A/N: This is it you guys, the epilogue! I can't believe this story is finally finished! Ok, I'm not going ramble on right now because I'm too excited, and I want you guys to read this. I'm sorry if it's not the ending some of you were hoping for but I'm a sucker for bittersweet endings. I just couldn't help it. (Grins and hugs)
Eleven year old Hermione Granger had never felt so excited and so nervous in her life. She couldn't believe she was here, in the place she had dreamt about for months, ever since she had gotten her letter.
Hogwarts. She was in Hogwarts, standing in the Great Hall, and above her was the enchanted ceiling she had read about in Hogwarts, A History.
The book didn't do it justice; it was more beautiful then she could have ever imagined.
She felt a slight bump on her back as she stared up at the ceiling and she looked back over her shoulder to see who had caused it.
It was that black haired boy she had met on the train.
There hadn't been any compartments left and he had asked if he could sit with her.
'What was his name again?' Hermione thought to herself. Potter or something… oh yes! Harry Potter.
They had talked the whole train ride, much to Hermione's surprise. He had seemed just as excited about Hogwarts as she was, even though he had said that his father and mother had told him all about it, ever since he was little.
Hermione liked talking to him. He was funny and smart and he already knew a lot about magic.
She hoped that they would become friends.
He gave her an apologetic smile as she stared at him curiously.
"Sorry," he whispered. "Someone bumped into me, and made me bump into you."
"It's ok." Hermione whispered back. "It is a bit crowded right now."
Harry nodded and then smiled at her. "Good luck with the sorting."
She smiled back. "You too."
Hermione turned back around and watched as the prim woman in emerald green robes, who had introduced herself as Professor McGonagall, untied a red ribbon from a piece of parchment and unrolled it.
There was a small stool beside her and perched on top was a brown pointed wizard's hat. Hermione wrinkled her nose as she stared at it; the old thing needed a good wash.
"When I call your name," Professor McGonagall began, "you will step forward, sit on the stool, and put the Sorting Hat on your head."
Hermione's hands began shaking with nerves. What if she made a fool of herself? What if she tripped and fell in front of the entire school?
She shook her head and forced herself to breathe deep.
"Everything will be ok." She whispered. A strong sense of déjà vu took her by surprise and she tore her gaze away from the sorting, looking around the room for… what was she supposed to be looking for?
She had no idea what was going on, or why four little words would make her react this way, but she was sure it meant something. If only she could remember.
Her gaze was suddenly drawn to the High Table, where the Professors and the Headmaster sat as they watched the proceedings of the Sorting.
She looked from one end of the table to the other, still unsure of what she was looking for, until she locked eyes with a man who was sitting on the right side of the Headmaster.
How long had be been staring at her?
She must have looked a bit perturbed because his face softened instantly and he gave her a warm smile, one that she quickly returned.
There was something comforting about him but Hermione couldn't figure out what it was.
He was an older man, but definitely not the oldest in the room. He had one of those youthful faces that aged well so it was impossible to guess at his real age. His hair was dark with hints of gray here and there and his posture was still perfect.
He looked powerful and wise, even a bit majestic, and Hermione had no idea who he was or why she felt so… happy? Calm? Safe? Yes, that was it. He made her feel safe.
She was so startled that she almost gasped, but she managed to compose herself quickly enough. It was her time to be sorted and she looked away from the smiling man as she made her way through the crowd of first years.
They parted and let her pass and she found herself standing face-to-face with the Sorting Hat. She took a deep breath and moved it off of the stool and then sat down.
She set the old hat on her head and held her breath.
A small voice was suddenly whispering in her ear.
"Hmm... You're very strong-willed, more so then I'm used to seeing in someone as young as you. You've got an excellent mind. A good heart; always concerned about those closest to you. And you're a hard worker. You'd do well in Ravenclaw, that much is certain, but it's not the right place for you. No, you've got the heart of a lion, and in the lions den you shall go. GRYFFINDOR!"
Hermione sighed with relief and took the strange talking hat off of her head. She jumped up from the stool and placed the hat back on it. Before she turned, however, she caught the eye of the man who had been staring at her before and she was surprised to see him clapping so enthusiastically. And was it her imagination, or did he look… proud?
She smiled at him, unsure of what else to do, and then turned and made her way towards the Gryffindor table. They were all clapping for her and she couldn't stop the wide grin from spreading across her face. She felt so at home as she sat down at the table and she was glad that the Sorting Hat had placed her here.
This was were she belonged.
The sorting went by rather quickly after Hermione had taken her seat.
She had been very pleased whenever Harry Potter had been sorted into Gryffindor as well. He walked over to the table, shook hands with a few people, and then sat down next to Hermione, starting up a quiet conversation with her right away.
She smiled the whole time, glad that she had already found a friend in the school.
A tall redhead named Ronald Weasley was sorted into Gryffindor as well and he was quick to make friends with Harry and Hermione, talking at the same time as he munched on roast chicken and boiled potatoes when the Welcoming Feast began.
He told them about his large family and he pointed out his older brothers (who were also in Gryffindor) and by the end of the Feast Hermione had made more friends then she'd ever had in her life.
The day couldn't have been more perfect.
But there was still something troubling her.
"Ron, do you know who that teacher is?" She asked once Ron had swallowed a mouth full of food.
She pointed out the man who had been staring at her before; he was now in deep conversation with the Headmaster but both men looked cheerful as they talked and Hermione couldn't help but notice how handsome the man looked whenever he laughed.
Ron shrugged. "Dunno. Hey Percy!" He called out suddenly. The other redhead looked up from his plate and smiled at his younger brother. "Whose that up there, sitting next to Dumbledore? The man with the dark hair."
Percy didn't even have to look up. "That's Professor Riddle. He teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts. He's an excellent teacher, been here for years. You'll learn a lot from him."
"Riddle?" Hermione asked. The name didn't sound familiar and yet it did. It was all very bizarre.
"That's right," Percy said. "He's actually pretty famous outside of the school. He's even got an Order of Merlin, First Class for his brilliant work on developing counter-charms for two of the Unforgivable Curses."
"Oh ya, I've heard of him." Ron said. "He's supposed to be one of the smartest wizards alive, or some rubbish like that. At least that's what the article in the Prophet said."
"I've known him for a while." Harry said. Everyone stared at him. "He taught my mum and dad when they went to school here and they actually became good friends with him after they graduated. He stops by our house sometimes. He's really nice though kind of odd. I caught him looking at me one time, when he was visiting my parents, and he looked really, I dunno, proud of me or something."
Hermione stared at him wide eyed.
'It's just a coincidence', she thought, trying to calm herself down. 'Don't overreact when you don't know anything.'
"Weird." Ron said as he dug back into his food.
"Ya, but still, he's a good guy. I think my mum fancied him, when she was a student. My dad likes to tease her about it." Harry said, laughing.
The others laughed as well and Hermione suddenly felt loads better. She trusted Harry's word, since he's known Professor Riddle for a while, and if he said that he's a good man then she believed him.
But it was still rather odd and as the Great Hall was clearing out after the feast was over, Hermione caught Professor Riddle staring at her again.
She blushed and turned away, following Harry and Ron out of the Great Hall.
The small group of first year Gryffindors followed Percy Weasley as he led them on a tour to the Gryffindor Common Room.
Hermione was so mesmerized by the animated paintings, the moving staircases, the magnificent décor of the castle, that she could hardly keep up with the rest of the group.
She was surrounded by magic; everywhere she looked something incredible was going on and she could barely contain her excitement. Hogwarts was like a place out of a dream and it was going to be her home for the next nine months.
"Amazing." She whispered, not realizing that she had said it out loud.
"It is, isn't it?"
Hermione jumped, startled at hearing such a deep voice, and she whirled around.
Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw who it was.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you." His smile was warm and friendly, as it had been in the Great Hall.
"I'm Professor Riddle. I'll be your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher while you are here."
He held out his hand and Hermione grasped it.
"I'm Hermione Granger." She said as they shook hands. "I'm a first year." Her face turned bright red as soon as the words left her mouth.
What a stupid thing to say! Of course he knew that she was a first year!
But Professor Riddle only smiled again as he let go of her hand.
"I hope you'll enjoy my class Miss Granger. I'm told that it can be rather fast paced but you seem up to the challenge."
She didn't know how exactly, but she knew that he wasn't teasing her. He sounded so sure, as if he already knew that she was a hard worker.
"I'll do my best Sir." She said, and she meant it.
"Professor Riddle!" Someone shouted.
It was Percy. He was standing with the other first years just a few feet away.
"Nice to see you again Sir."
"Nice to see you again as well Mr. Weasley." Riddle said, smiling at him. "And hello there Mr. Potter. I'm glad to finally see you here; now you can decide for yourself if my classes are as tough as your parents have made them out to be."
Harry smiled, though a little wearily. "I hope they were just teasing me." He said and then blushed. "I mean, not that I would mind if your classes were tough, of course."
Riddle smiled at him, that same warm smile that he had given Hermione. "Of course Mr. Potter."
"And you must be Ron Weasley." Riddle said, looking at Ron.
Ron gulped and nodded, looking a bit nervous.
"You look like you'll make a fine Quidditch player one day. I'll have to warn the Slytherin team." He said, and Hermione was surprised to see him giving Ron that same warm, proud smile.
"Thank you Sir!" Ron said, beaming at him.
After a moment Professor Riddle pulled out a pocket watch and checked the time. "Well, I'd better be on my way." He said. "You lot need to get some sleep, as do I. We've all got a big day tomorrow. Mr. Weasley, I'm sorry for the interruption."
"No trouble at all Sir." Percy said.
Riddle nodded and, giving the group one more smile, he turned around and headed back down the corridor.
Hermione stared after him for a moment and shook her head in wonderment.
He really was a wonderful man. A bit odd and mysterious yes, but he seemed to really care about his students.
"Come on Hermione." Harry called out to her. "Percy's already heading down the corridor."
Hermione turned around and stared at Harry and Ron who were standing side-by-side, waiting for her.
She smiled and caught up with them and they quickly made their way towards the rest of the group, talking all the while about anything and everything, as if they'd been friends for much longer then just a few hours.
The next morning, as she was eating breakfast with Harry and Ron, a large brown owl swooped into the Great Hall and dropped a package next to Hermione's cereal bowl.
"What in the…Who would send me a package?" Hermione asked no one in particular.
"Dunno." Harry said, and he took another bite of toast.
"Open it and see what it is." Ron said. "Maybe there's a card or something?"
Hermione nodded and picked it up, holding it carefully.
"I think it's a book." She said, pleasantly surprised. She loved to read after all, and she was anxious to see what kind of book it was, but she unwrapped the plain brown wrapping carefully, still feeling a bit cautious.
Book or not, she still didn't know who had sent it.
Once the wrapping was off Hermione smiled as she examined the old book in her hands. The cover, spine, and back were made of soft, aged leather and the book was beautifully crafted. The paper was a bit yellow but she could tell that the pages were made from fine quality materials.
It was wonderful and she suspected that it was quite old; but who would send her such a treasure?
"Looks pretty old." Ron said.
"Is there a note, Hermione?" Harry asked, staring at the book curiously. "Try opening to the first page." He suggested.
Hermione did so and a piece of parchment slid out and onto the table in front of her.
"I knew it." Harry said, smiling. "That's where I would have put the note too."
Hermione smiled and picked up the small piece of paper, hoping that it would explain something.
This belongs to you. Take good care of it and keep it always, that way a part of me will always be with you.
There's so much that I wish I could say but you wouldn't understand, and I don't wish to cause you any confusion or trouble.
Just know that I didn't give up, even when it was hard, and I felt like I couldn't handle it anymore. I didn't give up, and I'm ok now, because of you.
Don't try to understand any of this, just know that everything will be ok.
I hope I've made you proud.
The note was unsigned.
Hermione stared at, more confused then ever but somehow feeling comforted as well.
Everything will be ok.
Her head shot up and she looked towards the High Table. Her eyes came to rest on Professor Riddle.
He was eating his breakfast and listening to something the Headmaster was telling him, but Hermione thought she saw a knowing smile graze his features every once in a while.
She looked back down at the book in her hands.
It was still open to the first page and she gasped at what she saw written there.
Salazar Slytherin Helga Hufflepuff Godric Gryffindor Rowena Ravenclaw
The names of the Founders! Could it be?
"Hey, Hermione, you all right?" Ron asked.
Hermione looked up at him, excitement coursing through her, and she smiled.
"Ya, I'm ok Ron." She said.
"Do you know who sent you the book?" Harry asked.
"Nope." Hermione said, still smiling.
"Do you know what the book is?" Ron asked.
"Not sure yet, but I'll find out soon." She kept on smiling.
Ron and Harry were looking worried.
"Hermione, are you sure you're ok?" Harry asked, sounding concerned.
Hermione glanced up at the High Table again. Professor Riddle was grinning broadly now, seemingly unaware that anyone was watching him.
"I'm ok Harry." She said, looking back at her two friends.
Everything will be ok.
A/N: Please don't think that anything is going to happen between Tom and Hermione now. (lol) Tom accepted the day he went back to his time that he would have to let her go, and he has, but she'll always be with him in a sense. And Hermione doesn't know or remember anything about Tom. She has a connection with him (since they're soul mates and all) but she doesn't know, even though at the end she has her suspicions. She wont be going after Professor Riddle demanding anything though; she understands that she's meant to not know and she accepts that.
As for Voldemort and the Death Eaters and all that evil crap… none of it ever happened. Severus Snape isn't a Professor because Voldemort never told him to take up a post; Voldemort never told him to take up a post because there was no Voldemort after Tom went back and changed everything.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were able to make friends with each other so quickly because they're all connected as well. It's almost as if they remember each other, but they don't.
I hope that everything makes sense but if anyone has any questions then feel free to ask. I didn't get to address a lot of things because I wanted this to be in Hermione's POV, but just know that the Wizarding World is at peace for now and Tom Riddle has moved on with his life.
The book he gave Hermione, in case anyone forgot, is the book from chapter 25, the one written by the Founders that contains the spells they used for the creation of the Hogwarts. Tom wanted her to have it back. Such a good guy he is. (smiles) And don't think that he's usually this giddy. I know he came off that way in the epilogue but that's just because he was excited to see his old friends again. He's a good guy now but he's usually pretty mellow. He'll be all giddy again next year whenever Ginny starts her first year there. You can't blame him; he's happy that his old friends are truly safe.
Thanks again to everyone who has ever read and reviewed this story. It's been a while but it's finally over. (sighs) I wrote this for you guys so thank you again and again and again. You've all been wonderful!!!