The Best Revenge
"So-" Snape glared at the children. "A luncheon and games on Boxing Day was not enough. Nothing less would do than compassing the defeat of the Dark Lord as well."
"And hunting for the Philosopher's Stone!" laughed Charity.
Snape's private quarters had never contained such a gathering. A table was laid for ten, and the belated luncheon spread on it was fit for the occasion. The children stared in awe at the Nicholas Flamel, who was much amused by their whispered comments.
"He doesn't look six hundred years old!" Neville remarked to Harry. "He doesn't look as old as Professor Dumbledore!"
"Oh, well spotted, Longbottom," Draco drawled. "How could anyone look six hundred years old, anyway?"
"Six hundred and sixty-five, actually," Hermione corrected. "But the card came out some time ago. Maybe he's really six hundred and sixty-six!"
"Shh!" Harry hushed them. "He'll hear you! And anyway, what does a year or two matter when you've got the Elixir of Life?"
Flamel spoke up with a smile. "Miss Granger is correct. I am, in fact, six hundred, sixty-six years, one month, six days, eight hours, and fifty-two minutes old. Every year matters, Mr Potter. And that is the point of the Elixir of Life."
"Eat your vegetables," Snape told Harry repressively. "It's a miracle you've made it to eleven!"
The adults laughed long at that. Flitwick and Sprout were perhaps the most cheerful, having heard the news instead of seeing the events or their aftermath. It might be a victory by committee, which was unusual, perhaps, but everyone could feel they had played a part.
Minerva shook her head. "The most remarkable event. He-Who-Must-No-Tom Riddle gone for good. Trapped in that horrible mirror, I hope for all time."
Snape shrugged. "For all time? Who can say? However, he has little reason to leave, and those of us here have no reason at all to release him."
"At least Poppy thinks poor Quirinius will survive," Charity said.
Everyone was silent a moment. Quirrell had been rushed to the Hospital Wing, and Madam Pomfrey had understood why sending him to St. Mungo's might be a mistake. These events must be kept secret. No one needed to know how close Voldemort had come to returning. And it had been close, indeed.
"My friends," Flamel said, lifting his glass, "I salute your resourcefulness, your courage, and your magic! I have seen many extraordinary things in a very long life, but this is a day to remember. And you four, brave and clever children of Hogwarts! Cherish your friendship, for it has already proven a powerful force in our world!"
"I'll drink to that!" Harry spoke up. His goblet of elf-made ginger wine sloshed a bit. "To friendship!"
Some attention was shown to the luncheon, especially by the children, who felt they were starving. They were all inordinately pleased with themselves. Neville spilled some of his ginger wine on Hermione's velvet frock, and she was too happy to complain. Draco approved of the meal, and privately resolved that he would have exactly this luncheon every Boxing Day for the rest of his life. And he would invite these very friends, and they could talk it over and be proud of what they'd accomplished.
Harry knew that Professor Snape was not pleased with him, running off into danger as he had. He shouldn't have, he knew now. The adults had laid a brilliant trap for Voldemort-really brilliant.
"I'm so glad you let me help with that potion, Professor," he told Snape. "I learned a lot, and it was great, hearing Professor Quirrell defying Voldemort. He made fun of his name," he told his friends. "He asked if he was French. No offense!" he said hastily to Master Flamel.
"None taken," Flamel laughed, with a courtly nod. "I was there myself, and found it all most amusing. Creatures like Tom Riddle have no real sense of humour, and so are helpless before it. It was good that the young man found his courage at last. When one can respect oneself, it is easier to get on with one's life."
"I could not have succeeded with the potion without your advice," Snape admitted quietly. "It was most timely."
Flamel shrugged elegant shoulders, his crystal hair ruffling. "Perhaps I had stayed away from events too long. Your letters intrigued me. And I was not quite ignorant of events. Even in Paris, I was able to inquire about you, Severus Snape, and I was aware that your were the guardian of The-Boy-Who-Lived."
Harry was curious. "I thought you and your wife were enjoying a quiet life in Devon."
Flamel's laugh was rich and musical. "Devon? Where did you hear such a thing?"
Draco spoke up, rather excited. "On your chocolate frog card! I showed it to Harry when we were trying to figure out who you were! It said you were the famous alchemist and opera lover, and that you and your wife Perenelle, were enjoying a quiet life in Devon. We thought you were hidden really well."
Flamel shook his head. "As good a story as any other. Let the gawkers search Devon. I never cease to be amazed at the British Wizarding World, attempting to make an Englishman of me. Paris has always been the city of my soul. If I desire country air, there is my chateau in Normandy. Opera indeed delights me, so there is a grain of truth there, as in all the best lies."
"And you knew about Voldemort-Tom Riddle, too-I suppose," Harry considered.
"Yes, of course. I had followed his career with disgust for some time, but I knew he could not last. He was at once a great wizard and a very great fool." Flamel took a sip of wine, reflected, and told them, "It was amusing to me that he pursued my Philosopher's Stone, not understanding that it could be of no use to him whatever."
There was a short silence, while Snape came to his own surprised conclusion.
Hermione, however, was still confused. "I don't understand. Why couldn't he use it?"
Flamel gave her a small, wry smile. "Miss Granger, Perenelle and I had children. We had grandchildren and great-children. Do you not think we loved them?"
"Do you not think we would have given them the Elixir of Life to keep them with us, if we could have?"
"Well-of course-I mean-" she paused. "Oh."
"Yes," he agreed. "Oh. Perenelle and I said something similar about six hundred years ago, when we found that only the makers of the Philosopher's Stone could make use of its virtues. We had not quite thought it through, and were unpleasantly surprised."
"So all of them-"
"Yes. In time, they all perished, slipping away into Death. It was very distressing, but after the first two hundred years, we learned to keep our distance from our family."
"But why?" Draco wondered.
"Because, mon enfant, I cannot care about all of you. After some twenty generations, there are not many witches or wizards in Europe or America who are not my descendants-sometimes, like you, several times over. Those who follow the art I love-those are the ones with whom I still share a common language. They are dear to me: as are the brave, the clever, the kind-those who have made the world better because they were here. The others are strangers."
Steepling his fingers, he leaned forward and spoke quietly.
"The one who called himself Lord Voldemort-foolish name!-never charmed me. A handsome, cold-hearted boy who became a handsome, cold-hearted man. He was Head Boy of Hogwarts-yes!-but there is a new Head Boy every year. There are many schools, and an endless supply of handsome Head Boys and heartbreakingly lovely Head Girls. I saw something of him during the last great war, but he had sought his Potions N.E.W.T. purely for ambition's sake, and dropped the Art as soon as that was achieved."
"So even if he had taken the Stone-" Harry began.
"But he has a Stone," Flamel assured them. "Do you think Perenelle and I made only one? We experimented a great deal with the formula, and created several, all slightly different. If Tom Riddle has one with him in his mirror prison, it does not matter to me. Let him have that illusory joy."
The dessert was served, and proved no illusory joy at all. Snape hoped that Neville's enormous helping would not revisit him after his Grandmother came to fetch him. The children all seemed somewhat aware that they had been foolish, but Harry was at once sorry he had worried Snape, and proud to have been part of defeating Voldemort. Perhaps it would not be wrong to let the boy enjoy this victory today. It was unlikely he'd ever face such a danger again.
He toyed with his own plate, and flicked a slight smile at Charity, thinking of the new-and now only-image to be seen in the Mirror of Erised: a pale and handsome wizard gazing enraptured at the Philosopher's Stone in his hand. Tom Riddle had achieved his ambition at last. He would live forever-or at least as long as the Mirror lasted-and be young, powerful, and the possessor of the world greatest magical artifact. In that mirror world, he would be the greatest mage alive, a moment of triumph stretching into blissful infinity.
And afterwards, Flamel withdrew to the Hospital Wing, to see what progress Quirrell was making, and the rest of them were left to Meet the Parents, so to speak.
Madam Longbottom arrived, very punctually at five, and Snape let Minerva take the lead, as she urged the dowager aside and confided Neville's part in the very great-but necessarily secret-success of the day. Harry slipped around to watch Madam Longbottom's face change: from bafflement to alarm, finally softening into pride and concern. She put her arm around Neville as she hustled him away, only saying, "My dear boy! My dear, dear boy..."
Professor Flitwick went with Professor Burbage when they took Hermione home, so he, as her Head of House, could tell them something of what had happened. It probably would not be the whole story, which would be very confusing and take forever, but it would be enough that the Grangers would understand that Hermione had been reckless, but had been safe in the end, and that a malicious wizard who had wanted to threaten the students had been stopped.
"I hope, Mr Potter," said Professor Sprout, "that you will trust your elders in future. Of course we're all very proud of how brave and clever you children have been, but you mustn't go on thinking that we're not going to look after things. I hate to give a detention for something like this, and I certainly won't take point, but I want your word of honour that you will come to an adult-and wait- the next time you feel inclined to save the world."
She nodded her head, and really and truly shook her finger at him, but then gave him a pat on the head, and bade them goodnight.
"What she said," drawled Snape, raising a brow at Draco. "You lot were lucky. You know that. It could have gone very, very badly in countless ways."
"I suppose so," Draco grumbled, "But still, you must admit-"
A knock at the door, and the Malfoys swept in, looking very grand, and full of the exciting events at St Mungo's. Draco and Harry caught each other's eye. This was either going to be brilliant, or ghastly, or a little of both.
"He's gone?" Lucius Malfoy asked again. "Gone-as in gone for good? You're certain?" He shifted in his armchair, rearranging his legs and his cane, and then reaching for the brandy snifter.
"Yes-quite certain," Snape repeated patiently. "He possessed Quirrell, but the Dark Lord's spirit was successfully exorcised and contained."
Narcissa still looked uneasy. "But-he could be released-or escape-and then-"
"He's not getting away this time," Harry interrupted. "He won't even want to get away"
"That's enough, Harry!" Snape said. "It is useless to lie to you when Draco already knows so much of the matter. Voldemort was lured by a Philosopher's Stone into an object called the Mirror of Erised. He will be quite happy there, and after a short while, he will be incapable of functioning in the real world. He is as thoroughly imprisoned as possible, and the more so because he will be completely satisfied to be there. And do not ask where the Mirror is going. I do not know myself. The Dark Lord is indeed gone-for good. It is time to put him in the past where he belongs, and move on."
"Quirrell made fun of his name," Draco snickered.
Harry grinned, "That's right! He said if he were Dark Lord he'd call himself Lord Blackdoom the Fourth! All sorts of funny things. I guess I'd stick to Harco, Dark Lord of the Sith."
"Oi!" Draco objected. "Harco is my Dark Lord name!"
"Draco!" His mother was horrified. "It's not funny!"
"Certainly not!" agreed Lucius, grimacing.
"Draco doesn't need a Dark Lord name anyway," Harry pointed out, "since he's going to be Minister of Magic."
"Oh-settled that between you, have you?" Lucius asked sardonically.
Draco smiled a little. "I think I'd rather like being Minister of Magic. It's something to plan for."
Lucius eyed him keenly, and then relaxed. "Indeed. A laudable ambition, if undertaken with the proper goals."
"But for now," said Snape, "the two of you should be satisfied with your Explorers' Club, and the joys of the schoolroom."
"And dinner with us on New Year's Eve, of course," Narcissa told them. "I'm so glad you boys have been practicing your dancing."
Harry resigned himself. "Dancing."
"Oh, come on, Harry!" Draco laughed. "It'll be fun!"
Albus Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts to find that events had passed him by. After considering the matter, he decided that he was all right with it. Standing in front of the Mirror of Erised with Snape, he studied the handsome face of Tom Riddle, whose dark eyes were forever fixed on his object of desire.
"He seems-happy," he finally said.
"I suppose so," Snape agreed. "I hadn't often seen him looking anything other than angry or malevolent or smug. And I never saw him when he was that young. It must be how he continued to think of himself."
"Yes," Dumbledore said sadly. "He is not the only one who thought of himself as forever twenty." He turned to Snape. "You have done a wonderful thing, Severus. Doubly wonderful in that you saved Quirinius. You were right and I was wrong. There, I've said it. There are lessons for all of us here. Harry must be very proud of you. I know that I am."
"Harry!" Snape growled. "That boy will be the death of me!"
Dumbledore laughed. "If you can't manage him, Severus, then no one can. I take it that Nicholas was pleased with him. And you."
Snape did not look at the Headmaster, but smiled darkly to himself. "We-found we had interests in common. He is a great man. I can learn much from him. He has invited Harry and me to visit him this summer. In the future, I may study with him at length. Not while Harry is in school, perhaps, but some day."
"Nicholas is a great man, true enough. When I was young and working with him, I saw life very differently than I do now. Perhaps I should have stayed longer, but nothing is easier than playing might-have-been. And you are far and away my better in the field of potions, as you someday will be in alchemy, too, I daresay."
"You will find a safe place for the Mirror?" Snape asked.
"Yes. At a considerable distance, in a place unlikely to be disturbed-well-ever. Even if a foolish person tried to remove Tom from the Mirror, I believe it would be far harder than putting Tom in. For Tom does seem happy at last, for what it's worth. Let us leave him there."
They left the chamber, already moving on with their lives.
Snape had much on his mind regarding Harry. "Perhaps we can meet in the owlery in a day or so," he said. "Harry would like to have a look at more of his things. I'll start him on his thank-you notes tomorrow. He can consider than his punishment for recklessly charging into the fray."
"I would be delighted."
What Snape did not tell Dumbledore was that the response from the Fletwock solicitor had come, and had been most interesting. It appeared that Harry would have a house after all.
With the approach of the new year, Lucius Malfoy decided he would make some new beginnings. Out with the old: in with the new. As the Dark Lord Voldemort was now utterly passé, it would be the wisest course to rid himself of anything that might lead people to imagine he had ever been a sympathiser.
Mask and robes: those were discreetly destroyed in a hidden chamber in the ancient dungeons. He had come to find playing dress-up rather silly, however exciting it had been in his youth.
The extra, untraceable wand he would certainly keep, and it remained with the cache of Malfoy family wands. Some were legacies from his ancestors; some were trophies of battle. He looked all of them over to see if there were any that might prove incriminating. Satisfied, he locked them away with a feeling of satisfaction.
There was that other object: the special item that the Dark Lord had entrusted to him with the most hair-raising injunctions. Lucius Malfoy knew what it was, of course: a blank journal of muggle make. He did not know, however, what it meant.
Clearly, the Dark Lord had considered it of the greatest personal importance. Lucius knew that the Dark Lord had entrusted other items to various of his followers: to Bellatrix, to Regulus Black. Whatever they were no longer mattered. The Dark Lord would not be needing them.
And Lucius did not need anything with the Dark Lord's muggle name on it. It would have to go. He did not want to put it in the family vault at Gringotts, where another Malfoy might find it and know about his past. He had attempted to vanish it, and failed. An attempt to burn it was similarly-and frighteningly-unsuccessful. The journal glowed blue and green and sparked, but it remained unharmed.
If it could not be destroyed, it needed to be out of the house, and Lucius decided to make it inconspicuous, by leaving it tucked away behind a dusty shelf at Borgin & Burke's. He would not bring anything else, or make any purchases there today. He wanted nothing that would associate that item-whenever it was found-with him.
Diagon Alley was busier than he had expected, two days before the New Year. Some students were there, supplementing their school supplies before their return to Hogwarts on the second of January. Older witches and wizards were there as well, for no doubt others were making fresh starts and resolutions. Lucius had slipped out early and alone, not wanting Draco's questions about any of this. Above all, Draco needed plausible deniability if anything went pear-shaped.
And then Borgin & Burke's was closed.
The wind blew down Knockturn Alley, whistling through the cracks in grimy windows and stirring the dustings of snow on the cobbles. Lucius stood there undecided.
I do not want to take this thing home with me.
After a moment, he headed back into Diagon Alley, and noticed the shabby stalls of second-hand goods. Tables displayed threadbare robes and deplorable hats; shelves of books leaned crazily on the uneven pavement.
Where better to hide a book, than amongst other books?
At one bookstall, the vendor, an aged, ragged wizard, snored under a dirty quilt. His inventory was a collection of the unread and unwanted. Lucius slid the thin volume between Recipes for the Vampire in Denial and Squibs in the Seventeenth Century. He left without a word, feeling he had been exceedingly clever.
But Lucius Malfoy had practiced attracting attention too long to be able to discard his trademark manner at will. He never noticed that one young visitor to the Alley had watched his every move.
N.A. Yes, the Mirror is absolutely gone for good. However, we all know that that does not mean that Tom Riddle, or some version thereof, may not make a future appearance.