~Come Slowly, Eden~
Summary: Three encounters between Lord Voldemort and Molly Weasley. LV/MW romance. Because my muse is demented, that's why.
Warning: This is a Voldemort/Molly Weasley love story. If that idea shocks you, you should probably stop reading now. Rated M, just to be safe.
The first time Lord Voldemort came to the Burrow was in midwinter. Frost glittered against the windowpanes, but the kitchen smelled of spring. Pots of fragrant herbs perched on the windowsill, a small unseasonal garden unto themselves. Molly was standing at the old potbellied stove, stirring the onion soup. The soup was brown and murky and thick and smelled of herbs and growing things. She turned her head slightly when the door creaked open, surprised that they were back so soon.
There was a smile on her lips as she turned around; she expected the children, or Remus, dusted with snow after romping on the moors all morning. But the man who stood silently in the doorway, watching her, was not Remus. It was him.
Strangely, the first emotion Molly felt when she saw the Dark Lord looming in the doorway was relief. Relief that no one else was here, relief that everyone else was away from the house this morning. Arthur was working at the ministry as usual, and all the children, including Harry, were out playing on the snow-shrouded moors. She had packed them more than enough food to stay out all day, and she knew that they would not be back until dark. They were all safe. She would be the only one to die.
Only then, as a sort of afterthought, did the cold, black fear whisper through her mind: I am going to die.
He didn't draw his wand; he merely stood there in the doorway, a dark shadow in her homely kitchen. Then he walked slowly over to the well-worn kitchen table and sat down in one of the rickety chairs, his pallid face devoid of emotions.
"They are not here." Molly could hear the trembling in her own voice when she finally spoke. "Harry is not here either. Everyone is away; they won't be back for days."
His crimson eyes met hers for a moment, and a slight smile appeared on his deathly white features. He knew that she was lying; of course he knew.
"Then I will wait." His voice was soft, almost gentle, but it made Molly shiver. She remembered that she had left her wand upstairs earlier. Not that it would have mattered much anyway. Not against him.
He sat perfectly still, immovable. Molly turned slowly around and busied herself at the stove, stirring the soup with an unsteady hand. If only he would kill me right now and leave, she thought. Before the others come back. She could feel his glance lingering on her as she worked. She moved more slowly than usual, stirring the fragrant soup that needed no more stirring and adding pinches of unnecessary spices.
He made a slight noise, a quiet rustling of his cloak. Molly turned halfway around and caught a glimpse of the white expressionless face. And suddenly she knew: He was hungry. Molly always sensed when someone was hungry.
Without thinking, Molly reached up into the cupboard, took down one of the plain earthenware bowls and began ladling the steaming soup with its translucent streaks of onions into it. She put it silently on the table in front of him and handed him a spoon. Afterwards, when she thought about it, she could not find any reason for what she did. Except that he was hungry.
She had surprised him; she could sense that. But he took the spoon she offered him and began to eat. She pulled a tray of plump crusty rolls from the oven and put two on a plate next to his bowl. He reached out for one of the rolls and tore it open hastily with slender white hands. She knew he could feel the heat rising from the white feathery center, and she wanted to tell him to be careful not to burn himself, but she bit her tongue.
He ate fast, and she wondered how long it had been since he had eaten. Perhaps the Dark Lord doesn't have anyone to look after him, she thought, suddenly and absurdly.
When he had finished the rolls and his second bowl of soup, he looked up at her. "Thank you, Mrs. Weasley."
She did not respond.
Slowly, he moved towards the door. Molly held her breath. Was he really going to leave? Just like that?
When he reached the door, he turned around. "You have treated me well, Mrs. Weasley. You have given me a better welcome than any of my death eaters ever have. In return, I give you my word that neither you, nor your husband, nor any of your children will die by my hand."
She stared at the dark figure. "What... what about Harry then?" she whispered. "He is my child, too. At least, it feels that way to me..."
The Dark Lord gazed at her for a long moment. "You have a big heart, Mrs. Weasley," he said finally. His voice was soft. "But you know as well as I do that I cannot grant you what you ask. Harry and I are destined to face one another. But you and your family need fear me no longer. You still need to watch out for my death eaters, however; they tend to act impetuously."
She nodded, silently. Another rustle of the dark cloak, and he was gone.
When Arthur came home that evening, she asked him to strengthen the wards put up around the house, for the safety of all the children, and especially Harry. But she didn't tell him about the Dark Lord's visit.
The second time he came was in the spring. The air was fragrant with the scents of lilac and wild thyme, and a small vase of wildflowers stood on the worn kitchen table. The children were still away at school, and Arthur had left for the ministry at dawn.
Molly was sitting at the kitchen table, crying.
It took a while before she realized that she was no longer alone; she had been lost in her tears and her own private grief. But something - perhaps the slight whisper of a cloak, made her look up. He was standing silently in the doorway, looking at her. How long had he been there?
She wiped her eyes quickly on her apron and asked hesitantly: "You-? Why... why are you here?"
A slight smile. "I was hungry."
She got up without a word and fetched him a few thick slices of freshly baked bread and poured him tea. This time, she sat down at the table opposite him and watched him silently as he tore pieces off the bread with his fingers and ate them. He eats like a boy, she thought to herself, too fast, too impatiently. A dusting of golden crumbs fell on his dark sleeve, and she smiled at the improbable sight of bread crumbs on the Dark Lord's cloak.
When he had finished eating, he glanced up at her. "Why were you crying, Molly Weasley?"
She looked back at him, startled. He looks like death itself, she thought, with his scarlet eyes and his pale face. But his voice is still human. "It's nothing," she whispered. "Just a personal matter..."
He regarded her for a moment. "And you do not speak to anyone about your personal sorrows, do you, Molly Weasley?" he said quietly.
She shook her head, wordlessly.
He sat silently for a moment. Then he said softly: "No one will ever know I was here. You can say whatever you want. No one will know."
She almost laughed at the absurdity of his suggestion. Tell him-? Confide in the monstrous creature before her? She was about to tell him no when her glance fell on his long, white hands. They were wrapped around his tea cup, lingering over the warmth of the china. The Dark Lord is warming his hands on the cup. The gesture seemed so strangely familiar, so ordinary, so human... And before she understood what was happening, Molly's grief came tumbling out of her: The gradual change in Arthur, the distant look in his eyes, his long hours at the ministry, and then the faint scent of perfume that began to linger in his clothes, on his skin...
"He doesn't even know that I know," she whispered. "But I recognize that perfume; a young witch with blue eyes who works at the ministry... I have met her a few times; she is so very young and so very, very pretty."
"What is her name?" There was a sudden chill in the Dark Lord's voice.
Molly glanced, startled, into the pale face of Voldemort. "Oh, no," she said quickly. "I don't want to tell you her name. I... I don't want any harm to come to her."
The crimson gaze held hers. "Why not? She is harming you, isn't she?"
Molly shook her head, perplexed. "Well, I suppose she is, in a way, but she is so young, you see; the young are so easily blinded by love. Well, I suppose the old are too, sometimes, like poor Arthur. But she has a mother and a father who would grieve if something were to happen to her. Oh, no, I don't want anything like that."
"But your husband... He will abandon you and your children, leave you impoverished and powerless." For a moment, she thought she sensed a slight tremor in his voice. Perhaps she had imagined it.
"No," she said simply. "Arthur would never do that, no matter how infatuated he is with her. He is devoted to the children, and he loves his life here and this strange little house... He will work longer and longer hours at the ministry, and he will come home in the evening with her scent on his skin, and with every passing day, he will love me a little less. But he will never leave."
The Dark Lord studied her gravely. "Then let me bring you a love potion, Molly Weasley, or cast a spell on your husband, so he has eyes for you only."
She felt strangely touched. "Thank you, but... But that wouldn't be the same, you see, as actual love. Oh, I don't doubt that Arthur is quite fond of me still, in his own way, but I've grown older, and I'm no longer beautiful. He has fallen out of love with me, and there is nothing I can do about that. I was pretty once, when I was young, but that was a long time ago. Before the children and the worrying."
A white hand brushed a strand of her red hair away from her face. "You are still beautiful, Molly Weasley."
She blushed then, and he smiled a little.
"May I come back and see you again?"
She nodded silently.
The last time he came was in autumn. The September sun was golden in the sky, but there was a slight whisper of chill in the air. Ginny had left for school, but Ron had followed Harry and Hermione somewhere, and Molly didn't know where he was. Arthur had left for the ministry that morning as usual, but she knew that he would be back in the afternoon. The blue-eyed witch was still at the ministry, but Arthur no longer worked long hours, and the scent of perfume was gone from his clothes. He seemed a lot older these days, careworn and tired, consumed by some secret sorrow of his own.
Molly was picking the last apples from the gnarly old apple tree in the garden when she heard footsteps behind her. She turned, half expecting to see a dark cloak and a white face. But instead, she saw a young man with a face like an angel. He was dressed in Muggle clothes, but she knew that he was no Muggle; she could sense an ancient magic around him. His curls were wild and dark, and his eyes were silver. For a moment, she thought he was a stranger, and she wondered why he had come here, to her garden. But then she realized that it was him.
"You have changed," she whispered.
"Only for today." His silver eyes glittered.
"Is this what... what you used to look like?" She glanced wonderingly at his lovely face.
He nodded. "Yes, this is who I used to be. I had almost forgotten what it felt like, to be in this form... Come for a walk with me, Molly."
"For a walk-?" She put the basket of apples down in the grass, slowly. "With you?"
He smiled. "It's all right; no one will recognize me if they see us. It's a beautiful day, and I feel like walking. Will you come with me?"
She laughed and shook her head. "The neighbors down the road will wonder what I am doing with a beautiful boy like you..."
He put his head to one side and regarded her for a moment with his silver gaze. "Then perhaps you need to be in disguise as well." He pulled a wand from his pocket and muttered a quick spell.
"What did you do?" breathed Molly. "What did you change me into?" She walked over to the little pond that glittered silver in the September sun and peered at her reflection in the water. "Oh..." Her breath caught in her throat. Slowly, she raised her hand and touched the long flaming curls that fell about her shoulders. The girl in the pond did the same. "But that's... that's me... As I used to be, when I was young." She looked at the white oval of the girl's face in the pond. "When I was beautiful."
"You were always beautiful," he said softly. "But the neighbors won't recognize you now, will they?"
She shook her head.
"Good." He smiled at her. "Then we can go for a walk, disguised as our true selves."
She laughed then and shook her long, red curls. She took a few steps; her body felt light and graceful. "Why are you doing this? What about... everything else? What about the war?"
"The war can wait until tomorrow," he said in a low voice. "Why don't you show me your garden first, Molly?"
And she walked with him around the untidy little garden, with its long grass and the old apple tree and the yellow chrysanthemums and the currant bushes, whose branches were bent under the weight of the wine-dark fruit.
"Perhaps this is what the garden of Eden was like." His voice was soft.
"The garden of Eden?" She looked around the cluttered flower beds and laughed. "I think they had better gardeners... But perhaps our apples are just as good. Here, have one."
She handed him one of the small dark red apples, and watched him as he ate it.
"And Eve offered the serpent an apple," he said with a smile. "And when the serpent ate it, he forgot all his vast knowledge of good and evil, for he had eaten of the tree of innocence." He took her hand. She had expected it to be cold, but it was warm against hers. "Come, let's walk together, Molly."
And they walked together out of the garden and over the moors that stretched beyond and into the forest. They walked together in the dappled shade under the trees and rested in moss-covered glades.
"What shall I call you?" she whispered as she sat next to him under a large oak tree.
He ran his fingers gently through her red curls. "Tom."
"Tom..." She tried the name. It felt sweet on her lips. "Tom."
He sat silently for a moment, looking at her. Then he leaned forward and kissed her softly on the mouth. She reached up and touched her lips wonderingly. It had been a long time since anyone had kissed her, so long that it almost felt like the first time. Hesitantly, she kissed him back.
Perhaps she should have stopped him when he pulled her down into the moss and began to unbutton her blouse. But he was beautiful, and she was beautiful, and the sun was golden in the vast September sky. And just for today, there was no Dark Lord and no war and no sorrow. Just for today, there was only the garden of Eden.
She saw him again, briefly, during the final battle. But it was a mere glimpse, a white face, a dark cloak, nothing more. And afterwards came the sorrow. Sorrow for Fred, and for Remus and Tonks and all the others. And somewhere, in Molly's secret heart, there was another grief that could not be spoken.
But Harry had lived, and Ginny and Ron had lived, and Bill and Charlie and Percy and George had lived, and Arthur as well. And Molly and Arthur wept together for those who were lost, and sometimes Arthur put his arm around her shoulders and comforted her. And once he whispered, as they sat together on the front steps of the Burrow and looked out over their wild, unkempt garden: "How beautiful you are, Molly, when you have that faraway look in your eyes... What are you thinking of?" And he brushed a strand of her red hair out of her face with a hand that trembled ever so slightly.
And Molly smiled and said softly: "I am thinking that our garden resembles the garden of Eden."
She half expected Arthur to laugh, but he didn't. Instead, he reached shyly for her hand. "Yes," he whispered. "I think it does."