5 years later

Cooking dinner after a long day at work, Hermione poured herself a drink while the TV droned on in the background.

"And earlier today a local man robbed a bank only to crash his car in a subsequent car chase . . ."

Humming to herself, Hermione tuned out the reporter's voice, and only barely caught the last few words.

"In other news, a new head of the National Water Quality Board, Tom Riddle, Jr., has been named. At 33, he is the youngest head ever to serve . . ."

CRASH!

Hermione had whirled around at this unexpected news and dropped her glass. She stared in shock at the screen for a few minutes and barely noticed as the liquid seeped into the carpet and her shoes.

Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she walked unsteadily towards a chair and fell down heavily in it.

She hadn't heard his name in years. In fact, she'd almost been able to forget him—save for her nightmares. She'd almost been able to convince herself that he'd really gone, that his "other plans" were to retire happily in the Caribbean or someplace equally far away.

What the hell is he doing as the head of the National Water Quality Board?, she fumed to herself. She didn't think he had any sort of background in public policy, much less in water quality, but she supposed his good looks and charisma had been enough to bluff him through the job.

Relax, Hermione, she told herself. Maybe he secretly nourished a dream of ensuring that everybody always has clean water to drink. Maybe he's secretly a good person. She snorted. She'd believe that when she saw it.

Nevertheless, it did no good to worry like this. His new job had made it even unlikelier that they'd ever cross paths again.

Resolving to leave Tom in the past, she turned back to her dinner.


Scowling angrily, Hermione downed her fifth glass of champagne, ignoring the titters and looks from the other guests.

This was not her day.

First, her stupid, good-for-nothing boyfriend, Cormac McLaggen, had dumped her. Right before this equally stupid and good-for-nothing charity gala for the mental hospital! Consequently, she'd had to go single (because, according to Fudge she "absolutely had to be there to represent the hospital in the best possible light") and suffer the humiliation from the other doctors at this party.

Second, her patients were unusually badly behaved today. They all had their bad days, and she was usually able to bear with them, but her temper had been running short today, leading to her lashing out at them. She'd immediately regretted her actions, but there was no taking them back, and now her patients were scared and distrustful of her. She sighed. It would probably take a full month to repair the damage.

Third, the radio on the way home had informed her that stupid Tom Riddle had made a public service announcement about the country's absolutely horrendous water quality and assured everybody that he was working on the problem. Perhaps she was just suffering from paranoia, but she was sure that this so-called "problem" was a key factor in his sneaky little plans.

She turned back towards the refreshment table—this was going to be a long day and called for another glass of champagne—when she bumped right into someone.

"So sorry, didn't see you there," she muttered, trying to sidestep them.

"Probably because you've had five glasses of champagne," the person drawled, and she looked up in surprise—she knew that voice.

"Tom?" she gasped, finally looking up at him.

"In the flesh," he grinned, winking at her. She flushed, making to go around him, but he grabbed her arm.

"May I have this dance?" he asked, smiling at her. She gulped; his expression reminded her of a shark's.

"Well, I, uh," she stammered. He completely ignored her and swept her onto the dance floor.

Finally waking up from her daze, she snapped, "I didn't say I wanted to dance with you."

"You didn't say that you didn't want to dance with me," he pointed out, amused.

"Well, now I am," she declared, trying to wrench her arm out of his grip.

"Don't be rude; the dance isn't over yet," he rebuked her coldly. She shivered, remembering the fact that he was a killer.

"What do you want, Tom?" she hissed, giving up on breaking out of his hold.

"I just want the opportunity to dance with the most beautiful woman in the room," he said innocently.

She glared at him. "Tell me the truth."

"I'm hurt that you distrust me so," he smirked. "Dance's over," he said suddenly, letting go of her hand. "Until next time."

She stood there gaping as he disappeared quickly in the crowd, leaving her alone on the dance floor.

Heaving a breath in exasperation, she headed towards the refreshment table again.

This called for another glass of champagne.


Tom glared at the man who had motioned him over.

"What did you want?" he spit out.

"Grindelwald wants to know if you can deliver," the man said nonchalantly, completely unafraid of him. "He doesn't tolerate failure."

"Tell him that I don't either and that my delivery is quite certain," he growled. "Tell him that I don't appreciate having my time interrupted for trivial matters."

"Grindelwald decides what's trivial and what isn't. And you can tell him yourself, the next time he deigns to speak to you," the man snickered, walking away from him.

He balled his fists furiously, contemplating ways to eviscerate the man in the most painful ways imaginable. They won't get away with speaking to him like that. Nobody has.


Click-click-click.

Hermione sighed happily; this was her most favorite part of the day, when the hospital had closed to visitors, the patients had gone to bed, and the only thing she could hear was the sound of her high heels tapping.

For once, the hospital was peaceful.

As she rounded the corner on her way back to her office, she noticed someone bent over, drinking from the water fountain.

She frowned. The person was definitely not a staff member.

"Excuse me, sir, but visiting hours are over—" she stopped as the man straightened and flashed a smug smile at her.

"Sir, I like the sound of that," he grinned, leaning against the wall.

"What the fuck are you doing here, Tom?" she scowled, crossing her arms.

"I'm inspecting the water quality here," he replied innocently.

"Bullshit," she hissed. "I'm sure you personally inspect every building's water quality, don't you?"

"I made an exception for you—don't look so happy," he smirked. "But, you know, I think your building's water quality is dangerously low. We may have to shut this hospital down until it can be improved."

"You can't!" she gasped.

"The question isn't whether I can or cannot, Hermione, because I definitely can," he said. "It's what you're willing to do about it."

"What do you want, Tom?" she asked resignedly.

"That's more like it," he said, moving closer towards her. "Go on a date with me."

"What?" Hermione screeched. "You—I—what!"

"Speechless? Most women are," he teased.

"You're such an arrogant asshole," she growled. "I'll go on your stupid date, but don't expect me to like it."

"You better," he said coldly. "Because if you don't, I might just decide to close the hospital anyway."

She stood there and stared at him. "You have no idea how much I despise you right now," she snapped finally.

"Doesn't matter to me as long as you behave nicely on our date. How's next Wednesday sound? I'll pick you up at six thirty," he said, turning to leave before she could respond.

"Son of a bitch," Hermione swore.

Her week had just gotten so much worse.


"Well, you clean up well," Tom remarked as he lounged against her doorframe.

"Why, thank you, Tom," she replied brightly, accepting his arm. She was determined to "play nice" if only for the hospital. As soon as this night was over, she could go back to cursing his name.

Surprisingly, their date passed relatively pleasantly even though they mostly bickered about random and unimportant things. He was actually quite charming when he wanted to be.

"Excuse me for a moment," he suddenly interrupted smoothly, right in the middle of her sentence. Frowning, she watched as he quickly got up from his seat and headed for the back of the restaurant.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

First five minutes passed, then ten, then fifteen . . . When is he coming back? I thought this date wasn't going too bad. If he stood me up, there's going to be hell to pay, she thought furiously, glaring at any waitresses who happened to walk by.

Finally when she couldn't stand it anymore, she got up and strode towards the entrance, leaving the bill unpaid. Maybe they'll chase him out to his car and make him pay, she thought scathingly as she turned the corner and suddenly caught a glimpse of dark hair and a tall body in a suit behind a curtain.

If he's with another girl, she scowled, ducking behind the door so she could eavesdrop.

"Will you have it ready by then?" a deep, masculine voice asked. Not Tom's, she noted, frowning.

"Once the results are in on the test subject, it will be ready for distribution," Tom answered.

"It better be, Riddle," the voice retorted. "Or you'll be in deep trouble."

"Of course, sir," Tom replied suavely. "Have I ever given you any reason to doubt me?"

"See to it that you don't," the voice barked. "Dismissed."

Hermione hurriedly backed away from the curtain and dashed back to the table. Luckily, the staff hadn't cleared away any of the dishes yet, and she was able to sneak back without Tom noticing.

"Sorry about that, Hermione," Tom apologized, sliding back into his seat. "There was some business with the water board."

"Oh, no problem," she tittered nervously. "It was really no trouble at all."

He stared at her with a disconcerted expression. "Why don't I make it up to you with a walk in the park?"

"That sounds lovely, Tom," she responded, forcing herself to take a deep breath so her voice would sound normal.

He didn't look convinced, but he appeared to let it go.

She barely focused on the walk as she dissected every bit of the conversation she'd overheard. What were Tom and that man planning? What test subject were they using? More importantly, what were they testing out? She shivered, remembering Tom's last project. Surely, it wasn't anything like that?

Luckily, Tom seemed caught up in his own thoughts as well. Their walk was completely silent.

"We're back, Hermione," Tom prompted, guiding her out of his car.

"Hmm?" she murmured, jolted out of her thoughts.

"You've been so distracted," he noted. "What are you thinking about?"

"Nothing important," she lied. "Thank you for the wonderful date, Tom."

Making to close the door, she stepped into her house only to have him stop the door with his foot.

"Aren't you going to invite me in, Hermione?" he asked pleasantly but with a hint of iron behind it. She suddenly noticed that his eyes were burning with hate? anger? lust? She couldn't tell, and she was reminded of his past.

"I really don't think—"

"I insist," he said firmly, pushing the door open and shoving her inside.

"Tom, what the hell are you doing?" she gasped, pushing back against him.

Kicking the door closed behind him, he yanked her over to the wall and pressed her against it.

"God, why can't I let you go?" he breathed, seemingly talking to himself.

"Tom—I—what!" she spluttered, struggling against his grip. She could feel her strength waning, though; she felt so tired for some reason.

"You're taking over my life," he whispered, his lips against her ear. "I can't let you do that anymore. Just one time, and then you'll be gone forever."

He captured her lips in a fiery and dominating kiss. Finding herself unable to resist, she ceased her struggles.

"Tom," she murmured as she gave herself over to sweet surrender.


He'd been waiting for this for five years. Her face had always been in the back of his mind, taunting him, disrupting his concentration, ruining him.

She's a wicked siren, and he can't escape her song.

One night, he thought, and then I can let her go.

He should have known that once you taste ambrosia, you can never satisfy your craving and you can never forget it.


I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

The words circled in her head like a flock of birds, and she felt so dizzy. Fighting against exhaustion, she pulled herself to a sitting position. Immediately, she regretted it as the blood drained from her head and it pounded even more, but she had to call the hospital and tell them she wasn't going in . . .

"Relax, I already called you in sick," a voice soothed. Still groggy, she didn't understand who was talking to her.

"Who—what are you doing here?" she croaked, blearily looking about her bedroom.

Tom's face finally swam into focus in front of her and she tried to concentrate on it. God, what had happened to her?

As if he had heard her thoughts, he said, "You passed out last night, and I stayed the night to help you. I think you may have gotten pneumonia from our walk because you had a high fever and chills. Here, I have some medicine for you to take." He held some pills out in front of her.

"Thanks," she muttered, quickly swallowing them down. The room finally stopped looking so blurry and she was able to see him clearly now.

"Rest some more," he said. "You need to sleep a lot to regain your strength."

She yawned. "Yeah, I feel so tired already . . ." Her voice trailed off as she fell asleep again.

Tom stared at her sleeping form. He drew the blankets up over her and whispered, "Sleep well, Hermione."

Tom stayed and took care of her for an entire week. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all, she caught herself thinking frequently over his stay.

"I really can't tell how much I'm grateful to you for taking care of me this week," she thanked him. "I feel so bad for making you miss so much work."

"It wasn't a problem at all, Hermione," he smiled. "Helping you feel better was worth it."

"Regardless, I can't thank you enough." She hesitated slightly. "Would you like to go out again sometime?"

He looked at her with a strange mixture of shock, fear, and sadness for a moment. Then, his face rapidly morphed into an expression of happiness. "I would really like that."

"Good, so next Tuesday? I'll meet you at noon for lunch," she grinned, mimicking the way he had asked her on the last date as she shut the door in his face.

His stunned expression was worth facing his wrath later, she thought victoriously.

She chose to overlook his strange expression earlier. Perhaps she'd just imagined it.


Slowly but surely, Tom integrated himself into her life, spreading like a virus. First, they went on dates almost every week, then every couple of days, then every day. Soon, she was practically living over at his house, and it didn't seem like too much of a stretch to move in with him.

She was falling, but he was always there to catch her.

One day, she looked around and realized that she hadn't seen any of her friends in over two months. Staring at the phone, she hesitated as she debated whether to call them and invite them over. Her hand hovered over the phone, but she abruptly turned away.

It would be too awkward to talk to them now after this long apart. Besides, if they missed her, they'd call her themselves.

She's drowning, but he's there to help her breathe.

"What's wrong with me, Tom?" she sobbed. She used to love her job, but now she could barely get through an hour with her patients. Even Dr. Fudge had noticed and had given her a week of mandatory leave so she "could sort out her problems."

"Maybe you just need a break from everything," he said reassuringly. "You work yourself too hard, Hermione. Relax for once. Enjoy this week; then go back and take care of your patients."

"You're right," she agreed. "Everybody needs a break once in a while."

One week passed, then two, then a month . . . She didn't even notice the letter Fudge sent her to inform her that he had hired somebody else for her position, nor did she miss her job.

Everything was going black, but his face was always the last thing she saw.


She's mine, he thinks as he stares at her sleeping form. He reaches out and brushes her hair off her face.

Sometimes, he wondered if this was what his mother felt like, watching his father and knowing that she had him, but not truly, never the way she wanted.

The bottle of pills next to her bed catches his eye, and his face hardens as he's reminded of Grindelwald and his task.

He despises Grindelwald. He thinks Tom's sycophantic and weak, that he's a spineless lackey to be ordered around.

Someday, he'll understand his plans, realize his genius.

Sometimes, he wondered if this was what his father felt like, living in a world that refuses to see what you see, turning in dark spirals in the recesses of your mind.

He's the worst of both of his parents, with his mother's obsessive love and his father's disturbing insanity.

But with her, at least he can pretend he's not insane.


The old man's face stared back at him as blank as a fresh piece of paper.

He smirked viciously. "So you thought you could control me, did you?"

"You didn't think that I was a threat," he continued, pacing around the room.

"None of you did," he added, gesturing at the rest of Grindelwald's gang gathered around the room in various stages of catatonia.

"Didn't anyone teach you not to underestimate your opponents?" he mocked.

"It was so easy, too. All I had to do was bribe the cook to add some powdered pill to your food every day. A little bit every day for a month, that's all I needed."

"But none of you will ever know the completion of our plans, will you? I'm taking over, and you can trust I'll do a much better job than any of you could have done."

"It's a shame none of you will ever hear my last words to you," he grinned sharply, bowing to the group as he walked out.


Ten Months Later

Hermione whistled happily as she made breakfast in the kitchen.

"Mail's here," she called because he liked to be the first to read it.

Flipping through the letters absentmindedly, she would have skipped over the newspaper until the headline caught her eye.

IS IT TRUE? IS TOM RIDDLE DATING A MENTALLY ILL WOMAN?

Underneath was a picture of her and Tom walking in the park. She would have thought it was an adorable picture (he had his arm around her and they were both smiling) if it wasn't for the caption and headline proclaiming her to be insane.

"Don't read that," he ordered, snatching the newspaper out of her hands abruptly.

She looked at him with a shocked expression, and he quickly shoved a glass of water and some pills in her hand.

"Remember to take these so you don't get pneumonia again," he reproached warily, eyeing her.

Slowly, she gulped down the pills and the water. As soon as he left, she spit them back out in the sink, wiping her mouth for good measure.


Three pills in a plastic cup.

"Here you go," she chirps brightly, smiling at the person in line.

"Don't wanna, don't wanna," he mutters, stubbornly glaring at the floor.

"You know you have to," she chides, gently placing it in his hand.

Finally he meets her eyes as he swallows the pills. Her breath catches a bit as she realizes how clear and lucid his eyes seemed until the pills kick in. Then, they smooth over, glazing his expression.

Smiling dopily, he stumbles back to his room.

She almost wants to take those pills back, force him to spit them back up, so she can see his bright eyes.


Stealthily, she switches the labels on the bottles.

She can still remember the look of those eerily white, almost glowing like the moon, pills sitting innocently in the plastic bottles.

She snickers as she looks proudly down on her handiwork.

This'll put a wrench in his plans, she thinks viciously, bounding away.


"Some more wine?" Tom asks politely, gesturing at her empty glass.

"Sure, thank you," she responds automatically.

She looks up as the waitress approaches and only just barely catches a few bits of white powder going into her drink, but by the time she really looks at it, nothing looks out of place.

She assumes it was just some dust floating around and takes a sip of her wine.


"Why are you doing this to me?" he groans, kissing her neck.

Her arms feel so heavy, and it's too much effort to move, so she lies limp in his arms as his hands roam and his lips leave little marks all over her body.


"Here, I have some medicine for you to take," he says steadily. As she downs the pills, he watches her reaction closely.


"What did you do, Tom?" she gasps in horror.

"Hermione? Is something wrong?" he asks concernedly.

"I know what you're doing," she accuses. "You've made everybody think I'm crazy and you're feeding me these pills so I'll be complacent! Why are you doing this to me?"

"I'm not doing anything to you, Hermione. I told you those pills are for pneumonia—"

"Stop lying to me! I know there's no such thing; I would never have believed you if I wasn't influenced by those stupid pills," she yelled.

"Those pills are necessary—"

"Necessary? For you to keep me locked up like this? No, Tom, I've had enough of this. I'm leaving," she declared.

"Don't joke—"

"I'm not joking," she replied coldly. "I'm packing my bags right now, and I'll leave in an hour."

His expression changed from confused to angry and determined. "You're not leaving, Hermione. I won't let you."

"You can't stop me—" He rushed across the room and slammed her against the wall.

"Get off of me, Tom!" she shouted.

"Take these pills, now," he said firmly.

"No, I won't let you control me—" Quickly, he shoved them into her mouth and held her nose to force her to swallow.

As her eyes glazed over and she slumped to the ground, he scooped her up in his arms.

"Don't you see, Hermione? I had to do this," he pleaded as she sat in front of him at the table with a blank expression on her face.

"You just happened to be the first. Soon, the entire country will be just like you except for me, of course. I'll control everything just as I always wanted to."

She nodded along placidly.

"I couldn't stand having you leave me," he burst out suddenly. "I need you so much; it's killing me. You made me weak, and I can't have any weaknesses. That's why you had to go, Hermione, do you understand?"

"Of course, Tom," she replied absentmindedly.

He stared in her eyes. There was no trace of her fire, her determination.

There never would be.

She would never be the same.

He sighed and walked away with only a bit of regret.


A/N: My inspiration for the pills Tom creates and the ending is from Beth Revis's short story "Love is a Choice" from the Shards and Ashes anthology. Check it out and please review!

Also, my sister, penname Eirini, has written a Tom/Hermione called "Always." Please go read it!

And last but most definitely not least, a hearty thank you to everyone who followed, favorited, or reviewed my story!