A/N: This is the last of the oneshots in this series. It's probably quite important that you read all the others, or the references will be lost on you. The order is as follows: On Three, Wait for the Song to Stop, Women, Promises, Not On Three. I hope you've enjoyed this sprawling, haphazardly written series, and I hope you enjoy this final piece of the jigsaw. Thanks to those of you who reviewed Women (and the others, of course). No doubt I'll find some other way to get my Tom fix soon enough.
Not On Three.
She felt numb. The jets of light flashing around her didn't even make her blink, nor did the screams or the bangs or the thunderous noise of the castle falling to pieces around them.
All she could see was him.
He was duelling three professors at once, and he was winning. Slughorn looked like he might have a heart attack at the sheer amount of energy he was expending, just to stay alive.
A casual wave of the Elder Wand sent them scattering across the floor, and his red eyes came to rest on her.
"Tom." Harry had appeared out of nowhere - though 'nowhere' was probably 'from under the cloak'. Somehow he was alive and the mere sight of him walking, talking, breathing, filled Hermione's heart with a hope that had vanished in an instant when she had seen Hagrid carrying him from the forest, limp, pale and lifeless.
"Come to finish me off, have you, Potter?"
"There is another way out of this. You could try and feel some remorse."
"Potter, you are foolish. You clearly underestimate my power. Instead, I wish to duel."
Harry raised his wand, but Voldemort shook his head.
"Not you. Hermione."
There was a collective intake of breath and Hermione's blood froze in her veins, though her heart continued to pound steadily louder. Harry turned to look at her quizzically.
"What do you want to duel Hermione for?"
"Old time's sake," his lipless mouth curved into a smirk and Hermione's throat burned, stomach acid rising through nerves, fear, and the knowledge that certain death was only moments away.
She was a Gryffindor however, and she would not beg him for mercy. She would go down fighting, as she had been prepared to do from day one, as she had been prepared to do when she followed Harry down the trapdoor in her first year.
She thought briefly of her parents, then remembered that they couldn't miss something that they didn't know they had, and stepped forward.
"Hermione -" Harry didn't have any words to follow it up with, but she simply gazed at him for a few moments before turning to face him.
He smirked, wand raised. She raised her own.
"On three?" he asked.
Her answer was provided with a forceful Stinging Hex that shot towards him in a turquoise bolt of light.
No, Tom. Not on three. Right now. This is real life, not the classroom.
He blocked it easily and chuckled.
"You really should have been in Slytherin you know."
Confidence filled her, though everyone heard the slight shake in her voice as she spoke. "And I already told you that having a moral compass makes me ineligible for joining Slytherin house."
He smirked again, then faster than she thought was humanly possible, he whipped his wand through the air. Sparks showered down on her, burning everything they came into contact with. Her Shield Charm was a little too late, however, and she wrinkled her nose at the smell of singed hair. Once the sparks faded to nothing, she let the charm drop.
"Your turn," he said, gesturing politely to her, as though they were merely engaging in a game of Scrabble.
"Hermione, what's -"
"Do be quiet, Potter. Hermione and I are...reminiscing." Voldemort's red eyes sparkled, his wand half raised as he waited for Hermione to take her turn.
"What's the matter? If you're waiting for the right moment, I'm afraid you'll be waiting a very long time."
"I'm not going to beat you," she said quietly. "You're just teasing. If you're going to kill me, just get it over with. I'm not going to indulge you."
"Kill you? My my, that is an idea."
"No!" Ron shouted, and a flick of Voldemort's wand silenced him and bound him in thick black ropes so he couldn't move a muscle.
"Why do you think I would want to kill you?" Voldemort asked, his wand twirling in between his long, pale fingers.
"You want to kill everyone...people's life spans are determined by how much use you can get out of them."
"I'm not going to kill you."
"Of course not," Hermione spat. She had had enough of him. Had enough of his games, had enough of his attempts to control her. She was not his puppet. She was not going to duel him for his own amusement. If he wanted to kill her then he would, there was no doubt about it. She was still a teenager, he had fifty years of experience on her. She wasn't giving up, as such, just accepting the inevitable.
"You used to be fun," he almost sounded disappointed, let down, but Hermione knew it was an act. He wasn't Tom. Wasn't even close, and even Tom would struggle with the concept of disappointment.
"I have friends lying dead on the house tables. You'll have to excuse my lack of fun today."
"You never used to care."
"I didn't have any friends you could hurt back then."
"But you knew I'd hurt them one day."
"Maybe I was stupid enough to think you could change."
"That would be stupid," he paused, smirked, and reached into the pocket of his robes. "Though on the subject of change."
He took out a small flask from his pocket, uncapped it, and swallowed the contents. Everyone in the great hall watched in stunned silence as his skin bubbled and jet black hair shot out of his head. His nose grew as his body shrunk, a little in height, a lot in breadth. His fingers seemed to shoot back into his hands until they were only a little longer than average, and his flesh was now just pale instead of colourless.
He looked at her with dark eyes, and smirked at her with full lips.
His smirk broadened. "Does this make it easier?" He approached her, and Hermione stepped back, folding her arms, not wanting to meet his eye. She didn't want him to see inside her head.
"Leave her alone, Tom."
"Oh Harry, if only you knew what Hermione and I got up to, back in my day."
"Don't say that so sinisterly," Hermione hissed. "We didn't get up to anything."
"What did you get up to?" Harry demanded.
"All sorts," Tom smirked, and he linked one hand with Hermione's, placing the other on her waist and moving her firmly from side to side, dancing to non-existent music. "She attended the graduation ball with me you know."
"Liar," Harry said darkly.
"I'm not lying, am I Hermione?"
She tried to pull away from him but his grip on her was strong, his fingertips pressing into her waist so hard that she was sure she'd find bruises there later. If there was a later, that was.
"Hermione, tell Harry that I'm not lying." Tom's voice was quiet, but there was an edge to it that she was not used to, an edge which didn't suit the Tom that she had danced with all those years ago. It was an edge that belonged to Lord Voldemort.
"We even had a little dance at your graduation ball, Harry. And she didn't tell a soul I was there...how do you like that? Hermione Granger having secret liaisons with Lord Voldemort."
Hermione felt her skin burn with humiliation as whispers and mutterings broke out all over the hall.
"Let her go, Tom." Harry's voice had reached a new level of severity, but Hermione could sense that Tom was smirking in spite of it. She kept her eyes focused on his chest, pretending that the black robes belonged to someone else, that she was somewhere else, far far away from the great hall and all their onlookers.
"I'm not sure she wants me to let her go."
Hermione frowned, and then realised that yes, Harry was right, she was crying. Tom scowled at her.
"What are you doing that for?"
She yanked herself away from him and his grip on her was broken. Hermione took several steps back, rolling her wand in her hand, as though she was warming it up, ready for action.
"Oh that's more like it," Tom's gaze met hers and he took a step back, narrowing his eyes slightly, anticipating her next move.
Hermione began to shoot hexes at him, not even thinking about them, just firing jet after jet of coloured light in his direction, not stopping to let him have a turn. He blocked them all easily, a smirk on his face, but then Hermione shot two spells at him in quick succession. He only had time to parry the first, and the powerful Stinging Hex, caught him on the elbow. He cried out, and his expression darkened, and soon it was Hermione who was having to block curses and jinxes, with no time spare to send any back at him. He had not gone so far as Unforgivables, not yet, and she wondered how long it would be before she was having to duck out of the way of fatal green jets of light.
She blocked another hex, and tried to send a Body Bind Curse his way. He deflected it easily, but in the moment Hermione had been concentrating on attacking, rather than defending, he had managed to hit his target.
An odd, light sensation had enveloped her, as though she were floating among the clouds. She felt happy, much happier than she had felt in a long time. She felt at ease.
"Come here, Hermione."
The voice was soft, welcoming, and Hermione looked up to see Tom's dark eyes, watching her intently. He beckoned with one, long finger, and she found that her feet were transporting her towards him.
"Hermione no!" the voice was distant, and unimportant. Tom raised his wand and fired a spell, but Hermione didn't turn to see the consequences - they weren't of any interest to her.
It was only Tom that mattered.
He touched the side of her face gently, the back of his fingers trailing softly along her cheek, and Hermione waited patiently for instructions.
"She was starting to tire me out, Harry," Tom said, but Hermione had no idea who he was talking to. She didn't much care, though she was a little jealous that his attention was being directed at somebody other than herself. She turned around, and saw a dark haired boy on the floor, bound with thick, black ropes, his red haired friend also similarly restrained. They were familiar to her somehow, as though she had seen a picture of them in a book a long time ago.
"Hermione! It's the Imperius Curse!" the black haired boy yelled. "You have to throw it off, you can do it! Don't do what he says!"
"But I want to do what he says," Hermione told him simply, and there was a smile forming on her face. "Tom's a wonderful dancer, did you know?"
The boy's face twitched, his bright green eyes filled with sorrow. He shook his head softly. "Please Hermione, you can do it. I know you can."
Hermione was bored of the boy now, and so she turned back to Tom, who was smirking.
"Hermione," he said, "Why don't you show him what we got up to in the kitchens, all those years ago."
"I haven't got any vol-au-vents," Hermione replied. "I'll ask one of the house elves if -" she had started to walk away, but Tom caught her by the arm.
"After the vol-au-vents, in the classroom," he said softly. "I'm sure you remember."
"I do," she replied, "But Tom, it wasn't me who did it. You did it."
"Well, show them what I did then. Show them what you enjoyed."
A little heat rose in Hermione's cheeks, but she didn't worry about that. Instead, she moved closer to Tom, placed her hand on his jaw, and gently pulled his head down until their lips met.
And here, all of her brain processes stopped.
But then he pulled away, and they started up again. Some of them, at least.
"Leave her alone you bastard!"
Hermione blinked and turned to see that same dark haired boy yelling at Tom, while the red head's face crumpled, as though he'd seen something quite terrible.
"Be quiet Potter." One lazy flick of Tom's wand silenced the boy, and Hermione was quite glad of it. He was beginning to get rather irritating, interjecting his opinion at every opportunity, and never at a reasonable volume.
"Give me your wand, Hermione."
Tom held out a long fingered hand, and for the first time, Hermione's insides squirmed. She couldn't quite put her finger on the reason, but something felt wrong. She looked at the boy on the floor, his emerald eyes bulging in panic as he shook his head fiercely.
Why would Tom want to take her wand? He had his own wand which worked perfectly well for him, so he couldn't wish to borrow her wand for his own use. He simply wished to take hers from her. Even with the dreamlike, peaceful state she found herself in, she realised that these were two very different things, and it was the difference that was important.
"Why do you want my wand?"
"I'd like to look after it for you," he said, his dark eyes boring into her own. Hermione's hand moved to give him the wand, but only an inch, for she felt herself jerk it away from him, without even thinking about it. Again, oblivious to the brain process that was causing it to happen, Hermione took a step back, away from Tom.
"I need to keep my wand. Otherwise I can't protect myself."
"I'll protect you."
"Who says I need protecting?" she felt a rush of anger and indignation flare in her veins. She had always looked after herself, she had prided herself on it. She didn't need a man to protect her from anything, all she needed was her wand, and she wasn't going to give that up.
Not even to Tom.
"Hermione, give me your wand." Tom's voice was harder now, and Hermione was much less inclined to do as he asked. He hadn't even said please.
"No," she said quietly.
"I beg your pardon?"
"No," her voice was stronger now, and the weightless sensation in her body was starting to evaporate. "No."
Hermione shook her head and took another step away as the feeling of ease began to build again, but she stuck to her guns. She was Hermione Granger, she was far too stubborn for this. And Tom...he wasn't really Tom, he was Lord Voldemort, disguised by Polyjuice Potion as his younger, more innocent (relatively) self.
This man had killed hundreds of people.
She looked down at the wand hanging limply in her hand, and raised it.
"Hermione..." the was an edge to his voice, warning her not to do what she was about to do.
"Give me your -"
He had said the word at the exact same moment that a different one had popped into Hermione's head.
Hermione's mind cleared completely as soon as she saw the wand drop from his hand. Blood began to seep from his chest, soaking his robes in seconds. He fell to the floor, reaching for his wand, fingers twitching desperately, but it had rolled away to where Harry was, tied up on the floor, Ron next to him, both staring in horror as blood started to pool around Tom Riddle's body.
Her own wand fell from her grip and landed on the flagstone floor with a clatter. She didn't know what to do. He was going to die if she didn't do something, and she would be the one who killed him. Hermione rushed forward, her head thick with fog as she pulled off her jacket and pressed it against the wound in his chest, trying to stem the flow of blood.
"What are you doing?" Tom rasped.
She didn't know. All she knew was that she had never meant for him to die.
But he's Lord Voldemort, her brain argued.
But he's Tom.
He chuckled softly, and Hermione blinked, looking down at his face, paler than she had ever seen it.
"What's so funny?" she asked thickly.
"Hermione Granger," he said, his voice weak, though his dark eyes still sparkled darkly with intelligence. "Crying over the Dark Lord."
"I'm not cr-" she stopped talking when he reached his hand up to her face wiping away a tear. He balanced the droplet on the tip of his thumb and showed it to her.
Hermione sniffed, trying to stop the flow of unwanted tears. She didn't even know why she was upset. He was a murderer.
But now so was she.
"Will you be joining in the celebrations?"
"Well, I'm going to die, sooner rather than later, it appears, and they've all wanted that for a very long time. I don't doubt there'll be a party."
"Are you scared? Of dying?"
Dumbledore had always told Harry (and Harry had told Hermione and Ron) that Voldemort was terrified of death - his six horcruxes had proved that. But here he was, laying on the floor of the great hall, seemingly quite at ease with the situation.
"I would have had to kill you eventually...or at least seriously injure you. I never wanted to do that."
"What are you saying?" Another tear trickled down Hermione's face, and dropped onto the front of Tom's slashed robes, diffusing amongst the blood.
"Not that I love you, if that's what you were thinking, you silly girl."
She had thought it, just for a second.
He had used the Imperius Curse to get her to kiss him, after all.
Only to humiliate you. Only to goad Harry and Ron.
"Then what?" she asked, ignoring her brain.
He smirked, reaching up a bloody finger to wrap a lock of her hair around it softly. His eyes were fixed on the action for a few seconds, but then, his strength diminishing, his hand fell softly onto his chest, where Hermione was still pressing her jacket against his wound. His long fingers wrapped around her wrist, tugging her hands away.
She was just drawing it out. Delaying the inevitable.
She let go of the jacket, but her hands remained on his chest, his grip on her wrist growing looser and looser.
"You beat me," he whispered.
"Again," Hermione choked.
Another tear splashed onto his chest, and the very edge of his mouth curved into a weak smirk.
And then the sparkle vanished from his eyes, and there was the faintest of groans as his last breath left his body.
Hermione looked down at him, trying to ignore the onslaught of tears threatening to overcome her, though she still did not know why. All she knew was the emptiness that filled her, and she wondered whether that was the feeling of her soul breaking into two. She had expected something more excruciating, though this dead, weighty feeling that filled her lungs and her heart was worse than anything the Cruciatus Curse could ever have caused her to feel.
She extracted her arm from his slackened grip, brushed his eyelids shut with her hand, and stood up, her jeans sodden with blood, her arms covered in scarlet.
She left the great hall, people parting silently for her, regarding her warily as she passed.
She didn't stop to look at Harry and Ron.
She didn't even stop to pick up her wand.