"Granger," He seethed, as if he had any right to be angry while he was covered in blood on her doorstep. "Invite me inside." Her nails dug into the polished wood of the door and she contemplated slamming it in his face. "Absolutely not." Modern Vampire AU. Tomione.

Hermione Granger was a logical sort.

She made decisions based on logic and facts, and every action could be cited with credible, factual, logical and often scientific sources that offered her reasons for her actions. She didn't act on impulse, she didn't believe anything until sufficiently researched, and she most certainly did not believe something when it made no logical sense. She worshiped the scientific method, adhered to the natural laws, and she certainly never considered—even for a moment—that anything she read from a reputable science textbook could ever be entirely wrong.

But her best friend Harry Potter was the complete opposite.

"It's pseudoscience, Harry," She stressed, entirely too involved in a conversation that her friend had intended to be light-hearted.

"I'm just saying we don't really know," Harry laughed.

"Of course we know!" She snapped, "Harry, it is a mathematical impossibility—Even if they only infected one person a month—"

"Yeah, yeah," He waved her off, "You've explained it to me before."

"They would have depleted their food supply in two and a half years. If vampires existed they—"

"Alright!" Harry laughed again, "Fine! Let's drop it before Draco gets here,"

Hermione rolled her eyes, setting her chin in the palm of her hand and glancing around the restaurant—far too fancy for her tastes, but beautiful nonetheless. She knew of Draco Malfoy's profession and she certainly was not interested in talking about the supernatural or the paranormal with that psycho.

"Your boyfriend is delusional," She told her friend.

"Yeah," He agreed with a lopsided smile, "Delusional enough to try to set you up with someone."

"What is that supposed to mean?" She snapped, not entirely offended because she knew Harry was poking fun at her.

"Only that the last time I tried to set you up with someone, you gave him the verbal lashing of the century for—"

"For being a sexist arsehole?" She interrupted pointedly, "Besides, Ron and I became friends in the end."

Harry worried at his lower lip, glancing to the front door of the restaurant, "I have a feeling you won't like this bloke." He told her, looking very serious.

"Why?" She asked with some level of trepidation.

He didn't get the chance to respond, because suddenly he was smiling—and that expression is really the only reason Hermione put up with Draco in the first place—as his boyfriend arrived at his side, kissing him before turning his shrewd eyes on her. "Granger," He greeted with barely present civility.

"Malfoy," She returned cooly. He cast a brief, not-at-all subtle sneer at her hair—likely personally offended that she hadn't bothered to tame it regardless of their plans for the evening—and gestured with a long fingered hand to her left. She turned.

"This is Theodore Nott," He introduced, "A work colleague of mine."

And suddenly she knew exactly how this evening was going to go.

"A work colleague," She echoed, eyeing the dark haired man beside her. He was inarguably attractive—tall, slim, pale with dark hair and striking blue eyes, dressed to the nines and with hair that curled in a way that looked somehow purposeful in a way she could never manage to get her hair to look. But did he really have to be involved in the same business as Malfoy?

The same vague, secretive, paranormal investigations that Malfoy was always on about?

"Hello," She greeted tightly, holding out a confident hand, "Hermione Granger,"

His lips tipped up at one side, "Lovely to meet you," He told her, his large hand enveloping her own. "I hear you are quite skeptical of our work?"

"An understatement." She deadpanned.

His smile only grew, "We won't speak of it then," He told her, finally taking a seat beside her at the table. "Let's have a pleasant evening, hm?"

She noticed both Harry and Draco watching them intently, as if this introductory conversation would set the tone for the rest of the evening. She didn't want to ruin Harry's date—even if she hated both his boyfriend and his colleague's entire enterprise—so she gave a tight lipped smile and agreed.

It wasn't. Pleasant, that was. Theodore Nott was, of course, if not mildly condescending—as if he knew something she didn't, but he wasn't going to tell her—and the restaurant was lovely, if not a bit overwhelmingly expensive.

(Theodore was insistent on paying, but Hermione was more insistent. They split the check in the end, Theo looking like he was equally annoyed and amused)

The reason for the unpleasantries happened after their meal. Harry had said they would be going to the theatre, only Hermione had assumed they would be seeing a play or a musical or even a speaker or a debate, but, of course not.

Bellatrix Black—Draco's cousin—was performing. And Hermione pointedly used the phrase performing because obviously everything she was doing that she claimed to be real was bullshit and Hermione wasn't going to pretend otherwise just because of the company.

Theodore, for everything she loathed about his work (because how could someone respect themselves and work for a company that investigates paranormal and supernatural occurrences) he was actually quite lovely. Even when, at multiple times during Bellatrix's circus act of a show (she was some sort of self-proclaimed medium or something equally ridiculous) Hermione would turn to Nott and hiss every scientific discrepancy she noticed. He would usually smirk, but also nod, as if he found her commentary amusing but not unfounded.

It was a pleasant change from Harry who would laugh it off, or Malfoy who would argue with her.

So really, the company was (surprisingly) fantastic. But the show…

Mostly, it just annoyed Hermione how involved the crowd was. They would ooh and ahh and scream and squeal whenever anything irrelevant happened and it was giving her a headache. All around her were enraptured faces, watching the sultry woman on stage like she was the second coming of Jesus—and maybe they believed she was, for all Hermione knew. Personally, she couldn't care if it was—it wouldn't change the fact that the show was ostentatious and silly.

So maybe she was a little bit of a killjoy, but it was only because of how serious this subject was taken by everyone else in the room. If she was watching a fictional movie it would be different—she can appreciate that not everything in life has to be based on scientific fact. What annoyed her was that this wasn't marketed as showmanship, no—this was marketed as truth.

"How can anyone believe this drivel?" She murmured to her date while Beatrix writhed under the effect of some 'spirit.'

"Granger, shut the hell up," A voice hissed two seats down, as Draco leaned over Harry to glare hatefully at her. "Some of us are trying to listen."

"And some of us aren't mindless trolls who believe anything they hear," She hissed back, leaning over Harry as well so that he was pressed against the back of his seat trying to stay out of it.

"Why did you bloody come if you couldn't shut up and be respectful?" He spat.

"If I had known what nonsense we were going to see I wouldn't have come," She assured him, glaring spitefully at Harry for a moment because really this was entirely his fault.

"Hermione, I'm sorry, but if I had told you—" Harry started, but Malfoy cut him off.

"Don't apologize," He sneered, "You have nothing to be sorry for. And you," He glared at her, "Stop being a child."

"Don't lecture me," She flatlined, before leaning down to her feet to pick up her clutch while the crowd erupted at something (probably ridiculous) and she brought herself to her feet. "I'm using the ladies room," She said, sidestepping out of the row and hurrying toward the exit doors.

It felt better just to be out of the room. She felt a bit silly, to be honest, reacting so strongly. It was hard not to when stuck in the middle of it, expected to react with the crowd when really you want to explain to them all how ridiculous it is. And yes, any emotionally stable person might be able to sit back and bear it and let it entertain you simply because it is so ridiculous, but its slightly different when the people you are with are buying into it, too.

She did use the ladies room, but she didn't need to go. So she sat in the stall for a while, and then stared in the mirror and tried to tame her hair (and failed) She might've waited in the lobby for the rest of the evening, but despite Theodore's…distasteful beliefs in the supernatural, she liked him. He was handsome and mildly intelligent and not entirely horrible, and it had been a while since Hermione had dated anyone, so why not him? He was interested in her, after all.

She sighed tiredly. Dating was never her strong suit. She hated it, in fact. She hated the small talk, and the getting-to-know-you, and the awkward polite interest you had to maintain, and the rules and regulations of when to flirt and when to kiss and when to fuck and—honestly, she would prefer to skip it all and just jump straight to the sex, peppered with in-depth sociopolitical conversations and scientific discussions, and then maybe more sex.

If she had this date go her way, Theodore would agree with her that this entire performance was uninteresting, and they could sneak off to shag somewhere inconspicuous and then they could talk about something interesting—something that mattered.

But that would probably be inappropriate, and more-so to Theo, unbecoming, so she wasn't going to propose that.

When she exited the bathroom, she saw a familiar tall brunette standing in the library. It was sweet that he came after her, if not entirely unnecessary. She waited to reach him until she said anything, placing her hand on his arm, "I'm ready to suffer through the rest of this monstrosity if—oh," She stopped when he turned and she realized he most certainly was not Theodore Nott.

Theodore Nott was handsome in a way most men were—tall and broad shouldered and charming. This man, whoever he was, was handsome in a way she had never encountered before. Enchanting, even, sending even Hermione's cheeks aflame. She wasn't one to focus too much on physicality, but this man was hauntingly beautiful. Pale skin, smooth alabaster contrasting with his impossibly long, dark eyelashes and his dark hair and his sculpted eyebrows. His cheekbones were sharp, his cheeks gaunt but not unattractively so, his mouth very pale pink, and his eyes bottomless brown, and—

"I'm sorry," She choked, retrieving her hand from his arm, "I thought you were someone else."

He smiled, and if she though he was stunning before, he was shockingly so when he smiled. "No need to apologize," He said, and his voice spun like silk through the air and enveloped her in a way that made her mind go blank. Strange, because her mind never was blank. "What is your name?" He asked her.

"Hermione," She said, her heart beating wildly in her chest. He turned toward her more fully, as if he could hear it, as if he knew the state he put her in, and she felt so out of control and so strange and lost and—but he was here, and he was so painfully beautiful he was all she could think of and—

"You aren't enjoying the show?" He asked.

"I—" She started, but she had no idea what he was talking about.

"You did refer to it as a monstrosity," He reminded her, and he didn't move, he didn't touch her, but she was surprised how much she wanted him to. It wasn't unusual for her—lust—but to feel it this strongly, so severely that it impaired even her own mind, it was—it was a bit scary. Briefly, she felt reprieve from his suffocating presence. Briefly, she could think clearly enough to formulate a response.

"No, I think it's bullshit," She breathed, failing to control her raising heart. The man—she didn't know his name—took a deep breath through his nose, his chest expanding and she could touch him if she only lifted her hand—but she didn't. "Pseudoscientific and frankly offensive to the scientific community."

He chuckled, deep and sinuous, "Would you like to leave?"

His meaning was explicitly clear.

"Hermione," A new voice interrupted, and when she turned her eyes away from the intense gaze of the man in front of her, she saw Theodore standing a ways away. He looked a bit wary, nearly terrified, and she wondered why. "Come here,"

Without thinking she turned to meet the man's eyes. He wasn't looking at her at first, instead watching Theo with something akin to realization—though she didn't know what he could be realizing—until turning his gaze back on her. He smiled again. "Okay," He said, "Go on."

She did.

Theo wrapped his hand firmly around her upper arm and pulled her from the lobby, outside where the cool night air rose goosebumps on her skin, and the further away she walked from that mystery man, the more the fog in her head cleared until she was furiously and anxiously confused.

"Who was that?" She demanded, and Theo shook his head.

"I don't—"

"What the hell was that? I couldn't even say no—he could've told me to do anything and I—I looked to him for permission, what the hell—"

"Hermione," Nott soothed, his hands falling on her shoulders and his blue eyes staring beseechingly into hers. "I think you just liked the bloke, it's not—"

She slapped his hands away. "Don't patronize me," She snapped. His mouth set in a grim line. "You know something—you looked terrified when you found me with him. Tell me now!"

"I know his name is Tom Riddle," He deflected, and in a fit of rage, she took his lapels in her fists and pushed him against the wall.

"I don't give a damn about his name!" She snapped.

"If I told you," He soothed, "You wouldn't believe me. Trust me."

She hesitated, not liking where this conversation was going. "Tell me anyway." She demanded.

"He's…he's just persuasive." He said.

She paused, her hands uncurling from his lapels as she took a step away. She stared at him with barely concealed contempt. She didn't say anything, just stared at him like he had lost his mind—and he must've if he truly believed she would accept that there was nothing out of the ordinary about him.

"He's my colleague, of sorts," He said irritably, as if he didn't like that fact at all, "He won't harm you if he knows you're—"

"Why are we here?" She asked him, "We're not here on a date, are we?"

"No," He sighed, "Draco and I—well, Draco's on a date, too, I reckon—but ultimately we're here to speak to Bellatrix about—about a lead."

"A lead on what?"

"A lead on a case." She glared viciously at him and didn't back down until he sighed and clarified. "A lead on a…a target."

"A target" She repeated, "Meaning…?"

"Just…" He swallowed, "Someone we need to hunt down."

She knew where this was going and she didn't like it one bit. "And you hunt…?"

"Dangerous things." He answered vaguely, as if she didn't already know what he thought he hunted, as if Harry hadn't tried to convince her numerous times that his boyfriend wasn't clinically insane.

He was still leaned against the wall—pressed against it, really, like he didn't see the point in moving in case she just slammed him again. She wouldn't. In fact, all she really wanted to do now was go back to her flat, make some coffee, read until sunrise, and then go to sleep. She didn't want to be dealing with the insanity of Nott and Draco's apparent profession—which appeared to be professional insanity.

But she thought of that man—Tom?—the way she felt in his presence, like she would have done anything he wanted her to and she would have done it happily, readily. He could have sliced her open and she would have thanked him. How could he make her feel that way? He hadn't even touched her.

"He could be releasing pheromones," She voiced out loud. Theo looked awfully confused. "But…super-effective pheromones. If I could find a way to counteract them, somehow, then—"

"What are you—?"

"Block them, or numb myself to them, or even—what if I could distract the source—?"

"Hermione!" He interrupted.

"What?" She snapped. He was watching her closely, his eyes filled with concern, looking at her as if she was losing her mind. She stopped rambling. "Sorry," She apologized without really meaning it, "Should we get this not-date over with then?"

"Hermione," He said tiredly, "I—"

"No," She interrupted, "Believe me, I am not interested in dating a man who genuinely believes that he fights ghosts, yeah? So let's just—get this over with and—go home."

"Draco's handling it." He assured her, "We could—just—wait out here?"

She huffed tiredly and nodded.

They didn't speak much for the rest of the night.

(They didn't speak much after that at all)

Hermione wasn't obsessive.

She really wasn't.

It's just that this mysterious Tom Riddle was a scientific phenomenon—someone who could actually impair your judgement by the release of what she assumed to be pheromones—and she wanted to figure out how. How he did it, how it affected her, how she could either block or misdirect the effects—she wanted to know everything.

It was unlikely she could block the pheromones—not if she didn't have access to him—but what if she could distract the source? Pheromones were released primarily to attract a mate, right? (although she didn't know this Mr. Riddle well enough to say if that was the purpose of his use of them, he could have just been trying to kill her) What if she could mimic his use of pheromones to distract the source and—

No. That wouldn't stop the pheromones, but if his mind couldn't focus it would be likely that his sway over her would at least be lessened. Would she have any sway over him, or would they both just be sent into some strange, never-ending, lust-filled stupor? This was assuming that he had control over his…manipulations, but given the way Theo didn't seem swayed at all in his presence told her there must be some sort of selection process.

So she researched and studied and tested.

"You spend too much time cooped up in your flat," Harry told her one day when he dragged her out to coffee. She was distracted and twitchy and every few minutes she would open up her journal to jot something down before turning half her attention back on him.

"Yeah," She agreed, because it was true. She knew it was. It's just that she had so much to do.

"What about you and Nott?" He prompted, "You seemed to get along."

She rolled her eyes. "Your boyfriend and his friend are out of their damn minds, Harry." She explained.

"Hermione, you—"

"I know, I know!" She stressed, "'I don't understand.' But I do understand! You've told me what they think they do, Harry" She reminded him. "And its insane!"

"Insane?" He said, "Hermione, they—they hunt monsters—They protect—"

"For fucks sake," She muttered.

"How could they lie about—?"

"I don't want to talk about this!" She snapped, "I just want to drop the subject."

"Fine," He agreed, not wanting to fight with her. "What are you researching?" He asked as a way to change the subject. She worried her lower lip.

"I…" She paused, "I don't want to talk about that either."

He took a slow sip of his coffee, watching her carefully. "You're okay, aren't you?" He asked.

She thought of Theo and Malfoy, she thought of Tom Riddle from the lobby, she thought of her scrawled notes and research and the dangerous chemicals and syringes in her flat. "When I figure this out, I will be." She assured him.

He sighed, his lips quirking into a smile as he said, "You're dying to get back to your cave, aren't you?"

She barely smiled, "Yes," She agreed.

"Go," He said melodramatically, "Leave your best—and only—friend all alone and—"

She laughed, gathering her things, and she said, "Oh, call your boyfriend!"

Hermione always loathed animal testing.

She understood why people did it—they didn't have to pay for the aftercare if an experiment went wrong, and if they died, well, they certainly wouldn't get sued. Humans were more complicated to test on because of all the legal procedures that came with it.

But she hated it all the same.

So, because of that, she had a long and somewhat reckless history of doing experiments on herself.

They were always thoroughly researched to the point of near insanity, checking and double checking every single possible outcome and preparing for any unfortunate consequences. She wasn't foolish in regards to self-testing, but she couldn't be entirely safe either. How would she receive any answers if she was?

Still, dosing herself with altered pheromones straight into her bloodstream was possibly a stupid idea.

The things she sacrificed for scientific exploration.

It was possible they would do nothing—sit in her blood stream and make her sick or possibly even work as a stimulant or hallucinogen and then at least she would have the experience of being high—although, possibly also a drug addiction to face depending on how addictive the qualities of these pheromones were.

But ideally—if they took to her blood and multiplied and overstimulated her own production of pheromones within her own body—the effect would be something similar to Riddle's…abilities.

She wondered if she could control people like he did. She didn't particularly want to—she'd rather they listen because they want to—but it wouldn't be the worst side-effect to deal with while she figured out how to reverse it. Or would old men just salivate over her while still refusing to do anything she said?

That would be slightly more annoying.

So here she was, sat on her bathroom sink with her pants off and her legs spread and a needle pressed against the inside of her thigh—because the closer to the most recognized source of pheromones the better—contemplating if this might be a very, very stupid decision.

She did it anyway.

She didn't feel anything. Even two, three hours later, she still didn't feel anything except a bit tired—but it was two o'clock in the morning so that wasn't entirely unusual. She expected some sort of reaction—she had engineered it to overproduce her pheromones so at the very least she should be having extra secretions or body odor, but—nothing.

Absolutely fucking nothing.

So she waited—because maybe the effects just couldn't be felt by her and they could only be felt by someone else?—and she dragged herself to her research job at the local university fueled by no sleep and five cups of coffee. Then she purposely tracked down the only person who she knew she could count on to hate her at all times of the day no matter the circumstances—and no, it wasn't Malfoy, it was Severus Snape.

It was a bit embarrassing really, because she was acting like a half-crazed lunatic and he was still staring at her like she was the scum of the earth and—why hadn't it done anything?

So she grabbed an empty classroom and locked the door—and slid a chair up against it—and arranged herself in the corner to test even more because something had gone wrong and she didn't know what.

Her pheromones were exactly the same, which didn't make any sense. She had literally injected herself less than 10 hours ago, so—how could they be entirely unaffected? At the very least she should be able to see traces of the foreign pheromones but there was nothing!

Nothing!

She cast an eye to the door, waiting for a moment, before inevitably deciding that the worst that could happen is someone would try to get in and she could quickly right herself before answering the door, so she stood and pulled her jeans off. Reaching for a scalpel, she sat on the desk and made a careful incision on her inner thigh, collecting the blood and pulling the microscope closer to examine the sample.

As it turns out, they had taken to her blood. "How strange," She murmured, settling the microscope on her knees. That was certainly not what she expected to happen, but then she supposed that would explain why there was no tangible effect—people couldn't smell her blood like they would be able to smell her sweat or natural secretions.

But it wasn't as if she could just start slicing herself open and bleeding all over random men in order to test the effects.

They had multiplied, she realized, balancing the microscope on her knees and resting her feet on her chair as she examined the sample. Far more than she had truly expected—and in her blood, too. She had expected them to find their way to her natural pheromones and latch onto those, but instead they latched onto the first thing they found. She hoped it didn't have any unsightly consequences, but she felt fine so far, and they didn't seem to be inhibiting anything. Merely accompanying.

How strange.

There was a jerk at the door as someone tried to open it and—to her dismay—she heard Snape's voice drawl, "What on earth…?"

She snapped up from the table, nearly dropping the microscope that cost more than her life's wages, pulling her jeans frantically back on—which was very difficult, one required time to get a pair of skinny jeans on—and haphazardly wiped the blood off the table. She rushed toward the door, kicking the chair to the side and pulling the door open. Snape scowled at her.

"I was just leaving," She told him, turning to hurry back to the desk she had situated herself at and tidying everything up. She noticed a streak of blood still on the table and discretely wiped it off. "Didn't mean to steal your classroom," She picked up her jacket.

"Are you bleeding?"

Shit, she thought, looking down to see the bright red blooming across her inner thigh. She hadn't realized she had bled that much. "Um, yes," She said, turning around and throwing her coat on and buttoning it up to hide the blooming stain on her trousers. "Period, you know."

He looked positively mortified.

She walked past him to leave, but stopped, remembering the blood sample still placed in the microscope and hurried back to retrieve it. She didn't need it—she could get more of her blood just by taking off these jeans—but she didn't want anyone else to have it.

Snape, for his part, was being exceptionally quiet. Which wasn't altogether unusual, but one would think he would have made some cutting remark by now, especially to her. She examined him where he stood at his desk—because of course she had to pick his chemistry classroom—and he kept his eyes firmly trained on the wood.

Of course, she realized. She was bleeding. She was—

"Professor Snape?" She called, stepping just a hair closer so she could get a better look at his eyes when they snapped up to meet hers. He didn't say anything, didn't even look at her like she was anything other than know-it-all Granger, but—his pupils were dilated. And his breathing was…haggard.

She smiled brilliantly. "Never mind," She said and practically pranced from the room.

She truly adored being right.

Her plan to continue her experimentation were destroyed when she walked into her apartment and saw Harry lounging on her couch.

The last thing she needed Harry to know was that she had been dangerously experimenting on herself to equate her abilities to a mysterious man she met on their last date-night—the man who Theo was terrified of her associating with.

"Harry," She choked, and he grinned at her.

"You've been hiding for too long, Mione!" He bellowed.

"Let me just," She muttered, gesturing vaguely to the bedroom, "One second."

She stripped off her jeans, finding that the incision was scabbed over and mostly healed anyway, but still bandaging it about seven times before throwing on a pair of sweats and reentering the living room. She wasn't sure how the pheromones would effect someone not normal sexually attracted to her gender, but she didn't want to find out.

He was playing with a syringe when she re-emerged. "What the bloody hell is this for?" He scoffed. She snatched it from his hands and placed it on the kitchen counter.

"Nothing," She said, "Experiments. Tea?"

"Actually," Harry drawled, sounding a bit too much like Malfoy for a moment, "No tea. We're going out."

"Dragging me out for coffee again?" She asked.

"Nope!" He stood up from the couch, disappearing into her bedroom as she hurried after him, "Were going out to dinner. You, me, Draco, and Theodore."

She groaned.

"So I'm the fake date again?" She muttered while Harry pulled out a dress, "Ugh, Harry that's hideous, just let me pick one. You have the fashion sense of a mule."

He laughed loudly, "Fake date?" He asked, "But Theo liked you."

"Harry, don't patronize me, please," She sighed, "I'll go on this ridiculous date but please don't make me pretend its anything other than a cover for their job—whatever it is."

He watched her for a thoughtful moment, "What happened with you two?"

"What?" She asked.

"You were getting along fine," He pointed out, "Great, even. Then you leave and he goes after you and suddenly you're locking yourself in your flat—which isn't altogether unusual, but you won't even tell me why, which is." She had stopped rummaging through her closet as he spoke, but she didn't dare turn to face him. "What's going on? Did he do something?"

"No," She answered honestly, remembering that he had likely saved her from what might've been a terribly dangerous situation with Tom Riddle—and suddenly the thought of him sent her into a mild panic, "Will we be…going to the same place?" She asked tentatively.

"No," He answered, "We're going to dinner."

"But will we…are we—"

"We're not going to the theatre," He assured her, "We're not going to anything like it, actually. No supernatural performances or anything of the like. Just…an average dinner."

She nodded, momentarily appeased. "Alright," She agreed, "Get out so I can change."

She had a bad feeling about tonight.

Her bad feeling turned out to be entirely correct—if she believed in any sort of paranormal ideology she might be convinced she was psychic.

Dinner was bearable—Theo was civil and kind and he seemed oddly content with pretending that her altercation with a man who could tell her to do anything and she would obey—he seemed content to pretend it never happened. Which, actually, was slightly infuriating, but arguably appropriate for the situation.

She was almost certain that Harry had somehow—probably accidentally—relayed how hesitant Hermione was to come in the first place, because Malfoy jumped at every opportunity to make some scathing remark. Usually about what a hermit she is, or if she's been living under a rock, or 'Jesus, Granger, you look like you haven't seen the sun in weeks.' All references to the fact that she would rather be locked in her home that seated at the dinner he was paying for—which was absolutely true so she didn't feel offended.

Harry was interestedly chiming in to Theo and Draco's conversations—all very vague and strange and she was certain they were discussing their "work," and she figured that, at the very least, if Harry was having fun then the dinner wasn't completely terrible.

So, Dinner was bearable.

And then a familiar face entered the establishment—with another familiar face to make the situation even worse. Tom Riddle and Bellatrix Black.

"Fuck," Nott muttered, casting her a quick, nervous glance. It was the first time she had heard him swear.

"What?" Malfoy asked, not turning around to check and instead watching Nott's expression carefully.

"Riddle's here,"

"Shit," Malfoy swore as well—though she had heard him swear plenty of times, so this was not unusual—and shifted in his seat, placing a hand on the back of Harry's chair and glancing back as subtly as he could. "Bloody hell."

"Hermione, fancy a cigarette?" Theo asked pointedly, gesturing for her to stand. She glared harshly at him.

"I don't smoke," She spat, knowing that he was only trying to get her out of the room. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to know what was going on. "What does it matter if he's here? He was here at the theatre, too."

"What?" Draco seethed, glaring at Theodore as well, "You met him at the theatre?"

"Yes?" She answered, confused as to why that would cause such a fuss, "We spoke. He asked me to leave with him and Theo intervened." She left out the part where she couldn't say no.

"He what?" Harry choked on his wine, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because it wasn't important," She said, "Or…not…I mean he wasn't—I mean I wasn't, er—"

"Hermione," Harry intoned, picking up on her nervous energy and knowing her too well to brush it off as anything other than a secret, "What did you do?"

"Nothing," She snapped, feeling so defensive only because Malfoy and Theo were present.

"Hermione," Theo called softly from her side, "Has he contacted you, or?"

"Why would he contact me?" She asked, glancing over to his table and examining him and his date. Bellatrix was all sultry smiles and grand gestures as she spoke to the waiter. Riddle seemed…tense. His fingers wrapped around the edge of the table so hard she feared it might snap under the pressure, his shoulders were hunched. He was turned away from her so she couldn't see his expression, but his body language made it seem like he was under attack. "All that happened is we spoke briefly, he asked me to leave with him, and Theo interrupted, and then he backed down." She explained, keeping her eye on him.

"Why the bloody hell didn't you bring this up, Nott?" Draco barked, keeping his voice quiet even though Riddle was all the way across the restaurant.

"I thought—I thought it was unimportant. She's right, he backed down, I figured he was just having a bit of fun—"

"A bit of fun?" Harry scoffed, "Hermione could have ben a 'bit of fun' then?"

"I stopped it, didn't I?" Theo said cuttingly.

"Who's to say he didn't just go kill someone else?"

"Oh, bloody—do you tell him everything, then, Malfoy?"

"Alright," Hermione interrupted, "What the hell are we talking about? Kill someone? He's a murderer?" She turned angry eyes on Nott, "You said he was a 'colleague, of sorts,'"

Malfoy barked a sarcastic laugh while Nott leaned closer to Hermione in what she was sure was supposed to be comforting. It wasn't. "It's complicated, love—"

"Don't call me love," She snapped.

"Point is, he's dangerous," Malfoy said, "And if your hiding something—"

"I know he's dangerous," She snapped, "I experienced it first hand!"

Malfoy went deathly pale—which was a surprise, because she thought he was pale enough before—and stuttered a jagged, "You—you mean that he—and—?"

"Yes," She confirmed, "We spoke in the lobby and I know how…how much control he has—" Malfoy looked oddly relieved for a second, like he had expected something worse, "—but it's alright. I figured it out."

It was very quiet for a beat. "What do you mean…figured it out?" Harry asked.

"I duplicated it." She explained, feeling a bit vindicated because they were including her in the conversation now, "It's not exactly the same as…whatever he has—"

"You duplicated vampirism?" Harry said very, very quietly. Hermione paused and stared at him like he was insane.

"No," She sneered, "No—what? For heavens sake—no. I duplicated the pheromones."

"Shit," Theo swore—again—remembering her half-crazed mutterings the day they first met, "Hermione, love—"

"Don't," She snapped again, "Call me love." Her eyes jumped from one occupant of the table to the next, bring to catch all their reactions as she spoke, "It works. It's not exactly the same, because its not where pheromones usually are, I accidentally linked it to my blood—"

"To your blood?" Harry squeaked, while Malfoy went pale once more and buried his face in his hands. Nott stared at her like she was the one who lost her mind.

"Hermione, it's time for you to go." He told her, gathering her purse and thrusting it into her hands, sliding his coat back on his shoulders where he sat.

"No," She refused, "No, what is going on? This is a good thing—Sure, blood isn't the most convenient, but I still know it works, and if he's distracted its possible that he won't be able to sway me—like how he didn't sway you because he was uninterested in you—he can control them, but if I can distract his control—"

"The last thing you want," Theo breathed, "Is for Tom Riddle to be interested in you. Trust me."

"That's not what I mean," She defended, "I just mean for the purpose of keeping out of the influence of his own—"

"Hermione, let's just leave, love, please—"

"Stop calling me love," She snapped, "I'm not your love—"

"If this really does work in your blood, then you're in more danger than—"

"I'm not in any danger if you all just calm down and stop drawing attention—"

"I promise I'll explain everything, love, if you—"

She slammed her hand down on the table, rattling the glasses of wine and the silverware, "Call me love one more time!" She threatened, glaring up at him as he half stood beside her.

"He's looking over here." Harry breathed.

He was—but then so were many people. He had turned, only slightly, in his seat and both he and his date had their eyes fixed on their little group. She—Bellatrix—murmured something to him but he didn't reply. Fascinatingly enough, she found that his eyes settled firmly on her, with a strange expression on his face—he wasn't amused or annoyed or even thoughtful—and it was difficult to tell from the distance between them but she thought he almost looked—furious. Not the kind of fury that twisted the features and was made of ugly snarls, but a resigned sort of fury. The kind that you feel when you have to hold yourself back, to detach yourself form a situation.

It was an expression that, if leveled on Nott or Malfoy or even Harry—who all seemed to know him—would be natural. But it was solely fixed on her.

Did he remember her? She wondered. He might've, but it was unlikely given how short their interaction was. So why, then, did he stare at her as if he wanted to tear her apart?

Strangely, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath that rattled his shoulders.

"Hermione," Theo said at her side, puling her attention away from the strange man, "I think—"

"She'll be fine," Malfoy assured them, "He has Bella. You know she'll let him do anything to her—"

"Do you see the way he's looking at—" Nott began, but Malfoy cut him off.

"We can't just leave, Nott." He seethed, "Not tonight. This is our last lead before—" He cut himself off, both of them—and Harry—looking very solemn.

Hermione was fed up with always being out of the loop. "Before what?" She asked. She was met with silence, "Before what?" She pressed.

"The full moon." Harry told her.

"So," She sighed, rubbing her temples, "What, a werewolf? You're after a werewolf?"

"Keep your fucking voice down, Granger—"

"And this—this—werewolf—it kills people, then?"

"By nature of a werewolf," Theo murmured, "Yes,"

"Alright—fine—" She acquiesced, her anger and frustration driving her forward, "But—now, if I were a werewolf, and I knew that hunters existed, and I knew that they would search for me and kill me—"

"Granger, don't pretend you know anything—" Malfoy started, but she barreled through.

"Then I certainly would not place myself in a goddamn restaurant this close to the full moon so that I can go on a killing rampage and make the national fucking news." The table was very quiet. "I would quietly sneak off to a forest somewhere or lock myself in the basement and hope to god no one hears me."

"We have a source," Malfoy told her, and she rolled her eyes.

"Well, I think you should question whether this source really wants you to find this person, or if they're hiding them."

"No," Harry denied, "They're not. We can trust them, they wouldn't lie—"

"I'm just saying," She snapped, "That it doesn't make any sense."

"I thought you didn't believe in this," Malfoy snapped.

"I don't," She assured him, "But that doesn't mean I can't apply logic to even illogical situations. Now, I am desperately tired of withstanding your company, so if we're done here—" And so, fueled by the annoyance of being surrounded by lunatics, and reacting under the heated stare of the man from across the restaurant, she gathered her purse and pulled herself to her feet and marched out of the restaurant without a backwards glance.

She hid in the alleyway that lead to the back entrance of the restaurant in case Theo or Harry or—god forbid—Malfoy came looking for her. She was just sick and tired of being made to feel like she knew less simply because she refused to believe that monsters and ghosts and paranormal pseudoscience was an actual thing in the real world.

It was illogical. And ridiculous. And, frankly, embarrassing that they believed in it.

It was unusual—and certainly unsettling—that Tom Riddle had appeared again. It had been strange the first time they met—because of his ability to manipulate her—but that fear had been muffled by the knowledge that he worked with Theo, at least somewhat. And by the knowledge that he hadn't really done anything to her.

But now, of course, he wasn't a colleague so much as he was a murderer—or both. And there was something unsettling in the way he looked at her in there—not like in the lobby, where he was charming and flippant and seemed to be pursuing her simply because she was there, and she was willing, and not at all because he had any vested interest in her. This time it was different, he watched her like…like she should somehow know why he's watching her. He looked at her like something was her fault.

But she hadn't done anything!

She remembered vividly—but with some kind of disconnect—how it felt to be overwhelmed by him in that lobby. It was disconcerting to think that she would have done anything he asked her to. If Theo hadn't stepped in…well, even if Theodore pissed her off in every other aspect, she had to at least respect the fact that he saved her from making some very uncharacteristic decisions.

But then, she had gone on to make some—just as poor—very characteristic decisions, but she couldn't expect anyone to save her from herself.

Tom Riddle was dangerous, apparently. Well, definitely, considering what she knew he could do (what she could now do, too, if not with a bit more difficulty) But more dangerous than she originally thought if he was a murderer. But then, Malfoy and Theo were starting to sound more and more like murderers, too. Harry called them hunters, sometimes, and she had always taken it to be like the ghostbusters or that annoying man on television who locks himself in buildings at night and screams about spirits. But they were talking about werewolves today—about a lead who told them where the werewolf would be, and she thought…

What would they had done if they had found them?

Would they have killed them? Him or her or them, whoever they are? And would they have deserved it, whoever they are? Or would they have simply been another victim to whatever deranged business Malfoy and Nott were a part of?

And now, one that Harry seemed to be a part of, too.

She was beginning to wonder if her friends were really any less dangerous than the man who looked at her like he wanted to rip her to shreds.

"Granger—" She had been so lost in her thoughts in the quiet of that alleyway that she didn't even process that the voice was familiar before throwing her fist straight into their face. She realized a moment too late that, not only did she know this man, but it was Draco Malfoy, and he most certainly would not let her hear the end of this.

"Shit, Granger," He moaned, "What the fuck is wrong with you!"

"You snuck up on me!" She defended herself, "In an alleyway at dusk—you can't blame me for—"

"I certainly can blame you!" He spat, pulling his hand away from his nose. He was appeased to see there was no blood, at least. He glared furiously at her, "Riddle left not long after you. Left Bella behind. Harry is asking to see what his deal was."

"Shouldn't you be asking?" She questioned, "Seeing as she's your cousin?"

"She likes Harry better than me," He admitted.

"So does everyone," She snarked. He glowered at her.

"Come on. We'll find Nott and get Harry and take you home."

"What?" She squawked, "You're acting as if this Riddle character is out to get me and you're just going to drop me off at home like nothing's wrong?"

"Trust me," he laughed bitterly, "Home is the only place you're safe."

"That doesn't make any sense," She argued. He rolled his eyes.

"Just bloody come on and stop fucking complaining." He griped, turning to walk out of the alley and expecting her to follow. "And we need to sort this—pheromone thing."

"It's unimportant," She lied, considering the fact that Malfoy and Nott may be keen to undo everything she had done. "It's inconclusive. I don't think I've really—"

"Shut up, Granger," He groaned, "You're a terrible liar."

"It's the truth," She insisted, "I wanted to test it out today but you were all so upset that I—"

"Whatever," He muttered as they paused at the entrance of the restaurant. Nott was there, as well, looking relieved to see her in one piece. He didn't say anything, though. Draco spotted Harry inside and walked briskly indoors to collect him.

"You're probably right about the werewolf." Nott said, as if he was attempting to communicate some sort of truce with her. His words felt like more of an attack—a reminder of everything she was thinking in that alleyway, and she suddenly wished she had kept her big mouth shut.

"I'm probably right about a lot of things," She said, "But one thing I know nothing about is werewolves."

"Still," He shrugged.

She hesitated, weighing the consequences of her next words, before asking, "Assuming I believe anything you say is true—if you found this werewolf, would you kill them?"

Nott looked a bit confused, like he didn't understand why she even thought to ask. "Of course," He assured her, "It won't hurt anyone else."

She didn't like that answer, but she didn't say so. She nodded, her mouth shut tight, wrapping her arms around herself and waiting for Malfoy to reemerge with Harry.

They did as they said—dropped her off at home, walked her to the door of her flat, and made certain she stepped through the doorway before telling her she would be safe and Tom Riddle wouldn't be able to hurt her here.

It seemed like a ridiculous sentiment for two reasons. One, she was certain that a man who could control people with his presence alone would have no trouble getting into her flat, and two…

Well, she wasn't sure if he was the only one she should be afraid of, anymore.

Okay so first thing I want to say is at some point this autocorrected Theo to Taco and I almost didn't catch it so hahahahhahahahahahahah thats just so funny to me for some reason can you imagine reading this and all of a sudden "Taco" is speaking to someone like oh my go d

Anyway what is this? ? ? ? What am I doing? ? ? ? Who knows? ? ? ? I certainly dont? ? ? ? How long is this going to be? ? ? ? I have no idea? ? ? At least three chapters? ? ? ? But we all know how bad I am at guessing story lengths? ? ?

IDK guys I always have little like…nugget ideas and then as soon as I start writing they turn into these MASSIVE CONVOLUTED PLOTLINES and idk guys thats why there was no Tom Riddle here at least….almost none because literally I'm already at 8000 words and like…i can't cram in much more into this chapter its already a shit show but NEXT CHAPTER ohhhhhhhohohohohohoh ohhh boy next chapter NEXT CHAPTER BOY

he will be present next chapter, is my point.

Let me know what you think? ? ? Please? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Review? ? ? Let me know if you are literally at all interested in reading any more of this? ? ? ? Is this a flip or a flop? (what does that mean me ur making no sense go to bed)