II.1 - Lost in time

The last day before the start of the new term went by in the blink of an eye. After her long talk with Dumbledore, both had been busy. Together, they had paid a visit to Headmaster Dippet to register her as a new student. He had not asked any questions and furthermore did not object to her wanting to be a Slytherin. He had simply said that as she would be in Hogwarts for only her last year anyway, it did not really matter which House she belonged to.

After that, Hermione buried herself in the depth of the library, while Professor Dumbledore greeted the arriving colleagues and told them about his supposed niece. It had been a comment by Dippet that had driven Hermione back to the library: As she was a pureblooded witch, she would fit into Slytherin just as well as into any of the other Houses. Ever since her mind was racing.

Of course she was not an actual Pureblood, far from it. But as pretend daughter of Aberforth Dumbledore, she would at least be a Halfblood. She would like though to make her mother a witch, too, but there was the problem: What if every wizarding family was known in this day and age, so that any offspring of any witch would be known, too? Would she trap herself in an inextricable net of lies, if she mindlessly pretend to be a Pureblood? She just had to check what was actually known about the wizarding world at this time.

There were the Sacred Twenty-Eight, that much she knew, as it had not changed over the past centuries. Those were the twenty-eight families that were regarded as actually pureblooded, because they never had mixed with a muggle ever – or so they said. Apart from that, what information did people in the forties have about wizarding families?

Obviously, she herself did not care about having a muggle mother or a pureblood mother, but a tiny voice in her head told her, that now even more so than in her own time it would not be wise to be anything but a pureblood witch in the proud House of Slytherin. So she sat here, nervously scanning through history books, trying to find out as much about the magic society of this time as she could.

It was almost time for dinner, when Hermione finally concluded that there was indeed no complete account of every existing magical family in Britain for this time. Thus, she spend the remaining time to collect books she could read after dinner, books that would be at least equally important to her: conduct books. She was pretty sure that for her own time her behaviour was more than appropriate, but in the forties, even more so in the wizarding world, her conduct more than likely was far from acceptable. Sure, she would be able to excuse many of her strange behaviours with being American, but not everything was excusable and she wanted to blend in as much as possible.

Furthermore, reading would help distract her from the fact that she was stuck in the past while her friends were possibly dying in the future. Distract her from the fact that she would die in the course of the year. From the fact that tomorrow before the day was over, she would come face to face with one Tom Riddle. Would greet him, share a meal with him, go to school with him.

Tomorrow, she would meet the monster that had not yet revealed its true nature to the public.

oOoOoOo

 

After the last of the first year students was sorted into his House, Professor Dippet stepped in front of the hungry, waiting students and addressed them with another and very exciting news: “This year, we not only welcome our first years at Hogwarts. While you have all been safely at home, enjoying the summer, your favourite teacher, Professor Dumbledore, had to deal with tragic news regarding his family. The daughter of his brother has lately lost her mother and so she travelled from America back to her homeland to live with her father and uncle. From today onwards, Miss Hermione Dumbledore will be a seventh year member of the proud House of Slytherin. Please give her a warm welcome and be so kind to make her comfortable in her new home as possible.”

A low murmur started in the Great Hall, while the usual applause for new students was rather reluctant at the Slytherin table. Hermione had not counted on a warm welcome, anyway, but still she had to force herself to at least appear unconcerned. Slowly, she approached the table and decided to just sit down at the far end, where all the other older students were seated.

“Miss Dumbledore,” a more than handsome young man addressed her as soon as she sat down, “I welcome you in the name of all students of Slytherin. If you are in need of assistance of any kind, please feel free to come and talk to me at any time.”

Shocked, Hermione just stared at the young man. A little emblem just above his right chest made clear that he was the current head boy of Hogwarts. Of course, she knew very well that Voldemort had been head boy during his time at Hogwarts. He was a good-looking man, his full, dark hair, his perfectly angular face, his dark eyes that were shimmering blue all only served to make the ladies swoon, just like Harry had told her. The charming smile on his lips appeared natural and the way every other student was nodding indicated that this was the Dark Lord’s usual, expected behaviour. He actually was beloved and respected, not because he was feared, but because they students adored him, Hermione realised with horror.

“If I may take the liberty to introduce myself: I am Tom Riddle, the head boy of Hogwarts,” he finally added while standing up and reaching out over the table to shake her hand.

A tiny voice inside Hermione’s head screamed at her that she should accept his hand and reciprocate his polite gesture. Still, all she could do was stare at his hand as if it was a poisonous snake, disgusted by the idea of touching any part of this monster’s body.

A slight cough from her left brought Hermione back to reality. The whole table had turned its attention to her by now and if the questioning glances were any indication, she already had made a fool out of herself. Nobody understood her reluctance. Still in the clutches of horror and nauseation, but now also furious with herself, she finally shook his hand and whispered: “Hermione Gr… Dumbledore. Thank you for your kind words.”

Only for the fracture of a heartbeat she managed to look into his eyes, but she still caught the surprised expression on his face. More students now were introduced to her, but Hermione’s thoughts already wandered off. She wondered whether Tom Riddle had ever experienced before that any student, even more so any girl did not immediately follow up on his gestures.

Not really paying attention, she noticed that the two men next to her were called Lestrange and Malfoy. It really should not surprise her that in 1944 some members of the Sacred Twenty-Eight were attending Hogwarts, but she was still taken aback that it had to be these two of all families. The longer she sat there, observing the group surrounding Tom Riddle, the more she came to the conclusion that almost every single one of the students at this table would be a Death Eater in the future. The hope that she would be able to finish her seventh year here without any problems while simultaneously finding a way back to the future and doing whatever she was supposed to do to save the world suddenly appeared more than ridiculous.

oOoOoOo

 

This evening, Tom Riddle sat in front of the fireplace in the Slytherin common room, deep in thought about what had occurred before. He was surprised that there had been a new student for the seventh year, and for a short duration, he even had felt triumph. The fact that his niece was not a Gryffindor, but a Slytherin of all things would surely irritate Dumbledore – or so he had thought. But the witch was not as pleased with his polite welcome as he had hoped. Not only had she stared at his hand for the longest time as if it was a deadly snake. Even when she had finally accepted the hand shaking, a quick glance at her eyes had revealed unfathomable hatred.

What was the meaning of this hatred? Was it actually directed against him personally? If so – why? Before this day, she was not even aware of his existence, so why this animosity? Was it perhaps Dumbledore’s fault? Had that old man disclosed all his sinister prejudices against the otherwise beloved head boy? Tom really could not understand what the source of Dumbledore’s suspicions was, he was the immaculate student everyone looked up to after all. He had a clean slate, at least for the public eye.

Tomorrow, the new term would start. He would use this opportunity to get closer to this strange Hermione girl. People easily fell prey to direct questions if you caught them off guard. Perhaps she would even be susceptible to his manly charms.

oOoOoOo

 

A word to Abraxas was enough to get an empty chair next to himself, so the new member could sit there. Though History was a rather interesting class, Professor Binns managed to teach it in a way that even the smallest amount of attention was more than sufficient to follow his instructions. It would be the ideal opportunity to talk to Miss Dumbledore and so Tom had decided to confront her immediately. During their first class this morning, Potions, the girl had proven to be intelligent, to an amount indeed that Tom suspected she might be the first female student to ever get an invitation to Professor Slughorn’s select club. Which was even more reason to get to know her better.

Now, all he had to do was wait until the girl came to class and then offer her the seat next to him. He was sure that no girl would be able to resist his charms, even a suspiciously prejudiced one like Miss Dumbledore. It did not matter what her uncle might have told her beforehand, if he presented himself in the best possible light, she would fall for him sooner or later. Who knew, it might prove useful sometime in the future to have a close relative of Dumbledore as ally.

As soon as he spotted the brunette, wild hair from the corner of his eyes, he stood up and pulled back the chair. The new student slowly and hesitantly stepped forward, obviously unsure where to sit down. He smiled his most charming smile: “Miss Dumbledore, if you would do me the honour and sit right next to me, you would make me the happiest man in this classroom.”

He would have thought it amusing how the girl instantly froze on the spot as soon as he addressed her, but the shock and disgusted look in her eyes when she turned to him infuriated him. So far, he had done nothing wrong, and he started to doubt that anything Dumbledore could have said to her would prompt this rude behaviours. What was the source of this hatred?

“Do you really intend to deny this gracious offer? Deny Tom Riddle?” the voice of another female student sounded through the room. With the air of a lady attending a grandiose ball, a Slytherin girl with long black hair strode confidently towards the second row of chairs. Her tone betrayed that she found it as unbelievable as Tom himself that any girl would not jump at this opportunity.

“I don’t understand why I get special treatment,” Dumbledore’s niece finally replied, “Obviously, this young lady would prefer to sit in your company, Mr Riddle, so why don’t you ask … excuse me, I don’t think I got your name?”

“Beatrix Parkinson,” was the cold reply.

Intrigued, Tom noticed how Hermione arched one eyebrow, studying the other girl intently. He decided to try again, not accepting this flat out rejection: “Miss Dumbledore, I am the head boy of Hogwarts. I view it as my most important and welcome duty to be of any assistance, at least for the first few days of your new school life. Please, do not make me beg. Will you reconsider?”

He actually thought she would reject him again, but to his surprise, she slowly nodded and went to the chair he had offered. Together with her, he sat down again and waited until she finished taking out her books and writing tools. Then he approached her again: “Tell me, Miss Dumbledore, what is your impression of Hogwarts so far?”

It was obvious to him that the girl thought hard on this question and when she finally answered, he could feel that every word was carefully calculated: “The castle is stupendous. It almost feels like every single stone vibrates with magic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the castle come alive someday if anyone was stupid enough to try and attack Hogwarts.”

She had been looking straight ahead to the blackboard while she answered, but with her last words, she turned to him and looked so challenging as if her words were a warning for him personally. The feeling that there was more to this new student that the eye could see, deepened. Still appearing calm, he replied: “Yes, these wall definitely have a life of their own. What about the classes? You were impressive during Potions, I have to admit. Furthermore, if I may take the liberty to say this, Professor Slughorn seemed more than happy with you.”

Again she took a strange amount of time before she answered and again it was different from what he had expected: “To be honest, Potions is one of my weaker studies. If Professor Slughorn expects me to be an interested student, he’ll be disappointed.”

Annoyed Tom realised that any answer Hermione Dumbledore gave was so well calculated, that she managed to appear polite and still stifle any attempt at furthering the conversation. If he did not want to end up in a very awkward interrogation like discussion, he had to admit defeat and stay quiet. It happened rarely that anyone denied him and even less often that it was done in such an artful manner.

He was almost grateful when his two friends, Abraxas Malfoy and Rufus Lestrange, appeared at that exact moment. Here was another possibility to get Dumbledore to talk.

“Oh, Miss Dumbledore, will you please allow me to introduce two of my closest friends,” he asked though he did not actually care for her response. He stood up and put a hand on Malfoy’s shoulder: “This man here is Abraxas Malfoy. You have been sitting next to him yesterday evening. If you ever happen to have any questions about old wizard families, he is your man.”

For the shortest amount of time, a hesitant flicker appeared in Hermione’s eyes, but just as Tom suspected she would again be rude, she actually rose and offered her hand: “There have been many names and faces yesterday, so I regrettably was not able to remember everyone. I am happy to get to know you now without so many other students interrupting.”

Abraxas smiled and shook her hand, but he did not reply. With deepening frustration, Tom turned to his other friend to introduce him: “This is Rufus Lestrange. He is the captain of our Quidditch team and the best duellist you’ll find in this castle. Be careful if you ever have to face him in Defence against the Dark Arts.”

The pleasing smile on Miss Dumbledore’s lips faltered. As soon as she registered Lestange’s name, she turned as white as a ghost, clutched her forearm with one hand and ran away.

“Abraxas, please tell me that you find the behaviour of our new student as strange as I do,” Tom hissed after Hermione had disappeared from the classroom. His before welcoming look turned calculating while he tried to figure out what was wrong with this girl.

“That she doesn’t like you is indeed something new.”

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