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"Harry Potter and the Unbreakable Bond"

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Chapter Twenty-Six - "...Inside an Enigma" 

            Hermione shifted her back against the sofa in the common room, drawing in her legs to let Dean and Seamus pass without tripping, and Ron's flaccid penis slid against her neck and lay warm against her skin, over her shoulder. She gathered her robe a little closer at the throat, a wicked smile playing with the right corner of her mouth. She was fully dressed, all three of them were. Ron was slouched on the sofa, reading his Transfiguration assignment, with Harry beside him, sitting sideways on the couch, his bare feet against Ron's hip. She was sitting in front of Ron on the floor, where he from time to time used her head as a handy work surface, balancing his textbook there while he turned pages, jotted down notes, and took the occasional nibble on his liquorice wand. The nape of her neck lay against his crotch, providing warm, firm support, but the charmed fabric of their uniforms was causing this not-entirely-unwelcome distraction. His penis had stiffened and then softened four times in the hour and a half or so they'd sat like that, and he occasionally reached down and stroked her hair tenderly as he read.

            She shifted her shoulders a bit, feeling his member sliding against her, and heard Harry's low chuckle. She glanced over at him, and immediately blushed at the amused glitter in his eyes. He stretched his neck, then rubbed his cheek against his shoulder, as if using it to stroke an invisible kitten sitting there, and she felt her face heat further. He tilted his head over, made an odd, near-nodding gesture with his mouth open, and she could almost feel and taste Ron's soft cock sliding into her mouth and stiffening there, and a deep, needy shudder ran through her as she blushed.

            Harry's expression was suddenly bland and he was turning a page of Goshawk's “Standard Book of Spells” as Neville passed, smiling and nodding down at them, and then, as soon as his back was turned, Harry tilted his head again, his tongue sliding slowly along the air at his shoulder, his green eyes never leaving hers. She actually felt the dampness seeping into her knickers.

            It was possible. That was one of the things that was now driving her mad. Within their charmed clothing, it would be perfectly possible to turn her head and lick the stout, flaccid cock resting on her shoulder, perfectly possible to draw it into her mouth, at least for a stroke, right here in the middle of the Gryffindor Common Room, and no-one would be the wiser. The presence of Ron's cock seemed to tingle against her jaw, calling for her head to turn, for her mouth to open, and she stood suddenly, practically barking the command, “Come on!”

            Ron started, as if suddenly waking, and stood, gathering his books obediently, and Harry was already sliding and swivelling to his feet, and they followed her brisk stride toward their suite's half-open door.

            “Need the loo?” asked Ron casually, and was taken aback when she snapped at him, “Shush!

            Ron glanced over to Harry, his eyes a desperate plea – What did I do!?!?!? – and Hermione gestured them in the door ahead of her, and then slammed the door shut behind her. As soon as it was closed she spun toward Ron, her hands fisting in the grey cotton of his jumper, spinning him and smashing him back against the wall.

            “Hermione, what--?” was as far as he got before she'd pulled open his belt and button, with a single swift gesture, and sunk to her knees as she jerked his grey twill trousers and pants savagely down.

            His blue eyes widened as his puzzled frown began to invert itself, and then Hermione had leaned forward, drawing him into her mouth. She loved the taste of Ron, not so different than taste of his cheek or hand, but muskier. As always, she was sort of surprised by how he filled her mouth, and as always, she felt her own blood sing in her veins as his filled his cock. She loved to feel it thicken, lengthen, stiffen, but even more she loved the way it warmed as the blood filled it, seeming hotter than his actual body temperature.

            She drew her mouth back, long and slow, sliding her lips back over his shaft, then leaned into him again, sliding the head of his cock against the roof of her mouth. She felt, more than heard, Harry sliding to the floor, his back against the door's wooden slats, leaving his feet stretched out ahead of him, only the left brushing against her ankle.

            His groan, though, she heard, and smiled around Ron's cock. Ron's long fingers were sliding along the crown of her head, now, tangling in her hair, and she felt a pulse of excitement at his need, at the way he fought his own impulse to guide her head, trying to respect her desire to do this her way while still wanting, needing, to simply thrust into her mouth.

            She leaned back away from him, looked up into still-startled blue eyes. “Go ahead,” she breathed. “Sometimes I like to be an artist, but today? Today I just want the Boy Who Teased over here to see you fuck my face. Go ahead, Ron. Fuck me. Fuck my swotty mouth 'til you fill it with your seed.”

            “Oh, God,” Harry moaned, and although she heard his zip, she didn't spare him a glance, leaning forward to engulf Ron's stout cock. She felt Ron's fingers fisting in her hair, and he thrust into her mouth, and she sucked and licked as he simply fucked, fucked her mouth like he did her pussy, and through his happy groans, she heard Harry's breath quicken, heard his hand and cock, a light slap-slap-slap sound as he masturbated, and she felt her sex, hot and wet, sticking her knickers to her, as Ron's thick cock thrust into her, again and again.

            “Oh!” Ron's voice was surprise and understanding all in one moment of happy discovery. “You like this, mate? We're your own living porno, right here before your eyes. Wank to us, mate, wank to us while I fuck our girl's mouth!”

            Hermione groaned around Ron's cock at that. “Ah.” Ron's voice held another layer of happy discovery. “You like that, don't you, Hermione? You like Harry watching, don't you, love?”

            Hermione moaned and nodded as she sucked him and Ron thrust again into her mouth.

            “Hear that, mate?” Ron's voice as he spoke to Harry was low and rough. “She likes you wanking to us. She loves it! You did it before, too, didn't you? You imagined our proper little Hermione with her mouth full of my cock, and you fucked your own hand, didn't you? Last year? Before that?”

            “Yule Ball,” Harry managed to groan as he pumped at himself.

            “Hear that, love?” Ron's voice was hoarse. The rhythm of his thrusts grew slower, but no less firm. “Hear what he thought of? You in your gorgeous blue gown, us all rowing with each other, all heat an' passion an' jealousy, an' then Harry's got his cock in his hand, imagining you on your knees in your blue dress robes, sucking my cock as he strokes his. Were you watching, Harry? In your fantasy? Were we right there in the common room,and you skulking in some dark corner, maybe under your cloak, fucking your hand and biting your lip so we wouldn't hear you there as you watched her suck my cock?

            On the last three words he thrust harder, too hard, and she gagged a bit, and backed off for air. He glanced down at her, concerned, and she smiled, a tigress of want, and fairly leapt again onto his glistening cock. His grip in her hair tightened, and he thrust again, hard, once, twice, thrice, and she felt him twitch and spasm in her mouth as the jism erupted from his cock, salty-smoky on her tongue, and she leaned away, her mouth open, letting his seed drip from it as the second spurt splashed onto her face and a failing third onto her neck and the collar of her robes, and Harry moaned in a tone almost like despair, “Ooooohh.... God.....”

            She sat back away from Ron, onto her heels, let her robes slide back off of her onto the floor, and pulled up the pleated grey skirt. The dark, shining line of moisture, its outlines fuzzy as it seeped into the fabric, was clearly visible against the white of her plain, charmed, cotton knickers.

            “Oooohhh....?” Harry's moan sounded almost like a question, and his hand sped as he pulled and jerked at his hard, straight cock. Hermione spared him only a glance, but looked back up at Ron.

            “My turn,” she told him. “My turn to come now.”

            He grinned again as he sank to his knees. “I don't know about Harry,” he told her, licking his lips, “But I used to fuck my hand dreaming of doing this. Dreaming of tasting you and fucking you with my mouth, and feeling, seeing you, hearing you, coming for me. Oh, yes.”

            She groaned aloud even as Harry moaned, “Me, too.... Watch you.... God!”

            Ron didn't even bother to pull down her knickers at first, just leaned down and licked, aiming for that wet stripe.

            The tingle of magic from the charmed fabric was like a pleasant electrical vibration against her sex as Ron's mouth and nose sank through it, and then he was licking her, his tongue travelling in long, slow, licks up the length of her vagina, and he hooked his elbows around her knees and reached over, his thumbs finding skin instead of cotton, and opening her to his tongue, so it could run along each crease, circling her plump clitoris at the top of each stroke. He turned his left hand more sideways, holding her open with his thumb and forefinger, so the middle two fingers of his right hand could slide up into her, feeling for that gently pebbled flesh he know so well, while the top pad of his palm held her clit toward him like a jewel on a pillow, there under the wet white cotton, waiting for his eager lips.

            He closed his lips over her clit in a gently sucking kiss, listening to her cries and Harry's harsh panting, and then another and another and another. He let the heel of his left hand press gently inward, putting more pressure on that spot his fingertips stroked so deep inside her, and he kissed and kissed and kissed her clitoris. Hermione's head was thrashing from side to side, her eyes fluttering closed then opening again.

            She felt herself gushing into his mouth, over and under his fingers, and she bucked her centre against his mouth, even though the extra pressure was almost too much, too much, and she heard Harry moan “Eat her, Ron, drink her come, lick her! Eat her!”

            Her head snapped toward his again, her eyes opening, to meet, lock with his green ones, and Ron's hands squeezed again towards one another, as his lips sucked and released, and she made the smallest of sounds in her throat and Harry's cock erupted a white jet of semen that splashed his thighs and knees and then her world was lost in an electric explosion from her centre, clitoris and Grafenberg spot both releasing at once, and she knew she was crying out, but she didn't know what, nor how loudly, and Harry was moaning, “Yes, fuck, oh, God, fuck, yes....”

            She let herself collapse to the floor, and Ron smiled down at her, for a long moment, before he turned to Harry. “Mate, I don't know what you were doing to her out there... But thanks!”

            Harry's grin back was sly and savage, as he reached for his wand to Scourgify.

            “Don't mention it,” he said.

            Hermione moaned, low and sweet and sated, but then moved, squirmed across the floor to take Harry in her arms.

            “You know that's not it anymore, right, Harry?” she asked.

            “What's not what, Love?” he asked, but Ron noticed that his eyes looked a bit shifty.

            “You're not on the outside, Harry,” said Hermione quietly. “You're not alone, not hiding in the corner watching me with Ron.” She took his hand and moved it down to her still-moist centre, speaking quietly and earnestly even as she slid his middle two fingers into herself. “This is yours, love. Every bit as much as it's Ron's.” She pulled his hand up to her face, and lapped slowly at his sex-slicked ring finger. “I'm yours, now and forever, every bit as much.”

            She moved his hand, now, to his own lips, and his eyes slowly closed again as he slid the middle finger into his mouth. “Taste us, Harry,” she told him, “taste us both, because we're yours.”

            Harry jack-knifed forward over the common-room table, sending his and Ron's pieces running for cover and leaping from the chessboard.

            “Harry!” cried Neville, leaping from the wing-chair, as Dean and Seamus spun to look. Ron had already moved to hold him, one arm around him so he could firmly grip both his shoulders, as he scrabbled for his forehead. Hermione picked his glasses from the table, and leaned toward him, running the fingers of her left hand through his hair.

            He looked up a moment later, still grimacing, holding his palms pressed to his scar, to see what seemed to be the whole of Gryffindor surrounding him, staring wide-eyed down at him, and he hissed between gritted teeth, “I'm fine!

            “Oh, sure, you are!” cried Dean, rolling his eyes. “Any fool can see that!”

            Hermione was gently pulling on Harry's wrists drawing his hands away from his forehead so she could lean in and press a gentle kiss onto his scar.

            Somewhere, Lavender Brown hissed, “Oh, now that's disgusting! Does she have to do that right in front of ev—Oww!

            Ginny Weasley stepped through the crowd, helping to block the view of Harry, and Neville grinned and stood beside her, facing back into the room, spreading his robes wide with his hands. He looked down at Seamus, and he and Dean turned and took up positions, spreading their robes as well, creating a semicircular space in which Hermione and then Ron pressed kiss after kiss onto Harry's scar, as he breathed deeply, his eyes closed again, clearly recovering a bit more with each touch of his spouses' lips.

            Ron's hand was gripping his shoulder, strong, firm... there, as he always would be, not through the magic of Nuptialis Unum, but through the older, truer magic of love too deep for romance or friendship, love that was at the core of everything he felt.

            Finally, Harry gently moved them away from himself, enough to give him room to stand, and his voice was strong and firm when he spoke. “Come on. We have to go see Professor Dumbledore, right away!”

            “He was glad, thrilled,” Harry was telling the headmaster, “and even then, even so, he was raging, angry to be there at all. Like he'd have just as soon killed every last one of them as released them. Like he hates them.”

            “He does, Harry.” Dumbledore's voice was gentle and sad. “Tom hates to be dependent. He hates them because he needs them. Hates them because he fears them, because if he needs them, they have power over him. It's a sad and lonely thing, Harry, to be Tom Riddle. He'll never have the strength you have, because he can't stand to truly need others.”

            When they'd arrived at Dumbledore's office, perhaps twenty minutes before, the words had been spilling from Harry in a rush: “He's on the move! Attacking, killing, it's hard to see, he's so charged up!”

            Dumbledore had conjured a sofa for them, a perfect replica of the Grangers' sofa – now safely ensconced in their quarters in the Teachers' Wing – and produced large mugs of hot cocoa. “Sit down, please. Drink.”

            “But, Professor!” Harry's eyes and voice were frantic. “Please, he's-- They're--”

            “It's all right, Harry,” Dumbledore said quietly. “It's already happened, hasn't it?”

            Harry shuddered, sinking down onto the couch, his husband and wife on either side of him. “Yes,” he gasped. “Yes, it's done now.”

            “Very well, then.” Dumbledore gestured with a mug of steaming cocoa, the whipped cream on top already melting. “Relax, drink. A frantic mind is a disorderly mind, and I need you thinking as clearly as possible. Just drink.” He looked back and forth. “You, too, you two. You, too.”

            Ron took his mug, and brought it to his lips. He quaffed, and the sigh as he lowered the mug was one of calm well-being. “Go on, Mate,” he said. “He's right, you need to calm down and think it all through.”

            Hermione sipped contemplatively at her cocoa, and Harry finally followed them, drinking deeply, and exhaling the steam. Finally he looked up at his headmaster and spoke. “I think they attacked Azkaban, Professor. Riddle, and as many of his Death Eaters as he had out free. And-- Professor, the Dementors went with him! It was-- It was horrible, a massacre! They were Kissing guards, and Kissing some of the prisoners, as well, collecting others to join them. I think they killed a lot of people!”

            Dumbledore was on his feet again, trotting to a wall of portraits. “Armando, if you'd be so kind as to visit Auror Headquarters? Thank you. Dylis, perhaps the Minister's office? And Phineas Nigellus, I would be grateful indeed if you would visit Grimmauld Place, and alert Remus Lupin.”

            The portrait of Headmaster Armando Dippet merely nodded and walked calmly but swiftly off to his right. Dylis Derwent cried “But of course, Albus!” before doing likewise. Phineas Nigellus Black nodded sagely, glanced sidelong at Harry, then walked off to his left.

            It was Dylis Derwent who returned first. “Headmaster!” she cried, and Dumbledore turned toward her portrait. “Minister Scrimgeour has confirmed it. Tom Riddle has led the Dementors in an attack on Azkaban, and freed all of the Death Eaters. Every last human guard was Kissed or killed, and many of the other prisoners as well! It's a massacre, a catastrophe! Oh, Albus!”

            There was a scramble amongst frames and Dexter Fortescue stepped in to take Derwent's hand, cooing, “There, there, Dylis. Chin up!”

            Dumbledore nodded gravely. “If you would, Dylis, St. Mungo's needs to be informed.”

            “Of course, of course,” she murmured, and shuffled from her frame.

            No sooner had she gone than Armando Dippet was storming back into his frame. “The treacherous blackguards! The Aurors are on the way, Albus!  This is an outrage! The ministry has housed and fed the Dementors for centuries!

            “Yeah, well, maybe that's the problem,” snarled Harry, “with making deals with something that evil!”

            Hermione gasped. Dippet's head snapped up to his, and Fortescue glanced up from Dylis Derwent's frame.

            “The lad makes a good point,” said Fortescue, and Dippet nodded, grunting. “Perhaps so.”

            “Ah, yes!” Phineas Nigellus had just returned to his frame in time to catch that last. “All hail the moral purity that will go down in flames for the satisfaction of never having sullied its hands!” He turned to Dumbledore. “Your message has been delivered, and Mr. Lupin says he's alerting the Order.”

            The door burst open, and Phineas Nigellus' last scion burst in, crying “Is it true? Albus, is it true?”

            Dumbledore's voice was quiet, and very sad. “Yes, Sirius, I fear it is. The loss of life will be... Fearsome.” He looked up at the solemn, dark man. “I fear we no longer have a choice. Will you start gathering the ingredients?”

            Sirius nodded gravely, reaching with one hand to squeeze Harry's shoulder. “Of course, sir. I'll start immediately.”

            “What, sir?” asked Harry, his glance moving back and forth between Headmaster and godfather. “Ingredients for what?”

            Dumbledore's face dipped for a moment before it rose, to regard Harry coolly. “For a last resort I'd hoped never to face. One so horrible...” he paused. “Harry, do you understand how the Horcruxes work?”

            “Well, with parts of Riddle's soul outside his body, he can't be killed...”

            “Because those parts of his soul anchor him to this corporeal world, Harry. Between the soul fragments and Tom Riddle are magical connections. They are like anchors holding a ship, and that can only work if there are anchor chains. But chains have two ends: One end at the anchor, at the Horcrux... And one end at the ship itself. We've been attempting to sever the chains by destroying Horcruxes, but if we can't find all six of them, where are we? We are lost! The answer, then, is to sever the connections at Tom himself.”

            “How would we do that?” asked Hermione.

            Ron sat forward and answered. “The same way we destroyed the locket,” he said, hoarsely. “Maltrucido Flammaria.”

            Dumbledore nodded, as Sirius patted Ron's shoulder. “Just so, Ronald, just so. You understand, I trust, why I'd hoped to avoid that.”

            “Merlin!” Ron moaned. “It's horrible to think about. How do we douse him? Some variation of Aguamenti that sprays that stuff instead of water?”

            It was Sirius who answered that, his tone casual enough to cause a shudder to run through Hermione. “No, we considered that, but it gives Riddle a direction to run, unless we can circle him, and I'm not a big fan of the circular-firing-squad as a strategy.” His tone became grave. “We're going to brew a vat of the stuff, a huge vat, prefect's-bath-sized, enough to englobe him, and banish it to a...a holding space, for want of a better word.” He looked to Harry. “When the time comes, you'll conjure it around him.”

            Harry closed his eyes and shuddered, imagining the scene, Riddle's red, reptilian eyes round in surprise as he finds himself within a vast blob, of steaming, corrosive, sulphurous, horrific death; imagining the green flames turning on the pale flesh, corroding, dissolving, burning and eating the slender body as the high, piping voice shrieked. Would the sound of his screams escape? Would he and Ron and Hermione hear his cries? Or would they be smothered in the foulness of the dark potion?

            Ron's fingers, closing over his shoulder, brought him from this awful reverie, and he glanced up at his husband, then past him at his wife, whose face was closed, and mouth compressed into a thin line.

            “I actually,” said Sirius, softly, “feel much as you do, Clever Boots.”

            Her eyes leapt up to his, flashing. “I doubt that!”

            “Don't,” said Sirius Black. “It's terrible, terrible. But what choice has he left us? With his Horcruxes spread about, and some of them unknown...” He paused, looked long into Hermione's eyes. “It's his own magic, his own evil, that has taken away any more humane options. He's forced us into this monstrous step. It's all that he's left us.”

            The three young Gryffindors were still sombre when Professor Dumbledore invited them back to meet with him in his office four days later. The headmaster was equally solemn as he greeted them, and showed them to chairs by his Pensieve.

            “I had planned,” he told them, “to show you memories of a house-elf, which persuaded me that one of the Horcruxes would prove to be a cup belonging to Helga Hufflepuff. After we spoke about Tom's youth, though, and his days here, I've decided to share something rather different with you, instead.”

            Soon the four of them stood in a semicircle within a memory. Unlike the other experiences they'd had within the Pensieve, this seemed strange and unreal. Only the three central figures, two small boys and a small girl, were clear. Furniture and surroundings were blurred, mostly appearing in monochrome, and walls were foggy shadows. “This,” Dumbledore told them gravely, “is a memory within a memory. It is from my own memory of an interview this past August with a very old Muggle gentleman named Dennis Bishop. He is in a coma now, in a nursing home, and was then, but we were able to arrive at... A meeting of the minds, shall we say?”

            “Do you mean Legilimency, sir?” asked Hermione.

            Dumbledore's nod was solemn. “Mr. Bishop's conscious mind was unable to grant me consent,” he murmured, “But his unconscious welcomed me gladly. In his boyhood, he lost his parents to Influenza in 1929, and lived in the same orphanage as young Tom Riddle. You'll recall that, on one trip to the seaside, Tom disappeared with two students for several hours, and, when they returned, both the students, a boy and a girl, were withdrawn. Neither was ever quite right again.”

            “I remember, sir,” said Harry, quietly.

            “Mr. Bishop was that little boy. I do not know what transpired on that day. Mr. Bishop's mind shies away from it so powerfully that I was not able to see it, nor feel more than a sense of deep, soul-deep, horror. But I did gather other impressions of Tom during their boyhood together in the orphanage.”

            One of the two boys in the memory began speaking, his voice excited, his eyes electric. “That's the way to be! Did you see? Did you see how he killed that interfering fool in his car?”

            The girl's voice when she spoke seemed muffled, as if she was speaking under a pillow, and her face gathered in clarity as her voice did, then blurred into insubstantial mistiness: “Don't be a fool, Tom! It's a chapterplay! He didn't kill him, if we could go back next week, we could see how the hero escapes the car!”

            The dark-haired, dark-eyed boy stared her down with withering contempt. “The car went off the cliff, and exploded. He never left the car. He is dead. He was a buffoon, and he's dead. He never stood a chance! Did you see the way those henchmen cringed? Did you see the way he killed the one who displeased him? That is how you get power! That is how you keep it, make everybody afraid to displease you! Then you'll be in control! Then you'll be safe!”

            “It's only a movie, Tom,” murmured the other boy, smaller, fairer, and the dark-haired boy spun toward him, literal bolts of lightning flashing from his eyes.

            “Silence!” the boy Tom Riddle barked, and the hand he raised to strike the other boy was quite literally the size of a piano.

            As it fell toward the upturned face, the four observers felt themselves falling, tumbling, upwards, and then they were standing in a cavernous space full of children and long tables, clattering silverware and creaking chairs.

            Hermione glanced over at the Headmaster. “It wasn't really this big, was it, Professor?”

            Dumbledore's head shook gently. “Quite so, Miss Granger. I stood in the room myself, and it seated about fifty. But in young Dennis Bishop's mind, it was a vast space indeed.”

            “It's spaghetti day!” cried young Dennis, his voice high with excitement, as he rushed to take a tray and join the line at the counter. A kindly woman in a greyish apron served a heap of steaming pasta with watery red sauce onto Dennis' plate, and he gleefully turned and charged back toward his table.

            Tom Riddle was watching with cold contempt.

            “What's he so mad at?” asked Ron.

            Dumbledore opened his mouth to reply, but Harry was already speaking. “He's happy. Not Riddle. Dennis. Look at him, look how happy, how excited he is.” He looked up at Dumbledore. “Quite the pasta lover, our Dennis Bishop, eh?”

            Dumbledore nodded sadly. “For a little while yet.”

            Tom Riddle was staring at Dennis with furious concentration as the smaller boy sat at the table, and began happily rolling steaming noodles onto his fork. Dumbledore gestured with a hand, and they noticed a small blond girl, about Dennis' age, watching Riddle with equally hooded eyes.

            Suddenly, Dennis was screaming, shrieking, and they turned quickly back to him. Piled high on his plate now, instead of pasta, were a steaming, writhing tangle of grey-brown earthworms. The slithered around in their tangle, some plopping from the edges of the plate; Their heads quested blindly from the fork they were twirled around, and, most horribly of all, there were two, one still alive and flailing, hanging from the corner of Dennis' mouth. He screamed again, spitting, pushing the bowl away from himself, while his table-neighbours also began to scream, staring at him, at his plate. A much older girl spun away and vomited in a watery red jet of noodles and sauce onto the floor.

            Tom Riddle's lips twitched into contemptuous smirk, and he watched with quiet satisfaction until a small hand had grabbed his elbow, and spun him to face her wrath.

            It was the little blond girl, and she spat her angry words into Riddle's incredulous face. “You did that! You did! You're a horrible, filthy, awful little boy, and it's no wonder that nobody likes you, and nobody will ever adopt you!”

            He finally found his voice, and his words were a sibilant hiss, vicious and violent. “Have a care, Amy Benson! Or would you like some of the same?”

            “You don't scare me, Tom Riddle! You're a beast! Poor Dennis! That was the only thing that ever really made him happy, and now you've ruined it for him, forever!”

            Riddle was leaning savagely in toward her, and his words seemed birthed in sulphur: “I should scare you, little sow! Soon enough, I'll teach you that!”

            She did blanch then, stepped slowly back a step, then two, before turning to run away.

            Riddle screamed after her: “I don't need them to like me! I don't need anybody! Not you, not some grown-ups! I am enough! I, alone, am all I need!”