Disclaimer: We're both very, very disappointed we don't own anything (money, money, money) in the Potterverse, but it all belongs to J.K. Rowling, as you should know by now if you haven't lived under a rock in the last two decades. Yes, both the money and the characters are hers. We have nothing and get nothing from writing this. Woe us.
Title: The Gold Puppet
By: Serpent In Red and Nerys
Pairing: Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort - Hermione Granger, so yes, if you're not a fan of them, please hit the back button and save all of us from the drama and time.
Rating: M for a reason. If you don't want or are not allowed to read explicit lemons, skip this story. You have been warned.
Warnings: If you prefer a fluffy, kind Tom, move along. He's evil. YES, evil. He will not, I repeat, he will NOT: cry, mope, do the lovey-dovey stuff.
Second, this story is not for Ron Lovers: Severe Ron Bashing Alert. ;-)
Third, if this all hasn't scared you away yet, welcome and we hope you'll enjoy the fic.
Spoilers: All the Harry Potter books (we start with the ending of the series, so you were warned), EWE.
Beta: Not needed, we are perfect. (sniggers). Okay, the truth; we are lazy and writing this for our amusement. If you see errors, feel free to point them out and we might fix them (if we're not too busy lounging on our arses). But we mainly hope you'll enjoy the story, despite our imperfections, grammar and spelling-wise. So let us know, pretty please.
The Gold Puppet
Fighting for her life, Hermione swung another curse in the direction of Bellatrix Lestrange. She didn't have time to check if it hit the witch, because a known dash of green sped towards Luna who stood beside her. Hermione dove and pushed Luna to the floor of the Great Hall, just in a nick of time. She felt her hair rise, as the Killing Curse soared over their bodies. In the distance, Hermione saw all those people, grown witches and wizards standing by, watching, while three youngsters fought Lord Voldemort's most dangerous ally. It annoyed her, but she had no time to consider it further. She flicked her wand to support Ginny's hex and scrambled to her feet, pulling Luna with her. For a brief moment, Hermione watched McGonagall, Slughorn, and Shacklebolt barely being able to hold their ground against Lord Voldemort.
Why was no one assisting them?
Only Bellatrix and him were left. If everyone would just pitch in, it would be over in a heartbeat. But nooooo, they had to be chickens and watch.
A pain-filled cry left her mouth when one of Bellatrix's curses slashed her arm open, causing her blood to splatter around in an arc.
"Your blood just joined all the rest of mud. Where it needs to be, on the ground at my feet," Bella sneered.
Furious, Ginny hurtled another Bat-Bogey Hex at the dark witch, while Luna helped Hermione heal her arm quickly and they continued to fight. But still, Hermione kept some of her attention on the other duel from the corner of her eye. For some inexplicable reason, her eyes kept drawing to Voldemort's fight. Surely, one slashed arm should be enough to remind her to keep her eyes on her adversary. But she couldn't help herself.
His dark cloak whirled around his thin frame as if it followed the tremendous power of his magic. She'd never seen him cast in a duel before. The elegance in which he moved and the ease in which he undid anything sent his way by his three opponents was mesmerising. It should be obvious to anyone that McGonagall, Slughorn and Shacklebolt were far out of their league. This was why she kept looking at him. Hermione searched for any opportunity when she might need to help them, or so she told herself.
However, that was merely a hopeful thought—she pretty much had her hands full, even with Ginny and Luna helping her duel Bellatrix.
She dropped to the ground, avoiding another one of the crazy witch's hexes, when she noticed a dark shape leave Voldemort, heading towards the crowd. Alarmed, she wanted to see if anyone was hurt by whatever it was, but before she had a chance to see where it had gone, Ginny's shouts alerted her.
Hermione dodged the curse and returned the favour with a vengeance. But Bella was evenly matched to the three of them. The bushy-haired witch gritted her teeth, realising it would be hopeless trying to find where that dark shape had gone now, and it was all Bellatrix Lestrange's fault. With a low growl, she threw a couple of her nastier hexes towards the Death Eater, but they were all easily deflected, while the older witch cackled madly, a small distance away from them.
"Ginny, look out!" Hermione yelled, as she saw the jet of green hurtle towards the redhead.
"Not my daughter, you bitch!"
Hermione froze on the spot, baffled. From the corner of her eye, Molly Weasley ran toward them, throwing off her cloak to free her arms.
"Out of my way," Molly barked to the three of them, swiping her wand at Bella.
The determination and fury on the Weasley matriarch's face was enough to make Hermione step back. The duel between the two witches was on and it was a sight to witness. Hermione wasn't at all surprised to see the skill Molly Weasley exhibited. Bella should learn to never touch the children of a mother hen, especially the one daughter that hen had been working so hard for to get. It was a repeat of Sirius's death, the way Bella went down, arrogance most definitely the downfall of the Black family.
And finally, the archenemies were left to face one another. As much as Hermione wanted to pay attention to their battle, her eyes flickered toward the crowd, attempting to find out if anyone had been hurt by whatever left Voldemort's body - anything that came from him could not be good news. And it might come back to attack Harry.
However, when she heard Harry offering Voldemort a chance to save himself, to show remorse, she almost felt like attacking Harry herself. That piece of shit did not deserve any more chances as far as she was concerned. But she zoned out of the conversation before she would explode and went back to searching for that strange dark shape. Yet, as hard as she tried, she could not find anything abnormal about the crowd.
Until her eyes landed on a young man, leaning against the frame of the entrance.
An aura of authority and power surrounded him and it surprised her that he stood there all solitary, without any friends. Everyone else huddled together, watching Harry and Lord Voldemort fight, but he had a sense of self-assurance around him that was bordering on arrogance, like he had no need for others. She furrowed her eyebrows, attempting to recall if she had seen him before. Her mind remained infuriatingly blank.
She squinted her eyes, taking in whatever details she could see that might help trigger a memory. His left hand fingers absentmindedly caressed the wand in his right hand, almost as if he was ready to strike when the moment called for it. A shiver ran down her spine at that thought. His handsome features could not hide the fact that he was a dangerous opponent.
An opponent, why did her mind choose that word?
She stared at him to the best of her abilities, willing him to notice her, to do something that might trigger her memory, to give her a reaction beside that abnormal emotionless expression he wore now, but he—like everyone else—was otherwise engaged and took no notice of her.
The red-gold glow burst broke Hermione's concentration, and she quickly looked towards her best friend and his nemesis.
Hermione felt her heart nearly stop, fearing for the outcome and her Harry, as the two spells collide dead in the centre of where they were standing. A hum filled her ears and mind, blurring her senses as the fact that Harry had beaten Lord Voldemort registered completely in her mind. With a scream of glee, she rushed towards the Boy Who Lived Again and threw her arms around him.
Moments later, she was forced to let go by the crowd of people who were struggling to hug or even just touch some part of Harry. She exchanged a look with Ron and moved out of the way, allowing the people a chance to finally have something to rejoice about—it was finally over.
"Wow," Ron breathed out, extending his arms above his head and stretching, after they finally made their way through the crowd.
A small smile appeared on her face, and she was just about to say something when a wave of nauseousness and dizziness washed over her, causing her to sway back and forth. Ron immediately placed a hand on her shoulder, an alarmed expression appearing on his face.
"What's the matter?"
She shook her head, managing to push away the dizziness. She smiled at him. "I'm OK. It's probably from the lack of sleep."
Hermione had been feeling unwell ever since the incident with Helga Hufflepuff's cup, but she'd had no time to dwell on it with all the fighting they still had to do. Now that it was over, it was probably coming back to her. All she needed was some rest, and now that He was dead, she could take all the rest in the world, finally. With a broad smile on her face, she remembered her small contribution in the destruction of Lord Voldemort.
Ron had offered her the Basilisk fang, as if she would have allowed him to do it in the first place.
No, Hermione had waited long enough to get her revenge on the bleeding bigot of Slytherin. She wasn't going to pass on such a wonderful opportunity. To kill a part of Lord Voldemort was something she'd been dying to do, for a very, very long time now. She'd taken the base of the fang firmly in her hand and nobody would have been able to pry her fingers away from it, as she brought her hand beside her head to strike as hard as she could at the priceless golden cup on the floor in front of her.
I hope you rot in hell, you hypocritical half-blood bastard, she wished, narrowing her eyes in hate, as her arm went down.
It was sweet music to her ears indeed to hear him scream when she plunged the fang into the cup without any delays.
Of course, getting tossed through the Chamber and hitting her head on a snake statue by the subsequent explosion of said cup wasn't as delightful, but still, it was a small price to pay. She'd been hurt worse in the past.
"Lighten up, Ron," she said to the worried blue eyes that stared at her. "We won."
"You don't look too great."
Hermione's eyes travelled up and down her boyfriend's physique, which was just as battle-worn as hers. "Wow, you're one to talk," she joked, smiling brightly.
Ron smiled back and pulled her in his arms. "Hope I am not too revolting to kiss?"
Her eyes sparkled as they closed the distance. With a sigh, she relaxed in Ron's arms and enjoyed the precious moment. A jubilant feeling filled her heart as she thought about the events that happened today again. Lord Voldemort was dead.
Finally. Serves him right, she thought viciously, grinning against Ron's lips.
Perhaps Ron thought that she was reacting to his ministrations, and therefore, deepened the kiss. However, Hermione hardly cared. She was still very elated from the destruction of the cup Horcrux—and it was about time Ron took the initiative.
A few seconds later, she opened her eyes slightly, ready to break off the kiss when she caught sight of the young man from earlier.
"What's with that man?" asked Hermione, looking at the door-frame where the strange fellow still stood, like he hadn't moved an inch since everything happened.
The only difference between now and then was his expression. The intentness, which he had worn while he watched the duel, was replaced by a calculating look, almost like he was trying to decide on what to do with the crowd that was celebrating and cheering in front of him. Although that was all she could read from his face, an ice-cold feeling started to spread throughout her stomach. She had no idea why the stranger made her feel uneasy, but he just did.
"Who?" Ron countered, searching for someone in the direction Hermione was watching.
"That dark-haired fellow over there," Hermione said, pointing to him.
She was positive that he wasn't a Hogwarts student, or at least, he didn't go while she was there. Was he a Death Eater? No, she had seen most of the Death Eaters, and they were either already captured or dead. Additionally, she doubted that one of those idiotic followers would stand there and watch calmly when their master was just killed, instead of running for safety as those cowards always had done before.
Ron frowned in the direction she pointed at, before he looked back at her, confused. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"In the doorway, Ron," Hermione emphasised, annoyed, nodding her head back to the bloke.
"There is no one there, Hermione."
Hermione's jaw dropped. Surely, he wasn't blind. "He's leaning against the door-frame," she repeated, waving her hand in the aforementioned direction agitated.
Ron raised his eyebrows. "I don't see anyone there, beside Malfoy cowering in the corner a few feet from the doorway, but he didn't get a hairdo since last time we 'spoke'," he chuckled.
Hermione didn't respond to Ron's jest since the dark-haired bloke in question finally moved. Hermione froze when she spotted the mocking expression he sent her way. Those dark eyes were now trained on her with an intensity that caused her to stop breathing. Slowly, he pushed his shoulder away from the frame and straightened out. A smirk grew on his features (worse than any she'd ever seen from Draco Malfoy) and then, he tipped his imaginary hat and disappeared in a blink of an eye.
She stared at the empty spot, blinking a couple of times. Ron was telling her something, but it was not sinking into her mind. She was busy trying to digest that something that was impossible had just occurred in front of her eyes.
"Where did he go? You can't Apparate inside of Hogwarts," Hermione blurted out, irritated with it all.
"He's gone now," she replied, waving to the doorway. "It's impossible to just ... disappear from there."
"Perhaps you hit your head harder than we thought in the Chamber of Secrets. Let's go see Madam Pomfrey," Ron suggested.
Frustration crinkled her forehead into a frown. She wasn't the only one who'd been tossed through the chamber and it irked her that Ron had the nerve to consider her feebler than him. She wasn't the one who deserted them after all, and she was certain that she was not having hallucinations. Disregarding what Ron was saying, Hermione strode over to the entrance, attempting to find any signs that suggest that what she had just seen was not a figment of her imagination.
She ran her hand over the frame, mildly aware of the fact that Ron was now rolling his eyes in the distance with his arms folded across his chest.
Was there some kind of trap door that wasn't known? The Marauder's Map never revealed it before, but that could simply be a mistake. After all, there still might have been secret passageways and doorways that the Marauders hadn't known about.
She walked past the entrance and examined the wall next to it.
Nothing. Not a single living being was in the hallways. Everyone was still in the Great Hall, celebrating, dancing, and singing at the top of their lungs.
Like an obsessed fanatic, she examined the wall to the minute details. No traces of a secret doorway.
The frown deepened. She refused to believe that someone could've been intelligent or magically powerful enough to override the wards of Hogwarts. It was simply impossible. Even Dumbledore and Voldemort, who were both extremely talented in magic, couldn't have done that. Therefore, the young man couldn't have Apparated away, if he was human.
She shut her eyes tightly, questions swarming around in her mind. The faintness from before increased as she pressed herself to find answers.
Who was he? What did he want? Where had he gone? What was he?
Suddenly, she felt a draft pick up a lock of her hair. She almost neglected it until a distinct chuckle filled her ears, drowning out the rest of the noise.
She immediately opened her eyes, alarm written across her face and in her eyes. Gooseflesh erupted across her arm while she glanced at each and every window.
They were all closed.
Her heart pounded painfully against her chest; her eyes searched for any signs of the Hogwarts ghosts, but they were nowhere in sight. She had caught glimpses of them cheering with the living crowd inside. As much as she was trying to tell herself that there might've been ghosts whom she hadn't met yet, she couldn't convince herself.
"Hermione?" a voice called from behind her.
She whirled around, only to find her boyfriend standing there, looking at her with a worried expression on his face. A sigh of relief escaped her. Her hair must've moved because Ron had walked up to her while she was preoccupied with her thoughts. The chuckle ... well, most of the people in the Great Hall were laughing. Her ears must have picked it up, zeroing in on it for Merlin knows what reason.
Perhaps because it sounded strangely familiar to her. Although ... where had she heard that laugh before?
"Are you OK?" Ron asked carefully, interrupting her thoughts.
Hermione nodded and tucked the lock of hair behind her ear.
"Perhaps you should rest for a bit. It has been a long day," Ron suggested.
She nodded again and gave him a reassuring smile. He smiled back at her and held out his hand. Together, they walked towards the Gryffindor tower.
She was sure that he was right. She had been tired and when a person was tired, it was normal for them to invent things, illogical things, in their minds. It was all from her imagination.
It had to be.
It just had to be.
Because it would explain why she knew the voice. Why his physique reminded her of a description given to her a long time ago by Ginny. She was too tired; she'd hit her head hard; and she'd been too obsessed with that blasted man this entire year to begin with. He was dead and she should celebrate, not see things that were not there and impossible to begin with. If it had been real, surely, Ron would have seen it, too. Someone else should have seen it, too. And her head was pounding rather viciously. She rubbed her temples. Perhaps a trip to the infirmary was not such a bad idea after all?
But before she had time to go there, Harry showed up and tugged them along to the Head's Office.
She went there, following them in a daze, while Ron occasionally looked worried at her. But the huge applause from the cheering paintings, as they entered the office, woke her aching head.
Yeah, yeah, she knew they had won. Gee, couldn't they stop making such a big deal about it?
Fortunately, Harry started talking to the old coot's painting - Dumbledore's painting, Dumbledore's painting, she corrected, shocked with herself and very glad no one had any idea of the strange things entering her mind.
The other headmasters and headmistresses were too curious not to listen to Harry, so it became blissfully silent again. Besides Harry's annoying baritone, she finally had some peace and quietness and the ability to look at that wand. Wow, how it had worked. She'd never seen anything like it. For its true master, it stopped the unstoppable curse. She felt an aching desire to obtain it. All she needed to do was disarm Potter and it would be hers.
She could hardly stop the grin from forming on her face, until she heard Harry's answer.
"I don't want it," said Harry.
"Saint Potter," that familiar voice drawled to her absolute horror.
By Godric, she thought it had stopped. Hermione looked around for the origin of the mocking voice. But no one was there and she rubbed over her ears, clicking with her tongue to try to stop that annoying buzz. The buzz altered to a soft chuckle, which she felt was not an improvement at all. She shook her head to make it disappear. But nothing she did helped.
"What?" said Ron loudly. "Are you mental?"
As much as she wanted to hex the carrot head—she shook her head, trying to clear up her mind—Ron for worsening her headache, she had to agree with him. He took the words right out of her mouth. This couldn't be happening. If Harry—the true master of the Elder Wand—denounced it, it would lose all its powers.
Merlin, her head must be damaged harder than she thought. What was she thinking? Harry was right. That wand was dangerous.
But she had to get it, now.
Her hand reached into her pocket where her wand lie. Her fingers curled around it. No, no, she didn't want it.
Her head spun, it felt like someone tried to smash on it with a hammer. Inside her fogged mind, she noticed Harry repairing his old wand. She had to stop him, disarm him. This was the last chance she had at obtaining the wand. She tried to tighten her grip around her wand, but her muscles wouldn't listen to her.
She rubbed her eyes out—which, strangely enough, was something she could do. What was happening to her? Was she becoming insane?
Angry ... no ... she was infuriated. Why wasn't her body obeying her commands?
"Hermione, are you all right?"
But she never heard Ron and Harry's shouts, because, with a loud thump, her body landed on the floor of the Head's Office and she was out cold.