Author's Notes: Oh, goodness, I never dreamed I would receive such a response to this story from all of you readers and reviewers! LovinLovegood1, The Enchanted Teakettle, moonlights desire, Wren, forceuser1456, All-American Vampire, KrazieChickadee, Larken27, GoodQueenA, twighunter, blueforest, ChuckTheGingy, Nimbus B, Firithnovwen, LavenderBrown77, Kiki, Nosilla, Kurleyhawk2, and stellaris, many, many thanks.
For the Americans, a Leaver's Ball is the traditional graduation/end of school dance. I don't know if Hogwarts has one, but I'm pretending they do.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in the Harry Potter universe; JK Rowling does.
Recap of Chapter 23:
'Get some rest, now,' Tom helped her inside the portrait-hole. 'Goodnight, darling.'
Honora blinked. He had never called her 'darling' before. 'Goodnight,' she whispered back, and leaned over to give him a light, tender kiss on the cheek.
The last thing she saw as the door closed was Tom's face, his eyes alight, a tiny but significant smile playing across his lips.
Tom Riddle's Diary
Back in her Head Girl bedroom, Honora's head swam, and she felt suddenly incapable of taking it all in. She had been followed, trapped, brutally attacked…then Tom Riddle had shown up…then she had taken her revenge.
Oh, yes. Revenge. Honora could not deny for an instant the thrill she had felt, cursing the Death Eaters, the deep welling of power-lust from successfully using the Imperius Curse. On her first try, even! She felt sick at herself, for her own reaction. Sure, she had only asked Lestrange to apologise, but she could have done so much worse. In the warm night-time shadows of her bedroom, Honora was scared of herself. She felt tainted, unclean, guilty, regretful that her first reaction to a life-and-death situation had been to attack. Her most ardent wish was to remove the sour aftertaste of the Unforgivable Curse she had used, wash the violence from her hands. Yet, she could not.
Just hold on to the light, she instructed herself, yet again. Light up your mind, light, light. She tried to visualise the white core of the universe, the perfect Love she had experienced when she died, briefly, on her way back through time. She could not deny the dark side of her, but she fiercely refused to let it take hold, pushing it back with effort. She was a Weasley, damn it, and she wanted her life to be ruled by love, and happiness. Inspired, she took out her newly-returned gold locket and opened it. Waves of relief went through her, seeing her beloved grandmother's face, smiling up at her…her ancestors, all behind her.
Her situation was not yet resolved, but very soon she would do what she needed to do. If Tom Riddle wanted to stay as Lord Voldemort, she would kill him. She had proved to herself that very night her own capability in using the Unforgivables. It would be difficult, near impossible; but looking at her family tree, for the first time Honora felt confident in her own strength.
And then she remembered that Tom Riddle had forgiven her, and had rescued her from a fate worse than death, no less. They were reconciled.
Honora hugged the knowledge to herself, but a sharp fragment of doubt crept its way in despite her efforts to be optimistic. What if Tom had lied to her? He had acted very strangely that night; he had been unsurprised at the situation, using words like 'darling' that he never had before. What if he had not forgiven her after all? Perhaps it was the end-play of some sort of game, a revenge, or even her own recruitment to the Dark side. Maybe he had turned love into hate, trust into manipulation. She had to consider the possibility that Riddle set up the entire thing as a test of her strength. To see if she could be turned.
I will reserve judgment, she thought. I will wait, and watch, and never let my guard down until I have proof of his love, a reason to trust. Tom Riddle is not out of the woods yet. Nodding to herself resolutely, Honora felt more prepared than she had ever been. She would wait for him to show his intentions, and when he did, she would be ready. Her eyes were open, her senses alert, and her moral vigour restored. Honora fell asleep easily after that, anticipating the decisions the next days would bring, mentally preparing herself for forgiveness or murder.
She waited two days, two very long days in which the hours and minutes ticked by, leading to their inevitable conclusion. She had to work to keep her anxiety in check in the interim. Then, one evening Tom found Honora outside the Great Hall after dinner. He appeared before her, a set expression on his face, and pulled her by the arm off to the side of the corridor.
'Let's take a walk,' he said, dark eyes full of some mysterious meaning.
Honora simply nodded. Once again, she had absolutely no idea what to expect from him.
They stepped outside the front doors together. The sun was setting, backlighting the scattered clouds with peach and gold. The air was pleasantly warm, the smell of Scottish daffodils floating across the breeze. So romantic, yet Honora never felt quite romantic with Tom Riddle. It was more like an encircling, irresistible darkness; warm and dangerous like a snake sunning itself on a rock.
His fingers intertwined with hers as they headed down toward the lake. Other student couples were drifted about the grass, laughing or talking or snogging. Honora felt removed from them. They were simply young people enjoying an early summer's evening. She and Tom were different creatures altogether.
Honora could feel a certain electricity in the air, glancing up at Tom's face. His fine, sculpted features were composed, but she thought his indigo eyes glittered with some inner secret. She wondered briefly if tonight he was going to try to recruit her to the Death Eaters, ask her to be his Lady Voldemort. The thought made her shiver; with fear or pleasure she could not tell.
Unconsciously Honora gripped her wand under her robes. Her fingers rubbed its smooth wood surface, reassuring and calming her, like a rosary.
Tom remained quiet as they reached the lake and walked along one curving shore away from the castle. The water reflected silver and pink from the sky, lighting up Tom's face from beneath. Each passing moment got heavier, and she wondered if he felt it, too. Her instincts told her this was it, after this night she would know what to do about Tom Riddle. Tonight she would stand or die or kill.
They reached a large, flat rock that jutted out slightly over the water. Tom climbed up onto it, holding his hand to Honora in meaningful silence and helping her up. They were around a bend in the shore and the spires of Hogwarts castle were barely visible over the trees. Not another soul was in sight. Tom lowered himself down to sit on the rock, his feet dangling over the edge. Gesturing for Honora to do the same, he gazed across the water for a moment before turning to her.
'I want to ask you something,' he said, voice low and cool.
'Anything,' Honora said, unable to keep her breathlessness hidden.
Tom looked at her intently, his eyes in shadow. 'You are going through the Curse-breaker training, yes?'
Honora nodded in affirmation. 'Yes, well, if I pass the interview, which I might not—'
'You will,' Tom said dismissively. 'And afterwards, you will become a Curse-breaker for Gringotts.'
'Then I want to ask you something,' he repeated.
'Go ahead, Tom.'
'Will you come with me? When I go to Egypt, to search for the hidden chamber of Trismegistus?'
'I—well, I suppose…' They had talked about this before, but Honora did not want to commit until she knew exactly what Tom meant. She kept waiting for his inner malice to reach out and snatch her, and even now she did not feel safe with him.
'After I leave here, I'm going to travel, and learn, and take the steps to understand the Hermetic principles. To use them. And when I do, I want you with me.' Tom's face held a sudden urgency, a need to hear her say yes.
Honora reached out to place her hand on his cheek. He leaned into her slightly, closing his eyes. It reminded Honora of a small child, trusting himself to a loved one. She felt something inside of her burst open. 'Why do you want to do this, Tom? Is it for immortality, for power?'
His eyes flickered open. 'No,' he breathed, almost unsure of himself. 'It – it's something else.'
'I don't want to be some horrible monster to you,' he said. He looked away, his habit of secrecy struggling against honesty. 'I didn't know what to do. When I found out your purpose here, and my own future as -- as Lord Voldemort, it opened up something inside me, I can't even describe it – it was like being forced to look into a mirror. I didn't like what I saw,' he said dully. His left fist clenched and unclenched with nervous energy.
'I had no idea my ambitions could go so far awry. That's not what I want! I thought, what's the point in ruling the world, if I destroyed it in the process? There must be a better way, a cleaner way.' He dragged his eyes over to meet Honora's. 'I can't promise to change my goals, but I will change the way I'm going to do it. I can't be angry with you. You were just doing what you had to, in desperation.
'I'm sorry it took me a few weeks, to get over it, but I know one thing for sure.' He inhaled deeply, torment breaking through to make his breath uneven. 'It doesn't fit together, the piece of me that wants to be Lord Voldemort, and the piece of me that wants to be with you. And you, Honora, are more important to me.'
'I am?' Honora asked. 'Do you mean it? You really feel that way about me?' The potential horror of Lord Voldemort, the monster with a shattered soul of seven pieces, started to fade from her mind. A lump formed in her throat.
Tom opened his mouth, as if to speak, and closed it again. He sat up straighter. His eyes burned now, dark and ferocious. 'I love you, Honora,' he blurted.
Honora's eyes widened. He had admitted it; genuine feeling flooded his features, reassuring in their clarity. There was nothing for her to say, except… 'I love you, too.'
'You do?' Tom's eyebrows knitted together, as though he feared she might be lying to him.
'Of course I do. In spite of myself, really – you have to admit you're a little frightening, Tom – but I do. I love you.' Honora felt tears pricking annoyingly at her eyes. She was starting to feel mushy. 'And I promise I'll be here for you, always.'
Tom exhaled slowly; he had been holding his breath. 'You're the one…' he began. 'You're the reason why – if it weren't for you, I would not have known what the Hermetic mystics were talking about, the power of – of love,' he finished his sentence in the manner of some inner fear being overcome. 'Of course, I still want to rule the world,' his mouth quirked into a half-smile, 'but I want to do this the right way. I want to love you. As long as you're with me, it won't be weakness, but strength.'
Honora cracked apart, listening to him, knowing she was the cause of this. Her head lurched with the implications. As long as she was always there to keep Tom Riddle's darkness in check, to show him the light when he lost his way, perhaps it would work after all.
'Together we will do great things, Tom,' Honora said. 'And I'll be by your side, if you want me to be.'
'There's something I want you to have.' Tom reached into his discarded outer robes and pulled out a flat object, presenting it to her.
It was a small black book, with the letters 'T.M. Riddle' printed on it. Honora drew in a sharp breath. It was his diary, the thing he would have made into a Horcrux…'What's this?'
'It's my diary,' he explained. 'I want you to have it, because it contains my memories and lately, a lot of my thoughts on my research with the Kybalion, and some other things too.'
Honora narrowed her eyes slightly at him. 'What do you mean, it contains your memories?' The fingers of her right hand brushed the handle of her wand slightly, again.
'I charmed it, when I was sixteen, to show memories of significant events. Like a Pensieve. It can't really be interacted with, but I was just experimenting. I –' Tom paused with internal debate, 'I thought about doing something else with it, but I want you to keep it instead.'
Letting out her breath in a whoosh, Honora felt a warm sense of relief trickle over her. So he hadn't made it into a Horcrux, after all. Just a container of memories, like any diary. Slowly she opened the cover and flicked through the pages. They were covered with Tom's tiny, neat handwriting; occasional sketches or diagrams dotted the margins. On a few pages it was like looking inside a wizard's photograph, and Honora understood that those were saved memories.
She felt a hot clutch at her heart when she came across a little sketch in one of the margins of a girl, with light eyes and high cheekbones…a drawing of her. It was next to a very interesting passage on using ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as a primer for uncovering Hermetic messages. Another part of her mind marvelled again at his multiple talents; there was nothing the man could not do, it seemed.
Closing the diary, setting it down, Honora moved closer to Tom. 'Thank you,' she whispered. It was the proof she had needed in her heart. Perhaps Tom Riddle would never love anyone else; perhaps he would still seek power and greatness; perhaps he would always have that turmoil of darkness inside of him. The difference was that now he loved Honora, and whatever he did, she would be there with him.
It was enough. Finally, she could trust him.
Honora felt her own darkness surround her as she closed her eyes, as his lips crashed down onto hers, seeking and finding. She laid back on the rock, Tom pressing down on top of her, pinning her with a hard, urgent need. He turned her head with his long fingers, nipping gently at her earlobe, eliciting a soft moan from Honora's lips. Then he kissed her mouth again, his hands circling her waist.
In retaliation, she ran her fingers up through his hair, her nails skimming softly through its inky blackness.
They went like that until the golden twilight faded to dark, the sky swiftly turning into a sea of stars. A chill descended, but neither Tom nor Honora noticed it. They were wrapped up in each other, worshipping their own selves.
Finally Honora breathed into his ear, 'We should be getting back.'
He agreed, reluctantly helping her up and off the rock. They walked hand in hand back to the castle, bidding goodnight in the front hall.
'Will you come with me to the Leaver's Ball?' Tom asked her.
'Of course,' Honora said. So he wanted to make it official. Let's just watch the whole school part like the Red Sea for us.
'Good. Dream well, Honora,' Tom smiled knowingly at her.
'And you,' she replied with a lift of her eyebrow.
Honora clutched Tom's diary to her chest that night as she slept.
Finally free to gossip about her situation, she breathlessly updated Kay and Damaris. 'We're going to the Leaver's Ball together,' she said.
'I knew it! I knew it ever since that dance you two had at the Salvation Ball last year!' Damaris squeaked.
'Oh, you couldn't have!' Kay protested to Damaris. 'Honora hated him until this year, didn't you, Honora?'
'Yes, yes I did.' Honora smiled. 'But that love-hate thing really adds the spice, you know?'
Kay blushed, and Damaris winked.
'So have you kissed him?' Kay asked.
'Obviously,' Honora said.
'Is he good?' Damaris continued the interrogation. 'How far have you gone?'
This time Honora blushed. 'Let's just say I have every reason to be happy.'
Kay gasped at her. 'You haven't – you know –'
'Oh! No, not that,' Honora said. 'But some things you can just tell.' She cleared her throat, embarrassed.
'Well, as you know, Lawrence and I are getting married on the fifteenth of July,' Damaris said. 'And I'm sure everything will be smashing.'
'Smashing what? China? The bed frame?' Honora said. She and Kay snickered.
'Both,' Damaris replied demurely. 'And I'm putting the two of you in blue bridesmaid's dresses.'
'Better than chartreuse, like my cousin Ruth's wedding was,' Kay nodded.
The girls chattered away happily, the last days of Hogwarts rolling by so fast they could not quite comprehend it. Damaris would be getting married straight after graduation, and start having children with Lawrence, while he would be playing Quidditch for the Wimbourne Wasps.
Kay had not decided her post-graduation plans; however, she had mentioned to Honora that she had a business idea for a wizarding travel agency. 'Like the Muggle variety, except for magical holidays,' Kay had explained. Honora thought it sounded like a good idea.
Their NEWT examinations were disposed of with success. Honora was relieved that there were no more 'duelling' practicals for Defence Against the Dark Arts, especially since by now Tom Riddle knew all her tricks, but she suspected he knew a lot of spells she did not.
Then, the Friday night before graduation, the Leaver's Ball was held.
Tom came to collect her an hour earlier than he was supposed to, so Honora had to let him sit in her room and watch her put on perfume and makeup and jewellery. Honora decided that she liked him to watch her. Amusement and possession flashed in his dark eyes, as she flitted around her room getting ready.
Honora's dress was a dramatic midnight black sheath of thin satin. It had wrist-length sleeves and a portrait neckline, but clung to Honora like a second skin. It fish-tailed out at the bottom, creating a small train. For all its coverage the dress seemed immodest. She wore her strand of very innocent white pearls around her neck. Tom came up behind her to help with the clasp, causing Honora to feel a little dizzy with his presence. As usual, he looked unfairly dashing in dress robes.
As the clock tolled eight-fifteen, Tom and Honora swept into the Great Hall. A great hush descended over the students as they walked in. Both in black, proud and powerful and dark in some indefinable way, the Head Boy and Head Girl cut a swathe through the crowd. The students were only silent for a second, however, when the fierce whisper of gossip began. Bits of conversation reached Honora's ears, as she and Tom made their way to greet Headmaster Dippet.
'Are they together?' 'Look at her dress, it's indecent!' 'How can it be indecent, it doesn't show anything, but I know what you mean…' 'I would kill to be Honora Crowley.' 'That Tom Riddle sure knows how to pick them.'
Honora smiled with ruby-stained lips as the crowd parted for them. Yep, just like the Red Sea, she thought with satisfaction. She and Tom each shook Dippet's hand, then prepared to lead the first dance as the school Heads.
Behind them were Lawrence and Damaris. Damaris stepped forward, embracing Honora with an excited sound.
'Look at the both of you! You two look disgustingly good together,' Damaris announced. Lawrence approached and put his hand on Damaris's elbow. 'Riddle,' he said to Tom in greeting.
'Carter,' Tom nodded at him.
'And Honora, you look lovely, as usual,' Lawrence said.
'Thanks!' Honora grinned at her friends. The band started a waltz and the centre of the Great Hall cleared. 'I think we have to lead the waltz now,' she said. 'Join us in a minute!'
Tom grabbed her around the waist and led Honora out onto the dance floor, black on black, in a sea of otherwise colourful summer dresses. He held her tightly and ably, manoeuvring her in between the other couples who now started dancing. Honora gazed up into Tom's classically handsome face as they danced, with the strange impression that she was melting under his gaze.
She did not dance with anyone else all night.
'We will be the Immortals, Honora,' Tom whispered down into her ear, his breath tickling her.
It lit a flame inside.
Toward the end of the evening, they drifted outside to the blooming rose garden, its sweet perfume cloying through the air. Honora barely noticed the beauty of the night; she only had eyes for Tom Riddle. They stood on the terrace, looking out over the lake and the grounds at Hogwarts, shadow figures with glimmering eyes. A crescent moon hung suspended above them.
'So, if you're from the future,' Tom began, 'do you know who wins the next Quidditch World Cup? I set a bet with that fifth-year, Alphard Black, that Australia takes it.'
Honora laughed. 'No, I don't know who wins!' She turned slightly to look up into his face. 'Besides, I think that my future, where I come from, has been completely changed from what would have happened. I don't know what's coming any more than you do.'
'I think the future changed a long time ago,' Tom said. 'I'm not the same, for having met you.'
Honora's heart soared at his words, and she leaned in to him closer, afraid her spirits might carry her away. 'Since when?' she asked.
She felt Tom's smile in the darkness. 'That day, in Diagon Alley, last summer. When you dragged me off to have ice cream…and we talked, and it was nothing really. It was everything to me. It was then that I – that I must have fallen in love with you.'
To mask her utter surprise, Honora turned around and, on her tiptoes, she kissed him. 'Well,' she continued, 'I was interested to hear your work on alchemy that day. I could hardly disguise it!'
Tom laughed. 'I know. I was thinking, perhaps after your interview, you might come to visit me, at Flamel's workshop. I know that Nicolas and Perenelle would love to meet you. They like odd people.'
'Hey!' Honora laughed. 'That must explain why you get on with them, then.'
'It must,' Tom smiled.
'You will do great things, Tom Riddle.' She rested her head on his chest.
'No, we will do great things,' Tom corrected. 'For people like us, Honora, there are no limits.'
He took her hand and stared out into the night.
A/N: Finis, the End, etc. Hope you loved it, as much as I enjoyed writing it all down from that crazy place in my head from which words flow!
The sequel to this story is completed and posted: 'Kundalini Rising,' the ongoing tale of Tom Riddle and Honora Crowley.