Chapter Thirty-eight: A Bit of Dark Magic
Hermione came to with a start and looked around at her surroundings. The first thing that she noticed was that she was no longer a snake. A flood of relief momentarily washed over her, but then she noticed that she was tied down rather tightly to a bed, and could not move her arms or legs at all.
"What's happening?" she gasped with fright as she realized her abdomen was swelling at a rapid rate.
"Nothing of any importance," came Dumbledore's voice from somewhere in the darkness. "I've simply accelerated your pregnancy, nothing more."
"Why would you do that?" she asked in a horrified whisper.
"Because I wish to have the child, of course," he said in a mild tone.
"What do you want with my baby?" she shrieked, completely panicked now.
"I've got big plans for him, Hermione," he explained. "As I understand it, there's an unexplained horcrux to create."
"What do you mean?" she gasped, both in pain and fright as an even stronger contraction racked her body. "What horcrux, you bloody fiend?"
"Why, the diary, of course," he said. "Where did you suppose the horcrux of a sixteen year old Tom would come from if he has not yet created it?"
Hermione sucked in a breath at this.
"The boy will be grown rapidly as well, and within a short time, I will simply implant him with the memories I desire him to have," Dumbledore explained in a deadly calm voice. "I will even give him the memory of killing his father while I'm at it, though with none of the remorse your Tom seems to have about it."
"I hate you!" she screeched at him as another pain struck.
"It won't be long now, my dear," said Dumbledore as he glanced at her through the top of his glasses. "I'm afraid your body did not have time to prepare for the birth properly. I'll have to use magic to get him out. Try not to struggle, or things could get rather messy."
Fear of death kept Hermione still as Dumbledore used his wand to slice her open and pull her baby out. His lusty cry filled the room, and then she knew no more.
Hermione's eyes fluttered open, but there was nothing to see. The curtains were drawn shut, though she could tell it was daytime. When she moved her arms, they were no longer tied down, and neither were her feet. Her ankles had shackles on them.
I wonder why I'm still alive, she thought as she tested the strength of the locks. Though she did not have a wand, she tried anyway. "Alohomora!"
She was quite surprised to hear a clicking noise, and for one brief moment she thought it had come from the lock she'd been toying with. But then the door opened with a creek, and a house elf came inside.
"The Master has put a dampening field all around this room, Miss," she said as she stepped further into the room with a tray of food. "Even my magic will not work in here."
"What does he want with me?" Hermione wanted to know. "Surely he's gotten what he needed already."
"Not that I would know about such things, Miss," she said with a conspiratorial air. "But it seems to me he's keeping you around as leverage for that poor soul he's placed in the deep darks."
"The deep darks?" Hermione inquired. "What's that, then?"
"Only the most horrible place imaginable," she said with a shudder. "It's very deep beneath the ground, and the most horrid creatures live there. That poor young man will be lucky to survive at all."
"That will be quite enough of that, Hilly," said Albus as he stepped into the room. "You may go."
"Yes sir, Master Dumbledore," she said as she gave a bow and hurried out the door, closing it gently behind her.
"In the future, Miss Granger, you must address all such questions only to me," he said in a mild tone, though she could see in his eyes that he was most displeased. "After all, I've only a finite number of servants, and I should hate to have to kill them all."
"Kill them?" Hermione gasped.
"Disloyalty here is never condoned," he said as if they were discussing the weather over a cup of tea. "Hilly will be spared this time, of course, but she will have to be punished, and she will not be allowed to serve you again. Pray you do not continue in your ways, my dear. If there are no servants to care for you, it may be days between your meals. It's not as if I have time to come to this place every day."
"And Tom?" she asked. "How will you make certain that he is fed?"
"Tom is of no concern to you, Hermione," he told her.
"He is of every concern to me, sir."
"As I have mentioned before, you have no recollection of a Dark Lady standing at Voldemort's side," he said. "There was only one companion that you knew of, and that was his snake. "So, unless you'd like to be transformed into another snake, I think it is best to say you're done with that part of your life."
"Impossible," she said. "That is not what I wished for."
"Wished for, my dear?" he scoffed.
"Yes," she answered shortly. "I had to have something to wish for, some reason to go into that room. Surely I would not have wished for this."
Dumbledore laughed then. "Do you really think that room was put there to answer your wishes?" he wanted to know. "That room is there at my behest. It was my own magic that wrought it, and you are what it brought to me."
"You're wrong, sir," she told him. "Hogwarts itself doesn't work like that. It would never allow evil to prevail."
"Then how do you explain me, my dear?" he scoffed. "By all accounts, I will continue with my evil reign for some time to come."
"Because Tom and I have figured it out. The future can be changed, with no harm to my past as a result," she said triumphantly.
"Conjecture and double talk, all of it," he said. "I had thought to take over the Ministry, but through your memories I have realized that the Headmaster position is much more to be desired. I must thank you for that."
"You're not welcome," she told him. "What have you done with my son?"
"I told you," he said. "He's been grown to be placed inside that bloody book. I'll not have one detail overlooked. I must make certain all the pieces fit."
"Why are you so set to have things a certain way?"
"Because, my dear, I hope to get it right this time," he said. "Harry Potter must be the new vessel for Gellert, and I must become Draco Malfoy. It is the only way to keep the whole thing going. The only way to remain immortal."
"You're mad," Hermione gasped. "Why would you do such a thing?"
"Why, indeed?" he said reflectively. "So that we can be together at last, of course. Surely even you must see that."
"You won't get away with it," Hermione shouted. "I'll find a way to stop you."
"Careful, my dear, you are not as valuable to me as you might believe," Dumbledore cautioned. "If you wish to live, you must do as I say. Only think, perhaps one day you and Riddle will reunite. Do you not wish to live for that day?"
"You're pathetic," she told him. "You have no intention of bringing us together again. You have already won."
"Yes, that is true," he agreed. "But a little insurance can go a long way. Perhaps I'll let the two of you breed again, eh? What do you think of that?"
"Someday Tom's going to get loose, and Merlin help you when he does."
"Perhaps, someday," he agreed. "But not today. Now eat your meal and find something to occupy yourself. I'll see you again in three weeks' time."
"I'll be counting the days," said Hermione. And that was exactly what she did.