Summary: When you have to choose between the one you love and life the way you knew it, the choice will forever change you. For either choice means you will lose. And when she does not remember how much she once loved you, or how much you loved her, the future does not look as promising as it once did. And to know she now belongs to someone else and hates everything you are will leave her wondering if love really does know no boundaries?
Time: Starts before the HBP and then takes us back to Narcissa's seventh year. at Hogwarts After, it will return to HBP timeline and events will unfold from there, partially sticking to book story line and partially taking my own way :-)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all its characters of course belong to the brilliant JK Rowling. I merely borrow them and create my own magical world. Will put them back where I found them when I am finished.
Pairing: Hermione/Narcissa. Femmeslash. Don't like, don't read!
Rating: M for later chapters
The future influences the present just as much as the past.
The Burrow looked like it always did. Crowded and cramped with too many people and too much food. Everybody sat gathered around the table. There was something hanging in the air. Something she could not quite point out. But as her eyes drifted from face to face she knew it was something bad. Tonks looked desperate. Her hair was still some vague brownish colours. Her eyes were focused on Remus Lupin, who looked scruffier than ever before. There were more strings of random grey in his hair and the rings around his eyes were dark and heavy.
Fred and George looked the same as always if it wasn't for the fact they kept glancing at their mother. Mrs Weasley paced around the dining area, not looking at any of the people who sat gathered around the table. Her face was a mask of disapproval.
At the head of the table sat both Kingsley Shacklebolt and Arthur Weasley, side by side. It was their presence that had caused this change in atmosphere, Hermione realized. She glanced at Ron, who sat across her. And for some reason Mrs Weasley had not sent Ginny out of the room.
But it wasn't just the presence of Kingsley Shacklebolt that made Hermione so aware. Beside her sat a witch of great skill. She had emerald green eyes that sparkled behind her glasses. She wore emerald green robes and her black witch's hat. Minerva McGonnagal had been an unexpected arrival at the Burrow this evening and everybody knew she had come here on behalf of Albus Dumbledore himself.
"Is anybody going to say anything?" Ron broke the silence, his voice betraying he was annoyed by the fact everybody seemed to just sit around, waiting for the grass to grow.
"I think Ron has a point. Silence isn't going to get us anywhere," Mr Weasley agreed with his son and nodded to Minerva before glancing at Kingsley at his side. Strangely enough he avoided making eye contact with his wife, Hermione noticed. "There is a very important reason why we have asked you all to come tonight. Now that we know You-Know-Who has returned to his full power we need to gain as much information as we possibly can. However, much of the knowledge about You-Know-Who lies in the past, not in the present or the future."
"We are attempting to recruit Horace Slughorn as a teacher for Hogwarts," Minerva spoke, her Scottish accent sending a shiver down Hermione's spine "Albus should be meeting with him as we speak. It is important he returns to Hogwarts this year. Now more than ever. But, unfortunately, it will not be enough. We need an informant. Someone who can give us answers we cannot find today. We need someone who can tells us more... not about You-Know-Who, as Albus has done so himself. But we need to know who his followers are, but mostly what can be done to maybe pull them to our side."
Hermione remembered the manic expression she had seen on Bellatrix Lestrange's face during the Battle at the Ministry and she thought it was going to take one hell of an informant to lure that dark woman to their camp. She shared a look with Ron and knew he felt the same when she saw how he rolled his eyes. Beside her, Minerva McGonnagal sat up in her chair.
"The only way to retrieve the information is to send someone back in time," she said. It was as if she had just spoken out someone's death sentence. The silence that followed her words was deafening and lasted until Mrs Weasley dropped a glass. The sound of the shattering glass stirred a whisper amongst the people sitting around the table. Tonks looked at Lupin, Fred and George whispered something no one could hear. Only Minerva, Mr Weasley and Kingsley sat quietly as they took in the reaction. It was clear Mrs Weasley did not agree with this decision, though there was very little she could do. The plans were made up. The Order had to send someone back into the past to retrieve the desired information.
Kingsley Shacklebolt raised his hand and the whispers died down. Suddenly his deep brown eyes caught Hermione's half way down the table and she was captivated, unable to look away. His voice was soothing, calm and deep when he spoke. "During the battle at the Ministry the collection of Time-Turners was destroyed. Only one remains. This Time-Turner is our only hope and our only chance to send one person back in time for quite a few years. To be exact, this person will return to Hogwarts during the time in which it was home to Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy and other known Death Eaters."
Hermione's breathe chocked in the back of her throat. She had used the Time-Turner in her third year to be able to take all her classes. Never had she realized it was capable of sending someone years back in time. She looked at Minerva and now recognised the golden necklace with the hourglass pendant around her neck. The older witch had kept it with her all this time and now it was the last one of its kind. And the only choice they had to fight their battle against Voldemort.
"Hermione," spoke Mr Weasley and she immediately looked at Ron's father. He did not have to speak any more. She knew what he was going to ask her. She swallowed back the lump she felt and clenched her fists under the table. She felt all eyes rest upon her. "We have debated long and hard about who we are to send. Some of us..." He glanced at his wife. "…disagree with the choice that has been made. Yet, nothing can be done if the person in question does not agree or does not wish to take on the task placed upon them." He paused. She knew what he was asking.
Fear was a useless emotion, she realized. It only made a person weak. And weakness would prove to be futile. Inside her roared the lion of braveness that belonged to Gryffindor. It was stupid, maybe. Mad, that was for sure and completely out of this world. But did she have a choice? Voldemort needed to be stopped, no matter what. Hermione's eyes widened and she met Mr Weasley's eyes and she firmly nodded.
"I will," she answered, suddenly feeling Minerva's warm and protective hand on her shoulder.
"NO!" It was Ron who shouted and suddenly he looked like a male version of his mother. The same emotional objection lay in his eyes. "This is absolutely mental! You can't send her back in time to hang out with a bunch of crazy Death Eaters!"
"We are open to other suggestions, Ronald," Minerva cut of Hermione, who had opened her mind to tell him he was being stupid and Hermione sat dumb struck, staring at her mentor in surprise. She had never expected Minerva to speak to Ron on such a tone. "But since there does not appear to be an alternative, I suggest we let Miss Granger decide whether she feels it right to take on this mission."
"Hermione?" asked Lupin friendly, looking at her sideways. "Are you sure? No one can force you to take on this mission if you don't want to."
Hermione did not feel hesitation. She knew she had to do this. Her voice did not betray fear. Inside her the lion still roared. She thought about Harry for a moment. She knew he would not have doubted what he would have done and neither did she. "I am sure. I want to do this."
"Minerva, will you please fill in Hermione on what is expected from her during this mission?" Kingsley said as around them Fred, George, Ron and Ginny all appeared to be outraged and shocked by what had been asked of Hermione. Minerva nodded, already taking Hermione's arm as she stood up "At the same time we will make sure the others understand."
Hermione followed Minerva outside, leaving the outraged whispering behind. The darkness of the night was quiet and was a welcome retreat from the lively buzzing inside. Hermione eagerly took in the fresh evening air and felt how a soft summer wind pulled her hair. When she looked beside her she found Minerva apparently enjoyed the same sense of freedom. Just as she was about to look away, Minerva glanced aside and her green eyes caught Hermione's.
"You are a brave young witch, Miss Granger," Minerva said, her voice warm and kind. "Are you afraid?"
"A bit," Hermione answered honestly and sighed "But how can I not accept, Professor? I have to do this. Look at Harry. Look at what he had to go through in all these years. I don't think any of the people inside have realized that doing this is nothing compared to what he had to endure over the years, yet they seem to accept that as something that simply is the way it is."
"Spoken like a true Gryffindor," Minerva answered with pride lingering in her voice "There is one thing they did not tell you inside, Hermione. You do not have a lot of time. This mission needs to start as soon as possible. You will have to leave early tomorrow morning, before dawn. Time for preparation is short. I need you to listen and I need you to listen carefully. There are no second chances."
Hermione nodded. Her heart was racing in her chest. She did not lie when she said she did not feel fear. Adrenaline raced through her veins. Her mind was buzzing. "I am ready, Professor. If I don't do this now, I know I never will again."
Minerva's green eyes sparkled behind her glasses and she pointed at the bench at the end of the garden. They strode across the grass in silence and sat down underneath the star riddled sky. Hermione looked at the older witch. She had looked up to her from the moment she arrived at Hogwarts. Minerva McGonnagal was not only her Head of House; she was a mentor and an inspiration.
"You will return to Hogwarts and you will be placed in Slytherin as a seventh year student. Only Professor Dumbledore and I will be aware of your true personality, Hermione. To everybody else you will be Rose Cabot, daughter of a pure blood Wizarding family. You will need to select those who are likely to become Death Eaters. You will recognise their last names. Black, Lestrange, Rosier, Malfoy," Minerva said and in her eyes Hermione saw her worries. "Show your appreciation for the Dark Arts; befriend them if you must or if you can but never risk your own safety."
"When you say the Blacks, do you mean Bellatrix and Narcissa?" Hermione questioned and Minerva nodded.
"You will recognise them, I think. But it is becoming close that will prove difficult. Especially Bellatrix never was the type of girl to let anyone close to her. You may have a better chance of getting to her through Narcissa. She used to be quite friendly to her fellow Slytherins," Minerva answered and suddenly she took Hermione's hand "you are about to enter a very dangerous situation, Hermione. You must never forget that. Once your there, you are on your own. Professor Dumbledore and I will be watching you but it will have to be you who completes this mission."
"Professor, how do I return to my own time?" Hermione suddenly asked nervously, realizing no one had told her how long she would be gone for.
"The Time-Turner has a limit. It has been magically applied by Professor Dumbledore himself. It means you cannot stay any longer than two months and at any given time you can be returned to our own present time without consequences. The amount of time cannot be exceeded unless you choose to stay," Minerva answered, sensing the nervous tone in Hermione's face "But I believe you would be rather eager to return to the present, Miss Granger."
Hermione nodded. She glanced at the Burrow. People were walking around inside. She recognised Ron's silhouette and even heard Fred's voice. Tomorrow morning she would leave all of this behind and travel years back in time. She would be alone. Tomorrow all of this would be nothing more than a memory. She sighed. Her heart had eased down in her chest and she looked up when Minerva placed a hand on her arm. She met those emerald green eyes as they looked into her brown ones. "I am very proud of you, Hermione."
"Thank you, Professor," Hermione answered softly and stood up. "Since I only have a few hours left, maybe we should go back inside?"
Morning broke soon. She opened her eyes as someone touched her forehead and she immediately sat up. Someone stood over her bed, holding a candle. She blinked a few times before she realized it was Mrs Weasley. Her face was a mask of worry and Hermione knew she still did not agree with this mission. Quietly she slipped out of bed and dressed in a pair of jeans and a hooded sweater. She had no idea what to wear or what to do. She had packed a bag with some small items she thought she might need, but most of all to remember her of all of this while she was gone.
Last night she had said goodbye to everybody. Lupin had kissed her cheek before whispering in her ear that if she saw his younger self she had to kick his ass. It was the first time she realized she would meet people she knew in this time while they were younger.
Harry had been the only one she had not said goodbye to. He arrived at the Burrow after she had gone to bed and there was no time to see him now. She would have to trust on the fact she would see him when she returned. She climbed down the stairs that lead from the room she shared with Ginny to the living room and found a small gathering of people waiting for her. The room was filled with anticipation when she walked in. The first set of eyes she met were bright blue and belonged to Hogwarts' Headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
"Good morning, Hermione," spoke Minerva who stood next to Dumbledore, though it looked nothing like morning outside. Dawn had not even broken yet. There was no sunshine rising over the hills. There was simply darkness.
"Good morning," Hermione whispered as her eye caught the golden necklace around Minerva's neck. For the first time she wondered whether she really was ready for this. But there was no way back now. Bravely she stepped further into the dining area to find Mr Weasley was also present and he shared a nervous look with his wife.
"When the Time-Turner stops you will find yourself standing in an empty field. By your feet lies a shoe. It is a Portkey. Take it immediately. You will arrive at Hogwarts in the Great Hall. I shall be waiting for you to escort you to your House," said Dumbledore as if it was the simplest thing she was ever going to do "There Professor McGonnagal will see to it you will be escorted to your dormitory and that you receive your robes and books. Do you have any questions, Miss Granger?"
She had known Dumbledore long enough to know never to doubt him. He was after all the most brilliant wizard that had ever walked the surface of this Earth. "No, sir," she answered softly, her eyes looking at nothing or no one in particular.
Dumbledore shared a look with Minerva. "It is time, Miss Granger."
Mrs Weasley wrapped her arms tightly around her, hugging her firmly and almost squeezing all the air out of her lungs. Hermione closed her eyes for a moment and when Mrs Weasley let go she shook Mr Weasley's hand. She then stepped towards Minerva McGonnagal who had taken the necklace from her own neck and carefully hung it around Hermione's. The Time-Turner rested on her chest. Minerva's slim hands reached up and took the hourglass and started twisting it, whispering a soft incantation as she did so.
"See you soon," Minerva then suddenly whispered as she stepped away and watched the Time-Turner spin against Hermione's chest. Within seconds her image became a distant blur and then disappeared.
Hermione did not look at the Time-Turner spinning but simply closed her eyes. A strange, cold sensation ran over her as the world around her moved in all different directions. Fragments of voices and flashes of lights found their way to hear but none of it lasted long enough to tell her where she was or what was going on. It went on for minutes before all of a sudden, it stopped. There was nothing but silence around her.
Hermione carefully opened her eyes. She was standing outside, in the middle of a field. Like Dumbledore had said. The sky was still dark and filled with stars. To her shock she realized she was still standing at the exact same spot as minutes ago but where the Burrow used to be there was now just an empty field. There was no sign of a house ever having been here, let alone the living room she had been standing in. Her eyes wandered around. It appeared to be corn field she was standing in. She then looked down and found the shoe Dumbledore had mentioned. She bent over and reached out one finger to touch the dirty leather. A quick, unexpected and strong yank nearly swapped her of her feet as the Portkey was activated and she found herself flying through time and space again. She only just managed to stay on her feet as the nauseating feeling subsided. She opened her eyes and immediately recognised where she was.
The Great Hall had not changed in all these years. It looked exactly like it would do so many years from now. She looked around, her eyes desperately searching for Dumbledore. She found him standing by what looked like the Slytherin table. Clearly he was unaware of her arrival as he was still looking at the parchment he held in his hand. As she carefully approached him the parchment magically disappeared and his blue eyes looked up to find hers.
"Good morning Miss Granger," he spoke friendly as his blue eyes twinkled behind his glasses. His beard was not as long or as grey as she remembered it to be and he looked quite a few years younger. His robes were a dark blue, matching well with the sparkling blue of his eyes "Or should I say, Miss Cabot,"
Hermione smiled, unsure what to answer. "Good morning Professor."
"Come, we must not let Professor McGonnagal waiting at this early hour," Dumbledore said as she strode towards the door that lead out of the Great Hall. With quick steps Hermione followed him. Instead of up the stairs he took her down to the dungeon. Hermione realized he was taking her to the Slytherin common room. She had never been there though she knew it was in the dungeons somewhere. She listened to the noises of the castle. They still sounded the same. The portraits still whispered – though maybe there were not as many as there would be several years later. Many looked surprised to find Dumbledore make his way down to the dungeons, followed by a student, in these early hours of the day.
The dungeons were dimly lit by several torches that carried everlasting fire. Hermione followed Dumbledore closely. So far she knew where she was. They had just passed the Potions classroom. But Dumbledore took her further down the stone corridor, deeper into the dungeons and what appeared to be further away from castle's main building. They reached a stone wall, which quickly proved not to be a simple wall at all. As Dumbledore stated the password the wall was revealed to be trapdoor and to her surprise, Minerva McGonnagal appeared from the shadows behind them.
"Good morning," Minerva said and Hermione had to blink a few times before she recognised the Transfiguration Teacher. Where Dumbledore looked quite the same, Minerva did not. She looked younger. She was younger. Her ash blonde hair was not yet riddled with grey and fell freely and wavy down her shoulders. She was not wearing her familiar glasses and her emerald green eyes glistened in her sharp lines face. "I will take it from here, Albus." She gave the Headmaster a friendly nod and he strode back off into the darkness of the dungeons, leaving Hermione with Minerva.
"When you walk through this door, there is no way back," Minerva whispered, nervously glancing at the now open entrance to Slytherin common room "A seventh year student will be waiting for you inside. Slughorn has asked them to show the new arrival around. From here onwards you are Rose Cabot." She put a hand on Hermione's shoulder, carefully urging her towards the entrance. "Be careful and good luck."
Hermione felt how Minerva watched her as she climbed through the trapdoor. When she looked up she found herself standing in the Slytherin common room. It was a dim lit, dungeon style room with a low ceiling. The room was simply made out of dark grey stone. A green light was cast into the room through a few small windows and she realized the room was situated right underneath the lake. The sofas and armchairs were all made out of black leather and all carried the Slytherin serpent as a logo. All lampshades were green, matching Slytherins prime colour. Skulls riddled the walls and a large fire burned fiercely in the fireplace. The room felt cold and very much like a dungeon. The only thing missing were the bars on the window, it was completely the opposite of how Hermione remembered Gryffindor common room.
Hermione spun around when she heard the voice behind her and she froze when she caught sight of the person standing behind her. She was faced with the slim figure of a young woman, a few inches taller than herself, with long blonde hair and pale blue eyes. Her skin was light, almost porcelain white, and looked somewhat frail. She was wearing the familiar black with green stitched Slytherin robes and appeared to be a seventh year. She had been sitting in one of the armchairs but now that Hermione arrived, she stood up.
"You must be Rose Cabot," the girl spoke distantly, looking at Hermione from head to toe as if to decide whether she approved of her or not. There was a look in her eyes Hermione recognised. It was the same look this blonde haired girl had given her so many years later, though of course this Slytherin girl didn't know. "Professor Slughorn has asked me to show you around during your first day at Hogwarts. This is the Slytherin common room." Her hand carelessly gestured around the room. She paused briefly and for the first time since Hermione saw her she smiled. She had never seen her smile. It changed every expression on her face and clearly she had approved of Hermione's arrival. "I am Narcissa Black."