AN: This is a story that's been very insistent. I don't write Tomione generally, but this little plot bunny weighs 500 pounds and has big teeth. It wouldn't let me go even though I have a number of other things I should be doing. I have no idea how long it's going to be, but I'll try to update regularly (I know I should be able to do it every other day at first…I have about 17,000 words already…)
The rating is M, though as of right now there is no smut in it…there are thematic elements that warrant the rating and you'll see some of those in the first chapter. WARNING: mentions of child abuse, no graphic details and there will be violence and lots of it later on.
Harry Potter belongs to JKR…but you already knew that.
Hermione Granger lived a full life after her famous adventures as a school girl. She went on to do many impressive things and much good in both the magical and muggle worlds. And when she was very, very old and surrounded by her loving family and friends, she slipped peacefully into the arms of death.
And that is where this story begins.
She opened her eyes curiously. She suspected that she was dead and the youthful hands she saw as she looked down added weight to that argument. The place where she stood was peaceful. She decided that sitting would be pleasant and suddenly, the hazy surroundings solidified into a vibrant park that was on the cusp of summer…the air smelled sharp and fresh, like it had rained the night before, and the slight breeze had a bit of bite to it, but she was sitting on a bench in the sunshine, and it was…perfect.
"Hermione." She looked up and saw a sight she hadn't seen in her world in many, many years.
"Minerva!" She hugged the witch who had been her mentor.
"You did well."
Hermione grinned and hugged her again. "Where is Harry? And Ron? It's been so long since I've seen them…"
Minerva placed one hand at her wrist. Hermione felt the first pang of alarm.
Minerva interpreted it well. "Don't worry. All is well. But the afterlife isn't quite what you imagined."
Hermione waited. She knew Minerva. She'd get a proper explanation. "In life, there are two warring forces…for ease we'll call them light and dark…you might call them order and chaos, or good and evil, but those words have connotations to them that lend themselves to misunderstanding. Over the eons, each side had chosen warriors…champions of light or darkness. These champions are born and reborn, and being flesh and blood, they may impact the physical world to turn its path. The champions are chosen because of their predisposition toward the side and the scope of their souls. They are rare among humans, and precious. Neither side uses their champions without great cause."
"Harry was a champion."
McGonagall nodded happily. "Certainly. Many times and in many lifetimes. You were born in a time when both sides placed their champions with near reckless abandon. There are rules about how and why they can be born you see. Grindelwald was a champion of the dark and Dumbledore, though he'd only been born twice before, was of the light."
Hermione giggled. "Harry is older than Dumbledore?"
Minerva nodded solemnly. "He is. As is Mr. Ronald Weasley for that matter. He's always been brash in every life time, especially…" She stopped herself as Hermione's curiosity went into overdrive. "But I digress. The light won the battle with Grindelwald, and there should have been a time of peace. But the dark realized at the moment Grindelwald failed to seduce Albus to their side, that they would lose in that arena. Dumbledore was more powerful than their champion in a head to head fight.
And so, by means so foul that I will not describe it, the darkness hijacked the soul of one of our champions who was being sent to be an aid to Albus. His soul was made flesh in darkness, binding the soul that was full of light to a body that was predisposed to darkness. The dark had been laying this particular trap for centuries."
Minerva shook her head sadly. "There were attempts on the side of light to correct, but in the end, darkness overtook our champion. It turned him."
Hermione understood. "Voldemort."
Minerva nodded. "So the light sent a prophesy and some of its strongest champions. And you know the rest, you lived it. The light won. The cost was high. Voldemort seduced so many souls to darkness that the other side has an over abundance of champions that they can call on…and our side is weakened."
Hermione frowned. "Minerva, you aren't asking me to be a champion, are you, because as much as I would love to help, I just don't think I'm the right sort…"
Minerva laughed. "Oh love! You silly, silly thing. You've been a champion since…well, let's just admit it has been a very, very long time. The light tossed all of its best into the fray. There was no way that Harry Potter's closest friend and most loyal ally was going to be anything but one of us. Someone had to prove to him that Voldemort's views were absolutely wrong, and who better than a girl he could admire entirely? No, if you were to pass on from this place, you would gain the knowledge of your past lives and all the memories that are yours by right…until the next time you were needed."
Hermione raised a brow to cover he shock. "If?"
Minerva nodded, face grim. "We have an opportunity. The magic the dark used to snatch the soul that became Voldemort left a kind of spiritual tear. Another soul could be sent back to that time."
Hermione took a breath. "Me?"
Minerva nodded. "If you are willing to take on this task. Time is fluid. If you should change the course of history in one way or another, the change would be real."
"Until one side or another sends someone back to change what I did."
Minerva shook her head. "No. As I said, the spell that took our champion's soul and submerged it in darkness was centuries in the making. Once it was used, the forces of light could shield against it. They only had one chance to use this trick, I'll guarantee that. And as for our side…we only have one shot at this. Once we send a soul back, the rip that was caused by that evil spell will heal, and the light will not be able to do anything like this again."
"So I'll be on my own."
"Well…there will be agents of the light and of the darkness, but none of them will realize why. It would be too much, to carry so many lives with them when they are born. Most champions never realize what they are."
"So I won't have my memory?"
Minerva shook her head. "No. If you agree, we will send you there as child, almost Hogwarts age. You'll have the memories from this life to guide you."
Hermione sighed. "And if I don't agree?"
Minerva nodded to herself. "Another champion will be sent. Neville is the last of your generation to return."
Hermione nodded. "I'll do it of course."
Minerva smiled. "Of course. You are one of our most powerful agents for good Hermione." The other woman's tone turned to the more familiar business-like tone. "Now, during this time, unlike your last life, the most powerful weapon of darkness is not pain and terror, but deception. Not that they don't cause a lot of pain and terror, but deception requires a different sort of battle. It will seek to seduce first. Also, you know that Grindelwald is an agent of darkness and Albus is an agent of light, but this doesn't make either of them infallible. Dumbledore was exactly the wrong sort of person to approach Tom Riddle, a boy who had lived so much darkness was immediately put off by the candy-covered shell that Dumbledore hid behind. Tom knew from the start it was a mask, and he distrusted adults in general and masks in particular. Once the damage from the orphanage was done, it would have taken a huge infusion of love and kindness to save him."
"So you are sending me back before the damage was done."
Minerva sighed. "Not all of it." Her shoulders slumped. "And you'll have to live through a bit of it too if you are going to be there with him. You'll be ten and a half. Be very careful. Remember, corruption and seduction are the tools they will use this time. Protect yourself, protect Tom if you can. If you save him, you save the world."
Hermione took a deep breath, and she was suddenly somewhere…else.
A stark-looking woman was hurrying her through grim, bare halls. "You'll have to keep up. How old did you say you were?"
"Ten and a half."
The matron nodded as she steered the bushy haired little girl into what was grandly known as the 'dining hall' at Wool's…another cold grey room.
Mrs. Cole attracted the children's attention as she walked to the front of the room. Most of the children had a dull, defeated look about them. Hermione found herself wishing for a wand.
"Children, this is Hermione Granger. Her parents died in an accident and she was just released from the hospital. She doesn't remember her life from before very well, so please don't pester her with questions and try to aid her if you can." The matron gave Hermione a little push toward the tables. "Take one bowl of soup and find a seat. You get three crackers from the bowl, no more. Milk is served once a week before church on Sunday."
Looking at the greasy, unappetizing soup Hermione felt herself longing for Hogwarts already.
She looked around, but the hall was fairly crowded. There was half an empty table around Tom Riddle though, so she headed over.
His brows rose as she slid into the spot in front of him.
He rolled his eyes but didn't answer. She blew on the soup to cool it. She dipped in one of the hard, nutty 'crackers'. Awful. With food like this one wondered how the boy survived at all.
She didn't chatter; she just finished her soup. It looked like it was late March at Wool's. This summer they would be receiving their Hogwarts letters.
A tall shadow interrupted her thoughts. "Granger."
She looked up at the other child…a girl. She had an unpleasant smirk on her face.
"I am Edna Williams. Mrs. Cole told me to show you around." There was something tight about the set of Tom's shoulders that tipped off Hermione that this wasn't true.
Hermione was hardy afraid. She decided to call the girl on her lie. "That's fine. Let's go to her office first, she told me to come and see her directly after lunch." Mrs. Cole had said no such thing, but Edna couldn't know that.
The girl tried to brazen it out. "She said you could do whatever it is later. She's tied up for the moment."
Tom's knuckles were white. Hermione really didn't want to know what Edna did to the new kids. But there was a part of her that also didn't want this little bully to continue.
Hermione decided that if she had to face the girl down, she might as well do it quickly. She picked up her bowl and held her head high. "Where should I put my dishes?"
The girl frowned, like the question was too hard. "You'll be sorted into a work group when she finishes the paperwork. Leave the bowl there…it's Tom's day to clear the tables." The girl reached over and tapped Tom on the head in a parody of a friendly pat.
Hermione put one hand on Edna's arm, distracting her. She nodded to Tom who looked miserable.
Edna led her to a deserted hallway before trying to slam her into the wall. Hermione had been waiting for just such a thing, and she danced out of the way. The hallway didn't give her much room to maneuver, but she ended up with her back to the blank wall. Edna was rubbing her arm because it had hit the wall when Hermione got out of the way.
"Memory or not, everything about you screams that you are someone's spoiled little princess." The girl's voice dripped with hatred that was disturbing, even as Hermione listened through the mind of someone who had already lived one life.
Hermione shrugged wearily. "The people who loved me aren't here anymore. What does it matter?"
Edna's smirk returned. "What matters Princess, is that you'll have some nice little trinkets in your case, yeah?" She walked slowly toward Hermione. Hermione knew she needed to strike quickly or she would be in tight quarters where the odds were not in her favor.
"So this is a simple shakedown? No wonder you came up so quickly. You didn't want someone else to get to me first."
"Well, that, and you are a pretty little princess. I know gentlemen who would love to meet you. And if you are a good girl and do everything they say, they'll give you a lolly." Edna leered, enjoying some mental picture.
Hermione dipped into the girl's mind to be sure she meant what it sound like she meant. She recoiled. That. Was. Disgusting.
And it explained Tom's reaction to Edna.
Hermione was sure the girl had been faced with exactly this sort of treatment, but that didn't excuse it.
She managed a wandless stunner just as Edna grabbed her arm.
The girl was tossed arse over teakettle just as Tom came up the stair.
He took a long look at Edna and another at Hermione and wordlessly pulled her into a room and locked the door.
"I'm not going to hurt you."
Funny that he was the one saying that when she'd just left a nearly-full grown woman laid out in the dingy hall.
This appeared to be Tom's own room. The three white shirts hanging in the closet would fit him, and the single pair of neatly pressed trousers would as well.
Tom looked at her curiously. "How did you do that to Edna?"
Hermione shrugged. "She fell."
Tom grinned, and even on an eleven year old it was a just a tiny bit scary. "I'm sure she did. But something happened before that. Good job you know. Not many people know how to tell the truth while hiding all the facts. It is a clever ploy, but I need to know." His voice was low and persuasive.
Hermione tossed her hair. He was already a human lie detector. She gave him a cheeky grin. "It must be magic then. One minute she was standing there, saying some very nasty things to me, and the next she was splayed out on the floor like a rag doll. Perhaps she has a drinking problem?"
Tom laughed a little. "Oh she has lots of problems. You want to stay away from her if you can. Never let her get you alone, never eat any candy she gives you. Not all of the runaways from Wool's run away on their own."
Hermione shuddered, horrified. "She's evil."
Tom shrugged. "Yes. But you hurt her…you were able to stop her."
Tom shuddered, his confident facade peeling away. "Teach me. Please. I'd do anything…sometimes odd things happen around me too, but.."
Hermione softened. "You can't control it."
"I can when it comes to some things. I can make animals do what I want without training them, and snakes speak to me. And once, when Edna took me out of the orphanage, I made the man she took me to hurt. I knew he wanted to hurt me, so I hurt him first. I ran back and she's never tried to take me again…but I'm always scared she will…"
How do you explain to a child that had lived through that that 'hurting them first' wasn't the right thing to do? She wasn't sure it that is was wrong in that situation. If he'd used a stick to defend himself she wouldn't have argued the point.
Hermione shook her head. She hated the darkness that was using these attacks to conquer this boy's soul.
She pulled him into a hug.
He was stiff for a moment, twitchy, like he feared the human contact. Then he relaxed and buried his head in her hair.
And she knew she would do whatever it took to save this child from the army of darkness that was determined to attack him.
"We need a place to practice."
AN: So…what do you think? I know this has been done before, but I wanted to explore it a bit, and the idea just kept coming up. Expect an update Tuesday!