Lionheart: Hehe, a long delay between chapters…I wanted to apologize for that. I don't really have an excuse, except the fact I just stopped. I'm sure those of you who write stories do that sometimes.
Anyway, I enjoyed all of the wonderful reviews everyone sent and I cannot thank you guys enough. They're so inspiring. And yes, the whole thing with Pein reviving the Akatsuki was a little…eh… off, but what's a little "off"ness in fanfiction eh?
"Damnit," said Naruto, as three swords suddenly implanted themselves in his back, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." The blonde quickly crashed to the ground, and lay there motionless.
"NARUTO!" Sasuke rushed to his comrade's fallen body, though, after touching the body, his frown softened a bit.
Meanwhile, Itachi and Kisame, both of whom had landed a short distance away, were now squaring off against four figures. Two of them wore black robes and strange silver masks, which somewhat resembled a creature. The other two, clearly cloud ninja (based on their headbands), wore similar masks to hide their faces, though both had their trademark ANBU katanas drawn.
"Well, looks like we've run into some death eaters," said Sasuke, smirking, "and some Cloud shinobi. I feel honored." Kisame grinned menacingly, baring his teeth, "Aha! Maybe I'll get to play after all today," rasped the Akatsuki member nastily, while unwrapping the bandages off his Samehada.
Meanwhile, the four strangers glanced at Naruto's motionless body.
Out of the two Death Eaters, the shorter one seemed to have conjured the swords for he cursed and shouted, "Damnit, I only got one."
He waved his wand around in a frantic state, and if he had expected to have gotten more victims. For some reason, and this may be due to the fact he had just recently been put under the Imperius curse, Itachi wasn't so happy to see this wand.
"Don't be fooled," said one of the Cloud ninja, who had a deep voice, and bulky muscles to go with it. "That blonde may have appeared to have been hit. He timed his maneuver perfectly so that to your untrained eyes, it appeared he had taken the hit, but he's actually been hiding in the shadow of that one there," he said, pointing to Sasuke.
The Death Eater, slightly irritated he had been mocked, nevertheless directed his wand at Sasuke. From behind the Uchiha, Naruto stepped out, unscathed, and looking none the worse.
"So you saw through that little trick," said Naruto, as if it were an every day thing to have his tricks discovered. "Not bad. And here I was thinking I had you all fooled."
"You'll have to be much quicker to fool my eyes," said the Cloud Shinobi, "little twerp." Sasuke snorted, and pulled out his Kusanagi.
"I don't like you." The Cloud ANBU laughed, and dropped his own sword. Immediately he pulled a rather interesting looking set of steel Tonfa's.
Sasuke laughed, "You think those things are going to stop my Kusanagi sword? You are obviously a fool. This is why I loathe Cloud ninja. You're all morons!" With that Sasuke vanished and appeared behind the Cloud ANBU.
"NOW DIE!" The younger Uchiha swung his sword with such speed, that it appeared the Cloud ANBU would be cut to ribbons, but as abruptly as it was swung, it was stopped. "Not bad," said Naruto, amused, watching the scene play out.
The second Cloud ninja had come between the two and caught the blade with nothing but two fingers. Sasuke glared at his new opponent before he flicked his unarmed wrist. A kunai flew out, which the second Cloud ninja responded by ducking. Unfortunately, the kunai pierced the mask, which promptly broke to reveal a young blonde woman.
"It's a woman," said Sasuke, surprised and leaping back towards his own group. "Thanks for stating the obvious," replied the woman.
The woman tossed her hair back, before turning to her male companion.
"Hakijo! I'll take care of them." She walked forward, and the death eaters eagerly flanked her, ready for some blood.
"Get out of my way," shouted the woman, forcing the cowed death eaters back, "I don't need help from weaklings. Voldemort may have requested you come along to test our loyalties, but Hakijo and I always work alone. So, just watch! You wouldn't be able to handle these four anyway."
The men glared at her for a moment, but seemed to decide it was best to keep quiet for the moment.
The young woman stepped forward, and, for the first time, since she had arrived, smiled. "Now then. Who would like to fight me first? Why don't you all come at once, so the last one standing won't feel so lonely?"
Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "I don't like your tone, lady." He stepped forward, but Itachi thrust out his hand. Sasuke stared at it like it was some parasite that needed to be crushed. "What exactly are you doing Itachi?"
"Hmph! I'll fight her. I've already fought her once, so I know her style."
For a moment, it appeared Sasuke might very well knock Itachi's hand away. Then, the younger Uchiha nodded curtly, and stepped back, "Fine, but if she kills you, then I'm going next."
The lady laughed, "So, you want to die one by one? I can do that too. Truth be told, I was hoping I got to fight you Itachi Uchiha. Prepare to meet your maker."
Itachi remained silent, though his hands were now visible. "You? Kill me?" asked Itachi, "I think you've got it wrong. The moment you challenged your life was forfeit. You will die…and painfully." The elder Uchiha said this last part with such malice that for a moment the woman was slightly shaken.
She soon smirked, "We'll see Itachi Uchiha. After you, I'll kill your brother and all of the others. HAHAHAHA!"
Itachi blinked, and immediately the Cloud Kunoichi rushed at him. "Take this," she shouted, shaping her hand into something like a claw. She thrust this out at Itachi, who sighed and lifted his finger. He was surprised to see her vanish before him. She was replaced by four Itachi's charging at him.
The Uchiha's eye widened, 'Already? She's quick.'
Itachi raised a second finger, before his Sharingan eyes suddenly began spinning. Just as quickly as the four Itachi's appeared, they vanished. The woman, who replaced them, looked at him curiously.
"Interesting technique. What is it called?" Itachi shrugged, "My Demonic Illusion: Mirror Heaven and Earth Change technique allows me to reflect back any attempted Genjutsu cast at me. Note that I can reflect any Genjutsu back, so…"
Itachi smiled. The woman chuckled, before she waved her hand. The four imitations of her that had appeared suddenly vanished.
Itachi narrowed his eyes, "I see you too are no novice at dispelling Genjutsu. No matter, that was but a small bit of my power. Let me try again."
He was surprised when the woman was suddenly behind him with her claw inches from his jugular. "My, my, aren't you a big threat. You really think I'm going to let you cast a Genjutsu on me?"
Here Itachi smiled, "You haven't even realized that you've already been placed under one."
The woman's face grew pale, "what?!"
It was then the surrounding pitch vanished to be replaced by emptiness. The woman, struggling, realized she had been tied to a pole. Dozens of Itachi's appeared, each holding a sword. "What is this," screamed the woman, as the tips of the katanas pierced her flesh.
"You are trapped," began one Itachi, "inside my Tsukoyomi Spell," said another. "You will be here for what feels like seventy hours, when it is only seconds in the real dimension."
"That's what you think," shouted the woman, though she screamed from the pain of the swords all the same. The Itachi's stopped their attack for a brief moment. The woman opened her eyes, and smiled, "Got ya!"
To the watchers, it appeared as if Itachi and the woman had been at a standstill. None of them had realized that a Genjutsu battle had been going on. They were therefore surprised when an explosion appeared from nowhere. Itachi was thrown back, and landed on his back. He had several cuts on his face, but those were nothing compared to the electricity that he was struggling to overcome.
"Itachi," shouted Kisame. Even Sasuke was slightly shaken, "b-brother!" "Release," muttered Naruto, tapping Itachi. The lightning which had been surging through his legs vanished.
Itachi slowly stood, testing his legs. "It'll be alright," he said finally, "Thank you Naruto. I told you she was good…but she could not defeat me. Hehehehehehehehee!"
"What are you talking about Itachi," asked Kisame, "was it a Genjutsu battle? The only thing we saw was the two of you staring each other down."
Itachi nodded, "She was fast, and she cut deep with her illusions, but I just cut under it. I assume you saw it all little brother?" Sasuke was silent for a moment, "I saw some of it. I didn't see what you did to counter her after her fortieth Genjutsu illusion."
Naruto and Kisame paled. "Forty," repeated Naruto, "Oh my god. She managed to get in forty Genjutsu illusions in that amount of time?"
"Time is different in the Genjutsu world," said Itachi, "you of all people should know that Naruto." Naruto's eyes narrowed, "Yeah yeah yeah. So what happened to her? She's gone?"
"After her eightieth Genjutsu, I stopped my attack, and I went for directly. She saw my attempt though and struck me with something that looked suspiciously like your Chidori, little brother, but it was a huge blade of chakra. I countered with a fire jutsu, and it resulted in the explosion I'm sure you saw."
"Well, they seemed to have run off," said Sasuke, crossing his arms. So she has a lightning blade eh? I'll be looking forward to fighting her."
"What about those death eaters," asked Naruto? Sasuke laughed, "The death eaters were terrified. They vanished on the spot, so the other cloud shinobi picked her up and ran away. Good thing too. I was about to kill him!"
"Well, we should be happy we injured that woman," said Kisame, "I have a feeling they will be back next time in full force."
"Still, we have time to prepare," said Naruto, "those injuries must have taken her out of commission for awhile."
"They will send others," muttered Sasuke.
"Ooh, goodie, then I can play with them," said Kisame, who, up till now, had had a gloomy about his face. Naruto sighed, "Right, right, we will deal with each new enemy accordingly."
"What if the Cloud and those Death Eaters send in Kakuzu and Hidan, and mount a full scale invasion at the same time?" Naruto's face darkened, "Then we call in reinforcements and hope we can fight them off until they arrive."
Kisame chuckled, "What?! You think little Kakuzu and Hidan can outmatch us? Itachi and I are not as weak as you think we are." Naruto chuckled, "Right…whatever."
"Well, then," said Itachi turning, "You two should run along. Kisame and I will watch the grounds for now."
"Hold on a second Itachi. One, are you sure you're okay to hold the grounds after that attack? And two, how do we know we can trust you," accused Sasuke, who still wasn't completed satisfied with this, 'We're here to help' story.
Itachi shrugged, "You think after just a few hits I'm out? Silly Sasuke…run along now."
Sasuke turned red and he vanished from sight reappearing under Itachi with a fist to his chin. "Don't forget…silly Itachi," he said quietly, "that if I see fit, I will…"
He was cut off, as he felt a surge of chakra on his shoulder, preventing movement, "That's enough Sasuke. Remember what we talked about," asked Naruto, "don't disobey our client's orders now."
Sasuke groaned, "Fine," he muttered, and stepped back. "But I'll be keeping an eye on you." Itachi shrugged, "Kisame…let's go." "Hnn…"
"We should get going too," said Naruto turning. Sasuke took one last glance at his brother's retreating body, before turning to chase after Naruto, who was already flying up the path to the castle.
Back in the Pensieve, Harry was unaware of the spell that was placed to freeze time. To him, Dumbledore quickly followed, if maybe with a brief delay.
They were standing in a country lane, bordered by large bushes and other greenery. It was quiet and peaceful, and Harry couldn't help but feel calm. The sky was cloudless, and the sun shined brightly down upon them. There were no loud folk, no cars, not much of anything, except nature.
Well, this was not entirely true. A short distance from them, Harry saw, was a short, balding young man, gazing upon a wooden signpost. He was the only man in sight, and he, to Harry's amusement, seemed to be as inexperienced as any other ministry official when it came to dressing as a muggle.
"Professor, this must be uh…Mr. Ogden." Dumbledore nodded, and nudged his head forward, just as Ogden began to briskly walk forward.
Harry and Dumbledore followed, past more bushes and greenery, until finally, ahead, Ogden stopped. He was standing at the fork in the road. To the right, the lane continued on as far as the eye could see, but to the left, branched off a small dirt road leading, down a steep hillside.
Peering down, Harry found himself staring into a valley where a whole village lay. Thinking back to the signpost, Harry figured this was Little Hangleton, and also figured this must be the final destination. The twosome continued after Ogden who was now taking longer strides. He appeared nervous about something, as if he didn't really want to be here at all.
'I wonder where we're going,' thought Harry when Ogden suddenly took an abrupt turn to the right, through a gap in the bushes. Unlike the previous paths, this new dirt road was very unkempt full of potholes and rocks. Ahead, the trees grew closely together, almost giving the illusion of some kind of forest. To top if off, the trees no longer looked as welcome as the ones along the main path leading down to the village.
Within the trees, Harry could see an ancient building ahead, and couldn't help but not want to know who the inhabitants were. Especially considering the fact he was seeing a rather large snake nailed to the door.
Ahead, Ogden seemed to realize something was strange as well, for he had drawn his wand and had it ready at his side.
A loud rustling in the trees alerted Harry to something above him. Moments later a large figure jumped from one of the treetops, causing both Harry and Ogden to jump back slightly. Harry's mouth dropped. The figure he was seeing was most undeniably male. Yet, that wasn't the strangest part. The man's whole body was covered with dirt, giving him the appearance of one who had not washed for ages. He was missing several teeth and the others were blackened and pointing in several different directions. He wore rags and dirty pink slippers, which Harry was quite odd. He would have laughed, except for the fact the man appeared drunk, looked like a savage, and was brandishing and waving around a blood stained knife.
Harry almost felt sorry for Ogden who would have to deal with him alone. "Err….good morning," tried Ogden, trying to arrange his face to look friendly.
"You're not welcome!"
Ignoring this, Ogden cleared his throat, "Ahem! I'm from the ministry of magic!"
"You're not welcome!"
This time, Ogden stopped. "I'm sorry," he asked. Harry narrowed his eyes. "This guy looks pretty dumb. That guy's being pretty clear isn't he?" "Eh," responded Dumbledore, "Oh! I imagine you can understand what he is saying."
Harry blinked, "What? I do…n't." Harry eyes rested upon the dead snake on the door and the realization hit him, "Oh, he's talking in parseltongue." "Quite right," said Dumbledore, before looking back to Ogden again.
The savage looking man was no advancing upon Ogden, who was continuously backing up, perspiring in all his nervousness. "Uh," said Ogden, raising a hand, "let's stop and think about this. Hold …"
It was too late however as there was a bang and Ogden was forced to plug up his nose, through which yellow pus was flowing. "Morfin!"
Harry turned towards the building to see a smaller man running out of it. This one seemed just as filthy looking as the taller man, but there was a much more commanding tone in his voice. Harry figured he must be the father or some kind of head-figure.
This new man stopped where Morfin was now cackling with laughter at Ogden who was squirming on the ground.
"Ministry, are ya," asked the older man, looking down at Ogden, with something of a sneer. Ogden glared back angrily, before waving his wand to stop the pus. "That's right," said Ogden, nearly shouting, "and you I take it are Mr. Gaunt!"
The older man nodded, "S'right! Got you in the face did he? Shoulda made your presence known. This is private property. Can't just walk onto our land and not expect my son to defend him."
Ogden looked incredulous, as he stood, "Defend him…? What? Defend against what, man?" Mr. Gaunt threw his hands up before shouting, "Busybodies! Intruders! Muggles and Filth!" Out of the corner of his mouth, Gaunt muttered, "Get in the house. Don't argue!" This time, Harry caught the hiss like sound that was all Ogden could comprehend.
Ogden watched Morfin lumber and slam the door. "Now what d'ya want," demanded Gaunt."
"Ah, actually, it's your son I'm here to see," replied Ogden, "that was Morfin right?" "Ar, that was Morfin," said Gaunt. "Say," said Gaunt, suddenly looking vicious, "are you pureblood?"
"That's neither here nor there," said Ogden coldly, and Harry felt his respect for the man rise. Gaunt didn't seem to like this response and instead changed his attention to Ogden's nose, which was oddly shaped after his accident, "Say, I've seen noses like yours down in the village."
Ogden waved his wand, straightening his nose out, "well, I'm not surprised if your son's been let loose upon them. Perhaps we should continue this discussion inside?" "Inside," repeated Gaunt, in a way that clearly showed he would not be happy with that arrangement.
"Yes, inside," repeated Ogden, who was purposefully ignoring this threatening tone. "I've told you already. I'm here about Morfin. We sent an owl." Gaunt threw his hands up again violently, "Owls? I've no use for owls! We don't read mail!"
"Well, then you can hardly complain that you get no warning of visitors, eh," asked Ogden coldly, "I'm here regarding a serious breach in Wizarding law, which…" "Alright, already," shouted Gaunt, throwing his hands up again, "come in the bleeding house then."
Harry and Dumbledore followed, with the former disliking the place even more and more. The building contained three very small rooms. There was the main room he was currently standing in and two doors branched off leading to the others two rooms. The first was a kitchen, which looked as old as the building itself. The second was some kind of living room, where Morfin was lounging upon a chair, twisting a live adder in his hands. Harry could hear the soft hissing, and knew the snake must be undergoing some kind of torture from Morfin.
He couldn't dwell on this thought for he suddenly noticed something move in the kitchen. A small and frail looking woman had seemingly emerged from the wall, though Harry soon realized it was because her rags were dirty enough so they were the exact same color as the wall.
"M'daughter Merope," said Gaunt, nudging his head. Ogden bowed his head slightly, "Good morning." Merope, who seemed frightened of something, did not reply, and instead turned back to whatever it was she was doing.
Turning back to Gaunt, Ogden cleared his throat. "Well, Mr. Gaunt, to get straight to the point, we have enough evidence which tells us that, late last night, Morfin performed magic in front of a muggle."
From the kitchen there was a deafening clang. Merope had dropped one of the pots. Gaunt, in a fit of rage, burst out with a voice, Harry never dreamed he had, "PICK IT UP! That's it! Grub on the floor like some filthy muggle, what's your wand for, you useless sack of muck!"
Ogden, shocked, raised a hand, "Mr. Gaunt, please." Unfortunately he was cut off, by Gaunt again, as Merope dropped the pot a second time, breaking it. "MEND IT YOU IDIOT," shouted Gaunt."
Merope, shaking uncontrollably, pulled out her wand, and tried to save something, but nothing happened. Gaunt stepped forward, and it seemed he might use force, when Ogden whipped his own wand out and said firmly, "Reparo!"
The pot immediately mended itself. Gaunt, in the process of reaching for Merope's neck, stopped and looked incredulously at the pot. He then whirled around to face Ogden, and looked ready to shout at him, but seemed to think better of it. "Good thing the nice man from the ministry is here eh?"
Merope didn't make any movement. Instead she pressed herself against the wall, and Harry, if he hadn't known she was there, swore he would have missed her.
"Okay," said Ogden, beginning again, "as I've said, I'm here for…" "I heard you the first time," shouted Gaunt. "And so what? Morfin gave a Muggle a bit what was coming to him. What about it then?"
"Morfin has broken Wizarding law," said Ogden seriously. Gaunt laughed and imitated this in a singsong voice. "So what? He taught a filthy muggle a lesson. That illegal now?"
Ogden nodded, "Yes, I'm afraid it is," he said, pulling out a parchment. "What's that then? His sentence?" "It's a summons to the ministry…"
Ogden didn't get to finish as Gaunt burst out angrily, "SUMMONS?! Who do you think you are, summoning my son anywhere?" "I'm head of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad," shouted Ogden back, gesturing towards a badge on his shirt.
"And you think we're scum do you," responded Gaunt, his temper taking over, "scum who'll come running whenever the ministry tells us to? Do you even know who you're talking to?"
"I was under the impression I was talking to Mr. Gaunt," replied Ogden, who was starting to look nervous again. "That's right," roared Gaunt. And to signify this, Gaunt raised his index finger, showing a ring, with an odd symbol on it. "Know what this is? Know where it came from? Centuries it's been in our family, that's how far back we go; and pure-blood all the way. Know how much I've been offered for this; with the Peverell coat of arms engraved on the stone?"
"I've really no idea," said Ogden, who was disinterested, "and it's quite beside the point. Your son has…" "Beside the point," yelled Gaunt. The old man ran to Merope, who had remained as fearful and motionless, and yanked her by the neck to where Ogden waited shocked. "Mr. Gaunt, you're daughter!" "See this;" shouted Gaunt, ignoring him, "see this locket?"
Ogden gazed at the locket hung around Merope's neck, and took another wary step backwards, "I see it, I see it."
"Slytherin's! Salazar Slytherin's," shouted Gaunt gesturing towards a magnificently shaped 'S.' "We're his last living descendants, what do you say to that, eh?" Ogden opened his mouth to speak, but was promptly cut off again, as Gaunt continue to ramble on.
"So," shouted Gaunt, as if he had just settled the matter once and for all, "Don't go talking to us as if we were just dirt on your shoes! Generations of purebloods, wizards all…more than 'you' can say, I don't doubt!"
Ogden sighed, "Mr. Gaunt, neither your ancestors nor mine have anything to do with this matter. I am here because Morfin! Morfin and the Muggle he attacked. Our information is that Morfin performed a jinx or hex that resulted in the Muggle erupting in highly painful hives."
"And," asked Gaunt, as if he could see nothing strange about this, "so what if he did then? I expect you've wiped the Muggle's filthy face clean for him and his memory to boot."
"That's hardly the point, Mr. Gaunt! This was an unprovoked attack on a defenseless!"
He was interrupted yet again, as Gaunt snorted, "Ar! I had you marked out as Muggle-lover from the moment I saw you."
Ogden didn't respond to this. Instead he gazed fiercely at Gaunt for a moment. He suddenly made his mind up about something for he shrugged and pocketed his scroll. "I'm sorry Mr. Gaunt, but this discussion is getting us nowhere. It's quite clear your son feels no remorse for his actions. He "will" attend a hearing on the fourteenth of September to answer the charges of using magic in front of a Muggle and causing distress to that same Muggle!"
Gaunt's eyes narrowed very dangerously, "You think we're just…." This time it was Gaunt's turn to get interrupted as the hooves of a trotting horse down the road could be heard along with the unmistakable sound of a young couple laughing.
"My god, Tom, what an eyesore," said the girl, whose soft voice could be heard over the clip-clop of the horse's moving hooves, "can't your father clear that hovel away?" The man responded with a sigh, "Ah, that thing there doesn't belong to us. We own everything on the other side of the valley, but that thing belongs to an old tramp named Gaunt and his kids. They say the son's quite mad."
The girl laughed, but it was cut short and followed by a shriek. "Tom, you're not going to believe this, but…is that a snake nailed to the door." "My god, you're right. That's the son I tell you. Don't look at it, Cecelia, darling."
"Darling," echoed Morfin, in Parseltongue, to Merope, who had suddenly turned pale beyond imagination, "so he wouldn't have you anyway."
This sudden bit seemed to get Gaunt's attention, and the old man turned away from Ogden, who was struck dumb by the sudden hissing. "Wha? What's that? What did you say, Morfin?"
Morfin cackled evilly, not taking his eye off Merope, "you like looking at that Muggle don't you? Always in the garden when he passes. And last night…hanging out the window waiting for him to ride home."
Merope was now tearing up, and she closed her eyes, waiting the impending explosion.
"Waiting out the window," repeated Gaunt, slowly, "for a…Muggle?" He took a step towards Merope, who seemed to be desperately trying to melt away into nothingness. "Is it true," asked Gaunt, dangerously, "my daughter? A descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself…hanging out the window for a Muggle? Hankering after a piece of filth?"
Morfin burst out laughing, "But I got him father. The one they call Tom…didn't look so pretty with hives all over him, did he Merope?"
"You disgusting little squib! Filthy blood traitor," roared Gaunt, suddenly tackling Merope to the ground and clutching her neck, violently. Harry raised a hand to try and stop it, but Dumbledore calmly stopped him.
Ogden, seeing this outburst had drawn his wand so fast and shouted, "Relashio," that Gaunt was quite unprepared to be thrown off and onto his back. Morfin, ready to get revenge brandished his knife and began shooting off hexes from his wand.
And Ogden ran…ran for his life. Dumbledore signaled they should follow, and as they stepped out, Harry felt his feet suddenly leave the ground. The two soared through darkness until they were at last back in the familiar office.
"Merope," asked Harry, immediately, as Dumbledore collapsed onto a seat, "what happened to her?" "Oh, she survived," said Dumbledore, "Ogden disapparated to the Ministry and came back within fifteen minutes with reinforcement. Morfin and Gaunt tried to put a fight, but both were overcome and arrested and tried. Morfin already with a whole record of Muggle attacks was sentenced to three years in prison. Marvolo, who injured several ministry officials, received six months."
"Marvolo," asked Harry, recognizing the name. Dumbledore smiled, "That's right. I'm glad to see you're keeping up." "Then that man….Gaunt…was Voldemort's…"
"Grandfather, yes," finished Dumbledore, smiling. "The three Gaunts were the last surviving family of a very ancient Wizarding family which can be traced back to Salazar Slytherin. Also noted for their instability, due to the habit of marrying their own cousins."
"So that means….Merope was Voldemort's mother?" Dumbledore nodded, "It does. And it so happens we had a glimpse of Voldemort's father. Did you notice?"
"The Muggle man Morfin attacked," asked Harry, "the one on the horse?"
Dumbledore beamed, "Aha! Very good indeed. Yes, that was Tom Riddle Senior, the handsome Muggle who used to go riding past the Gaunt's house, and, whom Merope cherished a secret burning passion."
Harry's mouth dropped, "they got married? I can't believe that could have happened."
"Ah, but you are forgetting Merope was a witch. I doubt her powers would have appeared to their best advantage while she was being terrorized by her father, but, once Morfin and Marvolo were locked up, she was alone and free for the first time."
"So, she used something to enslave Riddle? Like a love potion. Or the Imperius Curse."
Dumbledore nodded, "Good guess, but I'm more inclined to think the love potion. It would have felt…ah…more romantic to her I am sure. In any case, the village of Little Hangleton enjoyed a tremendous scandal. The squire's son had run off with the tramp's daughter. Quite a gossip."
"So what happened to Gaunt…err…Marvolo," asked Harry.
"Well, you can imagine Marvolo's shock when he returned to the cabin, only to fine an inch of dust and the place empty, with a note of Merope's farewell. From what I can gather, he died in that place soon after his return, and he did not leave to see Morfin come back."
"And Merope," said Harry, "didn't she die? How'd that come up?"
Dumbledore stroked his beard for a moment, "Well, here we need to do a bit of guesswork. It's not too hard, though, for you see, a few months after the scandal, Tom Riddle returned to Little Hangleton. The rumors were he said he was 'taken in' and 'hoodwinked.' What he meant I'm sure was that he was entranced and the spell had worn off. Of course he couldn't say those exact words. Anyway, the villages didn't ask too many questions and soon, everything there was back to normal. The villagers guessed that Merope said she would have his baby, and this was the reason he married her."
"But, uh, she did have his baby," said Harry, "what went wrong? Why did the love potion stop working?"
"Again, this is guesswork," said Dumbledore, "But, I think that after a few months, Merope was so deeply in love with him, that she figured that by now Riddle would love her back. She stopped giving him the potion, and, when she realized she had been wrong, her heart was broken, and Riddle left her pregnant, never bothering to have anything to do with her or with her son again. With nothing else to do, Merope dropped Voldemort at an orphanage, where she died, after a painful life."
Outside, the moon was shining brightly, and the sky was dark black. "I think that's enough for tonight," said Dumbledore. Harry nodded, "Yes sir." Harry, turned to leave, but suddenly stopped, and turned back.
"Sir, is it important to know about Voldemort's past." Dumbledore smiled, "Very important, I think." "Right," said Harry, scratching his head, "Err…sir? Am I allowed to tell Ron and Hermione what you told me?"
Dumbledore regarded him for a moment, as if searching his mind. After a pause he closed his eyes and smiled, "Yes, I think that will be okay. But be warned, Harry. Keep everything we say in this room between us and your friends. It would be something of a bad idea if word got around to Voldemort how much I know…excuse me…think I know about his past and secrets."
Harry nodded, "No sir, it'll be just Ron and Hermione." Dumbledore smiled, "What about those foreign Japanese students who you hang out with so much these days?" Harry opened his mouth to speak, but quickly closed it. He realized he hadn't been thinking about them, and couldn't imagine how he was going to keep it away from them. "I, uhh," stammered Harry.
Dumbledore laughed, "You may tell them as well. But only the ones in your house, understand?" Harry nodded, though he was a bit suspicious. "But why them, sir?"
"Oh, nothing, Harry. You may tell them if you wish to. I've watched them closely you know, and they don't seem the type to be disloyal to their friends." Harry's eyes narrowed, slightly suspicious, "Okay, sir, if you say so. Good night then."
And with that, Harry walked out, his mind still a bit jumbled after everything he had seen and heard. But the strangest thing of all was Dumbledore's mysterious trust in the three foreign students. He would talk with Hermione and Ron later about it.
Lionheart: Okay, that was a long chapter. Tell me what you think. Also, I'm wondering if anyone here is interested enough to do my proofreading. You know, correct the little mistakes that you might see, since my free time is slowly running out.