Author's Note: And here it is, the second and last chapter of this rather short story. This marks my first completed story on ffn. Yay. GD is coming along, but I just realized that I haven't updated in more than a month. I'll work on that, but my schedule's getting rather busy again, plus the Olympics are so fun to watch. Sigh.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. And thanks to all those who reviewed!
asianstotheleft, Assiduous Dreaming, LadyBalacenia, Zombie Reine, Mighty Ruler of Gummi Bears, lilmisslovely24, FaeryBooks, butterfly-twirl-by, Wolfstorm7, CrazyLook
Assiduous Dreaming: It depends on what you define as normal. Luna is perfectly normal in her standards, and the rest, while a little girly, are mostly normal too. It's difficult, because there's such a big range of what normal really means. I think that the only two people I don't consider normal here are Bellatrix and Rita, but others may argue differently. Just because their personalities vary doesn't mean they're not normal. And yes, submissive Hermione and dominant Tom. That's how it usually is, no? At least, until Hermione decides to challenge him. ;)
Zombie Reine: Yes, I read back and it is going a little fast, but this was supposed to be short, and I didn't want to have about ten chapters of them getting to know each other before Tom said that he'd bring her back to the past. Like I said, my main priority is GD, and I haven't updated in a long time, so I wanted to get this one done fast.
CrazyLook: Sorry about the repeating. I tend to like my chapters being around 10,000 words long, so I repeat stuff a lot. But, well, Voldemort is really a dark wizard, and Hermione wanted to emphasize that a bit. ;) As for the name part, she realized it, but was in denial. She didn't really want to believe it. I'll clean that up later. And thank you! I'm trying to work on characterization, as I think that's my worst part right now. Glad to know that you liked it.
**Once again, no beta, so don't mind the mistakes.**
"Toom. I don't get this."
"What don't you get?" Tom asked, a kind smile plastered on his face. The girl—Maisie, as she had said—had asked him for transfiguration help right after class. With Dumbledore standing right there, there was no way he could weasel out of it without him getting suspicious. He had grudgingly told the girl that he would agree to tutor her with that ridiculous grin on his face. It made him feel disgusting; Tom Riddle did not grin. He snarled and smirked and tortured. Sometimes, being the perfect student was tiring.
But it was worth it. Tom thought back to just a week ago, when he had confronted old Slughorn about horcruxes. The old man had been so gullible, but then wasn't everyone in the castle? Who would've guessed that Headboy Tom Riddle would even think about making a horcrux, much less seven? It was a horrific deed, and there was no way that Tom Riddle would ever be so cruel as to murder someone.
He wanted to become immortal right after Amy and Dennis went insane. Bobby had tried to pin the blame on him, but there wasn't much Tom could've done to make them that way. He didn't know that Tom was magical, far superior to anyone else at that stupid orphanage. It was just good that he hadn't met the old codger yet; Dumbledore was always sniffing around in Tom's business, and was willing to take any chance in sending him to Azkaban. There was no doubt that he would've landed in the prison if Dumbledore had been around.
He still remembered when Amy was sane, when she still followed him around. She was the only one who listened to him when he ordered her around. Everyone else thought he was a freak because he could speak to snakes, could make things move with just a flick of his fingers, and could seem to make the whole world obey him with just a cold look from his eyes. What they didn't understand was that all of these skills made him superior to them, and thus they should be groveling at his feet, not teasing and making fun of him as they were.
Many said he cared for Amy. Amy herself even deluded herself to thinking that. Only Tom knew the truth. He didn't care for anyone, much less a muggle. She was merely a follower, someone he could order around. She was more obedient than the ones he had now—they always questioned his orders—but once she stopped ignoring his orders, he deposited her. He had no need for her then.
Dumbledore showed up two weeks later. Tom had a strange suspicion that it was anything but a coincidence, but there was no way the old codger would tell him. However, the first thing Dumbledore talked to him about was Azkaban—what it is, and who was sent there. The professor gave him a look the whole time, a look that Tom couldn't comprehend. After Dumbledore left, Tom decided it would not do. If, for every time he killed or even used the Cruciatus curse, he would have to go to Azkaban, then he would risk getting a Dementor's Kiss. He decided right there and then that he had to become immortal, so things as petty as dementors could not kill him. So that nothing could kill him.
"Tom?" Maisie said, fluttering her eyelashes prettily. She was a mudblood, and Tom had to fight hard not to shove her off of him when she draped herself on his arm. He supposed he should be thankful that she was just a stupid Hufflepuff rather than a Gryffindor, but her blood status already disgusted him to no end. He would have to spend a good part of the evening in the shower, scrubbing himself and his robes to clean off the dirt.
"Yes?" Tom asked, raising an eyebrow. It seemed to have the desired effect, because Maisie burst out in a fit of giggles. She seemed to find that action very attractive. The noise hurt his ears, and he wanted to take out his wand and crucio her. Her screams would make a much better sound, but with Dumbledore snooping around, he could not lay a finger on her. Tom had to fight to keep his nice, charming face at the thought of the transfiguration professor.
"I don't get this," Maisie said, biting her lower lip in what she thought was attractive. Tom paid her no mind and looked down at the paper. Just what he thought: transfiguration. Dumbledore could've taught Maisie himself, but Tom had no doubt that the old codger did this to make him squirm. He was always sprouting nonsense about how Tom had to be more tolerant towards all the blood statuses. It was torture sitting in his office, nodding his head and promising that he held no grudge towards muggleborns when all Tom wanted to do was puke at the disgusting words flowing out of his mouth.
However, even his hate for muggleborns was nowhere near his hate for Albus Dumbledore.
"Maisie," he said smoothly. "This is first year material."
A look of hurt crossed her face; obviously, that had not been what she was expecting to hear. "I—" she said, suddenly looking like she was blinking back tears. Did she expect him to comfort her? Well, she wasn't going to get it. She looked much prettier with her face stained with tears.
Aside from Dumbledore, that was the other thing he hated about Hogwarts. The people here were so stupid. The teachers merely peppered them with compliments, boosting their self confidence so much so that they didn't feel the need to work hard. Not all of them could be like him, Tom thought with a sneer. His brilliancy was unmatched; no one came even close.
Even his pathetic followers were idiots. Not only were they rebellious and required punishment every meeting—Tom was beginning to think that they were sadists; they clearly couldn't get enough of the pain he inflicted—but they couldn't duel to save their lives. It had taken so much of his private time, time he could've spend reaching horcruxes or other important objects, and he had spent it on them, teaching them how to defend themselves. It wouldn't do if all of his secrets were just out in the open, with his followers babbling at every stunner or disarming spell. And they weren't even grateful for the time he spent with them.
There was only one person who even came close to his intellectual level, and there was no way he was going to go to Dumbledore and make conversation with him.
He had thought of making a book in to a human. He did not need someone to share his plans with, but there was only so much he could take of his followers before he went insane. He needed someone to anchor him down, to challenge his mind and spit his words back at him. He wanted someone to learn knowledge from—though never would they be superior to him. So far, he was feeding knowledge to everyone around him and receiving none; that thought made him sick. Tom Riddle did not give for free.
Suddenly unable to take it anymore, he stood up, the chair scratching the dungeon floor. He had a plan; it was a farfetched plan, but it would be worth so much if he could go through with it.
Maisie looked up, obviously surprised that her pity act didn't work. "Tom?" she asked, reaching out to touch his arm. He stepsided quickly and had to prevent a smirk from arising at her hurt expression. He pretended he hadn't noticed her reaching out for his arm.
"Lesson is over," he said, heading towards the door. "I have to see Professor Dumbledore." The title he had to give the old codger left a sour taste in his mouth.
"But Toooom," she whined. "We didn't do anything yet! Can we do this again tomorrow? Maybe at night and in your room? The headboy has a private room, doesn't he?" She battered her eyelashes. "It's sound proof as well, isn't it?"
Tom looked at her, his face carefully blank. "That's alright," he said smoothly. "I'll tell Professor Dumbledore that you need extra help. I'm sure he'll be happy to help you."
Her protest was cut off as he closed the door sharply behind him, and then headed down the corridor. The pitiless girl left his thoughts. His mind was whirling; he needed something to bribe Dumbledore with. Dumbledore would never give him something unless he could benefit as well. But what did he have that Dumbledore could possibly want? Especially something for a favor as big as this?
He hated that he had to go to Dumbledore. But even he had to admit that the old codger was smart, and his goal would be achieved faster if he helped. He didn't have much time; it wouldn't do for him to spend his whole seventh year researching. He had other things to do before he left.
Feeling as if his wish would only be granted if he got on Dumbledore's good side, he knocked politely on the door, feeling rather foolish. However, a quick glance to the side showed two seventh year Ravenclaw girls looking at him and he sent them a wink. Their giggles informed him that he was still quite charming indeed.
He entered the room, almost smirking as Dumbledore looked surprised to see him there. It wasn't every day he caught the old codger off guard. The transfiguration teacher regained his composure and looked at Tom over those ugly glasses of his. "How may I help you, Tom?"
Uninvited, Tom plopped himself down on the seat in front of Dumbledore. The professor merely raised an eyebrow before flicking his wand, all the papers he had just been grading flying in to a neat pile in his drawer. He then crossed his hands in front of him and looked at Tom expectantly.
"Let's do business."
"Business?" Dumbledore repeated. It wasn't every day that Tom intentionally came to speak to him, and it was even rarer that he spoke civilly. Tom was smiling pleasantly at him; Dumbledore knew it was all an act, but the boy had never put it up in front of him because he knew he wasn't fooling anyone.
"Yes." Tom decided not to drag it out. "I want you to send me to the future."
Tom could proudly say that that was one of the few times he had truly caught the old codger off guard. "To the future?" he sounded very much like a parrot. "You want me to send you to the future? Oh, Tom—"
Tom, who had been anticipating a massive lecture followed by a simple two letter answer, simply smiled sweetly at him. "I just want to see how I turn out in the future. You may set a time limit on me if you'd like."
"Tom," Tom almost laughed at the startled expression on Dumbledore's face. "You have extreme confidence in me, but even I can't do that."
"Somehow," Tom said simply. "You'll have to find a way."
Dumbledore raised his eyebrow at the threatening tone in Tom's voice, but didn't say anything.
"Let me make it easier for you," he leaned slightly closer. If it were a student—male or female, it didn't matter to him—sitting in front of him, Tom wouldn't hesitate to make body contact. He could be very persuasive at times, his voice not being his only tool. But there was no way he was going to even think about touching Dumbledore. "Let's talk about the Chamber of Secrets."
"Is that a confession?" Dumbledore asked.
"I have nothing to confess to," Tom said pleasantly, when all he wanted to do was sneer at the professor. Of course he had something to confess to: he opened the Chamber of Secrets, and he and he alone was the heir of Slytherin. Not that stupid oaf half giant that received all the credit. However, it was necessary; Dumbledore most certainly would've not let him stay as a gamekeeper at Hogwarts and would've just shipped him off to Azkaban.
After Hagrid was caught, Tom had no plans on opening the Chamber again while he was at school. It was too risky. He left behind a diary, preserving his sixteen year old self. He would be able to finish Salazar Slytherin's noble work later on, but unfortunately it would have to wait until he was well out of school.
However, Dumbledore didn't need to know that.
"You will send me to the future," Tom said, a commanding air in his voice. "Or there might be some…accidental deaths around the castle." He smiled sweetly. "You wouldn't want that, would you? Think of what the parents will say. Why, Hogwarts may even need to close down." Of course, he would've never let it happen; Hogwarts was his home after all. But that was the base of his plan; he would play on all the facts that Dumbledore didn't know.
"Tom, that sounds awfully like a confession."
"And with all due respect, Professor," Tom said, snarling the last word. He quickly dropped his pleasant act, but neither he nor Dumbledore was particularly surprised by it. "That sounds awfully like an accusal."
"I'm not accusing you of anything," Dumbledore said. If only that were true; the old codger accused him of way too much. Anytime there was trouble around the castle, Tom was the first one he blamed. The only thing Dumbledore ever missed was evidence. Tom himself was extremely careful with his deeds. His followers were sloppy and left evidence all around the crime scene, but it was them taking the blame. They all knew that the punishment Tom would give them was ten times the pain that anyone else could. They usually kept their mouth shut from pinning the blame on Tom.
This whole thing was taking way too much of his time. He made sure he didn't give Dumbledore too much room to work with. "You will send me to the future," Tom hissed threateningly. "Or the students will pay." A sadistic grin appeared on his face. "Not a tough decision, is it?"
Dumbledore sighed. "I want you to promise that you will never open the Chamber of Secrets again."
"I never opened it, Professor," his voice was so sweet, it may as well have been laced with sugar. "But I'll give you my promise that I'll never open it again."
Dumbledore looked rather shocked that he had given in so quickly. Of course he didn't know that while he didn't plan on opening it, someone else was going to open it for him through his diary. However, only two people knew about the diary: him and Malfoy, who had been the one to get it for Tom. A little 'obliviate' had done the trick quite nicely.
"I will give you two days," Dumbledore said sternly. "I will send you two hours in to the future—"
"Fifty years," Tom interrupted.
"Fifty years?" Dumbledore's eyes widened. "By Merlin, Tom, that's impossible!"
"I suggest you find a way," Tom snarled. "We had a deal."
Dumbledore frowned, but Tom was quite pleased at the power he held over the professor's head. Usually, it was the other way around, Dumbledore cornering Tom. "Tom, in fifty years, you'll be almost seventy."
"Of course," Tom replied smoothly. Dumbledore didn't know about his plan to create horcruxes; he didn't know that the reason Tom wanted to go to the future was so he could figure out which horcruxes he had made, and how much power he held in the future. He was in his seventh year already; he had to make all necessary preparations this year, or risk Dumbledore's suspicion by coming back to Hogwarts.
"You may not use your wand," Dumbledore said. Tom frowned; he didn't really need his wand to accomplish what he wanted to do, but it was handy to have around. He had just started practicing wandless magic, though he wasn't as skilled as he would have liked to be. However, if it was the price to be sent fifty years in to the future, then he would agree to do it.
Dumbledore, seeming to think that an obedient Tom was absolutely bewildering, said, "Come back in a week, Tom. I will have something for you by then. We will perform the unbreakable vows then."
Tom got up, knowing that he was dismissed. It was better to leave now before Dumbledore changed his mind and decided to take it back. He was Albus Dumbledore after all. He wasn't surprised when Dumbledore called out, "Tom."
Tom turned around to look at him. If Dumbledore decided to change his mind, that was fine with him. He wouldn't mind setting the basilisk on the mudbloods; the school needed to be cleansed anyway. However, Dumbledore merely frowned and said, "There was so much hope for you, Tom."
Tom snarled at him. He hated when Dumbledore sprouted his sentimental crap, like he actually cared for Tom's wellbeing. "I will be back in one week. You better have it ready." There was a glint in his eyes, an evil glint that Dumbledore eyed sadly. The implied 'or else' seemed to linger in the air, the atmosphere tense. Without waiting for his professor to respond, Tom spun out of the room, his cloak swirling behind him.
Hermione hurried down the corridor with no real destination on her mind. True to his word, Tom had allowed her to think in peace, but with the deadline just hours away, she still had yet to make her decision. Hermione snorted; not that it was much of a decision, her parent's lives were on the line, after all.
At least, that's what she told herself.
Still, she thought to herself, she could have a great life there. There would be no princess selection and only books all day long. She could converse with Tom, who was no doubt more knowledgeable than anyone here. Voldemort was going to win here anyway, and there was nothing she could do about it. Why not go to the past and have fun for the last few years of her life?
Hermione mentally smacked herself, feeling incredibly selfish. Don't be silly, she mentally scolded herself. It wasn't like her to give up so quickly. Where was that fighting spirit that she was known for?
…but still, the books…
It was the books that really tempted her, not anything. Her biggest weakness was probably her obsessions with books, and the knowledge that they contained. An enemy could tempt her with a book she wanted to read, and she would follow like a lost puppy.
She had always been a rather odd child. Her parents had always been rather concerned about her, when she preferred the company of books rather than other kids her age. Before she learned that she was a witch, she was always the girl who other people made fun of in muggle school. She would choose to stay in and learn more instead of going out to the playground during recess. She had not minded being unusual. The other kid's taunts and teases never affected her.
Was that why she wanted to go to the past? Not because of her parent's lives, but because of the knowledge it offered? If so, did that make Tom the enemy? It made her feel rather selfish.
Hermione snorted; of course Tom was the enemy. He had threatened to curse her twice already, and had used an unforgivable on her. The two of them weren't friends, that was for sure. Hermione frowned; why was it that she was so willing to go back to the past with him then?
Your parent's lives, a voice in her mind nagged.
The books, another voice said.
Angrily, she pushed both voices out of her mind and stomped down the hallway. Prince Ronald had told her to come to one of his private chambers. She didn't want to spend the last few hours before her decision with him, especially after what he said at dinner the previous night. She had entertained the idea of not coming; after all, what could they do to her if she chose to go to the past? However, she had no doubt that that's exactly what would please Tom, so she came anyway, just to spite him.
She knew that even though she couldn't see him, he was there. She knew he was disillusioned somewhere, the occasional times he bumped in to her accounting for that. She knew he did it on purpose; he was too carefully not to, but Hermione couldn't help but think that it was his way of reminding her that she had to make the decision soon. Too soon.
She entered without knocking because she felt terribly rebellious. She would have time to worry about her actions later. Prince Ronald never really cared, anyway, and after his speech at dinner, she didn't think he would scold her for anything. She felt terrible for playing his feelings like that, but she knew that much of it was probably fabricated.
She came to the conclusion as she was walking over. There was no way that he meant everything he said. She had replayed the memory over again in her mind, and discovered that it sounded like he was thrusting random compliments on her in order to get her to do him a favor of some sort. It was the 'favor' part that she was still wondering about.
"Prince," she said as she closed the door softly behind her. "You called for me—"
She froze. The man was not the prince, and was rather a boy with lopsided glasses and messy hair. He was slouching over, unlike the prince's stiff and proper posture. He was scribbling something down on paper, and then stuffed it inside a desk drawer. She took in his green eyes, and then her eyes drifted to his scar. There was only one person she knew who had a scar like that.
"Oh Merlin," she breathed out before she could stop herself. "Are you Harry Potter?"
The man looked flattered. "You know who I am?"
"Of course!" She was practically gushing. "You're a hero out there! You're the chosen one!" Here, Harry blushed a little. "You're the one who is Voldemort's greatest enemy!" She immediately gulped, fighting the urge to turn around to check if Tom was behind her. She cast her eyes downwards instead, immediately aware of what she was doing. It was rude to stare someone of higher power in the eye. "I'm sorry." This man was as powerful as any prince, maybe even more. His wellbeing was the concern of the entire wizarding world.
"Don't be," Harry said, looking strangely amused. "I, for one, have no problem hearing or saying his name, and neither should you." He smiled at her kindly. "I take it that you're Hermione Granger?"
Hermione gawked at him. "How do you know?" Inside, she was jumping for joy. Harry Potter knew her name!
Harry chuckled. "Ron has spoken quite highly of you, so naturally, I wanted to meet you. I had Ron set up this appointment so I could talk to you in private." He smiled gently at her, reminding her too much of Dumbledore. "Do you have time?"
The prince's private talks never lasted long, and it would be especially awkward for the two of them to be alone. She had counted on the meeting ending early. Hermione had planned to spend an hour in the library, and then the next few clearing her mind to help her come to the decision that Tom had offered her. However, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity! Harry Potter was standing in front of her! How could she refuse?
"Of course, if that's all right with you," she said. She added, rather ashamed that she forgot, "Sir."
"Please don't call me sir," Harry looked amused. He gestured for her to sit down, which she did with mild difficulty, trying to get the dress to agree with her. "It makes me feel old. Harry'll do." He flipped a few pieces of paper over, as if out of habit. Upon realizing that it was Ron's desk and not his, he quickly turned them back over. Hermione smiled slightly; these little gestures made Harry seem more human than the machine they made him to be.
"I take it that you know all the details?" Harry asked, offering her a choice of drink. She declined politely, and he shrugged, pouring himself a cup of tea. He was very much like the Prince Ronald; he didn't take his time in drinking delicately. Rather, he gulped and slurped loudly, grinning when he caught Hermione looking. Hermione found herself grinning back.
"The details?" Hermione repeated. "Of the selection? Of course. I read over the booklet millions of times by now."
Harry blinked, looking genuinely surprised. "Ron didn't tell you?" Hermione blinked, unsure what he was referring to. "That idiot." Harry sighed, looking rather nervous. "It seems like I have the difficult task of explaining to you." He ran a hand through his hair, making it even messier than it already was. "Did Ron tell you about the reason for the selection process?"
Hermione shook her head.
"Idiot," Harry said, and Hermione chose not to comment. "As you know, we're at war with Voldemort right now, and things aren't looking very well." His face turned grim, and he looked a century older than he really was. Hermione couldn't even imagine the burden he must carry. "Ever since Dumbledore's death, Voldemort has taken the upper hand."
"I-I'm sorry," Hermione said earnestly, wondering why Harry was telling her this. "I wish there was something I could do to help."
Harry's eyes immediately lit up. "But you can!" Hermione looked at him, a bewildered expression on her face. He continued, waving his hands around rather wildly. "Would you like to come with Ron and me to fight Voldemort?"
Hermione stared at him blankly, not comprehending. "Excuse me?" A terrible feeling settled over her; she was positive that he was making fun of her. Now even the great Harry Potter was mocking her dreams, was he? She had to struggle to hold back a nasty snarl that was threatening to take place.
"I can see that you do not like the idea, so I ask that you wait until I am finished talking to make your decision," Harry said, misreading her look completely. "Ron and I are going to be hunting down some…special objects in two days."
"Horcruxes," Hermione said automatically, and then realized what she just said. She wasn't worried about Harry not knowing about them, since she doubted Dumbledore only told her and not the chosen one. However, Harry was looking as though she had grown two heads.
"How do you know?" Harry asked, a touch of suspicion in his voice. She also noticed his hand reaching towards his robe pocket, no doubt to erase her memory if she gave him the wrong answer.
"Professor Dumbledore," Hermione explained. "He told me before he…passed away."
Only a twitch of sadness appeared on Harry's face. Hermione supposed that in the war, with all your loved ones dying, there wasn't time to dwell and show sorrow. She wondered if she would ever be like that. Her eyes were starting to tear up at the thought of her late professor, and Harry offered her a tissue to dab at her eyes.
"Since you already know," Harry continued once Hermione stopped sniffling. "I might as well put this out there—this selection process is fake."
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked, rather confused.
"You see," Harry scratched the back of his head. "Ron and I were supposed to go off to hunt horcruxes last month, but Dumbledore mentioned you while we were talking. He said you were smart, logical and good at dueling, which is essentially everything we needed. When Mrs. Weasley heard about you, she immediately wanted to drag you in." Harry grinned. "She always said that we needed someone sensible to keep us on check."
Hermione didn't say anything. Somehow, she doubted that they really needed someone to keep them on track. They had managed perfectly well so far, hadn't they?
"If you read about the selection already," Harry continued. "Surely you've noticed that they have all occurred when the prince or princess has turned twenty one? Ron's only eighteen."
"Yes," Hermione said. "I just assumed that perhaps Prince Ronald had already reached that level of maturity, which is why they held it early for him." She didn't mention that she thought of him to be immature—in a good, but childish way.
Harry chuckled. "Ron is anything but mature. I'm sure you've noticed." After debating about the pros and cons of being honest, she nodded, which led to Harry grinning. "And please don't call him prince. I can't keep a straight face. I can't see him as anything but a pig." He laughed good-naturedly, a light touch in his voice."
Hermione blinked. "Is it that funny?" She, too, did not see Prince Ronald as a prince, but it wasn't her place to say that. While Harry was his best friend and the savior of the wizarding world, she was but a mere commoner.
"I probably would've made a better prince," Harry snorted, and then noticed that she was staring at him. "Is there something wrong?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, it's just that I expected you…" she trailed off, not sure if her line of thought would come out as offensive or not.
"That Ron and I would be more proper?" Hermione nodded once again and Harry laughed, and she discovered that it wasn't a bad thing to listen to. "I would look terrible in the suits that they require us to wear. They're more for Mr. Weasley anyway, since he's absolutely smitten with anything muggle. Though, I can't say he wears them well either." He shrugged. "Quite a few people were after him in his selection, except when they discovered his obsession with muggle objects, many purebloods dropped out."
Before she could stop herself, Hermione exclaimed, "They shouldn't make you wear suits! How would you duel then?" She launched in to a lengthy explanations on different types of curses and how dangerous they'd be if one was not dueling with proper robes. According to her dad, they were more rigid and more uncomfortable than a robe could ever be. They limited your movement, and that was something that you definitely did not want to happen during a duel.
Harry, unlike everyone else, listened to her every word, an amused expression on his face. He leaned back comfortably, seeming to have no idea what she was blabbering about, but still listened patiently anyway. When she finally stopped to take a breath, he applauded. Hermione searched his face and found not a trace of sarcasm.
"Sorry," she apologized out of habit. "I tend to bore everyone in the castle with my long lectures."
"They clearly don't appreciate it," Hermione felt herself swell up at the compliment. "As for Ron, he can't sit through anything. The only way you'll catch his attention is through a lecture of Quidditch. He can listen for hours. Though," he grinned. "You already have Ron's attention."
"Oh Merlin, that was true?" Hermione asked. "I didn't think he was telling the truth. I thought he was just trying to piss off Bellatrix."
"Bellatrix?" Harry repeated, and then a grimace appeared on his face. "That cackling girl who fired the Cruciatus curse at me in greeting?" That certainly sounded like her, and Hermione nodded. "She's an…interesting person."
"Ron wasn't trying to piss her off," Harry said, and Hermione noticed that he didn't call her out on her unladylike language. "Ron exaggerated slightly," upon the look Hermione was giving him, he amended quickly, "Fine. He exaggerated a bit too much, but that was to get the point through. He really does admire you, though." His grin brightened considerably. "He finally got a poker face down! I'm so proud of him."
Hermione was unsure how to react to this, and instead just nodded.
"Here's when I drop the bomb." Harry sighed, raking his hand through his hair. Hermione noticed that he did that a lot. "This whole selection was crafted for you."
"For me?" Hermione repeated, her eyes wide. That sounded like the most absurd idea she had heard, and that included Tom's offer—or more like demand—to bring her back to the past. She was probably the person who was least willing to be here for the selection, yet it was crafted for her?
"You look surprised," Harry said, looking rather amused."That idiot didn't say a word, did he?" He sighed. "Like I explained earlier, Mrs. Weasley wanted you to come with us hunting Voldemort's horcruxes. Ron wanted to burn your house down to woo you over, but Mrs. Weasley forbid it." A twinkle in his eyes informed Hermione that Harry seemed to have wanted her house down as well. How it was supposed to woo her over, she did not know. "I didn't think you would trust us if we just walked up to you." Harry rolled his eyes. "Then Ron had the brilliant idea of using the selection to win you over. He seemed to have forgotten he's absolutely dreadful with girls."
Hermione couldn't help but grin. It was true; Ron was as awkward as a boy could be. Even Tom could do better, but Hermione supposed that with looks like his, he would have plenty of experience with women. Her mind wandering to him, she was bombarded with mixed emotions. Hatred mixed with a little bit of envy. It obviously showed on her face, because Harry eyed her curiously.
She promptly thrust all thoughts of Tom away. Now was not the time to think about him, especially when she and Harry were talking about how to get rid of his immortality. "You two went through all that for me?" She asked, feeling a rush of gratitude.
"Don't get too thankful yet," Harry chuckled. "One day with Ron and I and you'll discover just how messy and obnoxious we can be." Hermione honestly doubted that. Messy, she could see that, but both of them were definitely not obnoxious.
"I know this is a lot to take in," Harry continued when Hermione didn't say anything. "We know that girls usually do not like the thought of dueling, much less dueling in the front lines against the darkest wizard that has ever lived, but Ron and I would appreciate if you would give it a bit of thought before you gave us your answer."
"No, I have no problem with dueling," she shook her head. She loved dueling, actually. It came second to books. "I just thought that you wouldn't want me, since the auror program rejected me."
"Did they?" Harry looked genuinely surprised. "What for?"
Hermione immediately clamped her mouth shut. She disliked the auror program for rejecting her for her blood status, but it was not like her to complain about something so trivial, especially to someone as important as Harry Potter. She shook her head, but the enraged look on Harry's face told her that he had already figured it out.
It took him a moment to calm down. "I'm sorry," he said, but Hermione had no idea what he was apologizing for. "With Voldemort raging, I'm afraid that the wizarding world has taken a toll. Many people start believing what he wants, whether they know it or not."
"It doesn't matter," Hermione said sourly, though it clearly did. She rarely held on to the past, but she still could see the head auror's face that day, when he told her that she hadn't been accepted because of her 'unfortunate' blood status. He had sent her home without sparing her another glance, and Hermione had to fight with all her willpower not to curse the head auror right there and then.
Harry didn't seem to believe it, but thankfully dropped the subject. "That takes care of that, then," he said. "Ron was afraid that you wouldn't want to duel, but would be willing to tag along to cook for us or something to that effect." Harry shrugged. "It wouldn't be exactly what we wanted, but it'd still be helpful."
Hermione snorted, but Harry didn't seem to care that such an unladylike sound left her mouth. Prince Ronald never seemed to care either, while Tom just thought it to be amusing. "You don't want me to cook for you," she said. "You don't want to come anywhere near my cooking."
If the prince had attended one of their cooking lessons, he would've understood why. Cooking, apparently, was one of the ladies' biggest roles as a princess, so it was the first activity she ever did in the castle. It was a terrible start; while everyone had something that was at least edible, she came up with a lump or black, burnt bread. It made her a target to other girls. From day one, she was thrust to the bottom, the other ones considering her as the smallest threat, therefore daring to make fun of her.
That was why Prince Ronald's speech was so surprising; no one expected someone at the bottom of the chain to win the prince's hand in such a dramatic way. Hermione had no doubt that at least one of them was going to try to burn bread in the next few days.
"Pity," Harry shrugged, not seeming to be particularly bothered by that fact. "We've survived for three years already. We can survive without homemade cooking." Harry sighed. "Ron wanted to bring house elves with us."
"That's terrible!" Hermione exclaimed, shocking him. "You shouldn't bring house elves to do your dirty deeds. They're living creatures too! They should be free, to run around wherever they want. Does the prince have house elves?" Hermione frowned; she had never seen them around the castle, but she had never gone down to the kitchens either.
Harry looked rather amused. "I take it you're big on house elves' rights?"
"Of course I am!" Hermione said proudly. "I founded S.P.E.W two years ago. It stands for Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, or better known as Stop the Outrageous Abuse of Our Fellow Magical Creatures and Campaign for a Change in Their Legal Status. It's an organization to help improve the lives of house elves." She reverted to her bossy voice. "They don't get paid enough, and their working conditions are terrible. It just isn't fair to enslave these defenseless creatures."
"The house elves like to work though," Harry grinned, seeming to think the whole thing was rather funny. "They'd get angry at you if you tried to get them to leave."
"Who says anything about leaving? If they're free, at least they have a choice to come back here if they want, but they don't have to. And helping their working conditions would help them work, wouldn't it? They'd be happier."
Harry smiled. "I'll be sure to bring it up with Ron." Hermione couldn't tell if it was sarcastically said or not, but she smiled back as well. She decided that Harry was even better than he looked on paper, and that the two of them would get along just fine.
"Miss Granger," Hermione looked up from her book to see the stern face of Professor McGonagall. She was the librarian of the castle, and since Hermione divided her time between the library and the garden, she and the lady were on friendly terms. Hermione knew the woman better than any other person in the castle, anyway.
After she and Harry had finished talking—Harry had given her two days to think about his offer, which was really just a couple of hours because her decision to Tom's offer affected this—she had gone straight to the library. There was no one here at this hour, and Hermione instantly went to the very back to the library where she found a couple of books to her interest. She immediately sat down and began reading. She needed to take her mind off things.
Which one would she choose? They were both so alluring. She could go back to the past, view the world through different eyes. She could get her hands on first edition books that were not available in this time. She could converse with Tom and share wisdom with him, something she had never been able to do before. She had always been the one giving knowledge; she had never received any that had not come from books.
Harry's offer featured her other desire, to battle and duel like an auror. She would be constantly moving, fighting the darkest wizard of all time, who ironically happened to be an older version of Tom. Harry and the prince treated her a lot better than Tom did, but she would have to give up her thirst of knowledge if she accepted his offer.
Basically, she could go two paths. One where she became Tom's companion, and one where she became Tom's enemy. She didn't know which one was worse.
"Good evening, Professor," McGonagall had been a teacher at Hogwarts before, when she was told to come to the castle to be the librarian during the selection. She had protested, but had eventually given in at Dumbledore's request. She went in to withdrawal when he died, but she always put up a strong face in front of Hermione and the other girls in the selection. The other girls, for the most part, didn't care, but Hermione really admired McGonagall's strength.
"Back again, I see?" McGonagall shot her a rare smile. Hermione had heard Hannah chatting away about how McGonagall was a strict professor who rigidly enforced the rules. However, Hermione had been able to see under that, and discovered what a grandmotherly-like figure McGonagall really was.
"Yes, but I was just leaving, actually," She wanted to retire to her room to let herself rest for a while before she had to make the big decision. She wondered absentmindedly if McGonagall knew Tom when she was younger. Hermione closed the book she was reading, not gaining any of the information she needed.
McGonagall eyed the book cover. "Time traveling?" She raised an eyebrow as Hermione put the book back on the shelf. "Is that a new interest, Miss Granger?"
"Erm, I suppose so."
McGonagall was often more perceptive than others thought, and she narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Bad things happen to wizards who meddle with time," she said. "I would advise you to not do it. The consequences often outweigh the benefits. It's a dangerous thing, time travel. A simple mistake can change the whole future."
"I'm not going to, Professor," Hermione said. It felt like the truth, but it also felt like a lie.
McGonagall studied her for a moment, before she nodded. "Very well. I bid you good night, Miss Granger. Run along now." She returned to her desk in the front of the library. Hermione shot her a small smile as she left, McGonagall's voice in her mind.
Bad things happen to wizards who meddle with time.
"Well well well. If it isn't Hermione Granger."
Hermione almost groaned. How many distractions could there possibly be on her way back from the library? "What can I do for you, Bellatrix?" She asked, trying to keep her voice as polite as possible.
"Hm," the insane witch drawled, tapping her finger against her chin. Hermione's hand touched the wood of her wand, just as a precaution. She found the pocket to be empty. Tom still has my wand, she thought, grimacing. He never gave it back. "I have a problem."
Hermione raised his eyebrow. "Is it because of the prince? If that's the case, he was in the corridors earlier. I advise you to talk to him and not bother me, because I'm in a rush." She attempted to turn around, but her arm was grabbed roughly by Bellatrix. Hermione tried not to wince as the girl's sharp nails pressed in to her skin, leaving marks.
"No, it's not with the prince," Bellatrix said, her eyes narrowing on Hermione's face. "It's with you."
"Is it?" Hermione matched her drawl. "I'm sorry if you're jealous of me, but there's nothing that can be done. I suggest you get over your problem by yourself before you come talk to me again." She attempted to walk away, but unfortunately Bellatrix fell in to step next to her, keeping pace with her long strides.
"Is that so?" Bellatrix said, an evil glint in her eye. Hermione didn't like the look on her face. "I'm sure you won't mind if I tell the prince that you're keeping something in your room, right?" She cackled gleefully. "There was quite a lot of sound in your room. It sounded like someone was moving around, yet you're nowhere near your room."
Hermione froze. Tom, you idiot! She wanted to scream. He seemed to purposely want her to be caught. Instead, she kept her face blank and said, "What were you doing snooping around my room?"
"Someone had to make sure that you weren't brewing love potions," Bellatrix grinned madly, showing her crooked teeth. "But it looks like you're doing something worse." They stopped in front of her door, and she grabbed the handle. "Let's see how innocent you are, shall we?"
"No!" Hermione said with a strangled cry, tackling the girl to the ground. The two of them fought, though it was obvious that Bellatrix would be the one to win. She was in a better position than Hermione, who hadn't thought before she dove to the ground. With no wand on hand, she had to rely on the muggle way of fighting. And she had absolutely no experience with that.
She could only pray that Tom was smart enough to disillusion himself in her room, or was not currently in the room. But, as Bellatrix finally wretched her arm free to open the door, Hermione knew that she had no such luck.
Tom was laying calmly on her bed, looking through a book that looked suspiciously like a photo album. He didn't acknowledge the door opening, but Bellatrix completely froze as she gaped at him. Hermione stepped in to the room nervously, glancing at Tom, and then back to Bellatrix.
Tom said, not taking his eyes off the page, "You were quite attractive as a baby. The stark naked look is looks quite good on you."
Hermione snatched the photo album away, blushing like crazy while Tom merely smirked at her. She threw it in the darkest corner of her bookshelf and turned back to look at Tom, who was still laying comfortably on her bed. Bellatrix was still frozen. "Was there something you wanted?"
"No, not really." Tom said lazily, sweeping his eyes across the room. They landed on Bellatrix, whom he regarded with his head cocked slightly to one side. He seemed to realize that it was her who dumped butterbeer on his head just the night before, because he narrowed his eyes slightly.
Bellatrix, instead of running to report Hermione, did something that Hermione had never seen her do before: she blushed. "Oh!" she exclaimed, straightening her dress and smoothing out the wrinkles. "I'm Bellatrix Black."
"Tom," Tom said simply, seeming to lose all interest in her and turned away, grabbing one of the books from Hermione's bookshelf and flipping through it, settling himself comfortably on Hermione's bed. Hermione frowned, but there was very little she could do about him.
Bellatrix, who obviously wanted the attention back on her again, stepped closer to him. Hermione nervously closed the door behind them. While she didn't want anyone else in the hallway to see Tom, she didn't feel like locking herself in a room with two people as dangerous as Tom and Bellatrix was a good idea. They were both slightly insane and seemed to have an obsession with causing pain.
"Are you…?" Bellatrix asked, her eyes darting between Tom and Hermione.
"Yes," Tom said at the same time Hermione said "No." The two of them looked at each other, Tom smirking while Hermione glared at him. Bellatrix just stared, speechless for once.
"Was there something I could help you with?" Tom raised his eyebrow as Bellatrix continued to stand there, looking completely stunned. At least she didn't look like she was going to tell the authorities that there was a man in Hermione's room. That was no doubt because of Tom's looks, but Hermione found that she was too grateful to care about that.
"Why are you here?" Bellatrix asked.
Tom said simply, "To sleep with Hermione."
Hermione gaped, her mouth dropping wide open. Tom snickered, obviously enjoying himself. Bellatrix, who had been so stunned for so many times already today, asked, "Really?"
"Of course," Tom said before Hermione had a chance to respond. Upon seeing the looks from both of the girls, he added, "Would you like to sleep with us too? There's more than enough room on the bed." He winked at her.
Bellatrix mumbled something that seemed strangely like, "I'll go get my things." Before Hermione could stop her, she ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Hermione whirled around to face Tom, who was looking amused about the whole situation. "Tom!" She screeched, which only caused his smirk to grow wider. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I wanted her out of the room," Tom said lazily. "She'll likely spend an hour getting ready, and another hour spreading rumors. That would give us plenty of time to get out of here." Hermione glared at him. "Don't give me that look. You liked the idea."
"There were other ways." Hermione said, thinking about all the rumors that were going to be spread about her. Tom merely smirked back. "You disgusting, perverted pig," Hermione muttered under her breath.
"Can't help it. I've been locked up in a girl's room for the entire day. I'm human too," here, Hermione snorted. If there was anyone who wasn't human, it was Tom. No human could turn out as evil as him. "Nice underwear, by the way. Very lacy. Are you trying to impress the prince?"
Hermione flushed dark red. "Why are you going through my stuff!?"
"I wasn't going through your stuff," Tom drawled, sounding rather bored. "You left it on your chair. It's not my fault you aren't organized." Hermione frowned. "Don't bring something like that when we go. You'll scare everyone."
"Because I have nothing better to do than to parade down the street in only my underwear," Hermione glared at him. Truthfully, she had never worn that particular underwear before. It was a gift from the castle, just in case they needed it. However, she had always worn her more comfortable and less attractive underwear. There was no need to wear something so pretty; no one was going to see, anyway.
"Are you ready?" Tom drawled, getting off the bed. There was not a single hair out of place, and Hermione understood why Bellatrix had spent so much time staring. He looked like a male model. He would've fared quite well in life if he had just chosen to settle down and get a job. Instead, he decided that he had to rule the world and was currently destroying it. "There's about five minutes till we have to go."
Hermione took a deep breath, calming her nerves, and then looked him right in the eye. "I'm not going."
Tom look stunned, and then he narrowed his eyes. "It's not amusing."
"I wasn't joking," Hermione stared at him, not backing down. "I can't go. It's not right. The only time I would time travel would be when I have a purpose. And the only purpose I have to go back right now if for my own pleasure." She jutted her chin up at him. "I'm staying right here, and you can't make me go."
"Watch me." Tom's face twisted in to a nasty snarl, and then Hermione was writhing on the floor. She tried to keep her mouth closed, but she ended up biting her own tongue multiple times. A scream ripped through her, and then another and then another. It never seemed to end. The pain just kept coming and coming until Hermione wanted nothing more than for him to cast the killing curse on her.
When her voice was screamed raw and her body was completely spent, Tom released her from the curse. She noticed that it was still her wand that he was using, and wondered why he didn't use his own. Did he not have one? Did he leave it behind? Or was there another reason?
Tom regarded her coldly, his eyes the color of blood and his face the mirror of evil. Gone was the pleasant boy whose looks could make any girl swoon. In his place was a monster, a monster who would take over the world one day, who would make the entire world in to a dark, dark place. "Have you changed your mind?" his voice was eerily quiet. Hermione discovered that his voice held more power when it was soft than when it was loud. "Would you like to have another go at that?"
Hermione couldn't move a muscle, but she found enough energy to glare up at him. An evil smirk crossed his face, as he crouched down next to her and stroked her cheek lightly. To anyone who stumbled in the room, the two of them may have seemed like the perfect couple.
Hermione knew better. She had told herself that Tom was a good person, that he would treat her differently from the rest. But now, she knew that she had just been trying to convince herself. She had tried to convince herself that there was someone who wanted her for who she was.
"I'll do that to your parents as well," he said, his face arranged in an evil smirk. He bent down to whisper in her ear. "I'll make your life hell if you refuse me." There was a pulsing light that appeared, starting from his hand and then slowly spreading. His grin, if possibly, grew even wider. "But it looks like you've run out of time." He grabbed her wrist painfully. "Your time is up."
It certainly did seem that way. Hermione had no energy in her, and the light was spreading throughout his body. From the way he gripped her wrist, Hermione guessed that she would be dragged in to the past with him in a few minutes. The past, a place where she had always yearned to be.
Hermione realized that it was never about her parents. It was never about their wellbeing. It was always about her own pleasure, what she wanted from the past. It was about the books, the environment and Tom.
She could get used to living with him. He liked to curse things, but she could get used to that. She would be happy. She would be living her life for her own benefit, for her own pleasure, instead of for someone else's.
But then she thought of how selfish she had been for the past few days. She could run and hide in the past, but not everyone could. Day after day, people were dropping dead and the war was just beginning. Millions more would die.
She was a coward. She was a coward, and she knew it. She had been a coward her entire life. She had been running away from the things she was uncomfortable with, always hiding behind books. She had never learned the feeling of overcoming a challenge, because she had always run away before she could face it.
But even cowards sometimes do the right thing. And Hermione Granger was done with running.
With a last burst of energy, she ripped her hand out of Tom's grasp. He looked at her, shocked that she still had the energy to move, shocked that she had even wanted to. It would've been so easy to let him drag her to the past, but that was the punishment she gave herself. She could not have her own pleasures until the wizarding world was saved. Her happiness would be the price to pay, but at least she knew she was doing the right thing.
"Goodbye, Tom." A tear fell down her face, and then another. The fat droplets of water dripped on to the floor, staining it with her tears. It was the right thing to do—she knew that—but still, it hurt. Merlin, it hurt. She wanted to go so badly, to leap in to his arms. But there was somewhere that needed her more.
That somewhere was now.
Tom let out a loud growl and lunged for her, but the light had spread through his entire body, illuminating the room. It was too late for him. With a flash and one last ugly look from him, Tom Riddle was gone. He had gone back to his time. And Hermione had chosen to remain in her own.
Hermione slowly crawled towards the door, her body battered and bruised. It hurt every part of her body to move, but Hermione had more willpower than everyone could ever imagine. She was going to move on, and soon Tom Riddle would be no more than a little memory filtered in the back of her mind. A fantasy of what could've been.
But, Hermione decided as she slowly opened the door, the past was the past. It would do no good to dwell on it. And the next time she met Tom Riddle, it would be on the battlefield, the two of them standing on opposite sides.
They would be enemies.
Author's Note: And that marks the end of my first completed story! Hope you liked it. I actually got the idea after reading the book, The Selection, by Kiera Cass, so all credit goes there. While it wasn't a fabulous book in my mind, I thought the idea was interesting and decided to model my Tomione challenge after it.
Tata for now. Leave me your thoughts, and I'll respond.