Disclaimer: If it were mine, none of us would be here. We would be reading one of my million-dollar books (That's right. I would be reading my own book)!
Author's Note: Last chapter! WooHoo!
I am hereby dedicating this last chapter to Reginald the Duck. You have been a wonderful reviewer and I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations. Thank you.
Hermione, Ginny, and Ron were all out cold in the bedroom. Tom and Hermione had extended their beds so that everyone had a space and now the three were fast asleep.
Tom was sitting, staring off into space, and Harry was sitting on the chair beside him, studying the differences between this Tom Riddle and the one that had some out of the diary.
Suddenly Tom turned to him. "I… How do you know if you're in love?"
Harry continued to contemplate the other man in silence for a moment. Then he spoke. "For me it was when I knew I would do all sorts of things out of character to me for her."
Tom was silent, reflecting on what he would do for the girl with the chestnut hair sleeping in the next room. The truth was, he would do anything to see her happy. He looked at Harry.
"You came to take her back."
Harry was slightly knocked off balance by the change in subject but he pulled himself together. "Yes, but I'm not so sure now."
"Why not?" Tom honestly wanted to know.
Harry looked at the heir of Slytherin for a long moment before sighing and admitting, "Because she loves you. I can't tear you two apart."
The two young men continued to sit in silence before Tom said quietly, "I'll be fine. She belongs with you; with her friends."
Hermione woke up the next morning with a kink in her neck, an arm draped around her waist, and a leg sprawled across hers.
She identified the owner of the leg as Ron. She half expected that after the night before, the arm would be Tom's. Wrong. She gently extracted herself and looked over to see Harry pulling his arm back towards himself, mumbling in his sleep. She giggled and crept towards the door. She opened it only to be nearly bowled backwards with loudness.
After quickly closing the door behind her so that her boys could continue to sleep, she turned to silently observe Tom and Ginny. The young Weasley was red in the face and was screaming at Tom, who looked more pale then usual.
"You nearly killed me and now you are taking my friend away from me! I will not let you do this. We came for Hermione and we are leaving with Hermione!" she screamed at the wizard.
Tom looked at her in silence while she ranted and then said quietly, "Shouldn't that be her choice?"
"No!" Ginny screamed. Hermione thanked Merlin that one of them had thought to put a silencing charm around the room. "She would just pick you and that's not what's best!"
Hermione saw red. "Want to run that by me again, Gin? I think I may have misheard you. I thought I heard you say that I have no choice whether I stay or go."
Ginny paled slightly before she turned to the irate girl. "You would choose him, but that's not what-"
"Answer the question, Ginevra," was the cold interruption.
"I just think-"
"I didn't ask you to think. Did you," Hermione bit out coldly, "or did you not say that I had no choice in the matter?"
Ginny paled more. "I… I did," she finally admitted.
"Get out," Hermione bit out angrily. "You are the one with no choice in this matter."
Ginny looked ready to argue some more when Hermione drew her wand and pointed it at the younger girl. "Get out," Hermione snapped. Ginny wisely decided to comply… this time.
After the youngest Weasley was gone, Hermione looked over at Tom, who was staring intently at his feet. She walked over and pulled his face up to look her in the eye. "What's wrong, Tom?"
"She's right, you know," said Tom, pulling his gaze from hers once again.
Hermione frowned as she looked at him. "How so?" she settled on asking, rather than flip her lid.
"Your friends are all there, waiting for you to go back. You should go for them," he said, regaining his ability to lie and looking her in the eye.
"But you're here," was her response, as if that was all there was to it. To her, it was.
"I'll be fine."
Hermione looked him in the eye and felt her tears well up. "I wouldn't be."
Heart breaking once again, Tom once again told her to go home before turning and walking from the flat.
Harry awoke to excruciating pain. It was ripping through him like a thousand knives and he could honestly say that he had never felt so awful in his life. Tears began to stream from his green eyes and he stifled his sobs as he searched the room for Hermione. She would know what to do.
It would have been nice and convenient if she had still been there. She was sitting in her living room, sobbing. Tom was gone and the boys would want to go back to their time that day. She would never again see him as he was now. He would undoubtedly go back to his plans of becoming Voldemort. Why was life so difficult?
She heard sounds from the bedroom (she had taken off the silencing spell) and rose to investigate. These were not the usual sounds one made while climbing out of bed.
She opened the door and nearly screamed at the sight of a pale and tearful Harry Potter. Her best friend was in such agony!
In her distraught state, it took her a while to think of what was wrong with him. After a moment, she managed a coherent thought about the cause. Tom. Tom was in more pain than she was, apparently. There was no way Harry would be like this if he was feeling her emotions.
As much as she loved the heir of Slytherin, this weird relationship that they had was the best thing to happen in his life and he had let her go. She could not even begin to fathom why.
Tom was back at work. It was the last place Hermione would think to look for him in his heartbroken state, he figured.
What he hadn't figured on was Hermione's dogged determination. The young woman came tearing into the store. She ran up to the desk, not looking at him as she searched the store, blurting out, "Have you seen Tom Riddle?"
She did a double take at him as his own voice responded to her, "I can do better than that."
She sagged in relief and said bluntly, "I'm not going." He looked as if he was about to argue, so she forcefully added, "You can push me away all you want, Tom Riddle, but I am not going with them. I will be staying in the flat. If that bothers you, feel free to seek residence elsewhere."
He openly gaped at her for a moment before he regained his composure and studied her for a moment. She stared back, her jaw set in just such a way as to make it known that she was not budging on this issue.
Suddenly she said, "I don't understand why you are trying to push me away." She was being completely honest with him. The tears began to well up again.
Tom swallowed a couple of times before speaking. He would not have been able to talk otherwise. "I want you to be happy."
She looked at him with those wide brown eyes. "Is it so hard to believe that I am happy with you?"
Suddenly they heard a snort. Hermione whipped around, eyes narrowed. There behind them was one Cygnus Black.
"Who could be happy with him?" he mocked coldly.
Hermione smirked an awful smirk at him. She seemed so cold and inaccessible. "The same girl that you wanted."
He let out a low growl and began to advance on her. She drew her wand and aimed it at his throat. "You wouldn't want me to have to horribly maul you and call it self defence when I speak with the aurors, now, would you?"
"You wouldn't contact the aurors over this," he sneered.
She smiled in the manner that a truly evil being would and replied in a deadly calm voice, "I wouldn't count on that, Black."
"Especially since the lady is not alone," added Tom's horribly calm voice.
Black scowled and looked at Hermione. "She's not a lady."
"You're right," Hermione said, sighing sadly. "You're the lady in this situation."
Tom suddenly felt the need to chuckle. He did not think that had ever happen to him in his life and he decided to give into it.
He saw Hermione jerk in shock. Tom was laughing? Even better: it was driving Black nuts. The longer Tom chuckled, the tighter Black gripped his wand.
"Shut up, Mudblood," he finally snarled.
Hermione had had it. Tom was a little bit surprised. People at Hogwarts had been too afraid to call him that, but Hermione had a lot of rage that could be triggered with that word.
"Say it again, Black. I dare you," she growled, her wand pointed squarely at his nose.
Black gave her his best innocent look. It was not the least bit convincing. "Say what?" he asked innocently.
The young woman smirked. Black would never admit it, but he found her a little bit frightening as she stood there smirking with her wand tip in his face. At that moment she called out the first spell that came to mind: Levicorpus, forgetting that the spell had not yet been invented.
Tom gaped at Hermione. Had she made that up? He had always wished that he had the time to develop his own spells. So far it hadn't happened. Apparently it had for her.
Black, meanwhile, was screaming as he hung upside down by his ankle. Hermione was smirking him even now. She walked up to the screaming young man and asked softly, "Would you like down?"
He finally fell silent and nodded. Hermione's smirk broadened as she flicked her wand at him and said quietly, "Liberacorpus."
Tom gaped again as the other young man fell to the floor in an undignified heap. Hermione began to laugh at the look on the faces of both of them and then asked Tom, "Do you actually have to be here?"
"Not really. I just needed something to do so I came here. I think they're mad at me for trying to get more hours, actually," he said, referring to his coworkers.
She grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the store, calling goodbye to his coworkers so that they knew Tom was gone and calling back to Black, "You'll never win, Black."
He never looked up.
Even though Tom caught up to her easily with his long legs, she refused to let go of his hand. She held it all the way back to the flat.
When they arrived, a frantic looking Harry appeared. "Have you seen Ginny or… Oh. Hello Riddle."
Tom nodded slightly. "Potter."
"Alright, have either of you seen Ginny?"
Hermione flushed. "I might have… um… told her to… er… get out."
Harry paled, contrasting his skin greatly to Hermione's. "She could be anywhere!" he nearly screamed at her.
"But she is not," said a familiar voice. The three of them turned to see Ginny standing next to the speaker, Albus Dumbledore.
Dumbledore smiled as he looked at the three confused young adults.
"Professor Dumbledore?" Harry asked, uncertain if this was really he. After all, Dumbledore was old and grey where, or rather when, Harry was from.
"That would be me," said Dumbledore with a smile, eyes twinkling as per usual. "And you must be Harry. Miss Weasley was just telling me about you and her brother, Ron."
Harry nodded, still stunned at the difference in his favourite professor. He was having difficulty remembering that people change in fifty plus years.
Hermione looked at the professor. "I do not wish to be rude, Sir-"
"And yet accidental rudeness occurs all the time. Perhaps it would be best not to say anything at all, Miss Griffith."
Harry noted that this was remarkably similar to something that Dumbledore had said to his Uncle Vernon once. He was also shocked to hear his friend addressed as a Griffith. There were a great many things that he did not know about this time frame he found himself in.
Hermione, however, was obviously in her element. "Of course, Sir. I was just wondering what brings you here."
Dumbledore studied the young woman before him. She had grown up a lot, and the love between her and Tom radiated off them in waves. He disagreed with Ginny. The two should not be separated unless it was absolutely necessary, which it was not.
"Miss Weasley," he began, "would you be so kind as to go and fetch your brother?"
Ginny nodded and left. Dumbledore turned to Tom, Harry, and Hermione. "I must speak quickly before Miss Weasley returns. I will not be forcing Miss Griffith, or Granger as the case may be," he added, seeing the look on Harry's face, "to go back with you. It is her choice."
At that moment, Ron and Ginny walked over to them. "Mister Weasley, it is wonderful to meet you!" Dumbledore said pleasantly. "We were just beginning to make plans for your trip back to the future as it were." He smiled as Ginny looked covertly at Hermione, who was too busy looking at Harry's lost expression to notice.
"Miss Griffith, what will you be doing?"
Ginny continued to stare intently at Hermione, who was still staring at Harry with concern written all over her face. She finally spoke when Dumbledore was about to repeat the question.
Ginny lost it again. "How could you do that? You're leaving all of your friends for a boy? I thought we agreed that no boy would ever get between us."
Hermione distinctly remembered that deal. She also seemed to remember that it was the one time that she had ever gotten drunk. Bloody Firewhiskey.
"Gin, we were drunk. Not to mention that I have been away from you guys for a while. Besides, we will see each other again."
"And you'll be in your sixties!" Ginny cried.
"Yes, well, I'll be Aunt Hermione then, won't I?"
Ginny began to sob, realising that nothing she did would change Hermione's mind. The older girl was staying behind.
Dumbledore studied the two girls. Suddenly he made a decision. "Miss Weasley, you still have one year left at Hogwarts, correct?" She nodded wordlessly, so he turned to Hermione. "Have you ever thought about teaching, Miss Griffith?"
"Yes," said Hermione eagerly, seeing where this was going.
"Would you be interested in teaching in Miss Weasley's seventh year? That way your friends can come and see you."
"Yes, Sir. What of Tom, Sir?"
Tom looked up sharply at that. "What would you like to do, Tom?" Dumbledore asked calmly.
"I have always wanted to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, Sir," he said eagerly. Dumbledore looked over at Harry, who said that there was not one slotted yet.
"Done," said Dumbledore, conjuring a piece of parchment and a quill from thin air. He jotted down a quick note to himself and handed it to Hermione. "You keep it. My memory is not what it should be now. I can't imagine how terrible it must be when you're from."
Hermione gave him the biggest smile as she took it from him. She looked at her friends and her smile fell. She raced over to Ginny and gave her a giant hug, apologizing for not going with her. Both girls sobbed as they parted. Dumbledore sent the youngest Weasley back to her own time.
She then turned to Ron and gave him a really big hug. "I'm sorry," was all she said to him. It would have taken too long to explain that she was sorry for breaking his heart and for sending him home without her. He seemed to understand, however. He nodded, a single tear running down his face. He roughly wiped it away and stepped towards Dumbledore, nodding. The last thing he saw before returning home was Hermione waving at him.
She turned to Harry and hugged him tightly, whispering in his ear, "Things should be easier for you now. You don't have to kill him. The war is over, Harry, You're free!"
"Thanks to you," he said, sobbing unashamedly. He was losing one of his best friends and she had just told him that she had saved the world for him. He was free to do what he wanted and to talk to whomever he pleased.
The two of them pulled back and never said goodbye. They simply waved to each other as he was blown into his own time by Dumbledore's spell.
Ginny stood up and moved to someplace that she hoped would be out of the way when the other two appeared. Tears were still coursing down her face as she waited for her brother and her boyfriend.
The two soon appeared. She flung herself into Harry's arms, sobbing uncontrollably. As she drew back, she noticed something huge. "Harry! Your scar is gone!"
His hand instinctively shot up to his forehead. It was smooth. He whooped for joy. Voldemort was gone. Hermione had saved them all.
Ginny climbed off the Hogwarts Express nervously. Had Hermione remembered to go to the school and get her job? It had been fifty-three years, after all. Maybe she had forgotten!
She continued to be nervous about this as she rode in the horseless carriage (that actually appeared horseless to her again!) with Luna, who chattered on about Crumple Horned Snorkacks, while holding her copy of The Quibbler upside down. Ginny was so not paying attention.
As they climbed out of the carriage, she looked around at the other returning students. She saw a bunch that she knew, as they were in her year, but none she wanted to talk to. The poor girl had never noticed before that all of her friends seemed to have been in the year before hers.
She climbed the steps and headed for the Great Hall for the feast. As she was walking through the door a rather familiar pale hand shoved her.
"Watch it, Weaslette," Draco Malfoy snapped.
"I believe that the young lady was shoved, Mister Malfoy," a familiar voice said.
Ginny and Malfoy turned to the speaker. She found herself looking into a pair of dancing brown eyes. Hermione's eyes.
Malfoy, it seemed, did not recognise her. "I did not shove her."
Her eyebrow arched the way it had when Ginny had seen her last and in a manner that she recognised from Tom. "I never said that you had. Conscience bothering you much?"
Malfoy began to splutter when this new professor leaned over and whispered, "Save your breath, Ferret."
Ginny began to giggle hysterically while Malfoy gaped at the professor. "Who are you?"
Now Ginny was gaping at least as badly as Malfoy had been. That's when another familiar figure strolled up.
"Is everything alright here?"
Professor Riddle smiled. "Of course, Tom. I just felt the need to make sure that this particular Malfoy took more care around women than his predecessors."
Ginny watched in amusement while Tom's eyebrow rose in the same manner that Hermione's had. "I see. What did he do?"
"He was bothering Ginny, here, the same way his grandfather did to me back at Hogwarts. Remember how he used to bother me?"
Tom smirked, seeing what his wife of the last fifty years was doing. "And what was that, Hermione? I'm afraid my memory is not what it used to be."
Malfoy paused. Hermione? A woman rushing to Weaslette's aid? Surely this was not the same Hermione who had gone missing for the last year. She was too old.
Hermione smirked, seeing the wheels in his head turning. "Do you recall when I was Hermione Grange… Griffith?"
She deliberately slipped up and watched as Malfoy's face began to turn unnatural colours. "Are you alright, Mister Malfoy?"
"Granger?" he gasped out.
"Of course," she said with a smile. "Why are you still in school, Mister Malfoy? You were supposed to graduate last year?"
He looked at the floor and mumbled, unsure of how to treat this Granger-turned-Professor.
"Speak up, man," The 'Tom' professor said.
Someone opening the door to the Great Hall and herding in the stragglers was all that saved him. He and Ginny went with them.
Hermione and Tom looked at each other and smirked before heading to the Great Hall.
When everyone was in the Great Hall and seated, Dumbledore stood and smiled out and the body of students sitting and looking up at him expectantly.
"Before our minds our clouded with food, I have a few announcements. First of all, I would like to introduce our two new professors. Professor H. Riddle, or Professor R. will be teaching Arithmancy. Professor T. Riddle, or simply Professor Riddle will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts. Please give them a warm welcome."
The students all clapped while looking at the new teachers curiously.
"And now to move on to other announcements so that we may eat sooner, Mister Filch has added singing stuffed animals to the list of banned items, as they are distracting. That makes a total of eight hundred and ninety two items on the list of banned items. To see this list, see Mister Filch's office door. As well…"
Ginny caught up with Hermione that evening after dinner. "Professor R., wait up!"
Hermione smiled and walked with Ginny to Hermione and Tom's chambers. The two settled down in armchairs in the sitting room and chatted. Tom soon joined them. He was the head of Slytherin this year, while Minerva McGonagall was still the head of Gryffindor. As a result of this, he had been out showing the first years their dorms because he did not trust his prefects.
He came in and sat on the couch. Ginny noted that he was as rigid as he had always been. In fact, if not for the few grey hairs scattered throughout his full head of hair, he looked as if he had not aged at all really.
Hermione was just as relaxed as usual. She had aged but she had done so gracefully and was rather beautiful, even in her early seventies.
Hermione smiled as she noticed Ginny studying her and Tom. To her it had been fifty-three years. To Ginny, it had been a couple of months.
Shockingly, it was Tom who broke the silence. "How have you been, Weasley?"
Ginny smiled. "You might as well call me Ginny. I call you Tom, after all. I have been fine. You?"
Hermione inserted at that moment, "We have also been fine, if you can say that fifty-three years can be 'fine'."
Ginny smiled. She felt that things were going well. She wasn't awkward around her friend and she was able to talk to them. She decided to ask them her burning question.
"Riddle me this: how did you guys get married?"
It was not until both Hermione and Tom were looking at her strangely that she was aware of what she had said.
She made a disgusted face. "That pun was totally not intended."
They all laughed, even Tom!
Hermione waved goodbye to the youngest Weasley as she left for bed that night. She then turned to her husband.
"Did you read the letter from the kids?" Both of their daughters, Mandy and Sarah, lived together, working incredibly hard for the Ministry and both saying that they had not time for boys or any social life at all, really.
"Of course I did," said Tom easily. "Was it the same owl as last time? You know. The one that flew into the window?"
"Of course," Hermione laughed. "He's their owl. What did you expect?"
"The kind of quality I always expect from our girls."
The two of them smiled and then he held out his hand. "Are you coming to bed, my lady?" he asked teasingly.
She smiled. "In a moment. I want to write the girls first."
As Tom headed for bed, Hermione thought about all the amazing things that had happened that day. She was beginning a new job, she had met up with Ginny, and she had stuck it to another Malfoy. Oh, life was good.
She pulled out a piece of parchment and began her letter to her daughters. She had a lot to tell them about.THE END
Author's Note: It's over, folks. That was the end. Isn't it sad and wonderful all at once?
I would like to thank all of my wonderful reviewers. I appreciate all of you and I apologize humbly to those of you that I never responded to. I tried but there were just so many of you!
A huge thanks and kudos to Right or Ryn and to Reginald the Duck. The two of you have been fantastic sounding boards and you gave me so many ideas and so much encouragement. This story would not have finished without you two.
Keep an eye out for my next story, The Chieftain. I want to finish figuring out what goes in what chapter and then I shall write. I am hoping that planning it will make updates a little timelier.