A/N: A quick thank you to all for both patience and reviewing: GitaMerah, katrin4p, maximum-calories, Skavnema, Hater-of-heartless-critics, PapayaCrazy, Youko-sama, echo9821, the. dead. addict., Joou Himeko Dah, Talenyn01, Jenny-Beth, emeraldice77, Megan Consoer, Deceptive Fates, Autumn's-Smile, Seed-of-Flame, ilo3645, evilangel-001, Just Bee 26, ellamalfoy8, ebonyquill, blindfaithoperadiva, fatcakes, Alana84, Charmanth, NovelGurl, Barranca, Vera-Sabe, sarahyyy, libaka, marauder'sbabe, girlwholuvsallthemenintwilight, KoolAidNightmare, 113crc, nehimasgift, rupertgrintlovesmeandonlyme, The daughter of Slytherin, irene0222, and Tears of Ebon-Grey.
I cannot believe that I've gotten over 800 reviews for this! Thanks again everyone, and I apologize that this took SO long to write. I hope that you've enjoyed it; I know I did because y'all made it that way! By the way... there will be NO sequel to this, lol.
Chapter 41 – Where Loyalty Lies
Hermione was aware of people talking around her. Their voices were garbled by gasps, hurried whispers, and the fall of quickened footsteps.
"Miss Granger? Miss Granger!"
Hermione rolled her head to the side, trying all too fruitlessly to shake the pounding and blood-rushing sounds from her head. She thought she had heard Professor McGonagall's voice calling to her, but that was impossible. Wasn't it? 'Open your eyes!' she willed herself, but she was partly afraid of doing so. What if it turned out to be just another taunting dream?
A loud, rumbling sort of bang shook the rough surface that Hermione was laying on, and she heard someone groan beside her.
"Who's he?" asked Parvati Patil. But it couldn't really be Hermione's Gryffindor roommate, could it?
"Miss Granger, please, wake up!" pleaded Professor McGonagall. "Miss Brown, take both Miss Patils with you and find Professor Dumbledore. Once you've told him that Miss Granger has been found, please inform some house-elves that we'll be needing their assistance. Do it quickly before the wards break free."
Hermione thought about what her Transfiguration teacher said over and over again. She had been found. Lavender was to bring the Headmaster and some elves. She needed to wake up. 'No, it will go away!' she frantically tried to dissuade herself.
"Hermione." It was the dreamy, distant tone of Luna Lovegood. "I only wish that I had some butterbeer and a few Billywigs. I could make an antidote for your sleep-like state. This is often the result when one is trapped in a place near Blibbering Humdingers."
"Miss Lovegood, please," Professor McGonagall grumbled in an exasperated way as she grabbed Hermione by the shoulders. The touch was so warm, real, and somehow stiff. It had to be more than a dream; Hermione was certain now. "Take to keeping watch at the windows." There was a pause as Luna left Hermione's side.
"That boy is stirring again," informed someone from near where Hermione's head lay.
That boy? What boy? Another groan and the grip of a familiar hand on Hermione's wrist gave her the answer. Tom.
"Hermione," he whispered gruffly. His voice was muffled by something, almost as though he were talking into a wall or pillow.
Turning her head, Hermione forced her eyes open. Things were dark, but flashes of red, green, white, and blue lit every few seconds as though there were fireworks outside. She noticed that Tom was beside her, face down on a very well-known floor, and a bedpost of even more familiar wood was just on the other side of him. The Gryffindor seventh year girls' dorm. Hermione's head turned slowly as a warming sensation spread through her; she blinked up at the Deputy Headmistress and felt tears spring forth in her eyes. She was home in 1997 finally.
"Miss Granger, we thought you were gone for sure; never to return," McGonagall confessed with wide-eyed concern as footsteps echoed up the staircase to the dorm.
The door opened and in rushed Dumbledore; his robes looked highly out of place for such a dark and serious time with their periwinkle velvet and white and yellow shooting star design. His age-lined face was a mask of seriousness, and his usually sparkling eyes were trained with caution upon Tom as he held his wand slightly elevated towards the young Riddle.
"Are you well enough to come to my office, Miss Granger?" he inquired; all he while his eyes remained upon Tom who was getting to his hands and knees while shaking his head as though trying to remove pain from it.
"Yes, I'm quite well," Hermione responded as she sat gingerly upright and felt McGonagall's hands rush to her arm in assistance.
When the Head Girl had been helped to her feet, she looked towards the Headmaster and saw Ginny behind him. Hermione would have rushed forward and embraced her friend for happiness of finally getting to see her, but something in the Weasley girl's face made Hermione feel extremely apprehensive. Turning slowly, the once mock Princess followed Ginny's petrified stare to where Tom had just staggered to his feet and remained hunched over.
"What a lovely dress," Luna commented suddenly, startling Hermione and McGonagall.
Hermione soon became aware that she and Tom were still in the outfits that they had worn to their weddings. Hands moving to her hair, Hermione felt a tiara sitting askew on her head. She winced as she touched it and felt the broken comb on the small crown push painfully into her scalp. Meanwhile, Riddle turned to her and glanced her from head to foot before looking to Dumbledore. This raised a sharp, small gasp from Ginny, who took a step back in fear.
"If you'll both follow me," Dumbledore commanded lightly with his wand still pointing at the newly returned Riddle. "Tom, please lead the way."
Riddle glanced to Hermione who gave a quick sympathetic look before he turned his attention back to Dumbledore. Head held high, Tom stepped past the Headmaster, and Ginny skirted towards Minerva as her wand shook visibly in her hand. Riddle stepped out onto the landing of the stairs, and Hermione half expected to hear the steps groan and begin yelling protests about a boy being near the girls' dorms, but they did not. Apparently this enchantment had been removed from the castle, but this wasn't of importance to her as Dumbledore followed Riddle. She started after them as she felt highly aware of the stares upon her back.
When they reached the Gryffindor common room, Hermione was surprised to see that she didn't feel a start of joy within her. There was a book of hers on the mantle with pictures of her from Dumbledore's Army, the Burrow, and Hogwarts. A banner hung across the mantle's front with writings on it, mostly people's names and words of sadness, which expressed how much the Gryffindors missed their brilliant Head Girl.
Crookshanks was curled on a cushion as though he were highly disgruntled about something, and upon seeing people pass, he hissed, swiped at them, and darted from the chair to hide somewhere. She was a bit surprised by this cold reception, but didn't have time to really ponder it as they exited the portrait hole.
When they emerged, Hermione saw that the hallways were empty of the usual activity. There were no teachers, students, ghosts, or even clinking, creaking sounds of the castle. The statues and suits of armor were missing from their platforms along the walls. Pictures were empty, although Hermione thought she saw some people running through them from time to time as they descended the stairs.
As the threesome moved along the second floor corridor, Hermione's eyes took a quick glance at the windows. Her heart stopped upon seeing past the reflective panes of glass to the grounds below.
Death Eaters lit the sky and their white, skull-like masks with curse after curse as they stood at the gates and forest line of Hogwarts. They were obviously trying to break past the wards; it was just as McGonagall had said while Hermione had been laying on the floor with her eyes shut. How long had this been going on? How much longer would those wards hold out to the hordes of Death Eaters who were trying to break them down?
She slowed her pace, falling behind Dumbledore and Tom as she surveyed the scene outside. She stepped closer to the windows. There were giants among the Death Eaters; they were bellowing and swinging clubs above their heads while looking ravenously at the castle and Hogsmeade below which seemed to be burning.
Her breath fogged the glass and her hands streaked down their shiny surface as she continued to gaze in a horrified manner at the castle grounds. Aurors, Order members, students, and parents were trying to keep the wards in place. The missing statues and suits of armor were on the grounds too; they were being riled and given direction by Professor Flitwick.
Hermione clasped her hands together in a praying fashion and pressed them to her lips as she squeezed her eyes shut. Chills ran the length of her body and prickled her skin as her eyes watered uncontrollably.
"Miss Granger." Dumbledore's calm, but slightly stern voice broke through her prayers, and she turned from the window with a deep inhalation.
Albus and Tom had paused down the hallway and were now staring at her. She took another steading breath that shuddered her body with its enormous, hurried intake. She wanted to ask if there was even time to be sitting in his office discussing things, but she held her tongue as they continued the few short steps to the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the Headmaster's quarters.
"Together we stand," Dumbledore spoke briefly. Hermione thought that he had been about to make some sort of moving speech, but instead, he stood looking at the gargoyle as it gave a sweeping bow and leaped aside. "I think Professor Flitwick could use your assistance out on the lawn, my old friend." A wave of Dumbledore's wand sent the animal into another bow and then galloping in an odd fashion down the corridor to the stairs. "Tom, up the stairs please."
Riddle looked back at Hermione, and she saw displeasure there at being commanded like a common dog. Her insides writhed under that gaze because she felt that he was slightly angered with her as well for not speaking up in his favor. Things were not boding well, or so she thought as her newly wed husband turned and practically stomped up the stone steps.
They entered the office, and Tom proceeded, without invitation, over to a chair and dropped down moodily. This was just like Dumbledore to try and reason things and treat him as though he were an ignorant criminal; then again, he technically was a criminal. However, he was not ignorant and there was no reason to not give him a second chance to prove himself. The thing that bothered Tom the most though was the fact that his newly wed wife was not standing up to the old fool in Riddle's defense.
"Miss Granger, please take a seat beside Tom," Albus directed politely as he rounded his desk and took his own seat.
"Professor... forgive my reluctance to sit and talk this over, but shouldn't we be outside assisting the Order members and the others?" Hermione protested uncertainly.
"All in good time," Dumbledore nodded as he touched his fingertips together. "There are a few things I need to clear up before we go out onto the grounds to stand up for the greater good." Hermione sighed and sat down gingerly, her eyes moving to Tom who crossed his arms and glared at the Headmaster. "First off, it would be wise to ask where you've been."
"In 1797," Hermione supplied instantly. "My diary had been switched with Tom's and when I wrote in it, my emotions and such activated the diary as Ginny had done in her second year."
"I see," the Headmaster nodded, noting how Hermione had called Riddle by his first name. "And you did what while being in this time?"
"How is that really relevant to current circumstances?" Tom snapped as he sat up from his brooding, slouched position. "Granger and I ended up in the past and now we're back by some form of magical reaction, or so that's my guess."
"You never were one for guessing, Tom," Dumbledore challenged lightly. "Would you care to give a more elaborate, correct answer? Or shall I respond to the question of how you got back here?"
The annoying codder was playing the one card that he knew aggravated the young Dark Lord the most and that was insulting and challenging his intelligence.
"The diary was destroyed, and since it was that diary that opened the portal to a previous time period, its magic obviously wore thin and finally closed the portal, but not before pulling us back to the present," Riddle snarled through gritted teeth.
"Partly right, Mr. Riddle," Dumbledore informed as he rose from his seat and walked to the shelves that lined his circular office. From next to the Sorting Hat, he took a leather box that was bound by a black ribbon.
Riddle picked up the box slowly after Albus sat it down in front of him on the desk. Tom untied it and pulled the lid from the box, letting both the ribbon and lid fall to the floor. Inside the box was a charred, tattered book. Tom picked it up with care and turned it over, looking for the familiar gold lettering which told him who it belong to. Tom Marvolo Riddle. There it was; plain as day and still partly in tact.
"Is that...," Hermione began.
"Yes, Miss Granger," Dumbledore replied, "it is." Riddle's gaze snapped to Hermione and watched as her face grew apprehensive towards the journal in his hands. "It appears that Tom was partly right by saying that the diary pulled out back. Why... I cannot be certain. However, it appears that as long as this diary is in tact, our young Mr. Riddle will also remain."
"It's another Horcrux? But wasn't that foolish to recreate one out of something that was already destroyed once?" the Head Girl inquired.
"Extremely, but it's my belief that Voldemort relied solely on the fact that you cherish books so much, Miss Granger," Albus explained. A loud bang issued and made her flinch as the castle shook slightly. A distant scream reached them, and Hermione felt her stomach plummet.
"So as long as this diary remains unharmed, I live? I age just as anyone?"
"Yes, Tom. You will be as human as the next young man. You will age because memories and souls age, which are what Horcruxes are solely made of. You can be mortally wounded, just as souls can be, but you can never truly die, no matter the damage be the object which sustains your soul must be destroyed as well." Another bang and shake of the foundation made Dumbledore sigh. "I think the time for waiting is over. Miss Granger, you'll find Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley on the grounds. Tom... I will give you the chance to join who you wish; my only warning to you is to do what you know is right."
Dumbledore rose and left the newly weds together in his office. Another scream reached their ears just as the door to the office closed.
Tom stood, the diary still in his hands, and his eyes trained on its cover. He had a chance to join the Death Eater ranks and overtake the wizarding world just as he wanted. How could it be that easy?
It couldn't. He looked up at Hermione; there was fear and uncertainty in her eyes. Signs of dread emanated from her as she rose from her chair and looked from the diary to his face. He loved her. He hated that he could make her look like that at him. Damn this situation. He was torn. His one lifelong work and wish was warring with his passionate love for Hermione. Her fingers reached out and ran along the edge of the diary. They blackened from the char on it, and she sighed.
"I respect Dumbledore and therefore respect his judgment," she whispered as she stepped closer. She pushed herself up onto her tip toes and placed a kiss on his lips. "Love me, comfort me, honor and keep me, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, cherish and continually bestow upon me your heart's deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto me for as long as we both live." She turned and walked away as he bowed his head and thought about those words.
He did love her. He would comfort her, honor and keep her, for better and for worse, in sadness and in joy. He would cherish her and continually bestow upon her his heart's deepest devotion. Could he forsake all others and keep himself only unto her for as long as the both lived if it was himself he had to forsake and keep away from for her though?
He laid the diary into the box and looked around the office as he door clicked shut behind Hermione. What was he supposed to do?
"Harry! Hermione is back!" Neville bellowed as he came running across the grounds.
The wards were falling. Fights were breaking out and others were still trying to break in or keep the wards up. It wouldn't be long before the Death Eaters were overrunning them and a larger fight ensued.
"Harry!" It was Ron, and he was running at The Boy Who Lived from another direction.
Neville reached Harry only seconds before Ron and both blurted out a message of Hermione's return as they panted.
"What? Where did you hear this?" The Chosen One yelled above the noise of bangs, booms, and screams of curses and pain.
"Parvati came by the group I was with and yelled to us," Neville replied.
"I heard it from Colin Creevey," Ron said.
"Harry! Harry, look!" Neville grabbed his bespectacled friend by the shoulders and spun him around while pointing shakily at the front doors of Hogwarts. Hermione was emerging with Dennis Creevey and some house-elves. Her head was held high, and her wand was aloft in determination. She reached the three boys and smiled tearfully at them, so happy to finally see them gaping at her as she stood in a dress she had worn to her own wedding a little over half a day before.
They had been about to hug her when someone behind Harry yelled alarm that the wards they were guarding had fallen. Harry, Ron, Neville, and the others whipped around just in time to see Death Eaters rushing at them. Curses flew helter-skelter as black robed figures wearing white masks came rushing past the gates of Hogwarts.
Hermione's gut clenched, and she gripped her wand as a curse came flying at her. She dodged it and pushed Dennis down on the ground as one came soaring in their direction. The Head Girl managed to dodge that one as well, although she felt intense heat next to her ear and smelled burning hair.
"A little princess," cackled someone. Hermione spun around to see Bellatrix Lestrange standing to her left. "We've been missing you. Your face has been all over the papers for a over a month... So, where's the young Dark Lord?"
"That's none of your business," Hermione barked and aimed her wand at the eccentric, thin, pale woman before her.
Curses flew between the two and finally Bellatrix fell to a Stunning Spell that Hermione hadn't sent. She glanced around and saw Ron waving to her as he turned off to help Dobby and some other house-elves. She felt odd looking at him; the last time she had seen him, he had been sneaking off to Hogsmeade with Luna Lovegood, and Hermione had cried over it.
"Hermione! Move!" shrieked Hestia Jones as a Killing Curse burst through the air at the Head Girl.
She dropped to the ground just in time to miss it and was forced to roll out of the way as the body of Terry Boot hit the ground, wide-eyed and gaping. Hermione stifled a shriek. The last time she had seen him, he had defended her against Draco Malfoy. Tears blinded her for a moment before she bushed them away with the back of her wrist. She scrambled to her feet and backed into someone. They whipped around, and she found herself in a crushing hug.
The scent of Mrs. Weasley and the Burrow filled Hermione's nostrils for a moment before Molly cast Hermione aside and sent a jinx at a nearby Death Eater. The Head Girl stumbled backwards and tripped over something. She hit the ground and saw the body of Winky the house-elf. A whimper left Hermione's lips, and she scooted away from the body quickly. She looked around and saw students falling and Death Eaters screaming as they dropped. Order members and teachers were battling beside armor and statues as Death Eaters, werewolves, and giants clashed with them. It was chaos; deadly and violent.
Tom stared down at the broken, fallen, and fighting who scattered Hogwarts lawns, steps, forest, and greenhouses. It was madness, and his older counterpart had brought it on. Riddle felt his gut clench; he was feeling guilt, which he still wasn't accustomed to. Hermione had changed him; there was no doubt that she had. His thoughts turned to the girl he coveted and married. He had been searching for her, but hadn't seen her yet. She shouldn't be too hard to spot in her unique attire.
As he scanned the grounds for her, his eyes landed on something rather startling. Himself. Older and much more evil in means, but himself nonetheless. Despite his fallen followers, Voldemort battled on. He sent curse after curse bounding from the tip of his wand to crumple both the unsuspecting and brave who stood up to him. There was a glint in his red eyes that Tom could see from the second floor corridor windows. That was what awaited him. Could he really rule the wizarding world beside himself if that's what he was?
He didn't have time to contemplate this though as Hermione came into view. She was running towards a redhead who was on the ground. She dropped down beside him and shook him before he sat up slowly. She turned and rose quickly, racing towards Voldemort. What was she doing? He would surely kill her, but wasn't that what Tom was waiting for? Wasn't he waiting for one or the other to fall so that he could take the remaining side and not have to forsake the other? But could he watch her die so easily? Could he watch himself fall? What kind of coward was he to leave his life to fate? He had never done such a thing before.
Hermione rushed to Harry's side as Death Eaters encircled him and the Dark Lord. Giants pounded the ground with clubs as though rooting Voldemort on, and she stumbled with the force of the shake. Death Eaters battled back those trying to break through to help The Boy Who Lived. She threw a few curses and found a break in the ranks, which she slipped through and came to Harry's side.
"Hermione! Where's Dumbledore?" Harry called as she grabbed his arm.
"I don't know," she answered as she looked around frantically. "There, there! He's over there. He's trying to get here!" Sure enough, Albus Dumbledore was surrounded by Order members and statues as Fawkes the phoenix flew overhead cawing. "He's coming, Harry, he's coming!"
"Well, to what do we owe the displeasure... Hermione Granger, is it?" Voldemort addressed loudly. She turned and looked him in the eye with no expression betraying her feelings or thoughts. "Where is Tom Riddle?"
"You'll have to ask him that because I don't know," she bellowed back as she tightened her hold on her wand and glared at the pale, red-eyed man before her.
"Move!" commanded someone beyond the ranks of the Death Eaters. Hermione would of guessed that it was Professor Dumbledore, but the fact that the followers of Voldemort dispersed and let the person through was against that guess.
Tom came striding up, and Hermione was about to turn to face him, but he continued on past her. She felt her heart shatter when he stepped up to Voldemort; her mouth went dry, and her tongue felt swollen. Riddle turned and looked to her in a stern, unemotional way. She felt deceived and deeply hurt and wanted nothing more than to turn and walk away from the dozens who gazed at them. She bowed her head and felt an aching in her ears and throat as her vision blurred.
"The Mudblood is crying!" Alecto Carrow cried with glee as she pointed and laughed at Hermione.
The Head Girl looked up at her newly wed husband as a tear trailed down her cheek only to see that his expression still had not changed.
"How about that Potter?" bellowed Amycus Carrow, Alecto's brother. "Your Mudblood friend loves the young Dark Lord!"
Hermione looked up at Harry; his eyes met hers, but she couldn't hold his gaze. She looked away, ashamed that she had been so stupid as to fall in love with her best friend's enemy. However, she hadn't imagined that she would feel this way. She had once envisioned herself telling Harry that she and Tom were in love and that she would feel happiness despite any rejection they might encounter. Those visions were shattered now though.
"Love is not to be trusted... ever," Voldemort cooed in a sickening tone; there was malice, disgust, and sinister laughter in his voice. "It can only lead to betrayal and downfall."
Riddle looked to his older self and thought for a moment. He had once thought the same about love, but Hermione had shown him differently. She had given him love with trust, generosity, and she had vowed all this to him in front of at least a hundred or more people. Even if it wasn't anyone they had known truly and even if it wasn't under their own names, she had made it clear that she had meant every word.
"Enough of this," Voldemort called and raised his hands high. "Surrender yourself, Harry Potter, and I shall spare your friends... at least the purebloods."
"I would never," Harry growled, but his words barely reached Hermione's ears.
Her eyes were locked on Tom, and his were upon her. Her tears were slowly drying as they left cool, taut trails down her cheeks. She bowed her head, unable to look at him any longer. Harry and Voldemort were still exchanging threats and commands; Harry trying to show Voldemort he had lost by telling the older version of Tom Riddle that all his Horcruxes had been destroyed.
"It matters not, Potter!" Voldemort roared back with a sort of hissing accent. "I have a predecessor for when my time comes; I know he will carry out my wishing exactly as I would want because he is me!"
"Wrong, Tom," Dumbledore spoke up as he finally managed to reach Harry's side with Ron and Neville. "Young Mr. Riddle has a choice before him. He does not have to be defined by your choices, and he does not have to follow the path that you have laid for him. He lives just as any would, and he has the chance to live his life as he would want."
Hermione glanced to Riddle and watched as he looked down at his feet in thought. She looked him up and down before her eyes stopped on his hands. She almost let a small gasp of joy escape her lips when she saw what rested on the ring finger of his left hand. A solid gold wedding band was secured snuggly there; it shimmered when he flexed his hand, tightening his fist. As she stared at that hand, she failed to notice that the other had raised and pointed the wand in its grasp at Harry.
"I told you that I couldn't have chosen a better predecessor!" Voldemort chortled coldly as Hermione's lip quivered; she couldn't believe Tom would give his loyalty to the evil, older rendition of himself when he had vowed it to her in a church. Obviously he hadn't meant it as he had said; he had tricked her, and she couldn't feel more foolish.
The word spilled from the mouth of someone and all Hermione could do was grab Harry and pull him to the ground. A collective cry of surprise and distress sounded from the area, but Hermione still did not look up. Dumbledore's voice rang out over everyone, but it was muffled to her as her head was covered by Harry's arm. Heat soared around them and almost overwhelmed her.
"Hermione!" Harry cried, "Get up! Hurry!" He pulled her to her feet before readying himself for a fight. She grasped her own wand and saw that Voldemort was dueling Tom. She, Harry, Dumbledore, Ron, and Neville were being protected by a shield of fire, which Albus had obviously conjured. The flames were dying however, and Death Eaters were drawing closer as they did. "Ready yourself," Harry commanded above the commotion.
Soon the flames receded into the ground, and duels broke out on all sides of Hermione. Order members rushed to their aid; Harry was battling his way to Voldemort. She turned and began following him, trying to make her way to Tom to see what had happened.
She paused long enough to assist Fred Weasley against Fenrir before turning and finding herself in a duel with Yaxley and Thorfinn Rowle. Hermione found herself struggling to keep up with the curse after jinx onslaught that the two Death Eaters brought upon her. She backed up and soon regretted it because she found someone's elbow connecting with the side of her head as they fell. She staggered and wrestled with balance to stay upright, but lost as she tripped over the fallen person who had accidentally hit her.
She looked up as Yaxley laughed out loud and Thorfinn drew nearer. Rowle raised his wand and grin manically, ready to curse her into oblivion. Hermione scrambled backwards, trying to lose herself in the mass of fighters that was happening around her. Thorfinn looked back to Yaxley and laughed brassly at the Hogwarts Head Girl. She took that moment to scamper to her hands and knees.
Hermione raised her wand and sent a curse flying at Thorfinn, but it missed and soared off through the night and out of sight. He sneered and raised his wand; aiming it at Hermione who began trying her best to get fully to her feet. She wasn't fast enough however.
"Crucio!" Rowle roared.
Hermione screamed out. Her veins seared, and she was sure that her blood was boiling inside them. Her muscles stretched to their limit, and they would certainly snap soon. Hermione's eyes watered, and her ears pounded painfully as her backbone ripped with anguish. She didn't think that it would ever end, but her head began to feel light while her vision blurred. Surely she would pass out in the seconds to come.
Thorfinn relented on his attack on Hermione as a green halo lit around his body. His face froze in shock, and he dropped forward with a tremendous thud. Behind him stood Tom, who turned to Yaxley and aimed his wand. Seconds later, arrows rained from the tip and bombarded Yaxley. He coughed, blood spilling from his mouth as he gripped the many arrows protruding from his chest. He fell forward, shoving the shafts deeper and through his back.
Riddle turned away from his fallen opponent and dodged his way through people, both fallen and fighting, as well as curses until he came to Hermione's side. He knelt and lifted her head upwards.
"Hermione?" he whispered in her ear. "Come on... wake up." Her head lulled, but she finally looked at him. Her body was in a dull ache now, but she sat up with his assistance. She looked at him in bewilderment, and he rubbed his thumb on her cheek. "I vowed to forsake all others and keep myself only unto you."
She would have relished to pause the moment, but they were in the middle of a battle on Hogwarts grounds. Tom pulled her to her feet before scanning the grounds for Harry and Voldemort.
"We need to help him!" she screamed.
Tom nodded and pulled her through the mass of duelers, each dodging and ducking while Tom shielded them from harm. They finally made it to the area where the Dark Lord and The Boy Who Lived were exchanging curses.
"Hermione!" Harry yelled.
Heads turned to her and in that moment, Tom raised his wand, aimed it at Voldemort, and said the only words that came to mind.
Voldemort gasped, and time seemed to stop. Hermione watched as though in slow motion as the Dark Lord descended to his knees, his face forever formed in a look of disbelief. He began to raise his arm at Harry to curse him, but only got it halfway up before slouching forward and dying there upon the ground.
Tom wandered through the stacks of the library in London. He smelled her perfume; it was a familiar scent, calming and exciting all at the same time. He peeked around the corner of a shelf and found her sitting at a table, pouring over a book. He walked up and leaned over her shoulder.
"What are you reading now?" he joked, whispering into her ear and gripping his shoulder lovingly.
She turned and looked up at him.
"I have been wondering since we came back whatever happened to the King and everyone from back then," she replied as she turned the book so he could see. He took a seat, and she pointed at a particular paragraph. "The King ended up remarrying and having another child four years after Anastasia's disappearance. Her husband was found dead with Porthos. It was thought that they battled over Princess Ana, who was told by Aramis to leave. No one knows what happened to her."
"So I became a hero," Riddle gloated in a low tone.
"Twice, yes." She leaned over and placed a kiss on his cheek. "C'mon... Mum and Dad are expecting us for dinner."
She rose, closed the book, and grabbed his hand. He stood and followed her from the building and into the bright sunlight of the summer afternoon. They started down the street, hands clasped, and a new, undefined, but brilliant future ahead. He was so glad he had vowed his loyalty to her, and she returned his devotion and love; he wouldn't have things any other way.