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- Ben & Sebastian
Riddle greeted Hermione with a short nod: "Miss Dumbledore. It is rather late, isn't it?"
"I just had a cup of tea before going to bed. Abraxas has been so helpful in showing me the little study for seventh year students" Hermione explained. A small part of her that obviously had a death wish made her add: "Actually, I would have expected the head boy to show me something so essential."
The second those words left her mouth, Hermione wanted to slap herself. It was not in her best interest to get noticed by Tom or make an enemy of the future Dark Lord. Still, that same small part that had made her say those words now demanded she slapped him or humiliated him, even if only verbally.
"Your hostility towards me is baffling. You do not yet know me and still you insist on not liking me. Did I do something to you without realising?" Riddle drawled.
Angrily, she clenched her fists: "Has it never occurred to you that sometimes one simply does not like another? Some people just don't go well together, that's normal. So you avoid each other. Is that so hard?"
Riddle's face was dark when he stepped closer. Involuntarily, Hermione stepped back, only to find herself backed up against the wall. She was alone with him, it was late enough that no other student would happen to come by this corridor. Even if someone was to be still up, this was the corridor leading to the girl's dormitory. Any female student that would notice them surely would swoon over Tom Riddle and not offer her help or even think that she needed it. Nervously, she felt for her wand hidden in the long skirt.
Riddle's voice was cold when he hissed: "I am not used to such impertinence, Miss Dumbledore. I will not tolerate it. Perhaps politeness doesn't mean anything in America, but inside this school, I demand you behave accordingly."
Hermione struggled to answer, grasping her wand harder: "I wasn't aware that I was rude. I simply stated that I don't like you and wish to not be in your company. Wouldn't that be in your interest, too? Why would you seek the company of a witch that doesn't like you?"
"That's enough!" Riddle snarled while pressing her back against the wall with his forearm. Before he could say anything though, Hermione had her wand pressed against his throat. Surprise flickered through his eyes, but then he stepped back and eyed her disparagingly.
Finally he admitted: "You are quick with your wand, Miss Dumbledore, quicker than I thought possible for a woman. But with that, you have finally crossed the line. No student is to threaten another with magic in this castle. I will not report you, though. Instead, you now have the chance to apologise and perhaps realise that I in fact do not deserve your hatred. If you present yourself like this again, though, I will report you as a threat for the student body directly to headmaster Dippet."
Hermione trembled with anger. She did not know whether she hated herself for her stupid action or him, but she realised it would be wise to admit defeat for the moment. It took all her composure to say: "I apologise. It was not right to use my wand against you. Still. You yourself have crossed a line when you threatened physical violence. I demand an apology for that."
The blank impression on Tom Riddle's face made Hermione think that he would disregard her words. To her immense surprise though, a confident smirk suddenly appeared on his lips: "For sure, that was not very chivalrous. Please forgive me. There is something about you that makes me lose my temper. Under normal circumstances, I would be the last man to show disrespect towards a woman. If you're well behaved from now on, I will treat you with the utmost chivalry."
For a long moment he stared directly into her eyes. Then he bowed and turned to leave. Hermione's heart was beating furiously while she watched him go. She didn't want his attention, on the contrary, she had hoped to go unnoticed by him until she knew why she was here. As angry as she was with herself, she was even more confused by the future Dark Lord. She would have never pictured him to be able to go from threatening and scary to nice and flirtatious in a matter of seconds. It made her sick to imagine that maybe she would see more of the flirting Lord Voldemort over the next weeks.
She really wanted to go home.
Deep in thought, Hermione studied her class schedule the next Tuesday morning. She actually wanted to take all the NEWT classes she would have taken back in her own time, but Professor Dumbeldore had advised against it. She simply would not have the time to do it. So she had dropped Divination and Muggle studies altogether, while not taking Alchemy, Astronomy and Care of Magical Creatures as NEWT classes. Her schedule still looked more like that of a Ravenclaw compared to the other student's schedules.
Her first class of the day would be Defence against Dark Arts. She was terrified just thinking about being in the same room as Tom Riddle while studying Dark Arts. Furthermore, she remembered Harry telling her that the current professor for Dark Arts, Galatea Merrythought, retired early after Riddle's last year – and that it perhaps had something to do with the opening of the Chamber of Secrets in his fifth year. Did the woman know something? Had Riddle done something to her?
"That are a lot of classes" Abraxas greeted her with a friendly smile before indicating a bow and sitting down next to her. Hermione thought she felt a questioning stare coming from Tom Riddle who sat at the other side of the table, but as Abraxas didn't seem to notice, she decided to ignore it.
Instead she answered playfully: "I was under the impression that you already noticed that I was the most curious person on earth?"
His laughter sounded warm in her ears: "Indeed. But honestly, Hermione, I don't believe that anyone other than Tom took eight NEWT classes. Are you sure you can handle that?"
"Implying that I am inferior to him?"
"Are you implying you're not?" Riddle interrupted their conversation.
Scowling, Hermione turned her attention from Abraxas to Riddle: "Perhaps."
Abraxas seemed to notice the tension between his best friend and herself, because he instantly told her: "No one is as good as Tom, Hermione. There is no shame in losing to him."
That sentence made Hermione cringe. It would only be the doom of the whole world if no one actually was able to win against him. She tried not to show her emotions when she replied: "As I said: perhaps. We only just finished one day of school, that is hardly enough to make a judgement already. Also, whether I feel it would be shameful to lose to anybody is still my own call."
Riddle's face was tense: "Did you already forget our conversation last night, Miss Dumbledore?"
Ignoring the worried look on Abraxas' face, she replied: "No, what gave you that idea?"
"Do not play dumb with me. What did I say about being well-behaved yesterday?" Riddle hissed across the table low enough that most of the curiously listening students around them were not able to follow their conversation.
Truthfully Hermione recalled: "You told me you would treat me with respect if I started to be well-behaved. I never said that I would do that, though."
Before Riddle had the time to answer that, Hermione stood up, grabbed her bag and left the Great Hall. She was just out of the door when Abraxas caught up to her.
"I was not sure yesterday, but your conversation just now – Hermione, do you not like Tom?" Abraxas asked her in a startling moment of directness, his face still showing worry.
Unapologetic Hermione said: "Obviously. I cannot tell you what it is, but there is something about him that makes me angry."
She could hardly tell him that Tom Riddle was the future mass murderer Lord Voldemort, so she tried to stay as close to the truth as possible without saying anything at all.
"You don't even know him. I don't think it is right to judge somebody according to your first impression" Abraxas retorted.
"Any other time I would agree with you, Abraxas, but Riddle ... you know, after our tea session yesterday, he came after me. He violently pressed me against a wall and threatened me. Only when I pulled out my wand did he leave me alone. Are you really expecting me to play nice after that show of manners? Or lack thereof?" Hermione hotly replied.
"He did that?" Abraxas breathed.
Hermione only raised an eyebrow to that. She knew for a fact that Riddle had already committed murder by now. Had he not yet shown his dark side to his friends? Or was Abraxas just singularly naïve?
After a short pause her companion told her: "I know that Tom sometimes can be scary. He really is a powerful wizard. He is able to do things even grown wizards cannot do. But I have never witnessed him attacking a Slytherin student without cause. Much less a woman."
Hermione took a deep breath. This was her chance, her one single chance perhaps to sow doubt in the mind of Riddle's best friend, but she also feared she might go too far. She just didn't know enough about Riddle and his followers during Hogwarts. Hesitantly she said: "Perhaps that's only because so far no one has opposed him? He told me I was impertinent. Perhaps he just doesn't like people that don't follow his wishes? Perhaps he isn't good at dealing with opposition?"
During her last sentence, Hermione had looked directly into the eyes of Abraxas. She was not surprised when he avoided her glance and sheepishly admitted: "There has been no opposition as of yet, that's true. But why would there? He is intelligent and he is head boy. He is good at intercepting fights and helping others. He never turns anybody down who needs help with homework. The teachers like him, but instead of using that for his own advantage, he uses it to help everyone else. Every single Slytherin student can be absolutely sure that Tom will always come to their aid."
Slowly Hermione nodded. Harry had told her that Riddle was good in charming teachers and students alike with his good looks, his charisma and his intelligence. It was hard witnessing it with her own eyes.
"It perhaps was not the best idea to show my hostility so openly, was it? I would make many enemies in Slytherin if I continued that way, wouldn't I?"
"You can be sure of that. The girls perhaps would be happy that you are not a new rival. You have no idea how very popular Tom is with the witches. One polite smile and the girl thinks he's courting her. But say one mean word against him and you'll have a whole army of fanatic followers against you" Abraxas mused.
The words fanatic followers made Hermione cringe again, but she supposed it was only a manner of speaking to emphasise how extreme the girls' crush was. Still she couldn't deny herself a last remark: "So you are friends with such a ladies' man? Don't you get jealous that he poaches your girl?"
Abraxas looked a bit flustered: "Poach? That's a rather crude word, dear Hermione. But to answer your question: No. Tom is not a ladies' man. If I think about it, I cannot recall a single instance where he was courting a girl. Perhaps he simply is not interested in courting women. Perhaps he is waiting for the One. Perhaps he takes school too seriously. Whatever the case, the girl that Tom someday decides to court will stand no chance against his charms."
Shaking her head, Hermione opened the door the Dark Arts classroom. She went for a spot in the first row, ignoring Abraxas. Even if she did not know what Tom Riddle would become in the future, she would not have fallen for him so blindly like this blond Slytherin and most of the other students and teachers. Hermione was sure that in her own time, people followed Lord Voldemort only out of fear. Of course there were some lost souls like Bellatrix Lestrange, but most of his former loyal followers like the Malfoys seemed to follow him not because of actual loyalty, but because they had no other option. The Tom Riddle she got to know in this time, though, was charming and persuasive in a way that made it clear that most future death eaters would follow him out of conviction and faith.
She smiled at Abraxas when he sat down next to her. This young blond man didn't strike her as a bad person. If only she knew what her other self had done in this time. Obviously she had not changed the timeline as Hermione knew it. This boy would sooner or later be one of the first death eaters, would support the ideals of the Dark Lord and help him during the first wizarding war. She wished that there was a way to stop Abraxas, to prevent him from selling his soul to the devil. Even though she did not technically know him yet, she instinctively felt that he was an honourable man that could be her friend if the circumstances were different.
She needed to find out why she was here. The time turner and everything else could wait. First she had to save the future.
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