Hello there! I keep saying there will only be about two more chapters, but it's expanding itself. But for real, we're now into the final chapters. I appreciate my readers and reviewers. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I hope JKRowling writes more books about the wizarding world. **withdrawal**
Drink From My Cup
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Master and Servant
Do you know where the wild things go?
They go along to take your honey
Break down now, weep, build up breakfast now
Let's eat my love, my love, love.
Muscle to muscle and toe to toe
The fear has gripped me but here I go
My heart sinks as I jump up
Your hand grips hand as my eyes shut
Please don't go, I'll eat you whole
I love you so, I love you so
-taken from Alt J, Breezeblocks
Hermione was familiar with the sudden rush of being in danger. Being one of Harry Potter's best mates forced upon her difficulties that tested her skill and wit, forcing her to turn what she learned within Hogwarts ancient halls into practice. Despite this, she had never before had to feel that sudden rush of danger alone until she found herself thrown back in time, a victim of Lord Voldemort's curse. As Hermione was lead to a private room deep within the ministry of magic, she felt the pressing reality of her solitude in this time. She would have to face the Aurors without the help of Harry or Ron. She was alone.
The hall down which she was being led was the most pristine white she had ever seen. Neither the walls nor the floor or ceiling had any crevices or lines. Even the corners where the edges of the wall and floor met seemed to blend together, making Hermione feel as though she were in a tunnel of light. The Auror assigned to escort her to an interrogation room guided her lightly by the elbow. Hermione noted from his small stature and feeble gait that he did not look threatening, though her past experience with Aurors taught her looks could be deceiving. They stopped suddenly and Hermione felt her foot tap against something solid just in front of her. They must have come to a barrier, but the perfectly blinding white of the interior prevented her from seeing it. The elder Auror lifted his wand above his head and ran it along what appeared to be a solid surface just in front of them. Nothing happened, but the Auror applied pressure to the back of Hermione's elbow once again, and they were able to move forward once more. They took a few steps and Hermione was disappointed to see their scenery had not changed. The white permeated but they did not continue on any further.
The wizard, who had not said anything to Hermione since she was placed in his custody upon arrival at the Ministry, now turned to her.
"Please have a seat," he said evenly.
Hermione looked at the man puzzled, wondering where he expected her to sit, when she noticed a heavy metal chair to her left. Hermione had little time to be impressed with the advanced level of magic at work for as soon as she sat the Auror began to question her.
"What is your name?"
Hermione breathed slowly, trying to use her mind as fast as she could while remaining as calm as possible on the exterior. She could not think of how she would get herself out of this one. She knew they had done enough research into her established lie to know there was never an Artemis Morgen in Germany and no family by that name or extension had been murdered by Grindewald or his followers. She had no family ties in the wizarding world at all. She wildly considered telling the truth for once. Was it really so implausible that she had been thrown back in time by a future dark wizard's horcrux? Hermione felt her stomach drop. Perhaps mentioning her connection with yet another dark lord would not help her case.
"Artemis Morgen," she finally replied.
The Auror looked at her with an impassive stare. Hermione didn't believe for a second he bought her story.
"Where are you from?" he continued.
"Germany," she replied.
"What were the names of your parents?" The Aurors face barely moved as he spoke.
Hermione took a deep breath through her nose. She had been so busy figuring out how to destroy an eighteen-year-old Lord Voldemort she had forgotten to think up much more of a backstory. She had felt safe under Dumbledore's watch inside the walls of Hogwarts. She had clearly been wrong.
"Hansel and Gretel," she said thinking of the first two German names that came to her mind. She pleaded to Merlin that this Auror was a pureblood.
"I see," the Auror replied.
There was a long pause in which Hermione was sure they were convinced she were a spy of Grindelwald.
"And you are a pureblood you say?"
Hermione's heart raced. She was not sure why she said it, but it seemed the most logical thing the do.
"No," she said curtly. "No, I'm not."
This bit of information seemed to surprise the Auror for the barely readable face momentarily shifted, though moments later it would be impossible to tell. "Please remain in your seat," he instructed her and turned and left the room swiftly.
Hermione immediately jumped from the odd metal chair and began to pace anxiously, lifting her hand out to feel the invisible walls. No matter how far she walked in any direction she never came to a solid surface, and the metal chair never moved any further out of range. Hermione urged herself not to panic. She refused to have a seat again.
A long while passed and Hermione found herself wondering as she often did if she would ever see Ron again. Just as she began to think she had failed she heard footsteps.
The same Auror entered the room, still fit in the purple robes, but he brought another man with him. This man did not wear the typical robes of an Auror, making Hermione question who he was and why he had come. He did not speak or look at her, only open the small black satchel he had brought with him and removed a blood red liquid from the inside. Hermione eyes snapped to it immediately apprehensive of any potion they may try to feed her.
As soon as the Auror reentered he insisted she sit again and Hermione gave him a disdainful look as she seated herself slowly back into the thick metal.
"We are going to perform a simple test to determine your innocence," the man informed her, his expression still dull. The non-Auror stepped toward her with the red vial and she pressed her mouth firmly shut. She had too much experience with the ministry to trust they were about to do anything pleasant. This motion did not deter the man who simply stepped forward, took her arm, flipped her palm up, and held her arm gently down on the cold metal armrest. He tipped the contents of the potion onto her exposed wrist. Instead of sliding down and off her arm like a typical liquid, the potion contained itself in a round dis atop her wrist. Hermione studied it curiously before it sunk swiftly into her skin. She screamed in shock and pain. Immediately the liquid began to spread itself into her veins and throughout her body. She could feel every particle of the potion pushing against her bloodstream as it made it's way to her heart. Hermione struggled to stand but her arm had become as heavy as lead.
"It will not harm you," came the monotone voice of the strange wizard.
Hermione begged to differ. The potion felt hot in her veins and she fought the urge to vomit. Just as she were to scream profanities at them the pain receded and Hermione settled. This did not last long for a moment later she felt every droplet of the potion begin to work its way upward out of her veins and through her pours. She watched in mild horror as the potion lifted out of her body like mist and reformed into a spinning disk before her in mid-air. The wizard reached the the tip of the vial to the potion and it settled back into it as though nothing had happened. He lifted the vial up to the light and Hermione saw it. The potion was no longer red, but brown. The wizard turned to the Auror and shook his head and Hermione understood. They had been testing the purity of her blood. She had not been aware such a test existed. She gave the men dark looks.
This was lost of them, however, as they stepped again through the endless white, not even bothering to inform her what had happened or how much longer she needed to be there. Hermione fought hot, angry tears as she massaged her aching arm. She stood from the chair, kicking the thing and began pacing again. It was not long before she began to hear footsteps again, though this time it was a familiar beat.
Her head turned expectantly towards the sound. The boots clicked closer and a moment later Albus Dumbledore was stepping through white nothingness into sight.
Hermione had not felt this relieved since she had seen Harry spring to life out of Hagrid's arms. The fact that he was smiling only added to her relief. She did not wait for him to speak.
"Could you get me out of here?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "I don't believe that will be necessary, Hermione. It seems you have gotten yourself out." Hermione gave him a shocked look and he chuckled.
"It seems that they had been under suspicious that your pureblood lineage could not be traced. Once you revealed your true blood line they were able to conclude your parents had simply been muggle victims of Grindelwald's terrorism. I apologize that it had been my original idea to lie about your magical parentage that lead to their suspicion. It was an arrogant fool's mistake."
Hermione took a deep breath, her anger at the purity test still fresh. If she had been a pureblood she would have been held for more questioning, but because she was a muggleborn they arrogantly dismissed her. She appreciated that she was now allowed to leave, but the burden of this time period's bigotry weighed heavy on her. Lying about her true roots had only caused trouble for her in the past. She was relieved she could now be true to herself and drop the pretense of pureblood. But if that were now the case…. Hermione momentarily forgot her anger.
"Sir, will this get out? Will the others at school—" Hermione's voice faded as Dumbledore nodded. "So then Tom..." Hermione stopped speaking, fearing she would reveal too much. Dumbledore noticed her pause. He stood considering her for a moment before speaking.
"I believe it is time, Hermione, for you to tell me what you can. Come. Let's sit," Dumbledore offered and waved his wand, causing two purple, wooden chairs to land beside a growing thimble. Once the thimble grew to the size of a sitting table, Dumbledore flicked his wand once more and two black tea cups and a steaming silver kettle appeared out of thin air and landed gracefully atop it. This was the oddest location Hermione had ever had a tea party. They both sat at the now sizeable purple chairs.
"Have you come to kill Tom?" Dumbledore asked simply.
Hermione's eyes snapped from treacle tarts to his piercing blue eyes. A moment elapsed before she said, "Yes." Hermione was vividly aware she was speaking to the wizard who had most recently defeated the greatest dark lord of his time.
"I see," Dumbeldore said with an impassive expression, reminding Hermione uncomfortably of the Auror who had most recently questioned her. "Is this the reason you were sent back to this time in history?"
"Yes," Hermione answered truthfully. "Tom Riddle becomes very powerful, sir. That's all I can tell you. He takes many lives, including the lives of some of my best friends. I have to defeat him. I have to finish what I started."
Dumbledore considered her words.
"It appears there is magic occurring here beyond what I can currently comprehend."
"This is what you wanted, sir," she said earnestly. "I am acting under your orders. Tom Riddle as he is in my time has already been defeated. I was thrown back in history by a curse and now I'm stuck here until either he succeeds in his return to power, or I defeat him once and for all."
"Then," Dumbledore said reassuringly. "You must complete your task."
"What if I never go back?" Hermione finally dared to ask. "What if I will never see my family or friends again?" Hermione felt her heart sink as she finally allowed the notion she would be permanently stuck in this time to be spoken. "What will I have then? I mean," Hermione continued, "if I were to lose Tom…."
Hermione expected Dumbledore's expression to be condemning but instead she saw sympathy and understanding etched beneath his thin frames. She remembered that not only had Dumbledore defeated the most recent dark lord in history, but that very dark lord had once been his companion, and possibly more…. Hermione knew he was no stranger to the loss of family and lovers.
Dumbledore considered her question, and Hermione noticed several streaks of grey dotting his already sizeable auburn beard. He finally spoke,
"You will have to be capable of letting go of both and realize the possibility you could lose everything. Love, as precious as it is, can also be fleeting. It is one of the greatest mysteries of this world that nothing lasts forever, but love, I believe, can transfigure into many new forms, making it that greatest of old magic."
Hermione considered his words, remembering how it was love that saved Harry the day Voldemort killed his parents.
"But what if I fall in love with something that destroys itself? How could I forgive myself if I knew better?"
Dumbledore's spectacles gleamed in the dim light, shielding his eyes from view as his memory seemed to take him somewhere else.
"When the opportunity to love arises," he finally said almost with a grin. "it would be more of an injustice not to seize it."
Hermione sighed. She understood.
Tom, panicking, knowing all eyes would be on him, slipped out of the Great Hall as soon as he could shake the intruding questions and voices of concern. Hoping he wasn't being followed, he did something risky. Too risky, he told himself, but feeling the walls of fear pressing in around him, he needed to go to the only place that reaffirmed his power. He headed straight to the girl's bathroom on the second floor. He appreciated the humor.
Tom entered quickly, knowing everyone would still be in the Great Hall, eating and gossiping about what they had just witnessed. He knelt down beside the sink and whispered to the miniature snake etched on the tap. Its eyes twinkled and the sink opened. Tom was grateful the mudblood his beast had killed was clearly off somewhere, probably interested in the most recent gossip. He stepped swiftly into the dimly lit corridor, allowing the sink to shut quickly behind him.
Tom paused for a moment taking in the scene around him. The corridor glowed green and seemed to come to life with his presence. His mood immediately calmed and he stepped further into his stone palace, admiring the echoes his feet made on the great slabs of stone. The snakes winding along the pillars came to life and hissed, whipping their tails at each other. Tom had not been able to return to the Chamber after he had Hagrid expelled. After the mudblood had been killed he could no longer return to the chamber in privacy. As he took in the air of the cool, damp chamber, he was almost grateful for the distraction his wife had caused. The corridor eventually gave way to the great stone room where Salazar's head could be seen watching over everything in his domain.
Tom paused before the face of his ancestor, and all at once the weight of his purpose overwhelmed him and he sank to his knees.
"Father," Tom heard himself hiss in parseltongue. "Father, I have lost my way."
The earth rumbled and Tom found himself transfixed on the eyes of Salazar, which seemed to dance and sparkle as though alive.
"Why have you lost your path, young Slytherin?" Tom's heart raced and a thrill ran up his spine as he heard the reply.
"I am—I have—" Tom could not bring himself to admit his crime, his heart swelling and twisting in his effort to verbalize what Hermione had done to him.
The earth shook harder as Salazar's mouth opened wide. Tom averted his eyes. While being the only one able to control the beast, he was not immune to its dark magic. Out of the corner of his eye he could see, with a mix of dread and excitement, his basilisk moving forward.
"I have come closer than any other to immortality, Father. I have created many Horcruxes. Even more than the last we spoke!"
The serpent moved forward over the water and began to wind its way around the young heir, circling its thick body.
"This does not sound like bad news to me, my child," the voice hissed in response.
"There is a woman," Tom blurted out before he lost his nerve.
"Yess… I have heard whispers through the pipes…" hissed the reply.
Tom waited for the voice to continue, but was met with only silence. His breathing grew heavier with its absence.
"Her blood is not pure!" he hissed out into the silence. Tom noticed the serpent's long body was now circling a tighter and tighter path around him. "She is a witch but she was born of muggles—" Tom froze, not believing the words falling from his mouth.
"Why have you chosen to ally yourself with her?" the voice finally hissed.
"She has become my servant," Tom rushed to hiss in his own defense. "And she is intelligent—"
"You have fallen in love with her," the hiss interrupted with a tone of finality. "And you have come to seek my approval."
Tom did not speak out of fear he had disgraced his house and insulted his ancestor. He thought of the many pure blooded descendants of his great Father who had used the chamber for the advancement of the true magical lineage and felt ashamed. The serpent's body had closed in enough that it began to twist around his own.
"But my mother—"
"Your mother was weak," the serpent sung. "Perhaps you are as well, born of a muggle father…"
"NO!" Tom spat in earnest. "I am your true heir. That muggle is dead, by my hand!"
"Look at me," came the command. Tom, still avoiding the eyes of the basilisk, looked up to the great stone face of Salazar. The beast had succeeded in wrapping itself around the limbs of the young parselmouth. Tom felt his body ground and twisted until he was facing the head of the basilisk. He felt his stomach sink as his chin was forced upward and his eyes made contact with the beast of Salazar. Tom expected a swift death for his treachery, but instead he found himself staring into the blackest eyes he had ever seen; he realized with horror and awe that these were human eyes set in the head of the serpent, surely a dark magic his ancestor had performed when he claimed ownership of the monster. Tom was transfixed by the stare of the serpent.
"You must purify yourself. You must purify the line of Salazar," the beast instructed. "You cannot do this by following your mother's weakness for love."
Tom could not speak; the serpent had wound itself so tightly around him he could barely breathe. He could only give his silent comply to obey his ancestor's demands.
"Bring them here," came his next command. "Show your servants who you truly are."
Tom felt as though he were in a dream.
"Bring all of them."
By the time Hermione had been fully cleared of all charges (apparently Dumbledore had not been completely truthful that he had not needed to help, considering he was the one on who the Ministry had suspected Hermione was sent to spy) and free to return to school, night had fallen. It was past curfew, but Hermione doubted anyone in their common rooms would actually be in bed. She considered going straight to the Gryffindor Common room to avoid any sort of confrontation with Tom. By now relatives of students within the Ministry would have exposed her true blood line, and it would be the talk of the school that a Slytherin had married a mudblood. While that may have been more acceptable, though still controversial, in her time, it would have been a hot topic for gossip and much scorn from the Slytherins. She could only imagine the show of power Tom would now have to make in order to prove his own purity and right to power. Hermione was grateful the corridors were empty as she made her way back to the Head Boy's, and now her, personal quarters. She braced herself, making sure her wand was in an easily retrievable pocket of her robes as she passed through the crest. She was surprised to find that the common room of their suite was deserted. It appeared as though no one had been in her living quarters since she had left them that morning for breakfast. Surely they would not have given Tom patrol duty while his wife was being held for questioning at the Ministry. Hermione's anxiety grew. She hoped he was with Headmaster Dippet. If not he would most likely be with his Death Eaters, who would have just recently discovered his bride was a mudblood…. The only other possibility is that he had wandered off alone somewhere. This final thought unnerved Hermione the most and she found herself hoping he was with anyone at all.
A long while passed and Hermione took out her notes, as though she were about to study, and carelessly flipped through the pages. She could not concentrate and it was far too late to study. The fire she had lit was beginning to dim and she took out her wand and rose, aiming it at the dying embers causing the flames to reignite. Simultaneously the crest swung open. Hermione gave a little jump as Tom entered and spun to face him, wand still in hand.
He entered almost drunkenly, moving toward the back of an armchair, leaning over it, and gripping the soft leather tightly under his fingers. It was clear he had spent quite some time alone. Hermione felt an inexplicable sense of relief at the sight of him. He stood, breathing deeply for a few moments before lifting his head and looking directly at her. His expression was odd and Hermione could feel an energy radiating off of him that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
"Hello, Hermione," he said calmly.
Hermione was not sure how to react. She did not trust his calm exterior for a second.
"Have you been drinking again, my Lord?" she asked, almost hoping this was all he had been up to.
"No," he replied and held her gaze for a moment before continuing. "Do I seem intoxicated?"
"Yes," she answered truthfully.
Tom held her gaze in silence before looking down, giving the armchair a tight squeeze and straightening up. He made to take a step toward her and she tensed. He noticed the movement and his eyes went to her wand. A mad grin spread across his face. Hermione gripped her wand a little tighter.
Tom took a step back and pulled his own.
"I don't want to fight, Voldemort," Hermione said coldly, lifting her wand and readying herself for whatever he might throw at her.
"I believe you do, Hermione," he said taking slow steps toward her. Hermione moved to her right and soon they were circling each other. She could feel it. Something inside of him had snapped. What she had mistaken for intoxication was the effect that his own untamed magic was having upon him. This was common among the youngest wizards and witches before they arrived at Hogwarts, and the mentally unstable.
Hermione could feel the magic radiating off of him, like an electric current, and saw the mad, desperate glint in his eye. She knew he was not making any rational decisions tonight.
"Where have you been, Voldemort?" Hermione asked trying to pull Tom back in from his madness, wand still poised at the ready.
"To see an old friend," he hissed at her in parseltongue. He laughed coldly at her expression.
Hermione's brain flew into a frenzy, connecting the dots. He had reentered the chamber. Did this mean the beast had been set lose on the school again? She knew of one particular muggleborn that was a great thorn in Tom's side….
"My basilisk remains underground, Hermione," he hissed only her name and though Hermione could not speak the ancient tongue, she understood. "I would not again risk Hogwarts being closed."
Hermione took a breath of relief that he had not lost all his senses. Despite this she knew at the moment while his wand was still drawn and his magic wild, she was still in danger. He wanted a fight.
So she would give him one.
He made to move as though to throw a hex, but Hermione's experienced eye caught the movement and she immediately sent a nonverbal shield charm toward him followed by a particularly nasty stunning charm. Normally this counter would have been enough, but Tom was in step tonight.
He waved his wand, catching the shield and used it to block her hex. He flicked his wand and the chair beside her sprung to life, reaching its thick cushioned arms out to grab her. Hermione set the thing on fire and sent it flying through the air at him.
Tom raised his wand and the chair and flames froze in midair in a still frame. Hermione watched with mild admiration as the flames stripped themselves from the chair to form together into a chain. The chair fell lifeless to the ground and the fire whip roared toward Hermione, circling her. She had to admit he was even better than Harry, more disciplined, more accurate. She, however, had more field experience.
She whispered and her wand emanated a blue light that expanded, stretching the flames until they thinned and died. The light continued to grow around her until it reached out to Tom pushing him back against a wall. Hermione smirked.
He countered with a hex Hermione did not recognize that glowed a burnt orange. She shouted "Protego!" in defense and as the spells met in the middle Tom's singed and spit. Hermione gave Tom a dark look. He was using black magic against her. She stilled and readied herself for the next curse.
He shot a blinding white curse at her which she side stepped. That one she recognized as the Imperius. A hot pink flash followed and she again shouted "Protego!" This time as the spells met in midair, the pink split her charm and continued straight for her, she side stepped again, but the curse struck her shoulder. She slashed her wand toward him ignoring the pain. A streak of purple flames flew and struck Tom in the chest. He fell to his knees.
She approached him, breathing heavily and rubbing her left shoulder. She was not sure what that curse had been but she was sure she would feel the after effects for a long time. She stood over him, watching as he clutched his chest, fighting to draw breath.
"You taught your Death Eaters well, Voldemort," she said cheekily. "And in turn they gave me some lessons."
He looked up at her, gasping, the same mad look in his eye but this time mixed with a glint of something else. He threw his wand down and she held his gaze, waiting for him to regain his breath. She knew that curse well and had not struck at him with the full power Antonin Dolohov had used against her at the Department of Mysteries.
Hermione jumped as Tom reached up and grabbed her hips, he pulled her closer and rested his forehead against her legs as his breathing began to slow. Hermione sighed and placed her hand gently on the top of his head. She could feel his energy, still raw, still wild but settling. She remembered this is what her mother used to do with her after she would have similar fits of magical rage. Similar was a stretch. She had not sent dark jinxes flying at anyone, though she had once accidently set the neighbor's lapsadoodle on fire, but it had not been large enough to do anything but singe the tuft of fur at the end of its tail. That had been during her terrible two's. Hermione wondered who had done this for Tom when he had been too young to understand or control his magic and thought with a stab of sympathy that it was more likely he had been locked away in a room by himself during these fits by equally confused and terrified muggles who did not love him enough to understand. The compassion Tom saw in her that he claimed was her greatest weakness was actually her greatest strength. She felt his forehead and recognized the fever. This was not the sort of fever caused by illness. It was caused by unsettled magic.
"I love you," she heard him breathe.
Hermione believed him. This did not change anything, she knew. He had to stop her just as surely as she had to defeat him. If he would not stop his quest for immortality and power, she would not stop trying to destroy him.
Hermione remembered what Dumbledore had said to her merely hours ago. When the opportunity to love arises it would be more of an injustice not to seize it. For just this moment, before all hell broke loose, they could be in love. He pulled at her hips again and she sank to the floor in front of him. She avoided his eyes and instead unfastened the top few buttons of his shirt. He tensed as she slipped her hand into his shirt and pressed her palm flat against his chest. She whispered an incantation and he immediately felt relief from the curse she had cast.
And then he looked at her and she met his gaze. Hermione knew with that look no matter how many times he split his soul he could not escape how he felt about her. He loved her.
Regardless of his recent proclamation he looked exhausted. Hermione took hold of his arms and began to lift him up, with the idea they should go to bed. He grabbed her arms, suddenly, and with more strength than she believed he had, pulled her back down to him.
"We cannot stay here," he said weakly. "My Death Eaters will be asking questions."
"I know." Hermione had suspected he would do this. In order to keep his most vulnerable Horcrux safe he would have to remove her from the reach of those that he himself had filled with so much bigotry and hate.
"I'm not taking my NEWTs," he informed her. She sighed. She had noticed he spent more time in the restricted section of the library rather than studying more NEWT appropriate material. "Tomorrow we will go rent a flat. I will ask Burke for work."
This was what Hermione had been waiting for all along. Once he began working for Borgin and Burke he would lead her straight to Helga's horcrux. As excited as she was by this information she tried not to think about it at the moment. She did not know if Tom would even remember any of this in the morning. She realized they were not going to make it upstairs as Tom drooped in front of the fire. She conjured blankets and pillows for the two of them and settled herself against his now resting form fully aware how bizarre it was this very person had been trying to hex her not even an hour ago. She was not pretending the young Voldemort was a stable person.
Before she allowed herself to succumb to exhaustion she realized with amusement that this was the second time Lord Voldemort had prevented her from taking her NEWTs, and she had been so close this time.
Hours later just before the dawn, Hermione would pretend she was still asleep when Tom stirred and reached out his hand, settling it on her aching left shoulder and gently squeezed it, sending healing magic through her body.