Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter!

AN: Hi guys! sorry for the delay - I've had a HUGE project I was working on for the last couple weeks, and that kept me from being able to do any writing...but here you go! Another chapter, and I will also be working on all of my other WIP's if you are waiting for ay of those as well. I'll leave another AN down bottom so as to not give anything away in this chapter!


Hermione quickly lost herself in her thoughts on her way to the seventh floor, thinking back on all that had happened since she'd arrived at Hogwarts. Fate, it seemed was a funny thing; If she had never met Tom that afternoon by the tide pool, she never would have learned that magic was real. A bubble of rage welled up in her once more when the thought brought with it memories that she would much rather forget...

'Please, mother, I don't want to go!'

'I'm sorry, Hermione, but you brought this on yourself. Your father and I have tried to help you time and again, but you leave us little choice.'

'I'll make it stop, I will! Please mother, don't leave me here!'

She shook herself from her thoughts and was brought back to the present when she heard a muffled cry of pain. Her heart began to race, and her feet were moving before she knew what she was doing. She stopped just at the edge of the corridor, hidden by the shadows, and her blood ran cold when she saw that Tom was on his knees surrounded by four older Slytherins, and she could just make out what they were saying.

"You think no one's noticed what you've been up to, Riddle, you filthy mudblood? How dare you even think that someone with such dirty blood could be related to the noble Salazar Slytherin! This will teach you…Crucio."

Hermione watched in horror as Tom fell backwards, writhing on the ground with his mouth open wide in a silent scream as the Slytherins laughed.

A fierce need to protect Tom rushed through her then, and she lifted her wand in the air, as a giant serpent made up of blue fire sprang from the tip, racing towards the aggressors. Tom's body went slack as the curse was broken, though their shrieks of fear could be heard as they desperately tried to run from the inferno that was licking at their heels. She didn't spare a glance to see if any of them had been burned, her only focus was Tom.

Please be all right…I can't do this without you!

She dropped to her knees beside him, and pulled his head into her lap as tears slipped down her cheeks.

"Tom? Tom! Please wake up…" she pleaded as she focused all of her concentration on willing him to wake up.

She breathed a sigh of relief when he suddenly inhaled sharply as his eyes snapped open, filled with unshed tears, before they seemed to finally settle on her face.

"Happy Birthday" He croaked in a hoarse whisper as his eyes found hers.

She let out a choked sob, as she threw her arms around his neck.

"You've just been tortured, and you're thinking about my bloody birthday?" she scolded as she began to check him over. There were no visible injuries that she could find, though she was sure that the Slytherins had planned it that way; no physical injuries meant no evidence.

"I'm fine, quit fussing over me." He said as he made to stand, though she noticed his hand was still giving an odd twitch every so often.

"You're not fine, Tom, you need to report this." Hermione said as she stood back watching him, ready to assist should he need her help.

"NO! it would only make things worse." Tom snapped, smoothing his hands through his disheveled hair.

"We can't let them get away with this! What if they do it again?" Hermione protested, waving her hands angrily for emphasis.

"They won't." Tom said coldly, effectively ending the conversation with a look that chilled her to the bone.

"All…alright." She acquiesced, and tried to change the subject.

"So what did you want to show me?" she asked meekly, hoping that he wasn't angry with her for trying to help him.

The remaining traces of anger left his face as he managed a small smile, and held out his hand for her to take, which had finally ceased it's awful twitching, "Come, I'll show you."

His fingers threaded through hers as he pulled her over to a large expanse of what looked like a bare stone wall, and he closed his eyes. Hermione gasped as a door appeared in the stone, and he gestured for her to open the door.

The sight the lay before her took her breath away; just on the other side of the door, lay a meadow made of lush green grass and wildflowers as far as the eye could see. There were small glowing objects that were flitting to and fro beneath a dazzling canopy of stars.

"Are those…?" she began to ask before he smirked and nodded.

"Fairies, yes."

He pulled her onto the meadow, away from the door that seemed as if it were magically suspended in the air, towards a large picnic blanket that was laden with small cakes.

"Happy Birthday, Hermione. Do you like it?" He said again, this time the smile he gave her made her heart skip a beat.

"Like it, Tom, I love it! How is this possible?" she laughed as she pulled him down beside her on the blanket, reaching out her hand to touch one of the passing fairies.

"This is the Room of Requirement. It can be whatever you wish it to be." Tom answered as he gazed at Hermione's profile as she looked around in wonder.

"You mean you did this? For me?" she asked in surprise as she turned to look at him.

His cheeks were tinged pink, and he looked away from her trying to hide his grin, "I just thought you would like it, is all."

"Thank you." She said squeezing his fingers gently, letting him know how much she meant it.

"Now let's see if these cakes taste as good as they look!" she said laughing, as she picked up two small cakes and handed one to him.

oOo0oOo

It was late by the time Hermione crept back into her dorm room in Gryffindor tower, so she had been expecting that everyone would be sound asleep.

"Lumos!" a voice whispered from behind her just as she was about to crawl into her four poster bed.

"Hermione? What were you doing out so late?" Minerva asked as she stood at the end of her bed, with her hand on her hip expectantly. For a girl nearing twelve, she sure knew how to look imposing.

"Oh…um, I was just…"

"You weren't sneaking out to see a boy, were you?" Minerva asked scandalized.

"Well, not exactly…sneaking out I mean, I lost track of time is all." Hermione answered hoping the interrogation would end without Minerva reporting her to their head of house.

"But you were with a boy…" Minerva asked giving her a knowing smirk.

When Hermione only stood there gaping at her helplessly, Minerva giggled, "Who was it then?"

"Are you going to report me?" Hermione asked uncertainly, though she had a feeling that she wouldn't.

"Not if you tell me what you were up to, and with whom." Minerva said raising an eyebrow in challenge.

Hermione let out a small sigh, hoping that Minerva could keep her mouth shut. The last thing she needed was to make more trouble for Tom.

"I was with Tom Riddle." Hermione admitted crossing her arms over her chest defensively.

Minerva gave a shocked gasp, "You were out with a Slytherin? How scandalous!"

"You have to promise me that you won't tell anyone. Besides, it's not like that between Tom and I; we just…he's my friend."

Minerva quickly nodded that she wouldn't tell, and let out a dreamy sigh, "Slytherin or not, he's bloody gorgeous, that one."

Hermione felt a pang of Jealousy at Minerva's words, though she gave her roommate a small smile as Minerva climbed back into her own bed.

"Well goodnight, then. Best be more careful though, next time it might be a prefect that catches you!"

"Goodnight." Hermione whispered as the room was once again plunged into darkness.

oOo0oOo

As Hermione descended the grand staircase towards the Great Hall, she could hear some of the students talking in hushed whispers as she passed by.

"…Bet they'll be in the hospital wing for a week!"

"…All of his bones in his legs were broken!"

"…heard one of them swallowed his own tongue…"

"…Seems sort of strange, doesn't it? Four Slytherins attacked in their own beds; I bet they'll still find some way to blame it on a Gryffindor!"

A shiver ran down Hermione's spine; four Slytherins had attacked Tom last night.

"Hermione!"

She jumped as the familiar face of Charlus came up behind her.

"Have you heard about what's happened? The whole school is talking about it. There was an attack last night!" he said with an air of what Hermione could only describe as excitement, and she immediately felt nauseous.

"Four Slytherins were nearly killed. I bet old Dippet is shaking in his boots at the thought of notifying their parents about what happened." Charlus said shaking his head.

"What did happen?" Hermione asked, not sure she wanted to know.

"No one knows exactly, only that Thorfin Rowle, Alexander Nott, Abraxas Malfoy, and Edmund Rosier were found by their roomate with some pretty nasty injuries early this morning."

Hermione didn't think she could stomach hearing about the nature of their injuries, though she concluded form the whispers she had overheard that they must have been ghastly.

"Do they know who did it?" Hermione asked, as a feeling of dread washed over her, twisting in her gut.

"I think the question is not so much 'who', but what." Charlus said shaking his head.

"Oh." Hermione answered distantly. She felt like she was going to be sick.

"Are you alright? You look pale." Charlus asked.

"I'm fine." She answered automatically, as her need to find Tom and hear his side of things became her only focus.

"I have to go." She said quickly and took off running towards the library, hoping that he would be at their table as he usually was in the morning. She desperately needed to hear him say he hadn't been there, that he hadn't done it.

She was breathing heavily from her sprint by the time she reached the table, and he looked up at her with a raised eyebrow.

"Hermione, what are you-" he began before she cut him off, quickly taking the seat across from him.

"Don't! Was it you?" she asked him bluntly, her heart hammering in her chest as his green eyes met hers unblinkingly.

"Do you feel bad for them? After what they did?" Tom asked incredulously.

"Don't turn this around, they could have died, Tom!" Hermione whispered fiercely.

"So could I!" he shouted, looking around quickly to make sure no one was nearby.

Hermione felt a pang of guilt at the memory of Tom lying motionless in her arms, and frowned.

"Tell me what I should've done, Hermione. They needed to be taught a lesson. They wouldn't have stopped."

"What if someone finds out? What if they tell?" she asked quickly, thinking that this was like Billy Stubbs all over again.

"They won't." he said quickly.

"How can you be sure?" Hermione whispered incredulously.

"Because they did it to themselves." He finally admitted as he gave her a look indicating that the conversation was over.

It was then that her eyes fell on the title of the old leather bound book sitting just beneath his palm, Secrets of the Darkest Art, that she understood; he had used dark magic.


AN: Dun dun dun...Tom's beginning to dabble...and by dabble, I mean use Unforgivables. Will Hermione still stand by him? We shall see...