Characters: Minerva/Tom, Harry
Summary: Tom wants to live forever. Minerva wants to learn. Tom teaches Minerva a lesson she'll never forget: he makes her a horcrux.
Notes: Feedback is always appreciated.
Written for Prompt #86:
Minerva McGonagall is a Horcrux. (gen or Tom/Minerva) (suggested by mctabby)
When beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang. - Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Minerva blinked her eyes open to darkness. For a moment she panicked, afraid she was blind. "Tom!" she yelled. Her heart was beating rapidly, fluttering in her throat. "Where are we? Where are you?"
Minerva heard footsteps. A soft, whisper followed. "I'm here. Rest. You must be exhausted."
"Yes, exhausted," she repeated. She searched her memory for the cause of her exhaustion and came up empty. "Sleep," she whispered. Then the deep embrace of sleep enveloped her once again.
"... wake up, Minerva. There's much to be done before we go back," Tom spoke softly, as he shook her awake.
"It's still dark," Minerva said. No sooner had the words escaped her mouth before the dull, familiar, glow of torch light filled the chamber. She still did not recognize her surroundings. "Thank you. Where are we?"
"Below the school. Hidden and safe." He sat on the bed next to Minerva. "I'll always keep you safe."
Minerva laughed nervously. "Of course. It's part of our agreement - you're teaching me. We never practice the spells on each other."
"Right," Tom agreed, looking away from her.
Minerva pulled the bedclothes around her torso. Her thin night dress was not enough to ward off the chill of the chamber she and Tom occupied. "Tom - we made an agreement. A blood oath," she protested. Though she knew if he'd done anything it was already too late to do anything about it. All she could do was hope she would live to undo any damage he'd caused.
"Breakable things, Minerva," he said, holding his arms out. "I told you an Unbreakable Vow would have been better. And it wasn't exactly practicing. I've done this spell before." He was arrogant as ever. Minerva backed away from Tom as much as she could without falling from the bed. It was then she realized she was in bed.
There was far too much missing from her short-term memory. She had no idea how she wound up in a bed - let alone in a bed that was in a secluded room that Tom only seemed to know. "What did you do to me?" she asked, lifting her arm to inspect it. "Am I marked? You've been going on and on about a summoning charm embedded in a mark and I told you I didn't want that." She couldn't see anything. But she felt his mark upon her - burned into her body permanently with no hope of erasure.
"No. I would never mar your beauty, Minerva. You're special. The mark I gave you is not visible."
Minerva felt her throat constrict. Her hand dropped to her abdomen and she shut her eyes and turned away from Tom. Tears were prickling at her eyes. "Please, don't tell me-" she whispered, her voice hinging on a sob.
Tom grabbed her hand. "Don't be foolish. There is no room for a child in my plans. There will never be a child between us. Never. Furthermore, I would not debase myself by an act so barbaric as rape. My power comes from a higher place than my own human instincts. Any Muggle can rape," he spat, insulted.
Minerva sighed, relieved. "Then what have you done to me?"
"To you? Nothing. It's what I've done to myself," he replied, smiling in the way he did when he was proud of something. He especially smiled like that when he'd accomplished the forbidden.
"Obviously it involves me lest I wouldn't be here," Minerva observed, dryly. "You've done something to me and I deserve to know what it is. I'm meant to be your student. Not your lab rat."
"What is done is done. To tell you," he smiled, brushing her cheek, "would be foolish on my part. Your noble Gryffindor sensibilities might get the best of your better judgment and ruin my plans. I need you to trust me."
Minerva had no choice. If she wanted to walk out of this chamber, with her life as she knew it, intact, she would have to trust him. She'd made a deal with the devil all those months ago and now she was forced to sell her own soul. "I do trust you," Minerva said, unsure how much truth was in those words.
"Good. When the time is right - and I'll know when - I'll tell you what's happened here today."
Minerva nodded. Tom tossed her heavy, woolen robes on the bed. "Get dressed. We have to move get rid of some things before we return to the school. Hopefully, Dumbledore won't notice. The last thing we need is him sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong."
"He means well."
Tom shook his head. "Lesson number three?"
"Those who mean well die poor deaths," she repeated from rote.
"My best pupil," he drawled, condescendingly.
Minerva swiped at the tears streaming down her face, though she did not cry. She would forever be haunted by the vacant eyes belonging to a young woman whose name she wouldn't ever know. "Why?" she asked.
Tom stopped walking up the stairs and turned to look at Minerva. Tom shrugged. "Because I needed her life more than she did."
"To practice dark spells? It's wasteful."
"I already told you, I'm not practicing," he repeated, sternly. "I know what I'm doing. And that girl is meaningless in the scheme of things. No one will ever know she's gone."
"When will I become meaningless to you, Tom? When will you have someone help to drag my body across a stone floor to be burned in a rudimentary pyre? Tell me so I won't be surprised. I want to know when its coming."
Neither Tom nor Minerva moved for a long moment. Minerva watched him turn toward her. He was eerily calm, collected, and beautiful. There was something different about him that she could not identify.
"I want you to listen to me, because I'll not repeat myself, do you understand?" he asked, turning toward her. He walked down two steps so that he was closer to her and towering over her at the same time. He held out his hand and she took it, turning her head away. She did not want to look into his eyes and see the nothingness that evil always left in its wake. "Look at me," he ordered, sternly.
Minerva lifted her head and stared at him defiantly.
"Good. You do not fear me. I do not ever want you to fear me. I will never allow any harm to come to you," he paused, cupping her chin under his hand. "Especially at my hand or by my words. You are safe." He smiled at her. He allowed his voice to take on the gentle tone Minerva associated with his brand of kindness - the only thing he'd offer, love was not something he'd ever share. "You'll always own a part of me that no one else can have."
She smiled, coyly. She was most often a witch of reason and logic. But, she was not immune to the charms of Tom Riddle. She rather liked the idea of knowing him in a way no other would. She liked that she would never have to fear him. If she had nothing to fear then there was much to learn. "I'm sorry for -" He pressed a hand to her lips.
"Never apologize to me - to anyone. That was our first lesson, remember?"
Minerva blushed and nodded. "We'd better get back."
As the days passed, the incident in the chamber became less painful to remember. Although, there still wasn't much to remember. That unnerved Minerva. She tried to piece it together. All she could recall was reading the incantation for a less potent version of Cruciatus, then Tom standing behind her, holding her wand arm in his, teaching her the proper wand arcs, and then she was waking up in that room.
"Something bothering you?" he asked, passing a leather bound tome across the table to her.
Minerva took the book and opened it, flipping to a page randomly. There was a tense silence before she answered, leaning over the table so he could hear her whisper. "I can't remember how I got into that bed," she admitted.
Tom gave her a puzzled look. "Bed?" he asked. "What are you talking about?"
"That night. When you were teaching me. When you told me I never had to fear you."
"Right. I told when the time was right you would know. It was a simple memory altering charm. Nothing permanent. It was all rather traumatic for you. And I told you I'd protect you."
"You took my memory?" she gasped.
"No. Obsfucated. It's still there. You just can't get to it. Not until things become more clear to you. And we're not that far along in your studies. There's much you still need to learn. Like," he said, tapping the open book, "how to properly Occlude. You've got the innate talent. But in order to temper the darkness you need to master this."
Minerva dipped her head toward the book. He had so much to teach her. Perhaps, if he taught her, marked her with his knowleged, he wouldn't take up his mad scheme to take over the Ministry. "I know this," she sighed. "The theory. If I can keep my mother from finding out about you when she's probing around my head I think, at the very least, I understand it."
"What about Legilimency? Can you probe into my mind?"
"Page 548. And to test your superior occlusion skills, I'll practice my Legilimency on you as you read."
Minerva tried to focus on the page. But the pressure of Tom pressing into her thoughts was distracting, to say the least. He sifted through her thoughts, zeroing in on the moments they spent together. His presence was a gentle caress on her mind. She knew she should mind his presence, but didn't.
The pair of them were huddled together, hunched over the same book. His hand wrapped around her waist to keep purchase on the narrow bench as he whispered the definition of a Greek word into her ear.
When Minerva looked up from her reading, a soft smile playing on her lips, Tom inclined his head. "What?"
"I'd forgotten about that. Why did you choose that memory?"
He shrugged and inclined his head toward the book. "Keep reading."
Minerva sighed and did as she was instructed. She was able to keep Tom out of her mind for three paragraphs. The force of his intrusion forced her to clutch the sides of the table and gasp. She mustered all of her focus to push him out - but, it was a fruitless endeavour. He pillaged her mind, pulling up painful memories - memories she didn't know she possessed.
Tom tapped his wand in his palm. He was annoyed. "No, no, no!" he shouted. "The third arc comes after the fourth flick. Who taught you wand-work?"
"Professor Flitwick," Minerva hissed. "Just like you. I can't help that I've never worked with theses spells before. Dark incantations have a totally different pattern in their wand-work. It's going to take me time to adapt and adjust."
Tom shook his head. "No. There is no time. You can't afford to slip up in class. One error, and the whole thing's exposed. It is a risk you - we - cannot afford."
Minerva tossed her wand to the ground, defeated. "Then I'll stop. I'm not a machine. I can't just learn and unlearn things at will."
Tom stalked toward her. Minerva took two steps backward, tripping over her own feet, and falling to the ground gracelessly. He grabbed her wrists roughly. "You don't get to quit. Not now. I've invested too much into you. And I plan on investing far more." He pulled her up to her feet by her wrists. He summoned her wand and slapped it into her open palm. She grasped it. "Now, stand with you legs shoulder width apart. Mind that you start moving with your left foot if you need to move - which, at this point you shouldn't. Two jabs, two arcs, three flicks, a jab, then the arc."
Minerva nodded. "No room for error," she muttered as she took up her wand. This time, she executed the spell flawlessly.
Minerva said nothing. She snapped the book shut and ran from their hidden meeting place.
"What have you invested in me?" she asked, wringing her hands. He didn't like to be questioned. He liked for her to be obedient. One day he would understand she could never obey.
He kept writing, in neat, measured rows, on his scroll. He stopped when he needed to dip his quill in his inkpot, instead setting it down on the blotting paper. He motioned for her to sit across from her.
"Why did you run? Have I not earned your trust? I showed you that I could have killed you and didn't." His voice was cold.
"You -," Minerva yelled. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "No. I was stupid to trust you. Stupid to come to you in the first place. I - there was so much I wanted to know and no one to teach me. But clearly, there is a reason why we should not know these things." Minerva stared at Tom. "Goodbye."
Minerva turned on her heel, bracing herself for Tom's attempts to restrain her. They never came. He let her go. When Minerva got to the door, she turned back around.
"Whatever you've invested in me must be very valuable. You didn't try to stop me. You don't want it harmed."
He shook his head. "No, I don't. I don't want you as my servant. I want you as my student. I want you at my side."
Minerva walked past him and to the table where his scrolls lay drying. She pushed aside the most recent one and let her eyes scan the page. As her eyes picked up on certain words: soul, immortality, vessel, inert only, and finally, horcrux, Minerva rifled through his notes with growing fervor. She clutched a parchment to her chest and backed into the nearest wall, sliding down it - stone scraping her back - before she fell to the floor. "This is all a myth. Horcruxes don't really exist."
Tom walked slowly toward her. "They do exist. I've three of them now."
Minerva shook her head. "Any wizard's foolish to make one. To break apart the soul in that many fragments ... you'll lose your humanity."
"It's a weakness."
Minerva crumpled the parchment in her hands. The pieces were beginning to come together. "Why did you do this to me? I'll die. When I die your soul fragment becomes useless."
He shook his head. "I've been thinking about that. There are ways around you death. Vampirism, necromancy - so my soul could take over your body after you die, for example. But those are messy and carry too many risks. Who knows if one seventh of a soul could carry a whole body usefully."
"Seven!" Minerva shouted. "I'm three of seven."
"You will be," he smiled. "But back to the issue of keeping you alive. The Philosopher's Stone. We'll need to obtain one. Or create one."
Minerva laughed. "Yes, let me just hop down to Hogsmeade and fetch one from the apothecary, shall I?"
"You're young. Not even eighteen. There's plenty of time."
"I could kill myself," she whispered, icily. "Then your soul fragment would go. You'd be that much easier to murder."
"You could try. You'll find though, I've embedded an Imperius in the soul binding spell necessary to make you a vessel. You can't ever do yourself harm."
"No," Minerva stood. Her eyes were wild with a multitude of emotions she couldn't identify. "I'll take and Unbreakable Vow and break my end of the bargain willingly."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Intention, my dear. If you intend on harming yourself it won't take. I've really thought this through. I would never take a risk such as that. You will live."
"Until you kill me to retrieve your soul fragment."
He simply stared at her. "My life is far more valuable than anyone else's. As long as I'm alive you're safe. Remember that."
Minvera nodded. She felt sick. She pulled herself up from the ground, straightened her robes, and handed the crumpled parchment to Tom. She walked past him for the last time as she made her way to Dumbledore's office.
"You're sure, Professor?" Harry Potter asked her. He reached into his pocket for his wand.
Minerva smiled at him, her hands wringing. "Yes. I'm sure."
Harry's shoulder's sagged. "This will set us back," he whispered. "It will take Hermione time to figure out how to destroy a horcrux housed in a living vessel."
"A simple Killing Curse, Potter. That's all it'll take to undo me."
Harry nodded. "You? Yes. But that soul fragment isn't so easy. You're holding the last one."
"You don't understand. You have no choice. His soul, it's all twisted up with mine. We're inseparable now - Tom and I."
"You let him do this to you?" Harry asked, wide-eyed.
"No. I let him teach me a lesson I'd never forget. But, it seems, he'll be the one learning the lesson." She turned to Harry. "Give me a few moments. I have letters here. Instructions about Severus and what's to be done with him - from Dumbledore. And, please be quick about it."
"Hermione will find a way." Harry paused. "Besides, you're just the vessel. We've still got the ring, the cup, the locket, the wand, and the sword. There's nothing saying we can't have you, too. I won't give up that easily. The Killing Curse is too simple, anyway. Voldemort is, unfortunately, too clever."
"There is no other way. Dumbledore and I searched for years. You'll destroy this vessel the same way you destroyed the cup and all the rest. And maybe if we're lucky it won't kill me, too. But this is war. Sacrifices must be made. At least this time, I make it willingly," Minerva replied.
"Alright, Professor. One week. I'm going to give Hermione a week to find another way."
Minerva nodded. Despite her willingness to die for the greater good, life was the better option.
Minerva spun an hourglass over and over in her hands, watching the sand spill from one half into the other. Nothing was meant to last forever. There was a knock at the door. "Enter," she called.
"Hello, Professor," Harry said. His voice was grim. His shoulders were slumped.
"I didn't think so. Just do it quickly. Everything you need to know - papers, locations of papers, the password the the Headmaster's office - is all locked up in that box. Here," she said reaching into her robe pocket, "is the key to the box."
Harry took it and tucked it into his pocket. "Thank you," he said. He reached into his back pocket for his wand. "Right. I'm sorry. I -I'll be quick."
Minerva nodded. She set down the hourglass and gripped the edges of the chair. "It's not your fault. It needs to be done."
Minerva closed her eyes. She felt the thrum of magic settle over her, gently at first, the intensity growing stronger at every moment. She was surprised to feel pain. Horrible pain that became the center of her being. She felt as though she were being pulled apart cell by cell. Then, as suddenly as it started it stopped. She was left breathing heavily with sweat beads sliding down her face.
"I'm alive," she panted.
"Yes," Harry said, smiling. "And free of him." He held up a key. "He's in here now. We can destroy this."
"Hermione," Harry shrugged. "She found a spell to disentangle his essence from yours. All the other horcruxes had a center guarded by magic. You did, too. It was simply a binding spell. Easy enough to counter once you knew where to look."
"But you looked so - so defeated."
"There was a risk," Harry whispered. "Especially since I hadn't worked the spell on a living human before. But, you're free now, Professor."
"No. He's still alive. As long as he's alive I'll never be free."
Harry was silent for a moment. He turned toward the door, then hesitated. He turned back to Minerva. "May I ask how, Professor?"
"I thought I loved him. That love could change him. He was different then, though. Before the darkness got him." She smiled. "I thought, maybe, he might actually be able to control the darkness. And I wanted to learn how, too. If it could be controlled, I believed, it could be rendered neutral. There would be no good or bad just magic. Pure magic."
"Did he love you? He couldn't have to have done this -," Harry stopped himself. "Forgive my forwardness, Professor. I just don't want to go to him without all the information."
Minerva waved away the boy's concern. "He was never capable of love. He may have cared at some point, for a moment, about me. Perhaps that's why he took me on as student. But, he loved power then just as he loves power now. He wanted me to stand at his side. And I might have, had I not been such a stubborn young girl."
"I'm sorry you had to suffer through that, Professor."
"I'm not. It made me stronger. Better able to fight him. Now go! Get rid of him. I'll be wanting that freedom you've promised, Potter."