Written for hprarefest on LJ (2012)
Despite what everyone thought, Hermione did not want to go back to Hogwarts after the war. Being one of the heroes of the war, she had been offered several positions throughout the Wizarding world. Ron and Harry went into the Auror force, and she decided to pursue the Department of Mysteries. It was the best opportunity presented to her; the challenge of the position was also too tempting to pass up.
Her latest assignment had her looking at Time Turners and how they affect a wizard's mind. She already had some experience with this, so they figured she would be perfect for the position. Her supervisor showed her how to properly use the Time Room, reminding Hermione, almost fondly and with great amusement, of how the last person (now aged past two hundred) had attempted to use it.
The room was not supposed to be used in a selfish manner. Instead, it could show you various times in history. As long as you weren't demanding it to take you to a certain place, at least. The room had a mind of its own, doing as it pleased. It quickly became her favorite place to be and, in turn, the room seemed to like her.
Which was why she didn't quite understand why, when she walked out of it this time, the Ministry was different. The robes of the wizards were slightly different, not to mention she couldn't recognize anybody within those robes. They looked at her just as confused.
She quickly left the Ministry and Apparated home. Except this wasn't her home. The Muggles inside screamed as she showed up in the middle of their living room. Panicked, she quickly erased their memories of the incident and disappeared to the only place she hoped had never changed: Hogwarts.
The old castle looked the same and the magic tingled over her skin just as it did when she first came. It was about dinner time, and she really only knew that because the sun already set low over the horizon – she would always miss the sunsets in the Great Hall. Ignoring her nostalgia, she quickly made her away into the castle and along the familiar paths to the Headmaster's office. She hoped McGonagall would be able to help her figure out what happened.
"I don't believe you are supposed to be here."
Hermione gasped, whirling around to stare straight into the face of a younger Albus Dumbledore. This was impossible. "P-professor Dumbledore!"
The old man looked at her with a calm smile. "Perhaps we should go to my office and discuss how you wandered onto the grounds."
She could only nod and follow him through Hogwarts. The castle looked the same overall, but there were small things that she could tell had changed. Certain portraits were moved and there was a lack of damage from the war. The infamous black mark against the wall leading to the Headmaster's office, courtesy of the Weasley twins, was also gone.
"Up here," he told her gently as the Gargoyle moved aside. "Let us talk about how you came here."
Hermione nodded and went up into the familiar office. It hadn't changed since the Dumbledore she knew had been here. "This is very weird to me."
"How so?" Dumbledore sat down and motioned to his bowl of candy. "Lemon drop?"
"No thank you, sir." Hermione slowly sat down. "This morning, when I woke up, you were dead."
"Was I?" Dumbledore popped a lemon drop in his mouth.
"Yes, sir. You died during the war." She stared down at her hands. "Harry was devastated."
"I can assure you, I am not dead." Dumbledore smiled at her, just like she remembered. Like he was amused by everything and didn't give a damn who noticed. "And I don't believe I know anyone named Harry, my dear."
Hermione looked around the office again, now noticing small changes. She had been in the Time Room, so it was possible… "I think I'm in the past," she decided, looking back to Dumbledore. "I think."
"I see." He unwrapped another lemon drop. "Please, do continue."
Hermione wasn't sure where to being or how to explain, but she had to. Whenever she had ended up, Albus Dumbledore was alive and she knew he was one of the few she could trust. Her story was going to sound weird, but she had to try.
"You see, sir, it's like this…" She told him everything. His face never changed and he only interrupted to clarify a detail or two. Once she was finished, ending with coming to Hogwarts, he simply handed her a cup of tea, silent. Hermione gratefully took it, her throat parched.
"That is quite a story, Miss Granger." Dumbledore leaned forward. "I believe you, have no fear, but we must work to get you back to your own time."
"I agree, sir."
"The only problem is figuring out how to do such a thing."
"I think perhaps the Time Room has a mind of its own," Hermione suggested. "I'll have to do some research…"
"You are more than welcome to stay here." He stood and went to a shelf behind his desk. "The year has not yet started."
"It hasn't? But I left… Never mind. Time likes to do as it wants."
"Precisely, Miss Granger. Come now, what House were you in?"
"Perfect! There are only three seventh-years now that Miss Evans is Head Girl."
"Lily? You mean I'm…"
"You know Miss Evans?" Dumbledore smiled. "Ah, but that would make sense. She's a bright witch. Several positions in the Ministry are already looking to take her in after this year."
Dumbledore hesitated before sitting down again. "Whatever you are thinking, stop. You cannot meddle in time."
"No. Major events must happen. I am sorry."
Hermione sighed. "Yes, I know. It's just so hard."
Dumbledore offered her a smile. "Come, I'll bring you to the dorms. Tomorrow, we'll explain you away as a distant cousin of mine. From my mother's side, of course. Nobody really knows them."
Hermione nodded and let the old man lead her away.
The professors all seemed to take her presence in stride. They gave her small tests to see if she qualified for their N.E.W.T. courses. Really, it was an insult, but she took them with a smile. Most of the curriculum was behind, but she expected that. Dumbledore sent her plenty of books on time travel and she nearly forgot when the students were coming.
September first did come and soon she found herself surrounded by her friends' parents. It was an odd experience, but one she didn't want to miss. Harry hardly knew anything about his mother, and Hermione saw this as the best opportunity. Besides, Lily was considered the smartest witch of her year and Hermione wanted to see how she stood up to that legend.
However, Lily wasn't at dinner with the rest of the school. In between the questions fired at her by her new dorm mates, Hermione casually brought the Head Girl into the conversation. Soon enough, she knew that Lily never liked eating in the Great Hall because when she did, James Potter wouldn't leave her alone. She tried not to look surprised at that; everyone had always said Lily and James were together by this point.
When she inquired further on their relationship, one of the girls laughed while another rolled her eyes before explaining. "James has been after her for years, but she just won't go near him. I blame his friends."
Just then, Sirius and James exploded something in Peter Pettigrew's face. All three were silent while the smoke cleared before bursting out into laughter. For just a moment, Hermione saw Harry there instead of his father.
"Don't worry about them. Just because James is Head Boy, they think they can run the school. Eventually someone will straighten him out this year."
Hermione just nodded, going back to her food. Either she literally went back in time, or she went to some parallel universe instead.
The classroom layout, as Hermione soon found, was a bit different than when she attended. She wished she had checked this information out earlier, but she had been so caught up in her books. Professor Slughorn had always been forgiving, so he didn't take that many points away from her. Adding to her luck, the last available seat happened to be right next to Lily Evans.
Lily held out her hand with a smile. "I'm sorry I missed your arrival. I'm Lily."
Hermione shook the hand. "I'm Hermione. I'm sorry I'm late. Did I miss anything important?"
"Not much, just that we're now partners. Normally I work alone, but Professor Slughorn suggested we work together since you almost tested higher than I did!"
"At least I'm with someone smart, then." She glanced to Lily's book in order to get the page number. "Are we brewing today?"
"Not today. We're supposed to be looking for major project ideas. One potion we'd love to change somehow."
Hermione brightened. Not even Snape let them do that. "I'm guess you have ideas?"
Lily laughed. "Oh, I have plenty."
The two spent the rest of the class with their heads together, discussing various potions. Hermione was surprised by most of them and, considering none were actually in use, nobody but Lily had even considered it. She would have to change that when she returned.
Soon enough, Slughorn called an end to class. Hermione sighed. "For once, I want to stay here."
"You didn't like potions at your old school?"
"More like I didn't appreciate who taught it. He was a sour man." She shrugged, packing her bag. "My friends, Harry and Ron, didn't do well because of it."
"Harry? That's a nice name. I've always wanted a son named Harry." Lily pulled her bag over her shoulder. "After my grandfather, Harry Evans."
Hermione smiled, glad she knew where the name came from now. "That's sweet."
"I suppose it is." Lily shrugged. "Come on, I'll walk you to class. You know, so you won't get lost."
"Good, because I don't think Professor McGonagall would be as forgiving."
"Ah, so you know of her strict rule-following." Lily draped an arm over Hermione's shoulder. "Be careful or she will take points. It doesn't matter the House."
"I'll be extra careful," she promised.
"Good." Lily stopped them at the top of the stairs. "My next class is up a level, so I'll leave you here. Keep going down this hallway and it's the fifth door on the right. Good luck!"
"Thanks. Oh, and Lily?" Hermione waited until she turned. "Study session for potions tonight?"
"Of course! Meet me in the library after dinner and I'll take you to my room."
"Sounds good." Hermione smiled and went to class, happier that she could get closer.
The days passed quickly and soon Lily became one of her best friends. Sure, she got to know all four Marauders better, but they were all like everyone always described. Lily was so different, completely unlike what Hermione had expected. They spent their nights studying and, more often than not, Hermione woke up in the Head Girl's room.
Lily was affectionate, constantly hugging her and playing with her hair. Hermione knew that Harry would have been so different if he had his mother. He wouldn't have flinched from hugs or any other affection. He wouldn't have pushed so many people away.
Hermione and Lily were studying for a Charms exam when she finally gained enough courage to directly bring the subject of James Potter up. She tried to do so indirectly before, but Lily always changed the subject. It was getting late in the year, though, and something had to happen.
"Lils? What do you think of James? I mean, he likes you, so…"
Lily sighed heavily and shut her book with a snap. "Why does everyone try to pair us?"
"I didn't mean it like that."
"Hermione, please." Lily shifted off her bed to sit next to her on the floor. "Since fifth year, everyone has tried to push us together. It won't work."
Hermione put her book to the side, taking Lily's hand. "Why not? If you don't mind me asking."
Lily hesitated before leaning forward and kissing her. Hermione sat there, shocked and unsure how to respond. She'd been kissed before, but never by a girl. The fact that this was her best friend's mother made it even weirder. On the other hand, it was nice, much better than Ron's kiss. Just as she was about to respond, Lily pulled back.
"Sorry," she whispered. "Hermione, please don't be scared away."
"I just… I like girls, not boys." Lily tucked a piece of Hermione's hair back. "In fact, I like you, not James."
It was too much. Hermione fled.
Hermione lasted until Friday before her guilt forced her to return to Lily's room. Even though she knew the password, she simply knocked and waited for her friend to open the door. Just when she was going to knock again, Lily opened it just enough to poke her head out. Hermione tried a small smile, nervous when it wasn't returned.
"Can we talk? Please?"
"It's important." Hermione held up a bag of jelly beans –Muggle ones- and smiled. "I'll share."
Lily wrinkled her nose before opening the door. "I curse the day you found out my weakness for Jelly Belly."
Hermione stepped into the room and shrugged. "Lesson learned, I guess. Sit?"
Lily did, then held out a hand. "Jelly beans first. I think I'll need them."
"I doubt it, but okay." Hermione sat next to her and handed over the bag. "Lils—"
"Before you say anything, I want to apologize." Lily opened the bag and poured them onto the table in front of them. "I overstepped my bounds."
"I shouldn't have kissed you. It's just hard being the only one here that's like this. Especially with James after me." Lily picked out all the yellow ones before sitting back. "I just thought you were interested."
Hermione put a hand on Lily's arm. "But I am," she said honestly. "I'm just scared that we're making a mistake."
"How can this be a mistake if we both want it?"
There were plenty of reasons, but none of them were things Hermione could tell her. "I don't know."
Lily put the jelly beans back on the table before taking Hermione's hands. "Can we just try?"
Hermione looked down at their joined hands, warmth radiating wherever Lily's thumb rubbed against her skin. She shouldn't, but maybe she could just be a really bad girlfriend and Lily would go to James. It was at least a plan.
"Okay," she finally said. "We can try."
Lily smiled and leaned forward to kiss her.
Hermione leaned against Lily's naked chest, surrounded by a tangle of limbs and bed sheets. The year had been relaxing now that she found the comfort of the other girl's arms. Lily shared everything with her and Hermione found herself forgetting about what the future here would bring. Especially now, during Christmas, when everything seemed so much more magical than it already was.
"Hey, 'Mione?" Lily brushed a bit of tangled hair back from Hermione's face. "Can I ask you something?"
"You can ask me anything." Almost anything, but telling Lily that would only make her more curious.
"Okay." Lily propped her chin on Hermione's shoulder. "Move in with me?"
"In the Head Girl's room?"
"No, silly. Well, yes, that as well." Lily pressed a kiss to Hermione's ear. "I meant after school."
Hermione hesitated at that. "Lily…"
"You don't have to answer now." Lily ran her hand across Hermione's stomach and up to her chest. "Thank about it, please?"
She wanted to so badly. Hermione felt her heart break as she pulled away from the comfortable arms. "Lily, we need to talk."
"Okay…" Lily pulled the sheets up over her breasts.
Hermione let her, not begrudging the need to feel safe. She stayed naked, hoping the vulnerability of the action would help. "I was born on September the nineteenth, nineteen seventy-nine. When I got to Hogwarts, I befriended boys named Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley. Together, with the help of the Order of the Phoenix, we defeated the Dark Lord."
"Let me finish." Hermione reached out to take Lily's hand. "We missed our seventh year, but Harry, Ron, and I decided to get started with our lives. I went to work for the Department of Mysteries and they set me to research the Time Room since I used a Time Turner during my third year."
"So you aren't an exchange student?"
"Not really." Hermione took both Lily's hands now. "Please believe me. I'm not telling you this to get out of being with you. I love you, but I can't lie and I can't be the reason for the Dark Lord's uprising."
"What does us being together have to do with that?"
"Because Harry Potter is your son," Hermione told her quietly. "Everyone always points out that he has your eyes." She lifted Lily's hand to kiss it. "But I can see that he has much more than that. He has your love and understanding."
"Do you have a Pensive?"
Lily hesitated before nodding. "I do."
"Get it for me and I'll prove who I am."
Lily got off the bed and wrapped herself in a robe. "You don't have to prove anything."
"Yes I do."
Lily brought the Pensive over. "You do what you need to. I'm going to take a bath." She tilted Hermione's chin up so they could kiss. "You're not getting rid of me this easily."
Hermione watched her go through the attached bathroom door before picking up her wand. This would be the hardest thing she had to do, but Dumbledore was right. She shouldn't meddle with time.
First, the memory of when Harry, crying, showed her the photo album of his parents…
Their plan to let James know she was single again was simple. So simple that it took James nearly a month to figure it out. They avoided each other during the day, only meeting up at night. Hermione told her dorm mates that she felt more comfortable staying with family, so they assumed Dumbledore let her stay with him. She didn't try to change their mind. They didn't need to know she spent every night with Lily secure in her arms.
They did this until James finally got a clue, three days before Valentine's Day. Lily cried in her arms that night; Hermione barely managed to fight back her own tears. Lily eventually got them both naked and they spent their last night together, memorizing each other's bodies as much as they could. She couldn't stop touching Lily and had no idea how she was going to make it through her time in the past.
She voiced this to Lily. The response was a finger sliding between her legs to press against her clit. That was all it took for Hermione to be silenced as they rolled around again.
Hermione woke the next morning and buried her head as deep as she could into Lily's chest. "I don't want to leave the room."
Lily laughed a little, stretching. "You're the one that did this, so no blaming me. Wasn't there another boy like Harry?"
"Yeah, but there was nobody quite like Neville. We need them both." Hermione sat up and ran a hand through her tangled hair. "Thank you."
Lily pressed a kiss to Hermione's shoulder as she got out of bed. "Just remember me."
"It'll be hard not to." Hermione let out a sigh. "I should go."
"I'll see you at breakfast?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, and Lily?" She waited until Lily looked to her. "Give James a real chance. Everyone thought you two were perfect for another."
Lily reached out and ran her knuckles down Hermione's cheek. "He'll never be you."
Hermione's heart broke all over again.
Lily was the kind of bride Hermione always thought she wanted to be. Standing beside her during the ceremony, watching as James married her, Hermione realized that she was wrong. Lily was, instead, the kind of bride Hermione always wanted. Part of her couldn't help but feel betrayed by the situation. Lily was her equal, her partner, and she had to give her away. It hurt.
James hadn't taken long to propose to Lily after they got together. Lily did try to love him and, after she got started with the wedding planning, she told Hermione that they did work well together. By that point, Hermione was tired of the ache in her chest. The ache only grew whenever she had to avoid the reason behind Lily's death.
The war had grown stronger in the past few months. Remus had not been invited to the wedding as Sirius suspected him of being in league with the Dark Lord. Hermione wanted to cry out the truth, but instead simply went to her rental apartment to cry alone. She hated having to play nice with Peter and was glad he had gotten ill. It meant the wedding wouldn't be sullied by his presence.
So far, with Lily's help, she also managed to stay out of any pictures, too. That way Harry would never know about her small trip to the past.
Cheers from the crowd broke her out of her thoughts. She had to smile at the image of James kissing his bride; this was a picture from Harry's album. She did the right thing.
"Ready to sign them as legal?" Sirius draped an arm around Hermione's shoulders. "I know I am."
"Sure." She shrugged him off and went to the minister. "Let's just get this over with."
"Chin up, darling. Lily and James were meant to be together."
She laughed softly, signing her name to the license. "You have no idea." Hermione gave the quill to Sirius with a false smile. "All yours. I'm going to get a drink."
Hermione liked Sirius more when he was older and less prone to stupid, childish pranks. As horrible as it made her feel, she believed Azkaban actually did him some good. She doubted he would have toned himself down otherwise.
The wedding reception seemed to drag on forever. She constantly had a drink in her hand and stayed away from as many people as possible, including Lily. However, it didn't take long for Mrs. James Potter to find her and pull her off to the side.
"You don't have to stay," she said quickly. "I appreciate you just being here for the ceremony."
Hermione shook her head. "This day is about you, not me. I'll be fine."
"Liar." Lily smiled softly. "So this is it, yeah?"
Hermione brushed a stray bang out of Lily's face. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Really, 'Mione?" Lily grabbed the hand so she could kiss it. "I'm going to die. Of course I'm not going to be okay."
"Lily, you're going to save the world."
She sighed, looking down at Hermione's hand. "I know. Just… don't forget me."
"You know I can't—"
"And take care of Harry when I'm gone."
Hermione wished with all her heart that she could honestly agree to that. "Okay, I promise."
Lily leaned in to kiss her, but before their lips touched, Hermione's world went black.
She had the worst headache known to man, Hermione was sure of that. It had to be from the amount of alcohol she consumed at the wedding the night before. Groaning, she sat up and felt around the bed to see if she stupidly brought anyone back with her.
The bed was hers. Not her from the apartment, but her from the house she rented out. Her eyes flew open to stare at the familiar room; she felt like a stranger here now.
"I'm home." Hermione looked down at the dress she wore to the wedding. "Oh my God, I'm home."
A fast search of the house showed very little changes, so she must have done the right thing. Except she never fully kept to her promise. Panicked, Hermione pulled on a cloak and Apparated to where Lily had been buried.
It was warmer than when she came here with Harry during the war. Birds chirped in the trees above the grave, making this visit peaceful. Hermione fell to her knees in front of the headstones, tracing the letters of Lily's name.
"I'm sorry. I guess I never kept my promise." She shifted so she could lean against the cool stone. "You know I would have, if I could."
There was a soft crunch of someone stepping on the nearby gravel. "Hermione?"
She jerked her head over, needing to take a second look at Ginny Weasley. For just a moment, it was someone else standing there. "What are you doing here?"
Ginny motioned to a basket hanging from her arm. "Harry caught something and I was bringing him some soup from Mum. What are you doing here?"
Hermione shrugged. "Nothing… Here, let me get that."
"I'm fine, I—"
"No." Hermione stood and took the basket with a smile. "I got it. Let your mum know Harry's being taken care of."
Since she knew Lily would always make sure the wards let her inside no matter what, Hermione Apparated right into Harry's room before Ginny could argue more. She had a promise to keep.