It had taken until after they had left the headmaster's study for it to sink in, until the adrenaline had worn off, until she had finally had a moment to breathe, a moment not drowned in the noise of other people's voices.
So Snape had been Dumbledore's man all along. He had loved Harry's mother. He had protected her son. He had, for years and years, protected them all. And they had let him die.
For Riddle to use the snake as executioner…it had been horrible. There were people he hadn't considered faithful servants who had died more merciful deaths.
But they had seen so much of death that day – what was one more Death Eater when they had walked among the bodies of so many friends?
And so they – she – had just stood there and watched him die. For the second time, she had watched him bleed in the Shrieking Shack and done nothing to help.
Guilt flooded her, icy-hot, making her ears ring, driving the blood to her cheeks.
And there was nothing she could do to help. Nothing but go and bring his lifeless body back to the castle, to at least treat him in death with the respect, care, and honor that he deserved.
It was at that moment that a scene from Fleur and Bill's wedding had rushed, unbidden, into her mind; a memory of the first dance she had shared with Viktor since the Yule Ball...
"You are still as beautiful as I remember," Viktor said gallantly as he led her across the dance floor.
She laughed, self-consciously smoothing down her hair with one hand. "I'm certain you've met plenty of much more beautiful women since then."
"I cannot complain," he said complacently. "But you ver special."
She felt color rise to her cheeks. "Erm…Thank you."
"It vas a good year, vas it not? Even vith the vay it all ended." He still sounded disgruntled. "I could have von the last task if the Death Eater had not interfered. It was not my fault, that."
Hermione winced as he stepped on her toes. Whatever else he was, he was not a graceful dancer.
Even so – he might have won. Maybe. She had never thought of that day from his point of view, not with all the much more serious events that had occupied her mind. But yes, it would sting to remember how he had been robbed of his chance to compete. To have been reduced to a madman's mindless tool, instead. "Don't you sometimes wish you could go back in time?" she asked wistfully."To a time before…all this?" How nice it would be to go back to a time when there hadn't been a Dark Lord trying to kill those you love. To a day when you didn't spend every second of every day waiting for the next bit of bad news.
Victor's only answer was to reach up and gently, just for a moment, stroke her cheek. They turned quietly to the music for a while, until her partner spoke up again. "Do you remember telling me about your Time-Turner?"
She looked up at him in surprise. "I do." She dimly remembered that on one of their dates she had told him about how she had been allowed to use a Time-Turner during her third year. "Why?"
"They gave me one."
"They gave you a Time-Turner?" Hermione was impressed. "Viktor, those are really valuable!"
Krum's chest puffed out just a little. "For services to my country. My country thinks I am very important."
"I dare say! What are you going to do with it?"
"My manager says it is so I can vatch myself during training. So I can improve myself and vin more games for Bulgaria." Viktor grinned. "He also told me it is for ven there is more than one pretty girl at a party. But I told him I have no need for that."
Hm. Hermione gave him a slightly chagrined smiled. A Time-Turner as the wizarding version of "Instant Replay" seemed a complete waste of such a valuable artifact. The way that the wizarding world worshipped men who chased after little golden balls with wings for a living never ceased to amaze her.
It had been at that point that Ron, eyes narrowed to slits, had walked up and tapped Viktor on the shoulder. "Mind if I cut in, mate?"/i
There weren't any Time-Turners left in Britain that she knew of, not after they had accidentally smashed all of the Ministry's supply in their fifth year.
But she now knew where she could find one.
The knowledge coursed like electricity through her body. There was something she could do for Snape. Or at least try to do.
Harry, bless his soul, hadn't asked too many questions when she had borrowed his watch and his Invisibility Cloak. Neither had Madam Pomfrey when she'd gone to her for supplies and advice.
She had set off a short time later.
"Herm-own-ninny." Viktor's bushy eyebrows shot up in surprise when he saw her. "Vat are you doing here?"
Hermione almost sagged with relief. Finally. It had taken her longer than she had anticipated to Apparate to Bulgaria, making her way across the continent step by step. When she had arrived in Varna, it had taken even more time to locate Viktor's house, and to then persuade the clearly dubious house-elf who answered the door that she wasn't just an overzealous fan.
"Please, Viktor, I need your help."
Within the next few minutes she had cause to remember what it was she had liked about him in the first place -- well, what she had liked other than the fact that an international Quidditch star was interested in her. Beneath the pompous exterior, there hid quite a decent man.
When she had finished telling him about Snape, about all that had happened at Hogwarts, he had just nodded, gone upstairs, and come back with the Time-Turner.
"I liked him, ven we vere at Hogwarts. If he helped defeat that Dark Lord, you should try and help him," he simply said as he hung it around her neck. "Bring it back ven you are finished. I vill take you out for an Ayran. It is much better than your butterbeer."
Impulsively, she gave him a quick hug. "I can't thank you enough."
"You had better hurry." He motioned to the door. "It vill only vork for twenty-four hours. You don't have much time."
"I know." She Disapparated as soon as she was out the door.
Finally back in Scotland, the last Apparition jump landed her in a copse of trees as close to Hogsmeade as she dared to go. With trembling hands, she took Harry's watch out of her pocket. She had made it, with a little bit of time to spare, even.
Making sure that the Invisibility Cloak was still firmly tucked around her, she pulled the Time-Turner out from under her shirt.
Twenty-four turns of the hourglass – the maximum. The feeling of falling backward through time, of sunset and sunrise flying by in a maddening rush of light and color, then black night returning. For a second, the air shimmered like hot air over asphalt, then settled into quiet darkness.
Now what? she thought as she as noiselessly as possible walked towards the Shack. She only had the outlines of a plan. Hopefully it would be enough.
One thing she knew for certain was that she couldn't change anything that had already happened, things she had seen with her own eyes. The fact that they had happened proved that she had not been able to change them. It was very much a "What comes first – the Phoenix or the flame?" situation.
She had seen Snape bleed, had seen the fang wounds on his neck. She had seen his eyes go blank, his body grow still. There was no getting around those facts.
And even if she could change what had happened, she wouldn't. She couldn't risk changing the outcome. What if Snape hadn't given those memories to Harry? What if Harry had never found out about the soul-fragment he had in him? Would Voldemort still have been defeated?
But the point was moot anyway. Because it had happened.
She sighed. Thinking about Time-Turner timelines was enough to make your head explode.
Slowly, she crept closer. A handful of Death Eaters stood guard around the Shrieking Shack. One was posted on each side of the entrance.
It didn't matter. She had to wait anyway.
Finally, she saw Snape coming from the direction of the Forest. He was by himself, walking with a stiff gait, his shoulders slightly hunched. The poor man looked bone-weary, even paler than usual, his face rigid as he walked to his death.
Suddenly, it didn't matter. She couldn't let him walk in there, not without having been given a choice. He deserved that much.
Noiselessly, she moved towards him on an intercept course.
"Professor Snape." Her urgent whisper slowed down his step for only the fraction of a second. Hermione hurried to keep up. "If you go in there – Sir, the snake will bite you. But because of what happens, Harry will live. He-who-must-not-be-named will be defeated. The war will be over within hours."
His face turned a shade whiter, and his lips set into a thin, bloodless line. He gave an almost imperceptible nod. And then continued on to the Shack.
As Hermione had already known that he would.
Tears ran down her face as he walked through the door. Only hours ago, McGonagall had called him a coward. The old witch had never been more wrong about anything.
After that, it was a waiting game. She could hear snatches of Voldemort's piercing voice, the lower notes of Snape's baritone responding. She knew that by now, she, Harry, and Ron were waiting in the tunnel, the tunnel that for so long had been the only entrance to the Shrieking Shack. Voldemort must have lifted the wards and enchantments that had made the door and windows impenetrable in the past.
Her nails bit into her palms as she heard Snape's scream. He was in there now – suffering, bleeding, afraid. The Death Eaters stationed around the Shack looked at each other uneasily, but not a single one moved to interfere.
Voldemort, the snake floating next to him, strode from the Shack in a cloud of dark robes, motioning to his Death Eaters to follow.
Still she waited.
A minute. Another one. Finally, Voldemort's voice reverberated over the entire area.
"You have fought," he began in a high, cold voice, "valiantly…"
As she listened to his ultimatum her heart began to beat painfully fast. Any moment now.
His voice stopped.
Hermione counted off the seconds.
She, Ron, and Harry would be crawling back into the tunnel…
She ran to the Shack, bursting through the door. A torch on the wall provided flickering light. The room was empty – except for the deathly-still body on the floor. The metallic scent of blood hung in the air.
Please be alive, the voice in her head said as she knelt down next to him, shaking off the Invisibility Cloak. Please.
He had certainly looked dead. But none of them had actually checked. Nagini's poison took a while to work. And even if he was dead, it hadn't been long. There were spells that could make his heart beat again, at least for a while, spells that would buy her time.
She was afraid to touch him, afraid to reopen the wound on his neck. It wasn't gushing any more, the way it had earlier. But there was/still bleeding, small trickles of red spilling with the rhythm of his beating heart, joining the congealing pool around him.
Sudden lightheadedness blanked out her vision for a second. He was still alive. But she had to hurry.
Fumbling, she pulled one of the bottles she had taken from the infirmary out of her pocket. She poured the potion over the neck wounds – essence of dittany mixed with anti-serum, birch sap, and white lily. According to Madam Pomfrey, it was what had finally cured Mr. Weasley.
The skin knit roughly back together, and the bleeding stopped.
She pulled out three more phials of potion, and opened the first one. iUniversal Anti-Venin/i. Carefully, she slid her hand under his head and lifted it just a fraction of an inch, shuddering as thick, sticky blood covered her fingers. Slowly, she dribbled a few drops into his slightly open mouth – not too much, or he would choke. Her fingers curved gently around his jaw, closing his mouth. She could feel his breath against her hand, ever so faint.
Her heart hammering, she pointed her wand at his throat. "Absorbeo!"
His throat muscles jumped into involuntary action, contracting and relaxing, making him swallow the potion.
She repeated the act, again and again. Blood-Replenisher, Invigorating Draught, more Anti-Venin, each in turn.
"Come on!"She poured another teaspoon full of the Resanguination Potion into his mouth. "Please wake up, Sir!"
It seemed as if she had been feeding him potion for hours when he finally stirred, when the light seemed to finally come back into those empty, dead eyes.
"Oh, Sir…" Hermione's eyes burned as she watched his chest rise and fall with deep, rattling breaths. His eyes closed tightly; his face contorted with pain as he started shaking uncontrollably. "Here." She held a phial of pain reliever to his lips. He gulped it with difficulty, half of it running down his chin, mixing with the blood, but a few moments later, the tense agony seemed to leave his body and the shaking slowed to a mere tremor. His hand groped feebly by his side.
She picked up his wand from where it had fallen on the floor of the Shack and curled his fingers around it, her other hand still cushioning his head. "Sir, are you all right?"
"Do I…look as if I'm all right?" he snarled, pausing for breath between the words, his voice weak and reedy.
Hermione was laughing and crying at the same time. "But you're alive!"
"So it appears." His eyes opened again, giving her a hard look. "That was…you out there?"
She nodded. "Yes."
His eyes wandered to the Time-Turner around her neck. "It is over?"
"Yes. I mean no. They're still fighting. But V – He is a dead man walking."
"The Elder Wand. Harry is its real master. Don't ask me how. I still don't understand the whole thing myself." Hermione shrugged weakly. "What matters is we won. – You should take more of this." She held the phial of Blood Replenisher to his lips. He still was the color of sour milk.
His hand grasped hers painfully. "The students? The Order? Tell me, girl!"
She shook her head, tears rising to her eyes again as he drank the potion. "Fred Weasley died. Lupin and Tonks. Little Colin Creevey. Many more."
Snape closed his eyes briefly, swallowing hard, painfully.
"There's nothing you or I can do," Hermione said gently. "I should take you to St. Mungo's now." His breathing was still much too fast, with a wheezing sound accompanying each exhalation.
"They could do…no more for me than this." He motioned faintly towards the potion bottles lined up on the floor next to him. "And there'll be others who need help more than I."
She was about to mutiny – he was obviously still weak as a newborn Kneazle – but the set look on his face made her reconsider.
If he was right – and she did not doubt that he was – then he would be better off somewhere quiet. St. Mungo's would be a madhouse. Yet he obviously would need help for a while. "No one's living at my parents' house right now," she said slowly, calculatingly. Yes, that might work. "I could take you there instead, if you want."
"If I want?" He spat out the words. "Since when has what I want mattered to anyone?"
"It matters now," she said quietly.
He made a disparaging noise. "You don't mean that."
"Then you will do as I ask you? Whatever I asked?"
She looked at him cautiously. "Within reason."
"Don't tell Potter where I am. Ever."
"Sir…" She sighed. This was not the time to argue with him. "All right. I promise. Now can we go?"
When he feebly tried to get up, she put a hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back down. "Don't, Sir. I'll Apparate both of us." She only hoped that when Voldemort had taken down all the enchantments, the Apparition wards had gone as well. She would find out in a second, she supposed.
Within half an hour, Snape was resting in her parents' bed, under a warm blanket, dressed in some of her father's old pajamas. She had filled him up with potions, food, and a hot drink; had washed away the blood that had covered his face, his hair, his hands; had made him as comfortable as she knew how to.
Now that the worst was over, Hermione sat curled up on the plush armchair next to his bed, trying to hold on to her own cup with shaking hands. She would spend the night here. She was not about to leave him alone just yet.
When she had dropped his blood-soaked robe and her own spattered t-shirt and jeans into her parents' washing machine, she had almost thrown up. So much blood, to come from one man.
She looked over at the bed, just to reassure herself. Snape was still there, looking strangely ordinary in her father's striped flannel, his still-damp hair contrasting spidery-soft against the white pillowcase.
He seemed to have sensed her eyes on him, because he turned his head and looked first at her, then at the Time-Turner, which stood on the bedside table, next to the potion bottles.
"So why? Why go through all that trouble?" he asked roughly. While she was tending to him, she had told him the story of how she had got the Time-Turner – it had seemed easier for both of them if she kept talking about something else while she was washing his body and helping him dress.
She paused, not knowing quite what to say. "Harry told us about you. He even told You-Know-Who. That you were always Dumbledore's man. That you'd been trying to protect Harry, almost since he was born, because you loved his mother." She saw a muscle jump in Snape's jaw. "I can't imagine the courage it took," she continued hurriedly, "to obey Dumbledore's orders. To go back to Voldemort. And then to just…" She paused, groping for words. "I…I heard him, Sir. He just…discarded you. And then it seemed, well…as if…as if we had done, too. It just seemed so...wrong." She looked down at her teacup. "I had to at least try. We…we owed you that much." She glanced at him sideways, through hair that had escaped from her plait. "Those memories you gave Harry? They made all the difference."
His lips thinned. "Did you look at them?"
"No." Hermione shook her head. "No, I didn't." Of course Harry had told her about them in detail. But she wasn't about to tell him that. Not right now.
Snape nodded, his eyes drifting shut. He lay quietly for a while, with Hermione beginning to hope he had finally fallen asleep, before opening his eyes again. "Why me? Why not Lupin? Or Weasley?"
She shrugged helplessly. "They died, irrevocably. An Avada Kedavra. And an explosion. There was no way to bring them back. You know how the Time-Turner works. – And no, it's not like that," she added emphatically when she saw the expression on his face. "If I would have had more time, if there had seemed any way…well, I might have tried to save them as well. But it is you that I came for."
"Another life debt," she heard him mutter bitterly to himself.
"Life debt!" she exploded. "Sir, don't you even start!" She took a deep breath, then another one. Foolish man! As if his sacrifice meant nothing. "There is no debt. You don't owe me anything."
"I'm afraid that's not how it works." His voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Hermione paused, looking at him with narrowed eyes. "Actually, I had one rather… selfish reason for wanting to bring you back," she said cautiously.
He cocked an eyebrow.
"You can fly!" The words burst from her with force. "I didn't think it was possible! Not until You-know-who. And oh, I'd love to learn! To not have to worry about a stupid broom. To just be able to take off, like a bird." She had to stop to catch her breath. "It's just…so magical, isn't it? It has to be the most amazing thing!"
One corner of his mouth twitched upward. "You traveled back through time so I could teach you how to fly?"
She felt herself color. "You're the only one left who can!"
"True." There was a hint of self-satisfaction in his voice.
"So will you teach me, once you are better?"
"I will try. – But go to sleep now, girl. You look like death warmed up."
Rich, coming from him, she thought with a wan smile.
She let her head fall against the back of the chair. Oh, she was tired. How long had it been since she had slept? She couldn't remember...
As soon as she closed her eyes, the pictures came back. Remus, showing them photos of Tonks and little Teddy. Fred and George, laughing themselves silly over some bad pun. Colin Creevey, waving his camera. A snake lunging at her. Bellatrix's knife at her throat. The same knife in Dobby's chest…
Tears spilled out from under her eyelashes, wetting her cheeks.
She opened her eyes again to find Snape watching her. "What does it feel like to fly?" she asked in a near-whisper. "Is it wonderful?"
His voice was surprisingly gentle. "I'm not sure I can adequately describe it. You soar freely, with no fear of falling, with nothing to hold you back. There's this feeling that you can do anything you please, go anywhere you want. Just you and the sky. It is…quite wonderful."
Hermione listened to him, her throat tight and her chest aching as she closed her eyes again, trying to imagine gliding through endless skies, the wind in her face, with the ground just a distant memory.
Maybe they could learn how to fly. Both of them.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading!
Hermione isn't there when Snape runs from Hogwarts, but I assume Harry or Luna told her all about it.
That you can only go back 24 hrs with a Time-Turner isn't canon, but it makes sense to me that there would be some limit on how far back you can go.
Reviews are so very much appreciated.
Britpicked and Beta-read by Bellegeste.