There have been a lot of questions about where this story is going. I never promised that it would be a SS/HG romance, only that it would be a SS/HG story. At this point in time, there are so many ways it could go. Will Hermione dare to give her lift to a man old enough to be her father or will she find herself bound irrevocably to Draco Malfoy? The truth is, I don't know yet. Pretty bad when the author hasn't got a clue, but I'm just sort of letting the story take on a life of its own.
Right now, however, I'm at a bit of a block. There is a light of hope, however. Meet my new beta, Virginia Harrison. She's helping me out by catching my mistakes and assisting me with polishing up what's been written so far. It's helping, too, since reworking these first chapters is clearing the cobwebs out of my brain so that I can move forward with the storyline. The plan is to eventually clean up all my stories, but we're stating with this one since I'm still in a bit of a personal funk. I can't think light hearted and happy (Antigone) when I'm in a funk. Please bear with me.
As always, I own nothing. If I did, I'd have my new Wrangler, a 4,000 sq. ft. log home on a mountain top somewhere and take up stained glass as a hobby (I have an idea for this whole little stained glass village complete with a chapel, but that's another subject all together). Don't bother to sue me, because it would just be a waste of time and legal fees. As always, I love reviews… so feel free to shower me with them. I won't complain.
It had started with a nightmare.
At least, Hermione had thought it was a nightmare. She also thought that it must mean she was going mad, or at least was becoming a little bit sick. After all, how many mentally sound people dream about such things?
It always began in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, but Hermione wasn't there. And yet, she was there, watching and unseen. There was a student present who looked a good deal like herself, but not exactly. She watched the girl from the outside, studying her as she looked over the sinks in the girls' toilet. "Concentrate, Myrtle! What do you remember?"
The ghost that would become known as Moaning Myrtle shot the girl an irritated look. "I told you already! Just a pair of yellow eyes, over there!" She pointed at the cluster of sinks, her patience wearing thin. Hermione watched as the woman she knew to be Helena Granger examined each basin. Finally, she gave a gasp of discovery.
"Here! This must be
the one!" She was studying the tap on
one of the sinks. "This one has never
worked, has it?"
"Not since I've been here."
"And one would have to wonder, Miss Wiggentree, how you knew to look here in the first place."
Hermione looked up to stare at a handsome boy in Slytherin robes. She swallowed hard, knowing who it was. Helena stood up as well, only it couldn't be Helena Granger, since none of Hermione's other relatives were witches or wizards. She had always been under the impression that she was the first witch in her family.
Helena faced him, her Head Girl badge gleaming in the light that poured through the windows. "Tom. Aren't you a bit out of your element? This is a girls' lavatory."
"I was just wondering what you were up to, Helena." He pushed away from the door frame where he was leaning and entered fully into the bathroom. One hand pulled his wand from his robes and he pointed it at Myrtle, muttering a repelling charm that sent the ghost through a wall. "You weren't at dinner."
"I wasn't aware that Slytherins cared if Gryffindors appeared at dinner or not." She backed away as he approached her.
"Only when the Gryffindor in question is likely to cause trouble." Tom smiled. It was more like a triumphant smirk, but it was there. "You never did answer me."
"Answer you what?" Was her voice shaking? Hermione saw that she was reaching towards her wand.
"Answer me about the ball. Remember? I asked you this morning if you would attend it with me." His smile became predatory as he continued to move towards her. She was still backing away, and so far he met her step for step. "Did you forget?"
"No, I didn't forget. I just… thought I would sit this one out. I never was one for balls and dances. Seems like a lot of foolish fuss to me."
"Truly? How odd… for a girl. Of course, you never have been a typical girl, have you?" He stopped in front of the sink she had been inspecting earlier and smiled. "Do you want to see it?"
His smile grew a bit more. "The Chamber of Secrets. You were right about that part."
Helena swallowed and took another step back. "Tom… I… I don't know what you're talking about." Her wand was gripped tightly in her fingers, ready for action.
"Of course you do, Helena. You're the brightest witch in our year." His face turned towards the tap and he spoke, but the words made no sense. They came out as a soft, hissing sound. The Head Girl watched as the tap spun, glowing, and then the sink started to sink into the floor. Her wand came up, but before she could finished the Rictusempra curse, he had countered with Expelliarmus, taking her wand from her. "Not the most graceful move you've ever made, Helena."
She was in shock, but when he moved towards her she made a run for it. He countered by coming around the other side of the sinks and grabbing her around the waist. "Not just yet, my dear. We have someplace to be." Hermione watched, unable to do anything, as Tom Riddle pushed her grandmother into the opening of the chamber, Helena's scream filling the lavatory before he walked forward and muttered a charm on himself to allow him to drift down at a more graceful pace.
Then, Hermione was down at the bottom of the pipe, standing on a carpet of bones that had once belonged to small animals, mostly rats from the looks of them. Helena fell into the pile as she slid out of the end of a pipe, covered in muck and slime. She shook her head to clear it, and then looked around. Hermione saw her shaking, terrified. Tom came walking out of the pipe, bending over slightly so his head didn't touch the ceiling. She began to move backwards at a crawl but stopped quickly with an indrawn breath. She pulled her left hand forward and Hermione saw that there was a large splinter of bone sticking out of it. Riddle moved over her and gripped her by her wrist, pulling her to her feet.
"You'll want to be careful, Helena. This isn't the safest of places." With slender fingers, he pulled the fragment of bone from her skin, and then lifted the bleeding palm to his lips, kissing it tenderly as his eyes locked with those of the girl in his capture.
"Tom, please… let me go."
"Go? How can I do that? You know too much as it is. You know about the chamber, which means you likely know about me as well. You always were the cleverest one in our class, the only one to really challenge me. It annoys me at times, but I do appreciate it." He turned quickly, fingers still locked tightly around the girl's slender wrist as he drug her down the tunnel more deeply into the chamber. It seemed to take forever before they arrived at a metal doorway flanked on either side by tall pillars of serpents.
His soft, hissing voice slithered out before him, triggering the locking mechanism on the inner door to disengage, the door swinging open. Hermione hurried to keep up, her hand reaching out for her grandmother's, but her fingers kept passing through Helena's as though she herself were no more substantial than smoke.
Water from the lake far above them had collected on the floor of the chamber, but Hermione was the only one who made no sound as they passed. She could tell it was cold and could smell the musty odor of reptile, but it was muted and somewhat intangible. She watched as Riddle gave her grandmother a firm jerk, sending her sprawling on the wet stone before the statue of Salazar Slytherin.
"Tell me, Helena, when did you figure it out? How long did it take you to realize who unlocked the chamber last year?" She didn't answer, looking around her for some means of escape. Riddle began to pace back and forth before her. "Tell me, Helena, or it will go badly for you."
She finally met his eyes, forcing herself to not tremble. "I just knew that Hagrid couldn't have done it. He'd never be one to throw stones. He'd never hold bloodlines and circumstances of birth against someone else."
"Not to mention he's too stupid to know what to do with this place." Riddles voice was cold and sneering.
"He's not stupid! He's just naïve."
"Oh? Do you fancy that great oaf, Helena? I must say I'm disappointed in you. I thought a girl from a fine family like yours would know to stick to her own kind, not some half-blood idiot. Besides, it would never work. Bedding him would tear you in two."
Now Helena sneered, her eyes narrowing. "Leave it to a Slytherin to put a vulgar twist on everything." She got to her feet, knees shaking, but she forced herself to maintain her ground as Riddle stalked towards her.
"And leave it to a Gryffindor to open her mouth before she has done any thinking. Salazar was right about the Mudbloods, they don't belong here. They have no understanding of our world and our customs."
"Just because you can't tolerate the thought of them doesn't mean they'll suddenly stop being born into Muggle families. It has happened before and it will happen again. And while we're on the subject," her eyes glittered dangerously, "let's discuss your own father, shall we?"
"My father? A filthy Muggle who threw my mother aside when he learned she was a witch? All he did was provide the seed needed to bring me into existence, nothing more. I don't even use his name when I can avoid it." He was standing so close to her that there was no light to be seen between them. Helena clenched her hands into fists, her jaw clenched tightly. She looked as though she was refusing to back down, to show any sign of possible weakness. Hermione wanted to grab Riddle and pull him away, to get that filthy monster away from her grandmother, but her hands passed through him. She saw him smile again, a cold sort of smile that sent a chilling fear through her. "Would you like to see it, Helena?"
Tom whirled away from Helena and faced the statue. His voice turned back into that raspy hiss, back into parseltongue. Hermione watched as the mouth of the statue began to slowly open, not noticing that Helena backed away so that she passed through her right shoulder. Something large began slither out of it. Hermione had seen it before, having caught sight of it in a mirror, but she still couldn't tear her eyes from it. Since she wasn't really here, the gaze of the basilisk didn't hurt her. Riddle said something to it and it moved past her. She turned to follow it and watched as it cut off Helena's escape from the chamber. It used its hissing breath and cold body to herd and nudge the girl back towards Tom. As she passed through Hermione, it became obvious that her eyes were shut tightly.
"So, you've figured out that part as well, have you? Very clever, but difficult to run or fight when you can't see." Helena stopped when her back collided with Riddles chest. She froze, her breathing ragged. Tom looked up at the serpent and spoke to it again as his arms encircled the girl. It began to coil around the pair of them like a poisonous green rope. Its master took his hands and ran them up the girl's trembling arms, then back down. He gripped her injured hand in his own and brought it over to the snake's body. "He likes to be petted. Strange, I know, for something so fearsome to enjoy a simple sign of affection, but it doesn't stop it from being true." He forced her to place her palm on the basilisk's scales and then stroke it. The creature seemed to roll under her touch, leaning into it.
Tom let go of her hand and she stopped petting the creature. She didn't move her hand, however, as though too afraid to move. Riddle, however, did move. Within the small enclosure the snake had made with its body, he walked around to stand in front of her. "Fascinating, isn't it? It took me years to figure out how to get down here, but now it's all so easy. The locks will only respond to a parselmouth, so I don't have to worry about someone finding it by accident. You were looking for it, but of course you aren't an ordinary witch. In fact, I would wager that you are one of the most promising witches of our age. All the teachers believe so. I hear them talking about all the high hopes they have for you." He stepped closer so that they were almost touching again. Helena kept her eyes shut, her hand still resting on the serpent. "It's very obedient to me, and very hungry. Rats simply don't measure up to its appetite. It was so happy when I let it out to hunt last year. I had thought that it wouldn't be safe to let it out again while I was at school, but somehow I feel sorry for it."
Helena's eyes finally snapped open. "No! You can't!"
"I can't? You'd rather he starve to death?" Riddle looked up at the basilisk's head. "I was thinking I'd have him start with Hufflepuff, after all even their purebloods are intolerable. Then Ravenclaw."
"No, Tom please don't do this. I won't tell anyone. I swear I won't say a word."
Riddle looked back at her, his eyes glittering. "What price can you pay, to keep him in here?"
"Price?" Her voice sounded like a strangled whisper. He closed the remaining bit of space, but she backed up in panic, tripping over a coil of serpent. The basilisk hardly flinched as she fell back, coming to rest on its thick body. Riddle crouched down before her and Hermione let out an outraged yell as his hands came to rest on Helena's legs, moving to push the cloth of her skirt upwards. The girl closed her knees together quickly.
"No? Well then, who would you like me to start with? The Hufflepufffs or the Ravenclaws? Or perhaps I should just move directly to your fellow Gryffindors."
"No!" She sounded panicked, worried. She attempted to find purchase with her feet, but her shoes couldn't grip the wet stone. "Tom, you don't want to do this. You can't want to… why?" She sounded as though she couldn't fathom an answer, tears starting to form in her eyes.
"I have already told you why, Helena. You are the greatest witch of our age and have so much potential to be even greater. I admire greatness. Besides, I am Slytherins' heir, but I am not immortal. I will require heirs of my own. Why should I settle for less than the best? Why shouldn't the mother of my son be my equal in power?" His fingers moved to her knees and gripped the tender skin there. "It's up to you, Helena. Is your body, your womb, worth saving the Muggleborns in this school? Is that a sacrifice you can make?"
She was crying now. He pulled her knees apart and inched forward. "No… Tom please. Not like this. Not here."
Hands vanished underneath the woolen skirt and Hermione flinched at the sound of tearing cloth. "What better place to continue Slytherins' lineage than in the very chamber he built for his descendants?" He threw the now ruined knickers aside and rose up on his knees. Hermione could see that he was opening the front of his trousers, but the loose robes obstructed him from view. As he moved over Helena, pushing her back against the body of the basilisk, his robes spared Hermione from having to actually see him enter her. Her pain filled gasp and agonized facial expression told her that it was accomplished.
It was much like a car wreck. Even though Hermione wanted to gouge out her own eyes, she couldn't look away as Tom moved against Helena. The girl was crying, tears running down her cheeks. He seemed to care nothing for it. This was not an act of love or lust. This was rape, the dehumanization of a woman. He was dominating her, stripping her of her self-worth, reducing her to only a vessel. The basilisk made a rumbling sound as it lay coiled about them. Hermione screamed at Riddle to stop it, that he had humiliated her enough. He seemed to be at it for a small eternity before he bent his head back, the expression on his face one of ecstasy. When he had emptied himself into his victim, he looked back down at her, his face triumphant.
He backed off of her and Hermione watched Helena quickly pull her skirt back down, clamping her legs together. "Careful, Dearest." Tom grabbed her by the arms and pulled her around so that she was facing the other way, then used one arm to lift her legs and drape them over the coils of the basilisk, using the other arm to lay her head down on the stone floor. "We don't want anything wasted, now do we?" He got up onto his knees and tucked himself back into his trousers. "You should rest a moment, just in case we're lucky enough to be on the fertile part of your cycle."
Helena covered her face with her hands as the basilisk moved its heavy head over her. Hermione watched as the long, forked tongue flicked over her, tasting her. Tom reached out and petted the beast fondly. "You have a good many Muggles that have married into your own family, don't you? Perhaps that explains why you care so much for the Mudbloods." He looked down at the crying girl where she still lay cradled by the serpent. "It would be a shame should anything happen to any of them."
Hermione had bolted upright in bed, her breathing heavy. The nightmarish rape was still fresh in her mind. That man, Tom Riddle, and her grandmother. The whole thing was an impossibility, but it had seemed so real.
Too bloody real.
Her stomach churned violently and she tossed aside the thick covers of her bed. Her feet sounded dully on the floor as she ran to the bathroom connected to her bedroom and emptied the remnants of the evening dinner into the toilet.
Hermione was in the attic of her parents' home. There was a charity auction taking place at one of the local churches, and her mother had asked her to go through the attic for things to donate. She had often played here as a child, going through the old text books from when her mother and father were in college and looking through old photographs of her grandmother. Helena Granger had been a beauty in her youth, delicate and perfect in every way. There were boxes with antique gowns in lace and silk wrapped in tissue paper and an armoire filled with jewelry. As a child she had crept up here and tried on the dresses, far too big for her at the time, and pretended to be some world-renowned scientist or doctor giving a lecture at the university. She would wrap herself in long ropes of pearls and slip rings onto her fingers. These possessions meant so much to her that she certainly wasn't going to part with them.
Among her grandmother's things was a very old and very large trunk. When it was put up here someone had attached the key to one of the end handles with a loop of wire, so it was easy enough for her unlock it. Throwing back the lid, she smiled at the brightly coloured quilts and afghans inside. She began to sort through them, taking them out one by one just in case there was one she wanted to keep for herself. As she pulled out the last afghan, a delicate creation of lilac yarn and ribbon, a second key fell out into the bottom of the trunk. She frowned at the golden key, then reached in to claim it. As her fingertips touched it, she felt the tell tale hum of magic upon it.
She paused, thinking at first that she was mistaken. She removed her hand and shook it out a moment, then reached for the key again. The hum was still there. Frowning, she picked up the key and held it up into a shaft of sunlight pouring through a tiny window above her. It looked exactly like the key that opened the trunk, only that key wasn't magical. Also, the other key was heavy iron, and this one was golden. She studied it for a long moment, then shut the lid of the trunk. She locked it with the ordinary key, then unlocked it again with the magical key, throwing back the lid.
Her breath caught within her throat. Just as she had suspected, the trunk was spelled to have more than one interior. The quilts and afghans were kept in the first one, but the magical key had opened the second. She was looking down at a trunk full of things that were familiar to anyone in the wizarding world. A wooden box from Ollivanders rested atop several sets of robes with the Gryffindor crest upon them. She opened the box to find a slender wand, about an inch sorter than her own. She set this aside and removed the school robes to find old textbooks. Picking up the Transfiguration text she opened the front cover to find the print date, about sixty years before her own books were written. It looked as though the entire six year book list was present. There was one of the old Hogwarts annuals, something that was no longer done. Flipping through it, she found herself looking at old wizard photos, the faces of the students bright and cheerful. She smiled at them as they waved back at her.
Then the memory of her nightmare came back to her. She bit her lip worringly, then turned to the Gryffindor section of the annual. There, right in the front of the section, was a photo of the Head Girl. Helena Wiggentree smiled brightly up at her, looking happy and full of life. The same face as an old photograph, an old Muggle photograph that she had of Helena Granger holding her father when he was barely one month old. Hermione swallowed hard, her heart hammering in her chest. So she wasn't the first in her family to be born a witch. There had been others, or at least one other.
Her hands shook as she turned through the book further. She came to the Slytherin section and drew a shakey breath at the photo of Tom Riddle. He looked like some sort of dark angel, handsome and otherworldly. Looking at this photo, it would be impossible to imagine he could be the same demon who held the wizarding world in terror. He looked as though butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
She continued to turn the pages and came across photos taken later in the year. There were the pictures of the individual Quidditch teams and one that was labeled "Potions Team" that made her wonder if Hogwarts used to regularly complete with other schools. There were the couple photographs with titles such as "Most Likely to Marry" and "Most Likely to Set the Ministry of Magic on its Ear". She turned the page again and froze. There were the Head Boy and Head Girl, only this time Helena didn't look very happy. She looked as though she had been suffering from lack of sleep and had missed one too many meals. Hermione's stomach threatened to rebel on her as she noted that Riddle was standing behind her grandmother with his arms wrapped around her waist, a cocky, self-satisfied smile on his lips. Helena wasn't even looking at the camera. The title read "Most Likely to Succeed", but someone had signed it. Hermione licked her lips as she read the spidery scrawl. "Most Likely to Rule the World – V."
She slammed the book shut and threw it back into the trunk, her body having gone completely cold. It was real, her nightmare was all too real. That thing had touched her grandmother. Hermione was a clever girl, she could decipher what had most likely happened afterwards. She would wager all the gold in Gringotts that there had been very little heard from Helena Wiggentree after graduation.
Something tugged at her mind. She ignored it at first, but then reopened the book. In the photo, that last photo, he had held her with his arms wrapped around her waist. His hands, however, had been resting low on her belly, almost possessively. Hermione looked towards the open trap door that let the light from the hallway below come in. She thought of her father, of his birthday. She had come late in their lives and her parents were older than most of the parents her classmates had. She looked at the date on the annual, her mind whirring. The numbers all clicked in perfect alignment.
"I am Slytherins' heir, but I am not immortal. I will require heirs of my own."
Her eyes closed as if in pain, a silver tear escaping from one eyelid. Slytherins' heir. Voldemort's son. Her perfect, normal, Muggle father. The blood of the most feared and reviled sorcerer ever to live flowed through the veins of that wonderful, extraordinary man. It flowed through her own veins as well, but that was more pain than she could truly bear just now.