Disclaimer: I do not own these characters; they are the property of J.K. Rowling.
They had failed.
In the end all their efforts and careful preparation didn't matter. The Dark Lord had defeated them.
After setting Nagini loose on Severus Snape, the Dark Lord took the serpent away from the battle, he apparated her to a safe location and so their fates were sealed. No one thought Voldemort would part from his prized pet but that had been a grave mistake. He knew what they were up to, had felt it every time they managed to destroy a piece of his soul, and took care to safeguard Nagini.
Even wakened as he was by losing so much of his soul he was still to powerful for Harry to defeat. The duel had lasted for what had seemed an eternity to all watching and when Harry Potter fell the second time that night there was a cacophony of cries of victory and wails of sorrow. The Dark Lord gave a howl of maniacal laughter, gave orders to his loyal followers to kill everybody who defied him and disapparated away.
It was slaughter, Hermione saw so many of her friends die that she thought she would die from sorrow before any Death Eater managed to hit her with a killing curse. She never even thought about surviving the night, she didn't care about that, all she wanted to do was avenge as many of her fallen friends as possible. She threw hexes and curses until she could barely stand from exhaustion, a fair number of Death Eaters found their demise at her wand, but instead of making her feel better, feel anything else but pain it made her feel hollow. Nothing mattered anymore, not after she saw Harry die, Luna and Neville, Lupin and Tonks, Lavender, Molly who had died only after she killed the murderer of her child - Bellatrix Lestrange; and so many others dead or dieing.
Just as she was about to collapse from sheer exhaustion, Hermione felt someone grab her from behind and immediately disapparated her away from the carnage.
Immediately after reappearing in a place she did not recognize, Hermione stumbled away from her captor but when she turned around to defend herself her foot caught in a root and she fell back on her bum. That, combined with the dizzy spell she always got from side along apparition, was what made her curse miss its target.
"It's me child." A soft voice told her.
"Professor McGonagall?" Hermione asked her voice chocked.
"Yes, we're safe for now." Her beloved professor reassured.
"Oh God. OH MY GOD! What happened?" She cried clutching her jumper in a white knuckled fist. She couldn't breath, her world had just crumbled.
"We lost." McGonagall said her voice sorrowful.
"How? How could this happen?"
"It was always a possibility…"
"But…but…they're dead, all dead… " Hermione sobbed.
"Not all…we are still alive; others might have escaped as well…"
"Oh God!" Suddenly Hermione couldn't take it anymore and broke down in the cold grass. She felt the older woman embrace her, holding her tightly to her breast while sobs wrecked through her body.
After the girl in her arms seemed to calm down a bit, McGonagall reluctantly pried Hermione form her enough to look into her eyes. Fat tears were rolling down her student's cheeks.
"There, there child. I know it doesn't seem like it at the moment but not all is lost."
Hermione sharpened up at that "What do you mean? We lost so many, how are we to…"
"Albus and I considered every possible outcome, even one such as this." McGonagall interrupted.
"You have a plan, then?" Hermione asked hopeful.
"Something like that, more like a desperate final measure if I am honest."
Even though it didn't sound like much it was more than Hermione thought they had moments before.
"What? Tell me professor!" She demanded.
Professor McGonagall slipped a hand between them and into her robes to retrieve something.
"Lumos!" Hermione said holding up her wand and in the soft light from her wand tip she saw a time turner in her professor's palm. Her eyes snapped up to the older woman's.
"I'm afraid my dear, we have to stop this disaster before it has a chance to…"
"I'll do it!" Hermione interrupted "I'll kill Nagini!" she said viciously.
"No dear, we cannot risk it, the Dark Lord never left her out of his sight, he apparated her away himself, you have no hope to get close enough to that monster to kill it!"
"Then what do I do?"
"Albus, and I agree with him, thought that our best shot to stop the Dark Lord is to destroy him, permanently, in the first wizarding war, when he believes himself untouchable."
"What? But that was twenty years ago!"
"Why not sooner? Kill him before he has the chance to become the monster he is!"
"Except for the fact that you, because it will have to be you, would kill an innocent and spend the rest of your life in Azkaban?"
"I don't care!" Hermione cried.
"Well, I do! Besides it's a moot point, we have no way to send you back that far back. Two decades is as much as we dare try."
"Well, it's not like we could test it!"
"How is it even possible? I thought twenty-four hours is as much as any time turner can take one back and even then it is extremely dangerous."
"It is. Theoretically time turners can take you back as much as you dare go, but it has been decided by their creator, even before any time turner was produced that traveling back more than a day poses far to many dangers to even be attempted, hence the twenty-four hour restriction. You will be safe Hermione, the only real danger of going back that far is the disruption of this timeline, and that is precisely what we want to do." Hermione was absorbing every word she was saying, her attention was undivided so McGonagall continued "By going back, you would create a new reality and this one would be lost, but your past will not change."
"How didn't I know any of this? I've used a time turner for an entire school year!"
Despite everything McGonagall chuckled "Because you shouldn't. It is not common knowledge. I only found out when Albus told me about the plan. Can you imagine if such information would be widely spread?"
"Back to the point. When you go back, your main objective is to give Albus all of your memories. He will know what to do from there. Tell me, do you know how the Dark Lord found out about the prophecy?"
"Yes, professor Snape told him about it."
McGonagall didn't expect her to know that "And how did you come by that knowledge?" she asked.
"He, he gave Harry some of his memories, I saw them too."
"Well then, I suppose that is better, it saves us some time now."
"We'll have to stop him, from reporting back the prophecy, won't we?"
"Actually it would be better if Severus didn't join the Death Eaters at all."
"Won't we need him, as a spy?"
"He was invaluable as a spy in this timeline dear but I am confident that Albus, with your help, will find a way to destroy Tom without needing a spy. You see, Severus only joined the Death Eaters because the only place in which he felt accepted was amongst them. He was rejected by all others, his family and his school mates, even those in Slytherin. But what pushed him over to the other side of light was his only friend's rejection, the young woman he believed himself in love with."
"Lily Evans." Hermione said.
"Yes. And it was her death that turned him into Dumbledore's spy. By not reporting the prophecy she will not die, and so, he will not be our spy but Tom's. Better keep him from becoming a Death Eater at all, don't you think?"
Hermione nodded "Yes, but how?"
"Like I said, he had no reason not to join. I believe that if young Severus had an anchor to keep him from drifting away from us he would have seen reason and would have never taken that terrible path. You need to be that anchor Hermione, the friend he needed, a true friend he never had. It will be difficult as he was never an easy-going man."
Although Hermione already knew how hard Snape's life had been as a student, she couldn't help but feel for him, no one deserved to go through life so utterly alone.
"Alright." Was all she said.
"Hermione, if you go back there will be no way for you to return, this whole reality will cease to exist, nothing you remember will have happened or will happen again the way you remember it. There will be great shifts and you need to understand that. Hermione Granger will not exist, your parents might not even meet, maybe none of your friends will ever exist or they might but they will but they won't be the people you remember. Do you understand?"
Hermione considered herself a smart and logical person but this confused her, McGonagall saw this and tried to explain further "Hermione you will be fine because your past will not change but by going back you will change the future because your presence there will create a new reality different from the one you left behind. It is all very confusing and I so wish Albus was here to explain this to you, the point is you need not worry about paradoxes because you will have erased this timeline and by simply existing then there will no need for another Hermione Granger to come into being. Also dear, do not waste time trying to find a way back, if you ever travel into the future it will be the future of the new reality that you will travel to and not the one you left behind."
Hermione nodded but didn't say a word, her head was buzzing with all this information.
"You will need to start anew, make your own life in that new timeline dear, do not squander this opportunity."
"About Severus. Do not look at him as a task, he is quite a charming man once he considers you a friend, he is fiercely loyal and brave beyond measure. But gaining his trust is, I'm afraid, quite a trial. But do not lose hope my dear, I'm sure that an intelligent and kind girl like yourself will intrigue him."
"I thought he didn't have any friends. Were you his friend?"
"He didn't. Not back then, we became friends of a sort much later."
"Well, I don't have much left to lose in this timeline." Hermione said in a pitiful voice. "I'll go back. You know, I was always curious about professor Snape." She gave the older woman a sad smile. Then she remembered the way he passed just hours prior. "It was terrible…he died alone" she sobbed "Harry and I…there was no time…"
"I know." McGonagall soothed, wiping the young woman's tears away "Come." She said.
"What? Where? "
"My home dear, it's quite close."
"Only Albus knew of this place, I haven't been here in many years; I believe it is safe for the time we need to prepare."
"I cannot send you like this child, we need a little plan, for you to integrate when you go back. I think I'll write myself a nice long letter." McGonagall said with a smile. She stood up with grace and waited for the girl to do so as well, then started walking towards a little building Hermione did not notice before.
Once inside McGonagall warded the house and walked straight upstairs with Hermione following close behind. From what Hermione saw the house was nice enough even after years of vacancy, but her mind was still abuzz with all McGonagall had just told her and she didn't pay much attention to her surroundings. Soon enough she found herself seated in a comfortable leather chair with a tall glass of cool water in her hands. She didn't remember sitting down and she didn't know where the glass came from but she brought it to her lips and when she took a sip of its refreshing content she realized just how thirsty she really was, thirstier than she had ever been so she drank in earnest. By the time she pulled the glass away from her mouth she was gasping for air and her stomach felt as if it would burst but the glass was still full of water. She realized it was a bottomless glass and was about to take another sip just to feel the wonderful cool water on her tongue once more when she was interrupted.
"You will make yourself sick!" McGonagall said in her usual strict tone.
"Sorry." Hermione said and put the glass down before she gave in and drank some more.
McGonagall was seated across from her, a nice desk separating them, the older woman was writing on a piece of parchment with a self inking quill.
Not wanting to disturb her, Hermione looked around the room, her professor's home office was much smaller then the one she had at Hogwarts but it was nice and cozy. Only a couple of candles were lit and the heavy curtains were drawn shut on the windows.
"I suppose you can keep your name." McGonagall said, not looking up from her letter.
"You are not to speak to anybody about the future, or this future I should say. Except, of course, for Albus. Not even me, I'm writing it to myself, to make sure."
"I wouldn't have said a thing." Hermione said a little irritated.
"Oh, I know! This is for me, to leave it alone. I can be quite insistent you know."
Hermione smiled. After a few more minutes she heard a distinctive scratch of the quill which she recognized as the sound of her professor signing the parchment.
"There, it's done." McGonagall said, and then pulled a drawer from which she took out an envelope and a stick of crimson wax that she used to seal the letter with her signet ring. "We shouldn't delay this much longer. Do you have any questions dear?"
"I have hundreds but you're right, we should do this as fast as possible."
"Are you sure, we can spare a few minutes."
Hermione shook her head, she still felt raw from the horrors of she went through, she just wanted to go, get away from this and twenty years before it happened sounded perfect to her.
"I just hope I don't end up dead in your house."
"You won't. This is no ordinary time turner dear. Albus spent a lot of time tweaking it and he himself charmed it. To be honest, I don't know how he did it, but it has something similar to a tempus charm on it so no matter when it is used it will spin enough to take the person using it to the 20th of June 1977. He assured me the person using it would be quite safe, although, as with any activity such as this, there is a risk of injury. I will not force you to go if you do not wish to…"
"Seventh year." Hermione whispered, interrupting McGonagall, she wasn't really listening to her professor anymore, she didn't really care about the risks, she knew she should but didn't.
"We decided the date was adequate, Severus got his dark mark in the summer of 1978 so you will have time to help him see that joining the Dark Lord is a horrible mistake."
Something McGonagall said reminded Hermione of something very important "He's a Legilimens" she whispered "how will I keep this from him?"
"That's true, but you mustn't worry about that you will have some time to learn Oclumency, it will be hard but I believe you will do just fine."
"But he's one of the most powerful Legilimens out there!" Hermione cried.
"No, he's not. Not in his seventh year, that is. He has raw talent but he is not that powerful. He perfected his Legilimency and Occlumency skills after he learned about the prophecy and what the Dark Lord meant to do, when he became a spy for Albus."
"That's a relief." Hermione sighted.
"He wasn't born the frightful professor you knew. Of course, he was a difficult young man, but not as scary, I assure you." McGonagall said with a smile.
"What will happen to you?"
"Well that's up to you now, isn't it?"
"Oh! Yes, of course." Hermione felt herself blush she was just so exhausted she had forgotten that once she spun the time turner this reality would never come to be.
"Are you ready dear?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
"Let's go to the back garden, I know I spent the day in there tending to my flowers and herbs. You are to give me this envelope. I will understand what I have to do. Now come, I don't like this reality very much."
"Me either." Hermione said shuddering.
Once in the back garden McGonagall gave Hermione a fierce hug "Be strong my dear."
"I'll try." Hermione whispered feeling a little nervous.
McGonagall kissed her forehead and put the time turner around her neck and the envelope in her hand. "You only have to give it a spin to get it started and it will spin on its own from there. I suggest you keep it at arm's length dear, as I am quite sure it will malfunction once you arrive in 1977." She paused, then added "Hermione, try to be happy, don't let your task get in the way of that. Remember that all this has yet to happen."
"I promise I'll try."
McGonagall took a step back from her and waited.
"All right." Hermione said reluctantly. She put envelope inside her tucked in shirt, made sure her wand was tucked securely in her pocket and grabbed the time turner in one hand, kept it as far away from her body as she could, the magical chain extending easily and spun the tiny hourglass with the index finger of her other hand.
Everything blurred around her and she felt as if she was sinking into the ground, the time turner spun so fast it looked like a solid golden marble 'like a snitch' she thought.
When it was over she heard and felt a crack, like thunder, and fell to her knees. She was so dizzy she fell forward and started retching the water she drank earlier.
"What! What is the meaning of this?" Hermione heard professor McGonagall ask, she sounded furious.
Hermione was still on all fours heaving into a tiny bush of little white flowers when a shadow fell on top of her.
"Who are you? I demand an explanation!"
After a few more heaves Hermione was able to sit back and on her knees and look up at her professor. A younger version of her teacher stood in front of her, she wore a summer dress, crimson of course, sans robes. Her dark hair was up in her usual bun, her glasses were on the tip of her nose and she had a pair of gardening gloves on. Her wand was in her right hand but not yet pointed at Hermione.
"I'm Hermione…Granger." Still breathing hard, Hermione reached into her shirt, pulled out the envelope and held it out for McGonagall to take. When she made no move to take it, Hermione gave the envelope a shake and said "for you." Relieved that McGonagall took the letter without any other questions Hermione looked down at herself, the time turner's chain was hanging down from her neck, broken. When she looked around she didn't see the device anywhere.
"My seal" she heard McGonagall whisper and looked back up to see the woman breaking the wax and taking out the parchment inside.
While McGonagall read, Hermione sat back down on her bum, her head wouldn't stop spinning and she was extremely tired. Still she resumed her search for the time turner. After a couple minutes of looking she spotted something gleaming in the sunlight and tried to pick it up but dropped it back in the grass when it burned her fingers. It definitely was a part of the time turner. 'Well' she thought 'it malfunctioned all right' Deciding it was no use looking for it anymore she sat back on the soft grass leaning on her hands and looked up at the bright blue sky. It was a ridiculously beautiful day in Scotland.
"Oh my!" McGonagall said after a while. "Are you injured Miss Granger?" she asked "Can you walk?"
"I can walk." Hermione said and got up with a little help from the older woman.
"Let's get you inside child, you look a fright."
Hermione snorted but said "You look nice."
"Thank you dear." Not knowing what to do with the young woman now in her charge McGonagall said "come, let's see if you are injured and then you can have a nice bath."
"I'm not injured" Hermione said, at least she didn't think she was.
McGonagall was astounded, she was almost sure she had written the letter and it was not a charmed piece of parchment, she wandered why she would write herself not to ask any questions until Albus talked to the girl. Anyway if this was some sort of trick Albus would know it so she took the young woman's hand walked her inside and into a small bathroom. After charming the tub filled with hot water McGonagall took a small purple phial out of a cabinet and poured a few drops from it into the water, immediately the smell of lavender filled the room.
"Let's get you out of those clothes dear."
Hermione sighted at the pleasant scent, she took out her wand and placed it on the sinks edge. She started pealing off her clothes without the smallest sign of embarrassment of doing so in front of McGonagall.
"Oh, you poor child!" McGonagall gasped at the sight. The girl's body was a map of scars, cuts and bruises. A couple of the cuts were pretty deep but were not bleeding, other than those nothing else seemed serious. What disturbed her most was a series of scars on the girl's forearm, where somebody had carved MUDBLOOD into her flesh and now it stood out as angry red scars against her pale skin.
"I'm fine." Hermione said "I'm just really, really tired."
"Well, get in so we can get you cleaned up."
Hermione did as she was told. As she sat back a sigh escaped her lips, the water felt heavenly on her sore body. She didn't notice when McGonagall left and she was almost asleep by the time the older woman returned.
"Oh no, Miss Granger, falling asleep in the tub won't do."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to but the water feels so wonderful." Hermione said a little embarrassed.
"No need to apologize dear." McGonagall said "Here" she handed Hermione a coral sponge and a bar of soap that smelled of rosewood, black iris and something else Hermione couldn't identify "wash yourself" and left her alone again.
Hermione washed her hair quickly and then scrubbed herself pink, not minding the stinging from the many cuts and scrapes that littered her skin. McGonagall returned and placed a couple fluffy towels on the hamper on top of which she placed a small jar filled with milky white paste. She saw Hermione look at it curiously and explained "for the cuts dear, just a little healing salve.'
"Thank you, professor."
"You are quite welcome. Now, I think I'll go freshen up the guest room. You finish up in here, I will return for you in a minute." With that McGonagall left.
Hermione stepped out of the tub and reached for her wand to vanish the water and scourgify the tub. After that she dried herself off and applied the salve on her numerous little wounds.
Wrapped up in a towel and fiddling with her wand she sat back on the edge of the tub and waited for McGonagall to return for her. She didn't have to wait long, the professor came and ushered her up the stairs with the promise of food and a bed.
Inside the bedroom Hermione saw that McGonagall had put some clothes for her on the bed and there was a tray with sandwiches and tea waiting for her on the nightstand.
"I've transfigures some clothes for you dear, I hope you find them agreeable until we are able to go and purchase you some of your own."
"Thank you professor, for everything. I'm sorry I'm an inconvenience but I've no where else to go."
"Stop speaking nonsense girl! You are no inconvenience." McGonagall looked at her charge, her expression unreadable. "Do you know what the letter said?" she asked.
"No. You told me you would understand my situation from it but nothing else." Hermione said, looking up at her professor, not knowing what to expect.
After a long pause the older woman said "Make sure you eat dear, and sleep, you look exhausted. Merlin only knows what you have been through to end up in this state."
"I know you can't speak of it with anybody except Albus, that is why I am going to owl him immediately. You rest dear. I'll wake you when he arrives."
Hermione felt herself relax a little, sleep instead of interrogation sounded wonderful to her. Before she could thank her again, McGonagall left, closing the door behind her.
Dressed in the ivory nightdress McGonagall had left for her, Hermione ate and drank the chamomile tea, that relaxed her nerves, and before she knew it she was in a deep, dreamless sleep.
Dumbledore had just finished reading the parchment when his beloved friend and colleague, Minerva McGonagall asked "Well Albus? What in Merlin's name is going on? What do you think happened?"
"I'm sure Miss Granger will tell us everything, there is no need to worry yourself Minerva."
"I sent her back in time because we lost the war Albus! I wrote that she is our last hope and you tell me not to worry! How could this happen?"
"Whatever terrible events led to her arrival here Minerva, they have not yet happened and with Miss Granger's help they never will. This young lady changed everything when she arrived, the information she holds is the key to our success."
"I hope you are right Albus."
"The worst has already happened in her timeline and she has witnessed it all, we will learn from our mistakes and prevail. She is invaluable to us."
"I know that! Merlin, Albus! Can you imagine what the poor girl had to go through?"
"We will help her in all we can. Are you ready to take guardianship of her?"
"I am, if all this is true. I will most definitely take her in."
"You have doubts?"
"It's just that it all seems unreal. This kind of thing should not be possible and you know it."
"Nothing is impossible my dear."
Minerva huffed and after a pause she added "I saw her as a daughter?" she asked, her face pinched in displeasure.
Dumbledore chuckled heartily "I should have known that is what bothers you most about this."
"Hardly. I just find it highly unlikely."
"But not impossible?"
"I suppose not. Should I go wake her?"
"No, let her rest. She will need it."
Hermione woke up with a start, she felt adrenaline surge through her body at the unfamiliar sight. "Accio wand." She whispered and the piece of wood slapped into her awaiting hand from the nightstand. She was about to get out of bed when she remembered that she was in professor McGonagall's home, in 1977! She was suddenly torn between laughing and crying. "It really happened." She whispered as she looked out the window at the beautiful summer morning.
"My God!" she couldn't believe it. Everything she knew from her time would be different, especially the people she knew that were alive now. 'Yes Hermione, they're twenty years younger' she told herself.
She decided to put on a brave face, it wouldn't do to cry over things that wouldn't happen, so, she got out of bed, transfigured her nightgown into a dress and padded downstairs towards the source of divine smelling tea.
"Good morning Miss Granger!" McGonagall greeted rather cheerfully.
"Good morning." She responded and then stopped in her tracks when she saw a very familiar face with striking blue eyes, the Headmaster was seated at the table alive and well.
"Ah, Miss Granger! It's wonderful to meet you dear. Come, sit, you must taste these tea biscuits Minerva makes, the best in the wizarding world, I say."
Hermione was struck by how young Dumbledore looked. 'Did twenty years age him so?' He was still grey but he just looked so much better, healthy and happy. She was having a hard time remaining composed and only managed to choke out one word in greeting.
"Headmaster." She said and couldn't believe that that pitiful voice belonged to her.
She walked over and sat at the small round table with the only two people she thought could help her change things for the better.
"Relax yourself Miss Granger, all will be well." Dumbledore tried to reassure the pale looking girl.
"I should hope so Headmaster, I can hardly imagine things going much worse than they did." Hermione said dejectedly.
"I am quite sure that with the information you have we will be able to set our wrongs to rights. Wouldn't you say so?"
"Like I said, I hope so. I will give you every piece of information I have, you can watch all my memories if you wish and I will do everything in my power to make sure the Dark Lord falls this time around." By the time Hermione finished speaking she was trembling with fury at the thought of Voldemort. She was against him before, had feared him, but now she was driven by anger and the desire to take the bastard down even if the process killed her.
"Wonderful!" Dumbledore exclaimed.
"Here you go dear." McGonagall said setting a plate of eggs sunny side up and sausage in front of her.
"I thought there were cookies." Hermione whispered a little disappointed, the Headmaster chuckled heartily again.
"After you have some proper food in your stomach dear, surely you must be famished." McGonagall said.
She really was so she dug in, trying but failing to pace herself. At the sight of the young woman wolfing down her breakfast Albus and Minerva shared an amused glance.
When she finished Hermione thanked her host for the delicious meal and accepted a hot cup of tea and a plate of biscuits. She enjoyed her tea and treats silently, hearing but not listening her professor's conversation. She was simply observing their expressions, the smiles that graced their features, the warmness that McGonagall's eyes held and the twinkling in Dumbledore's, they looked so happy it hurt.
She was brought out of her thoughts when the Headmaster suddenly turned to her and asked her something.
"Hmmm?" was all she could manage.
"I asked if you are ready child." He repeated his voice kind. She didn't need to ask what he was referring to. They needed to know the circumstances that brought her here. "Yes. I am."
"Earlier you offered me the option of viewing your memories. I wonder how familiar you are with Legilimency Miss Granger."
"I know of it, it's a spell that allows the caster to access one's memories sir. And before you ask sir, yes, you can use Legilimency on me. I think it is the most efficient way for me to give you the information I must."
"Yes, it would certainly be faster than pulling memories one by one and viewing them in a pensive Miss Granger. But you should know that I may learn some things you might not wish to share, personal things. Legilimency, I'm afraid is not an exact art."
"That's all right, I trust your discretion sir."
Dumbledore wondered how come the girl showed such trust. He knew, of course, that he had been her Headmaster and that she and Minerva had been close in her timeline, but still, not many would offer to open themselves so.
"You two can go in the sitting room then, make yourselves comfortable. I will join you in a minute with a fresh pot of tea." McGonagall told them with a little smile.
Once in the sitting room Hermione took one of the comfy looking armchairs in front of the fireplace and Dumbledore took the other one. A swish of the Headmaster's wand had them facing each other. With trepidation Hermione raised he eyes to Dumbledore's, she knew what was coming and wasn't eager to relive some of the things she had to show him.
"Legilimens." He whispered and Hermione gasped.