Chapter 1: The First
“How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.”
“At the first kiss I felt something melt inside me that hurt in an exquisite way. All my longings, all my dreams and sweet anguish, all the secrets that slept deep within me came awake, everything was transformed and enchanted, everything made sense.”
Blonde, white, and black—only those blurs of colour were making up his world. Tears were raging in hot torrents down his cheeks.
‘Draco, maybe you should go,’ said his father. Although Lucius Malfoy did not look up, Draco could hear the tears in his father’s voice. He couldn’t seem to find his own voice to answer. But then his father continued, perhaps in an attempt to relieve them both. ‘We ... we cannot afford to anger the Dark Lord ... not any further. I will be there soon.’
‘I understand, Father,’ replied Draco softly, tearing his gaze away from his mother’s lifeless form. He turned on his heels and quickly departed from the narrow corridor before he could change his mind.
Hogwarts was now a dead place. To Draco, at least. The celebration was in full swing in the Great Hall. Even as Draco made his way towards the border of the Forbidden Forest, where the captives were located, he could still hear his aunt—no, she was no aunt of his. Bellatrix’s voice rang loud and clear throughout the castle, or rather, what remained of it. Several parts, including the entire East Wing, had been blown off and reduced to rubble.
Bile rose in Draco’s throat. He wanted to scream. How could she? How could anyone celebrate after causing the death of her own sister? Then again, this was Bellatrix Lestrange. In her eyes, there was only the Dark Lord and a mad desire for destruction. Draco could blame her all he wanted, but doing so would not bring his mother back. Nor would it exonerate him from his part in her death.
She had never said—never had had a chance to say—but he knew his mother didn’t lie to the Dark Lord for Potter’s sake. She’d lied for him, her son, to get inside the school and make sure he was alive. But that very lie had taken away her life, preventing her from ever seeing him again.
The debris crunched under Draco’s feet as he shuffled across the grounds, occasionally having to skip over the bodies on his path. He didn’t dare look at any of them directly, afraid of recognising familiar faces. This was not the world he wanted! The realisation crashed down on him. He had hoped for things to change, for his family to get back in the Dark Lord’s good graces, because wishing for the Light to win had seemed as foolish as wishing for the Earth to stop spinning. Only now did he realise that no matter what happened, they could never satisfy the Dark Lord. When he reigned, his darkness would engulf even those who served him.
It took Draco the longest time to reach his destination. If it weren’t for the luminous circles dispersed around the site, he would have thought that this was just another graveyard. Whether they were sitting, lying, or kneeling, whether the binding on their hands were ordinary metal chains or magical wires, he could see no signs of life. But there was one exception: all of the Death Eaters were gathering around one of the binding circles where the prisoner—an Order member or at least a close friend of Potter’s—seemed to be putting up a fight.
‘Get off me, you bitch,’ sneered Yaxley. The slap that followed could be heard from several feet away.
‘You were supposed to heal her, not cause more injury,’ said a voice that Draco couldn’t recognise.
‘The fucking bitch bit me,’ barked Yaxley, continuing his assault. Draco heard the distinctive sound of a joint snapping and caught a glimpse of bushy hair being dragged upward. Granger. It came as no surprise, yet he found himself unable to look away. Some of the Death Eaters seemed to have noticed his gaze.
‘What are you staring at, Malfoy? Go make yourself useful!’
Draco turned away, setting off towards some of the younger students clustered near the edge of the forest, to see if they needed tending. He’d hardly made more than a few steps when Yaxley shouted in his direction, ‘Where are you going? Come over here.’
‘Maybe he’ll have more luck with this stupid Mudblood. Old classmates and all that,’ commented Jugson, inciting a series of cackles from the others.
Draco sighed and obliged. Getting bitten by Granger was the least of his worries now. Maybe being stuck with her was even a good thing. That way, he probably wouldn’t have to deal with too much blood and gore. After all, she still had enough strength to fight back.
The Death Eaters began to disperse. Yaxley gave Granger’s prone form one last kick and threw a smirk at Draco before walking away, leaving him alone with her.
Draco stopped just outside the magical boundary, partly not wanting her to spring up and attack him like she did Yaxley, partly trying to postpone the task.
‘Granger,’ he called. She didn’t stir.
Still no movement. Draco hesitantly stepped into the circle and crouched down beside her. He reached out a hand and tentatively touched her shoulder.
‘Go away,’ she spoke at last.
‘The Dark Lord sent me to heal you.’
‘There is no need,’ she replied. ‘I’m going to die anyway.’
‘That’s why there is every need. You have to be well enough to provide sufficient entertainment before you die.’
Draco almost winced as the words left his mouth. It was a fact, and he tried not to let any of his emotions slip through. But it seemed that the statement still sounded no less cruel than when it had come out from Bellatrix’s mouth.
‘It’s not fun to play with half-dead, unconscious toys,’ she had said with shrieks of laughter. ‘They do not scream.’
The Dark Lord’s lips had curled up in a sadistic smirk at her remark. He had then ordered Draco, his father, and a few other Death Eaters who had fallen from grace to prepare the hostages for their next round of celebrating. Once they’d finished having fun with Potter’s dead body, that was. It was ironic, in a sense, that Potter would not scream, writhe nor plead, but Draco guessed there was still some pleasure to be had in turning the body of The Boy Who Lived into shreds. Besides, hadn’t Potter always been an exception?
The notion made him nauseous, but he managed to resist the impulse to gag. Granger did not need to know. It had already been a wonder that she didn’t sit up and slap him squarely in the face after what he’d just said. Then again, perhaps she was too weary to care now. Or perhaps he had just been extrapolating from himself. Either way, it would be best to just leave her alone and thus shorten the torture for them both.
He stood up again and turned to leave.
‘What will he do to you?’ Granger’s question stopped him in his tracks.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said dismissively, not looking back. Surely, she was smart enough to figure out.
‘Heal me, then,’ she said softly.
Draco couldn’t believe his ears. ‘Why?’ he managed to utter.
‘I don’t want anyone else to die tonight.’
‘You’re such a hypocrite, Granger.’ He snorted and walked on, though the lump building up in his throat quickly brought him to a halt. Did he really want to die?
‘I don’t want to die, either.’ Granger called out, and that did the trick. Draco couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason, but he came back and knelt down next to her again.
Granger seemed unusually quiet, so just as silently, he set about helping her sit up. Although he was the one who initiated the touch, Draco was still startled by it. Her shoulders felt so small under his bare hands, all skin and bone. It surprised him even more that he hadn’t noticed the coarse layer of grime and threadbare fabric until a moment later. Normally, he would have recoiled at once, but now it didn’t seem to matter.
Granger let out a soft whimper as he slightly lifted her up.
‘Just yell out if it hurts,’ he said, still unsure how he should act around her. He could barely make sense of it all. Had they come to a temporary truce? Was he trying to save her life or was she trying to save his?
When Granger didn’t say anything, he continued with his task. He’d intended to ease her up into a sitting position after turning her around, but what met his eyes robbed all the air from Draco’s lungs.
Blood. So much blood. It was impossible to discern the front of her shirt, impossible to tell where there were rags and tatters and where there was merely a formation of the half-dried liquid, for one crimson colour flooded everything. How could she have survived?
He wasn’t quite sure how long he’d been gaping until she broke the spell.
‘Not mine,’ she whispered, her voice almost broken. ‘It’s Ron’s.’
Draco swallowed hard. Yet another death confirmed. It was so much easier to deal with when they were just a mass of unnamed corpses. He placed Granger down on her back and fumbled with his robe pocket, searching for the wand he’d carelessly shoved in there earlier. He hadn’t paid much attention to the thing when he randomly took it out from the confiscated pile, but now he could definitely feel the rough wood and its slight bend under his palm. It could have belonged to her, to Weasley, to any of them. He had thought that his mother’s death would make him blind to any of their losses. Those should have been inconsequential compared to his pain. Yet, each time he learnt of another casualty, an invisible twine tightened around his heart. Each time he thought there was nothing—be it life, hope, or emotions—left to squeeze out, he was proved wrong.
Draco raised the wand and pointed at the crimson mess on Granger’s chest.
‘Please ... just leave it,’ she said; her voice seemed to echo from somewhere far away.
The retort that it was filthy and needed to be cleaned teetered on the tip of his tongue, but he bit it down. Should he fear that for once, he agreed with her, understood her? Granger was still clinging to the last of her friend, not unlike his father holding on to his mother, refusing to leave her side, not unlike Draco himself—while unable to be in his father’s place—choosing to rivet his eyes onto her listless form.
He nodded stiffly and abandoned the wand. Slipping one hand around Granger’s back and placing the other on her stomach, he gingerly hoisted her up. It was funny how the wand made him flinch but the contact with Weasley’s blood didn’t.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered, the mass of dirty curls obscuring most of her face. Draco chose not to respond. He wordlessly picked up the wand again, grimacing at the touch.
‘Where ... ’ His mouth suddenly felt dry. How would he sound to her? Gentle? Cold? Void of emotions? Then again, why did he care?
Granger tilted her head in the direction of her right hand, which was resting limply by her side. ‘I think my wrist’s broken.’
‘Anything else?’ He forced out the words.
She shook her head. Draco busied himself surveying the damage to her wrist. Would a simple Episkey do the job? He wasn’t quite sure. Healing had never been Draco’s forte, and his knowledge was limited to the spells that his mother had used to heal him after he incurred the Dark Lord’s wrath. What would she have done? No, he needed something else to think about.
‘Why didn’t you resist me like you did the other Death Eaters?’ he blurted before his throat clogged up completely.
‘I know about your mother.’
Draco froze. The twine around his heart gave way when the captive organ burst out from its grasp, leaving an indiscernible mess in his chest. He lifted his gaze. Even underneath the cover of her hair, he could see a stream of tears sliding down her cheek, glistening strangely in the murky light of the early hour. Draco instinctively reached out his hand to wipe the tears away, a tingling sensation brushing his fingertips.
Granger looked up at him then, smears of blood and dirt etching on her face. Their eyes met, and he could almost see himself in those brown orbs, drowning in the depths of their sorrow.
'I ... I just wish ...’ she gulped, ‘... that none of my loved ones were lost.'
'I know,’ he said quietly, his own vision blurring, his thumb still resting on her cheek. His head felt completely blank as he leaned in and sealed the distance between their lips. Her eyes widened, but then they slowly drifted shut. She didn’t protest. Draco closed his eyes as well, registering only the softness and blisters of her lips beneath his. She tasted of salt, of tears and blood.
For a briefest moment, he could feel the first light of the day seeping through his eyelids, but then everything went black.
Chapter 2: The Second
People say that the first kiss is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but perhaps it’s not always true. An alternate ending to DH. Dramione Couple Remix Round 1 - Henry/Lucy (50 First Dates)
Hermione woke up with a start. The taste of hot tears—whether hers or Malfoy’s—still lingered on her tongue, but the aching and throbbing in her body had completely vanished. The smell of freshly-cleaned linen surrounded her, and whatever was underneath her felt incredibly warm, soft, and comforting. Maybe she had fainted after the ... incident. Blood rushed to Hermione’s cheeks at the memory. Better not dwell on it. She tried to figure out where she was instead. She could hear the even breathing of someone else nearby. Friend or foe, she didn’t know. Even if she’d fainted, this seemed too good to be true. She should have been waking up on the cold stone floor of a dungeon’s cell somewhere.
Hermione peeled her eyes open. Before she could register the pattern on the ceiling, there was a soft knock on the door. She closed her eyes again, feigning sleep.
Her heart seized. Could it be? Was she dreaming?
‘Hermione!’ another familiar voice called, and once again Hermione felt as though her heart was going to burst out of her chest. ‘We have to go now!’
‘Shhh, Ron! You may wake Luna.’
That seemed to be the last encouragement Hermione needed to open her eyes once again and turn her head to fully inspect her surroundings. On the small bed on the other side of the room, a girl was sleeping with her back to Hermione, but she knew that those blonde tresses could only belong to Luna Lovegood.
Clearly, Hermione was in her bed at Shell Cottage.
Harry and Ron continued to knock. Hermione shot up from the bed and raced to the door. Whatever reality this was, it would not do to wake Luna. Once she’d finally opened the door, Hermione had to rub her eyes before believing what she saw. Her senses seemed to be playing a lot of tricks on her in the last couple of minutes. Right in front of her was Harry Potter, very much alive and healthy. Unable to resist the urge, she jumped up and hugged him.
‘Hermione, what are you doing? What’s wrong?’
‘I don’t know.’ She sobbed into Harry’s chest. How could she tell him that he was supposed to be dead? That they were supposed to have fallen?
There was a sound of someone clearing his throat. Hermione realised that Ron was watching Harry and her from his spot next to the doorframe. He looked quite uncomfortable. She quickly released Harry.
‘I know pretending to be Bellatrix is quite a dreadful task,’ said Ron, ‘but we have—’
‘Wait!’ blurted Hermione. ‘What’s the date?’
Both Harry and Ron shot her a quizzical look. ‘The first of May, of course.’
Hermione froze, her heart doing a little dance in her chest.
‘Honestly, Hermione, are you all right?’ said Ron, walking closer and putting his hand on her forehead.
Awaking from the reverie, she nodded hesitantly.
‘I think it was just because of the nightmare I had last night,’ she added quickly. But was it just that, a nightmare? Was she confusing dreams with reality? Probably. But then, what if this was just a dream and the other was reality? The knot in her chest tightened, and another sob threatened to escape, but Hermione fought it down. Either way, at least in this time and place, her friends were alive, and she still had a chance to set things right. It was then that Hermione decided not to tell Harry and Ron anything just yet. She had to figure out what this all meant first. If their doom really was a dream, she didn’t want to dishearten her friends. Besides, things had been playing out differently since the minute she hadn’t turned up to meet them on time. The only thing Hermione could do was to try and stick to the old plan as much as possible. Otherwise, who knew what disaster the laws of causality would lead her towards? Then again, if they postponed their trip and stayed at Shell Cottage for one more day, nothing could possibly go wrong, could it? Hermione shook her head to clear her treacherous thoughts. She could feel Harry giving her shoulder a slight squeeze.
‘Can you two go outside and wait for me?’ she asked, looking up at Harry and Ron with a faint smile. ‘I’ll be there in just a minute.’
Hermione closed the door behind her two best friends and let out a small sigh. She quickly grabbed the beaded bag under her pillow and fished out the set of old robes she’d brought from Grimmauld Place. Having changed into the oversized outfit, she took out the phial of Polyjuice and dropped Bellatrix’s hair into it. The potion swiftly turned into that exact shade of black she’d once seen. Remembering its foul taste, Hermione braced herself before downing the concoction in one gulp. She almost retched as the very same pus-like liquid assaulted her taste buds. If what she recalled was just a nightmare, then how could it be so accurate? Was this merely a way to make her re-live this Hell?
The questions played in her head over and over again as Hermione walked from her room to the front door. Her hand stopped momentarily on the doorknob, but then she took a deep breath and turned it. Ron, Harry, and even Griphook—the usual grim expression on his face—were waiting for her on the lawn.
Although the look Harry gave her as she strode towards them was nearly a precise duplication of his reaction yester—in the dream, Hermione still felt a twinge in her chest, perhaps slightly more intense than before. The nasty taste of the Polyjuice potion was still clinging to her tongue like a leech, but she set about altering Ron’s appearance without complaints. She didn’t even have the heart to argue with Ron over his fastidious instructions about his desired disguise. All she could focus on was preventing herself from staring at his features, tracing her fingers along the line of his face, remembering him before it was too late.
She finished the task with as business-like a manner as she could muster. As the group made their way to the Apparition point, Harry and Ron still occasionally shared that worried look in her wake, but she decidedly ignored it. Hermione figured that her denial or explanation now would only double their concerns.
With a final glance back at Shell Cottage, Hermione stepped past the boundary wall, following her friends’ lead. Tightening her grip on the walnut wand, she turned on the spot, plunging into the constricting darkness. At that moment, Hermione knew something was meant to change, whether for better or for worse.
Their trip to Gringotts went without too much trouble. There were occasions when Hermione accidentally blurted something she shouldn’t have known, but thankfully her slips of the tongue didn’t substantially affect their mission. By the look of it, both Harry and Ron had decided to chalk her odd behaviour up to nervousness.
However, the smooth sailing didn’t last long, and soon Hermione found herself facing the possibility of either drowning in an ocean of hot metal or being captured by an army of enraged goblins. Harry had yet to release the dragon.
The duplicating treasures were burning hot at her feet. Hermione cast Stunning Spell after Stunning Spell, waiting desperately for Harry to act. But as the circle of goblins closed in and the wizard guards managed to avoid the dragon’s frantic rage, she knew that they’d run out of time.
With all the strength she could gather, Hermione aimed at the metal cuffs restraining the dragon and cried, ‘Relashio!’
‘We have to get on,’ she shouted in response to the matching horror on her friends’ faces. Hermione fought her way towards the dragon, but once she’d got there, it proved much more difficult to climb up its back without Harry’s help. Her clammy hands kept slipping off the beast’s metallic scales. In the end, it wasn’t until Harry and Ron had also reached the spot that they managed to climb up together.
Just like the last time, the combination of their spells and the force of the dragon’s struggle brought them out into open air. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut, feeling both overwhelmed and relieved. They’d just escaped Gringotts with Hufflepuff’s cup. The wind whistled in her ears as they tore through the air.
‘Brilliant, Hermione!’ She could hear Ron’s shout. Hermione gave a small nod that she doubted Ron could see, but he said nothing else. They were all dwelling on their own thoughts as the dragon flew higher and higher in the sky.
During the last few hours, Hermione barely had time to think straight. It had been almost suffocating having to keep up two appearances at once: the normal, unknowing Hermione to her best friends, and Bellatrix Lestrange to everyone else. Hermione had come to the conclusion that just like Harry and Ron, no one had any idea that this whole ordeal had happened before. The more she wanted to believe that she’d just had some sort of prophetic dream that would help her along the way, the more the evidence pointed otherwise.
Despite the somersaults of her stomach at the dragon’s sudden movements every now and then, this time around, Hermione found that closing her eyes helped. Or maybe her mind was too much of a jumble for her fear to fully surface.
How had this all come about? Was it the moment when their lips touched? Had Malfoy inconspicuously activated a Time-Turner then? No, if it’d been a Time-Turner, her past, ‘duplicate’ self would have gone with Harry and Ron. She would’ve had to hide as they made their way to the Apparition point, just like she and Harry had had to hide in Hagrid’s hut and the Forbidden Forest to prevent their past selves from seeing them. Whatever this was, Hermione was taking the place of herself on the previous day, and no one had noticed.
Then again, how could something as simple as a kiss trigger such extraordinary magic? It had to be much more than that, if she was being completely honest, but even admitting this didn’t bring her any closer to an explanation. More importantly, did Malfoy know? Was she alone reliving the past?
‘... are we losing height?’ Ron’s voice drew Hermione back to reality.
‘I say we jump when it gets low enough!’ responded Harry.
‘Straight into the water, then?’
‘Yeah. What do you think, Hermione?’
‘Okay,’ was all she could manage before Harry shouted, ‘NOW!’
They all let go and slipped off the steely scales into the river below. For a moment, Hermione felt at ease. After the flight on dragon’s back, the water made her feel safe somehow: it was soothing on her skin, and at least she knew what she was doing here.
When they started fighting their way through the weeds, however, her exhaustion began to set in. Once they got to the shore, Hermione collapsed onto the grass. Harry tried to hoist himself up, but Ron was quicker. He signalled for Harry to sit back down and then went about casting the protective spell around them. Things were getting more and more different than what she remembered. Granted, the details seemed to be relatively inconsequential, but she was beginning to suspect they mattered.
Not allowing her mind to wander further from the task at hand, Hermione clambered up. She pulled their new clothes and three bottles of pumpkin juice out of her bag almost mechanically. Should she expedite their journey by suggesting that they head straight for Hogwarts? If they got to the diadem quicker this time, maybe not as many would die. Maybe Harry would never go to Voldemort. But then, the crux of the issue occurred to her. It didn’t matter if Harry went. Voldemort couldn’t kill Harry with the first curse. If Narcissa Malfoy’s lie hadn’t been discovered, the second curse would never have come, at least not until Harry faced the monster again in one final showdown. Why had the Killing Curse only worked upon a second try even though the sacrifice and protection of Harry’s mother was no longer valid? Had Harry already known this when he decided to hand himself over?
And what about the others? They shouldn’t have to die in vain. But what reason could she give her friends to convince them to go back to Hogwarts? After all, she had been the one who’d opposed this idea most adamantly yesterday. Yes, yesterday. Besides, she had made it this far without actively ‘interfering’, hadn’t she? It wouldn’t do to back out now.
Hermione searched her memory for the right course of action. She remembered asking about the fate of the dragon and Ron’s joke making them laugh. Her laughter this time was forced and short-lived. She found herself holding her breath in anticipation of Harry’s trip into Voldemort’s mind. Merlin, please let it be the same.
‘He knows,’ said Harry. Hermione let out a sigh of relief. Luckily, Ron’s full attention was on Harry, and Harry was still too absorbed in what he’d just seen that neither of them noticed.
Harry went on describing Voldemort’s fury at the loss of the cup and his thoughts about another Horcrux at Hogwarts. They decided to go back. There was no plan but no opposition either. The three of them silently Apparated into Hogsmeade.
It was still Ron’s idea this time, getting down to the Chamber of Secrets. Again, he gave her the pleasure of destroying the Horcrux. As soon as Hermione picked up the Basilisk’s fang and held it over the cup, the green jewel encrusted on it flashed scarlet, and a voice boomed out.
‘I have seen your heart, and it is mine.’
Hermione hesitated. No wait, she had experienced this moment before. She knew what it would say next, ‘You are just a worthless Mudblood. Some may have considered you intelligent, but you know it is not true. You cannot do anything without books. You need to spend hours pleading the books to tell you what the plan is. You know you cannot think on your own. But you don’t have—’
And she knew she had stabbed it then, so powerful was her determination not to lose sight of their ultimate goal. She knew that she could do it now.
But then, Tom Riddle’s voice spoke again. ‘You couldn’t save them, Hermione Granger.’
Hermione felt her heart seize. She almost dropped the Basilisk’s fang in her hand.
‘You failed them all, and you will fail again tonight.’
‘Come on, Hermione. Stab it!’ Ron encouraged. She looked up at him and tightened her grip on the fang. Before she could act, however, two monstrous bubbles burst out from the cup. Hermione let out a scream of horror and backed away from it. The bubbles grew rapidly into two male figures. They were leaden in colour, solid but still ghost-like.
One of the figures lifted his hand up and pointed at her. It was Harry.
‘You could have stopped me from handing myself over, but you let me walk to my death.’
Hermione shook her head. ‘I didn’t know you were going,’ she whispered. ‘I didn’t ... It wasn’t me. Whatever it was in Snape’s memory caused you to go.’
They locked eyes: hers were pleading, but his were cold, unforgiving. Hermione turned to the other figure. Ron looked back at her with even more hatred although he remained silent. Could ... could it be their ghosts coming back from yesterday?
‘Now that you know everything, will you stop me tonight?’ continued Harry.
‘Does it even matter?’ Ron laughed, a high, cold laugh that she’d never heard from him before. ‘Nothing can be changed.’
Then, he turned to her, opening the flaps of his robes to reveal a terrible gash on his bare torso, where a thick, silvery liquid was pouring out.
‘I died for you, Hermione. I will die again for you tonight, but it doesn’t mean anything to you.’
‘No, it’s not true,’ croaked Hermione, her throat clogging up and her eyes brimming with tears. ‘I’ve missed you so much. I wished I could have died.’
‘But you didn’t die,’ shouted Ron. ‘You didn’t even care. You went ahead and kissed him. You fraternised with the enemy.’
‘Enemy!’ echoed Harry. ‘How could you?’
She broke off. Someone else was calling her name. The voice said something about Voldemort’s enchantment, but her ears were buzzing. She couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from the ghost-like Harry and Ron.
‘You were the reason we died,’ they chorused. ‘You won’t be able to change anything. We will die again tonight. All because of you.’
‘Hermione, I’m here. Stab the cup now!’
She recognised that it was Ron—the real Ron. The two figures from the Horcrux kept jeering, but she closed her eyes and tried to block them out. Biting her lip, Hermione curled her hand into a fist around the fang and stabbed.
There was a terrible scream. She opened her eyes to see a stream of blood gushing from the cup in front of her. Ron had come to her side.
‘It was the dream, wasn’t it?’
Hermione nodded and wiped her tears with the back of her hand. When she looked up at Ron, he was going to say something, but then he stopped himself. After a moment, he patted her shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry, Hermione. It was just a dream.’
It sounded more like he was trying to convince himself to not be bothered by it, but she could see the question written all over his face: Who was he? She couldn’t tell Ron, though. Especially when he was Draco Malfoy. Especially when it wasn’t just a dream.
‘We have to get back to the Room of Requirement,’ she said, changing the topic. ‘Harry may have gone back already.’
Ron agreed. They gathered the Basilisk’s fangs and made their way back to the Room of Requirement in awkward silence. Hermione’s mind was still reeling from Riddle’s taunts. She knew she shouldn’t let them trouble her, but she just couldn’t help it. What would happen if she stopped Harry from going to Voldemort? Now she felt sure that his decision had something to do with Snape’s memory. Although Hermione had no doubt that Harry wouldn’t hesitate sacrificing himself for them all, surely the memory must have played its part. Nevertheless, what was the use of worrying about this when she didn’t even know if they would ever get to the point of retrieving the memory?
That was why Hermione spent the rest of the journey thinking about how she could hint at the diadem and its hiding place to Harry, in case his search wasn’t as fruitful as yesterday. Finally, they spotted Harry on the seventh floor corridor and grounded to a halt.
‘Did you see the diadem? Do you think it’s the Horcrux?’ asked Hermione, unable to contain herself.
‘I did, and I do. But first things first, where the hell have you been?’
‘Chamber of Secrets,’ replied Ron.
‘It was all Ron’s idea,’ said Hermione. Maybe this would be just the thing to lift the tension. ‘After you left, we were talking about not being able to destroy the Horcruxes, and he thought of it. Basilisk’s fangs.’ She held out her armful of the items in front of Harry. ‘The sword can destroy Horcruxes only because it’s absorbed the venom. I didn’t remember that, but Ron did. He was amazing!’
Hermione stopped to catch her breath and cast a surreptitious glance in Ron’s direction. She was relieved to find him beaming.
‘That’s great,’ said Harry. ‘But I thought you had to speak—’
‘Ron can speak Parseltongue. Show him, Ron!’
Ron let out a hiss and a snarl to Harry’s utmost amazement. ‘Just imitating you, mate,’ he added. ‘Had to try a few times before I got it right. So, we went in, and ... ’
Ron paused; his excitement vanished. ‘Hermione stabbed the cup,’ he finished sombrely.
Harry seemed flabbergasted at this change of sentiment. ‘What’s happened?’ he asked, looking from Ron to Hermione.
‘It was my nightmare. Riddle taunted me with it.’
‘Is there any—’
‘It’s nothing really,’ Ron cut in. Hermione was thoroughly grateful that he did.
‘So, the diadem?’ asked Ron.
‘Right! I know where it is. He hid it ...’
Hermione tuned Harry out. After all, she’d heard his explanation before. Now that they were preparing to enter the Room of Requirement, her nervousness about Malfoy returned full-force. What if he never turned up? Or worse, what if he didn’t know anything about yesterday and she messed everything up by telling him? How could she speak to him without Harry and Ron knowing? Even if she could, would he agree to help?
None of Hermione’s questions were answered when they went into the Room and asked Ginny, Tonks, and Neville’s grandmother to leave for a while. Once they’d come out again, Hermione couldn’t help glancing around the corridor. Malfoy should be here by now, shouldn’t he? If only she could figure out where he was hiding.
At least she knew where he’d revealed himself yesterday in the Room of Hidden Things. For once, Hermione wished that things were different. She wanted to go towards that section of the room or at least follow Harry there. But it only took them a few steps before he suggested that they split up. Since it would probably look suspicious to argue, Hermione begrudgingly turned to another direction.
She walked away only far enough to be out of Harry and Ron’s sight. Stopping behind a pile of dusty, tattered books, Hermione strained her ears for any sign of movement. Her heart was pounding so loudly that she was afraid she would miss something.
‘Hold it, Potter.’ Hermione’s heart skipped a beat. Should she go out there and face him now? Was he with Crabbe and Goyle?
Hermione listened intently to their conversation. Malfoy seemed to act too normally for someone who already knew what was to happen, although Hermione couldn’t really tell. She had been too far away from them yesterday that she had nothing to compare with now.
‘What’s a die-dum?’ She could hear Goyle say. The battle broke out as soon as Ron called for Harry. Hermione had to duck into a corner to avoid the junk crashing down from Crabbe’s Descendo. Everything was playing out in the same way as yesterday, it seemed.
When the Cruciatus Curse was cast, Malfoy’s scream ‘Stop!’ rang throughout the Room again. Hermione sprang out from behind the tower of hidden objects and shot a Stunning Spell at Crabbe. The spell hit him squarely in the face, knocking him unconscious. Malfoy didn’t pull Crabbe out of the way this time. Hermione turned to look at him. For a moment, she saw something there—understanding, recognition in his eyes—but he narrowed them instantly.
‘Now, now isn’t it the Mudblood? Stupefy!’
The curse came so close to hitting Hermione that she couldn’t tell if it was meant to miss or just poorly-aimed. She didn’t have time to dwell on it as Goyle had raised his wand as well.
‘Expelliarmus!’ yelled Harry and Hermione in unison. Both Malfoy’s and Goyle’s wands shot out from their hands into the heap of junk. Ron fired a Petrifying Curse right then, but Malfoy managed to grab Goyle and use him as a shield against the attack. Leaving the Petrified Goyle behind, he turned tail and fled into the mountain of objects.
‘Coward,’ bellowed Ron. ‘Should we chase after him?’
‘What for?’ asked Harry, his hand now holding the diadem dug up from the pile of junk.
Hermione needed to find an excuse to follow Malfoy alone, but how? Besides, was he expecting her to follow him? Or did he just want to cut short the confrontation with the expectation that Hermione would leave the room with her friends and then sneak away to meet with him elsewhere? In that case, where, exactly?
‘Should we destroy the Horcrux now?’ she asked, hoping to buy some more time.
‘In here? But what about Malfoy? Should we let him see?’
‘He’s already aware that you’ve been after the diadem, Harry. And he knows that you’ve got it. If Malfoy goes out to Voldemort with that knowledge, Voldemort will know that we’ve destroyed it.’
‘True. But does it matter?’
‘Once he knows that the diadem is gone, he will reinforce the protection around the snake. We can’t afford that. Let me go after Malfoy and Stun him. You guys get on with the Horcrux.’
‘Are you sure, Hermione? We’re all in this together.’
‘We don’t have time, Ron. Don’t lose sight of what we’re meant to do. I’ll take the Marauder’s Map and use it to catch up with you.’
‘All right,’ said Harry. ‘But if we don’t see you in twenty minutes, we’ll come back.’
Hermione nodded. There was no use arguing with them any further. Harry and Ron walked towards the door, but then Ron looked back hesitantly.
‘Go,’ she hushed. ‘I’ll be all right. He’s just a cowering ferret anyway.’
‘Who did you just call a cowering ferret, Granger?’ came a drawl as soon as the door sealed itself after Harry and Ron. Hermione turned back to face its owner, relief washing over her. He knew.
‘There’s no time to be bitter about that, Malfoy.’
As she said this, Hermione raised her wand and conjured a clock in mid-air. The clock instantly started to count back from twenty minutes. Malfoy raised his wand and set it back to fifteen.
‘You’ll need the extra five minutes to follow them,’ he said dryly.
He was right. Hermione mentally scolded herself for the lack of provision.
‘But the wand, how did you—’
‘This is called the Room of Requirement for a reason, Granger. Now get down to business.’
‘So you really do know, then?’ asked Hermione.
‘I do not speak in code, Granger. Be explicit.’
Hermione huffed. ‘You know that this whole day has already happened before, that Crabbe was supposed to cast Fiendfyre and die in it, that your mother lied to Voldemort and was punished for it, that Harry lost in the end, that you came to heal me and somehow we’ve ended up in this entire ordeal all over again. Is that explicit enough for you?’
He stared at her for a moment. Hermione was sure that her cheeks were flushed from the speech.
‘There’s no need to recount everything like that,’ he scolded, the wand in his hand trembling. It was his mother’s wand, she realised. ‘But yes, I know everything.’
‘What should we do now?’
‘Knowing why we’re here would’ve made it much easier to figure out what we have to do,’ he observed.
Hermione nodded. ‘I agree, but I don’t have a clue. I’ve just been trying to stick to whatever happened all day.’
‘So, should we—could we try to change things?’
‘It’s complicated, Granger. Just one wrong step and we’ll ruin everything.’
‘Do we have anything to lose?’ she asked, feeling her eyes prickling.
‘This chance,’ replied Malfoy, though it sounded like a question rather than an answer. ‘We don’t know if the day will repeat again, now, do we?’
‘No,’ said Hermione quietly. ‘We can only do our best, though.’
‘What if it’s still not enough?’
Hermione could see that despair was taking over Malfoy. She couldn’t let it get to her, too.
‘Have a little faith, Malfoy,’ she snapped. ‘If you’re not going to do anything, then I’ll take care of it myself.’
She didn’t know if antagonising him was a good idea, but at least it seemed to switch him back to business mode.
‘Fine,’ said Malfoy. ‘What do you think we should change?’
‘As you said, we may mess things up completely. The only way I see it, we should only change what is necessary.’
‘Though it must still be something that affects the outcome of the war.’ Malfoy crossed his arms over his chest. ‘In that case, you should expect a complete change of events afterwards.’
‘I agree,’ said Hermione, lifting her eyes to meet his. ‘But isn’t that what we want?’
Malfoy took a deep breath and nodded. ‘It should be something relatively close to the end, then?’
‘The forest, Malfoy. If your mother’s lie hadn’t been found out, Harry would have been alive when they got back to the castle.’
‘No, that’s too risky. Why shouldn’t we stop him from going to the Dark Lord altogether?’
‘I don’t know, but ...’
Hermione didn’t have any solid proof, but she instinctively felt that they shouldn’t change this, that it was something instrumental to the defeat of Voldemort.
‘I don’t have time for your mind games, Granger,’ said Malfoy. ‘You can’t expect me to follow blindly when my mother’s life depends on it.’
‘So that’s all you care about, isn’t it?’ asked Hermione. She wished she could say that she understood his concerns, but the situation required her to be cool-headed. ‘How do I know that you won’t betray us just to keep her safe?’
‘Don’t you think that I want Potter to win as well?’ snapped Malfoy, his eyes flashing. ‘Don’t you think that after all this, I’ve realised that we are all just worthless scum, easily disposed of at any moment by the Dark Lord?’
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him but then relented. ‘Harry handing himself over to Voldemort is vital for us to defeat that monster.’
‘And?’ Malfoy prompted.
‘I haven’t figured out the exact reason yet.’
Should she? Hermione glanced at the clock over her head. It was ticking away far too fast; they only had six and a half minutes left. Malfoy seemed to have noticed the dilemma as well.
‘At least tell me the things you know. What’s that diadem for?’
Malfoy’s look told Hermione that he wouldn’t agree to anything without having this question answered. She let out a sigh, reached for her bag, then dropped it onto the floor with a heavy thud. Kneeling down next to the bag, Hermione began rummaging through it for the book she needed. She could practically feel Malfoy’s gaze burning a hole in the back of her head.
Was she doing the right thing? Dumbledore had trusted Harry, Ron, and her not to tell anyone, even the Order of the Phoenix, and here she was, preparing to tell Draco Malfoy the secret to Voldemort’s downfall.
‘Here, read this.’ She thrust the ancient tome into his hands.
‘Are you freaking kidding me? Wait—Secret of the Darkest Art?’
Hermione held up a hand to stall Malfoy’s next remark. ‘I don’t have much time to explain more. Just know that Voldemort’s made a number of Horcruxes. The diadem and his snake, Nagini, are two of them. Once you’ve read the Horcrux section, you’ll understand.’
She didn’t miss the suspicion on Malfoy’s face as he examined the table of contents, although he tucked the book in the crook of his arm and turned back to her in the end. ‘So, what’s the plan?’
‘Plan for what?’
‘To prevent the Dark Lord from finding out about my mother’s lie.’
‘Meeting up in the forest during the one-hour armistice, I guess,’ said Hermione. She didn’t know what they should do afterwards, but formulating a plan didn’t seem possible now. Only two minutes left. ‘We’ll figure it out then.’
‘Fair enough,’ said Malfoy. ‘And I believe you should be able to find me with that ... map thing of yours?’ He indicated the Marauder’s Map lying at Hermione’s feet, which she’d abandoned in the rush to search for the book on Horcruxes.
‘Yes, of course,’ she replied before bending down to pick up the map along with her bag. ‘Harry and Ron are already in the Great Hall. I have to go.’
‘What is it now?’
‘I don’t know if it will be of any help or if your giant friend’s told you already, but about Potter going to the Dark Lord ... The first time the curse struck, the Dark Lord himself passed out. It seemed—my father said—as though there was a connection between them.’
But the second time, Voldemort hadn’t fainted, her brain automatically supplied. The connection had been severed after the first curse. If this connection was something important to—Her eyes widened in realisation. She turned around to fully face Malfoy. There was no deception in his eyes.
She would have asked for more details to verify her theory, but the timer went off right then with a shrill clang. Hermione didn’t know what prompted her into doing it, but as she rushed to the door, she called back at Malfoy.
‘I think Voldemort’s accidentally made Harry into a Horcrux.’
‘Don’t listen to him,’ Ron said to Harry once Voldemort’s message was over.
It took every ounce of Hermione’s will to repeat her line from yesterday. ‘It’ll be all right.’
They made their way back to the castle, to be engulfed by the suffocating silence. Hermione stopped at the doorway, her heart laden with grief and guilt. Now, more than ever, she felt that she could understand how Harry must be feeling: to know that he had the chance to prevent deaths and sufferings, but didn’t take it. Fred, Lupin, Tonks—all she could have saved this time. But she was afraid that if she did, she’d lose the chance to alter the final outcome of the war.
Hermione walked up and hugged Ginny. They then joined the rest of the Weasley family. Hermione couldn’t look at Fred, Lupin, or Tonks’ body. She couldn’t even meet the eyes of the survivors, knowing that if she failed tonight, some of them would die as well. She watched Harry leave and felt a strong impulse to follow him, to run away and to learn more about Snape’s memory, but she resisted. She needed to wait for someone else. Malfoy’s name still hadn’t appeared on the Marauder’s Map.
She stayed and tried to provide comfort to Ginny, Ron, and the others, but when it proved too much to bear, Hermione silently retreated from the group. She checked the map again, this time to find a tiny dot labelled Draco Malfoy swiftly approaching. Upon arriving at the entrance to the Great Hall, the dot stopped. Hermione looked up but saw no one. Realising that Malfoy must be Disillusioned, she gave a slight nod before turning back to the map. The dot was moving again towards the front door. Hermione slipped into a sheltered corner of the Hall and also cast a Disillusionment Charm on herself.
Thus, the journey to the forest began. She stopped at the front door, unsure as to which direction she should go. The sight of the battle made her insides lurch. Perhaps it was best to avoid the direct path, in case she bumped into one of the few survivors who were trying to bring bodies into the castle. Hermione took out the map again. Apparently Malfoy was taking the longer route, keeping closer to the lake. Hermione decided to do the same.
The more she walked, the more she could feel the chill creeping up on her. The swarm of Dementors—previously lurking among the trees—was now gliding towards the lake. A quick glance at the map confirmed her suspicion: Malfoy’s dot was being driven further and further from the edge of the forest. The Dementors must have sensed his presence. She could also see Harry making his way across the grounds. She didn’t have much time. Hermione briefly wondered if she should attempt to stop Bellatrix without Malfoy, but she instantly scolded herself for the idea. She could not leave him to deal with the Dementors alone.
Sending a Patronus from her spot was as good as signifying her presence to the occupants of the forest. Hermione had no choice but to walk deeper and deeper into the freezing fog. She tried to quicken her steps, but her legs felt like jelly. At this rate, she would never get to the forest soon enough. Hermione turned her head and tried to look at the other side of the forest, but she could hardly see through the fog. What was happening there? She shakily took out the map, her heart pounding. The parchment was so close it touched her nose, and even then, she couldn’t find Harry among the dense trees of the forest. However, something else caught her eye, and her heart sank. The name Draco Malfoy had stopped, hanging precariously at the edge of the lake. It was time to act.
‘Ex ... expecto Patronum,’ she stammered. A tiny jet of silver shot out from the tip of her wand, clearing up the fog for a fleeting second. Hermione could make out the black robes circling around Malfoy, who had reappeared, kneeling on a glassy-grey surface. Frozen water, Hermione realised. Then, she was blind again, fog covering her eyes, her entire body bitten by the cold. The despair gripped at her heart and twisted it like a pair of pliers. It was too late now.
Think of something happy, Hermione, something, she willed herself. Harry will win. But for that to happen, she and Malfoy still had a mission to accomplish. It was their only chance.
‘Expecto Patronum,’ she shouted with all her might, her chest aching. A silver otter leapt out from her wand, heading towards the lake. Hermione ran, racing to keep up with the silver creature, which swept the Dementors aside in its wake. A comforting warmth filled the air. She reached Malfoy at last. Her eyes widened at the cracks that were beginning to spread on the ice. It was melting, becoming too thin to hold the weight. Before Hermione could react, there was a deafening splash as Malfoy’s limp form disappeared underneath the water.
In pure instinct, she tossed her wand onto the grass and—for the second time that day—plunged herself into the water. The warmth that her Patronus had created moments ago was instantly replaced with a paralysing cold.
Hermione blinked rapidly as water stung her eyes. After a few seconds, she managed to keep her eyes wide open. The water was clean, but the lack of light made it almost impossible to see. She caught a glimpse of black amid the dull grey surroundings. It must be his robes. Hermione swam closer. Thank Merlin, it really was him. Quickly discarding the sodden robes and slipping one arm around Malfoy’s waist, she began to swim towards the surface, straining to offset the burden of his weight dragging them down. She was starting to feel short on air.
Finally, they both emerged above the water. Hermione gasped. The fresh air flooding her lungs sent a new wave of energy through her body. It was enough for her to get Malfoy and herself to the shore, which luckily wasn’t too far away.
‘Malfoy!’ she called, shaking his shoulders gently but receiving no response. She lifted Malfoy’s chin up with one hand and tilted his head back with the other hand on his forehead. Hermione tried to feel for his breathing and then checked for his pulse. Nothing.
No, she could not lose him now. Hermione took a deep breath and brought her mouth to his, her hand pinching his nose closed. She breathed into him. One, two. And then chest compressions. One ... two ... three ... four ... Nothing seemed to matter but the numbers reeling in her head. ...twenty-eight ... twenty-nine ... thirty ... Hermione repeated the procedure again and again, each time praying for it to work.
Her heart soared as his chest started to rise and fall again, without her rescue breaths. His eyelids fluttered open while she was trying to place him in a recovery position.
‘C...c...cold,’ he stuttered with difficulty. It was not until then that Hermione realised she was also soaking wet. She shuddered as the chill registered. All the same, Malfoy’s safety came first. If only she had a—Damn it! How could she have forgotten her wand!
‘It’s all right. I’ll be back in a second,’ she said to him and stood up to look for her wand. It was not hard to find, given that the sky was starting to light up. She swiftly came back to Malfoy’s side and used a drying spell on his clothes. Although he didn’t attempt to say anything else, she was glad to see the colour gradually return to his face. Once the drying was done, Hermione conjured a small jar along with a Bluebell flame and placed it next to him.
As Hermione set about drying her own clothes, Malfoy spoke up. ‘What’s happened?’
‘You were driven to the lake by Dementors and nearly drowned.’
‘So, you dragged me up here?’
‘Yeah, and gave you CPR.’
‘It’s a Muggle first-aid procedure,’ she replied. ‘Short for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, which involves mouth-to-mouth res—’
‘Mouth-to-mouth? You took advantage of me when—’
‘What?’ exclaimed Hermione, incredulous. She looked back at Malfoy, who apparently had shot up to a sitting position at his discovery. ‘You weren’t breathing. I had no other choice.’
‘Are you a witch or what?’
Well, he had a point. ‘I used to volunteer as a lifeguard during summer. It just seemed the natural thing to do,’ said Hermione defensively.
Returning to her current task, she mumbled, ‘It wasn’t like I enjoyed it, anyway. You tasted like the Giant Squid and smelled like fish.’
‘I didn’t know you had a pastime of snogging water crea—’
Malfoy’s taunt was cut short by a loud bang.
‘Oh, no!’ Hermione clapped her hand over her mouth. ‘Harry! The forest!’
She leapt to her feet and ran, the sound of Malfoy’s footsteps thundering close behind her. The trees came closer and closer into her vision. There was a flash of green light. Hermione prayed to the heavens that it was the first curse. But then, Voldemort’s voice made her heart drop.
‘A traitor like Narcissa Malfoy cannot be tolerated. Let this be a lesson for you all.’
Hermione could hear an anguished cry behind, and she suddenly realised that neither she nor Malfoy had any disguise. But it didn’t matter anymore. They had failed. Hermione fell to her knees, barely noticing the mellow light of the rising sun shining on her. She let out a large sob and felt herself fall again, into the darkness.
References: The following dialogues have been used throughout the story, either verbatim or with modification. They are listed here in order of appearance in the fic. If something is used more than once, I’ll only note down the first instance.
From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I’ll only keep the dialogues, which are the parts I actually quoted. Page numbers are from UK Hardcover edition):
Hermione: Harry - Harry - what are you doing?
Harry: Get up, climb up, come on –
~Pg 437, Chapter 26: Gringotts
Ron: Is it my imagination or are we losing height?
Harry: I say we jump when it gets low enough.
Straight into the water before it realizes we’re here!
~Pg 440, Chapter 27: The Final Hiding Place
Riddle’s voice from the Horcrux to Ron: I have seen your heart, and it is mine.
~Pg 306, Chapter 19: The Silver Doe
Harry: Where the hell have you been?
Ron: Chamber of Secrets.
Harry: Chamber – what?
Hermione: It was Ron, all Ron’s idea! Wasn’t it absolutely brilliant? There we were, after you left, and I said to Ron, even if we find the other one, how are we going to get rid of it? We still hadn’t got rid of the cup! And then he thought of it! The basilisk!
Harry: What the -?
Ron: Something to get rid of Horcruxes.
Harry: But how did you get in there? You need to speak Parseltongue!
Hermione: He did! Show him, Ron!
Ron (after hissing in Parseltongue): It’s what you did to open the locket. I had to have a few goes to get it right, but we got there in the end.
Hermione: He was amazing! Amazing!
Ron: So we’re another Horcrux down. Hermione stabbed it.
Thought she should. She hasn’t had the pleasure yet.
Ron: It was nothing. So what’s new with you?
Harry: I know what the diadem looks like, and I know where it is. He hid it exactly where I had my old Potions book, where everyone’s been hiding stuff for centuries. He thought he was the only one to find it. Come on.
~Pg 500-501, Chapter 31: The Battle of Hogwarts
Draco: Hold it, Potter.
Goyle: We can do Diss-lusion Charms now! And then, you turned up right in front of us and said you was looking for a die-dum! What’s a die-dum?
Ron: (calls from the other side of the room) Harry? Are you talking to someone?
Crabbe: Harry? What’s going on - no, Potter! Crucio!
Draco: STOP! The Dark Lord wants him alive-
Crabbe: So? I’m not killing him, am I? But if I can, I will, the Dark Lord wants him dead anyway, what’s the diff-
It’s that Mudblood! Avada Kedavra!
Draco: Don’t kill him! DON’T KILL HIM!
Harry (at Goyle): Expelliarmus!
~Pg 505-507, Chapter 31: The Battle of Hogwarts
Hermione: We will fight! We’ll have to, to reach the snake! But let’s not lose sight now of what we’re supposed to be d-doing! We’re the only ones who can end it!
~Pg 515, Chapter 32: The Elder Wand
Ron: Don’t listen to him.
Hermione: It’ll be all right. Let’s - let’s get back to the castle, if he’s gone to the forest we’ll need to think of a new plan –
~Pg 530, Chapter 33: The Prince’s Tale
Chapter 3: The Third
People say that the first kiss is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but perhaps it’s not always true. An alternate ending to DH. Dramione Couple Remix Round 1 - Henry/Lucy (50 First Dates)
Draco leaned against one of the bookshelves, clutching his head as the high, cold voice of the Dark Lord threatened to drill through his eardrums. Apparently, the effect of this announcement was much worse when one was alone in an enormous room. Then again, perhaps it was also because the message failed to evoke in him the same emotions it once had.
‘Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded,’ the voice resonated through the aisle. ‘You have until midnight.’
Draco felt disgusted, but then the gripping fear won over. He wouldn’t have much longer past midnight. He would have to meet Granger in the Room of Hidden Things again. Before that, however, he needed to figure out what exactly was happening to them. He couldn’t meekly follow the same pattern again. That was why when he’d woken up this morning in his dorm and realised that the day had repeated once more, the first thing he had done was to drag Crabbe and Goyle into an abandoned closet and lock them inside. Once they were out of the way, he’d headed for the library. He had mentally laughed at the idea, considering how Granger would have done the same, though he doubted that she had the chance with all of those Gringotts fiascos. Although no one seemed to go to the library these days, he had Stunned Madam Pince, locked the door, and added a ‘Closed for rearrangement’ sign for good measure. Then, he had also roused the librarian when Sprout’s Patronus came to call for her, in case her absence at the battle would make a difference.
Draco quickly hitched himself to an upright position and Summoned the catalogue for the Restricted Section, hoping against hope that this new search would at least yield something. The remaining fifteen minutes hardly seemed enough. He had scoured all the titles on time-travel with little success. Travelling back without a Time-Turner was nearly impossible, never mind actually reversing time. There were allusions to magic beyond the powers of wizardkind to manipulate, of course, but none of those pointed to anything particularly helpful.
He managed to slip in just seconds before the door closed completely after Potter. Although Draco knew how to get into the room on his own, he would have had to open the door to do so. Since he couldn’t come with Crabbe and Goyle, trying to simulate another confrontation with Potter would make no sense now. Hence, Draco’s plan was simple: meet with Granger, then get out.
It was easier said than done, though. Already, several minutes had passed since they got into the room, but Granger still hadn’t left the main aisle. Where the hell was she going? Didn’t she know that he would want to hide as far from Potter as possible this time? Draco had no choice but to walk up and pull her into the maze of objects.
Her yelp was muffled by his hand. He could feel her body stiffen.
‘Shh, Granger, it’s me,’ he whispered before releasing her.
‘Hermione, what’s happened?’ a voice echoed from behind the pile of junk, and Draco could hear footsteps coming nearer.
‘Nothing, I just tripped on something.’
‘You scared me,’ said Potter.
‘Sorry,’ Granger called at her friend before pointing her wand in that same direction. ‘Muffliato!’
Draco ventured a guess that it must have been some sort of sound-proofing spell because Granger immediately turned back to him and snapped, ‘Don’t ever do that again!’
‘Well, I’m sorry that you have the mouth of a Banshee.’
Granger took a deep breath as though suppressing her anger.
‘Where are Crabbe and Goyle?’ she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
‘Stunned and locked in a closet in the dungeons,’ he replied.
‘I swear if you’re intending to change any—’
‘I’m not! I went to the library to find out how we came back in time, but I just couldn’t get back to them after exiting the library. Too many people in the way. And you know that I had to lock them there to make sure they didn’t go around and change anything while I was researching.’
‘Oh.’ Granger’s eyes softened. ‘So, how is the research?’
Draco let out a long sigh. ‘So far, I’ve come across numerous assertions that this is possible with some kind of advanced magic, but there has been no clue as to how it bloody happens.’
‘Have you tried the books on time-travel?’
Draco rolled his eyes. ‘Of course, I have. But most of them just go on about Time-Turners and their uses, and we both know that the Ministry’s stock was destroyed two years ago.’
‘And there’s nothing else?’
‘Well, actually there is one time-travel method that doesn’t require a Time-Turner,’ said Draco. ‘Remember the spell you used for the countdown clock? It has something to do with it.’
‘When you think about it, compared to a normal clock, the act of counting down seems almost like turning back time, doesn’t it? If you can use this spell on a certain space using real physical clocks instead of a magically conjured one—’
‘Then it will turn back time? But won’t you have to turn back all the clocks for that to work?’ asked Granger. ‘I’m assuming that the spell only affects a limited expanse of physical space, then.’
‘Basically, yes. If the spell is cast right, people and objects within that space alone will be sent back in time.’
‘It sounds hard but not impossible,’ said Granger, tapping one finger on her chin. ‘Perhaps someone did the magic in the space around us back then. I don’t think I would have noticed it at the time, given what was going on.’
Draco sighed. ‘If it had been this spell, we would have reappeared at that same spot on the Hogwarts grounds, but we clearly did not.’
‘So, our situation is a bit more similar to the use of Time-Turners because we returned to the locations we had been in the past. For me, it was Shell Cottage, and you, your dorm at Hogwarts, I presume?’
‘Exactly. What makes it even more implausible is the motive. Suppose someone used this spell on us, what does he or she want?’
‘Change the past?’
‘Well, thank you, Miss Obvious. I meant, why didn’t he—let’s just call this person “he”—travel back himself? After all, he knew what was happening. Wouldn’t it be easier for him to do the job? Not to mention that he had to trigger the spell twice for us to be here now.’
‘You’re right,’ said Granger. ‘Also, there was one thing that made me kind of rule out the possibility of a Time-Turner. Just want to see if it applies to this spell as well. When a person goes back in time with the spell, will his or her past self disappear?’
‘No, the time-traveller will co-exist with his or her past self.’
‘So, everything within the space will be duplicated when a person time-travels?’
‘I should think so.’ He paused for a second to contemplate his answer. ‘Except for the clocks, maybe, since they represent the timeline.’
‘Well, then there’s no way that we travelled back by means of this spell,’ she concluded, disappointment evident on her face.
‘Yeah, otherwise, at least one of your past selves would have shown up and punched me in the face by now.’
‘Like yours wouldn’t have done something stupid as well?’
‘Nah, I’m much too prudent and sneaky for that.’
He smirked at Granger. At least that gloomy mood of hers was gone now, and they could go back to business. ‘Anyway, why do you think the day repeated again?’
‘Um, I’ve been thinking about that as well,’ said Granger, returning to her solemn tone. ‘My best guess is, who or whatever made the day repeat doesn’t want Voldemort to win.’
‘So, you think it’ll keep repeating until the Dark Lord’s defeated.’
‘Most likely. And I don’t think the magic has to be done twice. It’s more like an automatic “If Voldemort wins, then repeat” kind of thing.’
‘Any idea who or—as you put it—what that might be?’
‘See, that’s what baffles me. I, for one, want Harry to win more than anything else. But it can’t be me.’
‘It would make a lot of sense if it were you, though,’ said Draco. ‘That would explain why we are at the heart of this whole ordeal.’
Granger shook her head. ‘I don’t have that kind of power. I think we should focus on the how in—’
‘Got it! Ron, Hermione, over here!’ Granger stopped and tilted her head towards the direction of the call. Draco knew that she needed to return to Potter and Weasley.
‘Same plan, then?’ he asked.
She nodded. ‘Meet me inside the castle this time. There’s an empty classroom near the Great—’
Granger sighed and waved her wand. ‘Finite Incantatem!’
‘Coming!’ she called out, running towards the direction of Potter’s voice.
Draco re-cast the Disillusionment Charm on himself and followed the Trio outside. He stopped at the doorway for a moment, watching Granger and her friends run towards the battle, where curses were knitting together in the air. She’s already been through this twice, he told himself before turning in the opposite direction. Researching would probably be the best use of his time until their rendezvous.
When Draco went back to the library, the place was just as deserted as it had been when he left. The Death Eaters hadn’t been able to penetrate this far into the castle. In fact, Draco hardly encountered any obstacles on his way. However, the calmness unnerved him even more than the earlier chaos he had faced. Now, he had no way of knowing what was happening outside. Nonetheless, he decided to ignore the feeling and resume his search in the Restricted Section. He would know when the Dark Lord’s next message came, that was certain.
Draco opened a book on ancient magic and began to read, but the letters seemed to run together in his vision without making any sense. He could not disregard the fact that the war was still raging outside even though there was no evidence of it here. What if his parents didn’t wait in the forest but instead participated in the battle? No matter how unlikely that might be, Draco couldn’t seem to get rid of the thought. His mother’s life was already hanging by a thread as it was. For once, he wanted to go out there and do something. Then again, his very action might reduce his and Granger’s plan to naught.
It didn’t take long for Draco to abandon the book and head down to the meeting place. He would still be waiting there, unable to do anything until Granger arrived, but at the very least, he could be closer to the battle. The thought of his mother added more vigour to his steps.
The sight of the battle made his insides clench, but he was determined not to let his eyes linger on anything or anyone. As long as they were not his parents, he couldn’t afford to care. Weaving through the fights was not an easy matter, but he managed until that throaty, hysterical laugh echoed through the hall.
Even through the Death Eater’s mask and robes, Draco recognised Bellatrix’s posture in the way she circled the pink-haired girl, sparks soaring between them. The unknown girl was putting up a good fight, but it was still apparent that she was no match for Bellatrix. The mad woman laughed again as another spell missed its mark. He could never mistake that cackle. Blood boiled in Draco’s veins, his throat burning with hatred. It took all of his self-restraint not to barge towards them and join the fight. He could not interfere. But wouldn’t it be better if Bellatrix died? That way, she wouldn’t be able to reveal his mother’s lie to the Dark Lord. Could he do it, though? Could he kill her? Or would he just make a mess with this fight? All reasoning pointed towards the latter. More importantly, even if Bellatrix was killed, what consequences would her death entail?
Draco inhaled deeply and closed his eyes as the cruel green beam brought down Bellatrix’s opponent. He turned away quickly and was soon surrounded by other duellers. Ducking and dodging the flying spells was his perfect excuse to ignore the single tear that had managed to escape.
Greater proximity to the battle proved no better than staying in the library. Draco paced back and forth in the small classroom. Indeed, it was the only thing he’d been doing since he’d gotten there: first, anxious for the Dark Lord’s voice to announce the armistice, and now, impatient for Granger’s arrival. The relief that he hadn’t spotted either of his parents in the battle seemed to be the only thing that helped keep his sanity.
The classroom door finally clicked open. Suppressing his annoyance at Granger’s late appearance, Draco proceeded straight to business.
‘Let’s go,’ he bellowed before raising his wand to make himself invisible once again. Granger stopped him.
‘Hang on,’ she said, grabbing Draco’s free hand awkwardly. ‘Let’s stick together this time.’
He knew she was thinking of the Dementor incident. Did Granger really assume he was that weak?
‘Just to save time finding each other in the wood,’ she said, as though reading his mind. ‘Look, we’re running out of time.’
With this, Granger flicked her wand and vanished. However, he could still feel her hand firmly on his. Draco hesitated for a moment before casting the spell. Granger swiftly pulled him towards the door. They made their way down the corridor. When they walked past the doorway to the Great Hall, his hand was pulled back momentarily. It seemed that Granger needed one moment to look back at her friends, but soon, they were speeding across the grounds again.
In his vision, a mass of black cloaks stood out clearly against the forest trees—darker, smoother, and more frightening. Dementors. They were getting closer, with a thick grey veil of fog that threatened to eat him alive. Draco held his breath, blocking out the piercing cold, but he had to succumb at last. The icy air slithered through his nose, down his windpipe, and into his lungs, freezing him from the inside out. He clenched his wand but couldn’t keep his hand from shaking. He was vaguely aware that his legs kept moving. A mixture of screams, pleas, and sobs resounded in his ears. They all belonged to his mother. His world was swaying now, but all the while, there was a constant that kept it from turning upside down. Granger gave his hand a small squeeze. Her hand was cold, but it sent a sliver of warmth to his heart. Draco felt an inexplicable urge to reciprocate and finally gave in to it. They were going to succeed.
The thought kept him going until, at long last, he could hear the rustle of forest leaves at his feet. It seemed as though the Dementors were forbidden from hovering too close to the Dark Lord’s hiding place, for they didn’t pursue beyond the border. As Draco and Granger got farther into the wood, the fog began to disperse and warm air returned.
Granger muttered her ‘muffling’ spell again. ‘So, how do we plan to cover your mother’s lie?’
‘Turn it into the truth?’ He could hear a gasp from Granger. ‘We only make Potter appear dead to my mother, of course,’ he added quickly.
‘You mean to stop his heart and his breathing without actually killing him?’ she asked.
‘Well,’ said Draco, ‘do you know any way to accomplish that?’ He knew the idea seemed rather unfeasible, but it was the safest bet for his mother. Maybe Granger would know something.
It took a moment before Granger replied to his question, her voice hesitant. ‘Um, there is this spell that helps you separate the soul from the body—’
‘Merlin, Granger, I didn’t know you know Dark Magic!’
She huffed. ‘Secret of the Darkest Art, remember? It wasn’t as if I read it for fun.’
‘All right.’ He relented. ‘I suppose you can do it?’
‘Perhaps. I may risk killing him for real with it, though. I don’t think—’
‘Someone there,’ came a harsh voice. Draco’s breath caught in his throat. He could feel Granger’s hand slightly dampening in his. They couldn’t be found out now.
‘He’s got an Invisibility Cloak. Could it be—?’ said Yaxley. He and Dolohov came out from behind a tree just a few feet away from Draco and Granger, but their wands were directed elsewhere.
‘Harry,’ whispered Granger. ‘It’s lucky we didn’t bump into him.’
‘We should follow them,’ he murmured back as the two Death Eaters began to walk away.
A slight jerk of her hand told him that she’d started to carry out his instruction. Draco did the same.
‘What should we do once we get there?’ asked Granger as light appeared ahead of them. They were still walking invisibly, their fingers intertwined. ‘Should we try distracting Bellatrix? It seems like a safer option.’
'I was thinking Confundus Charm or ...’ there was a pause, ‘or the Imperius Curse.’
Draco was surprised at her idea of using an Unforgivable. Given their situation, the ends could justify the means, he supposed.
‘I would say Imperio,’ he replied. After all, it was she who suggested it first. ‘The effect of a Confundus Charm would be too visible. We can’t risk others suspecting, too.’
He didn’t say anything else. They had arrived at the fringe of a clearing surrounded by dangling fragments of what seemed to have been an enormous spider web. While Dolohov and Yaxley went farther towards the clearing, Draco and Granger stopped where they were. He could see dark figures gathering in a circle around a crackling fire, their faces—some masked, some unmasked—illuminated by its light. He didn’t dare look straight at the Dark Lord, so he started from the farthest point, letting his eyes dart from face to face to find his parents. They were both there, unharmed. Draco’s last image of them flitted through his mind. His father could have looked worse. His heart twitched at the worry etched on his mother’s face. If only there were a way to let her know that he was still alive. But if he did that, she might never lie about Potter’s death, and the Dark Lord might triumph again.
Draco averted his eyes. As soon as they fell on the dishevelled witch sitting at the Dark Lord’s side, an entirely different emotion snaked into his heart. He wanted revenge. For his mother. No, it was for something that hadn’t even happened yet. Not in this timeline. He shouldn’t lose his focus: to prevent it from ever happening again. Draco pulled Granger behind a bulky tree. He sat down on the damp roots with his back against the trunk and took off the Disillusionment.
‘What—Why are you taking that off?’ asked Granger as she also reappeared next to him. ‘We can’t be found out.’
‘You’ve taken yours off as well,’ he dryly pointed out. ‘Now, redouble your sound-proofing spell. With that volume of yours, I doubt it will hold.’
Granger huffed but didn’t argue. Once the spell had been reinforced, she turned to him. ‘I did that just because you took yours off. It would be so damn uncomfortable if only one of us were invisible.’
‘Oh, right,’ said Draco, eyeing the hand that Granger was still holding. She dropped it with record speed. He had a hunch that she was blushing, but there was no way to tell in the dark.
‘You disabled the charm just because of ... that?’
‘No,’ said Draco seriously. ‘I need all the concentration I can get to perform the Imperius Curse on Bellatrix.’
‘Why do you assume that you’re the one who’s going to do it?’
‘I’ve cast the curse before—successfully,’ he replied, none too comfortable with the admission, but it was a fact, anyway. Before Granger could protest, he continued, ‘It’ll be quite hard to do it from here, though, so we’ll have to split up for me to get closer.’
‘Without the concealment, that would be too dang—Wait, listen!’
Potter had just announced his presence at the top of his voice. Neither Draco nor Granger spoke, both realising that they would have to depend mostly on the voices to know what was happening. Unable to contain himself, Draco tilted his head to look around the tree trunk. The crowd around the fire had risen to their feet, some gasping in surprise, some cheering. He could not see his parents nor Potter in their midst.
‘HARRY! NO!’ someone shouted. Draco realised that it must be the half-giant.
‘When?’ he asked, turning back to Granger.
‘I don’t know. We don’t know the exact details of the conversation, so it’s quite hard to figure out.’
Damn it, how long did he have left? They hadn’t even agreed on a plan. ‘I’ll take care of the curse, and that’s final,’ he told her. ‘Also, you can put your concealment back on.’
She shook her head. Draco could still hear the ex-gamekeeper’s voice in the background, but he concentrated solely on Granger. ‘If things go ... wrong,’ she said, ‘we don’t want to inadvertently hinder each other. It’ll be better if you can see me as well.’
‘Let’s just hope it won’t come to that,’ he responded.
‘Harry Potter,’ the Dark Lord’s silky voice alerted Draco again. ‘The Boy Who Lived.’
There was complete silence.
The hiss sent a chill up his spine. Granger jumped, her hand clutching her heart. She swiftly turned to steal a glance at the scene, where the sounds of gasps, whispers, and footsteps blended in one discordant clamour.
‘Voldemort fainted. They’re gathering around him,’ Granger informed him.
‘My Lord, my Lord ...’ cried Bellatrix. Draco’s wand hand twitched. That bitch had to die.
‘No, not now,’ said Granger, holding out an arm to prevent him from moving away. ‘You need to be patient, Malfoy.’
‘She killed my mother,’ he hissed in her ear.
‘Will cause Voldemort to kill,’ she corrected. ‘You’ll save your mother by not trying to interfere now. It’s nearly time, though.’
‘That will do,’ said Voldemort’s voice. The whispers and murmurs died at once. There were only hurried footsteps as the Death Eaters seemed to be retreating to their former positions. ‘The boy… Is he dead?’
‘I’ll go now,’ said Draco, brushing Granger’s arm aside, but she grabbed at the hem of his robes.
‘Don’t do anything rash. Just prevent Bellatrix from realising that Harry’s alive, then come back.’
‘Do you think I’ll jeopardise my mother’s life?’ he countered.
Granger reluctantly let go. Draco slipped out of their hiding place and crawled closer to the clearing. He stopped behind a thick bush, only sticking his head out slightly to see. The position allowed him a perfect view of what was going on. No one had yet volunteered to check on Potter.
‘You,’ said Voldemort, pointing his wand at his mother. His spell made her cry out in pain. Draco’s jaw clenched. He clasped his hands together to prevent them from acting out of control. ‘Examine him. Tell me whether he is dead.’
Every eye in the circle of Death Eaters followed his mother as she made her way towards Potter’s prone body, but Draco’s attention was fixed upon a pair of hooded, black eyes, his wand already directed at their owner. Draco still hadn’t cast the Imperius Curse, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to maintain it for long without Bellatrix beginning to resist. But if he was too late and she had discovered the truth, then she would reveal it once the curse was lifted. When would she begin to suspect? He would have to start then, but how could he know?
After a moment’s hesitation, Draco tightened the grip on his mother’s wand and muttered, ‘Imperio!’
A tingling warmth shot through his arm, streaming into his mind. He allowed himself a small smile at his luck: Bellatrix wasn’t keeping up the wall around her mind at that moment. Her eyes were still focussed on Potter’s body, but they were now unseeing, thanks to Draco’s curse.
‘He is dead!’ his mother announced to the onlookers. The Death Eaters roared triumphantly. Some started clapping, some shot red and silver sparks out from their wands to celebrate. Draco caused a torrent of bright silver light to burst out from Bellatrix’s wand as well before relieving the curse. She shook her head slightly in bewilderment. Merlin, please don’t let anyone realise. Don’t let her realise.
‘Harry Potter is dead by my hand,’ shrieked the Dark Lord, and Bellatrix turned towards him, something akin to a smile playing on her lips. Draco felt like vomiting, but at the same time, relief flooded through him.
He crawled back to Granger and nodded in answer to her silent question. He didn’t object as she took his hand again before they both made themselves invisible once more.
They had to wait until the procession of Death Eaters dissolved into the blackness of the forest before coming out of their hiding, following their circuitous route from earlier. The Dark Lord’s call for surrender threw more urgency to their steps. Draco started to have a feeling that the leaves beneath their feet were crunching too loudly and the centaurs hiding behind the trees could see right through them, but Granger paid no heed to either fact.
‘We have to get to the castle before the fight breaks out,’ she responded to his demand to slow down. As soon as they were out of the forest, she broke into a run, dragging him along. The Death Eater’s victory army had already reached the castle, it seemed.
Draco also wanted to get there as soon as possible, to prevent his parents from being caught up in the battle. The last time, with his mother gone, his father had been too heart-broken to fight, but who knew what could happen now that everything was different? However, Draco was well aware that he’d better act more prudently. His parents might get hurt in the battle, yes. But if he was caught in Granger’s company, it would be pretty much a death warrant for both of them unless the Light side had already won by then.
The chaos broke out when they were only halfway to their destination. The centaurs stormed towards the castle. Roaring battle cries and thundering footsteps resounded from the direction of Hogsmeade. Draco swallowed hard. He and Granger were right in the path of the Light’s support army, and they would be trampled in a matter of minutes.
‘Remove the charm, Granger,’ he called out while swiftly getting rid of his own Disillusionment, counting on the disorder to conceal him. The ground shook as the giants stomped their feet. Draco could feel Granger letting go of his hand. His chest momentarily filled with dread. He breathed a sigh of relief as she reappeared a few feet away.
‘Go on with whatever you need to do. I have to go find my parents.’
She nodded before running towards the crowd at the main entrance. Having received the confirmation he needed, Draco wasted no time in plunging himself into the mass of centaurs and Death Eaters, adrenaline surging through his veins. He was sure that his parents were among them. He could only hope that they were safe.
Draco waited with bated breath as the only two remaining duels of the Hogwarts Battle unravelled in front of him: Bellatrix Lestrange versus Molly Weasley, and Lord Voldemort versus Harry Potter. Potter had revealed himself after casting a Shield Charm to protect Molly Weasley from one of Bellatrix’s deadly curses, and since then, the two witches hadn’t been able to defeat one another.
While he wanted to see Bellatrix killed, it was the outcome of the second duel that would determine Draco’s fate and that of his parents. His mother and father were here by his side now, but how much longer would they be together? Everything that Draco cared about depended on this outcome. The two opponents were still circling each other, secrets and purposes revealed, though neither had cast a single spell. The deciding moment came at last.
The two spells collided and exploded. Draco was momentarily blinded by the bright light, the deafening bang crushing his ribcage.
The explosion was followed by Bellatrix’s scream resonating throughout the eerily silent hall. Her master was dead at Harry Potter’s feet.
Everything seemed to play in slow motion as another green light soared through the air, slamming into Potter’s chest. The Boy Who Lived crumpled to the floor just moments before Molly Weasley finished off his murderer, Bellatrix Lestrange.
‘NO!’ the watching crowd roared in unison. Draco told himself that it didn’t matter to him, but Granger’s cry as she rushed to Potter’s side tore at his heartstrings.
He had no reason to seek her out. After all, every single member of the Light was still so grief-stricken by the loss of Potter that none of them paid any attention to Draco and his parents. There would be a time when he needed her testimony of their side-switching but not now.
Still, he found himself leaving his parents to look for a hint of curly brown hair among the mourning crowd. The cloud of fiery red mops made him feel hopeful, but it turned out that she was not with them. She had practically vanished from the Great Hall.
He had expected Granger to stick to her friends at times like this. What with all of that sharing crap! But of course, there was also certain knowledge that she could not share with them, knowledge that he knew was weighing down her heart. They could have done better. If only there were another chance.
Draco finally found her taking refuge under the shade of a tree near the lake, her chin resting on her knees. Granger looked up briefly as he sat down next to her. It was still too dark for him to discern whether there were tears on her face, but he knew as soon as she spoke up.
‘There is no turning back.’ Her voice cracked.
‘How can you be sure?’
‘How else could it be?’ she asked. ‘The purpose had been fulfilled.’
‘Not entirely,’ said Draco. ‘Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting here, crying your eyes out.’
‘But we won,’ murmured Granger. The word ‘we’ made Draco’s heart do a funny little thing in his chest. He decided to ignore it.
‘Look, Granger, what if we could turn back time again?’
She smiled ruefully. ‘We don’t even know how it happened in the first place.’
But we have a theory, he thought. How to say this without sounding ... sentimental? Then again, did his pride matter when she had to suffer so much pain, so much desperation? Besides, it was the truth. Nothing else remotely made sense.
‘It was our kiss, Granger. I don’t know how you felt at that moment. Hell, I don’t even know how I felt. But there was something then, there was a ...’ Draco broke off. He was going to say ‘connection’ but then thought better of it. ‘Something triggered the magic,’ he finished lamely.
Granger looked at him in surprise.
Draco looked down at his lap. ‘You must think I’m a sap now.’
‘No,’ she protested at once. ‘It’s the truth, what you said. I just didn’t expect ... Anyway, during my six years at Hogwarts, I’ve never come across anything about a magical kiss.’
‘Me neither,’ he agreed.
‘But you know, in Muggle stories, a kiss can be very powerful. But it must be a true lo—a first kiss. There’s nothing like a first kiss,’ she whispered.
‘If we kiss now, it’ll still be our first,’ he said, tilting her head so that their eyes met. ‘The other kisses only happened in the memories in our heads.’
‘It doesn’t hurt to try,’ she admitted.
There was no hesitation in their kiss this time, nothing but a curious warmth in his chest. He explored her lips with a gentle caress, and she responded to him with the same tenderness. But with time, that painful taste of her tears came back again, more and more powerful. Just a moment longer, a moment longer, and then the magic would occur. He knew they were both thinking the exact same thing. But then, the need for oxygen finally drove them apart. They were still here, under the tree overlooking the Hogwarts lake.
‘It didn’t hurt to try,’ repeated Granger. The tremor in her voice was more evident now.
They sat there mutely, staring at the pale grey sky. But Draco never got to see the dawn break, for darkness engulfed him as soon as the first light shone.
From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Voldemort: I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood.
Give me Harry Potter and they shall not be harmed. Give me Harry Potter and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter and you will be rewarded.
You have until midnight.
~Pg 490, Chapter 31: The Battle of Hogwarts
Either Yaxley or Dolohov: Someone there. He’s got an Invisibility Cloak. Could it be -?
~Pg 562, Chapter 34: The Forest Again
At the clearing in the Forbidden Forest:
Voldemort: I was, it seems… mistaken.
Harry (takes off the Invisibility Cloak and announces his presence): You weren’t.
Hagrid: HARRY! NO!
NO! NO! HARRY, WHAT’RE YEH -?
Voldemort: Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived.
~Pg 563-564, Chapter 34: The Forest Again
Bellatrix: My Lord… my Lord…
Voldemort: That will do.
Bellatrix: My Lord, let me -
Voldemort: I do not require assistance. The boy… Is he dead?
You. Examine him. Tell me whether he is dead.
Narcissa: He is dead!
Voldemort: You see? Harry Potter is dead by my hand, and no man alive can threaten me now! Watch! Crucio!
~Pg 580-582, Chapter 36: The Flaw in the Plan
From 50 First Dates
Lucy (repeated line): There’s nothing like a first kiss.
Chapter 4: The Fourth
People say that the first kiss is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but perhaps it’s not always true. An alternate ending to DH. Dramione Couple Remix Round 1 - Henry/Lucy (50 First Dates)
Hermione ran, her breath coming in short gasps. It had taken Ron a much longer time to perfect his Parseltongue today, and they were running late. Her heart was racing, but she knew there was another reason for it besides the running. She was about to meet him again. Although Hermione still couldn’t figure out how the day had repeated once more, she knew for certain this time that it wasn’t their kiss. Perhaps Malfoy’s research would yield more success. But no matter what the cause, she was thankful that they had this other chance.
Hermione checked her watch and urged Ron to go faster. Even though she couldn’t tell him that they needed to enter the Room of Hidden Things with Harry to look for the Horcrux, the fact that Voldemort had started the attack seemed to be a good enough incentive. She came to an abrupt halt at the sight of flowing red hair dashing down the stairs.
‘Ginny!’ exclaimed Hermione in shock. Wasn’t Ginny supposed to be in the Room of Requirement? Something like this had never happened before.
Ron dropped the Basilisk’s fangs and grabbed his sister by the arm to prevent her from getting away. ‘Where are you going?’
‘To the Great Hall. I can’t stay in that room doing nothing while everyone is fighting,’ said Ginny as she tried to shrug off Ron’s hand.
‘She’s right!’ came a voice from the top stair. It was Tonks; her hair turned mousy brown with worry.
‘I thought you were at home with Teddy.’
‘I can’t stand not knowing,’ said Tonks. ‘Have you two seen Remus?’
Both Hermione and Ron shook their heads. ‘We were not at the battle,’ said Ron.
‘I’m sure he’s all right,’ added Hermione. Despite the truthfulness of her statement at that moment, Hermione still felt as though she was lying. Lupin and Tonks were going to die. It had been that way thrice. She was relieved that Tonks had rushed off without seeing the guilt written on her face. Ginny, however, was still being held back by Ron.
‘You are going to come back to the Room of Requirement,’ he told her.
‘I won’t,’ said Ginny fiercely. ‘Don’t use that big brother tone with me, Ron. You’re only one year older.’
‘But Mum has—’
‘Ron, we don’t have time to argue here,’ Hermione cut in, despite her desire to see Ginny safe and avoid any more changes to the day’s events. Ginny took the chance to break free from Ron’s grasp and sent Hermione a wink before sprinting away.
Seeing the sour look on Ron’s face, Hermione couldn’t help but wonder at what she had just done. Although it wasn’t entirely her doing, something major had just been changed. How would this affect the grand scheme of things?
‘I know she’d still try to fight, one way or another,’ said Ron as they climbed up to the seventh floor.
‘I know,’ answered Hermione absently. Her mind was preoccupied. Would they still meet Harry at their destination? Would Malfoy still be there?
Her worry didn’t ease one bit when they found Harry pacing in front of the hidden entrance of the room. Something was wrong.
‘I can’t find Ginny,’ he exclaimed as Hermione and Ron approached. ‘I can’t even get in there.’
‘Ginny’s gone down to the Great Hall,’ said Hermione.
‘You can’t just keep her locked up in there, mate,’ said Ron gloomily.
‘Harry, you were saying something about not being able to get in?’ asked Hermione before her friends could dwell deeper on their concerns about Ginny. It was well past the time when they were supposed to confront Malfoy.
‘Well, the door did not appear when I thought of the DA’s hideout. It’s like someone’s in there but using the room for another purpose.’
Someone was in there. Butterflies danced in Hermione’s stomach. Could it be Malfoy?
‘Does it matter now that you know Ginny’s outside?’ asked Ron, drawing her back to the conversation.
‘It does. One of the Horcruxes is in there, in the Room of Hidden Things,’ began Harry. Hermione asked him to elaborate. Their exchange about Basilisk fangs and Horcruxes was brief and to the point, mostly thanks to her endeavour to bring their conversation back to the important topic every time any potential distraction came up.
‘But we can’t get in, anyway,’ Ron concluded.
‘Well, for the DA’s hideout, we can’t,’ said Hermione. ‘But we may still be able to enter the Room of Hidden Things.’
If Malfoy is the one who occupies the room, we must be able to, thought Hermione. She was relieved when, on their third try, the door appeared in front of them. Harry was the first to go in.
He tripped on something and fell over, causing a loud clattering noise. Just a quick peek through the door and Hermione understood why. Gone were the aisles in between piles of junk. The room now looked as if someone was half-way through bulldozing its contents. Despite the mostly even surface, there were still several dunes of objects rising up here and there. Among them was an off-hinged cabinet that Hermione guessed was the one Malfoy had mended last year. What have you done now, Malfoy? First Ginny leaving the room, and now this. What had caused such a dramatic change of events?
Harry had gotten back to his feet. Soon, the three of them were standing on the sea of objects inside the room.
‘What are we gonna do, mate?’
‘I dunno,’ said Harry. ‘Since I saw it when I hid my Potions book, I just figured we wouldn’t need to dig things up.’
‘Accio diadem,’ cried Hermione even though she knew it was in vain. How were they going to find it now? Not to mention she still needed to find a secluded place to meet with Malfoy.
With the knowledge that someone else might be present, it was extremely difficult to convince Harry and Ron to split up. Due to the encounter yesterday, Hermione volunteered to go to the farthest corner behind a few junk dunes, counting on Malfoy being hidden there. It took some effort to persuade her friends to agree with this task delegation, but finally Hermione was on her way.
‘Malfoy?’ whispered Hermione once she’d gotten behind the first dune. ‘You can come out now.’
Hermione waited, her heart pumping wildly in her chest. He didn’t appear. Where are you, Malfoy?
She turned back and cast a quick Muffliato before going farther into the labyrinth. After a while, Hermione heard a clanking sound that she realised was not her own. Following its source into another alley between the dunes, she could see a sign of movement behind a large pile of bottles.
‘Malfoy, is that you?’
‘Over here, Granger.’
She had to round a corner to reach him. Malfoy was crouching with his back to her, apparently trying to use his hands as support to stand up. Under normal circumstances, the action would seem superfluous. Hermione felt her stomach flip. She rushed forward to help him.
‘How—Oh god, are you okay?’ She gasped as soon as his face came into view. Malfoy’s left cheek was swollen with a big, purple bruise, and blood was trickling from his nose despite the bandage he’d stuck on it. He gingerly brought an already bloodied handkerchief up to wipe the blood, grunting as he did so.
‘Should we sit down?’ asked Hermione, noticing Malfoy’s unsteady stance.
‘Salazar’s pants, Granger, I’m not going to faint on you. Just a bit shaken, is all.’
‘Okay, okay,’ said Hermione, attempting to hide the worry on her face. ‘Tell me what’s happened.’
‘Travers happened,’ Malfoy grumbled.
‘The Vanishing Cabinet. Never thought one day it’d come back and bite me in the arse.’
‘But that’s never happened before,’ exclaimed Hermione. What was wrong with today?
‘Well, I’ve got an explanation. But before that, can you mend this?’ He pointed at his bloody nose. ‘I’m not quite sure about casting the spell on myself.’
‘Oh, sorry, I forgot,’ said Hermione, pointing her wand at his nose. ‘Here. Episkey!’
He gritted his teeth at the pain her spell caused but didn’t complain. Hermione quickly cleaned the remaining blood off Malfoy’s nose with a wet cloth (courtesy of the room) and cast a soothing charm on the bruise.
‘So, where’s Travers?’
‘I sent him back and then broke the cabinet. As for the explanation, Travers might have tried it before but failed because the cabinet didn’t exist in Weaselette’s variation of the room.’ Hermione raised an eyebrow, but Malfoy ignored it and continued. ‘Shouldn’t have gone in after she came out today. If I hadn’t been inside, the entire Room of Hidden Things wouldn’t have existed at that point in time. There’d have been no way that he could get in.’
‘How can you be sure? What if he also knows? What if he’s learnt from the past?’
Malfoy shook his head. ‘It’s only us. Here, read this.’
He shoved a crumpled piece of paper into Hermione’s hand. She smoothed out the wrinkles. It was a page from a book, which had been highlighted in places.
‘You did this to a library book?’
‘Is this the time to worry about that?’
‘Right,’ replied Hermione as she began to read Malfoy’s highlighted text.
Like the power of sacrifice, the plea of one’s soul is very ancient magic ... There is no need for any incantation or conscious endeavour; the magic comes from deep within the soul itself ... The wish, uttered aloud with vehemence at one precise moment in a life-and-death situation, will be fulfilled.
Her eyes lingered on the page, swiftly skimming through the rest. ‘Are you sure? Is this my wish or your wish, then?’
‘Yours, of course,’ answered Malfoy with an ‘I’m-not-going-to-explain’ expression. Sensing that it might be something personal, Hermione refrained from enquiring about his reasons.
‘Then, how did you also come back with me?’ she asked instead.
‘I guess it’s because we were ...’ Malfoy ran a hand through his hair, ‘well, sort of ... connected.’
Hermione felt her cheeks flush, but she told herself not to lose focus. ‘I still don’t get it,’ she said. ‘I wished for the Light to win, and that had already been fulfilled yesterday.’
‘True, that was what you wanted, but what was actually said at that moment matters. What you said before the kiss, Granger.’
‘That none of my loved ones were lost?’
‘Exactly. I figure the day will repeat until you can save all of those people. We’re still here today because Potter died yesterday.’
Hermione nodded. Although she knew his logic was sound, she was still too astounded to completely believe it. That meant everyone she loved would eventually be alive and well.
‘So, who are the ones you want to save?’
The question brought back the sharp pain in her chest. Even with the magical wish, how could she possible save them all?
‘Harry, Ron, Luna, Fred, Molly, Lupin, Tonks, Fleur—’
‘Hang on. That was the first day, wasn’t it? Just count the ones who died yesterday before Potter handed himself over. We can’t expect things to stay the same after that.’
‘Then, it’s Fred, Lupin, and Tonks,’ she replied, feeling as if an onerous burden had been lifted. They would also have Harry’s sacrificial protection even though it wouldn’t be able to last long as the first timeline had shown. Back then, they had all remained unscathed for a short period until the death rate skyrocketed.
‘The thing is,’ she continued, ‘I don’t know if someone else will be in danger if we change things tonight. And then there is Snape—’
‘You categorise him as one of your loved ones?’ asked Malfoy incredulously.
‘No, but I can’t very well let such a brave and loyal man die in vain at Voldemort’s hand.’
‘His death wasn’t in vain,’ he countered. ‘Do you think Snape will still give his memory to Potter if he’s not on his deathbed? Will Potter go to the Dark Lord? Will the Dark Lord believe that he’s mastered the Elder Wand if Snape’s still alive?’
‘I don’t know,’ she answered truthfully.
‘There’s too much uncertainty about this. If you don’t think he’s your loved one, then leave him out.’
Hermione was going to accuse Malfoy of being cold-hearted, but she bit her tongue when a pained look crossed his face. Snape had been Malfoy’s mentor for years, and perhaps he wanted to save the man even more than she did.
‘What about the ones who might get killed because of the changes we make?’ Hermione attempted to change the topic.
‘We’ll deal with that when it comes up. Now, we should make a plan to save the three you’ve mentioned first. I know Fred’s one of the twins, but which one?’
‘You don’t need to worry about him. I suppose I can save him. Can you help save Lupin?’
‘The werewolf?’ asked Malfoy with apparent distaste in his voice.
‘Don’t speak about him in that tone,’ she scolded. ‘But yes, he’s a werewolf. You should be able to recognise him from third-year. He was in the battle in the Great Hall. I wasn’t there when he died, so I don’t know what you can do.’
‘What about Tonks?’
‘You don’t know you cousin, do you? I think her hair might be pink,’ said Hermione, not missing the look of recognition crossing Malfoy’s features. ‘It can be very dark when she’s depressed, but in battle, she’s always been fierce and fearless.’
‘I’ll help her,’ he said at once.
‘She’s my cousin.’
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. Since when did someone like Malfoy become so concerned for a cousin he didn’t even know? ‘Anything else?’
‘Merlin, Granger. Why must you make this so difficult? We don’t have time.’
‘That’s why I want to make sure we don’t screw up,’ she retorted, not backing down.
‘She was duelling Bellatrix.’ It was the very answer Hermione feared.
‘No! Are you insane?’
‘If we can kill her beforehand, she won’t be able to kill Potter in the end, will she?’
‘We can only help them keep fighting until Voldemort calls his army back. We cannot kill those Death Eaters in this battle if they’re not meant to die then,’ said Hermione. ‘I’ll take care of Tonks.’
‘But you’re supposed to be with Potter and Weasley.’
‘I can still come back. I’ll figure something out.’
‘You cannot help Lupin and Tonks at once.’
‘Found anything over there, Hermione?’ came Ron’s voice. It was time to end her discussion with Malfoy.
He looked defeated. ‘I’ll deal with Lupin.’
‘Good.’ Hermione sighed. ‘We’ll never find the diadem in this mess.’
‘Actually, during the fight, I happened to stumble across something,’ said Malfoy, smirking. He pulled a discoloured tiara from inside his robes and held it in front of her. Hermione immediately recognised the small inscription: ‘Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.’
‘You’ve saved it?’ she asked in surprise. Before Malfoy could answer, she reached forward and kissed him. It was a moment of utter madness.
How could she get caught kissing Malfoy by Ron of all people? Hermione instantly pulled away and slapped the former across the face. Casting a brief apologetic look at a completely stunned Malfoy, she snatched the diadem from his hand and ran back to her friends. Apparently, Harry had been there to witness the kiss as well.
‘Distraction strategy,’ she said quickly, grabbing them both by the arms and heading for the door.
‘Well, that was effective,’ commented Harry with mirth in his eyes. Hermione still hadn’t dared look at Ron to see his reaction, but she braced herself.
‘Oh Merlin, you should have seen the look on Malfoy’s face.’ He burst out laughing. ‘Like he’d just been hit by a Bludger or something. Bloody priceless.’
‘Harry, come on!’ screamed Hermione, her lungs feeling as though they’d been frozen by the cold. The Dementors were closing in on the three of them. Hermione’s silver otter faltered and threatened to fade, though it wasn’t her trying to simulate the old event this time. Again and again, she could not find any opportunity to stay behind, and Hermione was beginning to wonder if she would ever be able to save Tonks like she did Fred. This would take much more than a simple Shield Charm.
The chill in the air gradually melted away as Luna, Ernie, and Seamus joined them with their Patronuses, yet the desperation in her heart still persisted. She knew that once they got into the Shrieking Shack, there would be no way for her to come back. If only Malfoy’d had time to tell her more details about the duel between Tonks and Bellatrix. She could only surmise that he’d encountered them on his way to their meeting place yesterday. Hermione wasn’t sure when Malfoy’d started his journey, but by the looks of it, it couldn’t have been that long before Voldemort’s call to ceasefire.
The six Patronuses were still keeping the Dementors at bay, but Hermione knew she didn’t have long before the next challenge came their way. Not a minute later, Ron’s shaky thank-you was cut short by the giants’ roar, and her group dispersed to escape their thundering feet. Out of habit, she attempted to follow Harry, but then inspiration sparked. If there was a time she could be left behind, it was now. It only took a moment’s hesitation to make it impossible for Hermione to cross the giants without an extremely high risk of being smashed. She rushed back into the castle. Knowing that her best friends wouldn’t go on unless they knew she was safe, she conjured her silver otter once more.
‘Harry, Ron, I cannot pass the giants, but I’m still safe,’ she said to it. ‘I’ll stay in the castle and fight. You two must go on to kill the snake. Please be careful.’
Hermione sent her Patronus after Ron and Harry then returned to the raging battle. Somewhere on the way to the abandoned classroom off the Great Hall, she chanted to herself. But it turned out Bellatrix wasn’t that hard to spot. That maniacal laugh had been deeply imprinted on Hermione’s mind since that fateful night at Malfoy Manor.
‘You have one hour,’ said Voldemort’s magnified voice. Bellatrix looked at Tonks and Hermione as though her favourite toys had been taken away.
‘I will come back,’ she snarled before sprinting past them. Throughout the Great Hall, duels ceased, and the Death Eaters all followed Bellatrix’s lead.
Tonks turned to Hermione. ‘Let’s go find the others.’
Despite Tonks’ words, Hermione knew that her greatest concern was to find Lupin. She nodded apprehensively. Was Lupin still alive? Did Malfoy succeed?
They quickly gathered in the Great Hall, making sure that the ones they cared for were all right before dividing the task of laying aside the dead and helping the injured. The relief of seeing each other after the brutal fight was immense. Her heart warmed to see Fred helping George heal a gash on his arm. Dean, Seamus, Luna, and Ernie joined them soon after—all looked exhausted, but otherwise unharmed. Molly, slightly bruised and dishevelled, insisted on pulling each of them, from Arthur to Hermione, into her bone-crushing hug. Still, there was no sign of Ron, Harry, or Lupin.
‘Where are Ron and Harry?’ the older woman asked as she released Hermione.
‘They went after ...’ She trailed off, not knowing how to explain without giving away the Horcrux detail. ‘I should have gone with them, but I let the giants deter me.’ You deliberately separated from them, her conscience screamed. Granted, she did it to save Tonks, but if anything happened to Harry and Ron ... Hermione felt her eyes prickling. ‘I’m so sorry, Molly,’ she whispered.
‘It’s all right, dear,’ said Molly, giving Hermione another hug. ‘They’ll be all right.’
Hermione felt her heart seize. It wasn’t a cry of joy. She wheeled around to see Bill and Neville carrying Lupin’s body towards them. No, how could she let this happen? How could Malfoy let this happen? Her blood boiled as she remembered his antipathy at the mention of their former DADA professor. Did Malfoy even try to save him? A tiny voice in the back of her mind berated her for jumping to conclusions without knowing all the facts, but she couldn’t help it.
Hermione debated with herself whether to withdraw from the group sooner to confront Malfoy or to wait for Ron and Harry. But then, she realised that if something had happened to Harry, it’d all be for nothing. It was the longest two minutes of her life, waiting for her two best friends.
She rushed towards them as soon as they appeared at the doorway. Ron hugged her, but Harry vanished without a word.
‘Voldemort killed Snape to become the master of the Elder Wand,’ he told her. ‘Snape gave us his memory before he died.’
‘He was here,’ said Ron, aghast. ‘Blimey, did he go to Voldemort? We need to go find him.’
‘Don’t, Ron,’ she said. ‘If he doesn’t want to be found, then there’s no way we can find him under that cloak. You’ll only make everyone more worried than they already are.’
Together, they re-joined the group in the middle of the Great Hall. Hermione waited until Ron was being surrounded by the rest of the Weasley family before making her way to the classroom. Would Malfoy show up to meet her at all after what’d happened?
‘I failed,’ said Malfoy as a greeting, his eyes downcast.
‘You’ve tried your best,’ she found herself saying. All the questions and admonishments on the tip of her tongue evaporated.
‘How can you know that?’ he questioned.
‘I just ... know,’ she said lamely. Back in the Great Hall, there had been hundreds of reasons for her to believe the opposite, but she couldn’t seem to find them now.
‘It’s still not good enough, though,’ responded Malfoy. ‘You’ve managed to save them both despite everything while I failed.’
‘Then, who figured out why the day repeated? Who found the diadem?’
‘It’s just because I didn’t have to run around with Potter and Weasley.’
‘You know it’s not true! Come on, Malfoy, stop wallowing in self-pity. We still have a mission to accomplish.’
‘Saving your mother. Saving Harry. Saving the Wizarding world from Voldemort.’
‘What’s the point? After my failure, the day will repeat anyway.’
‘We still can’t be a hundred percent sure about that, can we? I won’t take that risk,’ she said vehemently. ‘Besides, if there is a tomorrow, then practising today will make us better for it.’
In the end, she had to drag Malfoy out of the classroom. Despite his pessimistic mood, their journey went more smoothly than the day before. Hermione had been extremely nervous letting Malfoy get closer to the clearing and perform the Imperius Curse on his own, but even that part hadn’t been a problem.
Now, however, she was faced with the most challenging task of all. They were only minutes away from when Harry revealed himself to Voldemort and the rest of Hogwarts. If he did so, history would likely repeat itself. Hermione’d settled that she needed to keep Harry from appearing until Molly had taken down Bellatrix. The hardest part was that Molly didn’t like anyone helping her, so Hermione could only hope to cast the Shield Charm before Harry did. If their Charms clashed, the results would be disastrous, but it was a risk she had to take. Since the caster of the Shield would be quite clear at that point, hopefully Harry wouldn’t be forced to reveal himself too soon. He would be able to take advantage of that and bide his time before the final duel with Voldemort.
Hermione’s heart was hammering in her chest as she watched the fight closely. Just one moment too late and she could ruin everything. Hermione cast the Shield Charm only seconds after the green light left Bellatrix’s wand.
‘Who?’ growled Bellatrix.
‘I did,’ declared Hermione, but she wasn’t the only one. Harry had stepped out from under the Invisibility Cloak. Hermione’s eyes widened. He knew it was she who cast the charm and decided to save her from Bellatrix’s wrath, it seemed.
No one paid any attention to Hermione at that moment. All eyes were focused on Harry. Soon the two duels commenced. With a heavy heart, Hermione watched the fights develop in very much the same way they’d unfolded yesterday. Telling herself that she would at least have another chance didn’t help.
Hermione braced herself for the inevitable, but a Shield expanded in front of Harry just in time to prevent the deadly curse. It bounced back and hit Bellatrix squarely over the heart. The crowd’s roar was deafening. Everyone seemed to have taken for granted that Harry had shielded himself against the attack, and Harry didn’t even have time to disclaim it before he was surrounded by people cheering, thanking, and congratulating him.
In reality, there was no way someone, even Harry, could react that quickly unless he or she knew about the event beforehand. Hermione scanned the sea of people for the only person who could have possibly done it. Their eyes met across the hall for one fleeting moment, and Hermione hoped he could see her silent thanks before everything was replaced by the familiar blackness.
Well, that is all for now. I'll be back with another revised chapter soon.
From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Page numbers are from UK Hardcover edition):
Harry: I thought you were supposed to be with Teddy at your mother’s?
Tonks: I couldn’t stand not knowing - She’ll look after him - have you seen Remus?
Harry: He was planning to lead a group of fighters into the grounds -
~Pg 502, Chapter 31: The Battle of Hogwarts
Chapter 5: The Fifth
Latest chapter is up. Yay!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Slytherin seventh-year dormitory was atypically quiet except for the sounds of one student still tossing and turning in his bed. After locking up Crabbe and Goyle as usual, Draco had faked illness to his other friends and gone back to his room. Now that he and Granger had figured out the mechanics of the magic, there was not much he could do before their meeting time. Thus, he decided to catch up on his sleep after days of waking up immediately subsequent to travelling back in time. Granted, his body still retained the exact physical condition he’d been in the very first morning. However, his brain had been working constantly ever since, which made him wonder when it was going to explode.
All the same, Draco couldn’t sleep. He found his mind wandering to the events of the last few days. They started again at the same spot every day. They hadn’t managed to change anything. Yet, as the images of Granger swam before his eyes—the way she defended him in the empty classroom or the look she gave him just before dawn broke—he knew that everything had changed. Draco quickly quashed the thought. If he had to keep thinking, he’d rather it be about something helpful, the implications of Granger’s wish, for instance.
What was meant by her loved ones? Even when she went all out, counting the names of almost everyone who died on the first day, his mother’s name had not been on that list. The thought of her counting his mother was absurd, but the mention of saving Snape had opened his eyes. Granger had thought of his old mentor even though saving him proved to be impossible, but it wouldn’t matter to her if his mother died. She had only been conveniently saved in their endeavour to save Potter. If something else happened to his parents, Draco wouldn’t have another chance.
He didn’t want to think of the other implication, but it was still there, glaring at him in the face. More than ever, he didn’t want to die, knowing that Voldemort would be defeated in the end. There, he’d said the name, even if it was only in his head. Sweet Circe, how she'd rubbed off on him! He didn’t want to get trapped on this day with her forever, yet a part of him said that he did and that there was more than business reasons that pulled him to their meeting every time.
The floor under Draco’s feet trembled at the impact of the explosion. Although he was stationed rather far from the attack, he still found himself covered in a sizable amount of dust and plaster. He quickly shook them off so as not to let anyone see the peculiar sight of debris suspending in mid-air.
‘No,’ someone screamed from under the wreckage, their tone making his heart jump up in his throat. ‘Percy, no.’
Draco breathed a small sigh of relief. It wasn’t Granger. However, if someone died, didn’t it mean she had failed? But it wasn’t right. Fred was the one who was supposed to die. Granger had told him that the twin’s position was the most dangerous of all, but she’d managed to protect him with a Shield Charm the day before.
‘He was trying to shield me,’ cried Fred Weasley as he pulled himself out of the ruins. Potter and Weasley had also freed themselves from the fallen masonry, yet there was still no sign of Granger. He knew that it must be hard for her to get up with a leg injury. It had been their plan. Still, the other part of it had gone all wrong. Percy Weasley was dead. What if—
‘Hermione! Where’s Hermione?’ Potter’s shout echoed Draco’s own frantic thoughts. She was all right. She had to be.
‘Over here,’ came her soft voice. Potter and Weasley rushed towards her direction and started digging up the wreckage. Draco unconsciously stepped closer to them, despite the risk of blowing his cover.
When Granger finally emerged, Draco let out the breath he’d been holding. He couldn’t see her legs, which were still half-buried, but by the look of it, her Shield Charm had worked properly except for the deliberate glitch.
‘Percy? Did he ...’ She trailed off, pain etched across her features as her two friends nodded in confirmation.
Don’t forget, Granger. The mission, willed Draco. She drew in a shaky breath. ‘We ... you two still need to find the snake.’
‘Us two?’ asked Potter. ‘What—’
Realisation appeared to have hit Potter, for he turned his full attention to her legs, trying to brush off the remaining debris. Weasley stood dumbfounded, seemingly torn between his friends and his two brothers, the one still alive clinging on to the dead.
Suddenly Granger screamed, pointing her wand towards the outside. Draco’s stomach lurched. They had meant to send Potter and Weasley on their way before the spiders arrived.
Granger’s Stunner knocked down the head monster and thus sent the whole swarm falling off the building. Potter lifted her up and ran, Draco following right behind them. He turned back to see Ron helping Fred to haul their brother’s body into a safe place before the older Weasley charged towards the battle at the end of the corridor.
‘Here, behind the tapestry,’ Granger instructed Potter. Ron Weasley seemed to hesitate for a moment before joining his friends. Draco had no choice but to stay a few feet away, straining his ears to hear their conversation.
‘We’ll wait for you to heal so that we can go together,’ said Potter.
‘There isn’t enough time.’
‘I can’t leave you alo—’
‘There are still the others, Harry. Go!’ cried Granger, agony laced in her voice. She’s just pretending, Draco reminded himself. It’s only a minor injury. Then again, Granger had never been a good actress.
‘You as well, Ron!’
‘If I can’t stay with you, then at least I wanna kill Death Eaters,’ roared Weasley.
Draco couldn’t help but inch closer and take a peek inside. What he saw made his blood boil, and he seriously considered Imperiusing the two idiots so that they would go after the snake already. Granger was still arguing with them on the top of her lungs, her right leg bleeding despite the cloth she was pressing on it. The wound was definitely more severe than what they’d agreed on.
‘We’re the only ones who can end this, and I already cannot go. You can’t let Harry go alone, Ron.’
Weasley gave in at last, pulling Potter to stand up.
‘Are you sure you’re gonna be okay?’ asked Potter.
‘I can heal it. It just takes time. Now, GO!’
Draco hastily backed away as Potter and Weasley burst out from behind the tapestry. He waited until both had gone out of sight before slipping in next to Granger, who was tracing her wand over the cut in her leg and murmuring healing spells.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked, taking off his concealment and then putting a simple ward on their hide-out.
‘Not you as well.’ She huffed in annoyance. Draco didn’t reply but instead conjured a clean cloth to help her wipe up the wound. He fumbled a bit before finally running the material smoothly over her pale skin. Somehow, it felt nothing like the time he’d tried to heal her days ago.
‘It’s just a bit worse than expected because I made my Shield a bit too skewed to the left,’ said Granger once they’d finished. As Draco looked up to her face, he knew what was going to come next.
‘Don’t blame yourself for what happened,’ he said quietly. ‘The aiming is always tricky when casting multiple spells at once.’
‘But I aimed correctly at Fred,’ she burst out. ‘I just didn’t ... Percy ...’
‘Is he one of your loved ones?’
‘I don’t know.’ Her face creased, her eyes glistening with tears. ‘That is the problem. I mean, I love the Weasleys like family, but Percy’s been a right git, and ... I just don’t know.’
‘There's nothing you can do about it now.’ He successfully resisted wiping away her tears this time, thanks to the burden weighing down on in his chest. If even a Weasley might not make her list, how could he or his parents stand a chance?
‘Let’s get on with helping you save Lupin, then,’ she said softly.
Draco nodded, rubbing his hair as though the action could clear up his awful thoughts. If Granger didn’t lie to him, his hair was brown now. They had been in the middle of altering his appearance when Potter had found the diadem, which was the reason why they’d had to revert to plan B so that Granger could stay behind sooner. With her help, Draco would be able to directly join the battle today under disguise. He had attempted to help Lupin by casting spells under a Disillusionment Charm yesterday, but it hadn’t work. Hiding in a corner made it impossible to aim. On the other hand, staying in the middle of the battle invisible meant he had to spend most of his time trying to evade people bumping into him on top of avoiding curses. Hence, he and Granger had decided that this would be the best solution. As long as no one recognised Draco, his parents would not suffer for his betrayal of Voldemort.
Draco wasn’t paying much attention to the changes until his jaw twitched in a painful sensation.
‘All done,’ announced Granger. He gingerly touched his chin. It felt square and a tad stubbly. Draco ran his hand up the rest of his face. His cheeks were covered with stubble as well, but he couldn’t care less.
‘Should we go now?’
He disabled the ward so that he and Granger could get out, and for the first time, they ran side by side, out in the open, towards the battle ahead.
They didn’t attempt to fight, but instead tried to find their way to the Great Hall. By the time they rounded the final corner, it was impossible to get past the duellers without splitting up, and Draco could only steal occasional glances to make sure Granger was all right.
His blood chilled as out of his peripheral vision, he saw Granger dive towards a blonde-haired girl instead of getting out of the way. Just as she managed to knock the other girl aside, a green beam brushed past Granger’s back, slightly singeing her jacket. A Death Eater walked up to the two girls, his wand raised. Draco didn’t have time to think before the words escaped his mouth.
The Death Eater sank to the floor. Draco dashed towards Granger and yanked her away, leaving the other girl babbling her thanks in shock.
Without a word, he dragged Granger into the classroom where they usually met, ignoring the fact that she was struggling to keep up. He angrily slammed the door behind them.
‘What do you think you were doing?’ yelled Granger.
‘I saved your bloody life,’ he bellowed, crossing his arms as he turned towards her. ‘What do you think you were doing?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘The last time I checked, you never included that girl in your to-save list. Do you even know her name?’
‘Well, no, but I’ve seen her among the fallen several times. I knew what would happen.’
‘This is war, Granger. There must be casualties. It’s unavoidable.’
‘At least we can try to save as many lives as possible.’
‘That’s what you call it? I would personally say that you were trying to get yourself killed with your stupid Gryffindor righteousness.’
She opened her mouth to protest.
‘Don’t deny it, Granger. You know that you could have used your wand to take down her opponent.’
‘I could have hit her. Even if I didn’t use a severe curse, hitting her with it in the middle of a duel would have been as good as killing her myself.’
‘Then leave her be.’
‘Unlike you, Malfoy, I’m not a selfish bastard who only thinks about his own friends and family.’
‘At least I wasn’t risking everything we’re working towards just for a girl’s life.’
‘The day will repeat if we fail to save my loved ones, Malfoy, even though it’s not clear where the line is drawn. But I know it will never repeat for her. That’s why I couldn’t—’
‘But will it repeat if you’re the one who’s dead? Have you ever stopped to think that you might not have included yourself in that wish?’
‘I ...’ Granger sank down on one of the desks, lost for words. He knew by the look on her face that she had never thought of the possibility. He didn’t say anything either. Draco was sure once he opened his mouth he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from pouring out all of the turmoil that had been gnawing at his mind all day.
‘I still have a werewolf to save,’ he managed to tell her at last, before storming out of the room.
Saving Remus Lupin turned out to be less difficult than Draco had thought. Having observed the duel the day before, he only participated in the fight at the most crucial moment when Dolohov’s Killing Curse was meant to hit. In a matter of minutes, he found himself fighting alongside Lupin. To Draco’s surprise, the older man accepted his help without questions, despite Dolohov’s initial remark that he’d encountered someone whose voice was similar to Draco’s in the Dark Lord’s service. He was relieved that in the end, Dolohov’s suspicion was diminished. However, Lupin’s quick acceptance and the fact that the man even ended up saving Draco’s life more than once baffled him greatly.
He turned to Lupin as soon as the Death Eaters retreated on Voldemort’s order. ‘How could you trust me so easily?’
‘Didn’t you just save my life earlier?’ said Lupin, regarding Draco with an all-too-knowing smile. ‘Though I do admit I am curious about your identity.’
Draco was prepared to give out his elaborate fake tale but then realised he didn’t need it. His cousin had successfully distracted Lupin with her tight embrace. Before anyone else could question his identity, Draco silently slipped out of the Great Hall.
He didn’t know whether it was the strain after their fight or the worry clouding his mind that did it, but neither he nor Granger had uttered a word since they met up again for the mission in the Forbidden Forest. They were merely operating on a set programme, with such ease that it unnerved him.
If this was to be their last adventure—if one could call it that—then he didn’t want it to end like this. He needed something worth remembering.
‘I do not require assistance.’ Voldemort’s cold voice penetrated through the layers of leaves.
Draco didn’t have much time until he had to cast the Imperius Curse on Bellatrix. His heart was beating wildly in his chest. As long as he managed to cover his mother’s lie and thus save Potter, it wouldn’t matter to Granger what’d happen to him afterwards. This might very well be his last chance. He yearned to feel something other than dread.
But then, he realised he was feeling something: he heard Granger’s soft breathing, he felt her closeness as they both pressed themselves against the tree trunk, he breathed in her lilac scent even though it was overpowered by the damp smell of the forest. Draco turned to look at her. It was an awkward angle, but he dipped his head and planted a kiss on her lips.
She pushed him away at once.
‘What was that for?’ Her words caused a twinge in his chest.
‘Just thought we should keep up our tradition,’ said Draco, pretending to be nonchalant.
‘Well, we don’t have time,’ she said curtly. Knowing that she was probably right, he left their hiding place to fulfil his task.
When Draco came back to their hiding, they reverted to the silent treatment once more. It wasn’t until they had gone their separate ways in the final battle did he realise there was still one matter they had yet to discuss. Would she still expect him to cast the Shield Charm on Potter? Or would she attempt to do it herself?
He was glad that this time Molly Weasley—in her outrage at Bellatrix’s taunt—took the life of the other witch much sooner and without any outside help. That left only Potter and Voldemort in one final face-off, which went quickly. It was still dark when Voldemort met his end.
Draco could see Granger trying to make her way towards him, but he found no courage to face her. The rising guilt in his stomach didn’t need to be made worse by her presence, for he was exactly what Granger had accused him of. All Draco cared about was the time when the sun would rise above the horizon. His family was safe at the moment, and he hoped desperately for the day not to repeat again, even if it was at the cost of Percy Weasley’s life. It wasn’t within his power, though. It wasn’t even within Granger’s power. In the end, only her subconscious mattered.
He ran away from her, yet he couldn’t run from fate. Never before had Draco felt the weight of the darkness crashing down on him like it did now.
I hope you enjoy the story so far. I'll post more next week :)
Chapter 6: The Last
Hermione breathed in the familiar scent of her bedding and sighed in relief. During the last few days, she had come to appreciate this scent more than anything, since every time she came back, it was the first thing that signalled to her the start of a new day, a new chance. She would have a chance to save Percy after all.
But what if Malfoy refused to help her again? First the fight, then that sudden kiss in the forest. She didn’t know what to make of it, especially when he had so determinedly avoided her by the end of the night. Of course, it had partly been her fault for not admitting that Malfoy was right about the possibility of her not being included in ‘her loved ones’. She should have been more careful.
She got up and quickly donned her Bellatrix outfit. It was the sixth time she’d lived this day, and even the foul taste of the Polyjuice Potion no longer scared her. Hermione nodded to herself. She only needed to admit to Malfoy that she had been wrong, and hopefully everything would turn out fine.
Hermione went to the Room of Requirement with the apology she’d kept rehearsing in her mind since morning. To her surprise, Malfoy greeted her as if nothing had happened the day before, and she eventually decided not to stir up the mess either. Soon, they were conversing about the sole remaining flaw in their plan: saving Fred without endangering Percy—or anyone else. In the fourth day, luck had been on her side, and it might happen again. But Hermione was not the type of person who depended on luck.
‘I can’t cast three Shield Charms at once,’ she said. ‘Two was already pushing the limit.’
‘How about casting a big one directly underneath the ceiling just before the attack?’ asked Malfoy thoughtfully.
‘You’re right. I won’t have to divide my attention that way.’
He nodded. ‘Besides, you’re not going to be alone.’
‘Why didn't I think of that?’ exclaimed Hermione, aghast that such a simple solution had been eluding her. She left out her wonder at Malfoy’s words: you’re not going to be alone. Was it his way of offering help?
‘Well, you're too close to the situation. Don't be so hard on yourself.’
‘Right. Sometimes you need an outsider's perspective,’ she conceded.
‘Fresh eye never hurts.’ Malfoy smirked at her, but Hermione was far from annoyed. She responded to him with a smile. There was nothing that could stop them now.
‘Wow, that was lightning-fast reflex, Hermione,’ shouted Ron as he pointed his wand towards the ceiling to aid Hermione’s newly-formed Shield.
‘Such remarkable skills should be utilised on the Quidditch pitch.’ Fred winked at her. Hermione scrunched up her nose at the notion, though she had to admit perhaps there was some truth in Fred’s comment. The very first Shield that stalled the impact of the explosion had been Malfoy’s, but he’d withdrawn it as soon as Hermione cast her own. If he’d held it any longer, her friends would probably have become aware of another person’s presence.
One after another, Harry, Fred, and Percy also came to her aid. She could feel each of their Shields combining with hers as the weight of the blasted ceiling no longer made her wand hand tremble. However, she knew their protection wouldn’t hold for long.
‘I say we gradually lower the Shield while retreating from the corridor,’ said Hermione. Once the debris had been laid under their feet, she knew she wouldn’t be able to prevent Percy or Fred from rejoining the battle. Apprehension filled her chest as she imagined all the complications that could result from them getting involved where they hadn’t been able to previously. Despite these pressing concerns, somehow her thoughts quickly turned to Malfoy and whether he’d already gone to the battle.
The one-hour armistice came at last. Hermione’s heart warmed as her eyes grazed across the Hall, taking in the reunion of the Weasleys, of Lupin and Tonks, and of many others. There were still losses that she hadn’t been able to prevent, but it seemed she and Malfoy would finally succeed today.
Without prior discussion, they both exited the Great Hall at the same time as though they had reached a kind of harmony in their coordination. It seemed strange that after years of adventures, she’d never felt anything quite like it with Ron and Harry.
They arrived at their usual hiding place near the clearing without incident. It was not even close to the time when Harry would appear, and the forest was dead silent except for the crackling fire. For once, Hermione had enough time to realise just how close she and Malfoy had always been whenever they waited here for his moment to act. The memory of them on the same spot yesterday flitted through her mind. Why did he want to kiss her then? Would he try to do it again today? And would she let him?
Hermione glanced at Malfoy from under her lashes, but she could only make out the outline of his face in the darkness. Should she say something? She chose to occupy herself by constantly checking her watch instead. Time didn’t seem to move fast enough.
‘Will you stop that?’ asked Malfoy when Hermione was about to bring her wrist close to her face yet again.
‘I’m anxious,’ said Hermione, continuing with what she set out to do. She ended up staring at her empty wrist. ‘Did you Vanish my watch?’
‘Of course not,’ he replied.
‘You did,’ she persisted, annoyed at Malfoy but at the same time relieved that she had something else to do while they were waiting. But the strange thing about time was that it seemed to race when she didn’t need it to. Harry’s declaration in the middle of the clearing was all it took for both Hermione and Malfoy to switch back to alert mode.
Once again, Molly’d finished off Bellatrix on her own, and Harry had just revealed himself to protect her from Voldemort’s wrath. Everything would end any moment now. Harry would w—
‘Draco!’ A tormented cry made her heart drop. Hermione’s own scream was stuck in her throat. She forced herself to not think, to not feel, for the only conclusion that came to her mind was too cruel to be true.
‘Very touching!’ Voldemort laughed, his malicious voice rending her insides apart. ‘I suppose that should be enough of a punishment for your treachery, Narcissa.’
Hermione wheeled around, her throat seizing up. Draco’s limp body was draped over his mother. The deadly curse had been aimed at Narcissa Malfoy, and he had acted as her shield. But why? He had condemned Hermione so vehemently for launching herself onto that Ravenclaw girl to save her from a curse. This was his mother. Nonetheless, he would still be able to save her when the day—It will never repeat for her, Hermione’s own voice echoed in her head. And it will not repeat for his mother ... or him. Hermione suddenly understood that he had always known that.
Time seemed to pause in that one stunned moment, when every eye in the Hall turned towards the two Malfoys. But soon, people re-directed their attention to Harry and Voldemort. Hermione was not one of them: her eyes were transfixed on that one corner, where Narcissa was trying to haul her son out of a mound of wreckage. Apparently, the impact of the curse had sent them slamming into the table behind, breaking it into pieces.
Harry started talking, but all she could hear was Draco’s voice. Have you ever stopped to think that you might not have included yourself in that wish? What if she hadn’t been including him? She’d been constantly fearful that somehow he would not remember the previous day, that he would not come to the Room of Requirement, that he would not help her. But once he had appeared, it was a given that he would accompany her in the mission to save the people she loved. She had never stopped to consider if he fell into that category. It broke her heart to realize that he was leaving her when their victory was so close.
The battle of the century seemed like a blur to Hermione until Ginny shook her shoulders and told her that it was over.
‘I think I need some time on my own,’ said Hermione. She knew that Ginny had detected something wrong, but was grateful that the younger girl did not press the matter.
Everywhere around them, people were cheering, celebrating, and grieving. Her eyes flitted across the hall to where he lay, surrounded by his parents. She longed to see him one last time. All the same, who was she to intrude on their moment of grief?
Hermione stumbled through the crowd and out of the Great Hall, not knowing where her feet led her. The image of a willow tree—her usual haven—flashed into her mind, but she dismissed it. If she went there, she would start wishing he’d come to console her like he had done.
She kept going and eventually settled for one of the few remaining arches framing the hallway. Hermione leaned against the ancient column and sank to her knees. Forcing herself not to weep, she turned her gaze to the sky outside. Surprisingly, the dull greyness sparked in her a glimmer of hope. The night had not yet ended. Time might still turn back again.
'You didn't come to say goodbye.'
Hermione’s heart skipped a beat. As soon as she looked up, tears threatened to fall again. It was him, silver hair and silver eyes. But they made no difference: everything about him was silver now.
'Who says this is goodbye?' she rasped out, her eyes not leaving his face. She tried her best not to let the image of the ruined wall behind him taint his features in her vision, but couldn’t. She wasn’t supposed to remember him like this. She didn’t want to.
‘The day will repeat until my wish is fulfilled,’ she continued. ‘It'll only stop when none of my loved ones are lost.'
'But you hated me when you made that wish.'
'No, I never hated you.’
He smiled, and her breath caught. The first genuine smile he ever directed at her was a sad one. 'That still doesn't make me one of your loved ones, does it?'
She didn’t answer. She wanted to say he was, but she wasn’t sure if that was true.
‘Can I have one last first kiss?’ he asked hesitantly.
She nodded numbly, unable to tell him that it wouldn’t be their last. It was what she wanted to believe. Hermione closed her eyes and waited. She could feel his hands on her shoulders, making her shiver slightly. His lips came down on hers like water, smooth but icy cold. The sensation didn’t last long.
‘Draco,’ breathed Hermione as the warmth returned. She opened her eyes to the rising dawn. Realisation caused her to choke. ‘Draco!’
He didn’t stay long enough to hear her last whispers.
Have faith, you all!
Chapter 7: A True First
And here we are finally, at the last chapter. I hope you'll enjoy it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A new day had begun. Without him. She’d never had time to think about it before, but Hermione knew she was supposed to feel happy and alive, not numb and desolate. For a moment, she wished they could just repeat the first of May forever. Just the two of them. So that she could look forward to meeting him every day in the Room of Requirement, look forward to their first kiss, look forward to being surprised each time by him or by her own forwardness.
That was beyond her grasp now. After all, she was nothing compared to the ancient magic. She could not do anything without it nor to it. It had been a miracle, this thing they had shared. But it had ended. Time had turned back for her to save the others, but it hadn’t for her to save him. She recalled the time when she berated him for wanting to give up before the day was over. But wasn’t she just as helpless this time? Only the magic of her wish had the power of overwriting reality. Neither Time-Turners nor the spell that Draco had mentioned could break the continuity of time. In third-year, she and Harry had been able to save Sirius only because he hadn’t been Kissed. But Draco had been struck by the Killing Curse. Nothing could save him now.
Hermione was vaguely aware of something brushing past her. Surmising that it was the wind, she leaned on the arch and sank to the ground again. She paused at the clattering sound in her jacket pocket. It should have been empty. Hermione slid her hand into the pocket and felt a familiar cool touch of metal. Taking the object out for inspection, she was surprised to see her watch. Hadn’t she lost it in the forest less than an hour ago? She had even accused Draco of Vanishing it. Maybe he’d put it into her pocket, and it had been there all this time. But if that was the case, shouldn’t she have felt it there long before now?
Hermione racked her brain for a plausible explanation. It didn’t seem like an important detail, but she wanted a distraction, anything to forget the pain. Why did her watch disappear an hour ago? She always kept it on her wrist. It seemed as though someone had summoned it from her and only returned it to her pocket now. It couldn’t have been Draco, but then who? And why?
The watch in Hermione’s hand irritated her, its ticking a constant reminder that time was passing and couldn’t be turned back. Unless ... There was only one type of object in the whole scenario that could not be duplicated when the time-turning spell was activated: the clocks. Draco had told her that the representation of the timeline could not exist in two places at once, which meant once the future versions arrived, their past counterparts had to disappear. Her watch had vanished just before the final battle. Hermione’s heart fluttered in her chest. This could only mean one thing: she’d gone back, using it as one of the clocks. Hermione shook her head. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. If she had saved him by going back in time, then he would never have died in the first place. How was that possible? She had seen—Wait a minute! She had never seen the Killing Curse hit him. What if it had missed in the first place? In that case, where had it gone? A Shield Charm used in defence was improbable as the rebounding curse would have been too obvious for an entire hall of people to overlook. But if it had come into contact with something, then the object would have exploded. But wait. The table behind Draco and his mother had been blasted into pieces. Come to think of it, if they’d truly smashed into the object from the force of the Killing Curse, then it was strange that Narcissa hadn’t suffered from any severe injury after the blow. What if someone had made them fly towards the table to make it seem like a collision? That might just be enough to fool the onlookers.
Even though this conjecture was sketchy at best, Hermione knew she couldn’t afford to hesitate. She headed straight for the library, hoping to find the book Draco had read on the time-travel spell. Naturally, the more time that elapsed, the harder it would be to come back. If Hermione had indeed travelled back in time, she needed to perform the spell as soon as possible.
After bumping into a few students and muttering various excuses on her way, Hermione decided to pop into one of the classrooms to Disillusion herself. She took the clock hanging on the wall there and also managed to get a few others from different rooms on her way to the library.
To Hermione’s relief, the book and even the chapter she needed weren’t hard to find, given that she knew exactly what she was looking for. She pored over the page, her mind racing to reconcile the theory with her own situation. Her belief was cemented as she read the explanation on how the clocks served as markers of the affected space and thus must remain unique. Draco had been right. That meant the reason for her watch’s disappearance was because it had to be elsewhere, at the place where the future Hermione cast the spell.
She studied the instructions carefully. The number of clocks that one needed in order to perform this spell depended on how long the caster wished to turn back. Hermione still remembered vividly the last time she’d checked her watch before its disappearance: 3:52, which meant she had to go back about an hour and fifteen minutes. Hermione thanked the heavens that she’d had the foresight to bring as many clocks as she could and therefore was not in any shortage now. Hermione carefully placed the clocks she’d collected on her journey and her watch around herself so that they made a perfect cross with her in the centre.
‘Concentration is the key,’ she murmured to herself. Inhaling deeply, Hermione swished her wand in a circular motion and recited the incantation. The second hands of the clocks began swivelling madly backward, and all the air around her seemed to be forced into forming a howling cyclone.
As the last tick of the clocks resounded through the silent room, Hermione collapsed into a heap on the floor, breathing heavily. She stretched out one arm to reach for the watch and turned its dial towards her: 3:55, and the hands were moving clockwise like they should be. At least, she had achieved her first success.
Although her body refused to get up, Hermione couldn’t let her mind rest. She needed to figure out how she could save Draco. Supposing that she could stage the scene of the Killing Curse hitting him, how could she hide the fact that he was still mostly unharmed? She couldn’t count on the impact of the crash to knock him out cold while his mother—who was in a more dangerous position—remained conscious. Then, was it possible that Narcissa had faked the death of her own son to save him? Given Hermione’s encounter with Draco’s ghost, though, could it be the spell which temporarily separated the soul from the body that she had not dared to use on Harry? Was Narcissa willing to risk it?
Hermione didn’t have time to think further as Voldemort’s proclamation of Harry Potter’s death resonated through the castle. She struggled to her feet and cast a Disillusionment Charm on herself again. Although the spell had left her exhausted, Hermione sprinted as fast as she could to the Great Hall. She had to be there in time.
Once she’d gotten to her destination, it was almost impossible not to be overwhelmed by the chaos. After much difficulty, she eventually found a niche in the wall close to where Draco must have been before the curse. From where she stood hiding, she could spot him pulling his mother into a close embrace. Hermione gripped her wand tightly. Her mind was still muddled. She could get them out of the way of the Killing Curse, but if Draco ever attempted to get up—Her thought was interrupted by Harry shouting the incantation for the Shield Charm that would protect Molly. Hermione only had seconds to ready herself. As soon as Harry materialised in front of them all, Voldemort’s raised wand immediately turned towards Narcissa, and Draco plunged himself towards her. Hermione’s spell reached them before the cruel green light did, when it narrowly brushed past Draco’s shoulder and slammed into the table behind.
Hermione’s heart soared. With her eyes fixed on Draco the entire time, she was able to see his hand twitch even among the wreckage. He was alive! But if anyone else saw this, it would ruin everything. Why hadn’t Narcissa acted? At that moment, the implication suddenly became crystal clear in Hermione’s head. Her wand still pointing at Draco, she muttered, ‘Libera Animus!’
His hand went limp just before his mother’s scream echoed through the Hall. Hermione directed her attention to her past self, who had just turned around with a mixture of shock and grief on her face. Everything was turning out as Hermione remembered, as it should be. She let out a sigh of relief. She had saved him after all. The day did not repeat not because he wasn’t her loved one. It was because he had never died.
Draco’s ghost-like figure vanished as Hermione ended the enchantment. It took her past self a moment to realise that he was gone. The past Hermione murmured his name, tears running down her cheeks. Outside, dawn was breaking as she opened her eyes and called out Draco’s name again. That was when present Hermione knew she needed to act. Reinforcing the Disillusionment Charm, she came out of her hiding place. She walked by as quietly as she could and slid the watch into the jacket pocket of the other Hermione, who was too paralysed by grief to notice.
Now she only had to wait. Hermione watched her own expression turn from anguished to surprised to thoughtful and then determined. Her lips curled up in a smile when the past Hermione sped off in the direction of the library.
She went back to the Great Hall. Seeing him hugging his parents caused a strange warmth to envelop her heart. Again, Hermione felt she did not have the right to interfere. She merely walked past them. The exhaustion was setting in. She should probably go back to Gryffindor tower for a good sleep.
‘Not staying to celebrate with your friends, Granger?’
Hermione’s stomach did a somersault. He had followed her even though he probably thought their encounter in the hallway was just a dream. Was he just keeping up the facade, not knowing where she stood? Or were they truly back to where they had started now that everything had returned to normal?
‘Draco!’ His name still sounded clumsy on her tongue, but at the same time, it felt right. He must have heard her because he stopped in his tracks, surprise written all over his face. However, Hermione knew that at this moment, there was something much more important than an explanation.
She walked up to him with a small smile. ‘You are one of my loved ones, Draco. I know that now.’
‘I am?’ he asked, as though hardly believing his ears. Before her courage disappeared, Hermione raised up on tiptoes and reached for his lips, her cheeks flaming. Would he turn her away? His answer was all she could hope for.
They finally broke apart, gasping for air. ‘This,’ murmured Hermione, ‘is truly our first k—’
She never finished her sentence, for Draco had pulled her in for their first and only ‘second kiss’.
Thank you all so much for staying with me until the very end. And may we meet again in another tale :)
Lots of love,