The little charm on her bracelet shone in the light from the high windows of the potions lab, her fingers holding tightly to the neck of the bottle she poured slowly into the cauldron. She faced away from the bright afternoon sunshine and cursed, not for the first time, the ineptitude of the designer of this lab. Ingredients and potions were affected strongly by extended exposure to sunlight. Her nimble fingers, already some of the fastest potions work in Britain, were forced into a frenzy each time they visited this estate.
Leaves pasted themselves to the roof of the conservatory, a mixture of autumn air, the proximity to a river, and multiple cauldrons, steamed the glass and collected condensation on the outside. If she had even a moment to spare to look up through the veins, she would enjoy the way the overlapping leaves made a patchwork of Gryffindor colors, bold reds and golds, and have some quick-witted comment to spare about organs on the roof and organs in the potions. Instead she focused all her attention to the steady measure of pouring and chopping, her body darting along the workbenches with practiced grace.
Tom, however, had all the time in the world to admire the aesthetic.
His not-quite corporeal form leaned against the opposite end of her workbench, his neck exposed to the setting sunlight, a streak of red-tinted light across his neck in a violent slash. Hermione was doing her best to ignore the way his breathing filled the space between bubbles in her potions or how the air in the room changed whenever he entered. The days leading up to Halloween meant this effect was heightened, as the lines around his form solidified.
"I've asked you to leave," she reiterated for what felt like the thousandth time, not changing her pace or moving her gaze to see his reaction. A curl escaped her high bun to start tickling the back of her neck.
"And I've chosen to ignore you," Tom replied smoothly. His Cheshire grin gleamed blood-red from the light running through him, adding a drawled, "Obviously," meant to incite a reaction from her.
Her eyebrows knit together more tightly.
A bang of the door of the lab opening preceded the voluminous form of Gregory Goyle, Sr, the buttons of his waistcoat straining against the full belly beneath. Hermione tried to ignore the involuntary call of her empty one.
"Done yet, witch?" he asked, his deep voice grating after hours of listening to the not-ghost regale her with recitations of old spell theory and prejudiced agendas with a voice as sinful of darkly roasted coffee. She caught herself wishing to hear more about why Tom hated Muggles and muggleborns, instead of her lungs filling with the cloying scent of too much cologne and the underlying stench of disdain that followed Goyle whenever he was in a room with her.
"I've almost run out of kidneys, so if you'd like me to be able to finish this batch before next Halloween you'll have to speak to Thoros."
Goyle made a sound that could have been a growl, if the man was more than only slightly intimidating. "You were told to call me sir, girly."
Wandless, Hermione made due by waving her hand to summon the next jar of ingredients she needed, fighting a wince as it passed through the man no longer observing the way the light played through the leaves. Her voice remained steady though Goyle toyed with his wand openly at his side. She hadn't cared what these Knights did to her in quite some time.
"As you say, Goyle," she said, plucking out a pair of rat lungs from the jar. "Doesn't change the fact you lot haven't done your job correctly for months, and as I'm not allowed to hunt for myself, I've left that macabre task to you lot."
By now the portly man still in full Wizengamot robes was searching her face with narrowed eyes and scowling. "If you weren't so blasted useful in this lab-"
"You'd have killed me months ago." Her bored tone rose above the sound of her hands chopping the lungs into equal slices. "Get out of my lab before I use your toes for ingredients instead."
Hearing the real threat in her voice, Goyle postured for a few more moments, and made sure to shatter an empty beaker on his way out with a meaty hand. Hermione sighed as the lung slices plopped into the jaundice yellow potion, the last step she needed to take for the day, and rolled her eyes as she mentally added to the laundry list of equipment and ingredients she still needed to finalize her work. The beaker only brought Goyle's contribution to her shopping list up by another two galleons.
The sweat beading everywhere on her body, rolling down her back like the condensation rolled down the windows of the lab, Hermione suppressed the urge to wipe it away from her forehead. Only ten more minutes of stirring and she could rush out of the room to the hottest shower she could find, and scrub away this nightmare that wouldn't end.
She shivered as a hand, neither cold nor warm, brushed against her neck before undoing her bun, nimble fingers just real enough to fix the knot atop her head, recapturing the tendrils that escaped. Tom stood silently at her back for the remaining time the potion required, staying inches away while she worked, but not touching her again.
By the time the sun had set and the fairy lights along the lawn cast a different glow into the lab, all of the potions and utensils were packed away. Hermione leaned against a stone wall to finally take a moment to look out onto the beautiful lawns outside, her fingers toying with the clear gems on the bracelet.
"Has Thoros announced further intentions?"
Hermione looked up at the first words spoken in the lab since Goyle left in a huff and broken glass. The cruel line of her mouth while watching the silver spin around her wrist curled upwards into a grin that mirrored Tom's from before.
His responding scoff wasn't quite quick enough. "Of your marriage to Nott? I'd rather keep my filthy Muggle father's surname."
Hermione regarded the Dark Lord with a sharp gaze, the reason she'd been dragged into this parallel universe in the first place. His jawline stood starkly in the half-light, all the lanterns in the lab extinguished. No more than seventeen, the Horcrux of the other Tom Riddle mimicked her stance against the wall next to her. Their arms brushed slightly, the contact making them both shiver.
"Until you figure out how to get us back to our universe I'm afraid this is my best option, Tom."
"Are you convincing me, or yourself?"
"Both," she said, the logical coolness of her voice drawing his eyes to her.
Her hair was kinked and knotted in places where the elastic pressed on the curls in the steamy room, the definition of unruly. The lips that sent poisonous barbs in every direction were bright red in the darkness, pouted delicately beneath eyes that saw everything...and nothing all at once.
"What will you do upon our return?" Tom asked, keeping his gaze on the witch who acted indifferent to his scrutiny.
"Continue to destroy your Horcruxes, Tom," Hermione answered automatically. This was a dance she knew, a call and answer repeated on a schedule she knew better than the beat of her heart. "My entire existence there relies on your destruction."
"True," Tom said, "though hardly an incentive for me to continue sneaking up to the Nott library while you engage in sordid-"
"It's none of your business what I do with my time or my body-"
"Oh, but it could be."
Hermione stopped short in her tirade, her gaze whipping around to meet his, unwavering their entire conversation. This argument felt familiar at first but had morphed into territory neither had breached before. She couldn't stop the thick swallow that started at the crest of her throat, nearly choking her, the movement drawing Tom's attention to the way the thin skin rose and fell. His gaze remained there as he watched how her pulse increased.
From indignation, she assured herself; righteous anger at his implication...surely nothing else.
Fighting back the notion it could be anything more than that, the lioness lifted her hackles in an act of defense and spat, "You dare insinuate any attraction to me, Tom Marvolo Riddle? You? The man who has spent the last two years reminding me exactly why my kind are no more than dangerous changelings or freak mutations, requiring extermination? Don't insult me by saying I'm the exception, I get that enough of that from the version of you in this world."
Tom's eyes sparked dangerously in the dark and Hermione hated how she was trained to be drawn to that, how Thoros and the Voldemort of this time created a Pavlovian call in her breast to the darker pieces of human nature. This wasn't what her life was supposed to be: pinned against the wall like some moth on display by the hungry eyes of a mass murdering Dark Lord, while a pair of them waited for her in the master's suite upstairs.
She stood still as a hand she could almost see through, and that no other living soul in this universe could see at all, rose up to cup her face, pushing her chin until her racing heartrate drummed against taut skin.
"The verse where you are mine. Mine, alone. That's where I will take you, Hermione. Watching one version of me share you with another man, allowing you to marry into a family that doesn't deserve you...I would not allow it. You deserve the place of the Queen, the right hand of a new era, and not the place of courtesan." He watched her resolve crumble at his admission, thoughts he'd kept to himself for far too long. "They do you a disservice. I will take you where you will be properly worshipped."
"Don't touch me," she said, the fire of before dimming into nonexistence.
Tom's lips, so close to hers, twitched into a small smirk. "Are you convincing me, or yourself?"
Before she could reply, those teasing lips met her throat and moved up to her lips, silencing any possible responses. The darkness of All Hallows Eve granted the Horcrux-ghost an almost corporeal form which he used to his immediate advantage, pinning the woman he'd watched move through a strange world with the precision and grace of the sharpest blade, drinking from her lips like a man starved. For he was starved, and depraved, and nothing that she should want.
But he was everything she craved.
As they both came up for air, Tom forgetting that on these nights when the Veil was thinnest he was bound by the rules of the living, their foreheads pressed together in a sweaty tangle of hair and emotion. Hermione finally caught up to the question that still lingered in the air between them. Cupping Tom's chin as he had done to her minutes before, she licked her lips and murmured, "Both."
Requested by curiouselfqueen on tumblr: Tomione - "Wait a minute, are you jealous?"