For The Ultimate Patronus Quest Challenge (Horned serpent: write a story that takes place at a masquerade ball) and the Making Matches Challenge (Tom Riddle/Amycus Carrow, silver). The songs belong to Blackmore's Night.
This is what happens when I don't get my coffee.
As soon as he got to the masquerade, Amycus saw a person of interest, as Rodolphus called them. The man was in deep conversation with Millicent Bagnold.
"Isn't that an ugly thing?" Alecto called from his side.
Unlike his sister –who wore a simple black mask that accentuated her red hair and grey eyes– Mrs Bagnold chose a rather eccentric mix of neon green feathers and magenta sequins.
"And what about that companion?" Alecto asked. "Why don't you go and greet him, Amycus?"
"Am I that desperate, sister?" he asked, wishing for a cigarette to help him clear his mind. He hadn't wanted to come but Alecto insisted and he could never say no to her; not after everything she had to endure during their childhood.
"I just think you should go and say hi, brother," she answered, stoically as she always was. He thought that maybe she was the one who needed someone. "That's why we came here."
Amycus snorted. "I came to meet with the Dark Lord, not to mingle with the proper crowd. You know we aren't the same as them."
Alecto shot him a strange look and he didn't know how to interpret it. At the end, though, he went to the man thinking he should learn how to say no.
As he approached, the former Minister Bagnold walked away. Her hideous mask was a stark contrast with the silver mask of the man in front of him. It had delicate embroidery fitting for someone of high rank; knowing that made Amycus want to go back to Alecto and sulk with her during the whole event.
"Amycus Carrow," the man said without offering his hand to him. Amycus nodded. "I didn't expect to see you here. I know you avoid this type of gatherings."
He looked around. Indeed. High society balls were dull affairs that didn't hold his attention. He hated them, from the grand chandeliers that precariously hung from the concave ceilings to the bold golden embroidery in the man's silk robes.
"I came for work, sir," Amycus answered truthfully. "If I hadn't been called I would be at home. Perhaps paying a visit to my mother's grave. It would be a better use of my time."
The man's laughter made his bones vibrate; his head felt on fire and Amycus didn't like it. He rubbed his hands together, nervous.
"You are already here," the man told Amycus, offering his arm. The act was not impulsive. Each of the man's movements suggested a premeditated action with calculated consequences. "You might as well enjoy at least one dance."
He hesitated. It wasn't unusual for him to dance with strangers, but that evening was, as he had already said, for work. Even his wool and cotton robes suggested he wasn't there to celebrate.
It was then that the music began again. The quartet of strings in the centre of the room played a song he had heard before. It was the same song his mother had used when he taught him and Alecto how to dance. It was the same song his father had used for background music when he murdered his mother.
Still, the man was right. Amycus took his hand and the man gracefully led them to where the rest of the couples were already going through the slow motions of Play, Minstrel, Play.
The music enveloped him. Hear, listen, can you hear the haunting melody surrounding you, weaving a magic spell all around you?
He knew the lyrics by heart, though the quartet didn't recite them and instead relied only on the strings of violins and a cello to make him feel all those emotions lingering beneath for years. For a moment, Amycus let go of his fears.
It wasn't until he felt the heavy stare of the masked man that he opened his eyes; he hadn't closed them consciously. The silver material of the mask was the perfect colour to compliment the darkness of the brown eyes beneath the mask.
Amycus thought he shouldn't be there, feeling those heart-wrenching emotions for a man whom he barely knew.
"Is that something that bothers you?" the man behind the mask asked him, showing perfect teeth in a smile that terrified Amycus for an instant; he hadn't voiced his thoughts, of that he was sure. "Our dance can stop at any moment. You only have to let go."
Amycus didn't. Instead, his grasp on the shoulder of the man hardened. His amused smirk angered Amycus, but he said nothing. Whoever the man was, it was someone used to get his way.
"Well, if you don't mind then I will dance with the beautiful redhead over there. Her magic feels familiar. Is she a relative?"
"As if you don't know she's my sister," retorted Amycus eyeing Alecto, who was sitting by herself in a corner. He could see the werewolf preying on her, and wondered if Alecto was aware. "Stop teasing."
He might have sounded more entitled that he felt. The light and deep laughter of the masked man who smelled of pine and rain attracted attention towards them. Amycus was surprised when the dancers around them not only didn't scoff at them but inclined their heads to the masked man.
His companion nodded at them, recognising their respect with a gesture of his own. The exchange confused Amycus.
"Who are you?" he asked forcefully, stopping in the middle of the dance.
The man didn't seem too preoccupied with his perceived insolence and appeared to be enjoying himself. Amycus pushed him off himself slightly but not enough to let go. He didn't dare, not only for the apparent high status of the man. If he was honest with himself, Amycus liked the pressure on his waist and the coldness of the stranger's hand.
"It's strange," the man answered, leading him to one of the balconies. "You came here to serve me and don't know me? I don't know if I should be offended at not being recognised, or if I should be angry at your incompetence."
They were alone in the balcony and Amycus wasted no time taking off his mask. To his fear, the man he now knew to be Marvolo Riddle didn't take off his own silver mask.
Amycus saw as he casually leant against the iron railing. It was an astonishing sight. The powerful Minister Riddle exhibiting such nonchalance. Amycus almost laughed, nervous and fidgety.
"I might keep you," the man said at the end. "If only for my pleasure at seeing you uncomfortable."
"I won't fail you, my Lord," Amycus said promptly, bowing in front of Minister Riddle. He felt ridiculous thinking about their almost improper dance. He could still feel the strength of the Minister's arms as he led the dance, twirling and spinning as if it were something common for either of them.
"Don't bow. I'm not the same Dark Lord," Minister Riddle told him with a derisive wave. "That would only have led us to defeat. Being the perfect wizard for the public has its benefits and I can't deny them."
Amycus rose but didn't speak. He didn't understand why the Minister wasn't cursing him. The man he remembered was almost mad with power and dark magic. The memory of plenty of muggle hunts replayed in his mind along with the insane laughter of the Minister. He was right; he was different.
"Put back your mask. This is a masquerade, after all."
He did as the Minister instructed. When the mask was tied at his nape again, Amycus felt the hand of Minister Riddle taking hold of his waist again.
His answer was a malicious smile.
"I think I will keep you, Carrow," the Minister said. "You amuse me. It has been too long since someone spoke to me like you did back there. Why don't you do it now?"
"You are the Minister of Magic," Amycus laughed, confused. "I'm your servant, my Lord."
Though he didn't bow this time, the servitude was present in his voice. Amycus had followed the Minister since he was known as Tom Riddle, the muggleborn. His father had followed him too, before letting himself fade into insanity. Minister Riddle's path was the only way he knew, even if he had been welcomed to it when the Minister still went with the underground title of Dark Lord.
"I don't need more subservient people following me," the Minister complained, once again forgetting all formalities. "I want an equal who can bear my temper and criticise my decisions. I need someone who can tell right from wrong and doesn't stop themselves because they fear me."
He looked at Amycus. There was madness in the hard way with which Minister Riddle gripped his jaw to make Amycus look at him, yet he didn't find it repulsive. Amycus leant into the touch, eliciting a smirk from the Minister.
"I'm not what you look for, my Lord," he said with honesty. He was shaking; there wasn't an ounce of foolish bravery inside him. "You want something like Rodolphus or even Lucius for that. If I remember well, they were clear with their wishes when we met the first time."
"It has been a long time since then, Amycus," the Lord said. Amycus agreed; it had been so long that he hadn't recognised the man to whom he had sworn allegiance. "They are worms who thrive in the filth. Lucius cares for nothing but wealth and Rodolphus wants to bed Lucius' wife. That is the extent of the Dark Lord's most faithful servants!"
His laughter was lost in the melody playing in the adjacent ballroom. For that, Amycus was grateful. The guests didn't have to know of their Minister's insanity. Not yet, when his reign had barely begun.
"Then find someone else, Minister," Amycus said again. "Because I'm not what you need. I will agree with you for the respect I have you, and if my opinion differs I won't speak for fear of your temper."
There, Minister Riddle chuckled. His hand was on Amycus' shoulder. More than a burden for him, it felt as if the contact was an anchor for his Lord. He looked around. Nobody was watching them, and he wondered if it was an enchantment on the balconies or if the Minister had cast a spell to prevent being spied upon. He was, insane or not, an intelligent man.
"Don't you see what you do, Amycus?" a desperate man, unlike the composed Minister, spoke with his same voice. It was rousing in a way Amycus couldn't explain. To him, Riddle was not a simple man and to hear him speaking his name with that frenzied tone was dreamlike. "You are already doing what I ask of you."
He might have been, but it was out of duty and nothing else. However, Amycus saw the Minister's point.
"Is that why you had me come to a ball?" was the only thing he could ask.
Minister Riddle laughed. This time the sound was sane. He grabbed his arm and almost dragged him to the ballroom again. The current melody was haunting –a sad adagio with melancholic notes.
"I want my followers here, reunited," answered the Minister, pulling hm for another reluctant dance on Amycus' part.
Once more, the strong grip of Marvolo Riddle's hands made him shiver with strange pleasure.
"Is there a reason for that, my Lord?"
"Call me Minister, Amycus," the man ordered.
There was a flash of anger in his smile. It was something dangerous and Amycus felt dumb for not noticing it as soon as he arrived at the ball. How could he think that cruel smile was someone else's? His disguise was thin; the silver mask did nothing to really cover his aristocratic features.
"Is there a reason for that, Minister?" Amycus repeated, slightly annoyed.
No answer came. The Minister continued to lead him through the simple steps of a waltz. The current dance was more refined than the first song they danced, but it failed to evoke the same sensations. This time, the dance felt empty.
"You are uncomfortable," the Minister said. There was no doubt in his words, to Amycus' shame. Anyone else would be honoured at having been chosen by the Dark Lord for a task such as the one he wanted for him. Amycus wasn't like anyone else.
If given the choice, he would rather torture children and chase muggles. Those were the kind of things he liked. Easy tasks where his dominance could be absolute, not the ruthless dance of politics.
"Ironic, don't you think?" the Minister said, proving again that he had no qualms about privacy. Amycus couldn't fault him. If he were in his position, he would ensure the loyal obedience of his subjects. "It is because of that thinking that you would be an excellent advisor, Carrow."
He shook his head, though this time he allowed a smile to play on his lips. Amycus' knees went weak when, because of that smile, the Dark Lord smirked. It was a different display; it held a hint of fondness he didn't believe the Dark Lord was capable of feeling.
"I am not the Dark Lord, Amycus," he remarked, spinning Amycus at the tune of a new, faster song. "I left behind that title when I became the Minister."
"I guess it feels more real now," Amycus spoke. He was surprised at his own words. "At least to you. I think a Dark Lord can do more than a Minister with the Wizengamot tying his hands to prevent him from pursuing the ideals of the population. A Dark Lord commands and he's heard and followed. A Minister has to earn love and a Dark Lord creates fear."
"Do you believe me incapable of earning the love of all these witches and wizards?" with his words, Minister Riddle gestured to the dancing guests. Amycus followed his hands; there was a myriad of colours present. The rich wore masks with lace and embroidery; the poor wore masks with sequins and glitter. The Minister's silver mask was singular. Neither here nor there.
"You can do as you wish, my Lord," Amycus said, addressing the man by the title he followed.
"I wish to have you with me," Minister Riddle insisted. His arm pulled him closer. His bodies were touching and the contact sent a rush of heat through Amycus' senses. The thought of being there, in the middle of a dance, with the Minister touching him like that...
"I could say to you yes to anything at this moment," Amycus confessed, letting his hand draw circles against the Minister's bare neck. His hands shook when he tried to let go.
"Why don't you, Carrow?" Marvolo asked, leaning close to him. Amycus felt his fresh breath caressing his lips. "I offer you the highest position next to mine, an honour that should go to Bellatrix Lestrange or Regulus Black, at the very least. Yet it is you I crave."
Those words had him shaking.
"I must decline, nonetheless, Minister. A life in politics is not for me."
The Minister's smile became a bizarre gesture taken from a caricature. Gone was the pleasant expression and the true nature, the madness, of Tom Riddle came to the surface.
It was surprising that the guests didn't notice his magic reacting violently to Amycus' refusal, but he didn't care for them. He wanted to be away from the man and even thought on going back to France. Maybe Germany, even.
He left Minister Riddle fuming and almost ran to where Alecto sat alone; there were a few empty glasses around her.
"We have to go," he urgently told her, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet. She stumbled, unused to walk after that quantity of alcohol in her blood.
"Is Fenrir here?" she asked with a giggle. "Tell him I said hi."
Amycus didn't want to know what had happened in his years away. Here he was, running from a Dark Lord for personal reasons. His sister, usually the stoic pureblood, was apparently drunk and thinking of a known werewolf.
It was a nightmare. Or maybe a well-orchestrated play in which everyone but Amycus had played a character.
"Carrow," Minister Riddle's voice reached him as he neared the Apparition room. He cursed the wards for not allowing Apparition anywhere else, left his sister sitting on a couch and faced his Lord.
"You are lucky I am not the same man I was before," he warned through closed teeth. His enraged magic kept circling him, threatening. "I should kill you for leaving me there. I am being kind to you, Carrow."
Amycus nodded. "And for that, I am thankful, my Lord. Yet what you ask is something I cannot give."
A couple came to the room, giggling and holding a bottle of some liquor. Amycus feared they would face the wrath of his Lord, but he was surprised again when he only commanded them to leave. Suddenly sober, they obeyed in silence. It left the three of them alone again but for the conversation at hand, Alecto didn't matter.
"You denied me of my wishes, Carrow," Minister Riddle, the Dark Lord Amycus worshipped, spoke in a low voice. He began to circle Amycus, who felt a cold sweat forming on his forehead. He was prey. "Why? I offer you everything."
Amycus didn't know what to answer. The man was offering him power and enemies, but it was not what Amycus wanted. His own wishes were arcane magic and the rush of fear in a muggle's blood whenever he played with them.
"You offer me an honour I don't want, Minister. The man I followed promised to bring the purebloods to glory, though not with wealth and prestige but with magic. I followed you because you would free us from those who would have us hiding. Yet I return from a mission you gave me to find you hosting parties instead of commanding an army to conquer Europe, as you once wanted. That is why I don't accept. You are not the man I followed."
His breathing was ragged when he stopped talking, and Minister Riddle was frozen. Only the shine in his eyes told him he was listening, angry at the result of his prodding.
"You want the Dark Lord back?" Minister Riddle asked, taking out his wand from inside his robes.
Amycus feared for his life –for Alecto's life– until he saw the Minister walk to the door and cross the aisle leading back to the ballroom. The music kept playing as the Dark Lord rampaged.
It was a beautiful sight, one that had Amycus grinning. The green and red spells from his Lord's wand were too fast for the Aurors and Unspeakables. Those like Amycus, who had followed the man even when their own interests were set aside, shrieked with laughter and joined him in the thunderstorm of endless curses streaming from his wand. Their Lord was, at last, true to his promises.
The music faded. The quartet laid dead, embracing their instruments. Amycus had known that last song too.
Step to the dance of hope
Of courtly wiles and pleasure
As the star of the morn
Shines brightly for the king