Disclaimer: The entire Harry Potter universe, characters and everything belong to J.K. Rowling.
This is an AU. There is a slight variation of the 7th book (namely, Hermione's parents being dead) but everything is pretty much the same until the end.
Hermione had been dreading this for days. She cowered in the abandoned potions lab, laden with charms and protections against…against them. She starved, she thirsted, she ignored the screams. The horror. There was no way out of the castle, of course, no escape for her to find. This would be where she would die, and she knew it.
How could they have known about the ninth horcrux? Who could possibly...who would every want to split their soul so many ways? Of course they should have guessed, Voldemort would stop at nothing to live forever. Their exuberance at his supposed death came to a halt when they saw him rise again. He had taken precautions this time, there would be no escaping to Albania, no making of a new body.
He had laughed, and aimed the killing curse at Harry. Harry did not survive a third time.
When Harry had fallen, the chaos had truly been unleashed. The Light scrambled every which way. Some continued to fight, some tried to save their own skins. Most did not know what to do. They stood around, shocked, scared, not raising their wands to protect themselves. Those people perished quickly, of course, and added to the already large body count.
Hermione had tried to fight. Hermione had failed. And those red eyes had locked onto hers as she fled the scene. Harry was dead, Ron was missing, Tonks had been blown to pieces, Remus was headless, Ginny was broken beneath collapsed stone…and so many more.
They had lost.
At first, the dark, little dungeon had seemed a refuge. It was free from death eaters and the looks of betrayal she surely deserved. Now though, she realized it was simply a prison, or purgatory. It only prolonged the inevitable.
She huddled herself in that classroom, clutching her robes around her shaking shoulders. She both longed for and dreaded it: Death. It must be better than living like this, in fear, in regret, in guilt, in misery.
When the inevitable finally came, it was in the form of Draco Malfoy, white hair and all. He was death in an albino costume. She was sitting, leaning her back against the desk.
"Granger." he whispered, looking….relieved? "Finally."
"Go ahead, Malfoy." murmured Hermione "Kill me."
She felt so weak…..what kind of fight could she put up? Everyone she had ever loved or cared for was dead and gone. Only her enemies lived. It was her time now.
"No Granger, you don't understand-"
"Come off it Malfoy, stop playing games!" her voice was icy, but inside she only wanted to crumble to dust. Couldn't he just kill her already? Did he have to draw it out? Would he torture her? Fine, she'd already been tortured. She could take it, knowing there was a blissful oblivion, an end to it all. That would make her strong. Malfoy did not, however, raise he wand at her. Not that that would have mattered much anyway as Hermione's own wand hung limply in her hand.
"Please Granger, just listen,"
Hermione shrugged weakly. She could not very well stop Malfoy from insulting her before her killed her. From his robe pocket, Draco pulled out a small black book. When he walked towards her, Hermione wanted to flinch and push herself away form him. She did not. She considered herself a coward, but she would not run from death. Not anymore. Her legs were shaking too much to stand up, so she sat, back completely straight against the desk.
Professor Snape had one once lectured from this desk, as had Slughorn. It was almost funny that she should find herself about to die in the very place Tom Riddle had first heard the hints about immortality, Hermione mused.
"Granger, I beg you," Malfoy was saying as he approached. "Just read the cover."
He held the book out to her, but Hermione did not raise her shaking fingers. Was it cursed? Would it poison her when she touched it? Burn her? Explode? When she didn't take the proffered item, Draco laid it next to her, in her line of sight. Hermione briefly glanced at it, and then glanced back.
Potion and Spells for the Purpose of the Practical Passing Through of Time
There was no author.
"Potion for what?" Hermione murmured, mostly to herself.
"Time." Draco answered. "The book deals with time travel."
"I don't understand." Hermione said, truly meaning it for the first time in her life. She stared at the book, refusing to touch it. Draco kneeled down beside her. Hermione turned away from him, not daring to meet his eyes, to see his triumph at how lowly the mud-blood had fallen.
"He killed my parents, Granger. Right in front of me"
The pain in Malfoy's voice….it was so familiar. Slowly, Hermione faced him. And oh yes, it was there in his eyes too. She recognized the pain she had seen on her own face upon coming home at the end of her sixth year to two broken bodies.
"My mother screamed for hours before he finally ended it. And you know why he did it?" Draco asked her, his voice sounding very distant. Hermione shook her head.
"To make a point, a damned point of putting him before family, before everything." Draco's already pale knuckles turned a few shades lighter."He has to fall Granger and this is the only thing that will do it." he gestured to the book.
"Time travel?" Hermione could hear the doubt in her own voice.
"We haven't got any advantages over him. And your Golden Trio was always two steps behind. If I can go back far enough, with my knowledge of how everything pans out, then maybe we can catch him off his guard."
"But that's impossible, how do you even propose to-" Hermione began to protest.
"Improbable, maybe." Draco admitted, a slight smirk on his face "But not impossible. Not with the book. It's the only one of its kind in existence. I've been looking for it for days."
"How did you even know to look for it?"
"A reference here, a reference there. I was searching for any way to take old snake face down. This book seemed like the best bet. I've been stering clear of him of course, to avoid his Legilimency. And then I had to find you…"
For the first time, he took a close look at Hermione. "You haven't eaten anything for a weak I should think. Only your magic is sustaining you now." he stood up and strode toward the door. "I'll get you some food."
"But…why?" croaked Hermione. Why haven't you killed me yet? Why feed me? Why look for me?
Draco stopped and looked back over his shoulder. "I'm rubbish at potions Granger. Snape never bothered to make sure I actually knew anything beyond the basics. And someone needs to brew that potion." Then he was gone, out the door.
Not trusting Draco, or herself, or life, or fate, or anything in general, Hermione inched over to the little black book. She picked it up ever so carefully and turned to page one.
As far as Hermione could tell, the food that Draco had brought her was not poison. In fact, it tasted rather good. Voldemort had at least kept on the poor house elves, it would appear. As she munched, she looked through the book.
"This is all one potion. Yet, with this one potion, there are hundreds of possibilities. You can go forward in time, or go back just to witness events, like the muggle cinema. Or you can change the past. The only changing factor is the spell." she said. Draco nodded, though she doubted he knew what a muggle cinema was.
"We're in the perfect place for potion brewing, don't you think?" With that he got up to retrieve a cauldron from the store room and magically put a fire under it on the teacher's desk.
"It will only take about two months." Hermione added, doubtfully "Polyjuice potion doesn't take longer, but it requires more preparation, and I would imagine that it is far more complicated to change times than faces. Don't get me wrong, no first year could do it. There are very precise times to add the ingredients, and ways in which they should be prepared, and words to say over it. Yet...it just all seems too easy."
Draco frowned and stared into the empty cauldron "Time isn't real, Granger. It's not solid like appearances are. It is merely a largely accepted theory, and that is much easier to twist about than someone's face."
Hermione shook her head, but continued to read the book.
She didn't trust Draco, not one bit. But if he wouldn't kill her, and did not tell anyone else about where she was hiding, what more was there to do than to help him with this insane project? Oh, Hermione knew time travel was possible. How could she not, with her third year? Yet, it had limits, like anything else. Travel was possible within a day or so, not fifty years. The book offered little to no proof of actual time travel and despite what Draco said, Hermione was inclined to think this whole task a fool's errand.
All of the ingredients that they needed were stocked in Snape's storeroom. Most of the potion was really just a matter of sitting around and waiting for the right time to add the right ingredients. As the days passed on and Hermione found herself not in the clutches of Voldemort, she also began to believe that at least Draco hoped this would work. Perhaps, He really did want to get rid of his Master.
Gradually, they formed a loose plan of sorts. Draco would be the one to go back (the potion was only made for one). The plan had to be loose, as one very important drawback to the potion was its impossibility to make the year precise. Oh, it would send you back alright, but not exactly to when you wanted to go.
There would be at least a few years of difference, either forward or back. Hermione had decided to be safe and add more of the ingredients (lacefly wings, dragon scales, hippogriff feather) that would hopefully give Draco more time rather than less. He would be able to get rid of all of the horcruxes with time to spare.
If this worked at all, of course.
Hermione was not entirely sure how Draco kept it all a secret from his -former- master. Voldemort was something she was reminded of each time Draco rolled up his sleeves to chop something, or placed a hand over his arm when he felt the call. This could all be one big trap, and Riddle was perfectly aware of where Draco was during his absences.
Though, as the days passed, Hermione decided that this was all to elaborate to be a trap when the dark lord could himself just burst in and kill her right then and there.
"What does he think you're doing?" Hermione asked one day as Draco set a plate of chicken in front of her. Draco frowned.
"I don't think he cares, really." Hermione looked at him, clearly asking for more of an explanation. "He's won, Granger. The Wizarding world has been conquered, in Europe at least. Now, the muggle one is on its way out. They're putting up a resistance, to be sure. But they're no match for him. Soon, they'll all be dead or enslaved. They don't really know what they're dealing with."
"It's only been a few weeks." Hermione said, aghast. Her face was as white as a sheet. She had not been thinking…had not wanted to know what was happening outside of this classroom.
"There are no obstacles in his path Granger. That's why he does not really care what I am up to. He does not think that anyone can take him down, or would even dare to try. And now with everyone this side of the Atlantic clambering to get on his good side….he does not really need me either."
This side of the Altantic
"The Americans? They're not trying to get on his good side? They're fighting back? Wizards or muggles?"
Draco was headed to the storeroom "Canada actually. The United States was infiltrated a while back. Voldemort made sure that they would too busy fighting amongst themselves to be ready for an attack. And wizards and muggles both, actually. They're working together."
"So there's hope." Hermione insisted. Draco stuck his head out of the storeroom "There's Canada, Granger, against all of Europe, South America, Most of Asia, more than half of Africa, and soon all of the United States, right on their border. There's not any resistance in those places either, at least nothing that counts, nothing that won't be overwhelmed soon.
"Australia?" Hermione asked weakly, feeling as though all the breath had been knocked out of her.
"It's dark." Draco's voice carried "They're in the midst of a final battle of their own, and it looks like the Death Eaters are winning."
Hermione clenched her fists "It's hardly been a month!"
Ingredients in his hands, Draco came back to where she was standing, next to Snape's old desk. He plopped them down. "Prejudice is something that spreads like wildfire. I should know better than anyone. It clings to the coattails of fear. And right now, there's a lot of fear in the world. If Potter or Dumbledore were still alive, there might be something to slow it down. Instead….there's just us."
Hermione stared down into the cauldron set atop the desk. Faced with the end of the world, she decided to push away her doubts over the possibility of this potion's success.
"Just us huh? Well. Old snake face shouldn't be so confident then." She said it low….not intending for Draco to hear. The smirk she saw out of the corner of her eye told her he had probably heard anyway.
And so, the two months went by, if not quickly, then at least busily, what with them both checking over their shoulders every few moments and chopping up a storm. Hermione asked no more of the outside world. Instead, she threw herself into this task she had agreed to complete.
The day Draco was meant to begin his journey, something was not right. He was late. Draco was never late. As she waited for the worst, Hermione heard a bang. She jumped about ten feet in the air. The door to the potions lab creaked open.
"Granger." Draco's voice rasped. He collapsed into the room.
"Malfoy." Hermione cried, quietly. She did not want to attract attention from whomever had surely followed him. She ran over to him. His leg jutted out at an awkward angle. The more Hermione's eyes rove up his body, the worse it got. A gash ran from his pelvis to his collar bone, open, gaping, bleeding. His right arm looked almost sawed off, and his face red and blistery.
"The States fell, Australia fell. I was being foolish. It slipped. He read my mind." Draco was muttering. He seemed to realize she was finally there. "Granger, is it ready?" he asked weakly, not looking directly at her, as if his eyes could not remain still.
"I-yes, it is, but let me heal you first. You can't-"
"I won't. Granger, you go in my place. Don't waste time healing me. Just go. They're coming." He gripped her arm with his good hand.
"No. Malfoy, we agreed-"
"I lied. I never intended to go. You're the smart one, the c-clever one. You will succeed."
"Malfoy, you're delirious…"
"I wish. No I am painfully aware of what is going on. Potter saved my life, you know. And I betrayed him. I went over to snake face. And for what?"
Draco paused as he coughed up blood, heaving and hacking. When he recovered himself, he continued "Helping you save the world is the least I could do."
His gaze finally focused on her and his grip strengthened. "Go save the world, Granger." Footsteps echoed down the hall. Draco released her. "Now!"
Angry hot tears burned her eyes. Maybe they were there because she had been lied to, or because she had not being given a choice, maybe even because of her former enemy's death (though she and Draco had never been close, never having really liked one another, not even as they conspired together).
Hermione ran to where the cauldron lay on the desk. she conjured a laddle and a glass. There was exactly a cup full. She drank it down, biting back a scream as a searing pain raced down her insides. She saw the death eaters break through the door, trampling Draco... saw the green light heading her way.
"Ad mutandum!" she yelled.
Then there was only darkness.
Author's note: Yes? No? OH NO not another Tom Riddle/Hermione story!?