She was finally going to see him again. He had sent a note, asking her to meet him under the tree where they had first met. There had gone many a year since she had first seen him, her mysterious friend.

The day she first met him she had been taking a walk in the extensive woods surrounding her father's mansion. As she walked, she suddenly heard a hissing sound from a nearby thicket. She burst into a clearing and saw the origin of the hissing. A pale, handsome young man with black hair was crouching next to a poisonous green serpent, and seemed to be trying to converse with it on its own language!

The moment he heard her he whipped around with his wand out. Although he relaxed slightly and put away the wand when he saw she was only a seventeen-year-old girl, she was careful to make no threatening moves. Whatever had made him so jumpy?

"Sorry", she said out loud.

"I didnt know … I mean-I heard the hissing noise you were making and I… What are you doing in these grounds anyway?"

The man scrutinized her carefully, and his eyes rested for a moment on her wand, which poked out of her pocket.

"No, I am sorry," he said with a sudden smile.

"I have a certain fascination for snakes, and it so happens that this forest hosts a great variety of them. The hissing noise I make soothes them." After a few more hisses, the snake slid away into the underground.

"Oh," she fumbled for a moment…

"Then perhaps you would like to come up to my fathers place? He's got a humungous library with books about everything from snakes to quidditch."

He had been delighted at the idea, and the rest of the day they spent entombed under old, dusty tomes from her fathers great collection of books.

During that day they swapped life-stories and got to know each other quite well. So they met again the next day, and the day after that, until suddenly her father started setting stupid restrictions about when to be in at the evening and wanting to know the boy she went out with, and before that mess was cleared up school began again.

Next vacation when she was home, her fears had led her to believe he had forgotten her, but no, there he was again, standing beside the tree where they had first met.

They continued to see each other, sometimes every week, sometimes every month, and always he had something interesting to tell her or to show.

She on her part regaled him with wondrous stories of the many doings of her ancestors. One of them, for instance, had challenged another wizard to a duel because he had presumably told his house-elf to put bulbadock-powder in his knickerbockers! The whole thing was dreadfully complicated and ended in a great tragedy.

So, time had flown by, he became more and more friendly and she more and more in love.

Times changed, though. His visits stopped quite suddenly, about the same time The Dark Lord appeared. Mysterious disappearances and deaths became almost daily now, and when her father was put in Azkaban, convicted of death-eater activity, and later died there, she stopped thinking about anything much for a while.

All this was the reason that when she got his note and went to see him, she was totally unprepared, but not very surprised.

The person standing beneath the tree bore only faint resemblance to the handsome boy she knew. He was cloaked in black velvet that resembled dark mist, his skin was whiter than ever, his nose resembled a snake's nose and his eyes were red slits.

Yet when his eyes fell upon her, his lips parted in that familiar smile and he said with outmost courtesy,

"I am so sorry. I heard about your father and would have called on you earlier, but I'm afraid I've been rather busy."

Zaphira smiled too, but rather sadly, as the recent loss of her father still made all talk of him painful.

"I understand completely," she said, "things have been in a havoc lately. The Dark Lord is growing stronger daily…" Her voice died out as she again remembered her father.

"That is precisely what I called on you about," he told her.

"Shall we return to your manor? I have something important to tell you, and it is unsafe to linger outside in these troubled times."

He conducted her back through the forest, and once inside bolted and locked the doors. This was normal behaviour, there was after all a war on, and so Zaphira did not consider anything wrong. But when he magicked all the curtains close and asked her whether she had seen or heard anything unusual in the forest, she began to wonder.

"No, I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary," she said, "is someone following you?"

"I'm not sure… It is best to be careful."

Satisfied that no-one but them were in the house, his face returned to the nonchalant expression of happier times.

"So- What have you been up to since my last visit?

Telling him all about her grief at her father's death and the hard times that followed seemed to help. She had not spoken to anybody about it before, and now found herself pouring out her innermost thoughts and feelings to her friend.

They ate dinner together over a lavishly set table, and both enjoyed many discussions on some of the finer points of magic.

As the dark descended, the light waned, and finally he rose to leave. Walking him to the doors she saw him steeling himself, and before Zaphira could stop herself, she blurted out:

"Would you like to stay the night?"

She fully expected him to laugh, but he only smiled ever so faintly and said

"I would be honoured." So he did.

The next morning, she woke to find the pillow besides her empty. Pulling on her magenta robes she descended the stairs and saw him peering out of the window again.

"What's going on?" she asked him, the first beginnings of fright stirring at the sight of his bleak face.

"There is something I have to tell you, something important," he said, repeating his words from the night before.

"Will you tell me," she questioned rather testily," or do I have to pry it out of you?"

He opened his mouth to retort, and… KABANG!

The door burst open.

Both their heads whipped around. A dozen ministry aurors appeared through the shambles of the former door, shooting spells all the way, and Zaphira watched in a kind of spell-induced daze as two aurors snatched her wand and conjured magical manacles for her hands, to keep her from doing wandless magic. Why had they come?

"There he is! He went that way!" At the shout most of them ran toward the stairs where, sure enough, a black cloak had just flickered out of sight.

"You are Zaphira Gerane, owner of this house?" A tense witch, one of those who had stayed behind, interrogated her.

"Why were you in the company of you-know-who?"

Zaphira gasped. Her friend through almost half her life was The Dark Lord? How could it be?!

As her heart broke into shambles, a green light flashed across the room: Zaphira's interrogator collapsed. Darkness billowed at the top of the stairs, and her friend- no, Voldemort, appeared. The ministry wizards leapt into action, but they were simply too slow. One by one they fell dead, until there was no-one left alive. Voldemort gave them hardly a glance as he made his way toward her.

Zaphira, however, could not stop looking at them. Their limp bodies lay sprawled all over the place, their faces still bearing the terrified looks which had been their last. One minute they had been alive, the next a flash of green light from her dearest friend's wand had sent them on the road to oblivion. How could he be so evil? How could he kill?

"Zaphira," the killer said, "I don't know what they told you… It does not really matter."

He turned toward her mangled door, repaired it with a flick of his ivory wand and vanished the bodies.

"I have to leave." The tall shadow watched her for a moment. "You will be all right?" That simple question set of an avalanche of not so simple feelings.

"All right? How can I be all right? You're- you're Voldemort!" She shouted at him.

"How can you leave now, after having just killed someone?! Why did-"

He silenced her quite efficiently by kissing her. For a moment their two silhouettes stood united one last time, her white-blonde hair spilling besides his dark tresses.

When she broke away he smiled that same smile.

"You always were temperamental. Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to the Potters. I will return later."

He never did.