A/N: Hello, all. I'm embarking on another multi-chapter Hermione/Severus adventure. I promise I will get back to 'This Isn't Happening' at some point, probably when my own kids aren't fueling fantasies of Hermione dumping Aiden off on Mrs. Weasley and running off to have fun and sleep in (as I was typing this I heard a random crash and maniacal laughter, yeah, I don't want to write about kids right now)
This is my take on a time-travel story. It is mostly cannon through the battle, and completely ignores the epilogue. It will also contain adult themes. And some language. Ye be warned.
"Harry!" she called, running through the halls. Her lungs were aching from exertion and breathing in the dust and smoke from the ruined castle. "Harry!" she shouted again, her panic level rising. He wouldn't be so stupid as to actually go into the woods, would he? One moment they were standing around Fred's body, the next she looked up and Harry was gone. Stupid, stubborn, boneheaded Potter. He wouldn't have fallen for Voldemort's promise, would he? He didn't actually think that if he sacrificed himself that Tom Riddle would let everyone in the castle live, did he?
As soon as she realized Harry was gone she took off through the castle, first heading towards the front to see if she could catch him sneaking into the forest. She had no chance of catching him there, and she was nervous when she didn't see him. The only hope was that he was somewhere in the castle, doing Merlin knows what, somewhere she could find him and talk him out of sacrificing himself. If they were dead either way, they'd stand a better chance with him there. He just had to think…
Think! Of course he'd go to someone who had thought up their insane little quest, who had directed this war from the first onset. He'd want to talk to Dumbledore, and there was only one way to do that. She turned around, bounding up the nearest staircase two at a time, stumbling only when she forgot the trick step halfway up, but still moving faster than she thought possible until she came to a stop in front of the Headmaster's office. The passage was open for some reason, and, feeling suspicious, she stepped onto the spiraling staircase and drew her wand as she rode it up.
But there was no enemy waiting for her when she reached the top, nor was there a sign of Harry. The door to the Headmaster's study was cracked, and she pushed it open just to make sure Harry wasn't hiding inside. But she saw no one, but there was a pensive on the desk, the surface bubbling slightly as if someone were inside watching a memory. She approached the table cautiously, and could see blurred images swirling below her. She bent low, trying to get a better look.
"As much as I condone your help in every other one of his exploits, I must ask that you stay out of this one," a warm voice said behind her.
She turned and looked up to see Dumbledore's portrait smiling down at her.
"Those are Snape's memories," she said, nodding towards the Pensive.
"He wouldn't have given them to him if they weren't to let him know something important."
She felt her stomach drop. "He's one of them, isn't he? That's why he's a Parseltongue, and why he can see Voldemort, and why he's always been so damn moody… he's a horcrux, isn't he?"
"Unfortunately, yes," his face fell. "How long have you known?"
"I started suspecting as soon as I knew what they were," she whispered.
"You have earned the title of the Brightest Witch of your age, haven't you?"
She barely heard this, the tears that she had been holding back since she had rushed out of the Great Hall started coming, and she couldn't stop them. "He has to die, hasn't he?"
She sank to the floor, unable to speak, letting her emotions finally catch up with her. She would be here when he came out. He wouldn't be going to his death alone. She had been there since the beginning, and she would take this step with him. Her own minutes had become severely numbered, but her death would be a sacrifice someone would have to make. No one should die alone, and Harry wouldn't, either. So much death had happened that day, perhaps hers and Harry's sacrifice would put an end to it. They were doing it out of love, and if Lily Potter's love could save her son, perhaps their love could help save everyone in the castle from Voldemort's wrath when Harry was dead.
"Is there something you'd like to talk about, Miss Granger?" Dumbledore's portrait said kindly.
"I'm going with him," she managed.
"I don't think that wise."
"I know that if I go, I'll die, too, but I feel that it's for the best."
"If you give it time, I'd be willing to bet that you'll find that Harry will be fine."
She scoffed. As if he could be 'fine' when dead. Unless Dumbledore was talking about the end of his mental torment, she was willing to bet their definitions of 'fine' were vastly different. Perhaps Aberforth was right. Perhaps his brother was a bit off his rocker.
"I know you must have seen some horrible things today…"
"Are you mental?" she jumped up and shouted at the portrait. "One half of the Weasley twins are dead, and if you could honestly tell me it'll ever be the same with just George, I'd still think you were lying. Colin Creevy, who wasn't supposed to even been in the castle, died because that bloodthirsty werewolf is on the damn loose and doesn't care if his victim is underage. And speaking of werewolves…" her voice broke as she started to shout less and sob more, "Lupin and Tonks are both dead. Little Teddy is too young to understand. He's living with Andromeda, who now has to raise a baby alone because her husband, daughter, and son-in-law are all dead and pretty soon Teddy's godfather will be as well. I would do it, but I'm about to go die with him."
Her body was so racked with sobs she couldn't stay on her feet, and she sunk back onto the cold stone floor. "I watched Snape get bitten to death. He was one of the most powerful wizards I've ever seen, he could fight several people at once and still come out on top, but he didn't move. He didn't try to get away. He didn't try to fight. He knew it was coming and he let it happen anyways. How desperate for death was he that he wouldn't even defend himself? I don't even know what side he was on at the end. We were so sure he was on Voldemorts- he had killed you, but his last act was to give Harry memories and look at his eyes, at Lily's eyes, and die. He died well known and universally disliked, don't tell me the Death Eaters liked him, Bellatrix did not have a nice word about him as she was torturing me. I want to go with Harry because no one deserves to die alone, but I wish I had been there for Snape because no one deserves to feel like they are happy Death is about to collect them."
She hung her head between her knees, and took a couple minutes to compose herself, and didn't see the twinkle in Dumbledore's eye as he studied her.
"Did you mean what you said?" he asked when she sat up.
"About what? About dying with Harry? Abso…"
"No, no. About Severus. Do you really wish that you could help him?"
"Of course. Severus Snape may not have been a pleasant man, but if someone genuinely cared about him instead of using him for whatever end they were trying to achieve…" she added with venom, glaring at his picture, "then perhaps he would fight for his life."
"Phyllida," Dumbledore turned to one of the smaller portraits. "Do you think it is time?"
Hermione had never noticed the raven-haired witch sitting in the portrait, but when she turned to look Phyllida Spore, former Headmistress of Hogwarts and author of her Herbology text, was staring at her with a sincere interest. A quick look around the room and Hermione realized these were the only two portraits still in the study, the rest had gone to watch the battle. "Yes, Dumbledore, I do think she's ready for the task. She looks right, doesn't she?"
"That she does. Now, if you'd please…"
Phyllida's portrait swung wide, revealing a small cavity behind her portrait. Inside the cavity was a box, just one corner of which was visible.
"You'll find it will come to you, and only you," Dumbledore smiled.
Hermione waved her wand, casting a silent summoning charm, and the box floated down to her. It was dusty, as if it had been there for years, and there were no fingerprints or anything to indicate that it had been recently handled. There was a small padlock on it, but no hole for a key. She looked curiously at Dumbledore.
"Do not open it unless you are completely committed to helping Severus."
To Hermione's surprise the lock opened with the touch of her fingers. She slowly pried the top open and peeked inside. There was a yellowed envelope sealed in deep purple wax, a time-turner, a smaller box, and what looked to be a lock of her own hair.
"How did you…?" she started to ask, pointing at the hair.
"You will find that all your questions will be answered if you open the smaller box. Keep a tight hold of everything if you decide to do so."
Warning bells were going off in Hermione's head, but she was determined to help Snape. With shaking hands she lifted the smaller box out of the larger, shut the larger and tucked it tightly under her arm.
"Good luck, Miss Granger. You have thirty-one days."
She looked up to ask him what he meant, but was shocked to find the portrait empty. With shaking hands she pried the top off the smaller box. A faint golden light was emitting from the depths and Hermione slowly brought it towards her face to get a better look. When the box was at her eye level she suddenly felt herself getting sucked forward into it, her feet leaving the ground and disappearing into swirling golden nothingness.