The Scientist

Summary: AU, HG/TMR/FW. Attraction builds between Hermione and her best friend's older brother, yet she can't tear her mind from the mysterious puzzle that is her critical theory professor: Dr. Riddle.

Author's Note: Ugh. I have other stories to finish. But I saw a picture on tumblr of Tom Riddle wearing hipster glasses, and then, somehow this story was spawned. Hope you guys enjoy this little story. Hoping to keep it to three chapters.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter; it belongs to JKR. I am just playing with the characters :)

Chapter One: The Kill

The music was much too loud and there were far too many people packed into the tiny rooftop garden of the apartment shared by Fred and George Weasley and their best friend Lee Jordan. Still, Hermione reflected as she hung by the edge of the garden, it was nice of them to invite a nerdy girl like me. The apartment shared by the three boys was technically a one-bedroom apartment, but it was still a really fantastic one. Between the three of them, they paid next to nothing for rent. And with the three boys' well-known reputations with the ladies, they never happened to all be staying at the apartment at the same time on any given night anyway.

Hermione rolled her eyes and smirked behind her drink as she watched Ron getting dragged by his older twin brothers into the throng of dancing people. Their little sister Ginny was making eyes at Hermione's other best friend, Harry, from across the garden, and all in all, Hermione was feeling rather left out. It's my own fault. If only I were more...more... More what? She could never put her finger on exactly what was missing from her personality that always left her in this same situation, no matter where she went.

She was always standing alone at the party, always working alone on projects in classes. Perhaps it was her deeply buried but still strong notion that she simply did things better on her own. Ron and Harry had over the years done something to reduce that part of her personality, and now, at the onset of law school, she was far more social than she had been in middle school when she had met the two boys. But they could not change her deeper nature, and though she longed to be social, she also longed for a less rambunctious environment.

"Wallflower, as usual," Harry greeted, handing Hermione a fresh drink. He nodded back over his shoulder meaningfully. "I don't know what to do," he confessed. Hermione smiled. Ginny was confidently weaving through the dancing people to get to their more secluded spot, her golden sequined top glittering and her gleaming waist-length red hair catching the light.

"Talking to her might be a start," said Hermione dryly. Harry glared at her momentarily before pushing up his glasses and rubbing his forehead, telltale signs that he was nervous. He always rubbed at a scar he had on his forehead, and now the skin around it was red from his attention. Doing him a favor, Hermione reached out and pushed his untidy black bangs to lie partially over the newly irritated skin.

"I already told her that it wouldn't work," he said through clenched teeth. "I'm leaving next week. Long distance relationships don't work. They. Just. Don't."

Hermione didn't get a chance to respond, for Ginny had reached them, her floral perfume clouding the air around them. At the outset, the redhead and Harry were complete opposites. Ginny was a fairly successful model and was never seen looking anything shy of completely glamorous, and was outgoing and flirtatious. Harry, on the other hand, was in training in the air force and was hard pressed to abandon his crummy bomber jackets and shabby jeans, and while he wasn't necessarily shy, he was not half as friendly or extraverted as Ginny. However, Hermione knew them both well enough to know that deep down they were made of the same stuff. Harry pointedly looked away.

"Hermione, are you ever going to try dancing a little?" Ginny demanded irritably. "You always just stand around awkwardly."

"Leave her alone, Gin," Harry said immediately, breaking his vow of silence towards Ginny. Victory flashed in the redhead's eyes and she slowly turned to Harry, masking a rather seductive smile behind a glare that was highly reminiscent of Mrs. Weasley. Time to go, Hermione thought wearily.

It always happened like this: Harry would insist he and Ginny could not work a relationship together and insist that they never speak again. ...Invariably they would run into each other, and Hermione would watch with well-meaning exasperation as Harry became ensnared by Ginny's charm that he was fully prey to. It was happening now: his green eyes flickered, irresistibly, to her lips, and his cheeks flushed as he looked away hastily.

"So we're speaking now, is it?" Ginny asked coolly, arching a penciled brow. Harry coughed, looking to Hermione for help, but he would not find it in her.

"Oh, time to go to the loo. See you two later," Hermione said airily, shooting Harry a smirk that he did not return as she left the two of them, smirking as she heard the two begin to snap at each other like they always did. Hermione checked her watch: just past midnight. She was allowed to go now, wasn't she? She hoped so. Surreptitiously she began to make her way towards the door to the stairs, but was nearly steamrollered by a lean redhead and a very tall, pretty black girl.

"Hermione!" Fred—or was it George? but no, it was Fred, as he still had both ears—bellowed in greeting. His girlfriend, Angelina Johnson, rolled her eyes at her boyfriend but smiled rather indulgently. "Leaving so soon? You look far too sober. Here, let's do shots!"

"Fred," Angelina warned, "Hermione doesn't like to party." She turned to Hermione. "Ignore him. You know how he gets after the seventh rum and coke."

There was something patronizing about Angelina's tone, and it ruffled Hermione's feathers. "So, I hear you're doing the law program. If you ever need any help, let me know," Angelina changed the subject swiftly. "Have you met any of the professors yet?"

"Just Dr. McGonagall," Hermione replied, recalling the severe-looking older woman who was one of the heads of the law program at Hogwarts University. Angelina's mouth twitched.

"Wait til you meet Dr. Riddle," she said with a grin. Hermione arched her brows.

"This is probably the third time I've heard that. What's so special about this guy?" she asked irritably. Angelina shook her head, laughing.

"You'll see. I can't explain it without you having met him. You can look, but I don't recommend attempting to touch. Then again that same advice was given to me, and i tried anyway, so I may as well just let you try and see."

Hermione was getting irritated by Angelina's behavior, but luckily before it became visible, Lee and George had pulled Angelina away, entrapping her in a drinking game that looked like it involved tequila. Relieved, Hermione turned to go, but found Fred still standing there, barring her way out.

"Trying to help my little sister along?" he asked shrewdly, his blue eyes twinkling knowingly. He nodded discretely to Harry and Ginny, who were now deep in their own private conversation, their faces flushed with happiness, as they stood in the corner under the white twinkle lights strung around the garden. Hermione half-smiled and shrugged.

"It's not that they need help, really. Just a little...encouragement, I suppose," Hermione replied. Awkward silence passed between them; Fred and she were of entirely different social statuses and she had never exactly known what to say to him. When other people were around, they interacted more smoothly, but alone she keenly sensed how they had absolutely nothing in common. She was just a bookwormish girl who happened to be best friends with his younger brother and sister; he was a popular guy who had already started an entrepreneurship. In high school, she remembered him and George as two of the star players on the soccer team and the biggest pranksters. Since then, not much had changed. "Thanks for inviting me, by the way. I should probably get going now, though," she added, her face and neck flushing.

"No problem," Fred said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking away briefly. It was unusual to see Fred look uncomfortable in a social situation, and it made Hermione all the more self-conscious. "Hey, I need a little breather from all the drinking anyway. I'll walk you home. Ickle Ronniekins mentioned you live near Gin."

Hermione began to protest hastily but Fred wouldn't hear of it, and after letting Angelina know where he was off to, they left the party together. Hermione's stomach was tied into knots from the awkward silence and frantically she searched for something to say. Out on the street, few cars passed; their city of Hogsmeade tended to shut down at night. The gravel was wet from the light rain that had been falling earlier in the evening.

"So, Ron said you're in law school now?"

"Yes, classes start tomorrow," Hermione replied uncomfortably, looking down at her worn trainers as they walked. She wished desperately that her apartment could be closer; they still were at least twenty minutes away and she was having difficulty coming up with things to talk to Fred about. "How's your entrepreneurship going?"

"Oh, about as well as those things can go," Fred said cheerily. His previous discomfort seemed to have abated and Hermione fiercely envied him for his social grace. Still, his attitude put her slightly more at ease. "It's hard to get investors for a joke shop, obviously, but we've finally found a few people and we're looking into getting our own store."

They hurriedly crossed the road. When their arms brushed as they turned back onto the sidewalk, Hermione flinched away. Fred smelled like laundry detergent, toothpaste, and beer. It was a surprisingly attractive combination—he seemed to radiate boyishness. "When you're a famous lawyer you can get me and George out of pickles when we get sued for products not working as they should," he added teasingly, winking at Hermione.

"Don't count on it. You two have gotten into trouble before that even I couldn't get you out of," she retorted immediately, forgetting her own nervousness.

"Ah, yes—remember when you were just an itty bitty freshie in high school? And you got so mad when George and I put that gerbil in your locker?"

"How could I forget?" Hermione asked dryly, crossing her arms over her chest. "It was horrifying. You knew I hated gerbils," she added indignantly over Fred's chuckling. Soon they dissolved into nostalgic reminiscing of high school.

And somewhere along the way, Hermione forgot to be nervous around Fred, and they came to her apartment complex far too soon. The rain had started up again, though it was still just a mist, and hung around them, blurring the traffic and streetlights. "Thanks for walking me home," she said, her nervousness returning to her abruptly. Fred grinned down at her.

"Can't let a lady walk home alone, not at this hour. Don't worry about it."

For a moment they were silent. Hermione held her breath, and was about to say good night, when a chirping sound interrupted them. It was a very tinny, low-quality clip of a cheesy love song, being emitted by Fred's cellphone. "That'll be Angelina," Fred said awkwardly.

"Right. Well, I'll let you get that. Night," Hermione replied, her cheeks flushing hotly again, and she turned swiftly and went inside.

Out on the street, Angelina was letting Fred know she was going back to her own place and he could come over if he wanted. Fred hung up and let out a sigh, wiping the rain from his eyes, and involuntarily found his eyes traveling upward. A light had gone on in the apartment complex, and from here he could see Hermione moving around her apartment. He shoved his hands in his pockets. Maybe it was just the alcohol, but sometimes, he thought Hermione was really rather cute.

You're happily dating Angelina, he reminded himself warningly. Still, it was hard to tear his eyes from her window. You're just getting nervous about all this commitment. Get a grip. He went straight to Angelina's apartment, breaking into a jog to get away from Hermione's. To him, Hermione had always been his little brother's cute, geeky friend. He'd suspected that Ron had had a crush on Hermione for a long time, but somehow it didn't seem as though Hermione returned those feelings. At least, not anymore.

At the party, he had seen her standing in the corner, observing everyone else. Hermione was a mystery to him. Sometimes she was shy and flustered, other times bossy and domineering. Both sides to her were cute. Still he suspected there was a deeper layer that he had not seen. He always got the sense that he was peering through gauze at something more complex, more dark, when he talked to her, and it drew him in alluringly.

Angelina. You love Angelina. She understands you, she is perfect for you, he fiercely told himself.

That night, he was not the only one lying awake, thinking about the walk to Hermione's apartment that they had shared.

Finally, the suspense would end. Today was her first day of law school, and consequently, her first chance to meet this infamous Dr. Riddle. Angelina had not been the first person to warn Hermione of Dr. Riddle, and she had not been the first person to cryptically refer to what Hermione assumed to be his good looks, either.

"You've got critical theory with Riddle? Damn. Good luck," her sort-of-friend Parvati said with a grimace as they left the coffee shop on campus. It was finally time to attend to her critical theory class. Typically it was a class taken later in the curriculum, but thanks to Dr. McGonagall, she was getting to move a little further ahead in classes. Hermione had never moved at the same pace as her classmates, and she was eager to move onto more advanced topics. "My sister's friend had him. Apparently he's beautiful but...well, kind of evil."

"How evil can he possibly be? Nothing I can't handle," Hermione said with a bit of a smirk, tossing her hair a bit haughtily. "Remember that chem professor I had for undergrad?"

"Oh, god, the one with the greasy hair who refused to call on you in class?" Parvati burst into laughter. "That was hilarious."

"No, it wasn't. It was infuriating! He was a misogynistic pig," Hermione replied indignantly. "Anyway, I'll let you know how he is. See you around!"

The girls parted and Hermione stopped in the doorway of the law building to make sure she had everything. Something hard slammed into her. Her books went flying, as well as the coffee in her hand which exploded and spilled all over her blouse and books. "Ouch! Excuse me, you jerk—" she began in anger, whirling on the spot to look for who or what had smacked into her.

Her mouth went dry as her eyes landed on perhaps the most beautiful human being she had ever had the pleasure to be glared at. Dark, gleaming wavy hair fell just above dark eyes that were a peculiar, smoldering cross between grey, green, and blue, and he was using them to look down his straight, aristocratic nose at her, a disgusted frown curling his smooth, utterly kissable lips. Her eyes traveled downwards—had anyone ever looked so handsome in a suit? His dark jacket hung open, his tie carelessly flicked over his shoulder, revealing a pristinely starched white shirt.

"I—I... I'm sorry," she managed to utter, completely in shock. People were beginning to complain audibly about the holdup but it was a distant roar compared to the pounding of her blood in her ears. The man pressed his delightful lips together into a subtle sneer before speaking.

"Yes, I'm sure you are. However, you will find you'll be even sorrier if you make me late. Please stand aside," he said caustically. Immediately anger replaced lust.

"Oh yes, let me just move all of my things out of the way that you made me drop," she snarled, forgetting herself.

"Please do," he said simply, though the faintest hint of amusement glimmered in his dark eyes. Grumbling, Hermione crouched down and began snatching her things, stuffing them into her bag. The man stepped around her swiftly. As he passed, she caught a note of subtle cologne that made her inhale deeply. She continued to hold up traffic by the door as she watched his tall, svelte, suit-encased form enter the building. Who was he?

They don't make them like that anymore, she thought wistfully as she entered the building, having recovered all of her things. Too bad he was a complete ass. But isn't it always the way?

She was a bit of a neat-freak and despised when her books weren't in mint condition, and it'd be embarrassing to open coffee-soaked books on the first day of class. It was also going to be humiliating to enter her class late. Hopefully this Dr. Riddle was not as evil as everyone made him out to be and wouldn't be too displeased by her late entrance. Hermione sprinted the rest of the way to the classroom. There was no window on the door like there usually were on classroom doors, so she could unfortunately not peek in and slip in, unnoticed, during an appropriate moment. Drawing in a breath deeply, she turned the handle.

The room was silent as the door banged shut behind her. Hermione's eyes traveled to the front of the room, looking for the professor, and she froze, her body going into shock, as her gaze rested on the professor who stood in front of the blackboard, poised as though he had been stopped in the middle of writing something.

It was the man who had smacked into her outside. Now dark horn-rimmed glasses were perched on his nose and he'd shrugged off his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white shirt.

Kill me. Now, she begged an ambiguous higher power as her face felt like it had burst into flame, and her bag almost slipped in her grip because her hands were perspiring so much.

"Tardiness," he began in a quiet, sibilant voice that made the enormous classroom strain harder to hear, "is not tolerated in my classroom. Do it again and I assure you, you will not disrupt my class. Ever. Again."

"Y-yes, sorry," she stammered, stumbling to the first open seat she could find in the entire lecture hall...which happened to be directly in the middle of the first row. The professor was silent, holding his chalk against the board, his dark eyes on her as she settled into her seat and took out her notebook with shaking hands. Did he have to draw quite so much attention to her? Especially considering it had been his fault she had been late, after all.

"Are you quite finished?" he drawled in disgust after she had located a pencil still dripping with coffee. When she nodded meekly, he sighed loudly and turned back to the board. "As I was saying, before I was...interrupted...this is critical theory. Most of you will not pass this class. Rest assured that if you do not pay careful attention, you will fall behind and never catch up." He looked over his shoulder seemingly pointedly at Hermione. "I expect every one of you to be on time, every day. Being on time means arriving before I do...whenever that may be."

Her blood boiled with his behavior as she watched him write his office hours and contact information on the board rapidly in elegant script, holding the chalk with pianist fingers. So this was Dr. Riddle.

As Hermione frantically took notes, she couldn't help but think that everyone had not been exaggerating about him in the slightest. In fact, she thought, their eyes meeting as he began lecturing, a brief and tantalizing flicker of recognition and amusement in his shadow-colored eyes, they really had minimized just how beautifully evil he seemed to be.

Despite seemingly being the spawn of the devil, however, Dr. Riddle was a fantastic lecturer. He was entirely captivating and soon Hermione became so immersed that she forgot to even take notes. He was probably quite the powerful lawyer, if he had this much presence in an enormous lecture hall. He was so wickedly subtle in his humor that it was lost on most of the class, but not on Hermione.

And slowly...her usual obsession with being liked and respected by her professors was building up inside of her again. She waited anxiously for any chance to prove herself, but he asked no questions and gave no room for comments. I'll wait after class and apologize for being late, and make an observation on the material, she thought excitedly. Yes, she'd do that, and Dr. Riddle would be impressed, and then... she nearly swooned, imagining them having intellectual debates, poring over cases together...her cheeks flushed and she pushed aside her ulterior motives. No, she simply wanted him to think of her as a brilliant law student, she told herself. This had nothing to do with his physical beauty or his captivating personality.

After class, Hermione took her time packing up her things. To her disappointment, there was a long line of students waiting to speak to Dr. Riddle, but without acknowledging any of them, he shrugged back into his jacket and packed up his things, exiting the lecture hall swiftly and without so much as a backward glance, leaving the long line of students staring after him in disappointment.


But Hermione was nothing if not determined. Steeling her will, she looked up his office location. Hopefully he'd be there, and then he'd be so impressed that she had taken the time to seek him out! Mentally editing her observation to become a more insightful one, she slipped down the halls. She just had to pray that she was the only one who had had this idea. Luckily she did not see anyone else heading towards his office, so she assumed she was safe.

Before stopping at his office, she made a trip to the bathroom. She was not vain, but she found herself neatening her bushy curls and checking her teeth for any food debris that might be lurking. Satisfied, she knocked on his office door with flushed cheeks and bright eyes.

"Enter," came his icy baritone. She wiped her slightly clammy palms on her slacks and turned the handle, pushing open the mahogany door.

His office was not what she had expected. Hanging from the ceiling were models of the solar system, and tacked to the walls were posters of diagrams of the brain and human anatomy. One wall was taken up by makeshift shelves filled to bursting point with files and loose papers. A chalkboard was covered in his elegant script—at first blush it looked like case notes. Dr. Riddle was seated behind his desk, glasses on again and surrounded by stacks of folders.

"H-hello, Dr. Riddle. I'm from your Critical Theor—"

"I recall," he interrupted dryly, setting down his pen with a look of deep irritation at her over the rim of his glasses. He sat back in his chair, looking at her expectantly. "Come to make some idiotic observation about the lecture? Or to apologize for your tardiness? ...Or both?"

Hermione's cheeks flushed rather tellingly and he let out a long-suffering sigh.


"Granger," she supplied hastily.

"Yes, Miss Granger," he began, picking up his pen again. "As you can see, I'm a rather busy man. Perhaps if you had been paying attention at the beginning of class—or been there at all, for that matter—you might have noticed that I did supply my office hours."

"Yes, I wrote them down," she huffed indignantly. He nodded slowly at her like she was some sort of lowly creature such as a slug that was unlikely to understand him.

"And when are my office hours?" he asked in a silkily polite tone. Hermione bristled.

"Tuesdays at three," she replied impatiently, "but I just wanted to—"

"And is it a Tuesday, Miss Granger?" he interrupted sweetly.

"No, but—"

"Then what are you still doing here?"

Hermione's blood was pounding in her ears.

"Have a nice day, Dr. Riddle," she said acidly, turning on her heel to leave his office. Just before she shut the door, he called after her.

"Next Tuesday then, Miss Granger," he said gamely with a wicked wink. The door slammed shut behind her.

"He's a complete arse," Hermione exploded indignantly into her phone. "He made me late, then proceeded to humiliate me in front of the entire class relentlessly! I don't think he went ten minutes without making some reference to how offensive my lateness was to him! And when I went to his office to apologize, he just humiliated me some more!"

"Yeah, Ange said he was a git," Ron said sympathetically, glancing over his shoulder. He was in his brother's apartment, and Angelina and said brother Fred were currently involved in making use of Lee's new Wii. "Angelina, 'Mione finally met that professor you were talking to her about," Ron called into the cramped living room. Fred's heart skipped a beat at the mention of Hermione as Angelina paused their Wii tennis game.

"Oh, Riddle? Did she say anything about what he looks like?" she asked with a sly grin. Befuddled, Ron turned back to the phone and the sandwich he was in the midst of making at the same time.

"Angelina wants to know if you noticed what he looked like. Weird. Is he hot or something? One of those older hot guys?"

Fred tried to not look too interested in Hermione's answer as Ron called back into the room, "She said you really downplayed how hot he is way too much."

Angelina burst into laughter and resumed their tennis game, but Fred wasn't ready and she scored a point.

"Hot prof? Should I be worried?" he teased, attempting to keep his tone casual. Angelina grinned wickedly at him.

"Believe me, even the straight guys in the class would've done him. Bloody bastard, though. Seriously, if he weren't a law professor, he'd probably be an evil dictator or something. Made me want to drop out of law school." Her tone was tinged with humorous bitterness as she scored another point. "Are you on drugs today? Usually you beat me without even trying!

"I'm fine," Fred replied, clearing his throat and shaking his head. "Y'know, I ought to go see if that investor has gotten back to me."

"Alright, sure," Angelina said warily. She had been dating Fred long enough to know that when he was upset, he threw himself into his work...even around dinner time. And for a Weasley to skip on food or play was highly unusual.

Fred wanted to smack himself. He hardly knew Hermione, and they had never had chemistry before. You were drunk the other night, and just randomly saw her in a new light, he told himself vehemently. He was abruptly distracted by the reply that he had gotten from a potential investor, and excitedly opened it, his heart racing.

"We've got funding!" he cried, jumping off the couch. Angelina shrieked with excitement and kissed him heartily, and Ron came into the room, stuffing a sandwich in his mouth with one hand and high-fiving Fred with the other. Fred grinned; he couldn't wait to tell George. "We've got to celebrate," he said breathlessly with a grin. "Drinks on me and George tonight. Come on!"

"I can't; I've got to study," Angelina said apologetically. Fred winced. He suspected Angelina was a bit irritated by his career path, but he pushed the thought aside. You're just looking for problems now. Just forget about Hermione. It's not like you see her all the time.

"I'll go," Ron piped up. He fished out his cell phone from his pocket. "I just asked Hermione to meet up tonight; I'll invite her."


With all of the commotion about Dr. Riddle, the walk home with Fred had slipped Hermione's mind. Now, as she approached the bar that all of her friends usually met up at, pleasant jitters were coming back to her in waves. Not that anything could ever happen, of course. Fred and Angelina had been dating without reprieve since high school. But it was nice to look forward to seeing someone. She'd even dressed up slightly for the occasion, going as far as applying a bit of makeup.

The bar was called the Three Broomsticks and was a cozy, cheerful affair. Ron particularly liked the bar for its 'scenery'...meaning the lovely bartender who was generally there. She was a pretty blonde named Rosmerta, and through the window outside Hermione could spot Ron at the bar, attempting to joke with Rosmerta.

Fred and George were already there as well, but Angelina was apparently not there yet. Taking a deep breath in, Hermione braced herself for seeing Fred, and stepped inside. The pub was crowded as usual, and Hermione experienced a shock when she recognized a group at one of the booths. Dr. Riddle was seated among other professors. The glasses were absent, disappointingly, though next to him sat a striking woman with waist-length black curls and heavy-lidded eyes that reminded Hermione of the models that usually appeared on the cover of GQ. Her skirt and jacket were black and tight-fitting, and as she was on the outside of the booth, Hermione spotted sky-high stilettos. As though the woman could feel her eyes on her, she turned to look at Hermione over her shoulder.

"Ah, Miss Granger. I thought we already discussed the fact that my office hours are on Tuesdays...and generally in my office," Dr. Riddle greeted dryly. Hermione scowled.

"For your information, I'm meeting my friends, Dr. Riddle," she snapped waspishly. A man with platinum blonde hair slicked away from his pointed face was seated with them as well, watching her with icy grey eyes. "Have a nice evening," she added, and stormed over to the bar. Ron had begun a song on the karaoke machine and was drunkenly doling out a rendition of the same song that was Fred's ringtone for Angelina, singing and dodging thrown items from the twins and now Harry at the same time.

"You made it, Mione!" greeted Fred enthusiastically. Just then Ginny sidled up, wearing a short forest-green dress and tall boots. Harry immediately ducked away, mumbling something about having to use the loo, his face the color of beets. "I suppose they're at the post-coital avoidance stage of the cycle now," Fred commented under his breath, and Hermione snorted.

"Too true," she said grimly, observing the flash of hurt on Ginny's lovely face as she watched Harry hurry away. "So what's the occasion?"

Fred's eyes twinkled and he grinned, handing her a butterbeer.

"Finally found an investor. It's gonna happen," he said with barely concealed excitement. Hermione let out a shriek and set her butterbeer down to throw her arms around Fred impulsively. She realized a beat too late what she had done and she and Fred drew back abruptly as though electrocuted.

"T-that's great," she stammered, taking a swig of her butterbeer to hide her blush. "So where are you guys going to set up shop?"

"Here in Hogsmeade. There's a place on High Street that has an open flat above. I hate to give up our flat that we have now, but..." he sighed. "It's time to move on, you know? This place has two bedrooms. Heh, I'm twenty eight and this will be the first time I have my own room," he said sardonically.

"Well, sort of. Angelina'll be staying there, right?"

For some reason, Fred looked uncomfortable. He looked away, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Yeah, true," he agreed vaguely. "Anyway, whenever you want to be a test subject for our products, let me know."


"Kidding! ...Sort of."

As she was laughing and talking with Fred, Hermione had the peculiar sense that she was being watched. Uncomfortably she glanced over her shoulder, but never caught anyone looking with her. Perhaps I'm hyper-sensitive to his presence... she thought as she tore her eyes from Dr. Riddle, who was deep in conversation with the blonde-haired man. For most of the evening, she and Fred sat by the bar, chatting and downing butterbeer after butterbeer. Hermione was disappointed when Angelina showed up and Fred had to leave.

Finally, it seemed everyone was tiring, and after giving George a last congratulation, Hermione stepped out of the pub. It was raining outside again. Hermione wrinkled her nose—she hated rain. She stood in the safety of the awning, hoping the rain might let up, when the bar door opened and Dr. Riddle stepped out, his suitjacket folded over his arm.

"Miss Granger," he greeted. Hermione waited for him to either continue without another word or make some snide comment, and at the idea of it, her cheeks flushed. But to her surprise, he went to stand under the awning next to her.

"How are you?" she queried politely, making a painful stab at conversation. Dr. Riddle rolled his eyes.

"A bit annoyed, actually." He turned to her. "I hate rain, you see." He held out a pale hand, testing how hard the rain was falling, and sighed before drawing it in again.

"Me too."

For a moment, they were silent. Hermione's hairs on her skin prickled as she considered saying something about his class, but kept deciding against it, for fear that he think she was trying too hard to please him.

"You're too hesitant and wilting," he said suddenly. Hermione blinked in shock at him rather stupidly. "Really, Miss Granger, either fuck him or not, but what you were doing was not exactly playing hard-to-get."

"Excuse me?" Hermione asked in disbelief. He had to be talking about Fred. Dr. Riddle shifted, bracing his hand against the wall near her shoulder and regarding her with a critical stare.

"I think you have a lot of spirit that is buried under a complete lack of confidence. You've already been a complete bitch to me several times, which is comforting...but you tend to hide that bossy, domineering side. If you want to be successful in law, that simply will not do. Don't tempt and tantalize—go in for the kill."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Hermione sputtered. Dr. Riddle's eyes roved over her.

"Yes, you do. You know exactly what I'm talking about. I know you were upset that I made you late and then criticised you for it. Taking it lying down doesn't seem to be your nature, and it won't serve you well in law either. And if you want that man in there, then go for it or stop trying entirely. It's not a chase..." he paused, looking deeply thoughtful for a moment. "...So much as whack-a-mole, really," he finished thoughtfully, rubbing his chin.

"He's practically married, and I'm not interested."

"Unconvincing," Dr. Riddle said shortly. "You were blushing the entire night, you kept touching your hair or your shirt—signs you were nervous—and you were anything but subtle in how you could not keep your eyes off his crotch."

Hermione swallowed a retort; she was catching on to what Dr. Riddle was doing. She narrowed her eyes at him.

"Perhaps I was nervous because of one of my other friends that I'm interested in was there. And what if he had a stain on his jeans? Yours is the unconvincing argument," she parried smoothly. Dr. Riddle's eyes flashed with amusement before his lips curled into a pleased grin.

"Very good," he said softly. "The wilting, blushing thing isn't working for you. Forget shy. Just go in for the kill—always." He turned and stepped into the rain. "Have a good night, Miss Granger. See you in class tomorrow—don't be late."

"Don't make me late, then!" she called after him bossily. His sensuous chuckle reached her ears as she watched him get soaked through by the rain and hail a cab. All too soon he was gone and she was left with a feeling of unsettlement that was rather pleasant.