AN: It's been a while since I've updated this, and looking back over what I had already written of this chapter, my writing has definitely improved since. However, I restrained myself from tooth-combing it in favour of my impatient readers, but will probably read fairly differently once I go over the previous chapters with a beta-reader.

Revenge is a Dish (Part IV)

Tom was two years below me, but he was, in a very different way to Albus, extremely handsome and incredibly charming. In my sixth year, he confessed that he 'liked' me. My crush on Albus was still glowing potently with no sign of fading, and I felt like a distraction was needed; I liked him, or what I knew about him, and I agreed to date him.

Albus wasn't very happy with this. We actually had an argument about it. I dared raise my hopes for a few blissful minutes that he may have been jealous of Tom, but common sense caught up with me, and I told myself that if Albus did love me, it was in a fatherly way more than anything. The thought depressed me and just made me more determined to go out with Tom, even if it meant disobeying my guardian.

Fortunately I turned seventeen shortly after, when Albus' custody expired, as I was now of age. I felt a sort of vindictive pleasure in informing him that I was seeing Tom and there was nothing he could do about it. I told myself it was worth it just to see the look on his face.

Even though our relationship from then on was rather strained, he still offered to teach me to become an Animagus, something he knew I'd been dying to do ever since I knew what they were. I think maybe it was a peace offering, but I certainly wasn't complaining. I was a little more mature then, and although my crush hadn't disappeared, I found it easier to push it aside and be friends.

Like every student, the time came when I had to leave school. I swear Albus had tears in his eyes on my last day. Tom still had two years to go, but we owled regularly. We planned to move in together the moment he became of age. I went out into the world, found a temporary job in Flourish and Blotts, and found us a home. I still wrote to Albus as well, but not as regularly. Tom was about as happy about it as Albus was with the knowledge that I was in a relationship with Tom Riddle. In other words, not happy at all.

The next summer, Tom had to go back to the orphanage. We made arrangements for me to meet him outside. I got the date wrong, and arrived the day before, in time to see him sneaking out, looking like he was up to no good. I had never seen that particular expression on his face, and I admit I was curious. I transformed and followed him.

He made a long journey to the village of Little Hangleton. I didn't think there was anything special about it. There was a fine manor house on the hill, but apart from that, I couldn't see anything that would be interesting to Tom. Nevertheless, I waited around, as did he.

When dusk fell, he made his way up to the manor. I knew he didn't have any friends in the Muggle world, and I didn't know of any wizards that lived in the area, so what he was doing was beyond me. I followed, still keeping out of sight.

He used Alohomora to enter the house, which sent a shiver down me. It was then that doubts about how well I knew my boyfriend began to set in, and I couldn't shake them off. Even then, I just thought he was doing a simple burglary – it didn't occur to me he would commit cold-blooded murder.

I watched him do it. I stared in horror as the three Muggles fell to the floor, stiff and silent, eyes still wide open, victims of the Killing Curse. It was in that moment I finally saw the true face of Tom Riddle.

And the worst thing is, it happened two years too late.

He knew I saw, naturally. I feared he'd be angry, and memories of my father came flooding back. But, surprisingly, he wasn't. If anything, he seemed pleased that someone had the opportunity to 'admire' his success without a risk of him getting caught.

For I couldn't go to anyone and tell on him. Tom made sure of that. I felt trapped; it was the situation with my father all over again. Only this time it was worse, because I'd walked right into it, even after being warned by Albus that Tom was not what he seemed.

I kept quiet, and burned in my private hell-hole. Tom became of age, and then left Hogwarts. I had been dreading this. We moved in together, just like we'd planned.

Tom was cruel. He was all smiles one minute, the next a step away from casting the Cruciatus. I lived in fear, and deliberately worked long hours just to get away from him. He knew what I was doing, and laughed about it. His laugh wasn't like it used to be. This one was new, cold, and … evil.

A year later, he made a proposition. Not of marriage. Thank Merlin. No, he wanted an heir.

Even with the old pureblood lines, wanting children at the age of eighteen – especially out of wedlock, which was scandalous in those days – was pretty unusual. I told him no. It was the first time I had stood up to him since I saw him murder the Muggles. I'd confided in him back at school that I had a dream of someday being a mother, and I wondered if Tom remembered. But I wanted a chance to have a life; I wanted a career first. I couldn't sort new books for the rest of my life, could I? But what Tom Riddle wants, he usually gets.

Saying he raped me is a bit of an exaggeration, but I can't say I consented willingly. After several months with no success, Tom dragged me out to St Mungo's. Although there was nothing wrong with me, Tom was informed that he would never be able to conceive children. I was relieved. I knew I wanted children in the future, but I would never willingly give a child a father like the one I had … like Tom.

He didn't take the news well. He was moody and even more unpredictable than usual for several months, and it was then that I made my final decision: I went to Albus and I confessed what was happening.

Tom announced one evening he was going out, for work, and wouldn't be back till the morning. Once he'd left, I contacted Borgin and Burkes and checked that he wouldn't be back, then I grabbed the Floo and my cloak and left for Hogwarts, not even stopping to change out of my housedress and do my hair. (After all, Albus had seen me looking much worse.)

I think I was less scared at my Sorting than I was at that moment when I edged into the office that was, back then, Albus', feeling like a naughty schoolgirl about to own up to letting off the Dungbombs in the Divination classroom when I denied it last time he asked. (Not that I know what that feels like, of course.)

Albus looked up as I entered. I gave him a weak smile. Apart from possibly a couple more lines around the eyes, he looked no different. I had not warned him I was coming, simply seized the chance, and I hadn't seen him in person in several years, so I wasn't surprised when he stared for a moment and blinked as if he couldn't believe his eyes.

"M-Minerva?" he finally stammered. I smiled my old smile at him.

In a trice he had left his chair and enveloped me in a tight hug, which I returned willingly. For a few blissful moments, for the first time in years, I felt safe, like nothing could ever hurt me. I pulled myself closer, savouring the moment.

"You didn't say you were dropping by," he said finally.

"I didn't know I would be," I said into his shoulder. Albus finally pulled away, and I reluctantly copied. Tom swam in my vision again and I remembered in a rush why I had come. The spell was broken.

"I'm so sorry; where are my manners? Here, Minerva, have a seat … biscuit?"

I smiled genuinely then. He was holding out a tin of Ginger Newts.

"I always keep a supply," he said, his eyes twinkling again. I took one and bit into it, enjoying the taste. Tom didn't keep them in the house.

"Sorry about the lateness of the hour -" I began. Albus waved me off.

"Not at all, my dear. Evening is the best time of day, in my opinion."

"Ah, but evening is not a time of day," I teased.

His eyebrows rose. "You have an excellent point. Now," he continued, seating himself down, "how are you, my dear? How is your training going?"

"I'm to take the final examination in the summer," I said, munching on a second biscuit. "Almost all my coursework is done; it's just the practical now."

"Well, good luck," he smiled. "How is everything else? Your friends? Work? Mr Riddle?"

I swallowed. Suddenly my Ginger Newt didn't taste as nice. I hadn't bargained on reaching that part of the conversation yet. I hesitated, and replied, "Work is the same as usual, really … some dimwit who has more money than sense placed this big order for two hundred copies of The Invisible Book of Invisibility. Cost an absolute fortune, and what happens? They get lost. The manager's been tearing his hair out and swearing whoever lost them can pay for them. So far no-one's admitted it was them. He can't work out why."

Albus laughed. I smiled. A bookshop assistant may not be the most sophisticated, the most rewarding, the most enriching or the most enchanting of jobs, but I was always able to make Albus laugh with tales of the manager or the customers. For that, I liked it.

"I told you Rolanda's engaged … we have yet to meet the lucky man; we don't even know who it is yet. She has plans to open a Quidditch store, but where she's going to get the money I have no idea. Poppy and Pomona are still sharing a flat, but Pommie wants to go travelling …"

I took a third biscuit, and Albus took one too.

"Tom … the future is a bit uncertain at the moment." I paused.

"Go on," Albus said slowly, picking up on my hesitation.

"He's just started working at Borgin and Burkes. Er … he says he has more – ambitious – plans for the future … but he hasn't discussed them with me yet."

I took a sip of tea, but set it down – my hands were visibly trembling and I was sure Albus had noticed.

"Is everything … all right with you and Tom, Minerva?"

I looked at him and bit my lip. Now the time came, I couldn't say it.

Albus stood up suddenly. I instinctively flinched at the sound and movement. He opened the door through to his quarters.

"I think this would be better," he said quietly.

He stood back and motioned for me to enter. I went in, and he followed behind, one hand gently on my arm. I sat down on the sofa and he sat next to me. I had my face in my hands.

"Minerva?" he asked quietly. He squeezed my shoulder gently. "Come on, Minerva, talk to me. What's wrong?"

A tear leaked out of my eye. Slowly, I moved my hands and eased off my cloak. I heard a sharp intake of breath behind me.

"Tom did this to you." It wasn't a question. I nodded.

Rain was splattering against the window. Albus picked up my cloak and put it back around my shoulders. He paused as he spotted the scars on my arm where the sleeve had ridden up.

"Yes," I replied to the unasked question.

"Come here," Albus said gently. I felt like a little girl again as I slid onto his lap and he wrapped his arms around me. I leaned back against him, my head tucked neatly in his neck.

"I've missed you," I said softly.

Albus raised one hand and gently stroked my hair where it lay against his face.

"You've let your hair down."

"I know," I replied. "I wasn't planning to go out."

"I take it you didn't just stop by to say hello."

"No. Tom said he wouldn't be back till morning; he had to see a client. I seized the opportunity … I can't hold this in anymore."

"Oh, Minerva," he murmured.

Silence fell for a moment. I closed my eyes and snuggled closer to him, and accidentally bumped his chin.

"Oops. Sorry."

"You're getting taller."

"You're still taller than me," I replied.

"Well, that's not hard," Albus teased, then cried, "Ouch!" as I dug my elbows into him.

"Watch your mouth, Professor Dumbledore."

"You little swine," he muttered. "'Little' being the appropriate – No, don't! Aah!"

"Make one more comment about my figure Albus, and you will not get any Christmas presents for the next century. Got it?"

"What, no comments at all? Even the positive ones?"

"Depends what you mean by 'positive'," I huffed. I suddenly had an idea of what I would classify as 'positive', and felt a hot flush creep up my cheeks. It seemed he was thinking along the same lines as the atmosphere seemed to get rather awkward, and I was suddenly aware of the fact that Albus' arms were practically around my waist. I was glad he couldn't see my face.

It was a relief when he broke the silence. "What are we going to do?"

I knew immediately what he was talking about. "I don't know." I sighed. "I want to leave him, but …"

"But?"

"I'm scared to," I whispered.

"Minerva …"

"I can't," I insisted. "You were right, Albus; he wasn't what I thought – he's a murderer, Albus."

"He what?"

"I saw him. He killed three Muggles … I don't know who they were … I could have gone to the authorities but he s-said – he said he'd k-kill me too if I told on him -"

I broke down into sobs. Albus pulled me closer, and I wound my arms round his neck and cried. He rocked me gently, as if I was still a girl, and kissed me gently on the top of my head.

Despite the tenderness of his actions, I could see blind fury in his eyes; anger that he was holding in for me. I had only seen that kind of emotion in his eyes when he found out about my father. I managed to talk him out of going straight to Tom's house and cursing him into oblivion. He only didn't because he knew it would just make things worse for me.

Tom wrote to him the next day. He knew I'd been to see him. Don't ask me how; I don't know. But he threatened Albus with my life. I feared I'd never be able to break free of Tom's grasp on me.

I was able to escape from him at work, and during my lunch break I would Floo to Hogwarts to see Albus. We both took a huge risk, but it was the only time I could be free of Tom. But a couple of months after Tom's threat, my life changed forever: both the best and, at the same time, the worst it had ever been. Bittersweet.

You see, I received my dream. It came to me and was ripped away in the most cruel, brutal manner possible.

TBC …

AN: Like I said, this chapter is no longer an accurate representation of my writing ability. But you've all waited so long, I thought you would be perfectly happy to read a not-quite-polished version now rather than wait longer.