Chapter One: Back To 1945

Tom's pov

Tom Marvolo Riddle closed the fifth grimoire with a frustrated hiss, if he hadn't found something, suitable, so far, he doubted that he was going to find it in this book. He tried to completely clear his mind but a touch of his thoughts stubbornly remained scattered.
Something was very wrong with Harry.

Lamentably, it wasn't only contained in his unnatural, extreme even for a half Gryffindor, recklessness. It had started rather small at the beginning, seeming like nothing more than the expected depression out of his plan's success. But, as the months passed, the symptoms just vanished for a time only to manifest again stronger than before...

And Harry, the fool, wasn't accepting that he had a problem and by doing so let him help. No the idiot acted like everything was fine and Tom, himself, was twice the fool for falling for that, too close to the problem to be impartial. He had been forced to put some, unwanted, distance between them to finally understand all the implications and still needed more, desperately so, if he was going to do something to save him.

There wasn't a question in that. He hadn't done everything he had done to lose Harry now that he had him exactly where he dreamed him... His hands were trembling, he forced them to stop, to twirl his wand until he calmed. He still burned to thrash the room, maybe the castle. No it wouldn't do. He hardly needed his roommate to become aware of his aggravation.

His roommate, Tom smiled darkly; he needed a distraction...
Maybe if he pondered his other problem?

A year and six months ago, in a rare act of impulsiveness, he had grabbed Hermione Granger, the last moment, before they returned to the past. He had done so with the prospect that she could help keep Harry grounded and even in case that she died in the trip Harry would have appreciated that he tried.

Granger had certainly fulfilled his expectations; her mere presence had kept the immediate freak-out at bay and a few judicious threats to her well-being had kept the outburst at a minimum...(Two weeks of unconsciousness wasn't that hard a price to keep Harry, he expected at least that much.)

Not only that but, after her own shock had passed, she had helped her friend initially come to terms with what happened and later on she assisted him in aiding Harry to adjust in his life with a medium of peace if not contentment. Tom could privately admit to himself that held a trace of gratitude to the mudblood for that. Not that any other of Harry's little friends couldn't have done just as nicely in the end, but at least Granger could be tolerable for most of times.

The mere thought of having to endure the idiotic ginger or the spacious blonde made him cringe but, truthfully, they could have been more easily controllable. Granger, in her time here, had grown in leaps and bounds, like the Ravenclaw of her resorting.

She had adjusted to her circumstances by reading any book she could find, only this time no book was too dark for her to touch and it wasn't long before she was recognised as the second best student in Hogwarts, a hairbreadth behind him, so much so that he himself had started studying even harder to keep the first place.

That alone was irritating, yet it wasn't the main reason that he resented her.
No the problem was that Granger wasn't as easily dismissible as those idiots. The mudblood, no, no mudblood, her capabilities had made her rise above her station. Mudborn, that was more appropriate wasn't one of those that could be left alone to live their tiny insignificant lives without being a dump to his plans.

No, Harry had been proved right, damn him, Granger's formidable intellect was almost in par to his... and while she wasn't as powerful or knew him that well like Harry did (she wasn't his equal after all) she wasn't someone that he could leave unattended, or an asset he was prepared to lose. However, he also couldn't dare to use her with her loyalties attached only to Harry. The only way he could afford her alive was if she was equally devoted to him as well, which at present was impossible... Unless he did something drastic...

As the elimination of the problem was unattainable there was only one solution left available to him. While the logic of the plan was implacable it was also vaguely distasteful and had left him a bit uneasy. So he had stalled, atypically hesitant upon the longevity of his plans, until the start of term, when he forced himself to discreetly start courting her. Not to much effect. Because, while Hermione Jean Granger was attracted to him, or more precisely his body and intellect, she also held a healthy dose of fear for the rest of him and so had turned him down.

It didn't deter him for long of course. Long ago, after that slap, he had sworn to himself that he was going to make her eat out of his hand. He didn't need to hurt her to win. A few heirs and enough research material were going to keep her distracted, useful, and obedient. Then the threat of her influencing Harry against him was going to be forever neutralised.., and of course the pettiest reason, taking away that much of Harry's time and attention... Yes, Tom was that much territorial and he didn't mind it in the slightest.

The only reason he had to hurry was that he should ascertain his position before the school year was over; else he run the risk that she would run away or start opening her mouth in front of the wrong people.
Thankfully not Dumbledore, having a person's future self thrown a killing curse at her best friend did that to a woman.

Tom stalled because he didn't want to get married and bind himself in any way. It wasn't that Hermione wasn't beautiful or that he didn't want her willingly surrendering herself to his power, or even that he wasn't going to enjoy the intellectual debates they were going to have. But he would rather not have to present a mask in his private time as well, or even hold himself back, he had grown indulgent in the last years. It wasn't like it mattered if it was Hermione or someone else, people tended to be unable to handle the full bear of his personality. Only one person could and Harry was out of the question.

It was the right thing for him.

Everything in Hermione fit perfectly in his long term plans. Short term... Tom smiled wickedly. The perfect way to take revenge to all those purebloods that had dared to snub him and make his life hell in his first year at Hogwarts. Far crueller than simply have them debasing themselves in front of him, he was going to raise a mudblood above them. No one was going to dare say a word against it. Even Walburga... the cheek of the woman! To dare proposing him like she was doing him a favour? This was going to hurt her worse that crucio.

The sound of light steps indicated that the Head Girl was approaching. Tom returned to his thick tome, it was better to have her guessing.

Hearing her soft voice he finally raised his head, playing the distracted.
"Hermione," he acknowledged and, after marking his book, got swiftly to his feet. "How can I help you?" he asked coolly but not cold.

Finally he checked her appearance. He had chosen well. The soft cashmere dress was hinting her soft curves without being tacky, or over conservative, while the burgundy colour was making her skin seem aglow. Even her hairstyle, while not very elaborate, was elegant. All in all, well complimenting to his own appearance. They were going to be the most enviable couple of the night.

Hermione was blushing furiously under his direct gaze even though, except a cursory glance, he had kept his eyes respectably to her face. Good, it wasn't going to be long now.

"Forgive me," she said at least, "but you had offered to escort me at Professor Slughorn's party and it's already eight. If you changed your mind, I won't hold you to that." she concluded proudly.

He was perfectly aware of the time, thank you very much, in five minutes was going to collect her himself but he rather preferred it that she came to him.

"There is no need for that," he told her sharply, "Slughorn's parties can be rather tedious and I would much prefer to finish my book but he is too useful a connection to consider dumping him, especially tonight,"

Hermione knew him far too well to believe him only on charm, so he always used some biting truth to lull her in a false sense of security. It worked this time as well, her eyes lowered sadly. Hook, line and sinker... He shrugged.
"You know how easily I get bored; at least I prefer your company to some insipid idiot's."

Her whole face glowed at his covered praise, Tom smirked deep inside. Time for the kill... without warning he conjured a delicate gardenia, well aware at how much terrified and excited, she got from his wandless and wordless magic.
"Allow me?" he asked with a calculatedly lowered voice.

Hermione, nodded her acceptance awkwardly, her mouth obviously too parsed to say a single word. He took his time sticking the flower, lingering just enough to make her feel it, but not enough that she could blame him that he was taking liberties. It was enough. Her breath was laboured and her eyes so dilated that the milk chocolate had turned to bitter.

Finally! If he played his cards right he was going to have her, tonight.

Hermione's pov

Hermione felt like her heart was going to leap out of her chest and hated herself for it. She tried to slow her breathing, to not show him how he was affecting her, but it was too late. She saw the minuscule rising to his lips and glared. Bastard!

"Shall we go, my dear?" he offered her his arm.

"Yes my Lord." she saw his face lighten and her stomach dropped for giving him that much. She accepted his arm, cursing herself, all the way down the stairs.

Why the hell had she done so? Because, her inner self told her resolutely, his smile for a moment had been real not faked and she found herself very much wanting to please him.

After all, academically speaking, he was a Lord. Only three persons in this castle and probably England held that kind of power: Dumbledore, to which she was going to be damned if she offered any kind of respect ever again, Tom and Harry. Which was still strange, to think her best friend in terms like that.

But that didn't answer the question. Why did must be Tom of all people the one that affected her that much?
It wasn't like she didn't know how dangerous he was long before she ended in this timeline. Yet, from the moment she stepped into the past, there was barely an insult flung at her. More, many, many times that Tom had decidedly protected her. She couldn't help but start to trust him.

Attraction was the natural next step. It wasn't just his classical beauty or the amazing way he carried himself that made her incapable of taking her eyes from him when he walked into a room. No, it was his mind that left her in awe. His ideas in magical theory were mesmerising, Hermione found herself learning more in a single conversation with him than she could learn in class at a whole year.

Even his political ideas weren't that bad, she suspected that they were softened a great deal thanks to his association with Harry, but that was hardly a negative thing and she had come to see her best friend's point. Tom was going to prove himself very much the Lord in the future, but Voldemort? No way in hell.

If only she could have a look in his private stash of books...

"Tom?" she asked tentatively as she realised that she had been silent for almost five minutes and they had left the Gryffindor part of the castle behind. Tom didn't take it well when he was ignored.

"Yes Hermione." he answered playfully clearly amused.

For a moment Hermione was floored then realisation stuck, the bastard had probably legimens her. It wasn't past him. She gritted her teeth and asked the question.
"That book you were so engrossed what was about?"

"Obscure Blood Rituals by Janos Loxley."

Hermione instantly forgot her anger.
"Really! I have read references about this book where did you find it?"

Now Tom was indeed amused and not in a superior way.
"Black library, I can lend it to you later if you want."

"You will do that for me?!"

"Why not? Its not like you won't appreciate it, or you will start preaching about the Light like you did before." he winked at her.
"After all I owe you one..."

Hermione felt warm all over but if she had learned a thing it was to be wary around Tom, especially, when he was generous.

All traces of amusement left Tom's face. He was serious like the grave.
"I owe you for making that suggestion. Harry would have never accepted it from me."

Now Hermione was all business.

"I didn't do it for you Tom," she told him softly. "Even if he won't come after you he would have gone against someone else for not agreeing in his black and white world. He had set Harry to d..."

She didn't manage to complete her sentence, Tom's fingertips covered her lips and he bowed his head to whisper in her ear, a gesture both tender and startlingly intimate.
"Later, there are portraits here." Hermione nodded her acceptance, crimson from his proximity, Tom laughed at her reaction, a warm and strangely sensual laugh.

Hermione found herself relaxing.

They started to walk again, barely five paces when Tom told her completely casually.
"You know Hermione I could show you even more of Loxley's books later tonight together with some warm coffee."

Hermione found herself agreeing without thinking about it.
"I would love that."

They reached Slughorn's office and Tom courteously opened the door for her. But all the genial mood of the night was dispensed like smoke upon hearing Tom's angry, low, hiss.
"What the hell is she doing here?"

Hermione took a careful look to see who had angered Tom so and had to take a double take. Harry, for once, had beaten them at being in time and, even more outrageously, he was escorting Minerva McGonagall. She felt her mouth hanging open, that was certainly not a pairing she was expecting to see, but her reaction was nothing compared to Tom's, Hermione felt her legs almost turn to jelly, he looked ready to murder the whole room.

Within an instant the lethal expression was gone like it had never been there. Silently Tom offered her a chair and sat beside her at Harry's other side. She felt bad about the cool greetings, which extended to her, but it was kind of inevitable–their fight was only just a few hours ago.

With an amazing abundance of self control Tom greeted everyone politely, managing to look gracious and un-conceited while Slughorn was gushing about him and Harry, as the guests of honour, and even made some small talk until everyone's attention was at something else. Then and only then he started hissing low and menacing.

Hermione tried to calm down the fear that was coursing her body but it was difficult, she was never completely without fear towards Tom but it was times like these that she remembered with complete clarity that the only thing that was stopping Tom, charismatic, brilliant Tom, from the path of a madman that had killed millions was the friendship of a self-sacrificing teenager.

And while, after everything that had happened, she had started to believe that Tom indeed was never going to become Voldemort, there was a great gap between 'Not Voldemort' and boyfriend material. Tom hadn't lifted a finger at her and was always sort of courteous, but he was always a violent person, there was not denial there. Could she really trust him her heart with something more than the hope that he will not abuse her?

Holding back a sigh she turned her attention back to her guys. Harry was hissing back and while he had learned to keep his face expressionless, his eyes were anything but. They were both furious, their magic was clashing and Hermione was wondering why no one was paying attention to them? The power they were generating was something beyond charts.

Minerva's eyes were unfocused; at a closer glance everyone's eyes except Zev's, Abraxas' and Alphard's were unfocused if they looked at the guys. Hermione relaxed, it was just a modified 'notice me not'. Still the fighting was taking a long time and as usual Tom and Harry were totally absorbed at each other.

Suddenly Hermione was missing Ron terribly. Whatever other faults the redhead may had she never doubted that he loved and wanted her with all his heart. Seeing Tom with Harry now she very much doubted that love was going to play a part in any relationship she could have with him, at least not towards her.

But Harry had never lied to her face and if he told her that he and Tom weren't lovers, that he saw Tom as family, in a way that he never even dreamed the Dursleys being to him, Hermione believed him. And yet there were still many ifs in that equation and that was keeping her in the precinct. Never giving in to Tom but also never demanding of him to leave her completely alone.

Finally, the fight was over. Professor Slughorn with most of his guests were blinking and Tom was looking at her. His expression was stormy but as their eyes met he relaxed. Hermione tried to tell herself that it meant nothing but her heart was an idiot and didn't believe it.

Tom kissed lightly her fingers and it was a struggle for her not to swoon. No one had ever treated her like that, not even Victor. But Tom was frowning again, pointedly not looking towards the low snickering that was hearing from Harry and Minerva.

Hermione squeezed the hand that was still holding hers.
"It is only Minerva, Tom, how bad can this be?"

Tom levelled her with such a potent glare that Hermione wanted to hide under the table. Still she held her ground.

"Really Hermione, it is only Minerva," he parroted her, his voice velvety soft with mockery.
"Do the words 'Dumbledore's apprentice' mean nothing to you then?"

Those violet eyes, that could put on shame Elizabeth Tailor's, were promising that death was going to be a retrieve if she dared to challenge him. Still, Hermione wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing, and after all, for all his threats, Tom hadn't really hurt her, not even once.
"Minerva is far from worthless and an open-minded person. If Harry puts his mind on it, he could change her mind and make her join our side." she lowered her voice even more. "Like you did with me."

"Maybe," Tom conceded at least. But Hermione wasn't fooled.

Tom was neither prepared to agree with her, nor even slightly appeased with her trick. He was humouring her, while his anger was still bubbling inside him at alarming rates. She wondered, with a sinking heart, if that anger had even the slightest to do with Minerva's apprenticeship.

Harry's pov

How dare Tom dismiss him like that? Harry was fuming.

He hadn't spoken to him since their fight, after the battle, and he only did it now just to berate him again. It wasn't that he didn't have some right to be pissed with him, but how in Salazar's name was this giving him a say to who he dated or even kept company with, Harry couldn't fandom, Tom, barely had time for Harry, once in a while, after all.

Harry recalled their discussion in a flash.

{'Back to your Gryffindor's roots Hero? You could do better.' Tom's tone was full of calculated indifference yet held an edge.

Harry's hackles rose and the instinctive reaction were to protect his ex-professor.
'Leave Minerva out of it, Tom, I mean it.'

Tom frowned and he softened his voice to that fake sweetness that spoke of danger.
'Oh, its Minerva now, have you forgotten who is she?'

'She is just a young woman, our age, Tom.' Harry tried to reassure.

Obviously to no effect as Tom's lilting tenor got the sharpness of a whip.
'She is Dumbledore's apprentice.'

The discussion had started going at Harry's nerves.

'You are either a fool, or you decided to return to his side.' Tom's voice was devoid of all emotion, even the minuscule amount of it, present, when he was really angry at him.

'I wouldn't do such a thing. Tom.' Harry tried to hide how hurt and worried was from Tom's words but it bled through.

Tom understood.
'Really darling, after yesterday, you could have fooled me.' his voice was full of irony but alive again.

'We saved lives yesterday! Nothing else...' Harry could never regret that.

'You can't be that oblivious to the consequences, Harry. To top that, you didn't even leave me much of a choice.' pure, frozen, nitrogen...

'Oh!' he suddenly understood.

Tom had gotten pretty good at accepting Harry's need to save people and to his own oath's pressure to help, but he usually got the courtesy of being asked. This time there was no time for a 'by your leave.' It didn't help that, on top of that, Harry risked their whole future.

'Yes, oh. Grindelwald will be gunning for us, we'll be lucky if he even bother duelling Dumbledore.' Tom told him snidely and Harry had to ground his teeth at having things explained like if he was a little kid.

'I'm sorry for risking everything but not for saving lives.' Harry all but spat out.

'Why I'm not surprised? Try to think, for once, next time.' the parting tone was indifferent, completely dismissive. It made Harry wish to break something at the table, preferably Tom's head.}

How could Tom even think that he could ever put a plan above so many lives Harry couldn't fandom. Didn't Tom know him at all after all those years? A more hopeful part of himself thought that Tom could be pissed for bringing Minerva to the party and even be a smidgen of worried for him, but in the end Harry dismissed it. Maybe it held some truth, but after he managed to bring him in the past the only thing that truly mattered to Tom was 'Their Future'.

If Harry wasn't certain that he would get questions he didn't desire to answer he would have gone for another firewhisky. Anything to get the hollow feeling to leave him, he wanted to forget. As things were, he just tried to pay the utmost attention at everything Minerva was saying while doing his damnest best to not overhear Tom and Mione's discussion. He preferred not to know.

And Minerva, sharp tack that she was, it didn't take her long to figure out that he was spacing from time to time but instead of calling him out she was simply giving him a sharp look, or a small nudge, and continued talking to cover him.

Good girl, Minerva, the best, with a mischievous side that he would never have dreamed to imagine his old transfiguration professor, or even the strict Head Girl, to have. They were going to be great friends with Minnie given enough time.
Or so Harry believed.

What he did knew for sure was that he was going to do his damnest to make certain that she wouldn't spend her life, a second time, pining for a man that, while never wanting her as a woman, kept giving her false hope to keep using and manipulating her...
All for the 'Greatest Good' of course.

What a couple they were!

Lestrange must be laughing his arse off, in the grave. But then again, he may as well be howling in horror. Since, in the warped way he had perceived things, Tom couldn't end with someone less completely unworthy to be with, not even Harry.

He couldn't find in himself to shed a single tear for the man for all his youth. Harry wasn't naive; he knew that it was coming. Tom wasn't the type to let pass, never mind forgive, the kind of acts that Cygnus had done (mostly his attempts at Harry's life) and while he could forgive for himself, Hermione was a completely different matter. Harry couldn't regret Lestrange's passing, or even the part he played there.

But maybe because Fate was indeed Karma, Cygnus Lestrange had indeed every reason to laugh at him beyond the grave.

With the shock of returning to the past, for good, Harry had latched to Tom with all his might, as a means for sanity. How those emotions grew over time Harry couldn't say, but he became aware to his changed feelings for Tom well into the latter's courtship with Hermione. He still wasn't quite sure that what he felt for Tom should be called 'In love' or 'Stockholm's syndrome' but he certainly didn't have any other excuse for his jealousy.

Harry saw the possible romance way long before it happened. He had barely started becoming friends with Tom, in his first foray into the past, when it randomly crossed his mind that Tom could be perfect for Hermione and vice-versa. In his own time it didn't amounted into much, as there were too many things to be considered, even for a simple polite conversation.

But as they returned into the past things started going into the way Harry imagined them. First it come the curiosity, then the fascination, in short, it followed an almost parallel line to the strange friendship that Tom had build with Harry, but as Hermione was a girl and a genius, things were bound to go farther as well.

By everything that had meaning Harry should have been happy for his friends.
He told them, separately, and to himself, that he was. But as the months passed he couldn't deny how his hackles rose when Tom followed Hermione with his eyes, how he wanted to tear them apart when he saw them study side by side.

Of course his denial persisted: he didn't have that kind of feelings for Tom, was merely just as derangelly possessive as Tom... and so forth... or so told himself until Tom changed his behaviour and he was forced to open his eyes.
To be fair with Tom though, he didn't simply drop Harry to go and spend time with his new interest (toy) far from it. The friendship remained much the same with a single change: the tactile part of said friendship lessened gradually up until recently, and then it dropped completely.

Harry was completely floored with how much he missed Tom's touch. No one else's touch could affect him just as much, or was in truth wanted. He found himself dreaming of more elaborate touches, nothing overtly sexual, but still skin on skin. (Which kept him on hoping it was a fluke for a while longer) but in the end the longing got too hard to bear the lie.

In a crazy, Gryffindor, moment he thought about confessing Tom everything. Hadn't everything else being proved mutual between them? But in the end his cautious side prevented. (Yes, he had one of those) Just because he was freakish enough to discover that he wanted his best friend after years of denial didn't mean that Tom felt the same. His battered self couldn't bear the thought to be despised, like Lestrange, or worse.

He had found himself in this time, with only Tom, Hermione and the Slytherins to be called his people; everyone else was lost to him forever. The only meaning in his life was to help on Tom's success while ensuring that he was never becoming Voldemort. If he failed at that it was better to not live...

Or those things he told himself. The main reason he allowed himself to be such a bloody coward was because Tom could be a sick bastard and he feared that if he learned the truth he could play with him out of curiosity. Harry would much preferred it if he was left with something alive inside him after all.

Damn him! He sounded like a bloody girl!

Harry started bringing the firewhisky glass again in his lips. Maybe as it burned down to his stomach it would ease a bit the hole in his soul. He didn't manage to complete the move...

...Minerva's small but firm hand stopped him.
"Please don't."

Harry smiled sadly and put down his glass she deserved a far better escort than him.
"Would you like me to escort you back to your room?"

"Yes please," Minerva smiled tiredly looking as weary as he felt.
They made their excuses. Harry weaved with fake cheer to Mione and the others but avoided Tom's eyes at all costs.

Back to her room Minerva kissed him softly on the cheek.
"Thanks for asking me out."

Harry smiled sheepishly.
"You're welcome, sorry for not being a better date."

Minerva shrugged.
"It was no worse than I was expecting. Truly you made an attentive try."

Harry was at a loss.
"Huh?" he managed.

Minerva rolled her eyes.
"You wanted to show Riddle that you don't care. You managed."

Harry blanched, but then remembered that, in the last year, they started calling them a couple and here as well, if a bit more discreetly.
"That doesn't explain why you accepted though." he pointed out.

"No it doesn't." she smiled grimly, looking ready to leave it there, but Harry's sharp look made her continue. "I'm a member of a pure blooded, but not exactly prosperous family; there is not a marriage contrast for me or even prospects. What did I have to lose?" she told him matter of factly. "You also saved my life yesterday, I owe you a life debt, I needed to help you out and I wanted to get to know you. When everyone else fled yesterday, at Hogsmeade, you stood to fight, successfully so. More, Riddle and Co. fought by your side."

Harry bit his tongue to ward the strange impulse to confess that Tom didn't exactly have a choice. Instead he got with a very sedated:
"They are my friends."

Minerva's smile grew.
"Aye, that he is, but while I doubt that Albus is right and he is devil's spawn, Riddle's not the type to give water to someone that dies from thirst if there nothing for him to gain."

In a single moment all the geniality in Harry's face was gone, Minerva found herself with a wand at her throat. Harry hadn't missed that she called Dumbledore 'Albus'.
"I repeat, what do you want to gain from me Minerva? Are you spying for Dumbledore or maybe someone else?" Harry questioned.
God! He felt like a fool.

Tom was right, he was too trusting.

He had no doubt on what was all about. Yesterday, he and Tom had pretty much levelled the field of battle. It was quite natural for Dumbledore to want to learn more about the weaker of the Slytherin Duo. The question was what to let go back to the old goat.

McGonagall shrank back in terror with his wand so near to her face. She looked so ridiculously young that Harry felt a pang of regret.
None of that was shown in his face though.

"No one asked me to watch, or report you, certainly not Albus and no one else either... truly," she looked in Harry's eyes and, blushing heavily, confessed.
"It was my idea, I wanted to impress him." she gulped, "I Minerva Helena McGonagall swear this on my magic. So mote it be."

Harry relaxed a bit. This was simply the attempt of a smart girl with a crush to try and win her intended but it didn't mean that Dumbledore hadn't before hand influenced her decision. He didn't lower his wand.

After a moment Minerva started talking again.
"I was curious, Leonard Potter confessed that he owes you a life debt as well," Harry winced. That was a right mess and quite a bit of impressive magic from Tom to fix it, he was grateful, he was quite attached to his Evans identify.

Minerva noticed and her expression softened.
"Yesterday it was obvious that you know a great deal in Dark Arts, Godric, didn't you! And yet you were saving people left and right. You follow Riddle, yet yesterday, Riddle followed you. What are you?" her voice held an awed caution and Harry felt the irresistible need to give her something.

"I Harrison James Evans Potter swear on my Magic that neither I, nor Tom Marvolo Riddle, or our true associates, are in any way or form allied to, or following, the Dark Lord Grindelwald. So mote it be"

Minerva looked more confused than ever.
"You are a Potter, but how? Are you a natural son to Charlus Potter?"

Harry was losing patience fast. He had made a worse mess than before, maybe he should obliviate her? He hated the mere idea but he didn't see another way.

Something in his eyes alerted Minerva to his intentions.
"Wait." she raised a desperate wanded hand. "I Minerva McGonagall swear it on my magic to keep everything that Harrison James Evans Potter tells me, or already told me, between us, except if he asks me to tell, or someone already knows. So mote it be."

"Thank you." Harry told her with real gratitude.

The atmosphere between them became warm, like before, only more genuine this tine. Their smiles were very real.

Minerva's smile was very cattish, though.
"Someday I'm going to learn all your secrets."

Harry rubbed his eyes.
"Maybe, but no more secrets for tonight though, I'm tired."

Minerva honest to God pouted.
"Spoilsport, sneaky, Slytherin!"

"Nosy Gryffindor!"

They said their goodnights and Harry left her feeling, much, much better. No matter what life threw at him if he had friends like that he could handle it.

Hermione's pov

They returned to their room debating heavily but as Hermione was telling him goodnight Tom smiled strangely and told her:
"I believe the traditional end to a date is something like that, no?" and before Hermione could manage to draw breath, never mind answer, he covered her lips with his own.

Hermione lost her mind.

She didn't know if they were kissing for seconds, minutes, or hours, but this felt too fast, too good, too sudden, for Hermione to be completely able to let go. Her mind started trying to think; it didn't help to that endeavour that Tom's kisses were completely amazing, mind blowing, skilled. For someone as, seemly, inexperienced as Harry, his kisses were simply out of this world.


The last thought managed to sink through. Hermione's mind flashed to his brave smile and his sad, sad, eyes looking at anything but Tom. Abruptly Hermione was unable to go through with whatever the hell she was doing.
'Harry.' she spelled her friend's name in her mind and pushed Tom away.

It wasn't enough to force him away; they only parted a few inches, his hands still holding her by the upper arms.
"What's wrong Hermione? I thought that you wanted this too?" Tom sounded concerned but his breathing wasn't affected in the slightest. 'Bastard!'

"Harry!" she repeated almost forcefully. Then she saw it. For the fraction of a second something broke in Tom's eyes, his hands fell from her arms like they were made from lead. Suddenly Hermione was sure, as never in her life, and knew exactly what she had to do.
"I won't do that to him, I can't."

But the moment of weakness was gone.
"Really Hermione, if you feel that way I suggest to say it at Harry not to me, if you leave now you may be in time for the end of his date with McGonagall."

Hermione had, so, no time, or patience, for mind games.
"Harry is in love with you and I won't hurt him like that." she told him bluntly.

If she had expected a reaction she would had been disappointed. Riddle barely raised an eyebrow.
"And you discovered that now, after three years almost? Remarkable!"

Hermione flushed to the tips of her ears. Due to anger or embarrassment, she wasn't completely sure which.
"I had my suspicions, of course, but Harry swore recently to me that he sees you only as family. I chose to believe my friend." she defended herself furiously.

Riddle tilted his head and examined her critically. Not in his customary way, like a predator to his meal, but something far more clinical, like a scientist in his microscope. Somehow this was far, far, worse. Hermione shivered uncontrollably.
Still, his voice sounded almost sweet.

"Really, Hermione, and you believed him! Sweet, self sacrificing, Harry, who would have done anything for you," his tone sharpened like a whip."I don't think so. You chose to believe him out of convenience and the selfish wish to promote yourself. But you didn't even have the guts to go forth with the scheme and you exposed him to cover yourself. You are not even half the friend you pretend to be."

Hermione felt her eyes tearing up. Tom was right!
Not at everything, of course, but she had been selfish. She had been so caught up with her crush on Tom that she didn't put but the minimally concept for Harry's feelings, except being a bit embarrassed at the close friendship the guys shared, Harry and Ron's friendship hadn't been anywhere near intimate as this.

But now she had awoken and was going to put things right.
"Maybe I had been an egotistic prat, but no more. Harry loves you and so do you. Stop playing stupid power games and go make things right."

Tom's eyes flashed in lethal rage but then his lips moved in that small, infuriating smirk, of his.
"I know that it will come quite as a shook to you, but Harry and I see each other only as family. Not that he will appreciate your tries at implicating him."

Hermione couldn't help herself, the rude word slipped from her lips; after all it was the only one fit to such a declaration.

There was no warning.
Abruptly Hermione's airway was cut and she floundered, trying to draw a breath that didn't exist, but only for a moment.
Something like pain crossed Tom's features and she was freed.

"Don't. Presume. To. Know. How. My. Friendship. With. Harry. Works." Riddle told her, insinuating every single word. He turned his back clearly dismissing her.

"Leave my sight."

Hermione wasn't daunted, largely, because she wasn't in the floor, screaming, under some horrible curse and even alive for that matter. It was only now crossing her mind that she had pushed Tom well beyond endurance and had almost got away with it. From everything she had observed of the man it shouldn't have been possible. Her intellectual curiosity rose. She coughed a few times and tried to speak.

"I'm alive, why am alive?"

Tom glared murderously.
"I was feeling generous. Now...Leave."

Hermione shuddered in sheer terror under his deadly stare but she stayed where she was. Everything was telling her she needed to hear this.

The glare intensified, a hundred times more, but then, miracle of miracles, Tom started talking.
"You are alive and unhurt because Harry, the friend you were ready to discard, paid for your life and safety with oaths of devotion."


Hermione bit her lips furiously trying to hold back her tears. She wasn't really surprised by that, yet, it still hurt like a razor. Harry was protecting her with all his might, like always, and she had tried to take away from him the only thing he had left, no matter what Tom was saying.

Tom's pov

Riddle watched her for a few moments with mute satisfaction. If there was a thing he hated above all others it was disloyalty and the mudborn was beyond indebted to Harry. If she had the slightest common sense she would have long ago recognised Harry for her Lord, never mind dare to approach something he wanted...and that gall of hers, to keep staking her nose in the only thing, truly personal, of his.

Not that Harry wanted him.

Tom had spent enough time in his friend's mind to be almost certain for that and if there were some lingering doubts due to Harry's increasing occlumency shields this was not the time nor place to ponder them.

The silent crying continued, Tom grew bored.
Why again had he thought of sharing his bed with that creature? Obviously not his best idea! Harry didn't cry; he did something to fix the problem. Maybe he should give her something real to cry for, or even better, do something useful; so she wouldn't be such a waste of space?

Now that she had acknowledged that something was wrong with Harry it wouldn't take her long to figure things out. Tom could grudgingly admit that his Light magic knowledge was lacking compared to hers and he needed everything he could find, time was running out.

"Granger?" he tried to get her attention, nothing. Losing all patience he grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her in the nearest chair. Hermione just looked at him, completely bewildered. Crossing his arms he smiled pleasantly.

"Have you finished with that nonsense?" the girl had the smarts to be scared and simply nodded once.
"Good, now that you are all here, have you put any true thought on Harry's problems and why is he so miserable?"

Hermione's pov

This was not the thing that Hermione expected to hear, her brown eyes rounded in surprise, and she started thinking furiously.
"He is more reserved," she started hesitantly. "He laughs less, is angered more easily... he's gotten thinner, he is not eating that well." she told the symptoms she had thought as proof of him being love stricken.

"And...? You missed the most telling sign... and you were witness, a pity." Tom bent slightly forward, looming threatening above her, his violet eyes glinting intensely. He had never looked more dangerous to her, but for once he wasn't affecting her.

Her best friend, her brother, was in serious trouble and she had the feeling that what she had seen was only the tip of the iceberg.
She searched feverishly for the missing link.

When she found it, it was glaringly obvious. Hermione bit her lips not to scream.
"Harry is the last person to go for bloody revenge... Has he gone psychotic?" she whispered fearfully at least.

Hermione recalled the wild light in his eyes as he had hurt Lestrange for hurting her. She had told herself that it happened only because Riddle was edging him...But...oh...Her sweet Harry...

"I can see that you finally understand." Tom was sounding strangely quiet.

It was the final straw for Hermione.
"What have you done to him, you creep?" she screeched.

Tom smiled a strange smile. But if Hermione wasn't sure that she was going crazy she could swear that he looked remorseful.

"What I did..." Tom whispered, Hermione had to strain herself to hear him.
"If I hadn't forced Harry to make a horcrux he wouldn't be teetering now between madness and death... ."

He started pacing.

"...but, by my calculations, mental unbalance shouldn't have been an issue. Voldemort was what he was because he had seven, more so, I'm a clinical psychopath... Harry was healthy."

Hermione had a feeling that Tom had completely forgotten her presence now and was just talking aloud, still trying to come in terms with the problem himself.

Everything in Hermione wanted to deny how much sense the heir's words were making. Harry was too strong to let himself fade like that. Tom cared deeply about Harry, yes, she had seen too much, to ever doubt that again, yet, she had never seen him more uncharacteristically human than tonight.

There was something fishy here.

She spoke without thinking.
"Are you sure that is such an inconvenience to you, I mean, wasn't that what you always wanted, a Harry without scruples?"

Tom focused on her again and Hermione wished she was under the earth. He didn't have to do anything to her; he didn't have to hurt her, or even use magic, she was paralysed with fear. A basilisk had nothing on him.

"I want you dead, you should be dead." he told her simply, without inflection.
"Harry is unconsciously fighting his horcrux to correct the mental imbalance but if he succeeds to remove it, he will die, as its his only anchor to this world." he explained patiently.

She couldn't help but close her eyes tightly. Harry was really dying!
Somehow, this was not a trick, there was not mistaking that tone. He was frightened too, and if it scared Him where was the hope?
"How long did you know?" she asked trying to keep the pain at by and get some measure.

"I had my suspicions ever since the Lestrange incident but I only confirmed them yesterday in battle" Tom admitted and Hermione felt her world turning dark.

A sharp slap brought her to the present.
"Focus Granger, I didn't tell you to start falling apart, but to help me. Harry is far from dead yet."

Hermione steeled herself and her voice came out steady.
"How can I help?"

"I need you to start researching everything in light magic elements to counter the madness, or something to keep him alive so we'll remove the horcrux. Don't bother with dark, I'll do it, but I doubt that I can find something dark that would work alone, or even that Harry could accept it."

Hermione gaped. What kind of research had he undergone in a day to be that certain? It wasn't in Tom's nature to be lax. The question left her lips before she could control it.
"Why won't they work?"

Strangely enough her question grounded Tom and he started explaining in a surprisingly patient, lecturing, tone.
"I already crossed out, unicorn blood, even willingly given..."

Hermione was hearing with drawing horror as Tom described to her atrocious practise after atrocious practise, that even with her reading she had only caught vague hints of them in the books, and the various reasons that they wouldn't work on Harry, all without the slightest allusion of hesitation.

She was assaulted again with the realisation that there was absolutely nothing in the world that Tom was going to stop at, to keep Harry healthy and with him. Hermione didn't know if she should be envious or petrified. She should have known. Tom had already destroyed her world to keep Harry with him. But it frankly hadn't sunk in, in a visceral way, to her before now. She had a feeling that she was going to pay dearly for being witness in this...

Suddenly a thought crossed her mind. Why on earth hadn't Tom thought of it?
"The Philosopher's Stone! Wouldn't that philtre be enough to restore him to health and keep him alive as he absorbed the horcrux?"

Tom's face was a study in frustrated disappointment.
"My first thought. It would have been ideal. Unfortunately Flamel's house is unplottable. His only contact to the wizarding world is Dumbledore. And. I. Can't. Legimens. Him." he spat the last part.

Hermione tried again.
"What about Minerva?" she all but pleaded. "As his apprentice it's not impossible for her to know." she pointed hopefully.

Tom shook his head.
"Already checked, she doesn't know a thing."

But Hermione was like a dog with a bone and wasn't ready to give up on that hope.
"However it is possible that she could find out right?" she held her hand to stop Tom from speaking; "She seemed fond of Harry. This is only going to grow with time. We could tell her some of the truth, in a few weeks, and she will find out for us."

Tom's expression darkened.
"The old man keeps things very close to his vest. It could work, but it could also take years. We'll don't have that much time. I'd had her Imperiused if I believed it was worth it."

"Why?" she asked not liking this at all.

"Think Granger," Tom was visibly grinding his teeth. "Harry is rapidly affected. It's barely two months between episodes, how long do you think he has before he breaks and kill someone he cares about?"

Hermione had to gulp the lump in her throat but she managed to counter him.
"Harry is a fighter; he managed to contain the problem up to the start of term. He is going to do so again..."

"Don't you think I know that?" Tom gritted out, nine parts irritation and one relief. "Alright, we can try your way. If Minerva refuses I'll try Imperio..."

Hermione let out a sigh of relief.

Some of Tom's tenseness left.
"That was almost Slytherin reasoning from you Hermione!" he praised her.

That was a huge compliment and Hermione felt the crushing part of her heart swelling in her chest.

"...But we'll not stop researching until Harry is holding the Stone."

She barely resisted rolling her eyes to him.
Who he's been taken her for? Better leave him at Harry to deal with.

Instead she followed the caution lane and simply nodded.
"I will talk to Harry about this tomorrow."

"Out of the question."

That was so abrupt that Hermione was dumbfounded.
"But he must be already aware of the problem, at least to some extent?"

"I know, but we'll still not say a thing without the solution at hand."

"You don't trust him?" the question slipped past her lips. The second she opened her mouth she regretted it. This was Tom, Future Dark Lord, duh!

But his answer made her want to rub her eyes.
"Implicitly, in everything but his safety."

Hermione's face softened.
"He wouldn't do something like that to you..."

Tom's face darkened. He didn't even have to issue a warning.

But she had to make her point...
"You didn't see his face that first day, he was so relieved to be here and he hated himself for it. If Harry was to end it he would have done so, then. He knows how the damn things work as good as you."

Tom shrugged in a non committal manner.
"Even so, I would prefer not to give him the option to fight me." he purposely-accidentally flashed her, his wand, as he sat at his desk, and Hermione got the message. It was going to be at his terms or she was going to part with the memories.

Hermione nodded reluctantly, turning for her room.
"Alright, I'll keep it for now."

"And Hermione..." she turned to face him again,
"As far as everyone is going to know we are going to spend all our free time together because you are my girlfriend."

She was astonished.
"What for?"

Tom had the nerve to roll his eyes to her.
"Harry is too good at deducing I would rather not have him question."

Now Hermione was rather exasperated.
"Oh, for God's sake, you two and your games! You know, if you only told Harry how you feel we wouldn't have to worry about his depression and we'll have all the time in the world to fix him."

Tom looked at her strangely.
"It will come as surprise to you Granger but Harry already knows."

She couldn't help her snort of derision.
"Yeah right!"

Tom smiled unpleasantly.
"Harry is more to me than friend or family, I will grant you that, and while it's none of your business, I'm not really interested in sex so it's a non issue."

Hermione felt her mouth hanging open. This was the last thing she expected to hear. She couldn't hold back the offended question.
"Then what were you doing with me?"

Tom shrugged again.
"If I was ever going to continue the Slytherin line I'll need a woman."

"But I'm a muggleborn?" she whispered weakly.

Tom sent her a mild glare for reminding him.
"Regrettably so, but at least you have a modicum of intelligence."

The second huge shook instead of finishing her off only made her intelligence to really kick in.
Regardless if he means it or not the only reason for Tom to tell her that was diversion.

"Thank you!" she answered, beyond flattered, even if it was just that. Then a little devil and the memory of Harry's pained eyes had her adding.
"Maybe you should reconsider your priorities about Harry, Tom... ."

Ignoring his white as sheet face and the deathly stare she bravely continued.
"...Think about it, you didn't like it when Harry brought Minerva tonight, did you? What if it's serious, or he meets another girl, or even a guy?"

Tom's eyes flashed red, honest to god red!
"Get out." he hissed, a step only above parseltongue. Hermione's blood turned to ice and she started running with all her strength.

Harry had warned her, once, that at very extreme anger it was bound to happen, that it was also a Tom thing not only Voldemort.
But it was one thing to hear, quite another to see.

She had opened her door when Tom's cold voice stopped her.
"Granger." His power compelled her to look at him, "I don't need to curse you to oblivion to make your life a living hell."

Hermione nodded once and hurried behind her door.
Message received. She sat on her bed hugging tightly her pillow as she heard him obliterate their common room to bits, but for her every wince in every loud crash there was also and a very satisfied secret smile on her lips. Mission successful!

PS Edited at 10/07/2014
Please review to inspire me for more..