Chapter 27: It’s Not Fair
It was weird that she could be dreaming while being conscious of the fact that she was. Hermione was sitting in the restaurant she and Tom frequented quite often since having their first year anniversary dinner there. People moved about her, faceless and unassuming as they fretted to and fro in a speed that was unnatural. They were unimportant, though, and Hermione only glanced at them curiously before dismissing them.
Her movements were slow and unhurried. She unfolded the pristine white napkin and placed it gently on her lap, wondering all the while why she was dreaming of this place. She could hear the clinking of silverware and the dull mumblings of voices, but she felt as if she saw and heard everything through water. Everyone was talking and moving like someone had hit fast-forward, but Hermione was content to sit calmly in her chair and mildly sip her wine. She was only dreaming, after all.
A throat cleared.
Hermione looked up. Tom was sitting across from her, just as calmly as she sat. He smiled slightly when he had her attention, and it was a slow, lazy movement. Their eyes connected and it was as if they were alone in the posh restaurant. The world was buzzing around them with people speeding through life, but they were unaware of them.
They gazed into each other’s eyes, content with their staring contest.
Hermione lost. She blinked and smiled softly. “What an odd dream I’m having,” she said.
Tom cocked his head in a condescending manner. “This is not a dream,” he told her.
She laughed. “Of course it is, Thomas. Look around.”
After passing a casual, sweeping glance around them where strangers were zipping and zooming around their table he turned back to her, unimpressed. “What of them?”
She sat up straighter. “If this isn’t a dream, what is it then?”
“A moment,” he said. “A moment stolen in time.”
Hermione frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Tom gave her his most charismatic smile. “You don’t have to understand.”
“But I always have to understand,” she said. Her frown was becoming more prominent and her heart was starting to beat faster with confusion. “I don’t think I like this dream.”
Tom was also getting upset. “I told you this isn’t a dream,” he snapped.
But Hermione wasn’t really listening to him. Her heart was racing; her breath was starting to hitch; her palms were starting to get sweaty. “This isn’t right,” she said. “Why is everyone moving so quickly? This isn’t natural.”
“Calm down,” Tom said.
“I think I should wake up now,” Hermione nodded earnestly as she popped up and out of her chair.
Tom laughed. “Do you really think so? Do you really want to wake up, Hermione?”
“Yes,” she said. “Of course I do.”
Tom shook his head. “What will you wake up to? Your pathetic little friends? They’re nothing to us, Hermione. Sit down.”
She obeyed out of shock more than anything else. “Thomas?” she asked, her voice quivering uncertainly.
“You think you want to wake up, Hermione, but you don’t. There’s nothing there for you.”
“But there’s Ron,” she said, “And Severus, Remus, Lucius, and Harry.”
His features darkened. “Potter,” he spat. “He won’t be around for much longer. Don’t get used to his company.”
A shiver of fear dance down her spine. “Why are you talking this way?”
He sneered. “Isn’t it obvious?”
Biting her lip, she said, “I just want to go home. Please, let me go home.”
He was getting angry at her again. “You are home,” he growled. “You won’t leave me again.”
“What are you talking about?” she whimpered. Confusion was an emotion she was not used to feeling, and her head was starting to spin dangerously.
“You’re mine, Hermione,” Tom leaned forward, a cold sneer twisting his full lips. The same lips he’d used to trace every line of her body and kiss every inch of her skin until she’d fall apart in his arms, knowing that he would always catch her. “You’ll never leave here.”
Her vision was starting to blur and her chest was burning. “I don’t feel so well.” The words were slurred and ran together as if she were punch drunk.
The first sign of real emotion crossed Tom’s face and when he frowned at her, it was in concern and not anger. “Hermione?”
She shook her head to clear away the fogginess, but it only made things worse. “Everything’s spinning.”
Tom reached across the table and clutched at her hands. His hands were calloused and his fingernails were longer than he’d ever kept them and were tinted a sickly black at the tips. They were cold, too. Tom had always been a cold person, and the shock of his icy touch was enough to temporarily stop her spinning head.
“Do you see now?” he asked, and his voice was like nothing she’d ever heard before. He spoke in a hissing whisper that sounded familiar even though she was reasonably certain she’d never heard it before. She didn’t look up from his hands, though- she didn’t think they were his. “When you wake up, I won’t be there. Is that what you want? To leave me again?”
“I don’t want to leave you,” she obediently said.
“Yesss,” he hissed encouragingly.
She looked up then. Tom was staring at her intently, his brow puckered in concentration. Tiny beads of sweat were starting to form at his hairline, and his dark green eyes were two, unfeeling stones. He blinked and when he opened his eyes again they were on fire.
Hermione tugged her hand, but his grip was unrelenting. “You’re not Thomas,” she said, fear squeezing her heart.
He smiled again, but there was nothing charismatic about it. His grip tightened with bruising strength, and she felt his sharp nails biting into her skin, injecting her with his venom. She struggled against him, but the room was spinning again and the burning in her chest increased. She couldn’t look away from his eyes. They were glowing an undeniable red, and the fire in them consumed her.
When she screamed, the world tilted.
“No,” his voice was angry and defiant. “You can’t leave me.”
But she was already gone. She awoke with a choked scream caught in her throat. Her sheets were twisted around her legs like little snakes and she kicked them off violently, hating the feel of being tied down. In that brief moment when her racing mind was caught between sleep and awake, she heard his voice reach out and caress her.
She shivered. It was her imagination getting the best of her, nothing more.
Hermione flopped back down onto her bed, eyes staring wide at the ceiling. There were cobwebs in the right corner of her room, and the beige wallpaper was start peel on the right wall where it met the ceiling. It was dark in the room, and the silence she laid in was painful.
She sat up again. There would be no point in attempting sleep, not with her mind still racing at the implications of her nightmare.
“That’s right. Only a nightmare, Hermione,” she said to herself as she slipped on a light robe and made her way downstairs to the kitchen. The sound of her voice was oddly comforting in the sleeping house.
“Some tea does sound nice,” she said as she entered the kitchen.
She opened the nearest cabinet, wincing as pain shot through her right wrist and up her arm. She pulled the offending appendage to her and frowned at it as she rubbed it gently. Pulling her arm within an inch from her face, Hermione could make out five, bleeding half-moon cuts on the inside of her wrist, and with a flash, she saw herself in the dream again struggling to break free of Tom’s grasp as his nails bit deeply into her skin. Her wrist throbbed in acknowledgment and Hermione gasped.
“No ordinary dream,” she told herself. Her whispery tone was unnaturally loud and startled her. She no longer found comfort in talking to herself.
And Tom’s voice wouldn’t stop echoing in her head. Mine, mine, mine…
Scared, Hermione abandoned her tea knowing it would be a weak comfort. She thought of waking Harry, but dismissed the idea before her feet could even touch the stairs. He of all people deserved some rest.
When faced with the desire to escape and forget, Hermione turned to the library. The Black Library was an impressive collection of books about varying degrees of dark arts, the worst of which had been removed and safely locked away in a Gringotts vault. Without looking at the title, Hermione plucked a book off a shelf and settled down into the large armchair across from the fire. Obediently, the fireplace blared to life giving her just enough light to read by if she squinted her eyes and focused.
Books were like a soothing balm on her aching wounds, both emotional and physical. There was nothing quite like the dusty smell of an ancient tome to make Hermione breathe easier. With each page she read, her fear ebbed away and Tom’s voice grew fainter and fainter as the ache in her wrist dulled. She never knew that mermaids used to be the representatives for magical creatures…how utterly fascinating!
She plowed through the book quicker than Ron could finish a Weasley dinner. When Ron crossed her mind, Hermione felt the stirrings of anger over his lack of sensitivity, although she certainly wasn’t surprised. She’d always maintained he had the emotional range of a teaspoon.
His words from yesterday were both harsh and not. A part of her knew he’d blown up in an act of desperation. He’d never liked seeing her upset and he’d felt helpless. Perhaps she herself had been too harsh on him. It wasn’t his fault if he couldn’t understand why she was mourning a man that became the murderer of their best friend’s parents. He had only known her husband as Lord Voldemort. He hadn’t seen the way Tom Riddle could smile, or the way he saved her in every way a woman could be saved. Ron hadn’t seen the way Tom stood by her, protected her, and cared for her. Tom married her despite her being muggleborn. He let her cook and clean like a muggle because it made her happy. He even harassed a shop owner into hiring her when no one else would take her seriously. He may have been destined, or fated, or whatever such term one wanted to use, to become Lord Voldemort, or maybe he always had been the Dark Lord. But he hadn’t always been darkness and death. There had been laughter in his eyes once, and tenderness in his touch.
At least there had been when it came to her.
It was such a tangled web. Everything seemed to be happening all at once, and not at all. There was no movement on the Death Eater front even though she’d been back for two weeks now. They had no clue where to look for the next horcrux, and even if they denied it, Hermione knew they were waiting on her to magically recall some event or moment that would give the next one away.
As if Tom had come out and told her, “Hermione, just in case you decide to betray and kill me one day, I made a map of where I keep my horcruxes, and a list of counter spells so you can reach them. Hope this will help. Ta-ta!”
Yesterday had been the first time she consciously acknowledged she even would betray Tom in the first place. For a while, she could honestly admit that the idea of packing up and moving to France was not too far-fetched. Let someone else deal with it, she’d selfish thought on sleepless nights.
But of course, there was no one else, and Harry would come to her in the morning with a subdued smile and breakfast and her Efile Tower dreams would come crashing down. As if she had any right to be complaining when Harry Potter was still there, having lost more than anyone. Harry was still there, wasn’t he? Why couldn’t she be as strong as him?
Depression was eating her away, and she would feel guilty about being sad- certainly she had no right to be mourning- and guilty about feeling guilty. Resentment would come next, she knew, if she wasn’t careful. She had a right to her feelings, Hermione told herself. She could mourn Thomas; he was her husband after all. It was not fair to compare her situation to Harry’s since they were two separate entities.
Telling herself made no difference. She would feel the way she felt, and there was nothing to it. She felt like she was lost at sea without Tom, she felt guilty for missing him as much as she did, she wanted to escape and flee the upcoming war, and she felt guilty that she wasn’t strong enough to overcome her depression and guilty that she couldn’t bring herself to help Harry as actively as she used to. That’s that.
She even felt like giving up and turning herself in to Lord Voldemort.
“Hello husband, long time no see. Do what you will with me then, I’m tired of waiting!”
Tom had been patient, but she never had been. She’d spent so many months worrying about coming back to her time that she forgot to think about what would happen once she got there.
“It’s not fair,” she mumbled. And of course it wasn’t. It was childish to presume anything in life would be fair. Hermione learned that the hard way, constantly working harder than everyone else because she was muggleborn and had to prove she deserved magic. It wasn’t fair for Harry for being thrust into the role of savior at such a young age. Why couldn’t he just enjoy his youth?
It wasn’t fair to Thomas. Why did time have to steal his wife right out of his arms? Would things have been different had she never left?
No, Hermione shook off her thoughts. It was best not to travel down the what-if road or she would drive herself mad. Instead, she attempted to shake off the bad thoughts and focus on what she was thankful for.
She was definitely glad to have Harry and Ron, and Severus and Lucius back. She was actually happy that Harry and Ron had known about what would happen before she did which gave them enough time to accept and forgive her without her having to deal with accusations now that she’s back. She was grateful that they had been able to come to terms with her past. And yes, she was kind of happy that she and Ron could still snipe at each other when there were bigger things to worry about. Because she and Ron arguing was something normal, something that gave Hermione hope that things could go back, maybe not exactly as they were, but close enough.
There was nothing subtle about Ron, really. His red face and angry words drifted through her mind. “Bloody hell, Hermione. What’s with the mood swings? Even you can’t be on the rag for two weeks straight, are you pregnant or what?”
Hermione gasped and for the first time she processed his words. Shock poured down her back, and her wrist began throbbing again as she analyzed the probability of such an occurrence.
Her hand went down to caress her abdomen. As terrible as such a prospect was, as terrifying as it would be… maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Logically, she knew that it would be bad, but if there was a child- she could find hope again. A part of her husband would have survived and remained untouched by darkness. She could have a little boy with soft black hair and innocent green eyes that would sparkle with laughter in a way his father’s never had. Maybe then, when faced with her smiling son, she could forget Tom. Maybe then she could have closure and could move on.
It was possible for her to be pregnant. They’d been a passionate couple and while Tom had always been sure to murmur a contraception charm against her lips, it was easy to forget a syllable or word in the heat of the moment.
She sat stiffly in a moment suspended in time. What would she do if she was pregnant? Or worse, what would she do if she wasn’t? Could she handle another loss? Her fingers drummed lightly against the taut skin of her abdomen. There was only one way to be certain.
Her fingers ceased their idle strumming and she reached into the pocket of her night robe to pull out her wand, pressing the tip just bellow her stomach as she said the words.
Her hand fell and she released a shaky sigh that was nearly a sob. It had been foolish of her to hope. Driven by passion or no, Tom had never miscast a charm in his life.
Fat tears rolled down her cheeks and his voice was back, dripping honeyed poison into her ear. “Hush now, I will give you what you want…Come to me, Hermione, and you will have the world at your feet.”
Her wrist was hurting and it wouldn’t stop, and she could not shake away his words as easily as she had before. She could feel his lips brushing her ear as his words echoed enticingly in her head. “Come to me…come to me…”
“No,” she whispered.
She could her him laughing and her wrist gave another painful spasm in response. “You will come…soon…”
“Leave me alone, it’s not fair,” she said. “It’s not fair.”
“No one ever said it would be, Granger.”
Hermione jumped at the addition of a new voice and twisted around to see Draco Malfoy leaning against a bookshelf.
“But I guess you’re not, Granger anymore, eh?” He smirked at her and it reminded her so much of Tom that her heart began to bleed.