Hey you guys. So. This is my new story, and I've gotta admit, I've worked really hard on the foundation of this one. Yes, it's AU, but don't let that put you off, please. It'll be an unfamiliar ride with many familiar landmarks along the way.
Also, I've worked this entire premise around a few fundamental metaphors. I hope you'll figure most of them out for yourself, but there's one I sort of dive into that might put you off if you don't know what it is – purebloodedness, in this fic, translates to one's wealth status. Thus, the Weasleys aren't poor, but that shouldn't really be an issue seeing as the Weasleys aren't central characters. I mean, come on, this is Hermy/Tom. No place for Ron to get in the way here!
Just kidding. Sort of.
And yes... there are a couple jibes at the usual time-travel fics in the first few bits. I really, really couldn't resist.
Enough with my initial author's note!
Hermione Granger's foot collided with the suitcase with an angry clunk. "Damn it," she muttered under her breath, and tossed herself on her bed, staring up at the peeling ceiling. Damn it all. Damn this new boarding school, damn having to abandon all her best friends to live in the countryside, damn having to live with a bunch of rich, pretentious pricks, and most of all, damn VoldeMart, for having outsourced her parents' already-inadequate jobs to China.
Hermione attempted to control her anger, but that rarely worked, and the pain in her foot hardly provided any relief.
Her mother would move to Liverpool to finish her training in law school. Her father would move up to Wales to get his previous employment back, a low-paying assistant job in a dentistry partnership. Hermione fumed at the thought. Like the dentists were even any good in Great Britain.
Sure, things hadn't been great in London, but her mum and dad living together had helped ease some of the financial trouble, and the jobs they'd had at the factory which supplied VoldeMart had paid just enough for a decent living, even one with a couple of comforts. But no. Damned outsourcing.
Hermione buried her face in her pillow and yelled. This was so unfair. She couldn't even convince her parents to let her live with Ron, whose family was still wealthy, even though they had so many kids to put through university. In fact, the Weasleys were one of the best-off families in her school. The Potters weren't far behind, even though Harry usually lived with his nasty aunt and uncle because his parents were doing tours over in Somalia for the UN. He hadn't seen them both at the same time in years.
And she was so close to graduating top of her class. For all she knew, there was some rich bastard over at Hogwarts Academy that had even better grades than she did, and then she would be second, and that was just not acceptable. Not when she was already in danger of losing a university education due to financial circumstance. She hoped for a scholarship to Cambridge or Oxford –Oxford was her personal preference – or even somewhere over in America, Harvard or Princeton or Yale. She'd aced every single GCSE she'd ever had... and this was her reward? This was shit. Shit, shit, shit.
Everyone at her current school already knew to not get in the way when it came to grades, already knew that the best they could hope for was salutatorian. She wouldn't have much time to impress it upon the rich kids, starting off her last term at Hogwarts. What sort of a shit name was that, anyway?
They were all bound to give her a hard time about her background, about having to live off welfare for part of her life, about having to live in a dingy flat in London, three people to four rooms. At least Hogwarts didn't have a uniform, on top of all that, so she didn't have to fork out money for it. God knew there wasn't money to fork.
As Hermione stood back up, the blood rushed from her head, dizzying her. She looked down at her trunk miserably. She didn't want to leave the city. Heading into the countryside to attend school in a castle? What was this, the 1940s?
It was full scholarship, though, so in essence she had to attend. She hadn't managed to get complete scholarship to any boarding schools in London, much to her chagrin – even a couple thousand pounds a year was still too much.
"Hermione? Come on – you're going to miss your train," called a voice through the thin wall. Hermione cast her most withering glare at the disembodied voice of her mother. Even the train had issues; it had a fraction in it. The nine and three quarters, direct to Hogwarts at five in the morning. The nine and three quarters? It was far too early for that to be even mildly entertaining.
Hermione yanked her trunk over her threadbare rug out the door. "Coming, Mum, coming."
The bus ride to the station was irritated and short. Hermione arrived just as the train was pulling in. Her parents guided her to the ticket station and handed Hermione her student identification.
"We'll miss you so much, sweetie," whispered her mother, kissing her once on each cheek, her kind, round face filled with worry. "Write us over your breaks."
Hermione nodded, suddenly feeling more tired than angry. "I will. You'll do great in school, mum. Dad, good luck with that prick Harrington."
Her father chuckled. "Language," he said. "And sweetheart, don't … don't let anyone ... well, don't let them tell you who to be."
Her parents wrapped her in a swift hug, and just like that she was through the strangely concealed door to the Special Line, where the nine and three-quarters direct to Hogwarts waited, a big maroon train. There were only about ten or fifteen students boarding at the London stop, and they already looked very well-acquainted with each other, laughing and chatting and being infuriatingly well-dressed. Their trunks varied in size and in designer. She couldn't help noticing that not one of them had a shabby one like hers, but she quickly chided herself. No, Hermione, you are not embarrassed by how your trunk looks!
She wheeled her trunk to the train, casting a glance around. She had developed her people skills significantly at her old school, so at least she knew not to start a conversation by spouting off the millions of facts she knew. But this silence was awkward. Several people were glancing over at her, their expressions varying, and Hermione blushed and stared at her worn brown boots.
"What's your name, then?" asked a blond girl with pigtails.
"Hermione Granger," said Hermione.
"Nice to meet you," said the girl firmly. "I'm Mafalda Hopkirk."
She stuck out a hand, which Hermione took, relief flooding her body. Then, Mafalda turned to her companion, a tall, gorgeous black girl with the most stylish coat Hermione had ever seen. "And that's how it's done," Mafalda said.
Hermione looked from one girl to the other. "How what's done?" she asked.
The black girl shrugged. "I was just telling Mafalda that I'm terrible at meeting new people. I just moved to London, see, so this is my first year at Hogwarts."
Hermione leapt at the opportunity, her immediate relief swelling into excitement. Fate was good to her today. "I'm new too! I thought I would be the only one."
Mafalda chuckled. "It won't matter, really. There are a couple new students every year, and everyone usually fits in well."
The black girl shook back her hair. "I'm just worried about the people there. They're all bound to be perfect – I mean, Hogwarts only takes the best, what with the prestige and the big name and all."
Hermione looked down at her hands and said nothing.
Mafalda looked at her curiously. "Are you alright?"
Hermione waved a hand. "Yes, I just – I'm a scholarship student. Full scholarship, actually, and I'm just – well, my main worry is that people will be rude about my financial situation. Do you think … think they …"
The other two girls both looked utterly shocked, and Hermione suddenly felt intensely uncomfortable. Was she about to be judged for the first time in a long line of judgments? "What?" she asked.
"Nothing," said Mafalda. "First off, I wouldn't have guessed. Your look is so grunge. It's very in – all the models at Topshop are wearing distressed and patched."
Hermione snorted. Why would anyone purchase distressed clothes? Having worn many an item of clothing to shreds, she didn't see the appeal.
"And secondly," Mafalda said, "it's just – Hogwarts has only taken one full scholarship student in, what, twenty years? I don't even know who it is, either."
"Yeah," agreed the black girl. "It's on their website. You must be brilliant! I'm Zara, by the way. Zara Johnson. Spelled with a Z." She pronounced it like 'Sara'.
Hermione heaved a sigh of relief. The two girls were just impressed by her, which was flattering. She hadn't realized Hogwarts scholarships were so rare. "Well, I – thanks," Hermione said. "Shall we board now? We don't have assigned seating, do we?"
Mafalda laughed. "No. There's a lot of freedom at Hogwarts. Lord knows my parents pay enough for me to get some leeway."
Hermione tugged her trunk over the gap, suddenly feeling better about its dilapidated condition. The three girls walked into a compartment and shoved their trunks into the overhead compartment as Mafalda waved to a boy outside the door.
He walked in. The boy was short, blond, and muscular, with a perfectly white grin on his face. "Hello, all! And thanks for waiting, Mafalda. Although I suppose you're used to reneging on promises, eh?"
Mafalda rolled her eyes, waving a hand vaguely in his direction. "This is Trenton Bode."
"You lovely ladies can call me Trent," he said.
"Sleaze check," Mafalda said. "Trent, this is Zara Johnson and Hermione Granger. You two had better get used to him. Once he's got his claws in you, you'll never get rid of him."
Bode slung his trunk haphazardly into the overhead compartment and flopped down into a seat, checking the door before pulling out a lighter.
"No, you are not getting high on the train ride over," said Mafalda firmly, holding out a hand for the lighter.
Bode sighed and placed it in her hand. "Look, you know I'll be spending all my time in Huff'n'Puff. It's my last year, for fuck's sake."
Hermione exchanged a questioning glance with Zara. Mafalda correctly interpreted it and said, "Huff'n'Puff is one of a few spots on campus where people group with their so-called 'type'. In this case, the stoners. Practically everyone who owns a bong goes to Huff'n'Puff to light up."
Hermione wrinkled her nose. "Lovely. And... there are others?"
Mafalda nodded. "There's a place called Griffin's Door Archway, and behind that is a courtyard. The people who dorm looking out over that courtyard are usually the kids who play a sport. Then there's the people who host Raven Club, up in the tower dorms – that lot are sort of snooty and elite – and down in the sub-basement is Slither's Den. A bit dodgy, that last. Wouldn't recommend it."
Hermione sighed. Same old differences, but now they were sorted into sleeping location. Wonderful. "Where are you?" she asked.
"Me?" Mafalda said. "I room past Griffin's Door, myself. I play football, and most of the team is on the same hall."
Nodding, Hermione sat back a little as the train juddered into a start. There were several more stops throughout the day, and the train filled up bit by bit. Another of Mafalda's friends, a vaguely Italian-looking boy named Nick Abbott, joined their compartment, and everyone got along quite well, Hermione mused. Nick was fourth in the class, and a frequent attendee of Raven Club.
Then, just when Hermione's fear was starting to fade altogether, unpleasantness struck with the smell of cigarette smoke and the sight of jeans that were just ripped enough to look woeful, but just together enough that it was clear that some designer had ripped them. The compartment door slid open, revealing two boys in the opening. The first was tall, slim, and blond, with a casually unpleasant look about his face. The second was a little shorter, a vicious edge to his brown eyes, an odd pin on his plain black t-shirt. Both were impossibly attractive, and it briefly occurred to Hermione that money could indeed buy looks.
"Would you all mind moving?" said the blond. "This compartment has better ventilation than most."
Mafalda shot him an are-you-serious look. "As if," she snorted.
The dark-haired one gave everyone in the compartment a once-over, his hands in his perfectly distressed pockets.
"You should move," the blond one said, and something suddenly appeared in his hand – a small Swiss pocketknife. Hermione eyed it with alarm.
"Oh, give it a rest, Malfoy," sighed Trent, rolling his blue eyes. "The compartment across the hall is exactly the same, and you know it."
Hermione recognized the name. Malfoy. The Malfoys used to handle most of VoldeMart's affairs, including overseas business, like, say, selling jobs to China. Until this year, that was, when apparently there was a bit of a power shift within the ranks of VoldeMart, although the media hadn't really been able to discover much about it. The whole company was annoyingly closed-up about all its affairs. Hermione's lip curled involuntarily in dislike.
"You got a problem?" said a cool voice. Hermione glanced up. The dark-haired one was talking to her.
"No, I don't 'got a problem'," she said coldly.
The two boys in the door exchanged amused glances.
"Hey, don't get so mad, sweetheart," drawled the blond, brushing back his perfect hair. "Nice shoes, by the way."
Hermione looked down at her worn-down boots and swallowed. Here was where it started. This was what she'd expected.
But the dark-haired one intervened, and she didn't really know why. "Lay off, Abraxas. It's not her fault if she doesn't choose to wear shoes worth more than the average house."
Yet there was a tone to that almost-joking sentence that was definitely derogatory, and Hermione picked up on it.
"Yes, Abraxas," Hermione said, lips pursed tight. "Just like it's not your fault that you can't manage to afford any manners."
Zara grinned widely at that, and the rest of the people sitting in the compartment looked amused. Hermione felt a sense of victory.
"What's your name?" asked Abraxas.
"Hermione Granger," Hermione said, looking him in the eye with a lot more confidence than she felt.
"I have a feeling you're going to have an interesting year," Abraxas said calmly. "If I were you, I -"
"Let's go," said the dark-haired one, not seeming to care that he'd interrupted Abraxas. Weirdly, Abraxas didn't seem to mind much either. His mouth closed and he followed the other without complaint.
"Damn, Hermione," said Nick as the door slid shut. "Someone's got a temper."
Hermione sighed and shrank back into her seat, unclenching her fists. She hadn't been planning on letting it get out of hand her first day. At least, not where people could see. "I can't stand prejudice," she said shortly, and crossed her legs, looking out the window once more.
"Malfoy's a pain in the arse," said Bode. "Riddle's not so bad, though. He seems like he'd be all right if he didn't mix in with those idiots down in the Den."
Riddle – the dark one, then. Hermione stored the information away.
"I like their jeans," Zara said dryly, "though I think they'd look better on me, personally." Hermione laughed.
"You definitely have better legs," said Trent, with another sleazy grin.
Mafalda sighed and shook her head with a bounce of the pigtails.
It took a few more hours before the rolling hills ended. The nine-and-three-quarters pulled into a stop at a castle. There was a lake out front, a few tennis courts around back, a football field around the side, and woods off on the opposite side of the school. "Home sweet Hoggy," said Mafalda, reaching up for her trunk. "You'll love it here. Don't let the reputation scare you."
So saying, she yanked her things from the overhead compartment and wheeled them out the door, closely followed by Bode and Abbott. Zara and Hermione trailed after them.
To Hermione's relief, she found that most of her anger had dripped away on the pleasant ride over, to be replaced with curiosity. She, along with the other new students, had to visit the Headmaster's office first.
The Head was a rather infuriating man named Armando Dippet, who managed to talk for twenty minutes and yet give them no information at all. Then he told them to wait a moment, because he had to call a couple of helpers to help orient the new students around the school.
"These are our best and our brightest." Dippet sighed proudly, as if he had birthed them himself, and opened the door with unnecessary dramatic flair. Two people walked in, a girl and a boy. Hermione didn't recognize the girl, although she did recognize the Lilly Pulitzer dress she wore and the Ralph Lauren shoes on her feet. But the boy was familiar. Riddle, from the train compartment, black shirt and ripped jeans flattering on his tall body, looking, if possible, even more utterly bored than before.
"This is Caroline Longbottom," said Dippet, "and Tom Riddle. They are our Head Girl and Head Boy, and second and first in the class, respectively." He gave a gray smile. "Tom, how about you take these two, and Caroline, these two?"
Zara and Hermione were ushered into Riddle's care, while the other new students, an Egyptian-looking pair of twins who looked like they'd be going into first year, were ferried off swiftly by Caroline.
"Goodbye, Tom," said Dippet, with sickening appreciation in his tone.
"Good afternoon, Headmaster," said Riddle, and shut the door behind Zara and Hermione as they left. "Right. I'm supposing that neither of you two has visited. The ones who've been before usually don't go to the Headmaster."
Zara and Hermione both shook their heads.
"Well, then, let's start with the grounds," said Riddle, beckoning them out a wooden side door. "This is the Forbidden Forest. You're not allowed to swim in the lake, either. Some people do anyway, but it's disgusting, so I wouldn't. The tennis courts are in the back. There's a swimming pool for lengths next to the football field, which is also the rugby field, in case either of you... well, you probably wouldn't be rugby players."
Riddle gave them a reserved smile. Hermione found herself agreeing with what Trent had said; Riddle didn't seem that bad.
"Alright," said Riddle. "Let's move onto rooming. There are some doubles and some singles, depending on where you choose your housing."
He led them downstairs. The lights underground were warm fluorescents, making everything seem smooth and dark, and the ceilings hung low over their heads. Riddle led them around a few turns, and then opened a big walnut door. Inside lay a large television, and several black sofas, though most everything seemed to be green. "This is what the students call the Den," he said. "Slither's Den, to be specific. Parties on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, if you have a pass."
Riddle showed them the Great Hall, for meals, and then led them up a huge set of staircases. "On the next floors, it's all classrooms, but up at the top, there are a few towers. Raven Club meets the same days as the Den, but they're a bit more... reserved." A smirk curled the edge of his lip. "Anyway, you can take these lifts, or the stairs," he said, nodding over at the clear glass lifts whose cables were strung up through blank space. It would be like flying to ride those, Hermione mused.
They left the main section of the castle. "This is the side housing," said Riddle, pointing a few hundred yards away, at a small but stately building to the side. "There's a room fondly nicknamed Huff'n'Puff right in the middle, so if you don't fancy your dorm smelling like weed all the time, you might want to room on the outskirts."
Last, Riddle led them around to the tennis courts. Through a large, weathered stone arch, which had a griffin perched at its apex, was a small courtyard. "All these rooms are for the Griffin's Door people. Conveniently close to the courts and fields, if you need easy access to sports."
He nodded, seemed to think for a second, and then turned back to them. "Well, that's pretty much all. Breakfast starts at eight in the morning; class starts at nine. We're out by half-four in the evening. Dinner at half-past seven. If you need anything, the Head Boy and Head Girl rooms are the first doors on the left on the First Floor, right off the lift. Hogwarts is a great place. You'll have a good year."
Then he stuck his hands in his pockets and strolled off. Zara and Hermione watched him go and then turned to each other. "Wow," said Zara. "He's gorgeous. And he's first in the class?"
Hermione nodded. So that was her competition... "He probably gets around. All the attractive ones do."
Zara cast a glance at Riddle's distant back. "Ah, well. I'll bet there are some good guys who aren't utterly out of my league."
Hermione scoffed. "You are completely in that league. Look at you."
Grinning, Zara looked up at the dorms. "You're rooming here, right? Even if you're not much into the sports, these rooms have a great view."
"Yeah. Relaxing. Good for a good bit of homework."
"Homework. Oh, goodness. If you ever have time, I could use a good bit of help with maths..."
Hermione was used to helping people with homework. "Don't even worry about it," she chuckled, and she and Zara pulled their trunks into the Griffin's Door dorms to find Mafalda.
"He's angry," was the whispered rush around the Den. Girls stopped preparing to get his attention, and boys swallowed and slouched down a little lower in the squashy sofas. How was he already in a bad mood? It was the first day of term, for Christ's sake. What could he get angry about?
But they would never voice those thoughts aloud, not as Tom Riddle opened the door and shut it quietly behind him. With a stiff jaw, he looked around the dimly-lit room, and then walked past sofas and congregated students, only a faint suggestion of a frown on his face. He pulled open the door at the back of the room. It connected to a nearly-black chamber, where the only lights were spinning lasers and strobes, where music thudded dangerously. Riddle glanced around. Around one of the round wooden tables sat several boys, and he made his way over to them.
They slowly looked up, dread evident on a few of their faces, turned chaotic by the spiraling lights. He stood with his thumbs hooked into the frayed loops of his dark jeans, practically-black eyes moving from person to person. "I'd like to know why the numbers are like they are," he said, his voice hardly traveling over the music, "and that doesn't mean I want to hear your excuses. I'd like to know what you're doing to fix them. I'd like to know why the shareholders are angry. I'd like to know what the issue is, and why there is something that is out of my control. I'd like to know by eight o'clock."
He turned on his heel and left the boys behind him in utter silence. His hand made its way through his feathered dark hair, his other hand absentmindedly flicking the Head Boy pin on his soft t-shirt. This was not a good way to start the year, or to end the fiscal year. There was no adequate explanation as to why everyone in the world seemed to have problems with simple economics except for him. This was hardly rocket science. He wasn't asking them to make a time machine, for God's sake. He wasn't asking them to smuggle cocaine into a nursery; he wasn't asking them to bomb Big Ben; he wasn't asking them to fix global warming. They had everything they needed, so why was he the only one who seemed to be able to do anything right?
Something twitched in Riddle's mouth as he made his way back into the lounge of the Den. The effort he was exerting to keep himself some semblance of reserved was utterly lost on the cretins of Hogwarts. They were probably worrying about classes, probably worrying about social lives and passes to the Den and who had the newest designer wardrobe, all this petty stuff that couldn't matter less. He was trying to run a worldwide corporation, and he would graduate as valedictorian and then go public as the inherited CEO – a perfect mark to start a perfect record on what would be a perfect life, even if all the morons around him were apparently determined to ruin it.
He lurked around the back, where a few kids were lighting up. Picking up a silver lighter, Riddle lit a piece of paper on fire in his hand, watched it reddening and curling and blackening, watched the singing orange edges of it approach his hand. Then he dropped it to the stone floor and crushed it with his heel.
He lit himself a cigarette, threw himself into a sofa, and kneaded his forehead, letting out a tired sigh. There would be time for all this worrying later. It was the first day of the school year; he didn't want to get off on a bad foot.
"Hey, Tom," said a voice. Two pretty girls sat down next to him. He looked over at them with an appreciative eye.
"How was your summer, then?" asked one of them, a blonde, stretching out her long, tan legs.
He let his eyes wander away from them to the blaring television. "Fine."
The redhead played with her hair. "Better make the most of your last year," she said, and her glossed lips smiled.
"Of course," Riddle said, a confident smirk making its way onto his mouth. "I don't doubt I will."
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