Notes at the end.
Harriet awoke with a start, thick perspiration dripping down the sides of her temple. It was all a bad, bad dream… she thought to herself, feeling caged in the embrace of the warm Gryffindor sheets. She took a moment to get her breathing under control, and took the covers off her body.
The irony wasn't lost on her. As she sluggishly searched for her glasses and wand on the small bedside table, she thought that somewhere in the sky the fates must be laughing at her. For all purposes that should've been a good dream; her friends' laughter warming her heart and filling her with the conviction that she wasn't alone, that she wasn't worthless. But she was far, far away from them; separated not by space, which for a witch like her meant absolutely nothing, but by time. And her heart seemed to shatter every night as she lay under the ancient roofs of Hogwarts, fifty years before her time. What if I don't come back, she whispers time and time again feeling the crude reality of her surroundings wash away the hope.
Anything is possible, a voice in the back of her mind said; and Harriet knew it was a whispered repetition of the words of one Tom Riddle, Slytherin Prefect in 1948.
She dressed herself, knowing that she wouldn't be able to fall asleep again. She absent-mindedly casted a silencing charm on her boots, intent on relieving the boredom of another restless night by walking the ancient halls of the castle. It was still dark outside, and even though her little time-travelling stunt had deprived her of her Invisibility Cloak, she'd long ago perfected the Disillusionment Charm. Perfect for a moonless night like this one. The dark would conceal the small shimmering glimmer that characterized the charm.
As she exited the Common Room, she could almost hear the disappointed whisper of her best friend. "We practiced that charm just so it'd help you hide from You-Know-Who! You shouldn't use it to sneak outside at night!" Hermione had always been a sucker for rules. She smile sadly as she realized just how much she missed her constant nagging, and her intelligent eyes shining every time she got her hands on a new book.
She let herself wander aimlessly, noting with satisfaction that no prefects seemed to be around so late (or maybe so early?) into the night. She thought about one in particular she was aiming to avoid, and that was the mysterious Tom Riddle – not that he represented any mystery to her. Fifty years into the future, he'd be the one to grace her with the scar in her forehead – the one who would massacre her parents, the one whose name would be so feared people would not say it out loud. The one who, exactly forty-nine years from now, would send her strange visions of a dark corridor…
Harriet bit her lip as she stopped her pace – it troubled her to think of what had landed her in the past, not so much because of what happened but because she couldn't remember that well what had exactly transpired that night. She'd seen as Voldemort tortured Sirius in a vision and she'd hurried out of Hogwarts, her friends in tow, to break into the Ministry of Magic. They'd made it into the Department of Mysteries, and it was in a strange room full of prophecies that they'd encountered the Death Eaters. Harriet had walked straight into a trap; apparently Voldemort had wanted her to remove a prophecy that concerned them both from one of the shelves, and had sent her fake visions of her godfather to take her there. They'd managed to flee from the Death Eaters; out from the prophecy room and into a strange room with time-turners and other weird artifacts, and that's as far as Harriet can recall. The rest of her memories concerning the night are scattered images – but she'd managed to piece some of what happened, and she was sure that she'd done something with the time-turners that had landed her in the past.
She raised her thumb to her lips, gnawing on the skin of her finger as she always did when she was thinking. She'd tried to find out where she could get a time-turner, and had been disheartened when she was told that no such thing existed in the late 1940s. Up until then it seemed like wizards hadn't liked the idea of meddling with time, so there wasn't much on the subject in the library…
Do you really think that you'll find within these walls everything there's to know about magic?
As the mocking words of her parents' murderer once again made space for themselves in her mind, she felt something tap against her head. As a visible shudder ran through her body, she felt the same coldness trickling down her body as she did in her soul.
"Well, am I pleasantly surprised," said the smooth voice of Tom Riddle, as Harriet turned to face him. "Miss Evans, I thought you liked to take full advantage of your beauty sleep."
"Fancy seeing you here, Riddle," she said, trying to calm herself so she wouldn't look like a deer caught in the headlights. "I thought you liked to take advantage of the night to advance your evil plans for world domination, but at least I'm not the only one who's mistaken."
A low chuckled emerged from his throat, but Harriet wasn't fooled. Riddle may be all charm and smiles now, but she knew what he was capable of. At sixteen, he already had blood in his hands.
"Oh? And what would you have me do with the world, should I conquer it?"
"Kill all the muggles, enslave the muggleborns; sip wine in a tall, dark tower while you cackle madly at your enemies… I don't know, Riddle, surprise me".
Riddle's little smirk turned just a little more predatory at her words, but he still maintained that same air of nonchalance that he'd used to lie to Headmaster Dippet after killing Myrtle. That's what she'd seen in the memory his diary had showed to her in her second year. It was unnerving, and it made her all the more avid to get away from him.
"Ah, you're so unkind to me, Evans… I really do wonder where you're getting all these ideas from."
His penetrating stare reminded her exactly of the two mistakes she'd committed that had made Riddle take a special interest in her. One, she'd not acted like he was God's gift to Earth and had actually gone out of her way to tell him exactly what she thought of him. That by itself wasn't damning enough, although it was quite curious since he had pretty much everyone in Hogwarts (sans Dumbledore) wrapped around his little evil finger. Two, she'd accidentally spoken in parseltongue in front of him.
"What was that, Evans?" the boy with sinister eyes said as he stopped in front of her. Her roommates had complained that the weather was too good to spend the day inside, and so they had organized a small picnic in front of the lake. Harriet had been happily ignoring the small group of boys that had stopped to chat with the Gryffindor girls, when she saw a small snake try to get inside one of their baskets. She gently grabbed it, whispering to the reptile so it wouldn't attack her, when she realized that everyone around her had gone completely silent.
"Nothing," she said, trying to sound dismissive. The small snake slithered out of her grasp, and she cursed herself for her carelessness. It wasn't every day that she spoke the language that had made the Slytherin line famous, but it had to be her bad luck that on the day she accidentally made use of it, Voldemort himself was around to hear it.
"You spoke to that snake," Riddle said matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, it's really amazing what vocal chords can do".
"Don't take me for a fool, Evans!" he said dangerously, and Harriet saw Riddle's friends give her strange looks. "Where did you learn that?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, and frankly if I did I don't know why you'd think I have to answer your questions. Be a darling and piss off," she said, and saw Riddle stiffen in front of her. Harriet was sure that, had they been alone, he'd have hexed her to Hell and back. But the girls around her were giving the both of them weird looks, so Riddle wouldn't try anything.
"We'll talk about this," he said, and left with his entourage.
And since then, he'd tried his hardest to corner her to get his answers, but if there was something Harriet was particularly good at was making herself scarce. But now it was four in the morning and they were alone in a dark corridor; Harriet had to think of a way to get away and pronto, before Riddle could coax the secrets of the future out of her.
"I was told by a birdie that you were a bad man," she told him, licking her lips. Her eyes were darting from one side to the other, trying to find a suitable escape route.
"Dumbledore," he said, in a whisper, and Harriet could've sworn she saw his eyes flash red in the darkness. Before she could stop herself, the words came tumbling from her mouth, "yeah, Dumbledore has a knack for dealing with dark wizards, wouldn't you say?"
And it was a moment too late before she realized he'd spoken the Transfiguration professor's name in the language of the snakes. His smirk became a full-blown smile then, pearly whites shining with malice and madness. He took a step forward, and she a step back. Her back collided with the cold hard stone of the wall behind her, and she had to suppress a shiver. She didn't like where this was going.
"I would rather think it was a little snake who was telling you things about me… but snakes are surprisingly loyal to those who can speak their language," he said conversationally, and Harriet knew he was trying to get her to meet his eyes, so he could learn her secrets from her mind. "Now, Evans, I'll ask you nicely… why can you speak the noble language?"
"It is no concern of yours, Riddle, but I didn't learn it anywhere. As long as I remember I could talk to snakes," Harriet was far from the best liar, but she guessed that it wasn't that far from reality. The first time she'd spoken the language had been when she'd been to the zoo for Dudley's eleventh birthday, coincidently also the first time she'd ever seen a snake in the flesh.
"How strange… there's not a single magical family by the name of Evans in the country, so your father must've been a muggle. As for your mother…"
"She was a witch and it's all I know about her. I didn't grow up with them." Harriet figured that the best way to make Riddle lose interest was to satiate his thirst for knowledge. So she decided she'd supply with half-truths whatever the Slytherin would come up with. She was practically a nobody among the student body, so there'd been no need to come up with any lies about her origin. Nobody asked. She found it funny that she could finally lead a normal life now that her scar meant nothing to the world.
"Where did you grow up, then?" he asked, and she sensed an edge to his words that hadn't been there before.
"An orphanage," she answered, remembering her uncle's threats of sending her to St. Brutus when she was younger. She idly wondered if that place existed in the forties. "Why do you care?"
Riddle didn't answer; instead he opted to fix her with a very unnerving stare. "Where did you study before coming to Hogwarts?"
"I was homeschooled," Harriet answered, easily feeding him the lies she'd agreed she'd tell anyone who asked. She'd already gone over this routine with the Headmaster. "When I was eleven a friend of my parents came for me, and took me to live with him. He taught me everything I know. He passed away last year, but before that he arranged for me to be enrolled in Hogwarts. There, my life story. Are you happy now?"
Harriet couldn't help but fidget under Riddle's incessant scrutiny, and wondered if the darkness would hide her uneasiness. If Riddle noticed anything, he didn't show it, and for that Harriet was thankful.
"Very," he breathed, and Harriet had to suppress a shiver. He sounded pleased, and if there was one thing the girl didn't want in the world was to be present whenever Lord Voldemort felt happy. That always meant bad news for her. "Fifty points from Gryffindor for wandering the hallways past curfew, and detention tomorrow at seven in the Potions classroom for you, miss Evans."
At that, Riddle turned his back on her and promptly walked away, leaving Harriet gaping at his retreating form. "That's an absolute wanker for you!" she muttered, and moodily set to retrace her steps to the Gryffindor common room.
Slughorn wasn't as bad as Snape when it came to detentions, but what really irked her about the whole thing was that out of all people, it had been bloody Voldemort to give her a detention. Oh no, Potter, she thought to herself in a cheap imitation of the Dark Lord's cold, sibilant voice, I would not be so merciful as to grant you a quick death… you shall serve detention every day with Snape for the rest of your life!
Her angry mental dialogue was interrupted once she was in Slughorn's classroom, down in the dungeons. She slowly opened the door, readying herself to face a rather boring evening of preparing ingredients… when she came upon the sight of a slightly flushed Tom Riddle, sitting behind Slughorn's desk. It took her half a minute to realize that there was someone between Riddle's legs, and that someone was bobbing their head up and down in a rhythm she recognized all too well…
She blinked once, twice and slowly turned around. Riddle's self-satisfied smirk was burned in her eyelids, making it oh-so-difficult not to turn back just to hex the living daylights out of him. She heard the tell-tale signs of clothing shuffling, and moved a step to the right to let the flustered girl leave the classroom. Even though Harriet hadn't seen her face, she knew it'd been terribly embarrassing for her. Well that makes two of us, she thought drily, and turned to face Riddle.
"You told me I had detention today," Harriet said, unsure as to what one should say when they catch their nemesis getting fellatio from a random girl. Riddle nodded, the smirk never leaving his face, and Harriet made the mistake of looking away from his maddening stare… to discover that his pants were still undone. Harriet thanked the heavens that the sight of his white boxers would be the only traumatic sight she'd have to endure at the moment, since the girl had apparently been taught well in the art of putting back her toys once she was finished playing with them.
"Riddle, you're…" She paused, blushing fiercely. "You're indecent."
The dark-eyed boy shrugged elegantly, "I have a reputation to keep." He slowly arranged his clothes so he'd be presentable again, and Harriet hated the way he made it seem like he was fixing himself in the morning. She hated that he wouldn't feel as awkward as she did at the moment.
"Very well," he said, leaning back on Slughorn's chair, "now that I'm… decent, it is my duty to inform you that Slughorn wasn't feeling well this evening, and that I am to oversee your punishment."
"Why do I have the feeling you set this all up?"
"Why would I do that?"
Harriet huffed, sitting on one of the tables. "Because you get off on torturing defenseless Gryffindors, who knows."
Riddle chuckled, and stood from the chair. "I'd hardly call preparing balms torture," he said and pointed to the cauldron next to the desk. "I trust you know how the instructions?"
"By heart," muttered Harriet unhappily as she strode to the cabinets where she knew the ingredients would be stored. Funnily enough, that was also Snape's favorite detention activity. Maybe Voldemort really does have a hand in my detentions… the thought made her giggle.
Once she had gathered all the necessary components, she placed them on Slughorn's desk, humming to herself as she prepared the cauldron for the task with a few flicks of her wand. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Riddle completely engrossed in a book, and thanked the heavens once more that she wouldn't have to bear more than his silent presence. From what she'd been able to tell, he was quite the bookish guy, and if she'd learnt anything from Hermione it was that once they began reading, they couldn't stop.
Sadly, she hadn't counted on the fact that Riddle was at the end of the book. It had barely been an hour since she'd begun with the brewing that she realized Riddle was behind her, eyeing her potion with the most uptight expression of distaste she'd ever seen, and that was coming from a student of Severus Snape.
"I thought you said you knew the instructions," he said.
"Yeah, I do. Why?"
"The potion's not supposed to turn blue yet."
Harriet looked back at her cauldron, and noticed the quickly darkening tone of the liquid. She looked back at Riddle, not really knowing what the problem was. Snape had made sure she could recite this particular potion even while unconscious, and she knew that the potion was on the right track. "Yes, and now I have to add the powdered beetle eyes so if you'll excuse me…"
She shoved Riddle out of her way, knowing that there was just a small window of time to add the powder before the potion became too unstable for it. As she stirred, she noticed the frown on Riddle's face.
"It should've exploded."
Harriet smiled, remembering the times it'd happened to her. "That's because you're probably used to McKernnigan's formula, this is an entirely different version. It's easier to brew… and you can do it more quickly."
"Where did you learn this?" She swore she could see the dust in that phrase, so convinced she was that Riddle had used it often. Nemesis or not, she found it admirable the way he was always searching for knowledge… even if it was to use said knowledge to commit unspeakable crimes.
"My potions tutor was an asshole, but he was damn good at his job."
Riddle scrunched up his face in disgust. "Must you always be so crass with your vocabulary? You sound like a man."
"Oh yeah, and we already know that you like them girly and submissive, don't you, Riddle?" Harriet said, remembering the embarrassed girl fom before. She couldn't stop the blush the came over her cheeks as she recalled the intimate scene – even if Riddle wasn't that bad on the eyes, it was something she could've lived without.
"You'll find that I am very flexible in my choice of lovers" she heard him hiss, and found that he was closer than she'd liked him to be. She turned around, wand in hand, ready to give him a piece of her mind when she found herself bumping into a firm chest. She squeaked, caught completely by surprise, and tried to shove Riddle away from her. The prefect had not expected her strength and out of simple reflex he tried to reach for her; soon both found themselves falling.
"Ouch," Harriet said, as she sat up. Sadly for her, that meant she was sitting exactly on top of her nemesis. Once again she felt the blush rise to her cheeks, and tried to scramble away from the Slytherin, only to have her hands held in a tight grip.
"Let go!" she gasped, surprised at the viciousness of the hold. Riddle pulled her against his chest, and then turned positions in a quick, violent movement, so he'd be on top of her. Harriet felt fear creep on her insides, and began looking for her wand, which had fallen not too far from them. The look in Riddle's eyes spoke of hunger, of madness and unspeakable horror. It was the same bloodcurdling stare that Lord Voldemort had fixed her with in the cemetery.
"You are a terrible liar, Evans, and I don't like liars," he whispered, his voice low and unforgiving. Harriet felt herself shiver, and wished to have her wand back in her hands. "I will find out the truth about you, one way or the other."
"Let it go, Riddle," Harriet interrupted him. "Don't fucking think you're entitled to anything just because we're the only known parseltongue speakers in the world."
"I think I am entitled to everything concerning my family," he said, and Harriet could only gape at him. Did he really think they were family? That was so wrong, on so many levels.
"Why would you think that?!" she exclaimed. "We're not family!"
Riddle seemed to stop at this, his eyes suddenly filling with a new-found pleasure. Uh-oh, Harriet thought, and realized that her little outburst had pointed out that she knew more than she was saying.
"That is certainly a relief," he said, eyeing her like a cat would eye a mouse. Harriet felt strangely naked under his gaze, and could only be thankful when he moved away from her. She sat up, and tried to put some distance between the mad prefect and her when she felt a hand in the back of her neck and a pair of hungry lips on her own.
"Mmphf-!" her muffled cried of surprise was stifled by the prefect's possessive hold of her lips. Tom Riddle – out of all the people in the world… young Voldemort was kissing her. Stealing her first kiss!
She shoved him off and scrambled to her feet, blushing furiously although she couldn't really say whether it was out of anger or… something more. She wasn't about to question herself in the matter. Riddle was looking at her with a small smirk, and the smugness of his countenance made her want to kick him in the nuts.
"Wha-what was that, you asshole?!"
"I thought you'd be able to tell. It's commonly called a 'kiss'."
"Yeah, but what's that for?!"
The taller boy didn't answer her, and instead stood, cleaning the dust and wrinkles in his robes with a wave of his wand. "I think it's time for you to head back to your dormitory. Good night, miss Evans."
Harriet could only stare once again at his retreating back as she thought that her life was beginning to get increasingly more bizarre.
"Why are you all looking at me like that?" asked Harriet two days after serving detention, when she noticed her schoolmates giving her surprised looks. She thought she could even detect a hint of jealousy, and that made her curious.
"Riddle's been looking at you since you arrived," the girl to her left, Arabella, said. Harriet looked up, and met his gaze. "What's going on between you two?"
"Uh, I don't know," the green-eyed girl said, looking back to her breakfast. "I hate his guts."
"That's not what people are saying," chirped Lucretia McMillan, coming over to Harriet's side of the table. "Rumor has it that you two are dating."
Harry felt herself redden, wondering if she could cast a mass obliviate on the student population at that very moment. It was bad enough that she'd been deprived of her first kiss by a baby Dark Lord that now she had to endure the rumor that she was his girlfriend.
"We're not dating!" she screeched, and out of the corner of her eyes she could see some heads turning. "Besides, I-I like someone else…" she added, in a calmer voice. She thought of Cho, and the teary hug they'd shared after a meeting of Dumbledore's Army. She knew it was just a silly adolescent crush, but Cho had really struck her as being a really kind, loving guy. It certainly helped that he was very handsome.
"Oh, that's new!" Lucretia said, giggling like the schoolgirl she was. Harriet thought that she and Lavender would make a good team. "So Riddle had his sights set on the mysterious home-schooled girl, sadly she was already bewitched by someone else!"
Before Harriet could tell her that Riddle didn't have his sight set on anything but world domination, Lucretia'd already gone off to whisper merrily the news among her friends. The Girl-Who-Lived sighed and went back to finishing her breakfast.
In all honesty, I'm still surprised at how quickly the rumor spreads, Harriet thought as she saw Riddle approach her. His eyes were darker than usual, and he was clearly displeased. She inferred that he didn't appreciate people thinking he would stoop so low as to date someone, and prepared herself for the megalomaniacal fit she'd have to endure.
"Evans!" he shouted, and the way his voice sounded reminded her of one of Snape's memories. Just like the way her father sounded when he would chase after his mother. Except that Riddle didn't feel an ounce of affection for her.
"Yes, the one and only," she tiredly answered as she kept walking.
"I've heard some strange rumors," Riddle commented as he fell in step with her, looking for all the world like she was the one who'd been running to catch up with him.
"Care to share?" her voice was thick with disinterest.
"Someone has caught your eye," he said in a dark tone, and Harriet had to stop to take a look good at his face. His blasé expression told her nothing.
"Yes, a good time ago. What is it to you?"
The future dark lord fixed her with a smoldering stare, and stormed off. If Harriet hadn't known him, she would've sworn that he was… jealous.
"I didn't know you were on speaking terms with Abraxas Malfoy," Lucretia commented as they watched the blond pureblooded heir make her way to their table. He was looking slightly disgusted, as if he'd been walking on rotten eggs. Harriet had the sudden realization that the Malfoy sneer was a genetic trait, not a developed ability.
"I'm not," she answered the gossipy girl, sighing. She held a book in her hands, one that she was very keen on finishing. Dumbledore had managed to acquire the journal of an inventor who'd studied the movement of time for over a century before trying to lay down the basics of what Harriet bet was the first timeturner. It warmed her heart that her future headmaster would go out of his way to help her, and not for the first time she wondered if it would be okay to send him a bunch of extravagant socks for his birthday.
"Evans," the arrogant tone of Malfoy interrupted her musings, and she looked up from her book to watch him with a raised eyebrow. She knew that he was speaking to her on behalf of his little master, since a perfect pureblood heir like him wouldn't bother deigning a nobody like her with even a glance. "I'd like to speak to you, in private."
At that, she stole a quick glance to the Slytherin table. Riddle was speaking with his friends, seemingly unaware of what his cohort was doing. Nevertheless she knew better and wondered if it might be safe to go anywhere with the grandfather of Draco Malfoy.
"Okay," she said, putting her book in her bag and checking that her wand was safely tucked inside her pocket. As the fake Moody would say, "constant alert!"
"As eloquent as always," he sneered, and hurried off to the Great Hall's doors, a wary Potter in tow. Once they were outside of the prying eyes of a good number of the student population, he turned to her. Harriet noted with great amusement that he was gritting his teeth.
"I…" he started, almost as if it took him a great deal to say it, "I would like to know if you'd be inclined to attend the next Hogsmead outing with me."
Whatever she'd thought he'd say – it didn't even come close to that. Abraxas Malfoy, of all people, was asking her out? She'd known Lucius and Draco to be the two most uptight people on Earth, but their ancestor certainly outshone them in that department. The idea that he was asking her, who was certainly everything but a pureblood little princess, time in which they could socialize like they were chummy with each other was certainly hilarious. She let out a chocked laugh, and noted with satisfaction that Malfoy's face was tinted red with embarrassment.
"Look, not that I'm not flattered, but did Riddle put you up for this?" she said, knowing that it was getting a bit old to blame Voldemort, past or future incarnation, for everything that happened to her. Although the funny thing was that he really was the source of all trouble in her life.
"Yes," he muttered, regaining some of his proud pureblood persona. "I have to admit I'm relieved that you're aware how out of your league I am."
Harriet snorted, and began to walk away. "Sure, Malfoy, I've always known little blond ferrets are just too much for me", she said with a laugh.
Malfoy wasn't the only one of Riddle's little entourage that came forth in the subsequent days. Lestrange, Yaxley, Bullstrode and even the Greengrass girl, they'd all tried to ask her out. Harriet didn't know what Riddle was trying to get out of this, but she was tired of having to put up with all the arrogant momma's boys –and girl. She wanted to have a little chat with the Slytherin prefect, but now it was he who was making himself scarce.
"Ah, Miss Evans, a word with you if you may," came the voice of Albus Dumbledore after the first Transfiguration class of the week. She'd intended to catch Riddle as he was leaving the classroom – he always left in a hurry after this particular class, but it seemed like her future headmaster had other plans.
"Yes, professor?" she asked, facing the old man with a small smile. She'd have to buy those socks some time.
"A lemon drop?" he offered, and she murmured a small 'no, thanks' before sitting herself in the chair in front of his desk. "Ah, a shame. I find these particular muggle sweets to be the most delicious of them all."
"Well, I was simply meaning to know how your research was going," he fixed her with a pointed stare and she knew what he meant by 'research'. "Have you had any difficulty with the concepts?"
"No," Harriet said with no small wonder. "Surprisingly enough, I was able to understand everything… I mean, what I've read so far. " She blushed a little. Between classes and Riddle she'd had little time to read the book, but she wasn't the far from finishing it. "The writer thought that the stars had some sort of influence over time… I think I know what sorts of conditions I should look for to get back to my time, but I still have to learn the magic I should perform."
"Yes," Dumbledore said, reclining on his chair as he slowly stroked his beard. "You'll find that most magic tends to seek a state of balance, miss Evans. A time traveller, I'd suppose, is someone who throws out of balance the magic that weaves together time and space… so in this case, you'd find that maybe should you focus your intent at the right time in the right place, the magic itself would get you back to your rightful place, as it'd unconsciously seek for the balance lost."
Harriet nodded dumbly, "so what you're saying is that the universe itself wants me out of here?"
"You could say that," the Transfiguration professor said with a small chuckle. "Although it sounds rather harsh when you put it that way."
"Yeah, I guess," the Girl-Who-Live smiled.
"I'd also like to ask you something, if you'll pardon my bluntness" he said, his countenance turning more serious. Harriet straightened herself in her seat, and nodded. "I've noticed that you've caught Tom Riddle's eyes. Although if circumstances were different I would not meddle with a student's life, I think I am obliged to warn you that he is not what he appears to be."
Harriet smiled sadly, knowing that out of everyone in the world, she was probably the one who better knew that. "I know, professor. I'll be careful."
Dumbledore nodded, intrigue in his eyes. She knew he wanted to know how exactly she had found out about Riddle's true nature, but she wasn't about to divulge any secrets from the future, even to her esteemed headmaster.
"That's a rather interesting book you have there," Harriet heard to her right and sighed. Not again, she thought with annoyance. She looked up to meet the stare of one Thorfinn Rowle Jr., a seventh year Ravenclaw.
"Can you please not do this?" she said, not bothering to hide her displeasure. "I don't know what Riddle wants to get out of this, but I think it'd be better…"
"I'm not here because of Riddle," Rowle interrupted her, not affected at all by her little outburst. "True, he told me to speak with you. But before that I'd already made up my mind to do just that."
Harriet looked at him with surprise. "What do you mean?" He smiled at her, and took a seat beside her at the edge of one of the many arcs that divided the gallery from the inner garden.
"You're a very pretty girl, Evans, and you have some sense in you. I'd be honored if you spent the next Hogsmeade weekend with me".
Harriet looked at him like he'd grown two heads. She knew she was blushing.
"I…" truth was, she'd never been asked out by anyone. Cho, she'd asked him herself. Although if she had to be honest, she'd been far too busy trying to foil whatever evil plot was going on that year in Hogwarts to really take a good look at the male population of her class. "That'd be okay," she said, inwardly wincing at how lame she sounded. "Eh, I'd like to go with you as well."
Smooth, Harriet, she thought. Rowle hadn't seemed to notice her lack of finesse, busy as he was to smile brightly at her.
"Very well, then. I'll see you in the Great Hall at ten, next Saturday!" he said, and with a small stolen peck to her cheek he took off. Harriet was left, one hand softly rubbing the place he'd kissed, wondering exactly what had happened.
"I-I… " Rowle stammered as she saw his date run to him. It was a cold December morning, and in spite of the strong wind playing around with her inky black locks, or perhaps because of it, she looked stunning. "You look beautiful," he said, his voice coming out a bit hoarser than he'd intended.
"Y-yeah," Harriet said with a nervous smile. She'd never been one to dress up or care much about her appearance. Early on she'd learnt that the less attractive you look, the less attention people pay you; and if Dudley and his gang had taught her anything, it was that standing out always meant trouble. Plus, she figured it didn't make sense to put on make up and nice clothes if you were going to end up all bruised and sweaty from trying to fight or escape some bullies. "Thanks," she fidgeted, her hands playing around with her scarf.
Rowle cleared his throat, seemingly trying to regain his composure, and offered her his arm. "My lady," he said in mock seriousness, making Harriet smile softly. She took the offered arm and they began walking towards the small village ahead.
"I have to confess that you caught my eye when I saw how impressive your spellwork is," Rowle said after a small silence. "I saw you demonstrate the Shield Charm to some of your friends," he stole a small glance at her, "it was really impressive how powerful your shield was."
Harriet smiled to herself; it was a bittersweet smile. Of course her defensive spellwork would be above average, since the only thing she seemed to be doing ever since she entered the magical world was to get herself in trouble. "I learnt it out of necessity, more than anything."
That caught the Ravenclaw's interest. "Really? What for?" he asked with no small amount of curiosity.
"I had a dark wizard after me," she said after a while. "The man was insane… he killed my parents, then tried to kill me, failed, and decided he would not stop until I was six feet under."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Rowle said, and he meant it. He'd heard the rumors that said that the mysterious transfer student was an orphan, but he had never been one to put much stock in what people said under their breaths. "I imagine he's no longer a problem?"
"Kind of. Let's just say that he can't really hurt me while I'm here." As she said those words, she realized just how much truth there was behind them. If she took Riddle's occasional pestering out of the equation, she could say that her life was entirely normal as it was. No Dark Lord trying to come after her, no mad servants trying to snatch her out of Hogwarts or kill her, no Girl-Who-Lived bullshit. She was just Harriet Evans, another face in a sea of faces.
"So you're having the time of your life," Rowle said, looking at the soft smile in her face. Harriet nodded.
"It's like a vacation for me."
As they walked into the main street of one of the few wizarding villages in all Britain, Harriet once again wondered at how impervious wizards were to time. The place wouldn't change much in fifty years; except for a few shops here and there, she felt like she was in the Hogsmeade of her own time. The excited murmur of student chatting became the comfortable background to their silent walk as they headed to Honeydukes. Once or twice they'd cross paths with someone Rowle knew, and they'd stop for a minute to greet them. Harriet recognized some of their names.
"You seem to know a lot of people," she commented, after they greeted yet another student. "I thought Ravenclaw was the least social of the Houses."
"Nonsense," Rowle said with a small chuckle as they entered Honeydukes. "Just because we like to read doesn't mean we don't like people. In fact, people tend to be as fun to read as books."
"I guess there's some truth to that," Harriet said, scrunching up her nose. "I've never really liked reading."
"Oh? And just how did you learn such impressive magic?"
Harriet rubbed the back of her neck, blushing a bit. "Having someone explain it to me."
"So you have more of a hands-on approach to learning," Rowle affirmed, and his date nodded. She was thinking whether she should buy chocolate frogs or fizzing whizbees, when she felt a hand under her chin. She looked up, and met Rowle's hungry blue eyes. "Have you learnt how to kiss?"
She blushed, all thoughts about sweets leaving her mind, and squeaked a small "yes".
"Pity," said Rowle, moving away from her with a smirk. She stared at him for a minute, trying to control her face. She thought back to the kiss Riddle had stolen from her, and had to fight off the heat once again rushing to her cheeks.
She was so distracted she didn't see the aforementioned prefect approach until he was right in front of her. "Ah?" she gasped, suddenly aware of the scowling dark eyes looking down at her.
"You're blocking the way, Evans," he said in a cold voice, and Harriet dazedly moved to the side. When she tried to find Riddle again, he was gone, lost in the sea of students that had swarmed the shop. She took a look at the crowd, decided against waiting an eternity to buy her sweets, and exited the shop. She figured she could wait for Rowle outside.
It wasn't long until the blond Ravenclaw was back within her sight. "Sorry for making you wait," he said with an apologetic smile. "Here, I bought this for you."
She thanked him when he gave her a box of chocolate frogs, feeling bad for not being able to buy the boy anything. "Oh, don't worry about getting me anything," he said, looking at her expression. "As cheesy as it may sound, your company is more than enough."
Harriet blushed again.
"I know a nice spot not too far away from here," he said, looking around. "We could grab some hot chocolate from the next shop and go there."
She felt grateful for warming spells as they sat on the trunk of a fallen tree at the edge of the village. There was a fence some steps away from them that marked the end of Hogsmeade, and beyond that Harriet could see the fields where her godfather would hide in fifty years from then. As promised, the lonely clearing was lovely for a small stop with hot chocolate in her hands. The perennial bushes around them gave them a privacy she knew was appreciated by many couples each outing.
"Say, Harriet," Rowle said, staring at her with a fake air of nonchalance that didn't sit well with the green-eyed girl. "You must be very proficient at dueling if you had a dark wizard after you… I'm a bit of a dueling nut myself, and I thought that maybe we could spar a little?"
The girl let out a giggle. "I don't know that much about conventional dueling… "
"Oh, it's no problem. As long as you don't try to kill me," he said with a chuckle.
Harriet stood up, leaving her cup on the floor and taking her Holly wand in her right hand. "Your flirting is weird," she said, almost without a thought. Rowle didn't seem to mind her comment and turned to face her, his own wand in hand. "You're a very weird girl yourself."
Harriet supposed there was some merit in that. She stared at him, not sure if she should do the bow thing she'd seen Snape and Lockhart do back in her second year. The older boy spared her from asking as he immediately began attacking. Her Seeker reflexes kicked in and she moved away from the ray of blue light, shooting back a red Expelliarmus.
Rowle deflected the spell, and began to get steadily more vicious. Harriet was surprised at how serious he was, and wondered if, given his association with Riddle, he might one day become a Death Eater. She held her own as she tried to find a way to disarm him. A brief glance at the hot chocolate she'd left forgotten gave her an idea, and taking advantage of a small opening in Rowle's defense, she threw both cups at him with a flick of her wand.
He let out a pained moan as she disarmed him, hot chocolate dripping down his face and hands. Harriet instantly regretted her tactic, knowing how scalding the liquid had been. She vanished the offending chocolate as she knelt beside him. "I'm sorry!" she gasped, taking in the sight of his reddened skin and teary eyes. "Oh, oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't think-" she was interrupted by a dark chuckle behind them.
"You wouldn't be so sorry if you knew the sort of spells he casted," Riddle said as he walked into the clearing. "The Blood Boiling Curse, Rowle? Shame on you for trying to cast that on a lady," he said with a mocking smirk at the teary-eyed Ravenclaw. Harriet had the feeling that there was more to the situation than what it seemed, and suddenly felt very stupid about agreeing to the date. She stood up, her eyes never leaving Rowle's face. His expression gave nothing away, but something told her that he was embarrassed, although what for she couldn't tell.
"What do you mean?" he asked Riddle, her voice completely devoid of any anger for the first time. The future dark lord didn't fail to notice that, and his smirk turned into a very dangerous smile.
"He was using the dark arts, dear" he said, stressing is use of the last word. Harriet flinched at that and turned her head to give the Ravenclaw a hard look. "Apparently he didn't like being bested by a girl… after all he has a reputation to uphold."
"What are you talking about?" Harriet felt that Rowle and she would be having a little chat very soon, but she didn't feel like blowing up in front of her arch-nemesis. She was incensed that the other boy had used the fucking dark arts in a supposed mock duel.
"I'm in the dueling team," he said without looking at her. She watched him stumble to his feet, and had the sudden urge to kick him.
"One of the finest duelers in Hogwarts," Riddle said, and just by the tone of his voice Harriet was sure he would have added but that's because I'm not interested in competing.
"Okay, that's interesting and all," she said, turning to Rowle, who by the way he was acting gave Harriet the impression that his feet were the most interesting thing in the world. She found his behavior strange, but didn't comment on it. "But what is the deal with you using the dark arts in a mock duel, you asshole?"
The older student flinched, and Harriet could swear she saw remorse in his expression. That gave her pause, and she had the sudden idea that the duel had not been his idea… she focused her angry stare on Riddle, and took a step towards him. She could feel her wand shooting sparks as her magic answered to her anger. The future Dark Lord raised an eyebrow at her.
"This was your idea," she spat out. He didn't answer her, so she went on with her rant. "I'm fucking sick of you, Riddle. I don't know what you think you'll accomplish with this little game of yours, but I'm not playing. Leave me alone."
"I honestly don't know the reasons behind your hostility to me in the first place, Evans," Riddle hissed in parseltongue. "Even before we spoke a word to each other, you'd already made up your mind to hate me. I find that a bit curious, as you do not strike me to be a girl without sense, and it's senseless to hate without motive."
"You're a dark wizard, Riddle. As your lackey," at this Harriet stole a glance at Rowle, whose eyes were the size of saucers at her using the snake language, "might have already told you, I had a dark wizard after me. Sorry but not sorry, I'm not exactly thrilled with you lot."
Riddle cautiously regarded her, as if she was something he'd never seen. He put on a polite smile.
"That's a rash generalization. Don't fault the magic that I use because of the wizards that employ it against you," he told her. "You're a powerful witch, Evans, but you're wasting your potential."
"I hardly see how the dark arts might help me reach my potential."
"Give it a chance," Riddle said once again in English. "Come to the left corridor in the seventh floor next Tuesday at six, in front of the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. We have a study group of sorts, for students who are not fully… satisfied with the curriculum. If I can't make you change your mind then, I shall not bother you again."
Harriet regarded him warily, knowing it was too good to be true. She knew there was little Riddle could do to make her more amicable to the dark arts, so it was a lost cause on his part. He must know that, she thought, so the question is, what is his true intention?
"Very well," she agreed, and he smiled in satisfaction. "Don't even think about trying anything funny… or I'll make sure you regret it."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Why would I do that? You're too pretty to kill," he said with a chuckle, and Harriet wondered if she could quote him the next time Voldemort tried to kill her. "I'm sure Thorfinn would agree, don't you?" he said, once again his voice all mockery and deviousness. The Ravenclaw flinched, and nodded, without taking his eyes off the ground. "I'm afraid I'll have to take your date back to the castle, Evans. Thorfinn and I have some things to discuss."
He didn't wait for her answer before walking away; Rowle gave her an apologetic look before following him. Once again on her own, she looked at the discarded cups on the ground and realized the whole thing had been a test. Riddle had been testing her abilities.
She felt sick.
"This is a very stupid idea," she muttered to herself as she stood outside the Room of Requirement. She was surprised that Riddle knew about the place, and wondered what uses the dark wizard in training had given to it, other than to make use of a dynamic training ground for his future army.
Riddle had told her where and when they'd be meeting, but he never specified how she was going to get inside the room. As it was, there was nothing but a wall in front of the tapestry, and so she waited, thinking that maybe Riddle had a spell or something that'd warn him of her arrival.
"Evans," came the voice of the boy in question, and she turned to see that a door had materialized in what had once been stone and dirt, and Riddle's head was poking out. She could hear the distinct sound of excited voices and fighting from behind him, and once again pondered the idea of going back to common room. He said he'd leave you alone, a small voice in the back of her head reminded her, and she gathered her Gryffindor courage to walk the steps towards where Riddle was waiting.
"I'm here," she said as he let her in, closing the door immediately behind her. She took in the scene in front of her with no small amount of nostalgia. It seemed that just as they'd done with the DA back in her time Riddle had set up a training space, dummies included. There were some small difference between the room they used and this one, but the resemblance was still striking. She wondered at the irony of her arch-nemesis and her both teaching fellow students magic beyond their curriculum.
"Fellow students," Riddle said from behind her, and even though he had not raised his voice, everyone seemed to hear him, for in a matter of seconds the room had quieted and the students were looking at him. "Miss Evans here is going to join us for today; as some of you know," at this he glanced briefly at Rowle, who was standing near a group of scowling Slytherins, "she's proven herself to be quite adept at dueling. I was hoping we could convince her to add her skills to our group."
Harriet inwardly marveled at Riddle's leadership skills. As soon as he'd praised her skills, she saw that those who'd regarded her with little more than casual disdain now looked at her with approval, as if Riddle's praise was a blessing of sorts. He's got them all wrapped around his finger, she thought, feeling also quite sick when she thought how easily the psychopath could sway people to his side.
"I'd like to see a demonstration," said the voice of Abraxas Malfoy, who was among the group of Slytherins near Rowle. "Certainly there's much we could learn if we saw Miss Evans in action."
Harriet looked at Riddle, who was nodding with a small smile. "Ah, yes, that'd be adequate. If you wouldn't mind, that is," he said, looking at her. She figured that she might as well make the burger after having killed the cow and nodded.
"You should be the one to face her then, Abraxas, since you're so anxious to experience her skills."
The blond pureblood heir smirked, making his way to the center of the room. Harriet followed suit, and had a bit of a déjà vu as the students around them formed a circle. She fingered her wand, trying not to show how nervous she really was. After all, Rowle had used the dark arts against her, what's to say that Malfoy wouldn't do the same?
They're young, but some of them are going to be Death Eaters, she thought, casting a look around the room. Fight like you would fight a Death Eater.
And so she tightened her hold on her wand, and let Malfoy make the first move. She quickly threw a Protego shield around her as the yellow sparks of an incendiary curse rebounded on the powerful defensive spell, and from within the protection of it she cast a Bombarda against the stone floor under Malfoy's feet.
"Ah!" he gasped as he jumped away, and Harriet used that minimal distraction to transfigure the dummies to her right into a small pack of brown dogs. Their wooden fangs flashed dangerously as she willed them to attack her opponent. A freezing charm on the floor, however, rendered them useless. "You won't be able to do much with some puppies," Malfoy sneered at her, and with a slash of his wand he made the one closest to him explode.
"We'll see about that," Harriet ran to the edge of the frozen patch on the floor, and with a cry of "Aestus ignis!" the space between her and the Malfoy heir ignited. She directed the flames towards the flailing dogs, which seemed not to notice the fire as their bodies began to act like living torches. The fire had done away with the coating of ice on the floor, and so they were free to act on the will of their mistress. Harriet had the rare pleasure of seeing Malfoy's eyes bulge as he saw the rabid, flaming dogs, and with a desperate cry he blasted them into pieces.
Harriet didn't want to give him time to recover and with a flick of her wand, she willed the stone under his feet to trap him. It was a tactic Hermione and she had discussed many times, as they'd been prone to do in her fourth year in preparation for the first and third task. Malfoy, however, was a more challenging adversary than she'd thought at first, and with a flick of his wand he'd done away with her shield. An electric blue curse she'd never seen destroyed her defenses, and she was forced to jump away from the ray. She let herself fall to the ground and rolled so she would be facing him. She was taken by surprise by a cutting hex, and let out a small yelp as she felt blood trickling down from her left shoulder.
Malfoy kept casting, and she was forced to dodge spell after spell. Although she didn't recognize half of the incantations, she knew that the pureblood's attacks were far from the Ministry-approved spell work they were supposed to learn. She began to worry about his seemingly relentless offensive, when she realized that he was growing tired – she didn't doubt that her classmate was using some rather powerful magic, but it didn't come without a cost. He didn't count on her agility – she doubted that mere physical resistance was something that many wizards took into account, and so she counted on that for her next move.
She conjured a wall to protect her from a curse that sounded particularly vicious and moved to her left, getting closer to a wall of pillows similar to the ones they'd used in the DA. As the dust cloud from the exploded wall settled, she sent the pillows towards Malfoy; like moths to light they fluttered around him. He was desperately flinging reducto curses at them, but it did little against the growing number of flying pillows. With another flick of Harriet's wand, the pillows lunged at him; and soon he was being smothered by the fluffy army.
Harriet walked to his side and took the Slytherin's wand away from him with her hand, and then released him from the embrace of her pillow army. "Why, Malfoy, you look like you just got out of bed," she said with a smile at the blond boy's ruffled appearance. Some of the students around them chuckled, and she was startled by the feel of someone's hand on her shoulder.
"That was impressive," it was Riddle, who was looking curiously at her. His eyes didn't stay long on her face, and soon moved to the red-faced Malfoy's visage. "Well, I think there's much that Miss Evans has shown us… like the importance of fitness."
"Abraxas, while your range of curses is certainly impressive, you failed to notice that Miss Evans is no amateur when it comes the most effective defensive tactic of them all; dodging. And instead of trying to restrain her, like she did you, you opted to fire curse after curse… which drained your magical resources. That was the mistake that cost you the duel."
Riddle took a look around the room, and Harriet let herself be impressed by how insightful he was. Malfoy had asked for a duel purely out of a desire to humiliate her, she was sure of that, but in spite of the little power-play Riddle had managed to get a small lesson for his followers. She was a bit disgusted at the idea that she might've actually helped these baby Death Eaters.
"Simplicity and austerity," the Slytherin heir continued. "Evans is not used to salon dueling, where the winner is decided by the variety and complexity of spells and the strategies used. She barely used anything outside the magic taught at Hogwarts; but she used it effectively, and that's the lesson we ought to learn from this occasion. You can rest your head in those pillows," he said with a smile as he pointed towards the discarded remains of Harriet's little army, "but you can also smother your opponent with them."
The students cheered, and Harriet felt a bit sick at the smugness radiating from Riddle. Does it always have to be about killing? She asked herself.
She spent the rest of the meeting following Riddle around as he explained different spells to the students. At his insistence, she practiced some of the most benign curses, figuring that it wouldn't really hurt her to learn more offensive magic. After all with Voldemort's return, she didn't doubt she would be facing him or his followers again. And there was something to be said about the irony of Voldemort teaching her magic that she could use against him.
"You have to move your wrist a bit more pronouncedly," Riddle instructed her, and she felt herself stiffen when he took her wrist to show her the correct movement. He was behind her, his breath caressing the nape of her neck; the intimacy of their position wasn't lost on her. "Like this," he whispered, next to her ear, and gently guided her hand to do the right swirl. "Now try it."
"Fuerit dissolutum," she chanted, and from her wand came out a thick black mist. It wrapped itself around a big rat they'd transfigured and stunned. She watched with no small amount of fascination as the rat began to decay; first its hair crumbled to dust, then its skin, and finally its bones. It repulsed her to think of what it could do to a human being. "What's the use of this? Other than killing, of course."
"Believe it or not, it was a spell invented in the dark ages," Riddle said conversationally. "Wizards were impervious to the black plague, but those who had muggle relatives had to watch their family die in the most horrendous of ways. One of them realized that one of the primary vessels for the disease was this," he pointed at the dust that had once been a rat. "So he devised a spell that'd dispose of them quickly and completely; their diseased blood would be turned to dust along with the rest of the rat."
"And that's what saved the world from the Black Plague?" Harriet asked.
"No, the wizard killed himself shortly after inventing the spell and it was left forgotten in a book until some descendants of his found it two hundred years ago. They used it with far less noble intentions," he said with a chuckle.
Harriet pouted. "That's a really sad story."
Riddle arched an eyebrow and moved to correct Delphine Carrow's wand movements before she blew up the room. "I don't know any fairytales," he said, once he was back to Harriet's side.
"Me neither, but with the dark arts it's always a sad story."
Riddle let out a snort. Harriet was sure it was the most undignified thing she'd ever seen him do.
"Please, spare me the childish sentiment. Magic goes beyond the anecdotes that surround its uses; it is raw power," Riddle fixed her with an intense stare as he continued his rant. "The truth about the dark arts is that most of its users are not fit to practice them. That's why you hear so many, ah, sad stories about it. Give a man a pencil and he can make a beautiful drawing, give a mentally disturbed man a pencil and he can gouge your eyes out."
"Okay, then tell me the name of at least one dark wizard who wasn't consumed by madness or something along those lines."
Riddle smiled wolfishly at her. "Albus Dumbledore".
She gaped at him. "What are you even talking about? Dumbledore isn't a dark wizard!"
"Oh, you don't know," a voice came from her right, and she turned to see a fourth year Hufflepuff she'd never seen before. He was a petite boy with gentle gray eyes. "Back in his youth Dumbledore was a close friend of Gellert Grindelwald," he said, and out of the corner of her eye Harriet saw that other people had stopped to listen to the conversation. Some of them were nodding, "they trained together."
"The only reason Dumbledore was able to defeat Grindelwald was because he knew exactly the sort of magic he worked with," a Ravenclaw boy in her year said. "Although that little detail was omitted by pretty much everyone once he defeated him."
Harriet felt as if someone had punched her in the guts. She couldn't believe it… Dumbledore, a dark wizard? It certainly went against everything she'd ever known about the man… not that she knew much, if she had to be honest. She felt a bit cheated about that, since the old man seemed to know everything that happened in her life but she didn't know anything about his past.
"Having second thoughts, Harriet?" whispered Riddle in her ear, and she was once brought back to reality. She looked around and saw that the students were beginning to leave, including the Ravenclaw boy and the soft-eyed Hufflepuff from before.
"I…" she started, but she was unsure as to what she could say. The only reason Dumbledore was able to defeat Grindelwald was because he knew exactly the sort of magic he worked with. The words once again echoed in her mind. She took a look at his nemesis, who was smirking at her, and wondered if she wasn't going about the whole thing in the wrong way.
"I am, in fact," she said, and tried to ignore the pleasure in Riddle's unflinching stare. "I'll be back next Tuesday."
With her admission into Riddle's merry band of dark wizards in training, she found that she'd apparently upgraded her status of "forgettable annoyance" to "new cool kid in town". She wasn't allowed to eat her meals with the undignified proletariat of the student body anymore, as she was whisked away by Riddle or one of his cohorts for every meal that required her presence in the Great Hall.
"Evans," came the greeting of one Abraxas Malfoy as she entered the Great Hall. She greeted him in return, and figured that she might as well follow him to his house's table, since Riddle wouldn't let her eat anywhere else. "I was surprised to find that you and Rowle were not dating," the blond said as they both sat at the end of the table. They were the first from their group to arrive.
"Huh?" she said, eyeing him with a bewildered look. "Why would I date Rowle?"
Malfoy chuckled. "Exactly," he said. "He's just a seventh generation pureblood, and while he's a good duelist, he's hardly accomplished in anything else. His family is barely wealthy enough to be considered respectable. I would've questioned your judgment had you fancied him."
"Malfoy, I know this may come as a shock for you," Harriet said, as if she was speaking to a small child. "But not everyone likes people on the basis of how wealthy or powerful they are."
The pureblood gave her a strange smile. "Tell me about it," he said, earning a questioning stare from the Girl-Who-Lived. "Oh, you fancy a poor girl with no family connections of her own?" she said, grabbing a toast from a plate near her. "That's oddly… romantic."
"You think so?" he asked, arching an eyebrow at her. "You're using the wrong knife."
She belatedly realized that he hadn't corrected her. So he really fancies someone he shouldn't… wonder what Lucius and Draco would think about that, she thought as she applied some jam on her toast. "As long as it does its job," she said, and she felt Malfoy's hands on her own. He took the knife from her, and grabbed another one with a wider blade. As he put the knife on her hand she realized how close they were.
"Oi, Abraxas!" yelled Ignatius Yaxley as he sat in front of them. Harriet felt the blond Slytherin edge away from her, as if nothing had happened, and wondered what that had been about. "Heard the news? Rowle's gotten himself a sweetheart."
"Really?" he drawled, "who's the unlucky girl?"
"Meredith Bones, that Hufflepuff chit," Yaxley laughed nastily, pouring himself some coffee. "You're out of luck Evans, their parents are pushing to get a marriage out of it."
"That's a bit... rushed?" Harriet said, feeling no amount of grief over it. She had never liked Rowle that way, although she admitted he was pleasing to the eyes.
"That bloke is cursed," said the soft voice of Breogan Lestrange. Harriet looked at the dark-haired boy inquisitively, but it was Abraxas who answered her.
"His grandfather and father died in mysterious circumstances. There's a rumor going on about a feud between his family and a French pureblood line, and it's said that the first-born males are destined to die before they reach their thirties. "
"Oh," she simply said, feeling a bit bad about the blond Ravenclaw.
"You really are gullible," Yaxley commented, and the three Slytherins around her laughed. She blushed, trying not to choke on her toast as she thought of what to say to defend herself.
"H-hey!" she managed to say, "How was I supposed to know that wasn't true?"
"The fact that a Slytherin tells you should be enough," Abraxas said, "although you would know better if you knew anything about society. Sadly, you're a peasant."
"A peasant!" Yaxley echoed, laughing. Sometimes he reminded her of a hyena.
"Well, Malfoy, excuse me for ruining your day with my peasant ways" she said, unapologetic. "You'll not see me misuse another knife in my life."
"On the contrary, it is rather entertaining," he said, looking pointedly at her. She felt like she was having a déjà vu. "I rather like being entertained."
"She still doesn't get it," exclaimed Lestrange in wonder, and Harriet looked at him like he'd grown two heads. What was he talking about? "Abraxas, she doesn't have a clue."
"A clue about what?"
"I'm flirting with you, Evans," said Malfoy with a sigh. Harriet looked back and forth between the two Slytherins, and decided she wouldn't even attempt to name the game they were playing. The blond picked up on her cluelessness, and tried to be as forward as his parents had taught him not to be.
"Evans, I like you."
Oh. Oh. Harriet felt the heat rise to her cheeks. "B-but…"
"Abraxas gets off on girls kicking his ass in duels," Yaxley said. The boy in question glared at him.
"I don't get off on that sort of thing, thank you very much," he said, clearly flustered.
"But that duel turned you on," Yaxley continued, scandalizing the already flushed pureblood. He looked at Harriet, wiggling his eyebrows at her in a suggestive way. "Miss, it was a miracle that you left with your virtue intact that day."
As Yaxley stopped speaking, his nose began to grow, rapidly turning into the most sickening combination of purple, green and yellow Harriet had ever seen. Boils began to rapidly emerge, grow and explode, leaving a disgusting trail of pus behind. The Girl-Who-Lived pushed her breakfast to the side, suddenly not that hungry anymore.
"You better remember how varied is my repertoire of spells, Yaxley" Malfoy said with a sneer. The other boy left in a hurry, presumably to the infirmary.
"Wasn't that a bit harsh?" Harriet asked, looking at the jinxed boy's retreating back.
"He's used to it," answered Lestrange with a shrug.
Harriet turned back to her discarded breakfast, and was suddenly aware that other than the four of them, none of their little group had arrived. She stole a quick glance at the other tables, looking for the students outside of Slytherin that were under Riddle's wing, and found them missing as well. That's suspicious, she thought, before Abraxas once more took one of her hands.
"Evans, now that the circumstances are different," he said, looking smug and arrogant as always even though Harriet noted a faint trace of nervousness, "would you accompany me to Hogsmeade this weekend?"
"As long as you don't challenge me to a duel, sure" she said.
The irony of Draco's grandpapa asking her out was such an amusement for her, she completely forgot the absence of Riddle and his cohorts that day.
"You have a thing with blonds, I think" chirped the voice of Lucretia from the bed next to hers. "First Rowle, now Malfoy. You certainly move on to greater prospects."
"What?" Harriet asked, her blush lost in the dark. "I just agreed to go with them to Hogsmeade, where's the big fuss in that?"
"I don't think she likes them blond, I think she likes them bad," said another of her roommates, Carmilla, ignoring Harriet's questions. "I mean, you're pretty chummy with Riddle. You certainly like hanging out with the bad boys."
"Bad boys?" the green-eyed girl tried to stop herself from laughing. Oh, they were bad boys all right, but in an entirely different way than these girls thought.
"Yeah, everyone knows they're up to something; something big," Carmilla continued. "Something that goes beyond Hogwarts. They're all so mysterious and edgy about it, it's kind of hot actually."
You think that torturing and killing innocent people is 'kinda hot', Carmilla? Harriet thought, feeling utterly sick at the idea. Although she knew the girl didn't really understand what she was talking about nor could hope to know that the girl lying in a bed next to her was one of the victims of that ' big something', she still felt angered by her words.
"You're in, right?" Lucretia suddenly said. "You're in whatever Riddle's planning."
"I certainly hope not," Harriet answered honestly.
"Then why does he go out of his way to include you in his group?" asked the other girl, her voice betraying her jealousy. "You're not among the best in class, like those Ravenclaws he keeps around. You don't have family connections, like the Slytherins or some of the Gryffindors. You don't have any special ability like the Hufflepuffs he talks to. Why is he so interested in you?"
"He wants something from me," was the only answer she got.
"I'm convinced that one of these days, Riddle, you're not going to even let me go to the bathroom on my own," said Harriet tiredly, as he let herself be dragged to the seat in front of the class. The gesture was somewhat familiar, and as she'd let Hermione seat her fifty years into the future, now she let the future Dark Lord maneuver her around. "Is it really necessary for me to stay around you all the time? I swear, I feel like you're the annoying boyfriend I never had."
Riddle arched an eyebrow at that. "I'll be sure to inform Abraxas, so he knows what behavior to avoid in the future."
"B-but we're not dating!" she spluttered. "Geez, why does everybody think that I'm going to marry him after one date?"
"So you don't like him, then," Riddle said, matter-of-factly, and before Harriet could ask him how he arrived at that conclusion he explained. "I've seen most girls giggle and blush when confronted to the idea of a possible future with their intended mates. You reacted with righteous indignation, which leads me to believe you're not interested in him."
"How would I know? I don't really know him," Harriet answered. "In fact, I don't really know anyone in Hogwarts, except for…" you, she caught herself before she revealed more than she should.
"Except for?" asked Riddle with an inquisitive expression, but Harriet wasn't fooled. He knew that she'd meant to say him.
"You know," she said. He chuckled, and as Dumbledore entered the classroom he whispered in her ear, "then I think you should grant me one date."
Unlike the previous times, there was little publicity to her date with Riddle. She admitted that she hadn't really thought about what she was doing when she agreed… something had come over her, and she'd impulsively said a breathy yes. Now she was trying to find a logical reason as to why she should meet him in the dark of the night in the secluded Astronomy tower, but there was something telling her in the back of her mind that it didn't really mater. Excuse or not, she'd be there. She actually wanted to spend time with him.
The thought worried her more and more, as she rolled around the word in her mind. Wanted. She'd always given little thought as to what she wanted in life; it'd always been a matter of what she had to do. If the world needed saving, she had to save it, even if all she wanted was to hide behind the robes of the wizards around her. She'd put aside fear, desire, jealousy, love, anger, hate… all for the will of the Greater Good. Now that she was conflicted once more by what she felt she had to do versus what she wanted to do, it was harder for her to act in the same careless way as she'd done over the years.
She had to go back to her time. She had to study the book Dumbledore had given her so she could try and figure out a way for her to go back. She wanted to stay in this carefree time, before Voldemort and the war, before the danger and grief. She wanted to go out with Riddle and look into the compelling dark eyes and wish for them not to turn into the scalding scarlet that haunted her dreams.
So for the first time in her life, she did exactly as she desired.
"For someone who has a dark wizard after them, you're awfully trusting," Riddle said as way of greeting. "I could do as I desired right now, and you wouldn't be able to lift a finger against me."
"I thought you were trying to prove me that not all dark wizards were blood-thirsty serial killers."
Riddle inclined his head. "Touché. But then again, I never dared to side myself with either of them. Blood-thirsty or sane, as you'd say."
Harriet regarded him warily, and moved to sit on the stone bench in front of the window. "Rowle ran away with his bride the day I was asked by Malfoy to go to Hogsmeade with him. As soon as that liaison was over, you asked me for a date. What are you playing at, Riddle?"
"You're surprisingly clever at the most unexpected of times, Harriet," the prefect said as he sat beside her. His eyes were fixed on the stars beyond the window. "Let's say that I wanted for someone to secure you, since a girl's loyalty tends to stray where her heart is, what would you make of it?"
"Besides the fact that what you said was incredibly sexist, I'd say that you got Rowle in your first try. But he fell for another girl, so you had to change him for Malfoy. But since he's near his coming-of-age, he's going to be married off to some wealthy pureblood girl, and then figured out that instead of sending another lackey to ask me out you could do it yourself."
"Nice try," he said with a small chuckle. "But I think you're underestimating your charm. Rowle had become too attached to you, so he had to go. Malfoy did, as well, but his usefulness exceeds Rowle's. I couldn't just send him away, so I simply had a small chat with him."
Harriet frowned. "But wouldn't it be better then, with Rowle feeling attached…?"
She turned to look at Riddle, when she suddenly found him closer than she'd expected him to be. Her face was barely inches away from his, as he cornered her in the small bench.
"I admit I am a bit possessive," he hissed, and for the second time took her mouth in his.
It was a short, passionate kiss. Like a man deprived of water for too long, Riddle went for her lips like it was the nectar of life itself. The intensity of it made Harriet feel a bit light-headed, her small hands reaching out to grasp the Slytherin prefect's neatly styled curls. Unlike her first time, Harriet felt the stirrings of something below her navel… she certainly found more delight in the battle they raged against each other now than the last time, where they had simply locked lips in a one-sided sneak attack. Her response to him both surprised and worried her. In a way, it was as if…
Oh no… she thought with horror as she came to the realization that she actually liked Riddle. She certainly felt attracted to him, as her wandering hands and trembling heart could attest, and she tolerated his presence to the point of not reaching for her wand to hex him more than once a day.
She tried to regain some semblance of calm within her mind, and moved away from Riddle. "That doesn't explain your insistence," she said between breaths. She was more flustered than she'd thought she should be. Suddenly she realized they'd shifted their positions as she was now leaning on the pillar on the right side of the bench, Riddle's legs straddling her as he loomed over her.
"Insistence?" the prefect casually asked, as if he hadn't been just snogging the living daylights out of her.
"You want something from me," said Harriet, remembering her small talk with Lucretia not long ago. "I want to know what that is."
She felt Riddle stiffen as he sat on her legs, and she knew that she'd poked her nose right into his Endgame. He'd made it clear to her that he wanted her on his side and that he'd tried to gain her loyalty by making her falling in love with one of his minions, and failing that with himself. But what for? It wasn't just her abilities or her speaking parseltongue. This was Riddle she was talking about; seduction was something just too personal for him. Too desperate.
"You annoy me Harriet," he said then. "My plans never seem to work when it concerns you," the girl stifled a giggle when she thought about how much truth he'd find in those words in fifty years.
"You should do the opposite, then" she said. "Do what you think wouldn't work."
He sighed, and the humanity of it took Harriet aback. "Very well. I learned that you were a time-traveller. I want to know the secrets of the future."
Now it was her turn to sigh. "Oh, that was strangely predictable," she said as an idea began to form in her mind. "I think… we may be able to do something about that."
His dark stare was immediately fixed on her, hungrily drinking the minute changes in her expression as she came to a decision. "Riddle, I am in need of your genius to get back," she said, "I'll pay you with information about the future. My only condition is that I can't be specific, for obvious reasons. No dates, no names, no detailed accounts of anything."
"We have a deal," he said with the same inhumane smile she'd seen him put on when he was demonstrating a particularly nasty dark curse in their study sessions. It made her feel like she'd just struck a deal with the devil.
"Is it true then, that a dark wizard was after you?" Riddle had taken to greeting her with questions instead of the usual, polite hello. He'd also taken to speaking to her in parseltongue at random, something that unnerved her roommates to no end.
"Yes," she said, simply, and kept writing down notes, occasionally looking to the book in her lap for reference. With Riddle's help, she'd managed to find out exactly when it'd be best for her to leave. Now they were trying to work out the best way to activate the magic that'd send her back.
"Thurisaz is for protecting or warding," Riddle commented as he sat next to her, glancing at her notes. "It'd only help to keep you here."
"But what if I use it with, ah," she glanced down at the runes scribbled on her papers, "ur and raido?"
"Journey and water…" Riddle murmured silently. "Why water?"
"Well, water is the universal conduit… so I thought it might help to establish the way between then and now?" she scratched her head, and looked into Riddle's eyes. He was watching her with avid attention. "I thought that Thurisaz might prevent external magic from interfering with the ritual."
Harriet had found that Riddle used to smile only when something went according to his expectations, when he wanted something from someone or when he was being patronizing. There was no kindness to his smile. On the other hand, when he got the serious look he was sporting as she told him of her runic musings, it meant that he was taking her seriously; that something she said caught his attention. It was the closest way he had of saying "good work".
"It has merit," he said and took the paper from her hands, rapidly writing down a series of runes, most of which she'd never seen before. When he finished, she thought she might as well have a tablet with hieroglyphics in her hands. "This is a more refined version, but it follows the same principle. Now the only thing we need is something that'll serve as a doorway of sorts, as the book said."
Harriet tried to think about what might constitute a good 'doorway', when she found that Riddle's hand was resting on her thigh. She felt the tale-tell sign of a blush on her face. "Getting familiar with me, aren't you?" she managed to say.
"Why, I thought we were dating. Isn't this what one does in a date?"
"I thought you wouldn't think it was necessary anymore," Harriet bit out, trying to fight the fluttering in her stomach. I am not acting like a schoolgirl with a crush around baby Voldemort, she thought, trying to quench the pleasure she felt at his stroking the side of her thigh with his thumb.
"Surprisingly enough, I've grown rather fond of you," he said, and if it hadn't been Riddle saying it, she might've melted. "Do we meet again in the future?"
"Yes," she said, feeling like a bucket of cold water had fallen on her head. The question reminded her that even though he seemed like a more humane Voldemort, this was still the same boy that would grow up to become the most powerful dark wizard in centuries.
"I take it that it wasn't a pleasant meeting, from your initial impression of me."
"You have not been… kind to me and my loved ones," she said, slowly. "And you have a pretty fearsome reputation."
Riddle didn't answer, and Harriet wondered if anything she did or said right now could alter the future. Why hadn't Voldemort ever mentioned this meeting in the past? Granted, she'd only seen him in the flesh thrice; the first time she was a baby, the second she was too young for him to have recognized her, and the last time she thought he had more pressing matters in mind to have a little chat about that one time he'd completely ravished her in the Astronomy tower in 1948.
She also wondered about the information she'd already given him. For the most part he'd asked her completely unassuming questions; ranging from government and politics to her life style and pop culture. He didn't really understand what sort of insight he could get from that, but Riddle's mind was on a completely different category. Insane as he was, he was still a bloody genius.
"I would like to become intimate with you before you part," he suddenly said, and Harriet thought she might die of a heart attack. Shock ran through her veins as she processed the fact that Tom Riddle had asked her, Harriet Potter, to engage in sexual intercourse.
"Do you want to… fuck?" she said, clenching her fingers as her traitorous body answered to the images that began to play in her head. Riddle's soft curls, his smooth pale skin against hers, dark eyes devoid of any blood incensed with lust, mouth on mouth as their magic intertwined together…
"I believe that's what I said, paraphrased by a dwarf of low caste."
The only thing that held her back from snatching and taking him to the nearest broom closet was the moral implications of losing her virginity to a young Voldemort. As it was, her hormone-addled brain was finding it incredibly difficult to remember why that was a very bad idea.
"You're doubting because of some sort of moral dilemma," he observed as her emotions flashed one after the other on her expressive face. "My, I must be the very incarnation of evil in your time if you're so against it."
"Kind of," she said, her voice thick with something she didn't dare pronounce. He took her hand in his, and once again she wondered if she could change anything in the future by changing the past.
"Miss Evans, it is nice to see you," she waved at Dumbledore as he approached her. "I was wondering if I could have a word with you?"
"Sure," she said, and they began walking side by side towards the lake. The weather was becoming warmer as cold February gave way to March, and the students were taking breaks from studying to enjoy the fields around Hogwarts. Harriet was no exception.
"It brings me joy to see that you've adapted to the life in the castle in this time," Dumbledore said. "I must confess that I was worried about you in the beginning, since you seemed to be sullen all the time."
"Was I?" Harriet inquired, no small amount of curiosity laced in her voice. She knew she'd been upset by her ordeal, but not to the point of having people notice it.
"Yes, although I admit that I've found it more noticeable now that you seem to have adopted a more cheerful disposition," he answered with a small smile. "Love tends to do that to people."
Harriet was proud she'd managed not to stumble. He didn't imply what I think… she tried to convince herself. He couldn't really believe she was in love with Tom Riddle, right? After all, not many in the student body had noticed their closeness. And we aren't dating in the first place, she thought, a bit more sullenly than she'd have liked.
"Oh, yes, I'm afraid your brief liaisons with Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Rowle were the talk of the entire castle," he chuckled. "One of the most curious things about Hogwarts is that living in a boarding school for an entire year tends to make every single piece of news exciting, so naturally you'd find that most are more prone to gossip than one would think at first."
"That's… strangely disturbing," Harriet felt a bit embarrassed that her teachers were talking about her love life. Dumbledore laughed heartily at her expression, but said nothing else. They came to a stop as they got closer to the Forbidden Forest. Harriet could see the place where the Whomping Willow would be planted from their position.
"I'll have to be honest with you, Miss Evans, if you'll pardon this old man and his prying," Dumbledore said, and Harriet turned to face him. "I am worried about your relationship with Mr. Riddle. I have an inkling that whatever will become of him, it'll not be good. The way you treated him at the beginning of the year said as much."
"I…" Harriet was unsure as to what she should say. Did she know how dangerous he was? Yes. Could she stop herself from feeling butterflies in the pit of her stomach every time he looked at her? No.
"You're young, Harriet," Dumbledore said softly. "Your heart is impressionable, even though your mind seems to have faced the most imaginable hardships. Although I don't doubt Mr. Riddle is capable of showing appreciation for a fellow human being, he's far too damaged to feel love."
Harriet felt a flare of anger at her professor's words. What did he know about damage? How could he make such a judgment, when she knew there was practically little dialogue between the both of them? How could he presume to know about Riddle, when the girl who had been able to see through his eyes was standing in front of him?
"Excuse me, professor," she said, "but what makes you say that? Yes, he's cold, he's calculating… power-hungry and remorseless. By many standards he's a monster. "
Harriet felt she was onto something as she said her next words, "but if there's something I've learnt in this little trip is that he's capable of love."
Could she change the future by altering the past?
"My apologies, Miss Evans," the old man said with a sad smile. "I admit that Riddle reminds me too much of a boy I once knew, and I don't want you to make the same mistake I did."
As she looked at the dark-haired youth seating next to her, she wondered if there was any truth to the words she'd spoken to the future headmaster. Riddle might feel a bit of affection towards her, of that she was almost sure; but affection and love were two entirely different things. She was sure it was a feeling born out of a sense of possessiveness, given her ability to speak the snake tongue, and her usefulness, as demonstrated by his desire to include her in his group and the little chase he'd gave her to have her spill the secrets from the future she came from.
It was a very twisted way of feeling for someone, but that was the deal with Riddle. Things weren't as simple when it came to him.
He looked from his parchment to the book he was reading, and bit his lip. The gesture caught her by surprise, and she felt entranced by how careless it was. Everything about the other boy was always carefully staged; his movements always spoke of refinement and utmost elegance. To see him with his guard down, indulging in unconscious ticks made her feel warm.
"I didn't think you were one to indulge in lovesick staring," he said, without looking away from his notes.
"It's hardly lovesick, but I like to stare at people who are pleasant-looking," she answered, almost without realizing the honest compliment she was paying him.
"Is that so?" he looked up, catching her stare with his own. "You're evaluating the dynamics of our relationship," he said, as he was prone to do when Harriet did something he didn't entirely understand.
"I am," she admitted. "It never ceases to amaze me..." at the inquisitive raise of his eyebrows, she explained, "I'd thought you were nothing but a monster when I came here. I was ready to hate you, but somehow I found that you were not only a monster, but human as well and now I feel torn between what I should do and what I want to do."
Riddle frowned. "Why are you disassociating both courses of action? Why do you feel that what you want to do is not what you should do?"
"Morals," she answered simply.
"Unstable guides of actions depending on the context and the company," he said with no small amount of annoyance. "You follow the morals of your time, but this is 1948. You're not in the same place with the same people."
She sensed some truth behind his words. After all, this wasn't the same man who had murdered her parents and Cedric Diggory; this wasn't the man who had led her into the Ministry of Magic with fake visions. She touched his arm, and briefly planted a kiss on his lips.
What if what I want to do is what I should do?
"Here it is!"
The joyful exclamation of the boy beside her brought her from her musings on time traveling, and she found herself matching the static smile Riddle was giving her. She could feel his excitement rolling off him in waves. "I solved the equation and reduced the parameters to your case," he breathed, and Harriet was stricken with how beautiful he looked when he had that boyish smile in his face. Before she could think about what she was doing, she tackled him to the ground and enveloped him in a tight hug.
When she felt a tentative arm wrap around her shoulders, she looked up and found herself staring into the pensive eyes of the Slytherin prefect. "I've never been hugged before," he slowly said, and squeezed her a little harder against him, as if he was testing something. The action made her insides quiver.
"Does it feel nice?" she asked. There was something hungry in his dark gaze; something that she felt herself mirroring in her own expression.
"Yes," he breathed, and maneuvered the both of them so she'd be sitting in her lap. As her hungry lips met his, Harriet felt as if the world itself came crashing down around them; little specks of reality dissolving in a mad dance in the background. She found there was little she could think outside of the way their skin met and how much she needed that friction. No war, no worries, no future; it was them entangled in each other's limbs in the Room of Requirement.
She let out a gasp as he buried his head on her neck, leaving on his wake a trail of angry red bites. She found herself reaching for his hair, pulling, tugging, trying to find something to hold onto as he brought her in and out of reality, one bite at the time. She moaned, trying to push him off her as she felt hunger in a way she'd never done before.
He was surprised by her strength as he became the one trapped in the other's embrace; she was in control now, and with a surprised gasp he felt he did not mind. She was marking him; her small hands carving paths in his body like a ritual. And it was a ritual, he idly wondered, as skin met skin and her soft breasts pressed against his pale chest; it was a mad ritual, and their magic filled the air, sparks igniting and dying in the air above them as the pressure, the need, increased.
"More," he hissed, climbing on top of her; modesty forgotten. He held her wrists in his hand, and if he applied just a little bit of pressure he could snap them; if he used just a little bit of magic he could break her… and the temptation was sweet, but it wasn't as sweet as the needy moan that came out of her mouth. She trashed against him as he entered her; pain and pleasure intertwining together in her green, sparkling stare. He lost himself in the half-lidded eyes, thinking that he was making love to more than a woman; she was the stars, the sky, power, magic itself.
She was crying out now, feeling no other way of relieving the pleasure, of rebelling against that intense need that made her cry out more! Harder! Faster! Because even in spite of the searing pain, she felt like she was flying high; and like Icarus she reached the top and it wasn't her wings that melt, but her whole body. And down she went, taking Tom with her. Down, and down and down, spiraling downwards until they were both panting against each other; once again Harriet and Tom.
"That was…" she said, "something else."
"I… I don't want to do this," she caught herself saying as Riddle and she worked on the circle where they'd perform the ceremonial magic that'd send her back to her time. The Slytherin stopped to stare at her. Harriet wanted nothing more than to remain here, where there was Tom and no Voldemort, intrigues but not war; pain but not death. She knew, however, that this wasn't her place, that her going back to the future was not optional.
"I want to stay here with you," she said, naked longing in her eyes. She saw Riddle's stare soften, and it made it all the more difficult to steel her resolve. "I hate this," she looked down to the finished circle. She sighed and took the steps towards the center, being careful not to step on the painted runes on the floor, still fresh with her blood.
"I'd ask you to stay," he murmured as he joined her in the center of the circle, "but it's irrelevant what either of us wants. You should not be here..." he took her chin in his hands. "I find some solace in the thought that we'll meet again."
At that, Harriet felt like crying.
"Me too," she said, and felt as if her heart was shattering in a thousand pieces. She looked at her watch and knew it wouldn't be too long before the circle was activated, so she planted a brief kiss on Tom's mouth. "Goodbye Tom," she said.
When she opened her eyes again, she found herself in the desolated Atrium, in the Ministry of Magic. Her mind buzzed with questions as she tried to take in whatever details she could use to figure out if she had arrived to 1995. In the distance she could hear screaming, and was hit by the sudden idea that maybe she had succeeded… to the point where she'd actually travelled to the very same day she'd left.
"Aw, but if it isn't baby Potter," a mocking voice echoed in the quiet of the large hall, and Harriet strained her eyes to make out the figure of Bellatrix Lestrange, slowly approaching her with a mad grin on her face. "We were all looking for you, darling… we were getting quite bored with your friends," she said sinisterly, and Harriet felt her anger get the best of her.
"You bitch…!" she said, as the mad Bellatrix laughed at her. Harriet took a step forward the woman, and waved her wand in a familiar pattern. "Fuerit dissolutum!" she yelled, feeling as if Tom was once again behind her, guiding her hand in the right way.
Bellatrix's eyes widened and she conjured a small dog to take her place as she avoided the spell. "Ooh, Saint Potter is not so holy after all!" she said, taking a few steps towards the Girl-Who-Lived. Harriet regarded her warily, and waited for her to make the next move.
"The thing about the dark arts, dear," the deranged woman said, "is that the more you mean it, the more powerful the curse is. Let me show you," she raised her wand and Harriet steeled herself. "Crucio!"
The green-eyed girl was about to jump out of the curse's way when she found herself behind the protection of one of the sculptures that'd adorned the fountain at the center of the Atrium. The rock giant barely felt it as the dark spell made a dent in its hard skin. Harriet looked around to find her savior, when a cold, high voice spoke.
"I thought I'd made myself perfectly clear, Bellatrix, when I said that the girl is mine."
Harriet felt she really really could've done without Voldemort's presence at that particular time.
"Master," she whimpered, turning from the fearsome madwoman into a kicked puppy. "I'm sorry, I was just trying to teach her."
Harriet felt a stab of pain in her scar, and saw Voldemort appear in a cloud of black smoke a few steps behind his minion.
"She has had better teachers than you could ever hope to be, Bellatrix," he hissed, and Harriet felt her stomach drop. He remembers, she thought. "Run back to the Department of Mysteries, and take your fellow Death Eaters back to the manor. There are matters of more importance that we are to attend."
The woman nodded with tears in her eyes and with a reverence, she made her way out of the atrium. Harriet stood, peeking out from behind the stone giant at Voldemort. With a start, she realized he had vanished… before a familiar voice said behind her, "I think you and I have some things to discuss."
Before she could fully comprehend what was happening, an arm sneaked around her waist and she felt as if she was being squeezed inside a tube. As soon as it had started it was over, and she felt thankful for the arm that was now holding her as she steadied herself. She looked around the room they were now in; it was a dingy little place, familiar in all its faded glory. The arm around her disappeared, and she turned to face Lord Voldemort.
"This… this is your father's house, isn't it?" she asked, recognizing the place from the dreams she had in the summer before her fourth year. With a start she realized she felt something in her mind, something that she'd never realized she was missing during her stay in the past. The mental link between them was back, and she could feel Voldemort's faded emotions through it if she concentrated hard enough.
"It is," he said, his intense red eyes studying her face. "I had a very curious thing happen to me as I was waiting for my Death Eaters to complete their mission," his voice betrayed nothing, but Harriet knew, somehow, that he was feeling as confused as she felt right now. That, and the fact that he hadn't killed her yet, gave her a slimmer of hope. "I remembered," he continued, "something from my days at Hogwarts, something that had been obscured from my mind. The presence of a time traveler, protected by the magic that whisked her away."
"Thurisaz," she breathed. "Thurisaz protected the timeline… it made you forget me."
"Yess…" he hissed, and Harriet thought that in his current incarnation the sound made him seem all the more sinister. "I am the incarnation of evil you feared, after all," he said with a small chuckle. "I took your parents away from you; I've plotted single-mindedly to kill you…" Harriet nodded, anxious to hear his next words. "Yet, in spite of this you…"
"I fell in love with you," Harriet interrupted him. Voldemort's eyes shone as she used the snake tongue, and in their scarlet depths the girl found the boy she'd come to feel for.
"I… don't know," Harriet said, sighing. "I just know that even now, knowing what you've done and who you are… I can't help it," she wrapped her arms around her. "I feel like I'm betraying everyone who's fought for me, but if I try to ignore it, I feel like I'm betraying myself."
She almost missed the spidery, elegant hand that came to rest against her forehead. His skin was rough and cold to the touch, but she realized she didn't mind. There was no searing pain as before; only soft warmth that spread from the scar in her forehead to the rest of her body. She gave a contented sigh at the touch, and took Voldemort's wrist in her hands.
"You are aware that I sent those visions to you so you could get a prophecy for me," he said, and Harriet nodded, her memories of the night, which were so distant to her, coming back in a rush to the forefront of her mind. "Before coming to get you, I went to the hall of prophecies. Amongst the rubble I found the place where it was meant to be. There was no inscription in the plate."
Harriet opened her eyes, unaware that she'd closed them. "The prophecy is gone?"
"Yes, erased from the flow of time," he said. "Are you aware of its contents?"
Harriet took a step back, mouthing a small no as she shook her head.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. … Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies," he recited and it suddenly dawned on her that the prophecy was the reason he'd tried to kill her as a child.
She looked at him wide-eyed, shocked at the revelation that everything that had happened in her life up until her time travelling stunt, had happened because of a bloody prophecy. "Son of a bitch," she muttered, "I'm so glad we trashed the place."
Voldemort chuckled, "That is not enough to cancel the power of a prophecy, but I'm sure that those who like us were bound by the whims of a seer will appreciate the sentiment."
Harriet looked for a place to sit, and grabbing the nearest armchair she sunk in its dusty comfort. "Does this mean that we're no longer bound by this prophecy?"
"You could say that fate will no longer arrange events in a way that'll make us necessarily cross paths," he said, his voiced laced with something Harriet couldn't discern. "Are you aware of where you're sitting?"
Harriet looked at the chair, and the memory of a child-like Voldemort came to her mind. "That was impressive, you know," she said. "The ritual, the way you recovered your body. Utterly disgusting as well, but it was very impressive magic."
Voldemort arched an eyebrow and conjured himself a throne-like chair to sit in front of her. "It seems like I've finally managed to change your opinion on the dark arts."
"Maybe. Then again, maybe my opinion on the dark arts stemmed from my opinion of you and we're both aware of how that has changed."
The dark wizard gave her a look that made her feel like a school girl with a crush, and she idly wondered if it was sane to feel this way about a man sixty years older than her. Even in spite of his current visage, which was more of a reminder of what he had done and what he was, she wanted nothing more than to mark every inch of his neck with her lips. She was aware that whatever she tried to do now, she'd be doing it with Voldemort, not Tom Riddle. Her heart, however, cared little for the distinction.
"I... " The dark lord said softly, "I have also thought about this matter. I've found that since my memories returned, I loathe the idea of any harm coming to you," at this Harriet's breath caught in her throat. "I admit I've never cared much for emotions… but as I'm here now in front of you, I think more clearly than ever before, I feel more powerful than ever before."
The man made a pause, as if he himself couldn't believe what he was about to say.
"I want you by my side, Harriet."
Harriet's heart ached at his words. Her lips gave way to a bittersweet smile. "I… want you by my side, as well," she admitted. "But we stand in two different sides… and as sweet as this is, you're still my parents' murderer. I cannot simply go with you."
Voldemort nodded, expecting her words. "I am willing to compromise," he said, "but that's a talk for another occasion."
They both stood, facing each other once more. "You should head back to Hogwarts," he said, cradling her face in one of his hands. "We'll see each other in the summer," he conjured a small bracelet in the form of a snake, and put it in her hand. "Portus," he whispered, and activated the portkey.
She looked up just in time to catch the red stare of Voldemort – but was surprised to find the familiar black eyes of Tom Riddle in its place.
As she fell with an undignified squeak in the same clearing where Rowle and she had dueled, she figured that she'd got her answer. Nurture over nature. She'd proved Dumbledore wrong.
Note: finally got around to revising it. Please take note that I don't work under the premise that genderbending is just changing a character's genitals. Thus, a female Harry is in some ways different from a male Harry; in my opinion she'd naturally gravitate more towards Hermione than towards Ron. Just like in cannon Ron's disregard for homework eventually rubbed off on Harry, I believe that Hermione's love for her studies would've made an impact on Harriet.
I've also received a –rather short- review pointing out that Harriet might be a Mary Sue. I acknowledge it may seem so because she defeats a dueling champion and has three boys after her – but it's all because of a reason. Harriet learnt how to fight. Rowle and Abraxas learnt how to duel. This issue also appeared in the books – Harry had superb skills at Defense Against the Dark Arts because he had to. In this fic, Harriet shows exceptional skill when fighting because she's survived a three wizard tournament, battled dementors, a basilisk and fled a Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. And in my opinion, that should give you more skill points – in cannon Harry gets his own deus ex machina, in this AU Harriet is a bit more proficient at Defense than her male counterpart.
As for Rowle's and Malfoy's romantic interest, let's consider that it was Riddle who originally gave them the orders to approach her. Since for Rowle, a Ravenclaw, Harriet represented an unknown, he tried to flirt with her if only to know more about the mysterious girl Riddle was so interested in. Malfoy, on the other hand, respects power. And when Harriet beat him, she proved herself in his eyes; so naturally, he took full advantage of the carte blanche Riddle was giving him at the time. The two of them backed down the moment they realized the charade was over, because not only they feared Riddle, but because they weren't really that interested anyway.