Chapter 5: The Masquerade
I could feel my annoyance growing at the people surrounding me. These sheep were hardly something to fear, they were a gathering of gossips. Wanting entertainment by the slightest piece of new information or toy. Such a thing would have excited me before, to have the opportunity to manipulate them to my needs. But I met someone far more interesting and challenging long ago. Someone who was worth my efforts.
Hiding my sneer, I glanced around the ballroom, looking for the focus of my attention. The grip on my flute of wine increased as I tried to ignore the feeling of dread growing in my stomach. It was only an irrational fear that he would ignore my letter. Its purpose was to bring him out, I will not have a consort that avoids social gatherings. Though Hadrian ignoring my letter seemed to be a more likely occurrence as time went on, making me doubt myself.
Such emotions were beneath me, but on the subject of Hadrian... no matter how many barriers I placed on my mind Hadrian shattered them. No one had accomplished such a feat before, and it only made Hadrian even more intriguing. What was it about Hadrian that made me lose such control? Why was my magic rather protective and gentle with Hadrian while vicious to others?
I swirled my wine glass, Slughorn was always willing to turn a blind eye on alcoholic drinks. It helped that he had received a bottle of Odgen's finest last Friday during one of his parties. For a Slytherin he was rather pathetic and easy to fool. If it weren't for his need to collect people and make connections, he'd be in the wrong house. My thoughts came to an abrupt halt when my eyes caught the elusive raven. As disgusting as it sounded, my heart pounded and all the noise around me became mute.
I knew that the outfit would suit him well, perfectly even... But this wasn't what even I had expected. The deep blue cloak, the silver mask framing Avada green eyes... He made changes to it, erasing any signs of it being Slytherin based. Transforming it into one befitting of a Ravenclaw.
The Cold Prince of Ravenclaw has arrived, and the sheep knew it. They may be oblivious to his identity, but they knew that he was far superior to them. My magic twisted around with glee, pleased at the sight of the sheep parting ways for him. He was made for these gatherings, to demand attention and respect... like a King…
I blinked as my magic paused before going into a greater frenzy that I was hardly able to restrain. King... that title fitted him what with his posture and strides. I narrowed my eyes at the sight of the sheep starting to approach him. My magic immediately became vicious once more, despising the sight of others. They weren't worthy enough to approach the King. How dare they…
I was aware of my followers tensing up as I spoke to the puppets around me. No doubt they knew how angered I was, what with being in tune with my magic. The urge to go over, to show exactly who was courting the raven increased. Excusing myself from the group, I placed the empty flute down on a table. Looking at my followers I commanded them to prevent anyone else from approaching me. If a sheep had any ideas…
I took note of my followers giving me some worried and confused glances. Their eyes going towards my abandoned flute, not that it mattered. There were more important matters I had to attend to. Later on, I would berate myself as I should have paid more attention. I would have seen the look of shock, understanding, and relief flashing through Zevi's eyes. My Inner Circle's protectiveness over Hadrian would have made me suspicious. I would know exactly what Hadrian was to me earlier.
"What a marvellous entrance you have done My Lord! Why, I say you've struck the crowd speechless with your stunning beauty!" The joking tone of Fred Weasley reached my ears. I smiled, turning around to greet the twins.
"Is that so? It seems I haven't struck you both speechless." Amused at their antics like always.
George placed a hand on his chest, acting offended,
"Why my lord! You know that we've long since gained immunity to your fetching looks!"
I huffed a laugh, amused by their antics. Fred furrowed his brows,
"Why did you come? I remember that you told us that you were going to spend time reading up on self-transfiguration." I scowled at the sore reminder, still mad about what Tom wrote,
"You can blame the Slytherin Prince for that. He said some rather unsavory things about me that I cannot ignore." Seeing their curious looks I showed them the contents of the letter. I grit my teeth as I felt my magic twist around in anger.
"Well these are some serious accusations placed upon our Lord Forge." George said, his own eyes narrowed in anger.
"Accusations that have no right to be there, my dear brother. We need to show the Slytherin Prince that he can't toy with our Lord like everyone else." Fred stated, grinning as an idea came into his mind. I raised a brow, interested in the plan that the two of them were devising,
"What exactly do you have planned?" I asked, avoiding the people who tried to move closer to me. My mind aware of the strong magic that was Tom's edging closer. They grinned, Fred's arm around my shoulder and George's on my waist, as they led me to one of the tables.
"That depends My Lord, how possessive do you think the Prince of Snakes is of you?" Fred asked as if it was a regular conversation about the weather. I grimaced, my mind flashing back to several of the letters. I chose my words with great care, the twins were rather protective of me,
"I'd have to say he's very possessive of me, something that's out of character from what we know. It wouldn't be a surprise if he's giving you death glares at the moment. He's rather determined to make me his consort, though he's never explained why." I explained, showing my frustration. Tom had avoided all my inquires, exploiting loopholes in my wording, it was vexing.
"I see, then this idea would work, Prince has quite the green beast from what you say. How about we taunt it?" My interest rose, the twins were very devious when they wished to be. Smirking I accepted the plate of food George brought,
"What exactly do you have in mind?" They gave sly grins, getting Neville and Luna to sit with us before sharing their plan. Listening to them whisper I agreed without hesitation. It was simple enough, but with Tom's personality it would get the results we were looking for. It was time to show the Snake Prince his place and see how far his limits were.
Tom Riddle was feeling irritation at the members of Ravenclaw. They were preventing him from approaching Hadrian's table. Taking all the unoccupied seats so he couldn't be anywhere near him. He didn't know if it was deliberate and he didn't have the time to figure out if it was. He'd ignore such things, but since food was already served he couldn't intervene.
He needed to remove the Weasley twins from his raven as they were being quite cuddly with him. They were putting their arms around him, butting heads, and being much too close in general.
What was even more worrying was Lovegood's and Longbottom's reactions. They didn't bat an eye at the displays of affection showing that this was a common occurrence. Were the twins a threat he didn't take into account? He was sure that they both preferred the female body since there was no flirtation he knew of... their relationship with Hadrian seemed to be strictly that of friends as well…
It didn't matter that he'd be doing the exact same thing if he was in their position. He had a valid reason as Hadrian was his consort, it was expected for them to become intimate... What they were doing... it made his magic agitated, ready to lash out at the Twins. To push them as far away as possible from his raven and cover him with his magic... to make matters worse Hadrian wasn't opposed to all the physical contact. He rested his head on one of their shoulders and let them feed him!
More so than ever he despised his position as the Prince of Slytherin. If it weren't for that title he'd make his way over and declare that he was Hadrian's suitor. It was better than watching on the side-lines. His magic growing more oppressive by the minute. Alas, he couldn't stay as that would cause a scene that he and Hadrian wouldn't want. There was also the matter of dignity and appearances that needed to be taken into consideration…
Sighing Tom occupied himself with his dinner, not in the mood to talk to his followers. This wasn't quite how he had envisioned how spending the Masquerade Ball with Hadrian be. He expected an opportunity to become closer to him. Changing his thoughts of becoming his consort. It seemed that any plans he had related to Hadrian went out the window before he could even do anything. The way Hadrian attracted attention with his entrance when he thought he'd slip in quietly…
It was frustrating needing to scramble for an appropriate response to Hadrian's actions. Things were to go his way and this change of pace left him a bit flustered, not that he'd admit it. Such a display of weakness was unfitting for a rising Dark Lord, a Dark Lord was always prepared. That left another issue as well, the unpredictability of Hadrian gave him a thrill. He didn't want to accept it but this change of pace was interesting. People followed a pattern. They liked things to be normal, some more than others, but Hadrian was none of that. Hadrian was a breath of fresh air in this daily routine he found himself in.
Despite his mood improving a bit, things went downhill from there. With dinner being over with people were starting to mingle. A few had already started to dance in the area at the center of the hall. Tom had to entertain the people that surrounded him the moment he left his table. He felt a rush of satisfaction at the sight of Hadrian having to do the same. At least one part of his plan was working, though he wanted to be beside Hadrian as they entertained the sheep. What better way to show him that they were compatible and worked well together?
Mentally sighing Tom gave his charming smile to the group surrounding him. He didn't forget that they were all giving him hopeful glances. When would they learn? He had no interest in them, they all had fantasies in their heads, no dreams or ambition. Something that was essential for his consort. Having someone completely devoted in every way to him would be unnerving in his opinion.
With a person that had their own ambitions he wouldn't have to play as the perfect husband. Despite what the others thought he did make mistakes, small as they were. Though... as he glanced to Hadrian who was having some wine, it seemed that he had made a large mistake this time. What that mistake was he was unsure. He hadn't put anything too offending in the letter, at least he thought so. He only wanted to rile up his Raven, push him to attending the ball. Had he pushed him a bit too far?
"Tom how do you find the Masquerade Ball? Isn't it wonderful?" A high-pitched voice bringing him out of musings. Blinking he nodded,
"It is, I'd have to say that it holds a different charm compared to the Yule Balls I have attended before." He took another sip of his wine, observing the hue of the drink so he wouldn't have to look at that blinding pink dress. Who considered that having a dress made of that shade was a good idea? It made his eyes burn by looking at it, and he could feel a headache forming.
"Oh! You've been to those balls before? Are they as enchanting as others say?" The ladies giggled, most likely feeling delighted that they were in his presence. He gave a lazy smile, dismissing the blushes that came onto their faces. There was only one person he wanted to see blushing. He wasn't given the chance to see such a blush yet,
"I suppose you could say that, they're rather marvellous. Takes a good amount of time to construct a ball of that grandeur. Whoever is hosting needs a great artistic mind as each ball must be unique. Perhaps one day you'll be able to see what I mean Joseline." Joseline blushed, ducking her head and nodding. The ladies giggled even more, though this time there was a bit of a harsh tone to it. They eyed her with thinly veiled jealousy, how two faced a person could be at times…
"Now if you'll excuse me ladies, I need to be somewhere else at the moment. It was a great pleasure to speak with you all." He made his voice resemble more of a purr. Never mind the fact that he didn't speak to them all. Flustered they could only nod, giving him the perfect chance to leave. Finishing his second glass of wine he placed it on the table before looking over to the other end of hall. He became surprised at Hadrian's form no longer being in that area.
Where had his Raven gone this time? He was certain that his talk with those idiotic girls hadn't last longer than ten minutes. He took another glance around the hall, heart stopping at the sight of the blue cape with silver circles. More specifically that the owner of the cape was on the dance floor. His Raven wasn't with one of the Weasley Twins, but rather dancing with Neville Longbottom. That was a small reprieve as he knew that Longbottom had entered with Lovegood.
Determined to not have the raven slip away from him for the second time he made his way over to the dance floor. Cutting in wouldn't be so difficult, it was only a matter of patience after all. Something that he was unfortunately low on when it came to Hadrian. It was something that only the raven can do for some baffling reason. It had been years since he started to question his actions towards the raven. He wasn't coming any closer to the answers of his strange reactions to the Cold Prince.
His shoulders tensed when Longbottom had placed a kiss on Hadrian's hand. His magic pausing in surprise, he knew it was protocol. He didn't think that the Longbottom heir would do such a thing. If Hadrian wasn't being courted, or Longbottom hadn't walked in with Lovegood... The audience would think he had the intent to court Hadrian.
Pushing down his magic he watched as Lovegood came to dance with Hadrian. Somehow their dance seemed strange to anyone observing. Although they followed the same steps as everyone else, it may have had to do with Lovegood's aura? He never could understand Lovegood and her way of speaking. It was very bizarre and had gotten her plenty of bullies. Well, until Hadrian had taken her under his wing, no one knew how such a thing occurred. The two were never seen speaking to each other when Hadrian put her under his protection.
He had resigned himself to labelling it as one of the many mysteries and story of his raven that he didn't know. He couldn't very well stalk Hadrian, that would bring plenty of unpleasant questions. Questions that would damage his reputation and the authority he had. Controlling the student population was essential for his future plans. They were the next generation after all, molding them to his needs was a great advantage.
He raised a brow when Lovegood placed a kiss on Hadrian's forehead. It seemed that the two of them had something of a sibling bond, something that the Potter Twins lacked. For reasons that he was privy to due to his use of the listening charm on the pink ribbon. Any ease he had felt as he watched the two vanished when Hadrian switched over to one of the Twins.
He narrowed his eyes at the close distance the two were in, too close for a casual waltz. How was Hadrian allowing such a thing? He knew that he was watching, his distinct presence made it hard to ignore him. So he must know that this wasn't a great impression on him, he asked him to prove him wrong. This was doing the opposite of that. He gritted his teeth as the Twin placed a kiss on his raven's cheek, oblivious to the people edging away from him.
His magic was itching to erase the mark the twin and others had placed on Hadrian. He was the one who was courting Hadrian and should be the only one allowed such intimate contact! Dread pooled in his stomach as Hadrian moved to the last twin for a dance. There was a mischievous grin greater on this twin when compared to the other. What was this twin planning? Should he cut in now? But there were no pauses for switching left in the song…
He stiffened when Hadrian was dipped towards him on the final note. His vision going red as the twin placed a kiss far too close to his raven's lips. His magic snarled, demanding to come out. To rip and tear this insolent person for daring to do such a thing that was his! Hadrian was his! Only his and he would murder anyone that attempted a claim on him! He felt satisfied when he saw a sliver of fear enter in the twin's eyes. As it should be, the raven was his. He marked him as his long ago…
Hadrian frowned, Tom's extreme anger was an unexpected development. They hadn't thought that he'd be this angered, after all they were taunting him. Nothing too harmful, as he was in the middle of a courtship. He made Fred go towards where Luna and the others were, not wanting him to be entangled in this situation any more. The anger that Tom was showing was irrational, did he expect him to accept the courtship without a fight? It was also gathering the attention of the Hogwarts population. He'd have to do something if he wanted this courtship to stay a secret. Sighing he flared out his magic a bit as he slipped through the crowd. They'd have to go somewhere private to resolve whatever was happening to the Prince of Snakes.
People were questioning each other, wondering what exactly they had missed. It was between the Slytherin Prince and whoever the blue cloaked person was. That certainly made for juicy gossip and had the rumor mill going into a frenzy. Was there something going on between these two people? Had Tom Riddle picked a lover and they were having a fight?! What had happened to cause this whole drama?
Tom narrowed his eyes, giving one last glance to the twins before following Hadrian. He used a point me spell to be more discreet, his mood worsening with all the whispers surrounding him. The Weasley Twins weren't dating his raven! Fists clenching, he made his way out of the now suffocating room. Following the little golden arrow tied to Hadrian, he needed to speak with him. What had occurred now wasn't acceptable, he would not have a consort that liked affairs.
"What is your problem?" The irritated voice of Hadrian brought Tom out of his angered state for a moment. His rage burned even more as his mind registered what was spoken.
"My problem? I believe we should talk about yours, what you did back there was inappropriate." He hissed out, his magic swirling around him. Wanting to reach out and show how upset he was, he wouldn't harm him, his magic was strangely incapable of that.
"Inappropriate? I hardly see how it's inappropriate when I was enjoying my time with my friends!" Hadrian retorted, his eyes flashing in anger.
"You call that enjoying your time with friends?! One of them kissed you!" He snapped. Hadrian raised a brow, crossing his arms,
"So is that what's this all about? Because Fred almost kissed me? That's completely ridiculous!" Tom growled,
"He's not the one who's courting you!" Why was that so difficult to understand? He was the one courting Hadrian, things like that should be only privy to him. Hadrian huffed, finding this entire conversation absurd,
"Really that's all you have as an argument? You're acting like some kind of jealous boyfriend!" There was a pause in the air, Hadrian's eyes widened before he started to laugh. "Merlin... that's it? You're acting like this because you're jealous?!"
Tom bristled at the statement, he was not acting jealous. He was angered by what happened in the Great Hall! "I am not jealous! We wouldn't even be having this conversation if you hadn't done all that! What was the point of such a stupid act?!" His voice becoming heated in both denial and frustration. Hadrian's laughter died as he looked at Tom with a glare,
"The point? You're asking me for the reason why I did that? I thought it was clear to anyone who saw! It should be obvious to you! What with what you did!" He shouted out, both their angers clashing against each other.
"What I did? What did I do that made you do that?" He flung his hand back to the Great Hall's direction, "Because clearly I have no clue of what you're saying." Hadrian's arms shook with all the anger he was holding back. He didn't know? He didn't even understand what he wrote in that letter? How it sounded? What it meant? Of all…
"The bloody letter you sent you bastard! You act all clueless when you're the one who wrote it and had the nerve to send it to me!" Hadrian's face becoming rather red with all the yelling he had done. Seeing Tom continue to look confused he threw the letter at him,
"I don't take such insults lightly, specifically when it has to do with my freedom!" Seething as his mind brought out certain parts of the letter to the forefront. Tom stared at the letter in his hands, the one he had sent a few hours ago. He still didn't understand how this made his raven angry,
"Insults on your freedom? I don't see any mention of that here..." His voice soft from the confusion he was feeling. He tensed at the harsh laugh that came out of Hadrian's mouth, mentally wincing. He wasn't the cause of that laugh... right?
"How does, the knowledge of the power to lock you up or you're only a raven with clipped wings sound to you? They sound pretty caging to me!" Tom swallowed, his throat feeling a bit tight,
"I didn't mean..." Hadrian cut him off again and his pent up anger unleashed onto Tom,
"Well of course you didn't! Because you don't have the stigma of being second born on you! You're bloody Tom Riddle, the Lord of Slytherin! You can do whatever the hell you want, but I can't!" Hadrian's form trembled, his voice becoming quiet as he looked down at the ground,
"You don't know what it's like. Being a second born. Everyday you're reminded that you're worthless. A spare should the first born die before an heir is given. You're nothing until then, and it's not like that happens often. The first born is protected so such a thing could never occur." He clenched his hands, nails digging into his palms,
"Thrown away like some chess piece that's not important. All because you were born a few minutes later than the other!" He turned away, tears sliding down his cheeks, "I don't have freedom like you and what freedom I have is what I make..." He whispered, feeling drained of energy. Hadrian tensed when he felt arms wrap around him,
"I... apologize... I didn't know that the letter would cause such a reaction..." Tom mumbled, hugging Hadrian closer.
Hadrian tensed, finding himself surprised at the feeling of Tom's arms around him. Tom Riddle didn't look like the type to give cuddles to everyone. No doubt that it was because of his title as Prince of Slytherin. The snakes were the most standoffish of everyone after all. Most likely because of all the power plays they had. Showing emotions was a weakness something that could be turned against you.
"You're still a prat, insulting me just because I'm anti-social..." He mumbled, letting himself take in the comfort for a moment.
"Anti-social? It certainly didn't look like it when you were with the others." He could hear the tone of amusement that was in Tom's voice. Feeling annoyed he gave him a little glare,
"I thought Slytherin's were well acquainted with masks?" He knew he was being a bit harsh, but Tom deserved it for what he went through.
"To be fair I didn't expect you to be well versed in them. Your sister lacks in many things, masking her emotions is one of them." Hadrian scoffed, moving himself away from the hug. "You should know that comparing me to my sister is insulting. Rose won't even be able to tell if she's being lied to save her life. She's the most thick-headed person I know, her determination to win you being my proof. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence can see that she's an unfit bride. Especially for a Pureblood family like Slytherin, she won't know how to act for that status."
"That's why you're chosen, you are the perfect candidate." He said smirking, eyes shining. Hadrian glared at him,
"You're forgetting one important thing. I'm not willing candidate." Tom waved his hand, smile still on his annoying face,
"That can be fixed, I may not be as well versed with emotions, but I know how to charm someone." Hadrian rolled his eyes, crossing his arms,
"Like I told you from the beginning, that's not going to happen. I don't fall for charms and gifts like everyone else." How long was it going to take him to get the point? He wasn't going to become his consort, he liked being independent.
"With time your answer will change." His voice filled with confidence. Hadrian labelled it as a lost cause and moved the subject to something less irritating.