The Sugar Quill
Author: moonette (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Win  Chapter: Default
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The Win

Tom Marvolo Riddle heard Professor Slughorn's words drone on in the dank Potions class. "You must choose a partner with whom you will work daily, preparing the final product and keeping a detailed record of your efforts..."

Riddle rolled his eyes. Yes, yes... I think you've made everything quite clear. Now be a good boy and bloody shut up, so we can move on...

But then Riddle's mouth went dry. Choose a partner? Whom? None of these other poor bastards were as good in Potions as he. And he didn't particularly like anyone in this class, either.

His eyes grazed over the class as he sighed. Come on. There must be someone here that he wouldn't have to carry.

He gripped the edge of the table. Move. Or you'll be left with a bloody idiot.

And that's when he noticed her sitting alone, towards the back. Elizabeth Powell. She didn't appear paired up. Why? An attractive girl. Pure blood, he had heard. Seemed to answer correctly when called on. Why still alone? Ahh. That's right. The golden boy. Richard Harrington. The two of them had been constantly together...until last week. He had heard their argument before class. And watched in fascination as the tears had rolled down her cheeks. She had thrown a crumpled piece of parchment at Harrington, then. Riddle's eyes had followed the parchment to the ground, in a sort of morbid curiosity. What words in a note could make a girl cry like that? He never found out. Harrington had torched it with his wand, before anyone could see.

Well, she wasn't crying now, here in class. But her eyes narrowed and lingered on Harrington as he laughed with his chosen partner. Riddle smiled. Of course, another girl. But then Elizabeth turned away from the two of them. She must have felt Riddle staring at her, because she turned directly to him.

He raised his eyebrows, just a bit. She nodded back, almost imperceptibly. It was done.

* * * *

Tom Riddle sat in the Slytherin common room with Elizabeth Powell, as he had done every school night since that day in Potions class three weeks ago. They were proofreading each other's essays, due tomorrow morning, written independently as required, but drawn from the same data they had prepared in class together over the last month. All was silent save for the occasional crinkling sound of the parchment as they turned the pages.

Something felt different tonight, however, and Tom's dark eyes scanned the room for reasons why.

Perhaps it was because of the new black velvet couch which had replaced the threadbare, old green one that had been there for ages. He shifted on the thick, soft cushion. No springs jabbed sharply up at his legs.

Elizabeth glanced over at him. "Do you miss the squeaks and groans of the old couch?"

He drew in a quick breath at her smile. Her teeth gleamed white against the tan of her skin and her dark hair. He shook his head 'no', in response to her question, and she turned back to her work. It wasn't the couch.

Perhaps it was the softly flickering fire, lit for the first time since the new term had started this autumn. The weather had just begun turning cool, the dampness in the air now palpable after a hot, dry summer. He watched the flames in the hearth for a moment, then followed the play of light to her hair. The yellow of the firelight softened the black sheen of it into a deep chocolate. She tilted her head away from the fire, lost in concentration, and her hair turned black again.

Interesting , he thought...how things change in the shadows. He gripped his quill more tightly. He preferred the black.

He tore his eyes away and continued to read.

Ah. An error. And a major one at that. The spelling was almost exactly the same as the name of the correct plant, but was in fact, a different phylum altogether. The end product would be vastly different. He stifled the beginning curve of his lips, and remained silent. This would be enough to lower her final grade dramatically.

He looked around the room again, angry at that continued strange feeling. What was it?

For the first time, she was sitting with him on the couch, rather than across from him on the squishy chair. She was close, close enough for him to count the freckles on her arm, the only blight on her creamy olive skin. One...two...three... He clenched his teeth. Get back to work . He returned to the essay.

But then she dropped his essay into her lap for a moment, her eyes never leaving the page, and pulled her long hair up, fashioning it into a knot. Her neck was slender and graceful, her pulse throbbing gently at its base. The floral scent of her shampoo hit him like a sudden cool breeze on a scorching hot day. He sighed, not even realizing he had made a sound until she turned to him, concern in her eyes evident, her brow wrinkled. She opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated.

What was she going to say? His heart began to pound. What? Just say it.

Still, she hesitated.

Say it! What are you afraid of?

Finally, he heard the soft, feminine lilt of her voice. "Is something wrong, Tom? You don't seem...yourself tonight."

She really was worried for him? An undeniably attractive, pure blood, intelligent girl. He wasn't prepared for the sudden rush he felt at that. He hadn't even known her before this last month, hadn't really even noticed her. And now they were...what? What were they? He shook his head to clear that thought before it was complete. Her ice blue eyes were trained on his face. She was a perceptive girl. He had to be careful or she would find out. He caught her gaze and held it, almost as if staring her down. Stop looking at me like that! Then he forced his lips into a tight smile. "No. No. Everything's fine."

"Well then...did I make a mistake?" She reached for her essay, touching his hand in the process.

Her touch burned. He wanted to jerk his hand away, yet at the same time he wanted to reach out and pull her closer to him. Don't move, Riddle! \i Don't react. But even with all of his self control, his hand shook, and his grip loosened on the parchment as she took it from him. He stared at his hand. He could outline exactly where her delicate fingers had brushed it.

"Tom? Tom! What did I do wrong?"

She was one of the best students in Potions. The class was graded on a curve. She may even have the highest marks going into this project. He could beat her on this essay. But what would happen later, when she found out he had "missed" her error? She'd be angry. She might want nothing to do with him. But he would have won.

He smiled at the thought of how it would feel to be first in the class. "Nothing's wrong, Elizabeth."

She relaxed at that smile, handing him back the essay. "Are you sure?"

He stared at her work, envisioning the red marks scattered throughout. A warm feeling spread through him. "I'm sure."

Nothing felt better than winning.

**

**

**

Author's note:

Answer to question in summary - Is it possible to write Tom Riddle fluff? --------- Of course not! ;)

Thanks to St. Margarets for a read through before posting. You're wonderful.

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