Chapter 1

Hermione had never said she wanted a little brother, but she got one, just the same. Maybe her parents thought she was too lonely and silent, wrapped up, as she was, in her books and stories. Maybe they were worried that she stayed in her room all day and talked to herself and made up her own world. Maybe that wasn't right for an eight-year old. But she was happy. She ate all her vegetables, she did her school work, and she loved her parents. Wasn't that enough?

One day she came home from school and found him there, standing between her parents in the dim hallway. He wasn't little. He wasn't little, at all. She had pictured a snivelling creature, a little baby she'd have to care for. But he was a tall boy with awkward limbs and grey clothes that did not fit him. He had a pair of shining blue eyes, so metallic and cold that she could not look at them without flinching. His face was remote, expressionless. He did not look alive.

Hermione wanted to cry, but she was too proud to do it in front of a stranger. She was supposed to be a big girl. At school, the teachers said she was very mature for her age.

"Mione, sweetheart? This is Tom. Say hello to him, darling. He's your new brother."

She sucked in a silent breath and took a step forward, raising her hand towards him. She was appalled to find that it was shaking. But she was sure he couldn't see it.

"Hello Tom," she said half-heartedly, but with as much poise as she could muster.

He looked at her hand, then at her face, covered as it was by her bushy hair, and gave a slight nod. His own hand came up almost by force of a strange mechanism and shook hers dryly.

Hermione felt a shiver run down her spine.

"Hello," he said in a grave, melodious voice. It was as if an old man was speaking through a boy's lips. Hermione had read about changelings, elf-children and goblin-cubs. They liked to eat the flesh, the bones and the soul. But those were silly stories. This was just a normal boy, nothing more. He had no claws, no sharp teeth, no pointed tail. Except, his eyes were fashioned like dark crystals.

She wanted to speak to him, but her mouth was sewn shut.

Her parents were talking excitedly. They held out several shopping bags. They were telling her about the new things they had bought Tom. Hermione couldn't hear them. His presence was so consuming that her ears seemed to be filled with cotton. She was frightened she may never understand human speech again.

But after a few moments, the noise became words again and she could breathe, because her parents had moved into the living room and dragged the boy with them, out of her sight.

Hermione stood next to the staircase and tried to regain her composure. She realized she must have looked very rude to the boy. It wasn't his fault her parents wanted a son. He was probably more afraid than her to be here. Suddenly, a great warmth filled up her heart to the brim. She felt pity for him. She wanted to comfort him.

She turned around, ready to smile and greet him properly, but she froze in her step. Her parents had their backs turned and couldn't see, but Tom was staring straight at her. His face was no longer expressionless. Instead, his blue eyes burned with malice, so strong and ferocious, she almost fell back. A twisted sneer had spread his lips into a grimace. Hermione had never seen a look of pure hatred before. He abhorred her, and he was keen to show it.

When her mother turned around, Tom's face melted into nothingness once more. He was the silent angel again.

"Hermione, dear, don't just stand there. Come here, and talk to your brother."

She didn't want to go near him. All she wanted to do was run up the stairs to her room, lock the door so he wouldn't get in, but she saw how his eyes sparked with a secret delight. He was enjoying her dread. She couldn't run now.

Hermione swallowed her fear, hid it away in a secret part of herself. She couldn't let her parents know the horror that dwelled inside her. They looked so happy and hopeful. They thought they were giving her a wonderful gift. But she knew better. From this day on, her happy days were over. Small children understand no compromises. They only know life and death. Her new brother was going to try and destroy her, and she had to fight him, or else she'd perish.

The guest room wasn't quite ready for Tom yet. They wanted it to look like a little boy's room, complete with train sets and rubber soldiers and books with animals and exotic countries on their covers. So, for the first few nights, they set up a mattress in Hermione's room.

When she tried to protest, she was met with her father's disappointed glare and that quieted her on the spot. The last thing she wanted to do was let her parents down. She wanted to make them proud, and if accepting this boy in her vicinity was the only way, she would do it, even if it was going to hurt her.

"Your room is so big and spacious, you'll hardly notice it, darling."

Yet, when night came and she had to go to bed, the room felt too small and narrow for the both of them. They trudged up the stairs together after supper. He climbed up ahead of her with a confident gait. He had been perfectly polite and withdrawn during the meal, but now he seemed to take charge. Hermione liked to act mature, but Tom was mature. He was the same age as her, and yet, if she were pressed to say, she'd give him at least three years on her. She hadn't managed to find out much about him. She knew he was called Tom Riddle, and her parents didn't want to force him to take the Granger name unless he wanted to. She also knew he had lived in an orphanage until now, which might have explained his behaviour, except that she had heard her parents whisper that he was a troubled, misunderstood child and hadn't gotten along with the other orphans. What she knew for a fact was that he didn't have a real mother and father anymore. That should have made her feel compassion, but it only frightened her more, because a child without parents was powerful and strange.

He surveyed her room with boredom. She couldn't tell if he liked it or not. It was probably better than the room he had had at the orphanage, but she knew that would be a rude thing to remark upon. He ignored her toys and dolls and stuffed animals and stopped at her thick shelves. So many books were crammed in those tiny spaces that he looked almost amazed for a moment. It was the only time Hermione saw something human in his eyes.

She wondered if he loved books too. He moved his finger over the titles feverishly. He seemed to want to take one out. Hermione felt her heart leap. What if they could bridge this awful gap between them? Wouldn't that be wonderful? They could read stories and play them out together. She had always wanted a friend like that. But when he realized she was watching him, he turned and gave her an ugly sneer. Her hopes were quickly dashed.

"This is all child's stuff. You're not very clever, are you?"

Hermione opened her mouth in shock. One thing she couldn't abide by was someone making fun of her brains. She was top of her class, top of her school, in fact.

"Most of my books are age 10 and up! I would say I'm very clever. And anyway, I've read more than you."

Tom raised his eyebrow in a mocking gesture. You're lying, he seemed to say.

"I have!" she insisted.

He curled his lips up in a smirk, but it only made him look more terrible. Hermione thought he would say something cruel, but he only shrugged, amused, and walked to his mattress. A clean pyjama was waiting for him there. Hermione watched him strip nonchalantly until he was completely naked. She wondered if children in orphanages were this carefree. She had never seen a naked boy before. She knew boys were different, but his anatomy startled her. Even after he covered himself, she couldn't erase the image from her mind.

Lest Tom think she was a child, she pretended not to give it too much importance. She grabbed her own nightdress and started for the door.

Before she could grab the knob, he was in front of her, blocking her path, a dark shadow on the sunny carpet.

"Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom," she said in a defensive tone.

"No, you don't. You can change here."

She heard the click of the lock behind him.

"I can just unlock it, you know," she said, growing impatient.

"Why don't you try," he challenged brazenly.

Hermione was going to enjoy this victory, small as it was. She twisted the knob and clicked the lock confidently... but it wouldn't budge. She tried again, nonplussed. It would not open. Hermione twisted harder, clicked twice, but the door remained shut.

Tom was watching her with absolute glee.

"What... did you do to it?" she asked warily. Her door never got stuck like this.

"Something you'll never be able to do," he said with venom.

"I'm going to call Mummy!" she warned.

"Do it and make a fool of yourself, little brat. can beg me to open it."

Hermione was appalled. She had never felt more humiliated in her life. She walked away from the door, feeling hot tears wetting her eyelashes.

"I won't beg," she said adamantly.

"Won't you? That's a shame. You'll be locked in here forever."

She whipped her head around to see if he was joking. But those terrible blue eyes pierced her to the bone. She looked down.

"You can't do that. Daddy can just tear down the door."

"Nothing and no one, except me, can let you out," he replied savagely.

"That's absurd!" she countered, wiping small tears from her eyes. "Any door can be opened."

Unless... she thought. Unless...

He saw the doubt in her eyes. It was his triumph.

Hermione tasted bitterness in her mouth. Her heart ached. She had to breathe. She had to think of something nice. Her favorite book, Heidi. Yes, that would make her feel better. After all, Heidi had also been forced to live with someone she didn't like - a terrible and frightening grandfather - and she had survived and thrived. She had been happy. She could survive too.

Hermione walked to her bed and sat down, clutching her nightdress in her hand.

"Very well," she said in the tone she reserved for the slow children in her class.

She started unbuttoning her little dress. She rolled down her stockings slowly. She would rather be naked than beg.

Tom leaned against the door and watched her impassively. Hermione knew that if she tried to turn away or shield herself, she would lose.

She closed her eyes when she felt the cool air hit her skin. It wasn't proper for a young lady to bare her flesh for too long. The teachers at school had told her bad children went to hell. She thought Tom would probably go to that awful place, and she felt both guilty and relieved.

She slipped the nightdress over her shoulders, thankful that it was over.

"You are ugly and skinny," he remarked, when she finally met his eyes again.

Hermione would have felt hurt, but other girls had told her such things numerous times. She was not a pretty child. She squared her shoulders.

"So are you."

Tom narrowed his eyes. He didn't like it when she talked back. Hermione felt a stab of satisfaction. Of course, she had lied. Even she could see he was a handsome boy. It wasn't fair. In the stories she read, sometimes bad people looked nice, but they always got what they deserved. Would Tom be punished soon?

"I want your bed. I want to sleep in it," he announced all of a sudden.

She blinked, gathering her quilt in her tiny fists. "What do you mean?"

"Are you deaf? I want to sleep in the bed. You can sleep on the mattress."

"No. Daddy put that there for you."

"Yes. And I am telling you I am sleeping in the bed."

Hermione's cheeks burned red like flames. "You can't! It's not right."


"Because it's my bed. It belongs to me."

"That's too bad. Your parents are going to be so disappointed when they hear you won't share with the poor orphan boy. They'll think you're mean and selfish."

"But I'm not –" she protested vehemently. "You're the one who is mean. You'll have your own room soon. Why can't you wait?"

"I don't want to. Now. Get off the bed and go sleep on the mattress."

Hermione rose angrily. "No."

She had to fight or perish. The rules were harsh, but simple. She wouldn't give up her bed.

Tom smiled a sinister smile. No child should be able to smile like that.

He's not a child, she thought viciously.

Before she could react, he was upon her. He pulled her hair and dragged her down to the floor. Hermione yelped in shock, but he was stronger and he had the element of surprise on his side. He managed to overpower her. Suddenly, she felt salt on her tongue. His hand was clasped over her mouth. She rolled underneath him helplessly. She had never been good at wrestling. When the girls at school fought she kept away from them. She thought they looked like animals, whereas she was a human girl.

But now, she would have liked to be an animal and snap back at him.

He was pinning her down with his body. She writhed under him and struggled for dear life, but his strength was almost unnatural. An eight-year old boy couldn't be this robust. Hermione felt panic rise up in her throat. She wondered if...if he was doing it again, whatever he had done to the door. He really was the child of an elf or goblin. Nothing else could explain it.

She screamed, but the sound came out muffled underneath his palm. She tried to bite him, but he kneed her in the ribs roughly and she closed her eyes in pain.

"You'd better get this through your thick skull, ugly brat. I am not like you. I am not like anyone else. I'm stronger, better. I will always be. If you obey me, I won't harm you."

Hermione's eyes widened. He towered over her like an angry demon, bathed silver in the moonlight seeping softly through her window. Tom Riddle wasn't going to hell. He had come from hell.

"Do you understand?" he asked in the same melodious voice he used on her parents.

Hermione wondered what would happen if she shook her head. Would he damage her beyond repair? But she nodded meekly.

He seemed satisfied with her defeat. He showed his sharp teeth in a ghastly grin.

Hermione had a sudden premonition. If she went down quietly now, this would be the rhythm of their future life for years to come. She would cower, he would triumph. She would never be able to escape his grasp. She would always be pinned down like this, waiting for his mercy.

Later she would call it a spirit that came from above and helped her strike. But one moment he was on top of her and the next thing she knew, he was jumping up as if burnt. And he had. He had been burnt.

She felt a warmth all over her. It had nothing to do with him. It was like fire glowing under her skin. It was soft, pleasant even.

Tom glanced at her wildly. He was discomposed for once, utterly taken by surprise. Hermione cherished the moment, short-lived as it was. He schooled his features into disdain immediately, but she could tell he was still shaken. He didn't know she had a fairy god-mother. That's what it was, she was sure.

Neither said a word. But Tom walked to her bed possessively and sat on it. Hermione was too tired to fight. She felt she was safe for now. Someone out there knew Tom Riddle was bad and was helping her. The thought comforted her, even though she obediently went and lay down on the mattress.

All night, Tom studied her, eyes unblinking, eyebrows scrunched up in anger, troubled by the thought that – that he might not be the only one, after all. It wasn't possible. This stupid girl lived in a plain, stupid house with plain, stupid parents. She was ordinary and dull.

It must have been his magic. He had attacked himself by accident. He didn't always control it as he should.

That was the truth, the only truth he could accept.

At breakfast the next morning, Tom told her parents about Hermione's "kind gesture".

"She wouldn't let me sleep on the mattress. She said I must take her bed. I couldn't believe one's ever been this nice to me," he trailed off sadly.

Hermione blushed furiously, but she couldn't help melting into her dad's soft caress. He ruffled her hair.

"That was very generous of you, darling. Well done."

"Yes, that is just the thing to do," her mother approved. We raised you well, she seemed to say.

Hermione swallowed her dry toast. She could still feel the sting of last night's fight. Tom was the spitting image of a good boy, sitting in his chair, spreading marmalade over his toast quietly, watching them furtively, as if he was ashamed to stare. She knew better. She saw what he was. She couldn't believe her parents were so blind.

But there was no point trying to tell them the truth. Not when they were beaming down at her with such pride and affection. Tom was very clever. He had made sure she wouldn't talk. Perhaps it was useless. After all, only she and Tom understood what was at stake. Adults could never grasp the significance of their confrontation.

Her heart beat fast. The future stretched in front of her grimly. But she remembered the strong spirit that had come to her aid the night before. She would pray to it, pray to that strange power to help her again. Only the supernatural could keep the demon-child at bay. Tom, at least, knew she had a protector. But those blue eyes, they promised to tear her to pieces.

Hello and thanks for reading. I hope you found it interesting. I am fascinated with these two characters, but I don't like time-travelling stories. Please let me know if it strikes your fancy!