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- Ben & Sebastian
Hermione quickly followed after Beatrix Parkinson. The first few days had left her with the impression that this particular classmate did not like her, but after breakfast this morning, Parkinson had offered to accompany her down to the greenhouses so she would not get lost on the grounds. Hermione had thankfully accepted the offer, because she realized in that moment that it would seem strange if she was able to find the way on her own. Still she could not shake the uneasy feeling that Parkinson was not as altruistic as the pretended.
“How do you like it so far here at Hogwarts?” Beatrix inquired while they left the castle.
Silently, Hermione wondered how often she would have to answer that question over and over again. She was aware that people only asked to start a conversation or to learn more about her past. As friendly as possible she replied: “Very well. The teachers are all competent, I really get the feeling that I learn something new. I like that.”
Parkinson gave a light laugh, but Hermione was sure it was only a pretend laugh. Happily Beatrix said: “You really are an outstanding person! Who would actually react to a question like that with praise for the teachers?”
Irritated, Hermione glanced at the taller girl: “But the teachers are the ones making or breaking a good school. If the teachers are useless, so is the school."
“I have no interest in what you think about our school. Hogwarts is a good school, that’s common knowledge,” Parkinson chided her: “I obviously was interested in your opinion about out classmates.”
Hermione struggled not to stare in surprise. She had not expected to hear such a direct question from a Slytherin, let alone any student during this time. Suddenly though, she realized the actual purpose of this conversation and why Beatrix Parkinson had invited her to go to Herbology together in the first place. She did not know whether to laugh or cry, so she vaguely explained: “Oh, for now everyone is every accommodating. I have nothing to complain about.”
“I’m happy you’re feeling that way, Miss Dumbledore,” Parkinson nodded, but Hermione could tell she meant the opposite. Did this dumb girl actually think that a new rival for the Tom Riddle’s favour had appeared? Did anyone honestly think she was interested in him? She shook inwardly.
“Indeed, Abraxas is very helpful in making my feel comfortable,” Hermione replied with utmost friendliness. She did not want anyone to see any connection between herself and Riddle, especially not a scandalmonger like this girl appeared to be.
“Our very own head body seems to be extraordinarily invested in your well-being, too, doesn’t he?” Beatrix added in a deliberate way that made Hermione sure that Tom Riddle had been the topic of this conversation from the start.
How could anyone get the impression that there was anything but hatred between them? Warily, Hermione glanced at Beatrix – what was she supposed to say to that? She really did not want to risk that any insult would reach Riddle’s ears. Then again, she had no interest in praising him or worse, appear scared of him. She again tried an indifferent answer: “Tom Riddle does his best to fulfil his duties as head boy. He makes certain that every student follows the rules, that’s something not everyone would do so meticulously.”
A derisive snort from the girl beside her indicated to Hermione that she did not believe a single word she had just said. In the end, it really did not matter. Whatever was the reason that she was here in the first place surely did not require her to make friends with anyone. She just had to find a weakness in Voldemort. Human relationships were not necessary for that mission. If the other students just left her alone, that would be fine. She had friends in the future that loved her just the way she was.
When they finally arrived at the greenhouses, Hermione noticed with surprise that there were only two of those and a third building stood a little bit away from it, that was clearly not intended for plants. As Beatrix Parkinson went straight for that small wooden hut, Hermione assumed that during this time the theoretical part of Herbology was taught outside the greenhouses.
As it turned out, the wooden building contained a simple classroom just like the ones back in the castle. Quizzically, Hermione turned to her classmate: “Do we always study here? Or do we actually visit the greenhouses?”
“The first class of the year always takes place here, but after that, Professor Beery gives us a schedule for when we have our class in which greenhouse,” Parkinson explained.
Hermione nodded slowly while taking the books out of her bag. During her time they had not often used any Herbology books, so she was looking forward to a bit more theoretical lesson. The chance to learn more about the theory of magical plants was appealing, even if she had to study a lot harder to catch up.
Suddenly, Parkinson grabbed the schedule out of Hermione’s bad: “May I see this for a moment? I happened to hear that you took many N.E.W.T. classes and I’m just interested how full your schedule is compared to mine.”
Mistrustfully Hermione eyed the other Slytherin, but she could not find any real reason why it would be a bad thing if the girl knew which classes she took, so she just shrugged and sat down.
The focused look on Parkinson’s face turned into a sneer when she gave the paper back to Hermione: “You have the exact same N.E.W.T. classes as Tom. Not only the same amount, but actually the same classes. And just like him, you didn’t take neither Muggle Studies nor Divination.”
“Oh, really?” An interested voice came from behind the two girls.
Beatrix immediately turned around to the good-looking boy, but Hermione stubbornly stared straight ahead while slipping the schedule back into her bag. She would not talk to Tom Riddle until she figured out how to correct the lopsided power balance between them.
“One could think you’re stalking me,” Riddle said laughing, but when he slipped into the seat next to hers, he whispered so quietly that no one else could hear him: “We’re a little masochist, aren’t we, Hermione?”
Looking for support, Hermione turned to spot Abraxas, but to her horror she discovered that he obviously did not take Herbology as an N.E.W.T. level class. Other than herself, there were only eight Slytherins present, the six girls, Riddle, and Avery. All of them had shown over the last couple of days that they were no particular fans of her. Nervously Hermione put her hands into her lap, before whispering just as quietly: “Leave me alone!”
His cold laugh made her shiver, but she would not allow her to show that fear to him ever again.
“Miss Dumbledore, why so hasty?”
Cursing, Hermione looked back. Tom Riddle quickly came towards her until he caught up and took her arm. She would have preferred to free her arm and run for the hills, but her pride forbid it. She had deliberately packed her bag just as class was over and left the room as quickly as possible, leaving the group of students behind her, just to escape the danger of another talk with Tom Riddle. Obviously though, he had other plans.
In a light, conversationally tone he said: “You have surprised me again, I have to admit. Though you obviously only know the basics of Herbology theory, you are astoundingly knowledgeable in wand crafting. Which, if you think about it, is as theoretical as you can get with Herbology. Where does your knowledge come from?"
With gritted teeth, Hermione quickened her pace. She should have known that showing off her knowledge in that area would be a mistake. Of course she had only a basic understanding, but as the topic for the first couple of weeks was ingredients of wands, she was not completely in the dark. She had experience in this area out of pure necessity: After all, even though she would never admit that to Harry or Ron, she had tried to learn anything she could about the Elder Wand. Which included the theory of wand crafting. If her stupid brain had not convinced her that she now had a chance to make a good impression on her teacher and get good grades that might counter any lack of knowledge later on, she would have been more careful to disclose any such knowledge. Now, the damage was done and Tom Riddle once again intrigued.
Suddenly, Riddles second hand came down on her arm with a hard grip. Shocked, Hermione looked up and straight into those dark, almost black eyes that again watched her full of contempt: “I don’t appreciate people not answering to me. Did you not learn that it’s better for your health to not provoke me?”
“Just because you win a battle doesn’t mean you win the war!” Hermione hissed angrily, only then realising how fitting those words were for the future. She would never let Voldemort win the war, regardless of how many battles he might win. She took a deep breathe while she reminded herself that she was here to ensure victory in the future.
“Powerful words from such a petite woman,” Riddle replied and if it were not impossible, Hermione would have sworn he sounded amused. Shivering, she pulled her cloak closer around herself. Being close to this monster made her go insane.
With a blank expression Tom Riddle studied his classmates this evening. Most of the younger students were already in bed, but everyone from his year were still up as well as some from fifth and sixth year, who sat in front of the fire and chatted quietly. The only one missing was Hermione Dumbledore, who obviously preferred the isolation of her room over any company. Even Abraxas had not succeeded in making her stay any longer than necessary.
Determined he put any thoughts of the bushy haired new student aside. He had more important things to do. It was his last year now and he could feel time slipping away. He needed to find followers, build a network. He had big plans that needed loyal minions who shared his vision, shared his goals, helped him, and supported him. One day he would be the first wizard to achieve immortality, he would live for all eternity as emperor over a world full of mortal wizards. Perhaps some select muggles would be allowed to be slaves for him and his most loyal followers.
But it would be a long way to that. He still was a nobody in the magical world, just as he was a nobody in the world of muggles. Only at Hogwarts his name carried weight, but in the outside world that was not the case. He had no money, no influential parents – and worst of all, he was no pureblood. It would take a while until every single witch and wizard accepted the fact that he was indeed Slytherin’s Heir, until they paid him the due respect he deserved. Until then he needed men who supported him with their money, name, and reputation.
Of course he had Malfoy and Avery and Lestrange and whatever all their names were. All of them respected him, even though at least Malfoy and Lestrange knew he was not a pureblood. They had witnessed him opening the Chamber. Witnessed him force his will onto the basilisk. He knew only too well that ever since that day, there was a bit of fear mixed in with their respect for him and that their friendship was no longer as open as before. If he had been a normal man, that perhaps would have bothered him, but he was Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort had no friends, he had followers, minions, servants, underlings. Fear made people submissive and that was all the more true for followers.
Sadly, they were not yet aware of the fact that they had to serve him. He had to change that. He needed to let them in on his plans, needed to assemble a small group of trustworthy men that shared his ideology and vision. If they were already burning for his ideals, for his bright future, then he would show them that he was the Lord, the Leader, the one they had to obey. Any respect and fellowship they showed now was merely the play of children that would follow the biggest bully on the playground. He needed more. True fealty, loyalty. Or, which was more probable and easier to manage, fear.
The problem was, he had to be careful. Other than Professor Dumbledore, who had kept an eye on him from day one, now he also had to deal with his niece who just would not succumb to his charms the usual way. Even though he by now was sure that she was not a deliberately placed spy for her uncle – she would have gone and told Dumbledore all about what had happened before if that was the case – he still could now allow himself to let his guard down. He only knew her for a few days, but he already figured that she was more intelligent than was good for him. If he told the wrong people about his plans, she might notice something. She surely would not share his goals, even if only because they were his goals.
He turned to the blond boy sitting next to him: “Abraxas, I’d like to do something again with a few select people, you know, like two years ago, if you catch my meaning.”
Tom almost grinned when his friend turned visibly pale. Of course Abraxas immediately understood what he meant, but was clever enough not to voice his fears out loud. Instead, he replied as quietly: “Who do you have in mind?”
“Avery and Lestrange for a start, if you don’t have any further suggestions for people that are trustworthy and can keep their mouths shut.”
“I think you shouldn’t underestimate Peter, he thinks very similar to you.”
Tom raised his eyebrows: “Nott? I never got the feeling he cared much about other people.”
“You don’t, too, Tom,” Abraxas calmly retorted, “but you can be certain that he’ll never tell anyone about anything that you tell him in secret, even if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing.”
Thoughtfully, Tom rubbed his chinned while shooting a calculating glance at the tall boy sitting across the common room. Peter Nott was one of the best students in their year, but quiet and withdrawn, so he was hard to figure out. On the other hand, Tom shared the notion that Nott would tell on him. If he actually joined them, he would be a valuable addition. He nodded to himself.
It was too bad that Miss Dumbledore was the way she was. He would love to use a sharp understanding as hers. Even though she was a woman, she had proven her magic to be powerful. It really was a shame that she did not like him.
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