Chapter 5: Back in the Thick of Things
It was much darker in the forest now, in the middle of the night. Somewhere not too far away, her younger self was sleeping in the tent while Harry kept watch. Hermione scanned the area around her and quickly cast a few spells to hide her presence from Snape, who should be arriving any moment.
Then she heard a twig snap and saw some of the underbrush near her shake. After a few more minutes of silence she saw the branches of the large pine tree part slightly and then return to their natural state. Snape was here. His silver doe arrived as well, leading Harry to the sword.
Hermione kept an eye on the pine tree as she watched Harry nearly die. She saw the branches part once more – but then Ron arrived. What would Snape have done had Ron not come to save Harry?
After the sword was retrieved and the Horcrux destroyed, Hermione crept out from her hiding spot and approached the pine. Snape should still be inside, waiting until he was certain Harry and Ron had gone.
She walked up to the tree, removed the spells she had cast on herself, took off the cloak, and pushed the branches aside. His wand was trained on her before she could get more than a shoulder under the branch.
“Don't. Move.” he said quietly, visible again, looking dangerously pale and sleep-deprived.
Hermione met his eyes, seeing nothing of the Snape she had just left in her flat in the future.
“Now,” he said slowly. “Put down your wand.”
Hermione obeyed, kicking it away from her after dropping it to the ground.
“I – ”
“Don't speak,” he said, reaching out his hand and summoning her wand to his grasp.
She glared at him. He seemed undecided about what he should do with her. Then, he frowned and studied her wand carefully.
“How is it that you have your wand, when Potter just left carrying it?”
Hermione stared at him.
“Answer me,” he demanded.
Her mouth went dry. She clutched the chain around her neck and held the Time-Turner up.
“I've come back to help you,” she said hoarsely. His wand continued to point at her face, both of them frozen in a silent staring contest.
“Explain that statement, Granger,” he said.
She put the Time-Turner back under her robe.
“I have something to give you that will save your life,” she said.
Snape's face did not so much as twitch – he might have been a statue.
“Who sent you on such an ill-conceived mission? Who bid you bring me something from the future?” he asked, sounding furious.
“You did,” she said. His brows fell still lower.
“And just where did you get a Time-Turner?” he asked.
Hermione sighed and said, “From Dumbledore. He left it to me, but I never got it because... well, it's a long story.”
She gave Snape a significant look and said, “Perhaps this isn't the best place to fully explain?”
He lowered his wand.
“It's as good as any,” he said. “Sit down.”
She did, and before he began reinforcing the pine tree sanctuary with protective charms, he bound her hands behind her.
“Is that necessary?” she asked.
The look he gave her silenced any further protest. When he finished he stood staring at her silently.
“It's really me,” she said, knowing he would remain suspicious until enough time had passed for Polyjuice Potion to wear off.
He bent down and studied her face. Then he reached out and pulled the Time-Turner from under her robe. Hermione glared at him once more, his face uncomfortably close as he eyed the device. Then, he leaned back on his heels and continued to stare at her.
“What do you know?” he asked. “I assume Dumbledore has given you certain information or you would not dare appear in my presence.”
Hermione sighed again.
“Where should I begin?” she wondered out loud, which seemed to irritate Snape. “Dumbledore left me his copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Only, I never got it. I was given a replica. How that happened is another story...”
Snape shifted impatiently and stood. He began pacing as she continued.
“Anyway, I did not get the message Dumbledore left for me in the book... at least, not in time to carry out the task he gave me.”
Snape glanced at her, but kept pacing.
“He told me you will likely be killed and asked me to use the Time-Turner to save you,” she said.
Snape stopped pacing and glared at her.
“How, then, does it follow that I'm the one who sent you here tonight?” he said.
“I told you, it's a long story!” she said irritably. She blew at the strand of hair that was tickling her cheek.
“I never got Dumbledore's message and you... ah, you died. Then, three years later, I was hired at the Ministry.”
Snape's face became terrifyingly disturbed in that moment, but he did not interrupt her.
“I found Dumbledore's original copy of the book, which had been replicated and hidden away at the Ministry the whole time. I got his message and went to Hogwarts to retrieve the Time-Turner. It's hidden there right now in this time, I suppose. I would have had a hell of a time getting it.”
Snape began pacing again.
“I just wanted to know if I was right about the fact that he'd planned to give me a Time-Turner,” said Hermione. “I knew it was impossible to meddle with time beyond the safe limit without possibly destroying life as we know it.”
She took a breath.
“Then, a few weeks later, you showed up in my flat. You nearly gave me a heart attack and informed me that you never actually died, and that I must travel back to this time to give you a potion which will save your life. It's a potion you will create yourself over the next few years.”
“You must be careful about telling me too much of the future,” he said. “Only tell me what I need to know at this moment, nothing more.”
“You believe me?” she asked in astonishment.
“Where is the potion?” he asked.
“In my left robe pocket,” she said.
He retrieved it and held it up for examination.
“It's based on the Draught of the Living Death,” she said. “It will help us fake your death.”
“Us?” he asked, looking at her again.
“Yes, Professor. You see, I thought I saw you die. What I really saw was your body being put into stasis by this potion. While you are under its effects, I will move you into hiding.”
Snape scowled and said, “This sounds like an elaborate story designed to convince me to poison myself, Granger.”
“If you don't listen to me, you're going to be killed by that snake and then who knows what will happen to time!” she snapped.
“Granger!” he growled. “No unnecessary details!”
“Just listen!” she said. “You must take the potion just before... er, just before you're bitten.”
Snape paled and paced some more. Hermione began to worry he might pass out.
“I'll wait to tell you when it will happen,” she said. “I don't think you need to know that yet.”
“Thank Merlin for small mercies,” he said dryly. Silence followed.
“Is that all you wish to impart at this time?” he asked at last.
“If you believe me, would you please free my hands?” she asked.
Snape waved his wand at her hands, and she was free.
“Send word before the snake bites,” he said, and turned to leave.
“Wait!” she said. “I'm coming to Hogwarts.”
He scowled again.
“That's where you hide me... until it's time,” she said.
“Hogwarts is a dangerous place to be, Granger. Where will you hide?” he asked.
Hermione shrugged, and said, “You didn't tell me, just that I would have to hide away at Hogwarts until your, ah, 'death'. I can't risk getting caught out here.”
Snape's mouth formed a thin, unhappy line.
“Very well,” he said.
He made her Disillusion herself and follow him through the woods. He held onto her arm the entire time. He used a spell to guide them toward the place where younger Hermione and the boys were camped and they stood watching the empty spot for what felt like an hour without seeing any signs of life.
“Your spell-work is impeccable,” he said at last. “Potter would have been long dead without it.”
Hermione stared at him, flabbergasted by the compliment, glad he could not see her face.
“Let's go,” said Snape, pulling her away from the site. He did not let go of her arm.
“This is going to be unpleasant,” he said, stopping at the edge of a clearing.
“It's not the first time I've experienced side-along Apparition,” she replied.
“We are not Apparating,” he said. “Dumbledore was not able to share the secret of Apparating within Hogwarts grounds with me before it was too late.”
“Oh,” she said.
“We're flying,” Snape said. With that, he wrapped one arm firmly around her waist. She stiffened involuntarily, but her feet left the ground seconds later and soon all she cared about was holding onto Snape for dear life. She had always hated flying, and that was with a broom to hold her up.
They shot up into the night sky, moving faster than seemed possible. Snape did not speak, possibly because he was concentrating on keeping them airborne. They reached the castle in no time.
Flying high over the school grounds, they began a steep descent and landed on the Astronomy Tower. Hermione's legs shook as she took a few steps away from him. He grabbed the back of her robe.
“Don't get any ideas. Follow me. Closely,” he commanded.
She followed him to the headmaster's office and climbed the spiral staircase silently. She sighed in relief when they entered the office, causing him to scowl at her. He led her to the corner cabinet and opened it, pressing his palm to a small painting of a single rose that hung inside. The back of the cabinet vanished and he stepped through. Hermione followed him, the cabinet door shutting behind her.
Snape removed the Disillusionment Charm and stared at her.
“Welcome to the headmaster's quarters,” he said. “There are no portraits here, and no house-elves may enter unless called upon. It would seem this is where you must hide.”
“Oh,” said Hermione. “That's not what I...”
But he was right, there was nowhere else safe for her to hide for a few months. It was only the end of December, and she must stay until the battle in May. It was something she had not had time to ponder until that moment.
Hermione surveyed the room. It was lined with bookshelves and lit by wall sconces. A dark love seat and two high-backed chairs were arranged around a low table in the middle of the room that sat on top of a black rug. The cozy grey knitted throw that hung over the back of one chair looked out of place.
“This is your living room,” she observed. “It's a nice size, to be inside a corner cabinet.”
He led her through the room and into a narrow hallway.
“The lavatory is at that end,” he said, gesturing to a closed door. “That is my room to the right... my private study to your left. You will stay here.”
He opened another door, across from his room. It was a guest room, sparsely decorated with a nightstand, a lamp, and a bed clothed in plain white. He shut the door and led her back out through the living room to a hall on the opposite side. An open doorway revealed a kitchen filled with light from a large window that Hermione suspected was not at all visible from the outside of the castle. There was another large window in the hall with a seat below it and two narrow bookshelves on either side.
She followed Snape into the kitchen and he offered her a drink.
“Thank you,” she said, as he handed her a mug of pumpkin juice. He watched her drink it.
“Have you brought anything with you?” he asked.
“Ah, yes,” said Hermione. “I've got what I need.”
“You must not leave these quarters for any reason,” he said.
“I know,” she replied. She was glad she had not told him how long she would be staying.
“Should you leave despite my warning, you will not be able to re-enter without me,” he said.
“I understand,” she said. He narrowed his eyes at her.
“I will not often be here,” he said.
Hermione nodded. That was a relief.
“You may read whatever you wish from my personal library,” he said. “Don't eat over any of my books.”
Hermione put a hand over her heart and said seriously, “I would never.”
“I will often come in late. I expect to be left alone unless there is something pressing that you must tell me,” he said.
Hermione nodded again.
“You will find your stay immensely dull,” he finished, moving toward the doorway.
Hermione watched him go and sat in the kitchen for a while, holding her empty mug. She then ventured into the hall and saw that he had gone to bed. Feeling very tired herself, she crept into the lavatory as quietly as possible, readied herself for bed, and then made herself comfortable in the guest room.
She slept deeply and soundly until late the next morning. It was the first night of good sleep she had gotten recently. Breakfast was toast and tea, as there was not much else in the kitchen.
Hermione spent the day reading and missing Crookshanks. He loved to sit on the back of the sofa while she read, occasionally pressing his paw on her shoulder for attention.
Snape did not return until long after Hermione had made a small dinner for herself from bread and the last of a bit of cheese she found. It was not until she had climbed into a warm bath that she heard his footsteps in the hall and the sound of his bedroom door shutting.
She hurried to vacate the bathroom, drying herself with a spell and dressing quickly. Snape did not emerge from his room again that night, at least not while she was awake.
The next morning there was a tray of fruit and a pie that must have been brought up from the kitchens. She sat staring out the window with her cup of tea for an eternity. The view was gorgeous and appeared to be the same as what one would see from one of the castle's towers. The day was misty and grey, as most days were at this time, she remembered.
Snape returned that evening, scowling as he entered the room. Hermione involuntarily jumped and dropped the book she was reading.
“You idiots were nearly caught!” he exclaimed.
Hermione cautiously picked her book up off the floor.
“Oh, did you hear about that?” she asked.
“Of course I heard about it!” he said. “What were you thinking, visiting that spineless old crackpot?”
“I don't know if I should say,” Hermione said. “It's not necessary that you know.”
He stalked past her and she heard him rummaging through the pantry in the kitchen.
“Thanks for breakfast,” she called. He did not answer, but returned a short while later with a glass of what appeared to be spirits. Hermione eyed the amber liquid as he sat down in one of the high-backed chairs and pulled out a journal.
“Staring is impolite, Granger,” he said, sipping his drink.
“Sorry,” she said softly, returning her attention to her book. She could hear the scratch of his quill as he began to write.
After some time, he stopped writing and Hermione heard the soft sounds of fabric being rearranged. She ventured a glance in his direction. He had removed his robe and slung it over the other chair.
“Will you be here past the end of the week?” he asked without looking at her. He threw back the rest of his drink.
Hermione considered whether she should answer that question for a moment.
“It doesn't happen this week,” she said at last.
He was silent, unmoving, staring at the opposite wall of shelves. Then, he got up, taking his empty glass with him. Hermione continued reading as he returned it to the kitchen and disappeared into his room for the night.
This became their routine on the nights he arrived at a decent hour. Once a week he would ask her if it was the week was supposed to die, and she would reply that it was not. They rarely spoke to one another otherwise. He occasionally brought her food from the kitchens, but she mainly subsisted on bread and pumpkin juice. At least she was eating better than her younger self was at the time.
One day Snape burst into the living room shortly after lunch. Hermione was sitting on the love seat in her pajamas, reading. She let out a squeak and pulled the cozy grey throw up over her shoulders.
“Ginevra Weasley is going to get herself killed,” he said, walking through the room without looking at Hermione.
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “What's she done?”
He did not answer until he came back into the room, presumably after finding himself a snack.
“Miss Weasley has been sneaking into Hogsmeade, despite being banned from going, evading the Carrows, and attempting to eavesdrop in places she has absolutely no business being. Alecto wants to supervise her detention and I am tempted to allow it. She is a continual nuisance with her foolhardy schemes.”
“Do you blame her?” asked Hermione. “Don't worry, she'll be gone soon.”
Snape froze and scowled at her. Hermione opened her mouth to explain, but he cut her off.
“Don't. I don't want to know,” he said curtly.
A few weeks later, he informed her that he had been forced to run Hagrid off the premises for throwing a “Support Harry Potter” party.
“The fool is too thick to realize I've been making him supervise nearly all of the detentions for a god-damned reason,” Snape fumed. “Not even Minerva has come to the obvious conclusions she should have made by now. It's not just dullard half-giants who are blinded by hate.”
Hermione might have made an observation about pots and kettles being blinded by hate, but she simply went back to her book.
“It's more than just hate,” she said, after a moment. Snape glared at her.
“They loved Dumbledore,” she said. “He was their trusted leader, their hope for victory, the only one he fears. They're demoralized and grieving... and there you are every day, rubbing salt in the wound. Would you be able think clearly about the person who killed your messiah?”
He barked out a short laugh.
“Dumbledore was no savior,” he said. “As you know, he reserved that role for others.”
“Right,” said Hermione, looking away. They had not talked explicitly about Harry's fate. Snape still believed Harry would die to save the world. Was he referring to Harry, or to the task Dumbledore had given Hermione?
“Do you think Potter would forgive me, if he knew the truth?” asked Snape suddenly, answering Hermione's musings.
“I... wish I could answer that,” she said.
“You were his best friend, were you not?” Snape asked.
“Ah... yes. I think he would,” she said.
Snape fell silent. Hermione wanted to tell him what she knew of the task Dumbledore had given him, but she could not risk it. Snape must believe Harry would die, and that he must sacrifice himself to defeat Voldemort. Otherwise, things might not happen in the right way.
Yet, Hermione wondered if it would really change anything. As long as Snape presented Harry with the same memories, Harry would be convinced. She was still perplexed by Snape's decision to wait until he was dying – or, pretending to die – in Harry's arms before sharing Dumbledore's message. Surely Snape had a better plan – an actual plan – that was less risky.
Not too many evenings later, Snape sat down with his second firewhisky of the evening. He had yet to say a word to her. She snuck a few glances at him as he sat staring off into space.
“Anything... important... happen today?” she asked.
He did not acknowledge her, but lifted his glass to his lips.
“The Dark Lord has been acting erratically,” he muttered. “Even for him.”
“It's not this week,” she said softly. He raised his glass again.
“It's not the snake that worries me,” he said. “It's Potter.”
Hermione stared at Snape as he determinedly kept his eyes on the wall in front of him.
“What about Harry?” she asked. Another long silence followed.
“I have information I must get to him,” he said.
Hermione held her breath, but he did not continue.
“Information from Dumbledore?” she prompted.
He finished his drink and said, “What else would it be?”
Hermione sat up straighter and shivered.
“How are you going to do it?” she asked.
He squeezed his temples with one hand and said, “I have yet to decide on a course of action.”
Hermione pressed her lips together and waited.
“I will have to speak with him,” said Snape.
Hermione bit down on her lip to keep from blurting out anything.
“Potter is stubborn... I cannot fail this task.”
Hermione folded her arms and said, “You won't fail.”
He rubbed his face again.
“How would you know?” he muttered, almost to himself.
“Do you actually want me to tell you?” she asked.
He stared at her and then said, “You're the only one in this room who knows the future. Use your judgement.”
She considered that decision for a moment, then said, “I don't know what your plan will be, but... the way it happens does not seem to be planned.”
He held her gaze.
“You run out of time,” she said. “You end up telling Harry about – ah – you and his mother, along with the message from Dumbledore.”
He seemed frozen in his chair, eyes fixed on her.
“What exactly does he tell you about that?” he asked at last.
Hermione sucked in a breath and decided to get the truth out as quickly as possible.
“That you and Lily Potter were childhood friends, that you loved her, and that his dad and Sirius bullied you mercilessly for years. That you still love her – you never stopped – and that you promised Dumbledore you would protect Harry all these years.”
Snape stood up so abruptly that Hermione fell back against the sofa as if she had been pushed. He walked out of the room and went to bed without another word.
Hermione sat hoping she had not just manipulated time in the wrong way – but the battle was not far off. If he still had no idea how to speak with Harry, it was likely he would not come up with anything before Nagini struck. It was important that he tell Harry everything, not just the message Dumbledore had instructed him to share at the proper moment. For how might it alter time, if Harry never learned the rest of the story, and if he never shared it with Hermione?
She did not see him at all the next day or evening. The day after that, he stormed into his quarters and found her in the kitchen.
“Your younger self was just caught by Snatchers and almost delivered to the Dark Lord on a platter,” he growled at her. “Are the three of you really so foolish that you didn't believe the trace was a real thing?”
“No,” she said, groaning as she remembered. “Harry was upset and it just slipped out. We survived, that's all that matters.”
“Perhaps it is all that matters to you,” he said. “Draco has been punished for his failure to identify Potter.”
Hermione realized she was reflexively covering her scarred arm. He glanced at her hand.
“Is that where Belllatrix left her mark?” he asked. Hermione pulled up her sleeve, glaring at him. He studied the pink scarring silently.
“Malfoy's not the only one who was punished today,” she said defiantly, covering her arm again.
After that outburst, he continued his routine of avoiding her for almost two weeks. She went to bed late every night after anxiously waiting for him to return, often lying awake for what seemed like hours.
Finally, one night she heard him arrive and go to bed. She cracked her own door open and peeked across the hall. Faint light coming from under his door told her he was still up.
Hermione did not work up the courage to knock on his door that night, but time was running out. She had to make sure he knew exactly which memories to share with Harry.