Chapter Thirty-One: Of Whipped Cream and Optometrists

Monday, November 29th, 1943

6:36 AM


Phobos looked up from his slumped posture at the library table, his eyes bloodshot, and his usual immaculate white blonde hair a mess. There stood of all people, Marion Hinsley, her lips pursed, as they almost continuously were, judgmentally.

"What?" he snapped, "Here to talk about our Ancient Runes assignment? Only I don't have time, not at all, to discuss—"

"No," Marion said, "that's not what I'm here to discuss."

And, to his horror, she sat down across from him. Being seen in public with Hortense Lockhart was one thing, but to be seen with Marion Hinsley? Social suicide. He could never show his face in Slytherin again.

"Well," he snarled after a moment of recovery, "shove off then, won't you? I'm busy here."

"Busy trying to remove the hex Tom Riddle placed on Hermione Granger?" Marion said smoothly.

Phobos dropped his quill. "No—I—how—no! That's not what I'm doing at all!"

"No?" Marion asked, eyebrow raised. "Shame. I wanted to help you if you were."

"Help me?" Phobos said, astounded, "You hate me!"

"I don't hate you if you're decent enough to help Hermione," Marion corrected him. "And look, Phobos-" she glanced around quickly, now sure no one was around, "Hermione figured out he'd done something to her. And she was working on solving the mystery about what happened to your cousin Estelle. But then—"

"Wait wait wait," Phobos said, holding up his hands, sure he had misunderstood, "Granger knew?"

"Not at first," Marion said, "but her memory started coming back, and then when Estelle told her—"

"Estelle?" Phobos said weakly, "Estelle's in a coma, Marion."

"I told you," Marion said, "Hermione figured out how to talk to her. And Estelle told Hermione that you were trying to help her. That she should trust you. And—"

"Look," Phobos said, "I'm going to need you to say this again. Okay. First, Granger was researching how to help Estelle and Audrey? That's why she was in the library? But she hated them. They were mean to her."

"She's a good person," Marion shrugged.

"I thought you hated her," Phobos said pointedly.

"I got over it," Marion said, "Anyway, do you want to hear this or not? So she figured out that if she took a potion and fell asleep next to Estelle, she could talk to her in a dream."

Phobos opened his mouth and shut it after a dangerous look from Marion.

"And Estelle told her that Riddle had hexed her, and you were trying to help her, and that it hadn't been Riddle that attacked them."

"It had to have been," Phobos said at once.

"No," Marion shook her head, "I thought so as well, but Hermione insisted that Estelle said it wasn't him. She told her to look to the prefects, so I got this list," Marion drew a folded piece of parchment out of her pocket and flapped it at him, "but before we could figure it out, Riddle got to her again. He must have because now she can't remember any of it. Even the part with Estelle."

"So why didn't she come to me?" Phobos demanded. "Granger. If she knew I was trying to help."

"I would assume Riddle got to her before she could."

Phobos digested this in silence. It was so bizarre; it actually had to be true.

"Could you figure out what look to the prefects meant?" he asked at last.

"No," Marion admitted. "Have you figured out a counter jinx yet?"

"No," Phobos admitted.

They looked at each other, grim.

"You know what this means?" Marion asked.

"Yeah," Phobos said, "it means we've got to get ourselves sent to the hospital wing. It's time to talk to Estelle."

Monday, November 29th, 1943

9:44 AM

If she could've remembered all the ways she had tried to get herself sent to the hospital wing and failed Hermione would have been irritated at herself with how easily Phobos and Marion did it. All it took was one staged duel in the corridor, and two whiny insistences to Madam Pomfrey that they still felt unwell, and simply could not go back to their dorms. As it was, Hermione could not remember a thing, and spent a pleasant afternoon in Arithmancy with Tom Riddle's hand slowly stroking her back in really quite soothing patterns.

Monday, November 29th, 1943

9:55 PM

"Now," Madam Pomfrey said beadily, "am I going to have any trouble, leaving you two here alone after that disgraceful display in the hallway?"

"No," Phobos and Marion chorused, both trying for winning smiles.

As Phobos usually sported a sneer and Marion a judgmental lip purse, neither attempt was very successful. Madam Pomfrey in fact was tempted to leave them both with a potion for gas.

"Because I will hear you," she said, eyeing them in turn, "if anything happens."

"Yes Madam Pomfrey," they said together, winning smiles contorting to even worse expressions.

Madam Pomfrey twitched.

"Yes, well," she said, backing away from their horrifying facial gymnastics, "sleep!" and she stalked into her room, the door closing with a snap, waving the lamps off before she went.

They were plunged into darkness broken by moonlight. Immediately, they both threw back their covers, making their way over to Estelle and Audrey.

"Okay, Estelle," Phobos whispered, "Granger's been hexed by Tom Riddle again. He's taken a lot of her memories. We need help. If you can help us, just—" he trailed off helplessly, feeling foolish when he looked at Estelle's vacant face.

"Just join us in a dream," Marion finished. She hopped into the bed next to Estelle, and Phobos attempted to crawl in after her.

"Hey!" Marion hissed, "what in Godric's name are you doing?"

"You said we had to be close to her for it to work," Phobos said indignantly.

"Not this close!" Marion hissed, shoving him onto the floor. "What would Madam Pomfrey think if she saw?"

Phobos shuddered. "Point taken," he said, and crawled into the bed on Marion's right. Out of his robes, he pulled out two small bottles, one of which he handed to Marion.

"Where on Earth did you get dreamless sleep so quickly?" she asked.

"I never reveal my sources," Phobos said, and drank his, falling back onto his pillows, asleep at once.

Marion shortly followed.

"What in Godric's name is this?" Marion said icily, and Phobos turned from his ogling of practically naked Muggle girls frolicking at the beach.

"Search me!" he said faintly. He did a double take and yes, Marion was still wearing a tiny purple-thing that the Muggle girls were wearing. "Um, wow," he said finally, "I had no idea that was under—" at this point, Marion became aware of what she was wearing and screamed, trying to cover herself with her hands. Phobos snickered.

"Oh yes, laugh! Just look at you, Phobos Malfoy!" Phobos looked down, and saw that he wasn't wearing a shirt. Or shoes.

"Filthy animals!" he yelped, trying to grab a towel from the sand. "Muggles are such heathens!"

Marion didn't even have time for a full eye roll, before they were transported seamlessly to a park, where they were pedaling some wheeled Muggle contraption built for two.

"What the f-!" Phobos screamed, and they toppled over painfully when he flailed.

Someone did a slow, mocking clap that was the infamous calling card of the Slytherin Snob Squad. Someone that had to be-

"Estelle!" Phobos said loudly, pushing the metal Muggle thing off of his and Marion's legs. "Is that you?"

And there sat Estelle on a nearby bench, twirling a sunflower and wearing a white Muggle dress that brought out the red in her auburn hair, the pink of her cheeks and lips. Phobos blinked.

"Smooth," Estelle drawled, "really graceful."

Phobos acted completely unlike a Malfoy and ran to Estelle, attempting to grab her in a highly inappropriate hug. He banged his shin on the bench instead.

"I'm not actually here, brainless," Estelle said.

"We need to talk," Marion said urgently, brushing grass stains off her pink Muggle dress. It was a sign of how glad Phobos was to see Estelle that he didn't take the time to make fun of Marion in a pink dress.

"Estelle I've been so worried—"

"We don't have a lot of time," Estelle interrupted, "these don't last long and frankly, I'm disappointed this one doesn't feature Granger's hot boyfriend."

Phobos made a disgusted noise.

"Not Tom Riddle," Estelle said, also sounding disgusted. "I have standards, Phobos."

"Estelle," Marion said stiffly, as the girls had never been anything close to friends, "we're here because—"

"I heard you," Estelle said impatiently, "Tom Riddle hexed Granger again. Yeah, I know. I saw it happen."

"You saw it—" Phobos and Marion chorused.

"We were in a dream together," Estelle said, "I was going to try to tell her who—" Estelle choked, hands flying to her throat, "well, I was going to try to give her more hints, but Riddle showed up and drew her out of her dream. She tried to fight him but he-he hexed her bad. And then they-never mind," Estelle muttered, looking away.

"And then they—?" Phobos said, eyebrow raised.

"Never you mind," Estelle said, "that's not important. What is—is that-I heard when he used his hex. Oblivius Mutus is what he said."

"Never heard of it," Phobos frowned.

"Nor I," Marion said.

"Not me either," Estelle agreed, "but it should be easier to fix if we know what it is. That poor girl doesn't—doesn't deserve—" Estelle trailed off again, looking uncomfortable.

"Who did this to you?" Phobos asked.

"Can't say," Estelle said shortly, "I'm hexed as well. And no, I know what you are going to say. It wasn't Tom Riddle. Look to the prefects."

"If you can tell us that it's not Riddle, can't you tell us about the other prefects? Whichever one you can't talk about, we'll know that's the kidnapper," Phobos said reasonably.

"Well, I suppose," Estelle said, twirling her sunflower, "it's not—" she choked again.

The trio looked at each other helplessly.

"Well that's weird," Phobos drawled, "and frankly, makes me suspect Riddle more."

"I told you, it's not—"

"It happened after Igneus and I saw you, didn't it Estelle?" Marion asked.

"Yes," Estelle said slowly, eyes wide, clearly trying to communicate something but unable to. The park began flickering. "Look to the prefects!" Estelle yelled, as she began to fade as well, "and look to—" she vanished and Phobos and Marion woke up, gasping.

Phobos fell back onto his pillow, exhausted.

"Well," he said, "now we have two places to start. And I know someone who would love to help with some research."

Tuesday, November 30th, 1943


6:56 PM

"The Oblivius Mutus," Hortense Lockhart said, looking disappointed. Phobos' heart sank. "But that's easy, Phobos! I thought you were going to give me something hard!" she truly looked crushed.

Marion and Phobos exchanged a glance. Ravenclaws.

"The counter jinx is Libere Loqui," Hortense said. "It was in Hexes for the Damned, one of the first books we looked at, remember Phobos?"

"You know how to cast it?" Marion demanded, "did you research that as well?"

"Of course!" Hortense frowned, "of course I—"

"Good!" said Phobos, grabbing her wrist and dragging her away. "So you can do it on Hermione."

"What?" Hortense Lockhart shrieked.

Hermione walked through the corridor, telling Brigitte for the umpteenth time, that she didn't need her to fix her hair.

"But I can—can make—beautiful!" Brigitte said, looking personally wronged by Hermione's haphazard ponytail. "Very—very fast! Only take—"she twitched her wand a few times.

"No," Hermione said stubbornly. "I like it how it is."

Brigitte snorted.

"Not—no chance! No chance you like—"

"Say, Hermione," a tiny Ravenclaw girl said, jumping from behind a statue, "mind if I have a word?"

"Err, no, no—uh…" Hermione wracked her brains to place the girl, and she swore she heard whispering from behind the statue that must be Peeves.

"Hortense," the girl supplied helpfully, "and I just need two words, really."

And before Hermione could react, Hortense's wand was up, and she shouted, "Libere Loqui!"

Her wand shot a golden jet in Hermione's face.

"'Ow dare you!" Brigitte yelled as Hermione fell to her knees, sightless.

Her brain felt like it was an empty mailbox being stuffed full of post. Riddle Ron Blaise Harry Chamber Ginny dead dead dead Death Eaters dark mark Tom Marvolo Riddle I am Lord Voldemort, I am—

"Wow," Blaise said, astonished, "you're becoming really good at this seducing thing, Granger."

"What have you done to me," Riddle whispered.

"Do you realize," Harry said, "we could actually be living in an alternate reality as we speak?"

"What 'ave you done!" Brigitte said, dropping to her knees besides Hermione, who saw nothing, heard nothing, not even when the unlikeliest pair of Marion Hinsley and Phobos Malfoy leapt out from behind the statue and rushed over.

Images of Riddle touching her, his hands, his mouth on her leaving marks, touching him, of her moving—

Hermione vomited all over the front of Phobos Malfoy's two hundred galleon designer robes.

"'Ermione!" Brigitte said, sounding truly scared, and Phobos was muttering a cleaning spell at himself, Hortense looking petrified, Marion hopeful. "What 'ave you done!" Brigitte screamed, in a fury. "What 'ave you—"

Hermione raised her head, her hands shaking, and wiped vomit from her lips.

"Thank you," she whispered, and Brigitte stopped talking. "Thank you," she whispered again, and she burst into tears.

"Get her in here," Phobos said, his voice low, opening the door of the nearest classroom. Brigitte and Marion helped Hermione up, and she leaned on them, staggering to the door where Phobos (also a Malfoy, a fucking Malfoy for god's sake had saved her) and a beaming Hortense Lockhart trailing behind.

"It worked," Hortense said, bouncing on her toes, and in her now fully intact mind, Hermione was reminded irresistibly of a different Lockhart.

"How do we know?" Marion said swiftly, eyeing Hermione as they lowered her into a chair.

"It worked!" Hortense chirped, "It worked! Why else would she be vomiting?"

"Um, lots of reason?" Phobos drawled.

"What eez…what eez…going…going off?" Brigitte demanded.

"Going on," Hermione corrected, her voice hoarse, "and it worked," she said, tears still streaming, "it worked. Thank you."

And she clutched at Marion, at Hortense, even at Phobos, before he hastily backed away. And dear God had she, she had, she had—say it, Hermione told herself, admit it! She had been half in love with Tom Riddle. Even admitting it silently, only in her mind hurt her deeply.

All he had done originally was remove the memory of Lord Voldemort, and she had fallen for him like an idiot. She had fully realized how attracted to him she was, now that her mental barrier had disappeared, and she had—Hermione heard herself moaning, felt the outline of Tom Riddle's penis on her hand, felt the ghost of his hands on her, his lips on her neck, his fingers between her legs. She vomited again, and they all jumped back, except for the loyal Brigitte.

"Sorry," Hermione wept, "sorry."

"It's okay Granger," Phobos said surprisingly, "he took advantage of you. It made me sick when I saw him do it to you."

"You—you saw?" Hermione said, surprised she could feel humiliation through the disgust.

"Not—I mean, not what you're thinking," Phobos said hastily, "I just saw him—remove your memories."

"Who?" Hortense demanded, "who removed—"

"What eez going on?" Brigitte demanded, louder than ever.

"Alright," Hermione said finally, her head in her hands, unable to look at any of them, thinking miserably of Harry, of Blaise, if they had seen her throwing herself at Riddle—

"Go on," Phobos said cautiously.

"I—I've known for awhile something's wrong with Tom Riddle," Hermione said finally.

"Tom?!" Brigitte and Hortense chorused, but Phobos and Marion shushed them.

"Before—before I even got here," Hermione said, she knew she had to tell them something, or they wouldn't believe. If Phobos had heard what Riddle accused her of—"I—I heard about him through—through Minerva McGonagall."

"McGonagall?" Phobos said, astounded, "that shrew?"

"I know he's—he's broken the law," Hermione continued, "don't ask me how I know. It can endanger my whole…my whole mission, to tell you."

"So that's why you have been lying," Marion said understanding dawning on her face.

"That's why Riddle poked holes in your story," Phobos said.

"Yes," Hermione said, "I suppose I didn't create a good enough one. But I—I can't tell you why-"

"We get it, Granger," Phobos said, "keep going."

"Well I—I knew I had to—to get to know him. But I couldn't hide from him how much he made me sick. It was—more difficult then you can imagine."

"Sorry, but we're talking about Tom Riddle, aren't we?" Hortense said disbelievingly.

Everyone ignored her.

"And it—it worked for awhile. But then he—I guess he saw through it. So he—well you saw, Phobos." Phobos nodded. "And I—eventually it wore off, I started to remember, but he-"

"He did it again, and erased more." Marion supplied, "Estelle told us."

"Estelle told you?" Hortense yelped.

"Dream walking?" Hermione said, and Phobos nodded again. "Yes, well I—thank you. Thank you for helping me remember. Thank you to all of you," she said, looking at Brigitte as well, "for being true friends."

Phobos gagged. "I wouldn't go that far," he said.

"Nevertheless," Hermione tried to smile, but all she could hear and smell, and feel was Tom pushing her against a wall, licking her neck, hand traveling under her skirt in class—"Excuse me," Hermione said, "but I'm about to puke again."

Brigitte handed her a hastily conjured bucket.

"We all have to learn that spell," Marion said abruptly, arms crossed, "Hortense, you'll have to teach us all."

"Sorry, are you all saying that Tom Riddle erased Hermione's memories?" Hortense said. She was ignored again.

"And then we have to cast it on each other, every day," Phobos said.

"Exactly," Marion agreed, looking at Phobos.

All Hermione had to do was lose her mind for a few short weeks, and the most bizarre friendships happened.

"You know what this means?" Hermione said, looking over her bucket, "this means, we're the only ones who can stop him. We're a team now."

"Why don't we just tell Professor Dumbledore—?"

"No," Hermione yelled cutting off Marion, "no, sorry, but I—I have a mission to complete. A task. I—Tom Riddle can't know the hex has been lifted. Everyone one has to think I still—" Hermione wretched, but nothing came up.

"Yes, I will be part of…team," Brigitte said, and Hermione smiled at her, knowing Brigitte was offering without even knowing what they were talking about. The worst part, Hermione thought, the absolute worst part, was that, even with the disgust, Hermione could no longer deny how attracted to Tom Riddle she was. And even though she hated him with every part of her, the memories of him touching her still brought her pleasure with the pain.

"Sorry, just to be clear," Hortense said, "we're teaming up to take down Tom Riddle, who is apparently evil?"

Friday December 3rd, 1943

8:55 AM

Tom Riddle was standing in the corridor outside of Ancient Runes next to Brock the Hufflepuff and Dorcas Meadows, slouched against the wall, one dark lock falling into his eyes like he was a goddamn GQ model. All at once, Hermione Granger's hands clenched, her heart raced, her stomach roiled and—there was no point in denying it to herself—she felt a twinge, a shamefully pleasant twinge lower than her stomach.

"I'm going to vomit again," Hermione said sideways out of her mouth.

Marion gave her a patented stern look.

"Pull it together, Hermione, this is your mission, remember?"

"Yes," Hermione said as Tom Riddle turned to Belinda next to him, laughing about something, the line of his jaw sharp and beautiful. Ron flashed in her mind, and her dead mother, the two people she forced herself to forget most often. "Yes, I remember," she said, steel in her voice.

"Get that look off of your face," Marion hissed at her, and Hermione attempted to look less angry. "Now you look ridiculous. Get that brainwashed look you had before."

Hermione forced her face into a smile.

"Not like you're suffering intestinal distress," Marion snapped.

Hermione tried again.

"Not like you've been hit over your head with a cauldron. Try to channel Jane Landy."

"Ugh!" Hermione said, coming to a halt. "I did not look like that brainless moron. I did not!"

Marion bent a look on her.

"Did I?" Hermione whimpered.

"Not quite as bad," Marion said, patting her on the shoulder.

"Well alright," Hermione said, and she made herself think of Blaise. Handsome Blaise, witty Blaise, kind—her eyes became dreamy, her lips turning at the corners, slightly, very slightly, in a private smile.

Riddle turned away from Belinda, almost as if he sensed her, and they locked gazes. His eyes widened, just a little, and Everyone's Favorite Humble Orphan smiled back at her, teeth and eyes and all.

"Much, much better," Marion muttered as they began walking again.

Tom Riddle pushed himself off the wall, as Belinda's eyes narrowed at Hermione and he walked over to her.

"Hermione," Riddle said, and her smile almost faltered when he touched her hand, his fingers rubbing between hers, but she stared at him and thought with all of her heart about how much she loved Harry and Ron and her father, how she was growing to almost love Blaise Zabini.

They were worth dealing with this monster. They had always been worth it.

"You look-" Riddle started to say, his eyes intent on hers, searching her face, "you look like—"

Professor Efferguard left her classroom, throwing the door open. The moment was broken and Riddle hastily dropped her hand, turning to their Ancient Runes instructor. Marion gave Hermione an approving nod.

"Students," Professor Efferguard called, beaming, "students your hard work has come to fruition! Now it's time to find your classmates hidden clues and decipher their new languages! Every team has used a different color ink, so you shall be able to tell which is which. Please break into your teams, and we will meet back here in—" she took a pocket watch out of a fold in her robes, "in two hours. Bonus points to whoever has found the most clues; and bonus points to whomever had the least amount of their clues found." Marion walked away from Hermione over to her teammate Phobos, and Brock and Dorcas came their way. "Time starts now!"

And with a burst of excited chatter and laughter, the teams sprinted in all directions.

"We should split up, now!" Dorcas said as they raced after Ethelinda Higgs's team, "like we discussed before!"

They had determined weeks ago that each of them covering a section of the castle would be the best strategy.

"Right!" Brock panted, "See you in a few."

And he ran for the Great Hall area, Dorcas to the section that housed Ravenclaw tower, Tom to the dungeons, and Hermione to the Gryffindor area. Hermione raced to the nearest hidden staircase, her vast knowledge of Hogwarts giving her an advantage the others were unaware of. Pulling aside a tapestry, she started up the wooden stairwell she had taken what felt like a lifetime ago, following Filch and surrounded by Slytherins, Blaise holding her when she had gotten winded.

"Lumos," Hermione muttered, now trying not to think of Zabini when Riddle was around. Excitement at what it would be like to be a curse breaker, one of the roughly 317 careers she was considering was coursing through her.

"HA!" Hermione said triumphantly, for there in a crevice in the wall she knew well, was a clue. She pulled it out stuffing it in her book bag, and another magically appeared for the next team.

"Very good, Hermione," Riddle said from behind her, and she shrieked, hand outstretched to defend herself.

In the dim glow of her wand light, Riddle's pale face was illuminated in truly irritating ways. She couldn't stop seeing how handsome he was. Her body couldn't unknow what her eyes were telling her, no matter what her brain was screaming.

"Don't do that!" Hermione yelped, "I almost hexed you!"

"Lucky me," Riddle said, his eyes dropping to her mouth.

"What are you doing? We're supposed to be—"

"Revelabit Secretum," Riddle said carelessly, waving his wand. The tapestry below them she could hear flapping as if it was in a high wind and thirty or so clues flew up the stairwell and hovered in midair, waiting for Riddle to pluck them.

"How did you—what is—" Hermione said weakly.

"I created a spell the day after we were given this assignment, "Riddle shrugged, "seemed like it would be easier."

"You—you created…" Hermione trailed off weakly.

Tom Riddle smiled at her shock.

"I figured it would be more fun to do other things in these two hours."

He said it casually, plucking clues out of the air in handfuls and stuffing them into his robes, but Hermione wasn't fooled.

"And how did you know we would be ah, engaging in fun things the day after we got this assignment? We were not on particularly good terms then."

Riddle shrugged again, stuffing the last clue away.

"I knew I could convince you eventually," he said, his eyes and mouth looking rather wicked.

You mean, Hermione's brain thought nastily, you mean you were going to erase my memories if you didn't get your way. Instead, she raised a brow.

"Bit full of yourself, aren't you?" she said.

Riddle's smile widened, and she saw a hint of Lord Voldemort there. She repressed a shudder.

"But only you know that, Hermione," he told her, drawing closer, "I only tell you things."

"Only me?" Hermione said, crossing her arms, "Really?" Her eyebrow rose further.

"Only you," Riddle agreed, and he moved closer to her.

Hermione turned her head after a moment, her pulse racing out of control.

"Wait, wait Tom, won't it look suspicious if we've found all the clues so easily?"

"It would," he agreed, "if I had summoned all the clues. I only summoned half of them hiding in our areas."

"Can you—how did you—will you teach me, how you made that spell?" she asked, a hungry look was in Tom Riddle's eyes at the longing in her voice, which she was not actually feigning.

"I would love to," Riddle said, voice low, and Hermione saw the look in his eyes, knew what it meant, knew what she had to do, and pulled him forward by his silver and green tie and kissed him first.

Riddle's mouth was open, his tongue seeking hers right away, and Hermione was disgusted, she truly was, until she squeezed her eyes shut even tighter and replaced wavy hair with curly, pale skin for darker. She kissed him back, their first lengthy snog without Hermione being completely brainwashed, not that that bastard Riddle knew it. After a few long minutes, Riddle pushed her down towards the stairs underneath them, his body wedging between her legs, his hand roaming under her skirt.

"Hermione," he panted against her mouth, "let me—" he gasped when Hermione licked up his neck, "let me touch you under—" his hands plucked at her knickers, trying to push them aside.

"No," Hermione breathed against his neck, her mind chanting Blaise Blaise Blaise so she wouldn't scream.

"You'll like it," Riddle promised her, fingers dancing on her thigh, giving her goose flesh.

"No," Hermione repeated, half of her repulsed beyond measure, the rest yelling at her to agree.

"No?" Riddle said, his voice now sounding somewhat less pleasant, "it's not like you haven't—" he cut himself of with a startled gasp, as Hermione's hand plucked on the buttons of his pants. "What are you—" he started to say, voice rather high pitched, but Hermione, hand trembling, but knowing she had to do it, had to keep up the charade somehow, but without letting him touch her just yet, she couldn't handle it, pulled his pants open just enough to snake her hand inside, fingers finding Riddle.

"Oh!" he gasped, "Salazar Hermione, what are you—"

She grasped him firmly now, not nearly as experienced as Riddle thought, she remembered now that conversation where he had threatened her against a wall, called her a trollop with pure jealousy in his voice, but these were the last coherent words Tom Riddle said for quite a few moments.

Hermione wondered idly as he trembled and panted and moaned if the great Tom Riddle had ever let a girl touch him like this. She assumed he would have, a power complex combined with a lack of empathy and a beautiful face made it inevitable, really, but somehow based on the way he was acting now, she had a feeling that no one had.

After one last loud noise that should have repulsed her but didn't quite, Hermione withdrew her hand as Riddle gasped for air, his face, from what she could see in the dimness, splotchy and red. Hermione started at him dispassionately, somewhat contemptuous that the Dark Lord was as easy to manipulate as any other boy who liked girls.

"E-evanesco," Riddle muttered when he finally got some control over himself again.

A story to tell the grandkids, Hermione thought morbidly as Riddle finally looked at her again, blooms of pink still in his cheeks.

"If you are about to tell me what a scandalous girl I am again," Hermione said, "stow it. We both know you like me scandalous."

"Do we?" Riddle asked, voice low, and Hermione felt a prickle of fear, a memory of his face when he confronted her about Blaise against the wall, the way he had been enraged in the hospital wing when he'd heard her say Blaise's name in her sleep.

"We do," Hermione said, attempting to be firm, hoping he hadn't heard the tremor in her voice.

It was just hitting her that she was alone in a dark, unused hidden passage that almost no one knew about with the most evil wizard of all time. An evil wizard she'd just tossed off. It was almost funny. It was definitely sickening.

Riddle fumbled at his pants, covering his exposure, and Hermione's eyes were drawn downward against her will.

"I mean, if you'd like," Hermione said, as the silence became more and more uncomfortable, "I can pretend to be like Ethelinda Higgs for a while. Since you like such a proper girl, apparently."

Riddle looked at her, beautiful face immobile for a moment, cheeks still tinged slightly pink, and then he smiled.

"She doesn't even hold Patrick Black's hand and they're engaged," Riddle said.

He was still wedged between her thighs, Hermione's ugly conservative 1940's skirt hiked up rather far.

"Well," Hermione sneered, attempting Ethelinda's lofty tones, "that is how a proper pureblood girl behaves."

Riddle's hands traveled up her calves, resting on her knees.

"I suppose it's the Muggle in us, then," he said, his eyes holding a challenge.

Hermione laughed, and she assumed Riddle thought it was at his jest, but really it was because she had just realized that Riddle had gotten off by the hand of a Mudblood. Somehow, that helped relieve her guilt. Riddle's hands moved up her thighs again, and Hermione's laughter stopped abruptly.

"Why won't you let me, Hermione?" Riddle murmured, "You'd really like it. I could even use my mouth if you—"

Hermione gasped in fake outrage, pushing him back and snapping her knees together, drawing her skirt down again.

"I don't know why you think I'm such a trollop, Tom, but I do have some standards-"

The red was back in Riddle's cheeks again, and this time she knew it was anger. Anger, because Hermione knew just how badly he wanted to bring up Blaise. But he couldn't, could he, not when he'd wiped her memory of those conversations.

"Do you know," Hermione said, inspiration striking, "do you know, I think I will channel Ethelinda Higgs for a week. Show you to appreciate me for who I am."

She stood up, Riddle at her feet, his eyes dark and full of repressed anger.

"That's hardly necessary, Hermione," he said, attempting to bring back Everyone's Favorite Humble Orphan.

"Oh, but it is," Hermione said, now desperately clinging to a world where she wouldn't have to endure Tom Riddle's touch, and the tiny part of her that had enjoyed it.

Apparently Riddle could no longer stand it and his expressions turned ugly, his face contorting with rage, and against her will, Hermione shrunk away from him. This was the look she associated with an imminent memory charm.

"Don't play coy with me," Riddle said, moving so quickly to his feet that Hermione stumbled backwards, almost falling over. Riddle caught her, and pulled her in closer, his grip tight. "I can tell you've been with someone," he said, "someone else."

Hermione's heart raced, her hand on her wand in her pocket, terrified at Riddle and what he was capable of. What if he removed her memory again? There was a good chance with the way she was feeling a few minutes before that she would eagerly take him up on his offer. Hermione forced herself to laugh, even though Riddle looked even angier at that.

"So what if I have?" Hermione said, "I spent time in France, after all. Would you rather I refuse to kiss you until I have a ring?"

"I'd rather," Riddle said thorugh his teeth, "you be only with me."

"And have you been only with me?" Hermione demanded.

Riddle paused, his eyes narrowing at her and with a jolt, Hermione realized she had stepped over playful banter and into her former pre brainwashed behavior with him. Best to get him to stop thinking of that Hermione thought, and she smiled brightly.

"Let's not fight, Tom," she said, "not when we still have over an hour and a half together with no one around."

"No, no, Hermione," Riddle said, eyes still narrowed, "I have to answer your question, don't I?"

"No," Hermione attempted to stutter, "no, it's not nec—"

"I've been with no one," Riddle lied smoothly, "no one else but you. Surely the others have told you that, the girls and their gossip?"

Hermione raised her wand in her pocket, just a little. Liar, she thought. There was no way he was so smooth without ever doing such a thing before.

"Well, I suppose I don't have to be jealous then," she said, attempting a bright laugh.

"You don't," Riddle said pointedly, apparently not letting it go.

Hermione thought fast, tried to think of a solution that didn't end with her blasting a Blaise Zabini shaped hole in Riddle's memory or with him between her legs.

"I've been with one boy," she said finally, "one. One time. Right after my parents died. And then he died too. I'm sure you understand why I would be hesitant about this."

Riddle's face smoothed and his "charming" mask was back.

"Yes of course. I've been an absolute boor, Hermione, you must accept my apologies. I'm usually a gentleman."

Hermione had to bite the inside of her cheek so she wouldn't break into laughter.

"You'll tell me what you want, how about that?"

"Okay," Hermione said, "that sounds perfect."

And she forced herself to lean forward and kiss him. Riddle, for all that she'd just tossed him off, responded rather eagerly, pulling her in tight, his hand tugging on her braid, his tongue just starting to touch her own. It was at this precisely awful moment that Professor Efferguard decided to take one of the least used staircases at Hogwarts.

"Mr. Riddle! Miss Granger!" They sprang apart so fast Riddle almost fell backward down the stairwell but braced his arm on the wall just in time. "What on Earth!" the Professor said, shrill, "I have never in all my years—during an assignment—never, such promiscuous behavior-"

"Never?" Hermione found herself snorting. "Never saw two teenagers kissing before? Really?"

Hermione," Riddle hissed at her, looking terrified.

"Ever since," Efferguard, voice shaking, "ever since you've arrived, Miss Granger, I've witnessed the most appalling, the rudest, the—the most scandalous behavior from you, but to drag poor Mr. Riddle into this—" Hermione's jaw dropped open, "a model student, never a toe out of line, so polite, a true gentleman-"

"Well you should have seen what this gentleman was trying to do in my knickers not five minutes ago," Hermione said recklessly.

"Hermione!" Riddle said, even more horror in his voice, but when Efferguard gasped, clutching her heart, Hermione darted a look at Riddle and realized he was desperately smothering a laugh.

"You—you—complete—my word, such language," Efferguard sputtered, "not a—not a lady at all—"

Hermione shrugged, unrepentant, and casually, drew her wand. Riddle's eyes watched it. Efferguard did not.

"Your model student sure likes it," Hermione said, her blood boiling like it had the day in the Great Hall with the Snob Squad, like the night with Carina Zimmerman and Katie in the girls dormitory. "If you had arrived ten minutes ago you would see how much. It was quite a lot. That Evanesco was very necessary."

"You're a terrible girl," Efferguard whispered, "disgusting, where—"

"Obliviate," Hermione said calmly, and Efferguard's eyes slid out of focus.

Riddle sucked in a loud breath next to her.

"Oh," Efferguard said, sounding vaguely confused, "Tom. Hermione. How is the hunt going?"

"Quite well," Riddle said smoothly, pulling out a fistful of clues. "Isn't it, Hermione?" he said, turning to her, eyes intense, dark. He placed a hand on her wrist, on her wand hand, as Hermione trembled still with rage.

"Oh yes," she heard herself parrot idiotically, "quite well. A lovely assignment, Professor."

"How nice of you to say, Miss Granger," Efferguard said vaguely, "ten points to Gryffindor." And she turned around, walking back the way she had come.

Riddle waited until the tapestry had ceased all motion, and turned to Hermione. They stared at each other, Riddle's tragic orphan smile gone, Hermione's simpering tease act gone.

"You just obliviated a teacher," Riddle said, voice low.

"She pissed me off," Hermione said, cold.

"She-what?" Riddle said, looking confused at the term.

"She made me angry," Hermione clarified.

"Remind me not to anger you, Hermione," Riddle said, one side of his mouth quirking.

"Why?" Hermione said boldly. "I think you'd like it, wouldn't you, Tom?" and she yanked at the front of his pants again.

He laughed, and it was his Lord Voldemort laugh, and it went on and on. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up.

Thursday, November 12th 1996

7:16 AM

"My loyal Death Eaters," Lord Voldemort intoned, looking around at the assorted group of evil minions before him, "in just a few days time, we will attack Hogwarts and the flea bitten mongrel that is currently headmaster there. We will find Harry Potter. And I will kill him," his lipless mouth broke into a smile, a truly disturbing sight. "Continue with your training; learn your assignment for the battle. That will be all."

The majority of the Death Eaters left the room, talking animatedly about the upcoming slaughter. They were big fans of slaughter.

"My love," the girl on Lord Voldemort's left said, whining, "can I be the one to kill Harry? He rejected me so many times, I just can't—"

On Ginny Weasley's other side, Rodolphus Lestrange rolled his eyes upward, as if he were begging someone, anyone, to save him from the torture of teenage girls.

Lord Voldemort studied the pale girl next to him. After so many spells, so many experiments, so much dark magick, very little of Tom Riddle remained in him, which had, after all, been the point. Tom Riddle had been clever, and handsome, and persuasive, very persuasive, but he had been weak. There had been parts of him, very tiny parts, yes, but parts that could be amused by Muggle things. That could enjoy another's company. That could find a girl pretty. These were the same parts that occasionally had made him feel a tinge of regret that he had killed his father without at least talking to him first.

Lord Voldemort had obliterated all of these parts. He knew Rodolphus and the others thought he had gone soft over the girl, but the girl had been nothing more than revenge. The girl had been in love with Harry Potter. The girl had been good, and pure, and a pureblood from an infamous blood traitor family. So the girl had to be broken. The girl had to be damaged beyond repair, to love Lord Voldemort, to hate her family, to be sickened by her hero, Harry Potter.

And not one of them had thought to question the validity of that diary. Not one. No one had checked her handwriting with other samples. Lord Voldemort had tried mimicry to the best of his abilities, but the looping l's had been a little off, the squiggly e's just a little too round. He blamed the pink glitter pen he had used. Not one of the Order had asked themselves why glittery unicorn stickers were suddenly something Ginny Weasley was into, but Voldemort, who hadn't been able to stop himself cackling while he picked them out in a Muggle stationary store polyjuiced as Ginny, the shop girl looking at him as if he had lost his mind, had assumed it was something teenage girls loved. He had assumed wrong, but no one had caught it. Not even her brothers.

And not one of the do gooders had thought that perhaps, just perhaps, Lord Voldemort had used an old standby of Tom Riddle's, an updated version of the Oblivius Mutus hex, and removed everything good in the girl's mind. They had left her to him. They had abandoned their own friend, their own student, their own sister. And for that, for their stupidity, they deserved to find out the truth; that Ginny Weasley was a victim, right after their hero Harry Potter killed the girl as a traitor.

Lord Voldemort smiled.

"Ginevra,' he said, using what he thought was his persuasive Tom Riddle voice (it really sounded more like a snake rolling in a barrel of oil) "of course I will let you kill Harry Potter." Rodolphus gasped, but Voldemort ignored him. "You may kill him," Voldemort continued, smiling his lipless smile again, "right when everyone is watching."

Ginevra laughed, and clapped her hands, and inside her, like so many years ago, with another pureblood girl, Ginny Weasley screamed for help.

Thursday, November 12th 1943

Slytherin Boys Dorms

7:23 AM

"Tom Riddle,' Blaise said, face numb, "Tom…Tom Riddle. Potter, please tell me that isn't who I think it is."

"Okay," Potter said, "it isn't who you think it is."

"Liar!" Blaise hissed, and he punched him in the face, breaking his glasses, and Potter fell off the bed, flailing in his bed hangings, smacking his face onto the floor.

"What the-" Byron Smith said.

"You asshole!" Potter howled, lunging up, at Blaise, his glasses hanging on for dear life on one ear. "You told me to tell you that it wasn't who you think it is! You told me! You forced me to say who it—"
"You wanker!" Blaise screamed, "I cannot fucking believe you let her—"

"Calm down now, boys," Chris Jones said, getting out of his bed, his ducky pajamas wildly out of place in the Slytherin dungeons, "I thought you were friends again—"

"Never!" Blaise yelled, "Never—"

Potter pushed him hard, and he fell off the other side of his bed, smacking his head on his water pitcher, cracking it and getting a burst of water to his hair.

"Let her!" Potter bellowed, "Let her! Clearly you don't understand Hermione at all!"

"Oh my god, her again?" Chris demanded.

"You really didn't see her slap Malfoy," Crabbe murmured, pulling an entire boysenberry pie from under his bed, dousing it with whip cream, and starting to devour it.

"Shit I wish I had," Byron said, eyes unfocused.

"Yeah, I don't get it," Chris said, shaking his head.

Second year (but now honorary sixth year) Kyle Stebbins snored from the last bed.

"I know her a lot better than you do!" Blaise said, throwing a shard from his pitcher at Harry's head. His myopic eyes barely saw a flying object in time and he ducked.

"Yeah, a few weeks of snogging her and you know someone better than her best friend!" Potter said, voice thick with sarcasm. Both boys, as mad as they were, left it unsaid that Hermione had done a lot more than snogging with Blaise. Not while there were witnesses. Harry kicked Blaise's bed so hard it smacked Blaise's shin painfully and he yelped, tossing a pillow back.

"This is just getting sad," Chris said.

"It does need ice cream," Crabbe agreed, three fourths of his pie gone.

"I knew she never should have done this!" Blaise bellowed, throwing another pillow.

What "this" was, the other boys had no idea.

"Yeah?" Potter snarled, "and how else were we supposed to stop Voldemort?" he picked up Crabbe's empty pie tin and winged it at the Blaise shaped blur.

The other three boys shrieked and fell off their beds at the V word.

"Oh, I don't know," Blaise said voice so sarcastic he was like a human eye roll, "perhaps any other plan, ever? This is literally the stupidest one I could think of!"

"We could fight the dark lord with a choreographed dance number," Chris drawled.

"Shut up!" Blaise screamed, "Do you mind, we're having a fight here!"

"Look, Zabini," Harry said, trying to put his broken glasses on again, his other hand shooting whipped cream out of the canister into Blaise's eyes, "Hermione did what she thought she had to do. This is why we didn't tell you. We knew you couldn't handle it."

"Handle it!" Blaise said, "How was I supposed to react to this? I love her!"

"Really?" Chris Jones said, eyebrows raised, "Her? I mean, really, the hair…"

"I'm telling you, the way her eyes flashed when she—"

"Shut up, Crabbe! I don't care how hard she hit Malfoy—"

"You don't love her!" Harry howled, "You don't even understand her! How many times do I have to tell you this! If you loved her you would love her anyway!"

"I do!" Blaise roared, "When she gets back, I won't even care that she did this, I won't—" he flung a picture of him and Hermione that had been framed next to his bed at Harry's head, and Potter's seeker reflexes caught it.

"Give that back to me, Potter!"

"You threw it at me, you git!"

"I was trying to hit you in the head, you can't keep it, you arse, you can't—"

"Mr. Potter," a new voice said, "what on earth are you doing in the Slytherin dorm?"

Harry squinted, and only one person could cast such a literal black shadow.

"Snape? Do you really just wander into the dorms of your students, mate? Trying to get a look? Bit sick, mate, most of us are underage, you dirty—"

"Fifty points from Gryffindor," Snape said, "for harassing my students."

"He broke my glasses!" Harry said, outraged.

"Invest in a pair that isn't quite so ugly," Snape told him coldly, "Mr. Zabini did you, and our eyeballs, a favor."

"Invest how?" Harry snapped, "do you have a spare optometrist wedged up your-"

Blaise seized his chance with Harry distracted and tackled him to the floor. The three teenaged Slytherins and the one adult Slytherin watched them roll around on the floor, yipping and squawking, elbows in each others faces, nails digging into each other's flesh. Crabbe pulled out a roasted turkey leg. Chris Jones yawned widely.

"Kind of fighting like girls, aren't they?"

"That is an insult to women," Snape said.

"-Zabini you bastard, get your thumb out of-"

"-ow that's my hair Potter you complete—"

"Get your teeth off of my shirt Zabini you fucking nutcase—"

Crabbe passed a bag of candy to Byron and Chris. Snape stood with folded arms.

"Sir," Byron said through a mouth of gummy witches, "shouldn't we do something about this?"

"-dammit Potter stop pulling out my hair it's my best-"

"—admit that you don't know Hermione you wanker—"

"About what?" Snape said.

Crabbe tossed the remnants of the turkey leg aside and popped open a butter beer.

"Zabini looks like he's winning," Byron said idly.

"-what is that you freak, get that pie out of-"

"—haha feels gross in your shirt, just like your soul you-"

"Potter's making a slight comeback," Chris said, blowing a bubble gum bubble.

"—get off my neck, you're going to give me a hickey, what are you-"

"—you wish I would give you a hickey, you desperate—"

"-give me back that picture, give it to me!"

"—you forfeited your right to it when you threw it at my head-"

"Well," Snape sighed after a few moments, "I suppose I'm supposed to be making potions in case the Dark Lord decides to attack."

None of them moved.

"Ow, Zabini, stop twisting my arm!"

"Stop kicking my leg!"

"This is better than the wireless," Byron said, popping a chocolate frog in his mouth.

Hogwarts Grounds

8:11 AM

"Has anyone seen Harry Potter?" Oliver Wood asked the assorted students, parents, graduates, and Muggles on the lawn, Katie Bell standing next to him with folded arms. In front of them was a vast collection of broomsticks, some so ancient they looked to be rotting. The three Dursleys were looking at the brooms as if they were going to leap up and start beating them at any moment.

Morag looked around her, but no, you could spot Potter's hair a mile away, and he wasn't here.

"Blaise Zabini isn't here either, Professor," Millicent said, Ernie Macmillan looking worried next to her.

Wood and Katie exchanged looks.

"Well, I suppose we'll have to start without him," Wood said finally. "Now, if I could get anyone who's great on a broom, Quidditch players, that sort of thing, up here, and then you can help teach the rest of the group some evasive maneuvers, the fastest way to get out of here, the direction to our rendevous spot…"

A group which included Seamus Finnigan, the Weasley twins, Viktor Krum and Summerby, and reluctantly, Morag, moved up front.

"All right," Morag said kindly to some first year Hufflepuffs, "you want to grab the broom here, right, like this—"

"Where is Harry?" she heard Professor Wood mutter to Katie Bell, looking irritated, "he must know how important this is—"

The front door to the castle banged open with great violence, and Harry Potter and Blaise Zabini rolled out of the door, flopping down the stairs, scratching at each other. Behind them, four Slytherins and Professor Snape walked after them, sharing a large bowl of popcorn and watching avidly.

"You have got to be kidding me," Katie groaned.

"Potter, that is my hair!" Zabini yelped, so loudly they rest of the group also turned and looked at the rolling boys, "I have told you repeatedly to stop with the hair!" He elbowed Potter in the face.

"Sorry, pretty boy Zabini!" Potter panted, "Forgot you can't possibly let your pretty curly hair get—"

"Vat is the meaning of zis!" Viktor Krum roared, running over to the boys, yanking them apart. The four Slytherin boys and Snape groaned in disappointment.

"Are they covered in whipped cream?" Millicent Bulstrode murmured to Edith Lodgeman and Ernie.

"Let's hope it's whipped cream," Ernie said ominously.

"Gross, Ernie," Edith said conversationally.

"What?" Ernie said, puzzled, "I got soap in my eye once, and god it hurt so bad—"

"We're doomed," Seamus Finnigan said from next to Morag.

Her heart pounded, even though she knew how stupid still being hung up on Seamus was.

"I'll say," she said, smiling, "I mean, that's our great hope there, isn't it?" she jerked her head at Potter, who was flailing wildly as Krum held him in the air with one hand, trying to hit Zabini some more, who was being held in Krum's other hand.

"Yeah," Seamus smiled, "him and Hermione Granger."
"Hermione?" Morag said, puzzled, "what does Hermione-"

"You don't love her!" Potter screamed, "admit it!"

"You're like a pimp!" Zabini screamed louder, making no sense at all, "Potter the Pimp, has a nice ring to it—"

"Professor Krum, you're really ruining all the fun," Chris Jones protested, popping more popcorn in his mouth.

"You vill stop talking about Hermione right now!" Krum said, shaking them both by their collars.

"Is Zabini wearing pajamas?" Dean Thomas asked no one, everyone.

"She vould be ashamed of you!" Krum said, shaking them harder. "And if anyone understands her, it's me!" he said, turning red.

"Good lord," Morag said, "is this really happening?"

Potter and Zabini both froze, and turned to look at Krum in unison. Then they looked each other in the eye, although Potter looked like he had trouble focusing his eyes.

"Boy, you better not have broken your glasses, those cost a fortune!" Uncle Vernon roared.

"Are you kidding me?" Potter finally said, disbelieving, "You're joking, right Viktor?" he looked at Zabini incredously.

"He's obviously joking," Zabini scoffed, "not very funny, but-"

Krum glared at them both. "I am not joking," he said, "I understand Herm-own-ninny better than you two ever will."

"Are we having a mass hallucination?" Millicent asked out loud.

"Oh come on!" Harry said, throwing up his hands, squirming away from Krum, trying to fix his glasses again, "you went on like one date with her two years ago, like you know her—"

"I know her better than you two, since I know not to yell her business very loudly," Krum said, omious.

"You can't even say her name correctly!" Blaise said, outraged.

"Really, I think Snape knows her better than you do at this point," Potter snorted.

Blaise snorted as well, "now that's just foul, Pottter."

"Wait, are they friends again?" Ernie said wearily, "this is really hard to keep track of—"

"Oh, now you're really ruining it, Krum," Byron moaned, "it was so much funnier when they were—"

"All right," Krum said, irritated, "enough is enough." And he rolled up his sleeves, knocking Harry and Blaise to the ground.

At once, a threeway hairpulling fight commeneced.

"Oh you're forgiven, Krum!" Byron yelled over the yelps, "This is even better!"

"Think he's going to use that move on You-Know-Who?" Seamus yawned as Harry poked Krum violently.

"I really wish Hermione was here," Katie Bell said miserably.

"You and me both," Oliver said, just as miserably.

"You two and everyone else," Morag corrected, as Potter and Blaise tackled Krum together.

But where was Hermione Granger? How could she abandon them now, when they needed her so badly?

A/N: 99% sure the "choreagraphed dance number" line was me accidentally ripping off er...paying homage to a Buffy joke about the Mayor and hummus. :)

Thanks for all the reviews, really very appreciated! Extra love to one of the nicest reviews I've ever gotten but it was from a guest account so I couldn't reply. Just want to let you know I read it and got the warm fuzzies.