A/N: Hey there! Yeah, I know. Its been forever...I can honestly say I'm sorry. Now that I've been to the ninth circle of hell and back, I finally got around to writing a chapter. Life happened, honestly. Death, down to a serious surgery. Yeah, I have all kinds of excuses, but I won't waste them here. I'm just hoping everyone likes the new chapter, and I'm happy that after all this time, I still have dedicated readers. It means a lot :) And I'm sorry for the delay!

Chapter Eleven: First Persuaion

Hermione sat in potions, drowning out Professor Slughorn's voice. Usually, she always listened to him, regardless if she already knew the lesson.

Her eyes kept snapping over to Ron's empty seat, and every time her eyes fell there, guilt washed over her.

She fidgeted with the gem around her neck, something she hoped wouldn't become a habit, even though she caught herself continuously doing it ever since he had given it to her.

Hermione was in shock. Literally, in shock.

Two weeks had passed, and Professor Riddle hadn't called her to meet with him. Hell, he had barely even looked at her. He treated her as normally as he did any other student, and she found it peculiar. He didn't excessively call on her in class, and she never caught his gaze anymore.

On one side, Hermione felt grateful and relieved that she didn't have to endure him...but at the same time, it also made her tense and on edge. Why was he avoiding her? Was he angry? Or better yet, had he abandoned his idea? That was a small hope inside her, but logically, she knew that it probably wasn't true.

Ginny and Ron were still at St. Mungos, and Harry was depressed as ever. He barely ate, and even when he played Quidditch, he flew almost lazily through the sky with a frown. Of course, Hermione was upset as well, but she knew that Ginny and Ron would be fine. Harry seemed to be worrying himself to death for no reason, and it made her sad to see her friend in pain.

As the class ended, she stood up with Harry, taking his arm as he solemnly walked like zombie towards the door. Lately, he'd had a habit of running into things, so Hermione had started taking his arm, worried that he'd fall down stairs or something equally dangerous.

Hermione was thrilled that this was the last lesson of the day and that it was Friday. Harry looked terrible, and she didn't think he could go on much more without a little break. All his worrying was taking its toll on him, and he needed extra sleep and relaxation to deal with the effects.

"I'm fine, Hermione," Harry murmured as she continued to stare at him with a worried face.

"You're not fine, Harry," Hermione said in a gentle voice, sighing and leaning into his arm as they walked down the corridor.

Her eyes trailed up, and she stiffened, seeing Professor Riddle walking towards them. She tightened her grip on Harry's arm.

"What is-" Harry trailed off as he followed her tense gaze, seeing Professor Riddle walking towards them, with his dark eyes glued on the two teenagers.

"Oh...great..." Harry mumbled.

She tensed, realizing this was the first time in two weeks that he'd looked at her this long and now, it seemed that he was actually going to speak. His long strides stopped in front of the pair, causing them to stop as well.

Hermione gulped and tried to remain calm as his calculating eyes flicked over their interlocked arms, before settling on their faces.

"Perhaps you should take a sleeping potion, Mister Potter," Professor Riddle said, raising an eyebrow and locking his hands behind his straight back. "Those bags under your eyes are awfully unsightly. I recommend a better image as Head boy."

"Yeah, will do," Harry muttered, clearly not in the mood to even care if the Professor was insulting him. Even so, Hermione felt the muscle in his arm clench.

"He's just been extremely worried about his best friend and girlfriend, Professor," Hermione piped in, coming to Harry's defense as the Professor's dark gaze flicked to her. "I believe its perfectly natural for him to be worried."

"Mister and Miss Weasley will be absolutely fine," he said, a gleam passing through his eyes. "There is no use in worrying, as they will be back at school soon."

Hermione pursed her lips, staring at him defiantly. Harry said nothing, but hung his head tiredly, making her give him a worried glance.

"In any case," Professor Riddle continued. "Enjoying your weekend, and don't forget your duties. Good day."

His eyes trailed on her for moments, making her gulp and lightly tense before he elegantly strode away, making her let out a breath of relief.

"Emotionless prat..." Harry mumbled under his breath, leaning towards Hermione for the support he claimed he didn't even need.


Hermione sighed in the Head's common room, throwing her potions essay on the table and rubbing her temples tiredly. Looking at the clock, she saw it was eight p.m and Harry was already in his room.

She sighed, a piece of parchment sitting on the edge of the table catching her eye and making her heart beat in panic.

That wasn't there before...just like last night time.

Hermione glared at it, considering just throwing it into the fire without even reading it...but then again, if she ignored him...that would make him angry. A part of her didn't give a damn, but another part knew it wouldn't be smart move. Besides, she had a plan...and she couldn't get to know his intentions if she avoided him like he was infected with the plague.

Groaning to herself, she hesitantly reached forward, gently lifting the parchment and opening it.


Her eyes widened. That was all it said. One simple word that shot panic in her veins and fear in her heart. Her hands trembled lightly as she stood, balling the parchment up in her hand and tossing it into the fire of the common room.

'Okay, don't panic. There's probably a perfectly legitimate reason why he's avoided you for two weeks.' Hermione thought to herself, wringing her hands in front of her and pacing in front of the fire.

Of course, she had read everything she could possibly find on unbreakable vows in the library. Even in the restricted section, which she had access to as Head girl. What had she found? A big nothing, and in the middle of her research, the thought occurred to her that she wasn't going to...at least, not in the library. Towards the end, she had accepted that the only way to get out of her predicament, was to somehow get her hands on the book Riddle had stolen right from under her; or get him to talk about it. The first seemed much more likely.

But, the question was...how the hell was she going to do that? Break into his office? Professor Riddle was smart, and she knew that he must have wards guarding his office. Even if she was smart enough to break through them, she couldn't set his own personal wards back up. He would immediately know it was her when he discovered the book missing, and she didn't want to think of what would happen. The mere thought of getting caught breaking into his office set her heart into a panicked rhythm. The only way she'd even had a chance was if she snuck it away from him...while she was with him. That, in itself, seemed just as impossible. Also, what if that huge snake was in his office?

'Stop panicking!' she ordered her mind as her thoughts became frantic as she paced. She turned around, looking down at the table and seeing yet another piece of parchment sitting there.

Her eyes narrowed as she snatched it up.

Do not keep me waiting much longer. I know you read my note.

Hermione tensed. No, she definitely didn't want to make him angry. Why make this task more difficult than it undoubtedly was?

Sighing to herself and rolling her shoulders, she hesitantly walked out of the common room. Her steps were rigid, and she was mentally trying to prepare herself for facing the Professor again. She felt mentally drained. Worrying about her classes, Harry, Ron, Ginny, and of course, Professor Riddle. Its a wonder her brain hadn't exploded.

Her back tensed as she stopped outside his door. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, exhaling slowly as she reached for the handle.

Suddenly, the door was flung open in front of her, making her jumping back with a yip from shock.


She trailed off when she saw the angry face of Professor Riddle. As usual, he was dressed in his immaculately pressed black robes, irritating her with his perfect appearance.

"Miss Granger," he said calmly, but she could hear the threatening undertones. "How nice of you to finally grace me with your presence this evening. I trust you did not get lost?" he sneered, making anger pump through Hermione's veins as she tried to keep her emotions under control.

Hermione grit her teeth. "No, Professor, I did not get lost. I was simply-"

"I don't have time for excuses," he snapped, cutting her off as he backed away from the door. "Get in."

Hermione clenched her teeth and huffed internally before forcing her feet to move forward in the classroom. Once she was inside, she paused, hearing the door slam violently behind her. Gulping, she suddenly noticed a large mass under his desk...

'Nagini...' Hermione groaned internally.

Professor Riddle walked around her, then stopped in front of her. Thankfully, she once again saw his face was blank, and she saw that his fists weren't clenched. It probably meant he was no longer angry, but you'd never know with him. For all she knew, he could actually be seething.

His dark eyes flicked down her neck, seeing the silver chain there. Her eyes narrowed when she saw satisfaction cross his eyes, apparently pleased that she had not been able to remove it. Of course she couldn't! He cast the Renera charm, making anyone except him unable to remove the necklace from her body. He could rip it off with his fist if he wanted to.

"I have news," he said quietly, quite suddenly as his thin lips barely moved. "It seems that Dumbledore will be away from the school over the weekend...quite the opportunity – wouldn't you agree, Miss Granger?"

Hermione's stomach bottomed out. "W-where is he going?" she asked, her voice timid.

"To the ministry to approve some school documents for Headmaster Dippet," he said, his thin lips twisting into a cold smile at her obvious panic.

"S-so...I'm assuming that you want to do that, um, this weekend?" Hermione asked, her nerves racking. It was Friday, and that meant she'd have to attempt this either Saturday or Sunday. She'd never expected it to come so close. She had assumed she'd have much more time to plan her way out of this predicament before even getting close to being able to steal the book. So much for assuming. What was she going to do now?

"Why not tonight, Mea Leaenae?" he asked, smiling coldly and arching an eyebrow.

Hermione's stomach bottomed out as she gaped at him. He chuckled darkly and removed a simple black book from his robes.

Her mind was frantic. How was she going to get out of this?!

Swallowing, he handed her the black book with a quill. She looked at him with a confused, yet panicked expression.

"If you run into a problem, write in this book," he said lowly. "Ink will not be necessary. I modified the blood quill, and it will not scar your skin. It will, however, take the writers blood directly from your body."

Hermione felt fear grasp her. Of course she knew what the blood quill was. She didn't trust that he wasn't lying, and that the words wouldn't actually carve into her skin.

"Take it," he hissed, making Hermione instantly snatch it from his hands. "And don't even think of betraying me, Miss Granger. I will know if you do, and you wouldn't want to activate our little vow, now would you?"

Hermione took a sharp intake of breath. If she lied, if she pretended she couldn't find it...that would activate the vow? Of course, he could be lying...but was it a risk she was willing to take? No, she was stuck. She had no choice unless she thought of a miracle answer quickly.

"Regardless, Dumbledore will know someone has broken into his office," he said calmly. "he will know the book has been taken. As I expect, he will automatically look at me. However, I have an engagement with Professor Slughorn, placing me away from the crime..." he smirked. "It will never occur to the man that sweet, intelligent, little Gryffindor Hermione is the actual perpetrator..." he reached his hand up, mockingly running his cold fingers down her warm and flushed cheek.

He smiled sadistically as anger scorched her body. With disgust, she smacked his hand away from her face, glaring at him coldly.

"Hmm, lioness has claws," he said, letting out a cold chuckle and making her clench her fists.

Hermione flushed in anger. She knew any other time, that action would have angered him. However, she knew that he was so close to achieving his goal...a little thing such as swatting his hand away wasn't going to rile him up.

"Do you remember the title of the book, Miss Granger?" he asked, breaking her from her thoughts.

"Erm..." Hermione trailed off. Actually, she had been trying to think of the title over the past two weeks. She just couldn't remember. It had been a long title, and in another language. That, and his little torture session made it difficult for her to remember.

"Vitam aeternam et magicae exhibito," he interjected coldly, annoyance flashing through his eyes. "Can you manage? Or shall I write it down for you?"

"Not necessary," she responded through clenched teeth. Her mind was racing, trying to think of a way out of this. "Because I'm not doing this."

Shock flitted across his face, before anger seeped into his features.

"Excuse me?" he whispered, looking at her dangerously.

"I said, I'm not doing it!" she roared at him, taking the book at throwing it at him, squarely hitting him in the chest with a loud thud as it fell to the floor.

What he did next shocked her like a thousand volts of electricity. In a quick movement, he darted at her, reaching behind her head and grabbing her hair with force. She'd never expected him to move in for a physical attack as her eyes widened in fear and shock. He painfully jerked her forward, making her gasp as she felt his wand poke in her neck.

She looked up into his face, immediately regretting it. He looked absolutely mad. There were murderous glints in his eyes, and his features had twisted into something foul; something almost inhuman. She struggled against him, absolutely terrified at the look on his face. He looked like he was going to kill her.

"Don't you ever-" he hissed, his breath washing over her face as she gasped in fear. "do something like that again. Do you hear me?!" he shouted, jerking his hand in her hair, making her cry out in pain.

She reached in her pocket, trying to grasp her wand, but cried out when she felt his wand hand snap down on her wrist the second her hand wrapped around the handle.

"Let it go," he hissed, tightening his grip painfully on her wrist. She felt tears rim at her eyes at the force, feeling that her wrist would soon snap in half. Almost against her will, she felt her hand open, and her wand fell to the floor with a clatter. He instantly let go, and shoved his wand back in her neck.

He looked absolutely livid as he stared at her, and she panicked. What was he doing? Thinking of a suitable punishment no doubt.

Suddenly, he hissed, making her jump in alarm.


"NO!" she screamed in his face, terror taking a hold of her, struggling against him. She beat her fist against his chest, but the force of her blows didn't seem to even budge him. His face faltered for moments, but as she kept looking at his face, she saw he looked just as furious as he ever did.


"I'M SORRY!" she screamed, interrupting his spell and struggling against him. Her tears were freely falling now. She was hysterical and couldn't stop herself from screaming to stop him. The pain was beyond blinding and she didn't know if she could take it again. She didn't feel regret for sticking up for herself, but she couldn't help but to feel it some. She should have known this would happen.

An unsure expression flickered across his face and he hissed again, releasing her as he flung her harshly down on the stone floor. She cried out in pain as her backside slammed into the stone, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw her wand laying on the ground. Out of instinct, she immediately went for it, only to have it zoom away as he summoned it.

He caught it in his free hand, and her face paled out as he pointed his wand at her.

"My my, I do believe my lioness is a little liar," he hissed, staring down at her darkly. "You said you would get me the book, and now, you're going back on your word. Hmmm, is the lioness really a snake?" he chuckled coldly, his eyes glinting sadistically at her pain.

Before she could even open her mouth, a spell she dreaded almost as much as the Cruciatus curse left his thin lips.


Hermione gasped, desperately trying to throw up her occlumency shields. No, no, no! He absolutely could not look into her mind!

She cried out as he charged viciously through her mind, and she knew that he was a master at it. When she had practiced with Harry, it was just simple probing at her mind; just as you'd poke something with a stick. But we he entered her mind, it was like a wrecking ball blasting through a brick wall. Weakly, she concentrated on hiding her plan and research having to do with him. She knew she didn't have the strength or the skill to keep him out of all her memories. There was no way she could throw him out of her mind, but perhaps, she could stall and hold back a tiny bit of information.

He paused at a memory, and she watched as he watched her interacting with Ron after Slughorn's party. He watched until he became present, then he threw it to the side, scanning through her other memories with Harry. Some he watched, and others he became bored with and cast them aside quickly.

He paused again, and this time, she was at her house. It was over this past summer. To her complete horror, she was by the pool sunbathing in her bikini and reading a school book.

"GET OUT!" she screamed, clutching her head as she swore she heard him chuckle darkly.

He continued looking through her memories of her summer as she desperately tried to throw him out. He looked at her mother, and her father. He searched again, and found a memory where she was driving, pulling her mothers car into her house.

Suddenly, he withdrew from her mind, making her fall down from her knees onto her hands. She was gasping, trying to get rid of the aftershocks of him terrorizing her mind.

"Ah, what a lovely house Mr and Mrs Granger have..." he trailed off, causing her to look up as he knelt in front of her, a sick smile twisting on his lips. "It would be a shame if all that happiness was destroyed..."

Hermione gasped, absolute terror taking over her. He was threatening her parents?

"NO!" she screamed, looking at him in horror as he smirked at her. "DON'T YOU DARE HURT MY-"

"Silencio!" he hissed, cutting her screaming off. "Don't worry, I won't harm your dear, filthy, muggle parents. As long as you do-"

Hermione launched herself at him. She didn't care. She'd strangle him if she had to. Threatening her was one thing...but now, it was her parents. Her parents! Rage like she'd never felt before ran through her veins. His dark eyes widened as she leaped at him, catching him off guard as she actually fell on him on the ground.

"IF YOU EVER—I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!" she screamed, noticing the silencing spell had been lifted. His eyes widened as she flung her fist back, and pushed it forward with as much force as she could muster.


Blood gushed from his nose as her fist connected with his face. His eyes were wide in shock and in pain that only lasted for moments. The murderous glints entered his eyes again and she flung her fist back, only to have his hand quickly catch it.

She growled and flung her other fist back, ready to punch him in the eye. He quickly grabbed her other fist with his other hand and she struggled to break free.

"LET GO YOU MONSTER!" she screamed, wriggling against him to break free.

She gasped as he forcefully rolled them over, pinning her small frame down with his body and slamming her fists above her hand. She cried out in pain as her knuckles hit the stone, and she thought maybe he'd just shattered her knuckles.

"Stop!" he hissed, looking down at her murderously as blood dropped down his chin and she struggled.

"Drop dead!" she snapped with venom, spitting directly in his eye.

Once again, he looked momentarily shocked before he let go of one of her fists. Apparently he'd dropped his wand in their struggle, and he grabbed it, instantly shooting a spell at her before she could hit him again. An invisible force tied her hands down above her head, and she thrashed below him, trying to throw his weight off her with her hips.

He growled and pinned her hips with his hands, forcing her down. She felt something hard pressing into her thigh and she looked down for moments, before realizing just what it was.

"You're disgusting!" she spat, completely and utterly revolted. She turned her head to the side as bile rose in her throat, and she wondered if she'd be able to press it down – even though she wanted to vomit all over the floor. Great, not only was he a complete psychopath...he was a perverted psychopath.

"Get off me!" she screeched again, still feeling the revolting hardness pressed into her thigh.


Hermione whimpered as his palm struck across her face, making her wince as it burned and tingled in the aftershock.

"You bitch!" he hissed lethally above her. "I'd like nothing more right now than to kill you, you insolent witch!"

She whimpered as the full weight of her actions set down upon her. Gods, he may try to kill her! What was she thinking? No, he deserved what he got! And she meant it, if he dared to even touch her parents...

"What shall I do to punish you, hmm?" he asked in a soft tone, making her blood run cold and freeze.

"You deserved it and you know it..." she murmured, keeping her head turned away in repulsion.

"Yes, you're the type that touches the flames after someone says not to because its hot, just because you have to prove everything yourself," he said quietly, leaning towards her ear. "Is that what I shall do, then? Give you a lesson on fire and how badly it can burn?"

He pressed his hardness a little more firmly against her, driving home the warning at just how much she had excited him and making her face scrunch as she cringed.

"Are you a rapist now?" she asked quietly, fear clouding her every word. She didn't know how she'd go on if he actually raped her. The thought of him doing that never even occurred to her.

He laughed coldly. "You can't rape the willing, my lioness. And trust me when I say, I can make you want it-"

"I'd rather die than have you touch me," she said, continuing to look to the side and refusing to look at him. "I don't care what you look like. You are revolting, disgusting...and you make me sick."

Hermione cried out as another sharp slap went across her face, hurting even worse as her cheek was tender from the last one.

His weight suddenly lifted off of her, and for moments, she felt relieved.

"You're lucky I don't have time to punish you," he hissed, and she looked up at him, seeing that he repaired his nose and cleaned the blood off his face. He walked over to her, good as new, and pointed his wand at her. He'd just said that he didn't have time to punish her, but he may have just said that to make her relax, then he'd attack and laugh.

He glared at her as he knelt down next to her, making her tense. He ignored this and pointed his wand at her hands. She whimpered as she felt a scorching heat, but it vanished, taking away the throbbing pain in her hands. With his wand, he touched the side of her cheek that he'd slapped, making her wince. The same heat traveled down the side of her face, and she no longer felt pain. He had...healed her. But, why?

"I can't have you injured breaking into Dumbledore's office," he informed her coldly, answering her question.

Her heart started thumping...he'd threatened her parents. He knew where they lived...if she got him the book, he said he'd leave her at peace. At this point, she would get him the book, or at least try. Then, he'd never bother her again...hopefully. It was worth a try. Risking her life was one thing, but her parents?

"I have to be at Slughorns office in ten minutes," he informed her, unbinding her hands and standing as she rubbed her wrists and slowly sat up. "You have exactly one hour. Do not fail me."

"But, he'll probably have wards, what if I can't-"

"You ignorant girl," he spat, cutting her off in irritation as his eyes flashed. "Did I or did I not tell you to write in the book if you have problems? Now go! You're wearing on my very last nerve."

Hermione bit her cheek so hard she tasted blood as she quickly stood. She reached down, grabbing the book and the Quill, her heart thumping with panic. She really didn't want to do this...but he'd backed her into a corner. She had fought, but had been unable to escape. Even if there was only a five percent chance he'd really hurt her parents, that was five percent too high. She wasn't there to protect them, and she couldn't tell anyone about Professor Riddle without dying herself. Death, or get him a book. The answer was obvious. She was not foolish enough to make any other decision. She had been brave, but now, it was time to be smart and choose the lesser evil.

"One hour," he warned, looking at her sternly. "Hurry, now."

Hermione stiffened, but forced herself to nod. Saying nothing, she quickly walked past him and out the door, casting a disillusionment charm on herself as she hurried towards the transfiguration classroom.

You won't get caught. At least, that's what she repeatedly told herself as she stopped outside the transfiguration classroom, taking a nervous breath.

"Finerpela." she murmured, casting a spell on her own hands, removing her finger prints temporarily.

Holding her breath, she reached forward, grabbing the handle. Not surprisingly, it was locked.

"Damn!" she hissed, stomping her foot. "Alohomora!" she pulled at the door again. As expected again, nothing happened.

Hermione groaned, slamming her head on the door in frustration. She was going to have to break it. But, how could she do that without being excessively loud? The corridors seemed to be quite abandoned, but that surely did not mean a student wouldn't come creeping along.

Frowning, she waved her wand in a circle around her, casting a silencing charm. It would muffle the sound, but in the huge corridor, the sound would carry, and the charm did not have the power to silence that big of an area.

"Bombarda!" she growled, pointing her wand at the door.


Hermione shielded her face as wood rained around her. Whoops, a little overboard. She said it with a little too much emotion. Paying no mind, she ran into the classroom.

"Reparo!" she said quickly, watching at the door immediately fixed itself. Hopefully, if someone had heard, they wouldn't find anything, and simply shrug it off. Hopefully, the door only kept people from entering, not leaving. She didn't much fancy having to blast the door again.

Looking at her watch, she saw she still had forty-five minutes, and she hadn't even gotten into his office.

Cursing under her breath, she hurried up the stairs to his office door, immediately feeling powerful wards surrounding the door.

Gulping, she poked her wand at the boundary of the ward, and red static zapped at her wand, recognizing an intruder and sending a small shock through her arm. Her frustration grew, and her eyes widened as she felt the magic in the ward become almost thicker, almost as if it didn't like her reaction.

Releasing her breath, she cast a few revealing spells, trying to figure out what exact ward was in place. She frowned, when she realized she didn't not recognize them...which was bad. This could mean that Dumbledore himself invented them. They were not regular wards...the kind that only let in the caster, the kind that only let in specific people...no, it was something else entirely.

Sighing to herself not to waste time, she pulled the book and quill out of her robes, opening it and writing furiously as her own crimson blood stained the pages.

HEY! I don't know what type of ward he has guarding his office. It's not typical wards, and I fear it may be something that he himself invented.

She watched, feeling slightly idiotic as she stared at her own words.

Suddenly, her blood seeped into the pages, disappearing completely.

She gaped as words started to form on the pages in her own blood, and she immediately recognized it as Professor Riddle's handwriting. How was he doing this?

Hermione eyed it suspiciously, feeling the urge to drop the book. She had a feeling that it was derived from very dark magic.

'What are your observations of the ward?'

Hermione sighed. Straight to business.

Well, I touched my wand to the edge of it, and it sparked red in connection with my wand. As I stayed, it seems the ward his gotten stronger since I touched it. It was almost like it didn't like my reaction, becoming thicker when I became frustrated. It's very powerful. I could feel it walking up the stairs.

She watched impatiently as her blood disappeared again, and she didn't have to wait long for his reply.

'What are your thoughts at the moment?'

Hermione blinked. What?

My thoughts? What do you mean?

'I meant what I said. What are your thoughts? Are they negative? I believe his ward only lets people in that really need it. People that need help, or have no other choice but to enter his office. Try to focus your emotions on how you need to enter, and that you mean no harm. Concentrate, Miss Granger. You haven't much time left.'

Hermione frowned at the book. How could he know that with just the little information she had provided? Nevertheless, she sighed and pocketed the book. Closing her eyes, she tried to make her tidal waves of negative emotions positive. She thought about how she really needed the book, so Professor Riddle would leave her alone.

She opened her eyes, sensing the ward had not shifted at all. Stomping her foot in frustration, she closed her eyes again, focusing on the peace she would find if Professor Riddle left her be. She tried to let the happiness fill her up, but she didn't need to open her eyes to sense it wasn't working.

Panic started creeping into her skin, despite her trying to control her emotions. She had to get the book, she had too. He had threatened her parents for Merlins sake! The only emotion that filled her was desperation, and she sensed a movement in the magical boundary, making her gasp.

That's it...Focus on my desperation! She thought, letting her mind fill with images of her past encounters with Riddle, feeling the desperation to escape him and the situation all over again. She thought of how desperately she wanted to escape the classroom when he cast the torture curse on her, letting her mind fill with the need to get the book so her suffering would stop.

Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration, and she could feel the ward in front of her shudder for moments, until she couldn't feel it at all.

Her eyes snapped open, and she cautiously poked her wand in front of her, meeting nothing but air.

"I did it!" she said out loud, grateful as she darted to the door, putting her hand on the handle and turning it. To her amazement, it was unlocked.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and hesitantly walked inside Professor Dumbledore's office. She had been in his office before, and it looked at though not much had changed. He had a whole other bookshelf against the wall, filled with books already.

Instantly, Hermione walked around his cluttered desk, searching the shelves for the title of the book she needed.

Within ten minutes, Hermione had looked over every book shelf in his office, opened his drawers, and shuffled through everything in sight. She didn't see anything that could lead her to where the book was. She pulled out her wand.

"Accio Vitam aeternam et magicae exhibito!" she said firmly, looking around desperately. Nothing came zooming towards her. She sighed, putting down her wand and taking out the book and quill.

Its not here.

She bit her lip as disappointment ran through her. She was pretty positive it wasn't here. Perhaps Dumbledore had hid it somewhere else? In a way, she tried to think of it as a good thing. If it wasn't here, if it was outside of Hogwarts...then he could get it himself, couldn't he? If it was outside Hogwarts, he had no need for her!

'Are you certain?'

Hermione sighed. He wasn't going to like it; but it wasn't her fault.

Quite. I've looked through everything, and that's the truth. He must have put it somewhere else.

'Did you try summoning it?'

Hermione rolled her eyes. What, did he think she was an idiot?

Yes, of course I did. I also manually looked through all his books and desk.

'I see. Get out of there and go to my classroom.'

Hermione smiled in spite of herself as she ran out the door, feeling the wards go up behind her. She didn't help him, and she probably wouldn't have to put up with him anymore...could it get better than that? She deduced that chances were, it was outside of Hogwarts. Professor Dumbledore must have known that Professor Riddle wanted it. He somehow found out from Slughorn that he had asked him for it...

Hermione giggled as she easily left the office. Just as she thought, the spell only kept people from entering, not leaving.

Her happiness was short lived when she thought about having to face Professor Riddle again. Surely, he wouldn't be in a good mood, and after how she'd acted earlier...Merlin, this couldn't end well for her. But no, she had to steel her nerves and face him one last time. All she had to do was stay calm, and hopefully, he wouldn't take his anger out on her.

She walked up to Professor Riddle's door, wringing her hands in front of her. She kept trying to tell herself to be brave, and that this could even be the last time she had a confrontation with Professor Riddle. She just had to stay positive – that's all.

Taking a deep breath, she opened his door. Immediately, her eyes fell on Professor Riddle's back. She stiffened as she saw Nagini was wrapped around his shoulders, and his long, pale fingers were caressing her scales.

Gulping, she let the door shut softly behind her, as though she was afraid that a loud noise would cause him to become more angry than he already undoubtedly was.

She stopped a couple of feet behind him. She didn't want to disturb him, but she didn't fool herself into thinking that he wasn't aware she was there. She knew that he knew she was.

"Well, this is awfully...disappointing," he said suddenly, making her heart jump at his calm voice. "I've put so much into this...only to have it blown in one night."

"I tried," she said quietly, hoping her words would somehow calm the rage she knew was just under the surface.

"I know you did, my lioness," he said quietly, and to her amazement, he actually didn't sound angry. Then again, she wasn't going to take it for granted. From what she knew of him so far, he had to be livid...

She remained quiet, waiting for him to speak again. After a few minutes of silence, and watching him gently stroke Nagini, she started shifting on her feet.

Suddenly, he spoke again, but this time in parseltongue. Hermione cringed at the hissing and rasping sounds that flowed out of his mouth as smoothly as English did.

Hermione watched as Nagini slid down his body, and starting slithering towards her. Her heart jumped in her throat in panic. Oh God, he was mad at her. He was setting his pet snake on her!

Hermione jumped backwards, pulling out her wand in fright as the snake advanced on her and he turned around. She swallowed thickly as she saw his expressionless face, and she swore she saw a red gleam in his eyes.

"What are you doing?" she hissed at him, still backing away from the approaching snake.

"Nagini wishes to be close to you again," he said non-nonchalantly, twirling his wand in his long fingers. "Since you clearly fear her so, I will allow it as part of your punishment."

"Part of my punishment?" she asked, bewildered and shoving herself against the door with her wand still pointed.

"Surely you jest?" he asked sarcastically. "You knocked me down, punched me...spat in my face," he sneered angrily, his eyes flashing. "And now you have failed me..."

"That wasn't my fault!" she screeched. "It wasn't there!"

He looked contemplative for moments. "Yes, you are right. But you still failed me."

Hermione swallowed, seeing the snake was inches from her.

"Benefravila!" she screeched, pointing her wand at the snake, fully intending the fling it across the room in flames. However, her spell never reached Nagini, as he blocked it just in time.

Her eyes flicked up, seeing him pointing his wand at her threateningly.

"Why must I always take your wand away from you?" he asked, almost lazily. "You're like a child. I have to take away your toy because you always misbehave."

Hermione started to talk, but felt scales on her ankle, causing her to look down in shock. He used this moment to summon the wand from her hand, making her freeze in fear.

Nagini coiled around her leg, and Hermione let out a whimper of fear.

"Why does this blasted thing like me?" she asked him shakily, moving her eyes away from the snake for her own good.

"I daresay that if she wasn't already bonded with me...she would be your familiar," he murmured, his handsome eyes flashing as shock completely covered her features. "She's fond of your scent. Familiars can see inside a person, connect with them, if you will. Nagini belongs to me, but she is simply fond of you. She wishes to be near you, though, I will not allow her."

"Looks like you're allowing her!" Hermione hissed as the snake curled around her stomach. Her mind was, well, blown. How could a huge snake bound to him possibly be found of her? That simply made no sense whatsoever.

"Yes, I will not deny her for forever," he said, slowly walking towards her, his eyes trained on Nagini. "She does not crave your presence nearly as much as she does mine, but she still wants it. Perhaps you are the femininity to my masculinity...like a child, if you will. She sees something in the opposite sex that reminds her of me, and she is instantly drawn to it."

"I am nothing like you!" she spat, tensing as Nagini went farther than her waist this time. Hermione shivered as the snake slid up her arm, and around her shoulders; weaving itself in her curls.

"You should pet her," he said, ignoring her completely as he stopped in front of her. "It will please her to have your touch."

"Will she go away if I pet her?" she asked, looking up into his handsome face as Nagini lay her head on her shoulder.

"Sooner, perhaps," he whispered, his eyes hooded and dark as he looked down at her. A strand of wavy ebony hair fell in his eye, but he appeared to not even notice.

Hermione's stomach flipped annoyingly. She still hated him, but, she couldn't deny that she still found him incredibly handsome. It was just a fact – an observation if you will. It meant nothing, nothing at all. She'd never like him again, not after what he's done to her, whatever he looked like. On the inside, he was an ugly monster. It was just hard to look at and angel and see the devil.

Sighing, she hesitantly lifted her hand, touching it to Nagini's scales. She'd never pet a snake before, and honestly, wasn't really sure how.

"No, you're doing it wrong," Professor Riddle interrupted, making her hand freeze and he reached forward, grabbing her small hand with his large one and drawing closer to her.

Her eyes widened at his closeness, and she longed to jerk her hand away from his cold touch.

"You touch her like this," he whispered, guiding her hand over Nagini's scales lightly. "she prefers a light touch, almost sensual."

Hermione really didn't want to think about him "sensually" petting his snake. That was just weird. Would it really have killed him to word that differently?

"Very good," he whispered as he thankfully lifted his hand, leaving her fingers to glide over Nagini's scales.

Hermione hated to admit it, but petting Nagini wasn't all that bad. She didn't feel at all like the thought she would, as she could tell from the look on her face that the snake was pleased. Although, it was a different kind of pleased than when Professor Riddle had pet her. When he had done it, the snake was...well, thrilled. A high, almost giddy happiness. But when Hermione pet her, it was like she was relaxing the snake. She looked almost content. Hermione wondered if she was actually going to fall asleep on her shoulder.

"Its as I thought..." Professor Riddle said suddenly, making Hermione lightly jump.

She brought her eyes from Nagini to him, only to see him watching her hand with a quiet, contemplative expression.

"And whats that?" Hermione asked, gulping nervously.

"Your femininity to my masculinity," he said quietly, reaching up and stroking Nagini's head with one finger. "As her male owner, even if I'm gentle, my touch is bold, hard, and powerful," he explained, tilting his elegant head to the side as his eyes flicked to her. "However, when you touch her...it is gentle, kind, and very soft."

"So, its just because I'm a girl?" Hermione asked, pursing her lips. Good. That meant she wasn't anything special to the snake.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," he said mischievously. "After all, other females have touched my snake."

Hermione instantly flushed. 'Oh good Lord, Granger. Get your mind out of the gutter. He didn't mean it that way.' She avoided his gaze in case he could somehow hear her thoughts.

He continued as though he didn't notice. "Do you really believe that she would like you if she didn't see something in you, that is also in me?"

Hermione snapped her eyes back to him. He had one eyebrow raised, and was looking at her questioningly.

"I'm nothing like you," she snapped. "I am good. You are evil. Its black and white. Very simple."

"Nothing is simple," he said instantly. "Also, there is no such thing as good or evil. There is only power. Now, do you understand?" his eyes burned, slightly scaring her. "You are the first female she has ever seen who's power even came close to comparing to mine. You could be almost as great as me, but you restrict yourself from knowledge because others say it is wrong. Why not show your true personality? Be the girl that touches the flames after you've been told its hot...You have to experience everything for yourself..." he finished in a dark whisper, taking a step towards her and making her heart lurch violently in her chest.

"Not all experiences are good," she informed him quietly, hating how her voice shook.

"Then you learn from them," he whispered. "And still, knowledge is gained."

He was good. Hermione hated to admit it, but he was. He was smart and very cunning. She could see easily how many people would fall for his words. Logically, he made sense. But emotionally, he did not. He simply did not understand why you weren't supposed to do these things. Luckily for her, she was extremely logical...but she was also highly emotional. He couldn't convince her to delve into evil things with a few smartly placed words. It simply wasn't going to happen.

"But at what price?" she questioned, her eyebrow furrowing. "Some things aren't worth certain prices, whatever it is you're gaining."

"Why do you restrict yourself?" he seethed suddenly, making her jump as his eyes narrowed. His pale hand shot forward, grabbing her chin painfully and making her wince.

Suddenly, Nagini hissed loudly, making Hermione almost jump out her skin.

She looked at the snake with wide eyes, too petrified to even move. Nagini was staring at him...his eyes immediately cut to Nagini, absolute shock crossing his features before he let her chin go, staring at his pet as she began hissing at her master again.

Irritation swept through his eyes as he hissed back at her, making Hermione tense. Merlin, she hated not knowing what they're saying.

"Well, lioness," Professor Riddle hissed suddenly. "It seems you have gotten your claws in my familiar."

Hermione's eyebrows shot up. Nagini had...tried to protect her?

"She just begged me not to hurt you," he whispered, his eyes narrowing. "Of course, she cannot command me and she knows this. But, I do retain a certain amount of respect for her and if she wishes you not to be harmed this time, I will agree. It will not save you next time, do you understand?"

Hermione's mouth opened and closed a few times in surprise. Nagini began sliding down her body and towards her master. Hermione watched as she slid up his body in a loving way, almost as if she was telling him, 'Thank you.'

She didn't know what to say, so she nodded, thankful she'd escaped his wrath.

"Get out of my sight," he snapped, sending her wand zooming towards her and then turning his back on her. It was clear, it was a warning.

Leave, before I change my mind.

Hermione didn't need to hear the words to get the message. Saying nothing, she gripped her wand, turned on her heel and pelted out of the room, letting the door slam behind her. She ran and ran, until she got to the Head's common room. Only then did she feel safe enough to slightly relax.

The snake...Nagini, had protected her. Perhaps, she wasn't as vile as her master? Perhaps Hermione shouldn't fear her? Clearly, she liked her, for reasons Hermione couldn't even fathom.

Next time.

Those two words haunted her mind. Did that mean there would be another time? How could she possibly help him now?

Hermione felt tears of frustration sting her eyes and she pelted up to her room, slamming the door behind her. She had a full night of thinking ahead of her.