In the end, they didn't insist on returning everyone to their own timelines. They asked who wanted to stay.
Most of the adventurers had come from Hermione's timeline, Severus realized, watching as they rejoined their old crowds, triumphant returning heroes. Severus hadn't realized at the time. Abraxas Malfoy opted to return to his own timeline, determined to prevent his descendants in his timeline from ever turning into such a bigoted family. Severus was surprised to learn that Abraxas had come from a different one from the rest of them, on Draco's special request.
"We would have picked him up along with Tom, otherwise," she told him. "But Abraxas in most of the timelines didn't qualify – he'd already rendered his soul with a silly curse against a Muggle girl when he was fifteen. Draco wanted his family to have a chance, at least in some timeline – for there to be at least one timeline where the Malfoys weren't evil and wrong."
Lupin had elected to stay, not wanting to return to a past where painful, unrestrained monthly transformations would torture him for years more until the use of Wolfsbane was approved by the Ministry of Magic. Remembering the vicious Lupin he'd seen in the Shrieking Shack, Severus couldn't blame him – though, he suspected wanting to stay close to the pink-haired Tonks had something to do with his decision as well.
James and Sirius elected to return, which didn't surprise Severus in the slightest – he had suspected James would want to be reunited with Lily. Before they left, James pulled Severus aside to have a quiet word.
"I really am sorry, for everything," he said quietly. "I was rotten to you, and all along you were the hero that saved the day... the leaders think we didn't know, but we knew. If you hadn't gone to rescue Hermione-"
"It was nothing," Severus told him, shaking his hand firmly. "It was good to work with you."
James' lips quirked at that, and Severus ventured a question that had been plaguing him for a while.
"If you go back," he said, "aren't you going to die?"
"That's what I thought," James said, smirking. "But as it turns out, the Young Adventurer's Club showing up in the first place splintered the timeline. There's one path that leads to here, where Voldemort was finally destroyed and the Young Adventurer's never came calling from any of us, but there's a new path, still waiting to be written when we return. Sure, Voldemort's still there, but now..." His eyes glinted. "I reckon now that we know all this magic, we'll stand a decent chance of defeating him the first time around."
"Good luck," Severus wished him fervently, and he waved as Hermione transported Sirius, James, and their friends off.
"You're not going back?"
Severus turned to see Regulus, Tom, and Rabastan watching him. Severus raised an eyebrow.
"And leave Hermione?" he asked them. "Are you kidding me?"
"Always suspected it," he said, clapping him on the back. "I'm staying, too – me and Minerva. We're going to make a go of it here, in this timeline – we're thinking of moving to the colonies, teaching in a school there."
Severus looked at Rabastan, who shuddered.
"Me go back? Nope, sorry, I can't," Rabastan said, grimacing. "Not back to Rodolphus and his evil. Did you see him when we captured him? I'm glad we didn't run into me – I'd about have died of the shame. Avery's still broken up about seeing his evil alternate-universe self – he's staying to work in the Ministry's Justice Department, I think."
Severus looked at Tom, who looked back at him. Their eyes met for a long moment, and then they were in each other's arms in a brotherly hug.
"Well," Tom said, clapping him on the back. "You got the girl. Good on you – she deserves someone like you."
"Not someone like you?" Severus asked, and Tom laughed.
"Nah," he said, shaking his head. "I reckon I'd always see her as a savior figure, and that's not healthy, not in a real relationship, and she'll always see me as a son she helped save. Sure, we'll work together, but I don't think we'll be able to be anything more." He smiled ruefully. "Bummer, isn't it? As a Triad, we could have ruled the world."
"Careful, now," Regulus warned. "We all saw how well that worked out for you the last time around."
They all laughed, and Tom looked back up at Severus, grinning.
"So, you're coming, right?" he asked. "I know these two pansies are happy to stick around and live normal, boring lives, but you're not about to do that, are you?"
"Coming?" Severus asked. "Coming where?"
"Coming on an adventure."
Severus turned to see Hermione, who had just reappeared, Harry, Ron, Luna, Draco, and Ginny in tow.
"Kingsley Shacklebolt – our time's, the one who's just been made Minister of Magic – offered us a deal," she said, smiling up at him. "Officially, we'll work in the Department of Mysteries, and we'll all have homes here, should we want to stop home from time to time. But the rest of the time, we'll be off adventuring."
"The Ministry Aurors were very impressed when they saw what our members did with their rings," Ron said, grinning. "Blaise is staying behind to set up a Chinese Magical Institute."
Severus looked at Harry, raising an eyebrow. "And you don't want to stay behind?"
To his surprise, Harry flushed.
"I never asked for all the fame," Harry muttered, looking away. "I just did what I had to do."
Tom moved and clapped him on the shoulder.
"We all did," he said, and Severus wondered if he saw more than just gratefulness and understanding in Harry's eye. A moment later, Harry broke his gaze from Tom's, and his face was flushed.
"Regardless, I'd much rather be out adventuring, at least for a few years," he said. "The rest of the club can take up fixing society and putting the bad guys into Azkaban."
"And you know I'm not about to turn down a grant to finding tons of ancient knowledge," Hermione said, turning to smile up at him. "So? Are you in?"
Severus looked down into her eyes, took her hand, and kissed her. There was a chorus of aww's from around the clearing, and when they broke apart, Hermione was blushing, and Severus smirked.
"You know I wouldn't let you go without me," he told her, kissing her knuckles. "Whenever you're ready."
They got into a spiral – a much smaller one, now that most of the members were gone, everyone touching Hermione's hand.
"Where are we going first?" Ron asked. "Pompeii? Ephesus?"
Hermione's eyes sparkled. "I was thinking Atlantis."
"Atlantis?" Ron said incredulously, his eyes shooting to Draco. "You told me that wasn't real!"
They were all still laughing when they transported away.