A/N: And we're done. Next chapter of Tempora Abducto will be posted this evening, hopefully. Thanks to all those who have faithfully reviewed each chapter, I appreciate it loads. Look out for the companion piece to this in the next month or so. Four words: Arcturus, Abraxas, Tom, Paris. This is a fairly short chapter, but hopefully you'll like what it has to offer. Let me know what you think! =]
The Years that Followed the Morning After.
He couldn't see. He opened and closed his eyes, but the action made no difference; he was surrounded by pitch black. He turned his head left, and then right, though again, there was no difference. His breath was hot on his face, as though it was being bounced back at him via some surface that he couldn't see in the darkness.
The next thing he knew, he was being blinded by bright light, and a burst of fresh air cooled his face instantly.
He squinted, trying to make out the scene in front of him, reaching for his wand, ready to strike at the first sign of attack. After a few seconds, his eyes focused and he frowned, confused at the sight before his eyes.
"Hey," she said, smiling gently.
"Hello," he said, and he frowned at the sound of his voice. It was smooth, polite, and devoid of any hissing.
He looked her up and down. "What are you holding that for?" he nodded to the Sorting Hat, which was hanging loosely from her fingers, the rim brushing against her calf.
She merely smiled.
"Where is everyone?" he looked around at the Great Hall. The House tables were all in their proper places, there were no bodies, no crowds, no Death Eaters and no Potter. He looked down and saw he was sitting on the wooden four legged stool that was usually reserved for first years on their first evening in the castle.
"It's over," she said. "Can you accept that?"
"What's over?" he demanded, sick of her being so vague. "How are you even – they told me you were dead, where have you..." he trailed off, looking around the room once more.
Everything was in tact. There wasn't a single piece of cracked stone, no broken glass, the teachers' chairs were all in their proper places and the hourglasses that kept track of the house points held all their gems safely inside their containers. He smirked when he saw that Slytherin had a considerable lead on the other houses. Looking outside, he could that the grounds had not remotely suffered – the grass was still green and neatly cut, with no great muddy footprints left behind by his giant allies.
He turned back to Emily. "This is..."
She smiled sympathetically, but said nothing.
"But I can't be..." he didn't even want to say the word. "I took steps to ensure...I survived before!"
Emily just looked at him. She wasn't smiling this time, however.
He looked down at his hands. They were fleshy, and there was some (if only very pale) colour to them. He no longer had the elongated chalky white claws that his resurrection had gifted him with, but the hands he had been born with.
He plucked at the worn grey fabric of his trousers with a frown, then looked down at the embroidered patch on his robes, covering the upper left side of his chest.
He let out a shaky breath and ran his hand over his head, except he was met by hair, thick, and black, from the little he could see when he tugged a chunk of it down, raising his eyes skywards so he could inspect the oddity.
He twitched, but didn't say anything to her.
"Tom," she said again, more forcefully this time.
Emily smiled, and he gripped the sides of the stool tightly, his teeth grinding together with impatience.
"It's different here," she said at last. "You're Tom Riddle, and you have to deal with that before we can go any further."
He didn't say anything.
"I know he wasn't the man he should have been, or the man you'd have liked him to be, but you are Tom Riddle, it doesn't matter what he was, he's gone."
"Where are we?"
"Tom," she said warningly. "We can't –"
"Fine! I'm Tom Riddle, though I don't see what that's got to do with anything," he narrowed his eyes at her, his lips pouting.
"This place doesn't like dark wizards with delusions of grandeur. It is, however, rather partial to ex-Head Boys who got top marks in every exam they ever took."
He narrowed his eyes even further. "'Delusions of grandeur'? Don't think you can talk to me like that, you've got away with so much in the –"
"What are you going to do?" she challenged, one hand resting on her hip. "Kill me?"
His anger dissolved immediately and he found he was smirking, and he knew it looked good because now he had lips, he could feel them, and Emily was looking at him in a way that she hadn't looked at him since that last night before he had gone away, when she had asked for that boomerang...
"Who did it?" Tom asked after a short silence. His voice was shaking, his rage returning at the mental image of her lying on the floor of her bedroom, bleeding all over the carpet, blue eyes staring, but seeing nothing. No spark of mischief lighting them, no glimmer of excessive and endless knowledge.
"Bella," she said simply. "But that doesn't matter, not now."
"Of course it matters!" he spat. "Where is she?" he tried to stand up, but found that he couldn't remove himself from the stool.
"She must be punished!"
"She will be, but not by you."
"But nothing. There are more important things at hand. That stunt you pulled with those Horcruxes has left your eternal soul in a very sorry state –"
She didn't sound at all concerned, at least, not in the way witches and wizards usually were when it came to soul destroying magic, and Tom thought that perhaps that was another reason he had kept her around for as long as he had.
"– You're left with two options," she continued, "You can either stay on that stool for all eternity –"
"Thought not," she said with a grin. "Or you can come with us."
Emily looked towards the Slytherin table and he followed her line of sight. He must not have seen them before, perhaps Emily had been standing in the way, but Arcturus and Abraxas were sitting opposite each other, looking exactly how Tom remembered them from seventh year. They were arguing furiously over a game of chess, and Arcturus picked up a knight, throwing it at Abraxas before he stormed off, out of the Great Hall.
"On second thoughts..."
"We've got the whole castle," Emily told him. "The three of us, well, four, if you're coming too."
Emily nodded and held out her hand.
He stood up and took it.