Speak of the Devil
It began and ended on Halloween.
“You’ll never find him.”
Though it was dark through the cell bars, the sneer on that reptilian face was
“Yes, I will.” Ron’s Auror
badge caught the light. “And you’re going to tell me.”
“Never in a million years.
And as you’re aware, I may live that long,” laughed Voldemort. It was not a
happy sound. “Your friend doesn’t have nearly that much time.” He looked
satisfied. “Potter may have delivered me to my enemies, but he won’t enjoy it.
He’ll be dead before this All Hallow’s Eve is out.”
“Only fair, don’t you
agree?” he added. “Since he caused my accident on this very
day, years ago.” He grimaced, glaring at Ron.
Hold a grudge, do you? a distant part
of Ron thought. Aloud, he said, slowly and with precision, “You are going to
tell me where you are holding him. Now. Or you will
find out that there are worse things than being dead.”
“The Ministry will never let
you do anything to me here,” Voldemort challenged him, spitting out the words.
“And since the dementors cannot Kiss what is not
human, prison alone will have to do for my punishment.”
I don’t have time for this, Ron told
himself. He waved the guard away, coming closer. Just one more chance. His heart thudded in his chest.
“You know you’ll never get out.”
“Yes. I know that.”
Desperate, he asked, “Then
what do you want?”
Voldemort sat back. “What do
you have to offer?”
Half an hour later, they were digging up half
the county, in the very location Voldemort had provided. Ron was more desperate
there!” he shouted, pointing. Wands sparked as the team sprayed dirt and sand
everywhere. “And you – try that spot!” Hang on, Harry,
he prayed while he, himself dug frantically. If that bastard Voldemort had lied,
he’d find some way to…
Wait. He’d hit something. As
he pushed the dirt away, his throat closed up. Could it be? Yes! “Here! Everyone!” Please, oh please… “Help
me with this!”
they began to pull out of the ground a huge, old rotting coffin, filthy with
worldly, and otherworldly, muck and grime. “Help me get it open!” It seemed
resistant to magic. “Over here! Now!” Ron sounded hysterical.
“Harry! Are you in there?”
answer. “Harry, we’re getting you out!” Still nothing. “Faster! Now!” Ron never
knew exactly how they did it, but they broke the monstrous, ancient, and heavy
door open. As it cracked and creaked, voices crowded all around, and things
began to blur.
it’s him! It’s Harry!”
“Harry!” Harry, answer me! Ron pleaded silently.
It was a struggle to free him. All robes and
sweat and dirt, Harry’s body was slick and slippery. As the other Aurors jammed
in, Ron saw his head fall back.
“Harry! Are you okay?”
This can’t be happening, Ron told himself. This cannot be happening.
“Harry! Wake up!”
he’s not breathing!”
You’ve got a visitor!” the guard said as Ron came down the hall. This time, he
didn’t wear the robes of an Auror.
Ron sat down across from Voldemort. He was
pleased to see the Dark Lord didn’t really look that dark any more. Actually,
he looked gray. And rather small. So much for being invulnerable to dementors.
are you here?” Voldemort said through the bars. A little
hoarser now, too. Hmmm.
to see you again, too, Voldemort,” Ron said, settling in. “Is that any way to
greet an old – acquaintance? Having a nice eternity? Nothing like immortality,
is there? Good to know the snarl’s just the same.”
said, what are you doing here?” Voldemort repeated. Still-high
pitched, Ron considered. Always thought it was a
Ron asked, feigning surprise. “Oh, of course. Guess you don’t get too much news
in here, do you?” Does sarcasm become me? he wondered.
Voldemort said nothing. Ron
saw the long fingers. The nails were quite short.
“Well, let me bring you up
to date.” He shuffled around, rummaging in his pockets. “I’ve got them here
somewhere… I know I brought…”
ignored him. “I’m getting there, hotshot.” He was still checking his robes,
absently. “Long story short, a few years ago, Hermione and I got married. We’re
happy together and busy, too, working up to today. This very day, as a matter
of fact.” He faked a smile. “Oh, she sends her regards. Almost forgot.”
don’t know what you mean.”
will.” He finally pulled out a long, accordian-style sheet of wallet-sized
photographs. “Here they are. Just you wait – they get cuter every day.”
is Ginger, and Amy.” He unfolded each photo with purposeful, deliberative care.
“Douglas and Bartholomew. Evie and Andrew.” He took out still more, maybe a
things hadn’t turned out the way they did, none of it ever would have
happened,” he said. “They’re only five and six years old now, and it’s just a
day school, but this is our very first class. They’ve all started this year.”
– what – what are you talking about?”
paying him no attention, Ron gazed into the distance. “You know, I never knew
I’d love it so much,” he said. “And Hermione’s just ecstatic. They say it’s the
first of its kind.” He added, more softly, almost to himself, “Maybe now Mum
and Dad will get off my back about a family.”
“What?” Voldemort was
watching him as if he’d lost his mind. “What are you on about?”
must say, I’m hurt,” Ron said quickly, snapping out of his reverie. He turned
his chair back to face the other wizard. “I really am. You don’t know.”
Halloween. I’ve come to pay my part of our bargain.”
“What? But I thought – after all this time –
” Voldemort sputtered.
shook his head ruefully, holding up a hand. “I know, I know. You wanted one, of
my blood, a son, and a first-born at that. But all these kids are yours.” He
gestured at the photos. “In a way.”
He looked at
him. “You see, if you and I hadn’t made that wizard’s deal, Hermione and I
would never even have thought about this. We’ve got you to thank. The school
was started directly because of you.”
stopped. Leaning forward, he stared at Voldemort, leaving no doubt how he
really felt. Did he imagine it, or did he see, in answer, a very small shiver
on the other side of the bars?
“Back then, you never had
any intention of us getting there in time.” Ron’s voice suddenly was as cold as
the room. “You knew we wouldn’t.”
His eyes grew harder. “If,
at the last minute beforehand, Wormtail hadn’t conjured up just a bit of air
inside… And afterward, if we hadn’t thought to amplify that Enervation
Ron looked away again. He
remembered the exact moment when Harry had taken a gasping, shuddering breath,
for Ron had, as well. He’d felt that his own life might not be ending, after
all. He recalled, too, how ill Harry still had been for such a long time, from
all the Dark magic. It had been touch and go for awhile. He shivered.
Need to check the
temperature in here, it’s bloody freezing.
Ron took a breath, then went
on, more lightly. “What I meant to say, is, if those things hadn’t happened,
this little guy wouldn’t be here.”
He held up the last picture.
“Isn’t he just the spitting image? Except for the scar, of course.”
Voldemort simply stared,
seemingly struck speechless. His red eyes were blazing.
Ron put the photos away.
“Hermione is the only one who knows about our little chat, and she understands
why we’ll never have any of these for our own.” He brushed off his robes.
“Well, got to go. You know how it is. Busy, busy.”
He stood up, thinking back
again. For some reason, Ron could never forget Harry’s hands. His fingers and
nails, cracked and bleeding, from where he must have tried to get out. And
after that, he’d often thought about that rat Wormtail.
Who’d been able to capture Harry by impersonating Ron. After seven years, it
After a long pause, Ron
continued. “I just wanted to tell you, Voldemort, that’s my end of the deal.
It’s done. You’ll never see me again.” Ron turned away, but stopped once more,
robes whirling. “Oh, one last thing.”
His bantering tone returned.
“Seeing as it’s for teaching all good little wizards and witches – pureblood,
half-blood, or Muggle – how to get along, we thought we might name the new
place after you.”
“The Tom Riddle Primary
School of Magic and Muggle Studies.” He couldn’t resist.
“Sounds just Marvolo-us,
shriek that followed him down the long hall was so loud the dementors thought
they’d missed a meal.