Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. Just borrowed. Will be returned. Snape is welcome to stay, though.
My beta readers, Maggie and Melusin, deserve much thanks and the highest praise, a lot of chocolate, flowers and relaxing music. All remaining errors are my fault.
This is my contribution to the SS/HG Exchange Summer Round 2007. It was written for vanityfair00, the prompt was: -Time-Turner fic where Hermione goes back to Snape's early days as a teacher, preferably his first day.
"Do come in and sit down. Can I get you something to drink? Firewhisky? A cup of tea?"
"I didn't come here to exchange pleasantries. If you have something to say, then say it."
"Oh please, don't look at me like that. I told you that I will explain everything to you. Nothing I did was meant to hurt you, or to offend you. I did it out of necessity. I hope you will believe me."
"All right, but please, stay until you've heard everything."
"Miss Granger! Stop wasting my time and get on with it."
"I'm just collecting my thoughts. This is a long story, after all. It started the day we wanted to lure Voldemort into the trap. The day Harry wanted to defeat him once and for all. You know?"
"I'm not daft. I was there. Now get to the point, if you please."
"Well, that's what I'm trying to do. And I'm afraid that our memories of the event will differ quite a bit. So, if you could kindly abstain from interrupting me constantly … As I said, it began when we lured Voldemort into the trap."
I woke up with a start.
Someone had Stunned me, and I felt disorientated. After fumbling with a layer of thin fabric over my face, I remembered that I was wearing Harry's Invisibility Cloak and realised where I was: I was lying in a small, dark alcove in the corridor leading to the Headmistress' office.
A quick glance around showed me that the corridor was empty. I adjusted the cloak, grabbed my wand firmly and ran towards Professor McGonagall's office. I should have been there earlier; I was needed for the trap we were going to spring on Voldemort.
A few more turns in the dimly lit corridor brought me to the gargoyle guarding the Headmistress' office. But instead of having to use a password to enter, the moving staircase had already been extended and remained static; the gargoyle was gagged and bound by stony ropes and looked like an overgrown, stuffed turkey. Furious stony eyes stared at me, but I only whispered a quick apology and continued up the stairs.
Breathless, my heart beating wildly, I stopped at the open door and tried to calm myself, afraid that my exhausted gasps would alert Voldemort to my presence.
For it was indeed Voldemort who stood in the room, facing Harry, and laughing in a high-pitched voice. Harry stood opposite Voldemort, his green eyes flashing angrily. I scanned the room, searching for Ron and you, who should have been standing at Harry's side. Then I saw the two of you, both lying on the ground on opposite sides of the room. Ron lay curled up in a ball and was frighteningly quiet. You, on the other hand, were writhing and foaming at the mouth. Your wide-open eyes rolled madly. Something had gone terribly wrong.
"I will kill you now! " Harry screamed at Voldemort. "We'll see who laughs last."
"Oh, is that so, little Harry? Well, if you must. But do hurry up. I haven't got all day
Whilst he was mocking, Voldemort was casting protective spells and circling Harry with smooth, dance-like movements. Harry just stood there, waiting for his moment.
"Having second thoughts, Harry? Rightly so! I am the wizard who fears no other and who is feared by all. I am Lord Voldemort. I am eternal. You cannot kill me." Voldemort's voice was sending shivers down my spine. I swallowed several times, knowing what I had to do, trying to get over my panic.
"Maybe he can't, but I can. Try to stop me," I said from the door, quickly stepping to the side when Voldemort spun around and hurled a hex in my direction.
"Ah, Miss Granger to the rescue, I see." he said smoothly. "Yet another silly girl who wants to sacrifice herself for our little Harry here. So many dead heroes already; one more will hardly matter."
I raised my wand, pulled the Invisibility Cloak off me and aimed a forceful Stunning Spell at Voldemort, who shielded my hex with a loud booming sound that made my stomach turn and my teeth hurt. However, while Voldemort was deflecting my Stunning Spell. I had conjured my trusted flock of canaries and quickly sent them towards him with an Oppugno.
Completely taken by surprise, Voldemort took a moment to understand what was attacking him. The sharp beaks of the small birds mercilessly hacked at his head and arms while he flapped his hands to fend them off.
Using the moment of Voldemort's distraction, Harry raised his wand and yelled, "Avada Kedavra!"
I stared at Harry's face as it changed expression from anger and despair to hatred and pain. Mesmerised, I watched the green flash leave Harry's wand and saw how Voldemort turned around slowly, a mad grin almost splitting his snake-like features in half. He didn't even make an effort to evade Harry's curse but just raised his arms as if wanting to embrace death. His body crumpled.
At that same moment, Harry started to scream and then uttered a high-pitched laugh. I watched in horror as the colour of his eyes changed from green to red, to green, and back to red.
"Think of Ginny," I cried, "of your parents, of Sirius, of Dumbledore. You are loved, Harry!"
For a moment it seemed as if Harry would be able to push Voldemort's spirit out of his body, but he was taken over again and forced to speak.
"Just look at the perfect young body you are giving me, Harry Potter. Your pitiable little bouts of love cannot defeat me this time, for I have control where you have none. The traitor Snape told me how little you can control your emotions, Harry."
That creature … that thing that controlled Harry's body, paused and looked at your writhing form with malicious glee. He kicked you in the ribs and then continued silkily, "This was one of the few occasions where the traitor didn't lie to me. You will learn this control now, Harry. I shall teach you..."
Voldemort's inflection and way of speaking coming from Harry's mouth, spoken with Harry's voice, were almost paralysing me. It was so horrible... I've never heard or seen anything that horrible before. At that moment, I understood the meaning of the saying "there are things worse than death." I am convinced that death would be preferable to being controlled by such a creature, and I know that Harry thought this, too. I was so shocked; I just stood there, mute, not knowing what to do.
"Kill … kill …" Harry rasped with his own voice, but seemed to lose the struggle again. I gripped my wand tightly and slowly raised it.
"Oooh, little Miss Granger will kill her best friend. Isn't that shocking?" Voldemort chuckled evilly. "Will you call it mercy killing, little girl? Is that what you will tell your friends when they find you with his dead body?"
He threw his head back and laughed ecstatically. His body was twitching; apparently, Harry was still fighting inside. Voldemort shook himself, or rather Harry's body, and stalked towards me with jerky, long strides, trying to raise Harry's wand, but Harry was still resisting.
"Look at me, Miss Granger. Aren't you tempted? The most powerful wizard ever known is in the firm young body of your friend. Just think of all the raw magic when I perform the Flesh, Blood and Bone Ritual with this perfect body. Perhaps you would like to provide the blood of the enemy? No?" He blew me a kiss, and I cringed.
"My spirit, my soul in his body can only be an improvement, can it not? He wasn't the brightest fish in the pond, our little Harry. His pompous recitation of all the Horcruxes he'd found was incredibly funny. He thought he had destroyed them all, and that he could surprise me." Now Voldemort was laughing so hard that tears were streaming from Harry's red eyes.
"Who would have thought that little Dorcas Meadowes would be of so much use, after all this time?" He raised his arms like a dancer, made a few steps to the side and smiled. "I will absorb Harry's soul in my loving embrace until nothing is left of him. Soon, I shall have full control–"
But Harry chose that moment to struggle violently. Voldemort stumbled, eyes turning from red to green, and Harry, for it was Harry's way of speaking, choked out, "Kill me, Hermione. Kill me now." He ground his teeth with a sickening sound, exhausted from the effort of resisting the evil wizard who possessed him. His eyes, still green, stared at me in horror and resignation.
I really didn't know what else to do. I couldn't see any other solution. I raised my wand again and Stunned Harry... I attacked my best friend. Then I sent a Petrificus Totalus his way for good measure. I was crying when I saw Harry crash to the ground. Ropes flying from my wand added a third layer of confinement to Harry's petrified and Stunned body.
"I am so sorry, Harry," I whispered and sat down, my legs giving out under me. I didn't sit long, though; I had to know what was wrong with you and Ron. Too shaky to walk, I crawled over to Ron, felt his pulse, and found, to my relief, that he was alive: his pulse was steady, his breathing free and deep. I left him and stumbled to my feet to go and look after you.
A Finite Incantatem stopped your spasmodic writhing, releasing you from the Cruciatus Curse that tormented you. However, your body continued to shake violently, and it looked as if you were choking on your own tongue. I sat down at your side and held your head, trying to prevent you from hurting yourself through your seizures.
I had no idea what else to do to give you release, and I didn't dare to wake Ron, so I sent out my Patronus and hoped that some of the other Order members had survived and would be able to come and help me.
"This is indeed different. I see... So you hadn't known that the seventh Horcrux was made with Dorcas Meadowes' death … Voldemort killed her himself … He was very pleased by her death …"
"Yes, Minerva told me that he killed her. But none of us knew exactly how she was killed. And you weren't in a state to be asked. So Minerva had this idea …"
A week later, I sat in Professor McGonagall's office. She had just been released from St. Mungo's, after having been severely injured when she fought with Aurors, and other members of the Order of the Phoenix, against the Death Eaters, giants, and disgruntled goblins who'd attacked us on several fronts. While our side had succeeded in capturing a good number of Death Eaters and driving the remaining enemies away, it hadn't gone without grave and painful losses. Just as you predicted, Voldemort had issued a full frontal assault, planning to take over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts at the same time, and to make Hogwarts his own headquarters.
And your deception worked. You led him to believe that Hogwarts' defences were weak, and that Harry was fearfully hiding inside the castle. As Voldemort's most trusted advisor, you had accompanied him to the Headmistress' office where Harry was hiding, surrounded by Foe-Glasses, Sneakoscopes, and other warning devices. At least that was what you told Voldemort. Harry was to confront an isolated Voldemort there, supported by Ron, you, and me. The plan was that you would show your true colours at the appropriate moment. But something had gone wrong. Although I was hidden beneath Harry's Invisibility Cloak, I had been Stunned on my way to the office and had lost precious time. You and Ron had been attacked and defeated, and in the end, Harry was facing him alone. I didn't know what had happened at the time, but that confrontation between Harry and Voldemort hadn't gone as planned at all. And if Voldemort could defeat three talented, fully trained wizards at once without weakening – how could we ever hope that Harry could beat him?
"He must have another Horcrux – one we didn't think about," I told Minerva, who looked pale and poorly.
"This is the only possible conclusion. Yes, I agree," Minerva pondered. "It was good thinking on your part to Stun Harry; that has bought us time to find out what we can do now."
"I couldn't kill Harry. I just couldn't …" I said dejectedly. "And I don't think it would have solved anything if I had. Voldemort was so certain, amused even. He'd just have created another body for himself and returned. He knows how it's done after all, doesn't he? Killing Harry would just have released his soul fragment. We will have to find and destroy that Horcrux." I was so tired; I just sat there and rubbed my forehead.
"After all those years of secrecy... It took us two years to find all the Horcruxes. Or what we thought to be all the Horcruxes. We almost gave up; it was so hard to find them …" Professor Dumbledore had given Harry clues, and talking to his portrait helped, but his portrait only knew what the living version had already told us. We were at our wits' end more than once.
"And now there's another Horcrux, and I can't even start to imagine what it could be or where it's hidden. We need to keep this a secret, Minerva! There are still too many Death Eaters out there." At that point, I was rather desperate.
"Yes," Minerva sighed. "That's the sad truth. Somehow, they must have heard what happened, and they know that their master isn't dead. They will try to get hold of Harry's body and attempt to free their master. We have to find a really good place for Harry to stay while we can't afford to let him – or Voldemort – wake up, and while the Horcrux isn't destroyed."
"The only clue we have is what Voldemort said before Harry cast the curse: 'Who would have thought that little Dorcas Meadowes would be of so much use, after all this time?' That's what he said after he took over Harry's body. Wasn't Dorcas Meadowes an Order member who was killed in the first war? I talked to Professor Dumbledore's portrait again, and he was as surprised as we were. He remembered details about Dorcas Meadowes' death, when it occurred and that Voldemort had killed her, but none of that pointed to an item that could have been used."
Minerva thought about that for a while, tapping her lips with a finger. "Dorcas Meadowes … I remember her, too. She was in the Order, a young woman, excellent in Charms. She was spirited, amiable, and an accomplished duellist – Yes, I've heard that it was Voldemort himself who killed her. She must have put up quite a fight."
"And with her death, he must have created a Horcrux. But what item did he use? We've destroyed or ruled out the founders' artefacts. Nagini is dead. The old diary is destroyed." I shook my head, completely hopeless.
I think that hopelessness made Minerva cringe. She had never seen me quite so disheartened. I think she pictured me as the ever-optimistic problem solver; somewhat like you always pictured me as the never-quiet know-it-all …
"We've been asking so many questions, doing so much research, and now I have to start all over again … and alone. Ron isn't in any state to help me." I moaned.
"How is he?"
"Oh, he is recovering, but it will be a while before he can fight again. Voldemort must have aimed a Stunner right at his heart, judging from the symptoms. It's a wonder that Ron survived that."
"You can handle this. I have full faith in you, Hermione," Minerva said with a smile. "You have a name to start out with. That's more than you had for the Ravenclaw artefact. And we've learned that the Horcrux has to be created within hours after the killing, otherwise the torn soul will start to mend again. Thus, the name gives you a time and place. If I recall correctly, Dorcas was killed around the time Severus started teaching, or maybe a bit later. It was several weeks before Harry's parents were killed … Have you asked Severus about her yet?
"Snape isn't in any condition to be asked questions, sadly." I choked out, pitying you. "The Healers don't know if he'll ever come out of that series of seizures triggered by the prolonged Crucio. They told me that I'd surely kill him if I forcefully woke him up to get some answers …" I felt uncomfortable and slightly guilty, and I must have looked it.
"I see," Professor McGonagall said, a gleam of understanding In her eyes. "But for Harry's sake, you were tempted to do just that, weren't you?"
"Yes," I cried worriedly, "and I hate myself for it. For a moment there, I thought that it'd be worth it if Snape died; if he just gave us the information we need. He must know something. Maybe he saw something that could help us. He was attending Death Eater meetings at that time, spying for Professor Dumbledore. Perhaps he saw something that didn't seem important back when he gave his reports to Dumbledore. It was his life against Harry's, or so I thought. But I couldn't do it. I looked at him trembling and twitching in his hospital bed … and I thought of all he had gone through as a spy in Voldemort's ranks. Of all the hatred and fear he'd had to bear from those who should be his true allies. Of his loneliness; the failure of others to understand how he could have killed Professor Dumbledore and still be Dumbledore's most loyal friend."
"We can't show Albus' Pensieve memory to everyone, sadly." Minerva threw in.
"No, but I saw it, and there is no way that I could harm Snape in any way now. I mean, even Harry was moved to tears when he saw Professor Dumbledore's memories..."
"What are Severus' chances?" Minerva asked. She must have been pleased that my old drive and passion were still there, ready to surface at the slightest provocation.
"He's in bad shape, very bad shape. He may not even live for much longer if the seizures continue to get worse." I paused and looked sadly at her. She looked depressed and wiped a stray tear away.
"Merlin, so many good people dead and injured, and we didn't really accomplish anything, did we?" I continued. "How I wish I could turn back time and do it all over again!"
Professor McGonagall looked at me sharply, an odd gleam in her eyes.
"Why don't you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Go back and find that Horcrux. Destroy it. Things will happen differently if you do …"
I was taken aback. "I would have to break about every single rule of time-travelling, wouldn't I? Not even considering the fact that there aren't any Time-Turners any more."
"Rubbish," Minerva exclaimed. "What makes you think that?"
"Err … I was there when they were destroyed, in the Battle of the Ministry, remember? And you told me yourself how difficult and time-consuming it is to make new ones."
"That's correct, but luckily the Time-Turners weren't all destroyed; many of them could be repaired. Furthermore, the Time-Turners in the Ministry aren't the only ones around." Minerva rose and went to a chest of drawers, opened it, and took two small items out.
"Here, you should recognise this. It's the Time-Turner you used in your third year."
I took the small hourglass with great care and looked at it, surprised. "How far back will I have to go? One turn equals one hour, so that would be a lot of turning if I have to go back to the time when Dorcas Meadowes was killed. And I don't know how else I could find out what Voldemort used for the Horcrux. If it could be done through research and through questioning people, shouldn't I have found out by now while searching for the other Horcruxes?" I swallowed and frowned, waiting for a reply. "It's not as if I could just hop back a few days and ask Snape, is it? I likely would run into myself and go mad. And Snape wouldn't tell me anything anyway; he'd have a fit and throw me out."
Minerva smiled slightly at me and nodded. "That's what he would have done, quite likely. And If there had been any indication about another Horcrux elsewhere, you would have found it. Our best chance seems to be time-travel." She paused for a moment, wrinkling her brows. "Yes, you would have to go back that far, back to 1981. That makes … let me see … eighteen years. And of course you are correct; these small Time-Turners aren't the right devices to go back that far with any degree of precision." She paused and winked. "That's why I have something else for you. Perhaps you recognise this as well?"
She gave the second small item to me; I stared at it in wonder. "That's Professor Dumbledore's watch!"
"Precisely." Minerva nodded. "And what do you know about this watch, Hermione?"
"Not, much. I always wondered how he could tell the time with it, but then Ron got a similar watch for his seventeenth birthday, and I learned how it's used. "
"Most of them can indeed be used as chronometers," Minerva confirmed. "But the main purpose of this one here is that of a chrononavigator. "
I stared at her round-eyed. "Oh!"
"Yes." Minerva smiled at my astonished face. "But, this is a well-guarded secret. There are very few chrononavigators around since only the most skilful wizards can make them. This is the only occasion where I can say that Divination has any use. Albus successfully combined Astrology, Charms, and Astronomy and created this amazing device. You remember the restrictions on time-travel?"
"Yes. You must not be seen. You must be extremely careful when changing anything." I recited.
"Exactly. That applies even more to long-term time-travel than to that of a few hours. Just think of the damage that could be done … I will have to ask you to be very, very considerate and careful, Hermione, and only use it to gather information. Try to change as little of the past as possible. You won't have to mind so much about not being seen as no one will recognise you. But even the slightest changes can lead to a completely different here and now. I hope you'll remember this."
"Won't I have to destroy the Horcrux? Won't that be a rather significant change?"
"Unfortunately, yes. But we will have to take that risk. I see no other way to counteract what happened between Voldemort and Harry."
"All right. I'll do it," I said. "And how does this thing work?"
"Look at the twelve hands and the little planets moving around the edge. Each hand stands for a sign of the Zodiac. You'll have to make some calculations. You need to know the constellations for the year, and month you want to travel to, including aspects and houses. I'm certain Sybill can help you if you can't remember the Astrology."
I was horrified, and it must have shown on my face because Minerva laughed.
"She'll help gladly. You don't need to tell her any details, just say it's for Harry. And don't forget to make a chart for your return as well."
I nodded, and she continued, "When you have the charts, you set the little hands and adjust the planets until they show the desired constellation. A spin at the rim will get the hands and planets spinning, faster and faster, until you reach the exact day when that pre-set constellation takes place. Then all you need to do is to take the small Time-Turner and move to the hour you want to reach."
"That's fascinating." I felt the excitement rise in me. "So when do I go?"
"We need to make a few preparations, but it should be as soon as possible. How about we meet here again in three days? When everything is ready, you can start from my office."
"Minerva …" I said hesitantly. "What if I can't come back to this exact time or later, but for some reason need to arrive earlier? Won't I meet myself? Will I go mad?"
"You shouldn't … You should come back a moment after you left." Minerva paused, pinching her nose. "But, if that isn't possible, try to avoid meeting yourself. Because if your two versions meet and see each other … you two will merge. It isn't possible for two versions of one person to exist at the same time, in the same space, when they recognise each other … The two of you will be forced into one person again … with the joint memories."
"Oh, but that's not so bad," I was relieved. "Especially when one version of the Hermiones is prepared for this. I think I can handle myself."
"I hope so, Hermione. I really do hope so …"
"So, you were prepared to kill me."
"No, I wasn't. Didn't you listen? For a brief moment I was willing to risk your life, but then I didn't want to, or I couldn't, really. And don't look at me like that. You wanted to hear the truth, and I'm telling you the truth."
"Risking killing me might have been better than that harebrained scheme the two of you came up with. I still don't understand how you could fool me like this."
"Severus, please! Oh, come now, don't pull your hand away … Look, all I wanted was to get information from you, through you. I saw no other way to get this information and survive. I trusted you. I knew that if all else failed, I could go to you, reveal myself and not have to fear for my life."
"That's what you thought? Foolish, foolish … I could have killed you. Why didn't you go to Dumbledore?"
"Both Minerva and I were convinced that I'd be safe with you. And why would I have wanted to go to Dumbledore? If things turned out as we wanted, none of you should have been aware of my being there. There would have been too much of the future that Dumbledore could have changed with that knowledge, willingly or unwillingly."
"And I couldn't have?"
"You could have, certainly. It was just a choice we made, and it was a good choice. Don't you want to listen to the rest of the story?"
"Very well, then."