Chapter 8

Mort opened his eyes and his vision was filled with the red hair of his sister who was clinging tightly to him. He patted her head and slowly pried her fingers off.

"You are safe now, Emmy," said Mort reassuringly, but the girl refused to let go. Sighing, Mort allowed her to stay like that and looked around him. He had apparated to just outside the wards of Hogwarts and he could see people rushing towards his direction. Knowing that he couldn't stay for too long, Mort quickly kissed Emily's forehead and said, "Emmy, there's something I have to tell you."

"I know," the girl suddenly spoke out, her expression clearing and a smile forming in her face. "You're my big brother Harry and you love me very much."

"How?" asked Mort in surprise, seeing their parents only a short distance away and having little desire for the confrontation that awaited him should he not be able to depart in time.

"That would be my doing, little massster."

Mort turned around and saw Nagini slither into sight and with mixed feelings of joy and confusion reached forward. But before he could reach the snake, to his surprise, his sister had already pounced on it.

"Nagey!" she called out in parseltongue much to Mort's shock, and he looked from the snake to his sister in surprise before shaking his head.

"We have some talking to do, Nagini," hissed Mort urgently. "Emmy, I'll see you soon and we'll sort this out. Good bye, sis. Love you." He reached forward and squeezed her shoulder and ignoring Lily Potter's frantic shouts, he transformed into an eagle and soared to the skies.

From his high point of vantage, Mort flew back towards Hogsmeade and he wasn't sure how to react to the sight that met him. The Death Eaters were petrified and were being arrested by Aurors. On one hand, he had saved many innocent lives that ought not to have been taken but on the other, he had struck a definite blow to his own Master. Confused and uncertain of where to go, he flew above in circles.

He knew he didn't belong with Dumbledore and the Order of the Dragon. He knew he loved the Dark Lord as a father - but did he belong at his side with all the rest of his Death Eaters? Would he be accepted back, especially after what he had just done? The Dark Lord might forgive him for ruining yet another attack, as it was done without his knowledge, but would he be so lenient on finding out how many of his followers had been sent to Azkaban due to the involvement of his Apprentice.

'Where do I belong?' he thought to himself in confusion when his sharp eyes caught something in the ground. A wolf was running, following the progress of the eagle overhead, and Mort dived to the ground.

"Neville," he said with relief and joy as the wolf reached him and transformed into his adopted brother. They clasped each other's hands and Mort felt a surge of warmth within him. "I have never been so glad to see you."

"Draco's behind," said Neville as he panted for breath. "His form isn't quite meant for chasing eagles and wolves." He grinned but the seriousness in Mort's face made his grin falter. "Did we not do the right thing?" he asked uncertainly. "We knew you would find some way to get to the battle and we wanted to be there for you."

Mort shook his head and clasped Neville's shoulder. "Thanks," he said. "All the Death Eaters have been apprehended by Aurors. Do you have any idea what the Dark Lord will do -" he paused as he saw the ramifications of their actions come crushing on Neville. Then, with a tone of finality, he said heavily, "We can't go back."

"What!" Neville yelled. "But - but you always get away after doing such things. Sure, the Dark Lord will be angry and he'll punish us and then everything will be back to normal and -"

"Neville," interrupted Mort firmly. "Do you not understand? We can no longer be trusted. The Death Eaters will never accept us again and if the Dark Lord lets us live, he'll face a mass rebellion unlike any before. He would have to choose between us and the Death Eaters."

"B-But then surely," stammered Neville, "surely, he'll choose you, his apprentice, wouldn't he?"

Mort closed his eyes and shuddered. The memory of his Boggart returned to his mind and he forced himself to open his eyes. "I don't know," he said truthfully. "But more importantly, I don't want to know. Neville, I can't go back to the Dark Lord. I can't bear the thought of seeing the disappointment in his face. I can't, I just can't."

Neville started. The desperation and childlike fear on his friend's voice was something he had never witnessed before. He took a deep breath and asked, "Will you go back to Hogwarts?"

Mort turned his eyes to the ground. His brows were furrowed in deep thought and in the distance he saw Draco arriving on a broom. He raised his hand to wave in a lackluster manner as he turned to Neville. "Only to find Ginny. I promised to take her with me."

"And after that?"

"After what?" asked Draco as he joined them, quickly assessing the seriousness of the situation.

"Mort is leaving the Dark Lord," said Neville. Seeing the horror in Draco's face, he quickly added, "He's not betraying him. Draco, we must consider our situation as well. We ran into battle like idiots, not at all thinking of the consequences. Will your father be able to save you from the Dark Lord's wrath after he finds out the part we played in sending nearly a hundred of his followers to Azkaban?"

Draco frowned and, to the surprise of the others, smiled in what appeared to be clear relief. "I am with you, Mort," he said. Pausing for a moment, he added, "But you'll have to put up with Cho as well." He explained, "I love her and she will have nothing to do with the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord."

Mort smiled. "Good on you, Draco." He frowned thoughtfully and said, "Hogwarts is not an option if only for the fact that my true identity is out."

"What true identity?" asked Neville sharply, knowing full well Mort didn't mean his identity as the Apprentice.

Mort took a deep breath and said, "Do you remember that day in Diagon Alley when I told you I had a secret that I wasn't ready to reveal?"

Neville nodded.

"It was at that very spot that the Dark Lord stood while directing an attack on Diagon Alley," said Mort. "In that attack, a young boy was abandoned by his family who had decided his brother's safety was of greater importance, he ran wildly to the only spot in the alley which was left alone by Death Eaters and Aurors alike and found himself in the company of the Dark Lord."

"You!" exclaimed Draco in surprise. "What parents would be so heartless as to leave their son behind at such a time?"

"The Potters," whispered Neville. "Jake Potter's twin brother died at the hands of the Dark Lord during an attack on Diagon Alley." He looked at Mort and said, "It's you, isn't it? You're him - Henry? Harold?"

"Harry Potter," corrected Mort. "But that is no longer my name."

"Of course it isn't," said Neville firmly. "You're my brother - Mortimer Riddle, and Draco is our best friend. You belong with us."

"And where do you belong, son?" came a sharp voice from behind them and all three boys jumped.

Mort swallowed as he saw an ominous sight before him. The Dark Lord was standing with blazing eyes, full of anger and, at the same time, sorrow. On either side of him stood Lucius Malfoy and Bella, both with identical looks of fury and disappointment. It was Bella who had spoken.

"Explain yourself, Draco," snapped Lucius angrily. "Have you lost your faculties that you directly brought the destruction of everything your father has worked for? Whatever possessed you to go to Hogsmeade?"

"It was the right thing to do," Draco managed to breathe out. "Father, can you not see the madness -"

"Crucio!" Lucius Malfoy interrupted his son's explanation. He released the curse after merely a few seconds. "That is not a satisfactory explanation. You directly opposed the Dark Lord's forces in a battle that led to nearly a hundred of them getting arrested. You committed an act of such foolishness and stupidity that it shames me to call you son." He turned his face and looked at a rock on the ground near Draco. "Get up and get ready to go home. I will deal with you later."

"No," said Draco slowly.

"What did you say?" snapped Lucius in disbelief.

"He said no," said Neville, walking near Draco and giving him a hand.

"You, Neville, are in a great deal of trouble yourself!" snapped Bella. "Don't make it worse. Apologize to Lord Malfoy and come here."

"They said no," Mort retorted and he joined his friends. Together, he and Neville helped Draco up. "I apologize, Master, if I disappoint you, but I can no longer hold myself in alliance with your Death Eaters, not after what they nearly did to my sister."

"So be it," hissed the Dark Lord and he turned around. "The next time I see your face, Apprentice, it will be as adversaries in battle. Lucius, Bella, leave them be." For a moment, his voice quivered but then he said with icy resolve. "They are lost to us." He took a few steps before disapparating.

Lucius Malfoy looked torn for a second as he glanced at the defiant face of his son. "I wish I had the strength to make the same choice as the three of you," he muttered and he followed after his master.

Finally, it was just the three boys and Bella left. For a long time, it appeared that she wouldn't make any movement. After several long moments, she walked to Neville with tearful eyes and touched his cheek. She looked at Mort and Draco and managed a sad smile. "Stay safe." And then she left as well.

"No matter what he thinks, I will not stand against the Dark Lord," Mort said resolutely. "I will not raise a finger against him."

"Nor will I before Bella," said Neville sorrowfully as he sat down on a rock. He looked at Draco and asked, "Are you all right, Draco?"

Draco seemed to be stunned. Slowly, he said, "He left. Just like that. He left."

"And it is time we think of leaving too," said Mort, hiding his own hurt that his Master would abandon him so easily. "I made a promise to Ginny and I have to go to Hogwarts."

Neville looked at Mort and nodded. "I'll look after Draco. We'll get Cho and - where should we meet?"

"Earlier I was thinking of the Forbidden Forest," said Mort uncertainly, "as it is currently under the dominion of a basilisk. But with my opposition to the Dark Lord, I'm not sure whose side the serpent would take if it ever comes down to it."

"Wise decision," muttered Neville. "Best not leave things to chance when there's a basilisk involved."

"Godric's Hollow!" Mort said suddenly. "The Potters are currently staying in Hogwarts and the Hollow's wards ought to let me in. Let's meet at Godric's Hollow and make further plans from there."

--

Mort stood outside the wards of Hogwarts, far away from the crowd and altered his appearance. Once again, it was Ron Weasley whose form he took as he wandered in. Taking caution to stay in the shadows so as to not arouse any suspicion, he made his way through several Order members and Aurors and the injured from the battle, until he finally came across a familiar face.

"There you are, Ron," said Bill, grabbing Mort's shoulder. "I thought I told you to give mum a hand with Ginny."

"What about Ginny?" blurted out Mort before he could help himself.

Bill looked strangely at Mort for a moment before shaking his head. "Any slower and I swear you'll be going backwards. Come with me." He led Mort through a long passage and continued speaking. "Mum won't allow Ginny to join the Dark Lord. She's keeping her sedated in the Hospital Wing. You were supposed to relieve her half an hour ago and not run off to play soldier with the Aurors."

"Sorry," was the best Mort could manage.

"Just make sure you look after her," said Bill. "She's very angry with everyone and believes that the Apprentice will come back for her."

"Do you think he will?" asked Mort suddenly, trying to fish for information. "The castle must surely be warded against him?"

"Unfortunately, no," said Bill. "Mrs. Potter wouldn't allow it."

"Why?"

"You're inquisitive today, aren't you?" muttered Bill. "Listen," said Bill urgently, pulling Mort to a corner. "Ron never asks logical questions. Just move around with a blank expression on your face and randomly yell about 'that no good scum' and you'll be fine, Lord Apprentice. Make sure you look after her. Despite what everyone else thinks, my sister is precious to me."

Mort gaped open mouthed at Bill.

"Much better," said Bill with a smirk and he walked away.

Shaking his head, Mort brushed aside all thoughts of the treacherous spy and entered the Hospital Wing. He saw Ginny's mother sitting at a bed beside her daughter who was lying with her eyes closed. Next to her on a bedside table were several vials of potion.

"There you are, Ron," said Mrs. Weasley in relief. "Be a dear and sit with your sister. If she stirs or shows any sign of waking up, push a few drops of the potion in her mouth."

Mort hid his anger and asked, "How long do you intend to keep her this way?" Suddenly noticing the curious look on Mrs. Weasley's eyes, he flared his nostrils and said, "You should let me fight. I'll get that no good scum in no time and there won't be any need to baby sit Ginny all the time."

Mrs. Weasley smiled and patted Mort's head. "How sweet of you to be so protective of your sister. Don't worry about it, Ron. Professor Dumbledore believes now is the best time to invade You Know Who's stronghold and defeat him for good. Everything will be peaceful once You Know Who is defeated."

Mort froze for a moment and he warily watched Mrs. Weasley leave the room. He then quickly rushed to Ginny's side and touched her fingers. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he muttered. "Please wake up soon, Ginny." But when she showed no signs of moving, Mort sighed and sat down on the chair next to her. He would need her to be fully capable of movement before attempting to escape. And there was nothing he could do but wait until she woke up. Hopefully, he would be left alone until then.

"Ronald," came a voice, shattering all hopes of being left alone in Mort's mind. "I thought I told you to get some training."

Mort looked up and saw Alastor Moody frown at him. He hesitated before answering, "Bill found me and told me to come here."

"Did he?" muttered Alastor as he sat down. "Now that brother of yours, sometimes I still wonder where his allegiance truly lies. That's the problem with spying - once your loyalties are suspect, you can never be certain."

"But he did capture the Apprentice," Mort replied, and added for good measure, "that no good scum."

"That he did," Moody conceded. Sighing, he said, "Pity that Sectumsempra spell didn't achieve its goal. Come out as soon as your mother gets here. We storm the Dark Lord's stronghold in a few hours."

Mort forced himself not to glare as Moody walked out, fully aware that his magical eye could see even when his head was facing away. But the moment he left, Mort fumed with anger. It was Moody and Ron Weasley who had nearly murdered him - or at least, one of them. He took a deep breath and steadied his emotions when he heard the door opening yet again.

"Hey Ron," said Hermione as she walked in with Lily Potter and Emily. Mort nearly cringed at seeing the Potters but managed not to. Instead, he merely nodded.

He observed Lily sitting down on a bed with Emily while Hermione quickly prepared a potion for her. Looking at the ingredients, he could make out it would be a mild headache potion.

"That's for Emily," said Hermione, passing the potion to Lily. "I'll make a stronger one for you, Mrs. Potter."

"Thanks, Hermione," said Lily as she fed the potion to her daughter. She looked at Mort expressionlessly and Mort could see from her puffed up eyes that she had been crying recently.

"How are you holding up, Emily?" asked Mort, unable to hold back.

Emily glared at Mort, thinking he was Ron, and climbed on the bed behind her mother. Then she looked at Lily and innocently asked, "How's Mort?"

"I don't know, sweetheart," said Lily sadly. "And his name's Harry."

"Mort!" Emily cut in adamantly. "His name's Mort."

"Okay, Mort then," said Lily tiredly. Sighing, she leaned against her daughter. "I wish I could speak to him once more." She wiped her eyes, which had dampened again. "Just once more, and then if he didn't want to see me again, I'd leave him alone."

Mort looked away from her and at Ginny's face and asked, "What would you tell him, Mrs. Potter, if you could?"

"That not a day goes by when I don't think of him and regret everything," said Lily, more to herself than to anyone else. "That if I could turn back time, I'd never let him out of my sight for a single moment. That - that despite how I acted and what he might have thought, I loved him so much." She stirred suddenly and turned to Hermione. "Is it ready?"

"Yes," said Hermione slowly, passing the potion to Lily.

Mort observed Lily gulp down the potion and taking her daughter's hand, walked out of the Hospital Wing. He was about to turn back to Ginny as if nothing had happened when suddenly, to his surprise, Hermione took out her wand and pointed at him.

"Mort?" she asked.

Mort gulped and reverted to his usual form. "Please Hermione," he pleaded. "I promised Ginny." Frowning, he blurted out, "Do I make such a terrible Ron?"

Hermione chuckled, lowering her wand. "You have no idea." Shaking her head, she walked closer to him and gently hugged him. "How are you holding up, dear? Somehow Bill managed to find out about your rift with your master and relayed the news to the Order."

"I'm fine," Mort muttered, again confused whose side Bill truly was on. "At least, I will be when she," he looked at Ginny, "wakes up and tells me she doesn't hate me for keeping such a big secret from her."

"She doesn't," said Hermione. "But where will you go from here?"

Mort sat down in thought. "I don't know. I'm meeting Neville, Draco and Cho and then -"

"Neville's going with you?" asked Hermione suddenly, her eyes lighting up instantly. "That's that then. Come on, let's get Ginny out of bed."

"Hermione?" asked Mort in confusion.

"She's not getting up for at least an hour, Mort," said Hermione. "You can't tell how long you'll have before someone else comes in. You'll have to escape now and I'm going to help you."

Mort looked at Hermione for a second and then he grinned. "You're a great friend, Hermione." He reached forward and kissed Ginny's forehead and gently raised her.

"Transform into someone whom nobody would know and could pass as an Auror," Hermione ordered. "I've got a plan." She rushed to a corner and got a wheelchair. "Here, gently," she gave a hand to Mort and together they placed Ginny on the wheelchair. Then Hermione brought a lot of bandages and plastered them on Ginny's face and hair - until nobody could recognize her to be a Weasley at all. "Excellent," said Hermione with a grin. "She'll pass as one of the severely injured people from Hogsmeade now. And she sure does act as one."

"Did anyone ever tell you that you're absolutely brilliant, Hermione?" said Mort.

Hermione reddened slightly and then pushed the wheelchair out of the Hospital Wing. The moment they saw someone, she hurriedly said, "Lead me to the patient's family, Auror Lennon."

"Follow me," said Mort, playing his part and quickly rushed through the corridors, ignoring a group of other Aurors led by James Potter who were standing by.

They maneuvered their way through the various corridors of Hogwarts and reached a side exit. "Mort," whispered Hermione. "How are we going to leave once we get out of the wards?"

"Apparition," said Mort. "Do you know where Godric's Hollow is?"

"Yes," said Hermione. "The Potters often invited me for Christmas. Good plan, that will be the last place they'll think to search for you." Frowning, she added, "Can you do side-along? I am not terribly good at it."

"Leave that to me," said Mort. He was about to say something else when other voices interrupted him.

"There they are!" "Catch them!" "Traitors!"

Mort took his wand out, reverting back to his usual form, and hissed angrily, "Serpensaura!" He watched for a moment at his pursuers - Aurors and Order members - as they were trapped by the foul vapors - before hissing again, "Serpensortia Maximus!" When several large snakes appeared, he gave them orders urgently. "Distract all who pursue us." He saw Lily Potter coming behind as well and added, "Do not hurt the woman."

"Harry, please," she was shouting desperately. "Harry - Mort - please, wait. Please -"

For a moment, Mort faltered, but taking a deep breath, he steadied himself and looked in the direction where Hermione had crossed the wards and ran. On reaching her side, he grabbed hold of Ginny in his arms, and nodded at Hermione. "See you at the Hollow."

The reunion at Godric's Hollow was joyful. To Mort's surprise, his friends weren't there alone. Severus Snape had joined them, finally deciding to choose Mort over the Dark Lord openly. They had exchanged a nod, communicating the reasoning behind their decision without words. Hermione and Neville were sitting in one corner of the living room and in each other's embrace, while Cho kept a distance from Mort, still uncomfortable with his presence and Draco stayed with her. As Ginny was still sleeping, Mort was left alone with the former spy.

"I'm glad you saved your sister," said Severus Snape. "But the revelation of your true identity has created quite a stir. Lily and James were shocked into inaction throughout the entire battle at Hogsmeade, the Order, for the most part, is unsure how to react, Dumbledore himself seems quite flummoxed. Through it all, it was only Miss Weasley who managed to take the news in her stride."

"That's because I love that idiot," said Ginny weakly with a groan, and Mort turned to her with a delightful smile. Without saying anything, he took her into a comforting embrace and held her close to him.

Even while holding Ginny, Mort turned his eyes to his mentor. "And you, Severus? How did you take the revelation?"

"It was surprising yet," Severus paused for a moment, "oddly fitting." At Mort's curious gaze, he explained, "The only person who ever befriended me during my Hogwarts year was Lily Evans. It seemed fitting that I come to care for her son as my own."

Mort allowed Ginny to wipe the dampness from his eyes and they remained silent for a few seconds.

"I should give you some privacy," said Severus. "The Headmaster will storm Riddle Manor in two hours. You have time to think what you wish to do. I will come back half an hour before the attack is due."

Mort looked gratefully at Severus and then he turned to Ginny. "Hey," he said. So much had happened since he had last spoken to her properly. And there was much more to come shortly, but he would savor every moment he could get with her.

"Hey you," said Ginny with a mischievous smile. Looking around, she said, "This seems to be a big house. Shall we find a more private room for ourselves?"

Mort grinned at her sudden chirpiness and found his spirits soaring at the sight of her smile. Without thinking, he allowed himself to be led upstairs by the redhead.

"So, Mr. Mortimer," said Ginny cheekily. "Is there any other big secret you're hiding from me?"

Mort paused but the reassuring smile on Ginny's face eased his nerves and he replied back, "Yes. The biggest one."

"Oh, and what might that be?"

Mort took Ginny's hand and brought her closer to him. Reaching forward, he kissed her, letting out his retrained desires and savoring her passionately. When he pulled out and saw Ginny's slightly dazed eyes, he said, "The secret's that I love you, Miss Weasley. I love you more than anyone or anything in this entire universe."

"Oh Mort," said Ginny, with mock disappointment. "That's not really a secret, is it?" But she reached forward and nuzzled against his cheek.

"Let's go inside this room and -" Mort froze. In his hurry to spend time with Ginny, he had nearly forgotten where he was. Inadvertently, he had stepped into the very room where he used to sleep as a child. His face paled and he appeared as if he had just seen a ghost.

"Merlin," Ginny breathed out on seeing a sign made by a child that said 'Harry's Room' and grabbed Mort's fingers.

In front of them, the room appeared as if it hadn't been used for years but was still very well maintained. But they could see two things that could only be massive changes from the past. In one corner, in two piles lay wrapped boxes - dozens of them. Ginny walked closer to them and said, "This one is for Christmas… and the other… the other is for Birthday… Oh Mort," she said woefully, hugging the boy.

The other thing was a pensieve that lay on the bed. It was there that Mort's attention was fixed. He looked at Ginny and said, "Will you see with me?"

"If you want me to," she replied, tightening her grasp on his hand.

Together, they walked to the pensieve and entered it to witness the memories contained within. Mort squirmed uneasily but managed to steady himself under the reassuring presence and touch of Ginny's hands.

The first memory they saw was of James playing with Jake in the living room while Harry Potter watched longingly from his place on a couch, drawing on a piece of paper while stealing glances at his father and brother. After he was done, he took his finished work to his father, who replied in a slightly harsh manner, "Not now, Harry. Can't you see I'm busy with your brother?" James turned to Jake and said, "Race you out to the garden, sport." And they both ran away.

Ginny gasped at the hurt in Harry's eyes as he turned around and scribbled something on the paper before crumpling it and throwing it to a side. Then, he ran upstairs.

"This wasn't such a good idea," muttered Mort next to her and made as if to leave, but Ginny held him back.

"No," she said firmly. "I want to see." She touched his cheek and said, "Please let me see."

Before Mort could reply, his attention was distracted at the sight of a younger and livelier version of his mother, who picked up the drawing and looked at it for several seconds before sighing sadly.

"It was very good as it was, Harry," she whispered to herself, clutching the sheet of paper to her heart. Ginny moved forward to have a look at the drawing and she sighed. It was a picture titled 'The Potters' and had four people drawn with labels of their names next to it. Except that the final figure labeled 'Harry' had been furiously scribbled on. Lily picked up an eraser from the ground and rubbed the lines Harry had made over his image. "I'm sorry," she said sadly. The memory followed Lily Potter walking up to her room and opening a drawer to place the paper in.

Then the memory changed and an older and frailer Lily Potter observed from outside as a young Emily sneaked towards the drawer and opened it. "What is in here that makes mum cry all the time?" she muttered as she removed the drawing and frowned over it. Suddenly, she blurted out, "But where's me? Where's Mort?" Then she saw her mother standing by the door with a tearful face.

She walked to her daughter and gave her a pencil from the drawer. "Do you want to draw in yourself and Mort, Emily?"

By then, Mort was beginning to wipe tears from his eyes, and the memory changed. It moved from scene to scene of neglect and hurt that Mort had experienced in the few tender years of his life he had spent with the Potters, but now he saw it from a different perspective - of Lily Potter, and occasionally James, on how they were affected as they neglected him. By the tenth such memory, it was clear to Mort that his parents had loved him as well as his father's two closest friends - Sirius Black and Remus Lupin - but they had still decided that Dumbledore knew best and went along with his instructions.

"They are to blame as well," said Ginny, from beside him. "But you mustn't forget that they were hurt as well."

Suddenly, Mort turned to Ginny and with wide eyes full of confusion, grief and longing, asked, "Where do I belong?"

Without hesitation, Ginny laughed sadly and hit his head playfully. "With me, of course." She leaned forward and when their lips were inches apart, she said, "No matter who you are - Mortimer, the Dark Apprentice or Harry Potter - I love you and you belong at my side, my Dark Prince, as I belong at your side."

Mort grabbed her shoulder and pulled her closer, plugging the gap and kissing her. For several minutes, they stayed inside the pensieve, completely oblivious to the memories as they merged as one.

After some time, Mort opened his eyes and gasped. The memory had changed. He was seeing, in front of him, his mother with a kitchen knife placed horizontally against her wrists. Tearing from Ginny, he leaped forward as if to stop her, forgetting it was a mere memory, and moved through the holographic image of Lily Potter slicing her veins. As if in a trance, he saw how James rushed to her in a frantic and called St. Mungo's. In a daze, he discovered through the conversations that followed that Lily had tried to kill herself the day after he was supposed to have been killed by the Dark Lord, blaming herself for having left him behind.

Mort turned to Ginny, who had tears in her eyes as well. He said, "Why did she listen to Albus Dumbledore? Why?"

Ginny had no answer to that. She walked towards Mort and hugged him as he crouched in the floor. She pulled him out of the pensieve and back to the room. The rest of them had come to the room as well and Ginny glared at them, sending a message without words to leave them alone.

"Dumbledore," Mort finally growled in a deep rumble. He wiped his eyes and glared vacantly ahead, his eyes full of fury. He pried Ginny's hands off and took a step towards the window. Then, his complete demeanor changed and he turned to Neville and Draco. "Dumbledore's going to attack Riddle Manor."

Draco's mouth fell while Neville frowned. Both looked at each other and then at Mort.

"We have to go and help," said Neville as if it was the most obvious thing he could think of.

"Will they let us?" asked Draco, voicing Mort's own questions. "Will they trust us?"

"Does it matter?" yelled Neville. "We were more than ready to go and help those in Hogsmeade, people who hate us and would sooner see us in Azkaban. Then why can't we go and help those who raised us and taught us all we know? Who loved us as we love them?" He turned to Mort.

Mort hesitated. He closed his eyes and cleared his emotions. It took longer than he was used to and not until Ginny grabbed his hand did he finally manage to control himself. "We need a plan." He turned to Hermione. "You're the cleverest among us. Severus will be here soon and he knows Dumbledore's plans better than any of us. I want you two to make a plan while," he turned to Draco and Neville, "you two gather as many of the Death Eaters who are still out and we can trust."

"There won't be enough," said Draco. "There are too few who are left who would listen to us. Maybe if they knew the Dark Apprentice was back -"

"Use my name as you wish," said Mort dismissively. "But I have other business to attend to." He turned to Ginny and said, "Where I go, it will be dangerous and the chances of survival is small and -"

"Shut up, Mort," said Ginny irritably. In a fonder voice, she added, "I'm coming with you."

Mort smiled. He was relieved and it showed on his face. "I am glad," he said, "because I need you by my side. Now and always."

"And don't you forget it!" Ginny exclaimed, punching Mort's side. "But where are we going?"

"To the Forbidden Forest, my love," said Mort. "To raise an army for the Dark Prince."