II.7 - Lost in time

 

Hermione sat on her spot, her back rigid, looking straight at the book, holding her quill in one hand while the other was clenched into a fist under the desk. She had already read the chapter about Unforgivable Curses several times, but she was thankful for the opportunity it provided to avoid talking to Tom Riddle. In her own time, they did those curses during her fourth year. She clearly remembered being uncomfortable that they did those so early, but then again, it was Moody – or better: Crouch jr. – who taught them. Back in 1944, they obviously preferred to study it when most students were already of age, a decision Hermione whole-heartedly supported. Still, she would have liked to not have the future Lord Voldemort sit next to her while studying the Avada Kedavra. Or the Cruciatus. Or the Imperius.

At least it was Friday, last day of the school week. First thing tomorrow she would go to Professor Dumbledore to report everything that had happened so far, and to discuss plans for the next months. The two days of weekend provided an excellent excuse to steer clear of Riddle. She would survive this last day of the school week without murdering him – or be murdered herself – and then everything would be okay.

“Are you finished, Miss Dumbledore?” Tom suddenly asked. Obviously he had already read the chapter, too, as Hermione was sure that he had already murdered at this point. Now he was waiting impatiently for her to finish.

Of course she knew the contents well enough, but she still was not in the mood to strike a friendly conversation with Tom, so she just replied: “No.”

“You’ve never heard of these curses before?” Tom dug deeper, forcing her to put away her quill and look up to him.

She really did not want to talk about Unforgivables with him, so she took a deep breath before finding the motivation to answer: “That really is an unnecessary question, of course I’ve heard of it. Everyone has.”

“So why are you reading with such interest?”

Annoyed, she sighed: “It’s one thing to know a curse and a totally different one to understand how it works, where it came from, what it can do. The intricacies. In theory the death curse might be simple, you say the word and the opponent is dead. The reality is different, though. It’s the same with the Cruciatus. You can’t just point your wand, speak the words, and hope the other one is suffering pain. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Or,” Hermione added with a dark glance, “I should say: luckily. So, would you please let me finish reading?”

“We’re supposed to work as partners on this chapter. We need to pick one curse that we want to study further – together. I have no patience for waiting an hour until you’re finished reading. I could as well tell you the contents of the chapter while we decide on a curse.”

She really did not need a demonstration of the death curse or the Curciatus from Tom Riddle. She had heard enough of how he used it on enemies and allies alike. Regarding the Imperius, she wondered whether he already was planning to take over the ministry using it.

She finally relented: “Fine, as you wish. At my school, we did these curses in fourth year already, anyway.”

His cold hand came down on her as he leaned closer: “You can use these curses?”

Shocked, Hermione yanked her arm back: “Don’t touch me, Riddle! And no, of course I can’t! We’ve studied them, our professor showed them to us, but obviously, none of us have actually used them. It’s forbidden to use them. That’s why they’re called Unforgivable!”

“Yes, of course,” Tom smiled while leaning back again. Then, a perfidious smile on his lips, he added: “Are you afraid I’d use one of those on you?”

Hermione’s heart nearly missed a beat. Did he actually threaten her just now or was this just a game? Trembling, she rubbed her sweaty hands against her skirt: “You shouldn’t joke about those things!”

“Who says I’m joking?”

With bated breath, Hermione stared at the young man next to her. Tom Riddle was so attractive, so intelligent, so courteous, the smile that graced his lips just now would make any girl swoon. Hermione though saw right through that mask, saw the madman he was, who was only motivated by hatred and anger, who wanted nothing more than to prove himself and would never show any compassion for any human being. There he sat, both elbows on the desk, head inclined to her, smiling as if she was God’s angel on earth. Casually talking about using an Unforgivable on her. She swallowed.

“What’s the matter with you?” Riddle suddenly hissed, his smile gone, replaced by a hard look in his eyes: “Why do you look at me as if you feared I’d actually do that? Do you think I’d do it?”

Hermione’s breath quickened up. Of course he had been joking, of course he was not serious. Everyone knew that Unforgivable were not to be taken lightly. Even a cold-hearted boy like Tom Riddle would not do something that crazy. That she even for a second had doubted him was only because she knew his future self, Lord Voldemort, would murder a baby without blinking.

Panicked, she turned to Professor Merrythough, raising her hand to excuse herself. She needed to get out of here.

Quickly she ran out of the classroom, passing the questioning faces of her classmates, out into the cool, deserted hallway. Only when she closed the door behind her she stopped and leaned back against the stone wall. She was not supposed to treat Tom Riddle as Voldemort. Even now she got his attentions with her behaviour, but if she showed him openly that she was able to see the cold-blooded monster he was, he surely would grow suspicious.

The low rustling of robes made her look up in alarm. Riddle had followed her out.

“One would think you just met the devil the way you marched out of the classroom,” he said casually, though there was flaming hatred in his eyes: “So, tell me, Hermione, what is all of this supposed to mean?”

Nervously she glanced at the classroom door. They would hear her scream, surely? He would not be mad enough to do something to her out in the open, right? She had to get herself together. He still was Tom Riddle, not Lord Voldemort. She should not show him that she knew about Voldemort.

Desperately she tried to think of a lie she could tell him, so he would be satisfied at least for a moment. The simplest thing would be the most believable, she finally decided. She took a deep breath, then she let her shoulders slump, her eyes cast down, and replied: “My parents were murdered with Unforgivables. A madman killed my father with an Avada Kedavra before torturing my mother with a Cruciatus until she went mad. I had to watch.”

For the longest time, Tom did not answer. Cautiously, Hermione looked up into his eyes. She could not read the expression in them, but at least her movement broke his frozen stare.

“You know me too well already to believe me if I told you I was sorry, don’t you?” Tom whispered. Hermione snorted unbelieving, but Riddle just shook his head: “Don’t worry, I won’t. I have no pity for you and I didn’t plan on pretending otherwise. Others would have believed me, but not you. Not you.”

Just as Hermione was about to congratulate him on his discovery, he rammed his hands against the wall next to her face. A not very pleasant memory of a similar position she found herself in just a few evenings back crept up her neck.

“Perhaps I can buy that Unforgivable Curses are a sensitive topic for you,” Tom told her, “but that does not explain why you would think me capable of using those against you or anyone else.”

Scared, Hermione looked into the dark eyes of Tom Riddle. He bought her story, but he did not accept it as apology for her behaviour. Not that she could blame him. He would not know how very scary this whole situation was for her, being trapped by his arms, how much discipline she needed to not just break down crying. The memory of how much he had enjoyed her fear, had enjoyed showing off his power over her, was still fresh on her mind. Thinking of power, an idea came to her mind.

Thoughts flooded her mind, making her head spin. For a moment she was rendered speechless, having to close her eyes to collect her thoughts. Then she took all her courage, looked him directly in the eyes and stated: “You would do it, Riddle. You love power. You love torturing others, bathing in their fear – just as you did with me. I am also sure your willpower is strong enough to cast an Unforgivable, too. You love your power over the fears of other people so much, it would give you the strength to cast those curses.”

She noticed how his mouth fell open while she was talking, saw his surprise, real, undisguised surprise, the first emotion apart from anger and hatred that he actually showed her. Which was why she knew that she hit the nail on the head. Lord Voldemort was not simply a cruel monster that strived for world dominance. He was a man who loved power, who enjoyed feeling the fear of other people. She had experienced that first hand, but this discovery actually made it all less scary. He did not torture out of a cool, calculating rationale, but out of passion. Repulsive as this thought might be that anyone was able to enjoy the suffering of another human being, it was relieving that behind Lord Voldemort’s behaviour there were actually emotions and not just a cold mind.

Carefree because of her new discovery, Hermione let the jab that her mind had just formed against Riddle, slip: “Does that arouse you? Are you turned on by seeing others cry?”

She whispered those words, smiling in the cruellest way possible, but even though she had wanted to provoke him, the intensity of his reaction took her by surprise. With a swift movement he turned her around and shoved her chest first into the wall. His whole body pressed her up against the cold stone while his hand grabbed her hair and his left arm rendered her immobilized.

“Brave words you got there. If I, as you just proclaimed, really enjoyed torturing others, do you actually think it’s a good idea to provoke me?” Tom hissed against her ear. Against her will a shiver ran down her spine. Even though her mind had just scored against Riddle, her body still trembled in fear at the memory of what he had already done to her. A low laugh came from him when Tom noticed her fear: “You see, you’re scared of me. You’ll always be scared regardless of how brave and tough you act.”

She was able to feel his hot breath on her cheek, could sense how fast his heart was beating in his chest, how it moved up and down with each breath. The normally so calm head body seemed extremely agitated – by her, a girl be barely knew. It was obvious that he did not know how to deal with opposition, that it made him furious if he was rejected for no apparent reason or even looked down upon him.

“Fear can be a wise guidance because it can prevent us from doing dumb things,” Hermione replied as calmly as possible. She was sure that Tom too knew that any scream of hers would alert the professor in the classroom, so he had no real power over her, regardless of how scared she was.

“Fear is only for weaklings!” Riddle answered intensely, but he finally let her go.

Hermione straightened her school uniform as casually as she could while she turned back to him. For a short moment they regarded each other silently, but Hermione could see that Tom had nothing more to say. She returned back to the classroom, the future Dark Lord directly behind her.

“Everyone fears something, even you, Riddle,” she told him before opening the door and going back to her seat.

 

oOoOoOo

 

Annoyed, Tom went up and down in his room. What had occurred during Defence against Dark Arts had made him so agitated that he could not concentrate for the rest of the school day. Hermione Dumbledore was a problem in every aspect. Her closeness to the hated Professor Dumbledore was problematic. Her active mind was problematic. That she thought, no, knew he was able to and would actually cast Unforgivable Curses was problematic. Worst of all though was the fact that after just one week she knew him better than all those who claimed to be his friends for years now. She did not even give him a chance to establish his friendly façade, but had suspected from the very beginning that he was up to no good.

He was successful to pressure her into a corner and make her scared, but in the end it was always she who had the last laugh and got to know more about him. He grew angrier by the minute. Until today he had not taken her seriously, had just seen her as another toy, a feisty one perhaps, but nothing more. That had changed now. He had been too negligent. With a huff he sank backwards onto his bed. She already knew too much.

It was clear where that would lead to. If Hermione Dumbledore continued to act in the way she did and if he continued to react so uncontrolled and reckless around her, he would need to make her shut up sooner rather than later – using some method or another.

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