The serpent's mates

The cruelty of muggles

Trigger warnings in this chapter for historical bigotry like anti-Semitism, ableism, anti-Romani hate, homophobia, transphobia, a vivid cracking of someone's skull, Christian fanaticism, mentions of death and murder, mentions of drug use and suicide and mentions of possible rape. Trigger warnings for homophobia and transphobia in present-day of this story. And a big trigger warning here-mentions of historical horrors-invovling the Nazis.

The serpent's mates

Chapter seven

The cruelty of muggles

When the train had begun to move finally and had come to its stop, Remus Lupin, the new DADA teacher, had said goodbye to them as he and the two boys who had been in his compartment-who as it turned out had been none other than Harry Potter and Ron Weasley themselves.

Harry had looked as disturbed as Hermione felt and she knew instantly that it had been him whom the dementor had been assaulting.

Ron had looked troubled, but not close to the way Harry looked. The two boys followed after some other kids, and Hermione followed after her friends to the carriages.

The first years and second years used boats to get to the castle in the lake. But teenagers thirteen and up used carriages. Because it looked like it was going to rain very, very soon, the carriages would be covered, but carriages, nonetheless.

Hermione tasted the aftertaste of chocolate as she moved. She and Daphne both had been given chocolate by Remus, saying that they'd need it to get their energy after it being drained from them with their encounter.

Hermione supposed that Harry had been told to do the same thing.

When Hermione, her friends and their familiars got to where the carriages were passing along, they saw the back of the last covered carriage that had come by.

The next carriage would be coming along soon.

Hermione heard heavy footsteps, followed by the dragging of wheels.

"Hmm," Hermione said, "Wonder what creatures are pulling the carriages."

At this, she received confused looks as Daphne, Astoria, Millicent and Pansy looked in the direction of the forest, where the carriages would be coming from.

"There's nothing in front of the carriage, Mione," Astoria said.

Hermione narrowed her eyes, confused. She could have sworn she heard something walking in front of the carriage.

She turned to look at where the carriage was coming, and yes, she saw something. Walking right in front of the carriage. Pulling it along.

"What are you talking about?' Hermione asked, confused, "There's something walking in front of the carriage. I see it."

As the creature in front of the carriage got closer, Hermione felt her stomach drop. It was a rather…unsettling looking creature. Thin, tall, skin tight against its body. Horse like in appearance, but seemed almost reptilian in the limited light around them. There were big, batlike, leathery wings on its back and a long, skeletal tail.

Hermione shivered, despite knowing that these creatures were most likely harmless to students.

"Hermione?" Millicent asked, sounding worried, "What is it? What do you see?"

"Do you…," Hermione whispered as she stepped closer to the creature that had stopped in front of them, "Do you see this? This horse like thing with wings?"

She could practically sense her friends looking at each other.

"No," Pansy said, now sounding as concerned as Millicent did, "Hermione, I don't see anything in front of the carriage. There's nothing there."

Hermione felt cold again, and this time, her dread and the dementors could not be blamed for that.

Why was she the only one that could see this thing? Was this a parseltongue thing?

Back in his carrier, much to his displeasure, Crookshanks hissed at something. Hermione looked down at him. Crookshanks hissed hatefully from out of the bars of his carrier, glaring right up at the creature in front of the carriage. The creature that apparently Hermione's friends couldn't see.

Hermione then heard another hiss and she turned, to look at Millicent's cat, Amelia. The cat was doing the same as Crooks. Hissing at a being invisible to her mistress.

Hermione then looked at Roger in his cage. Roger puffed himself out again, only this time, it didn't seem like he was trying to keep himself warm-but trying to make himself look bigger.

Her eyes widened with comprehension. Whatever this thing was? For some reason only she and the animals could see it. But why? What did that mean? Again, did this have to do with her being able to speak to snakes? Was she more in tune with animals than she was with humans?

Noting that there were reins put on this creature, indicating yes, despite the creature's gruesome appearance, they were indeed trusted by the teachers to bring students to the school, Hermione nodded and said, "Never mind. Let's get on the carriage."

Hermione and the others loaded up into the covered carriage, Hermione's friends all looking deeply concerned about what Hermione had said a few seconds ago, but making no comment about it. After what Hermione and Daphne had just gone through, none of them wanted to make waves.

The carriage began to move, and Hermione tried to not feel nervous about that THING drawing the carriage forward. She hoped that the teachers' faith hadn't been misplaced.

Then again-they had made mistakes before, as they had trusted both Quirrell and Lockhart before, right?

The carriages all reached the castle without incident. Hermione and the others got out of the carriage, carrying the containers with their familiars inside with them and stood in the mud as the rain began to fall.

Hermione looked around her, seeing the entrance to the castle was surrounded by the carriages.

And by the creatures right in front of those carriages.

Hermione eyed all the creatures, trying to ignore the shiver running up and down her spine.

Hermione and her friends went inside the castle, and Hermione could feel those creatures behind her in the courtyard in front of the castle.

Hermione and the others put their stuff and familiars away in their dorms, then went to the Great Hall.

The first years got sorted and Slytherin welcomed in new members.

Dumbledore announced the new changes to the Hogwarts staff. Telling them that Hagrid would be the teacher for Care of Magical Creatures. And Remus Lupin, of course, had been announced as the new DADA teacher.

Hermione noticed that Draco Malfoy and his buddies, Crabbe, Goyle and Zabini were chatting, and they were looking over across from the Slytherin table. At the Gryffindor table. Hermione looked over at where they were snickering.

They were looking at Potter and Weasley-as always.

Hermione rolled her eyes.

Honestly, she'd think that Malfoy might just have a crush on Potter, that was, if she didn't suspect that Malfoy was too bigoted to even consider it being acceptable to be attracted to someone of the same sex. She did vaguely entertain the possibility that Malfoy and Potter shared a soulmate mark, but dismissed that thought. Malfoy might have been an ornery little brat, but Potter actually seemed reasonable. He would have said by now if he and Malfoy were soulmates, wouldn't he?

There were other whispers around them and Hermione heard, "did Granger and Greengrass really try to stop a dementor?"

Another student said, "I heard that Granger almost produced a Patronus!"

In response, the other kid-who Hermione recognized easily as Ivy Avery, said, "No way, really?! Wow! And didn't that new teacher save them?"

Hermione fought the urge to snort. Of course. As always, the rumor mill was getting started fast.

Then Dumbledore released some rather troubling news. About the dementors being allowed to be around Hogwarts grounds.

Hermione shuddered at the thought. On some level, she understood. Sirius Black had escaped. So, the dementors needed to patrol every possible area.

But still, the thought of those things near her and the other children…

Hmm, Hermione was starting to wonder if Dumbledore and Hagrid were closely related. They both seemed to have a fixation on dangerous creatures.

Between allowing a creature like Fluffy to be in a school, even if it was to guard the Sorcerer's Stone, the creatures that had drawn the carriages that had brought Hermione and the others here, and now the dementors? Hermione wasn't convinced that Dumbledore didn't have a dangerous creature fetish of some kind like Hagrid did.

Hopefully the DADA teacher this year wouldn't be full of surprises like the last two.

Eventually, they all went off to bed and Hermione thought of the words that Dumbledore had said before Hermione and all the other students had started eating. That if the dementors tried to harm them in any way, "happiness could be found in the darkest places sometimes. If only one remembers to turn on the light."

He had been referring to patronuses, right?

Well, then what the hell had Hermione done wrong?

She had focused on that happy memory of hers, of receiving the Hogwarts letter. Had clung to it, and had used the spell. So, what the hell had she done that hadn't been right?

This question followed her all the way to the dorm room, and as she and the others all got settled in, Hermione glanced out the glass window of one of the chambers near the Common Room.

The Slytherins, from these windows, all had the perfect view of the lake.

And across the lake, in the sky, Hermione could see swirling dark figures, passing by each other. Ghostly wraiths far more threatening and demonic than any ghost.

Hermione sighed and pulled the diary out from her robes, looking at it in contemplation.

Should she bring Tom out? Ask him what he thought about what she might have done wrong when trying to summon the patronus?

She tilted her head at the room where the others were. She heard their snoring and she knew that almost everyone would be asleep by now.

Looking around her, Hermione was sure that no one was around and she opened up the diary, letting Tom out.

Tom stood before her, looking startled, but pleased.

"Hermione," he said, smiling, "I see you're back in Hogwarts."

Hermione grinned at him, sitting down in one of the winged back chairs and Crookshanks jumped up on her lap.

"Yeah," she said, "And I have some…unnerving news for you."

Tom frowned. "Oh?" He asked.

Hermione nodded. "You know about dementors, right?" She asked.

Tom now looked very tense. "Of course I do," he said, voice taking on a hint of unease, "Hermione, what's this about?"

Hermione sighed, "Well, firstly, Sirius Black, a follower of Voldemort has escaped from Azkaban. As a result? The dementors have been allowed to roam on Hogwarts grounds."

Hermione would give anything to photograph the look on Tom's face when he absorbed this news.

"Oh, Merlin," he whispered, "That…that's madness. That's inexcusable."

Hermione nodded. "I agree," she said, "But I'm not the one calling the shots. Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge are."

Tom scoffed, giving Hermione an idea of what he thought of the two of them being in control.

Hermione smirked despite the subject they were discussing.

"And I should tell you this before you hear this from my friends," Hermione said, "But the dementors got on our train on the way here. And one of them almost attacked me and Daphne."

Again, Tom's expression was priceless. If he wasn't so pale already? He would be ghost white by now.

"Dear Salazar," he whispered, "Hermione, are you alright? Is Daphne alright?"

Hermione nodded. "I'm alright," she said, "I'm fine, promise. So is Daphne. We're just both very shook up, understandably. But a professor on the train helped us. He saved us with a patronus. He's the new DADA professor. Remus Lupin."

At the name Remus Lupin, just like with the name Sirius Black, Hermione saw recognition in Tom's dark eyes.

That wasn't odd though, was it? After all, Remus and Sirius likely were famous to whatever time period this memory of him or ghost of him had gotten trapped into the diary. Remus Lupin, the friend of James and Lily Potter. And their other friend-the traitor, Sirius Black, a follower of Voldemort.

Everyone would have heard of them at some point around the time of the Potter couples' murders.

"There's something else," Hermione said, "When that dementor was charging me and Daphne? I tried to summon a patronus. And I almost did, but…," she shook her head, "But I couldn't. Not fully. And I don't understand why. Do you have any idea? Is that a parseltongue thing? Not being able to produce a patronus?"

Tom's eyes widened and he chuckled, shaking his head. At Hermione's offended look, he said, smiling softly, "Sorry, Hermione, but I'm not laughing at you. But no, being a parseltongue shouldn't inhibit you from summoning a patronus."

Hermione felt relief fill her. Though she was curious as to how he was so sure of that, but she hoped he was right.

She then wondered if she should tell him about the creatures that had been pulling the carriages, that only she and the animals could see.

"There's another thing," Hermione said after a few seconds, "I saw something. Creatures. Pulling the carriages to Hogwarts."

Tom nodded, no surprise on his face, causing Hermione some alarm. "The thestrals," Tom said simply.

Hermione frowned. "Thestrals?" She echoed.

Tom nodded. "Creatures that can only be seen by those who have seen death," Tom said, as if quoting some ancient text, "Or by animals."

Hermione's eyes widened. Oh. Now that made sense.

In fact, she recalled reading something like that in her first year. Creatures that were invisible to all, except to those that had witnessed death and except to animals.

And hadn't Hermione seen a lot of death in her life? The kids at the labs? At Cromwell's labs? They had been killed right in front of her. Some by gunfire, some by stabbing. Either way, she had seen plenty of death.

And the thestrals? They had been for third years and up, so she hadn't been anywhere close to see them before.

And even if she hadn't seen all those other kids die? She had certainly seen Quirrell die. After all, she had killed him herself.

So, if anyone was eligible to see a thestral, she supposed she was it.

"Oh," Hermione said, sagging in her seat, eyes cast down to Crookshanks, "Oh."

Tom voice was gentle now, "Hermione, it's alright. Remember, you had to. Quirrell, he was dangerous."

Hermione nodded, sighing, "I know. I know. It's just…wow, I'm a muggle-born whose also a parseltongue and only I and a few others can probably see the thestrals? Well, if I didn't want to be singled out for being weird and different…"

Tom said softly, "There's nothing wrong with you, Hermione. Don't think there is. Ever."

Hermione smiled, again, feeling bad that she didn't completely trust him. He was always so kind.

Here was the thing, if someone was a magic user, but couldn't summon a patronus, could speak to snakes and had enough reason to see creatures that could only be seen by those who had seen death-what did that scream?

That screamed "Dark witch." Didn't it?

Because who couldn't use patronuses? The answer was simple.

Death Eaters.

"Tom," she said, looking up at her friend, "I tried to use a patronus against the dementor. I couldn't though. Why? Do you have an idea? Also, how do you know that the thestrals are the things pulling the carriages?"

Tom looked troubled now and shook his head. "I don't know why you can't fully summon a patronus," he confessed, "What I DO know? Is that it's difficult for people with particularly horrible memories to summon a truly happy memory."

Hermione looked at him, startled.

Tom smiled sadly. "I'm afraid I know from personal experience," he confessed, "And it's the same reason why I can see the thestrals too. I was raised in a muggle orphanage, remember? I was hardly given any affection there. My father abandoned my mother and me. And my mother died when I was born. And I'd like to remind you that I'm a half-blood. My mother's family was from one of the 'Sacred twenty-eight.' The Gaunt family. You think her family would have taken me in?"

Hermione felt disgust in her mouth. Yes, "Gaunt," was one of the names of Sacred twenty-eight pureblood families. And while from what Hermione had read about them? They had more or less gone extinct, but she could just imagine how much harm they had caused to any members of their family who didn't conform to their views.

"Sacred," her ass.

True, the Bulstrode family, the Greengrass family and the Parkinson family were of the Sacred twenty-eight. But there was only so much "purity," that could be praised.

And if they alienated their own family members like the Gaunt family had done to Tom, then wasn't there obviously a societal problem?

Tom spoke again, "And if my father had wanted nothing to do with me, I doubted that his family would have either. So, I was alone, more or less. And I'd like to remind you of the time period I grew up in, while in Britain."

Hermione thought about that, and went over the years that Tom had grown up before going to Hogwarts, and her heart stopped. Oh. Right.

Tom Riddle had grown up in Britain during the very late 1920s and early 1930s before going to Hogwarts. Hitler had come to power in 1933. Riddle had started going to Hogwarts in 1938. Tom must have witnessed a lot during that period, before going to Hogwarts. And he certainly would have during the summers in between Hogwarts semesters.

"Oh, Merlin," Hermione said, shuddering, "I'm so sorry, Tom."

How much bigotry had Tom witnessed? How much anti-Semitism, how much how much homophobia, transphobia, anti-Romani bigotry, how much ableism, had he witnessed?

Tom shook his head. "It's quite alright," he said, "It wasn't me who received those awful acts of violence. Others received that abuse."

Hermione nodded. "I know," she said, "But you shouldn't have had to see that. And just the fact that people like the Nazis existed…"

Tom said softly, "They're gone now. You don't need to be afraid of those particular monsters. They're gone."

Hermione smiled wryly. She knew Tom was trying to be reassuring. But that wasn't really true, was it? That a threat like that was gone. Sure, the Nazis themselves no longer existed, but there would always be bigotry. Always. The Death Eaters had been proof of that, given that they had appeared after the end of Hitler's life.

As long as bigotry existed? There would always be people who would take up arms claiming that they were the victims and that those that they hated for one reason or another-whether it was because of their victims' religion, race or other, were the ones to blame.

But she understood what Tom had been trying to tell her. "Your life must have been very hard," Hermione said, hoping that she didn't sound like she was being pitiful. She doubted Tom would appreciate pity or sympathy.

Tom nodded. "Thank you," he said, "But I'm afraid the story isn't done. When I reached my third year at Hogwarts? I went back for the summer after the third semester. And I met my soulmate."

Hermione's eyes widened. Oh.

In a way, as ridiculous as it was, she had almost thought that Tom didn't have a soulmate. But that was ridiculous, because everyone had soulmates. As far as she knew, anyway. But for her? Tom had struck her almost as a figurehead of history. A figment of Hogwarts's past, with memories of all that had happened here during his time at this school. And therefore, he had no romantic attachments.

In hindsight, Hermione realized how not just preposterous that idea was, but also how completely cruel that thought was. Because Tom didn't exist just to give her answers about Hogwarts. He had had a life before whatever it was that had happened to him that had led him to ending up in this diary.

"Who-who was s-who were they?" She asked, correcting herself before saying "they" as the pronouns. She had no idea whether Tom's mate had been a girl or a boy. She had grown up in a society that was deeply homophobic, despite there being multiple couples throughout the world that were same-sex. As many, as far as she could tell, as there were heterosexual couples.

But many societies had taken on severe homophobic views on those particular romantic relationships. And sadly, Britain was amongst those many societies.

Tom answered, not seeming to have noticed Hermione's slip up, "Her name was Ella. Ella Taylor. With long, chestnut brown hair and amber eyes. She wasn't an orphan. I met her on my way to a muggle town, getting some food for myself. As soon as we saw each other, looked at each other's eyes, I could just feel my heart stop." He smiled softly, a good, happy memory obviously taking hold of him. But Hermione had a feeling that this story was going to go south very fast.

Tom continued, "We got to know each other, over the course of that summer. We told each other things that I suspect neither of us would have told anyone else. Except I didn't tell her that I was a wizard. That one part, made me nervous to tell her," he shook his head, "I wanted to trust her. I did. But I had seen how muggles treated each other for being different. How they treated me for being an orphan and for having a father that abandoned me. I didn't want to think about how this sweet girl, who I had come to love more than anyone, might spurn me if she learned I was a wizard."

He took a breath and continued, "I loved her. As much as a thirteen-year-old who probably knew very little about love, especially given my upbringing? I loved her. And I wanted to be there for her if she ever needed me. When the next year came around and it was time for me to go back to Hogwarts, I promised I'd write to her. And I did. We couldn't communicate through owls like everyone else did, I'm sure you understand. It would be a lot to explain about having owls deliver messages to a muggle who didn't even know about magic."

Hermione nodded. She understood that. If someone's soulmate was a muggle and knew nothing of the magical world, precautions had to be made, so as to keep their world from being exposed.

Tom continued, "There were ways to send and receive messages without there being risk of our world being exposed to muggles. So, my letters were sent that way and her letters were picked up and brought to me-just not by owls. I'm sure you know how."

Hermione nodded. In case the students here had muggles in their family or loved ones who didn't know about or accept magic, there were precautions put in when it came to mail. The letters would be sent off and an errand person would take those letters to a muggle postage place and magically put those letters into the postage place so that those letters could be transferred through muggle means to the recipient. And the same would happen with the letters of those who had no idea magic existed, if they wished to communicate with someone at Hogwarts. The letters would be magically taken from the postage place, and brought to Hogwarts.

Tom went on, "So, we communicated that way for a year. And it hurt. It hurt not being able to see her. Except on holidays. During that year?" Tom smiled, "I actually for one time in my life, had a reason to go back to the muggle world. And then Christmas came," Tom frowned deeply and Hermione felt her stomach drop, knowing that something bad was about to happen.

Tom continued, "I went to visit the girl and her family. She had invited me over. We both were fourteen and for us? This was new love. Entirely a new adventure. It certainly was for me. And the girl's parents? They seemed kind and nice enough. But then…something happened. The fireplace that she and her family had, it wasn't well regulated. It was open and some of the wood almost stuck out. While Ella was opening up one of her presents, the fire caught on the wrapping and started climbing up it. Closer to Ella. Ella screamed and as soon as I saw that, I rushed to help. Ella's parents were in the kitchen. They couldn't help. And I hope you understand, I was young, I didn't use common sense. I could have grabbed something and smothered the fire. But I didn't. I was too panicked. So, I used an incantation I had learned to get rid of fire."

Tom sucked in a breath and continued, "Ella's father had heard his daughter scream and had come into the room, just when I put the fire out. Ella's father had seen what I had done, and so had Ella."

Tom grimaced and Hermione felt herself growing cold again. Oh, she had an idea of where this story was going.

Tom then spoke, voice and eyes full of pain, "Mr. Taylor, Frederick Taylor," Tom practically spit the name out, "he knew what I was. He had come from a devout Christian stock. And as soon as he knew that I could use magic? That was it. He didn't care that his daughter and I were soulmates. He didn't care that it might destroy his daughter to be separated from me. All that mattered was that the 'vile heathen' who had entered his home, would get out and stay away from his precious offspring. So, he had grabbed the fire poker from the fireplace, had grabbed a crucifix off the wall and held it in front of him like a shield, and had started swinging at me with the fire poker."

Hermione's chest tightened. Holy fuck. How could someone do that? Even if your beliefs told you to think a certain way, how could you deny your own child her soulmate?

Tom chuckled finally, looking morbid, "I didn't get hit by the fire poker, in case you're worried about that. No. I wasn't on the receiving end of that. Ella? Darling Ella? Who loved me? Truly had loved me? In fact, the only person who had ever loved me, thrust herself in front of me to protect me from her insane and fanatical father, regardless of what it was she saw me doing, and she? She was hit. Her father was so erratic and fanatic that he didn't even bother seeing who it was he was swinging the poker at. And Ella? She got the hardest blow. I could hear the cracking of her skull as the poker had made contact."

Hermione sucked in a breath, hot tears beginning to fill her eyes. Oh, Merlin, no.

Tom nodded, as if reading her thoughts. He kept speaking, "I heard the skull cracking inside her head. And I think I went into shock when I heard that," he grimaced as he said then, "Damn me for being so weak and hesitant, for not acting when I needed to. Because a second? That sometimes can make all the difference. And I just didn't move fast enough. And Ella's father? I think he was just as shocked. He pulled the poker out of Ella's head and her blood came spilling out as she collapsed to the floor.

"Ella's mother, Catherine Taylor, screamed and looked at the scene, in shock too. And Ella's father had decided who he was going to blame for his daughter's death. And yes, Ella was dead-well, dying, to be honest. But that didn't matter, did it? Because even though I saw her breathing, and even though I told both her parents that we could save her life, if we just did something. And you know what's funny?" Tom said smirking, "I wasn't even thinking about magic. I wanted to get her to the hospital. I would have used magic if I had to, but I knew that she could be saved through muggle means. But Frederick Taylor? He couldn't stand the thought of someone like me anywhere near her. So, he said that I wasn't to use any magic to save his precious daughter. If he had to, he would let her die 'naturally' instead of being 'tainted' by my evil. And he drove me out of the house."

Tom chuckled again, eyes glinting with dark mirth as he looked at the wall closest to him in memory, "The next day? I learned what happened. Those bastards…Frederick and Catherine? They really DID let their daughter die. I could feel it. It felt like a hole inside me was opening up and ripping me open. I could feel it over night. I screamed and screamed in pain and despair, making all the other orphans and staff panicking. Unfortunately for them, my magic reacted too. It was an explosion of my pain and it sent so many others in the orphanage backwards."

Tom nodded and continued, "Needless to say, the Ministry had to get involved. An explosion like that power, when I was only fourteen years old? Of course, they sensed what I had done. They arrived and repaired the damage and erased the memories of all the people at the orphanage, so that they wouldn't be able to tell anyone what they had witnessed or experienced. But there was nothing they could do for me."

Tom looked pained as he ended, "My beloved Ella was dead. Had been left for dead by two Christian fanatics. By their bigotry. And my soulmate mark? It disappeared."

Hermione's teeth clenched as she felt like she had been punched. That pretty much made it final, didn't it?

When someone's soulmate died? Their soulmate mark disappeared completely.

Tom then said, "And Frederick and Catherine Taylor also had to have their memories erased because of what they had witnessed me do. They had no memory of what I did, or that they had gotten their own daughter killed. The memory had been reformed so that they believed their daughter had slipped and fallen in the night, cracking her head open against the marble mantel of the fireplace. So, magic was hidden again from muggles, and the people that murdered my soulmate got off scot-free."

While the intellectual part of Hermione's mind immediately presumed that the term, "scot-free" was not a politically correct term, she couldn't focus on that right now. Her friend was in pain. So much pain.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, "I…can't even imagine."

Tom gave another chuckle, shaking his head, "You don't need to. It's alright. So, what i'm trying to say is, I've seen death before. Not Ella's. I could feel that. But I didn't see it. But I've seen plenty of orphans dead, from drug use or suicide. That's how I was able to see the thestrals. The point is, you don't need to be a Death Eater to not have enough happy memories to produce a patronus, okay? So, don't feel bad about it."

Hermione felt her heart clench. Here he was, spilling his life story to her, and he was trying to make her feel better?

"I…," Hermione shook her head, "I'm just so sorry. Is there anything I can do, Tom?"

Tom smiled wryly again and shook his head. "No," he said, "There's nothing you can do. It's alright. It happened and it's over. That's all."

He looked at Hermione and said, nodding to her, "I have a good idea of what muggles are capable of. But that's not the point. The point is, just because you can't produce a patronus, doesn't make you bad, in any way."

Hermione smiled sadly, trying to ignore how much her heart hurt for her friend, "Thank you. But," she raised her right hand, wiping the back of her hand against her eyes, wiping away the coming tears, "It's just…it's just so awful that you went through that and that the Taylor parents didn't get punished."

Tom nodded. "Sometimes that's just what happens," he said, "No one ever said that this was a just world."

Hermione gave a weak, pained laugh. He wasn't wrong. Not by any means. In a world where fleeing Nazi scientists were welcomed with open arms in some countries-because they were useful, and abusive Christians who had killed their own daughter could get away without any punishment, what else could you say, except that?

And Hermione, she knew about how cruel muggles could be. She and Tom? They both knew damn well what the cruelty of muggles was like. For Tom, it had been the orphanage and his mate's parents, for Hermione it had been Cromwell and his goons.

"You…," Hermione said, "You deserved so much better, Tom."

Tom smiled softly. "It means a lot to hear you say that, Hermione," he said, "It truly does. But it's late. You should get some sleep. I think you've been upset enough."

Hermione chuckled wetly, "I'm not sure I'll be able to get to sleep after this."

Tom nodded. "I know," he said, "I'm sorry for that. But please try to get some sleep. You want my advise? It's that. Please get some sleep. It will hurt less in the morning."

Hermione chuckled, and nodded, getting up and Crookshanks jumped out of her lap, onto the floor.

"Thank you for trusting me with this," Hermione said quietly, "It couldn't have been easy for you to tell me that."

Tom chortled again, shaking his head. "It really wasn't," he confessed, "But, just remember that, okay? It might not be your fault that you can't fully produce a patronus," he shook his head, "Sometimes, this world is too cruel for an individual to have any truly happy memory."

Hermione closed her eyes, trying to keep her pain at bay and nodded to Tom. She then forced her eyes open and said, "Thank you, Tom. I'm so sorry. But thank you."

Tom nodded. "I hope that helped reassure you that there's nothing wrong with you," he said, "Sometimes this world drains any happiness some people have."

Hermione said quietly, "Goodnight, Tom."

"Goodnight, Hermione," Tom said, "Please try to get some sleep."

Hermione nodded and slowly closed the diary, and Tom disappeared. Hermione's heart hurt even more when she did.

It was just so awful. She hugged the diary to her chest, doubting that that was comforting Tom in any way, but feeling like she needed to do something to comfort him.

She froze when she heard someone say her name.

"Hermione…," she turned in the direction of who had said her name. Daphne emerged from the dorm room, her eyes wide.

"Daphne?" Hermione asked, "what are you doing up?"

Daphne shook her head, eyes pained and shocked, "I don't…,"

Hermione's eyes widened as she understood. "How much did you hear?" She asked.

Daphne gave Hermione a remorseful look. "All of it," she said.

Hermione sighed, shaking her head.

"I'm sorry," Daphne said, "I know I had no right to eavesdrop."

Hermione turned to Daphne. She wanted to be angry, but she couldn't be. Not right now. It was like Tom's story had ripped apart any ability she had to be angry at anyone except the people that had hurt him and the girl he had loved.

Never mind how hard Christmas likely had been for Tom ever since that day. Christmas being a difficult time for those that had experienced trauma during Christmas, had often been scoffed at by those who didn't understand trauma. And she knew that Christmas particularly could be difficult for those without families.

Tom had been an orphan. Abandoned by his father, his mother having been dead since his birth.

Hermione's chest hurt and she clutched the diary to her harder.

Daphne said, reaching her left hand to her face and wiping away her own tears, "I don't understand how anyone could do that."

Hermione nodded. She didn't understand either. Who the hell knew how people like Percival Cromwell, Ella Taylor's parents and the Death Eaters thought? Who wanted to know?

"But he's right," Hermione grated out, "We should go to bed."

Daphne nodded, looking weakly at the diary in Hermione's grasp.

"It's just so wrong," she said.

"It is," Hermione agreed, "It's just so awful."

The two girls slowly went to their beds, Hermione stuck the diary under her mattress and she and Daphne looked at each other sadly as they got into bed, Crookshanks jumping up on Hermione's bed and they tried to get to sleep.

That night, Hermione dreamt of a brown-haired girl of fourteen with amber eyes, with blood pouring out of her head, laying on a floor, surrounded by opened Christmas presents, with two cruelly laughing people above her, an adult man and an adult woman, laughing, both of them wearing big, threatening looking crucifixes, and the man had blood covering his hands and the man grinned at his hands, relishing the sight. His blood-stained hands reached the crucifix around his neck, and wiped the blood all over it. In the corner of the room, where the two adults were aiming their laughter and sneers at, a crouching young boy of fourteen with dark hair, buried his face in his hands and his body shook with quiet sobs.

Hermione woke up the next morning, wiping fresh tears from her eyes. Daphne noticed her trying to avoid being seen crying and went over to her and hugged her tightly.

They tried to go about their day like nothing had happened. After all, Tom had trusted Hermione only with this story. And Daphne had just happened to eavesdrop.

But there was something that Hermione thought about telling her friends. That she had seen people die. So, she could see the thestrals. She wondered if Daphne had heard that part last night.

She decided to ask Daphne that at some point.

When Astoria, Pansy and Millicent were busy looking for books in the library, Hermione turned to Daphne as they sat together at one of the library tables. "Daphne," she said, "Did you hear that other thing that I told Tom last night?"

Daphne frowned. "What?" She asked.

Hermione nodded to her, "About the thestrals?"

Daphne's eyes widened. "Oh," she said, and nodded, "Yeah. I heard that. That the only way for people to see thestrals is by someone having seen someone else die."

Hermione gave a weak chuckle, "You heard a lot."

Daphne grimaced. "Sorry," she said.

Hermione nodded. She supposed she couldn't be too condemning of what Daphne had done. After all, some things were hard NOT to listen to.

"But you know you had no right to hear what I told Tom or what he told me." Hermione said, emphasizing her words. Regardless of what excuses she wanted to use for her friend, what she and Tom had said to each other had been said in trust. And Daphne had had no right to eavesdrop.

Daphne nodded, wincing. "I know," she said, "I wish I had asked first. And I know I shouldn't have eavesdropped. I'm sorry."

Hermione sighed, and looked back to her open book. "It's alright," she said, then a cold realization came. She looked at Daphne, "Then you heard the part about parseltongues?!"

Hermione had completely forgotten after hearing Tom's tale of woe, but now that her mind was more clear, she remembered that yes, she had talked about herself being a parseltongue with Tom.

Daphne winced and nodded. "I did," she said quietly, "And it's okay. I'm not going to judge. We're Slytherin, remember? Gryffindor and the other houses will judge. We won't."

"But," Hermione said, shaking her head, her eyes wide, "It's wrong. It's so wrong."

Daphne looked startled, her eyebrows narrowing. "What's wrong about it?" She asked, "That you can talk to snakes? Just because you're a parseltongue, doesn't mean that you're evil. It's like saying all witches and wizards are evil or all muggles are evil. That's just not the truth."

Hermione gave a small chuckle, "You really think that?"

Daphne nodded. "I do," she said.

Hermione looked at Daphne, her anger over her friend having eavesdropped beginning to subside, "Thank you."

Daphne smiled.

Hermione then said, "I'm going to need to tell the others about me being able to see the thestrals. And about the parseltongue thing."

Daphne sighed, "You don't need to worry. Like I said, they won't judge. I mean, hell, a muggle-born who's a parseltongue? If the rest of Slytherin don't believe that you belong in this House, they sure will now."

Hermione gave a small laugh, before she could help it. That was one way of looking at it, she supposed.

When Pansy, Millicent and Astoria came back and sat down around the table, sitting down next to Hermione and Daphne, Hermione knew that she'd need to tell them now.

"Hey, Pansy, Millicent, Astoria," Hermione said, "There's something I need to tell the three of you."

Millicent, Astoria and Pansy all looked at her, startled. "Yeah," Pansy said, "What is it?"

Hermione took a breath and nodded to Daphne, "I told Daphne last night. Because we both were awake. Remember I mentioned seeing something in front of all those carriages last night?"

Millicent nodded and so did Astoria. Pansy frowned.

Hermione sighed, "I read something about that and I have a theory. I think they're thestrals."

"Thestrals?" Astoria she asked, mouth dropping, "Really? Actually, that…that makes sense."

"Yeah," Hermione snorted, "I thought the same thing. Only I could see it. And you weren't there when I…when Quirrell died."

True, even if Hermione hadn't killed Quirrell, she had seen enough death thanks to Cromwell and his goons back in the muggle world, to have be able to see the thestrals. But, still, Quirrell was the only death that she saw that her friends knew of.

"Right," Pansy said, nodding, "Damn. That's…wow."

Hermione added, "There's one other thing. Something else I told Daphne last night. There was a snake in my mom's garden and my mom and I were out in the garden and I chased after the snake and yelled at it and the snake fled. But when I turned back to my mom, she told me that I was speaking another language when talking to the snake. She said it sounded like hissing. And the snake obeyed me. I think I'm a parseltongue."

Millicent and Astoria's mouths both dropped.

"What?" Pansy asked, stunned.

Daphne shrugged. "That's the story she told me," she lied.

They didn't like lying to their friends, and Daphne certainly didn't like lying to her twin, but Tom had trusted Hermione only with that story. And they couldn't risk breaking Tom's trust. Not after everything he had done for Hermione.

"I mean," Hermione said, "If I'm a muggle-born and I'm a parseltongue? Then that means that I have to have had a parseltongue as an ancestor, right?"

Pansy and Astoria were at a loss for words, but Millicent seemed contemplative. "That does sound like a reasonable theory," Daphne said, seeming to think about what Hermione had just said, as Millicent had.

"But what worries me," Hermione said, "Is how did the blood get there? How did I end up being a parseltongue? Since most parseltongues were pureblood and bigoted against muggles and muggle-borns, right? So, then, how did a parseltongue end up copulating with a muggle or muggle-born and have a child together? Unless through non-consensual means," she added, flinching at the thought, "After all, rape isn't about love, is it?"

Daphne, Pansy, Astoria and Millicent all winced. That was a disturbing thought admittedly.

But a reasonable one. Logically, if all known parseltongues had been hateful against muggles, muggle-borns and half-bloods, it wouldn't take much for them to do something like sexually assault one-because rape? As Hermione had said, it wasn't about love. it was about hurting someone. It was a type of humiliation and pain-a way of torturing someone.

There was disturbed silence for a while after that.

After that, classes began again, and Hermione began trying to arrange her schedule, only to huff out in aggravation. It had been only a day after she had told her friends about her being a parseltongue and her theory about how that had happened and about the thestrals, and right now she was trying to bury herself in her classes.

But how did she get to all the classes?

There were some classes at the same exact time, for goodness sake, so she wouldn't be able to get to all of them.

She had been sitting at a table near McGonagall's classroom as she did this, which was when McGonagall came along and said, looking down at her, "Having trouble choosing a class, Ms. Granger?"

Hermione was startled and looked up at the witch. "Professor?" She asked.

McGonagall smiled kindly as she said, "Would you like a way to go to all the classes?"

Hermione paused and nodded. She did. She was very greedy in a way. She happily hungered for endless knowledge, no matter what the class was or what the book was she was reading.

She supposed it was a flaw of hers. Fixation on knowledge. Greed for more and more knowledge, no matter what.

McGonagall said, reaching into her robe and pulling something out by a thin, flat gold chain, "Dumbledore said that you may benefit from having this," and she carried the necklace to Hermione, "But I ask that you don't do more than turn it more than required. Do you know how it works, right?"

Hermione frowned, cupping her hands out and taking the item that McGonagall had given to her.

Her mouth dropped when she saw the round part of the necklace. With an hourglass in the middle of it.

A time turner. This was a time turner!

"Professor…," Hermione said, looking up at McGonagall, "You…why are you trusting me with this? With a time turner?"

Professor McGonagall said smiling, "Why wouldn't I? You stopped You-know-who and Quirrell, didn't you? And you wanted to stop Lockhart before he obliviated anyone else. I think you're just as good as any to have it. I don't think that you'd misuse it, would you?"

Hermione shook her head. She wasn't even sure HOW she'd misuse it. She knew how these things worked. Every turn was one hour back in time. What was she going to do, turn it over a thousand times to go back in time and kill Cromwell before he had stolen her from her biological parents? And what then? What would happen then? It was called a paradox. Who knew what would happen?

Even if she had the most noble of intentions and turned the time turner enough till she went all the way back to when Voldemort had first started to rise in power, and she killed him, what then? What would happen then?

Besides, even she didn't know how many turns of the time turner that would take.

And again, who knew what kind of paradox would do to the world or to time in general?

Hermione nodded. "Yes," she said quietly, "I know how it works. I…," she looked at McGonagall, "Are you sure?"

McGonagall nodded.

"Well," Hermione said, frowning and troubled and pulled the gold chain over her head and around her neck and let the time turner's main piece fall to her chest, "If you're sure. And Dumbledore really wanted me to have it?"

McGonagall nodded. "That's right," she said, "He believes that you will benefit from having the time turner with you."

Hermione still frowned, but nodded.

She didn't know how she felt about that.

Dumbledore, if he had been the one that had wanted her to have the time turner, what did that mean?

Again, Hermione's distrust for Dumbledore grew.

And it seemed she had yet another secret to keep from Tom.

She would tell her friends about this, eventually. But she wasn't sure she should tell them immediately.

An hour after that, the students' got their books for the courses shipped in. And one of these books? It tried to bloody eat her, for goodness sake.

It had fur on it and it immediately opened its "mouth," which was the book's body and tried to gnaw on her right arm, and she had to wrap one of her belts around the book's body and secure it closed to make sure that it couldn't open its mouth.

She'd obviously have to ask Hagrid how to keep it under control, as the book was a "Magical Beasts," type of book.

She then, after securing the book shut and making sure her friends had the books secured shut too, Hermione began to plan on how she was to arrange her classes and which one she should use the time turner to get to.

Author's note

I'm hoping some of you reading had a laugh at Hermione's thoughts that she hopes that Remus Lupin has no surprises. Yes, Hermione, Dumbledore has a thing for dangerous creatures and dangerous people. Just wait till you find out what Remus's secret is.