Handling a Dark-Lord Wannabe
Chapter 1: Hermione is Initially Bested
Hermione was not amused. Not. At. All.
They had defeated Lord Voldemort after years of struggle. She had worn Riddle's locket, shoved a basilisk fang into the fucking cup. Witnessed the end. She had thought, with relief and without an ounce of charity, that she never had to deal with that pretentious, presumptuous, melodramatic, homicidal son of a bitch ever again.
Apparently the castle had other ideas.
All attempts to reconstruct Hogwarts had gone nowhere. The precarious state of the wards around the school let in unmentionables in the form of very much unwanted creatures; all the way from garden gnomes and nifflers, to boggarts and dementors. They were everywhere. She could not walk to the remains of the library without casting a Patronus Charm. It was absolutely ridiculous.
And the castle would not stay intact. It apparently took some sort of offense to unintentionally being ridden with dead bodies. Rubble, with said bodies, occasionally fell from the ceiling. Usually while people were walking underneath. It was a disturbing hazard.
So when she stepped into the 7th floor corridor, only to nearly be crushed to death by falling rocks, she was not surprised. Another avalanche occurred at the other end. Hermione was caved in, and considered, while staring into the blank eyes of Colin Creevey with no small amount of hysteria, how long it would take them to unearth her.
She huffed, mentally berating her loss of nerve, before taking out her wand. She was not weak. She was not. She was a capable witch. But as she tried to levitate, bombard, blast, and destroy the rubble to no effect, she could admit to a tear. But it was in frustration.
She started to pace, her thoughts consumed with the horrific state of the victims of the war that surrounded her, and she wanted a way out. She wanted, impossibly, for all of those people who died to come back. She wanted the castle whole. She wished this whole bloody war had never happened in the first place.
A very familiar door appeared, and she had to start. She had not seen the Room of Requirement operational since it was consumed in Fiendfyre, so was justifiably wary when approaching it.
It opened, and she didn't bother to bite back a sigh of longing at seeing a cozy intact room with a roaring fire and stocked bookshelf. She didn't have anything else to occupy her time while she was waiting to be set free, right? So what was the harm?
She should have known better, she should have fucking known better. One moment she is in a nice cozy room enjoying Why Do Wizards Curse? (an entertaining, if rudimentary endeavor at applying Muggle psychological theories to Wizarding culture), and the next she had stepped into a damage-free corridor and was explaining to a much younger, still alive Dumbledore that she had been born in the future. She was brought to the Head office, and as she argued to both Dumbledore and a disinterested Headmaster Dippet why it was imperative that she be allowed to take 9 N.E.W.T. classes, she glossed over her academic history as a future Gryffindor. They nodded their heads, the over-indulgent expression on their politely misogynistic faces obvious enough to make her fists curl, before they said they would "give it a trial run"; evidently with the full expectation that she would come crying back, overwhelmed, at a later date.
She could barely keep the sneer off her face as they sent her off to the library, with a fucking lemon drop of all things, in order to find the Head Boy so she would be "squared away". When she heard Tom Riddle's name, she had to stop herself from screaming in frustration. She knew it was a close call because Professor Dumbledore had given her an odd look, but she couldn't be bothered to care.
Needing a touch of privacy to handle the impending meltdown, Hermione marched straight to the girl's bathroom on the second floor (suspecting it to be empty, and because really, why the fuck not), and didn't bother to check if the stalls were unoccupied before she bellowed out her lungs in frustration and anger. She admitted to just a sprinkle of fear, but she was mostly angry. Why? Fucking why? She had spent the last seven years dealing with this shit! She thought she was done with that arrogant, overbearing, psychotic…
She stopped yelling through frustrated tears when she thought she heard a hiss from somewhere around the sinks, and turned, her damp face lined with a scowl. "Like I give a shit, you bloody, fucking snake," she sneered into the middle of the room.
Hermione knew somewhere in the back of her mind that she was having a tantrum and using profanity as a kind of coping mechanism in order gain some snippet of control, and to deal with the anxiety of her situation. Knowing that didn't help, although she gave a half-hearted attempt to stop the stream of obscenities muttered under her breath as she washed the remains of rubble dust from her hands and face.
She decided to go to the library. She did need to find out what to do next in order to get situated, acquiring robes and school supplies and such, and didn't want to bother having to explain why she held it off.
Hermione was making her way down the hallway, striding at a reasonable pace considering how upset she was, as she planned the upcoming encounter. She intended to be curt. Brief. Aloof. Hopefully uninteresting. Never before would brevity, as she envisioned it, be accomplished in such a way.
She was stopped by her no-longer dead Professor, who thought to give her some advice.
"I hope I do not need to remind you to circumvent the reasons for your appearance? Yes? And I assume someone of your intelligence-," he paused and looked her over, the unvoiced "self-professed" ringing in the air, "-to know the importance of observing the rules of time-travel." Again, silent insinuations that fairly screamed "don't mess with the time frame" were impossible to miss.
She nodded. Did her best to hide the bitterness threatening to bloom from somewhere in the pit of her chest.
And continued to the library.
It wasn't hard to find Riddle. His Head Boy badge gleamed, the coil in his carefully crafted hair fell over a complexion that glowed, and the polish on his shoes reflected random beams of light with a sheen. She witnessed a girl come up to him from behind, and she was horrified to see a perfect set of pearly whites that damn near glistened. It was disgusting, and she couldn't stop herself from looking over her dusty, grimy, nondescript black robe and unruly, impossible hair with thick resentment for a couple of beats.
Familiar resignation set in.
And it was in this charming mood that she approached Riddle.
"Tom Riddle?" she asked, vying for cold politeness. Instead it sounded strained and angry.
"Hello?" he asked, curious and perfectly polite. He looked her up and down, his face giving away nothing, but Hermione still bristled.
"My name is Hermione Granger," she did not have the patience to deal with an alias. "I am a new student. Headmaster Dippet informed me that you would be able to help me with the details of my transfer."
His eyes flashed with irritation, even as an empty smile stretched his lips. "Of course."
He led them out of the library to the room where they kept extra supplies, doing his best to engage in small talk. Hermione did her best not to participate. She reluctantly told him that she planned to attend nine N.E.W.T. level classes, although she intended to take eleven of the exams, and didn't miss the hastily hidden sneer of disbelief.
"That is rather ambitious," he stated instead, giving another cursory glance of her robes. Hermione assumed it was to locate a House affiliation. She didn't bother to fill him in.
They reached the room, and Tom began to describe the procedure of checking out used items until such a time that she could afford to buy her own, or graduate. Whichever happened first. Apparently this practice started during the last Goblin Rebellion, which led to an influx in the number of orphans admitted, and it was only through heavy petitioning at the Ministry and the patronage of a few well off families (the Malfoys among, she was disgruntled to hear) that allowed these resources to appear. Tom added, with a sour expression, that there was a heavy stigma associated with the use, so that even the poorest of families would make a concentrated effort to purchase their own supplies. Which explained why none of the Weasleys participated.
She was fascinated despite herself. "Why was none of this printed in Hogwarts, A History?" she could not help but gripe aloud.
Tom clearly commiserated. "You would not believe how much they don't bother to include. But this doesn't surprise me. After all, the last couple of editions were endorsed by Cantankerous Nott."
Hermione nodded in understanding. She was well aware that the man was suspected of having authored the Pure-Blood Directory, and he was openly disdainful of both the impure and the poor. He probably wanted to avoid mentioning something he found so distasteful. She scowled.
She was about to grab and check out her needed items, before a blonde Draco Malfoy look-alike strutted into the room. "Tom," he drawled, "Professor Slughorn asked me to find you in order to inquire about the Slug Club Party in two weeks. He said you volunteered to decorate." His amused smirk faded as soon as Tom's eyes flashed.
"It was just a suggestion. Not an offering of services. Idiotic man," Tom hissed, scowling.
The blonde teenager (Hermione guessed it was Abraxas Malfoy, and she mentally snickered and dubbed him Abby) asked with obvious hesitation, "What should I tell him?"
Tom looked around, contemplating, before settling on her face, his dark eyes disconcerting in their intensity. He then smiled charmingly at her. "Tell him that I would love to help, but I have very little experience decorating. Fortunately, there is a new student who would love to be of assistance."
Then his eyes widened and his face brightened in a way that made him seem both earnest and rakishly handsome, with a hint of vulnerability. Hermione had little doubt that this display had won over many an unsuspecting witch. "Would you be willing to give me a hand? I would be very much in your debt."
Indignation swept away any lingering fear, as well as the lamentable physical effect of his dapper appearance. And, unfortunately, her plans to be curt.
Hermione could not stop the initial scowl, nor the unpleasant sound her mouth made as her teeth clenched, but she made the best of it, giving him a tense, nasty sort of smile. "I apologize if this comes as a surprise, but I am not the kind of female who has any experience in this area."
She stared at him unpleasantly, unwilling to elaborate.
Tom's smile never wavered. "What do you have experience with?" His insinuation was clear.
Hermione's smile sweetened. "Curses."
Tom's eyes flashed with something that looked like intrigue, and Hermione cursed her big mouth. "Well, I imagine that someone with your ambitions-," he gave her a pointed look, "-is capable enough to transfigure and charm a few decorations."
She aimed for innocence, looking up at him through her lashes. "Are you not capable?"
Abby's lips twitched in amusement as Tom fought an almost tangible wave of irritation. His smile grew strained. "Of course I am, but as Head Boy-," he looked down at his badge, and then back at her as if he couldn't trust her to make the connection herself, "-I am terribly busy."
Hermione found an unexpected amount of pleasure from irritating him. Perhaps if she had a better sense of self-preservation she would use more caution, but at this time, she just couldn't be bothered. Besides, it's not as if she was sorted into Slytherin.
"Oh, I had no idea. You led me here readily enough…," Hermione added a long, implicative pause, and continued, "But this must be a terrible imposition." She opened her eyes wider in false consideration.
Tom nodded, his smile still stiff. "Oh, not at all. Accommodating new students is a necessary duty I am happy to perform. Besides, how could I resist a pretty girl like you?" His tone was a touch away from sarcastic.
She knew that was her cue to bat her eyes at him and smile insipidly, but she couldn't. Not for the life of her. She looked down at herself and back up at him with a raised brow. "Of course you couldn't," she didn't bother to hide her scorn.
This was, apparently, an unexpected response judging by his furrowed brow, but she didn't give him the time to retort. "In any case, as I already stated, decoration is something I have no expertise in, and thus I know little about conventional styles or complimentary colors. It would be ghastly, and I'm afraid this Professor's good opinion about you would be negatively affected as a result." Tom's picked up on the subtle threat, and his mouth thinned, even as she continued, "And we couldn't have that. Especially considering all that you have done for me."
"Wouldn't his opinion of you also be affected?"
Hermione snorted. Pointedly held up fingers that were stained with ink, her nails clipped short in a no-nonsense manner. Opened her mouth. And sarcasm poured. "And of course I care. Because adhering to conventional standards of beauty and excelling at skills perpetuated by societal gender norms… and building my self-confidence off of the affirmation and admiration of others, even at the expense of more academic pursuits… is obviously so important to me."
She openly sneered. "What does this Professor teach?" she asked Abby, grateful that she remembered to ask.
She looked back at Tom. "Outside of Potions, I couldn't give a shit about his opinion." She had learned this lesson at the hands of Severus Snape the hard way. Not everyone was going to like her. Although this statement may have been part bluster, part over-exaggeration... "Excuse me." She grabbed a Potions set from a shelf.
Abby looked at her with a considering look. "Ravenclaw?"
She walked over to the selection of robes and, while looking at both boys with a defiant turn of her chin, pulled out Gryffindor robes. Both boys seemed surprised.
"A Gryffindor?" Abby muttered.
"And she plans to get eleven N.E.W.T.s," Tom added around a scowl.
"Eleven?" Abby stated, both eyebrows reaching his hairline as he looked sideways at Tom for affirmation. Both boys gave her looks that reeked of skepticism and chauvinism in turn. Hermione glowered. This was really getting old.
"Yes, eleven. But if you would excuse me? I understand you're busy, "she stated, turning her head dismissively, her tone sardonic. She could hear Tom grind his teeth from a few feet away, and had to suppress a smile.
"Of course." It sounded like a promise.
It was. She was held over after her first Potions lesson (Professor Slughorn was delightfully surprised by her perfectly brewed Blood-Replenisher Potion, and the small modification she made to improve the taste) and informed her that she and Tom would be working together decorating the dungeons. Considering how drastically Tom's expression had changed from his earlier fury (Slughorn was rather verbose with his praise) she was reasonably sure of his culpability.
That son of a bitch. Hermione watched Tom grab their Professor's attention before she could inform the man that she felt uncomfortable participating, and waited until she got caught up in the crowd leaving the Dungeons. And now if she tried to back out of the agreement, she would have to explain why she didn't disagree right away, and... for fuck's sake, why did she still care this much? Maybe after she got her bearings she could think of a proper excuse...
But getting her bearings proved to be more difficult than she had anticipated. Her treatment at Hogwarts drastically worsened in the next week. The day after her Potions lesson, rumors had spread about her use of Hogwart's extra supplies. While that didn't inspire any overt abuse, she received a fair amount of disdain and discrimination. The day after that one of her housemate's accidentally saw the scar carved into her left arm as the sleeve of her pajamas rode up while she was brushing her teeth. Lilac White made the current assumption about her blood status, and could not wait to tell everyone she knew.
It was then that the abuse turned physical. There were random hexes in the hallways and outside the castle. Several attempts to shove her. Her borrowed belongings were misplaced. Worse was the silence of hastily stifled conversations that trailed after her everywhere she went.
A couple of the Professors even treated her differently after the news, refusing to call on her in class or award her any House points. Not that the experience was new for her, but it was disappointing.
Her obvious skill and success in all of her classes made it worse. She knew it was her fault too; she could have acted ordinary, or did more to blend in, but she couldn't help but react to the doubt imposed on her by anyone that mattered. She had not lied to Tom- she couldn't give a fig if the man knew she had poor fashion sense. But she could not bear the thought that her professors and fellow classmates might think she was stupid or inept. And the insinuations made in regards to her intelligence and capability due to her gender, class, and blood-status instigated defiance, and in some cases, belligerence. She spent every second she had researching better shields that could ward off hexes while she was otherwise occupied, or silent, but poignant forms of retaliation. She also strived, not only to be proficient, but exceptional in her classes. That involved extra research, practice, and in some cases, experimentation.
She and Tom started an unspoken war centered on which of them could successfully and most impressively cast the required spells first. Some days, in some classes, it was Tom. In others it was Hermione, and she could tell that the inconsistency infuriated him. She saw him in the library more, obviously incentivized to dominate her class performance. They avoided each other for the most part, and otherwise gave each other empty pleasant platitudes in passing.
She tried multiple times to get the Room of Requirement to open, but the door never appeared. Her frustration at the castle's interference grew.
The tension culminated at the end of the week as an ambush on her way out of Potions. She was jostled around a corner from the classroom, still in the dungeons, and was surrounded by six, scowling teenage boys, all wearing Slytherin robes.
Her wand gripped in nervous anticipation, Hermione let out an annoyed breath of air.
"Do you mind? I need to go to Arithmancy. As do you, Malfoy. Rosier. Rockwood."
They tried to glare at her menacingly, bless their hearts, but Hermione had lived through a war. She had fought grown men. These were children, holding weapons that made them believe they were adults. And their insecurity showed; why else would they have felt the need to have six of them?
She non-verbally cast a shield over herself, one that wouldn't alert anyone of its presence. There was something to be said about successful subterfuge.
"Filthy fucking Mudblood," Abraxas sneered, as he took a step forward and thrust his wand a few feet from her face.
It was such a cliché. Merlin's pants, you would think after three generations they could come up with new insults. She pouted. "What was that, Abby? Something's got your knickers in a twist." She took a step toward him, and then another, her eyes hard. To say she was sick of the abuse was an understatement.
Abraxas sneered with, and she could tell, false bravado. "You are a disgusting waste of space. You don't have any friends. Your very existence is an abomination, and you are soiling Hogwarts." A couple of the other boys nodded in support.
Hermione snorted. "What are you, a Hufflepuff, Abby? To base my worth off the number of friends I have?" She took another step forward until she was stepping into his wand. He took a step back. "An abomination, am I? And yet you couldn't even cast a Stupefy yesterday in class. So what does that make you?" She ended with what she thought was a tasteful scoff.
She paused for two seconds, waiting for the hex at her back to bounce off her shield, before she cast a non-verbal with a wide swipe of wand that pushed pulsing air out in an arc, forcing half the boys into the wall and the other half on their backs. Abraxas came to his senses and fired two bright red hexes at her, which slid off her shield just as she retaliated. "Petrificus Totalus". Abby fell.
They were decent, she could admit. And so enthusiastic. But she was no slouch, and she had an impressive arsenal of spells lodged inside her brain. It didn't take long until they were all on the ground, although she did appreciate the opportunity to try out her new hexes and curses. It made for an entertaining duel.
Barely fifteen seconds passed after the last one fell before Tom strode in, fury in his wake. Hermione couldn't resist. "Tom! Just in time! Could you ask your minions to choose a better spot the next time they intend to ambush someone? Slughorn is just around the corner. One good scream would have sent him running."
His scowl was one of anger and frustration. "What?" Hermione continued, smirking. "I thought we could make this exercise educational. Otherwise it would just be pathetic."
The lines on his head deepened with the force of his frown, before her word choice brought him up short. "Minions?"
Hermione didn't even need to lie. "They follow you around like abused lovers, Tom. Although if they really are after power, I don't understand why they think you will give them any."
His head tilted, eyes intense, although the scowl didn't leave his face. "Why is that?" he asked, slowly, as if tasting the words before they left his mouth.
She looked him in the eye, and said, "I can imagine how they treated you during your first few years here. Poor orphaned Tom, needing to rely on the school for his supplies. Where did he come from? Who are his parents? Probably muggles, why else would they leave him in an orphanage. Mudblood Tom and his pathetic attempts to make something of himself. He doesn't deserve to be a wizard." It was surprisingly easy to channel her own insecurities into what she remembered about Tom's past.
Tom's expression became homicidal. And she had never really understood what that really meant until this moment. His eyes flashed with a psychotic gleam, and his entire body tensed, as if he was ready to spring into action and strangle her at a moment's notice.
Oh dear. She seemed to have gone too far.
"And the only reason I know that is because I have gone through the same thing. Am going through the same thing. And this treatment hardly leads one to become endeared with Pure-Blood rhetoric or society."
He remained tense and silent, watching her like a predator. He took a step toward her.
"Just a scream away," Hermione reminded him. She knew that she should be afraid. Or nervous. But all she could feel was the familiar rush of endorphins, and the resentment over her situation forever bubbling under her chest.
"Aren't we missing Arithmancy?"
Another step, and while his gaze turned curious at her nonchalant attitude, she quickly and non-verbally cast a series of counter-curses. As groans filled the hall and the boys started to rise, she tried to slip past Tom.
He grabbed her forearm in an unrelenting grip.
"What, are you planning to skive? I understand you're Head Boy. That's hardly responsible, model-student-like behavior." Hermione yanked at the arm, and debated about whether or not she was willing to make more noise.
He shoved her up against the wall, and physically loomed over her. "Somebody's got to teach you to watch your tongue." Her wrist burned from the intensity of his grip.
Hermione scowled, angry at the treatment. "Left to use Muggle tactics? Because you can't best me using magic? You poor thing."
Tom put his face in hers. His gaze was intense.
But there were suddenly a set of heavy footsteps heading their way, and before she knew it, Tom had spun her around so that his back was against the wall. Her hand caught the front of his robes in an attempt to keep her balance amidst the momentum, and Professor Slughorn chose that moment to turn the corner.
Tom immediately started speaking. "I'm sorry, Granger, but I just don't feel the same way."
She let go of his robes as if burned, her eyes wide. Tom continued. "Oh, please don't cry. You are very smart, and very pretty-," his compliments were patently insincere, and his eyes danced maliciously, "-and I'm sure you will find someone who will make you very happy."
Hermione took a step back, absolutely infuriated, as Professor Slughorn chimed in, "Of course Tom is right, Miss Granger. Plenty of fish in the sea, and you certainly are a catch. I actually intended to invite you to an exclusive club I hold…"
She spun towards the Potions Professor, rambled out "I would be delighted," before stomping around the corner. Hermione stopped for a moment, needing to catch her breath and talk herself out of giving in to any of her own homicidal impulses. It was at this moment that she heard Tom address their Professor.
"I am so sorry you had to see that, sir. She has been quite forward in her advances, and to be honest, I felt slightly uncomfortable decorating the dungeons with her. But I knew this was important to you, and I wanted to do a good job…" He trailed off suggestively.
Professor Slughorn was quick to respond. "Not to worry! I'm sure she will be capable of doing the decorations by herself. I can't imagine that she would be any less skilled in Charms than she is in Potions. I am sure it will turn out fabulous!"
Hermione forced herself to walk away. She was so incensed her hands were shaking and she was forced to take large, gasping breaths. That fucking tosser.
Hermione could not help but consider her situation in a state of cynical, self-deprecating fury as she stomped up the stairs. Her future was bleak, surrounded by death, and her one possible avenue of romantic entanglements ended when Ron realized that, as a war-hero, there were few women he couldn't have. Her present was infuriating, chock-full of bullying, blatant sexism, and a Dark-Lord wannabe who always seemed to be there. The only thing keeping her in check was a warning imposed by Professor Dumbledore, whose behavior had been nothing to write home about. And the possibility of time at Azkaban, should she completely lose her temper.
In other words, she was not at all invested in keeping to the timeline. She didn't care about Dumbledore's good opinion, or the possibility of changing the future. Fuck them. Her situation was ridiculously unfair. It was not her fault that she was stuck in the wrong time and didn't have any money. It wasn't her fault that she had magic and was the daughter of muggles.
And it wasn't her fault that she couldn't stop herself from irritating a certain Tom Riddle. His beauty and impeccable manners were disgusting, his brilliance infuriating, and his face oh so punchable… but he was so entertaining when he puffed up like a disgruntled peacock everything time there was any knock at his pride.
More importantly, however, he made her angry enough to be fit to be tied. Never again.
It was with this resolve that Hermione decided to screw the fucking timeline. She would do things her way. She wouldn't bother trying to play nice. She would get the upper-hand of that bloody conceited, haughty, disturbingly clever teenage Dark-Lord wannabe, or she would die trying.
To be continued…