e was a familiar face in an tumultuous crowd, a pair of eyes that caught hers for a moment, then passed. She turned her head to seek out the tall form and receeding hair, the peculiar way that people clung to him as though some of his power would seep into them. Most of them never realised how he affected them, with his cool smiles and chilling gaze – they would all continue past, feeling invigorated. If they remained close to him, perhaps they would feel the unexpected stirring of revolution in their hearts and harsh rationality in their minds. She knew this because he had done the same to her, long ago, and now those thoughts had returned with him.
Had he seen her? How could have he, in this madness? The students surged out of the school, running for the grounds that were bursting into spring. He stood at the other side of the corridor and waited for them to pass, his jaw set in a firm line as his eyes glanced at each student in turn. Although none of them appeared to see him, they would feel the presence of his power, if nothing else.
Once they had passed, the noise in the corridor subsided, allowing her voice to carry.
He stopped, fingers curling into an ivory fist. “I should have expected you here, Minerva.” His voice was like it had always been: silk running over bare flesh.
“But I would not have expected you.” She stepped closer, feeling his unconscious pull, or perhaps, by now, he knew what it could do for him. “Teaching would be below you, Tom.”
His reaction to his name, so soft from her lips, was minute, but she caught what could have been a wince. Taking another step closer, the details of his face emerged in painful relief. It was hardly recognisable as his own, but she had known, had seen beyond the skeletal mask and blood-shot eyes to what lay beneath. Or, at least, what she always believed lay beneath his surface. Liquid was the only way to describe him – each moment brought him new expression, new emotion that could either fill or flood.
As he looked at her, she felt the flood waters at her feet.
“Below me?” His laugh was strained. “I suppose, but what else could someone like me do other than pass on my abilities?”
It was not a question that desired an answer.
She glanced away, half-nervous, half-unsure of him. Neither was new when it came to him, but it was disconcerting that such emotions could arise in the professor as much as the young witch. If she had been different then, what would he have done?
Looking back, she saw the raw impatience in his eyes. He didn’t need to hide it anymore.
There was something else, too. Something cold, terribly cold.
“He rejected your offer, didn’t he?”
The eyes darkened, the lips turned up in a sneer. “Of course. Old fool.”
His words were a bitter stab to the heart, a reminder of all the things between them.
Not that there ever had been a reason to cross that barrier. She was firmly upon one side, and it seemed – it had always been – that he had made his own side, beyond what anyone had known. Neither good nor evil, yet intimately connected with both. He had told her, once, some of the things he believed, the ideals that drove his hunger, his need for something more than what the world could offer him, and she had been tempted, felt the poisoned apple in her fingers, its smooth shine making her long to taste its glory, its power.
But she had not and they had passed their separate ways, never knowing....
Was this an opportunity to know what it was like?
She met his eyes, briefly, before having to glance look away again. It was like meeting fire, that painful glare of light that blinds and allows one to see so much more. Could he see these things, wrenching her apart? Or did he stand there politely, wondering when he could run off again into the wilds of his ambition?
“You seem lost for words, Minerva.” He paused, the corners of his lips lifting. “I am much changed, as you see. It is of interest that you recognised me.” Something in his eyes shifted and she could see the green that remained in their depths.
She made an attempt to straighten her spine. It would make her at least level with him, if not taller. Her only escape.
“As I said, I didn’t expect to see you here, Tom.”
He tilted his head to one side, the smile sculpted upon his face.
“Would you like to come for a walk with me, Minerva?”
She hesitated, her eyes darting towards the door which the students had exited from. Here, she had protection, but away from Hogwarts, alone with him, there would be nothing. Then she laughed, turning to face him. She was no silly girl without any strength of her own. Even away from Hogwarts, she would still be able to resist his power.
“That would be very... nice, Tom.” She managed a smile.
He offered his arm as they approached the doorway, his expression a mixture of leer and smirk, both of which had once suited his finely structured face. Now, however, his face appeared a terrible mask of what she feared he had become. His skin was warm, almost burning, under the touch of her hand. He drew her closer, so that the skirts of her robe brushed against his leg. When she turned her head, his was there, those eyes gazing upon her face. Strands of her hair wafted against his cheek, but she dared not pull away.
Halfway towards the gate, he slowed to look behind him. She followed his gaze up the cold, stone towers, the glass windows which glinted in the late afternoon sun, and the giant clock which ticked the hours, one by one. But which had caught his eye? Was it a face at the window, a particular room he remembered? She imagined seeing a face in the window of one tower, but its reflection of white and purple faded before she could make out its shape. Her mind went through the towers, one by one, trying to remember which the person could have been within.
“I have missed this place much in my travels,” he said, still staring up at the towers. “It was a good home to me.” He nodded and turned to continue, pulling her along.
The stones scuffed her boots before she had the chance to recapture her balance. His hand was strong around her arm, the long, once-delicate fingers digging into her flesh. The thin fabric of her sleeve did nothing to prevent the bruises that would appear on the morrow. The raw power that leaked out of every pore of his being seemed to leak into her, leaving her dizzy and uncomfortable, not strengthened. But he had always had that affect upon her, making her nothing more than a piece of putty he could mould with his hands, shaping her the way he desired.
They hadn’t even made it to the gate and she was already falling into his power.
His free hand flicked lazily at the metal gate that guarded the grounds of Hogwarts, but they would not move for him. He let go of her arm, reaching for his wand with blazing eyes and a deeper sneer upon his face.
“He’s doing this,” he muttered. “The old fool is still playing his little games.” She only heard him because she was so close, still within a hand’s reach. He kept muttering similar phrases while reaching his wand to touch the metal. Green sparks hit the golden glow that surrounded the gate, a thing that had last been observed when a great dark army attempted to break through to the school.
“Tom.” Her voice was drowned out by the now-humming gate. She put her hand out to place it on his arm, hesitating at the impossible heat emanating from his person.
She repeated his name, louder. “Let me open it.” He started as though he had forgotten she was beside him. “It will open for me.”
He lowered his wand and it disappeared into his robes once again. The light and noise from the gate died in the next moment, but she stared at it, wondering if she should place herself in contact with such an object.
“Well?” he asked, his voice taking on that tone of querulous impatience. “He has no reason to fight against you.”
Tom’s use of “he” bothered her. His problems with Professor Dumbledore had begun long before she had met either of them, before Tom had even arrived at Hogwarts. As each school year had passed, Dumbledore had stopped bothering to smile when he saw Tom, who had never bothered at all. Yet there were times....
She pushed open the gate with her hand. There was no response from the metal, perhaps raised by the Founders themselves. He took her arm in his, glancing back behind them once more, like he expected something to be there, observing his every moment. No one had seen them, or seemed to care that, they had left the grounds. The windows of the towers were empty of far-seeing eyes.
Fear. That is what she had always seen in Tom’s eyes whenever Dumbledore had entered a room. Fear quickly masked by indifference, later by unashamed hatred. But why? Why would someone like Tom, who was powerful in his own right – a fair match for Dumbledore in many forms of magic – fear the older wizard? What did Dumbledore have that he did not?
“Ah, so we are free now. Much better circumstances, don’t you think, Minerva?”
He turned to her, his eyes cleared of the rage, but she still saw it within the depths of his pupils, biding its time. She did not want to be the one to invoke such a fire.
“It depends how you regard freedom, Tom.”
A laugh emerged from his dry lips, bubbling out like an overfilled cauldron.
“And what does it mean to you?” He gave her a sideways smile, a sliver of his youth revealing itself. “Ten years after leaving this place, you returned to spend the rest of your life. A different sort of freedom, I should think.”
“Hogwarts is not a prison.” She thought back to the face in the tower, observing all from behind those half-moon glasses. Yes, she had recognised whose tower that had been, but she did not need towers to hide within. “Not for me.”
They had turned a corner and were now hidden from the castle’s view. The trees at the edge of the Forbidden Forest enclosed the path: dark, tall, and mysterious. He had pulled her closer to him once again, sending a shiver through her body when his hand brushed hers. It was colder here, making his warmth all the more alluring. Her strength waned with each step they took. She knew that she would soon move closer to him, feeding on his warmth and strength. He would take advantage of the moment and thus the seduction would begin. Dumbledore, in his tower, had watched them leave the grounds, knowing exactly what would happen and how it would happen and where it would leave Minerva, but he had done nothing. Did he need her to do this, or was he feeding her to the serpent of paradise?
“You do not sound convinced.” His voice was so soft, a bare whisper in her ear. “Perhaps it is more of a prison than you would admit to someone like me, correct?”
She straightened her spine, trying to take in the chilled air of the forest. “No, Tom. You are not.” He was beginning to smile again, but she managed to pull her arm away . “I did not come with you to talk of philosophy, only of the times we knew together.”
The smile only half appeared. “Ah, you prefer the nostalgia of past experiences?” He fingered the hem of his sleeve. “We experienced many things together, you and I.”
The flush ran up her throat. “All experienced as friends.”
He stopped, turning on his heel to face her. Somehow, he now had an inch or two over her. “Friends? I do not think it went so far as that, do you?”
“Well....” She paused, feeling the flush spread.
One finger brushed against her cheek, delicately tracing the spider’s web of lines at her eyes and mouth. “We could be wondrous friends. Do you not agree?”
She kept her gaze upon the ground. “Not as you are now. Maybe then, but–”
“But what?” The finger became two, then more, making her heart thud dully in her chest. “Do the changes I have made to what I am bother you?”
The answer was visible on her face even though she did not look at him. “No, I am even too wretched for you to look at now. A poor mudblooded boy with no hope of anything.... Is that what I still am to you, Minerva?”
She pried her tongue from the roof of her mouth. “You could do great things, Tom.”
His silent laughter echoed off her body; he was standing so close. “So could you.”
Her eyes closed as he traced the line of her jaw. His face drew near to hers until she could feel his breath against her cheek. She was shaking, reacting to the power that flowed from his flesh into hers, stilling her fears and pulling her closer, tantalising her senses. Her knees weakened while his free arm strengthened around her. What point was there in fighting? He would always win, would always find a way around her defences to reach her core and seek out her weaknesses.
The touch against her mind caused a sharp intake of breath. He was there, around her and within, filling her with all that he was and all that she wanted him to be. The moment that his lips whispered against hers, she felt a twinge of warning, her conscious waking from dormancy to remind her of all that he really was and all that she could not be.
“And do you believe that, Minerva?” She felt rather than heard him speak. His hand pushed firmly into the small of her back.
Did she? Did she still see them both as standing on either side of a fathomless gulf with nought between them but her own uncertainty? It had always been easier to imagine him as far away, never to return with his queer ideas of power and darkness that filled her mind with such curiosity, such longing to see how far the darkness could reach before it overtook the world and all she knew. But now he was here, feeding those ideas into the deepest reaches of her heart, corrupting any goodness that had taken root during his absence. That was the right word: corruption. Long ago, she had seen the card displaying the Corruptor, the one who had entrapped the ancient mother with a single piece of fruit, the one who had tempted all mankind to make them join his fiery paradise....
The one who stood before her now.
He was looking into her eyes, perhaps amused at the thoughts he saw floating through her mind. It was not disconcerting that he could look into her mind – one could say that she’d grown used to it – rather what bothered her was his relentlessness, the desire for her that had nothing to do with lust. He would use whatever way possible to bring her to his side – she was already half-way there – even if it meant defiling his own soul to capture hers. How long had he been planning this encounter? Was his failure to receive the position at Hogwarts now being taken out upon her, supposedly Dumbledore’s trusted colleague? Was he hoping to use her as a tool to gain revenge upon “the old fool”?
Or was it more than that? He had treated her differently than the other girls, even than his other associates. It made no difference that she was a year ahead of him, not when he was smarter and more powerful than some of the professors, including Headmaster Dippet. She had been drawn to him like the moth to the flame, desiring its warmth but unable to touch it without meeting pain. Like the pain he was giving her at that moment, watching her with restless eyes as he let her tear apart her defences.
She turned her gaze to the sky, where cotton clouds floated past, often blocking the sun so that patches of shadow lay around them, ever in motion. The very world was turning about her, just as the thoughts and passions were turning about in her mind, going without certain direction. He kept waiting for the opportune moment, tapping his shoe on the gravelly path.
“Will you answer me now, Minerva?” At first she was not sure if his voice was part of the wind.
A shadow moved across her face.
“I don’t know.”
He nodded, his lips twitching upwards. “Yes. This is the first step.” He came towards her again, his hand outreached. “Let me help you find the way, Minerva. Let me show you....”
His hand caught hers, their fingers twining in knots of flesh and bone. She stepped closer, moving under her own will as he pulled her towards him, enveloping her in all she could no longer resist. Another shadow fell across them and she closed her eyes as his lips whispered against her ear.
“We are almost one.”
There was a pull at her flesh, a push of his mind against hers. He had left no choice for her to make. Escape was not an option, much less a choice. She was his, another mind he had shaped in his hands, another body that would follow him to hell and back. He had wormed his way into her soul, yet he had not taken away her freedom as he had with many. He used her heart, not an imperious curse. He had said they would be one, as though equals, not a leader and follower. She was somehow different, but why?
“Open your eyes.” His cheek brushed against hers, the words resonating off her skin.
The shadow of the cloud had lasted longer than expected, hanging over them both like a menacing voyeur. Her gaze could not discern any details about the space surrounding her; the darkness was almost complete. Each of her senses awoke one by one. There was something firm, but soft, against her back, and a weight resting along the whole of her body. The only scent in the air was that of him. His eyes stared down upon her, rich viridian pools that went on for eternity. His hand ran down her outer thigh and her eyes closed themselves.
“This is how it can be,” he whispered, his lips by hers. “You have more than the others, Minerva. You always understood, never pitied. You found love where all others found nought but fear. Just think....”
A single kiss melded the connection between them, shattering the separating gap that had seemed, not long ago, so impossibly distant. This was how it was to be. This is how it should have been. This is how it would always be. No care to war, or to fairness, or even to those who suffered under his unrelenting thumb. What did they matter when such a thing as this could exist? What did they matter in the face of all that was great and filled with life? Amidst the raging darkness of the world, they would rise to the highest point and look down upon all that was part of their domain. All the power between them would destroy anything that lay in their way, any idealistic fools who believed that only goodness and equality would make the world right. No, what would make the world right was to stand beside him, sharing in his glory, his brilliance. Like stars they would shine above the world, sharing fire while everything burned to ash.
Her body arched to meet his, desiring his touch at every possible point. His fingers on her skin mirrored his mind brushing along hers, holding every part of her in his grasp as she felt stronger with each moment they were one. It was so different to be with him in this world of shadows and dreams, where anything was possible and nothing stood between them. She remembered the long ago kiss that had first brought her near to him, a schoolgirl with long, braided hair seduced by the schoolboy who was so much more than any other wizard she had known. He did not lower himself to their gibes, their whistles, their coarseness. He was a king among them, though a poor boy afraid to return “home” for the summer to a world where he was nothing more than a pauper.
And somehow, this king had chosen her as his queen.
“Would you join me, if I asked?” He pushed himself up on his elbows, eyes boring into hers.
Something in his words made her reach up to touch his face, as though she doubted his existence.
“I think I would.” Anything to be with him, however short a time it might be.
He raised his eyebrows. “I was hoping for a yes. Perhaps more... persuasion is required?” His weight shifted as his lips trailed down her throat.
She heard her voice speaking words she did not mean to say as his hands trailed down her sides, following the motion of his lips. His name escaped her lips as he leaned over her once more, touching his mouth to hers as their legs and arms became a tumbled mass of appendages. He told her all the things he desired, all the things they could have together, all the people who would bow before them. They were words that turned her mind towards the darkness, feeding her his desires and feeding off of her own. She felt the words tie around her heart, binding her to him for eternity. That was the moment she pulled her mind from his while her body wanted to resist, to find reason in all this madness with which he had surrounded her.
The taste of blood swirled through her mouth as she bit her swollen lips. Pain to block out the pleasure his touch brought to each fibre of her being. Her assurance of this perfect moment was dying as the dream began to fade. This wasn’t right, no matter how much she desired every bit of him mixed with her, the cold reality of what he was shattered any hope that this could be real. No, not at all real, not while she lay passively beneath him as he seduced her mind and soul to his strange ideals and radical thoughts. With all the wonder that he was, that he could give her, nothing could make him back into the boy she had known and loved. That seemed so long ago now....
There was something pressing against her mind that was not under his control. It was no more than a flash of memory upon her mind: a fleshy, pale hand drooping over a covered stretcher as they bore the dead girl away. Poor Myrtle... silly, naive Myrtle....
“What is that?” he asked, his muscles tensing. His hands tightened around her flesh and she gasped in response, wondering where all the perfection had gone.
She shivered. Someone walking over her grave.
“I know your thoughts, Minerva. I can feel them as though they were my own.” His voice was no more than a hiss which stirred the tiny hairs along her neck. “The girl was a necessary sacrifice. You must understand how politics works, my dear. Sometimes, someone has to die....”
A cold fear rushed through her veins. All the fire was gone.
Death was his servant. Tom Riddle held the hands of fate captive, constructing for himself a world that would bow down only to him. There would be no room on that pedestal for anyone else. She would be left to serve him just as all others would, and one day he would forget whatever she may have meant to him. Then there would be nothing. What a fool to have let him go this far, to wheedle his way so far into her mind, her very spirit. A moment longer in that state and he would have made it impossible for her to leave him. She would have been trapped under him, another being to squish beneath his thumb. All the things he’d told her, all the terrible, terrible things....
When he bent his head to kiss her, she turned away, closing her eyes against his gaze.
“What, sweeting, all amort?” He laughed at his own use of the Bard. “Silly Muggle poetry, isn’t it?”
She would rather that he become angry, horrifying, betraying all the fury that lay beneath the surface of his calm face and smooth skin. Why keep her with him for so long? He must have known that she would manage to resist, if only just. Why, then? What role was she to play in this hideous act?
“It’s all in your mind, Minerva.” He had settled his weight upon her once again, brushing a lazy finger along her windpipe. “None of this ever happened except in your imagination. Just like a dream.” He smiled, drawing circles upon her collarbone. “Wondrous, isn’t it? I can be here, with you, in your mind, without ever having to worry about how my human form can withstand such contact as this requires.” His laugh came from deep within his throat.
It was the price he had paid, losing body for mind, and she pitied him in some distant way. He had made his own choice, that was certain, but perhaps he had not known just how much he would lose while gaining power over the minds of others. She pitied him also because he had been vain of his looks once, smiling as he passed mirrors or looking appropriately intense when a girl happened to look at him. They had all loved him and now they would look upon him in horror.
But she had not. She had known him on first sight. Did that make her more worthy?
No, it made her smarter, more observant. She could see what he had lost and gained through wherever misadventure had led him. She still saw Tom Marvolo Riddle in the reddish eyes and pasty skin because she had known, even as a schoolgirl, what he desired to become. The darkness had always been there, festering inside of his breast; it only required the opportune moment to ignite.
She shut her eyes tight, working through her mind to rid it of him.
“You only need to ask,” he whispered in her ear, tongue tracing the lines of her lobe.
Her hands fumbled to push him away. “Let me go, Tom.”
The last things she saw before the darkness faded to light were his eyes, an impossible shade of green that she would always associate with him and nothing else. The eyes of the man standing a short distance from her on the gravelly path between Hogwarts and the village were very different. She wondered now just how she had recognised him with the flattened nose and sunken cheeks and jutting brow. He must have changed himself, knowing that she was there, knowing that she would come to him, like the naive fly to the web of the hungry spider. Everything of the face from her mind, her memory, had vanished, even the smile could not hold any of the humour it once had.
“Did you enjoy that little encounter, Minerva?” His voice was higher in pitch, ringing through her ears.
She watched him, tears emerging in the corners of her eyes. Tears she would shed for him.
“Why do this, Tom? All the things you’ve lost....”
“I have gained more in return.”
“But just think of what you could have had, as you were.”
“Think of what I can be, with all I can now do.”
Her eyes stared off into the woods, growing darker as the sun fell towards the horizon, another star that had lost its place in the height of the heavens.
“Was it worth all the world if the price was your soul?” Her voice echoed, somewhat, amongst the towering trees. They, perhaps, would hear her. His ears were closed to her pleas. It was too late to save him from what he was to become.
They stood silently, his back to her. She could have killed him then. Perhaps he would not have stopped her, but no one could know the things raging in his mind, even if they knew him like she did. It was a depressing moment, to think that here Lord Voldemort was at his weakest point, reminded of the things he could have had as a great wizard. But there were two definitions of greatness. She watched the set of his shoulders, the clenching of his fist. He had made his choice long before this point, and there was nothing that could cease his downward spiral into hell. He would serve no one, not even himself.
She did not reach for her wand. There was no anger in her heart. He no longer frightened her.
He did not move. “We will not meet again.”
She nodded, although he could not see her. The stones crunched beneath her feet as she looked through the trees for the lights of the school. It would not be the same place that she had left, though the place itself had not changed. Now it would be like a prison, keeping her apart from the wizard who thrilled and disturbed her. Part of her would always be tied to him, no matter what deed he accomplished, no matter how much blood stained his white hands, no matter how dark the world became under his mastery.
When his voice called to her, she stopped, half ready to go back to him, join him in whatever he chose to conquer. But something within held her back, rooting her feet to the ground and stilling her tongue.
“I feel regret,” he said, pronouncing each word with care. “You have made me regret, Minerva, and I do not know why.” He was facing her now, without the smiles of the lover, nor the amusement of the corruptor, nor the impatience of the genius. For what emotion could a man without a soul express?
They looked at each other for some time, then she finally turned away, feeling the northern breeze caress her brow. She did not look back. Perhaps she knew, even then, that they would see each other again, if not meet. Perhaps, in her mind, she could see his painful death, the destruction of a soul, piece by piece, weakening each fibre of his being while his greed and ambition blurred his vision, his feeling, so that he would never know of his eminent destruction until the very end. And then his fading eyes would stare out over the bloody field of battle, searching beyond the fallen bodies of good and evil for the one face that would not look upon him with fear or hatred. She would see him, and he her, and perhaps his last thought would be of the one thing he had regretted, the one thing he had, in all his glory, all his brilliance, missed. In the end, his star, shining dimly against the brightness of the sun, would fall beneath the horizon, and all the world would rejoice.
Only she would feel regret.
Notes & Credits: This story was inspired by the song "Where's the Girl?" from the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel, lyrics by Nan Knighton, thus the title and the lyrics in the summary are from that song.
“What, sweeting, all amort?” is from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
“Was it worth all the world if the price was your soul?” is a re-write of Mark 8:36, and a number of symbols within this story are also Biblical in nature, or from Milton's Paradise Lost, but most of those, I think, are farily obvious.