-Hermione goes back to save one man, and the world.
The monument is cracked and decrepit, crumbling beneath a heavy layer of nature and disrepair. Before it stands a figure, cloaked and hunched over to press feminine hands to the spongy soil. It was half mocking and half appeasement that the monument was built, the names of all those dead listed in webbed carvings, betrayers to the new world.
But she is reverent, despite knowing that she might be watched, that any second a Death Eater, or a bounty hunter, could appear to capture her. She is unworried, despite her being the last of the Light.
“I’m fixing it,” she whispers, the sprinkle of rain muting her voice. The pitter-patter of forest life surrounds her, the irregular stone the only wizard-made thing in miles, erected on a small, grassy knoll.
She stands, throwing her shoulders back as dark, cloaked figures melt from the huddled tree line.
“A Mudblood,” a husky voice murmurs from behind a mask. “A rarity.”
She slips back her hood, revealing wild, frizzy hair. Cheeks gaunt, but there is no doubt who she is. It has been difficult for Hermione to hide.
A guffaw rolls behind her, abrasive and malicious. “It’s the Mudblood! Potter’s!”
“Our Lord will be pleased,” someone hisses to her left.
Hermione’s hands tremble as she pulls a small device from her pocket. It glitters dimly in the overcast light, a dim, burnished gold. She gazes at the pursuers defiantly.
With a grimace, Hermione viciously twists the dial of the Turner, and in instant she is whisked away. Where she once stood, there is not a sign.
15 February 1927
The frazzled woman smoothes her long skirts as she glances back at Hermione. Wispy hair floats past her face from the limp bun perched at the base of her neck.
“We’ve so many of them these days,” she explains with a strained smile. “So many orphans and no parents. You’re a godsend, you know.”
Hermione smiles back politely. “Ah, yes. Well, I’m just interested in the one.”
They are striding through a dank hallway; wallpaper peels depressingly as large patches of rug reveal a plywood floor beneath. It has been many years since this house saw repair. The screech of children upstairs grates on Hermione’s ears, but her manners don’t give way.
They reach a faded cedar door and the woman slips it open just enough for her and Hermione to pass through silently. Upon entering, Hermione sees about five cradles, all filled with bundles of ragged blankets. Only one is occupied though, a snoozing babe curled in off-white towels.
“He’s left alone?” Hermione asks, attempting to hide the censure in her voice.
The woman has spent too many months working as she has not to recognize it. “What else can we do? So many of them, not enough of us. And he’s such a quiet baby. Barely a peep out of him.”
“I see,” Hermione says.
There is a loud crashing sound from above them, and the woman begins to wring her hands. “Will you be alright alone? I don’t mean to be rude….”
“I’ll be fine,” Hermione murmurs graciously. “Thank you.”
The woman rushes out, Hermione watching her until the door shuts with a resounding click. Then she turns to the cradle. The baby is staring up at her, wide blue eyes studying with an odd intelligence for one not even two months old.
“Hello, Tom,” Hermione says. “So good to see you.”
The baby smacks his lips, and Hermione’s expression remains blank.
“You’ve killed all my friends, you know,” she continues. “Every. Single. One.” Pause. “And look at you now: helpless. What would you give, if you only knew?”
She reaches a hand into the cradle, rustling about for his soft little hand. His petite fingers barely wrap around her one, but there is enough pressure to reveal sentiency.
“You won’t, of course,” she whispers as she reaches in to pick him up, “Because I’m changing things - starting now.”
He is cradled in her arms. She smiles at him, though she has to blink back watery eyes, and she joggles him slightly, making cooing noises all the while. She thinks back to her sociology texts, her studies, before she lost the world. This was integral, right? This was important, right?
Touch, speech, humanity. Hopefully it would be enough.
8 October 1928
“He’s missed you these past few weeks,” Ms. Cole says as she leads Hermione to the playroom. “Been quite the little monster about it. He’ll be so excited to see you.”
“Any problems? Is he getting along well?”
An experiment. She must think of this as an experiment. A scientists emotions must never get involved. The hypothesis is more important that the personal--
“Tom!” Mrs. Cole yells.
Hermione searches the playroom until she sees the toddler boy. He is focused on a miniature football, rolling it between his sprawled legs with intense focus. At the sound of his name he pauses, then glances up. When his gaze finds hers, a brilliant, childish smile lights up his face. Hermione allows a small quirk to her lips and softly beckons him over. Clumsily, he half stands, half crawls until he reaches her. She picks him up beneath the arm pits and brings him in close.
He smells of baby powder and dust, sweet and musty and familiar. His pudgy arms wrap around her neck as he murmurs against her skin.
“’Ette!” He says. “’Ette!”
“Ms. Brown,” Mrs. Cole interrupts. “Would you like to retire to the parlor?”
Hermione nods, immediately turning on her heel with her small, loving bundle. He tugs at her hair and kicks his legs, and Hermione has a very hard time imagining anything else. When they reach the room, Mrs. Cole excuses herself, and Hermione settles herself and the boy on the floor. He cuddles into her body - taking, taking, taking, because this is the only tactile sense he ever gets. Hermione takes too, because this is all she knows right now.
“Now, Tom,” she murmurs, blowing softly against his dark, baby hair. “What have you been learning?”
He gazes up at her trustfully. “’Ette,” he says, repeating again the only name he knows.
Hermione lightly caresses his cheek. “Where are your eyes, Tom?”
He pauses, then one wobbly fist presses against his eyes.
“Where are your ears, Tom?”
A finger points.
“Where’s your nose?”
Hermione chuckles as he smacks his petite nose. “Very good!” She praises. “You are so smart!”
Laughter bubbles from him, and he curls against her like a puppy seeking warmth. Hermione tries not to think about his intellect.
When she materializes, the need to vomit is overwhelming. She drops to her knees, her entire body heaving as she empties her stomach on the devastated hillside. Muscles twitch and jerk, and she can’t hold herself up.
Not enough, she screams to herself. Not enough!
New memories rush over her like a tidal wave, overpowering her logical mind and burning through her psyche. It wasn’t enough. Everything is worse. Everyone is still dead.
Kill him, god dammit! Just kill him!
“Don’t abuse it,” another voice whispers through her mind, prudent and forceful. “You are our last chance. Do not abuse it.”
With trembling fingers Hermione reaches for the Time-Turner around her neck. A Century Maker, and she twists the dial.
2 August 1931
The young boy stares sullenly at the sky as Hermione lounges next to him. Cicadas drone in the trees down the slump from them, content in the muggy weather.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” Tom finally mutters.
Hermione sighs. “I know you didn’t.”
“She was horrible. She slapped me.”
Hermione frowns. The teenage girl, fearful of the young Tom, had taken her terror out through violence.
“She won’t be doing that again. Don’t worry.”
“Will you be making her go away?”
Hermione turns to gaze at a childishly bitter Voldemort. “No, I won’t. Tom, we must reason and compromise with people. We can’t make all the bad ones just go away.” She rolls onto her side so she can watch his expression. It is thoughtful.
“I can make her go away,” he announces.
“And I can make you go away, but I choose not to. Think before you speak, Tom.”
“Yes, but you like me, Harriett.”
“Sometimes,” Hermione replies dryly.
Tom snorts, but doesn’t reply. She knows he’s thinking, so Hermione waits. He will speak in due time.
“She was so scared of me,” he whispers. “I’m different.”
Hermione reaches a hand out to clasp his. His stubby fingers grasp back. “She doesn’t understand,” Hermione murmurs. “You’re different in a good way, and years from now you will be surrounded by other different people, and you will learn to become great.”
He glances at her with his wide blue eyes. “Is that what you did, Harriett?”
So guileless. How could he know what pierces her heart? “Yes,” she says solemnly. “That is exactly what I did.”
18 May 1935
“Miss Brown,” Mrs. Cole greets cautiously as Hermione sheds her coat and mittens, “May I have a word with you before…?”
Hermione glances at the matron curiously, but nods. “Yes, I have time.”
“Right,” the woman says nervously. “Right.”
Hermione is lead to a small, shoddy office. Papers and files are stacked every which way, leaning against walls and piled in corners. The desk is covered in parchment splattered with cheap ink and brass pens. Hermione has to remind herself that this is just the Muggle world in the past.
“Please, sit. Sit,” motions Mrs. Cole at a rickety chair. Hermione perches gingerly at the edge.
“Is everything… alright?” Hermione questions hesitantly.
“Well,” trails the frazzled woman, “Tom has been having some problems with the other children.”
Hermione feels her insides freeze; ice crackling through her veins, but violently presses emotion from her face. “Yes?”
Mrs. Cole sighs. “He got into a bit of a fight with Dennis and Amy. Nothing major, you understand, but I’m worried he might be… bullied by the other children.”
Hermione nods slowly.
“He’s an exceptional boy,” the matron continues, “but a little awkward. Perhaps you could help him with it…?”
“Of course,” Hermione hears herself agreeing. Then she is getting up and walking from the office. She stumbles to Tom’s room and knocks politely.
“Go away,” a lackluster voice responds.
“Tom,” Hermione replies softly.
There is a short pause. Footsteps. Then he is flinging the door open and pulling her in, slamming it behind her.
“Harriett!” He exclaims, though she’s noticed his smiles don’t seem as easy as they once were. At eight he is growing up and becoming much more solemn. “It’s felt like months!”
Hermione smiles gently. “Sorry, Tom, I’m working on it.” Twist of words. He won’t understand.
“You say that too much.”
Hermione shrugs and settles onto his cot. He settles beside her. He’s too old to hold hands or cuddle now, but he still likes the nearness of her presence. Hermione takes heart from this, as small as it is.
“How have your lessons been?” She asks.
“Boring,” Tom groans. “We learn letters and some math, but the other kids are too stupid to understand.”
“That’s not nice.”
Hermione rolls her eyes. “They’re not stupid, you’re just very smart.”
Tom pauses, a small smile flits about his lips. “I’m special.”
Hermione frowns. “Everyone is, in there own way. We are all still human, no matter our abilities.”
Tom is feeling argumentative though. “Yes, but we’re--” Magic users, she knows he means, “--better, right?”
“Oh, Tom,” she sighs, “you don’t see it here, but Muggles have come up with some fantastic things. They are just as smart as us, if not smarter.” She rolls her neck. “Everyone is different. There are stupid wizards too, you know.”
Tom glances at her. His expression is cool, but thoughtful. “You seem smart to me, Harriett,” he finally murmurs.
Hermione laughs. “Perhaps,” she says good-naturedly, “but there is someone much smarter than me. And you, too. You’ll meet him soon, I’m sure.”
“You know him?” He tries to hold his excitement, but she can read him too easily now.
“Yes,” she says. “He’s a teacher.”
“Will I learn from him?”
“I’m sure you will.”
She thinks she is prepared for it this time, but she still drops to all fours. She swallows bile as a new set of memories scorches her mind. It’s starting to get confusing. She can’t keep track now. She keeps firmly her mission in mind.
She still has to go back. It wasn’t enough. It’s still not right. They’re alive, but lost. The world is in shambles, and they’re all enslaved. Flames scorch the earth of blood, leaving only ash behind.
She stumbles to her feet, willing her hands to grab and flick her wand. She is dirty.
She never notices the person approaching her from behind. The last word she hears is a resounding “Stupefy!”
She wakes up with a gasp. Her mouth is dry and she gurgles a half-scream as a circle of masks surround her. She scrabbles for her wand, but it’s missing. No, no, no, no!
But the chain is still around her neck. It can save her.
Someone laughs at her terror, but they all move away, allowing her to sit up. The room rocks and sways, and she has to brace her body, elbows locked so as to not collapse once more. Fighting is not an option. It never was, in this universe.
“You hit her too hard, Regulus,” a voice murmurs, and Hermione stills. She is a rock. Glass. The calmness of a burbling pond on a hot summer day. She looks up, only to see Lord Voldemort lounging on a stone dais. He is humanoid. The snake-like visage did not come to be in this time, and she hates hit. He looks like a perfectly normal, older gentleman. He almost looks like Tom.
But there is enough madness in his eyes for her to tell the difference. She has to get back again.
“A wandering Mudblood,” Voldemort says sibilantly as an odd, predator-like smile grace his lips. “Unusual. Very unusual.”
Hermione concentrates on breathing. She pretends to clutch her shirt in fear, though she is actually feeling for the Time-Turner. She can’t stop trembling.
“Well,” he continues, “please enlighten me as to something so unusual. I was unaware your ilk still existed, much less roamed.”
He is the calm before the storm, but she feels the dial between her fingers.
“Oh, Tom,” she whispers. “You make this so difficult.”
His face transforms. The thin veil of malicious hospitality is ripped away to reveal fury.
“You!” He hisses. “Search her! Grab her!”
But it’s too late. With a watery smile, Hermione wrenches the dial. She doesn’t know where it is sending her, but as time fades she can see his horrified eyes focused completely on her.
13 July 1937
Wherever she goes there is war, but this is too important. In the distance she hears sirens, but she doesn’t move from her hiding spot. The orphanage is safe. She knows this.
She has been staking it out for the past few weeks, and finally he has showed up. Harry had told her how this memory played out the first time around, and Hermione needs to see it now. She needs proof that it will be different, that what she is doing is not completely hopeless. She can’t keep going like this if there is nothing to show for it.
She is Disillusioned down the hall, a Weasley Ear in hand. It’s not near enough, but it is all that she has. The makeshift wand she knicked does not agree with her, making even the simplest of spells near impossible. She shifts then freezes as Mrs. Cole shows a young Albus Dumbledore to the boy’s room.
“He gets no guests these days…” she murmurs, at which Dumbledore glances at her strangely. He knocks and enters at Tom’s stern voice, despite the youth that overruns it.
Hermione listens to their mumbles voices. Dumbledore’s calm, pleasant voice; Tom’s leery response.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m offering you an invitation, Tom. An opportunity.”
A pause. Hermione imagines Tom’s scrutinizing gaze.
“Do you want to learn?” Continues Dumbledore. “To explore yourself?”
“A school, you mean.”
“I’ve been told.”
A pause on the Transfiguration instructor’s side. “You… have. By who, may I ask?”
“I am interested in this education,” Tom says, ignoring the question.
“Ah ha,” Dumbledore replies. “I have your letter right here….”
Hermione stares at the wall, focusing on the dusty crevices and faded floral wallpaper. Dumbledore briefs Tom on school, wizards and life, and Hermione tunes out. Because she hears his voice and memories trickle through her. Feasts with calm speeches as Harry and Ron sat beside her, their bodies warm with friendship and excitement. Chattering voices. Warmth. Light.
Then Dumbledore is saying farewell, and he is exiting the room, shutting it softly behind him. He pauses, then he turns to look at the corner she huddles in. Her breath catches.
But he does nothing more than ’hmmm’ softly before walking away. Hermione feels her heart race, and she wonders what would have happened had he caught her and decided to confront her. What could she have ruined?
But did that matter anymore? Nothing at this point. Not really.
A few minutes later Hermione unwinds, stretching her limbs and waving her shoddy wand. The Disillusionment Charm trickles away, leaving her to blink and roll her shoulders before going to knock at Tom’s door.
It swings open right away, and his brows lift as he sees her.
“Harriett?” He says incredulously. It has been nearly two years since she last saw him.
His eyes narrow. “Did you come here with that man?”
Hermione shrugs. “Not really. I watched.”
He moves away from the entrance to allow her in. There is little difference in the room since the last time she saw it; lumpy cot, rickety desk set, worn wardrobe.
“You have not visited in… a very long time.”
Hermione thinks of glimmering mad eyes. Not yet, she thinks as she stares him. He’s not that way yet. Wariness tugs at her shoulders. “I’m sorry,” she mutters. She can’t really think of an excuse.
He studies her. He’s grown taller - more kempt - but he is still young and short and scrawny. He kind of reminds her of Harry, except more adult and slyer.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tom questions. “You look horrible.”
Hermione has not checked her appearance in quite some time. She has no idea how she looks, only how she feels. If the two match, then she must look something awful.
“Time is trying,” she says honestly. It can be meant in so many ways.
“Hm,” Tom murmurs, still staring at her like a particularly irritating puzzle piece; one that wouldn’t fit because it was from a completely different puzzle.
Hermione glances at the opened envelope on the desktop. “You’ve been accepted. I knew you would.”
He smirks. Pride has always run deep in him. “I’m different.”
“Unique,” Hermione affirms.
Tom nods as though she agreed. He takes a seat at his desk, waving a small hand to the bed. Hermione lowers herself, feeling the ache of her body as she settles. Humans were never meant to travel like this.
“Is this where the great man teaches?”
Hermione feels warmth seep through her. “You’ve already met him.”
An incredulous pause. “Professor Dumbledore?”
Hermione gives a slow nod.
Tom gazes up at the ceiling thoughtfully. “He did not appear powerful.”
“Power is not all about flash and skill. It’s about intellect. It’s about wisdom.”
“Dumbledore,” Hermione murmurs, “can be a very wise man.”
Hermione smiles wryly, tiredly. She thinks of towers. “He’s still a man.”
25 June 1939
“I requested to stay at the school for the holidays.”
Hermione picks at a piece of grass, tearing it to shreds with her ragged fingernails. “I know.”
Tom stares sullenly at the rickety orphanage down the hill. “I want to practice.”
He turns to look at her. His dark hair is brushed, pristine. Hers is a mangled, snarled nest. She feels uncouth next to a twelve-year-old. “Don’t you care?”
“Sometimes living life is more important than gaining power.” Another torn piece of grass. “It will pass you by otherwise.”
29 November 1941
Hermione cradles a Butterbeer to her chest. He should be here soon, but she feels jumpy and paranoid. Not often has she strayed from the orphanage in her travels, and this leaves her feeling off, like Time was chafing against her. So similar, but with all the wrong players.
She almost makes to stand before students began to trickle into the warm pub. A few minutes later Tom appears. Despite his poor heritage he still looks striking in his immaculate robes. He nods a greeting at her and goes to order at the counter. Hermione sighs and settles back into her seat.
She watches him as he coolly mingles with other students, periodically exchanging a few words with one or two others. She notices his quick, disapproving frown at a girl who stands beside him, but he moves away right after.
He strides to her table and sits. “Harriett.”
“Tom, how are you?”
He taps his fingers against the worn wood of the table absently. “Bored. School is easy.”
“I was hoping you would be more challenged,” Hermione replies with a smile.
“I’m still surrounded by idiots.”
“You do not like your peers?”
He glances around the room and once again his gaze rests on the girl, cheeks rosy and lashes long. Her hair tumbles down her back in carefully arranged curls. “They are tolerable.”
“Do you like that girl over there?”
Tom tenses, blue eyes narrowed on her suddenly. “No, I do not.”
Hermione cocks her head. “Why?”
“She is a Gryffindor, and she does not belong here.”
Hermione feels her smile fall very fast. Her fingers tighten around her near empty mug.
Tom notices and misreads her reaction. “You do not approve either?”
She struggles to control her temper. “I don’t approve of what you just said.”
He blinks at her, clearly shocked. “You…do not agree with me.”
He mulls this for a moment. “Why?”
“I was a Gryffindor, and I ‘didn’t belong’.” She relaxes her fingers. “Does that make me any worse of a witch?”
“You are different,” he says dismissively, though she can tell his eyes are lingering on her. “You have proven yourself.”
Hermione stands abruptly. “I need to leave.” Tom stands too, and she notices how much he’s grown; how he’s almost as tall as her now.
“I have angered you,” he murmurs.
Hermione wants to lie, but she can’t. “Very much.”
She steps away, but he blocks her. “You will visit again.”
She wants to smash a fist in his face, to jump back in time and strangle his scrawny neck in the crib. But, no. She would not do that.
Hermione strides outside, and she can feel his gaze on her the entire way. Once alone, she cranks the dial and feels the years dissolve.
5 July 1943
He doesn’t say anything to her when she enters, instead just opening the door and striding back to his desk. His lanky form, she notices, doesn’t seem to fit there anymore. He has outgrown the room, and she doesn’t like it. To be fair, she hasn’t liked any of it, so she decides not to notice.
She trudges to the bed and perches at the edge. Soon boredom gets the best of her and she can feel her eyes droop and blur. When did she last sleep? She is not sure. This feels like forever.
Hermione falls asleep.
She wakes to a hand caressing her face and playing with strands of her hair. A very masculine hand. Dread melts through her spine. She opens her eyes to find Tom hunched beside the bed, staring intently at her face. For a moment she studies him back, taking in the cruel eyebrows, but his passive mouth. She wonders if this is a change from before, or if she hasn’t noticed. No longer a boy, but a young man.
“What are you doing?” Hermione finally has the nerve to whisper.
Tom doesn’t pause in tangling a stray curl around his index finger. “You are an enigma, Harriett.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Who are you really?”
Hermione feels tense. The gentle teasing of his fingers only makes it worse. “Harriett Brown, like I’ve always been.” She hopes her voice doesn’t tremble.
His fingers pause. He sighs. “I know nothing about you. Where you live, your job, what you do in your missing months and years. I’ve researched you, yet you don’t exist.” He is watching her so close. She can feel his breath brush against her lips. “And, on top of that, you do not age.”
Finally Hermione pushes his arm away, gathering her cloak and messenger bag. “I need to leave.”
He watches her with something foreign in his eyes. Hermione can’t place it, but it terrifies her.
“You would be curious too, Harriett,” he says slowly. “I don’t even know who you are to me.”
She pauses at the threshold of the door. She can’t bring herself to turn around. “I’ll see you later, Tom,” she breathes. She thinks he may have reached out, fingers brushing against her lower back, but she doesn’t stop. She can’t, really.
She lands, falls, and realizes it’s still not right.
10 December 1943
“You still haven’t aged,” he says as he greets her, setting down two mugs for them each.
Hermione studies him, seeing he is still fastidious and clean, and sane.
“It’s only been half a year. Most people don’t age that fast.”
“Hm,” he replies, unwinding his scarf to drape it over the back of his chair. “Yes, well, most people do age over a course of sixteen years.”
Hermione just shrugs awkwardly. Tom smirks slightly, but is graceful enough to let it drop for now.
“How have your studies been going?”
“As well as can be expected when learning what I do.”
Hermione frowns. “What do you mean?”
Tom lifts an eyebrow. “I mean it’s boring. I spend much of my time doing extra research and my prefect duties.”
“What type of extra research?”
“Nothing specific,” Tom murmurs. Hermione can’t tell if he is lying. “Everything that interests me.” He gives her a pointed look. “You said you were in the top of your class, but there is no record of it.”
Tom adds, “At least not yet.”
30 July 1944
“Your last year is coming up.”
They are lounging on the slope. His arms are hooked behind his head as he lazily watches the clouds float by, and Hermione lies on her side, watching him. It disturbs her how adult he is now.
“Do you know what you are going to study?”
He is not being very talkative. Hermione sighs and lets her lids drift shut, thinking how rare it is for her to unwind; how it is nearly impossible. She doesn’t think of the past. Memories cloud her brain like a noxious mob, pushing and shoving against each other, shouting, ‘I’m real! It’s me!’
Stop thinking, she tells herself. Just stop. Instead she tries to focus on feeling: the breeze on her face; the grass itching her arms; the hand caressing her bicep.
Hermione opens her eyes to realize Tom is touching her and staring at her.
“What are you doing?”
Her breath hitches as his fingers brush up against her lips.
“Because I desire to.”
He shifts closer, and his gaze searches her face, unusually expressive. Curious.
“I don’t see why.”
Hermione shifts and sits up, hunching over her bent knees. She hears him move as well.
“You’re young.” A finger trails up her spine, causing goose bumps to ripple across her flesh.
“How old are you then, Harriett?” He moves her thick curtain of hair from her neck, barely brushing his lips against the sensitive skin there.
“Older.” She doesn’t really know anymore.
He presses a butterfly kiss. And another. “Then I am old enough.”
When was the last time someone touched her this way? Never. They had all been lost before--
Something screams in her mind. This is your enemy! He killed them all. Homicide. Genocide!
Has he really been redeemed?
A gentle, calloused palm cradles and lifts her chin, and he his hovering over her, his face so close.
“You have been the only constant in my life,” he murmurs, and then he is kissing her; soft and chaste and dry, and lovely. Because she is a Most Important in this kiss. She is a One and Only. She is a Heart to someone’s Life.
But she pulls away, and she thinks she may be crying, because this is too much. Too much.
She stands, and he watches her, not the least bit regretful.
“I must go,” Hermione says desperately. She strides to a tree but doesn’t bother to apparate. With a weak twist of the Turner, Hermione is whisked away.
15 May 1945
She has been going through all the papers, but sees nothing about a girl’s death or Hagrid’s imprisonment. Nothing at all.
7 July 1945
This is the first graduation she has been to. It does not surprise her that it is a subtle affair. Enchanted diplomas are floated to their owners - listing all their O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts. Hermione feels out of place on the hillside; vulnerable. There are not enough parents there for her to be lost in the crowd. She notices Tom glancing her way. She notices Dumbledore doing the same.
Once the papers are all passed out and a final word of is congratulation announced, the graduates are released to find there families. Tom does not immediately stride to her, instead he’s shaking hands with Dumbledore, a small smile on his face. His gaze slides to her. She notices that Dumbledore has been studying her for the last minute.
The proud smile that has tweaked her lips fades, and she decides it is time to leave. She turns to stride down the hill, to the road to Hogsmeade. Almost immediately a hand grasps her elbow.
Hermione turns to face him. “Tom,” she breathes and smiles.
“You were about to leave.” His face is passive, masked.
“I…” Hermione stutters. “I wasn’t sure whether I should be here. I--”
Tom rolls his eyes. “Who else should be?”
“Well,” Hermione says awkwardly. “I know your family….”
“Mean nothing to me. They don’t even know I exist.”
And, Hermione thinks, oh so important, is they are still alive.
“I’m… very proud of you.” She feels odd saying that, because he his taller and broader and grown up now. She feels childish, even though she’s older.
He nods slowly. “I have been offered jobs,” he finally says. “I’ll be able to afford a flat.”
“That’s good,” Hermione says approvingly.
“I would wish you to join me.”
Her heart flutters, then begins a heavy percussion beat. “Oh, Tom….”
Around them families flock, and graduates display their proud magical accomplishments with subtle twists of their well-worn wands.
“I can’t,” she whispers.
His hand reaches down to grasp hers, twisting and entangling their fingers. “I am unsurprised. You will visit again?”
Did she need to? Maybe… Once more. Only once more, then she would try to go home again. Maybe this time it would be right. Maybe this time--
24 December 1946
She has a difficult time finding him. It’s taken a few tracker spells and one time of breaking into the Ministry employee records. She realizes she has become quite the rule breaker - lawbreaker - but gives it over as necessity.
She strides down an alley down the street from his small apartment. It’s in the nice part of town, and Hermione is quietly happy about this. He isn’t working at Borgin and Burkes.
Looking at the hastily sketched address, Hermione climbs a set of cobbled stairs to stop at a heavy cedar door with a plain brass knocker. Nervously, she raps a quick beat against it. A crumpled package, wrapped with old newspapers, is tucked beneath her arm.
After a few minutes there is the gentle pad of footsteps. The door swings open to reveal a woman wearing a man’s dress shirt and an ankle length skirt. Hermione immediately flushes in mortification.
“May I help you…?’ The woman asks politely, her lovely pixy face curious.
“Um,” Hermione mutters, “Would you happen to know where Tom Riddle lives?”
“Oh,” the woman says with a smile. “You have the right place. He’s in the bath right now though. Perhaps….”
Hermione pulls the package from beneath her arm and holds it out to the woman. “This is for him. Tell him… ‘Happy Christmas’ for me.”
“Of course,” replies the woman, puzzled. “Are you sure you would not want to come in?”
“Yes, quite sure,” Hermione says with a small smile. “I’ve family to visit. Thank you, though.”
In the woman’s manicured hands the gift looks childish. With a friendly wave, Hermione scampers off. Once she reaches the alley she pulls the Time-Turner out and twists the dial.
The shift is like a warm blanket. Memories flood her, but they are warm and loving and Light. No war. No death. She tries to organize all the new information, synapses firing wildly, but it is jumbled and broken. She remembers doing multiple things that morning. In another universe she wakes to a rat scurrying across her face, frozen and cold and alone. In this universe she’s opened Christmas presents with her parents and had supper with the Weasleys.
She is on a hillside. The same one she started at, though there is no stone now, only a gentle slope of frozen grass and gnarled trees. Dusk approaches, and Hermione is so, so tired.
She lays down, uncaring of the cold ground or the openness, and sleeps.
26 December 1999
Hermione wakes to a warm blanket and the low murmur of voices. Harry’s voice breaks through the fog, arguing with someone.
“I don’t understand,” he hisses. “How could she have lost so much weight? She was just fine yesterday. What happened?”
Someone attempts to soothe him. She thinks it’s Ginny. God, Hermione feels wetness build in her eyes. They’re alive. They’re alive.
“Harry, please, let me speak to her first.” Dumbledore is speaking.
More murmuring. Where was she?
Hermione shifts, trying to move, trying to get a glimpse of her surroundings outside of her cocoon blanket. Immediately a hand reaches for her and she moves the blanket and she is faced with a happy, healthy Harry.
The tears spill. “Oh, Harry,” Hermione moans, wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling herself up.
Ginny looks wide-eyed behind him, and Hermione reaches for the girl’s shirt, pulling her into the embrace as well. She can’t get enough of their smell, skin and heartbeats. So alive, and she’s trembling.
“God, Hermione,” Harry mutters. “Are you alright?”
Hermione releases them and sniffles, smiling. She notices she’s in a chamber, perhaps a Hogwarts spare room with the stone walls and large, ornate fireplace. Why she’s here, she has no clue.
“I’m perfect, Harry,” Hermione says, though it come out very blubbery and she would be embarrassed if not for the relief that courses through her veins. Standing by the fireplace is a - living! - Dumbledore. His blue eyes twinkle warmly as he ponderously twists a gnarled finger through a strand of his snowy beard.
“You must be hungry, Miss Granger,” he says, slightly amused. Hermione pauses, glancing at her ridiculously bony fingers, and nods.
Dumbledore snaps and a tray appears, loaded with a steaming broth and rye bread. Tea seeps beside it, and Hermione gratefully reaches for it. She wipes her snotty, salty face with her sleeve and tucks in.
Harry and Ginny cannot stop staring at her incredulously, she notices, but she ignores it. Too hungry. Too happy. Too relieved. Too many a number of things, all of them amazing.
“Perhaps you and Mrs. Potter would like to tell your family of Miss Granger’s recuperation?” Dumbledore suggests lightly. Harry glances at him knowingly, but agrees. Together they leave, each after a brush of the hand or a playful tug of her snarled curls.
Alone in the room with the old Headmaster, Hermione slows her eating. She waits, because he thinks he will be the first to speak. He is.
“How many?” Dumbledore asks curiously.
Hermione tilts her head to the side. “How many?”
“How many memories?” He clarifies.
“Ah. I see. How many.”
Hermione sighs and takes a sip of her tea. To be honest, she wasn’t sure.
“Too many,” she replies. “I can’t… quite keep track.”
“I’ve relieved you of the Time-Turner.”
Hermione clasps her chest to find an empty spot where it once was. She thinks of this timeline and finds nothing wrong. “Thank you,” she murmurs.
“I understand the allure of such power,” he says, and there is a note of reproach in his voice. Hermione looks to stare him straight in the eye.
“You would have too,” she says flatly. “If you’d been alive, you would have too.”
He is taken aback, she can tell. He blinks and his lips twitch.
“Ah,” he finally whispers. “I see.”
Hermione pushes the tray from her, and it whisks across the room to land on a small dresser. “You don’t,” she finally mutters dejectedly. “You couldn’t. You never will.”
But Dumbledore was too wise to forget. “I assume this all had to do with Tom.”
Hermione clenches the blankets in fists.
“I remember quite a lot of things, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore continues. “The mysterious woman in Tom’s life. The one who twisted his dark path to light - I would remember her forever.”
“Anyone could have done it.”
“But you were the only one left.”
Hermione rubs palms to her aching eyes. “Yes.”
He moves away and he is watching her sadly. “You are an astounding witch, Miss Granger. You will go far, I should think.” He pauses. “But, before that, more rest is in order.” His eyes twinkle and his lips smile warmly. With a respectful nod, he leaves the room. Hermione watches, then sleeps.
31 December 1999
Hermione dozes on her couch before the fire. Crookshanks curls around her feet, purring loudly as watery mid-afternoon light filters through the cheery curtains. A book rests on her lap, but Hermione has given up concentrating on it, her mind too jumbled to focus.
It jolts her when someone knocks smartly at her door. Shifting Crookshanks to stand, she pads to the doorway, hesitating before grasping the handle. She is weary of concerned friends. She just needs rest.
Yet when she opens the door she is faced with a lavishly dressed, older wizard. Hermione pauses before tilting her head.
“May I help you?”
He has dark hair sprinkled with gray and an immaculate goatee. About a head taller, he stares her down quizzically.
Hermione’s brow furrows. “Yes?”
“You are she.”
“Yes, of course,” Hermione says a tad impatiently.
“You do not recognize me.” Was that a tinge of disappointment in his tone?
Hermione studies him closer, and pieces begin to click and snap together in her mind. The demeanor, the attitude, the cool, blue eyes. But why…?
“Tom…?” She says hesitantly.
“Harriett,” he states.
“Ah,” Hermione says awkwardly. “Yes.”
“I last saw you nearly sixty years ago. And I mostly go by Marvolo now, though you may continue to use my childhood name.”
Hermione swallows, trying to force her voice box to work. “I did not expect….”
“That I would remember? I have a very acute memory, Hermione.”
Hermione flushes. “I did not expect you to care, to be truthful.”
Hermione grasps the doorknob and realizes it is extremely cold outside and she is still in pajamas. She shivers.
“I have something for you,” he announces.
“But…” Hermione pauses. “It’s your birthday. Why would you have something for me?”
He pulls a book from beneath his cloak. It is well-worn, faded, and very, very old. Hermione recognizes it instantly.
“Tom, are you re-gifting?”
“Of a sort. It’s quite outdated now.”
Hermione stares at the book, which shows a picture of an old, forties-style automobile. She reaches out and takes it.
“I never was able to give you a gift for Christmas,” he states.
“Yes, well,” Hermione murmurs awkwardly.
“I do understand, though.”
She clasps the book to her chest, remembering it wrapped childishly in castoff newspapers.
“Would…” she asks shyly. “Would you like some tea?”
His lips quirk, and she can see how he is still himself. Not the evil, genocidal sociopath. But the quite, introspective, brilliant young man.
Hermione steps back, allowing him in.
to come, arrive, reach.