AN: EEK! I've been wanting to post this story for the past month, and it's finally up. *omfg flippin' over here*
Happy days, guys. Happy days.
A few quick notes before y'all going tromping off though: first, Daddy Dearest is AU. It takes place in Victorian England. It is M-rated. It is dark, although not to the point of depressing everyone beyond reconcilation and making your brains melt (I hope). There will be abuse (not very graphic) and lemons (totally graphic!), as well as some violence eventually. The characters are also different from the original series and definitely OOC - but they're also kind of the same. For instance, Hermione is very submissive at the beginning - as most women are during this era - but there's plenty room for change. :)
"Never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man's eyes as I am in my father's."
― Jane Austen, Emma
Malfoy Manor, England
September of 1895
It rained hard outside. She thought it might be nice to take a walk, to feel the drizzle and his pitter-patter skip across her skin, to be soaked through to the bone by it. Perhaps she could go now? But no, Lord Malfoy would not want her out alone in the dark without an escort, in the dark where something could be eagerly waiting to sink claws into a ripe piece of unsuspecting flesh.
Hermione turned away, back to her text on the effects of the Muggle's colonization of Africa, nearly obliterating all traces of black magic along with thousands of different cultures and billions of natives. She'd already finished the paper for her private tutor, Professor Umbridge, days ago, revised it twice, and yet it was still not due until next Monday. She felt restless.
What were the odds of her slipping into the library unnoticed tonight?
"Your bath is ready, m'lady," called her handmaid, Bridget, interrupting her thoughts. Bridget was Muggleborn and had been with them since Hermione's older brother Draco was born. She slept in the servant quarters downstairs behind the kitchens and had an affair with some halfblood – Jimmy, Hermione recalled – who worked at the owlery in Hogsmeade. She only knew because she had heard the servants gossiping about her dear handmaid one day as they dusted shelves in the family library.
And Hermione sent Bridget into town all the time, knowing full well her handmaid spent more time with her secret beau than she did picking up books and spoils for her lady from the local bakery. She didn't mind though.
Love was supposedly a sweet thing, wasn't it?
She dipped a toe into the bath water, warm like sunshine and reeking of roses, before going under. Bridget placed a fluffy towel at the nape of her neck so she could lay back and rest while all the unnecessary hair was plucked, ripped, and essentially removed from her body. It was a given that a lady be kept in pristine condition at all times.
But as Bridget fiercely stabbed along, she couldn't help thinking that it was a wretched law that deprived a Muggleborn a wand. The hair-removal process would be a dozen times less painful with a simple incantation whether than the dangerous-looking pair of silver tweezers her handmaid wielded presently. She kept these thoughts to herself, however. Lord Malfoy wouldn't want her getting 'ideas' into the Muggleborns' heads, lest they revolt and slip poison into their tea.
She half-wished one of them would poison hers.
"Is there anything else you need, m'lady?" said Bridget, once all the candles save for one were extinguished and the buttons doing up Hermione's nightgown were done. Her gnarled fingers smoothed out the wrinkles in her flour-spotted apron nervously, twitching up and down the starch-white fabric like skittish insects. "Warm milk? A story? Shall I open the window a bit? It is quite hot, like an oven in here-"
"Don't bother. The kitchen is all the way on the other side of the house, Cook is probably dead asleep, I haven't asked you to sing for me since I was nine, and I think the room very comfortable," Hermione said with faint amusement. "Go to bed, Bridget. Sleep."
Bridget curtsied, blushing. "Of course. Goodnight, m'lady."
The door shut behind her squeamish handmaid and she did not move for a moment, the familiar feeling of dread coiling behind her navel like a knot now. She crossed the floor to her bed and the heavy silk duvet whispered against the satin of her dress, but didn't make another sound as she waited.
An hour and eighteen minutes later, approximately, the doorknob turned. "Angel," the silvery voice of her father murmured. "You are not asleep?"
"No." She did not break her position of prayer and spoke softly, murmuring "I'm not tired at all, daddy. I was just about to say my prayers to the Lord."
"I imagine He would not elude a sweet creature such as you of them, my dear." Lord Malfoy walked toward her in confident, self-assured strides, and his smile was merry. The lapels of his dress robes, pressed by the servants with Muggle irons and gleaming, were deep emerald. "And what of your loving father? Would you include him in your whisperings to above?"
"As always, daddy," she said solemnly.
He laughed. "Thank you, angel." His hand skimmed over her damp hair, careful not to recall to life the frizz that had been so painstakingly brushed into hiding. He kissed her head. Sighed into the curly strands. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, daddy." She kissed the heavy silver band circling his ring finger, right on their family crest, and resumed her faux stance. Lord Malfoy lingered a minute longer before leaving. The door shut without a sound.
But the sound of retreating footsteps was absent.
A prickle of nerves danced through her belly then. Hermione shut her eyes.
"Lord Merlin, Shepherd my dad today
In green pastures let him lay
To still waters guide his way
Restoreth his soul," she began in hush, trying not to tremble. "I pray…"
Malfoy Manor, England
November of 1895
Draco was bringing a friend home from school today.
Hermione was most unkindly astonished that he had any friends at all, although she'd heard her brother brag about all of his 'fellow Slytherins' often enough through family meals and gatherings. How utterly out of their mind, she wondered, did someone have to be to actually want to spend any more time than necessary with her brother?
Quite insane, she resolved.
"What was that, m'lady?" Bridget asked from the other side of the dressing screen, where she sat on a velvet footstool tweaking the hem of Hermione's dress. Her words were muffled by the sewing needle clenched between her yellowed teeth.
"I just said that I'm ready," she replied. "Could you tie my-?"
"Oh yes, of course, of course, m'lady." Bridget hastened around, the skirts of her uniform swinging and slapping Hermione's garters as she bustled up behind her. Hermione hummed a nursery rhyme.
"Such a lovely voice you have, m'lady," Bridget commented and Hermione's short song was cut off when the laces of her corset were yanked tight. She gasped sharply. "Yes yes, so very pleasant to the ear..."
"Not so tightly, Bridget," she squeaked. Oh Lord Merlin.
Bridget loosened the ties with a hearty chortle. "Still breathing, m'lady?"
She smiled painfully. "Hardly."
Her handmaid laughed and finished fastening the silk ribbons up her back with a fluidness that came only from years of practice. Next, she helped her into a camisole, a knee-length chemise, her dress (a sandy-brown number that fit like flesh at the bosom and flared out in a dozen ruffles at the waist and thereafter), and fluffed the bustling crinoline before securing several petticoats on top of it. Hermione donned matching gloves and tried not to scratch her itchy high neckline.
The dress she donned was all the rage in Diagon Alley and the envy of Welsh, or so Lord Malfoy said when he bought it for her.
"M'lady, before leaving for Dumbledore's court this morning," said Bridget suddenly, "Lord Malfoy requested I tell you that you must stay in your chambers until Draco's guest departs."
Hermione frowned. Why did Lord Malfoy insist on reminding her? She had been expecting this. It was a rule (and one of many) to stay to her chambers whenever a guest came to the manor, and she never failed to abide by it. After all, it had been a rule ever since she turned thirteen and began to receive strange looks from her father's colleagues when they visited the manor for tea.
That, of course, was when the mask was introduced.
"'Until'?" Hermione repeated. "You mean to say that they are already here and no one told me?" She met Bridget's small, watery eyes in the mirror with a second frown, and her handmaid's gaze darted away immediately.
It was forbidden for a Muggleborn and Pureblood to hold eye contact.
Hermione cleared her throat. "When did he arrive, our guest?"
"About two hours ago, m'lady."
"Ah. Thank you, Bridget. That will be all."
Her handmaid left with a quick curtsy and promise to be back with lunch. Once the door was shut, Hermione went over to her mahogany vanity and dug through the drawers, until producing a secret copy of Paradise Lost. The cover was Transfigured so that the Muggle text looked like nothing more than an etiquette pamphlet.
It was wrong of her to hold onto it. Illegal.
But she had enjoyed the story too much to turn it in.
She let out a shallow huff. She was bored. It was difficult to draw breath, what with this painful whalebone cage tapering her ribs and stomach so that they came to a fashionable wasp-like waist - she swore the inventor of corsets was actually attempting to rearrange English ladies' internal organs when he devised the blasted contraption.
So Draco's guest was male, was he? She smiled to herself. Perhaps she could conveniently 'forget' someone was here at the manor and catch a glimpse of the mystery wizard in the hall? But no, she couldn't do that. Proper English ladies did not sneak around hoping to see gentleman... even if it had been so very long since Lord Malfoy last let her off the manor, since she saw a boy that was not her brother or cousin three times removed or some nephew of Narcissa's. Or anyone new at all.
"What would you do, Satan?" she muttered.
Probably rebel, her horned-figment of the imagination replied. Throw another mutiny. Better to rule in hell than serve in-
"Heaven," she finished, nodding. "A reasonable argument."
Thirty minutes later, her stomach was stirring uncomfortably and there was a knock on the door. She hid Paradise Lost quickly, dumping it in a drawer and slamming said drawer shut. "Bridget?" she said.
A beat of silence, followed by the clearing of a throat. It wasn't the squeaky, measly noise Bridget made when she cleared her bodily pathways though, for this sound was deep and clear.
It was most definitely not her handmaid.
"No, miss. Please have my deepest apologies for interrupting you" followed the voice after the sound, smoother than cream and bringing an involuntary shiver to her. She neared the door to hear it better. "I seem to have lost my way in your handsome home - it is quite a labyrinth, I confess." The handsome voice chuckled. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am a friend of Master Draco's, Tom Marvolo Riddle, and I would appreciate it greatly if you showed me how to return to the downstairs parlor where he is surely looking for me."
Tom Marvolo Riddle. It wasn't a name she'd heard before, for Draco usually brought the names Blaise, Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy into conversation. But never a Tom or a Riddle.
He sounds very kind, she thought. And her eyes itched to see him, but the door between them might as well have been a brick wall for all her wanting. Rules were rules…
And made to be broken! Satan hissed.
Lord Malfoy would lock her in a room for a week alone with Umbridge if he were to find out, but he never explicitly said that she couldn't speak to non-relatives, now did he? Only that he did not want his angel to be seen by any wandering eyes…
The wood burned her cheek like an iron from all her blushing. She took a breath, staring at the crystal doorknob intently. "How did you lose your way, Master Riddle?" Hermione finally said.
"I'm afraid I left your son to use the facilities." She could hear embarrassment in his quiet voice and it made him sound all the more enticing, the richer. But wait, your son? Her face somehow became hotter.
"He is my brother, actually, Master Riddle," she returned, and her heart beat fast as she waited for his response. She had never – never – spoken to a wizard without Lord Malfoy's eyes fasted to her, never to a wizard that was not at least twenty years her senior and who did not share the same last name as she.
It was exhilarating.
"I apologize, Lady…"
Voldemort feigned surprise, although he had already known this. For he knew all there was to know about the prestigious Malfoy family, thanks to the Hogwarts archives and that mindless idiot Draco. He had even gone so far to memorize the basics of their ancient bloodline – names, interrelations, arranged marriages, and other useless facts that would allow him to woo the stuck-up Purebloods into inviting him to their home for an extended period.
But the sole gaping hole in his knowledge was the girl: Lord Malfoy's daughter.
Hermione Malfoy was all but a fairytale in silver lining. It was common knowledge that Lord Malfoy took his daughter to the opera house for her birthday once a year, and yet every curious onlooker present always failed to catch a glimpse of the elusive girl. Rumors said she rarely left Malfoy Manor, and that when she did, she wore a mysterious masquerade mask to hide her face - as if she were going to Mardi Gras or something equally extravagant. He thought the entire thing quite garish, but nonetheless, it was a family mystery.
And how very…intriguing…he found the Malfoy family.
After finally prying that idiot Draco off his back, he'd wandered the vast halls of Malfoy Manor and come across a chittery servant girl called Emma. It wasn't hard to get her to tell him where Lady Hermione's chambers were located 'out of curiosity' after a smile or two, and he was quite adamant to meet the Malfoy enigma. To do what others could not, to lay eyes on the beauty whispered about all through Hogsmeade and even Albus Dumbledore's Court when the mood struck. It would be the first of Lord Malfoy's secrets that he'd unveil.
And once the others followed, the Malfoy's perfect little world would go up in roaring flames.
"I hate to be so bothersome, but would you just show me which way I should go to return…?" trailed Master Riddle.
Bridget would be back soon. Hermione bit her lip. "Take a right, then left, and keep going left until you reach the main stairs. Go down to the first floor and you'll find our butler Thomas. He'll show you the rest of the way."
"My right or your right?"
"Lady Hermione, couldn't you simply show me? Or point which way?"
"…your right," she finally replied. "Good day, Master Ri-"
"But won't you be joining us for dinner?"
"I apologize, but no. I take my meals in my room, Master Riddle."
When there are guests, Satan pointed out with a mocking grin.
"Ah." There was a note of surprise in that musical baritone. "Well, if I do not see you again tonight-" He would not."-will I see you at the opera?"
"I…" She paused. "What opera?"
"The Calling. The opening night is less than a month away, on December 31st. I would be pleased to see you there."
December 31st? Hermione thought with dismay. But her birthday had already passed in September! Lord Malfoy would never agree.
"Good day, Master Riddle," she repeated.
And the door creaked as the weight pressed hard on it eased, moving across the room to sit down at a desk and open books. Voldemort was sorely tempted to do away with polite conversation and false smiles, to simply cast a spell that would tear the obstructive wood to pieces and let him inside.
But good things came to those who waited.
And he had waited for such a very, very long time.
the Hogsmeade Opera House, England
December 31st of 1895
Lord Malfoy exited the carriage first, waving away the chauffeur who stepped up to assist Hermione and turning to help his daughter out instead. He offered her his arm and she took it, smiling gently.
Laying his hand over her folded arm, Lord Malfoy guided them through the elegantly-dressed fray, back straight as a rod and haughty smirk in place. Hermione kept her chin tucked close to the space between her collarbones, eyes downward, glossy ringlets shining as she was guided through the women in silk and pearl necklaces that whispered as they passed and the men donning dress robes who gazed after her with dark eyes. Lord Malfoy said a word or two to Lord Black in passing, but they did not stop longer than a moment before going onward.
And then, she was finally ushered into a private balcony, far away from any other old money or aristocrats. It was curtained off so no one could see inside, so that only its occupants could view the vast, breathtaking stage below.
Lord Malfoy sat composed in their box and she stayed silent, too – although she was positively aching to ask a thousand questions. For instance, what time was it and how much longer would it be until the show began? Was Master Riddle here? No, that was a stupid question. Of course he was. He had composed the entire opera after all; this she learned when she opened the Daily Prophet one morning and saw his dashingly handsome face splashed across the front page. Imagine her astonishment upon this discovery! But where was he? Backstage? Preparing for his debut?
Oh, how often she had replayed their conversation since the day he visited the manor. She must have lay in bed recalling the smooth voice at least a thousand times, admiring the newspaper clipping now stashed inside her corset. Had he forgotten her? Would Lord Malfoy remember to take her backstage for a tour, as promised, so that maybe she could catch a glimpse of Master Riddle? It was out of the question to talk to him, to look at him for more than a lone second, but she would take whatever Lord Merlin offered her. And who was starring in the play again? What orchestra was playing? Were they wonderful? Would she be able to hear them from up here? Surely, she would, for Lord Malfoy always got the best of everything no matter the occasion.
"Angel," her father himself said from her left, rousing her from her thoughts. "I've brought you a present."
Startled, Hermione turned to Lord Malfoy to see it, and as she did, she looked much like a rose blooming in frames, all silk petals and rustling fabrics swishing back and forth, here and there and altogether, to create something beautiful. She laughed good-humoredly. "I confess that I am not surprised by this - but you didn't have to, daddy."
"Don't be silly, my sweet." He smiled. "Would you like to see it?"
She confirmed this and he reached into his robes, producing a small thin box and theater pamphlet. "Here you are, angel," he said warmly, passing the treasures to her.
"The billet does not count, it came of no charge with the tickets," Lord Malfoy explained as she opened the box to reveal a sleek pair of opera glasses stowed in a bundle of silk. "But the glass was imported from Finland and belonged to Väinämöinen. It heightens your vision; you will see every intake of breath by the actors onstage, every flutter of fabric and inch of the sets."
"They must have cost a fortune," Hermione murmured, knowing her father took pleasure from these particular observations, and running her gloved fingers along the crystal-embedded frame appreciatively. His smile widened. "Thank you, daddy."
"You're welcome." He ran his hand over her head gently, careful not to hurt her or muss her hair. "I am pleased you like it, angel."
Lord Malfoy withdrew and began to survey the crowd below through his own glass, muttering about scandalous viscounts and bankrupt lords. Hermione carefully replaced her new present in its box and picked up the billet, flipping through it quickly.
Cygnus Black, Alecto Carrow, and Antonin Dolohov were the most prominent names starring in the show, which was sung completely in Italian and made her thankful Professor Umbridge, her tutor, insisted she become fluent in as many European languages as possible. The actors listed above played the leads and were to portray a complicated love-triangle only to realize neither brother loved the girl - for one simply wanted her body and the other her money. They scheme to trick the girl and get both, but she finds out about the ploy and in a fit of rage, murders both men.
For if the girl could not have them, no one could…
The opera was magnificent.
Alecto Carrow was a beautiful leading actress, vainer than Narcissus and so easy to manipulate it was painful to watch the D'Amour brothers trick her. Hermione had begun the show intending to watch Master Riddle closely, to see if he was as handsome on paper as he was in real life, and when he stepped out into the orchestra pit her heart had seized, as if clenched by an iron fist and wrought pitilessly by it. His beauty was almost unreal, from the gentle curl of dark hair just above his forehead down to his pressed black suit, and she blushed to know she'd spoken to such a man through a bedroom door just a little over a month ago. But then the lights dimmed and – well – the opera swept her so far away she forgot who she was.
She hummed what she could remember of the finale. Remnants of Alecto Carrow's voice, lovelier than daybreak and sweet like maple syrup, echoed through her ears as she sat in a spare dressing room backstage. Lord Malfoy stood just outside of the room conversing with Lord Alphard Black, the father of one of the leads from the opera, and Professor Slughorn, a teacher from Draco's school Hogwarts. She could see the shine of her father's buffed leather shoes gleaming through the crack under the locked door.
Then, she heard it.
"Gentlemen, I hope you are enjoying the wine?" came the smooth baritone, somehow managing to be far more enchanting than the music she had heard boom through the halls of the opera house for the last two and a half hours. Hermione straightened, staring at the door alertly. Master Riddle!
"Oh Tom, always the jokester, aren't you, m'boy?" chortled Slughorn, who sounded slightly more than a little intoxicated. "Yes, the wine is quite good, and the show – oh, the show was even better-"
"Yes, quite impressive," murmured Lord Malfoy and Lord Black repeated this, their appraisal of Master Riddle followed by the clink of glasses. Hermione's throat was bone-dry and she stood, soundlessly crossing the floor to get closer to the voice she would surely never hear again.
"Thank you, gentlemen, but you overestimate my abilities," Master Riddle said modestly. "None of this would have been possible without you're generous sponsoring, professor."
"Oh, it was no trouble, no trouble at all. I'm sure Dumbledore will be glad to accrue a fine fellow such as you once you leave Hogwarts. Oh, and an opera – oh, dear me, an opera! – is quite an impressive asset to your applications, Tom."
"Yes, professor," said Master Riddle duly. "I apologize, gentlemen, but I must be on my way…"
No, not yet! Hermione thought, a gasp involuntarily escaping her. She clapped two hands over her mouth immediately.
"Of course, of course, we understand perfectly, m'boy," Slughorn said jauntily, winking at his favorite student. His eyes were blood-shot. "You are quite popular tonight, aren't you? Oh, how pleased Dumbledore will be! Ah!"
Voldemort nodded and moved away from the trio of upper class snobs, past the stagehands and supporting actresses cradling their flower bouquets like they were trophies from the Triwizard Tournament. He had hoped to find the girl at Lord Malfoy's side when he invited that bigot backstage, had even heard she came tonight by word of mouth, and he was quite displeased to find she wasn't anywhere in sight.
For a moment in conversation, he'd heard a peculiar sound, a sharp intake of breath from the makeup-festered depths of Lucia Erning's dressing room. He, for a fact, knew Lucia was with her family in the auditorium. He'd seen her share kisses and tight hugs his stomach rolled to see just minutes ago.
So who could have made the noise?
Deepening his suspicions, he recalled that Lord Malfoy had seemed to stand before the entrance to Lucia's room rather strangely, his cold, pale eyes watchful, the fingers on his half-empty glass of Firewhiskey a bit too stiff. He'd seemed…protective.
Hermione kept her eyes off the powder-clouded vanity she was seated at, tracing a gloved finger through a compact of rouge and staining the fabric. Lord Malfoy didn't allow her to wear makeup. The owner of this dressing room did not keep any books.
The door opened and she started, but not because she was surprised by the sound. It was rather because she was surprised by the direction from which the rasp of bolts came, not from behind her where Lord Malfoy still guarded the door and chatted with his colleagues, but to her left, hidden behind a velvet pouffe covered in bottles of fragrance and mascara tubes. It was a door she – and most certainly, Lord Malfoy – had failed to see before.
"Blast." A foot kicked aside the pouffe blocking entrance, knocking a whole avalanche of feminine products to the ground, and a man began to follow it. Hermione stumbled off her stool, eyes wide, and looked around the room frantically. For what, she didn't know. Should she scream? What would a heroine from one of her novels do in a situation like this? Look for a weapon? Cast a dangerous spell? Her wand lay halfway up her sleeve.
Hex him, Satan hissed, before he hexes you, girl.
But it was too late to do anything now.
Air ceased to come when the man, now completely inside the room, brushed off the knees of his trousers and straightened. He looked just as surprised as she to find the both of them there in that cramped dressing room, and they stared at each other wordlessly, trapped in the startled glance, in the second-long pure bewilderment of being caught off guard.
It was Master Riddle.
Oh Lord Merlin, save her now, because he was even handsomer up close. His brows came at perfect sharp slants that gave him an air of constant alertness, of intent study, and dark eyes shielded by even darker lashes regarded her almost bashfully. His high cheekbones were so angular she wondered if the knife came up empty against them, unable to find any extra flesh to rake or flaws to scrape off...
And then she remembered.
"You must leave!" she exclaimed, turning her already masked face to the floor and ignoring the burn in her bosom at the sound of his voice. "Right now, please."
"I…I apologize for barging in unprecendented, Lady Hermione. I truly did not know you were-" When he saw she did not respond, his voice faded. Hermione stared at the other door, the locked one with Lord Malfoy on the other side of it, intensely. What if Lord Malfoy were to walk in right now? What would he say? What would he do?
"You did not seem so distant the last time we spoke."
She pressed her lips together, staring at the door more firmly.
"Don't you recognize me? I am-"
"Master Riddle." She nodded curtly. "I do recall."
He waited and when she didn't offer anything more, said, "I am glad you came to the opera, Lady Hermione. Did you enjoy it?"
Ever so slightly, she nodded. He smiled, and out of the corner of her eye, she glanced at him quickly before refocusing on the door. Lord Malfoy never let her speak to men without his direct supervision-
"Do you sing?"
Her brow furrowed. "No."
"I just… I just don't, Master Riddle." She stiffened on finding him so close suddenly, a footstep away, an arm's width out of reach. "Master Riddle, please do not-"
"You should," he continued, condoning her plead. He stepped closer. She skittered a step back. "I could teach you, if you'd like."
Her head whipped up at this and she stared at him, eyes wide and disbelieving. No, Lord Malfoy would never agree…or would he? No, no, she should not even be considering this! This was improper. She should not be here, standing feet away from a young wizard while they were all alone in this dressing room, with not a chaperone or supervision of any sort anywhere in sight. If someone were to find out...
Well, the result would be catastrophic.
She darted a glance at the door – she could still hear her father speaking – Master Riddle saw her look, tauntingly saying, "Lord Malfoy would not object if you asked him, Lady Hermione. He never denies you."
She shook her head, hard.
"Why are you so quiet?"
"I... I do not commonly to speak to anyone other than close relatives outside of the manor, Master Riddle. If Lord Malfoy were to know of this, he would be quite disappointed in me," she admitted in such a hushed voice he had to lean in to hear her.
"Does Lord Malfoy forbid it?" Master Riddle inquired.
She gave him a wary look. "Yes. Which is why I ask you to leave me at this instant." And she pointed at the door he'd come in through, eyes pleading and soft through the mask she wore. But he did not pay her pleas mind. Voldemort felt smug that he had been able to entice the elusive Lady Hermione into attending his opera tonight, that she had not screamed at the sight of him stumbling in here like he half-expected, that she – the girl who never said a word - spoke to him face-to-face, that he was so close to seeing the beauty no eyes outside of the Malfoy line ever saw long enough to tell of.
Victory loomed ever closer.
"Would he forbid music lessons?" he ventured.
"Maybe not," Hermione said, fingering the pearl buttons on her glove nervously. "You have an excellent reputation, after all, and Lord Malfoy admires you very much."
She stared at him, confused. He saw her eyes were brown - and nothing of significance. "And I what, Master Riddle?"
He flashed a charming grin. "How do you feel about myself?"
"Oh." Her gaze wavered on his straight teeth before returning to her gloves. There was a flush creeping up her neck. "Well, I've read about you, Master Riddle. You are brilliant and the opera was wonderful..." Her words ended there, for she couldn't find it in her to go on. She'd never spoken to a boy her age that wasn't her short-tempered brother for such a substantial amount of time before, and she was not sure how to continue.
Hermione went stiff as a board when Master Riddle suddenly brushed his gloved thumb along the curve of her exposed cheek. The hands that wrote the music now roaring through her, that composed the songs and conducted the orchestra all throughout the show with a fine bone-white wand held delicately between fingers, now touched her like a feather.
And burned her hot like liquid silver.
"You mustn't do that," she gasped, yanking away and stealing to the opposite side of the room like a terrified mouse fleeing from a fearsome house cat. "Please, Master Riddle, keep your hands to yourself."
"I apologize. I did not mean to offend you-"
"Just leave, Master Riddle," she interrupted. "Please."
But he did not and instead looked on at her, trying to catch her gaze, continuing to stare even when she kept her own eyes determinedly on the door. Her long neck and the gentle slopes of her compressed breasts caught his eyes then - the only part of her that wasn't covered by silk and buttons.
"I will go," he finally said softly, "but only if you promise me to ask Lord Malfoy for music lessons."
"I... excuse me?"
"I will tutor you, if you'd like. I could come to the manor on the Hogwarts Express with Draco on certain nights to give you lessons."
"Y-you are far too bold, Master Riddle," she stammered.
"I am aware." He smirked at her, eyes glittering mischievously. She looked away. "Is there an instrument you would like to play, Lady Hermione?" he queried.
"I have always liked the piano," she said timidly. "And the viola."
"I can play both, and teach you, should you request it."
"Lord Malfoy will say no, Master Riddle."
"Then I'll just have to convince him to say yes," Master Riddle said with that same confident smirk hovering on his lips. It was a disarming sort of smile. "Persuasion is one of my many talents, luckily... but you must ask him first if this is to work."
She hesitated. "If I may ask, Master Riddle, why do you even want to teach me? Aren't you quite busy with…all of this?" And she gestured to the opera house around them, to the bustling aristocrats outside and what remained of the devoted audience, to the world, to life and all the never-ending complexities within it.
"Do not worry about me, Lady Hermione, I have my reasons." He, finally at the door, looked to her once more. "You will ask him," he repeated.
She sighed. "Very well, Master Riddle."
"Good." His dark eyes lowered to the hands she anxiously twisted, tingling now under his gaze. A shadow passed through them. "May I kiss you goodbye, Lady Hermione?"
No. No, most definitely not. Lord Malfoy would throw a fit at the mere thought of the mention of such a question and Hermione knew much better than to agree to it. She was smart, not stupid.
But... she was also a girl.
A curious girl.
And he was very handsome, admittedly.
"You may, Master Riddle," she whispered.
Master Riddle – the attractive, intelligent, devilishly handsome Master Riddle – held her eyes fast as he bent over her hand. His mouth brushed the back of her glove ever so lightly and her corset seemed to clench ever tighter around her ribcage, stealing more of her breath as soft lips caressed her covered knuckles back and forth. Like a bow stroking a violin's strings.
"You smell like roses," he observed, running his nose over her wrist and drawing a shocked gasp from her when he nudged back the fabric slightly. She pulled away, flustered.
"Well then," said Hermione with a small, nervous smile. "Goodnight, Master Riddle. Congratulations on your debut."
"Thank you." He was courteous. "Until next time, Lady Hermione."
And he left.
Hermione leaned against the door Master Riddle had gone through, clutching her screaming ribs and taking deep breaths. Dots fluttered across her vision from lack of oxygen. The memory of Tom Marvolo Riddle's dark eyes stained her mind like footprints in the snow. Haunted her as she attempted to recompose herself.
Then there was Satan, rearing his ugly head and grinning at her cockily from his station in the ninth circle. You're no different than Eve, are you, my dear? he drawled.
She deigned the inquiry undeserving of an answer.
AN: Fin... of the chapter. Thank you all for reading and please leave a review to tell me your thoughts. More characters and information on this little alternate universe are in the next update, so story alert DD if you want to read more. :)