Hermione had a crush, it was undeniable, but she felt silly because she didn't want to be like Lavender and Pavarti who were always talking about boys. Still it was different, she didn't like him just because he was handsome, which he was, she liked Tom Riddle because he was intelligent. She only noticed him because when he wasn't studying in the library he was stopping by to pick up books and because she had been compared to him more than once by professors who lauded her for her performance in class. He was Slytherin's golden boy and she aspired to be like him, to be appreciated for her knowledge rather than resented for it.
She reasoned that she handled her crush perfectly well, because she didn't sit and giggle or stare mooning at him. If they were both in the library she did afford herself opportunities to peek at him when she took breaks, but nothing that would seriously distract from her work. It was one of those library sessions where they were both studying that he approached her for the first time, "I'm sorry, but you checked out the last copy of "A Study of Ancient Numerology", I'm planning to use it as a supplementary source for my Arithmancy essay. Would you mind if I borrowed it?" He gestured to a book she had open on the library table and gave her a charming smile that left her fighting off a blush.
She found that she couldn't look directly at him so she avoided his gaze and nodded adding, "Of course, I was just doing a bit of light reading anyway." Hermione waited for some negative remark from the boy who she'd been looking up to from afar. Despite her time at Hogwarts being relatively short she'd been almost conditioned to expect disparaging comments from her classmates.
He hummed before asking, "What year are you? Don't take this the wrong way, but you don't look old enough to be taking Arithmancy, it's a third year and above course. Since I haven't seen you in my class you'd have to be at least a fourth year, which I doubt." There wasn't any accusation only open curiosity.
"First year, but there's nothing wrong with trying to learn new things," she hated how defensive she sounded, but it was true. This was a place of learning so why shouldn't she do exactly that?
She was slightly surprised when he chuckled lightly, a sound she decided she very much liked, and replied, "Seeking knowledge is always something to be praised." He reached for the book he'd asked for and she shuffled a bit to make it easier to reach. "What's your name?" He asked as he picked the book up, his tone still light and conversational.
"Hermione Granger," her voice was still less sure than his, but she'd held herself together far better than she expected when confronted by her crush.
"Alright then, Hermione Granger," he seemed to test her name, "I'll keep my eye out for you, clearly you have good taste in books." As he walked away she was impressed by how kind he was to a younger student especially considering the usual animosity between Slytherins and Gryffindors. If she was going to be a silly girl and have a crush she was glad it was on someone so nice.
In the weeks following little changed for her, the relationships she had with her house members were largely negative or apathetic, the only person she could count as a friend was Neville, He was sweet, but they had little to talk about, unless she was helping him with schoolwork which wasn't very stimulating not that she particularly minded helping. She didn't directly fight with her dorm mates, but they certainly were closer with each other than they were with her and everyone else either didn't care much about her or disliked how well she did. Still she refused to hold back to suit other people and it only encouraged her to work harder.
The other thing that didn't change was the way her eyes seemed to find their way to Tom Riddle when she allowed them to wander and she was positive that he'd caught her staring a few times. He'd greet her if they met in the library, but didn't make any moves to start conversing with her so she decided to take the initiative. She waited until he was alone in the library, she wouldn't dare approach him when he friends were around. As kind as he was he didn't keep great company, the other third year Slytherin boys would certainly pick on her for a multitude of reasons.
He didn't seem to notice her approach until she was just in front of the table he'd spread his books upon, he greeted her first, "Hermione, it's nice to see you again. Do you need anything?"
"Are you busy?" She asked not wanting to bother him if he was doing something important, but he pushed the books in front of him away slightly and turned his attention fully to her.
"I'm not doing anything that can't wait a few minutes, what brings you over here?" He asked and she managed to meet his gaze despite wanting to look at her feet.
"I just wanted to know if you had any book recommendations," she knew instinctively that he wasn't someone who'd be content with just what the curriculum provided and she thought if anyone would have a good idea of what would be most helpful to study it would be him.
"Book recommendations?" He repeated back, expecting a bit more clarification, and she knew she'd have to be a bit more specific.
"You're one of the best students this school has had in quite some time, objectively speaking, so I figured that you've probably been exploring magic outside what is required. I just wanted to know if you had any suggestions about what I should look into as someone who is a few years ahead of me," she rushed through her words and hoped he wouldn't brush her off as an annoying first year trying to get his attention.
"So you'd want me to work as a mentor of sorts?" His expression was slightly more calculating than she was used to.
"Oh, no I wouldn't want you to waste that much time, I just wanted a few suggestions," she tried to assuage what she thought would bother him, obviously he wouldn't want to waste free time helping her. What exactly could she provide him?
"To start I'd need to know just how advanced you are, please take a seat," he gestured for her to pull a chair up, "we'll do a quick run through of what you've studied." They went through the material a first year would need to know and Hermione had already memorized it all. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, with all the time you spend in the library I wouldn't be shocked if you already finished the second year textbooks." One look at her face and he clearly was able to read her expression, "fair enough. I suppose we're lucky I'm already ahead of my peers as well otherwise I wouldn't have much to teach you."
"Sorry," she wasn't sure why she was apologizing, but she vaguely felt like she should.
"Don't be, the pursuit of knowledge is always something to be praised," he nearly repeated his words from a few weeks ago. "Give me a few days and I'll write up some reading suggestions as well as some specific things to look into."
Beneath the surface of his benign smiles, Tom was mentally planning on how best to use Hermione. She was the perfect choice for a wolf in sheep's clothing, she was friendless, naive, and believed in his false personality enough to develop an obvious crush on him. It certainly didn't hurt that she was clearly smarter than her peers and could actually prove useful, rather than the majority of the fools he was often surrounded by. The only reason he didn't care about her blood status was because she was a pawn who nobody would link to him and he didn't intend for her to get too involved in his plans or meet his knights who wouldn't appreciate a mud-blood.
It would take time, but he'd have his own little Gryffindor weapon if he moved the pieces in the correct ways.
She wanted to be his protege, but he would make her his soldier.
I know this chapter was short, but I just wanted to set the basic idea of the story. Also don't worry about how meek and love-struck she seems to be right now, she's 12, alone, and a handsome older boy is the only person who pays attention to her. Her personality will come forward more over time.