A/N: So this is a little complicated, a lot revealing, and very poorly written/structured. I've been toying with this for weeks. I can't seem to get it right- it's very serious subject matter, and I don't want to make it seem like it's not... however, this is the best I can come up with, and I didn't want to keep ya'll waiting any longer. So here you go: a memory within a memory.


There was something different in the air the moment their feet met the ground. Harry felt his arms prickle, the hair of his neck stand on end, and he peered around a little frantically, although he did not altogether know why. They were in the Forbidden Forest, and it was dark. Those two details were all Harry could ascertain for certain as he glanced around—something about the memory was tumultuous, volatile, and it took longer to sort itself out than any Harry had been in before. He heard Ron say something behind him, but didn't comprehend exactly what it was, as he was too busy attempting to get his bearings to ask him to repeat it.

McGonagall, he realized eventually, was standing alone in the forest, visible from the side as she buttoned up her white shirt. Harry's brow furrowed as the neared. She adjusted the hem of her skirt, which was torn up one side almost to disrepair, but with a flick of her wand she managed to make it hold a little impossibly. Her face was almost alarmingly blank, the trio saw, as they got closer still. Though it was nighttime and Minerva was pale anyway, that she looked a little ashen and a lot drawn was unmistakable. Her lipstick was smeared around her lips, and she seemed to notice, lifting an arm to wipe her mouth on the sleeve of her shirt; the white was marred by leaves and bits of bramble, as though it had previously been lying on the Forest floor. It was only when she bent to retrieve her robes from where they sat on the ground a foot away that her hand gave way to a quiver. She snatched the article of clothing from the ground, grabbing the shaking appendage with her other hand, as though to quell the tremble.

She flung the robes over her shoulders, cringing when they landed heavily against her neck. As she stretched, a string of small bruises became clear, little pearls of black-and-blue like finger prints against her too-pale skin. Ron and Harry kept looking between each other, concerned and befuddled, whilst Hermione stood silently behind them, her arms wrapped around herself, her teeth biting into her lower lip. Minerva took a shuddering breath and began to walk woodenly toward the school. The trio stood motionless, watching her mussed hair swing back and forth down her back for a few moments. It was only then—with her back to them—that they noticed the blood staining the bottom of her skirt.

"Blimey," Ron whispered as the three began to follow her. No one answered. They trailed her in silence until she reached the edge of the Forest. She continued on past Hagrid's hut, and almost immediately a figure appeared in the distance. McGonagall, however, seem not to be paying attention, and even as the figure became more and more defined, closer and closer, she did not look up until she had run into him.

"Miss McGonagall!" Dumbledore exclaimed, startled as Minerva toppled over. He managed to catch both of her wrists at the last minute, keeping her from falling. The instant she stood, however, she shrank away from him, folding her arms tightly over her chest.

"Sorry, sir," she murmured, making like she would step past him, but before she could quite get away, he had reached for her arm, holding her in place as he moved to stand before her once again.

"You are aware it is long after hours? That you ought to be in bed?"

"Yes, sir. I fell asleep. I'm sorry. But I'm heading back to the dormitory now," she responded, her voice strangely level, her response almost cursory. Dumbledore too seemed to sense the strangeness, and his mouth opened to respond, but before he could speak he noticed her appearance—her face, stricken, pale; her eyes, downcast; her hair was mussed, leaves mixed in amidst the black in places; her robes were sloppily done, and as they weren't closed he could see the tear running up her skirt, the dirt clinging to her shirt. His face seemed to darken.

"I do not believe that for one instant."

"I'm heading back to my dormitory now, it won't happen again."

"Minerva, what happened?"

"I'm heading back to my dormitory now—"

"Are you all right?"

"I'm heading back to my—"

"Minerva?"

"Heading back to..."

"My dear..."

"...my... dormitory..." her words grew quieter and quieter until she fell completely silent, her mouth hanging open slightly as though she had just said something awful. She began to shake in Dumbledore's grasp, and the professor reached out concernedly, as though he would draw her to him, but she pushed him violently away. In her hastiness, she tripped and fell backward onto the ground, her whole body wracked with quivers and quakes. She seemed to shrink into herself, curling her knees into her body and her arms into her chest until she seemed almost impossibly small, especially in contrast to the castle looming behind her.

"Minerva," Dumbledore croaked, crouching down and kneeling before her. He made to reach out to her, but seemed to think better of it, and thus merely sat silently before her shuddering form, waiting for some sign that it would be all right to act. Her sobs, though they rocked her whole body, were tearless. "My dear..." no other words seemed forthcoming. He settled into the grass before her, sitting indian style and looking rather heartbroken as he watched the young McGonagall break.

It took about ten minutes for her to regain some semblance of composure, at which time she sat on her knees across from Dumbledore, staring blankly at some point over his shoulder. "I apologize for my behavior, Professor."

"Minerva," he said, "what happened?"

"I'm very tired, sir. I'd just like to go to bed."

"Minerva McGonagall, you are wandering the grounds after hours. Your look as though—pardon—you were rolling around in the mud. You came from the direction of the Forbidden Forest. There is blood on your skirt. If you think for one moment that I'm going to allow you to go to bed without an explanation, you are, quite frankly, out of your mind."

She didn't say anything in response. Instead, she simply stared at him, her green eyes wide, her lips drawn into a tight frown. She looked defeated, empty—it didn't even look as though she were searching for a response. Harry had to wonder if she had heard him at all. After a few moments, Dumbledore extended his hand and stood up. McGonagall stared at it for several moments before she reached out and placed a remarkably steady hand in his. He pulled her gingerly to her feet, and slowly pulled her to him. Dumbledore folded her in a tight embrace, and at this juncture, it seemed as though the fight had so thoroughly gone out of her that, though the panic was briefly present on her face, she resigned and fell heavily against his chest. After a moment, Dumbledore spun them on the spot and apparated away.

The trio found themselves transplanted into what they assumed to be Dumbledore's private quarters as well. Hermione explained, after Ron announced his inevitable confusion, that because McGonagall would have had no memory of anywhere she hadn't been, they had automatically followed with her—as though the moments were two separate memories.

"Sit down, dear," murmured the Professor, relinquishing his grasp on Minerva as he guided her to a plush couch in front of the fire.

"I shouldn't be here," she barely whispered. Dumbledore waved one hand in dismissal of her statement.

"I have it on good authority that your head of house does not mind."

She nodded silently, sinking back into the couch and pulling her knees up against her chest. Dumbledore moved to place a metal tea kettle over the fire, thereafter busying himself with getting a pair of tea cups in order on the mantle. Silence reigned, and as the trio settled on the floor, not a one of them could think of anything to say. All were riveted, and if not riveted, troubled by the sight of Minerva McGonagall, who had one hundred times over proved herself to be fiercest of the fierce, a shattered, shivering mess, huddled on her Professor's couch. The only noises were the tinkling of tea cups and the sound of crackling flames. Eventually Dumbledore poured the tea, taking one to Minerva and one to himself as he sat on the couch beside her.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"You must tell me what happened."

"I can't."

"You are not well, my dear."

"I'm fine."

"You are lying."

"Yes."

"Then—"

"No."

Dumbledore stared at her, but Minerva merely sniffed and turned to face the fire, taking a slow sip of the tea had provided. "May I please return to my dormitory?" In the wake of her question, there was only silence. Dumbledore took a few sips of his tea.

"I can find out if any other students were out past curfew, you know."

Minerva paled slightly, but did not answer.

"Even if there are too many to draw any conclusions, it will be all too easy for me to question them and ascertain the truth." Dumbledore's words had risen in intensity, and leaned nearer to Minerva, who seemed to recede only further into herself. "Will I find that Tom Riddle was amongst the rule-breakers?"

"Professor," she croaked, "please..."

"What did Mr. Riddle do, Minerva?" he asked, his voice quiet, but the volume did not belie his seriousness. Harry could see Dumbledore's remarkably omniscient eyes jumping from Minerva's eyes to her clothes, to her hair, drawing conclusions, growing more and more worried with every passing moment.

"I... can't. I can't."

"Please," Dumbledore murmured, placing one willowy hand over her much smaller ones where they clasped the teacup. "Let me help you, my dearest Minerva..."

"I just went to Professor Binns's classroom to ask a question..."


Minerva walked into the Professor's classroom, and was surprised to find that he wasn't there. She had been sure that he had said he would be, if there were any questions, and she had a good long list of questions she desperately needed him to answer before she even attempted to write the essay he wanted for the following day. She was about to leave in a huff when Tom Riddle also entered the classroom.

"Oh, Minerva. Just the girl I wanted to see."

"Whatever for?" she asked, recalling Dumbledore's recent advice that she oughtn't lead him on. Even if she didn't quite think he posed the threat that her Professor seemed to, she did recognize that it was hardly fair of her to flirt with no intention of following through. It was silly, and irresponsible—two things which she rarely was.

"No reason in particular. I simply like to see you."

She didn't have an answer. Usually she would have preened a bit at the comment. Instead, she said, "Professor Binns isn't here. We'll have to come back later."

Tom grinned, peering around as though he were making sure that she was telling the truth. He ran a hand through his sleek, dark hair, and took a few swift steps nearer to her. "We could utilize his classroom in his absence... You could tutor me." The smile following, that struck her as oddly threatening, made it very obvious that the subject he wished to be tutored in was not within the approved curriculum.

"Actually, I should be going..." she responded, smiling apologetically and shrugging her shoulders as she started toward the door. As she passed him, however, she heard him mutter something, and her wand clattered to the ground. She wheeled on him, her eyes narrowed as Dumbledore's words rattled around in her head. "Don't be foolish, Tom. I just came to ask Professor Binns a question. I'll see you later."

"Or you could see me now," Tom answered, stepping nearer toward her. She snorted, ignoring the pitter-patter of her heart in her chest as she leaned down to retrieve her wand. Before she could, however, he had moved forward and stepped on it, holding it firmly in place.

"What is the meaning of this?"

"I should think it was very clear," he said, kicking her wand across the classroom and stepping closer to her. She turned and began to walk briskly toward the door, but by the time her hand touched the doorknob she knew he had locked it, and regardless he had shoved her gently against the door so that she was facing him as he continued. "I should think that I have been very clear so far as my intentions are concerned."

Minerva did not show any of the panic she felt welling within her. She simply frowned at him "You have. I should have told you, long ago—I'm not interested, Tom. We're best as friends. I'm sorry."

Tom chuckled, an oily, slimy sound that seemed to ooze out of his throat, rubbing against her face as he exhaled. "I haven't exactly asked for your input, have I? I can't help but find you attractive, Minerva. You're not much to look at, it's true, but something about your spirit just makes me..." he trailed off, his pale eyes rolling upward pensively before he completed the phrase: "it just makes me want to break you."

"Tom, I—"

Tom leaned forward to press his lips against hers, and it didn't take more than a split second for Minerva to slap him soundly across the face, shoving his chest violently with her hands as she turned and reached for the still locked doorknob. "Accio wa—" she tried, but before she could finish, Tom had slapped her right back, and the shock sent her reeling. She reached a hand up to touch her cheek, but he grabbed her wrist and pinned it against the wall, likewise pressing her body against the wood with his own, his breath hot against her ear as she turned her face away from him.

"Get the hell off of me, or I swear you'll regret it," she hissed, shoving him once more, but he was too strong, and her every attempt to shed him was met with a more forceful shove in response.

"Do keep talking, I find your accent most enticing," Tom answered, his lips covering every inch of her neck as she squirmed against the door.

"Professor Binns will return."

"True," Tom answered, withdrawing somewhat. "Luckily, I planned ahead." He withdrew a small, silver broach fashioned in the shape of a snake from the pockets of his robes, and pressed it into her hand roughly. "Portkey," he whispered in her ear as she felt a tugging sensation about her navel, and landed unevenly on the ground of the Forbidden Forest. She collapsed onto the ground, and Tom fell on top of her. "Aren't you glad I'm so forward thinking?" he inquired.

"You are the most vile, loathsome, disgusting person I have ever had the misfortune of knowing," she answered, knowing her voice was not nearly as strong as she would have liked. "You are pathetic."

"You wound me," he sneered. She reached up to shove him, claw at him, something, but with a hissed word from his lips she found herself bound to the ground as he began to undo the buttons of her shirt.

"In the real world, I would never touch you, and you know it—you had to disarm me to do anything—you're frightened of me, Tom Riddle, you fear that I can best you—"

"No woman could best me."

"I could. I can. If only you weren't so frightened, you infantile—"

"Enough," he snapped, but Minerva couldn't help but continue. She felt so much anger at being made so helpless, so much fury toward the creature whom she should have seen as evil from the beginning—she was absolutely incensed at the thought that Dumbledore had seen what she had not, that she was able to be taken advantage of in such away—that she had allowed Riddle to best her—allowed him to take advantage of her—that she couldn't move, couldn't stop him—she certainly wouldn't cry, though, and the only thing keeping the tears at bay were her words, sharp and biting as the tumbled furiously from her mouth until Tom seemed to reach his breaking point. He reached up and grabbed her around the neck."You will listen to me. You will heed me," he seethed, squeezing her neck so that she could barely breath.

And hour later, her eyes were still dry. She lay, naked and exposed, at Tom Riddle's foot as he adjusted his robes. She stared blankly up at him, trying not to think of the symbolism.

"That was disappointing," Tom said as he checked his watch. "I expected more from you. However, you should know that if you tell anyone of our...tryst, you won't survive long after. Anyway, despite your numerous shortcomings, you are a vain little trollop... I shouldn't think you'd want people to know how easily you can be brought down. Evening." He dipped his head politely, and disappeared. After he had receded fully into the dark of the Forest, she found herself able to move again. She stood, ignoring the pain the riddled her body—she was covered in bruises, and the pain between her legs was nearly unbearable. But she would not cry. He had taken too much from her—she could not, would not allow him that final victory.