She recognized the voices immediately—and there are two of them—and she had never been filled with such extreme feelings of fear and anger at once in her life.

She had told them to stay away. She told them to stay in Brighton. But of course they didn't listen, they never listened to her, they never listened to a damn word she said—

"Hermione!" Harry called, pounding on the door. She didn't know what to do. She couldn't leave, she wasn't able, but she wasn't even sure she wanted to try and open that door if it meant Ron and Harry would get caught up in this. She had survived thus far, Voldemort didn't seem particularly interested in killing her, but the only other person who had been in this house since he entered it was Cormac and he was dead, she could never forgive herself if anything happened to Harry and Ron.

"Go away!" She yelled.

"Hermione, open the door!" Harry demanded, "What's going on? Why were you screaming?"

"Leave me alone!" She snapped, "I told you not to come, get away from here!"

He didn't answer except to slam his fist against the door again, she turns her head to peer into the living room where she can see Ron at the window, peering in and likely trying to discern what was going on, and she debated running over the close the curtain, when she felt something wrap around her ankle and she was suddenly dragged away from the door, her shirt riding up so that the carpet burned against her back. She screamed before she could stop herself, holding the bag tight against her chest, and it was obvious the boys heard her because suddenly there was loud, solid thumps against the door, as if they were both throwing themselves against it.

Then the most peculiar thing happened, peculiar only because it was the last thing she expected. The door, previously glued shut, suddenly swung open, and Ron and Harry stumbled in, sprawling on the floor with Harry on top of Ron. Hermione rolled onto her stomach, the backpack beneath her, whatever had gripped her ankle was gone and she barely managed to rise to her knees before the door slammed shut again.

"No!" She cried out, hurrying back toward the door and even stepping on Ron's hand as him and Harry tried to get up, falling over each other and looking equal parts confused and terrified. Hermione ignored them, pulling at the door knob and panicking when it was stuck, stuck again with all three of them inside. He did this on purpose, she thought, this was a threat. He was threatening her—give me the book or your friends die—her hands curled into the fabric of her backpack that she clutched against her chest. She wouldn't give it to him.

"Hermione what the hell is going on—" Ron started. The two of them had finally scrambled to their feet, both staring at her with wide eyes as she stood, terrified and furious, in front of the closed front door. "Why were you screaming, what—"

But he didn't finish. The lights started flickering—none of them had been on before, the room was lit enough by the fading light of the afternoon, but now they flickered on and off—the television turned on, the three of them went quiet and looked around them with wide eyes. Hermione was waiting, waiting for him to follow through on his threat, waiting for something horrible to happen as her mind groped for a solution.

"What's going on?" Harry asked, but Hermione didn't answer. She felt chilled, and if she focused she could feel him there, feel his presence, and she wondered if this was some kind of final warning. Like he was waiting to see if he would cooperate for her friends' sake, waiting to see if she would do as he asked.

"Hermione!" Ron snapped, though his tone lacked the ferocity that she was certain was intended, sounding rather frightened instead, "What the fuck is going on—"

She didn't know what to do. She couldn't put them in danger but she couldn't hand the journal over. The moment she handed that to him there would be only one horcrux left to keep him in his cage, and she would absolutely not be held responsible for the return of the antichrist. She couldn't. She wouldn't help him.

Her ears started ringing, and she realized that they always did that before something went wrong. She met Harry and Ron's terrified gazes with her own panicked one.

The television burst, a shower of glass and sparks spilling out to the floor along with a rather large bang, and it fell forward to the floor with a crash. Hermione screamed, Ron let out an impressive slew of curses, and Harry reached for the umbrella resting against the wall by the door and held it up as a weapon, though Hermione didn't really think it would do him much good.

"What the hell was that?" Ron demanded, his voice rising three pitches.

"Shut up," Hermione ordered, her voice shaking. Her ears were still ringing and she still had no idea what to do.


"Shut up, Ron." She said a bit more hysterically. The ringing in her ears got louder and louder, she remembered what Cormac looked like, his body bent and bloodied, and the thought that it could be Harry or Ron next sent her into an absolute panic. She slid the backpack onto her front, sliding her arms through the straps and grabbing the umbrella from Harry's hands. "What are you waiting for, you bastard?" She called out, ignoring Harry and Ron's shocked expressions. She walked through the living room, the lights still flickering, the umbrella brandished like a weapon. "I have your bloody journal—let them go!"

"Hermione—" She heard Harry say, concern and fear wound up in his throat, and he moved toward her with one hand outstretched as if trying to calm a raging animal. She turned toward him, but she was momentarily distracted by the mirror that hung on the wall by the bookshelf. She froze, because Harry had gotten close enough that she could see him in the reflection, but it wasn't him. He looked like a corpse, his arm that reached for her was rotten, parts of it she could see straight to the bone, blood coated his face and he—

She turned to face him, and he looked normal, if not concerned and afraid. Her ears were ringing so loud she couldn't think, and they both turned back to the mirror and when she saw his reflection again, rotted and bloody and horrific, his eyes were red, red just like—

She raised the umbrella and slammed it against the mirror, smashing the glass. The ringing stopped.

Harry closed in on her immediately, taking the umbrella from her hands and holding her by the forearms to keep her still, trying to meet her eyes. She stared at the mirror, saw the two of them reflected in the broken pieces of glass and wondered why he had stopped.

"Hermione—" Ron started, approaching her at Harry's side but staring at the broken mirror in horror. "That—"

"The kitchen," She choked out, "Move, move, we have to—" She didn't finish, opting instead to grab Harry's arm and reach across him to grab Ron, dragging them both to the kitchen and shutting the door.

"Hermione, what is going on?" Harry asked for what must've been the fifth time, she knew they had asked her time and time again, and she was so frustrated because she didn't have time to explain everything and she shouldn't have to, they shouldn't be here, they put themselves in danger all because they never bloody listened.

"Shut up," She spat at them, digging through the cabinets to find a large container of salt. She didn't even know if it would do any good, she read online that salt could repel demons but this wasn't a demon and she didn't even know if what she found was true, but she was desperate to keep him out. He had gone silent, for some reason, had left them alone. There was no ringing in her ears or strange prickling at the back of her neck and she knew he must be planning, plotting, deciding what he would do, who he would kill first. "I told you to stay away! Why can't you ever bloody listen—"

"We thought you were having a bloody breakdown or something!" Ron argued, his face flushing with anger, "Why the hell wouldn't we come?"

"Because I asked you not to!" She snapped, dumping out the contents of the salt container on the floor around the perimeter of the room, feeling ridiculous but needing to do something. "Now he's probably going to kill you all because you never listen to me!"

"What are you on about?" Harry demanded with much less anger than Ron, though still sounding equally panicked.

"It's the house," She explained quickly, sliding the backpack off her arms and reaching in for the journal, "It's haunted. I know how that sounds coming from me but it is, and it's the devil."

"What—" Ron practically shrieked.

"He wants this," She explained quickly, pulling out the journal and reaching into the front pocket of her backpack and puling out a rosary, wrapping it around the journal. "We can't let him have it—"

"Have you lost your mind—" Ron demanded.

"I know how it sounds!" She snapped, throwing the journal in the sink and pouring the rest of the salt around it, completely guessing. She had no idea what she was doing. "Do you really think I would believe it if there was any other explanation?"

"What do you mean it's the devil?" Harry asked, "Like a demon?"

"No, no," She said resolutely, turning about in the kitchen and wondering what to do next, how to get out. "Trust me, it's the devil." She moved toward the glass door, stepping out of the salt circle to try and pull it open, but it wouldn't budge.

"Oh bloody hell," Ron griped, "This is because of your fucking book, isn't it?"

Hermione picked up a wooden chair by the kitchen table and glared at Ron with every ounce of animosity in her body and said, "No, this is because of your bloody Ouija board!" As she proceeded to slam the wooden chair against the glass. Both boys jumped back, Ron yelping as she did it again.

"Hermione, it's not working!" Harry called out as she did it again, and again, knowing she looked mad but not really caring. "What are we supposed to do?"

"I don't bloody know!" She snapped, dropping the chair when it was clear enough that the screen wouldn't break. "You need to stay with me. He won't kill me, but he'll kill you if he gets the chance—"

"What do you mean he won't kill you—" Ron started, but Hermione cut him off.

"I don't have time to explain everything!" She snapped, but whatever she wanted to say next got caught in her throat. The room was cold again, freezing, and the three of them froze with it. "Do you feel that?" She asked.

"It's cold," Harry said, "Does that mean—"

"I don't know," She admitted, "I don't know what he'll do. He might just kill you both to get it over with."

"That's bloody comforting, thanks." Ron spat, looking around the room nervously, taking a step back as if he wasn't sure where to stand, where the safest spot would be.

"Ron, don't get too close to the door." She warned, and he turned to see the knives that she still hadn't removed from the wall. He swore, but before either could question him she said, "Yes, he did that."

"What are you bloody well still doing here?" Ron wheezed, "Why didn't you leave."

"I was going to," She snapped, though she knew she might not've been stuck here like this if she hadn't been so tempted with the Oujia board. If she had just grabbed Crooks and left like she was supposed to she might've been far enough away that none of them would be standing here afraid to die. "Just step away from the door—"

"Hermione, the journal," Harry reminded her, and she quickly moved toward it where it lay in the sink. She was shaking it was so cold, and her ears were ringing again, quietly but slowly building. "Will any of this really keep him away?" Harry asked, "Isn't this stuff for demons? He's not—"

"I don't know, Harry." She interrupted, "I don't know what I'm doing, I'm just trying not to let you two die—"

The door of the kitchen slammed open, and all the salt she had hoped might do something scattered around the floor and in the air. Harry and Hermione both ducked down, Hermione's hand pressed over the diary in the sink even as she fell to the floor and squeezed her eyes shut. She heard the clattering of something, like the cabinets opened and shut and everything spilled out, she heart the shattering of glass and she heard Ron yelp again and the slam of a door and finally everything stopped.

"Shit," She heard Harry swear quietly, and Hermione opened her eyes to see the mess in her kitchen. Glasses and mugs and plates lay in shattered pieces across the floor. She rubbed at her face, felt the salt against her skin and she was sure it was in her hair as well.

And Ron was gone.

"Ron?" She muttered, and then much louder, filled with much more fear, "Ron?" She pulled herself up, saw the journal was still there since she had held it down in the sink, but the rosary had snapped and when she lifted it to press it against her chest it fell off and remained in the sink, some of the seeds sliding off.

"Ron?!" Harry bellowed, moving toward the door.

"Harry no!" She cried out, "You can't, he's trying to lure us out, if you go running after him he'll kill you!"

"He'll kill Ron!" Harry argued.

"I know, just—just let me think! I'm trying to think!" She threaded her fingers into her hair, it felt crusty and dry and coated in salt. Great, she thought, salt doesn't work, rosaries don't work, nothing works to keep them safe. They were sitting ducks, there was nothing they could do, they—

"Give me the journal." Harry demanded, holding out his hand that wasn't resting on the doorknob, ready to run after Ron. "You said he wanted it. Give it to me."

"No!" She shook her head, pressing the book against her chest. "He wants to destroy it, and if he destroys it, he's one step closer to coming back!"

"Coming back?" Harry's brow furrowed, "What are you on about—"

"I don't have time to explain!" She shook her head, "But he can't get this. We can't let this be destroyed!"

"He's going to kill Ron!" Harry cried.

"I know!" Hermione cried in return, "I know, just—" She turned her attention to the floor, and saw that the contents of her backpack had been strewn across the floor. There among the glass and ceramic pieces on the floor, Hermione saw the satanic bible staring up on her. She hurried to pick it up, "Maybe there's something in here—"

"Are you joking?" Harry asked, his voice still raised and frightened, "What, you think we can use a satanic ritual to protect us from satan?"

"It's not satanic!" She spat back, too panicked to elaborate as she held the journal underneath the book and flipped through the pages, "But he talks about magic, and maybe—"

"Oh, so we're going to cast some satanic magic to—"

"I'm trying to find a solution where we don't die, Harry—"

They both went quiet when they heard a scream.

"Ron!" Harry bellowed, tearing open the door. Hermione dropped the book to the floor, the journal still held tightly in one hand while her other hand grabbed Harry's arm to stop him.

"No, Harry!" She said, "It might not be him. It might be in our heads. He can make us see and hear things that aren't—"

"I can't just sit in here while he's—" Another scream, throaty and terrified, it caused Hermione's arms to break out in goosebumps.

"Harry, he killed your parents!" She said desperately, trying to convince him to stay, trying to convince him to let her think, let her plan. She was terrified too, she didn't want Ron to get hurt, but if they went charging after him then both of them would die. Harry froze, turned and stared at her with wide green eyes, horrified.

"What?" He breathed.

"Tom Riddle." She told him, "Voldemort, he was in human form and Dumbledore—"

"Dumbledore—" He muttered.

"Dumbledore and your parents were trying to lock him away, and they did, but they died." Harry looked shaken, his hand still on the doorknob, gripping it so tightly his knuckles turned white. "They died to lock him away—we can't—we can't just let him back out—"

"Why didn't he tell me?" He asked quietly, "Why did he never say—"

"I don't know." She said helplessly, "I don't know, but we can't—we have to—we have to think, Harry—"

"I don't care." Harry interrupted, and Hermione was shocked into silence. His eyes were fixed resolutely on his feet, his mouth set in that determined way it got when he knew Hermione would disagree with him but he didn't care. "My parents died for this," He echoed, sounding as if he wasn't certain whether or not to believe her. He lifted his eyes but they didn't meet hers, they fixed on the journal. "I'm not about to let Ron die for it, too."

He took the journal, ripped it from her hands and was out the door before she could stop him. "Harry, no—" She started, but the door slammed shut again. "Harry!" She called after him, pulling at the door, placing her foot against the wall beside it and pulling it with all her might. He had let Harry go for a reason, he now had them all separated and he could do whatever he wanted, and Harry was about to give him exactly what he came for. "Harry come back!"

She pulled a knife from the door, dug it into the crack between the door and the doorway, trying to force it open but the knife just slid out and she nearly sliced her own wrist on accident. "Let me out, you demonic bastard!" She demanded, knowing it did her no good but feeling so furious and helpless and—her friends were going to die, he was going to kill them and there was nothing she could do, she—

The door opened so suddenly that she flew back, sprawled across the floor with the broken glass. She hit her head on the counter, felt the glass pierce into the skin of her back. It hurt, but it didn't dissuade her from pushing herself back up, ignoring the throbbing head ache and focusing on the open door.

It was dark. Had the sun already set, she wondered? The room outside the kitchen seemed to impossible daunting and Harry was nowhere to be seen, nor was Ron. She rose to her feet, wincing at the pain that bloomed across her back but otherwise ignoring it. She moved forward into the silent room. She heard no screaming, not from Ron nor from Harry, not even Harry screaming Ron's name.

"Harry?" She called worriedly, "Ron?" Her voice seemed to echo, reverberating through the dark and dismal room so that she could hear no response except for her own words repeated back to her. It was dreadfully quiet. No voices, no ringing in her ears, it was so quiet she was forced to listen to the pounding of her heart and each fearful, shaking breath expelled from her lungs. After a moment, she stopped walking, her head still throbbing as she considered calling out his name, but she still wasn't sure what to call him. She had called him Voldemort to some, called him satan and the devil, in her head she had called him Tom, sometimes, but never out loud. So many names and none of them seemed right for her to speak, none of them seemed real.

He wouldn't be Voldemort, that was a title used by those who followed him. But he was Tom Riddle once, he was Tom Riddle before he was locked away.

Carefully, she called, "Tom?"

She heard a thump and she jumped, turned her attention to the cupboard where the noise had originated and swallowed down her fear. She didn't creep forward, didn't take her time but rushed forward instead, throwing open the door before she had a chance to second guess herself.

A stack of boxes fell forward, a stack which had originally fallen against the door now spilling out onto the floor. They slammed into her legs, knocking her over as the contents—papers and miscellaneous objects and photographs that had been put into storage—now scattered across the floor. She swore, frustrated with herself for being so afraid of a few bloody boxes, and pushed herself to her feet, stepping over the boxes and hurrying toward the staircase.

No more fear, no more carefulness. She wanted to find her friends, to make sure they were okay, this silence was driving her mad. She took the stairs two at a time and it only seemed to get darker, the silence more suffocating. She threw open the door to her own room, but no one was there, so she followed up with the next room and the bathroom and her parents room but—there was no one around. Everything was silent and still and dark, her heart pounding in her ears as she stood in the middle of her parents bedroom wondering—"No," She muttered, "No this isn't—where is—this doesn't make sense—"

She turned. In the doorway stood Ron, but—but it wasn't Ron. His face was so pale, his hair flopping into his face, the sides matted with blood. In fact he was covered in it, not dripping like Tom in her dream but soaked, as if he had been lying in it, and his chest—his chest was ripped open, gaping, broken ribs and blood and tissue and—Hermione screamed. She took a step back and tripped, sprawled on the ground staring up at him in terror.

"Why did you come back?" He choked, taking an unbalanced step forward as Hermione dragged herself back. Tears filled her eyes and she shook her head, unable to look away but oh god, oh god this was—

This wasn't real. It couldn't be real. He was in her head again, making her see things, this wasn't—"No, no, no, stop!" She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes.

"Why couldn't you just leave it be? You had to have your bloody questions answered and now we're all dead—"

"Get out of my head!" She demanded, her voice breaking, and she tried to push herself up but her foot slipped. He was still advancing on her but she couldn't lift her eyes, she didn't want to see him again, she couldn't bear it.

"You've killed all of us." He spat, "He only wanted you. And now because of that we're all dead—"

"No!" She finally got to her feet, threaded her fingers through her hair and she wouldn't look at him, she wouldn't, he wasn't real, and her throat burned with the effort when she demanded, "Stop it!"

She didn't open her eyes but the silence was enough to tell her that he wasn't there. She ran blindly forward, back toward the door he used to hover in front of, the image of him burned into her mind. She still didn't look up when she ran into the hallway, she didn't want to see what else he showed her, she didn't want to see anything, she just wanted this to be over, she—

Something grabbed her arm and she jerked away. She lifted her eyes to see who it was, but her world was spinning before she could. She had stepped back from whoever grabbed her, and her foot suddenly met air, and she fell back. It took her two collisions with the ground to realize she was tumbling down the stairs, her already throbbing head colliding with the wall on the way down and her wounded back screaming with each impact.

She hit the ground winded, staring up at the ceiling trying to catch her breath. She turned her head but whoever had grabbed her at the top of the stairs wasn't there anymore, only darkness. She had to get up, she had to figure out what was happening. She had to figure out where her friends were and get them out, she had to find that journal, she—

When she sat up, Harry stood at the far end of the living room, facing her. He was nearly hidden by the shadows, but he was there, unharmed, holding the journal in his hands. "Harry," She choked, pushing herself up despite the ache in her body, "Harry," But she had nothing else to say, she couldn't think, she was so relieved—

"I'm ending this." He told her. She used the banister to pull herself to her feet.

"Harry," She said again, warningly this time, "Harry, don't." He wouldn't look at her, his eyes fixed on the journal, and he opened it, held each side in his hands as if he planned to—"Harry, no, you're only giving him what he wants!"

She ran toward him, but she was barely halfway there when he ripped at the pages, tore the whole thing apart. A fire sparked in his hands, swallowing the journal in orange and yellow flames, and then suddenly they swallowed him, too. The flames lit up the whole room and threw her back, and she couldn't see him anymore, he was swallowed up in the too-too-bright light of the flames and she couldn't see him, he was gone.

She laid back, pressed her hands over her face, "Not real," She told herself. "Not real, it's not real, it's—" But she could feel the heat of the flames, she could see the light behind her eyes if she moved her hands, it felt real, it always felt real.

She rolled onto her stomach, pressed her hand against the floor to push herself to her feet but her hand landed on a photograph and she slipped, falling back to the ground. She tried to pull herself up again, shaking the photograph off when it stuck to her hand. It fell to the ground underneath her, and—

She stopped. Everything stopped. The fire and the light was gone, the heat was gone, she was left with nothing but the faded light of the moon to see with but she could still see that photograph, staring up at her. With a shaking hand she reached for it, lifted it to the light that drifted in from the window.

Her parents, she noted. But not just her parents, because standing in between them with a congenial smile was Father Dumbledore.

She felt a hand at her arm again, and this time when she jerked away there were no stairs to fall down. She turned and nearly fell back, catching herself on her hands. Tom Riddle was crouched beside her in the dark, quiet room.

He examined her for a moment, eyed her from the top of her head to her toes, before fixing his gaze on her face again and reaching out. She didn't move, and his hand brushed against her cheek. The faint sting at the contact told her she probably had a cut there as well.

"I apologize," He said, "I did not mean for you to be hurt."

She slapped his hand away. "Where are my friends?"

"Unharmed," He answered promptly, "As of yet."

She furrowed her brow, "Then why—" But she couldn't voice it. Why the images? Why the threats? But she realized with a sudden sort of clarity, "I'm dreaming." He didn't answer, but his very presence was proof that she was right. He couldn't appear to her if she was awake, he could only make his presence known through the house. "But when—" She thought, and she lifted a shaking hand to the back of her head, remembering when she slammed her head against the kitchen counter. That was when everything changed, everything went dark and quiet then.

"You fell back and hit your head," He told her when she pulled her fingers away and there was blood. She imagined that, she realized. She might be bleeding in reality, but here she made it up. Had she made up Harry and Ron, too? In this dream had that been her or him?

"Let us go." She told him instead, "Harry has your stupid horcrux and he's going to destroy it, so just let us go, you have what you want already."

"No," He answered immediately, and he was close, closer than she realized. He was crouched by her feet, her knees were bent and she leaned back on her hands away from him. She wanted him further away, she couldn't think when he was this close to her. "No, I don't."

She didn't react with an answer. Instead, she lifted her foot and planned to kick him in the chest, push him away form her, but he caught her foot in his hand. His hand slid to her ankle and he pulled, dragged her closer so that her hands slid out from underneath her and she was flat against the floor and he loomed over her, his other hand pressing against her throat. It reminded her of that morning in her bed, after Cormac, that strange gentle hand and the man that she thought was a figment of her imagination. She didn't understand, she didn't know who he was and who she was and she didn't understand the way she felt and Dumbledore knew her family and she didn't understand

"Hermione," Tom seethed, "I think it's time you stop being defiant simply for the sake of defiance."

"Get off of me," She demanded, pushing against his shoulders, "You can have your horcrux, I don't care anymore, just leave me and my friends alone—"

"Is that what you think will happen?" He asked, pressing his hand firmly against her throat. It wasn't enough to stop her breathing, but it was enough to stop her pushing. "When I escape this prison, you think you'll be free of me? That I'll just let you go?" His hand, the one that had wrapped around her ankle to pull her closer, suddenly unfurled. He slowly, almost distractedly, dragged his finger up the front of her shin, "I won't let you go," He told her, "You're mine."

She jerked her leg, jammed her knee into his side. It didn't throw him off her but it did move him, and she pushed at his shoulder and at his side in order to push him to the side and to the ground, flat on his back. She moved with him, landing on top of him, and she hurried to scramble off. "I am not yours." She spat, "I don't belong to you—"

His hands caught the back of her knees and pulled her back down, sitting up so that they were chest to chest. Her hands pushed him away at his shoulders, but he pinned her in place with his hands on her legs so she couldn't push him far away. His expression was a strange merge of murderous and beseeching, it was a look she had never seen before on anyone. "You don't understand," He told her, and she was sick and tired of him saying that. "You were made for me." She pushed violently away, so he lifted his hand to catch her wrists and trap them against his chest. "Just as a rib was taken from Adam to create Eve, don't you see?" She didn't see, but she didn't move, she sat very still and watched the way his eyes flashed between black and red. "You were created for me." Something coiled in her stomach, discomfort and anger and something, something that bloomed at his touch and made her curl her hands into useless fists. "You are mine," He assured her.

"You're insane." She told him, and she truly believed he was.

"Yes," He agreed, as if he saw no problem with that.

"I don't understand what you want," She told him, and his jaw clenched, his lips pursed, he looked as if he was ready to grow truly angry with her, but he didn't. He was silent for a long time, and Hermione wanted more than anything to move away, but her body betrayed her by remaining horrifyingly still. He didn't move either, it didn't even seem like he moved to breathe.

"Right now," He told her after a moment, and he was so close, so close his nose brushed against her cheek, "I want you to wake up."

She wanted to wake up, too, she wanted to get out of the horrible dream and out of this house and away from him, but she couldn't, she couldn't force herself to wake. She tried, she tried to close her eyes and wait for his grip to fade so she could awake to reality but it didn't fade, she could feel him, his hands on her wrists and his nose against her cheek and his hair against her forehead. She moved, she didn't mean to, but her lips brushed against his and she felt his mouth open and he inhaled, almost like he was breathing her in before—

Her hands unfurled form their fists from the shock and she flexed her fingers, but she didn't pull away when he kissed her. Something happened when he did, something sparked, it shot down her neck and rushed through her veins, like electricity or fire or ice. It could have been ice, that could have explained why she didn't violently push him away but when his lips slid over hers and he opened his mouth she felt something wrap around her, twine itself around the two of them and—oh it was like magic, like a horrible, dark magic that soaked into her skin and lit a fire in her belly, one that spread up into her chest to make her open her lips against his and then shot down between her legs, made her fingers curl into his shirt as she moaned into his mouth.

It was barely a kiss. It was barely more than the press of their mouths together, just lips and breath. But somehow it managed to overwhelm her, and she could barely feel his hands curl too tightly around her wrists, she couldn't remember a time when anything had made her feel so lost, vibrating with energy but so afraid to move—

She woke up.

She sucked in gasping breath after gasping breath, staring up at the kitchen ceiling and she had never felt more ashamed in her life. She pushed herself up, and her back dreamed just as her head throbbed and the room as spinning. She had blacked out when the door threw her back, jut as he had said, but the pain now was worse than it felt in her dream. She reached back, felt her back and winced when her fingers brushed a shard of glass still in her. She pulled it out, letting out a small cry, then reached up to the back of her head.

When she touched the back of her head the room spun even more, the pain so sever she had to turn to the side and dry-heave. She waited for the room to stop spinning, decided not to touch it again, and she shakily pulled herself to her feet. Her body still burned, and not from the injuries, she felt something like a physical weight in her stomach, a reminder of what had happened, of what it had felt like.

She had so many more questions, so many furious questions, but she needed to find her friends. She needed to get out of this house.

The kitchen door was open, so she moved toward it, limping against the pain. "Harry!" She called, "Ron!"

"Hermione!" She heard in reply, followed by the thump of footsteps from upstairs. Harry and Ron came into view halfway down the staircase, Harry supporting Ron and the journal tucked under his arm. Ron had a cut along the side of his head, as if he had slammed into something,, and his ankle was bent at a very unnatural angle, but Harry looked unscathed.

"Something pulled me up," Ron stammered, "It just—it just—pulled me right up and—"

"Are you alright?" Harry asked her, his eyes widening when he saw the state of her. She nodded.

"Where is the journal?" Harry's jaw clenched, as if he wasn't sure he wanted to return it, and Hermione went as quickly as she could back into the kitchen to find her box of matches. She found it quickly, as it was strewn across the floor where it had been emptied out of a drawer, so she grabbed three matches and the box and hurried back in the room. "You're right," She told Harry, and she meant it. She was sick of this, sick of everything, she didn't care if it got destroyed anymore, she just wanted it to be gone, she wanted to get out, she wanted this to be over. "Burn the fucking thing."

Harry nodded, letting Ron lean against the sofa. She cast a wary glance at Ron, who was gripping his side in a way that suggested he was hurt there as well. "Unharmed, my arse." She muttered to herself, unnoticed by Harry who handed the journal to her as if he expected her to destroy it. She took it and threw it on the ground by the staircase.

"Together?" She asked, and Ron nodded, taking a match from her and striking it on the box, followed by Hermione, and finally Harry. She glanced at both of them, though Harry was staring determinedly at the journal on the ground, and she threw hers first.

One match missed, catching on the carpet, but the other two hit their mark. She expected a slow flame, one that would slowly burn at the pages until nothing but ash remained. But rather than that, as soon as the matches hit their mark the flame grew, just like in her dream, it flared up impossibly high and bright and the three of them shied away from it immediately. Ron cried out, and she could only assume he must've gotten burned as the flame licked out toward them.

It was terrifying, so bright she could hardy see, and it seemed to be quickly swallowing up the room, "Come on!" She cried, wrapping her arm around Ron's middle and helping him to the kitchen as Harry came in on the other side. They limped away from the sudden out-of-control flame, and—it was just like in the dream, the way it overtook everything, the only difference was that it hadn't overtaken Harry, but it looked so startlingly similar just the same.

They made it to the kitchen and Hermione's mind was whirling. She thought about her dream, about everything she had seen, everything she thought had been made up. But Ron had been injured, even if they weren't the same injuries form her dream, and Harry hadn't, and the diary went up in those horrible flames, and she—

"Wait!" She said when they reached the kitchen, they were headed for the screen door when she pulled away, running back into the living room.

"Hermione!" Harry called after her, at the same time that Ron shouted, "Hermione, what the hell are you doing?"

She lifted her arm to try and block the heat and the light from her eyes, running toward the cupboard and throwing open the door. The boxes didn't fall this time, but she tipped them over, let them spill across the floor. She saw the box filled with old photographs, watched the contents scatter, and she hurriedly pushed the photos around the floor. The fire was quickly spreading, and she should have just taken the box but she hadn't thought, and now it was on the floor and she had to know, she had to see—

She found it. Her parents and Dumbledore smiling for a photo. It shouldn't matter, it was only a photograph, but he hadn't told her that he knew her parents, and that meant he was keeping something from her. Dumbledore knew more than what he told her, he knew, and he sent her away—

"Hermione!" She heard Harry call, and she hurried to her feet, folding the photo and sliding it into her pocket, running back to the kitchen as the flames spread toward the boxes scattered across the floor.

"I'm sorry," She said, helping Ron again as they moved toward the door. Mercifully, it opened, and Hermione breathed in the outside air, helping Ron outside the door first. He put out his hand to lean against the side of the house, and Hermione moved to follow after him, but the glass door slid shut before she could. She watched Ron turn around in shock, met his eyes and saw the absolute terror before allowing her eyes to slide to Harry at her side.

He didn't look terrified. "Harry…" She called carefully.

He turned his head to face her. "We can't leave yet." He said. Ron slammed a fist against the door and Hermione jumped, her eyes jumping to him and then back to Harry. Harry shifted, moved between her and Ron and started stalking forward, and she stepped back, and his eyes they looked almost—

"Tom." She realized with a growing sense of horror.

"Hermione." He said, and that tone sounded so strange in Harry's voice.

"What are you—how are you—" She stopped herself from getting lost in all her questions. "What do you want?" She asked instead.

"We can't leave yet." He answered.

"You already said that," She spat, "If you get out of my friend, then we can leave just fine."

He was still advancing on her, and a quick glance over her shoulder showed Ron at the screen door trying to force it open. He stopped to bend at the waist, gripping at his side as if in pain, and Hermione felt her back hit the wall behind her as Harry—Tom—continued forward. "The journal is gone," She continued, "Alright? You win."

"Not yet," He said. The door at her back felt warm, and she figured it was only a matter of time before the fire spread to the kitchen. The wall at her back was still embedded with knives, and she contemplated grabbing the one near her hand and using it, but she couldn't hurt Harry. "There's still one more."

"I don't know where the other one is." She told him, attempting to remain calm. "And if we don't leave then Harry and I will die—"

"I could care less about your friend's life." He told her, "But I am unable to destroy horcruxes myself."

"Get your followers to help you!" She told him.

His hands rose, his fingers sliding along her cheeks until his palms held her head still. The expression of anger looked very much out of place on Harry's place, and his eyes were red. "You don't understand," He told her, and she wanted to punch him for it, "Because it has been kept from you." She bristled, thinking of the photograph in her pocket and wondering what had been kept from her, "I can tell you everything." He promised, "But not until I'm free."

"I'd rather remain ignorant for the rest of my life than ever help you." She spat.

He threaded his fingers in her hair, curling his fingers against her skull and pulling tight. She winced but otherwise kept herself silent, "Then I'll kill your friend." He told her simply, and her heart sank to her stomach, "I'll start with the one standing outside, so that Harry—" He spoke that name with a sizable amount of disdain, "—can watch. He can see, you know. He can hear, and feel. I'll let him watch himself beat the life out of the ginger outside." Hermione tried to pull away, tried to push him off, but he pressed his body against her and kept her still, and it as so wrong to see Harry like this, to see him so angry and dark. "Then I'll keep this body," He told her, "How do you think he would like it housing the antichrist in his—"

"I don't know what you want!" She cried, panicked and furious, "I don't know what you want me to do!"

"I want you to help your friend, Hermione." He said smoothly, his voice low and threatening. She didn't understand, did he only want her word? Was she supposed to promise something? She didn't know the other horcrux even if she wanted to destroy it, to bring Tom Riddle back, to bring the antichrist—would she bring the end of the world, too? Ron was still pounding on the window but Hermione couldn't see anything past Harry, past his glowing red eyes. The door was steadily growing hotter and she didn't know what he wanted, why would he just say what he wanted?

And Harry could see, he said. Harry would watch with her as Tom killed and ruined and destroyed, he would watch as he did it with his body, he would—she couldn't subject him to that. But would he want to be the reason she brings the devil to the earth? Would he want her to risk her and Ron's life just for the possibility that he could get her body back?

"Decide quickly," He told her, "Or your ginger friend will have to watch the two of us die instead."

She found that statement odd, not only because she couldn't imagine he would let the two of them die, but also because she hadn't expected Harry to be able to die if Tom was possessing him. The realization that both were equally mortal was somewhat mollifying, but also terrifying, because suddenly she had a choice, a choice she didn't want to consider at all. But she wondered what Harry would want if he could talk to her, what he would decide if he could communicate anything.

Her fingers wrapped around the hilt of a knife in the wall and she wondered.

"So either Harry and Ron die or they help raise the devil? What kind of choice is that?"

One hand shifted so that his thumb could fan across her cheek, a strange motion of tenderness that accompanied his words when he said, "It's an easy choice. You can end the suffering of your friends. You can protect them."

And she wanted to, she wanted to tell him that she would do anything he asked if he just let them go. She wanted to get Harry and Ron far, far away from everything. She wanted to make everything normal for them again, take them away from all the darkness and horror, she wanted to, she wanted to more than anything.

She met Tom Riddle's eyes and hesitated.

"Harry would rather die." She muttered, and she thought she saw Harry's eyes flash green for a moment, a moment that felt like a confirmation, so she pulled the knife from the wall and plunged it into his chest.

She heard Ron scream from the other side of the glass door, a horrid and desperate sound that seemed to surround her until she felt like she could choke on it. Those red eyes widened, his hands moving to lay over hers on the knife, but he didn't move. Her ears were ringing, and she thought she felt the house shake when she grit her teeth and nearly growled, "Get out of my friend."

She pulled the knife out, his hands falling limp at his sides and his eyes fading to green just before they shut. Her arm wound around his back, catching him as he went limp but he was too heavy for him to hold him up. She lowered him to the ground, and only then did it sink in what she had done, what she had— "Harry," she choked, and she was crying, so suddenly and fiercely she couldn't see, she couldn't breathe, "Harry, I'm so—"

The earth beneath her seemed to shake, adds he couldn't discern if that was real or if it was in her head. Ron was still screaming, pounding on the glass, she could hear him shouting, "What did you do? Harry! Harry! What did you do?" Her body felt numb, her mind hadn't comprehended his still body but she knew, she could see, she pressed her hand against the wound in his chest and Ron was screaming and her ears were ringing and—

She looked up from Harry's body and she saw—something. A figure, but it wasn't human. It stood in front of the glass doors, the light of the moon shining from behind so that it was nothing more than a silhouette. It was a man, she thought, perhaps, but it wasn't, she could see glowing red eyes and—and wings. Wings that stretched across the kitchen so wide and horrifying, she could see even in the dark that they were broken and rotting, as they stretched it sounded like cracking bones, popping joints, she watched feathered glide to the ground along with blood, and—

And it was gone. He was gone. For a single moment everything was silent.

The house gave a loud rumble and then she heard a crash, and the parts of the ceiling started caving in.

She didn't realize Ron was able to get in until he was right there, sliding his arms under Harry's and dragging him, his face twisted with pain as he dragged him out. Hermione jumped and raised her arms to shield her face when something fell beside her, and she hurriedly scrambled up and stumbled to the glass door. The ground was shaking, the world kept spinning and she thought she heard screaming—more than just Ron, because he wasn't even screaming anymore, but just screaming from countless voices in her ears—she tripped when she got out, turned onto her back and scrambled backwards as she watched the house crumble in on itself, the bricks falling off the house one by one and everything caving in as if it imploded.

And then it was over. Where her house used to be, now there was nothing but debris, and the houses on either side still stood proud and tall and untouched. It was the oddest sight, the line of houses now disrupted, an empty space where her house used to be. She turned, saw Ron bent over Harry's body. She hurried toward him, but as soon as she reached his side he threw out his arm and shoved her away. "Stay away from him!"

"Ron…" She stammered, "I'm so—so sorry, I—"

"Just stay away!" He seethed, turning to Harry and putting pressure on his chest, "Oh god, Harry—"

The neighbors had started coming out of their houses, concerned by the noise, and now they stared in shock at the debris. "Call an ambulance!" She called out. Her car sat on the driveway but her keys were somewhere in the brick and wood, "Call the police, please!"

She sank to her knees, exhausted and horrified, and Harry was dead and she could only hope that Tom was thrown back into his prison now that the house was gone but she didn't know, she didn't know, and Harry was dead, she had killed—

She leaned forward and buried her face into her hands and screamed.

The ambulance came and hurried Harry in, which was surprising to her because she thought they would declare him dead on the spot. They didn't ask what happened, though it was painfully obvious something had punctured his chest, she supposed they were so shocked by the scene in front of them that they figured he got injured in the destruction of the house.

Ron wouldn't look at her, wouldn't speak to her, she was surprised he didn't start shouting when the authorities arrived, didn't say It's her, it's her, she killed him, she stabbed our friend!

They were taken to the hospital. The police asked what happened and she didn't know what to say, neither did Ron, so they said they didn't know, they said there was a fire and then the house fell in on itself and smothered it. No one understood, they said they would inspect the houses, perhaps it was an architectural flaw and the other houses on that street should be checked to be sure it didn't happen again.

Harry went into surgery, and Hermione had demanded to know how he was, "Is he dead? I don't understand, is he alive? Is he going to be okay?" But she was told quite firmly to sit down and let the doctors do their job and wait to see what happened.

She was going out of her mind, but then that was nothing new. Harry was going to die and it was all her fault, Ron wouldn't let her explain and even if he did she didn't think he would understand. It didn't matter, Harry was dead because of her, because she went back and opened that Ouija board, because she couldn't control herself. Harry was dead because of her, because she put the fate of the world before her friends and she wasn't even sure if it was worth it, wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do. So she got her injuries treated—she had the least of it—and then waited for news on Harry, waited and thought and panicked—

"Miss Granger." She raised her head from where it was buried in her hands, her eyes bloodshot and her cheeks stained with tears. Dumbledore stood in front of her, his usually twinkling eyes were decidedly dull.

"He's dead." She croaked.

He hesitated. "What happened?"

"It was him," She seethed, "It was him and you didn't believe me. He wouldn't let us leave and he—he…" She lowered her eyes, "He destroyed the journal."

Dumbledore stood in front of her for a long, quiet moment. Hermione had left the waiting room to to get away from the other people and she found a seat in the hall that led to the toilets, less crowded and quieter. Ron was getting treated for his own injuries, and though she had heard he would be fine, she hadn't checked for herself. She knew he wouldn't want her to. It was silent, except for Hermione's quiet hiccuping breaths. Then he sat beside her.

"I killed him." She told him quietly, barely above a whisper. "It was that or let T—" She paused, frowning, then corrected, "Voldemort live in him. Harry wouldn't have wanted that."

"No," Dumbledore agreed, "He wouldn't."

"You didn't believe me." She told him.

"No, I didn't." He said. "I believed it was impossible."

"You were wrong." She said, not viciously. He didn't answer. "At least he's gone."

It was very quiet for a long time. Then, "Miss Granger," he started, slowly and carefully, "Mr. Weasley said he was stabbed in the heart."

"Yes." She said, her throat closing up for a moment so she had to swallow thickly to stop herself from dissolving into tears again. Dumbledore sighed, a long and tired sound, and Hermione turned to face him, concerned and confused by the sound. Dumbledore looked tired, and worried, and worn. "What is it?" She asked.

"There is something I did not mention," He finally said, "Something I did not believe was prudent." Hermione waited silently for him to elaborate, keeping her eyes on him even as he continued looking ahead of himself. His fingers were threaded together and they rested in his lap, unmoving. "First I would like to say you are correct, I looked into the horcruxes and found they were all discovered and destroyed, except for the journal."

"I know." She told him. "He told me."

Dumbledore faced her. "He spoke to you?"

She frowned. "Yes. He appeared in my dreams, I told you." She paused, "But he said there were two. The journal and another."

Dumbledore looked ahead once more and sighed again. "Yes." He agreed, "You must understand, when Harry's parents and I performed the ritual we were most unprepared. It nearly didn't work." He shifted in his seat, leaning back and still staring ahead instead of looking at her. "As a result, his parents lost their lives, and I, in a desperate attempt to ensure Voldemort's imprisonment, created a final horcrux during the ritual." She waited for him to continue when he paused, a growing sense of dread in her stomach. "I thought, at the time, what better way to trap evil than to use its opposite: innocence. And what is more innocence than a child?"

Hermione felt like he poured ice over her head. "You turned Harry into a horcrux." She muttered.

"Yes." He agreed, as if that wouldn't have been vital information for her to know, as if she hadn't just—

"He wanted me to do it." She realized, "Tom wanted me to—that's what he was doing, he was giving me an impossible choice so that I—he knew that I—" She jumped to her feet but she didn't move, didn't walk anywhere, she couldn't even look at him, "You didn't tell me, you didn't tell me and now I—what have I done?"

"Miss Granger—"

"No!" She snapped, standing in front of him so he would look at her, so he would stop avoiding her gaze, "You didn't tell me, and now I freed him, and Harry's dead, all because you want to keep secrets!"

"I told you what I believed was necessary." He argued calmly. Hermione was seething, furiously angry, all of her sadness and despair giving way to frustration and anger. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the photo, unfolding it and holding it in front of his face.

"Was this necessary?" She spat, "You knew my parents. You knew me, but I don't know you, and they never mentioned you—so who am I? What role do I play in all of this?"

He was quiet, staring at the photo with a sadness or regret.

"Well?" She pressed furiously.

"I assure you, I know not the role you play—"

"You're lying." She accused, "It's your secrets that caused all of this, and even now you still won't tell me what the hell is going on!"

"Excuse me," A voice interrupted, and Hermione snapped her attention to the woman in scrubs glancing between them. "I'm…sorry to interrupt," She said, turning her attention to Hermione, "But you're a friend of Mr. Potter, correct?"

Hermione nodded solemnly, her eyes fixed on the floor.

"He's in stable condition," Hermione's head rose, her eyes wide and her mind reeling. Stable condition? She didn't hear the following words she said, just those two blessed words echoing in her head over and over and over again.

"Stable?" She repeated. The doctor stopped, fixing Hermione with an understanding smile.

"Yes, stable," She repeated, "It's quite the miracle. His heart was punctured by a sharp object, it stopped beating for several minutes, but the paramedics say the wound seemed almost half-healed—it's likely that it wasn't punctured completely, something might have happened in the collapse of the house, but—well, he's stable, we'll have to keep him here for a while to be certain, and he hasn't regained consciousness yet, but for now it's…it's good news." She smiled, "Very good news indeed."

"Good news." Hermione echoed. "Can I—can I see him?

She didn't look at Dumbledore when she left to follow the doctor.

Hermione didn't leave the hospital until Harry woke up, which turned out to be no more than 24 hours.

Ron was stuck in his own hospital bed, otherwise she was certain he would be at Harry's bedside pushing her away. But she was grateful, in a selfish sort of way, they he wasn't there, so she could see when Harry's eyes fluttered open and she saw green instead of red and she felt so relieved she thought she might faint, she thought she might burst with happiness.

"Harry," She breathed, "Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry I thought—"

"Hermione?" He said, groggy as he slowly blinked awake.

"Yes, Harry, yes, I'm so sorry—"

"Shut up," He grumbled, and she did, worried that he was angry with her.

"I—I couldn't let him—"

"Hermione," He said quietly, but fiercely, "I know."

She slumped in her seat by his bed, unaware until that moment just how tense her body was.

"I remember it," He told her, "I remember all of it." He turned his eyes to meet hers, "And you were right. I would've rather died than let him use me to hurt you or Ron."

She nodded, not exactly feeling absolved of guilt but grateful for his forgiveness anyway. "I didn't know he could do that." She admitted, "Possess people. I thought that was demons. I thought that was different."

"I think I let him." He confessed, and she curled her fingers around his arm in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. "When I ran after Ron, I saw—everything he did to him. And I thought he would kill him, and I remember thinking I would do anything, anything to make it stop, and I think I said it, too, and—I don't know. Next thing I know I'm not in control of anything, and he's—" He clenched his jaw, "Christ." He sighed, "Figured I'm the only one out of the three of us to ever even talk to a priest in the past year and yet I'm the one who gets possessed by the devil."

"That's not funny." She mumbled.

"Yeah," He shrugged, then winced.

"Ron hates me," She said, not because she was looking for sympathy, but because it was true. Harry offered her a weak smile.

"He won't forever." He told her, "I'll explain it. He'll get over it. He might not let you near me with any sharp objects any time soon, but—"

"Not funny." She said again, leveling him with a loot. He only smiled.

"So, is he gone then?" He asked, "The—devil?"

Hermione hesitated. "I don't know." She admitted truthfully, "I hope so."

"Yeah, me too." He said, "You had the worst of it, you had to deal with him for three days. That must have been…hard."

She didn't know how to respond to that, truthfully, because it had been. It was horrible and terrifying and confusing, she was left with so many questions and she felt sore and tired and angry. She thought of Dumbledore's secrets, she thought of her parents involvement, she thought of how everything seemed to lead her there, to that moment with Harry and that knife in her hand. She thought of her obsession with that book about satanism, she thought of her friendship with Harry, she thought of the death of her parents and the Ouija board and how everything just seemed to cumulate to bring her there, to that moment, with Harry and Tom and her. She thought of the way Tom spoke to her, confusing and insane, equal parts murderous and fond, she thought of the way he seemed to know her, the way he seemed to know so much that he didn't tell her. She thought of Cormac's death, the destruction of her house, her dreams, the last dream she had when she found the picture and the fire and—and she thought of that strange electric feeling that left her fingers tingling when he kissed her—

She shifted in her seat, crossed her legs, and said, "Yeah, it was hard." And then, "I need to go sort out the house." She realized after a moment of Harry's blank expression that he didn't know, so she clarified, "The house is destroyed."

"Destroyed?" He echoed, his brows drawing up in shock, "Shit," He muttered, "Well that's great."

"I have to go and—I think they're bringing men to sort out the mess—"

"Right," Harry agreed. He had a funny, distant look on his face now, and Hermione thought she would try and make her escape now, but he caught her wrist before she did. "Hermione." He started solemnly, "In the house, you said—My parents—"

"Dumbledore is here." She interrupted. "At least he was. I think…I think you should have this conversation with him."

He nodded, and let her go.

Hermione had to get a taxi back home, since she was without her car. It was just as well, because she definitely didn't feel fit to drive, too distracted and exhausted. She had gone through os many emotions in the past few days she just felt numb, sitting in the backseat of the taxi and staring out at London's scenery wondering what the hell would come next. Harry had nearly died, Ron hated her for good reason, all three of them were homeless The devil had likely gotten out of his cage and was roaming the earth, the world might end and it would be all her fault—

And she still didn't know what she had to do with any of this. Tom Riddle seemed to think she was his, and she didn't bloody well know what that meant, but then Dumbledore seemed to think she was something as well, even if he wouldn't tell her. And she felt like something, she felt like something was important, she felt like she was missing some vital clue and she couldn't figure out what it was. She just wanted to know why this seemed to center around her, why the devil was fixated on her, why everyone seemed to die around her.

"Holy fuck—" The taxi driver muttered under his breath when he puled up to the house, "Is this—this isn't you, is it?"

"It is." She sighed, handing him her card. As sorry as he looked for her, he wasn't quite sorry enough to let her have a free cab ride, and he dutifully extracted money from her account before handing her card back.

"Wow, thats…" He seemed lost for words, "I'm—"

"Yes, thank you." She said quickly, opening the door of the cab and slamming it shut before he could finish.

It did look strange and horribly sad. The house she had grown up in was gone, nothing more but rubble, an empty space between two townhouses. Men were spread out amongst the rubble, likely starting some sort of clean up to clear the space, and Hermione wasn't sure what to do, what to say, who to speak to.

"You the owner?" A man asked, and she nodded in reply. "Shit," He said loudly, "This is…Incredible."

"Yes, that's what everyone says." She deadpanned.

"Well, we uh—we're starting the clean up. Your possessions will be returned to you, of course, assuming everything isn't—you know, destroyed." She had to stop herself from scowling.

"Yes, thank you." She said curtly, crossing her arms over her middle. There probably wouldn't be much of anything left—maybe they could find her car keys, or maybe a dresser or something had survived, but she wasn't keeping her hopes up. Maybe—

She froze. Crookshanks. She had pushed him out the back door and forgot, he was probably so scared by the collapse of the house he ran off. Or maybe he got hit by a stray brick and he was dead, maybe they would find him smushed by the rubble and she would—

She heard someone clear their throat, and she turned her attention to the elderly woman standing at the front gate of the house next to hers. "Nasty business." She commented, jerking her head toward Hermione's house.

"Um—" Hermione sputtered, "Yes, it is."

"You're Hermione Granger, aren't you?" She asked, "The Grangers' daughter."

"Yes." She affirmed. "You're Mrs. McGonagall?" She barely remembered her, the old woman often kept to herself but was kind when they did speak to her. She was a bit strict, if Hermione remembered correctly, a bit intimidating, but neither her parents nor Hermione ever had any problem with her in all the years they lived next door.

"Correct." She said. "I have something for you."

Hermione furrowed her brow, but followed her up the path to her house. She waited outside because she didn't feel right entering it, shifting her weight from foot to foot and nervously awaiting whatever it was she had. When McGonagall reappeared, it was with a bright orange fluffy cat in her arms and Hermione actually cried out in relief.

"Crookshanks!" She cried, reaching out and taking the cat from the older woman's arms. Hermione was nearly crying now, burying her face in Crooks fur and ignoring his squirming. "Oh god, I was so worried."

"He's a lovely cat," McGonagall said, sounding as if she was commenting on a test grade rather than a pet, but Hermione was happy for her approval just the same. "Very intelligent."

"I am so grateful, you have no idea." Hermione continued, especially happy when Crookshanks settled down in her arms and let her hold him.

"He was in a right state," The older woman said, "running around in my backyard after your house fell—when you went off in the ambulance I took him inside and figured I would get him back to you."

"Thank you." She said, feeling like she couldn't say it enough. "Thank you so much."

She smiled, and her eyes fixed over Hermione's shoulder. "Is this a friend of yours?" She asked pleasantly, and Hermione turned to see who she was referring to.

She froze.

"Hello Hermione," He said, nonchalant and easy, his voice dark and low and real. He had stopped midway up the path, and he looked just as she remembered, but different somehow because he was here, and he was real, and he was smiling.

Crookshanks was still in her arms and McGonagall patiently waited for an introduction. Hermione swallowed the terror in her throat and steadfastly ignored the excitement that made her fingers twitch against Crookshanks fur.

"Hello Tom."


yes I'm wrapping up damned here, I'm marking it as complete because no more chapters will be added to this story bUT the story isn't over I want to write a sequel for it!


The only reason I'm ending it here and not just continuing on this story is because the whole reason for writing this story was I wanted to write horror and play around with the horror genre a little bit since i had never done that before, not to this extent at least, but from this point on its not gonna be so much horror as it is drama kind of like the other stuff i write? so it didn't make sense to me to continue this story here, where my sole purpose for writing it had been to write horror.

So the story isn't over yet, but damned is. The next will focus more on the consequences of Tom's return, the development of Tom and Hermione's relationship, there will be more involvement of other demons (coughcoughbellacough) as well as a bit more of dumbledore and basically the shenanigans of the devil/antichrist coming to earth, which just….it just didn't fit in to this story at all. It had to be its own thing.

I am not sure when I'll write the sequel? ? ? I do want to finish school days and lurking and dig my heels into bleed for me a little bit before i write the sequel but depending on when inspiration strikes who knows i may post it sooner? ? ? not sure! ! ! we'll see! ! hahaha if you're interested in reading teh sequel at all you can put me on author alert or if you want to follow me on tumblr (if you have one) you can? I don't always post on there when I update but I'll make sure to announce when I write the sequel or w/e. my username is meowmerson ! ! ! so feel free to follow me there or on here and i'll post when i do it w/e

ANYWAY I HOPE YOU LIKED THIS. I had so much fun writing this. I love horror stuff and getting the chance to write horror was really awesome, I definitely want to write more horror in the future, maybe horror where i don't romanticize the literal devil? ? like idk that might be a good idea like not to do again lmao

But I'm ramblingggg as per usualllll I LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH. the support on this story was phenomenal. I'm sorry i ditched it for a while (life is craaaazy y'all) but I'm happy to get back to it, and i'll be happy to start on the sequel in the future, and hopefully some of you might be interested to read that too! It won't be quite as fucked up adn creepy as this one….tho….it still will be a little bit….because I'm me.

LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! I'll see you all soon! also i didnt proofread i might proofread later and upload something without typos but like its 2 AM bro i cant do it rn lmaooooooooooooo OK BYE FO RREAL I LOVE YOU PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT U THINK ADN IF UR INTERESTED IN A SEQUEL