The night was silent around the castle that was known by the Wizarding World as Hogwarts, save for the occasional cries from various animals. The light from candles shone through the windows of the school, flickering when someone walked between the source of brightness and the glass. As usual, the gates to the majestic building were closed to prevent strangers from entering and students from sneaking out.
Light breezes swept over the lawns, tickling the browning grass and drawing currents across the ominous lake in front of Hogwarts. The current of air rushed across the lake and over the Forbidden Forest, creating the image of a wave rippling across the dark sea of green. While the moon illuminated the grounds with a heavenly glow, secrets were being concealed by the tall trees and dark shadows of the forest.
A scream from somewhere deep within the forest rent the autumn air, silencing the nocturnal animals as they either sought out this new threat or hid from it. Even the wind seemed to stop in its motions, listening for any further disruptions to the peaceful hours of darkness.
A circle of people clad in black stood in the middle of the forest that was off-limits to students of the castle. Each face, though different in overall appearance, showed very similar expressions. The masks on their faces were made of indifference, hiding the fear beneath it.
Only two people within this group differed from the rest.
In the center of the circle, a dark-haired young man coldly held a spell over a young man with sandy blond hair. The expression on the dark-haired lad's face bordered on cruelty, unchanging even when beads of sweat broke out across the sandy blond's forehead. Agony was engraved in the latter's face. His mouth was wide open, emitting a silent shriek—he no longer had any strength to scream. After what seemed like an eternity, the curse was finally lifted from him.
"That's just an indication of what will happen the next time you show the inability to follow simple orders. Is that clear?" the dark-haired young man quietly asked the sandy blond that was currently groveling in the dirt of the forest floor.
"Y-yes, my Lord." The injured young man barely managed to nod his head because of the pain that was surging through his body.
"And that applies to you as well," the dark-haired young man said, glancing at the other people. A chorus of "Yes, my Lord" was muttered. Silence immediately followed, no one daring to talk without permission from their leader. Looking back at the man on the ground, a sneer appeared on his face, distorting the originally charming features. "Take him back to the castle."
Two people supported the injured young man, half dragging him towards the castle, while the others followed closely behind them.
The dark-haired young man watched until they had disappeared into the distance before he started to make his way back to the castle. The punishment would serve as an example for anyone who dared to neglect what he had dictated.
He was utterly pleased with what had happened tonight.
That was, before something extremely heavy fell on top of him as he was passing the lake. Despite the pain that shot through his body, he managed to hold in the scream, reducing it to a grunt.
To say that Tom Marvolo Riddle was angry would be the biggest understatement of the year.
October 1, 1944.
The moonlight shone through the window, competing with the light of the candles in brightness. It was a never-ending battle between the silver and the gold, much like the competition between the House of Slytherin and the House of Gryffindor within the castle walls of Hogwarts.
Most of the students were comfortably within their dorms, studying or chatting, as the time for slumber drew nearer. Others, in contrast, had more "important" things on their minds.
"Out! The lot of you! Out!" the school nurse, Madam Pomfrey, commanded as she glared at the group of people who were currently huddled around the infirmary bed. In her opinion, not only was the group nearly suffocating the injured man, they were also disrupting the peaceful climate that was necessary for patients. When they continued to hesitate, she added with a hint of exasperation, "Honestly, a few broken bones are not the end of the world. Mr. Riddle will be perfectly fine in the morning, but for now he needs rest!"
The aforementioned man, currently propped up by a few well-placed pillows, signaled with his eyes for his followers to leave.
"We'll gather as much information as possible, Tom. Don't worry," a young man with blond hair reassured him.
Tom gave a stiff nod before the group left the room, leaving their Lord to the care of the school nurse.
He narrowed his eyes as he thought about the "attackers," as his Knights had so "affectionately" dubbed them. Apparently, they were not students of the school since he knew most, if not all, of the people in Hogwarts already. Not to mention that most students did not randomly fall out of the skies.
"—sure that he wouldn't mind," a voice said as the door to the Infirmary was pushed open and a group of people entered the room. It was Headmaster Dippet, Professor Dumbledore, and the four people who had fallen on top of him. "Ah, Tom! You're still awake."
Madam Pomfrey made a noise of annoyance in the background when she saw another group barging into the room. She bit the insides of her cheeks, attempting to hold back whatever comments she had on her mind when she saw that one of the "visitors" was the Headmaster of the school. Nevertheless, that fact did not dissolve the infuriated expression on her face. In fact, she seemed even more incensed by the fact that even the figures of authority in the school were disregarding the health of the patients. In the end, she went into her office, completely irritated.
"Good evening, Professor Dippet. I would've been delighted to have drifted off to the blessed world of sleep, but unfortunately, the pains are still keeping me awake," Tom answered with a charming smile on his face. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed the exchanged glances between three of the newcomers.
"Yes, yes. I could only imagine how much it would hurt," Dippet said with a sympathizing look on his face. "Nevertheless, the four new students to the school would like to ask for your forgiveness. They were trying to escape from the war via Portkey travel, and apparently, they had not anticipated that someone would be right next to the lake."
"Is that so?" Tom questioned as his dark eyes slid over to the four people who had just offered nearly inaudible apologies and were now baring their teeth in obviously-forced smiles. Interesting. "Apologies accepted."
"There! Didn't I tell you that our Head Boy here is ever the gentleman? There was no point in being scared that he would not forgive you," Dippet bubbled on. "Now, Tom, there's no worries about schoolwork; we all know that you will catch up in no time."
"Yes, Professor Dippet. I am still worried about the Transfiguration essay that needs to be handed in on Wednesday though," Tom replied as he glanced at Dumbledore. The latter scrutinized him over the half-moon spectacles for a few seconds before he answered him.
"From your previous work, I could only assume that staying in the Hospital Wing for merely one day would not have any significant effect on your essay. However, if it would lighten your heart, you may hand in the work on Thursday."
"Thank you, Professor," Tom said inclining his head slightly as a sign of appreciation. Although Tom knew that Dumbledore was not particularly fond of him, it would do well not to get on the older wizard's bad side for the moment.
By this time, the school nurse could not stand it any longer. She stormed out of her office and glared at the group of non-patients crowded around Tom's bed with the look of a mother hen protecting her chicks.
"Enough chatting! Now would you people let Mr. Riddle rest already?" Madam Pomfrey said so angrily that Dippet looked mildly scared of her.
"Our apologies, Madam Pomfrey," Dumbledore replied. "We shall leave at once to allow Mr. Riddle and the rest of your patients to rest."
The group of six left the room, leaving Tom to think. He continued to stare at the door, as if the four newcomers were still there. Madam Pomfrey continued to bustle around the room while muttering about "the harsh curriculum of the school that burdens students even while they are hurt."
He did not believe a word they had said. It was obvious that the "Portkey accident" was just some sort of cover up story for the true reason they were there. The acting skills of the four strangers were terrible beyond belief. Any intelligent being would have noticed that there was something wrong with them.
Of course, Dippet would be daft enough to believe in any story Dumbledore promoted. The true mystery was why would Dumbledore go along with the story? Unless Dumbledore was the one behind this.
A person would have to be stupid to not realize that the Transfiguration professor harbored no good feelings for Tom. All of the other professors at Hogwarts were charmed by him since day one. Dumbledore, on the other hand, never trusted him and was always keeping an eye on him. It was as if the older wizard knew what he was secretly planning.
Dumbledore became even more meddlesome after Myrtle's death. It was particularly satisfying for Tom when he got rid of that oaf Hagrid, who had always been a favorite of the Head of Gryffindor House, even if it meant that the Slytherin had to suffer from additional scrutiny from the older wizard.
Tom smirked. He had no intentions of confessing what his true objectives were, nor did he believe that he would be punished for his evil deeds. Having four random children fall on top of him and nearly kill him would not change those facts. If that were what Dumbledore was planning, senility must be settling in on him.
Perhaps that would mean that the annoying wizard would be six feet under a lot earlier than he could have hoped for, Tom thought gleefully.
No matter. As long as the foolish Headmaster believed him, Dumbledore could not do anything to him.
His Knights would eventually find information about his attackers. If they were truly on Dumbledore's side, then he would probably have no choice but to eliminate them. If they were not, then Lord Voldemort could perhaps be the merciful man that he was, and ignore their presence.
A Muggle cuckoo clock hung over the door of Dumbledore's office. Piles of books and parchments were scattered around the room. Even if he wanted to organize the books, it would be impossible—the bookshelves were already overflowing with texts.
Silver instruments were set arbitrarily around the room, reflecting the moonlight and candlelight, and thus casting a hazy, dream-like glow around the room.
"I believe that I am in need of some explanation from the four of you," Dumbledore said, eying them quietly.
To say that they were strange would be an understatement. Although the weather had already turned cooler, they were wearing clothing that would have been more suitable for winter rather than autumn. The style of their clothing was exceedingly strange, though the blond's clothing looked a bit closer to what the professor was used to seeing. The other three, however ... not even the Muggle-borns wore clothing like theirs. Not only were they dressed in jumpers and jeans—which were very surprising to see on the two young women—they also wore very odd-looking boots. They appeared very much out of place and out of time.
Three of the four people looked at one another before the young lady with bushy brown hair stepped forward nervously. The other person, who stood away from the other three, looked bored and angry at the situation he was in.
"Professor Dumbledore, I—I know that it might sound unbelievable and absurd, but I hope that you would believe us," the young lady implored as she looked at Dumbledore with pleading eyes.
"Many things might be unbelievable and absurd but at the same time true," he replied. "Before we delve into details, perhaps I might have the pleasure of learning your names?"
"My name is Hermione Granger," said the young lady.
Dumbledore had to watch the last one for a period of time before he muttered reluctantly, "Draco Malfoy."
Hermione then continued, after they had finished introducing themselves, "Well … it seems that we have traveled through time and somehow landed here."
"So you are from the future?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes," she answered.
"I see," he said. He looked at them with his signature piercing look. "How, if I might ask?"
Hermione immediately realized that Dumbledore suspected that they had time traveled through illegal measures and quickly opened her mouth to explain.
"Well, apparently, Potter here has to be the hero every day!" Draco snarled suddenly, successfully stopping Hermione from explaining anything. His grey eyes flashed angrily as he glared at his former archenemy.
"Well, apparently, ferrets don't know how to be courteous to someone who saved their lives," Harry roared right back, while Ginny, who was standing between them, covered her ears to prevent them from breaking her eardrums.
"I would've been a lot more grateful if Golden Boy hadn't stupidly pulled us into this mess!" Draco sneered, crossing his arms across his chest.
"Me? How is this my fault? I wasn't the one lurking around in Knockturn Alley!" Harry retorted, rolling his hands up into fists.
"Oh, wow! Someone's walking around Knockturn Alley. Why don't we capture all of the people who live there and throw them into Azkaban," Draco mocked.
"Would you two be quiet already?" Hermione hissed at them. The two boys glared at one another before turning their heads to look at opposite directions. She then turned back to look at Dumbledore, who was now looking at the group with an amused look on his face. "Sorry, Professor."
"It's quite alright," Dumbledore answered, his gaze on the time travelers considerably warmer than before. There was a short period of silence before Dumbledore asked, "Do you have any ideas about how you were transported back in time? I'm assuming that you did not do this deliberately."
"We did not do this deliberately, no," Hermione answered, shaking her head. "As Malfoy said, we followed him into Knockturn Alley …"
December 20, 1998
"Ron is such a child sometimes," Hermione grumbled. "Why can't he accept the fact that Ginny has grown up already? And running off to the Quidditch store just because he can't win an argument, honestly."
The cold wind blew relentlessly at them, disheveling their already-messy hair. Flurries of snow fell from the skies, as if someone was standing in the clouds and sprinkling salt down on them. Daggers of ice hung from the rims of the stores' roofs of Diagon Alley. The streets and rooftops were piled with layers of snow, creating a pure white wonderland.
Shoppers were scarce, since most people had already done their Christmas shopping before the snowstorm threatened to move in. Occasionally, a wizard or witch would bustle past them, but they could hardly tell if they recognized one another or not, since everyone was bundled up to protect themselves from the coldness that had settled over the usually busy streets.
"You'll have to get used to it, Hermione," Harry commented with a grin on his face, "since you will probably have to put up with it for the rest of your life."
Hermione sniffed and tilted her head upwards. "I never said that I would be marrying him for sure," she said nonchalantly. "I'm keeping my options open."
"We didn't say anything about getting married," Ginny said, giggling when a furious blush appeared on Hermione's face.
Harry chuckled. "There's no way I'm going to marry Ron, but I will still have to put up with him as well," he added mischievously.
"Oh be quiet, you two," Hermione huffed. She pulled her cloak closer and walked slightly ahead of the couple who were immersed in silent giggles, thoroughly annoyed. She stopped in her tracks when she caught a glimpse of familiarity. "Isn't that Malfoy?" Harry and Ginny stopped their giggles and looked where Hermione was looking.
"It's him," Harry confirmed while narrowing his eyes at the person not too far away from them. Although the young man's face was covered up, the hat on top of his head did not completely hide the telltale signs of white-blond hair. "What's he doing?"
"It's none of our business, Harry," Hermione said slowly.
Harry nodded but kept his eyes on his former nemesis, who walked swiftly into another alley. "He's going into Knockturn Alley."
"Harry," Hermione warned. She now regretted her decision in alerting them about the presence of the Slytherin.
"I know, I know," Harry said, waving a hand in an attempt to stop her from worrying. The purpose was completely defeated by his next words. "But it wouldn't do any harm if we just go see what he's doing, right?" He then hurried towards the direction of Knockturn Alley with Ginny trailing behind him before Hermione had any time to react.
She stared at him, stunned.
"Harry!" she angrily called out, following right behind him.