One: Fenestram in Praeteritum
May 19, 1997
The library was usually quite deserted late in the evenings, with only the most competitive of Ravenclaws to be found there among the dusty stacks of books. And, of course, Miss Hermione Granger, her wild brown hair billowing about her like some sort of chaotic mantle and her nose pressed against the pages of a thick tome no other student had ever heard of. That night was no exception, and as student after student filtered out under the watchful eye of Madam Pince, Hermione continued with her work, nestled in a far corner of the large library where she was seldom bothered.
Her head was bent over a long parchment filled with small, cramped handwriting as she wrote furiously with a goose feather quill. Every so often she would lay down the quill and pick up a large, leather bound book, referencing it briefly and then returning to her notes with gusto. It was in this attitude that the librarian found her. Sighing and shaking her head, she approached the girl.
“Are you quite finished?” asked Madam Pince, exasperated.
Hermione looked up, startled and squinting. “What? Oh! Madam Pince, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
The older woman let out an irritated huff. “How much longer do you need, girl?” she asked.
Hermione looked back at her notes and tried to decide which number would be low enough to get the woman to leave her be.
Madam Pince made a noise of disgust and glanced around the library. “Lock up after yourself, Miss Granger,” she ordered, turning to leave before pausing to add, “and if I find a single book out of place in the morning I’ll ban you for a month, sixth year or not.” Hermione nodded obediently and watched as the lights dimmed and sputtered out around her. Re-igniting the candle beside her, she turned back to her work. Normally, she would have let the old librarian shoo her out before curfew, but she felt she was on the brink of something significant here. She’d been spending a great deal of time on this project and it was quite important to her. If only she could finish piecing together the correct phrasing, she’d have it. Unfortunately, the book over which she’d been bowed for the last several hours was written not in English, but in runes. She’d been translating for the last month and still hadn’t gotten to any really pertinent information… until an hour ago. Her heart had nearly stopped when she’d taken a moment to read her translations.
After three clockwise sweeps of the wand, bow thy head and visualize the moment in time—
She had given a startled squeak to realize that she’d gotten past theory and explanations and to the actual spell she’d been looking for. A couple of voices had shushed her from a few stacks over and she’d bent her head back to work. And now here she was, minutes away from having it, from finding a way to get answers Harry had been looking for his whole life.
She worked as the candle burned beside her, keeping an eye on the clock as it ticked steadily past curfew, trying to remember exactly when Filch did his rounds in the library so that she could make herself scarce before then. Finally, an hour after Madam Pince had left her, Hermione gave a small whoop of delight.
“That’s it ,” she crowed, dropping her quill and grabbing her wand off of the table beside her. “I’ve got you, you crafty little bugger!” She was delighted and stooped down to read the words she’d written once more. The instructions were in English now, the spell in Latin. Hermione was caught up in her excitement, and without giving thought to whether it was wise to try the spell at exactly that moment, she began to wave her wand clockwise as instructed, and uttered the spell as clearly as possible.
“Fenestram in praeteritum!” she said, voice loud and clear. Out of her wand burst a brilliant blue light. It shot forward several feet and then hung in mid air, beginning to spin. Hermione watched in wonder as the light seemed to stretch before her eyes, from a ball to an ever widening circle until finally, it hung in mid air, several feet in diameter. It stopped moving suddenly and immediately lost its brilliant blue glow, fading and morphing until Hermione could make out shapes growing slowly clearer behind what looked like a sheet of glass.
“My God,” she finally whispered as the images defined themselves. Sitting at a kitchen table, surrounded by balloons and several children, sat a small, bushy haired girl. Her eyes were shut tight as she faced a large round cake adorned with seven burning candles. Smiling, she opened her eyes and blew ferociously, extinguishing all of the candles to applause. A petite woman with extremely curly brown hair came into view, clapping and kissing the little girl on the cheek.
“Happy Birthday, Hermione, Darling!” She cried, though her voice was muffled from behind the glass. There were murmured birthday wishes from the others in the room and a tall man with dark blonde hair bent down to kiss the girl on the other cheek as well before plucking a candle off of the cake and handing it to her to lick frosting off of with a wink. The little girl positively beamed, closing her eyes to savor the sweet decadence as a little boy behind her reached around and grabbed the little wax candle from her hand before she could get to it, plopping it in his own grubby mouth and laughing. Little Hermione was not pleased and scowled over her shoulder at the boy, her eyes narrowing until quite suddenly, the candle ignited once more, the flame shooting up to singe the boy’s eyebrows before settling back down to a merry little flame.
In the library Hermione laughed, delighted. “Finite,” she said, and at once the window with its cozy scene disappeared. She sprang back to the table, writing out her thoughts in a whirl and trying to decide what came next. The charm worked! She knew that now at the very least, and with some careful experimentation she was sure she could get it to conjure up not just any memory, but any moment along the caster’s timeline, whether they could consciously remember it or not. This was what she had been searching for! With this spell properly executed, Harry could perhaps look into his own timeline, at that first fateful meeting with Voldemort to see what the hell had actually happened that had given him the power to talk to snakes and look into a megalomaniac’s mind. What a gift it would be to know the secret, and perhaps to begin to understand and even reverse it.
She wrote for several minutes more before she decided on her next course of action. Standing and stepping away from the table once more, she raised her wand and closed her eyes, waving her wand clockwise three times and trying to focus on an idea, imagining what it might have been like the first time her parents saw her, held her. Her mother’s tears of joy, her father’s grin. Had they looked proud? Overwhelmed? Happy?
“Fenestram in praeteritum!” She said. The blue light shot out again, spinning quickly into the wide circle of glass from before. Behind it, the scene was dark. Hermione frowned; that was not what she had been expecting. Where was the fluorescent glare of the hospital lights? Where were her parents? She heard laughter from behind the glass, saw shadows moving. Was that moonlight? A woman screamed somewhere in the distance and more laughter burst out of the dark figures closest to the window.
“You think the chit would be a little more pleased at her calling,” said a gruff male voice. “Bitch doesn’t even know what an honor she’s being given, does she?”
Hermione’s eyes began to adjust to the darkness of the scene before her. She could see the two figures closest to the window where hooded with their backs to her. The one on the left shrugged.
“She’ll see though, won’t she?” he responded. “Or she won’t and she’ll be dead in nine months.” The other man guffawed and fell silent again.
Hermione strained to see past the two men. She could make out what looked like gnarled trees and a circle of hooded men in a moonlit copse, all surrounding a wide stone slab with an intricate looking chalice sitting atop it. And there in the distance, a white clad figure struggling between two men in black. Hermione could tell now that this was the woman whose screams she had heard at the beginning, because the closer her escorts drew her to the circle, the louder she began to scream.
“I won’t!” she yelled, her voice high and terrified, “Argus please! Father!”
“Quiet, girl!” hissed one of the men beside her, “The Dark Lord does you honor tonight. Now shut your mouth and do as you’re told!” After several more agonized screams and rough handling from the men holding her arms, the girl was thrust into the circle. The men surrounding her closed ranks immediately, their bodies pressing together to form a solid wall of cloaked and hooded wizards around her. Terrified, she darted from man to man, seeming to recognize a majority of them and begging them to let her out. All she got for her troubles was laughter until one of the men who had brought her shoved her away and sent her careening to her bare knees on the ground. She looked defeated there in the midst of the circle, cowering beside the stone slab in nothing but a sheer white nightgown, her riotous blonde hair loose and long around her. Her face darted from man to man, her cheeks tear stained, her nose red, until finally she looked in Hermione’s direction.
The woman’s cry mimicked Hermione’s own as she reeled back, her hand raised to her mouth.
“Oh my God,” Hermione cried, forcing herself to step forward as a shadowy figure seemed to pass through the window from her side, approaching the girl where she knelt quivering on the hard earth.
“Hello Annora,” said the figure. His voice was high and clear, and though he was robed in white with his back to Hermione, she had a very cold suspicion that she knew exactly who he was. “What a pleasure to have you here this evening,” the man continued, “I’m honored…” his voice lingered on the word, causing the men around him to chuckle, “by your presence.”
The woman stared up at the man before her looking horrified. “P-please, My Lord,” she sobbed, not bothering to wipe away the tears from her face as she spoke. “I don’t want— I am not ready to—“
“Shut. Your. Mouth. Girl!” One of the men who had brought her to the circle burst forward, his hood falling back and revealing a livid expression and a head of greying hair. He raised a booted foot and let it fly, catching the girl in her stomach and causing her to double over, wheezing. Hermione winced and cried out. “You dare dishonor our family before the Dark Lord?”
“Avery,” hissed the man in white, “Contain yourself.”
He began to walk then, circling the girl on the ground and studying her from every angle. As he reached the other side, Hermione couldn’t stifle her horrified cry at the sight of his red eyes and sunken features. Finally, as he completed the round, Lord Voldemort spoke again. “She is everything you promised, Avery.” And with a flick of his wand the girl’s sobs were silenced and she was floating through the air and onto the table to sit beside the chalice, tears still streaming down her face.
“Imperio,” Said Voldemort softly, and the girls face melted into a peaceful expression, eyes blank and mouth slack. “Drink, Annora.” She lifted the cup to her mouth and drank deeply before setting it back down on the stone slab beside her. Lord Voldemort smiled indulgently and grabbed the goblet himself, taking a sip and handing it to the Death Eater nearest him.
“Incarcerous,” Voldemort whispered, and thick ropes sprang from the tip of his wand, wrapping themselves around the blonde’s wrists and ankles, spreading them obscenely across the stone alter and winding their way through thick metal rings at the base. “Now,” he said, voice low, “Let’s see that fire again. Finite!” And the serene expression she had worn was replaced with the panic, fear, and the horror from before. She began to struggle, yanking violently at her bindings. Voldemort laughed and his Death Eaters laughed with him.
“See here,” he said, addressing the men around him. “Such fight, such… spirit.” He leaned down over her, caressing her cheek with one pale, long fingered hand as she cringed away. “A fitting disposition for the mother of my child, wouldn’t you say, my dear?” Her eyes widened and she shook her head, her mouth moving as if to beg but no sound forthcoming.
With a smirk, Voldemort grabbed the girl’s chin, forcing her lips to his as his other hand yanked up her night-gown and he straddled her on the alter. She struggled, but being bound, could do nothing.
Hermione couldn’t force herself to look away as the scene unfolded before her. The woman sobbing on the slab as the Dark Lord moved above her, violating her, putting on a show for the men around him. It wasn’t until he unsilenced her and she began to scream that Hermione realized she was crying herself, tears streaming down her face, heaving sobs bursting out of her rhythmically.
Suddenly, Hermione felt a pair of arms around her and screamed aloud.
“NO!” She shouted, her own screams matching those of the woman behind the window.
“Finite!” bellowed a voice from directly behind her. The window shattered and disappeared and Hermione panicked, screaming aloud once more.
“MUM!” She cried, struggling to get to the place from where the image had disappeared, fighting the arms around her tooth and nail until the man attached to them swore and released her.
“Miss Granger,” the voice bellowed as she rushed forward, looking around like a frightened bird in confusion. “MISS GRANGER!”
Hermione’s eyes snapped towards the source of the voice and she realized somewhere in the back of her mind that it was Professor Snape standing there, not a hooded Death Eater come to throw her into a circle as they had her mother. Her mother! Oh God, she couldn’t have just seen what she thought she had. That wasn’t her mother she had seen. It couldn’t have been. Her mother was a muggle, safe in dental school, being wooed by her father at that age. And she was a brunette, not a blonde… though those curls were hers, were Hermione’s! And her face… Hermione knew that face. She’d stroked that face as it sang nursery rhymes, stared at it enraptured as it read her fairy tales. She knew every curve, every line, could see it when she closed her eyes.
“Miss Granger,” Snape repeated, this time more softly, taking a step towards her, his wand held in his hand by his side and his other hand outstretched in her direction.
“Professor,” she said, and then collapsed, her wand clattering to the floor as she felt a strong arm encircle her waist just as everything went black.