Continuing Tales

Past Imperfect

A Harry Potter Story
by Vitellia

Part 6 of 27

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"I brought you some books," Hermione says as she and Draco enter her quarters. She's carrying not books but a framed canvas.

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm a portrait."

"And in case you haven't noticed, Severus, I'm a witch." She hangs the painting on the wall. There are no figures in it, just an empty library. "Filius taught me how to charm books into a painting so that all the text can be read."

Snape disappears from Phineas's portrait and reappears in the library.

"The ones on the table are the charmed ones," she says. "The ones on the shelves are just regular painted books."

He looks at the titles. "Ah. A research project, not for my reading pleasure."

"Same thing, I thought."

"For you, swot," Draco says, then notices Phineas's empty frame. "Doesn't he like us anymore?"

"He's probably off somewhere with his other portrait playing Fred and George Weasley," Hermione says.

"Or getting blown by the Fat Lady," Draco says.

"Ew." She glances at Severus, apparently absorbed in one of the charmed books, and casts a silent, wandless Muffliato. "Portraits can have sex?"

"Apparently. But only with other portraits."

"And you know this because…"

"Blokes talk. Even painted blokes are still blokes." Draco makes a face. "Though I wish he wouldn't, since he's my great-great-great-grandfather and all."

"Apparently the brightest witch of her age doesn't know that Muffliato doesn't work on portraits," Severus says without looking up from the book he's paging through.

"Less talking, more researching."

"I have more than enough time for research. I don't have a job and I don't need to sleep."

"Then by all means, go chat up the Fat Lady," she says. "I hear she likes dead Headmasters."

"Headmasters," Draco says.

"Men are disgusting," Hermione says. "Why are all my girlfriends dead or crazy?"

"Both your girlfriends," Draco corrects. "You didn't have many."

"I hate you."

"You love me."

"Yes, but I hate you."

"Can we pause the rom-com so I can read, please?" Severus drawls.

"I thought you were going to read while the humans sleep."

"No, I'm going to visit a portrait on the fifth floor while you sleep."

"The brunette in the blue dress? The one with the little dog?" Draco asks.

"Got it in one."

"If I were dead, I would absolutely hit that," Draco says solemnly.

"In retrospect, refusing to...interact with anyone human or painted for four years was rather self-defeating."

"I hate you both," Hermione says.

"Let's go for a walk, Granger. Let Severus read," Draco smirks. "Or whatever."

As they walk toward the lake by unspoken agreement, Draco says, "After you go back, what if things are worse instead of better?"

"How could they be worse?"

"I could be that awful racist arsehole I used to be."

"You won't."

"But what if I am? It was losing everything that turned me into a decent human being. Or at least a halfway decent one."

Hermione thinks about this.

"I realize how selfish I'm being," he says. "Let Riddle destroy the world and kill everybody so I can be redeemed and you like me? I don't want everyone else to suffer, but I don't want to be the person that I was."

"I don't want you to be, either."

"You have to make sure I'm not."


"I don't know, but you'll figure it out. You're the smartest person I know, Granger. Well, you and Severus. Between the two of you, you can figure out how to help me."

"We will. I promise."

He starts walking along the edge of the lake and she falls into step beside him. After a moment he says, "So. You and Severus."


"The potion to remove the Horcrux from Potter. You two always change the subject when I bring it up, but I read about it in that book you keep trying to hide from me. I am a Potions Master, you know."

"It can't be helped, Malfoy."

"But you like him. And he likes you."

"I like his portrait, and his portrait likes me. The real Severus and I will probably want to kill each other once I get back there."

"I just…."

"I know."

"Do you?" he asks, throwing rocks in the lake with more force than necessary. "Do you know that I wanted to be your first?"

"How did you know I didn't already have a first?"

"Everyone you might have shagged is dead except me. I kind of thought I'd win by default eventually." He sighs. "And now I'm losing to a dead man."

She doesn't know what to say, so she makes a joke, since that's what she and Malfoy do. They tease and snark and halfway flirt but they don't do serious. "What's more important, saving the entire wizarding world or being the first to shag me?"

"Well, when you put it like that," he says, playing along since their usual pattern is as comfortable for him as it is for her, "maybe a shag when you get back then?"


"So that would be a no?"

"When I get back everything's going to be different, Malfoy. Your family will still be rich and powerful and you'll probably be married to some inbred socialite your parents betrothed you to when you were two."

He makes a face. "Maybe a shag anyway?"

"Your muddy little something on the side?"

"Damn it, Granger."

"I'm just teasing."

"It's not funny." He takes her hand, strokes the entirely unfunny word carved into her arm.

"It will be, after I fix things. No Riddle, no war, no batshit Bellatrix."

"What if you hate me, the way you did in school?"

"Then you'll hate me, too, and it won't matter."

"I want it to matter. I want…I want to still be in love with you."

"Malfoy – "

"Draco," he says. "Please, Hermione. Draco."

"Draco," she says, and tries not to cry.

"I know you love me, but you're not in love with me."

"Maybe I will be, after I fix things."

"I can hope, anyway," he says, then asks, "Can I kiss you? Not to start anything, but just so I'll know what it was like this once, before you go?"

She nods, and his lips brush hers. She lets them part a little, and he slides his arms around her waist and deepens the kiss. He's good at it, and she relaxes into his arms and sighs into his mouth. It's nice. It's supposed to be more than nice, a little voice inside her whispers, but she tells it to shut up and lets her fingers slide through the silky hair at the back of Malfoy's – Draco's – neck.

They walk back to the castle in silence, holding hands. When they reach the door he lets her hand go. "See you, Granger."

"See you, Malfoy."

When she gets back to her rooms, Severus is in the library painting and Phineas is in his portrait.

"Why are you crying?" Phineas asks.

"Allergies," she says.

"Black, could you give us some privacy?" Severus asks.

"Need I remind you that this is my portrait, Snape?"

"Please, Headmaster?" Hermione asks.

"For you, dear lady," he says, and moves out of the frame.

"And to think, he used to call me Mudblood."

Severus flinches.

"It's just a word, Severus. It has no power beyond what you give it."

"That word changed the course of my life."

"A whole chain of events, in which you calling Lily Evans that word was only one part, changed the course of your life. Her unwillingness to forgive you was also part of that chain."

"Have I no privacy at all?"

"Not since Rita Skeeter's book, no, not really."

He sighs. "So you would have forgiven Weasley if he'd called you that?"

"Are you kidding me? I forgave Ron so much worse than that, so many times."

He looks skeptical.

"Severus, think. Who's my closest friend? Malfoy spent six years calling me Mudblood. It's just a stupid word."

"Sticks and stones?"

"Exactly. Of course, when Bellatrix carved it into my arm…"

"When she what?" he growls in the voice in which he used to use to demand just what it was Neville thought he was putting in his cauldron.

She pushes up her sleeve and shows him. His look is murderous. "Even this," she says. "It's not the word that makes it awful, but the fact that she cut me with a cursed knife. It hurt like nobody's business."

"Did she Crucio you, too?"



"I know. But it's in the past now. And I'll bet you suffered worse in all your years kow-towing to that psychotic nut job."

He nods. After a moment, he asks, "Why were you crying?"

"You were right about Malfoy."

"You're a brilliant witch, Hermione, but when it comes to matters of the heart, you can be a little thick."

"Tell me something I don't know. But also, pot…kettle, maybe?"




"Assuming I go to the past successfully, sort Riddle out, and make it back to my own time, what happens? What will I remember from this timeline, what will I remember from the new one that my younger self will live out, and how will the two will coexist in my head?"

"Only a few Unspeakables made the leap back and returned, and most of them they didn't stay very long, and were careful not to change the timeline. Or at least no one noticed that they had."

"So their original timeline and the new timeline were essentially the same. There was nothing to integrate."


"You said most of them."

"There was one who inadvertently did something that changed his future, and quite dramatically. He had a misunderstanding with the woman he was married to in his original timeline, and in the new timeline she married someone else, and so did he."

"What happened when he got back?"

"At first, he could only remember his original timeline, and he was pining after a woman who was married to someone else and wanted nothing to do with his wife, whom he he'd never seen before, as far as he remembered."

"So much for keeping the experiment secret then."

"Actually, he did keep it secret. He pined in secret, and pretended everything was all right with the wife he had. He was an Unspeakable, after all. Keeping secrets is what they do."

"That's horrible."

"Eventually he started remembering the modified timeline, and both sets of memories were integrated."

"So he fell back in love with his wife?"

"He remembered enough that he felt some measure of affection for her, but he still loved the wife who was lost to him."

"That is so fucking sad," she says.

"You don't have to do it, you know."

She frowns.

"Hermione, your life isn't terrible. You're alive and healthy, with a good job and a good man who loves you. Things could be worse."

It's true. Her life doesn't seem half so bleak as it did a few weeks ago. Draco is a good man, and she likes kissing him, and she has Severus to talk to, and she feels like she has a purpose now. But if she gives up this idea and makes her peace with the way things are, that purpose will be gone. And even if her life is all right, Harry's and Ron's and Fred's and Luna's and so many other people's aren't.

She looks at Severus, trapped in canvas. His life isn't anywhere near all right. He was abused as a child, bullied as a student, almost killed by a werewolf and told to keep quiet about it while the boy who tried to kill him got off scot free. He loved a girl who didn't love him back, and refused to forgive him for something that was trivial, really. He was lured into a sick fraternity of killers because he was desperate for someone, anyone to accept him. He spent eighteen years wallowing in guilt over Lily's death when it was Riddle to blame, and having Albus fan the flames of that guilt so he could keep sending him back to get tortured by a madman who let his snake kill him.

"Yeah, actually I do have to," she says. "Not because I'm unhappy. My life is fine. How selfish would it be if I was only doing this to make things better for myself?"

"The Gryffindor saviour complex, then?"

"It has nothing to do with House affiliation and you know it. You'd do the same thing in my place. You lived your life for others more than anyone I've ever known."

"And look how that turned out."

Past Imperfect

A Harry Potter Story
by Vitellia

Part 6 of 27

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