A/N: This is the end! Part of me can hardly believe I've written an ending like this. I don't want to say too much before you've actually read it, but I think you'll know what I mean. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me on this journey. This will be the last multichapter for the foreseeable future - many many many real life writing projects need my attention, but I'll still knock out the odd one shot no doubt. Thanks for reading, you're all disastrously lovely. Oh and if you want to keep up to date with my writing (possibly make a one shot request if you fancy it) then feel free to follow me on twitter. The link is on my profile.
A Safe Place to Hide.
The second half of the curse never left Voldemort's lips. A gale force wind ripped through the Great Hall, knocking Hermione to the floor. A pair of hands found her own in the confusion and she held onto them for dear life as her clothes and hair whipped around her, debris flying through the air as though they were caught in a hurricane. She buried her face in her arms, covering her head, fingers still entwined with Tom's as they rode out the storm.
It ended in a split second. Chaos became tranquillity in an instant and Hermione cautiously raised her head to look around the Great Hall.
Tom was next to her, looking just as confused as she felt. A gentle clearing of someone's throat pulled her attention away from Tom and she looked to her right, where she was met with a pair of purple ankle boots, the toes curving upwards like they belonged to some sort of elf or pixie from a muggle fairytale.
Hermione sat up and saw the twinkling blue eyes and amused smile of Albus Dumbledore.
"Miss Granger," he said, peering over his half moon spectacles at her, "I find myself in the curious position of being alive."
"Professor, I -" Hermione tried to explain, but what could she possibly say? Albus Dumbledore was alive and well, but that didn't stop cold dread spreading through her veins like an icy poison. Terrible things happened to people who messed with time. Professor McGonagall had been quite clear about that when handing over the time turner.
"Come along, there is much to discuss."
Hermione got to her feet, her hand never leaving Tom's, and the pair of them followed Dumbledore from the immaculate Great Hall.
There were no bodies piled high on the tables, the hour glasses that kept track of the house points were all in tact (she happily noted Gryffindor were in the lead) the flag stone floor was neither cracked nor crumbling, and the sky above them was bright and clear and blue.
It was all too perfect.
So perfect, in fact, that she wondered if she had died.
"Professor, where are Harry and Ron?" she asked, quickening her pace so she and Tom were now walking alongside Dumbledore.
"Quidditch practice," he said, "the final is on Saturday, and Mr Potter is rather determined to lift the trophy one last time."
"I don't -"
"My office," Dumbledore said warmly, and a little of the fear and worry that had taken over her subsided.
"Sherbet lemon?" Dumbledore offered once they were inside his office. Hermione took one automatically, though she was in no mood for sweets. Tom shook his head and continued to examine the whirring silver instruments that stood on the shelves, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"Time's changed," Hermione said, sitting down in the chintz armchair opposite Dumbledore. Tom sat down next to her, and remained silent.
"Indeed it has," Dumbledore agreed, his hands clasped together. His right hand, Hermione saw, was in perfect condition.
"Something must be wrong though, mustn't it? I mean, what happened to Voldemort?"
"Voldemort doesn't exist," Dumbledore replied. "And I do hope that you make sure he never does," his eyes landed on Tom, who shifted in his seat.
"That wasn't me," he argued.
"It was," Dumbledore said, "before you met Miss Granger, or Grey, whichever you prefer."
"So he just vanished?" Hermione asked, her brow creasing.
"Tom's decision to remain here means that the man who called himself Lord Voldemort, the man who tried to kill you in the Great Hall, never came to power. Tom hasn't even left school yet, Lord Voldemort has not yet come to be."
Hermione tried to get her head around the idea of there being no Voldemort, but when her brain refused to process it, she moved on.
"Surely there's been damage done though," she said. "Surely people have died as a result."
"On the contrary, Miss Granger, I believe that the powers that be decided that there could be nothing worse than that which the wizarding world has suffered at the hands of Lord Voldemort. It is, as one might put it, a happy ending."
Hermione shook her head, not daring to believe that they had been granted a happy ending.
"Nobody else remembers," Dumbledore continued, "The events of the last few years are most likely somewhere deep in their memories, repressed by their minds, but the name Lord Voldemort means nothing to anybody, not even to those that had once died at his hand."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
"I mean," Dumbledore said, a small smile forming on his lips, "that James and Lily Potter will be attending Saturday's quidditch final, most likely with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin in tow. And that's just the beginning of it. The list of...second chancers, is delightfully long."
"But what about the Death Eaters?" Hermione asked in a panic, "Surely they'll rally around someone else? Surely they'll try to -"
"Very few of the Death Eaters would have been prepared to act alone, and those that were committed some terrible crimes, but they will never leave Azkaban."
"So not everybody got a second chance," Hermione said flatly.
"I'm afraid not," Dumbledore said with a sigh, "but in comparison to things as they were..."
"My parents," Hermione said, hoping that they had not been two of the very few unlucky victims of the changing of time.
"Will be waiting for you at King's Cross station when you return home at the end of term," Dumbledore said. "As will the entire Weasley family no doubt, and the Potters."
Hermione still felt uneasy. The situation was alarmingly perfect. Harry's parents were alive, Dumbledore was alive, and Lord Voldemort had never even existed.
"Perhaps some food, and then a trip down to the quidditch pitch to watch the practice?" Dumbledore said, calling an end to the conversation. Hermione nodded reluctantly, and was about to get up when Tom spoke.
"Professor," he said, "What about me?"
"What about you, Tom?" It wasn't said in an unkind way, more in the sort of way that suggested that there was no reason why any of them should be concerned.
"Well, I -" Tom was fiddling with the ring on his little finger, and Dumbledore's eyes dropped to look at it.
"I daresay in time your soul will repair itself. We three are the only ones aware of the exact details of your past, and I think, perhaps, you can add your name to the list of second chancers also."
"You knew?" Tom turned to Hermione. "You knew that I...and you still...you still saved my life?"
"I told you," Hermione said, "I didn't think about it."
"And if you had thought about it?"
"I...probably still would have saved you," she admitted. A short silence followed, which was eventually broken by Dumbledore.
There was a loud crack, and the small house elf appeared in the office, his long pointed ears sticking out of the gaps in the tea cosy he was wearing as a hat, Ron's old Christmas jumper looking very well worn but very well cared for on his skinny frame.
"Dobby..." Hermione whispered, and she dropped out of her armchair, onto her knees, and pulled the elf into a hug, forgetting for a moment that the poor creature had no idea why he was receiving such a warm welcome. She didn't care though, without him, she wouldn't be alive, and neither would Harry, nor Ron, nor Luna, Dean, Griphook, Mr Ollivander...
"Dobby is pleased to see you too, Miss!" he squeaked cheerfully. "How can Dobby be of assistance?"
"Some food, for Hermione and Tom, please Dobby, they'll be down in the kitchens shortly."
"Yes, Headmaster, of course, Headmaster, Dobby will see to it personally!"
There was another loud crack and the elf disappeared once more.
"You just hugged a house elf."
"Voldemort underestimated house elves," Hermione told Tom, getting to her feet. "Don't make his mistakes."
Tom fell silent for a moment, but then opened his mouth to ask one final question. "If nobody else remembers," he said to Dumbledore, "then how come you do?"
Dumbledore sighed. "I think, perhaps, I remember, because there are worse things in my past that I have been unable to repress."
Tom looked like he was about to ask what exactly those things were, but Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder. "Come on," she said. "I'm starving."
He nodded and stood up. They left the Headmaster's office, hands finding each other automatically as they descended the spiral staircase.
Harry looked odd without his scar. Nice, but odd.
Luna was sitting with Dean a few rows ahead of them, cheering on the Gryffindor team as they practised, Ginny doing her very best to get the quaffle past Ron while Harry darted about, chasing the snitch.
They were silent as they watched, both of them still trying to get used to the idea of time changing for the better. At one point, Tom asked exactly what Lord Voldemort had done, but she had shaken her head, promised him that one day, she would tell him, but for now, she wanted to enjoy the peace.
The peace was interrupted however, as a poorly deflected bludger came shooting towards them. Tom knocked Hermione to the floor just in time, and the cannon ball like missile collided with their seats, splintering the wood, sending shards of broken chair flying through the air.
Tom was on top of her, his body covering hers in the cramped leg space between the rows. They had never been this close before, and even though she knew what was coming, it still surprised her when he moved closer still, his lips meeting hers in a soft, almost timid kiss. He grew more confident when she kissed him back, pulling him even closer, her fingers tangling in his hair.
When they parted, Hermione's lips still tingling, she saw Jimmy Peakes hovering on his broom nearby.
"I take it you're all right then," he said, grinning mischievously.
Hermione tutted and he darted off once more. She looked at Tom, and then laughed, and soon he joined in.
It wasn't a perfect world, but it was close, and if bludgers were the most dangerous thing she had to contend with then that was fine, she was happy to take it.
"Saved your life again," he said, getting to his feet and helping her up. One casual wave of his wand returned the seats to their former condition. "You owe me one."
"One what?" Hermione asked, grinning.
"We can discuss terms later," he said, finding her hand and lacing their fingers together.
Hermione knew he wasn't kidding, but she didn't mind. She didn't mind one bit.
She had asked for a safe place to hide, and there was no place safer than the spot by his side.