A/N: Title from one of my favorite Jethro Tull songs. This was a request… I don't know how happy I am with it, so I'll let all of you be the judges.
Let me take you back fifty years ago…
Harry sighed. Curiosity really did kill the cat.
The diary burned slowly in the fire, flames shooting through the hole he'd pierced with a basilisk fang just days ago. It had been an internal struggle for a week; finally, he decided he needed to be rid of it. Forever.
It had begun the first night Tom Riddle showed him a memory of Hagrid harboring a vicious monster. After losing faith in Hagrid, he felt he couldn't trust anyone anymore. So when he went to the diary with his next question—"What kind of person was Dumbledore when you were at school?"—Tom replied with a memory of Dumbledore forcing him to give up his most prized possessions, including a tarnished old mouth organ that Harry imagined had belonged to one of Tom's dead parents.
The third night he went to the diary, quill in hand, he asked about McGonagall. Tom told Harry that she'd been three years ahead of him at Hogwarts. He was treated to a memory of a young Minerva McGonagall, dressed in Gryffindor Quidditch robes and carrying a Beater's club, brutally striking a Ravenclaw Chaser in the face as she soared across the pitch.
In his mind, then, Dumbledore was cruel and heartless, Hagrid wanted to purge the school of Muggle-borns, and McGonagall had one ugly mean streak.
"I don't know what I should do," he scrawled one night. "Lockhart's a thickhead, and I keep hearing voices."
"You need an escape," came the answer.
Before Harry could ask what he meant, he slipped through the pages of the diary, and it began.
He turned in shock. "Tom Riddle? But—how are you speaking to me? I couldn't talk to you in your other memories—"
"This isn't a memory, Harry. This is a vision."
"Have you noticed any other changes?"
"My voice. And I'm taller. I'm—"
"Dumbledore and McGonagall are both dead. I am the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. You, Harry, are the youngest Headmaster that Hogwarts has ever seen."
He was bewildered. "What? How does Professor Dumbledore die?"
"Voldemort kills him."
"And Professor McGonagall?"
The corners of his mouth curved upward. "You kill her."
"Upon the Dark Lord's return, she goes crazy. The strictest rules are put into effect at Hogwarts, enforced by the harshest punishments. Her sadistic tendencies come to light. Her death is purely accidental; in your first year teaching, you happen upon her using a cane to beat a first-year who got lost and didn't make it to Gryffindor Tower before curfew. In your zeal to stop her, you resort to a nasty curse. Normally, the spell doesn't kill, but to someone of Minerva McGonagall's age… it proves fatal."
Harry sank to the ground. "And what about Voldemort? Is he still on the loose?"
Again, the smile. "Yes."
"You were right about everything," Harry sighed. "I can't believe… all the people I thought I knew." Suddenly, a horrible thought struck him. "Ron. Hermione. What about them?"
"Your friends," pronounced Tom. "Ron is dead. He went to work with his brother Charlie in Romania and couldn't handle the work. Killed by a dragon last year."
He held back the tears that threatened to flow. "And Hermione?"
"Tortured into insanity while fighting Voldemort."
"Then what is there for me here?"
A seventeen-year-old Minerva McGonagall zoomed across the Quidditch pitch. Their Seeker was inches from catching the Snitch in a neck-and-neck race with the Ravenclaw team captain. She could barely take her eyes off the scene.
"Minerva, Bludger!" came a yell and, on instinct, she swung without even looking.
She heard a loud crunch, a cry of pain, and a stream of colorful swear words, then turned to see Percival Addison falling to the ground. Immediately, she came to a halt in the air.
"We're not through yet, Mac, keep your head in the game!"
As soon as she saw Madam Hall rush out onto the field, she focused and turned, going after the two Seekers to provide protection. With a daring burst of speed and a great reach, her teammate leaned forward and captured the Snitch in his fingertips.
"And with the spectacular catch of the Snitch by Guy Pearson, Gryffindor has won the Cup!"
As her teammates mobbed each other, she raced over to Percival's side. "Is he going to be alright, Madam Hall?"
"We'll take him to the hospital wing. It looks like a shattered jaw. But I think I can patch him up."
Ruefully, Minerva looked down at him. "Sorry, Addy. I should have been paying attention."
"It's Quidditch," came his slurred and nonchalant reply. "Things happen."
"Take care of yourself," she called, as they took him from the field.
"What do you mean, you?"
Tom knelt next to him. "It's nice having someone to share your secrets with. I've had this ability—to preserve the past, to see into the future—until you, no one would listen."
"Dumbledore did put on a good face."
"But I knew the truth. I always know the truth."
Harry's eyes were glossed over. "What's the truth about me?"
"You are lost. You are overwhelmed. You are frustrated." He put a hand on his shoulder.
"What else happens to me?"
"You give in."
"Not to what, Harry. To whom."
"Fine, then. To who?"
Rubeus Hagrid wept silently as he held the two broken pieces of his wand. "Me poor mum always thought I'd amount ter somethin'," he sobbed. "An' now look at me."
Albus Dumbledore held up a long gift box. "I have a gift for you."
Confused, Hagrid opened the box. Inside was a pink umbrella. "Thanks, Professor, but pink's really not me color."
"I think you'll find it useful soon enough," Dumbledore said with a grin, and handed it to him. He stood to leave, then turned back. "Oh—Rubeus, would you mind fixing my glasses for me? I'm sad to say I accidentally sat on them this morning." He handed his glasses to Hagrid, which were being held together by some Spellotape.
"But, Professor, I don't—me wand—"
"Try the umbrella." Dumbledore's eyes sparkled.
Feeling rather silly, Hagrid pointed the umbrella at his professor's spectacles. "Reparo." To his surprise, they looked as good as new.
"Thank you, Rubeus." He set them back on his nose. "I know you have a fondness for magical creatures. I would be honored if you would stay here at Hogwarts as our gamekeeper."
"Well—of course I would."
"Good. We'll get some living quarters arranged for you."
He could have cried with gratitude. "Thanks, Professor."
Before slipping out the door, Dumbledore felt he had to tell Hagrid one last thing. "I know it wasn't you," he assured him. "I know that your Acromantula wasn't the creature causing terror here. I know you didn't open the Chamber of Secrets."
He sniffed. "Yer the only one what believes me, Professor."
"I don't understand." Harry was ultimately bewildered.
Harry felt free as a bird. He closed his eyes for a moment to take in the lightness of his limbs, the sensation of all his worries floating out of his head.
"You needed an escape."
"Yes," repeated Harry, "I did. And you're giving it to me."
"And in return, you'll give in to me."
Tom led him down the corridor and walked back and forth three times. Harry marveled at the way the room opened for them, seemingly out of nowhere. A lone bed, covered in green blankets, sat in the middle of the room. Windows gave them a view of the storm outside, cold rain lashing against the windows, lightning illuminating the grounds.
Harry crossed the room and put his hands against the glass. An annoying little stab in his brain told him something was wrong; he shrugged it off and turned back to Tom, whose shirt was now lying crumpled on the floor.
"What are you doing?"
"Take yours off."
Still under the curse, Harry obeyed at once.
Tom approached him and reached for his belt, unbuckling it, then pushed his jeans and boxers to the floor.
He wrapped the belt around his hand and closed his fist. "Bend over, Harry."
Again, he obeyed. He heard Tom's slacks fall to the floor, and felt warm flesh parting the hills of his backside.
He sent the leather belt whistling through the air and brought it down hard on Harry's back.
Harry grimaced in pain. He felt utterly violated, used, and God—good.
As Tom shoved himself all the way inside, Harry gripped the bedsheets. The motion was mesmerizing, painful, delectable.
The belt, still in Tom's grip, rested on the bed next to him. Harry could feel the hot sting on his back fading.
"More," he managed to whisper.
A smirk crossed Tom's face and he put another long red lash across Harry's skin.
Another, darker and hot against the pale flesh.
A thin strip on the shoulder.
It was too much. Tom went wild, swinging with wild abandon, pounding relentlessly, gripping Harry's hips until he exploded.
"Finite incantatem," panted Tom, and Harry was back in his library chair at Hogwarts.
A young Tom Riddle handed a tarnished mouth organ to another orphan. "Here," he said unceremoniously.
The other boy wiped his runny nose on his sleeve. "Why're you giving it back?" His tone was suspicious.
"Because if I want to learn more magic, the old man says I have to."
He laughed. "Magic's not real."
Tom's eyes blazed; the next thing the boy knew, he was levitating five feet above the ground.
"Okay, okay, it's real!"
With a snort, Tom threw the mouth organ on the ground and left. The boy crashed to the floor with a loud wail.
I only allowed it to happen because I was under the Imperius.
Harry repeated this to himself, but no matter how many times he tried to convince himself, he couldn't. I begged for more. That wasn't part of the Imperius.
He hadn't said anything to anyone, of course. And the diary had been stolen from his room.
Which, he thought, is probably a blessing in disguise. Or I'd be tempted to go back.
Dobby handed over the diary. "Sir, why do you want it?"
"There's just something I need to do."
He bowed. "Dobby owes Harry Potter for his freedom. You may have anything of his. Do you want the sock back?"
Harry smiled. "Keep it, Dobby."
"Thank you, Harry Potter."
Wrapped in red flannel pajamas, Ginny wandered into the commonroom. She stopped behind the couch, watching the paper curl and char. "I'd hoped you would burn it," she confessed.
Harry looked up at her and motioned for her to sit down. As she took a seat next to him, he realized how much older she looked—there was a heavy sadness to her eyes that he knew all too well.
"Did he make you grow up too, Gin?"
Her eyes widened. "How—"
He laid a comforting hand on hers. "I said 'too'."
Comprehending, she turned pink. "I won't tell a soul, Harry,"
They sat for a moment, watching the last pages of the diary crumble into ash. After the embers had smoldered to a dull glow, they rose to go to bed.
As Harry climbed the stairs to the boys' dormitory, his heart felt a little lighter.
It's nice having someone to share your secrets with.