Chapter 2: Finding Time
Hermione worked through her lunch break on Monday and left early for the day. Without wasting any time, she Flooed straight to Hogwarts from the Ministry.
“Hermione Granger,” said McGonagall, looking pleased as Hermione arrived and began dusting off her robes. “It's been too long, dear. It's wonderful to see you again.”
“Thank you,” said Hermione, coughing a bit as she always did from the Floo powder. “It has been far too long. How are things at Hogwarts this year?”
“Splendid,” said McGonagall, a sly smile pulling at her mouth. “We've got a top notch team for Gryffindor this year – the best we've had since Harry I do believe.”
“That's... brilliant,” said Hermione, trying to feign a bit of enthusiasm for the topic of Quidditch.
“Indeed,” said McGonagall, putting aside some pieces of parchment and clasping her hands over the desk. “So, what brings you here, Hermione? I confess I was intrigued by your note and flattered that you would come to me first.”
“Yes, well... it's a few things,” said Hermione, opening her bag and pulling out some of the items she had taken with her from the Ministry. “Er... technically speaking, I shouldn't have removed these from the building but I thought it was important that you see what I'm talking about.”
Hermione carefully placed the engraved charm bracelet, a delicate necklace, and a few of the scrolls covered in ancient runes on the desk between them, then sat down across from McGonagall.
“These are a few of the items of interest I've come across. As you can see, they appear to be valuable and rare. These are things that should not be in – er – the area I've been assigned at the moment. I suspect they were put there without authorization, and that replicas were made to keep anyone from realizing the true items were taken. Since they're all in the same place, long forgotten, I cannot think of a motive for someone to do such a thing.”
McGonagall blinked and looked from Hermione to the items on the desk and back again.
“For what purpose did you bring them to Hogwarts?” she asked.
“I thought perhaps you, and possibly Professor Babbling, might be able to verify that these are indeed originals rather than replicas. I assume the replicas were made with advanced transfiguration, but I would not be able to tell the difference myself. Also, I know that anything I come into contact with should have been previously checked for any curses, spells, or magical properties, but if the person who made the replicas intercepted them before they were scanned...”
“I see,” said McGonagall seriously. “Well, Hermione, I think you are right to be cautious, and it is perhaps best to do a bit of investigation before you go pointing fingers around the Ministry as a new employee.”
She paused and shifted in her chair, looking at the clock.
“Let me see if I can catch Professor Babbling before she goes on her daily walk to Hogsmeade. Her class ends in a few minutes.”
“That would be great,” said Hermione. “Shall I wait here for you?”
“Come along, if you like,” said McGonagall. “The rest of the faculty would love to see you.”
“Oh, ah... perhaps after we sort this out? I'd like to take my time making the rounds.”
“Very well. I shall return shortly,” said McGonagall. Hermione felt her body relax, though she was still holding her breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement in Dumbledore's portrait frame. The portrait had appeared to be sleeping when she arrived.
McGonagall left and Hermione finally lifted her eyes to the portrait. The painting of Dumbledore was now staring intently at her.
“Hello, Miss Granger,” he said.
“Hello,” she said softly. “I've come to speak with you.”
“As I gathered,” said the portrait. “For I know that in her seventh year, Hermione Granger was an expert in the fields of Transfiguration and Ancient Runes. I assume you have not lost your fierce, independent academic drive since you left Hogwarts. You must be Professor Babbling's equal by now.”
Hermione smiled and said, “We don't have much time. I need you to tell me what Dumbledore wanted me to do to save Severus Snape.”
The portrait's sparkling painted eyes grew sharp and hard.
“The time is past for such things, my dear,” it said.
“I understand that,” said Hermione. “But I must hear it nonetheless.”
“It would not be wise for me to give you such information,” said the portrait carefully. “It would torture you in ways that cannot touch me, a mere memory sealed in magic and paint.”
Hermione sighed and said, “Please, help me. I am tortured as it is, knowing that his message never reached me as intended that year – the year Snape was murdered. The real Tales of Beedle the Bard was stolen by a someone in the Ministry. I was bequeathed a replica, without the bookmark Dumbledore left embedded with his message for me. I only just found it a few days ago. By some stroke of luck I was hired at the Ministry and given the job of going through the things left in storage, where the book had been hidden since Dumbledore's death.”
The portrait was silent, its delicately painted face unreadable for a few moments. Then, it spoke.
“Dumbledore left you another bequest, Miss Granger – an immensely valuable and dangerous possession. You will find it, along with details of the task you were to be given should the need arise, in the place where no man should go, though the spirit be friendly. It will be found with a wink and a prayer, if you can see the stars.”
Hermione felt a grin begin to spread across her face, but it quickly disappeared as McGonagall entered the office with Professor Babbling in tow.
“All right, Hermione, let's see what we can learn about these objects,” said McGonagall.
They learned that the objects were not imbued with any magic, but that they were indeed originals and likely worth a lot of money to the right person. The scrolls were ancient records of common spells in various regions of Egypt.
“Thank you so much,” said Hermione when they were finished. “The next step will be to bring this up through the proper channels. Don't expect to hear anything in the news, though... the Department of Mysteries is good at its job.”
Hermione spent the next few hours eating dinner with her former professors in the Great Hall, having tea with Hagrid in his hut for old times' sake, touring the greenhouses and promising to take back a few cuttings for Neville, and of course, having a drink with Slughorn who insisted on having her shake hands with the newest members of the Slug Club.
It was late when she finally said goodbye to McGonagall and thanked her once again, leaving the Headmistress to a stack of papers, her favorite crimson and gold quill in hand. Hermione exited the office and peered down the corridor before hurrying to a spot out of the way of prying portrait eyes and throwing Harry's cloak over her head.
She hurried up to the girls' lavatory – Moaning Myrtle's lavatory. Poor Myrtle, doomed to haunt the girls' toilets as a perpetually boy-crazy teen. She really was far friendlier to anyone of the male persuasion.
The counter-incantation to the Hide-Me Charm was to be said while looking with one eye open in the direction of Polaris, the north star. The wand movements were reminiscent of the way religious Muggles often crossed themselves for prayer. Hermione performed them carefully and then squinted around the room through one eye.
A soft, pink glow guided her eye up to the ceiling, then over to the far corner of the room above the last toilet stall. It settled and hovered over a stone in the wall, then disappeared. Hermione sighed and marched over to the stall. Thankfully, it was not Myrtle's usual spot. She was not able to reach the indicated stone by standing on the toilet, so she coaxed a few of the stones on the wall to stretch out just far enough to serve as a climbing hold.
As soon as her wand was in reach of the stone in question, she tapped it and said, “Accio loose stone!”
It slid out of the wall and dropped into her waiting hand. She felt around inside the shallow hiding spot. There was a soft, velvety pouch inside that was soon in her possession. With the stone replaced and the wall returned to its original state, Hermione pocketed her prize, threw the cloak back over herself, and hurried out of the castle.
It took all of her self-control to wait until she was home to pull the deep green pouch back out of her pocket. She sat down at her kitchen table and opened it with shaking hands. There appeared to be nothing inside, so she cautiously thrust her fingers inside to feel around. It was then she discovered the pouch contained a masterfully concealed Undetectable Extension Charm. There was a small opening in the side seam that hid the charm.
Hermione felt cool metal through the tiny opening in the seam. There was nothing to do but rip the lining apart to get it out.
Hermione held a brilliantly shining golden Time-Turner up to the light and stared at the shimmering sands inside, a small smile on her lips.
This device was far more powerful than the one she had been issued as a student. It was not supposed to exist. All such Time-Turners were illegal. Any that were confiscated were supposed to be immediately destroyed. Not even Moira Trunkett had dared keep one, as far as Hermione could tell. Unless by gross oversight, a Time-Turner should not have made it far enough to pass through her hands in the first place.
Hermione's heart was beating quickly with excitement, and she let out a slow, calming breath. There was a rolled bit of parchment attached to the delicate gold chain. She gently unfolded it and recognized the handwriting of Albus Dumbledore.
I do not need to tell you what this is or how it could be used to save one deserving soul. Nor should I need to remind you that it must happen with hours of death, or of the precautions you must take. I trust your judgement. You are an extraordinarily gifted and unusually logical young witch. I deeply regret I will not live to see what becomes of you.
Hermione was now crying. She had known what Dumbledore's message would likely be, but knowing she had been right did not make it less cruel or unfair. Dumbledore had wanted her to turn time back and save Professor Snape, who was certainly deserving of better than the death he had suffered at the hand of Voldemort and his vile, possessed snake.
Hermione wiped her eyes and wondered what Harry would say if he knew. Snape's death weighed on Harry more than Dumbledore's. He had made his peace with the loss of his godfather, but the fact that Snape was murdered before Harry knew who he truly was would forever cause him pain and deep regret. She could never tell Harry about the Time-Turner and the missed opportunity to save Snape's life.
Hermione returned the Time-Turner to its pouch and pulled the drawstring closed, clenching the soft velvet in her fist. There was nothing to do but hide the illegal device and live with the knowledge that a loyal, brave man might have been saved if not for the actions of a greedy Ministry witch.
The rest of the week was a blur of dull, tedious cataloguing, and hazy memories of her life as a student at Hogwarts and the year she spent on the run with Harry and Ron.
What had Snape's life been like that final year? He had been completely and utterly alone in his task of protecting the students at Hogwarts without appearing to do so, knowing that soon he would have to send Harry off to his death after spending years protecting him. How he must have hated Dumbledore.
At one point that week, Hermione found herself leaning against a half-empty shelf, tears streaming down her face. The raw emotions from the day of the battle, freshly dredged up from her memory, and the anguish she felt over Snape's fate, hit her in overwhelming waves of helplessness, anger, and sorrow.
She began to have disturbing dreams as well, always set during the battle at Hogwarts, in which she was frequently followed by the snake. It never caught her, but slithered behind or beside her, waiting. Sometimes she woke shaking, the sound of his vile laughter haunting her mind.
In her dreams she was always looking for Snape, or trying to get to the Shrieking Shack to save him, but was held up fighting Death Eater after Death Eater, her wand slashing through the air without ceasing, her lungs burning as she ran, spells just missing her again and again as her heart tried to pound its way out of her chest. She always woke, covered in sweat, tangled in her sheets, trying to calm her breaths and her pulse.
On Friday she was supposed to go out again with Harry and Ginny. She managed to catch Harry before he left the Auror training facilities for the day.
“Harry! Wait!” she called, hurrying toward him. He had just left a group of wizards, who seemed to be congratulating him on a job well done that day.
“Hermione? What's wrong?” he asked, frowning. Hermione tried to appear less anxious than she felt.
“Ah... can I walk out with you?” she asked, smiling.
Harry gave her a suspicious look.
“Sure,” he said. They did not speak again until they were outside.
“Harry, I don't know if I'm feeling up to going out tonight,” she said quietly.
“Oh, ah... are you ill?” he asked with concern.
“No, er – yes – I'm not sure,” she said. “I'm just tired, really. I haven't slept well this week. I've – ah – been dreaming about the battle.”
Harry stared at her for a moment, then said, “I get that, too. Still. Sometimes.”
Hermione shook her head and said, “It's never been this bad, Harry. Not even right after... back then, I just felt numb. Anyway, I'm picking up some Dreamless Sleep tonight. I'm sure it will pass.”
Harry was silent for a moment, and stopped walking under the shade of a tree.
“What are yours about?” he asked.
“Just a lot of running, fighting, nearly getting killed, and... the snake is always there, following me at a distance. I never really see it, but I know it's there,” she said, shivering.
Harry blinked at her, then looked past her.
“I dream about Snape a lot,” he said hollowly. “Him dying, right there, looking into my eyes. I don't think I'll ever stop.”
Hermione felt a lump rise in her throat.
“I know. It was awful,” she said.
“Now I don't feel much like going out, either,” he said.
“Sorry,” she said.
Harry gave her a serious look.
“Don't be,” he said. “Why don't you come over to our place and we'll stay in tonight.”
“Harry...” she protested.
“It's what I'm going to be doing anyway,” he said.
“Okay,” she agreed, and smiled slightly. “But only if you tell Ginny it was you who decided to cancel our plans!”
“I will take all the blame... this time,” he said.
Hermione was thankful to Harry for saving her from Ginny's questioning. She was also thankful that Ron was helping George run an event at the shop and would not be present that evening. She and Ron were going out again the next night.
Hermione, Harry, and Ginny ordered take-out and spent the evening recounting the best parts of their years together at Hogwarts. It was one of the best evenings they had spent together in a long time.
Ginny fell asleep against Harry on the couch in the early hours of the morning. Hermione did not give a single thought to the vial of Dreamless Sleep that was stashed in her purse until she heard Ginny begin to snore.
Harry caught her eye and grinned. Ginny was a notoriously heavy sleeper.
“All right, Hermione?” he asked.
“I'm better,” she said. “Thanks for tonight.”
Harry nodded and then fell silent and pensive.
“What about you?” she asked. Harry did not answer for a few moments.
“Ginny suspected Snape was protecting them, you know. She tried getting sent to his office alone a few times, but he never let her talk he just gave her detentions with Hagrid.”
“Hagrid must have thought he was supervising all the detentions as a punishment,” said Hermione. “I know he's accepted that Dumbledore asked Snape to do it, but I don't think he would ever speak to Snape again... if he were still alive.”
“Probably not,” said Harry. “Ginny said he only ever grunted in response to Snape that year.”
Another silence, then Harry spoke again.
“Do you ever wonder what he would have been like, if he survived?”asked Harry.
“I imagine he didn't even know himself,” said Hermione. “He worked as a spy for Dumbledore for so long... was it an act, or was he really that unpleasant?”
“Well, after Voldemort came back he seemed to get worse. I suppose it was... erm, stressful seeing old snake-face on the regular,” said Harry.
“Percy always said he was a brilliant professor, and that all the heads of house favored their own houses with points,” Hermione said.
“Well, he was the most obvious about it. He enjoyed it,” said Harry. “Although, I think it was mostly just in our classes that he took such pleasure in being so unfair.”
“Well,” said Hermione carefully. “He had to make sure none of the Slytherin kids would tell their Death Eater parents he was fair to you, especially at their expense. Draco was in Potions with us every year. And Voldemort probably forced him to share his memories of you. He couldn't have you liking or trusting him, otherwise you might have said something in front of him that Voldemort couldn't know.”
“I know,” said Harry. “I just wish it could have been different. He loved my mum. I don't blame him for hating my dad and Sirius... I'm not sure how I feel about my dad anymore. There's nobody left who knew him really well, and before... ah, before they died, Sirius and Lupin both told me things that...”
Harry trailed off for a moment, then said, “It seemed like they were covering for him, you know? Like they were afraid I would find out he wasn't the great person everyone said he was, and I would – I dunno – lose my mind or something.”
Hermione shifted and hugged one of Ginny's throw pillows to her chest.
“Lupin might have done to protect you,” she said, “I think Sirius loved your dad too much to say anything too critical of him.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “It was sort of strange, how he talked about my dad so much, wasn't it? I didn't think much of it back then, but he never had much to say about my mum, except that she was beautiful, smart, and good for my dad.”
“Hmm...” murmured Hermione. “Yet, everyone else has loads of praise for your mum. It did seem that Sirius... that he loved her because James loved her, not because the two of them were especially close.”
“Yeah, I think Mum was friendlier with Lupin. Especially before she started going out with my dad... just from things Lupin said,” Harry mused.
Hermione smiled and said, “I imagine she got along all right with Sirius because he was your dad's best friend, but they probably had plenty of arguments, from the way you've described her and what I remember of Sirius.”
Harry fell silent again and Hermione's mind drifted back to Snape and how miserable he must have been as a student at Hogwarts. If she had been sorted into a different house, would she have been just as much of a pariah? If Harry and Ron had not befriended her, she might have spent her entire first year crying in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. That was not the sort of reputation that was easy to overcome.
“I wish we could have saved him,” said Harry at last.
“Who?” asked Hermione, but she already knew.
“Snape,” said Harry. “The things he showed me... I know there was a lot more that happened with him, my dad, my mum, and Sirius. There was a lot that he left out.”
“Well, he was dying,” said Hermione, somewhat defensively. “I'm sure he did the best he could in the moment.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Harry. “I got the important parts, I suppose. I just want to know what really happened. Most of their classmates fled the country years ago, became Death Eaters, or died in the first war. People like McGonagall don't know the details just that Mum and Dad eventually got together and that they were great students. I know it sounds crazy, because I miss all of them so much, but... if I could bring one person back, it would be Snape.”
Hermione nodded and Harry glanced down at Ginny, who had stopped snoring. She was still asleep.
“I should get home,” Hermione said. “Crooks will be furious with me.”
She stood and walked over to where Harry sat.
“I'll see you on Sunday,” she said. Weekly dinners at the Burrow were part of her routine again.