War Paint

By: Provocative Envy



Months passed.

The four of them became impossibly famous. There were interviews and headlines, exposés and biographies—her relationship with Tom was splashed across the tabloids, a permanent fixture on Page Six of the Daily Prophet, and by April, the general consensus was that it was all beautifully, tragically romantic—star-crossed lovers, separated by time and space, by blood prejudice and that ghastly war and the evil machinations of an undead madman—

Tom was charismatic.

Tom was photogenic.

Tom was a natural leader, articulate and well-spoken, and she watched—entranced and disgusted and fascinated, so incredibly fascinated—as he spun their story to the media, deftly leaving questions about the diary, about his origins, unanswered and unaddressed.

And so she pasted on a grin and accepted reparations from the Ministry and learned how to blush enticingly, innocently, whenever Tom kissed her in public.

"We're finishing school," she told him at lunch one day in June. Through the single-paned glass of the restaurant window, the blinding flash of a camera highlighted the arch of her cheekbones. "It will look suspicious if we don't—we can't just leave in the middle of all of this attention, everyone will wonder why."

He twirled a highly-polished silver butter knife around and around with his fingertips.

"Fine," he conceded, sounding flippant and bored. "It might be better to take the time to establish some connections outside of Potter and Weasley, anyway. Do you think they'll re-Sort me? There aren't really any positive connotations with Slytherin now, and I dislike the idea of you being so far away."

She speared a cherry tomato with her fork; the skin ruptured, scattering green-tinged orange seeds around the rim of her salad bowl.

"I don't know if the Sorting Hat even survived," she replied, dabbing at her mouth with a starched linen napkin, lipstick leaving coral pink stains. "The rebuilding is going well, but Professor McGonagall hasn't been very forthcoming about what's been lost."

He glanced at the horde of photographers milling around outside—he then leaned over the small bistro table and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. A honey-brown strand caught on the pointed platinum backing of her diamond stud earrings.

"Come on, darling," he murmured quietly, so only she could hear. "Look alive. We may not be in love—not the traditional sort, at least—but I really don't think that matters much to you anymore, does it?"

Her eyelashes felt heavy with mascara as she blinked.

"Lots of things were lost in the war," she confirmed, meeting his gaze. "It would be counterproductive to list them all."

He smirked.

She took a bite of iceberg lettuce, and the crunch of it between her teeth echoed and echoed and echoed around her skull.


(July 21, 1999)

"I'm beginning to suspect that the rumors about Grindelwald having the Wand were entirely fabricated," Tom complains, collapsing into a beige wicker deck chair and squinting at the sun.

She adjusts the front of her burgundy bikini top as she sits up, setting aside the fragile, snakeskin-bound potions manual she had collected from the Sardinian archives earlier that morning.

"Why do you say that?" she asks, stretching her arms above her head and staring out at the twinkling teal waters of the Mediterranean.

He groans before peeling off his shirt—a sky blue Lacoste polo, already damp with sweat. An immaculately manicured line of wiry black hair trails below his navel, stopping at the slouching waistband of his khaki shorts. He is not wearing a belt.

"Well, I confirmed he was here between 1942 and 1943," he replies, frustrated. "His magical signature is all over that allegedly abandoned villa in Oristano. But beyond that…just the usual—dungeons, a ransacked library, a rather baffling assortment of silk handkerchiefs—"

"He could've transfigured it," she interrupts, upending a bottle of coconut-infused tanning oil onto her palm. "Or hidden it. We know he liked traps—trick walls, carnivorous plants, all that—and it might be worth looking into any oddities—things that don't match. The handkerchiefs, for example, might be…something. A code, perhaps. Remember Istanbul? With the peacocks—and the mosaic tiles?"

He considers her for a long moment, mouth open and wet and a vivid cherry-red. She rubs the oil onto her upper arms, her elbows, goes all the way to her wrists; she glosses over the waxy, barely-visible outline of the letter 'M'—scars didn't tan, after all.

"Let me do that," he says abruptly, slipping into the vacant spot behind her on the lounge chair, swinging his legs to either side so that he can fit his body around hers like a puzzle piece.

She feels him pull at the strings of her top, feels the Lycra graze the tips of her breasts before tumbling off.

"Tom," she says, curling her toes and relaxing against his chest. His skin is warm from the sun, creamy, and his shoulders are broad, strong, and his hands—his hands—are big and graceful, beautiful, dwarfing the curve of her waist as he skims them down, up, languid along her hips and her stomach and then grazing the heel of his palm against the front of her bikini bottom just so—

"You'll come with me tomorrow," he says, tongue darting out to toy with the shell of her ear. "You're better with patterns—if there's anything there, you'll see it."

Her legs fall open.

"Yes," she replies, pulse quickening, fast, faster, double and triple and quadruple-time—"Of course. What—what kind of silk were the handkerchiefs? Jacquard? Crepe? Charmeuse?"

He smiles into her neck, thumb creeping underneath the edge of her bathing suit.

"You always know exactly what I need, Hermione," he whispers, shifting his pelvis so that the hard line of his cock is pressed against her bare lower back. "How is that? How are you so…"

The lean muscles of his abdomen bunch up as he hitches her right leg over the bend in his elbow, spreading her thighs wide.

"How am I so—what?" she asks, swallowing.

He teases his fingernail along the swollen nub of her clit—and her gut clenches, spine turning liquid and skin so unbearably sensitive that the cool sea breeze tingles and jolts as it caresses every pore and every follicle and she cannot wait she cannot wait

"I have never cared so little if I was being lied to," he says, voice soft.

His breath is hot against her throat.



Ironically, it was Ron who never quite trusted Tom Riddle; Harry adored him, had not been able to make the connection between Tom's reappearance and Voldemort's subsequent demise.

"He makes you happy," Harry told her at Christmas the year she turned twenty-two, cheeks rosy from the pint of brandy that had been added to the eggnog. "Well—maybe not that, exactly, but he makes you…something. Calm. Focused. Like you don't have anything to worry about. It's nice, after…everything. I'm—I'm glad you have him."

Before she could think to formulate a response, she had pushed him laughingly towards the mistletoe with Ginny.

Because there was loathing, and there was love, and she wanted neither—she had neither.

Tom was always going to be something in between: a riddle, a threat, a constant.

She would not let him go.