AUTHOR'S NOTE: First and foremost, this story was first written in 2004 so it was started before the release of The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows. I've been integrating details that I like from the subsequent books into this story, but I'm not going to completely retcon it to keep it canon-compliant, especially not just for added information on Pottermore.
(Friday, December 23, 1977)
Hermione with a grimace as a sunbeam fell over her face. Her brown eyes blinked a few times as she tried to remember where she was. She was on a rather comfortable Victorian chaise lounge upholstered in rich, burgundy velvet, her head pillowed on a warm, firm chest. The even cadence of a strong heartbeat nearly lulled her back to sleep, but with a shake of her head, she cast that idea away. She sat up, stretched, and inhaled the rich aroma of ancient, leather-bound tomes.
With a sigh, she examined piles of books spread out on the table in front of them. Mr. Potter's study had one of the best collections of books she'd ever seen, but it hadn't been much help in their search for any information about Voldemort or Horcruxes. All they had to go on was the little information that Harry had gotten from Moaning Myrtle when the Chamber of Secrets had been opened. It was a shame that Ginny wasn't here; maybe she'd have some insight. After all, as horrifying as it seemed, she was their closest link to Voldemort.
Her brown eyes scanned the parchment that held the little information they did have, written in Draco's elegant, copperplate script:
Tom Marvolo Riddle
attended Hogwarts c. 1937-1946, went to school with Hagrid, Moaning Myrtle; teachers: Dumbledore, Binns
Heir of Slytherin; descendant of the Gaunt family?
1943 – diary (Horcrux caused by Myrtle's death?) destroyed by basilisk fang
1943 – Muggle Tom Riddle and his family were killed, possibly for another Horcrux
The only new information they'd come up with after the hours of research was that there had been a pureblood-obsessed wizard named Marvolo Gaunt whose son, Morfin, had been accused of murdering a Muggle named Tom Riddle and his family. That left them with the possibility of at least two Horcruxes, one of which they had absolutely no idea what it was. They also had no idea where either of them were, or if there were more. She rubbed her temple with annoyance as she tried to wrack her brain for any other possible tidbits of information she might have heard. The biggest obstacle was that most of the information she did have wasn't much use because it hadn't happened yet, and the research they were working on was supposed to keep it from ever happening.
A deep frown crossed her face, her brow furrowing. What happened if they did manage to stop Voldemort and prevent the future? How different would everything be? Her future was pretty safe considering the fact that she hadn't even known about the Wizarding World until the summer of 1991, but what about other people's futures? How many Hogwarts students in the next nineteen years had been born because a parent's sweetheart had been killed by Death Eaters? She thought about the picture of the Order of the Phoenix, so many of them were gone in her future. How many more witches and wizards and Muggles and Squibs had died in the next three years? What gave her the right to decide anyone else's future?
She thought of another thing as well: the reason why she didn't like Back to the Future anymore. It had taken her a while to realize it, but then once she had, it had stuck in her mind. Marty's entire world had changed. You'd think that his dad standing up to a bully wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but that punch had just been the first change. Marty McFly had known George and Lorraine in 1955, and George and Lorraine and his siblings in his original timeline, but he had come back (gone forward?) to a completely new world. He had arrived in a new world with an improved McFly family, to a life and experiences that he had never lived through with people who wore the faces of people he had known his entire life but were now complete strangers. That revelation had caused her a few weeks of fitful sleep until she realized that it had just been a movie. Now, she was sort of living her very own live-action version of Back to the Future. At least she didn't have to worry about preventing her conception or getting hit on by one of her parents.
A little smirk quirked her lips as she cast a sidelong glance at the still-sleeping Draco. Poor Draco. He really was living through Back to the Future, but judging by Lucius and Narcissa's engagement announcement, Draco's conception was rather secure. As was Harry's.
Harry? What would Harry be like if he got to grow up surrounded by loving parents, a mischievous godfather, a trivia-spouting half-blood, and a werewolf? If his life wasn't inherently linked to Voldemort's, and he was never the Boy who Lived?
What would her life be like if Harry had grown up surrounded by his family? All of her friendships in the Wizarding World had been directly impacted by Voldemort. If Quirrell hadn't been possessed by Voldemort and released the troll to get to the Philosopher's Stone, then she and Harry and Ron would have never become friends, and through them, she had befriended Ginny, the rest of the Weasleys, and Dumbledore's Army. The majority of what had made her the Hermione of today was what she'd experienced due to Voldemort's influence. Who would she be? Would she remember both worlds or would the memories overwrite the old Hermione? Would she even recognize herself if she ever got back to her own time?
Her gaze turned to Draco. What would he be like in their time? She reached up and brushed a strand of his white-blond hair out of his face. The pad of her thumb traced the contour of the scar that started under the apple of his cheek and swooped up to his temple; the white line marred the alabaster perfection of his face. His face was all planes and angles, almost too sharp to be handsome: high cheekbones, an aquiline nose, a pointed chin, full lips, and a softly-squared jaw line dusted with nearly-invisible hair. Sleep softened his features, golden lashes fluttering as he dreamt. His arm rested on the arm of the chaise lounge, his head pillowed on the crook of his elbow. Her stomach twisted painfully as she watched the soft rise and fall of his chest.
She wouldn't have Draco either. It was something that had been gnawing at her since their relationship had begun. What would happen if they got home? Even if they did get home and Ron and Harry were still her friends, she wouldn't have Draco. He'd have Pansy and his cronies and the very-real possibility of him marrying Pansy not too far in their future. Both of their worlds could be completely different.
She brushed a soft kiss across his pale brow, and Draco's silver gray eyes opened to look up at her. "Sleeping beauty awakens," he murmured.
"You are amazingly self-assured, has anyone ever told you that?" she questioned.
"I tell myself that every day, actually," he murmured, giving her a peck on the lips and brushing his fingers through her dark curls. The door to the study opened.
"Oh, dear, sorry to interrupt," Mr. Potter's voice came.
Hermione pulled away from Draco so quickly that she almost fell of the chaise lounge. "We were studying," she said, gesturing toward the vast array of books.
Charlus cocked his head and peered over his glasses to examine the parchment laid out on the table. "Tom Riddle. I haven't heard that name in ages," he said.
"You know of Tom Riddle, Mr. Potter?" she asked.
"Please, Charlus," he said. "Mr. Potter was my father. Of course, with a name like 'Fleamont,' you can't very well blame him for preferring his surname." He adjusted his glasses. "I knew of Riddle; he was a year behind me at Hogwarts. Strange boy." Hermione and Draco moved toward the edge of the chaise lounge, listening intently to the older man. "He wasn't a Black, but he was obsessed with blood purity, a deep desire to prove himself. No one had ever heard of the Riddle family, and, well, pretty much every pureblood family knows every other. Most purebloods, we don't marry into other pureblood families because we believe in pureblood superiority, we just marry people we know." He shrugged.
Draco frowned a little. None of this was new or really useful. "What can you tell us about him?"
"He was very charismatic. He attracted followers from every House—except Hufflepuff," Charlus stated.
"Even Gryffindor?" Hermione asked. She instantly regretted it, and her gaze went to the door. Just down the hall, there was a Gryffindor who would become a Death Eater. Unless she stopped Voldemort first. Her shoulders squared at the thought.
A little smile curved Charlus's lips. "Even Gryffindors. The Houses might be divided by certain characteristics but all of those characteristics can be twisted toward darkness. Bravery brings pride, knowledge brings smugness, and ambition can be used either way. It just depends on the person with the characteristics. Hufflepuffs believe in loyalty above all things, taking care of those who need it, and treating others with love and respect. Needless to say, pureblood ideology doesn't fit well with that mold." He shrugged. "He tried hard to get a Hufflepuff to follow him; it was almost as if he viewed the fact that he had followers from different Houses legitimized his beliefs. The Houses are usually divided but having them able to unite under him seemed to be a source of pride."
"The Houses…" Hermione trailed off, her eyes flickering thoughtfully. "Gryffindor's sword." Draco and Charlus stared at her expectantly. "In Hogwarts: A History, it talks about each of the Founders having an object. Gryffindor, a sword for only the bravest of heart; Hufflepuff, a chalice of plenty; Ravenclaw, a diadem; and Slytherin, a locket. They were passed down to their descendants through the years, but all but the sword mysteriously disappeared. The diadem disappeared ages ago, but…where was it…"
She trailed off, rifling through the pile of books until she came to a large, heavy-bound leather volume with The Daily Prophet: 1950-1959 inscribed in gold leaf. Her hands flew over the book, finding the index and turning the pages until she found what she was looking for. She pointed to an obituary.
Hepzibah Eunice Smith, aged 60, was found dead at her home of an apparent poisoning. Ms. Smith was an avid collector of magical antiquities, proclaiming that she had the most complete collection of artifacts in Europe. Ms. Smith was a kindly woman who was always glad to share stories about her collection and tales about her ancestor, Helga Hufflepuff.
"And she mysteriously dies," Draco said, his lips thin. "The Gaunts." He grabbed another thick volume, The Daily Prophet: 1940-1949. He flipped to a page, stabbing the headline triumphantly with a finger. "The Gaunt family said they were descendants of Salazar Slytherin. Maybe they had his locket."
"So, the diary. Maybe the locket and the cup?" Hermione started. "How many more could there possibly be? Do they all exist yet?"
"Moaning Myrtle, the Riddle family, and Hepzibah Smith." As he spoke, he raised a finger for each name, tapping each pointing finger for emphasis. "It takes a deliberate act of murder to create a Horcrux. Three is a mystical number so he's probably only created three." He added this new information to the parchment that they'd been working on through the night. It still wasn't much, but it was better than what they had.
Hazel eyes bounced back and forth as if watching a tennis match. Idea after idea spouted forth from the teenagers, and the more they spoke, the more lost Charlus Potter became. He quietly excused himself and left the study, shaking his head with befuddlement. Draco and Hermione were so engrossed in their discussion that they didn't even see him leave.
"So we know what they are…but where do we find them?" She gnawed her bottom lip as she thought of something. Last year, at Grimmauld Place, she had seen something. The girl stood, brown eyes scanning the books that lined the walls. With a quiet noise of triumph, she grabbed a familiar volume and placed it on the table to join the pile already there. Hands quickly flipped through pages to land on a portrait.
A pale, scowling man with deep-sunk eyes, a bald pate, and a black, twisted goatee glared up at her. She pointed at the heavy silver locket that hung from his scrawny neck. "I've seen this," she told Draco. "Last year at Sirius's. The house-elf was trying to hide it."
A pale brow arched. "It's at Sirius's? That just seems…kind of anticlimactic. You'd think it'd be at a dragon-guarded cave or something," the blonde commented.
The brunette let out a huff of air, blowing a dark curl out of her face. "In 1995," she replied with a sigh. "We've got the better part of two decades between then and now."
There was a long, drawn-out silence as the two contemplated. "It was an engagement present," Draco said suddenly. The brunette looked to him for clarification. "The diary. That's what Father told me. It was a gift to show Father how much the Dark Lord trusted him."
"A book that will possess you and drain your life force…what a thoughtful gift," Hermione stated drolly with a roll of her eyes.
"The engagement party's tonight. Maybe we can get it then?" he suggested.
"But once we get a hold of it. How do we destroy it? It's not like we have a basilisk handy," she said with a grumble.
"Technically, we do…"
Her dark brows rose. "You'd better not be suggesting what I think you're suggesting," she stated.
"Fiendfyre works as well." At Hermione's look of curiosity, he added, "Long story." He sighed, his face growing serious. "I nearly lost you that year. When Potter and the Weasel weren't there, I'd check on you. Madam Pomfrey promised not to tell. I tried to stop it. You had my note in your hand."
"The page? I put it in your books."
"That was you?"
He nodded. "I had heard Father talking about it, and I didn't want anything to happen to you." He paused for a deep breath. "You were the closest thing to a friend I'd ever had." There was a pregnant pause as they looked at each other that gave birth to a different future that could have been. A world of what could have been if he had ignored his parents' order and continued his friendship with Hermione, where he had been there to protect her from the basilisk, where she hadn't slapped him, where he and Hermione had gone to the Yule Ball, where maybe Draco had joined Dumbledore's Army. Her small hand squeezed his and he gave her a warm smile, letting his free hand trace its knuckles over the soft curve of her heart-shaped face. "I knew you'd be smart enough to figure it out. I didn't know anything about the diary. I would have never thought that a book could bring harm."
"The Monster Book of Monsters?" They both grinned at that.
"Well, there's that..." He toyed with one of her curls, winding it around his finger. "So, Granger, would you like to crash my parents' engagement party?"
"As long as your parents don't try to get us into a foursome again."
Draco's face pinched in disgust. "Why can't you just let me forget that ever happened?"
"Because you make the cutest faces when you're disgusted."
"You're an evil woman, Granger," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "It's kind of hot." He gave her a grin before he pinned her beneath him on the chaise lounge, his mouth meeting hers in a hungry kiss.