[personal profile] wave_of_sorrow
Title: and we're already too late (if we arrive at all)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] wave_of_sorrow
Fandom: Harry Potter
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, mentions of others; mentioned/implied relationships are all canon-compliant
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,676
Disclaimer: Don't own. Don't claim. No money being made.
Summary: Of time, and tea, and the things you can't change.
Spoilers/Warnings: set post!war, pre!epilogue (i.e. potential spoilers for anything before the epilogue). Also, commas. A lot of them.
A/N: First ever Harry Potter fic. I'm surprised this is what I wrote; always figured it would be slash, but that's my muse for you. I've only started poking around AO3 for HP fic after I wrote this, so I have no idea how things work in this fandom, or where to post this for that matter.

A big thank you to the lovely [livejournal.com profile] amaraal for giving this a once-over and declaring it good to go. <3 (Note: This was not beta'd, so any and all mistakes are entirely mine.)

Feeback of any kind would be deeply appreciated.



and we’re already too late (if we arrive at all)


“You can’t change what’s already happened,” she tells him once, and doesn’t think he understands.

His nails are bitten ragged, a nervous habit she used to think he’d break as they grew up, and it makes his hands look startlingly childlike as he fidgets with his teacup.

“Perhaps not,” he says, and sounds fifteen again, “but I can still change what’s going to happen.”

“Harry,” she says, and reaches out to touch his hand but he pulls away, and he really doesn’t understand.

--


“Do you still have that Time-Turner, Hermione?”

She carefully lays her fork down, and wipes her hands on her napkin, and looks at Harry, and Ron stops mid-chew, and looks at her.

“Why?” she asks eventually, and there’s no kindness in her voice.

Harry shrugs, and takes a sip of wine, and doesn’t look at her.

“Why, Harry?” she asks again, anger creeping into the edges of his name. “Why would you ask me that? You know I turned it in to McGonagall.”

He shrugs again. “I just thought that maybe you could ask to have it back.”

“I could,” she says, and he meets her eyes for the first time in weeks, “but I won’t.”

Beside her, Ron starts chewing again.

“Harry, you mustn’t mess with time,” she says eventually, and her voice is soft and sad when she goes on, “I know how much you miss—“

“Do you?” he asks, and she flinches, and he presses his fingers to his closed eyes behind his glasses. “I’m sorry. Just, just forget I asked.”

“Alright,” she says, and picks up her fork, but she doesn’t.

--


“Don’t you think it’s time to move?” she asks, and traces patterns on the grainy tabletop.

“Move where?” he asks, and barely glances back at her as he fixes their tea.

She shrugs, and he doesn’t see it, and so she sighs and sits up straighter and looks out the smeared window into the overgrown backyard. It’s summer, and the sunlight is harsh and unforgiving.

“Forward,” she says when he sits down again, and she curls her frozen fingers around the scalding hot mug, ring clicking against the porcelain. “I think you should move forward.”

Her heels leave impressions in the dust, and when she’s outside she inhales heat and gasoline and sweat and life, and she wonders if one forgets how to breathe around the dead.

--


Her hair is red, red like the leaves tumbling from the trees, red like rust on an old motorbike, red like courage and cinnamon and home, and her eyes—

“Ginny.”

She doesn’t smile, and she takes the faded photograph from his hands, and he counts the freckles on her cheeks as his parents twirl and laugh in black and white.

“She was very beautiful,” she says, and sounds tired. “They look happy here.”

She kneels next to him, and pulls another picture out of the dusty box, and her skin smells like autumn.

“Is that Sirius?” she asks, and he nods, and his godfather grins at them from years away.

She looks at the pictures for a long time, and doesn’t say anything, and then she puts them back and rises.

“Clean yourself up,” she says, and her voice is clear and unforgiving, and there is dust on her bare knees. “Your best friends’ wedding is in three hours. I’ve left your suit in the kitchen.”

He hears her soft footfalls all the way down the stairs, and then the door slams, and he’s left with settling dust and ghosts and pictures of the dead. Outside it’s a beautiful spring morning, and the sunlight is pale and bright.

--


“Harry,” she says, and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Will you please just stop?”

“Why?” he asks, and sounds genuinely confused. “I don’t understand why you’re so bothered by this. Don’t you want them to come back?”

“Of course we do,” she says, and there’s steel flashing behind her pupils, and Harry looks at Ron.

“Look, mate,” Ron says, and looks at Hermione, and she just keeps looking at Harry. “I, we wish they were still alive just as much as you do, but…”

“But what?” Harry asks, and it is vicious.

“I dunno,” Ron shrugs, and glances at Hermione again, “but don’t you think it’s time to, you know, let them go and move on?”

“Move on to where?”

“It’s never been about the where, Harry,” she whispers, and cups her barely swelling stomach.

He looks at her like she’s mad, and she thinks that maybe she is, maybe they all are.

“I just,” Harry starts, and stops, and looks into his empty teacup before continuing, “I just need to bring them back. It’s not fair that they had to die.”

“No, it’s not,” she agrees, and finishes her tea, and gets up, “but dead’s dead. No one can defy death, Harry, not even you.”

“But I already have,” he says, indignant.

She stops with her coat half on, and Ron does the same, and looks at her again, and she opens her mouth a few times, and the words never come out because she can’t find them. Perhaps there are none.

--


“What’s all this?” Hermione asks, and her eyebrows draw together and down.

Ginny looks up, and looks at Harry, and slowly sets the empty dinner plates down.

Hermione looks up then, from Ginny to Harry, and asks, “What?”

“Do you mean,” Ginny says, and her voice is low and tightly controlled, “that you’re not working on this together? The three of you?”

“Working on what together?” Ron asks, and takes the sheaves of parchment from Hermione.

“The research? On the veil in the Department of Mysteries?” Ginny asks, and when neither Ron nor Hermione answer, turns on Harry.

“I can explain,” he says, and holds up his hands.

“You lied to me,” she says, and it’s entirely too calm.

“Ginny, please,” Harry says, and reaches for her, and she pushes him away.

“You lied to me,” she says again, and then she’s gone in a flash of autumn leaves and the slamming of the kitchen door.

“Harry,” Hermione starts, and then stops, because she doesn’t know what to say.

“Look,” Harry says, and there’s a defensive edge to his voice, jagged and raw. “I just need to bring him back. We don’t even know if he’s actually dead, for god’s sake!”

“Don’t you think that if Sirius were alive, someone would have found out by now?” she asks, and wills her voice to be soft. “Don’t you think Remus would have known? Don’t you think Dumbledore would have done everything—“

“Dumbledore never cared about Sirius!” Harry shouts at her, and Ron gets up with anger in his eyes, and she pushes him back down.

“Dumbledore lost loved ones too, and he tried to bring them back, and do you remember what it got him?” she asks, and tries not to scream.

“Maybe he just wasn’t good enough,” he says, and she remembers years and years ago when they were all still children, and had to grow up too fast. “He wasn’t the master of death!”

Ron’s head snaps up, and she freezes, and fear and fury prickle hot under her skin and bubble in her chest and burst out, finally and irrevocably.

“And when will you stop?” she asks, and grinds the words between her teeth and they settle like dust on her tongue. “When will it be enough? After Sirius? Or maybe after Remus, and Tonks, and Fred? And what about Mad-Eye? Hedwig? Dumbledore? Your parents? What about Snape?”

“What about Snape?” he asks, and there’s resentment in his voice, and his eyes are nothing like his mother’s.

She smiles at him then, and it’s a bitter and twisted thing, and it makes her look ugly in the perpetual gloom of Grimmauld Place.

“Precisely,” she whispers, and leaves, and Ron throws him an apologetic look and follows.

They’re not children anymore, and they never grew up, and perhaps that’s what war does to you.

--


“What do you know about dreams?” he asks her, and she makes two cups of tea, and glances around the corner into the living room, before she answers.

“A man named Freud had a great deal to say about dreams,” she says, and burns her mouth on too hot tea, and he idly turns a toy car over in his hands. “Why do you ask?”

He shrugs, and unnecessarily stirs his tea, and after a while says, “I’ve been having these dreams lately, except they don’t feel like dreams at all. They seem so real, you know?” he asks, and looks at her, and for a second she’s frightened.

“Harry,” she says, and has to clear her throat before she can go on, “Voldemort’s been gone for years. You don’t, you don’t think he could have found a way,” she gestures vaguely, and can’t say it.

“No,” he says, and it’s vehement, “this has nothing to do with Voldemort.”

She wants to apologize, and she doesn’t quite know what for, and so she doesn’t.

“What are those dreams about?” she asks, eventually.

He shrugs again, and doesn’t meet her eyes, and says, “They’re just flashes really, like memories.”

“Memories of what?” she asks, and doesn’t want to know the answer.

He sighs, and takes off his glasses, and presses his palms to his eyes before he says, “My parents.” He pauses then, and the rest comes out in a rush like he’s afraid to say it, or maybe desperate to, “Sirius, and Remus and Tonks, and the Weasleys, and—but they can’t be memories because they’re all so much older, and so much happier, and,” and he stops, and she waits for him to go on, and he doesn’t.

They sit in silence for a long time, and drink their cold tea, and it tastes like blood on her burnt tongue.

“You have a wonderful wife,” she says, and gets up to put their mugs in the sink, “and a beautiful baby boy, and a godson who needs you, friends who love you,” she smiles, and it’s not quite happy, and takes his hand.

“Then the least I can do is bring back their loved ones,” he says, and pulls his hand away.

Her face hardens then, and there’s nothing kind in the way she says, “You’re not doing this for them.”

--


“Harry, wait,” she says, and grabs his wrist, and there is fear in the set of her brows, and determination in the angle of her jaw.

He yanks his arm away from her, and hisses, “If you don’t want to help me, then go.”

“We’re here because we want to help you,” she spits at him, and Ron skids around the corner, and his breath comes in harsh pants.

“I Obliviated that security guard,” he says, and clutches a stitch in his side, “I don’t think there’s anyone else here, not at this time of night.”

Harry acknowledges this with a barely-there nod, and a beat too late says, “Thanks.”

The silence here is thicker somehow, and it weighs down on them with unspeakable words, and their distorted reflections in a door without handle or lock are unrecognisable even to themselves.

“Don’t do this, Harry,” Hermione says, and takes a deliberate step towards him, “You know you’re not supposed to do this.”

“And what am I supposed to do?” he asks from between clenched teeth, and his nostrils flare.

She shrugs, and doesn’t quite smile, and says, “Walk away.”

“And where would I go, Hermione? Can you tell me that?”

“How about home to your wife and child?” Ron asks, and anger threads through the words, and Hermione holds up a hand to stop him.

“Anywhere,” she says, “as long as you don’t go back, it doesn’t matter.”

“I have to go back,” he says, and looks too old and too young at the same time. “I owe him that. I owe that to all of them.”

“Some debts can’t be repaid,” she says, and wishes he already knew that.

“I have to try,” he says, and turns away, and as ever refuses to believe that some doors have no discernable way of opening because they were never meant to be.

She shares a look with Ron, and there’s panic now, and their frantic heartbeats echo in the darkness.

“Harry, if you do this,” she says, and remembers the last time they were here, and can’t finish the sentence. “Please, Harry,” she says, and grabs his upper arms, “listen to me. You can’t change what’s already happened,” she says, and he still doesn’t understand.

He pries her cold fingers from his arms, and holds her hands, and says, “You of all people should know that you can. You were there with me when we went back to rescue Buckbeak, and Sirius. If we could do it once, we can do it again.”

“Oh, Harry,” she says, and her eyes glitter in the dull gloom, and he lets go of her, and makes to turn away. “You can’t change what’s already happened,” she says again, and maybe he just doesn’t want to understand.

“Yes, I know that,” he yells at her, and it bounces off the walls, and disappears into the dark. “I know that,” he says, again and more quietly.

“I don’t think you do,” she says, and runs a hand through her tangled hair, “because the thing is, you’ve already not saved any of them.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks, and looks at her like he doesn’t know her at all.

“Buckbeak never died, Harry,” she says, slowly and quietly, “and Sirius was never kissed by the Dementors. We always went back to save them.”

“What—“ he starts, and then there’s the iron clang of the elevator doors and footsteps echoing across the cold floor. “I thought you said there was no one else here,” he hisses at Ron, and they scramble to hide.

“Harry,” Hermione grabs his hand, and her breath comes too fast, “we need to get out of here.” He nods, and they run, and they’re more afraid than ever before.

They’re on their own now, then, always, and there’s no one left to save them, and no one left to die for them except themselves.

--


“Why?” she asks him once, “Why do you want to bring them back so badly?”

“What kind of question is that?” he asks, and stops walking to look at her, and shoves his hands into his coat pockets, and the way the autumn sun hits his glasses prevents her from seeing his eyes.

“You should have worn gloves,” she says, and the wind whips her hair around her face. “I understand that you feel guilty, Harry. But why do you miss them so much? You hardly even knew any of them.”

His eyes flash at her then, and she offers him an apologetic smile, and knows he won’t accept it.

“They’re the only family I ever had,” he says, and it is harsh and angry, “and that I never got to know them wasn’t my choice.”

“Harry,” she says, softly and quietly, and she can almost see her breath fog in the damp air.

“But bringing them back,” he says, and fallen leaves dance around them, “that is my choice.”

“Harry,” she says again, and plucks a red leaf out of his hair, and it crumbles between her gloved fingertips, and he turns away.

--


She pulls a small hourglass, attached to a long chain, out from under her robes, and the winter moonlight renders everything in black and white.

“I went to McGonagall and asked to have it back,” she says, and tugs at the bits of her hair that got caught in the clasp, “she never even asked why I needed it.”

“Why?” he asks, and then clarifies, “Why did you do it?”

She shrugs, and rolls the hourglass between her palms, and the sand keeps on trickling, and he watches the glittering reflections in her eyes. She offers him the Time-Turner then, palm-up, and he grabs it, and her fingers close around his wrist, and he can feel time crushed between their palms.

“One more thing,” she says, and he twists his hand, and her fingernails cut into the back of his wrist, and they leave little crescent moons of barely broken skin behind. “Time isn’t linear.”

He says nothing, and doesn’t dare to move his hand, and shadows shift and change across her face, and outside the moon and the stars are too bright, reflected by snow and ice.

“We humans like to think of time as a straight line,” she’s saying, and doesn’t think he understands, “we are born, and we live, and then we die; past, present, future. But that’s not how it works. Time isn’t a line, Harry. It’s not two-dimensional.”

“Hermione,” he says, and doesn’t know how to go on, and her fingers tighten until he can feel the bones of her hand grind into his.

“Think of time as a globe,” she says, and he can see her pulse beating in her neck. “Right now, it’s tomorrow noon in Australia. Technically speaking, that’s the future. But going to Australia isn’t time-travel, is it?”

He doesn’t answer her, because he’s not sure she even wants him to, and he wouldn’t know what to say anyway.

“Past, present and future aren’t sections of one road, sections that you have to walk in precisely that order to reach the next,” she says, and her skin is smooth and flawless and painted in shades of grey, and she looks terribly old, “they’re different parts of the same planet, and they’re always there, all of them, all the time, and always moving.”

“What are you saying?” he asks, and the air around them feels thick and still, and she fancies she can hear their heartbeats, and they are completely out of synch.

“I’m saying that we always went back to save Sirius all those years ago,” she says, and he can’t look away from her eyes, “and that you never went back to save anyone else.”

“Of course not,” he says, and sounds younger than he ever was, “because I haven’t done it yet.”

“Oh, Harry,” she says, and sounds tired, “didn’t you listen at all? Sirius was never kissed by the Dementors, because we always went back to save him. And Sirius always fell through the veil, because we never went back. Your parents always died. Dumbledore, Snape, Remus, Tonks, Fred, all of them always died.”

“You’re not making any sense,” he hisses, and twists his hand in her grip, and it is relentless.

“If you go back to the day Sirius died,” she says, and her hair looks black, and her teeth flash pearly white, “you’ll already be too late. You can’t save him. You can’t save any of them. They always died.”

“Then I’ll go back to before,” he says, and the words catch in his throat, “I’ll go back to before Sirius ever went to Azkaban, before my parents died, before Wormtail betrayed them, I’ll,” he stops, and she sees the exact moment he realizes he can’t. And the moment he refuses to let that stop him.

“You can’t go back, Harry,” she says, and the Time-Turner cuts into their skin, and it hurts, “You can’t go back, because you’ll always be too late. No matter how far back you go, it will be too late, because it’s always already happened.”

“You’re saying this like we’re already dead, too,” he hisses, and his palm is slick against the hourglass, “like we already died and there’s nothing we can do.”

“Yes,” she says, and it isn’t unkind, “we already died, all of us, a long time ago. We died before we were even born.”

He shakes his head, and looks at her like he’s seeing her for the first time.

“You can’t go back,” she says again. “You can’t save them.”

“I have to,” he says, and tries to tug his hand out of her grip, and she doesn’t let him, and this isn’t breaking the rules and getting detention for it. “It’s not fair that they had to die, or grow up in war. They deserved better.”

“We all did,” she says, and the tendons in her forearm flex, and mudblood is still etched into her skin.

“I,” he says, and stops, and she just looks at him, and the hallway clock chimes midnight in a house that was never a home.

“Happy Christmas, Harry,” she says, and sounds sorry, and opens her hand like a strange flower.

--


“I love what you’ve done with the place,” she says, and sips her tea, and trails warm fingers over frosted glass.

Harry looks at her, and says nothing, and Ginny smiles, and slaps Ron’s hands away when he tries to steal cookies from her plate.

They’re in the living room, and it’s all torn wrapping paper and faerie lights, pine needles and cinnamon, roaring fire and playing children, and she can’t stop herself from saying, “Sirius would have loved this.”

“No, he wouldn’t have,” Harry says, and it is unkind and unforgiving. “He hated the place. It was just as much a prison as Azkaban. He was never happy here, or anywhere.”

Ginny’s jaw clenches, and she reaches out to take his hand anyway, and the smile he offers her deepens all the wrong lines on his face.

“That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy here,” Hermione says, and waits until he’s looking at her, “You owe them that.”

“Perhaps,” he says, and she wonders what he sees in the tealeaves stuck to the bottom of his cup. “I just wish they could be here now.”

“We all do,” she says, and glittering dust of burst glass and traces of sand grind into the soles of her shoes, “but you can’t change what’s already happened.”

“I know,” he says, and she almost thinks he does.

Date: 2011-09-10 07:49 pm (UTC)
snegurochka_lee: (Clemence - default)
From: [personal profile] snegurochka_lee
I really liked that! It seems perfectly IC for Harry to have these regrets, and I love that Hermione was such a voice of reason. My brain hurts just as much as Harry's re: time travel explanations, but Hermione's point there made me shiver. Awesome job!

Date: 2011-09-10 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wave-of-sorrow.livejournal.com
Thank you very much! I'm glad someone enjoyed this. :)

Date: 2011-09-15 09:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alley-skywalker.livejournal.com
This was a very fun read and very in character. Thank you.

Date: 2011-09-26 03:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wave-of-sorrow.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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