Disclaimer in chapter one

A/N: Hello, my dear Tomione friends. Another chapter, and this time with a bit of Tom's POV :)

I was floored by all the wonderful reviews for last chapter. You people are the best! XD And I'm glad so many of you seemed to like Hermione's rebellious side in last chapter. Believe me, I have waited a long time to finally be able to let her step out of her timid behaviour towards Tom ;)

Thank you all for reading this fic and special thanks to those who left me a review!

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Chapter Twenty Four: Shadowy Lips

Tom stared at the girl by his side, not knowing what to make of this situation. Currently, they were sitting by the Great Lake. Hermione busied herself with throwing pieces of bread into the water to feed the ducks that greedily fished for the crumbs. A happy smile curled her lips as she watched the birds. Hermione hadn't smiled or even slightly relaxed in his presence for a long time, actually, ever since he had thrown the Torture Curse at her.


Tom blinked at the crumbs of bread Hermione was offering him. Her smile even widened as she spotted the confusion on his face.

"You have to feed them, too."

Instantly, Tom glowered at the offending bread and then at Hermione. "Certainly not."

Hermione simply laughed at his sharp reply. Another change, Tom noted. Despite him being annoyed, she didn't seem to care overly much and cheerfully continued to feed the ducks. The shift in their relationship couldn't be more obvious. The Mudblood seemed to have shed her fear of him. Tom counted that as a win. During the last few days, he had learned that Hermione's loyalty – unlike his Knights' – could not be ensured by making her fear him. It only made her antagonize him.

Nevertheless, Hermione's rebellious behaviour – which had culminated in their duel yesterday – still displeased Tom. Hermione was his Mudblood and had had no right to force that ridiculous choice on him. Hermione or Penny, Fake Pureblood or Mudblood slave.

It had never been a real choice. Tom had been forced to release her. At least for now… What was his alternative? If Tom had chosen Penny, the Mudblood would have failed to maintain the act of 'Hermione Rookwood'. After all she had already struggled these past days. She would have completely reverted back to Penny, the slave girl, and stopped taking Polyjuice.

The problem was, Tom could not be associated with Penny. Not after Umbridge had seen her face. The theft of Slytherin's Locket would have caught up with him. No, if Tom wanted to keep Hermione and her impressive magic, she needed to stay disguised as Hermione Rookwood.

He glanced at the girl in question. By now Hermione had exhausted her stock of bread crumbs and the ducks slowly paddled away.

"Tom?" Her dark brown eyes wandered to him and scanned him searchingly. "You know, I've been thinking… and… I'm not going to quit DADA."

Tom's immediate reaction was to snap at her. Already his magic bristled in anger. Before he opened his mouth, though, he spotted a guarded look on her face. Her body was tense, as if bracing herself for something. Hermione was testing him, wasn't she? Tom knew he couldn't slip up. Not so soon after his promise. It would only serve to distance her from him again. With force, Tom pulled his incensed magic back and hid it away where it could not touch the bond that chained Hermione to him.

"I'm not very happy with that," he replied in a tightly controlled voice. "But if that's what you wish, I suppose it's your decision."

His forced admission was rewarded by the smile slipping back on Hermione's face. She slid closer to him on the grassy ground. Tom tensed as she cautiously leaned into his side. After his initial surprise, he quickly used his chance and draped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her in closer. Hermione didn't seem to mind.

Tom wasn't sure if he might be going too far too soon, but he raised a hand, put two fingers under her chin and gently tilted her head up. Hermione blinked up at him, a wary expression crossing her face. There was no fear, though, nor any signs that she would try to run again. Slowly, Tom bent down to her. As she still didn't flinch away, he pressed his lips over hers. A shudder ran through her body, but she didn't pull away. Tom took that as an invitation and moved his lips against hers. Gingerly, he nibbled at her fat lower lip. A wave of hot desire shot through Tom as Hermione's lips moved under his, tentatively returning the kiss. He instantly wanted to push her down on the ground and rip her clothes from her body. He didn't care at all that they might be seen from the castle; his body demanded to take her right here. He held himself back, though. For now, he didn't even deepen the kiss.

After a moment, he reluctantly ended the kiss. Hermione looked up at him, her enticing lips swollen and red. Tom breathed in deeply, trying to control himself. A smile curled Hermione's mouth. Then she nestled closer against him and laid her head against his chest.

And Tom was content in knowing that she was still his.


The day after her duel with Tom, Hermione felt ridiculously happy. After all this time of living in fear and uncertainty, it was as if all colours had flowed back into her life, painting her world in vivid shades. Hermione was in high spirits as she entered the DADA classroom. Her smile widened as she spotted Lupin, preparing the trainings hall for his next class. It was the first time since her trip to the barracks that she saw the werewolf.

Upon her entry, Lupin looked up. He grinned as he recognized her. "Hermione. Early again, I see."

She nodded, smiling at him brightly. "I had nothing better to do."

"Well, it's nice to be appreciated," Lupin replied dryly.

A blush coloured Hermione's cheeks. "That's not how I meant it. I really like talking with you."

Lupin laughed good-naturedly. Then he cocked an inquisitive eyebrow, scanning Hermione through his yellow eyes. "So…? What happened with you and your crazy boyfriend?"

"Everything's fine," Hermione told her teacher happily. "Tom and me, we talked. And now, we're fine."

"Uh-hu," said Lupin sceptically. "Because Riddle's such an understanding person."

Hermione shrugged her shoulders. She was still surprised herself that everything had worked out.

"You're alright, though?" the werewolf asked, concern having replaced the sarcasm in his voice. "After he dragged you from the barracks, Riddle didn't hurt you, did he? I know this is a difficult situation for you, but if it's too much… I just need to tell Sirius; he can get you out of here. We can hide you. It's rea-"

"No." Hermione smiled at him and shook her head. "I'm fine. Really. Tom didn't hurt me." At Lupin's doubtful look, she admitted, "Okay. He was angry. But he got over it."

Lupin cocked an eyebrow. "And how exactly did he 'get over it'?"

There was still worry visible all over the man's face and Hermione knew he was probably imagining all kinds of scenarios of Tom cursing her. Hermione couldn't help but laugh. As Lupin furrowed his brow, she grinned up at him.

"I actually followed your advice."

"My advice…?" he echoed in confusion.

Hermione nodded. "Yes. You told me to curse Tom."

Lupin's eyes widened in surprise. "You did what?"

Chuckling slightly, Hermione gestured at the wall of the trainings hall. There was a deep crack, the surrounding stone blackened.

"We duelled," she told Lupin amusedly.

"Shit." Lupin stared at the damage in the wall. "I did wonder where that came from." He eyed Hermione shrewdly. "You duelled Riddle?"

She nodded proudly and a big grin appeared on the werewolf's face. Lupin barked out a laugh and clapped her on the shoulder.

"Good for you. See? You should always follow a teacher's advice."

Hermione beamed at him and teased, "Lucky shot."

"Oi," Lupin exclaimed in mock outrage. "Don't get smart with me."

He excitedly twirled his wand through the air and the trainings dummies arranged themselves in a neat row. A grin revealed his sharp teeth and Lupin asked,

"So? Who'd win?"

Hermione fiddled with her wand and admitted meekly, "Tom."

"A pity." Lupin looked like he had bitten into a lemon, but then soothed, "Well, you can say about Riddle what you want, but he is a skilled duellist. It's no shame losing against him. You're a beginner anyway."

Hermione still nervously nestled with her wand as she peered at Lupin. The werewolf blinked at her, his brow slowly knitting in worry.

"What did he do after the duel?" he questioned suspiciously.

"Nothing," Hermione said cautiously. "I told him I didn't want to be a servant anymore. And Tom accepted it."

"Just like that?" Lupin looked at her dubiously.

Hermione shrugged, the smile working its way back on her face. "Well, there was a bit of yelling involved, but in the end he accepted it."

"Wow." Lupin scratched his head. "I guess I misjudged Riddle."

"I doubt that," Hermione deadpanned.

"Still," the werewolf said seriously. "It's really good you have him in your corner." He peered at her. "You haven't told anyone else that you're Muggleborn, have you?"

Quickly Hermione shook her head. Lupin nodded, "Good. Don't tell anyone. Not even your friends. It's too dangerous."

"I know," Hermione said meekly.

Lupin smiled at her softly and wrapped an arm around her. "Don't worry too much, okay? What you're doing is exceptional. It might be dangerous, but you have friends. Sirius and I can help you if this goes tits up. The Order's there for you, whether you choose to fight with us or not."

"Thank you," Hermione replied, feeling a lot better.

Lupin smiled at her. Before he could add anything, though, his yellow eyes wandered to the door as if he had heard something.

"Time to put my amazing teaching skills to good use," he said, grinning widely.

He opened the door with a flick of his wand. Slowly, the students filed into the room. Hermione smiled slightly as she spotted Tom among them and waved at him. His gaze landed on her and a dark look crossed his features as he saw Lupin beside her. Seeing the fat scowl on Tom's face, Lupin commented sardonically,

"Oh, look. There's your Prince Charming."

Hermione rolled her eyes at the werewolf and skipped over to Tom.

Why did Hermione look so happy? Carefree even. It confused Regulus. He would have expected something different. Fear. Panic. Despair? Indeed, he would have been far less confused if he had seen Hermione cower away from Riddle in terror.

"Seems like Rookwood is still standing," Malfoy voiced as he watched the girl walking over to Riddle.

Regulus and the other Knights stood a bit away from Riddle, observing their leader and his girlfriend like hawks.

"She looks alright." Rosier contemplated as he ogled the girl.

Hermione really did seem fine. Regulus had been quite concerned about her wellbeing since that spectacle in the Great Hall yesterday. He didn't know what drove Hermione to dare insult Riddle like that, but it had been incredibly scary to watch the dark wizard brutally wrench her out of the hall. There had been no question among the Knights that Riddle would severely punish her. For a while Regulus had feared Hermione would simply 'go missing'. Luckily, that hadn't happened and the girl was surprisingly uninjured today. Right now, she even smiled at Riddle as she talked with him. It left Regulus confused. He was not alone, though. The other Knights eyed the Gryffindor with equal puzzlement.

"Maybe he obliviated her," Dolohov speculated.

Rosier shrugged, unconvinced. "Possible."

"Memory potion?" Bellatrix suggested darkly.

"But she's not hurt at all…" Dolohov shook his head in confusion. "Not even a bruise or anything."

"Probably a Glamour," Malfoy remarked casually.

The blond watched Hermione with feigned disinterest while Bellatrix openly twirled her wand through her fingers. She poked it into Malfoy's side and asked, mad smile pulling at her lips,

"What do you think, Draco? Is she fair game now?"

"Watch where you put that!" Malfoy swatted her wand away from him, looking slightly panicked.

Regulus ignored the other Knights and watched in trepidation how Riddle put his hands on Hermione's waist and pulled her closer. She didn't flinch away from the intimate contact, not even as Riddle bent down and placed a possessive kiss on the girl's cheek. Regulus felt sick as he recognized this gesture for what it really was: a display of ownership. Despite the incident in the Great Hall, the girl obviously still belonged to Riddle. Bellatrix sulked darkly and stuffed her wand into her robe pocket, clearly disappointed by this course of events.

Riddle released Hermione from his tight grip, but the girl still didn't step away. Regulus watched her closely. Surprisingly there were no traces of discomfort in her body language. Hermione brown eyes then fell on the Knights. Smiling amicably she walked over to them while Riddle trailed behind. Regulus forced a shaky smile on his face.

"Hi," Hermione greeted.

"Hermione. Good to see you," Regulus replied politely.

He tried to ignore the dark wizard hovering around the girl, but the cold look on Riddle's face made him shudder. Hermione's carefree attitude was a mystery.

"Yes, really good to see you," Dolohov contributed, suave smile not quite hiding his apparent curiosity. "Quite a surprise, too."

Instantly, a dangerous look crossed Riddle's features. His voice was perfectly controlled as he inquired, "Pray tell, why is this so surprising?"

Dolohov spluttered nervously, "N- no idea. I guess, I wasn't thin-"

"Please, Dolohov," Bellatrix sneered disdainfully, rolling her eyes. "Spare us." Then she glanced at Riddle. "If you must know, it's a surprise that you're still not tired of her."

Riddle glared murderously at Bellatrix and Regulus was impressed as she glared back without batting an eye. Trying to defuse the tense situation, Hermione cleared her throat and turned to Regulus.

"I found a book on the runes we went over in Wenlock's class last week. I can show it to you later. It's really good."

"Er… Sure," Regulus stuttered. "That'd be great."

Instantly, Riddle's face darkened. He abandoned Bellatrix and directed his icy glare at Hermione. The girl was unperturbed by the sinister look and even raised her eyebrows in question.

"You don't have time for that," Riddle rebuked her sternly. "I told you, you have detention today,"

"Can't you just take it back?" Hermione mumbled sullenly.

"It's your own fault," Riddle scorned, smirking viciously. "Shouldn't have skipped class"

A big scowl appeared on Hermione's face. Regulus sucked in a sharp breath of air as she raised a hand and slapped Riddle's arm.

"It wasn't my fault," Hermione insisted stubbornly. "I blame you."

Fear clenching his stomach, Regulus stared at Riddle. Through the corners of his eyes he saw Dolohov tense while a malicious smirk appeared on Bellatrix' face. Despite Hermione's impudent behaviour, Riddle seemed more amused than anything else and smirked at the girl. Regulus was relieved, but also completely baffled. Why did Riddle continue to tolerate her insolence?

They were interrupted as Lupin barked, "Let's get down to business, people. Everybody, get yourself a trainings dummy. Today we'll learn the Vulnus Curse."

Hermione's brow furrowed in contemplation. "I don't think I know how to cast it." She peered at Riddle. "Do you know the curse?" She didn't leave him time to reply, but grabbed Riddle by the hand and decided, "You have to come to the Gryffindor side this time. Please. I'm not sure about the wand movements."

Apprehensively, Regulus watched as Hermione tugged at Riddle's hand. Once again, the dark wizard didn't take offence, though he scoffed harshly,

"What? Don't you think the werewolf would love to give you private coaching?"

Surprisingly, Riddle still allowed the girl to pull him away. Confused frown knitting his brow, Regulus watched the couple. It was Dolohov who voiced what they were all thinking,

"Does anyone know what the hell is going on?"

"Nope," Rosier commented faintly. "Not a clue."

"Frankly," Draco said. "I'm still surprised to see her alive."

"Maybe we've got it all wrong, and it was actually her obliviating him," Dolohov quipped weakly.

Instantly, a dangerous look darkened Bellatrix' features. "Watch what you say. No-one can curse Tom."

Regulus grudgingly agreed, but that still didn't explain Riddle's lenient behaviour towards Hermione. He could only hope she wouldn't fall prey to one of the dark wizard's sinister machinations.


Sometimes, Hermione could see a dark shadow flittering through Tom's eyes. He was still very domineering and he certainly tried to order her around now and then. If Hermione didn't do what he wanted, Tom would get angry. On one of those occasions, he had even yelled at her.

The strange thing was, Hermione didn't really mind. Of course, she would get upset with Tom from time to time. There was one thing, though, that she wasn't anymore: Afraid of him. That lost duel against him had changed a lot. Tom had been so incredibly angry back then and yet hadn't seriously hurt her. His reluctance to harm her provided Hermione with a new-found feeling of security. Maybe his promise to treat her like an equal was still a shaky one, but Hermione had decided to give the whole thing a chance.

"It's gonna be fun," Hermione assured, smiling up at Tom. "I promise."

Holding his hand in her own, she tugged him out of Hogwarts' castle and into the night. Tom followed, morose expression on his face.

"You do realize I'm Head Boy, don't you?" he griped. "I can't just sneak out after curfew."

"It's not after curfew."

"Yet," he pointed out ominously. "How does it look when the Head Boy goes around and breaks every school rule?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and said, sarcasm bending her words, "Yes, I'm pretty sure you never break any rules."

Despite his displeasure, a traitorous smirk twisted Tom's mouth and he assured histrionically, "I wouldn't be Head Boy otherwise. I'm just doing this for you."

Hermione dropped the taunt and smiled at him warmly. "I know. Thank you."

"Ah, that's the stuff," Ginny said, grinning widely. She accepted a cup of Firewhiskey from her boyfriend and placed a sloppy kiss on Dean's lips. "I love you."

Dean beamed at her and eagerly returned the kiss. "Love you, too."

Ron, who sat beside Seamus on the trunk of a fallen tree, pulled a face.

"Urg." He faked gagging noises. "I'm getting sick here."

"Shut up, Ron," Ginny drawled.

She stretched her legs lazily and leaned into Dean's side. Her head sagged against his shoulder and she looked up at the sky. It really was a beautiful night, stars twinkling down at them.

"Man, I wonder what McGonagall would do when she could see us now," Ron mused as he lazily waved his wand at their campfire.

The orange flames burned a bit higher and crackled cheerfully, driving away the night and radiating a pleasant warmth. Ginny took a swig from her Firewhiskey and shrugged, feeling too comfortable to worry about any possible detentions.

"Better not find out," Seamus said with a dazed grin, a whole bottle of Firewhiskey in his hand.

"Pff, no-one's gonna catch us," Dean reassured and wrapped an arm around Ginny.

She was inclined to agree. With a rather large stock of spirits, they had snuck out of the castle and had made their way to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Their little camp was hidden behind the trees and Ginny had even cast a few Secrecy Charms over the place.

"Yeah, Ron," Ginny drawled. "Don't get your knickers in a twist."

Her brother scowled at her and she smirked in return. Before he could open his mouth and throw something in return, though, they heard a twig cracking near-by. They all startled, eyes flying to the source of the noise. Ginny's tension quickly fell from her as she spotted Hermione stepping from behind one of the trees. A happy smile appeared on Ginny's face. Sadly, that smile quickly died as she spotted the person behind Hermione. Immediately, Ginny scrunched up her face in distaste. Why in Merlin's name had Hermione brought Riddle?

Hermione stepped over to them and smiled good-naturedly. "Hello. Sorry, we're a bit late."

Meanwhile, the Slytherin hanging from her side scanned them with a condescending air. Ginny's hand tightened angrily around her cup.

"Hermione," she greeted, throwing her friend a sincere smile. "I'm glad you made it." Then all kindness drained from her voice and she said icily, "Riddle."

The Slytherin looked at her, arrogant glint in his frosty eyes, and inclined his head.

"Ms Weasley," Riddle returned the greeting with equal aversion.

"I hope you don't mind," Hermione said, seemingly oblivious to the tense atmosphere. "that I brought Tom."

Ginny bit on her tongue, holding back a sharp comment. She really didn't want to upset Hermione. Luckily, Seamus butted in,

"No. That's no problem. The more the merrier."

Ginny cringed at the fake enthusiasm in his voice. Obviously, her friends weren't thrilled about the Head Boy's presence either. Ron looked as if he had smelled something repugnant. At least, he tried to hide it behind a twitchy smile for Hermione.

"Oh boy, this is gonna be fun," Ginny heard Dean whisper sarcastically.

"Sh." She gently boxed him in the side.

Tugging at Riddle's hand, Hermione told him, "Come on."

Reluctantly, Riddle sat down beside his girlfriend and joined the group of Gryffindors. Ron, still bravely trying to hide his obvious dislike for the Head Boy, handed Hermione two cups.

"What do you want to drink? Let's see… We have beer, Firewhiskey, Butterbeer… Firewhiskey."

"Thanks," Hermione said and accepted the cups. "Er… Can I have Butterbeer?" She peered up at Riddle. "You too?"

He nodded imperiously and Ginny angrily gulped down her Firewhiskey. Through slitted eyes, she watched the Head Boy. Hermione handed him a cup of Butterbeer and, without thanking her, Riddle accepted it with a barely veiled look of disgust.

Ginny was not happy at all that Hermione and Riddle had made up again. Of course, she had noticed how their relationship had started to crumble. She had felt like a horrible friend, but Ginny had secretly been thrilled. Hermione deserved better than Riddle. Unfortunately, since the last few days, their relationship seemed to have recovered. Hermione didn't hide away in her dorm anymore, but spent time with Riddle. Ginny didn't like it at all. Of course, she was happy that Hermione wasn't so miserable anymore. She just didn't like the reason for the sudden elation.

Morosely, she eyed the couple. Riddle delicately sipped from his Butterbeer while he managed to ignore the Gryffindors around him and looked quite snooty. Hermione animatedly talked with Ron and Seamus. Disgruntled, Ginny noticed how the girl held Riddle's hand and she wished she could just pull Hermione away.

Riddle flicked his gaze at Ginny. His empty eyes locked with hers and, seeing her annoyance, Riddle raised a mocking eyebrow. Ginny's hands balled into fists as his lips twisted into a triumphant smirk. Then she had to watch how he pulled Hermione closer to him and, still with that malevolent smirk in place, ran a possessive hand through her curly hair. By now Ginny was seething with anger. Only Dean's voice stopped her from throwing herself at the Slytherin and punching him in the face.

"How 'bout a scary story?" Dean exclaimed loudly, slurring in his drunken state.

"That's a good idea." Ginny pasted a fake smile on her face. The happy tint in her voice was rather well done as she said, "Now that we have a Slytherin here, I think Riddle should start. Hm? How about a story about the Heir of Slytherin?"

Her smile sharpened as she spotted the cold anger flaring up behind Riddle's lifeless blue eyes. His face, though, as usual gave nothing away of his thoughts. Everything was expertly hidden away behind a wall of amicability. Ginny once again wondered how Hermione could not see the cruelty covered by only a thin layer of lies.

"Now, Ms Weasley," Riddle chided, deep voice collected and disturbingly polite. "I don't think that is a topic to be so casually discussed."

In faux confusion, Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Oh? I thought the heir was just a myth. Are you suggesting there is more behind this?"

Riddle smiled at her kindly and she felt the strong urge to rip that mask from him. Maintaining his suave front, the Slytherin replied,

"I'm not suggesting anything. I was merely saying we shouldn't spoil a nice evening with such a dreary story."

Before Ginny could retort anything, Seamus blurted drunkenly, "Here. Me. I know a story. It happened to a friend of my cousin."

And on he went about how that friend had been ambushed by a group of Dementors while on a hiking trip in Wales. Ginny wasn't really listening. Eyes blazing with anger, she stared at Riddle who glared back at her with equal animosity.

Merlin, this was tedious. Tom sipped at his Firewhiskey – served in a cup of all things! – and wished he had declined Hermione's invitation. He really didn't know what had got into him as he had accepted. Feeling more than irritated, he watched the Gryffindors. They hunched around the campfire like a couple of cavemen, laughing boisterously while indulging in way too much alcohol. Was this the company Hermione liked to keep? He glanced at the girl through the corners of his eyes. Cup in hand, Hermione chatted with the Weasley boy and Finnigan. Oh, how Tom wished he could just grab the Mudblood and pull her away.

At least no-one tried to talk to him. They were obviously as displeased by Tom's presence as he himself was. Ah well, he supposed that was the only upside to this tiring event. Tom smirked at the sour look on Ginny Weasley's face.

"I'm really glad you came tonight," a voice whispered to him.

Hermione had abandoned her conversation with the Gryffindors and smiled at Tom fondly. The slight curl of her plump lips was distracting, but he still managed an abrasive reply,

"I really don't know why you had to drag me here."

"Don't be like this," Hermione chided softly and wrapped an arm around him. "You just have to get to know each other and then you'll all get along."

Tom had to suppress a sarcastic snort at that.

"If you try to behave," she said, beaming up at him. "I promise I'll be nice to your spooky friends as well. Even Bellatrix."

Tom merely rolled his eyes at her. At least his participation in this event would help assure Hermione that he indeed accepted her ludicrous wish for independence.


Ginny threw furtive looks at the couple. Hermione had wrapped an arm around Riddle and pressed herself against his side. Happy smile in place, she leaned her head against his shoulder and held his hand in hers. Ginny gritted her teeth in anger as she saw the warmth behind Hermione's action and how Riddle didn't even try to return the affectionate gesture. Rigidly, he sat beside his girlfriend and haughtily tolerated Hermione's caress as if he couldn't be bothered to react in any way. With growing irritation, Ginny watched as Hermione stretched her neck and placed a careful kiss on Riddle's jaw and he still didn't respond at all. There was not even a hint of affection visible on his cold face.

Hermione didn't seem to mind overly much. Still smiling, she reached for a pack of biscuits, trying to save them as someone had thrown them dangerously close to the fire. Hermione winced as the flames licked at her hand.

"Are you alright?" Ginny asked worriedly.

Hermione nodded, smiling at her. "It's nothing."

Ginny furrowed her brow doubtfully as she could already see a red spot taking form on the skin. Still Hermione insisted,

"I'm fine."

"You're lucky," Ron declared, eyes glassy by now. "I know a good healing spell."

He groped for his wand and Ginny was glad as Seamus stopped him. "Since when do you know any healing magic? 's probably more humane to just cut off her hand before you do any magic."

Of course, Ron took offence. Waving his wand impressively – though no magic came forth – he exclaimed, "I'll have you know, I'm quite good at healing magic."

"Really?" Seamus cocked a sceptical eyebrow. "Name one spell, then."

Ron spluttered and his wand sunk back to his side as he searched for words.

"Drawing a blank, eh?" Dean needled.

Ginny shook her head at her brother's antics and Dean laughed. While the boys continued to argue, Ginny peered at Riddle and Hermione through the corners of her eyes. Riddle had taken Hermione's burned hand in his own and observed the now angrily red spot on her skin. He shook his head and commented rudely,

"You're a klutz."

Ginny inhaled sharply and held her breath, fighting the need to yell at the Slytherin.

"I'm not." Hermione didn't seem to be upset by her boyfriend's callous behaviour. "It was an accident."

Riddle shrugged, seemingly not caring either way. With indifferent eyes, he scanned the burn on Hermione's skin, turning her hand this way and that. Ginny felt anger boiling up in her. She knew what a horrible swot Riddle was and she was pretty sure the little pest knew quite a few healing spells. Yet, he did nothing to help Hermione. Even worse, he poked her irritated skin with his index finger, smirk on his face.

"Stop that." Hermione pulled her hand away from him and reached for her wand.

Ginny watched in fascination, and a tiny bit of envy, as Hermione gracefully brandished her wand. Her powerful magic crackled in the air and instantly healed her burnt hand. As usual, the spell had been perfectly executed, even non-verbal. Ginny had always known how incredibly talented Hermione was. Riddle, though, only sniffed dismissively.

"Episkey?" he scoffed. "Really?"

Hermione wriggled her fingers, the skin again unblemished on her hand. "It worked, didn't it?"

"That's a second year spell," Riddle scorned derisively.

It was not. Ginny irately glared at the Slytherin. Most healing magic wasn't even taught at Hogwarts. Of course, Hermione wouldn't know, being a transfer.

"Really?" Hermione inquired, eyes wide as she looked up at Riddle.

Dimly, Ginny noticed that by now the boys had concluded their little argument and started a Quidditch discussion. Ginny contributed half-heartedly, still paying more attention to Hermione and Riddle.

"Healing magic is hard," Hermione commented thoughtfully. "Do you know a lot of healing spells?"

"I know enough," was Riddle's arrogant reply.

Once again, Hermione condoned his scathing remark and simply nodded. Her gaze fell to the empty cup in Riddle's hand and she asked,

"Do you want something else? I can get you more."

Ginny had noticed that before, Hermione's strange eagerness to please. Ginny couldn't count the times that her friend had offered to do something for her as if it were Hermione's job to take care of other people's chores. It rubbed Ginny the wrong way to see Hermione offering to do things for Riddle. Surely, the Slytherin would be someone to gladly exploit her kindness. Ginny was proven right as Riddle nodded haughtily and wordlessly pushed his cup in Hermione's hands.

Ginny was rather set in her assessment of Riddle's character. Some people were just evil without any reason and Riddle was one of them. Since first year, Ginny had known that he was a cold, sadistic bastard. In fact, she supposed the whole school knew. People were scared of Riddle. It had always been like this. The problem with Riddle was, though, that he wasn't just evil. No, he was also smart. So, while over the years there had been some nasty incidents at Hogwarts, Riddle had never been caught in the middle of it. He engineered everything from the shadows. No-one knew of his next plans, who his target might be or how he would strike. There was always a lack of proof, a last rest of doubt, that protected Riddle. So, while people feared him, they also couldn't fight back or even just point their fingers at him.

Knowing all that, it was quite confusing for Ginny as she watched a strange interaction between Hermione and Riddle. Dean had disappeared into the forest to take a leak and Seamus and Ron lay in a drunken stupor in the grass. So, Ginny was the only audience, but went quite unnoticed.

"You… you're not having much fun, do you?" Hermione looked at Riddle, worrying her lower lip.

"What did you expect?," Riddle sneered. "Your friends are dunces."

Hermione bored a finger into his side and chided, "They're not."

Riddle shrugged carelessly. She averted her eyes from him and whispered insecurely, "You know… you don't have to stay, Tom."

A small smile took shape on Riddle's face and Ginny couldn't believe her eyes. It wasn't a smirk nor a scornful sneer, but a genuine smile. It was strangely out of place on the Slytherin's face. Gingerly, he pulled Hermione closer to him, snaked both arms around her and held her securely. Ginny watched in astonishment as Riddle bent down to Hermione and placed a soft kiss against the crown of her head. The gesture was sincere, not twisted by Riddle's usual devious behaviour, and it left Ginny with a sense of confusion.

"I can't leave you alone with those dim-witted lions, can I?" the Slytherin whispered, and although it was an insult, his voice was still uncharacteristically tender.

"You are dim-witted," came Hermione's muffled reply as she mumbled into his shirt.

To Ginny's surprise, Riddle didn't take offence. Instead, he laughed softly at Hermione's stubbornness. Amusement still danced in his eyes as he readjusted his grip on her so she could lie comfortably against him. Ginny furrowed her brow, thoroughly confused by Riddle's strangely affectionate behaviour.

Maybe I've drunk too much after all …or, the more likely explanation, he's leading her on.

"Hey, Ginny." Dean tugged at her arm, drunken smile on his face.


"Let's go swimming in the Great Lake," her boyfriend exclaimed.

"It's freezing cold," was Ginny's unenthusiastic reply.

Dean simply pulled his wand. "Warming charms."

Ginny blinked up at him, slightly impressed by his ingenuity despite his alcohol level. Then she shrugged.


Smiling widely, Dean pulled her up and towards the lake.

"The stars are beautiful," Hermione mused as she strode through the Forbidden Forest, Tom following her.

It was rather late by now and their little party had broken up. Ginny and Dean had disappeared towards the Great Lake while Ron and Seamus had stumbled back to the castle some time ago. Hermione gasped as suddenly a pair of hands grabbed her shoulders and pushed her forcefully against a tree. Next a silky voice whispered into her ear,

"I'm not really interested in the stars right now."

Hermione blinked up at Tom and found a devilish smirk his lips. He stepped closer, his chest pushing against hers now. Then he bent down to her and pressed his mouth over hers, kissing her demandingly. Hermione's head swirled and a fluttery feeling squeezed her as she felt his lips against hers.

"You know," Tom purred softly. "I think you owe me. For having forced me to endure your loud-mouthed friends."

Hermione experimentally tugged at his grip, but could not break free. Despite Tom looming over her like that, she smiled up at him. Maybe it was the Firewhiskey she had nipped from, but Hermione was feeling quite adventurous.

"I see," she replied, faux innocence in her words. "How should I ever repay you?"

An eerie light burned up in Tom's blue eyes as he whispered in a husky voice, "Oh, I have an idea or two."

Again his mouth crashed against hers. Hermione gasped softly before it was muffled by his hungry kiss. Tom sucked and bit her lips almost painfully. His actions sparked a burning need to take a hold of Hermione. She barely noticed it as Tom pulled her down to the ground. A thick blanket had appeared out of no-where and now covered the soft forest floor. Hermione didn't care. Driven by a mad hunger, she rubbed her tongue against Tom's.

Her hands wandered to his chest and she pushed him on his back. Still kissing him greedily, she climbed onto him, straddling him with her knees on either side of his hips. Her fingers ran through his hair while her tongue explored his mouth. Tom moaned softly and it only drove her on.

Hermione sat up. Gingerly, she first pulled the black robes from him, before she unbuttoned his shirt. Her fingers skimmed over the exposed skin of his chest, enjoying the warmth and smoothness. She bent down to him and placed light kisses over his neck. She nibbled at his skin as she wandered down, kissing and tasting him. Tom's body was tense under her ministrations, obviously not used to this position. Hermione wondered if he had ever allowed anyone such free reign. It was reassuring that he trusted her enough to let her continue.

Hermione liked exploring Tom's body. The last time they'd been together like this, she hadn't touched Tom much. She'd been too timid and also a bit scared of Tom. Now she couldn't stop running her hands over him. He was all firm muscles stretching under his skin, but also soft at places. Hermione smiled as she felt how he slowly relaxed under her as she kissed her way over his skin. Tom gasped softly as she reached a nipple and swirled her tongue around it.

Her hand wandered down his belly, skimming over the firm abdominal muscles, until she reached the waistband of his pants. Quickly, she opened the button and unzipped the fly.


Tom couldn't help but moan in pleasure as he felt her hand dip into his trousers. He had never made a habit of bedding inexperienced girls – virgins were too much work with their clumsy fiddling and cluelessness – but for Hermione he gladly made an exception.

Hot desire shot through him as he felt her nibbling at his skin, while her hand worked its way into his boxers. Her fingers were hesitant, the touches careful, but Tom didn't care that she didn't really know what she was doing. In fact, he enjoyed it even more because of it. He liked her explorations and, strangely enough, he also liked how Hermione seemed to enjoy herself.

He tensed and his eyes closed as her fingers lightly danced over his cock. Torturously slowly, she stroked his length and Tom couldn't help but shudder under her ministrations as lust raged through him. Her lips found his again and Tom instantly plunged his tongue into her mouth, driven by nothing but raw desire, as she continued to palm his cock. Her process, though welcome as it was, was too slow for Tom. Greedily, he grabbed Hermione by her shoulders and turned them around, so that he now hovered over her. She blinked up at him with wide eyes and Tom smirked.

"Enough with your teasing," he whispered huskily. "It's my turn."

He didn't leave her time to adjust, but quickly tugged her pullover over her head and peeled her out of her bra. Hermione gasped softly as her breasts were exposed to the cool night air. The sight of her like this was driving Tom mad. Greedily, he ran his hands over her sides, enjoying her soft skin and how her rips didn't jut out anymore. Hermione wasn't the scrawny, half-starved thing anymore and he thoroughly enjoyed her curves. His hands reached her breasts and kneaded the flesh, now and then flicking her nipples. Hermione's face was flushed and she panted softly.

Tom's hands slid to her jeans and he hastily pulled them down her legs. A moan fell from his mouth as he looked at Hermione spread out before him. Her only article of clothing were her black knickers. Hot desire shot through Tom and right to his cock as he slowly pulled the black fabric down her body, finally exposing her to him. He skimmed a hand up her inner thigh until he reached the apex of her legs and Hermione writhed in pleasure. Tom's own lust was driving him mad as he made contact with the soft skin, already wet with desire, and he swirled his fingers through her slick folds. He circled her clit and pinched it, making Hermione gasp. Then his fingers skimmed down, teasing her opening.

"Tom!" Hermione desperately urged him on.

He smirked down at her, thoroughly enjoying the power he had over her. Slowly, he slid his index finger into her entrance and Hermione moaned loudly. Flicking his thumb over her clit, Tom inserted a second finger. She gasped again, hips budging against him. Entranced by the sight of his fingers disappearing into her, he pumped them in and out of her. Hermione's breathing got increasingly laboured and the growing wetness was sign of her approaching climax.

He smirked evilly and pulled away from her hot flesh. Hermione made a frustrated mewling sound and her eyes shot open. Ignoring her needy flesh, Tom raised his hand and studied his fingers glistening with her juices. He slid them into his mouth, licking at them, and groaned as he could taste her arousal. Then Tom smirked down at Hermione.

"You taste good. But I want everything of you."

He was pleased to see a blush colouring her cheeks. Still, she also pulled at him, tugging him closer. He made quick work of his own clothes until they were both naked. Raw lust coursed through him and Tom felt no need to draw this out any longer. He gently laid a hand on Hermione's stomach, casting a rather useful spell over her. Then he slowly crawled over his little prey, feasting on the sight of her exposed hot flesh beneath him. Hermione stared up at him, pupils blown wide with her lust, as she waited for his next move. Tom's head dipped down to her, mouth violently crashing against hers, while his hands grabbed her thighs. Harshly, he spread her legs and positioned himself in-between.

He could hear her gasp throatily, as he slowly pushed into her. She was incredibly tight around his cock, her walls clamping down at the intrusion. It was only the second time he slept with her and for Hermione the second time to sleep with anyone at all. Tom would make sure that it only ever was him.

He pushed farther into her, stretching her, invading her. Feeling her wet tightness around him, Tom's arousal intensified to something almost painful and he started to move, sliding in and out of her. Hermione writhed beneath him, moaning and whimpering in the haze of her lust-filled mind. Her hands desperately grasped at Tom's shoulders, trying to steady herself. He couldn't get enough of the beautiful sight of her spread out under him, surrendering so completely to him. Tom grabbed her wrists and forced them over her head. Bunching them together with one hand, he pressed her wrists into the blanket. Hermione gasped softly, but in the throes of her passion was unable to stop him. Tom's other hand grasped her hip, steadying her. Then he picked up pace, thrusting in and out of her faster.

Like a monster that had been caged for too long, Tom felt his lust and desire rip at him, demanding to be finally satisfied. He didn't want to hold himself back anymore. Feeling the lust mounting up more and more, Tom slammed into her harder and faster. He was probably hurting her a bit, but she was too far gone to care and only moaned loudly. His hand released her hip, skimmed over her hot, sweaty skin, and reached between her legs. Deftly, his fingers found her clit and stroked it, now and then flicking it. Hermione moaned and trembled under his touch, barely able to hold herself back. She was almost there. Smirk twisting his lips, Tom harshly tugged at her clit and squeezed it while he thrust deep into her.

With that, Hermione cried out in ecstasy and Tom felt her inner walls clamping down on his cock. Her whole body shivered helplessly as her orgasm washed over her and Tom's own lust spiralled out of control. He pounded into her in hard, erratic thrusts. His hand around her wrists tightened viciously as his climax quickly approached and he sped up again. Finally, the burning, agonizing lust burst and one last time Tom drove into her as deep as he could. He moaned loudly, blissful release surging through him, as he exploded inside her, filling her up.

Breathing laboured and fast, Tom let himself fall on top of Hermione. Her body was soft and pleasant beneath him as he bathed in the afterglow of his orgasm. His hand released its tight grip on her wrists, allowing her movement again. Gingerly, Hermione's fingers trailed over Tom's back, caressing his skin, until they ran through his hair. His eyes slid shut and he felt wonderfully sated while he enjoyed her soft and gentle contact.

Calmly, the stars shone down on them. Tom was spread out on the blanket, his warming charm still heating it pleasantly. Hermione was tugged into his side, and he hadn't felt so relaxed in a long time. Maybe they should just stay here for the night, he thought sluggishly and glanced at the curly-haired girl beside him. She looked utterly spent as she snuggled against him. After that performance right now, Tom was inclined to admit that having Hermione think she was free did indeed have a few perks.

Tom's musings were interrupted as Hermione skimmed a hand over his shoulder. Then she slung her arm around him and buried her face into his chest.

"I'll never let anything happen to you," she mumbled.

Tom cocked an eyebrow. "Where did that come from?"

"I need you." He felt Hermione hugging him even tighter. "I'll always protect you."

A smirk slid on Tom's face. "You realize I'm not a completely incompetent wizard?"

Hermione raised her face at him. "I don't want anyone to take you away from me."

Tom blinked at her. He was surprised by her admission, especially now that Hermione thought she wasn't bound to him anymore. Normally, people prayed that he would leave them alone.

and with good reason, too.


It was a week later that Hermione sat in Tom's bedroom. Currently, she was occupied with going through his books. His rather diffuse system of sorting the precious books had disturbed her from day one and Hermione had decided to address the problem. For that purpose she sat cross-legged on the floor in front of a shelf, surrounded by stacks of books. Meanwhile, Tom comfortably lay on his bed and read in a copy of the Daily Prophet.

Stifling a yawn, Hermione glanced at him. Tom was still propped up against the headboard. By now his head had dropped and his eyes were closed. Hermione grinned at the sleeping Slytherin. She stood up, legs tingling slightly from how much time she had spent on the floor, and walked over to him. Cautiously as not to wake Tom, she sat on the bed and raised a hand to run her fingers through his shiny black hair. It was so very smooth. Very unlike her own unmanageable mane. Hermione peered at Tom's face. His eyes were still closed and he wasn't reacting to her at all. Grinning mischievously, Hermione started to braid his hair. She had managed to make three tiny little plaits as Tom finally stirred. Without opening his eyes, he asked,

"What are you doing?"

Hermione giggled before she said in a perfectly controlled voice, "Braiding your hair."

A long sigh left Tom. Then he commented, "One would think my hair's too short for that."

"Well, that would be a mistake then, wouldn't it?"

Tom grinned. Hermione removed her fingers from his silky hair and watched him as he stretched his arms and yawned. Pursing her lips, she asked,

"Tom? Did you ever find any hints of the other two Founders' objects?" At his raised eyebrow she frowned at him. "You are still searching for them, aren't you?"

"Yes," Tom said warily, sitting up on the bed.

"Did you find anything?" Hermione prodded expectantly.

He sighed. "Frustratingly little. I don't even know what Gryffindor's object is."

Hermione's ears perked up at that. "What about Hufflepuff's object? You know what that is?"

"I do," Tom allowed.


"It wasn't that difficult to find out," he said, pulled his wand and waved it at his trunk.

A thick book with gilded pages flew over to Tom. Hermione could glimpse the word 'Conditoribus' imprinted on the leather cover and that was when she remembered it.

"That's the book you had with you when we went to Albania," she said excitedly.

"Yes," Tom replied distractedly as he flipped through the pages. "Here it is…"

He offered Hermione the opened book. There was a small smile tugging at her mouth as she accepted it.

"You know, the last time I dared to read your precious book you tried to strangle me."

Tom blinked at her in confusion. "Really? I don't remember that."

Hermione nodded as her fingers glided over the aged parchment. "Yes, you said the next time I touched it, you'd make me regret it."

Tom glanced at her, a smirk twisting his lips, and Hermione knew he did remember that incident. He slid closer to her on the sofa and placed a soft kiss on her temple. Then he innocently crooned into her ear,

"You must have misunderstood me."

Hermione threw him a reproachful look and replied sarcastically, "Yeah, I'm sure that's what happened."

Tom's eyes glittered in amusement and Hermione shook her head. Then she looked down at the book in her lap. There was a beautiful drawing of a golden cup, the colours glowing with a magical hue.

"This is Hufflepuff's?"

"Yes," Tom said and pointed at the paragraph below the drawing. "There are powerful enchantments woven over the cup. Apparently, if you fill it with water and speak a certain incantation, the water will turn into whatever potion you desire."

Hermione's eyes widened and she stared at the golden cup in wonder. "Wow, that's incredible."

"Indeed," Tom said with far less enthusiasm.

He pulled the book from Hermione and with an annoyed expression on his face threw it on the bed.

"Unfortunately, the stupid book has no hints as to where the cup might be."

Hermione pursed her lips. "Are you sure?"

Tom sagged against the headboard of the bed. "I've read it a hundred times."

"Maybe you missed something," Hermione said and reached for the Founders' book.

Tom glanced at her through the corners of his eyes. "I seriously doubt that."

"I'm gonna read it," she declared and re-opened the book.

"Be my guest," he replied listlessly.

Hermione's eyes already danced over the words and Tom just shook his head at her eagerness.

"I think it's at Hogwarts," he added after a moment.

Hermione looked up from her reading. "What?"

"Hufflepuff's object."

She blinked at him owlishly. "How do you know?"

He shrugged nonchalantly, obviously not willing to divulge his knowledge.

"Do you know where exactly?" Hermione pressed.

A deep from creased Tom's forehead. "Not really. And believe me, I have searched."

Hermione's eyes fell back to the book. "Maybe I'll find something."

Tom just snorted disparagingly. Then he checked his watch. "Almost time for the prefects' meeting."

"I wanted to go to the library anyway," said Hermione.

Clutching the Founders' book, she got up. Before Hermione slipped out the door, she amusedly noticed how the tiny braids were still in Tom's black hair. She wondered what the prefects would say to that.


'What is the love of shadowy lips

That know not what they seek or press,

From whom the lure for ever slips

And fails their phantom tenderness?'

- George William (AE) Russell (*1867 1935)