Chapter 29: A Winking Locket
Retrieving the locket ended up being as easy as Harry summoning Kreacher and giving him a carefully worded order to fetch it. The old house elf had mumbled about “poor master’s treasure” being in the hands of “blood traitors and mudbloods” but obediently, the elf popped out of the room and back again, a gold chain dangling aloft in his hand he reluctantly extended to Harry. It had been easy enough when it had just been speculation, but now all anyone of them could do was stare at the gold trinket that winked a friendly hello in the muted light of the kitchen in Grimmauld Place.
Hermione’s eyes burned as she stared intently at the necklace and when the light glinted off the gold she felt an answering throb in her wrist.
“Why do you always do that?”
Hermione tore her gaze away from the bedroom window and looked at Tom with a distracted ‘hm-m.’
A cool hand wrapped around hers from where she’d been squeezing her locket and moving it up and down on the chain. “That,” he said.
She lowered her hand from the necklace and curled her fingers through his. “I hadn’t realized I was doing anything at all,” she admitted.
His eyes studied her with a calculating air. “You do it quite often,” he pointed out.
She frowned at him. Why did it feel like she was being accused? “I suppose it relaxes me,” she said, her tone sharp and defensive.
The right corner of his mouth lifted slightly in a crooked smirk. “Does it now?”
Her fingers tightened around his in warning. She was his wife now and they were beyond word games. “Careful Thomas,” she said.
His smirk widened and he ignored the warning. “Of what, dearest?”
Hermione supposed she should not be surprised or annoyed by anything Tom did anymore whether or not she wanted him to. She tightened her hold on him again, but this time her ire was fading under acceptance. Tom had to mock everything, even the smallest of habits, it was simply his nature and wife or no, Hermione was not excluded.
Tom used their joined hands to pull her from the window seat and into his arms. Only when she was pressed against him and she stood no chance at escape did he release her hand, but only to wrap his arms around her, imprisoning her in his embrace.
But she was such a willing prisoner. Always.
His arms moved up and down her sides soothingly, coaxingly, and she smiled faintly as she felt the familiar twist of desire rise. Softly, his right hand slipped down her neck and covered the locket in an oddly protective manner where it rested by her heart, rising and falling with each breath she took.
“You must always keep it with you,” he murmured, his head dipping low towards hers. “Keep it safe.”
Hermione frowned. She’d never taken it off, ever, and Thomas knew that. Still, there was a strange sense of urgency in his words that she could not ignore. “What does it do?” she asked.
Like mist from the early morning, a memory drifted up and Hermione vaguely recalled asking him that same question when she was first gifted with the locket. But the do-not-notice charm Tom had placed on it began to kick in and the memory faded back into the recesses of her mind.
But Tom must have been more distracted than normal because he answered her anyway. “Its an insurance policy. It keeps us safe.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Hermione said. As frustrating as that was, it was not unusual with Tom.
His smirk returned and the heavy moment passed. His hand moved down confidently, lingering on her breast and his smirk widened when her breathing hitched. “Just keep it on. Always.”
There was something he was keeping from her and she wanted so desperately to know what it was, but his touch was so distracting. “Thomas,” she managed to breathe. “What does it do?”
His caresses became more persistent and she realized he was trying to make her forget. “I’ve already told you, love,” his lips moved deftly against hers. “It keeps us safe. You want to be safe, don’t you?”
She recalled with a sudden flash her rescue from Grindelwald. The locket had flared to life mere seconds before Tom’s arrival and suddenly that took on a new meaning. “It’s how you found me, isn’t it? When I was-”
His lips cut her off again. His kiss was thorough, possessive, and oh so wonderful. “I will always find you, Hermione,” he said, the arm around her waist tightening almost painfully and his other hand moving to fist her hair. “Always.”
The single word had the ring of a vow and while Hermione wanted to find out more about her locket, Tom’s touch proved even more effective than a forgetfulness charm.
Hermione’s mind came back to the present. Harry cringed as Kreacher held it out to him. It was obvious he didn’t want to touch it.
“Put it on the table and leave,” Harry said.
Obediently, the locket was placed on the kitchen table and Kreacher left, mumbling about ungrateful mudbloods and blood traitors. No one paid him any mind. Instead, they gathered around the table and stared at the gold locket as though it would spring to life and attack them.
“What do we do now?” Ron was the first to speak.
Harry’s jaw was firm as he grimly said, “We kill it.”
Hermione’s wrist throbbed angrily and her heart twitched.
Severus snorted. “Destroying a horcrux is a delicate process. It’s not as easy as killing a person.”
“And you would know, wouldn’t you, Snape?” Harry said hotly, his cheeks flushing in his anger.
“Harry,” Remus gently chided.
Severus was meeting Harry glare for glare. “Yes, Potter. I do know.”
“Down Severus,” Lucius smirked. He sounded more amused than concerned.
“A few good reductos ought to do it. There’s six of us here – if we all cast at the same time maybe we –”
“Don’t be a fool, Weasley. We could take down the entire house that way,” Lucius snapped.
Severus spoke next, “There are potions I can brew, but they will take time.”
“No,” Hermione finally spoke. They all turned to her but her eyes were steady on the locket as it glittered. “We can’t destroy it. He’ll know.”
“But-” Ron began.
“She’s right,” Harry surprisingly agreed. He looked regretful about it, his eyes glinting and his lips thin. “He’d know if it was destroyed and then he’d move the others. It’d be near impossible to find them then.”
“We don’t know for sure he’d know,” Ron said.
“Wouldn’t you notice a piece of your soul dying, Weasel?”
“Shut up, ferret!”
There they go again, Hermione. Your precious Order breaking down and I’m not even the one doing it. You’ll be better off without them, you’ll see. Tom’s voice was achingly gentle and amazingly convincing.
“Don’t start that again,” she snapped. She wasn’t sure if she was talking to Ron and Malfoy or to the voice.
They all looked at her like she was a ticking bomb, like she would explode at any minute. And maybe she would. She didn’t feel quite like herself; she hadn’t for a while.
“Then what do we do?” Ron asked. He had his arms folded into a pout.
Hermione lifted her head. She was tired of being weak. Now was the time for action. “We keep it here until we find all the others. Then we destroy them all at once. He’ll have no way to stop us then.”
Severus and Lucius were looking at her thoughtfully. Slowly, Severus nodded. “She’s right,” he said, and the glint in his eye told her he was rather proud of her thinking.
You think I don’t already know, Hermione?
She didn’t even blink at Tom’s voice even though a faint hint of doubt clouded her briefly. She shook the feeling. There was no way the voice in her head was actually Thomas. It was only a product of her stress.
You don’t really believe that. You know it’s more than that. We’ve always been more.
“You just shut up,” she said.
“What was that, Hermione?” Remus asked.
She shook her head and ignored the concern looks on their faces. Well, not on Malfoy’s. He looked rather amused.
“I said we can’t destroy it,” she lied.
“But we can’t just leave it lying around either,” Harry mused.
“Agreed Potter,” Severus spoke. “It needs to be with one of us at all times.”
“Who will take it?” Ron asked. He looked horrified at the prospect of carrying a bit of Voldemort’s soul around with him wherever he went.
“Not with Harry,” Remus said. “He’s already in danger because of his connection with the Dark Lord, we don’t know if having the locket would amplify it. We can’t risk it.”
“But I want to-”
“No one cares what you want,” Severus interjected with a sneer.
“You can’t keep it either, Severus, and neither of the Malfoys. You are all marked, just as Harry,” Remus said. “I suppose I’ll take it.”
“We don’t know what sort of defensive charms are on it,” Lucius said. “Perhaps it’s capable of possession just as the diary had been. Best no one touches it and we take shifts guarding it.”
“That won’t work,” Severus disagreed. “We all have to be available in case of an attack. We need every wand we can get and there’s not one to spare to guard it. It’s not feasible.”
Hermione spoke without thinking. “I will take it,” she said. Her wrist thrummed in satisfaction and it twitched in its eagerness to reach out to the locket. Her locket.
“Hermione,” Lucius murmured, his voice soft and gentle. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
You must always keep it with you. It keeps us safe…
Tears burned her eyes but she stubbornly pushed them back. No more crying, she told herself. No more weakness. You’ve shed your tears.
“I’m afraid we’ve no other choice. It’s keyed to me,” she said.
Silence met her statement before Remus asked hesitantly, “What exactly do you mean by that?”
When she responded, it wasn’t necessarily to answer him more as it was her putting the pieces together for herself. “He gave it to me for Christmas. I never took it off, not once. I didn’t even realize I was wearing it until Grindelwald. But it was spelled for me. It was always so cold, but it when he came for me it was on fire. It’s how he found me. Don’t you see? He gave it to me. He wanted to protect me.”
“What does Grindelwald have to do with this?” Ron asked.
Her racing mind paused. “Didn’t you know?” she frowned. “Didn’t Min or Albus ever tell you?”
“Tell us what exactly?” Harry asked.
She bit her lip. “Part of my cover story for school was being a refuge from the war in France. Grindelwald found out. He wanted to know why I was important enough to run from him. They kidnapped me, I’m not sure where to, but they starved me. Tried to poison me. On the eighth day I met Grindelwald and before something really bad happen they came.”
I always protect what is mine, Tom’s voice whispered. I will always come fore you.
“Who came, Hermione?”
“Albus and Tom. I’d never seen Tom so angry. He killed Grindelwald without a second thought.”
Ron looked confused. “But didn’t Dumbledore kill Grindelwald? That’s what it says on my chocolate frog card.”
“No,” Hermione insisted. “Tom killed Grindelwald.”
And I’d do it again. I’ll kill anyone who tries to stand between us.
Another silence. There seemed to be so much silence between them all even though they’d been bickering moments before.
Ron started as something just occurred to him. “You wore that thing? You wore a horcrux around your neck for all to see?”
Despite that she knew him well enough to know he was disgusted at the prospect and not necessarily with her, his repulsive tone still cut deeply.
“Yes, Ronald,” she sighed. “Although I never knew what it was.”
“But it’s evil,” he said.
A wave of anger hit so suddenly she almost doubted it was completely hers. “And it has saved my life! I’m the only one who can wear it, the only one it won’t turn on. This is the only way.”
Still, no one looked entirely convinced and Hemrione sighed in annoyance, her hand finally stretching out to pick up the locket.
“Hermione don’t-” Harry started.
But she snatched the locket up from the table faster than he had ever caught a snitch. She opened the clasp and put it on. There was a small glow as the clasp disappeared and then the locket fell over her heart, the cool metal and familiar weight making her sigh. The locket seemed to hum to, as though happy to be home.
Never take it off, Tom commanded her. Our insurance policy.
“See,” Hermione’s voice wobbled slightly. “No harm done. Problem solved.”
Severus hissed. “Oh Hermione,” he said, the words clipped and strangely pitying. “The problem has just begun.”
“Severus?” Remus turned to him, frowning.
But Severus did not turn away from her, his eyes locking onto hers with a ferocity bordering on madness. “He’s summoning me.”
Hermione’s mouth dropped open, but there were no words for the pain she felt. Severus was gone before she regained her ability to speak.
Miles away, but fewer than the Order would have liked, was a house. There were two levels, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large kitchen. When the owner of said house had started looking at homes all those years ago he’d made sure to find one with a spacious kitchen. In fact, it was the kitchen that drew him to purchase this particular house. Oak cabinets lined the walls and it was already furnished with shiny, new appliances. When the realtor showed him in, he’d stood in the doorway to the kitchen and stared. If he squinted, he could see his wife scuttling from one counter to another. He could hear her humming now.
“I’ll take it,” he said, turning and walking out of the house. It took a moment for the realtor to snap out of his stupor and follow. Surely it wasn’t going to be that easy. He hadn’t looked at any other room.
But it was that easy. Paperwork was filled out, money was exchanged, and Ted Norris shook Tom Riddle’s hand.
“Congratulations, Mr. Riddle. A new house is an extravagant anniversary gift. I’m sure your wife will love it.”
Lord Voldemort’s eyes flashed dangerously as he stared out of the nearest window. She would have loved it had she ever gotten the chance to see it.
Years later and the house remained. He’d kept it even though it served as a bitter reminder of what he couldn’t have, not anymore. His visits were stretched thin across the years and he never bothered to decorate the hollow rooms. Dust settled over threadbare chairs and mice inhabited the once glorious kitchen.
After her injury in her fifth year, he came to the house again to prepare. Time had not dulled his memory of her in the slightest and he still recalled the curse scar on her chest she told him she received in a school accident, a scar that Dolohov dared leave on her body. It would be soon.
He’d been right. He was always right. Nearly two years passed and then it happened. She was gone and back before he could say Avada Kedavra. The instant it happened, he knew. As powerful as he was, he felt the rift in time open and then close, and felt the lump of cold rock in his chest stir briefly in realization. Gone and back again before he could analyze what that moment truly meant.
Now he felt a stirring within his chest as old charms were activated again. A link flared to life, one that had been lost nearly half a century ago. Lost, but never forgotten. With unusual tentativeness he reached out with his mind to follow the link. On the other end was a soft humming, not unlike the humming she’d do while cooking.
His Hermione was wearing the locket again.
Slowly, Lord Voldemort began to smile.