His skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever:It wasn't only Ginny Weasley who found Riddle's diary. Percy picked it up along the way, too. Fairly unaltered version of final events.
And really, by 'oneshot', I mean '11,300 words worth of microchapters that I'm too fecking lazy to split up into chapters.' Vague, vaaaaague implications of slash, but I prefer to think of them more as notices of confusion meeting sadism. Contains swearing, big words, complex (/wrong) syntax, possibly confusing chronology, and good ol' Voldy-maliciousness; nothing graphic.
"And what could you possibly have that I would want?"
Riddle smirked. Of all the demands in the world, the Weasley boy wasn't even going to make him think. How… simple.
Silence greeted his words, as, of course, he'd known it would.
The Gryffindor Prefect was staring at him, now, mind working furiously behind those pale blue eyes ; staring right through him, into the depth of thought.
Even as Riddle felt the irritation – well, rage, really - seethe through him, making it hard to think, he knew this was the best outcome, for the moment.
Percy's gaze darted downwards, his body hunching oh so subtly in on itself; Tom Riddle, opposite to him in the dank chamber, seemed to draw strength from his weakening. Riddle fought to keep the cool grin from his face as the boy (although really, they were about the same age) continued to falter, jaw working itself awkwardly, matched with little pathetic motions as his lips battled his tongue.
Finally he spoke.
"What… what do you mean?"
The smirk overran his features.
This was exactly what he wanted.
He felt he couldn't help but do it; he found some sick, perverse satisfaction in comforting his victim as the life drained slowly out of him. Percy lay there, staring deadly at the world, the blankness behind his eyes utterly repulsive; but sometimes he would stir, still, and start, crying out for forgiveness, for help, for mercy.
And really, Tom thought to himself as they sat in the darkness - as he waited, hoping his bait would be sufficient to draw out his intended prey - I thought he was passably clever?
How silly of him.
Percy shook off the weariness once more. By sheer effort of will he managed to roll over onto his back and stare up at the memory that was, horrifically, solidifying slowly before him.
"Tom?" He shook slightly. "Please."
"Please what?" The high voice was laden with pleased amusement; sadism really paid off when you had such fun victims to toy with. He waited a moment, idly surveying his fingernails.
Percy did not elaborate. The Slytherin looked down on him, wondering if his voice had failed him again - as it seemed to have done; but the pleading look was still there, the anguish and pain.
He was still conscious.
A little smirk spread to Tom's face.
"What would you like, sweet?"
He savoured the flinch of revulsion, the flash of betrayal again, but the languishing youth could not find the strength to respond.
Tom Riddle leaned forwards slowly until he was nearly lying on his stomach, parallel to the other boy's body, arms on the ground and face held high.
Somewhere in the back of Percy's mind, a meek thought registered that Riddle's new pose was almost… seductive.
He would have snarled in rage.
The anger in his eyes was enough for Riddle, who smirked. Pulling closer, he moved a curl of red hair away from the Prefect's ear, moving his lips in closer, his voice a teasing whisper.
"Would you like me, to please, end it now, and put you out of your misery?"
The words were of death, but his manner entirely otherwise; set up exclusively for the torture of the young man below him, pinned by the weight of his own foolishness.
Percy felt Riddle's hands, light and soft - still partially immaterial, like a ghost, but not nearly so chilling - brush along his ear, the nape of his neck. He fought it, but as the Slytherin moved around him, he felt warmth from the almost-flesh, heard a promise in the words, and some voice intruding in his head, enticing him to submit.
A shiver went down his spine, and the bile built in his mouth. These insidious feelings, trying to make him give in.
No, and even his thoughts were sluggish, I can't just give in…
"Tom," he whispered, a strangled reply, "please… let me go…"
A little hiss escaped Riddle as he pulled ruthlessly away, drawing a gasp from Percy's mouth as the chill of the chamber was allowed to settle back into his bones. The promise was gone - but what had it even been? Rest, he remembered; giving in means it's over.
"I do not need you to give up," proclaimed the voice, now harsh with rage. "Your life will be mine, Percival Weasley, and your traitorous family will have you to thank when the Dark Lord Voldemort comes knocking on their door."
He said the words with uninhibited relish.
Percy spasmed in pain.
Riddle frowned. His victim should not be withstanding the pain well enough to be conscious. He surveyed his own hands now, almost as nonchalantly as he'd examined his nails earlier, but now with a slight frown of worry.
But maybe this was a good thing. Maybe it didn't mean he was resisting - maybe it would just make his mind break more rapidly, and his body fail all the more quickly. A thin-lipped smile played over his face. Of course, it would be that. Percy would go mad if he didn't succumb to the coma soon.
And then, even if they managed to stop me…
But of course they wouldn't.
Percy sat in the library, thumbing through his new texts with nervous excitement. They'd actually managed, this year, to get him decent-quality ones - used, of course, as they must be, but not torn to pieces, and not written on.
Potions looked like it might actually be somewhat interesting this year; Transfiguration would pose no challenge, and Arithmancy should prove to be his best subject yet again. Of course, they would be getting into such complex things… Percy could hardly wait.
He felt eyes on him as the ambivalent whispering grew to a low roar – the eyes of other students silently requesting, well, silence. Forcing back his excitement, he closed his eyes long enough to resettle his face in a way befitting a Prefect of Hogwarts. With a loud sigh, he pushed his chair out from the table, standing abruptly and settling a piercing gaze on the miscreants.
"This is the Library, not your Common Room." He pushed his glasses farther back up his nose, glancing down long enough to extricate himself from the table and move towards the frightened-looking first-years. He glared down at them, posture stiff, waiting for them to scarper.
They looked amongst themselves nervously.
Percy's eyes narrowed.
"I," he decided a pompous swagger might be a little much, "am a Prefect…" Well, there, the message was getting through a bit better now, "…and I will take points from your houses if you don't either quiet down or relocate your little social club to a more suitable location."
Wide-eyed, the little children exited the room in perfect synch.
He almost allowed a little smirk on his face.
As he returned to his texts, he saw Ginny bent over her book again, scribbling furiously. She'd had other diaries, before, and he remembered her requesting one from their mother… but he could not seem to find any recollection of Molly granting the request, nor of Ginny ever being quite so fascinated with, and protective of, her other diaries.
As it was, that didn't seem to off; but he thought he'd seen something, one day, coming up behind her. Her own handwriting, the first time he'd walked past - she'd glanced nervously over her shoulder, but decided he wasn't looking - and then someone else's, someone writing back to her.
He stared down at her, a scowl on his face, but she did not look up. His eyes settled on the book… it drew him, somehow.
He itched to experiment with it.
He should not, he could not; he would be in so much trouble.
But nevertheless, the book was open, once more, his quill already dipped in ink, poised delicately above the page.
He could turn it in.
But then he would never know what use it might have been…
Hello, he wrote.
There was a pause as the ink settled, momentarily raised and wet, and then seeped into the page, traceless. The response was scrawled back at a slow pace, almost lazily.
Oh, talking to me again, are we?
There was a momentary pause that Percy thought might have almost been for laughter.
So does that mean you trust me?
He watched as the words faded back into the page, and took a little breath, thinking honestly about his response. His spare hand reached out and began to play idly with the wristwatch on his desk, turning it over and over in his fingers, a nervous gesture.
He paused a moment.
He stared openly.
The figure returned his gaze, amusement playing on handsome features; brows raised challengingly, eyes wide with supposed innocence, the faint smirk pulling at his lips.
He seemed rather pleased, almost like Percy was a star pupil finally grasping a difficult concept.
"…how-" And then the first wave of dizziness hit him. He shook his head as if to clear it. No, he thought, it must simply be something I've eaten. A simple hallucination…
The other young man took a step forward from where he'd been leaning, one ankle crossed over the other, against a statue. A sparkle of something like laughter danced in his dark eyes.
Balance and composure properly regained, he took a bold step towards Percy and offered his hand.
"A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance," he said, and then amended with a grin, "in the flesh."
Percy Weasley fought back the wave of blackness that besieged his senses, and managed to miss the little sensor that screamed danger, danger, danger; he even managed to fail to notice that the boy who'd said he was a memory in a diary should not have been offering him his hand in greeting.
He reached out to shake it.
The other boy's hand grasped his, violently, and tugged him forwards off his feet. A leering, deranged grin sprung to his face, and his pleasant tenor voice was suddenly higher, chill.
"You silly little brat…"
He fell into the darkness.
"Where did you get that?"
Ginny looked up, hurt, as Percy snapped at her - but then tried instinctively to pull the diary away as he reached out for it.
"Ginny." He gave her a level, cool glare. She knows I'll rat on her if she doesn't hand it over.
"It's mine," she responded, anger resolute in her voice. She pulled it back to herself protectively, sweat from her hands darkening the faded black of the little book.
"No it isn't," Percy responded, pompously. "Mum never bought you a diary, not this year. Especially not one that would talk back. Now give it here."
His little sister stared back, wide-eyed. How had he known about Tom? He couldn't have been watching her write, she always made sure nobody could see -
"You've been looking through my things!"
She thought it unfair, and he could hear it in her voice.
Really, it hadn't been very polite of him, not very Prefect-worthy, to do just such a thing, but he'd done it. Partially out of protection - he'd thought she'd seemed a little odd about that diary - but more out of indignity and… curiosity. Something pulled him to the little black book, some festering anger at Ginny, something that whispered of ambition…
His eyes snapped back up to her.
"You," he countered, "have been telling whatever's in that book about Penny and I." His voice had lowered to a hiss as he said it; he didn't need anyone else overhearing, if there was anyone left she hadn't told.
"Hand it over," he commanded.
When she simply continued to glare at him, he returned the expression; and then, quickly as he could, he drew his wand.
She let out a little shriek of dismay as it flew traitorously from her hands, and he felt a welling-up of satisfaction and the release of some pent-up unease as it came back to his hands.
"Let's see, shall we?" He opened the book and flicked through it; the first page he opened to saw Ginny's prim, detached lettering fading back into the paper before he could read it. He crisply turned the page, knowing already that it would not have sunken into the one behind it, but simply out the other end, as he thought of it.
Some kind of spell to connect two books together, he'd thought, so the writers could pass notes in class. Except that it had been silly of them to make the words vanish, instead of stay. Perhaps there was a charm to force the hidden words to reveal themselves.
"Passing notes in class, are we?"
He snapped the diary shut as words started to come back in a much more elegant scrawl by Ginny's correspondent.
She stared up at him, eyes wide with fear.
"Did Fred and George give you this?" He could hardly believe his little sister capable of such magic, although he had to admit, he'd be rather impressed if she'd managed - although it was, of course, still unforgiveable.
Her mouth, which had been hanging open very slightly, swung shut. She swallowed, and shook her head once, not breaking eye contact - and then, glancing away and seeming to think better on it, she nodded once.
"No," he said, "You're just trying to protect whoever did give it to you. Well listen up, Ginevra," and he moved towards her threateningly - God, I must look something like Snape - before straightening himself up more reasonably; "I will find out who they are, and the both of you will be in even more trouble for not handing it in to beginwith, let alone lying about it to a Prefect."
He watched her appraisingly, expecting her to buckle and give in. Her eyes darted down and then up again; she took a breath, about to say something, but then turned and fled at the look in Percy's eyes.
He sighed, and rubbed his forehead. He supposed he'd have to tell Molly about his sister's rash behaviour, and although he approved of discipline, he wasn't overly fond of loud screaming matches.
Absently, he flipped open the diary again. Whatever response had been written to Ginny had erased itself, and he pulled out his own quill and ink, wondering what to write to the other person.
How to trap them into giving their own name.
As he sat waiting, however, luck seemed to favour him; writing spilled onto the page of its own accord.
Are you there?
He thought the words were admirably guarded - Ginny's correspondent knew what she (or he, Percy reflected) was doing. Quite aware of the potential liabilities, he supposed.
He waited, to see if any queries would be repeated, but perhaps the other writer had given up.
I'm sorry, he wrote back, imitating as best he could a rushed version of his sister's childish handwriting (which was trying, of course, to look neat and fancy) ; Someone was reading over my shoulder.
There was a brief pause. Percy wondered if maybe whoever was receiving this had their book closed, having given up.
He watched with interest as the ink returned to his page, stroke by stroke, as if some invisible hand were doing the writing. He found himself reaching out over it, just to make sure - how silly of me, of course there isn't.
That's unfortunate. I was - the two words crossed themselves out, and there was a brief pause before continuation. Who was it?
He paused. He could always say it was Ron. But maybe if he imposed a Prefect's name, he could quell this silliness, even without meeting the other perpetrator.
Percival, he finished.
Those words sunk unevenly into the page. He waited with baited breath… which escaped him in somewhat of a gasp as he read his response in it easy, elegant script.
He felt a little chill sink down his spine.
I can't believe she would tell mother about us!
Why not? She told me, after all, didn't she?
Yes, but you - you're a memory. You can't exactlytellanyone else, now can you?
He was returned one of those pauses that he thought meant something like amusement.
You thought I was some correspondent of Ginny's, at first. Mirror spellbooks. Why are you so sure that I'm not?
He felt a nervous laugh escape his lips, and it actually translated in the bumpiness of his writing.
But Tom, I tried disconnecting any charms that could bind the two together. You must beinsidethe diary.
It really was the only rational explanation, but it made him shiver to think of it. He'd looked up in the library about ways to store a memory of yourself in something - not one of your memories, but an active reflection of your working personality… he'd found very little that could accomplish that, and his mind kept on straying to the Restricted Section, but he found he didn't want to go there.
No, he'd come to depend on the diary, in some strange way. Someone as intelligent as he was, right in his pocket - and every time he thought, maybe I should check it out, it probably really is all Dark Arts stuff - he felt that little reassuring voice (script, really)letting him know that all was well. He, Riddle, had invented the spell.
And as a Prefect, Head Boy, and recipient of an Award for Special Services to the School, Percy thought he might have been clever enough to come up with something of the sort.
Yes, yes, I'm a memory. We've discussed this.
He returned to his anger on-hand.
She told my mother! Ginny told her about Penelope and I!
Penelope andme,chided the diary.
But sheTOLD! And now Mum's all fussy over it, and Fred and George are gloating, and Dad's trying to give me tips on dating, which is absolutely mortifying enough to begin with! But if she lets slip that we
He broke off. He wasn't sure he wanted to share his most intimate secrets with Tom, even if there wasn't anyone the memory could possibly repeat it to.
I don't think she will, Percy. Calm yourself.
Thank you, Tom.
Ginny saw it at the same time that he did; the ldiary, the one he'd taken from her and then thrown out, in a rage; that same little black book that had just fallen out of Potter's split schoolbag.
What is Potter doing with the diary?Fear swept out the humiliation. What might Tom have told him? What might get back to his mother?
Harry didn't seem to notice either of them staring at him as he scooped up his books and shot a glare at Malfoy, trying to rid himself of the ink that had seeped out into everything.
He would have to get it back.
Tom, you were at this school fifty years ago?
Who is this?
It's Percy, again. I know Harry had it. What did you tell him?
A brief pause.
Only what he asked.
He breathed a sigh of relief (he was fairly certain Potter would have more interesting questions than 'why is Ginny angry with Percy'), mulling over his thoughts as he played with his pen. Really, he ought to turn the diary in. But that would mean admitting that he'd kept it so long. Maybe I could get Ginny to say she'd had it, he thought. She's only a first-year, she couldn't know any better.
What did he ask?
I didn't tell him anything you said, Percy.
Did he ask about the Chamber of Secrets?
He thought there might have been shock, or excitement, in the way the writing was suddenly more slanted. He wondered, suddenly, if whoever Tom Riddle had grown up to be would still write that way. Maybe he worked at the ministry; maybe someday Percy would be handed a document in this writing, and know he'd spoken to a sixteen-year-old memory of this person.
But the real one wouldn't remember anything that passed between them.
The reply was simple, and perhaps because of its simplicity, he took time to note the angles of the lettering, the slight curls on the ends. It was like a pleasant voice on his ears. Except, of course, that it was script on a page.
"Still awake, Weasley? I'm rather impressed, I must admit."
"What - why do you just stand there like that? You should help me! I think - something's wrong-"
"Well, when you're talking to hallucinations, one tends to understand that there might be something of a problem. I can't help you, Percy." His tone grew almost regretful, pitying. "I'm just a memory."
But Percy could remember the all-too-solid feel of those hands, the cool caress of the fingers on his body. Tantalizingly real.
"You can - can't you go call someone? Call for help, please. Really, I - I think there's something wrong - "
"You are dying, Percival Weasley."
His eyes widened in shock.
"You - you have to help me! I c - I can't stand straight, I'm dizzy! A professor will know what to - where's my wand?"
"I have it here."
The voice was calm, pleasant.
He did not extend the wand to Percy, who reached for it.
"I'm afraid it's not yours for the taking, Percy."
He felt the first true spasms of terror wrack his body. He should have given the diary in. He should never have come here.
"Of course, I would have preferred to take your sister," he said, voice turning to complete apathy. There was no guilt or regret to his tone - he might have been expressing that he really ought to have picked the roast duck sandwich over the meat pie. "You could have been useful, had you lived. But I guess in the end you opened up to me just as much."
A little, wicked grin.
And then it collapsed into an angry sneer.
"And Potter," he spat bitterly, "Would have come to her rescue more quickly. I suppose they think a Prefect," the word seemed a disgusting taste imposing itself unfairly upon his mouth, "should know how to look after himself. At least I shan't have to worry about anyone trying to rescueyou… not that they could."
Percy's eyes were wide, uncomprehending.
"What… what's going on? What are youdoingto me?"
A flash of brilliant, delighted malice.
"I'm stealing your soul, Percy Weasley."
I have reversed any charms that ought to be able to link this book to another.
He smirked down triumphantly at the words as that sat unmoving on the page. There, he thought, that ought to do it.
The smirk vanished with the lettering, a few seconds later.
But you did nothing to disband any charms that actually make it function. How interesting.
Percy stared. Maybe it wasn't a link, but some strange duplicate spell - they didn't need any sort of magical connection, they would simply be changed in exactly the same way that its twin was, reflecting any writing… but then… why did it fade back in?
A mirror charm of some sort, then? Or a potion?
No, Percy, you cannot so easily rid yourself of me.
He glared down at the writing. He wanted to know who was writing this, so he could get them in trouble. He wracked his brains; who was clever enough at this school to invent some other linking spell, or who could properly cast any kind of twinning magic? Hermione Granger, he thought, but much as she was brilliant, she was much too young for this. Undoubtedly, in a few years.
You must be at least a sixth-year, he said finally. Maybe fifth. Whatever magic you've worked on this is too advanced.
You want my name?
His heart picked up a beat. He hadn't actually thought it would be offered to him.
Of course, he responded.
But then, he thought, maybe he shouldn't have. Maybe he could have tricked them into telling. They would be in deep trouble, of course - either they'd been using Dark Arts (the only linking spells he hadn't bothered trying to disconnect) or else they had invented their own spell, and then given the potentially dangerous result to a first-year student. There would be retribution.
He wondered if it was with humour that his next reply had been written:
Why, Percy, want to run and tell Professor Dippet?
But then, he frowned. Who on Earth was Professor Dippet? Some memory connected; a predecessor of Dumbledore's, if he was correct.
Or I suppose it may be Dumbledore, now.
He froze, and it was only with much perseverance that he kept ellipses from his reply.
Yes. Who are you, then?
My name is Tom Riddle.
That name seemed familiar. Percy froze and glared.
Where do I know your name from?
Perhaps the front of the diary?
Percy let out a little gasp and flicked back to the front of the diary which did, indeed, claim it as property as Tom Riddle, junior. He let out a little sigh for a moment… and then realized that the diary had been dated to approximately fifty years ago, and that there were certainly no sixth - or seventh-year students by the name.
Or perhaps from the registrar of past Prefects? I was Head Boy, you know. Well, am, as far as I'm concerned.
He stared at the paper.
Past prefects. Was. His correspondent - Tom, there was a name now (and how could he not have guessed it, being written in the front of the diary and all?) was a graduate then. He was not even in the building, he was somewhere else, perhaps sitting at a desk in the Ministry, amused at his communications with schoolchildren.
Percy felt some rage build up inside of him, something unaccountable, before remembering that the wards of the school would certainly not allow any linking device, even one invented by Riddle, to get through the school grounds.
A pseudonym, then, for a professor who worked here? Perhaps Snape, the despicable potions-master, one of the main reasons he was most proud to not be in Slytherin.
Although, as the hat had said, it would have allowed him his ambitions…
Are you a teacher here, then? What's your real name?
My real name is Tom Riddle. I was thinking of becoming a professor. Of course,Idon't exactly know, do I?
There was some strange quality to the way this was all worded.
What do you mean? Have you lost your memories?
Percy, Iama memory.
Dark Arts. Percy gasped and shut the book, pushing it away from him. I should,he thought, have handed it in.
But Riddle was a Prefect. Actually, his mind going back over the years, Riddle had been Head Boy. Just like he'd said, of course. But that he could remember it, from the list… and… hadn't there been some award he'd received? Certainly no award-winning student who was a Head Boy would delve into Dark Magics.
But maybe he ought to look at the registrar, just in case. Maybe his memory was serving him wrong.
He screamed again in pain, writhing slightly. Riddle looked over, boredly. He was sitting there now, one knee raised, rubbing idly at the bridge of his nose.
This was becoming boring.
"Oh, stop whining," said Riddle. "Just give up, and the both of us can get on with the world all the sooner."
Get on with the world? No, he thought, I'll be dead. Maybe that's why he said 'the world' as opposed to 'our lives'. Our life,he amended, if I'm giving mine to him.
He felt something harsh hit the back of his head - had Riddle just smacked him? The other touches had not seemed so powerful and… material. Even the first one, where he'd pulled Percy off his feet, it was more the sudden chill and the dizziness than the strength of the ghostly hands. His mind faded once more.
Riddle's breath caught in his throat, and he stared at his hand in amazement. Contact that actually made him sting in pain. He was so close, now. Soon, very soon, he might be able to leave this place, walk straight out of the building.
Reunite himself with any other remnants of his soul.
Continue his plans as the Dark Lord Voldemort.
Even as his eyes closed and his mouth pulled into a twisted grin of joy, as he savoured the taste of victory, he heard the commotion from the far end of the chamber. His face fell. If it was more than the Potter boy, if they got here before Percy was dead…
He lifted Percy's wand experimentally, twirling it through the air. He could hold it, probably because he was more magic than substance and wands just loved that sort of thing, but he wasn't certain it would obey his command.
He wondered where his real wand was. He wondered, suddenly, what would happen, when he encountered the remnants of his older soul; certainly wiser than he was now, with a greater repertoire of skills, but he didn't want to cede his new body to some old mind only to have it crumple to pieces.
But deal with that when the time comes, he reminded himself. He thought he heard voices near the end of the tunnel, and focused his gaze on Percy.
Wingardium leviosa,he thought, and Percy was jerked into the air, startled back into a consciousness that seemed to have left him. A weak cry of pain, and Riddle set him back down, retreating back into the shadows.
The wand worked.
He would await his prey.
Give me one good reason why I shouldn't hand this diary over to Professor Dumbledore immediately.
There, he thought, good and demanding. He waited for his response, arms crossed in satisfaction. Riddle would tell him everything, or be destroyed.
This seemed to have crossed Riddle's mind as well (Mind? Stored within those pages?),for his response, after a brief pause, was written rapidly.
Percy. I was Head Boy. I was a model student. I stopped a monster from slaughtering all the Mudgle-borns(the d was transformed into something of a g, and Percy paid no notice, too caught up in what was being said) in the school. Why are you afraid of my memory?
He stared, astounded, bursting with far too many questions to ask at once.
"It's all my fault," Ginny whispered, her eyes wide and unfocussed.
Harry glanced over at her, glad that someone had finally broken the silence. The other Weasleys sat around him in the common room, staring without speaking at the floor, the walls, out the window. Fred looked up as if ready to crack a joke to comfort her - No really, Ginny, it's his own bloody fault! Stupid git went to try and find the Chamber of Secrets and got himself in a spot of trouble? - but then blanched as he realized the exact implications of all this.
Ron glanced up, but he too could think of nothing to say, and George continued to stare miserably at the floor.
"Ginny," breathed Harry, "It can't have been your fault."
"I let him takethat stupid book!"
She screamed it in terror, and then froze, staring up at Harry, who she knew would understand.
Hermione glanced over sharply. "Ginny? What book?"
Ginny covered her mouth.
Ron was staring at her now, the twins trying to figure out just what they'd missed here.
Harry reeled out before her.
"Ginny," he said, voice harsh with fear, "did you give Percy Tom Riddle's diary?"
There was pure horror in her eyes, now. She closed them.
But he was already running up to the dormitory and then crashing back down the stairs with his invisibility cloak, mind woring furiously.
Myrtle, he thought, Moaning Myrtle. How could I have missed it…
Percy reeled back to his feet. He felt almost drunk - filled with ambition, with courage, and the desire to excel. Tom was watching him, an amused grin alive on his features.
"Okay," Percy tried again, and he almost giggled with the excitement of trying to figure out this fun trick his mind was playing, "So you're Tom Riddle. But that's not possible. You're a memory, you told me so."
Riddle reached out his hands, and Percy latched on to them, at the same time finding that his own flesh seemed to sink partially into them, that his edges grew blurry as he contacted Riddle's skin and then the blur spread.
It was all very amusing, really.
He pulled back, staring at his hands and turning absently on the spot to keep his balance. The blurriness of the edges seemed to stay with him, but then fade away again.
Percy laughed. "What's up, Tom?"
Riddle returned a smirk which he forced into a pleased smile. Percy must have addled his brains a tad in the fall, or else his terror was rendering him somewhat mad. Not to mention, his soul slowly draining out and into the other boy. It would be fun, for awhile, to let Percy think he was a dream, a delusion.
After all, it could take hours before the boy died.
He reached out his hands again, grabbing one of Percy's and twirling him playfully, as though in a dance.
Percy fell over, and stared up at him with a glint of madness in his eyes. "I feel drunk," he conceded. Tom grinned.
"Of course you do."
What do you know about the Chamber of Secrets?
What? Nothing, really. It was supposedly built by Salazar Slytherin. Why?
No, responded Riddle, and there was some warmth that danced in his words - almost straight into Percy's hands, letting him feel the amusement - you wanted to know what Harry Potter asked me.
He asked about the Chamber?
And what did you tell him?
The warmth was there again, tingling pleasantly in the hand that held the quill, but then it seemed more, almost heat, almost pain. He frowned; the feeling subsided.
Nothing, Riddle answered, mischievously.
Oh. I was hoping you might know something about it.
I know plenty.Percy could almost feel the smirk reflected on his own face, which he felt odd. He did not like the effects Tom's mere memories were having over his body; they had been becoming more frequent, recently. But he couldn't bring himself to give up the diary - it was almost addictive, having the cunning and brilliant student write back to him. (Although not, of course, as cunning and brilliant as himself, and certainly, for a Head Boy, rather disrespectful of the rules.)
Why didn't you tell him?
Because there are much better ways of communicating.
Ginny whirled on him, her whisper fierce within the confines of the library. "Why do you get to write to him?"
Percy carefully moved an arm slightly over the book. "Write to whom?" he responded, rather repugnantly.
Ginny almost clapped a hand to her mouth. Oh no, she thought. He doesn't know…?
Did that mean that Tom wouldn't speak to him? Tom was keeping her secrets. Of course, he would, but she had to worry anyways.
He looked at her smugly.
"I dispelled over seventeen link-charms that would have allowed you to communicate with," he paused, leering over the book, "whomever.It appears that your correspondent," and he arched his brows rather pompously (but at least didn't sneer) "was using some sort of very simple connection charm."
She stared at him, her face flushed.
Correspondent? Linking Charms? But Tom said… he was part of the diary.
She felt betrayed. He wasn't stuck in the diary; he could have told anyone her secrets. The name had just been a convenient lie.
He mistook her look for guilt. "Not illegal, or against school rules," he amended, "but used for sharing notes in class?" He tut-tutted and shook his head.
Apparently that was supposed to be comforting. Ginny found it nothing of the sort.
He stared at the paper before him, undecided. He could give in to his Prefectly duties and Gryffindor's honour and give the diary over to Professor Dumbledore, who would know what to do with it…
The old man is obsessed with the Dark Arts, in my day.
Albus Dumbledore? A Dark Arts aficionado? I hardly think -
Notusingthem.He felt small sparks of irritation forcing him to clench his jaw, but reflected that he had no idea what he should be irritated about. Destroying them.
Somehow, Percy felt as if Tom thought this… a bad thing.
Just ashe ought to, he countered aggressively, his pen nib biting slightly into the paper. The Dark Arts should be abolished, and all wizards who practice them, executed. I am not so certain this 'memory' of yours does not fall into that bracket, Thomas Marvolo Riddle.
He sat back, watching the book. He really should hand it in.
There is nothing Dark about a diary that can write back, he responded eventually. The single line faded back into the diary, and was replaced with another. And my name is NOT short for Thomas, Percival.
It looked like childlike indignance. Percy found this almost endearing, and comfortingly… human.
You are a Slytherin, though, aren't you? They seem to have a rather different view on what constitute Dark Arts.
And you'll be a Gryffindor, just like the old man, too proud to think about something that could be useful just because it could tarnish your name, or because it might be tainted by what you label 'Dark' Arts, as though you truly had a clue.
Percy slammed the diary shut.
But the next day, he still had not returned it to Dumbledore, nor the next. He'd opened it once, to ask once more why he shouldn't turn it in.
I can help you, Percy Weasley. I can get youpower!
And it had been… flattering. The script in the diary, he almost heard it as a voice in his head, seductive, promising, alluring.
Such ambition, he had complemented, and you say you're a Pure-Blood?That way he knew, somehow, that it was amusement. Whatever are you doing in Gryffindor?
My whole family's in Gryffindor. Ithink I'm perhaps just not evil enough to be a Slytherin.
No, you're right. Anyone who categorizes people as Good and Evil would never make it in my house.
And Percy had realized that this was said with smugness, not some apologetic tone. He thought good and evil were silly concepts, for silly Gryffindors.
And, Percy reflected bitterly, he might be right, at that.
"What are you doing!"
Funny, Ginny thought, weren't those the same words he'd used last time he'd seen her writing in the diary? She lifted her eyes, glaring at him. Daring him to yell out loud in the library which he so often sought for protection, and which would now shield her from him.
"You lied," she whispered back, as he stood fuming. "You didn't get rid of him. He says he's been talking to you, too. What did he say?"
There was an accusatory glare. Ginny distrusted her mystery correspondent - well, subject really - to keep her secrets, then? He wondered what she'd been writing to him right now.
"You can't use that diary," he answered, forcing himself to calm down. He held up a hand to quell her protest. "It could be dangerous."
He summoned it back to him and turned from the library. He could almost feel Ginny's anger radiating back into him.
You know an awful lot about Dark Arts, for Head Boy. I'm starting to think you are just using some linking spell I didn't manage to think of. A memory? That seems unfeasible.
(Tonelessness… that's odd.)
I'm probably not half the Prefect you are, nor half the Head Boy you will be. But forgive me that, I do my best, for a Slytherin.
The Head Boy I will be? Really, Tom, flattery will get you nowhere.
But think about it, Percy. Joking, amicable. I'll be here to mentor you.
And he understood, suddenly, what Ginny had meant when she'd screamed, He's my friend.
Harry breathed in the chill, dank air from underneath Hogwarts. He wondered if the castle's wards bothered to extend this far below the ground.
Taking a few cautious steps forwards, feeling bones crack beneath his feet. He'd thought most of the carcasses had been left behind, little animals, fish and rats and things. But there were a few left yet, this side of the blockade.
He tried not to think about the enormity of the Basilisk's shed skin, that it could kill him with the single glance of an eye, that its fangs were deadly venomous or that he had no clue how to kill it…
Maybe I can just… talk to it…
With his luck, that didn't seem likely.
He thought he heard voices from further down the tunnel, or echoes of voices. He turned back to the fallen rocks, dim in the distance now of the enormous cave, the sound of shifting rocks behind him.
He could wait here. He could just stay here until the others got through.
Why didn't we bring along someone more competent than Lockhart?
Now, stuck the other side of the barrier, it seemed the logical thing to do. He turned away again.
He hoped Percy was managing fairly well on his own… (and what was he, a second-year, doing, trying to save him?) but he daren't dally. He took a few steps forwards.
The voices stopped.
"Why do you get to use it!" Ginny shrieked, her voice hoarse from the lump in her throat, tears in her eyes.
Percy blinked at her, wide-eyed. He hoped he'd never thrown such a tantrum when he'd been her age.
"I am trying to decide whether or not this object is dangerous!I should hope you know that Dumbledore is a very busy man and shouldn't be bothered unless it's absolutely necessary, so I'm not going to get ridof it until I can prove that there's something wrong with it. Really, Ginny, this is for your own safety."
Harry looked over. He thought he saw, in Percy's hands… but no. Percy wouldn't have stolen the diary from him.
It was gone before he could get a closer look at it; Percy and Ginny both seemed to realize that their fight was rather public, and dropped it off to Ginny glowering at him and Percy snubbing her by pompously turning away and walking off.
After a few moments, she darted up the stairs behind him.
She pulled into the sixth-years' dorm and slammed the door shut.
"There's nothing wrong with him!"
Percy looked up, surprised, and then scowled. He cast a silencing charm on the door and set his quill back down - Ginny realized with annoyance that he had been poised to start writing to Tom.
"Why do you get to talk to him? Why can't I?"
"Ginny, what has your correspondent told you about himself?"
"You know!" Ginny fired back. "He told me you know who he is. And what he is. He's inthe diary, Percy! He can't hurt me! He wouldn't hurt me!"
"Ginny! He was a Slytherin who attended this school over fiftyyears ago - maybe even just that! He knows about the Chamber of Secrets. Do you think this is a coincidence? It's not safe!"
"Tom wouldn't - he wouldn't do that! He's my friend!"
And with that, she stormed out of the room.
Percy, reaching for the diary, felt a slight wave of disgust wash over his emotions as he watched the door close of its own accord. Ginny must really learn to control her temper.
"I should have given it in to Dumbledore," he whispered to the ceiling, mortified. And then, "I'm sorry…"
"Sorry?" Riddle sounded far too jolly for his surroundings. "Sorry to me? Dumbledore? Yourself? I suppose the last two are reasonable." He lounged back against the wall, sitting between the feet of Salazar Slytherin's statue.
"I should have given it in…" There was pain in that voice.
"Yes, you should have," answered Riddle. "But thanks to your sacrifice, the Dark Lord shall be able to rise again…"
Percy's eyes rolled over slowly to where his tormentor sat, playing with the stolen wand. He felt years of ache and tiredness settling into his joints and muscles.
He swallowed a lump in his throat.
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because it's the only way for me to become real again," answered Riddle, his voice far too perfect and reasonable for the absurdities he was speaking.
"You made a memory of yourself… who was willing to kill…?"
"Still haven't figured it out then, Percy?" The tone was condescending, mocking, and still calm. Infuriatingly calm. He has all the time in the world, thought Percy, and his entire body fought to do as much living as he possibly could before his death, which would be soon - because he's taking it from me.
Perhaps the boredom had stirred him up properly, now. "Oh, come now, Percy. Can you think of no one? No Slytherin graduate famous - or infamous, if you like - for his widespread use of the Dark Arts, his manipulation of others, his beautiful ideals of eliminating Mudbloods and taking control of the Muggles and his willingness to do anything to get his way?"
Riddle looked like he was appraising the qualities of some noble charitable saint towards whom he harboured feelings of absolute love and would be proposing to tomorrow.
The thought of it seemed to be too much; his mind melted away into oblivion.
"Really now, it's time to give up."
Riddle had grown bored, then. Percy's eyes were half glazed-over as he turned them to the predator-memory that was feasting on his soul. He could not see the mild hint of anxiety on the young man's face; he was too tired to perceive it.
He felt numb everywhere. His body was stone-cold, and he could hardly shift his eyes, let alone move his head. The numbness was spreading in, pulling away only briefly from his mind.
Then, he heard it.
Hope tried to blossom in his heart; it upset his body, his veins suddenly screaming in pain as ice plummeted through them, forced into motion after so long a rest. The little burst of hope died, and his heart slowed once more, creeping along, ticking slower, giving up.
"Voices growing fainter," responded Riddle. His handsome face was twisted in a bestial snarl that Percy though fit it much better than the usual, casual façade.
And, surely enough, the voices were quieting. The momentary surge of hope was replaced with an all-new low. His mind fought to find some reason to continue the struggle.
He did not remember the way down. He had been in some sort of trance. Maybe, just maybe, they were a little lost. But they would make it here, eventually. They had to.
"Help," he called, but his voice was too weak.
The other voices grew fainter yet.
He did not see Riddle retract the wand from the silencing spell. The rescuers were, of course, actually drawing closer. Percy's eyes, however, were losing whatever little light was left in them.
Tom did not want to face too many challengers at once before Percy's soul was wholly his own; it was imperative that Percy give up, that he die, or let his coma take him at the very least. He needed the strength.
Percy barely heard the rustling of the soft robes as Riddle drew closer to him again, crouching down near his head. Calming voice. Elusive voices.
"Give up, Percy Weasley. They have."
It was over, then. It was all over. But he couldn't… not for nothing…
Riddle arched his brows, and wasn't certain whether to be delighted or disgusted. Gryffindor honour; the boy would give up, then, if he, Riddle, did what he was requested?
"What would you like, Percy?"
The tones were sensuous, silky. Percy let his mind be wrapped up inside of them.
"You won't… hurt them…"
Boiled rage fought to explode, but he tamed it down. The voices had stopped, but lone footsteps were drawing closer. They did not sound like those of anyone he knew, but it had been fifty years.
It could be Dumbledore returned, for all I know.
The old man wasn't supposed to be in the castle, but the Dumbledore that Tom Riddle knew wouldn't be put off by that. The news of the monster finally claiming a kill might get the old Headmaster out of his conveniently-imposed retirement.
"Hurt who?" His hand trailed over Percy's jaw, soft and warm on the cold, hard mortal whose life was dwindling slowly away. Tom was surprised Percy had the perseverance to make it this far… but the admiration would not be enough to stop him. Percy might have been almost useful, could his pompous attitude and devotion to his family be quashed. But he wouldn't have offered over his little sister in his place, and they were the only two he'd affected enough to try and take control over.
"Hurt who, Percy?" he repeated, softly.
Ginny trembled. She knew she shouldn't have risked taking the book back from Percy, but he hadn't even noticed… and now…
There was red all down her front, and there was red on the wall. She couldn't help but think…
She'd written the messages…
Tom, she wrote, letters uneven and shaky, I think I'm going mad…
(And he would have laughed)
It was not safe.
He cast about in the dormitory for some way to dispose of it. It was not safe. He should never have trusted the diary, ought to have listened to his instincts.
It was Dark Arts. Tom had practically admitted it himself.
Tom?he thought. That was much too personal. Riddle, he corrected. And wasn't that accurate. Hours puzzling over whether or not the book could be dangerous, but more than that, hours of lying to Ginny about it, hours of writing to it, spilling out all the anger and resentment in his heart.
He stared at it, bitterly.
He would get rid of it.
He left the room, holding it apart from him like some revolting animal carcass - mole with its head half chewed off by the cat and left on the doorstep, a little gift - until he realized how silly he looked and, disgruntledly, forced himself to hold it more appropriately, closing his hand properly around the spine and walking purposefully from the common room.
He felt Ginny's eyes following him, and he found that he didn't care.
It is dangerous.But… I can't take it to Dumbledore.
He couldn't admit that he'd kept it so long in his possession. But what harm could it do him, trying to destroy it? It would be rid of, and he would have nothing on his conscience. Maybe Ginny would feel better, once it had lost its grasp on her mind.
Because it has some hold on mine. He shuddered.
He sat at the corner of the hallway, quickly pulling out his pen and ink. He didn't know why he did it - letting it keep its hold - but he felt the need to bid Riddle a proper farewell.
Riddle, he wrote, I have decided you are dangerous.
(Prickling of fear, dash of contempt)
What danger could a book pose to a brave Gryffindor?
He had to admire the tactic. But his resolution hardened itself again. He would get rid of it.
I'm sorry. Goodbye.
He shut it before any distressed reply could register.
That night when he returned to the common room, he made certain that the fire was blazing, threw the book in, and turned away without a backwards glance.
And that morning, waking early and sneaking out in his invisibility cloak, Harry Potter wondered that the book had been left in the fire - heat lingering in it.
Perhaps the words had been magically burnt out.
He took it with him.
"Watch your temper, Weasley," sneered Draco Malfoy. "I can see your filthy traitorous blood curdling in your ears."
Percy froze. He'd already berated the Slytherin rather loudly - and with good reason - and turned away before the biting remarks reached his ears, which promptly, and to everyone's surprise, lost their livid red glow.
He turned back around to face the little blond-haired boy, his face draining of any colour as surely as it pulled into a mask of calm anger, a torrent of snide words finding themselves curled up under his tongue.
"Watch your tongue, Malfoy," he threatened - to the initial amusement, and then slight surprise, of the second-year before him - "Or someone might wrench the little snake from your ugly mouth."
The cold glare that followed managed to quell the thuggish looks on the faces of Crabbe and Goyle, but it only sparked Malfoy's fury.
"Some nerve you've got, for a fucking Weasley. Maybe you should try for some dignity and shave your hair off, so's no one associates you with that nest of filthy useless Weasley prats."
Much to his own glee, (glee? Horror was welling up inside of him) he found his tongue baited with a fresh retort.
"I'd recommend the same to that piss you call hair, but I'm afraid we might find some horribly disfiguring and incriminating mark of evil underneath."
Anyone who categorizes people as Good and Evil would never make it in my house.
He felt oddly abashed by the memory of the words, but nonetheless, his retort left the hallway momentarily speechless.
He couldn't help but note that at least two of those speechless people were his younger siblings.
You don't happen to know anything about the Complex Theory of Saturation as applies to Transfiguration, do you?
Little Prefect Percy, asking me for help with his homework?
Well I could find it in the library, only…
Only what, you've had your library-terrorization pass revoked since the last little spat there with your sister?
…how did you know about that?
She told me she was in the library before the last abrupt change of hands.
No, that's not it. There's just someone hanging around there that I'd rather not deal with right now.
Who would happen to be your sister?
She inferred that the library was the best place in which to corner you.
You can't start yelling, there.
"You won't… hurt them…"
Riddle smirked. That shouldn't be far too hard a promise to keep, if the rest of the Weasleys were so foolish as Percival and Ginevra. And if not? Well, it wasn't as though the dying, wandless teenager could bind them with an Unbreakable Vow.
Percy felt the words, soft with something like caring, whispered over his ear.
Percy's eyes closed, and moments later, Riddle felt the rush of power. The grin of joy split his face into a maniacal mask, and it was only with effort that he kept back the laughter.
The Weasley was not dead yet, but he would be, very shortly.
And he looked forwards to his encounter with whatever rescuers might be presented with absolute relish.
I hate them, he admitted one day.
Hate? That's a strong word for family.
Nonetheless, he could feel the little grin in the back of his mind, Riddle's grin in his head.
He found that he didn't particularly mind.
Whenever I try to be something different, he began, not knowing how to explain, they mock me. The twins think it's all great fun, you know. They're relentless. They think I'm too ambitious. Just like you, I guess. And they make such fun about Penelope and I…
You hate your family because they tease you?
Percy snorted in contempt, and thought he might impress Riddle with his understanding.
Why do you hate yours?
(Chill. Bitterness. Something like anger.)
I never had a family, Weasley.
She mouthed his name, silently, in distress. Across the table…
He narrowed his eyes at her and looked away. She'd been tattling on him, and the twins wouldn't give him a moment's peace without picking at his little romance. And, he suspected, she might have stolen the diary from him again - he hadn't looked properly for it yet, but where else would it be? She couldn't just get forgiveness that easily.
Her teeth set to her lip with her jaw working back and forth slowly, she stared down through the table. She needed to talk to him - before she did something stupid.
Like keep the diary any longer.
"Percy?" she tried, finally. He supposed he could not ignore the verbal query, when others had heard it.
He looked up, face the perfect image of - I have no idea what you want, of course. Innocence, to the situation, at least.
She looked shocked.
Maybe that had been a bit much.
Spinning away already, she threw the diary on the table and fled. She couldn't bring herself to add - bring it to Dumbledore, it's evil, it's vile, but I can't, I'm the one who's been doing all the bad things…
"All students will please return to their house dormitories immediately. All teachers will report to the second-floor corridor."
Ginny stared. Oh no.
She wasn't alone in curious adventurers trying to figure out what was going on instead of getting themselves to safety. It was fairly easy to change her route from the library to conveniently take her past the second-floor corridor (the same place where she'd daubed the other messages on the walls with roosters' blood)and there they were…
She hadn't blacked out. She hadn't forgotten anything.
His skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.
He glanced over darkly at Ron as he entered the room, and the jovial look on his face fell off of it immediately. His brother blinked, mouth closing - undoubtedly, he was about to say something loud, boisterous and stupid that upheld his family's reputation as useless woolgatherers.
He returned his attention to his books with crisp, concise motions - he was not interested. The little book in his robes' inner pocket purred dangerously.
"Uhm… you all right, Perce?"
He froze where he was, fingers poised to turn the page, his jaw set at some level of dislike. He worked the jaw, and turned his eyes to his brothers', his look not entirely hostile, but certainly not welcoming.
"What would make you think otherwise?"
Ron's lip twitched, nervously.
"Just… you're… you don't look very… happy."
His brows arched imperiously; he shifted his glasses up his nose, uncrossing his legs, moving forwards in his chair, and getting to his feet all in one mechanical, fluid gesture.
"I am perfectly happy, thank you, Ronald."
Ron's eyes darted once to Percy's hand inside his pocket - on the book, but surely the brat who looked up to the twins would see it as a threatening gesture, hand on his wand.
"Oh, all… all right then."
And he turned away.
But he paused, in the doorway.
Percy whirled back. In a swift movement - with a bit of a snap to it - he removed his glasses from his face, which he brought down closer to the height of his younger brother.
"What? What's on your little mind now, Ronald?"
The words were nasty.
Ron's eyes widened, then narrowed. I knew Percy was a prat, but…
"I think you should go a bit easier on Ginny," he answered, and left the room.
Percy blinked, as though his thoughts had suddenly been cleared. Had he been rude to her? He supposed he might have been. Strange, he was usually so polite and reserved. His hands returned, unbidden, to the book, and pulled it out, pushing it over his homework.
I'm not terribly rude, am I?
Of course not[, my pet].
He had walked calmly through the Chamber, through the snake-head statues, approaching the foot of the great statue… and then Percy's body had come into view.
The boy dropped his safety - his wand, his cloak - and ran to the limp figure. Hands going instantly to the neck, checking for the pulse.
He was cold.
"Percy? Percy, you've got to wake up, we've got to get you out-"
"He won't wake."
"Tom- Tom Riddle?"
What are you doing now?
How do you know I'm doing something?
I feel… strange.
You can feel? I mean, physically, not emotions?
I didn't really know it either. I don't know. Maybe it's an emotion. Maybe I know you're growing weary of me.
Weary? Of you? You're the only intelligent person I have to speak to.
So what are you doing to me?
I just wanted to test(he scratched it out with a line) I'm sorry, Tom, but I can't shake the feeling that something about this is Dark Arts.
Didn't I already tell you? There's no good and evil.
So what is there?
A pause. Maybe he hadn't expected to be queried on it. It was easy to believe something when you didn't know what other options there were.
There is power, and those so afraid of it, they'll make up excuses as to why they don't have any.Those who are…too frightened to seek it.
Or weak, thought Percy, but the thought's origins eluded him.
I have power to offer to you, Percy Weasley.
Will you do me a favour?
His eyes closed.
"Tom, I feel - I feel… tired."
"Natural state of progression, I'd assume."
"Progression of what?"
"Nothing, Percy." He leaned against the pillar, the essence of boredom.
"I'm sorry, Tom, am I boring you? We could do something…"
He caught himself. He didn't really know what they were doing. The dizziness receded for a moment; his eyes narrowed slightly. They weren't really doing… anything.
Tom Riddle? But you can't be real…
The panic flashed back.
"What are you doing here?"
"You've allowed me to leave the diary."
He blinked. Tom Riddle. Riddle's diary.
"How is that possible?"
Tom's eyes widened slightly as Percy got to his feet, searching for… something. The Weasley looked nervous. Escape.
Like a rat in a trap, he thought easily, with the snake just waiting by the doorway…
"Which way is out?"
The first hints of true panic in that voice. Riddle rolled his eyes.
"You can't just leave, you know."
"Which way is out?"
The repetition was a command by someone used to getting his way (tinted with fear). And the best way to deal with those people was to throw them off-guard.
The memory smirked and strode swiftly over to the other, the distance between them closing remarkably quickly for all of Percy's petrified back-shuffles. Tom's grin was a challenge, a dare, a promise, and something of interest.
The apparition lifted a finger teasingly in a Silence gesture, but to Percy's lips instead of his own. The redhead froze, something between fear, repulsion and a confusion that might have almost been longing. But as Riddle grinned, his hand moving to caress Percy's chin, and moved in, the other hand pushed roughly at his chest and the Gryffindor tumbled to the ground.
The mild cracking of a head, and Riddle allowed a sneer of repulsion as he strode away from the momentarily unconscious boy. So easy to control, but too stupid to be worth the fun of it…
Percy didn't know how Ginny had managed to get the diary away from him in the first place, he was just glad it was back. He snatched it under the table, away from prying eyes; only Harry, Ron and Hermione kept their gaze in his direction a second longer.
They, of course, knew what it was.
Harry had asked Riddle about the Chamber of Secrets…
Nobody seemed sad to see him announce that the food for lunch that day was thoroughly unsuitable to his tastes and march off from the Great Hall. The three little do-gooders were the only ones who seemed at all perturbed.
Ron probably thought, or hoped at least, that he was off to comfort Ginny. But she deserved what she got, the little thieving snitch.
He headed first to Gryffindor Tower, then the Library, and then the Prefect's bathroom. He didn't know why he suddenly sought solitude, but he felt like his privacy had been violated. He needed to speak to Tom, again, make sure he was still there. Still on my side,he thought.
Nice to see you again, Percy. Perhaps you should just openly share me with your little sister.
I'm sorry to bore you with her mundane drabble, but she can't keep her hands off others' things.
I understand.(Pressing concern) You said you'd do me a favour.
Percy awoke to pressing blackness. There was a pain seething in him, somewhere deep inside, as if some vital part of him had gone missing.
He cracked his eyes open, slits, the vague light in the room enough to cause him to shut them again in agony. He wanted to wrench back, cover his eyes with his hands, but his body didn't seem to want to move.
I gave up, he remembered.
Harry Potter lay bleeding before him. His eyes widened slightly.
Harry wondered if he regretted this decision. In the immediate present, that answer was a yes. Pain thrilled through his body from the Basilisk's venom, and Percy - snobby Percy who had been acting even worse that year (although now, they might know why) lay before him, now stirring, now rescued, him dead.
Percy. He was supposed to know better.
But the Phoenix healed all wounds, and with his wand recovered, Percy was able to bring the much-weakened Harry back to the blockade, move the boulders, and get them all back up the pipes.
He said nothing as his mother and family came to him. He felt nothing. He had willingly consented to die; he had decided his final terms were to keep his family safe.
But there was an empty pit inside of him, and he understood that it wasn't where Riddle had gone, but where part of he – Percy - had gone, and that some lingering… evil had filled its place.
He stood in stunned, emotionless silence as he heard the teachers approaching, and he said nothing.
There was nothing left to say.
What's it like, to not have a family?