... et facta est lux.
By Autumn Faery
"So carry your candle, run to the darkness, seek out the hopeless, confused, and torn." -- Kathy Troccoli
AN: The character Tom Riddle (not quite the same as Voldemort) has always deeply intrigued me. I think he really is one of the most tragic figures in the series. And aside from such a sad background, he does really incites fascination with all that brilliance and genius, accentuated by uncommonly good looks.
Then, there's dear Minerva McGonagall, another favorite character of mine. Don't you just love how snappy and savvy she can be? I love how she could be quite funny even while upholding her stern demeanor. Strict but fair, firm yet compassionate … it's just too cool how she can summon the respect and attentiveness of her students without even trying. Professor of Transfiguration and deputy headmistress, it's obvious that she's one of the most brilliant witches of her age.
So one day, in one of my harry-potter-obsessive states, it hit me that Minerva, with the well-known exception of Hagrid, is perhaps the only major character that had been a contemporary of Tom during Hogwarts. My mind immediately asked questions such as "how well did they know each other?" "Was she head girl, and he head boy?" "Both brilliant in magic, were they rivals?" And amongst them came the what-ifs: "Tom traveled down that path of evil because he never loved and was never loved—what if Minerva became the remedy for that?" "And the 1940s, a decade of notorious wars … what had been Tom and Minerva's role in the events that transpired?"
These questions persisted and bothered me so much that I knew I had to write something, be it a paragraph or a chapter or a longwinded story. Though to be frank, I really don't know what's going to happen to this fanfic, seeing that I write very sporadically and have very little time. Besides, I've so many writing projects ….
Nevertheless, I do hope you'll enjoy what I've cranked out here.
Disclaimer: If I actually owned Harry Potter, my Internet wouldn't be messed up, my house would always be warm, and I wouldn't be stressing out about getting money for Christmas shopping.
The Strange Boy on the Train
Eleven-year-old Minerva held back a wince as Aunt Hilda impatiently brushed a few wayward ringlets from her face with rough, calloused hands.
"There. Now, don't you look sharp! If only Ariadne could see you now! All grown up …" Aunt Hilda's usually stern face softened to something akin to affection. Placing a pale hand on her niece's cheek, she murmured, "Now promise me you'll take care of yourself."
Minerva smiled and nodded.
Hilda beamed with satisfaction before a stern look occupied her countenance once more. "Absolutely no rule breaking; I won't tolerate it, young lady."
Minerva nodded yet again. "No, Aunt Hilda."
Aunt Hilda pursed her lips, nodded, and then fell silent. At last, an utterly uncharacteristic tear escaping her eye, she held the young girl close to her in a stiff hug. "What is an old spinster like me going to do without you? Granted you've got your odd wills and tempers—but you're a good girl, and I'm going to be sorry to see you go."
"I'll write, Aunt Hilda. Don't you worry; the Holidays will roll around before you know it."
A sudden, shrill whistle from the Hogwarts Express alerted all of its impending departure. With reluctance, Minerva and Aunt Hilda parted. Heaving her small trunk, Minerva struggled up the train just as it slowly began to move. Her throat began to feel curiously tight as she craned her neck to catch a rapidly diminishing view of Aunt Hilda, who looked abandoned and forlorn standing all alone on the platform.
At last, when Aunt Hilda and King's Cross was no more, Minerva sucked in a breath and began her search for a compartment.
Her fruitless search revealing endless compartments full with chattering students, Minerva trudged down the train until she reached the very last compartment. A surreptitious peek told her that the occupant was but a lone boy with hauntingly dark features, graceful and lean in his seat. It seemed he had already changed into his Hogwarts robes, and on his lap was a spell book to which he was deeply engrossed.
For a split moment, young Minerva was ambivalent. She needed a compartment … but was rather reluctant to talk to a boy. After all, just last summer she had thought them to be unpleasant and infested with gnats. However, as if hurrying her decision, the Hogwarts Express gave a great lurch. Almost losing her footing, Minerva decided that she couldn't stand in the hallway forever; plastering a determined but friendly smile on her face, she slid open the compartment door.
At the unexpected noise, the dark-haired boy jumped from his seat, and with truly praise-worthy reflexes, brandished a long and slim wand.
Minerva's smile slipped and disappeared as she found herself taken aback not of the threatening way the boy was pointing his wand at her or the dark scowl marring his otherwise handsome features, but the profound complexity in this boy's eyes. His gaze had a steadiness and awareness that she had never seen in anyone else, adult or child. And in those coal-black depths, Minerva glimpsed chilling intelligence and calculating ruthlessness. Yet at the same time, those same pair of eyes betrayed great sadness, sorrow that no eleven-year-old ought to bear.
"Hello there," Minerva greeted rather dryly after a long pause. "Aren't you nice and friendly. This is quite hopeless, but…" This time taking great efforts to re-summon her lost smile, she extended her hand, and said, "I'm sorry for the intrusion, but everywhere else is full. You seemed rather sad and lonely, so I figured maybe it'd be nice if we shared the compartment. My name is Minerva. Minerva McGonagall. How d'you do?"
The boy coolly glanced at her outstretched hand and ignored it, choosing instead to assess her with a calculating expression. Narrowing his eyes, he murmured, "How much exactly do you know about this wizarding world?"
His rather odd question prompted Minerva to stare. Ah yes, the faint bewilderment and wild excitement in his pale, well-sculpted features, the soft graying of his second-hand school robes, the scattered open spell books… This boy was most likely an overwhelmed muggle.
She suddenly remembered her conversation with Hilda during their trip to King's Cross: "At Hogwarts," she had said, "you will meet some that are not at all like you; I daresay they're from … well, from a different world than our own. But promise me, Minerva, that you will treat them with all the respect in the world regardless of what they know and don't know."
Setting her trunk aside, Minerva decided to take a seat. Taking off her warm green wool cloak, she replied, "Oh, I've grown up in the magic world. It's the only world I know."
The boy's features suddenly smoothed. Then, in an unrecognizably polite voice, "How do you do? Name's Tom Riddle. Glad to have your company." Those dark eyes, however, now looked slightly greedy.
"So, tell me," he continued, now leaning forward with expectancy, "what's Hogwarts like?"
"I've never been there. How would I know?" she snapped, a bit bothered by the boy's versatility of demeanor. But then she added, "Aunt Hilda says there are four houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. You are sorted into your house during a ceremony immediately after you arrive. I hope I'm put in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw." Minerva went on to give Tom a basic outline and history of the houses, of which the boy listened to most politely and attentively.
"So which house do you like best?"
Tom Riddle gave her a calculating smile before replying, "Which ever produced the most powerful wizards."
That moment, a knock on the compartment door announced the arrival of the snack trolley.
"Anything for you, m'dears?" a middle-aged lady with a rather droopy face asked.
"Oh, yes, please." Minerva happily pulled out a money pouch from a robe pocket and approached the trolley to purchase her favorite snacks. However, the silence of her companion compelled her to stop.
Tom Riddle was starring away from the trolley, gazing determinedly at the dull view of the countryside. His sharp profile against the light from the window seemed oddly woolen and expressionless.
"You don't want anything to bite?"
His hard gaze through the window did not shift, but in a flat and quiet voice, he muttered, "No money."
Washed with a sudden wave of understanding, Minerva quietly and quickly purchased several Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavoured Beans. Thanking the lady, she gently slid the door close and reclaimed her seat.
"Here, try some," she tossed nearly more than half of her treats at Tom Riddle. "The frogs are really good if they don't get away first. As for the beans: beware."
Her companion stared at the foreign boxes and bags at his lap with a strange mixture of surprise and anger. Finally looking rather defeated, he opened a box of Chocolate Frog. Immediately, a sprightly brown little thing leaped from the box and landed on the bewildered boy's nose.
Minerva was pleased when a small, hesitant smile slowly appeared on Riddle's face. That moment, he almost looked harmless and vulnerable.
"Now… why don't I tell you about quidditch …" For a large remainder of the ride, she explained—wide-eyed and excited—to him the brilliance of quidditch. Tom Riddle in turn listened avidly, absorbing every detail with fascination and occasionally making a pleasant remark here and there. He seemed so charming and pleasant that Minerva had to wonder if this was the same boy that threatened her with an outstretched wand.
"Aunt Hilda says first years are forbidden from the game, but I'm definitely trying out for my house team once we're allowed next year. You?"
He languidly waved a hand. "Perhaps, perhaps not. You make it sound like an excellent game, but my studies will have to come first. Speaking of which …" His voice suffered a subtle change of tone. "How much magic are we required to know?"
Minerva appeared incredulous. "Before attending school? Why, none at all!"
"Not a single spell?" She nodded.
Tom Riddle's features seemed as smooth as ever, but upon close examination, Minerva could discern his pleasure. Minerva threw a cursory glance around the compartment. Judging by the various open books and the confident manner this all-too-strange boy held his wand, Tom Riddle appeared to know more magic than anyone would expect of a muggle first year.
"You know a lot don't you?" Minerva muttered, strangely intrigued and chilled.
His dark eyes gleamed alarmingly as he nodded calmly.
She inclined her head and remarked in a pleasant, conversational tone, "Well, I'm not surprised. Aunt Hilda says some of the greatest witches and wizards in history were muggle-bor—"
Her words abruptly died as she felt long and cold fingers enclose around her throat. Involuntary tears rushed to her eyes as she struggled for air and fought against the painful choking sensation around her throat. Through her tear-blurred vision, she saw that Riddle's face was very close to her own, and that his facial exprssion was now contorted with shocking rage and hatred. And that moment, his eyes hard and cold, he looked very, very much older than his feeble eleven years.
"Aunt Hilda this, Aunt Hilda that," he sneered, his voice rising. "Mention her again and I'll throw you out the window." Minerva could tell that he no longer could control his anger, for he screamed next,
"And-don't-you-dare-call-me-a-filthy-muggle!" His voice was no longer pleasant but oddly high-pitched and cold. "I am different! I am great! I have powers you will never dream of! Mark my words, I shall—"
"What? Rule the world?" Minerva retorted, her voice but a faint croak to her everlasting disappointment. "Not when I'm around, you toad-spotted lump!"
She quickly whipped out her wand and muttered the incantation for the Canary Transfiguration Hex, one of the more advanced—and amusing—spells she had mastered over the summer.
Minerva grinned with well-justified satisfaction as the dark expression on Riddle's face turned into one of horror. His slender fingers around her neck slackened and dropped, and before she knew it, a very large yellow canary was fluttering angrily and confusedly around the room.
The young girl grabbed her trunk and marched to the door. "Oh, don't worry Tom, you'll be normal in a few moments. Thanks for the oh-so-wonderful company," she said snappily and left the compartment.
AN: And that was Minerva and Tom's first encounter. Not too pleasant.
I understand that to some of you, Tom's behavior towards the end was far too violent and out of character. I debated about how to write the scene for a while too. But if you'll recall, in HBP, Tom told Dumblebore that he could make other children "hurt if he wanted to" and he obviously was merciless with the other kids at the orphanage. So clearly, before Hogwarts, Tom had yet to master his deception and control, and he probably thought it useless and pointless to deceive anyone but adults. So when Minerva said those things that she really shouldn't have said, it's natural that Tom would blow.
But yeah, I hope I've captured their personalities right, and set up the things that should be set. This train scene would have lots of influence on Minerva and Tom's relationship once the story begin in their fifth year.
And of course, comments and suggestions will be received with a happy dance and crazy whooping. So please, please review! Thanks for reading!
(P.S. To my "Mage Duel" readers: Don't worry I've NOT abandoned that fanfic! I just haven't been able to update because my browser has had major issues and I haven't been able to access this site. I FINALLY fixed this problem today. So yeah, yay.)