CoS era. Several years from now, Albus begins developing a souped up Time-Turner at Hermione's insistence after Harry dies under mysterious circumstances their second year. Although the device fails to work initially despite Albus' best efforts, Hermione is captured by Snatchers and in a confluence of events that still aren't entirely clear (although strong intent and exposure to blood and dark magic are considered probable factors), it suddenly transports her back to the summer of 1990.
Severus, decidedly less than chuffed to discover the witch he kissed was actually a possible future version of one of his current students, takes some convincing to distinguish the adult from the child as individuals with distinct histories.
Hermione feels it's more than worth it.
10 January, 1993. Very early.
Hermione stretches an arm languidly above her, positively radiant in her post-coital bliss, as she turns on her right side to snuggle into the warm chest beside her. A happy humming sound she hadn't intended to make but just can't suppress accompanies her efforts to burrow her way in deeper under Severus' left arm. She snares his hand carefully in her right, mindful not to wake him, resting their clasped hands just beneath her breast and pulling that arm tighter around her like the world's most wonderful blanket. It borders on perfection.
Mission accomplished, she pillows her head on his chest, trailing cautiously with her fingertips through the light dusting of hair she finds there, marvelling at the fact she's currently free to do so, and too pleased by half to even want to consider where to take things from here. It's hardly something she can decide unilaterally anyway, at least not if she'd like this to become a regular occurrence, and she very much would.
She plants a series of soft, featherlight kisses on his chest at the thought.
This was not at all how she had pictured the evening ending, not that there are any complaints, of course. The sex was even better than his kisses. (She punctuates that thought with a quick lick, stopping only when it occurs to her that it's hardly conducive to letting the man sleep.) She simply hadn't dared hope for this result, given his reticence since he'd realised just who she is. That had presented something of a hurdle.
Still, she thinks as she nuzzles his chest once more, he's come around nicely.
'Done amusing yourself?' He asks, his voice rumbling deeply in his chest beneath her.
And apparently he was awake...
Which is not embarrassing at all.
Well not much.
Feeling remarkably as though she's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, and that thought has her fingers reflexively twitching in his chest hair once more, she hides her blush against his chest. It's not nearly as effective as she hopes, but he finds it rather becoming, for a couple of reasons, really.
'Not remotely,' she answers with more confidence feigned than she feels and prepares to playfully nip his nipple.
He arrests her mid-movement with a casual query, 'Do you have any reason to believe that Albus was successful in the development of a 'true' Time-Turner, or was it simply the length of time travelled that made you think it had been?' He says nothing of the unrelenting faith people seem to have in the man. Least said...
A less than brilliant 'Hmm?' is the best she can manage under the circumstances, the topic almost the furthest thing from her mind. She allows her fingers to bounce slightly on the soft curls of hair on his chest.
'Eloise Mintumble proved conclusively that a jump of as much as five centuries is possible with the conventional devices, so that in and of itself isn't proof.'
'Uh...' She has to collect herself, and honestly hasn't much interest in the matter just at present. She moves their joined hands a little higher so he can feel the swell of her breast. Surely.
Ever so flatteringly, cheers, it doesn't seem to register in the least.
'Essentially, Albus could have merely succeeded in removing the governor from the device, effectively de-throttling it and enabling travel of longer length.'
She shifts her torso slightly so the weight of her breast now rests firmly on his hand, but that, too, fails to distract him even slightly.
'And it's not as though changes to the timeline, even radical ones, aren't possible with the regular Time-Turners. The Mintumble case proved that as well with such numerous un-birthings.'
'Mintumble...' she repeats incredulously, staring at him blankly. This is what's interesting him just at the moment? He has a naked and willing witch in his bed - a reasonably attractive witch at that, if she does say so herself - and he wants to discuss the blooming Time-Turner?
He thinks too much, clearly, which is ironic, really, firstly coming from her and secondly as she was attracted to him primarily because of his cerebral nature. Well, that and his competence with a wand. Oo er missus... She tries not to sigh audibly in frustration.
He continues as though she hadn't spoken, 'Croaker's issues regarding the 'safety' of such changes are largely to distract from the fact that those primarily under threat are those left behind, in what had been the present, if you will. If one pays proper attention,' and she can certainly think of a thing or two to say about paying 'proper' attention as she hooks her bare left leg rather suggestively over his to no avail, 'it becomes obvious that the Unspeakables rely heavily on appeals to self-interest to modify behaviour as they deem... necessary. Surely un-birthings were far more probable than the utterly ludicrous suggestion of the chance of killing one's past or future self by accident. How often do you imagine that occurs? And yet un-birthings are spoken of nearly not at all in the literature by comparison.'
Her annoyance is beginning to turn to anger.
Fair enough, she's hardly an innocent. She'd done this to poor Bill once. After a perfectly good tumble she'd begun discussing improvements to the wards around their tent; he'd been only mildly affronted before laughing. The difference, she imagines, is it was strictly an arrangement of convenience, a matter of meeting physical needs under adverse conditions; friendship, sure, camaraderie, but there were no feelings of a romantic nature whatsoever involved between them, which greatly simplified...
Which begs the question of if there are feelings involved here.
And just how one sided those feelings currently seem to be...
The disappointment that now threatens to overwhelm her answers the first question, unequivocally, bugger, and puts enough of a damper on her amorous advances that she starts paying more attention to what he's been saying. Chin up, witch, wouldn't do at all to let him know she's fallen for him, evidently rather hard... Whatever else, she's never been clingy.
Upper lip unimaginably stiff, she's a trooper, she finally offers a sensible reply, 'But - beyond the un-birthings, although those are presumably problematic enough - Madam Mintumble's trip disrupted the flow of time itself. The following Tuesday lasted two and a half days...'
'Yes, yes, and the Thursday was only four hours long... That's well documented. My point is you apparently currently have no idea if Albus was successful with his modifications or if the same would be true if you were to return to your own time.'
She has to battle her rising anger once again. It's like he wants to be rid of her or something, a thought which completely disregards the fact his arm hasn't loosened its hold on her even marginally.
'But as those developments only occurred once she had returned, there is all the more reason to suspect that not using the Turner to go back to the future - the 'erstwhile present', so to speak - might eliminate those problems. Or at least reduce the threat thereof. And if it wasn't the true Time-Turner he'd intended to create, taking the 'long way back' also makes sensible use of the years I'd otherwise lose.'
'I'm not arguing that you should sacrifice years of your life needlessly, Hermione, not at all...'
'A decade,' she grumbles.
'The primary reason for returning to the present as quickly as possible is to avoid changes to the past, and you've obviously decided, you and Albus...'
'And you,' she adds a little defensively. 'Future you. You were party to that decision. You were crucial to it.' She sounds a little hurt.
The brow raises, but instead of addressing it directly, he rephrases, 'As it was obviously decided to take a Bombarda Maxima to time by saving Potter in the first place...'
'This was never just about saving Harry you know.' It's quiet and sounds even more hurt. There's an undercurrent he doesn't begin to comprehend and has an inkling it's probably better that way.
'At any rate, your continuing to live through the intervening years shouldn't be a greater issue in the face of those changes.'
'Except for there being two of me in the future.'
'Which there currently are as well. And yet shockingly, the world has not come to an end. Ergo, an objection of no significance.' And now his brow does that thing that used to make her feel a bit thick but of late makes her smirk, or would do, except she still doesn't feel quite like smirking just now.
'I'm simply endeavouring to understand what you know about what was actually accomplished, what Albus ultimately created, and what your resulting options are.'
It finally dawns on her that all this is really more about him checking to see if she's truly sticking around past the end of the year, beyond rescuing Harry, and a pleasant warmth replaces any irritation she'd felt before. It makes the conversation suddenly a great deal more welcome. She's also beginning to suspect Severus wants to know if he can justify, to himself, her remaining in their shared present. That's something she can understand; she knows a thing or two about guilt as well. So she takes a deep, steadying breath and begins to walk him through it.
'The Turner had never worked - until it did, that is - so we were never able to trial it. I have no idea if it was working properly or not. As you say, it could simply be an unregulated conventional Time-Turner for all we know. If that's the case, any attempt to return would age me a decade, and far more importantly would wreak havoc on time. We theorised that was proportional to the changes induced and not the length of time travelled. You concurred,' she still feels pressed to add. It's unnecessary, as he does so even now.
'Whether this works as Professor Dumbledore had intended or not, that is to say even if time weren't disturbed and I didn't age - and even then, I've already been in the past for a couple of years - there are only limited possibilities. The most probable are either I stay in this timeline or I return to my own.' She waits for Severus to object, but he's apt to agree, particularly after having had call to research the topic in the past fortnight.
'Were I to stay in this timeline, then according to everything we know about the use of Time-Turners, there are only three variations. When Miss Granger reaches the right point in the future, either I replace the girl and she ceases to exist - without her consent, it should be noted, or I myself cease to exist, or the two of us blend into one being with memories that don't belong to that present reality. Both of the last two options are likely to end with a protracted stay in St. Mungo's and the first two, worse than that by far, mean the effective death of someone. Ever so oddly, I have no desire in the least to give it a try, because we just don't know, and that really seems the sort of thing one should know before doing it.'
He gives her a slight squeeze because the topic is obviously unsettling her, and tries to reassure her, 'That can be easily tested.' A twitch of his fingers has his pillow Transfiguring to a cuneiform of widening angle, shifting his torso upwards until he's half sitting. Hermione stares, dead useful, such a charm. How absolutely perfect it would be for reading in bed...
He snorts at her expression, her thoughts only too transparent. 'If you're good, I'll teach it to you later.'
'One of yours?' She asks, somehow certain she knows the answer.
He nods and then a little unwillingly adds, 'The Homo Erecto Charm.'
She barks in laughter. 'I hesitate to ask what you were trying to create.'
He grins at the memory, 'A Priapism Hex. Didn't go quite as intended, but ultimately this was preferable.' She's inclined to agree.
Next he Summons the tea service from the lounge, pours a cup, magically still warm and as fresh as just brewed, and hands it to her, depositing the pot on the nightstand behind him. 'You travel five minutes into the past, break the teapot, return and either have knowledge of the events or not.'
'I like your teapot.'
'Fine, the teacups then.'
'I like those even more,' she chuckles.
His fingers twitch again and soon he's lowered to lie beside her once more. After a sip she Banishes the cup to the same bedside table as the pot, snuggles into his side anew, and then draws her cup-warmed hands across his chest. He hisses in pleasure at the sensation and yet refuses to yield to it.
'But you understand the concept?' It's still dry, but he sounds a little tired, too, as though the conversation has been wearing.
'Couldn't even if I wanted to, Severus. My Time-Turner was broken. Professor Dumbledore has it. I gather he's dabbling with it, hedging our bets if we need to use it again.'
'When it's repaired then.' And there. There's a note of hurt that provides the final clue.
'I'm not here making the best of a bad lot. I'm here by choice.' There's some emphasis to it that suggests she may well mean his bed. He might have relaxed at that, it's what he wanted to hear, but there's something lurking behind her eyes, something in her demeanour that precludes it. That's confirmed when she levers herself up with her right arm, still leaning half over him, and turns to face him.
'The other option were I to use - able to use - the Time-Turner, is that I've successfully changed, or more accurately: contributed, to the changes in this timeline but am returned instead to my own.' As it's not an altogether unlikely result, he waits for her to continue. She doesn't immediately, but removes her left hand from where it's been resting on his chest to rub the scars on her right forearm, which is the moment he decides he's an unparalleled idiot. He pulls her closer to him, something she wouldn't have thought possible until he accomplishes it - she'd done her utmost to snuggle in as close as she could get - and wraps his arms more tightly about her thin frame.
It gives her the strength to go on, her voice breaking only once as she does, her tone incredibly cold, 'Given I was under Bellatrix' cursed knife at the time of the jump, perhaps you can understand my reluctance to return there.'
He presses his lips to the top of her head, holding the position for a long moment and deeply inhaling her scent before he answers. She knows from the way he'd reached for her that he'd realised what she was going to say before she said it, words are only a formality at this point. 'I'm sorry to have reminded you. Forgive me?' He whispers it into her hair, sounding so sincere in the process that she thinks she could forgive him just about anything he asked.
'No, I'm sorry, Severus. I didn't mean to take it out on you. It's still something of a sore point.'
'There's no need to apologise, Hermione. Bellatrix...' There's equally no need to tell her anything about the witch; they both know only too well what she was capable of. He kisses Hermione's hair again, and she feels the tension begin to drain from her. 'While I'd wish it weren't still a 'sore point', there's every reason for it to be. You never need to apologise for that.' He finishes with another kiss and she takes a deep breath, enjoying the growing sense of calm that comes with the security of his embrace.
'It's been years,' she says, not really understanding why it still matters this much. And she'd been fine just a minute ago, too. She doesn't realise she'd begun crying until his thumb gently wipes a tear from her cheek. 'Sorry,' she apologises again, 'I didn't mean to get all weepy on you.'
'If you apologise one more time, I'll have to resort to hexing,' he jests, trying to cheer her up. 'Really, witch, I hadn't imagined you were this slow on the uptake.'
'Just try it,' she threatens, going along with it and swatting his chest almost playfully. 'I'll give you a run for your Galleons.' She knuckles the remaining tears from her eyes.
'I'm counting on it,' he answers, rolling her beneath him and caging her with his arms. The warmth of his body is a welcome reminder that the floor of Malfoy Manor is as distant as the events of that night were. Are. Will be? Time travel wreaks havoc on verbs. She settles on 'had been, but won't be.' She feels safe here and her worries fade.
'Besides, apparently your hexes don't always work as intended.' She pats his pillow demonstratively and he laughs.
'That'll teach me to trust you with one of my secrets.'
Somewhat sombrely she answers, 'I've trusted you with far more.'
He kisses her at that, firmly, deeply, reassuringly. 'I won't betray them, you know,' he assures her sincerely when he breaks it off.
'I do actually. I have the advantage of knowing you from before.' She shrugs, and again there's that feeling like someone walking over his grave.
Quietly, almost reluctantly he tries to explain some things she may have missed, or just seems to be wilfully ignoring. 'When the thing is repaired, and you know we probably can't afford not to at least try to so we'd have a failsafe option, travelling even a couple of days with a fruit fly and returning immediately would prove conclusively the issue of ageing. The teapot example holds as to determining which of the two realities, always assuming it isn't an unknown third, and sending you back to the present with sealed instructions would enable us to answer the question as to which version remains for you, which memories are retained. Repeated trials would increase the likelihood the interpretation is correct and wouldn't create any risk beyond a few days of your lifespan you won't have even had to live through. Ah, and a small mountain of dead fruit flies.'
She shakes her head, 'Someone else is welcome to it. It needn't have been me last time, that was... happenstance. I was the only one left. If it needs doing again, someone else can go. I have no intention of returning to the future, I deserve not to, and further, no one can make me. I don't want to step into someone else's life and have to call it my own, I certainly don't want to return to mine, and I really don't want to stop living my present life here and now.' She kisses him for emphasis. 'I'm staying put.'
'I like the sound of that,' he tells her stroking her arm. The sensation makes the fine hairs on that arm and the back of her neck rise in pleasure, but still something seems... off. He's holding back.
'What is it, Severus?' He may just be right about her still being too much of a Moggie.
It takes him a moment to reply, and she's coming to realise he's a good deal less confident, at least in certain respects, than she'd thought. Perversely, it's comforting, but she'll need to take care with him. The notion proves appealing and sets her fingers to caressing him almost immediately. 'I'm not him you know, 'your future Severus'.'
'Good.' It's immediacy proves convincing, her openness is definitely useful for that. She kisses him deeply and he soon forgets to worry as she does. 'And with any luck, you never will be,' she insists.
There goes the brow again, he can't help his inquisitive nature. 'The intervening years weren't easy for him. I... It's not going to happen that way. None of it. We're changing that.'
There's an earnestness about her that has him finally accepting this really isn't just about saving Potter. He stares back into her liquid brown eyes, losing himself for a moment as he wonders when someone last worried about sparing him harm or suffering...
She calls him back to the present with a laugh, 'And I never dreamt of doing this with him...' She rolls him over seating herself firmly on him, reminding him quite abruptly of their present state of undress. Despite the overt sexuality of the manoeuvre, her smile is incredibly gentle as she strokes the angles of his face with the backs of her fingers. 'I'm not her and you aren't him. Can't we just agree to be us and see each other for who we really are?' She leans over and kisses him softly, her breasts just tangible against his chest in that position, which is rapidly becoming a favourite.
When she phrases things that way, he can't think of any reason to ever disagree.
Happy Valentine's, folks. ❤️