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- Ben & Sebastian
Breathing heavily, Hermione clung to the basin in the nearest girly lavatory. She could not believe how very stupid she was. When she had heard the name Lestrange, she instantly remembered Bellatrix Lestrange, even though she originally belonged to the house of Black. But Hermione not only remembered the face of the mad woman, but also a certain incident that took place in Malfoy Manor not too long ago. It would be bad if any of her new house comrades would spot the scar on her left arm that so clearly spelled mudblood. In this time, she was a pureblood and that scar would be very difficult to explain.
With shaking hands, Hermione grabbed her wand and tried to calm her thoughts. She cast a quick spell over her arm that would conceal the scar from any prying eyes.
Up to the moment where she hastily left the classroom she had done a good job, Hermione thought to herself. She actually managed to behave politely in the presence of Tom Riddle, even though everything inside of her screamed to just kill him with a well-directed jinx. Of course she knew that that was not the reason why her other self had sent her back to the past, but the urge was powerful. To keep it in check and even carry on an actual conversation was a great achievement in her book.
Quickly, she made her way back to the classroom. She arrived there at the same time as Professor Binns, curious to see whether this younger, still alive version of her own professor was as boring and tedious as the ghost. She felt the stares of the three gentleman she had just talked to, curious and wary at the same time, but she decided to just ignore them. She simply slipped back into her seat between Tom Riddle and Rufus Lestrange.
"Is everything alright, Miss Dumbledore?" Riddle quietly inquired just as she sat down.
With an internal sigh, Hermione replied: "Quite, thank you for your concern, there is no reason to be alarmed."
For a moment she struggled with herself, but then she turned to the man at her other side, speaking softly: "I am so very sorry for my rude behaviour. Please be assured that it had nothing to do with you that I had to leave so suddenly, Mr Lestrange."
She did not actually expect an answer, but Lestrange replied just as quietly: "I gladly accept your apology, Miss Dumbledore. I hope I do not intrude too far, but surely you understand that I have to inquire: why did you escape so suddenly?"
"I…" Hermione began, but she realized she had no idea what she should say in response. Desperately she tried to think of something, but any answer she came up with sounded like a lame excuse even to herself.
Suddenly, a cold hand found its way onto her knee when Tom Riddle leaned forward and hissed: "It is rude to put a lady under such distress, Lestrange. Perhaps there is a very personal reason for her disappearance. Do not make her embarrass both herself and you by forcing her to lie."
Shocked by the sudden physical contact with the future Dark Lord, Hermione snapped her back around to him without watching the response of Rufus Lestrange. She barely managed to hide her disgust when she insisted: "Mr Riddle, you are well over the line here. Please move your hand now."
He actually followed her request, but the look he gave her while doing so made Hermione think that every other girl in her position might have reacted very differently from her. She realized that Tom Riddle was not only dangerous because he would soon be the Dark Lord, but that he also had his way with women. She was not sure how long she would be able to stand any flirtatious advances by Voldemort himself.
Tired, Hermione closed her eyes. The day had been long. Even though she had not been forced to sit next to Riddle in any other lesson, she had felt his presence nonetheless. The fact that she had to watch her demeanour at all times, had to adhere to old-fashioned manners and simultaneously not appear too much the Gryffindor she actually was, had put a strain on her nerves. This day had clearly shown to her that as long as she was trapped in 1944, she would never be able to be herself. That she was already so worn out by the façade worried her.
That was the reason why she was currently sitting in the library all alone. This was the only place in the castle where she felt remotely at home and at the same time would not rouse the suspicions of her fellow Slytherins. Furthermore, just like in her own time, the library was almost empty after dinner. So she was now sitting alone in a comfortable cushion chair, enjoying a random book she chose from the shelves.
The deep voice made Hermione startle. Even though she had not really focused on the book in her lap, her mind had been very far from the reality around her, so she had not noticed somebody creeping up on her. Slowly she looked up, finding Abraxas Malfoy of all people standing before her. She sighed with relief that it was not Tom Riddle. What was more, her last interaction with a Malfoy had proven to her that not every Malfoy had to be a mindless follower of the Dark Lord. She still was immensely grateful to Draco that he had not told his aunt that it was in fact Harry Potter who had been captured and brought to Malfoy Manor. Even though his family had already been in trouble for his father's missteps, Draco did not jump at the chance to redeem himself and his father in ratting them out. It was a gesture of courage and empathy she had not expected from him. Now, in front of her, stood his grandfather, who seemed as proud as any Malfoy, but at the same time honourable and with an openly friendly smile.
"Obviously" Hermione replied, while giving him a small smile to indicate his intrusion was not altogether unwelcome.
"Are you reading something important just now or may I take the freedom to invite you to a cup of tea?" Abraxas asked with perfect chivalry.
Uncertain what to make of this offer, Hermione's eyes darted across the room. Had Riddle sent his friend to lure her in? But as soon as that idea popped into her head, she chided herself for it. Nobody here could suspect her of anything, yet, not even Riddle. It was her call whether she brought negative attention to herself or to just behave normally as any young woman would do in her situation.
She forced another smile and rose from her seat. After putting the book back in its place, she calmly answered: "I only read to take my mind off some troubling thoughts. It had no educational purpose, if I am being honest."
Abraxas offered his arm and it took Hermione a second to realise that she was supposed to link hers with it. With a slight pink shadow on her cheeks, she accepted the gesture and let Malfoy lead her down to the dungeons.
"I hope your first day here at Hogwarts did not prove too distressing?" Abraxas initiated a polite conversation.
Hermione replied equally polite: "No more and no less that what I was expecting. I actually enjoy studying, so school never is too hard for me."
"Oh, you have that in common with our dear Tom, then. I don't think I have ever met another human being so intent on learning something new every chance he gets."
Nor sure what to reply to that and unwilling to associate herself with Voldemort, Hermione changed the direction of their conversation: "What about you? Don't you enjoy studying?"
The deep laughter that was the response of Abraxas surprised Hermione. It sounded so different from Draco's often spiteful laughter.
"I would not be a true Slytherin if I did not have at least some thirst of knowledge. But contrary to Tom, I am only interested in a few select subjects, not all of them."
They continued talking about their favourite subjects and talents until they reached the Slytherin common room. There, Abraxas showed Hermione through a door she was not aware of existed. When he opened it, another smaller room presented itself to Hermione, vacant at the moment but full of books. Hesitantly she entered, only to discover an arrangement of two elegant looking armchairs and a couch together with a tiny coffee table. At the right side there was a big window opening to the depth of the Great Lake.
"I had no idea this room existed!" She exclaimed.
"This is the common room exclusively used by seventh year students" Abraxas explained smiling: "You will find any textbook used in our year over there and, thanks to many generations of generous families, we also have some rather helpful reference books and other works. Furthermore, and that is the actual reason for us being here, you are able to summon house elves to serve tea in here."
With another forced smile Hermione sat down on one of the arm chairs, while Abraxas summoned a house elf.
"What kind of tea shall we have?" Abraxas asked with a gentle smile.
"How about an Earl Grey?" Hermione suggested, unsure what would be the proper tea etiquette during this time.
While she observed Abraxas ordering the tea, Hermione wondered about the whole situation she just found herself in. Here she was, probably separated from the future Dark Lord only through some stonewalls, having polite conversations with one of those men who would possibly be among the first to follow him – or already did? – trapped in a time without much hope to ever return, meaning her death was imminent, and she just calmly ordered tea. She felt the sudden urge to talk to Dumbledore, just to get rid of this very strange emotion that had built up during the day. Sadly, her professor had already told her on Sunday that he would not have time during the first week of school, regardless of how tricky her situation might get.
Startled, Hermione looked up. Obviously her companion had asked her something that she had totally missed during her dark thoughts. With an apologetic smile she told him: "You have to excuse my negligence, my mind was wandering off. What did you say?"
"You have no reason to apologize" Abraxas told her perfectly polite: "I am sure you have a lot of things on your mind at the moment that would prevent you from conversing happily with a stranger. Though, if I am being honest, that was the reason I approached you in the first place. You seemed in need of encouragement."
"You have to excuse my frankness, but I noticed you looked down all day. I have no idea what Tom or Rufus might think about your behaviour this morning, but to me it seemed as though you were overwhelmed by the situation. I got the feeling you needed help – or at least someone that listens to you. I might not be head boy, but I am always there for new students and all of their sorrows. So, if there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to tell me."
Hermione struggled to not stare with wide eyes. Those words were the last thing she expected any Slytherin to say, no less a Malfoy. On the other hand, she remembered the Sorting Hat telling them that Slytherin way the house where you could find real friends.
She looked him right into the eyes, saying as honestly and firmly as she could: "I appreciate your concern, I really do. I means the world to me that I have someone around me who actually cares for his fellow wizards and witches. I cannot talk about my past, it is just impossible. But if you would be so kind to just sit with me for a moment, that alone would make me feel more welcome here."
She way happy to see that Abraxas openly hold her gaze. She would never have thought that this young man of all people, someone so close to Tom Riddle, would turn out to be so open and honest. She did not yet know what Abraxas thought about Voldemort or whether Tom Riddle was even known as such by now. Perhaps Harry would be able to answer that question, but she was sadly ignorant. She could only guess and for her own safety, it was best to assume the worst. So even with this charming boy she would have to be careful. Still, his affectionate manner warmed her heart.
By now the house elf had served tea, including a little can of milk and a sugar jar. After putting the tray on the coffee table, the elf disappeared with a loud pop. Just as expected Abraxas took it on himself to fill both cups. Not taking any milk or sugar in her tea, Hermione simply grabbed her cup, blew into it and took a first, warming sip. The hot fluid ran down her throat, filling her with a warmth she had missed ever since arriving here. There was nothing like tea to fix any problems and dark thoughts.
"I fear you are able to read my mind" Hermione jested: "This tea is exactly what I needed. How could you possibly know?"
Abraxas just chuckled: "Of course I cannot read your mind. It was a guess. Whenever I feel down, I drink a cup of tea. It was worth a try."
Happily Hermione sipped on her tea. Perhaps tonight she would be able to find some sleep. Perhaps, if tomorrow would be less tiring than today, she could try searching for the reason why she was here. She still had no idea whether she had to do something or find an item or perhaps some sort of spell. Whatever it was she had to do here, sitting around waiting would not help. Her first step would be to look up time travel in the library. She would have to wait until the evening though, because she could not risk anyone notice her research.
Again, the deep voice of Abraxas Malfoy interrupted her thoughts. She looked at him expectantly, noticing in confusion that he had turned slightly red.
"I would really like if you allowed me to call you by your given name."
Smiling, she put her cup back on the table: "But of course. It would be an honour. I am Hermione."
Abraxas smiled back at her while taking her hand: "I am Abraxas."
Curious, Hermione added: "I assume I am the only one addressing everyone with their last name, anyway?"
He shook his head: "Oh, no! Do not underestimate the importance of politeness and correct manners around here. Only those that are friends call each other with their first names."
"Are we friends, then?"
It was obvious that Abraxas had not anticipated her direct question, but even though his cheeks again turned slightly red, he replied calmly: "I suppose not. But I am sure that as soon as we get to know each other better, we will be friends."
She nodded with a smile, though she could not help but inwardly laugh about the whole affair: friends with a death eater. Again, she gave herself a mental slap. He was not yet a real death eater, if that name even existed already. All of the boys here at school were still innocent, eighteen, nineteen years old at most. For them the whole question of blood status and muggles was not much more than a game. None of these students were cruel monsters yet. Except for Tom Riddle.
When finally she was too tired to think straight anymore, Hermione politely said good night and made her way to the girl's hallway. She had been happy to find that seventh year students of Slytherin shared double bedrooms and as there were already six girls in her year, she had one room all to herself. Perhaps she would someday be able to feel at home in that little room.
She was near the end of the hallway from where a door on the left side led to the boy's and on the right to the girl's bedroom hallway, when a dark haired man stepped through the door and blocked her way. Frozen to the spot Hermione stopped walking and stared into the face of Tom Riddle.
He did not look friendly.
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