REVIEWERS! Thanks for sticking with this fic for SO LONG. It's been years! Well, I've found out I am actually capable of writing something novel length, so I can get for serious on my actual novel now. So, Marisa1, thank you, yeah I don't really let any threads dangle if I can help it, so I'm sure once you saw that "Dear Myself" chapters and chapters ago, your spider senses were tingling. It's actually really hard to make sure there's no loose ends, there probably still are some in this fic. Just so you know, Alicia's warning will come up in the next fic, not this one. Ankoku Dezaia—is that Japanese for something? Let me know, seriously. Is it some hot anime or something? I can't really answer so very many questions about the D/Hr vs. Hr/T without giving away the sequel, so, wait and see I guess! Waterytart—thank you. I have been working on the suspense aspect. Blindfaithoperadiva—yeah, I thought that line was funny myself. Terrible timing for humor, what with the seriousness, but ahh, well. Web Walker—I was so confused until I realized you were reviewing Chapter 16. Hope you've made it to the END. I can't believe I've finally finished. And since this is the last chapter, this is the last chance for you lurking lurkers to gimme some of that feedback love. Or feedback hate, I can take criticism on fanfic. Seriously, I'd love to know what everyone thought, the good, bad, and ugly. Especially after this chap. There's an author's note at the end of this fic, too. You'll see why. Also, don't read this at work, mmkay?
Toodles until the sequel (add me to favorite authors to get automatic updates, or look for it under the Hr/T pairing, since only lets you pick one pairing—it's called The Other Hermione)
There was a light. It was in the upper left-hand corner of the room. It was a golden light, pulsing, and she reached for it. But when her hand enclosed around it, the light turned into a sticky yellow ball. Candy. She put it in her mouth and looked up.
Hermione woke up before she saw who it was she had been looking up to, who in her dream had just spoken. Kindly. And everything suddenly evaporated, the seeming importance of the dream gone, the significance misremembered. Just a dream. It was just a dream.
"What is it? What does it say?" Tom repeated, his dark eyes flickering between the letter and her face.
She looked up at Tom. There was no hiding the letter.
"What does it say? Give it here."
Hermione had no idea what her current expression must be. Her face felt numb. It was as though she was disconnected from her body. Tom started to reach for the letter, and thoughtlessly she shifted the paper entire to her wand hand, which currently was holding her wand—luckily, and then extended the letter, and underneath it her wand, handing it towards Tom. She had to keep Tom from seeing the letter, her real name, Harry's name, all of it. Already, he knew far too much. It would be fatal for him to see these particulars. What was it the letter had said? Put the future at risk for the sake of saving Tom Riddle from himself. The bald guilt of it weighed on her chest. And what she had said to herself, so many times, and believed, about the choice between Tom and her future.
"Petrimaximus," she said. Because she had to.
Tom fell, his fall preceded by barely a flash of surprise. He had no time to respond. He fell softly to the ground, his upper body upright over his collapsing knees, his arms breaking the rest of his fall accidentally. He came to rest on his side, half his face hidden from her.
"I told you, if given a choice between you and the world," Hermione whispered to his form, curled on the floor as if asleep. She couldn't finish the sentence. Her teeth were biting hard enough into her lip to draw blood. Lies. Liar. He'd been Voldemort all this time, he'd been using Tom Riddle's former identity to fool her, it had never been Tom himself—if there was a Tom himself. She shook her head and tried to see him with new eyes, but perspective cannot be changed so abruptly. His eyes were closed, and she tried to think of the times they had been red. A dry sob escaped her throat. "You bastard," she managed, before she pointed her wand at him to carry him towards their destination. He rose as if on a platform, only his clothes and hair obeying the gravitational pull.
She opened her door, peremptorily casting a disillusionment charm over Tom's levitating body. That first kiss, after they'd met in the Forest—that had been real. She closed her eyes remembering it. That was real. She wasn't sure if it made it better or not. And in the Shrieking Shack—that's why Voldemort knew he could use it as a tactic, because Tom Riddle actually had been infatuated with her.
It was better. It was better than the thought she'd immediately leapt to, that the entire seduction was a design. That she was so easily fooled. But all the other times, the kisses, the caresses, all the times they'd spent in bed—it had been with Voldemort. She shuddered, and couldn't help reviewing every instance of intimacy. "I am an utter fool," she muttered angrily as she went through the Ravenclaw entrance.
What could she possibly have been thinking? To begin with, when had she ever let desire so overrun everything she knew to be right? She had cheated on Ron—given him up entirely, she had put her future, all the people she knew, the entire fate of the world, at risk. She had made love to Lord Voldemort. Bad enough Tom Riddle, even if he was—
Her breath caught in her throat. He was. He was innocent. He had been possessed by his own creation, he had created a tragedy he didn't intend. That much was still true. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Hermione quickened her steps along the corridor towards the staircase. There was still time. Oh, what there was of Tom was a scrap of what she'd thought him to be, but it was still, he was still—or was he? She began to descend. It wasn't Tom Riddle, necessarily, who'd discovered what he would come to do, and recoiled from it. It was Voldemort, and after that a still-possessed Tom, who knew. Hermione couldn't presume that her Tom, the one who had kissed her first, would have the same reaction, was the same person as the Tom she now knew to be a fake. Everything, in fact, that had redeemed him in her eyes had occurred after the possession.
The thread of hope vanished, and Hermione stared ahead of her, waiting for her staircase to meet another one that was veering towards it. Still, there were simple bits of information—that he meant to kill Malfoy with the snake, not mudbloods, that he was indifferent to rather than prejudiced against muggles and their magical spawn, that he didn't kill his family.
Did he? Hermione frowned. All the evidence did point to Tom's uncle. This time. Even if he'd done it the first time around according to Dumbledore's letter, he might not have this time. Or was it exactly the same this time around? Was it doomed to be the same as the last time, exactly the same, ending with her death and two Voldemorts? No, there were the stars. The stars had moved; they were the evidence that she had defeated determinism, that she still could save the future, even if she couldn't save Tom.
She was nearly to Dumbledore's office. Her pace had accelerated to a near run, and she was breathless when she reached the door. She rapped on the door hard and didn't stop until it opened. It was a while before the door was answered, and when it was Professor Dumbledore was wearing a purple and yellow spangled nightcap in place of his usual hat.
He yawned as he spoke. "Miss Granger, it's rather late. Has something come up?"
Hermione looked distractedly over to where Tom was floating and realized he was still invisible. She finited the disillusionment spell impatiently and searched in her robes. Her fingers closed around the incriminating letter. "Here," she said, her voice thick. "The letter."
Dumbledore's eyes changed rapidly. He blinked twice and they lost all their pleasantness and Hermione saw the expression for the mask it was. Underneath was worry and weariness. "I see. The letter. How did you come by it?"
"Tom," she managed. "It's true?" She could see the answer in her eyes and she could feel the heat in her face that preceeded hysterics. She furiously blinked back tears.
Dumbledore went over to his desk, stooping as he rifled through the contents of a drawer. After a few moments, he produced the diary. There was no puncture to be seen in it. It was as if new. It was the final bit of proof. Hermione stared at it in heated disbelief.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Granger. Hermione."
"His family?" she asked, a sob cutting the word "family" into two uneven sections.
Professor Dumbledore sighed. "I was asked to examine Mr. Gaunt's mind after he was apprehended. I'm afraid it showed signs of having been tampered with." He looked away from her for a moment, to his bookshelf, which contained his Pensieve. "It was only tonight. Just as in your time, the murder remains unsolved, although I have my suspicions."
"But time's changed now, isn't it? Isn't it?" she demanded, and without letting Dumbledore answer her she said. "Something's different this time, that's why the stars have moved. You didn't convince me the last time, it said in your letter. I went with him in good faith and you let me because you believed him, and this time you didn't, and he's unconscious, and you can give him the Draught of the Living Death and I'll bring him back and find Harry and—"
"Yes," said Dumbledore in a way that made her stop. He spoke softly, and he eyes were kind. "There is hope."
Tears broke out without her being able to help it. She hated that she was crying over him, over a lie, over a farce. "And—Tom?" she managed. Not the one she was crying over. The one that might have been.
"Hermione, there is no time."
"What are you talking about? We have a sodding time machine."
"And you only have until midnight to use it. That gives us two and a half hours. Tom knows I know—rather, Lord Voldemort knows. That is why he has feigned suspicion and forced your hand. Don't you see? If you postpone this at all, he will get control of Tom, even stunned, even under any potion or draught. No poison will kill him, no magical curse will take effect for long, while he is under the influence of the Sorcerer's Stone.
Hermione sat down on the floor. So that was it. She was to return to her time having nearly sacrificed it over her foolishness, to a time when her other self would never need to go back in time, to where there would be another her, and she would still have lost Ron and Harry. It didn't bear any more thinking. None at all. "Just tell me what to do and I'll do it," she said heavily.
"The Sorcerer's Stone must be imbibed monthly to have an effect. The first thing we must do is rid Tom—Voldemort, really, of his immortality."
"How do we do that?"
"The time machine, of course. I have already programmed a sub-command underneath the dates you put into it. After we give Tom Draught of the Living Death, we can put him into the Time Machine and program it to age him a month. Just enough to turn him into a mortal again. He shouldn't be aware of the change—you'll have that to your advantage should he resume consciousness."
Hermione was surprised at the readiness of his answer. But, after all, he was Dumbledore. And thank Merlin for that, since she was out of ideas for once in her life. So she just nodded. "Can you take him? I don't want to look at him anymore."
There was a silence, and when Hermione looked up she could she him looking down at her sadly. "I should have given you the letter right away. I'm so sorry."
"I'm sure he would have found a way no matter what. I've just been incredibly stupid. It doesn't matter. All that matters is the future." She angrily brushed away her tears, which wouldn't stop coming, and stood. "We should go."
"Yes," said Dumbledore, so softly she barely heard it. She was already out the door. She didn't look behind her. She thought of her satchel, with everything inside of it, and couldn't bring herself to fetch it. Tom's rucksack was in her room, too. Voldemort's, she corrected herself. She just walked to the entrance, and through it, and left Hogwarts behind, and walked towards the Forest. She could hear Dumbledore behind her, could hear the sound he made walking through the underbrush. When they reached the Time Machine, Hermione sat down again and watched as Dumbledore guided Tom's floating form into the Time Machine. She closed her eyes while he made the adjustments and tried to clear her head of the white noise that was suddenly filling it. He'd said he was in love with her—but hadn't she always been suspicious, just a bit, underneath everything? It didn't help. Nothing was going to help. Hermione understood suddenly that nothing was going to be all right ever again. This wasn't like after she'd killed Bellatrix. There would be no Harry waiting to comfort her, no Ron to kiss her. She could never tell anyone about this.
Somehow, this cleared her head of the white noise and her eyes of tears. She was seized with a new fatalism. She wasn't afraid of death. She simply had to complete her mission. Go to the room of the Questing Beast, hand Tom over to Harry. When he died, that would be the end, that would be all that was necessary. Whatever came after that didn't matter.
"Are you ready?" asked Dumbledore.
Hermione opened her eyes. Dumbledore pulled a lever of the Time Machine and she watched Tom disappear into time. She knew that when he returned he would be awake, that he would be conscious and conscious of her betrayal, even if it was Voldemort, even if her betrayal was insignificant in comparison to his. She didn't want to look at him, but she knew she would have to, before she or Dumbledore could deliver another stunning spell. She prayed that it would be Voldemort, not Tom, looking through his eyes when he returned. Dumbledore looked up from his watch. "Soon," he said, and in only a few breaths he was right.
He was conscious, only just, and looked out of the Time Machine at Dumbledore and Hermione in confusion. Very quickly it turned to sudden comprehension. Just as quickly, Dumbledore extended his wand and aimed a wordless spell at Tom. He was unconscious again. Safe, relatively.
She rose and looked at Professor Dumbledore, who nodded at her. Then Hermione, as she had months ago, entered the Time Machine. This time she wasn't alone.
Hermione felt something cold and dull crawling inside of her, covering her from the inside. It numbed her, gave her a semblance of strength. She managed to lift her eyes to Dumbledore's as she stood in the time machine over Tom's now mortal body. And then, like snowflakes, pieces of information began to fall into place. The future version of Dumbledore had told his younger self that she and Tom had gone to an earlier time than their previous plan, the one they were headed to now—he told himself that he had discovered them where Harry was being kept—but how could he know where Harry was being kept and not think to warn himself of it? Why hadn't he rescued Harry then? Tom couldn't have been responsible for that house-elf disguised as his uncle, and if he wasn't, how could he know his uncle was free to be framed? How had Dumbledore known they were leaving earlier even than their second plan, that Tom had forced her hand? Dumbledore hadn't given her that letter; by all appearances, it was meant to be given to her in the morning. She and Tom would have already been gone by then; she's never have received it if Tom hadn't given her that letter—and why would he, if he was Voldemort? Hermione reviewed Dumbledore's responses—his readiness to believe in Tom. The Dumbledore she knew wasn't a good actor. Things just didn't add up.
Hermione remembered her and Harry's conversation underneath that tree. Dumbledore willing to give up Harry's life to win the war. And-- "It's weird," Harry had said, after the TriWizard Tournament, before school had let out. "When I told him that Voldemort had touched me, he looked—happy. Like he'd just won a really complicated Wizard's chess game."
The swiveling of the bars of the Time Machine blurred, obscured, and then masked the Forbidden Forest. And Dumbledore alongside.
Tom was right. It was Dumbledore. She turned her mind towards seven years of his presence, his manipulation—handing Harry over to guardians he knew to be abusive, his utter lack of help, the yearly presence of adventures, during which he so often seemed to disappear. His happiness that Voldemort could touch Harry. His willingness to sacrifice Harry. His willingness to sacrifice Tom.
The only thing that saved her was that she didn't come to her realization until she'd gotten away. Hermione kneeled as the swirling bars of the Time Machine swiveled to a halt. She touched her wand to Tom's forehead. Before waking him, she used Legilimens, just to be sure. She knew what Voldemort looked like. What she saw wasn't what she had seen the night he'd tried to take over Tom. Not even a droplet of that angry red haze remained. She only saw Tom.
She closed her eyes, blinked away the last of her tears, and said "Ennervate." She suppressed a mild panic when he didn't immediately awake. She put her fingers to his neck and felt his pulse. His throat vibrated as he groaned and rolled over. His eyes opened. They were red, blood red, and they were bleeding. He stared as if he were blind; or perhaps Hermione couldn't see just where they were focusing. "Tom?" she whispered.
"…you going to kill me after all?" he croaked.
"No, Tom. I don't think so." She waved her wand over him, recalling that day in the forest when she had been shot by the centaurs, when she had nearly died. Some part of her had heard what Tom had said, had corresponded it to something she had come across in her studies, and she had mostly learned it. She didn't like to perform spells unless she was sure of them, but she would do her best. She waved her wand around Tom's eyes and started to mumble the incantation.
"Dumbledore," said Tom. "Fucking Dumbledore."
"He restored the diary?"
"Oh, he did, did he?"
"When could he have?"
"After I gave it to him—today. And don't ask me if I'm possessed because I haven't looked in it at all. I saw that it was punctured and brought it to Dumbledore. And then, presumably, he restored it. Or put some fucking impenetrable glamour on it to convince you to kill me. Which he almost did."
"Yes," said Hermione softly. "But he didn't." Then she returned to the incantation. The red receded slowly from Tom's eyes. He closed them and sat up gingerly.
"Well," he said. "Thank you."
"I'm so sorry."
He opened his eyes, black again and healed. "I still love you."
"I love you too."
"Let's go find Voldemort and kill him."
Hermione smiled tentatively and kissed him. He kissed her back. "I guess," she said hesitantly, "It's back to the original plan. Only—only I didn't bring any of our things."
Tom looked at her for a long moment. "Why not? Even if you meant to kill me—"
"I'm already here. Another me, that is. I couldn't have just gone back to my old life. And I couldn't go to the life we planned. I didn't know what I was going to do, I just wanted to get it over with quickly. I wasn't thinking about…" She stared at the floor of the Time Machine. "Merlin, I almost did it, too."
Tom stood and held a hand out. "You didn't, though."
Hermione accepted the hand and stood up. "What are we going to do now?"
"After we kill me?"
"We're magic, Mione. I'm sure we'll find a way."
She smiled, and they stepped out of the Time Machine. Tom was the last to leave, and as soon as he stepped out of its entrance, the Time Machine vanished. Hermione looked at the spot where it had been. "No need for me to go back now."
"There's no way for you to, either." Tom looked around him, at the forest, at the sky. "So this is the future."
"It doesn't seem so very different from the past."
"Perhaps it's not." Hermione began to walk down the path. The Forest sounded much the same as it ever did, and ever so different from the night she'd left her own time. There was no battle being waged on the grounds of Hogwarts. Harry had only been missing a few days, and she prayed that those days hadn't been too horrible. Her stride became more purposeful.
When they broke through the clearing all was silent. The lights in the school were out. Everyone was asleep—including Ron and herself. She tried to remember this night, but the first week of Harry's disappearance had been a blur. Soon it wouldn't matter anyway. Soon Hogwarts, and Ron, and Harry, wouldn't be a part of her life anymore. Or Hogsmeade weekends, or Albion University, or vacations at the Burrow, even Diagon Alley was closed to her. They were nearly at the door.
"Mione," said Tom, stopping her before they went in.
"What's your real name?"
She smiled a little, looking down at the corridor floor, saying goodbye to her Hogwarts, the friends she had yet to save. In her new life, Tom would know her real name, and her friends would never know she existed. They would have their Hermione, after all. She would have no reason to go back. She looked up at him. "Hermione," she said. "Hermione Granger." And suddenly for no reason at all she felt like a large part of who she had been came back to her. And the smile on Tom's face made her smile, made her believe in his future, in breaking boundaries, in doing impossible things.
"Hermione," he whispered. "Well, let's go and find Voldemort." He clasped her hand in his and they opened the door together.
There was a flash of green light, and Tom fell, his last smile fading into nothingness on his face.
"Hermione!" it was Harry. He looked utterly flabbergasted. Hermione looked up at him in disbelief. Dumbledore was behind him. He knew. He knew it all. It had never been Voldemort. It was him. And Tom was dead. She looked down at him. A month, gone. All that was needed to nullify the effects of the Sorcerer's. Tom never even knew what had been taken from him. Not that it mattered, now. Tom's eyes were still open, but they couldn't see anything any more. And it was very likely that it was written all over her face for Dumbledore to see, when Harry didn't even know what she'd come from.
Harry stepped over to her and she wondered if he saved her life doing that, blocking her from Dumbledore. He looked at her, took her chin and scrutinized her eyes, and then he guessed, the way an old friend will do, in that incomprehensible way: "You went back in time?"
She caught what she was about to say in her mouth and choked on an unexpected sob. Tom was dead—she still couldn't believe it, literally. But she couldn't think about it with Dumbledore just standing there like that. What—Merlin's beard, what possible story could be hidden from her that would explain this? How could he do it, how could someone who would do this seem so consummately kind?
"Sometimes even poisons taste sweet," said Professor Dumbledore.
Harry started, a confused and wary look in his eyes. "What exactly is going on here?"
The dream came back to her—that yellow light that turned into candy. The lemondrops, she thought, and Dumbledore needed no legilemency to see that she knew. She was dead. Tom was dead. She couldn't let Harry die, or Dumbledore live. "Harry—" she said, and her voice gave out as quickly as she said his name. A silent Silencio from Dumbledore.
He looked from the panicked expression on her face to Dumbledore, and back again. Made the connection in spite, or because of the silencing spell Professor Dumbledore had put on her.
"Poisoned me," she mouthed.
He was so quick. If she hadn't seen it before, three times, she wouldn't have believed it. The power, the exaggeration in everything he did. He turned around quickly and Dumbledore hadn't expected him to be quick enough to make the guess Hermione needed him to make. He hadn't known how surprised Harry was that he had found him, after a few days in his prison. And then the prison had turned out to be in the school, and Dumbledore was instructing him to make a confrontation with Lord Voldemort. Something had seemed wrong, and then he saw Hermione, and she looked so different now, thin and even a little taller, still small, hair a dark and complicated cloud, eyes a hundred years old—and gold. He knew the way very old friends know what you most need them to know. He knew Dumbledore was—was not who he'd thought he was.
For the second time that night Harry uttered the Killing Curse.
When it hit him, Dumbledore looked surprised. There was still a kindly look to his face—he'd never lost it, in fact. The silencing spell was broken.
"Oh, Merlin, Hermione. What happened?"
She shook her head. "He was good—it was the diary. And the lemondrops, Dumbledore poisoned me, he got Tom to kill Grindelwald same as he got you to kill Voldemort, I, he—" She bit her lip. "I'm going to die."
Already she could feel the effect of the poison. A weakening. She sat down and Harry sat with her. "I thought something was funny," he said.
"Thank Merlin you did." She looked at Tom. Much good it did him. She shook her head.
"We've got to get you to Madame Pomfrey's."
"No, Harry." She sighed. "I want to die."
"Hermione, no. I don't care what happened—" already he was propping her up. "I'm not letting you die."
"It's not really me, Harry. I mean, I'm already here. You won't really lose me. I have no place here. I've finished—" she looked again at Tom—"everything that could be finished." She wasn't crying. Odd. She didn't even feel sad. After all, she'd be with him soon enough.
Harry was crying, though. "Hermione, I don't understand a damn thing you're saying."
"Dolcenecronax," she whispered as she felt the strength continue to drain from her. "It begins to work when the poisoner spells it to begin its work. There's no pain. It's incurable. It's sweet."
"Hermione, no. No, I'm taking you—"
"Just stay here with me, Harry."
He was sobbing now. Poor boy. His parents gone, longer than hers ever were, that house he'd grown up in, everything he'd faced so far. And now this.
"Was it bad? Where you were?"
"No one hurt me or anything. I guess since it was Dumbledore after all."
"The room of the Questing Beast."
"Is that what it was? It was in the Slytherin Dungeons."
"Do you remember how to get there?"
"Yes." He bit his lip. "Why?"
"Bring me there. It was really Ravenclaw's room, not Slytherin's. Do you know I'm descended from her?"
Harry didn't respond. She supposed he must think she was going crazy. She'd never felt more clarity in her life.
"I know I'm muggleborn, but if you go far back enough… Anyways, the Grail is there—the one from all the tales of King Arthur. That's what made him immortal. Voldemort. It doesn't matter now, he's dead now that we killed his younger self. You won't be able to get it, you're not purely muggleborn. Merlin knows how you got in before. Just—press my hand to the wall, it will let me in. Even when I'm dead, I suppose."
A long silence stretched between them. Harry was struggling to compose his sobs. "Hermione, I love you, you've been like a sister to me—"
"I know, Harry. And Ron's still alive." Her words were already slurring. There wasn't much time left. "So I saved you after all." She smiled, and beautifully. She couldn't help but be happy, for all the people that lived now, for the fact that she had seen the war end, for the certainty she had before she went. She looked up at Harry, and his sad smile was almost the last thing she saw. "Don't tell anyone," she whispered, and she went. Her eyes didn't close. They remained open, like she was looking at something.
Harry did as she asked, and brought her to the room he had been imprisoned in for nearly a week. Which, in another world, in another time, had imprisoned him for months. He would have thought of that world, waiting for him, with Ron—and Hermione (a baffling idea)—and Ginny and the rest. He had been thinking of that world all the time of his imprisonment. But all he could think about now was Tom Riddle, and Voldemort, and Dumbledore, and Hermione. How Hermione had cried over Tom's body. Dumbledore's betrayal. The utter lack of Voldemort in any of the last act of his life. What had happened, those fifty years ago? He would never know, just as the world would never know what to make of the young boy lying dead near Professor Dumbledore, and his connection to the finally dead Voldemort, hundreds of kilometers away in Albania. No one asked about Hermione. After all, she was still there.
Though you may regain them, you have still lost them. You will lose more, little foal. Let yourself go on. For you will do what you mean to do, accomplish every last bit that you hope to. You must remember this. Your sacrifice will be worth it.
Fifty years ago, the diary was restored, and the grail was unlocked from its hiding place. Dumbledore had been successful at least in arranging these things, unaware as he was of his future failure. He had taken away the boy's sorcerer's stone. And the boy would have his companion again, that erstwhile avatar in his restored diary, to turn to for comfort and guidance. Of a sort. Everything was settled to go forward as planned. He had set up a Dark Lord to rise and fall in order to practice his own anonymous ascension, in order to practice the power he would gain in fifty years, in order to secure an untrammeled victory.
The diary would give Tom strength, and Tom's memory would provide the path to his downfall. Because the Tom that awoke in the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts in 1945 remembered everything—or almost. He remembered everything up until his disappearance with Mione in the Time Machine. He would nurse his grudge with his Slytherin friends, with Alicia, would come back to England because he was so sure the gates the Faer Land were there. He would remember Mione Potter, would look for her, would wait fifty years and come back from death and remember her. Remember her betrayal, remember she had chosen to be sure over letting him live. He would remember everything. Tom might know he would die, but he also knew that things could be changed, even the stars, even the future.
He would never know it was Hermione Granger, had never considered Gryffindor or Harry's friends. Surely she couldn't have been friends with this talentless boy like a stone in his shoe. After all, until they'd gone to the future, Mione Potter had never said Harry's name in Tom Riddle's presence. Or her own.
He would keep it a secret from Dumbledore, his memories, never knowing it was Dumbledore who ensured he keep them, who had preserved them just before he placed Tom in the Time Machine, who implanted them in the boy the Are Dlog created. After all, how else was the boy to have an incentive towards darkness, and such a profound disbelief in love? The diary could only do so much. There had to be another reason for him to twist so drastically into evil. What had betrayed him, was goodness itself.
They always said, in the wizarding world, while speaking in hushed tones of the Dark Lord, that Professor Dumbledore was the only wizard Lord Voldemort had ever feared. They just never knew why.
It was a cool, crisp autumn day. Somewhere, far away but close enough for you to smell it, leaves were burning. The wind carried their ashes away from their graves. The sunlight divided the sky into flat curtains. It was the golden hour, when the sun was a mask and painted long shadows onto the ground.
The grounds were still green, even if the grass was brittle, and they were covered with leaves just beginning to brown. Two figures crossed the field, one with red hair close to the color of some of the leaves, another with curly, dark hair. They were close together as they walked, almost as if clasping hands. They weren't. What had opened between them was too new for that. They had no extraordinary love, no passion that would change the heavens. They had what many have—affection, and love, that would wax and wane like an irregular moon. They would fight and tease and hurt each other's feelings, and they would love and trust each other and help to heal the old hurts inside them. They were not perfect, only ordinary, and that was more a comfort to them than any grand passion can be.
They would never know the price that had been paid for their love. They had their whole lives ahead of them.
Author's note: don't be mad at me, pretty please? This was a tragedy from the day I started writing it. I love a good sob story, y'know? And there is a sequel and that means YES THERE IS STILL HOPE. If you doubt, read Ravenclaw's note again. So, yeah, I hope I didn't give too much away by saying don't read this at work, I just didn't want you to get teary at your cubicles or whatever—not that this story is that great and all. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed it even if you're sad about how it ended. And like I said, there is a sequel.