Chapter Twenty: Hell Hath No Fury…
Thursday, September 17th, 1943
The Witching Hour
The two bound girls were sprawled in the middle of the stone floor in the innermost section of the septagram, hands and feet tied behind their backs tightly. The smaller of the two girls, blonde and pale, was unconscious again, her mouth slightly open as she breathed unsteadily. The second, an auburn haired girl, was wide awake, her grey eyes darting around the hooded figures standing around, but unable to speak. The hooded figures watched the two girls and muttered amongst themselves, shifting from foot to foot, but holding no power to act. The male and female figure standing outside the circle were currently in the midst of yet another argument.
"I already told you," the female hissed, "what our lord wants done with them."
"And I told you," the male hissed back, "that I think you are misinterpreting his orders."
"Impossible," the female snapped, "I understand him better than you do. He wants the girls disposed of."
"He said he wanted the situation dealt with, which is not nearly the same thing," the male pointed out. "I think you are jumping to overly violent conclusions once again."
"How touching how much you love the vermin," the female sneered, "so compassionate of you to want them alive."
"That is not it at all," the male said, his voice beginning to rise. "I am getting very tired of you twisting everything I say on purpose. I just think we can do much more damage by keeping them alive."
At these words, the auburn haired girl craned her head in their direction, apparently overhearing these last words. A glimmer of a new emotion besides fear shone in her eyes.
"And I say we kill them and leave their corpses flayed and burned on the steps of Hogwarts," the female said, her voice also rising in her anger. "We must leave the boy a message. That is the whole point of this."
The auburn haired girl blanched, and curled into herself, in a futile effort to disappear from the room, from this situation, form her whole, suddenly horrifying life.
"Dead is bad," the male patiently, "dead is upsetting. But alive, and permanently maimed, to be reminded day after day of failure and pain and ruin… that is truly wounding the boy."
The female considered this in silence, eyeing the motionless blonde girl and the terror stricken auburn haired girl. "I think you have a point," she said finally. "Any spells in mind?"
The male's smile was barely visible from beneath the hood. "I'd thought you would never ask."
Thursday, September 17th, 1943
The retaliation from spending an hour alone with Tom Riddle in the dungeons at night was swift and brutal. Tom's Tarts were, surprisingly, not the only culprits, and Hermione was, surprisingly, not the only target. She had just sat down to breakfast, between Marion and Alastor Moody, when the pitcher of pumpkin juice in front of them exploded in her face, soaking all three. Hermione only had time to reach for her napkin in an attempt to wipe pumpkin juice out of her eyes when the bench under her cracked, sprawling her on the floor.
Loud, raucous laughter was coming from many directions in the hall, and a voice that sounded suspiciously like Jane Landy, co-founder of Tom's Tarts, aka Venomous Eyes from the library, shrieked:
"Better not eat another tart Granger, with an arse that fat!"
Mean laughter followed as Hermione picked herself off the floor and muttered "Reparo" at the broken bench.
"Oh honestly," Marion snapped, glaring over at some of the laughing students. "The maturity level is astonishing."
"Don't worry about it," Hermione said wearily. She was having unpleasant Viktor Krum flashbacks again. "It's not like I haven't dealt with worse."
Marion shot her a curious look at this, and Marlene was just reaching over the table with her own napkin when the eggs exploded upwards as well, catapulting into Hermione's bushy hair and sticking there.
"Really!" Evelyn said, scandalized, "this is just getting ridic-"
Hermione was hit with a cry of "Capillus Adversus!" coming from the Hufflepuff table, just as the owl post started to swoop into the hall.
Immediately, her hair changed dramatically. She was sure this was meant to upset her, as the Capillus Adversus hex made the unfortunate victim's hair turn into its opposite, and most girls spent time making their hair the way they wanted it. Most girls however, were not Hermione Granger, who could only be arsed to make her hair look nice when a Yule Ball rolled around, once every century or so. Consequently, the Capillus Adversus was actually a significant improvement on Hermione's usual rat's nest mess of a hairstyle, as she now sported a rather fetching Fleur Delacour mane of white blonde straight hair.
"That is quite enough, Miss Sorenger! Ten points from Hufflepuff!" yelped Professor Flitwick as he hurried down the aisle between tables to chastise the offending member of Tom's Tarts.
"Anyone know how to fix this?" Hermione asked, unconcernedly buttering a piece of toast.
"Nah," shrugged Marlene. "Looks good on you anyway."
"Yeah, that was a real blow," snorted Wyatt Corsington from a few seats down the row. "Hufflepuffs."
Hermione was just lifting the toast to her mouth, egg still attached to her hair but now practically invisible in the white-blonde strands, pumpkin juice still on her face, but determined to show how much she did not care about the Terrible Tart Onslaught of '43 when another jinx went soaring at her back. Alastor Moody shoved her out of the way, getting a face full of the jinx and suddenly sprouting a ridiculous beard.
Moody felt his face briefly, then shrugged as well and returned to his bacon.
"Not really going for the jugular, are they?" said Marion dispassionately. "They seem to be just trying to make you ugly."
Hermione snorted, and took a bite of toast as the first owl landed in front of her.
"Oh…no…'Ermione, iz zat a…a…" Brigitte struggled for the word.
"Howler!" Richard Potter burst out from the other side of Wyatt Corsington. "Run for it, Granger!"
Hermione froze for a brief second before her knife and fork leapt off her plate and attempted to attack her, and four more Howlers landed in front of her, the owls all pushing each other with their wings to deliver the mail to Hermione first. With a yelp, Hermione pulled out her wand and repelled the knife as it lunged for her eyes and the fork as it soared toward her throat. Marion smashed Hermione's now rabid spoon with a copy of their History of Magic book, and Moody stomped on her snarling and fanged goblet.
"Get out of here!" Marlene yelled desperately at her, as she seized Hermione's growling plate and beat it repeatedly against the table.
Hermione, not wanting to give the Tart's satisfaction, wavered a moment more, and the first Howler exploded, shrieking insults about her looks and her sexual experience in the most venomous and shrill tones possible.
Simultaneously, the tray of éclairs exploded next, dousing Hermione, Marlene, Marion, Alastor, Evelyn, Brigitte, Wyatt, and Richard with cream and icing. The next Howler exploded, and accused Hermione of brewing love potions.
"For the love of Merlin, Granger!" Wyatt Corsington roared, "GET OUT OF HERE!"
Hermione jumped up, her ludicrous Fleur hair swaying alluringly, as another hex soared over her head and another Howler exploded. She grabbed her bag and ran, angry, cruel laughter ringing in her ears from all four tables, along with bellowed insults from Howlers and the bolder Tarts who thought the Howlers would hide their misbehavior from the professors.
As she sprinted out of the great hall, Hermione chanced a look at the Slytherin table, her curiosity getting the better of her. Riddle wasn't there. In fact, Riddle was sprinting out of the hall ahead of her, his own hair red and spiking crazily in all directions, three Howlers following him as well. The two of them ran out of the great hall, past the late arrivals who were yawning, and while Riddle paused for a moment, Hermione dashed ahead to the corridor leading the kitchens. The house elves. The house elves wouldn't judge her or hex her. After all, she hadn't mentioned S.P.E.W. to them… yet.
She ran down the corridor, past more yawning Hufflepuffs, and was just stretching her hand out to tickle the pear when she realized Riddle was beside her.
"Oh," she said, taken aback, getting a better look at him. It should probably be funny, the two of them were covered in various food substances, Howlers and owls were still following them, exploding with horrible insults that couldn't even be fully heard in the echoing and enclosed corridor, and their hair was absurd. But Riddle's hair didn't make her want to laugh, because Riddle's hair was Ron's shade of red, and Harry's special brand of sticking-out crazy. "Oh," she said again, tears prickling her eyes.
"Don't give them the satisfaction," Riddle gritted out to her through his teeth, and Hermione was startled to see that the mask had fully slipped, and Riddle looked angry. Riddle looked very angry. An older group of male Hufflepuffs wandered by, and laughed uproariously at the pair of them.
"Nice look, handsome!" one sneered at Riddle.
"Let's see if they all fancy you now, you stuck-up git!" roared another, as pumpkin juice gently dripped from Riddle's robes to the floor.
Riddle's eyes flashed, and his hands clenched and unclenched, but he remained silent.
"Looking good Granger," one of the boys said approvingly to Hermione, which was the stupidest thing anyone had said to her all morning, as she still had egg, éclair, and pumpkin juice all over her as well. It must be the Veela hair, she mused.
Another one of the boys eyed her in a disturbing manner.
"Why don't you ditch the orphan?" said a third boy, all three surprising Hermione with their un Hufflepuffish behavior. "Even his nonexistent Gringotts vault is looking better than him right now."
"Fuck off," Hermione snarled, shocking herself, the boys, and Riddle most of all. She wasn't even sure if nineteen forties slang encompassed 'fuck off' and she had a feeling if it did, girls didn't say it from the way they were looking at her. "I said beat it," she snapped when they didn't move. "I'd rather kiss an Acromantula than talk to you losers."
"How dare you—" the first boy started before Riddle found his voice.
"Ten points from Hufflepuff for inappropriate language," he snapped, feeling the sharp edges of his prefect badge. He glanced sideways at Hermione, looking somewhat regretful. "And ten points from Gryffindor for ah…abusive language."
The Hufflepuff boys glared, but clearly dared to go no further, and slouched off.
Hermione shot a dirty look at Riddle. "Thanks a lot, Tom," she said sourly. "Considering this is all your fault." And she tickled the pear, and yanked open the portrait when the handle appeared, practically leaping through the hole as the last Howler finally exploded, screaming at her that she was a ugly slut who deserved to die.
To her annoyance, Riddle followed her, still fuming.
"How, how is this my fault?" Riddle demanded, enraged. He then adopted a high pitched whine that sounded nothing like Hermione. "I decided I don't care what other people think, Tom!"
The house elves that had started eagerly bustling their way slowed down, looking apprehensive at the looks on Riddle and Hermione's faces, and the food products covering their faces and bodies.
"Let them talk! See if I care!" Riddle squealed in his fake Hermione voice. "Let's wander alone in the dungeons together for an hour! I think that's a great idea Tom!"
Hermione probably should have taken closer notice of the fact that Riddle's fake kind and concerned handsome orphan prefect act had been murdered, and was being danced on by his true jerk-off personality, but she was too angry to contemplate what it could mean.
"I am not the one with hordes of lunatics twittering at everything I do!" Hermione bellowed, stopping and rounding on Riddle, her time with Harry and his rage issues finally paying off. "I'm not the one who has jealous groupies sending someone Howlers and hexing them just because they are doing a school project together!"
The house elves, with the exception of one brave, small elf in her tea-towel, began slowly backing away from the clearly deranged teenage witch and wizard.
"It's not my fault!" Riddle shouted, "I don't even find you attractive!"
"Good!" Hermione roared, "Than we're on the same page!"
They stared at each other angrily, both breathing heavily, faces flushed unattractively, hair absurd, food covering their persons. Hermione took a moment to wonder if she had shocked Riddle by telling him she was possibly the only girl in the school not attracted to him. She was not even slightly surprised that he felt the same about her.
The brave house elf stepped forward, before they could start shouting again. "Is sir and miss wanting food?" she squeaked, wringing her hands together. "Kreegan can make you delicious food, sir and miss!"
Hermione looked at the house elf, her rage dissipating somewhat. "Thank you Kreegan," she said kindly, making a mental note to try to convert her to S.P.E.W. at the earliest opportunity. "I would love some breakfast."
Riddle exhaled loudly, his expression changing. "Yes thank you, Kreegan," he said, "our apologies for the yelling. We have been harassed by some of the other students over a misunderstanding this morning."
"Tom's Tarts, Mr. Riddle sir?" squeaked a male elf, shuffling his way over from the group of elves that had retreated.
"What?" Riddle said, astonished, "Why does everyone keep saying that? What is this constant nattering on about tarts, complete with smug looks?"
"I'll explain some other time," Hermione said wearily, regretting bitterly the shouting and her backwards mobility with Riddle, slumping into a chair at the table. And she had been doing so well making friends with him!
"Hermione…" Riddle began hesitantly, sitting across from her, his hair still spiking wildly, "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to say that about your…appearance. I didn't actually mean it, I was just angry."
"Oh, you meant it all right Riddle," Hermione said, as the house elves happily bustled over with a huge array of breakfast foods, "but I honestly do not care. I never thought you did find me attractive." She ran a hand through her egg-y Fleur hair, and added, "Although judging by those Hufflepuff's reactions, maybe the Veela hair will help."
"No," Riddle said instantly, "it doesn't suit you at all. It looks much better the other way. You don't care about your appearance. I like that." He seemed to be desperately trying to make up for his earlier blunder, but Hermione couldn't manage to suppress an eye-roll at his obvious lying.
"Kreegan is wondering why sir and miss are not eating?" the small house elf asked, her large almond shaped eyes looking worried. "Is there something else sir and miss would like?"
"Have you got any chocolate cake, Kreegan?" Hermione asked heavily, "Preferably as chocolate as possible."
Riddle shot her a look as Kreegan happily bustled away, assuring Hermione that she most surely did have the perfect chocolate cake.
"What?" Hermione asked, attempting to look dignified. "I think I deserve it after this morning."
As the most delectable chocolate cake she had ever seen floated her way, supported by three house elves due to its enormity, Hermione gave a moan of delight.
"That looks delicious, Kreegan," Hermione said gratefully, as a large slice was placed in front of her. "Do you want any, Tom?"
Riddle looked like he was wrestling with something painful and internal, a judgmental purse to his lips as he looked at Hermione devouring a chocolate cake for breakfast.
"Oh come on," she snorted, "I don't know what those Howlers were shouting at you, but I'd say you deserve some chocolate for breakfast as well."
Riddle stared for a moment longer at the chocolate cake, still looking disapproving, than glanced up at Kreegan.
"Do you have any coconut cake?" he asked hopefully.
"Ralmy made a coconut cake this morning!" squeaked another elf excitedly, "Ralmy will bring it to you right now, young sir!"
"How delightful," murmured Riddle as the two of them tackled their cakes. "Where did you ever learn about this wonderful, sugar filled place, Hermione?"
Hermione froze temporarily, cake halfway to her mouth. "Brock," she improvised lamely, "told me it was near the Hufflepuff common room."
"Wonderful," Riddle said, looking around as the house elves beamed at him hugely. "Is this where you were hiding the other day?"
"Yeah," Hermione said, pushing a long lock of Veela hair out of her way. How Fleur could stand it….
"Oh," said Riddle, looking at her hair, "I forgot to fix that." He pulled out his wand, and it was Hermione's turn to look judgmental.
"That hex lasts two weeks Tom, you should know that."
"Not if you're me," Riddle shrugged, and waved his wand idly, fixing both of their hair. Hermione tried not to look impressed. He was already arrogant enough. "Much better," he said smiling, tugging at a lock of Hermione's bushy hair.
"I really wish you would stop that," she said thickly through chocolate cake. After a huge swallow, she clarified to the confused looking Riddle. "You don't find me attractive, I don't find you attractive, it's fine. I do not care. I cannot emphasize to you enough how much I do not care."
"But I do find you attractive," Riddle said, sounded frustrated, "I just wanted to make you angry earlier. That's the only reason I said that."
"Liar," Hermione said, beginning to get amused. If only Harry could hear this. Lord Voldemort was frantically trying to convince Hermione Granger that he was attracted to her!
"Really," Riddle said to her earnestly, "I do! It was just the…the blonde hair…" he said, nose wrinkled. "It threw me off. You looked like a Malfoy. It was somewhat repulsive. You look much better now."
Hermione choked on bite of cake. "I thought you liked Igneus?" she said, surprised.
"I do! But the rest of them..." he made a face. "And they all look kind of inbred," he said in a hushed tone, looking scandalized at himself.
"Because they are," Hermione said witheringly. "All pure-bloods are. That's why we half-bloods are much better looking," she smiled at Riddle, knowing her views on blood purity were probably annoying him, and knowing he could do nothing about it.
Riddle unfortunately, had taken her comments in another direction, and thought she was mocking him again. He frowned.
"How can I convince you I find you attractive?" he asked, seriously. "What can I do?"
Hermione froze, horrified. What was he playing at? The silence spiraled horribly.
"Help me get this egg out of my hair," she said finally.
Riddle cast another set of spells at the two of them, removing all traces of exploded food, and opened his mouth again, still looking at her seriously, before Hermione quickly cut him off.
"Why were they attacking you, anyway?" she asked, tackling her second slice of cake. "I thought they're all in love with you."
Riddle grimaced. "Well, first of all, the other Slytherins weren't too pleased with me. I had words with Patrick Black and Dougal Malfoy, along with that Parkinson oaf and Thaddeus Nott. They seem to think I am dishonoring Slytherin honor. More than I normally do by being a half-blood, of course," Riddle added, sounding somewhat bitter. "But I believe the Howlers were shouting something about 'how dare I choose a hideous Gryffindor know-it-all over them…" Riddle trailed off, and absentmindedly stole a bite off of Hermione's chocolate cake.
"You offered!" Riddle said, sounding surprised. "Want some coconut?"
"Delicious," Hermione admitted, after she stole a bite of Riddle's cake.
"Mmmm," Riddle agreed, stealing another bite of hers. "Do you have any hot chocolate, Kreegan?" he asked politely.
"Yes sir, Mr. Riddle sir, right away!" the house elf said, looking adoringly at the pair of them. Apparently Hogwarts students didn't often interact with the house elves.
"I think we deserve more chocolate," Riddle said, faux seriously to Hermione and her raised brow.
"Couldn't agree with you more," she said, shoving yet more cake in her mouth.
"So," Riddle said slowly, "what are we going to do about all of this, Hermione? I can't see a way out of this tragedy."
"Pretend you're gay?" Hermione suggested.
"Pretend I'm happy?" Riddle said incredulously, "What exactly is that going to accomplish?"
"Oh," Hermione said, irritated at the cross generational slang problems, "I mean…pretend you like other boys."
She expected Riddle to look surprised or annoyed at this request, but he looked gloomy instead.
"Tried that," he said heavily, "last year. Igneus pretended to be my boyfriend. They refused to believe us. Also, I think it made some of them like me more. And…" he hesitated.
"And?" Hermione prompted.
"I stopped after three different boys asked me out to Hogsmeade," he muttered under his breath. "I mean…it was flattering," he said quickly, misinterpreting Hermione's expression, "but then Igneus decided as my fictional boyfriend that he had to defend my honor, and it started to get ugly."
"Well I have no idea what to do," Hermione admitted. "I had no clue they were quite so…rabid…or I would have thought twice about last night."
Riddle heaved a sigh. "We could ignore it, but the hexes might get worse."
"We could try to confront the rumors head on, but no one would believe us," Hermione added. "Or we could pretend we're dating, and I'll get killed."
"Or we could really date," Riddle suggested casually.
Hermione choked again, this time on her hot chocolate, scalding her throat. "Um…"
Riddle laughed, and Hermione joined in hesitantly.
"Well that leaves us one option," he said, looking at Hermione with a curious look in his eye that scared her more than a little.
Thursday, September 17th, 1943
Ravenclaw Seventh Year Boys Dormitory
Igneus Malfoy was lying in his bed, hangings spelled shut, staring dully up at the ceiling, seeing and hearing nothing. He had owled his parents. He had searched for clues where Audrey had disappeared. He had interrogated every prefect that had had been patrolling that night, and every teacher about what kind of magic could make two students disappear from Hogwarts. And now Igneus had nothing to do but lay there, accomplishing nothing. Helping his sister not at all, wherever she was.
"Igneus?" he heard Ralph Mullens ask from the other side of his curtains. "Are you coming to class?"
He took a moment to contemplate whether he had the energy to answer or not.
"Do you want anything?" Carl Lichfield asked him. "Anything to eat?"
"Do you want to talk?" Harold Pinkletter quiered.
"Your cousin Abraxas has sent you an owl," Ralph said quietly, "do you want to—"
"Are you sure you don't want—" Carl started to say, sounding desperate.
Igneus sat up in a hurry, and yanked his curtains open, revealing the fifteen worried faces of the other Ravenclaw seventh years.
"Just leave me alone!" he shouted, and the boys flinched, stunned at this shocking departure from jolly fun Igneus Malfoy's normal behavior.
Not feeling remotely guilty at their expressions, Igneus fell back into his bed, energy sapped. Tom. He needed to talk to Tom. But he didn't want to talk to Tom. He knew Tom was wrong. He knew the Malfoys were wrong, and he alone was right about blood purity. But his sister was missing, and he couldn't stop thinking about what Tom had said about Grindelwald.
"…he hates pure-bloods, and most wizards in general… he wants to rule with the Muggles and only some wizards, and wipe out the rest…. 'Malfoy' and 'Black' are two well known pure-blood names…"
Igneus knew he was right about blood purity. He knew it. So why couldn't he stop thinking that Grindelwald was a blood traitor?
Author's Note: I really do enjoy reviews! Just thought you should know.