IMPORTANT A/N: - READ FIRST SO THAT YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. This is not a complete ending – well, it is, but it isn't fully written. I have gotten countless requests for me to explain how I would have resolved the story with the original ending I posted (for new readers, that twist will be included below), as well as to explain many of the twists in the story that seemed to have no resolution with the current ending. To help you, as readers, appreciate the story more, I decided that, rather than trying to write one gigantic paragraph explaining it all, to post all the notes and unfinished chapters of Have You Ever that I have in my records. Keep in mind, though, that these are just that, notes, and while the next chapter will begin in full story form to the point where I simply had no more time nor motivation to fill in the gaps, the rest is simply skips in important dialogue and details that I was planning to put in the final chapters. It jumps, it's scattered, it includes my scribblings to myself, and it changes tenses, but it is dialogue that, I feel, gives the explanation of how I originally planned the story to end better than I can. It does read in chronological order, though, and should be fairly easy to read. Thank you, again, for all of your beautiful reviews. I'm so happy you liked the story. I'm sorry to tell you that I have no plans to fill in the gaps in this narration or write a sequel, so this is it, folks. Please don't be angry about that; I'm not doing this to spite you. I have just moved on from this story and the fan fiction world a long time ago, but I felt like I owed this to you, and anyway, these notes otherwise would have just sat around, unread, forever. I hope that this helps anyone who was confused or wondering why there were so many things that didn't make sense. I did have it all planned out, I just never got around to filling in the holes. If any of you feel you would like to fill in what I haven't, feel free, as long as you credit.
An Alternate Ending…
Mid-Chapter 31 w/ original twist
She had done it, and the spell had worked. Oh God, the spell had worked, but she had been so close… so close to losing him forever… but she hadn't, because he was alive; he's alive, he's alive, HE'S ALIVE!
Her mind was screaming 'THANK YOU, thank you GOD!' , dancing in joy, whirling and twirling and singing and laughing, but on the outside Hermione found that she could only choke back a broken cry, and before she realized it she vaguely felt tears begin to stream down her face until she was sobbing, but she didn't care. Reluctantly releasing her death grip around him with one hand, she shakily reached up and gently brushed some of his damp, tousled hair back from his dazed face.
The motion caused Tom to give a small, rather drunken-like jerk in surprise, as if he hadn't noticed anyone's presence but his own until then, but he continued to blankly stare straight ahead like his mind was still partially at the brink of demise.
Hermione couldn't take it anymore. Her mind needed more proof, solid proof; she needed to feel him, to breathe him and taste him and hear his voice, and with a tiny squeal she knelt and flung her arms around him like she had never hugged anyone else before in her life, whispering, over and over, over and over, "Thank you God, oh God, thank you, thank you God…"
For a moment, Tom stiffened, shivering violently, his heavy sweater and pants apparently not enough to protect him from the chill of death he had nearly experienced, but then he choked out, "Hermione - You - don't – don't have to - bloody well suffocate me –"
Hermione let out a strangled sound that was a cross between a laugh and whimper and loosened her hold around him only slightly, but that seemed to be enough for him to firmly identify her.
"Oh God," he breathed faintly, disbelievingly, as if still in a haze, "Oh God – it really is you–" Slowly, she felt his arms wrap around her rather numbly. "How-"he choked out in a stunned voice, faltered, and tried again, "How did you…?"
"Ssssh," she managed to murmur, fighting back the tears that helplessly ran down her cheeks, clutching his sweater in her fists, closing her eyes and burying her face into the grove at the back of his neck, his warm neck, his very much alive neck. "I'll explain later. Just be here right now. Just be here with me."
It was as if Harry and Ron had completely disappeared; as if all that existed in the world were she and Tom, and, a moment later, Hermione felt his embrace on her tighten until he had pulled her flat against him, as if he was afraid she was going to disappear at any given second.
"Hermione," Tom finally murmured again, his voice a low, throaty rumble somewhere nearby her head in that wonderfully melodic voice, that calming, soothing perfect voice that she knew she could never live without. Suddenly, he mumbled tightly, his words muffled slightly against the side of her head, "If - you're expecting me to be an… an ideal white knight in shining armor… I can never be the person you expect me to be."
"No," she whispered vehemently, releasing his sweater and wrapping her arms around him even more tightly, reaching up with one hand and weaving her fingers into the tangled hair at the back of his head. "That's just it. I never expected any of this from you. None of it."
Breaking off, but without letting up her hold on him at all, she twisted her head slightly and pressed a loving kiss into the soft skin of his neck. His breaths quickened against her head, his heart thudding harder against her chest, and a moment later, she broke off and whispered earnestly, "Tom, I'm so proud of you, I'm soproud…"
The dark-haired Slytherin made a soft, unintelligible noise under his breath, pulling away just slightly, and, for the first time that morning, Hermione found herself gazing into stormy gray eyes that were swirling with so much unspoken everything, so much emotion and care and actual sparkle -
"Oh, how adorably… romantic."
At the familiar yet completely unexpected voice, Hermione stiffened and felt Tom do the same. Quickly, as if she had been stung, she pulled away from him, memories of Harry and Ron coming down into the Chamber with her, helping her save him (albeit reluctantly, on Ron's part) filling her mind, but this voice…
This voice hadn't.
Tom's narrowed eyes were questioning, probing hers' as his gaze traveled back and forth between her and something over her shoulder. Hermione gave him an uneasy, 'I-have-no-idea' shrug and uncertainly twisted herself around to face the rear of the Chamber.
She had recognized the voice, so, in a way, she wasn't surprised to see him casually leaning against one of the towering columns a bit behind an equally confused-looking Ron and Harry… and yet, she wasstunned.
"Draco," she eventually said numbly, phrasing the name somewhere between a disbelieving question and an accusing statement.
His platinum hair contrasting even more starkly against long, sweeping midnight black robes, Draco smirked in greeting. "Ah, Granger, Riddle, lovely to see you two together again so soon." He bowed slightly, a dangerous smirk still on his face, his tone so chillingly foreign and sarcastic that Hermione felt dread flood every pore in her body as he continued smoothly, "Please. Allow me to introduce my Death Eaters."
And suddenly, like swirls emerging from the shadowy depths of hell itself, hooded dark robes swept like ghostly phantoms from behind every one of the huge, snakelike columns lining the Chamber of Secrets until Hermione could see nothing but a miniature sea of inky black.
Chapter 32: In Which There Is A Great Deal of Name-Calling and Anger
Saturday, January 8, 1945
Hermione couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't breathe… she could just stare at the nightmare that had, in seconds, appeared like an apparition of hell itself before her. At least twenty-five cloaked figures were moving to pack around them in a suffocating circle. A part of her still couldn't believe they were who Draco had said they were. Was this all some sort of sick practical joke?
Her dumbfounded state of shocked silence was only broken when Harry incredulously echoed, "Your Death Eaters?"
"Of course, Potter. You didn't think I'd just sit on the sidelines and play exploding snap when we came back in time, did you?" Draco asked in a voice so unlike the one Hermione was used to. In the few seconds of shocked silence that followed that explosive statement, Draco suddenly yelled "Expelliarmus!" and a spell that Hermione, amazingly, wasn't familiar with.
Hermione's stomach lurched in time to register that the wand that had previously been in her hand was now in Draco's, along with two more…
Ron's and Harry's.
Stupid! How could you let him catch you so off guard?!
She suddenly noticed that she had, in the time between Draco's utterly unexpected arrival and the present, risen to her feet. Desperately, she attempted to take a step closer to Tom, or Harry and Ron, or maybe she was just trying to scramble away from the nightmare that appeared in front of her in general, but she found that neither of her feet responded to frantic brain signals, as if they were glued to the floor.
"What in the sodding –" From the way Ron suddenly started bellowing out curses, it was apparent that he and Harry were probably trapped in the same way. "Malfoy! You – You son of a –"
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Harry asked in a low voice from somewhere behind her, sounded as stunned and bewildered as she felt. It was a morbid comfort, knowing that she wasn't alone in her disbelief.
Whether or not the blond who had suddenly become the equivalent of the devil in her book answered, Hermione didn't hear. Almost innately, she swivelled her head around to find the comfort of Tom's expression,anything – But he wasn't looking at her. He was staring very intently between Draco and Calugala Malfoy. His suddenly unreadable eyes eventually met her urgent ones for the briefest of seconds, but looked away just as quickly.
And then she realized.
Draco hadn't taken Tom's wand.
Swiftly, she whipped her head back around and sucked in a breath, trying to calm breaths that had become near-hyperventilative in a matter of seconds. She had no idea what it meant, why Tom was allowed to keep his wand when the rest of them weren't, but she knew that it most likely was not a good thing. In fact, the connotations behind the lack of action were very, very bad.
Oh God. This was not happening. Whatever was going on was not real.
Hermione's numb mind thawed enough to begin to grasp incoherent thoughts, and she faintly wondered how on earth had the – the Death Eaters had gotten inside the Chamber of Secrets. As far as she knew, no one else in the school save Tom and Harry spoke Parseltongue, unless…
She turned to Ron in dread, interrupting the continuing wave of profanities spilling from his mouth that Draco was silently taking with a small, smug smirk. "Did you shut the Defence Against the Dark Arts door?" she demanded, holding her breath. She knew it wouldn't help their situation much, but it was at least oneof a million frantic questions bombarding her mentality that could actually be answered relatively quickly. "When you came down, did you shut the door?"
Ron stopped yelling long enough to furrow his brow, and Hermione knew from the guilty expression that suddenly crossed his face that he hadn't. Her breath released in a whoosh, and she felt her shoulders slump slightly as Draco tutted. "You never quite were the quickest broom in the cupboard, were you, Weasley?" he sneered in a wholly uncharacteristic tone.
Ron let out a growl in response. "I never trusted him!" he snarled, jabbing a furiously finger at Draco as if he dearly wished it was his wand instead. He was obviously having the easiest time between the three modern teens of accepting the fact that Draco Malfoy du Lac had suddenly, inconceivably turned traitor. "When they said he switched sides, I never believed it, not for a second!"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Oh yes, Weasley, because you always let blokes you know as traitors borrow your Chudley Cannon trading cards," he said sarcastically.
Draco,Hermione again thought numbly as Ron snarled like a near-rabid dog and gave Draco another expression of utter fury. He had so convinced her – could anyone act that well? – that he was her friend. She had been willing to overlook his past transgressions; she had liked him, she really and truly had! And he – he had betrayed her?
"Why are you calling them by different names?" Tom suddenly asked in a deadly low voice, his eyes locked in Draco. Another shockwave revelation struck Hermione, one that she had wished was true but had never really thought it was, and she felt her mouth fell open. Oh God… had it… had the leader of the Death Eaters really not been him, but Draco?
Everything was happening too fast! Even she couldn't keep up with the rate of absorption! Her gaze briefly darted over her shoulder to meet Harry's piercing green one; her eyes sending a silent 'I told you it wasn't him!' Harry bit his lip and nodded reluctantly in agreement.
It was a very miniscule sort of triumph, especially considering what was about to come all too soon.
Draco pushed himself up from his perch, leaning against a Chamber column, and casually strolled between the eerily silent line of Death Eaters and the four teens, idly twirling his wand around his fingers. "You mean, our lovely Ms. Granger hasn't told you yet?" he asked with a delighted smirk, which soon changed to a sigh of mock-sadness. "Such a shame. And here you loved her and thought she was so wonderful."
Dread and every other feeling of horror suddenly slammed into her like a stack of History of Magic textbooks, and a good lungful of air was again hard to come by.
So this was what Draco was doing. He was going to tell him. Like this.
"Malfoy, what the hell are you doing?" Harry hissed, obviously thinking along the same horrible lines that she was.
Isn't it obvious? Hermione thought dully as Draco ignored him, fear and shock quickly channelling all her energy into pure anger. He wants the power for himself! He wants to use Tom's temper against us to gain him on his side! He's betraying us all!
She couldn't imagined how confused the Heir of Slytherin must have been, though from the way his eyes were calculatingly darting between Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco, one would have never known it. "Told me what?" he asked in a low, even voice.
Draco's eyes lingered on Hermione for only a split second before another expression of detached nonchalance appeared, and he tilted his head toward Tom with a pleasant smile that was almost innocent. "Told you that she really came here to kill you." A wave of nausea rushed over Hermione as the blond calmly continued in the same breath, "Why else do you think we all abruptly 'transferred' schools during our final year of education? Not to come visit 'dear Uncle Albus,' that's for sure." His smile abruptly morphed to a cold smirk as he leaned forward, his voice lowered. "Why else would she work so hard to make you fall in love with her?"
Holy mother of Merlin.
Despite the splitting throbbing of blood through her brain, Hermione felt weak and exhausted all at once, perhaps from the combination of not having consumed a thing since dinner the night before, the nearly unbearable stress of facing Tom's death, the power she'd need to conjure to complete the time travel spell, and the fact that Draco Malfoy had, in four sentences, just destroyed everything she'd worked so hard to build…
NO! I cannot let him get away with this!
"That's not true!" Hermione burst out, desperately trying to salvage what little remaining hope this conversation had left before it turned into a full-scale disaster.
Draco looked amused. "It isn't? I seem to remember us having quite a long discussion once the Anima symptoms set in, about how you should go about 'making him fall in love with you'… ring any bells?"
She gasped, but before she could respond, Tom sharply turned to her, taking her face none too gently in his hands and lifting it up so she had nowhere else to look but his eyes. Had he always been standing that close to her? "Is that true?" he asked slowly. She didn't answer, only attempted to shoot Draco a horrified, murderous glare before turning to Tom with the same horrified expression-
Without her having to say a word, Tom abruptly took several steps backward and away from Hermione as if she were diseased, but when he saw he had inadvertently stepped closer to Calugala Malfoy, he jaggedly stepped away from him too, standing alone near the inner circle of otherwise silent Death Eaters. "Why?" he finally asked flatly, his forced calm tone a sure sign that things were not going in Hermione's direction.
"Allow me to explain," Draco cut in smoothly before Hermione could open her mouth.
"No! You'll slant it against us–"
"Bloody git uffa-"
Both Hermione and Ron's furious exclamations were pregnantly cut off as Draco waved a silencing spell on them. "There, much better. Now, as I was about to say, we, as it is, are from the future… nearly fifty years, to be exact. In our time, there was a Dark Lord who was attempting European denomination. "That Dark Lord would be you." He paused, his gaze lowering on Tom, and smirked. "With me so far?"
For the briefest of seconds, Tom looked stunned, but then his eyes again deadened and his face turned blank. "Yes, I believe so," he said coolly.
"Good. Let's keep going. The 'good fellows,' which basically comprised of everyone's favourite Dumbledore, his Order of the Birds – don't ask," he added when Tom's eyes narrowed questioningly, "and these three – all Gryffindors at the time, mind you, even your precious girlfriend, if you'd still care to call her that - were losing. Quite horribly, may I add. So to solve the problem, Dumbledore found a brilliant little time enchantment to send us back to kill the Dark Lord before he was powerful enough to kill them."
Hermione struggled fiercely against the Silencing Charm in the moment of quiet that ensued, but found she could only stand breathlessly in a frustrated, angry stillness. The pain in her chest from lack of air and something even more horrible was as intense as if someone had taken a hatchet to it and cleaved it open. The only other time she had felt like this was the night she had lost her parents.
She could actually feel her heart breaking.
"And where do you come in?" Tom asked finally. His blank expression hadn't changed over the course of Draco's speaking… the only alteration was in his eyes, and it was terrifying.
Grey had turned to black.
Watching him, Hermione suddenly realized why she had never seen the "Dark side of Tom Riddle," as Ginny had once put it - She had never given him reason to show it to her. And God help her now that he had one.
"I'm a Malfoy. His grandson, to be exact," Draco said with a sweeping gesture at a proudly smirking Calugala. He looked back at Tom and nodded suggestively. "Once bad, always bad, if you catch my drift. I didn't come here to kill you; I came here to save you."
"You bastard," Harry's quiet voice suddenly came from her side, and Hermione's eyes widened in surprise before she remembered that Draco hadn't Silenced him. "You traitorous bastard."
"And you! You think I didn't know about you, Potter?" Draco asked delightedly, a small, dangerous smirk playing on his lips. "I had you invited into the fold! I've been feeding you information for months." The-Boy-Who-Lived's eyes shot bloody murder into the blond, a vein visibly throbbing in his temple, but before he could explode, Draco continued smugly, "Of course, it worked out quite well that you thought I was someone else."
Hermione hadn't even realized that Draco had lifted the silencing charm on her until her mouth involuntarily made a noise resembling something of desperate snarl, and she instantly took full advantage of it. "Tom," she said desperately, her eyes pleading with him to understand, "It's not what you think!"
He stared at her, unreadable, his gaze blacker than she had ever seen it… than she had ever thought she would ever see it. "You have no idea what I'm thinking right now, Granger," he eventually said in such a dead voice, waves of terror pulsed through Hermione's heart. He paused, then added caustically, "That was what he said your name was, wasn't it?"
"Does it matter what my last name is?" Hermione whispered, her eyes ignoring Draco, Ron, Harry, a dozen and more faceless shapes lumped together around them… it was Tom, only Tom that mattered now. "I'm still me, aren't I? My physical composition hasn't magically changed in two seconds!"
"That's not the point!" he suddenly burst out furiously, his indifferent shell cracking, "You been lying to me since the day I met you!"
Hermione's lips parted in shock at the accusation that was, admittedly, partially true, but the anger that had sparked in her at Draco's incomprehensible betrayal suddenly chose that moment to burst forth and unleash itself, not on Draco… but at Tom.
Regardless, it was still for good reason. How – How dare he? After all she had done for him, how dare he immediately think the worst of her and turn to the other side so quickly! "You're not being fair!" she exclaimed.
"I'm not being fair?" he hissed. "Bloody - I nearly died because of you!"
"I just saved your life!" she gasped out, her anger increasing at an alarmingly steady rate.
"The intention was still there," he said flatly. "It's all been a lie, hasn't it? Next you're going to be telling me that the littlest West is secretly in love with me, your ruddy "Seer visions" were actually fake, the French chateau you and your family supposedly visited at Christmas doesn't really exist, and yours and Evans' parents are happily sharing a London flat. You were a very good actress," he finished softly, looking away. "I almost believed you."
Through his speech, Hermione's blood had begun to boil, and she found that her heartbrokenness had utterly, inexplicably turned to an uncontrollable rage, which she was determined to take out on someone; specifically, Tom. "Are you quite finished?" she asked coldly.
He blinked rapidly and quickly looked back up at her, his expression blank. "Why not?" he finally threw out callously, coldness swiftly slipping back to his voice. "It isn't as if– "
"Tom? Stop talking," she ground out before he could continue speaking, "because I'm just getting started."
Her words seemed to have startled him into a temporary silence, and Hermione took full advantage of it, the careful control she had on her tone slipping away the longer she spoke, "Yes, Ginny's hated you for six years, ever since you made her first year a living hell! You possessed her - you forced her to re-open the Chamber of Secrets! And the visions? They weren't all fake- How do you think I found out about your curse if I didn't? And the chateau? You're right, it doesn't exist. Anymore. Your Dark forces destroyed it and every other fortified chateau in the French Alps last year, and went on to annihilate magical Paris and everyone in it. And no, Harry's parents are still dead. Grindewald didn't murder them, Tom. You did!"
It was at this point that she finally remembered to breathe, and she gasped in a gulp of air, suddenly recalling that there were unspeakable numbers of the foulest people she could imagine in the room was well. Still, that didn't stop her from collecting herself to finish – she had to finish. "And then," she whispered faintly, swallowing hard as her voice cracked, "And then, when I was fifteen years old, you came to my house and you murdered mine."
An abrupt silence filled the chamber, but for a moment, the briefest of moments… Hermione thought she saw the faintest flicker of shock in Tom's cold, unreadable eyes. Yes! There it was again; was there a chance – even a faint one - that she could catch him off guard, that she could still bring him back?
But as she quickly gathered a breath to say something else, though she didn't know quite what, Calugala lazily drawled, "You know, as enjoyable as this lover's spat is, I'm afraid we're going to have to interrupt."
"I'm not done yet!" she snapped, in her fury momentarily forgetting who had a wand and who didn't.
His right eye twitched, just slightly, and, as if reading her thoughts, he sharply raised his own wand. "Well, guess what, Mudblood?I don't bloody give a sh—"
"No," Draco suddenly said unexpectedly, holding up a hand, smirk on face. "No, this is entertaining." He nodded at Hermione. "Go on."
"Why thank you for such a grant of generosity, Lord Malfoy," she spat and glared at him before she turned her attention to Tom and said evenly, "If you think I did this awful thing to you, then it's only fair you think about all the awful things you did to me, and my friends, and myMuggle parents — 'good people,' you once called them… And remember that, despite all of that, I just saved your life! What does that tell you?"
"Most likely that you're not quite as bright as the almighty Dumbledore makes you out to be," Draco said with a little laugh to himself.
Hermione rounded on him, her fury again flaring. "It was you, wasn't it!" she hissed. "You took Lavender's book out of the Head Room! You tried to burn it!"
To her surprise, Draco didn't try to deny it. "Until you found it, unfortunately." He shrugged nonchalantly. "I was under the Invisibility Cloak when I saw that bint with it. Followed her into the Head Commons, took it after the lot of you ran out for something or another, not that you even cared much about it at the time…" He tilted his head slightly as he frowned down at aforementioned book, laying sprawled near Hermione's feet. "Looks like it didn't meet the fiery end I wanted into to, though."
He promptly turned his back on her and moved to Tom. "I believe my grandfather offered you a place at my side last night. You may have refused then, but the offer still stands, especially now that you've seen what this Mudblood and her friends have worked against you."
Oh my God… this is not happening… this is not happening… This could turn out very badly. Very badly. She had to stop this!
"Do you think he's just going to step back and let you take over everything they've been planning for months? Years?" Hermione demanded, torn between a mix of panic and fury and confusion and emotions she couldn't even properly express. "You, who they've called a Half-Blood for Merlin knows how long? Tom, think about what you're doing! Think logically!"
She cringed as soon as the words left her mouth. Right, would he logically decide to side with someone he had just found out was trying to kill him?
"If I'm to be this… powerful Dark Lord…" Tom stared at Hermione with deadly, narrow eyes, then tilted his head slightly as he spoke to Draco. "Don't you think it's your place to be at my side?"
Oh God… Apparently he was thinking along the same lines that she was, and Hermione's heart filled with dread as Draco's lips curled into something that was not entirely a smirk. "Perhaps if you say 'please.' "
Hermione felt dizzy. Merlin, I can't listen to this rot anymore. "So what are you going to do with us?" she demanded, voicing the thought that was probably also on Harry and Ron's lips had the Silencing Charm not been in effect.
A delighted smile stretched across Calugala's face. "Have you already forgotten that Silviarius we made in Potions?"
Everything clicked into place with horrible accuracy, her nerves on complete edge as the anxiety about losing Tom yielded to the much more pressing situation at hand. "How convenient, you "accidentally" made plenty of it," she growled.
He smirked. "I'm smarter than I look, Nefertari."
Hermione couldn't stop herself from giving him a filthy look. "I doubt that."
"This conversation is getting old," Draco suddenly said, waving his hands to, she assumed, lift the silencing spell. "You're a hindrance to my plans. A little Stun, and the next time you wake up, none of this will have every happened." He laughed. "At least, not in your memories."
As one, Malfoy, Malfoy and about twenty other Death Eaters raised their wands and aimed, while Tom just stood there with his arms tense at his sides, stiffly hanging onto his wand, his eyes an emotionless void.
Oh God. Oh God oh God oh God.
"Anyone have any bright ideas?" Hermione breathed desperately.
"None that don't require the use of a wand," Harry whispered back, his eyes shooting daggers into Draco.
Calugala smirked. "Say your prayers, Mudblood. Your life is over."
"Couldn't have said it better myself," Tom abruptly said, suddenly swinging his wand to the left. He created a grey void, and the surrounding Chamber of Secrets disappears.
"Tom, what are you doing?" Hermione asked tightly, not daring to hope or even breathe.
He stared at her, wand still outstretched. "Helping you, unless you'd prefer I not."
"Oh, God," Hermione gasped, closing her eyes in relief.
"Well, I for one would prefer you do; I don't quite fancy getting my memory erased, thank you very much," Harry answered for her a bit sarcastically.
The lanky redhead, however, continued to stare at the Slytherin suspiciously. "Right, you expect us to believe that you're just suddenly going to help us when you've been offered a top spot in the Death Eaters' ranks? Are you mad?"
Tom pressed his lips together in a thin line, so much hate in his eyes Hermione found herself wondering the exact same thing. "I don't expect you to believe anything."
Surprisingly, Harry ignored Ron's 'Please don't tell me you're going to believe this bloke' roll of the eyes and jabbed a finger at their grey, blank surroundings. "What the bloody hell is that?"
"A precaution Salazar Slytherin made when he created the chamber. We're in a time void. I can translocate us to any location in the chamber before starting it up again."
"Right, so we have a problem." (Harry)
(Tom) (sarcastically) "Thank you for that spot-on assessment."
Ron (to Tom about Draco). "Get me a wand, I'm going to kill the bastard."
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed.
Harry (trying to hold him back): "Slow down, mate, we don't want to rush into the middle of something we can't get out of!"
All silent, thinking.
(Tom) "As the lot of you are apparently experts on me, I'm sure you realize there is a basilisk – "
"No," Harry blurted with a that-is-final tone at the same time that Hermione quickly said, "Merlin, no basilisk. We don't want people dead. Just… knocked out. If we could get them out of commission for a bit and find Dumbledore, he'll know what to do."
Tom sneered, the openly hostile tension between them nothing short of blatant warfare in itself. "Just like he knew exactly what he was doing when he sent you here to kill me. He certainly has all the answers, doesn't he?"
Remembering Dumbledore's words, "Not all wars are won by fighting" (and, presumably, killing), Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Harry cut her off.
"Alright, let's put the cold war on hold for the moment and focus on surviving the hot one first." He gave Riddle a dark look. "You don't know what she went through to bring you back. She's been running around like a bloody maniac for you. I suggest you be very grateful, and that's all I'm going to say right now. Is it possible to get our wands back?" he asked pointedly.
Right away, Tom lifted his wand and muttered an additional spell. Three wands came through void.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione get in their familiar battle huddle. Harry and Ron grudgingly remember to move aside and let Tom in, and he listens quietly as they discuss plans.
Ron: "Now, the question is, how do we divide twenty-nine death eaters from twenty-four wands and have three Gryffindors and one –er - Slytherin left over?"
"We can always go out there shooting and hope for the best," Harry muttered sarcastically.
"We're not going to go running out into the middle of a group of Death Eaters." (Hermione)
"I will!" Ron volunteered, sending another murderous look in the general direction of the main Chamber of Secrets
"Alright, have fun," Hermione said tiredly. "No matter how strong we are, we're still horribly outnumbered. We can't go out there and just duel them all and hope to win. We need a strategy. We need some sort of spell to take them all out."
Ron: "Like the (insert spell name) we used at the Battle of Hogsmeade?"
Tom: "(insert spell name), isn't that supposed to imitate a massive Stupefy?" (Seems familiar with it)
Harry: "Yeah. The more people to cast it, the stronger it is. With this many of us… it should last hours, at least."
(Hermione explains) "Right, does everyone know what they're doing?"
Tom (about to leave) "Very well, then, it seems like you're all quite capable on your own."
"Where are you going?" Harry asked.
"Somebody has to distract them while you go set up the spell." Tom
"Don't be ridiculous, let me do it." Hermione
"No, I'll go." Harry
"No, I want to kill the bastard!"
"We're not killing anyone, Ron!"
"Yeah? Why don't you try telling them that!"
"Christ, you're all like children," Tom muttered under his breath. "All right, pick a number from one through six. Whoever gets it goes out there."
"Two," Ron said eagerly.
Hermione sighed. "Five."
"You're both wrong." (Tom starts time back up, and Hermione finds that he's moved them to the back outskirts of Chamber, the farthest they could possibly be from the hub of Death Eaters. She could hear Draco's unmistakable drawl swear, "What in the bloody hell-" and Calugala shout, "For Merlin's sake, FIND THEM!", the yell echoing off the Chamber walls.)
Tom's standing a few columns down. "Nefertari—Granger—hell, whoever you are, get over here!"
That was a low blow, and Hermione's heart twisted painfully as she ran next to him. "Don't do this, don't act like you don't know me," she hissed.
He let out a dead-sounding laugh. "I don't know you! You're someone from - from the future! You were in Gryffindor! How could I possibly know who you are?"
"How could you know who I am? I think the question is, how could you not know who I am?" she demanded, then whispered, "You very well may be the only person who did know me for me, without some – some preconceived notion of who I was." She laughed limply, her voice devoid of any conceit as she said bitterly, "The brilliant Muggle-born Hermione Granger, smartest witch of her age, best friend of the Harry Potter… I was always supposed to have all the answers," she whispered faintly.
Tom stared at her for what seemed like a lot longer than what could have only been a few seconds before he said in a low voice, "Doing the spell alone won't cover it." He gestured out toward the far end of the Chamber of Secrets, which, with several black forms running about, now looked like a scurrying ant farm. "You need to cast an enclosure bubble over the lot of them so the main spell body won't miss any. Let Evans – Pot – Potter and Westley do that part. Do you even know how to cast an enclosure bubble?"
"Of course I do!" Hermione bristled. "Why are you even asking me to do this if you're going to be like this?"
"Because you're the only other one here who can," he snapped.
Hermione let out a bitter laugh. "What, you have faith in my abilities even though I'm a lowly Mudblood?" she asked sarcastically.
"Do NOT call yourself that!" he shouted, but then he looked stricken that such words had left his mouth as Hermione stared at him in shock. He backed away, unconsciously repeating, "Do not call yourself that…" and then sprinted off. Hermione watched him go, wide-eyed, then sighed and returned back to her position, overlooking the Chamber of Secrets.
–They all take position, Tom strolls out into middle of the Chamber, and then Hermione, Harry, and Ron hit. The power of the spell instantly knocks most of the Death Eaters flat out on the ground; only a very few Death Eaters who were on the outskirts are still left. Calugala Malfoy and Tom are duelling until Tom disarms him. Tom is going to kill him (is he doing the Crutiatus curse?), but Hermione stops him. ("Tom, no! You are not a killer!")
He lowers his wand a bit. "That's not what you said ten minutes ago."
Hermione: "In that world someone who once had your name was, yes, but in this world that person is not you!"
(Calugala Malfoy says something horribly degrading.) Tom's eyes darken, and he raises his wand sharply – Hermione thinks he's going to kill him – but he Stupefies Calugala instead, then leaves the Chamber of Secrets without even looking at Hermione.
Hermione runs after him and throws Un Amour Mortel et D'autres Sortilèges Tragiques at him. "I suggest you read it. You might find what it says interesting."
(Tom LEAVES (or goes out of Hermione's sight), furious, but he actually stays behind and listens to the dialogue that will appear next (she doesn't know this yet) before DRACO REAPPEARS from out of concern.
Ron takes his wand, ready to slaughter him.
"Don't be stupid, Weasley. You have to hear me out."
"Hear you out? After you tried to murder us? Do you think we're bloody daft?" Ron snapped, his eyes furious as he raised his eyebrows. "You know, 'Once bad, always bad, if you catch my drift?' "
GINNY (COMES OUT FROM UNDER INVISIBILITY CLOAK too, dressed in Death Eater robes) (EVERYBODY SHOCKED) "You really do need to hear him out."
Draco and Ginny explain that the entire thing was a TEST
(THIS PART ALL FLASHBACKS OF OTHER PPL'S POVs ) Basically flashbacks explain how Draco and Ginny planned the Death Eaters, first as a way to take control before Tom did because, in that case, they'd be in a much better position to work with the Ministry to take it down and find everyone who participated in it if it grew out of control. After Tom was supposed to die, they figured that he would be out of the way and they wouldn't have to worry about him wanting to join and/or take power. But then when they saw Hermione falling in love with Tom, too, and they weren't sure if she'd find some way to save his life, they began to put him to the test to see if his intentions would last (Draco making him jealous, then offering him power, etc) and see if he would either a. turn to the dark and become more evil now that he's immune to dying from love or b. protect Hermione. It was a test that he passed that morning.)
1. Draco and Ginny discussing the possibility of forming the Death Eaters as a ruse very early-on (before October).
2. After C. Malfoy asked Harry to join the Death Eater ranks and he accepted, and Ginny and Draco have to deal with the ramifications.
"Shit," said Ginny, shoving a hand through her hair, "I don't want to string him along!"
Draco- "I know. I didn't want anyone else of us involved, but I guess it could work to our advantage if we're careful. Feed false information. I can pretend to be Riddle."
Ginny- "No, I don't like this."
D- "What else can we do? Potter'd murder us or want us to call it all off instantly if he found out it was us who started it all, and we're too far in to do that."
3. Lavender, with the French book, asks Draco where the Head Girl room is, and after he tells her, he follows her under the Invisibility Cloak and steals it back when Herm, Lav, and Phyllis run out of Head Boy/Girl dorm
4. After Hermione beats up Calugala Malfoy in the Potions classroom, Draco, in a way, protects her.
Calugala stormed into the last Death Eater meeting before the Christmas break, looking as if he had gotten into a fight with a troll and lost horribly. Draco raised an eyebrow. "What happened to you?"
"Your little beauty queen, that's what. Little bint, thinks she's so bloody smart, but guess what? I am going to hurt her!"
"No!" Draco said forcibly. When Calugala gave him a strange look, he added in a darker, calmer voice, "No… I have something better than that. Much better." His grandfather waited expectantly during what Draco hoped was a dramatic pause, but in reality it was him fumbling for some non-violent idea. "Call her a … a Mudblood."
"She's a Pureblood. Calling her a Mudblood won't hurt her. Simply bruise her pride," Calugala scoffed.
Draco shook his head. "Oh, it will. More than you know."
Calugala raised his eyebrow, obviously intrigued.
5. Draco and Ginny discovering that Hermione was going to save Tom that morning (when she comes back in time for the book). They still don't trust that he's changed, and their subsequent scrambling tactics with the Death Eaters to make sure that, if Tom wasn't going to die, that he would not be drawn into the cult. If he choose the Death Eaters over Hermione, then Draco and Ginny would let Dumbledore take control of the situation. If not... they'd figure that out when they got there.
BACK TO PRESENT
Hermione (yelling)- "You ruined my life for a bloody test?"
Draco: "Nef, it had to be done!"
"Don't call me 'Nef,' " she snapped, then shook her head in disbelief. "Why didn't you just ask me? I could've told you he wouldn't have done that!"
Draco: "One - Because you knew him well when he was sick, and when he was sick and dying he's not going to be acting like he would if he were up to his full potential, now would he have? But right now, he was cured and he was as powerful as he'd ever been. Now was the only time we could really find out if he changed!"
Hermione reluctantly admits to herself that she had thought about this. "And two," Ginny adds, "Your feelings for him may have clouded your vision just a bit!"
Hermione (still pretty much in a shouting match w/ Draco): "You didn'ttrust me, you just… I don't have to talk to you anymore." She walks a distance away from the group and sits.
Harry comes up behind her.
"Why did you help me so much?" she whispered, still staring straight ahead.
He sat down next to her. "Because I… saw you two. Together."
She looks over at him in surprise. "When?"
"The night you woke up, after the Holiday Soiree. I came back to see how you were doing, under the Cloak, obviously, but… you had already gotten out of bed. You were going over to Riddle, and I – I stayed and watched," he confessed. "And... he was different, he was…human. You told him things that you'd never told any of us before, and he told you things that I doubt he's otherwise told another living soul, and I… I could see that it –wasn't an act. That you cared about each other. A lot."
Hermione (blinking back tears). "Yes, we did." She finally starts to cry, overwhelmed about finally admitting it, out loud, to someone else, and Harry wraps his arm around her. "We did…"
(JUMP TO WHERE THEY ARE ALREADY IN DUMBEDORE'S OFFICE AND HAVE JUST FINISHED TELLING HIM WHAT HAS HAPPENED. HE TELLS THEM WHAT THEY CAN DO TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM AND THEN ABOUT GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE)
When they explain the Chamber of Secrets mess to the past Dumbledore, he cleans up most of it using the Silviarius potion on all the Death Eaters, having them forget that the time travellers are time travellers, as well as what future events were revealed to them. Also tells them they have not been and will not be interested in joining any organization like the Death Eaters in the future, in case another person decides they would like to be a Dark Lord…
-"But how do you know if what you have come back in time to change is truly changed?" Hermione asked, unable to erase the dark, blank look in Tom's eyes from her mind.
"When your task – the same task that you were instructed to have in mind when you came back this time – if you can recall it - "
Hermione found that she easily could; it was something she'd repeated to herself so many times once shed gotten back, that no matter what happened, even the mere idea of Lord Voldemort would cease to exist after 1944. She couldn't help but smile sadly at the thought- when she'd come back, she'd had no idea that the answer to solving that problem would not lie in fighting… but in love. After a moment, she blinked and nodded at Dumbledore.
For a moment, she could have sworn he gazed at her sympathetically, but when he continued speaking as if nothing had ever happened, she assumed that she had imagined it. "Well, as the Impartus Infinitivum spell supposedly works, after that task has been completed, Magick knows that the future has been permanently changed. It creates a portal… a portal back to the original universe as a… reward, I supposed you could say, a single chance for those who have sacrificed everything an succeeded to return to their time. This portal is open for a very brief time, of course. I believe you only have a 24 hour period before it closes forever."
"How can we find it? The… portal," Ginny asked, her eyes shining… Hermione realized how much the redhead had missed her family.
"Normally, through an otherwise pointless object that has also been taken back in time. Tell me, did my future self give you anything… with an unexplained usefulness, when he sent you back?'
Hermione frowned in a no, until a flashback struck her:
She held up the old, worn knapsack that Dumbledore had given her five days earlier. "Excuse me, Headmaster. What's this for?"
Dumbledore's eyes took on an unexpected twinkle, and he glanced from the bag to Hermione. "Well, if the bag will become what I hope it will become… You shall only find out if your purpose is fulfilled, Ms. Granger." He locked his piercing gaze on hers. "I assume you dohave a very specific purpose in mind for this task, do you not?"
"The knapsack!" she exclaimed. Summons it to them, where they unzip it and put a book inside…. and the book disappears— This is the portal.
Weasleys, Lav want to go back—to see their family again. Harry goes with Ginny (forgive sher for pulling one over on him.) Draco remains silent. Now that she figures Tom hates her, Hermione has nothing left here, so she decides to go back, too.
Ron: "But how can the future be changed—would Harry's family be alive?"
Hermione (sighs heavily) "I explained this to you at the beginning, Ronald…" explaining about how parallel dimensions work… give specific example, like even if Tom doesn't become Lord Voldemort now, in their reality, Harry's parents would still die, the Ministry of Magic, London, and Paris would have still been destroyed, but the battle that had been raging when they left would be stopped in its tracks, Voldemort and his forces instantly vanishing into the dust.
"Going back it time with the spell we used instantly creates two separate universes, but they're also connected. Altering the past herewill not undo what's already been done in the first universe, but it will change the future for that first universe from the point at which the time travellers left onward, which means that it should have stopped Voldemort's forces before they attack Hogwarts. In the Universe we're in right now, however, the present and future will remain how it has been changed – The war that Voldemort started would not take place here." She sighed. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Ron- "Not really, but I'm sure someone else will explain it to me."
BUT THEY NEED TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, BEFORE PORTAL CLOSES! They all run to get their things while Harry takes Dumbledore down to the Chamber of Secrets to cast an even longer-term sleeping charm on Death Eaters in order to deal with the time travelling issue first.
Draco mutters to Hermione, who's still furious at him: "I'm not coming back, if that makes you feel any better."
Hermione, limply, without even looking at him: "Oh. How very nice for you." She doesn't ask why, but it turns out that Columbia Salvi- Draco really does like her, and anyway, everyone in the future still essentially sees him as his father's son, who he doesn't want to be.
HERMIONE GOES TO THE HEAD DORMS TO GET HER THINGS AND GIVE TOM BACK HIS SLYTHERIN PENDANT BEFORE THEY LEAVE— Harry goes with her ("I don't want you to be alone with him!" "Harry…" "No, Hermione, did you see him? He was furious. I'm coming with you.") ..
Tom sitting stiffly in the tan sofa in front of the fire - the sofa that Hermione loved, the one they had used to sit in together. She came up behind him, and was surprised by Tom's lack of reaction, no anger, no movement in surprise at her approach, no nothing. She braced herself for the worst.
"I'm leaving— well, we all are. We can't come back. Here's your pendant." (speaking flatly, brusquely, no emotion)
"Keep it," he said without turning toward her, his voice completely flat, devoid of life. "It was a gift, and it still is."
For a moment, Hermione feared that the knapsack magic wasn't right, that he was still going to be Voldemort, but how could something so powerful have made a mistake? "Why did you side with us?" she asked in a low voice, trying and failing to keep the ache in her chest from passing her lips.
He stared at the flames for several long moments. "Two weeks ago, I made a promise to a dead man to keep his daughter safe," he finally said. "I kept my word."
Tears sprang, unbidden, to her eyes. When he said nothing more, she looked at Harry. He frowned and shook his head, waving her toward the door with a nod. She sighed and looked back down at Tom, alternating between a nearly overwhelming wave of anger and equally debilitating hurt. "Well... I'm sure he'll be appreciative," she bit out. Her fingers twitched, longing to touch his arm, his shoulder, anything; instead, she forced herself to clench them firmly in a fist and turned to leave.
"I heard what du Lac and West said, in the Chamber," he said suddenly. He slowly turned toward her, his eyes abruptly and astonishingly interlaced with so much emotion. "I don't understand it, you and I, how you can know the worst of me, and I, the worst of you, and yet we can still look each other in the face."
"That's because we also know the best of each other, I think," she said softly. She had to force herself to tear her gaze away. "Goodbye, Tom."
She was about to leave when he stood and grabbed her arm. "How could you even stand to look at me?" he repeated, his voice unreadable.
Hermione doesn't meet his eyes: "For a long time, I couldn't. For a long time, I hated you. Then I realized, it wasn't you who killed my parents." She put a hand over his heart. As the smallest of shivers twinged through his chest at her touch, she just as quickly realized her error and swiftly drew the same hand away before she completely lost her senses to his nearness, shaking her head. "It – It was someone else entirely," she finished unsteadily. She took several quick steps backward. "Goodbye," she whispered.
Harry- shakes Riddles hand and says something under his breath. Later, we find out what this is.
(they leave the common room)
NOW SWITCHING BETWEEN A LOT OF SCENES
First: (back in the very beginning of the story, from Dumbledore's semi-POV) In 1998, Hermione before-time-travel talking to Dumbledore, He does the Impartus Infinitivum on her and she disappears… then poof! Outside, the sky clears, battle over and gone, and in the middle of the room reappears a streak of light. Streak grows larger, emerges 1944 Lavender and Ginny.
Lavender: "Headmaster!" she shrieks, nearly taking the old man out as she leapt on him and threw her arms around him, "You don't know how happy I am to see that grey hair of yours!"
-Tom's POV, flashback of their first argument ("Have You Ever" chapter), after Hermione passes out.
He stared at her limp figure on the ground beside the fireplace, his rapid, angry breathing slowing gradually. "Have I ever been in love; who in the bleeding name of Merlin brings that up during a bloody row?" he spat under his breath. He made three attempts to start back to his room, but never quite made it.
"Oh bloody hell," he eventually muttered, comes back, picks her up, and carriers her up to her dorms. "Christ… I am not doing this…" he muttered darkly as he picked her up. Continues to mutter, "I am not doing this," as he carried her up the stairs. He unceremoniously dumped her on the large poster bed and turned toward the door… when, abruptly, he pivoted back around.
For a moment, he didn't move at all, but then slowly, almost cautiously, he reached out a hand and brushed some long locks of hair out of her face. When she didn't stir, the act emboldened him, and he took a small step closer to the bed, gently lifted her up again, shifted the covers of the bed, and slid her under them. Finally, he brushed his hand against her cheek once more –
And he winced abruptly, gasping, one hand shooting around his stomach as he tried to catch his breath. He stared at his hand in surprise, as if it had been the cause of the pain, glanced at Hermione, and then leapt away from her in horrified realization, breathing raggedly. "Christ, what am I doing?"
(Significant b/c this was the first moment that he began to REALLY feel something for her… and it was after one of the biggest arguments in their relationship.. and cute just because it shows how resistant to each other they originally were)
Present time, him thinking of Evans' last words to him: "Y'know… I think you're a bloody moron." He flips through Un Amour Mortel et D'autres Sortilèges Tragiques, reads the part on the Anima curse. She had loved him enough to save his life, even though he killed her parents. He had loved her enough to die for it. And now she was leaving forever.
… decides he has to go after her. Running, trying to catch them, goes to Dumbledore's classroom, but they weren't there. Where else would they go?
"So, back to Hermione Granger, then, eh?" Ron asked. Now, only himself, Hermione, Harry, and Dumbledore remained in the Room of Requirements.
Hermione shook her head. "I don't think I can ever fully drop the name Nefertari now, since the Amulet of Eras has sort of adopted me, I'd say."
"Hermione Granger Nefertari?"
"No. Just a middle name. Hermione Nefertari Granger." Hermione smiled and shook her head. "I'll always be daddy's little girl first, I think."
Ron just about to go through when someone pounds on the Room of Requirements door. Dumbledore opens it. "Tom. What a pleasant surprise," he said amiably, as casually as if he had been expecting the boy for tea.
"Professor," the Heir of Slytherin said distractedly, walking past him without even looking at him. He stopped a few feet away from Hermione. "There - was something your mother said to me. At – Christmas. I wanted to find out if it was true."
-(Ron) "All she's done for you, and you've come here to ask her a bloody question?"
-(Harry) "Shut up, Ron!"
-Hermione (remembering when her mother hugged Tom in the Chamber of Secrets) – "Go on."
-Tom looks between Ron and Harry. It's personal, doesn't want them to hear, so he steps closer to her. Hermione fought back a wave of pure adrenaline at his approach, her heart beating furiously as he leaned down and breathed in her ear, "Your mother… She told me that despite who I was, because of who I was – that you loved me."He took a deep breath and then let it out, its shuddery discharge the only indication of anything other than calmness in his demeanour as he slowly asked in a voice so low it was hardly audible, "Is that true?"
Why is he asking me this? Hermione's mind screamed in torn confusion and desperate hope. She could barely breath; his presence a mere heartbeat away made her feel like she was burning and suffocating at the same time. He was so close all she needed to do was push herself up just a bit to reach his lips –
Oh God, don't make me choose!
It had been so easy before… Tom had refused the Dark Arts but, at the same time, had refused her; there was nothing to hold her to this world, so she would go back to the future she adored with the friends that she loved dearly; end of story, no thinking, no emotion involved.
But now… Sweet Merlin, but now what?
She hadn't even realized how long she'd been silent until she heard Tom murmur in a low voice that was shockingly unsteady, "Hermione… Please – say something…"
One little word was the hardest of all to get out. It was as if her mouth knew that, once she spoke, everything she had so firmly worked to convince herself of in the latter half of that day would collapse into even more chaos…
She looked at Ron and Harry, then at Tom, torn between lifelong friends, a world with which she was so familiar… and him. And then… she realized that she had made her choice a long time ago. Swallowing hard, she finally managed to choke out in the faintest of whispers, "She was right."
FIRST: Dumbledore, in the future: Ron, then Harry emerges from the 'rucksack'.
Lavender and Ginny waiting expectantly.
Dumbledore, mysterious smile on his face: "Should we be expecting anyone else?"
Harry, both sad and happy: "No."
1945: HOGWARTS GRADUATION (Draco and Hermione have resolved their differences)
After they receive their Wizarding diplomas, Hermione throws her arms around Tom, causing him to grunt. "We made it," she whispered happily, squeezing him once before stepping back to really look at him. Originally, she had been referring to Graduation, but as soon as the words passed her lips and something passed behind Tom's eyes, the statement took on an entirely different meaning altogether.
Slowly, his gaze never leaving hers until the very last second, the dark-haired Slytherin brushed his lips against hers. "Yeah," he murmured with the faintest of rare smiles. "Yeah, we did."
At once, a rush of realization at the once-incredible odds against them, at how many times they had been so close to losing each other in more ways than one poured over her, and hot tears began to burn at her eyes. We made it… She suddenly had the urge to do so many things—shriek, laugh, cry, sing, dance, run in circles…
After graduation, in the Room of Requirements, the six are lounging on couches having an after-party type thing with games and snacks. Draco, Columbia, Jacobson, Phyllis, Tom, and Hermione swapping stories of the past year:
"D'you remember when Draco decided to take on a Bludger and horribly lost?" Columbia asked with a snort, etc. Eventually gets to the "Have you ever" game with butterbeer… or, in Draco and Jacobson's case, Firewhiskey.
Jacobson shook his spiky blond head in amazement. "Never thought I'd be sitting in a hidden room on graduation night playing "Have You Ever" with a bunch of Slytherins."
"Haven't ever done that before, eh?" Hermione asked, and everyone laughed.
"You see," Draco drawled, pouring himself and Columbia another drink of Firewhiskey. "We Slytherins really aren't all that bad. We've just managed to get ourselves a bit of a rather soddy reputation over the years. Shame, that."
"Hmm, because of course there's absolutely no reason why we should have ever gotten one of those," Tom said sardonically, causing Hermione to smirk as he twirled his wand around his fingers next to her on the couch.
Phyllis laughed. "I support Riddle on this one. At least he can admit to the shortcomings of his House."
"Ah, but he never actually said they were shortcomings," Draco pointed out with a knowing smirk, the usual scheming twinkle in his eyes amplified even more with the aid of the Firewhiskey.
Talking about weddings and how Jacobson and Phyllis are considering engagement… This one to Tom from Phyllis: "Now, to the Ice Man: I know you've got Hermione here, but does your frozen heart actually, I don't know, feel? Have you ever… been in love? And I mean, really."
The slightest of smirks tugged at a corner of Tom's lip. Hermione's eyes were sparkling as he glanced over at her, and the smirk grew to a rare, full-fledged smile. Suddenly, she wanted to taste Tom Riddle's lips more than she had wanted anything else in her entire life. Though she normally wasn't one for public displays of affection, she couldn't help but lean over and kiss the boy for whom she had given everything, and he, everything her, for all she was worth, which he, after a short, surprised moment, wholeheartedly reciprocated. She had initially meant it to be brief, but when it turned into something much longer, Draco eventually had to chuck his graduation cap at them ("Get a room!"), and they broke away, all of them laughing.
"Whew!" Columbia exclaimed with a grin. The dark-haired girl leaned back into Draco and pretended to fan herself with her diploma, shaking her head in disbelief. "You two… A year ago, I would have never thought I'd see the day!"
"Well…?" Phyllis prompted expectantly, mischievously now as Tom brushed back a lock of Hermione's hair, his eyes never leaving hers. Hermione raised her eyebrow in mock-expectancy, as if to ask, 'Wellll, Mr. Riddle?'
"Have I ever been in love?" he echoed. His eyes actually turned devious, a habit that had become a more common occurrence over the past months, as if he was considering shaking his head in a 'no.' Eventually, though, he just wrapped his arms around Hermione's waist and pulled her to him, his murmured answer partially lost in the waves of her honey brown hair. "Have I ever."
Read this chapter's Author's Note if you are at all confused by that ending.
And that really is The End.
Thank you for the beautiful ride.