"The Seventh Trial"
It was Hogwarts, and it was daytime. She was no longer in the forest, but in the grounds, near where she had met Severus. Severus… Oh, Circe, she ached in so many places. Her heart was the worst. Standing unsteadily, she used some of her fading energy to check the date and time. Yes. Exactly twenty years. That meant that breakfast was still on, which would make it easier to find her friends.
"You cast the Tempus Charm after you bumped into me, not before."
Hermione looked up in fright to see Severus, older Severus, leaning on the tree near where she had knocked him over. Automatically, her hand rose to her cheek and she took a step back. He winced, and started forward.
"Please, Hermione," he said quietly. "Please, please forgive me. I was angry… I never meant to strike you. I'm just so used to people leaving me. You weren't supposed to be from our time, which meant that you'd leave us. I wanted us to be together forever."
Hermione was still backing off, but she stopped when he asked for forgiveness.
"Don't you remember, Sev… Professor Snape?" she asked tiredly. "I forgave you in the forest twenty years ago. Before I left, I forgave you. Why ask for it now?"
"It's been twenty years for me, Hermione; not for you," he said. "Things have changed for me over the years; you've only been away from me for a minute. Please. Tell me what to do to make it up to you. Anything."
"Just leave me be, S-sir." It was a reverse of the day she arrived, and greeted Severus after she had 'met' Professor Dumbledore. "I need to go and see my real friends. They'll be worried. It's been so long since I saw them."
"Yes, it has," Severus said, hurt. "They're waiting for you in the Entrance Hall. We thought that you might arrive today. Everyone's been waiting."
"Th-thank you," Hermione said.
He accompanied her up the slope to the school, talking all the way. She remained silent, no matter how hard he tried to get her to speak.
"Hermione, I can't stand this," Severus said finally, grabbing onto her shoulders to stop her. She tried to draw back, frightened, but he wouldn't let her go. "Damn it, Hermione; I've had twenty years to try and make it up to you, and you weren't even there to see my efforts. If I'd known how to follow you, I would have done. And for the record, you were too quiet for me to hear what you said."
"Please, let me go, Professor," she said, even though she didn't want him to let go.
"I've… I've always loved you, Hermione," he said. "Always. Ever since we met. Why do you think I was so curious to find out your name? Why do you think I asked you out that first day you were at Hogwarts?"
"What about all the years you had to be nice to me when I was a student?" she retorted.
"I didn't think there was any point," he replied. "Really. It wasn't until I saw you in the room of requirement, that I had this crazy moment where I thought that… I thought that maybe you could go and fix things, find the real me, the old me. And yet, the younger me. I had that much faith in you in that moment. You had the motivation, the talent, the dogged persistence."
"You're still my teacher, sir," Hermione said. "And there's a… a significant age difference between us now. So there's little point, is there?"
"You mean that… if I wasn't your teacher, and if we were closer in age," Severus began, hopeful.
"Sir, you can't do anything about our ages!" Hermione said, frowning at him. "Now let me go to see my friends."
Severus let her go coldly, and nodded. She started up the hill, followed slowly by her former boyfriend.
"So you did fall out of love with me," he murmured, but she heard, and whipped around.
"I never could do that; but I lost your trust," she said, and ran to Hogwarts the rest of the way.
In the Entrance Hall, waiting for her return, were three people who she took a few moments to recognise: Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa Malfoy, and Regulus Black were waiting. The happiest grins Hermione had ever seen on anyone broke out on their faces, and they started forward.
But Hermione saw the four Marauders and Lily Potter standing nearby, watching happily as well. When it registered in her mind what she was seeing…
Severus caught her before she could hit the floor.
Harry and Ron were sitting by Hermione's bed when she woke up, and she gave a happy cry to see them.
"Oh, thank Merlin," she said, tears stinging her cheeks. "I thought I'd never see you two again… not until you were born. And even then… well… that's not something to talk about, is it?"
"You're a living legend, Hermione," Harry said, squeezing her hand.
"Well, I guess I'm in good company, Harry," she replied, and he looked confused.
"You being a living legend, too," she said, nodding at him. Then it dawned on her. She had made the big mistake… hadn't she? Had she… had she actually changed the past, to some small degree? And where was…
"Where's your s-scar?" she asked, pushing his fringe back. "Harry, it's gone. What happened?"
"What are you talking about, Hermione?" he asked.
"What's going on?" Ron added, looking between them. "`Mione, what's wrong?"
"The… the lightning-shaped scar. You had it… you got it when Voldemort's spell rebounded off you because of the sacrifice your mother made when you were a baby…"
"Voldemort died twenty years ago," Harry said, frowning. "Come on, Hermione."
"She left before it happened," Dumbledore said, and Hermione turned to see that the headmaster was at her other side, as was Bellatrix Lestrange. "Her memories are clearly what they were before she went back in time."
"So I'll never share the same memories as everyone else," Hermione said, the tears continuing to drip onto the bed clothes.
"I'm so sorry, Hermione," Bellatrix said. "I realise that it's been years for me, but it's been years of mulling over everything that happened that day. I never should have followed his orders… none of us should have. But you… you convinced us that it was the wrong way. It changed everything. Everyone else who was there… we all turned against him that day."
"What?" she whispered. "I'm confused."
"The pain I put you through at his orders… it was shameful."
"I've been hurt worse than that before," Hermione replied, steadfastly not looking at Severus, who was also nearby. In fact, she was surrounded by more and more people as word spread around the ward that she was awake. "So I've got a false past."
"No," Dumbledore said. "Your past is what has made you who you are, and has evidently changed the future for the better."
"That was the idea," Hermione said, grumbling. "This is typical. All I tried to do…"
"If it's any help… here," Severus said, handing over a diary that was identical to Hermione's portkey. "You'll need it."
"What…?" she began, but he was gone.
"He's been looking forward to this day," Lily said. "He's been waiting for you for all these years. Even knowing that you wouldn't want him, he's just wanted to apologise for everything that happened."
"What did happen?" Ron asked. "Is it… is it anything to do with that bruise on her cheek?"
Hermione touched the bruise, and winced. "It doesn't matter anymore, does it?"
"You may want to read that," Regulus said, pointing to the diary. "He's been keeping it ever since you got to Hogwarts, getting as many anecdotes—memories, you see—of your time here as possible. So you can catch up. A sort of abridged version of your Hogwarts life until this moment."
"He… did this?" she asked, and she opened it. Sure enough, his writing covered the pages, and she fingered the words, caressing the paper. "For me?"
"Who else?" Bellatrix asked, and she patted Hermione's hand. "But please forgive me for using that… that spell on you."
"As I said, I've been hurt more than that, and you would have had to become a Death Eater eventually," Hermione replied, clutching her friend's hand. "It was a family thing."
"Did you know that peace was restored to the wizarding world after you left?" Narcissa asked. "Oh, of course not. We used our memories of what you said while you were being tortured," Hermione clenched her hands, "and printed it all out. Every witch and wizard received a copy. It changed everything."
"For the better?" Hermione asked, relaxing her fists.
"Yes," Sirius said. "We never got to thank you for helping us."
"Never considered that, with you gone, we could have gone back to pranking Severus," James admitted. "But it was all for the best."
"I'm glad," Hermione said, nodding. Out of curiosity, she pulled out her portkey, and tried to open it. It worked, and she read what was inside. In her own writing, it told the much shorter story of the defeat of Voldemort. She read through her notes rapidly. It was true; the day she left, the Death Eaters turned on Voldemort. He was given the Dementor's Kiss until all five horcruxes could be tracked down using the memories forcibly extracted from him under torture. He hadn't met Nagini, who Hermione inquired about. She also timidly asked about the prophecy.
"Prophecy?" Dumbledore asked.
"You know. When you met Sybil Trelawney."
"She's the Divination teacher, sir… isn't she?"
"No," he headmaster replied. Hermione was aghast. "Our Divination teacher is Professor Giles. Sensible man."
"A sensible person teaching Divination? Who'd have thought it?" Hermione muttered.
"Maybe you should get some more sleep," Remus said quietly.
"The others want to see you," Harry said eagerly.
"All our other friends," Ron said. "Of course, that's most of the people in our year level. But we were the only ones that you talked about in the 70s, apparently."
"Well, you're my best friends," Hermione said, confused. "You were."
"You've got more best friends than just us," Harry said.
"I'm… I'm going to go back to my rooms… or somewhere else," she said, realising that the guest quarters were probably taken at the moment. They'd certainly have a different password by now. They let her go, understanding her need to be alone.
She found the room of requirement. That was the source of all her problems. That and it's stupid library. Well, to hell with books!
She turned the room into the same library that Severus had created in there, and began to take books from the shelves. She used destructive spells on them, blasting books, setting books on fire. The destruction continued as she burst into fresh tears.
Severus entered the room, closing the door behind himself quietly.
"I wish I'd never changed the past!" she yelled, in tears. "I should have just bloody well stayed here, minding my own business, staying out of the past where I should never have been."
"You were just bringing about what should have happened," Severus replied, his hushed voice a contrast to hers.
"Not the way it should have done," she said, sinking to her knees on the floor. He hurried forward, worried that she might have hurt herself, and knelt down beside her. "I still got sent forward in time, just like last time."
"Last time was supposed to be an accident. This time, it was self-inflicted."
"It was my time to go," she said, her voice finally a whisper. "I couldn't stay there any longer. I'd lost my friends, and was in the company of Lord Voldemort. Life really couldn't get any worse, and had no chance of getting bet…"
Severus kissed her to shut her up. Eventually, Hermione pushed him away, still crying.
"Leave it," she said.
"Why does the past matter?" he asked. "All that matters to me is from the moment we met, and from the moment you came back into my life this morning. The future is more important than the past, because you make the future."
"I changed the past…"
"Shut up about the past!" he said. "Look, you changed it, and it's clearly for the better. Isn't it?"
"…Yes. People are alive, when they should be dead."
"And the Dark Lord is dead."
"What happened after he got the Dementor's Kiss, and they destroyed all the horcruxes?"
"They didn't tell you?"
She shook her head.
"Well, he was executed, partly out of pity. He was just an empty shell, after all."
"…Hermione, I love you. I really love you. Now read the book. The diary. You can read about your past at Hogwarts. I'll disappear from your life altogether if you like. I don't expect anything, and I sure as hell don't deserve anything."
Hermione blinked back further tears. "Sir… Severus… if you leave my life altogether, I'll die. It will kill me never to see you again."
"Then don't send me away."
"But we can't be together," she said, backing away. "Gods, I love you more than anything else, Severus Snape. But I lost all trust in you when you hit me. No. It wasn't then. I just blamed myself for that."
"I behaved like my father, and it sickens me," he said, tears now dripping down his cheeks as well.
"It was when my 'friends' betrayed me to their 'master'—your 'master'—that my trust was gone."
"Why did you place your trust in me in the first place?" he asked. "I was just a stranger; you'd only known me a week."
Hermione stood up. "I knew you long before that, Professor Snape. You just didn't know it then. It was when I told you that the problems started." And with that, she left.
The last Hogsmeade weekend of 1998 came far too quickly for Hermione, and for her friends, the entire Hogwarts seventh year. With a sigh, she walked into the alley where she and Severus had apparated away from that first Hogsmeade day in the 70s, the last time she could do this as a student.
She never thought that Severus, as one of the supervising teachers, would have set things up the way he had last time. He came up from behind her, grabbed her around the waist, and whispered to her to trust him before she was apparated away from that spot before she could scream.
They were in the same forest, but had gone directly to the clearing this time. Hermione was shaking as she got her footing, and pushed herself away from her teacher.
"What the hell are you playing at, S-sir?" she asked. In answer, he pulled something small out of his pocket. When he enlarged it, Hermione recognised it as the same blanket on which they had picnicked so many times. He levitated it to the ring in the ground, and looked at her.
"Do you want lunch?" he asked.
Hermione shook her head, and began to cry. "There's only one thing I want, and that's you, S-severus S-snape."
He swept her into his arms, and kissed her. "Then marry me, damn it. Continue to love me, and I swear I'll marry you. I have your heart, remember? And you have m…"
"I never gave you my heart," she whispered into his ear, and he stilled.
"What?" he asked hoarsely.
"I gave you my body, and my soul… but I always save the best for last. And I've been saving this last until now."
Graduation could never come too soon for Hermione. She and Severus married soon after, with all of their friends in attendance. And what was called "Hermione's Last Speech" was remembered and respected by everyone in the wizarding world. In fact, it was even used sometimes as an audition piece for plays, which amused the Snapes greatly.
And there was never a cross word spoken between them again, because they learned to appreciate not only the present and the future, but the past as well, and never made the same mistakes again.
While Hermione never figured out what precisely her big mistake was, she had a feeling that it was something to do with the sense of déjà vu that had hit her at her wedding to Severus. Every anniversary, she would have a strange dream where she would say, after marrying him, that she made the right choice by going through with it.
After all, the Gryffindor Princess marrying the Head of Slytherin House was a surprise choice.
I hope that was finished satisfactorily enough for you, dear readers. You can decide on what the last trial was for yourselves. Thank you for reading.
I hope that was finished satisfactorily enough for you, dear readers. You can decide on what the last trial was for yourselves. Thank you for reading.