Hello Lovely Readers!
You know, it's probably suicide for me to try and write three stories at once, but there's a very high chance that this one won't have a sequel like my other two, so I think I may be able to cope. I hope this story will meet your standards and don't forget to let me know if it does or doesn't! Reviews are essential people! Just remember that.
Disclaimer: The wonderful J.K owns everything I could ever possibly want, including most of the characters in this story. I bow my head to her wonderful, magical mind.
Chapter one: Last Chance
Buzzing. That was all she heard as she listened to the Order bicker over and over and over again. Like static on the T.V, a constant buzz of the same arguments, the same negotiations and the same result...nothing. She may only have been seventeen years of age, but even she could tell that they were getting nowhere and getting nowhere fast. Ever since Harry had been ambushed at Privet drive almost a week ago, there were no plans of action, there were no secret weapons. Effectively, they had all given up. Hermione felt like she had aged several years in only a matter of hours as she tried desperately to get them organized and under control. She knew what was best at the time, yet no one wanted to listen to the musings and knowledge of a silly little girl. Even if she was the best friend of Harry Potter. Then again, that was partly the reason, why they didn't want to listen to her. She was Harry's best friend, the one that knew what he had been up to, and yet failed to stop him from dying in a blazing battle of glory. They had lost faith in her abilities, in her knowledge, in her skills, the moment Harry's body came to rest on their door step.
"We need to attack!" Moody smashed his hand on the table violently, "We need to strike back before he thinks he's gotten to us!"
"And what good will that do?" Arthur argued, "Lets face it, he has gotten to us! Taken our only hope away..."
The buzzing grew louder and louder as she tried to tune them out and come up with a plan. She knew the horcruxes were still out there, she knew they had to get to them before Voldemort knew that they knew, well...that she, Ron and Ginny knew. She hadn't been able to get a word in about Voldemort the entire time since Harry had gone, and Ron and Ginny were always too aggrieved to say anything at meetings anyway. Hermione herself hadn't found time to shed tears for her fallen brother. The grief was there, ready to overflow and spill and reek havoc upon all those around her. In truth, the entire Order had been waiting for her to explode and lash out at them for the past three days, but she didn't even make a sound.
She distantly registered a hand on the small of her back. She looked up to see Draco smirking down at her. They were on the brink of destruction, and he still found the audacity to smirk? He really hadn't changed. After he had failed to kill Dumbledore the year before, he had run to the Order, with Snape's help of course and hadn't turned back ever since. He was still the same sarcastic bastard of a Malfoy, but he had tamed and showed that he wasn't as they all thought he was. He had been a small comfort to her in the past few days, staying up with her as she drank a customary bottle of firewhiskey every night to get to sleep, and then take her up to bed, completely devoid of memory in the morning of having acquired such humility.
"What we really need to do is calm down," Molly told them all quietly.
"I will calm down when justice has been served!" Remus screamed.
He was by far grieving the most, staying up night and day, trying to find a solution to his ever daunting sorrow. While Hermione drank herself to sleep, she could hear him cursing and hexing desks in a nearby classroom each night, taking his anger and resentment out on anything and everything he could get his hands on. But he too, ignored her, and so she didn't lift a finger to make him feel any better. Why should she? If he was not willing to hear the truth, why should she bother to try and enlighten him? Give him the solution he so desperately sought? She shook her head. She knew it was wrong to keep such information from them, to let them suffer the way they did, wallowing in their grief, not for a boy they loved, but for an idea they loved even more than the boy behind it. The idea of a saviour, a solution, a one way ticket to a false paradise. They had all been under the influence of Dumbledore's sugar quills for far too long.
Draco sat down beside her as the rest continued to argue in the headmistress' office, Minerva McGonagall having given up on trying to control them over an hour ago.
"Do you think they'll ever notice you have something to offer?" He asked her quietly bellow the noise.
"Do you think they'll ever stop arguing?" She asked back, a headache beginning to form.
He smirked down at her.
"We're as good as dead then," he told her.
Despite the morbidness of the situation, she smirked back.
"I know," she whispered.
Silently, they slipped out of the office and walked the halls, leaving the meeting, knowing that nothing would ever be decided. It was odd how she had become so familiar with Malfoy, how he seemed to know what she needed before even she did, yet it was no surprise. He knew all about grief, having lost his mother only half a year back, and it only made sense that he would help he through this now, yet she still found it odd that she didn't flinch away from him when he placed a hand on her shoulder, just to let her know that he was behind her, or an arm around her waist, to save her from the hormonal students running about the castle. He used to ridicule her, he used to tease her mercilessly, and yet now he was holding her as she passed out in a drunken stupor at night, choosing not to say anything about it in the morning.
"Should we go and get something to eat?" He asked her, "You haven't eaten all day."
And again, he knew what was coming that night, so it was more of an order than a request. He still had that Malfoy air of superiority after all.
"I'll grab something later," she told him, "You can go if you want."
Normally she wouldn't refuse to join him, but she didn't really feel like food. Her stomach was in knots, her head was pounding. What she really needed now was a drink. Draco suddenly stopped, and stopped her to by holding onto her elbow.
"If you're going to perform your nightly ritual then you need something in your stomach Granger," he said dangerously.
"You aren't my father so you don't get to decide what I need Malfoy," she told him, just as low, but with a little more scorn perhaps.
Losing her patience, she wrenched her elbow out of his grasp and marched towards her chambers. Since she had graduated school only a mere three days before hand, McGonagall had offered her a place as the new Defence teacher. It was an odd decision, but everyone seemed to agree it was the right one...if only to save their own skins from the DADA curse. They effectively thought that they were sacrificing her to Voldemort by letting her take up the post, which was only intensified by her age. She really was starting to hate the lot of them.
When she got to her rooms on the seventh floor, she went to her liquor cabinet without even thinking. It had become such a routine that it was almost second nature to her now, but when she found she was out of firewhiskey, her routine was instantly broken. She hurled the first object she could see, a can opener from memory, and watched as it broke into several pieces. She breathed heavily, trying to calm herself but to no avail. Her anger scorched her veins and pounded her headache even further into her psyche. Curse the stupid Order and their incessant mouths!
"Why can't I just get what I want!" She screamed into the night.
"Because that would be fair," came a voice from the shadows, frightening her slightly, "And as you should have discovered by now, even by Gryffindor standards, life.isn't.fair."
She turned to look at the imposing figure of Severus Snape, a small glare within her eyes. She never glared at him fully anymore, knowing what he had sacrificed for the greater good. He had cleared his name when he came back to the Order, permitting them to see his memories so that they would believe him, and just for Harry's sake, enduring an embarrassing round of questions under Veritaserum. After that, he resumed his post as Defence teacher, until Hermione was old enough to take over, and he became a full time Order member, living within the castle and sharing quarters with her. They had formed a sort of...alliance during that time, she telling him what was going through Harry's head as things got harder and harder, and he helping her to control his outbursts and tantrums. Although he was meant to save the world, Harry never grew up from that frightened eleven year old who met his maker at the age of one.
"I don't want life to be fair," she told him, striding past him and out of the kitchen, "I just want something, anything to go my way! Anything at all!"
It had begun, she was starting to fall apart. After a week of drinking and keeping her emotions under control, she was starting to lose herself, and in a matter of seconds, it would all be over. She registered it within the depths of her mind, the idea swimming among her thoughts of loss, of fate and of revenge, but for once, she didn't try to stop the inevitable, or control something that was too wild or untamed. She let it happen, because to be fair, she had been fighting a losing battle.
"As it is often the case you will find that nothing will ever go your way again," he scorned, following her out of the kitchen, "That does not give you the excuse to fall apart."
"How about losing my best friend?" She screeched at him, "Does that register on your non-existent pain radar? Or does it just fall short behind losing the one you love to your most hated enemy?"
She knew that the comment had struck a chord, but he kept quiet and glowered at her. If it had been Harry that had said it, he would have been murdered on the spot, but because it was her, he would let her live. He, unlike the others, knew that she had something left to offer, and if she could just hold on that little bit longer, she would find the solution she had been looking for. She couldn't break now, not when she was needed so desperately.
He watched her as she paced their living room, fuming at herself and at everyone around her, her anger pouring from the very depths of her soul, but there were no tears. He didn't expect them to come just yet, and he had to stop her before they did, because once she let them flow from her chocolate eyes onto her porcelain cheeks, she wouldn't be able to stop.
"I know that you-"
"You don't know anything-"
"Let me finish!" He roared back, raising his voice for the first time since she had known him. It was almost frightening until he calmed down and looked at her, composed once more, "I know you are frustrated, with yourself, but more so with the idiots around you. You know what they need and yet they won't hear a word you have to say. You are grieving for the loss of Potter, you are confused out of your mind and you are holding on by a piece of string that could snap at any moment, but you must listen to me before it does."
"Why should I?" She asked him incredulously, "Why should I be the one to listen? Why not Ron, or Ginny, or hell, even Malfoy!"
"Because they are not the brightest student this school has seen in the last fifty years, that's why!" He roared at her, "You have to hold on, you have to find the solution, because those dunderheads in the Headmistress' office will bicker and argue until the very end!"
"Why can't you do it?" She asked him quietly, "Why does it have to be me?"
His eyes seemed to soften in an un-Snape-ish manor, as he walked over to her side of the room and placed his hands on either side of her face.
"Because I am a tired old man, fresh out of ideas, who lost all hope years before this war began," he whispered to her, "And Weasley would botch it up, his sister would lose her temper and Malfoy may be smart, but he's too much of a Slytherin to put his life at risk again."
She couldn't believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. He had never once given her praise as a child and yet now he was giving her all the adoration in the world. She thought for a moment that he may be lying just to get her to do what he wanted, but it soon faded when she saw the look in his eyes.
"I don't want to," she whispered, "I can't."
"If you can't do it," he whispered back, just as quietly, "Then we are all dead. You are the last one left that could possibly equal him. Dumbledore is gone, I no longer have my strength and McGonagall and the rest of them would die within seconds of meeting him-"
"You're asking me to do the impossible," she muttered.
"I'm asking you to do what you were born to do," he told her.
She looked at him in confusion.
"It was Harry the prophecy-"
"Not every prophecy is fulfilled," he shook his head, "Something dear Albus thought he should never mention. But just as they are never fulfilled, some are never made."
"If you thought this was my task, then why didn't you tell Dumbledore?" She asked him, her anger rising again, pushing him away, "Why didn't you save Harry?"
"I did tell Dumbledore," he told her earnestly as she began pacing again, "But he was always single minded concerning Potter, and he pushed that unfortunate character trait onto Potter himself. Dumbedore did not listen, and Potter never would have."
"Harry would've listened," she said indignantly, "He always listened."
"Your view of him has become corrupted in the past few days," Snape told her, a firm scowl on his face, "Before he died you were telling me how immature he had become-"
"Shut up," she whispered, not wishing to hear her own words spouted with such scorn.
"How the prophecy had scared him, how he would never be the man he was born to be-"
"Shut up," she said, a little louder, glaring at him with all her might.
"How Dumbledore asked too much of him," he continued, unperturbed, "How he would never kill the Dark Lord on his own, how he had become a weak minded child-"
"SHUT UP!" She screamed and lunged at him, but he was ready for it. He grabbed her and slammed her into the dining room table, head pressed against the wood, arms trapped between Snape's body and her own.
"Why me?" She asked him vehemently again, "Why am I the only one who can't fall apart! They've all shed their tears-"
"And you will shed yours," he whispered back harshly, "But not yet. You aren't allowed to fall apart because you possess what the Dark Lord praises above all else. Intellect, cunning, stubbornness-"
"And the one thing he despises most," she argued back, trying to struggle free of his bizzar hold.
"It is not important," he said, finally swinging her round, holding her wrists and backing her into the wall instead, "Not when he doesn't know who you are..."
He glued her wrists to the wall with one hand, and dove into his pocket with the other, pulling out what she thought to be a time turner. Her eyes widened at the sight of it.
"You are the only one that can face him," he whispered to her hoarsely, "The only one that can figure out his weaknesses. All you need is the information, straight from the Dragon's den..."
"And what does the rest of the Order have to say about this?" She asked him quietly, still glaring at him.
"Do you really think that I would tell those idiots about something as brilliant as this?" He asked her, sarcasm dripping from his words, dangling the golden watch in front of her, "This is our only chance."
"It's the only chance you see."
"It's the only chance left," he said exasperatedly, "Look at the facts Granger. Potter is dead, you are catering to a bunch of idiots who won't listen to you and those that will are either old and desperate or young and naïve. We are doomed in this time."
"How long have you been considering this?" She asked him.
"Since the beginning," he told her honestly, "Since your fifth year when I knew we would lose this war. I held onto your time turner in your third and made alterations. This will take you back fifty six years into the past where you will change the course of history and save us from him. Gain his trust and then come back with the information we need. I don't care how you do it, the point is that you will."
She stared at the offending object, her heart pounding in her chest as the double meanings behind all Severus' words washed over her.
"I can't fall apart," she gulped as he slowly released her from the wall, "Because I am about to venture into the mouth of doom."