I'm in the midst of writing bajillion things, but I haven't written a song-fic in a while and I'm starting to feel the terrible side-effects of withdrawal. The terrible scenes playing for every song I hear, regardless of whether it fits or not; the pointless rambling to myself about possible scenarios; the hopeless watching of ridiculous amounts of YouTube videos; and the terrible need to incorporate a song into every one of my other fics.

On top of that, I've yet to write a Tomione fic, and I figured before I take the head-first plunge into the shark infested waters of which I have no possible hope of living up to such grand expectations, I figured I may as well see if I can even write a Tomione fic. It really shouldn't be all that hard, given I've written Dramione and have a Fremione and a Dramione in the process, and have nearly exhausted all possible (completed) Tomione over 10 chapters. I feel I at least have the right qualifications.

That said, here goes absolutely nothing. And I mean that wholeheartedly, because regardless of whether or not I know which pairing I want and which song it's going to, I have absolutely no idea what this is going to be about. Guess we'll find out!

*Note* Now having written a section, when you reach the dance area, if you've watched Pride and Prejudice (Kiera Knightly), think of the moment when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are dancing. That's basically what I was thinking of in terms of dance style. I know it may be a bit out of date, but I think it rather suits the scene. And if you haven't seen Pride and Prejudice, well shame on you (Google the scene.)

Song: Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Or maybe it was. She didn't know anymore and quite frankly, she was tired of pretending she did. Yes, she was a know-it-all bookworm. That meant she was allowed to be stuck-up and beyond intelligent in school, regarding academics. The title implied that she had devoured her school work and knew more than anyone could hope she would learn, especially at her age, and had done it because it came naturally. Which it had, of course. She was practically a genius. Academically.

She was not, however, a walking encyclopedia on all things that had to do with absolutely anything and everything one could possibly have to know about every little thing in both the Muggle world and the Wizarding one. To know all that would be simply ridiculous, and very burdensome. Not even Albus Dumbledore knew everything, though many would attest that he certainly came quite close. Hermione Granger was nowhere near unlocking the knowledge of the universe; she hadn't even graduated yet!

So why she had foolishly allowed the people she trusted most to convince her that she was the most brilliant person that they had ever known, and that she simply had to accept the mission placed upon her because if she could not do it than nobody could, she simply could not fathom. She knew that she did not know everything. She knew the mission was suicidal at best. She knew it would take more than sheer brains and wit to succeed and live to tell about it.

She knew. And she had still accepted. Call it Gryffindor pride. Or pure stupidity. She considered them the same.

She had done what they asked, though. She had followed through with the mission, down to the very last resort that was only to be used in case of emergencies. She had done it. Despite any doubts she might have had, any lingering fears or worries; she had done it.

And now here she sat, staring blankly out the window of her room at Shell Cottage, not hearing the hushed voices just outside her door nor seeing the gently crashing waves of the sea on the terribly sunny day that was just beyond her window.

'Sun,' she thought idly. 'I wonder if it's sunny where he is.'

And then she stood up abruptly, picked up the chair she had been sitting on, and smashed it desperately against her window, the shards of glass falling like snow around her. Her door flew open, and five or six people she hazily recognized rushed in, wands ready. When they saw her, there was a moment when nobody dared moved, terrified of the reaction the girl might have, and bewildered by the sight that was presented to them.

Hermione stood in the light of the window, a chair leg in each hand that hung limply by her sides, the rest of the chair in a broken heap at her feet, covered in glass shards. She was still in the clothes she had returned in; a white blouse with its sleeves folded up to her elbows was over a slightly dramatically long grey skirt. She wore no shoes, even though she stood in a pile of glass dust, and her legs were cut and bleeding, though it was unclear if that happened before or after she arrived. Her hair had grown out the last few years, becoming increasingly less frizzy, but today it seemed particularly flat and lifeless as it hung limply around her pale face that seemed entirely too unfocused and fuzzy, as if she were struggling to see the people before her. There was a long cut along her left cheek, drawing a line from her eyebrow to her chin.

However, what startled everybody the most was the Slytherin necktie that hung loosely around her neck and the unmistakable badge pinned over her heart that clearly read Head Boy, and was in the dreaded colors of green and silver.

It was Harry, of course, who took the first hesitant step towards the frightened girl. "Hermione? Hermione, it's alright. You're back now. You're safe. Nothing is going to hurt you here."

Instead of the understanding he had expected, he saw a flash of fury in his best friend's eyes before he was suddenly ducking a flying chair leg, taken aback completely by the reaction as he halted in his steps.

"I was happy. I was happy. I was happy! Safe. And happy. But no, you don't believe in being happy. Not at all. God dammit! Happy!" She screeched , anger rolling off her in waves taking the members in the room by surprise. A glance went about the room, echoing the same thought. Was she talking to them, or did she see them as someone else?

"I understand, Hermione. It must be hard to do something so painful. I understand if things might have seemed more real than they should have. However, you are back now. You must open your eyes and see what you are really looking at and not what your mind tells you it sees," Professor Lupin explained gently but firmly to the enraged youth, hoping perhaps her logical mind would extract the reason from his words and come back to them.

Everyone waited with bated breath for the girl's response. For a moment, it almost seemed as if Hermione had come back to them as she considered their words, but the moment passed.

"Get OUT!"

They had all barely made it out the door before the second leg of the chair crashed into the wall. Listening for a minute at the door, Harry frowned as he heard Hermione collapse on the bed and he just made out the sound of her tears as he turned and followed the rest of the group downstairs, knowing that in the state she was in, it was unwise to try and comfort her.

Your fingertips across my skin
The palm trees swaying in the wind

Hermione sobbed into her pillow, trying hard to rid herself of the memories flooding her mind. She didn't want to remember them, but it seemed they wanted her to remember the pain and torture they caused, and that she inadvertently caused as well.

"Stop," she moaned into her pillow. The memories only swirled faster and faster, making her dizzy and giving her a headache which pulsed to the beat of the music in her head.

"Stop!" She ordered, though it too came out as a moan.

"Stop that."

"I'm not doing anything."

Hermione turned and gave her company a glare. He knew very well what he was doing and he also knew that she was very much aware of it. Unfortunately, she also knew that he didn't give any sort of damn that it was bothering her, which is why for the last ten minutes she had been hopelessly trying to ignore his presence. However, he was not exactly someone easy to ignore. He knew that.

"You know very well what you're doing. And it's giving me the chills, so I would appreciate entirely if you would cut it out," she snapped, taking a minuscule step to the right so his fingers would stop tracing her palm. She would never have known before meeting him that the center of her hand was so sensitive, but he discovered it almost immediately, and made use of the little known fact whenever he could.

The Slytherin only gave her an innocent smile, the smirk hidden in his dark eyes. Rolling hers, she turned away, hoping that someone might come over and rescue her from this vile creature by asking her to dance. Having been new that year, she had felt awkward accepting a date with someone she knew so little about in an era she did not understand. Now, however, she was rather regretting turning down the last boy who had asked her, a handsome sixth year Ravenclaw. Then she would have at least had someone to run to in order to hide from her persistent shadow.

To be honest, the Halloween Ball was turning out to be quite fun, despite her lack of a date and her pesky follower. She had danced with both Potter and Weasley, and had even let Malfoy persuade her into a dance. She was quite taken by Black, and had danced with him twice, though he did have a date and she knew he was quite interested in her. Isla and Rubin had taken her to the floor during one of the more rowdy songs, though that said very little. Mary-Ellen had convinced her to dance once more even though she had sworn she would not dance another dance. And even when she was not dancing, merely watching everybody else while sipping her butterbeer was fascinating.

Until, of course, the Head Boy had decided to grace her with his presence.

"Interesting theme this year, don't you think? The palm trees are a nice touch, but I could do without the sand. Carved coconuts instead of pumpkins was certainly a brilliant idea as well," he said passively, and regardless of the fact she had known him for just over two months, she could not discern if he was telling the truth or merely trying to put her in a content mood.

"Yes, well, dancing underneath the sun on Halloween is a new experience," she responded lightly. He had asked for something new.

A peculiar smile lifted the corner of his lips. "Yes… Though, you really can't consider standing here, downing your third butterbeer, dancing."

She scowled, noting the not-so-delicate sarcasm that he never seemed to be without. It really infuriated her sometimes. It wasn't her fault nobody had come to ask her to dance in the last half an hour. She had told her friends she was done dancing, but when did that ever really mean anything? After a butterbeer and some pumpkin pasties, she was ready again. But she, alas, had no partner and was thus resigned to standing on the sidelines.

"Dance with me, Granger."

Hermione nearly choked on her butterbeer, looking up at the Head Boy in complete bafflement. Was he serious? "Dance? With you? Us? Out there?"

An amused grin settled on his lips as he turned his eyes from the line of dancing couples to look down at her. She was staring up at him in fear, certainly concerned for his health and her safety. He merely shrugged and held out a hand, obviously not accepting 'no' as an answer, as he hadn't really asked so much as demanded in the first place.

Still mystified as to what entirely was going on, Hermione placed her hand in his and allowed him to lead her the floor, not even registering the gentle circles his thumb was making in the palm of her hand, nor the fact that aside from the music, the whole room had gone deathly silent.

And so Hermione Granger danced with Tom Riddle.

You sang me Spanish lullabies
The sweetest sadness in your eyes
Clever Trick

"Slytherins do not sing."

Hermione peered up at him through a curtain of bangs, her eyes heavy with sleep. She could not understand why there was two of him, or why she could not focus on either one. She only knew that she was ridiculously cold and her head pained her so much, it felt as if something were drilling into it. Still, she managed to voice her question again, however weak her voice was.

"Just one. I'll probably be asleep before you finish, and I don't think I'll remember it come the morning. Just one," she pleaded.

Tom scowled at her, irritated by her begging. His mysteriously secretive eyes turned away from hers to stare intensely at the wall across from her bed in the Hospital Wing, shadows dancing across his pale skin from the darkness of the room. The soft moonlight highlighted his slender frame, illuminating the silvers in his uniform and giving him an eerie glow. But even in her sickly state, she saw past his gloomy and chilling appearance, for even as he frowned at her request, his warm hand held hers tenderly, his thumb tracing her palm.

And he had snuck in here to see her, after all.

After a few moments of tense silence, he finally glanced back at her, his anger dissipating. Seeing her in such a state was rather disconcerting; he was used to the strong-willed, stubborn, confident girl, and this weak and barely comprehensible creature was not the same. He was quickly discovering that he did not like seeing her like this.

With a barely audible sigh, one which he highly doubted she even heard, he reluctantly acknowledged the fact that perhaps this girl was more than just a worthy competitor to him. He had, after all, deigned to stay until she had fallen asleep, no matter how long (and it was taking rather long despite how sleepy she seemed) it took.

"That's just your fever speaking. Go to sleep," he ordered quietly.

Hermione offered him a weary smile, wishing to protest though her eyes closed involuntarily. She was pretty tired, after all. Had she been doing something that required a lot of energy? She could not remember. She welcomed the darkness, however, as she faded off into a deep, dreamless sleep. She didn't even hear the faint humming of an old Wizarding lullaby coming from somewhere to her right, the very thing she had been hopelessly begging for.

Tom watched her breathing even out as she drifted off, a serene expression settling on her face. Letting go of her hand, his duty now fulfilled, he stood from the uncomfortable chair beside her bed. Casting a final, cursory gaze over the sleeping girl, he left the Hospital Wing, the remnants of an old tune in his head and a foreign, almost melancholic feeling settling around him.

I never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me

Maybe if she held the pillow over her face long enough, she'd suffocate to death. She knew it was almost physically impossible; it was nearly proven that one could not consciously prevent themselves from breathing. The need would overpower. She would desire to breathe long before she was knocked unconscious from lack of air, and would either breathe through the pillow or simply dispose of the pillow altogether.

Not that she wanted to die. She didn't want to kill herself. No, she wasn't suicidal. It might've been hard to believe at the moment, but it was true. She was extremely depressed, yes, and irrationally angry at both the world and herself. But she didn't want to kill herself. It wouldn't accomplish anything.

But that didn't mean, on the other hand, that she was entirely fond of the current concept of living.

No, right now everyone stepped around her like she was a fragile porcelain doll. As if, at any given moment, she was going to fall to her knees and begin sobbing. Or worse, start throwing things and screaming at people who weren't even there. It wasn't entirely her fault that she hadn't exactly realized she was back when they had decided to come barging in.

Worse still were the pity stares and the concerned glances and the 'It'll be alright, Hermione', 'Don't worry, Hermione', 'Everything will be back to normal soon, Hermione.' Those really irked her. She wasn't the brightest witch of the age for nothing. She knew things would go back to normal eventually, and that everyone would forget all about this. They would all move on and pretend nothing happened, and that she had never risked her life to save all of theirs and come back nearly dead and catatonic, delirious, because of it. They would blow it off.

"It's over. Done with. Forget about it, Hermione. It's okay now."

Except it wasn't. Not for her. Not for anyone. She would never forget. How could she forget him?

Not the way he looked (like a god), the way he smelt(a faint musky mixture of cinnamon, clover, and ink), the way he smiled(a mocking smirk, knowing grin, or fragile tug at the lips); how he sat perfectly in his chair regardless of what he was doing; how he always had his wand slipped up into the pocket he'd put in his left sleeve; how he was left-handed (a fact one would think the heir of Slytherin to be, yet was oddly never brought up); how, despite his obvious hatred for all things Muggle, his favorite book was The Prince by Niccoló Machiavelli; his annoying habit of twirling his wand when he was frustrated or angry; the way he could switch from being a perfect gentleman to threatening a life in the blink of an eye; the warmth his hands radiated when they held hers; that damn victorious grin when she finally agreed to be his.

She could never forget him, even if she wanted to. Not after everyone else had forgotten, not after she had turned old and grey, would she forget him.

She would pretend she had, though. Not for herself, but for everybody else. How could any of them move on if they were still concerned about her and the fact that she was obsessing over a man she was responsible for forgetting? How could they let her alone if all she did was live in the past? If they could clearly see it was affecting her, then there would be no peace. And she so longed for peace.

So it had to be this way. Suffering in silence hoping each day the memories would fade a little, yet knowing that they wouldn't. She was good at that. She had been since she had said those dreaded words.

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

Hermione decided not to remove the pillow as tears began streaming from the corners of her eyes. If anything, she only pressed it down harder, the tension of her repressed sadness building up to such great volumes that she needed somehow to release it, but refused it the method it sought out. She would not cry like that again. Tears were alright. But tears were all.

She felt her fingernails break through the fabric of the pillow, but she did not care. Her heart, though broken and terribly shattered, was continuing to break every day, and the pain tore at her. The agony ripped through her with more searing sharpness than the knife that had drawn lines on her arm. It was erratic and explosive and often left her panting, wondering why she hadn't just let Bellatrix finish her off.

Then she would succumb to sleep, much as she felt herself doing now, and the dreams would overtake her.

We walked along a crowded street
You took my hand and danced with me

"Did it have to be Muggle London? Diagon Alley is perfectly suitable for a first date. In fact, I know just the place we could go. Abraxas mentioned it once or twice. Or perhaps it was Cygnus. Either way, let's leave this disgusting place and go there instead."

Hermione wrenched her arm from Tom, who had begun tugging her arm to get her to return to the Leaky Cauldron so that they might go back to the comfort of the Wizarding World, and firmly planted her feet. When Tom whirled on her, his face livid, Hermione stood as tall as she could, though he knew she was terrified of him. With confidence and stubbornness that only she was known to have with him, she looked him straight in the eyes and crossed her arms about her chest.



"No. I wish to be here. If you really want to date me, you'll prove it by staying here with me."

Tom seethed, barely managing to keep his magic in check amidst the Muggles that surrounded them. How dare she stand up to him like that? They were going back to Diagon Alley, and that was final.

"You will come with me, Granger," He ground out in a steely calm voice despite the rage he was feeling towards the girl in front of him. His left hand twitched, enough for her to notice, but not enough to send his wand from its pocket in the sleeve of his jacket. She eyed his hand for a moment before her eyes flitted back up to his, their resolve hesitating but not wavering.

"No. I will not! If you don't like it then you can go back alone. I'm staying here!" She exclaimed forcefully, and as if to prove her point, she turned on her heel and began walking away, a defiant air around her.

Tom gritted his teeth. If he followed her, it would be admitting defeat. But if he left, it would be saying he was too cowardly to face Muggle London; that he was exactly what she made him out to be. A hypocritical, prejudiced, asshole that would rather cut himself off from the world than let anyone in. No matter which direction he went, he lost. He had never lost before.

'Better to admit defeat fair and square than to be a hypocrite and an ass in one day,' he thought wryly, following reluctantly after the girl, taking out his anger on anyone who got in his way by childishly shoving them harshly to the side, muttering insults to himself.

He found her watching a group of dancers with awed admiration as they performed in the center of the street. He personally found nothing particularly interesting about the group, but Hermione seemed taken by the performers and their fluid, synchronized movements.

When the performers ended their dance, Hermione clapped vigorously along with the rest of the onlookers. She noticed him standing beside her, appearing rather out of place and uncomfortable among so many people, and gave him a dazzling smile. Tom merely put his hands in his pockets and refused to meet her eyes, still sore over his obvious loss.

"Ladies and gents, for our final song of the evening, we would like for you to join us! It is the holidays, after all! Grab your special someone and dance!" The leader of the dancers called to the growing crowd.

Hermione's eyes brightened, and Tom visibly paled, if that were even possible. He was here, was that not enough? She was not dragging him out there. No amount of pleading or begging or that incessant whining she seemed fond of would convince him that he should allow her to drag him into the middle of the street to dance.

He hardly even liked dancing. He had only done it that one time because he knew it would embarrass her.

Hermione, it seemed, knew his sentiments, as she watched longingly as couples filled the street to dance to the holiday music that filled the air, but did not pester him to join. She did turn her head towards him slightly, as if she were contemplating it, and even took a sideways step closer to him, though he hardly thought she was aware of her actions. He would not participate in such ridiculous acts, however, and she should know that.

Still, the dejected expression on her face caused a bitter feeling to rise in him, completely foreign, and he found that he wanted her to stop half reaching for his arm and pulling away only to reach out again seconds later, and just make up her mind before the song was over.

"Granger, the song is going to end."

Hermione jumped, apparently startled to realize he had even been paying her any attention at all. She gave him thoughtful onceover, peered back at the dancing couples as she adjusted the green and silver knitted cap she wore over her bushy hair, and then smiled tentatively at him.

"Dance with me, Riddle."

For the same reason she had allowed herself to be taken to the floor on Halloween, Tom allowed Hermione to drag him to the street to dance.

And when you left you kissed my lips
You told me you would never ever forget these images, oh

'Should I? No. I shouldn't. But… but he's alone. So I should? I mean, we are kind of sort of maybe possibly what some consider dating, aren't we? So, doesn't that give me the right? But… he IS Tom Riddle. What I if he doesn't want me there, dating or not? Merlin, he could kill me if he gets angry enough! But, Hermione, you really don't think he would do that, do you?'

Hermione stopped pacing long enough to actually think through her emotions and what she was actually feeling, instead of letting her hormones run away with her brain.

'No,' she thought, the realization crashing down on her with all the weight of ten hippogriffs. Or two Hagrids, at least.

She said it out loud for finality. "No. I trust him. He wouldn't hurt me."

She turned and looked at herself in the mirror hanging above her desk. There was a fire in her eyes that had been noticeably absent for quite some time, and she concluded with difficulty that only when she had acknowledged that she might have liked Riddle a bit more than she should, did the fire return. Perhaps what she was doing was dangerous. Perhaps it went against everything she believed in. Perhaps, for once in her life, she was following her heart and not her brain.

Gripping the edge of the chair at her desk, Hermione nodded to her reflection. "So then, I should."

'Right then. Guess I'm off. Off to search the castle to find my missing boyfriend. At night. When we're the only two students who stayed back for the holidays. And my boyfriend happens to be none other than Tom Riddle, the teenager who becomes the most powerful wizard alive, and may very well be that way now, and undoubtedly has hiding places not even the Founders know about. How hard can this be?'

Hermione sighed, slipping on her cloak and tucking her wand into its pocket. She made no moves to be quiet or sneaky exiting the common room; there were very few people left in the castle to worry about. The only one she was terribly worried about running into was Slughorn.

'Blasted old codger. Though he really isn't that old now, is he? Regardless, he's infuriating.'

She started her search in the usual places, just to rule them out but knowing full well that Tom was most likely not going to be there. And, as she had assumed, he was neither in the library nor the Room of Requirement, nor the Great Hall or the kitchens. He wasn't anywhere in the dungeons and nowhere near the Gryffindor hallway (obviously), nor the Hufflepuff hallway. She was saved from checking the Ravenclaw wing by the Grey Lady who had turned the corner and given her a startled look, or as much a startled look the Grey Lady was expected to give, before floating off. Hermione had faintly heard her muttering, however, that she was unaware that any students had stayed behind.

So Hermione had taken to searching fruitlessly among the classrooms. She had never before wished so dearly that she had the Marauder's Map; oh how handy it would have been at that moment. There were far too many places he could have been. For all she knew, he could have left the school. She knew he was fully capable. He had only demonstrated it half a million times, and bragged about it, subtly as only Tom would, another half a million more.

She was growing increasingly frustrated and it was growing increasingly late. She didn't believe he had left the castle, and she was adamant he was not outside on the Quidditch pitch or near the lake. It was her belief he had remained put and was not changing positions just in case she was looking for him, although she would not put that past him. But she was quickly running out of places to search.

A light went on above her head, and she felt immensely stupid. The one place she hadn't searched was the one place she couldn't believe she hadn't searched first. With a sudden burst of adrenaline, she sprinted towards the tower and began rushing up the many stairs.

'So help me, god, if he is not in the Astronomy Tower, I think I might just accio him.'

With a rather unladylike snort, she pictured Tom zooming around the corner by an uncontrollable force and slamming into her. Though, she thought, still giggling quietly, he'd probably be pretty pissed if she did that, and she rather fancied living to tell the tale.

Finally reaching the top of the stairs, she stopped for a moment to catch her breath, as she rather believed panting to be the opposite of pretty, and then slammed the door open. And much to her delight, the dark haired, solemn, brooding boy she had been looking hell and high waters for was sitting against the wall, staring gloomily out over the castle grounds. When Hermione entered, his eyes shifted from the starry, but extremely cold, night to her, his face showing a mildly surprised expression. Hermione opened her mouth to apologize for rudely barging in like that, but what came out was not what she was expecting.

"You do not know how long I have been looking for you. Well… now you have a pretty good idea, but that is irrelevant. My point is, I have pretty much just made a mental map of this castle in one night, and it was all because of the fact that you have this incurable need to be alone every waking minute of every single day. I gave you all day to be alone and sulk and my only request that you return by ten you completely ignored! Well, excuse me, but I don't know if you've missed the whole screaming and yelling, and actually rather pathetic attempt at hexing, bit that Carina Parkinson did before she left for her 'mummy and daddy spoil me to bits' vacation in Merlin knows where, but we're apparently dating now. And that means that you don't get to be alone and brooding all the time. I'm in your life now, whether you like it or not. And no matter how many times you tell me you have the ability, and trust me I know you do, to kill me, I. Am. NOT. Leaving! So do everybody a favor and get out from whatever rock you've crawled under and deemed your home, because this whole 'I hate you all, watch out, I might kill you' deal is growing rather idiotic. And anyways, I rather like the sensitive side of you. He's much more unpredictable."

Hermione would have been equally as shocked as Tom from the things that had just spewed from her mouth without her consent, had she not felt complete and utter embarrassment. Well if that little speech didn't blurt her feelings to the world, she didn't know what did. He was surely going to kill her now. Nobody yelled at Tom Riddle. Sure, she had been firm with him, and she had certainly defied him time and time again, but she had never downright yelled at him. It was a death wish!

Hermione edged back towards the door, hoping that if she could just turn and run while he was still in shock, she might make it back to her room before his anger set in.

"I'm… just going to… go now…" she murmured, turning tail and making to run for it. Before she could take one step however, a voice that she knew and loved, far more than she ever should have, called to her.


Hesitantly, she turned back around to see Tom standing, watching her with those eyes. Analyzing her every movement, searching for something to help him understand the one person he just couldn't grasp.

"Why were you looking for me in the first place? It's nearly half past eleven, shouldn't you be going to bed or reading a book? Or, even I suppose waiting for midnight, although that's a foolish tradition. Although, I suppose you'd be the type?" he asked her, as those were the typical things she had been doing most nights since her arrival, and he would be correct in assuming her love for staying up on this particular night. But none of those activities sounded like much fun alone right now.

Hermione only smiled. Tom was no fool. Either he suspected why she was here and had dismissed it as being illogical, or he had been alone for so long that the idea had never even crossed his mind. She knew that of all days to be celebrating, today was the one that she longed to celebrate with him most, and he was oblivious to it. That thought only gave the idea more appeal. She would be his first, and it was such an innocent first that she was ridiculously happy to be sharing it with him.

"What are you smiling for?" He asked, frowning as he turned to glare at the dark sky. Hermione only shook her head, still smiling brightly.

She glanced down at her watch, the gift she had received from her Home Development and Social Requirements teacher, a mocking way of telling her that she was always late (if she showed up). She was, at this moment, very grateful for the simple analog clock that adorned her wrist.


She joined Tom where he was standing by the window, overlooking Hogsmeade. It was very clear that parties were numerous as nearly all the lights were still on and music could be heard. Tom was scowling down at the town and Hermione sidled up closer to him, not touching, but close enough.

"What a silly holiday. Rubbish tradition. Another year has passed, let's have some firewhiskey and drink away the fact that we're all another year older! Another year closer to death. To forgetting what happened this past year. Yes, let's celebrate loss, because that's such a brilliant thing to be happy about."

Hermione listened intently as Tom muttered to himself. She didn't know if he was aware that she was still standing there as he ranted about death and misery and forgetting happiness. She listened, and she understood, and she said nothing. He didn't want that right now.

"And we can't forget the ones who are alone tonight. No, everybody celebrating has someone to celebrate with. Bet they would not enjoy that sixth firewhiskey nor the murderous hangover they will have if they had been alone tonight. Nobody celebrates this holiday by themselves. Defeats the fucking purpose, doesn't it."

Hermione stared intensely at him; his eyes, so dark a blue they were almost black, glared venomously at Hogsmeade, but there was another emotion lying beneath. Loneliness? Regret? She realized almost immediately that his last words were not about the holiday everyone was celebrating together right now, but the one he was wholeheartedly trying to ignore existed.

Tentatively, she reached out and placed a hand on his arm, registering that her watch read 11:57. The touch jolted Tom from his rage-filled reverie and he turned his hate-filled eyes towards her. She did not flinch. Instead, with a calm and loving voice, she said the words he had been waiting to hear his entire life.

"Happy Birthday, Tom."

Perhaps it was the heat of the moment, or maybe it was the sudden rush of emotion the flooded the heart of the lonely boy, or maybe still it was the strange but deep connection between the two that led to the reaction that neither expected.

Standing in the Astronomy Tower, as December 31st, faded in January 1st, at the exact stroke of midnight, Tom Marvolo Riddle kissed Hermione Jean Granger, with the sensitivity that she had come to love and pull from him, and the natural fierceness that resided as a part of his inherent personality. And she kissed him back, because she loved him dammit, and that was that.

It would only be hours later, when she had convinced him that he would freeze if they didn't leave the tower soon, that he had admitted it to her as they sat on the couch before the fire.

"I wouldn't kill you."

"I know, Tom."

The Slytherin glanced down at the girl who was resting her head in his lap. She was steadily falling asleep, and he could never have been more awake.

"I would never forget you, even if I did."

"I'd haunt you if you did."

"It's a good thing I won't then. I imagine Ghost Granger is far more irritating than Living Granger."

"I could always change that."

"I'm rather satisfied with your annoyance level. I even believe it can be brought down."


Tom smirked. He knew, as well as everyone else in the world, that nobody had the power of changing Hermione Granger. He had tried, and this is where he ended up. And secretly, he was alright with that.

I never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me

So she'd fallen in love with the man she was sent back to destroy. How could she not? She was female, after all, and no woman in their right minds would deny that Tom Riddle was anything less than heavenly (even if he certainly acted otherwise). He was charming and intelligent and could sweet-talk anyone into (or into not) doing or saying anything and could gain anybody's trust.

It was no wonder she'd fallen for him, not when she was nearly as intelligent (probably the only one who even came close, next to Dumbledore, and even then she had been taught things that weren't even around in his time), equally as able to lie through her teeth, and was trustworthy in her own right. Tom knew this. He saw her similarities to him, and that was the only reason he had even let her close. To find out what she was like, what her flaws were, what her weaknesses were and just how debilitating they were. And then, he would strike, bringing down the only one who had ever grown near to him.

Of course, he had never gotten the chance.

She liked to believe he had fallen for her too. He had certainly behaved differently than Dumbledore, McGonagall, Slughorn, or even the Marauders, had led her to believe. He wasn't outwardly cruel and vicious, though, yes, she had seen him do nasty and gruesome things to fellow classmates. He did not buy his way into every professor's heart (or grade book), and he took his studies extremely serious. He was not ashamed of his father nor did he loathe his mother. He didn't have friends but nor did he seem to dislike or have a certain disregard for his followers. He was genuinely interested in their lives, even if he couldn't have cared if they died or not.

He didn't understand love and happiness; he couldn't grasp the concept. Hermione knew that; however, she also knew it wasn't because he was a heartless bastard intent on killing just for fun and setting the world in panic and chaos. No, he just lacked the capacity. His body simply refused such emotions. It was almost like the concept of her becoming pureblooded; it was almost completely impossible. Unless there was some extremely complicated dark magic combined with ancient creatures and obsolete, complicated potions, chances were Hermione would never reach Pureblood status.

And Tom Riddle would never be able to love.

To a normal girl, the knowledge that the person they were in love with would never be able to return their sentiments would have them reluctantly turning away in search of someone they could love who could love them in return. They would never forget their feelings towards the first love, but to know their feelings were being reciprocated would be enough.

Not Hermione. Hermione was not normal. She was the most intelligent witch of the age. She was the best friend of Harry Potter. She had, briefly, dated the legendary Viktor Krum and singlehandedly caught Rita Skeeter. She was responsible for the downfall of Dolores Umbridge, although very few knew what actually went down in the forest that day. She had lied to Bellatrix Lestrange's face even as the Death Eater carved into her arm. She had discovered the secret to the Chamber of Secrets, faced its creature, and survived. She had come to face to face with the first ever Azkaban escapee, gone back in time, and saved his life, only to have him die as she battled Death Eaters in a place she shouldn't have been. She had seen the person she thought to be invincible die, bequeathing her with a book that held secrets so obvious they were practically genius. She had obliviated her parents to save their lives.

And then she had been asked by a secret organization bent on saving the world from the most terrifying and most dangerous man alive, to go back in time and befriend that very man trying to kill her and her two best friends, so that she may learn anything that might help to kill him now. Doing her duty, she had accepted, and had traveled fifty years into a past where she didn't exist, creating an entirely new life built on lies, gaining the trust of a man so perfectly evil at the most vulnerable, but most unstable, time of his life so that she may use his trust against him.

She was proving to him love was exactly what he thought it was.

So no, she wasn't normal. She failed her mission. She was supposed to befriend him and learn secrets and then vanish, leaving Tom Riddle angry and heartbroken and on the path to Dark Lordship, reappearing fifty years later knowing how to defeat him. She was supposed to remain at a distance, even though to Tom she was to appear as if she had never been closer to anyone, so that she did not grow attached to the era. They could not change the timeline. For all they knew, worse things might occur. A more evil person, more violent deaths, people not born; no, all she was to do was to show up, learn, and leave. That was it. That was easy.

She should have been able to do it. Any normal witch or wizard in the Order could have.

But Hermione wasn't normal. What the order failed to remember was that, above her brains and her logical reasoning, above her fast thinking and amazing spell work, above even her maturity and strong will; Hermione held an enormous capacity for compassion.

There wasn't anyone more damned and hopelessly mistreated by life than poor, orphaned, misunderstood, revenge seeking Tom Riddle.

Despite her deepest struggles to remain emotionally detached, despite her hardest tries to remember what he would become, what he would do, and despite even witnessing his methods of punishment amongst his followers, she could not stop from latching on to him. She needed him every bit as much as he needed her. More, even.

As Hermione wandered from her room to the hallway, stepping lightly on the stairs as not to wake anyone, she wondered briefly what he was doing. Not HIM of course. No, thanks to the information pried from her semi-coherent retellings, the war had been over for a month now. It had taken about a month to organize everything, but roughly a week into the second month they had gone offensive. Yes, thanks to her mix-and-match recountings, they had gained the upper hand. They had won. He was dead. At least, in this time.

He was not. He was still alive, fifty years away. Probably wondering where she'd disappeared to, she mused.

'No.' She thought harshly, idly tracing the place on her arm where a brutal word had once been. Now there was a different scar, a faint jagged line over her heart. 'No, he doesn't care where I am. I could be dead. He doesn't know, and he doesn't care. I hurt him, and he wants me to suffer. That the only reason I'm still alive.'

Hermione turned and fled back to her room, shutting the door tightly. Sliding to the floor, she brought her knees to her chest and curled herself as far in as she could, rocking slightly as if that would ease the pain and bring her comfort.

'He doesn't care. He doesn't care. He doesn't care. He doesn't care….'

The thought repeated in her mind brokenly, as if it had just occurred to her. It hadn't. She had been hearing it since her first dreaded day back in reality. 'He doesn't care.'

Of course he didn't. He didn't know how.

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do


The girl in question looked up from the book she had been staring at blankly. When she saw it was only Ginny, she tried to smile reassuringly, but was unsure whether her lips actually moved. She registered the flicker of unease in her friend's eyes and tried to convey some sort of hopeful message, but failed miserably. Holding back a sigh, she turned her eyes away and stared out the window beside her chair.

Ginny watched her friend helplessly. It had been nearly four months since she had returned; that was plenty of time for her to have adjusted to being back in this era. Plenty of time to get over shock. She was Hermione, after all. She didn't just break. It wasn't possible to break her.

But as Hermione continued to stare vacantly out the window at the flat she had purchased with the money given to her by the Ministry from her help in the war, Ginny felt doubt for the first time. Perhaps it was possible for someone as tough and resilient as Hermione Jean Granger, Book-Worm Extraordinaire, to just… shatter.

Her eyes were no longer fierce and glowing; they had long lost the fire that had once burned so strongly. There were huge, purple bags beneath her eyes, highlighting her sunken cheeks. Her skin, so pale from lack of sunlight and proper nutrition, seemed to hang off of her skeleton. Ginny hardly saw her leave the bedroom or living room, except to relieve herself, but from the limp and dirty appearance of her hair, she'd assume that Hermione simply didn't care about hygiene anymore. Or anything, for that matter. She was far too skinny, far too sickly looking, and far too lost.

"Hermione, you've really got to come out with me and Fleur and Luna. We're celebrating Luna's engagement. You wouldn't miss that, would you? She's one of your dearest friends," Ginny stated delicately but firmly. Hermione was crushed easily these days, and she knew that ordering her about was not going to work. Not anymore, though once it might have.

Hermione turned her head away from the window to give Ginny an empty stare. Ginny waited patiently for some sort of emotion to pass the on the girl's face, but there was nothing, not for the long while the two held each other's eyes. And then, for the briefest moment, it almost appeared as if despair and… something else quickly darted by. Regret?

Hermione looked away first, putting her chin in her hand as she rested her elbow on the window sill and gazed once more back out the window. She let out the lightest, most feeble of sighs. Ginny watched as Hermione's eyes took on the haze, one she had seen too many times, as Hermione drifted away to her memories, a place they had tried to coax from her to no avail.

"Engagement?" She whispered, a tiny frown marring her haunted face. "How… lovely…"

"Come on now, Hermione. If you come quickly, we can get you washed and dressed in time for lunch. How's that sound? A small lunch at a place of your choosing, just me and you? Then we can join up with Fleur and Luna later. It's only a few hours, Hermione. It won't be that long," Ginny pleaded gently, willing to do anything to get Hermione out of her house. She needed to leave this place, to stop moping around. She wasn't helping anyone by sitting around growing weaker.

It certainly didn't help that aside from the information regarding Tom Riddle's secrets and weaknesses they'd been able to pull from her, they had absolutely no idea what had gone on in the past to make her act like such. They certainly had ideas, but everything sounded completely ridiculous to everybody. It didn't help that the people who had been around in that era were either dead (like Dumbledore), or hadn't been close to either of them (like McGonagall). So they were completely in the dark on why she was so depressed and withdrawn from society and hidden within herself, and nobody knew how to bring her back out again. Nobody even knew if they could.

They were stuck with gentle urging and quiet coaxing, hoping that she'd be able to pull out of this funk by herself somehow, but they all knew deep down that even should she manage to come back to them, she would never be the same Hermione Granger they had all known. She had seen and done things that had changed her forever.

"Lunch? I'd like lunch. Do you think they'll mind if we leave?" Hermione mumbled softly, her eyes still glossed over.

Ginny sighed, her hopes having soared a bit when it seemed like Hermione had been responding to her. but, alas, Hermione was still trapped in her mind, and it seemed it was a losing situation for Ginny that day. Ginny opened the door to Hermione's room slowly, deciding it was probably time for her to leave. Hermione could be in her mind for hours.

"No, 'Mione. I don't think they'll mind at all," She said softly, hand on the doorknob. With a final, heartbreaking glance at her friend, she closed the door, hearing Hermione's faint "Oh, good. We should hurry. Don't want to be late," as the door clicked.

It had been almost four months since the war had ended; thank to the information provided by Hermione upon her return, they had set out immediately and found and destroyed the remaining horcruxes, and then fought and destroyed Voldemort. Their advantage led them to have minimal casualties. Hermione, however, had to remain behind, both due to her mental state and because they were afraid Voldemort would recognize her and try to kill her.

It turns out they hadn't needed to worry about that, after all.

"I should kill you."

Ice flooded through Hermione's veins at the soft words. She straightened up instantly, her back stiff, as she felt the dark magic crackle around her, engulfing her in a cloud and sparking across her skin. She held back the chills the magic caused her, but she knew her alarm was evident.

"I don't like being lied to," the voice said from behind her, still eerily calm and quiet. She knew it was a ploy, a trick. And she was properly terrified. But she would not apologize, and all she wanted was for the silly game of intimidation to end.

"I can feel your fear, Hermione."

She could practically feel the malicious grin spread across his lips, the very first time being directed completely at her. It was a new sensation, to be scared of a smile she could not see, and she did not enjoy it.

Hermione went completely still as his presence vanished completely. She knew he was still here; after having spent so much time with him, she had learnt to be able to tell these things. But he was still far more powerful than she could ever hope to be, and he could have had a wand aimed at her heart at that very instant, and she would never have known. She made no sudden movements, refusing to actually move at all in case he took it as a threat.

So, it was perfectly within reason that she jumped and nearly screamed (although she was so petrified she doubted any noise would have come out), when she felt a hand rest against her cheek, the knuckles tracing a path from her eyebrow along her cheek to her chin. Hermione held back a gasp of pain as she felt her skin tear open beneath the trail of his caress, blood dripping down her cheek like tears.

Despite the searing agony and the blood seeping from her gash, Hermione held her breath, frozen as she waited for his next move. It was a wise decision; his fingertips traced from behind her ear to the pulse point on her neck, thankfully leaving the skin intact. However, when his fingers reached the pulse point, they stopped and rested there, and Hermione felt her heart stop beating altogether.

The cruelty in his spirit was never as clear as the second Hermione felt breath on the opposite side of her neck. His lips hovered over her goose bumped skin, his body now effectively enclosing her. Even had she known how to escape him, she could not have. He placed a feathery light kiss to the side of her exposed throat, but in its place his lips left a scorching burn mark that seared across her skin and sent dark magic coursing through her body. She could practically feel the smirk over the mark as she gritted her teeth.

"You are so…" he whispered, "delicate."

The fingers still resting on her throat applied a bit of pressure, interfering with the miniscule breaths she had began taking to prevent hyperventilation, although if she passed out she didn't think she would have minded very much. It felt like an eternity, but it must have only been a minute, as he gradually applied more and more of the tiniest amounts of pressure, until it was actually beginning to hurt and she found her breathing difficult.

She tried very hard not to allow panic to flow through her as she felt warm breath on her ear.

"And what is it, exactly, that you fear?" He whispered, his rational, intelligent side nearly completely lost to the side of him that sought power and thirsted for blood.

Hermione dared not answer him, not that she felt she could with him constricting her airway.

"Do you fear me, Hermione?" his voice came again, his breath tickling at her ear as she fought the spots that dotted her eyes.

She felt his finger trail through the blood that had now soaked her neck and a good portion of her shirt. She could not repress the shiver that ran up her spine, which caused more pressure against her neck, and she felt the cruel smirk of satisfaction play across his face.

"You should."

Without warning, his magic returned to the air full force, sending her flying across the room and skidding across the floor, gasping for breath, as he let go of her neck. She lay there for a few seconds, seeing stars as she tried to focus on getting oxygen flowing, before she realized that in the next two seconds, she could be dead if she did not stand up and act now.

Jumping to her feet, the room spinning as her lack of air sent her on a wave of dizziness, she pulled her wand from its pocket, curious as to why he hadn't taken it. Then again, he'd probably wanted a fight from her. She intrigued him.

She shot a poorly aimed stupefy, not so much aiming to harm but distract. She knew she couldn't outrun him, but if she could just distract him long enough to send out her Patronus to Dumbledore, she'd be fine. She'd seen Tom like this plenty of times; it was one of the downfalls of getting close to him. He had switched off the reasonable side of his mind, only listening to the side the wanted to see her broken and bloody. And he would not stop until he did.

She cringed as she barely dodged a dark curse, the edge hitting her leg and ripping into her flesh. Ducking behind a desk, she conjured her Patronus, relying heavily on her memories of her Tom, and sent the raven off to Dumbledore. He would know what to do when he got it, even though she hadn't had time or privacy to send with it a message.

She had barely sensed the spell in time to move before the desk exploded into pieces, covering her in wood and piercing her with splintered shrapnel. She threw up a weak Protego to block most of the next curse, though the dark magic easily shred her shield and slammed into her, forcing her body back a few feet and snapping a few ribs, sending agony throughout her.

"Tsk, tsk. You are not even trying, Hermione."

To keep him entertained, Hermione tossed her best version of Sectumsempra at him, and registered the mild shock and barest hint of amusement across his face as he sidestepped it easily. He did seemed satisfied, however, that she was not ready to die yet, as a curse she did not recognize came soaring at her, hitting her square in the chest and filling her entire body with a dark, hot burning, as if her whole body had been filled with fresh embers. A low laugh echoed of the walls as she struggled to remain conscious. He was toying with her. He knew she would not harm him; even though it had taken a bit before he had seen through her lies, he had always known when she was being completely honest. And right now, even though she was rather against the thought of dying, and even though she knew her only hope was to hurt the teenager before her, both knew she could not do it.

That thought pained her greatly.

It was only then that she remembered the spell she had used hadn't even been invented yet, and she regretted it instantly, knowing he would only be enthralled by this spell and the girl who cast it, dragging out her torture longer because of it. He wouldn't even ask to know what it was; he just wanted the girl who knew more things than him to suffer. The girl who had lied to him and gotten away with it to die. He wanted the girl he had stupidly thought was a friend to see that there was no such thing as friendship.

"Hermione Granger," He stated softly.

Hermione managed to sit up from where she had been laying and looked him straight in the eye, though she knew any fierceness was completely wasted due to her extreme injuries and fear. But she managed to hold herself up and not pass out, which was enough.

"Tom Riddle," She bit out through clenched teeth, voice quivering slightly.

"I do not like it when people lie to me. When I ask for loyalty, I demand complete loyalty. I make no exceptions," He told the wavering girl.

He took a step forward, and Hermione attempted to scoot back, but her broken ribs refused the movement. She watched in dread as he grew closer, unable to do anything about it. It was taking any strength she had left just to remain in an upright position, and not lying across the floor in a tired heap like she desperately wanted to allow her body to do. There was no way, even if she had wished it, that she would be able to lift her wand and fend him off. So she sat, completely vulnerable and exposed, already half dead, as the rising Dark Lord slowly made his way over to finish her off.

However, when the manic-eyed Slytherin did not raise his wand, and instead knelt next to her, Hermione could only gape. Tom's right hand, the left still holding his wand by his side, came up and cupped her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes. The grip was neither gentle nor caring, and it's strength was enough to cause her lower jaw to hurt. But she complied, staring into his midnight eyes, wondering what was going through his head as he studied her.

"Why did you lie to me?" He murmured, his thumbing reaching up to wipe some blood from her cheek. He stared at the blood on his finger pensively, as if he wasn't quite sure what he was looking at. Hermione, for some reason, could not figure out what emotion was flashing through his eyes. What she did seem to notice, though, was that both sides of Tom were fighting for control.

The rational side, the intelligent side, the sensitive side. Her side. That side was forcing its way through the barriers that his naturally evil personality erected so that he would have no feelings during acts such as these. And yet, he had not killed her, not even as the murderous, indifferent, invincible side battled for control, and was winning.

His eyes met hers once again, and she could faintly see logic returning to them; life was slowly flooding back into his face. The feeblest shred of hope wormed its way into her heart. If her Tom returned, maybe she could talk to him. However briefly, if she could talk to him, she knew that she had a chance.

The thirst for blood still raged in his eyes, but it had been pushed farther back, as if something was trying to repress it. Uncertainly, knowing that the slightest movement could cost her her life, she reached up and cupped his cheek.

"There's still good in you, Tom."

Hermione watched as he seemed to struggle with that information for the longest time, different emotions playing behind his eyes as the tiny phrase seemed to bear down heavily on him. she could discern nothing of what he thought of it nor how he was planning to respond, and throughout the time they stared at each other in silence, she could not tell if either side was winning his internal battle.

But then, he smiled. It was not the tiny smiles she got when she had pulled a large amount of emotion from the innocent and childish part of Tom that resided deep within him. Nor was it a malicious grin that his darkest deeds were given upon completion.

No, it was a smile of acceptance.

And when Hermione watched it form across his face, she felt any hope disappear. She knew. She knew, and she waited. It was time, and as much as he had accepted his fate, she reluctantly accepted hers.

She did not close her eyes as Tom rested his wand on the skin above her heart, an area just below the collar of her shirt which had torn away. It was not the evil side that did this, she noted. And perhaps that's why she refused to look away from his eyes as he hesitated ever so minutely before murmuring the words that he had promised he would never tell her.

With one last shudder, Hermione slumped forward, her forehead coming to rest on Tom's shoulder, her last breaths gone.

The first, and last, tear fell from the corner of his eye without his knowledge, at the exact same time that a girl with frizzy brown hair took a gasping breath and sat up in her bed, surrounded by friends waiting to learn what she had to offer.

I cannot go to the ocean
I cannot drive these streets at night
I cannot wake up in the morning
Without you on my mind

Hermione sat in bed for a long time, staring through the repaired glass of her window at Shell Cottage. Her friends had left yesterday to initiate the attack on him and his followers. They had chosen to leave her behind, and she had not argued. She knew she was in no shape to fight. She knew that if she saw him, she would not have bothered anyway.

They had returned to Shell Cottage briefly to give her news on how the remaining horcrux hunting had gone and to check and make sure she had not vanished or died or something like that in the short time they'd been away. But no, she was still here, still alive, much to her misfortune.

She knew she had made a vow to herself to forget, but as the days were rolling by, she could see that that was a hopeless cause. She would never forget, and she doubted very much that she'd be able to pretend to. Her fingers reached up absently and hovered over the scar that adorned her skin, and for the briefest of moments there was a pull in the back of her mind. As if someone were calling to her.

But Hermione did not move. She had not, not since her breakdown on the day she arrived. She would not move from this spot until something had her truly convinced that she should. Until then, she was content to just stay in the bed, wallowing in a misery she knew her friends did not understand, waiting for relief that would never come.

So you're gone and I'm haunted
And I bet you are just fine
Did I make it that easy
To walk right in and out of my life

She didn't know what it was that called her to do it, or why she had listened. Perhaps it was the fact that it had been nearly a week since she'd heard from her friends; a week since she left the bed for anything other than the bathroom. Perhaps her sanity was finally going and she no longer had control of her actions. Perhaps she had died, and this was her resting place.

Nevertheless, whatever had called her beckoned her from the ocean, reaching to her and grasping onto her heart. When her fingers found her scar, absentmindedly tracing the flaw in her skin, the call became louder, and she found herself rising from the bed. Slipping on sneakers and pulling on a robe, she answered, obeying the pull.

It led her to beach, a ways down from the safety of the cottage. Somewhere, her consciousness thanked the ones watching over her that it warm and the middle of the day, for she had not dressed smartly to be up and about in her mental state. Especially, she scolded weakly, in a time where she was unsure of whether her friends had won or not, and whether it was safe to be walking outside.

Lacking her wand, she mused, realizing too late she had left it sitting on her bedside table.

Without warning, the call desisted, and she stopped, waiting for it to come again. When it didn't, she only sighed and turned her gaze to the waters she had only been staring at through a window. They seemed much more crisp, much more blue, looking at them up close rather than farther away and through a glass pane.

She never heard him come.

"I would offer to kill you, but it seems that it did not work the first time."

She knew who it was, and made no move to turn around. He was not hers. He was not the same. He did not even sound the same.

"It made sense," he continued. "Of course, it was only years later, when I was already nearly what I am now, when I met you again. Little one year old Hermione Jean Granger. And I knew then what I should have known all along."

She pulled her robe tighter around her body, her eyes turning from the water to the sand at her feet. This was not the same person, she had to tell herself again. Not the same. And yet her heart was still beating faster, and she felt life returning to her body, more than it had in the last three weeks.

"Would it have changed anything?" She murmured, her sneaker digging into the sand. She didn't know why she had asked; she wasn't even sure she wanted to know the answer.

There was a long pause, and if it wasn't for the familiar crackle of his magic, she would have thought he had left. She half debated asking again, her rational side fighting through the fog in her mind, desperate to know if the truth would have changed anything. Her hormonal, crazy, and insightful side knew, however, that finding out the truth was never what one wanted to hear.

"I don't know," He admitted. "Probably not."

Her heart clenched in pain at knowing that even if she had not lied, even if she had been honest and straightforward, he still would have felt betrayed, he still would have killed her, and he still would have become who he was now. She tried not to feel such agony, having perhaps known deep down that was the truth all along, but it still hurt.

She turned around sharply, her eyes hard with anger and pain. She took in his appearance, so unlike the last time she had seen him. Gone were the deep blue almost black eyes, the velvety black hair, the flawless, porcelain skin. No longer was he tall and proud in his Slytherin uniform as he curled back his perfect pale lips in a smirk to reveal dazzling white teeth. Vanished were the hands that could be tender and warm, even after dealing an Unforgivable. Her Tom existed no more.

In his place stood this being, the side in him that had always fought for dominance. Red , snake –like eyes, eerily pale skin, long bony fingers. Staring at him alone sent chills up her back. He still stood tall, but there was no pride in his stance. Only arrogance, glory, power. She did not want that. She wanted Tom. Not Voldemort. Tom.

"Why are you here?" She asked him, a sudden abrasive quality taking over her voice. He looked mildly amused by her tone, but otherwise showed no reaction.

"I am no fool, Hermione. I know your friends are about to break through my last defense and come kill me. I know that you are the one who gave them such information. I know that is why they have not allowed you to go along."

She knew there was more to what he was saying, but he seemed content to take a drawn out pause to stare at her, which she knew should have creeped her out, but instead she found herself fighting a blush.

He turned away from her, his blood colored eyes looking up towards the sunny sky. It seemed off, watching this vile man stare almost happily at the sun. But then, he was being rather off in general since he arrived. And who was to say when he was ever really 'there' in the first place.

"Do you want to know why I haven't killed you, Hermione? I have known since you were an infant that you had traveled to my time to learn my secrets so that this day would come, and that I would die. I have known since you were an infant that because of you I would not succeed. That despite all my efforts, and you must agree, they were very trying on both sides, I would ultimately fail because of someone I killed when I was eighteen and later met when she was an infant, nearly forty years later. I have known all of this, and yet here you stand before me, alive, having already gone into the past to gain the very information that is going to kill me in a few short hours. Are you not curious?" He asked her, and there was a certain quality to his voice that she had never heard before. He was both mocking her and scolding her, but there almost seemed to be…sadness in the way he spoke.

Hermione looked up from where she had been staring at where her hands clenched her robe shakily, her eyes meeting his. "Why?" she whispered, more so complying to his tale than because she wanted to know.

In truth, she had not thought about it. She had not realized, and she felt rather stupid for it, that Tom would be able to recognize her before she would do this journey, and could purposely stop her from doing it if he so wished. She had not realized that, if he had wanted, she could have died before ever reaching Hogwarts. But he was right; he had let her live. He had let her go back and get his secrets, secrets she needed to kill him. he had let her go back, thus ensuring the continuation of the time cycle.

"It's simple, really," He said nonchalantly, his wand turning over and over in his fingers. Hermione stared openly at the familiar gesture, bewildered that some traits had survived in this creature from her Tom after all.

"How so?" she managed to choke out.

The wand stopped. "I can't."

The wand rose to her heart, meeting the same level as her scar, and before she had time to react at all, a green light was shooting at her. She had the briefest moment where she prayed that everyone she loved was safe, and that it hadn't hurt the first time so it wouldn't hurt now, and at least she got to see him again, even if he had changed, when she realized she was still breathing.

"I'm not dead," She stated stupidly, as she looked her body over, spinning in a small circle to give herself a quick analysis. But she was in perfect working order, not a single mark on her. The curse had not worked.

"I cannot kill you," He told her again, and this time she actually managed to process what he was saying as she stared up at him in shock. This man, this creature, the most powerful wizard to have ever lived; he could not kill her. His teenage counterpart had done it, but he could not.

'His teenage counterpart…' she gasped. "No!"

"You get it now. I was beginning to wonder if you really were the brightest witch," he murmured mockingly, though it appeared as if there was the slightest hint of disappointment.

Hermione dropped to her knees, not caring whether it was not the most dignified thing to do given her present company. She buried her face in her hands, holding back the sobs she knew would not come, but that she wanted to release so badly. She just wanted to scream, to kick, to cry; she wanted to do something! But there was nothing she could do to ease the suffering that was now coursing through her body.

"This has been a lovely chat, Hermione, but my death awaits me. I'll be sure to send along your condolences," Voldemort said from above her, clearly bored by her show of emotions, and Hermione latched on to his voice as her last rope of sanity to keep her from falling into the void.

She jumped up as he turned to leave, latching onto the sleeve of his robe in a feeble attempt to gain some remaining piece of her Tom. He gave her wild expression a startled one of his own, certainly not expecting for her to actually touch him. Without seeming to realize what she was doing, she gazed up at him in sorrow.

"Why have you told me this?"

"I'm the Dark Lord, Hermione."

Hermione's eyes hardened, but the sadness did not leave them. "I hate you," she uttered quietly, but they were not the words he heard and they were not the words she meant, and with a smirk on the barely existent lips on the face that was not his, he subtly nodded and pulled his robe from her vice-like grip.

"I know."

And then he was gone, and Hermione found herself crumpled on her bed, the sounds of happy shrieks ringing through the house as her friends returned with the 'good' news, wondering if it had all been indeed just a bad dream.

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

"I was beginning to wonder if maybe my theory was wrong."

"You are a brilliant witch, Miss Granger."

The lifeless girl turned to look at the man smiling kindly at her from where he sat in the rocking chair in the corner of her room. His eyes were twinkling mischievously and she found herself smiling back. He had only been here a few short moments, showing up unexpectedly.

"Still, it's been eight months. Isn't it a bit late?" she asked wistfully, frowning a bit.

The man only smiled at her. "It's only been two days since your departure, Miss Granger. As far as anyone is concerned, you are on an extended Easter Holiday."

Hermione's eyes widened minutely. She had not considered the differences in the time stream. It was truly possible then… "And… how is he?"

"Quite… off I'm afraid. It seems something changed in him the night of your return here. He's been more like the man you warned me to watch for."

Hermione looked away sadly, her eyes turned to the ocean. The man sitting across from her saw the truth in her eyes, but did not ask about it. She would tell him on her own time.

"He knew. He had always known. I don't know when he found out, but he knew that night," She whispered mournfully. It had been her most painful revelation, and while it had helped her reach clarity, it had not helped her heal.

The man regarded her for a few moments, studying her carefully. "And what did he know?"

Hermione turned to him, pain and sorrow flooding her eyes as she flinched slightly. "He loved me. And he knew he couldn't change the future so I had to return. He killed me to send me back. But he loved me. He loved me, and the half that loved me died to give me protection here so the half he knew would try to kill me could not."

The man nodded, his eyes glittering as they watched her intently. He folded his hands in his lap and gave her a small smile. "He killed you not to kill you, but to protect you. He knew he had to become the evil he was, even if he no longer wished to."

Hermione nodded, glad someone finally understood. Still, her eyes turned away, a mournful longing darkening her face. "He knew how to love."

They were silent for a long while. Hermione was lost in her memories, lost in a world where she had the one she loved and she had figured out he loved her long before anything bad could have happened. But her world was fantasy. The man across from her was pondering his new knowledge, knowledge he would never have deemed possible given the state of the world as described to him in a letter left in his office by a seventh year Slytherin from the future.

"Professor, if it's not too much to ask, do you think it would be alright? To, you know…" Hermione asked quietly, her eyes never turning from the view beyond the window.

"My dear, that is up to you. You were meant to go back and create this future. Perhaps I was meant to come here and offer you this as a reward," He said as he pulled a tiny vial from his cloak. The vial held a clear potion that glittered in the sunlight, and Hermione felt herself reach for it, taking it from his hands.

Turning it softly in her hands, she gazed gently at the vial. "Do you think that it's really possible?"

The man smiled. "I do not see why it can't be."

Hermione grinned hopefully. She knew that perhaps she was about to do the most idiotic thing in her life, and perhaps she was not going to be able to accomplish what it was she hoped to accomplish. But by all means, she was going to try, and she was going to be happy doing it. It was better that sitting around doing nothing, reliving memories that do nothing but hurt.

"You have a way of getting back to your stream, correct? I'd feel terrible if I messed this stream up by taking away part of the main story."

Dumbledore smiled at the excited child. "This story has already happened, Hermione. But yes, I do have a way of returning. However, I do believe classes will begin tomorrow for seventh years, and if I'm not mistaken, a certain Hermione Granger is due to arrive unexpectedly any minute now."

Hermione stood up and stretched, for the first time in eight months feeling as if she had something to look forward too. "It will happen the same way, then? But it will be a different stream? I won't mess anything here up, right?"

"His timeline is still the same, Miss Granger. Only how you are affecting it will differ, creating a completely different universe. After you arrive, it is up to you on whether or not things go how they did before," Professor Dumbledore told her, looking down at her fondly over his half moon glasses. He was rather proud of her and all she had been through, and he was glad she had the courage to go back and learn to relove the man who had never had anyone. Even if had he distrusted him, Dumbledore still knew even Tom Riddle could change with the right nudge.

"Right. Well, we best be off then. I'm sure going to miss everyone around here… But I'll see them again. At least I know they're happy. Perhaps I'll teach at Hogwarts! Then I will definitely see them again, and James and Sirius too," Hermione said cheerfully.

Dumbledore chuckled softly, taking his own vial from his pocket. Hermione, in a moment of excited anticipation, hugged her old professor, who soon would be her current one, and downed her vial, her existence from this time stream fading as she appeared in Hogwarts nearly fifty years in the past. Dumbledore soon followed, returning to a different stream, a familiar one, confident his counterpart would enjoy having Hermione as a student as much as he had.

Upon her arrival, Hermione spun in a circle and smiled grandly up at the big castle. This was her home. Perhaps she had to start all over again, make him fall for her again, open up to him again, and go through the whole process again. But she had nothing to hide from him this time. She was not trying to kill him. She only wanted to be with him.

And maybe she didn't have Harry or Ron or McGonagall or Ginny or the Twins or Lupin or her parents or anyone, but she would see them again. They would be different, true. But she would remake her friends in Carina Parkinson and Orion Black and Abraxas Malfoy and Charlus Potter and the Weasleys and Augusta Longbottom and Isla Lupin and Rubin Patil and Mary-Ellen Lovegood and she could even become friends with Minerva McGonagall at the proper age. There was no end to the people she was now able to be friends with.

So perhaps she had given up her old life, and perhaps there was no guarantee of her actually succeeding, but this was where she belonged. She was not happy in the other time. She could never be happy there, when she knew she belonged wherever Tom was. And this time, Hermione Granger and Tom Riddle would not be almost lovers.

She would show him so much more.

Pushing open the doors to the castle, she hid her grin as she remembered exactly what had happened the first time she had done this.

As the body on top of her pushed itself up and apologized, Hermione subtly inhaled deeply. She accepted the familiar hand offered to her and smiled almost embarrassedly, although it was more form how giddy she was, at the floor, as their entire first conversation replayed.

"Pardon me, but you do not look familiar. May I ask your name?"

Hermione smiled. "Hermione Granger. I'm a transfer."

"Shakespeare, if I'm not mistaken. I am Tom Riddle, Head Boy. Allow me to escort you to the Headmaster's office."

Hermione looked up, momentarily afraid she would see red eyes staring back at her. But there they were. Her beautiful, deep blue eyes, the color of the night sky, curiosity running through them. She nearly forgot to breathe staring into the eyes she had missed, the eyes she had not seen since they had looked at her with pain as they let her die.

"That would be lovely, thank you," She replied softly, accepting the offered arm.

Tom Riddle smiled.

Well there ya have it. I knew it would be long but I certainly did not expect this. I may as well have written a story. But now that this is done I can get back to my other stories, which I'm sure my readers will be happy to hear.

I was very conflicted on how to end this, which is why the end may seem a bit off. I had great endings for both happy and sad and simply could not choose. I ended up with this. I don't know if I like it. I guess it's alright. Not perfect. I'd like your opinion.

I know Tom might seem a bit off, but this is how I picture him. So boo to you.

Anyways, I hope you liked it. Its 30 pages on Word, so you better at least REVIEW! Thanks!

-Tins Nox