A/N: Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave your strongly worded (and likely capslocked) reviews. PS: A lot of reviewers have already asked, so I'll say that my fancast for Peter is NOT Timothy Spall. Young Peter is Jamie Bell, and older Peter is James Corden.
July 1st, 1999
"Oh my gooooooood," Hermione said, making a stressed, high-pitched sound in the back of her throat as she clung to Harry's arm with a vice-like grip as he Side-Along Apparated them both to the backyard of what she recognised immediately as the Potter Cottage at Godric's Hollow.
The last time she'd seen the place, it had been Christmas during the war, and the house was overrun with grass and weeds, covered in snow, and half of the roof had been caved in as though an explosion had taken place inside. Now, however, the house was alight with life. Shining in the summer sun, the old cottage looked lived in, but well cared for. Flowers blossomed from the magical vines that covered the outside of the brick on the east wall of the house, some hanging over an open patio, twirling around with life like living snakes, seeking out warmth or food or affection. Music was playing from inside the house, and through an open window, Hermione could see the flash of red hair and a woman who most certainly was not a Weasley.
"Mum!" Harry called out as he dragged Hermione toward the house. "Do you have any Calming Draught? I think Hermione drank a subpar Sober Up Potion or . . . or something."
Lily Potter stepped out the back door and onto the porch, frowning in concern as she approached the pair. She was just as beautiful as the photographs in Harry's album, but clearly aged by time and life. Her red hair was vivid, though not as healthy as it had clearly been in her teen years and early twenties. What few lines the woman had on her face stood out only when she smiled, something Hermione might not have seen had Lily not tossed a look at her son and then kissed his scar-free forehead in greeting. She flicked a willow wand at Hermione's head and then frowned. "Calming Draught," she said in disapproval as she looked at her son. "Honestly, Harry."
He shrugged innocently. "What?"
"Go inside and help your father and Sirius with the decorations."
Harry laughed. "And by that you mean—"
"Make sure they don't make my house look horrid, yes," Lily said with a laugh and shooed Harry through the door before turning back to Hermione. "Calming Draught to counteract a subpar Sober Up Potion. How any son of mine was born without the ability to properly brew, I'll never know. James wasn't nearly so bad. Still," she sighed, putting her hands on her hips, "I think I'll keep him."
Hermione blinked, face pale as she stared at the ginger witch.
Lily frowned. "I suppose you have a lot of questions?"
Brown eyes widened. "Y-You know?"
Nodding, Lily reached out and took Hermione's arm. "Come and have a seat with me. You have residual Time Magic floating around your body," she said. "How long has it been for you?"
Hermione bit her lower lip. "I went to bed last night and everything was normal and I woke up and . . . Harry plays professional Quidditch?"
Lily smiled. "Don't let his head get too big," she said. "He's Reserve Seeker. Puddlemere's first string broke his arm in a pub brawl and even though the bones have mended, their coach is punishing him by giving Harry the rest of this season. At least while he's on a winning streak."
Hermione frowned. "He was an Auror."
Lily's eyes widened. "An Auror? My Harry? Oh that's . . . that would make me sick with worry. Much worse than Quidditch, I imagine."
"How did this happen? I mean . . . I can guess how. Peter . . . but, I thought it was a Multiverse Theory and if it wasn't, if I was actually changing things, then why did it take so long to take any effect, time is linear, or is it? And how do you know what's going on? Does everyone know? What ramifications has their been for me meddling with this type of magic? Did Voldemort—"
"Oh! I'm stopping you right there, dear," Lily said, squeezing Hermione's hand. "Tom Riddle is dead."
Hermione let out a breath of relief. "When?"
Lily frowned. "Last year. As for the time shift you're experiencing, I'm the only other person that knows besides Peter. After Harry was born, he came to visit me, to see Harry, and told me everything. He was carrying around a heavy burden and without access to Hogwarts to try and see you, he needed help. We all need help sometimes," she said with a small smile. "He told me all about you, how you met, and . . . he was researching it in Hogwarts, I believe. Asked me all sorts of questions when we were young and I never put them together. I always just assumed he was curious, or perhaps that he was distracting me so that the other boys could run off and cause a bit of mayhem."
Hermione stared at the woman, unable to look away from her eyes—bright green, just like Harry's. "He told you everything?"
A loud crash from inside the house distracted them and Lily winced.
"Dad! Hold still! Sirius . . . you're not helping!"
"I think I've had more experience detangling streamers from antlers, Harry, thank you."
"—didn't even need to shift. Why did you even—"
"I couldn't reach the top shelf and you have to admit, he's taller like this!"
"Levitating Charm, Sirius!"
"Ugh, you sound like your mum when you talk like that."
Lily pinched the bridge of her nose, looking as though she were silently counting to ten. Hermione stared into the open window, catching small glimpses of moving figures, one of which was clearly a very, very large deer. "Everyone's alive? Sirius and . . ."
Drawing her attention back to Hermione, Lily cleared her throat. "Well, not everyone. It was still war. Many people died but . . . Peter told me what he did in your previous timeline. What happened to James and I. Sirius stayed our Secret Keeper," she said. "We were safe that October. But . . . Voldemort kept coming and we couldn't hide forever. So we took the fight to him. Dumbledore killed him in battle, or so we thought."
"The Horcruxes," Hermione whispered.
Lily nodded. "He returned to full power during Harry's . . . during your fifth year."
"Still?" Hermione asked, brow furrowed. "Then . . . fixed points stayed the same but others changed," she whispered to herself. "Remus and Tonks? Dumbledore? Snape? Fred Weasley? Oh gods, did Ron survive? What about Neville and Luna and—"
"Calm down," Lily urged. "I'll give you a list of who fell in the war. Remus is fine, he and Dora will be here later for the party," she said with a smile. "You'll need to calm down by then. Dora's sure to notice a difference in you. All the Weasleys are well and fine," she assured her. "Neville and the Lovegood girl?" she asked and at Hermione's nod, Lily smiled. "Alive and well. Severus is travelling abroad this year. Last owl came from Portugal, I believe."
Hermione's eyes widened. "Professor Snape is alive?"
Lily stared at her strangely for a long moment until a wide grin spread across the older witch's face. "Professor Snape? He was you . . . oh Merlin, I'm going to laugh . . . was he very terrible? He hates children!"
"Then who was our—?"
"Slughorn stayed on at Dumbledore's request," Lily said with a smile. "He's still there, last I knew."
Frowning, Hermione looked down at her fingers, finally noticing that she was wearing chipped polish, something she never would have worn in her previous time. She blinked as a memory of Tonks painting them flickered into her mind. "Tonks . . . er . . . Dora," she whispered. "We're friends."
Lily smiled brightly. "You remember?"
"We met at . . . you introduced us," Hermione said, looking up at Lily with wide eyes. "After Harry met me at Hogwarts first year . . ." Memories came flooding in in bits and pieces, filling in empty spaces and stepping in next to previous memories instead of replacing them. There had still been Quirrell that first year, still a troll, still Harry and Ron saving her, and still a Sorcerer's Stone. But Slughorn taught them Potions instead and then that summer, she and her parents had been invited over to Potter Cottage.
"Harry knew you were Muggle-born and thought it would be helpful for you and your parents to meet me," Lily said. "So I got together a group of Muggle-borns, Ted Tonks included. Sirius has always been close to Andromeda, and you and Harry barely missed going to school with Dora. The two of you hit it off quite instantly despite being so very different."
Hermione felt tears prick at her eyes as the memories continued to filter in. "She morphed her hair to look like mine because I told her that I hated it," she said softly. "I . . . she still married Remus?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "That stubborn wolf," she said with a sigh. "Took them years, of course. But they married, had little Teddy, and now they live in Yorkshire in Remus's childhood home. Sirius took over Grimmauld Place when his mother died, insisting that he'd burn the place to the ground, but we stopped him. Cleaned the manor out instead. He donated it to the Order since he preferred his flat, but then after Diagon Alley took a lot of damage in the war, he moved in and you and Harry joined him."
A panic sunk into Hermione's stomach. "Why?" she asked, instantly thinking of her parents. "Did I not have . . . anywhere else to go?"
It took Lily a moment to understand, but she smiled. "Your parents moved to Australia during the war and you wanted to stay in Britain. Last I heard, they're doing very well and if I remember correctly, you're planning on visiting them for Christmas."
Hermione let out a quiet sob. Gasping, she covered her mouth. "They're . . . they remember me?"
Lily sighed and stood up. "Stay here," she instructed and then walked into the house. "James, where's my—oh for the love of Merlin—I want this place cleaned up in five minutes! Don't you give me puppy eyes, Sirius Black! Harry, get them back to human and all of you clean this up. Where's my—never mind, I see it."
A moment later, she returned with a small vial in hand. "This should help speed the process along. A little invention of mine. Think of it as an Invigoration Draught for you mind."
Hermione basked in the comfort of being surrounded by a crowd of family and friends, alive and well and not irrevocably damaged by war and death. Her memories of the altered timeline returned to her and when she questioned everything again, the impossibility of it all having happened, Lily had pointed out that her son's godfather often ventured into the Muggle world . . . on a leash.
"Some things you can't explain. Magic is like faith, Hermione. You just have to learn as much as it will let you and then trust yourself to embrace the rest of it."
Since Harry was happy, Hermione thought she would do just that.
Her best friend had no scar on his forehead, but several elsewhere thanks to battles he still took part in during the war. Despite James and Lily Potter surviving, not to mention Sirius, Dumbledore believed in the prophecy and against the wishes of the Potters, had instructed Harry still in the personal destruction of Tom Riddle. Dumbledore's greed still had him cursed by the Gaunt ring and the man still died, leaving behind Minerva to take over the school. No Carrows. Hermione and Ron had gone along with Harry as they'd done previously, although the year the trio had spent on the run in her original time, was condensed into a few months. The final battle took place at Hogwarts, where they'd all returned for their seventh year before Harry was recruited by Puddlemere United. Ron was hired on by his brothers to help open a brand of WWW in Hogsmeade, and somehow, despite not bonding over shared grief, he and Susan were still together.
The scar on Hermione's arm was gone as well, replaced by small burn marks from another battle that seemed pointless compared to what she remembered from her previous encounter with Bellatrix that didn't even happen this time around. Bellatrix Lestrange had been killed in battle by Sirius, long before she even had a chance to attack Frank and Alice Longbottom. Most Death Eaters were still in Azkaban if not dead, including Lucius Malfoy who was on a reduced sentence since he and his family had turned spy for the Order in the final leg of the war. Draco, unfortunately, was still quite the prat, but Hermione wagered that an prat without a Dark Mark was preferable.
She sat on the grass in the backyard of Potter Cottage while Tonks braided her hair. Little Teddy was fast asleep against Hermione's side, having finally crashed after all the sugar that Sirius had kept sneaking him all night. The lifelong bachelor, Hermione learned, really enjoyed living with her and Harry, insisting that it made him feel young again. She found she didn't quite care what antics the old dog got up to these days, because he was alive and healthy, and hadn't been branded physically or mentally by Azkaban.
"Pete!" Sirius shouted. "I thought you weren't coming back for another week!"
Hermione stiffened at the name, something Dora took immediate notice of and chuckled. Flashes of the last time she'd seen Peter Pettigrew came to mind. A dark library, a sense of finality and panic, and a kiss that was sweeter and softer than any she'd previously had, including the battle driven one she'd shared with Ron and the many stolen snogs she'd had with Viktor during their very brief dalliance during the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
"I knew it," Dora said, snorting indelicately.
"Knew what?" Hermione replied.
"That I wasn't the only one who had a thing for older men."
Hermione turned around quickly, though making sure not to jostle the sleeping toddler at her side, to glare at the metamorphmagus. "I am . . . I hardly think that . . . I don't even know—" She looked up to see the back of Peter's head as he leaned in close while Lily whispered in his ear conspiratorially. His fingers were twitching nervously at his side. She bit her lip anxiously. "This might sound positively mental, Dora, but . . . do . . . do Mister Pettigrew and I know one another?"
Dora stared at her. "Mister Pettigrew? Oh, that's fantastic," she said with a laugh. "You and Mister Pettigrew have met, yes, though only for the first time at my wedding. He was out of country working most summers when you lot came home from Hogwarts."
Hermione nodded. "Right . . . and he does . . ." she prompted.
Blinking, Dora leaned forward and pressed her hand to Hermione's forehead. "You feeling all right there, 'Mione?"
"Shut it," Hermione said, pushing the hand away from her. "Wait . . . Potions. He procures ingredients for apothecaries. He works for Prof . . . er . . . Snape. Severus. Snape."
Worried, Dora leaned forward and reached for the bottle of butterbeer that Hermione had been drinking out of, and sniffed the rim. Hermione ignored her and stood up, gently shifting Teddy into his mother's arms before dusting the grass from her jeans.
"Hermione," Peter said, turning around to come face to face with the witch.
Her eyes widened at the sight of him.
He looked nothing like the man she'd met in the Shrieking Shack. Nothing at all. His hair was thinner than it was as a young boy, but still thick and brown, no signs of grey despite James Potter already sprouting a few silver strands of his own. Remus as well. Sirius still had a head of health black locks, but she'd overheard Harry whispering to Ginny that he thought his godfather secretly dyed it. Peter, however, looked natural. His blue eyes were bright still, and he had small lines at the corners as well as a long, thin, silver scar on the right side of his temple. Her eyes lingered on it long enough that he cleared his throat.
"Umm . . . Slicing Hex," he said, looking awkward as he spoke. "Got a few of those," he added before sticking his hands into his pockets. "Do you . . . would you like to take a walk?"
Once away from the crowd, venturing down the streets of Godric's Hollow, Peter offered her his arm and she hesitantly took it. "Lily told me that you umm . . . that you're . . . you're you."
She smiled. "I don't remember everything, not yet."
"You will. I hope you will. You've had a good life here. In this . . . I made sure," he said. "I did what I could to make sure you were safe." His eyes flickered to her arm and he smiled at the sight of it bearing no awful, cursed slur. "It's gone."
Her smile brightened. "I assume yours is as well?" she said, looking at his left arm. He had no silver hand, no rat-like features, and no . . . Her eyes flickered to the way he moved back from her. "Peter?"
He frowned. "It's not what you think. Dumbledore . . ." He sighed and lifted his sleeve, revealing the faded Dark Mark. "I was wrong," he said. "When I told you that I was useless. I went to Dumbledore and told them that Voldemort threatened my mum, and that . . . that they wanted to use me against him. So he sent me in with Severus. We spied on the Death Eaters for years." Hermione stared at him in shock. "When . . . when Sirius brought me in to change the Secret Keeper, I remember what you said and I told him no. He called me a coward and then punched me in the face," he said, a smile on his lips as though the memory were a happy one. "Of course he didn't understand, but he learned to."
Hermione smiled softly at the man. "You're very different."
He frowned. "I would hope so," he said, looking down, showing that the memory of what he had been in her original time still weighed heavily on his shoulders. "I've tried to . . . to do right by my friends and . . . and be the kind of man that—"
She took his face in her hands and silenced him with a kiss. He stiffened, shocked, just like he had in the library. When she pulled away from him, she couldn't help but laugh at the frozen, slightly dopey look he had on his face. "I meant . . . you're different from that scared little boy I met. The boy who thought he couldn't do anything to help anyone."
"Oh," Hermione repeated. "Umm . . . I hope I didn't . . . I mean, I don't know much about your life here or . . . gods, I didn't even think to ask if you were married or—"
"Not!" he blurted out, rather loudly. "Married, that is. I'm umm . . . free . . . for instance, tomorrow night?"
Hermione grinned up at him. "Dinner?"
Peter laughed, his smile lighting up his whole face.