Chapter 21: Eight Days
What she needed was a plan.
Hermione idly tossed a pebble across the cell, listening to it clicking against dirty stone floor in satisfaction.
Preferably one that did not result in certain death.
She rubbed her temples in an attempt to fend of the ache and sleep that threatened to overwhelm her senses. There would be time to sleep and heal later, but right now, she needed to keep her wits about her.
She had been near the Quidditch field when they had taken her. Stupid, really, she never should have let her guard down. She should have known better.
But what’s done is done. There was no use dwelling on her stupidity. It was time to use those famed smarts of hers to come up with a plan of escape.
So what did she know for certain about her current predicament?
There had been four of them. Four tall wizards whose features had been obscured from the darkness of the night sky. She’d managed to stun the first two before she was hit by a stunning charm by one of the remaining wizards, and a body bind by the last.
It was no wonder her head was still throbbing.
When she had awoken (hours, mayhap days later) she had been in here, a holding cell of some sort. The room was small, only slightly larger than a broom closet, and dirty. Dust and rocks made for an uncomfortable bed, and only a slim sliver of light illuminated her prison through the cracks of the door.
How long had she been there for? One day, two? A week, maybe? She had no way of telling the time except for the instances when her cell door was opened and someone threw in a plate filled of what she assumed to be food. She never ate it, though. She may have gone and gotten herself kidnapped, but Hermione was still a bright girl. She knew the only food they’d give her would be poisoned.
Or worse. She shuttered at the idea of being slipped veritaserum. Severus had taught her well enough to know that there could be no overcoming that particular potion and its effects.
So Hermione counted the time by the plates of poisoned food they gave her. She assumed they gave her one plate a day (it was the most logical assumption) and in the rotting pile of spoiled food by the door she had counted three plates.
Three days of no food or water. Three days of little sleep and no light.
Three days without Thomas.
She wondered, in an effort to pass the time, what he was doing. Was he still cross with her? Was he thankful for her absence? Did he know what had happened to her or did her think she had returned to her “home”?
Such questions were futile. There was no way she’d ever know the answers and that realization tortured her more than her growling, empty stomach. Hermione hated not having the answers to a question.
Although she did know, or maybe it was only a hope of hers, that when Tom discovered what had happened to her, his retribution would be swift and painful. It didn’t mattered that they had quarreled. He saw her as his and he would go to any lengths to ensure that she returned to his side.
A part of Hermione reveled in this. He didn’t love her, but he could someday. She had seen that fact in his eyes as they fought. He still needed her. He wanted her. And Tom Riddle always got what he wanted.
Hermione had never been so thankful for that fact.
But there was still a larger part that was horrified, too. Lord Voldemort wanted Severus to guard her. To keep her safe if necessary. Was he waiting for her, in the future? The girl from his past whom he had asked to marry…
The girl who had refused him.
The girl that had said no even though a part of her had screamed yes.
It seemed like such a silly argument now. At the time all she could feel was righteous indignation that he would condescend to tell her of their upcoming nuptials. She had never been taken with such girlish fantasies of a Prince Charming and a white wedding, but there had always been some expectation about how she would be proposed to. Mainly, being sweetly asked from love.
But she had not been lying when she told Tom she accepted him. She knew that he had never asked anyone for anything before. It was not in his nature to go down on one knee while professing his undying love.
And when she was honest with herself she could admit that was the last thing she wanted him to do. Time had already decided Tom’s fate. Did she really want the undying love of a man who would murder her best friends parents?
That thought didn’t stop the ache in her heart, though. It didn’t make her heart stop bleeding or stop wishing that she was at home with Tom.
Hermione’s heart constricted. She had been lost in the past, separated from her friends for so long now that she no longer looked to the future as her home. Home was now with Tom. That was the only home she had anymore.
That realization came on her fourth day of imprisonment. On the fifth, the door opened like normal, but instead of a plate being casually thrown inside, her unseen jailer set down a tall glass filled with water.
She stared longingly at the goblet, licking her chapped lips and swallowing dryly.
Go ahead and try to poison me. If you manage to succeed it will only make him angrier, she smirked, her thoughts turning punchy as consciousness finally slipped away and Hermione succumbed to the deceptively innocent embrace of sleep on the sixth day.
On the seventh day of Hermione Granger’s absence, Albus Dumbledore bid Tom to stay after class.
“Mr. Riddle, a word if you please?”
Tom glared at the professor, but remained seated as his classmates filed out of the room while shooting him curious glances. His peers had given him a wide berth since the beginning of the week when it had been apparent that something was wrong. His usually cool manner and charming smile were nowhere to be seen. His mood ran hot and cold, and his patience was nonexistent.
His Death Eaters had borne the brunt of his anger. Hermione was gone. No one knew where she had disappeared to, but it was unanimously accepted that Grindelwald was behind it all. They were supposed to be watching her, he had raged after her disappearance. They had failed him.
And there were consequences to failing Lord Voldemort.
No one had left that meeting without being cursed, usually with Crucio, at least twice.
They had never seen Tom behave in such a manner before. They had seen him angry, sure, but his current rage went beyond anything they had ever seen. Something seemed to have snapped deep inside his mind. He was quick to anger at their meetings, and even quicker to strike out in that anger. They had always respected and revered their leader, but as each day passed and no sign was seen of his mudblood, Tom would unleash his pent up frustrations on his followers. Being on the receiving end of Tom’s wand was something they all feared now. Lord Voldemort wasn’t only to be respected, not anymore. He was to be obeyed at all costs.
And it was now, after the trap had sprung, that they finally understood Tom Riddle’s game. He might have laid out the trap, but they had cheerfully pulled the trigger. There was no escaping, not for any of them.
Abraxas had been right.
One lone Death Eater had dared to admit so aloud at one of their meetings, the third after Hermione Granger’s disappearance. Lord Voldemort had smiled coldly, his eyes glittering in the darkness as he silently lifted his wand and killed him in a flash of green light without having uttered a single syllable.
The green light of the killing curse had reflected in his hard eyes and tinted his skin a vivid green in a terrifying show of power. They all felt the sheer power of the curse shivering over them as though it was only by Tom’s will that they remained unscathed. They were at his mercy now. Evil, they had all shuttered, but amazing…
And if the mudblood would keep them from suffering the same fate as their fallen brother, then not even Abraxas Malfoy would resent her presence in their circle. Not anymore.
They had diligently moved the body of their comrade to the Dark Forest, staging his death. Devon Felton had snuck out of the school for drinks at Hogsmeade. He drank a spot too much and had wondered into the Forbidden Forest on his way home. Poor chap was attacked and killed by werewolf.
A tragic end for one so young.
But still less terrifying than the truth.
No one suspected the real murderer. No one but Albus.
“Tell me, Tom, have you heard any word of Miss Granger’s whereabouts?” Albus asked as soon as he and Tom had settled in his office.
“No sir,” was Tom’s clipped reply.
Albus cocked his head as he studied the Head Boy. Tom wasn’t even attempting to charm him, and that alone was enough to tip Albus off that something was wrong. It had been clear after the first day of Hermione’s absence that Tom was upset, although Albus had questioned, more than once, the sincerity of Tom Riddle’s emotions when it came to his time traveling friend.
Was he merely angry that his latest toy had left him? Or did his anger stem for a genuine concern for her?
Albus had to know the truth before he decided whether or not to continue with his plans.
“I see,” he murmured. “I merely ask because I revently received a note rather similar to one that Hermione herself received not some time ago.”
A flicker behind his hard eyes, gone so fast that Albus thought that perhaps he imagined it.
“A note?” Tom asked in an air of indifference.
“Yes, a note. Would you like to read it?”
Tom already had his hand extended expectantly before Albus finished asking. Silently, he placed the slip of parchment and the lock of hair into his hand.
Missing something, old friend?
Tom’s eyes darkened as he read the single line scrawled across the page, his finger softly caressing the lock of Hermione’s hair.
“When did you receive this?”
How long have you kept this from me, was the unspoken question.
“Three days ago,” Albus replied.
“You’ve known about this for three days and have done nothing!” Tom spat, anger finally breaking his cold persona.
Ah, finally a reaction. And the one I was hoping for, too, Albus smiled slightly.
“You’re smiling? She’s out there being tortured and you’re smiling?”
A strange rumbling filled the room as Tom’s anger grew at the sight of Albus’s smile. Interesting. Apparently the boy was more dangerous than Albus had originally thought.
“Calm yourself, child. I’ve spent the past three days attempting to narrow down her location. I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve been a prominent figure fighting against Grindelwald. As such, I have many sources that needed to be contacted. Unfortunately, Hermione’s location seems to be top secret and not one of my sources know where he is keeping her.”
Tom’s anger deflated and his cold mask was firmly in place again. “Why are you telling me this?”
Albus cocked his head. “There are ways, Mr. Riddle, spells to find that which we have lost. Such spells, however, are dangerous and require much of the caster. Why, I believe one of the most effective incantations requires something very important from the caster.”
“What is that?”
“I’ve reached a dead end, Tom,” Albus stated. “These spells that I speak of all require that the missing person hold a piece or some part of the caster with them. Not something physical, however. Tell, Mr. Riddle, does Miss Granger hold a part of you?”
Albus waited patiently as Tom’s brilliant mind worked through his words.
Did she hold a part of him, Tom wondered. His heart, perhaps? A memory surfaced from Christmas morning. Hermione smiling sweetly as she clasped the locket around her neck.
Oh yes, she held a part of him.
She held a part of his soul.
He could cast the spell. He could find her.
He would have to work alongside Albus Dumbledore, but together, they would find Hermione.
“Yes, sir, she does,” Tom whispered.
Albus smiled again, although his eyes lacked the twinkle that usually resided in them. “I thought she might, Tom. I thought she might.”
“When do we leave?”
Albus sighed. He had hoped rescuing Hermione would not require Tom’s involvement, but desperate times cal for desperate measures. And besides, Albus was starting to realize that nothing would keep Tom Riddle from Hermione Granger.
“In the morning, Tom. I’ll need the night to prepare, but we’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
As such, it was on the eighth day of Hermione’s absence that Albus Dumbledore left Hogwarts castle accompanied by Tom Riddle. It was on the eighth day that their rescue mission began.
It was also on the eighth day that Hermione’s cell door opened, the sudden flood of light stirring her from her slumber. No food or water was left for her to ignore. Instead, her unseen jailor hauled her out of her cell and led her down the hall and up a flight of stairs only to throw her into a new room.
This room, unlike her previous one, was not empty.
On the eighth day of her capture, Hermione Granger came face to face with Grindelwald.