Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Foreword: That intermission was important to the overall story. Remember, I don't write something needlessly! I kind of expected not a lot of people would respond to that chapter, but I understand. You're not reading this story for Dumbledore and his exploits. This tale is all about the wonderful duo that is Harry and Hermione! Overall, I think I took the right step into the right direction. I was very proud of this chapter.
From the End to the Start
It had been days since her confrontation with Voldemort. The Killing Curse that erupted from the tip of her wand had struck the Dark Lord, extinguishing the life of one of history's greatest monsters. She still felt the cold sensation that surrounded her when the sickly green bolt of magic left her wand. It was if the darkness that came from the pit of her heart enshrouded her in a thick blanket, comforting her as she dealt the final blow to the one that dared to harm the boy she loved. Thus, when his body crumpled to the hard ground below him, the world was met with silence and those that witnessed it were left in sheer awe. Followed by the silence was the cheers of joy as they all rushed to her with glee. In the confusion, Bellatrix Lestrange escaped.
When the aurors clamored for her, when the Order of the Phoenix whooped for her, Hermione felt nothing but unbridled contempt for them. They had forgotten that Harry was at her feet, dead. She wanted to kill them all then and there, to bring out that soothing darkness again and strike the idiots that dared to celebrate Harry's death. But she did nothing. She could do nothing. Hermione was swept up in the events that followed.
The next day, news of Voldemort's defeat made headlines. The Daily Prophet had a photograph of her casting the curse that defeated the vilest Dark Lord since Gellert Grindelwald. The newspaper that insulted her and Harry now celebrated her victory and Harry's supposed sacrifice. They heralded her a hero and had taken to believing she was to be the next Albus Dumbledore. Meanwhile, they lamented how the Chosen One fought heroically for his love, giving herself a chance to defeat Voldemort once and for all. Hermione wondered how they had obtained a photograph of the battle, but she didn't really care.
Following Voldemort's defeat, Hermione left her home. Her parents had been understanding when she confessed to them that she had used a spell against them, but the guilt was too much and she left. Arthur and Molly offered the Burrow as a sanctuary, but she declined the invitation. Instead, she agreed to Dumbledore's arrangement and had taken up residence to the empty castle. She spent most of her days reading or watching the scenery outside. Ron and Ginny sent letters to her often and also asked to visit, but she refused. Hermione didn't want them near her.
Surprisingly, it was Arthur Weasley and not Amelia Bones or Rufus Scrimgeour that became the Minister of Magic. The red-haired Weasley patriarch gracefully accepted the title and his first action had been to lambaste the previous administration for their corrupted practices and failure as a government to provide relief to their citizens. Hermione imagined that Arthur meant the Ministry's treatment towards Harry. She later learned that Dolores Umbridge had immediately been dismissed several hours into Arthur's tenure.
Things were... well.
From behind her, Hermione heard the soft, grandfatherly inquiry of the Headmaster. She closed the book she had been reading, folding the corner of the page as a reminder as to where she left off. The climatic finale of Dumbledore's duel with Grindelwald would have to wait for another time. Hermione placed the book within her bag and stood up from her spot in the grand library of Hogwarts. A few steps away was Dumbledore, patiently waiting as Hermione collected herself.
Seeing that she was finished, Dumbledore turned and began walking away, gesturing for Hermione to follow. She silently complied, hastening her stride so that they may walk side by side. Their footsteps echoed in the corridors; the castle was barren, no longer filled with the riotous children eager to learn or socialize. Hermione basked in the memories of a much more peaceful time, a time when there was no evil plaguing her life at every turn. It felt like a lifetime ago when she had been able to enjoy herself in the company of friends.
"How are you, Miss Granger?" Dumbledore asked her, breaking the silence between them.
Hermione sought his eyes, briefly glimpsing the twinkling blue behind his spectacles. She gave the old wizard a non-committal shrug, summarizing her mood in one movement. "I am alright, Headmaster."
From the corner of her eye, Hermione saw his lips curve into a frown. She looked away, not at all caring for the emotional state of Albus Dumbledore.
"You are a hero." Dumbledore told her. "You defeated Lord Voldemort."
"Headmaster," Hermione smiled, but no trace of humor was within the expression. "You, more than anyone, should know that he is not defeated yet. I merely destroyed his physical body."
"But in the eyes of the general public, my dear, you have defeated one of the darkest wizards ever to have lived." Dumbledore stated calmly in rebuttal. "The ramifications of his body's destruction has catapulted the reputation of muggle-borns into that of great respect in the eyes of most Pure-bloods. You are even considered a legend amongst the community of not only Europe's magical society, but of all magical folks in other continents."
"Yes, that may be true, Headmaster, but at what cost?" Hermione asked him in a hushed tone. "I watched Harry die in front of me. You should understand how I feel more than anyone."
Hermione's statement silenced Dumbledore. No more words were traded between them. It was not long before they ascended the steps that led to Dumbledore's office. Upon arrival, Hermione and the Headmaster was greeted by several familiar individuals from the Order. Arthur Weasley stood next to Dumbledore's desk, fidgeting over his robes slightly. A bit away from him, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Mad-Eye Moody were in the middle of a conversation.
"Good evening, Minister." Albus greeted, politely nodding at Arthur.
Arthur blushed. "Albus, no need for that! I may be Minister of Magic, but I'm still the same old Arthur!"
"Minister, you deserve all of my respect and not just because of your new position. It has been coming for your years and I implore you to allow me to show you such courtesies."
"Then, do you prefer I address you as Chief Warlock or do you believe Supreme Mugwump would be better?" Arthur smirked slyly at the older wizard. It was clear where Fred and George inherited their mischievous nature from.
Dumbledore laughed. "Touché."
"Can we begin or what?" Moody gruffly asked. His remaining foot was tapping impatiently at the floor.
"Of course, Alastor. Let me just conjure up a few seats here..." Dumbledore trailed off and pulled out his wand. With a twinkling smile, the once-Transfiguration professor created two additional chairs next to two original ones. He gestured for all of them to sit.
Hermione took one of the seats in the middle between Arthur and Kingsley. Moody took the seat at the far right which Hermione had hoped. As much as she respected the veteran Auror, his rough mannerisms and ever-spinning magical eye always brought her some discomfort. Dumbledore took his seat at his desk, vanishing several pieces of parchments into places unknown.
"Now we can begin." The Headmaster placed his wand down in front of him and tented his fingers.
"Albus, what is she doing here?" Moody bluntly inquired, pointing at Hermione with his thumb. "Sure, she may have killed off You-Know-Who and all, but what a load of good will she be in our little get-together, eh?"
Though they didn't say anything, Hermione could sense that Arthur and Kingsley had the same question. She moved to speak, but Dumbledore replied first.
"Because the matter which I wish to speak of wholly involves Miss Granger and I feel that her opinions is tantamount to the discussion. Does that answer your question, Alastor?" Dumbledore slightly bowed his head and glanced at Moody, staring at him like he would with a student.
Moody growled and nodded. At Dumbledore's reasoning, Arthur and Kingsley visibly relaxed and patiently awaited for the meeting to continue on. Hermione remained silent as ever. She was not insulted that the three older men questioned her presence. Hermione, herself, felt it odd that Dumbledore wanted her to sit in. She had an idea what Dumbledore wished to speak of, but she had nothing concrete.
"Allow me to be blunt. Despite the valiant efforts of Miss Granger and young Harry, I regret to inform you all that the Dark Lord has yet to be completely vanquished."
The three wizards were stunned. Immediately, Moody shot up from his seat and pounded his fist against Dumbledore's desk. The impact toppled over a figurine resting on the desk's surface and broke Arthur and Kingsley from their stupor.
"What do you mean You-Know-Who isn't dead?" Moody half-yelled and half-asked. "I was there when the little missy gave him the ol' Killing Curse! He was dead as dead can be!"
"Alastor is right, Albus! I led the detachment of aurors that brought back the corpse. The department ran the autopsy and we concluded the Dark Lord is dead!"
Arthur frowned, a little jittery at the news. Hermione smiled at him sympathetically, knowing full well that any news that Voldemort may not be dead would cause anyone to worry. Speaking for the first time since the meeting began, Hermione said, "Voldemort had Horcruxes. He split his soul several times so that he can achieve what he believes is immortality."
Though the volume of her voice was low and soft, her weighted words silenced the vocal denials of Moody and Kingsley.
Moody looked from Hermione and then to Dumbledore, his fist shaking. "Is this true, Albus? Did the Dark Lord create such abominations?"
Dumbledore nodded gravely.
"DAMN IT!" Moody roared and took the figurine from Dumbledore's desk. The calm yet paranoid Moody lost control of his anger and threw it against the wall, shattering it.
"Albus," Arthur began, breaking the tense quiet between all of them. "what exactly is a Horcrux?"
Kingsley nodded. "I find myself curious to what it is as well. Hermione mentioned that it is apparently the key to You-Know-Who's immortality. I shudder to think of such a monster being... immortal."
Instead of Dumbledore that answered, it was Hermione. She was the only one that remained sitting, the rest having had stood up at some point. Her hands were in her lap as she gazed at nothing in particular with an aloof expression. "Voldemort," Arthur and Kingsley flinched. "is not immortal. I believe I have proven that with my casting of the Killing Curse." Her eyes turned sharp and deadly. "The Horcruxes merely anchors his soul to the realm of the living, placing him in a permanent state of un-death. As of now, he has lost his physical form and will seek a means to have a new body. He did so before, having been revived at the end of my Fourth Year with the help of Peter Pettigrew. I can only imagine that he plans to seek out one of his more loyal followers to help him with this monumental task."
"Lestrange!" Moody voiced. "She escaped our grasp and the Dark Lord would no doubt use her! We need to destroy these Horcruxes before he could do anything!"
"I have already destroyed several with the help of Severus."
All eyes turned to Dumbledore. Hermione seethed inside, the name of the Potions master generated an intense flame that raged within her.
"Miss Granger, I have told you that Severus was not the traitor." Dumbledore stated with an exasperated sight. "It was Peter Pettigrew that had hid within your home to monitor your activities. It was unfortunate that he had been there when he witnessed us putting up the wards."
"How very convenient of him, isn't it?" Hermione sarcastically asked. "If you can't blame the snake, blame the rat instead."
Dumbledore frowned disapprovingly. "Miss Granger, I have repeated it many times. Whether you choose to believe it or not is up to you. I trust Severus explicitly. I have no doubts that he is the one that betrayed us." Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but Dumbledore deftly interrupted her. "Now back to the matter of the Horcruxes. Like I said, I already destroyed several. From what information I gathered, there remains only two left. Miss Granger, if you will?"
Hermione grimaced. Nevertheless, she elaborated further, "The remaining Horcruxes that Voldemort has left are Hufflepuff's Cup and Nagini. However, the whereabouts of both is still shrouded in mystery."
"Albus, how does Hermione know all this?" Arthur curiously asked. "This seems like very dangerous things to know."
"Miss Granger has her secrets and is it up to her whether or not she wants to inform you of them." Albus answered sternly, leaving no room to be said otherwise.
As if you respected my privacy when you told Snape. Hermione angrily thought. I want to leave.
"What do you want us to do then, Albus?" Kingsley inquired. "Do you want us to help you search for the remaining two?"
A terrible smile filled Moody's face. "I wouldn't mind helping you, Albus. This seems like you need me to lead an operation like this. Reminds me of my younger years, heh-heh."
Dumbledore smiled but waved his hand dismissively. "No, I am merely informing you three what to expect. The public believes that Tom is dead, but we all know that the threat of the Death Eaters is still at large. I think it is time we finally set in motion what I should have done several years ago."
Moody's one eye widened. "Albus, you don't mean..."
"Yes, Moody, it is time. We must begin a purge of Death Eaters within the Ministry. Their ideas and corruption have nearly brought the world we know to destruction. For years I have withheld my hand because I feared that our efforts would be trumped by the Death Eaters and their supports. But..." His blue eyes gently glazed over Hermione's form. "I see now that leaving it as it is now will only lead to consequences too terrible to imagine."
"Albus, is that why you personally nominated me for the seat of Minister?" Arthur asked in disbelief.
A jovial chuckle erupted from Dumbledore's mouth as he nodded. "You are a good man, Arthur. I know for a fact how good you actually are at the game of politics."
"Headmaster, if I may, may I be excused?" Hermione suddenly stood up and asked. "While this talk is interesting, I think I have no further use in the conversation. And I would like to..." She left her request unfinished.
The Headmaster glanced at her sympathetically and nodded. "Yes, you have done enough for us. I'm sorry for taking a portion of your time."
At one point in her life, Hermione would have been eager to attend such a vibrant discussion that the four wizards were having. She wanted to revolutionize the Ministry, putting forth her own ideas in order to create a better world for those that lived within the realm. Hermione realized that the meeting was the Headmaster's attempt to cheer her up. However, she had already moved on from such a lofty ambition. The drive that she burned within her to set about great changes to the new world she was brought to had faded away. She was now left with nothing but the taste of bitterness in her mouth over believing she could do something.
Hermione shut the door behind her and began her descent of the spiral stairs.
She was able to arrive on the ground floor with good time, having remembered some of the shortcuts there were to different areas. Hermione walked at a brisk pace to the hospital wing, taking long, quick strides to arrive there faster. She pushed open the door and passed through the threshold, her goal in sight. Hermione arrived at the private room attached at the far end of the wing. She entered it without hesitation.
Sitting on the bed with his legs drawn up to his chest was Harry dressed in a pair of pajamas. His hair was messier than usual. His figure had grown far thinner than before and his skin was a tad bit paler than his usual fair complexion. He didn't say a word to her to acknowledge her presence and remained staring at the window that was at the foot of his bed. Hermione smiled nevertheless and took a seat on the chair close to the bed.
"Look, Harry." Hermione unveiled a book that was in her hands. "I got you The Tales of Beedle the Bard to read! We never got to enjoy it. Since, after all, we were stressed from all that Horcrux hunting. I wanted to sit down one day and actually read some of it instead of poring over it like it was extensive research material." She chuckled habitually, but it held no mirth within it.
"Honestly, what was Dumbledore thinking when he gave me this." Hermione clicked her tongue. "I mean, it would have been better if he just gave me notes to work off of instead. But nope, he had to be very cryptic over it. He can be such a sodding git, don't you think?"
Harry gave no answer.
Hermione's smile faltered for a bit but continued. "Still, I suppose he has his good points. He's talking about revolutionizing the Ministry with Mr. Weasley, Kingsley, and Moody. I don't know why he wanted me to be there. I suppose he just assumed I would enjoy it. I mean, I would rather not but..."
Her voice became lost in her throat as she let out a strained sob. The charade was over. Harry may be alive, but his mind was gone.
His green eyes empty, no longer filled with the love he had for her.
Afterword: And that concludes with this chapter. I like to think I made things a little bit more different than the normal time-travel pieces. To answer some questions, Snape was never the traitor. The truth was that Peter Pettigrew had been monitoring Hermione in his rat form. After all, it was only natural for Voldemort to keep an eye out on Harry's friends as well. This is something I would go more into detail later, but I'm sure a lot of people would be dying to ask the question anyway. Hermione just refuses to believe it because she now hates Snape as much as Harry does.
We also have Dumbledore not actually be a manipulative and evil git! How remarkably different! While I can understand a lot of readers not really liking him, I think I understand his motivations a little bit. I think he is a man that is willing to learn from mistakes if presented correctly. Hermione's presence allows him to glimpse into what the future can be and is now moving to take a much more active approach. Sure, he still wants to be in the background, but he is playing a more forceful hand.
However, there is more to that meeting than just a simple discussion about how to change government. More on that later on! Anyway, I hoped you liked this chapter. It's too bad that Harry is now just as catatonic as Neville's parents, but I promise he will get better... eventually.