Continuing Tales

Past Imperfect

A Harry Potter Story
by Vitellia

Part 22 of 27

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They spend the winter hols trying, with breaks to explore the first few chapters of Hermione's new favorite book as well as reviewing and expanding upon the Muggle curriculum.

New Years Eve is spent at Malfoy Manor watching Draco court young Hermione, while Lucius and Narcissa look on with apparent equanimity. Hermione's brain hurts from the cognitive dissonance this engenders. Back at the castle, even the promise of starting a new chapter can't stop her brooding about what her younger self looks likely to get up to with Malfoy.

"You could do worse than Draco," Severus says.

"You are not helping," she snaps. "You know, for a brilliant man, you can be such a dunderhead."

"Hermione, are you crying?"

"I am not," she says through her tears.

"Why, pet?"

"Gods, you really are a dunderhead. Because I love you."

"You do?" he says, and looks so nonplussed that it stops her in her tracks. Oh. She just assumedHow embarrassing.

"Hermione," he says, but the wheels in her head are turning so fast she barely hears him. How could I have just blurted that out? The man is always supposed to say it first. It's totally reactionary and sexist but still true. Mum is an ardent feminist and even she says the man is supposed to say it first.

"Hermione, look at me and stop the inner monologue for just thirty seconds, please," he says, cupping her cheek and turning her face so their eyes meet. "I love you, too."

"You do?"

"I do."

"You're not just saying that?"

"I wouldn't say it if I didn't," he says, and then a terrible thought stops him cold. "Were you just saying it?"

"Gods, no."

"All right then," he says, taking her in his arms and wondering if he's ever going to stop second-guessing himself and everything about this…thing…oh, very well, this relationship with her.

"I don't want to go back," she says. "I'm afraid."

So am I, he thinks, but what he says is, "I'll wait for you."

"You might not still want me."

"Now who's being a dunderhead?"

"Severus, for me it'll be no time at all, but for you it will be seven years. You could meet someone else, decide you don't want me." She's crying again, and he puts his arms around her.

"Hermione, I loved a woman for over twenty years, first when she didn't care for me as more than a friend, then after she refused to forgive me for something you think was trivial, and then for another fourteen years after she was dead," he says. "I think I can manage to remain in love for a measly seven years with a woman who is alive, who forgives me for something truly awful, and who is chomping at the bit to explore every last page of The Ancient Arte of Sex Magick with me."

"Well, maybe not page 387," she says, sniffling. "That one's kind of scary."

"Some Gryffindor you are."

"You're not going to goad me into it that way. I know your tricks."

"Not all of them," he says, trailing kisses down her neck.

"You're trying to distract me."

"Am I succeeding?"

"Keep at it and I'll let you know."

By the time classes resume, Hermione's headaches are getting worse. She and Severus have made no progress on the Time Turner potion, and they both know what's coming. When Albus tells her that Moody will be ready to take up his position teaching Defence in another week, they know when.

When her last day teaching comes, Hermione is emotionally wrung out. Saying goodbye to her Gryffindor and Slytherin fourth years is almost more than she can take. She's glad they'll all grow up without the death and darkness that awaited them in her timeline, but at the same time, because of that, she won't really know them when she goes back.

After cleaning out her office (she cleaned out what little she had in her quarters the night before) she heads to the dungeons. They agreed that they would have this one last night, and she would use the Time Turner in the morning when it was time for him to go to his first class. She has charmed the dye and straightening potion out of her hair, and vanished the contact lenses for the last time.

"You'll still love me?" she asks for what she hopes isn't the thousandth time.

"I will," he says, toying with one of her curls. "But you may not, once your memories are integrated. I'm prepared for that."

"So you get to be faithful and honorable but you don't trust me to be?"

"I'll be the same person," he says gently. "You'll be two different women, with two different sets of memories, two different life experiences. You can't know how that's going to feel."

"I know that I love you. And in seven years I'll still love you."

"Yes, but in seven years and three months, you might feel differently. You're going to need to wait for your memories to integrate to know for certain how you – the you that's part you and part her – is going to feel."

"If you want to end this, just say it."

"I don't. But I'm not going to hold the Hermione Granger who's fifteen years old to a decision you make for her now. It's her life, too, and she deserves a say in it."

"I don't want to go."

"I know. I don't want you to."

"I'm scared."

"I know, pet."

"Some fucking Gryffindor," she says.

"You're my beautiful, magnificent Gryffindor and I love you."

"And you won't let me marry Malfoy?"

"Or Weasley," he agrees, adding silently, not if I can help it. "Now come to bed."

And she does, for the last time. There's no sex magic and very little sex. There is also very little sleep, neither wanting to waste these last few hours. There is a great deal of trying to memorize how the other looks, feels, tastes. Every kiss, every caress says, yes, I do, and yes, I will.

In the morning, there are no more tears, no more promises extracted or given, no more what ifs. With the remains of their barely touched breakfast cooling on the table, they sit on the sofa, Hermione's head leaning on his shoulder, Severus's hand stroking her side from shoulder to hip.

In her timeline, his portrait told her that she would reappear in the future from the place where she left, not from where she is now. Distracted by the snake and Crouch, she didn't pay close enough attention to know exactly which room it was, but she's told Severus the general vicinity, and he's promised to find it and be there when she arrives.

As terrifying as it is for her, Hermione thinks Severus has it worse, having to wait seven long years. Whatever she finds, at least she'll find it now. She looks up at him, and he drops the gentlest of kisses on her lips. She sighs and melts into him, but unlike almost every kiss they've shared, this one stays chaste, and says what they've both run out of words to say.

"I'll see you in seven years, pet," he whispers into her hair.

Past Imperfect

A Harry Potter Story
by Vitellia

Part 22 of 27

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