AN: Hello, my loves. It's been a while. A little bit of Tomione/Romione, AU, university students. Hope you like it!

The first time was dark. She had been walking home when she had heard noises- muffled gurgling, the sound of tearing, rough and hurried. When she looked inside the alley, he was inside a girl who was propped up and held against the walls, his hand against her mouth- Hermione panicked, at first, reaching to her phone and swiftly typing in the password for an emergency call before the girl's head suddenly arched and she looked to the sky, an open and loud grin on her face. A pleased smile stretched on his, and he quickly covered her mouth again, laughingly asking her not to be so loud, lest they be caught. She laughed breathily, nodding, before biting on the edge of his palm.

When Hermione felt reassured that nothing of any concern was happening- and that she was an absolute creep at this point- she moved to shove her phone back in her pocket. His eyes abruptly moved and met hers, resulting in a severe shock running through her spine- she swallowed, nodded apologetically, and scrambled away.

The second time was when she walked into her Modern History lecture in her first week of her second year. The lecture hall was of a considerable size, but barely large enough to fit the two-hundred-something people who had signed up for- or had to take- this course.

She sat down in the same relative area she'd been sitting in since the beginning of the semester, moving to take her laptop out. It was an old, exhausted thing, but Hermione's parents were in a financial jam and her part-time job wasn't enough to cover the expenses of either fixing it or buying a new one. She waited patiently for it to open before bringing up a new word document and setting up her things on her one-armed desk.

"You're in my seat."

She looked up- the notice had come from a tall, handsome boy, with hollow cheekbones and thick, black hair that seemed to roar into small but wild, soft waves. She stared at it for a second before meeting his eyes. "You can't be serious."

He maintained a straight and stern face before he broke out into a wide, practiced smile, and Hermione smiled as well, catching onto the joke.

"Well, since it is such a shame that someone so rudely has taken your seat-" she took her bag off the seat to her right and threw it to her left- "I'll do you the favour of allowing you to sit right here."

He bowed mockingly, then jumped over the seat and slid into it smoothly. Unlike Hermione, he did not spend any time pulling anything out of his bag, but instead took off his jacket- leather, dusty and torn at the sleeves- and piled it on his desk as a pillow. He stretched out an open palm towards her, still smiling. "Tom Riddle, at your service."

She shook his hand, a tight, hurried smile on her face. Funny how he introduced himself with his full name. The professor had walked in, and he did not seem to be in an excellent mood. She looked back at Tom. "Hermione, pleasure to meet you."

He ignored her rush, a small grin on his face. "So what do you do, Hermione? Other than studying and being a peeping Tom?"

Hermione started to reply, then stopped, her face flushed. Her mouth fell open, but she forced it shut, pushing her eyes towards his. "You had your hand over a girl's mouth in a dodgy alley. I was concerned."

He scoffed laughingly and turned around, chatting with another student behind him. She hid her face in her hands for a few seconds before switching her attention to the professor. Moments later, Tom fell asleep on his desk.

It had only been twenty minutes in, Hermione fervently taking notes and attempting to commit a portion of them to her memory, when Tom rose from his seat, stretching and yawning. The professor had apparently caught sight of this display, in the third row of the lecture hall, for he immediately frowned.

"Mister Tom Riddle," he said, his voice carrying in the entire hall, setting the students on edge. Hermione jumped- just a few days into uni, and the professor knew Tom by name? A jab of envy grew inside of her, and she hastily shoved it away.

Tom finished stretching, then looked questioningly at the professor. "That's me, Professor."

He narrowed his eyes at Tom, and the atmosphere suddenly darkened. "If you cannot remain at your highest level of concentration, Mister Riddle, you are free to leave."

Tom smiled, but this time it was a tight, dangerous smile. Suddenly, he lost his friendly and approachable air, and it was replaced with something electric, unsafe- she couldn't help but back up in her seat a little bit.

"I can concentrate just fine, Professor."

Hermione tried to tell if there was a threat underlying that statement, but she did not need to, for the professor had quietened. He turned on his heel and started bringing up the slides on his computer, and the entire some-hundred-and-something students had gone silent.

Tom sat down again, now wakeful, and placed his chin on his hands, his eyes trained on the professor.

When the professor dismissed them, Hermione walked swiftly out of the lecture hall.

The third time she was leaning on the wall in the hallway, a red cup in her hand. She had abandoned her usual layered getup for a long dress she'd borrowed from her eccentric flatmate, Ginny. She spun her plastic cup around, the liquid inside sloshing on the sides. She imagined it as a centrifuge machine, swishing around a blood sample. Fwoosh, fwoosh, fwoosh.

"Doesn't really look like your usual scene."

Hermione's head snapped up, and she looked at Tom. He was wearing all black, and bright white boots. They had mud splashes across the heels and toes. She stared at them for a second before meeting his eyes again.

"It's not," she said, shrugging. "But I find that it's surprisingly alright."

He nodded. "I can tell."

She scoffed, looking him up and down. "And you seem rather sober for someone who's been criticizing me so thoroughly."

He looked at her for a few moments, his face passive, before snatching her cup. He swallowed it in one go, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down, and handed it back to Hermione, who looked at him expectedly. She tried to hide her smile, but failed.

"Sprite. Somehow, I just knew that that wasn't straight vodka."

"Could have been gin, for all you know," she said, looking at her empty cup. "I'm unpredictable like that."

Now her smile was a full on grin, and he narrowed his eyes at her. Abruptly, he turned around and left. The grin fell of her face- had she upset him?- but understanding lit in her eyes when he came back holding a transparent bottle in his hands. He stood next to her again, and poured an exorbitant amount into her cup before she could object.

"What's this?"

"Vodka, Russian Standard. Not my favourite, but," he held up the bottle for a toast, his eyes eager. "Here's to Hermione…"

"Hermione Granger."

"Hermione Granger's first drink."

First drink? If only. She ignored it and hit the cup against his bottle and tipped it back, the liquid burning down her throat. On impulse, Hermione decided to down it all on one go, forcing herself to ignore the taste and instead focusing on finishing the cup.

When she brought it down, taking quick, desperate breaths, Tom was staring at her in mild astonishment. She took one last gulp of air before a smile, almost manic, spread on her face.


"Well," repeated Hermione, suddenly realizing that her head will probably play hell with her tomorrow. "My throat is on fire, but there goes my first drink." Fuck, she thought, touching her throat.

They stood by the wall for a few more minutes, and Hermione watched the party quietly- the flashing pink and blue lights cascaded beautifully on Tom's handsome face, and briefly, she envied him. Though she'd come a long way from her severe self-esteem issues from her teenager years, she would still occasionally have bouts of feeling unattractive, as anyone else would.

A song came on, and she recognized the first few beats- something somewhat familiar in passing. "You know what?" she said, looking at Tom. He looked at her, his face rather passive and blank- she wasn't able to tell if his vision was starting to get as shifty as hers. "I want to dance. Let's dance."

Tom looked at her, eyes narrowed. "Really?" He tilted his head at her. "Dance?"

She narrowed her eyes back. "Really, dance."

He stared at her, silent. She frowned and took his hand, dragging him over and into the crowd.

"I'll give you this warning, though," she said, squeezing between two people, "I don't actually dance. Not to my knowledge, at least."

He narrowed his eyes in concentration, attempting to hear her over the noise. "Of course. I have a confession as well.

"Oh? What's that?"

"I can't dance either."

She laughed- he smiled. They spent the next thirty-something minutes generally moving- Tom's was a rather minimal box step that looked graceful and practiced despite him claiming inexperience. Hermione thrashed around in semi-attentiveness, ignoring the buzz in her head and the fact that she, most likely, looked like an idiot.

Another song came to an end, and Hermione paused and threw her hair out of her face.

"Shame on me if I thought your mane never got wilder than it already was," said Tom, pointing at her head. Though she was sweaty and felt tired and her hair had reached a previously unknown volume, he seemed quite alright.

She rolled her eyes. "What can I do? The lion aesthetic comes with a hefty price."

He was about to reply when something crashed- it was quickly followed by one person shoving a second into a tall bookcase, which immediately fell down. Within seconds, the party turned into a wreck of angry fighting and horrified screaming.

"Oh God- what is going on-"

"Out. Now." A serious look came upon Tom's face- he didn't seem as much horrified as he did disgusted, as if petty fights between Grown Up University Students was the most pathetic thing he could see. Hermione could agree to that point, really.

He tried to grab her forearm and drag her out, but Hermione snatched her arm away, massaging it.

"I can walk, you don't need to bloody drag me."

He looked at her for a few seconds, surprised- "I apologize," he said. "Acted on impulse."

She shook her head. "Let's go."

Sensing the sudden tension, and the possibility that her entire night had been ruined, Hermione grabbed the first bottle she found on her way out- as she had it, it turned out to be the same kind as Tom had been holding earlier on. They ran outside the apartment building, not waiting to see at what point the fight turns into a disaster.

They stood across the street, panting, and their hands on their knees. Suddenly, Tom started laughing.

It was a breathy, genuine laugh, and Hermione stared with a surprised smile on her face.

"Busy night, huh?"

"Indeed," he replied.

Tom looked at his watch, and Hermione held the bottle up, inspecting the amount inside.

"What time is it?"

"Barely past one." He looked at the bottle in her hands. "See you brought a souvenir."

"That I did." She sighed, moving to sit on the floor. She contemplated taking her heels off, but she remembered always harshly judging those who took off their heels in public. She changed her mind.

"Russian Standard again. You couldn't have grabbed a Smirnoff? Hell, I thought I saw a Grey Goose on that table."

"Apologies, mom, I'll try again next time." She grinned.

After a few moments, Tom sat next to her. He took the bottle from her and opened it, taking a large, generous swing. He offered it to her, and she did the same, grimacing at the stinging taste.

"We have that class test tomorrow, don't we?"

"The written on the Yalta conference." Hermione nodded. "Yeah. I should probably start heading back."

Neither of them moved to get up.

The fourth time, she was in the grocery store- she'd done less than excellently in her test, scraping the higher grade boundaries by a few measly marks. Grades had come out two weeks later- severely delayed and a clear telling of their professor's lack of punctuality- and her professor had said that she'd done impressively, but that he'd expected more from her.

She'd wanted to blame Tom for this- but in the end, he hadn't at all held her back or kept her from going to bed early the night before the class test.

Still, she thought, angrily pushing a bag of pasta into her cart, ugh.

She hadn't even talked to him since- she barely saw him in passing, moving to sit across the lecture hall. He'd seemed a lot less hungover than she did the day after, and she had wanted to slap him for it.

Hermione reached over to the bag of rice, mindlessly huffing- her hand smashed into someone else's, and she snapped out of her reverie.

"Sorry- oh."

Red-orange hair, freckles, blue eyes, well defined body- Hermione stared for a few seconds before she realized her jaw had dropped.

"Sorry about that," he said, going for the rice. He held the bag and moved to hand it to her, smiling. "Guess I wasn't really concentrating."

"N-Neither was I," said Hermione, nearly slapping herself for stuttering. Stuttering. God. "Thanks."

"Anytime," he said, placing another bag in his cart. He began to move away, while Hermione choked on her breath.

"Wait!" He turned around, eyebrows raised. "Um. Do you go here as well? You look familiar."

He narrowed his eyes for a bit, and Hermione wondered if the question had been phrased too vaguely, but a look of recognition came upon his face.

"Hermione? Hermione Granger?"

She recoiled. "Uh- yes."

"God, you're Ginny's flatmate, aren't you?"

Hermione paused for a second, then smiled. "Ah. You're Ginny's brother, I guess?"

"One of them," he said, chuckling. "Ronald Weasley."

They shook hands. "Hermione, as you already know. How'd you recognize me?"

He shrugged. "Ginny said you had the wildest head of hair she'd ever seen."

Hermione laughed, her face reddening- she tried to hide it by subtly moving her hair behind her ears. "God. Everyone's been commenting on that lately."

"She also said you were quite pretty, which was quite the understatement."

The words lodged in her mouth, and she stared for a few seconds- then she started coughing, her lungs hacking violently.

"Bloody hell- are you alright?"

She slammed her chest a couple of times, stopping her lungs from exiting her body by sheer force of will, before standing up straight again. "Would you- would you like to go out for a coffee, some time?"

He smiled. "Sure." Reaching into his pocket, he brought out his phone, an old tired Samsung, and handed it to her. She quickly reached into her jacket and gave him hers. Writing in her number as quickly as possible, she handed it back. He gave back her phone, his number only written in.

"I have no idea how to use iPhones," he admitted, shrugging laughingly. "Feel free to save my number however you like."

She grinned, understanding, and started typing on her phone. "Ronald…"

"Ron," he said. "Just Ron."

"Ron Weasley," she said, as if trying his name on her tongue. It rolled off comfortably. "I guess I'll hear from you, then."

"That you will," he replied.

They parted ways, and Hermione spent the next twenty minutes shopping in a daze- when she rolled up to the cashier, she was still sighing dreamily.

"You're in a better mood than you were in when you entered our humble store," said the cashier, his voice somewhat familiar- Hermione's head snapped up, and she looked at Tom.

"As a matter of fact, I am," she said, hefting her things onto the counter. "Seeing as you were to blame for all my troubles."

"Ah, yes," he said, moving the items on the register. "I did hear that you dropped your usual top marks."

"I did," she sighed. "Can't believe some… some ledge took it instead of me."

Tom hummed, briefly typing up the tuna cans' serial number on the register, "Can't believe you would call me a ledge, of all things."

She nodded, then did a double take. "What? You… what?"

He shrugged. "That'll be… nineteen quid. Anything else I can help you with?"

"Fine," she said, reaching into her bag for her purse. She got out her card and tapped it on the contactless machine. "You can't even be serious. You took my first place."

"You gave away your first place," he replied. "And I happened to be in a good enough mood that day to actually give the test a shot."

"Give- give the test a shot? I studied three weeks for that test!"

He glared at her. "The test was based on the last three weeks' material."

"Whatever. I don't let my studies pile up. You do- you don't even do anything except sleep in lectures."

He shrugged. "I absorb information with ease."

As she angrily bagged her things, Tom scanned the emptying store. His eyes locked onto another cashier, five stations away. "Who was that?"

"Who?" asked Hermione, not really looking.

"The one with a plate of spaghetti Bolognese on his head, two o'clock."

She looked, and she found Ron smiling at the young, female cashier scanning his items. Incredible how quickly jealousy seemed to strike, and they hadn't even gone out.

"My flatmate's brother. Also possibly a date? I kind of accidentally asked him out for coffee." Her chest puffed out. "I've never asked anyone out on a date first before. It's easier than I thought."

She looked at Tom, but his eyes were still fixed on Ron- he shrugged and turned his attention back to his screen. She raised a confused eyebrow. "Is something the matter?"

"Nothing a ledge like myself could possibly see." He handed her her receipt. "Good day, thank you for coming to Morrisons."

Without replying, Hermione took her bags and started leaving just as her phone buzzed. She struggled to hold all her bags in one hand and open her phone with the other.

Ginny 🐎 💖
I told u I wanted to introduce u to him in a club at 2am when ur drunk so u can pull
I never agreed to beginning a sound and healthy relationship

Hermione turned around and found Ron exiting the store, so she quickly turned to the pathway to her flat.

hahahahaha yeah I asked him out.
super sorry to burst your bubble!

Ginny 🐎 💖
UGGHHHH it's ok
did u bring the pasta? i'm sooooo hungry

I brought the pasta but I'll lock it in my cupboard so flatmate #4 doesn't steal it
on my way now. see you in 5!

The fifth time she saw him, Hermione had been walking into a local coffee shop with Ron. It was two weeks after they had met- their schedules had conflicted a lot, with Ron's night-time rugby practices and Hermione's strict timetable between her part-time job and her studying.

"It's getting chilly," said Ron. Hermione nodded. They forewent the outdoor seating and went inside.

"Sun's setting quite fast nowadays, isn't it?" Hermione went ahead behind the last person in the queue, perusing the menu on the wall. Ron followed, looking at the swiftly darkening sky outside.

"True." He smiled, looking at her. "I come from a small town in Fife, up in Scotland. The sun sets at four in the afternoon during winter."

"No way," she said, disbelievingly. "Ours sets at five past four! How do you live?"

He laughed. "Where are you from?"

"Outskirts of Sheffield. It's quite nice, actually. A really calm neighbourhood, but you're always thirty minutes' drive away from the city if you need anything."

"Sounds quite nice, actually. My brother studied in Sheffield, he-" The barista called out next, and they came up. "I'll tell you all about it in a bit. What would you like?"

She'd kind of wanted to split the bill- both of them were students and she didn't want to burden him with the price of two. Quickly, she decided to downsize her coffee and forgo the usual shot of caramel.

"I'll just have a small latte, with skimmed milk, please."

"Alright," he said, turning to the barista. The man smiled and asked for their order. "Can I have a small skimmed latte, please? And a small flat white." He raised his eyebrows in thought. "Can you add a shot of caramel to the latte, yeah?"

Hermione stood in confusion and surprise as Ron paid the waiter, bringing out his card from an old, black wallet. When he entered his pin into the machine, she turned her eyes away.

They moved to the pickup spot to wait, and Hermione turned to Ron, an inquiring look on her face. "Caramel?"

He nodded, trying not to smile. "Did I guess right?"

Hermione furrowed her eyebrows. "Somehow, yes-"

He grinned. "I'm just kidding. Ginny told me when I said we were going for coffee. Said you never go without caramel."

She covered her mouth with her hand, hiding a half-giggle-half-choke. "Oh my God I'm not sure how to respond to this." She laughed. "Thanks."

"My pleasure."

She stayed silent for a minute, then burst out. "Jesus, you have no idea. I honestly thought there were some otherworldly psychic things going on and, gosh, if you could mind-read my caramel I just thought what else could you have picked on-"

He stared at her for a few seconds, and exploded into laughter. "Oh my God, Hermione," he said singingly, throwing non-existent locks of long hair behind his shoulder, "I know my attractiveness reaches ethereal and divine measures but you must keep your impure thoughts to yourself."

Hermione choked on a giggle. "Oh my God of course not, your radiance. My mind is as pure as the water that runs in heaven's rivers." They're not. They weren't. She was still revising the image of his perfectly sculpted behind in her head.

They picked up their cups and walked around the store, looking for a table to sit. Since it was a cold night out, most people were inside, and they failed to find an empty spot. Instead, they chose to walk around outside.

"Are you sure you're warm enough? I can give you my jacket if you'd like," asked Ron.

"Absolutely bundled up." She turned to him, a playful look in her eyes. "I know you're Scottish but there's no need to show off."

He laughed incredulously. "What! I am not showing off-"

Suddenly, a loud crash interrupted them. A chair had flown through a display window, breaking on the surface of the hard pavement. The door of the pub was slammed open by a figure being thrown at it- he landed on the pavement with a loud thud. Another man followed out, a small group of watchers gathered behind him.

"Say that about my mother again, Potter." The man kicked hard at the fallen figure. "Say that again, you fucking cunt-!"

"Bloody hell, is that-"

"Harry!" Exclaimed Hermione. They were friends in their last year of sixth form- a couple of years ago, having grown close in their psychology lab, then kept in touch when they both got into the same university. She discovered he was a mutual friend with Ron when Ron told her they were practically best friends and were on the rugby team together.

"What the hell-" Ron sprinted towards them, his coffee cup dropping in the process. Harry stood up, and aimed a punch at the other man's gut. At that moment, Hermione realized that it was Tom.

Harry's punch came through- Tom grunted and a drop of blood flew from between his lips. He pushed upwards with his palm at Harry's Jaw- Harry's head flew backwards and he stumbled, but quickly regained his balance.

One of the bystanders brought out their phone and started recording.

She knew Harry had a short fuse- he was sarcastic and liked to pick fights. On the other hand, she didn't know Tom that well, but seeing him in a physical fight seemed so out of character. She remembered how he walked out of a house party the instant a fight began. What had Harry said or done that pushed him so hard?

Ron momentarily stopped them by then, standing between them. Harry fought to get through, but Tom stood in his place. He was furious- his shoulders rose and fell quickly with hurried panting, and his blood-covered lips were turned down in a scowl. His jaw clenched and unclenched with his breathing.

"You fucking heard me, Riddle- what goes around comes around! You mention my mother again and I'll bloody smash your head in!"

Riddle rolled his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "I didn't mention your bloody mother, Potter."

Harry stuttered. "You fucking did, you arse-cactus!" Harry suddenly overcame Ron, reaching out and punching Tom's jaw. Unprepared, Tom stumbled backwards, accidentally falling into the group behind him. A small, balding man objected profusely, but Tom ignored him and walked back towards the two others. With a hard shove, he pushed Ron over, who tripped on Harry's feet, taking him with him to the floor.

Hermione jumped when she saw them land. Taking the decision to act on what she saw and not be the one girl crying over her friends on the side, she gingerly placed her coffee cup on the sidewalk, and began walking towards the fight. Ron had suddenly become involved in the fight- Tom's eyes darted around between his two opponents, showing increasing alarm.

The moment Ron's hand clenched into a fist, drawing back to fire, Hermione sped up her pace. She couldn't stick herself between Three Extremely Angry Persons, but she could probably reason them in a very loud voice from the side.

"Ron, Harry- Tom- calm down! This can be better settled by words rather than fists!"

Tom and Ron did not turn to her, distracted but still engaged in a fierce battle of furious eyes. Harry turned to her, his hair pointing in a thousand different directions.

"You're pissed off, and you're also actually pissed. The both of you. If you can just stop this for a second-"

"You didn't hear the shite he said, Hermione, guy deserves to get his head bashed in!"

Tom's head snapped towards her. "I'm not pissed! I only had two pints!"

Harry looked him up and down. "You look like you had eleven and a half."

"You fucking ledge-!" Tom turned around and grabbed a purse from a woman standing in the crowd and threw it at Harry's head. The chain hit the frame of Harry's glasses, which flew off his face and landed on the floor.

"My glasses- that's fucking it."

Harry clawed at the air, trying to get past Ron, while Tom panted in blind anger, ignoring the squealing complaints of the woman behind him.

Suddenly, the crowd parted, and a tall, bearded man came through. To Hermione, he looked alarmingly like the old university Dean, Professor Dumbledore- with a nose that's slightly broken and without glasses- but he seemed to carry a different demeanour. His eyes, simply, spoke volumes of how fed up he felt.

"What. What the fuck is going on?" He stomped his feet by Tom. They were almost the same towering height. "Alright, this has gone on for too long. Go on, lads, get tae fuck before I shove both ye heads down the filthiest cubicle in this fuckin' pub!"

Seemingly understanding the extent of the filth in said cubicle, Harry, Ron and Tom were briefly shocked before they finally put some distance between them. Seeing Ron calm Harry down, she thought to go talk to Tom.

When she approached him, his head snapped instantly, eyes red and anxious. She was taken aback by the sheer rage and restlessness in his face.

"Are you alright?"

He ignored her question, taking a deep breath and bending over, placing his hands on his knees. "What are you doing here?"

She frowned. "I was out."

"With the ginger?"

"With Ron, yes. That's not the point- I just wanted to see if you're alright." She pulled out her phone from her pocket and looked at the time. It wasn't particularly late, but she didn't see any reason to prolong this conversation. "I'm leaving now."

"Hermione," he said, and she smiled tightly and insincerely in reply. "You wanted to see if I'm alright?"

She raised her eyebrows. "I did say that."

He straightened his back, wiping the drop of blood on his lips with the sleeve of his leather jacket. It left a dark, shiny stain. "We're not bloody friends, Hermione. We're not good pals." His eyes burned into hers before flicking away and looking at nothing. "Don't ask after strangers. Good night."

Frozen in place, Hermione watched him leave through blurry, dampened eyes- she would agree, they weren't exactly friends, but the violence of his tone and words hurt, nonetheless.

Turning around, she saw Ron heading her way, on his own. She quickly wiped her eyes.

"Where's Harry?"

"Just put him in a cab." He looked at her, concerned. "Why were you talking to Riddle? Did he say anything to you?"

"Nothing at all," she said. "Just a rude git."

Ron nodded. "Come on, let's go. I'll walk you to your flat."

Hermione nodded, and they started walking back together.

Her latte sat on the bench, caramel sunken and thickened on the bottom, cold and forgotten.

"I heart Tom got a warning from the Dean."

Hermione looked up from her bed, where she was sat down, petting the cat. It belonged to their hall's warden, a grumpy, ginger-haired thing, and tended to walk around corridors when it wished for attention. Ginny stood in the doorway for a few moments before jumping onto the foot of the bed, across from Hermione. The cat's ears pulled back in surprise, then hopped off the bed, its tail shaking.

"Aw, Crookshanks, don't go," said Ginny. Hermione pouted, then looked over to Ginny.

"I would expect so," said Hermione curtly.

"So did Harry."

Hermione's face snapped up. "Really?"

Ginny raised an eyebrow. "You saw the fight. Would you think it would be fair to only give one of them a warning?"

"No," she said. "But I didn't really think the Dean would give a warning."

Ginny shrugged. "That woman knows everything. Plus, it was the Union pub, so technically on campus. Bartender that night was Aberforth, Dumbledore's brother. Of course it got to McGonagall."

That's why he looked so familiar, she thought. Albus Dumbledore was their old Dean, before he passed away in unknown circumstances last year. Most people seemed to suspect murder, as the man was heavily involved in politics and had many oppositions, but it could never be proven.

"And Ron?"

Ginny grinned. "You darling's fine."

Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Come on. I know it was a weird ending to your first date, doesn't mean it's over."

"I don't know," said Hermione. "Bit of an awkward point, now. We haven't talked since…" she reached for her phone and scrolled a bit until she found their chat. "The day after. Silence since then."

"Look, I can tell you one thing. My brother's probably too scared to talk to you." She bent her head to the side. "Just like you are just now, actually. Wow. You guys are perfect for each other."

Hermione rolled her eyes again. "I have an essay due tomorrow."

Ginny scrunched her nose in distaste. "Ew. Fine then, I'll leave you to it." She stood up and headed towards the door, then turned on a heel to face Hermione, her bright hair flaring behind her head. "I promise you I'm not trying to butter you up about my brother, Hermione- I couldn't care less about that- I just genuinely thing that you guys would get along together. I wouldn't bring it up if I thought you would be a disaster couple."

Hermione's face softened, smiling at her flatmate. "I know. You always watch out for me. And for who wants to get in my pants."

Laughing, Ginny threw her hair behind her shoulder, acting out a fake humbleness. "Yeah, duh. Like Tom Riddle."

Hermione jutted out her chin at Ginny and rolled her eyes so hard at her that they momentarily hurt.

"Hah. I'm not entirely sure because he seems like a moody-slash-indecisive asshole, but I caught that vibe. But seriously, if you're into him, don't break my brother's heart. I do care about him, in that sense."

Nodding, Hermione waved her hand at Ginny to stop talking, her eyes already focused on the now open screen of her laptop. Feeling her legs burning up from its overheating fan, she quickly grabbed a pillow and put it between her poor thighs and the heavy machine.

As soon as Ginny walked out, Crookshanks walked back in, sitting by Hermione's outstretched legs. The thought of what Ginny thought of Tom left her conflicted- she felt, if she had known earlier in the semester, she may have liked the thought. However, after their brief conversation a few days back, she didn't find the idea as appealing.

She opened the document with her Ethics essay. She'd finished it a week ago, but hadn't read it since, wanting to open it on the night of the deadline to read it with a fresh perspective.

Hermione didn't see Tom since- she thought that she occasionally caught glimpses of him in the back of their shared lectures, but didn't pay him much heed. She knew that when she held a grudge against someone, it could last for a long time.

Yet, she couldn't really get him off her mind.

It was strange- today, she sat in a private cubicle in the library, earphones in and head bent down, focusing on her work. Most people thought that she worked ruthlessly, not allowing herself a moment of distraction- however, right now, Hermione was scrolling down Facebook in boredom. The problem with finishing her work early was that she didn't have much else to do- having thought it would take her all day to finish reading a particular chapter, she'd left her current novel in her room, and didn't feel much inclination to leave her seat.

She was watching a video on skydiving in Rio when a notification popped up in the corner of her page. She glanced at it, returned to the video, and then quickly did a double take- Tom Riddle has accepted your friend request. Send him a message.

Hermione stared at the notification, face blank, before impulsively opening his chat box.

She stared at the empty box for a while, unsure of what she had wanted to do.

Suddenly, three dots popped up, signifying that he was writing to her. Her mind suddenly whirled- what did he want to say? Did he want to apologize? Did he just want to chat? Was there something important to say-?

Did you finish the last psych chapter?

She read the message. For a few minutes, she did nothing, feeling speechless at how anticlimactic her social life often was.

As she began to type, she felt a bit of bitter joy at leaving him on read for a few minutes.


Instantly, he started typing again.

Did you see the sheer stupidity of the example the given for the Mann-Whitney U Test?

Hermione looked at the message, her head backing away from the screen in confusion. What's… what's going on?

Yes, I did. I didn't think anyone would notice.

She didn't think he was the type of person to work ahead of time, either, but life always surprised people with grand and pleasant things.

Don't think too highly of yourself. Many people do possess some functioning brain cells.

Do you do nothing but talk shite to everyone's faces?

The reply had come suddenly and unexpectedly. She threw her head back, rubbing her temples.

When she looked again, he hadn't replied, despite reading the message. A little part of her thought that perhaps, her message had taken him aback, and that little part felt smugly proud.

Facebook isn't exactly to your face, isn't it?

"Fuck's sake," she mumbled under her breath. She considered writing another burning remark, feeling her annoyance building up, but instead closed her laptop screen and leaned onto her desk. After a few minutes, she opened it again. He had sent another message.

Maybe I should join you in the library and live up to your accusations.

How did you know I was in the library?

Oh wow. Honest guess. Hadn't thought you'd be in the library on a Friday.
Can't say I'm surprised.

A right asshole, you are.

Or maybe a left one.

She couldn't help it, a smile grew on her face.

They chatted for a bit longer, Hermione losing track of time, until sleepiness took over her, forcing her to pack her back and walk back to her flat in the darkening night.

"It's nice to see you again, Hermione." Ron kissed her cheek as he led her into his flat. Even though he was a second year as well, he got one of the nicer flats in their halls, meant to be assigned to postgraduates. He only shared with two other people while she shared with four others, including Ginny.

"Nice to see you too. Ginny told me you're a good cook so I've been hyped about this all day!" Hermione took off her jacket and handed it to Ron, who hung it on a coat rack in the corridor. He led her to the kitchen and offered her a seat on the table.

"Ooooh my god I hope you don't overestimate my ability- Ginny said this in comparison to her own skills and she's… you've seen her cooking."

Hermione nodded as Ron moved to wear an apron. "Subpar and usually charcoal black." Her eyebrows furrowed. "That's a damn adorable apron."

He raised an eyebrow and looked down, then his face instantly turned red. "Ohhhhhhhh man I forgot about this-"

The apron had the words 'KISS THE COOK BUT DON'T TOUCH THE BUNS' written across the front- Hermione read it again and laughed. Ron giggled, embarrassed.

Hermione stood up, and Ron moved to take it off. She put her hands on his to stop him. "It's funny. You're funny."

Ron smiled hesitantly. He turned around and faced her. Suddenly, she realized how close they were, and her heart started pounding. "You think so?"

She looked at his eyes- beautiful, bright blue, and swallowed. She moved her hand up and tucked a rogue lock of red hair behind his ear. She nodded. She wanted to kiss him, so much, but was this a good time? They were in the kitchen, about to eat. Her last kiss was months ago and she hadn't kissed anyone since.

He moved his hand and touched her bottom lip with his thumb. It was a hesitant yet determined move on his end. Her heart pounded in her chest.

What if she's a bad kisser? What if she forgot how to kiss? What if-

Suddenly, the kitchen door slammed open. Ron and Hermione jumped in their place as Ron's flatmate, a tall boy in a baggy hoodie with the hood over his head, walked towards the fridge. Without a word, or even a look, he opened the fridge door and grabbed a large, 4 pint jug of milk. With the other hand, he grabbed a bag of unpeeled kiwis. Turning around, Ron's flatmate opened the door and walked out and into his room.

The kitchen was silent. Suddenly, they started laughing.

"What- what just happened?"

Ron shrugged, still laughing. "I really have no idea. He never talks to me or Ken, my other flatmate." He turned to the oven, which had been on, and turned it off. "I just have one question though-"

"Milk and kiwi?" Ron nodded at Hermione. "I was about to ask the same."

"I know!" Ron opened the oven door and brought out a covered tray. He put it on the table and removed the foil. "How does that make any sense?!"

Hermione laughed. She couldn't imagine.

A few minutes later, Ron had served their dishes, and they sat on the couch opposite the kitchen. Ron turned on the TV as Hermione made herself comfortable. "What do you want to watch?"

"I'm down for anything," said Hermione. "This smells and looks amazing, Ron."

Ron grinned sheepishly. "Thanks! I hope it tasted good too."

He'd made a Moroccan tagine, and Hermione wondered if Ginny had told him she was part Moroccan or if this was just a coincidence. She decided to bring it up later.

"Do you like QI?"

Ron nodded. "Yes. Love Stephen Fry. Would marry him in a minute."

Hermione laughed. "Alright, lover boy. I think there are re-runs of the I series right now."

Ron handed the remote to her open hand and she found the channel. For the next forty minutes, they ate and laughed at the answers, especially Alan Davies'. She'd always had a little bit of a crush on the man for some odd reason.

After they finished eating, Ron took her plate and began to wash it. She stay sat on the couch- he'd refused to let her help with anything at all, insisting that he'd clean up- and watched him by the sink. He had such a light-hearted and pureness to him, and he seemed to really like her. She thought she might grow to like him even more.

Afterwards, he sat on the couch with her again, and brought out his laptop to show her baby pictures of Ginny. She brought out her phone and showed her funny text messages from her, quickly scrolling past any that mentioned him.

Or Tom, for that matter.

They talked deep into the night. After a while, they were sat on the couch, half-cuddling. They plugged in Ron's laptop to the TV and were halfway through watching Braveheart.

"This is entirely inaccurate, is it not?"

Ron nodded. "Tell me about it. I haven't met a single Scottish person who liked this movie. I also just really, really, really dislike Mel Gibson."

Hermione laughed. "Why are we watching this then?"

"Because you suggested it!"

The smile fell off her face. "Oh my god. We don't have to watch it if you don't want to!"

"Hermione, I really don't mind if you do-"

"I just panicked and picked this because it was the first one I recognized on this list and didn't want to take too long to pick-"

He laughed. "You know you can take as long as you want, I'll wait here for as long as you need."

Hermione pouted apologetically. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"Pffft, shh. It's fine." Ron grinned and Hermione reached out and paused the movie. They sat in silence for a few moments, staring at each other.

Suddenly, Ron reached out and cupped her cheek in his hands. She felt the roughened skin of his palm against her skin and a shiver went down her spine. She broke eye contact and looked down.

"Hermione," he said, and she looked at him again. She placed her hand over his and kept looking into his eyes, no matter how hard it was. He smiled.

"Can I kiss you?"

Silence, one, two, three seconds. Without giving him a reply, Hermione moved abruptly and planted a kiss on his lips. They were soft, and he returned the kiss instantly.

They kissed for a while, and with each passing minute, Hermione's confidence gradually grew. Braveheart played in the background as they touched. After a while, they stopped, and opted for cuddling on the couch.

"It's getting late," said Hermione, "I ought to get back."

Ron looked up at the wall clock, surprised to see how late it had gotten. "Yeah, of course. I'll walk you back."

"Oh, you don't have to-"

Ron waved his hand at her. "I'll definitely walk you back."

Hermione smiled. She was only a few floors up, but he seemed insistent. "Alright."

He grabbed his jacket from his room and then put hers on her from next to the front door, and they walked to the end of the corridor and towards the stairs. Their halls were huge and somewhat prison-like in their setting, but it was always nice being surrounded by students. She, Ginny and Ron lived in the same halls, but Harry lived in separate ones ten minutes away.

Same as Tom.

She glanced at her phone as Ron talked fervently about his rugby team, and saw an unanswered text from Tom. They were texting a few hours ago about their last Psychology lecture, and she hadn't replied again since she'd started getting ready to go see Ron some hours ago.

Hermione locked her phone and put it back in her pocket, turning to Ron. His eyes shone with passion as he talked about the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, and how he wasn't a big fan until Ken- his flatmate- told him about them.

She smiled and tried to contribute whatever information on rugby she knew as they walked towards her flat.

The sixth time, it was late, and she was walking back from the grocery store- she hadn't seen Tom there, unsure if he had odd and irregular shifts or if he wasn't working there anymore.

She was walking across the street when she heard a grunt coming out of an alley- the sound of a trashcan being kicked echoed in the dark street. She walked a bit more hesitantly. It wasn't a dodgy neighbourhood, but at the same time, it wasn't a private compound, either.

She stuck herself against the wall and peered in. Tom sat on a couch that had been thrown out, a cigarette between his fingers. He took a puff and leaned back. He seemed exhausted.

Hermione hesitated for a few seconds before she stepped in. Tom, alarmed, shot up from his seat before recognised her. He narrowed his eyes and sat back again, glaring.

"Nice place you've got here," she said. "I love the exposed brick. It's very fashionable. Must get a lot of natural lighting in the morning, too."

Tom frowned for a second before giving her a tight smile. "Ah, yes. Welcome to my humble abode." He smacked the seat next to him, releasing a cloud of dust. "Have a seat."

Hermione looked at the emerging grey cloud, seeming thoughtful. "You know what, I'm good right here." She put her grocery bag on the floor. "Hope I'm not interrupting anything. You looked rather pensive."

He sighed, Hermione looked at him steadily. For once, he seemed rather vulnerable- his eyes flitted around uneasily and his eyebrows were furrowed, a deep line forming between them.

"Remember the other day, when you and the ginger saw me and Potter fighting outside the union pub?"

Hermione's eyebrows raised. Tom took another puff.

"Yeah, you seemed really upset. What was going on?"

"Nothing, really- Potter and I just disagree on certain… political discourse, but that happens."

"Understandable. Politics does break a lot of pub windows."

Tom's face twisted- at first, Hermione thought he was upset, but she realised he was trying not to laugh. She couldn't help but smile to herself.

"That's not the point," he said, putting out the cigarette on the side of the couch. "The point is you. And Weasley."

Hermione opened her mouth, but nothing came out. What?

"You were on… a date."

Hermione narrowed her eyes and nodded. "We were on a date."

"Are you two dating?"

Hermione nodded wordlessly.

He seemed to be trying to say something, but it wouldn't come out properly. "It was a strange sight. You don't look good together. He doesn't go along well with you."

Hermione crossed her arms and subconsciously leaned forwards, almost challengingly. She was confused. But her heart was pounding against her chest. "Who goes along with me, then?"

Tom opened his mouth then shut it. Open, close. Open, close, like a goldfish, then, he sighed.

Just as Hermione thought that he wouldn't give an answer, Tom looked her in the eye and said:


She stuttered.

The both of them hung in the silence for a few moments more- Hermione felt stupefied, Tom stared at the wall across from him, lighting another cigarette. She looked at the box. Red Marlborlos.

"Are you asking me out?" She asked, abruptly.


"In an alley- in the same alleyway I saw you shagging a girl? How fucking romantic."

Tom finally looked at her. "So you admit you saw it."

Hermione rolled her eyes, releasing an incredulous laugh. "Yes. You got me. I didn't know what was happening and I was worried."

"Fair enough," said Tom. "You seem the type to get laid so little you couldn't recognize a good shag if it was happening three feet away."

Hermione blanched. "Oh. Really."

Tom swallowed, seeming slightly regretful- finally, she saw a bottle at his feet, Standard Russian, with little left inside. Now, his strange attitude made sense.

He followed her line of eyesight and peered down at the bottle. He picked it up and took a swig. "Was on discount. Got a good offer."

She shook her head. "You're drunk. Alone. In an alleyway." She picked up her groceries. "You're a fucking asshole, you know that, Tom?"

Picking up her groceries, Hermione turned on her heel and stormed away from Tom. She violently wiped a tear running down her cheek with her sleeve.

She didn't see him, but Tom stumbled out behind her, watching her walk away, her wild hair bouncing behind her back.

Hermione was in the library. She sat in the non-silent section, flipping through a textbook. She hated this chapter, it was so dull.

It had been a week, seven whole fucking days, and she couldn't stop thinking about the alleyway.

Ron sat across from her, Ginny next to him. Ron had fallen asleep on his laptop, and Ginny poked his head with her pen, half-heartedly trying to wake him up. Even though neither of them had overlapping modules, they would sometimes study together in an attempt to motivate each other.

Hermione and Ron were almost the same age, Ginny a year younger. Despite the age difference, they were both second years, since Ginny's course did not have high entry requirements and allowed her to enter a year early.

Uncapping her highlighter, Hermione moved to mark a few points on the page.

"Ugh, I'm dead." Ron stood up from his chair. "I'm going to go get coffee, anyone need anything?"

Ginny shook her head distractedly. "I'm good, thanks. Need to sleep early tonight."

"Can I get a latte or something, please?" Hermione looked up from her textbook. "I'm also dead."

Ron smiled sweetly as he put on his coat. "Sure. I'll be back in ten."

As Ron walked away, Ginny looked up from her notebook and stared steadily at Hermione.


"Oh, nothing," said Ginny. "Just wondering if Tom texted you today."

Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Uh, no, why?"

Ginny raised her eyebrows. She stood up from her chair and turned around the table, sitting next to Hermione. "Because I see a little bit of feels happening there and I don't want you fucking my brother up."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "We literally only talk about our classes." Hermione sighed and pushed her textbook aside. "I see why you're concerned, though. There's nothing. Besides, he's a bit of an asshole..." She looked away. "We haven't texted in a while."

"A bit?" Ginny laughed. "Hah. He's a whole asshole. You know his weird friends, right?"

Hermione nodded, trying not to act too interested.

"Well, I heard- actually, Lavender overheard Dolohov talking to Lucius who said that Tom's got with Bellatrix. They're like, together or something."

Hermione choked. "What?"

Ginny sighed. "Look, Hermione. I'm not trying to make you upset. But you're with someone. You tell me so little about him, but I see it regardless. He's playing with your feelings. He's an asshole and you don't deserve that."

Hermione ignored her. "How long?"

"How long what?"

"Him and Bella, how long?"

Ginny sighed, then fumbled with her phone. "Lavender says she first heard about it a week and a half, two weeks ago."

Hermione pulled her textbook back in front of her and began reading again. "Okay. That's fine. I hope they're happy."

Ginny put her hand on Hermione's back. "I know it sucks. But you're better. You deserve better. You have better."

Hermione nodded. Ron showed up again, and placed a latte on her desk. He walked around and sat in his seat, oblivious to the happenings. Hermione wasn't sure if she was good at hiding her inner turmoil or if Ron just had the emotional range of a teaspoon.

"Are we going to the ball, then?"

Ginny squealed. "Yes, Ron! Finally, first smart thing you said today. Yes, everyone's going. I need to buy a dress, though."

"Good! Hermione, have you thought about what you're wearing yet?"

Ron had asked her to go to the ball with him a couple of days ago- it was romantic, he'd bought her flowers and made her a little card. She couldn't actually read what it said because of his hurried, boyish handwriting, nor hear half of what he said because he was so adorably nervous, but she'd gladly said yes.

"No," she said, clearing her throat. "I have a couple of ideas, though. I'll figure it out."

Ron looked excited, and Ginny squealed. The two of them kept discussing outfits and which pre-drinks they'd be attending.

Hermione sighed and switched her focus back to her textbook. The end of semester ball was two weeks away, then exams, then Christmas break. A few weeks home would probably do her good. She was so, so exhausted.

Hermione sat on the couch, placing her weight on her back rather than her feet, trying to put the least amount of pressure on her heels as possible.

Ron sat beside her, his arms around her shoulders, but he was excitedly chatting to two people standing around them. They were in Ron's kitchen, who had chosen to host pre-drinks himself instead of going elsewhere. Ginny sat on the other couch, her body facing a third year who frequented the same gym as her. Hermione sipped from her drink, a lousily and lazily mixed rum and coke, and sighed. She was supposed to be happy, to be excited, and probably a little buzzed by now, but she wasn't. Lavender told Ginny that Tom was going to the ball as well, and they both suspected that Bella would be on his arm.

Downing her drink, Hermione stood up to get a refill, but Ron offered to get it for her. She thanked him with a kiss on his cheek and sat down again, silently watching the party get louder, and from Ginny's perspective, a little roudier.

She sighed and leaned back in her seat. This was going to be a long night.

The seventh time, Hermione was anxious.

They walked into the large tent- beautiful lights scanned the entire room, and jazzy music streamed through the cool air. Hermione walked in on Ron's hand, Ginny on hers. Her nerves had piped down, just a little bit, and she was relieved. Really, she'd looked forward to this for such a long time- it was her and Ron's first 'real' event together- and she'd spent so, so much time on her appearance, tonight. Ginny had kindly offered to do her makeup, which was flawless, artistic, and goddamn time consuming. From facemasks to nose strips to moisturisers and expensive setting spray, the whole jig was underway, and she felt grand.

But still. There was one person she definitely did not want to see.

"Champagne?" Asked Ron, causing Hermione to snap out of her thoughts.

"Of course- how could I say no to you?" She winked, snuggling up to Ron. She grabbed the flute from his hands.

"You should know that this glass is free on entry, but for the rest of the night we're doing-"

"-Shots!" Interjected Ginny, who grabbed Hermione's arm and pointed to one of the bars, where they had a large tower of shot glasses. A bartender stood behind, filling them up gradually, and an abominable amount of lime and salt were found on either side of the tower.

Hermione gulped, and Ron's eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hairline.

"Ooookay, didn't expect to start this soon," said Ron. He pursed his lips and looked at Hermione.

She shrugged. "Let's down this champagne first," she said, though with hesitation, "then join Ginny on this… train ride to Wonderland."

"Pukeland, I predict," said Ron. Hermione winced at the various memories of holding Ginny's hair back as she spewed various types of drinks.

Thirty minutes later, Ginny was close to puking, Ron had given up, and Hermione had wittingly, though cowardly, only downed three shots. Her throat stung and her tongue felt fuzzy. Tequila did no one any favours.

"Hermione," said Ron, who seemed a lot more stable than her despite downing five more shots than her current count, "would you like to dance with me?"

Hermione's heart warmed. They'd danced together on nights out- but usually they were sweaty, tired, and she was normally sleepy. And it was never to slow music, but always to pumped up, heavy bass hits.

"Yes, Ron," she said. She couldn't help smiling. "I'd love to!"

With a sweet smile, Ron held his hand out to her, and she placed hers in. With a glance, she turned to look at Ginny- she was on a chair beside the wall. As if on queue, Ginny looked up in a sudden moment of soberness. She winked at Hermione and urged her to go with her head, signalling that she would be okay. Hermione smiled, still concerned. She thought about still keeping an eye on Ginny while she was dancing.

"Don't worry about Gin," said Ron. "I specifically asked for her permission to steal you for a quick dance. The girl has the tolerance of a beast," he said, laughing. "She's Scottish through and through."

Hermione laughed as they neared the dancefloor. A few couples were dancing, but people were mostly in big groups, dancing together.

Ron placed his hand on the small of her back, and held her hand in the other. Suddenly, he seemed nervous, like a schoolboy on his first dance.

Hermione placed her free hand on his shoulder, and they began swaying to the motion. Surprisingly, he was a great dancer- but unfortunately, she was a horrible one. Multiple times, she stepped on his foot, and each time she would splutter and apologise profusely.

"It's fine," he'd say, laughing. "You're nervous. It's okay." He let go of one hand for a moment, placing it under her chin an tilting it upwards so she would look at him. "I've got you."

She smiled- her smile came from a place of happiness and giddiness. She shrugged and tried to put her focus back to her feet.

One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four-

She stopped.

He descended the staircase, a girl with pitch-black hair on his arm. He wore a tuxedo, one button done, a black bowtie in place. The girl- Bella- pushed her long, thick hair behind her back, and flashed him a smile with her painted, red lips.

He smiled back.

Ron, mistaking her abrupt stop for a misstep, guided her on. She distractedly let him lead her, but her eye stayed on Tom.

Suddenly, he eyed her back.

Instantly, Hermione tore her eyes off, and refocussed her attention to Ron, and her feet.

"You're doing better! There you go," said Ron. He squeezed her hand in encouragement.

"Thanks," she said, her brain still fuzzy. They continued.

He was here. He was really here.

And he really was with Bellatrix.

She couldn't help it, but her heart sped up. It pounded a storm in her chest- bang! Bang! Bang!- and her breathing came in short spurts. Suddenly, she stopped.

"Gosh, Ron, I really need to pee. I'm so sorry."

Ron's eyebrows raised in mild embarrassed, but then he laughed. "Yeah no of course, go. I think it's outside, by the smoking area. Want me to come?"

"No," she said with urgency. "Go check on Ginny. She'd probably had four more shots by now."

Ron nodded. "Good idea. I'll be by the bar, meet me there."

Hermione nodded absently. Quickly, she walked outside the tent and towards the smoking area. She hurried to the women's bathroom round the back, thankful that there was no queue just yet, and slammed herself inside a cubicle.

Fuck. Fuck. This wasn't supposed to happen.

Tom was here. With Bella. This wasn't supposed to happen.

She sighed and placed her hands in her hands. She wanted Tom to leave.


Her own thoughts took her by surprise- why? Why did she care? Tom came to the end of year ball, as did many other people. Tom came with a date, as did many other people. Why did it matter?

Why was her heart pounding? Why were her palms sweaty? Why were her legs weak?

She sighed. She shouldn't have cared, she really shouldn't.

But she couldn't help it.

The image of Tom with Bella floated in her mind- Tom stating a horrible remark on a passerby's dress, and Bella cackling at his joke, her hand touching his arm. He would smirk, satisfied by his joke.

Hermione squeezed her eyes.

She was with Ron. Ron would crack a joke- and not an insensitive, mean one- and she would laugh, and she would put her hand on his arm, and he would smile at her sweetly.

For a second, Ron's image flickered, and was momentarily replaced with Tom.

Tom would dance with her- she wouldn't have a single misstep. She would look at him, and he would look at her. He would smile, albeit tightly, and she would smile back. Maybe- just maybe- if she was brave enough, she would lean her head and rest it against his chest.

No. No. Snap out of it!

Slamming the door open and stomping out, Hermione quickly washed her hands- as if she'd actually used the toilet and wasn't on the brink of a mental breakdown inside, to keep up appearances- and didn't bother looking in the mirror. She headed out the bathroom and towards the smoking area, not looking ahead, but angry, scared, enraged, torn-

She nearly stepped on someone's foot and launched her body backwards. Looking up, she found deep, dark eyes in her eyesight.

"Hermione Granger."

Hermione gulped.

Think of the devil and he appears?

"Tom." She straightened her shoulders. "Riddle."

"Those are my two names, yes," he said, bringing up a cigarette to his mouth. "How's your night going?"

"Excellent," she said, almost challengingly. She looked around him-

"Bella's not here, if that's who you're looking for," he said, with near-contempt. Hermione wanted to slap him. Gosh, if magic was real, and she could curse him or something…

"Who's Bella?" She was impressed by how she didn't skip a note. It almost sounded like it was an honest question.

He narrowed his eyes. "My date. I'm aware Lavender's been feeding you information."

Hermione narrowed her eyes back. "She has been doing no such thing. If you know me- if you've even met me, you must know I indulge in no such gossip and frivolous matters."

He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again. Then- "You're a horrible liar."

Hermione shrugged. Suddenly, she felt cornered. "Since you've brought her up- shouldn't you get back to her?"

Sans emotions, he replied, "no. She's with friends. She doesn't smoke."

Momentarily unable to help herself, Hermione cracked a relatively humourous line, "yeah. I heard somewhere that it isn't too good for you."

Tom huffed, and smiled, but looked away from her.

It was weird how satisfied she would feel every time she made him laugh. She just noticed.

"Are you here with Ron?"

The satisfaction drained from her body.

"I'm here with Ron."

Tom nodded absently. His cigarette was almost out, but he still held it between his fingers.

"You're here with Ron. I'm here with Bella."

Hermione inspected her nails. She'd broken one without noticing.

Suddenly, Tom dropped his cigarette on the floor and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her away from the tent and smoking area. Hermione wanted to object- she really did- but despite her verbal protests, her body didn't react. She hated being dragged, and she felt like he initiated unnecessary physical contact without permission, but a little part of her wanted to see what was going to happen.

He released her waist as they streamed further from the ball, and she followed him, however reluctantly, into a small alleyway in the building next to them.

Another alleyway. How appropriate.

He stopped, finally, and pulled another cigarette from his pack. Exasperated, Hermione tore it from his grip and threw it to the floor.

"I damn well know you didn't drag me here- away from my friends and my date, and into another fucking alleyway just so you could smoke. You can smoke any minute of the goddamn day you want. Just tell me."

He scoffed. "Tell you what?"

"Why you dragged me here!"

"You followed me of your own volition towards the end, didn't you?"

She threw her head back, laughing. "You're a fucking asshole, Tom."

"And you love it."

They looked at each other- Hermione, just now, realised that they were standing close.

Too close.

He tucked a loose hair behind her ear.

She looked at his eyes, and for a brief moment- so brief- her eyes flickered to his lips.

He kissed her.

For a few moments, Hermione didn't react. Her brain went on full overdrive. This is what you wanted, isn't it?

Isn't it?

Hermione pulled back.

"What are you doing?"

Tom scoffed, but he wouldn't look her in the eye. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Are alleyways your thing? Like, are they just… your thing? Is this how you get off? Dragging girls for a quick shag in some dirty, dark spot?"


"Don't bullshit me, Tom. This-" she pointed between the two of them- "Whatever it is, it's nothing. I'm with someone. You're with someone. That's it. I'm done."

She was panting, she realized. Tom looked at her, something unidentifiable in his eyes. He heart was pounding, still. Her hands were shaking.


Suddenly, she grabbed his collar- Hermione nearly slammed her lips against his, and they kissed. But this time, it was hot, her tongue felt like it was on fire, an inferno lit in her core-

This time, Tom pushed her away.

"What are you doing?" He said, echoing her earlier words- except this time, he was smirking.

Hermione touched her lips.

"I don't know."

With force, she stormed out of the alleyway.

What have I done?


She looked back at him. He stood in his place, a mixture of satisfaction and shock on his face. "Where are you going?"

"Away from you," she burst. "Away from this."

His stare was steady, emotionless. "Why?"

"I'm with Ron. You're with Bella."

He shrugged. "I see."

"It's wrong. It's just wrong."

"I want you," he said. "You're better than him. You should be with me."

Hermione sighed- her very soul felt exhausted, drained. "I'm with Ron, you're with Bella," she repeated. "And that's how it is."

For the first time, hurt seemed to flash across Tom's face. He looked downwards, at his pack of cigarettes, to hide it.

Her heart hurt. It shouldn't have, but it did.

Without another word, Hermione turned around.

Everything was a blur as she headed back to the smoking area and then inside the tent- she beelined for the bar where she found Ron. Silently, she accepted his offer to dance, and let him lead her to the dance floor.

Ron looked at her, sweetly, and she smiled back. She leaned her head against his chest.

They danced- Ron asked her if she was okay, and she nodded silently. He seemed to understand her need for no words and complied.

They danced, and minutes went by, but to Hermione, they felt like hours.

As she rested her head on Ron's chest, and he nuzzled her neck, Tom stepped down the staircase into the tent and stared at her.

The music softened and slowed down, and so did Ron's heart.

She stared back.

A/N: no happy endings in this house! Leave me your reviews, send me asks on my tumblr (also eltseth), tell me all about how you forgot I existed because of my ridiculous inactivity.

Anyways, I apologize for any typos or weird syntax. My cat was present as this was being typed up and finished, so you can blame him. This laptop is warm and he likes to sit on the keyboard, leading to streams of gibberisqasZsww2QWEASW2srsdf