Summary: A silver thread of thought fell into Ginny Weasley's palm. She was the only one alive who knew Tom Riddle's memories well enough to summon them in Portkey form. Voldemort didn't count...not being truly alive, he could not be killed, and neither could a memory.
My thanks to Betsy, my magnanimous beta-reader, without whom I would have never called anyone an extreme Machiavellian sadist and whose anal- retentive analysis made this a better story.
Added note of explanation to Sacred Magyck and any one else who noticed what he noticed: Please see authors note at end of chapter for explanation of Hogwarts, a History detail.
The Hourglass Mirage
Chapter One: Resolution
She was walking in the moonlight-dripped darkness next to the shadowy curtain of the Forbidden Forest, feeling very Slytherin in the frosty night. She had blackmailed her brother with a piece of information that was infinitely more embarrassing to him than it would have been to any normal person, because he was Ron and apt to go as red as the envelope of a howler at the slightest inclination. Sometimes she didn't think there was much difference between a stereotypical Slytherin and Gryffindor action besides perhaps intent, the thoughts that lay beneath the words and actions. She knew that all too well, as she would in fact have been in Azkaban right now or at least expelled for the attempted murder of several of her classmates if this were not so (she was not all that sure at what age one could become legally eligible for entrance into that lovely, homey environment).
Her midnight walks soothed her, and she had enough of the Slytherin (or Gryffindor) ability to escape most of the trouble she created for herself relatively unscathed that she usually wasn't caught by anyone on the way out. It was a talent that she had inherited her fair share of from her father, even though everyone usually assumed that her brothers had gotten most of it. Sometimes she wasn't just the friendly, usually well-behaved child most of her teachers and everybody else who didn't know her well enough usually assumed she was, except for perhaps Dumbledore.
She came off as more tactful and kind than Ron because she was better at thinking first before she blurted out everything that was on the tip of her tongue (then again this wasn't saying much, as almost anyone was better than Ron at not being such a diarrhea mouth, even the twins). And she was a bit better behaved than the twins, usually not doing that much against the school rules unless it was something that was important, like helping Harry in the Department of Mysteries last year. The fact that she wasn't quite as impulsive as her male siblings didn't keep her from doing something when she really set her mind to it, and here she was, about to enter the forbidden forest alone and of her free will for the first time, and Ron was hiding in his dormitory like the little baby her big brother could sometimes be, his face and especially his ears the color of his fire engine Quidditch robes.
She had to face this fear. She had become impatient with the constant distraction it presented her, the memory of this place as she had experienced it while under...his...influence. She had thought she had hidden those memories of his beneath layers upon layers of the good memories she had accumulated since that infamous first year of hers, buried them— dead or alive, she didn't care—deep beneath all the good things she had created for herself in her life that he would never become or experience. But ever since he had returned, the real him, not the tangled and intruding foreign thoughts that had stirred within her mind as they slowly took the place of hers, or the phantom with turquoise eyes that had appeared to her in the days right before he had taken her into the chamber—a memory of the human appearance he could have chosen to keep—she had not been able to keep him out of her mind.
It was not all of him, however, but one memory in particular that he had given her of this place that marked her like a brand that had been burned into her with his wand like cattle were marked with iron and fire. It was her Dark Mark, except it was in her mind, a single memory from her past and nothing more; it was not physical. Any mark he had left on her existed by a trick of her perception alone, and she was going to face it tonight in the place he had taken her four years ago, so she would never feel this helpless again, not even if she were to encounter Voldemort himself.
She suddenly veered from the safety of the Hogwarts grounds and into the watchful trees, her anger once again bubbling to the surface, giving her renewed resolve to carry out what she had come here to do. Her memory was in control, however, and it guided her to do the ritual in a way that was yet to be discovered by the rest of the community that would wish to know; she had been the only one with which he had shared his secret. Her mind recalled on a not-quite conscious level of thought the directions she had to twist, turn and zigzag her way along the green, easily trampled infant plants on the forest floor. Her precise, deliberately plodded path would have appeared nonsensical to anyone watching her, though it had it's purpose and she knew exactly where she was going and the number of steps of each detour she needed to take. If things like paths could ever be correctly described as eccentric, the path she was taking through the attentive forest and it's creatures definitely was that, and she suddenly halted her seemingly drunken, yet curiously calculated zigzagging after she finished counting her steps at the number that was important in the ancient runes she was tracing with her feet while doing this ritual: two hundred and twelve.
She found herself standing at the perimeter of a flat, elliptical clearing, nearly one hundred meters in diameter and surrounded by twisted and dying old growth trees thick enough to be older or just as old as the Hogwarts castle. They surrounded the moonlit sway of damp fingers of indigo grass in the biting fall wind, growing in a manner that eerily resemble gnarled hands reaching up into the sky as far as they could in order to be in the best position to embezzle the stars.
She started to trace an ellipse along the outside of the clearing, shadowing the steps she had already taken with her dainty, grass-stained child's feet on the chilly night before Halloween in her first year, when he had forced her to take his memory to this secret place. This was one thing he had made sure she had been fully conscious for, though she did not know why. He must have had some purpose other than sadism, because though it often didn't seem as though he did have other reasons to do the things he did to the untrained eye, she knew him better than to be fooled into thinking that his motives were ever that simple. Sure, his pleasure at other people's pain was a perversity that always colored his reason to a certain extent, but it had never been his only reason for doing anything, not even taking revenge on his own father.
She would have to contemplate his reasoning later, if she even needed to anymore; he would not answer her where he was now, and it was useless contemplating something that could not truly be known. She struggled not to lose count of her footsteps despite her momentary digression of concentration. If she did, the pattern of ancient runes she had been tracing with her steps would be lost, and the vast quantities of magic required for the ritual would ferment within her blood like a poison, unused and harmful. She would be forced to start over at the next half waning moon, too exhausted and sick to try the ritual again tonight. The normal spells she learned in class almost never had such side-effects, but nearly every one of his rituals that he had...required her assistance in whether she had wanted to give it or not...were exhausting if not deadly if they weren't gotten right on the first try or were interrupted at the wrong moment.
There was a sudden shift in the air's current too subtle to be called a breeze; it was winding through the air and making it's way through her hair in a not quite physical manner, it's movement not so much a movement as an added heaviness in the air around her that was increasing with such remarkable exponentiality that she thought it was a miracle she wasn't crushed by her own magic. At last she reached the destination of her spiraling footpath, setting her left foot down soundlessly in the center of the ellipse at the one hundred and sixty sixth step. A shiny bit of silver thread appeared out of somewhere invisible to her and dropped into her palm, the silky substance rubbing against her coarse, calloused fingertips, which were still tinted with the green leaves and the sticky sap of the less than friendly inhabitants of greenhouse three from her Herbology class today. This strand was special even for what it was, for this one was only there for those who knew how to look for it, and there were only two who knew his thoughts well enough to be able to summon them in Portkey form with this ritual.
She looked down at the—was it a silver silk wind of fine yarn, or a piece of Dumbledore's hair—she couldn't say which it resembled more—in the detached fascination and intoxicating terror of someone who has just recognized the first signs of a horrific, yet oddly enthralling scientific discovery. She wasn't sure what effect it was going to have on her to see that odd place he had taken her again, once the timed Portkey took effect. She hoped his...original incarnation hadn't thought to take sanctuary there again. She doubted that he would want anything to do with the place now. What he stood for was now a distended caricature of the normal scale extremity of belief was usually measured by, which his beliefs still had been within even when he had murdered Myrtle at sixteen.
She felt a sudden tug behind her navel and was not anywhere for a moment but in between, she could suppose, until she felt her feet re-root themselves in reality, and she was deposited onto the hard wood floor. She looked around. It was dustier than she remembered it, though not in some spots. The near invisible, delicate red hairs on the back of her neck and on her arms stood on end like feelers as if the air was highly charged with an excess of electricity, like it would have been before a lightening storm.
A pair of piercing turquoise eyes looked at her and into her in cold fascination as she struggled to gain her footing.
"I was wondering when you would show up," his seemingly eternally cold voice spoke softly and was laced with an eerie tenderness. He lifted his wand and pointed it at her before she could get her balance.
"Protego!" she got off just on time, trying to concentrate despite the emotions and memories colliding in her mind that were shattering her concentration into useless fragments. Her thoughts were in disarray for a second before she could even try to pull herself together enough to concentrate on her own survival.
She merely jumped out of the way as a second stunning spell singed hair and a layer of skin off her forearm. The red beam of light that was his spell had missed her, and the burn she had acquired was from being within two feet of his spell, which was giving off an amount of heat that was very unusual for a mere stunning spell. She was sure normal stunning spells were not supposed to act like curses under any circumstances, they were just supposed to stun you, but then again neither he nor his spells could have ever been classified as normal. Even the non Dark Arts spells that he cast were a little more destructive than they were originally created to be, because he was used to casting more predatory spells. The preferred concentration in his magical studies bled through into even the most harmless spells he cast when he had no reason to exhibit the self-control he needed to deceive anyone about what type of wizard he was.
"Ginny, I have to admit, I never thought you had the potential to become quite this proficient at—"
"Protego! –dueling. Stupefy!"
She jumped out of the way again as he reflected his spell back to her, not bothering to shield, the impact of the spell setting fire to the bookshelf behind her.
"Very funny, Tom, you would have made me give the diary to someone else if I hadn't had at least some—'
"Protego! —potential. You aren't trying to kill me, Tom? You're loosing some of that ever appealing homicidal charm you usually possess."
"You don't need to know my reasons—what was that? Did you feel it? The shift of magic—" Tom froze in a way that reminded her of a carnivore that had sensed another predator stalking his prey.
"Stop trying to distract me, you sneaky git, I didn't feel any—"
"Foolish girl, be quiet and listen—" he hissed.
"Don't think you can order me around after attacking—"
"Silencio!" --me, she mouthed. Not to mention feeding on my soul and happiness like a dementor in my first year, she thought venomously, while raising her wand to fend off any more spells that he might attempt to incapacitate her with. Then she realized that any shield charms she might try to block his spells with were likely to be drastically weakened because she was mute.
Maybe I can do a Finite spell silently in order to cancel his silencing charm, she thought desperately. In the meantime I'll just have to dodge whatever he throws at me. That will have to be enough to hold him off. I will not let him control me again.
"You never could stop blathering, Ginevra. Sharing your innermost secrets with someone you hardly knew is what got you ensnared in my diary so quickly and fully, and now your babbling has cost you this duel, and more," he said, letting out a high cold laugh that froze her where she was as it conjured up an image of the unnatural perversion of his human self he had become now, the remnant of the young, handsome boy in front of her who had yet to actually kill his father. It reminded her of who he would and had already become so forcefully that it made her, for the first time since seeing him again, truly afraid. A glint of amusement and perverse pleasure lit his eyes as he glimpsed her sudden fear before she could cover it up, guessing accurately at the cause of it. He laughed again.
"I am pleased to see that my older self, at least, conjures up such delectable terror in you, when I cannot. Very strange, since I am the one who almost succeeded at taking your life."
She just glared at him, too incensed to speak even if she had been able to.
"Seeing as you are mute for the first time in your life and can do nothing to resist, I am going to take your wand. You will come with me to check for intruders without struggling, or suffer the pain your Harry has suffered on the occasions he met my older self," he said, lifting his wand to do the Expelliarmus spell. Ginny tensed, preparing to dodge.
A floorboard creaked ever so slightly behind her right before ten voices shouted the stupefy spell at once, shocking her out of her desperate thoughts of escape. The sixth spell shattered the halfway-formed shield charm that Tom had been able to conjure in a split seconds' notice. A combination of Hogwarts professors and ministry officials surrounded the unconscious boy, and a furious looking Mr. Weasley approached his daughter, now trembling with the sudden departure of the adrenaline and anger that had sustained her throughout her duel with her former—acquaintance. She looked white and exhausted, and now that what had just happened was fully sinking in, like she was going into shock. Suddenly he couldn't bring himself to yell at his daughter for her impulsiveness—really, he would have expected better judgment from her at least, if not from his sons, but she would get it enough from Molly as it was, and what she needed was comforting right now. There would be time to teach her the lessons that could be learned from this later.
"Ginny, sweetheart, are you OK?" OK, stupid question, Arthur. "What happened?"
"Dad, I'm so sorry, I just wanted to confront my f-fear of this place—he took me here once and ever since he came back I have been having nightmares about it just like the summer after first year--but h-he was here! Why was he here?" She hated how she sounded like a little girl again, how he made her feel that way again.
"I don't know, honey, Dumbledore is going to give him Veritaserum as soon as the Aurors get him to the Headmasters' office."
"But dad, he isn't V-you-know-who, he's Tom, I—"
"Ginny, they're one in the same. You know that. I thought that we...in your first year...Ginny, they're the same."
"I know! That's not what I meant. I know Tom and you-know-who are the same people! How could you think I'd still be that foolish—"
"I'm sorry, Ginny! I shouldn't have doubted you. I was just--"
"I know. You were just concerned. I—I'm sorry for snapping at you. I'm just so upset."
"It's OK, Ginny—"
"But—what I was trying to say, Dad, is...I don't know quite how to say this without the risk of you thinking I'm completely insane, but Dad, this Tom isn't the you-know-who that we have been fighting for the past two years."
"What do you mean?"
"I could feel him before I saw him."
"How else do you explain it? He's the one from the diary. Voldemort may—"
"Ginny! Don't say his name!"
"He took control of my mind! He was trying to drain my life to sustain his own, and not just by stealing whatever makes us alive and infusing it into his memory, but by sucking out my soul and my happy memories just like a dementor would! What do I have to fear from him after that? Death in the traditional way, even by Cruciatus curse is preferable to being used like that, no matter who you are. It's what Azkaban does to you; it's what Tom was trying to do to me! All the while he was in my mind, I experienced every thought and emotion with which he tried to justify killing me! I have seen all of him; I have nothing left to fear! So why the hell shouldn't I say his name? It's not even his real name; it's an anagram, one of the only steps he was able to take while he was in school to transcend the supposed weakness of being human. Pathetic. Besides, Harry and Dumbledore say it, and you don't correct them."
"Ginny! Calm down...I'm sorry. I had no idea."
"Of course you didn't," she said in a somewhat less hysterical, yet bitter tone that had an almost resigned ring to it that scared him, "There is no way you could have known, as I didn't share every detail of this with you, or even with Mum. How do you tell somebody something like that? How is it even possible to share it?"
"Despite the near impossibility of doing so, I wish you would have. No one should have to go through that alone."
"I know; I'm sorry, I just didn't know how."
There was silence as they both let the shock of what had just transpired between them settle into their understanding of each other. There was a sudden uncomfortable closeness yet painful unfamiliarity between them, which divided them and made them feel uncomfortable around each other, yet bound them together in an understanding greater than they had ever shared. Neither knew what to say for a moment, but finally Ginny found the courage to voice her theory on the mystery of Tom Riddle's return, that in the past few minutes since her discovery of his continued existence she had haphazardly started piecing together.
"Voldemort..."she began tentatively, looking cautiously up at her father, who she noted in surprise barely flinched at hearing the name this time, let alone gave her a sign that he would reprimand her for saying it, "Voldemort may be immortal, but he wouldn't have been able to restore his youth that fully unless he created a new variation of the elixir of life. He didn't even know how to create the original, or else he wouldn't have had to use dark magic to gain his immortality. He also wouldn't have had to try and steal Nicholas Flamel's Philosophers' Stone, though if it were that alone it might have just been that he didn't have a body with which to try and create his own. So it must be the Tom Riddle from the diary. Tom Riddle was not as brilliant at anything as he was at Dark Magic, though he was a brilliant student all around, and alchemy—when pertaining to metal and not flesh, that is—was not among the strongest of his many talents."
"But Dumbledore said that the diary was destroyed when Harry skewered it with the Basilisk's fang."
"I know. But it's the only explanation I can think of. And if anyone could figure out how to repair that diary enough to bring his sixteen-year- old self out of it, it would be Voldemort. He did, after all, create it."
"But how could he even have the diary? Unless he stole it from Dumbledore, which I would have to say would be near impossible—"
"Well, Dad, now don't be angry, but he might have gotten it back—"
"WHAT? What do you mean he might—"
"Dumbledore gave it back to Harry, who gave it to Lucius Malfoy in order to trick him into setting Dobby free," she said in a garbled rush.
"Dad, he believed it to be dead and completely useless, and he put it in his sock in order to trick Lucius into throwing the sock to Dobby.
Another example of how intents and choices are often the only things that separate a Slytherin style of thinking from a Gryffindor one, she thought.
"It's how Dobby got his freedom. There was no reason for him to believe that there was anything left that could be dangerous in the diary, as Dumbledore gave him his permission to give the Diary back to Malfoy."
"Dumbledore," Mr. Weasley spoke the headmasters name in a rage-laced tone. His face was becoming red and he was starting to swell in anger, strangely reminding Ginny of her mother when she was angry.
Maybe people started to look like each other when they'd lived with each other too long, she mused.
Her father got angry much less frequently than her Mum did, but when he did, it was for more significant things. Her mum, though more high strung and likely to snap at random people in order to vent her anger in general, expressed her anger in different situations and usually for less serious reasons than her father did, though more frequently. It was rare for her dad to become truly angry, but when he was, it was usually a good idea to stay out of his way. Nonetheless, she had to say something, so he didn't try to...duke it out with Dumbledore, or something stupid like that.
"Dad, he couldn't have known, he doesn't have enough knowledge of the Dark Arts to—" "He's Dumbledore. He had to have known."
"You can't just assume that!"
"He is just a man."
"And you haven't been alive long enough to have actually witnessed what a cunning man your Headmaster actually is."
"He knew. He had to have known. When it comes to knowing this type of thing about—about L-Lord V-Voldemort, though he cannot always predict his actions, he knows how his mind works, and he had to have had a reason for letting Harry give that diary back to Lucius Malfoy. I'll kill him. He could have killed you."
"Voldemort can't kill him, and don't talk about killing that casually when we are in the middle of a war! Dumbledore can't know everything! You are thinking like Moody!"
"I am not going to kill him, but he and I are going to have a little chat. Ginny, take this Portkey to the Hogwarts infirmary. I'll meet you there in a little while. I am going to Apparate directly to his office."
"But I don't want to go to the Infirmary. I want to go with you—"
"I need to know what is going to happen to Tom and what you are planning to say to Dumbledore and how you followed my Portkey here—"
"All you need to know is how lucky you were that we did—"
"Well of course I—"
"I will meet you in the infirmary, and tell you how we followed you and anything else later. Take. The. Portkey."
"Fine!" she snarled, frustrated that her father, who usually had the common sense to know it was better to tell his children important information than leave them to make less well informed decisions without it, didn't understand how much she needed to know what was going on right now, or at least how much she didn't want to be alone.
He sighed, looking into her accusing bright brown eyes as they faded into the rubble-strewn background of the dusty cabin that was decorated with a strange assortment of mundane muggle and esoteric wizarding inventions, some of which he recognized, some of which he wished he didn't.Authors Note:
I am such a nerd that I have probably read, Hogwarts, a History, as many times as Hermione has (lol). Poor Arthur, however, is too flustered to be thinking straight at the end of this chapter, and so will forget that no one can Apparate inside the Hogwarts grounds—which he has known since he was a little boy—until he tries (ouch). Sorry if I confused some people with that last part. The inability to clarify things like that right away is one of the disadvantages of not having a story completely done before it is posted. As I did not have chapter two completed when I first posted chapter one, nor do I now (or I would have posted that chapter along with this extra note), I was not able to explain the reason behind Arthur's slip of memory in a prompt manner without ruining the flow of the story. I decided to add this authors' note, however, as I realized belatedly that not giving a proper explanation might detract from the perceived quality of the story.