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Chapter 12

A Riddle in Our Midst


They group passed one by one and appeared in the teachers’ common room.

“Why don’t you head to Gryffindor Tower and I will come get you when Dumbledore gets back,” Remus said and Harry, Ron, Hermione, with Veronica following, left the staffroom.

The foursome walked the hallways, and up the steps to the seventh floor where the Gryffindor entrance was. Veronica had admired everything as they walked, gasping in awe and surprise at what she saw. She had grown up in a Muggle estate, and even after receiving personal tutelage in magical studies, she had never set foot in a magical place before.

“So, where are you going to go to school then? Are you going back to Nicaragua?” Hermione asked as they sat on the sofas in the common room. They were reluctant to discuss the events of the night before and since as they would probably have to recount everything to the Order soon.

“Actually, I’ll be going to school in Honduras, it is called IMHEMCA, it stands for Institute of Magic, Witchcraft and Muggle studies of Central America, in Spanish, of course. It is both a Muggle school and Wizarding school,” Veronica answered.

“How can you have both in one?” Hermione asked wondering.

“You see, in Honduras they only go to Muggle school in the morning or afternoon. They start usually at 7 am and classes are over at 12, or you can go in the afternoon, from 12 to 1,” Veronica replied casually.

“Half a day! Why can’t I go to school in Honduras!?” Ron asked not quite believing it.

Hermione ignored him and asked, appalled: “How can you learn anything in that short amount of time!? Do you only take 2 classes a day?” She could not quite believing it.

“Well, actually, I have 7 Muggle classes per day.”

“Seven? I can’t believe it,” Hermione said crossing her arms.

“That’s a lot of classes!” Harry exclaimed. He had attended Muggle School before Wizarding School and he knew about high school and stuff, but he didn’t recall them having to take so many classes.

“So classes are only 40 minutes long? Don’t you have any time between? How in the world do you get your books for class?” Hermione asked looking at the schedule Veronica had drawn up for her to see.

“Well, the school I went to we didn’t switch classrooms. A year will stay in one room all day, and it is the teachers who switch. So you just leave your books for the day by your seat.”

Harry and Ron both imagined if they were stuck in one room all day, without any break in between. They shivered involuntarily.

“I rather like that idea then you don’t waste time and can go from learning in one class right into the other,” Hermione added noticing their thoughts. Harry and Ron both rolled their eyes.

“Of course not all schools are the same, and this part,” she said pointing to the schedule, “is pretty much how it was when I went to Muggle School during the morning. I then went home and got tutored privately on magical classes in the afternoon. The school I will actually attend has both: Muggle studies in the morning and magic classes in the afternoon,” Vero said as she picked up the page again and began scribbling on it. “This will be my afternoon schedule,” she said handing the paper back to Hermione.

“You have to take all those classes?” Hermione asked surprised and a bit impressed.

“No, I don’t have to, but that’s what I could sign up for. I took this test when I got accepted for placement, and these are the classes that I could qualify for. I wanted to take Spell Research too, but it is only offered at the same time as Defence Against the Dark Arts IV review, and I have to take that one so I can take Defence Against the Dark Arts V class. Like I said before, my parents didn’t let me learn Defence Against the Dark Arts, so I am way behind in that subject.”

“So, you’re going to be a fifth year?” Harry asked seeing the schedule. She was seventeen years old, but she had dropped out of school the year before. He thought that maybe they started school later there than here.

“Fifth year there is the same as seventh year here,” Veronica answered.

“Really? How does that work?” Hermione wondered.

Vero tried to explain.

“How can you start at third year level without learning first and second year stuff?” Ron asked puzzled.

“Well, magic school starts compared to third year level here, but in Central America every witch or Wizard is required to have what’s called Primary Studies, it starts when you are 10 until you attend Wizarding school. You can go to a school for that, but some people are just home schooled. So in those first years we learn what you learn in school here.”

“How can you learn magic before 11 years old? What about underage magic?” Harry asked her.

“We actually don’t have an age limit once you start your primary studies. The only thing we can’t do is Apparate until we’re 18 years old. So there really is no such thing as underage magic, except when you are younger than 10, but then, you can’t get a real wand for someone so young. They get toy wands, and can’t do much magic. Wands in Central America are made so only those 10 yrs and older can use them, and even if they did have underage magic restrictions, is not like the Ministry there can really keep track of it all,” she replied offhandedly.

“That’s why you didn’t get an owl?” Hermione exclaimed. This answered something that she had found curious before.

Veronica nodded “Yeah, my wand isn’t registered in England,” she said shrugging her shoulders.

“That just doesn’t seem fair.” Ron pouted and crossed his arms.

“You can move to Honduras then if you want to use magic in the summertime,” Vero responded. They were silent for a while. Veronica yawned. “I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.”

“You can use the rooms in the dormitories upstairs if you’d like to take a nap,” Hermione offered and pointed to the girls’ dorms.

“Will you wake me up when it is time to leave?” Vero asked.

“Of course.”

“Coming Harry?” Vero asked and Harry blushed but shook his head. Hermione gave Harry a sideways glance but he avoided her eyes.

“Boys can’t get up the girls’ stairs. But I want to talk to Ron and Hermione for a while longer anyways. It has been a while since I saw them,” Harry said and Vero bent to give him a kiss on the cheek.

“All right, I will see you all later then,” Vero said and raced up the steps and entered one of the doors and closed it behind her.

“Isn’t such a coincidence that she turns out to be a witch?” Harry asked after turning back to his friends. Donovan’s words of caution had for the first time made Harry ask who Veronica was.

“About that Harry, I can’t help but feel a little suspicious,” Hermione said and gazed at Harry intently.

Harry nodded and frowned. Hermione would have thought that of course.

“I mean, she turns out to be a witch, while all this time she pretended to be a Muggle? And I don’t know if I believe her that she knew nothing about you being a Wizard and all,” she said not relenting her gaze from Harry. Ron just stared at her surprised, but the more he thought about it the more he thought that perhaps Hermione was right.

“Hermione has a right to be suspicious of Miss Machado,” a gentle voice came from behind the trio.

The three of them turned their heard to see their headmaster standing behind them.

“Professor! We didn’t hear you come in,” Hermione said a bit startled.

“What do you mean she has a right to be suspicious?” Harry asked glaring at Dumbledore. Was he hiding something from him yet again?

Dumbledore circled around the sofa and sat across the coffee table on the overstuffed chair. He had a book in his hands.

“When you first met Veronica, remember when you brought a Muggle picture of the both of you to the Burrow?” Dumbledore said.

Harry nodded.

“You forgot the picture there and I happened upon it one evening while visiting Arthur. I immediately recognised her face, and I was worried about the resemblance with someone I knew from many years before; someone who disappeared without a trace. So I asked for a favour of a friend of mine in the British Consulate in Nicaragua. I found out that her parents are Ramon and Maria Machado. I then gathered information that Maria had a maiden name of MonteNegro.”

He placed a photo album onto the coffee table and opened it to a page. The three of them leaned over to see a picture of some seventh year students. Harry immediately recognised a boy in the midst of the other students. He was staring directly at Harry from the portrait. Even then his eyes held malice as he looked about the picture.

“That’s Tom Riddle!” Harry exclaimed.

“Yes, this is my personal collection of pictures from every class since I’ve been here at Hogwarts. These are the 1944-45 pictures and this picture is from his last year here at Hogwarts. But that isn’t the picture I wished to show you. Look at this picture on this page… these are the first year students of that year,” Dumbledore pointed.

The trio scanned the picture and Hermione gasped. She pointed at one raven haired girl waving happily back at them. “That looks like Veronica!” The other two looked down to where Hermione pointed to see the mirror image of the girl.

“This girl’s name is Maia Montserrat Black, and, like Andromeda and Sirius, she’s another Black to be placed in a house other than Slytherin. Sirius was, as you know, a Gryffindor, but Maia was in Ravenclaw.”

“But what does she have to do with Veronica?” Hermione asked, although her mind had an idea of where Dumbledore was going with this.

“Maia’s parents and her sister, Electra, were some of the first to join Voldemort’s Death Eater ranks, and three years after Maia left Hogwarts she was forced by her parents into secret marriage with Voldemort himself.”

Hermione gasped. Harry was too shocked to speak, so Dumbledore continued.

“Voldemort wanted a son, for he needed his blood for a ritual rumoured to grant immortality, and Maia was going to give one to him. One year later, she gave birth, but to a girl. Voldemort killed the baby, for he needed a son, an only child.”

“A few years later, Voldemort killed the Riddle family, and kept Maia a prisoner. Nobody knew she was his wife, and everyone assumed she was only another of his mistresses. For many years he never touched her again, and she remained by his side. Something happened in the early sixties that caused Voldemort to want a child again. It had to be a boy as well, and Maia became pregnant several times only to have the babies murdered for they were all born females.”

“Maia was forced to remain with him, and although she appeared loyal to her husband, she, in-fact, was working against him. Thwarting his plans and always making it appear as if it were us, The Order, who did it. Many Death Eaters were disposed by Voldemort under beliefs of treason, all cunningly master planned by her alone, without any help.”

“It wasn’t until 1978, when she became pregnant again, that she came to me and revealed her works within Voldemort’s circle. She feared that her baby once again would be a female and she wanted this child to live, but there was no way for her to save her if she was born. So I helped her escape; I never knew where she fled, and to my relief, Voldemort never found her.”

“I have now discovered that Maia Montserrat Black changed her name to Maria MonteNegro and married Edgardo Machado. So you see Harry, Veronica is Voldemort’s daughter,” Dumbledore finished his speech and sat back. The twinkle in his eyes was gone, for this situation was severe.

“No, it can’t be!” Harry said standing up, alarmed. The girl he had liked and was beginning to have strong feelings for was the daughter of Voldemort!? Harry felt so betrayed. He had already begun to suspect her, but never would he imagine that she was his daughter!

“So she knew who I was all along?” Harry asked. Somewhere deep inside he had wanted his suspicions to be false; he did not want to believe it. But in the back of his mind he realised that the Dementors would know where he was, because she knew where he was if she was in contact with Voldemort.

“I don’t know Harry. She may know part of the truth, but not all of it. I have come to question her…”

“What is going on?” Veronica asked now coming down the steps. She had heard Harry yell and she had come out to see what was going on. She spotted the old Wizard dressed in olive green robes gazing up at her curiously, but his features held a grim expression.

Harry whirled around to face her. “Tell me you didn’t know who I was before Friday night,” Harry said almost pleading.

“What?” She replied confused.

Before Harry could reply, Dumbledore stepped in, “Miss Machado, in light of recent information, I am in urgency to question you about your motives to come here to England,” Dumbledore said and looked at her piercingly.

Veronica stared open mouthed at him and tried to respond but was unable.

“Veronica, do you know what Veritaserum is?” He asked pulling a vial containing a clear liquid inside from his robes.

She nodded her head. “Would you be willing to be subjected to questioning under its influence? I must tell you that if you will not willingly agree, I will be forced to feed it to you regardless. I do, however, wish to do this with your cooperation,” He said not moving his gaze from her.

“Can I ask why is it important for you to know why I came to England?” She asked holding his gaze.

“I will only tell you that it is relevant to Harry’s and possibly your life,” he replied.

The three other teenagers stared at the exchange between Veronica and Dumbledore not quite sure they understood all of the subtleties behind their words.

Veronica turned to the people watching her, then to look back at Professor Dumbledore. She nodded.

“Very well,” Dumbledore said and asked her to sit down. She did and he then dropped three drops of the serum onto her tongue. No one had noticed Remus and Tonks enter the common room until they came around the couch. Tonks held a parchment and enchanted the quill to record the conversation. Remus stood guard nearby.

“Please state your name fully,” Dumbledore began questioning.

“Veronica Maria Machado MonteNegro,” She replied.

“Who are your parents?”

“Edgardo and Maria Machado.”

“Do you know who your real father is?”

Veronica was shocked and looked at the professor, but she couldn’t help when she answered. “No, I know my mother was pregnant before she met my father, but she never told me who my biological father was. All I knew is that she came from England,” How did he know about the fact that Edgardo was not her biological father?

“Why did you come back to England?” Dumbledore continued.

“After my parents were murdered I wanted to find my real father, so I came here in search of him,” she answered.

“Did you find any information about him?” He asked.

“No, I believed that my father must have been a Wizard like my mother after I couldn’t find anything in the Muggle world, but I had no idea how to get to the magical world. I figured I could at least contact the Ministry to search for missing relatives, but I didn’t know his name and when I sent a letter to the Ministry asking about my mother, there was no record of any Maria MonteNegro so I was at a dead end.”

“Did you visit the Ministry?” Dumbledore asked intrigued.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I met Harry, and I spent every free moment with him. I never got around to it, and… I was scared. What if I find out who my real father is and he wanted nothing to do with me? I put off searching for him for a while, but I never told anyone about it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Harry interrupted.

Veronica turned to him “I never told you because you didn’t know I was a witch, and I didn’t know you were a Wizard. How could I tell you that I was looking for a Wizard who I thought were my father? Once, I made the mistake of telling a Muggle boy I liked about my magic abilities and the Central American Ministry had to intervene and Obliviate his memory because of his panic. I didn’t want you to react the same way. I really didn’t know you were a Wizard,” she implored for him to believe her.

“You never heard of Harry Potter?” Tonks asked.

“Yes, I did, once, when I was 12. I was studying European Magical History with my tutor, but I forgot about it. I remembered there was a boy called The Boy Who Lived, but I never bothered to remember his name. I was not allowed contact with the magical world in Nicaragua, so I am not familiar with what happens in the magical world. When I met Harry, I never imagined he was The Boy Who Lived. To me he was just a cute Muggle boy that I like,” she said and looked into her hands.

Harry was ecstatic. She had told the truth before!

Dumbledore motioned Tonks to finish the recording. “Very well Miss Machado, but now I am afraid I have to tell you some things that are going to be hard to accept…”

“You know who my father is, don’t you?” Veronica asked of him.

Dumbledore nodded and re-told the story he had just told Harry, Ron and Hermione, except it wasn’t as concise as the version he gave before. He had many more details about Maia’s life.

Veronica sat there for a while absorbing everything. Her tears had now dried up after hearing the horrible life her mother was forced to live with that monster.

“This Tom Riddle, this Voldemort, he is the same one that was defeated by The Boy-Who-Lived, like my tutor said, right?” She asked wanting to make sure. They nodded. She turned to Harry. She had just found out yesterday that he was The Boy-Who-Lived. So Voldemort, her father, had killed his parents.

“Oh Harry! I am so sorry,” she sobbed as she engulfed him in a hug. Harry was startled by her reaction. Here she had just learned that her father was a merciless murderer, responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people, he was now returned from the dead and he would probably kill her in the instant he knew she existed, yet she felt terrible for what he had done to him and his parents. Harry hugged her back, deeply moved. Veronica after a while regained her composure.

“Miss Machado, as you have already been told of the story of Voldemort and Harry, you know how important it is that Voldemort never learn of your identity. If he does not kill you he will use you against Harry because of your relationship with him. It will be best if you return to Honduras at once. I have already contacted the Headmaster at IMHEMCA about your situation, and he has agreed to grant you permission to stay there until the start of the year. You will be safer away from here. If anyone who might recognise you happens to see you, your life will be in danger,” Dumbledore warned.

“But… I don’t want to go yet! There are still two weeks before school starts!” She said as she clung to Harry.

“I am sorry, but this is the best… for you both,” Dumbledore replied. “I have arranged everything and you shall depart tomorrow morning. Remus will take you to a safe place now. Voldemort already knows about you and Harry, and that you are special to him, but he does not know who you are. You will go tomorrow morning to get your things and I believe Director Hernandez has notified your legal guardian,” Dumbledore said and turned to Harry. “I am sorry Harry, but you must understand, it has to be this way.”

Harry glared at Dumbledore, but there was nothing he could do. He didn’t want Veronica to leave, but the professor was right. If Voldemort found out about her true identity, he would kill her and now that he had found out about her relationship with Harry, he would use her against him before he killed her. Just like he used his godfather to get to him.

“Today! No, that’s too soon!” Veronica cried out.

Dumbledore stared at Harry. Harry closed his eyes and turned to Veronica.

“Vero, he is right.” He couldn’t believe he was doing this! “You must go and the sooner the better. I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you.” Veronica dissolved into tears. Harry turned to Dumbledore. “Will we be able to keep in touch?” He asked with hope.

“I am sorry, Harry,” Dumbledore shook his head. “It is best if you never contact Miss Machado again.”

Harry had to control the urge to lash out at Dumbledore, but he was right again.

“We shall give you a few moments to say good-bye,” Dumbledore said and motioned for the others to leave the pair alone.

Veronica continued to sob as Harry held her. Harry couldn’t believe that this would be the last time he would hold her. He was going to miss her terribly. He had been preparing himself for when she would leave at the end of summer, but he had imagined that they would continue their relationship through correspondence. He wasn’t naïve to think that they would ever see each other again, but in his mind he had envisioned their relationship dying out because of the distance, and in a gradual manner. Now she would be leaving in a moment. He didn’t know what to do, and he didn’t know what to say. So he clung to her, as she clung to him, desperate to memorise each other.

“Take me,” Vero whispered.

“What?” He asked since he barely heard her.

“Make love to me Harry, before I go. I want you to be my first,” she said as she pulled back and looked at him. “Please,” she said as she began to kiss him passionately.

Harry’s body responded, but he regained his senses. He pulled away from her and gently held her by the shoulders.

“Vero, I… I can’t do this. If I… if we… you, I… we will never be able to let go… and you must. I don’t want you to die Vero, and it will not be fair to take you. Not like this. You deserve to have a special night, not in a hurry and certainly not with someone who you will never see again,” he said cupping her face in his hands and kissing her tear stricken face.

“Oh Harry,” the distraught girl cried harder. She realised that Harry was right, but it didn’t help to make the situation better.

After a while, Remus returned to take her away. She asked Ron and Hermione to take good care of Harry; she then kissed Harry deeply one last time and hugged him. Her hug was definite with an air of good-bye. He felt that he may never see her again, and it pained him. She let go of him and ran out of the common room crying. Remus looked sadly at Harry, before he went after her.

Harry looked at his feet. Dumbledore came behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Harry brushed the hand away angrily.

“Harry,” Hermione called to him and tried to reach him.

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” He yelled back, then his voice dropped to a barely audible hoarse, “I want to be alone for now,” he said and the people in the room looked at each other.

Dumbledore nodded, and the group left Harry alone in the common room. Harry stared at the fire for the longest time after they left; he then closed his eyes and slumped to the couch and held his face in his hands. He wished Sirius was here, he needed someone to talk about things. Why did he have to lose the people he loved? He realised now that he was beginning to love Veronica, but she too was gone and it would be best if he forgot about her, for her own safety. He didn’t notice when he fell asleep.

Ron and Hermione later entered the common room and found him asleep. Hermione gently took his glasses off, while Ron brought a blanket out for him. They covered him up and each went to their rooms to sleep without another word.

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