AN: This is for all you Tom-Hermione lovers... and for all you non-Tom-Hermione lovers out there, give it a try! There is always the small chance for conversion over to the Tom-Hermione side... Due to the publication of HBP, this story is slightly AU. Just go with it, it works (especially for those of you who like a good love story every once in a while!). Ships are/will be: HG/TR, HP/GW, RW/LB, and Draco is the wild card for now. This begins lightheartedly, then gets quite serious later on. So I hope you read on, and enjoy!
At the suggestion of Magick, I will add this warning: If you ever want to dislike Tom Riddle; if you ever want to be able to see him as a villain - stay away. This story will destroy your opinion.
Disclaimer: I am not the great and powerful JK Rowling; thus I do not own anything that you may even remotely recognize…
Have You Ever
Chapter 1: On the Verge of Defeat
Thursday, May 28, 1998
Tears stung Hermione Granger's warm, usually cheerful eyes. The usual comfort of Albus Dumbledore's homey headmaster office had long since vanished, and Hermione found herself sitting directly across from the Headmaster of Hogwarts himself, feeling very alone. The vivid red and gold, pointy Gryffindor graduation hat that had initially delighted her beyond belief, complete with the special Head Girl insignia, was now lying in a crumpled ball in her limp hands.
She couldn't believe this was happening. Not on the day of her graduation from Hogwarts. The Dark forces were supposed to be receding. The war was supposed to be ending.
This night cannot be happening!
"Hermione," the elderly man was saying heavily, "You know, more than I can express, how you, Harry, and Ron have been a part of our family, our Hogwarts family, for seven wonderful, terrible years."
Wonderful, terrible. The two words could never have been more appropriate. Hermione's mind flashed back fondly to the adventures she had had with her two best friends, of the walks in Hogsmeade, of the pranks on the Slytherins (despite her every protest, unless they had really deserved it), of the way she could just sit with them and be, and never feel more at home.
Then the war had begun.
Focusing back on his entire statement, Hermione frowned and sat a bit more stiffly, her spine so straight that it arched elegantly against the wood of the chair back. Why had Dumbledore called her to his office, at this hour, and on this day, of all days, without her usual companions?
She smiled to herself, brightening, as she imagined what Harry and Ron were up to now… literally. Would it be their thirteenth bottle of butterbeer or their fourteenth? After all, it was their last night to break the rest of the school's remaining rules before they said their farewells and left Hogwarts forever . . .
Yes, now that she thought about it, maybe it had been best that Dumbledore had left them out of whatever it was he needed to discuss tonight.
As if he sensed her distance of thought, Dumbledore genially cleared his throat, and Hermione's musings quickly left Ron and Harry to their late night partying.
She was a bit more concerned as to why the leader of the Order of the Phoenix had just explained to her that almost every single bit of intel the Order had thought they had had on the course of the war had been dreadfully erroneous; how, instead of receding, Voldemort was merely regrouping his forces, resurging, sweeping through the United Kingdom and Paris with more ferocity and strength than the remaining Light fighters had to give in return.
"Please, sir," she began slowly, carefully choosing as tact of a phrasing as possible, "I don't mean to be blunt, but…. Why are you telling me this?" Me and not Harry? "What's left that I—we— can possibly do?"
Wordlessly, Dumbledore abandoned his polished wooden seat and began to pace the room, studying the multifarious paintings lining the wall, his hand clasped behind his back, his long grey beard brushing the tip of his maroon belt and matching robe.
A silent Dumbledore was never a good sign, and Hermione, try as she might, couldn't erase the vision that met her whenever she looked at his face: The twinkle that had always graced his mischievous blue eyes had been absent for months now. She feared that it had been permanently replaced with a lost, defeated expression, and tonight was no exception.
More than facing Death Eaters, more than fighting wand-to-wand for her life in the midst of a battle, more than preparing to stand up to Lord Voldemort with Harry at the inevitable and soon approaching Final Battle, Dumbledore's face sent chills of pure terror through Hermione's nerves.
We are going to lose this war.
The thought, as morbid as it was, was the only logical conclusion that Hermione could draw from the given evidence. If the one man whom Voldemort supposedly feared was afraid, not for himself, but for the fate of those around him, then what else was Hermione supposed to conclude?
"I fear that the outcome of Lord Voldemort's next counterattack may very well end our life as we know it," Dumbledore eventually said heavily, his eyes coming to rest on a portrait of laughing children dressed in period clothing. The little boy in the painting was currently sticking his tongue out at Dumbledore and giggling. This only seemed to graven the expression on his face even more, and he heavily turned, pacing the few steps back to his seat at the enormous desk. "As you may imagine, I have not shared my opinions with the students because, in this case, what they don't know certainly won't hurt them. Not yet, anyway."
What a jolly thought. And what other things "haven't hurt us to not know" throughout the years?
Hermione pushed past the tight knot in her stomach and an acutely growing fear in the corner of her mind to smile brightly at Dumbledore. "So… What brilliant options have we left unexercised?" she asked as encouragingly as she could. A thought, negative as it was, suddenly crossed her mind. "What about the prophecy? Harry's still got a chance to kill Voldemort, hasn't he?"
"Yes, or vice versa," Dumbledore acknowledged with a small nod, sighing. "But think, Ms. Granger. Think of the costs. Lord Voldemort has amassed an army far greater than any the Light will ever be able to regain. The giants, the goblins, the dementors, the Dark creatures of the Transylvanian woodlands… You have seen them, Ms. Granger. You know their lethal effectiveness and their penchant to kill. Do you really believe that they will cease in their fighting if and/or when Harry defeats Lord Voldemort?"
The horrible truth to his words left Hermione at a momentary loss, particularly because it was Albus Dumbledore who appeared to be on the verge of admitting defeat. The loud, obnoxious TICK TOCK TICK TOCK of his Muggle grandfather clock was nearly driving her to the brink of insanity, and for a moment she considered picking up her wand and blasting the clock in question to the other end of the castle with a Reductor.
After all, it was graduation night, and she was going to die, anyway. If Dumbledore thought all was lost, all was lost. Why not go ahead and use an illegal spell? In fact, why had they even been taught it in the first place if not to utilize it?
Abruptly, Dumbledore's voice hitched and then rose slightly, as it often did when he was about to make a crucial point. "Unless…" he interjected solemnly.
With that one little word, Hermione felt the dreary, ominous mood of the entire room lift considerably. Unless. That meant there was still a chance, slim as it might be. Unless, unless, unless. We have hope! "Unless….?" she echoed keenly, practically leaning forward in her seat.
"Unless-" Dumbledore reached into an unseen drawer and pulled out an ancient, dusty, and worn leather-bound book, placing it on his desk with a BANG! The washed out grey binding looked about ready to fall apart, and several edges of the yellowed parchment were singed black beyond all recognition, " - we stop the problem at its root."
Hermione's curiosity boiled over, all fear of a very near defeat floating out of her like a feather. Eagerly, she leaned forward across the desk in spite of herself, her Gryffindor graduation cap falling, unbeknownst to her, to the ground. Tilting her head slightly to the right, she impatiently tried to read the faded calligraphy stamped on the front cover.
As she did, a wave of hair fell lightly over her cheek, partially obscuring the vision in her left eye, but she didn't mind. Over the past two years, her frizzy mess had slowly lessened into soft, frizz-free, enviable dark brown curls, so Hermione no longer had to make battle with her head every morning as well as the many Dark forces. Instead, her hair dried straight out of the shower, each individual curl still retaining some of its wet look, which made it, on the whole, a great deal more manageable, and that was all that mattered to Hermione… although Lavender Brown had begun to complain that she wished her hair curled "that cute way yours does, Hermione."
Smiling to herself, she focused once more on the book's title, frowning a bit as she put together each letter. T-I-M-E T-R-A-V-E-L A-N-D O-T-H-E-R N-O L-O-N-G-E-R I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E F-E-A-T-S O-F O-L-D M-A-G-I-C-K.
Time travel? her mind echoed dumbly. Had Dumbledore finally lost it? Every respectable scholar knew that time travel wasn't possible.
Nonetheless, Hermione reverently fingered the aged bindings. "This book, it must be centuries old…" she whispered. Reluctantly abandoning her analysis of the book, she locked her piercing chocolate gaze on Dumbledore. Her intelligent mind was beginning to put two and two together, and she wasn't feeling entirely reassured about whatever plan he may have begun to devise. "Headmaster, what exactly does all this mean?"
Dumbledore sombrely peered at Hermione's slim, inquisitive face through half moon spectacles. She was sure even the slightest rustle of papers lying about in the Headmaster's offices went silent then, except for that sodding grandfather clock.
TICK TOCK TICK TOCK TICK TOCK…
An electrical charge had begun to build up in the air, Hermione could sense it, and she could feel her own heart speed up in anticipation for whatever incredible scheme Albus Dumbledore had planned - and it had to be incredible, for the use of Old Magick had been outlawed ever since the Magical Extremities and Instability Act of 1781.
Although she had no idea how utterly chilling his next ten words could be.
"It means, Ms. Granger, that you may never come back."
A/N: Read and review, please! I would love to hear your feedback and comments throughout the story!
Lady Moonglow :-)