I don't own Harry Potter. I have not abandoned Emerald and Argent, but I've had this idea in my head recently and I had to get rid of it. Maybe one-shot, maybe longer, we'll have to see.
"Time travel, eh?"
There was something dark in the low, carefully modulated voice, something dangerous…yet very alluring. Hermione Granger hated it down here, in this makeshift cellblock, yet she needed to talk to the captive held here. Her voice was sharp, and she knew it.
"How do you know about that?" she snapped. The figure hidden in the dark cell laughed.
"The guards are only human, Hermione. They like to have someone to talk to- even a monster." He replied, shifting slightly. Only a small part of his body wasn't hidden, a crooked leg with a lean, muscular arm resting on the knee showing in the dim light. Hermione sniffed.
"You mean you talked them into telling you, Vulpine. I don't understand why…"
"Why not?" interrupted Vulpine. Hermione sensed the smile in his voice. "After all, you won't let me go, and I can't escape. I have to amuse myself some way. But you aren't here to talk about me. I have to say, I respect your idea. Travelling back to our Hogwarts years, ten years maybe? Changing everything…tell me, is the power of that thought as intoxicating to you as it is to me?"
Hermione gritted her teeth, determined not to rise to the bait. Romulus Vulpine excelled in getting a rash response from people: it was what had made him such an efficient killer.
"I wouldn't need to be doing this if you had done what you were supposed to instead of betraying us!" she growled. Vulpine laughed again, delighted by the reaction.
"He was the betrayer, Hermione. I told you, he joined the Dark Lord. Your little Resistance would have died even more quickly if I hadn't made that hard choice. Besides, Voldemort is dead, isn't he?"
"His ideals aren't. His legacy isn't. His government isn't!"
"Hardly my fault. The fact that you put your faith in the wrong people so often is all on you. Is that why you're going back in time yourself rather than send me?"
"I'm not sending you because you're a madman who delights in killing." Hermione responded coldly. Vulpine seemed to consider that, and shrugged.
"You aren't wrong, my dear. Though perhaps that would have made me more suitable than a bleeding heart like yourself?"
"Shut your mouth, Vulpine. I'm only here because I wanted to remind myself of what you became. I won't fall back into thinking you're innocent when I see you back in time."
"Oh? But I was innocent. I'd be careful, dear…don't want to call my past self Vulpine and give the game away, do you? So…you're just going to leave me here, in this cell, so that when the Purebloods and their cronies break in here and kill all your idiot Resistance friends I'm easy prey? How cold. Not even a heroic last stand for Romulus Vulpine."
"You're no hero, Vulpine. You lost that a long time ago." Hermione said, hating how her voice actually sounded sad. The prisoner paused, and Hermione could have sworn that she saw his eyes glint in the darkness.
"Correct, I suppose. But perhaps you should consider that we are all the heroes of our own stories." He murmured, his voice like silk. Hermione opened her mouth again, then closed it again, turning her back. The low, mocking voice of Vulpine rang out behind her again as she hastened towards the stairs.
"I'll say good luck, Hermione. Of course, I'll never be able to talk to you again after this…either you'll succeed and nobody in this timeline will exist, or you'll fail and I'll die with all these others. Whichever one you end up doing…all that blood is on your hands, hero."
Hermione walked quickly past the guards, cursing Vulpine and his ability to get under her skin. The Resistance was in its seventh year, and there was barely any of them left: this ragged underground hovel was the only safe house they had left, and the Pureblood government trackers drew closer every day. Hermione unconsciously traced the scar along her jawline, a legacy of the former leader of those bloodhounds, Fenrir Greyback. Not a bite, thank God, but the werewolf had had her. If Vulpine hadn't intervened…Hermione forced that thought out of her mind and walked into the large test chamber. The circular room had a large chalk drawing in the centre, heavily graven with runes and with Time-Turners stolen from the Ministry set around it. Neville Longbottom stood next to the door, arms folded. The tall, burly man was a lot different to the awkward, pudgy boy Hermione remembered, but then they had all changed. Neville nodded to her, the network of scars covering his face reflecting the dull light. He had been captured by Death Eaters shortly after Voldemort's fall, just before the Death Eaters had become Aurors full time and the Malfoy's had taken over the government. Neville's rescue had been the bright spot for the Resistance. A pity it had been a false hope.
"Are we ready?" Hermione asked. Neville shrugged.
"No idea. I'm not the one to ask about stuff like this, really, but the others say it should work. It should take you back to our Third year, Fourth year. Plenty of time to change everything."
Hermione nodded silently, walking across to the centre of the room and checking the chalk drawing. Neville spoke again, distracting her.
"What did Vulpine have to say?" he asked, sounding genuinely interested. Unlike practically all of the Resistance, Neville had suggested that they actually consider sending Vulpine back as well as Hermione: madman Vulpine might be, but he did tend to keep his word and he was very…effective. The idea had been vetoed en masse, given that Vulpine was one of the main things they wanted to have changed. Hermione considered the question, and shrugged.
"The same as usual. Sly taunts, snide comments. Suggested that we send him back…told us that it wasn't his fault we were in this mess."
"He always says that. It might even be true, I suppose. We shouldn't have relied on one person to change everything."
"Maybe. He also said…he said that if I succeeded, all of this wouldn't exist, and if I failed everyone would die. Either way, he said, there would be so much blood on my hands…"
"He was just trying to throw you off. It's what he does, and does well. Don't pay it any attention, Hermione. Not existing is better than this, being constantly hunted by Death Eaters and traitors."
The official title of Death Eater had died with Voldemort: they were Enforcers, Trackers and Aurors now, but the Resistance still called them Death Eaters. Old habits die hard, Hermione thought.
"What if I fail? What will you do?" she asked, doubts roiling within her. Neville clicked his tongue and shrugged.
"I was thinking…alright, I was thinking of trying to get back into Hogwarts. The Room of Requirement perhaps, like at the start of all this. Try to do as much as we can to take down Malfoy and his Ministry."
"I'll put a time release spell on his cage so that it opens after two days, leave him a wand. Even he deserves that much…and he probably won't come after us. He's never been particularly vindictive. I still think you should take him with you"
"Neville…we agreed he couldn't be trusted. And besides that, his existence was one of the things we want to change. If you're so worried about me going back alone send another member of the resistance." Hermione said irritably. Neville rolled his eyes.
"There aren't any others powerful enough to make the trip-"
"And if it goes wrong? What then? The Resistance will have lost both its leaders, that's what! No, either you go alone or you take Vulpine. Looks like you'll be going alone."
Whatever response Hermione might have given was cut off by an explosion that rocked the entire room. Hermione lurched violently, and would have fallen if Neville hadn't caught her. A voice came from one of the two-way mirrors that the resistance used- Susan Bones, Hermione thought.
"Neville! Death Eaters! They're coming through the front door-"
Susan was cut off by another blast, followed by a gargling scream, and Neville swore violently.
"Get that circle going! We can't afford to wait!" he yelled, running towards the entrance. Hermione turned to the circle, already seeing the two others who had helped create it begin muttering. Slowly, the Time Turners rose into the air and began to spin, the chalk drawn diagram beginning to glow blue.
The explosion had the effect of waking Romulus Vulpine from his half doze in the cell below. The man cocked an ear to the sounds of fighting, a slow smile stretching his lips. Vulpine had, of course, been disarmed when he had been thrown in here. It had been his own fault really…he had been hunting in Diagon Alley and blundered into a pitched battle between Ministry and resistance forces. On a whim he had decided to help out the Resistance, only to be swarmed by four of their best once the Ministry had retreated. Vulpine still held it as appoint of pride that only one of those four had lived. Still…Vulpine was capable of many things, one of which was wandcrafting. With what poor materials and tools available his work was crude and weak, but the larch and Acromantula silk wand he had managed to craft would at least respond to him. Now was the time to use it, he thought, while the Resistance was distracted. He rose to his feet, and a wave of his wand and a murmured spell caused the bars of his cage to melt away. Vulpine slipped out into the corridor, walking on quiet feet and hoping he caught the guard off guard…heh.
Vulpine was always fortunate, and Ginny Weasley was looking out of the cell block, to the site of the battle. Vulpine stunned her, setting a spell to wake her up after ten minutes. No reason to kill her, and she deserved a somewhat fighting chance once she woke up. Not that she would be able to escape or survive the waves of Ministry forces swarming into the underground lair, but at least she would be able to go out fighting. Vulpine crouched over her body as he thought through his options. He could, of course, storm towards the battle, kill everyone he could and go out in a blaze of glory that would likely never be remembered, but he couldn't help but think that that was a waste. Not that he feared death, but he could do so much more…ah. The time portal. The Resistance would be trying to activate it, to change everything, and that might be his chance. Go back in time, let Granger change things, live his life without the Ministry and Voldemort and the resistance. A favourable outcome wasn't certain, but would definitely-
"It's Vulpine!" yelled a voice that Vulpine recognised as Mulciber. A former Death Eater and now a high ranking Enforcer, Mulciber wasted no time in hurling a Killing Curse at Vulpine, who slid aside and sent a variety of Dark Arts curses back. Mulciber dodged a few, but was caught by a Blood-Freezing curse. With the weakened wand Vulpine was using it was little more than an inconvenience, but it distracted Mulciber enough for Vulpine to close in on him. The Death Eater, wracked by pain, was defenceless as Vulpine punched his face and kicked out his knee. Mulciber collapsed and Vulpine took the chance to stamp his head into a pulp, silently thankful that the resistance hadn't taken his boots. Once Mulciber stopped twitching Vulpine removed him of his wand- it was even less responsive than the one Vulpine had crafted, but beggars can't be choosers- and a knife before quickly striding onwards. Vulpine was running blind here, with only the memory taken from Ginny through use of the Mind Arts to guide him, but he needed to be quick. He really shouldn't have cast that spell on Granger all those years ago…but he wasn't clairvoyant. Vulpine lived by his mistakes, he might as well die by them too. He could hear shouting a voice that he recognised…Longbottom. Neville. For a brief, insane instant Vulpine felt an urge to go and help the man who he had once considered a friend, but his logical mind took over and quashed the transitory desire. If he changed the past Neville would live anyway, so he headed quickly to the ritual chamber were the time portal would open. Vulpine hoped he could reach there before the first wave of Enforcers was spent and the bloodhounds were sent in. The bloodhounds were mostly werewolves, and even if the moon wasn't full he could hardly kill all of them with his poor quality wands. The air filled with screams as Vulpine threw caution to the winds and sprinted.
Hermione held her arm up to her face as the diagram glowed white and a jagged, pulsating tear formed in the fabric of reality. It hung there, rainbow light playing across the flat surface and humming softly, a wind seeming to pull her towards it, playing with her hair.
"Is that it?" Hermione yelled, and vaguely, over the yells and screams and bangs of the fighting not far away she heard one of the two who had opened the portal shout affirmation. Hermione gathered herself, gritted her teeth and ran headlong into the portal, feeling the cold energy of the gate wrap around her limbs in an icy caress.
Vulpine ran towards the door of the ritual chamber, feeling a sharp pain spiking in his chest. Granger must have entered the portal; he needed to hurry, there was no telling how long the spells would last. He burst into the chamber to find two Enforcers firing spells at a member of the Resistance, who was crouched over a prone form, wand raised to maintain a glowing shield. Vulpine didn't hesitate: the knife he had taken from Mulciber pierced the base of one Enforcers skull, while Vulpine pressed his crudely made wand against the back of the other's head and cast a Blasting Curse. Weak as the curse was at such close range it was effective enough. The bodies slumped, and Vulpine found himself in a stand-off with the Resistance member.
"Lovegood." Vulpine said in greeting, his voice tinged with pain and glee. Lovegood tilted one pale eyebrow.
"Vulpine. So, you escaped. What are you trying to do?"
"Why, save the world. I happen to quite like it. You know that Granger won't make it alone, and you couldn't stop me anyway."
Lovegood frowned fractionally.
"With that wand you're using? You can barely cast a spell." She replied calmly. Vulpine gritted his teeth against the building pain in his chest, fully aware that it looked like he was grinning savagely.
"Won't stop me from beating you to death with my bare hands, Luna."
"Very true. If you truly wish to do this, I won't stop you. But tell me, did you kill Ginny?"
Vulpine shook his head.
"She's Stunned. If you hurry you might be able to save her, and escape. I doubt it, though." He said, walking past Lovegood to the edge of the portal, where the odd wind tugged at his clothes. He glanced around as Lovegood laughed softly.
"If you do this right I'll never have to escape this place, isn't that right? I'll wish you good luck, Vulpine. You might need it."
Vulpine chuckled through the still rising pain, then stepped forwards and allowed himself to be sucked into the portal. It was a kaleidoscope of colours within, his life blurring past him at such a rapid pace that he felt his gorge rise. Vulpine watched dispassionately, seeing his triumphs, hi failures… all irrelevant now, he realised with a cold glee. He knew that the travel was leeching from him, drawing on his magic to fuel the journey: he could feel it, but he ignored the sensation as the pain in his chest abated. He closed his eyes…
And opened them as he stumbled. Vulpine looked down, forced himself not to flinch away as a hand gripped his shoulder and a voice spoke. Granger.
"Are you alright? Harry?" she asked. Vulpine wanted to grin at her voice: she was a good actor, nobody else would have caught the slight hesitation before 'Harry', as though she was used to saying something else. Romulus Vulpine silently exulted in his success as he spoke in a level, calm tone.
"I'm fine, Hermione."