Time and Time Again
By Moth Malaise
This story began life as a response to the Walking The Plank 'Deathly Hallows Canon Challenge', which is relatively straight-forward – canon Snarry, without changing the events of the last book. Anybody else spot the major obstacle to get past? As a result, there will be major spoilers for the last Harry Potter book.
Other warnings: this will be Snarry, Snape/Harry. If this offends you, don't read. I don't claim ownership of these characters, I'm not JK Rowling, I'm not making money, etc... you know the routine.
'Time and Time Again' is dedicated to my editor, Snidgey, who has worked long and hard to get this (and me) into some kind of literary shape. It would be a different story without her. Thank you, Snidgelet.
Enjoy the story – reviews are entirely welcome, the more the merrier.
Chapter One – Bottled Up
Harry had something to say.
Hermione had been his friend for far too long to miss the signs. It was the same with Ron. Both of them, despite being mature and occasionally intelligentyoung men, were prone to brooding. They left things to brew, stewing and bubbling and frothing away in their emotional cauldrons, and it was only so long before something exploded.
She'd spotted the first signs of it eleven days ago now.
The wizarding world was so overwhelmed at the destruction of Lord Voldemort that nobody but Hermione had noticed. It began the morning after that terrible battle. Harry had seemed restless and sad, ate very little, forced smiles to everyone who came to shake his hand. Hermione had assumed it was the death toll in the Daily Prophet that troubled him.
Everyone had lost a piece of themselves. Even their joy at Voldemort's demise wasn't enough to fill that gap. However much they had won, they had lost at the same time.
On the second day, an interviewer came to speak to Harry. The wizarding world was desperate for the story, for the final declaration that their suffering was over. Perhaps it was anxiety over his coming interview that kept Harry awake all night. He had dark shadows under his eyes as he picked at a bowl of cereal, huddled at the Weasleys' kitchen table across from Hermione. When she asked if he'd slept, he didn't answer.
The interview went well, nonetheless. The days wore on. Life, in all its unexpected wonder, was continuing and regenerating.
George announced on the third day, to his parents' surprise, that the business would not be sold. Fred hadn't died for him to sell up shop and become a penny-pinching hermit. He'd died so that people could keep laughing. Percy, who had lived awkwardly under his parents' roof for three days, declared his utmost commitment to the business and his support in all administrative duties. Mr and Mrs Weasley, with tears in their eyes, said Fred would have wanted it. No more of their children would be hurt. Fred had given them life and what good would it be, going unused and unenjoyed?
Yet still Harry was keeping something.
Hermione watched him that evening, sitting in the lounge with the Weasleys, staring silently at a spot on the wall as they laughed around him. He sat amongst them like a ghost. If he was spoken to, he cracked a smile and laughed, and seemed almost normal. But then he would sink back to his staring. Something strangewould flicker in his eyes.
"I don't know," Ginny said awkwardly, when Hermione came to talk to her that night. She twisted the corner of her duvet in her hands. "He's not - ... not really spoken to me at all. I thought he looked off yesterday and I asked if he was okay. He just got up and walked off."
"He didn't say anything at all?" Hermione was shocked. She had thought that even if he confided in no-one else, Harry would confide in Ginny.
"Nothing..." Ginny hesitated. "I don't think he's happy."
"No," said Hermione. "He's not happy at all."
On the seventh day, there was talk in the Daily Prophet of Harry being awarded the Order of Merlin, first class. He laughed and joked with the Weasleys, despite the greying tinge to his face, the haunted look that only Hermione saw. She caught him on his way to the bathroom.
The grin came out. It was affected so quickly that it almost hurt to see. "Hey Hermione! How come you're lurking? I thought you were downstairs with everybody else..."
"I'm not going to pressure you," she said, and saw his grin falter. She held up her hands. "Noram I saying that there is a problem. But if there was something wrong... I want you to know that I would listen and help, and not criticise you. That's all I want to say."
It was a tried and tested method. She knew it would work. She didn't need to say anything else, and so hugged him briefly and turned away, heading back down the stairs. She took a last glance back.
Harry stood at the top of the stairs, numb, looking at a spot on the wall.
It was the ninth day. Tonks's mother brought round Teddy so he could see his godfather, and the Weasleys spent their day fussing and cuddling around the young boy. Mrs Weasley had a distinctly broody look in her eyeas she sat with Harry, Hermione and Andromeda, smoothing the baby's hair.
"Of course I'm sad," Andromedasaid, gazing at her orphaned grandson. "It's impossible not to be. All the same... she died for a reason. I can look back in love She'll forever be remembered."
Hermione glanced at Harry. He wasn't even looking at the baby, barely aware of what anyone was saying. He was looking down into the greying cup of tea he'd been given half an hour ago.
Last night was the tenth night since Voldemort's defeat.
Fleur and Bill had come over for a meal in the evening. A few bottles of firewhiskey and wine had the whole family, Harry and Hermione sitting in the garden late into the night, and as Hermione had looked over through the candles floating around the table, Harry had seemed somewhat eased. He sat talking to Mr Weasley, who was listening to his explanation of microwaves with fervent fascination. It was past midnight by the time Mrs Weasley called bedtime.
And Harry's face fell.
Hermione lay awake for quite some time, waiting until the rest of the house were asleep. When she at last could hear Ron's snores from three rooms away, she slid out of her bed, lit her wand and crept down the hall.
There was no light coming from under Harry's door. She pushed carefully, moving into the room with delicate silence, and held her wand high to look over at his bed.
Although asleep, Harry's face was twisted with pain. His fists had clenched on the pillow beside him, face white, and Hermione realised that there were wet trails glinting on his face in the wand light. As she stood, rigid with shock and sympathy, she heard him speak:
"Look - ... look at me... look at me, l-look at me... I'm here - ..." A shudder wracked him. "I'm here, I'm here. Please. Don't go. Please stay."
Hermione closed the door and went back to her room. In the morning, she came down to find Harry alone in the kitchen, silent and empty as a corpse.
"Hi Hermione!" There was the grin, lurched into place. Perhaps it was only because she'd been looking, but it became more and more forced everyday. There was red around Harry's eyes. "Want some cereal? I was going to make tea but I thought – "
She sat beside him. He was silent, numb, staring into her face as if she'd caught him murdering someone.
"Harry, please talk to me. I'm frightened, so is Ginny. It's been a week and a half."
That word, 'Ginny', seemed to trigger something in the blank green eyes. His lip curled. She saw him as he clamped down on the expression, ironed it out.
"I... I don't know about me and Ginny anymore. I mean, lots has changed. It's - ... you won't tell her, will you?"
"Is this all that's been bothering you?"
He hesitated. Suddenly from upstairs there came the creak of a bedroom door and Harry jumped, and before Hermione could say another word, he was scrabbling for the teapot and filling it with water. Mr Weasley came into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes.
"Morning, you two... is that some tea, Harry? Wonderful. Busy day today." He tried a smile. "Molly and I think it's time we arranged Fred's funeral...just for closure. George has been saying he wants something spectacular. I'm not sure how thrilled Molly will be, but well... we were thinking - ... are you alright, Harry?"
The teapot had slipped from Harry's hand and hit the floor, cracking one of the tiles. Water gushed everywhere. Hermione leapt to her feet, drawing her wand.
"Reparo," she said. The tile clicked back together. With another wave of her wand, the water vanished. Harry picked up the teapot.
For a while there was silence. Then Mr Weasley laughed nervously.
"I do wonder what we'd do without you around, Hermione... why don't you have a sit down Harry? You do look a little tired. Here, I'll finish the tea."
Harry sank into a chair. Hermione sat next to him, silently, as Mr Weasley began to hunt for teabags and milk.
Beneath the table, she felt Harry reach over and touch her hand. She looked up.
His eyes were welling with tears.
"I need help," he mouthed, and she felt him shaking.
She squeezed his hand and nodded, to show she understood. He lifted a hand and passed his sleeve over his eyes, taking away the tears. When Mr Weasley asked how they'd slept, the smile was there ready and the mask came back up.
With the day's events, it became increasingly hard to see when Hermione would be able to talk to Harry. There was always someone else around. Most often it was Ron, who sat with them for most of the day, oblivious to Hermione's suggestions that he go polish his broom or see if his mother needed help with anything.When Ron was finally called to set the table for dinner, an opportunity seemed to be available. Barely had Hermione opened her mouth when the door opened, and Bill stuck his head into Ron's room.
"There you two are, thought we'd lost you. Can you come lug some chairs for us?"
They broughtchairs back and forth from the garden to the kitchen in silence, side-by-side but unable to speak. Hermione could almost feel the desperation pouring from Harry. It didn't feel like this was an ordinary worry. It was serious, and every passing minute was another minute too long for him to stay bottled.
Dinner was pleasant. Charlie's anecdotes about his first few weeks in Romania seemed to lighten Harry somewhat, though Hermione couldn't concentrate. Her anxiety seemed to outstretch Harry's. Nobody was eating nearly fast enough, and when dinner was finally over, nobody seemed willing to go in their separate directions. Mrs Weasley began to make coffee. Ron was told to fill the dishwasher and went about it, complaining loudly about the magical appliance's choice of music. Everybody stood up, moving through to the lounge.
And out of the corner of her eye, Hermione saw someone move quickly out of the kitchen door into the darkness of the garden.
She waited to see if anyone had seen – nobody was watching, all involved in discussion of the new Quidditch season. Taking her coat from the peg, she slipped out of the door after Harry. Ron's questioning "Hermione?" was lost on her ears.
She found him at the very bottom of the Weasleys' garden, where a small pond lay glassy and grey in the moonlight. A rickety bench had been set up looking over the marshy ground. Harry sat there, his knees drawn to his chest.
As she sat down, he said nothing.
His eyes did not move from the surface of the pond, as if there was something beneath the water that she simply couldn't see. Still, he didn't speak. She didn't want to force him, if this was his healing process. Never had she seen him this lost. If she hadn't known better, she'd have questioned whether Harry had survived that final battle at all.
After quite some time, she saw his head tip forwards onto his arms. She turned to look at him, breath held. And at last, Harry spoke.
"I... I didn't mean to drop it. I'm not going mad. I'm not... not unstable. It just slipped. It was just - ... it made me think - ..."
He lifted his head. Tears were glowing in his eyes.
"About Fred's funeral... and I realised. I just suddenly realised."
"Harry..." Her heart was in her throat. "It's awful, I know... and it's even worse to realise it. Except we have to move on. Lots of people died, I know, but... we're safe now. We're free. Isn't that – "
"No, it's not – " He reached up, rubbing at his eyes. "Not just Fred, not even Tonks and Lupin, I'm not... not sad over them. I can move on, there was a reason, they died for something. But - ..."
His face screwed up.
"He's still there. He's just there and I can see him when I close my eyes. When I try to sleep. He's still there."
Hermione searched his face, fear feeling for the back of her neck. "Harry, not... not Voldemort?"
Harry shook his head, shaking now, fists balled at his eyes.
"No, he's gone. I know he's gone. But... it's - ..." He clenched his hands into his hair, taking a few moments, drawing in breath. "Snape. We just left him there. He's not even buried."
"I know it's stupid," he gasped, and clamped down on another shudder. "I just... Hermione, I think I'm going mad. I can't sleep. I can't stop seeing him. Every time I close my eyes I can see him and it's just over and over, I can't stop seeing him die. You didn't see. You didn't see his eyes."
"It's not stupid, Harry..." Tentatively she moved closer and laid a hand on his shoulder. The muscles there were hard as rock, so tense it must hurt. "You just... have to forget. You have to move on."
"I can't! Hermione, you don't understand. You can't. I just keep seeing him die. And he didn't have to. Tonks and Remus had their son, and Fred had his family, but he - ... he had nothing. Nothing but memories."
He looked up through his fingers, staring out across the water, the tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Everybody just stripped him of everything. Voldemort and Dumbledore. They just used him and he had nothing left, nothing, and he didn't have to die. He died with nothing. And he's just lying there because I didn't even think - ... I didn't even bury him. I buried Dobby. The Weasleys are burying Fred.Everyone's buried and everyone'smoving on and he's just there and - ..."
He dug his fingers into his hair.
"He's alone. He's just there on his own..."
The lump in Hermione's throat was almost painful. She gripped his arm tightly, feeling tears sting her own eyes now.
"We... we can go bury him, Harry. Tomorrow. First thing in the morning. We'll go get his body."
Harry shuddered. "But - ... but I - ..." His breath hitched. "I don't want him to be dead. I don't want to bury him. I just - ... I just want him to be alive. More than Fred, and Tonks and Remus, and Hedwig and Mad-Eye and Dobby. They're gone and they're at peace and they don't hurt anymore. But he's - ... Hermione, I can't stop thinking. I can't stop seeing him die."
"Harry... please listen to me... we can find someone for you to talk to. They have people trained to help."
"I don't want to talk. I just... just want him to live."
Hermione hesitated. She squeezed his arm gently. "You can't bring him back... nobody can. Magic can't restore the dead."
"He was never happy. He was never even happy."
"I know... but Harry, please. You can't keep killing yourself over this. He's at peace now."
"No - ... no, he isn't. You don't understand. He's not at peace. He died for nothing. He's not got anybody to look over and be happy they're safe."
"But he's not in pain anymore..."
Harry squeezed his eyes tight shut. Another tear rolled down his cheek. "Then why do I keep seeing him die?"he whispered.
There was silence for quite some time. Hermione put her arms around him, quietly, and held him as he shook. His tears wet the wool of her jumper. Distantly she heard Ron at the kitchen door calling for them, his voice dimmed and far away somehow.
"Harry," she whispered. She squeezed him. "We can't change the past. You have to let go."
Harry had gone still in her arms. She began to rub his back, wishing away his hurt. It was the first time she'd stopped being his friend and become his mother.
"It'll fade in time... you'll be happy again. He's happy, Harry, wherever he is. He knows you understand. He knows you respect him. Even if you could bring him back, he probably wouldn't want to. We can't change time."
"But we can."
The three words were spoken so quietly, and with such deliberation, that she paused. She pulled back to look at him. The green eyes were focused, alive with some idea, some plan.
"We can. Why didn't I think? Why didn't I realise?" He sat up; he looked as if he were about to laugh. "Hermione, we can! I can go back... I can change it. I can stop it. Nobody's buried him, nobody's seen him. I can change it."
"But... no, you can't. Nothing can change. I know it hurts but it's done Harry, it's over. You can't save him. What are you talking about?"
Suddenly he reached for her wrist and grasped it, hard. She jumped.
"Harry, you're frightening me!"
"I need your help," he said. Something flickered in his eyes. "No, not much of your help. I just need something from you. I'll do the rest myself. It's easier if it's just me. There's less risk."
He stared imploringly into her shocked face. And for the first time in eleven days, he wasn't seeing the life snuffed out in Severus Snape's eyes.
"What did you do with your Time-Turner?"