My beautiful readers, here is the new instalment of this story. Please R&R.
Of Friends and Enemies
In a small cozy flat, in muggle London, sat Hermione Granger. In her hands she was holding a cold cup of tea, her mind raced from one thought to the other while her eyes remained unfocused. For hours now, she had been trying to process what occurred the day before yesterday. The more she thought about it, the less she understood. The young man who had sat before her in that muggle coffee shop was undoubtedly Lord Voldemort. She was sure of it, which completely disregarded the fact that it was utterly impossible.
All seven Horocruxes where destroyed, even the bit inside of Harry. Voldemort's body had been cremated. And yet that very same wizard had sat in front of her. When Harry heard about it…
Oh Harry… He had been right. All along he was right. She had left him, doubted him and even considered having him committed to St. Mugo's. After everything, she had failed him. She should send for him straight away. He would surely come. Harry always worried about everyone else. He was raised to be a hero. Dumbledore pushed him to be one. After everything he had lost, Harry deserved closure. Perhaps he was better off just suspecting Voldemort was still alive. Once Hermione told him, there would be no turning back. She would state a fact and the wheels would start turning one more time.
They had spent so much of their lives in trying to destroy that demented man. Sometimes Hermione wondered what would have happened if she had decided to refuse Hogwart's offer and had grown to become a regular Doctor. No pain, no horror, no fear just a regular life. Things would've been so different. For one those boys wouldn't have lasted a day without me. She couldn't help but smile at the thought.
What if's were of no use, long ago inside a girl's bathroom with an unconscious troll at her feet her destiny had been sealed. She had to contact Harry. He would never be free till Voldemort was no more. This time no one would use her friend. This time when they fought him, they would do it with all of the information they needed.
She would call Harry, just not yet. She had a lot of research to do. This time around would be the last time they fought this evil.
With this in mind Hermione set out to do research. She couldn't just abandon her job, her patients needed her. She would leave it till it was her only option. Even though it was nighttime being a member of the Golden Trio did have its uses. She would go back to Hogwarts' library, one of the biggest in the wizarding world and just look for the answer. With this in mind she apparated just outside of the school, entered and went straight to the library.
Hours passed by, and she couldn't find even a scrap of information. She piled mountains of books by her side and just kept reading. The only thing which distracted her from her work was the rising sun with its majestic crown of colors. Looking at her watch, she confirmed she had about an hour to put everything back into place, return home and head out to work.
For weeks Hermione kept this up. Cheering charms and Peper up potions turned out to be her best allies. One month and a half later she had gone through every book at Hogwarts which might even mention something as to how Voldemort was still alive. Next she started aparatting on a daily basis to France, after that turned out just as Hogwarts' had she visited Italy, Spain and Germany just to come up with the same result. Her body wouldn't handle for much longer her lifestyle, she needed to sleep and rest.
After almost giving a patient the wrong potion, she decided she needed to stop and rest. That weekend she went home and slept. On Monday morning after work, instead of going to another country she visited Knockturn Alley. She had avoided the bookstore she was about to visit for the simple fact that the material sold inside was dark and once she started reading about dark magic she would have to be very careful. She couldn't allow herself to be tempted into performing a simple curse. It would all have to be theoretical learning. The Dark Arts were a slippery road, one she had always avoided. Even during the war, at their most desperate time, she avoided even considering the notion of trying to learn the Dark Arts in order to find a way to fight the enemy.
Taking a deep breath Hermione decided to enter the bookstore. The doorbell rang at her entrance. She couldn't believe her eyes, the room must be magically enhanced, that was the only way this amount of books could fit into their shelves. Rows upon rows of books sat orderly one next to the other. It would easily be Hermione's favorite place on the world if it were not for the theme on which these books were written.
"Hey, sugar. Are you buying anything, because if you came to just stare at the books you must leave my bookshop. I don't make money by renting the space you are occupying."
Hermione turned, and was surprised to see the owner couldn't be a couple of years older than herself. She wore heavy makeup, piercings and form fitting clothes. Her hair was died a violet color. She was beautiful.
"So what will it be, are you buying or returning to the street?"
"I will buy something, if you have what I need. But there is no way I can know if I don't look, now is there?"
The young woman just smiled.
"By all means do feel free to browse through my bookcases. Even though I sincerely doubt there is anything here for you, Hermione. Please do be careful, these books are not friendly I wouldn't want to end up in jail if you happen to die because you couldn't handle the books properly."
Without turning to look at the woman she started her search.
She didn't need her advice on the matter; she knew most of these books were deadly if not handled properly. As she scanned the shelves and read the titles, her skin got goose bumps and her stomach felt nauseous. Titles ranged from 1001 Ways to Skin a Mudblood, The Art of Unspoken Torture, Unearthing Inferi Potions and the titles just got more gruesome by the second.
It got to a point where Hermione had to close her eyes and take long deep breaths. After she had steadied her racing heart she dived back into those titles.
Hours later she had more than thirty books with her. She was levitating them behind her, there was no way she was touching them before she absolutely had to. She reached the counter and faced the owner.
"My, my who knew you had it in you. What would the world say if they saw the titles you've got here." She taunted.
Hermione ignored the comment and simply took out her purse.
"How much do I owe you?"
The girl smirked.
"Well, Miss Granger, that first book Living Beyond Death is worth 1000 galleons, and that is the cheapest book on your pile. So if I were you I'd go running to good old Harry and ask for a loan."
Hermione´s temper flared, more at finding she would have to spend most of her savings in these books than at the woman´s comment.
"Just tell me how much it is."
The girl smiled.
"They've already been paid for."
Hermione blanched. There was only one person who could know she would come looking for these books. She looked at the books, she really needed them. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding.
"You must be mistaken; my friends don't come to this sort of place. No one could have paid for this."
The woman licked her lips.
"Oh you are right…"
"… no friend of yours paid for them. If I'm not mistaken he is more like your enemy. The tall, dark and handsome type, does that ring a bell? By the way he also picked some more books for you to take." She said pointing to at least 50 packed parcels by her side.
Hermione turned and started heading towards the exit.
"Sugar, let me give you some advice. Take these books, they are your only chance, seeing as how your first attempt at defeating him with regular magic turned out so well. In all the years I've known him, he has never done this. He always takes, but never gives. You must be quite special. Take the opportunity, besides more than ten of the books you have here are unique. You won't find this sort of knowledge anywhere else."
Hermione paused, turned and raised her wand pointing it at the woman's heart. "Who are you?"
The woman remained in the same relaxed position she had been and answered. "I am a pureblooded witch, I've got some Black and Malfoy blood. You won't find me among their records though. Our charming Mr. Riddle made sure I disappeared from them long ago. I was a naïve girl who became his lover. Trust me child, I am much older than I look. He has developed a strange fascination with you. As I said before he never gives but only takes, and yet for you he has made an exception. Heed my words and be careful around him. You can twist his fascination to be his doom. But in order to do that you must prove smarter than him. Good luck kid. By the way the book regarding potions will only open with a vial of pureblooded blood so I suggest you ask your Weasley friend for some."
Hermione stood dumbfounded in front of the woman.
"Run along sugar. You've got quite the road ahead of you."
Hermione got home just in time to head out to work. She spent the next fortnight deactivating the dangerous spells which were designed to repel muggleborns from each tome. After that she brewed potions to open one or two of the books. After all this was done she only needed Ron's blood to open the last book. How on earth was she going to get it?
Just as she was thinking this, her doorbell rang. She panicked, her living room was full of books of the Dark Arts, she quickly shrinked them and got them into her purse.
She opened the room to find none other than Ron himself.
"Hello Hermione." He said with a toothy grin.
Hermione couldn't help herself; she hugged him on the spot.
"Took you long enough Ronald, it's been months since you last visited me! How is Luna? How are the wedding plans coming along?"
"I'm sorry Hermione, but my life has been hectic lately. Luna is great, she keeps talking about getting Nargles to dance after the wedding and she did mentioned some other creature to serve the drinks. I can hardly keep up with all of her suggestions. We are good, how about you?"
"Oh I'm fine you know me, I'm currently doing some research for a patient."
She said this as she guided him towards the living room.
"Some things never change."
Hermione smiled and said, "would you care for a cup of tea?"
"Don't you have something stronger? I could use some Scotch after the day I've had."
Hermione poured him a drink and sat down.
"Something tells me this is not a social call, why are you here?"
Ronald turned bright red and started fidgeting with his glass. "I am sorry Hermione I really did mean to come by. But sadly you are right, I have been working on this case for some time now and I would like your opinion on the matter."
He downed the drink in one gulp.
"About two and half months ago, a strange thing happened in a muggle coffee shop. All the muggles dropped dead, with no trace of gas intoxication or anything. It baffled the muggle authorities and we sent a man to investigate. It turns out there was a trace of magic in the place, the sort you get after strong spells are performed in closed quarters."
"The Avada Kedavra curse."
"Exactly, being the current expert on Deatheaters I was sent to the site and you won't believe me. But you are the only one who could. I felt his magic all over the place."
Hermione blanched. She did not need Ron involved in this matter, he was too brash. Surely he would contact Harry and then all hell would break lose.
"Who do you mean?" She asked, with clipped words.
"HIM! The man we spent all of our Hogwarts years fighting." He exploded and started walking around the room, raising his voice with each word. "I know how it sounds Hermione. I know what it means. Harry was right."
After saying this he went deadly quiet.
"I brought some proof so you would believe me." He pulled a small parcel from the interior of his robe. "Open it up."
Hermione did with trembling hands. Inside was a cup, deceivingly plain. She touched it and without a doubt, she could feeltraces of his magic.
"Have you told Harry?"
"How could I? He is barely started to move on. I cannot drop this on him."
"Ronald I… I was there that day."
His eyes bore into hers. "I´m listening."
"He approached me. I thought he was just another stalker. Seeing as I was incredulous he introduced himself as Riddle. I mocked him and left. That´s when he cast the spell on the coffee shop. He let me know who he was."
As Ron remained quiet, she realized with a pang in her heart that her old friend had matured. He was a man now. She had underestimated him.
"This was two months ago, and you haven't told neither Harry nor myself. Why? What are you up to?"
"I will tell Harry, but only till I have an explanation as to how he manages to be alive. I refuse to fight once more in the dark. He deserves better. I won´t go to him till I know how to defeat Riddle."
Ron stood to leave. "I'll help you. We were a great team. Tell me what you need and I'll get it for you. I'll help with the research."
"Ron I'd rather…"
"No, Hermione. Either you let me help or I go to Harry. I am not letting you shoulder this burden alone. Would you share with me what you have found tonight or should I return tomorrow morning?"
She looked at the floor. Time had changed them.
"I'd rather you come tomorrow night. I am still working at St. Mugo's. Harry's been keeping tabs on me if I just quit my job without a logical explanation he will know something is up. Drop by tomorrow night and we'll start working with the books I've acquired. But before you leave, in order to open one of them I need a vial of blood from a pureblooded wizard…"
He just smiled, transfigured the cup into a vial and slit his wrist.
"I knew you would have noticed the incident and done something about it. I'll be back tomorrow at 8 o' clock. Here," he said handing me the vial full of blood. "And please do be careful if you need my blood to open one of those books, they must be rotten stuff."
He walked to the door and left.
Hermione took the book out of her purse and carefully applied the blood to the cover. Smoke came out and the book opened.
Feeling she had done enough for one day. She allowed her nerves to relax. She closed the book and was about to turn the lights off and head upstairs when the doorbell rang.
With a sigh she went to open the door. The cool corridor air entered her flat. She closed the door. Probably the neighbor's kid, he loved playing pranks on her.
Once she was inside her room, she changed outfits and got into bed. When she was about to turn off her night lamp she saw him.
He was comfortably sitting in her reading sofa by the window, looking outside.
She was out of bed and pointing her wand at him in an instant. The one good thing the war had left her with were her reflexes.
"Miss Granger put that thing down before you harm yourself." He said, without batting a lash. His voice was rich like a good cup of wine.
Hermione eyed the exit there was a slim chance she might make it to the door before he attacked. Being the most brilliant witch her age Hermione had discovered how Hogwarts' wards worked and applied them to her home. No one could apparate in or out of her house, which prevented demented people from entering her home any other way than the muggle way. But it also prevented her from escaping.
"I must admit you did quite the job on your home. It took me several weeks to overcome all of your wards."
He said, still not looking at her.
She had to make a run for it, she just needed to make it as far as her main entrance then she could apparate to… where could she go? If she went to Ron's, she would be jeopardizing his life, a public place, well that certainly had worked perfectly the last time she had met him. No, she couldn't run.
"Finally, took you long enough to realize it. Why don't you come and take a sit beside me? But before you do, would you mind getting me a cup of the bottle of wine I brought with me, it's in a bucket with ice on your kitchen."
Hermione knew by his tone he wasn't asking her.
She decided to sit opposite of him on her bed. He took one look at her and arched an eyebrow.
"I thought you would have learnt some manners by now. Be a good girl, and do as I said, you wouldn't want your neighbors to mysteriously die, now would you?"
At his words she stood and did as he instructed.
He had the nerve to smile at her when she handed him his cup of wine.
Hermione crossed her arms. "To what do I owe the delightful pleasure of having you in my humble apartment?" Her voice dripped sarcasm.
His eyes flashed red. He left the cup on the table and forcefully grabbed her arm. The space between them shortened. At his closeness she became self-conscious. She was wearing her summer nightdress. She needed to put space between them, he had too much advantage in the current situation.
She tried to get him to release his hold, all to no avail. She stood and put all of her weight in the back of her feet to get him to release her. With one strong pull she landed on his lap.
Hermione was horrified.
"Quit your struggling. You landed yourself in this position. Though I must say I don't particularly mind. Now, now child I'll forgive your tone this once, given how beautiful you look when you blush. But if you ever address me in such a disrespectful manner again, there will be consequences."
Hermione stood still and sighed. She tried gently to get up, but his other arm circled her abdomen and kept her in place.
"Please, let me go." He released her at her words.
She was about to sit on her bed when a look from him told her she shouldn't.
As she sat back down on the couch, she asked him. "Why are you here?"
He simply smiled at her. "Wouldn't you love to know, but Hermione, I can call you that, right? It wouldn't be fair for me to answer your question if you don't answer one of mine first."
She looked out the window. "Do I have a choice?"
"Shoot." Her word pierced the stillness.
"Have you ever had a lover Hermione?"
Of all the things she expected him to ask her this was not among her possibilities. She looked at him with big round eyes.
"You heard me."
Seeing no harm in humoring him she answered. "Yes, many."
"Liar." He had the audacity to laugh.
"Answering your question Hermione, I just came here to make sure my books hadn't harmed you. I wanted to make sure you had taken all of the required measures to make them safe for you to use."
"Your books?" Hermione murmured.
If what he said was right and he had appropriated them. Those books where loyal to the owner. The poor misfortunate soul who happened to deal with one of them without the owner's permission could suffer a great variety of tortures.
"You are truly naïve did you really think all of those books would simply be hanging in the same place for you to find. It took me years and many travels to get only a pair of them. May I see them?"
She went downstairs and grabbed her purse. She wouldn't want those books by her bed. She returned them to their normal size and handed them to him. He inspected her handiwork and smiled.
"Good job Hermione."
He smiled at her. She felt more and more repulsed by the second.
"You know I hate you, right?"
"Yes, I'm quite aware of the fact dear. By the way as you happened to open one of my books with Weasley's blood if you ever try to practice one of the spells inside he will be the recipient of the curse. It would be in your best interests not to allow the Weasley boy to touch them, unless you want him dead, which I presume you don't. How's Harry by the way?"
She gave him a look, but kept her silence.
"You haven't told him. Isn't that selfish of you? What if I decided to pop for a visit?"
"If you wanted to, you would've done so by now."
"Clever girl, so when would you fancy going out for a Butterbeer or a cup of coffee?"
Hermione just stared in shock at him.
"The only ones who would recognize me are either dead or old enough to believe their eyes are tricking them. How about next Friday, say around 9 o' clock. Dress up would you? A nice green dress would be perfect. Good luck on your research. It is better if I leave now. Don't bother showing me to the door I know the way."
Hermione was left flabbergasted in her room.
She felt repulsed and dirty, knowing she wouldn't get to sleep that night she took a shower and started reading.
As the sun rose she realized there were some flowers in a base on her living room.
With dread in her heart she came close to them and read the note attached to the red roses.
You are more delicate and beautiful than these flowers. You are mine like they are yours.
Hermione did everything in her power to get rid of the flowers, only to have them reappear in exactly the same place every day.