It was dark in the Lestrange dungeons, an impenetrable darkness that seemed to go on endlessly. She could feel the coldness of a damp breeze, knew that there had to be some sort of window, some sort of connection to the outside word, and yet all she could see was darkness. Perhaps she was imagining it, perhaps the darkness was an escape to distract her from the twisted screams echoing in the room. The screams of the poor muggle that had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps losing herself in the darkness was a way of shielding herself. The darkness hid what was going on, the darkness hid the perpetrator, the reason why the muggle was screaming so desperately. The darkness allowed her to hide from herself, from the knowledge that she was controlling the wand, she was torturing the muggle. She, a muggleborn.
Hermione had lost count of how long she had been standing there, how long the muggle had been under the cruciatus curse. It had to be long though. He was starting to quiet down, curling in on himself, rocking back and forth in a vain attempt at self-comfort. He wouldn’t last much longer, whenever they reached this point it was only a matter of minutes before they gave up, before their bodies couldn’t take anymore.
“Hermione,” murmured a deep voice, quiet, yet somehow heard over the muggle’s whimpering.
“I know,” she replied, releasing the Crucio, “the Dark Lord wants information.”
She always hated this part. Legillimence was a complicated piece of magic to begin with, looking into a sound mind was difficult enough, delving into a mind that was nearly shattered from extensive use of the cruciatus curse was almost impossible. She had to do it before it was too late. She had to find the exact moment where the mind was too exhausted by the strain to resist, yet not ruined enough to not make any sense. It was an art. An art she had perfected in her years of service.
Hermione waved her wand, not batting an eye when the sound of chains dragging across the stone floor echoed in the cell. The muggle was dragged by his hands into a standing position, his head hanging limply between his elevated arms. Her footsteps sounded loud in her ears as she walked up to the poor human being. She grimaced at the grimy feeling of the muggle’s hair as she grabbed a hold of it and lifted his head. He had green eyes, nowhere near as stunning as the pair of green eyes she had once been so fond of, but familiar enough to steel her resolve. She had a reason for doing this.
Hermione looked deep into his eyes, uttering a quiet “legillimence,” before letting the stream of memories rush into her.
When it was over, it seemed to her as if she had experienced the man’s entire life, from his first memory as a child to the sight of herself standing before him, a harbinger of death as she withdrew from his mind. His death sentence was signed the minute she had extracted herself, taking a step back and letting the solidly built figure behind her step forward. Hermione closed her eyes when a bright green light shot from the tip of her companion’s wand. She had never learned to deal with the sight of them collapsing in a lifeless heap. As much as she closed her eyes to the world around her though, she couldn’t escape the sickening sound of the emaciated body falling to the floor, nor the rattling of the chains jerking as they stopped the body’s descent midfall.
One less muggle to taint the world.
One more drop of blood to add to her already dripping hands.
May 3rd, 1998
Hermione had always been a person who thrived in a structured environment. She liked to plan for every eventuality, both in her personal life and in her school life. She was always prepared, and the few occasions when she was taken by surprise had become fewer and far between as she had grown older. Of course, every adventure she had been a part of with Harry and Ron, had always come as a surprise, but she always sought to prepare herself for these adventures in her schoolwork. Her insufferable, know-it all tendencies were a necessity, and had more than once served to bring Hermione and her friends out of a pinch.
She had been prepared for weeks for their inevitable abandonment of the safety of the Burrow. She had been aware that they couldn’t stay in the protective, although oppressive, darkness of Grimmauld Place, had been ready for the move from the moment they had set foot in the house. She had been prepared for doing whatever it took to protect Harry, to hide his identity, to keep from spilling any vital information, even under the duress of torture. Hermione had not been prepared for the devastating loss they would suffer in the Battle of Hogwarts.
They had won. By the skin of their teeth, they had won and suffered great losses in the process. The Weasley twins, Tonks and Lupin, Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were all dead, a few among the many who had died. Ron, dear Ron who had finally managed to get his head out of his arse to see that Hermione was an attractive and kissable girl, was gone. Killed by a blasting curse straight to the chest. Worst of all, Harry was dead. Had died while taking down Voldemort, a feat that had taken such a toll on his body, on his magical core, that he had slumped down, his green eyes hollow and dead the moment he had achieved his task.
It seemed impossible that her two best friends, the boys she had grown up with, who had been by her side since their first year at Hogwarts could just disappear in the flash of a moment. She had always imagined that if they were to die, they would all die as they had been from the age of 11, together. Yet, they had left her behind to suffer in a world that seemed all the lesser without them.
She had sought refuge in the Headmaster’s office, the only quiet place in the castle where she could find an escape from all the death and sorrow that the halls and its inhabitants seemed entrenched with. Professor McGonagall had been kind enough to giver her the password, her eyes shining with pity as she did so. Hermione had been locked up there the entire day, with no company other than herself, a few snoring portraits and a pair of twinkling and penetrating blue eyes.
She had been ignoring him ever since crossing the doorstep, unable to look him in the eye, to admit the severity of the sacrifice required to fulfil his great plan. Although, she had no doubt he was aware of it, that he had always been aware of the sacrifices that, in the end, would be required of them all.
“My condolences, Miss Granger.” Dumbledore broke the silence. “You have suffered many losses, I think.”
“As have all of us.” Replied Hermione, gritting her teeth as she fought the fresh onslaught of tears that threatened to overwhelm her. She was so sick of crying.
“Indeed, it’s fortunate that we have friends and family to turn to in such a sorrowful time.”
“I don’t have any family left,” Hermione muttered, biting viciously at her lip as she finally put words to the thought that had been churning around in her mind for the last 24 hours.
“Now that isn’t true.” Dumbledore commented. “As far as I am aware, more than one member of the Weasley family still lives, wouldn’t you consider them to be family?”
“Of course, I do, I will always consider them family, but we were never as close as—as close as Harry, Ron and I were.”
“While you might not have been as close to them then, you might grow closer to them in your shared grief. I am sure that they miss them just as much as you do, can you not find any comfort in that?” His blue eyes looked down on her kindly.
“It doesn’t seem fair,” Hermione sighed, leaning back in her seat, drawing up her legs and wrapping her arms around them. “Harry did so much for us all, it’s not fair that he isn’t alive to enjoy the result of all that he has done.”
“The world is an unfair place, Miss Granger, and it often seems as if the least deserving of us reap the best rewards. Fortunately, life is full of surprises.” His blue eyes seemed to brighten impossibly. “Incidentally, I have a proposition for you, one that could bring your friends back to this world and give Harry the life he has always deserved.”
Hermione drew in a sharp breath, scrambling to her feet and moving to stand beneath the frame of Dumbledore’s portrait. “What do you mean?”
He gestured to the enormous claw-footed desk. “Open the top left drawer.”
She moved towards it, her fingers trembling as she reached out to grab a hold of the wooden handle, slowly drawing the drawer out from its slot. She couldn’t quite believe her eyes when she saw what was contained in the desk.
“They were destroyed,” whispered Hermione, “they were all useless after that night in the Department of Mysteries.”
“Indeed, they were,” Dumbledore replied, his tone almost smug. “This time-turner is a relatively new one. A friend of mine, a most brilliant witch, created this one, making some improvements of her own on the design. The time-turner you were given in your third year, Miss Granger, had its limitations, do you remember?”
“It could only bring me back 5 hours into the past, any other amount of time and I would have been driven mad.”
“Exactly! Hardly beneficial to what I hope to achieve in this adventure. Fortunately, this friend of mine managed to improve the original prototype of the time-turner, adding rune protections to the design that enables the time traveller to go back as far as 50 years. Quite brilliant!” The previous Headmaster clapped his hands, unable to contain his excitement.
“Why haven’t you used it before now?” Questioned Hermione suspiciously.
“Ah,” Dumbledore sighed, “unfortunately there is a five-minute rule. It will allow you to stay in the past for five minutes before automatically returning you to the point in time from whence you came. Furthermore, when it has been used once, it cannot be used again.”
“Five minutes?” Hermione frowned, hardly conscious of the fact that she had already begun planning for all the possibilities, that she had already understood what Dumbledore asked of her and had made her decision. “That’s not enough time to achieve anything worthwhile. How can I be certain that the actions I make in those five minutes will lead to the result that I desire?”
“As you say,” replied Dumbledore, “five minutes is not enough. This is not a proposition I would have you accept without some thorough thought, Miss Granger. It requires an immense sacrifice on your part.”
There was only one way those five minutes could be increased, Hermione mused. The time-turner was set to return automatically after five minutes, it would be attuned to her magical signature, so no matter what happened it would bring her back with it. She would have to destroy it the minute she went back. Only by destroying it and its components could she prevent it from forcing her back to the future. That meant sacrificing her time though, to leave the home she knew for a remote past with no family or friends.
“Doing this,” she began, drawing a deep breath as she turned to look at Dumbledore’s portrait, “If I do this, will it bring Harry and the others back to life?”
“If you make the correct moves, Harry will never have died.” He shifted in his seat. “Of course, that does not mean you can change major events, Harry’s parents must Fodie, Harry has to face Voldemort, he has to fight him. The major events that lead to the result of today have to remain as they are, it is the little details you need to change.”
“And how do I do that?” She almost dreaded the answer.
“You follow the example of Severus Snape.”
August 15th, 1965
It was almost astonishing how simple it had been to establish herself in the wizarding society of 1965. Three months had passed since Hermione Granger had appeared in a dark and dirty alley and in that time, Hermione Shafiq had quickly been accepted into the pureblood society of Britain. All she had needed to do was give proof of blood and a potion, courtesy of Dumbledore, had taken care of that, changing her blood to identify her as a part of the Shafiq family. She had swiftly been taken under the wing of Druella Black (nee Rosier) who had been the sister of Carina Shafiq (nee Rosier), the mother of Hermione Shafiq and the wife of Caelum Shafiq.
Hermione had done her research. She had discovered that Caelum Shafiq had been the last living member of his family. Romantically enough, he had married Carina, despite her family’s disapproval of the match. As a result of this, they had run away, and no one had truly known what became of them. A perfect story for Hermione to insert herself into. Acting as the long-lost daughter who had been raised away from pureblood society, and who, after the death of her parents, had decided to return to the society they had come from. Having been raised away from pureblood society, any mistakes she made would be excused and blamed on her unfortunate upbringing.
Druella had been overjoyed to meet the daughter of her long-lost sister and had invited Hermione to stay with her and her family, refusing whenever Hermione tried to suggest anything else. So it was that Hermione got to know a fourteen-year-old, Bellatrix Black.
It had been surreal to meet the younger version of the woman that haunted her dreams. She was beautiful, even though she was at that awkward age where her body was disproportionate, her limbs appearing too long for the rest of her frame. Moreover, Hermione was horrified to discover that she liked her. Her pureblood supremacy was not as extreme as it had been in Hermione’s time, Bellatrix had yet to be corrupted by her time spent as a Death Eater. Hermione had never realised how smart and interesting the witch was, until now.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready with your sister?” Hermione leaned on the doorframe, her arms folded across her stomach, fingers unconsciously stroking the smooth fabric of her dress.
“What do I have to get ready for,” Bellatrix spoke, not looking up from the book she had her head buried in, “I never wanted this in the first place.”
“The party is in your honour.”
Bellatrix scoffed; her lovely features twisted in distaste as she looked up at Hermione. “In my honour? There is no honour in this. I am being sold like a broodmare, it’s not something to be celebrated.”
“You are exaggerating,” murmured Hermione, straightening up and moving into the room to sit on the edge of Bellatrix’s bed. “It’s merely the announcement of your engagement, you won’t be married for many years yet. It’s a formality.”
“A formality I will have to honour and go through with when the time comes.” Bellatrix sulked.
“Is it really so bad?” Hermione reached out to smooth down the creases of the young witch’s bedding. “Rodolphus doesn’t seem to be a bad choice. He is smart, handsome and seems to be kind. You could do a lot worse.”
It was bizarre, Hermione thought to herself, that she was sitting on Bellatrix Lestrange’s bed, encouraging her to marry the man who would once be known as one of the most dangerous wizards in the wizarding world. Bizarre that she could even stomach being in the same room as her would-be torturer.
“Why don’t you marry him then, if you like him so much.” Spat Bellatrix.
“Don’t be childish.” Hermione chastised her sharply, rising from the bed and moving towards the girl’s closet. “Now, let’s find you a dress. The guests arrive in two hours and we have a lot to do before that time.”
Hermione ignored the glare aimed at her back as she sifted through the many dresses hanging in the closet. The colour scheme was, unsurprisingly, made up of a multitude of dark colours. Grabbing a suitable dress, she gestured for Bellatrix to get up and undress, bunching up the fabric of the dress as she prepared to drop it over Bellatrix’s dark head of luscious hair.
“I don’t want to marry,” Bellatrix whispered, as she turned around to let Hermione lace up the back of her dress. “I don’t want to be like Mother, subjugated and dependant on a man.”
“Bella,” Hermione sighed, her brown eyes softening as she focused on the movement of her deft fingers systematically lacing up the dress. “Marriage does not mean you lose your independence or that you become dependant of your husband. Just because your mother has chosen to defer to your father, does not mean that you will do so. Look at your Aunt Walburga and Uncle Orion, does your aunt defer to your uncle?”
A soft laugh escaped the young girl. “The day Aunt Walburga listens to anything Uncle Orion has to say will be the day the world ends.”
“Exactly!” Hermione exclaimed, tying the last tie of the dress before spinning Bella to face her, letting a gentle hand rest on her shoulder, Hermione smiled at her. “Even though this is a marriage you are forced into, you decide for yourself how that marriage will be. And if I know you as I think I do; you will never allow any husband of yours to control you. Rodolphus Lestrange will never know what hit him.”
A small smile, stretched across Bella’s lips, “thank you, Hermione.”
“Now, Hermione said, taking a step back. “Go help Narcissa get dressed, last I saw, she was panicking over what shoes to wear. Her goal of the evening is to outshine you, I fear, she is quite perturbed that they would hold such a party in your honour and not in hers.”
“As if she could ever outshine me,” Bellatrix scoffed, though Hermione could see a soft light shining in her eyes, “not without my help, at least. I’ll go see to it right away.”
She had been horrified, at first, to realise how normal the Black family truly was, how much they reminded her of the Weasleys with the constant quarrels between the sisters. Hermione had always imagined, helped along by the many stories Sirius had told Harry, that the Black family was a cold and unfeeling family, where their only focus was on dark magic and their support of the Dark Lord. In reality, despite their tendency to stick by horribly out-dated traditions, Hermione found them to be a warm and loving family. She almost thought herself fortunate to have been able to experience them as a family member, as the impression they gave in public widely supported her previous image of them. They made it far too easy for her to immerse herself in their world, and to adopt their way of thinking. An advantage, she had decided, considering how convincing she would have to be in order to be accepted by the Death Eaters.
Hermione was always conscious of the reason for her being there, she never forgot her ultimate goal, and this party would be the first steppingstone to reaching her goal. According to Druella, some high standing Death Eaters, though she would never identify them as such, would be attending the engagement party of Bellatrix and Rodolphus. This would be a wonderful opportunity to begin the process of joining the Death Eaters. She could not be too obvious about it; Dumbledore had warned her. It was most unusual for any woman to be a part of the organisation. The traditional wizarding view on women had seen to that. In fact, even in her own time, female Death Eaters had been a rarity. She would have to prove herself worthy, would have to catch the attention of the Dark Lord and slowly work her way into their organisation while posing as a Pureblood Lady. The only way she would get to the Dark Lord, however, was by catching the attention of one of his lieutenants first.
Coincidentally, this goal of hers coincided with her aunt’s wish of seeing her well situated. Druella Black wished to take care of her niece, and the only way she could think to do that, was by making sure that Hermione married well. It was perfect. According to wizarding etiquette, Hermione could not introduce herself to these men, especially considering that the men she would need to attract were quite a few years older than her. She was dependant on being introduced, and the only person that could do this for her was Cygnus Black, Druella’s husband. So, Bellatrix and Rodolphus’ engagement party, would be the first step in her plan to save Harry Potter.