By: Provocative Envy
Author's Note: Hello, again! This is a time travel fic—no apologies for that, haha—and is entirely set in 1944. It's first-person Hermione, for the most part, but after the prologue, most chapters will contain a diary entry written by Tom Riddle.
Anyway! This story will more than likely be quite long, and I'll try to update weekly. It's rated 'M' for a reason. Enjoy!
September 1, 1944
I was fucked.
The kind of fucked that has no discernible beginning or end, because everything that could possibly go wrong does—all at once, without any warning at all; a burgeoning, catastrophic cluster of chaos and misery and absolute disaster.
"You will, of course, need to be Sorted, but we can do that in the Headmaster's office before dinner, no need to put you up front with the firsties—"
Someone was talking to me. Someone was saying something. I should listen. I should be listening—paying attention—trying to make sense of what was happening.
As if that were even remotely fucking possible.
"—just can't believe Albus didn't say something sooner about his niece—his own flesh and blood—coming to Hogwarts for her final year of school, all the way from France. Most irresponsible of him—"
The man in front of me—what was his name? Surely he'd told me his name. He must have. He had. I knew him. We'd met—before. And his name—it was generic. Friendly. Unassuming. It had made me think, briefly, of home, and my gut had twisted spasmodically in response. It had been painful.
"—you worry about a thing, Miss Granger, we'll get everything handled. You'll be settled in and feeling right as rain before you can say Slytherin—"
Slytherin. Why would I want to say that? Unless—yes, of course, he was the Slytherin Head of House, that was who he was, and he was taking me somewhere, rather optimistically, his gait long and steady and confident—he seemed almost blissfully unaware of my silence, as if he was used to chattering happily about nothing important while other people were forced to listen.
"Speaking of, I do dearly hope, Miss Granger, that our tatty old hat gives Slytherin a fair shot at you during your Sorting. Albus Dumbledore's niece would be quite the coup for us, quite the coup, indeed. And we've had such good luck the last couple of years, what with Tom—oh, you don't know him, but you will, Miss Granger, you most certainly will—making Head Boy and dear, dear Abraxas—Malfoy, you understand—winning the Quidditch Cup for us, really, it's a wonderful time to be a snake, that's what everyone's saying—"
I was then being propelled down an achingly familiar hallway with a stone gargoyle standing at attention near the center. I felt my throat constrict tightly.
"Professor Slughorn," I suddenly burst out, skidding to a desperate, cloying halt. "Where are you taking me?"
I knew, though, of course I fucking knew—I just needed a moment, I needed to breathe, I needed to collect myself and my stupid, stupid fucking emotions and remember that I could not afford to act as if something was dreadfully, horribly wrong. I needed to breathe. I needed to remember who I was and where I was and, most importantly, when I was. I needed—I needed space. I needed a moment.
Just one fucking moment.
"Oh, silly me—my sincerest apologies, Miss Granger, I forgot entirely that you're most unfamiliar with the—shall we say—quirks of our castle. This is how we get to the Headmaster's office. It's a handy thing—"
He began to explain, in surprising detail, everything I already knew, and I took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to ignore the telltale throb of anxiety pulsing through my body. How was I going to do this? How was I going to keep this up? Every corner—every corridor—every square inch of this gigantic fucking castle—was full of memories. I had loved it here. I had made friends here, and I had thrived here, and I'd bloody well grown up here. How was I going to pretend that I didn't know where I was? How was I going to act like nothing was wrong?
"—just go right on in, then, Headmaster Dippet should be along shortly, and then we'll get you Sorted, Miss Granger, although I imagine you'd like to wait for your uncle, eh? Nothing like family to make things seem a bit easier, isn't that the truth—"
Family. The word sounded dirty, even in my head. I didn't have any family, not anymore. Dumbledore, as kind as was being, was not my family. He was not the same. He was younger, less trusting, the omnipresent twinkle in his eye the only remnant of the Dumbledore that I knew. But he was not the same. Nothing was the same.
"How does the—the Sorting, you called it? Yes? How does it work?" I heard myself ask, gratefully taking the seat that Slughorn had gestured for me to sit in.
"Oh, I'm so glad you asked, Miss Granger, it's quite a fun bit of magic, actually—"
My mind glazed over as he talked, and I looked around the Headmaster's office, my eyes flitting from one small detail to the next, the overwhelming feeling of wrongness becoming almost too much to bear—because this was not Dumbledore's sanctuary. This was not what I was used to. There were no delicate brass instruments whirring and clacking on the shelves. There was no magically replenishing bowl of lemon drops. There was no sense of warmth, or peace, or understanding.
And I didn't belong there.
A broken time turner shouldn't have sent me back so far. It was unprecedented. Stepping on it—smashing it—nothing should have happened. At most, I should have lost a week. At worst, I should have disappeared altogether. I shouldn't have traveled back fifty-two years; half a bloody century. I shouldn't be there, sitting in a comfortably appointed armchair, waiting to be sorted by the hat that had already sorted me once before.
This should not have happened.
But I'd done the right thing, hadn't I? Bellatrix Lestrange would have used it to save Voldemort. She would have used it to stop Harry. She would have succeeded. And so when she'd reached for me, for the spindly gold hourglass hanging around my neck, I'd done the only thing I could think of—I'd yanked it off and thrown it to the ground and stepped down, hard. Maybe too hard. Maybe that was what had gone wrong. Maybe something about the angle of my foot—
This should not have happened.
There weren't any rational explanations. Dumbledore had already told me that.
"Ah, here they are, Miss Granger—"
I watched, in a daze, as a seemingly ancient Armando Dippet trudged wearily towards me, his hand outstretched, a cordial greeting leaving his lips. I recognized him, of course. His portrait had hung in Dumbledore's office—this office. I grimaced.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, Miss Granger," Dippet was saying to me. "I still can't believe that Albus was hiding a niece from us for all this time, but he's always been mysterious, hasn't he, Horace? We are, of course, delighted to have you."
"Thank you," I managed to mumble, studying my shoes—black leather loafers, part of the required school uniform of 1944. They were uncomfortably tight.
"Hermione has always wanted to attend Hogwarts, Armando," Dumbledore said archly, throwing me a sharp glance. "She's quite brilliant. I'm sure she'll do wonderfully."
"Yes, well, if she's anything like her uncle…" Slughorn put in, grinning.
"Shall we get on with it, then?" Dippet asked, turning towards a small mahogany cabinet next to his desk. "We don't want to be late for the feast."
Slowly, almost reverently, he tugged open the cabinet door and removed a stubby, dusty stool with a hat perched on top. The Sorting Hat. Ratty and dirty and humble—it was ugly, almost unsanitary, and I remembered, vividly, how horrified I'd been as a first-year when I'd realized that I was meant to put it on my head. Now, though, it didn't disgust me. It made my heart hurt.
"Come, Miss Granger, this will only take a moment," Dippet said kindly, motioning me forward.
I got to my feet, marveling at the fact that my muscles were working at all, and walked towards him. He picked up the hat, and I flinched, thinking of Professor McGonagall doing the exact same thing, all those years ago—and then I turned around quickly, plopping down on the stool before anyone could notice my expression. Almost immediately, I felt the soft, worn weight of the hat being placed on my head.
Ah, a Gryffindor,the Sorting Hat said, its androgynous, squeaky clean voice bouncing around my skull.
Can we just get this over with? I pleaded internally. We both know where I belong.
Hmmm. You're brave, that's more than clear. Bright, too. But you don't belong in Gryffindor, do you? No, I don't think that you do.
What? I demanded, stunned. Of course I do.
You're a Gryffindor, Miss Granger, there's no doubt about that. But that isn't where you belong. Not now, at least. I think you'd do better elsewhere.
Ravenclaw? I suggested, dread settling like a tight, toxic vice around my stomach.
No, the hat mused thoughtfully. Not there, either. There's somewhere else you should go, dearie.
You're insane, I sputtered. Absolutely bloody insane. I'm a Gryffindor. That's where I should go.
You have so much potential, Miss Granger. So much to accomplish. You can't do any of it in Gryffindor.
I don't bloody well care! I argued furiously. I belong in Gryffindor!
I think not, was all it said before going suspiciously quiet.
"SLYTHERIN!" the hat shouted abruptly.
I shut my eyes. I didn't want to open them. This could not be happening. This was not happening. I was having a nightmare, I had them all the time, this wasn't unusual—a nightmare, yes, just a fucking nightmare, and I was going to wake up, and everything was going to be normal, and it was going to be 1996, and I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be pretending to be Albus Dumbledore's ridiculous recluse of a niece, I wouldn't have just been sorted into fucking Slytherin, I wouldn't—
I wouldn't be here.
I wasn't supposed to be here. This should not have happened. This should not be happening.
And I was fucked.
"Oh, marvelous!" Slughorn exclaimed. I heard him clap his hands together.
"Well, how about that, Albus," Dippet said, sounding heartily amused. "A Slytherin. From your family. How utterly remarkable."
"Indeed," Dumbledore replied wryly. "Although Hermione is, of course, quite the remarkable young woman."
I swallowed, opening my eyes. No one had spoken to me yet.
"She's shocked, Albus," Dippet observed genially. "Were you not expecting Slytherin, Miss Granger?"
I had to answer. They would find it strange if I didn't answer. My mouth was dry.
"I—ah—I am a little surprised," I replied, clutching at the sleeves of my regulation navy cardigan. "We've never had a Slytherin in the family before, have we, Uncle Albus?"
He regarded me shrewdly for a long, prickly second.
"No, Hermione, we haven't," he finally said with a forced chuckle. "But you'll be a lovely addition, I'm sure. They're lucky to have you."
Dippet gave Dumbledore a congratulatory pat on the back.
"We should get going," Slughorn said cheerfully. "The feast is going to start soon! I'd be more than happy to escort you to dinner, Miss Granger, help you get your bearings. I'll introduce you to Tom, our Head Boy. He'll make sure you know where everything is, and—"
He went on and on and on as we exited the Headmaster's office. I couldn't focus. I couldn't stand to focus. My only comfort when Dumbledore had told me I'd be going back to Hogwarts was that I would at least be home, in Gryffindor Tower, with its cozy burgundy common room and reassuringly normal atmosphere. But now I was being tossed into a literal snake pit. It wasn't fair. I wasn't like them. I wasn't sneaky, and I wasn't dishonest, and I wasn't selfish. How was I going to survive?
"This is the Great Hall, Miss Granger," Slughorn was saying loudly, steering me in the direction of the Slytherin table. I almost jerked backwards as I caught sight of the sea of green and silver—this wasn't home. This wasn't right. This wasn't where I belonged.
We stopped next to someone. A boy. Slughorn tapped him on the shoulder, urging him to stand up and introduce himself. He did. But I still couldn't concentrate. I was too distracted by the shiny gold badge pinned to his sweater vest—cable-knit navy, just like mine. This was the Head Boy. Why did I suddenly feel nervous? Who was he? Tom. That's what he'd been called. Tom, the Slytherin Head Boy.
He was tall. Tall and broad-shouldered and slender, with absolutely beautiful skin—so pale it was practically incandescent, his cheeks tinged with just the faintest hint of pink. He had thick black hair, parted at the side, and large, eerily inexpressive dark eyes. A strong jaw, square chin, and thin red lips. He was handsome. He was smiling at me. It didn't fit his face.
"I'm sorry," I stammered quietly, clearing my throat. "I didn't catch your name. There's been quite a lot to take in."
"Tom Riddle," the boy repeated politely, holding out his hand. "I'm Head Boy this year. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Granger."
I stared at him, transfixed, my brain melting into something uncharacteristically incapable.
Tom Marvolo Riddle.
I was fucked.
Oh, my God, was I fucked.