Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
AN: Another one. This one is going to be more of a Drama/Angst/Romance, rather than my usual comedies. I love the idea of Hermione and Tom meeting as children, and how their friendship impacts one another. I also wanted this to be more of a 'coming of age' sort of romance, so there will be a slow buildup. This story is obviously AU, as Hermione and Tom are the same age, and there is no time travel, though it takes place in the 40's. There is magic, and they will be attending Hogwarts together. Let me know what you think! Note: I have changed some facts for the purposes of this fic.
"Hermione dear, don't wander too far." Her mother called out to her as she looked back over her shoulder where mother was sunbathing.
"Yes, mum." she called back obediently, and continued walking down to the water's edge. The water was cold as it lapped against her small toes, but was a refreshing respite from the oppressive late afternoon heat. She walked along the water's edge until she came upon a rocky outcropping. She lifted her hand to keep the sun from her eyes, and studied the small rocky hill, deciding to climb over it to see if there were tidal pools on the other side where she might find small fish or crabs.
As she pulled herself up and over the final boulder, she was surprised to see a boy who appeared to be about her age sitting at the edge of one of the small pools throwing bits of seaweed into it.
"Oh, hello." Hermione said politely, brushing a few of her escaped curls back from her face.
The boy looked up at her with a startled expression that he quickly hid with a scowl.
"Who're you?" he asked bluntly, his dark eyes narrowing as he studied her. She had long wildly curly brown hair that was barely restrained by a light blue ribbon, a heart-shaped face with a smattering of freckles over her small pointed nose, pale pink lips that formed a small smile, and a light blue striped bathing suit covering her sun-kissed skin. It only took him a moment to recognize that this girl was not like him; she came from a wealthy family, if her expensive looking swim suit and hair ribbon were anything to go by.
"I'm Hermione. And you are?" she asked in the same overly polite manner, as she took a few steps forward and knelt down at the edge of the small pool across from him. Clearly, his previous rudeness was not enough to deter her, and he sighed.
"Tom." He answered shortly, once again picking up the seaweed and flicking small bits into the pool to watch the crabs fight over it.
Her eyes lit up as they fell on the small green crabs in the tidal pool, "Carcinus maenas!"
He looked at her again, furrowing his brows at her, "What?"
"Carcinus maenas" she pointed to the small crabs in the pool, "They're Green crabs. Did you know that they are an invasive species? And that the females can produce up to 185,000 eggs at one time?" Hermione said excitedly as she bent forward to get a closer look.
Tom snorted, "You're odd."
Hermione looked back up at him through narrowed eyes with an annoyed huff, "Just because I enjoy learning, does not make me odd, Tom." She admonished
Tom continued to study her for a moment, and seemed to make a decision.
"I'm going for a swim, are you coming?" he asked as he stood looking at her expectantly.
She glared at him for another minute before she finally gave a small nod and followed him back down the rocky hill to the water. They swam for the better part of an hour, and eventually moved back to the shallows where they could touch the bottom with their toes.
"How old are you?" he asked, as he peered over at her.
"Nine, but I'll be ten just next month." She answered, "What about you?"
"Ten, but I'll be eleven soon." He said giving her a small smirk as if him being slightly older allowed him some form of authority over her.
Just as she was about to speak, she heard her mother calling her.
"That's my mum." Hermione said with a hint of annoyance as she began to make her way towards the beach. Tom followed, walking alongside her silently until they saw her mother approaching wearing a dark blue cover up, a wide brimmed sun hat, and sun glasses.
"Hermione, dear, come, it's time to go." Her mother said shooting a disapproving look over at Tom that clearly said she did not appreciate his presence.
Hermione turned back and smiled at Tom over her shoulder, "Goodbye, Tom." Giving him a small wave as she dutifully followed along behind her mother.
As they walked away from him, he heard Hermione's mother admonishing her daughter, "Really, Hermione, how many times have I told you to stay away from those street urchins!" and he felt anger flare in his chest. As he continued to watch them walk across the beach, Hermione looked back at him once more with a small smile. It was only a moment later that he heard Mrs. Cole's whistle, signaling that it was time to return to the Orphanage.
The next summer, Tom sat at the edge of the tidal pool, examining the small periwinkles that were stuck to the rocks, and he found himself wondering what Hermione would say about them. He hadn't seen her again since that day they spent swimming the summer before, and he was annoyed with himself when he realized he was hoping he would run into her again. He was shaken from his thoughts a moment later when a familiar voice giggled, "I thought I'd find you here."
He looked up sharply, surprised to see Hermione standing on the opposite side of the small pool. She'd grown a few inches since he'd seen her last, but she still wore the same kind smile.
"I didn't realize you were looking for me." He said raising an eyebrow at her in a way that made him look much older. He too had grown taller, and his voice had grown a bit deeper since the las time they spoke.
Hermione blushed at his implication, and stammered nervously, "Well, I meant that of all places, I'm not surprised to find you here near the tide pools."
He smirked, not missing the way her eyes met his and quickly darted away as her cheeks reddened. He was aware that he was handsome although he was still young, and he enjoyed using it to his advantage.
"Up for a swim, or are you worried you'll upset your mum?" he asked in challenge, hoping she would accept.
"What my mum doesn't know won't hurt her." Hermione smirked back at him as her eyes sparkled with mischief.
He reached his hand towards her, and she grasped it, her small fingers folding neatly in his, as he pulled her down to the water.
"First one to that cave over there wins!" Tom called as he dove into the water and began swimming toward it, not looking back to see if she was following; he knew she was.
By the time he reached the rocky shore where the opening to the cave was, he saw Hermione right behind him.
"That's not fair, you cheated." She complained, as he grasped her hand to help her climb over the rocks.
"No, I'm just faster than you." He said looking back at her giving her a teasing smile.
The cave was dark, though it was light enough to see just inside the opening while the sun was still high in the sky.
Tom found a large slab of rock, and he laid back on it, pulling Hermione down beside him.
"So do you go to the public school?" Hermione asked breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
Tom's eyes darted to hers, and he nibbled on his bottom lip thoughtfully.
"I did, but I'm going to a new school this year." He said debating with himself on how much he should tell her. Her mother's cruel words echoed in his mind, and suddenly, he felt a strong desire to show her that he wasn't some common piece of trash. He was better.
Hermione was looking at him expectantly, and he sat up and faced her, "If I show you something, can you swear to keep it a secret?" he asked
A look of excitement lit up Hermione's eyes, and she nodded, "Yes, I promise!"
He looked around for a moment, his eyes falling on a small sharp rock. He picked it up, and made a small cut on his palm, watching as the blood began to well up.
"Tom!" Hermione cried, "What are you doing?!" she said reaching to pull the rock away from his hand and he caught her wrist.
"You have to swear Hermione, I'm serious. Swear it in blood." He said holding the small rock against the palm of her hand, looking into her eyes for her permission.
Finally, she nodded, and winced as she felt the sharp edge of the rock digging into her skin, turning her head away at the sight of the blood. He tossed the rock aside and clasped his still bleeding hand against hers.
"Now swear it." He commanded her sharply, his dark gaze boring into hers.
"I swear, that I won't tell anyone as long as I live." She said meeting his eyes defiantly, raising her eyebrows at him impatiently, "There, will you show me now?"
The corner of his lips twitched at her impatience, and he closed his eyes for a moment, seemingly to concentrate, and then he began hissing.
Hermione furrowed her brows in confusion and made to lean away from him wondering if he was mentally unstable until she heard a second hiss coming from somewhere behind her. She gasped in fright as a small snake slithered out of the darkness and made its way over to Tom. She watched in awe as the snake stopped before him, and reared up, it's black tongue flicking out, and its beady eyes trained on him. It hissed back, and Tom smiled before he turned to Hermione with a curious look.
Hermione turned to see the snake watching her closely, and she didn't dare to breathe lest she provoke it into attacking her.
"Did…did that snake just speak to you? She asked in disbelief
Tom nodded, biting his lower lip, "Yes. He asked if you were magic too." Tom said turning to look at her curiously, "Are you?" he asked.
Hermione took a deep breath. It never occurred to her that what she'd been experiencing her entire life could be called magic, especially since her parents constantly scolded her for accidentally making things happen. Behind closed doors, they referred to it as 'Hermione's little problem'.
Rather than answer, she turned her head and focused on a piece of driftwood that sat nearby. Tom followed her gaze, and he watched in awe as the driftwood suddenly went up in blue colored flames.
When she turned back to him, the flames extinguished on their own accord, and she blushed at the look of admiration he was giving her.
"Is it really magic?" she asked him.
"Yes. A man came to see me. He told me that the reason I've been able to do things that the other kids can't, is because I'm a wizard. "he answered.
Hermione snorted, "Wizards? You're having me on."
"I know, it sounds like something out of a book, doesn't it? But, apparently, it's real." Tom said shrugging his shoulders.
"So is that why you're changing schools? To learn more about magic?" Hermione asked with a hint of jealousy.
He nodded, "Yes, I've been accepted at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry." He said noticing the look on her face he quickly added, "I'm sure by this time next summer, you'll have been accepted there too."
Her eyes brightened at his words, "Do you think so?"
He gave her a small smile and pulled her back down beside him on the rock, "Sure. And when you come to school there, I'll already be there waiting for you. We can study together."
The thought warmed her until the realization washed over her that her parents would most likely not allow her to go, and she frowned.
"What's wrong?" he asked sensing her change in mood.
"My parents don't like it when I make things happen. It scares them I think. What if they don't let me go, Tom?" she asked looking up at him with her large brown eyes.
The thought filled him with rage that they would hold her back from becoming what she was meant to become, and he vowed that he wouldn't let that happen.
"They won't. I'll make sure of it." He said in a way that made a chill run down her spine.
Hermione's hands were trembling as she stepped out of the taxi, and stared up at the wrought iron gate in front of her. She swiped her hand over her cheek to wipe away her tears, taking a deep breath and lifting her suitcase as she began to make her way up to the door. An older woman with a stern face and a faded blue frock answered the door, looking down at her.
"Miss Granger?" The woman asked.
Hermione nodded, looking down at her shoes.
"Well come on then, I haven't all day." She said in exasperation as she turned on her heel and marched back inside, leaving Hermione little choice other than to follow along behind her.
The woman stepped inside a small cramped office, and gestured for Hermione to take a seat.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Miss Granger, as I understand it, your parents were killed in a fire just recently?"
Hermione sniffed at the reminder, and brushed the tears from her cheeks as she nodded, "Yes, ma'am."
"And you have no other living relatives that wished to claim you?" she asked again with her hands folded over the desk.
"No, Ma'am." Hermione answered quietly.
"Well, I've received all of your paperwork of course, as you're a ward of the state now; however I wish to remind you that we have strict rules here at Wool's, that I expect to be followed. Breakfast is served promptly at 7am, followed by assigned chores. You are not to leave the premises without express permission, and not without an adult chaperone. Lunch is served at noon, Dinner at six, Lights out at 9pm, no exceptions. One of the other girls will show you to your room; you may rest for the evening, given the circumstances."
Hermione nodded silently, and the woman stood from her desk and beckoned to one of the other orphan girls to come in.
"Miss Granger, this is Kelly Hanson. She'll show you to your room." The matron said in a tone that was a clear dismissal.
Hermione rose from her seat silently, and picked up her suitcase following the blond girl out of the office and to the stairs.
Once they were out of ear shot from the older woman, the girl, Kelly, turned to her, "You have nice clothes. You should hide them." She whispered to Hermione, who gave her a confused look.
"Why?" Hermione asked
"Because some of the other girls might try to steal them." Kelly said shrugging as if it were obvious.
Hermione gaped at her, wondering how her life could have possibly ended up this way; she was supposed to be on holiday this summer with her parents in Greece, but in the blink of an eye, everything had changed. Had she not been away at boarding school when the fire broke out, she would have likely met the same fate. Now, she was an orphan; a 'street urchin' as her mother would have said. Her mind drifted back to the last time she saw him at the beach, and she wondered if she would ever see him again. It seemed like a miracle then, just as she reached the top of the stairs, when Tom stepped out of his room and met her surprised gaze.
"Tom!" Hermione said as relief flooded through her, and she flung herself into his arms. She had known he had come from 'lower means', but he had never mentioned that he was an orphan, and she never asked. The thought that she wouldn't be alone after all filled her with immense relief.
Kelly watched in shock as the new girl threw her arms around Tom Riddle's neck. None of the other kids at the orphanage would dare to even look at him, never mind embrace him willingly as this girl was.
Tom wrapped his arms around her tentatively, scowling at Kelly who read his message loud and clear and walked back down the stairs and out of sight.
"Thank God, you're here, Tom. This has all been like some horrible nightmare…" Hermione was saying as he leaned back from her and grasped her hand in his. She followed him to the empty room across the hall from his that she assumed was to be hers.
"I heard about your parents; their picture was in the newspaper. I'm sorry." He said giving her an unreadable look as she sat on the bare mattress across from him, once again dissolving into tears.
"Everything is gone." Hermione whispered as her shoulders shook, wiping her eyes on a small white handkerchief she held in her small fist.
He sat beside on her on the bed and pulled her against him, feeling her curls tickle his chin.
"Well, you have me now." He said and she tilted her face to look up at him gratefully, giving him a watery smile.
"Goodness, I haven't even asked you about Hogwarts! Is it as amazing as it sounded?" she asked grateful to change the subject.
Tom smiled, a real genuine smile, "Its better. I can't wait for you to see it." He said, his dark eyes glittering.
"I did get my Hogwarts letter, you were right; I am a witch. My parents thought it was all rubbish of course, and weren't going to let me attend." She said sadly, looking back down.
He tilted her chin back up to meet his eyes, "Now there's nothing stopping you." He said as he brushed a curl behind her ear.
She nodded, giving him a small half smile, "So tell me about it. What's it like there?" she asked.
"It's a castle, Hermione. A real honest-to-god castle. They have four different houses there, Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. I'm in Slytherin house of course, though you'll have to be sorted by the hat to find out which one you'll be in." he explained.
"The hat?" Hermione asked curiously.
He smile and held up his hand for her to wait a moment while he ran to get something. When he came back to her room, he was holding a large, leather bound book. On the cover, it said, Hogwarts: A History.
"This will tell you all about Hogwarts." He said as he handed her the book, and pulled her up off the bare mattress.
"I'll tell you what; I'll help you get settled in, and then we can read together." He said and she beamed at him.
The two worked silently, making her bed with the plain cotton sheets and gray wool blanket that Wool's provided to all of the children, and hung up her clothes in the closet. She took Kelly's warning to heart, and hid some of her nicer dresses that her mother had bought for her inside a hidden compartment she had found in her armoire. When they were finished, Tom slipped behind her on the bed and pulled her back against his chest and held up Hogwarts: A History so that they could read it together. He had already read it, of course, but he enjoyed it so much he decided to read it again.
After two hours, he felt her breathing even out, and realized she had fallen asleep. It was close to light's out anyway, so he gently lifted her so that he could get up, and then carefully placed her back down on the bed, covering her with the grey blanket. He left her room quietly and made his way back to his own.
He woke sometime in the night, to the sound of his door opening, and he smiled when he saw a familiar head of brown curls quickly crossing his room and climbing into bed with him. He curled up behind her, and felt his body relax back into sleep as he inhaled the scent of her lavender and vanilla shampoo.