"The Last Post"
"Where?" Severus asked. He knew what she was going to say, and knew that she had invited their friends to Hogwarts that afternoon.
"In the rooms guarded by the portrait of Sir Leroy," she said, half-smiling. "Don't worry about Hermione. She's safe. Trust me."
Ciara and Harry looked confused, but accepted the answer… for the time being. They walked back to their tables, and tried to answer they others' questions.
"I must speak to you all in the staff room tomorrow," Hermione said, addressing the staff. "Please."
"We will be there," Dumbledore said.
"Thank you, sir."
The knight in the portrait tipped his visor at Hermione. She turned from her friends to greet him.
"Sir Leroy, my old friend," she said. "It has been too long since my last visit."
"My lady," he said, and he bowed, blue eyes twinkling. "As ever, it is a pleasure to see you. Password?"
"Is it the same?"
"Indeed, Madame Snape."
"Then… 'Pretty Woman'."
The portrait swung open, and they all filed into the room. Gods, things really hadn't changed. Although Hermione visited Sir Leroy every so often, she never went into the room, feeling that it would be too nostalgic. However, it seemed the perfect place to talk about her past—both of them.
They all sat around, taking up more room than they had when they were teenagers. The Malfoys, the Lestranges, the Blacks, the Crouches, and the Snapes. The only one missing who should have been there was Rabastan Lestrange the First. She knew that they all felt his absence in this strange reunion. Sighing, Hermione pulled out the journal she had created. It projected memories like a hologram, but with sound. She had placed duplicates of her most important memories within the pages.
"I've called you all here today because Hermione Granger went missing from Hogwarts at midday," she said, and she looked at each of them. Bellatrix, ever the joker, grinned.
"What do you mean? You're right here, Hermione," she said. There was some laughter, but Hermione only smiled weakly.
"Yes, I am."
"She means the student," Lucius said, stretching his leg far enough to kick his sister-in-law. She poked out her tongue at him.
"She's here, too."
Everyone—except Severus—looked at her in confusion.
"What do you mean?" Barty asked.
"We are one and the same," she said, sitting back. "On this day, I went back in time. Or, to be more accurate, Hogwarts sent me back in time, twenty years. I came from a time where a war had only just ended. Some friends had survived, but other friends had lost their lives along the way."
"Hermione, this isn't funny," Narcissa said, frowning.
"But it's true. I… I had to set up Hermione Granger's disappearance from here today, otherwise I wouldn't have gone back in time, and then things would go back to how they were. That's why I was late for lunch." She stood up, and began to walk around. "If I hadn't… Severus would be dead. Regulus would be dead. Philippa and Evelyn would be dead. Bellatrix would be dead. Pavanis and Rabastan Junior never existed. Sirius, Remus, Peter, Lily, and James would all be dead. Professor Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Alastor Moody, Tonks Lupin… need I go on?" She shook her head. "Barty, in my fourth year at school, you received the Dementor's Kiss."
She opened the diary and placed it on the table. "This is what happened to me when I went back in time. I changed memories with my younger self, but had the presence of mind to store some of them in here. I guess I'm stuck in a time loop now." She smiled. "Here."
She showed them the post-battle of the life that would never play out now. Looking at the bodies of the fallen; getting her professor's letter; Hogwarts speaking to her, and giving her the Hogwarts crest. She still had yet to find out what it meant or did. But that didn't matter to her. Certainly, she kept an eye out for information about it, yet it never bothered her. She would love the life she had just the same.
"So," Bellatrix said, sitting back after the memory-gram finished, "you came from the future."
"Yes. A future that won't exist now. From midday today, the present is the future… sort of."
"And this is all true?" Hermione nodded. "So… so you lied to us, all this time. All this time!" she shouted, standing up. Hermione backed away. "You've had so many years to tell us, and you haven't. Why not?"
"I had to wait until I went back in time, just in case!" Bellatrix snorted, and walked off a few yards. "Bella, please. As far as I know, no one else has ever done what I have. I need you all to explain to your children, just as I will explain to the staff, and to the students, and… well, I'll probably end up in Azkaban for messing with time the way that I did. Where Rodolphus would have been right now, in my time."
"You betrayed our trust," she whispered.
Hermione violently flicked to another page, and pressed her wand to the picture of the memory. It sprang up, and they all stared at it as the Hermione in the vision screamed. They heard insane laughter, and saw a wild-looking Bellatrix Lestrange torturing her. The sane, real-life Bellatrix turned around, and watched in horror at the memory. It played out the whole time, including the part where the Malfoys didn't help, and Bellatrix killed Dobby. Hermione was crying by the time it finished.
"And look at this one," she said, going to another. It was the fourth year class where they learned about the Unforgivables. "Bear in mind that the Moody you are seeing here is really Bartemius Crouch Junior in disguise."
"Why?" he asked. "Why would I…"
"You were different then," she said grimly. "Why else do you think you were given the Kiss?" He shivered. "You, Bellatrix, Rodolphus, and Rabastan were among the Death Eaters responsible for using the Cruciatus Curse on Frank and Alice Longbottom until they went insane, and ended up in St. Mungo's for life." They watched Barty-in-disguise using the Cruciatus Curse on a spider, right in front of Neville, until Hermione yelled at him to stop. The memory faded.
"Hermione," Severus said, placing a hand on her shoulder. She shook her head.
"Oh, and check this one out," she said, turning to yet another page. She tapped it, and the battle at the Ministry in her fifth year came to life. It ended after Dolohov cursed her, but they had seen Lucius, Rabastan, Rodolphus, and Bellatrix all participating in the fight, duelling Hermione and her friends. Afterwards, Hermione slammed the book shut, making everyone jump. She left it on the table, and climbed into her husband's lap.
"That all really happened?" Regulus asked. She nodded. "Where… where was I? Was I in… Azkaban?"
"You died in 1979," she said. "By this year, my time, the only member of the Bones family left was Susan Bones. Everyone else was dead. Severus was the spy, an embittered, lonely man, and he died, although not for his treachery. It's far too long a story to tell." She went to swipe at her tears, but Severus gently dried them off for her. "In my time, he was a cruel teacher, shamelessly favouring the Slytherins, and insulting me for my bushy hair, buck teeth, and know-it-all attitude."
"I'm sorry," he whispered, and he kissed her softly. She smiled as he drew back.
"I know I shouldn't have kept it from you all this time," she said, turning back to face their friends. "Believe me, I wanted to tell you. So many times I've come close, but I've held off, and for good reason. If nothing else, see it as justice for… for this." She stood up, took off her robes, and pulled up her shirt. Turning around on the spot, she showed them the scars accrued from the various duels she had barely survived. "My body still holds the memories of times that haven't happened to younger Hermione, that never will happen to her. In fact, these aren't the originals. For authenticity, I had to give them to… myself." She pushed the shirt back down, and draped her robes around her shoulders. "I forgave you all for your actions years ago. The people I know now would never have done that."
"Thanks to you," Rodolphus said. She nodded.
"Can you ever forgive me?" she asked them, looking at the floor. She glanced up when she heard a sob. It was Narcissa. She stood, walked over to Hermione, and threw her arms around her.
"You saved my daughter," she said, "even though… even though…"
"Gods, Hermione, I don't know how—or why—you did it. But there's nothing to forgive."
"Absolutely nothing," Lucius said.
"You're right there," Rodolphus added.
One by one, every single person in that room—except, of course, Severus—forgave Hermione for keeping her secret. They berated him for keeping it secret as well, when he had known all this time, but it was just in jest.
In days, the entire wizarding world would come to know what had transpired, as well as Hermione's parents. In a way, this was where Hermione's story began.
But for us, this is where the story ends.
Readers, thank you for accompanying me on this journey. It has been over nine months in the making. Yep! I started posting this story on January the 5th, 2010, and have finished it October the 10th, 2010. Although, to be honest, "A Note of Regret" was posted on December the 19th, 2009. But never mind.
For those who have followed it since the beginning, I commend you. For those who've joined partway through, thanks for jumping on the bandwagon!
I won't cry, since I already did that with "Wish Upon a Horcrux". That particular story went for 150 chapters, although it only took eight months to post.
Just a show of hands: who loved the letter that Severus wrote? It's in chapter one of this story, and "A Note of Regret". I hope it wasn't too OOC.