Summary: A boy she once loved. A farewell gift he gave. An unexpected meeting over fifty years later.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Written for the arth_hp Brushstrokes and Broomsticks ficathon. Many thanks to Agent Bambi for betaing. Inspired by Portrait of a Girl (Lavinia) by Titian. When I saw this painting, I instantly thought of young Minerva wearing a Time-Turner. Thus the story was born.
"Was he there?" Professor McGonagall was clenching her walking stick as she spoke, her eyes never leaving Dumbledore's.
"And...?" Dumbledore raised his eyebrows in an innocent gesture, one that had never failed to annoy McGonagall.
"Well, what was it like? You haven't told me anything but those scarce pieces of information about what happened in the Department of Mysteries. I wish I had been there. I would have wanted -"
"To see him with your own eyes?" Dumbledore interrupted. "To try to talk to him? Believe me, he's beyond that now. Tom Riddle that we knew is dead."
"You didn't say so before."
Dumbledore looked pensieve. "Yes, I know, but after seeing him infiltrate Harry Potter's mind I began to wonder..."
They chatted for some time, but it was clear Headmaster Dumbledore was avoiding the subject of Tom Riddle - Voldemort. Restless, McGonagall headed back to her room.
He had been so close. If I hadn't been recovering at St Mungo's I would have been there, too. I should have seen him. I need to understand what has happened to him.
The Time-Turner around her neck suddenly felt very heavy. She clutched it in her hands, hesitating. She had played with time too often, and it was becoming much too addictive. And what use would it be to walk back in time again, for she would never go back all the way, to a place and time where someone was waiting for her.
She remembered it clearly, as if it had only happened yesterday.
* * * * *
It was a warm June day, over fifty years ago. The sun was shining, and she was walking around the deserted Quidditch pitch together with Tom Riddle, an evil-overlord-to-be. Tom was telling her his plans of future. In retrospect, he wasn't revealing her almost anything about his grandiose plans, but Minerva of that day was astounded nevertheless.
"What! You can't just travel to the other end of the world and become an apprentice of some odd foreign wizard! What do you even know about that mysterious man? He has revealed you neither his name, nor the name of the town in which he lives! How are you going to find him to begin with? I wasn't surprised if you were robbed or even murdered on your way there. Be reasonable, Tom!" she pleaded.
"How I am going to find him," answered Tom, "is going to be my first test, of course. Don't worry, it will all turn out in the end."
"I don't know, Tom... Why can't you choose a nice career in the Ministry like everyone else?"
Tom laughed, but his laugh was oddly tense. "Like Fudge or Rookwood, you mean? Minerva, I sincerely hope you're not comparing me with those idiots. Believe me, I have something completely different in my mind."
Looking into Tom's determined blue eyes, Minerva could easily believe him. But she was surprised when Tom suddenly grasped her hand. It was such a strong gesture of intimacy; Tom seldom showed his feelings so openly.
"Minerva, I want you to come with me."
She had been about to laugh when she realised that Tom was serious. She was enthralled; it was as if Tom had avowed that he was in love with her. He'd never spoken much about his feelings towards Minerva during those two years they'd been... close. Not even when Minerva finally dared to admit to that strange Slytherin boy that she loved him. Minerva hoped she meant something to Tom - he often sought her company to talk with her, and lately also to participate in more sensual pastimes. But their relationship had been oddly indefinable all the time. At first she thought it was because Tom didn't want to be seen together with a Gryffindor, but there was something else, too - something in Tom she could never understand. He was so distant sometimes.
Minerva had been wondering if they would ever see each other again after their final year at Hogwarts ended. Both of them had been avoiding the question of their future until now. Indeed, Minerva had been sure Tom would apply for some Ministry job - he would certainly have enough qualifications! But now, faced with Tom's incredulous plan and unexpected question, she felt at loss of words.
There was so much she didn't know about Tom. Oh, she knew about his past; that Tom had been an orphan and had lived in a Muggle orphanage. The entire school knew about that, and Tom had often been teased about it during his younger years. She knew his favourite dish, and his favourite subject at school. But those were only superficial aspects of his character. Deeper there was another Tom, hidden and seldom revealed, one with feelings and desires. Minerva had only seen glimpses of him.
Now Tom stood before her, asking her to come with him; to leave her entire life behind, and join him on his quest. Minerva was enthralled; she seemed to mean something to Tom after all. But at the same time, another part of her suddenly felt afraid. She didn't want to leave everything because of him, even though the thought of not seeing him again perhaps for a long time felt painful. She couldn't explain the sudden fear she felt. Perhaps it was due to the glow in his eyes. She could see Tom was so determined to reach his goal, whatever that was, that nothing else mattered. Not even Minerva, if she happened to step between Tom and his goal. Tom wanted her to stand beside him when he reached his dream, but even though he desired her love he could never love her back. The only thing he truly loved, Minerva realised now, was his dream.
Minerva felt sadness overcome her; she was afraid of what tomorrow would bring when they both left Hogwarts for ever.
"I can't follow you, Tom," she finally said, although he had probably read the answer on her face already.
He didn't try to change her mind. He had probably realised from her expression that it would be a futile attempt. Instead, he closed his arms tightly around her and they kissed. Tom tasted of anise, and a thought occurred to her that he must be coming from the herb garden, where he was often helping the Herbology teacher. Then Tom's hands were under her blouse, and she let him touch her knowing she would later miss those hands.
* * * * *
The next day Minerva watched Tom Riddle standing up in the Slytherin table to receive his top-grade N.E.W.Ts at the end-of-term feast. She already felt nostalgic. She would be leaving so many things behind; and the future seemed uncertain. She exchanged a few glances with Tom throughout the feast, but it was only after the Hogwarts Express had left for King's Cross station that she had a proper chance to talk to him.
"Minerva," he said hesitantly as he stepped into the compartment she shared with her friends. They understood the matter, and promptly left Minerva alone with 'her boyfriend'.
Tom sat beside her, and for a while neither of them could speak.
"Are you certain of your decision?" he asked, at length.
"Yes. Are you?"
Tom smiled at her, and the familiar glow was there in his eyes again. "There's no possibility I'm going to turn away now."
Their kiss was a farewell kiss. Minerva tried to fight the tears as Tom's long fingers combed her hair. They could have had a future together. If only... But Tom was in love with ideas, not with people. Minerva could see it clearly now. There would be no future for them.
"There's something I want to give you, Minerva."
He reached into his robes, producing something that looked liked a medallion to Minerva.
"This is a Time-Turner. They're very rare, but I've managed to charm this one for you."
"You've managed to charm..." she started, astonished.
Tom nodded, and then he explained her how it worked. "If you ever want to decide again, come back in time, and I'll wait for you at King's Cross station today until the nightfall."
"Tom, I don't know... messing with time doesn't feel the right thing to do."
He smiled again. "I just want to give you a second chance, darling. Perhaps you don't understand the extent of my generosity. Aspects of the charm and its effect prevent me from charming another object like this as long as this particular Time-Turner exists. I can only hope that you will bring it back to me."
Minerva looked at the object in her hand. It was a tiny hour-glass framed with silver, meant to be worn as a necklace. If she looked carefully she could see a tiny silver snake coiling itself around the frame. Tom hadn't been able to resist leaving the mark of his House on his creation.
"I can't take it, Tom."
"Please," he said softly. "Take it. I'll feel better knowing that your decision doesn't have to be final."
"But it is. I can't come with you to where you are going. I'm so sorry, Tom."
"Take it. I want to know that you have it. I'll be waiting for you at King's Cross until nightfall."
And then he walked out of the compartment before she had even managed to say him farewell.
* * * * *
She had never seen him again. At times, when her life wasn't going according to the path that she had chosen, she felt the heavy temptation of using the Time-Turner, but she never returned to King's Cross station on that warm June evening. She couldn't explain why she felt so wary of Tom, but when she heard people whispering of Lord Voldemort she recognised Tom's self-made pseudonym, realising her intuition had been right all along.
She learned to use the Time-Turner, even though not to return to Tom. She always respected the rules of time-travelling, though. It came in handy for her Transfiguration studies, allowing her more time to do her research. When she had recovered from a shock caused by the news that the boy she loved had indeed become the next Dark Lord of the wizarding world, she briefly considered returning to him in order to make him choose another path. It would likely have been a futile attempt, though, and she decided not to try it. She joined the Order of the Phoenix instead, secretly hoping to meet him in the battlefield, and fearing what would happen if she did. What a relief it had been when she learned that a baby had destroyed the evil that had once been her love. Then, those mixed feelings of fear and something almost like yearning, when she learned that Lord Voldemort wasn't dead after all.
Lately, the snakes of the tiny frame had started to annoy her, as skilfully decorated as they were. Too often she found herself holding the necklace in her hand, although she would have rather liked to forget about it. She tried to break the bond between her and the Time-Turner by lending it to a student of her House, afterwards feeling selfish and loathing herself because of it. In the end, she found herself feeling all too relieved having it back.
And now Lord Voldemort was alive again; Dumbledore had seen him with his own two eyes. She should have been present in the Ministry herself, Minerva thought. She should have seen what had become of Tom. The thought didn't leave her on her way to her private chambers, nor while she was getting ready for the night.
A look towards the Time-Turner on her bedside table. No, she would never do that. The risks were too high. And she was too addicted to that damn thing already.
She changed into her night gown, put out the candle, and waited for slumber to overcome her.
* * * * *
In the middle of the night she awoke. In a dream someone had called her name, and for a moment she felt confused, finally realising there was no one else in her room. She rearranged the pillow under her head, almost ready to fall asleep again, but something was making her restless. Despite the open window there was still too warm in the room. Quietly, she got up, dressing in her robes. A little walk outside in the cool night air would do it.
The thuds of her walking stick echoed in the empty corridors as she walked towards the main door. The grandfather clock struck three. Outside, she changed into her Animagus form, and for a while just sat there, licking her paw. But the smell of the grass intrigued her, and she continued on her path. Only when she was near the border of the Forbidden Forest her cat eyes caught a glimpse of something big, shaped like a man, standing just where the forest ended.
The man's eyes glowed in the moonlight. The cat knew no human had eyes like that except one.
She was about to turn away, when a voice called her name.
"Minerva? Minerva, is that you?"
The cat froze.
Then, more impatiently: "Show yourself!"
Minerva hesitated. She could have pretended to be a normal cat, but that wouldn't be safe any more. Voldemort seemed to have sensed her presence already - Dumbledore had told her this man could read minds. No, she definitely needed her human brain now. And there was more. She wanted to see him with her own eyes, not as a cat, but as Minerva - a girl he once knew.
The Animagus transformation didn't take long. In a moment she found herself standing on a grassy field only six feet from the dark figure that watched her from the forest. She was leaning on her walking stick while she found her other hand clenching her wand.
"You've grown old." There was almost surprise in the voice now.
Minerva was sure those glowing eyes could see in the dark. She hardly saw anything of the Dark wizard herself. Only those eyes, and a dark shape of a hooded man. A creature out of a nightmare, this one. She surprised herself by answering: "What did you expect? It's been fifty years."
"Time means nothing to me any more," the dark figure answered, stepping a little nearer as he spoke. Minerva startled, ready to run, ready to hex, but Voldemort didn't seem to want to attack - at least, not yet.
Standing in the moonlight, Minerva could finally see him better. She had expected to see a monster, and what she saw made her almost feel ill. However, what surprised her most was that she still recognised her Tom behind the monster he'd become. Those were Tom's hands, definitely, the hands with which he'd once stroked her skin. And that was Tom's mouth, crueller and colourless now, but still the same mouth that had gave her countless kisses once upon a time.
"You're..." she started, but couldn't find right words to continue. "Tom..." she tried, but again in vain.
The figure in the moonlight winced at the sound of his abandoned name. "Yes," he almost whispered. "That was my name once. That was how you called me back then." The Dark wizard was silent for a moment. "But you did know my other name, too, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did," Minerva admitted.
"So you know what became of me, then. Did you ever believe me, when I told you my visions of future? Did you? Or did you just think I was a foolish Mudblood imagining I could achieve all this?"
"I never knew you," said Minerva quietly. "I never really knew you."
"You never came."
Minerva shuddered. Did he still remember? She had a sudden desire to touch the Time-Turner on her chest, only now realising she must have taken it with her from the bedside table.
"I waited for you until nightfall, as I promised. I was almost sure you would come. Not at once, of course, but later, when you realised that you had had enough of your lonely and insignificant existence; when a memory of me would promise you something more than what you had." The glowing red eyes were watching Minerva intently. "I would have given you so much more. Why didn't you come?"
"I...,"she started, but it was impossible to continue. The man - who was her Tom, and yet wasn't at the same time - moved impatiently, drawing back his hood to reveal his face. Now Minerva could see his profile better; his bony face, chalk white skin, and black mess of hair that oddly reminded her of Harry Potter's.
"So old...," she heard Voldemort mutter again. "Let me touch you."
A chill went through Minerva. "Dumbledore has powerful protections. If you step one step further, you'll die."
Voldemort laughed dryly as if Minerva's words were just an empty threat, but he seemed to study the surroundings intently for a while nevertheless. "I can see the aura of his spellwork," he announced after a moment. "Here," he showed with his hand, "...and here."
Minerva wondered what else those inhuman eyes could see.
She took a couple of steps as if in a trance, and as she found herself standing suddenly very near of the Dark wizard she couldn't help a surprised sigh. Now that she had a closer look Tom's features were more clear, but she could see those features were distorted by thousands of evil curses. It was horrible, actually, what Tom had become. She couldn't resist extending her hand, and carefully touching his bone white cheek.
She felt Voldemort touching her neck, stroking her skin almost gently.
"You still have the Time-Turner." His hand, its previous gentleness now forgotten, had found the chain. "You have no right to wear it. Give it to me."
When Minerva spoke, her voice was oddly thin. "So that you would go back to that night in the Ministry of Magic building? Or even further back in the past? You can't do that. It's not allowed."
Tom - Voldemort - laughed grimly. "The limitations of time are for mortals."
Everything happened so quickly. Minerva stepped back, but stumbled; Voldemort tugged at the chain which unexpectedly broke; the Time-Turner fell to the grass. They both reached for it, but Minerva was still weak, and she just wasn't as quick as Voldemort. However, just as he was about to grasp the hour-glass his hand stopped in mid-air, some inches from the desired object.
Minerva understood. She extended her shaking hand to take back her Time-Turner, thankful to Dumbledore and his protections. She hid the hour-glass in the pocket of her robes as quickly as she could, not daring to look at Voldemort. She knew she was in grave danger now. The Dark curses so close to the school boundaries would alarm Dumbledore, of course, but he would still be too late, because only one curse would be enough...
She had turned to run, as if she could run with her condition, but now she stopped, casting a final glance at the man who had once been her Tom.
"Go. Go away." There was something in his voice that froze her bones. The last thing she saw before turning into a tabby again was a wand in his hand.
Lord Voldemort watched silently the cat turn and flee.