Summary: Hermione Granger is in a losing war, one causing the world to fall apart at the seams. Ever since the Battle of Hogwarts, things have only grown more dim, with Voldemort creating even more horcruxes and his army growing larger still. The order has been disbanded and those she loved are either dead or soon to be dead. But even when the world is at its darkest, light will find a way to break free, and she may be the key to turning the war around- long before it took a turn for the worst.
Rating: M, for language, violence and sexual situations.
Author's Note: So this was an idea that popped into my head one day, and I couldn't shake it for the life of me. Obviously, this is non HBP/DH compliant, and is slightly AU in that regard. Tom/Hermione pairings tend to be my biggest guilty pleasure on this site, and while I love your standard time travel story where the fall in love (suggestions greatly appreciated!) they require a bit of suspension of disbelief, on both parts, so I wanted to write one that didn't necessarily compromise on either one. Also, I played around with the laws of physics a wee bit in order to make this story work, and I regret nothing. Please enjoy, and review!
Part One: Hades
War does not determine who was right- only who is left.
Chapter One: The Grandfather Paradox
'You may hate your grandfather, and decide to use a time machine to go back in time and shoot him long before his death. However, the universe will not allow effect (you) to come before a cause (your grandfather) and will create an instance where, no matter how skilled a marksman you may be, you will not be able to kill your grandfather, as your grandfather's death would prevent you from existing, thereby disallowing you to travel back in time to be the cause of your grandfather's death.'
-The Grandfather Paradox, as proposed by Rene Barjavel (A summary of his theory)
Albus Dumbledore placed the delicate china tea cup onto the saucer he held in his hand, nodding his thanks as an old witch moved around him, tapered and gnarly fingers twitching as she muttered wistfully under her breath. "Where is it, where is it?" she hummed, as though a calming mantra. Her voice echoed in the wide expanse of the room, a library built into an underground cavern. The stone walls, slick with moisture, had been carved and fitted with dark wooden shelves, each one filled with large and ancient tomes, stacks of disarrayed parchments, and artifacts that thrummed with magic- dark or otherwise. A fire pit had been haphazardly made, with magic used to create a makeshift flu, and the dark and cold living area was filled with all the efforts to make it warm and inviting. Giant area rugs that were stained to the point of being unrecognizable and large tapestries depicting prophecies of old adorned the space. Unfortunately, the naturally damp nature of a cavern led to them smelling of mold and mildew, something that made Dumbledore wrinkle his nose almost imperceptibly as he glanced around the space. A bed was shoved into the corner (do caves have corners?), and the mattress was worn to the point of caving in in the middle, the bottom of it poking out beneath the wooden bed frame. The blankets were thrown, crumpled atop the furniture, and books that were stacked on the adjacent desk were falling onto the pillow.
It was cramped, with the primary occupant seeming to be more books and knowledge than the actual witch before him, her stringy gray hair pulled sloppily into a plait with strands sticking outward as though under the influence of static. She was wrapped in multiple wool shawls, her fragile and aging body unsuited to handle the chill that came with being beneath the Earth's surface. Currently, she was gliding her finger along the spines of the various books, muttering her mantra still, until finally she hissed an 'aha!' and pulled one from the shelf, a large tome with gold gilded pages and faded lettering. The title could only be read by examining the impression left behind from the stamping, and the leather binding was peeling back to reveal the sturdy cardboard frame beneath.
She turned around, shuffling back to Dumbledore and sitting down opposite him in a well-worn wing back chair. Reaching across the space between them, she handed him the book, a smile gracing a once pretty face that was now marked by deep wrinkles framing her lips and eyes.
"I believe this is what you were looking for, dear Albus," she answered, tipping her head in a nod.
He flipped through the pages, scanning the spells and potions to find the one he was looking for in particular, his white eyebrows furrowing. Finally, he came across it, and he splayed the book out on his lap to read through the potion in detail.
After a moment, he glanced up, pressing the tome close and palming the cover. "Yes, Antheia. I do believe this is exactly what I was looking for." He smiled at her, but the typical mirth and glimmer evident in his eyes was no longer there, diminished long ago from the brutality of war. Yes, the old man was aging faster than ever, it seemed.
They sat in companionable silence for several moments, sipping their teas and gazing into the fire that provided both essential heat and light to a place otherwise without. As the fire crackled in the air, the smile on Antheia's face slipped as she looked at her dear friend, her expression turning somber.
"Do you truly think this will work?" she asked, her voice shaking.
He was thoughtful, his appraising gaze looking down at the cover in his lap. He wasn't certain if it would, if he were being honest. But what other option was there? Tom's army had grown exponentially powerful, and had taken a stranglehold over both worlds- wizarding and muggle. Many were killed, many were sold into slavery, and many went into hiding- to sanctuaries and safe houses. Some simply cut themselves off from the world, with Antheia literally going underground to avoid the onslaught that waged before their eyes. No, they were out of options by now, everything else having failed or been exhausted. If there were ever hope of defeating Voldemort and reclaiming the world in the name of the light, this was it.
"I believe it will," he answered, and her frowned deepened. She knew he wasn't entirely confident, but remained silent, her lips pursed. "I assure you, I have someone in mind who is more than capable of this task. I have yet to approach her about this, but she is very brave and very aspiring. I have little doubt she will turn me down."
At Antheia's questioning look, he added, "A former student of mine. She is- was- a good friend to Mr. Harry Potter."
She mouthed a silent o shape, her features relaxing as she leaned back and folded her hands on her lap. "Do you know how to find this witch? Last you told me, before his unfortunate passing, Potter and his friends were traveling all over God's good earth in search of something or another," she said, gesticulating wildly above her head.
"An ally of mine has been operating for our side in his ranks, and has been instructed that should the Death Eaters finally capture this witch, he is to take her to a safe spot as soon as physically possible. There is no longer a need for his information, and I do not believe his removed post from them will hinder us anymore than we have already been. After the incident at Moscow, Tom has focused his efforts on capturing her, and as smart and powerful as she is, it is only a matter of time before she is found. And Severus will be there to remove her," he answered, focusing on the tea leaves in his now empty tea cup. The drenched leaves had formed themselves into interlocking circles, four in a row. He tutted, swishing what little water remained in the cup so that the leaves were swept away.
"And what if the potion is dangerous, Albus? It has never been tested, from what I am aware of. What if it undoes more than the war, what if undoes the very fabric of time and our world? Is it truly worth the risk?" she posed, shaking her head and clucking her tongue as her startlingly green eyes begged with him, pleading him to be sensible.
Settling his tea cup and saucer down on the battered trunk-turned-table, he stood and smoothed the front of his lavender robes, pocketing the book. "I'm afraid, at this rate, the world will be undone regardless. Perhaps, this will give us a chance to stitch it back together."
(Five months later...)
That was the only word playing through Hermione's mind as she did just that, her arms pumping in time with her legs as her body was propelled forward, the gravity pulling her as she ran down hill. She kicked rocks out from beneath her, trying hard to keep her footing on the uneven forest floor, her arms spreading out like wings every so often to keep her center of balance. The wind whipped at her face, freezing her cheeks that were stained with her blood, tears and dirt- all she could hear was it whistling past her, the shouts of the cloaked figures chasing her.
They were shouting at one another, their footsteps crunching hard on the leaves and sticks that coated the floor. The occasional crack and pop of spells and hexes cut through their jeers of 'mudblood'. "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" hissed a manic voice, followed by a sharp, jovial cackle. They were getting closer, and her breaths turned into frantic pants, her vision swimming into a blur. She couldn't see, but she didn't stop. She just kept obeying the commanding voice in her head, the deepest most subconscious part of her that disregarded heroism and martyrdom in favor of self-preservation.
And suddenly she was falling, her foot catching in a hole in the ground and throwing her forward, the momentum keeping her going as her limbs pushed outwards, searching for purchase and finding none. A sickening crack followed by her strangled cry signaled a bone breaking, but she couldn't tell right from left, foot from hand at the moment. She kept plummeting, her neck lolling around despite her best efforts to curl her body inward. The forward motion only ended when her body smacked hard into a strong oak tree, her legs swinging around the base. It was punctuated by a loud snap in her ribs, and she attempted to yell but no noise was produced, her throat too raw. Her mouth stayed open in a wide 'O' shape as she screamed silently, tears pouring from her tightly clenched eyelids.
The noise was quickly approaching, coming louder and more deafening and she tried to push herself back up from the floor, only to have her wrist protest, sending shocks of pain and electricity all the way up her arm, her shoulder, and into her neck. She wanted so badly to follow the commands she was receiving, to keep going and run through the pain, but she physically was unable. She was barely able to before she began her escape, and she certainly couldn't now. All she heard was static, with the sounds of her captors seeming further and further away. Her vision was speckled gray scale, blurring along the outside perimeter, and only came into focus as the looming face of a death eater mask came into view.
Her hand reached outwards, almost disembodied from her as she brazenly gripped the mask, slowly prying it off as the tip of his wand entered her pinhole vision. 'Show me your face, you coward,' she muttered, her voice the only thing she had left at this point. The mask fell forward, revealing the familiar face of her former potions professor. Her eyes fluttered closed, a small smile pulling on her lips.
She briefly registered the sounds of the other Death Eaters coming into the same clearing, heard them calling out to Snape. Suddenly she was hoisted in the air, Snape holding her bridal style as he cursed loudly, apparating the two of them away from the scene. The tug in her lower belly made her whole torso ache deeply, similar to her impact with the tree trunk, and she could feel her consciousness slipping from her.
'You better be worth it, you chit!' Snape drawled, and her final thought before giving into the darkness was, worth what?
She groaned, her head feeling simultaneously light and heavy. Her entire body was congested, and thrummed with the dull numbness she recognized as the effects of pain potions. But she wasn't in pain- far from it. Enveloped in what felt like a cloud encompassing her, she couldn't recall that last time she felt so at ease and comfortable. Her feet rubbed against the cotton bed sheet, and she delighted in rolling her head on the soft and fluffy pillow beneath. A pillow! She hadn't felt since luxury since-
Suddenly, she sprung up from the bed, her eyes wretching open and and squinting as light invaded her senses. She was dizzy, and she swayed from side to side as she tried to adjust her vision to focus on her new surroundings. She was in a room she didn't recognize, one that looked like it belonged to a little girl. The walls were colored a pale pink shade, with shelving units displaying dolls and stuffed bunnies and bears with the fake fur matted- a side effect of being loved too much. The bed she was on was small, and if she stretched her full length out her feet would be exposed over the end. The blanket was a worn and handmade quilt, and running her hand over it, she smiled as she observed some of the squares which were made with old t-shirts that were once favorites that had grown too small. A part of her wished to stay and wonder on the origin- who did this quilt belong to? Who made it? Were there any stories behind the patterns or fabrics that made it endearing?
But she couldn't. Her head was still heavy and rolling around her shoulder, and try as she might her memories of what lead to this moment were not coming to her. Instead, the voice that seemed to have sole control over her recently was telling her to go. To not stop. She couldn't afford it.
'But where do I go?' she thought, her rational side taking hold once more. She stood, raising herself gingerly as her body ached in response, and looked around the room as though for advice, startling when she caught sight of herself in a white framed mirror. She let out a shocked, self conscious shout and her hands flew to her head. Her wild mane of curls were gone, her hair reduced to possibly two inches in length, and her exposed ears seemed large and stuck out along her narrow face. She barely even had time to focus in on her face!- pale and sallow, her lower lip swollen and bruised with a large cut going through it. Deep purple bags made her eyes look sunken in, framed by ugly bruises and a myriad of cuts.
"The lion's lost her mane."
She whipped around at the bemused voice, gasping out in pain and falling to the ground. Just as soon as she fell, she was being picked up, with Severus Snape placing her down on the bed with startlingly gentle hands.
"Careful, girl! You're still healing!" he barked.
"W...what?" she muttered, berating herself for her lack of coherency. "Where...am I? What happened...?"
And then it came back. The manor, large and looming with steeples that reached out and pierced the heavens. The Death Eaters, taking turns torturing her. Her screams sounding dissonant to herself, echoing around the expansive ballroom. Days turned into nights, and she felt like an eternity had passed while she was in their hold. The terrifying, distorted face, even more serpentine than before, of Lord Voldemort as he used his own wand to inflict pain and torment on her. And then the escape. Her split decision to run and go, her animal like need to survive outweighing anything else. And then she was falling through the air to the ground, from heaven to hell. The white mask, the skull visage coming into view and replaced by...
"You!" she called, pointing her finger to Snape as though clarification was needed. "You...you..."
"Saved you?" he finished, raising a thick brow. "I know, it seems quit astonishing, but I assure you, your memory serves you correctly."
"But...why? And how? You didn't compromise your position as a spy did you?!" At this, she started to stand, only to be pushed back down by the man before her, who growled at her inability to follow his orders.
She settled back into the pillow, trying to reign in her emotions as he pinched his long nose, a sigh escaping him. "You were captured by snatchers during your...excursion in Russia, and brought back to his manor. I was not aware of your initial arrival, as I was not invited to any meetings in the time. When I did learn, however, I was informed it was approximately a fortnight."
Her jaw dropped, a tremor coursing through her body. "Two weeks?"
"Yes. You managed to escape when the Dark Lord received some troubling news-" he shot her a withering look when she started to ask about the news, and then continued. "The Death Eaters, foolishly, became distracted, and you took the opportunity and ran.
"Unfortunately, you had the grace of a new born calf and nearly broke your neck in the process."
Bristling at being called a cow- even if a baby one- she narrowed her eyes at him and said, "You brought me back here then? You saved me?" Hesitantly, he nodded. "How did you explain it to the others? He didn't...blame you did he?" She gasped at this thought, a hand covering her mouth as she suddenly felt ridden with guilt. She couldn't bear to be responsible for his suffering, knowing full well what Voldemort did when he thought one of his servants had impeded a goal.
He snorted. "Had he gotten his hands on me, I would be dead." At her furrowed brow, he scowled and explained, "You pulled my mask off after the others found us. They know I am a spy now."
Her stomach fell and she was overcome with the weight of what she had done. She had ruined twenty years of work, and deprived the light of one of their most valuable- and only- assets. In her one track thought set only on self-preservation, she could have condemned the whole world- Wizarding and Muggle- to lose at the hands of Voldemort.
Seeing the panic take over, he folded his arms over his chest. "I was hardly of use, at this point. The Dark Lord was confident he would win, and I served only as a fail safe."
While she appreciated what she recognized was his attempt at comfort, it didn't little to relieve her concern. 'We're losing the war,' she thought. Ever since the Battle of Hogwarts- where they had been hopefully certain the war would come to an end, until Voldemort escaped once more and set anew on building his army and remaking his horcruxes- the world was slowly being overtaken by his army. Most of the European ministries were under control of a known Death Eater, and Russia was the newest country to be overrun. Rumors were spreading that they managed to infiltrate the strict American borders and were working from the inside out.
And then, about eight months ago, they revealed themselves to the Muggle World, no longer wanting to hide from the creatures they deemed to be inferior. They wanted to rule over them, and would not be able to do so from the Underground. And, bless the fight in them, because the Muggles refused to simply bow to him. Guns against wands, aircrafts against trolls, and tanks and armored cars against dragons. But in the end, they were ill prepared and no match, and their numbers were quickly depleting. Mass evacuations of muggle communities were occurring, with Rebel bands similar to the Order of the Phoenix offering solace. If they weren't in hiding or dead, they were enslaved. She could recall seeing some of them there, in the manor, like house elves. She had been horrified to discover that many of them had thick, ugly black stitches hastily sewing their lips together.
'Muggles and mudbloods don't have the right to speak to those of us with a higher pedigree,' the icy voice of the Dark Lord himself had explained, chuckling when she recoiled as he delicately traced her own lips.
Drawing herself from the horrific memory, she shuddered, the weight of the situation she was in finally settling on her. 'We are in a losing war. We are not winning. We are dying,' her brain told her matter-of-factly, as though resolved to her fate. The past several years, she had tried to remain positive. She had struggled through what seemed like a hopeless situation to be hopeful. She had traveled with Harry and Ron once more, pilgrimages around the four corners of the world to research anything and everything they could think of that may help the war come to an end. And then they tried to keep afoot of Voldemort's new horcruxes, but it was harder now that Harry no longer had the same dark magic within him, the very same that had acted as a beacon to the others. They fought in more and more battles, the tally of casualties rising faster than they could keep track of. All but a handful of the Order members had lost their lives- noble and heroic though it was- and it seemed like only a matter of time before death would finally meet the infamous Golden Trio. Yet they evaded it, somehow, miraculously, coming out safe in any and all battles they found themselves in.
Until they didn't. Until that fateful night in Moscow when Voldemort appeared at their personal camp site- an Ancient Runes library that housed a handful of one of a kind, dangerous texts. Hermione had been studying in the basement while Ron and Harry kept watch, and by the time she heard the disturbance and ran to the lobby, Ron was dead and Harry was dying. "Run!" he had yelled, and it was this same voice that came to her now when she was in trouble, as though her brain had recorded the dying yell and played it to her when she needed it most. "RUN! ESCAPE!"
And she did, not looking back at Voldemort and his face, the face which was becoming less human with every horcrux he made, every piece of his soul he split and sacrificed. He now sported golden-yellow scales that started at just above his brow bone and ran down to beneath the back of his head and down the collar, growing larger as it descended. His ears began to disappear, molding into his head. And when he laughed, she could see the giant forked tongue, red and wet and entirely unnatural.
She had left the library, but not before hesitantly setting a fiendfyre loose on the premises. She hated the very thought of ruining all those books- books which existed no where else!- but she had read through some of them, and knew that it would be detrimental had Voldemort gotten his hands on them. She only hoped that Ron and Harry would forgive her for not having ensured for them a rightful burial.
Swallowing the lump in her throat and closing her eyes tight so as to prevent tears from breaking through, she took a deep and steadying breath before asking, "Where are we?"
"A muggle home, left behind during an evacuation. This neighborhood has been untouched for seven months, and is under as many wards as possible. We should be safe for now."
She opened her eyes to study him. The man had lost his fight, in a way. He was still brilliant and more powerful than ever, and on the few occasions their paths had crossed, he had been a right git. But he seemed more willing now to allow his once heavily guarded mask to slip some, the effort of maintaining it too much for one man to burden. He wasn't about to start sharing his feelings or even express his care for someone in way or the other, but he seemed to settle on indifference. As though his energy had been spent on hating the muggles and mudbloods when he was his Death Eater persona, and he hadn't anymore to give.
"We?" she parroted, before moving to the much more pressing question. "Shouldn't we be leaving? We can't stay in one place too long, it simply isn't safe."
"No. We came here for a specific purpose, Granger."
She looked quizzical. "What purpose-"
"Bloody hell!" he ground out, reaching over to the bedside table for a potion bottle and thrusting it into her hands. "You're asking far too many questions! At this rate, you'll keep me up for the rest of the night and you may not care about things like sleep and hygiene- oh yes, I had to cut off that rat's nest you claimed was your hair because I was genuinely concerned that it played host to all sorts of nasty little creatures. While your obnoxiously unquenchable thirst for knowledge has not ceased once since your abrupt leave of formal education, I am NOT your teacher anymore. Drink the dreamless sleep, so that I may finally get more than three hours of rest, without having to wake up to you thrashing in your sleep."
She reeled, her mouth pursing tightly as she narrowed her eyes. She was ready to argue back, had an entire arsenal of quips to fire back at him (how dare he of all people remark open the questionable hygiene of her hair?) but she bit her tongue. He had, after all, saved her from an excruciating and drawn out death, and was now trying to help her build up her strength for whatever this specific purpose was. Perhaps the least she could do was quiet her never ceasing mind for once and get some sleep. It had been so long since she's had a proper rest herself- surely she could benefit from it as well.
"I simply wanted to know what was being planned for me," she mumbled, angrily uncorking potion.
He snorted. "And then you'd want to know why, and how, and what if? And why again-"
"I get it!" she snapped curtly, swigging the potion in one quick motion. "I'll shut my mouth and go to sleep."
"About bloody time."
Hermione awoke to the sound of voices, an argument, and quickly shuffled up in the bed. The walls muffled the words, but she was able to make out bits and pieces, straining her ears to listen as she slowly and carefully rose. Her body was aching now as the potions Snape gave her settled in, the healing process almost to a close now as the formerly broken bones in her ribs and wrist realigned and strengthened.
She was careful not to cause further pain as she shuffled to the door and pressed her ear against it, immediately recognizing the current speaker as Snape.
"...I can't believe you would even conceive of something so foolish! You are truly going daft in your old age!" There was the sound of chairs scraping across floorboards, and the sound of heavy footsteps pacing back and forth in agitation. "And to think I exposed my true alliances for THIS! When you said you had a plan, and gave me direction, I had trusted you!"
At this point, Hermione winced, unsure of whether or not he was regretting saving her life. Before she could further expand on his words, another, more calm and weary voice, spoke up.
"Severus, I assure you I am no more daft than I have ever been."
A snort punctuated this statement, followed by a barely audible "A disturbing prospect, nonetheless."
A chuckle. "My boy-"
"Do not patronize me, old man!"
"- I do believe that this is the best, and perhaps only, option for us at this moment. I assure you, I would not rush into this plan without thoroughly thinking it through. Admittedly, I had hoped it wouldn't come to this, and that perhaps if it had that we could have at least had more time. But, unfortunately, the best laid plans tend to go awry, as they say, and we must work with what we have been given."
"But do you think Granger is truly the best person for this task?"
"I haven't even given thought to another."
At this, she pulled back, her brows knitting together as she cocked her head to the side. 'Task?' she thought, standing to her full height and placing a hand on the doorknob. What task were they discussing? Was this the specific purpose for which she had been brought here? And was this why Snape had come to her rescue, not in a show of heroic sympathy, but out of necessity of war? Somehow, the thought made her purse her lips, a twinge of anger at being treated like another pawn on the chessboard, to be moved around as the player saw fit. Anything to achieve the end, so long as the truly important ones needn't be sacrificed.
But her anger was short lived as her curiosity got the best of her, and she exited the room. She was brought into a narrow hallway, where to the left she saw what appeared to be a darkened sitting room, the soft edge of yellow lights coming from the jointed room. She followed the voices into the dining room, where a single light shone over a small dining table, a vase with dead flowers and stale water placed in the center.
Severus Snape sat opposite from the emerald draped figure of Albus Dumbledore, his half moon glasses sitting on the polished surface of the table instead of the bridge of his nose as he tiredly rubbed his blue eyes with thin fingers. His long white hair has taken a more dingy appearance, as though something so bright and pure were not welcome in this world anymore, and his long beard was tucked underneath a worn leather belt.
The two wizards turned at the sound of her approaching, and she felt her cheeks redden as she suddenly realized the state of her appearance. Torn and stained jeans that she had worn for over two weeks now, with a plain yellow shirt in equal state of disarray- she supposed Snape had used some charms to dampen down the mildew smell she would carry otherwise, but had not bothered to use a cleansing one. Her exposed arms were a sallow yellow color as the bruising healed, and she didn't even want to think about her face or her hair- or lack there of. The last she knew, her hair had become dreaded from inconsistent washing, and the stringy pieces tangled together into frayed, tapered lengths. Her tumble through the forest floor had surely done it no favors, and she was aware that it posed a health and hygiene risk. She couldn't really blame Snape for deciding to hack it all off instead of using spells to cleanse it. 'Doesn't seem like the type to have a large repertoire of cosmetic charms, anyway,' she thought.
"Ah, Miss Granger, how good it is to see you. I was pleased to hear that Severus was able to get you to safety. I have worried about your well-being."
"Did you worry about Harry and Ron?" she asked, unable to prevent the bitterness from lacing her voice. This man had used Harry to his heart's content, and when the younger man needed saving, he was nowhere to offer help and wise words.
At this, Dumbledore seemed to sag, frowning deeply and solemnly. "I am terribly sorry, Hermione, at the loss you have experienced. There is no greater casualty of war than the innocent and the young."
They were hardly young now, Hermione was now 21 years old- a woman, in her own right- and she had ceased being a child the moment she, Harry and Ron had vanished from Bill and Fleur's wedding to begin their search for the horcruxes. No, she was not young, she was older than many would ever grow to be. But she refused to mourn for her childhood, not once in the three years that the war had escalated. She was alive, wasn't she? That was more than could be said of the many who fell, the young and the old, who died at the hands of Voldemort and his army.
No, she had no reason to mourn for herself.
"What task do you have in mind for me?" she asked suddenly.
At this, the twinkle that had long since been absent from Dumbledore's eyes returned, and he chuckled. "Ever to the point, my dear." He waved his hand, the chair in front of her sliding out from the table enough for her to sit down and join the two wizards. She obliged, not once breaking eye contact with him as she waited for him to continue. When she was settled, he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "About five months ago, I sought to have tea with a dear friend of mine, Antheia Thibault, a librarian you see. She initially refused due to...rather binding circumstances, but I was rather insistent, as I believed she had a rather rare book that could be of use to me. Finally, she agreed. So, I made plans to travel to France- a simply beautiful country, if you've never had the oppor-"
"Albus!" Snape barked in irritation, his arms folding over his chest.
The old man barely had the good grace to look embarrassed as he continued, "Well, I met up with her in her new home- she was in hiding, you see, as many are. And lo and behold, she had just the book I was looking for."
At this, he reached into his robe and produced a large tome, thick with gold gilded pages. A filthy velvet slip sat randomly between the pages, stained and muddled. She was certain that, once upon a time, the color had been a vibrant and brilliant red, but had now become a hideous hue, similar to blood. The binding itself was tattered and aged, the leather of the cover creased and folding back to reveal the framework of the book. The title was difficult to read, as the golden letters were peeling off and flaking away, but she could see the imprint of it pressed into the leather.
'Magick Beyond Time and World'
She raised a slender brow as she reached out, delicately fingering the corner of the book. She was afraid to touch it, so fragile it looked. But when it didn't disappear into a cloud of dust and smoke, she pulled it closer to her and flipped open the cover, revealing a page with one single sentence emboldened.
Take heed, for within this book lie spells capable of breaking time and destroying worlds;
Terrible things happen to those who meddle with time.
"Ah, yes, but you see, not just any time travel. This book," Dumbledore said, pointing a slender finger to the book as he leaned forward. "Is the first and only book to truly delve into the art of magic involved in time. Not just explain it, or go into the academic merits and theories of such a thing- it is from this book and Nickandro's research that our Time Turner has come to be. It is truly remarkable, and the only copy of it left in existence."
At this, her eyebrows rose. "Sir, how can there be only one if it truly contains such pertinent information?"
Snape spoke now, his slow drawl giving the impression that he was bored with this conversation. "No one knows for certain why, but in 1753, Minister Noland had all copies burned without even a notice to the public. When the destruction was uncovered by a ministry official and he was placed under investigation, he cited the Elven Wars as his motivator, believing that such spells allowed for too much power and manipulation over time. One popular theory, however, believes that Noland had used the spells to his own advantage. He was a well known supporter of limiting the rights of elves and other non-wizard creatures, and his entire political campaign hinged on them remaining subservient. He continued to dutifully serve the public and all their Pure-blood theology for thirty plus years."
Her mouth formed an o shape and she remained silent for a brief second before knitting her brows once more and asking, "And what exactly does this have to do with me?" Surely he wasn't suggesting that she...travel into the past, was he? No, even if he were truly daft as Snape said, he would never suggest something so drastic and chaotic. There was no control, and it was near impossible to determine what changes would be made for the better. Besides, time had a way of maintaining itself, it simply wouldn't allow for changes to be made in the flow of time. Just as when she and Harry had used the time turner to save Buckbeak and Sirius, their presence in the time had already been accounted for. Buckbeak was never in danger because they had always saved him, Sirius and Harry were rescued from the Dementors by Harry and only Harry. They were originally part of the timeline, and their travel backwards had been planned and designed before they were even planning and designing it.
In response to her question, Dumbledore flourished towards the book, and the pages began flipping of their own accord until they landed on the page marked with the tattered bookmark.
Per Cruor Visci
Long Distance Travel Blood Potion
A Potion to assist in seamlessly affecting the timeline, and creating an alternate venue for the newly formed present and future, without compromising ones burden to the restraints of time travel
The first page, containing the name and description of the potion was followed with an inked image of a faceless person holding their palm above an hourglass, a knife to the exposed skin and droplets of blood slipping into the sand of the hourglass. It was barbaric, yet she couldn't stop herself from turning the page over to read the list of ingredients and preparation. The first thing she noted was that it was a complicated potion, one that suddenly made her feel incompetent and unintelligible just be reading through the execution. The second was that it took nearly two months to brew to fruition. If Dumbledore intended for her to brew this, he was sorely ignorant to the current state of affairs. She was on the run, and hadn't stayed in one place for more than two days. The nomadic lifestyle was the only way to stay safe when you were one of the top Undesirables, after all.
She leaned back in her seat after thoroughly perusing the pages to the Per Cruor Visci potion. "Professor, forgive me, but I'm not quite sure what all this means."
"It is a potion that, shall we say, duplicates the intended and sends them back to a specified point in time, allowing them to alter events to their choosing in a manner that will change the outcome- as opposed to the way in which a Time Turner works- without tearing at the fabric of time," he answered, the glimmer in his eye growing mischievously, and she felt her stomach flutter with unease.
"But...how is that possible?" Everything she had ever known about time travel contradicted this very statement, claimed it was impossible to do so. There were multiple theories that stated it was impossible, such as the Grandfather Paradox, or Hitler's Murder Paradox. Going back in time to kill someone before they could rise in infamy, would eliminate the reason for having killed them in the first place. In short, it was intrinsically paradoxical.
Dumbledore propped his elbows up on the table and steepled his fingers, pressing his chin onto his thumbs. "This potion is unique in that he creates an alternate world, based on the same fixed events but allowing for more...wiggle room. The previous world, however, is still prone to the effects of alternating history and will...slowly fall apart at the seams."
She was silent for a moment, considering and weighing his words. She wasn't certain how to respond, or if he was even expecting one. Her head, which had thrummed with a mild ache since waking, was now extra fuzzy, as though someone had grabbed hold of her and shoved cotton balls into her skull before violently shaking her shoulders, her head whipping around with reckless abandon. She pressed the heel of her palm against her brow in an attempt to ease the discomfort. Painfully aware that the two men before her were in fact waiting for a response, she asked, "And you want...me to...what? Change the way this war worked out?"
"I believe," Dumbledore started, his voice low and soft, "it may be our only hope to win."
"Even if it means this world being destroyed?"
"It is not worth saving anymore."
She removed her hand from her head and turned to Snape, almost pleading for some sensibility. "He can't possibly be serious?"
The Potions Master sneered. "I believe he is, Granger."
"I know this may sound extreme to you, but I urge you to consider the potential. You're a smart woman, Hermione, and I'm sure that, with some thought, you can see how this could be an ideal arrangement. By sending you back, we can prevent this devastation from having ever occurred."
She chewed her lower lip, thinking through his words. Was it truly possible to simply...create another world? To start fresh and from scratch, just like that? And if it was, what would happen to this world? Would it continue to spiral down the path it was headed, until mankind had waged war unto itself for so long that mankind didn't even exist anymore? Or would it simply break down into nothingness and chaos?
"This world should, according to Nickandros, slowly fade away as the new world is created. The inhabitants will merely be displaced," he answered, and she was suddenly aware he had used legilimancy on her without her consent.
Scowling, she pursed her lips and asked, "So, what exactly is your plan for this potion? What time will you be shipping me off to?"
Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. "That far back? What good am I to be if I go that far back in-" She stopped, suddenly realizing the importance of that year. 1943. The year Tom Marvolo Riddle opened the Chamber of Secrets and killed Myrtle Warren. For some reason, she had expected him to send her back to 1998, or perhaps even to the 70's, when Voldemort first began to make waves and exact his plan for total domination on the world. She had not at all been prepared to be sent back nearly six decades.
"1943?" she asked, looking at both men in turn. "And you'd like me to...kill Tom Riddle?"
Dumbledore shook his head, that annoying twinkle glowing thrice as bright as before. "No, my dear. I'd like you to join him."
Author's Note: A bit of a twist on the time travel plot. In the next chapter, we will see the guidelines for Hermione's mission, as well as our first glimpse of the infamous Tom Riddle. Yay!
I apologize for any errors I may have missed during my editing process. I have suffered a great deal of insomnia lately and I fear my faculties aren't as clear as they should be. I hope you all enjoyed this!