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She should have been sad. She should have been the shoulder Harry Potter cried on. Instead, she sat on the cold marble floor and caressed the gold and glass instrument sitting in her pocket, entwining her fingers in the delicate chain. “Soon, Tom. We’ll finally be together,” she muttered under her breath. The fact she saw the grotesque form he became just hours before didn’t deter her mission. If I bring him back to the present, he’ll never become Voldemort. I’ll bring him to my family. He’ll be loved. Or...I stay with him. I can save everyone…

“Ginny?” Luna could see her friend lost in thought. The adrenaline had drained from their bodies, and the reality of the battle was finally sinking in. “The aurors are done interviewing us. It’s time to head back to school. They’re opening up a floo to the headmaster’s office.” She pointed toward the rest of their friends, including a sobbing Harry, Hermione, Lupin, and Tonks. Ron and Neville remained stoic, despite grief hanging in the air.

The flame-haired girl found solace in Luna’s kind yet wizened eyes. They were the eyes of a very old soul; one way beyond her years. Suddenly remembering how they got there, Ginny implored, “The thestrals?”

“Already flying home. Come on.” Lovegood extended her hand and helped Ginny off the floor.

As the girls walked over to their friends, Harry gave them both a nod while his fingers entwined with Hermione’s. Her head rested on his shoulder as Ron placed a comforting grasp on the other shoulder. Ginny swallowed knowing that no matter how hard she tried, she would never be part of their sacred trinity, she would never have Harry’s heart. But it didn’t matter. He could never have hers either.

—xoxox—

The next day, the school was abuzz with the news of the battle. The unlikely heroes desperately tried to evade the attention, especially with them also mourning the loss of Sirius Black. The only upside, he was posthumously exonerated in that slanderous rag, The Daily Prophet.

Breakfast proved impossible to get through without murmurs and whispers. Some students paid their respects to Harry Potter, and other members of Dumbledore’s Army congratulated the Gryffindors and Ravenclaw on their exposure of the Dark Lord’s resurrection and capture of Death Eaters. Though, not everyone wanted to share in the revelry. Murderous stares from the Slytherin table pierced like daggers, making it known that the war had just begun. While her brother and his compatriots could take the verbal, physical, and emotional abuse, she had her limits. The youngest Weasley slipped her hand into her pocket and discreetly pulled out the magical object. The cold metal and glass against her hand were soothing to her nerves. It reminded her how close she was to their reunion.

“Guys, I’m not feeling well. I uh—have a headache,” she excused herself from the group. “I’m going to see Madame Pomfrey. Make sure it isn’t related to last night.”

“Gin, you want me to go with you?” Ron asked, protective of his sister.

She slipped her cherished belonging back into her pocket and replied, “No. I’ll be fine.” She packed her things and hurried out of the Great Hall.

—xoxox—

Unbeknownst to Ginny, the gleam of the golden object reflected into Hermione’s eye, catching her attention immediately. A time-turner! Why would she have a time-turner? Hermione thought. “Harry. Ron. I’m going to check on her,” Hermione said with a concerned tone.

“Thanks ‘Mione,” Ron clapped her on the shoulder. To be honest, he felt his little sister slipping away and becoming more of ‘a girl,’ and it bothered him. He constantly tripped over his words. No matter how hard he tried, he never managed to say the right thing.

“Just let us know if she’s okay,” Harry added, his voice flat and pained.

Hermione nodded and took after Ginny as fast as her feet could carry her. She couldn’t have gotten that far. In the distance, Hermione spotted Ginny’s long ginger locks. Such identifiable features were appreciated in instances like these. “Gin! Wait!”

With a sharp intake of breath, Ginny knew it was now or never. Hermione would try to stop her, report her to Dumbledore or try to destroy the time-turner. She threw the chain around her neck and spun the hourglass charm.

Hermione ran, even faster than before to catch up with Ginny before it was too late. The faster she ran, the more slippery her shoes felt; the uniform-mandated, flat-bottomed mary janes weren’t ideal for a sprint. She found herself skidding out of control and crashing into Ginny, but it was too late. The world around them began to change—morphing and shifting around them and sending them back— way back . Further back than Hermione ever traveled in her third year.

—xoxox—

The world around them stopped.

Hermione! Why did you grab onto me?” Ginny gritted her teeth furiously. She began to grasp for the chain and realized something was terribly wrong. “You broke it!”

The curly-haired witch’s heart started racing as she picked the broken chain and shattered hourglass off the stone floor. “ Reparo.” Nothing. She tried again. And again. Hermione should have known the magic that held the time-turner together was more sophisticated than a simple piece of glass. She had to think. She had to find a way home. “Ginny. When are we?”

“Nineteen forty-three.”

Nineteen forty-three? Why would we...NO! Ginevra! We are not here because—”

“Yes. I am. You shouldn’t be here. I’m going to find him,” she stormed off.

“Ginny wait!” Hermione grabbed her by the front of her robes and pushed her against the stone wall. Attempting to remain calm despite her sheer panic, she said, “We are in nineteen forty-three. I’ve never traveled further back than a few hours. We don’t know anyone here. We don’t know if he’s released the basilisk yet. We can alter the present—maybe even erase ourselves from existence. We must to go back!”

“No, Hermione. He’s all I’ve been able to think about for four years . This is my chance for us to finally be together,” as if fate was hearing her call, the handsome, dark-haired prefect walked past them. Ginny broke from Hermione’s hold and ran to him. “Tom. It’s me. Ginny. I’m older now.” Her heart was pounding so hard she felt it in her ears. Finally, the man who had plagued her dreams since she was a young girl was before her, in the flesh. Now fourteen, almost fifteen, maybe he would see her as more than just the whiny, little girl writing in a diary.

The sixteen-year-old boy looked at the red-haired witch in confusion; her words made no sense. She was wearing a Gryffindor uniform, but it seemed... different . Tom possessed a photographic memory and knew almost every student at this school. This girl looked familiar, maybe she was a Prewett or a Weasley, but something was off. “I’m sorry. What did you say? Curfew is soon. Shouldn’t you be getting back to Gryffindor Tower?”

“Tom. Please. It’s me. Don’t you recognize me? Ginny. Ginny Weasley. From the diary—”

“What did you say?” The casual authoritative nature snapped into something more sinister.

At that moment, the older girl with wild chestnut brown curls emerged from her hiding place and grabbed the other girl by the arm.

Tom’s eyes flicked to Hermione and found the intensity on her face mesmerizing. He most definitely didn’t recognize her.

Hermione and Ginny were now face-to-face. “I told you. This isn’t him. The Tom you know is a memory, a manifestation magicked into a diary. He doesn’t know you. We need to leave.”

A diary. How do they know? He asked himself. Terrified his secret would be revealed he grabbed both girls and pulled them into a corner. “Who are you and how do you know about my diary?”

The dark, inflection of his tone caused both of the witches eyes to widen slightly, but Tom couldn’t afford to allow smugness to cross his face. Any other occasion, he would relish in the fact he made such impact by his mere presence. Yet, after hearing his diary mentioned, it rattled him to the core, and he could feel this calculated efforts being threatened.

Hermione willed all her Gryffindor courage and spat. “None of your concern. Let us go and we won’t tell anyone of your cursed book.”

His eyebrows furrowed. They knew. Somehow…

“Tom,” Ginny said sweetly, adoringly. “We know each other. Maybe not you. But a part of you. We had a...connection. I still feel it between us now.”

“Ginny,” Hermione pleaded sternly. “We can’t say anything. We’ll jeopardize—”

“No!” She insisted. “Don’t you see, Hermione. We won’t jeopardize anything. We’ll prevent it all. I can save him.”

Tom Marvolo Riddle was no idiot. He could read between the lines. Listening intently, he held back what he wanted to say—the foolish girls were telling him all he needed to know.

Hermione scoffed. “Don’t be an idiot. We can’t save him. We need to get out of here.” The hairs on Hermione’s neck began to stand on end as she felt the future Lord Voldemort observe them. Cursing herself, she knew they had revealed too much. Sighing in defeat, she whispered, “you’ve figured us out.”

A knowing smile grew across his face. “Not everything. I don’t know your name, but I know you’re not of my time and you’ve seen my diary.” Contemplatively, he looked at both girls. The nameless one, bore an adamant look. She had quickly learned her lesson and wouldn’t be divulging any more information unless necessary. He turned back to the red-haired one. “And if you’ve seen my diary, I must have failed at some point.” He looked down with disappointment. His eyes flicked up to hers. “When are you from, Ginny ?”

The sultry, manipulative tone Tom took with Ginny made Hermione want to reach for his throat and throttle him. Forget magic. She couldn’t stand for this type of baiting and grooming. She wanted to take him down the muggle way.

“Nineteen ninety-six.” The words tumbled from Ginny’s lips with ease. Her heart raced as she could finally see him in the flesh. Needing to feel him under her fingertips, her hand slowly moved to cup his face. His skin was smooth, no spots, with only a few stubbly whiskers. He was even more beautiful than she remembered. “You’re real. And I’m here...With you.”

Tom carefully removed her hand and took it in his. He couldn’t reciprocate the feelings she had for him, but this girl was the key to unlocking his future. It wasn’t every day an opportunity like this came along. “I am real.” He turned to the other girl and said calmly, almost sweetly, “Please, come with me. We’ll talk, and I’ll find a way to get you back to your time.”

“No,” the brunette witch protested. “I don’t trust you. We—we could go to Dumbledore. He can help us.”

He laughed in amusement. “He’s not here. He was called away by the Ministry and Scamander. They’re off chasing Grindelwald.”

Hermione did the math in her head and did her best to recall modern magical history. Tom wasn’t lying. It would be another two years before Dumbledore would defeat Grindelwald. Not only that, they were in the midst of World War II. Hermione couldn’t imagine a worse time for Ginny to take them back to. Hermione swallowed as she tried to form something intelligent to say.

Letting go of Ginny’s hand, he turned his attention to Hermione and pushed an errant curl out of her face. Tom saw her chest still as he touched her and it brought another smile to his face. “I can practically see the gears whirling in your head. You’re a thinker, like me. You see all the pieces, don’t you?”

Ginny didn’t like the way Tom was looking at Hermione—inspecting her, memorizing her. His facial expressions fluctuated from apprehension and discontent to joyful curiosity. She rubbed the back of her hand against his, hoping to garner his attention. “Tom. Don’t mind Hermione. If she wants to go back, let her. We’ll figure it out, send her on her way, and we’ll be together.”

The Heir of Slytherin did his best to suppress his disgust. The way the girl was practically throwing herself at him. It was pathetic. She was a follower, and he knew exactly what to do with followers—use them for information, give them tasks, and dispose of them when he was done. Which he would do with Ginny in due time. Despite all the jarring information he had just received and the daunting task ahead, he turned on the charm and brought his attention back to Hermione. “Hermione? As in Winter’s Tale or the daughter of Helen?”

Hermione’s breathing was shallow and irregular. She had known fear, but this predation was something new. No one had ever picked up on the origins of her name before. Never even asked. Every fiber of her being told her that this was all part of his game. He was trying to garner her trust. Her words betrayed her as she uttered the name, “Shakespeare.”

“Beautiful,” the word dripping with honey. From the corner of his eye, he could see Ginny growing intensely jealous; not that he cared. He glanced down at the battered old watch on his wrist. “Ladies, the hour is late, and it’s a wonder that we haven’t been approached by any other prefects. I need to hide you.”

The girls gave each other a war of glares. Ginny stared icily, silently insisting they go, while the burning flames of hope and resistance flickered in Hermione’s irises. At an impasse, Hermione cautiously conceded. “Fine.”

Riddle’s coy smile brightened in the minor victory. Slyly he wedged himself between the two Gryffindors and placed his palms on the smalls of their backs urging them to move forward with him.

The girls' reaction by being touched by the handsome young man couldn’t be more different. One seemed to melt under his touch and allowed herself to wrap around his finger. The other tensed and jumped forward, away from Riddle’s grasp.

“Don’t touch me,” Hermione hissed through gritted teeth. “I can walk on my own.”

Tom couldn’t take the hint and snaked his arm around her waist and grabbed her tighter. As she wriggled to free herself, he whispered in her ear, “My dear, you will remain very close to me until we figure this out. Are we clear?”

“I’m sure you won’t want to touch me once I tell you I’m muggle-born,” she replied hotly as he dragged her down the hallway.

Without missing a beat, he replied, “Whatever gave you that impression?” He continued ushering the girls quickly, directing them to climb a flight of stairs.

Indignantly, Hermione remained silent as they traversed through the castle. Upon reaching the seventh floor, it didn’t take long for her to realize where he had been leading them. “The Room of Requirement.”

“You’re a bright one, aren’t you?” He smiled in surprise.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “If you mean an attention-seeking, know-it-all swot, yeah.”

Tom tisked, “Ginny, jealousy and belittling one’s talents aren’t attractive traits.”

The witch’s mouth dropped. She was overcome with shame and embarrassment. The last thing she wanted was to lose him just as she had gotten him back.

Hermione didn’t know if she should defend Ginny or slap her. They had always been close, but something truly dangerous had taken hold. All Hermione could do at this moment was to be cautious, around both of them. Riddle’s agenda seemed to be changing with every passing moment. He was impossible to read. His charisma masked whatever devious plot was forming in his mind. And the way he looked at her. She was torn between disgust and the need to pour out her soul.

Tom ran his fingers along the stone wall. “I need a safe, comfortable place to hide Hermione and Ginny.” He walked past two more times, and a door appeared. Gesturing for the girls to step in, they did.

The Room’s magic was one that Hermione trusted and sighed in relief that this was where they would plan their next move. Once through the door, they found a comfortable seating area with a coffee table and books, a roaring fireplace, a wardrobe full of 1940s attire including school robes, two beds, and a door, which led undoubtedly, to a bathroom.

As Tom walked through the door, he cast a charm which the girls assumed would prevent anyone else from getting in. He then strode over and plopped himself down on the sofa and motioned the girls to take the seat across from him. While Hermione obliged, Ginny sat right beside him and attempted to take his hand. He yanked it away and shot her a disdainful look. “Move,” he commanded. The time to be sweet and charming had passed. He had them where he wanted them, and they would answer his questions.  

“I—I’m sorry, Tom. I—” Ginny stuttered, but Tom wasn’t in the mood for her apologies.

Hermione gulped as she felt the tension in the air build. For the first time since arriving, she attempted to remove her wand from her sleeve.

Accio!”  Tom’s spell brought both of the girls’ wands to him. “No. We will have a civilized conversation. No need for magic right now.”

“Of course,” Hermione gritted. “You have all the power.”

“Not so. I have all the wands. Right now you have it all. Knowledge is Power, isn’t it, Hermione?” He intoned. “I’ll start with the questions—”

“But you could change—” Hermione protested.

“SILENCE!” His voice boomed with impatience. Tom smoothed his hair back with both hands trying to steady himself. Exasperatedly, he continued. “Hermione, I understand you will be resistant to answer my questions. You will answer them... or else ...”

“Or else what?” She stood and spread her arms wide, inviting his attack. “My friends and I have already faced you once. I’m not afraid of you, Voldemort.

Ginny’s mouth gaped in horror at the name. While she didn’t fear Tom, she did fear the man he would become. “Hermione, don’t—”

Stupefy! ” A beam of red hit Ginny squarely in the chest and rendered her unconscious.

Hermione gasped and stumbled back in her seat in shock and horror. She knew the stunning charm wasn’t powerful enough to kill Ginny, but it was still uncalled for.

Riddle cast a charm and floated Ginny’s body to one of the empty beds. Coolly, he insisted, “Now. Our chat.”

Hermione had no other choice but to comply if she wanted to keep both of them safe. Ginny’s dark obsession had landed them into the hands of a madman. While Hermione and Tom were technically both sixteen, and considered the brightest of their ages, he was formidable. It wasn’t just his knowledge; it was the execution in which he employed his spell work. Hermione was rubbish at wandless magic. All she had left was instinct and intellect.  

The following conversation proceeded with both parties exercising extreme caution and attempting to outwit each other with a volley of wordplay.

“When—in what year was did Ginny begin communicating with my diary?”

“In my second year.”

“Did Ginny accomplish any of my tasks?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Did anyone die?”

Hermione couldn’t hide her smile, “ Something died.”

Tom’s eyebrows narrowed understanding her not-so-subtle nod. “Was my diary destroyed?”

“Yes.”

“You said that you faced me before. Was that recently?”

She hesitated, “Yes.”

He paused a moment and visualized his timeline, but it was incomplete. “When does my first failure occur?”

“When my generation are infants.”

“Who takes me down?”

“You’ll receive a prophecy.” She put her finger up to thwart his interruption. “It has not been foretold in your timeline yet, but when it is, you will know.”

That was a startling revelation. The wait for said prophecy could be excruciating. He needed to know more. “Are my followers loyal?”

“To a fault.”

He chuckled at that. As little as she said, it was enough to appease him for the time being. “So you need a time-turner?”

Quelling her annoyance, she replied, “Yes. And the only place you can get one is from the—”

“Department of Mysteries. I know.”

“How do you—”

“Used one in my third year, wanting to absorb as many classes as I could before deciding what I wanted my focus to be.”

Hermione clapped her hand over her mouth, “No. That’s—they told me it was unprecedented that I was the first—”

Tom brushed his robes off primly, attempting to portray the air of nobility he had seen so many in his house employ, despite his personal background lacking. “Well, Hermione, it seems like your time wants to discredit my educational prowess.” He leaned back and sprawled his arms out to hang on the back of the sofa. “There was a mishap a few weeks ago, and members of the Department of Mysteries have been investigating.”

“Oh, you mean when you killed Myrtle with the basilisk?”

He snorted, “It wasn’t intentional. Wrong place, wrong time.”

The witch turned red with fury but held back and let Riddle continue.

“As I was saying, all we would need to do is to cast an Imperius Curse on one of the investigators, and they’ll bring time-turner. Then you and your,” he cast a bored look in Ginny’s direction, “friend, can go back to nineteen-ninety-whatever and we can all pretend like none of this ever happened. Agreed?”

Hermione didn’t like the idea of using an Unforgivable on an innocent, but what choice did they have? The plan was simple and rather innocuous. No one outside of the four involved would need to know. No one would get hurt. She nodded and held out her hand, “Agreed.”

Instead of shaking it, he kissed it gently. Hermione recoiled but held her hand tightly. “A kiss is a more solemn vow than a handshake, Hermione.”

She hated the sound of her name on his tongue. He had taken something pure, given to her by her parents, and tainted it with his manipulation.

He tugged her hand gently, leading her to sit next to him. All of her instincts said to fight, but she didn’t have much choice. She needed to play along and observe. Her inner lioness needed to lie in wait.

Still holding her hand, he asked with complete sincerity, “Hermione, why are you so apprehensive around me?”

“Apprehensive is a nice way to put it,” she rolled her eyes disregarding his pleasantries, “I would have used disgusted, revolted, ashamed—“

“Wonderful. You have a vocabulary,” he mocked playfully. “Do I do something in my future unspeakable?”

Hermione’s eyes blinked rapidly. Wasn’t this the boy who unleashed a basilisk to extinguish all the muggle-borns from the school? “Well Heir of Slytherin, you attempt to do the same thing the Fuhrer is doing right now on the continent but with those not deemed worthy to wield magic.” The discontent in her voice was reaching levels that would surely wake Ginny from her unconscious state.

The dark-haired boy licked his lips and released Hermione’s hand. He traipsed his arm around the back of the sofa and leaned into her. “So is it accurate for me to say that you believe I want to eradicate muggle-borns?”

She huffed indignantly, “Yes. It’s what the diary version of you said. It’s your family legacy. MY kind—muggle-borns. We’re nothing but vermin to you—“

He placed a finger to his lips hoping she would get the point. “My agenda isn’t against Muggle-borns.”

She grunted in disbelief. “Oh, it’s not? Then who is it you find unworthy to practice magic? Apparently Myrtle—”

“Happened to be in the girls' bathroom when my curiosity piqued. But truthfully, it wasn’t a total loss—”

“I knew it!” Hermione glared accusingly. “She was a muggle-born and you were grateful she was your first victim. Oh, I bet you couldn’t wait to let your monster slither around the school.”

“Myrtle was an idiot and a piss-poor student,” he interjected flippantly. Tom inhaled and exhaled deeply through his nose. “As you may have heard, I’m half-blood. Abandoned by my mother, a witch and my father, a muggle. If anyone is vermin, it’s those who have power and don’t use it.”

Hermione remained quiet, intrigued by this tale. There was much she didn’t know about his upbringing and what made him so hateful towards muggles, muggle-borns, and blood traitors.

“You know, the ministry has a registry of every child born with magic? Our names appeared on it the day we were born. Don’t you think they could have found us and prepared our caretakers for what it would be like to raise a magical child? Protect us? Guide us before we ever stepped through these halls?” His voice was bitter and laced with resentment.

“I-I didn’t know…” For the first time, Hermione made a connection with this boy. He wasn’t just the revered Dark Lord—he was a sad, lonely orphan, like Harry. “I grew up with wonderful parents, but they didn’t know. There were times I could see that they were—scared. It never occurred to me that the Ministry could have told us sooner…”

As her voice trailed, Tom brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. “Hermione, this is who I want to take down. Those in power who don’t know how to use it. The politicians are fools. The professors never push us to see what we’re capable of and new magic is frowned upon. The purebloods waste their magic by inbreeding instead of allowing it to grow. All I want to see is magic flourish and to weed out those who stand against that. Don’t you believe in the advancement of magic? Are you going to squander your gift?”

“I would never waste my talent! It’s why I work so damn hard to prove myself. These haughty elitists are always looking their nose down at the mudblood. But I show them. Every. Damn. Time. There is nothing they can do that I can’t. Just because I was born—”

“Outside the magical world?” He had done it. Tom Riddle had struck a nerve and discovered who Hermione was and how she fits into everything. “Hermione, do you know why most of my friends are purebloods?” Tom continued not allowing her the moment to respond. “They are easily persuaded. You give them an idea that feeds their ego, next thing you know, they support you wholeheartedly. I’m a penniless orphan, and my family name and legacy are all but forgotten, yet, they call me Lord. They want a society in which magic only belongs to the pure. I’ll tell them what they want. But I want magic to be free. Where we don’t need to hide.”

“But we can’t oppress people with our power!” Hermione retorted.

“And you don’t call the muggle system oppressive? Their sheer numbers and the Statute keeping us in hiding? Our young ones live in denial until they turn eleven?”

“It’s not perfect, but it’s—“

“It’s unfair.” He quieted and stared down at the hem of her skirt. The skirts of the future were much shorter than that of his present. He wasn’t expecting she would be so exposed. Brazenly, he tucked his hand behind her knee and brushed the bare skin with the pad of his thumb. His voice became little more than a whisper. “Hermione, I’m angry, sad, and...lonely.” Tom’s eyes searched hers. “The muggle world did this to me. The wizarding world, too. Where do we fit in? Nowhere. Not unless we change it.”

“Riddle…” her voice trailed not knowing what to say. If she comforted him, it could change their future completely. If she said nothing, he could have a violent outburst. She gently removed the hand grasping her knee and held it between her hands.

Tom looked disappointed as she subtly resisted his advances.

Hermione’s eyes met his and continued, “We all get angry, sad, and lonely sometimes.”

“But I am all the time.”

“I know a boy who gets that way.” Her mind went to Harry and instantly missed him. “But he has friends. Real friends to keep him grounded. Keep him away from dark thoughts. Don’t you have friends you can talk to? Confide in?”

He snorted, “In the snake pit? Ha. No. Those genuine friendships you speak of, they all forged those in their infancy. No room for newcomers.”

She struggled to decipher if this conversation was honest or if he was still manipulating her. “I don’t believe that. I have pureblood friends, and they have welcomed me. I would die for them, and I know they would die for me. It’s not all about blood.”

“How optimistically Gryffindor of you.” Tom couldn’t explain it, but this debate had his blood boiling in the best way possible. She had so much fire. So much fight. “Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. It’s not how my world works.” He quieted, feeling he had told her enough. Tom wanted her sympathy and trust, but not his secrets. Her eyes were wide with a mixture of intrigue, apprehension, and fear, beckoning him to inch closer. He placed one hand on either side of her body, caging her in. His eyes raked over her face with wonder. Tom smiled at the way she sucked in a breath through trembling lips. He knew he had this effect on girls, but this thrilled him in ways he hadn’t known.

Lowering his face, their noses almost touching, he whispered, “Who are you? From the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you were different. Not just coming from the future. You’re special. You own your magic. I haven’t seen you display it, but it emanates from you. You have…” he closed his eyes and allowed the energy around them to penetrate his senses, “power. So much. I—don’t know many others whose magical aura is so tactile. I can feel it. I can—” he ran his nose along the column of her neck, “smell it. I want to taste it.”

A single tear ran down Hermione’s face as a myriad of emotions overcame her. She feared what he was capable of and what he would try to do to her. She knew she had to fight. No matter what. Defensively, she put her hands on his chest and tried to push him away. She managed to choke out, “No.”

“No?” It wasn’t a response he was used to.

Her Gryffindor courage charged forward. She pushed him and sat up. “We don’t go from talking about you inadvertently murdering a student, to your vision of anarchy, to you trying to snog me.”

Tom quirked a smile and wiped the corner of his mouth with his thumb. “Fair enough. Our previous conversation wasn’t exactly the most romantic.”

Gobsmacked, she crossed her arms and stared at him indignantly. “I don’t know where any part of this conversation could have lead to that. Do you just flash a smile and you get whatever you want no matter the situation? Is that how you win over girls? ‘Oh, I have a murder serpent and speak snake language. I’m going to feel you up now.’”

He chortled at her retort. “Alright. Alright. You’re the one person who isn’t swayed by my charms...And it makes you all the more desirable.” A seriousness returned to his eyes, and he pressed on. “Hermione, forgive my advances. But please, tell me you feel this.” He pressed their palms together, and a wave of calm took over both of them.

Hermione gasped as she felt something. Something she could only describe as, “balance.”

“Balance?” he pondered the concept. Tom had heard about Eastern magic and wizards seeking enlightenment, and spiritually connected magic. Was this what they were talking about?

“I can’t find any other way to describe it,” she stared at their fingers. There was nothing visible tying them together, but she could feel something harmonious about this act. Curiously she pressed their other palms together, and the connection intensified.

“Your magic calms me,” he said almost dreamily. “It’s as if you’re the missing piece—the light to my dark.”

“Yin and Yang,” she gulped. The puzzled look let her know that he wasn’t quite following. “It’s the belief that positive and negative forces are brought together to create harmony, but it’s more complicated than that. The Chinese believe—”

He cut her off and planted his lips on hers. Tom ignored Hermione’s muffled protests. All he could think of is how the kiss warmed his whole body. They couldn’t even compare the connection of their hands to that of their lips. It was as if beams of dark and light wove in and out of their bodies drawing them closer. He parted his lips urging her to do the same. His insatiable need to discover how she tasted consumed him.

Her mind couldn’t fight the magic. It was one of those moments logic could not control the mystic, and she deepened the kiss. It was the looming clouds, the blustering thunderstorm, and cleansing afterword. This shouldn’t be happening. She shouldn’t be in the past, let alone having a spiritual experience with the Dark Lord. As he lowered himself on top of her, she stopped resisting. Heat, magic, lust, whatever you want to call it thrummed through their bodies.

As his warm hands roamed over her, they generated little sparks. Every time he lifted a hand to move it elsewhere, a magnetic pull resisted the movement. He released her lips began trailing kisses down her neck and abdomen. He moved lower and lower, gathering the fabric of her skirt. He looked up at her with the slightest smirk and placed his mouth on the creamy skin of her inner thigh. The little sucks and nips sent her senses wild.

Soft moans escaped her lips. She wasn’t sure if she had been seduced by the magical connection or if it was just him. She felt his hands leave her body as he reached to unbutton his trousers. Suddenly, with the link broken, she came back to her senses. “No. I can’t. I—I’m not ready.” There was a truth to her words. She’d never been with a boy before, and she wouldn’t let her first time be on a couch with a boy she just met and her friend unconscious a few feet away.

“You’re?”

She swallowed and nodded.

He didn’t know what came over him, but he stopped pushing. Tom Riddle was used to getting what he wanted, sometimes by force. Not this time. He wasn’t sure if it was her light magic imbued with his. All he knew is he didn’t want to hurt her. He leaned down and kissed her softly. “I’ll stop. I need to go anyway. I’ll be back in the morning to check on you.”

“Okay.”

Tom helped her off the sofa and into the other bed. “I still don’t know who you are. All I know is you’re under my skin.” He stole one more kiss and left before she could respond.

—xoxox—

Ginny was the first to awaken that morning. Her head pounded from the stunning hex. She couldn’t understand why Tom would do that to her. She thought he cared about her; that they were bonded beyond time and space. Her heart was tearing into a million pieces. She looked to her left and Hermione was sleeping soundly. The youngest Weasley’s mind swirled as she imagined what had happened after she was rendered incapacitated. Did Tom also stun Hermione? Did they talk? Did he prefer her? Did she want him for herself? Ginny’s chest seized with panic. She couldn’t take it. Was she so stupid to jeopardize their existence and future only to be rejected?

A click of a door handle snapped Ginny out of her spiraling self-loathing.

Tom whispered, “I brought breakfast.”

The aroma of bacon and toast was comforting and welcome. The Room conjured a small dining table for them, and the prefect placed the sandwiches and thermos of coffee on it. He walked between the girls' beds and sat next to Ginny first.

She sighed in relief at his closeness, but he was so—stiff. He wordlessly examined her head and eyes. “Take off your shirt.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, and she complied without hesitation. His fingertips brushed the place his spell hit. She shivered at this touch, and her chest heaved heavily. “Tom…”

“You’re fine. Get dressed and take this potion. It should help with your head. Oh, and go eat,” he said tersely.

“But...” she said weakly, “can we talk? I came all this way to be with you. You can’t cast me aside so easily.”

He sighed with disinterest. “I can and I will. You have nothing to offer me. You’re too young, too weak, and too easy.”

Ginny knew she must have looked like a fish the way her mouth gaped open at his words. She couldn’t protest. His honesty and bluntness felt like a bucket of ice-cold water on her psyche. She ashamedly blinked back the tears and made her way to the little breakfast table in silence.

Tom gingerly took a seat on Hermione’s bed and rubbed her back gently. “Time to wake up. I also have news.”

Hermione’s long dark lashes fluttered open as Tom came into view. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and yawned, “News?”

“Yes. The investigators came early, and I was able to corner one and perform the curse. All we need to do is wait,” he smiled proudly and ran his thumb along her jawline. “I told you I could do this.”

“I didn’t doubt it.” Her voice was croaky in the early morning. “It’s just the idea of using Unforgivables—I don’t like it.”

“Well, it’s done.” His fingers trailed down her arm, and he sought her wand hand. He splayed their fingers as their palms touched. The feel of their magic blending and balancing became impossible to resist.

She laid there and allowed the intimate connection to continue. Hermione could feel what he felt, and it frightened her. She had felt a similar bond to Harry, but nothing this intense. “How will you know when they return?”

Her breath hitched as he entwined his fingers with hers. Everything about Tom’s body language showed his desire for a deeper connection. “I enchanted coins so that we could communicate.”

Hermione snickered at the comment. He looked at her questioningly, but she just shook her head. “Nevermind.”

“I have to go to class.” He stared at her longingly. “I’ll stop by and check on you and bring you lunch if he doesn’t return by then.” Tom brought her knuckles up to his lips and kissed them.

“Riddle—”

“Tom,” he insisted. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“We won’t,” she promised.

Before exiting the room, he gave Hermione one final look. Ginny didn’t miss it the gazes between the two, and she couldn’t let things play out this way.  

—xoxox—

Hours past as the girls sat in silence and Tom hadn’t returned. They were getting hungry and hoped he would be back soon. The room managed to conjure a Quaffle and hoop for Ginny and a bookcase for Hermione. While they managed to keep busy while they waited for Tom to return, the air grew thick with tension.

Fury had built inside of Ginny to the point she could no longer hold back. “What did you do to him?”

Appalled, Hermione shot back, “Excuse me? Do to him? It’s the other way around.”

Ginny scoffed disbelievingly and tossed the Quaffle up and down as she spoke. “Yeah right. Harry and Ron not enough for you, eh? Needed to have Tom too?”

“Ginny, it’s not like that.” Hermione slammed the book shut. “We were planning the retrieval of the time-turner, and he practically forced himself on me.”

The tone of Hermione’s voice was unconvincing, and it wasn't lost on Ginny who replied, “Sure…”

“Sorry if I’m not the one obsessed with Teenage Voldemort. I didn’t want to.” Hermione’s volume raised. With her patience already thin, she blurted, “He was the one who kissed me. He was the one who creepily said he wanted to taste my magic.”

“You kissed him!” Ginny threw the Quaffle at Hermione eliciting a pained yelp from the older witch. “You know how I feel about him and you took him from me! Just like you take everything else!”

“You’re delusional, Ginny. I don’t know what’s come over you, but this isn’t you.” Hermione grabbed her by the shoulders. “Listen. He’s dangerous. For both of us. He’s making you go mad, and I think he wants to feed off my magic. Preposterous as it sounds, when we touch, he—” she struggled for the words, “he’s peaceful. I’m scared Ginny. I think he wants my magic.”

“Don’t be daft,” Ginny huffed. “He’s a randy teenage boy. He wants to be between your legs.”

“Ginevra!” Hermione exclaimed not only at the crude remark but knew it was true.

The girls arguing came to a halt as the door creaked open. Tom strode through, his face stoic.

“I got it,” his Adam’s apple bobbed slowly as he swallowed. “Let’s get you back to your time.”

“No!” Ginny protested her chest heaving in dread. “But I—we didn’t—”

“Enough.” He held his hand up to halt her annoying yammering. “You don’t belong here. Never will. Come now.”

“Ginny,” Hermione commanded, “we need to leave.”

“You’re wrong. You’re both wrong.” Ginny backed away. Her eyes frantically looked for an exit.

Tom slipped Hermione’s wand back into her hand and gave her a nod.

She looked longingly at the vinewood and realized how much she missed it. At that moment, Hermione realized Tom trusted her not to turn it on him. She gazed up to him, and he gave her a sad smile. Conflict built in her chest. It was so hard to know what was genuine with him.

Heavy footsteps startled them from the unspoken connection.

“She’s trying to get away!” Tom hollered.

Hermione rounded on Ginny and yelled, “ Petrificus Totalus,” and the girl fell to the floor with a heavy thud. “Ginny,” Hermione sighed with disapproval, “I didn’t want to do this, but you left me with no choice. We have to go home.”

The red-headed girl laid on the cold stone floor unable to move her limbs or speak with her eyes full of rage.

Tom proceeded to levitate the girl, and all three left the Room of Requirement. Hermione and Ginny were to return to their time. Hopefully, their interactions with Tom hadn’t changed the future.

They stood in a secluded corridor they knew still existed in nineteen ninety-six. Hermione held onto Ginny as she was still under the full body bind, but her wand was now safely tucked back into her robes. Tom placed the chain around the girls and set the charm between the fingers of Hermione’s free hand. He sighed apprehensively. “Hermione…”

“Yes?”

“What if...what if this is what turns me truly dark. You—leaving me.”

She didn’t want to think of that. Tom Riddle was always destined to be the Dark Lord. With or without her. Hermione shook her head softly. “No. I was never part of your plan or your destiny.” She began to turn the hourglass. “Goodbye.”

“Wait!” Tom stepped forward and placed a chaste kiss upon her lips. Her surge of light magic calmed him once again. He closed his eyes, savoring it. As he reopened his eyes, she had already spun the time-turner.

Ginny’s body began to relax as she felt the spell wearing off. Anger filled her as the man she had come back for had fallen for Hermione. It was always Hermione. The world around them started shifting. She cast one final look at Tom. As Hermione was intently staring at the hourglass pendant between her fingers, he was removing an identical one from his robes. Realization awakened Ginny’s senses. She turned to the other Gryffindor as they were traveling into the future. “It’s a trap! He set a trap!”

—xoxox—

“Harry, we’ve been looking for hours, we have to tell Dumbledore,” Ron pleaded.

“Not yet, Ron. I know they're close. I can feel it,” Harry retorted.

As if on cue, the girls appeared before them.

“Harry! Ron!” Hermione exclaimed. She pulled the chain off of Ginny and herself. Holding the time-turner loosely in her hand, she sprinted for her friends.  

Harry scooped her into his arms and swung her around. After putting her feet back on the ground, he took her face in his hands. “Where were you? We were so scared.”

“It’s a long story. I’m just glad to be back.” She rested her forehead against his thankful to be in the presence of the familiar.

“We need to go,” Ginny interrupted. “He has one, Hermione. He’s coming.”

“Wh-What?” Hermione jolted out of Harry’s arms.  

“Riddle has a time-turner!” she exclaimed. “We led him to Harry!”

A fifth figure appeared in the hallway, wand drawn. “I don’t want any trouble. I just want her.”

“Riddle,” Harry seethed through gritted teeth.

Hermione protectively stood in front of Harry, “No Tom. This is where I belong. Go back.”

“I will, but you’re coming with me.” He shot a the time-tuner out of her hand.

Using all of his Seeker skills, Harry jerked into action and reached for the flying object before it was destroyed.

With a quick accio , Hermione was summoned to Tom’s side.

“Harry! Ron! Ginny! Help!” She called as Tom pulled her back to the past.

They only had a moment to spare. Scrambling they all reached for the distorted figures hoping to latch on—but it was too late. They were gone.

Harry stood there, time-turner clenched in his fist. “This isn’t over, Riddle. Far from over.”