Spoilers: All Harry Potter books, including Deathly Hallows. Do not read this story unless you're finished with it, because the spoilers are major ones!!!!

Disclaimer This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's note: This story contains bits and pieces of the final Harry Potter book to serve as identification to where and when you are. If you have not read Deathly Hallows, it will sometimes be difficult to follow this fanfic, but not impossible.

I am not a native English speaker, so I beg your pardon for any errors you may have to suffer through, but I hope you will still enjoy the story.

Ship: Tom Riddle - Hermione Granger

Masters of manipulation

Chapter one

The Slytherin Common Room was always a very neat, quiet and comfortable place to retreat to. The low-ceiling, dungeon-like room appeared set for intrigues and plotting of plans. The green leather chairs, black leather couches and hard wooden tables were situated in a way that permitted a private conversation to be held in an otherwise crowded room. And the dimmed lighting of the underground place enhanced said impression of privacy. Under normal circumstances the Common Room would have been crowded at this time of day, but not right now. At this very moment, it was not only eerily empty, but also very much in shambles.

Only one hour ago students with green and silver crests on their uniforms could have been seen vacating the room in a hurry, trying to get away from the source of the destruction, hoping not to accidentally cross the path of any of the spells that came from the 13 ½ inch yew wand, whose owner was notorious for his bad temper, not to mention his unforgiving nature. Yes, every Slytherin was very much aware of the fact that it was best to be elsewhere when Tom Marvolo Riddle drew a little temper tantrum. And today the mood of the seventeen year old Hogwarts' Head Boy was beyond angry, beyond patience, beyond restraint, beyond his usual cool and collective demeanour.

It had, after all, taken him ages to find the blasted book upon hearing of its existence, and now, there was nothing written in it. He flipped it back and forth, while reading the author's name with dark furious eyes, contemplating an unholy book-burning session in his mind. He had used several charms and spells on the book (some not so legal but nobody was looking). He tried revealing potions. He had taken almost a week the time to check whether it had some sort of space-time-continuum-spell on it, which would have made it only readable at a specific point in time and place, but that had not been the case, since his timer hadn't moved an inch. He had written in it, drew his blood on it, got someone else's blood to be spilt on the pages, tried fire, water, earth, wind as revealers, resorted to use every Dark Arts Spell he knew, and still nothing. The book just wouldn't buckle. He hit himself across his forehead with it out of sheer frustration, but that didn't do the trick either, and now, he also had to deal with the upcoming headache, since the book was a rather large and thick volume.

'This just couldn't be,' he thought to himself, while rubbing his hands through his jet-black hair causing it to become quite messy. 'I'm Lord Voldemort, heir to Salazar Slytherin. I'm not going to be defeated by a stupid book.'

But after staring at it for a long time without so much as a single idea popping to mind on how to make it work, the book came out victorious and the heir threw it furiously in his schoolbag hoping to someday come across some kind of information that would help him unlock its secrets.

'He's coming! Hermione, he's coming!'

She heard the panic in Harry's voice when the snake fell, hissing wildly. Everything was chaos. She shrieked with pain as a rough hand grabbed her collar and pulled her backwards over the bed. Harry was dragging her away, and while he took a running leap, Nagini struck again.

'Confringo!' Hermione screamed, and her charm flew around the room, blasting everything away in its path.

Harry jumped through the window on the first floor, pulling her with him, and she felt pieces of broken glass cut her skin. Her scream reverberated through the night as they twisted in mid-air… And for a second she saw the long, white hands clutching at the window sill. A pair of red eyes looked straight at her and his scream of rage mingled with her fearful one, when she and Harry vanished with a small pop.

They landed on a snowy hillside somewhere. Hermione jumped up, raised her wand and immediately set the wards to protect them, before she noticed Harry wasn't moving. She knelled down and looked at her seemingly unconscious friend with dread.

'Harry! Wake up! Harry!!!'

She shook him firmly, but he did not wake. His cheeks were pale and his lips were slowly turning blue, so she flashed her wand again and their tent appeared around them. She levitated Harry unto one of the lower bunks and placed as many blankets as she could find on top of him. He was mumbling incoherently, while his body was trashing and writhing. Anxiously, she watched him. He appeared very ill, almost feverish, and after some time his mumbling became more outspoken, she could understand what he said and it scared the living daylights out of her.

'Harry!' Hermione yelled, hearing him speak the words someone else had spoken.

'Stand aside, you silly girl, stand aside now…'

'Harry, please…wake up…it's not real,' Hermione begged, trying desperately to get the locket Horcrux of him, but it had somehow dug itself deep into Harry's skin.

'This is my last warning…,' heard Hermione come from Harry's mouth in a cold, harsh tone.

She pulled the locket's chain of Harry's neck and wrapped it around in her left hand, while she raised her wand at Harry's chest.

'Stand aside – stand aside, girl –.'

Hermione hesitated and closed her eyes, appalled at what she was about to do. She breathed in deeply.

'Avada Kedavra.'

Harry's mouth vocalising the unforgivable curse broke her out of her hesitation and with a swift move she used a Severing Charm to cut the locket out of Harry's flesh. Blood spat all around her as she held the locket ever so tightly in her left hand. Harry's chest was haemorrhaging severely and she knew she had little time. She raised her wand and started to chant in a sing-song voice. After a couple of minutes the bleeding stopped, the wound was closing and a burn mark, at the precise spot where the Horcrux had been, was the only witness remaining.

'No,' Harry moaned. 'No…'

'Harry, it's all right, you're all right!' Hermione said.

'No… I dropped it…I dropped it…'

'Harry, it's OK, wake up, wake up!' And then, she saw him open his eyes. 'Harry,' Hermione whispered. 'Do you feel all – all right?'


It was obvious he lied, even to someone unskilled in Leglimency as her, but she let it slide.

'We got away,' he said.

'Yes,' she answered, and Hermione explained what happened.

She could tell Harry was upset over the destruction of his wand and that he blamed her, but she could not change what happened. She could not undo the Blasting Charm she used to ward off Nagini, which destroyed Harry's wand along with a lot of other stuff. Harry took the first watch that night. And she tossed and turned in her bunk, having a hard time to fall asleep.

The next day Harry's mood was equally horrible. Hermione had snatched Rita Skeeter's book with her from Bathilda Bagshot's cottage, when they made their narrow escape out of Lord Voldemort's clutches, and reading The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore was not doing wonders for Harry's temper.

'Harry, this is Rita Skeeter writing,' Hermione said hesitatingly.

'You did read that letter to Grindelwald, didn't you?' Harry said harshly.

He was angry with Dumbledore for all his secrecy, and the more she tried to convince Harry Dumbledore had his best interest at heart, the more Harry opposed her.

'I don't believe it,' said Hermione. 'The Dumbledore we knew would never, ever have allowed –'

'The Dumbledore we thought we knew didn't want to conquer Muggles by force!' Harry shouted, and Hermione argued back.

'Look at what he asked from me, Hermione! Risk your life, Harry! And again! And again! And don't expect me to explain everything, just trust me blindly, trust that I know what I'm doing, trust me enough even though I don't trust you! Never the whole truth! Never!'

His voice cracked with the strain, and Hermione wanted nothing more than to take away his hurt, his pain at the betrayal he felt. 'He loved you,' she whispered. 'I know he loved you.'

But she knew it was pointless, the words were empty to him now, meaningless. And eventually they abandoned their debate in silence, taking turn in pocketing the Horcrux and watching the environment for stray wanderers, Death Eaters or worse. Her watch was moving along quietly, and she was huddled in the entrance of the tent, reading A History of Magic by the light of her wand, when she heard the rustle of feathers. She almost shrieked from the sudden noise, but calmed down when she looked around the flap of the tent and saw the brown owl seated on a large packet. It held out its paw and apprehensively she took the letter attached to it. In a very, neat, small handwriting, which she did not recognise, it said "Hermione Jean Granger".

'Thank you, I'm afraid I don't have any owl treats on me,' she said to the now cross looking owl. It bit her sharply, before flying off.

With the letter in hand, she eyed the parcel suspiciously. She was considering waking up Harry, but a soft voice in her head reminded her of their arguing, and she really felt like she could not take any more of that right now, so she decided to let Harry sleep.

'Who would want to send me a package? Maybe it's from Ron, trying to apologise for leaving us,' she thought hopefully.

The little voice in her head laughed.

'Us? Don't you mean you? Face it, Hermione, Ron would never have left Harry if you weren't around. Harry is his best friend, his mate. The only one he ever cared about. He left because of you. He had enough of you, your Know-It-All attitude, your constant bickering. You did nothing but underestimate him, put him down, and you think he would send you something?' You think he's sorry he left?'

The cruel voice started laughing again after the scornful statements it made. When it was done laughing, it added some more painful observations, which broke her heart.

'He never really loved you. Don't you see that now? Are you that blind? You don't leave someone you love alone when they are in life threatening danger, now do you? You could have died yesterday, while fighting that snake and almost getting caught by Lord Voldemort. And where was he? Getting his pure-blood arse wiped by his mummy? Looking for ways to return to Hogwarts, so he can be with that Brown girl? After all, she is much nicer to him and a lot prettier than you, but if you want to keep on deluding yourself…'

A single tear ran down her cheek and the small voice inside her head snorted. A burst of anger flushed through her and she shouted back at the Horcrux' voice inside her head.

'Shut up, Riddle! I know it's you. It's not working! So just keep your big mouth shut!'

'Can't stomach the truth, dear? Is it too hard for you to handle, Mudblood? Ronald left you alone with Mister Unstable, who never listens to a word you say. And let's get real here. Why should he? It's not as if you're right all the time. Do you know how annoying you can be, when you're like that? Always knowing what to do… Always wanting the last word… Never let someone else finish a thought for a chan…'

She reached inside her pocket and threw the locket of Salazar Slytherin into the tent, furiously. It landed with a loud crash against Harry's bunk, but he merely turned, mumbling in his sleep.

'I said… Shut up!' she said through gritted teeth at the now dormant voice.

The emeralds on the locket were sparkling in the light of her wand. It was almost like they were mocking her outburst, her lack of self-control. Hermione turned her attention back towards the package and the letter accompanying it. Hoping it would distract her enough to take her mind of Riddle's taunting voice, she pointed her wand at them and uttered a spell to check if it was something dangerous. Nothing happened. She sighed out of sheer relieve. It was not send by an enemy. She opened the letter first.

Dear Hermione Jean Granger,

Some time ago I discovered this book behind the statue of Rowena Ravenclaw. Considering the current regime at Hogwarts I feel it is necessary to dispose off this book, before it falls into the wrong hands. I am sure you can appreciate my sentiment.

I won't deny, however, that it is also of no value to me anymore. So I decided to roll the dice and give you a chance with it. If I am right, you're the one who'd have the intelligence to unlock the secrets said lay beneath these seemingly blank pages. And I honestly hope it will help you achieve your goals in life.

Despite that, I think it is only fair to warn you about the dangers surrounding the owners of this volume. People have killed to obtain it in the past and I am sure the knowledge inside still holds a fast amount of attraction to those unable to grasp and handle its true meaning.

Therefore it would be prudent to keep it safe from prying eyes. I fear there is also the question of the slight illegality of the contents of this book. Not that the current administration would mind, but others might misinterpret your motives for having this and it is something you'd do well to remember.

You'll understand what kind of problems I'm referring too once you've seen the title and the author's name.

Sincerely yours,

an old friend.

'Weird,' was all she thought.

Hermione read the letter again before she unwrapped the brown paper and took off the lit of the box underneath. With a scream she dropped the box, and the book along with it, and jumped back afraid of somehow being tainted by it. At the sound of her voice, Harry flew out of his bunk, thinking they were under attack. He reached for his wand, only to remember it was broken, and he ran towards her.

'Hermione?' he asked anxiously.

'Look,' she pointed down to the rubble on the floor; her face was as white as a newly bought sheet.

Between the pieces of torn paper and a shattered cardboard box lay a large, thick, green leather volume. On the cover there was a picture of two silver snakes curled around each other in a circle eating their respective tails and in silvery letters the title and author's name were written. It said: "Eternity in Time by Salazar Slytherin".

'Where did you get this?' Harry asked, worried.

'Someone sent it to me by owl.'

Upon seeing the look on Harry's face at her recklessness, she quickly reassured him: 'I checked… I checked… It did not come from an enemy, Harry. Look.'

She held out the letter towards him. Harry did not look at ease, but he accepted the letter nevertheless and started to read it. After he was finished reading it, his eyes darted from the book towards the letter.

'It looks like someone was trying to keep this out of Snape's hands,' he said thoughtfully.

'And by doing so out of You-Know-Who's grasp as well,' Hermione added.

Harry nodded and said: 'I think it is safe to assume he would definitely kill to get his hands on this book, being Salazar's heir and all. I wonder who sent it to you though.'

'Well,' Hermione started, getting into her normal Know-It-All mode, 'he or she found the book behind Rowena's statue, which is located in the Ravenclaw Common Room, so it most likely is someone from that House, but who…?'

They both stared at the letter.

'An old friend?' Harry said puzzled. 'Perhaps somebody from the DA?'

They, quickly, recalled the names of every Ravenclaw that joined. 'Luna!' they both said simultaneously.

But upon reading the letter again, Hermione wasn't so sure. 'It's too formal for her, Harry.'

Harry, however, was convinced it was Luna Lovegood who sent them the book. He felt she was the only one in Ravenclaw who would have thought the book would help them and he countered Hermione's statement of the formality of the letter.

'She might have done that on purpose, Hermione, to avoid detection in case the owl got intercepted. That's probably also why it was not signed. I mean, really, all this going on about how people will not see the true meaning … that is so Luna. She probably thinks this book provides proof for the existence of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack or something similarly far-fetched.'

Hermione still was not convinced, but she had no solid proof to the contrary, at least not enough to change Harry's mind on the subject, and since she had no idea as to who else could have been the author of the letter, she dropped the argument and reached out to grab Salazar's novel. Though a lingering doubt, concerning the true intentions of the 'old friend', remained in the back of her mind as she opened the book. The pages were made of a thick, expensive type of parchment coloured yellow due to its old age. They were also very blank. Hermione flipped through the book extensively, but there was not a single word visible.

'Disappointing. No wonder she had no more use for it,' Harry said ironically.

Hermione ignored him and went back into the tent to retrieve her small beaded handbag. Harry already knew that bag resembled a bottomless pit when it came down to containing stuff. Hermione had charmed it to shrink everything that went into it, and he was curious what she would pull out of there that could assist them in obtaining the knowledge inside the book.

She frowned at the various potions bottles she obtained from her bag, and decided on a purplish coloured one. After hours and hours of no result, Harry lost interest and started to check to perimeter of the wards again. Hermione growled at the book and was getting rather frustrated by it. She had used every charm, spell, hex, jinx, and curse she could think of. She had used potions and Arithmancy. She had drawn her blood in there. She had tried her red Revealer, which was rewarded by a snicker from Harry. But he stopped laughing and stumbled out of the tent, mumbling something about checking the wards, after she gave him a stern glare. Hermione took a hold of the letter again. She had the distinct feeling the author of that letter knew how to reveal the contents and was handing over clues.

'Unlock the secrets said lay beneath the seemingly blank pages,' Hermione read out loud.

'It's a strange sentence,' she thought, and her eyes darted back towards the green volume. 'Unlock the secrets…'

Slowly, she reached inside her bag again and pulled out a quill and ink. Hesitantly, she dipped the quill in the ink, opened the book at the first page and held the quill above it.

'This is a bad idea, Hermione, a really, really bad idea,' she thought, just before writing down: 'unlock the secrets' inside Eternity in Time.

She held her breath, but nothing happened. It was when she remembered Salazar Slytherin's numerous achievements in decoding and his preference for Runes, so she tried again. 'Unlock the secrets,' she wrote, but this time she scribbled down the Runes for secrets and unlocking beneath the English line that was already there.

Still nothing… She had been sure this had to be it. Furiously, she slammed her head against the book, but that did not help either. And now, her head was pounding from something else besides frustration, since the book was rather solid and her head not accustomed to receive blows from this magnitude. Harry returned from his ward inspection and he was eyeing her warily.

'What?' she snapped rather annoyed.

'I'm holding the Horcrux, so why are you acting like your about to attack me?' Harry asked, taking a step backwards showing her his palms in the process.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders. 'This blasted book won't budge. I was sure I had it though. Sure, it would work once I wrote the sentence down,' she whispered.

'YOU WROTE IN IT?! After what happened to Ginny and that… that other nutter from Slytherin? Are you mental?!' Harry shouted, like he was channelling Ron's spirit for a moment.

'Well, it didn't work, nothing happened…' she grudgingly admitted. 'I was sure though. Salazar was known for this kind of thing and…' Hermione rammed her hand to her forehead. 'I'm so stupid, of course… that has to be it. Harry, can you write unlock the secrets in Parseltongue?' She looked up expectantly.

'Hermione,' Harry began warningly. 'You do remember, don't you?'

'Yes,' she said impatient, 'but that was different. Ginny did not know whose journal she had and it is not like this is a Horcrux. Otherwise that damn thing over there would have responded to it. We know Salazar Slytherin wrote this book and it's probably only charmed to protect the contents from people he would deem unworthy.'

'People like me,' she thought to herself, before she shared her next revelation with Harry.

'Surely he would have thought by using Parseltongue only his kind would be able to read the book, rendering it safe from prying eyes. Of course, it all fits now. Harry, please? There might be something in here that can help us destroy that thing.'

And she nodded towards Harry's pocket she knew the Horcrux rested in. She waited for Harry's response with a pleading, yet excited look on her face as she held out the book and quill towards him. He furrowed his brows, but took the book and quill from her anyway.

'I'm not sure I can write Parseltongue,' he said worriedly. 'I am having problems speaking it if I don't see a snake either.'

'Look at the snakes on the cover and then try,' Hermione suggested helpfully.

Harry sighed and stared at the book's cover for a moment. Suddenly, he opened it and started writing. Hermione was standing next to him, looking over his shoulder to see the end-result. In a strange, fluent, snakelike script, three words were written. Three words, Hermione knew, meant unlock the secrets. But nothing happened. Hermione grabbed the book and threw it in her beaded bag with a growl. She had never been so angry before. It was a frightening sight.

'We have to find a way to get rid of that damn Horcrux. I don't think I…' She stopped before finishing her sentence and tried to calm down.

'This is how Harry's been feeling ever since the resurrection of Voldemort. He had to deal with Riddle's temper inside himself for all this time now,' she reminded herself. 'I can do this too.' She placed her hands on her belly, closed her eyes, focused on happier thoughts and exhaled deeply in order to control her emotions. 'I can do this,' she thought determinately.

A loud crack outside the tent shook them both up. Hermione ran outside, her wand at the ready, but there was nothing to see.

'Let's get out of here!' Harry shouted in her ear, having joined her, viewing their seemingly vacant surroundings worriedly. 'I thought I heard something before, but wasn't sure…'

'You too?' Hermione said shocked. 'Last night I thought I heard whispers.'

'That's it. We're leaving,' Harry commanded, handing her the bag.

Hermione swung her wand around, and suddenly, the tent disappeared inside the bag. She pulled out the invisibility cloak and handed it to Harry. 'Just to be safe.'

They disappeared underneath it, just before Disapparating.

'The forest of Dean,' Hermione thought, while holding on to Harry's hand.

But things went terribly wrong. She felt something pull at her. An unforeseen force yanked her in a different direction as Harry and she lost contact with his hand. A bright, silver light surrounded her. And not only did her body feel the familiar Apparation sensations of being crushed together, she also felt the world swirling around her quite similar to her third year when she had use of the Time-Turner. Only this time, it was far worse. She began to feel seriously sick, nauseatingly dizzy and she was sure she would lose consciousness if this would not stop soon.

The events were not something she could have foreseen, since the real use of Eternity in Time had remained a closely guarded secret throughout history. However, she had unknowingly finished up all the requirements the book needed to activate. Her blood was on the pages, the three languages written down and the final step was simply Apparation. So when Hermione started the Apparition process, the three sentences inside Slytherin's work began to rearrange themselves amongst each other and her blood in there pulled her away from Harry. The words duplicated and the letters started shifting position and began filling the other pages.

When every page was filled, the portal closed and a considerable force tossed her into a dark corridor. Unable to keep her footing, she crashed into the wall, dropped her beaded handbag, and smashed down on her knees to the floor with a loud groan. The world was still spinning, and her arms went to her head, covering and holding it tightly, trying to stop the overwhelming sensation of disorientation, pain, nausea and dizziness.

'Miss?' a male voice asked curiously. 'Are you all right?'

Hermione heard the words spoken to her in a soft whisper, but she did not feel like responding just yet, and she bowed forward to empty her stomach contents.


She heard a hint of annoyance in the tone now when the unknown person pulled her to her feet and grabbed her arms to push her back into the cold wall behind her. She leaned her head against it, because the cold was soothing the discomfort her brain was giving her. And she closed her eyes, telling herself that when she opened them again everything around her would remain still and motionless.

'Answer me.'

The demand irked her beyond anything else and she opened her eyes to stare into the darkest ones she had ever seen. They belonged to a tall, rather pale looking, black haired fellow, who would have been quite handsome where it not for the aura of arrogance that seemed to cling around him. She felt an immediate and utter dislike soar through her body and it tainted her response sincerely.

'In case you haven't noticed … I am not feeling particularly well at the moment, so excuse me for not kissing your boots straight away and replying,' Hermione said sarcastically.

A smirk started to grace his features, but before he could respond to her impolite reply, an alarmed expression ran over her face and she pulled loose from his hold, grabbed his right arm with her left hand before curving over sideways to throw up again. She nearly toppled over, but he had seized her around the waist and held her up. She was still squeezing his arm tightly with her hand, even though he had her pinned down firmly against himself, and there was no way she could fall.

However, the corridor had taken it upon itself to start spinning wildly once more and it was freaking her out severely. She had the distinct feeling it wasn't going to stop anytime soon and she leaned into the one person that seemed to steady her, which, unfortunately, happened to be the bloke she did not like at all. And it soon became quite clear why that was the case.

'I need that arm.'

Hermione did not move.

'Let go, woman, unless you want to get better acquainted with the floor.'

She sighed, but released his arm nevertheless. 'Try not to have a cow, man, I am dizzy as hell,' she replied, emphasising on the pronoun as well.

'Yeah, I can tell,' he stated shortly.

From the corner of her eye, she saw the movement of his arm, and she froze out of shock, when she saw the flash that came from his wand a fraction of a second before the spell impacted on her body. All her symptoms increased by tenfold, her senses became severely impaired, an agonising, maddening pressure was building up inside of her, she felt like she was on the brink of passing out completely, and all she could think was… 'Well, that's what you get, Hermione, for not listening to your mother and hanging on to strange wizards.'

The feeling lasted for a minute, maybe two, but it felt like forever and it was most definitely not an experience Hermione cared to repeat. She was panting heavily and the git, who had the nerve to curse her, had both his arms wrapped around her again. How he got rid off and pulled out his wand so quickly was beyond her. She pushed him away harshly, fuming.

'How dare you curse me without so … so much as a warning or provocation?' Hermione stood up straight, placed her hands at her sides and stared furiously at his face, really wanting to hit that smug expression into the next era.

'Feeling better?'

A small smile crept up at the young man's face, and after seeing the astonished look appear on hers, he was clearly eyeing her with a lot of amusement. Unknowingly she started tapping her foot, and he laughed out loud now. 'Now, now… It really isn't polite to be angry with your saviour, now is it?' he said tauntingly.

Hermione drew her wand with a swift motion and tapped it into his chest a couple of times, while moving towards him. He took an involuntary step backwards before regaining his composure and gave her a look that in the future would make grown man piss in their pants if they saw it, but right now his menacing expression did not impress Hermione at all, since she had no idea who she was dealing with.

'Now, you listen, Mister Who-Ever-You-Are.' And she pushed the tip of her wand in his chest again to underline her statement. 'I do not take kindly to people cursing me. Nor do I agree with your assessment that it is polite to do so without the explicit permission of the party to be cursed, even if you think it's supposed to be helpful. And let's not forget that the use of The Dark Arts on someone rarely ever qualifies as saving them. So spare me the crap you were planning to serve, because we both know what spell you just used.'

For a moment there was surprise in his eyes at Hermione's last statement, but it was gone and replaced by a blank expression in no time. 'Now, I would love to clear something up for you, Miss Appears-Out-Of-Thin-Air-And-Was-Rather-Left-For-Death. But first, what is your name?' And his hand slowly moved around her wand-hand, pulling it down to her side.

'I am Hermione.'

'Hermione who?'

'Just Hermione, and you are?' she defiantly added.

'Well, Hermione Just,' he mocked, 'my name is Tom None-Of-Your-Business-Either. And just so we understand each other … I don't know how you got here, and frankly, I don't care if your obviously, illegal, Dark Arts way to travel to this castle made you sick, but it would be prudent for you to understand that I have a responsibility as Head Boy, and it is my duty to look after the safety of the students here in Hogwarts and that includes protecting…'

'Hogwarts?' Hermione interrupted him anxiously, and her eyes darted the corridor left and right. 'That can't be. You can't Apparate inside this castle.'

'No kidding. I doubt what you did will qualify as Apparition,' was the dry response she got.

Now, Hermione eyed the alleged Head Boy more closely. She noticed his wand was hanging by his side in his hand and she wondered how long it had been there, because she hadn't detected him drawing it. He definitely was wearing the school uniform and she merely rolled her eyes at the very in character Slytherin crest. No wonder he was so bloody annoying. The Head Boy badge also seemed the genuine deal, and he looked like he had the right age… And the corridor, she was in, was oddly familiar, but…

A very uncomfortable feeling rushed over her. 'This can't be Hogwarts. I can't be at Hogwarts. Not after it's been taken over by…' Hermione ranted, before she fell silent.

She eyed the Head Boy suspiciously. 'Who are you, really? I don't remember any Toms or recall seeing you before, and you've got to be in your seventh year to make Head Boy, so I must have...'

She looked at the corridor again, not noticing her look of suspicion was now mirrored in Tom's eyes. She took a couple of steps to look around the corner and what she saw was not at all setting her mind at ease.

'Merlin's pants!' Hermione shrieked. 'No, no, no, no, no… I cannot be here…'

She shook her head sideways in disbelieve of the predicament she thought herself to be in, and her hands rubbed through her hair in frustration.

'I'll be dead before nightfall. No, I'll be tortured first and then killed before nightfall. Snape will find me and then I'm doomed,' Hermione mumbled to herself.

'Who is Snape?' Tom asked.

'What?' Hermione said, stunned.

'Who is Snape and why would someone want to torture and kill you?' Tom repeated demanding.

Hermione's jaw dropped several inches. 'What in Godric's name is going on here?!' she yelled.

'Mister Riddle, care to inform me who that lovely lady is you're talking to?'

She saw Tom's eyes darken further at hearing the sound of Albus Dumbledore's voice, and fortunately for Hermione, Tom turned around to face the deputy Headmaster, so he missed the entire spectrum of emotions that Hermione exhibited. She felt like someone had just dumped an entire bucket of ice down her spine when she realised who she had been engaged in conversation with all this time and how close she had gotten to giving him vital information about his future. She was in the past. The overwhelming evidence to that fact was staring her in the face in the form of a very much younger, and alive, version of her Headmaster. And even though she was glad to see Dumbledore again, she was also worried about the implications of her arrival here. This could turn out an awful lot worse than any accidental mistakes she could have made in her third year with that Time-Turner.

'It must be around 1944 or 1945,' she thought, not recalling quite clearly when Riddle graduated. 'I am more than fifty years in the past. I could do some serious damage to the time-line. Wow, I am even able to achieve the ultimate temporal paradox by preventing my own birth from happening.'

She put the depressing thought aside, considering the present company she was keeping made the thought not so theoretical at all. And Hermione looked up to meet Professor Dumbledore's blue, twinkling eyes. Tom and he had finished their restrained conversation rather quickly, since Riddle had nothing to tell and did not feel like sharing what he did know. Dumbledore smiled at her kindly, but his eyes were looking at her with great curiosity.

'Yes, look into my eyes,' Hermione thought, remembering Dumbledore was an expert Legilimens, and she repeated the next sentence in her mind over and over again. 'I'll tell you everything, but I need help figuring out a cover story for Tom here, because I am drawing up blanks right now.'

After a few silent moments, Dumbledore spoke up. 'Ah… you must be Hermione Evans. I was expecting you, only not today. I guess there was some form of emergency, which contributed to your early arrival and your dishevelled state?'

Hermione merely nodded, wondering where he was going with this.

'That explains it,' he said joyfully.

Hermione noticed Tom did not agree at all, and she had a feeling he merely became more suspicious of her by the minute.

'Tom, if you would be so kind to go over to the Headmaster's office and inform Armando about Hermione Evans's safe arrival, then I will take the liberty of escorting Miss Evans to the guest quarters. I'm sure all the official paperwork can be taken care of tomorrow,' Dumbledore said, winking at her.

'That would be very much appreciated, Professor. I'm quite tired,' Hermione answered.

'Very well, off you go, Tom. And you,' Dumbledore nodded at her, while passing, 'follow me.'

Dumbledore walked away carefree, and Hermione was about to turn and follow him when Tom stopped her by grabbing a hold of her upper arm. He inclined his head toward her ear and whispered softly: 'We are not through talking, Evans.'

He articulated her last name with a slight hint of disbelief in his voice, or so she thought, but there was no time to evaluate her assumptions, since Tom did not linger. He let go of her arm just as abruptly as he got a hold of her, and he swiftly paced into the other direction, leaving Hermione standing rather concerned.

'That man is going to become a serious inconvenience to any good resolves I might hold dear about not interfering with the time-line. You'd better not overstep my boundaries, Lord Voldemort, or you will find that I am capable of doing more than a little damage to your future,' she thought rather recklessly.

The concept of threatening the most feared wizard of all time with the complete and utter screw up of his history, as she knew it, was a nice, relaxing thought for a moment. And she giggled softly at all the possibilities that she knew she really could not venture into. But it was nice to ponder on them, if only for a while. She summoned her beaded bag, that was still resting calmly on the corridor's floor, and followed Dumbledore down the staircase to the guestrooms, wondering if and how she was ever going to get out of this mess.