Chapter 22: Future Unfolding

Chapter 22: Future Unfolding

Hermione Granger’s rescue was a memory filled with gaping holes and blurred images. She wouldn’t be able to recall much as the years began to fade; instead, all Hermione would remember of that fateful night were some fuzzy pictures tinted with vague impressions of fear, pain, and oddly enough, comfort.

She had already been half-unconscious by the time her jailor had thrown her into her new prison. Dehydration and hunger had caused her head to spin constantly and her vision to blur. Her first glimpse of Grindelwald, however, she would always recall. She remembered thinking someone had created him using a ruler, for he seemed to be uncommonly tall and thin, and his facial features were hard, his nose a fiercely straight line. He was clean shaven, and paler than Severus. His eyes were a sickly shade of yellow that made her skin quiver in disgust.

There was a gap here in which Hermione assumed she had been tortured in a fashion. The Hogwarts mediwitch had confirmed that evidence of two unforgivables was found, in addition to a variety of scars from slicing hexes. If she thought about it hard enough, Hermione could hear a flat, uncaring voice asking questions she had no answers for, said voice growing steadily angrier as she left each question unanswered.

She passed out once again, and the next thing she could recall was waking up as someone forced Veritaserum down her throat. The sweet, sticky potion reminded her of cough syrup and even though her mind had screamed to spit it out, her throat, which had been denied any liquid for far too long, convulsively swallowed.

More questions followed, all of which Hermione answered truthfully causing Grindelwald to grow even more frustrated. Every answer she gave only led to more questions about why she had fled from him.

She didn’t recall every question he asked, of course, although she would never forget the one that brought on a terrible epiphany for the dark wizard.

“I don’t understand! You haven’t been near Germany or France, you were born in England! How have you even heard of me?” he snapped, his flat voice breaking as he ended in an angry roar.

And to her utter horror she had answered, in all honesty, “I read about you in Hogwarts, A History.”

Needless to say, this had piqued his interest terribly.

There was another blur, then, followed by realization dawning on him as he shrewdly asked her what year she had been born in. Of course, she would have been finished there, her secret uncovered, but that was when Albus arrived with Thomas in tow.

There was a surprising surge of heat from her forgotten locket as it flared to life and began to glow and hum. Hermione barely had anytime to register what was happening before Tom was there in the same room as her.

And while the majority of that night passed in swirls of blurred figures and dull pain, Hermione would never forget the moment her eyes connected with Tom’s.

His eyes were empty, hard shells that were filled with a cold hatred that made her shiver even though it was not directed at her. His wand was gripped firmly in his right fist, but was held steady in a confidence that was frightening in its surety. His clenched jaw was the only sign that gave any indication of his anger, followed closely by the slight narrowing of his eyes as they scanned over her in the same manner as when he studied her after her duel with Abraxas Malfoy.

Looking at him, she didn’t know what to do or say. Part of her felt relieved knowing that she would be fine now, Tom would not let anything happen to her. But even through the red haze of pain Hermione was focused enough to realize it wasn’t really Thomas staring detachedly at her. As she lost herself in his eyes, she could see only black. There were no green flecks around the irises, and no light shining through.

There was only a darkness that tugged at her, pulling her further in to his black eyes as he performed Legimancy on her. He focused only on her eight days as being captive, for which Hermione should have been grateful for since she knew that had he decided to delve deeper and look into her past there was not a thing she could have done to stop him. As it was, she did not feel relief, but instead she felt acceptance, and, to her shame, satisfaction, as she read the intent lurking behind his black eyes.

Tom was going to kill Grindelwald.

And before she could even react to the notion, before could analyze the strange sense of justice she felt, he did.

Dumbledore and Grindelwald had been talking while Hermione lost herself in Tom’s darkness. What they said would only be known to them, for no sooner had Tom broken the link to her mind did he turn swiftly to them, lift his wand and state, rather casually, “Avada Kedavra.”

Hermione squinted as the green death streaked across the room and connected with its intended victim. And Grindewald, the most feared and darkest wizard of his time, fell dead to the floor, his wide eyes staring unerringly at her.

Hermione screamed.

Tom was quick to kneel at her side, gathering her weak and shaking form into his long arms as he mutely held her in silent comfort. The darkness had receded slightly from his eyes and they stared down at her under his furrowed brow, now only dark green.

And strangely enough, her shaking subsided, and her heart rate calmed and Hermione found comfort in the arms of a murderer.

Albus Dumbledore crossed to them and stared at them silently, his twinkling eyes grim and forlorn. “We must get you to the Hospital Wing, Hermione,” he said quietly, his voice sounding unnaturally loud in the quiet room.

She did not dignify his statement with a response. There was really nothing for her to say.

Tom helped her to stand and activated the portkey she assumed Albus had given to him beforehand. There was a familiar fish hook feeling behind her naval and in another blur Hermione found herself in the Hospital Wing where the matron set upon her immediately.

Thomas remained by her side keeping a silent vigil over her. When the nurse completed her ministrations, she had turned to dismiss Tom, but one look from him that was followed up by a casually lifted brow immediately silenced her and she hustled away.

The silence stretched between them filled by Hermione’s even breathing. She was about to drift off to sleep when Tom finally spoke.

“Do you love me, Hermione?”

Hermione closed her eyes, but the tears hovering on her lashes still fell. She knew that he was only asking because she was still under the effects of Veritaserum and she hated him for being able to take advantage of her in such a situation.

But not enough to respond in the negative. “Yes,” she whispered honestly, her voice hoarse from lack of use and filled with resentful tears.

He was still not done.

“And you will marry me after graduation?” he persisted, still technically a question in order to force her honest response, but sounding more like a demand.

Hermione’s eyes fell shut; she couldn’t bear to look at him. “Yes,” her voice cracked.

He said nothing more, but as Hermione drifted into sleep again, she heard a soft rustle of fabric and then felt his hand connect with hers, the cool fingers caressing her palm in soothing circles.

And despite her anger and resentment, Hermione curled her fingers through his and was lulled into sleep by the comforting knowledge that Tom would keep her safe through the night.

When she awoke the following morning she found that Thomas’s chair was now occupied by Albus Dumbledore.

“Good morning,” he greeted softly.

Hermione squinted against the bright late morning light and bit back a moan as her vision tilted dangerously.

“Drink this, now,” Albus murmured, pressing a goblet to her lips. “It’ll help with the pain.”

She drank obediently, idly wondering why all medicine, wizard and muggle alike, tasted terrible. After finishing the healing potion, Hermione was able to sit up properly in bed with minimal help from Albus. They sat in silence for a few moments, each gathering their thoughts.

“How are you feeling?” Albus inquired.

Hermione frowned. “Fine,” she lied.

“It pleases me to hear that,” Albus smiled.

There was another pause.

“How did you find me?” she whispered.

“I didn’t find you, Tom did,” he frowned over Tom’s name.

She thought back to her rescue the night before and recalled the sudden surge of heat and light she had felt shoot through her locket. Absently, her hand went to the now cold metal trinket, her fingers gliding across it in a lover’s caress.

“I see,” she murmured lowly.

Albus frowned at her. “Yes, I believe you are beginning to see now.”

The mood between them shifted, and Hermione knew that they were no longer talking about her plight with Grindelwald.

“The time is upon us, Hermione. I believe that if you search within yourself, you will find the answers that you seek.”

Dread poured over her. Her heart came to a shuddering halt as she realized what he was implying.

Words, her own thoughts, echoed distantly in her befuddled mind as she recalled herself pacing, years ago it now seemed, in an empty hallway.

I need answers. I need to go someplace where I can be safe and find the answers I seek, a place where no one can reach me…

The answers to a question she had known all along, but her mind still stubbornly refused to admit.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she bit off, her lips folded into a tight line of anger and fear.

He looked at her from over the rims of his Grandfatherly spectacles. “Don’t you?”

She swallowed nervously, but the lump of fear remained solidly lodged into her throat. “Please,” her voice quivered. “Please don’t.”

She hated that she was begging.

Albus sighed sadly. “I truly am sorry, Hermione. As I’ve told you before, I do not envy your position. You have forgotten your rightful place. You have forgotten your true home.”

Tears gathered in her eyes as her heart unfroze and began to beat wildly inside her chest. “I haven’t forgotten,” she assured him desperately. “Please Albus, I haven’t forgotten! I won’t forget!”

He shook his head. “But you have, my dear. You already have. It is no fault of your own. We humans are but slaves to our own emotions.”

She was crying earnestly now, but in her frazzled state she did not register the tears falling from her eyes. “Not yet, Albus. It’s too soon.”

He smiled at her, and Hermione hated him because she could clearly read the pity in his eyes. “Too soon, you say, and too late says I.”

“What is too late?” asked a clipped, hard voice.

Hermione jolted, her wide eyes finding Tom as he leisurely approached her bed. Please, her mentally screamed, get me away from him before he takes me away from you.

“Come Hermione,” he stated coolly, “Madam Favare says I may take you to your room as long as you promise to take your potions every night for a fortnight.”

She bit her lip and nodded. She would have agreed to anything at that moment to escape from Albus.

At the thought of Albus, her eyes unconsciously connected with his. Their gazes clashed as a silent battle of wills progressed. She wouldn’t be the first to break, she vowed. It was not his place to force her anywhere.

After a minute, Albus dropped his eyes in defeat. “I have already lost you, and you have lost yourself,” he told her, his disappointment clear in his words and slumped posture. “Not yet, Hermione. But soon. Use what time you have left wisely,” he advised, leaving Hermione in Tom’s care.

She swallowed nervously. Ignoring Tom as he helped her to stand and fed her another disgusting potion, Hermione lost herself in her thoughts as they walked through the empty halls of Hogwarts. He brought her to the Heads’ Common Room in silence, muttering a dark ‘carpe diem’ to Helga who obediently swung open. They took the stairs slowly, stopping every fourth or so in order for Hermione to catch her breath.

Walking into their room, Hermione let her rigid posture relax as her tension melted away. She felt so safe and utterly at home as she looked around, smiling slightly as she saw Lu and Nagini sun bathing on a rock paperweight by their window.

“Are we going to talk about what happened?” Tom asked mildly, smirking lightly in that knowing way of his.

She wondered whether he was referring to the scene he had intruded upon in the Hospital Wing, her capture, or their argument before her disappearance. It seemed that there was so much to talk about that she didn’t know where to begin. Her days with him were now numbered and she was suddenly vitally aware of her own mortality, almost as though she could hear a faint ticking sound of a clock counting down as her time started drain away.

The old Hermione would have talked about what had happened. She would have made a list of every point they needed to cover and analyze every event that had brought them to this one moment where he stood before her now, smirking in an almost friendly manner. The old Hermione would have even color coded each point in order of most important to least.

But time had a way of changing people, and she was no longer the old Hermione. She was something new now, someone who was aware of the frailty and precariousness of her own existence.

“No,” she stated firmly. “I don’t believe we will.”

His frown changed into another smirk as she moved to embrace him. All thoughts were abandoned as their lips connected, fitting together so perfectly one would have thought they were made for each other.

And for the first time, Hermione allowed Tom’s hands to wander where they had never been before, and she felt the courage to allow hers to do the same. Words and logic abandoned her and Hermione lost herself in the moment as one does in a movie. She knew this moment was big and would have the power to lead to something beautiful or terrible, but she was helpless to stop herself.

As Albus had said, she was a slave to her emotions.

“Say you love me,” Tom commanded harshly against her lips, his arms gripping her as though he was afraid she would disappear again.

She felt him take a step forward, leading her to where she assumed the bed was. “I love you,” she whispered. She felt awe and despair collide within her at the truth of her words and felt as though giving voice to her emotions had now sealed her fate.

Her legs connected with the bed and she fell back onto it, neither surprised nor scared. Tom came down over her, his mouth moving more ferociously against hers.

“You are mine,” he hissed against her neck, leaving tiny love marks above her jugular. “Say it.”

She kissed him back just as hard as he kissed her, her back arching as his hand slipped under her. “You are mine,” she purred.

He stiffened and sat up, his weight supported by the palms of his hands on either side of her head. His eyes were black again, but instead of ice they were pools of swirling warmth that made her stomach shiver in desire.

Tom did not say it, but at that moment, Hermione knew. He told her with his lips, his tongue, and his hands what words could not say. Words were not necessary because she could see it swirling in his black eyes.

He was hers.

And she was his.

She felt part of herself being pulled into him as his eyes, his beautiful, black eyes beckoned to her, like the sirens that lured lost travelers to their doom. She was on the precipice that would decide not only her future, but the future for all those who would come.

Their lips crashed together once more and Hermione leapt into the void of the unknown. She gave herself to Tom and to the role fate had given her to play.

A part of her was conscious of the wheels that were now beginning to spin into motion. She felt as though somewhere in the not too distant future, the other shoe was falling. She felt as though a movie was now un-paused, or someone had fixed a record that had been skipping. A new scene would unfold now, a new verse would be sung.

The future she feared more than anything was now one step closer to her.

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