Disclaimer This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. 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. I also do not own nor make money of any of the song texts that are posted at the beginning of every chapter of this story. They belong to their rightful owners, who I bow to for their brilliance.

Spoiler-warning: All Harry Potter books, including Deathly Hallows' spoilers, though I tweaked the ending of that one a bit (just a little bit, nothing drastic. snort)

Author's note: Not for those who despise the concept of Hermione & Voldemort shipping. So I've finally brought myself to start altering the first five chapters into the present tense as well, so they will match with the rest of the story.

First chapter is Voldemort's POV.

Rating: M

Warnings: Story will turn darker as it progresses. The chapters I've already written contain: coarse language, sexual situations (with dubious consent), violence (including physical and mental torture), and character deaths.

The Bittersweet Taste of Victory

You only wanted them to love you

You may have been living in a dream

And as the demons tower above you

You bite your tongue

when you really want to scream…

you and me.

George Michael, Star People.

Chapter one

Lord Voldemort eyes the man that stands in front of him with much scrutiny. The man's physique is average in all areas concerned. His height, build, and overall posture are not too big and not too small. His features are neither handsome nor ugly. He has mousy brown hair and eyes. Women will never give him a second glance. The clothes he wears are mediocre: a simple brown, inexpensive suit with a white shirt underneath. Nothing about the man makes him noticeable to others and this is exactly where his strength lies, as Lord Voldemort is very well aware off. This man, Liam Sloan, is the best and brightest Unspeakable in the world. His talent to blend in and go unnoticed is beyond amazing, and Sloan has a nag for always getting his mark. It is why Lord Voldemort had him summoned. This man will succeed where others have failed.

'You understand what I want done?'

'Yes, Master.'

'I've heard you never failed an assignment before in you're life, Mister Sloan. It would be prudent not to let your record get tarnished with failure now. I highly recommend you do not let that happen.'

Sloan swallows and is clearly uncomfortable. It pleases him that the man has the good sense to be frightened. Though it no longer gives him the satisfaction it used to do when his victims still tried to fight back. They just don't measure up anymore, none of them. There are no more challenges; no one tries to disobey him, so scaring people is merely a routine job these days.

'Too easy,' he thinks somewhat disappointed.

'I will not fail you, my Lord.'

'Make sure you don't.'

Sloan leaves upon recognising the dismissal as Lord Voldemort turns his attention to the most wanted list on his desk or rather to the name at the top of it. It has been ten years now. Ten years, since she first made the top of the list. Ten years, she has been Undesirable no. 1. The other names on the list have changed during the years, gradually becoming less and less important to him over time. Most of them, he does not know and isn't even aware as to why they are on the list. He does know it is never anything worthy of his attention. However, her name remains at pole position, mocking him. Violently, he squashes the fly that lands on the paper with his fist, pretending in his mind it is Hermione Jean Granger.

Ten years, he has been in power and that last nail on his coffin is nowhere to be found. But Sloan will find her. It will be in his own interest, depending on how much he values his own life. Still, the girl is smart. He hands her that. Despite the overwhelming odds against her, she avoids being captured. And she doesn't just ditch his Death Eaters and Ministerial Employees. No, she has slipped through his own fingers as well on a couple of occasions, which is even more infuriating. A Mudblood who outwits him, she has to be apprehended.

Oh, how he is going to enjoy putting her in her rightful place. He has plans, lots and lots of them. Everything is ready to go, except for that one tiny, little, insignificant detail: namely the blasted girl herself. He looks at the picture of the seventeen old on the most wanted poster. It is a sure testament to her cunning that they have not obtained a more recent photograph.

'Where are you, Granger?' he says to the photograph, but the girl in the picture merely gives him a scornful smile and he crumbles up the poster and tosses it in the bin.

He knows he is obsessing. He knows he should not care so much. In the past, he heard the whispers of his loyal followers. That soon ended after he made an example of the lot of them. No one, not even his most trusted are allowed to question him. He makes absolutely certain they understand that. Still, the girl has posed no threat in all those years, and yet, here he is, dedicating all his time pondering over someone he should not be thinking off. He needs her dealt with. So he can move on. He wants her gone from his mind. She is nobody, unimportant, Harry Potter's friend. That's why he wants her. To show the world he has conquered every little, last shred of connection to the Boy-Who-Finally-Died.

He remembers the events like they happened only yesterday. It had been somewhat of an anticlimax for him. He was standing at the clearing of the Forbidden Forest waiting for Potter to show, but he never came. He had given the boy an hour before he would set out to destroy Hogwarts and everyone in it, and he was certain Potter would play hero and sacrifice himself. He was incredibly surprised when he appeared to be mistaken and Potter did not come forward. He would make certain the boy would see the mingled bodies of his friends and classmates in the Daily Prophet tomorrow. But on route to the castle, he found him. One of Hagrid's Acromantula's was busy cocooning the boy in. He had killed the wretched, overgrown spider, but it was too late. Potter was already dead. He had his Death Eaters kill every single one of those creatures for interfering with his revenge.

It all went fast from thereon. He recalls McGonagall's scream at the sight of Harry's dead body and the Longbottom boy, who had been brave but unsuccessful. Though he still remembers how close the boy came to actually killing Nagini, his last Horcrux. He had shown everyone his wrath and tortured the boy severely for his insolence, after which he could join his parents at St. Mungo's. Neville Longbottom had been the last straw of worthy resistance that day. He knew in advance that was how it would be. It had been a walkover; since no one, except for the Order members, dared to challenge him anymore, and he had taken Hogwarts back within the hour. It was when that foolish Weasley boy had shoved his girlfriend into the fireplace and tossed the last bit of Floo Powder at her. It was not enough for them both and he had seen the silent tears on Granger's face seconds before she vanished.

If only he would have known then how much of a problem she proved to be in apprehending, he would have gone after her straight away, but he had deemed other issues more vital. That was his first mistake. The other one was not questioning Ronald Weasley immediately, because his mind revealed to him how important the Granger girl had been to the Potter boy. She was the brains of the trio. He considered her to be the factor why Potter continually succeeded in thwarting him. Sure, the boy had skills, but he never would have known about the Philosopher Stone without her, or the Basilisk, or everything else for that matter. It was that revelation that bumped her up to the number one spot on the Undesirable's list.

After she turned out to be more than just brains and sent several of his best man to St. Mungo's, after she escaped numerous times, he decided to torture Ron Weasley again. He was glad he had not killed the Blood-Traitor, yet, because he was a valuable source of information. The pathetic boy's mind was an open book to him. His love for Granger made him unable to stop thinking about her and it was so easy to get the goods on her. Love, such a weak and useless emotion, because of love, he obtained every single memory involving Granger from Weasley's mind, before the boy cracked and died on him.

The memories still continue to impress him. There is no sense in denying that. It irks him sincerely that he feels that way about a Mudblood, but she really is some piece of work, rather devious and vengeful if you ask him. He sees what Weasley's eyes missed, but he is not the first to notice this. Lord Voldemort read her Hogwarts' file, and in between the lines, it was obvious Dumbledore had some concerns about her. The old tattering fool had actually used the same phrasing with Granger as he had used in Tom's old record. This keeps on irritating him thoroughly, and he is certain Granger will feel the same way, if she ever finds out.

Dumbledore's concerns, however, started to vanish from her file as the years progressed and Granger appeared to be the light's poster-girl, but from what he had seen in Weasley's mind that dark streak had not vanished completely. She kept it under lock and key, but on occasion, she had fallen slightly and used the Arts. Not much, he recalls her utterly repulsed face at 'Secrets of the Darkest Art', but she is definitely not Miss White. It is what makes her so dangerous. It is exactly why he wants her caught. Who knows what she has been up to in these last years? How much her powers have grown? He remembers his own disappearance from the face of the earth after obtaining the locket and cup, and how he emerged a decade later and became the most feared wizard of all time. And he does not like the striking resemblance here. But she will not have disappeared to emerge herself in the Arts, will she? She is merely hiding, isn't she? If she has…? Argh! He needs to stop doing this. Just stop thinking about her. He scolds at himself. Perhaps some fresh air… Or Borgins and Burkes…

He is still busy finding more information that will help him regain his soul without resorting to having to feel the disgusting emotion of remorse. He travelled the world again, just like he did before as a young man, to obtain the knowledge to regain his immortality. But remorse was the only response he got to his question.

Feel remorse, the thought is ridiculous. It is not an option. He has nothing to be remorseful about. He has reshaped the world in his image. The ends justify the means. He is a leader, a God. Gods don't need to feel remorse for what they do. Others should feel that, he doesn't have too.

So he needed better information, because he has to heal his soul, before he can rip it apart again. It was in China when he heard about this nameless item on a silver necklace that was said to be soul-healing. He went to Tibet in order to see whether the necklace was a reality. Some soppy love story was made up around it, but he found out that the item, an amulet of some kind, was real. He tracked its trail, but the amulet disappeared again and again. And now, Lord Voldemort is back in England. The last owner, he spoke too, said that he sold the necklace to an Englishman, but he had no idea to whom. He killed the idiot for not remembering and arrived home yesterday.

Unfortunately, healing his soul is necessary, since that is the only way for him to create a new Horcrux. In a way, he is as mortal as any other man now, since Nagini will not life forever. Why has he been so stupid to put a fragment in there? Sure, it has come in handy on several occasions. He can possess her, and as such, he has gained an advantage in many situations. But now… He has to find that necklace. Perhaps this time he can track the owner, before it gets lost again. It is almost as if the amulet does not want to get near him, but that thought is insane. He is close. He can feel it. The amulet will be his soon.

Once he has it; he will make a new Horcrux, and after that, he can get personally involved in the search for Granger. She will not elude him once his full attention is on her. He is certain of that. But maybe Sloan will apprehend her, before he has to get involved. Granger, how come her name is always slipping back into his mind?

'Borgins and Burkes. An old Englishman interested in rare items.' He repeats those thoughts like a mantra. The owners of the store have to know the identity of the man. Yes, he will check out the store in Knockturn Alley first. And he rises out of his chair and Apparates to Knockturn Alley.

It is wonderful to see people hurrying away wherever he arrives. Even in a dodgy place like Knockturn Alley people are still scared upon meeting him. He feels the fear in the air and he stands still for a second to inhale it. It is a delicious scent. Hopefully, Burkes will be working in the shop today. It is always delightful to harass his old employer. He never grows tired of repaying the man for the misdeeds he committed toward his mother. Lord Voldemort walks to the door, but freezes when he sees the wanted poster that is plastered on there. He forgot about the Ministerial Degree that forced shopkeepers to hang one on their shop's front-door. So now, he is staring at Hermione Granger again. She is waving at him. Annoying pest of a woman. He enters the rare items shop with a mood that is beginning to deteriorate rapidly.

The store has not changed much over the years, he notices. It is still filled with all kinds of dark objects. Stupid things, like blood-stained cards; rusty spiked instruments; human bones and evil looking masks, but there are also the rare and priceless ones to be found. He notices an old chair that tries to get him to sit down, which undoubtedly will be a mistake to do. There is a glass chess-set that according to the card kills the losing player. He finds that rather amusing and considers buying it. It will be a wonderful manner in which to threaten his followers, if they displease him. Well, maybe later, first, he has to talk with the owner. He hears footsteps coming from the back and is looking forward to the expression on the proprietor's face, when the man will see Lord Voldemort standing at the counter.

Unfortunately, it isn't Burkes. It is some dark haired woman who enters. The reaction is still funny though. He smiles at her, and she goes pale and freezes up. Her eyes dart around like she is searching for an escape route, and her right hand is twitching slightly. It is almost like she is about to draw her wand in defence, but considers it a futile option, which it will be, of course. Too bad, he will not mind the opportunity to hex her. Not that he needs an attack as an excuse to do so, but it is always good to remind people that even when they have everything to defend themselves with, they will still lose out to him. A little humiliation always helps to underline his point of view, make people do his bidding. He might have to explain her position later on, but first, he needs information.

Fortunately, the woman regains her senses and asks him how she can be of assistance. He has an idea or two, but instead, he asks her, if she can supply him with information on a possible, former client. He tells her: 'It has to be an English gentleman; around the age of one-hundred-and-thirty; interested in rare and expensive items. I'm sure someone like that would have bought items here.'

He waits for her reply. He knows immediately she has the answer to his question, but her eyes dart to the ceiling and she pretends to be thinking deeply. Surely, she will not be foolish enough to think she can lie to him. He always gets what he wants.

'Except for Hermione Granger,' a little nagging voice inside his head says.

He shakes the last thought from his mind and starts to appraise the shopgirl. Well, anyone below the age of forty will qualify for the title girl in his eyes and she can't be more than thirty years of age. Her hair is a deep black colour. It is shiny and obviously long, since she has it tied up in a blue hairpin. Her face is nice to look at, but not overly pretty. She is slender and of medium height, which makes her rather small compared to him, but he will never be with a woman that towers over him anyway. Her skin is tanned, so she has taken a holiday abroad. The weather in England had been rather ghastly as he had read in the Prophet. Overall, she is all right and he hasn't been with a woman in quite some time. He looks in her emerald eyes again. It reminds him of Potter. She is considering lying to him. He is certain of that now. He really hopes she will make that mistake. It will be nice to punish her for it. She bites her lip. Really, really nice.

He notices the name tag on her shirt, Aine Alberon. Aine, the queen of the elves. He wonders if she knows what the name means. Probably not, young people these days are so ignorant and she certainly isn't too bright, otherwise she will not be working here at the age of twenty-something. He is beginning to get impatient at her silence and is about to tell her to speak up, when she does. Unfortunately, she has come to the conclusion lying isn't a good idea and she tells him the truth. He sees it in her Potter like eyes.

'I can always punish her for that.'

The thought amuses him. But he does have a name now, and Burkes always keeps a record of wealthy costumers, and he knows for a fact Sir Reginald Murdoch is loaded. So he is waiting to see if she remembers that little detail.

She recalls, eventually, and finally turns her back to him to get the address-book that is stored in the drawer of the desk behind her. It is what he has been waiting for her to do. Before she has a chance to turn around, he moves behind her. His one hand encompasses her hand holding the book, while his other hand is placed gently on her side. He feels her body tense up as he pushes her forward, pressing her body into the desk with his own, and he slowly guides her hand to place the book in front of her on the desk. He lets go of her hand, and gently following the contours of her arm with his long spidery fingers, he goes on to touch her neck. He breathes the words in her ear as he says in a calm, soft, but demanding tone: 'Reginald Murdoch'.

She shivers, but handles the book just the same, and she is turning the pages with a slight tremor in her hands. His right hand firmly holds on to her side as he enjoys her fear of him, of what he can do to her. And he caresses her neckline softly with the other, feeling her heartbeat underneath her skin. It will be so simple to end her life. He will not even need a wand. He is sure of that. She feels so fragile, so vulnerable. It will be so easy. Her breaths are becoming erratic and he wonders how her voice will sound right now. She has to tell him the address and he wants to hear her voice break. He smiles at the thought and moves his hand from her neck to her hair. That pin has to go. He prefers it if hair is worn hanging loosely over a woman's shoulders. It gives a man something soft to touch and if necessary pull at.

'You have beautiful hair,' he says approvingly, while stroking it with his hand and putting it in place at the same time.

He buries his face in her hair for a second, breathing in her lovely cinnamon scent. He moves his right hand underneath her shirt. She gasps at the touch of his fingers on her skin, but she still remains silent. He has been hoping for some begging about now, but apparently, the girl is smarter than he first assumed, and she does not accommodate him. Well, that only means he has to pull her terror up a nudge. He moves her hair to one side, so that her neck becomes completely exposed to him, and he begins to slowly move his hand downward over her body, only barely touching her with the tip of his fingers. He caresses her face, her neck, her breast and finally joins his other hand underneath her shirt.

She is no longer moving the pages of the address-book. Her hands are shaking too much.

'The address, dear.' He breathes the words against her neck, making her shiver again.

'Deans valley eleven,' she replies timidly.

She gasps loudly when he roughly wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her toward him. He is hurting her now, he knows it.

'At,' he asks commandingly.

'Go..odric Hol..low.'

Finally, her voice breaks, and her restraint flies out the door with it. 'Please,' she begs.

At last. His mouth curls up. And he touches her neck with his tongue, tracking her Carotid Artery, like he is a vampire looking to draw blood, ending the search, when he reaches her ear.

'Please, what?' he whispers.

'Please, don't hurt me.'

He holds her trembling body tightly for a few more seconds and kisses her on top of her head.

'Never, ever consider lying to me again, Miss Alberon. I will not be so kind the next time.'

He lets go of her and steps back unaffected. He sees her steady herself on the desk in front of her, and he calmly asks how much Burkes expects to get paid for that enchanted chess-set in the showcase. He buys it for twenty-five percent less, since he knows that is the amount B&B is always overpricing. And he watches her intently as she places the chess-set in a box and wraps it up in brown paper. Her face is slightly tear-stained as she obviously has been crying silently. Their hands touch when she hands him the package, and for a second, they have eye-contact again.

'Any thoughts on how this chess-set kills?' he asks her amusedly.

To his surprise, the answer comes abruptly.

'The King stabs the losing party with his sword.'

He raises his eyebrows at the concept of someone being killed by the miniature figurine, which has a sword of barely an inch long, and she adds: 'The sword is poisonous.'

'How delightful,' he replies with a smirk and he swirls around in order to leave the premises.

At the door, he looks back for a second, frowning. She is still standing at the counter, motionless. He has a strange feeling, like he is missing something. Something he has seen, but not seen at the same time. A memory of some sort. He cannot place it though and he shakes the thought.

'Good day, Miss Alberon.'

'Good day, my Lord.'