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    Prologue: It’s Called the Abyss (An Introduction)


    A/N:
    This is the prologue, but it can be skipped. It's descriptive but ambiguous. There's a little plot at the bottom, so read that and the story will pick up from there. Another four or five chapters will introduce the characters as well as their relationships to one another. These chapters will focus on dialogue and the development of the story. Then, the Sequence will take you through the bulk of the plot until the climax and the end. Just so you know.

     

    It was a crisp kind of morning.

    There was a tentative sun meticulously rising through a waning dawn. There was a night that was scrambling together its shadows and running from the light. And there was this girl, a subtle reminder of the beauty and brilliance of the world.

    A rather tall girl, she was a puzzle – an emphatic condition to everything that had a label. She had been fashioned that way, raised and forged and bred that way. She was an entity straddling the line between light and night and bright and bitter and falling and grasping. Rather tall and almost willowy by nature, she stood delicately infallible. Possessing an elegant gracefulness, her beauty was stunning if you took that second look. Her features were soft but defined, her back straight – languidly and effortlessly so – and her fingers long. Her bearing was inviting if arrogant, her skin a warm ivory and her brows always poised for rebuttal but lined with a dormant empathy.

    In the stiff light of the morning, Arabella was reading. Leaning against a strong chair whose arms were conceited and blunt, she was skimming the pages of a book well-worn – and her eyes, they were Thoreau eyes. They were the eyes of her mother’s line and the eyes of a woman who had once been perfection itself. Collette had been her name. French by heritage, she had been the eldest daughter of the influential Thoreau family, long established and comfortable in England – an imperium. Collette had been beautiful in the classic sense, intelligent in the most adept sense, compassionate in the fiercest sense and loyal to the point of great, great sacrifice. In the zenith of her life, everyone had been captivated by her. Most dangerously, the Dark Lord had decided he wanted her. A price had been paid for Collette, one of malice and devious manipulation, and the Thoreau Empire had never recovered.

    But no one ever talked about any of that; indeed, Arabella knew nothing about any of that. No one dared remember the rise and fall of Collette Riddle. There was always a shift in the air when anyone stiffly tiptoed around her mysterious death – a fateful demise that had quickly succeeded the even more suspicious end of the Thoreau dynasty. As the whispers about the inexplicable events fell silent over time, even in the most remote corners of society, many forgot about the Thoreaus. And what was not forgotten was never known in the first place. Great pains had been taken to make sure Arabella knew nothing of her long gone mother or her long forgotten kin.

    With a soft exhale, Arabella turned a page in her book. She wasn’t entirely digesting what she was reading; instead, her thoughts were aimlessly coursing the higher stratospheres of her mind. With the sun hesitantly shining on her canvas skin, she turned another page.

    The year her mother died marked the beginning of a sharp change for Arabella, then six. Pretences turned into intentions and thoughts to actions. Suddenly, the predominant portion of her childhood consisted of a steady stream of instructions: keep your poise, lest you invite the break that will destroy you; stand uncompromising, lest you undermine the endeavours of your ilk; and do as you’re told, lest you forget the place reserve for you. Without the obstacle of Collette Thoreau, Arabella was introduced to the value of measured obedience and unwavering control. In one breath, she was taught both subservience and superiority. She was implored to forget her intuition and adopt the instincts of the Dark Order, to forget her mother and revere her father.

    And her father was infamous. He was a man who made a living split between battling to rule the world and cheating death. After the purportedly unfortunate death of his wife, the Dark Lord began to approach his daughter differently. Arabella became a child of expectation, a prominent pawn set to inherit her place in her father’s great plan. Though she was given all the gloss of society life and all the doting company she could ever desire, these kindnesses came with a stiff warning: “You are your father’s promised prodigy, to do with as he sees fit, but beware your behaviour,” they said. “Where you are an heiress today, you can be nothing tomorrow. Be thankful you are in your father’s good graces while you can.”

    Tom Riddle’s expectations of his daughter were only ever between his deceased wife and himself. There was something Collette had said, promised or threatened before her death…some prophetic whim the Dark Lord now clung to. But as Arabella grew up, she became a prodigy that failed to present. In her brewed loudly the fight of nature versus nurture. In spire of being reared in her father’s image, she was more innately her mother than anyone could comprehend. That she remained her mother’s daughter was, in her father’s eyes, a most grievous flaw. His cause defeated but not extinguished, the Dark Lord was a proud man. Of an infallible mortality, he was stone in a word.

    Arabella, still in her wooden chair, closed her book. She marked her page with the pad of her thumb and blew her auburn hair out of her eyes. Whatever story she was reading would wait for her, frozen in inky shackles and secure between the tome’s fine binding. Thoughts of all sizes sauntered through her mind as she slowly came to her feet. Arabella walked towards the library doors, one hand holding her page-marked book and the other lazily tracing various haughty tables and dusty shelves as she passed them.

    The child of perfection and destruction – of a Thoreau and Lord Voldemort – opened the door to the corridor and let the light from the library windows spill into the hallway’s darkness for just a moment before she pulled the doors shut behind her. Arabella walked passes the paintings and busts of long gone purebloods and the shadows that hid various servants waiting to have words with her father. She walked passed doors that stood closed and foreboding, blocking dark rooms that would chase even the candlelight away. At the end of the corridor, Arabella turned up stone steps easily dwarfed by the surrounding looming walls. Gaunt House was where nouveau riche met nouveau ambition. It was not a happy place.

    Arabella herself was neither happy nor unhappy. She was a storm of quick temper, dignified blood, a love of music, no artistic talent whatsoever and a mildly indulgent compulsion for organisation. She was a subtle beauty, a second glance sort of stunning with refined features and cerulean eyes – her mother’s eyes. Arabella was one to shy away from emotions because she never knew what to do with the excess of it, but she loved to love. And she did love. She loved her emerald slippers, Belgian chocolate, wide bay windows and the way her mother used to pick her up as a child. Above all, Arabella was honest in a world built on lies one could lose oneself in.

    At the top of the stone steps, Arabella came across a wide, wooden door – powerful and steadfast where the stone around it was uncompromisingly cold. This was the door to her father’s study. She knocked and the door yielded under her fingers, creaking open with momentum.

    **

    Languid scratching was the only sound in the room; quill to parchment. Unsure whether she should enter entirely or not, Arabella Jade stood tall in the doorway. Soon, the scratching stopped.

    “Sit,” commanded a voice – icy and slow. Arabella consented. Closing the door behind her, she simultaneously closed the proverbial door to any reeling thoughts. She was now in the presence of one of the greatest Legilimens on earth and it wouldn’t do to even think out of line.

    From across the room, her father surveyed her only briefly before returning his dark eyes to the papers idly sprawled across the breadth of his desk. The silence was heavy for a moment, then another and another. Arabella found a seat, adopting the defiant chin and mistrusting gleam she knew her father would be looking for. And when he did look at her, it was as though he was waiting for something that couldn’t be waited upon. It was as though he was disappointed, as though he often waited for this un-waitable thing. Arabella wasn’t surprised. True, she’d never been able to figure out what it was he was disappointed in her for, but she wasn’t surprised.

    The Dark Lord’s eyes hardened with displeasure. “I am growing impatient.” Arabella wasn’t allowed to reply, she knew. With an exhale, Tom Riddle stood. With heavy boots, he turned to the fireplace and threw some parchment in. Bright yellow flames hungrily soared up to lick the papers into oblivion. The Dark Lord turned his back on the ashes to face his window. Built to brace neither east nor west, the window ushered in only lukewarm light.

    Though his back was to her, her father’s voice was formidable. “I have misspoken,” he drawled. “I have long been impatient. I can see now that sending you away is my only option.” Though Arabella couldn’t recall doing anything wrong or misbehaving in any way, she said nothing. Tom Riddle continued with a carelessness that suited him. “You have been inducted as one of this year’s transfer students. One of only a handful, of course.”

    The pause that followed his words was now pointed enough for Arabella to venture a question. “Inducted where?”

    The Dark Lord turned to his daughter, tall beside his desk. The years and the measures he had pursued to sustain life had not been kind to him. His skin was fastened together in nearly a grotesque way and his dark eyes had a reddish hue to them. With no hair to speak of and gaunt features, Tom Riddle had been reduced to a snake-like figure of defiance. But his image didn’t faze him. The way he saw it – the way it actually was – he had cheated death memorably and that was all the image he needed.

    Tom Riddle spoke to his daughter but looked through her. “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” he said in a voice that barely ranged in inflection.

    Arabella was surprised; indeed, she couldn’t conceal her surprise. Though her father must have read this, he didn’t explain himself. He was above that.

    “Do I have a task? A purpose or assignment?” She asked, wanting an answer that would justify the irony of where she was to be sent.

    When the Dark Lord said nothing, Arabella realised that this wasn’t a mission, this was an exile. But Tom Riddle studied his daughter. She radiated conviction but she was failing him in the only way that mattered to him. Whatever Collette had imparted before she was…before her unfortunate passing was something that now defined the relationship between father and daughter. It was something that hung over Arabella – invisible but the basis for all the expectation weighing upon her. Collette had said Arabella would be…the Dark Lord cut this thought short.

    It didn’t matter if Arabella knew or could control what slight prophecy her father was relying on. The fact was that she wasn’t making good on her destiny and the Dark Lord was running out of time.

    Under sudden scrutiny, Arabella subconsciously toyed with a ring on her left hand and the engraving along its edge: Sic erat in fatis. The script was crisp, delicate and carefully small. This was the Dark Daughter’s mark, this ring and these words. When her father’s eyes fell to her hands, Arabella stilled.

    “Go,” was all he said. There was no malice, nothing but brevity.

    Arabella stood, silently and easily. She backed out of the study with a caution she hadn’t had when she’d entered. Part of her was hoping her father would stop her, say something to her or explain himself. He didn’t. Instead, he turned back to his neutral window – surveying some far off mountain summit, the profile of which was dusty with distance – as if this interruption in his daily routine had never happened at all.

    Arabella had no choice but to leave the room. She closed the door and her shoulders fell slack. Sure, she didn’t understand why she was going to Hogwarts – why she’d fallen out of favour with her father – but it wouldn’t do to question it. Curiosity didn’t suit a Lady and answers never came her way anyway.

    Shaking her head clear of her thoughts, the daughter of the greatest of all Dark Wizards set off towards the Eastern Wing of Gaunt House – towards her bedroom, her things and her suitcase. Just a girl.

    **

    Lord Voldemort waited for his study door to whisper jaw and his jaw clenched. He had not been born a patient man, had not been nurtured patiently and he didn’t bear patience well now. He was expectant of the world because the world had once been expectant of him and he’d had the decency to deliver. The years he was spending waiting – waiting for something to happen – were doing nothing for him. Tempus edax rerum, they said, so Tom Riddle had little idle time.

    Collette had said…no. Again, he cut off that train of thought with a scowl. How many times had she said what she’d said? How many times had she sworn that Cassandra never lied, that she couldn’t lie? How many times had he brushed off her pronouncements but secretly sworn them to memory? He had been told to wait. Tauntingly, it had been said to him: “Just you wait. Wait and see. She will manifest.”

    The Dark Lord threw himself into his chair and narrowed his black crimson eyes. These were eyes so unlike those of his daughter’s. The deeper into thought he fell, the deeper the furrow of his brow – though you had to know what you were looking for to see that. Normally stolid, the Dark Lord burned the walls of the room around him with the malevolent intensity of his stare.

    Years he had been waiting. And nothing. In his own twisted way, he had once promised his wife – and his mind spat the word – he would give his heiress a chance. He had expected to be rewarded but seventeen, eighteen years? If they weren’t enough, nothing would be enough. His wife must have lied because fate never fails to deliver.

    Tom Riddle’s attention slid to the papers on his desk. Scanning the contents of a nervously written letter, a sneer ghosted through his lips. Incompetence seemed to be the theme of the day the way his luck was going: shipments of supplies for training camps in the Far East were running late; the Giant’s Tribunal was postponing reviewing his proposal for a renewed alliance; and his inside men at the Ministry were under heavy speculation for the alleged embezzlement of government funds.

    That was nearly where the bad news stopped. Beneath many sheets of worthless paper there was a letter from an old, weathered enemy. The evocation of him and that much-hated establishment blew the dust off of many a memory.

    The letter read:

    I, the undersigned, herewith grant the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry guardianship of the aforementioned issue during the course of the academic year. I, the undersigned, understand and acquiesce to the Terms of Enrolment and offer my signature in good faith.

    And right there, a gaping space begged for his identity. Daunted not for a moment, the Dark Lord signed under an alleged name in the made-up script of a made-up character – the fictitious guarding of one Arabella Thoreau, an adoptive father who inherited a ward and an unknown man. The top of the letter glistened Hogwarts School in pristine ink and the bottom thanked him for his co-operation, his time and his commitment to the education of the child he was committing to their care.

    With an almost victorious smirk, Tom Riddle threw his quill at the fire that had long ago resumed its easy ember breathing. This was how it was going to be. He’d send the girl away, scour about for a new heir and, in time, come to terms with the years he had been waiting for nothing.

    May his late wife roll in her grave.

    **

    Her hands familiar with the ornate ivory handles, Arabella pulled open the bay windows of her room. The air of a clear night seeped in. The tiled roof before her was sturdy as she climbed over and sat upon it. Her rooms were in the farthest corner of Gaunt House. Not necessarily expensive or expansive, the rooms were ancient and mended, cold and dank, pretentious and rigid. This was the territory that came with a name trying to cast a greater shadow than its means.

    Red lips pursed in thought, Arabella really did find the notion spellbinding: she was leaving in one day’s time for a school at which she didn’t belong. A list of articles she was expected to take was pre-emptively lying on her desk; a stack of books she intended to read were leaning against her oak trunk; and an outfit picked by servants who prided themselves in remaining unseen hung on the back of her door. By all accounts, she was all set. She would be leaving in a day’s time for a place she’d never been to and already disliked.

    Glancing towards the Eastern bend of the horizon, Arabella saw rain clouds far in the distance. Though there was no trace of the warmth there had been earlier in the day, the cool inviting smile of a blank night was hard to miss. Arabella climbed back in through her window. Meticulously, she prepared for what she hoped would be a peaceful night’s rest. She was the Dark Daughter; if life was a storm, she supposed she could bear its tempest.

     

     

     

    Fin.

    References:
    1. Sic erat in fatis (So it was fated) – Ovid (Fasti)
    2. Tempus edax rerum (Time, the devourer of all things) – Ovid (Metamorphoses)

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