Title:Rumor Has It.
Author: Parker K. Harvelle
Summery: FEM!HARRY AU: Meredith Potter never thought much about love, she'd never really been shown a lot of it. Her sixth year will change everything as she stops pretending to understand where life is taking her.
Pairings: Meredith/Tom (Voldemort), TBD
Warnings: Some Language, mentions of child abuse and neglect, violence, torture, Dark!Harry, Fem!Harry, AU!Year 6, Manipulative Dumbledore (But not evil or dark),
Disclaim Her: As someone who found alternative ways to read the books online and can't seen to get the money for the movies together do you really think I own Harry? Because I assure you if I did Harry would have been a bit more bitter to Dumbledore and the Dursley's and Voldemort would have lived. I own only what you don't recognize! Enjoy!
Note: Graphics are on profile, banner for story and Meredith is Portrayed by Karen Gillian. Also the scientific term for Meredith's eyes is heterochromia, where one eyes is another color or sometimes the eye is simply two colors at once.
Make sure to check my Profile from time to time for graphic updates. You'll never know when I'll add something.
Notice: I am aware some mistypes may have occurred, placing His and Him where it should be her and she but that is simply a typo. Were I am tacking bits from the book while typing, sometimes I forget to change it. I will be going back over these chapters to make sure it's fixed so if you notice please let me know through PM or Review and if you can mention the paragraph/scene so I can find it easier. Thanks!
A/N 4/29/12: Hey, sorry it took so long, but I wasn't exactly able the last two days because of monthly cramps, if you get my meaning. I promise to have the next chapter up soon, because in all honesty this one was supposed to be a little longer but the last scene sort of snuck up on me thanks to my muse and this was the result. Hopefully I've done it justice, hard part comes when the others...well I can't say more or I'll give it away.
Also to antonymous reviewer; I love Jazz and anyone else who mentioned interest in the kittens. Unfortunately the mommy cat isn't souly owned by me, but my little sister, though my cat, demon, was the baby daddy. So I don't have any say in who gets the ones we give away. Also while I have nothing against mentioning anyone to them as potential owners the main problem remains with location. I lived way way out south of West Virginia, and so am American if it wasn't obvious. In Mingo County, Lenore and it's basically the middle of nowhere. There isn't a grocery store for twenty minutes either way you go, though there is a gas station and pizza place along with the local school a mile up the road. So, those who would adopt the kittens in seven to eight months – they're only a week old right now – would have to live between Kentucky and Charleston and be able to come and get them or meet somewhere in between because the only one who drives in my family is my older sister and brother. But as I said, I have virtually no say where the cats go.
Now moving on to something else. I would like to thank everyone who reviewed last chapter and now you may read this chapter, enjoy!
WARNING!: ANGST, VIOLENCE, TORTURE, DEATH! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Rumor Has It.
Chapter 17: Some Say It's Sick.
Voldemort paced in front of his throne, his Death Eaters, at least those responsible for the attack the day before stood gathered in front of him. His red eyes were narrowed, the slits where his nose should have been were flaring to the best of their ability. All in all he looked angry, and very dangerous. Many of the Death Eaters were shifting in uncomfortable silence. He would be lying if he said their fear didn't please him.
"You have all been called here today to...discuss," he stopped their, turning to face the assembled followers as he continued. "You have all been impertinent. King!" A rather lanky man sprung out of the group, instantly dropping to both knees in front of the snake-like man.
"Yes my Lord?" King asked and Voldemort sneered, his foot lashing out and hitting the man in the chin hard. It was rather brutish maybe, muggle some would say but he would make the exception this once and it would show just how angry he truly was with them. It wasn't like they were going to call him out on the muggle tactic.
"At least you still have manners, King. What did I tell you all Friday?" Voldemort asked as he moved to circle the downed Death Eater, his wand twirling in his left hand.
"M-my Lord, you told us that we were to attack the Village after the students had left, at six," the man said his mask having fallen off revealing a rather youthful appearance and pale blue eyes and tan skin.
"I did, didn't I," he said. "And why did I say this?"
"I-I don-don't re-recall my Lord," King stuttered and Voldemort snarled, sharply raising his wand.
"Crucio!" King screamed as the curse hit him and Voldemort chuckled as the man squirmed on the ground in front of him. He looked too his other followers as he held the man under the unforgivable.
"Do you all see, what will become of you should you disobey my orders?" Voldemort asked over Kings screams. "Now, does anyone recall why I scheduled the attack as I did?" There was silence besides Kings screams, and he observed the Death Eaters throwing each other looks and then a feminine looking one stepped forward.
"My Lord, forgive me for listening to Bellatrix's instructions. Many of us were under the impression it was your will that we leave earlier." The female, her voice giving it away, knelt and removed her hood and mask to reveal a woman no older then nineteen with pale skin, long straight black hair and a round slim face. She had sharp features and large chocolate brown eyes.
"I see, but that was not my question Ms. Parkinson," Voldemort said as he released King from the curse, leaving the man whimpering on the floor. He paused only for a moment to wonder if he'd broken the mans mind after only a minute or two. If so, then he'd have to make an example, large then he'd planed out of the man. He would have no weakness among his followers and it had been a long time since one of his followers were broken by a mere two minutes under a Crucio.
"Forgive me, if I recall My Lord the reason was simple. You did not wish to spill more magical blood then necessary and the students, the children..." He raised an eyebrow as the dark haired woman shot a sneer at Bellatrix who was openly glaring at Rebekkah Parkinson. A newer recruit. "...are our future. They will bring about the next generation of magic."
"Indeed," Voldemort said with a passive nod. "Tell me, what is so hard to understand about that? Did you know your attack has not only caused us needless resistance but has also nearly completely wiped out a very old and influential Pureblooded family." Voldemort motioned for Parkinson to raise and she did with a bow, replacing her mask and backing back into the group.
"My Lord, the Bones family are agai -" Voldemort glared.
"Crucio!" he hissed and Bellatrix collapsed, her screams as annoying as her insane yammering. "Do not begin to think you above me Bellatrix. The Bones are light, it is true but if they were neutral. Or even swayed to our way of thinking, it is after all much easier to appeal to a teenager then an adult. Do you see where I am going with this?"
The Death Eaters muttered amongst themselves and he released Bellatrix from the spell, the woman sat there, her large insane eyes glued to him as she panted.
"There is one more thing," he began. "You all attacked Meredith Potter, something I do not believe I gave you clearance to do. Actually if I recall, and I do, I plainly told you that Meredith was never to be touch. She is mine to do with as I see fit, you did not listen." He glared.
"Parkinson, do you wish to explain this to me?"
"I did not see much of Potter my Lord. I was busy fighting the Auror Tonks, but I did see the confrontation from a distance. I believed we should have left her where she lay stunned but Bellatrix..." Voldemort waved a hand to silence the girl and turned to the whimpering woman.
"My Lord, I was only doing your will." Voldemort laughed, sending a chill down their spines.
"Crucio!" he spat, and watched as the former Black thrashed under the spell. "My will you say, you will do my will when I say so Bellatrix but no one is to touch Potter. She is...no longer a problem to us."
"May I ask why?" Voldemort turned, ending the spell on Bellatrix to see Rodolphus.
"You may, but I will not elaborate. Meredith Potter is not to be bothered unless told so, maybe in time your question will become clear Rodolphus. Now I tire of this mockery before me. Leave." He turned walking up the step like area to his throne.
"My Lord, my brother-in-law?" Parkinson questioned as she remained behind and Voldemort stopped turned and stared at the drooling puddle of disgrace before him. Zachary King was the husband of Rebekkah's twin sister, Robbin, if he recalled correctly.
"Ah, yes." He raised his wand. "Avada Kadavra!" The green light speed free of the wand and collided with King, sending the man into a everlasting sleep. He raised an eyebrow at the Parkinson girl who sighed, and shook her head.
"I suppose it is a good thing Robbin is pregnant with twins." He heard her mutter and then turned to leave with the others, uncaring.
"Let this be a lesson for you all, and Rodolphus. Take your wife with you," Voldemort ordered as he sat in his chair and stroked Nagini who moved to coil around him protectively.
::Was that wise?:: Nagini asked as she flicked her tongue across his cheek. He sighed, his snake-like form melting back to his human appearance. ::You could have given away your intentions for Meredith. Your followers may not see her the way you do my Lord, I smelt many scents of hate, jealousy and distaste this night when she was brought up.::
::Do not worry Nagini, I am aware that my words could have a negative effect but all the more to weed out the bad eggs, so to say. Just out of curiosity who were these scents from?:: he asked.
::The Black Lady, mostly. She seems to hate the red-she-snake for some reason.::
::I see. I shall keep an eye on Bella then.:: Tom's eyes landed on the corpse of King and he sighed before turning to his familiar. ::Nagini would you like dinner?::
Nagini hissed in pleasure and slid from the throne and Tom and towards the broken corpse.
"Enjoy Nagini," Tom said as he stood and headed towards his study.
That night he found himself in the dreamscape and went about waiting for Meredith to appear. It was rather unusual that she took longer then a few minutes to appear after he did, and vice versa. Without much waiting he walked over to his desk and as his back was turned he felt the room shift slightly and knew Meredith had arrived.
"Did you return to Hogwarts safely, Meredith?" Tom asked as he turned to meet Meredith as she appeared in the middle of the study, the room the dreamscape had chosen to take the illusion of this time. He would admit he was happy to see her again and healed at that. Meredith met his red eyes and grinned, something he was so unused to that it made him feel strange. He had to wonder if he would understand these emotions better when he destroyed the remaining Horcruxes – excluding Nagini of course.
"Everything went great, but Dumbledore..." Tom's eyes narrowed.
"Did he do something?" She shook her head.
"Not exactly, I think Snape and him may be suspicious of me. He seemed oddly...familiar and shocked when he saw my form." Meredith sighed as she took Toms hand and pulled him to a sofa against the far wall.
"I'll look into a remedy for the problem." Tom began. "I hadn't thought of this, if the cat doesn't show up again at the manor it may cause more problems."
Meredith nodded before speaking up again, her hand intertwined with Tom's has she spoke. "I had another lesson with Dumbledore today."
She wasn't that surprised when Tom's head snapped up from where he was staring at their intertwined hands. She had noticed he did that a lot, it was painfully obvious he wasn't used to such actions in the past. In a lot of ways she supposed Tom was a virgin when it came to true relationships and not the flings and manipulative ones he'd had in his youth.
"I see," Tom began. "He continued showing you memories then or did he begin teaching you something I couldn't tell you over tea?" Meredith smiled, amused at the mans bitterly sarcastic tone.
"He didn't show me a spell that could heat water," she said dryly, the amusement leaking through her voice despite her trying to keep it hidden. "He asked me how I was, just small talk really. Then we entered the memory."
Tom sneered. "And what was it this time? How I brushed my teeth before and after every meal?" Meredith raised an eyebrow.
"Do you?" she asked and the Dark Lord snorted.
"No, after every meal I do, before is just a bloody waste of time." Meredith chuckled.
"Of course," she said before sobering. "It was the day he went to the orphanage to meet you...would you like to see it?" Tom stared ahead his brows furrow as if thinking of something and she noticed he bit his lip once before turning to her and nodded.
"I would." Meredith nodded and stood up. Noticing Tom was about to get up too she moved in front of him and pushed him back down before moving to sit in his lap, her knee on either side of him.
"Well, this is creative," Tom said smirking and Meredith smirked back, leaning down to place a chaste kiss on his lips before moving back. Placing her hands on either side of his face she stared into his red eyes and then just like the last time they had done this she felt light and then the memory floated through what felt like both there minds.
"I am here, as I told you in my letter, to discuss Tom Riddle and arrangements for his future," said Dumbledore.
"Are you family?" asked Mrs. Cole.
"No, I am a teacher," said Dumbledore. "I have come to offer Tom a place at my school."
"What school's this, then?"
"It is called Hogwarts," said Dumbledore.
"And how come you're interested in Tom?"
"We believe he has qualities we are looking for."
"You mean he's won a scholarship? How can he have done? He's never been entered for one."
"Well, his name has been down for our school since birth —"
"Who registered him? His parents?"
Tom watched this all with an impassive face but on the inside he was confused. What was Dumbledore getting from this, the fact he was using magic on the woman made it that much more strange. It almost seemed like he had more knowledge of him back then then he was letting on. Though maybe he was looking to much into this.
"I was wondering whether you could tell me anything of Tom Riddle's history? I think he was born here in the orphanage?"
"That's right," said Mrs. Cole, helping herself to more gin. "I remember it clear as anything, because I'd just started here myself. New Year's Eve and bitter cold, snowing, you know. Nasty night. And this girl, not much older than I was myself at the time, came staggering up the front steps. Well, she wasn't the first. We took her in, and she had the baby within the hour. And she was dead in another hour."
…."Now, as it happens, she did," said Mrs. Cole, who seemed to be rather enjoying herself now, with the gin in her hand and an eager audience for her story.
"I remember she said to me, 'I hope he looks like his papa,' and I won't lie, she was right to hope it, because she was no beauty — and then she told me he was to be named Tom, for his father, and Marvolo, for her father — yes, I know, funny name, isn't it? We wondered whether she came from a circus — and she said the boy's surname was to be Riddle. And she died soon after that without another word." She shook her head.
"Well, we named him just as she'd said, it seemed so important to the poor girl, but no Tom nor Marvolo nor any kind of Riddle ever came looking for him, nor any family at all, so he stayed in the orphanage and he's been here ever since."
Mrs. Cole helped herself, almost absentmindedly, to another healthy measure of gin. Two pink spots had appeared high on her cheekbones. Then she said, "He's a funny boy."
"Yes," said Dumbledore. "I thought he might be."
"He was a funny baby too. He hardly ever cried, you know. And then, when he got a little older, he was… odd."
Tom snorted, odd indeed. He recalled most the babies that came into the orphanage cried and he had always hated it. It was a reminder of where he was and what he didn't have, the reason he detested crying and weakness so much, he supposed now that he actually thought about it.
'I don't think it's odd Tom,' he heard Meredith's mental voice at his side as he observed the memory. 'I wasn't that loud as a baby either.'
"Billy Stubbs's rabbit… well, Tom said he didn't do it and I don't see how he could have done, but even so, it didn't hang itself from the rafters, did it?"
"I shouldn't think so, no," said Dumbledore quietly.
"But I'm jiggered if I know how he got up there to do it. All I know is he and Billy had argued the day before. And then"— Mrs. Cole took another swig of gin, slopping a little over her chin this time — "on the summer outing — we take them out, you know, once a year, to the countryside or to the seaside — well, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop were never quite right afterwards, and all we ever got out of them was that they'd gone into a cave with Tom Riddle. He swore they'd just gone exploring, but something happened in there, I'm sure of it. And, well, there have been a lot of things, funny things…"
"I don't think many people will be sorry to see the back of him."
"You understand, I'm sure, that we will not be keeping him permanently?" said Dumbledore. "He will have to return here, at the very least, every summer."
"Oh, well, that's better than a whack on the nose with a rusty poker," said Mrs. Cole... "I suppose you'd like to see him?"
"Very much," said Dumbledore, rising too.
Tom sneered at the memory Dumbledore, noticing that Meredith had very peculiar expressions the entire time. It was sort of strange to be looking at a memory of someone looking at a memory, but it was clear to him she too had similar thought patterns. What was Dumbledore trying to do with these questions? It was almost like he had seen this sort of situation before.
"I am Professor Dumbledore."
"'Professor'?" repeated Riddle. He looked wary. "Is that like 'doctor'? What are you here for? Did she get you in to have a look at me?"
"No, no," said Dumbledore, smiling.
"I don't believe you," said Riddle. "She wants me looked at, doesn't she? Tell the truth!"
"Who are you?"
"I have told you. My name is Professor Dumbledore and I work at a school called Hogwarts. I have come to offer you a place at my school — your new school, if you would like to come."
Riddle's reaction to this was most surprising. He leapt from the bed and backed away from Dumbledore, looking furious.
"You can't kid me! The asylum, that's where you're from, isn't it? 'Professor,' yes, of course — well, I'm not going, see? That old cat's the one who should be in the asylum. I never did anything to little Amy Benson or Dennis Bishop, and you can ask them, they'll tell you!"
"I am not from the asylum," said Dumbledore patiently. "I am a teacher and, if you will sit down calmly, I shall tell you about Hogwarts. Of course, if you would rather not come to the school, nobody will force you —"
"I'd like to see them try," sneered Tom...
The memory went on from there and ended in Dumbledore's office. He blinked as he was once again aware of looking into Meredith's lovely mismatched eyes. She sat back some as she came to and smiled slightly at him, and he knew she was trying to appraise his reaction to the memory.
"Strange memory for him to show you," he began. "There is one in my fourth year where I escorted a lost first year to class to my grave annoyance. I wonder if that holds any credence to fighting me and my evil ways?"
Meredith chuckled. "I don't know, who was the first year?" she asked and he shrugged and then smirked.
"Actually, that was a bad analogy." he muttered as the identity of the first year came back to him. Meredith raised an eyebrow and slowly swung her leg over and collapsed into a sitting position on his left.
"Nope, you have to answer."
Tom sighed. "Myrtle Hale, Ravenclaw."
Meredith's eyes widened. "Moaning Myrtle!" Tom nodded and Meredith laughed at the irony. "I don't know Tom, he may just show me that memory yet."
A few minutes latter after the redhead had calmed down the two sat in silence, simply enjoying being with each other.
"Tom, what was all that with the rabbit?" she asked, startling him. "What did the poor little bunny do to you?" Tom raised an eyebrow and sighed.
"Well, for one it was alive," he said dryly and Meredith huffed, hitting him on the arm. He chuckled, it was something no one had ever done, hit him playfully like that. No one had ever been bold enough but Meredith didn't seem to fear much, not even death, and he envied that trait in her.
"Billy Stubbs, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop were friends, and had been there as long as I had. Though they were a year or two older then me," Tom began as he wrapped an arm around Meredith and began twirling her loose hair in his hand. "I suppose you could compare them to your cousin and his group."
Meredith winced and Tom looked down at her. "Would you like to see my memory of what caused me to kill the bunny as you so poetically put it?" Meredith smiled, happy he was willing to open up to her and nodded.
"You remember what to do?" Tom asked and she nodded. Their gazes locked and what felt like only seconds latter she inside his memory, watching as a small boy, no older then six sat alone on a playground like area, probably the back of the Orphanage.
"Hey Bill, lookie what we have here!" a short boy, seven or eight said as he approached the secluded younger boy who seemed preoccupied by something in front of him.
The approaching boy had a permanent sneer on his face, looking like something smelly had crawled up his nose and died. His hair was longer, pale blond and beady brown eyes that resembled mud more so then any brown eyes she'd ever seen. Behind him was a girl, with long plaits in her black hair, pale skin much like all the children there and two large but cruel slate gray colored eyes.
The last boy, obviously Bill, or Billy as she was sure was his given name was taller, maybe a year older then the other two with messy brown hair and big blue eyes, and a mean look about him. He seemed to smile cruelly upon seeing where his two friends were headed.
"If it isn't the freak spawn," Billy spat as the three surrounded Tom. Tom looked up his face passive yet no where near as cold as the memories she had seen before. His eyes were also more open but obviously suspicious and guarded. In his hands was a small green snake, no longer then one of the boys arms from finger tip to forearm, if that.
"Go away Billy, Amy, Dennis," Tom muttered as he stood up only to be pushed down by the blond boy, who sneered at him as he landed on his butt.
"We don't want too," the boy snarled, lashing out with his foot which collided with Tom's leg painfully.
"Oh, is little Tommy-wommy going to cry to mummy?" Amy mocked and the three kids laughed.
"Where is your mummy Tom?" Billy asked. "Is she dead Riddle? Is your mummy dead?"
"Shut up!" Tom cried, his face cold and hard, only ruined by the shine of tears in his eyes. "Did you hear me, I said shut up!" This caused the three kids to quiet down and stare at him.
"Hissing, did you hear that Amy, Billy?" Dennis asked as he moved forward. "Riddle's more of a freak then we thought, he's trying to talk like that stupid snake he is so fond of."
"Freaks shouldn't have pets," Amy said smirking.
"Not my pet, he's my friend," Tom muttered as he stood up.
"Pets, friends, doesn't matter. It's not for freaks Riddle," Billy said with a laugh and reached forward to take the snake which hissed but didn't do anything more. Being the kind of snake it was it didn't really have many defenses. Tom jerked back, trying to protect his friend but was grabbed by Amy and Dennis who held him by the arm and the boy cried out in alarm as the snake was wretched from his hands.
"Friends never stay with freaks, Riddle, they always die. Like your mummy," Billy sneered as he held the snake up in front of him.
"Give him back!" Billy laughed.
"You want him back Riddle?" Billy asked and then Tom's eyes widened as the boy slung the snake with all his might at the ground,and the snake made a popping sound as it hit, blood leaking from it's head. "Then go get him."
Tom stared with teary eyes at the spot where his first friend lay, unmoving, in shock. He didn't even noticed when he was released and the three bullies began walking away. He sniffled and then turned slightly his eyes cold and frosty as he sneered at the retreating bullies. In that moment, he vowed revenge.
Meredith didn't realize she was crying until she came out of the memory and had her head buried in Tom's chest.
"Those, those evil little cockroaches!" she raged, shaking her head. "It's no wonder you killed the rabbit and oooh, it just makes me so mad!"
"It wasn't just me who was targeted." Tom shrugged. "It doesn't matter little Redbird, they're all dead nowadays anyway, well at least Amy and Dennis are."
Meredith looked up at him. "What do you mean?"
"Well, Billy was nearly two year older then me and left the Orphanage at seventeen. Years latter when I looked into his location I found he was in prison for rape and murder. I figure he is still there, if he's not dead. Amy suffered from an unfortunate accident at twenty and Dennis followed soon after his fiance and killed himself." Meredith raised an eyebrow and smirked.
"Both accidents, I'm sure," she said and Tom blinked and smiled.
"Tom there is one more thing before we wake up," Meredith began and Tom looked at her and waited for her to continue. "The ring, it's gone. I wanted to bring it to you next time we met but when I left his office the ring wasn't there anymore."
Tom sighed. "The ring doesn't matter anymore, it's already been taken care of. I've already had Bellatrix go to Gringotts and retrieve the cup, I just need the Diadem from Hogwarts."
Meredith nodded. "But how do I get into the room? With Draco using it for whatever nefarious plot you've got cooking..." Tom chuckled.
"Simply ask him to take you, you are to the head of his Mother's family in less then a year. It would be in his best interest to listen." Meredith rolled her eyes, why didn't she think of that. Smiling she leaned up, pressing her lips to his just as she woke from the dreamscape.
Meredith had Herbology first thing the following morning, something she found rather annoying since she wasn't that into the subject. She had too many fond memories of working in her Aunt Petunia's garden to enjoy the subject. She had been unable to tell Ron and Hermione about her lesson with Dumbledore over breakfast for fear of being over-heard, and she hadn't returned from the Chamber for two hours, longer then she'd wanted to be gone but necessary.
She had however filled them in as they walked across the vegetable patch toward the greenhouses. The weekend's brutal wind had died out at last; the weird mist had returned and it took them a little longer than usual to find the correct greenhouse. They noticed instantly that a lot of the students were not present, many in mourning and others simply to disturbed by the Saturday attack to come to Tuesday lessons.
Attack or no attack she knew Hermione would never miss a lesson, even if she was bleeding out she'd still attempt to go. It was pretty unsurprising that a majority of those present were Slytherin's and Ravenclaws.
"Wow, scary thought, the boy You-Know-Who," said Ron quietly,
as they took their places around one of the gnarled Snargaluff stumps that formed this terms project, and began pulling on their protective gloves.
Meredith chuckled. "Well you didn't think he sprouted out of nowhere did you?" she asked and Hermione snorted at Ron's dumbfounded expression.
"True I guess, but I still don't get why Dumbledore's showing you all this. I mean, it's really interesting and everything, but what's the point?"
"Dunno," said Meredith, inserting a gum shield. "Personally I think all those lemon drops have knocked a few screws loose..."
"Merry!" Hermione gasped out, her face torn between amusement and being scandalized. Ron didn't fight his amusement and chuckled while Meredith smirked slightly.
"I'm just speaking the truth. I think it's a big waste of time, considering my stance in everything it's an even bigger waste." Ron and Hermione exchanged looks.
"So, you're really serious about being neutral? I mean totally completely serious, you're not gonna change your mind anytime soon serious?" Ron asked and Meredith sighed.
"I am. I'm sorry, I love you guys but I'm not some superhero, I can't save you. Not when I'm..." she shook her head. "Just leave him alone and he won't attack you."
"How can you say that, be so sure of that?" Hermione asked suspiciously and Meredith berated herself for being so careless.
"I just do," she replied and Hermione's eyes widened. Meredith could practically see the steam from the cogs moving in the intelligent witches mind and as she caught the others eye she whispered, 'Legilimens', and was such into the girls surface thoughts.
'She wouldn't, would she?'
'Meredith isn't as sweet as she pretends to be, even you know that'
'But she wouldn't join that monster would she?'
'Maybe if she knew something we didn't. Maybe he isn't as bad as we all assume?'
'How can he not, look at what happened Saturday?'
'But he wasn't there was he? Who has actually met him to be sure –'
'It makes no difference, what is to say she's joined him?'
'What is to say she hasn't? Tom Marvolo Riddle, maybe she didn't join Voldemort maybe she joined him?'
'Whats the difference?'
'Maybe nothing, maybe everything.'
'But how, why, she couldn't of?'
'Look at the signs, she's been more distant lately, stressed over something. She disappears for hours, and give flimsy excuses that may fool Ron but not me.'
'That mysterious older friend who sent her those books, the spells...the way she reacted when I almost opened that book at the beginning of term...'
'She didn't put up much of a fight Saturday until Bellatrix attacked her...'
'That friend...MRT...Marvin Royce Thompson...Marv...Thom...R...'
'TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE! MRT...TMR!'
Meredith pulled out then, not wanting or needing to read anymore. From the owl like stare Hermione had on her face she had figured it out enough that she was in trouble. Especially if she told, and she couldn't allow that.
"Hermione..." Ron trailed off as he waved his free hand in her face and Hermione shook her head.
"I think it's fascinating," said Hermione earnestly but Meredith could see something amiss in her voice and expression. "It makes absolute sense to know as much about Voldemort as possible. How else will you find out his weaknesses?"
"Well, I don't need to know his weaknesses, but I suppose they would be a good thing to know if I were to need them or use them," she said softly and then shook her head.
"So how was Slughorn's latest party?" Meredith asked her thickly through the gum shield.
"Oh, it was quite fun, really," said Hermione, now putting on protective goggles. "I mean, he drones on about famous exploits a bit, and he absolutely fawns on McLaggen because he's so well connected, but he gave us some really nice food and he introduced us to Gwenog Jones."
"Gwenog Jones?" said Ron, his eyes widening under his own goggles. "The Gwenog Jones? Captain of the Holyhead Harpies?"
"That's right," said Hermione. "Personally, I thought she was a bit full of herself, but —"
"Quite enough chat over here!" said Professor Sprout briskly, bustling over and looking stern. "You're lagging behind, everybody else has started, and Neville's already got his first pod!"
They looked around; sure enough, there sat Neville with a bloody lip and several nasty scratches along the side of his face, but clutching an unpleasantly pulsating green object about the size of a grapefruit.
"Okay, Professor, we're starting now!" said Ron, adding quietly, when she had turned away again, "Should've used Muffliato, Meredith."
"No, we shouldn't!" said Hermione at once, looking, as she always did, intensely cross at the thought of the Half-Blood Prince and his spells. "Well, come on… we'd better get going…"
"Hermione, the spell isn't dangerous." Meredith said, rolling her eyes.
"Right, it just saves us from a tongue lashing if caught -"
As if to prove the point Sprout shouted, "Weasley, if I see your mouth move again without a proper excuse it'll be detention for a week!"
Hermione gave the other two an apprehensive look before sighing and they all took deep breaths and then dived at the gnarled stump between them.
It sprang to life at once; long, prickly, bramble-like vines flew out of the top and whipped through the air. One tangled itself in Hermione's hair, and Ron beat it back with a pair of secateurs; Meredith succeeded in trapping a couple of vines and knotting them together; a hole opened in the middle of all the tentacle-like branches; Hermione plunged her arm bravely into this hole, which closed like a trap around her elbow.
Meredith and Ron tugged and wrenched at the vines, forcing the hole to open again, and Hermione snatched her arm free, clutching in her fingers a pod just like Neville's. At once, the prickly vines shot back inside, and the gnarled stump sat there looking like an innocently dead lump of wood.
"You know, I don't think I'll be having any of these in my garden when I've got my own place," said Ron, pushing his goggles up onto his forehead and wiping sweat from his face.
"I can't see you having a garden Ron," Meredith said with a snort.
"Pass me a bowl," said Hermione, holding the pulsating pod at arm's length; Meredith handed one over and she dropped the pod into it with a look of disgust on her face.
"Meredith, we need to talk soon," Hermione whisper as she leaned closer to Meredith to deposit the pod. Meredith sighed and nodded.
"Don't be squeamish, squeeze it out, they're best when they're fresh!" called Professor Sprout.
"Anyway," said Hermione, continuing their interrupted conversation as though a lump of wood had not just attacked them, "Slughorn's going to have a Christmas party, Meredith, and there's no way you'll be able to wriggle out of this one because he actually asked me to check your free evenings, so he could be sure to have it on a night you can come."
Meredith groaned. "I suppose I'll have too, not to mention tonight. Hopefully I didn't get myself into a awkward evening."
Though it would be a wonderful time to give him those pineapple candies she'd been saving for just the right occasion. Maybe she could even asked Zabini why Theo kept looking at her with those strange stares. She hadn't forgotten Zabini's warning but she'd been little more relaxed then maybe she should have been.
Meanwhile, Ron, who was attempting to burst the pod in the bowl by putting both hands on it, standing up, and squashing it as hard as he could, said angrily, "And this is another party just for Slughorn's favorites, is it?"
"Just for the Slug Club, yes," said Hermione.
The pod flew out from under Ron's fingers and hit the green house glass, rebounding onto the back of Professor Sprout's head and knocking off her old, patched hat. Meredith winced, and went to retrieve the pod.
"Sorry Professor," she said and Sprout sighed and handed the escaped pod back to her student.
"See that you keep a firm hand on that pod Ms. Potter," Professor Sprout said and Meredith nodded before returning; when she got back, Hermione was saying, "Look, I didn't make up the name 'Slug Club' —"
"'Slug Club,'" repeated Ron with a sneer worthy of Malfoy. Something she was sure would be the worst sort of insult to the redhead.
"It's pathetic. Well, I hope you enjoy your party. Why don't you try hooking up with McLaggen, then Slughorn can make you King and Queen Slug —"
"We're allowed to bring guests," said Hermione, who for some reason had turned a bright, boiling scarlet, "and I was going to ask you to come, but if you think it's that stupid then I won't bother!"
Meredith suddenly wished the pod had flown a little farther, so that she need not have been sitting here with the pair of them. Unnoticed by either, she seized the bowl that contained the pod and began to try and open it by the noisiest and most energetic means she could think of; unfortunately, she could still hear every word of their conversation.
Despite the fact she had tried banging, stabbing, cutting with a cutting curse it all seemed to leave the pod unaffected and not be loud enough to drown her friends out.
"You were going to ask me?" asked Ron, in a completely different voice.
"Yes," said Hermione angrily. "But obviously if you'd rather I hooked up with McLaggen…" There was a pause while Meredith continued to pound the resilient pod with a trowel.
"'No, I wouldn't,'" said Ron, in a very quiet voice. "I bet Meredith will take me!"
Meredith missed the pod in her shock, around the same time Hermione had gasped, and hit the bowl, shattering it.
"You'd rather go with Meredith then? Have you developed feeling for her recently we should know about?" Hermione exclaimed, maybe a little too loudly making Meredith sigh and cast a quiet Muffliato under her breathe.
"Reparo," she said hastily, poking the pieces with her wand, and the bowl sprang back together again. The crash, and actions after, however, appeared to have awoken Ron and Hermione to Meredith's presence. Hermione looked flustered and immediately started fussing about for her copy of Flesh-Eating Trees of the World to find out the correct way to juice Snargaluff pods; Ron, on the other hand, looked sheepish but also rather pleased with himself.
"You know I can't take you right Ron?" Meredith asked as she looked over at her best friend who sighed.
"We could just go as friends," he said and she shook her head.
"You know the only reason you want to go is because Hermione will be there and you blew your chance to go. You also know whoever I go with is gonna start rumors and I can't start that with you because it would hurt Hermione and not to mention be awkward. Your my brother, dude."
"Dude, you seriously just said dude?" Ron asked with a chuckle and Meredith smiled.
"Hand that over, Meredith," said Hermione hurriedly. "It says we're supposed to puncture them with something sharp…"
"But...I stabbed it, and...hello, cutting curse!" Meredith said, almost whining as she handed the pod in the bowl.
"It has to be made without magic, and your wand is magical," she said and Meredith scuffed as she and Ron both snapped their goggles back over their eyes and dived, once more, for the stump. It was not as though she was really surprised, thought Meredith, as she wrestled with a thorny vine intent upon throttling her; she had had an inkling that this might happen sooner or later. But she was not sure how she felt about it…she didn't want to be tag along, the third wheel.
She and Tom couldn't exactly be seen together in public, even though few knew his true appearance and the red eyes were sort of a give away. Not to mention she didn't know if he could last more then fifteen minutes with throwing a crucio at the first overly annoying person. She couldn't exactly have a decoy relationship either, Tom would kill the decoy before it could even be suggested and she truly didn't want to. That wasn't the point though.
What if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Meredith remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; she had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. She decided it didn't matter after a minute, things were looking pretty grime for the Golden Trio anyways.
"Gotcha!" yelled Ron, pulling a second pod from the stump just as Hermione managed to burst the first one open, so that the bowl was full of tubers wriggling like pale green worms.
The rest of the lesson passed without further mention of Slughorn's party. Herbology ended and the rest of the day was spent in either class or free periods. One such free period found them talking about the D.A and she told them all she'd found the Dueling Chamber and that they'd meet for the first time after Halloween, on November 4th, which was the first Monday of the new month.
Then just before dinner Hermione pulled her to Moaning Myrtles bathroom to get ready for Slughorn's dinner – which Hermione wouldn't let her forget had been her idea – for some privacy. She knew what the girl wanted to ask and she dreaded it. She fully anticipated loosing her first real female friend, and she'd been psyching herself up for this all day.
"It's not true, is it?" Hermione asked as they changed in stalls next to each other, the Muffliato spell in effect. She could only hope it worked on Ghost, even though Myrtle didn't seem to be there at the moment. She of course didn't tell Hermione the spell was in place knowing how the girl felt about the Half-Blood prince.
"You'll have to be more clear Hermione. A lot of thing are true, for instance the carpet does match the drapes," she said mock seriously as she pulled on her dress.
The dress just barely hit above her knees and was a bright green satin, but seemed darker because of the Rose colored lace over top of it and then there was a satin sash-like belt around her waist. She had already switched her school shoes for some purple heels that matched perfectly the dark purple shrug on jacket that had silver beaded designs.
Hermione huffed. "You know what I mean Merry, I know you do," she began. "Have you betrayed us to him?"
Meredith winced at the words as she placed the purple lily clip into the right side of her hair, the hair on that side swept slightly up and out of her face because of it. "I didn't betray you..."
"But? Merry, what did you do?" Meredith slipped on a Fleur de Lis necklace and stepped out of the stall at the same time that Hermione did. She wore something almost completely different. Her hair was half up with a golden clip and she wore a blue blouse and long knee length silk skirt in the same color, and lighter blue heels similar to her own.
"You wouldn't understand Hermione, just trust me on this," she pleaded but from the look on Hermione's face she wasn't going to leave this alone.
"MRT, MRT...there the same person aren't they?" she asked and Meredith sighed, nodding as she stared at the space behind Hermione.
"How could you? Marvin Thompson doesn't exist does he? It's always been Tom Riddle, hasn't it?" Meredith looked away from the accusing brown eyes and walked over to the sinks.
"You weren't supposed to find out like this?" she said, her voice catching in her throat. Tears were slowly filling her eyes now.
"Why? He's a monster Merry, look at what he's done?" Hermione said, her voice pleading as she stared at her friends back. "He's using you, he doesn't care about you he doesn't care about anyone!"
"You don't understand."
"I understand, he offered you attention, acceptance. He offered you companionship when we practically ignored you because Dumbledore told us to," Hermione shook her head. "But it's a lie Meredith. He killed Sirius, he killed your parents!"
Meredith spun around, tears in her eyes. "You don't get it! He's not like that, he's not a saint, and yeah, he killed my parents but don't you dare bring Sirius into this!" Meredith yelled.
"I'm just looking after you, I don't want you to get hurt and your headed for disaster!" Hermione cried back.
"Tom isn't all he appears Hermione, if he was do you really think he would have let me go on Sunday? He had me right there, and he never did anything I didn't entice." She stared at her friends shocked face as she felt the tears fall. "I love him Hermione. I know it's sick, and I never meant to do it, but I do. I know I'm gonna loose every friend I have over him and I can't hate him for that and I can't leave him because of it." She was almost sobbing now as she moved closer, the tears falling like rain.
"Oh Merry," Hermione muttered, her face and eyes softening.
"I don't want to fight this war, it was never mine to begin with. I was just born and then because of some fraud who needed or wanted attention and a job I was put on the spot. For gods sake the prophecy didn't even say anything about a girl, and I'm still here with this scar." Meredith shrugged and continued.
"Your right, he's a monster but he's only what the world made him and I can't blame him for that. I've seen his past like no one else can because I lived it myself. His memory was right, we are alike, and maybe it's because of that this happened. Maybe fate hates us, but it's done, it's over and I'm moving on."
Hermione stared at her friend, stricken. "Please, don't leave."
Meredith turned back to her from, she had been using a paper towel to wipe her eyes but they were still noticeably puffy. Hermione sighed and took the other girls hand and led her to the sink.
"I'm sorry. I won't pretend to understand what you see him him, and I won't pretend to like him but your my friend Merry. Your my sister and no matter what you do I'll always love you." Hermione smiled softly at her friend and breathed a sigh of relief when the girl threw herself into her arms.
"Thank you," she said and then a moment latter pulled back. "I am so sorry, about lying to you all. Understand I just couldn't tell you all I was being sucked into dreamscapes every other night for some quality time with the man perceived as the anti-Christ by everyone. I don't trust Dumbledore as far as I could throw one of his lemon drops and I was afraid of this very moment. I didn't want to loose you all and then I went and fell in love and it all went to shit creek and I broke the bloody paddle."
Hermione laughed at her friends rambling. "You'll tell me more latter? I want to understand, but first we need to get you presentable for Slughorn's dinner. We don't have much time either."
"Thanks Mione," Meredith muttered.
"Mer," Hermione asked a few minutes latter as she finished making Meredith's eyes less red and puffy.
"The attack on Saturday, did you know about it?" Meredith sighed.
"First you have to understand that Tom did some stupid crap in his school days and it cost him his sanity. When he started this war he wasn't fully there and now he's regaining some of it back. I'm helping him achieve it, and the affect is apparent. I've already been able to talk to him about his motives and plans if he won and whatnot. I don't think you'll have to worry about him causing the Apocalypse by trying to killing a billion plus muggles and muggle-borns."
Hermione listened intently.
"I knew about the attack, I helped plan it." At Hermione's hurt look she added quickly. "But it was never meant to go the way it did. The Death Eaters attacked hours ahead of schedule, and the students got caught in the attack when they were never meant to. My capture was also a blunder on their part and we had to work on a way to get me out without making Dumbledore suspicious."
"You animagus form?" She nodded.
"I've been working on since this summer. I was telling the truth, Sirius did begin to teach me but Tom finished my training. He also taught me Occlumency and little Legilimency, and other things." Meredith shrugged. "We came up with the plan to use my form to stage my escape. In order to do this though we had to stage my torture as well."
"So those wounds?" Hermione asked Meredith looked down and blushed.
"He didn't want to hurt me, but uh I knew we had to make it look real. I told him to think of it as rough foreplay." Instead of the gasp of outrage it enticed laughter from her brunette friend.
"Rough foreplay? I didn't realize you were into kink Meredith." Meredith gaped at her friend.
"I didn't realize you knew what kink was Hermione Granger." Hermione sighed and took her friends arm into hers.
"We have to go now, we'll be late as it is." Hermione said and they began to leave the bathroom. "By the way what's in the bag?"
"Candied Pineapple, it's for Slughorn." Hermione chuckled.
"That's his favorite, but something tells me you already knew that."