A/N: Sorry it's been a while. Hope you all enjoyed Christmas (if you celebrate it, if not, then I hope you had a jolly nice time anyway). One chapter after this, and possibly an epilogue, but I promise nothing. I know the content of the last chapter but I don't know how I want to leave things with Tom and Hermione. It's a puzzle and hopefully I'll solve it over the next few days. This should be finished by New Year. Completely. Hope you enjoy this chapter, let me know what you think. =]
Tom took Hermione by the hand and turned on the spot. The only thing she could feel other than the suffocating darkness was his cool hand gripping onto her own. Soon she was able to breathe again and saw that they were standing at the gates to Hogwarts.
"We're just going to walk straight in?"
"It's the only way in," Tom replied.
Hermione shook her head, took his hand and apparated the pair of them away from the castle.
"Hogsmeade?" Tom said, his lip curling a little, "what good is Hogsmeade?"
"There's a secret passage," she told him, heading up towards Dervish and Banges. She agreed she was stupid for landing herself in this mess, but she was not so stupid that she would show Lord Voldemort a way he could use to get into the school in her own time. When studying the Marauder's Map she had often wondered where the caved-in passageway behind the mirror had come out, and judging by the direction of the other paths, it was somewhere near Dervish and Banges.
Tom followed Hermione curiously, although Hermione could sense his annoyance that she knew more about the secrets of Hogwarts than he did.
"I've never used this one before," she told him. "I think it comes out somewhere around here, but have no idea where," she pulled her wand out of her pocket as they reached the back street where the shop, which was crumbling and worn during Hermione's time, stood proudly with gleaming window displays. "Specalis Revealio," she whispered. She held her breath a the spell took effect, searching the surrounding area for all charms, spells, curses and hexes. There were the usual security charms on the shop and the houses nearby and somebody had silenced a large cat nearby. Hermione was just about to give up when an unfamiliar spell was revealed to her.
Hermione followed the trail, a slight frown perched on her eyebrows. Tom followed her quietly, his wand out and ready, the book tucked safely under his arm.
"It's in their garden," she hissed, pointing towards a high fence which blocked their path.
Tom nodded, grabbed her by the arm, muttered something under his breath before leaping into the air, pulling Hermione with him. Her scream never left her throat and Tom held onto her as he landed gracefully, knowing she would be a mess of clumsy limbs.
"I've been experimenting with unaided flight," he told her quietly.
Hermione's eyes widened.
"Well I have to fill the days with something, Hermione. My life doesn't revolve solely around you."
"Never do that again," she said, "not without warning me, at least."
Tom smirked and Hermione turned her attention back to the passageway.
A large ornate bird bath was sitting in the middle of the garden. An enormous stone phoenix sat on a plinth on top of it, its wings spread and its head pointing towards the sky. Stagnant water with a thick blanket of algae filled the basin around the phoenix. Hermione wrinkled her nose and hoped they wouldn't have to come into contact with the water.
"Stacius," she whispered, her revealing charm informing her of the incantation.
The phoenix turned its head to look at her and Hermione jumped back a little, unused to the entrances of the passageways being animate. It started to flap its large stone wings and tore itself from the bird bath, Hermione looking around anxiously, desperately hoping the noise had not woken anybody.
Now that the bird had moved, Hermione could see a hole which was roughly a metre in diameter, just about big enough for a person to squeeze through.
"I wonder how long the drop is," Hermione said, looking to Tom.
"I'll go first," he clambered onto the edge of the bird bath and then carefully stepped across the water to the plinth in the middle. He peered down cautiously. "See you in a second," he said, before he jumped down gracefully, leaving Hermione alone with the stone phoenix, which was still flapping its wings noisily above her.
"It's all right," his voice echoed up through the tunnel, "it's not far at all. Just don't forget to bend your knees when you land if you want your legs to stay unbroken."
Hermione took a lot longer the get onto the plinth than Tom had, slipping slightly on a wet patch of stone and almost falling into the stagnant water. She held her breath before she jumped. She had no idea why; there would still be oxygen down there, it wasn't like she was jumping into the ocean, but she held her breath nonetheless.
Tom caught her as she landed, steadying her so she didn't lose her balance on the uneven ground. He had already conjured a lantern to guide them along the tunnel and after a few seconds there was a loud crunch as the phoenix returned to its usual position.
The walk seemed to take forever. They barely spoke. In Hermione's case it was mostly because she was too busy concentrating on not falling over the rocky path. She also hadn't forgotten how Tom had gone out of his way to make things difficult for her return to her own time.
Possible scenarios flitted through her head as she walked. What would Ron do when he saw her? What would Harry do? She knew the words 'he killed my parents' would crop up somewhere once she had returned, as well as 'how could you?' and 'what were you thinking?'. Did they think that she had thrown her lot in with Voldemort? Did they think she was Wormtail all over again? The friend that betrayed them all?
"We're going up," Tom noted as the path became steeper. "We must be nearly there."
Soon Hermione saw the wooden back of the mirror which would be their entrance into Hogwarts. Tom pushed it and it swung upwards, permitting them to leave the claustrophobic tunnel and step out into the comparatively huge corridor.
"Library," Hermione said quietly.
Tom nodded and they started making their way to the nearest staircase.
The musty smell of the books comforted Hermione. The smell of the polish on the wood, the staleness of the air and the motes of dust which shone in the light of the lantern, all of it made it feel like home.
Tom locked the door with his wand.
Hermione turned to look at him.
"So we aren't interrupted. I don't want any unnecessary questions. And Dumbledore would poke his stupid crooked nose in as well."
Hermione felt heat seep through her body at his casual insult of her old headmaster. "Dumbledore's a better man than you could ever be," she hissed.
"Ouch," Tom replied sarcastically, trailing his finger over the spines of the books. "That really hurt, Hermione."
"Let's just get this over with, shall we?" she opened the book but Tom grabbed her wrist.
"Don't leave it like this."
"Why shouldn't I? Do you even know what it feels like to have your friends looking at you like you're the worst thing that's ever happened to them? Of course you don't, you don't have any friends, you're 'too good' for friends, but let me tell you, you just made my already difficult life a hell of a lot harder. I won't be surprised if they hex me the second I return so tell me the counter charm to that damn cage and let me go!"
"Don't assume I don't know what it feels like," Tom said, his grip on her wrist not loosening. "That's the way you're looking at me now, that's what you're telling me now, that I've ruined your life, no wonder the future me is so...bitter."
"Bitter? Bitter?" Hermione laughed sarcastically, "Tom, he's not bitter, he's insane. He's a murderous bastard and I don't think it's because his fiancée called the wedding off!" she ripped the chain from her neck and threw it at him. The ring slipped from it and fell to the floor where it spun for a few seconds before falling flat.
Tom bent down and picked it up. He slipped it into Hermione's pocket along with the chain and she huffed.
"They did want to kill me."
"So you decided to punish me for it?"
"I think the look on the redhead's face was quite priceless."
"Oh so it's worth messing things up for me if you get a satisfactory reaction? Is that it?"
"What? What do you want? A declaration of love? A goodbye kiss? D'you want me to tell you how dreadfully I'll miss you?" she could feel the blood rising in her face as she spoke, her anger building and building with every inept response he came up with.
"I don't want you to leave here hating me. I want to end this well, so I've got something good to remember, not something to regret."
Hermione didn't reply. She folded her arms over her chest and let her eyes travel over the books on the higher shelves, avoiding his eyes.
He touched her face gently but she didn't acknowledge the contact.
"What's the counter charm?" she asked softly, her eyes set on a book on the topmost shelf.
"Flagia Iradis," he said, dropping his hand from her face.
"Right, now if you'll excuse me," she started to move towards the book but Tom blocked her way. "Let me go, Tom."
Tom shook his head.
"Tom I just want to go home. Let me go home and sort this mess out."
He didn't let her pass. Instead he leaned forward and kissed her softly on the lips. "Don't leave it like this," he kissed her again and Hermione pushed her hands against his chest to try and stop him but when he kissed her for the third time, she found herself unable to protest as his lips moved softly against her own.
She brought an arm up to wrap it around his neck, pulling him closer to her. He pushed her back into the bookshelf as he deepened the kiss and it wobbled dangerously, though neither of them noticed.
"Tom, I need to go," she breathed as he kissed her neck. His fingers pulled at her cloak and it fell to the floor in a pool of dark material.
"Not yet. I'm not going to see you for fifty years, just stay a little longer."
"But Harry and Ron -"
"But Tom, the cage."
"They know not to touch it. It's not fatal anyway. For once in your life be selfish, Hermione."
"You've already made me selfish, Tom. You bring out the worst in me," she gasped lightly as his hands slipped under her top to rest on her waist, his fingers moving softly against her skin.
"Then I consider my job done," he murmured against the skin of her neck. "Curiously, I think you bring out what some people might declare to be the best in me. How glorious."
"What do you declare to be the best in you?" Hermione asked, pulling herself away from him slightly.
"Must you continue to talk?" he pulled her back towards him.
"You don't consider conversation with me to be important?"
"Not right now. Not at this particular moment."
Hermione opened her mouth to respond.
"Don't make me put a silencing charm on you. I'll be dreadfully disappointed when I don't hear you calling out my name," he was smirking.
"Tom we can't, not here, it's the library!"
"And what place more apt for the tragic and romantic goodbye between the two best students Hogwarts has ever seen – and don't you dare mention Dumbledore because that would definitely kill the mood."
"But what if -"
"I locked the door. And do you honestly think I would have let you do all that shouting unless there was a silencing charm around us?"
Hermione looked at him for a long moment before Tom rolled his eyes and kissed her, pinning her to the bookshelf, his hands working hard to try and relieve her of her clothes.
The last coherent thought that Hermione had for a good while was of how much she hated his ability to clear her mind of all important things.
"I'll be there when you get back."
"That's comforting," she snorted as she pulled on her shoes.
"I told you I wouldn't become him. I swore to you."
"Yeah well forgive me if I take that with a pinch of salt."
"You're holding things against me that I haven't even done yet."
"You will, though."
"I promise I won't kill any of the students."
"Will families be there?"
"I imagine Harry and Ron have told people that you're planning an attack."
"Fine, no families either."
"How about I never kill a single person in my entire life?" Tom said with a dramatic sigh and obvious sarcasm.
"Bit too late for that, isn't it?"
"Coming from the girl who asked me not even two hours ago to kill Bellatrix Black?"
"I didn't ask you to kill her, you were the one that suggested murder."
"You didn't protest. Tell me, what will she do?"
His curiosity sickened Hermione and she turned away from him.
Tom sighed. "I'm sorry about earlier, okay? I'm sorry."
"Sorry's just a word. In fact it's a joke when it comes from you," she tied her hair back into a ponytail and Tom frowned.
"What can I say? I am sorry yet when I tell you you don't believe me. You despise me for what you believe I will be, but when I say I won't turn into him you don't believe me. How can I promise you anything when you're judging my character to be the same as that madman in your head?"
"Do you think he's mad or do you think he's a genius?"
"I think he's gone too far, that's what I think," said Tom. "I've learned from my own mistakes before I've even made them. It's going to be all right."
"You've still made horcruxes though."
"How else am I going to be alive when you get back?"
Hermione huffed again and grabbed the book.
"Hermione, no matter whether you're here or there, I'm going to be around. I said I was sorry, accept the apology and we can go back to normal."
"Normal? Is there any such thing as normal when it comes to this?" she gestured at the space between them with the book.
"What's not normal? Boy meets girl with half a brain and grows rather fond of her. That seems quite normal to me."
Hermione sighed. "And what about the fifty year age gap? And the fact that you're a murderer with aspirations of world domination?"
"Even murderers are allowed a little pleasure other than bloodshed."
Hermione didn't laugh. "Bye Tom," she said quickly, and she opened the book.
He caught her lips in a last kiss before she was sucked into the pages of the book and Hermione felt an overwhelming sense of loss engulf her as she travelled through the pages of time.