Chapter 31: A Plan
Pressed into the back of the closet, Hermione covered her lips to stifle her happiness. She knew the giggling was going to give her away, but she couldn’t help herself. Never had she ever thought it could be like this. Not with anyone, but especially not with Tom.
“I know you’re here,” he hissed. His tone was certain, almost dangerous.
Hermione shivered and pressed further into the closet. She could barely make out his form through a small sliver of space where the door should latch, but his back was to her and all she saw was his lean muscles, his ivory skin glowing in the candlelight. He looked positively sinful with his slacks riding low on his hips and his chest reflecting the dim flames from the candles she had lit.
Her breathing faltered and then resumed at a faster pace. She was sure he could hear her.
“Hermione love,” he called. He only called her that when he really stood to gain something and every time he crooned to her it was as if her body was being summoned. Her hand lifted towards the door of the closet, but she caught herself just in time.
As if he had known how close she’d been to caving, he growled warningly. She smiled and muffled another giggle. Tom was fun to tease.
With a crash the door was flung open and his hands were on her waist, his skin like liquid fire against hers until he dumped her rather unceremoniously onto their bed.
“How did you do it?”
He smirked down at her, his eyes perusing her flushed skin, lingering slightly over the rise and fall of her chest. “Do what, exactly?”
“Find me. How did you find me?”
The bed dipped and Hermione was very suddenly aware of herself as Tom hovered above her. His shirt was missing – or not really missing since she was wearing it, her new favorite sleep shirt, and her fingers twitched towards the planes of his chest. The skin there was soft, she knew, and very sensitive.
His expression was a cross of humoring and humorous. He used one hand to prop his head up by hers and the other played with her hair. He was silent a while, his eyes intent as he twirled the strands around his index finger, winding and unwinding. When he grew bored, the hand trailed to her cheek and down her neck, caressing the golden chain of her locket.
He leaned down, his lips to her ear and whispered, “Hermione. There is no where you can go, no place in this world or the next, that I would not go to find you. You belong with me.”
As he’d talked he’d been tracing his lips from her ear to her jaw and he sealed his vow with a burning kiss. He kissed her until she thought she could die. And yet she lived.
Or was brought to life.
“You belong with me…”
He shuffled above her. Clothes that were recently donned were discarded again and she sighed contently as his skin brushed hers.
“I love you,” she murmured against his lips.
He gasped softly, his eyes meeting hers with searing intensity. He did not reply to her, at least, not with any words.
The witch jumped and looked to Lucius who must have been calling her for sometime if the annoyance in his tone was any indication.
He eyed her contemplatively. “Are you with us?”
She huffed slightly. “Of course, Lucius. I’m listening.”
It was a lie and he knew it. His eyes searched hers a moment longer before he moved back to the conversation. Things had been that way since Severus’s call and failure to return. He’d been missing for three weeks now with no owl or word as to why. Not that Ron or Harry cared, really. And Lucius and Remus were secure in their belief he was simply biding his time with the Dark Lord who was likely using him to restock their potions supplies.
But Hermione knew better. Sure, Tom likely had Severus making potions for him but it was most certainly just a ruse to keep him in sight. The timing was too suspect – the locket, the call, and then Peter and the letter. Not that she’d told anyone about the last. The loud, sensible part of her knew keeping that a secret was going to come back to haunt her, but the insecure and grieving part allowed her to live in denial. They all knew Voldemort wanted her for some reason or another – there was no use getting them up and arms about a silly note, she told herself.
She snorted softly. It was getting harder to buy her own logic anymore.
“Yes!” she snapped, forcing her thoughts back. “Yes, I’m listening – go on.”
Lucius glared at her, but ignored her obvious annoyance and continued speaking. “We’ve narrowed down the list of suspected Horcruxes. The Dark Lord is certainly evil, but he is also vain and oddly sentimental. He would have chosen objects to appeal to his vanity.”
“Objects of the founders,” Harry agreed. “There was Slytherin’s ring and locket. I doubt he’d waste his time with something from Gryffindor – so that leaves Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.”
“There’s the Hufflepuff Cup,” Remus agreed. “It was last seen at Borgin and Burkes in the late forties early fifties.”
“And Ravenclaw’s wand,” Draco contributed. “Although that disappeared a while back.”
“Don’t forget her diadem,” Remus said. “Something tells me a crown would speak to the Dark Lord’s vanity more than the wand.”
Hermione, whose mind was fading out of the conversation again, abruptly sat up. “What did you just say?” she asked sharply.
Remus looked at her. He didn’t even try to hide the concern behind his gaze as he spoke. “Ravenclaw’s diadem… it sounds more plausible than her wand.”
“No,” she shook her head. “Before that – Hufflepuff’s cup. Where was it last known to be?”
“The then owner brought it in to Borgin and Burkes – around the forties or fifties.”
Her mind started reeling, calculating dates and scrambling for a memory just out of grasp. “Thomas was working there during that time frame,” she whispered.
They were all looking at her, but she was barely conscious of the weight of their gazes. “He started working there almost immediately after we graduated… as an acquirer, I think. I don’t remember seeing the cup at our home, but he certainly would have had the opportunity to take it. The dates match up.”
“So the cup for sure,” Harry said. When he spoke everyone looked to him and Hermione was grateful to be free of their heavy stares. They always looked at her funny when she talked about her life with Thomas. “We already destroyed the diary and the ring. Dumbledore seemed to think Nagini was one, but it doesn’t make sense. Sure, she’s his familiar, but he wouldn’t necessarily place much sentiment in that. She’s just useful to him.”
Hermione coughed, and again, everyone’s eyes settled on her. “That’s not necessarily true,” she said softly, refusing to meet their gazes. “She was a gift, you see. I-I gave her to him for Christmas, our first Christmas.”
“Well, it would appear the Dark Lord is more sentimental than we originally thought,” Lucius said succinctly. “So we’ve destroyed the ring and diary. We have the locket. Now we have Nagini, Hufflepuff’s cup, and something from Ravenclaw, most likely the diadem. Then just him – the Dark Lord.”
“That’s that then,” Draco chirped. His sarcasm was obvious as he continued, “We know the what, now we just need the where – piece of cake.”
“He gave me the diary,” Lucius ignored his son and looked to Remus. “It’s likely he gave other members something as well. Hell, he gave Hermione the locket.”
Again, they all looked to her and she looked away. Her hand rose and touched the chain around her neck.
“Right Lucius,” Remus agreed. “So we must ask ourselves, who else does the Dark Lord trust enough to hold a horcrux.”
“Bellatrix,” Harry said. There was a quiet tone of certainty behind the name. “She’s almost religious in her devotion to him. Maybe she has one in her vault… no one can break into Gringotts, after all.”
“Indeed,” Lucius murmured. It was a silent acknowledgment as to where he’d stored the diary himself.
“Right,” Ron said brightly. “So let’s break in to Gringotts, have a kip through Lestrange’s vault, and why not tame the dragons down there for fun while we’re at it!”
“We don’t hear you coming up with anything, Weasleby. Severus has been gone for too long – we can only assume the Dark Lord’s cottoning on to our plans. We can’t sit around at wait for him any longer,” Draco sneered.
Ron shot to his feet, but Harry was quick to grab him by the arm and pull him down. “As much as I hate to admit it,” he said loudly over Ron’s protests, “the ferret’s right. Every day we sit and wait Voldemort grows more powerful. We can’t wait any longer. We have to do something.”
“Half the ministry is in his pocket,” Remus sighed. “It’s only a matter of time before he sets his sights on Hogwarts. His supporters are everywhere. The ministry will fall soon.”
“And then its open season on all mudbloods and blood traitors. Open season on us all,” Draco said. The usual sneer was missing when he spoke and he almost sounded sad or worried.
“Right,” Hermione said, breaking the silence. “So let’s talk about breaking in to Gringotts then. Any ideas?”
“Polyjuice?” Harry offered.
Remus made a noncommittal sound. “Too hard to say if that’ll work. We don’t have her hair, or vault key, and even so, she’s a committed Death Eater and we can’t just walk through Diagon Alley in broad daylight as one of Voldemort’s first circle supporters.”
“What about invisibility cloaks?”
“That idea has some merit, but it’s unlikely the vault in question will be accessible even if no one could see us,” Lucius said.
Silence lapse and Hermione’s mind traveled, yet again, to another memory.
“Hermione, love – where are you?”
“Behind you,” she whispered in his ear, her lips touch his skin.
Tom turned and smirked down at her. “You’re getting better at sneaking up to me.”
She smiled. “You better be careful now, Thomas.”
“I’m not afraid of you, pet,” he said. He didn’t smile, he rarely did, but there was a crinkling in his eyes that suggested he was laughing with her.
“We’ll see about that later,” she promised, her smile turning coy.
“Later,” he hissed, his hands going to her hips and squeezing promisingly. She knew he didn’t want to stop now – his eyes told her as much, but they were in public and had business to attend to.
She stepped back, breaking his hold. “Shall we, then?”
Tom’s smirk deepened. “Yes, business first.” He offered his arm and she took it as they walked up the marble steps into Gringotts.
A goblin was quick to greet them, eyeing Tom warily.
“We wish to adjust our accounts,” Tom snapped. It was clear he did not enjoy dealing with the goblins. “We married recently – we want our vaults to be joined into one. Also, I am cosigned on several other accounts – for security purposes my wife must have access to them as well. Should I cosign on future vaults, she too must access those. Make it so, goblin, I have no wish to come back every time my accounts change.”
Hermione frowned. She knew they’d be joining their own accounts, but the fact that he was listed on others was news to her.
“Thomas,” she whispered as the goblin left to get the necessary paperwork. “What other accounts are you talking about?”
His smile was small and dismissive. “Nothing for you to concern yourself over. Just think of them as an extension of our insurance policy.” The tips of his fingers caressed the chain of her locket, kissing the skin on her neck.
“Thomas,” there was a warning when she spoke this time. She hated it when he talked down to her like that.
His eyes glinted a silent warning for her not to argue. “Enough. It has been decided. You are my wife, everything I can access, so can you. We will not be without means, Hermione. Not ever again.”
Sympathy dawned as she realized he was remembering their days at the orphanage, little or no money to their names.
She sighed. It was pointless arguing with him over anything. He always won in the end.
“Well,” Hermione said thoughtfully as she banished the memory back to the recesses of her mind. “What if we had someone who had legitimate access to the vault approach the goblins and then the rest of us could follow under the cloaks.”
“And who exactly are we going to get to do that, Hermione?” Ron asked.
He was simultaneously ignored by all of them.
“The Dark Lord requires access to all of his follower’s vaults,” Lucius looked at her calculatingly.
Hermione nodded. She hesitated for a brief second, but then continued before she lost her nerve. “And as the Dark Lord’s wife, I have access to everything he does. Tom made it so.”
She had said it in a deliberately mild inflection, but the statement still caused an uproar.
“But you aren’t with him-” Ron sputtered.
“Too dangerous for you,” Harry said.
Draco added, “Aren’t marriages annulled when you haven’t slept with you husband in over fifty years?”
“Bloody hell, Malfoy – take it back!” Ron shouted.
Harry, who had been so good at holding his temper lately, also snapped. “You foul git – don’t talk that way about Hermione.”
Lucius was speaking contemplatively, almost to himself. “It is possible…”
Remus nodded. “If the marriage was never legally resolved, then she still would have access.”
“There’s still a legal record of it,” Lucius provided. “I’ve looked into it. He never contested the marriage after she left – she’s still his wife in magic law.”
My Hermione, Tom’s voice broke through the flurry of all their voices. So practical, so logical. My clever little witch.
Be quiet you, she hissed. Leave me alone. I’m not listening to you any more.
I’ll never go away, he taunted. I’ll never leave you.
We’re going to destroy your horcruxes – you’ve become everything I’ve always feared, Thomas. What I hoped to prevent. There was a ring of betrayal behind the words.
Hush now, love. You can act surprised if it makes you feel better, but we both know you always knew it was meant to be this way. You knew what was to be – and still, you chose me. Satisfaction was dripping off every syllable.
Oh god, she thought tearfully. This is it. I’m going crazy. Ron was right, I’m absolutely mental – arguing with a figment of my imagination.
Tom chuckled. I’m quite real, pet. Soon, so soon you will see for yourself. You’ve been very rude to keep me waiting. Sssooon. There was a not so subtle threat there – a promise of reckoning. Tom could be very patient, but with her, patience more often than not flew out the window.
“This is the best coarse, as much as I am loathe to say.”
Everyone settled down and looked at Lucius.
“If we thought of it, you can be sure Voldemort has too. It will be heavily safe guarded – if it’s even there,” Harry stated.
“It is there,” Hermione said confidently. “It’s the only logical place to keep it.”
“We can expect curses to be all over that family vault – the darkest kind. It’s possible they’ll know the instant the vault is opened, and who ordered it so.”
The implication was clear. Their window for retrieving any horcrux hidden there would be small. They’d have to act fast and play it smart. Voldemort will know of Hermione’s entrance to the vault and of the reason behind it.
And what remained unspoken between them all – if Voldemort had indeed considered them doing this, just what was he going to make of this opportunity. They all knew that her being out in the open, out somewhere he could reach her, would be too much of a temptation for him to ignore. More temptation than Harry Potter, wandless and skipping through Knockturn Alley. There would be repercussions for this plan and severe consequences. Could they plan ahead and be quick enough to avoid them?
Likely not, Hermione knew. Tom had a knack for being terribly thorough in his schemes. But then again, what choice did they have? The political tides were changing and Voldemort was seamlessly integrating himself and his power over the ministry. Remus and Lucius were right – it would fall soon, and shortly after it would be Hogwarts.
There was no time to wait. Indeed, Hermione thought, they had already waited too long.
“It’s decided,” she announced coolly. “Tonight we plan. Tomorrow we act.”
Silence followed her proclamation.
Tomorrow, I will have you… Tom proclaimed into the pensive air.
That’s what you think, she thought. Our time has passed.
She didn’t entirely believe that herself, but she had to remain strong and think positively. They had to succeed – the price was too high should they fail.