Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it belongs to Rowling and Nolan. I just take the characters out to play.
PLEASE READ THIS FIRST: You are about to embark on a story unlike any you have ever read before.
This plot bunny came to me as I was brushing my teeth one morning (c. August 20, 2006) and would not stop gnawing at my ankles until after I had typed the entire first chapter out in one sitting.
The format belongs wholly to Christopher Nolan's brilliant movie Memento. The gist is that the main character suffers brain trauma in such a way that he can remember everything up until the incident but for forever afterwards, he cannot form new memories and forgets everything after a specified length of time. He makes do with Polaroids, notes, and tattoos, but inevitably, some things slip through the cracks.
The movie is told backwards, so that the audience has as little idea of what's going on sometimes as the main character. This story shall follow a similar model as Hermione stumble through life, only able to remember 30 minutes of life at a time.
The first half of each chapter tells the story from the chronological beginning. The second half of each chapter tells the same story from the chronological end. In the very last chapter, the storylines will merge together. Timestamps have been added to help you follow the timeline.
I am well aware that this structure invites confusion, but I implore you not to read the story in the "right" chronological order the first time through. The tale is structured in this way for a reason: so that you may feel all of Hermione's frustration and uncertainty of not knowing what happened in the past. So that you can be properly surprised when a later chapter reveals that what happened in an earlier chapter was not at all what it seemed. Also, the two halves of every chapter are almost always linked in some way.
The next time through, though, you are welcome to read in whatever order you like as that increases the chances of you picking out all the clues that I had an inordinate amount of fun scattering throughout the story.
Enjoy the ride, my friends. (and review, pretty please!)
For this first chapter I must warn you that there is a major character death… but I must also reiterate my guarantee that very little is exactly as it seems in this story.
Teacher: "And so Lucifer, formerly the mightiest of angels, was expelled from heaven and cast down to hell…"
Student: "Do you think he could get banished from hell the same way? If he was good enough?"
Teacher: "Silly child, it doesn't work that way."
— A scene from my childhood
The pain faded to a dull roar, with a pins-and-needles sensation like a limb returning from falling asleep.
A little rivulet of blood ran from her eye down the length of her nose. It tickled. She tried to lift her hand to scratch at it, but the pain seemed to concentrate in her wrist and she gasped. The muscles and tendons in her appendage were non-responsive.
Her throat seized and the wretched coughing fit that resulted prevented her from hearing the footsteps until they were right beside her head. She tried to turn to face them but her neck felt like a boneless hinge. She settled for rolling her eyes in the general direction.
The person she saw did little to ease her discomfort. "Professor Snape," she rasped.
The dark man was silhouetted by leaping flames in a dark night with a perfection that would have outdone cheap Muggle horror films. He was nothing but a shape, carved from ragged ebony. Yet when he turned his dark eyes upon her, the pupils glistened in the darkness.
"Miss Granger…" Sibilant as ever, his voice felt like sandpaper upon her wounds. "What an unexpected displeasure it is to see you here."
Her body was too tired to feel outrage. She hated not being able to see his face properly. His voice was always unpleasant and unfeeling; his face…
The tip of his wand was a burning ember against her skin as it traced the curve of her cheek. At the slight pressure, her head flopped to the side on a limp neck, her ear pressed against the damp ground. She felt him step back, and then felt his footsteps halt a few feet away from her. Then blood trickled into her other ear and the world fell silent but for the pounding of her heart.
His spell hit her between the third and fourth heartbeat, wrapping her in a charged cocoon of energy. She had opened her mouth to scream when the black wave of euphoria washed over her, and she was blissfully free of it all. It felt like heaven.
The pain when it came was unexpected and horrific.
The bubble of warmth was torn asunder and then she was screaming louder than she ever had before. The pain hiccoughed along with her breaths, hitting her in agonizing needle-like jabs that seemed to punch straight through her skull.
Somewhere close by, she imagined she heard the screams of another, but perhaps it was only the earth beneath her echoing her agony. The blackness had teeth and claws that tore awayat her mind and would surely soon burst through her skull.
The cry came from a great distance away and right as it reached her ears, it crystallized, stopped, then shattered as a great wind seemed to rush through her body, wrenching something away. After it was gone, there was only nothing.
--12:00-12:30am, November 1, 1998--
"… I love you."
She reeled, stumbling on unsteady feet. In the instant that it took for her mind to unfreeze itself, she had missed the slight movement of his hand.
An instant later, when she realized where his wand was pointing, it was already too late.
Severus Snape flew backwards into the stone wall under the force of the curse. A nasty wound on his shoulder spattered the concrete with red. The sickly greenish glow surrounding him was swallowed by a brilliant silver haze and then—
He slumped over bonelessly. His head lolled to one side, his mouth slightly open.
His eyes were blank and black as sin, as if devoid of a soul.
In the sudden silence, she waited, watching, her mind racing to comprehend. Then, falling to her knees, Hermione let out a ragged breath like wind rattling through skeletal trees. Her wand fell from her fingers and clattered to the floor as she covered her mouth with her hand, pressing it against her face to contain the sobs that threatened to emerge.
Her other hand fisted around the bracelet on her right wrist, smudging the silver surface as she clenched until her knuckles were white.
She had been lying in his arms; he was holding her as if he never wished to let her go.
The winking silver of the bracelet was the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes again. She looked at it absently, hatefully.
She ripped the circlet from her wrist, ignoring the sudden emptiness that seemed to descend upon her being.
Her voice shook but her wand tip was unwavering as she watched the blue flames lick their way eagerly over the silver. The metal glowed, then softened under the heat. She let go when she felt blisters beginning to form on her fingers. The silver melted into a viscous puddle. She caught a faint whiff of burnt parchment. She brushed away the final traces of ash from the front of her robes, and then stopped herself because they were invisible upon the black fabric anyway.
As she lifted her hands away, she noticed a solitary scrap of something the size of a postage stamp stuck against her wrist. She lifted it off between finger and thumb and watched it enlarge to reveal a Polaroid photograph. She read September 15, 1998 written across the back in smudged black Sharpie. She flipped the photo over.
The Polaroid shook in her trembling hands, but she did not drop it. She looked for a long time, and the edges of the photo began to bend under her clenching fingers. Hermione relaxed her grip with a growl of frustration and, after a moment of consideration, tucked the photo into a pocket of her robes.
She turned and left the room, searching among the many hallways and corridors in the rest of the building for the exit. It took her over an hour.
She opened a corrugated metal door and at last felt sunlight pouring in upon her face. She squinted against the light. The sensation didn't feel compatible with the darkness of the abandoned mill she had left behind.
She stumbled down the riverbank and splashed through the shallow, filthy water before climbing out the other side.
She walked through a small gate in the fence separating the town from the fields and grassland, letting the latch click shut behind her. She kept walking and did not look back.
The sun was beginning to rise when she saw another person.
He was walking up the road the other way. As she drew nearer, a strong wind kicked up and the grasses of the fields around them bent and swayed like dancers.
The man wore the plain, faded clothes of a farmer. He froze upon seeing her and then broke into a sprint. He took her hands in his and as she gazed up at his wide eyes and concerned face, she let herself wonder for the briefest second when she had met him. His dark eyes looked familiar.
"Hello," she said. "My name is Hermione Granger. I graduated from Hogwarts Academy in 1998. Could you tell me what day it is?"
Next chapter: Hermione wakes up. A house dies dramatically, and what on earth is Snape up to?