I'm back and in time, too! Thank you for the warm welcome back, seriously.

Standard disclaimer: don't own it, am not making money and please bow down to the Queen, JKR.

Shout out to the darling Serpent In Red ;) for being the first to review chapter 15 – so the first to welcome me back from my dark abyss! If it wasn't for Serp, I wouldn't even be into Tomione in the first place! This one is a smartie pants and class act to boot xo

XXX

Don't rest with the less

I'm burning to impress

It's deep in the middle of me

I can be fantasy

Fantasy – The xx

XXX

Tom took his time walking up to the house of Hepzibah Smith; his mind still occupied with Granger and their project.

It had been a week since Granger had broken his tracking spell and there had been no word from Phineas Black, allegedly. Tom wasn't too worried; he had put a tracking charm on a necklace that she never seemed to take off the other night whilst she was asleep. He knew she was at the shop right now, and hadn't really ventured out since that night. Of course, outside of work hours, Tom made sure that he was often around – driving her crazy and amusing him to no end.

As he reached the entrance to the old mansion the doors slowly creaked open and Tom adopted an expression of calm. Hepzibah's elf, Hokey, which looked like it was on death's door itself, was standing there waiting.

"Hello, Master Riddle. Mistress says you is to wait in the tea room."

Tom spared the elf a brief glance as he proceeded to remove his coat and hand it to the decrepit thing before heading into the tea room.

Of course, Hepzibah was already sitting there in hideous canary yellow robes. Her bright orange wig was styled in an elaborate twist, covered in jewelled hair clips – no doubt real jewels.

"Ah, Tom, such a wonderful surprise!" she squealed.

Tom wished he could roll his eyes. It wasn't a surprise to see him at all. The old bag had been in the shop the day before boasting to Burke about some Goblin-made Armour she supposedly owned whilst not so discreetly glancing at Tom in the process. Of course he would be expected to attend her monstrosity of a mansion the next day.

"Hello, Ms Smith. Wonderful to see you, as usual," Tom politely greeted and kissed her hand. He was amused at her blush … this deal will almost be too easy.

"Would you like a cup of tea? Scone?" she offered once he had sat down.

"Tea would be lovely, thank you." Tom undid the button on his jacket and made himself comfortable on the chair.

"How do you take it?" she asked before turning her body awkwardly towards the door. "Hokey, get here and make Mr Riddle's tea." Tom noted the way her tone changed between himself and the Elf. "Don't want to ruin my robes," she said and then giggled inanely, almost as bad as some of the girls he went to school with.

"White with two," he ordered the Elf. "No, they look brand new," he complimented.

"Yes. All the way from India," she tittered.

"The colour is very becoming," Tom replied, bringing the tea cup up to his lips.

Her flush at Tom's simple compliment was predictable. He knew women like this were easy … they were desperately lonely and dying for attention. The picture was further painted by her boastful nature and obsession with material possessions. She desired validation - his validation - above all else.

Even so, he didn't just throw his words around carelessly. With women like Hepzibah Smith, he always made sure that his compliments weren't over the top – to not risk being insincere – but just enough for her to be flattered.

"Custom-made at Madame Malkins, of course," she simpered in response to his compliment.

"It's hard to see such individuality now. Everyone seems to want to wear the same thing," Tom replied and watched as her smile broadened. He was pretty sure that cracks appeared in the heavy coat of make-up that adorned her face.

"I appreciate good quality," she replied proudly, leaning toward him. The bright spots of rouge on her round cheeks seemed to brighten even more, if possible.

"Yes, and it shows," he replied, gesturing to the room crammed with antiques. He could almost smell the wealth – and not in a good way.

"Which is, of course, why I wanted you to visit," she replied. "You simply must see this armour. But first we will enjoy afternoon tea."

"I look forward to seeing it," Tom replied with false sincerity as the woman continued to titter on about the value of it and the other antiques in the room. It wouldn't be the first time he had seen this type of armour before, even if it was valuable. It was of no use to him, except for the commission he would earn from it.

One step closer to getting out of here, he thought. Immediately, Granger's face came to mind. She thought she would be going home soon. Tom's hand reflexively tightened on the tea cup he was holding. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he tried to put his attention back on the woman in front of him. However, Hepzibah's voice was suddenly too grating … His irritation only grew, and he nodded at some useless gossip she was reiterating while inside he was fuming.

He needed to know how he and Hermione were linked. Preferably soon. But then what? Would Granger go back to her own time? A feeling akin only to what he imagined claustrophobia to be invaded him.

He'd given her far too much freedom. It wasn't that he felt he'd let his wand drop, or anything. They were intrinsically linked, meaning he had to treat her as a somewhat equal.

That may have to change.

"—of course she thinks that her antiques are more valuable." Hepzibah's now-snide tone brought him out of his thoughts.

Tom knew she was complaining about one of her so-called society friends. They were all so predictable. Tom found it rather boring.

"Mrs Vanguard has quite a potion collection, I hear."

"Potions, rubbish! She is all talk, Tom. Delusions of grandeur, I'm afraid. She hasn't been the same since William went off to fight with Grindelwald."

"Some of those potions are extremely rare. She sold a set to Burke just last month that is from central Africa. Worth at least two thousand Galleons."

"Pfft. That's nothing. She doesn't own any ancient Wizard World artefacts."

"Oh, and you do?" His question didn't sound unkind out loud. In his mind, however …

"Well …" She blushed and pulled out her wand, summoning a small, gold-plated antique chest. Tom had seen these chests before. It looked like teak, and had various types of dragons carved into it. The chest itself was of significant value, however Tom's curiosity was now peaked as to its contents.

"Can you keep a secret, Tom? Will you promise you won't tell Mr Burke I've got it? He'd never let me rest if he knew I'd shown it to you, and I'm not selling, not to Burke, not to anyone!"

Tom was surprised at the normally docile woman's reaction, but nodded his ascent regardless.

He watched as she opened the chest and pulled a small velvet bag out. She undid the drawstring on the bag and carefully pulled the item out. Tom studied it carefully, his heart rate increasing as realisation dawned.

It was a small golden cup with two finely-wrought handles with a badger engraved on one side with a number of jewels.

"Is that …" Tom breathed.

"Yes, it is," she replied to his unasked question immediately. "Been in my family for generations … In fact, it's said that the Smiths descend straight from Helga Hufflepuff herself!"

She handed the cup to Tom and as his fingers wrapped around it, he felt what could only be described as warmth flow through his fingers and into his hands. It was magic, he knew that much. Very special magic.

"Does Hogwarts know that you own this?" he asked.

"Merlin no!" Hepzibah looked slightly aghast. "And neither do my money-grubbing family members. And they never will," she said resolutely, as she took the cup back and placed it into the bag.

"It's amazing; I'm honoured you deemed me worthy to see it," Tom said pleasantly. However, inside, his mind was whirling – he needed that cup.

"Of course, dear!" she replied, sipping from her cup. "Of course, I have something just as special that keeps Helga's cup company – though Mr Burke knows all about it, as I paid a pretty galleon for it."

"Oh?" Tom asked.

"You were a Slytherin, weren't you, Tom?" she asked instead.

"Why, yes, I was." Get to the point.

"You will appreciate this, then." Her tone was smug and proud. Slowly she pulled a much smaller velvet pouch out from the chest. When she pulled it open, Tom's eyes followed as some jewellery fell into the palm of her hand. She quickly unfurled it and Tom suddenly had to physically restrain himself from jumping across the tea table to snatch it.

"Slytherin's locket," she announced proudly as it innocently swung on her pudgy index finger.

"May I?" Tom asked, his eyes trained on the locket.

"Of course," she replied and preceded to hand it to him.

For Tom, it felt as if it was all happening in slow motion. When he finally held the locket in his hands, he felt the full significance of it, despite its modest weight and simple design. He stared down at it, at the small 'S' inlaid in glittering, green stones; serpentine in its design …

This was his heritage, right here. His birthright. This rightfully belonged to him!

Suddenly, a wave of fury crashed through him as he studied the locket. This was his, and it was in the hands of someone so … so undeserving.

"It's a … it's quite amazing, isn't it?" Hepzibah's voice, which sounded quite far away and weak in that very moment, interrupted his hateful and vengeful thoughts.

"Yes …" Tom answered.

His mind whirled. This was meant to happen. He was meant to find his locket. It would be in his possession again … soon, and everything else; the cup, and the mystery surrounding himself and Hermione, were also somehow linked, he was sure. She was for him, just like the locket and the cup were. And he would get to the bottom of it, no matter what.

The fates were aligning.

XXX

"How's Minnie?" Tarquin asked as they stacked shelves.

Hermione sighed; worry tinging her already-sour mood. "She's still not awake … I'm really worried, Tarquin."

"I thought the Healers said she would have been awake days ago?"

"They did. I guess no one suspected that Malfoy would be so proficient."

Tarquin shook his head. "Just disgraceful. Have you heard if he's being charged?"

"Well, I should bloody-well hope he is," Hermione muttered.

"Aurors have actually just laid charges this morning."

Hermione spun around in shock and was greeted by the sight of Phineas leaning casually against the shelves.

Hiding her shock at his sudden presence, walked over to him. "So he'll actually get in trouble?"

Phineas stood up straight shrugged slightly. "He's only just been charged … there's no telling the outcome – especially with a family that powerful. But let's just say that after all the shit with Grindelwald, the Ministry does not want to look foolish when dealing with crimes against muggleborns."

"They should always take those crimes seriously," Tarquin chipped in, looking offended.

"Agreed, and whilst your idealism is admirable, young man, let's just say that the Malfoys have always held a lot of sway. I've seen that family get away with a lot worse," Phineas replied.

Hermione huffed, all too familiar with the Malfoys and their power. Phineas's attention moved back to her. "We need to talk," he demanded.

Her gaze briefly fell to Tarquin, whose eyebrows rose in surprise at Phineas's demanding tone. Tarquin gave her a not-so-secret 'are you gonna be alright with this bloke?' look. Hermione nodded and gave him a small smile.

"Right, well, books look stacked quite well …" Tarquin muttered before gesturing to the front of the shop. "I'll just be out the front if you need me, okay?"

"Thank you, Tarquin. Can you let me know if anyone arrives for me, please? We'll be in the back office." Since Riddle had been, well, always around, recently, Hermione had installed a type of notification system in the shop. That is, if Tarquin saw Tom enter the store, he'd charm some fishing wire that ran from the front of the shop to the back office, where a small bell would chime, alerting Hermione to the joy that was Riddle gracing her with his ever-illustrious presence.

"Sure thing, Hermione," Tarquin smiled, and left.

Hermione turned her attention to Hermione. "Come on," he ordered, already heading towards the back of the store.

Hermione rolled her eyes, having to practically run to keep up with him. Once they made it into the back office area, Phineas shut the door and proceeded to wave his wand around the room, casting a temporary ward.

Pulling some papers out of his robe, he laid them carefully out on the desk and Hermione noted the photographs attached.

"It took some time, and some serious favours, but here are all the women from the list. I also managed to get their Ministry records, too. I actually came straight from there, so I haven't read them all yet," he muttered.

Hermione quickly walked over to the desk. Here were Tom Riddle's ancestors … well, the women, anyway. Hermione felt like this was really significant, in a weird way. Riddle was always so secretive; of course, even getting the list of family members was like getting blood out of stone. But because he saw it as a benefit he eventually complied. Also, there was the small thing that he had already forced his way into her mind, and she wondered if that was another reason as to why he never seemed to ever offer anything personal – well, Hermione ignored the sexual things that immediately came to mind, as he seemed to be quite vocal in that area – but she felt like they both understood each other … in the way that you could understand someone like that, anyway.

"Recognise any?" Phineas asked, breaking her out of her thoughts and causing her to startle slightly.

"Sorry, just looking," she replied somewhat awkwardly. Get it together, Granger.

She quickly scanned each picture and recognised the woman straight away. "There!" she exclaimed, pointing at the grainy picture of the familiar, plain, brunette woman who had appeared to her in the veil.

Hermione quickly snatched the picture and paperwork off the desk.

"Eurydice Macmillan," she muttered.

"Familiar name?" Phineas asked.

"Well … I actually went to Hogwarts with a Macmillan, but other than that, no familiarity at all."

Phineas moved and stood closely behind Hermione, reading the details over her shoulder.

"Well, I don't know where to start …" he muttered in annoyance.

Hermione flicked the paper over to read the next page. Her eyes automatically zeroed in on what was the most important detail of all.

"Phineas, look!" she exclaimed.

Engaged to Cadmus Peverall.

"What? As in the 'The Tale of the Three Brothers'?"

"Yes!"

"Wait, wasn't that just a fairy-tale? And which one was Cadmus again?"

"No, it's not! And Cadmus was the one who had the resurrection stone!"

"What? How do you know all this?"

"Trust me when I say that I think I have earned a bloody PhD on the topic," Hermione replied, unable to stop the genuine laugh bubbling forth as she was immediately immersed in memories of Dumbledore's book … as well as her friends.

"Okay," Phineas replied, still not sounding fully convinced. "Do you know what this has to do with Riddle?"

Hermione took a deep breath. A myriad of emotions were within her, yet the most prominent was a sense of relief, as well as fear. If Hermione's hunch was right (which, let's be honest, they often were), it meant she needed the ring.

She sighed and turned to look at Phineas. "Everything, Phineas. It means everything."

XXX

AN: We have Euridyce! Please, if you are interested, look up the etymology of that name. I was very specific when I chose it. What are your theories now?

Are some of you surprised that Tom seems to be slipping with regards to Hermione interacting with Phineas? Don't worry, he's just getting arrogant - not surprising canon behaviour for Voldemort.

Tom's interaction with Hepzibah: some quotes are referenced directly from the books. Specifically, when Hepzibah showed Tom the Cup, and the descriptions of the Cup and locket is from HP Wiki.

Of course, I have taken liberties with things because, like, fanfic.

I wasn't going to include a Tom point of view in this chapter as Hermione's voice is admittedly stronger right now. Thank you, AwesomePersonlolxx and HelloIamGracie for reminding me of how important Tom's voice is. Kind of glad I did too.

See you all next month.

Cheers,

Shan84