The wizarding world is small and Hogwarts smaller yet, and any hope of the new girl blending in quietly was futile. Simply being new would be enough to make her fascinating–a small world, again, an incestuous and frequently airless one–but she was brilliant and not bad looking and very cagey about her family and she was… wrong.
Tom wasn’t sure how many of the other students had picked up on that last part. Not many people were fluent in the Muggle world and the wizarding, these days. The purebloods thought she was a little strange and marked it up to the baffling culture of her (apparently) Muggle mother; the Muggleborn attributed her oddities to an (apparently) wizard father; and lately halfbloods were keeping their ancestry and their opinions quiet. Tom included, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see it.
She did have the certainty of a pureblood witch, the bedrock confidence laid down by growing up in a world that cared little whether the Minister had a cauldron or a wand under their robe, and the twitchy violent reflexes of someone raised in the finest Dark manor houses. Impossible to grow up a pureblood witch and be so wildly ignorant of the culture, though. Oh, she hid it well, but Tom was a liar to his bones, and she was a talented amateur.
Her Muggle background was even less convincing. She simply didn’t know enough about the War. Even the Muggleborns who did everything they could to blend in couldn’t help knowing things that made her blink like an owl.
And for all that, he could have left her alone–probably–but she also completely despised him, and he had no idea why.
He waited until the Christmas holidays to do anything about it. Annoying, but the fewer students around to, say, hide themselves in toilets crying, the better.
Tom found her at a table in the library. Alone, with loose and lazy body language, like the library was a safe place. Her head was propped on one hand, the other flipping through a book he couldn’t make out.
He took the chair closest to her, and watched all her ease dry up with a certain pleasure. No one else, not even Malfoy, got that look in her eyes, like she was watching fire creep along a fuse.
He didn’t say anything else. He leaned an arm on the table, and his head on his hand, a mirror of her pose, and waited for her irritation to reach a boil.
“Could I help you with something,” she said flatly.
“So glad you offered,” he said. “It’s rather embarrassing, but.”
Tom waited again. It didn’t take his fledgling Legilimancy to see the desire to wring his neck in her eyes.
“If Nott gave you his rash, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait it out,” Hermione said.
“Cute,” he said. He straightened up, and put his hand flat on the book she was reading it, keeping her from flipping the page. “But no. Worse.”
He leaned in. She leaned away.
“Potions,” Tom said, in a low, confiding voice. Her eyes flicked to his lips, then away, and he smiled. He looked at her leisurely, her small flat nose, wild hair, near-invisible sprinkle of freckles on her cheek. “You’re a prodigy, Granger. I was hoping you could shed some of your light on me.”
“You’re second in our year,” she said.
“But I’m not first.”
“How tragic,” Hermione said.
“Rather,” he agreed. “Tutor me.”
“What,” Hermione said.
“Tutor me,” he said, and gave her his best smile. “You need something to fill your time over the holiday. I think it should be me.”
Her nostrils flared, and Tom felt his smile become more genuine against his will. Abruptly she yanked her book away from him and stood up. Her chest was heaving.
“I would rather tutor a Blast-Ended Skrewt,” she snarled.
Tom leaned back in his chair and looked up at her. “A what?” he said.
Strangely, that made her fury drop away. He tilted his head, staring up at her, trying to catalogue this new emotion.
“N-nothing,” Hermione said. “They’re Bulgarian. You don’t have them here.”
“Bulgarian,” he said. “How interesting. When did you go to Bulgaria?”
"Fascinating. Were you there when the tsar died?"
Her jaw worked. “I am not going to tutor you,” she said, slowly. “Accept being second best. Goodbye, Riddle.”
Tom turned a little, resting his arm on the chair back, kicking his legs out. “Granger,” he said, while she shoved books into her satchel. When she didn’t look at him, he put a bite into it. “Granger.”
Her head jerked up.
“I wanted to spend the break studying,” he said. “But I suppose I can find… other ways to entertain myself.”
Hermione dropped her satchel on the table and glared at him. Without a word or even a gesture, the bag snapped itself shut and floated to her shoulder.
“Just say it,” she said, sounding disgusted. “Stop all your ridiculous Slytherin insinuations and wink wink nudge nudge, I am not in the mood.”
Tom pulled himself to his feet. “I’m saying you should keep an eye on me, Granger,” he said. “Who knows what I might get up to in an empty castle?”
“Interesting fact,” Tom said. “He isn’t.”
She took a step back. “He–what?”
“Dumbledore has responsibilities to the war effort, Granger,” he said. “Didn’t you know?”
“But he’s coming back,” she said, and oh, she was livid, more even than her usual simmering disquiet around him. He rounded his chair, not about to let her put distance between them.
(“It’s only,” she said, in his memory, biting her lip. “You look a lot like–someone I know–”
“Someone you clearly detest,” he said.
“Er. Well, yes. Sorry.”
“Unfair,” he said. “Uncharitable, unGryffindor–you must tell me what I can do to redeem my face.”
But she’d only looked a bit sick at the thought, and Merlin’s beard how that had made him angry)
“He’s coming back,” she said. “You won’t take the chance of–you’re bluffing. You’re not going to do anything.”
“Of course I won’t,” Tom said. “I’m sure I won’t be anywhere near–whatever happens. I imagine one of the professors will be with me the entire time. Take your hand off your wand, Granger.”
“Tell me what to do again,” she said. “And you’ll wish you only had Nott’s rash.”
“Tutor me,” he said again.
“Fine,” she snapped. “For the length of the holiday only. And only Potions.”
“I’m offended you think I need help in any other–”
“Your charmwork is overpowered and sloppy,” she snarled, and stormed out of the library. Tom threw his head back and laughed full-voiced.
The next day they coordinated a time over a series of increasingly irritable paper crane messages, the last of which flashed 6 PM ! at him in red letters across its wings and then toddled into a gravy tureen and burst into flames. Tom watched the gravy singe and bubble and glorp as the bird sunk. There was a slight smile on his face, one he didn’t even have to think about. Hermione Granger was so much more interesting than the people in his House.
He wondered, idly, if maybe he should expand recruitment, or if she was just special.
When six rolled around he was waiting for her. Several cauldrons waiting, ingredients laid out, knives sharpened, cutting boards positioned. She bustled in and stopped, eyes scanning the room.
“Nice of you to convince Slughorn to let us brew in his classroom,” he said mildly. “He disagreed he needed to supervise, though. I am Head Boy.”
She stomped fully into the room, and discarded her satchel on the chair. “You look like you’ve already decided what to brew. I thought I was tutoring you.”
“It’s a difficult potion,” Tom said. “Best done with two pairs of hands. You can supervise me while we work.”
“What are–” Her sharp eyes raked across the ingredients, and, unbelievably, her mouth twitched, a quickly smothered almost-smile. “The Cure of Barrieto. Nott’s rash.”
“My good deed for the year,” he drawled. “Shall we?”
He measured out the erumpent bile and set it over a low flame while Hermione folded her sleeves back and pulled her hair back into a halo-like puff that she stuck her wand through.
They worked in silence. She did actually watch him, to his surprise–she stared at his hands on the knife, his forearms when he stirred and scraped down the sides of the cauldron, occasionally, with a wincing quickness, glancing up at his face, once even giving his shoulders an odd, preoccupied look–
All of which he knew, of course, because he watched her too. Watched her bite her lower lip, watched her relax into her work and yank back into tautness every time she remembered he was near, watched the small hairs around her face grow damp with steam and press into her skin.
The only sound in the empty classroom was the burble of the cauldrons, the hiss as they swallowed ingredients, the quick sure tap-tap-tap of knives on cutting boards.
Half an hour in, Tom scraped minced dandelion root into the secondary cauldron, turned to Hermione, and said, “You’re very beautiful like this.”
Hermione’s hand slammed down on her paring knife and she spun towards him. He didn’t move.
“Shouldn’t a witch go for her wand?” he said.
“What are you playing at, Riddle?”
He shrugged. “It’s true. Even distracted by whatever it is that’s distracting you, your focus is impressive, your technique is letter perfect, and you–” Tom waved a hand. “There isn’t anything that compares to a witch in the fullness of her power.”
“That cannot be what this is about,” she said, her voice rising into a teakettle shriek. “You cannot–”
“You need to add the scarab powder.”
“Fuck the scarab power,“ she snarled.
"Language,” he said, delighted. “Five points from Gryffindor.”
Tom stepped in until the knife’s tip scraped his tie. The white was showing all around her eyes. Her breath was coming fast.
He leaned around her and grabbed the ramekin of pre-measured powder.
“This is a joke,” Hermione said. “It’s a joke, right?”
“Hermione,” he said, and she flinched, so he said it again. “Hermione. We’re alone in a classroom after dark, brewing a potion I could make if I was blindfolded and on fire. What did you think this was about?” Tom leaned the other way, dumped in the scarab powder, and gave it a lazy stir. He straightened back up into her white-knuckled grip on the knife.
Hermione was still, staring at him like he was the one who’d drawn on her. He waited.
The pressure on the tip of the knife increased. Tom could almost feel the edge.
And then it was gone, she was dropping the knife on the table and shuddering.
“I can’t believe this. I can’t–you threatened me–”
“I threatened other people,” he said. “Obliquely.”
She snarled at him.
“I spent all afternoon wondering what you were plotting,” Hermione said bitterly. “I drove myself to distraction, I barely slept, all the stares and the touching–”
He’d barely touched her. Tom knew that, because he remembered every time. She went on, her voice vicious:
“–And it’s all because the puberty fairy has finally visited Lord–”
She slammed to a stop.
Tom grabbed her by the throat and shoved her back against the cauldron.
Hermione went for her wand. He was faster, yanking it out of her hair and tossing it across the room. One of her hands scrabbled on the table for her knife and he squeezed her throat as hard as he could, until she couldn't help her hands flying up to pry at his. Tom snatched the knife and brought the tiny curving blade up to the corner of her eye. She froze.
He loosened his grip to a faint, warning pressure. The knife held steady.
“What did you say?” Tom said.
“Nothing,” she whispered. Her pulse raced under his fingers. “Nothing–”
“Say it,” he said. “What were you going to call me?”
“I wasn’t going to call you anything–Tom–”
Tom twisted the knife so it caught the light, flashing and glaring. She tried to lean away from it. He broadened his stance and crowded in closer, leaving her nowhere to go, just him and the cauldron and the knife circumscribing the edges of the world. Now, for some answers.
"Come on," he coaxed. "Don't make me threaten you, Hermione. We were having such a good time."
She opened her mouth–then closed it again, and just like that, the fear was gone. Her darting eyes locked onto his, and there was a depth of furious hate in them he'd seldom seen outside of a mirror. There was the real Hermione, there the girl who kept distracting him.
“Voldemort,” Hermione spat. “Volde–ow!” She jerked in his grip, spine arching.
It took him a fuzzy-minded moment to understand. The heat of the cauldron must have finally seeped through her thick skirt, and her instinctive flinch had thrust her hips between his spread legs.
He dropped the hand holding the knife to press the edge to the small of her back, holding her tight to him. Probably uncomfortable, arched like that. For her. Tom was having a fine time.
“Interesting,” he murmured. “The only people who know that name are blood bound never to repeat it, and you’re no Legilimens. So where does that leave us, I wonder.” She twisted in his grip. He pressed the knife in, felt it slip through the first layer of her robes. “No.”
The heat from the cauldron prickled his knuckles. He ignored it.
“I’m a Seer,” Hermione blurted, and squeezed her eyes shut.
Tom let his grip on her throat ease, and slipped his hand around to cup the back of her neck. She did not seem noticeably relaxed by the movement.
“A Seer,” he said thoughtfully.
“Yes,” she said. Her eyes were tightly shut, which suggested she knew more than just his true name.
He toyed with the curls at the base of her skull while he thought about this, casual, proprietary. The potion in the cauldron was turning sour. Her whole body was held in a kind of tight, paralyzed stillness, like a string that would snap when he plucked it. There were too many layers between them to really feel her properly, just the warmth and softness and pressure. She was smaller than he remembered, when he wasn't next to her.
This close, though, he felt like he enveloped her. His legs bracketing hers, his hand that covered so much of her neck. He rather liked it.
That wasn't important now.
Hermione famously hated Divination. But then, a real Seer would, wouldn’t they, watching their precious gift mocked and imitated? And they were widely said to be strange people. Would that explain her peculiar out-of-step nature? Possibly, especially if her wizarding parent kept her isolated--Seers were valuable, and vulnerable.
And she knew his name.
“A Seer would be very useful to me,” he said.
“I will never–”
“You aren’t in a position to negotiate. Open your eyes,” he said coaxingly. “Look into my eyes for just a moment, Hermione, and I’ll let you go.”
Tom sighed. He tossed the knife onto the table, and swiftly, before she could move, shoved his hand up her skirt.
She shrieked. Her eyes shot open.
He fell into the warm dark of her eyes, into her formless terror and shame and anger, saw a wall ahead of him. There were flashes around him, flickery images of masks and his own sigil and everywhere there were whispers to not say the name, never say his name, but there was one wall hastily being built, one thing she was fighting like hell to keep from him, so that’s where he went.
It was clumsy and wavering, patches flickering transparent. She was trying to occlude. Distantly he was aware of his mouth moving, saying brilliant girl, before he went straight for whatever it was she was so desperate to hide.
In the strange unreality of the mind, the wall looked like red brick and tore underneath his imagined fingers like thick cloth. Tom yanked and yanked and yanked until it became apparent the wall was keeping something in. He mentally stepped back, to give it space–
And lust slammed into him like a bludger.
Hot and choking lust, all twined up with shame like the stripes in a candy cane, and all towards him. The one-two punch of seeing his face and hearing a name that sent fear stabbing deep into her. Trying to close her eyes to the way his shoulders pressed against his old uniform shirt. His hand tugging down the knot of his tie in a rare casual moment, revealing the dip of his throat, slick with sweat. His mouth, laughing, sneering, pressed to a glass. Fighting with Malfoy, striking him down, standing over him in that secluded hall, he didn’t even know she’d seen that, but she had, and she liked it, and hated herself for liking it. His body, pressed to hers, hot and hard and insistent and inescapable--
That last thought tangled back into reality, and yanked him into his own skull again. His hand was resting on the smooth curve of her ass. Her eyes were wide, and horrified.
“Well,” he said.
“Don’t,” she whispered.
“So that’s the great secret of Hermione Granger,” Tom said. “Most Gryffindor of Gryffindors.”
Now her eyes were darting around the room, looking for escape routes. Tom didn’t like that.
“My secret,” she echoed.
“Both of them, I suppose,” he mused. “But we’ll revisit the Seer thing later–I’m more interested in the fact you’ve been avoiding me all year because you want me to shove you over this table and fuck you senseless.”
She shuddered against him.
“Yeah,” Hermione said weakly. “That’s why.”
He dropped his head to put his mouth against her ear. His trip in her mind, however short, had been very explicit about the things his voice did to her when it got low, and dark. It would be hilarious, some other time, that the tone that had sensible wizards piss themselves in fear, had the defiant and furious Hermione Granger melting against him like wax.
“Slughorn won’t be back for hours,” he murmured. “Plenty of time to grant your wish, Hermione.”
(Later, when a transfigured mattress was shrinking and morphing back into his cloak, when the room smelled like no potion he’d ever brewed, when his mind was already busily making plans, he said: “Do you hold with the tradition that what you do at midnight on December 31st is what you’ll be doing all year?”
And she just shuddered, and refused to answer.)