Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine. Neither are Dumbledore and Snape, and frankly, I wouldn't want them. Note: the chapter title is part of a quote by Dumbledore to Harry in PS/SS 17.
Author's Note: The idea for this I first mentioned in a review I placed recently, and then I thought to turn it into a story. It's a one-shot, and one of my many H/Hr stories. However, this time, there will be no other pairings.
Chapter 1: A Beautiful and Terrible Thing
The Final Battle had just ended at Hogwarts on this sad day at the beginning of May. It was supposed to be a beautiful month, with love blossoming like the flowers, but this particular day wasn't beautiful. It wouldn't be beautiful for a long time to come. Too many good people had perished today. But that's not why seventeen year old Hermione Jean Granger was walking alone up to the Headmaster's office so soon after the battle. No, she was walking up there to be alone to think.
Hermione had problems, just like any other teenage girl. She needed to decide which boy she liked best: the not-so-good-looking redhead she had kissed earlier or the drop-dead-gorgeous hunk of man meat named Harry Potter. She had liked Harry for years, though she had just admitted it to herself in fifth year. She found the door open and went in. Looking around, she saw that the portraits of Headmasters and Headmistresses dead and gone were asleep or at least feigning sleep. She remembered Harry telling her they liked to pretend so they could eavesdrop on conversations not really meant for them. She sat down and held her head in her hands, trying to mentally list the pros and cons of telling Ron to get lost, or telling Harry she only saw him as a friend. Of course, she knew that Harry was dating Ginny, or at least had been in sixth year.
As she was thinking, a voice sounded from the direction of the wall. She looked up slowly and straight into a pair of blue eyes that used to twinkle. She guessed they would twinkle again in time, but abstained because of this sad day.
“Hello, Professor Dumbledore. I thought you were asleep,” she mumbled.
“I was asleep, but we portraits know when someone is in the office,” he explained patiently and kindly. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
That's when one of the cons of dating Harry floated through her mind. She didn't know why Harry never showed true affection. Sure, he had told her and Ron often enough that his relatives hadn't been kind to him, but don't all boys exaggerate about things like that? She hadn't known she had spoken her thoughts aloud until Dumbledore spoke. If possible, his eyes looked even sadder.
“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing...” he began sadly, and another voice snapped, “Just spit it out!” Hermione looked into the angry face of Severus Snape, who had joined his predecessors on the wall earlier that day, after Voldemort had killed him on a mistaken belief that he had to.
“Harry doesn't show affection openly the way other people, like you or I would, because of me,” Dumbledore said.
“Why because of you?” she asked, for Harry hadn't yet told anyone of his death earlier. She didn't know what he had seen in the pensieve, or what Dumbledore had told him at King's Cross.
“Because I...betrayed him,” Dumbledore said, looking even sadder. “Oh, I didn't sell him out, like you are probably thinking. Instead, I made sure he was deprived of that most basic of emotional needs: the security of a loving family.”
“But, why?” Hermione gasped out. She had not been expecting this kind of confession.
“Because of the sacrifice his mother made to save him. That sacrifice helped Harry to destroy Voldemort that night, nearly seventeen years ago. I am sure you are aware that Harry and Lord Voldemort shared a special connection,” Dumbledore said. Hermione nodded, and motioned him to continue.
“That night, Voldemort made what is called a Horcrux. A Horcrux is a piece of a soul, planted in an object, to keep the maker alive. It's the only way to live after dying. Harry was the closest object...” Dumbledore trailed off.
“You mean he was the closest host. Even Slytherins tend not to call people 'objects',” Severus Snape cut in. Hermione looked between them curiously. She had thought they were friends.
“Of course you are right, Severus,” Dumbledore quickly corrected his mistake. “But moving on, I knew of that connection, and the cause for it, and I took steps to ensure it could be destroyed. However, for a living soul to relinquish a Horcrux, it requires the death of the host.”
“Yes, you were raising Lily's son like a pig for the slaughter. I've told you that before, and what I think of that treachery,” Snape sneered. Hermione stood up, now beyond mere anger.
“You traitor! I'm glad you stayed as a portrait after your death, as it gives you the rest of eternity to think about what you've done!” Hermione shouted, her bushy hair becoming statically charged with the accidental magic that had marked her childhood. Dumbledore winced.
“Oh bravo, Miss Granger! Bravo!” Snape gave Hermione a standing ovation, but she turned to him with a withering glare that put him back in the chair he was painted in.
“And you! You murdering bastard! Voldemort only killed you because he made a mistake! A mistake that won us the damn war, I might add,” she sneered. “Don't expect me to forgive you, either of you, for what you did to Harry. Snape, if you truly didn't want any harm to come to Lily Potter's baby, you could have taken him from his lousy relatives and adopted him!” Hermione wiped tears from her eyes at thought of Harry being abused and ignored.
“I wouldn't have allowed Severus to adopt Harry because that would have taken him from the protection of his mother's blood,” Dumbledore rallied after Hermione's denouncement of Snape.
“You mean the blood protection based on love?” she asked. Dumbledore smiled, obviously thinking he was getting through to her love of learning obscure forms of magic.
“Then you've heard of it?” he replied.
“Yes, I have. A quite brilliant plan, using love to keep Voldemort away,” Hermione complimented him. “Also brilliant to make sure he never saw the love that was supposed to protect him, you hypocrite. When you reported to your Death Eater handlers in Azkaban, what did they think?”
Snape had recovered enough from her jibe at him to laugh. But that just brought her attention right back to him. “Or, was your handler this grease ball?” Hermione smirked. “Or, perhaps it was always Grindelwald you were reporting to. Is that why you kept him alive in Nurmengard Prison, and then lead the world to believe you had killed him?”
“Answer her, Dumbledore. You're letting her get into her stride, like Molly Weasley likes to do,” Phineas Nigellus Black warned him.
“I thought to let Gellert think about his actions, just like you have said I have time to do now,” Dumbledore said quietly. She could see he was hurt by her harsh words, and once upon a time she would have been begging for forgiveness. Not anymore, though.
“Did you never think you might be subconsciously trying to drive Harry the same way Voldemort went?” she asked him quietly. Dumbledore looked astonished at that. “Wha-? No, of course not!”
“Oh yeah? Tom Riddle was raised without love in an orphanage. You dropped Harry on the doorstep of a house you knew he would be unloved in, and left him alone for ten years. You were probably surprised to learn Harry could speak Parseltongue, just like Voldemort. Both of them were powerful, even early on. Hell, they even looked somewhat alike!” Hermione ticked off on her fingers. “And yes, Harry trusted me above all else in sixth year, even when you told him to be careful about telling people what you were showing him.”
“I swear I never thought like that!” Dumbledore tried to defend himself.
“Not consciously, but after possessing one of the Deathly Hallows for decades, and actively searching for the other two for even longer, how can anyone be sure the old adage wasn't coming true? Remember, absolute power corrupts absolutely. You were seeking absolute power by trying to become the Master of Death itself,” Hermione whispered, tears once again in her eyes. “You knew, or at least suspected, that one of the objects you were searching for was an heirloom in the Potter family.”
“Yes,” Dumbledore admitted. He seemed to sag against his frame at Hermione's pronouncement. She backed up, as though she were about to leave.
“And if you couldn't destroy Harry, and perhaps take his Invisibility Cloak, you would make sure he would fall victim to the machinations of a money-hungry family. You orchestrated the whole thing between Harry and Ginny in sixth year, didn't you? You basically drove him into the viper's nest because he was so starved of love he wouldn't know the difference between it and treachery. Well, I say you wouldn't know true love if it came up and kicked you in the shin. Either of you!” Hermione declared, finally storming out of the room.
She ran down the stairs, still wiping stray tears out of her eyes. She'd had a very revealing chat with the last two Headmasters, and discovered things that would curl her hair. Not that it needs it, she thought, remembering Rita Skeeter's words to her back in fourth year. Fourth year, a time when I didn't have many worries other than who was trying to kill Harry, and who would ask who to the Yule Ball. I did worry about Harry a lot, but that's just what I do...Isn't it? Could I have been in love with him far longer than fifth year? Hermione kept on running, as these thoughts floated around her mind.
Soon, she had to stop to catch her breath. As she was breathing heavily, she heard a voice to her left. She looked, and rolled her eyes. A few monks were trying to edge away from Severus Snape, who still did look quite vicious. “What do you want now?” she said tiredly.
“To make amends,” he admitted. “I've found Potter...Harry in Gryffindor Tower. Go to him, and get rid of that little Weasley before her plans come to fruition. I'm expecting to see a little parade of bushy-haired Potters coming before McGonagall to explain some prank or other they pulled in the not-too-distant future.” Hermione was stunned when he actually attempted a smile. It didn't suit him.
“I will, and if everything works out, you will,” Hermione promised. She ran off to Gryffindor Tower, and found Ginny trying to talk to Harry. She grabbed the redhead by the collar of her robes, dragged her down the stairs, and tossed her from the bottom step.
"Don't you dare talk to Harry again, you little bitch!" Hermione screamed.
"Oh, like he wants you more than me!" Ginny said scornfully. She flipped her flaming red hair over her shoulder, and prepared to flounce right past Hermione up the stairs.
"Don't push me, Weasley," Hermione warned her former friend, drawing her wand. Ginny responded by drawing hers as well.
"Furn-" Ginny began, but her spell was cut short by Hermione socking her in the mouth.
"What the hell, you mudblood whore?!" Ginny screeched after Hermione turned around and strode confidently back into the boys' dormitory, where she threw her arms around Harry's neck.
“Harry, I love you. I have for so long, it feels like there's never been a time I didn't love you,” she breathed into his ear. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him.
“What about Ron?” he asked.
“Why would I take second-best when I now have first?” she answered his question with one of her own. That satisfied him, and he kissed her. It was the first kiss of the rest of their lives, for their marriage was sealed with a kiss four months later.
Twelve years later, their eleven year old son, James Sirius Potter, was dragged before Headmistress McGonagall by Filch, to answer for his first really big prank. He had charmed the Slytherins' hair to turn red and gold, and, in the right conditions, spell out a message that said “Marauder for life!” He was followed, in later years, by each of his five brothers and sisters.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For starters, how did you all like the idea for this one-shot? It’s yet another attempt to make amends for JKR’s absolutely, unequivocally abysmal excuse for a seventh book. The cra… I mean, epilogue, is of course ignored completely. For those of you who watch MythBusters, which is an awesome show that I personally recommend, remember Adam Savage’s ‘trademark’ saying: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”
Thanks for reading and please review.
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