Notes: I've decided to dip my toe into the HGTR waters, since it is my guilty pleasure HP crack pairing. There are some similarities between this fic and others for this pairing, but I hope that what I'm doing with it is different enough that it is unique.
Some warnings. I've always found the "he is completely redeemed and renounces the Dark Arts" iteration of this ship to be… not my personal cup of tea. When I want to read a pairing with a sweet good guy, as I sometimes do, I can look elsewhere. This is, as I said, a guilty pleasure. But I also don't care for the iteration that keeps him pretty much "pitch black," violently and physically sadistic to her, and completely unsympathetic. So there's a reason for the title—more than one, in fact.
This is not just a school story. In fact, the primary plot is heavy on political intrigue, with school stuff as minor subplots. There are a number of running mysteries throughout the story. In addition to the obvious (HP), this story has inspirations - not specific recognizable events, but themes and "feel" - from The Godfather, House of Cards, and 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, that does mean that there are a couple of BDSM scenes. They're noted in the authorial notes for the chapters they appear in. (The story does not contain non-con.) It also means that there is going to be a lot of moral relativism and some (magic/violent) dark content.
Finally, I am not British and may not always get the idiom right. If that happens, I apologize.
Chapter One: Phoenix Fire
May 2, 1998.
The Death Eaters stormed their way into the school. Harry Potter had given himself up, as the Dark Lord had expected, and every Death Eater who was still alive had watched as the Dark Lord cast the unblockable Killing Curse on the boy. They had watched as he toppled to the ground insensible—along with the Dark Lord.
And neither of them had awakened. Potter was indeed dead; that had been confirmed not only by Narcissa Malfoy, newly bereaved of her only child, but by several other Death Eaters. The Dark Lord was unconscious, but no magic could awaken him. The Death Eaters, led by a livid, absolutely unhinged Bellatrix Lestrange, were convinced that there had been a trick set up by the dead Albus Dumbledore. Sacrifice Potter to incapacitate the Dark Lord. Had they not been connected by Potter's blood after the Dark Lord resurrected himself? Dumbledore must have known something, at last, that the Dark Lord did not, and like the hypocrite he was, was willing to sacrifice his precious Boy Who Lived.
They were an angry mob, enraged at being deceived, enraged at losing their Leader, and when they forced their way back into the castle, they were merciless. Everyone who chose to fight on the other side was fair game, wizard blood or no.
They had still been defeated in the end. Longbottom had decapitated the Dark Lord's snake, Nagini, and Molly Weasley—who had just lost Fred, Ron, Ginny, and the boy who was practically her foster-son, Harry Potter—at last avenged their deaths by taking out Bellatrix with a well-aimed Killing Curse.
It was a massacre. Every single Death Eater died, though far too many fighters for the Light also met untimely ends. In the end, there were more dead than living. When at last the surviving teachers sent scouts into the forest to retrieve anyone the Death Eaters might have left alive as hostages, they found Voldemort's body. At some point, he had lapsed from coma into death.
Hermione Granger had a theory as to when it had happened. If Bellatrix had been right about the blood bond between Harry and Voldemort being the reason why Voldemort went into a coma, then Voldemort would have died for good when Neville destroyed the last Horcrux. It was the only thing that made sense, when the scouts reported back that Voldemort was dead. She had wanted to be among those scouts, anything to get out of this wrecked castle and away from the bodies of so many friends, but Professor McGonagall forbade it.
"You and I should go to the Headmaster's office to see what it was that Potter found there before—before he—" McGonagall broke off, dabbing at her eyes.
Hermione nodded. Everything about this felt surreal to her. Harry was gone. Ron was gone. Ginny was gone. So many others she knew—gone. None of those deaths had truly sunk in yet, though, and going to the Head office was something to distract her from that awful realization for a little while longer.
She went up the stairs with her old teacher, noticing the many lines that McGonagall's face now bore. She had been silver-haired for as long as Hermione had known her, but it seemed that she had accumulated many more lines on her face over the past year.
Small wonder, with Death Eaters "teaching" in the castle, Hermione thought as they trudged into Dumbledore's—Snape's—office.
McGonagall noticed the Pensieve, active with a swirl of memories in its basin, and rushed over to it with a cry. Hermione followed her.
Several minutes later, they withdrew their faces from the basin and gazed at each other with shocked eyes. McGonagall sat down hard in the Headmaster's chair.
"All this time, he was working for us," she said, overwhelmed. "I—if I'd just known—"
Hermione was not feeling particularly charitable toward Albus Dumbledore after visiting the basin of Snape's memories. "If only Professor Dumbledore had told Harry—or anyone—more than he did?" she said in a tone that surprised her.
McGonagall looked up at her former student, unable to disagree.
Hermione quickly made a decision about something. To hell with Dumbledore's secrets. "Professor, Dumbledore gave Harry the Resurrection Stone—you know, one of the Deathly Hallows. I'm sure Harry had it on him when he went into the Forbidden Forest. Do you think it might still be on his—his body?" she choked out, unwilling to say the words, to make it real.
McGonagall looked absolutely shocked but quickly composed herself. "It is possible, but Miss Granger, if you mean to do what I think you do—"
"I just want to talk to Harry again," she whispered. The tears that had been absent all morning were finally beginning to well up in her eyes. "I didn't get to say goodbye to any of them, but Harry—he just left, he didn't tell anyone, and if I could ask him what happened—just to be sure that Voldemort isn't coming back—"
McGonagall stared at Hermione for a while before nodding. "If the artifact is on his body, it should be removed anyway before someone else finds it." She left the office.
Left in solitude, Hermione gazed around the office. The wall of portraits was present, but Dumbledore's portrait was currently empty. Just as well, for his own good, she thought mutinously. She noticed a long drawer in the front of the desk, and for lack of anything better to do, opened it.
A collection of oddments greeted her. She saw a small Pocket Sneakoscope, a bundle of parchments, a leatherbound book, and numerous instruments that she could not identify. There was also a Remembrall, of all things. Hermione snorted. Whose had that been? It couldn't have been Severus Snape's, but it was almost as difficult to imagine it as Albus Dumbledore's.
Hermione's breath caught as she noticed another object. It was a small hourglass filled with red sand, enclosed in a loop as if it were a Muggle gyroscope. There was not a chain. Unable to resist, Hermione picked it up and examined it. She withdrew her wand and cast a diagnostic spell at it.
On the blank parchment on the desk appeared the words "360 days." They glimmered and faded away. Hermione sighed and set the Time-Turner down on top of the desk, considering it.
In her third year, she had researched Time-Turners thoroughly—well, as thoroughly as those without Unspeakable-level Ministry clearance could do. The one she had been issued was a basic model, with a maximum range of about twelve hours. There were others, of course, with greater ranges. As far as the publicly available books could tell, however, the maximum amount of time that any Time-Turner could be used to send someone back was about a year, and always back in time, never forward—again, unless Ministry Unspeakables knew differently. The device she had before her was one of these most advanced ones.
Should she use it? What would a year buy them?
I couldn't use it to save Dumbledore's life, she thought unhappily. He had already been running out of time from the ring curse when Snape gave him a mercy killing. But perhaps she could tweak enough things that the Ministry wouldn't fall to the Death Eaters, and perhaps she and Harry and Ron—armed with knowledge of exactly where the Horcruxes were—could take them out sooner, though getting into the Gringotts vault would be problematic.
Did I really do that in the past 24 hours? It was almost impossible to believe. So much had happened. So much had been lost.
Go back a year? Hermione's rational side told her it was reckless and risky. She knew she was considering a major decision with little sleep and intense stress and grief, and she might make things worse.
But I also might be able to save all of them.
That settled the matter for her. If she had a chance of saving them, it was her duty to take that chance. Quickly, before McGonagall could return, Hermione felt in her robes for the beaded bag that had served her so well the past year. She did want to have all her supplies with her. Feeling the bag's reassuring texture, she picked up the Time-Turner and prepared to spin it.
A haunting, musical coo carried through the office just as Hermione put her finger to the device. She turned around to identify its source and nearly shouted in surprise when she saw it.
Fawkes the phoenix, resplendent in gold and red, was perched on the windowsill as if he had never left a year ago. He looked at her with soulful eyes and emitted another call. Then he lifted his majestic wings and flew straight for Hermione.
She was transfixed, unable to move. The phoenix cooed again and alighted on top of her head.
Flames engulfed her, blazing and intense but somehow not hot.
Then darkness, deep and impenetrable.
Then a sense of falling. Hermione did not think Fawkes was with her any longer.
She hit what felt like stone and crumpled to the ground. Her eyes fluttered shut and her consciousness fled, but but not before she saw blurry faces and heard shocked voices coming closer.
"Is she awake now?"
"Professor, you mustn't trouble her!"
"Is she awake now?"
Hermione opened her eyes and blinked, waiting for her vision to adjust. She gazed around the room, instantly recognizing where she was. This was the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts. She breathed a sigh of relief. Whatever had happened, at least she had not left the castle. Now, had it worked, or had the phoenix's interference prevented her from making the trip back as she had intended? Someone was addressing someone else as "Headmaster," which was promising, but Hermione supposed there was still the possibility that she had simply been unconscious for a long time and Hogwarts had chosen a new Head who was not McGonagall.
There was only one way to find out. She cleared her throat, drawing the attention of everyone in the ward. The cluster of people who had been speaking in the corner all turned around to face her.
Hermione squinted. Who were these people? She did not recognize a single face. There was an elderly, frail-looking wizard that she could not place at all; a middle-aged brown-haired wizard in Healer's robes; and—no wait, that was Professor Slughorn, surely, but why was his hair blond?
A bad feeling came over her.
"Ah, so you are awake," said the elderly wizard, leading the group to her bedside. "Excellent. You were in rather bad shape when you appeared, you see."
The wizard nodded gravely. "Healer Smythe"—he gestured at the brown-haired wizard—"said that you had clearly been in an encounter with very Dark magic. You were covered in curse marks."
"Oh," she said. She had completely forgot about her injuries from the battle, with all that had happened. "Well—I was just in—but no, I should not say too much, really I shouldn't."
The disturbingly blond Horace Slughorn ran his beefy hands over the tawny mop on his head. "Should we not wait until Albus arrives, Armando? He should hear whatever our guest has to say too."
Albus. The name sent a thrill of triumph through Hermione. Dumbledore was still alive! She had done it! She had traveled to the past! But something was not right. Slughorn was definitely an old, bald, silver-moustachioed man a year ago. And this Healer and the elderly wizard—she had never seen either of them before. The bad feeling intensified as another idea began to take shape in Hermione's mind.
The door to the infirmary opened, and in strode Albus Dumbledore. Hermione's heart skipped a beat as she looked at him, for his appearance veritably confirmed her newly minted theory.
Albus Dumbledore's hair and beard were red.
She had gone back much farther than a year. The phoenix had something—no, probably everything—to do with it, though how, she could not figure out. But it had unquestionably happened.
Hermione's heart began thumping. This was not good. This was not what she had meant to do. A year was not a big deal; she could live out a year. But if she had gone back decades, as it increasingly appeared, this was a really big problem. Time-Turners cannot send people forward in time, she thought despairingly. Surely there was something top secret in the Department of Mysteries, though. There had to be. There just had to. She couldn't think about the alternative.
The distressingly young Albus Dumbledore joined the cluster of people and beamed kindly at Hermione. "Welcome to Hogwarts," he said. "I am Albus Dumbledore, Deputy Headmaster. This"—he gestured at the elderly wizard—"is Headmaster Armando Dippet. Here we have Professor Horace Slughorn and Healer Percival Smythe."
"I—" Hermione broke off. "Hermione. Hermione—Green." She did not know what made her say it, but instinctively it seemed like a really bad idea to use her real name. She was going to come here as an innocent student in the future. It wouldn't do for these people to know who she was when that time came.
Healer Smythe smiled kindly. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Green. I apologize, but I must return to my other patients. I'm glad that you are awake and well." He left the ward, closing the door behind him.
Hermione gazed at the professors. "I'm sorry, but what is the date?"
Dippet nodded, looking as if he had expected that question. "Monday, September 4, 1944, Miss Green."
Hermione gasped and sank back into the pillows, winded. 1944!
The wizards shared uncertain glances. "Are we correct to assume, then, that you have traveled back in time?" Dippet asked.
"We all thought so, given the presence of this on your person." He withdrew from his robes a shattered, burnt, twisted object. Hermione gasped again as she recognized the remains of the Time-Turner that she had attempted to use. "And might I inquire as to when—what date, that is to say—that you left?"
Hermione opened her mouth to answer, but shut it at once. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'd really rather not say. This has been a big mistake. I did mean to travel back in time, but only a year—and I will tell you this much; it has been more than that."
The professors frowned contemplatively. Dumbledore spoke this time. "At the present, Miss Green, it is not possible to travel back in time more than about three months."
"Clearly, some advances in the field have been made by your time, but you speak of it being a 'mistake'—in what way? What happened?"
"Your phoenix, Fawkes, actually," she whispered.
Dumbledore's eyes widened; clearly he had not expected that answer.
"I had the Time-Turner in hand, ready to use it, but he alighted on me and flamed, and then I just—time-traveled," she said lamely. "I had no idea a phoenix could do that."
Dumbledore thought about it. "Phoenixes have many powers," he mused. "It is, for instance, not commonly known, but a phoenix can use its fire to transport a wizard—or witch, of course," he added respectfully—"great distances, sometimes even overcoming Apparition wards. My theory is that since you were holding a Time-Turner, Fawkes was able to infuse the device with some of his own magic when he burst into flames, increasing its capacity—at least for a single trip. Of course, it also destroyed the device to do so."
Hermione groaned again. "Why, though? Why would he want to do that?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "They are also enigmatic creatures, Miss Green. I should point out as well that, to the best of my knowledge, there is still only one Fawkes present. He did go through a burning on the day you arrived, so it is possible that there was a loop and that Fawkes of your time was reborn in it… a circle without a beginning, as it were…."
Hermione closed her eyes. 1944! This was a disaster. She had to get back. "Professor, do you think it is possible that the Department of Mysteries might have access to time-travel devices more powerful than the wizarding public knows about?"
The professors exchanged unhappy looks. "It is important that you do not speak of this to anyone, Miss Green," Dippet said, "because it is secret information. But I can tell you that the Unspeakables definitely do not have anything that can send someone forward in time."
Hermione's heart sank.
"The future is fluid," Dumbledore explained. "There are many, countless ways it could happen. However, from your perspective—before you made your trip—the past, to you, was written, definite, concrete. You could continue to go deeper into the past from this date, of course, but you cannot now go forward, even to dates that formerly would have been in the past to you. They are not anymore."
"Is that definite or only theoretical, Professor?" she whispered.
"Theoretical," the professor said sympathetically. "It is not a proven theory. But… Miss Green, even if new discoveries were to be made, we have no way of knowing when. You may be with us for quite some time. I know this is difficult for you to adjust to, but you must consider establishing a life for yourself here and now."
Hermione closed her eyes. It was too much. This had been a horrible idea. She should have just accepted that the battle had been a terrible event, mourned her friends, and attempted to continue her life in 1998. Instead she had tried to do the very thing that Dumbledore himself had tried to do, reverse the deaths of people she loved.
It had cost him his life in the end.
It had cost her everything.