What a strange web that is time and destiny. And as we try to fight what is in our nature and what we are fated to be, we must be careful of the lives we touch along the way.
A Hogwarts crush did not a strong marriage make. James Potter discovered this sad fact soon after he married Lily Evens. Odd, it had seemed so intense at Hogwarts. She was always this far away flower that he just had to climb the mountain to pluck and the fact that Snape also wanted her just gave the challenge an extra element of fun.
They'd both known it was little more then a crush once school finished but standing side by side in the fight against Lord Voldermort left little time for other considerations. Friends were hurt, friends died and as the Order dwindled in number they clung to the comfort, familiarity and security of each other. When Lily fell pregnant it was a shock to them both but the trap door slammed closed when Albus came to them with Trelawney's prophesy of a child born on the same date she was due.
James swore to protect her and his son and they were married the following month.
He wanted to love her, really he did but somehow the marriage of convenience had become a wall between what had once been a rather nice arrangement of two friends. Now pretty much the only thing they could agree on was Harry.
Sweet, delightful Harry. He was their son, almost one year old and the light of their lives, the pride and the joy of their existence. He was the reason they stayed together, pretended that they loved one another with the kind of passion they should. He was worth the sacrifice.
"Look at you, brooding there." Sirius' voice shocked James out of his musing.
He glared into the fire which now framed the smug face of Sirius Black. "You scared the life out of me, you dozy bastard."
"Ooh, are you trembling, lad? Like a little school girl?" Sirius goaded. "I knew you fancied me."
"Bugger off." James was laughing when Lily came in from the kitchen.
"Is that Sirius?" she asked, waving her wand over her shoulder to keep the dinner preparing itself. She gave the man in the fire a smooth cool smile. "You're still coming to dinner tomorrow night, yes?"
"I am indeed, Mrs. Potter," Sirius replied and James' lips quirked, it sounded like he were speaking to James' mother.
"Well don't' forget to bring that letter from the Ministry. I told you that bike would get you in trouble one day."
Sirius rolled his eyes but Lily had already turned away to return to the kitchen. He made the sign of a mouth flapping with one hand.
"Oi!" James warned only to earn himself a cheeky grin from his old school friend. He sighed. "Just behave, yeah?"
"Not if I can help it, mate."
"Fine, so where are we going this full moon?" He knelt closer to the fire and lowered his voice.
"Ah," Sirius replied grinning. "Remus is spending the night at Hogwarts; Albus has a mission for him. So I was thinking that we could just go out, you know go to that new club." He arched an eyebrow suggestively and James knew exactly which club he was suggesting.
"Bloody hell mate," James said, shaking his head. "You know I can't do that, I'm a respectable married man."
Sirius laughed. "I noticed you didn't use the word happily."
"Goodbye, Padfoot." James threw a handful of sand in the fireplace to close the connection.
The sound of a loud CLUNK and a cry came from the kitchen. James jumped to his feet and ran in to find his wife bent over the table, one hand propping her up and the other rubbing the back of her head. A large pot lay motionless and guilty on the floor.
"Lily, are you alright?" James rushed to her side and wrapped an arm around her middle to help her stand. "What happened?"
"I don't know…" She sounded confused. "I was cooking then… Ow! That bloody pot just flew into the air and fell on my head. I guess I wasn't concentrating or something…"
"Well here, why don't you sit down and I'll finish making the dinner."
"Don't be ridiculous," she returned sharply. "You can't cook to save your life."
James almost backed away but made himself stay. She was only being sharp with him because her head hurt. "I can finish off what you started, dear," he replied trying to keep his temper in tact. "Only trying to help."
Lily pulled away delicately then used her wand to quickly maneuver the food back into the cold box and placed a quick stasis charm on the lot. The she rubbed the back of her sore head again and made a face.
"Darling, why don't you go lay down. I'll brew you up a headache potion then make myself a sandwich." He smiled and combed his fingers through her long red hair. "We can have dinner when you feel better."
Again she gently pulled way from his touch and he pretended not to be hurt. "Alright, James, I think I will lay down but I'll brew my own potion." She gave him a weak smile then slowly made her way up the stairs to their bedroom.
Hermione was sure that she saw Harry running for the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack. She knew he hadn't left them, if there was one thing she knew the boy-who-lived was no coward. If he was going to the shack it meant that Voldermort was there and she couldn't, wouldn't let him face that alone.
Curses flew back and forth throughout the castle. From where Hermione hid behind an overturned table she watched as three shrouded Death Eaters dueled against Professor McGonagall and Professor Flintwick. In other circumstances she would have been enthralled by the sheer skill of her two teachers but this was not the time.
She looked for a gap in the fighting and spotted Neville running from two scraggly looking wizards. "Oh no you don't!" She gasped and lunged over the table towards them.
"Hermione?!" Neville had a moment to look confused before the wizards caught up.
She threw him a breathless grin then turned to face the two wizards. Her wand was drawn and ready. She dodged a red curse and shielded against another then threw two stunners of her own.
"Oi." One of the wizards with short cropped hair spoke up, tipping his head to the side to look at her more closely. "Don't we know you?"
"Oh yeah." The other, shorter one added, an evil grin splitting his thin lips. "You're Potter's Mudblood ain't ya?"
As one they pointed their wands and the curse was out before she could think. Green curse light flew towards her chest and all of a sudden she felt a weight push against her side as she was shoved out the way. Hermione hit the hard floor and looked back just in time to see Neville take both curses in his side.
"No!" The scream left her lungs as she jumped to her feet and ran at the two murderers.
She fired a curse at one and he fell, she had no idea what it was and it didn't matter. The next she attacked with her fists, three punches, one hit his cheek, one hit his nose and the other hit his jaw and he fell.
Hermione dropped to Neville's side and turned him over. He was alive, but barely. "You bloody fool," she sobbed her tears running unchecked down her face.
His eyes opened slightly and a smile touched his lips as he looked up at her. Slowly he raised his hand to caress her cheek. "Not sorry," he whispered.
The battle raged around them but it was as though they were in the eye of the storm. Hermione leaned down to place a kiss on his already cooling lips. "You were always the bravest of us."
He made to say something else but his time ran out and Hermione watched in horror as his eyes closed for the last time. "No! No, no, no… Please no…" Her head dropped to his still chest and she sobbed feeling her tears soaking into his knitted vest.
The sounds of the war filtered back into her senses. At length Hermione climbed to her feet. A curse flew at her and she dodged with ease and without thought she threw hex after hex, clearing her path to the door. She yanked Ginny out of the way of a purple curse and kept going, hexing and dodging and shielding till she was safely outside.
Harry, she had to keep going for Harry and she would. Quickly she made her way through the tunnel but once on the other side she found only dancing candlelight and silence.
"Harry?" She called out running into the shack. "Harry!" Her voice was so shrill with her worry that she barely heard the pained groan.
In a far corner a dark figure lay surrounded by blood. Oh Merlin. She ran to his side and jumped back with a gasp. "Severus!" She pulled her wand but there was little point, the man had no energy and his time was running out quickly.
"That's Professor Snape to you, Miss Granger," he muttered.
"Why you pompous ass," she spluttered and dropped to her knees next to him. "Tell me where the blood is coming from."
He laughed, a low bitter sound. "Are you going to save me?" He opened his eyes and looked at her for a long time. "Always the know-it-all aren't you. How are you so sure I deserve to be saved?"
It was her turn to give a dry laugh and she unbuttoned his shirt and gasped at the jagged cuts running across his body and the poison leaking out along with the blood. "Am I to believe that Harry did this then?"
He barked and this time he did smile. "He wishes."
She shook her head and pulled out a vial of Phoenix Tears. In no time his wounds began to heal. "You'll live to repay what you owe." She stood back up. "Now where is Harry?"
"No!" Snape grabbed her arm and yanked her back down. "You can not go where he is going. This he must do alone."
She shook her head and tried to pull away but his grip was like steal. "What is it with you and Albus? When are you going to understand that other people is all we have, it's the fact that Harry has us at his side that's kept him alive, kept him good. I can never abandon him."
"You will, you all abandon us in the end."
That stilled her struggling and he turned his head to gaze at her.
"He had this marvelous plan you see, such a planner he is, he moves us as though we are chess pieced in his own personal game board. Just pieces to be moved, our lives and loves and deaths mean little on such a large board." He coughed but was gaining strength. "Even from the grave he controls us."
"Who else, you silly girl?" He rested his head on the floor and looked up at the broken ceiling. "But our puppeteer is a gambler; this will be the second time he has bet that boy's life, are we so sure he will be so lucky a second time? He promised me that she would be safe, he promised but he must have known… I should have known…" He was rambling.
"Severus I have to go, if I can't help Harry then I must help the others, they're just children."
This earned her another bark of laughter. "And what are you exactly?"
"I'm the woman who just saved your life." With that Hermione pulled away sharply and ran out of the shack.
The only place she could think to go was back to the castle and she ran. Fast and hard she placed one foot in front of the other and moved as fast as she could back towards where she was needed.
The first thing she heard was a roar. Loud and filled with pain it seemed to make the earth tremble and Hermione stopped dead.
"Are ye happy now!" Hagrid roared. "He's dead you cowardly bastards. Ye did nothing! He laid down his life for ye and ye did nothing!"
Hermione couldn't move. She was rooted to the spot her eyes glued to the slight body in the half-giant's arms. She stumbled forwards and her hands covered her mouth then slid to thread into her curls. Her stumbling steps took her to the side of Ron and Ginny and together all they could do was watch as Hagrid marched down the path, huge tears sliding down his face bellowing his sorrow to anyone who would listen.
"Harry?" Hermione rasped brokenly. Her throat felt parched and sore. She couldn't have cried out if she wanted to.
She never saw Belatrix dance up and around Hagrid and when the she raised her wand Hermione didn't defend herself.
The curse hit Hermione in the chest and she went down. As her vision faded to black she could hear the sounds of her friends picking up the fight. She heard her name, she heard Ginny scream and all was silent.
Somewhere a baby cried. Hermione groaned and rolled over in her bed. The crying went on. She yanked the pillow from under her head and pulled it down over her ears. The crying went on.
Finally, blissful quiet.
A deep male voice cooed from somewhere far away and the baby hiccoughed softly. He began to sing and the words drifted through the fog of sleep, seeped into her bones and made her smile.
Hush, little baby, don't say a word.
Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won't sing,
Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa's gonna buy you a looking glass
"Hmmm," she sighed happily. She was warm and so comfortable and whatever she'd been dreaming was far away.
Softly she began to sing along with the man in the next room. The voice got louder as he walked from the next room and into hers. He looked blurry through her sleepy eyes but she could make out the glasses and messy black hair. "Harry, you madman what are you doing?" She giggled and stretched unable to remember the last time she felt so relaxed.
Harry laughed, his voice deeper somehow. "What has you so giggly this morning?"
"I had the worst dream…We lost the war…Hagrid was crying with you in his arms," she murmured trying to push the dream away to the place all dreams floated to after the dreamer awakes.
But it wouldn't go. The Dream stayed clear and just got clearer as awareness took over. More like a memory then a dream. But surely if Harry was here with her then it must have been a dream. But who's was the baby?
"Don't worry, darling, it's over now." Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and caressed a lock of hair from her face.
Darling? Since when did Harry call her darling? She needed to go to the bathroom. Hermione swung out of bed and headed for the bathroom. She used the toilet and splashed her face with water, looked into the mirror and blinked.
She blinked again and kept staring. She tipped her head to the side then to the other and so did the stranger in the mirror. Reaching up her hand she touched her long red hair, her pale face. She looked at her long, painted fingernails… A loud sob escaped as she looked into a face so familiar but definitely not her own. The face of a woman who died many years ago.
"Lily," Harry called out and ran in to stand behind her. No, not Harry, his eyes were wrong, hazel. "What's wrong?" He looked around and then back at her reflection, into her emerald green eyes. "Lily?"