Hermione's words have always been innocent.

Imprinted on her torso, curling around her side in beautiful, looped penmanship, she had traced and retraced them over and over ever since she first understood what those words meant. She saw them when she undressed for the shower, when she got ready for the day, at night when she laid down to sleep she would roll up the hem of her shirt so she could see them again, lay her hand on them and wonder, wonder, wonder when she might hear them

How did you find my diary?

She imagined how they might meet. The words were quite beautiful, and she didn't know any boys with penmanship that nice, so she thought perhaps it might be a girl. She didn't know any boys who would admit to having a diary, anyway. She imagined her, always differently—sometimes she was tall or short or thin or wide or long haired or short haired, black, brown, red, blue, blonde—she thought about her whenever she found a book that wasn't hers. She imagined turning to the cover and discovering its nothing more than a journal. She imagined meeting her—how did you find my diary—she imagined what she might say in return, what words wound themselves onto her soulmates skin—

But then of course, it could be a boy. She thought perhaps he may be someone very posh, Or maybe an architect—she read in a book that they had to take handwriting classes, but she wasn't sure they specialized in cursive—she imagined him sometimes, too. Always different—pale, dark, muscled, gangly, soft—but always the same words, always the same pleasant phrase that warmed her side and made her feel simultaneously terribly excited and terribly afraid—

How did you find my diary?

Her parents told her when she was very young that the words meant little, if not nothing at all. Plenty chose to ignore them, tattoo over them—though they could never seem to be entirely hidden—while others searched and sought out their soulmate for years and years and never found them. She knew why they told her. Her mother's words that twined around her wrist—It's terrible luck, really, but what can you do?—did not quite match up with her father's words behind his knee—Don't you dare say that's because I didn't floss—But they loved each other more than Hermione had ever seen anyone love someone regardless. She understood what they were saying—just because someone doesn't say those words imprinted on your skin doesn't mean they cannot be meant for you in some other way, in exactly the same but different way.

But still, she sits on the sink in her bathroom and pulls her shirt up and traces the shape of the letters on her ribs and dreams of him or her or whoever.

When she turns eleven she learns of magic, and suddenly its like every question she had never thought to ask has been answered.

She pours over books like Hogwarts: A History, she tries to learn everything she possibly can about magic and Hogwarts and even, a little bit, about the etchings into the skin around her ribs. She finds very little, other than they have always been there, and thus, they are. But her daydreams are more vivid and a bit more ridiculous now. She imagines Hogwarts and all the other students, she imagines in the hustle and bustle of students in a brand new school her soulmate might lose their diary and she might pick it up. Perhaps they'll meet in the library, she wonders? They'll see her sitting with their diary (she'll be sure to put it on display, so they see) and they might approach her and ask—

How did you find my diary?

She wanted to see them write. She wanted to watch them write something, anything, an essay or a letter or a poem or a note—she wanted to watch the way their pen curls around their y's, the way they dot their i's, the overindulgent way in which they elaborate on the beginning of their sentences. She wanted to watch them write what was imprinted upon her, she wanted to watch them write it again and again and—

She's twelve years old when she finds the diary, but it isn't left on a desk or on the floor in the corridor, its in the girls' lavatory. And at first she's so absolutely excited—it must be a girl, she decided, it must be for her to find a diary in the girls' lavatory—but then she traces the name Tom M. Riddle on the spine and she wonders. She's not disappointed, exactly. She had never been bothered with the idea of her soulmate being male or female, but she is a bit bothered with the idea of a boy leaving his diary in the girls' lavatory.

She wonders what he looks like. She wonders what his voice will sound like. She had always wondered what her first words to him would be, she had always hoped it would be romantic, something pretty to be sketched along his arm or his throat or his shoulder blade—but at the moment the only thing she could think to reply with would be What were you doing in the girls' lavatory? and she really didn't think that was a nice thing to have written on your body, so she tried desperately to think of something else, something sweet, something pretty and romantic—

But Ginny watched her walk into the common room with the diary in her hands and Hermione swore she looked terrified.

"Hermione," Ginny called once Hermione reached her room. She had followed her. "Give that to me,"

"Why?" Hermione asked.

"It's just—it's mine—" Ginny started. Hermione narrowed her eyes, feeling a bit territorial over what very well may be her soulmate's diary.

"No it isn't," She argued, "It says it belongs to Tom M. Riddle."

"Hermione—please—just—give it to me, it's—it's—"

"Ginny," She said, carefully now because there was something horrific in Ginny's expression that Hermione had never seen before on a child, sometimes adults, sometimes Harry, but never someone like Ginny, "What is it?"

The red-headed girl hesitated, her eyes welling up with tears, "I—I—"

"You know you can tell me," Hermione said calmly, "Right? You know you can tell me what's wrong. I can help."

Ginny shook her head, "No you can't,"

Hermione paused, looked down at the diary which should lead her to her soulmate, to the words etches on her ribcage, then back at Ginny. "Why are you afraid?" She asked.

The younger girl's breath quickened, "It's—"

"Come here," Hermione ordered gently, sitting atop her bed and inviting Ginny to sit next to her. She pulled the curtains closed around her bed, kept the diary firmly in her grasp, "Why are you afraid?" She asked again.

"The muggleborns…" She started slowly. Hermione felt herself leaning in to listen closely, "It was—it was me."

Hermione furrowed her brow. "What?"

"The diary…it made me—"

"Ginny, this is just a diary—"

"No, it isn't!" She snapped, reaching past Hermione, digging in her bag without asking to fetch a quill and holding it out for Hermione to take. "Write in it and it writes back—Tom writes back, and he—I thought he was my friend, I didn't realize, but he—"

Hermione took the quill from Ginny's shaking fingers, reaching into her bag to pull out her ink as well, dipping the quill in and opening the diary. She noticed Ginny's complexion pale as she watched, and she paused, glancing between the terrified girl whom she had never truly spoken to before this moment, and the diary in her lap.

"Hermione—" Ginny choked, and Hermione glanced down to see a drop of ink had hit the page. She watched in avid fascination as the ink sank into the page and disappeared.

And then she watched in abject horror as her words appeared on the page in beautiful, looping letters.

She had always expected to be a bit nervous, perhaps a bit afraid, when she first heard the words. But then she had always assumed she would hear them, not see them spell themselves in front of her. And in a diary that a girl claims has opened a chamber and targeted muggleborns since the year started, she saw them slowly stretch across the page—

How did you find my diary?

She snapped the diary closed.

"Ginny," She began sternly, desperately, "I need you to tell me everything—everything—"

She did. She spilled her secrets that she had spilled to the diary before, she told Hermione of Tom's smooth words and the way he comforted her and talked to her—and the more horrifying things, the part she played in the fate of the muggleborns around the schools, tracing messaged on the walls in blood, waking and washing the red from her hands and hoping and praying it wasn't what it looked like—

Hermione felt like she couldn't breathe the whole time. She was horrified on Ginny's behalf, of course, but also—it had been his handwriting. His handwriting lined her ribs, stained the skin of her side, and no longer did she feel warmed by the markings but instead she ached, she felt dirty, sullied by the words scorched into her skin.

But they weren't said to her. They were written to her. That was different, right? That was separate, wasn't it?

"Ginny," She said as calmly as she could once she was able to speak, "It'll be alright. I'll help you—I'll…" She hesitated, "I won't write to it, in case it tries to control me, but I'll find out how to destroy it."

"Do you promise?" She asked.

"I promise." She assured her, "Absolutely."

She kept the diary hidden away in her trunk. She never told anyone else she had it. After a week, she lied and told Ginny that she had destroyed it and there was nothing to worry about any longer. But the truth was she was trying to discover who—or what—he was. She poured over books in the library, tried to discover how he lived in a diary, how he had controlled Ginny, how he had petrified those students—

It was a Basilisk, was the first thing she discovered. The Chamber of Secrets, which had been announced in blood on the walls by Ginny's hand, must've been somewhere near the girls' lavatory where the diary had been—and also where Ginny said she awoke washing blood from her hands—though there was no way for Hermione to know exactly where. But she still had no idea how Tom Riddle lived in a diary, or who he was—

Until, that is, she caught sight of his name in the trophy room.

Tom Riddle, it said. 1942. Special Award for Services to the School.

Tom Riddle. 1942.


"I saw him once," Ginny told her, late one night when she couldn't sleep. Hermione often stayed up with her that year, when Ginny was kept up with nightmares. She never spoke explicitly of what happened, but Hermione thought it must be terrible. It made her feel sick to think that his words could be scorched into her side—

But they weren't his words. He had only ever written them. He had never said them. So it didn't count.

"Did you?" Hermione asked carefully, uncertain if Ginny wanted to elaborate or if she was only filling the silence.

"He was so handsome," She told her, "He was so…beautiful. And his voice…I think I fell in love with him a little."

"Did you?" Hermione repeated, having nothing else to say.

"Well, I don't know," Ginny said quietly, "I always just loved Harry, but Tom reminded me of him sometimes, and—" She stopped suddenly, her cheeks reddening as she lifted her eyes from her lap to meet Hermione's gaze, "I didn't mean—'

"I won't tell him," Hermione assured her, "Harry has no idea. Boys are stupid about that sort of thing."

She hesitated. "I don't have his words," She said after a moment.

"That's alright," Hermione assured her, "Words don't mean anything. My parents don't have each other's words and they're still in love."

"Truly?" Ginny asked. Hermione hummed in response. She paused for a moment, before swallowing thickly and boldly asking—

"How did you see him?"

"Who, Harry?" Ginny asked.

"Tom." Hermione clarified evenly. Ginny frowned and remained silent for a very long time. Hermione thought perhaps she had taken a step too far—she usually tried to avoid asking her questions, because Ginny rarely liked to talk about it. She had just come to terms with the fact that she was not going to answer when she did.

"Blood." She said. "He told me he just needed a drop. So I could see him."

Hermione didn't answer. Instead she laid a hand on Ginny's hand to try and comfort her, because something about that answer had darkened Ginny's expression. Hermione couldn't help but think that this Tom Riddle fiasco was far too dark of an experience for an eleven year old to bear.

It was probably too much for a twelve year old to bear, too, but that didn't stop her from locking herself in a bathroom stall and holding a pin in her hand, staring down at the diary and wondering if it was far too reckless and far too stupid to drop her blood into the diary to meet him, to hear him speak, to find out for certain if those words were his.

She decided it was, in the end. But she also decided—if his written words were apparently potent enough to burn themselves into her, perhaps if she wrote back, her words would be on him, too? What better way to discover if it was truly him than to discover, via his reaction, if her words were his just like his were hers?

She sat there for a very long time deciding what to say, but there was nothing she could decide upon that seemed specific enough, unexpected enough for it to leave no question to him nor her if they were soulmates or not.

So she didn't say anything. Not yet.

Not for quite a long time

Hermione bore the weight of a life without a soulmate with all the grace her parents did. It wasn't exactly the same situation—her parents had never met their soulmates to begin with, she had, but she just had no idea who he was or exactly how evil he was. She refused to let anyone see her words, dutifully avoiding the subject when the girls would stay up late talking in the dorm-room, sharing their words and giggling about who it might be. Hermione would listen quietly and think of the diary she kept hidden at the bottom of her trunk.

She never wrote in it. She still hadn't thought of what to say. She still wasn't sure it would be prudent to say anything. She had come to terms with the fact that, somehow, those written words were enough to stain her skin. She assumed, as he was trapped in that diary and the only way he could communicate was by writing, it made their written words as potent as speaking. How strange, that her soulmate should be a book. How fitting.

"Don't you ever wonder?" Lavender Brown asked her one night while all the girls were sat upon her bed. Ginny wasn't present that night, spending time with girls in her own year. "Don't you want to know who it is?"

"It doesn't matter who it is." Hermione replied primly, "I can fall in love with whomever I want. Just because I have someone's handwriting scorched into my skin doesn't mean I have to wait for them."

"Scorched?" Parma echoed, "It's not as if it was burned into you."

"It was," Hermione argued, because for her it certainly felt like it had, it felt like a stain, it felt like a trick or a prank, something horrible tattooed on her side to remind her that apparently she was meant to be with someone who was not only trapped in a book, but also controlled her friend in an attempt to destroy muggleborns while trapped in said book.

She still wasn't sure how to destroy it. She hadn't actually tried.

She found the longer she left it hidden in her trunk the angrier she felt at the thing. She had been so excited about the prospect of a soulmate, her childish imagination running wild thinking about who she might meet, who she might fall in love with. The idea that her soulmate was a book who hated her for her blood—a prejudice that always sent her apparently dirty blood boiling—what a horrible trick of fate.

It took only that single conversation for the other girls to stop asking her about her words. Ron asked her once, but she had lectured him on the unimportance of soulmates for so long that he had never asked her again. Harry never asked, but she attributed that to the fact that he never spoke of his own words either, for some reason. Outside of her friends within her house, soulmates were not a conversational starter, so she needn't worry about anyone else's interjections or questions about her words. It was easy to ignore, really. But it was impossible to forget.

She had come to something of a standstill in her research as of late. The first few months of researching , it had been revelation after revelation but upon learning of Tom Riddle's identity, she found herself at something of a standstill. She couldn't ask Ginny questions, because not only did she react quite poorly to being asked about Tom Riddle, there was also very little she remembered in the first place. She was hesitant to talk to Harry about it yet, mostly because he just seemed so relieved that the voices had stopped, and she didn't have the heart to tell him that it wasn't completely over.

"It's been months," He said once to her and Ron, "And no voices, no messages about the chamber of secrets." He looked squarely at Hermione when he continued, "Do you think it just…stopped?"

"I can't imagine what they would be waiting for." She said, "It must be over…why else would they stop?"

"It's bloody suspicious," Ron interjected, "I mean—what happened to stop it?"

Hermione almost told them, then. She almost told them she was in possession of the diary which prompted the basilisk to attack—she almost told them about the Chamber and the Basilisk and Tom Riddle and Ginny, but a myriad of reasons held her back. She had promised Ginny her secrecy, first of all. There was also the aspect that she had no idea how to destroy the diary yet, she had no idea exactly what the diary was. And then of course there was also the fact that she was fairly certain that leather-bound book was her soulmate, and she had yet to discern if that was entirely true or not.

So she didn't say anything. They sat there in contemplative silence and she said nothing.

"Perhaps something happened to the heir?" Harry suggested.

"Whoever that is," Ron mumbled.

Hermione paused.

"Heir…" She said quietly to herself, "Enemies of the heir—muggleborns and—and the heir of Slytherin can control the—damn it!" She slammed her hand down on the table and both Ron and Harry stared at her in shock, watching her with wide eyes in silence. She didn't often swear—she never really did—but all of her research was suddenly connected with that blasted term—heir—and she felt terror seep into her bones.

"Hermione—" Harry started, but she had already left.

In her absence, Ron and Harry sat in shocked silence until Weasley finally muttered, "She's bloody lost the plot," to break the uncomfortable quiet.

They didn't say anything else to address her outburst.

Hermione sat in the library surrounded by books filled with destructive spells staring at the diary sitting in the center of the table, mocking her. She felt simultaneously terrified and furious.

In all her research, she was surprised now that she had never made the leap. She knew of the Basilisk, she knew it was targeting muggleborns, she knew it was controlled by the heir—the heir that she had gathered must be the heir of Slytherin, especially considering they dealt with the Chamber of Secrets, which was a chamber supposedly created by Slytherin—she knew that the only people on this planet who she could think of who would be able to control a snake would be someone who could speak to it, like Harry or—or—

She picked up the diary and slammed it back on the table for no reason other than she was furiously angry.

Voldemort. Somehow, Voldemort. She didn't know how she couldn't have known, how she didn't make the connection—A man who can talk to snakes and hates Muggleborns, tries to eradicate them from the magical world—

Everything was clearer in hindsight. At least she thought that was the saying.

She checked out every single one of those books she had pilled around her—dutifully ignoring the odd look the librarian sent at her—and struggled to carry the books up to her bed, where she immediately spread the books across the bedspread and pulled her curtains shut.

"Incendio," She tried, pointing her want at the diary. Nothing happened, so she read over the page against and tried once more. "Incendio," Still nothing. "Incendio!" She said a third time, and finally angry flames spilled from her wand and hit the diary, but they also hit the blanket, and it took her two terrified tries to cast aguamenti to stop her room from bursting into flames.

The diary had flipped open, she realized with terror, and she watched as the burnt edges of the pages slowly healed until it looked as if she had never even cast the spell. And slowly, that beautiful script faded onto the page—Have I done something wrong?

"Oh, you horrid, evil—" She muttered, picking up the diary and trying to rip the pages out, but as hard as she pulled at the pages nothing ripped, nothing tore, nothing broke. But in her struggle, the harsh edge of the parchment slit into her finger and she dropped it in horror, watching the blood on the corner of the page soak into the otherwise unblemished pages.

Would you tell me what I've done wrong before you try to destroy me?

She stared at it, wide-eyed, wondering what she had done.

Why don't you write?

She slammed it shut so it—he—would stop speaking to her. She didn't know what this—this thing was, but judging by how hard it was to destroy she could tell it was certainly more than a go between from Voldemort to whomever finds it. It was something worse, something darker—she gets the distinct feeling that it may even be somewhat separate from Voldemort—but still him, wasn't it? It must be him, and his words and his handwriting were tattooed on her side like a branding, like a stain, she hated it, she hated it more than anything else, and she hated him, she hated fate, she hated this stupid, stupid, stupid soulmate drivel—

She kicked the diary into her trunk by her bed, she stacked all the book she owned—not the library books, because she would have to take those out otherwise—until the diary was trapped at the bottom of her trunk where it could rot forever for all she cared.

She never pulled it back out, except for one time where she put it in a little box and locked it so she would never have to touch it again, even if she had to empty her trunk. She tried and tried and tried to forget about it. Some nights she would stand in the shower or the bath and scrub and scrub and scrub her side until she bled, but she never retrieved that journal.

Until she did.

Hermione was barely fifteen when she hears her words again.

"How did you find my diary?"

But it wasn't really again, because she had never heard them in the first place, only saw them written on a page. The shock of hearing them was so severe she felt every muscle in her body coil as if to fight, as if to snap back at something offensive because—she had accepted her situation. She had come to terms with the fact that fate—for whatever reason—decided that her best match would be evil incarnate, and she had accepted fate's opinion but promptly told it go fuck itself. She was content living a life as her parents did, with someone else, someone she might not match but someone she was content with just the same. She had accepted it.

And she had more important things to worry about, she had to worry about the fact that Harry's name had just been spat out of the goblet and he would be competing in the Tournament, she had to worry about the fact that Ron was being a prat and refusing to speak to him—

But she hears them.

"How did you find my diary?"

They're soft, and feminine, and french-accented. The voice winds its way pleasantly through her ears and suddenly every hope she had as a child came springing back as if the incident with the diary never happened, as if her words weren't an insult and a secret—

She wanted to say something beautiful in turn. She wanted to say something lovely to print on her skin. But she balked for a few silent moments while Fleur watched her, half patiently, half concerned, her pretty hands plucking the book from Hermione's hands that she had only just picked up off the ground.

"I—I—" She stuttered briefly, "It was just—on the ground." She internally winced at how lame that was, how lame that would look on her skin. Fleur showed no reaction, however, showed no sign of recognizing the words. Hermione felt something deflate inside of her.

"Thank you," She said graciously instead, a beautiful smile stretching across her lips, "I don't have many secrets, but I still would hate for anyone too nosey to find this."

"I—I'm sorry," Hermione started, knowing that what she was about to ask was terribly intrusive, "This is going to sound very rude, but—your words…"

Her eyebrows lifted high on her forehead, "Did I say yours?" She asked. Hermione nodded. "Oh, you did not say mine," She said with an apologetic tone, her eyebrows drawing together in something like pity. Hermione couldn't even truly find it in herself to be disappointed, the fact remained that she had said her words, she had said the exact words printed on her side and it had been a coincidence.

A coincidence.

"That's alright," Hermione smiled, "I don't care much for them anyway, I was only curious."

"You do not care?" Fleur asked, surprised, "Not at all?"

"I don't like being told who to love," Hermione offered flippantly. "Particularly if its someone terrible."

"Terrible?" Fleur echoed with a slight laugh, "Well I believe the point of the mark is, if they are terrible, they are not terrible for you," Hermione felt something quite literally constrict around her chest, and she wasn't certain Fleur knew how much worse her words made everything. It was a joke, sort of, Hermione knew that based on the tone, but if it were true and her soulmate was that blasted diary then she certainly was not about to differentiate between how terrible it was for the world and how terrible it was for her. She didn't want a soulmate that forced her to decide between herself and society.

But she heard her words again, didn't she?

Something desperate and hopeful was beginning to bloom in her chest, straining against the ropes that had constricted around her lungs so she could breathe again. It filled her with a hope that she hadn't had in quite a while, a hope that felt almost childish in its resurface in her heart. She had come to understand that soulmates were unimportant, similar in many ways to the subject of divination which she so abhorred. She thought back on her childish fancy—tracing over her words with a skip in her heart—as exactly that; a childish fancy, a daydream that would never come true. But suddenly she wondered if, even if she never found her true soulmate, perhaps the words she had seen written on that page were not her words.

Coincidence. If it had happened now, surely it could have happened then?

The moment was unimportant to Fleur. Hermione could tell by the way she had thanked her once more for finding her diary and walked off after a pleasant farewell, as if her world was not spinning around her. Hermione felt an array of excitement and fear and she knew she was being silly, reacting like this, but as unimportant as she saw all this soulmate business, the thought of not being linked to such a horrible man—even if it is only some sort of duplicate of that horrible man—made her feel more at ease than she ever had before.

There was only one way to know for sure, she realized. Only one way to truly set her mind at ease. She had to figure out if her words were on his skin.

She sat on her bed that night, reached into the bottom of her trunk and fetched out the little box she had locked the diary away in. She unlocked the box, carefully picked up the diary, opening it and laying it on her bed, the curtains drawn. Her heart was racing no matter how many times she tried to convince herself to stay calm, because she knew what this thing was capable of. She knew who it was. She knew who she was, and how glad it would be to kill her if given the chance.

Something ridiculous, she told herself. Write something that makes no sense, something that could not be on his skin by coincidence. Something ugly, so that if he is hers, at least she can stain his skin with something horrible as some sort of small retribution. Something he would be embarrassed to show.

But she took too long to decide, her quill poised above the pages. A drop of ink fell, and just like before, she watched as the ink faded away into the page and words wrote themselves on the page.

Hello, again.

She gritted her teeth, willed herself to be calm. But it had been two years since she had last been around that diary, and she had forgotten that her blood lied within its pages. It started to glow. Her quill slipped from her shaking fingers and she wrapped her fingers tightly around her wand and moved away, pulled open the curtains to get far away from that offensive light, but before she could escape it seemed to engulf her.

And then she was…somewhere else.

Somewhere strange. A study, of come sort, lined with books along the walls and a large desk and a window, somewhere that might've been cozy if it did not feel artificial somehow. Colors were muted, as if there was some film over her eyes, or perhaps just terrible, terrible lighting, but she didn't see how that could be when the window at her side was so large. Everything felt unreal, cold.

And she didn't have her wand. Not here.

"Hello, again," A deep voice interrupted her examination of her surroundings, speaking slowly and indulgently as if savoring the words as spoken rather than written. She knew who it was before she turned around.

"He was so handsome," She remembered Ginny's words when she turned and met his gaze, "He was so beautiful, and his voice—"

He sat in an armchair behind her, one of his long legs crossed over the other. She thought that perhaps, if he was anyone else, he would be handsome. He was tall, she could tell even while he was in that chair, with sharp features and dark eyes and hair that fell in perfect waves across his forehead. He wasn't smiling, exactly, but his expression as still remarkably pleased, and the heavy weight of his gaze as his eyes slid from the top of her bushy hair to her toes made it nearly impossible not to squirm, but she managed.

Instead, she gritted her teeth and tried to look nonplussed. She almost did it, almost asked him where she was, almost demanded he let her out, but before she opened her mouth she remembered herself. She remembered her situation. No, she thought, no that would not do. She had to know, without a doubt. She couldn't leave this discovery up to coincidence.

"I wonder which of Ginevra's friends you are," He purred, his voice as smooth and lush as his handwriting, a deep, velvety sound that caused the hair of her arms to stand on end. "If I were to hazard a guess, I would say the bookish know-it-all that she was always so jealous of."

Hermione's jaw twitched, the mention of her friend and his blatant attempts to rile her setting her temper ablaze, but she remained silent. Slowly, one brow rose on his forehead, as if he had noticed her reaction, noticed that she was holding back.

"What was your name…" He murmured, "Hermione?"

She didn't like the way it sounded when he said it. He made her name sound dirty, just the sound of it passing his lips made her want to cut his tongue out so he could never say it again. She hated him, hated everything he was, hated the fact that he appeared before her as a boy when she knew clearly that he was a monster.

His eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, gauging her reaction when he continued, "The mudblood."

The calming breath she took in through her nose was louder than she intended. Something slow and close to a smile claimed his lips.

"You are the one who attempted to destroy me, then," He observed, "A valiant effort, if not poorly researched."

It was very well researched, she wanted to snap. It was entirely researched.

His head tilted to the side when she remained silent, and he rose from the chair. His hands were clasped behind his back as he slowly approached her. Let me out, she wanted to say, Get me out of this horrible place right now.

She almost did. That would be a strange first thing to say to anyone, after all, but she stopped. The fear of what she could possibly discover, of what could be proven right, was too much for her to handle and she couldn't find the strength to open her mouth. She glared viciously at him as he approached.

"She must've told you," He surmised, and the closer he got the more she could see that his eyes were nearly sparkling with mirth. He enjoyed this, she realized, he thought she was afraid. And she was, certainly, but he thought she was afraid of him. "And you decided to help your friend." He was mocking her, she realized, but she had been mocked quite frequently by Slytherins before, and she wouldn't rise to the bait now. "You wouldn't help her if you knew what she said about you."

She narrowed her eyes. He watched for a silent moment before his eyes dropped to her throat. "Ah," He said quietly, and his fingers rose so he could rest them against the red and gold of her tie, "But you are a Gryffindor, so of course you would."

She took a step back, slapped his hand away from her person and glared with all the ferocity she could muster. His hand remained in the air where she had slapped it away, and he stared at it for a silent moment before he lifted his eyes to meet hers again. She knew it wasn't possible, but it was almost as if his eyes had gotten darker.

"I was kind to her," He said calmly, but there was something decided chilly about his tone. Hermione huffed out a sarcastic laugh, turning her eyes away from his heady gaze for a moment, wondering if there was a way out, if there was a way back into her room and out of this blasted farce of a study. "It's very boring, having to listen to the silly troubles of an eleven year old girl, but I was patient." He continued, taking a step closer to her so that she was forced to meet his eye again, "I was sympathetic. She spilled her soul to me, told me all about her dear Harry Potter and the know-it-all mudblood he spent all his time with," She wondered, briefly, if he honestly thought that would rile her, if he thought confessing the jealousies of an eleven year old girl would make Hermione genuinely upset. She wondered if he genuinely thought she would care that the girl she now called her friend had once thought her distasteful.

"She loved me," He continued, he stepped closer still and when she tried to distance herself she found herself pressed against the wall of books behind her. He smiled. "I find it fascinating how you refuse to speak," He observed, "I wonder if you would remain so silent if you knew everything I did to her," She felt like her whole body was swallowed up in ice, "Everything I made her do." She glared at him, wondered why she should be here without a wand, wondered how they could remain in this place that wasn't quite real, wondered if she would ever get out. In her panic, in the face of his soothing voice saying such horrible things, she was forgetting why she wanted to stay silent in the first place.

"Or how about what I planned to do?" He pressed, taking a step closer so that she could feel his breath on her cheek. She pointedly turned her eyes away, picking up on the fact that her silence annoyed him and so attempting not to give him even an iota of satisfaction from her attention. In the corner of her eye, she noticed his jaw twitch. "I was going to kill her," He said candidly, his eyes falling down to watch her hands curl into fists, "It isn't ideal, being stuck in this diary, so I planned to take every part of her soul she offered me, every drop of blood, so I could escape this prison and leave her to rot."

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath through her nose and told herself that his words didn't matter, he hadn't done it. Ginny was alive and any plans he had were over now.

"Perhaps, then I might've killed you," He hissed, and her breath was starting to come in quick, quit gasps when his hands found purchase on either side of her shoulders, caging her in against the wall of books but not touching her, making no contact except for the breath against her cheek. "Or perhaps I'll use your body, instead," She violently flinched when his nose lightly traced along her cheekbone, and she hated the fact that she was showing him how much he set her off, but she couldn't help it. The idea of him touching her made her want to throw up. "You made a dreadful mistake, offering that drop of blood, even if it was a mistake. I could use you now, finish what she started. Take your life instead?"

She squeezed her eyes shut and said nothing.

His hands suddenly slammed against the wall by her head, making her jump, causing her breath to quicken and her heart to race and, quite on accident, she met his eyes again. "Why don't you speak?" He hissed, his mouth twisted into a snarl that looked far to natural on his face, far more natural than the calm expression he had worn before. She liked this look better, liked it because it was less angelic and beautiful and more like the monster she knew he was. This was truer to his form, and it made her feel more in control to know that if she could do nothing else, at the very least she could strip him of his smoke and mirrors.

"Maybe I won't kill you," He continued viciously, excitedly, looking at her like the fact that she met his eyes was enough to make him continue, "Maybe I will take your body, but maybe I won't leave you dead, not yet," When he smiled, it was wide and cruel and horrifying, "I'll kill your friend Ginevra with your own hands," He threatened, "Let you wake up drenched in her blood, and then I'll kill you, so that the last thing you see before you die is your pathetic friend dead at your own hands—"

She didn't mean to do it, but she was so fed up with being stuck there without her wand, with the way he was trying to intimidate her, with the viciousness of his words. So she snapped, she forgot her fear, she forgot everything except the vicious anger that had built up in her chest, and she spat, "Save your villainous monologue for someone who's afraid of you, Voldemort."

He didn't respond, not right away. For a long moment he simply stared, which would have been odd in and of itself but was even odder because his expression had entirely changed. She noted that he didn't show shock the way most people did. His eyes didn't widen, and his jaw didn't go slack. Instead his face went rather blank, even ounce of vitriol from the moment before flushed away in an instant, and he suddenly looked at her very differently. And she knew that look, that anger and terror and outrage mingled with the shock and the confusion, she had seen that look the first time she had discovered him, when she had glanced at her reflection and contemplated herself and her soulmate and everything that was wrong.

Oh no, she thought. Oh no.

"What?" He breathed, but there as still something oddly severe about his tone. "What did you say?"

"Let me out," She demanded, because she knew what this meant. She knew what his shock meant, it meant everything she had been hoping was a coincidence wasn't, it meant it was real. This man, this monster trapped in a book was her soulmate, her words were tattooed onto his skin just like his were on her ribcage. "Let me out of here, now."

His hands clasped around her arms when she tried to move away from him. It was the first time he touched her besides the barely-there graze of his nose along her cheek, and his fingers gripped at her so harshly it hurt. She jerked away, or attempted to, but only succeeded in pressing herself further against the wall. "What did you say?" He repeated, viciously, as if he didn't believe what he heard, as if he didn't want to.

"Let me go!" She demanded, panic welling up in her chest like nothing she had ever felt before. That shadow of doubt in her mind that she had before, the possibility that he wasn't her soulmate at all, it was gone now. In its absence, her heart was beating wildly out of control, her breaths coming so fast that she felt herself becoming light headed. She couldn't get enough air. She couldn't get enough—"Let me out!"

"Say it again," He commanded, speaking through clenched teeth, his nails digging into her arms. She shook her head, struggled in his grip but he was relentless, "Say it again."

"Let me out!" She commanded just as fiercely. The corners of her vision were fading, she realized, and for a moment she thought she would pass out. She didn't want to, she didn't want to be defenseless against this man, unconscious in his presence, but her breath continued to quicken and she couldn't see—

She realized, after a moment, that it was light, not darkness, that was clouding her vision. She thought she heard him say something, something vicious and displeased, but when the light faded she was on her bed and he was gone.

The bed was too warm. The diary was too close. She couldn't see past her fear and she couldn't think about anything but pulling air into her lungs, so she tumbled off the bed onto the floor, tucked her knees up to her chest. Her hands were shaking so badly and she couldn't stop them, so she threaded her fingers into her hair and clenched her hands into fists so tightly she felt the strain of it in her arms, felt the sting as she pulled at her hair. She rested her forehead on her knees and pulled painful after painful breath into her lungs. She wanted to cry but no tears would come, she wanted to scream but she couldn't make a sound, she wanted to get up and run around the room just to calm the spike in her adrenaline but she could do nothing but remain there on the floor sucking in loud, gasping breaths as her mind played his expression on repeat, the panicked, angry look in his eyes when she spoke.

She thought it would never end, but it did.

When her breath had calmed, when her heart was no longer painfully pounding against her chest, she looked up and around herself. She reminded herself that she was no longer trapped in that room with him. She was no longer in danger, not truly, not while she was here. She closed her eyes and let out a long, shaky breath.

"Hermione?" She heard a voice call, and she opened her eyes to see Ginny at the door. She was watching her closely, concerned, "Are you…alright?"

Hermione realized a moment too late that she had left the diary open on her bed.

The look of pure, unadulterated horror on Ginny's face was familiar. It was the same horror she had carried with her the majority of her first year, and Hermione threw herself up on shaky legs to grasp at the diary. He had written to her, but she didn't know what because she slammed it shut as soon as she could. "Ginny," She started, intending to explain herself.

"Hermione, tell me that's not what I think it is," Ginny begged, her voice soft and her eyes accusatory. But Hermione didn't want to lie to her.

"I can explain."

"You said you destroyed it!" Ginny snapped.

"I tried," Hermione stressed, "I didn't know how to do it, so I just…lied." Ginny was looking at her as if she had betrayed her, "I didn't want you to be afraid anymore—"

"So, what? You kept it? And—and wrote to it?"

"I only kept it until I could find out how to destroy it," Hermione clarified, "And I never wrote to it."

"Then why is it open on your bed?"

Hermione hesitated, "This is the first time I have ever—"

"Hermione!" Ginny cried, "Don't you remember what he did to me? Don't you remember how dangerous he is—"

"Of course I remember," Hermione snapped, "I would not write to him if it were not important, Ginny, I—"

"What could possibly be so important?" Ginny implored.

Hermione shut her eyes before she said it, the humiliation of the truth settling over her as she said, "He said my words."

Ginny fell silent. Hermione opened her eyes to meet her friend's gaze, watching the confusion pass over her face. Hermione took a deep breath and untucked her shirt, pulled it up to display the handwriting that ran across Hermione's side. Ginny paled.

"But that's impossible," She muttered.

"It doesn't matter," Hermione said quickly, "It truly doesn't, but I just had to know, I had to know if it was a coincidence—"

"But that's impossible, Hermione," Ginny repeated a bit more desperately. Hermione clenched her teeth.

"It's not as if I'm going to fantasize a life with him," Hermione snapped, "I just had to know. I thought perhaps I was wrong and he wasn't, but I was right—"

"Hermione," Ginny interrupted, her eyebrows pinched quite tightly together, "You can't be—"

"I know, Ginny, alright?" Hermione's voice had risen several octaves, her friend's blatant denial of what Hermione knew to be true was doing nothing to help calm her.

"That is a book." Ginny elaborated, "It's a—a diary with an evil boy, you—you have to have a soul to be a soulmate."

Hermione rolled her eyes, ready to bite back that obviously that meant that there was a soul, because Hermione had not imagined what had just happened to her, but she paused. Her mind started whirling, and she didn't hear Ginny calling her name in the rush of her thoughts.

It had to have a soul, she realized. She had spent all this time wondering what it could be, wondering how it could come into being, and she had never considered the soul, never considered the logistics of tying your very being to an object, linking your very soul to something—

"The soul," She muttered, "It's his—his soul, but it can't be all of it, not if Tom Riddle lived in 1942 and Voldemort—"

"What?" Ginny asked, looking very confused and very afraid. "What does Voldemort have to do with—"

"I have to go." Hermione interrupted, snatching the diary up from the bed and rushing out the door.

"Hermione, wait!" Ginny called, and Hermione thought she might've run after her, too, but she didn't reach her, or maybe she stopped trying. Hermione ran all the way to the library, ignoring the strange looks garnered from students in the hall. The diary remained in her bag, kept on her person so that she didn't lose it. She was so close, she thought, so close to finding out what that blasted thing was and finding out how to destroy it.

It would be dark magic, she knew. She wished she had spent a moment to get Harry's invisibility cloak to sneak into the restricted section because she certainly didn't have a note to allow her access, but she couldn't turn around now, not with the roar of her blood in her ears, not with her heart pounding against her chest—She was so close, she was so close

She couldn't wait to destroy that blasted thing. She couldn't wait.

But there was nothing outside of the restricted section that said anything about storing your soul—or a piece of your soul, as she was suspecting might be the case—in an object.

It just made sense. For her to be linked to that object, for it to be her soulmate, it must have a soul. But Voldemort had been killed by Harry, so for this diary to remain in existence, it must not be explicitly linked but instead, separate. A piece of him stored away in a safe place.

But what was it, and how could it be destroyed?

"Excuse me?" She heard a quiet voice interrupt, and as she turned her eyes upwards to see who was interrupting her research, she instinctually pushed the diary to the edge of the table, away from their line of sight.

She knew him. He had been one of those announced to compete in the Tournament. Viktor Krum, if she remembered correctly. He watched her kindly, and she realized he was waiting for a response.

"Oh, um—yes?" She asked, "Did you need something?"

"I am sorry for interrupting," He apologized graciously.

"No, no, I—" She started, but stopped because he had been interrupting her panicked research.

"You seemed very…focused." He said lightly. Hermione thought of lying, of saying she had just been researching something for a class, but that felt strange to say. So instead she smiled lightly in reply.

"I'm just like that," She offered quietly. He met her eyes quietly for a moment.

"Well," He said, "I actually just wanted to ask if I could borrow this?" His fingers found one of the many books piled on her table, "If you do not need it—"

"Yes, go ahead," She sighed, "I read that one and it didn't have what I need anyway,"

He hesitated for a moment, before smiling and lifting the book in his hands. He had only just started to turn away when something like a lightbulb went off in her head.

"Wait—" She said, and he stopped immediately, turning back toward her almost as if he had hoped she would stop him. Hermione was too caught up in her idea to notice the hopeful look on his face. "You go to Durmstrang." She commented.

His lips stretched into a slightly bemused smile, "Yes." He affirmed.

"Could I—" She started, pausing momentarily because she wasn't sure she wanted to ask, "Could I ask you a question?" He paused for a moment, too, before nodding and approaching the table again. She took a deep breath, "I'm not sure if you'll know, but…do you know what it's called when you…put your soul into an object?"

His brow furrowed, and she wondered briefly if she might have made a mistake in asking him. She knew it would have to be dark magic—that's why she had asked him, because Durmstrang studied the dark arts—but she hadn't considered that it might be very strange and possibly even suspicious to ask. She expected him to snap at her.

Instead, he took a seat. "Why do you ask?"

"I don't like not knowing?" She offered tentatively, "And I've heard of it before," This was a lie, but it was better than admitted she was trying to figure out what her demonic diary was, "Of someone who put part of their soul into an object. I can't find anything about it anywhere."

"I don't imagine it would be anywhere among these books," He said seriously.

"Very dark magic?" She guessed.

"Very dark magic." He echoed. She licked her lips, feeling as if her mouth had suddenly become very dry. It had been a mistake to ask him, she realized. He thought she was either crazy or evil or both, she should have never— "It is called a horcrux."

Hermione paused. "Horcrux?" She echoed.

"We have not truly learned about them," He said, "But in passing…A horcrux is made when one splits their soul and puts their soul into something else."

"Anything?" Hermione clarified, "Like a book, or a…?"

"Anything," He agreed.

"How do you do it?" She asked, "How can anyone…split their soul?"

He hesitated before he answered, "I believe you have to kill someone."

Hermione lifted her hand to press it over her mouth. She turned her eyes away from him. It wasn't surprising, not really, that Voldemort might've killed someone in his youth. Her shock manifested mostly because she couldn't believe she was having this conversation, she couldn't believe she had asked him about this—what must he think of her, asking about horcruxes?

"Is there a way to destroy them?" She asked, then clarified, "The horcruxes."

"That I do not know," He admitted.

"You must think me horrible," She muttered, "Asking you about this—"

"No," He cut her off, prompting her to lift her eyes up to meet his. He looked very serious when he continued, "No, I don't."

At least he looked as if he meant it.

There was a loud noise to her side that mad her jump and tear her eyes away from Viktor to meet the irritating gaze of Draco Malfoy at her side where he had just knocked all her books off the table. She expected a rude comment, but he offered none. He seemed content with the mess he had left on the floor with the books, and offered a wide smirk as he sauntered off.

She rolled her eyes. "Does that happen often?" Viktor asked, staring after the blond boy.

"No," She answered, moving to the side of the table to pick up her books, "He usually harasses Harry. I think he saw me talking to you and couldn't help himself."

Viktor had moved with her to assist in picking up the collection of books off the floor. "I apologize then,"

She couldn't help the quiet laugh that escaped her, "You don't need to apologize," She said, a bit bewildered that he would apologize at all. He smiled in response, and she felt unexpectedly warmed by the expression. "I'm Hermione, by the way," She introduced herself. "Hermione Granger."

It took him quite a while to get the pronunciation of her name right, but she remained patient with him. She was happy that he seemed content to leave her questions about Horcruxes in the past, to continue a conversation that was much lighter and less suspicious. She was a bit flattered that he wanted to talk to her at all, if she was honest, but she welcomed the distraction. She had a name now, for what the diary was. She could find out how to destroy it.

She excused herself after a time, because as lovely as Viktor seemed so far, she couldn't shake the dark cloud that hung over her. She felt on edge and nervous and she still had to find Ginny and explain everything, explain that she would destroy it soon, explain that she was so close to getting rid of him forever.

But when she went to retrieve it from the edge of the table, it was gone.

It was gone.

IT IS SO DAMN HOT WHERE I LIVE and my a/c is SHIT and i am OVERHEATED and SLEEPY and GRUMPY 24/7! but there was a brief receive of the heat in my room and i knew I wouldn't have the energy to write a whole chapter of something so instead I finished this up, which I was already half done with!

So….as my dumbass always says…..this was gonna be a one-shot….but here we are…..and its not a one shot

ha ha? ? ? ? ha? ? ? hA? ?

idk I know the soulmate AU is a lliiittttlle cliche but its GOOD CLICHE I think and I like stories where Hermione gets the diary? I know we only had a little Riddle, tbf, but coming up we r getting a whole lot more?

SOMEONE PROMPTED THIS someone messaged me on tumblr and asked for a soulmate AU and…I made this? I hope its up to par to what you were expecting, my love who requested it! idk I'm kind of excited for this just because It's been a while since I wrote back in the hogwarts setting, I do a lot of AUs so idk I'm also embarrassingly excited about aggressively bisexual hermione ngl? u go girl

also tbh idk if Durmstrange would ever cover horcruxes even only in passing but they study dark arts so u kno? maybe

Let me know what you think? ? ? ? I'm definitely continuing this, idk how many chapters, so we'll see. I'll probably be focusing on finishing up School Days, which only has a few chapters left tbh, and also finishing Lurking, before I continue this, but idk honestly…let me know what you think? If you're interested? idk I feel like this Hermione finds the diary has been done so many times but I just really wanted to write the soulmate AU within the Harry Potter world rather than taking it sot of outside it in a total AU idk…..let me know if you're interested! I love the feedback you guys offer, and I really do read every review and take into account your opinions and what you think and what you hope will happen and stuff, I love reading it! You are all very nice to me and I love you all very much…

Anyway! I'm gonna shut up now, and I hope you guys liked it and want more? idk….let me know!