Author's Note: I'm not entirely happy with this chapter because I wrote it in a bit of a rush, but I hadn't updated in a while so I thought I'd just post it anyway. Thanks for reading!
Once Upon Another Time
More than two weeks had passed, and Tom Riddle's initial curiosity in Hermione and Draco had waned. It seemed that he had come to the conclusion that they were just two typical blood elitists, just like the rest of the Slytherins. Hermione was very relived, as it was much easier to pretend to be Hermione Fawley when the future Lord Voldemort wasn't eyeing her every move. The more she integrated with the Slytherins, the more lost she felt. But every night she still dreamt of Harry and Ron, and her parents, and summers at the Burrow…
Draco sat down abruptly next to her at the Slytherin table, which dragged her out of her deep thoughts.
"Dumbledore wants to meet us in his office tonight after dinner. I'm guessing he wants a progress report," Draco said. He was dressed in his Quidditch uniform. Having successfully impressed the Slytherin team during the try-outs last week, he was offered the Seeker position almost immediately.
"We haven't exactly made any progress..." Hermione sighed. She absentmindedly twirled a spoon around in her cup of tea.
"Last night, Riddle and his gang were all missing for an hour. They were probably having one of their little meetings. Something tells me they used to hold them in the dormitory, but since I came in they've had to find a new location," Draco informed her.
"You need to get into those meetings."
"That's easier said than done, Granger," he said. "They won't invite me to anything until they are comfortable with me. Trust doesn't come easily to us Slytherins."
"Maybe we should just follow them," she suggested.
"Are you daft, Granger?" Draco scoffed. "Riddle will catch us."
"Not if we have an invisibility cloak."
"You have an invisibility cloak?"
"Well then, that was a useless suggestion," he said bitingly. "I'm going now, I'm late for Quidditch practice."
He got up and left the Great Hall, leaving her sitting alone again. As it was still very early in the morning, there were only a handful of people there having breakfast. Hermione always woke up early so she could eat alone in peace, instead of listening to the other Slytherin girls' incessant gossiping. Hermione continued to nibble on her toast for a bit but then decided she wasn't hungry anymore, so she abandoned her breakfast and decided to go to the library instead. She was turning a corner on the third floor when she suddenly bumped into something very hard.
"Ow!" she yelped as she fell very ungracefully on her bottom.
It was Sebastian Potter.
"Oh, it's you," Sebastian said.
"Yes, it's me." Hermione got up and brushed the dust off her robes.
"I'm sorry about my behaviour the other day, it was unacceptable—"
"It's alright, really," she said.
He seemed confused. "But I called you slimy."
"I think that adjective comes with being a Slytherin," she laughed. He stared at her for a long moment before smiling.
"You aren't like the other Slytherins."
"I'm not?" her face fell and her heart skipped a beat. Oh no, was she that bad of an actor?
"No, no, I meant that in a good way," he clarified when he saw how she had reacted to his words.
"Oh, right," she said. "How am I different, though?"
"For one, you're actually pretty," he said, and his face turned a bit red instantly. "Wait, I wasn't supposed to say that out loud."
Hermione couldn't help but let out a small laugh. It was the first truly genuine laugh she had let out since she had landed in the past.
"Well, thank you anyway," Hermione said shyly, still smiling.
"I don't think I've introduced myself properly." Sebastian extended his hand. "Sebastian Potter."
"Hermione Fawley," she said as she shook it. His hand felt rough and calloused, the same way Harry's and Viktor Krum's, and even Ginny's, did. It was a common trait amongst all Quidditch players.
"It's nice to meet you, Hermione."
"You too, Sebastian."
"I have to run, but I'll see you around?" Sebastian said hopefully.
"Sure." Hermione nodded.
After he left, Hermione was reminded that she was supposed to be a snooty Slytherin, and snooty Slytherins certainly did not mix with Gryffindors, even if they were possibly related to their not-yet-born future best friend.
After dinner had ended, Draco and Hermione excused themselves and made their way to Professor Dumbledore's office. Hermione knew exactly where it was located because it was the same office that Professor McGonagall, as a Transfiguration professor, would occupy in the future. She knocked on the door lightly, and Dumbledore called for them to enter.
"Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy, please have a seat," Dumbledore said from behind his desk. His desk was littered with essays, which he appeared to be in the middle of marking.
"Professor, I'm afraid we don't have much to tell you. Tom Riddle isn't exactly the most open person in the world," Hermione explained as she sat down.
"That is not why I called you both here," he said. "Were either of you aware that Mr. Riddle was conceived under the influence of a love potion?"
"Yes, we know, that's why he is incapable of love."
"Ahh, Miss Granger, that is a common misconception. The curse will not take full effect until he becomes an adult."
"Do you mean…"
"Yes, Miss Granger." Dumbledore nodded. "If Tom Riddle falls in love before his eighteenth birthday, the curse will be broken. However, if he fails to do so, the curse will be complete and become permanently unbreakable."
"So if the curse is broken, he won't become Lord Voldemort?" Draco inquired.
"Well, that depends on Mr. Riddle himself. The curse is currently concealing his true self, but even somebody who is not cursed is capable of doing evil if they so wish it."
"That's the solution then! He has to fall in love!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Miss Granger, it's much more difficult than it sounds. The curse has made it considerably harder, almost impossible in fact, for him to feel any kind of love towards another. It has numbed his emotions. And if he has already ripped his soul apart by creating two Horcruxes, as you so believe, then it will make it almost impossible," Dumbledore said.
"But not impossible."
"Who is he supposed to fall in love with, exactly?" Draco asked.
"It has to be Miss Granger," Dumbledore stated.
"Me?" Hermione blinked. The thought of it made her sick to her stomach.
"Professor, you honestly think Riddle is going to fall for Muggle-born Granger?" Draco let out an insulting laugh that made Hermione glare at him.
"Mr. Malfoy, I think you are forgetting that in Tom Riddle's eyes, Hermione is a Slytherin from one of the most prominent Pureblood families in the world," the older wizard reminded him.
"He's right, Malfoy. It has to be me. How are we supposed to have control of anything that happens if we try to play matchmaker?" Hermione said. Draco still seemed unconvinced with the idea but didn't argue with her, which she took a good sign.
"Are you sure this a mission you wish to undertake, Miss Granger?"
"Professor, I have seen a lot of miracles in my lifetime, and this could yet be another one," Hermione said, her voice full of determination. She was willing to try anything that could prevent Voldemort from coming to power. "First we need to find and destroy his Horcruxes without him knowing, or our chances of succeeding will be slim to none."
"Alright, so there is the diary and the ring. I've never seen Riddle with his diary before, but he wears his ring all the time," Draco said. "How are we supposed to destroy them?"
"Well, the only way I know how is to use basilisk venom," Hermione said.
"You mean the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets?"
"So it is true then, just as I suspected. It was a basilisk that killed Myrtle," Dumbledore said.
"Yes, Professor," Hermione confirmed. "Salazar Slytherin's basilisk, which only Tom Riddle, the heir of Slytherin, could control."
"And he framed poor Hagrid," Dumbledore said solemnly. The mention of Hagrid's name made Hermione feel even more homesick. She missed the after-curfew trips to his hut with Harry and Ron, the advice he used to give them as he offered them tea and those horrible rock cakes that he always insisted were edible.
"We need to go into the chamber and—"
"That is far too dangerous for me to allow, Miss Granger," Dumbledore interrupted. "Unlocking the Chamber of Secrets could result in more deaths, including your own."
Secretly, Hermione felt a small sense of relief that Dumbledore had turned down her idea. She had been petrified by the same basilisk before, and was not looking forward to another encounter with it. "Well, we'll need to get basilisk venom from another source, then. Professor, I don't suppose you have access to any?"
"I'm afraid not. However, there is another method to destroy Horcruxes that I happen to be aware of. Fiendfyre."
"Fiendfyre? Even Granger and I combined wouldn't be able to control it," Draco said.
"But I would." Dumbledore smiled. "When you obtain a Horcrux, you can bring it to me and I will destroy it."
The three spent a few more minutes discussing their plan before Draco and Hermione left to return to the Slytherin common room.
"How the bloody hell are we supposed to get a hold of his ring? He doesn't even take it off when he sleeps!" Draco muttered as they walked through an empty corridor.
"Yes, that'll be difficult." Hermione frowned. "Let's just concentrate on finding out where he hides his diary, first. "
"Could we replace it with a duplicate?"
"I'm not sure it's even possible to duplicate a Horcrux," Hermione said. "Wait, I've seen the diary before, when Ginny had it. And I'm sure you've seen it as well, seeing as Voldemort gave it to your father. We both know what it looks like."
"So?" Draco raised an eyebrow.
"So, I think we can safely assume that Riddle didn't construct the diary himself. He must have bought it at a shop."
Draco finally caught up with her train of thought. "We just need to find the shop and buy the same diary."
"How are we supposed to do that? He could have bought it anywhere."
"Considering the fact he used Moaning Myrtle's death to create the Horcrux, which happened during the school year, I'm willing to bet that he bought the diary during a weekend trip to Hogsmeade."
"Yes, you're probably right," Draco conceded.
"What's that?" Hermione let out a melodramatic gasp. "Did you just admit that I was right?"
"Oh, shut it, Granger," the formerly blond boy snarled.
When they entered the common room, they found many of the Seventh Years lounging around on the sofas.
"There you two are!" Felix cried out. "Where did you go off to?"
"I was just helping my dear sister with some charms she wanted to practise." Draco said. "She's not the best when it comes to academics."
The boys laughed at Draco's remark, but Hermione was almost disappointed to find that Tom Riddle was not one of them. He did not seem to have even noticed her presence in the room. He was sitting on an armchair by the fire, his attention completely on the book he was reading. After the meeting with Dumbledore, she immediately regretted that she had spent all her time so far trying to get Tom Riddle to overlook her. Now that he had, who knew how difficult it would be to pique his interest again?
"Hey!" Hermione gave her fake brother a light punch on the shoulder. Obviously Draco was just acting, but it still didn't feel good to have her intelligence insulted.
"Nevermind these boys, Hermione." Paloma took Hermione's arm and dragged her towards the stairs leading to their dormitory. "Let's go upstairs, the girls are trying on some new makeup that Claudia's mum sent her!"
Hermione put on a fake show of enthusiasm as always, but was surprised to find that a part of her was relieved that she would be spending the night with the girls. Tomorrow, she would have to start her mission.