Author's Note: I'm supposed to be on a writing and posting break, but I had a story that I just couldn't get out of my mind. No idea how long it will be or how long between updates. Please be aware that this story will have fairly dark, adult themes including: Death (even major character), Violence, Suicidal Ideation, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Self-Destructive Behavior, Unhealthy Relationships, and a heaping dose of PTSD.
This story follows the end of the second wizarding war. Healing and grief are messy, painful subjects. Don't expect all of the characters to just bounce back to their pre-war selves. That's unrealistic and naïve. Also, as with all of my stories, expect that no one, especially Hermione, will be perfect.
Even with the sounds of the battle raging all around her in the castle, Hermione couldn't hear them. How many brightly colored streams of light erupting out of the end of a Death Eater's wand narrowly missed her she couldn't be sure. She stared at the lifeless form of the wizard that had been such an annoyance to her since she was eleven years old, an annoyance she learned to endure and then to appreciate. And then finally to miss in those freezing nights in the tent during the horcrux hunt. Nothing made the least bit of sense. If Fred could die, if Fred could have the light in his eyes snuffed out long before his time, no one was safe.
Only the abrupt arrival of one of those damned acromantulas from the forest broke her out of her thoughts. She couldn't afford to remain in the same spot just waiting for another creature, human or otherwise, to end her life just like his. As much as it pained her, she knew that she had to keep running, keep fighting, keep living. Fred would never forgive her if he discovered that she was killed because she was too busy mourning him to take care of herself.
Harry pushed her towards Ron, yelling at her to move. There was a hole in the side of the castle. More enemies were pouring in. Determined not to leave Fred's body where it could be savaged any further, Percy and Harry stopped their fighting long enough to move it to a hidden niche where a suit of armor once stood. Percy, incensed with grief, ran after the Death Eater responsible for killing his younger brother.
It had been a struggle to keep Ron from rushing off with Percy to aid him in his revenge. She could understand quite well why he was so desperate to run after Augustus Rookwood, but there were more important matters that had to be dealt with first. Even as she uttered those words, they tasted like ash on her tongue. She didn't want to imagine a world without Fred in it for even a second. Focusing on the next step, killing the fucking snake that would finally allow Voldemort to die, she wouldn't allow herself to think too much about what happened. There would be time enough to grieve when it was all over. If she didn't stay alive long enough to ensure that they were successful, Fred's death would be in vain. She couldn't bear to imagine that possibility. Wasn't his death already enough of a waste?
Everything that happened next occurred in such a dense fog that she wasn't even sure how she continued moving. Indescribable sorrow and choking fear were the only emotions that she knew. Attacking Greyback had been an automatic reaction. Despite her problems with Lavender over the years, the witch had been her roommate in the Gryffindor dormitory for six years. She deserved a better fate than what the monster gave her. Tears streamed down her cheeks, blurring her vision, but her curse made its mark. Somehow she knew that if anyone got in her way or tried to kill one of her loved ones, she wouldn't fail in killing them. Enough raw magical energy coursed through her in that moment that she felt confident she could take on any foe.
Watching Hagrid be swept away in a tide of acromantulas threatened her resolve. She feared for the man she'd come to admire and care about so deeply. Would he be just another casualty of the damned war that should've never happened? Seeing Grawp run after his older brother gave her a little bit of hope. The small giant would do whatever he could to save Hagrid. She could only offer a hope that it would be enough.
Never had it been so difficult to conjure a patronus as when the hundred or so dementors descended upon the castle grounds. Hermione tried desperately to think of a happy enough thought to keep them at bay. Each memory was colored by the reminder of the loss of the funny wizard she'd watch die. How could she ever be happy again? Fred wasn't the only loss either. She knew that before it was all said and done, assuming that she even made it to the end, she would discover others that she loved and cared about were dead too. It was all senseless. Why did they have to die? Because some madman was intent on living forever and wanted to rule? It didn't make any sense.
In the end, focusing on the promise that they would end Voldemort and create a better world in the future where children didn't have to fight in wars they had no business being involved in was enough to produce her silvery otter. But even that wasn't enough. There were too many dementors. Her otter faded, leaving them vulnerable to the onslaught of the wretched creatures. If it hadn't been for the sudden arrival of Luna, Ernie, and Seamus, she didn't want to imagine their fate. Perhaps it would've been even worse than Fred's or poor Lavender's.
Most people in their society would've run in the opposite direction from the place they knew the feared He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was located. Not three reckless Gryffindors with the weight of the world on their shoulders. She would never forget the horror they witnessed inside the Shrieking Shack. Even with all that he had done to hurt her in the past, Hermione couldn't help but feel pity for Professor Snape. His was a wasted life.
"You have permitted your friends to die for you rather than face me yourself. I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest… One hour."*
Hermione could hardly hear the rest of the speech from Lord Voldemort's mouth. Her mind moved in a dozen different directions. What would they do next? Nagini still needed to be killed before they could even hope to end it all. How would that be possible? All the way back to the castle, she walked in silence with her two best friends trying desperately to consider what they would do when the hour was up. Harry couldn't possibly go to the Forbidden Forest to meet with Voldemort. It was madness that would end in him being killed. She couldn't bear the loss of her best friend. It was all too much.
None of them were expecting the scene they were met with inside the Great Hall. A sob caught in her throat when she realized that the dead had been laid out in the middle of the room. She could see the Weasleys huddled together near the spot she was certain they would find Fred's body. Unsure if she could bear to see it again, she knew that she had to keep moving forward. Desperate for something to do to alleviate some of the pain throbbing in her chest, Hermione reached for a silently crying Ginny. The younger witch clung to her with both arms, grateful for the embrace. Even more tears rolled out of Hermione's eyes. Would she ever stop crying?
Keeping a tight hold on her, Ginny led her closer to the grieving Weasley family. Each step made the pain even worse. Was it possible to die of a heart attack at eighteen years old? Seeing Mrs. Weasley sobbing over her son's dead body was too much. Turning away from the sight, Hermione was horrified to recognize the two bodies laying next to Fred. Remus and Tonks were brand-new parents who should've had a long, happy life watching little Teddy grow up. It was unfair. It was all so bloody unfair!
She quietly apologized to Ginny before rushing away from the heartbreaking scene. If she didn't get away from all of the senseless tragedy, she feared she would go completely mad. Thankful that the castle had plenty of hidden alcoves and corridors that could be slipped into, Hermione ran up the grand staircase to the first floor. Who else was going to die before it was all over? The depressing thought ran over and over through her mind. Slipping behind a tapestry, she allowed herself to give in fully to the emotions threatening to burst out. If she didn't give them an outlet, she wouldn't be able to move forward. Tears were cathartic. That was something that she was more than aware of. As much as she tried to be strong and unflappable in front of the rest of wizarding society, especially those she went to school with, she was frequently overwrought. She knew all of the good places in the castle to have a good cry when it was necessary. Unfortunately, it was often necessary.
When the last of the sobs fell from her mouth, she was no closer to coming up with a suitable next step. All of her thoughts were too consumed with the losses of her loved ones. For a reason she didn't fully understand, seeing Fred lifeless was harder for her to bear than all of the others. Sure, she considered him a friend. Even when he frustrated her and irritated her to distraction, she cared about him. He was a part of her life for so many years. Losing him was the last nail in the coffin of her childhood. She would never be young and innocent again.
Time was slipping through her fingers like sand through an hourglass. Voldemort promised them an hour to honor their dead and for Harry to meet him in the Forbidden Forest. How much time passed since he made that announcement? If she didn't come up with a plan, they would be in serious trouble. There would be no future for her to worry about. If Voldemort won the war, she would be in Azkaban or dead for her crimes against the Dark Lord. She was a danger to his plan for immortality because she knew about his horcruxes. He would want to make an example out of her and Ron. And especially out of Harry. Even if he promised leniency for every other person still alive who chose to fight against him, Hermione knew that he would show them no mercy.
She stared at her battered wristwatch, amazed that it was still working. To her surprise, not as much time passed as she thought. Everything in the battle happened so quickly. The hour was running late though. Soon Voldemort would end his offer of a temporary truce. Still no adequate plans came to her. She needed more time to think up one, more time to convince her best friends they would make it, more time to…
More time. They needed more time. A desperate thought took hold, one that she was sure was completely insane and impractical. Everyone was so demoralized that maybe if she was able to find more time they could do it. Without giving herself an opportunity to doubt her crazy plan, Hermione exited the hidden niche and took off running as fast as she could towards Professor McGonagall's office.
The professor was supposed to return her time turner to the Ministry of Magic at the end of her third year, but Hermione knew for a fact that she never did. Though she never came right out and admitted that she still had it, there was a moment in Hermione's fourth year when she was in her favorite professor's office discussing the reason why Hermione couldn't seem to stay awake in her classes. It had been embarrassing to admit that she spent all of her free time after she finished her homework knitting hats and socks for the castle's house-elves. If Professor McGonagall approved of her endeavor or not, she never said. She just simply advised Hermione to try to get a full night's sleep. A discreet tapping of a hidden drawer on her desk and a cheeky wink caught her student's attention.
"And if you find that perhaps you wish to spend a few hours resting and cannot find the time, well, then you might consider dropping into my office. I trust that you would never do anything foolish with such power."
Years might have gone by since she had that private meeting, but Hermione had to keep up the hope that the professor never cleaned out the drawer she pointed out. Few people were in the corridors as she ran. Most were still huddled in the Great Hall. Occasionally she ran across a distraught defender who was desperate for a place to hide or who cried to a companion that they wanted to leave. She could understand the desire to flee. Only the hope that she could save a life and help end the bloody war for good kept Hermione's feet moving.
Professor McGonagall wasn't inside her office. It was a small favor. If she had been, Hermione didn't think that she would be so quick to help her with her plan. So many things could go wrong with it. She didn't waste a single moment rushing to the drawer in the large desk. Tapping on it just the way her professor did, she sighed in relief when it opened. A velvet bag was all that lay inside. Carefully opening it, she could feel even more tears form in the corners of her eyes. Except they weren't tears of sorrow.
She threw the chain of the time turner around her neck. To be certain she didn't miss the deadly altercation in the corridor when Fred fell, she spun it four times. The fighting hadn't begun in full force yet. She would have to be very careful in sneaking to the exact location Augustus Rookwood murdered Fred, but there were plenty of secret passages and hidden corridors that would take her there. There wasn't a question of whether or not she could be successful. She had to be. Seeing the grief and pain in both Harry's and Ron's faces, that no doubt mirrored her own, had been devastating. She had to save Fred to keep them from losing all heart. It was the only way.
It had been tempting to curse Malfoy and his goons in the back from her hiding place when they entered the Room of Requirement after her two best friends and the Hermione she was hours earlier. She struggled to feel any sort of sympathy for the death of Vincent Crabbe since he perished in his attempt to murder them, but she couldn't help but recall that she could easily save his life too. Of course, if she did stun them, the Fiendfyre wouldn't have destroyed the diadem. The mission had to come first. Without its destruction, they wouldn't be able to kill Voldemort. She stayed hidden.
Time travel was a tricky business. No one had been able to uncover all of its secrets yet despite centuries of research and application. Of course it was a fascinating subject that Hermione tried to learn as much about as she could. Muggle science fiction movies were often closer to the truth than the magical researchers wished to admit. She knew that she was in danger of creating some sort of temporal paradox with her meddling. What the consequences of that action could be, she didn't know. Possibly nothing, possibly worse than anything she could've imagined. All she knew was that she wasn't willing to live in a world where the antics of the Weasley twins weren't readily available to make them all laugh. They would need some levity in their future. If… when Harry finally defeated Voldemort, there would be many who weren't fortunate enough to survive. As much as Hermione would've loved to save everyone she could, it was too risky. Having too many versions of herself running around the castle was too dangerous. There were too many opportunities for it all to go terribly wrong. As she understood from reading the accounts of those who'd time traveled before her, if one version of her died, they all would die. If she was running around the castle trying to save Remus or trying to protect Tonks, those versions would be vulnerable. She couldn't risk it. She was being foolish enough to try it in a corridor where she knew her other self was going to appear. So much could go wrong.
Before she was ready, they were bursting out of the inferno in which the Room of Requirement was engulfed. She hadn't made up her mind just how she was going to prevent Fred from being killed. Rushing out and trying to duel Augustus Rookwood one-on-one so he didn't have the chance to cast the spell to blow up the corridor wasn't a good idea. He was a Death Eater with nothing to lose. The spells he cast at her wouldn't be tickling charms or stinging hexes. Maybe not at first, but eventually his curses would become more dangerous and deadly. If she was killed in her duel, her other self would die too. There was a reason she was warned to never allow another version of herself to see her. Others in the past inadvertently killed themselves when they saw their future version. Whatever she did, she had to be very careful.
The yells and shouts she remembered from earlier announcing the terrifying reality that Death Eaters were inside the castle filled her ears again. From her hiding place, the same niche that Harry and Percy hid Fred's body, a fact that she tried not to dwell on, she could see Fred's and Percy's backs. They were impressive in their dueling. She hadn't had the chance to really pay attention when she'd seen it the first time. Fear that the castle was no longer safe was all her mind could focus on. Again she was tempted to intervene, but she stopped herself. If she did it too early, someone else could end up killed instead of Fred. Maybe even more than one. She had to wait for the exact moment of the explosion and somehow get Fred out of the way.
"You actually are joking, Perce… I don't think I've heard you joke since you were—"**
Hermione never took her eyes off of Fred. As the corridor exploded around them, she cared for nothing and no one else. Her mission had been to save him. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. She could see the section of wall that was going to crush the wizard to his death. Casting a spell at the stone to keep it from falling on him was too dangerous. It could easily scatter the stone to land on someone else who didn't deserve to die. Besides, she didn't think she could get it all in the tiny window of time she'd been afforded.
Instinct took over. She hadn't been Sorted into Gryffindor for nothing. There was a time for logic and rational thinking and there was a time for action and foolish bravery. With her eyes still focused solely on Fred, Hermione sprinted from her hiding place, ignoring the chaos all around her to throw her body against his. He fell sideways, crashing to the hard floor. Her body still in motion, Hermione fell with him. Thousand year old stone rained down on them both. Able to shield his body with hers, she knew she was successful. Even as pain riddled her body and the darkness came, she never doubted that she made the right decision.
Moments later when the dust settled in the corridor, two versions of Hermione Granger lay dead in the corridor: one with no visible wounds and the other completely broken by the wreckage.
*Line from Chapter Thirty-Three "The Prince's Tale" in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
** Line from Chapter Thirty-One "The Battle of Hogwarts" in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows