Thomas Marvolo Riddle was born out of an illegitimate one-night-stand between the British-born heir of a large shipping industry, Thomas Riddle, and a European (half-Spanish, half-Italian, she claimed), Merope Gaunt.
Merope had been an eager adolescent tossed away to America with her brother Morfin for a fresh start, but, when Thomas Riddle met her, she was a washed-up shell of a woman, working as a waitress in a two-bit bar to make ends meet.
She was enchanted with his devilish grin and hauntingly-dark eyes. He was drunk and found the remains of the famed Spanish beauty in her faded features.
Merope appeared four months later on the steps of the Riddle Manor, a baby bump scarcely visible, having been thrown out of her brother’s home and labelled a whore. Thomas Riddle was unmoved by her emotional explanation and ordered her to be arrested, claiming to have never met her in his life.
Penelope Blackburn-Riddle, the Riddle matriarch, defied her son’s decision and brought Merope under her wing, forcing Thomas to propose to her.
Thomas Riddle and Merope Gaunt were engaged and married within the matter of two months.
Under Penelope’s guidance, Merope grew healthy and vibrant, regaining her former beauty. At her most vibrant, her eyes were striking, her lips raspberry, and her skin clear and shiny, all with the healthy glow of pregnancy.
Merope became the perfect lady of the house.
In two months, in Thomas’s absence, Merope bore a son with most of Thomas’s features, significantly his aristocratic cheekbones, but her dark eyes. She named him Thomas in honor of her beloved husband, the one she had grown to love with all her heart, and called him Marvolo after her deceased Spaniard father.
Upon his return from his business trip a week later, Thomas Riddle was offered his first-born son, to be placed in his arms by Merope, but barely spared her a dismissal glance, proceeding straight to his bedroom, separate from Merope’s.
Merope understood at that moment, yet, still she held the hope. Every time she could, she would pressure young Tom towards his distant father.
And all her efforts went in vain.
By Tom’s fifth birthday, Merope had raised him singularly alone, with the exception of the doting bestowed upon him by Penelope. Thomas grew more and more distant, frequently disappearing on long and unexplained trips, Merope remaining too hopeful to call him out on his obvious affair.
Just a few days past Tom’s sixth birthday, Merope Gaunt-Riddle was found dead in her bedroom.
At first, it appeared that there were signs of foul play involved, but the police never discovered enough evidence to keep the case open, and it was declared an accident.
Less than three weeks after, Thomas Riddle remarried his ex-girlfriend and long-time mistress, Portia Greengrass.
They had conceived three illegitimate children together, prior to their wedding. Daphne was a year younger than Tom. Twins Astoria and Theodore were born three years after Tom, conceived on the night of Merope and Thomas’s wedding anniversary.
Six months after the wedding of Thomas and Portia, Ilaria Riddle was born to a weak and blood-drained Portia, Ilaria being the first legitimate Riddle.
One month later, Penelope died.
And then, Tom Riddle faded completely into the shadow of the beloved Riddle children.
A sharp knock upon his door rouses Tom from his drowsy state.
Pulling a shirt on over his bare chest, Tom combs his disarrayed ebony hair into a more presentable style with his fingers.
“Coming,” he responds to the second incoming knock. He slides the chain holding the door closed out of its notch and flings it open.
“Hello, can I help you?” Tom questions monotonously to the man about his own age, uniformed in blue.
“That depends,” the police officer smiles, or attempts to, (his coffee was not strong enough this morning, Tom infers). “Are you Thomas Marvolo Riddle?” the officer reads off a clipboard.
Tom blinks slowly, startled. It has been so long since he has been referred to by his birth name. “Um, yes,” he replies to the officer. “Though, now days, I go by Marvolo Gaunt.”
The officer stares back at him, still too much in his mindless state to be bothered to question Tom about the name change. Instead, he leans down and drags a box out from behind his legs. “This is for you. Box full of the case files and evidence of the death of Merope Gaunt. Was specified that it was meant to go to her son,” the officer grunts in boredom.
“But the case and its evidence are property of the police department!” Tom protests half-heartedly; he’s too preoccupied with the prospect of a glimpse into his mother’s last moments.
The officer shakes his head slowly, “Sorry. New change of law by the police chief. Closed files go to relatives of the victim. Your name was on the top of the list.” And with that, he turned and made his way noisily down the hall.
Tom gazed at the empty doorway in the officer’s wake, his eyes glazed over in bewilderment, before he sighed and lifted the box. Shutting the door with his heel, he carried the box inside his apartment and set it on his dining table, rifling through it.
He retrieves a plastic bag, dated from twenty years previous, containing a perfectly-preserved mothball.
Tom unclips the plastic bag and opens it, taking a long sniff of the faint odor drifting off the mothball.
He startles in realization as facts and ideas and memories slide around in his mind and click in place.
Tom slides his laptop out and flips it open, pulling up his email. He composes a new draft and begins to write.
The last time six-year-old Tom Riddle saw his mother, Merope, alive was right after dinner.
As usual, they ate alone in the expansive dining hall of the Riddle Manor, with the exception of Penelope who would occasionally join them. Thomas, Tom’s father, would make his way downstairs for a meal an hour or two later, avoiding his legal wife and biological son.
Their spoons clinked against the bowls and plates as they ate in the silence, Tom accidentally slurping his soup once in a while.
“Do not slurp your soup, Tom,” his mother reprimanded him. “It is not polite and respectful to do so in the company of others.”
Tom grinned toothily, “Sorry, Mother. I shall try not to do it again.”
His mother beamed at him less than a few minutes later when Tom’s predictable slurp was heard. “I love you, my boy. More than anyone, I love you.”
Tom knew better than to ask more than Father? so he bit back his words and continued on with his meal.
Once Tom finished his slice of cake and the table had been cleared, Tom made his way around the table and flung his arms around his mother, hugging her as he did every night after dinner.
His mother leaned down and buried her nose in his silky-soft hair.
Tom drew in a breath, leaning his head into his mother’s stomach.
She smelled strange tonight, an unusually sharp stench hovering amongst the sweet scent of lavender and honeysuckle of his mother’s perfume.
“Good night, Mother.”
“Good night, Tom.”
The response comes a few days later.
Tom’s ad in the newspaper had been short and sweet, containing the phrase Familiaante Omniasaeculasemper (Family above all, always and forever), the phrase that they had so often mocked.
The response reads the address of a local coffee shop, a time, and a date.
There is no signature.
So, two days later, Tom steps inside the Three Broomsticks and spots her.
She’s the same, really. Just older.
Her eyes, coffee-colored, and nose are still large, her chin rounded, and her features symmetrical with a small, crooked scar below her earlobe. Her hair is different though, chopped asymmetrical a little past her chin, the mahogany locks wavier than frizzier.
It suits her, this current sophisticated haircut.
She glances in his direction and recognizes him, her eyes alight with exuberance.
The slim thirteen-year-old boy, angelic yet cunning, crouched in the long grass. Next to him, the girl with lopsided legs, buckteeth, and frizzy hair was awkward and clearly in her pubescent stage.
“Tom,” the girl hissed impatiently. “Tom, what are we doing here?”
“Hush up for a moment, Hermy,” the boy snapped rather meanly. His tone lightened: “I believe that I found the snake that the gardener complained about last week.”
Instead of flinching at the boy’s initial tone, Hermione Jean Granger simply swatted Tom Riddle on the back of his head. “Don’t be rude,” she ordered bossily. “Besides, you promised that you would stop calling me that dreaded nickname.”
“I never promised…Hermy,” Tom laughed, pouncing to his feet.
“You are so dull!” Hermione cried, lunging for Tom who was already racing away.
“Race you to your home!” he called, speeding away.
“Ugh!” Hermione let out a final scream of frustration before following in pursuit.
She was rounding the bend of trees that hide her family’s house when a hand shot out from the copse of trees and dragged her between them.
“What’s your problem, Tom?” Hermione complained to her abductor who was pinning her down upon a tree, shoving against his chest. “Release me this instance!”
“Shut up! Hermione! Shut up!” Tom whispered hurriedly, more serious and deadly-calm than Hermione had ever seen him before.
Hermione stopped, staring at him aghast. “Tom,” she asked in a small voice. “What’s going on?”
Together, Tom and Hermione peeked around the tree, peering as best as they could into the windows of Hermione’s home from their distance.
“Is that my father?” Tom questioned quietly.
“Yes, that is…” Hermione wondered. “He’s arguing with Marisol and my father.”
“What’s Marisol doing her?” Tom hissed indignantly. “You never told me that she was back from college.”
“She’s not,” Hermione replied, confusedly. “Or, at least, she’s not supposed to be.”
They watched the argument in silence, wincing when yelling was audible from inside.
Finally, Thomas Riddle exited the house, slamming the door in what seemed defeat. He walked several footsteps away, reaching close to the tweens’ hiding spot, before turning back to the house.
“What’s he doing?” Hermione cried worriedly.
Tom shrugged in concern, “I dunno.”
They crept for a closer look, still shrouded in the shadows of the trees.
Suddenly, it all became horrifyingly clear.
Thomas Riddle crouched down, and in a matter of minutes, struck a match alit and tossed it at the house, walking swiftly away.
First, a spark.
Then in second, the house went up in flames.
Hermione screamed. She pulled away from a shell-shocked Tom and raced towards the house.
Thomas Riddle was too far away now to hear her.
Tom came to a sudden realization and ran after her.
“Hermione, Hermione!” he called.
He found her standing feet from the flames, too fearfully to think about how to proceed next. “Hermione.” Tom wrapped his arms solidly around her to prevent Hermione from leaping into the flames.
“Tom…Tom,” she whispered slowly, stunned.
Hermione glanced back up towards her house, and her gaze locked with her burning father. Her eyes widened.
“Hermione, I love you!” her father yelled as loudly as he possibly could. “Tell your mother I love her, darling. Tell her for me.”
Marisol spotted her younger sister and screamed. “Hermione! Get out of here! Tell mama we love her!”
Hermione reacted, shrieking, “Daddy, no!” She was sobbing, her tears drying from the heat of the flames.
“Come on, Hermione,” Tom dragged her away from the flames. “Let’s get help. We can save them!”
Turning away, Tom and Hermione raced back to the Manor, their arms and legs pumping. Hermione’s sobs cut off with the need to breath.
They ran as they had never run before in their lives, edging faster and faster, until they reached the Manor in a matter of minutes.
“Fire! Fire!” Hermione shrieked into the mansion, her words echoing.
“Someone call the police!” Tom yelled.
Their cries mingled together as servants, the Riddle children, and Portia came rushing down to meet them.
“Fire! Quickly!” Hermione cried one last time, leading the horde out of the Manor doors.
Behind them, Thomas Riddle passed by them, walking straight into the Manor silently.
Tom strides to the table Hermione’s seated at and pulls up a chair. Before he can sit down, she leaps up, wrapping Tom in a hug.
He leans into her familiar arms, pressing an innocent kiss to her smooth cheeks.
“It’s been too long,” she whispers into his chest.
“I know,” he answers, his voice gruff.
They untangle from each other.
Hermione’s polished, sleeveless navy blouse is rumpled from where it was tucked into her sleek, black pencil skirt. A matching blazer is tucked over the back of her chair.
“You are wearing heels,” Tom observes. “I never thought this day would come.”
“Sorry,” Hermione blushes uncontrollably. “I came straight from work. This is my lunch break.”
They take a seat at the table, Tom across from Hermione.
“What do you do?” Tom questions politely, if a bit awkwardly.
“I’m a journalist. I work at a private, independent corporation. I plan to make a big break this year, though, then I have a job lined up in the government.” Hermione turns her head away. “What about you? What is it that you do?”
“I am a lawyer. I work for a rather large firm, though I am taking a year off to explore my calling as an artist.”
Hermione chuckles, “Really?”
“Yes.” Tom fiddles with his fingers.
Her expression sobers slightly. “Oh, wow. It seems so unlike you. But I can definitely imagine you as a hotshot, arrogant lawyer.”
“People change,” he replies slightly coolly.
Hermione grimaces. “I’m sorry, Tom. It’s been too long. I should have contacted you. There’s no excuses for that. You’d always been there for me.”
“My name is not Tom anymore. I’ve been Marvolo Gaunt since I was fifteen,” Tom responds.
“Oh, oh.” Hermione frowns as she realizes the implication. “You shall always be Tom Marvolo Riddle to me.”
“I know that, Hermione. I always knew that.”
“Alright,” Hermione whispers. “Let’s get right to it. Why are we meeting today, after fourteen years?”
Tom smirks devilishly before responding. “I want revenge.”
She stiffens, leaning across the table, lowering her voice. “You do?” she asks carefully. “You truly do?”
“Yes, Hermione. I do.”
She gapes at him for a moment before composing herself. “But, why now? It has been such a long time.”
“Hermione, love,” (Hermione bristles at the term of endearment that Tom could not help but pick up from his British grandfather.) “I have proof, definite proof, of who murdered my mother.”
Worry floods her face. “Oh, Tom.” She reaches a hand to rest in reassurance against his own upon the table. “I am so, so sorry. But you have to learn to let things go.”
That was clearly the worst possible thing for Hermione to say.
“It was nice meeting you again, Hermione, but clearly this meeting was a mistake.” Tom stands tall, kicking his chair away. His face is slack, devoid of emotion, his eyes chips of hard charcoal. A downright cruel smirk plays on his lips, not the one that she has seen him wear throughout their childhood when they escaped trouble, but the one she has seen his father wear countless of times. “Goodbye.”
Hermione shivers, despite herself. She doesn’t respond, simply watches Tom turn away from her and stalk away, struggling to reconcile this,this cruel man with the charismatic boy she remembers from her childhood.
Swiftly, Tom turns around and returns to her table. There is anger in his posture; it is subtle to all but Hermione who can see it in the faint clenching of his jaw or the little vein on the side of his neck pulsing hard.
But, worse, there seems to be betrayal, the edges of Tom’s lips curving into a frown.
He leans across the table, latching on to Hermione’s wrist with a tight grasp.
He whispers desperately in her ear. “I wanted to do it for us. For you. Take what they took from you.” There is grief and anguish in his tone, though his grips on her wrist screams of anger.
Now, this is clearly Tom. Volatile. Too caring but too dangerous in his love for people.
“Please, help me,” he whispers one final time.
Hermione snatches her wrist away, massaging it where Tom crushed it. She sighs, weighs her options. She finds that, deep down, straight in her soul, she wants the Riddle family to suffer as her family suffered.
“I’ll do it. This could make an interesting exposé for my final article, if everything works out.”
They meet at Tom’s apartment the following night.
Hermione surveys the penthouse, scanning it for clues of Tom’s existence, signs that he has lived there for three years.
It is large and expansive, clean and modern with sleek lines and monotone shades.
The kitchen and bathroom are top of the line and modern, the dining room and living room simple. Even Tom’s closet is orderly, everything filed away in his own complex system.
His bedroom is impressive, a large king bed in the center, a wall of ceiling-to-floor glass overlooking the city, and a large painting Hermione recognizes as Tom’s work hung on a wall.
But the jewel in the entire apartment is Tom’s art studio, sharing the same wall of glass as his bedroom. Stuffed to the brim with canvas covered with white cloth and bottles of paint and brushes, it is the most personal of Tom’s rooms and instantly Hermione’s favorite.
They eat Chinese takeout on the dining table, drawing out plans and mapping out possible ways to the end.
“So, quick recap. I haven’t kept up with the Riddles all that well besides your father. What’s going on since you left?” Hermione inquires in a muffled voice, mouth full of Chinese takeout. She draws a hand over her mouth, smearing grease over her face.
Tom sniggers at her in amusement. “Let me see. Thomas murdered your family when we were thirteen,” (Hermione stiffens). “I left the Manor when I was fifteen. No one noticed that I was gone, ever,” he snorts bitterly.
She gasps. “Where did you stay?” she demands hurriedly.
“In an orphanage for the next three years,” he responds monotonously. “I changed my name then.”
“How did you pay for college? Scholarship or…” Hermione trails off. There was no doubt that Tom was brilliant, even back then, but to pay for college as an orphan.
“Thomas was donating money to Hogwarts University since he graduated from there. I pulled some strings and made sure his money went straight to me.”
Hermione cracks a smile, her features lighting up. “So your ignorant father paid for your college education unknowingly. Ironic much?”
Tom laughs, deep and heartily.
She frowns, “Wait, you attended Hogwarts?”
“So did I! How come we never ran into each other?”
Tom shrugs with ease. “Big campus, different crowds of people that we both ran with.”
“Yeah. For me, there was just three. Harry who I met after I moved away, Ron who was Harry’s best friend, and Ginny who was Harry’s girlfriend and Ron’s sister.” Hermione smiles with nostalgia. “I still see them, though we drifted apart after Ron and I broke off the engagement.”
There is something burning in his chest. His Hermione, engaged to a man he had never met. “You were engaged?” he blurts out, something sharp and vicious hidden in his voice.
“Yes, for six months two years ago. Ron and I dated for years, but there just never was enough chemistry between us. No true connection.” She pretends not to notice his tone. “Did you ever have anyone special? Do you?”
“My last major girlfriend was Bellatrix Black a year ago. Before her, I briefly dated her cousin, Sirius, for a few months.”
Hermione’s eyes widen in understanding. “Yes, of course,” she stutters.
“Any problems,” Tom questions slowly.
“No, it’s fine. If you’re happy, then I’m happy for you.” Hermione reaches to lay a hand on Tom’s reassuringly.
Tom shakes their previous conversation off and resumes his explaining. “Thomas is a senator and running for re-election. This is the best time to strike and ruin him forever. His political party is quite small and exclusive. Portia remains the same, hosting luncheons for her social friends and planning galas and charity dinners. Daphne is married to Vincent Crabbe, a famous boxer, and they have an infant daughter, Isadora. Daphne runs a bakery. Astoria and Theodore are in grad school. Astoria is dating playboy Draco Malfoy, a cousin of my friend Abraxas. Theo is single. Ilaria attends Beauxbatons.” Tom whips his head away, snarling. “As the youngest child, she was the most privileged and graduated high school at age sixteen.”
Hermione rubs at Tom’s wrist soothingly. “Carry on. How will we ruin them?”
“It will take time for my father. Especially for Portia. Their suffering will be long-planned and drawn out as they deserve. We shall start by targeting the children. I know personally that Daphne is involved in some illegal business and that Ilaria has a very persistent penchant for gambling and drinking, especially since she is a year from being of age. And as for the twins, that is where you will come in,” he smirks at Hermione.
“What will I do?” she asks.
“Astoria is emotional and easily heart-broken. And Theo, his downfall will be enough of his own doing.”
She gazes at him in confusion. “What?”
“A year ago, Theo killed his pregnant girlfriend in a DUI. He is six months sober.”
Hermione’s breathing quickens. She spits at Tom, “No! You can’t be that-”
Tom scowls quickly. “I would never, Hermione! I am not that cruel!”
She sickens back in her seat, relieved. “But still, Tom, what you are talking about is somewhat illegal and incredibly immoral. We could be killed or even worse,” her voice drops low and panicked. “Arrested. We could be arrested. This would be on our permanent record. You would be a lawyer no more. Are you that willing to risk it all?”
“Yes, I know,” he agrees. “But, if we don’t stoop to their level, how will we beat them at their game?”
Hermione watches Tom as they stand in the alleyway behind the exclusive Slytherin Club.
“Draco Malfoy is inside tonight,” he tells her. “Are you prepared?”
Hermione winks at in response and removes her coat.
Tom’s throat suddenly find itself dry, and his eyes darken.
Hermione is decked out in clubbing attire. Her dress is black and body-con, gathered to the side and with strategically-placed cutouts and an asymmetrical hem. Her hair has been crimped in intentional beach waves, and her eyes shadowed in grey and her lips painted with burgundy. She wears gladiator heels and absolutely no jewelry.
She is elegant and sophisticated, if still a little sexy and slutty.
“Do I look okay?” she asks nervously.
“You look gorgeous, my love,” Tom replies, his voice husky.
Hermione notices his possessive term of endearment. “Thanks,” she whispers before slipping into a completely-different persona, more seductive.
She stalks away, hips swaying hypnotically, Tom following behind at a distance.
Hermione is twenty minutes into her conversation with Draco Malfoy, but already, she wants to escape.
God, she never realized how dense a man could be!
It took all of ten minutes for Hermione to go from making eyes at Malfoy from across the dance floor straight to his side.
And he has a girlfriend.
There is no wonder that girls and women flock to him, him with those full lips and aristocratic features.
He is an asshole, but he is a very attractive asshole.
Still, Hermione’s thoughts swim to another attractive asshole with a very different pair of lips, thin but with a slightly fuller bottom lip.
She saw the way he eyed her tonight, with lust.
But even in his eyes, unlike Malfoy’s, there was respect. Like she was something he wanted to swallow whole but she was a queen to him.
Hermione was so certain she had a crush on Tom as a thirteen-year-old. But never in her wildest dreams did she think, then, Tom would reciprocate her feelings.
“What do you think, Jenna?” Malfoy nudges Hermione out of her thoughts.
“Jean,” she corrects him, keeping him under the assumption that her middle name is her real name.
“Jenna,” he insists.
“I think whatever you think is amazing,” she whispers huskily, clutching at his arm and batting her eyes innocently. Inwardly, Hermione groans at the brainless accessory she has become to this man.
Malfoy pulls away from his conversation partner and turns to her, leading them away and to a private booth. “You’re so hot,” he compliments her juvenilely.
Hermione resists the urge to roll her eyes or throttle this moron, instead giggling shallowly. “Not as handsome as you.”
God, she feels sorry for Astoria for having to put up with Malfoy.
No, not sorry. She remembers Astoria and her bitchy attitude. They must be a couple made in hell.
She is doing this for Tom, she reminds herself. This will lead to the retribution for Marisol and her father’s deaths.
Malfoy leans down to kiss her, and Hermione has to mentally remind herself to not flinch or move.
Instead, she slings her arms around his neck, rising on her toes, and reaches his lips first.
He falters in surprise but continues.
They kiss there in the shadows for minutes, Hermione’s hands never leaving his neck but Malfoy’s hands sliding more south.
There is no passion or chemistry between them, but there is blatant attraction, and for now, it is enough to go on.
For Hermione, it is a stark reminder of that fact that she has not kissed a man since Ron.
Her life has consisted around work for over a year now.
Malfoy breaks off their lip lock, his mouth travelling down the length of her neck. He mutters into her skin, “How far is your place?”
Hermione replies huskily, “Your place is closer.”
Astoria Riddle strolls into her boyfriend’s penthouse, intent on surprising him with coffee and breakfast and getting in a quick round of sex.
Instead, she finds Draco entangled with a slim brunette in his sheets.
She screams and drops her tray of coffee, the liquid spilling over her shoes.
Hermione startles at the scream and almost leaps up before reminding herself to stay down. She pops open an eye and stares mournfully at the spilt coffee. Her body is sore, and her head is pounding, and she could have really used that coffee. She swallows her regrets, listening to the sound of Malfoy rushing of the bed.
“Astoria, Tori, Tori!” he attempts to calm the indignant, petite brunette. “It was a mistake!”
“Another mistake, Draco!” the brunette shrieks shrilly, tossing her empty, coffee-soaked tray upon his head. “The mistake was the last two girls. This one’s a finality.”
“What?” Malfoy askes, stunned.
“We’re over, Draco! I told you to quit picking up random girls at bars and clubs. I gave you one last chance!”
Malfoy strokes her back, panicked. “No, you don’t mean that, Tori! You’re just mad right now! You need to calm down.”
“Calm! I will not ‘calm’ down, Draco!”
In the midst of their bickering, Hermione rolls out of the bed, snaps on her bra, and slips on her dress. She slips out the front door unnoticed.
Tom is nowhere to be seen when Hermione strolls through the front door, heels in hand. She is a sight to see, hair ruffled and clothes in disarray, wearing only her coat for modesty.
Hermione rounds the corner to Tom’s bedroom when he grabs her, turns her around, and pins Hermione to the wall, all with a growl of frustration.
Tom captures her mouth is a bruising kiss. Their tongues entangle, battling for dominance, as their heads moving side-to-side in sync. Hermione’s hands slide into Tom’s silky hair, tugging with a brutal grip. His hands clutch tightly at her hips.
Hermione bits down on Tom’s lower lip, and he groans into their kiss. In retaliation, he sucks at her own bottom lips.
It seems that after eons, Tom retreats from her lips and murmurs into her hair, “God, I never got to tell you how gorgeous you looked last night.”
She clears her throat. “You did.” She releases her punishing grip on Tom’s hair before scraping her teeth against his jaw, biting on his earlobe.
Tom lets out a load moan, the sound jarring Hermione’s bones in pleasure. “Correction,” he replies huskily. “I want to show you.”
He moves his mouth down the graceful slope of her neck, pressing hot, openmouthed kisses here and there. Tom nibbles on her earlobe in revenge before returning to her throat, suckling on the skin there. He moves lower and lower, reaching below her collarbone, before pausing to hoist Hermione up against the wall, allowing her to wrap her elegant legs around his waist.
Hermione moans and whimpers whenever he hits a particularly-sensitive spot.
Tom is an experimental learner, always returning to where Hermione felt the most pleasure.
Sliding her hands underneath his grey Henley, Hermione herself explores the ridges and scars and bumps of Tom’s abominable muscles. She tugs at his shirt, and he eagerly helps her pulls it off, tossing it aside somewhere. Hermione, in responsive, draws her nails over and over again down Tom’s back until he bleeds.
Tom tears the dress off her body, and Hermione shivers, suddenly feeling the breeze.
She pulls his head away and whispers brazenly in front of him, “You can show me.”
“Huh,” Tom blinks at her dazedly, watching Hermione retreat to his bead, her hips swaying seductively. He grabs her before she reaches his bed and pulls her in for a long kiss before pressing a sweet, shorter one to her lips.
Then he tosses her onto his bed.
Hermione lands with a squeak as the springs of the mattress protest, Hermione herself squealing in shock.
Tom climbs on the mattress predatorily, kicking all the bedding off to the side before crawling over her body and caging her in with his arms. He leans in for a kiss.
To his surprise, Hermione uses her legs wrapped around him as momentum and flips them over. She mutters in his lips, “Show me.”
The following morning, when Hermione, clad in only Tom’s shirt, strolls in the kitchen, Tom announces, without even looking up at her from his place at the dining table, “You have one last major part in this stage of our plan, my love.”
“What is it?” Hermione questions, helping herself to the pot of freshly-brewed coffee.
Tom finally looks up, and his eyes darken with lust upon seeing her attire. “As much as I would like to suggest something that involves you against my glass wall and my shirt on the floor, we have to move forward, darling. Let’s get serious.”
Hermione places her elbows on the table and leans forward, her nose touching Tom’s. A smirk rivalling Tom’s in its suggestiveness spreads across her face. “I am serious,” she says seductively. Then, laughing, she continues, “Tell me what I must do.”
He sighs before stating, “I need you to be Theodore’s girlfriend.”
Hermione gapes at him, “What?”
He reaches a hand out to toy with the edge of her hair with a long pianist finger. “Theodore is in a dark place, and he believes that he needs someone good. Someone light like you.” Tom yanks on her hair, forcing her to tilt her head back, and drags a dull nail over her throat. “Plus,” he adds, smirking. “No man in his right mind would resist you.”
Hermione’s beautifully-melodious laugh echoes around the dining room. “You certainly haven’t.”
He nuzzles his nose into her hair. “Are you protesting?”
She pouts playfully. “No, not at all.”
Tom sobers down, his eyes hardening for a brief moment. “Will you do it, Hermione? For us?”
She swallows silently, her mouth dry. “Of course. I’ll become the best girlfriend Theodore Riddle has ever seen.”
Hermione strides into the charity gala, Harry Potter on her arm. She hands her shawl off to a waiting server and takes in the entire ballroom.
It is large, it is grand, and it is another farce to fatten up Senator Riddle’s reputation and image.
The Riddle family always did like their lavish, unnecessary parties.
By her side, Harry scoffs at the entire display, managing to turn his disdain into a believable cough as another couple passes them. “This place stinks of old money!” he hisses to Hermione out of the corner of his mouth. Apparently, his lack of subtlety also hadn’t been able mature with their journey out of teenage angst.
“Be polite,” Hermione giggles, swatting at his gelled-back hair.
Harry looks handsome, in his lanky awkward way, but it is moments like these that Hermione is reminded that her geeky, troublemaker best friend grew up to be attractive.
Then that moment is ruined when Harry gasps in awe, making eyes at some famed soccer player. “Hermione! It’s Viktor Krum! I got to go meet him!” he whispers to her.
“Go, Harry!” she discretely pinches his inner arm. “But remember, you are twenty-six, not fifteen anymore.”
Despite herself, she smiles as she watches Harry leave.
It had taken Hermione days to persuade Harry to allow her to accompany him to the gala, Harry gaining invitations to every major event in the city as Head Detective of the police department.
“Fine,” he finally relented. “You can be my plus-one. It’s not like Ginny can go anyways, being eight months pregnant.”
Hermione squealed childishly, throwing her arms around his skinny neck in celebration in what Harry believed to be a Hermioneish manner he hadn’t seen since high school. “Thank you, thank you! You don’t know how much you are helping me.”
“But,” Harry stalled, Hermione glaring at him impatiently. “We worry about you, Hermione. Not just me and Ginny. Ron, Lavender, Molly, Arthur, and the twins, we all haven’t seen you for such a long time.”
Hermione sighed, “I love all of you, but I have been busy recently. And things have not been the same between Ron and me since we broke our engagement, and he started dating Lavender. You remember what a bitch she was in high school?”
“Still,” Harry insisted. “I haven’t seen you for so long. Luna says that she has seen you with Marvolo Gaunt. He’s dangerous.”
“I know, Harry.”
“No, you don’t, ‘Mione. We were in the same bunch of classes for our law degrees at Hogwarts. He rubbed me the wrong way then. He’s worse now. Gaunt is ruthless in the court. He cheats, he charms, he lies, he blackmails, all to get his way and to win cases.” Harry stopped, rubbing at the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “He is-They call him the Devil. The other lawyers and police officers call him Voldemort. It literally translates to-”
“A flight of death, I know. Continue, Harry.”
Harry placed his palm over Hermione’s in a very familial manner. “There is no line he won’t cross; no bridges he won’t burn to get what he wants. He’s a snake.”
“I know!” Hermione snapped finally. “I know who he is; I know what he does. I honestly love all you, Harry, but stop worrying about me! I always took care of you; it is too late to switch that around.” She leaps to her feet, reaching for her purse. “And his name is Tom. His true name is Tom.”
Harry watches her go, sorrow in his emerald eyes. “I hope you know what you are doing, ‘Mione!” he calls after her.
Hermione spots Theo Riddle out of the corner of her eye and shifts to better observe him.
She had never interacted much with the rest of the Riddle family. She doubts she had spoken more than three words to them in a month.
She and Tom were older than the rest of the children, and, since they’d met, spent most of their time attending school, roaming the grounds, or reading books in the grandiose library that the other children never entered.
So it is no surprise that she almost doesn’t recognize Theodore, mistaking him for someone else. The magazine articles that she and Tom had used to read up on the family paid up in Astoria’s case.
He is tall, like Tom, and has inherited the Riddle nose and chin but that is where the resemblance ends. Instead, Theo has his mother’s bottle-green eyes, hair a shade darker than Hermione’s, and a crooked yet endearing grin.
He is definitely attractive, more than Malfoy but definitely not more than Tom.
Hermione wonders if there has ever been another specimen as perfect as Tom Marvolo Riddle.
There! Theodore glances in her direction disinterestedly, his eyes sweeping over her in dismissal, but does a double take, returning his gaze to her. He nods politely at her from across the room.
Hermione smiles coyly at him, giving him a bold three-fingered wave.
Flirt enough to intrigue him but not to overwhelm him, she remembers Tom saying. Keep in mind that he is heartbroken.
“Then what?” she had questioned. “Why does it have to be me?”
And then Tom showed her a picture of Pansy Parkinson, Theo’s dead girlfriend, and Hermione could see the resemblance.
They both had the same shade of hair, though Pansy’s was straighter, small lips, and large eyes.
“Are you sure Astoria didn’t see you that morning?” he demanded hastily.
Hermione rolled her eyes in irritation. “How could she see me if I couldn’t see her face?” she snapped. “Anything else?”
“Make sure you wear something red,” he smirked charismatically at her.
Just to spite Tom, she had not worn red.
She knew that he had some way to keep track of the gala.
Instead, Hermione had found an elegant and feminine number that was appropriate for the gala.
It was black, silk and strapless, flowing to the ground, covered in intricate floral designs of blue, red, and peach. She had twisted her now-shoulder-length hair into a simple knot and accessorized with red high heels styled after gladiator sandals.
Wherever he is, Hermione knows that Tom’s fingers are just itching to draw her.
She smirks knowingly, feeling the heat of Theodore’s gaze on her. Ducking behind a couple, Hermione makes sure that he loses sight of her.
Then she weaves in and out of his eyesight, in the midst of the other guests, making her way towards him.
When she finally approaches him, Theodore steps away from his conversation and bows for her like a true gentleman.
“You are a very gorgeous woman,” he tells her suavely, yet truthfully. “My name is Theo. Theo Riddle. Unless you’ve heard of me from the tabloids following my family’s exploits.”
Hermione laughs genuinely. “Hermione, Hermione Granger. I do know who you are. But not from the tabloids,” she responds bluntly. “I follow your work in your father’s party. You are a skilled diplomat.”
“Pleased to meet your acquaintance.” He shakes her hand in a firm, solid grip. “I am glad someone appreciates my work. I must confess: I’ve heard of you. The awarded journalist Hermione Granger. I admire your work.”
Hermione blushes controllably. “Thank you. I find that it is very hard to become recognized for your articles when you tend not to write about politics.”
“Oh, no, no, no,” Theodore assures you. “Many people that I work with read your work.” He attempts to direct the conversation. “May I ask, are you here alone?”
“No, actually. I accompanied a friend, but I seem to have lost him.”
“May I accompany you then?” he requests.
“I’d be honored,” she accepts gratefully.
They continue like that, speaking about Hogwarts, fellow professors they had, classic literature, striking up a rapport that Hermione doesn’t find with anyone else but Tom.
Theodore seems perfectly charming and quite jovial, but when their conversation touches upon Pansy and their dead child, a deep sadness begins to shine in his eyes. He is shadowed by melancholy, and Hermione almost regrets what she, what they, will forced to do to this man and his family.
But, then, again, she doesn’t really.
When the gala is almost over, and the number of guests begins to dwindle down, Hermione and Theodore stop in front of the grand staircase.
“I would like to see you again,” he tells her earnestly. “May I take you out for dinner one night?”
“Of course.” Hermione gives him the number of a burner phone that she and Tom have established.
Not surprisingly, Theodore takes her to a high-end, classy Japanese restaurant.
She dresses appropriately in navy shift dress with white intricate designs, white wedge booties, and a black coat, her hair blow-dried straight and hanging loose.
They drink over-priced yet tasty wine and comment on how scrumptious the sushi is.
Despite how strange Hermione expects the date to feel, she is surprisingly comfortable with Theo as they discuss the symbolism of Shakespearian deaths.
Theo laughs delightfully when Hermione explains her belief that the entire ending of Romeo and Juliet would have changed if Romeo had spent even the smallest amount of time sobbing over his lover’s dead body.
Theo is perfectly charming, like Tom, but more genuine.
Hermione can see that he appreciates everything he gives his attention to, including her, appreciating her in a different way than Tom.
After the meal, they take a stroll around the park in front of the restaurant, quizzing each other.
“Favorite color?” Theo questions.
“I feel tempted to say none, but, truly, it’s black. Black is a universal color!” Hermione explains hastily.
He responds without doubt, “Red.”
“Favorite book?” Hermione inquires politely.
“Crime and Punishment. And you?”
“Pride and Prejudice.”
Theodore smiles, “I had you pegged for that. Favorite artist or composer? Mine’s Beethoven.”
“Look at you. It’s obvious you’d go for classical.”
“Fine, what about you?”
She hesitates before blurting out, “Halsey!”
Theo frowns, confused. “The indie-pop singer? That was really unexpected.”
“Some of her lyrics resonate with me,” she shrugs carelessly.
“Any siblings? I’ve got three, you probably know by now.”
“None,” Hermione admits. None alive.
When Theodore kisses her, it’s soft and sweet, lacking the passion that she and Tom share, but, to her surprise, there are still sparks.
Tom is watching the news when she walks in, pulling her wedges off.
“How was the date?” he mockingly asks her.
“It was fine, darling,” she replies with the same sarcasm. She drops her heels into the closet along with her coat, strolling into the living room. (She has temporarily moved in with Tom for convenience’s sake. She’s lonely, that’s what.)
“Did he ask you out for a second date?” he teases.
She stands in front of him, blocking his view. “Yes, he asked me out for a second date. Damnit, I never seen a boyfriend as fixated as you trying to set his girlfriend up with his brother!” She doesn’t notice her slip of tongue.
“So I’m your boyfriend now, huh?” he smirks up at her with those irresistible lips. She lets out a squeal as he tugs her hand, pulling her onto the couch next to him, and flips them over so she pinned underneath him.
“It slipped out,” she moans as he drags his lips over the pressure point on her neck. “But, fine, you’re my boyfriend now. Satisfied?” She clutches at his ebony locks in a desperate attempt to distract him from nosing her cleavage, pulling his lips to hers.
“Very,” he responds huskily. He bits her lower lip, and she hisses, responding quite passionately to his kiss.
There it is, the passion and chemistry lacking during Theo’s kiss.
That instant connection.
Hermione begins to tug at his shirt, but next thing she knows, they’re sitting upright, Tom clutching her to his chest as he raises the volume on the television.
“Breaking news!” a reporter announces, standing before the smoldering ruins of a building. “Daphne Crabbe, wife of boxer Vincent Crabbe and daughter of Senator Thomas Riddle, has been arrested on suspicion of associating with famed drug lord Grindelwald. Police investigated her bakery Greengrass Cupcakes for evidence before the building exploded into flames. More news to follow!”
The screen cuts away to a video of a solemn Daphne in handcuffs being led away by police officers. Next, it cuts to an interview of the Riddle family lawyer.
“My client is innocent,” he states. “These accusations against her are completely false! Senator Riddle shall be suing whoever is responsible for this.”
Tom barks in laughter. “Cornelius Fudge. You probably don’t remember him, do you? The family lawyer?”
Hermione turns to him, stunned. “You did this? You did, didn’t you.”
He smirks, “Not personally. Had a friend down at the police station drop a hint. Had someone rig the bakery for the fire. The rest of it is all going to be the media.”
“Is this the end of the first stage of our plan?” Hermione questions.
“Almost, one last person.”
For her next date with Theodore, Hermione suggests a screening of “Gone with the Wind” in a small town nearby.
She has half a mind to see how the illustrious pretty boy downsizes. (She’s doing this for Tom but who says that she can’t have her own fun with this? It’s not like she’s driving Theo away.)
Theodore outmatches her expectations, dressing smartly in jeans and a button-up, presenting her with an eccentric bouquet of flower at the door of her real apartment.
She meets him at the door, dressing down for the first time since he has met her in a transparent peasant blouse, jeans, and a light.
It is rather chilly for early October.
He surprises her once more when he reveals a fully-pre-planned picnic for the viewing.
Theodore may be part of one of the most fucked-up families on the planet, but she can why Pansy Parkinson fell in love with him.
Hermione herself knows that she won’t follow in Pansy’s footsteps.
Her heart is already claimed; no one knows it just yet, not even her.
Soon news about Ilaria Riddle is all over the news.
She was expelled from Beauxbatons for running a gambling ring and selling bootleg liquor.
Somehow, the Riddle family pays the media off, or someone off, before the news breaks out.
Hermione finds out from Harry who heard it from his favorite professor, Albus Dumbledore, when he went to visit Hogwarts and reports back to Tom.
“Good,” he smirks, pecking her swiftly on the lips. “Stage 1 is over.”
“And…” she trails off, expecting him to continue.
“Stage 2 begins.”
“I want to take you on a date,” Tom announces one morning a month later when they are flush and cuddling on his bed. It has been four months since she was first reunited with Tom, three since they unofficially began to date. It has been two months since she began dating Theodore. It has also been two months since Tom officially became her boyfriend.
Tom has never taken her out on a date.
They have been to restaurants, watched the occasional movie together, attended art galas, but Tom has never taken Hermione out on a true date.
It has actually been several dates with Theo, and they have had several sweaty romps in the sheets.
Sex with Tom is still better.
The spark between Theo and Hermione has burnt out now for quite some time. So she claims to Tom, pretending she never sees his charcoal eyes flash reddish.
“Only a few more months,” Tom assures her, cupping her chin gently with his hands. Their kiss is quick but full of love.
Hermione places her palm over Tom’s beating heart, feeling its fragile pulse below her fingertips. “I hope so too.”
They continue like that for another month, Hermione and Theodore growing closer, with Hermione finding herself coming home to Tom and their bed less and less often. (She never noticed when it became their bed instead of his.)
Theo seems almost infatuated with her, but she knows that he’s smart enough to let himself fall over the edge and turn that into an obsession.
Not when he just recovered.
And she helped.
But there is two weeks, two weeks, where Theodore is gone overseas for some conference involving Senator Riddle.
And Hermione swears that those two weeks are the best in her life.
Because they’re all spent with Tom.
And only Tom.
Not their half-assed crazy revenge plan. (There’s no point to continue that when the current main target is out of country, Tom says decisively, almost selfishly.)
They wake up in the sheets, entangled with each other below the warming golden rays of the sun. Or, Hermione kisses him awake.
They cook each other breakfast, chatting, conversing, even arguing at days.
They ignore outside phone calls and have no obligation to anyone but each other.
Tom paints her; Hermione works on plotting her Riddle family exposé. Otherwise, they read to each, eat in restaurants, drive to locations not far from home.
It feels so domestic, Hermione laughs to Tom one evening while she types away on her laptop.
He’s got his fingers combing gently through her hair, now regaining the curly ferocity Tom recalls from childhood. It makes her feel so tranquil and isolated from the harried world.
He gives her no response.
One afternoon, the day before Theodore returns, coincidentally Tom’s twenty-seventh birthday, they go out on a date in a nearby mountain.
Both of them are dressed lightly, Tom in a black V-neck and jeans and Hermione wearing shorts and a tank top.
They hike for an hour through the bright sunlight or under the forest shade where the light dapples the foliage.
Tom and Hermione emerged at the mouth of a waterfall, gorgeously spraying them with a rainbow mist.
Her heart is pounding with the pumping of blood through her veins, her skin is sprinkled with sweat, and her hair is tangled beyond temporary finger-combing repair.
It’s the best feeling in the world, to be with the person you want by your side the most and surrounded by nature that will survive for years once they’ve passed on.
They eat on a blanket draped on the wild grass, below a majestic oak tree.
Tom presses his lips into hers.
“I love you,” she whispers into his lips.
He draws back, dazed. “What?”
“I love you,” she repeats, louder and unashamed. “I love you.”
He whips his head his head to the side, and Hermione’s heart plummets.
“Tom?” she prods at him, unable to see his reaction.
He takes her aback by kissing her passionately, and they make love right there, surrounded by the eternal beauty of nature.
She knows he loves her but just needs time to find a way to express it.
Then Theodore returns.
And Tom leaves. He disappears from her life for months. Let your life play out normally, he tells her. Forget me for a while.
So she does.
She moves completely back into her own apartment and resumes her job fulltime.
It isn’t the end, it isn’t closure, she knows so much, forcing Tom to fade into the background of her heart.
She does her best to forget him for the time being.
She almost actually succeeds, swept up in dating Theodore and her new, old fake life.
They go on dates, meet each other’s friends.
She introduces Theodore to Ginny, Harry, and Ron as her boyfriend. (She silences Harry’s protests with telling stare.)
They spend nights together in each other’s homes, moving closer together than ever.
She goes out with Ginny once, twice, thrice times a night, her and Ginny and Luna forming the tight knit group they used to be in college.
Harry and Ron and her go camping, and, for a while, it feels different, it feels old. It feels like the first time she and Tom were separated when she moved away and the years after that spent with Harry and the Weasley siblings.
Tom is barely mentioned, if ever.
Theodore tells her that he loves her one day.
There is no fluttering in her heart; it is stiller than ever.
Stiffly, she responds, “I love you, too.”
Tom Marvolo Riddle returns his life to normal too.
He removes traces of Hermione from his apartment for the time being and goes back to taking clients nonstop and winning his cases ruthlessly.
He rises swiftly in the political world and reaches quite a status.
Cornelius Fudge is fired as the Riddle family lawyer, for failing to protect the Riddle family’s image.
Senator Riddle has lost quite a bit of followers.
His party hires Tom as a lawyer.
The first day on his new job, Tom meets Senator Thomas Riddle.
He looks his father straight in the eyes and laughs when the eyes that also belong to him look right past him.
There is a cruel irony in the world at play, and right now, it’s aiding the younger Thomas Riddle.
Once again, he rises swiftly through the party, becoming favorite to his half-brother.
Hermione never visits the office.
Never mind that.
Tom follows his father and uncovers some shady dealings.
He tails the older Riddle discretely several evenings.
The evidence piles higher and higher, Tom digging his father’s grave deeper and deeper and deeper.
He can’t wait until his father drops dead into it.
But the best is yet to come.
One night, completely unplanned, Tom stays late in the office.
He’s signing files when he hears strange noises coming from the vents.
Tom tracks the groans and grunt to his father’s office, a smirk forming on his raspberry lips.
He’s no voyeur, but he reaches into his pocket for his phone, selecting the camera app.
One evening, Theo asks her to attend dinner at the Riddle Manor.
This is the ultimate test for the crazy revenge plan,
and Hermione is completely unprepared.
Her hair has grown back, frizzy and untamable, and she feels that now she may be fully recognizable, going back to the home of her childhood nightmares, and childhood dreams.
Hermione takes a quick trip to the salon.
And her hair is back to shoulder-length, crimped semi-permanently in beach waves.
She styles it into a French braid, allows Ginny to apply feature-highlighting makeup, and dons a gauzy dress so white it blinds.
Then she takes Theo’s arm and steps out of her apartment.
The dinner does not go completely she expected, to say the least.
Hermione steps out of the car and in front of the Manor, and, all of a sudden, she is swept up in a flashback.
Almost everything is exactly the same.
Before dinner, before meeting everyone, Theo takes Hermione on a stroll around the grounds, explaining how his family is truly quite dysfunctional and to not get offended if…
She tunes him out, instead gazing mournfully at the spot her house used to be in.
They round the same curve, nearby where she and Tom hid in the woods, and she catches a flash of something, a young Hermione slipping from her memory and into the forest.
They stand right where Hermione and Tom stood almost a decade and half ago
Hermione swears that she can almost feel the heat from the crackle of the flames, see the ghosts of her father and her sister who never was allowed to fall in love. She yearns to stick her hand into the invisible, ghostly flames.
Hermione stands still and, at that moment, swears that she and Tom will not stop with their plan until the Riddle family is in ruins at their feet.
Theo sweeps Hermione into the Manor, introducing her to his mother.
Portia, still a tall and limber brunette with aging beauty, spares her barely a nod and strides past.
Hermione catches the vulgar stench of mothballs off of her and shivers uncontrollably.
Theo places his hand around her, asking her if she is alright.
She nods him away.
The rest of the family sits around the dining table and eats while Hermione and Theo join them.
There is the ever-so-handsome Thomas Riddle, the permanently-sullen blond Daphne, her burly husband Vincent, the tiny Astoria, Portia, and Ilaria.
Ilaria, who with charcoal eyes and brown-black hair, is the spitting image of Thomas Riddle.
The dinner is silent and anticlimactic until dessert.
When a silver platter is served to Portia, she whips off the lid to find nothing edible but two large envelopes instead.
She rips into both of them.
And then there it is.
Two different stacks of glossy photographs, the size of plates.
One vivid and rather graphic series features Senator Riddle wrapped up with a statuesque blonde.
The other involves blurry shots of Daphne with famed playboy Blaise Zabini.
“Is that Tracey?!” Astoria gasps, disgusted.
Hermione is stunned. She didn’t realize that the family was this damaged.
Tracey Davis is Daphne’s best friend and Thomas’s secretary.
“Thomas,” Portia hisses dangerously.
The dining table erupts into chaos.
But before Hermione can gain a good look, Theo whisks her away and into a car, ensuring that the driver will take her home immediately.
There is a knocking at her door, and a half-asleep Hermione rolls out of her bed and onto the ground.
She startles away in shock and leaps to her feet urgently in response to the second knock.
When she finally unlocks her door and fumbles with the knob, opening it, Tom is leaning causally on the wall opposite.
He is dressed as she had never seen him before, sleek and suave in a suit, hair slicked back formally, cuff links and tie clip and an emerald tie. All he seems to be lacking is a fedora.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” she asks him dryly. “You got your hands on those pictures somehow and sent them to the Manor.”
Tom responds with a silent nod, face slack of emotion.
“So what is your excuse for not being around in eight months?” she deadpans.
“I’ve been around.” He makes careless vague motions with his hands, attempting to pass as nonchalant, but Hermione can recognize the emotion concealed behind his dark eyes.
“And around is…” she trails off, waiting for a response.
He hesitates before sighing and raking a hand through his hair, disheveling the product that styled his hair. “I have been working as a lawyer in my father’s political party the past months,” he admits softly.
She understands immediately. “So, all this time, you have been underneath your father’s nose, plotting his downfall?” Hermione tugs at his hand, loosening it from his defensive stance, and stroking at the pulse point on his wrist with her thumb. “Oh, Tom. It must have been miserable for you, to be working for the father that never noticed you.”
Tom scoffs in disbelief. “He stared me straight in the face, and he apparently saw no traces of Merope or himself.” Straightening the sleeves of his suit jacket, he speaks again, “It’s time to break-up with Theodore, now.”
Hermione calls after him as he turns to exit her apartment. “Tom, anything else?”
He freezes midstride. “Fuck it,” he mutters, snapping around and stalking straight back up to Hermione. Cupping her face in his palms, he leans down and kisses her deeply and as meaningfully as he can. Coming back up for air, he smirks down at her. “I. Fucking. Love. You.” He punctuates each word with a brief brush of his lips against Hermione’s lips. “I love you, and I don’t intend to ever let you go.”
“Good.” A radiant smile spreads across her face before she tugs on Tom’s tie, pulling him down for a long kiss. She releases him while Tom begins to unlace his tie.
Once he drops the tie off to the side, Tom pulls Hermione into him and flips them over until she’s pinned between him and the wall, kicking the door shut with his foot. He nibbles down the exposed creamy skin of her neck, relishing in Hermione’s little gasps and moans.
Hermione wraps her legs around his torso boldly, and they stumble through the living room blindly, Hermione sultrily popping the buttons of Tom’s starched white shirt one by one and Tom intent on delivering them to Hermione’s bed safely.
Finally, they collapse backwards on the bed, Hermione crawling over Tom.
Somewhere along the way, Tom lost his suit jacket, and Hermione’s hair was mysteriously freed from its bun.
Now, her hair spills over them as she assists Tom in pulling his shirt off his body.
“I love you, darling,” he murmurs softly into her neck.
“I know,” she hums in pleasure.
Theodore Riddle waits under the shade of an overhang in front of the grandiose hotel, a bouquet of colorful wildflowers gripped in his hand. Tapping his foot rhythmically, he checks his Rolex watch at brief intervals.
Finally, his beautiful girlfriend comes darting up. “Sorry,” she huffs breathlessly. The pink flush of her cheeks and windblown hair only make her appear for lovely. “I couldn’t find the keys to my car, and then I tried to take a taxi but couldn’t flag one down.”
She trails off, leaning on the tips of her toes and pecking Theo on the lips briefly, though he notes that something seems off about her affectionate action.
“How are you?” Theo questions, handing her the flowers with a flourish.
Hermione giggles, appreciating the flowers with a gorgeous smile. “I’m good now.”
“So…” he hesitates, his apology faltering on his lips. “I am sorry about the visit to my home. I did not expect it to go that way.” Theodore smiles unsurely.
He blinks slowly for a moment. “To make it up, may I take you to dinner tonight? I made reservations to your favorite Italian restaurant.”
Her face falls dramatically, Hermione biting her lip enough for it to bleed.
Theo’s heart stutters. That was clearly not the reaction he was expecting, or hoping for.
“Theo,” she begins. “You are a fantastic boyfriend, and any women would be lucky to date you. But, the incident with your family…” she pauses. “Your family is clearly dysfunctional, and that is some family drama I simply cannot afford right now. My life is already too complicated.”
“No, no, no,” Theodore denies. “Tell me what’s wrong. We can fix this; let me help you.”
Hermione looks crestfallen, her lips twisting into a pout that Theo would have normally found adorable. “Theodore, I am very, very sorry. But you and I, we’re over. There is no farther we can go from here. I wish you the best in your future.”
“Hermione, Hermione,” he calls behind her as she strides away, her head held high.
She doesn’t turn back.
Striding away, one heeled boot in front of the other, Hermione’s frown slides off her face, only to be replaced with a charming smile, her hair streaming behind her in the breeze.
Behind her, Theodore punches the brick wall to his side, swearing filthily at the pain that has him gritting his teeth. He swipes at the bruised skin of his knuckles and shoves his fists into the pockets of his jacket. Theodore stalks into the hotel, straight to the bar, different emotions tainting his judgment red.
“One bourbon on the rocks,” he orders gruffly.
He proceeds to down three more consecutive drinks, his head pounding and eyes blurring with each new sip of alcohol.
High-pitched giggling and a cluster of voices from the other end of the bar.
Theo leans down and spots Blaise Zabini surrounded by a horde of young, scantily-clad women. He recoils, squeezing his eyes shut as the glossy pictures of his older sister and Zabini flit across his brain. Theodore settles into his barstool, body stiffening with anger.
His anger takes over.
The moment Zabini is alone, Theo grabs him by the collar and drags him into the back alley.
“Hey, buddy,” the dark-skinned playboy slurs, possibly drunker than Theo himself.
In response, Theo shoves Zabini face-first into the brick wall, then releasing him.
Zabini collapses to the ground, attempting to prop himself back up to his feet, but his knees buckle beneath him.
Theodore advances towards him, kicking him in the ribs.
Zabini curls into a defensive position. “Stop,” he whimpers.
Blaise’s pleading only fuels Theodore on.
Theodore Riddle brings his fists down again and again on Blaise Zabini until the other man is an unrecognizable mess of bruises and blood.
“What did you do to him?” Tom shakes Hermione awake urgently. “I told you to break up with him. Instead, you broke him.”
“Huh?” she questions blearily.
Tom shoves his smartphone in front of Hermione’s squinting eyes, an article opened on the screen.
She reads the article, the words blurring together in her sleepy brain.
Theodore Riddle was found beating billionaire Blaise Zabini to death in an alley. Riddle was incredibly drunk, and it took a tranquilizer to the neck to get him to retreat from Zabini’s body. Zabini ended up in the hospital in a coma with a minor head injury, three broken ribs, and bruised lungs from Riddle’s chokehold.
She laughs cruelly, the sound bouncing around the room mockingly. “Caring about your bastard half-brother, Tom?” Hermione taunts, something ugly in her eyes. “I didn’t know you had a heart for those fuckers.”
Tom stares at her in uncharacteristic disbelief. “What the fuck happened to you?”
“I opened my eyes,” she explains nonchalantly. “I want them to suffer. They will suffer for what they did to us. An exposé is something the Riddles can recover from. I want them to go to hell and back.”
He whistles, a devilish sneer tugging at his lips. Tom’s face is exposed for the first time that Hermione can see, blunt and honest emotion written clearly across his charcoal eyes. “If that is what the lady wants then that is what the lady shall receive.”
Hermione slides her hands through his hair, gripping locks with unwavering strength. “Good.”
He curses quietly. “Then you’ll do something for me.”
“Apologize to your detective friend for me when all of this is over.”
Despite everything that has hit the Riddle family recently, Thomas Riddle has still managed to hold on to his Senator position but just barely. His support of voters has fallen to meager amounts.
To celebrate, and to build their reputation back up, the Riddle family throws an elegant and lavish gala.
The richest of the richest and the most famous of the famous attend in style.
Watching his guests arrive and standing in his grand balcony, Thomas Riddle smiles cunningly. He has survived the most dreadful of ordeals, this recent series of attacks against his beloved family being the worst, but he always made it back to the top. Always.
As the end of the evening draws closer, Thomas makes an announcement to his guests.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I have recognized and seen many familiar faces tonight, and I would like to thank you all for voting for me and celebrating my family.” Here he pauses for polite applause. “To celebrate, here is a video recognizing the last fifty years of the Riddle family.”
Thomas steps out to the side as a gigantic, previously-unseen screen descend from the ceiling.
The audience watches the screen whirls to life.
A video plays, but it is not what the audience expects.
“Fifty years ago, Thomas Michael Riddle was born to Michael and Penelope Riddle, shipping tycoons from England. Thomas spent the first ten years of his life in London before his family resettled here in the United States.”
Pictures of the early Riddle family and Thomas float across the screen, each captioned differently.
The narrator continues past Thomas’s teenage years in the United States and begins the story of Thomas’s early twenties:
“Unknown to most, Thomas had a first wife and son before Portia Greengrass.”
At this abrupt news, many audience members appear confused.
Thomas Riddle himself is frozen on the steps of the grand staircase, unsure of how to react.
“Merope Gaunt was a European woman of mixed heritage, barely surviving on her wages as a waitress. She met Thomas at the bar where she worked, and they had an instant connection. After spending the night together, Thomas left her. Several months later, Merope, having lost everything, showed up on the Riddles’ doorstep, pregnant with Thomas’s son. Thomas Riddle would be inclined to take her in and raise their child together, right?”
Someone in the audience chuckles.
“Of course not. Thomas was inclined to dump her back on the street where Merope supposedly belonged. Penelope Riddle took Merope in and forced her son to marry her. Four months later, Thomas’s eldest son, Tom Marvolo Riddle, was born. His entire life existence was ignored by Thomas. You may ask where Tom is now? No one knows. He vanished from the world at age fifteen. But, Merope is a different story.” The narrator pauses. “Just days past Tom’s sixth birthday, Merope was found dead in her bedroom. The case was initially ruled a murder but went unsolved and declared an accident. Tom reported smelling a strange stench near his beloved mother hours before she died…Here’s the truth, Merope Gaunt was murdered by a jealous Portia Greengrass.”
Portia screams in laughter manically, barely heard over the video.
“Portia loved Thomas with all her heart, and he did too. They had a child out of wedlock, and Portia was expecting two twins. Both viewed Merope as a simple inconvenience, but Thomas did nothing for the sake of his mother who loved Merope. Portia simply could not wait. She already had access to several poisons as an avid gardener and just slipped one into Merope’s meals periodically. Mothball, a weed killer, a substance that was quite unusual and rare, but one that Portia always had access to.”
Guests appear disturbed, muttering amongst themselves.
Portia makes a move to disrupt the video by shutting down the projector but freezes in place upon hearing her husband’s name again.
“Portia and Thomas disrespectfully married just a few months later. However, Thomas was not innocent himself. He had his hands in shady dealings, and one of his servants simply got too deep. Marisol Granger, the college-going daughter of the Riddle butler Richard Granger accidentally uncovered some of Thomas’s plots. Even after threatening her to stay silent, Thomas was uncertain about Marisol. In a ruthless but necessary move, he burnt Marisol and Thomas alive in their home.”
“This is false,” Thomas booms, his mind working quickly as neurons fire.
In that moment he understands.
He studies the crowds of guests below the staircase and spots her.
Hermione Granger, the same from just a few months ago and very similar to her gangly teenage self.
He had underestimated her.
Thomas had thought that she wouldn’t remember.
Clearly, he thought wrong.
He gestures behind him to his security, hissing “Stay behind me!” to Portia.
“Ms. Granger,” Thomas nods curtly at her as she slides into the limousine.
“Thomas,” she responds, her coffee eyes flat and hard.
She is dressed very finely in an exquisite burgundy silk gown with virtually no back and hair braided into a complex hairdo.
“I didn’t think you had it in you,” he states bluntly.
“Well, I did.” She reaches for the car door, only to discover it locked. “May I go now?” she gestures to the door.
“No,” Thomas orders. He retrieves a gun and clicks the safety off, aiming it point-blank at Hermione’s forehead. “Stay.”
“Of course,” she obeys quietly, retreating from the door.
Thomas observes her coolly.
He is unnerved when he discovers that there is not fear in her majestic eyes.
Instead, there is glee.
The entire family emerges from various cars and enters the Manor. Once they settle down in the parlor, they begin to notice
“Hermione!” Theo gasps, bewildered. He appears thinner, shadows growing darkly under his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
She ignores him, raising her head nonchalantly.
“Ms. Granger here is responsible for all the misfortune that has befallen our family lately!” Thomas growls.
Hermione corrects him coolly. “You had it coming.” She tilts her head, fixing him with a dead-eyed stare.
Astoria sneers. “You were the slut who slept with Draco!”
“Please,” she scoffs. “Have some respect for yourself, Astoria. I pity you. He was falling all over me. I barely made an effort.”
Astoria shrieks angrily, lunging for Hermione. “You bitch!”
She is held back by Ilaria.
“Don’t waste yourself on those beneath us,” Ilaria reprimands her sharply.
“How did you do it, Ms. Granger? I remember you and your sister, running around our home with that scrawny bastard of Merope’s.” Portia sneers down on her distastefully.
“Clearly,” a voice echoes from behind the family. “You remember wrong. If I remember correctly, you never even noticed them.”
Everyone whirls around in shock.
“Marvolo?” Thomas questions, stunned.
Tom stands on the stairs leading down to the parlor, appearing dapper in a sharp suit and slicked-back hair.
“Really, Father? Even now. I made it all so clear.” Tom shakes his head in false disappointment. “But, then again, I never expected you to.”
Theo opens his mouth to speak.
“Not now, Theodore,” Tom silences him. “It’s horrible enough that you dated my girlfriend. Don’t ruin the moment.”
Hermione laughs abruptly and very, very cruelly.
“Look at me, Father. Don’t fail me now, for once,” Tom orders menacingly.
And so Thomas looks at him.
Actually looks at him.
Thomas finds his own identical features, twenty years younger. His mother’s nose. His grandmother’s hair. But eyes, eyes that belong to Merope.
“Tom?” he whispers unsurely.
“Give the man a prize,” Hermione taunts.
“What is this for?” Portia cries, for once, something miserable appearing in her eyes. “We’ll never go to court for murder. Besides,” she spits at Hermione. “They deserved it, meddling in affairs that weren’t theirs.”
Hermione steps up suddenly and backhands Portia across the face harshly. She grabs her by the hair and pulls Portia to the ground. “Do not speak of what you do not know,” she hisses into the older woman’s ear.
Finally, the family appears hesitant, fear flickering in their eyes.
Tom grips his father’s jaw brutally. “My mother and Hermione’s family cannot be avenged now, but I will have the satisfaction of knowing your last desperate moments.” He throws his father aside, offering an arm to Hermione.
She accepts it, and together, they step out of the parlor.
“What?” Daphne screams in fear.
“The carpet underneath your feet has been doused in petrol.” Tom hums. “In fact, now that I think of it, the entire house has been doused in petrol. Don’t bother trying to escape. You won’t make it alive. It’ll also ruin your murder-suicide cover.” He strikes a match at his side and tosses it into the parlor.
As the carpet goes up in harsh flames, Daphne screams again behind them. “What about my daughter? What about Isadora?”
Hermione whips around. “We’ll take care of her as our own. We shall never treat her as you treated us.”
In the background of the burning manor, Tom kneels on one knee.
“Will you marry me?”
The answering kiss is brutal and full of passion.