Time is free, but it's priceless.
Once you've lost it, you can never get it back.
The next hours are a blur. Someone pulls her away. They ask her questions. She tells them what she told Ron and Harry—Severus Snape had been passing her secret information about Voldemort's movements.
"He was a hero," she chokes out.
Remus nods in agreement, patting her on the back. He hands her off to Bill Weasley who takes her and the two boys back to his house.
The next day she sits in the bedroom, staring out the window at the gray clouds and thick fog that seem to mimic her mood, when she feels a hand on her shoulder.
"Hermione." She looks up to see Ron. "Are you okay?"
She shakes her head. "Not really."
"I—I wanted to ask you about…" She waits for him to finish. "Yesterday with Snape, it just seemed that it was…more."
Hermione stares at her hands, fisted in her lap. "It was," she whispered. A rogue tear slips down her cheeks. She has cried all night but there are still tears left apparently.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She looks at him, trying to determine if he is really serious. His face is red with embarrassment. This can't be easy for him. She knows he has feelings for her. She has feelings for him, mixed up though they may be with her feelings for Severus. His willingness to put them aside makes her love him a little more.
She nods as more tears stream down her cheeks. He puts his arm around her and pulls her closer. Over the next hour she pours out the whole story. She starts at the very beginning and doesn't finish until the day before. The only thing she glosses over is her most recent encounter with Severus in his run-down cottage.
"Oh, Hermione," he says when she finishes. "You can't fix everything."
"I know," she says. But secretly it gives her an idea.
She has to convince him not to come. Using her Time Turner, she goes back in time again, this time to right before Severus leaves to help them at the ruins of Rowena Ravenclaw ancient castle home. She takes a big breath and turns the small hour glass.
She arrives in Severus' small cottage feeling sick to her stomach, but she tries to tamp down the nausea. There is no time to delay, but it doesn't matter. She gets the briefest of glimpses of his long black coat before she hears the loud pop of his Apparation. It is not just the time travel that makes her sick at her stomach now. Frantically, with desperate hope, she checks the calendar on his wall and then the clock.
She has the right day but she has missed him by mere seconds. He is still dead.
She only waits until the next day to try again because the nausea from multiple trips in one day is too much for her to handle. This time, she lands outside on her knees. She jumps up, ignoring her protesting stomach, and peers through the window. She hears the pop of Apparation and she sees herself standing in the middle of the room, looking bereft. She stands, her hands pressed against the glass of the window, watching her other self check the calendar and the time. He is still dead.
She tries again and again, day after day. But each time she arrives a little later than the last time. It's like looking in a three-way mirror. She can see her past self looking at another past self looking at another past self who is looking at the last glimpse of the man she loves.
She spends an hour after each trip sobbing into her pillow. Harry asks her what is the matter, but she waves him away. Ron doesn't say anything but brings her tea with a pained look in his eye.
Almost a week goes by before he finally speaks up. He sets down the tea service with a bang. "This has to stop, Hermione," he says.
She wipes at her eyes and takes out her handkerchief. "I know," she says forlornly. All the crying is making Harry suspicious. She needs to get a hold of her emotions. Severus would be ashamed to see her like this.
But Ron doesn't accept this answer. "No, I mean you need to give me your Time Turner," he says. He holds out his hand.
"Didn't Snape say that what's happened has happened? That it will happen? You tried to change the past before and ended up creating the present you already lived in. Nothing you have done has changed the future! You are just distracting yourself from the real purpose of all this – to defeat You Know Who!"
"No, Hermione. We can't do this without you. We can't. And you can't help us if you are spending your time going between traveling in time and sobbing your eyes out."
"Is that what you think? That it doesn't matter what we do? That the future is already decided? If that's the case it doesn't matter if I cry myself to sleep every night, does it? I don't know why you care," she screeches at him. All of her anger and grief is bubbling up to the surface. She has tried to keep control, but there is very little left in her.
"No, I think the past is decided!" Ron counters. "And the future will only get here if we keep moving forward. And you aren't moving forward, Hermione. You're moving backwards!"
"He didn't have to die!" She collapses into tears again.
Ron takes her in his arms. "But he did. And you can't change that. Just like you can't change the fact that he became a Death Eater."
"I know," she whispers into his chest. "I just have to try one more time."
Ron nods. She loves him for understanding why she has to do this. "One more time," he says.
They stand there together in silence for a long time. "I'm so sorry," she says quietly.
"It's okay," he says, taking her hand in his. It feels nice, she realizes, very nice. "I left you guys in a lurch. It was your turn to have a bit of second guessing."
She tries one last time to save Severus from himself and from her. And once again she is hopelessly disappointed.
There are seven other Hermiones ahead of her, and she hopes that they won't see her. But then she realizes that they won't turn around because she doesn't remember seeing a future self. She has been so concentrated on her past failures that it never occurs to her to turn around and see that she will fail time and time again.
Severus is right. What is done is done. They can't change time. They never could. She was a fool for believing that she could. He is still dead. And it is her fault.
After one last look, she returns to her own time.
Ron is waiting for her. She takes the small hourglass from around her neck and drops it into his waiting hand. She stares after it, feeling as though a part of her very being is being torn from her. It takes everything in her not to grab it back again.
"What if I went back to the ruins?" she asks, grasping at straws. "I could fight with him against the Inferi."
"And risk being seen by one of us? No, Hermione," Ron says firmly. "Do you remember seeing another you there then?"
Hermione shakes her head. She watches the Time Turner swing on its chain, cradled in his hand.
"Then that means you won't go back. You can't go back. We need you here and now. No more time travel."
"I don't know what else to do," she says.
Hermione nods. She knows he is right, but why must it be so hard? Why did Severus have to die? Why did she ever think that time travel was a good idea?
Ron changes the subject. "Do you really think the future is decided already?" he asks as he locks the time turner away.
She swallows the lump in her throat. "That's what Severus thought," she says. She pauses, remembering the way he argued that she couldn't change the things that had already happen in his past and her future. "He didn't seem too pessimistic about it though. I think he was convinced we would win…eventually."
"Convinced enough to come after us," Ron says.
Hermione can only nod. She doesn't want to start crying again. The time for tears is over.
"He really did care for you," he says, almost to himself, in awe of Snape's devotion to her.
"He did," she says. "But what kind of life might he have had if I hadn't interfered. He might still be alive."
"You may be right, but most likely he still would have joined the Death Eaters, except with no reason to come back. And without him as a spy, without him feeding you information then we would be a lot worse off. He's won this war for us."
"We haven't won yet, Ronald," she reminds him.
He smiles. "No, but we will. We already have, haven't we?"
Hermione laughs, it's brittle but it's better than tears. "I don't know, the whole thing makes my head hurt."
He laughs with her. "Mine too," he says. "Mine too."
They do win the war. And two days after Harry defeats Tom Riddle Ron proposes to Hermione. She accepts. Three months later, she stands in a small room in Hogwarts, dressed in all white, waiting for the ceremony to start. She is nervous and happy and sad all at the same time. She has shooed all the women, mainly Molly, Ginny, and Minerva away so she can have a moment to collect herself.
It is then that he appears – Severus Snape at her wedding. He looks around confused, becoming more so when he sees her dress. At first, she thinks he is an imposter. A Death Eater who has hasn't yet been caught, but then he speaks and she knows it is him.
She throws herself at him and he catches her in his arms at the very last moment. She hugs his neck fiercely, trying to understand how he is here when she saw him fall in battle not ten months before.
"How? How is this possible?"
He holds up the familiar Time Turner for her to see and she gasps. "I suppose this means I am deceased in this time," he says sardonically. Tears slip down her cheeks and she nods.
He wipes the tears from her cheeks with his thumb. "You're going to mess up your make-up," he says softly.
"It doesn't matter," she says. She chokes back a sob. It is hard seeing him here. She still isn't over him completely.
"How?" he asks.
"In battle. You helped us piece together the whereabouts of the last Horcrux. We went to destroy it, but—" He reaches out and takes her hand in his, holding it to his chest. It calms her enough to continue. "But there was an army of Inferi guarding it along with several other tricky charms. You had told me on a trip to the future that we would run into trouble, that we should wait, but Harry couldn't be convinced. Somehow, you knew to be there—" She stops short, realizing what she has just said.
"I knew because you've just told me." He says what she is thinking. She goes into his arms again and he holds her tight.
"You would die for me?" she whispers into his chest.
Looking down at her, he tips up her chin with one finger so he can see her face. With a solemn seriousness she has never seen in him, he nods. "Hermione, I already have."
"When? When are you from?"
"The day I told you that you were the reason I joined the Dark Lord."
She nods, understanding now his sudden agreeableness to her plan when he returned from the future. He had to see that it would work before he would agree to it.
"What I won't tell you when I get back is that you were also the reason I came back. I loved Holly and since she trusted Dumbledore, then so could I," he murmurs in her hair.
"We couldn't have survived it without you. You won this war for us," she tells him in a wavering voice. "I—I miss you so much. I wish you hadn't done it." He pushes back, his fingers gripping her shoulders tightly.
"Weasley?" he asks. Hermione nods. She thinks of Ron standing in the Great Hall in ill fitting dress robes and grinning like he just won the Quidditch Cup. The thought makes her smile – a smile that Severus catches. "He's a lucky man to have you. You look beautiful."
"Thank you," she says shyly. "Severus, I—"
"Don't, Hermione." She can only nod. Whatever words she might have said are stuck in her throat anyway. Her mouth feels like sandpaper. Everything she has practiced saying, has wanted to say evaporated in his presence.
He presses a soft kiss to her forehead and hugs her again, then he clears his throat, serious and imposing once more. "I should go." Before she can protest, before she can say a word to make him stay, to tell him that she loved him, that she wishes things were different, to tell him to sod time and its restraints, he turns the hourglass and disappears. She suddenly knows what it has been like for him all these years and she wishes she could tell him she is sorry. Somehow, though she thinks he wouldn't listen to her apologies.
Hermione wipes the tears from her cheeks and takes a deep breath, then closes her hand around the door handle and goes out to be married.
Time marches on. She moves forward.
A/N: A lot of you won't like the ending, but if you have read Time Traveller's Wife then you will understand that I have kept true to the concepts of time travel laid out in that story as well as it's overall mood. I hope you've enjoyed it. Please leave me a review letting me know what you think. And if you need a pick me up after this check out my story Two Weeks Notice or Houdini's Tables. Vanityfair