Spoilers: All Harry Potter books, including Deathly Hallows.
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. Don't own Star Trek or make money from it either.
My thanks go to: Haydees for being the best beta in the whole, wide world!
Author's note: The last one!! So have fun reading it and I will reply to any remaining questions/remarks. Thank you all for sticking with this story and for inspiring me to write more. And let me know what you think.
Here is to my reviewers, cheers! Sammie; Killtheenviousmoon; Lisiegirl; Raven217; Dark Glamour; Artemis Bryte; Hpfanf; Blindfaithoperadiva; Gueneviere; Lisa; Vanikoro; Irene0222; Emeraldice77; Lost-hero88; YufVin-Valentine; Emma; CyberArcRotarr; Between2moon; Tarradiddle; Jaderoxx and .
Nineteen years later
Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The leaves on the Whomping Willow were turning all kinds of red, brown and gold colours. Every now and then the tree shook itself to get rid of some of the bothersome leaves. 'Perhaps they were itching,' Harry thought as he walked toward the castle he had once considered home.
Seeing Hogwarts had always been a wonderful, comforting feeling for him. He looked at the Gryffindor Tower and remembered all the fun and joy he had while staying there. He also remembered the pain that same castle had brought him.
'Harry!' his former Professor shouted excitedly.
He saw that Headmistress Minerva McGonagall had been waiting for him in front of the castle's doors. She was waving joyously. Her hair had turned a light shade of grey. Harry wouldn't be surprised if his son James was responsible for several of them. James did take after his namesake, and he was so unlike Albus Severus who was far more serious and who, according to Ginny, had his father's worrying nature. His children meant the world to him, and he thought of his beautiful girl Lily. She was so much like her mother. He missed them already, and they had only parted moments ago. Lily had stamped her feet in fury when she realised she and her mother were not going to Hogwarts with him but were staying in Hogsmeade instead. Harry understood why Ginny had not wanted to come, and he had promised Lily that he would take her to Honeydukes later. Ginny had given him a stern look at hearing this obvious bribery, but Lily's face had lighted up, so his wife had let it go. She probably remembered how hard it was to be the last one still at home with your parents.
'Harry, it is so good to see you.' Minerva grabbed his hand and shook it vicariously. 'I trust your journey over here was fine?'
'It was alright. We Apparated over,' Harry stated.
'Oh.' Minerva looked around, obviously searching for Ginny and Lily.
'They went shopping, but Ginny and I were hoping you could join us for dinner at the Three Broomsticks later on,' Harry said.
'I'd loved to. So are you ready for this?' Minerva asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
'I think I can handle another guest lecture, even if it is to my son's year. Besides, I hear you found an excellent new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor,' Harry said, smirking.
'Yes, I believe so,' Minerva said. 'The last one was pretty horrible, wasn't he?'
'Well, when it comes down to bad teachers, my vote still goes to Gilderoy Lockheart,' Harry said, chuckling. 'I think no one can beat the incident with the Pixies.'
'Don't remind me. I still have nightmares about that man and his autographed pictures,' Minerva said, and she shuddered.
'So, tell me, do I have to worry about any lack of discipline in this DADA-class?' Harry asked, amused.
Minerva snorted. 'I sincerely doubt that.'
'Coming through! Look out!'
An enormous Mimbulus Mimbletonia was hovering toward them. The grey cactus like plant with boils instead of spikes had grown tremendously over the years. Professor Longbottom was levitating it sideways through the corridors; otherwise it wouldn't even have fitted. Harry and Minerva stepped into a doorway to let the humongous thing pass, and Neville let out a shout of joy when he saw his friend. He hugged Harry, and started chatting about how the Mimbletonia had grown and that it, unfortunately, no longer fitted in his own quarters. But Neville was quickly interrupted by several anxious shouts. One of the boils had fired on the other side of the plant and several students were covered in puss. Neville swiftly made his way over there and relieved them of the disgusting stuff.
'See you at dinner, Harry!' he shouted, while making a bit more haste to get the plant to the greenhouse.
Finally, they reached the DADA-classroom where the fourth years were residing.
'Good luck with James Potter and companions,' Minerva said deviously. She obviously was enjoying herself a lot.
Harry grinned. 'I think I can handle my own kid, Minerva. Just because you lot let him get away with murder, doesn't mean I will.'
But it turned out Harry did not have to handle his own kid. The new DADA-teacher beat him to it. He had introduced Harry to the class; and just when Harry noticed his son's movement, so did the Professor. He swooped over there and confiscated whatever Weasley joke shop item James had planned on using. Harry grinned inwardly when he saw James looked utterly disappointed for not having been able to disrupt his father's lecture. The Professor whispered something to James. Harry saw that his son started to snicker, and James looked at the Professor with delight in his eyes. Harry had a distinct feeling he knew what was said.
Talking about everything that had happened was not always pleasant, but it was not an entirely bad thing either. Harry loved telling others about his friends. How clever and brave they had been. How they always had been there for him, always. And he told his son's class every heroic thing Ron and Hermione had done, until it was finally over.
He felt the jolt of pain in his heart at remembering that day. The day Lord Voldemort died. The day he heard about the death of his best friend, Hermione Jean Granger. He remembered the excruciating pain he had felt when Minerva told him she had died in 1945, killed by another Dark Lord on a day that predated her birth. Only a few people in the Great Hall had understood Harry's desperate, anguish scream. Everybody else was happy that Lord Voldemort was gone. Only those people who knew, who had been around, who had watched her fall; only those people realised why Harry wasn't happy. Why it still wasn't over and done with.
And he remembered the choice Helga Hufflepuff had given him. It was no choice to begin with. He could never have let Hermione die and certainly not under these circumstances. His mind wandered back to the events in the Great Hall that day.
'How do I safe her?' Harry asked Helga.
But the Founder merely vanished when he spoke those words, and the book he held in his hand, suddenly, became too hot to hold onto. Harry dropped it and stepped back, watching the leaves tear apart from the leather binding and vanish into the realm of the afterlife. And a flash of darkness – of utter blackness – occurred, followed by a flash of the yellowiest light Harry had ever witnessed. It lighted the Hall so ferociously that it was more blinding than sunlight, and he had to cover his eyes until it was gone. But when he looked up again, he witnessed the most peculiar event in history.
'Protego,' Dumbledore shouted; but it was pointless, the curse in question had no defensive measures.
'Avada Kedavra,' Grindelwald said.
A jet of green light flew from Grindelwald's wand and travelled straight toward Tom Riddle. Hermione swirled around in front of him; and the curse hit her dead on, straight in her chest. Harry heard Riddle's desperate scream, as he caught Hermione's body in his arms before it hit the ground. Another yellow flash and the scene splintered in two, and suddenly, there were two Hermione's and two Tom's…
Harry saw that one of those pairs became less focused, disappearing into this strange mist together with Grindelwald and Dumbledore; while the other pair became more substantial, until there was only one Hermione and one Tom; and the scene moved on...
Tom clutched onto Hermione for life. Hermione took a deep breath and started to cough… It was in that moment Harry ordered the four glowing pages in his hand to vanish into non-being.
He remembered clearly what happened next. The uproar, that occurred amongst those who recognised Tom Riddle. Fortunately, it weren't that many. So, he was able to shush them and he got everybody who knew - including Hermione and Tom - out of the Great Hall and into the Head's Office as soon as possible. There, the arguments started. They were all shouting at him - all except for Tom and Hermione who seemed rather confused at the moment. Eventually, it was Hermione who caused everyone to shut up.
'What for Merlin's sake is going on?' she asked. 'How did I get here? I was … am … Grindelwald killed me! Harry, what did you do?'
'I'd like to know that too,' Riddle said, amused.
So, he told them the whole story. Well, almost the whole story, he left out the part of the four still very active pages. And, of course, he did not inform Riddle of his mastership; but he explained that all four books were destroyed, and he told a half truth by telling everybody present that he had used the power of those four books to get Hermione back. At which point everybody's eyes darted, puzzled, between him and Riddle.
'Oh, Harry,' Hermione said, sighing.
It was obvious to him she understood what his dilemma had been, and she was shaking her head in clear disagreement of his choice. However, he also noted Riddle was staring at him with – was that gratitude? – in his eyes for saving Hermione; but it was gone the moment Ron spoke what was on everybody else's mind.
'We all understand you saving Hermione, but why did you have to bring that - that one too?' Ron said, waving his hand dismissively at Riddle.
'Because we are bonded for life,' Riddle answered calmly, and with a sly smile on his face.
Harry had to grab Ron to prevent him from strangling the Slytherin right there where he stood, but Ron calmed down upon realising something.
'Surely, with the destruction of those books came the destruction of the Binding Charm that lingered on those pages. So, after Harry destroyed those books that bond ceased to exist,' Ron stated certain.
Hermione's cheeks flushed red at hearing Ron make a correct assumption under different circumstances.
'Forgot to mention a little detail to him?' Riddle said softly but loud enough for Ron to hear; and he eyed Ron rather smugly, while he said it.
Ron took a menacing step forward and Harry felt he was fortunate to be able to intervene before things turned incredibly ugly in there. Then, the debate about what to do with Riddle started. Hermione sat down and was still shaking her head, while Harry noticed Riddle was very amused by the current situation. It was quickly decided that they would get Riddle thrown in Azkaban for all the crimes he had committed, but the Heir of Slytherin snorted loudly at that option.
'What crimes?' Tom shrewdly asked. 'Didn't Potter just kill the one responsible for all of them? Do tell, how are you going to explain to the wizarding community that I'm Lord Voldemort when his very dead body lies downstairs for everybody to see?'
Hermione made kind of an I-saw-that-one-coming-a-mile-away motion with her hands, causing Tom to wink at her affectionately, which ensured the fact that Harry, once again, had to restrain Ron from doing something extremely unwise to the utter amusement of a certain mister Riddle. Fortunately, Hagrid had noticed Harry's problems and took a hold of Ron, making it impossible for him to attack Tom Riddle anymore.
But Riddle's statement had enlightened everyone in the room of the huge problem they were facing. So when, yet again, another debate rose, Tom simply sat down next to Hermione, smirking towards Ron's reddened face. Ron said something in Tom's direction that could not be heard over the voices of the others, but Harry had an idea to the contents since he recognised the green monster that currently haunted his friend. And he was very glad that Hagrid was holding on to Ron. Especially, when Tom started whispering something in Hermione's ear, like none of the debates about his future concerned him the slightest. Harry saw Hermione shrug in response and she whispered something back that, apparently, was entertaining because Riddle was grinning widely. Eventually, Hermione got tired of the arguments and dealt the final blow to any ideas of incarcerating Riddle.
'Every barrister in the world will want to take his case. You can't possible expect to ever convict him of anything; even if you could convince people he is who he is, which will be extremely hard, because I doubt anyone wants to believe that. It will be Fudge all over again. And let's say they do believe you, you can't convict someone for crimes he hasn't committed, yet,' Hermione said simply.
'He killed Myrtle, his father and his grandparents,' Ginny stated firmly.
'Prove it,' Hermione responded. Upon noticing that everyone – except for Tom and Harry – watched her bemusedly, she explained the trouble with that. 'Morfin confessed to the murders. He was trailed, convicted of them, and he is dead now, so you can't show his memory was altered. And Myrtle doesn't know how she died; plus, his diary is destroyed, so you have no proof there either.'
Tom smirked and added something else to the mix. 'Even if you can prove I was responsible for Myrtle's death, so was he. So, which one of us did it?' asked Tom, making Hermione sigh in resignation.
'Did you kill the innocent one, Potter? Because if I'm Lord Voldemort, then who was he? Perhaps the Ministry should prosecute you? Tampering with Time, eh, Potter. And I wonder… if the Authorities feel for some reason that I should not exist in this era, then … how will they feel about Miss Granger being here? Hmmm… I think I'm going to enjoy this trial business an awful lot.'
'There is always another, faster way to solve this problem permanently,' Ron said menacingly.
Somewhere down the lineHagrid had let go of him, and Ron was now eyeing Riddle threatening. Riddle assessed the situation and took on a very leisurely posture in the couch he was sitting on. He spread his arms out wide and mockingly said: 'Bring it on, Weasley.'
Ron drew his wand; and Hermione jumped between the two in fright, while Harry grabbed a hold of Ron's wand arm.
'No, Ron!' Harry and Hermione yelled simultaneously.
Riddle smirked behind Hermione's back, not having moved an inch.
'You – you … you're actually protecting him?!' Ron shouted to Hermione.
'They'll send you to Azkaban, Ron! You can't just murder someone, you know!' Hermione replied. 'Remember what happened to Sirius.'
'That's Voldemort!' Ron yelled, and he waved his free arm in Riddle's direction.
'No, that's Tom Riddle,' Harry said, and he pretended not to notice Tom quirked an eyebrow at that statement.
Professor McGonagall intervened and ushered them into the backroom of the Head's Office, so they could discuss matters more privately without interruption. Tom smirked at that, because it was obvious McGonagall meant without him jabbering his mouth off and upsetting the others. Harry agreed with McGonagall; and they all left the main office, leaving Tom and Hermione behind. Something Ron was not at all in agreement with, but Hagrid had simply lifted Ron up and carried him into the next room, making it impossible for him to push the matter any further.
Harry felt very uneasy about Tom Riddle's calculated responses. Had he made the wrong choice? But he had also seen the glances Riddle had thrown in Hermione's direction, and it was obvious to Harry he loved her. He really needed the others to understand. Things could turn incredibly disastrous for Hermione if the Ministry would get involved. He hoped he wasn't becoming overly Dumbledorish by trusting the power of love and giving someone a second chance to redeem himself when they all - though some of them grudgingly - accepted his decision.
So, Harry walked back into the Head's Office alone. When he arrived, he was glad he had made the others wait. Because he found Riddle on the couch on top of Hermione, kissing her like crazy; and he noticed Hermione was not unresponsive to this. She had her arms wrapped around him. Harry felt he made the right decision after all.
He coughed, and the two of them froze on the spot. Riddle moved of Hermione quickly, but he couldn't hide the fact from Harry that he had to withdraw his hands out from underneath her shirt. And they both stared at him rather sheepish and flustered, while Harry told Riddle that he would be escorted to Twelve Grimmauld Place to stay there for the time being.
Harry called upon Kreacher and the House-elf arrived immediately. Kreacher was still carrying a much budged up pan. It was clear it could no longer be used for cooking since it, no doubt, was used to smash in the heads of many Death Eaters. Kreacher's head was swivelling sideways across the room in clear anticipation. His huge eyes lingered greedily on Tom since he was the only one the elf was unfamiliar with.
'Does Master Harry need me to hit anyone?' Kreacher hopefully asked, and he raised the pan ready to strike.
'No, I think we're all done in that department, Kreacher, but I need you to take two guests to Twelve Grimmauld Place.'
Kreacher beamed into the direction of Hermione and Tom. Clearly, having guests over was just as much fun as hitting a wizard over the head with a cooking utensil. 'House guests, wonderful! Kreacher would feel honoured to escort Mistress Hermione Granger to his Master's home.'
'Thank you, Kreacher, but I can't come just yet,' said Hermione. 'I'm going to have to talk with Ron first.'
Riddle snorted, but stopped when Hermione glared at him. So, he left with Kreacher to the Black residence on his own. Harry remembered clearly what Hermione said to him when they were alone afterwards.
'This is your solution, Harry? Locking him up at Twelve Grimmauld Place? You do realise he still has his wand on him? If he feels like leaving, I doubt Kreacher will be able to stop him. And this way you're basically inviting him into your house. Do you have…?'
'You were kissing him; yet, you disagree with what I've done?' asked Harry, interrupting Hermione's rant slightly irritated.
'He is rather hard to ignore, Harry. I thought you, of all people, would understand that,' Hermione replied coolly. 'This should have been over. Now … who knows?'
'But Hermione, Time would have erased him, because he felt love.'
'Time was wrong, Harry. Time tried to correct what didn't need correcting at all. He was still very much Lord Voldemort.'
Harry shook his head. 'I don't believe that. I can see the difference between him and the other Tom Riddle. He truly loves you, Hermione. I can tell. I've been in his mind so many times.'
'I'm not his keeper, Harry, nor do I intend to be. Yes, he can feel love now. But there is a good reason that door in the Ministry remains closed at all cost. In the wrong hands love can truly be the most destructive force in the universe.'
'Potter. Earth to Potter, are you there?' a familiar voice asked.
Harry shook from his reminiscence and looked straight into a pair of dark eyes who were watching him rather amusedly.
'I believe we have a class filled with fourth years who would like to hear the answer to that question before we all die of boredom, Potter,' Professor Riddle whispered, smirking.
Harry chuckled, and he calmly whispered back: 'Never had a daydream before, Riddle? I'm sorry to hear that.'
After another thirty minutes the lesson was over, and Riddle handed out homework assignments that were the cause of much moaning and groaning. Harry heard his son James complaining to his friends about the ridiculous amounts of essays they already had to write.
'Mr Potter, if you would have listened instead of trying to take that Weasley Snapbomb out of your pocket inconspicuously, then you would have realised that I did not require anyone to write an essay. I want to see some form of practical evidence in the next lesson that proves you lot have listened to the words of your father and found a way to use his experience in practise. Anyone who dares to bore me with an essay can look forward to some serious detention,' Professor Riddle said strictly.
James Potter was absolutely delighted when he heard this. And the students exited the classroom, chatting excitedly about what they were going to create. Harry noticed they were all very pleased with their new DADA-teacher.
'Don't feel up to reading twenty-five essays, Riddle?' Harry asked, amused.
'Twenty-five? If I gave all my students that assignment, it would be more like a million,' Tom said exaggerative. 'Besides, we both know essays don't show someone's true potential in this area of study.'
'Hmmm… Don't let Hermione hear you say that. I remember how very fond she was of writing essays. She always overdid the amounts of words required by tenfold,' Harry replied.
Tom sighed upon remembering.
'Do you know that her daughter Rose writes just as much when she gets an assignment from her school, and she has the same tiny scribbling handwriting as Hermione. I might be forced to never, ever hand out a writing task when she comes to Hogwarts next year,' Tom said, faking fear at the thought of having to read all those pages; but he continued in a more serious tone. 'So, what's the deal with that Skeeter woman? I have yet to see a positive piece of her on Hermione.
'Oh, they have past issues,' Harry said nonchalantly; and upon noticing Riddle's curious expression, he added: 'It has something to do with Hermione having locked her up in a jar once.'
'In a jar?' asked Tom, obviously intrigued.
'She is an Animagus,' Harry explained.
'Ah… Isn't there some ancient wizarding law against that condition you can use, Potter, being the Head of the Auror Department and all? You know, one of those freaky ones that no one has bothered to retract, yet?' Tom said deviously.
Harry snorted. 'Perhaps, though I doubt the public would feel positively towards a Minister who had a reporter arrested; but I'm sure the thought must have crossed her mind at least once.'
'Well, it should. I mean, really,' and Tom started reciting mockingly, 'Granger – Krum divorce turns violent; Power struggle over custody; Minister abuses position in personal arena; Minister fails to stop recent Vampire onslaught; Are our children safe with this administration? Minister in league with Dracul Order. It's all rubbish,' said Tom angrily. 'That Skeeter woman needs to get a hobby.'
Harry could not help but notice Riddle was able to recite those titles rather easily, like he had mesmerised over them. 'Perhaps we should deal with beetles as Muggles do?' suggested Harry ironically.
'A beetle,' Tom snorted, 'how appropriate.'
Harry grinned and he knew Ginny was going to kill him for this, but he felt Riddle had redeemed himself a long time ago. 'I hoped you would come to the Three Broomsticks tonight as well,' Harry said.
'You're inviting me to have dinner with your family?' Tom asked, while raising an eyebrow. 'Have you even discussed that with your wife?'
Harry's reddened face gave away the answer.
'Potter - Potter, you still are a lousy Occlumens,' Riddle said, while clicking with his tongue and shaking his head. 'I think I'll have to decline. I wouldn't want to be responsible for disturbing the peace in such a happy family.'
'Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find us,' Harry said, and he shook Tom's outstretched hand.
'See you around, Potter,' Tom said pleasantly.
Harry walked toward the door of the classroom, thinking about the strange turn events had taken after he had brought Hermione and Tom into this day and age, alive and well. A choice only a few people were aware of, because they had been able to keep it a secret since Lord Voldemort's childhood identity was not common knowledge. Only Minerva, Rubeus, Ginny, and Ron still knew about it, beside Hermione and himself. Augusta and Pomona had died after some freak accident a couple of years ago.
Ron and Ginny weren't happy about it. He knew that, but Harry felt everything was going to be all right. He and Tom had got pretty close during the time he stayed at Twelve Grimmauld Place. It had been weird being around Tom Riddle so much at first; especially, without getting constant flashes of his feelings and emotions. Their connection was completely severed due to the destruction of the Horcrux inside of him; but even though that might be the case, he could still see the huge difference between this Riddle and the other one.
And after all, Riddle had nineteen years to become him again, and he had not crossed the line once. He truly had become a great wizard and an important addition to the wizarding community. He had even found a way to treat severe dragon fire burns. Something Molly Weasley was extremely pleased about. Harry remembered how he had to restrain Ron one more time when Molly hugged Riddle senseless after Charlie's injuries were healed with that smelly ointment. No, Hermione's reservations proved wrong. He made the right choice that day in May.
Harry realised that if someone would have told him twenty years ago, that one day he would have no problem with Tom Riddle teaching his children Defence Against the Dark Arts - that he would have scolded them from here to the moon and back again. But it was exactly how he felt today, as he closed the door of the classroom behind him, not noticing the brief red flash that darted through the eyes of the man that stood behind him.
Thousands of miles away, Minister Hermione Granger looked up from her paperwork rather concerned.
Evening fell and the people inside the Three Broomsticks enjoyed themselves a lot. The dinner, indeed, was lovely or so Harry felt. Almost everybody was back together again and it had been a long time since he had seen all his old friends. Professors McGonagall and Hagrid were engaged in a lively conversation with George, Bill and Ron. He heard Neville chattering to Luna about some strange plant, and Lily and Rose were listening excitedly to Fleur who was telling them all about Beauxbatons. Harry had a feeling that it would probably take a lot of days before Ginny and he would be able to undo Fleur's wonderful stories and convince Lily it was better to go to Hogwarts.
The only downside to this dinner was that Hermione had been unable to attend, but he was expecting her ex-husband to show. Harry was just beginning to wonder what was keeping him when the door flew open and Viktor Krum entered.
'Daddy!' Rose yelled.
She jumped of her stool and ran across the room straight into her father's arms. Ron groaned softly, but the others were all happy to see the former Quidditch Seeker. Everybody was crowding him to say hello, shake his hand and ask him how he was doing.
'Let the man sit down first, people,' said George, laughing.
Krum eyed him thankfully and sat down beside Harry.
'So, I read you and Hermione have sprouted fangs and joined the blood-drinking community,' George added cheerfully.
Krum nodded ironically. 'Been reading Rita's work, George?'
'It's hard to miss,' replied George, grinning. 'The headlines are this big,' and he held his arms as wide as he could, to give everyone a clear indication of the size of the letters in the paper.
'Well, I'm sure Hermione will return from Transylvania with a treaty that will benefit all parties concerned,' Luna said knowingly.
'How do you know about Transylvania?' asked Krum, surprised.
'Yeah,' said Ron, 'Hermione's trip is supposed to be classified for security reasons.'
Ron knew all about it, because he was babysitting Rose. Something he never failed to mention whenever Krum was around. Krum was just as often away for his work as Hermione was for hers. It was probably the reason why they had grown apart in the first place. They hardly ever saw each other. And Ron, being part owner of the shop in Diagon Alley, had far more liberties to allocate his time. So, Rose often stayed with him if she wasn't visiting her grandparents when Hermione and Viktor were both out. Harry was pleased that Luna responded to Viktor's question before Ron and Krum could start another pissing contest.
'I just do, and I think it is wonderful. Vampire children should be able to go to Magical Schools as well,' said Luna, adding another detail from the allegedly secret negotiations.
'Wow, I thought those stories about a possibly treaty with the Vampire Council was just another rumour,' said Neville, impressed. 'But don't you still tag along on foreign missions, do you Viktor?'
'Not on this one,' said Viktor. 'Apparently, I'm not scary enough to meet with the Vampire Princes.'
Everybody - including Krum - laughed at that visual, except for Luna Lovegood. She merely nodded her head.
'Your eyes are too kind. You can always tell what people are really about by looking them in the eye. It's not about how big and muscular you are build. The Vampire Princes have a smell for what they perceive to be weakness, and the ones in Transylvania would have killed you on sight. They despise everything that is remotely an indication of compassion and warmth in humans. Hermione is right to go alone. She'll be fine,' Luna stated certainly.
'Yeah, our wonderful Minister can be quite scary if she wants to be; no matter how vertically challenged she may be,' said Viktor proudly. 'Stubborn too, though she has finally agreed on sending Rose to Durmstrang and I think … I've got you to thank for that, Minerva - for picking some teacher Hermione, apparently, has issues with,' Viktor added absentmindedly, and he pulled Rose on his lap. 'You want to go to your daddy's school, don't you sweetie?'
'I'm going to Beauxbatons, just like auntie Fleur,' squeaked Rose, certainly.
'Me too!' shouted Lily, as Harry had expected.
He sighed and turned to his wife to share a look of understanding, but he saw a pair of very furious bright brown eyes glare at him.
'You never told me Hermione was opposed to him getting that job when we discussed whether we would be sending Albus and James back to Hogwarts,' she hissed quietly, so no one else would hear. 'I only agreed they could return, because I thought she was alright with it.'
Harry shrugged. 'I didn't know,' he whispered back.
'You did not ask her how she felt about it when McGonagall approached you about this?' Ginny asked disbelievingly. 'You do realise her perspective on all things Riddle might be more valid than anyone else's.'
'I don't think so,' replied Harry softly. 'Their bond makes any objectivity impossible. Come on, Ginny, people deserve a second chance.'
'Not everybody,' said Ginny, determined; and she folded her arms over each other and turned away from Harry.
Ron was patting his sister on the arm in a supportive manner; but McGonagall drew all their attention when she responded to Viktor, and her tone of voice was rather surprised. 'Hermione did not reply in a negative manner to me when I told her, I planned to hire Riddle for that post.'
'Of course, she wouldn't have,' said Viktor, and he eyed McGonagall if she were mental.
'Have you forgotten that Hermione has always told her voters that she would uphold the standard and make certain the power and influence of the Ministry would remain in those areas where it belongs? She feels very strongly about not interfering in the day-to-day operations of Hogwarts. I believe she remembers her own fifth year very clearly. I'm surprised you didn't realise this. Hell,' Victor added, snorting, 'you could hire the devil himself and she would not intervene.'
'Why would Hermione have a problem with Professor Riddle?' asked Neville, surprised. 'He's quite brilliant, you know. He even knows a lot about Herbology. He helped me out the other night with this difficult Oemnapotus that I could never have got re-potted by myself. And since the Oemnapotus are quite aggressive and valuable, it's not something you can leave up to the students. It needs to be done at precisely the right time, and…'
Neville chatted on, not noticing he had somehow steered the conversation into less dangerous waters. Lily and Rose were exchanging travel plans to Beauxbatons, determined to go together; and Viktor eyed Fleur accusingly because of it.
'Girls are far better of in a school such as Beauxbatons,' replied Fleur haughtily. 'Research has intricately shown that over and over again. Speaking of research, I read your latest Arithmancy Thesis. It is quite extraordinary, though I do have a problem with your numbering sequences.'
'You and, apparently, everybody else in the research community; but I am right, this is the proper way to compute the sequences once they're set in line,' stated Viktor.
Meanwhile in Transylvania Minister Granger sat arrogantly in her chair. Her arms were folded over each other, as she purposely insulted the Countess Bárthory by saying she had absolutely no interest in talking to the help. Hermione rose from her chair and beckoned her two men staff to follow her out. Percy Weasley closed his notebook and got up. Terry Boot swiftly turned around and strode out the room, taking position behind the two others in case events would turn nasty. They walked silently down the passageway at first; but then, Percy spoke.
'I suppose that was a first for the Countess,' he whispered softly. 'Did you want to speed up matters?'
Hermione shrugged. 'I doubt it will help, Perce. They adore their rituals. It's going to be a very long night.'
'Or a very short one,' Percy said dryly.
Hermione realised she had been right in advance to choose these two individuals to take with her on this particular trip. The Vampire Council was famous for its rituals and codes. Many negotiations had gone wrong in the past, because the wizards and witches who came to talk simply did not abide by the Honour Code of the Vampire. And in case of the very traditional Dracul Order, any error on their part would be a fatal one. It was, after all, deemed the most violent and dangerous Vampire Clan in Europe; but its leader, Prince Vlad, was also seen as the most influential Prince in the Council. Hermione knew if she could get this vampire on her side, the battle was already more than halfway won.
She had asked Percy to act like the quill pushing maniac he used to be, and Terry was the best Unspeakable for this job since he had no previous run-ins with Vampires and was calm and composed as ever. She needed two people who would not intervene no matter what, whose possible fear would not reflect upon her person, who would do whatever she said without questioning it and who'd have the discretion not to talk to journalists about the way in which the Minister was about to act. Hermione knew she could trust Percy and Terry with all these things. They would also not loose their heads during crunch time. Hermione was about to open the door and leave the premises.
A large bladed knife landed inches away from her head in the wooden door. The corners of her mouth twitched upwards slightly, and for a moment, the red gleam in her eyes was reflected by the shiny metal of the blade; but it was gone before anyone noticed it. She pulled out the knife with her left hand only to show her respect, turned around and saw the woman - whom was deemed the most deadly vampire alive - wait for her response. The Countess Elizabeth Bárthory watched as Hermione wrapped her right hand around the blade and clenched her fist around it, making her blood flow. She, then, paced towards the Countess in precisely ten steps, halted and violently jammed the blooded blade inside Bárthory's left shoulder.
'Do not challenge me, your Highness,' Hermione said threateningly, obeying to the code. 'For today is a good day to die.'
And Hermione smiled inwardly as she knew the real negotiations had begun.
Meanwhile at Hogwarts, Professor Riddle looked at the four books on the desk before him. He had secretly worked on them for ages now, filling the blank pages with his knowledge, making the additions he deemed necessary to avoid the flaws they had obtained in the past. Potter might have destroyed the originals, but his memory had always been rather exceptional and the theory was still very much imprinted into his mind.
Unfortunately, two of those books were still annoyingly vacant. He had never been able to read more than a single chapter of the one, and the other he had never even held onto. But this lack in knowledge was something he planned to correct soon. After all, he did know someone who must have read one of those volumes entirely. A sly smile made its way to his face.
It was fortunate that the other two volumes were finished ages ago. He had written them secretively almost immediately after arriving in Twelve Grimmauld Place, which was now nearly nineteen years ago. However, to bestow them with the magic, to get them to activate in the same manner as before, that had proved more challenging than he ever imagined. So, getting back into Hogwarts had become a mission once again; because he had always realised that in this castle he would find the solution to his problems.
So he had waited and acted like this disgusting, upstanding citizen of the wizarding community until everyone around him was lured into a false sense of security. And he knew that, eventually, he would succeed in obtaining a position at Hogwarts, which would enable him to finally meet his goals. It had taken him longer than expected and a lot of intervening whenever McGonagall nearly found a suitable, competent teacher.
He casually swirled his wand around and a jet of gold hit the written pages. A second flick of his wand and a dash of silver hit the other volume before him. He picked it up and started flipping the pages with a concentrated frown on his face. It wouldn't be long now… Only a few more times and it would be ready. He was so looking forward to, finally, be able to drop this despicable façade and claim back what was rightfully his.
A short nasal "quonk", that resembled an old-time squeeze bulb bicycle horn, interrupted his concentration. He looked up from his book and checked out the green lit Chamber of Secrets until his eyes fell on the toad. A broad smile spread across his features when he heard the evident crack of the chicken egg beneath it. Swiftly, he placed the book that bore a very familiar title back on the desk. The cover said: Eternity in Time by Tom Marvolo Riddle, based on the theory of Salazar Slytherin.
Yes, if there was one thing Tom Marvolo Riddle could agree with Joanne Kathleen Rowling upon, then it had to be the last three words of her epilogue.
All was well.
To be continued...