Title: raison d'être
Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: "You want to make things better? It's simple; save Fred Weasley." In which Hermione redoes Deathly Hallows and fixes it all, including herself.
imagine a world without me, say you're falling apart
let's pretend you've missed me for a while
- fact/fiction, mads langer
Heaving a deep sigh, Hermione closed her door and sank back against it. She didn't even have to try to know that Ron was still on the other side, in her hallway, hoping she would change her mind and invite him inside.
She just…couldn't. Not yet. Things between them were still too shaky.
It was ridiculous, as both Ron and Ginny kept telling her, to still keep such a distance between herself and her boyfriend of almost three years. But that didn't stop the niggling feeling that something was off whenever they were together these days. Not bad, just off, in some small way that she couldn't pinpoint and didn't understand.
A scratching at the living room window drew her attention and a small smile flitted over her lips when she saw the Weasley family owl sitting on the sill. She opened it and stood back as Barnsey, a gift from Hagrid, did a few laps around her light fixture before making himself comfortable on the coffee table. He extended his leg to Hermione, who untied the bundle carefully with one hand and scratched his head with the other. Once free of his load, he shot out of the window, not even waiting for the treat Hermione usually gave him.
Found these in an old sweets box while I was cleaning, and thought you might like to have them-Love, Molly.
The envelope was a little tattered, most likely due to Barnsey's mad dash from the Burrow. Molly had been a bit of a cleaning spree lately, coinciding with the arrival of her first grandchild, and had a habit of sending any number of odds and ends to her children and those she considered to be practically hers. The contents turned out to be a small stack of photographs, going all the way back to her first year at Hogwarts. She recognized the picture on top, having seen it numerous times in Harry's photo album, but didn't know how Molly had gotten a copy. Seeing herself with Harry and Ron at eleven was a little shocking, still, reminding her that she had pretty much been building her life around them for close to half her life.
She wondered, briefly, how differently her life would have been if not for one strategically placed mountain troll.
The second picture was another one she had seen before, her and Ginny before Bill and Fleur's wedding, taken by Mrs. Delacour while they were helping the bride get ready. Next came the summer after the war, her and Harry sitting under the big tree at the Burrow, laughing over something Ron was doing out of the frame. She couldn't even remember what it was anymore, only that it felt so good to finally laugh again. At anything.
She continued flipping through them, a sea of familiar faces, some she saw on a regular basis, some that were no longer here, smiling up at her. She was in the majority of them-probably being the factor that prompted Molly to send them to her in the first place, but there were some where she was absent, replaced by Ginny or Harry or Ron, Neville in some, or Hagrid. But each one caused a deep pang in her chest when she realized that she hadn't had a whole lot of moments like those in the last few months of her life.
When Hermione came to the last picture she sat down on the arm of her couch.
After three years Hermione had grown accustomed to the feeling of shock and displacement that washed over her when it would again hit her that Fred Weasley was no longer around.
She knew of course, intellectually at least. It had been the biggest, most gaping reminder of what war could truly do, the loss of someone so young and so painfully alive. It was still hard sometimes to sit at the dinner table at the Burrow and not let her eyes drift to the empty chair that had always unofficially been his.
Looking down at the figures in the frame, Hermione tried to smile but it was difficult, seeing her fourteen year old self sandwiched between a smiling Fred wearing green face paint and Harry in that ridiculous hat at the Quidditch World Cup. Hermione flipped it over. The only words scrawled across the back were 'Harry, Hermione, and Fred. World Cup, 1994' which she already knew. She had no idea who had taken the picture, at what point during the game, or even how Molly had come to have it. But the gesture was still appreciated. It must have been difficult for her to give up a picture of Fred to anyone, and she was grateful Molly had sent it to her, though she mentally reminded herself to ask her if she would like a copy, and to make one for Harry as well.
Hermione turned the picture back over, staring at the three faces, laughing, happy, carefree for that brief moment in time, and felt her heart break for what became of those three kids, and all the ones not shown in the tiny square before her.
Before she climbed into bed, Hermione tucked the photo into the frame of the mirror over her dresser, staring at it for a long time in the moonlight after she went to bed.
The whole next day Hermione had the feeling that she was being watched. She couldn't explain it, and there was never any evidence that was happening outside of her head, and yet the feeling would not abate. She went about her day, poring over ordinances and complaints, reading up on the new regulations in wait to be approved or denied, she had lunch with Harry and had a lengthy conversation with Mr. Weasley when she ran into him on the third floor. She went about her day just as she always did, but the hair on the back of her neck remained on end until she locked the door to her flat and exhaled a breath that had been caught in her throat all day.
Crookshanks walked over to her and wound his way around her legs, purring in the overly sweet way he was prone to do whenever it was obvious she was stressed or upset. She bent to scratch his head and then went to change.
A thump, followed by a long creak, caught her attention, and she didn't even bother to finish changing before she dashed out of her bedroom, wand drawn…
…only to see herself standing in her living room, a bemused expression on her face, Crookshanks looking between the two of them.
"Wha-how…who are you?"
The other Hermione, who looked just a smidge different than the reflection she saw in the mirror everyday, snorted. "I'm you."
That made no sense whatsoever. "But…I'm me."
"Yes, but so am I."
The beginnings of a migraine rose up behind her eyes, the pressure centering itself directly where it was going to be the most annoying. "This is not making any sense whatsoever."
Settling herself on the couch, the other Hermione looked around with a fond smile, allowing Crookshanks to jump into her lap to be petted. "I remember this flat. I loved it here."
"As in, past tense?"
She nodded. "Yes. I don't live here anymore. In my time that is."
Now the pieces were beginning to fall into place. "Your time?"
"I'm from the future," she told her, "roughly two and a half years from now."
Two years? That wasn't much of a stretch, though it did account for the very subtle differences in their appearances, like the slight tan and the shorter, somewhat straighter hair, as well as a small scar on the underside of her wrist that she noticed as the other version of herself stroked the length of the cat's tale.
The only question left was; what was she doing here?
"So why did you come here? And does anyone know? There are rules about time travel and the effects it can have serious consequences-"
A hand came up to cut off the flow of her words. Her mouth clamped shut and, sighing, she sank down in the arm chair on the opposite side of the coffee table from her doppelganger.
"There are a few people who know I'm here, and it was a bit difficult to swing, but the fact of the matter is, I know that you're not happy." Hermione was so dumbfounded that she couldn't even formulate a response-not that it mattered much, as the other Hermione continued to talk, undeterred. "I remember it, that feeling that something's not quite right. And I can tell you how to fix that, how to right things."
"How do you know how to fix things, if you made all the same choices I did?"
It was a fair question. It was impossible to know that something would be better if you had never actually seen it the ramifications of altering the outcome. What if wasn't better? What if it were a gigantic mistake?
"I just," she began, "I can't see how you can be so certain that this will be better."
Leaning forward, the future Hermione laid her palm gently on her hand. She raised her eyes and was greeted with warm sympathy in the eyes of her future self. "Let's just say…that I figured out a way to see the outcome, and I am certain. Things have to change. Living your life to make others happy is an insult to all the people who never got that option."
The sentiment struck a cord, and Hermione was reminded of what those who had died in the war, their families, would give to be able to go fix all that had gone wrong.
Swallowing, she nodded slowly. "What do I have to do?"
"First," she pulled her wand out of the pocket of her dark blue robes, "I need you do something extremely important. I need you to make an Unbreakable Vow."
Something in Hermione snapped, and she stood up with all the fury she possessed in her body, shaking. "I can't believe you would-" She broke off, the anger coursing through her making speech difficult. If this person sitting across from her was truly herself, then Hermione knew how her mind worked and asking for an Unbreakable Vow was a last resort, a way to let her know that she was desperate…but it also meant that she held doubts that her younger self would follow through with the task completely without it.
"I can't, not without knowing why," she said. "And we would need a third person anyway."
Holding up her finger, Future Hermione wordlessly flicked her wand and Neville Longbottom appeared in her living room.
Clearly, this had been thought out more than she had initially thought.
Having him there, it leant a credence to the situation that hadn't been there previously.
"When Hermione Granger asks a favor, I say yes," he told her, wide grin on his familiar face.
Reluctantly, because she was still a bundle of nerves, but without the niggling worries that it was just a harebrained impulse, she extended her arm, wrapping her fingers around the other woman's wrist.
"Promise," said the other Hermione," that whatever it takes, whatever the cost, you will make sure that Fred Weasley doesn't die."
Hermione's heart stuttered, and her stomach dropped. Fred? Saving Fred was going to fix what was wrong in her life? Going back in time, presumably, and altering an event that had shaped the lives of every single person she knew in the wizarding world for the last three years? Her head began to spin, the headache that had been threatening to hit her earlier settling into a hard throbbing at the base of her skull.
Two sets of eyes were fixed on her, and she gulped, her throat constricting tightly. "Before I do," she said, "I need you to answer one question."
The face so like her own went stony, mouth set and eyes cold. "I won't tell you what will change."
She shook her head. "I wasn't going to ask you that. I want to know why you came back to now, to me at this age. Wouldn't it make more sense to warn me when I was younger?"
Exchanging a glance with Neville, her older self took a deep breath and began to speak. "This was when I made a decision that I've begun to realize was a mistake. But I can't take it back. It would hurt too many people, so I have to undo it before it ever happens. If the same events unfold…I'll have to accept that it was supposed to happen."
A cold chill swept over her body, and Hermione closed her eyes, wanting it all to be some horrible dream. But it wasn't. And when she opened her eyes to see the faces of herself and one of her oldest friends looking back at her, she knew that there was no way to just wish this all away.
"Hermione," Neville said softly, "I know its hard, but you have to trust us on this. I've seen you in the future." He glanced over at the Hermione from his time before returning his attention to her. "You're not happy, and you should be. If anybody deserves to be happy, its you. And there's a way-fix what went wrong."
She wanted to tell him that a lot of people weren't happy all the time, that things could get better. Mostly she wanted t say that it was unfair, and selfish, to change so many lives just to suit her own purposes. What if everyone did that? The injustice of it all hit her, and she opened her mouth to say as much but clamped it shut upon seeing the hope and affection in Neville's eyes. Not matter what, Hermione knew that as much as Neville respected her, cared for her, he wouldn't do something so huge without a good reason behind it.
Older Hermione nodded, resigned to what had to be done, she squared her shoulders and again asked her younger self to promise. "You want to make things better? It's simple; save Fred Weasley."
It wasn't like her. She was never so reckless, so illogical. But something in the eyes and voices of the two people in front of her made her see that they believed what they were saying, and she couldn't help but be moved by what that meant.
Besides, there had been times in the past when spontaneity worked out pretty well for her.
Neville touched his wand to their joined hands, a thick swirl of smoke encircling their grasp as Hermione vowed to do whatever it took to prevent Fred Weasley from dying, whatever the cost.
Hermione realized that she had, in essence, been duped.
No sooner than the words of acquiescence had slipped out of her mouth she felt a jolt, akin to a portkey, and swayed to a stop on her unsteady feet in a scene of absolute chaos. Screams and yells filled the air, the smells of magic and fear and panic tingeing the air around her, cloying and clinging to her body the second she had control over her faculties again.
She was back at the battle, seeing all the things that plagued her nightmares alive and tangible all around her.
Ron was shaking her arm, pulling her in the direction of the bathroom where the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets was. "Are you alight? You look a bit peaked."
She shook her head, not quite believing that her future self and Neville had sent her back in time, into her seventeen year old body, to relieve this horror.
It was enough to make her consider hexing Neville.
Another time, maybe.
A flash of blonde caught her eye, and Hermione grabbed Luna by the arm as she was sweeping by her. "Luna, go with Ron to the Chamber, help him. I need to-I have to do something." She couldn't tell them, couldn't give herself away. Ron was gaping at her like she had just told him she was jumping over to the other side, but Luna merely shrugged and tugged him off in the direction the bathroom. Ron tossed her a parting glance over his shoulder, still accusatory, and more than a bit worried. The desire to go with him, to follow through on the events she knew were to come raged through her like anarchy, streaking along just in front of the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach of what else was going to happen if she didn't stop it. And if she didn't, it wasn't even going to matter.
Standing in the middle of the mayhem, she racked her brain, trying to think and piece together the events she had already lived through once, and remember where Fred was.
And then it hit her. "Percy!" She dashed off, knowing that Percy had to be making his way into Hogwarts right then, if he hadn't already, and that he and the rest of the Weasley family would be heading into the Great Hall. Hermione dashed around a group of younger students being lead up to the Room of Requirement and on to safety, fighting her way through the crowd until she saw a group of red heads assembled in a clump just inside the entrance. Kingsley and Lupin were speaking to them, and then Fred and George broke off from the group, heading towards the main hallway.
Harry caught her elbow as she ran after them, Ron and Luna with their arms full of Basilisk fangs beside him. "Hermione-Ron said you just ran off. Are you okay?"
"Yeah." She lost sight of Fred and George as they darted around a corner, wands drawn. "I just have something I have to do." She started off after the twins again, but Harry's hand around her wrist stopped her in her tracks.
"Hermione, you're worrying me here."
"Yeah," Ron added, "this is no time to run off all half-cocked like Harry and me."
Somewhere deep inside Hermione's seemed to shudder, and she remembered just why she had always held Ron firmly in her mind and her heart, and just why she couldn't stay with him. "Ron, Harry-"
"We have to get the diadem," Harry reminded her, and she felt like an idiot for forgetting something so vital. Saving Fred couldn't be the catalyst for allowing Voldemort to win. It just couldn't.
Licking her lips, she made a split second decision, fishing through the memories of the same night and realizing that she still had some time. "Let's go."
They ran off, Luna alongside them, until Crabbe and Goyle, and then Malfoy showed up like clockwork, everything playing out exactly the way it was in her memory, right up until the sounds of a duel filled the corridor and she knew, knew, what was happening.
Fred and Percy backed into view, both of them exchanging spell after spell with two hooded Death Eaters, one of whom of course turned out to be Thicknesse. The fur of them rushed forward to help, ducking the streaks of light, until Percy began to speak, his resignation hanging on the air.
One second, no time to think about it.
A Death Eater that Hermione couldn't see fully raised his wand, and the light exploded above his head. With no time to think, Hermione lunged and her body collided with another, the two of them tumbling a few feet away as the world around them went to pieces.
Coughing the dust away, Hermione pushed herself up off of Fred, swiping her debris splattered hair away from her face to see that Fred was gazing up at her in astonishment.
"Bloody hell, Granger. You just saved my life."
The tightness in her chest loosened and she felt like she could breathe again. "Yeah," she said, "I guess I did."
Ron's shout drew their attention, and the tightness returned, constricting tightly about Hermione's lungs and heart. She turned, seeing the horrible scene she feared playing out in front of her.
Ron knelt on the stone floor, clinging to his older brother's lifeless body with tears of rage and grief streaking down his cheeks, leaving tracks in the coating of dirt and dust that had coated them all in the explosion. Luna was beside him, her hand on his arm, speaking in quiet tones as Harry tried to pull him away.
Hermione turned her face up to Fred, and chills ran up the length of her spine. He stood beside her, immobile, white as death. In her mind, Hermione recalled that Fred's eyes had always been so full of mischief and fun. But now the sparkle was gone, and all she could see was the blank disbelief of what he was seeing. She touched his hand gently, and he turned his palm over, wrapping her cold fingers in his own larger, warmer ones.
No matter the consequences, that's what Hermione had agreed to when she'd made the Unbreakable Vow and promised to do anything to save Fred from the fate that she had just, unknowingly, forced his brother into.
Tears spilling over her cheeks, Hermione helped Luna gather up the Basilisk fangs while Fred went to help Harry move Percy's body out of the way of further harm.
There was still a battle left to be won, and a great evil to destroy, and the fear in her stomach was no less than the first time it had all happened.
The only difference being that this time was that Hermione was going to know that Harry was going to win, she knew it.
Just like she knew that she was going to have to go on with the rest of her life with the knowledge that, inadvertently, she had cause Percy's death.
How was she going to live with that?
Glancing back at Fred behind her, she caught his eye and held it, running over and over and over in her head that she had done this for a reason.
She only hoped that she would find out just what that reason was.