you think that you belong with a Slytherin. Stay away from him or you might just get hurt!”
The other girls that surrounded Molly laughed loudly as Agatha Childs grabbed the books out of Molly’s arms and then threw them onto the floor. Then the larger girl reached forward to grab the arm of the younger girl.
“Do you understand me, Hufflepuff trash?”
Molly blinked back tears as the grip intensified on her arm and she knew that there was nothing that she could do about the older girl that refused to release her. She was sobbing violently now and this amused the group.
“Are you going to cry now?”
“Maybe you should let her go before she makes a puddle on the floor,” one of the other girls added.
“It wouldn’t make her any less disgusting! I cannot even see what a Slytherin boy would see in her. She’s ugly! Maybe if I ripped out this hair it would make her look better.”
None of the group of girls noticed Tom as he approached them and he was instantly angered when he realized what was going on and who the victim was. Only one thought crossed his mind and he more than eagerly shared it with the bullies.
‘LEAVE HER ALONE AND GO TELL PROFESSOR DIPPET WHAT YOU WERE DOING!’
The girl who was holding onto Molly released her arm immediately and then paused as Tom watched from his vantage point. For a moment Tom thought that maybe she was going to resist the suggestion that he had made and he wanted to take no chances.
‘GO NOW AND TELL PROFESSOR DIPPET WHAT YOU WERE DOING!’
Agatha Childs blinked her eyes as the voice inside her head repeated itself forcefully and then looked at the others in her group. She could tell that they had heard it too and wondered if it had said the same thing to them.
“I think that maybe we should talk to Professor Dippet,” Penelope Moore said as she backed away from Molly, who stood there mystified by the turn of events.
Two of the other girls nodded their agreement and one of them nudged Agatha to prod her along. Finally the girls left the area and walked down the corridor to find the Headmaster with a message repeating itself in their minds. Professor Armando Dippet would be extremely surprised when the quartet of girls, who were known bullies, approached him to confess that they had accosted a smaller child.
Tom watched as the girls departed and then approached Molly to help her pick her books up from the floor. Several of them bore torn pages but they knew that the witch that cared for the library could mend them easily and they quickly set a course for that room.
“What were they on you about?” Tom asked, as if he didn’t know.
“They want me to stay away from you! They said that I’m not worthy of you and that I’m trash,” Molly responded through tears that had once again begun to course down her cheeks.
Tom did something next that surprised both of them; he released her hand and put that arm around her shoulders. At first the girl thought that he was rejecting her, but relaxed when she felt his touch. She leaned against him as he guided her towards their destination and he marveled in the thing that he was feeling.
‘I think that this must be love! I have never felt this way about anyone or anything before, not even the truck.’
The pair arrived at the library and soon they were watching as the books were mended effortlessly by the witch they encountered. She watched with amusement as the young boy and girl joined hands before leaving the room and thought back to when she first encountered love.
Agatha Childs was angry, the Headmaster had assigned detention for their activities and that meant a loss of points for Slytherin as well as manual labor in the school gardens. She wondered about the voice that she was almost certain that she had heard in her head before she and her companions had gone mad. There was no person in the castle that could have told her face to face to go to Professor Dippet and confess to what she had done, but she had done it and this worried her.
There was no way that the little Hufflepuff girl could have created the voice that she was almost certain that she had heard. She was only a first year! Something strange was going on because this seemed rather like what Bernard Mason had talked about. He too had thought that he had heard a voice in his head only it had told him to shut up and then he had been unable to speak for several hours. Agatha shook her head and, with her group of friends, walked towards the stairs that led to Slytherin House.
Tom thought to himself as he walked with Molly. Again he had been able to make someone do what he wanted them to do and this proved to him that, although she didn’t know it, Agatha was going to be a useful tool. She, like Goyle, had the temperament and size to deal with those who opposed what he wanted. There was also the fact that she and her friends really didn’t care about the loss of points and seemed to enjoy hurting others.
Already, he had his sights on a group of girls from Gryffindor that also had met disfavor with him. The girls viewed him as a bad influence on Molly and had made it no secret that they intended to see it that the pair was separated.
‘They are not going to win,’ he thought to himself, ‘maybe Agatha and her friends should think that the Gryffindors are talking about them. It worked with Alfred and they are not much brighter than he.’
Tom and Molly had walked for a great distance until they reached the door that led outside and to the bridge that led to the stone circle. There they hurried across the bridge until they reached the middle where they stopped to talk.
“Tom, am I getting you into trouble with the other Slytherin? Please tell me if I am.”
Tom looked at the girl for a moment before answering. He could see the pleading in her eyes as well as fear of rejection.
“The others don’t like it, but I don’t care. Why do you ask?”
Molly turned to look out over the valley that the bridge traversed before she spoke again and now it was Tom that was afraid.
“Tom, I cannot live with myself if I am getting you into trouble with your Housemates. If you want me to I will leave you alone, just say so and I will.”
Tom could see the tears that were running from her eyes and down her cheeks as she waited for his reply. Molly was trembling as she waited the long instant for him to speak and dreaded what she might hear. Finally he spoke again.
“I want you to stay, Molly! What they think doesn’t matter to me! I like you and want to be with you unless you don’t want me.”
The pair looked at each other again before suddenly hugging tightly. He looked into her eyes and saw not fear but joy. He released the girl and then something strange happened; he felt a warm, moist touch against his cheek before the girl stepped away. Tom reached up to touch his face where Molly had kissed him as he looked at the apprehensive girl. She was blushing slightly as she realized what she had done and hoped that he didn’t mind.
Tom reacted without thinking as he gathered the girl in his arms again before their lips met. Both had seen older students do this and had wondered about the experience. They marveled at the closeness that they felt and enjoyed the warmth of the other’s body against theirs. When the kiss ended they each looked into the other’s eyes before they started laughing as they joined hands once again.
“I’ll never let them break us apart,” Tom said suddenly, “and anyone who tries will not like what happens.”
Molly frowned as she wondered what the boy met but put it from their mind as they walked back towards the castle. The wind on the bridge was dreadfully cool and they hurried to get back to the warmth that Hogwarts promised.
Albus Dumbledore watched the interaction from the window of his office and smiled. Although he still had reservations about Tom he also hoped that Molly could bring the boy around. Strange things had been happening within the school, things that had never happened prior to the start of the current term and Dumbledore wondered if the boy was the cause of it. It was all too strange to be just a coincidence, the boy had admitted during their meeting in the orphanage that he could make people do things and now students were committing offenses that were far beyond their normal behavior.
Just yesterday two second year boys from Hufflepuff had gotten into a fight in the Great Hall during the midday meal. There had been no known provocation, but both had been involved in confrontations with Tom that had been about the fact that Molly was seeing the Slytherin boy. The fight had started without warning when the boys had simply risen and attacked each other.
Through the entire battle Tom had watched intently and with a near grin on his face that only vanished when he realized that his reaction had been noticed. He had spent the remainder of the meal talking with another first year and acting as though he was unconcerned about the boys that had been escorted from the scene. Both had seemed mystified about the occurrence when questioned and had stated that they had attacked each other for reasons that they couldn’t remember.
Another troubling fact was the company that the boy was keeping. Alfred Goyle, Abraxas Malfoy and William Crabbe all were among his retinue and all of them had run afoul of the rules at least once already this term. Alone they were nearly intolerable, but together they represented a headache for staff and students alike. The three boys seemed to have no fear of correction by the staff and often presented an air of indifference when scolded or threatened with detention and the loss of points. If Tom was involved he represented a convolution of the problem. The boy had innate abilities and obviously knew how to use them to influence others.
He lost sight of the pair as they re-entered the castle and thought about the boy for just a moment more before returning to his desk to continue planning. The seventh years were proving to be a challenge and were meeting every lesson that he presented with gusto. It was time to give them the challenge that they desired.
Tom and Molly had parted as she hurried to her dorm to drop off the book that she had been studying and while he waited Tom saw the group of Gryffindor girls that he had been waiting for. A moment later, his brow furrowed as he concentrated on them and he focused on the girls seeing Agatha and her friends involved in a conversation about them. The girls faltered in their step and then paused as they gathered in the center of the hall.
“I am really tired of Agatha and her cronies talking about us. I think that it’s time to deal with this little issue and send those Slytherin a message they will never forget.”
The rest of the group of girls nodded their agreement as their leader finished speaking before they set off on a mission to find Agatha and her friends.
Tom looked up happily as Molly reappeared and the pair set out for the library to study in front of the large windows where they could enjoy the heat of the sun passing through the glass. That course also took them in the direction that the Gryffindor girls had taken and Tom hoped to see some of the action. He wasn’t disappointed.
Agatha and her group were emerging from the stairs to Slytherin House when they encountered Beatrice Hall and her friends. The groups immediately began hurling insults at each other and before long were exchanging blows and at least one curse. A Gryffindor girl suddenly went board stiff as the body-bind struck her and she toppled to the ground while other wands were being drawn. Students not involved in the fracas scattered as hateful magic began to fill the air. It was not long before Professor Dippet and other staff members appeared on the scene to restore order.
Tom and Molly had hurried to the library and were sitting in front of a window while she read and they whispered back and forth. Tom pretended to be interested in a book that he had pulled from a shelf but was actually much attuned to what students that were entering the library were saying.
There had been a fight near the stairs to Slytherin involving girls from that House as well as some from Gryffindor. At least one girl had been subjected to the body-bind and others had been hit by various curses. The entire lot was in the Headmaster’s office getting a royal dressing down by Professors Dippet, Dumbledore and Slughorn. Both Houses would no doubt be losing points.
Tom listened intently and knew that Agatha and her friends would probably be sent to the Isolation Tower for a few days. The Isolation Tower was located in an unused part of the castle’s right hand side of the third floor and was a place that no one wanted to go to. Covered in dust and spider webs, the rooms were supposedly haunted by things far worse than ghosts and voluntary exile to the place was unheard of. Students who were assigned to the Isolation Tower were also assigned to eat at small Isolation tables that were scattered about the Great Hall with a shield around them to prevent conversation with others. The fact that Agatha and her friends had already been in trouble today made their assignment there a given.
He rose from his seat and Molly looked up at him in confusion.
“Where are you going?”
“The Great Hall, it’s time to eat.”
The girl hurried to place the book back on the shelf it had come from and they grabbed each other’s hand before leaving the room to make their way to the meal.
Professor Dippet’s office was one that was not a happy place as the girls faced an angered Headmaster and two professors.
“I have never, in all of my years here at Hogwarts, seen such a display as the one that you ladies presented today. Fighting in the corridors and casting curses while innocent students try to get out of your way is far beyond what I would call acceptable behavior, especially for older students who should be setting examples for the younger ones!”
“I am taking twenty points for each one of you from your Houses and assigning you all to the Isolation Tower. In the interest of preventing further conflict, one group will go to the North side while the other goes to the South. Any attempt at further unpleasant contact shall result in an owl to your parents and suspension for a month. Now, each of you shall place your wand on my desk and then I shall have Professors Dumbledore and Slughorn lead you to your new place of temporary residence.”
The young couple walked through a castle abuzz with the news about the fight and caught a glimpse of the condemned walking with the professors towards the Isolation Tower entrance. They were nearly to the Great Hall when they encountered Professor Dumbledore’s junior professor dressing down William Crabbe.
“Mister Crabbe,” Tobias Leeds barked, “I want no further instances of the transfiguration of mice into trolls! You have set the entire Great Hall into a panic and I, for one, do not find it funny at all. Now, you shall go back into that room and set it straight.”
The pair stepped into a Great Hall that was in chaos and could only watch as William drew his wand and cast the spell that he had been told to.
Instantly the mess on the floor and tables vanished and stains on the robes of students cleaned themselves. Molly leaned towards Tom to kiss him on the cheek and then the pair walked towards their respective tables.
Tom sat down at his normal spot so that he could see Molly while one of his friends teased him.
“Outstanding, Riddle, at least you found one that cannot be mistaken for a troll. Your girl is way above the one that Goyle is snogging. All that you need to do is to convince her to leave Hufflepuff and join Slytherin.”
“I doubt that she’ll do that, her Mum and Dad were both from Hufflepuff.”
“So, my parents were both from Ravenclaw and look where I am. I think I’m much better off where I am than they were.”
Tom considered what Geoff was saying as the boy continued the conversation. Maybe Molly could be persuaded to leave Hufflepuff and join Slytherin. That would solve a great many things while probably enraging the whole of Hufflepuff House. Not that the possibility of conflict bothered Tom, he was used to it! He had learned at the orphanage to defend himself and none of the children at Hogwarts represented any anxiety for him, save Molly. The idea of the loss of her companionship was more than he could bear to consider and he wondered what he would do if that ever occurred.
Molly glanced back at Tom as a thought entered her mind.
‘I wonder if Tom would ever consider leaving Slytherin to join Hufflepuff? I could never leave Hufflepuff, Mum and Dad would be so angry and hurt if I did. I think that I’ll talk to him later today about it. I hope that he says yes, I cannot bear the thought of us not being together.’
Neither child was prepared for what the other would ask when they spoke later that day and, although the conversation went calmly; both sensed a change in their relationship and hoped that it didn’t represent the beginning of the end.
When they had finally parted for the evening and gone to their respective dorms Tom laid silently on his bed while he thought about what the girl had asked of him. True, he had asked the same of her, but wasn’t the girl the one that usually acquiesced to what the boy wanted? Why should he give up Slytherin and go to Hufflepuff? She should be the one to change, because he certainly didn’t want to appear weak! If he appeared weak the other Slytherin boys would lose respect for him and drift away to join other groups leaving him alone and, if he refused the girl, she could very well leave him to go to another also leaving him alone.
Either way he faced loss and Tom Riddle hated to lose.
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