Chapter 1 : Dragonflies Draw Flame
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As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
--Gerald Manley Hopkins
The stones of Hogwarts hold many secrets. They watch, silent and menacing, as stories of love, friendship, adventure and hate unfold in the halls of the worn and weathered school. Hidden alcoves of dark rock can still tell the tales of the lovers who have kissed for the first time, hidden in the shadows, huddled together far away from the world. They have seen a fiery red-head finally fall under the charm of a perseverant messy-haired boy. They have seen that same red-head give a farewell kiss to the man she should never have loved, the man with the hooked nose and lanky hair, whose heart had emptied and swollen at the same time, watching after her retreating back with his pale hand half-raised in a pleading gesture, Don’t leave me, Lily, Don’t leave me…
The stones of Hogwarts remember anguish, they remember hate, they remember the blood that was spilled on them through dueling and war, when hate-filled eyes met in blazing, acid, torturous battles. They have seen ice meet fire, blonde hair meeting deep brown in a struggle for power, for control. They have seen the girl and the boy wrapped up in each other, not in love but in purest loathing, as the sharp nails of the feminine hand ripped the boy’s alabaster skin, drawing the dreaded and bloody H that marked him as her conquest, her victory, her trophy. They have seen her scurrying along the halls with her two best friends, her thick hair hiding the part of her neck that he had bitten almost to the bone, his teeth marks forming an eerie D, which marked her as his conquest, his victory, his trophy.
The stones of Hogwarts remember a long time before that. A time when a soft, long-fingered hand grazed them, following the path of the giant snake that roamed inside of them, the girl’s eyes closed in a daze, the voice of the serpent humming in her ears like a most pleasurable, exquisite death threat. The girl’s hair had been down, tumbling down her back in sleek, dark-brown waves, with lighter, russet strands weaving in and out of the slightly windswept mass. Quite the hair, you see. Shiny and healthy and rich, the envy of many of the girls in the school, as the stones had caught the whispered burn threats to its glorious length.
Her fingers traced the outline of the stacked stones, their nails grazing the jagged surface, reveling in the imperfection of the stone. If there was one thing that the Gryffindor liked to do, it was to find imperfection in the world around her. Maybe to persuade herself that she was not alone in that imperfection, that it was all around her. So her fingertips went rhythmically along the walls as she walked following the hissing sound, her lips moving softly as she tried to decipher the hidden language, because she knew there had to be one.
The last time she had heard it was in her fifth year, when almost every night she would be drawn out of bed, drawn by the hissing that an almost human quality to it. It thrilled her to her very core, even though her logical mind had figured out that the thing that made that sound, that music, was most probably killing and/or stunning the muggleborn students. Yet, she still got out of bed every night, as she did tonight, her pale feet bare on the cold stone floor, and followed the sound up and down hallways. To hell with curfew, she thought. After all, her best friend was the Head Girl, and she was pretty sure that the Head Boy would be busy with his usual somber and apocryphal activities. From what Dorcas had told her, he barely came to the Head tower to sleep, let alone to meet and talk about Head duties.
Minerva shook her head, smiling slightly. She respected that rules had to exist to keep the rest of the population of Hogwarts, but she was sure that they bent accordingly to people of higher power. Teachers wandered the school after curfew, and after all, wasn’t she, Prefect and powerful, barely a step down from being a teacher? Minerva always took herself to be above normal students in a way, because she was smart, strong, and sure to be named Head Girl from the moment she stepped into the castle. In the eyes of a future Head Girl and probably first female Minister for Magic, the simple rules of Hogwarts dissolved and left no trace. Why she was not named Head Girl after all was a shock to most people.
As much a shock, the stones could tell you, as when students whispered their wonderment at the appointing of Ronald Weasley instead of Harry Potter as the Gryffindor prefect. But in the same reasoning as in that period of time, everybody agreed: Minerva McGonagall was above the position of Head Girl. She ruled the school, and was not opposed by teachers or Heads. Dorcas Meadowes would just smile apologetically and meekly, in a ‘What can I do against that?’ gesture, and the worse thing Tom Riddle could do was shoot her evil looks every time she upscaled him in class.
Her only weakness was imperfection. She could have been perfect. She could have excelled everywhere, been made Head Girl, won the Quidditch Cup (They came in second), and been the all-around perfect girl of the Light. Her main problem? She was drawn to the dark, drawn to the snake’s song, drawn to the darker transfiguration books in the restricted section of the library. And that, in her eyes, and in the eyes of the world if she showed that side of her to it, made her imperfect, like the jaggedness of the walls of Hogwarts. Strong, powerful, indispensable, and full of secrets. Minerva McGonagall and the walls of Hogwarts.
This is how they remember her. A girl of fire and rock, following the path of the giant snake, the path that led her to a boy with a smirk on his face.
“I knew you would come.”
Minerva’s eyes popped open, glinting bright green in her pale, heart-shaped face. He knew?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Riddle.” She spat.
His smirk grew, and he twirled his wand in his hands, pacing around her like an animal circling his prey, a prey the predator knows is well in its grasp.
“Why are you here, all alone, in the middle of the night? Where are your fanboys, where are all of your friends? It is quite hard to get you alone, Minnie dear,” He said in a mocking tone, “You are quite the popular girl, are you not?”
Minerva’s eyes narrowed. She would never admit that she hated half of the people congregated around her on a daily basis. She knew that some of them might come in handy, especially when she looked at the Slug Club bunch, and so she kept them around. Tom Riddle, however, was only popular amongst the creepy Slytherin group, who he did not even pretend to call friends.
“And you, Riddle.” She replied, declining to return the first-name use.
He chuckled lightly. “Please, Minerva. My people leave me alone when I ask.”
“Your Death-Eaters?” She asked with a raised eyebrow. Seeing the slightly surprised look in his dark eyes, she continued. “Your secret society is not so secret to me. I have contacts, Riddle. I know just about everything.”
He smiled a tight, unfeeling smile. “With whom did you have to sleep with to get that information?” He said dryly.
“Just tell Malfoy to shut his fat mouth from time to time.”
“You slept with Abraxas?” He asked, alarmed and obviously not over-joyed.
“No.” She huffed, indignant. “I don’t waste myself on Malfoys. I had Emily do it. She also learned some rather bizarre words. She asked me, confused, what a Voldemort was, and what it had to do with ‘Unforgivable Curses’. You know as well as I that those curses are not part of any Hogwarts curriculum.”
Tom Riddle paled a bit, but seemed strangely comforted.
“And about that little glitch that is your organization,” She continued in a haughty voice, “You keep that up and not only am I going to alert Professor Dumbledore, but I will also take care of it myself. You probably heard from—well, the entire school, that I’m rather exceptional in just about everything.”
Her eyes followed his pacing form as she mentally prepared herself to draw her wand at a moment’s notice. ‘Never tickle a sleeping dragon’ was not the school’s motto for nothing, but she knew that she had the strength to face that dragon once awoken. “So give up now, Riddle. Or be a man and show me upfront what you can illegally do, and not hidden in one of your little alcoves in the library.”
Something reared up in Tom Marvolo Riddle’s chest. It could be his pride, it could be his darker side, it could have been anything. All he knew was that he just wanted to Crucio the girl until she begged for death, all of his past intentions to Minerva McGonagall forgotten. He threw her against the wall, the point of his wand digging into the soft skin of her pale throat.
“You don’t know what you’re asking for, little girl.” He muttered darkly against her skin. He felt a sharp pain in his stomach, and looked down to find that she had her wand pressed against him too.
“Well then, why don’t you enlighten me?” She said with a slight, prideful smile.
“As you wish.” He said, his lips brushing against her ear.
She shivered. Well, that was not what she had expected. She thought that Tom Riddle would be rash, would fight her in a blind rage, and that her coolness of demeanor would beat him. The fire that she held controlled inside her never strayed while she was fighting, but it seemed to lash out when his lips trembled on her skin.
“That’s hardly fair…” She muttered before she could help herself.
“Well, I don’t fight fair, do I?” He asked softly, sliding his knee between her legs. His fingers traced her form lightly, sending thrills up and down her spine, her green eyes closing as her head leaned back against the wall. His hands continued their perusal by running through her magnificent hair, outlining her eyes, nose, and finally mouth. He could feel all that she held inside, the fire that could explode at any moment, everything she was, everything she had been, everything she still could be.
“You’re beautiful. Darkly, powerfully, regally beautiful.” He whispered before his lips touched hers. Her hand had been resting limply on his chest, and the moment he kissed her, it contracted, her nails digging into his skin as she threw him off of her.
“WHAT THE HELL?” She yelled, wrenching herself away from the wall. Her voice diminished to a deadly whisper. “You’re not good enough for me, Riddle. You and your little group of followers throwing cowardly spells at the backs of younger Hufflepuff students, calling yourself grand names with no value, forgetting the true strengths of the wizarding world. Though you might be hotter, I’d rather screw Dumbledore, if I were looking for an equal to my power.”
He stood away from the cold wall, brushing his hair away from his face. He took a step towards her, watching her in all of her burning glory. “Don’t you see, Minerva? I’m the only one, the only one who would be good enough for you. I control the snake, the song you most revel in. I know the secrets of the books you hide behind, and I have gone further in the field of magic than anyone, least of all Dumbledore. I’m the only one with beauty to match yours, intelligence to match yours, power and charisma to match yours.”
Minerva smiled darkly. “Did you never read Tolkien?” She wondered. He shook his head, grimacing at the name. The man had it all wrong on wizards. “He wrote something of great interest,” She continued. “ ‘Instead of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen. Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn, stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair.’ I do not intend to reach the power you desire through fear, as you will.”
He brought a finger to her face, stroking her cheek, his eyes locked to hers. “What do you think happens, when you combine fire and ice, darkness and light, terror and lust?”
“The world ends, Riddle.”
“Let the world end, then.”
Again, he crashed his lips upon hers, grasping her in a bruising embrace, his fingers tightening on her soft skin. This time, in a fit of passion, anger, and desire, Minerva responded, her fingers tightening in his dark hair as their tongues clashed. He lifted her up on his hips, her legs wrapping themselves around him. She moaned as his lips left hers and descended on her throat, biting and sucking at it to leave the marks of his ownership upon her.
They stumbled into an empty classroom, crashing into the teacher’s desk. Riddle lifted his eyes to hers, burning with the passion that could only exist between two people of their magnitude.
“Be my Queen, Minerva.” He whispered as his fingers deftly unbuttoned her simple nightgown.
She tipped her head backwards, arching into him, her hair tumbling down her back. “Never, Riddle. One day, I’ll be ruling over you. I do not share power, and neither do you.”
“We’ll have to see who comes out of it alive, then.” He said in between the kisses he drew down her now-bare arm.
“It’s Life, Tom. We won’t come out of it alive.” She said, responding to his kisses by removing his clothes with a flick of her wand instead of the muggle way that he had—ironically—adopted.
His eyes flickered to hers. “I intend to.” He stopped any further talk by resuming their kissing, both of them inflicting wounds in a struggle for power that resulted in the most passionate lovemaking that had been seen by the stones of Hogwarts.
Minerva rested on her stomach, her bare skin glowing in the pale moonlight, on Tom’s cloak that had been spread on the cold floor of the classroom. Her hair contrasted in a mixture of dark colours on her white skin, making her green eyes glow brighter. Tom sat next to her, drawing patterns on her body.
“I won’t tell my friends about this,” said the girl, “And you would do well to do the same.” She whispered sadly.
Riddle smirked. “It would give me an advantage over the rest of the world, but if it please you, I will not let this get out of the walls of this room. If you promise me three things.”
She lifted her head a tiny bit, meeting his eyes. “Fire away.”
“One, never let anyone else touch your hair, it’s too good for them.” She smiled a little at that one. “Two, let me keep you.” Her stomach dropped at that one. “Three, never delude yourself in thinking that any love can arise between us.” She laughed at the last condition.
“One, I can promise. I do admit that it is too good for them. Two, no one gets to keep me, not even you. Three, that shall not be hard. Love does not exist.”
Riddle’s eyes darkened when she told him he could not keep her. “I can keep anyone, Minerva, if I want to.” He replaced the finger that was tracing patterns down her back with his wand, weaving it on her skin. The touch of the cold wood made her forget that he was threatening to possess her, something she could not allow anyone to do. As the wand reached her lower back, where her body curved upwards, she heard him whisper one word.
The stones heard the word and grew colder as darkness centered itself on the beautiful girl’s skin. The stones also heard the shrill cry that followed, and could swear that they had heard nothing so deadly and cold, since.
Minerva had wrenched herself away from Tom Riddle at that moment, never seeing him in that way ever again. She left Hogwarts early, without graduating, even though Albus Dumbeldore managed to make her pull through officially, thanks mainly to the high-level classes she had been acing, but no one saw her until five years from then, about the same moment that Tom Riddle disappeared from his job at Borgin and Burkes.
From that forbidden night, she had kept two permanent scars. A child she had given away to adoption, and a mark, Dark as the deep night, terrifying as the face of the man who had given it to her. She had followed the goings on of the child, who had been a squib, aware that she was the only one who knew that the great line of Slytherin breathed on. What her daughter and granddaughter had failed to obtain from her birth parents, her great-granddaughter obtained in full. So, when Minerva watched a girl with the same unruly brown hair with russet streaks raise her hand and give a right answer in the same haughty voice, she could not help but feel a burning pain in her lower back.
That night, she went to her rooms with a tired face, and looked at herself in the mirror. She had grown older, yes, but her magical background and the potions she drank in secret to prolong her life, in the hopes of seeing the end of Tom Riddle, did not make it as obvious as it should have been. Her hair was up in a bun, and she let it down, observing that the russet strands that once weaved in and out of the dark brown mass were now silver. She had crow’s feet at the corner of her green eyes, and her lips were pursed more often than laughing.
She let her robe pool around her feet, and turned to look at the mark Tom Riddle had left on his queen. It was the Dark Mark, but modified. Around the snake, choking it almost, was a winding rose, and the words ‘All shall love me and Despair.’ were etched underneath it. She had felt it burn a few times, when Tom Riddle had hoped against hope that she would go back to him, and be his at last.
But Minerva could not do that. She was watching her descendance. And when Tom Riddle finally arrived at the school for the final battle, she stole away from the students, leaving the other teachers in charge, and met him in the forest. He was different now, changed. But then again, so was she.
“So, you come at the end of the world, Minerva. When darkness merges with light, fire with ice, terror with lust, roses with serpents. Did you come to your senses?” He asked, his eyes showing the same emotion he had always held for her. Not love, per se, but something rather close to it.
“No, Tom. I’m ready to die if you want me to. I will live on, without any spells, potions, or Horcruxes.”
He looked at her and sat back down, his head in his hands. “What is it you did, Minerva? Write a book? Merlin forbid, had a kid?” He spat the last phrase out as if it was poisonous. No one else was supposed to touch her. No one else.
“Yes, Tom. I had a daughter.” She said softly. “And she had a daughter, and she had one too.”
He looked at her, confused. “I didn’t hear of any of your progeny attending Hogwarts. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, or Nott would have warned me.”
“You wouldn’t have heard. I had to give her away. I couldn’t keep her with me. Imagine waking up every morning to find a little girl with your eyes staring at me.”
“WHAT?” He yelled, toppling his chair as McGonagall did not even bat an eyelash. “You had my child and you didn’t even tell me?”
She smirked slightly. “What, and miss the fun of seeing you trying to kill your descendance, having your great-granddaughter tortured by your fellow, cowardly Death-Eaters? Didn’t you find it rather obvious that someone of Hermione Granger’s stature and power couldn’t possibly be a mudblood, but a witch descending from two rather powerful lines of purebloods?”
“Shut up.” He said bitterly.
“She doesn’t have anything of you, thanks be to Merlin. She has my hair, but I guess it was too much of ask for you to notice it and go easy on her. You know, put two and two together? She can’t speak parseltongue, and was even petrified by your foul creature in her second year.”
Voldemort smirked slightly. “I don’t recall you thinking it was foul.”
She cringed at the thought of the hissing that had brought her into his arms that night, and fell silent.
“Do you remember what you said? ‘In place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen. Beautiful, and terrible as the dawn, treacherous as the sea, stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair’… Did it happen, Minerva? Did you ever achieve that? No. But I did what I set out to do.”
At this, Minerva McGonagall smiled and crept up behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder. “That is where you are wrong. You will fall tonight, and you have made your own demise. In that one night of letting yourself get close to someone, you created the girl who was essential in Harry Potter’s rise. He could never beat you had not Hermione brought him through all of the perils in the way. And our little girl did not do so solely by loyal friendship. No, Hermione Granger, as long as no one knows who her great-grandfather is, is next in line for the Ministry for Magic position. She will be the Queen I was telling you about. She will concretize what I have been waiting for all of these years. Because what I have been waiting for, ever since my daughter was born, was the day where I could tell you that I have won. Through everything you have achieved, I have done more, because I come to you in the shape of a 17 year old girl, with all of her youth and power, whilst you are a Dark Lord in decline, a withered soul ripped apart seven times.”
His mouth gave an involuntary twitch at her speech.
“Did you really think, Tom, that you could survive without a whole soul? That immortality was reached through spells and potions? There are greater forces at work in this world than good or evil.”
Tom Riddle stood up, and turned to face her. He stepped closer to the woman he had been waiting for. With his thumb, he traced the outline of the face that had haunted his dreams, and said steadily. “I hoped you would come. Every time I called you, from your mark, I hoped you would come. Remember what I added? ‘All shall love me and despair’. I did. Crazily, bizarrely, impossibly, I did. “ His eyes flashed back to their original coffee black for a second as he uttered. “It will be an honor to be killed, however indirectly, by the product of a night I cannot forget. It will be no lesser an end than I deserve, to die by yours and my hand, together, at last, for the end of the world.”
Minerva recoiled, surprised. She had been waiting for fear, for terror, for the rage of a man about to be killed. But it seemed that Tom Riddle, against all odds, had achieved peace. She fell over her feet whilst backing up, stumbling slightly at the man who was straightening himself, preparing himself to enter a battle he knew he could not win. She looked at herself, finally looked inside herself. Stricken with self-disgust, she turned and fled, returning to her side, to her fake friends.
She finally understood. Tom Riddle had never lied. He had lived in truth. He had decided what to achieve, and he had achieved it, throwing his evil image around. Dumbledore had explained to her that he was hiding behind the name of Lord Voldemort, not comprehending the emotion that the Professor based all of his hope upon. But Minerva knew better. Tom Riddle was Lord Voldemort, and he did understand love, much more than she or Dumbledore ever had. He loved Minerva, a sickening and overwhelming passion. His love was not the ‘I would die for you’ love that characterized the Light Side.
He lived for his love. He fought for it. He had never, never let it go. His love was possessive, overpowering, driving, and protective. He chose his loves, so that it was not spread apart on too many people, because everything he did was for it. He became immortal in order to prolong his chances of finding her again, he pursued his dream and ambition, knowing that she would know of him, and deep down, be proud.
For his love, he even let Minerva win.
But then, why did she feel like she had lost, like she was the lowest element of the fight. She would go back to the light side, where they all took her to be a magnificent, wise, Dumbledore-loving, loyal person. And she was not. She watched Hermione grow in power, gathering allies to her in the same way Minerva had. Hermione the great, Hermione the beautiful, the wonderful, the pride of Minerva McGonagall. The worthy one. She had to warn her.
McGonagall ran as fast as her aging legs could take her. She burst inside the castle, knowing in a heartbeat where the girl was. Minerva rushed to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, and jumped in the hole that she and the Weasley kid had left open. Faced with the door of Salazar, she glared at the snakes, and said in a firm voice. “You know me.” The snakes’ eyes seemed to glisten a familiar coffee black, and pulled away to let her in. Hermione and Ron were bent over a dried up basilisk carcass, a sight that reached Minerva’s heart in a sickening thud.
She had loved that voice.
“Hermione?” She asked weakly, knowing better than to call her Miss Granger. She raised her hazel eyes to the older woman’s in a glance that was anything but questioning. She whispered something to Ron and came to meet Minerva.
“If it’s to tell me about you, rest your case, I already know. And thanks for warning me, by the way.” She said in a cool voice.
Minerva shook her head. “I came to warn you…”
The girl’s eyebrow rose slightly. “To never fall in love? I know. He told me two minutes ago.”
“Who?” said the teacher in a wavering voice, though she knew the answer.
“Didn’t think that Harry was the only one with the nightmares, did you? After all, I knew that Sirius wasn’t really down there, back in fifth year.”
Minerva shook her head again, “I don’t understand…”
“The serpent and the rose. It’s hereditary. I’ve had it since I was born, like my mother before me. We are all marked women, Grandmother. In one way or another, we are branded, untamed but claimed.” She pushed her hair away from her neck to show the D embedded in it. “It’s what you choose to do with those marks that defines your path. You chose to ignore it. I choose to embrace it, to use it.”
McGonagall put a hand to her forehead, sinking to her knees. “I understand now, I understand him.” She said in a half-sob.
Hermione declined to help the older woman up. “Your message will not go unheeded. Harry will kill Tom, and I will kill Draco. You may decide upon your own fate, but I would advise one thing. Choke back the tears and swallow, because there will be no room for weakness in this world.”
Hermione smiled faintly and returned to Ron. She knew what she would do. She would marry Ron, a weak man who would not get in her way, and she would raise a daughter to her stature, the Rose that chokes the serpent. Her daughter would be named Rose, and would continue her legacy.
She smiled softly at the dim boy with flashy red hair, and picked up basilisk fangs. She would make her first move on Ron the moment they stepped back out.
Minerva watched their retreating backs, and clutched at the cold stone floor. What had she left? Nothing. If she had not let her pride get in the way, that night, she might have something left for her, but there was nothing. She could watch her legacy until it faded, but it only made her hollow. She had created a line of powerful women, but they were empty of the love that had characterized Tom Riddle. They were her. Her in many different eye colours, with different tints in their hair. What had she done?
If there was one thing Minerva McGonagall was going to do, it was get up. She would lift up her chin, and face the mess she had created. She would decide on her own fate, and if she was going to go down, she was going to do so in style.