Disclaimer: All characters, settings and themes recognised in the Harry Potter series belong to J.K Rowling.
This chapter is dedicated to Soul of the Dark Mark, and you'll soon find out why… :c
"Funny, Abraxas, how my title changes so often," Riddle responded smartly, arching an eyebrow. He snorted. "'Big joker.' That's a big leap from 'arrogant twat'."
Hermione's jaw dropped. Abraxas had apparently called Lord Voldemort an 'arrogant twat' and he hadn't had his head blasted off. This day just got better and better. Next we'll find out that Voldemort loves pink bunny rabbits and lollipops, and that his favourite bedtime story is Cinderella. Or better yet, that his life's ambition is to become a princess. Her mouth quirked slightly at the corner. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Abraxas shift uncomfortably.
"Anyway," Riddle continued lightly, ignoring her look of pure astonishment and Abraxas' discomfort, "it's nice to meet you, Miss Malfoy. I'm afraid I can't say that I've heard a lot about you, but I hope to remedy that soon. Welcome to Slytherin." He gave her a charming smile and offered her his hand.
Hermione didn't take it. Her mind was whirling. Had she landed herself in an alternate universe? Surely Lord Voldemort, the Dark Lord, Tom Marvolo Riddle, evilest wanker on Earth wasn't this boy in front of her. He was too…mild and…handsome. And it didn't look like he felt the urge to kill everyone in sight. They couldn't be the same person. It defied reality.
"Hermione?" An elbow softly nudged her, and Abraxas' voice, tinged with concern, rode over her inner thoughts. "Are you alright? You blanked out there for a bit."
"What?" Hermione tore her gaze from Riddle, who was observing her strangely, to her 'cousin'. "Oh, yes. Yes, I'm fine, Abraxas. Riddle, was it?" She looked at the boy in question and took his hand. Instead of kissing the back of it like the other boys had, he gave her a firm handshake. A sign of equality.
"Yes," he said smoothly. "Are you going to sit?"
Hermione realised that she was still standing, and quickly sat down in the space between Denebola and Godric, the only space not taken on that end of the table. She noticed that both their postures had been tense, but had relaxed when she sat between them.
"So Hermione," Abraxas said, taking his seat across from her. "Dumbledore says that Uncle Pallas is your father. He never mentioned a child the last time he contacted Father." He gazed at her with interest.
"Well," Hermione replied, remembering her 'life story', "when was the last time Father contacted Uncle Hyperion?"
Abraxas frowned. "Years and years ago, Father says. Come to think of it, I remember him saying that they never corresponded after my first birthday. And your first birthday too, if I'm correct in saying that you're the same age as me."
Hermione nodded impassively on the outside, but on the inside, she was jumping for joy. Her story was fitting smoothly into place, and she didn't even know all the details. "Father only contacted him to tell him about my birth, and to warn him to keep it a secret from everyone. He couldn't risk Grindelwald finding out about me, because as you know, the Malfoys are influential everywhere. I would be the perfect bargaining token to get Father onto his side. He and Mother went into hiding right after he contacted Uncle Hyperion."
Abraxas nodded. "I suppose that makes sense. So you've been hiding for the past fifteen and a half years. Why come to Hogwarts? It's so far. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you're here because it's safer, but why now? Why didn't you and Uncle Pallas and Aunt Clarissa come earlier? You wouldn't have needed to hide; you could have stayed with us."
Hermione stayed silent for a few minutes, before she decided it was time to take out her acting skills. She was spinning herself a web of lies that was so delicate that the slightest prodding could break it, but she had to say something. She mentally cursed Dumbledore for not preparing her more. "The only thing keeping us in Germany was Mother. Her family had been hiding us the entire time, moving us from one of their estates to the other. We always moved very six months. And then, a month ago," she winced and took a deep breath, "she died. Her family didn't want us anymore, because they blamed us for her death. We came here."
She marveled at her ability to lie so flawlessly, so easily. The war had changed her so much. Five years ago, she wouldn't have been able to lie about staying in the library for longer than she was supposed to, let alone that her 'mother' had been killed. Now, she even let her eyes water, the image of Draco's death in her mind. Shame filled her at the insult and use of his memory, but she reasoned that she needed to do this. Just one small shameful deed out of the many she knew she'd be committing in the next few months in her quest to destroy Voldemort.
"I'm sorry," Abraxas said quietly, looking down. The others murmured their condolences, but what caught her attention was the fact that Riddle's eyes, so full of concern, held the smallest bit of what she could only describe as amusement. What was he finding amusing? Did he think Clarissa's 'death' was funny? That was more like what she expected of the future Lord Voldemort, but it didn't fit in with the character he was giving off now.
Abraxas backed off from his questioning, which Hermione was grateful for. The rest of conversation at dinner was filled with lighter topics, such as Quidditch and their summer holidays. Hermione didn't join in. She toyed with her dinner, rolling the peas around her plate and viciously stabbing her mash.
She noticed Riddle didn't join in either. An orphanage probably didn't provide him with much source for entertainment, she thought. If it had been anyone else, she would have felt sorry for him. As it was Voldemort, though, she only felt a sort of sadistic glee.
When the topic changed to the first day of term's gossip, she was dragged into the conversation by Asterope. "Riddle's the most eligible boy in the school," she informed her, winking at the boy in question. "All the girls want him, but he won't associate himself with us mere mortals."
"That's not true, Asterope," Riddle replied haughtily, hearing his name and turning from his conversation with Abraxas. "I'd gladly associate with 'mere mortals' if they interested me at all. It might be news to you, but males generally do not find hair-curling and gossiping fascinating."
Asterope rolled her eyes. "See what I mean?"
"Since Riddle's out of the question," Denebola chimed in, "I'd say Abraxas, but he's your cousin." She wrinkled her nose. "You could always go for-"
"Since when was I out of the question?" Riddle cut in, an eyebrow raised. "Did I say I was out of the question?"
"No, but your response before was clear enough. So anyway, Hermione-"
"I said that I don't find hair-curling and gossiping girls interesting. I never said anything about the girls who aren't obsessed with the perfect crimp or perm." Riddle looked directly at Hermione as he said this, which made her feel slightly ill.
Great Merlin, the Dark Lord was flirting with her.
"Unluckily for you, Riddle, most of the girls here are like that. And the ones who aren't are…well, I don't like to think about them."
"I think that's enough gossip for me tonight," Hermione finally said loudly.
"But Hermione, I haven't even told you about the fight Charlus Potter and Stephen Cornwall had over Dorea Black," Denebola whined. "She's almost 10 years older than the both of them!"
"Then by all means," Hermione replied sweetly, "continue telling Riddle and Asterope."
Instead of feeling offended at Hermione's saccharine tone, Denebola just pouted. "Well, fine." She quickly turned to her sister, and began animatedly retelling the account. The other girl looked like she knew all this already, but humoured her twin anyway.
"When does dinner end?" Hermione's head was starting to hurt.
"Right about now, actually," Abraxas replied from across from her, and she turned to see the other students all standing. He held out a hand for her, as a gentleman would.
"I can stand myself, thanks," she said in a curt tone, staring at the hand as if it had grown pus-filled boils. Honestly, didn't the girls here have any sense of independence? Looking around, she didn't think so. Most of the girls around her were being taken by the hand by the boys surrounding them. The only ones who didn't have a man pulling them up were the ones that she saw sitting alone. She sighed. Women's rights still had a long way to go.
Abraxas' eyes filled with bewilderment. "I hope that confusion I see in your eyes isn't directed at my comment," Hermione warned him, only half-joking.
"No, no," Abraxas said hastily. "It's just that…you're rather unconventional for a Malfoy woman."
"We-ll… in between being on the run, not having a solid home for the majority of my life and trying not to get shot in the back, there wasn't much time for etiquette lessons," Hermione retorted dryly. "Let's go." They were the last two Seventh Years to leave the table. Abraxas hurried to catch up with the others, and not wanting to be alone, Hermione followed.
"Aren't you supposed to be going…another way?" Hermione asked in surprise when she saw Riddle in the middle of the group, chatting amiably. "You're Head Boy, aren't you?"
"Yes…" He frowned. "So?"
"So you have your own common room to get to."
"I don't have to go there right away." Riddle waved his hand at her in dismissal, and Hermione was left to ponder yet another small change from her own time. "Why does it matter? Do I make you…uncomfortable?" The last word was accompanied by a strange expression, but Hermione couldn't figure out what it was. That was a feat in itself, because with the war, she had learnt how to read people easily from their body language and expressions. It didn't surprise her, though, because Lord Voldemort was the king of poker faces, from what she had heard from Severus.
Hermione didn't answer him, so he shrugged and turned back to the conversation with Araminta she had interrupted.
"So Hermione…" Denebola sidled up to the blonde girl, eyebrows waggling. "Does he make you uncomfortable?"
Hermione went pale. "No!" That was a lie and she knew the other girl knew it. However, it wasn't for the reason Denebola was probably thinking, and although it made her feel sick to let the girl think otherwise, at least she didn't know the real reason.
"Such a vehement response from an otherwise indifferent person," Denebola clucked. "I don't blame you. He captured the hearts of every female third year and above a long time ago."
"I don't like him…like that," Hermione croaked, facial expression changing from pale to ill at the idea. I don't like him at all.
"Whatever you say, Hermione." They were now in the dungeons, and Hermione felt each goose bump rise on her arm, despite the thick, heavy robes she was wearing.
"Merlin, how do you people survive down here? It must be sub-zero degrees!" She observed the cool stone of the walls surrounding them, and felt a bit claustrophobic.
"We're under the lake," Godric answered. "The other Founders must have really hated Salazar to put his students here. We're used to it."
Yeah, well, there was good reason. He tried to kill the Muggleborns who came here. If that's not reason enough to hate someone, I don't know what is.
"Hey, Riddle, got the password?"
There was a shuffling as the others parted way for Riddle to get through. Ah, there's the Voldemort I know. He looked at the stone snake guarding the blank wall, and with a sneer of disdain, muttered, "Tree bark."
There was silence, and then… "Tree bark?" Hermione squeaked, her voice echoing in the stillness of the Seventh Years. "Who chose that password?" Her incredulity and mirth threatened to swallow her face whole, so she quickly masked her glee. It probably wouldn't sit well with the others, judging by Riddle's angry face.
"Dumbledore," he spat venomously. "The old coot. Always trying to humiliate us." His eyes flashed red for a second, and Hermione witnessed, with horror, the first glimpse of the true Voldemort in 1944. She took a frightened step back, amusement forgotten, but the others hadn't noticed as they watched Riddle's face apprehensively.
"It's just a password, Riddle," Cephas said worriedly. No one said anything after that, but Hermione watched as Riddle closed his eyes and attempted to calm down. He must really hate Dumbledore if he gets this worked up over a stupid password, she thought.
A few seconds later, and Riddle was beaming at them. "What are we all waiting out here for? It's cold!" He pushed the door that had appeared after he had spoken the password open, and strode in arrogantly.
Hermione was shell-shocked. That was the quickest mood change she had ever seen. She quietly followed the others as they sauntered into the Slytherin common room as if nothing had happened. The chatter of the younger years quieted considerably, but did not stop.
The common room was gorgeous. All thoughts about Voldemort, future Death Eaters and mood changes faster than those of pregnant women flew out of her head as she stared in awe at her surroundings. She wasn't one to be impressed easily, but…wow. This common room made Gryffindor's look like the Shrieking Shack of her time.
"Impressed?" Abraxas teased. Hermione had moved to the leather couches in front of the golden fireplace, and was running her hand over the silver lining, smooth and cool against her hand. With a sigh, she sank into the couch and close her eyes.
"You people really like to spoil yourselves, don't you?" Her voice held a blissful lilt as she pushed herself further into the supple leather of the couch.
There was no answer, and she opened her eyes. She immediately wished she hadn't. Towering over her were nine impassive faces, and one face tinged with guilt. Her eyes widened at the sight, and she felt her stomach churn.
"What- what are you doing?" Her voice shook as she gazed up at them, wondering what was happening and why they were look at her like that. Looking around, she realised that the common room had mysteriously cleared out, leaving only the Seventh Years.
"Incarcerous," said a voice on the right – Riddle. Ropes were immediately wrapping themselves around her legs, torso and arms, binding her to the couch. Out of reflex, rather than actual comprehension of the circumstances, she started struggling, but the ropes were tight and they only cut deeper into her skin.
"Stop struggling," Abraxas murmured, and shame filled his eyes as he stared down at the girl he believed to be his cousin. "It will only make it hurt more."
"Abraxas?" Her voice was so high it was almost a shriek. She paid no heed to his warning, clawing desperately at the ropes despite the burning pain. Tears began filling her eyes as the situation sunk in. She had barely been with the other students a night and she was going to be tortured – or worse, killed. She was going to fail her mission. Why had she let her guard down around them? They were Slytherins.
The answer came to her instantly, but she tried to push it away in denial. They gave her the sort of uncaring ignorance she hadn't had in years, even if it was fake. She had been able to sit down for one night and not wonder whether she, Draco, Ginny, Ron or Harry were going to die. She didn't have to think about the best way to kill someone, without prolonging the pain. She didn't have to think about the people she had already lost.
They were really master manipulators. At the start of the evening, she had had her wand out at Abraxas' simple touch on her shoulder. Now, she had had been tied up with ropes and she hadn't even thought of getting her wand out, shocked that her newfound 'friends' were tying her up. At least she was finding out sooner rather than later. That thought didn't do much to comfort her at all, however.
"Now," Riddle said, looking at his work with satisfaction gleaming in his eyes. He observed the welts that were forming almost clinically, and nodded absentmindedly. "We need some answers, Hermione, and you're going to give them willingly." He didn't say it, but everyone heard the unspoken 'or else'.
"Why- why do you have me tied up?" Hermione's head had cleared when she had successfully answered each panicked question that came up in her inner dialogue, and she figured she wouldn't die if she played her part well. If she didn't act as if she was really a time traveler from a time when all these people had tried to kill her or her friends at least once, if they were still alive. If she acted as if she really was Hermione Malfoy.
Araminta gave her a cold look. "Don't play dumb, Malfoy. Or is it Malfoy? I don't know."
"What are you talking about?" Hermione tried to put as much spite as she could into it, and as a result sounded as if she was spitting venom. Abraxas noticeably flinched.
"We're talking about the fact that you aren't a Malfoy," Cephas said seriously. "And we want to know who you really are, and why you're here."
"I am a Malfoy," Hermione insisted, almost growling. "I don't know why you think I'm not, but I wish to be released right this instant!"
"I don't think you're who you pretend to be," a new voice joined in icily, and she saw Lycaon with his eyes narrowed on her. In the back of her mind, she noticed that Godric, Asterope, Denebola, Alphard and Elias looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Tell her what you told us, Abraxas."
Hermione's head almost made an audible crack; it turned so fast to focus on Abraxas. Her eyes tried to plead with him, while she wondered what he had told them to put them on their guard. Abraxas gave her a distressed look, his eyes flicking to Riddle, before quietly saying, "Aunt Clarissa didn't die." He stared down at his feet.
"What? She did." Hermione's worry grew as she gave her best 'my-mum-just-died' look. Her delicate web of lies was being trodden on, and she needed to salvage it. "What are you talking about, Abraxas?"
"You say she died a month ago?" Still looking at his feet.
"Yes." The word was drawn out slowly, as if she was wondering why he was repeating what she had already told him.
"I was talking to her in the Floo a month ago." His head lifted now, and he stared her in the eyes with a fire that she had seen in Draco before. There was the bombshell. Yipee. Her life was now forfeited; she had been found out.
"So you see, whoever you are," Araminta cut in, examining a fingernail, "we know you aren't really a Malfoy. You just created some cock-and-bull story. I don't know what you said to make Dippet believe you, but he obviously did. And now," she raised her head and gave Hermione a feral grin, "now, we're going to hurt you until you confess. Good thing you came, I've wanted to try an Unforgivable for ages." She raised her wand, and pointed it between Hermione's eyes, her mouth already forming the words. "Cruc-"
The curse died on Araminta's lips, and she gave Hermione a disdainful sneer. "Honey, nothing you say will save you now."
"Oh really?" Hermione retorted, her voice a block of ice. "Abraxas, I want to tell you something. Something important and confidential." She gave Araminta a pointed look.
"How dare you talk to Abraxas like he is some- some common elf!" Araminta shrieked. "You-"
Araminta was cut off when Riddle said, softly but emotionlessly, "Shut up, Araminta." The loud screeching stopped abruptly "Abraxas, talk to her. See what she says."
Hermione had all but forgotten he was there; he had been standing in the back, quietly watching the proceedings as Araminta, Cephas and Lycaon attempted to threaten her. Now, still standing in the back, it was clear that he was the leader; Abraxas immediately gave a respectful nod, and Riddle moved to the other side of the room, the others following. Araminta gave Hermione the most poisonous glare she had ever seen as she also followed with her nose in the air.
Abraxas approached Hermione and took his wand out. Hermione braced herself for whatever spell was going to come out of it, but Abraxas only put up a 'Muffliato'. He then turned to her, conjured a plush chair and simply sat, staring at her. She knew he was waiting for her to speak.
"I'm a Malfoy." The words came out softly. "I really am." Hermione knew the best lies were half-truths.
"I…don't know what to believe," Abraxas admitted. "You look like me, sure, but nothing you've said adds up."
"Why didn't you try to threaten or hurt me?" Hermione asked, abruptly changing the subject. Abraxas raised an eyebrow slightly at the less than subtle subject change, but didn't call her on it.
"I like you," he murmured. "I don't know why, but I feel this pull. Right here." And he placed a hand on his stomach. "My magic calls out to you, as if…as if it already knows you." He shook his head, his short blonde hair falling into his eyes at the movement. "I don't know why."
Hermione knew. His magic was recognising its kin – Draco's and her magic had already bonded, and some of his resided in her. She didn't say that, though.
"I'm a Malfoy," Hermione repeated. "And I can prove it." She was pulling out her trump card, and although she knew she would regret it later, it was the only thing she knew would help her. She took in a deep breath. "I know a…Malfoy family secret." If Draco knew that she was going to reveal what he had told her in 'express confidentiality', he'd probably kill her. Or maybe not, seeing as she was telling a family member who already had this problem.
Abraxas' eyes widened, and he doubled the Muffliato instantly.
Hermione watched him, her voice sarcastic. "You people must have a lot of dirty secrets to be this paranoid."
"Well, if you really are a Malfoy," Abraxas' tart reply came, "then you're one of us and therefore have your own fair share of 'dirty secrets'."
Hermione grimaced. "I concede. Now…" She shifted awkwardly in the ropes. "Um. I don't really know how I'm supposed to say this. Er…" She blushed.
"Just spit it out, Hermione," Abraxas sighed.
"Um. Well, the Malfoy men who aren't married…they have a certain problem," she began, and was abruptly cut off by a hand slapping itself onto her mouth. Abraxas was looking at her with wide eyes, his face the colour of a tomato. He glanced at the others, and then back at her.
"You don't need to say anymore," Abraxas said weakly, removing his hand from her mouth. She gave him a sheepish grin. "I know you're a Malfoy now. I'll…go tell the others." He hurriedly put down the privacy charms he had put up and, with alarming speed, was on the other side of the room, talking Riddle and the gang. Hermione, despite the situation, was amused. She had only ever seen a Malfoy blush once, and that was when Draco was telling her this secret; the reason that he couldn't make love to her.
Sighing and sobering immediately at the reminder of a happy moment with her now-dead husband, she watched as the Slytherins began to walk in her direction. Abraxas was still scarlet, and was not meeting her eyes. By the looks on the others' faces, he hadn't told them how she had convinced him that she was a Malfoy. She didn't blame him; if she was a man, she wouldn't have wanted them to know, either.
"We're so sorry, Hermione!" Asterope cried, rushing forwards first. She took her wand out and vanished the ropes binding Hermione. Hermione winced, and then gave a soft sigh as relief washed over her. She wasn't going to die today. "It's just…we're really paranoid, and we needed to make sure you were okay to be around." She shot Riddle a look as she said this. "You probably have your own reasons for lying to us, and that's okay." She gave Hermione a hug, and Hermione saw over her shoulder that not all the others were happy with this last statement. Riddle, in particular, looked very sour.
Straightening up, the girl gave Hermione a beam, and then was immediately pushed aside by Denebola, who exclaimed the same sentiments as her sister, only worded differently and more dramatic, and embraced the blonde-haired witch. Both girls immediately then said 'good night' and rushed to the stairs, followed by a sullen Araminta. Hermione presumed they were going to the Girls' Dormitory, and watched them go, now sitting up straight on the soft sofa.
"Well…good night then," Abraxas said awkwardly to Hermione, still not looking at her. The other four boys, save for Riddle, echoed him (she noticed Lycaon looking a bit bitter at it, though) and they too left. Then it was just her and Riddle, and she stood up, wanting to get away from him as quickly as possible. She was sure it was him who had called out the interrogation squad, and she needed to think. If Voldemort was onto her…it didn't bode well. Her foot was on the stairs when he called out. "Wait."
Hermione stopped, but didn't turn around.
"I know a liar when I see one." The voice sent cold chills down Hermione's spine, and dread pooled in her stomach. "For now, I'll keep your little secrets, but I will find them out soon." Footsteps moving away from her, and then, "By the way, you look better with brown hair." More footsteps, the soft click of the door opening and closing, and he was gone.
Hermione was pale, and trembling. One thought echoed through her mind: How did he know?
Yipeeee! I finished this one. :D So, what did you guys think? I'm sorry that they weren't the big friendly (and innocent!) Slytherins you thought they were, but I really don't picture Voldemort's future Death Eaters being so…nice, I guess. At least, not as nice as they acted. Denebola and Asterope are still gossips, though, Abraxas is still a good guy, Alphard's still the ladies' man and Godric, Elias and Cephas are still cool. Araminta's still a cold b***ch and Riddle's nothing like he acted at first (although that's to be expected), and Lycaon will be a bit distant from now on. Sorry!
((By the way, this chapter was dedicated to Soul of the Dark Mark, who told me she loves fanfiction where the Slytherins aren't horrible. I'm hoping this will stop the angry hammer/review that I'll probably get for revealing that it's all a lie. :c))
School's starting, and I can't wait! –insert sarcastic face- But really, it's starting and I won't be able to update as much, because I've been really busy this year and it probably won't be any different this term. I'll try my best to update for you guys, though!
Reviewers get a lovely Voldemort-shaped cookie with pink and green frosting!