The serpent's mates

Her older brother

Trigger warnings for mentions of bigotry, a murder, and attempted memory erasing incident and multiple past memory erasing incidents

The serpent's mates

Chapter five

Her older brother

Hermione had told her friends what she had seen in the memories held in Tom's diary. She had mentioned the spider and Hagrid and Tom trying to stop Hagrid. About the girl that had been killed by some creature, in a bathroom.

Millicent, Astoria, Daphne and Pansy all looked stunned, shocked and fearful.

They knew then that they'd need to be cautious. They kept a close eye on Hagrid. They avoided looking at him too much when he passed them by them in the hall or on the school grounds.

Hermione had heard a rumor. About a ghost in one of the girls' bathrooms. There were multiple bathrooms within the school, as there were multiple students. The bathroom in question, where some of the students between the corridors leading from the dungeons to the towers, and there was a ghost there. Named Moaning Myrtle.

Hermione could put two and two together, thank you. Moaning Myrtle was the ghost of the girl that had been killed all those years ago in the bathroom. The one that the giant spider potentially had killed.

Hermione asked Pansy, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent if they wanted to go meet the ghost that might be able to give them some answers.

They agreed and the five of them headed to the bathroom where the ghost supposedly was.

They reached the bathroom and looked around. They started calling Myrtle's name.

Pansy whirled around when she saw a transparent shape fire out of the wall. A ghostly figure with dark hair in long pigtails.

The ghostly girl stared down at Pansy, looking maudlin, to say the least. "What do you want?" The ghost asked, sounding like it was an effort to be here in front of the girls.

Hermione, Millicent, Daphne and Astoria turned to see the ghost and came over to where Pansy was.

The girl had a Ravenclaw uniform on and she looked absolutely miserable.

"Hi, Myrtle," Hermione said softly, "Listen, I'm sorry for us disturbing you. But we'd like to ask you a few questions, if you're willing to answer."

Myrtle tilted her head, smiling suddenly. "Oh?" She asked, voice sounding lighter now, "You want to know about me? That's different. Usually no one wants to know about ugly, miserable Moaning Myrtle."

Hermione felt a pang to her chest and she knew the emotion was pity.

She imagined that Myrtle wouldn't appreciate the pity, so she held back that emotion, made sure it wouldn't reach her face.

She unfortunately knew exactly how Myrtle felt. She had been the "odd one out," in the muggle world for years. And she had not liked the feeling even remotely.

"Yes, we would like to speak with you," Daphne said gently, "I'm sorry about being this blunt, but we'd like to know about your death."

Myrtle's eyes widened and a smirk touched her face.

"Oh…," she said, sounding intrigued, "It was awful. I was in a stall, crying because someone made fun of my glasses, and I heard someone come in and I heard them talking. The strange thing is, they were talking in some language I couldn't recognize. It sounded like a boy."

"Did you hear what it was he was saying?" Hermione asked.

"I don't know," Myrtle said, sounding almost affronted by the question, "I was distraught! But I could hear him keep talking. In that strange language. And so I opened up the stall to tell them to GO away! And then…I died."

Hermione frowned, turning to her friends. They all looked confused and troubled.

"Just like that?" Daphne asked, "Did you see anything else?"

Myrtle grimaced. "I just remember a pair of great big, yellow eyes," she said, nodding to where the sinks were, "Over there, by that sink."

Hermione looked at the sink where Myrtle had described. The sink she felt was important. But…what was it, though?

Hermione asked, "Did you see anything about the boy? How big was he?"

Myrtle shook his head. "I didn't see the boy," she said, "Just the yellow eyes. I heard his voice. But that was all."

Hermione frowned, thinking. "Okay," she said, "Can you describe the boy's voice? What did it sound like? Low? Husky? With a heavy west country accent?"

Myrtle frowned, seeming confused by this line of questioning.

"No," she said, shaking her head, "Nothing like that. The voice was smoother. And the accent was more like an average British accent."

Hermione nodded. Okay, that didn't sound like Hagrid. And yellow eyes? A pair of them?

That did NOT sound like what she had seen come out of that box that Hagrid had in the memory in the diary. The creature that Hagrid had stowed away into Hogwarts, had been a big, creepy creature with multiple legs-but it hadn't had yellow eyes.

Hermione remembered the image of that creature in her brain and it always sent a shudder through her when she remembered that thing.

The spider thing had had eight eyes. Eight black eyes. Not yellow. Black.

And the eyes of the creature that Myrtle said had killed her, had yellow eyes. And two eyes. Not eight. So Myrtle said.

So, what did that mean? There had been two dangerous and potentially murderous monsters in the school?

To be frank, that wasn't too odd. After all, somewhere in this school, there likely was still a three-headed dog. Whether it still was on the floor where the Sorcerer's Stone had used to be hidden or not, Hermione didn't know. But either way? Hogwarts was chockful of danger. So, if both a lethal, giant spider was hidden somewhere here, and so was some creature with yellow eyes, it wouldn't surprise her.

But what Myrtle had described to her, hadn't sounded like that hairy spider creature with black eyes that she had seen in the memory in the diary. And the boy's voice that Myrtle had said, hadn't sounded like it had been anything like Hagrid's voice.

So, who-?

Hermione then wondered what the motive was.

Why had Myrtle been deliberately killed? She suddenly remembered something she had read about those that had been in this school all those years ago, around the time of Myrtle's death.

She asked, "Myrtle, I'm sorry to ask this, and I know that this is an intrusive question, but are you a pureblood or a half-blood?"

Pansy, Astoria and Daphne looked at her, startled.

Millicent frowned.

Myrtle winced, looking offended.

"No!" She piped, "I'm muggle-born! Why would you ask that?"

Hermione swallowed. She didn't want to think that maybe that had been what Myrtle's murder had been about, but-

Hermione and the other girls thanked Myrtle and headed out, discussing it quietly. The important thing might not have been the creature that had been the murder weapon. But it might have been the boy that had commanded it.

"So, that didn't sound like it was Hagrid who was telling a beast to kill someone," Millicent said dryly, "It sounds like someone else."

"Yeah," Astoria agreed, "And that thing that Myrtle described, didn't sound like a spider with black eyes."

Hermione nodded. "Yeah," she said grimly, "It didn't. But the question is, what was it?"

"Big yellow eyes," Pansy said, narrowing her eyes, "Sounds like a reptile. Or maybe a werewolf."

"Maybe," Hermione said, "But I think we're going to need more information on how Myrtle's body looked after she died. The damage that was done to it, I mean."

"Right," Daphne said, nodding, "Damn. This is not going to be pleasant."

Hermione sighed. She was right about that. This was not going to be fun.

They would have to investigate about a dead student's body. That was horrifying on its own, even without knowing about some great beast being used by someone as a murder weapon.

"But where would we start learning about those kinds of details?" Pansy asked, looking at Hermione.

Hermione shrugged. "I don't know," she confessed, "But maybe Tom might know more."

"And we're sure that we can trust him?" Pansy asked.

Hermione shook her head. "I don't know," she said, "But he's our best clue to the past. He was here all those years ago when Myrtle died. We'll have to talk to him more."

Daphne and Millicent nodded. Pansy looked uneasy and Astoria said, "Understood."

Hermione added, "If Myrtle was killed for being a muggle-born, that could be a clue as to who killed her."

Hermione didn't want to think that that was what it had been about, but what else could it have been?

It had been about sixty years ago, the first Death Eaters had started popping up. And about almost sixty years ago, Myrtle, a muggle-born, had been killed. Deliberately killed.

If one could put the pieces together, which Hermione could, then Myrtle had been killed for being a muggle-born.

The year passed on, and Hermione got the information over time from Tom. About the suspicions people had about who had killed Moaning Myrtle. About the damage done to the body. According to Tom, he hadn't known those specific details. When he had seen the teachers go by with Myrtle on a stretcher, she had had a white sheet over her body her right arm dangling out, the hand of the girl disturbingly pale.

But that had been all he had seen of Myrtle's body.

Hermione had been troubled by that mental image.

She then had asked what had happened to Hagrid after Tom had reported the big student.

She knew that Hagrid had been expelled, but she hadn't known any more than that.

Tom told Hermione that Hagrid had been put on trial. But that had been about it. He hadn't been thrown in jail or anything like that. Just expelled.

Hermione asked Tom after one class, a thought striking her then, asking him if any of the people who had eventually become Death Eaters had been in Tom's classes during that time.

This question had led to a long silence. Then an answer.

The answer was that several people who had become Death Eaters-and some the parents of the Death Eaters.

Reinhard Lestrange, a Death Eater himself and the father of the two Death Eaters, Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange.

Druella Rosier, the mother of the three Black sisters. One of which, had been Bellatrix Black, married eventually to Rodolphus Lestrange, becoming Bellatrix Lestrange, and she had been a Death Eater herself. One of the worst ones. And the youngest of the sisters had become the wife of one Lucius Malfoy and the mother of Draco Malfoy.

Cygnus Black III and his sister, Walburga Black, both had attended Hogwarts around that time. Cygnus had ended up being Druella's husband, and the father of their three daughters. Walburga had married another pureblood-of course, her second cousin, no less-Orion Black, who had also been at Hogwarts during that time. And had been the father of Walburga's two children-a pair of sons, Sirius and Regulus Black. Regulus Black had grown to be a Death Eater.

And Sirius had sold out his friends, James and Lily Potter to Voldemort and had murdered their other friend, Peter Pettigrew. Regulus had been killed later on, Hermione didn't know under what circumstances and Sirius had been thrown into Azkaban for his crimes.

Members of the McNair family and the Avery family had been at Hogwarts too. So had the family members of the Yaxley family.

And Lucius Malfoy's father, Abraxas Malfoy, had been there at Hogwarts during Tom Riddle's time.

Hearing that didn't surprise Hermione.

If anyone was capable of killing people with magical creatures, it was people in the Malfoy family.

And Myrtle had said that the voice had sounded lighter, with a regular British accent.

That could have been Lucious Malfoy's father. Or a number of British young wizards.

Basically, given how many purebloods had been at Hogwarts during the time Tom had been here and during the time Myrtle had been killed? It was basically a whole lineup of potential suspects.

All of them stoked up on pureblood fanaticism.

And she needed to look at a book of some magical creatures. See what creatures had yellow eyes. Two yellow eyes. She knew that that wouldn't be narrowing it down, but it narrowed it down some.

As time came to final exams, the girls had gathered as much information as they could. They had eventually, thanks to Hermione, Pansy and Astoria breaking into the medical files in the hospital wing, they had learned that the dead girl, the muggle-born Myrtle Warren, who had been murdered on the thirteenth of June, in the year of 1943.

Hermione shivered.

Hadn't that been two years before Tom Riddle had graduated from Hogwarts?

Which meant that Tom had to have at least seen whoever it had been that had murdered Myrtle in the girl's bathroom all those years ago.

Hermione knew she had to ask Tom some more questions.

Apparently, from the description of Myrtle Warren's body, the young witch hadn't had any physical damage done to her body. The only obvious damage? She had been dead. That was it.

There hadn't been any marks. Any bites or slashes or anything like that. Basically, nothing that screamed-"This girl has been killed by a big beast."

In other words, the girl might as well have been killed by the killing curse, but everything Myrtle had told Hermione and her friends, said that she had been murdered by a beast of some kind. A beast being used by a student, but a beast, nonetheless.

This befuddled all five girls. Completely.

What kind of magical creature could have killed someone without leaving a mark on that person?

Between studying with her friends and classes, she communicated with Tom. She asked Tom if there was anyone who he had found suspicious while here. If there was something Cygnus Black III, Walburga and Orion Black, Reinhard Lestrange or Druella Rosier or Abraxas Malfoy or any of the others had seemed suspicious.

Tom had answered in a way that had startled Hermione. He had said, "I don't like speaking ill of my classmates and of the people who I shared a house with, but yes, I found many of my fellow Slytherins suspicious. Especially Abraxas Malfoy. I do feel some remorse in saying that, as he was always polite to me, despite my unfortunate blood status."

Hermione had glared at those words, furious. As if Abraxas Malfoy, a self-important pureblood bastard had been so, so fucking kind by "deigning" to pay attention to some lowly half-blood like Tom. Even though, from all her time speaking with Tom, Hermione could tell that Tom was ten times the magic user that any Malfoy had been or could be.

Abraxas Malfoy became Hermione's biggest suspect.

Then Hermione asked Tom if he had ever been in the Forbidden Forest. Tom had gone on about how he had loved studying magical creatures-that he was curious about phoenixes and dragons.

Hermione had smiled at the dragons part.

Tom had quickly become like the older brother that Hermione always had wished she had.

She supposed that was kind of sad, as Tom was basically a memory in a diary, but still? Tom had become important to Hermione over the course of her second year.

Pansy, Millicent and the Greengrass sisters, had been hesitant at first, but had come to trust Tom more over time, as well.

On the last night of Hermione and the girls' second year, they were relieved to learn that Gilderoy Lockhart was going to move onto another occupation, out of the school. And then they had gone off to their dorms.

During one of her conversations with Tom, Hermione had come up with an idea. A way of allowing Tom out of the diary, temporarily. So that when she or anyone else had the diary open, an image of Tom would come out to talk.

Tom wouldn't be solid, obviously, and wouldn't be able to touch anything, but he would be physically present.

So, Hermione had asked Tom if he was comfortable with her doing that and he had said yes, that he was comfortable with that. Hermione had then started to experiment with some spells and eventually had succeeded, much to her shock.

As soon as she had used one "projection" spell, an image fired up out of the diary, and stood in front of Hermione in the Slytherin common room.

Hermione gasped, recognizing Tom Riddle in the room with her, in front of the fireplace. Crookshanks meowed loudly in surprise and jumped on Hermione's lap, hissing at the form of Tom.

"Crooks!" Hermione snapped at her familiar, then she looked at Tom and said, "Sorry about him, Tom. He's just not used to this kind of magic."

The projection of Tom nodded and looked down at his hands, obviously stunned at seeing that Hermione's spell had worked.

Tom smiled, chuckling, "It's been so long since I saw my own body. You did it, Hermione." He looked at Hermione, beaming with happiness, "Thank you."

Hermione grinned, pride swelling in her chest.

"You're very welcome, Tom," She said.

"I'm sorry," Hermione added, losing her grin, "I know that you won't be able to touch anything and you're not solid."

"I know," Tom said, nodding, "And it's alright. I assure you, I in no way am disappointed. Do I wish that I was solid? Of course, I do. But I don't expect to be anytime soon. It's quite alright, I promise."

Hermione smiled wryly, looking up at Tom's gentle brown eyes. "I'm sorry, but I didn't bring you out just for pleasantries."

Tom smiled. "And I didn't expect you to," he said, "What is it you would like to know, my friend?"

Hermione tried not to grin at hearing Tom call her his "friend." Given how highly she had come to think of Tom, thinking about a half-blood that had grown up in a muggle-born orphanage and still had done such a noble thing like trying to find the person that had murdered Myrtle-albeit, unsuccessfully, but still had tried a lot more than others had, how could she not come to like and respect him?

"Well," Hermione said, "I talked with Moaning Myrtle. The ghost of the girl that was killed sixty years ago. She said that the last thing she saw before she died was a pair of big, yellow eyes. Two yellow eyes. That doesn't sound like the eight black eyes of that spider creature, does it?"

Tom frowned, seeming to contemplate that. "No," he said, sounding puzzled, "It doesn't, does it? So, then, the girl wasn't killed by Hagrid's monster? The "Acromantula?"

The Acromantula, as Hermione had learned, was Hagrid's pet's species. Aragog was a giant spider, and that species was called the Acromantula.

As much as it froze Hermione's blood to think about there being more than one of those things that she had seen crawl out of the box that Hagrid had had in that memory, she knew she needed to focus on the task at hand.

She said to Tom, "And we checked the medical files on Myrtle's body. There wasn't a mark on her body. She might as well have been killed by the killing curse."

Tom's eyebrows lifted. "Was she?" He asked.

Hermione shook her head. "That's the thing," she said, "She wasn't. It's just not clear HOW she died."

"Hmm," Tom said, sounding troubled, "That IS strange," he agreed, "Myrtle, she was a muggle-born, right?"

Hermione nodded. "Yeah," she sighed sadly, "She was. That's what makes me worried. Myrtle said that there was a boy ordering a creature of some kind around. And she was killed. And she was muggle-born."

"You think this is blood purity related, don't you?" Tom asked, sounding worried at that idea.

Hermione nodded. "Don't you?" She asked, "I mean, if a muggle-born has been deliberately killed, and people like Abraxas Malfoy, Reinhard Lestrange and Druella Rosier were here during that time-all of them pureblood fanatics, where does your mind go to automatically?"

Tom still looked troubled as his eyes widened. "You're right," he said, sounding worried, "That is exactly where my mind goes. I'm surprised I got away unscathed."

Hermione nodded. Yes, Tom had graduated in 1945. So, if Tom was dead-then he had died later. Either way, he had escaped Hogwarts without being killed.

Tom then looked at Hermione sadly. "You know," he said, "You deserve better than having to deal with this."

Hermione looked at Tom, startled.

"What do you mean?" She asked.

Tom smiled. "You're only twelve," he said, "You're a child. You shouldn't have to be burdened with this."

Hermione shrugged, though she felt warmth in her chest at Tom's concern. He was always so kind and considerate. "It's alright," she said, "It was a long time ago, and it's possible that whatever the creature was that killed Myrtle, is dead by now. The one thing that worries me is what trouble Abraxas or whoever it was that did it has done since then. I'm also worried about Lucious Malfoy."

Tom nodded. "Ah, yes," he said, "Didn't he join 'You-know-who' at some point?"

Hermione said darkly, "Yeah, that's right." She and Tom had talked about Voldemort before. Hermione had asked him if he had known anyone who had fought Voldemort and Tom had said that most of the people he had known of who had fought Voldemort had been killed. Hermione had felt instantly bad for asking him that.

Hermione added, "That slimy git," she said, referring to Lucious Malfoy, "He joined Voldemort," Hermione watched Tom when she said that and watched as Tom winced at the name, "And he was so loyal that as soon as his master disappeared years ago after Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter, Lucious brought a group of Death Eaters and started a reign of terror, until his followers were captured and Lucious went back to normal life, trying to avoid being imprisoned."

She shook her head, trying to hide her anger, but failing, "That piece of scum wasn't punished ever. Not ever, for what he deserved to be punished for what he did."

"That bothers you, doesn't it?" Tom said, sounding sad, "Those that have done wrong never seeing justice?"

Hermione nodded to him. "Yeah," she said, "I guess that's something you understand, right? I mean, you tried to find who had killed that girl, and your headmaster made sure that you couldn't."

Tom smiled. "Yes," he said, "I suppose I'd know about something like injustice."

Hermione sighed, "It just sucks so much."

"It does," Tom agreed, "But I advise you not to try to harm the Malfoy family. They have a great deal of influence in the witch and Wizarding world. And I don't want you getting hurt."

Hermione smiled again at Tom. "Thank you," she said, "Your concern means a lot to me. But we have to know if there's a threat at our school. And if Voldemort has come back? He's still out there. I saw him last year and he got away. I doubt he's done."

Tom nodded, still looking troubled. "I doubt it too," he confessed.

They talked more and more. Crookshanks still was on guard as he watched Tom.

Hermione learned what Cygnus Black III and Walburga Black were like. And what Orion Black and what Druella Rosier were like.

Self-important, racist purebloods, of course. Misogynistic too. Thinking that women were good for only one thing. Being married off to a rich, pureblood husband. But Hermione learned a lot of interesting details about all of them.

Tom had then smirked and had almost conspiratorially informed Hermione that he had seen pictures of Cygnus Black III later on in his life, and Tom could tell that Cygnus, unlike Tom himself, when Tom had been in his early forties, had not aged well.

Hermione had giggled before she could help herself, hearing that.

That probably wasn't such a kind joke, but considering what Cygnus Black's politics had been, was there much to cry about when it came to any disadvantage that he might have had-if any?

Hermione informed him that Lucious's son, Draco Malfoy was here at the school in her year.

Tom had snorted, "Someone actually married Lucious Malfoy?"

Hermione again had giggled, despite trying not to.

"Yes," Hermione said, "Believe it or not, yes. Apparently it was one of Cygnus and Druella's daughters. Narcissa Black. Now Narcissa Malfoy."

Tom's face took on a look with an "oh, no," quality to it, "Poor Draco never had a chance," he said, "He was always going to be a pompous brat."

Hermione fought down another giggle.

Tom always found a way of making her laugh. Was always kind. She hadn't thought she'd like a possible ghost so much, but she did.

Eventually, Pansy, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent wandered into the common room, and all of them yelped, when they saw what was in front of them.

Hermione turned to them, and so did Tom.

"Who are you?" Pansy asked Tom, "I've never seen you around here before."

Tom smiled at Pansy. "Sure you have," he said, "You've seen my picture. Near my trophy."

Hermione chuckled at her friends' confusion, "Guys, this is Tom Riddle. The person I've been talking to in this journal for months now."

Pansy and Millicent looked at Tom, stunned. "That's him?" Astoria asked, mouth dropping.

"How?" Daphne asked, "He hasn't aged at all."

Hermione nodded. "That's right," she said, "I projected him from this diary. So, he looks like how he did years and years ago."

"I'm not solid though," Tom added, "I can't touch anything. So, if you're suspicious of me, don't worry, I can't hurt you."

Daphne chuckled, despite the shock still very present on her face, "No, I wasn't worried about that. I just…I just never thought we'd see something like this," she looked at Hermione, "You need to show me how you did this, Mione."

Hermione grinned still, feeling pride fill her. She felt like she might be getting a big head in her pride, but she couldn't help it. She had pulled off spells that most second year students couldn't even dream about pulling off.

She couldn't help but feel incredibly proud of herself.

"Hermione," Tom said and the girls looked at him, and Tom said kindly, looking at them in a soft way, "It's late. All five of you should get to sleep. I'm obviously not your father, but it's the finals soon. And you should sleep."

Hermione smiled at Tom.

She appreciated his concern. Always.

"Thank you, Tom," she said, "I'll get to sleep soon, promise."

She then looked at her friends. "Should we head off to bed, then?" She asked them.

Pansy and Astoria nodded. "Yeah," Daphne said, staring at Tom, "Sure."

Millicent snorted at Daphne's stunned expression as she said, "Yeah, let's get to bed."

Hermione looked at Tom, "Goodnight, Tom."

Tom smiled back at her. "Goodnight, Hermione," he said, before looking at the other girls, "Goodnight, Pansy. Millicent. Daphne. Astoria."

"Goodnight, Tom," the girls said together.

Hermione closed the diary and as Hermione knew would happen, though had hoped it wouldn't, Tom disappeared into thin air as soon as she did it.

Hermione felt a wave of sadness hit her as Tom disappeared. She wished that he could stay longer after that, but that was just how this particularly treacherous magic worked.

Hermione took the diary, her cat and wand and followed her friends into their dorm and got to bed, hiding the diary under her mattress again, before trying to get to sleep-trying to pretend that Abraxas's grandson, Draco Malfoy, wasn't only a room away from her and the other girls' room.

The next day were the final exams.

Hermione felt confident about how she had done on them, and from the relieved looks on her friends' faces after the exams, they did too.

When the five of them were leaving Lockhart's class, Hermione noticed Millicent looking at something on Lockhart's desk as she exited the room.

"Milli?" Hermione asked, saying the rare nickname for Millicent that Millicent liked hearing, "What's wrong?"

Millicent said, frowning as she sided next to her friends, "There's just something odd about those books on Lockhart's desk."

"What about them?" Pansy asked in a bored tone, telling the others exactly how she felt about Lockhart.

"Well," Millicent said, still seeming stooped in troubled focus, "The thing is, I've seen those titles before. My aunt worked for a wizard who was an adventurer, and he lost his mind a few years back. Named Alfred Burton. And the thing is, she claimed that he had been writing a book on meeting the yetis. He had a title of his book, similar to the one that Lockhart had on his desk."

Hermione thought about that. "Maybe Lockhart and Burton travelled together?" She suggested.

"Maybe," Millicent said, "But here are the weird parts. Burton was writing a book on meeting the yetis, but he never published it. That book never saw the light of day. Now Lockhart has his own book out on it? And it says that he was the only one that had gone to the yetis? Even though Alfred Burton definitely went there first? And then there's another part of Lockhart that just doesn't sit right with me. It's that every adventurer who is famous, has more or less gone insane and has ended up in St. Mungo's. But I've never even heard of Lockhart until the more recent years."

Now Hermione felt alarms going off in the back of her brain. You know, that actually was kind of suspicious sounding.

"What are you saying?" Daphne asked Millicent, furrowing her eyebrows.

"Well," Millicent said, "I just had a wild theory. Probably not worth pursuing."

Hermione glanced at her friend. "We'd still like to hear it," she said.

"That's right," Astoria said, nodding, "You can tell us anything, you know that, right?"

Millicent smiled, her cheeks turning pink. "Thanks, guys," she said, "Well, isn't it weird that Lockhart is such an incompetent wizard? But he's famous? If anything, you'd think he'd be famous for being a useless no-talent wizard."

Pansy and Hermione smirked. Astoria and Daphne nodded in agreement.

Millicent went on, "He's so incompetent, yet he's famous and there are so many books about him. Books that until recent years, no one's ever heard of. But there are so many other adventurers out there, who have explored, but they've ended up at St. Mungo's. Isn't it convenient that Lockhart seems to be the only person left, claiming those stories?"

Hermione's eyes widened and she looked at the others, seeing the comprehension dawn on all three Daphne, Pansy and Astoria's faces.

"You're saying that you think that Lockhart-?" Daphne asked, mouth dropping.

Millicent said, shrugging, "I told you it was a crazy idea. And, I mean, Lockhart can't even do a door opening spell correctly. He'll screw it up all the time. So, what, he used a memory charm to get rid of the memories of all those former adventurers?"

"You're right," Pansy said, "It does sound kind of wild, but, I trust you more than I trust Lockhart."

"That's a low bar," Hermione said, smirking.

Pansy, Millicent, Astoria and Daphne looked at Hermione curiously and chuckling, Hermione told them what "low bar" meant. It was a form of saying, "low standards." And so, someone having low standards meant that they'd accept subpar performances. When they should be aiming for higher expectations.

They then decided that they could figure out whether Lockhart was legitimate or not.

They would ask him about the adventurers that he had possibly obliviated.

But with subtlety.

Pansy and Hermione decided to approach him. And Millicent, Astoria and Daphne waited outside of Lockhart's office door, waiting for shit to hit the fan, and move in, if anything went wrong.

Hermione and Pansy came over to the smiling and friendly Lockhart. "Hello," the irritatingly smiling wizard, said, "Ms. Granger, Ms. Parkinson. How may I help the two of you?"

"Professor Lockhart," Pansy said, "I hope we're not bothering you, but we have some questions."

"Of course," Lockhart said, still smiling, to the point that it looked like it hurt, "What would you like to know?"

Hermione said firmly, eyes never wavering in their stare, "We would like to know about Alfred Burton."

That finally made Lockhart lose his grin.

"Alfred Burton?" He asked, "That…I've never heard that name?"

"Really?" Pansy asked, "You haven't? Wasn't he a famous explorer before he got mentally ill and ended up in St. Mungo's?"

Hermione caught the panic in Lockhart's eyes. This was nothing that could be held up in court, but Hermione could practically feel that Millicent's suspicions about Lockhart had been right.

"What about Thomas Bones?" Hermione asked, recalling the grandfather of Susan Bones, who was in the Hufflepuff house, "Didn't he go on a tour throughout the world, cataloging all his encounters with dragons, but before he could publish his work, he seemed to have lost his mind?"

Pansy finished, "And then you showed up with a book on dragons all around the world?"

Hermione watched as Lockhart tensed up, looking more and more like a caged bird, ready to burst out. It struck Hermione as strange that he had been Ravenclaw. He reminded her much more of a Gryffindor. Loud and self-important, but the moment he was held accountable for his actions? He was ready to bolt, looking like he couldn't believe that he was ever being held accountable for those actions.

Pansy added, smiling, "And what about that French bloke, Antoine Garnier II? He had a theory about the relationship between Phoenixes and firebirds. And he was in danger in one of the most magically dangerous place in France, and now he's in a place like St. Mungo's, in Paris? And don't you now have a book about firebirds and phoenixes out?"

Lockhart's jaw tightened and Hermione knew that they had him.

"Is it possible," she said, already knowing the answer, "That you stole the work of all those witches and wizards and claimed that you did all of that? And obliviated those witches and wizards to make sure that they wouldn't tell anyone the truth?"

Lockhart had a panicked look in his eye and he glanced to his desk, seeing where his wand was and tried to bolt for it.

Hermione and Pansy looked at each other and pulled out their own wands and aimed them right at Lockhart, as Lockhart whirled around to face them with the wand in his own hand and he froze.

"Don't even think about it," Hermione warned him, "Pansy, take his wand from him."

Pansy nodded, reaching out with her free hand and taking Lockhart's wand from his grasp as he glared at the two girls woundedly.

Pansy inspected the wand. Cherry wood. Who knew what the core was?

It was only then that Millicent, Astoria and Daphne came out from where they had been hiding, pulling out their own wands and aiming them at Lockhart.

Lockhart swallowed, looking like he might piss himself. However, he said quickly, "And what are you ladies going to do now? You have nothing that could be held up at the Ministry."

"Maybe," Millicent said, "But we'll see what Dumbledore says about that."

Lockhart's face hardened and he sneered, "You think he'll believe a bunch of Slytherins? Everyone knows that Slytherins can't be trusted."

"Oh, yes," Hermione sneered, "And all Ravenclaws are so honorable, apparently."

Lockhart glowered at her hatefully.

"We're going to see Dumbledore now," Daphne said, as she and the others herded Lockhart out of his office and through the classroom, heading to one of the main halls.

They got Lockhart to the hall, and that was when everything fell apart.

A small "meow" caught everyone's focus, and they saw Mrs. Norris in the hallway, looking at the scene with deep red eyes.

"Uh-oh," Pansy said.

And all the girls put the same pieces together that she had.

Mrs. Norris was here. So, what did that mean?

That meant that Argus Filch of all people, was coming and would catch them.

They heard Filch's grungy voice rang out in the hall, though he didn't see any of them and they didn't see him.

The approach of Argus Filch had most of the girls' attention, so that was when Lockhart acted. He lunged at Daphne and Astoria, trying to snatch their wands from them.

Hermione punched him between the legs, making him cry out in pain, eyes going wide, but he still crashed into the Greengrass sisters.

Lockhart's wand dropped out of Pansy's hand, because Astoria crashed into her after Lockhart collided with the younger Greengrass twin.

Lockhart stumbled, then noticing that his wand had dropped to the floor. He lunged for it and Millicent lunged at him, trying to stop him from grabbing his wand, then Lockhart, rammed his fist into Millicent's stomach.

Millicent cried out, and she bent over as Lockhart grabbed up his wand and ran from the girls as they ran after him. He ducked quickly to the right, avoiding any spells that the girls might throw at him.

"Get him!" Pansy yelled, though her cry was unnecessary, as all of the girls were furious now, and all got up, wielding their wands and running after Lockhart.

Hermione and the others ran after Lockhart, and Lockhart leapt up, grabbing a purple, blue and green tapestry against the wall, pulling it and tearing it down, throwing it at the girls. All three Hermione, Pansy and Daphne yelped as the tapestry hit them, obscuring their vision of Lockhart.

Hermione was hit by the tapestry and knew that she had to do something underhanded, unless she wanted Lockhart to erase their memories.

She reached into her robes and retrieved the diary, opening it up. She didn't need to say any words. She had enchanted the diary so that it would project Tom's image as soon as she opened it up.

As soon as the diary had opened up, Tom's image fired out of the pages, appearing in the hall, next to the five girls, right in front of Lockhart. Lockhart gasped, stumbling away, his grip on his wand loosening only a little.

"What?" Lockhart asked, staring at Tom, "Who are you? What are you doing here? Where the bloody hell did you come from?"

Tom stood there, looking quite the contrast to Lockhart. Lockhart's hair was wild now after Lockhart had been in that scuffled and he had looked panicked, his face stricken and sweaty.

Tom? He was practically the picture of perfect regality. Tall, calm, looking nearly serene.

"And who are YOU, sir?" Tom asked, even his crisp and clear voice sounding like the exact contrast to Lockhart's harsh and heavy voice.

"I am Lockhart," The man said, raising his head as Hermione and the others threw the tapestry off them, "And you? You are about to have your memories taken." He aimed his wand at Tom and yelled, "Obliviate!"

The white light shot out of his wand and hit Tom-only to go right through him. The spell fired out through Tom and disappeared into the air as it shot out of a window to the outside world.

Lockhart stepped back, eyes widening now. "What are you?" He asked, "You're not a ghost. You don't look like one!"

"No," Hermione said, aiming her wand at him, "He doesn't. But I can't say you won't in a second. Expelliarmus!"

Her blast hit him and sent him flying across the room, sending him crashing onto a set of stone steps, making him cry out in agony. His wand flew out of his hand and rolled away.

Pansy went over to where Lockhart had crashed and leaned down, picking up his wand and looking at it, then looking at Lockhart. She turned to Hermione. "I think I should obliviate him," she said.

Hermione's eyes widened.

"Wait, what?" She asked.

"We can't just obliviate someone, Pans," Daphne said.

"He was going to do it to us," Pansy said, turning back to Lockhart, "And what is he going to do now that he's seen Tom?"

Hermione's heart stopped. She hadn't thought of that. She looked at Tom, suddenly incredibly remorseful for what she had involved him in. Had she put him in danger? There could be a debate about whether or not he was even alive, but he existed-in some fashion. And if anyone was alerted to his presence in the diary? He could be destroyed, because Hermione was positive that the enchanted diary was a form of dark magic.

"Oh, shit," Hermione whispered.

"That's right," Astoria said, looking at Tom, "I hadn't thought of that."

Pansy said, nodding at the still groaning and weak Lockhart, "He was going to erase our memories, and who are the teachers going to believe. Him-a teacher? Or us? A bunch of Slytherins?"

Pansy added, "And if we want to protect Tom, we should do it."

Hermione felt herself going numb. She had killed someone, in her previous year. Professor Quirrell. He had been working with Voldemort and would have killed her, had she not used the killing curse on him. But that…that was different, wasn't it? Hermione had had no choice. She had been at a serious disadvantage a year ago with Voldemort and Quirrell. Sure, Lockhart had tried to obliviate them, but he was helpless right now, right?

Pansy must have seen Hermione's conflicted look, because she nodded and said, "It's alright. You don't have to make the choice. I'll do it for you."

Before Hermione could deduce what Pansy meant by that, Pansy aimed Lockhart's wand at him and said, "Obliviate!"

Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but the blast was out of the wand already and had hit Lockhart, knocking him out. Pansy then did something unexpected and took Lockhart's wand, and smacked it hard against the edge of the stone pedestal next to the stairs, cracking Lockhart's wand.

Pansy then tossed the wand onto the stairs next to the limp Lockhart.

Pansy then looked at the other girls and Tom. "So, what now?" She asked.

Hermione groaned, turning and looking down the hall, knowing that Filch hadn't seen them.

She then turned to Tom. "Tom," she said, "I'm sorry, but you need to go back into the diary and disappear for a while. Or else Lockhart will see you or one of the other teachers will."

Tom nodded. "I understand," he said, "Will the five of you be alright?"

Hermione nodded. "We'll be fine, Tom. Thank you."

Hermione closed the diary up and Tom disappeared. As soon as he did, Hermione stowed the diary away back into her robes.

Hermione turned back to the others.

"Alright," she said, breathing out weakly, "We're going to have to get our stories straight."

Author's note

For the most part, the second year is uneventful. The third year is going to be another story.