Author's Note: This is for the fic challenge, Time-Turner reversal. Instead of Hermione going to the past, Tom comes to the future and…chaos ensures. ;) You can go to the forum to find other fics regarding this same challenge if it interests you. If you want to read something darker, go read brightneebee's fic (which I helped beta—thank you, thank you. Save your applause.)

This will get a priority to GD, but this is only 2-3 chapters, so it should be done in the next week or so. After that, I should have no distractions…until school starts again.

Disclaimer: Only the plotline belongs to me.

Note: My beta is currently on vacation, so all errors belong to me.


Hermione shivered, rubbing her hands up and down her arms. She shouldn't be in the garden right now; rather, she was supposed to be in her room, but it was too stuffy for her liking. She had forgotten her jacket upstairs, but she wasn't going to risk passing by all the guards again just to get it. The cold wind helped to keep her awake, anyway, reminding her of the harsh reality of her current situation.

The garden was the only good thing about this whole monkey business. It was just breathtaking, not only because of what was in there, but because no one else went there. It was a place of peace and quiet, a place where Hermione could gather her thoughts without being interrupted by anyone. She tried to read in the library, but it was always packed with giggling girls and Hermione quickly found out that she could not concentrate, no matter how much she tried. Whenever she read, her mind drifted to nail polish and handsome men, as the conversations around her were often about, so she often just took the books she wanted and fled to the safety of the garden.

This whole ordeal was stupid. Prince Ronald Bilius Weasley was to pick a princess to marry, and she had been among the ten contestants chosen. Unlike the other nine girls, she did not want to marry for the crown; she would rather live in her house with her family than to be here in this large castle with a man who had never worked in his life. Though she wasn't rich, she was happy and that was all that counted. However, her top grades had caught his eye, and he had summoned her to the castle. And as he was the Prince and she was but a mere commoner, she had to do what he said. She grudgingly went up to the castle, to the delight of her parents. They were oblivious to her reluctance, so blinded by their excitement for her.

Her parents had changed after the invitation. They had been supportive of her all her life. They understood her desire to study, and accepted the fact that she enjoyed the company of books more than other people. They accepted the fact that she was a witch, and she belonged in another world filled with magic. They understood that she was different, and fought with her every time she hit a rough patch in her life.

But when she had been summoned to the castle, they changed. No longer were they supportive because she was their daughter. They became interested in the money that the deal promised. While Hermione knew that they were a middle class family and the money would help lots, she had never pictured her parents to be the type of people who would just push her onto something for the sake of the wealth. Her mother had a new bounce in step as she daydreamed of all the clothes she could by, and her father already was thinking about quitting his job, thinking that there was no need to work once she became princess.

It put an extreme amount of pressure on Hermione on something she didn't want. She had no interest in money. When she pictured her future, she just wanted enough money to support herself and some books to help her pass her time. She did not need fancy clothing or power; on the contrary, she was happy right where she was. Being the princess would only ensure more responsibility, and less time to study.

The other girls, however, were simply delighted. Hermione had had the misfortune of meeting some of them, and they were less than pleasant. Some of them were quite nice, but it was obvious how different of a background she had compared to all the other girls. They all came from fairly wealthy families, so they were used to the politics and the society of the rich. They knew when to curtsy, when to smile prettily, and what to do during mealtimes. Hermione, however, came from a middle class family. Born to two muggle dentists, Hermione was not as rich nor as beautiful as the other contestants. She screwed up everything she tried to do. She especially hated the rule that she could not talk unless spoken to. Her mother had always encouraged talking at the dinner table, and some days, Hermione had to tape her mouth shut in order to stop talking.

However, despite her screw ups, she worked harder than most, and Prince Ronald Bilius Weasley decided that he wanted at least one of his options to know basic spells, so that was why she was invited. All the other girls, as far as Hermione could tell, were invited because of her looks, her money or both.

Hermione had met the prince earlier. While there wasn't anything wrong with him, he was a little bit of a slacker. He was as lazy as anyone could ever be. Maybe it was because of his royal upbringing, but she was ticked off by the fact that he had to make house elves get him something that was barely a meter away. He also swore like crazy, something Hermione found to be terribly unattractive. And what pushed her away the most was his dislike for books. How could she even want to marry someone who hated books, the sole reason that she lived? She fed off of books, fed off of the wisdom they contained. She would not get along well with someone who hated books the way he did.

He also ate like a pig, and she tried hard not to grimace while the two of them were sharing a private dinner. He talked while he ate, and though her mother often told her that it was proper etiquette to look someone in the eye while they were talking, Hermione found that she simply could not look at Prince Ronald while he was eating without flinching. After a while, Hermione discovered that it was easier to talk to the Prince when she wasn't looking at him. She could tell he was trying, he truly was, and Hermione commended him for that. However, the two of them just didn't fit.

The other girls, however, didn't seem to mind his messiness. They all played the part of a loving wife, dabbing his mouth with their dainty little handkerchiefs, trying to get closer, while Hermione sat all the way on the other side of the table. They were all required to wear dresses, and the other girls took advantage of that by wearing the most revealing clothing they could find. Hermione had, on multiple occasions, tried to wear her robes, but she was sent back to change. She kept most of herself covered. Not only was she not keen on flashing her goods at a Prince whom she had just met, but she didn't want the other girls to look at her either.

The other nine girls included Princesses Luna Lovegood, Hannah Abbott, Pansy Parkinson, Rita Skeeter, Bellatrix Black, Daphne Greengrass, Astoria Greengrass, Tracey Davis and Lavender Brown. They all came from well known pureblood families with bloodlines running back far. Hermione's last name was completely muggle, and it didn't take long for them to point that out. She was singled out the first day, and her blood status revolted some of them so much that she had near death experiences when she was alone. She soon learned to stay with the crowd when she couldn't run to the safety of her room, even when their chattering caused headaches.

Luna, Daphne, Astoria and Tracey were the only girls Hermione even wanted to think about being friendly with. They all had the air of royalty around them, but Hermione found that she could at least hold a decent conversation around them. Though while Hermione wanted to talk to them, the four of them didn't necessarily want to talk to her. She was an outcast, and they talked to her only when they had to. Luna occasionally started a conversation with her, but she herself could be considered an outcast of sorts. She looked for and talked to mythical creatures that no one could ever see but herself.

Hannah, Pansy and Lavender cared more about the money and the crown than about Prince Ronald himself, and they made it known that they were just in it for the wealth. Pansy and Lavender had apparently known each other before this whole ordeal, and it was just her luck that Lavender's room was right next to Hermione's. The two of them just talked and talked and didn't seem to know that normal people didn't appreciate their racket at four in the morning. Hermione wanted to cast a silencing charm, but it was forbidden for the girls to carry wands. She wasn't going to risk it because she didn't want to listen to their chatter.

Rita was sketchy. She did not display her love for Prince Ronald or his money publicly. Instead, she followed him everywhere, taking notes on his every moment. She would scramble away whenever someone tried to read what she was writing, and when Hermione picked up a piece of paper Rita had accidently dropped, the girl slapped her before scuttling off. There was also the mystery of how Rita seemed to always be able to disappear from sight, even when Hermione was sure she just saw her moments ago. How someone with such a big quill that she had managed to just vanish, Hermione had no clue.

Bellatrix Black was the devil of the little group. Both she and Rita seemed a little too old for Prince Ronald, but Hermione's problem with her didn't end there. She cackled like a witch, and seemed to be truly pleased with someone else's pain. She also seemed to enjoy causing pain, which she demonstrated when she tried to crucio Hermione 'for an experiment.' She also had an undying hatred for muggleborns, something she didn't hesitate on demonstrating. Her family, however, were one of the richest and oldest bloodlines, so Prince Ronald often turned a blind eye on her actions. That, or he was stupidly oblivious.

Hermione sat down on the bench, swinging her legs back and forth. By no means did she deserve the right to be complaining. There were people far worse off than she was, and she was just chosen to be a contender to be a Princess, for Merlin's sake! Many girls would die to be in her place; she had just been presented with a deal of a lifetime. However, Hermione couldn't help but think of all the places she would rather be than here. Life in this castle was more like life in prison for her.

There was a pop sound that sounded strangely like apparition, but it was much louder. Hermione blinked as a figure appeared before her, lying on the ground. Hermione got up and moved cautiously towards it. She would've screamed for help, but there were wards around the palace, so it should've been impossible to get in. No intruder, no matter how strong, could've managed to break the wards. Albus Dumbledore himself had came for the princess selection and set the wards. There wasn't anyone who could break anything the man created.

Hermione observed the person carefully. From what she could see, he was a boy with jet black hair. The garden was illuminated by a few lights, so it was hard to see him in the dark. He was wearing wizarding robes, and he looked quite dead. There was no movement, not even the rising and the falling of his chest.

Hermione approached the figure slowly, and when he did not move, she crouched down next to him. She could not see his face as it was turned the other way, so she poked his arm, as if reassuring herself that he was actually dead and this was not a dream. "Are you okay?" she asked, and then felt extremely stupid. Of course he was not okay; he was dead.

She sat down next to him, unsure of what to do. What did one do with a dead body? She couldn't just bring him in; she'd be a suspect to killing him. Though, she supposed, they would have to find out how she managed to get him in to the palace in the first place. There was no way for anything to get in or out. There were also no marks on his body, which meant that she had to have killed him with her wand. She had given them her wand—a spare, anyway—when she had first entered the castle, so that should throw a reasonable amount of suspicion off of her before they decided to search her person.

How did he manage to get in? She looked at him thoughtfully. She had tried on multiple occasions to try and break the wards to escape, but it never worked. The best she had managed to do was find a little loophole in it, but the alarms quickly sounded and the guards would rush in to fix it. She was completely cut off from the outside world this way. With her quickly exhausting all the books in the library, she wanted someone with the same intellect to converse with. However, no one in the castle even came close.

"How did you die?" Hermione mused quietly to herself. She would have to turn him in sooner than later, but it had been so long since she had seen something from the outside world. She would allow herself to fantasize about it for a couple of minutes. The wizarding world was currently under war against Voldemort and his death eaters. They had a good reason to put wards up. After all, it was risky enough to let ten girls come into the palace. The last thing they wanted was to let Voldemort in as well.

Still. She had never missed her home more.

Dumbledore had died two days after the girls were delivered to the castle. He had been involved in a duel with Voldemort, and unfortunately had lost. Now, the fate of the wizarding world depended on a seventeen year old boy named Harry Potter. He was the same age as her, and he could bear the burden of saving the entire world, and she couldn't even join the Auror program? She scowled.

Hermione glanced at the figure once again. "Are you a failed attempt?" she said, though she knew that he wouldn't be able to hear her. "Did you-know-who try to send you in here, but the wards killed you?" Here, she grimaced a bit. "Or maybe you were fighting him and he blasted you here." There was still no response, though Hermione hadn't expected to get one.

Hermione thought back to what Dumbledore had said when he was still alive. "Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself." She repeated quietly, and then looked around to make sure that no one was watching. "Voldemort," she tested out, and when nothing happened, she decided to try again. "Not you-know-who. Voldemort."

Before she could blink, the supposedly dead boy shot up and pinned her to the bench, his wand at her throat. Hermione gasped in pain as he dug the tip of his wand in to her throat, his eyes as cold as eyes and his expression twisted in an ugly sneer. He was very much alive, and very much angered.

Hermione blinked slowly, taking in his features. He was a handsome boy who could be no more than a couple years older than she was. His eyes were dark and guarded and his cheekbones were high. "Ghosts can't hold objects," she reached a hand out and grasped his hand, much to his disgust. "Ghosts aren't solid either."

His lips curled up. "Extraordinary deductions."

Hermione looked at him, not quite registering the wand pressed against her neck. "What are you? How did you get here?"

He ignored her and said, "Tell me all you know about Voldemort."

She knew she shouldn't have mentioned the name, and now it was too late to take it back. Nothing good had ever come out of it. Dumbledore could say it, of course, because he was able to defend himself. She, however, had very little dueling experience. She knew she should've screamed when she had a chance, instead of wasting it saying a stupid name. "He's a dark wizard," she said, unsure what he wanted to hear. Voldemort was one of the darkest wizards that ever lived; everyone knew his name. "There's a war against Voldemort going on right now."

The boy nodded as if this was brand new information to him and said sharply, "What year is it?"

Now, Hermione looked at him, rather bewildered. "1997."

Satisfied, he let go of her and sat down on the bench, his forehead crinkled, deep in though. Hermione stared at him, rubbing her neck. He paid her no mind, and didn't even acknowledge her when she sat down next to him. Some would call her an idiot for going near him after he had almost killed her, but Hermione was much too curious to run away.

After letting him think to himself for a couple of moments, she blurted out, "What year did you come from?"

He turned his head slowly to look at her, his face arranged in a perfectly blank expression. "Excuse me?"

"You're a time traveler," Hermione elaborated. He raised his eyebrow, but before he could say anything, she said, "Don't deny it. I can tell." He smirked at her bossy tone, but didn't respond. "I just wanted to know what year you came from, if you didn't even know who Voldemort was." She frowned. Voldemort had been in power ever since she could remember. All her childhood memories were tainted with the fear of the Dark Lord's rise to power.

He smirked, as if he was amused by this whole thing."1944." He said smoothly, and Hermione found that his voice was quite melodious. She had barely known this man for five minutes, and she could already tell by the way he held himself that he was more like her than Prince Ronald would ever be. He held himself proudly and spoke with confidence, unlike the Prince, who always slouched over and slurred his words together.

"1944," Hermione repeated, her eyes wide. She had seen a time turner before, had even used one, but a jump of more than a year was a feat that was quite impossible and frankly unheard of. "How did you manage to jump fifty three years?"

The boy merely gave her a smirk. "Nothing you need to know about."

Hermione scowled at him as he stood up and began wandering around the garden. He was quite tall, at least a couple of inches taller than she was. His hands were perfectly sculpted; they were long and thin. His skin was pale, and it helped to enhance his features when illuminated in the dim garden lights. Hermione shook her head, reminding herself that now was not the time to be taking note of his physical features.

"What else do you know about Voldemort?" The boy said, looking quite amused when she flinched. Though Hermione had no problem with saying the actual name, hearing it from someone else still caused her to cower slightly.

Hermione eyed him. "I shouldn't tell you." She had heard multiple times from several people what happened to people who meddled with time. However, she wanted desperately to tell him. It had been so long since someone actually wanted to listen to her that she didn't care if the topic was the Dark Lord; she just wanted to talk.

He smiled pleasantly at her, but there was a cold edge to his expression. "I don't think you have a choice." He twirled a wand between his fingers, and Hermione's hand immediately flew to her wand holster hidden under her dress. She cursed when she found it empty, which only caused his smile to grow larger.

"Voldemort is an extremely dark wizard," Hermione began. He said nothing and continued to look at her with his expressionless eyes. "There's a war against him right now. He extremely hates muggleborns, and targets them the most, out of all the blood groups." Here, she trembled slightly. It was very small, but it didn't go unnoticed.

"Are you a muggle?" There was disgust in his voice as he regarded her, his expression cold. He gripped his wand tighter as well, something that didn't go unnoticed to Hermione. She wanted to take a step back, but decided that the last thing she wanted to do was to show weakness in front of this man.

"No," she shook her head, proud that her voice didn't waver.

An amused glance from him told her that he didn't believe her at all. "Continue."

"He has a group of followers called Death Eaters," she said, not missing the way the man frowned at the name. "Other than that, I don't really know. I've been sheltered for most of my life, and even though I want to fight, they won't let me." Hermione scowled. "Something about muggleborns being inferior."

"They are." He moved away as Hermione glared at his back. He finally spotted the castle, though Hermione was rather perplexed on how he managed to miss something so huge. "Is that your house?" he asked, no doubt to make polite conversation. Why would he want to make polite conversation with her, though? He was obviously revolted by the fact that she was a muggleborn. She was surprised that he didn't run away to take a shower to cleanse himself from her germs.

"I wish," Hermione sighed, though that was not particularly true. She just wanted one room in that mansion—the library. She added, "It's the Prince's."

His look immediately darkened and he said, his voice eerily quiet, "The Prince?"

"Yes. Prince Ronald Bilius Weasley." If anything, he grew angrier. "He needs to get married, so he invited ten girls to the castle to choose a wife out of them."

"He sounds pathetic," The boy said. He seemed to have taken a liking in twirling her wand in between his fingers.

"He is."

The boy looked surprised at her blunt answer, but he quickly schooled it with a smirk. "Weasley's have finally sank low enough to force mudbloods to marry them, have they?"

Hermione sniffed, crossing her arms. "For your information, I am the only muggleborn of the bunch. The rest are well known witches with lots of power and lots of wealth."

"And why were you chosen?" he asked, his eyes sweeping up and down her figure. She suddenly felt very naked in front of him, and his smirk was beginning to unsettle her.

"I'll have you know that I'm the smartest witch here," she huffed, a bit stung that he underestimated her. "Some even say that I'm the smartest witch of my age." She said proudly, her head held up high, like she wanted the man to prove her wrong.

He simply tossed her her wand carelessly. She stared down at it when she caught it, and then whipped her head up to see what his motive was. He simply tossed her a lazy smile and said, "Are you really? Well, prove it."

Without waiting for her to respond, he sent a spell at her. It was a simple stunner, and she merely raised her eyebrow as she stepsided it easily. He didn't say anything but sent another spell at her—the Bat-Bogey Hex this time. She set up a shield, fairly impressed that he knew nonverbal spells. At least he was a better dueler than everyone else in the castle.

"Dueling does not judge an individual's intellectual," she informed him coldly.

He didn't respond, and simply sent a disarming charm to shut her up.

This was wrong, Hermione though to herself. It was obvious that this wizard was so much better than she was. His movements were smooth and elegant, and he looked as if he had done this millions of times. Hermione, on the other hand, had rarely dueled. She practiced dueling against the wall, of course, when she wanted to strengthen up to join the Auror program, but that was not the same thing. After the program rejected her for her blood status, she had simply given up and stuck with reading. There had been no need for her to practice; if Voldemort and his army ever got to her, that would've meant that he defeated the Auror program. And after that, she pretty much stood no chance.

He sent a succession of curses towards her after that, each getting more difficult than the next. In the beginning, Hermione was able to defend herself and fire back a few curses as well, though they never reached their intended target. Towards the end, she could only focus on defending herself, his string of curses coming faster and faster. He hadn't even broken a sweat while she tried to catch her breath.

He seemed to know which curses to use to trip her up, and he didn't hesitate to use them. He had obviously done this many times before, and in the short breaks between curses, she took the time to admire how fluently he moved his wand. It was almost as if it was dancing…dancing a dark, dangerous dance.

Hermione struggled slightly when the boy sent the impediment jinx, momentarily tripping her up and then binding her. She tried to remember if there were any counter curses, but for once in her life, she came up blank. How did she except to be accepted in to the Auror program if she was so easily distracted?

Hermione looked at the boy, as if trying to tell him that she was waving a white flag. However, he either didn't notice or ignored her, because he raised his wand again and then brought his wand down. Hermione recognized the curse seconds before it hit, and her eyes widened in fright, but there was nothing she could do. In seconds, the curse was upon her.

Intense pain filled her body, as if she were being pricked by thousands of needles. Her skin was stretched and she felt as if her insides were burst. She would've thrashed around if the binding jinx was not holding her in place. Her mouth opened in a silence scream; she wanted to let the sound out, but she would not give him the pleasure.

The boy looked quite amused at this whole situation, not even a trace of remorse as he held her under the cruciatus. His eyes hungrily drank in her suffering, which made Hermione wonder if what he had been before had been an act. While he hadn't necessarily been too friendly—he had tried to curse her on sight, after all—but he hadn't been like this…this sadistic, pain loving man. He reminded her a lot of Bellatrix.

He ended the curse and the binding jinx minutes later, leaving Hermione panting on the floor. She had never been put under the cruciatus before, but books always said it was pain beyond belief. She had never believed them, but now that she had firsthand witnessed the horrors of the curse, she thought that maybe the books had even underestimated them.

The boy looked at her sweetly, his face dripping with innocence. He crouched down next to her and yanked her hair back, ignoring her protests of her neck. "Tom Riddle," he told her, and it took Hermione a moment to realize he was introducing himself. "You would do well to remember it, mudblood."

He stood up and stalked off in to the night, blending when the shadows around him. Hermione stared at the spot where he had just been, completely shocked that he had even bothered to give her his name.

It wasn't the name that she wanted to point out, it was the absurdity of it. This man—Tom Riddle, as he said—hated muggleborns, when he wasn't even a pureblood himself.

ϡ

Hermione sat at dinner, daintily dabbing a napkin at the corner of her mouth after Rita set her a disgusted look. She looked around and tried not to scream in frustration; she hated these group dinners with a passion. At least in the private dinners, she could make an excuse and flee to the safeties of her room. Here, there were nine other girls who were watching each other warily. There was no way she could run off without raising suspicion.

Hermione was sandwiched between Hannah Abbott and Luna Lovegood. The latter was a little loopy in the head, and though she was nice, Hermione found that she often had absolutely no idea what the girl was spouting. And if there was one thing Hermione didn't like, it was when she did not know something. Luna was pretty, though, which is why Hermione supposed that Prince Ronald was keeping her.

Hannah was a torture, and when the girl turned towards Hermione, she almost groaned.

"Hello, Hermione," Hannah said, looking pointedly at Lavender and Pansy, who were both sitting entirely too close to Prince Ronald. Lavender merely ignored her and continued running her fingernail down his arm, but Pansy stopped to stick her tongue out, which made Hannah flare up even more.

"Hi, Hannah."

The girl tore her attention away from the Prince and held up her hand for Hermione. "Do my nails look okay?" She asked.

Hermione looked at them. They were all pink; nothing too special about them. "Yes." She blinked, wondering if this was a trick question. "They look fine."

"Oh, thank Merlin!" Hannah exclaimed. "My stylist fell asleep, and she didn't wake up until three hours before the dinner. Can you believe that? Three hours! I had so much to do! I almost missed the dinner. I hadn't even picked out a dress yet, and it needed to be charmed so it fitted my body." To emphasize her point, she twisted around a little, showing Hermione quite a bit of things that she could've happily died without seeing. Hannah was too engrossed in her rant that she didn't see the fact Hermione made.

"And then," Hannah continued, not minding the fact that her voice was getting louder and louder, drawing the attention of the Prince himself. "My hair had to be done. It always takes forever, you know?" No, she did not. Her hair, usually in a bushy mess, could be charmed easily to straighten. That was all she ever did to her hair. Anything else was just unhealthy, and she couldn't be bothered. She didn't want to marry someone who only cared for her looks. "It took an hour and a half just for her to start. It was terrible."

"I'm sure it was," Hermione said, not really listening. She felt a cold wind go by, and she narrowed her eyes, searching the room. She found nothing, and she looked around to see if anyone had felt it as well. If they had, they weren't showing it. However, she had a sneaking suspicion on who it was. The nerve of him, daring to come back after what he had done yesterday! Or maybe there was just no way out for him, so he decided to spend it making her life more terrible than it already was.

"And then my nails," Hannah sniffed. "I had this whole plan on making little brooms on it, but my stylist rushed the job and finished in five minutes! Can you believe it? It was awful. By then, we only have ten minutes, so I couldn't even make flowers on it or anything. Now what's Prince Ronald going to think?" She sighed. "I fired the stylist, of course. They never work well if you give them a sense of security."

Hermione just shrugged, feeling rather sorry for the said stylist, and Hannah eventually got bored and turned to spill her worries to Astoria Greengrass, who, unlike Hermione, seemed to be perfectly content with listening to Hannah's problems.

She was about to turn to Luna to ask her how her day had been, when her head was jerked back violently and she let out a little gasp of pain. All eyes flew to her as she waved them off, trying to calm her breathing. There was a hot breath on her neck, and hands gripping her shoulders. She glared, though he couldn't see it with her head facing forward.

"What are you doing here?" she hissed quietly, but evidently not quietly enough. Here, at a table of eleven, everyone was watching the others carefully. It didn't take long for them to realize that Hermione was talking to herself, and she clamped her lips shut to avoid further humiliation.

"Quiet, witch!" Tom breathed in to her ear. If Luna could hear him, she showed no sign as she continued to daydream about Nargles and the other creatures she enjoyed talking to. "If they discover I'm here, someone will have to pay." His voice became sickeningly sweet again. "I would hate for that to be you."

Hermione scowled, but there was very little she could do while he was disillusioned. And he knew it, by the fact that he kept leaning in to her and letting his breath tease her skin. She told herself she wanted to slap him away, when in reality, it felt quite nice.

He crucio'ed you yesterday! Hermione reminded herself, and then she sighed, pushing all pleasurable thoughts out of her mind, trying for once to listen to what Prince Ronald was saying to distract herself from the presence behind her.

The Prince cleared his throat, and instantly, everyone fell silent. Tom made a disgusted sound, though before Hermione could comprehend it, the Prince began talking. "Mother says that we don't know each other well enough," he said it as if he was most disturbed by this fact. "So she suggested that now would be a great time to get to know each other more, and I agree."

That sounded like a terrible idea, but Hermione could only grumble while the rest of the girls chatted excitedly. Apparently, the fact that they had to listen to others butter up to the Prince was overshadowed by the fact that they got to suck up to him.

"Listening to the Prince sprout sap is my favorite pastime," Sarcasm oozed out of Tom's voice, and for once, she agreed with him. He added something that sounded strangely like 'this won't ever happen when I take over the world' but Hermione brushed it aside. He had probably been around Luna for too long, and her craziness was beginning to alter his way of thinking.

"Mother also thinks that I need to improve my socializing skills," Hermione couldn't agree more, but the rest of their girls voiced their complaints as they tried to comfort the saddened Prince.

"Mother says that I don't voice my thoughts enough, so I will go around telling you what I have learned about you so far." Prince Ronald continued. Hermione groaned; she didn't need him talking about how beautiful and fair the other girls were. She wondered if she could use the excuse that she had a sick stomach to go back in to her room. She used it two days ago, and now she wished she held on to it for a little longer.

"Pansy," he began, starting from his left. That meant Hermione would be the sixth one. She would have to listen to five people before he got to her. She slouched down, and almost fell off her chair when fingers tickled her stomach. She had forgotten Tom was there in the first place.

"Head up," he snapped in her ear, though Hermione heard an amused tone in his voice. "I can't see."

"Because you're dying to see the Prince," Hermione murmured out of the corner of her mouth. A snort was all she got in response.

She missed his speech for Pansy, which no doubt would've been short and quite cheesy, but came back in when he moved on to Rita. "Rita," the girl blushed and fluttered her eyebrows prettily. "You have…gorgeous glasses. And your hair…it's so…shiny."

Hermione almost snorted out her apple juice; the Prince was even worse at this kind of things than she was. He was clearly uncomfortable with the idea, but none of the other girls noticed. They stared at Rita jealously, as if having gorgeous glasses and shiny hair were things to die for.

"May I present to you the newest Prince," Tom snarled. Hermione was rather surprised that he seemed to have an undying hatred towards Prince Ronald. Was it something that he did? Or maybe…it was just the fact that there was a Prince in the first place. She knew that they didn't have Princes in 1944. The royal family had begun in1975, when Lucius Malfoy decided that he was too extraordinary for the purebloods and decided to make himself King. Since then, the wizarding world had been divided among a dozen or so powerful pureblood families who shared the wealth among them.

"Daphne," the Prince moved on, and then smiled at her sister next to her. "Astoria. You are both so nice and sweet to talk to. You have the loveliest eyes." The two of them tittered shyly. Hermione herself would've been offended if the Prince had addressed her along with another person. Did he not know that although they were sisters, they were still individual human beings? The Greengrass sisters didn't seem to care, though, and after some more kind words exchanged, Prince Ronald moved on to Hannah.

"Hannah," he glanced down at her nails. "Your nails are beautiful the way they are." He grinned sheepishly. "Of course, I would've preferred if it was Quidditch themed, but pink is just as lovely." It was meant as a compliment, but Hannah flushed darkly and looked away. Bellatrix sniggered, but the Prince took it as a sense of shyness, and reassured the girl that they were all friends here.

"Is he always this smooth?" Tom asked.

Hermione shook her head. "He must be like this with the other girls, as they don't seem surprised. But he's never like this when we're alone." When the two of them were alone, he never said anything sentimental. He ranted about what he liked—such as Quidditch and food and even more Quidditch—and she was expected to just listen.

Tom gave a knowing chuckle.

"Hermione." Hermione looked up at him. Prince Ronald seemed more nervous than he did for the other girls. "Before I start…may I ask you a question?"

Rather bewildered, she nodded. "Go ahead, your Highness."

He still looked rather uncomfortable. All the other girls glared at Hermione as if it was her fault that he was in such a predicament. "If you wanted to move one person safely from one place to another without disapparating," he said. Hermione raised an eyebrow; it was a magic question? He was asking the only muggleborn in the room a magic question? The other girls were less than pleased. "How would you do so?"

She blinked. "You could fly?"

"Without being noticed, that is," he rushed to fill in the blank. "Or at least distract the enemies. Flying across muggle London would attract quite a lot of attention, wouldn't it?"

"Oh." Hermione blinked, a little perplexed. Was the Prince being moved to an alternate location? Would all of them have to move as well? Or would they be left behind for Voldemort and his followers? "You could use polyjuice," she said. "The enemy would never be able to guess which one is which."

Prince Ronald thought for a while, and then his face turned in to a brilliant smile. She had never seen him with that before, and it made him look…handsomer than she had ever thought of him."Thank you, Hermione," he said proudly. "I knew I could count on you."

Feeling the glares of the other girls and Tom's fingernails biting in to her skin as he gripped her shoulders, she nodded politely and said, "Anytime, your Highness." She then hissed at Tom, "What is your problem?"

Tom loosened his grip on her shoulders, but she could still feel his glare on the back of her head. What did she do to anger him? Was it because the Prince asked her for advice? That was absurd; it wasn't as if the Prince complimented her looks.

"Now," Prince Ronald looked at her gently, more gentle than she saw him look at his broom. Hermione was completely bewildered by his strange behavior. "Hermione, you are the kindest soul I have ever met. You are beautiful without makeup, and I love the way your eyes shine when you figure something out, or when you get your hands on a book you've wanted for such a long time."

Hermione, as well as everyone else in the room, could only stop and stare. Prince Ronald, who had been so uncomfortable throughout all the other speeches, was saying this fluently, as if rehearsed. And he noticed the fact about her eyes, did he? That would've meant that he was spying on her while she was reading. She didn't know whether to feel flattered or angry.

"You are the smartest person I have ever met," Prince Ronald continued, much to the dismay of the other girls. "You are also so hard working. I see you every day, working from dawn to dusk. It amazes me that someone could have so much perseverance and interest to learn." He paused. "You listen to my Quidditch obsession as well, even though I know it pains you to. And you've never told me to shut up or changed the topic; you always listen so politely. And you," he gestured towards her. "You're so kind towards everyone, maids and house elves alike, and—"

"Your Highness," Bellatrix interrupted, anger underlying her voice. She glowered at Hermione, and she knew that she was going to have to expect so much worse from Bellatrix. The crucio's and other dark curses that the girl had cast before was only a warm up. "With all due respect, are you sure you aren't talking about me?"

As if popped out of a bubble, Prince Ronald's eyes widened and he cast Hermione an apologetic look. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to throw all of that on you."

An awkward silence fell over the table as Hermione twitched around, uncomfortable with all the stares she was getting. Her brain, however, was processing what the Prince had just said. All that time, when she had just been trying to block it out, he took it for…kindness? He thought that she had been sympathetic and listened to him?

Prince Ronald finally took pity on her and said, "Now, Luna. Let's get started with you."

Hermione sat back and took a deep breath as the Prince moved on to the last few girls. The mood on the dinner was not as easy as it was before; everyone, including the Prince himself, was rather surprised at his outburst.

"What a pathetic idiot," Tom snarled. His fingers had disappeared from her shoulders, so she could only imagine that he had went to get his wand. Patting her pockets, she sighed; he had taken her wand again.

"Don't say that," she scolded him as quietly as possible. "It took him a lot of courage to say that." She felt rather bad, getting the feeling that she was leading him on. His feelings were definitely not replicated; she couldn't even say five sentences if they asked her to make a speech about him.

There was a silence. "Defending him, aren't we?" There was an underlying anger in his voice.

Hermione was offended. "I'd like to see you say something like that!"

"Now why would I?" Tom drawled. "Love is a weak emotion. It slows down the powerful, and it boosts the weak. I will never be carried down by the burden of protecting someone else. And if you want to get anywhere, you won't either."

"Tom," Hermione said firmly. "Love is a weakness, but it is also a strength. It depends on how you play it."

"Why waste the effort?" She could almost see him smirk proudly. "I'm the strongest wizard in the world—there's no need for me rely on anyone. They'll only drag me down."

He sounded so sure of himself. Before Hermione could respond, Bellatrix, who was heading for the bathroom, purposely dumped her entire glass of butterbeer on Hermione's head. It drenched her hair and slopped down her dress, soaking the most private areas. "Oops," she giggled madly, glaring at Hermione when the Prince moved to help her. "My bad."

Hermione opened her mouth, and then remembered who was behind her. The butterbeer had also gotten on Tom, and by the way his grip had tightened considerably, he was not pleased. He flicked his wand—her wand—and Bellatrix fell to the ground, screaming and flailing. Hermione could almost imagine the cruel, satisfied smirk that was on his face as he tortured her.

The other girls shielded away while Prince Ronald approached warily, unsure of what to do. There wasn't much he could do against an invisible attacker, especially one as powerful as Tom. Hermione gripped Tom's arm once, informing him that he had done enough harm for one day. Tom reluctantly ended the curse, and almost at once, Bellatrix sat up and pointed an accusing finger at Hermione.

"It was her!" She screamed. "She cursed me!"

"I don't even have my wand," Hermione argued back, hoping that Tom wouldn't hate her so much that he would give her wand back. They could easily trace it, and they would find the cruciatus as the recently cast curse. She would spend a lifetime in Azkaban for cursing a princess. "And there's no way I know wandless magic."

"Your Highness!" Bellatrix argued. "You can't possibly let her cloud your judgment! Who else could've possibly been near enough to curse me?"

Prince Ronald frowned. He was obviously conflicted, but unless Tom decided to do something stupid, there wasn't much he could do against something he wasn't even aware was there. "As much as that is true, Bella, I'm afraid that I have no proof that points to Hermione being the culprit. I'll just have to ask you to tread more carefully next time, Bella."

Upon hearing that, Bellatrix's face twisted in to a nasty snarl that could've rivaled Tom's, and she stormed out of the room, purposely stomping on Hermione's foot as she passed by. Tom flicked Hermione's wand once again, and Bellatrix's hair caught on fire, the girl shrieking as she made a mad dash for the bathroom.

Hermione smacked Tom's head for good measure. When Prince Ronald gave her a curious glance, she simply smiled sweetly and said, "There was a fly."

ϡ

Tom watched at the girl threw her hands up in disgust, no doubt scolding him for her behavior. She was powerful, that he knew. He had no doubt that if he didn't catch her off guard with the cruciatus curse during their duel, she could've gone on for much longer. He smirked slightly; no one would've guessed that someone with a pretty face like him would be as malicious as he was. The cruciatus was always a nice touch; he loved seeing the surprise and horror on his victim's faces when he used it for the first time.

He had dueled many before, and though it was obvious that Hermione was not the most experienced, she defended herself fairly well for someone who just read about it. His lips curled when he remembered that she had been trembling throughout the duel. It was a beautiful sight, and he loved being the one to invoke the fear.

She was no doubt smart. For once, he had to agree with that charlatan of a Prince that she was one of the most intelligent people he had ever met. Though, based on all the idiots around him, that was not a hard accomplishment to achieve. Of course, he was still smarter, but the girl came in close second. There was something about the way she carried herself, proud and confident, that was so different from everyone else.

That was so like him.

Tom Riddle had never respected anyone, not Dumbledore, and certainly not any muggleborn. But if he did, this girl would be on the top of his list. This…mudblood, he sneered in disgust. He would have to turn a blind eye to her blood status for the moment. When he got back to his time…he'd deal with that then.

He had to find out about Voldemort, who was no doubt his future and more powerful self. That was what he came for, wasn't it? He didn't want to be so blunt to keep questioning her; it was already raising enough unwanted questions. Except, that blasted Dumbledore only gave him three days, and since he could not get out of the castle, he could only rely on Hermione. He could not trick the other foolish girls in the castle, since he doubted that they knew anything.

There would be time for his subtle way in squeezing information out of his targets. For now, there was no time to do so; he would have to be direct. And he didn't like that at all.

"Are you quite done?" Tom drawled, watching as a scowl took over her face, her hands paused in mid-gestures. After the dinner, she had reverted her hair back in to its normal state, and he smirked at the messiness of it. It resembled the combination of a lion's mane and a bird's nest. She certainly was not pretty, but Tom never aimed for pretty.

"Were you even listening at all?" She said. She was quite fired up; Tom was surprised that she even stopped at all.

"Nope." Tom leaned against the back of the chair he was sitting in comfortably, propping his head up on one hand. "Now, Hermione, tell me what you think would be the best way to become the most powerful wizard in the world."

Hermione eyed him suspiciously. "Is this about you-know-who again?" She asked. "Why are you so interested about him?" She had a sneaking suspicion as to why he was so curious, but she decided to ignore it.

Tom stood up slowly, backing her in to the wall. Her wand was still in his possession, and he tapped her chin with it to force her to look up at him. His eyes were dark holes, void of emotion. "Why are you so afraid?" He said, his breath warm against her skin. "Why won't you say my name?"

Hermione blinked at him. "My?" A dreadful feeling settled over her.

"Say it." The wand tip pressed against her skin a little harder, and his eyes grew colder. "Say it, Hermione."

"V…" she trailed off. He was right; this was a time of war. It would do her no good if she couldn't even say the name of their biggest enemy. And she wondered why they didn't accept her in to the Auror program. "Voldemort."

"Good girl," Tom purred, loosening the pressure with her wand and instead began using the tip to trace patterns on her skin. "Tell me what you've been researching about him."

Hermione looked at him, narrowing his eyes. "How do you know I've been researching?"

"I brought it up yesterday," Tom replied smoothly. "Do you honestly think you weren't curious enough to find out more?" When Hermione didn't respond and instead just scowled angrily, Tom chuckled and said, "What else did you find?"

"He has a pet snake," Hermione said. She had researched a lot after Tom had disappeared, but she was going to reveal as little as possible. She didn't know what was going on with him. If he turned out to be who she thought he was, it was better to give him as little information as possible.

Tom looked amused for some reason. "Does he?"

"Yes. Nagini, I believed it was called." Tom crinkled his forehead upon hearing a foreign name, but motioned for her to go on. "His most faithful followers include the Malfoy family and the Black family." She made a face. "Bellatrix, the girl who you cursed earlier, is part of the Black family."

This seemed to amuse him and he sniggered. "Is she really?" He imagined her as one of his faithful followers, and found that she fit the bill quite well. She was rash, she was insane, and she had a knack for causing pain. The only downside was that she was too enamored with that Weasley Prince. Well, nothing a night in bed with Tom Riddle couldn't change, he smirked to himself.

"You haven't met the Malfoys yet," she said, disgust evident in her voice. "They aborted all their daughters. Their family has a thing with having only sons to carry on the family name." Hermione sniffed. "I've barely seen them, but they're all stuck up pricks. I wouldn't go near them if I were you." She conveniently left out the fact that she thought he was a prick as well. It wouldn't do to insult him when he held her wand in his hand.

Abraxas Malfoy back in his time certainly seemed to fit that description. He pranced around like he owned the world and flaunted his money off. The boy also enjoyed disobeying far too much for Tom's taste. He had to spend at least half of each meeting crucio'ing him to make sure he knew his place.

"You're treading along the surface, Hermione," he inserted the pressure of the wand a little deeper to remind her of their position. "Tell me something you can't find from books. Something only you know."

Hermione racked her brain. All of knowledge came from books! She couldn't just pop out something that wasn't in a single book…what Dumbledore said to her popped in to her brain and she narrowed her eyes at Tom. She couldn't tell him.

"Tell me," Tom said, cocking his head to one side. It did not make him look any less dangerous at the moment. "Or you'll find that I can be rather…persuasive." Oh, she had no doubt that he could be.

Hermione glared at the offending wand. "He has crimson eyes and no nose," here, Tom frowned a little, and she saw it as her advantage and pressed on. "He is completely bald and his skin is rather shiny so you won't be able to miss him." She paused. "Not that you would miss him in the first place. He stands out a lot."

"That's very nice," Tom mused. He had really become unhuman-like, had he? All the better; no one was going to fear someone with the face of a schoolboy. "But I believe I said I wanted something you couldn't find from books. Tell me what Dumbledore told you."

Hermione's jaw dropped as she processed what he just said. "No way. You're a legilimens?"

"Don't cross me, Hermione," Tom threatened. "If you don't tell me what I want, then I'll just go and find it myself. I won't be gentle about it," his lip curled up. "Do you want me to look at anything? Any past boyfriends, any dirty secrets," he smirked. "any dark desires?"

Hermione scowled at him. "No. And stay out of my head."

"You know what you have to do."

Hermione sighed. "Dumbledore said the reason that you-know-who…excuse me, Voldemort," she shuddered slightly, much to Tom's amusement. "never seemed to die was because he created objects." Here, she shifted around uncomfortably. "Objects called horcruxes."

"Horcrux," Tom repeated, narrowing his eyes. It was the same thing, then, that he had brought up to Slughorn just months ago. The old man, ever so trusting, had never expected that he planned to make his own horcruxes. No one ever thought that Tom Riddle, the perfect Head Boy, would ever make something so inhuman. "Tell me about horcruxes."

Hermione was hesitant, but eyed the wand carefully and said, "He made horcruxes to ensure that he would become immortal; at least, that's what Professor Dumbledore said."

Tom narrowed his eyes. Dumbledore had him all figured out by this time, had he? It took him long enough. "And where is Dumbledore now?" Tom hissed. If the old codger was in the castle, he would have to pay him a visit, and the two of them would have a nice long talk.

"I can't tell you." She jutted her chin up at him.

She still had a bit of fight in her, didn't she? "Do you think it is wise to argue with me?" Tom said smoothly, raising an eyebrow. "Do you fancy having another run-in with the cruciatus?"

"I don't care," she glared at him. "I won't tell you."

Bad move. "Legilimens," Tom whispered and dove right in to her mind. She raised some occlumency shields in defense, but he crushed them easily and began probing around. Years of training on his followers made him an expert, and he moved around Hermione's brain relatively easily. There were images of a stark naked baby, and he smirked at them, deciding to look in to those later.

He saw flashes of Dumbledore, and then a man who he assumed could only be his future self. He wasn't going to win over any girls with that look, but who needed girls when you were the most powerful wizard in the world? Tom watched hungrily as his older self waved his wand once, and a jet of green light flew out. It struck Dumbledore right in the chest and he fell, dead at last. Tom snarled gleefully; it took the old man long enough to die.

He saw Dumbledore again, this time talking with a grim-looking Hermione. "Seven," Dumbledore said, and the frown on Hermione's face only increased. "He created seven."

He pulled out with Hermione trying to punch him. He stepsided her fists easily and looked sharply at her. "How do you have the memory of when Dumbledore died?" He asked. "You weren't just standing there watching, were you?"

Hermione snorted. It was unlady-like, but she had already been stripped of all her dignity when Tom entered her mind. "No. The Prince decided to show us the video. Many of the girls ran off crying and screaming before the time where Professor died, but I watched till the very end." She paused and said softly. "I had to know."

Tom smirked, not at all remorseful. "So, I made seven," he mused quietly to himself. Hermione glared at him, but he ignored her. "That makes me truly immortal, does it not?" He released her from her spot on the wall, and she sagged down, taking huge gulps of air. "What do you suppose the seven are?"

"Do you think I'm an idiot?" she screeched at him.

"On contrary, I think you are the opposite," Tom replied smoothly. "Hence why I am asking you."

"Well, I'm not going to tell you." She stood up shakily. "You're going to have to read my mind again if you want to know. And I won't make it as easy as last time."

Tom raised an eyebrow. It was a tempting offer, but he had other ways of retracting information. "You can tell me," he soothed. If anything, it just made her angrier. "What do you think I'll do, go and destroy them myself? I can't get out of this castle."

"I think," Hermione said stiffly. "That you'll create these seven once you get back to your time. And I'll never forgive myself for assisting you."

There was a moment of silence. "You finally figured it out, have you?" Tom whistled appreciatively. "Not bad, for a mudblood like you."

Hermione cringed at his word choices. "So, you really are…?" She didn't want to believe it, though all facts pointed to it being true.

"Of course I am," Tom sneered. "Who else would that be? Surely, you didn't think I was going to keep my filthy muggle father's name? No. I fashioned myself a new name, a name that I knew that wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world."

He paused, smiling eerily at the now thoroughly frightened Hermione. "And you will come back with me, on my rise to power."

"What?" Hermione stared at him.

"You will come back with me," Tom repeated, a sinister smile taking form on his face. "I will give you all the books that you want, and you will be my amusement source. I will lock you up with as many books as you want, and when I'm bored, you and I will…talk."

"Talk?" Hermione repeated dumbly.

"Yes." Tom said smoothly. "You'll find that my followers are dreadfully boring to converse with. And though I'm the Dark Lord," Hermione cringed a little. "I'll still get bored, won't I? You'll be there to entertain me."

Hermione gaped. "I won't sleep with you!"

Tom chuckled. "I was simply referring to the sharing of wisdom," he said. "There's no need to take such a big jump."

Hermione flushed. "Like Voldemort would ever share his wisdom with a mudblood." She felt dirty calling herself that, but it was necessary to get her point across.

"I am willing to overlook your unfortunate blood status," Tom said. "You will not meet others as kind as I am."

Hermione snorted. "You are the kindest person who has ever roamed this planet."

Tom's eyes flashed angrily. "This is not an offer," he said smoothly. "This is an order. Voldemort will take over the world that you live in, and I'm giving you an offer to be on the winning side. What do you have here? You'll marry a prince that you don't care about, and you can't even get in to the Auror program to save your world." Hermione scowled. "You're nothing. You're useless. Think of what you'll be in my time. People will listen to your wisdom and respect you."

"I don't care," Hermione shook her head. "I'm not going to join you."

"You won't be joining me," Tom said innocently. "You'll just be with me. You won't be one of my mindless followers."

"And how do I know you won't make me kill someone?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

"You won't." Tom said carelessly. "I make no promises." Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Tom cut her off. "You don't have a choice here. Your parents will suffer in your place if you do not come," Hermione flinched. "I'll keep them safe if you agree. If you do not," he paused for the effect. "There will be consequences."

Hermione said nothing, and then Tom nodded once. "I'll give you until sunset, tomorrow. Have your answer by then, or you'll see just how scary Lord Voldemort can be." He gave her a sweet, innocent smile before he swept out of the room without another word, leaving Hermione to stare at the spot where he had just been, her mind whirling.

She wished, not for the first time, that Dumbledore was still alive.