I don't know what th eFUCK this is but I wrote it so I'M SORRY IM TRASH OK?
PLS ENJOY THIS CINERELLA AU THAT LITERALLY NO ONE ASKED FOR
When Hermione was very young, she met a boy who claimed to be a prince. She didn't remember his name, but she recalled stumbling upon him in the stables hiding in with the oldest horse. It was a smart choice on his part, for that horse was a fortnight away from dying and paid little to no attention to the happenings around him. He told her he was the lost son of the king, and she believed him.
As a young lady, almost a woman, she would think on it and wonder. He certainly didn't look like a prince. If anything he looked like her; dirty and tired and all together rather peasant-like. But he had the snobbery of a prince.
"You're a peasant?" He had asked, his nose wrinkling up. He looked rather undignified with that expression, not at all prince-like, and she told him such.
"What would you know about being a prince?" He scoffed.
"I read." She murmured, thinking of the dashing men in her storybooks. This boy seemed nothing like them, but she imagined under the dirt and grime he could have the potential to be rather handsome.
"Peasants can't read." He said.
"Yes, they can read." She snapped, "What do you know, anyway? You call yourself a prince but here you are hiding in a stable covered in dirt. If you're a prince why aren't you at the palace?"
He had ordered her to leave, then, but she hadn't. Instead she stayed with him in that stable. In the morning he was gone, leaving behind nothing but the barely pleasant memory of his company. In a silly way she missed him, if only because he let her read to him and seemed to understand her love of books. He had one with him that he let her read, but when he left he took the book with him. It was a truly unremarkable story, a silly fairytale about a girl who ran away form a prince, but he had said it belonged to his mother. The way he said it, it didn't sound like he had much of his mother left. So she read it to him until she fell asleep, and when she woke he was gone.
It was a strange memory, and no one head heard anything of a missing prince or a found prince, so she had assumed as she grew up that he wasn't really royalty, at least not of her kingdom. Just a boy in need of shelter on a cold night, finding solace in the stables of a nearby property.
"Where is your head now, Hermione?" She jumped, forgetting where she was for a moment. She sat in the garden, Harry Potter stood at her side. They spent most mornings together, watched the sunrise and prepared themselves for the day. Harry had been taken in by the Weasleys, much like she had, when he lost his parents in the war. The Weasleys were kind-hearted in the way that they could never leave a lonely child behind if they ever stumbled upon one. They had taken her in at the beginning of the war, and Harry had been taken in much later. They still worked, to earn their keep, but the Weasleys were their friends.
Still, she sometimes felt more like a servant than anything else.
"Where it always is, I suppose," She replied, finally. He grinned at her.
"And would that be up in the clouds or lost in a book?"
"Perhaps a bit of both." He sat beside her in the garden, facing the horizon and watching the sun make its slow climb up into the sky above them. "You'r early this morning." He commented.
"I couldn't sleep." He gazed at her shrewdly beside her, as if he could read her every movement. He probably could, she mused, Harry had always had that gift with people.
"Are you thinking of the ball?" He asked suddenly. She flinched beside him, and immediately he had his answer. "You could just ask, you know. They would take you in, say you're a sister or a cousin."
"No," She said resolutely, "The ball is for royalty and people of note, not for servants."
She stood then, suddenly very uninterested in the sunrise, and made her way back towards the house to start on breakfast. Though she desperately hoped he wouldn't, he followed after her, his heavy footfalls echoing in her ears from behind her.
"It's just a ball," He commented, "I don't see why you ladies get so worked up over all this."
"Yes, I know it's just a ball," She said, "But it's at the palace, Harry. The Royal Palace. They're never opened the Palace for so many people before."
"You know," As they approached the house, he watched her in the corner of his eye, "They say that the Prince will be looking for a bride, that's why they're opening it to so many royals."
As she entered the kitchen, she purposely let the door swing back and hit him on his way in. "Harry, you can't honestly expect that to be the reason I want to go."
"You always talk of marriage and money." He protested. She leveled him with a stern glare.
"Only because you and I both know it is the only way for a woman to make her way in this world, through marriage into money." She started on making tea, "But I am not naive enough to believe myself a possible bride for the would-be king."
He stayed in the doorway, his arms crossed at his chest, watching her work. "Why do you want to go so badly."
She slammed the kettle down, "I have never said I wanted to go." She protested. He rushed to her, soothing her with his hands from her shoulders and down her arms, and back up.
"Hermione," His tone with reprimanding, "I know you."
She sighed, pulling away and hang in the kettle over the fire. She mirrored his stance, crossing her arms at her chest and leaning against the table. She stayed silent for a time, finding her words. "I was in town with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley," She began, "And I was at the bookstore as I usually am, only he didn't have any new books in. It's unusual, because he usually get's novels from all sorts of travelers. But he said that someone else has been buying before he can."
Harry said nothing, but waved his hand for her to continue. She groaned.
"I know it's silly, but he said it's the prince, and I got to thinking—what kind of books does the royal family have in their library? Certainly hundreds, maybe thousands! They could have works from all over the world, walls filled top to bottom with books and I just thought…I thought if I could go…"
"They would let you into the library?" He guessed. He looked unimpressed.
"Well perhaps they wouldn't let me…" He let out a loud laugh then, and she rolled her eyes and got back to working on breakfast. "Well, I'm glad it's so funny to you." She snipped.
"I'm sorry," He lamented, "It's just…were you planning on sneaking into the royal library?"
"I told you it's silly." She said. He laughed again so she shooed him out of the kitchen.
"I always knew you were a deviant!" He laughed as she shove him out the door.
She allowed yourself a smile. "Do your work!" She scolded, and he headed off to the stables.
Truth be told, she thought very little of libraries, for she knew that finding her way into the library of the castle was nothing but a dream, but she couldn't help but wonder about that stable boy, and if she would find him there.
"Harry told me." Ginny startled her around midday, interrupting her chores.
"What did he tell you?" Hermione asked, playing ignorant and continuing about her cleaning. Ginny wouldn't allow it and, with the grace of a true lady of note, swept Hermione over to the couch and sat her down.
"I think you should go." Hermione rolled her eyes and made to stand up, but Ginny forced her back on. "Listen to me, I've already thought this out." Hermione listened. "We say you're our cousin, the daughter of Father's brother Alfred who moved to the seaside and never contacted us again. No one's going to question it, if we say you have the name Weasley, then you have the name Weasley."
Hermione felt a bit uncomfortable with the plan, mostly because it turned what was a silly fantasy of sneaking into a vast library into a frightening reality, a possibility that she wasn't sure she should turn down. "I'm uncertain…"
"Come on, Hermione," Ginny said, "You know you've read every book in this house at least twice, and if what Harry says is true, you don't have anything to read at the book store either. And Father travels, but the last time he got you a book you loathed it."
"I didn't loathe it," Hermione protested.
"It was a book of fairytales and you loathed it."
"I read the whole thing."
"You loathed the whole thing, too, don't lie."
Ginny held Hermione's hand gently and said, "I would appreciate the company of another woman as well? It might be fun."
Hermione paused in thought for a moment, watching Ginny run her thumb along the back of her hand. She thought of her friend from the stable. Had he ever made it to the castle? She had certainly never heard anything of another prince. Over the years she had started to believe he was dead, but what if he wasn't? What if he had made it? She pictured him dancing in the ballroom, his face clean and hair brushed, still mean and angry. Would he look at her the same way he did in that stable?
She pictured him in the library with his book of fairytales, thinking of her like she did so often of him.
"I'll need a dress." She said finally.
"I can certainly help you with that," Ginny laughed, and led her to her bedroom.
Tom Riddle II stood on the balcony outside the ballroom, staring out at what would soon be his kingdom. There was bustle behind him as the royal servants prepared for the coming ball, hanging lanterns and garlands and filling tables with piles of food. These events exhausted him, too much catering to those he would rather kill than have a conversation with. And as for what was expected of him tonight…
Finding a wife was nothing of importance to Tom, but he dreaded losing his coveted solitude. He supposed he could kill her after procuring an heir, but those years in between felt so tedious already, that having to choose one of those vapid, self-pursuing, royals to be his doting wife made him feel murderous.
The price of attaining the throne.
A memory of a soft voice reading to him in the dark of a horse's stable echoed through his mind. He could almost feel her.
"Tom," A deep voice interrupted. He clenched his jaw. "You should be getting ready for tonight."
"I will be ready."
"Need I remind you the importance of this evening?" Tom still didn't turn around.
"No, you needn't." He replied calmly.
"I won't be around much longer. When I die, the people need something joyous to hold onto. There is a war coming."
"And yet you have your people thinking this is a time of peace." He scoffed.
"You think you know more—?"
"I was one of them," Tom interrupted, laying his hands on the balcony wall. "Perhaps you should consider your son knows more about what your people want than you do."
His father grimaced, and said, "You replaced my son. You will never be my son." Tom's fingers clenched the balcony until his knuckles turned white.
"Regardless," He murmured to the empty space behind him, "Your heir."
It wasn't precisely that Hermione had never worn a formal dress before, its just that she had never liked them. Surely, she had accompanied Ginny, or Ron, or the whole family to events in the past, but never in something as gaudy as this. It was beautiful, certainly, but more expensive than she could ever dream of wearing.
And yet here she was.
"Father brought that back for my mother just after they got married." Ginny explained.
"Well, if it's your mother's, don't you want to wear it?"
She grimaced, "No, I don't like red that much."
Harry sat at the front of the carriage when it was near sunset, holding the reigns in his hands. "Looking beautiful ladies," He said. Hermione felt beautiful, but in a painful sort of way. In the sort of way that her head hurt from her hair do, and her dress was tight and restricting, and she was made up to be something other than what she was.
"If you're not going to leave, then what are you going to do?"
"I suppose we could read?"
"Because Peasants can read, apparently."
"Peasants can do anything royals can do except we're expected not to. Don't act as if you don't know that just because you're a prince. You wouldn't be so dirty if you didn't understand."
He met her eyes for a very long time after that, and she remembered seeing something almost sad in his gaze. Something a bit like loneliness, and maybe it was her own isolation that made her feel it, but she felt connected to this stranger in the stables. And though she did like the idea of reading in the dim moonlight streaming in through the spaces in the walls, she didn't want to leave to fetch a book in case he would be gone.
He pulled out a small fairytale story, and though she had never liked fairytales, they read it together.
A servant helped him dress in his quarters. It was nearly time for the ball, and he dreaded it now more than ever. It was easy, really, to pretend. And it would be ecstasy to finally rule when his useless father died, but while he was alive and he catered to his obsession for joy of the people.
It was ignorance, really. Grindlewald had barely died, and Dumbledore still rallied the masses he could in order to continue the war, and his father already clung to foolish hope in marriage and children. And so he would pick a woman tonight, some princess or duchess or woman of a sizable dowry who would love and cherish him and his heirs for as long as she lived.
"Will that be all, Your Highness?" The servant stepped back, and Tom nodded for him to go.
"I don't understand why we call royalty 'highness,'" the girl, he had never learned her name, commented while reading.
"Must you pause every paragraph to ask useless questions."
"Well, do you understand it?" She pressed, lifting her head from where she was haunched over the book to match eyes with him. She had the most wonderfully expressive eyes, he remembered. He didn't often see eyes like that.
"Hello?" She called, placing a small hand on his shoulder and shaking him. He flinched and said, "Because they are the highest class."
She made a face then, as if she had never considered that before, and continued reading.
She fell asleep in the middle of the Prince's search for the maiden, armed with a shoe. He often thought it might be ironic that she never finished the book, never reached the point where the prince found his peasant.
The Weasleys certainly weren't the first family to enter. That would be reserved for royalty to be announced for the crowd. Once the Weasley's had entered, it was with the masses. They were announced, of course, but to an already bustling ballroom filled with dancing and feasting and chatter all around. Ginny and Mrs. Weasley reached the top of the stairs and descended. The whole band of Weasley boys followed behind them. Even Ron had accompanied them.
"Where's Hermione?" Ginny whispered. Mrs. Weasley just glanced behind her worriedly and didn't respond.
Meanwhile, outside where the Carriages sit in wait, Harry kicked back in the carriage, tipped his hat down, and prepared for a nap when the door to the carriage pulled open. "Bloody hell—" He knocked his hat back and straight off his head, and once he removed his hair from his eyes he met the crazed, worried stare of a certain Hermione Granger—or, Weasley, for the evening.
"'Mione?" He greeted cluelessly.
"I can't do this." She said breathlessly, sitting in the carriage and pulling the door shut. "There's people everywhere, trained from birth how to behave like royalty, this dress is so tight I can hardly breathe, and—"
"Hermione," Harry started calmingly, setting a hand on her leg, "It's only a ball. Just have fun."
"I hate balls," She said, "I hate dancing, and I hate this blasted dress—" She tugged angrily at the skirts. Harry grabbed her hands.
"Alright," He appeased, "What do you want to do then?"
She was quiet for a moment.
"This book makes it seem as if all this girl needs is a Prince to dance with and everything will be happy."
"Perhaps that makes her happy," the boy replied. He had leaned back on the hay and shut his eyes while he listened, and she had wondered if he was asleep before he spoke.
"Dancing?" She asked incredulously. "I suppose…reading makes me happy."
"This book doesn't seem to," He laughed, and she frowned at him.
"I just don't like fairytales is all. I like true stories. I can pretend I'm them for a while. It feels…free."
"Free from what?" He scoffed, suddenly sounding cruel, "A happy life on a property with a stable and servants?"
She kicked him as hard as she could.
"Ow!" He cursed at her, "What was that for?"
"Don't assume people are happy just because their current situations are ideal!" She scolded, then turned her attention to the book, and read louder than before in order to ignore him.
"I want to be free." She breathed, and found she had nothing left to say to calm his confused look. How could she tell him that she was dissatisfied with the quiet life they lived with the Weasleys? How could she explain how the lovely house felt more like a prison than anything else? And how could she make him understand how desperately she wanted to return to that stable with that boy and remain there forever?
"Well then…" He paused, "Be free?"
She found herself about to cry. "You're right, I suppose." She said.
When Tom had first arrived at the Castle as a child, the welcoming he received had not been at all warm, to say the least. He was nearly thrown into the dungeon for simply being a bastard, but when the King's legitimate son fell ill and passed away, in the midst of a war, the King did not have the heart to subject his kingdom to such tragedy. And so Tom Riddle II, a peasant boy of a kindly mother who passed away so early in his life, became the prince his mother had always said he should be. He waited until the King had moved on from his only son's death, or at least moved past his sorrow and moved into contempt, and only then did he bother disposing of the white snakeroot outside of the castle walls—once he was sure he wouldn't need it again.
His welcoming now, however, made him forget for a moment that he was but a half-blood of royalty. He was treated as a king here, treated almost as a god. The women curtsied before him with lidded eyes and the men bowed with their fists to their hearts. It was enough to make him feel high for a moment. But only for a moment.
"Don't assume people are happy just because their current situations are ideal!"
He shut his eyes for a moment, listened to the music. Soon he would be expected to ask someone to dance, but he could wait a moment longer.
Hermione approached the front gate for the second time, the guards nodded to her as she passed. Pretty women passed by on her left and her right, nearly knocking her over. She hadn't realized how slow she was walking.
Guards stood at the entrance to the hallways leading away from the ballroom, lining a pathway up the stairs to the grand ballroom that she had yet to see. She stood and eyes the staircase with disdain.
A pretty girl dressed in white chatted behind her with her mother as they walked the length of the hall to the staircase. Hermione watched them disappear down the stairs, and she pictured them entering the ballroom with every bit of grace that she herself did no possess. She held her black cloak tightly shut around her, but allowed her hood down. The guards did not move, not even to tell her to hurry along. The entrance hall was empty by now, the pretty girl and her mother being the end of the line.
She allowed herself the hope for a moment that her friend was here. She imagined their meeting. Would he be as happy to see her as she would be to see him? Doubtful, she thought. For if he was alive, then that only meant that he had spent all his time at this castle without even sparing her a thought back at the Weasley House. He could have come back for her, after all.
She wished she knew his name. She wished she didn't have to go to this ball.
She glanced back at the Guards surrounding the hall. Surely they would be inside the ballroom as well. How foolish she was to think that anything good could come of tonight, that she might see the library or she might see her friend. In the hall alone, it all seemed so far fetched and fantastic.
She almost turned back again, but steeled herself with the thought that if she never tried, she would never know if it were possible to find him again. She unbuttoned her cloak and handed it to the servant at the staircase, thanking him graciously. She held her breath as she entered.
"You're the first person I've met since my parents died who hasn't made me feel small." She said in the middle of reading. It took him a moment to realize that she had stopped reading and started speaking to him.
"Small?" He echoed.
She nodded, "Like I'm nothing more than a part of a whole. Like what I am is the broken pinky on the body of the war."
He wasn't sure what she was trying to express, but he wanted to know. It was a peculiar feeling to him, wanting someone. Wanting to know what builds them, wanting to know the parts of their mind and their soul that create them. And wanting to know what breaks them, what has broken them. He thought that perhaps the reason this girl was so enthralling to him, was because she was the first person he had met who was anything like him.
"You're everything." He said. He wasn't sure what he meant by that, but he was fairly certain that he meant it. "You're every part."
"I think you're my only friend." She said, thoughtfully.
"I think you're mine." He replied.
Dancing was exhausting to the prince for all the reasons it should be worthwhile. It wasn't the waltz themselves that tired him, but rather the closeness of it all. He disliked physical contact with people he found annoying, and it just so happened he found nearly everyone around him to be annoying. Then, if the music was quiet enough (and it often was) there would be conversation; which would usually consist of some princess blathering on about family or politics or—basically anything that Tom loathed.
He hated small talk. He hated dancing. He hated balls. He hated marriage, too—the reason for this wretched thing—but only because he doubted he would find a suitable bride that he didn't loathe entirely.
It wasn't even as if they were all terribly dim, or innocent. He'd met many dark and intelligent women who sparked his intrigue. But then he thought of that girl in that stable—he thought of the wildness of her appearance, the gentleness of her hands cradling that book, the steady hum of her voice in his ears, the articulation of her own words, her intoxicating anger—and then he hated himself instead. Hated himself for fixating on a girl who—when he met her—was barely even a woman.
But he missed her. In the silly way a child misses a toy he's lost. He felt her absence in the space between the books in his library, felt it like a chord hooked in his abdomen constantly trying to drag him back to that stable, a shadow that whispered the question, What could have happened if you stayed? What could have happened if you returned?
But she was still a peasant, and he was still the Prince, and it had been far too long to consider returning now.
And because he had never allowed himself to be swayed by his lesser emotions, he allowed himself a single thought of her as he took some nameless woman's hand, and then dismissed the thought.
"How does the prince fall in love with her so quickly?" She asked at one point.
"I don't know." He sighed.
"Well you are a prince, aren't you?"
His mouth twisted in a frown and he glared at her, "It's supposed to be true love."
Her nose wrinkled in apparent disgust and he laughed far harder than he meant to.
"You don't believe in true love?" He goaded. She shrugged, fingering the pages of the book in what he perceived to be nervousness.
"I don't know," She admitted, "The only people I've ever had were my parents, who died in this pointless war, and then…here, I'm more of a servant than anything else, and I know as kind as this family is that's all I'll ever truly be, the penniless orphan of no fortune who has been taken in under the goodness of their hearts. So I don't think I've had much opportunity to know true love or love at first sight."
"And you don't believe in it?" He repeated, noticing her dance around the question. Her eyes met his, and in the moonlit stable he's fairly sure they are brown, and they make him feel warmer than the temperature should allow.
"I think I feel happier this night with you than I have since my parents died, and though I can't understand exactly why—because you aren't always very pleasant—I still wouldn't hasten to call it love."
He didn't respond.
She smiled and continued reading.
Hermione entered the ball with the foolish thought that she would be able to spot the Weasley's easily, given their fiery hair. But she hadn't expected the ballroom to be quite so grand, and she couldn't have imagined this many people in one place. It seemed obvious, now, that there should be this vast about of people, given the fact that everyone except the poor were invited (this last thought passed with a fair amount of anger)
Still, it was a shock, and she felt even more irritated with this bloody ball than she had been.
And one prince stood with a pretty woman in the most elaborate dress Hermione had seen. Just one prince.
Hermione descended the stairs feeling angrier than she felt was truly justified. It was foolish to think he had made it. There had been a prince before he left the stable already, and she had certainly never heard of a lost prince being found. Not even a bastard found.
Still, when the prince who she was certain she didn't know turned his eyes on her, she felt something familiar twist in her abdomen.
And when he didn't lift his eyes from her, she let that blasted thing called hope take hold of her heart.
The woman in front of him had been a consideration. She was quick witted, certainly, although he did question her sanity at certain parts of their conversation. The fact that she was already betrothed held little consequence to either of them. Mostly, she seemed like someone who he could tolerate until he inevitably had the chance to rid himself of her.
Then the woman in red descended the stairs of his ballroom.
She certainly wasn't anything exquisitely beautiful. The common beauty was detailed with soft hair, pale skin, and outrages gowns, and this woman was quite the opposite. But the way she watched him as she moved sent a jolt through him so powerful he alerted his dancing partner.
"Are you alright?" She asked. Truthfully he wasn't. Something was achingly familiar about this woman, the way she watched him with something akin to anger across her features. Without a thought, he released the potential bride from his arms and approached the girl on the steps. She froze before him.
"Please don't ask me to dance," She said, her fingers fluttering across her skirts, brimming with nervous energy. He smiled broadly at her.
"Societal expectations dictate I must, I'm afraid," He said, and extended a hand to her. In the bright light of the ballroom, her caramel eyes regarded him with reserved wonder, and there was something so familiar in the feel of her hand, in the warmth her eyes sent him.
His heart clenched at the possibility of—but, anyway, he ignored the thought.
She had fallen asleep beside him in the middle of reading, and it had seemed so outrageous to him that she could fall asleep in the middle of reading something out loud. Still, he turned on his side and watched her as she breathed. She looked like the women of his town, dark skinned and plain, but he found her so beautiful.
He liked when she got angry at him, he liked that when she was angry she had something intelligent to say. He liked the way she read, he like that she loved to read. He liked that she didn't ask him questions about things he didn't want to talk about. He liked the inexplicable peace he felt when she entered that stable. And it felt so strange and new to like anything about anyone. He liked the state of her hair, he liked the curve of her throat, he liked the bend of her fingers curled around the book, he liked the bow of her lips, he liked the dip of her collarbone and the shadow of her lashes.
He thought perhaps she was a witch, like in the fairytales his mother loved. Perhaps she had enchanted him.
He did consider staying, in the end, but that was all it was; a consideration. He was sick of being used, or being hated and resented. The poor thought they could use him as some sort of secret weapon in this war—the bastard son of the king used against him.
He longed for the throne. He longed for the crown on his head, for the power that came with it. He pictured her, briefly, older and dressed in an exquisite gown, sat beside him smiling at him the way she did, angry at him as she often was.
When he left, he left with the thought that—if nothing else—he would end this war for her.
He certainly looked like him, but she supposed that was to be expected given they shared the same father. But there was something so familiar in the set of his jaw, in the weight of his gaze that made her wonder and made her hope. Would it be foolish to simply ask?
She was rubbish at dancing, but he led her well, spinning her around the ballroom until she felt dizzy. He was delightfully warm, but his hands seemed so rough for a prince. She always expected a Prince's hands to feel like silken sheets, but his fingers were calloused.
He asked for her name. "Hermione," She said.
"And what family?" He asked.
She saw the Weasleys at the edge of the ballroom, Ginny watched her open-mouthed before sending her an encouraging smile. Mrs. Weasley looked ready to faint.
"The Weasleys?" He prompted, following her gaze.
"Distant cousin," She murmured. He looked at her like he knew she was lying, and she was afraid he might say something, but instead his hand curled tighter around her waist. She thought their dance might be a bit closer than appropriate at this point.
He didn't seem to care much for propriety, however, as he searched her eyes as if he were trying to read her mind. There was something in his gaze, thirsty for something she couldn't be certain of that prompted her to ask,
"Do you have a library?"
He had followed her gaze to the Weasley's and thought nothing of it for a moment. He knew of the Weasleys, a large, ginger-headed family on a fairly large set of property just outside the castle walls. They weren't technically of royalty, but were certainly of note, and were known for their interest in peasantry. Known for taking in orphans of war.
He knew she wasn't related but asked anyway, but he didn't listen to her response.
He knew why she was familiar now, perhaps knew the moment he saw her but refused to consider it. She knew the Weasleys, that much was obvious by the way the Weasley girl had grinned at her. Unconsciously his hands tightened around her as he considered the possibility. Could it be her? Come to him after so many years of refusing to return to her?
He felt uncharacteristically drunk with the thought of her, with the feel of her. Her eyes poured into his with the same warmth, the same fire that scorched his soul and she asked,
"Do you have a library?"
And Dumbledore himself could have attacked at that moment and he wouldn't have paid any notice.
When Hermione had awoken in the stable alone that morning, the old horse had died, and the boy was gone. She was angry at him not for leaving but for not saying goodbye. She hadn't finished the story, she hadn't even said everything she wanted because sh fell asleep.
She was exceedingly angry at herself for that, for falling asleep.
She hoped he would come back, at least. Even just to say hello. She slept in the stable a lot, and the Weasleys would say "I never knew you were so attached to that horse, but nevermind, he's gone now, you must come inside."
He never came back. Once Mr. Weasley brought her back a book of fairytales and she was finally able to read the end of the story and she found herself unspeakably angry because it was such a silly thought that the prince would ever have found that girl.
She often thought of that stable boy as the princess in that story, but then she was not royalty, and she didn't have a shoe to find him with.
He had swept her away so quickly she hadn't even had time to consider, and he hadn't said a word. He simply danced her out of the ballroom and out into the gardens, then he took her hand and led her through the flowers with such long strides she had to jog to keep up. In the moonlight of the garden, he looked even more like her friend, and she wondered, and she hoped, but…
Even if he was not, she could enjoy a night with a prince who was willing to show her his library.
And what a spectacular library it was.
Books filled her vision, far more than the little bookstore from town. She released his hand, and he allowed her to wander, trailing her hand across the spines of the novels. Some weren't even in english.
"Can you read all of these?" She asked.
"I haven't yet," He replied, closer than she expected. She could feel his breath on her neck. "But I plan to."
"Even the ones in foreign languages?"
"Yes," He breathed, and his hands found her waist to turn her around. He was very close, and she felt intoxicated with him in that library, and the way he looked at her—like he could devour her if he wished—it shouldn't of surprised her when he settled his lips over hers. But it did.
Her hands found his forearms, mostly on reflex, and his own hand snaked up to undo the admittedly painful twist at the back of her head. He tangled his fingers through the wild locks and as his teeth dragged over her lower lip, he pulled—
She felt a book pressed against her chest as he pulled back. Her fingers curled around the edge, pulling it from his grip and he watched her with something like hunger in his gaze, like he was waiting for her response.
Turning the leather bound book in her hands, she pulled her eyes from his and read the title.
Her heart stopped and her stomach tightened into knots, and when her eyes flashed wildly back up to meet his, he smiled.
She shoved him away.
"It's you?" She breathed, as the book fell to the floor.
When Hermione's parents died, it was the worst day of her life. And, as far as she was concerned, the end of her life.
She lived in a poorer part of the kingdom, populated by laborers and slaves of the king, people who worked longer than they slept and still had no food or money to show for it. Her parents were woodcarvers, and would carve wooden teeth for those who were losing theirs.
When Grindelwald came, she knew it was the beginning of the end. Her parents did, too. Her parents hated the war.
And yet they died for it.
When she was but a child, Grindelwald came to her and told her that their sacrifice was important. She supposed she was supposed to be honored that he would come to her, the great Grindelwald himself. He told her that they would be remembered, immortalized forever in history as saviors.
But she knew they were nothing more than a number, a couple of corpses on a battlefield that would soon be forgotten. And as Grindelwald clapped her on the shoulder and told her she would be able to fight alongside them in the war soon, she hated him.
She was stuck in a war that had no win for her, or her people. The King cared nothing for the poorer districts, and Grindelwald cared for nothing but his own rise to power. Her people would always be pawns, thrown away by those who were stronger than they were, used and discarded and forgotten.
She ran away and the Weasley's found her. And then he found her. And she couldn't help but think, sometimes, If she were Queen, how things would be different.
It was a silly dream.
"How?" She asked, "And don't lie to me. There was already a prince before you arrived here, you told me in the stable that you were a bastard raised with peasants, how is it you get here and are the only prince?"
He hadn't exactly expected her to be hostile, but he accepted that it was the natural response when faced with shock. He considered approaching her, but he could tell she was angry with him, and he seemed to remember her kicking him in the past when she was angry, so he stayed back.
"I poisoned him," He answered, truthfully, "White snakeroot. The King thought it was an illness. He is a sentimental fool who fears losing his throne if he cannot keep a false sense of peace across the kingdom, and did not wish to risk a tragedy such as the death of his son."
"So…you pose as the late prince."
She watched him with what he could only interpret as bewilderment, supporting herself against the bookshelf as if she feared she might collapse. He wanted to touch her again, to feel her underneath him. His body literally ached for her, and he had never wanted someone so badly, had never felt so drawn to someone as he was to her.
"You killed a child to secure power."
He sighed. Of course she was appalled. How ordinary.
"What is your name then?" She interrupted, "If it isn't Prince Tom Riddle II?"
He took a tentative step toward her but she threw a book at him. He glowered at her. "My mother named me Tom Riddle after my father, so that is my name."
She nodded, her jaw clenched, and said, "Alright. Now you may explain."
"The King is a fool—"
"I'm not arguing that." She snorted, and he gave her a withering look.
"The king is a fool," He continued, "Who believes that he can end a war by ignoring it. The war that killed your parents," She flinched, "The war that kills countless more, rages on because my fool of a father believes it is more important to keep his people ignorant."
"But…" She shook her head, "The war is over."
"No," He said, and he allowed himself a step toward her. She allowed it as well.
"Grindelwald is dead," She argued,
"And his ally Dumbledore continues to rally peasants into his army in order to fight the king."
Hermione inhaled a shaky breath, her eyes flittering around the room and pointedly avoiding his steady gaze. He was close enough to touch her now but he didn't dare.
"I have him believing that I'm on his side," He murmured, "That I remain on the side of those I was raised with. That I will give him the throne." He laid his hands over her arms, sliding up to her shoulders, "But I can do nothing until I am King. I have no authority yet."
"The King expects to hide this war from everyone?" She asked. He nodded.
His hands felt warm on her shoulders. Knowing that this was him, the boy she had missed so much for so long, she felt both relieved and furious with him. She could still feel his lips, the memory of his teeth sent a shock down her spine. He had crowded her against the book-filled wall, one hand sliding down her arm to find purchase on her waist, and the other gently resting against her neck.
He was going to kiss her again, she was certain of it.
"You could poison him." She said suddenly. He stopped his descent upon her lips, his eyes flickering from where they were focused on her mouth to meet her eyes. There was something very dark in them now. She felt him shiver.
"Who?" He asked quietly.
"You could poison you're father," She clarified, "Tonight. Blame it on Dumbledore. You take the throne, Assure Dumbledore he will have what he was promised. You could easily kill him, spin the tale, the poor will still think you fight with them, the rich will see you as the victor of the war, you could—"
He kissed her again, quick and impulsive, and he said, "Stay with me."
"My people?" She said, "What will become of them? They deserve better than a life of hunger and rotting teeth."
"Anything," He said, and with every word he spoke she felt his breath over her mouth, his lips brushing hers, "I'll give you anything," He promised, his hands fisting in her skirt. "I will burn down the world for you, just stay."
Her hands finally found his shoulders, and then his hair. She dragged her fingers through the strands, clawing her nails down the back of his neck as he kissed her. He groaned into her mouth, she felt his body shake under her hands, and felt herself come undone, too, at the feel of his tongue and teeth and calloused fingers making quick work of the laces of her gown and pressing into the soft skin of her throat.
They never undressed entirely, the moment was rushed, filled with fumbling fingers and desperate touches. He took her against the bookcase, his hand on her throat and her nails in his back, and as her back arched and she cried out he said, "You're mine,"
And she replied, "Your Queen."