When he stepped out into the corridor he knew something was wrong.
It was different. That suit of armor had moved. That portrait was not the same. The very air felt somehow changed. It wasn't until the Slytherin common room wouldn't open at his command, wasn't until a student he didn't recognize looked at him and asked, with a snort so rude he almost drew his wand on the boy right there, whether it was historical dress up day, that he began to figure it out.
"I think," he said slowly, "I need to go see Dippet."
The boy eyed him with an open, mocking disdain that no one had dared show him for years. "See whom?" he asked.
That earned him a roll of the eyes. "You mean Dumbledore?"
Of course it would have to be Dumbledore. Whatever had happened was bad – very bad – and in a terrible world it made sense that Dumbledore would be the Headmaster of his beloved Hogwarts. When Dumbledore saw him, saw him standing politely in the Headmaster's office with his hands clasped behind his back and his warmest smile on his face, the man faltered for a moment.
"Tom Riddle," he said.
The Headmaster didn't sound happy. "I always wondered what had happened to you," he added.
Tom looked at the man, significantly older now, and the last piece of the mystery took shape before him. Not that he would admit he knew anything, of course. He smiled again, just a confused and lost boy. "I'm not sure what's going on, sir," he said. "I'd been studying and I stepped out into the corridor and I was here. What's happened to Headmaster Dippet, sir?"
"Yes," Dumbledore said, rather obviously musing even as his eyes twinkled in that disingenuous way he'd always had. "Dippet was rather fond of you."
Tom waited. There was nothing, after all, that he could really say to that. He'd worked hard to cultivate Dippet and it had been successful. It had always been with everyone except the man he stood before now. This one, cursed man had always seen through him and now he seemed to have far too much power.
At last, Dumbledore said, "In the fall of 1944, your seventh year at Hogwarts, you simply disappeared one day. Your friends were distressed, no small expense was spared looking for you, but your body was never found."
"It's the fall of 1944 now," Tom said, his voice low. "Or it was this morning."
"Perhaps for you," Dumbledore conceded. "I'm afraid, however, that for the rest of us this morning was a lovely September day in 1997."
"Fifty-three years," Tom said, controlling the rage that threatened to consume him. He'd laid all his plans. He'd built a following. He'd been ready to put everything into motion and now it was all gone. All wasted. He was nothing but a friendless, parentless seventeen-year-old boy at the mercy of this man yet again. It was untenable. He would have said it was unbearable but, clearly, he would have to bear it just as he'd borne the orphanage, just as he'd born this man's unrelenting dislike and suspicion.
Dumbledore twinkled again and Tom kept his warm but confused smiled in place and waited for whatever surely infuriating solution the old man would come up with for this dilemma when a bushy-haired girl in Gryffindor colors pushed open the door and snapped, "Why is there another bedroom in the Head suite? Malfoy has been complaining about it since he got up and it is bad enough to have to live with that… person… but his endless whinging is too much."
"Excellent news," Dumbledore said and the girl stopped. Tom suspected she'd had a fairly long torrent of whinging of her own to do about this Malfoy – not Abraxas, surely – and was a tad peeved to be cut off. "Miss Granger, meet Tom Riddle. He's popped in from the past and it would seem the castle has prepared a place for him."
"In the Head dorm?" Miss Granger asked. "Why? And what am I supposed to do about it?"
Tom found himself amused she didn't seem at all fazed someone had traveled from the past to her time but was just demanding to know why he was her problem.
"Well," Dumbledore said genially, "he was Head Boy in his own time before he disappeared. Perhaps the castle felt he would be most comfortable in a familiar surrounding as he adjusted? Certainly we can't just throw him to the wolves of Slytherin unprepared, however much he may be a member of their noble House."
"Great," the girl muttered. "Another Slytherin."
"You did assure me, Miss Granger," Dumblefore said, "when I offered you the Head Girl position that you could handle Mr. Malfoy. I'm sure Mr. Riddle will also be fine in your capable hands. Would you be so good as to show him to what seems to be his room, soothe Mr. Malfoy's ruffled feathers, and then take Mr. Riddle to see Professor Snape? I believe his open office hours are after lunch. I'll let him know he'll need to have a schedule set up for our newest student."
Tom Riddle found himself shown out the door and he and this Miss Granger stared at one another in mutual displeasure.
"Old coot," she said. "Like I have time to babysit another Slytherin."
"I can promise you, I'm no happier about this than you are," Tom said. "Lead on, Miss Granger. Once you show me to this Professor Snape's office I won't be in need of any more of your babysitting."
Back at the Head's dormitory she waved her hand toward one door. "The new room," she said. "Yours, I assume."
Tom Riddle took the information that the castle had moved him forward in time and prepared a room for him and put it into a box in his head labeled 'things to think about later.' For now he watched this relentlessly efficient girl as she pulled out a pot and asked if he'd like a cup of tea.
"Tea?" he asked in disbelief. Only the British would think tea was a solution to time traveling.
"Tea," she confirmed. "You appear to be out of, well, time and thus probably feeling a bit disjointed and when I'm out of sorts I find tea helps. If nothing else, it will give us something to do in the hour before lunch. You might have questions about this era, after all." She eyed his clothes but forbore to say anything.
He eyed her short skirt in return. Fashions had, indeed, changed.
She quickly heated the water with a twirl of her wand and set out two cups, a small pitcher of milk, and what he assumed must be a sugar bowl on a tray and brought it to the table in the small Head common room.
"Charmed," Tom said as he sat on one of the uncomfortable, hardback chairs. If he were going to stay here he'd have to track down better seats.
"Milk?" she asked as she poured for him.
"Please," he said, then shook his head when she picked up the sugar bowl. She took her own tea black and, after handing him his cup, sat down opposite him.
He was considering what to ask her – he would, after all, be a fool to not take advantage of a girl who'd openly offered him information – when the door flew open and a pointier version of Abraxas Malfoy sauntered into the room, a somewhat unattractive brunette clinging to his arm.
"You finally found a boy who'd talk to you?" the girl asked, eyeing Miss Granger with a sneer. Tom glanced over at his babysitter to see how she'd respond but she seemed utterly unfazed by the girl's taunt. She just watched the pair cross the room and go into what must be Malfoy's room, slamming the door behind them.
"Time for Malfoy's nooner," Miss Granger said with a roll of her eyes. She pulled out her wand and cast a quick, wordless, silencing charm. At Tom's politely inquiring expression she said, "Pansy's a screamer. I'm sparing us both her pleas to Merlin and Salazar and her shrieking of Malfoy's name."
"Why doesn't he just do the spell himself?" Tom asked. "Not capable?"
The Granger girl snorted. "He's perfectly capable. He just can't be bothered. Sparing us the sound of his girlfriend's faked orgasms would involve wasting time on courtesy toward the lesser orders and that's not in Malfoy's playbook." She took a sip of her tea. "You're in Slytherin too, though, so maybe now that you've joined our merry band of mutual loathing he'll start making an effort."
Tom found himself unexpectedly charmed by her casual contempt for the Malfoy boy, probably because it so perfectly mirrored the way he'd always felt about Abraxas. This girl had managed to charm and amuse him, all within less than an hour and certainly without trying. He began to be intrigued by her as well.
"What amuses me most," she continued, "is that Pansy – that's the girl – seems to actually think he's going to marry her after graduation when anyone with half a brain knows his parents'll have him engaged to someone far more demure before they've even got the Hogwarts diploma back from the framer's shop."
"Still aristocrats, then," Tom half murmured, half asked.
"Oh yes," she said. "And spoiled rotten too. You'd think by the time you were seventeen you'd have stopped threatening to tattle to your parents every time something doesn't go your way but not our Malfoy. 'My father will hear about this' comes out of his mouth at least once a week." She shrugged and took another sip of her tea. "Daddy's the head of the board of governors for the school so he's got influence to spare. It's sickening really."
"And do your parents have plans to have you similarly married off?" Tom asked, making a mental note that this iteration of the Malfoy line might not be worth cultivating. Then again, aristocrats; influence was always useful.
The girl laughed. "Hardly. I'm Muggle-born," she said. She saw his quickly concealed grimace and rolled her eyes. "You too, huh? Well, you are in Slytherin. You might want to hide that little bias, though. Outside the walls of your House, no one at school openly admits to blood prejudice anymore. It reeks of Grindelwald and no one wants to be associated with that loon, not even decades later." She grinned at him. "Especially not when the man who defeated him is our illustrious Headmaster. Equality is the public face of things these days."
"I'm sorry," he said with perfect charm and utter insincerity.
She laughed again. "No you're not, but it's okay. I'm not exactly wounded by what a bunch of has-beens think of me."
Tom Riddle sipped from his tea and studied the girl in front of him. Muggle-born. Head Girl. Not especially deferential to either aristocrats or headmasters and with a hint that she understood the social forces that drove the wizarding world better than some and certainly, he suspected, better than the girl whose sexual enthusiasms she'd silenced. She was lying as well, at least a little, though he wasn't exactly sure what about. She was very intriguing indeed. He was still considering what to ask when the door opened again and this time a boy with messy hair stumbled in the room.
Tom Riddle made a note that he'd have to get his suitemates to change that password. This was ridiculous.
"Hermione," the newcomer said without pausing to greet her, "do you know where my Potions lab notebook is? I can't find it and you know Snape'll have my head if I don't turn it in today."
Miss Granger – Hermione Granger – sighed.
"Harry, it's in your bag." The boy began pulling things out of his knapsack with obvious frustration and she sighed again. "Not that bag. Your Quidditch bag. You shoved it in after our last class and said you'd do it later, that you had to get to the pitch. Don't you remember?"
He grinned at her. "Why should I remember when I've got you to do it for me."
Tom Riddle wondered if this Harry saw the way the girl's shoulders tensed at that casual admission. A weakness, then, and one she tried to hide. Those were always good to know.
"Harry," she said. "This is Tom Riddle. He's had some kind of time traveling issue and Dumbledore's shoved him in with me and Malfoy for now. Tom, Harry Potter."
Tom stood and thrust his hand out to the boy who gave him a happy, carefree smile and shook it. "Welcome! Have to pity anyone who has to live with Malfoy. Don't let that rotter get you down."
"What happened to your forehead?" Tom asked, sitting back down. The boy had a jagged scar, partially hidden by his unkempt hair, that looked like a bolt of lightening across his skin.
"Merlin," the boy said. "All anyone ever wants to know about is the damn scar."
"He fell off a broom," Hermione said from her seat at the table, sounding amused. "Youngest Seeker in a century – they bent the rules to let him play as a first year – but when he was a tot he fell off his broom right onto a rock."
Harry huffed in embarrassment. "I was three. My parents shouldn't have even let me have that broom."
"Your father's a bit of a menace," Hermione agreed. "Go find your Quidditch bag, Harry, and get your notebook. Ron's already copied my results so you can just copy off him."
"Thanks, Hermione," the boy – this 'Harry' – said as he loped back towards the door. "You're the best."
And then he was gone.
"You let him copy your work?" Tom asked.
The girl sighed. "He's my best friend, and so sweet, but he's…. he'd do anything for his friends and it's trivial enough. Snape'll mark him down anyway, even if his work is a mirror of mine. The man's so biased against him that Harry stopped trying years ago. He got a decent enough mark on his O.W.L. so I know he's… Snape's just a dick, is all."
"And he's the one I'm to see about my schedule?" Tom asked.
"Head of Slytherin," she confirmed. "Mostly, I think, because no one else wanted the job. He knows his stuff, though. If you can put up with the attitude you can learn a lot." She drank the last of her tea. "I'm glad he doesn't score the exams, though."
Tom finished his tea as well and stood up. "Miss Granger," he began.
She cut him off. "Hermione, really. If you call me Miss Granger I'll feel like you're a professor."
"Hermione, then," he said. "Maybe we could go for a walk and you could tell me what the other people in our year are like. Malfoy's a spoiled aristocrat, Potter's an athlete who copies your homework. Who are the rest of the players?"
He regretted the word choice instantly because she looked at him with an odd tilt to her head. "Why don't you tell me what you're like, Tom Riddle," she said.
"I'm wholly unremarkable," he demurred.
"Something about you makes my brain itch," she said. "As if an earthquake had shifted everything sharply two feet to the left and then back again and it didn't all fit back quite right. Somehow, I don't think you're unremarkable at all."
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N – And so we begin. Time travel. Tomione. Head Boy/Head Girl. Rather massively AU. I've probably got about 30K more words already written for this but future chapters rather badly need editing and work so know there is more coming but don't expect a fast update. Plus, I'm getting ready for Misti-Con all this week.