Story Title: Time, Interrupted
Chapter Title: Bittersweet Dreams
Rating: Strong PG-13/T
Chapter Word Count: 5,010
Date: 20 May 2006
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and everyone else from Potterverse belong to JKR.
Prologue: Bittersweet Dreams
Hermione knew she was dreaming. The sun was shining brightly and there was a warm summer breeze as she stood by the fence surrounding her house. That was how she knew she was dreaming--her house, along with her family, had been destroyed by Death Eaters months ago. And yet, there before her was her beautiful, two-story home. The grass was as lush and green as ever, and the white picket fence was as pristine as the day before it was burned to cinders. A vision of the past danced mockingly before her eyes--the house aflame, the yard barren, her family's blood spattered on the walls…
I'm going to make it better, someone whispered in her ear. I'm going to fix this. She looked around but saw no one. Shrugging it off, she decided to continue on her path.
She walked up to the door, unsure of whether or not she should enter. Was this dream really a nightmare? Would she find her parents' dead bodies within? Pushing aside her hesitation, the young witch reached out grasp the doorknob, only to have the door swing open. There, wearing a yellow summer dress, was her mother. "Hermione, my girl, I was wondering when you would come home. Come along then, we're just getting ready for dinner!"
I've done it, Hermione! I've done it--he's gone for good. Now, I'll make everyone safe and I'll bring you back, the hauntingly familiar voice said. Hermione ignored it, seeing no one but her mother.
Stepping over the threshold, Hermione felt her heart ease. Everything looked as it had the last time she was home, from the pictures on the wall to those hideous lamps on the end tables in the family room. Hermione followed her mother to the kitchen and was surprised to see her entire family--all of whom were dead.
This is for you, Hermione, I hope you know that. The voice again. It was so familiar… did any of the others hear it? Best to ignore the voice, she felt, since no one else seemed to take notice. Hermione looked around the room, enjoying the chance to simply look at those who had left her behind.
There was her Uncle Jack, a quirky man with a penchant for sweets--he was forever slipping her all sorts of candies when her parents weren't looking--who had died when she was six. Her Great Aunt Josephine, a stern woman with a crude sense of humor when she drank too much wine, had died when Hermione was four. There were her grandparents, engaged in a heated debate about whether Charles Dickens or Jane Austen was the better author, who had all died together in a car accident when she was five.
Her mother, now chatting with, or rather at, her father, sat at the table as if their home had never been attacked by Death Eaters and they had never been tortured to death. Under the table, waiting for scraps, was her beloved puppy Horace, another victim of a car accident a scant few days before her Uncle Jack died. Next to him Crookshanks played with a stuffed mouse, batting it back and forth as though he hadn't perished with her parents. The only thing missing was…
"Mione!" A voice squealed. Turning, Hermione opened her arms to embrace the eleven year old girl hurtling towards her. "I was wondering when you would get here! What took you so long?"
"I was a bit busy, Harmony, but I'm home now." Hermione smiled at her younger sister, holding her tightly. She had never realized how much she missed her family until she found herself surrounded by all the things she had long since lost.
I know it's not very pleasant, but I must do this. You understand, don't you? Of course you do. You're the only one who understands me.
It wasn't long before she was pulled to the table and served dinner. The family sat, ate, and laughed together. Time seemed to fly by as they shared their merriment and told embarrassing stories about each other. Hermione even told a few tales about Fred and George Weasley's antics at Hogwarts and some of their products. Hermione quickly decided this was the best dream ever--there was no Voldemort, no Death Eaters. There was peace and happiness. The only thing missing, Hermione thought, was Harry and Ron.
I'm almost done, Hermione. Soon I'll have control, then I can make everything better.
Hermione had been explaining how she had botched the Polyjuice Potion and turned herself into a cat when a knock came at the door. Uncle Jack stood, "I'll get it, but don't go on until I get back!"
"Who could be here?" Great Aunt Josephine asked. "There's no one left, I thought." Hermione's mother shrugged as her Uncle Jack walked back into the room, a puzzled look on his face. Behind him were three people Hermione thought she'd never see again, and two people she thought she'd never meet.
Professor Albus Dumbledore was resplendent in his violet robes, with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, who sacrificed his life for Tonks and their unborn twins while on the hunt for Horcruxes, to his left. On his right…on his right stood a man with messy black hair and brown eyes, and a woman with long red hair and emerald eyes. They could only be the Potters.
"Oh! I…uh…hello," she said, unsure of what to do. Her happy dream was quickly twisting into something very strange.
Professor Dumbledore chuckled. "Hello, Miss Granger. I believe you know Sirius and Remus. As I'm sure you've guessed, the others are Lily and James Potter," Hermione nodded in greeting. "It is a shame we must meet again so soon, but I'm afraid I need your help."
Hermione immediately stood, always ready to offer aid. "What do you need me to do, sir? I'll help however I can, of course."
"She doesn't know." Harmony interrupted. "She thinks this is a dream, and no one has told her it isn't yet."
Hermione looked at her family, all of whom were blushing, and some of them were looking away. "What's going on? What haven't you told me?"
Dumbledore sighed. "There is much for us to tell you, it seems. Perhaps you should be seated? There is much to discuss." Five chairs appeared as the headmaster took a seat across from Hermione, Sirius, Remus and the Potters on either side. Warily, the young witch nodded and took her seat between her mother and Harmony. "Because I hold you in such high esteem, I will tell you everything you wish to know, but first I would ask that you tell me what you last remember before your arrival here."
Hermione licked her lips nervously, feeling as though she were taking a test she didn't study for. "Harry, Ron and I destroyed the last of the Horcruxes and were on our way to Voldemort when we were ambushed." Hermione said slowly, aware for the first time that she hadn't really thought of what had happened before she came home. "I--I was hit with some sort of spell that knocked me out, and then I was here." She waved in her hand to indicate the house.
Dumbledore nodded, mumbling softly to himself. "Well, my dear, I will be frank. You have been here for just shy of a year," he began shocking Hermione. "Yes, time passes differently here, doesn't it? Well, much has happened in the world as you know it. You will be pleased to know that Harry and Ron were not physically harmed during the ambush. However, there were grave ramifications. Following the attack, your friends went," he hesitated, "Harry went quite mad, and Ron, loyal as he is, continued to fight with Harry. A month after the attack Harry defeated Voldemort." Dumbledore sighed heavily. "And now our story turns grim. It seems our Harry suffered too many losses. Following the defeat of Voldemort, Harry took his place as the new Dark Lord."
"No," she denied, shaking her head. "Harry wouldn't do that. He wouldn't, I know he wouldn't. Harry would never be like Voldemort."
"Hermione," Sirius whispered. "Do you know where you are?"
Her stomach twisted into knots. "I'm, I'm in some sort of Limbo. I was hit by a curse, and now I'm in an enchanted sleep maybe, or coma, or I'm--"
"Dead," Lily Potter said sadly. "We didn't want to believe it either, when we came here. We thought we were dreaming too, and we kept thinking that our Harry was going to crawl through the door any minute. But he never came."
"That's the way time works, here. It passes so that you don't know it, and you keep thinking that, any minute now, the person you're waiting for will come through the door. It felt like only a couple of hours had passed before we realized Harry was getting his Hogwarts letter." James said. "You don't really perceive time here unless you look into your well--then you can see what is happening in the realm of the living."
"Well?" Hermione asked.
"Each family, or person if it's someone who is a loner, has a well that they can look into to see what is happening to their loved ones." Sirius explained. "I've been using mine to check on Harry quite often."
"We all have," James added.
Hermione stood again. "Can you take me to this well? I need to know what's going on, I need to see for myself."
Her father nodded. "I'll show you," he said quietly, standing.
"We'll all go with you," Uncle Jack said, standing along with the others.
Her father leading the way, the large group went into the garden behind the house. A well sat in the center, surrounded by daffodils. "Touch the water and think of who you want to see," her father said.
Hesitantly, Hermione reached out, touching the water and thinking of Harry. Suddenly, she found herself in the Great Hall, but it was different. Instead of the cheerful house colors, the Hogwarts mourning banners hung overhead. A storm cloud hung over Hogwarts, blocking the beautiful view normally seen from the enchanted ceiling. The tables were much the same, but the headmaster's seat was now an ornate throne.
The doors banged open as Harry entered, followed by Ron, Ginny and several bowing and stumbling Death Eaters. Harry sat on the ornate chair with Ron seated to his right, and Ginny perched on the left arm of the throne. Hermione's eyes narrowed at the sight before her--her only consolation was that Harry looked annoyed with Ginny's seating choice. With a sneer, Harry looked at the Death Eater McNair. "Bring him in." The room was silent as McNair backed out. Hermione realized suddenly that the voice she had been hearing earlier was Harry's. He must have been talking to her, telling her things, but she hadn't recognized him. Perhaps, she reflected, when the living think of the dead, the dead can hear them.
Hermione took a moment to look at Harry. His hair was slicked back, much like Malfoy used to do. His glasses were gone, but his beautiful emerald eyes were pure black. A spell, she realized, a dark spell to correct his vision. His robes were pitch black with silver trim and billowed behind him when his walked. Ron was dressed much the same, though his dark blue robes were not as elaborate. His hair, too, was slicked back, and there was a patch over his left eye. Ginny wore a form fitting black muggle dress, her hair hanging loose over her shoulders.
The doors opened again, bringing Hermione from her thoughts. McNair came in, dragging a staggering form behind him. The slumped figure looked up, and Hermione gasped to see her former potions master, Severus Snape.
Harry smiled grimly. "Hello, Snivellus. How was your stay in the dungeons? I know you liked to skulk around there while I was a student--thought you might like to stay in a place you were familiar with while I decided what to do with you." The fallen potions master was silent, though his glare said everything he refused to say.
Harry stood, shoving Ginny off of his chair. "Leave," he commanded, and the room immediately began to empty, until only Ron and Ginny remained. Harry looked at the door in disgust. "Repulsive. They cling like leeches to anything with the least bit of power--not half a brain between the lot." He glanced over to Ginny. "Why are you still here? I said leave."
Ginny was taken aback. "I, I thought you meant--"
"My hangers-on? Yes I did. Now, why are you still here?" He hissed, eyes narrowed.
Ginny raised her head defiantly and walked to the door to leave, only to have the door hit her on her backside as she left. "You need to talk to your sister, Ron. I tolerate her actions because we dated once and because she is your family. This is my final warning. I will not tolerate her insolence any longer."
"As you wish," Ron replied quietly, sadly.
Harry nodded once and turned back to his former professor. "I suppose I'll offer you the courtesy of a quick death if you tell me who killed her."
Snape sneered. "Now why would I make things easy for you, Potter?"
"Why would you make things hard for yourself? You've seen what I'm capable of. Tell me who killed her, and I won't keep you alive for weeks while I play around with the new spells I've discovered." Harry replied.
"You're a disgrace, Potter," the potions master hissed. "There's nothing special about you, no matter what everyone thinks. It was your mother's sacrifice that saved you from the Dark Lord time and again, and it was Miss Granger," he spat the name, "that kept you alive throughout your Hogwarts career. For years you have taken credit for things you have not done. Oh yes, I know full well that it was Miss Granger that discovered what lay within the Chamber of Secrets, just as I know that your high marks in potions your sixth year were courtesy of my work. You've done nothing but rely on others to do what you are too lazy to do yourself."
"Any last words?" Harry drawled, choosing to ignore his speech.
The fallen man gave him a nasty smile. "I'm sure your dearly departed Miss Granger loves what you've become."
Harry's face hardened as he made a curt gesture, his magic ripping the skin from the man's body. "He didn't know." Harry said darkly, turning away. "Have someone clean this mess up."
Ron nodded. "Do you want me to call a house elf, or--"
"No house elves." Harry snapped then calmed himself. "Have McNair do it, he's always trying to gain favor. Tell him to put Snape in the Entrance Hall, with my other trophies--I wouldn't want Wormtail, Lestrange, and Voldemort to be lonely." Harry sneered, walking towards a door off to the side of the Hall.
Ron hesitated. "Harry?"
The young wizard stopped but didn't turn. "What?"
"Nothing," Ron said, heading towards the main exit, shooting a worried look at the man his best friend had become.
Harry either didn't notice or didn't care, as he walked through the side door without so much as a backwards glance. Hermione followed, fearful of what she would see but unable to stay away. The room they entered was something like a tomb, lined with statues of angels, all of which were holding a candle. As Harry walked by, each candle lit, providing a small bit of light. Hermione gasped when she saw what lay in the center of the room.
It was her. Or rather, it was her body, resting on an altar. She was dressed in her Hogwarts robes, her prefect badge pinned just above the Gryffindor crest. Her hair was an untamed mass of curls framing her face. Tucked lovingly in her arms was her prized and oft-read copy of Hogwarts, A History. Surrounding her body was a glass covering, forming a protective barrier. The glass, Hermione guessed, held a powerful stasis charm to keep her body from deteriorating. Hermione shuddered. Lying peacefully under the casing, she looked like she was sleeping.
Harry sat on a small stool set beside the altar. With a wave of his hand, the glass casing vanished. He sat for a moment, just looking at her face. "I'm sorry I haven't been to visit you for a while, but I was busy. I told you I was going to secure the Ministry, but it took me longer than I thought. I'm working on some new laws now--I'm going to call them The Granger Acts." He smiled. "They protect house elves, hippogriffs, and werewolves. Soon they will hold more power than most purebloods."
His smile vanished. "Not very many people care for the New Order. They don't realize yet that what I'm doing is for their own good." He gave a lopsided smile. "I bet you would understand. You always understood me. You would know that everything, the laws, the trials--you would know that it's all for their own good. I need to get rid of all of Voldemort's loyal followers. Most of them are toads that hop dutifully after whoever is the Dark Lord of the Day, but some actually followed Voldemort because they believed his ideals. It's the believers that I must exterminate. My methods are not pleasant, I know, but they will be safer for it." Harry said firmly. He smirked, a manic glint in his eyes. "Yes, you would realize there is a method to my madness."
He shifted in his seat. "Do you want to hear something amusing? Crabbe loves reading. I've got him looking through just about every book I can get to find a spell to bring back the dead." Harry looked at her dead form in such an earnest manner, she could almost imagine it was the same Harry she knew in Hogwarts. "He found a lead--there's an ancient Druidic ritual used to bind the souls of the dead to a host body. With some improvements, I'm sure I'll be able to bring you back to me."
The young Dark Lord was quiet a moment, before he tentatively reached out. His hand hovered just above her hair, but he pulled away before he actually touched her. With another wave of his hand, the shield was returned, and he set his hand lightly on the glass. "I'm sorry I didn't realize sooner," he whispered.
His eyes hardened as he stared unseeingly at the far wall. "I'll find the one who killed you, Hermione. I'll make him pay." With that, Harry turned and walked away, but Hermione was unable to follow him. As she stared at her dead body, she knew she needed to leave, knew she needed to be far away.
Suddenly, Hermione found herself stumbling away from the well, gasping for air. "That…was not Harry. That was a nightmare," she choked, trembling. She felt arms wrap around her and looked up to see her father's concerned face looking at her. He pulled her tightly to his chest, and she let herself cry as he held her.
When at last Hermione gathered herself together, she looked back at everyone. "Well," she began weakly. "That…was not what I was expecting. I--I don't understand what could make Harry become so…twisted." She said, shaking her head and drawing in a shuddering breath.
"It seems your death pushed our Harry over the edge," Lily said quietly. "A person can only handle so many losses before they snap. First he saw young Cedric Diggory die, then Sirius, then Albus, then you."
"He saw four people that he loved, or respected in the Diggory boy's case, die, and he could do nothing to stop it." James added. "It's enough to make any man snap, and when you add in everything else…" He trailed off, shaking his head sadly.
"It hurts all of us to know what Harry has become," Remus said. "That is why we've come to you for help."
"What can I do?" Hermione asked plaintively. "I mean, I'm dead after all, and I don't think I could bear watching…" she trailed off, glancing at the well with a touch of anxiety.
"Nothing like that, Hermione," Sirius said. "We have a very different sort of offer. You can go back."
"I don't like the sound of this," Hermione's mother said coolly. "We just got her back, and from what your saying, you want her to leave. It was you people that put us in danger in the first place by having mere children do your work for you, knowing it would make them and their families targets. It's your fault we're here now instead of still living."
The five visitors winced, but Lily stood firm. "I believe your daughter chose to attend Hogwarts and to befriend my son. She did so despite the risks. We are offering her the chance to go back and change what happened--for the betterment of everyone."
Before her mother could reply, Hermione spoke. "Will you explain to me what you mean? I'm new around here, so I don't know where the library is," she joked weakly, earning a few chuckles. "I don't know of any way to change what has happened. What exactly does this…offer…entail?"
"I shall explain," the headmaster said. "The Divine Beings of this realm have come to the decision that Mr. Potter cannot be a Dark Lord--he is too powerful and he will surpass even their power if he continues."
"How?" Hermione choked.
"You are aware that he intends to bring you back from the dead, yes?" Hermione heard the horrified gasps of her family as she nodded. "When he succeeds, and he will succeed, he will have the power to literally choose who lives and who dies. He will be a Divine Being in his own right, and since he will have the power to bring the dead back to life, unlike the other Divine Beings…" He trailed off.
"These other Divine Beings, if they can't bring people back to life, how can they send me back?" She asked.
"They do not have the ability to breathe life into a dead body, that is true. They can, however, send a spirit back in time to it's original vessel." Dumbledore said. "That is what they plan to do, if you agree--send you back to a time of your choosing."
Hermione looked up, her eyes glowing with hope. "They would send me back to any time that I chose?"
"Well, there's more to it--it's really you who does all the work." Remus began. "We can't tell you what to do before you agree."
"And before you agree, there are some things we need to tell you." Sirius said solemnly. It was strange to see his eyes without a mischievous glint. "This isn't going to be easy, Hermione. There are a lot of rules and warnings, and not very many privileges."
I've found him, Hermione, I've found the man that killed you. Can you believe it was McNair all along? He thought that by licking my boots he would earn leniency. I have some…interesting…things planned for him, never you worry. He will regret what he did a thousand times over before I let him die. Fear gripped her and, unable to speak, she nodded for them to continue.
"The First rule is you must return to your own body--you cannot go back to a time where you did not exist, so you cannot, for example, go back so far that Voldemort had not yet created Horcruxes." Dumbledore said.
"Secondly, you won't be able to tell anyone," James began. "No one can know about what has happened here, or what happened in the future you know."
"You'll have to lie a lot about the things you know--it's going to look strange after a while when you know everything that's going to happen." Remus said.
"Yeah, and I imagine you'll be carted off to St. Mungo's for saying you come from a dark future." Sirius snorted.
"And even if you weren't considered insane, the Ministry would isolate or obliviate you so that you couldn't change anything--they're very firm about laws pertaining to time interference." Lily added.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Our dear Hermione is well versed with the Ministry's laws in regard to time travel--she used a time turner to take several classes her third year."
"And still managed to help save a condemned hippogriff and an escaped innocent convict," Sirius grinned.
The research is progressing well. The ritual involves a few sacrifices. It calls for the blood of three women to represent the fates. I'll need a Maiden, a Mother, and a Crone. I've already got a Pureblood family in mind--it turns out Theodore Nott's Grandmother is still alive, and his mother has a daughter that's about seven now. No one will miss them. Soon I'll be able to bring you back, and you will rule by my side. I want you to know it will be an equal partnership. We'll make our decisions together. Hermione shuddered, and gestured for them to continue.
"The third rule," Dumbledore continued on, "is that you must continue on with your appointed task, regardless of what happens. If a decision you make has an unhappy consequence, you are not permitted to simply give up."
Hermione nodded her understanding, suddenly feeling alone. The first and the third rules didn't seem to be very problematic, but the second…Harry couldn't know. It was his future she was changing, and he couldn't know.
"There are two warnings. The first is to be weary of where you place blame. Remember, you cannot know everything that will happen--when all does not go as you plan, it may or it may not be your fault. Do not, my dear, place blame where it does not belong." Dumbledore said solemnly.
"The second warning is more serious," Remus began. "It may seem like a wonderful idea to go back as far as you can, but you must be careful--the farther back you go, the more variability you have to deal with."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked nervously.
"Remus means that if you back to say, your fourth year and somehow prevent Voldemort from rising, then you must concern yourself with how he may later rise, and rise he certainly will. If you choose your fifth year, however, Voldemort will have risen already, but you will still be able to save Sirius. There are many things you must consider about each of the choices you make--no choice should be made lightly, but yours, if you choose to accept, can hold dire consequences if they are not thought out properly." The headmaster said grimly.
"This may seem to be a glorious gift, my dear, but remember this: all that glitters is not gold." Dumbledore said, setting a comforting hand on her shoulder. "This is a grave responsibility you must undertake alone--no one here will remember anything that has happened here, so there is no one you can go to for advice. If you do this, you will do it alone."
The ritual Crabbe found should work, Hermione. We'll have to make a few more changes, but soon I'll bring your soul back and put it where it belongs--in your body. You'll be with me once more, and I'll make sure you never leave me again. You're mine, Hermione, and I'll never let you go.
Hermione shuddered. "I'll do it," she said quickly, knowing they were running out of time. "Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it."
"Hermione," her mother began, "are you sure you--"
"He's going to bring me back soon. We're running out of time." She looked into Dumbledore's eyes. "Tell me, please."
"We must speak quickly then--there is more for you to know. We cannot help you, as you know," he said, guiding her towards the well. "We cannot give you a key that will open a vault full of gold for you, we cannot give you power beyond imagination. We can tell you this: you were chosen for a reason, because you are the only one who can do this. Have faith in yourself, Hermione. There is one more thing I can tell you, my dear. I can tell you that all witches and wizards have the ability to perform wandless magic, even you. You must unlock the secrets yourself, I can't tell you that."
"Hermione," her Great Aunt Josephine called. "On the far side of your attic, below the oval window there is a loose floorboard--in the cubby hole is my treasure box from when I was younger. There's nothing of monetary value, and there's nothing magical, but I'd rather you have it. It will help you know this is not a dream."
Hermione started when she felt Lily's hand on her shoulder. "You will take care of my Harry, won't you?"
The young witch nodded. "I'll do my best," she said quietly.
Lily smiled. "You'll do wonderfully."
It's time, Hermione. It's time for you to come home to me.
She swayed dangerously as she heard a distant chanting in a language she didn't understand. "I-I think it's begun," she said weakly, feeling dizzy. The chanting was growing louder and louder, making it harder and harder to concentrate. She was dimly aware of Sirius and Remus lifting her up so that she stood on the edge of the well. Everything was running together--there was chanting, her family was murmuring, Horace was barking--nothing was clear.
"Concentrate, Hermione. You need to think of the time you wish to return to and jump into the well."
"I--what? I can't--" She felt like she was being pulled in several directions all at once. Her head ached from all of the noise, the only thing she could make out was Horace barking. Hermione felt hands on her back and suddenly found herself falling forward. She rushed towards the dark, Horace's bark still ringing in her ears.
A/N: Wow, I wasn't expecting it to be this long! Fair warning, I can't promise a consistent length for future chapters, nor can I provide a schedule for updates--I have a very busy college life.
I would like to say that I am a first time author, so any advice you can provide would be great, be it about spelling, grammar, whether or not the story was rushed or choppy, etc. I do not have a Beta, so I freely admit any mistakes you find are because I didn't catch them. Also, I have to give credit where credit is due--this story was inspired in part by fashiZzlism's, A Second Chance. Great story.
Well, thank you for reading, and I ask that you please review.