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Two Things Are Infinite

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Don't move to London. London is a land ripe with disappointment, where evil blooms and hopes come to die.

In fact, you should stay away from England. England is the giant boil festering on the face of the world and London is its throbbing white head. The world is a boy, just reaching manhood. Though his body has matured his face remains locked in pubescent purgatory. Dirt collects in the pores of his dry skin, marinating in pools of sweat and bile, until the pressure of the infection forces itself to the surface and explodes in the embarrassment and shame of adulterated youth.

If she could wipe London off the map, she would have. So intense was her disdain, so passionate was her hatred that it could have driven her over cliffs of insanity and mountains of madness. Were there some button, somewhere, which could release the most powerful of the muggle military arsenal onto the all too unsuspecting London, Hermione Jean Granger would have spent her life in desperate search of it. And, when located, would have, without hesitation, pressed her trembling thumb into the awaiting doom- ending London forever.

 Such a button did not - well, maybe- exist and as it were Hermione was trapped in London. At the Ministry. In a conference room with him and the face he apparently hadn't washed in a week.

 I cannot even deal with this right now, Hermione thought to herself, rubbing her hands over her dark face and through her absolutely mad chestnut curls. Is this even legal, subjecting witches and wizards to this sort of inane drivel? I am Hermione-bloody-Granger. The Brightest Witch of My Age. The brilliant vagina of the Golden Trio, single-handedly responsible for saving Parts I and II of said Golden Trio on numerous occasions. I helped bring down the bloody Dark Lord, why am I being punished in this unholy fashion?

 The Auror meeting had droned on for an inhumane two hours and forty-two minutes exactly. Hermione knew this because she had spent two hours and forty minutes doing nothing but staring at the small muggle clock -curious, that- hanging above the door of the conference room. The slow, methodical tick of the minute hand rattled through her ears and drove into her skull like an ice pick. But that ungodly sound was like the chirping of tiny baby birds compared to the voice she had spent nearly three hours pointedly ignoring. Or pointedly trying to ignore.

 At the front of the room, surrounded by rolls of enchanted parchment that hung magically in the air containing graphs, charts, and photographs, stood Ronald Bilius Weasley. With his crimson hair and sky colored eyes and pale skin and a light dusting of freckles across the nose that Hermione really should have broken two weeks ago when he had unceremoniously ended their engagement.

 Hermione often categorized her life into two very distinct columns: pre-Battle of Hogwarts and post-Battle of Hogwarts. Life had changed, life was different now. How could it not be? Being tortured at the hand of an insane bigot, having a slur carved into your arm, and watching the people you'd grown up with killed around you tends to change a person. Most days Hermione felt completely separated from the naive swot - too be fair, still a swot- she was pre-BoH. Once upon a time she had believed that deep within everyone there was goodness. Deep within everyone there was something to cherish and value, but being hunted down like an animal due to the accident of your birth tends to change a girl's perspective on many things, like the inherent goodness of others. She wasn't sure if she'd call what she'd fallen into after the war a depression, but it certainly wasn't relief. Muggle psychologists would have told her she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but she'd never gotten around to actually visiting one herself. Though Hermione had insisted Harry contact a muggle or squib doctor within weeks of Voldemort's death. Unlike The Ginger Twit, The Boy Who Lived Yet Again actually listened to and heeded Hermione's advice.

 The Ginger Twit thought Hermione was swotty. The Ginger Twit thought Hermione was bossy. The Ginger Twit thought Hermione was cold. The Ginger Twit didn't notice that in the four years since May 2nd, 1998 Hermione had gotten two - maybe three - actual nights of sleep and all of them had been brought on by Dreamless Draught.

 No one noticed.

 But Hermione did, Hermione noticed everything. She noticed how Ginny's hand instinctively curled into a fist whenever a stranger brushed against her. She noticed Harry compulsively checking wards around his office and Grimmauld Place and his muggle car. She noticed Ron's drinking. To be fair, everyone noticed Ron's drinking and for the first year of their relationship Hermione had had enough sympathy left in her system to tolerate it. Ron had lost a brother and who was she to judge his coping methods? They were all trying to cope. They were all a little self-destructive, it was just that Ron's self-destruction was at the surface with the rest of his emotions. So Hermione had brewed him his hangover potion, and she picked up the empty bottles of firewhiskey in the morning, and she kissed the top of his head when he cried and gently rubbed his back. Then Hermione would crawl into her own bed at her own flat and remind herself of every mistake she had made and of every life she had not saved. Like a mantra every night she would repeat the names of the dead. Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Lavender Brown, Cedric Diggory, Severus Snape, Colin Creevey, Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, and so many more.

 Across the table Auror Finnigan's boisterous laugh cut through Hermione's thoughts, forcing her mind back to the reality of the moment and, unfortunately, Ron's excessively long proposal. Without thought, she turned her amber orbs to Ron who had a smile on his lips, lips that up until recently been Hermione's to kiss. Now the thought of kissing him made her want to vomit all over herself.

 Fucking prat.

 He had dumped her. Hermione Granger had been dumped by Ron Weasley, and he had very conveniently done it after she had helped him write and edit the proposal he was now presenting in front of the Minister and the whole of the Auror Department. A proposal he had insisted would be for the betterment of magical creatures held in ministry custody by said department. For six months Hermione had used her already sleepless nights to read, compose, and revise the proposal Ron was certain would finally bring him that promotion he so desperately wanted.  Curiously enough, despite hours of researching, pouring over tomes of magical creature biology, physiology, sociology- all of the “ologies” -Ron had never seen fit to let Hermione in on the little secret of his grand thesis that would make all of this information relevant. At the time she'd merely rolled her eyes, but after he had ended their engagement, Hermione began wondering what types of secrets Ronald had been keeping from her and for how long. Despite the near constant urge to wring his pale neck, Hermione couldn't deny that she was more than a little curious as to the point of all this.

 A foot nudged Hermione's leg under the enlarged conference table, and her amber eyes shot a glare at her bespectacled best friend, perpetrator of said foot nudging, who raised his eyebrows and nodded towards Ron.

 "What do you think, 'Mione?" Hermione cringed at the nickname and turned back to Ron, only to realize she had just been asked a question.

 Crap. What do I think? I think you're a pile of worthless dog shite. Is that an appropriate response?

The well-oiled gears in Hermione's brain quickly flipped on while her eyes darted to the floating parchments, she brought a hand to her chin, as if contemplating the question she hadn't actually heard the Weasel voice.

 Oh, he's the Weasel, now? Well, if the fur fits.

 Her mind was quickly formulating a vague enough response to make it appear as if she'd been listening rather than contemplating the many and varied ways of removing a person's spine. Methodically, Hermione scanned the documents, inspecting each one with a logic that she knew her former fiance lacked until her brown eyes narrowed in delight. Apparently Ron had chosen to ignore a few of Hermione's revisions.

 A fatal mistake.

 "I think," Hermione began carefully, "that this has all been quite thorough, Ronald."

 Thanks to my efforts.

 The wizard's shoulders visibly sagged in relief, of all the Aurors in the room he'd obviously been expecting the most push-back from his former fiancee. Hermione could feel more than hear Harry breathe a sigh of relief next to her.   

 "However," Hermione almost smiled at the panicked look that shot across Ron's freckled face, but quickly schooled her features into a calm and thoughtful mask. "I couldn't help but notice your use of outdated research."

 Ron stiffened and opened his mouth to speak, but Hermione cut him off.

 "Could you explain in greater detail the assumptions you've made about the effectiveness of veritaserum as a tool of interrogation? I noticed that you're basing your claims on tests conducted illegally by the alchemist Jon Elegnem in 1941 on werewolves, tests that were proven incorrect thirty years later." Hermione sat up a little straighter in her chair and placed her hands neatly in front of her on the table. She had told him last month that veritaserum is not effective on veelas or werewolves, but he had obviously not seen fit to heed her advice.

 At least he fixed his numerous spelling mistakes and various misuse of homonyms.

The tips of Ron's ears turned almost the same obnoxious shade of red as his hair, and he visibly bristled. "Veritaserum is effective on veelas, werewolves, and other magical beasts under the right circumstances ."

 Hermione's eyes narrowed into dark slits, hair nearly sparkling as rage flooded her system, burning out her insides as she suddenly understood . This whole time, all her nights and research and work for him, he had intended to use to justify the use of torture.

 This was the brilliant idea he had insisted of saving for the "big reveal" because he knew Hermione wouldn't have bloody well helped him do a damn thing if she'd known what it was he was really proposing. Not the reformation of the treatment of magical creatures in Ministry custody, oh no, the fucking torture of them.

 "What circumstances are those?" Kingsley Shacklebolt's deep bass rang through the room before Hermione had time to leap over the conference table and throttle the ginger with her bare hands.

 "The Cruciatus," Hermione spat out, determined to say it before Ron. Hours of thankless assistance so that he could convince Shacklebolt and the Aurors to agree to the use of Cruciatus. It was making her sick.

Shacklebolt raised a cautious eyebrow and turned to Ron. The ginger Auror squared his shoulders.

 "The effects of the Cruciatus Curse lower the natural resistance werewolves have against veritaserum enough that they can't fight the compulsion to answer questions," Ron said evenly, apparently having practiced for this moment.

 "Are you being serious, Ronald? Is this some sort of joke?" Hermione's voice was made of ice and daggers. She had put so much trust in him. Since they were eleven she had had faith and trust and he had fucking ruined that trust. He had shite on that goddamned trust. He continued to shite on that trust.

 "This isn't a joke. I'm being dead serious."

 Oh, you're about to be dead. When I finish with you, you'll be bloody good and dead.

 "You-Know-Who fell four years ago and we have made no progress bringing in the werewolves and magical creatures that supported him. Greyback is dead, but his packs are still out there finishing the work he began. We're averaging two more infected witches and wizards a month, that has never happened before. We have to find out who is leading them and where they are," Ron's voice had risen, and he was now gesticulating passionately at the parchments. "We are almost there . We are so close to figuring out the werewolf who infected Padma, and once we do, once we have him, we have to do everything in our power to figure out who is behind this. We can't be nice anymore."

 Did we love him once? Hermione marveled in the silence that surrounded them at the man she’d once loved. When had he changed? Or is it me?

 "Be nice?” She breathed into the stillness of the conference room; all eyes turned to her. “ Be nice? You think we're being nice by not using Unforgivable Curses on possibly innocent citizens? Well fine, if that's what you want to call it then yes, Ronald, I suppose we're being nice, but that is what makes us different from them, that's what puts us in the right . If we resort to methods of-of torture and terror , then we are no better than Voldemort and his merry band of Death Eaters." Hermione had risen from her seat, her voice also rising to match the intensity Ron's had held moments ago.

 Harry, now standing, reached out a hand to steady Hermione's trembling shoulders.

"I think we all need to take a breather for a moment here," His voice was calm, but firm, and it sobered Hermione's turbulent mind almost instantly.

 Taking a deep breath, she realized now what a spectacle the two former lovers had been making of themselves.

 Get a fucking grip, Granger. You're letting him get you worked up. Hermione nodded at her black haired friend and was about to return to her seat when Ron decided he needed the last word.

 "The war hasn't actually ended yet, Hermione. Stop being so naive. Sometimes the ends have to justify the means."

 "Maybe," Hermione's voice suddenly dropped, low and cold, "if you had actually experienced a crucio you would understand with a little more clarity what exactly you're proposing."

 "For Merlin's sake you were tortured, we get it ." The words tumbled out of Ron’s large mouth like the sand through an hourglass as time runs out. The ginger looked suddenly, painfully sick, hand hover over his mouth as if it could have kept him from speaking. His pale face grew, somehow, even paler. His freckles standing out in stark contrast to his draining pigmentation.

 The room was motionless in the manner of a lioness before she charges her prey, overcome with an icy tension and strained patience. The only sound was a gasp.

 The warmth drained from Hermione's body, the hot rage from seconds before now replaced by a frigid numbness. Very distantly she could hear Ron apologizing and Harry yelling, but all Hermione was aware of were the walls surrounding her.

 Moving towards her.

 And the crazed laughter of a mad woman suddenly echoing through her mind.

 And without intent or purpose or thought, Hermione ran.  

Chapter Text

Hermione was running through the halls of the Ministry with a recklessness she rarely embraced, hair flung loose from its light encasement billowing like warning smoke behind her. Later, she'd be shocked that there were no tears pooling at the corners of her eyes, no sobs escaping from her mouth; in fact, she would be startled by how little she had felt beyond her booted feet slapping the tile. In a numbness that heralded a coming storm, she sprinted forward through hallways that were rapidly becoming exceptionally small. 

 With an expertise Hermione had spent the last four years honing, she battled down emotions that reared their deranged heads just barely in the back of her mind. The trigger was there in that conference room: the eyes of her co-workers staring at her with pity. Their whispered words of sympathy. She had to leave before anyone had a chance to feel sorry for her. 

 The witch barely noticed when her hip hooked a door as it opened, causing her to stumble before she quickly caught herself mid-fall with her Auror reflexes. Pushing through small crowds of Ministry workers milling about in the hallways, Hermione’s mind was, for once, extraordinarily blank. Distantly, she registered papers flying through the air as she shoulder checked a wizard carrying a hefty report in his arms, but she kept running.  

 At the end of the war, when Hermione had returned to Hogwarts to complete her studies and take her NEWTS, the anxiety had been near constant. It came on, not as a slow creep of the high tide overtaking the shore, no, it had been a torrent. A flood of biblical proportions. The quiet and calm of school life after a year on the run served only to intensify the disquiet raging inside her.

 The year the trio hunted for horcruxes, Hermione could not indulge in anxiety; her astute intellect had been occupied with survival. Worry and doubt are a luxury of normalcy. When the morning is not guaranteed, each night after you close your eyes you cannot waste time fretting about tomorrow. It's finally when the world has been righted and returned to sanity that the shadowy demons of woe and fear come crawling out of their trenches.

 Before the war, Hermione had had no trouble articulating and expressing herself. Back then, she had understood her emotions and allowed them to ebb and flow like the sea. Voldemort changed everything. 

 "Granger?" Suddenly a hand shot out and strong fingers wrapped around her left arm, impeding Hermione from continuing to shove her way down the hall. Her head whipped around, curls slapping against her cheek from the motion, to stare into silver eyes. "Where are you going?"

 A thousand responses spun through Hermione's head all at once, but they the sneering face of Draco Malfoy abruptly silenced them.

 Quite unexpectedly the world narrowed to the steady beat of her pounding heart.

 Thump.

 Her eyes grew wide.

 Thump.

 Her breathing slowed. 

 Thump.

 Then the world exploded in a flurry of physiological trauma.

 In a now inaccessible region of Hermione's brain, she logically knew she was not lying on the cold floor. She knew the ache in her back was psychosomatic, that the tremors in her limbs were just the ghosts of curses long faded, but adrenaline hit her system like a punch to the head all the same.

 In a series of actions no one watching would be able to accurately recall later, Hermione grabbed Malfoy's wrist with her right hand and twisted, eliciting a grunt of unexpected pain from the pure-blood, while she simultaneously slammed her left palm up and into his nose. It was quite a stretch for her shorter arm to make it up to his face, but Hermione had always been an overachiever. 

 "MOTHER OF CIRCE, WHAT THE FUCK!" Draco grabbed his bloody face, flinging himself away from Hermione and into a wall. "Why is it always my nose with you fucking people?! Have you lost your bloody mind ?!"

 Had she? Hermione wasn't giving herself the chance to stop and contemplate the possibility. 

 From behind her, someone called out "Petrificus Totalus!" and Hermione cast a silent protego while swiftly grabbing her wand from its holster around her thigh. 

 "STUPEFY!" She called out, sending the spell first to her assailant and then, twisting, she threw another at Malfoy.

 "Shit!" Harry called out as he jumped out of the way of her spell with mere millimeters to spare. "Hermione, stop! I cast the spell at Malfoy!"

 But she did not, could not, stop. The wizard before her and the ones quickly rushing up from behind him were not her friends and colleagues. They were phantoms in silver masks with howling voices. Hermione's amber eyes were large and dilated, and she was brandishing her wand like a woman possessed, waving hexes and curses with reckless abandon. 

 "Is she Imperiused?!" Ron yelled from behind Harry, deflecting a nasty stinging hex, a specialty of his former fiance.

 "I have no clue," Harry muttered, throwing a stupefy at his best friend before rolling out of the way of a hex. "Seamus, clear the hall!"

 "On it! EVERYBODY GET THE FECK IN YOUR OFFICES!" Seamus yelled. 

 "Oh, for Godric's sake," Harry rolled his eyes and continued throwing spells at the wild haired witch, his best friend. Harry, Ron, and Seamus had all taken off after Hermione, expecting to find her crying in her office not assaulting Malfoy in the hall. Though, Malfoy's bloody face stupefied on the floor did perk up their spirits a bit. 

 Without warning or incantation, a blast of cold air shot from Hermione's wand with enough force to send the three fully trained Aurors flying backward off their feet. 

 "Shite, that was new," Seamus groaned from the floor. 

 "She's running again!" Ron took off after Hermione before he was fully standing, stumbling the first few steps, but the witch was a dark flash of messy curls already too far in front of him. He turned back to his friends on the floor. "Damnit, get up!"

 Hermione's chest heaved mightily with the effort of breathing as her now exhausted body was propelled forward, more by inertia than by the effort of her muscles. White knuckles gripped her wand and she could feel sweat beading on her forehead, but she did not wipe it away. In front of her, voices were yelling and her instincts screamed at her to get out of the open. Making a sharp left, she threw open the first door she saw, quickly casting a locking and silencing spell. 

 The room was pitch black, and in the calm of the darkness, Hermione finally stopped moving. Leaning over, she placed her hands on her knees and tightly closed her eyes. She was shaking and though she tried desperately to be still her body would not comply. 

 Fuck. Fuck. fuck fuck fuck fuck 

 The witch collapsed to the floor and, after opening her eyes, started scrubbing her face with her hands as she took long and labored breaths. The last five minutes - it'd only taken five minutes?- wove themselves slowly through her thoughts, and Hermione choked back a shameful sob. The panic attack, flashback really, had come on so quickly; as soon as she'd looked up into those eyes, the eyes she had pleaded with on the floor of Malfoy Manor, she had lost the present.

 That should not have happened.

 She worked with Malfoy. He was their department's liaison to the finance division, and she had to see him at least twice a month, not including randomly bumping into him around the Ministry. They even had conversations when he wasn’t being a complete prat. The panic had been so abrupt, so undiluted.  She'd already been on edge thanks to Ron's thoughtless- shite.

 Ron and Harry and Seamus. Hermione had cursed them and hexed them. She'd even thrown the new ventus spell she'd been working on at them; she’d been keeping that one a surprise. 

 Well, it probably had been a surprise either way. 

 "Fucking hell, Granger," she whispered into the shadows and let her shoulders sag in defeat.  What was she going to do now? She wasn't quite sure she was ready to face her colleagues, the hot shame on her face was too fresh, but she'd caused such a scene . And possibly broken Malfoy's nose, an indiscretion she did regret.

 With a heavy sigh Hermione stood and reached for the doorknob in the dark, but her hand met with smooth stone instead. Can't even find the fucking door now, Granger?

 "Lumos," she whispered and held out her wand, but there was no door before her, in fact, there was no door at all. Her head swiveled back and forth, but all she could see were shadows stretching into a grey stone wall. Hermione reached out her hand to touch the wall again. It felt cool and smooth like polished concrete, with no cracks or grooves to suggest masonry. She bent her head back to look up at the wall as it continued to ascend without the interruption of a ceiling. In fact, the wall seemed to extend on forever in all directions except down, as there was clearly a floor. 

 What room is this? Hermione turned around and stretched her wand out, but to no avail. Though her wand's light cut powerfully through the darkness, there was nothing in the room to illuminate. Nothing. 

 The door had been there. Hermione had closed and locked it. Hadn't she?

 I am going crazy, I've completely lost it. Hermione ran a panicked hand through her hair and spun around to stare at the wall; it was a terribly imposing sight. It was giant and wretched and cold, and it made Hermione remember things she would have rather forgotten. 

 "I'm so sorry, Hermione," Ron had said, his blue eyes cast downward. "I'm done, I'm... I'm just done."

 "What do you mean you're done ?" she had demanded, her voice cut like rusty daggers through her throat. "We've been together for four years . We're engaged for Merlin's sake."

 "No, we're… we're not engaged anymore.” He hadn't even had the decency to look sad. 

 "Why? Why are you doing this? Why are you throwing this all away? We have a life together; we're building a life together," she had pleaded. 

 "We don't have a life together, 'Mione. We're living two very different lives, actually."

 "Is this because I didn't move in? Ron, I thought we were over this, I'm just waiting for my lease to be up at my flat. It's not because I don't want to-"

 "No, that's, uh, that's a symptom, Hermione, that's not the problem."

"A symptom, Ronald? A symptom? That's not a word I have ever heard you use, who have you been- actually, no, I don't care. Why don't you tell me what the problem is then if me not moving in is simply a symptom."

 "I... it's just... I can't...."

 "C'mon, let's have out with it."

 "It's you," he'd whispered, and her heart had stopped beating.

"Ha. Me? Well don't hold back, Weasley, tell me how you really fucking feel."

 "You don't talk to me! You haven't fucking talked to me in years!"

 "What are we doing right now? Is this some sort of hallucination, am I having an out of body experience?"

 "Not this type of talking, really talking. I have no clue what goes on in your head or how you feel or anything. You shut me out years ago. You have this- this wall around you, you built it, and I've tried, but I can't get through it."

 "Oh, so this is my fault? Fuck you."

"No, fuck you!"

 "Very mature, Ronald."

 "You're cold now, Hermione."

 Cold.  

 He couldn't even have cracked open a thesaurus and searched for a less plebeian word to use to end their engagement. The best Ronald Weasley could do was call her a cold. So uncreative. So common. If you're going to break the heart of your childhood best friend turned fiancee the least you could do for them was put some effort into your reasoning. 

 "Well, now there really is a wall separating us, hmm Ron?" Hermione laughed bitterly and stared at the wall. "Now what do I do?"

 But the wall chose not to respond.

 Hermione touched the wall again, this time searching for magic or spells she could feel, but it seemed to be just a normal wall. It felt mundane, ordinary. Hermione pushed on it a bit and when it didn't budge she tried a little harder, but was rewarded by absolutely nothing for her effort. It was apparently a real wall and not prone to movement. Trying a new approached she gingerly tapped the wall with her wand. Again nothing.

Specialis Revelio," she whispered, and without warning or fuss, Hermione Granger disappeared, leaving the wall concealed by darkness again.

Chapter Text

Before she learned the technique herself, Hermione had heard Apparating described as ‘feeling as though your insides are being forcibly pulled through your belly button.’ This knowledge had been more than a little bit daunting for the young witch, as she began her studies in the art of teleporting oneself through space, but Gryffindor courage had never been in short supply for the Brightest Witch of Her Age. Eventually she discovered Apparition to be no more uncomfortable than flying coach on a Muggle airplane and it took literally a fraction of the time.

This sensation, however, was very much different than Apparition.

It seemed as if someone was very meticulously and with great attention to detail, pulling Hermione's skin away from her muscles while, simultaneously, stirring up her brain with a sharp edged whisk. The pain was excruciating, but also somehow, bizarre; it was like no pain Hermione had ever experienced. She knew she was in agony, the sensation was dazzling in the most horrific sort of way, but she also felt removed from it, like she was remembering a vicious dream from the night before. In a strange, but welcome twist, Hermione was less aware of the pain ripping through her body and more conscious of the Nothingness around her. All things hadn't stopped, they had simply ceased to be. 

The room, the Ministry, the floor, the wall; all were Nothing.

And, for the most minuscule of eternities, Hermione joined the 

Nothing.

Consciousnesses came on like the slow trickle of a leaky faucet; one small droplet at a time. It began in the tiny movement of her fingers, instinctively clutching at her wand, and gradually moved through her limbs, snaking its way through her torso and up her neck. At first Hermione was aware of the slow rise and fall of her chest, the methodical beating of her heart, and then, the cold floor under her back. Beneath their lids, her eyes began to move rapidly, and briefly the witch wasn't sure if her eyes were closed or if she was surrounded by blackness. With a panicked gasp, Hermione shot up, amber eyes tearing open frantically.

But all remained dark.

“Lumos !" She whispered breathlessly and slumped with relief when light burst from the tip of her wand. Looking around, Hermione took in her surroundings.

She was obviously in a Ministry room, she'd know these beige - really, who ever thought this was a calming color ?- walls anywhere. The room was quiet and unassuming, there were miscellaneous desks and chairs stacked in one corner, and a fine layer of dust covering the floor. Hermione's eyes found the door and she quickly scrambled to get up, immediately regretting that choice as her stiff muscles refused to move properly.

Godric, how long was I on the floor? How the hell did I even get- ah fuck.

Remembrance dawned on Hermione with a haste that startled the witch to her feet, despite the ache in her muscles. The whole miserable sodding day came back to her with nauseating force and she groaned in embarrassment. An array of emotions washed across her dark features; anger at the realization of Ron's proposal, embarrassment that his thoughtless comment had brought on a panic attack, guilt that her loss of control had resulted in her assaulting her friends and Malfoy. The last thing Hermione remembered was running into an empty room, locking the door, and then suddenly she was waking up on the ground.

Fuck, did I pass out?

Hermione had never fainted from a flashback before, but she'd never attacked anyone during one either. She supposed the possibility existed, as clearly that's what happened, but the novelty of the experience concerned her. What was going on? This had been a whole day of unprecedented reactions and her friends had suffered for it. Hermione cringed, remembering she had cast hexes at Harry and Seamus; Ron she wasn't too concerned about - prat deserved it anyway - but Harry, Harry she felt true guilt over.

Meeting Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express when they were both eleven, as she helped Neville search for his lost toad, had not been a momentous occasion. No giant neon sign had begun flashing, there were no fireworks exploding above the black haired boy's head while spelling out the words "BEST FRIEND HERE." Actually, it hadn't been until third year, when Hermione had thrown herself in front of Harry, terrified that Sirius Black had come to kill him, that the witch had realized just how deep her devotion ran. Harry was more than a best friend, more than a brother; he was a part of Hermione's soul, and he had suffered such hurt in his life that it made her sick with shame that she had not recognized him during her flashback. No one had been there for her like Harry had.

The evening Ron had ended things with her, Hermione had not Floo'ed back to her own flat, instead she'd leapt into the fireplace and gone straight to 12 Grimmauld Place, falling into Harry and Ginny's arms. The couple was engaged, but not yet married, and Ginny had moved in earlier that year. The young Quidditch star had become a second, albeit distant second, to Harry in Hermione's affections. Her friends had sat her down at the table, made her tea, and listened to her cry. Ginny's face had turned the same deep auburn as her hair while Hermione had recounted Ron's words.

"My sodding brother, I'll hex his bollocks clean off ! I'll bat-bogey him from here straight to eternity!" The raging witch had yelled, waving her wand wildly. "Mom's going to kill him when she finds out."

Hermione had supposed she should have been grateful that the Weasley daughter had taken her side over Ron's, but at the time she really hadn't cared, she'd just wanted to drink tea and curl up into herself.

"Ginny, c'mon and sit back down, you can run off to hex Ron later." Hermione remembered Harry had almost chuckled at his fiancee's raving, but they both knew laughing at an enraged Weasley was never a wise move; despite how hilariously red they all turned.

They're probably so worried, I bet Harry went right to my flat looking for me. Gods, what time is it even?

Hermione looked down at the watch on her left wrist, a classy gold Muggle thing with a leather band her mother had given her last Christmas, and raised a curious eyebrow. The watch's hands were unmoving, all three stopped precisely on the seven, even the second hand was still. It must have run out of batteries, but at 7:35 exactly? That didn't make sense. The Auror meeting had begun promptly at 9:00am and gone until nearly noon, surely she couldn't have been laying in this room for over seven hours.

Steeling herself, Hermione opened the door and cautiously peered into the hallway.

Crapity crap crap.

The lights were off as far as the witch could see. They don't turn off the lights until well after 10:00pm, once everyone had gone home. Hermione must've been out for ten hours . The witch rubbed her forehead and groaned, a headache spreading just behind her eyes.

They must be so worried about me. Good job, Granger. Interrupt a meeting, hex your best friend, and then pass out in an abandoned Ministry room. Harry and Ginny must be worried sick and Crooks is probably pissed that he didn't get dinner.

She considered heading home, but she knew that was going to have to wait, she needed to go to Grimmauld Place and face Harry. Her best friend deserved to know she was okay and that she was sorry for causing such a scene. She was probably going to have to explain her new ventus spell too, which would raise further questions, and then she'd have to explain all the charms she'd been working on by herself. Bollocks.

With heavy feet Hermione headed down the dark hall to the Floos, wand illuminating the way. The Ministry was completely still and it sent a chill down Hermione's spine; the last time she'd seen this place so deserted was when they'd broken in fifth year, thinking Sirius was being tortured. Since that night, when she had been cursed by Dolohov in the Time-Chamber, the curly haired witch had made it a point to avoid the Ministry after hours. She hated being reminded of the night Sirius had died and taken their innocence with him.

She would never forget the look of wretched pain that had marred Harry's face as he watched his godfather fall away from him. Hermione shook her head in an attempt to dispel the memory.

Well, today has just been a bundle of bloody joy then, hasn't it?

When finally Hermione arrived at the Auror Department's Floo she hesitated before it, biting the inside of her cheek. A strange feeling tugged at the back of her neck. Did it seem different? The brick around the fireplace was the same faded red, the mantle above the mouth of the Floo still held the same assorted knickknacks that Department Head Savage seemed to find so endearing. No, everything was the same, the dim light was just morphing the shadows of the place into something unfamiliar.

Pull it together, Granger, you're dawdling. Steel yourself.

With a shaky hand, Hermione grabbed some powder from the bag hanging on a peg by the mantle and with a sigh, threw the powder into the Floo. She stepped into the green flames, whispering "Grimmauld Place" before she disappeared.

The brief trip was more disconcerting than usual, probably because Hermione's body was still a bit off after her ten hour nap on the Ministry floor. She stepped through the fireplace at Grimmauld Place coughing and moaning as her headache intensified.

"Harry!" Hermione called out, waving her hand in front of her face to shoo away the last vestiges of the Floo powder from the air. "Ginny!"

When no one came running, Hermione cocked her head listening. Silence. The house was empty.

I hope they're not out looking for me. Gods, this can't be happening.

"Harry! Gin!?" Hermione kept calling out, walking from the parlor into the front hallway. Guilt was rising in her stomach, threatening to work its way through her throat as acidic vomit. "HAAAAAARRY!"

The silence continued. Obviously no one was home. Her friends often joked that Hermione had learned her shrill yell from Molly Weasley herself and could be heard throughout England and, perhaps, even Ireland. If anyone had been home, they would have heard her.

Realizing she was still holding her wand, Hermione returned it to the holster around her thigh and sighed. Her friends, if they were searching for her, could be anywhere in London or beyond; her best bet was just to await their return. Briefly she considered sending a patronus, but she honestly felt so knackered she didn’t think she had it in her at the moment to cast something so powerful. Plus, she needed some time to formulate exactly how she was going to apologize. 

Making her way to the kitchen, Hermione determined to start a pot of tea; Earl Grey always seemed to ease her troubled heart. She opened the cupboard Harry kept his tea in, but was surprised to find it filled with plates instead.

Odd, he must've re-organized.

No, that wasn't like Harry, that man never changed anything. He still owned the same round glasses that he'd been wearing since the day Hermione had first met him. Maybe Ginny had moved things around? After opening a few more cupboards and coming up tea-less Hermione finally accio'd the tea and was surprised to see it fly out of a cupboard on the other side of the kitchen.

With a shrug, the witch waved her wand and started the kettle on the stove heating. She had to accio the tea cups as well and determined that once everyone was done scolding her for making them worry, she'd have a talk with Ginny about the proper way to organize a kitchen.

Soon Hermione found herself seated at the kitchen table, sighing with pleasure as the first sips of tea slipped past her lips. For the first time all day, she could feel the knots of tension in her shoulders untie themselves and the iron vice that had been wrapped around her stomach loosen. Hermione had just begun her second cup when she heard the Floo flame to life and hushed voices in the next room. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, Hermione rose from her chair.

"Harry, Ginny!" She began, rushing into the other room. "Gods, I'm so-"

But the brown haired witch stopped dead in her tracks as she stepped into the parlor and found herself staring into, not the emerald or chocolate eyes she had expected, but instead, wide grey orbs. Her breath hitched in her throat and her heart slammed against her rib cage, attempting to escape from her chest.

Hermione brought a dark hand to her mouth with a silent gasp and then whispered, taking a step toward the black haired man before her.

"S-Sirius?"

"Petrificus Totalus!"

Shite.

Chapter Text

Shite. Was the only word Hermione Granger, brilliant swot of the Golden Trio, could summon to her brain. The body bind currently immobilizing her was unnecessary, as soon as the hazel eyed Harry look-a-like had come bursting through the Floo she had been too shocked to think, let alone move. 

 That could not be James Potter. It simply could not. And that, that man, pointing his wand at Hermione, with grey eyes and black hair, could not be Sirius Black. Oh, no. This was a hallucination. She had accidentally drank a bottle of... of something! Surely there was an illicit potion involved in this. Or hell, maybe a Muggle drug. She had been poisoned. She had been drugged. Had she hit her head?

 After petrifying her, the Sirius Black hallucination had sent out his patronus, and Hermione could not believe she hadn't just passed right out when she'd seen Harry's father walk through the Floo. 

 "I came as quick as I- Sirius! What the hell?!" The James Potter hallucination yelled, gesturing to where Hermione lay frozen on the floor. "Who is that? You can't just invite birds back to your house and-and then charm them! Well, I mean, I guess you can charm them but you can't charm them! And by the way, this does not count as a bloody emergency. You can't just-"

 "What the- what are you talking about?" The Sirius Black hallucination cut him off. "I did not invite anyone to this house or to any house! Bird or otherwise. She was just here! She came running out of the kitchen yelling like a banshee-" I was most certainly not yelling like a goddamn banshee- " and scared me right out of my knickers."

 "I notice your knickers appear to still be on." The James hallucination seemed unconvinced. 

 "Well obviously I slipped back into them so as not to frighten you."

 If this is a hallucination, I mean, obviously it is, I can at least stop to give myself some props, because I am apparently fan-fucking-tastic at hallucinating details. Hermione thought to herself as she observed the way hallucination James cocked his eyebrow in the exact same manner she'd seen Harry do countless times. 

 "Use your brain, Potter. No one simply Floos into the dwelling of the Noble House of Black if I don't know who the fuck they are," the Sirius hallucination hissed and then turned back to Hermione, his grey eyes narrow. "Those are ancient and arcane wards, I barely understand how they work, you can't just pass through them if a family member hasn't given you authorization."

 The James hallucination looked between the Sirius hallucination and Hermione.

 "You're sure you didn't pick her up at a bar and forget?"

 "For Godric's sake, man! Get Moony before I hex your face off and leave your gorgeous wife a widow! I need to talk to someone who has a brain," the Sirius hallucination yelled, turning red in the face. "I should've sent for him first, but I mistakenly thought of your name in my panicked state."

 The James hallucination rolled his eyes, but with a flick of his wand, sent a bright blue stag patronus out into the night. 

 While this transpired before her, Hermione remained on the floor- can't I just be done with laying on the floor for one day?- observing the scene and slowly, but most certainly, going mad. She wanted to laugh or cry, either one, as long as she could express the intense feeling of utter insanity that was rapidly eclipsing all her other thoughts. Maybe she'd actually died at some point, maybe she was still asleep on the Ministry floor. If she wasn't petrified she would've pinched herself until she was covered in bruises to be certain. 

 The Floo roared to life again in a fit of green flames and a very young, very much alive, Remus Lupin stepped out of it. Now Hermione was truly shocked she had not fainted. 

 Can a body bind immobilize the urge to faint? Hmm, something to test later. Unless I have gone completely mad, in which case, I suppose I wont have to worry about shite like that anymore. 

 "I came as soon as- what the fuck! Why is there a woman on the floor?" The Remus hallucination turned to Sirius. "What did you do, mate?"

 "What did I- what makes the two of you so convinced that this is my fault?" The Sirius hallucination waved his arms in exasperated gesticulations. "I come home, after a long night on duty, to a crazy witch in my house. She could be anyone! She could be a Death Eater or a St. Mungo's escapee! Should could've avada'd me! And you two, my best mates, all you two can think is that obviously I have done something wrong. This is bloody unbelievable."

 "Whoa there, Pads," the Remus hallucination brought up his hands in a placating motion. "Let's just all calm down. You say you came home and this witch was already here?"

 "Yes, I have been saying that this whole bloody time ."

 The Remus hallucination turned his mossy green gaze to Hermione, his lips drawing into a thin line, and took a cautious step towards her. 

 "But then how did she get passed the wards?" He asked, raking a hand through his shaggy brown hair.

 "Exactly!" 

 With ease, the Remus hallucination dropped down into a squat next to Hermione, and examined her more closely. He moved her Auror robes to the side and gasped. 

 "Fuck,” he turned to the two other Marauders in the room. "Did you take a look at her yet?"

 "Well, I mean- I didn't- what are you implying, Moony?" The Sirius hallucination folded his arms across his chest.

 "For Merlin's sake, get you head out of your arse," the Remus hallucination rolled his eyes. "No one is accusing you of anything lewd-"

 "Right now," the James hallucination cut in and Sirius shot him a nasty glare. 

 "What I mean is, did either of you take a look at her robes?"

 James and Sirius looked at each other, and then back at their friend, shaking their heads in tandem. 

 "I didn't know you were so interested in witch fashion, Lupin," James chortled. 

 "I can't believe I'm friends with the two of you," Remus squeezed the bridge of his nose and sighed before grabbing Hermione's robe and turning it towards them. "Take a look at this."

 James and Sirius took a step closer, their eyes growing wide. 

 "That's a fucking Auror badge !" Sirius proclaimed, pointing his index finger at Hermione's badge; it was sewn into the left side of her official maroon robes, just above her heart. She'd honestly forgotten she'd been wearing them, this incredibly long and ludicrous day had stolen most of the sense right out of her. 

 "She's an Auror? Fuck! " James scrubbed his face with his left hand and Hermione caught sight of a gold ring. "How did you not recognize her, Pads?"

 "She must have stolen them or something. I've never seen her before," Sirius said confidently. 

 "So, either we're dealing with a witch capable of incapacitating a fully trained Auror and stealing their robes or we're dealing with an actual Auror who the esteemed Sirius Black does not recognize," James said, looking at Hermione with a new found weariness.

 "Y'know, there's really only one way to know for certain." Remus stood up and Hermione realized he absolutely towered over his two friends. 

 "Call a legilimens?" Sirius asked. 

 "We're going to have to un-petrify her."

 "See, the problem with that is if she is an Auror, despite this being my house and all, Kingsley is going to have my head for petrifying her."

 "Sirius."

 "Fiiiine. But I'm tying her up."

 "Fair enough."

 Sirius waved his wand and muttered "Incarcerous"; immediately Hermione could feel the tight pressure of bindings around her wrists and ankles and, despite everything, she realized she was actually annoyed that her hallucinations were not following proper Auror protocol. Maybe that was part of the realism of it, she couldn't imagine that Sirius Black, despite once being an Auror himself, had ever been much of a rule follower. With another flick of his wrist and a quiet " Relashio" Hermione's body slumped with release. 

 For what must have been two full minutes no one in the room moved or barely even breathed.

 Hermione was thinking, oh gods she was thinking. She was thinking about every decision in her life that had led her down this path of complete hysteria. Was it Ron breaking up with her that had finally sent her over the edge or was it something else? Something small and unassuming, like that final proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. A tiny indiscretion that no one would remember later when they came to visit her in the Janus Thickey Ward at St. Mungo's, as her closest friends sniffled into little white handkerchiefs and lamented the fate of their poor, brilliant friend. Her mind had been her greatest asset, to lose it in this way was a true tragedy, they'd say between sobs. 

 If I'm going to sit here trapped in a delusion for the rest of my life, I'm sure as hell not going to do it thirsty.

 Hermione shifted her weight and sat up slowly. The three wizards in the room tensed, Sirius and James reached for their wands, but Remus simply eyed the witch before him cautiously. Her hands were bound behind her back, so the trained Auror carefully twisted herself and pulled her arms, tied at the wrist, under her bottom and then pushed her legs through the circle of her arms as gracefully as possible. So, not gracefully at all. She grunted a few times, maneuvering herself to a sitting position with her legs and arms now bound in front of her. The Marauders stared at her, openly gaping, but Hermione refused to be embarrassed by a few wizards who were just figments of her imagination anyway.  

 "Well," she said clearing her throat purposefully. "If you're going to keep me on the floor like this, then I must insist one of you fetch my tea for me from the table. It would be such a waste to let it get cold." 

 James again raised his eyebrow in the most Harry like way, his lips twitching at the corners. 

 "Now listen here, witch," Sirius barked.

 "No need to be rude, Mister Black," Hermione drawled smugly. If there was one thing Hermione Granger knew how to be, it was holier than thou. James burst out laughing and moved towards the kitchen.

 "Where are you going, Prongs?" Sirius demanded almost petulantly.

 "I think the lady deserves her cuppa for putting you in your place," James chuckled before disappearing into the kitchen and reappearing with Hermione's tea in his hand. He carefully placed it close enough to the witch where she could grab it, but not close enough where she could've reached for him.

 "I think you're all missing the severity of this situation," Sirius muttered.

 "I find it hard to believe a Death Eater or really, anyone of nefarious intent, broke into your house and made a cup of tea with the intent to harm you," Remus pointed out, but didn't take his green eyes off of Hermione. 

 "We don't know what kind of barmy bint"- excuse me, arsehole?-" this witch is," Sirius growled. 

 "And you continue your tirade of rudeness," Hermione said haughtily, struggling to keep the agitation from her voice. Really, there was absolutely no call for that sort of language. Maybe she could hallucinate him to be kinder? "If I'd known this- being petrified and then accosted with your foul language- was the welcome I was going to receive, I never would have come to visit the Noble House of Black."

 James clapped his hands together and grinned widely. "Death Eater or no, I think she's a bloody gift from the gods."

 Sirius shot another of the nastiest glares Hermione had ever witnessed at his best mate. 

 "Why exactly have you come to visit the House of Black, Miss..." Lupin began, hesitantly waiting for Hermione to supply her name.

 Hermione thought, for a moment, to make up a name or borrow one. If this was , by some outrageous twist of fate, not a hallucination, if Hermione had in fact found herself in the company of three actual Marauders, she wondered at the wisdom of sharing her true name with them.

 And then she thought, Fuck it. 

 "Granger. Hermione Granger," she responded between demure sips of tea.

 "Okay, Miss Granger," Lupin repeated slowly, obviously rolling the name over to see if he recognized it. "Why are you here, at 12 Grimmauld Place?"

 "I was looking for someone."

 "Not Sirius?" Lupin asked.

 "Obviously not,” Hermione guffawed, “or I wouldn't have been greeted in such an outrageous fashion. Or at least, I hope I wouldn't have been greeted in such an outrageous fashion."

 "Well honestly, it's hard to say either way," James chortled and Sirius threw his hands up in disgust. 

 "Next time I'm not sending for either of you arses," he barked coolly. 

 "The person I was looking for are not here,” Hermione cut in, “I seem to have arrived at the wrong house. So if you could untie me I'll be on my merry way." Worth a shot. 

 "I'm not so sure, Miss Granger," Lupin drawled with just the slightest touch of amusement in his voice. 

 Fuck.

 "It does seem fairly clear that you weren't here looking to attack our good friend Sirius, but that doesn't explain how you got passed the Black wards. Or how you seem to know, even though you claim to have come to the wrong house, that this is the Black family home.”

 "Or how you knew where my tea was," Sirius said suspiciously.

 "Actually, I didn't know where the tea was, I had to accio it."

 "Aha! So you're here to steal my tea!" 

 "I really hope you recognize the lunacy of that statement," Hermione said slowly, cocking her eyebrow. I've lost my fucking mind. 

 "Merlin's sake, Pads, as much as I would love to stand here and listen to your sad attempts at getting this witch to confess to anything, I've got a wife and toddler at home I'd really like to see," James rolled his eyes and turned back to the Floo.

 Wait, a-a toddler?

 "I'm sorry to trouble you like this, gentlemen, and I know this is going to sound odd, but if you could just humor me," Hermione began slowly, biting her bottom lip. "What year is it exactly?"

 The three wizards exchanged looks that Hermione decided she wouldn't try to translate. Finally it was Remus who spoke.

 "1982, Miss Granger, it's 1982."

This time Hermione did pass out.

Chapter Text

Hermione came to on the hardwood floor of 12 Grimmauld Place, gagging and retching, as her nasal passages were accosted by the most horrific scent she had ever had the misfortune to encounter in all her twenty-three years; rivaled only by, perhaps, Ron's Quidditch gear. The Ginger Twit used to leave his duffle bag open to “air out” at Hermione's flat every Wednesday after practice. That stench had been unbearable, but this putrid horror was like a thousand rotting tomatoes left inside a dead horse.

 "Where did you find an old stink bomb, Pads?" Hermione heard a deep voice inquire as she continued to cough uncontrollably. 

 "Find? Please, I keep a stash in my Hogwarts trunk. Never know when you might have use for one," another voice, not quite as deep, but still undeniably masculine, chuckled.

 Will this day never end? Hermione rubbed her dark hands over her face and eyes. The act was made difficult by the ropes still secured around her wrists, only serving to deepen her frustration.

 "Did the trick, though, didn't it? She's conscious again." James was besides Hermione on the floor, patting her back with a sturdy hand. "There you go, just cough it out, Miss. We've all been on the receiving end of one of those hellish things before."

 "Wh-ack ugh- what the hell is wrong with you three?" Hermione was finally able to hack out between coughs. Her nose was runny, her eyes watery, she knew she must've looked a right mess, and she was absolutely out of patience. Shite was about to get ugly. "Untie me this instant."

 "That'd be a strong no," Sirius remarked from above her. 

 "Listen, you need to let me go ." Hermione Granger was a reasonable witch, she had developed the ability to conjure stunning patience and composure under intense frustration during her years at Hogwarts, nagging at Harry and Ron to complete their homework, but all witches had their limits.

 "Oh?" Sirius raised a dark eyebrow. Gods, he looks so young. Could it really be 1982?

 No, there was no way it could be 1982. Though, if it were, that would explain everything that was going on save for the tiny detail of how in the bloody hell Hermione had gotten here. The witch was no stranger to time travel, having used a time-turner herself third year to attend classes, but this was madness . Time-turners go back hours, not decades , and she was fairly certain she would have remembered using a time-turner. Based on what Hermione could recall from research, as well as personal experience, there were no time-turner side effects that altered or disrupted one's memories. Not only that, but Hermione was present in the Time Chamber when the remaining time-turners had been destroyed, she'd witnessed it with her amber eyes right before Dolohov had cursed her. 

 Not to mention this was wrong. James and Lily Potter died on October 31st, 1981. 

 Either she had gone insane or- no, no she'd gone insane. The simplest answer is always the correct answer. 

 Almost always. 

 "Unless, I suppose, you plan on keeping me trapped here," Hermione challenged, meeting Sirius's gaze levelly.

 "She has a point, mate, you can't keep her like this," James agreed; the wizard was turning out to be quite helpful.

 Good job, Granger, at least you were able to hallucinate a little support. 

 Sirius grabbed his best mate's arm, roughly pulling him from the floor, and spun him away from Hermione. The two began speaking in rough, hushed tones. Remus, still standing, turned his eyes towards his friends, using his heightened hearing to listen in while still remaining close to their prisoner. 

 Noticing immediately that her captors had shifted their focus, Hermione looked down at the conjured ropes restraining her arms and legs without moving her head, so as not to draw attention back to herself. Methodically and swiftly, the witch went through the extensive catalogue of spells she meticulously maintained in the forefront of her mind. She hadn't tested many- or any- of those spells, charms, or curses out while confined in this way, the need had never arisen. Come to think, however, it would probably be a good practice for the Department to institute; forcing Aurors to learn to cast spells while bound or restrained. 

 Oh good, Granger, give Kinglsey and Savage a report of all your new ideas as soon as you figure out how to escape your own lunacy.

 And then it struck her.

 If this was all in her mind, then she wasn't really tied up to begin with. If this was all in her mind, then why should a mundane detail like what she had and had not tested stop her? If practitioners of lucid dreaming could manipulate their dreams, then surely the Brightest Witch of Her Age could exploit and alter her own hallucinations. 

 Surely. 

 The notion was so simple, so unbelievably straightforward, that Hermione almost started giggling. 

 Sure, why the fuck not?

 Hermione narrowed her eyes and flicked her fingers.

 Diffindo.

 A bright, pink light exploded from her hands and slashed through her bindings. The curse was less controlled and sliced into Hermione's left calf muscle, but the witch hardly notice, she was already on her feet, wand in hand.

 "Holy-"

 "Petrificus Totalus Omnes!" Hermione called out, waving her wand. She couldn't help but beam with absolute delight when all three wizard fell to the floor, frozen. Adding 'omnes' at the end had been a split second decision; she'd been experimenting with the notion of manipulating spells to affect more than one person at a time, but had not yet perfected it. Her wild hair was practically crackling with power, what other spells could she do?

 Hallucination or not, a girl could get used to this. 

 "Now, I'm sorry to have had to do that to you, gentlemen, I truly am," Hermione stepped towards the Marauders, keeping her wand extended before her. "However, I've spent a great deal of time incapacitated today and, as you can imagine, I am ready for that experience to be over."

 The petrified wizards didn't move, but Hermione could nearly feel the rage rolling off Sirius. Remus, she thought, almost looked impressed, despite his motionless features. 

 "Here's the thing, I can't very well leave the three of you here like this, and even if I could, I don't particularly want to,” she began reasonably, “so I'll offer you a trade. I will un-bind you if you will take me to Albus Dumbledore. Let's not waste time with the 'how do we know your intentions are good, Miss Granger' and I'll let you know right now, that it wouldn't matter if my intentions were good or bad, Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard of this century, there's nothing I could do to harm him," Hermione paused, biting the inside of her cheek, "I'll let you consider it for a moment."

 Carefully, Hermione walked around the three wizards and collected their wands; she had to tug on Sirius's a few times to wrench it from his frozen grip. 

 "Next time you're in the field, Sirius, I hope you remember that once apprehended, it is standard Auror protocol to confiscate the wands of any detainee," Hermione stated primly.

 Not that it really matters, you're a figment of my imagination anyway. Gods, Granger, you have lost it. 

 "I hope that was time enough for you to contemplate all your options, of which there are two. Help me or remain petrified on the floor until someone comes looking for you. Now," Hermione straightened her spine, "I'm going to free James first, as he seems to be the most reasonable of the three of you, plus he did bring me my tea. James, my wand is already out and as you can see, I'm quite capable with it, so let's just all remain calm."

 Hermione lifted her arm and then hesitated.

 "Just so you know, I-I don't plan on hurting any of you, alright?" She waved her wand and Jame's rigid body relaxed with an audible plop as his limbs hit the floor, but the wizard himself didn't move. 

 "J-James?" Hermione whispered, tentatively leaning towards him. Jame's pale face was scrunched, dark brows drawn together, and hazel eyes fixated on the ceiling. Slowly, he sat up, pulling his legs to his chest, he hooked his arms around his knees and moved his gaze to Hermione, cocking his head to the side. Hermione had to resist the urge to fidget before that face that looked so much like her best friend's. "Do we have a deal?"

 "It doesn't seem we have much of choice , Miss Granger," Jame's voice was calm, but Hermione could hear the hardness beneath it. 

 Honestly, Granger, you shouldn't feel bad you petrified a hallucination. But what if he's not a hallucination? Then you just petrified Harry's beloved father, way to go. 

 "Okay, yes, good." Hermione allowed herself a small smile and then waved her wand at Remus, who immediately jumped to his feet; Hermione tightened her grip on her wand, but the werewolf didn't move any closer. Instead, he narrowed his eyes at the curly haired witch, who gave him what she hoped was a pleading look. 

 "Listen, I know these were not the most optimum of conditions for us to become acquainted, but if you can just get me to Hogwarts, I'll be out of your hair," Hermione petitioned the two wizards. 

 "Hogwarts?" Remus asked, looking at James, who shrugged, and then back to Hermione. "I thought you said you wanted to see Albus Dumbledore ."

 "Yes, I want to see Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts," Hermione answered impatiently. Were they trying to stall?

 "Miss Granger," Remus said very slowly, as if speaking to a child.  "Minerva McGonagall is the Head mistress of Hogwarts." 

 "Wha-I don't... I'm sorry?" Hermione finally asked, her heart had begun to beat rapidly. "Then-then where is Dumbledore?"

 Remus and James were looking at Hermione like she'd just sprouted antlers and was running around in the nip, yelling "Long live the Queen!" 

 "At his home, I'd think," Remus remarked. "He is, after all, the Minister of Magic."

 Well this is an interesting turn of events. 

 "If that's the case, then I suppose I should have intro'd with a different question," Hermione pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, considering what this meant for her. " Can you take me to Albus Dumbledore?"

 "If it means getting my wand back, I'll take you to anyone you want," Remus' voice was cold. "But I'll be honest, your best bet of getting to the Minister is currently the only one of us still petrified on the floor."

 "How do you mean?" Hermione asked.

 "Well you see, James and I here don't work, the only one of us employed is Sirius, and not only that, he's employed for the Ministry. One of their top Aurors, y'see, though I know it's hard to tell based on the brief experiences you've had with him this evening. If anyone was going to be able to arrange a meeting between you and Dumbledore, it'd be him. Plus, as the last heir to the House of Black, he also has their seat on the Wizengamot."

 Hermione gulped. Everything was turning out to be so bloody complicated.

 "Y'know, for an intruder in an Auror robe, you seem woefully disconnected with the goings on of Wizarding Britain," James remarked from the floor. 

 "Do I? Yes well, it's be been a very long day, you see. Feels like decades even," Hermione muttered, turning her attention to where Sirius lay frozen on the floor. She was really not looking forward to his reaction to all this. He had thus far been an utter prat.

 You did break into his house. Oh do shut up.

 "Listen, I'd like to give you two your wands back."

 Remus and James snapped to attention.

 "BUT I need some sort of promise that you won't turn around and hex me. I'd really prefer to not be hexed at this point," she eyed the two wizards, who were exchanging weary looks, and then sighed. Bollocks. "I can't trust the two of you not to do something, then?"

 "Well..." Remus began slowly, to Hermione's surprise he seemed to be the elected speaker of the group. That was, of course, contingent on Sirius being petrified. "I think the lack of trust issue is a bit... mutual, don't you? I'm not sure I can say Sirius overreacted, if you were just waiting in his house for him to get home."

 "I most definitely was not waiting for Sirius Black," Hermione all but huffed.

 "See, that makes this," Remus waved his hand through the air, "all the more strange." 

 Hermione was not a witch who liked to show her hand, in the words of the esteemed Kenny Rogers (her father's favorite American singer), you've got to know when to hold 'em, but unfortunately, this didn't seem like a situation Hermione could walk nor run from. You never count your money...

 Focus, Granger. Fuck, what is going on in your head today?

 Hermione looked hard at Remus and James, shifting her weight between her feet as she considered her options. If this was all in her imagination, what did it matter anyway?

 "You have to trust me, because I know how to bring down the Dark Lord," Hermione spoke slowly, rolling every word off her tongue with precision so the two men before her wouldn't miss even a single syllable. She watched as the color drained from both their faces in horror, but not, she decided, in belief.

 Remus opened his mouth to speak again, but Hermione cut him off.

 "Tell me, how is the Order these days?"

 Remus snapped his mouth closed, green eyes wide.

 At least now I know the Order exists in this timeline- I mean, hallucination. 

 "What order would that be? Did you call in some take-away?" The half-blood asked. 

 "You're hilarious, Lupin," Hermione almost rolled her eyes, she really didn't have time for this. "I have valuable information for Dumbledore and the Order, please, you have to trust me."

 "And why is that, Miss Granger?"

 "Because I... I.." - fuck- " because I know you're a werewolf."

 Remus looked at if his grandmother had just risen from the grave and told him he was actually born an eight-legged horse. 

 "H-how would you know that?" Remus whispered, taking a step back.

 "I know many things" - it's kinda what I'm good at- " and, please, you have to take me to Dumbledore."






Chapter Text

The silence was all consuming.

Instantly Hermione regretted her admission. She had intended the knowledge to be a tool to force trust, but she realized, due in no small part to the watching the blood drain from Remus's face, that forcing trust was essentially blackmail. The witch had confessed to knowing a secret she had absolutely no right to in this time. Or was it, in this hallucination? 

You better pick one, Granger. Are they figments of your imagination or real people? We can't do this back and forth game all night. Her brain felt the way spun art looked, like the paintings you did as a child by dripping paint onto a spinning paper. Colors splattered about in a continual looping frenzy, never ending and never beginning. 

If they were simply figments, then there was no reason for Hermione to be feeling such intense guilt. Remus's face looked so very stricken that it twisted her gut in the most painful way. This whole adventure was such a complete mess it almost had to be real. Hermione Granger's eternally logical brain was having a difficult time coming to terms with the idea that, even in her most preposterous of dreams, she would've conjured the Marauders in this way.

Her amber eyes grew wide.

Was someone doing this to her? She'd seen "The Matrix" a few years ago with Harry- because, obviously super computers must be behind this- had someone else created this ridiculous reality? Her gut clenched with paranoia. But, no, she'd been able to silently and wandlessly cast a slicing hex and petrify three wizards at once. 

What the literal fuck is this?

"Who's going to win the match come Sunday, then, the Cannons or the Harpies?"  James asked from the floor, where he had remained since being petrified.

Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but she could summon no words. For the first time in possibly her whole life, the wild haired witch was completely dumbfounded and she couldn't keep her face from expressing that rare phenomena. Part of her brain was telling her mouth to close and her eyebrows to return to their proper position, but her face seemed to have no intention of obeying her frazzled mind.  

Remus turned and cocked an eyebrow in disbelief.

"What?" James shrugged looking between Hermione and Remus. "I mean, she blasts in here claiming to have knowledge about good ol' Voldy and you, and needs to speak to Dumbledore. Stands to reason she might be some sort of Seer, and I have a lot of Galleons riding on the Harpies."

"I'm disturbed that, literally, the first thing you would ask a Seer if you met one, would be the future results of a Quidditch match," Remus remarked in near disgust

James grinned. "I don't see why that's surprising to you."

"I said 'disturbed,' not 'surprised.'"

No, I'm not in the Matrix. Even this is too sodding ridiculous for the godsdamned Matrix. But all the same, Hermione turned her eyes briefly to the fireplace, wondering if Agent Smith might Floo in. It honestly would not be surprising at this point. 

1982. She desperately thought to herself again. James, who was currently on the floor, should be dead and Sirius, who was also still on the floor, should be in Azkaban. Maybe they had lied to her? But why would they have done that? What use could they have to tell her the wrong year? Maybe they were confused. Maybe they're not real. Maybe she was on the floor in the Ministry. Maybe she was insane. Maybe-

The deep, calming voice of her father interrupted her inner dialogue and she nearly gasped. 

It was a late summer evening and eight year old Hermione had just burst through the door to her house, calling out for her father. Her knees were bloodied and her tights torn to reveal skin covered with fresh bruises and tiny rocks, battle scars from her fight with the neighbor's son. She had run straight to her father, throwing her arms around his neck, and crying into his large shoulders. He had lifted up his only daughter and patted her back with a strong hand, whispering soothing words into her tiny ear.

"They hate me. I wish I'd never been born. I wish I was different," she whimpered between sobs and her father had looked down at her, his brown eyes full of sadness and concern, but he had smiled. 

"I am so glad you were born, love," he said, wiping Hermione's tear stained cheeks. "I couldn't imagine my life without you."

Then his smile had grown. "Just think, life could be horrible, if we'd ended up in the wrong trouser of time." 

The wrong trouser of time. Could it be? There was only one wizard who would know. 

"Boys, focus," Hermione cut in. " Will you or won't you take me to Dumbledore?"

James and Remus shared a look and the former shrugged. 

"At this point, Miss Granger, I'm not sure what else there is to do with you," James answered with a nonchalance Hermione was coming to associate with the messy haired man. Evidently Harry had inherited his demeanor and his aversion to combs from his father.

Remus stuffed his hands into the pockets of his torn Muggle jeans and nodded his head towards the wizard still frozen on the floor. "That will require, I'm afraid, for you to un-freeze Sirius." 

"Yes, you keep mentioning that," Hermione muttered with a sigh, casting her gaze downward. "If he launches himself at me, I'm going to petrify him again, you understand?"

"Y'know, for only knowing him for about an hour, you seem to have really been able to grasp the core tenants that make Sirius Black, Sirius Black. Bravo to you," James remarked, giving Hermione a light golf clap.

Oh, if only you knew.

Sirius and Hermione had never been close; years in Azkaban had stripped so much of the civilized man from the wizard, that he really only had enough heart left for Harry, and that never bothered Hermione. She had always found the Animagus to be too brash, too arrogant, too emotional for her tastes. She loved him for what he had meant to Harry and she was devastated by his death, not because of the loss of a friend, but for the loss of Harry's innocence, for all their innocence. The end of fifth year had marked the end of her childhood. 

"Alright, Mister Black. I think we can both agree that, as you are currently unarmed, making any rash decisions would be unwise. So let's just...let's just all stay calm," Hermione frowned and, with more than a little trepidation, flicked her wand at Sirius. 

With a barbarous roar, Sirius Black flung himself from the ground, as soon as Hermione's counter-spell had released him, and careened towards the witch. 

So much for calm.

" Petrificus Totalus!" Hermione yelled and the furious wizard froze again. "Mister Black, I thought we had a deal!"

James was laughing wildly from the floor, holding his side and wiping tears from his eyes. 

Remus's face did not move, but the corners of his mouth seemed to twitch. 

"A bloody gift from the gods, I tell you," James wheezed. "I would pay so many Galleons, all of my Galleons, to see her petrify Sirius repeatedly."

"I will admit it, it's more amusing than I would have originally anticipated," Remus was visibly struggling now to keep a straight face. 

Hermione roller her eyes and ignored the two wizards. "Now listen, Black, we could do this all night, but I'd really rather not. I've got the wands and you are very frozen, and you will remain that way unless you stay calm." 

"She's got a point there, mate," Remus offered. James was too busy giving in to hysterical fits of laughter from the floor to contribute to the exchange. 

This is going nowhere. If I could get him to talk to me then- Hermione's face lit with an idea. Why not, really, why the fuck not?

Hermione raised her wand. "Relashio caput."

" GODRIC BE DAMNED, WITCH, RELEASE ME AT ONCE!" Sirius's features immediately contorted with confusion, his grey eyes round, looking down towards his mouth, shocked more than anyone to hear his voice finally escape it. Remus and James's mouths practically fell to the floor.

"I-I don't... what ?" Remus sputtered out.

A giggle slipped from behind Hermione's round lips and then another, followed by another in increasing madness. The witch stared at her wand in awe; all the spells she had theorized, all the magic she has speculated, it was all working. This is simultaneously the best and worst day of my fucking life.  

And it filled her with the most satisfying sense of control. 

"Sirius," the witch began and at the sound of his name, Sirius's attention snapped back to Hermione. "Will you take me to Dumbledore?"

Grey eyes bore down on her with a viciousness she hadn't seen in years, but Hermione did not flinch.

"Let. Me. Go."

"Answer. My. Question." Hermione could see Sirius's jaw muscles clench as the wizard stared at her, silently contemplating her request, or at least, she hoped silently contemplating her request.

If this was happening, if this was real, if Hermione Granger had somehow slipped between time to- dare she even think it- an alternate timeline, then Dumbledore would know what to do. Dumbledore always knew what to do, it had actually rather infuriated the young witch during her school years. Surely the wrong trouser of time couldn't change that. 

The wrong trouser of time. Hermione had passed out in Time's well pressed, tweed slacks and woken up in his rarely used Looney Tune boxers.  

Sirius mumbled.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

"I said," Sirius squeezed through his teeth, "if you let me go, I'll take you to Dumbledore."

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, but she didn't relax.

"I have your word then, your word that you will take me to him." 

Sirius looked as if the vein in his forehead could burst at any minute. "Yes."

Hermione smiled then. "Splendid. Absolutely splendid. Let's try this again, then, shall we?"

Hermione released the rest of Sirius's body and watched as the black haired wizard used all the self-control he had left to not charge towards her again. His body was tense, eyes nailed to Hermione, and muscles taut with anger. Slowly he extended a hand towards Hermione and the witch flinched back instinctively, raising her wand to him again. 

"My wand, Miss Granger," Sirius requested tightly.

Nervous again, Hermione's eyes darted around to the three wizards. She did have all the wands, but the now freed Marauders had brute strength and numbers on their side. Last time she'd caught them by surprise, they'd be expecting her spell this go around. 

"I will take you to Dumbledore and let him sort you out, I give you my word," Sirius continued. "but that will require use of my wand ."

Damnit, he does have a point. Truthfully, Hermione wanted to give them their wands back, she wanted them to trust her, but she also didn't want to end up bound and petrified on the floor again. 

You can't ask for trust without offering it. Oh well, really, this can't get any worse. 

Biting her bottom lip, Hermione tossed the three wands to Sirius, bracing herself for a hex or curse to be thrown her way. Instead, the wizard gave Remus and James their wands and kept his in his hand, though held loosely at his side. 

"Well, it is a bit late at this point, I'd reckon we're near midnight," James said, finally standing and stretching his arms above his head. "As I said before, I've got a wife to get back to. Could we hold off on finding the Minister until the morning, perhaps?"

"No!" Hermione said quickly and the wizards turned to her. "No I- this is of the utmost importance. I need to speak to Dumbledore immediately. "

"Immediately isn't going to happen, pet," Sirius crossed his arms over his chest and leaned casually against the fireplace.  Wand back in hand, his demeanor had returned to that smug arrogance even Azkaban couldn't strip from him. "There's no way for me to Floo, owl, or apparate to Dumbledore, he's kept himself pretty well hidden since the war started. There's no way to reach him save for official Ministry business sent only by a few exclusive official Ministry owls." 

"Ministry owls? Fine, then let's away to the Ministry," Hermione said, motioning to the Floo. 

Sirius shook his head. "The owls aren't kept at the Ministry."

"But you just said-"

"I said they were official owls, yes, but they're kept with three official Ministry officials-"

"I feel like you just like saying the word 'official'."

"Who happen to keep their officially official owls at their official residence-"

"Now you're trying to annoy me," Hermione squeezed the bridge of her nose. "Fine, who are these officials?"

"Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minerva McGonogall, and actually no one really knows who had the third owl. Top secret, y'see,"  Sirius smirked. Hermione was quickly growing to despise that smirk. 

"Then take me to one of them and we will borrow an owl." 

Before Sirius got a chance to respond, a blue doe burst through the wall of the room and ran up to James. The deer’s mouth opened and a panicked female voice rang out.

"JAMES! James they're here! James come home!"

"Lily!" James's yelled, his face drained of blood. He ran to the Floo, followed quickly by Remus and Sirius. With shaking hands and deep breaths, James grabbed powder out of the bag hanging on the wall and threw it into the fireplace, muttering and then disappearing in a whirl of green flames. 

Lily? Oh gods, Harry! Hermione rushed to the Floo as Remus stepped into it, her heart pounding in her ears. She couldn't tell what destination Remus had said.  

"Stay here!" Sirius growled, pushing her away from the fireplace.

"Like hell I'll stay here!" Hermione shoved him back, her voice full of venom and viciousness. She grabbed a handful of powder. "Now tell me where they live."

Sirius hesitated.

Hermione reached up and grabbed the collar of his robes, bringing his face down to hers. "We don't have fucking time for this, Black. Now tell me!"

Sirius stared into her unflinching amber eyes and then spat, "Potter Cottage, Godric's Hollow." 

Of course! You should've known that, Granger! But how can we get there, the Potters had a secret keeper? Hermione threw the powder into the flames. Think later, save Harry now. 

" Potter Cottage, Godric's Hollow!" She yelled and stepped into the fire.

Chapter Text

Hermione had not expected to become an Auror and, indeed, no one else had expected that of her either. Magical Law Enforcement was a path she had told herself she would leave to her boys, who seemed to rush into their Auror training with thought of little else; especially not N.E.W.T.S. or Hogwarts. Hermione had believed being an Auror would mean essentially returning to the front lines of a war whose smoldering embers were not yet extinguished. Their Dark Lord was dead, but his loyal hordes remained.

After completing her final year at Hogwarts and taking her N.E.W.T.S., Hermione had only spent, in total, three months with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. It was not that Hermione had disliked her time with the DRCMC and, even in her brief tenure there, had overseen the dismantling of no less than twenty-three archaic and discriminatory laws, and was personally responsible for the abolition of another seventeen. Admittedly, she had survived more on coffee and raw determination in those months than a healthy sleep routine. Not that she had a healthy sleep routine to begin with. Hermione's circadian rhythm was less rhythmic and more just silent. Silent and filled with the constant machinations of her impossibly ready mind which, ironically, was the exact reason she left the DRCMC. 

Pre-Battle of Hogwarts, school had been Hermione's sanctuary, the library had been her chapel, and books had been her religion. Post-Battle of Hogwarts, nothing was sacred.

A Ministry worker's role is to sit and read, to sit and read and think, to sit and read and think and write. The passivity of this is what draws many to the profession. To pour endlessly over ancient tomes and convoluted laws, to write and read, to edit and improve while safely behind a desk was precisely what Hermione Granger had thought she so desperately wanted. To put her stunning brain to use for the greater good, while simultaneously staying far away from said loyal dark hordes who wanted her dead.

As it turns out passivity is boring as hell. 

Hermione would sit at her tiny desk, crowded with files and texts, half written letters and day old coffee in a similar unfinished state, and she would think. Her body would be still, oppressively still, while she considered, with unrivaled imagination, how every item in her office might be used to exterminate an assailant if her wand were to be expelliarmus' ed out of her hand. The convenient thing about purebloods is they seem to often forget that one does not require a spell to murder or harm. Muggleborns, however, never forget.  

Muggles have spent thousands of years inventing new and creative means by which to slaughter each other with not even the barest hint of magic. In Muggle London you could be stabbed, shot (if someone had an illegal firearm), hit over the head with a tree branch, shanked (which is not unlike being stabbed), run over by a car, or any number of other non-magical violent means. Wizards tended to stick to wand use, quite predictable really. 

On her first assignment, with Seamus as her reluctant partner, a Death Eater groupie, disappointed to have not had the opportunity to swear fidelity to Voldemort himself, had gone on a Muggle killing spree. The wizard, who turned out to be a relation of Dean Thomas's on his biological father's side, was sloppy and it had taken Seamus and Hermione less than seven hours to track him down to his own flat. The idiocy of certain lawbreakers would never cease to astound Hermione, who had the unfortunate flaw of often assuming people were at least half as smart as she. 

Seamus had not followed protocol, a choice that Hermione still gave him shite about even to this day, which dictated that, when entering a dangerous situation with one or more suspected Dark Wizard, it is mandatory that Aurors send a patrons for no less than two backup Aurors. Instead, to Hermione’s eternal frustration, Seamus had burst into the flat, wand raised and the witch had little choice but to follow after him, cursing the foolishness of males.

The Dark Wizard in question had not been particularly skilled, but a well landed spell as soon as they entered the flat had sent Seamus flying into Hermione, knocking the wind from her lungs and the wand from her hand. Seamus was on his feet in an instant, at the time his muscles having been more expertly tuned than Hermione's, and was hurling hexes and curses at the Muggle-murderer. Hermione stayed on the floor, searching quickly for her wand, but before she could locate it, she heard the beginning of the killing curse slither past the wannabe Death Eater's lips. Without thought, the witch had leapt to her feet and grabbed a bronze candlestick from a side table, swinging it with all her might into the wizard's skull. 

Seamus often remarked their fellow Aurors he hoped never to forget the sight of a pureblood wizard being bludgeoned over the head with a candlestick by the Great Swot of Gryffindor, as Seamus so lovingly addressed her. That year for Christmas, Hermione received nearly a dozen candlesticks in various sizes as gifts. Aurors tend to fancy themselves quite hilarious.

It was two hours following the altercation with the Dark Wizard, while filling out a report and listening to Savage's lecture on the importance of following procedures, that Hermione had realized that the confrontation was the first action she had seen since the Battle of Hogwarts. While undergoing her Auror training, Hermione had expected with much trepidation, that her first assignment in the field would be filled with anxiety and the cold dread that drained the blood from her body, heralding a panic attack. Instead, Hermione realized as she struggled not to chuckle at the look on Seamus's face as Savage recited the Auror Code of Conduct line by line, she felt calm and powerful and, for the first time in maybe years, in control. 

The unease, the anxiety did not expire, but the episodes of irrational fear, Hermione discovered, did not manifest themselves during fights. Being in law enforcement, much like being in war, leaves no time to indulge in doubt or worry. 

So it was with the unconscious steel of experience, that Hermione stepped out of the fireplace at the Potter's Cottage and into the fray. 

Immediately Hermione noticed Remus dueling a silver masked wizard in the hallway that adjoined the living room she had just entered. James was nowhere to be seen.

Death Eaters. She nearly spat.

The dark haired witch took a step forward to aid her lupine friend-or at least, friend in another life- but was forced to quickly cast a protego as a Cruciatus was hurled at her from a Death Eater to her right.

Damn, gloves are off apparently. Hermione thought to herself as she fended off two more crucios . Don't worry, mate, I can keep up. 

Seamus had been Hermione's partner for the last three years and she had once overhead him telling Harry how surprised he was at Hermione's use of curses and hexes.

"Y'know," Harry had remarked, "she set Professor Snape's robes on fire first year."

"What!" Hermione had smiled at the shock in Seamus's voice.

"Yep, and kept Rita Skeeter in a jar during fourth year. Though I think technically that was kidnapping, so we should probably keep it on the down low."

"Incendio!" Hermione yelled, setting the Death Eater's robes aflame she quickly twisted around and flung a stupefy at the Death Eater dueling Remus.  The werewolf turned and nodded his thanks at Hermione, his green eyes casting a weary glance at the wizard currently rolling on the floor attempting to set out the fire consuming his clothing. With a flick of her wrist Hermione put out the flames and stupefied the man, though she would have preferred to let him burn a little longer. 

"Where's James?" Hermione demanded. As soon as the question escaped her lips James's crazed voice echoed down the stairs and through the hallway, frantically calling Lily's name. Remus and Hermione locked eyes from across the room, exchanging a look of horror. 

  "STUPEFY!" From behind Hermione, the spell went flying towards a Death Eater who neither herself nor Remus had noticed jump out from behind a sofa. Hermione turned to see the furious grey eyes of Sirius Black, just appeared from the Floo, drilling down into her. The witch snorted at his attempts to appear menacing.

"Thank for joining us," Hermione muttered, taking off towards the stairs, Remus hot at her heels.

The trio ascended the stairs two or three at a time, jostling with uncoordinated limbs for position as they dashed forward with single-minded purpose.

On the second floor of the cottage was a small hallway with three doors. James was howling and throwing himself at the middle door, his face was pale and contorted with panic, his eyes a frenzied mix of rage and hysteria. A Death Eater lay unbreathing on the floor beside him in a puddle of blood, but none of them paid the wizard any mind. From behind the door they could hear the undeniable noise of a wizard's duel. 

Remus and Sirius rushed at the door, flinging spells and fists at the unmoving wood. Whoever was in there with Lily must have warded and locked the room, trapping the witch inside.  

"I can't get in, Godric I-I-can't get in, Lily! Lily !" James began to babble, continuing his useless onslaught against the door. Sirius and Remus looked at their friend and then at each other over his head of messy hair. " Alohomora! PORTABERTO! OPEN SESAME!"

The door remained unaffected. 

"There has to be-" Sirius began but was interrupted by the searing alto of a woman's scream and a baby's cry. 

"LILY! HARRY!" James yelled and slammed his shoulder into the door again. 

They're not thinking, they're just flinging themselves and their magic against it. Finally coming back to herself after having been caught off guard by the wretched sight of James's terror, Hermione pushed the wizards aside and faced the door. Her confidence and aggression seemed to shock the three into compliance if only for a moment. "Out of the way!"

Hermione stared at the door.

Think, Granger. Fuck. Think think think think. Warded, warded, the door is warded. What wards could it be? Fuck. Spells aren't working. Stronger spell, stronger spell. Hermione grabbed her head and began tapping her finger furiously against her forehead as if she could summon the knowledge into her brain. Think think think.

"Get back," Sirius growled, shoving Hermione away from the door.

Oh, fuck no. The witch growled and used her hip to shove against Sirius's larger form, reasserting her position in front of the door with a feral snarl. 

Lily was in there and if Lily was in there it stood to reason that Harry was with her and, baby or not, hallucination or not, Hermione Granger would be damned if Sirius-fucking-Black was going to keep her away from her best friend. She had spent years of her life protecting Harry, she had been unfailing in that task even under pain and torture. Sirius sure as fuck wasn't going to keep her from him and neither was this fucking locked-

Hermione's eyes grew wide , the passage of a not quite forgotten book flashing through her mind. 

Alohomora, an unlocking spell of African origin, had been a vast and appreciated improvement on Portaberto, which, though effective at removing locks, tended to leave a smoldering hole in the door where once the lock had been. Thieves rejoiced and door-makers went into an unfortunate recession when Alohomora was brought into the European lexicon of spells in the 17th century by Eldon Elsrickle. The Unlocking Charm was improved upon further nearly one hundred years later by the noted thief, Wanda Furinis, with the inclusion of the simple Latin 'duo' added to the end of the spell. 

"Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1, chapter 54, page 1016," Hermione muttered under her breath.

"What the fuck-"

"ALOHOMORA DUO!"

With an unceremonious pop, the door handle turned and the door swung open. For not the first time, nor probably the last, that evening, the three Marauders stared with mouths agape at the bizarre dark haired witch that circumstances had delivered to them. 

"A fucking gift," James breathed, rushing through the doorway wand first. 

"STOP!" A voice screeched from inside the room and Hermione's heart  did stop at the scene before her. "Or I will kill the boy ."

Barty Crouch Jr, his silver mask half blown off his bloodied face, stood behind a white crib, while the auburn haired form of Lily Potter lay lifeless on the ground. 

"LILY!" James screamed with a ferocity Hermione had never heard before and suspected she would never hear again, as the wizard flung himself and the Killing Curse at Crouch.

Laughing, Crouch deflected the curse and sent a curio at James , who fell to the floor with an unholy howl as his body tremored uncontrollably. 

Rage cascaded through Hermione's blood in a primal flood, but before she could lift her wand Sirius threw a curse at Crouch, swiftly stepping between the Dark Wizard and his fallen friend. Remus was quick behind him and the two Marauders began engaging the deranged Death Eater in a two on one duel. 

"WHERE IS HE?" Crouch screeched wildly, his eyes flashing, the spells were coming at him too quickly and he was forced away from the crib and towards the wall by the advancing wizards. Hermione would worry about what those questions implied later, at present the Auror trained witch had recognized an opportunity. "WHERE IS THE DARK LORD? WHERE-"

Hermione flung a silencio at the deranged Death Eater and rushed towards the crib, set on pulling baby Harry from it and to safety, but she was a breath too late.

Seeing Hermione, Crouch raised his wand and a green bolt of light shot from the end of it towards the crib.

Without hesitation, and not for the first time, Hermione threw herself in front of her best friend.

Chapter Text

"Hermione."

She knew that voice.

"Hermione, love."

Amber eyes flew open to darkness and panic filled her lungs, forcing air out in swift, shallow breaths. She attempted to stand, but her body felt as if it were being tossed about, pulled by the merciless undertow of a black ocean. Her mind blank with fear. 

"Mum!" she called out, half expecting the darkness to fill her mouth like water, but she felt firm, small hands grab her face. The world steadied, but her heartbeat did not. Hermione leaned into those hands and soaked up the power in them. "I-I can't see, Mum, I can't see ."

"I know, Hermione, but you will," her mother's voice cooed, her thumbs massaging soothing circles into Hermione's cheeks. "You will."

Hot tears swelled at the corners of Hermione's eyes and fell in unashamed drops down her face. She grabbed at her mother's wrists, gripping them tightly. Hermione had not seen her mother in years and the pain of still not seeing her, now when she was so close, was unbearable. It twisted in Hermione's gut like a living thing, newly awoken from hibernation and elated at the prospect of the spring. The spring of Hermione's anguish.

The obliviate was too perfect, too well constructed. It could not be undone and Hermione knew this was not real.

But she wanted it to be. More than anything in all the universe she wanted to feel, really feel, her mother's hands and hear her mother's voice saying her name. She would have given up everything to have her mother back. 

Hermione tried to picture her mother's face, a face that looked so much like her own and yet completely different. Dark skin, darker than Hermione's, curly black hair, curlier than Hermione's, large brown eyes, browner than Hermione's. A child of Africa, Jean Obioma Granger had grown up on a farm in Nigeria and Hermione's grandparents had saved up all their money to send their only child to school in England.

Grief and guilt and pain filled Hermione, eclipsing all else as her mind's eye meticulously constructed every intricate detail that identified her mother. "Mum..." she wailed. 

Soft thumbs wiped away the tears pouring down Hermione's face in horrid, ugly sobs. "My child, my only daughter, you will see ."

Hermione tightened her grip on her mother's wrist, terrified of losing her even in a dream, and swallowed her sobs. "Wh-where are we, Mum?" 

"Oh, child, don't you mean, where are you?" Hermione could hear the smile in her mother's voice. "You already know, you've known the whole time."

The hands dropped from Hermione's face and Hermione's fists closed, nails digging into her palms, as she suddenly held nothing. 

"No, no, no, no!" she screamed, throwing her arms into the darkness around her, desperately groping for her mother's small form. The world tilted and shifted like sand beneath her feet and Hermione struggled to keep balance. "Mum! Mum! Please, come back, Mum, please !"

Screaming Hermione fell to her knees; she knew this wasn't real, she knew her mother was never coming back. 

"Mum, please... please ," Hermione pleaded with no one save blackness. She shut her eyes tightly against the despair and lost herself.

And the blackness

stretched on.

And there was no pain,

no despair,

no fear. 

And Hermione forgot her name.

Until

Light. 

The dawn was slow, much slower even than the actual dawn, creeping over the horizon of Hermione's vision as if the sun would never reach the sky. With equal reluctance, Hermione's eyelids rose and she was accosted by the fierceness of the light, she squinted against it, but the movement shot hot barbs of pain through her skull. Hermione moaned, blinking rapidly, and lifted her hands to her head, cradling it.

"She's awake!" A masculine voice exclaimed and Hermione felt movement besides her.

Awake? Godric, am I awake? I'd rather be dead. The pain continued to sear through her head, made only more intense by the voices speaking in hushed whispers around her.

"Out of the way, Mister Lupin," demanded a feminine voice, both familiar and foreign. Hermione knew that voice, how did she know that voice? It dripped through her ears and swam through her brain, nudging neurons of remembrance back into place. 

Lupin?

Hermione opened her mouth to speak. "M-mmmphf?"

A face wearing a kind but cautious smile, came into Hermione's view, blocking out the harsh overhead light.The world focused sharply. Madame Pomfrey. The voice belonged to Madame Pomfrey. Taking delicate care to not move her aching head, Hermione took in her surroundings; she was in a bed with white linens and around her were more beds, some had white sheets drawn around them, and the rest were empty. 

The Hospital Wing. She was in the Hospital Wing.

Hogwarts.

Tears of relief threatened at the corners of her eyes. Hermione’s face split with a smile that immediately fell when she once again noticed Madame Pomfrey, who was not looking at her with any sort of recognition, in fact she seemed rather trepidatious. 

"There, there, dear," Madame Pomfrey patted Hermione's shoulder gently. Hermione stared up into the matron’s face, her young face, and she could have sworn she heard her own heart fall from her chest and hit the floor. "Don't try to speak just yet, you've been out for about ten hours, it's honestly quite shocking you woke this early at all."

She doesn't know me. 

Madame Pomfrey drew her thin lips into a tight line and fluffed Hermione's pillow before turning her attention to the wizard behind her. Hermione followed the matron's gaze, realizing after a few blinks that the wizard was Remus Lupin. The tall man ran a hand through his shaggy hair before sliding said hand back into the pocket of his Muggle jeans, the same Muggle jeans he had been wearing when he had walked through the fireplace at Grimmauld Place. 

The neurons Madame Pomfrey's voice had stirred lit up like a thousand fireflies in the night, buzzing about in impossible patterns.

Hermione searched Remus's face, but he was not looking at her, his green eyes remained fixed on Pomfrey.

"Mister Lupin, if you would please go inform the Headmistress that our guest is awake," Madame Pomfrey requested and as Remus was turning away, she added. "And please, do not inform Mister Black."

Remus nodded before making a quick exit. Madame Pomfrey turned and Hermione swiftly grabbed the older- but not much older now- witch’s hand and asked, "Ma'am, please, what's happening? Where is Harry and- err and Lily?"

Hermione pushed down the grief in her chest at the image of the auburn haired witch's body on the floor. Maybe she shouldn't have used their names, maybe she should have feigned ignorance, but she was so tired and she had to know. Hermione was so tired of not knowing.

We already used the Marauders’ names, we’ve already made mistakes.  

"Don't fret, my dear," Madame Pomfrey responded, once again patting Hermione’s shoulder stiffly. "The Headmistress will explain everything. Just relax."

Relax? Relax? The word sent tremors of frustration through Hermione's limbs as she watched Madame Pomfrey shuffle about towards a cabinet stocked full of potions. I will not fucking relax. I'm about fucking done with this shite. 

Hermione moved to get out of bed, her body felt heavy and sluggish, but the witch was determined. 

"Young lady, what are you doing!" Madame Pomfrey rushed back to Hermione, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her back down. 

Where is Harry? I have to find Harry. Hermione was exhausted and quite frankly she was loathe to fight Pomfrey, but she absolutely could not stay here. She had to find Harry, ensure he was safe, and then get the hell back to...to... somewhere . Hermione reached inside her sleeve only to find she was missing her Auror robes, panicked, she reached inside the sleeve of her jumper and gasped.

"My wand," she whispered, her eyes widened and then narrowed. "Where is my wand?"

Madame Pomfrey pushed Hermione back down into bed and pulled the covers up to Hermione's chin.

"Where is my wand!" Hermione demanded and Madame Pomfrey sniffed. 

"Keep your voice down! There are others needing their rest, as you yourself need rest as well.” After a moment’s pause the mediwitch added, “The Headmistress has your wand and your robes."

The Headmistress? McGonagall. Hermione made a move to exit the bed again, but Pomfrey’s grip was iron.

"You will be staying right here," the matron said firmly. 

"Listen, I need my wand-"

"You need this potion! Open your mouth and take this," Pomfrey began unscrewing the top of a potion that Hermione recognized instantly.

"With all due respect, ma'am, I will certainly not be opening my mouth or taking anything."

"You will take this yourself, dear, or I will do it for you."

"Yes, by all means, please take the potion yourself, because I don't need it ."

"Now, you know that's not what I meant."

"I will not be taking that potion, I do not need a Calming Draught. I need to get out of this-" Hermione was unable to finish her sentence as Madame Pomfrey grabbed her nose and quickly poured the liquid into her mouth. 

Hermione shot up, sputtering and coughing as the draught made its way down her throat. 

"What the hell !?" Hermione exclaimed between coughs.

"Language! There is really no need for that sort of foul behavior," Madame Pomfrey sniffed. 

Foul behavior? Oh, I'm about to show you some fucking foul behavior, I'm gonna get out this fucking bed and then I'm going to...going to...lay down. A warmth had slithered through Hermione's body, weaving its way through her veins and arteries and she sighed contently. What had she been so upset about? Her wand? Wands were such funny things, Muggles would laugh themselves silly to know real witches and wizards used wands, like the magicians from birthday parties. 

Hermione giggled and Madame Pomfrey smiled. "See now, dear, isn't that better?"

"Hmmm," Hermione smiled. 

"Madame Pomfrey, what is the state of your patient?" A stern woman's voice demanded and Hermione looked up to the regal form of Minerva McGonagall and besides her Remus Lupin, looking quite uncomfortable.

"Professor!" Hermione smiled widely and slapped a hand over her mouth. "Oh, I'm so sorry, I do beg your pardon, I mean, Headmistress ."

Headmistress McGonagall crossed her arms over her chest, emerald green robes billowing out behind her, and raised a grey eyebrow. "Have we met?"

"Yes," Hermione giggled. "I mean, no, no of course not. You and I have not met , but we have, I think we will meet. Well, actually, come to think, we did just meet, didn't we! Meet and met, what's the difference, really? Which trouser of time is it?"

Hermione erupted into a fit of giggles. McGonagall slowly turned her head towards Remus, both of her eyebrows now practically touching her hairline.

The werewolf threw up his hands. "Don't look at me, Headmistress, she was not behaving quite this ridiculously before."

McGonagall turned to Madame Pomfrey.

"The girl was becoming hysterical, I gave her a bit of Calming Draught to settle her nerves," Pomfrey said.

"Yes well, they seem to be quite settled ," the Headmistress remarked, turning back to Hermione she asked, "What is your name, dear?"

"My-my name ?" Hermione's giggles slowed and she turned to Remus. "Did you not remember my name?"

She found herself strangely hurt by this.

"A lot happened," Remus shrugged apologetically, shoulders hunched. "Granger was all I could remember. And an 'H'? Herrr...?"

"Hermione. Hermione Granger," she said lamely, coming down a bit from her momentary high. They know your name, they have your wand, they obviously don't trust you. This is just a ball of laughs.

Unfortunately the thought of an actual ball of laughs almost made Hermione giggle again. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep her composure. This was all ridiculous. 

"Well, then, Miss Granger, I don't suppose you're feeling up to taking a trip to my office? I do believe we have much to discuss," McGonagall said.

"No," Pomfrey interjected quickly. "She is not well enough, she needs to rest. She has been awake for barely ten minutes after being practically dead to the word for ten hours. She needs to stay here."

"As always, Madame Pomfrey, I defer to you in matters of health, but I'm afraid this may be a matter greater than all of us."

Madame Pomfrey opened her mouth but Hermione cut the witch off. "Yes, I'm well enough."

The older witches turned to Hermione; Madame Pomfrey's face was full of concern and McGonagall's was as tight a mask as ever. Hermione had always admired that about her favorite professor, you never could quite tell what the Transfiguration Professor was thinking. Or now, Hermione supposed, the Headmistress.

" I'll go up to your office, Headmistress," Hermione said slowly, trying to keep a firm grasp on her mind and emotions that seemed to be slipping towards the ridiculous thanks to the Calming Draught. "Under one condition."

McGonagall narrowed her eyes. "And, pray tell, what condition is that, Miss Granger?"

"I will go up to your office as soon as you tell me where Harry and Lily are," Hermione said, raising her chin with a confidence she barely felt. Truthfully, she wasn't sure she wanted to know; if they were dead, if she had failed Harry in this way, even if this was another trouser of time or a hallucination, Hermione would never forgive herself. If she had not saved Lily or Harry then she could never forgive herself. 

McGonagall's face twisted for a moment in thought, sizing up the younger witch. She turned to Remus, who was looking unbearably uncomfortable, shifting his weight from foot to foot, before settling her sharp eyes back on Hermione. "They are alive, Miss, Granger, due in no small part to your actions."

Chapter Text

Hermione's eyes, glistening with unshed tears, turned to the curtained beds around her as she breathed out an audible sigh. She smiled without caring if the others in the room, who were looking at her in silent bewilderment, noticed her relief.

Alive, gods, they're alive. Which bed? Hermione flung her leg over the side of her own bed. She had to see Harry, to know he was alright, but when she let her weight down onto her foot, her leg gave out. Madame Pomfrey and, to Hermione's surprise and embarrassment, Remus rushed to her and grabbed her arms, pulling the curly haired witch back into bed.

"You see!" Pomfrey declared with a satisfied sniff. "I told you, she is not well enough."

Blast you! Hermione felt a pang of guilt for thinking such a thing of Madame Pomfrey, but currently the tiny plump witch was standing between Hermione and her best friend. A very dangerous position for anyone to be in, even with Hermione's presently wandless and potioned state. 

"I'm really fine," Hermione insisted impatiently, waving her two helpers off. "It was just a little slip, I'll be fine."

"I have no doubt," McGonagall responded, her silver eyebrows as high as ever upon her forehead. "Come then, we have no time to waste."

"Now, Minerva," Madame Pomfrey began, taking a step towards the Headmistress.

"Now, Poppy, " McGonagall retorted with obvious offense. 

"As this is still my Hospital Wing, I must insist you at least allow me the time to examine my patient properly before she goes traipsing about the castle." To her credit, Pomfrey kept her voice quite even during the whole exchange, considering how rude Hermione had been earlier, the matron's patience was surely wearing thin. Hermione had to give her credit for her composure under pressure. 

The Headmistress pursed her lips, arms crossed, and began lightly drumming her fingers on her arm; the very picture of controlled frustration. "Yes, I suppose that is quite reasonable, but please, I implore you, make haste. And, Mister Lupin, a favor."

"Y-yes...Headmistress?" Remus asked. Hermione wondered what McGonagall might have said before they'd arrive in the Hospital Wing to cause the werewolf to be so blatantly uneasy. Or perhaps, McGonagall was different in this timeline? She had always been stern, her expectations for her students, Gryffindors especially, had been higher than any of the professors at Hogwarts, but she was not unkind. In fact, Hermione knew that every scowl or disappointed sigh she'd elicited from the transfiguration professor had been out of love. Unlike Snape who, despite being a not evil bloke at the end, was still a right git. But Hermione realized she didn't actually know this McGonagall, she could be worlds different than the professor Hermione remembered, hell she could be a blood purist or a someone who hated magical creatures for all Hermione knew. 

The thought seemed unlikely, but all the same Hermione felt herself growing protective of Remus, who had remained by her bed. She reached out and grabbed Remus's hand, squeezing it reassuringly as she would have Harry, and gave him a soft smile. But this wasn't Harry, this was a very confused werewolf. Realizing her mistake, Hermione dropped his hand and looked away frowning. 

If she's not your McGonagall then he's not your Remus, Granger. Not your Remus or professor or even your fucking Hogwarts. Hermione choked down the distress rising in her throat, threatening to manifest itself with a sob. She was so confused and so ready to wake up or go home or-or... and with that thought, a terrifying idea suddenly struck Hermione, barreling through her like the Hogwart's Express.

What if, it was almost too painful to think, what if I can't go home? What if I'm stuck here? Things had been happening so quickly- Grimmauld Place, the Potters Cottage, and now Hogwarts- that Hermione hadn't been allowed a moment to consider, if this is what she truly dreaded it was, another trouser of time, how did she get here and how could she get back? Panic tightened her chest as the cogs and gears in her mind lit with terrifying speed and the witch swiftly began cataloging the few, yet daunting, possibilities. 

Fuck fuck. How did we get here, Granger? What fucking wormhole did we fall through? It's like a bad episode of Doctor Who. Or maybe a good episode? It's so hard to tell in the beginning...

"If you would," McGonagall's voice interrupted Hermione's panicked thoughts. "Please escort Miss Granger to my office as soon as Madame Pomfrey has finished her tests."

Remus nodded, recognizing an order not a request when he heard it. Hermione's protest was on the edge of her tongue, she didn't need anyone to show her the way to Dumble-McGonagall's office, but she stopped. Perhaps some time alone with Remus would be fortuitous, he would know what had happened after Hermione had been hit by that-that...

By the gods. The color drained from Hermione's face and she felt her stomach churn, the prequel to vomit. 

"My dear child, you suddenly look quite unwell," McGonagall said in alarm, placing a pale hand on her chest in concern.

"I-I.."Hermione stammered. "Wh-what, I mean...what curse did Crouch h-hit me...with...?" But of course, The Brightest Witch of Her Age already knew the answer.

Pomfrey and McGonagall exchanged glances and the urge to throw-up became more powerful. Pomfrey began ineffectively fanning Hermione's now sweating face with her hand and repeating, “There, there child.”

"Which curse?" Hermione asked again, her voice a little harder.

It was Remus who spoke. "The Killing Curse, he threw it straight at the cradle but you-you jumped in front of it and then it caught you in the side, not in the chest. You screamed- gods, I've never heard anyone scream like that- and then you fell down, we thought you were dead and we thought Lily was dead and James."

Remus was rambling now, but Hermione wasn't going to stop him, this was the most information she'd gotten since she woke up.

"I didn't know what to do, I was so shocked then Sirius, he wasn't as shocked as me, must've finally been that Auror training, I couldn't believe it, he-"

"Yes, thank you Mister Lupin for that...specific narrative," McGonagall cut the wizard off. Hermione flashed her amber eyes at the older witch in annoyance. She wanted- needed- to hear what Remus was saying. "Madame Pomfrey, please finish your tests. Mister Lupin, I will be waiting for you and Miss Granger in my office."

And with that the grey witch was gone in a flurry of green robes. Hermione narrowed her eyes. There was going to be a great deal for her to learn about these people.

Madame Pomfrey conducted the tests quickly, waving her wand over Hermione to check the younger witch's organs and muscles. When Pomfrey's wand had traveled over Hermione's left side, emitting a pale blue light, Hermione felt a sharp pain and cringed. The matron had rolled up Hermione's jumper, after barking at Remus to turn around, and beneath the fabric Hermione caught sight of yet another scar to add to her collection. It was a giant, fresh monstrosity with pale pink tentacles that branched out and wrapped around Hermione's ribs like lightning.

You survived a Killing Curse. Wait until Harry hears about this. Hermione chuckled to herself and then frowned. If Harry finds out... no, no more of this, Granger, we don't have time for you to be erupting into a crying mess every time you think about him or Ginny or-or anyone else. No more tears. There's work to be done.

" I'm sorry." Pomfrey frowned apologetically. "I'm afraid scars like these can't be magicked away. Dark magic. You might be able to illusion it later, when it isn't so fresh, but it'll always be there."

"Good," Hermione said plainly. Out of the corner of her eye she thought she caught Remus glance over his shoulder at her. "I want to look at it and remember."

Pomfrey pursed her lips, but chose not to speak for the remainder of her medical inspection. When finally the matron was satisfied, she slipped her wand into her sleeve and gave Hermione a gentle pat on the shoulder. 

"You also had a small abrasion on your calf, nothing serious, but a deep cut none-the-less. I healed it up for you, a small scar now, but should be all gone in a few days."

A cut on my-oh. Hermione furrowed her brow remembering the diffindo that had freed her from the ropes on the floor at Grimmauld Place. Maybe I could've charmed Pomfrey without the use of my wand...I wonder if I could summon my wand from here. If I can petrify three wizards at once and perform wandless, silent magic then surely that couldn't be too difficult...

Hermione considered the possibility for a moment and then decided that presently she needed answers more than she needed her wand. She couldn't be certain of her physical or mental state right now anyway and besides, you catch more flies with honey and all that.

"I'm impressed, Miss Granger. You do seem to be in good shape, though a little rest wouldn't hurt you."

"No, I don't suppose a little rest would hurt anyone, but I need to speak with the Headmistress," Hermione said firmly, swinging both her legs over the bed. Pomfrey grabbed her elbow, stopping her. 

"Remus, dear boy," she called to the wizard, who had never been told he could turn back around and thus still had his back to the two witches. "Come and help Miss Granger out of bed."

"I am quite capable," Hermione began.

"There's a dear," Pomfrey kept hold of Hermione's elbow while Remus hurried over and grabbed the other. They didn't seem to be paying any attention to Hermione's protests.

"I am not a child, I can stand on my own!" But when her two feet touched the floor, she was grateful for the well over six foot tall werewolf holding onto her, it seemed Hermione didn't have her land legs back so to speak. 

"There you go my dears," Pomfrey said, releasing Hermione's elbow. "Now, Remus, go slow with her, careful up the stairs."

"Don't worry, Madame Pomfrey," Remus smiled at the matron. "She's in good hands."

"I am still here, y'know," Hermione huffed, letting Remus lead her out of the Hospital Wing. "I can still hear you."

She looked up at Remus, expecting a smart reply like he'd been so quick with when they'd been at Grimmauld Place, but the werewolf didn't even acknowledge she'd spoken. Hermione frowned as they walked the familiar path to the Headmistress's office in silence. 

Was Remus upset with her? Did he still not trust her? She'd thrown herself in front of baby Harry for Godric sake, she's taken a Killing Curse. And she'd helped Remus with that Death Eater he'd been dueling! Not to mention she'd given them all back their wands even after Sirius had petrified her. And Sirius! Why hadn't Pomfrey wanted Sirius to know Hermione had woken up, what was Sirius up to?

Hermione's accomplished mind was swimming with questions and the Calming Draught must've worn off, because the silence was absolutely unbearable. Why wasn't he even looking at her? If he was upset then that was positively ridiculous, he had nothing to be upset about. Hermione was going to talk to him, she was going to force the answers out of him. Yes, that's right. This wasn't Professor Lupin, this was just some bloke named Remus who bore a striking resemblance to her former defense professor. In fact, he didn't bare that striking of a resemblance to Professor Lupin anyway! He didn't have any of that distinguished salt-n-peppah around his temples like the handsome werewolf she'd known! No, he was not nearly as...cute...

Perhaps the potion hadn't worn off. Perhaps Hermione was indeed still drugged.

"R-Reums," Hermione stammered, her confidence failing as the words left her lips.

Remus said nothing. He didn't even look down. 

"Remus," Hermione repeated, her voice clipped with frustration. 

"What?" the werewolf growled, actually growled. 

See, and Professor Lupin never growled. 

"I need you to tell me what happened after-after, after I was hit with the curse," Hermione demanded, her stammering betraying her. She pulled them both to stop and straightening her back to her full, meager, height. Remus cast his green eyes to the wall and slid his hands into his pockets. "What is going on! Why won't anyone tell me what's happening or what happened? Look, I know this is all strange for you, trust me it's strange for me too, you don't even know how bloody bizarre this all is. But where is James and is everything okay with Lily and Harry and for fuck's sake, what is the deal with Sirius? Why can't he know I woke up? Is he going to arrest me? Or- or attack me?"

Remus had not said a word throughout Hermione's now rambling tirade which incensed the witch further.

"Listen! You need to talk to me! You need to let me know what's going!" Hermione was now wavering her finger wildly at the wizard. No, the potion has definitely worn off.

" No!" Remus growled again and then looked around worried, before hushing his voice and saying again, "No."

"No, no what? Which question had a no?" Hermione asked confused. "No Sirius isn't going to arrest me or no he's not going to attack me or no-"

"First," Remus cut her off, rubbing his hands over his face. "I can't bloody well answer any of your questions if you won’t close your mouth for a second ."

Hermione opened her mouth indignantly to protest this, but after seeing the look of triumph on Remus's face, snapped it tightly shut.

Git. 

"Better," Remus said, folding his arms across his large chest. Hermione glared. "No, I don't need to let you know what's going on. Quite frankly, Granger, you need to let us know what's going on. You show up in Sirius's house, you slip passed the Black Family wards, no one just slips passed those wards. You cast spells without wands or even words! You set Death Eaters on fire,"- I won't be apologizing for that-" but I can't really complain about that, and then you blast open a door that three well trained"- debatable-" wizards can't get through and then, the bloody cherry on top of the cake- fuck, and you say this is bizarre for you? How's this for bizarre! You throw yourself in front of a baby you don't know , our best friend’s baby, and you save his life ."

Hermione was concerned Remus hadn't taken a breath during all that, she was also concerned that he wasn't wrong. Maybe it was her he was uncomfortable with, not McGonagall. Hermione cringed in shame.

This isn't your Lupin! She tried to remind herself but it was of no use. 

"And quite frankly, Granger, I-I don't know whether to petrify you or hug you," Remus finished, running his hand through his messy hair. 

"Wh-what?" 

"You saved Lily and Harry, why? Why would you do that? You don’t know them." Remus was almost pleading. "When that door opened and we saw Lily on the floor, I thought she was dead and my heart broke for James. And then fucking Crouch, he aimed his wand at Harry and without hesitation you took that curse. Hell, the only reason McGonagall thinks it didn't kill you is because you managed to silence him before he cast it, who even thinks to do that?"

"It's an old trick," Hermione muttered. 

"An old trick?" Remus gave a short laugh. "That old trick saved your life. And then Sirius took down Crouch, I was too shocked to know what to do."

"Remus," Hermione began, wringing her hand uncertainly. "I-I'm sorry, truly, truly I'm sorry. For confusing you and for barging in on your lives and for not having a good answer. But, Remus, wh-why did Pomfrey tell you not to tell Sirius? If I need to watch out for him, please I know he's your best friend, but I need to know. If he might show up and petrify me again then I need to be aware, especially since I don't have my bloody wand."

"Petrify you?" Remus furrowed his brow. "No, no Pomfrey didn't want him to be informed because you woke up about two minutes after she'd finally convinced him to leave. After he took Crouch to the Ministry and we sent a patronus to McGonagall, he didn't leave your side."

Hermione stiffened. Well, that's fucking odd. 

"He-he's not going to hurt you, Miss Granger. You saved one- two really, two of our best friends. None of us are going to hurt you."

Chapter Text

Hermione opened her mouth to speak, shut it, and then repeated this process about five times. The fierceness in Remus's words had caught her off guard, but it was the words themselves that she found truly baffling. 

Had he...just...no, no I misunderstood. Hermione bit the inside of her cheek in thought.

"I...I'm sorry, but could you maybe repeat that for me?" she requested very slowly, as if each word were a struggle. To Hermione's chagrin Remus had rendered her quite dumbfounded. Obviously, she must have misheard him. You don't go from utterly suspicious to ready to defend with your life in just a few hours. Normal people don't do that. But, these are Marauders, no one ever accused them of being normal people, I suppose. 

"No one," Remus repeated. "Is going to hurt you. Not me, not Sirius, not anyone."

"And, and what you mean is that no one is going to hurt me because everyone is just really swell and...nice?" Hermione's neck had retreated into her shoulders with pained discomfort as the witch tried to make sense of what Remus was saying. Even though she was fairly certain she knew what he was saying, this was all just far too strange.

Remus reached out a hand and placed it cautiously on Hermione's shoulder, looking searchingly into her amber eyes. The witch felt herself both relax and grow more agitated under his heavy gaze. 

"You're very strange, Hermione Granger," Remus remarked with a half smile.

"Oh gee, thank you." Hermione rolled her eyes.

"And I don't know how you got here or who you are or how you know about my-my condition . I don't even particularly know if your name is actually Hermione Granger-"

"Why on Earth would I have made up that name for myself?" Hermione snapped in irritation. "If I was going to make up a name it'd be something unassuming like Susan or Amanda. Not Hermione ."

"True," Remus chuckled, moving his hand from Hermione's shoulder and back down to her elbow, leading them towards the Headmistress's office again. "But my point is, I don't care about any of that. Maybe I will later, but I don't right now. You saved Harry and you saved Lily and you almost died for it. I owe you a great deal, too much to ever pay back."

Hermione opened her mouth to object, ready to explain that Harry would have done the same for her and that no one owed her anything, but she stopped herself. Maybe now was not the time to explain how Harry and Hermione had saved each other’s lives, and really their souls, countless times before. Those were things that future - other reality?- Harry would do, not current baby Harry. 

Remus and Hermione passed the next few minutes in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. Hermione's mind was running through current happenings and past happenings, which were technically, she supposed, future happenings. She was thinking about Seamus's accent and Harry's smile and Ginny's boisterous laugh, the Weasley laugh, and she was imagining Crookshank's squished face-

Hermione gasped and threw a hand over her mouth.

Remus turned to her puzzled. "What, what's wrong?"

"I..." I slipped between space and time and didn't leave enough food down for my damned kneazle cat, because I am a horrible pet parent! "I just thought of something, it's nothing, don't worry, let's go," Hermione assured the wizard, but her mind was panicked. Her mind seemed to be panicked quite a bit in the last twelve or so hours.

Fuck, how long have I been gone in my timeline? For Merlin's sake, how does the nature of space-time even work? I don't have time, or maybe I have too much time? For this kind of shite! I can't be dealing with this! Oh, gods, poor Crooks, he's probably pitifully yowling around the flat, maybe loud enough the neighbors heard? And called...called who? Harry! Harry can get into my flat, if I'm missing then the first place they'll check is my flat, see Crooks is alone and Harry will definitely probably look after him. Her guilt at abandoning her familiar assuaged for the moment, Hermione relaxed in time to realize they'd reached the formidable gargoyle that guarded the Headmast-mistress's office. 

"There is one thing I would like to know," Remus admitted, releasing Hermione's elbow. Hermione turned her amber eyes to him curiously. "How did you know our names?"

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, genuinely confused.

"James and Sirius and me, you knew our names at Grimmauld Place," he elaborated, not looking down at Hermione. The witch considered a moment.

"I just called you three what you were calling each other," she lied and felt a pang of guilt for doing so. Now's not the time for the truth. 

Remus furrowed his brow, but dropped the subject. Instead he said to the gargoyle. "Nekomata." 

Hermione turned to the wizard who shrugged. "It's some cat spirit or deity or what have you. McGonagall has an affinity for cats."

Hermione wondered if Remus knew McGonagall was an Animagus and didn't want to say or if, perhaps, McGonagall could not transform into a cat in this world. Why couldn't things just be normal ? Hermione had noted during their walk throughout the castle that, besides not seeing a single student, Hogwarts looked virtually the same as she had remembered it, but would the Headmistress's Tower?

To Hermione's relief the office looked almost as it had the last time she had been there. It was, of course, missing a few odds and ends and where Hermione remembered Fawkes's perch was now a tall, ornate cat tree with a black cat sleeping at the top. The cat opened it's large yellow eyes languidly and watched Hermione and Remus as they approached McGonagall's desk.

From behind her desk the older witch looked over her glasses at the pair and motioned to a chair. "Thank you, Mister Lupin. Miss Granger, have a seat."

Hermione sat down stiffly and looked up at Remus. Was he not staying? Remus appeared just as confused.

"Mister Lupin, if you would wait outside, I'll call you back in soon. There are things I'd like to discuss with both of you, but for now I need to speak to Miss Granger alone ." 

Remus nodded and Hermione swallowed as she watched him leave. Remus might be content to not know things for now, but Hermione was confident her former Transfiguration professor would not be. 

She was correct.

"Now, Miss Granger, I'm not quite sure where to begin." McGonagall leaned forward and folded her hands demurely on her desk. "So, I'm going to offer you the opportunity to explain yourself first, before I make my own assumptions."

"I'm not sure what you mean, Headmistress," Hermione admitted honestly. And quite frankly, you won't believe me anyway. 

" I don't know who you are, Miss Granger. We've never met, though based on your odd display in the Hospital Wing, you seem to think we have."

Hermione cringed in embarrassment. She would never be taking Calming Draught ever again.

"I've checked the Hogwarts records, even going well passed when you may have attended our school and I find no mention of a Hermione Granger and yet," McGonagall narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice. "And yet, according to Mister Black and Mister Lupin, you seem to possess knowledge you have no right to. You seem to know secrets you shouldn't possibly know. There are very few means by which you could have acquired these secrets and I'm afraid none of them give me any cause to trust you, so before I draw my own conclusions I will offer you again the opportunity to speak for yourself."

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek and sat up straight in her chair. Could she tell McGonagall the truth? Would the Headmistress even believe her? In order to figure out how she got here and how she was going to get back, McGonagall would be an invaluable ally, if she could earn the witch's trust, but the truth was so unbelievable. 

"Are you a Legilimens, Headmistress?" Hermione asked.

McGonagall raised an eyebrow. "No, I'm afraid not."

Hermione frowned. "Do you have any veritaserum on hand?"

This time McGonagall raised both eyebrows. "Are you suggesting you need to be potioned , Miss Granger?"

"Honestly, I would prefer not to be, I think I've had enough potions for one day," Hermione chuckled. "But honestly, ma'am, I'm afraid you won't believe me."

The older witch stared at Hermione for a moment, her deep green eyes were not as friendly as Remus's, before pushing away from her desk and moving to a cabinet on the wall. She opened the cabinet door and pulled out a small, clear vile and walked back to her desk. McGonagall placed the vile down before Hermione and sat back in her chair. 

"There you are, Miss Granger, but you know, veritaserum does not conjure the actual truth, only what the drinker thinks is the truth."

"Yes, I'm aware," Hermione said, gingerly picking up the bottle. "But at least this way you'll know I'm not intentionally lying."

With a sigh Hermione downed the bottle. 

"Miss Granger! You only needed a drop!" McGonagall said startled. 

Oh shite, I knew that. 

"Oh yes... I knew that," Hermione said with a frown. Get it together, Granger, use your brain. "Yes well, I suppose we can start now. Where shall I begin, Headmistress?"

"What's your name?"

"Hermione Jean Granger." Hermione flinched. She knew that under the influence of veritaserum one was not only forced to tell the truth, but compelled to do so, but she'd never taken it herself and found the sensation a bit startling.

"When were you born?"

"September 19th, 1979." Hermione threw a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. 

"Hmmm...as I suspected," McGonagall remarked calmly. 

"As-as you suspected?"

"Indeed, I am no stranger to time travel, Miss Granger. Though I will admit this is quite unprecedented." 

Ah, so she must have the time turner in this world. Could that be helpful? Hermione wondered briefly, moving that information to the back of her mind for future consideration. 

"So am I to assume then that you are either from the future or think you're from the future?"

"Not the future, well, not your future," Hermione said quietly.

"I'm sorry?" The Headmistress cocked her head to the side.

"This-I don't- I mean-" It was strange to struggle against the potion. Hermione was trying to phrase the truth delicately, but the compulsion to just spit it out was overwhelming. "I don't think this is my past or the past of my timeline, I think this is a- a well, I think this is another t rouser of time ."

McGonagall stared at her.

Hermione continued in a rush. "Another dimension or reality so to speak. At first I thought this was a hallucination, that I'd lost my mind, and I suppose that still might be the case, but I'm rather prone to believe at this point that I'm in an alternate timeline."

"And how would you know this is an alternate timeline, Miss Granger?" McGonagall asked. Hermione found the calmness in the other witch's voice unnerving. 

"Because Lily and James should be dead."

McGonagall placed a hand over her chest. "Dead?"

"Yes, you see, in my time James and Lily Potter were killed by Voldemort on October 31st, 1981 and as this is 1982 and they are quite alive, this cannot possibly be my past."

"And Voldemort, what of him in your supposed timeline?"

"Dead."

"So, he might really be gone?" McGonagall said more to herself than Hermione. "How did he die in your timeline?" 

"Harry Potter killed him," Hermione replied. "He was The Chosen One."

"The Chosen One?"

"There was a prophecy, that a child would be born who could kill Voldemort, and Voldemort believed Harry was that child and he went to kill him. But he couldn't, something went wrong and his spell rebounded. Lily threw herself in front of the killing curse and her love, it was old magic, powerful magic, it saved Harry and defeated Voldemort."

"And this happened on October 31st, 1981 you say?" McGonagall brought a hand to her chin and tapped her finger against her bottom lip.

"Yes."

"Miss Granger, how long do you think you've been here, in our time?"

"I'm not sure, I woke up on the floor of the Ministry and Floo'd to Grimmauld Place maybe an hour before the fight at the Potter's Cottage. In my time that's where Harry lives and I was going to go see him and Ginny."

"How did you end up asleep on the Ministry floor, Miss Granger?"

"I'm...not sure." In a rush Hermione explained her morning at the Auror meeting, the panic attack, and running into an abandoned room.

"And that's the last thing you remember before waking up here? Running into a room?"

"Y-yes." Hermione frowned, twisting in her seat. Something was tickling at the edge of her mind, like a little scratch. The potion was compelling her to say more, so she opened her mouth, but no words came out. There was something else, something she couldn't remember, but almost. She could almost remember. 

"Is there more, Miss Granger?" McGonagall asked, seeing Hermione's face twisted in turmoil. 

"No, no I don't know. I think maybe? But I-I can't remember ."

"Hmm..." McGonagall leaned back in her chair. "You told Mister Lupin and Mister Black you had important information to give to the Minister? Regarding Voldemort's defeat. What was that the information?"

"No." Hermione stopped there, she had a few questions of her own. "Is he gone, the Dark Lord, is he gone?"

"Yes, Miss Granger. And there was also a prophecy that Voldemort, it seems, was quite terrified of, just as you say he was in your time. Voldemort disappeared on October 31st, 1981."

"How?"

"I'm not quite sure, no one is sure as the only survivor was a small child, a one-"

"Neville," Hermione gasped, her hand going to her throat in despair. "Neville Longbottom."

"Why yes, indeed. Is there a Neville Longbottom in your time as well?"

Hermione nodded, looking to the floor as her heart broke for her friend. Even in this timeline he would grow up without his parents. "You could say he was my first friend at Hogwarts."

So were things reversed then? Neville was the Chosen One and Harry was...normal? Would James and Lily suffer the fate that had befallen Frank and Alice? Tortured to insanity?

No, Hermione would never let that happen.  Things would be changed. Things would be stopped.

Hermione turned back to McGonagall, her amber eyes hard. "He will return, Headmistress, as he did in my time."

The color drained from McGonagall's already pale face. "How?"

"Magic, dark magic, long forgotten. Horcruxes. You must find them and destroy them before he has a chance to return." Hermione reached across the desk and grabbed McGonagall's hand. "If you don't destroy them so many will die, so many. But it can be done! I've done it."

McGonagall looked down at her hand now held in Hermione's for a long moment before pulling it out and turning her gaze to the younger witch. "I have a proposal for you, Miss Granger."

Hermione pulled her hands into her lap. "What proposal is that, Headmistress?"

"I will help you return to your time-"

"You believe me!" Hermione interrupted breathlessly.

"You are either telling the truth or you're mad. Either way, I will help you. When you live for as long as me, Miss Granger, you learn there are more things between heaven and hell than can be dreamt of in any philosophy."

For as long as me...? 

McGonagall continued, "I will help you and in return, while I am testing my own theories about how you came to be here, you will find these Horcruxes, if Voldemort has made them, and destroy them."

Hermione frowned. She'd done this before, she did her time, she'd already fought in a war. She didn't want to go through that again. She'd already seen friends die, she'd watched their pain and experienced her own. The names and faces of the dead flashed through her mind and she grimaced. 

This is your chance, Granger. We couldn't save them then, but we can save them now. Hermione squared her shoulders and looked McGonagall in the eye. "Alright, I agree."

Chapter Text

"Excellent." McGonagall allowed herself a small smile. "Now, I believe it best if you do not recount anymore to me or anyone . I would like to know everything, all the events that transpired in your time, but Voldemort's followers remain, though the wretched man is gone for now. If it were to reach their ears of a girl-"

 "Woman," Hermione interrupted before she realized what she was doing. Her dark face flushed with embarrassment. She wanted to blame the veritaserum, but it had mostly worn off. 

"Woman," McGonagall agreed with a nod. "If they were to discover there was a woman with such knowledge as you have, they would stop at nothing to find you and...extract that information from you."

Hermioned bit her lip, knowing exactly what means of extraction Voldemort's followers used. Absentmindedly she rubbed the scar on her forearm, hidden under the sleeve of her jumper, and shoved thoughts of Malfoy Manor from her mind. Instead, Hermione aimed her focus at the present; McGonagall was correct, the fewer people who knew about her the better.

"Now with that being said," The Headmistress continued. "I do think it best if we bring Mister Lupin and Mister Black in for the duration of our conversation. If you would, please retrieve Mister Lupin from the hall while I send a patronus to Mister Black requesting his presence as well."

Hermione twisted her mouth in confusion. "Prof-Headmistress, why do we need Remus and Sirius here for the rest of our conversation?"

"In due time, Miss Granger, you''ll know in due time. I'd rather prefer to not have to explain myself twice." McGonagall waved her finger in the air. "But be assured, Mister Lupin and Mister Black are two of the most highly valued and trusted members of the Order of the Black Cat. You can count on their complete discretion."

"I have no doubt of- wait... I'm sorry. Wh-what did you say?" Hemrione's eyebrows shot in two completely different directions on her forehead. "The Order of the B-Black...Cat?"

"Oh, yes, I'm sorry," McGonagall apologized. "Mister Lupin had informed me you were asking after the Order, I assumed we must then exist in your time."

"No, no you're correct, the Order does exist. It's just called something ah..umm a little different." Hermione's mind was wading through the implications of this new differently named Order. The Black Cat? Does that mean... " Headmistress, is Albus Dumbledore a member of the Order?"

"Albus?" McGonagall asked skeptically. "Heavens no, child, why would the Minister of Magic be a member of a secret Order?"

"Ahh..." Hermione said slowly. "No reason, no reason at all."

No wonder they'd looked at me like I had a pair of antlers growing out of my arse when I'd asked to see Dumbledore. Not a member of the Order? Curiouser and curiouser.

" I'll go get Remus then," Hermione said, quickly getting from her seat to escape McGonagall's questioning stare.

When she returned to the Headmistress's desk, two extra chairs had been conjured. Hermione and Remus sat down silently, neither quite sure where this was headed, though Hermione had an idea she was prepared to kick down. The curly haired witch twiddled her thumbs in her lap and nervously smoothed nonexistent wrinkles out of her jumper. The urge to grab Remus's hand for reassurance tickled at her fingers, but she pointedly ignored it, repeating "Not your Lupin!" in her head like a mantra. 

Hermione's thoughts turned to her year on the run, living with her boys on luck while a war had simmered around them. McGonagall's request was bringing every memory Hermione took such care to compartmentalize to the surface and Hermione's attempts to bat them down were futile at best. She felt as if she were playing mental whack-a-mole. A memory would pop out of the ground of her mind and while Hermione vehemently squashed it with a hammer, two more would pop up near it and as soon as she hit those, more would appear. She felt physically drained and mentally exhausted despite her apparent ten hour nap. Was there such a thing as time travel jet lag?

In between desperate attempts to repress memories of hunting Horcruxes, Hermione found herself hoping Sirius wouldn't burst through the Floo and stupefy her a second time. Despite Remus's passionate reassurance- which was bizarre in and of itself- Hermione couldn't shake the blooming sense of dread encompassing her. She felt dizzy, like she was on the edge of a cliff looking down, one step away from the chaotic free fall of another flashback, like the one that had triggered this insane series of events. 

What if Voldemort hasn't even created the Horcruxes this time around? She wondered . Or worse yet, what if they're completely different? Hermione supposed she wasn't starting at square one, but she felt damned near close. 

The Headmistress cleared her throat and looked between the witch and wizard seated apprehensively before her. "Really, I don't know why you two look as though I'm about to give you detention."

Remus chuckled uneasily. "It does feel a bit like that I reckon. Seated here quietly, not sure what's to happen next."

Dear Remus, you have no idea.

"Worry not, Mister Lupin, I'll explain everything as soon as-" But McGonagall was unable to complete her sentence as the Floo roared to life, spitting green flames into her office. 

Hermione's head turned quick enough to give her whiplash as Sirius Black came striding through the fireplace. The wizard was dressed in torn dark jeans, folded once at the bottom over his black boots, and a tight fitting black shirt, with his wand tucked into his back pocket. Hermione had forgotten Muggles of the early 80s wore such tight fitting trousers.

Well, I suppose I should be happy that fashions have remained on the same trajectory...? At least my hair will be in style. 

" Mister Black, I assume you're not coming directly from work?" McGonagall asked, her eyebrows high on her forehead.

Better be careful, Minerva, or they’re going to stay there. 

Sirius flashed her a grin and took the seat next to Remus, giving his friend a familiar pat on the shoulder.

"Nah, just relaxing a bit at home." Sirius threw an arm over the back of his chair and leaned to the side. "So what's the damage, Minerva?"

Remus looked disgustedly at his friend, but Hermione noted he didn't exactly look surprised.

McGonagall turned to Hermione. "I assure you again, Miss Granger, highly valued members . " She then turned to the wizards, leveling them with a cool gaze. "I implore you, do not make me regret bringing you two in on this."

"Of course not, Headmistress!" Remus said quickly while Sirius sat grinning. To Hermione's surprise, everything happening was so outrageous that it was actually putting her at ease and, added bonus, no one was trying to hex her.

McGonagall pursed her lips before motioning to Hermione. "Gentlemen, I believe you are already acquainted with Miss Granger."

The wizards nodded and Remus smiled at Hermione cautiously though not unkindly, but Sirius did not cast his grey eyes her way.  

"Good, now what I'm certain you are unaware of is that Miss Granger has information, vital information, classified information. And because of this, I have placed her on a mission of the utmost importance." McGonagall stopped for a moment, letting her words sink in. "Miss Granger's mission is dangerous, but necessary and she has graciously agreed to the risks associated with it." - Wait, when did I agree to risks?- "What I am asking of you, gentlemen, is your assistance."

"Headmistress, I do not require any assistance," Hermione stated confidently. "As you said yourself, the less in the know the better."

"Yes I did say that, but Mister Black and Mister Lupin are already more 'in the know' than I would have liked due to the nature of your arrival in our ti- lives ," McGonagall countered. "But, I think that will work to our benefit. Of all the Order members-"

"You mean, of all the Order members left," Sirius interrupted solemnly. 

"Indeed." The older witch grimaced. "Of all the Order members left, you two are my most trusted, most capable allies. I would trust no one else with this."

"Stop buttering us up, Minerva. You're making my stomach fluttery." Sirius wiggled his eyebrows and Remus punched his friend in the arm. "What's the deali-o?"

"Now this is where I must ask- no, demand - your trust." McGonagall placed her fingers in a steeple on her desk and looked between the wizards, ensuring she had their full attention. "This mission will not only require your assistance, but also your ignorance."

The office grew silent, filled with a thick haze of apprehension. Remus and Sirius and even James knew too much and had seen too much already, but Hermione couldn't help but question the wisdom in using their assistance further. They may be ignorant now, but if they worked with her on her hunt, they would not remain so.

Remus looked bewildered between Hermione and McGonagall, but Sirius narrowed his eyes at the old witch.

"Minerva," Sirius was the first to break the silence. "If we aren't to know the details of our assignment...how will we be able to complete the mission?"

"As I said, the mission is Miss Granger's, not yours. You two will be assisting her."

"I see..." Sirius said slowly. "How exactly?"

"That is not for me to decide, I will leave that to Miss Granger's discretion," the Headmistress spoke honestly. "However, it is my personal assignment to you that Miss Granger, for her own safety, must be closely guarded. She will be staying here at Hogwarts and-"

"No," Sirius interrupted McGonagall with a sudden hardness. 

"What?" The older witch looked quite taken aback. 

"She'll stay at Grimmauld Place," Sirius said matter of factly. "And so will Remus, during our mission."

"Oi, mate. I have a flat, thank you very much," Remus insisted quickly. 

"A poorly warded flat," Sirius remarked.

"Bugger off," Remus muttered. 

"Well, it’s true," Sirius said to his friend. "Minerva, If this mission is truly as dangerous as you say and Miss Granger is in danger and in need of our guardianship, then I'm going to insist everyone remain at Grimmauld Place." Sirius finished in a tone that brokered no arguments. "We'll be safest there."

"Mister Black, I assure you, the wards at Hogwarts-" McGonagall began.

"Are top notch, really, some of the best in the world I'd say," Sirius interrupted again and Hermione would have laughed at the horrible glare McGonagall was pinning him with if she herself wasn't growing more irritated by the second. What was Sirius on about? "And I don't know if you've noticed this yet, Minerva, but there are students crawling all over this place. If discretion is the name of the game, it will be difficult to stay out of sight with their little eyes everywhere. Plus Hogwarts is missing one key element of protection."

"Oh, and what's that?" McGonagall scoffed in disbelief. 

"Me." Sirius grinned wickedly and Hermione couldn't help herself, she burst out in a very unladylike guffaw. For the first time since he'd entered the office, Sirius turned his grey eyes to the dark witch. "Do you doubt me, Miss Granger?"

"I don't doubt that you think you are the one thing missing from the brilliant and ancient Hogwarts wards," Hermione remarked. "But whether you truly are, well, that's the bit I'm having a problem with."

"Believe it or not, it's a fact." Sirius dismissed her protests with a wave of his pale hand.

"I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the term 'fact'."

"And you and Moony will be staying at my place whether you like it or not."

" Excuse me?" Hermione was wholly unprepared for this Sirius Black, the man's arrogance was completely unrivaled. Even at his worst she was struggling to remember her Sirius being this incorrigible. No one was going to order Hermione Granger around like a daft puppy.

"Oh you're excused." Sirius smiled sweetly and Hermione's face twisted in rage.

This is fucking unbelievable. 

"It's a figure of speech, Black," she spat. 

"Well then figure out your speech, Miss Granger," he replied innocently.

Hermione turned to McGonagall. "If I stay at Grimmauld Place, I will kill him."

"You already tried, love. But I burst out of your spell unharmed." Sirius folded his arms across his chest triumphantly. 

"B-burst!? Burst out of my spell un- by the gods!" Hermione sputtered. "I released you from the stupefy and from what I've read- and trust me when I say I have read like you would not believe- there is no mention of anyone ever being killed by a stupefy. And if you find one, Mister Black, well I'll kiss your bloody boots."

Sirius's lips curled into a sly smile that made Hermione briefly reconsider her words. 

"That a promise?"

"It’s a guarantee ."

Remus coughed and nodded towards Hermione's now empty chair. At some point in her rambling she had stood up and with an embarrassed 'hrmph' the witch sat back down, hugging her arms to her chest. 

How is he doing this to me? Get ahold of yourself, Granger, you're not a child. It's obviously the time jet lag. 

"I think I have to side with Miss Granger on this," Remus began.

"Hermione, Remus, please call me Hermione," she witch offered with a small smile, grateful for Remus's support. 

The wizard smiled shyly back at her. "Hermione then, I agree with you. The three of us living with Sirius is not only impractical, it's completely unsafe." The werewolf turned to McGonagall. "I do believe she really will kill him and I'm not wholly convinced I could stop her."

"Now Hermione-" Sirius put up his hands out in a placating gesture.

"Miss Granger to you!" she said, pointing her finger at him.

"But- but you just said-"

"To Remus." Hermione turned her finger to Remus who immediately looked uncomfortably between the fuming witch and the baffled wizard. "Remus is being reasonable."

"I'm being reasonable!" Sirius countered, his voice raising.

"No, Black, I think you're actually being the very definition of unreasonable," Hermione said through clenched teeth. 

"Well if I'm being unreasonable, you're being a right bitch," Sirius snarled. 

The blood drained from Hermione's body and was replaced with cold, icy fury which she leveled at Sirius Black with a gaze of such burning intensity that the wizard actually scooted his chair an inch away. "Headmistress," Hermione's eyes never left Sirius. "If you would please return my wand to me."

Hermione extended her arm out towards McGonagall and Remus, realizing he was between the fuming witch and her target, scooted his chair back. 

"Miss Granger, I'm not sure that's wise at the moment. I think I've heard quite enough form the two of you." McGonagall pinned Sirius and Hermione was a disappointed stare and Hermione's face grew hot. Slowly she curled her arm back and placed her hands onto her lap.  "Mister Black, though I would rather not admit it, you have a point."

"What!" Remus and Hermione exclaimed in tandem.

"I do?" Sirius asked unsure. "I mean, it was a bit harsh, she was being bitchy, but not a right bitch."

"Not about that, Sirius!" McGonagall rolled her eyes.

"Oh...then-oh! The safety part, ah yes, good." Sirius nodded triumphantly.

"Headmistress, what are you saying?" Hermione asked in growing horror. "You couldn't possibly be suggesting..."

"Oh I think she is," Sirius remarked.

"That's enough, Mister Black," McGonagall snapped and then turning to Hermione, continued, "Miss Granger, Mister Black has a point. Hogwarts is expertly warded," McGonagall flashed a stern look at Sirius, "however, at Grimmauld Place you would be under more secluded protection, able to complete your assignments without distractions. And if word of you reaches the wrong ears, I fear Hogwarts would be the first place our enemies would come looking and I cannot in good conscious endanger my students in that way."

Hermione slumped in her chair, defeated. Desperately she pleaded. "But Headmistress, I may need to use the library at Hogwarts."

"Then I will arrange for special Floo permissions with Madame Pince." McGonagall rose from her chair. "Now that the matter of your housing is settled"- is it?!- " I think it best for you to follow Madame Pomfrey's advice and get some rest, settle in a bit at Grimmauld Place. I will make arrangements for funds and come to visit you tomorrow morning."

Oh shite, this is happening. Hermione was grappling for control of the situation, but she had run out of ideas, her brain spent, and lying down was sounding more and more enticing. 

"Good idea, Minerva." Sirius grinned. "Let's all go home."

"I'm not staying with you, mate!" Remus insisted again.

"No choice now!" Sirius danced merrily to the fireplace.

Chapter Text

When Hermione was six years old she read The Hobbit, the Lord of Rings Trilogy and The Silmarillion . For the entirety of that year she did nothing but go to school, do her homework, eat, sleep, and read. Her father had been so concerned he'd actually suggested they take her to a therapist, but Hermione's mother had laughed and waved him off. Let her read, she had said. Let her be. 

A child of six reading any Tolkien novel is quite a feet but to read nearly all of them is another beast entirely. 

Despite reading at a college level in primary school, Hermione came across parts of the novels that she didn't quite understand and this drove her absolutely mad. To not understand, for Hermione Jean Granger, was one of the most cardinal sins, but worse than that was to content oneself with ignorance. So over the next two years she reread Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion three times-- The Hobbit had been too easy-- and created a notebook that’s sole purpose was to catalogue, color code, and highlight the entire history of Eä in a manner in which she could study.

Hermione then took it upon herself to learn Sarati, the most common Elvish script.  And then she learned Khuzdul, the language of the dwarves (because why not?), which actually came in quite handy during Ancient Rune lessons. 

The point is, Hermione hated not knowing. She hated not knowing what was going on in an invented fantasy world and she hated not knowing what was going on in her own real world. 

So the last twelve hours had been particularly hard on the amber eyed witch.

As Hermione lay in the bed that she had been informed once belonged to Regulus Black and now belonged to her for the duration of her stay at Grimmauld Place, she stared at a black ceiling and  for the thousandth time, re-evaluated her situation. 

Hermione began a mental notebook to catalogue, color code, and highlight important information that would help her understand this bizarre new world and her -- hopefully brief-- tenure in it. In her mind she began with a category of similarities and differences this reality shared with her own.

Similarities: all the characters are the same, Hogwarts exists, the Order exists (kinda), chocolate frogs exist.

Hermione popped a chocolate frog into her mouth from the bag that lay on her chest. Remus had given her the candy insisting that if she wouldn't sit down and eat lunch with them ("lunch" being a half eaten week old pizza and a bag of stale crisps) then she needed something in her stomach. After Hermione took a look inside the pantry, shut the door in horror and then peeked in again, Remus had grabbed a bag of chocolate frogs from the backpack he had brought from his flat and handed them to her with a smile. A smile she was quickly beginning to treasure.

Similarities: Remus Lupin has the same smile, Remus Lupin exists, Sirius Black exists, Grimmauld Place exists, spiders exist 

From her spot on the bed Hermione noticed a cobweb in the corner of the room and shuddered as a giant black spider hung idly from a long strand of silk. She certainly didn’t possess Ron’s arachnophobia, but she wasn’t on friendly terms with creepy crawlies either. Where was Kreacher? Grimmauld Place was a mess and Sirius Black was in desperate need of a house elf. Hermione scrunched her face, that was by far the most insane thought that had crossed her mind since she'd arrived in this time. She felt a little guilty for even thinking it, honestly.

Differences: no Kreacher? Potters are alive, Sirius is not in Azkaban, McGonagall is head of the Order

McGonagall. Hermione's thoughts floated back to her conversation with the head of the Order and the events that lead the wild haired witch to her current situation. She thought about the crazed look in Barty Crouch Jr.'s eye as he raised his wand to curse Harry and instinctively Hermione clutched at her own wand, grunting in frustration at the emptiness in her hand. 

The speed in which the Headmistress had ushered the trio out of her office, into the Floo, and back to Grimmauld Place had spun Hermione's head. She'd barely had time enough to remind the older witch about her confiscated wand. McGonagall had insisted she'd bring it back the next morning, but for now it was probably best if Hermione settled in without the ability to "perform hexes she might regret later."

Which was ridiculous. Hermione never regretted a hex. Or at least, she had recently decided, not one cast at Sirius Black. 

Or one cast at Crouch or any other Death Eater for that matter. 

Similarities: Death Eaters. 

Everything here was different and yet exactly the same. People had swapped places, events were altered, but a megalomaniac sadist had still drawn a following to him in an attempt to rule Britain and, eventually, the world. Silver masked nightmares still patrolled the darkness with blood on their minds and venom in their souls. Hermione was still in a war. Had the war ever ended? Even in her own time-- reality? Whatever.-- Ron had insisted the war was not over and that the Death Eater hordes remained.

He probably hadn't been wrong. 

No, scratch the house-elf comment, that was the most insane thought that had crossed Hermione's mind since her arrival. Ronald Weasley right about something? She'd never admit it.

At least not out loud. 

We should have left him in the forest. He did help Harry destroy that Horcrux though...Fine! We should have left him in the forest after he helped Harry destroy the Horcrux.

Horcruxes. Hermione had thought she was done with Horcruxes. She thought she was done with snakes, and rings, and cups, and diadems, and lockets, and--

"The locket!" Hermione sprang from the bed like a flash of lightning, all speed and no control. Her foot tangled in the silk sheets -- silk is too slippery a fabric for a bed!-- and in her haste to detangle herself, Hermione slipped and fell to the floor with a resounding thump. 

Motherfucker! Hermione clenched her teeth and grabbed her ankle as pain shot up her leg. Get ahold of yourself, Granger!

The door swung open and Remus rushed in, wand raised. "What-what's happening! I heard...oh." He looked down at Hermione's face, red with embarrassment on the floor. "What are you doing?"

"I was rather curious about how the room looked from this vantage point," Hermione drawled, rubbing her ankle on the ground.  

Remus chuckled and helped Hermione back onto the bed. "You're a strange witch, Hermione."

Dear Remus, you still have no idea. 

The wizard noticed Hermione rubbing her ankle. "Hurt yourself while studying the floor, did you?" He sat down on the bed, but left a good foot between himself and Hermione. 

Hermione shot him a good-natured glare. "A bit, I'll be fine. I've seen worse."

"Yes," Remus remarked soberly. "Reckon I've seen you take worse actually."

Hermione stiffened. She didn't know what to say to that, so instead she changed the subject. "Where's dear old Sirius? I see only you came rushing to my aid."

"Oh, he's got work. He normally works nights, y'see, and sleeps in the day." Remus chuckled to himself, staring at the floor. "Quite nocturnal our Sirius. He comes out with the stars." The werewolf motioned to the ceiling, as if to the stars. 

Hermione gave a small laugh at this and Remus turned his green eyes too her. She was finding she quite enjoyed when Remus's eyes were on her. His gaze did not make her feel uncomfortable or judged like McGonagall's or positively livid with frustration like Sirius's, instead it simply took her in and accepted her. It was a strange thing to find acceptance in a mess like this. 

"So how are you liking your room?" Remus asked. "It was Sirius's brother's, Reggie. Regulus." Remus looked around. "Rather dark in here, I think."

Hermione hadn't paid attention to the room except for the ceiling she'd been staring at for some time and the deep green silk sheets on the bed. Her amber eyes flicked about. Remus was right, it was dark. Black ceiling, dark grey walls, green drapes over the one window, and a fine layer of dust over the furniture Hermione assumed was antique. 

"I don't think Sirius has been in here in years," Remus commented. 

"Why not?" Hermione probed.  

"Oh, s'pose it reminds him too much of Regulus," the werewolf sighed. "It's a bit complicated the whole thing."

"What happened to him? To Regulus?" Hermione feigned ignorance. "Did he move out?"

"Oh, umm no." Remus shifted on the bed. "No he didn't move out. It's rather odd and rather sad actually. Regulus disappeared a few years ago, before Sirius inherited the house. Not a word or a trace, just vanished. Didn't take anything with him either."

Hermione bit her bottom lip to keep from smiling. Maybe Regulus had found the locket! Where would it be? Hermione's brain flipped onto hyperdrive. Who had the locket before, in her time? Kreacher. Kreacher had the locket because he'd gone with Regulus to the cave to retrieve it. 

Hermione narrowed her eyes. Sirius Black didn't have a house-elf. 

"That is sad for Sirius, to lose his brother." Hermione's sympathy wasn't entirely feigned, but it was more for Regulus than for Sirius. As far as Hermione knew, in her time Sirius had never gotten along with his estranged younger brother, while Regulus had lost his life in an attempt to secure Voldemort's demise. She pitied the latter more than the former. 

"They didn't talk much at the end, but yes, Sirius didn't take it well." Remus didn't meet Hermione's gaze and the witch briefly wondered what "didn't take it well" could mean when applied to Sirius Black. 

Hermione waited for Remus to continue, but after a few moments of silence decided to ask, "Do you think Sirius would mind if I cleaned up a bit in here?" Hermione was hoping she could get Remus to mention the house elves without her having to bring it up. "I'm afraid I'm rather erm, allergic to dust."

"Oh Merlin's sake, I'm sorry!" Remus suddenly jumped from the bed. "I didn't even think-of course you shouldn't live in this filth. I've just grown accustomed to it. "

"Oh, no!" Hermione stood, waving her hands. "No, don't worry, it's really not a big deal. Growing up my two best friends were boys- I've gotten used to mess and dirt, trust me."

Remus looked around the room and then back at Hermione. "Still... this is unacceptable. Sirius used to have a house-elf, I'm not sure what happened to the old bugger."

There it is! "Oh? Sirius ha-"

"And your clothes!" Remus exclaimed.

Excuse me?

"Wh-what? My clothes?" Hermione looked down at herself. Her black jumper, dark jeans, and black ankle boots had seen better days, but there was no need to be yelling about them.

"You've been wearing them since Sirius found you."

Hermione sniffed her shoulder. I mean, not freshly laundered, but nothing to go crazy about either. I haven't exactly had a chance to change or shower, thank you very much. 

"I mean ahhh, do you-do you have any other clothes...?" Remus asked, rubbing the back of his neck. Hermione's dark face flushed and she folded her arms across her chest.

Crap. Crapity crap crap. 

"Ah well, I mean, yes." Back at my flat. That might not even exist, because I'm fairly certain it was built in the 90s. The admission slipped past Hermione's lips before she got a chance to really consider how to respond. Quietly she muttered, "Or at least, I did."

"I went back to my flat to get my things and we didn't even think- do you live in London? Could we Floo to your place and grab some things for you?" Remus asked.

Crap. Crapity crap crap. Go ahead, explain this, Granger. Well, Remus y'see, I am a time and space traveler, from a different reality, and all my clothing exists in this different reality. As do my toiletries. 

Instead she said. "No."

"No you don't live in London or no we can't Floo to your place?" Remus was looking at her strangely, his green eyes concerned. 

"Ahh both," Hermione spoke slowly, but her brain was rapidly forming words and syllables that would answer Remus's questions without giving her away. "My home is...gone."

The Brightest Witch of Her Age, ladies and gentlemen, and that's what she thinks up. Gone.

"Gone?"

"Gone."

Remus opened his mouth to say more, stopped for a moment, and then inquired. "What does that mean exactly?"

"Well er, it means...that..." Hermione was scrambling for a lie. C'mon Granger, you lied under torture to one of the most sadistic, ruthless witches in history. You can think of something. But instead, the word 'gone' rooted itself into Hermione's brain and spread its roots out into the soil of her soul.

Gone.

Her flat was gone. Her clothes were gone. Crookshanks was gone. Her friends were gone. Her life was gone and there was no certainty that she would ever get it back. Despair settled over her heavily and Hermione slumped her shoulders under the weight of it.

When Hermione looked back at Remus, she was aware that her eyes were growing wet and her mouth was trembling, and Remus looked back at her with such confused guilt and pity that she wanted to crawl into herself. Hermione hugged herself and took a step back, considering what she might say to make Remus leave for a while so she could be alone again. 

As the words of dismissal were forming on her tongue, Remus suddenly rushed to her and in seconds Hermione was engulfed by his towering form. His arms, thicker than she remembered her Lupin's arms to be, wrapped around her and pulled her to him and Hermione almost let loose the torrent of sorrow inside her. 

"I'm sorry," he whispered soothingly into the top of her hair. "You don't need to tell me. I shouldn't have asked."

For a few heartbeats Hermione soaked him in, breathing deeply his scent. Remus smelled of parchment and earth and something else Hermione couldn't recognize. 

Hermione finally pulled away from Remus, albeit reluctantly, and rubbed her eyes. "It's fine, it's fine." Get it together, Granger. Lately she seemed to be telling herself that every few minutes it seemed. 

The witch and wizard looked away from each other, an awkwardness settling between them. Remus scratched his nose and shifted his weight from foot to foot and Hermione ran a hand through her unruly hair, realizing how long it'd been since she’d combed it. 

Godric, I probably do look a right mess. 

" Y'know." Suddenly Remus was smiling. "I have an idea."

Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Let's get outta here." Remus grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her through the door.

"What, wait!" The witch tried to pull back, but Remus held fast. "Where are we going?"

"Hermione, you can't wear the same jumper and jeans every day," Remus stated plainly as he continued to pull her. "We'll just stop by the store and get you some things."

"Is that safe?" Hermione asked, though she couldn't deny a getting a clean pair of knickers would be more exciting than she'd previously realized. "Sirius seemed fairly insistent we stay here. Even Hogwarts wasn't safe enough for him ."

Remus snorted. "Well keeping you safe is my job too and I don't think Diagon Alley will be a problem. Besides," Remus flashed her a crooked grin. "What dear Sirius doesn't know won't hurt him. He usually hits the pub after his shift and he won't be home for hours, that gives us plenty of time."

A smile bloomed across Hermione's face and she hurried with Remus to the Floo. Going under Sirius's nose and getting a pair of clean socks sounded like a win-win in Hermione's grimoire. 

Chapter Text

If Hermione had been asked a few hours ago about the shopping habits of one Remus Lupin, she would have guessed that the werewolf was not much of a shopper. Her experiences with wizards on trips to the store had been limited to Harry, Ron, and occasionally Seamus when he dragged Hermione with him to buy new robes because evidently "all witches know how to pick out robes."

Not only was this assumption sexist, but it was also not the case for Hermione Granger. 

The Brightest Witch of Her Age valued practicality and simplicity- she was nothing if not utilitarian. Hermione owned two pairs of dark muggle jeans, five jumpers (all grey, black, and one red), an odd assortment of t-shirts (in the same colors), a set of formal robes, a set of casual robes, and her Auror robes. 

Also socks and knickers. That goes without saying, really. 

Her clothes fit her well and she took great care in maintaining them- Hermione hated to look unkempt and she had an uncanny attention to detail, which allowed her to look at all times prim, proper, and wholly put together. However, Hermione was not interested in the latest fashions in the way her roommates at Hogwarts had been. She had bigger fish to fry, or dark wizards to catch as the case may be, and did not find shopping for clothing or pouring over Witch Weekly to be an effective use of her time. 

So Hermione was completely unprepared for the whirlwind that was Remus Lupin. 

Some knickers, socks, maybe a jumper she could wear while the one she was currently wearing was in the wash- that's what Hermione had been thinking. Remus had other plans. The pair had started off in Diagon Alley, but Remus had quickly decided there was nothing in those shops that suited Hermione's figure and without giving the witch time to protest, he had ushered her through the Leaky Cauldron and into Muggle London. 

Hermione had occasionally thought to herself, while looking through old photos of her parents, that the 80's had been a sad time for fashion. Neon colors, high waisted pants, and giant shoulder pads weren't flattering on anyone, but they were even more horrifying when witnessed first hand. 

Remus had cajoled her into dressing room after dressing room, shoving bright pink and purple button down shirts, yellow pants, and dresses that no human should have ever been subjected to into her hands. Hermione had tried to shove the clothing right back, but Remus had smiled in his way and Hermione found herself trying on things that would have normally made her gag. Remus's smile, the witch had decided, must somehow be enhanced by his wolfish blood because no normal wizard could smile in a way that was all at once unsettling and entrancing. 

Hermione was beginning to discover that when Remus Lupin wanted something he got it and currently he wanted Hermione to try on every godawful piece 1980s apparel he could get his paws on. It was downright surreal. 

The witch leaned her bushy head out from behind the curtain of dressing room, clutching an orange blouse to her chest. "Remus!" she hissed between clenched teeth. The wizard, sitting nonchalantly on a bench against the wall, looked up from the magazine he was flipping through, eyes awash of green mirth. "I am absolutely not trying on any more of these- give me back my jumper!"

Remus smiled broadly and used his foot to push Hermione's jumper, folded neatly on the floor, even farther from her. While Hermione's back had been turned Remus had, with closed eyes, reached into the dressing room and grabbed her practical black jumper. "You'll get this back after you've tried on the yellow dress, that was our deal."

"Deal?!" Hermione sputtered. "There was no deal! This is a hostage situation and I'm done negotiating. Give me back my jumper or I'll-"

"You'll what? We're in a Muggle shop, remember?" Remus responded.

"There are plenty of mundane ways for me to throttle you." Hermione narrowed her amber eyes, imagining all of those ways in great detail. 

Remus laughed and turned back to his magazine. "When you've got the dress on you can have the jumper back."

"I'm not putting the dress on, you pigheaded man!" Hermione stomped her foot. "Why are you so interested in women's fashion anyway? Who cares if I try on the dress? I won't be purchasing it anyway." Hermione scrunched her nose in thought. "Wait, didn't James and Sirius accuse you of this when you were looking at my Auror robes? Are you some sort of fashion guru or something?"

Remus snorted. "Hardly."

"Then what is it, because I'm about out of patience for this nonsense."

Remus looked up and sighed. "Hermione, you have no clothes or soap or shampoo or anything and who knows how long Sirius and I are going to be looking after you. We could be stuck at Grimmauld Place for Merlin knows how long- especially if Sirius has his way. Maybe the wizard's lonely or something, I don't know. But anyway, the point is I'm being practical. You're going to need more than a couple pairs of knickers-" Hermione blushed "-and an extra jumper. Plus it's hilarious how you won't try on the dress. At this point I'm just curious to see how much I can get you to try on, it's quickly becoming my favorite pastime."

"Oh , I'm glad this is so amusing for you." Hermione rolled her eyes and then thought for a moment, considering the wizards argument. "But, Remus, I can't y'know..." she looked around awkwardly. "I can't pay for all of this."

"Is that what this is about?" Remus put down the magazine and folded his arms across his broad chest. "And here I thought you actually hated to look nice."

"Excuse me!" Hermione scoffed indignantly. "I look nice!"

"You look sensible. Sensible and nice are quite different," Remus pointed out. "And don't worry about the money, it's all taken care of."

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. What does he mean all taken care of? Surely...oh no. "Remus! You are not buying me these useless garments. I absolutely forbid it."

The werewolf cocked a brown eyebrow. "Firstly, you cannot forbid me from doing anything and secondly I'm not buying them."

"You're not?"

"Nope."

"Then who is?"

"Sirius is." Remus grinned. 

Hermione looked around, half expecting the black haired pureblood to pop out from behind a curtain. "How exactly is he going to do that?"

"Before he left for work I informed our dear friend Mister Black that if he insisted on the two of us living under his roof for the duration of our...time together, then it was his duty to provide us with some proper food. The state of his pantry was downright ghastly. And being the aristocratic pureblood he is, with absolutely no real sense of how normal wizards live, he gave me a bag- no, a sack - of galleons. Which could probably feed a small country for a year."

Hermione considered this. "Brilliant, alright, we've got some galleons and normally I would object to this sort of expenditure, but I'm sure the Black vaults are quite vast. However, this is a Muggle shop, they don't take galleons here."

"Give me a little credit, Hermione. I'm only half-blooded after all. While you were trying a few things on at Madam Malkin's I took a quick jaunt over to Gringotts and exchanged a few for pounds." Remus looked altogether too smug for his own good, Hermione decided. 

Hermione opened her mouth to speak and then gasped suddenly. "Remus! I was talking to you the whole time I was trying those awful fuchsia robes on!"

Remus cast Hermione an innocent smile. "Were you? Oh dear, I didn't notice."

"You awful man! Do you mean to tell me I was standing there talking to myself like some sort of nutter?! No wonder everyone was staring at me when I came out!" Hermione was using all her self-control to suppress the urge to wring Remus's neck while he just sat there smiling. Goddamned werewolves and there stupid smiles! "You! You! You villainous clot! I can't believe this, return my jumper at once!"

Remus shook his head. "Try on the dress and it'll be yours."

"It's already MINE!" Hermione screeched. In a flash of wild hair and dark skin, she ran out of the dressing room, still clutching the blouse to her chest, and snatched her black jumper from the floor before rushing back into the dressing room. "I'm afraid the fashion show is over, Lupin! We are done here."

Remus was laughing too hard to respond.  

Oh yes, laugh all you want you awful wizard! Hermione Granger never forgets a transgression! 

"I need a cuppa," Hermione hissed under her breath as she pulled her jumper back on. "Or maybe something stronger after an afternoon like this."

The two paid for the clothing Hermione had deemed not entirely outlandish and made their way back the Leaky Cauldron in companionable silence. The air was chilly and the breeze whipped across Hermione's face leaving a rosy nose and cheeks in its wake. Hermione was glad for her thick jumper, but wouldn't have minded a coat or her Auror robes. When she had woken up and dressed yesterday morning in her time it had been April 25th and Hermione found herself wondering what month or even day it was currently. Not cold enough to be winter, not warm enough to be summer. Hermione considered asking Remus straight out, but decided that might be too weird. But really, what's too weird at this point?

Remus seemed to have acknowledged the initial strangeness of the last twenty-four or so hours and then simply moved on. It was quite amazing, really. Hermione would have expected more suspicions or at least more questions than she was receiving from the wizard, but instead Remus had offered her acceptance- the whole thing was bizarrely comfortable. This Remus was not entirely like or unlike the professor that she had adored and lost, but he fit her in a way. Like a glove that hadn't been made for her, but somehow slipped on perfectly. Hermione couldn't help but be reminded of the uncanny familiarity she had almost immediately felt with Harry when they'd met first year- an experience that had not repeated itself before or since. Until now, that is. 

"You alright, then?" Remus looked down at Hermione, who smiled wanly at him. With practiced expertise, Hermione pushed her feelings down into the vault of her soul and locked them away. "I didn't traumatize you too much with the shopping?"

"Ha!" Hermione laughed. Trust me, Remus, it'll take a lot more than trying on a few shirts to traumatize me. "If I say 'yes' does that mean you'll buy my drink?" Hermione nudged Remus and peered at him from the corner of her eyes.

"Why, you cheeky little thing!" Remus wrapped a large arm around Hermione's shoulder and shook her gently. "Suppose I owe you that, eh?"

"Well, that and you have all the galleons," Hermione reminded him.

Remus gasped in shock. "I knew it, another witch just after me money. And here I was thinking you'd be different. It's just like my dear mum warned me. Never trust a witch with amber eyes and dark hair."

Hermione's laugh rang out through the cold air as she slid her arm around Remus's waist. "Really? That's oddly specific."

"I always thought so, yes, but I try not to question her too much." Remus winked at Hermione and turned them both down Charing Cross Road. Once inside The Leaky Cauldron, Remus sat Hermione down at a table in the back and Remus went to the bar, when he returned was carrying two small glasses. Hermione eyed the glasses curiously and the dark amber liquid swirling in them.

"Firewhiskey," Remus answered her unspoken question as he sat down. "I figured I owed you something a little stronger than butterbeer."

Hermione took the glass, knowing it'd be rude not to, but didn't immediately drink the beverage. Firewhiskey had never been her drink of choice- no, but Ron loved the stuff- and truth be told she'd never been much of a drinker. She watched Remus take a sip from his glass and looked back down at her own.  Realizing she was being impolite she thanked him and gingerly brought the liquid to her lips.

The alcohol burned down her throat and warmed her belly and though it was not exactly a pleasant sensation, it wasn't unpleasant either. Hermione sighed, she'd forgotten how firewhiskey felt.

"Funny, isn't it?" Remus mused after a few minutes. "Muggles have developed so many varied and interesting ways to get pissed over thousands of years and wizards really only stick with firewhiskey and butterbeer and butterbeer hardly counts."

"Bit a brandy sometimes too," Hermione commented, remembering Ron and George drinking a bottle on occasion. 

"True, but what have Muggles got? Brandy, cognac, whiskey, wine, beer, mead, tequila, rum, vodka." Remus counted on his fingers as he spoke.

"And think of how many types of each one. Beer could be an ale, a lager, a stout, an amber," Hermione pointed out.

"And none of them butter."

Hermione laughed. "Yea, a bit strange that. Wizards and their peculiarities."

Remus leaned back in his chair and gave Hermione a pointed look, his green eyes boring down on her. 

"What?" the witch asked, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. 

"Hermione Granger isn't a wizarding name." It was a statement, not a question. 

"No." Hermione shook her head and took another sip of firewhiskey. "No, I'm Muggle-born."

"Hermione's an interesting Muggle name though." You don't know the half of it. "I almost thought you might be half-blooded at first." 

"My mum loved Shakespeare." And that's definitely the understatement of the year. Hermione's mother had lived and breathed Shakespeare, they'd been the first stories she'd read while learning English. An odd place to start with such an unusual language. 

Remus raised an eyebrow. "Hermione is a Shakespeare character?" 

"You know, Hermione, the virtuous queen of Sicily." Remus's eyebrow did not retreat back down his forehead. "From The Winter's Tale ,” Hermione clarified. 

"Don't think I've read that one." 

Hermione scoffed. "Good sir, are you certain you're British?"

Remus laughed. "Quite certain, but Shakespeare isn't part of the Hogwarts curriculum."

"Pfft ridiculous I know," Hermione huffed. "Even in that joke of a class, Muggle Studies, Shakespeare isn't even mentioned in passing. It's all why Muggles need electricity and other such nonsense."

Remus stiffened and Hermione caught the movement from the corner of her eye. "Did you attend Hogwarts then?" he asked, furrowing his brow. "I don't recall a Granger."

Crap. Crappity crap crap. Hermione opened her mouth a fraction as panic set in. Way to go, Granger. Now we have to think up a lie about attending a wizarding school. No one's going to believe you went to Ilvermorny or Beauxbatons. Maybe Uagadou? No you're too British for that dammit. Though it would help explain the wandless magic...

Hermione was floundering. The firewhiskey had seeped into her system, slowing down her normally impeccable processing speed.  

"REMUS!" A masculine voice called out and Hermione's shoulder's almost sagged in relief as Remus's attention was diverted. 

Note to self, when sober devise a believable backstory. 

"Remus! Who is this witch you have hidden back here away from us." Hermione looked up into a pair of light brown eyes and nearly spit out her firewhiskey. 

George! Her own eyes grew wide as she took at the wizard standing behind Remus when another wizard sauntered up. Fred!

"Look here, Fabian. Remus is hiding a witch from us!" The wizard wearing George's face laughed. But wait-no, it wasn't George's face. This face was sharper in the chin and nose and his hair was a deeper red, more like Ginny's and-

Molly's! The Prewetts!

"Remus how could you!" The other wizard- Fabian- put a hand over his chest as if injured. "I thought we were mates. Mates don't hide lovely witches from each other!"

"Right you are there, Fabian," his twin agreed. "And now he's not even introducing us."

"You haven't even given me a chance to introduce you," Remus protested. "Hermione Granger, Fabian and Gideon Prewett."

Fabian reached out and took Hermione's hand in his, leaning down to gently kiss her knuckles. The witch blushed and Fabian wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Hermione, the beautiful Queen of Sicily."

"What? How did you know that?" Remus asked, grabbing Hermione’s hand away from Fabian. 

"Shakespeare, mate. You're not British if you haven't read Shakespeare."

"He was a Muggle," Remus insisted.

"Dear Remus, we never took you for a blood purist." Gideon laughed and pulled out a seat. 

"Alright," Remus growled and pushed Gideon's chair back in before the wizard had a chance to sit down. "I've introduced you, now you can go away.

"Go away?" Gideon asked, pulling out the chair again. "Oh no, for trying to keep this witch to yourself we're owed not only a glass of firewhiskey, but also a long and charming conversation."

"Indeed we are, brother!" Fabian smiled at Hermione, who found herself smirking at the annoyed look on Remus's face as the twins sat down. 

"We're almost finished with our drinks and then I'm afraid we've got to be going," Remus said, taking a big gulp to finish off his glass of firewhiskey.

"Oh, you're right, our lovely queen is nearly done and a queen should never be subjected to an empty glass." Fabian scooted his chair towards Hermione. "Tom!" He called out. "Four more firewhiskies!"

Chapter Text

Hermione had thought that Ron and George's penchant for drinking had been a Weasley trait, but as she watched Gideon and Fabian order their third- fourth?- round she began to wonder if perhaps it hadn't been inherited from the Prewett blood line. She hadn't ever seen Molly drink, had she? She should ask. Yes, good idea. Capital really. Just ask.

Hermione leaned in towards Gideon and opened her mouth, intent on discovering whether or not Molly Weasley was a drinker when, to her horror, "Boooooois," escaped past her lips. The shocked witch slapped a hand over her mouth as the word she had been so artfully forming came out in a slurred waterfall. The wizards at the table erupted into fits of very childish giggles. How many drinks had she had? Not as many as the twins, surely. Hermione looked down at her glass and then grabbed the table to keep it from spinning. 

"Wha-wha're you sayin', Her-herrrrr-hermeeone." Remus slid a hand down the side of his face as he desperately attempted to speak like a sober human.

Hermione grunted and reached out a finger to poke the werewolf on the nose. "Nooo, sir! My name is...say it together... HER-MY-NEE."

In tandem Gideon and Fabian repeated, "HER-MY-NEE," and then continued giggling, their fair faces tinged pink from the alcohol. 

"No, no, not you two!" Hermione swatted a hand towards the twins. "Remus! Remus!" She  leaned over the table and grabbed Remus's face in both her hands. "Remus, I am the Queen of Sicily!"

"The beau'ful and virtuous queen." Remus nodded and Hermione patted his head.

"Yes, perfect. Good." Hermione sat back into her chair and observed the four twins. No. That's not right. There were only two of them. The witch rubbed her eyes and then blinked rapidly until the four Prewetts settled back into two. "Fabian and G-Gideeeon."

"Yes, my queen." Fabian turned his eyes to Hermione and for a moment the witch forgot what she was saying, lost in his chocolate orbs. They were delightfully brown, like the color of chocolate frogs, with little specks of amber around the pupil...

Fffffocus, Granger! Secrets to find. Horcruxes. Prewetts. Weasleys. Red hair. What are we talking about? We will ask the twins sneakily about Molly, we will discover where Ron's drinking gene originated!

"You 'ave siblings?" Hermione asked. Yes, good, very sneaky.

Gideon nodded. "An older sister, Molly."

"Yesss!" Hermione pointed her finger at Gideon who looked confused and not nearly as intoxicated as Hermione herself. "Molly!"

"Oh? Do you know Molly?" Fabian asked, sipping his firewhiskey. 

Hermione began nodding and then, realizing what she was doing, began shaking her head vigorously which was a mistake. The room started spinning in a mad vortex of colors and the witch leaned back to steady herself, nearly falling over in the process. Fabian reached out an arm and pushed her back up.

"Whoa there, Hermione!" he chuckled, helping Hermione right herself.

"How are you so sober?" Hermione asked, clutching her head as the room continued to spin gently. 

"Prewetts are excellent drinkers," Fabian answered and Gideon raised his glass at his brother's words. "Along with being dashingly handsome and predominantly redheaded." Fabian wiggled his eyebrows at Hermione and the witch giggled. From across the table Remus leveled Fabian with a glare no one was paying attention to save Gideon, who nudged the werewolf and smiled good-naturedly. 

"No, nooo I know-knew a redhead," Hermione began swaying as she spoke. "Fact, I knew a whooole lot of 'em. A gaggle. A gaggle of redheads."

"And they were all wonderful, handsome, and clever?" Gideon offered with a smirk in Remus's direction. 

"Ha! Maybe a couple," Hermione said, thinking particularly of Charlie Weasley. Riding a dragon. Long hair flowing in the wind. Charlie doesn't have long hair. Short hair flowing in the wind. Hermione sighed. 

Fabian waved a hand in front of her face. "Hello, are you there?"

Hermione sat up and cleared her throat, ushering thoughts of Weasley's riding dragons aside. "Yes, yes. I know aaaaall about redheads. I," Hermione announced. "was engaged to be maaaarried to a redhead."

Fabian raised an eyebrow. "Was?"

Hermione nodded and tried to take a drink, but Fabian swiftly grabbed the glass from her hands. "Let's slow down a bit, sweetheart."

Hermione stared longingly at her firewhiskey, now placed far from her reach and pouted. "That was my drink!"

"Indeed and it still is," Fabian reassured her. "It's just over here for a moment. Tell us more about how you were engaged to a redhead. Did you leave the bloke when you heard tell of the legendary Prewett twins?"

Hermione giggle and ruffled Fabian's hair, unaware of the growl this elicited from the werewolf across the table. "Stupid bloody fucking awful git left me ," the witch burted.

Gideon laughed. "Don't hold back, Hermione, tell us how you really feel."

"Can you believe it!" Hermione demanded, waving a finger at Gideon. "He left me! Four years-no! More! Eleven really! Half my bloody life- wasted! On that-that bogey brain! Ha!" Hermione reached for her drink and finding it still out of reach, leaned over Fabian towards the not even half empty glass. "Him leave me? Ridiculous. Why would anyone leave me, I'm wonderful."

"If not a bit feisty," Fabian drawled, pushing Hermione back into her seat as the witch tried to climb over him. "Quite a witch you've got on your hands here, Remus."

"You don't ever know the half a it," Remus agreed with a frown. 

Hermione gasped and threw her arms in the air. "This is a conspiracy! Against me! Alllll you wizards! All of you!"

"All us wizards what?" Gideon inquired unsuccessfully hiding a smile. 

"You're all consp'ring against me." Hermione narrowed her eyes. "I need to hang out with more witcheeees. No more wizards! I'm done with wizards. Witches from this moment on."

Fabian grinned and bit his bottom lip. "Perhaps," he began slowly, "when you do hang out with these witches, you would be so kind as to owl me?"

"Wha' do you mean?" Hermione asked.

Fabian opened his mouth to elaborate when Remus jumped up, knocking his wooden chair to the floor. 

"Aaaaaalright, I think it's time we go." Remus grabbed the bags from the floor in one hand and reached the other hand out to Hermione. "Queen of Sicily, time to be off."

Hermione was about to protest, citing hard evidence that Remus was not the boss of her, when a rather vicious bout of nausea erupted inside her stomach. She wrapped on arm around her belly and nodded at his logic. "Yes, perhaps it is."

"Wait there, Remus," Gideon put a hand on the werewolves arm.  "You're in no state to be Apparating the two of you."

Remus shook his head. "We're Flooing."

"Flooing?" Gideon repeated. "Since when is your flat attached to the Floo network?"

"My flat has been attached to the Floo network for months," Remus responded and Gideon's eyes widened but a fraction and the two exchanged a look Hermione couldn't quite decipher.

"We're not going back to Remus's!" Hermione laughed and even in her drunken stupor took note of the way Gideon's shoulder's sagged minutely in relief. "We're going to Grimmauld Place."

"Going to Grimmauld Place?" Fabian asked. "Home to the Noble House of Black?"

"Mmhmm staying with Sirius." Hermione giggled and stumbled as she rose from her seat.

"Both of you?" Gideon asked.

Hermione nodded and snatched her drink from the table as Remus lead her towards the Floo with a steadying arm around her waist. “Both of us! It's like," the witch began giggling to herself, "it's like a slumber party!"

"Slumber party? What's a slumber party?" Fabian called out from behind the pair. "Perhaps we'll have to drop by soon, for this slumber party ." 

Hermione turned and yelled over her shoulder, "Aaaaaanytime."

"No!" Remus said sternly. "Do not come visiting!"

Hermione hit Remus on the shoulder. "Don't be rude to the Wea-Prewetts!"

"Yea!" Gideon and Fabian said as one.

"Don't be rude to us!" That was Gideon. 

"I'll be rude if I please!" Remus shot back before grabbing a handful of powder from the bag hanging on the mantle and throwing it into the old fireplace. " Number 12 Grimmauld Place!"

When the witch and wizard stepped through the fireplace at Number 12, they were coughing and sputtering Floo powder and ashes from their lungs. Floo transportation was always a bit uncomfortable, but Hermione had never had the pleasure of a drunk Floo journey- it was rather discombobulating.

As Hermione coughed and waved a hand in front of her face to ward off the linger powder she cast a look over at Remus and roared with laughter at the sight of him. The shaggy haired werewolf's face was completely black with soot except for his green eyes, which twinkled merrily at Hermione.

"What?" he asked, looking down at himself. "What's so funny?"

"Y-your face!" Hermione pointed and leaned over, holding her side.

"And you called me rude? It's not exactly polite to laugh at a wizards face." Remus crossed his arms over his chest and watched the wild haired witch before him cackle. "Are you quite done, then?"

Hermione shook her head and took a few deep breaths. "S-Sorry, Remus,” she stammered, wiping tears from her eyes.

"Well," a voice spoke and the two intoxicated friends turned to see the pale visage of Sirius Black leaning casually against the doorframe, his arms across his chest and his eyes narrow. The wizard was still wearing his Auror robes, which looked as though they'd seen better days, and his black hair was a mess of twigs and leaves. "Good to see you two have been having a jolly ol' time."

"Jealous, Pads?" Remus chortled, using his jumper to wipe the soot from his face. 

"Jealous? Hardly," Sirius snorted. "Worried out of my fucking mind? Quite." Sirius's voice was hard as he sized up the witch and wizard before him. "I come home from a long evening of tracking dark wizards to a fucking empty house. No note, no owl, nothing. I didn't know where in the bloody hell you two were. Captured? Tortured? Lying face down in a fucking ditch somewhere?"

Remus's face dropped and he offered a silent look of apology, but the liquid fire still coursing through Hermione's system spurred her to speak. "Siriuuuus, c'mon on now, ol' chap-"

"Ol' chap?" Sirius twisted his face. "Are you eighty or something, woman?"

"We didn't mean to frighten you," Hermione continued, walking towards the wizard.

"I am not ol'," Sirius insisted as Hermione reached out and placed a placating hand on his shoulder, patting him reassuringly.

"There, there m'little doggy," Hermione giggled, bringing her hand up to scratch behind Sirius's ear.

"What the fuck are you do-Merlin's beard." Sirius leaned forward and sniffed the air around Hermione's face. "You're fucking pissed ."

Hermione put her hands over her mouth and smiled with a nod. "Yes! And I met the two most wonderful wizards," she whispered to Sirius as if it were a marvelous secret she was letting him in on. "They looked like Fred and George, but they weren't! They had red hair and brown eyes and they bought us firewhiskey!"

"Who are Fred and George?" Remus asked from behind Hermione.

"Twins!" the witch responded happily.

"Twins? Fuck, did you run into the Prewetts? No wonder you smell like the inside of a pub." Sirius scratched his nose and Hermione gasped, hitting him gently on the arm.

"I do not smell, sir!" Hermione stomped her foot. "Or if I do I smell of-of... vanilla! Or lavender! No, not lavender. Never Lavender."

"Alright, you smell of sweet sweet vanilla firewhiskey then." Sirius rolled his eyes. "I can't believe this. Do either of you realize how dangerous that was? Galavanting off around Diagon Alley for all to see. We're supposed to be keeping a low fucking profile, not getting pissed down at the pub."

"Ah come off it, Sirius. We were only at the Leaky," Remus insisted.

"Then why the hell are you carrying those bags?" Sirius asked, motioning to the shopping bags in Remus's hands. 

"We went shopping!" Hermione declared, clapping her hands. "I got a jumper! And some knickers!"

"You got some- no, wait, don't continue," Sirius said, waving his hands in front of his face. "I don't want to hear any more. The mental image of a witch's knickers is too distracting right now." The wizard sighed and rubbed his forehead. "You two scared the fucking shite out of me. The least you could've done is left a fucking note."

Remus rubbed the back of his neck and nodded. "Yea, mate, you're right. I didn't think of it."

"Then think next time," Sirius barked and Remus flinched. 

"Don't be rude," Hermione chastised, angered at the look of remorse on Remus's face. Remus was only trying to be helpful, he didn't need Sirius snapping at him. 

"I'll be rude if I damn well-"

Hermione put a finger on Sirius's lips. "Shhhhh..."

Sirius's eyes widened as he stared down at the truly well and drunk witch with her finger on his mouth, before flicking his gaze to Remus. "Gods, how much did she drink?"

"She kept up with Fabian."

"Fuck." Sirius moved away from Hermione. "She'll be vomiting soon." 

"Excuse me!" Hermione yelled. "I do not vomit! Vomiting is the worst sort of sickness and I hate it. I only vomit in extreme circumstances."

"Fair enough, kitten, but you should probably sit down nonetheless," Sirius suggested.

Hermione guffawed loudly and was about to launch into a diatribe on the reasons why "kitten" was a sexist- not to mention creepy - petname to call a girl when quite suddenly she was reminded of the last time Sirius had called her kitten. The witch stopped and put a hand to her throat, amber eyes watering. 

It had been so long ago, another lifetime, when Hermione had watched Sirius fall into the Veil. The sounds of his cousin's crazed, gleeful laugh and his godson's hideously pained scream mingled in Hermione's memory, sending a cold shiver down her spine. Some cited Cedric's death as the beginning of the War, but for Hermione the true beginning hadn't come until the Department of Mysteries, when the Golden Trio had all seen death. 

"Hermione, love," Remus took a step forward, concern etched on his tan face. "Are you alright?"

A curious silence hung between the trio, a trio much different than Hermione had known before and  without warning Hermione dove at Sirius. The wizard threw his arms out, startled, but Hermione shoved them aside to wrap her own arms around his middle and bury her face in his chest. She took a deep breath; Sirius smelled of cigarettes and musk. He smelled alive . "You're alive," she whispered into his shirt and then turned up to smile at his stunned expression. "I'm so glad you're alive."

"Y-yes, we're all alive," Sirius agreed, looking over at Remus who shook his head and shrugged. Hermione followed Sirius's gaze and then grabbed the werewolf, pulling both wizards into a tight embrace.

"You have no idea how happy I am," she sighed, hugging them closely. "Everyone I knew is still alive."

"Are you sure it was firewhiskey?" Sirius asked Remus over the top of Hermione's head.

"I'll protect you," Hermione insisted abruptly. "I'll protect both of you- all of you."

"No, love, I think that's supposed to be our job," Remus countered. "To protect you, remember?"

Hermione shook her head wildly. "No, no I... I can survive. I'm good at surviving. It's you two that have a bad track records. I won't let anything happen to you...or to anyone...I'll stop him, I swear I will. I'll stop him and everything will be okay and no one else will die... don't worry. I promise, I promise..." Hermione was babbling now, drunken tears streaming down her face. 

"Shh... shh..." Remus reached out to smooth Hermione’s thick hair. "Enough now, let's get you to bed."

Hermione stood in the middle of the parlor clinging to a shocked Sirius and Remus while making silent vows to the stillness.

She would change things.

She would change everything.

Chapter Text

The next morning Hermione crawled out of the bed that once belonged to Regulus Black and, on all fours, made her way to the bathroom connected to her temporary bedroom.

Oh gods my head. I feel as if a giant kicked me in the head. Did I see Hagrid last night? Perhaps Hagrid kicked me in the head. Do I even have a head anymore?

Pain throbbed through the head she did still have and reverberated down her spine, mixing oddly with the acids of her stomach.

Oh fuck oh fuckfuckfuck

Hermione quickened her crawl, bare knees slipping on the white tile in her haste, and grabbed a hold of the sink, pulling herself up just in time to vomit into the antique porcelain basin.

Three times.

I'm dying. This is what death feels like. Hermione knew that was hyperbolic. She'd faced death before, but still, this was dreadfully unpleasant. Breathing heavily Hermione turned on the faucet and splashed cold water onto her face. She held her hand under the running water and caught some in her palm. Bringing it up to her parched lips, Hermione rinsed out her mouth and then took a few greedy gulps. 

Definitely a Prewett trait, then. 

The witch pulled a hand towel off the rack on the wall by the mirror, briefly wondered for how many years the towel had hung there, and then, with a shrug, wiped her face. Mentally she tried to clear the cobwebs encasing her memories from the previous evening. It had been months, perhaps even years, since Hermione had had that much to drink- have I ever had that much to drink?- and the experience admittedly had been enjoyable to a point. Fabian was quite enjoyable.

Hermione groaned and sat down on the edge of the ornate claw-footed bathtub. I flirted last night with Ron's dead uncle. Merlin's sake, Granger. Though to be fair, this Fabian was not dead and Ron, if he existed in this reality at all, would still be in nappies. Hermione chuckled. At least there was a comforting thought- wee little Ron soiling himself.    

Pain seared through Hermione's skull and she clutched at her head, burying her hand into her impossibly thick hair. She could feel the tangles beneath her fingers, but was too exhausted to care. All she wanted was a nice cup of tea. 

Stumbling a bit from dizziness when she first stood, the witch slowly made her way out of the bathroom. When she reached the stairs, an obstacle she had forgotten as her own flat was, well flat , Hermione grabbed hold of the railing with both hands and carefully descended the stairs sideways, making sure to look directly at the wall as staring down was giving her terrible vertigo. 

"How can something so enjoyable at the time leave you feeling like such utter rubbish?" Hermione muttered to herself as she entered the kitchen. Every muscle in her body was tired and felt as if it had been stretched and wrung out like the laundry.

"Morning, sunshine!"

Hermione grabbed her ears and glared at the black haired wizard happily frying eggs on the stove.  Sirius' fair and muscled torso was bare, as were his feet, and on his legs he wore a pair of black sweatpants that had the words 'Holyhead Harpies' down the side. 

Hermione slumped into a chair and carefully lowered her forehead onto the cool, smooth table. "Why in Merlin's name are you yelling?" 

Sirius chuckled. "This isn't my yelling voice, kitten. Just wait until you hear that."

"Dare I say I've heard it before," Hermione mumbled with a scowl, recalling some particularly unpleasant encounters in this very house, or rather, a version of this very house. 

"What was that?" Sirius asked, looking up from his eggs.

"Nothing," Hermione said quickly. "Is there any tea made?"

 Sirius nodded to a kettle on the counter and Hermione sighed with relief, she pulled her aching body from the chair and filled a cup. Hermione brought the cup to her lips slowly and with great anticipation, expecting the warm liquid to sooth her fatigued body.

However, such was not the case.

 Hermione spit the liquid out and began gagging. "Are you trying to poison me?!" she demanded, turning to Sirius.

"What are you talking about?" the wizard scoffed, his grey eyes wide. "That is the Sirius Black Secret Recipe Tea. Famous throughout the wizarding world!"

"What's the secret? Arsenic?" Hermione grabbed the kettle and took it to the sink, pouring its contents down the drain.

"What are you doing!" Sirius rushed over, but Hermione held up her leg and pushed the pureblood away.

"I'm going to make a proper cup of tea, something that won't strip the paint from the walls," she declared as she began rinsing the inside of the teapot, a bit wobbly as one of her legs was still fending Sirius off.

"I didn't have to make you any tea, y'know!" Sirius growled before returning to his eggs. 

"Probably would've been better if you hadn't," Hermione countered. "By Godric, do you drink that wicked liquid every day?"

"I'll have you know plenty of folks love my tea. You are fucking insufferable. Last time I try to do something nice, Merlin's sake." Sirius grabbed the handle of his frying pan a little too forcefully and knocked it off the stove. "Bloody hell!"

"Need some help with the eggs as well, Sirius?" Hermione asked sweetly. 

"Bugger off," Sirius snapped as he flicked his wand at the eggs strewn across the floor which immediately disappeared. "I was going to tell you an owl came for you this morning from McGonagall, but now I think I won't."

"You just did," Hermione said, looking around the room for a letter, thinking immediately of her commandeered wand. "Where's it at?"

"Now y'see, I would love to tell you, truly I would," the wizard grinned. "But I will require an atonement of sorts, an apology if you will, for your reprehensible behavior this morning."

"Sirius Black, you will tell me where my letter is or you will rue the day you met me." Hermione turned her narrowed amber eyes to Sirius and took a step towards him, pointing her finger menacingly. 

"I already rue the day we met, kitten, so you might as well just apologize and be done with it." Sirius folded his arms across his chest and gave the witch a crooked smile. He looked so much different than her Sirius; his face was as aristocratic as ever, but not gaunt as Hermione knew it and she found it odd seeing his chest so pristine, not a black tattoo in sight, but the indestructible hubris that was Sirius Black remained the same.

Hermione lifted her chin and squared her shoulders, staring down the wizard defiantly.

"Come now, surely you won't let a petty thing like stubbornness keep you from getting your package?" Sirius advised. 

Package? McGonagall must have sent her wand with the owl. Hermione considered her options for a moment- she wanted her wand, but she loathed the idea of Sirius believing he had one upped her. Hermione's appraising and trained eyes scanned the room again and she grew increasingly more frustrated as she found nothing. If only she could- ah, yes, why not ?

Struggling to keep a smile from her lips, she apologized. "I am sorry, Sirius."

"Ahhh see, that wasn't so hard," Sirius practically purred.

"Sorry that you can't make a decent cup of tea," Hermione taunted and then waved her hand in the air. " Accio parcel!"

For a moment nothing happened and Hermione feared it hadn't worked, but then a brown box tied with twine flew into the kitchen and slammed into Hermione's chest. The witch let out a quick 'oof' as she caught the package and then smiled triumphantly at the startled wizard. She took the package to the table and began unwrapping it eagerly. 

"How do you do that?" Sirius inquired from behind her.

"Do what?" she asked, still unwrapping.

"Wandless magic. I mean, we can all do a few spells here and there, but Godric, do you even need a wand?" Sirius wondered, more than a little jealous awe in his voice.

Hermione stopped and stared down at her hands. Of course she needed a wand. Everyone needed a wand. Except, no, she knew that wasn't true. Just the other day she had been reading that at Uagadou in Uganda, students do not use wands at all. But she had always needed a wand, hadn't she? "I- I don't rightly know. I suppose I just... do it."

Sirius guffawed. "Just do it? Blimey, why hadn't I thought of that myself?" he drawled, turning back to the stove to fry a new egg. "Just do it," the wizard continued to mumble under his breath. 

Hermione rolled her eyes and finished unwrapping what she could now see was a wand box, opening it hurriedly. To her relief there was her wand resting comfortably in a bed of red silk and tucked beneath it was a letter.  Hermione took her wand first, savoring the feel of it; she hadn't realized how naked she felt without it until she had it back in her hand once more. For a moment she held her wand tightly, connecting with the magic that coursed through it. After a last affectionate squeeze, Hermione went to slip her wand into the band of her pajama bottoms only to suddenly realize she was not wearing pajama bottoms- she was wearing men's boxers.

"What the hell!" Hermione exclaimed, reaching down to examine the boxers more closely. "Wh-what am I wearing ?"

Sirius turned to the witch, who was bent over with a fist full of boxers, and raised a dark eyebrow. "A pair of Remus's boxers, don't you remember?"

Hermione shook her head.

Sirius snorted and cracked another egg into the pan. "Figures you two would go on a grand shopping adventure and forget a pair of pajamas. You were going to sleep in your jeans until Remus gave you a pair of his boxers. Don't worry," Sirius snickered, "they're clean." 

Would the humiliation never end? Where is Remus, anyway, still sleeping?

Hermione considered hexing Sirius just to work out some frustration, but decided against it; she wasn't in the mood for a petty duel. Instead the curly haired witch unfolded the letter at the bottom of the box and read,

 

Dear Miss Granger,

Good morning, I trust Mister Black and Mister Lupin are treating you well. My deepest apologies for not coming by to see how you've settled in, but I have urgent business to attend to. Fear not, I will also be continuing to look into your predicament and have already begun to explore a few possibilities. If you recall any information that could be of help in that vein, please do not hesitate to owl me.

As for your assignment, as you requested I spoke with Madam Pince regarding access to the Hogwart's Library. Merely show her the letter I have enclosed and you will be free to explore the many tomes at your leisure. I have already taken it upon myself to connect Grimmauld Place to the Hogwarts Floo system. Let me know if you have any further trouble.

I have also transferred funds into Mister Lupin's account at Gringotts in order to reimburse you for any expenses during your assignment. I felt it best to keep your name away from any official paperwork. Do make Mister Lupin aware of the additional funds. 

I will be in contact.

Minerva McGonagall

Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

Hermione sighed and read the letter a few more times. "Sirius, might I trouble you for a paper and quill?" she asked, folding up McGonagall's letter and placing it back in the box. Silently a paper, quill, and ink bottle floated to the table and landed delicately in front of Hermione. "Thank you,” she said softly.

On the paper she began a list much like the mental list she had begun yesterday, as currently her brain was still too frazzled from her hangover for too much deep thinking. Hermione began by listing the horcruxes from her time and everything she could remember about them, when she got to Harry Potter she frowned and sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. In a quick stroke of her quill she crossed out Harry's name and wrote Neville Longbottom. 

Hermione inspected her list and sighed. There was so much she didn't know about this world and so much she needed to know, but how to find out? Sirius sat down heavily in a chair across from Hermione, jostling the witch from her thoughts. Hermione considered the wizard before her and scrunched her forehead in thought. 

"So," she began awkwardly, "McGonagall said that you and Remus are to... assist me in whatever ways I might need...?"

Sirius didn't look up from his eggs. "Aye, that's my understanding as well."

"Ah excellent, I think I may be in need... of your assistance that is," Hermione stated lamely, not sure where to begin.

"I already tried assisting you with some tea and that didn't work out so well," Sirius reminded her, scowling.

Oh right, tea, I'll make that in a moment.

" Right, a gallant attempt to be certain."

Sirius snorted. 

"But what I need right now is... I- I have a few questions, you see, and I need some answers." Hermione was too tired for clandestine manipulations and maneuverings. There was certain information she needed and the sooner she had it the better. 

"Suppose I can handle that," Sirius nodded, subdued somewhat by Hermione's obvious discomfort. Hermione made a mental note that Sirius responded favorably to being asked nicely.

No shite, Granger. Everyone responds well when asked nicely. 

Hermione cleared her throat. "Excellent, thank you. First, whatever I ask it is imperative that you do not ask for me to elaborate. There are certain things that...that would put you in danger to know. Understand that anything I don't tell you is for your safety, alright?"

Sirius looked up with narrowed eyes, but slowly nodded. 

Hermione allowed herself a small smile. "Thank you. First, I need to know about the Longbottoms."

"Frank and Alice?" 

"Yes, and their son, Neville." Hermione watched Sirius shift in his seat, but continued, "I know what happened to them, vaguely. But I need more specifics, more...details. I know it might be difficult-"

Sirius cut her off. "Frank and Alice were Aurors"- okay, good, same - and damn good ones. They were in hiding with their son because Voldemort, the fucking son of a bitch, got it into his slimy head that a child would be his undoing. There was a prophecy and it seemed to point to two families- the Longbottoms and the Potters." Sirius's features twisted for a moment and then continued, stabbing at his breakfast as he spoke, " He picked the Longbottoms because they're all purebloods. Fucking purists, the fucking lot of them. Fucking Voldemort and his fucking Death Eaters." 

Hermione's chest ached for Neville, her first wizarding friend, and the lonely childhood he would still have. 

"They had a secret keeper, to keep them safe,” Sirius muttered andHermione leaned closer.

"Peter Pettigrew," the wizard all but spat.

Ah, so there you are, Peter. Still the betrayer. This reality was hitting so many of the same cords as Hermione's own, simply in a different way. The song was like a sister to her world's. 

"Who was Peter Pettigrew?" Hermione prodded.

Sirius growled and slammed his fit into the table. "A fucking rat. Pettigrew's not a who, he's a fucking what . A traitor. A member of the Order, we fucking grew up together the four of us. Me, James, Remus, and Peter- he was our best mate at Hogwarts." Sirius was shaking now. "It was James's idea to make Peter the Longbottom's secret keeper. It was so far out we didn't think anyone would suspect him and he was one of the most trusted members of the Order. But he lied. He lied to all of us and led the Dark Lord right to Frank and Alice."

Hermione scratched a few notes by Neville's name. "And-and he killed them, Frank and Alice?"

Sirius looked away, but nodded.

"And Neville?"

"Survived. Merlin knows how and Voldemort has been gone ever since," Sirius said and then added, "They called him The Boy That Lived in the papers after little Neville was found." 

Hermione cocked her head, suddenly curious. "Who found them? Who found Frank and Alice?"

"Dumbledore," Sirius responded simply.

"Dumbledore? The Minister?" Hermione wrote another note. It had been Hagrid who found Harry in the ruins of Potter Cottage, hadn't it? Had he been sent by Dumbledore?

"Yea, Voldemort always had a sort of fear of Dumbledore as I've heard it. Don't know how the Minister knew what had happened or how to find them though," Sirius admitted, shoving a fork full of eggs into his mouth.

Hermione scribbled on her paper. Curiouser and curiouser. 

"Right, thank you." Hermione gave Sirius a quick nod. "What about the Death Eaters, can you tell me which of them are known?"

"Sure," Sirius said through a mouth full of egg and then swallowed. "Yea, right, well as you saw there's Barty Crouch Jr." Hermione began to write a list as Sirius continued, "the Carrows- Alecto and Amycus, the fuckers- and then there's Titus Crabbe, Antonin Dolohov, Corban Yaxley,  the Lestrange brothers - Rodolphus and Rabastan- and Roluphus's wife, my lovely cousin Bellatrix." Sirius said, his voice dripping sarcasm. 

Hermione stopped for a moment at the last name, her quill hovering over the paper.

Bellatrix. How could she have forgotten Bellatrix would be alive?

"Anyone else? Anyone in Azkaban?”

"Only the few I’ve said before. Crouch we put away, thanks in part to you. Besides that the Carrows are the only ones we've gotten." Hermione's grip tightened on her quill as she listened.  "The others we know because they're proud, they like to show their bloody faces, but there are more and I'd bet you good fucking galleons Lucius Malfoy is one of 'em. So much of their movements stink like that blonde bastard, but the fucker keeps his hands clean." Sirius sighed and used his fork to push around the last few pieces of egg on his plate. "Then of course, I can't forget, my own dear brother."

Hermione's eyes shot up. Bingo. 

 

Chapter Text

"Your brother?" Hermione asked after a long moment when it seemed that Sirius would offer no more on the subject.

 She waited as the wizard put his fork down on his plate and licked his bottom lip before pulling it between his teeth with a hard grimace. She waited while Sirius clenched his jaw and folded his arms across his chest, shifting his grey gaze around the room. Hermione waited as he leaned back into his chair and sighed heavily. 

 She waited until finally he spoke. "Yes, my brother ... Regulus." 

 Work with me here, Black. You have to give me more than that. "The one whose room I am currently occupying...?" 

 Sirius looked over at Hermione, eyes suddenly wide. "Oh, don't worry, I cleansed the place myself," he reassured her hastily.  

 A snort escaped from Hermione before she could stop it. She brought a hand over her mouth, but it was no use- she was giggling uncontrollably now.  "I'm s-sorry," Hermione got out between fits of laughter, "but are you trying to say that you... you cleaned that room?" Hermione raised her eyebrows. "The room I'm staying in? It was cleaned? When? During the Jurassic period?"

 "Hilarious," Sirius growled. 

 "I could build a human with all the dust and cobwebs in that room," Hermione continued. 

 "No appreciation for my tea or for my cleaning,” the wizard mumbled looking quite sullen. 

 "Perhaps two humans even, and small dog."

 "You're an arse,”" Sirius said dryly.

 Hermione shrugged. "I've been called worse."

 "Oh?" Sirius inquired, cocking an eyebrow.

 The witch rubbed the scar under the sleeve of the jumper she had slept in. Much worse. 

 Sirius sighed with a dramatic roll to his eyes. "I didn't dust or scrub or what have you, I cleansed it. I mucked up all the dark energy and magic that was brewing in there for who knows how many years. This whole house was infested with nefarious arcana." Sirius waved his hand through the air. "It was everywhere- in the baseboards and wooden beams. In the bricks and stones and-and floors. Generations of the darkest and oldest magic. The legacy of the Noble and Ancient House of Black."

 Hermione's amber eyes surveyed the room around her with new interest, her mouth practically salivating at what Sirius's ramblings could mean. Dark magic? Old magic? Harry had never mentioned any latent sinister energies prowling about after he and Ginny had moved into Grimmauld Place. Well, except Walburga's awful portrait. Hermione reminded herself, shuddering at the memories of the old crone's screeching voice. 

 "Don't worry," Sirius reassured, apparently misinterpreting Hermione's shudder. "I've just about finished with the whole house, that's why you can't feel the dark magics now. Only place I haven't quite gotten to yet is the basement, but I did thoroughly ward it."

 Hermione glanced at the unassuming door that lead from the kitchen to the basement. Good to know. Don't go into the basement. Sounds like some sort of warning from a horror movie. I'll probably end up in the basement at some point just because of the currently insane narrative of my life.

 " I'll try my best to avoid it." Hermione considered her next question for a moment, opened her mouth and shut it again. Then, she decided to be bold. "Don't you pureblood types have house-elves to do the cooking and the cleaning?"

 Sirius' disdain was quick and palpable. "I can't stand house-elves," he all but spat.

 Hermione clenched the quill in her hand until her knuckles turned white, anger rising in her blood. Keep it under control, Granger. We can't throttle him. Yet.

 Logically Hermione knew she'd have to save her lecture on house-elf rights for another day, but that didn't stop her from literally having to bite her tongue to keep from launching into a well prepared diatribe on the injustices house-elves have suffered at wizarding hands. 

 I need time to update my presentation anyway. She reassured herself. And some of my sources don't even exist yet. I'll have to cite texts and studies only completed- wait...gods... will all my sources even exist? Does this timeline have the same books?   

 " My family had a house-elf, awful little thing. Loved my brother, I mean loved my brother. It was very weird." Sirius was still talking and Hermione was struggling to pay attention while simultaneously mentally cataloguing every book she needed to ensure existed.  

 History of Magic, Numerology and Grammatica, every single Standard Book of Spells...

 "It's name was Kreacher, which was creepy unto itself. House-elves normally have cute names like Dipsy and Wheezy, not Kreacher. The name fit though. Always had these terrible little eyes following you around, banging its head again and again against the wall."

 Oh gods, does Hogwarts: A History exist?!

 "Loved my mother too and trust me when I tell you no good and wholesome creature could love my mother. It used to-"

 "He." Hermione finally cut in.

 "What?"

 "House-elves have genders, they're either male or female, barring of course, I suppose if any of them chose to be more fluid in their interpretations of gender-” steer back into the right lane, Granger “-therefor Kreacher was not an 'it,' he was a 'he'." Hermione stated lifting her chin ever so slightly.

 "Trust me, if you had known it, you would know that it was definitely an it."

 Hermione lifted her lip in the ghost of a snarl. "You realize of course that by stripping Kreacher of his natural born identity as a male house-elf and referring to him as 'it,' you have in essence turned him into an object and not a living, breathing creature with emotions and thoughts worthy of your consideration." 

 

So much for saving the lecture for later.

 "This thing didn't have emotions or feelings," Sirius insisted with obvious impatience.

 "Did you not just tell me that Kreacher loved both your brother and your mother?" Hermione pointed out. "Is love not an emotion?"

 "Fine, it didn't love them. It had an unhealthy obsession with them."

 "Is  the ability to obsess not also indicative of an ability to feel?"

 Sirius ran a hand down the side of his face. "Listen, you didn't know Kreacher, it was fucking evil." 

 "As a matter of fact I-" Hermione stopped, mouth open.

 Crapity crap crap.

 Sirius raised an eyebrow. "You what?"

 "I..."- am too fucking hungover for this conversation-" have read extensively on the lives of house-elves and I can assure you with no amount of uncertainty that they are no more evil than your average witch or wizard." 

 "Ahh..." Sirius began slowly. "But you see, kitten, some witches and wizards are evil, truly evil. So by your logic, could a house-elf not also be truly evil?" Sirius was grinning now, self-satisfied and smug. 

 Not to be bested, Hermione countered matter of factly. "No one is completely evil, Sirius." 

 "If you honestly think that, then I envy you," Sirius said solemnly, flicking his wand to send his dirty dishes to the sink. 

 Hermione narrowed her eyes. "What is that supposed to mean?"

 "You must have lived an easy life to have never met an evil wizard." Flicking his wand again, the dishes began to wash themselves in the sink. 

 Hermione bit the inside of her cheek until she could taste the metallic tang of blood, she tightened her fist until her nails dug into her palm, and all the while she forgot to breathe. Rage flowed through her like the magic that was constantly at the tip of her fingers- an energy she could all but harness. Perhaps that's what will-working is, what magic is: the ability to exploit one's emotions and focus them. One cannot cast lumos unless one truly desires light, one could not conjure a patronus unless one knows happiness. If that were the case- if magic was emotion- then Hermione Granger was alive with magic, alive with rage. Her throat was dry and her pounding head, normally awash of uncanny logic and reasoning, was a torrent of emotion. 

 But all this she buried. She grabbed it with a fist like iron and choked it down her esophagus into the churning acids of her stomach. Hermione's face was hard, chiseled of dark stone, and in that moment she made a judgement.

 Sirius knew nothing. And she did not need him.

 "I see." Hermione gathered her parchments and stood. "Thank you for your help, Sirius, I do appreciate it."

 "Not going to make yourself that cup of tea?" Sirius asked, his teasing tone made Hermione want to slam her first into his face.

 "No, I think I'd rather take a bath for now." Hermione turned to go but not before she caught Sirius wiggling his eyebrows at her.

 "Enjoy your bath!" He called as Hermione headed to the stairs.

 "Fuck off, Black!" Hermione yelled over her shoulder to Sirius' boisterous laughter. "Prick."

Chapter Text

The Boy Who Lived slumped with as much grace as he could muster into the chair at his Auror desk. His normally bright eyes, now dull and sunken from exhaustion, scanned his office without purpose. Usually Harry, the only Auror allowed - forced into, really- his own office, found being in this small room an obnoxious reminder of the privilege he had never wanted. Often he avoided it, allowing parchments and dust to accumulate with little interference, but today he savored the reprieve this private office offered.

With a deep labored breath, Harry reached out to grab a cup of tea precariously placed amongst the leaning towers of parchments strewn across his desk and, bringing it to his lips, grimaced. Harry immediately spit the liquid out and stared down accusingly at the dust particles and stray hair that floated brazenly in what he now realized was days old tea. How long had it been since he'd sat in his office sipping on this tea? How long had it been since he'd sat down at all? 

At least three days. 

Three miserable, unimaginably horrible days. 

Hermione Granger was missing.  

After Seamus, Ron, and Harry had recovered from the unfortunate - but impressive- wind summoning spell Hermione had hurled at them, the wizards had scoured the Ministry searching for their dark haired witch. The trio had checked every nook and cranny, every storage room and basement in the whole bloody building, but Hermione was nowhere to be found. So Harry, after giving Ron a talking to that would've made McGonagall proud, went to Hermione's apartment: she wasn't there either. Harry hadn't panicked, he'd known that if Hermione had fallen victim to a flashback, as he suspected was the cause of her irrational behavior, when she calmed down she wouldn't want to be alone in her apartment. She'd look for her friends. With that thought in mind Harry had returned home to Grimmauld Place, but found it empty. He had waited for nearly an hour before he went to the Burrow and then Hogwarts.

The night of Hermione's disappearance, taking refuge in Hagrid's hut, Harry had summoned a patronus, determining that if he couldn't locate Hermione then his magic could. 

"Find Hermione, tell her to come home." Harry had ordered the stag, but the conjured beast merely stood there, head tilted to the side patiently. "Hermione," Harry had repeated. "Hermione Jean Granger. Tell her to come home , tell her I'm here for her."

The stag did not move.

"Per'aps try casting one with yer memories of 'Mione,” Hagrid had suggested from his chair, Fang snoring at his feat. 

With a frustrated sigh Harry had dismissed the Patronus and tried again, this time harnessing all the happy memories he could summon of his best friend. He thought of her ink stained fingernails and her wild hair that always smelled of parchment, he thought of her fierce hugs and the swotty lilt to her voice when she was being insufferable. Harry imagined her boisterous laugh and the way she looked at him as if he were the greatest wizard in history. 

And still his Patronus did not move. 

Desperately Harry cast Patronus after Patronus until his arm shook from the effort, until he collapsed to the floor of Hagrid's little hut, his magical core exhausted.

Why would they not go find her? Why could they not go find her?

"Something's wrong," he had whispered, his voice laced with growing dread. 

Every Auror who could be spared had been recruited to hunt Hermione Granger and soon hours had turned into days. Three days and no word. Ginny was beside herself with worry, refusing to attend Quidditch practice or even leave the house in case Hermione showed up. Seamus was ignoring orders and working around the clock despite Savage's insistence that an exhausted, panicked wizard was no help to anyone. When he hadn't been allowed to return to the field to search for her, Seamus had taken to wandering around the Ministry checking with meticulous attention every closet and office he could muscle his way into. 

And Ron. Harry didn't even have the energy to consider Ron at the moment. 

Godrick's sake, where the fuck is she?

"Being as useless as ever, aye Potter?" Draco Malfoy's unmistakable aristocratic drawl jarred Harry from his thoughts and threatened to send his already frazzled nerves over the edge.

"What the hell are you doing in my office, Malfoy?" Harry spat, rising from his chair instinctively. The blond wizard was standing far too casually, leaning against the frame of Harry's now open office door, the ever bored sneer painted across his ivory face. 

"Salazar's sake, man, did something die in here?" Draco asked curling his lip and casting his silvery gaze about the place. "It fucking reeks."

"Excuse me if office cleanliness isn't at the top of my priority list at the moment," Harry responded, his agitation growing. "I've had more urgent business."

Draco’s eyes darted to the messy haired wizard. "Ah yes, the disappearance of our dear Miss Granger. My face remembers the occasion well." Draco rubbed his nose carefully, it was sore but basically healed; he'd forgotten the swotty witch had such a wicked left hook. In fact, that year on the run and her time as an Auror seemed to have only increased her tendency towards lowly Muggle physical aggression. "Seems your little Muggle-born has slipped away, hmm?"

"Don't you fucking talk about her." Harry leaned across the desk, knocking a stack of papers over. “Keep her name out of your filthy mouth.”

"Calm down, Potter. I'm not here to besmirch the good name of your sainted Granger." Draco rolled his eyes, ignoring the threat in his former rival’s voice. "As a matter of fact, she is exactly who I've come to discuss."

Harry's eyes narrowed a fraction. Of course their first suspicions had been Death Eaters and Voldemort groupies on the loose, there were Aurors exploring those leads at that very moment, but could Draco know something? Supposedly the Malfoys were clean these days, cleared in part by Harry's testimony following the Battle of Hogwarts, but that didn't stop folks from wondering. Malfoy could be cleaner than Molly Weasley's kitchen floor, but folks would always wonder...

"I swear to the gods, Malfoy," Harry began, his voice hoarse with viciousness. "If you know anything, you better fucking tell me right now." Harry had moved around his desk towards Draco, his fist tight around his wand.

Draco sighed. "Yes, do try to keep up. I just said that's why I'm here in your wretched office in the first place, to tell you if I know anything."

"So, fucking spit it out," Harry growled.

"Manners, Potter," Draco purred. "Do you want me to talk about Granger or not? You're making this very confusing. 

"DAMNIT, MALFOY!" Harry slammed his fist onto his desk, causing even more papers to tumble to the floor. "What the fuck do you know? Tell me."

The pure-blood was almost smiling now. Lucius would've been disappointed by such an obvious display of emotion from his son, but the younger Malfoy always had behaved disturbingly like a Black.

"Well, " Draco began. "It's more of a show really, than a tell."

"Then. Fucking. Show. Me." Harry managed to get out between his clenched teeth.

Draco gracefully turned, his robes billowing around him. "Well, come on then."

With white knuckles and a red face, Harry allowed Draco to lead him from the office, his mind racing.

Draco moved with quiet steps, but focused purpose through the corridors and around the corners of the Ministry. Harry couldn't help but be impressed with how well the other wizard seemed to know his way around.

"Where the hell are we?" Harry asked at one point. "I've never seen this hallway before."

"That's not surprising, we rarely have visitors. Finance is most probably the least popular branch of the Ministry as we are not only hated by civilians, but also every other department." Draco's voice had an edge to it that Harry thought sounded suspiciously resentful. 

"I would've thought you enjoyed being disliked, Malfoy," the Auror scoffed. "You seemed to go out of your way at Hogwarts to make people hate you."

"Don't flatter yourself, Potter, I never went out of my way to make anyone feel anything," Draco sneered and then suddenly stopped. "Here," he said, motioning to a door on their left.

"Here?" Harry asked, confusion evident in his voice. "Here what?"

"This door." Draco pointed out the door again.

"It's a door," Harry stated plainly.

"By the gods, yes, Potter, bloody brilliant. I can see why you're so adored." Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. "The Bloody Boy Who Lived, everyone."

"You brought me all the way down here to show me a door?" Harry accused with growing agitation.

Draco sighed and slid his hands into his pockets. "Why don't you try to open it, Potter, since apparently you need everything spelled out for you."

"I swear if this some kind of fucking joke..." Harry reached out to the door's handle and tried to turn it, but the handle would not budge. "It's locked."

"Really, how fascinating." Draco's voice practically dripping with sarcasm. "You know, you're a wizard, Potter, why don't you try a spell or a charm perhaps?"

"Fuck off. I'm not waisting time helping you get a fucking door open, Malfoy." Harry turned to leave, his patience at its breaking point, but Draco moved in Harry’s way with a speed that came from years of Seeking.

"Maybe Granger got tired of having to explain everything to you and the Weasel," Draco spat.

Harry raised his wand, a spell at the edge of his lips. "Move or I will move you, Malfoy."

"Try to open the fucking door, Potter."

"Open it yourself, prick!"

"You gods-damned fucking Gryffindors!" Draco brought his hands up as if he was struggling to keep from choking the enraged wizard in front of him. "Open the fucking door, Potter!"

"ALOHAMORA!" Harry screamed, aiming his wand at the door.

The door remained closed.

"Wh-what door is this?" Harry asked, slowly stepping around Malfoy. "Where does it go?"

"Interested now, Potter?" Draco allowed himself a small triumphant smile.

Harry reached out a hand to the door, it felt normal and they were far from the Department of Mysteries- I think. Why would a door be so expertly locked that an Alohamora wouldn't open it? But none of this was relevant. Harry withdrew his hand.

"As interesting as this actually is, Malfoy, I don't see what it has to do with Hermione."

"I walk down this hall every bloody day and I have never seen this door before," Draco informed him. "I didn't see this door until three days ago."

"So what?" Harry shrugged. "You're not observant."

"Actually, I'm quite observant, I'm the best bloody Seeker ever to grace the halls of Hogwarts-"

"Oh fuck right the fuck-"

"And I can tell you that this door was not here." Draco pointed at The Door. "This door fucking appeared three days ago, I noticed it after I went down to St. Mungo's to get my fucking nose fixed."

"That... that could be a coincidence," Harry spoke slowly, trying to fit together this square peg into a round hole.

Draco shrugged. "I think we both know that coincidences are a Muggle affair."  

Chapter Text

"I thought I'd find you here."

Hermione looked up into the sage green eyes of the werewolf towering above her and smiled warmly. "It is my new favorite room in  the house," she admitted.

Since the night Hermione had dubbed "Don't Ever Get That Fucking Drunk Again, Granger" and the "I Fucking Hate Sirius Black" hangover that had followed it, Hermione had been alternating her time between the library at Hogwarts and the extensive collection that made up the Black Family library. Perhaps it was the differing timelines or perhaps the Hogwarts library simply didn't have the same books in 1982 as it would have in 1998, but Hermione had found the Forbidden Section to be lacking. The library at Grimmauld Place, on the other hand, had managed to impress the amber eyed bibliophile.

As soon as she had stepped foot into the neglected room - Sirius needs to learn a simple cleaning spell for Godric's sake- Hermione could feel the low and steady hum of old magic, arcane magic. The type of magic that came with the written word. Words had power. Spells and charms, enchantments and curses when spoken or written could alter the very fabric of reality itself, easily setting aside the laws of science and nature. The curly haired Muggle-born witch had never forgotten the importance of words, but purebloods, she had found, were less impressed with words and their power. Sirius had even begun to let this marvelous room succumb to decay, a process Hermione had taken upon herself to reverse.  

"You've had your nose in one book or another for the last forty-eight hours," Remus commented, plopping down gracelessly besides Hermione on the small couch she had practically burrowed into. "Hiding out here all day! If I didn't know better I'd say you were trying to avoid me."

"No!" Hermione closed the tome she had been reading, her thumb holding her page. "Never you, Pr-Remus!" Though this Remus Lupin only resembled her own in the most superficial of senses, it was still a struggle to not call him "professor."

"Ahhh... but you're avoiding someone then?" Remus asked, looking sideways at Hermione, a tiny smile tickling at the corners of his mouth. "Some dark haired wizard, perhaps?"

He wishes I would pay enough attention to him to avoid him. 

"I'm not avoiding anyone, I'm simply conducting my research," Hermione huffed, opening her book once again. "I do have an assignment, as you well know. Lots to do, little time to do it."

"Of course, how silly of me to suggest something so ridiculous." Remus chuckled to himself. "But y'know, love, you're not the only one with an assignment."

Damn, damn damn damn. 

"Sirius and I were given direct orders from McGonagall herself to assist you with whatever you needed and so far you haven't given us anything to do," Remus practically whined. "I'm trapped here in this house with nothing to do ."

"You made me tea earlier," Hermione quickly reminded him.

"Oh yes, how could I have forgotten. The Great Brewing of 1982," Remus spoke with mock propriety. "The good Lady Granger did see fit to bestow upon me the most important task of brewing her tea. A more gracious or kinder lady the wizarding world has never seen."

"Shut it, you!" Hermione giggled, elbowing Remus in the side.

"And then, after having found the tea to be unsatisfactory, the great lady did bless me with the knowledge of tea brewing, which until that moment, I apparently had no idea of, despite brewing tea for most of my life."

"It is not unreasonable to want one's tea brewed in a specific way!" Hermione insisted.

Can no one in this reality brew a simple cup of tea? Come to think Ron and Harry are awful at it as well, perhaps it's a male thing...

"Then you should brew it yourself, you shrill harpy," Remus teased, ignoring another elbow in his kidney.

"I tried! You insisted on doing it for me."

"Exactly! I'm desperate! I need a task, dear heart." Remus put his hand dramatically over his forehead and flopped down across Hermione's lap as if he were faint. "I will simply waste away to nothing out of sheer boredom if I can't find something to do. I haven't even left this house in days -"

  "Just two," Hermione snorted.

"An millennia! An eternity trapped in these musky walls desperately in need of new wallpaper."

  "Or no wallpaper."

 

"Trapped, oh woe is me! Trapped!"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I haven't forced you to stay here."

"It's that bloody Auror, our jailer! He won't let me go anywhere, says you have to be protected. The great prick is convinced there could be Death Eaters behind every tree and bush-"

"Hasn't kept the great prick from searching for other bush," Hermione muttered.

"What?" Remus' eyes snapped up.

Fuck, that was out loud, Granger. " Hmm, oh? nothing, I was just agreeing with you that Sirius is paranoid." Excellent cover up, brilliant really. Quick, deflect! "I noticed that Sirius' asinine no leaving the house rule because you and I went out and had a little drink hasn't stopped him from leaving. OR bringing others over for that matter." In the last two nights Sirius had managed to bring over no less than three random witches after his Auror shifts had ended, a feat Hermione couldn't help but be impressed with. She was less impressed with his ability to cast a silencing charm.  

You're just jealous, because you haven't had sex in months. Well, good sex at least. Hermione had to admit, if their sexual relationship was anything to go by then her and Ron's romantic relationship had died months, maybe even years ago. 

Fuck, did they ever even have a sexual relationship? They had sex, sure, but had it truly meant anything? In her twenty-two years Hermione had kissed three - Harry doesn't count - TWO men and had sex with one. She probably didn't even know what good sex was like, but she was pretty damn sure Ron was lousy at it. 

Gods, at least I'll never have to lay through him trying that awful thing with his tongue again...

"Helloooo, Earth to Hermione, you alive in there, love?" Remus was waving his hand in Hermione's face.

Focus, Granger!

"Yes, right, sorry. I-I was just thinking about the book I was reading." And what real shagging might be like. FOCUS. 

"Must be interesting," Remus mused, reaching under his back to pull out the now crushed book. " Magical Treatise of Solomon? Godric, how old is this thing?"

"Medieval. I think it may be a second edition, though."

"Fuck!" Remus exclaimed, trying to smooth out the bent pages. "Don't tell Sirius."

Hermione guffawed. "I hardly think he'd care."

Remus considered this. "Good point, don't tell any of the other Blacks then."

Hermione froze. "Other Blacks?" She asked carefully. "What other Blacks? I thought Sirius being the last was the reason he inherited this house."

Remus nodded. "He's the last Black heir sure, but not the last Black. He's got three married cousins and I'm pretty sure he still talks to at least one and the others... not so much."

"Bellatrix and Narcissa?"

"Yea." Remus wiggled in Hermione's lap to get a better look at her face. "How'd you know?"

"I asked Sirius for a list of all the known Death Eaters and he named Bellatrix herself and Narcissa's husband, Lucius." 

"Lucius he just suspects, officially the Malfoys are clean, but Bellatrix..." Remus bit his bottom lip and furrowed his brow. "Bellatrix isn't someone you'd like to cross."

Been there, done that.

"So I've heard..."

A silence fell between the two and Hermione mindlessly began combing her fingers through Remus' hair the same way she had done to Harry on countless occasions before he was dating Ginny. The familiar act soothed her, while her mind wandered.  

Hermione had not seen Bellatrix since she'd watched Molly Weasley, in a brilliant act of murderous rage, send a curse into the crazed witch's heart during the Battle of Hogwarts. That moment had been satisfying and perfect and Hermione didn't want it spoiled by seeing Bellatrix's disgusting face alive and well. Hermione could hear her laughing, she could always hear her laughing...  

"So!" Remus broke the silence. "Tell me what you've got, chief. I have been known to pick up a book or two in my time, let me do some research."

Crappity crap crap.

"Oh, Remus... I..." Hermione floundered. "I've really got it under control."

Remus raised an eyebrow.

"Really, it's fine, I've got it,” Hermione continued to insist despite Remus' silence. "No need to worry, Hermione Granger is on the case." What the fuck did I just say? "That is to say I've got it under control, all clear y'know, it's a-okay. I've got it figured out, it's on lockdown, it's all good-"

Remus put his hand over Hermione's mouth. "I don't know why you're saying those ridiculous things, but it needs to stop." And then seriously he asked, "Hermione, do you not want our help?" An edge of hurt to his voice. "Do you not trust me?"

  Hermione's eyes widened. "What? No! I mean, I mean yes! Don't look at me like that! Of course I trust you, that's not it at all."

"What is it, then? I just don't understand, why don't you trust me?"

Gods, it's like he's a fucking puppy. How can anyone be this sad yet adorable? My aching heart, stop looking at me! Hermione turned away.  "I do! I do trust you!"

"But you won't let me help? Please let me help, Hermione. Couldn't you use a little help?"

Oh for Godric's sake. " Yes, yes I s'pose I could use a little help..."

"Excellent!" Remus exclaimed, popping up from Hermione's lap. "Tell me everything."

You've been played, Granger. Classic.

Hermione grumbled and slid from the couch to the hardwood, motioning for Remus to do the same. With a flick of her wand she summoned her papers from the table by the couch and they came flying to the floor. With meticulous precision, Hermione slid the papers, notes, and lists out between herself and Remus.

"Remus," Hermione began, staring into the wizard's deep pools of green, and considering her words carefully. "There are... things. I cannot tell you, even if I wanted to McGonagall has insisted that certain aspects of my mission remain a secret. For everyone's safety, some things you simply cannot know."

Remus met Hermione's gaze and nodded slowly. "I assumed as much, I understand."

"There is... something I have to keep from happening and in order to do that there are some things I have to find."

"By all means, Hermione, don't be too specific," Remus drawled. 

"Shut it, Lupin! I'm doing the best I can." Hermione waved her finger at the wizard. "Just shut up and listen,"

Remus sighed, Hermione ignored it.

"So these things I'm trying to find, they have- uh they have dark secrets in them, dark... things inside of them."

"Are these things objects?"

Hermione hesitated.

"C'mon now, Hermione."

"Yes, they're objects."

"So we're looking for cursed artifacts, simple enough."

If only anything about this could be fucking simple. 

"Who cursed them?"

"Can't tell you."

"What if I guessed?" Remus grinned.

"I couldn't confirm or deny anything."

"Salazar Slytherin?"

"Nope."

"Solomon!"

"Nope."

"Voldemort."

"Nope." 

"Baba Yaga."

"Seriously?"

"Fiiiiine. Let's just call whoever cursed these mystery objects Evil McEvilPants."

"Y'know, I was pretty convinced that of the three, you were the least ridiculous, but now I'm thinking it must be James," Hermione mumbled.

"Dear heart, you wound me!" Remus put a hand over his own heart before continuing. "So Evil McEvilPants, dastardly fellow that he is-"

"Could be a 'she'," Hermione pointed out.

"Could be, but I invented the character and I say he his most definitely a he. So, he cursed a few objects and set up some sort of evil plan to do evil things, yes?"

"I suppose in the simplest of terms, yes."

"No, your terms were the simplest of terms, I've added some dramatic flair to the whole thing."

Despite herself Hermione laughed. "I can't believe I'm sitting here on the floor discussing Evil McEvilPants with you."

Remus gave her a toothy grin. "I know, bet you never thought you'd be so lucky."

"No, pro-Remus, I never did," she admitted.

Remus looked at her strangely and for a moment, Hermione thought she should think of something to say to fill the silence that had befallen them and then,

 "Hermione, why do you do that?"

"Do what?" Hermione asked, rearranging a few of her papers.

"You start to call me 'professor' and then stop yourself."

Hermione did not miss a step, she smiled up at him and told the truth. "Sorry, you remind me of a professor I used to have."

"Do I?" He asked. "What about me reminds you of them?"

"Your eyes,” she stated.

"Hermione."

"Yes, Remus?"

"You talk in your sleep."

Chapter Text

In the American southwest there is a strange little mammal called an armadillo. Armadillos are peculiar for many reasons, one of course being the plates of dermal bone they wear as armor on their backs, but another being that it is almost impossible for Muggles to not kill an armadillo with their motorized vehicles. Some might even go so far as to say the armadillo wants to get run over. For you see, even if a well meaning Muggle sees an armadillo in the road and aims the tires of their car so that the little creature will fit between them unharmed, armadillos have other plans. 

Armadillos wait until the exact moment the car's undercarriage is above them and then they jump straight up, hit the bottom of the car and usually roll under a tire and are unfortunately killed all the same.

This instinctual, primal panic felt by the armadillo when being beneath a moving vehicle that causes him to jump with fright is not unlike the flailing alarm that Hermione Granger, Brightest Witch of Her Age, exhibited upon hearing those five cataclysmic words uttered by her favorite - only- werewolf.

"You talk in your sleep."

Pupils dilated, breathing uneven, palms sweaty. What the hell does that mean? Did I talk about Professor Lupin in my sleep? Deflect it, Granger!

  "Don't be absurd, Remus, of course I don't talk in my sleep." Stay calm, stay cool, he's probably lying. Why would he lie? Who knows! Males are an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Quick, throw him off his game! " Did you know armadillos can hold their breath for six minutes? Science! Am I right?"

The look of puzzlement now adorning Remus's face was unprecedented. "Ar...armadillos? What in the bloody hell is an armadillo?"

He's off his game! "They're little mammals from America, they have these plates of armor on their backs which are made out of-"

"Hermione."

"Yes, Remus?"

"Shut up."

Hermione began to protest, but Remus quickly closed the space  between them and gently put his hand over her mouth. With a steady gaze he peered into her deep amber orbs and repeated, "You talk in your sleep."

Hermione's brain began flipping through the last three nights she had spent at Grimmauld Place and the dreams that had accompanied them. Nightmares, really. They're always nightmares.

Save for the occasional Dreamless Draught, Hermione had not gotten a full night of sleep in years and the few hours of sleep her turbulent mind did allow her were fraught with mental trials. Some nights Hermione found she was in a tent in the forest shivering under a black sky, some nights she was running from silver faced phantoms around shadowy trees, and some nights, the worst nights, she was on the floor in Malfoy Manor. Alone and cold and wishing she were dead. 

The nightmares bled together like ink blots on a page of parchment, ending and beginning in swirls of blackness, impossible to discern one from the other.  

However the bigger problem, other than the nightmares themselves, was that Remus was completely correct. As testified by Ron on many occasions, Hermione did in fact talk, mutter, whisper, and scream in her sleep. 

But wait...

"Herwuldyuner?" she demanded. Excellent deflection, Granger. 

"What?" Remus asked.

Hermione pushed his hand from her face. "I said, how would you know?" Hermione repeated. "How would you know I talk in my sleep? Have you been spying on me?"

Remus rolled his eyes. "Yes, that's it, good job. You've found me out. I sneak into your bedroom every night to watch you sleep. I draw sketches of it and hang them on my ceiling so I can stare at them when I'm alone. They are my secret obsession."

"I wasn't aware you could sketch, Remus. Might I take a peek at your drawings?"

Deflect! Deflect!

"Stop changing the subject, you silly woman," Remus sighed. "No, I don't spy on you. You were loud enough the other night that I'm sure the Muggles next door heard you."

Crapity crap crap.

Deflection failed, move to denial. 

"I don't talk in my sleep," Hermione insisted. "Now that we have that settled, let's get back to more pertinent matters. I was wondering if you knew these wizards and what information you could give me on any of them." She then picked up a parchment from the floor and began to read out a list of known Death Eaters to Remus. 

"Yes, I know who they are, but I think that can wait." Remus pulled the list from Hermione's hands and then insisted again. "You do talk in your sleep."

For Godric's sake, you bloody werewolf, mind your own goddamned business.  

Hermione sighed dramatically. "Alright let's say for a moment I do talk in my sleep, how is that even relevant?" She snatched the parchment back and laid it neatly down on the floor again. "I thought you wanted to be helpful? Reach over there and grab me the list of restricted books," Hermione chided, pointing to said list. 

Remus grabbed Hermione's hands and took them in his, she tried to pull away but the werewolf's grip was much stronger than hers. 

Note to self: work on hand strength.

"Hermione," Remus said very slowly. Deflect, Granger!

"Goodness, Remus, do you moisturize? Your hands are quite soft." Hermione began rubbing circles on Remus's hands with her thumbs. Great. You are indeed the Brightest Witch of Your Age, Granger.

"Yes, I use coconut oil," Remus's voice dripped with sarcasm.

" Oooh! Coconut oil, how exotic, where would one even-"

"Fucking hell, Hermione, would you let me finish?"

"Is coconut oil made from real coconuts, like olive oil, or does it just smell like coconuts?" Hermione brought Remus's hands to her nose to sniff them. Good god, Granger, you're a sodding nutter. 

Remus took both of Hermione's cheeks in his hands and pulled her face up to look at him. Green met amber in a spectacular moment of utter stubbornness and locked on each other. The world stilled and Hermione came to the terrifying realization that Remus would not let this go. 

"Your hands don't smell like coconuts," Hermione continued. 

Remus pushed a wayward curl from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear, but the little bugger bounced back unhindered. Remus gave a small smile. 

"I only have one question," Remus stated slowly. "If you just answer this one, I promise you, I will never ask you another about this whole thing ever again. I will trust everything you and McGonagall say and I will follow you blindly. I promise."

"Why?" Hermione blurted out suddenly. "Why do you trust me at all?"

"I told you, you daft witch, you saved my friends. I owe you a life debt."

"I don't think that's how life debts-"

"I- " he insisted, "-owe you that life debt, Hermione. No one else, you understand?"

Hermione imagined for a moment, if someone else had thrown themselves in front of her Harry to save him. She imagined the feelings of profound failure that it had not been her and the inescapable relief that it had been someone .

The curly haired witch nodded. Yes, she understood. 

"But I just need this one answer, please," Remus repeated. 

Hermione licked her dry lips, her mind an impossible whirl of anxiety, readying herself for The Question. 

Maybe it's a silly question, maybe I was talking about the Marauders Map or the invisibility cloak in my sleep. He'd certainly want to find out how I know about those...

" I want to know the sword- what sword was a fake?"

Hermione's stomach dropped out of her body, most probably through the ground itself and into the center of the Earth where it would be consumed by molten lava.

No, the Earth's core is most likely composed of nickel or iron. A solid ball approximately 1220 kilometers in radius...

Hermione Granger was, for lack of a better term, armadillo-ing.

  The inner core of the Earth makes up roughly 1% of the planet's total mass, where as the outer core makes up roughly 32%...

  And then with appalling clarity, Hermione remembered exactly what she had dreamed of the last two nights.

Knives.

And laughter.

And mansions full of darkness.

For a moment memories eclipsed reality in a deafening wave of remembrance.

Until a werewolf spoke and destroyed the darkness.

  "Hermione," Remus shook her face gently and her eyes stared up at him, but not wholly seeing. "I'm sorry, but you-you were screaming , love. If you were just talking I would have left you alone, but Sirius wasn't here and you were screaming. For two nights you were screaming. The first night I ran into your room and you were on the bed, thrashing and sweating, pale as the moon. Your screaming was terrible, it was so terrible and you wouldn't wake up- so I held you. You were crying. I-I've never seen anything like it, I was fucking terrified. I didn't know why you wouldn't wake up."

With painstaking effort Hermione reminded herself how to breathe.

"I waited, Hermione, I waited all day yesterday for you to mention it, but you didn't. And then last night it happened again. If Pads hadn't had that trollop"- trollops- "with him I'm sure he would've noticed too. But I was waiting outside your door and as soon as I heard you make a sound, I ran in and silenced the room so he wouldn't hear. And it was the same thing all over again, just like the night before, Hermione. I-I..."

"What did I say, Remus?" Hermione's voice was a strange echo through her ears and she felt oddly detached from it, only distantly aware that she had spoken at all.

Remus swallowed. "You said the sword was a fake. You were screaming and begging and insisting the sword was a fake. And then, Hermione, I-I saw it..."

Confusion pulled Hermione back into herself for a moment. "Saw what?" she asked, mouth dry.

"I didn't mean to, but you were scratching at it, holding it like you were in so much pain. I was worried something was hurting you..." the werewolf trailed off.

"What did you see?" But she already knew.

Then Remus, with such delicate care that Hermione's breath caught in her throat, gently pulled the witch's arms onto her lap and turned them so her wrists and palms faced up. With a tenderness Hermione was not accustomed to, Remus slowly pulled up the sleeve of her jumper, revealing her left forearm. 

The word stood out, a scarlet blemish against her chestnut skin, in stark contrast to the immaculate flesh around it. Her left arm, like the left-handed path the woman who had marred it walked, was tainted with hate. It wasn't even really Hermione's arm anymore, it belonged to a night four years ago that she would never stop reliving. 

Hermione imagined carving it out.

Or scratching it off.

Or cutting her whole bloody arm off.

Hermione wondered, staring down at the slur hacked into her,  if the knife's curse might have seeped through her skin, polluting her very being. Maybe it wasn't Depression or PTSD, maybe it was the darkest sort of magic that tangled her mind and invaded her thoughts. Maybe she was cursed.

Without thinking Hermione ran the index finger of her right hand over the raised wound that would never fully heal, tracing the haphazard letters with meticulous precision. 

"Hermione," Remus interrupted the witch's thoughts, his voice pained. "Wh-what...happened?"

"Which question is it, Remus?" the wild eyed witch whispered with more viciousness than she had intended. "Do you want to know about the scar or the sword? You insisted you only needed the answer to one question."

Remus flinched, taken aback by Hermione's sudden hostility and her venom turned sour in her mouth.

  "Someone...." she picked her words very carefully. "Someone discovered I was a mudblood and they felt everyone who saw me should be made aware."

  Remus cringed at her use of the word. "Don't call yourself that,” he reached out for her arm as if it were a precious thing and cradled it in both his hands. "Please, don't call yourself that."

"Why not?" Hermione asked, her voice a crazed whisper. "It's what I am, right? I've got dirty magic, polluted by my Muggle parents. I'm sure if you cut me open right now you wouldn't even find blood, I'm sure I would bleed dirty, putrid, muddy water. That's what they thought, Remus, that's what she thought."  

"Hermione..." Remus whispered. Hermione saw him grasp for words of comfort and she took pity on him, pulling her arm from his grip. There is no comfort for the war-ravaged. 

"You wanted to know what sword, correct? The sword that I was yelling about?" Hermione slid her sleeves down and scooted ever so slightly away from the wizard. "That was your question?"

Remus nodded, his hands frozen in the air where they had been holding Hermione's arm. 

"I'm afraid that the answer won't be what you're looking for, it will probably just leave you with more." Hermione folded her hands primly in her lap and straightened her back, sitting as formally as possible. 

"I don't care." He was determined. "Tell me what sword, Hermione."

Fine. 

"The sword of Gryffindor," Hermione announced with no preamble. 

To Hermione's shock, Remus didn't seem surprised as she had expected, in fact he nodded as if he'd known the answer the whole time and was just waiting to see how she'd respond.

Remus folded his arms across his chest and then asked, "How would you, someone who did not attend Hogwarts, know anything about the sword of Godric Gryffindor?"

Hermione was silent. She had forgotten to come up with an appropriate backstory. Deflect. " You said only one question, Remus."

"A few nights ago," Remus began. "I met a witch who told me she knew I was a werewolf. I didn't know how she knew this, it's not something I make a point to tell anyone, but she knew it any way. And when she told me she knew my deep dark secret, she said it in such a way that did not request but demand for my trust. She stood in this house after petrifying me and my mates-"

"Sirius started it."

"And she demanded I trust her. At first, I didn't," Remus admitted and Hermione looked down. "But I do now and don't look away, Hermione, because I do, I do trust you. You've earned my trust and more in a very short time, but what I want, no, really what I need from you is that same trust. I'm not demanding it, but I am asking for it. I'm asking for your trust. I'm asking you to tell me the truth, McGonagall be damned."

Trust him, he says? Trust him, I can't trust anyone. I can't trust anyone with anything even if I wanted to. It'd put him in danger, he'd be at risk. An unnecessary risk and-

"Please, Hermione, trust me."

Trust him...

Hermione took a breath.

"I'matimeandspacetravelingwitchfromtwentyyearsinthefutureofadifferentrealityandsomehowIgotstuckinthis-" Remus slapped a hand over Hermione's mouth.

"Let's try that again, but this time with perhaps a pause or breath in between words."

Chapter Text

Sirius stumbled, bleary eyed and exhausted, through the fireplace and took a hard look around the dark living room that greeted him. He sighed. Coming home was never going to feel like coming home. Hell, Grimmauld Place was never going to feel like home. Had it ever felt like home? Even as a child, Sirius couldn't remember feeling at ease inside these decrepit walls. 

It had been a long day. Night? Evening. Yes, evening. It had been a long evening preceded by many even longer evenings, ever since Sirius had taken his Auror oath. Sometimes he considered the merits of accepting his stasis as filthy sodding rich and sitting around all day, but where was the fun in that? Marauders were made for mischief. 

Shrugging off his maroon robes and tossing them onto a nearby chair, Sirius called out for his reluctant roommates.

"Moony! Hermione! I'm hoooome!"

But his calls were met with silence. 

Bugger, where are they? Sirius set off in search of the witch and wizard he couldn't help but consider his wards- despite how fucking old fashioned that notion was. Hermione and Moony were under his roof and his protection and he would allow absolutely nothing to happen to them. Inviting someone to stay at your home created a sacred bond between the host and hostee- old magic that - which was partly why Sirius had insisted so forcefully that they both stay with him. 

Sirius was raised with the fierce knowledge that there was no bond more relentless than the bond of blood and that family is life. To purebloods, family came before gods and government, before friends and allies, and though Sirius may have rejected his blood, the notion of family could not be broken.

Prongs was his family, Moony was his family, Lily and Harry were his family, and now- fucking unexpectedly- a bright eyed witch named Hermione Granger was his family.

Hermione had burst into his life - literally- like a torrent of magic and mystery that he couldn't figure out and Sirius was pretty damn good at figuring shite out. That and his penchant for violent outbursts were what made him a topnotch Auror. Topest of the notches, really. Sirius knew there were many secrets to Hermione- like how the fuck she got through the Black wards in the first place-  but when she had thrown herself in front of Harry's cradle, saving the child's life, she had become family.

And family was sacred. At least to Sirius. Currently Hermione wasn't speaking to him. 

I bet she can hear me just fine, she just doesn't want to say anything. Fucking witch.

In two days she'd barely said as many words to Sirius, despite his best efforts to coerce conversation out of her, but Remus she spoke to like he was the most bloody interesting person on the face of the damned planet.

Oh, Remus, you are so funny! Oh, Remus, thank you for the tea! Oh, Remus, you really are too sweet! Sirius gagged. If I have to hear her say 'Remus' one more time like he's the bloody greatest thing since a bread slicing charm... 

"Moooooony!" Sirius howled, his inner Grim coming out for a moment. Bet they're in the library, she hasn't left the fucking library in days. He quickened his pace up the stairs and rounded the corner into the library with reckless speed. "Moony!  Kitten!"

And then he stopped. What the fuck have we here...

"Godric, Sirius. Shut the hell up," Remus groaned from the floor as he carefully dislodged himself from Hermione, who was practically laying on top of the werewolf. Why you smooth little wolf...

"I cast a silencing spell around her so she'd get some sleep, but you don't need to come in howling like a banshee," Remus yawned.

"First off, banshees are ladies, as you well know," Sirius pointed out.

"My statement stands," Remus growled.

"Sexist, Moony. Don't let our little witch hear you talk like that," Sirius tisked, folding his arms across his chest and leaning against a bookcase. "I may have only met her a few days ago, but I can tell you with no amount of uncertainty that sexism is one of her buttons. Also house-elf rights, which I didn't even realize was a thing."

"S'not sexist to point out that you have the high pitched scream of a woman." Remus lifted himself from the floor. "Merely factual. Let's go to the kitchen and let our suffragette sleep a bit."

"Shouldn't we put a warming spell around her or something?" Sirius asked, his grey eyes searching the room for a throw. "This fucking house never seems to warm up. It's probably my mother's cold dead heart buried somewhere in the walls..."

"Already done."

"My mother's cold dead heart?"

"No, prat, the warming spell."

Sirius looked down at Hermione and noted the way she was slumped to the side, her spine at an odd angle. "That can't be comfortable for her."

"I'm not going to leave her on the floor." Remus slid his wand from his sleeve and with a swish and flick, floated Hermione back onto the couch. "See? Easy as cake. Let's go."

"Show off," Sirius grumbled, following Remus out the door. An expert at transfiguration, but Sirius had never managed to perfect his levitation charms. Remus, however, was most probably capable of levitating an entire London street if he wanted too.

Might be a bit hyperbolic. 

"Soooo..." Sirius began as the two wizards descended the stairs, making their way to the kitchen. "Leading on our little witch, eh? You dog, you. Are you hoping she might divulge some secrets between the sheets, perhaps?" Sirius wiggled his dark eyebrows.

"Excuse me?" Remus sputtered, nearly tumbling down the stairs.

"I see what you're up to, you saucy little minx," Sirius chortled, giving his friend a light nudge. "Getting close, eh? Reeeal close?" 

"What the fuck are you even saying?" Remus asked, his lip curling in disgust. "Are-are you suggesting I'm seducing Hermione?"

  Sirius grinned.

"You're out of your fucking mind," Remus growled. 

"Well, you have to admit, based on the position I found the two of you in, it would certainly appear that you are at least leading her on a tad bit, Moony-poo." Sirius pushed the kitchen door open and let Remus step inside first.

"Don't ever call me that again." Remus wiggled his finger in Sirius' face. "Ever."

Sirius gasped. "But it's our special name!"

"I will rip out your throat while you sleep."

"Such violence from my gentle Moony-poo!"

"Circe, you're in a mood," Remus sighed, running his hand through his shaggy hair. "Was it a particularly rough night hunting badies? Get the fucking firewhiskey glasses, would you. I can't handle you being this obnoxious sober." 

Sirius chuckled and pulled two glasses from the cabinet as well as the bottle of Ogden's Olde and placed them on the table where Remus now sat. "Same ol' shite really, nothing too exciting. I was fairly close to Bellatrix, I think. I could practically smell her in the air. That kind if crazy pollutes shite."

"Bellatrix?" Remus asked, his shoulders suddenly tensing at the name while he poured firewhiskey for two . "Your cousin?"

"In blood only." Sirius took a drink. "Someone's been hunting down and killing Muggle-born witches and I have sinking suspicion she's behind it."

  "Specifically witches?" Remus asked, peering over his glass.

"Yea, weird right? Not wizards, just witches." Sirius rubbed his chin, scratching at the stubble he'd been too lazy to shave.

"Hermione is Muggle-born," Remus confided quietly, brow furrowed. 

"So, we at least know something about her, eh? Well, we'll be keeping our little Muggle far the fuck away from anyone, let alone Bellatrix." Sirius looked over at Remus from the corner of his eye. "So...? What were you doing up there?"

"Where?"

"The library obviously."

"Researching."

"Ha! That didn't look like any researching I've ever seen."

Remus raised a curious eyebrow. "Jealous, Pads?" he asked, his voice tinged with amusement. 

Sirius snorted. "Hardly. Shrill Queen of the Harpies, that one."

Though admittedly, a rather fit Queen of the Harpies. 

"I'm just wondering if you've been using your masculine wiles to seduce some answers from her. You found out she's a Muggle-born, find out anything else exciting from our little queen?"

"Godric, has everyone read that fucking play but me?" Remus threw his hands in the air in disgust. "You don't even read."

"What are you talking about? What play?"

"Hermione is the queen of..." Remus sighed and took a sip of his whiskey. "Fuck it, never mind. And no, I have not been seducing answers out of Hermione. Or seducing her at all, you right prat."

"Could've fooled me the way your arm was around her waist and her head cradled into your neck," Sirius observed with forced nonchalance. 

Remus' eyes narrowed and then widened suddenly. "You are jealous. Mr. I Bring Home Two Trollops A Night. Jealous. Wait until James hears."

"I!" Sirius announced very forcefully. "Am not jealous. I don't give a flying fuck, I just want to know if your sowing of wild oats has yielded any fruit."

"You're right awful at metaphors."

"That was a brilliant metaphor."

This time Remus snorted.

"Still, laying on the floor like that with a lady tends to give them ideas. The ladies that is. You don't want to be leading her on just to break her poor heart later when she discovers where your Quidditch preferences fly, so to speak."

"Is this you trying to be subtle? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Does she know you're gay, Moony?"

"I'm not gay."

Sirius choked on his firewhiskey and Remus hit his mate on the back a few times. "I think," Sirius began after he recovered himself, "there are a few blokes who would disagree with that, mate. Gideon Prewett, perhaps?"

"Don't bring up Gideon," Remus stated flatly, finishing off his whiskey and pouring himself another glass. 

Still a sore subject then.

"Fine, alright, fair enough. No Gideon talk. But y'see, when a wizard shacks up with other wizards, folks tend to think he's sexually attracted to said wizards."

Remus considered this for a moment, took another sip of whiskey and then sighed. "Unlike you, I try not to limit myself. I simply like interesting people, their sexual organs are of no consequence."

Sirius tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

"Well, maybe a little consequence," Remus conceded with a grin. 

"You dog!" Sirius laughed and raised his glass. "To sexual organs!"

Remus chuckled and raised his as well, then tapped it on the table and took a drink. "To sexual organs."

"So did you get a look at Hermione's?" Sirius asked.

Remus spit out his firewhiskey in an unstoppable spray. "For fuck's sake, Pads!" he exclaimed between coughs. "Warn a bloke before you say shite like that."

Sirius couldn't respond for laughter and he smiled toothily at his friend, reassured that Remus did not see Hermione's sexual organs . Thought he wasn't altogether sure why that mattered, so he determined to drink more and think about it at a later date.

Chapter Text

Hermione laid quietly, listening as the boisterous voices from the kitchen drunkenly staggered up the stairs, laughing and stumbling as they went. She kept her breathing even and eyes closed until she heard the tell tale click of two bedroom doors reverberate down the hallway. It was deep in the night now, well past midnight, but the witch couldn't be exactly sure. Her wristwatch had stopped telling time accurately since her arrival in this timeline, a temporal enigma she had not yet worked out as there had been more pressing matters. 

It was those matters weighing heavily upon the wild haired witch's mind. 

With war trained silence, Hermione pulled off the blanket Remus had laid over her and carefully stood. She had woken up maybe ten minutes or so before Sirius had arrived home from a blissful dreamless sleep, something she had begun to believe wouldn't be possible again without potions. When she'd heard Sirius' calls for his roommates- goddamned forced roommates- Hermione had not been in the mood to socialize and had remained quiet.

Determining that the boyos probably needed a moment to themselves, Hermione had kept up the ruse and allowed the two friends to believe she was asleep. 

While laying in the library, listening to the muffled sounds of friendly conversation and laughter float up through the stairs, guilt had made it's wicked way into Hermione's chest. Sirius' return had jolted Hermione from the comfortable web of trust she'd spun with her werewolf and into the reality of her foolishness. 

She should have never told Remus anything.

You're a goddamned sucker, Granger. The witch suppressed a sigh and with a flick of her wand, shrunk her notes still strewn across the floor before sending them floating to the bag she had hidden behind the couch. Not her beaded bag, but an old leather thing she'd pulled out of Regulus' closet that would have to do for now. There was work to be done.

While the wizards had been down stairs unwinding, Hermione had been plotting. She was taking too long, going too slow. Her best plans and deductions had never been made with Ron and Harry close by, but instead when they were off getting into trouble and she had been left alone with her thoughts. Remus and Sirius were not only in danger by her mere presence, but were distractions from her end goal.

She had told Remus too much- everything really - and she knew that had put him in terrible danger. As far as she knew, her presence in this timeline was unknown outside of the small circle within the Order of the Ph-Cat, but she couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to this time and space travelling debacle.

The universe is chaotic, to be sure and Hermione didn't put much stock into nonsense like destiny or fate, she left that to those like Professor Trelawney with their crystal balls and tea leaves. Oh no, Hermione Granger was nothing if not logical and despite the ley lines and fairy roads the Ministry had been built upon, she knew the odds of having accidentally fallen into another reality were slim. It was far more likely that there were other powers at work here, but what those powers might be, the witch couldn't yet tell.

The business of discovering how she got here to this time and space, and thus how to get back should have been taking higher precedence in Hermione's mind, but she had long since decided that she would not leave until every Horcrux was destroyed. She wouldn't leave this world and Neville, the current Boy Who Lived, to deal with the ramifications of Tom Riddle's insanity.

But she would do it alone .

Hermione had been reckless. When she'd first arrived at 12 Grimmauld Place days ago she had thought herself mad and had thus given too much away; she was endangering everyone she came into contact with.

Sirius, James, Remus, Pomfrey McGonagall, even Fabian and Gideon Prewett. Hermione nearly groaned at the memory of her many inebriated slip ups in front of the Prewett twins. 

We should have known better, we should have thought quicker. We lied under the cruciatus, we resisted torture, we should have been stronger.

Hermione had been weak and foolish. She allowed her needs for companionship and desire for friendship to overrule her better judgement. Her confessions to Remus had been an error that she was now left to correct. 

Casting a silencing charm around herself, Hermione grabbed her leather bag and slung it across her shoulder. With Auror ease, she slid through the hallways like water and silently headed towards the front door.  She had from the beginning been keeping her clothing in the bag, ready to leave at any moment, along with diaries and papers she had found in Regulus' room, hoping they would give her some clue to the location of the locket, if it even existed. Of course she also had a stash of food and a tent she had transfigured out of some bed sheets and a chair the other day while Remus had been sleeping. 

Even before the war Hermione had been obnoxious in her thoroughness, but now she bordered on obsessive. She had no less than five beaded bags hidden around her house and office if she ever needed to "bug out" as the Muggles say, stocked with books, supplies, food, and potions. Ron had called her paranoid and maybe she was, but the only reason the Trio had survived their year on the run had been Hermione's preparedness. 

Hermione stopped in front of the front door, fists gripped tight by her side. She imagined Ron's splinched arm and Harry laying "dead" by Voldemort's feet, she imagined Remus and Sirius cold and ghostly, she imagined everyone she had not saved and she willed her heart to stone. 

  This would be hard. Last time she went Horcrux hunting she'd had Harry to keep her sane, to comfort her, but the only life she could risk now was her own. 

Steel yourself, Granger, we've got shite to do. 

 

oOo

 

Sirius Black awoke to a pounding at his bedroom door. Or in his head? It was so difficult to be sure. 

"SIRIUS!" The pounding continued.

Definitely at the door. Sirius moaned and ran a pale hand through his black hair. Oh sweet Circe, I forgot what it was like to drink with a werewolf who physically cannot get drunk.

POUND.

 "SIRIUS FUCKING BLACK OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR."

His voice is so soft, like the chirping of tiny baby birds, no wonder the lads and lasses can't resist him.

"What, Moony?" Sirius rolled out of his bed, a tangle of sheets, and groggily slumped to his bedroom door. "This better be fucking good..." he murmured under his breath.

POUND. POUND.

"ONE FUCKING MOMENT, FOR GODRIC'S SAKE!" Sirius bellowed and tapped his wand against the mahogany door, releasing the locking spells.

"OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR, BLACK!" Remus growled and it was the feral quality to his friend's voice, that gave Sirius a second of pause.

I haven’t don't anything, right? Sirius quickly ran through a list of possible offenses. No, nothing to warrant this behavior. 

"SIRIUS!"

The wizard threw open the door. "What the hell , Moony?"

"She's gone." Remus face was white and panicked, his hair a mess of sandy brown atop his head, his green eyes wide.

The floor dropped from under Sirius. "What?"

"Hermione, she-she's gone !"

"Fuck."

 

Chapter Text

Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fucking witch.

Sirius ran passed Remus, nearly knocking his tall friend over in the process. 

"I checked everywhere," Remus began in a rush, quickly steadying himself and following after Sirius down the hall. "Her room was empty with the door wide open, the library was empty, every room in the gods damned house is empty."

"She was just in the fucking library!" Sirius muttered, his vocal cords hoarse as he resisted the urge to shift. When Sirius found himself in the throes of a strong, primal emotion- which is all the bloody time - it was his body's natural instinct to go canine. Made for some very interesting accidents during his more amorous encounters. Once while engaging in, shall we say a more animalistic form of love making, Sirius had looked down at the very shapely bum of the witch whose name he could not remember, and found that his hands gripping said bum had unconsciously began shifting to paws. Luckily the witch in question had not noticed the difference in grip.

Remus reached out and grabbed his friend, turning him roughly. "Listen to me!" he demanded with a growl and Sirius suppressed his own snarl in response,  grey eyes searching his fellow Marauders face. "All of her things are gone," Remus all but whispered. " Everything . Every article of clothing or book borrowed from Hogwarts, every note and paper. Every-fucking-thing is gone. Sirius, I- I can't even smell her." His last words practically a plea. 

"Wha-what?" Sirius asked, his chin lifting in confusion. "You can't smell her?"

What does that mean?

"No." Remus shook his head, placing both hands on the other wizard’s shoulders desperately. It'd been a long time since Sirius had seen Remus so worked up, the sandy haired wizard was difficult to rile, but now he practically shook with anxiety. "Not a scent or sniff or lingering odor. I can't smell her, Sirius, it's like she was never even here."

Sirius cautiously sniffed the air. 

Nothing.

Nothing? Nothing? How the fucking bloody hell could there be nothing?

Wordlessly Sirius allowed his body the transformation it was demanding and dropped to the floor on four paws. He set his snout to the ground and sniffed again. Nothing. No shampoo or perfume; the smell of her hair, even her natural musk, was missing. Padfoot lifted his head and breathed deeply through his nostrils as a tendril of panic twisted its way through his body.  

Frantically the Animagus raced to the library, the last place he'd seen Hermione. 

Nothing. 

He jumped on the couch. 

Nothing. 

Not even the barest trace that she had ever been there. The dog buried his face in the blanket Hermione had been wrapped in mere hours before and let out a soft whine.  A floorboard creaked and Pads turned to see Remus standing in the doorway, eyes wide like a lost pup.

"The whole house, the whole fucking house," the werewolf continued, "is completely void of her scent. I checked everywhere , Sirius."

Pads shifted back into the wizard and slammed his fist into the wall, rattling the antiques that sat atop the bookcases. "Damnit!" Sirius yelled between clenched teeth. "How is this possible? Where is her scent?"

"She knows us, Sirius, better than we could've imagined," Remus said cryptically, his green eyes cast down. "She must've known that we could track her and so magically removed her scent."

Sirius' head snapped up. "So you think she left on her own then, no kidnapping?" Sirius asked, his Auror mind racing with possibilities. 

"Seems unlikely, who could've gotten past the wards?" Remus pointed out.

"A Black," Sirius all but spat. " Bella..." Sirius felt sick to his stomach. "Bellatrix is killing Muggleborn witches, Bellatrix could get passed the Black wards. They're blood wards, I can't keep her out of here. Holy fuck. Holy shite. Holy fucking shite..." 

Remus shook his head. "No one even knows she's here and Grimmauld Place is hidden, your cousins don't even know where it is."

Sirius nodded mutely. Remus was right, of course he was right, no one besides McGonagall knew about Hermione except...  Suddenly the pureblooded wizard turned narrowed eyes to his friend. 

"Someone does know she's here," Sirius shot back.  "Two someones."

Remus' brow wrinkled in confusion.

  "Two someones you may have gotten pissed with," Sirius reminded him, grey eyes growing dangerously dark.

Remus guffawed in disbelief. "Gideon and Fabian? Why would they have kidnapped Hermione? Don't be mental, they're members of the Order."

"Barely, they've been on one, maybe two missions," Sirius countered. "And maybe they ran their fucking ginger mouths off at the Leaky to someone they shouldn't have. The Prewetts have a hard time shutting up." 

Remus considered this for a moment. " Fabian does tend to dominate conversation, but no, the de-scenting is too specific. No one else knows you're an Animagus, Gideon never even figured it out. Whoever de-scented the house would have to know that we could track her, it's too odd and specific."

"Peter knows." Sirius wasn't ready to think their new witch left on her. "Peter knows about your condition and my abilities, he'd know we could track her by her scent."

Remus snorted. "Peter's not got the talent for a charm that has somehow removed only one scent from an entire house,” he remarked unkindly.

"What kind of spell could even do that? Get rid of a scent I mean. She couldn't scourgify the whole bloody house," Sirius demanded, waving his arms around madly. "Where is her fucking scent, Remus?"

"I don't know, Sirius!" Remus growled, his own frustration growing.

Sirius watched as Remus' green eyes shifted ever so briefly to gold and silently the black haired wizard counted days in his head. Fuck, we're four days from the full moon. How could he have forgotten?

Taking a deep, calming breath, Sirius considered Hermione's few means of exiting 12 Grimmauld Place. "Have you checked the floo?"

"Yes," Remus nodded, running a hand through his shaggy hair. "First place I checked."

"Why would she leave?" Sirius muttered under his breath, heading towards the parlor anyway.

The floo was clear. 

Sirius had locked it before leaving for his Auror shift and a quick wave of his wand indicated that it had been neither opened nor closed since. "She must have left the Muggle way," he said after a long moment kneeling beside the fireplace, "straight out the door."

Remus gasped. "The fucking door!" he exclaimed, running towards the front of the house.

"Seriously, Moony?!" Sirius ran after him. "You didn't check the fucking front door?"

Remus beat Sirius to the door with strides to spare - fucking long fucking legs- and with a growl, pulled something from it. 

"What, what is it?" Sirius craned his neck to see around his tall friend.

"A note," Remus whispered simply.

Sirius tore the small parchment from Remus' hand. "Are you fucking shitting me?"

 

Dear Remus and Sirius,

 

Please don't worry, I'm fine, but I can't risk your safety any longer. I know what needs to be done. I hope I'll see you again.

 

Love, Hermione Jean Granger 

 

Sirius read over the note four or five times, taking in every word carefully. 

I know what needs to be done.

He looked over to see a sick look had crept across Remus' features. The werewolf leaned against the wall, slowly sliding down the floor. 

"She's gone on her own," he whispered, not looking at Sirius. 

"Gone on her own to do what?" Sirius demanded, falling to his knees next to his friend, note still clutched in his hand. "What the fuck does this mean, Remus?"

"I-I can't tell you." Remus scrubbed his face with his hands. "I told her I wouldn't tell you."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "As much as I do enjoy your role as the chivalrous one, Remus, now is really not the fucking time. We have a dangerous and valuable witch on the loose and there are Death Eaters literally- don't fucking roll your eyes at me- literally everywhere. Hermione can't be out there on her own and we're not going to be able to track her down if you're keeping secrets from me."

Remus was looking past Sirius now, towards the door, his face contorted in an expression Sirius couldn't quite read. Gingerly he reached out a hand and placed it on Remus' shoulder, knowing that betraying a friend's trust was the most cardinal of Marauder sins. "I know she confided in you, mate, but it's for her own good. We have to go after her."

Remus sighed and looked up at his friend, green eyes clouded. "Make yourself comfortable, Pads, this'll take a bit."

Sirius moved next to Remus and leaned against the wall with him. Finally some fucking answers.

"This will sound unbelievable, but trust me, it's true," Remus brought his legs up and rested his arms on his knees. "Or at least, I'm pretty sure it's true. Just- just let me get through the whole thing, no interruptions."

Sirius opened his mouth to protest.

"No interruptions," Remus repeated.

Sirius snapped his mouth closed. Alright, fine, prick.

"Thank you." Remus sighed deeply and began, "Hermione isn't from here and I don't mean she's not from London, I mean she's not from here . Our here. She's from a completely different place, a there."

Sirius raised an eyebrow, but didn't speak. 

"Oh gods, this sounds insane." Out with it, Moony. "She's not from our timeline, from our r eality ."

"Whoa whoa whooooa now little werewolf." Sirius put his hand out.

"I said no talking, Black!"

"Bu-"

"No."

"I-"

"No. Listen!" Remus barked. 

Sirius closed his mouth.

"Good. Now, I know it sounds fucking insane, so just let me finish. Hermione was born in 1979"- so she's a fucking three year old?-" in her timeline and she grew up with Harry, James and Lily's Harry, and then when they were at Hogwarts Voldemort came back."

"Did she slip you something, Remus, some crazy potion in your tea?" Sirius asked, unable to stop himself.

"Sometimes you really are a huge arse."

"Fair enough," Sirius admitted. 

Remus squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I told you this was going to sound crazy, that's why I insisted on you keeping your muzzle shut. Now do you want to hear the rest or not?"

Not altogether sure at this point, honestly, maybe it won't be helpful. 

But curiosity won out. "Alright, fine, I'm sorry, please continue." 

"Hermione's secret mission from McGonagall is to destroy Voldemort once and for all because she's already done it in her timeline," Remus confided, speaking quickly as if he was worried his friend might start talking again. "Apparently, where Hermione's from, Voldemort disappeared on October 31st, 1981, just like he did last year, but he wasn't gone forever. He came back because he had performed some of the darkest magic I've ever heard of, twisted shite really. Voldemort had managed to split his soul into pieces and hid the pieces in different objects- he couldn't be killed properly until all the objects were destroyed first. So, when everyone thought he was gone in Hermione's time, he was just drawing power back to himself. The war wasn't over, it was just on hiatus."

"So," Sirius began slowly, not sure what to say, " what you're saying is that Hermione is a time-"

"And space," Remus interjected.

"Right, a time and space traveling witch from a different reality? And she's come to our reality to save us from Voldemort?" Good gods, am I believing this? We're all barmy.

"Not exactly, she didn't come to our reality on purpose," Remus corrected. "She said it was an accident."

"So then how'd she get here?"

Remus shrugged. "She's not sure, but it does kind of explain a few things, doesn't it?"

"What do you mean?" Sirius was convinced it explained anything. Besides maybe that Hermione was simply a lunatic.  

"She said in her reality she's best friend's with Harry and that Harry lives in Grimmauld Place-"

"Why the bloody fuck would Lily and James's boy be living in this dank pit?"

"I'm not sure, she said you gave it to him."

"Why the bloody fuck would I do that? Do I for some reason dislike met future godson?"

Remus sighed. "I don't know, Sirius , she wouldn't tell me everything . But if she's able to pass through the Grimmauld Place wards in her world, maybe that's why the wards let her though here. It would also explain how she knew all our names and that I'm a werewolf."

"Maybe she's been stalking me, that'd also explain how she knew all that," Sirius pointed out.

"Gods, your vanity is overwhelming sometimes." Remus rolled his eyes.

"Hold on,” Sirius growled. “Are you telling me it's more believable that Hermione accidentally fell through space and time than that she's simply been stalking me?" Sirius sputtered in disbelief. 

"Why would she be stalking you?"

"Many reasons! My fortune and devilishly good looks for starters!"

"By the gods..." Remus grumbled. 

"I'm putting this conversation on hold for right now so we can focus on more important matters, but we will be discussing later how completely ridiculous it is that reality hoppin g is more likely in Remus World than Sirius stalking," Sirius fumed, waving a finger through the air. "So, let's just cut to the chase then, where is our wayward witch?"

Remus frowned. "Horcrux hunting."

Chapter Text

On a crowded street, hidden behind spells and bushes, sat a wild haired witch with wide amber eyes; in one hand she held a black ball point pen and in the other a scrap of parchment. There were things she needed to know, facts that needed to be put into place, and it all started here. It all had to start here.

Right?

In the spring of 1982 Hermione had been two and a half years old and her parents had established a joint practice in Chelsea. It had not come as a total shock to Hermione that the building, which in another timeline had been her parents' office, Granger and Granger Dentistry, was currently a small clothing boutique. Well, the clothing boutique part had been a bit surprising, but the dental practice missing entirely was not. 

The future is built on the past; billions of decisions from the trivial to the vital -what to eat, what to wear, who to love, what taxi to take- stacking on top of each other are what weave the fabric of the present reality. If one could view the universe in its entirety, if one could truly see every decision from the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings to the dropping of an atomic bomb, one could know the future not because the future is destined to happen, but because we have already determined the future with every decision that's been made since the dawn of time. Humanity, whether muggle or wizard, has always been in control of its own destiny. 

Which frankly terrified the shite out of Hermione. She had long since realized that about 95% of the world’s population are idiots.

Or 'eejits' as Seamus called them.

Hermione absently rubbered a hand over her heart as it ached for her partner and stuffed thoughts of all her friends aside.

Understanding the inescapable likelihood of even the smallest details being altered, Hermione had determined to take nothing for granted in this reality. She had been unable to find her parents' office, so undeterred she had made her way to the flat they had shared as a small family before moving into a house the summer before Hermione's fifth birthday.

It was outside of this building that Hermione now found herself huddled behind a rather sad looking rhododendron bush. Three hours she had been out here, inhaling the obnoxious pollens from the Rhododendron ferrugineum flowers.

Three hours.

Or at least, she guessed three hours. Her watch wasn't working. It certainly felt like three hours, it felt like a whole bloody eternity. Hermione glanced at the sun.

Three hours. Her shoulders sagged.

It's time to give this up, Granger. Either they don't live here anymore, didn't ever live here or they're on holiday or-or... or something. We don't have the time to waste sitting around. 

With a sigh, Hermione began to stand, mumbling under her breath in frustration. It would have made things simpler if her parents lived here, Hermione wasn't in the mood to go searching through public birth and marriage records. She allowed her amber eyes one last chance to scan the sidewalk hopefully.

  And then her breath hitched.

And then her hands began to shake.

And then her pulse quickened and the whole bloody world became very, very shaky. 

A woman was walking down the sidewalk. A woman with brilliantly dark eyes and skin that seemed to have been carved from obsidian, wearing a face that Hermione saw in her nightmares. A face Hermione cried over. A face Hermione dreamed of touching.

Her mother's face.

And the world very briefly exploded. 

The urge to rush to her mother, to wrap her arms around her and cry and cry until there was no water left in Hermione's body hit the small witch with overwhelming force. It was only pure shock that kept her in place.

How had she thought this would be easy? Simple, really, she thought it'd be simple and easy and not in the least bit messy. She'd just see if they were there. See if they had a daughter or any child and then move on. After all, they weren't really her parents, were they? This wasn't her timeline, not her reality, they might not be anything like the people she remembered, the people she had known.

"Mum," Hermione whispered breathlessly, her legs twitching to run.

And then-

And then. 

And then a tall man with blonde hair slid his lean arm around Hermione's mother and the witch choked on her sob. The man leaned down and planted a chaste, but charged kiss on her mother's dark cheek and though Hermione was too far away to hear, she knew the sound of the quiet giggle that escaped past her mother's lips by heart. She would never forget the sound of that soft laugh, Hermione had heard it so often when her father would bend over and place a wet kiss on her mother's cheek.

But that was not her father.

Hermione choked, Hermione wanted to vomit, Hermione died just a little bit. 

Hermione looked down at the parchment in her hand and crossed her own name off her list. 

 

oOo

 

The fire danced and crackled, devouring the dried wood and brush with a ravaging hunger, casting shadows that moved eerily across the witch's skin, obscuring her moonlit features. Behind her the tent was pitched, but Hermione preferred the comfort offered by an open sky, a holdover from her year on the run. Tiredly, she gazed down at the scribbled list she'd been keeping.

Where the fuck are we, Granger?

Where the fuck, indeed. It's 1982. McGonagall is head of the Order of the Black Cat and headmistress of Hogwarts, Gideon and Fabian Prewett are alive and well, - quite well- James and Lily Potter are alive, Alice and Frank Longbottom are dead, Sirius is not in Azkaban, Remus is not with the werewolf packs, - was he ever ?- Dumbledore is Minister of Magic, Peter Pettigrew is still the betrayer and is missing, Voldemort is gone for now, and thanks to a prophecy Neville is the Boy Who Lived. 

Prophecy. Hermione thought back to her conversation with Sirius in the kitchen. 

"There was a prophecy and it seemed to point to two families- the Longbottoms and the Potters."

Hermione rubbed her temples with a weary sigh. She would then have to assume that the prophecy was either the same and the boys were born at the end of July or the prophecy was slightly different and the boys were born at a different time or the prophecy was completely different and Hermione had no idea why Voldemort would have assumed it involved the Potters and Longbottoms. Fucking divination.

The witch bit the inside of her cheek, furrowing her dark brow in thought. There were simply too many possibilities, too many paths to consider. Just one decision could ripple could snowball and further widen the gap between this timeline and Hermione's own. It was far too much to take in all at once, she needed to focus.

Hermione pulled more parchments from the leather bag by her side and laid them on the ground a safe distance from her fire. She was quite sure the number of Horcruxes- seven- would likely be the same and if Tom Riddle maintained his flair for the dramatic, then the Horcruxes would likely be the same as well. Even if they weren't the same, she had no other place to begin anyway. 

A flick of her wrist sent a few of the parchments floating in the air where Hermione could examine them more carefully. She had written everything she could remember about each Horcrux- the what, when, where, and why of each item- recalling in meticulous detail everything she had ever discovered herself or been told. Though Hermione had not been involved in the destruction of all the Horcruxes, there was only so much one could keep from one's best friend and Harry had always been in need of a confidante.

For a time, before moving in with Ron, Hermione had lived at Grimmauld Place with Harry, the two of them clinging together in a way only orphans could. Siblings in all but blood. During that year and a half, over many cups of tea and butterbeer, Harry had shared more with Hermione than he ever had during their time at Hogwarts, even more than when they'd been alone in the tent. Hogwarts had brought them together, war had solidified that bond, and peace had only strengthened it; a fact Ron was eternally jealous of.

Bah, Ronald! Think about our dear ickle Ronnykins in nappies, Granger, he is only a toddler after all. 

With a derisive snort, Hermione waved her finger and a parchment floated towards her hand.

The Ring

Has Resurrection Stone

Heirloom of Gaunt family

Found in Gaunt home

Cursed Dumbedlore when he put it on

Destroyed with the Sword of Gryffindor after being used to kill the basilisk 

Hermione's mouth twisted in the ghost of a smile. It was a start. 

 

oOo

 

The pain was eclipsing. It was hollowing. It burned from the inside and liquified your organs, leaving an empty husk in its wake.

Immeasurable.

Immense. 

Humiliating. 

Remus awoke on the floor of the Shrieking Shack with a heaviness in his bones that seemed to be pulling him towards the center of the earth, sinking him into the floor. He knew better than to move. He knew better than to blink. He knew better than to do more than breathe

All in all, a normal full moon. 

Besides him an Animagus stirred and Remus extended his awareness towards his friend. It'd been just him and Sirius for over half a year now, since James went into hiding and Peter-

Well, Peter. Remus preferred not to think about Peter.

"You're looking beautiful in the morning as always, Moony," came a chuckle from said Animagus. 

Remus struggled to form words in a now human mouth, his tongue feeling oddly shaped in his small, weak jaw.

"Piss..." he huffed, "...off."

Sirius' barking laughter was not unlike the dog he often became. "Ah it's indeed mornings like this that I live for, waking up on the dirty floor of an old shack to the gentle musings of my own werewolf." Remus could hear the grin in his friend's voice. "The soft light filtering in from the ragged linen curtains, the dust and debris littering the floor, it's like a romance novel."

Remus considered a few more colorful expletives and then decided it wasn't worth the effort to speak. Sirius was just seeking to lighten a tense mood, he couldn't begrudge his best friend that.

It had been four days since Hermione’s disappearance and the pair were no closer to tracking her down than they had been the morning Remus discovered her missing. In fact, they may have actually regressed into the negative. Remus certainly felt as though he was somehow farther from finding her than he was before. 

  The first place the wizards checked had been the Hogwarts grounds, more out of familiarity than any real hunch - shite always seems to be going on at Hogwarts, it's like the place attracts excitement - but their curly haired witch was not there.  Nor was she at Hogsmeade or anywhere in wizarding London or, Remus suspected, anywhere in wizarding Britain. The werewolf had the sinking suspicion Hermione had left the magical world for the mundane or worse, the wilderness. Remus suspected she had not divulged everything to him in the library at Grimmauld Place, but Hermione had mentioned the first time she'd gone Horcrux hunting, she and Harry - my best friend's son, Godric this is fucking weird- had spent months hiding out in a tent. He had no doubt that Hermione could very easily slip off the radar, as the muggles say, and he'd never find her again.

Remus was trying to decide why that particular fact seemed to bother him so much; it didn't make a great deal of sense. Why should he care if the witch was gone for good? It'd almost make certain things easier, for starters he could finally convince Sirius to let him go back to his own flat. Remus shouldn't be worrying about her, hell, he shouldn't even t rust her. 

They'd only known each other for, what? A week now? Yet there was something indescribable about the way his mind responded to her, like he knew her, like he'd always known her. It was so bizarrely comfortable. It made him wonder, in her own timeline - gods, it's all insane!- what was her relationship with the other Remus. Were they friends? Were they more? Could those sort of bonds stretch out across space and time and tap into the most basic sense of camaraderie? 

The smell of her had taken him off guard immediately after he'd stepped through the floo at Grimmauld Place and had only intensified when he'd seen an Auror robed witch stupefied on the floor. It was both intoxicating and alarming, familiar in the most unfamiliar sort of way. Remus knew he'd never met her before, a scent like that wasn't something a wolf could just forget, but she had commandeered his senses all the same . Her smell was woven with magic and power and he hadn't realized how it had rooted into his life in just a few short days until it was gone.

Gone. 

Poof, just like that. As if a genie had snapped his fingers and altered reality. As if it had never been there, as if she had never been there. But she had . Remus hadn't made her up. He wasn't quite that creative if he was being honest with himself. The whole situation was insane enough that it almost had to be real. 

The werewolf groaned and reached a heavy hand to his forehead. This was far too much thinking for a post-full moon brain. 

Remus, his green eyes still closed, felt Sirius stand besides him and heard the tell tale shifting of clothing that meant his friend was dressing. Without prompting, Sirius quietly walked over to the werewolf and gently coaxed him to sit up, holding onto Remus' back in support. 

"Here you are, old friend, drink up," Sirius cooed, gently putting a vile smelling bottle of pain potion to Remus' lips. The werewolf wanted to gag, but he drank it down all the same, nodding his thanks. 

"I was thinking," Sirius sighed and Remus had to struggle against the urge to make a sarcastic comment, "that maybe we should take a break for today and go back out on the hunt for our wayward witch tomorrow or even the day after."

Remus finally opened his eyes and glared, shaking his head at the blurry form of Sirius Black in protest. They didn't have time to sit around and rest. 

"Yea, I didn't think you'd be too keen on the idea," Sirius admitted as he carefully moved around his friend and began applying dittany to the wounds and cuts across Remus' torso and arms. "But honestly, you're in no position to go galavanting about on a wild witch chase."

"Been worse," Remus croaked. 

Sirius nodded. "True, but you've been better too." It was harder just the two of them; Pads was accustomed to scouting ahead, not controlling Moony, that had always been Prongs' job. The dog barely matched the werewolf in size and was certainly outdone in wild temperament. When an Animagus made the shift the wizard remained, when a werewolf made the shift they weren't afforded the luxury of a human conscious. 

Remus winced as Sirius bandaged up a particularly nasty cut along his shoulder. 

Sirius frowned. "Sorry, mate." To which Remus merely nodded. "It's just," the pureblood continued, "if we had some sort of idea, a place to begin, but right now we have nothing."

"McGonagall," Remus pointed out.

"Abso-fucking-lutely not," Sirius snapped. "I am definitely not telling Minerva that we lost a suspected time-space-universe-whatever traveler. I'd rather cut off my own prick."

Remus cocked his head to the side, noting with pleasure the pain in his muscles was easing, and gave his friend a knowing look.

"Alright, probably wouldn't do that ," Sirius conceded. "But I'd definitely consider it!"

Remus snorted. "Your prick," he began slowly, growing more accustomed to his own voice again, "is your only hobby, Pads."

"Why are we friends?" Sirius deadpanned. "Is it the constant verbal jabs? Your quick witted tongue? The way my self-esteem literally shrivels at the sound of your voice? I'm obviously a masochist."

The werewolf gave a small, amused smile.

"No wonder you and Hermione got along so smashingly,” Sirius muttered. "Ungrateful, the lot of you. I invite you into my home for your own protection, form a bond of host to hostee, stick my neck out so to speak, and how is my kindness returned? With utter bullshite."

Remus snapped up. A bond? "What are you on about?"

Sirius had not stopped talking. "I figured I just needed to keep everyone else out, I didn't realize I'd need to keep you two in. Fucking ridiculous and here I am slaving away-"

"Sirius," Remus growled more forcefully.

"What?"

"What bond?" Bonds were magic, bonds were useful, bonds were old blood. 

"Oh, the host bond?" Sirius asked, packing their medical supplies into Remus' worn backpack before handing the werewolf a clean shirt and pants. "It's why I was so insistent on the two of you staying at Grimmauld Place."

Remus raised his eyebrows, inviting Sirius to continue as he dressed. 

"Old magic, not entirely Light but certainly not Dark. When you invite another witch or wizard into your home it creates a bond that protects both parties. It meant that Hermione couldn't harm you or me, but we couldn't harm her either. I'd know right away if she tried," Sirius patted his chest right above his heart. "I'd feel it here. The protection of a host is hallowed, it's part of the reason vampires have to be invited in, to host is a sacred duty."

Something clicked in Remus' brain as the post-moon fog was clearing. "Does it work with non-bonded parties?" he asked suddenly. 

"Come again?" Sirius raised a black eyebrow, not following his friend. 

"You said she can't hurt us and we couldn't hurt her, but what if someone else tried to hurt her when she was under your protection, what would happen?" Remus asked, a grin almost twitching at his lips.  

"Well I'd," Sirius stopped suddenly, grey eyes growing wide. He snapped his head around to gape at Remus. "I'd feel it." 

"So we have a place to start."

Chapter Text

“I’m dying, this is what death feels like.”

Remus groaned and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “You’re fine, Sirius.”

“I think I can see the light...beyond...a tunnel? Darkness…”

“Sirius,” Remus warned between clenched teeth, keeping his green eyes fixed on the tome in his hands.

“Twas so good,” Sirius gasped and sank down, “to know you, dear Moony, but my time...has…” the black haired wizard rolled onto his back on the library floor, one hand over his heart and the other extended into the air as if trying to grasp something just out of his reach, “come to an...end.” Sirius slumped, arms falling and eyes closed.

“You’re quite dramatic,” Remus sighed, his shoulders tense, and placed the book he’d been leafing through back on its shelf.

“We’ve been in this library for five hours ,” Sirius whined, his eyes still closed. “If there was anything to be found surely we would have found it by now.”

“This library is larger than my flat,” Remus pointed out, pulling Blood Bonds and Sacred Duties from a shelf just above his head and cracking it open. “We haven’t even gotten through a third of it yet.”

“This is impossible, I’m dying, Remus,” Sirius sat up, “dying from boredom.”

Remus eyed his friend with barely contained exasperation, “You seem to be breathing just fine and your heart is still beating. You seem quite alive to me.”

Sirius guffawed. “But my soul! My soul is a shriveled as Filch’s bollocks-”

“I could’ve done without that mental image.”

“My soul is dead, dead from extreme boredom.”

“That’s not even possible.” Remus closed the book and tossed it at Sirius. “Look through this.”

Sirius caught the book in one hand and groaned pitifully. “This is isn’t helping, Moony poo-”

“I swear to Godric if you ever call me that-”

“C’mooooon, let’s go out! Let’s go searching! Let’s have a sodding drink or something .” Despite his complaints, Sirius opened the book and began picking through it, scanning for any useful information about bonds and blood and whatnot. The pureblood had been conservative with his estimation of five hours, the pair had in reality been combing the Black Family Library for seven hours and twenty-six minutes. Three hours earlier Sirius had fallen asleep while reading The Book of Honorius and had lost track of time. 

“There has to be something,” Remus muttered, running his finger along ancient spines as he read through titles, “some clue or-or I don’t know, some place to start.”

“We have a place to start,” Sirius reminded him from his spot on the floor, “the host bond itself is our starting point, we just have to wait for it to be triggered.”

Suddenly Remus growled- a wolf’s growl, a feral sound Sirius rarely heard from the lycanthrope while he was a man. Sirius’ head snapped up in time to witness Remus grab a random book from a shelf and hurl it towards him.

“Whoa!” The black haired wizard ducked out of the way as the book went whizzing past his left ear. “What the hell , Moony?”

“Wait for it to be triggered?” Remus demanded, his face twisted in anger, his eyes awash of emerald ire. “Wait for her to be injured, you mean? Wait until some sodding Death Eater has her by wand point? Wait until she’s being fucking crucio ’d?”

Sirius frowned, his own grey eyes weary. “Remus, you know that’s not what I meant-”

“Then what did you mean!” the werewolf yelled, throwing his hands in the air. “What else could you have possibly meant? Wait for the bond to be triggered, she’d have to be injured, Sirius. Someone would have to be hurting her-” Remus’ voice was growing increasingly desperate as he rambled, his fists were clenched tight by his side.

Sirius put down his own book and rose from the floor, hands outstretched in what he hoped was a pacifying gesture. “Calm down, mate,” he cooed, moving towards Remus.

“I can’t be calm!” Remus shouted, his shoulders were hunched and his back arched, as if he were trying to fold into himself. “She’s gone and I can’t fucking be calm. You’re not even helping, you’re just fucking complaining. I-I can’t, I don’t…”

Godric, Remus, what’s going on with you? In the last few days Sirius had noted that his friend’s behaviour had become increasingly aggressive, the werewolf had been attempting to establish dominance at every turn. Initially Sirius had written off Remus’ combative demeanour as the effects of a waxing moon, but the moon was waning now and still the wolf had not calmed. 

Sirius placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder and gently lead him to the couch. “Breathe, Moony, breathe.” With expert care he guided Remus down and sat beside him.

Remus pushed his palms into his forehead and took a ragged breath. “This feels so terrible, Sirius,” he whispered. “I’m sorry, I’m being- I don’t know- dramatic? But I’ve never felt like this before.”

The other wizard’s frown deepened. “Felt like what? I know you’re worried about Hermione-”

“It’s more than that,” Remus interrupted, running his shaking hands through his shaggy hair. “I-I don’t even know how to explain it. Her absence it’s- Godric, it’s painful.” 

Sirius opened his mouth to speak but found he was at a loss, so he closed his mouth and tilted his head. Remus looked haggard from the darkening circles around his eyes to the shaking in his fingers. Was he sick?

“What’s the pain like, Moony?” Sirius asked quietly after a moment. 

Remus looked up, meeting Sirius’s gaze. “Like an ache in my bones, like all of my extremities have fallen asleep are waking up with brutal pinpricks of sensation. Like I’ve been woken up by a bucket of cold water and I can’t get dry.”

Sirius reached up to feel Remus’ forehead and the other wizard pushed him away with a low growl. “What’s your temperature?” 

“I’m not sick, Pads.”

“You look tired, mate, when was the last time you slept?”

“I can’t sleep!” Remus yelled, grabbing Sirius’ shoulder gruffly. “Haven’t you been listening? She’s gone and I can feel it, I think- I don’t know, I think I’m reacting to her absence.”

“What- Hermione’s absence?” Sirius asked, “But why ?”

“I don’t know, but this hasn’t ever happened before.” Remus loosened his grip on Sirius’ shoulder but didn’t remove his hand. “The first night when Hermione was here and you called me over, as soon as I walked into the room I could-I could smell her. But it was more than that! I could feel her. I could hear her heartbeat and her scent was everywhere. I didn’t realize it until she was gone, but I’ve barely left her side since she found us and now-and now I don’t know what to do.”

“Remus,” Sirius began slowly, “I’m really not following.”

Remus gave his friend one last pleading look before scrubbing his hands over his face. “I know, I know,” he sighed, “I’m sorry, this sounds crazy. Maybe I’m losing my mind. You’re right, let’s stop for a minute, maybe I just need some fresh air or sleep or something.” Remus looked around the library, his brow furrowed. “But there has to be something in here, right? Something-”

“You go to bed, mate,” Sirius ordered rising from the couch and pulling Remus up with him. “I’ll keep looking.”

Remus shot Sirius a look of utter surprise, his dirty blond eyebrows raised practically to his hairline. 

Sirius rolled his eyes. “I can handle being around books on my own, I’ll be fine. Besides, I’m usually up later than you anyway what with my night shifts and all. You sleep, I’ll research.”

The werewolf looked for a moment like he was about to argue, but then his shoulders slumped. “Maybe you’re right-”

“Could I quote that later? Not the maybe part, just the-”

“Shut it,” Remus snapped, “or I won’t go to bed.”

“Alright, alright,” Sirius nodded, a smirk tugging at his mouth. An outright aggressive Moony he wasn’t sure he could handle, but an annoyed Remus was a different story. “You go to bed, I’ll go through these old dust filled monstrosities and see if we can’t find something to point the way to our witch.”

“Good, thank you,” Remus muttered as he turned to leave. Sirius watched his friend go, worry painted across his pale features. 

 

oOo

 

The witch screamed, a sound that ripped through her lungs and exploded from her throat like the firing of a canon. 

You’re a damned idiot, Granger. She chastised herself as her body was pulled like a doll across the dirt and debri covered flour of the Gaunt Shack. 

Of course the house was protected, she had assumed as much walking in, but if Dumbledore had done it then so could Hermione Granger. Right?

Wrong, evidently.

The witch couldn’t be sure exactly what had triggered the wards, her passing through the house’s threshold hadn’t set them off, but when she’d begun tapping on the floor boards, remembering something Harry had mentioned, the dilapidated shack had come alive.   

Like, actually had come alive as Hermione was fairly certain what had a hold of her ankle and was tossing her about was the tattered curtain she had noticed earlier. 

But the witch was almost grinning despite her surprised screams, this meant she was close. 

Hermione flipped onto her back as she was pulled into the wall and gasped briefly in pain before flicking her wrist at the curtain which screamed - screamed?!- when hit by Hermione’s hex, recoiling and releasing the witch’s ankle. Hermione jumped to her feet, wand in hand and set the curtain on fire with a silent incendio. Her amber eyes watched with growing horror and fascination as the curtain bucked and wrestled about like an animal, screeching in what she could only assume was pain. What dark magic was this?

Hermione had Apparated to Little Hangleton, landing as close as she knew she could to the shack, and had traveled the rest of the way on foot. The night was lit only by the waning moon and, not wanting to call attention to herself, Hermione had kept her wand dark as she made her way through the tangled forest. 

Between the canopy of trees she had glanced up at the sky a number of times, guilt slithering through her when she realized where the moon was in its monthly cycle; the full moon had passed and she hadn’t even realized it. Silently Hermione had hoped Remus was as well as could be expected the night after the full moon, before shifting her thoughts to the task ahead. 

The Gaunt Shack was an eerie sight- like the set from a B-rate horror movie- surrounded by foliage and overgrowth, the roof half collapsed, but she couldn’t feel anything wrong with it. Hermione had probed the building with her magic, walking the perimeter to get a sense of the wards, of which there were none, before going inside. Perhaps it had been extreme arrogance, a trait that would later kill ol’ Tom Riddle, that had kept the insane wizard from protecting the shack, but now as Hermione stood listening to the dying sounds of a curtain the witch realized the shack was its own protection. 

Suddenly the floorboards began to jerk and Hermione instinctively dropped to a squat, lowering her center of gravity to keep balanced. The walls were shifting around her, broken beams and planks were reaching out for the wild haired witch and the sound - the sound was unbearable, high pitched shrieking that seemed to be coming from everywhere. Hermione resisted the urge to cover her ears, opting for the protection offered by an outstretched wand instead. 

“Let’s get this the fuck over with,” she muttered under her breath before sending a spell at the floor, ripping away the boards with magic. As Hermione tore apart board after board, searching for anything, the shack began to react more violently, shaking and screaming. The agile Auror maneuvered around animated curtains and planks that slithered like snakes at her feet. 

“Where is it!” she screamed in frustration, only adding to the savage chaos around her. It had to be in the floor, that’s where Harry said Dumbledore had found it and what else would have triggered the shacks sudden assault if not her tampering with the floor? 

A board, writhing by Hermione’s foot, reached out and tripped the witch as she continued tearing apart the house. With a startled cry she fell, her wrist slamming into the ground with a sickening snap and a searing pain. The house was all over her now, wrapping itself around her legs. Hermione reached out with her wand hand, grabbing at a hole in the floor as whatever had hold of her legs tried to pull her away. She was getting close, she must be!

Anger flowed through her, fueling the ever turning machinations in the witch’s astute mind. Swiftly she switched her wand from her hand gripping the floor to her now possibly broken wrist and with a grunt of pain, fired a hex at the animated objects attempting to pull her away. The screams intensified and Hermione’s foot was released. 

The Auror jumped to her feet, firing of curses and hexes at the shack that she was quickly realizing wouldn’t withstand this for much longer.

The floor bucked beneath her and Hermione found herself once again on the ground, growling in frustration the witch began to push herself up when suddenly-

There it was. A glint of something gold. 

Hermione scrambled on her hands and knees to reach between two disturbed floorboards, grabbing hold of something cold and hard.

With a triumphant scream the witch pulled out a golden box, her eyes flashing joyously. The moment was short lived as the constant noise erupted to full madness, momentarily eclipsing Hermione’s thoughts as her scream of elation turned to pain; she could feel blood leaking from her ears. 

The house would not give up its treasure.

The witch forced herself to her feet, clutching the box against her chest, and ran towards the door. It was so close, barely a few paces away, she was practically out-

Something wrapped around her throat, snapping her neck back with painful force. Hermione turned and twisted and fought at the curtain that was strangling her, her mind a whirl of panic.

This is it, death by fucking curtain. She gasped and pulled, but the magicked curtain pulled tighter and shadows clouded her vision. This isn’t how we go out, Granger. 

 Rage filled her now- she had not come this far on her own to simply die at the hands of a bloody curtain .

Hermione cut through the fabric with a silent sectumsempra and gasped as the curtain fell around her neck like a scarf. Without hesitation Hermione pushed herself onward, barrelling through the door of the shack and into the crisp night air.

She turned to the shack that was still howling it’s rage and screamed, “ Incendio!” into the darkness.

 

oOo

 

Sirius fell to the floor, clutching his neck, gasping for air. The wizard writhed and rolled, scratching at himself as his panicked hands attempts to remove something that wasn’t there. He kicked and fought and the world was turning black- distantly he registered his foot colliding with something solid and heard the telltale crash of books. His vision darkened and still he struggled; to be strangled is not a quick death. 

“Pads?” a voice called out. “What’s with the- holy shite , Pads!”

Something heavy dropped to the floor beside him and Sirius fought off the hands that tried to pull his own hands from his neck. 

“Oh my gods, Pads! Stop, stop!” Remus yelled, shaking his friend and Sirius briefly wondered what he would look like when he was dead was suddenly-

It was over. 

The wizard sat up right with a gasp, heaving labored breaths into his exhausted lungs.

Remus’ face was nearly as pale as his friends, panic etched across his scarred features. “Sirius!” he exclaimed, grabbing his friend’s shoulders. “What happened?”

Sirius’ whole body was on fire, but it wasn’t the phantom strangulation, it was his magic. His magic was burning him, punishing him for a failure, it was pulling him.

“Her-” he croaked, his throat hoarse, “Hermione.” 

Remus stared down at Sirius, his eyes wide, the unspoken question on his lips. 

“Holy fuck, Hermione!” Sirius grasped Remus’ hand in his own and focused on his magic, giving in to the pull and the two wizards Disapparated with a ‘pop.’

Chapter Text

There was a brief point mid-Apparation where Sirius suddenly became jarringly aware that he had no idea where he was Apparating to. The moment, though filled with absolute panic, lasted less than a second until Sirius and Remus  found themselves stumbling through their landing into the hot night air. 

Hot? No, that’s not right. 

Sirius quickly righted himself, his Auror reflexes keeping him standing despite the unsettling sensation of blind Apparation, and whirled to the source of the pointedly wrong heat. With a gasp, he grabbed Remus’ elbow and forced the taller wizard to do the same. 

“What the- where the hell are we, Pads?” Remus exclaimed, his wide green eyes reflecting the light from the blazing fire. 

It was a house, or at least, Sirius was fairly certain it had once been a house. Now it was a pyre of wreckage encased in brilliant crimson flames that howled and danced through the night.

Sirius opened his mouth and shrugged dumbly, unsure of how to answer his friend when a scream split the air, unnatural in its overwhelming shrillness, and both wizards covered their ears. Remus, his hearing more astute than his companion’s, nearly doubled over as the sound cut through his mind leaving a path of searing pain. 

“Did that come from the house?” Sirius asked between gritted teeth, his hands reluctantly dropping from his head to pull his wand from his sleeve. “That- that couldn’t have been human, right? ” 

Remus, still clutching his ears, took a ragged breath and turned his own head towards the fire. 

“No,” he panted, “that was,” he took another deep breath and straightened his back, “decidedly inhuman.”

“Godric, should I,” Sirius shrugged, motioning towards the house ablaze, “I don’t know, put it out?”

“Why are we here, Pads?” Remus cut in. “ Where is here?”

“I have no sodding clue,” Sirius admitted, his grey orbs still locked onto the house while his mind scrambled through a list of possible scenarios. The black haired pureblood was not often given much credit by his friends, Remus had always been hailed as the brilliant one, but Sirius Black had not become a top Auror on sheer dumb luck. 

“You,” Remus stuttered, his voice a mixture of surprise and indignation, “you don’t know?”

Sirius shook his head, only half listening to his friend. 

“You fucking Apparated us both blind, you fucking arsehole?” Remus’ voice rose as he spoke and this finally did cause Sirius to turn. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

“I’ll make you a list later,” Sirius snapped and dodged out of the way of Remus’ fist. “Remus-” he began.

“We could’ve been splinched, we could have died! ” Remus continued, attempting to throw another punch at his friend; days, possibly years, of frustration exploding.

Sirius ducked and jumped to the side, his own irritation growing. “Remus,” he tried again, a hard edge to his normally jovial voice. Why do you keep attacking me you, prick?!

“Don’t you fucking ‘Remus’ me!” the werewolf growled, his fist still balled. “This isn’t a fucking game-”

“I know that! Listen, listen!” Sirius yelled, keeping his wand hand down so as not to appear threatening. “Remus, think about what just happened.”

“I have! You just fucking Apparated us without even-”

“Yes!” Sirius exclaimed, “I Apparated us!”

“That’s what I just-”

“Out of Grimmauld Place.”

Remus stopped, his fist mid-air, and Sirius watched as his brows furrowed in confusion and then suddenly shot up to his hairline as the realization sank in. The werewolf opened his mouth and then closed it, then opened and closed it a few more times. Sirius couldn’t help the grin that split his own face at his friend’s bewilderment. 

“We just safely Apparated,” Sirius began slowly, “out of Grimmauld Place, past the wards.”

“How is that…” Remus ran a hand down the side of his face, “how is that possible?"

“I don’t know, but I have an idea,” Sirius admitted slyly, unable to keep from sounding just a tad excited that he’d realized something before Remus had. 

A second scream howled through the night and both wizards to jump in startled pain; Sirius’ momentary delight at the idea of having done the near impossible lost when he was brought back into the present by the shrill sound. 

“I think Hermione was injured,” Sirius found his voice a few seconds after the god awful scream had subsided, “I think that’s what was happening, when I was choking, I think it was the host bond.”

Remus’ head snapped up, his eyes narrowing and then widening. “You think it was-” the werewolf cut himself off and took a deep breath through his nose. “I can,” he whispered excitedly, “I can smell her!” Remus began turning wildly while he sniffed, attempting to locate a scent trail.

“She was here!” He practically laughed as he searched out the scent. “Just a moment ago I think, the scent is so-it’s so fresh. But wait,” Remus’s face darkened and he turned to Sirius, “she was injured? You think she was being choked?” 

Sirius nodded gravely. “I think so, I think it triggered the bond and pulled my magic here.”

“But you think she's okay now? You don't think…” Remus trailed off, not looking at Sirius.

“Yea,” Sirius nodded, his face mimicking the concern he could see painted across Remus’ features. “I think I'd know, if she were,“ Sirius swallowed, “dead.”

“This is both excellent and terrible,” Remus acknowledged, sniffing the air again. “But there’s,” he smiled broadly walking a few paces, “there’s a scent trail. She didn’t Apparate away, she’s on foot.”

“Ha!” Sirius fist pumped the air. “We’ve got you now, little witch.” He turned to the fire and then back to Remus. “Do you think that was her?” Sirius motioned towards the house. 

Remus shrugged. “Wouldn’t surprise me, that witch is bloody terrifying.”

“I wonder why,” Sirius mused, scratching the light stubble on his chin that had grown in the last few days. “Do you think… some thing is in there?”

Is it what attacked my witch?

Remus moved towards his friend with uncanny speed and grabbed Sirius’ wrist. “We can ask her when we find her, c’mon we need to-”

A third scream echoed through the night, different in nature from the two that had preceded it. This scream was full of joy and where the others had been, as Remus pointed out, decidedly inhuman, this scream was most assuredly human in nature.

“Cousin!” a feminine voice screeched and Sirius practically broke his neck as his head whipped around. “It’s been too long.” 

Bellatrix Lestrange’s red lips curled into a facsimile of a smile, her pale features alight with malicious glee that caused every muscle in Sirius’ body to clench with rage. The witch stood, silver masked pushed up into her tangle of ebony hair and black robes flowing around her, just an arm’s length from the pair of wizards. Sirius silently berated himself for not noticing he had been snuck up on.

Moody would have my fucking head, constant vigilance indeed. Sirius nearly growled, his wand gripped tightly by his side, as two more masked figures moved out of the forested darkness to stand beside Bella. 

“Bella,” Sirius spat, raising his wand, “sod off. Stupefy!” 

The witch laughed, an alarming sound that raised the hair on the Marauder's neck, as she casually deflected her cousin’s spell. “Oh, little cousin, you mustn’t be nasty, we’ve just come to talk.”

“Yea, not happening.” Sirius wrapped his fingers around Remus’ wrist, the two wizards now practically holding hands, and readied himself to Apparate, but when nothing. Sirius’ eyes grew wide. He tried again and still nothing happened. 

“What the fuck did you do?” Sirius demanded of his cousin, though he already knew the answer: obviously the three Death Eaters had set up anti-Apparation wards around the area before approaching.

Bellatrix’s smile widened. “Things to discuss, cousin, we couldn’t have you leaving so soon.”

Sirius’ grey eyes narrowed as he surveyed the quickly escalating situation. The Death Eaters flanking Bellatrix, who he assumed were wizards due to their size, had moved into dueling stances with their wands extended. Sirius noted a wisp of platinum hair almost escaping from under the hood of the wizard to Bella’s right. Sirius almost growled. 

Malfoy most likely.  

The Marauders were out numbered and as much as Sirius would like to believe that wouldn’t matter, ultimately he knew a fight was a fool’s choice. But when had that ever stopped Sirius Black? The pureblood tightened his grip on his own wand, a hex on the edge of his tongue when Remus squeezed his friend’s wrist. Sirius frowned internally, realizing he couldn’t put himself or Remus in that sort of risk. They’d have to make a run for it.

The wild eyed witch’s attention was suddenly drawn to the Marauder’s hands and she giggled - why are you always laughing you crazy bitch?- before taking a confident step forward. Remus and Sirius took a step back in response, but Sirius was painfully aware that a burning house, not an exit route, was behind them. 

“So adorable,” Bellatrix cooed, “the two little lion cubs. This doesn’t have to be painful, cousin,” she smiled cruelly, “it can be quick and quite humane if you cooperate.”

“Oh, Bella,” Sirius smiled back with equal malice, “don’t be daft, it doesn’t suit you.”

Bellatrix’s face twisted in rage, her aristocratic features, so similar to Sirius’s own, morphing grotesquely. “Never let it be said that I didn’t try to spare you, Sirius,” she spat, “ crucio!” 

Remus and Sirius dove apart, both narrowly avoiding the unforgivable.

“What did you find!” Bellatrix screamed as she hurled another curse.

 

oOo

 

Hermione leaned against a tree, panting with exhaustion, sweat beading on her forehead.  She looked wearily into the darkness, her amber eyes darting about. The witch had not stopped running since she’d attempted to Apparate away from the burning house and found that she was unable. When Hermione had initially probed the house’s defenses she had not detected any anti-Apparation wards and their sudden presence could only mean one of two things: either she had triggered them or they had just been cast. She had a sinking suspicion it was the latter and had no intention of sticking around to confirm her theory. 

Hermione looked down at the tiny golden box in her hand, unnerved by the lack of dark magic radiating from it. Surely being retrieved by someone other than its master would have triggered the horcruxes defenses, right? Hermione sighed,  desperately hoping that there was indeed a dark artifact inside the little box. If there wasn't, if she had just nearly been strangled by a sodding curtain for what was turned out to be some Gaunt family heirloom, she’d not only lose her mind, but she’d truly be at square one. Less than one. Square negative one. 

Ignoring the mounting desire to open the box and examine its contents, Hermione slipped the gilded container into her bag. “Gotta get back to camp, Granger, “ she muttered to herself, “then we’ll open it.”

“You smell good, pet.” 

Hermione’s head snapped up - that voice-  and found herself staring wide eyed at a giant man with blond hair and a formidable beard, smiling at her in that lazy way only a predator could. The witch stifled a gasp and the man’s grin widened. 

“Greyback,” she whispered the name almost as a question. It had been years since she’d seen the werewolf, years since she’d heard his carnivorous voice. Where had he even come from? Constant vigilance, Granger! Moody would be so fucking pissed. 

Fenrir gave the witch a look of confusion, but he didn’t appear bothered that this stranger knew his name. “Have we met?” he asked, taking a step forward. 

Hermione took a step back in response, wand in hand. “Don’t make a choice you’ll soon regret,” she warned, her voice steady, betraying none of the panic rising in her chest. 

The werewolf laughed, delighted at her comment. “Oh you’re fun, surely I’d remember you and-” Fenrir stopped and suddenly took a deep breath in through his nose, closing his eyes as he did, “Gods,” he whispered, his eyes opening and fixing onto the witch, “you smell bloody divine.” 

Hermione felt her lip curl, disgust replacing the fear. “As far as pick up lines go, I’d say that was one of the worst,” she sneered.

“Are you looking to get picked up, pet?” Fenrir chortled and Hermione found the sound quite unsettling. Her sneer deepened. The blond werewolf brought a hand to his chin and tapped his finger gently against his lips as if in thought. 

“You know what I am.” It wasn’t a question and Hermione struggled to replace the revulsion gracing her dark features with a stoic mask. “Who are you?” 

“‘Fraid I haven’t the time to chat.” Hermione raised her wand. “ Stupefy!” 

With unnatural speed Fenrir had his wand in his hand, deflecting Hermione’s spell, before the witch had finished speaking. “ Salazar,” he sighed almost dreamily - gods you’re fucking disgusting- “your magic smells even better than you do.” Fenrir’s demeanour was disturbing in its calmness and Hermione’s mind quickly began flipping through a list of possible escape plans.

The witch took a slow step back, aware that she was not speaking with a man, but more a beast. “Not used to being around witches who bathe, hmm?” Hermione taunted, instantly regretting the use of her barbed tongue as she witnessed Fenrir’s eyes flash gold, briefly shifting. The witch suppressed the urge to shudder. 

Suuure, Granger. Just rile up the sodding giant werewolf, that sounds like a safe bet. 

“There’s something different about you.” Fenrir cocked his head, his wand hand twitching. “Something odd. Something so very compelling-”

The werewolf moved ever closer to Hermione and the witch silently attempted to Apparate, only to find she still could not. 

Crap crap crap. She remained inside the wards and was quickly running out of time.

“-I’ve never smelled anything like you before-” Fenrir was still talking.

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek.

“-you’re decadent, powerful somehow-” he took another deep breath, “-it’s like you’re not even real.” He reached out as if to touch her and Hermione jolted away with a wordless bark of revulsion.

With Auror speed she threw a silent stinging hex at the distracted werewolf and watched with a satisfied smirk as the spell hit Fenrir in the face. “That real enough for you, arsehole?”

Fenrir roared, “You’ll regret that, little witch,” scratching at his face in pain.  

“Doubt it,” Hermione muttered under her breath as she took off in a dead sprint towards Little Hangleton, leaving Fenrir to tear at his stinging face.

“You can’t out run me, pet!” he bellowed behind her and Hermione propelled herself forward, desperately aware that she’d made a huge mistake.

But to be fair, it had felt so fucking good.

 

oOo

 

Sirius threw a hex over his shoulder into the darkness and watched it glowing fly at the Death Eater pursuing him, smirking as it clipped the wizard in the shoulder. Sirius tried to Apparate multiple times as he’d run through the forest and had been blocked, he was beginning to wonder how muggles ever survived without the ability. 

At some point he’d lost Remus and he briefly considered calling out for his friend, but was too worried at giving away their positions to try. On my own for now-

From Sirius’ left something solid slammed into him and the wizard fell to the ground with a yelp of surprise. Suddenly he found himself pinned to the ground, Bellatrix glaring down at him, her wild black hair like a warning smoke around her head. 

Was on my own. Sirius grimaced as Bellatrix wrapped one hand around his throat and raised the other, gripping a wand, above his head. 

“You’ve been naughty, cousin,” she spat before crucio’ ing him. 

The wizard screamed, his back arching in spasms of agony that tore at his flesh and ate through his muscles, as the curse cascaded through his body. Sirius hadn’t realized how lucky he’d been in his life to have not before experienced one of the unforgivable curses. He suddenly felt a deep pity for anyone else who had, before the pain eclipsed and derailed any rational thought still clinging to his brain. The pain was all consuming. Briefly he forgot who he was as another curse ripped through him. 

“What,” Bellatrix tightened her hold around Sirius’ already sore throat, “did you take from the house?”

“Missing something, Bella?” he whispered between ragged breaths, clenching his fist to ensure his wand was still in his hand.

The witch screamed, bringing his head up by his neck, Bellatrix slammed his skull into the ground. Sirius gasped as his vision clouded.

“What did you take!” she demanded again.

The words floated around Sirius as if he were stuck in the pages of the muggle comic books Peter used to sneak in his trunk back at Hogwarts. The wizard couldn’t think, couldn’t process anything for a moment, and then Bellatrix slammed his head again.

“What did you take!” she screeched, her voice not unlike his own dear mother’s. Sirius smiled at the thought of his mother, now dead, and tasted the metallic tang of blood. At some point he’d bit through his lip. 

“Do you have it or is it the other one?” she demanded. “Does he have it!”

“Oh, I’ve got it,” Sirius bragged, taking a moment to savor the enraged look that crossed his cousin’s face. “I’ve got it right here, you fucking bitch.” From his wand still by his side, Sirius sent a burning hex up at his cousin, hitting her in the side of the head.

Bellatrix screamed and flew off of him from the force of the spell, rolling on the ground in agony. 

“You’ve been naughty, cousin,” he spat mimicking her earlier remark, before raising his wand, crucio on his lips. 

“Sirius!” Remus’ voice called out and Sirius stopped, his wand still in the air. “Sirius!” He heard again, this time closer. 

“Here,” he called out, caution abandoned, turning towards the sound of his friend’s voice “Remus! Here!”

A silent crucio hit Sirius, taking the wizard off guard. He screamed in pain before falling to his knees. Sirius looked up through the fringe of his black hair to see Lucius Malfoy, his mask half blown off, kneeling besides Bellatrix. The blonde wizard lifted his wand, eyes awash of rancor, and Sirius found he had not the energy to lift his own. Silently the wizard braced for another curse.

“Stupefy!” Remus called out from behind him and Sirius’ shoulders all but sagged in relief. Lucius deflected the spell, but Remus continued his assault. “Stupefy! Stupefy! Stupefy!” he yelled, now standing between the Death Eaters and Sirius, his tall frame towering over them all and his tan features lit with rage.

Lucius was narrowly averting the onslaught of spells and Sirius watched as his silver eyes narrowed. “Another time, perhaps,” he drawled, suddenly grabbing hold of Bellatrix he apparated them both. 

“Stupefy!” Remus sent one more spell into the darkness where the witch and wizard had been for good measure. 

“Fuck me,” Sirius whispered and then promptly collapsed. 

 

oOo

 

Hermione ran, her feet pounding against the dirt, dodging trees and branches, panting from exhaustion, but she dared not stop. She could feel the werewolf behind her; he was catching up, he’d be upon her soon. 

Death by curtain, death by werewolf, death by your own fucking stupidity, Granger. Brightest witch of your age, what a fucking joke. 

Hermione screamed as a hand reached out and grabbed her wild curls, yanking her to a stop. 

Death by your fucking hair.

The witch turned her amber eyes, full of fear and indignation and rage, on the wizard that had his filthy hand in her hair and twisted away, grunting in pain as she felt locks of curls pulled out by the effort. But she was free from his grasp, though still within arm’s reach.

“Pretty, little witch, you’ve got some explaining to do, I think.” Fenrir’s voice was mocking as he reached out for Hermione again. The witch jumped away, her wand outstretched, but she was so exhausted she wasn’t sure how many spells her magical core had left. “I don’t bite,” Fenrir laughed at the site of the weakened witch, who glared with honey and wrath filled eyes. 

“I do,” Hermione spat, recoiling from the wizard she flung another hex at him. 

“I think,” Fenrir deflected the hex, “I might enjoy that.” With a speed Hermione knew she herself could not match, the werewolf lunged and briefly time seemed to slow as the witch watched the giant beast of a wizard pummel towards her. 


This isn’t how we go out, Granger. The witch wordlessly screamed in frustration and in a last ditch effort, Apparated away, surprising even herself when a ‘pop’ rang through the night air.

Chapter Text

The Hospital Wing was silent save for the erratic beating of Remus’ panicked heart. Weary emerald eyes gazed down at the pale hand he desperately clutched within his own. Exhausted, he choked back a sob. How did we get here, mate?

Poppy had assured him that Sirius would heal, that time and rest were nature’s surest medicine, but Remus was growing tired of seeing his friends’ barely breathing bodies laid out on a white bed. 

Frank and Alice were dead, Marlene was dead, his parents were dead and the last week had taught him how very easily James and Lily and Sirius could be dead. Hell, he could be dead. 

A gentle hand touched Remus’ shoulder, stirring him from his thoughts. “How is our friend, Mister Lupin?” Minerva’s calm voice disturbed the silence. He must’ve been tired to have not heard the headmistress enter the Hospital Wing. 

“Madame Pomfrey said he’ll be fine,” Remus sighed, his eyes remained fixed onto Sirius’ unmoving hand, “he just needs some rest.”

Remus could almost hear Minerva’s lips draw into a thin line. “Good, I’m glad to hear it.” Her hand patted his shoulder gently. “You did all you could, Remus,” she reassured him softly.

“Did I?” the wizard demanded of himself, voice barely above a whisper.

Minerva squeezed his shoulder in response and sighed deeply. “I think, my boy, that we need to discuss what’s happened to bring you both to this unfortunate turn of events. I take it Miss Granger has gotten away from us.”

Remus cringed, but nodded. “Yes, she-” he struggled, what could he say that wouldn’t reveal how much he knew, “she’s trying to complete the mission on her own.”

Minerva sighed. “I see she’s told you she’s from an alternate timeline, then.”

Remus whirled around, his jaw practically dragging the floor. “How-how do you…” he stuttered, completely gobsmacked.

The ghost of a smirk tugged at Minerva’s mature face. “Do you think I’ve been a professor for this many years and didn’t learn and a thing or two?” Her northern accent practically dripping sarcasm. “You Marauders were never half as clever as you’d have liked to believe.”

Can’t argue with that, then, can I?

“I’m sorry, Headmistress, I know you wanted Sirius and I in the dark, for our own protection.” Remus sighed, one more thing on a long list of shite he’d managed to mess up. 

“That would have been ideal, yes,” Minerva agreed with a nod, “but I will admit, it was a bit of a fool’s hope to think you and Mister Black could stay out of trouble.”

A low chuckle escaped from the werewolf despite the bleakness that was plaguing him. “I’d have to agree with you there, trouble practically follows Sirius around like a stray dog.”

“And you get caught in the middle.” Minerva pointed out. “That’s how you were in school and how you are now.” To which Remus shrugged noncommittally.

“So,” the grey witch continued, “what’s happened to our Miss Granger, then?”

Remus took a deep breath through his nose to steady himself and began explaining everything that had happened beginning with Hermione’s confessions to him in the library. Minerva nodded while he spoke; acknowledging him, but not interrupting and Remus found it a bit unsettling. He felt almost as if he were a third year again, attempting to explain why and how the Marauders had managed to break into Slughorn’s private closet. Would Remus be given detention when this was all over? At this point he’d almost prefer detention in the forest to whatever comments the Headmistress would have when his speech had ended.  

When Remus finished explaining that after Sirius had collapsed he had Apparated them both outside of the Hogwarts grounds- because I didn’t know what else to sodding do - the wizard realized he hadn’t taken a breath to pause in all of five minutes. 

“So now we’re here and the only way we know to find Hermione again is to wait until when she’s in mortal peril and the host bond reaches out to assault Sirius.” 

The elder witch furrowed her brow and crossed her arms over her chest, giving Remus that stern look he’d always dreaded in school. “And it never occurred to either of you,” she asked, voice hard, “to come to me as soon as Miss Granger ran away?”

Remus frowned, bowing his head like a whipped puppy. “It did, but we were worried-”

“Oh of all the ridiculous,” Minerva rolled her eyes and threw her hands in the air, “you’re not in school anymore, I’m not going to give you detention.”

“It’d almost make me feel better if you did-”

“I trust you, Mister Lupin, you need to trust me as well.” Minerva scolded, her eyes hard and almost, Remus thought, hurt. “This is a war, we can’t afford to be keeping things from each other. That’s the precise reason I chose you and Sirius for this task. I could’ve obliviated you both and handed Granger over to Kingsley, but I thought I could trust the two of you.”

The werewolf rubbed the back of his neck shamefully. “I’m sorry, Headmistress.”

“And for Godric’s sake, just call me Minerva, you’re a bloody adult now aren’t you?”

Remus choked, had Minerva McGonagall just said ‘bloody’? “Yes, Head-erm… Minerva?”

“There we go,” Minerva gave Remus a clipped nod, “now, if you’d come to me in the first place this could have all been avoided. We’d have the witch back instead of Sirius hexed to exhaustion and laying in a hospital bed.”

Remus raised an eyebrow, his confusion evident.

“What kind of witch do you take me for, Remus?” Minerva demanded, tapping her foot on the floor. “Miss Granger’s wand has a tracker on it, of course.”

 

oOo

 

Hermione fell to the ground outside her tent, the force from the unexpected - though not unappreciated- Apparation causing a bout of nausea to explode through her stomach. The witch doubled over, clutching her side as her knees hit the dirt, expletives running through her mind. 

Amber eyes slowly turned down to gaze at her dark hands that tremored like the tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust.

It’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over. She repeated to herself like a mantra, but her mind would not be calmed. It wasn’t over, the war would never be over, the universe itself was somehow forcing Hermione back into the fray. 

A choked gasp erupted from her pale lips as the witch struggled vainly to wrangle the disquiet that raged within. It was just as it was after her Auror shifts; in the moment, adrenaline pumping, she barely felt anything, but now, here alone, everything exploded like the calamitous dropping of a nuclear bomb. 

“By the gods, Granger, what did we do?” Hermione muttered, her voice trembling. What had she done, indeed? Nearly gotten herself killed at the hands of the most brutal werewolf in all of Britain. Foolishly rushed into Gaunt Shack for the horcrux that would’ve killed Dumbledore if Snape hadn’t gotten to him first. Abandoned the only allies she had in this foreign space and time. 

“It was for their own good.” Her heart was beating at an unimaginable speed.“I’m doing it all for them.”

Hermione tried to summon the faces of her friends, smiling and happy and alive, but as soon as a laughing Harry danced through her mind it was violently replaced by the image of him dead at Voldemort’s feet. Of Remus dead. Of Dora dead. Of Fred dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. 

The witch ran her shaking hands through her untameable main and squeezed desperately, pulling her hair at the roots until her injured wrist burned. 

She didn’t notice.

She couldn’t breathe.

All she could do was think.

“It’s okay,” she whispered to herself, but Hermione Granger had always been able to lie to anyone but herself. 

 

oOo

 

“A-a tracker?” Remus asked dumbly, he was honestly surprised he could even find his voice. Days of searching, of wondering, of panicking. Days of anxiety and restlessness and uncertainty and the whole bloody time the witch had a tracker on her wand.

Remus could’ve killed something. Why had he ever listened to Sirius Black? They should have gone to Minerva right away.

“I had a feeling our wayfaring stranger might decide to she needed to do this on her own,” Minerva explained with a casual air that made Remus want to rip his hair out. “She may talk like a Ravenclaw but she behaves like a lion.”

Remus snorted at that. “You have no idea.”

“I think I have some idea.” Minerva smirked and Remus cocked an eyebrow. “Come with me, Remus,” the witch turned to go, waving for the werewolf to follow. “Let’s have a cup of tea in my office.”

The wizard hesitated, turning to Sirius and then back to Minerva, who gave him a kind smile. “Rest and sleep, dear boy, that’s what our dog star needs.”

 

oOo

 

The covers of her sleeping bag were pulled up over her head, blocking out the light from the small candle she had lit to illuminate the interior of her tent. 

But now she found the light insufferable.

But she couldn’t snuff it out, the darkness was too terrifying.

Terrifying darkness.

Insufferable light.

Hermione pressed her palms into her eyes and turned onto her side, back to the candle. 

“We’re okay, we’re alright,” she cooed desperately.

She thought of her mother and father in Australia without her, no idea that they ever had a daughter. She imagined how powerful she’d felt when she’d obliviated them, how in control- she would save them. She would damn herself.

Hermione Granger was powerless. 

 

oOo

 

Remus stared down into his tea, briefly wondering what secrets the leaves could reveal, but he’d always been shite at divination. “So,” the wizard began slowly, wiggling a bit in his chair, “there’s no Hermione in our own timeline?”

McGonagall had led him up into her office, brewed him a cup of tea and then wasted no time in getting down to the nitty gritty. It seemed the grey witch had been doing her own research while Remus had been assisting Hermione with hers. Honestly, the whole thing had Remus’ head swimming; this had been the most eventful week of his entire life and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. 

“Not anymore,” Minerva responded before taking a sip of her own tea, “the child who would’ve been our Hermione Granger was killed.”

Two sets of green eyes locked, one a deep mossy green and one an impenetrable pool of emerald. Remus held his breath. 

“Then,” Remus struggled, his mind awhirl, he placed his cup on the table, “that’s how she- so then…” the werewolf frowned, normally he was much more articulate than this.

“Yes,” Minerva saved him from his own rambling, “that’s how she can exist here without a paradox and it’s why, I believe, she was even able to travel to our timeline in the first place. I think she was pulled here.”

Remus rubbed his face until it was red and sighed in frustration. “But, why?” he demanded, “Why would she be pulled here? What does that even mean? What’s pulling her?”

This is madness! But then again, isn’t an alternate reality witch more than just a spot of madness, anyway?

“I’m not sure,” Minerva admitted with a frown, “but I’m looking into it. All I know for certain is that our Hermione Granger was born on September 19th, 1979 and was killed on July 31st, 1980. She wasn’t even a year old.”

“But wait,” that date was familiar, why was that date- Remus gasped. “That’s Harry’s birthday!”

Minerva nodded, her eyes grave. “Quite peculiar that our Hermione Granger would be murdered the night that Harry Potter was born. Harry Potter who, along with Neville Longbottom, was thought to potentially be the subject of a prophecy regarding the Dark Lord. Very curious, indeed.”

Murdered. The word hung around Remus like a stench polluting the air.

“Who,” the werewolf picked at the fraying denim of his muggle jeans, “killed her?” He almost didn’t want to know. No, he definitely didn’t want to know, but he had to. 

“I’m not sure that we’ll ever know. The muggle doctors didn’t realize she was murdered,” the headmistress explained, “they think she died from something called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome- the death of a seemingly healthy baby in its sleep, due to a spontaneous cessation of breathing. However, upon my own examination of the medical records”- how did you get ahold of mugge medical records-” I noticed what a muggle doctor would not recognize, the signs of a death by unforgivable. The baby was avada ’d.”

Remus’ eyes grew wide and he was momentarily glad he’d put down his cup, because surely at that news he would have dropped it. “She was killed by a wizard?” he asked, the last word a whisper.

Minerva nodded. “Or a witch, it’s impossible to know.”

“But why?” Remus’ face was twisted in confusion, he could feel his eyebrows traveling in two different directions. “Why would someone kill a baby, a muggle baby at that?”

“I don’t believe she was a muggle, I believe Hermione Granger of our timeline was also a witch.”

“Either way- a baby, Minerva!” Remus rubbed his forehead. “What sort of monster would-”

Remus stopped. The world, for a moment, stilled.

“Bellatrix,” he breathed, his spine snapping straight.

Minerva raised an eyebrow, “What makes you say-”

“Bellatrix is killing muggle-born witches, only muggle-born witches. Sirius told me the other night after his Auror shift, he’s been hunting her down for weeks.”

“I do believe,” Minerva put down her own cup of tea, “it’s time you bring Miss Granger back to us.”

 

oOo



“I’m sorry,” she whispered to no one. “I’m so sorry, I’m so fucking sorry.”

She was sorry about everything, she was apologizing to everyone, her cheeks shiny from tears that fell from her eyes in exhausted sobs. 

She was exhausted. She was exhausted by war and fighting and running for her life. She was exhausted by-

The crack of Apparation exploded outside her sent and Hermione shot up with a startled gasp, throwing her sleeping bag off and leaping from the cot. She pulled her wand from her sleeve, suddenly alert.

Was it Fenrir? How could he have found her? Her wards were expertly placed, even better than those she’d used with Harry on their own Horcrux hunt, she couldn’t be found-

“Hermione!”

Her heart stopped. Her lungs stopped. The whole goddamned world stopped.

Remus. 

She hesitated only a moment before bursting through the tent. Blinking rapidly, she squinted against the harsh daylight. When had the sun risen? She hadn’t realized she’d been cocooned off for hours. Hermione threw a hand up to shield her eyes and that was when she saw him.

“Remus,” she whispered breathlessly, rushing towards him.

She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed him these last few days. It was as if she’d been drowning and the sound of his voice was like the first gasp of air after her head breached the water.

The werewolf was wearing a dark red jumper and fraying denim jeans, his sandy blonde hair was such a right mess that the witch grinned despite herself at the reminder of her best friend’s jet black ever messy locks.

“Hermione!” he called again, turning about, his eyes almost frantic. He couldn’t see her, her wards were near perfect, so then how had he found her?

Hermione stopped, her own amber eyes narrowing suddenly.

How did he find me? She walked up to the wards, as close as she knew she could get without leaving their boundary of safety, her wand hand twitching. Surely this was Remus? It had to be, right? Not some polyjuiced Voldemort groupie.

“Hermione!” He took a deep breath in through his nose and Hermione was suddenly reminded of Fenrir. She took a step back cautiously, her pulse quickening.

The werewolf turned as if he’d heard, his eyes focused on the spot where she knew he couldn’t see her standing.

“Hermione,” this was almost a plea. “I know you’re here,”- how?!- “Hermione!” He took a step towards the ward, a wandless hand extended. “You clever witch,” he muttered so low Hermione almost didn’t hear him.

The witch moved forward, unaware that she was holding her breath.

“Listen you silly witch,” Remus’ voice turned scolding - yep, definitely Remus- “I know you’re here so you can either show yourself or I’ll just come back later.” Remus narrowed his eyes and for a moment Hermione thought maybe he could see her. “You can’t run from me, Hermione, I’m here whether you like it or not.”

It was like salvation.

Chapter Text

She was there. He knew she was there. The tracking spell McG- Minerva had placed on Hermione’s wand would not have Apparated him into the middle of the forest unless his little witch was here. He knew she was here, but more than that he could feel her.

She’s here, right? Right! Remus’ thoughts were more than a little frantic at this point. 

“Hermione,” the wizard tried again, unable to keep the plea from his voice, “I know you’re here.”- I know it!- “Hermione!” He took a step forward and something just above his skin tingled like the minute shifting of a breeze. The werewolf frowned and extended a wandless hand, feeling as the tingling traveled so gently up his arm he wondered if he were imagining things. 

A ward, barely there, barely noticeable, but a ward nonetheless. Remus attempted to take another step forward, intent on meeting the magic of the ward head on, apparently having spent too much time learning from Sirius’ recklessness. The wizard found, however, that his legs did not want to obey him. Or rather, could not obey him. 

Though his brain was saying, Go you fool there’s something there ! His legs were saying, This is silly, we should go home! And somehow the unanticipated defiance of his body was completely throwing off Remus’ mind. Maybe there wasn’t anything there, perhaps something was wrong with Minerva’s spell. 

Remus moved one leg as if to take a step back. 

That was really what made the most sense, then, wasn’t it? A tracking spell gone awry. Why was he even here? This was clearly empty forest, no sign of Hermione, he should just-

His eyes widened a fraction. 

“You clever witch,” Remus muttered in astonishment. Would he have even noticed the magic if he hadn’t suspected Hermione was near? Remus knew he had to be close to her now; notice-me-nots and wards this precise didn’t just pop into existence randomly about the woods. But what if she wasn’t? What if this was all in his head. He was tired, so unbelievably tired. What if he just went home?  Why was he-

Remus’ wolf growled, an echo through the wizard’s bones, inside his mind and the magical fog cleared. The man looked about, startled to realize that he’d briefly contemplated leaving and in a rare moment of gratitude, thanked the inner wolf, who rolled his eyes and snorted at the oddities of wizards. 

“Listen you silly witch,” Remus’ voice took on a hard edge now, his frustration mounting. Why are you hiding from us, from me? “I know you’re here so you can either show yourself or I’ll just come back later.” He narrowed his emerald eyes, searching desperately through what he knew was the illusion of a forest before him. “You can’t run from me, Hermione, I’m here whether you like it or not.”

Whether you bloody well like it or not I will be-

And then Remus was seized by a terrifying thought. A thought he knew had nothing to do with the magic around him. A thought that was entirely his own.

What if (he seemed to be plagued by “what if” as of late) the witch had not left because she felt as though she had to out of a need to protect, what if she had left because she wanted to? What if it was all a ruse? A lie? A manipulation of some sort. What if he had been played? 

The werewolf frowned and cast his gaze toward the ground as the doubt and self-deprecation that had always troubled him turned its gnarled face inward. Remus was a monster, he knew this as a fact in the same manner he knew he was a wizard. It was as natural as breathing, as instinctive as the methodical beating of his heart. 

Remus clenched his fist and set his face and turned back towards where he knew the witch must be. He needed answers and he was bloody well done waiting. 

“Actually,” he said with a casual air even he wasn’t buying, “I’ll just wait.” And with that Remus confidently plopped himself down onto the dirt and, resting his elbows on his knees, brought his hands up under his chin.

And he did wait. 

For a solid thirty seconds.

“Y’know what, sod it,” Remus spoke to what he hoped was Hermione, but could’ve very well been nothing. “My life was quite exciting before I met you, perfectly exciting. The most exciting! I had all the amusement a bloke needed with just Sirius and James alone- wait, no wait, that didn’t quite sound right.” Remus rubbed his forehead.

C’mon, she might not even be there, no need to be awkwardly blundering through a conversation with the air. 

“Listen, what I’m trying to say is I definitely did not need you.” Oh good bloody job, Remus, she’ll definitely want to come out and speak with you now. The wizard sighed. “Godric, I sound completely asinine. See what you do to me?” He gestured to no one. “I’m normally much more articulate than this, but you’ve got me all flustered. Ridiculous.” 

“I mean” - what the fuck are you saying?-” I mean I didn’t need you before, before last week”- Godric, it’s only been a week? Week and a half?- “but now I-I do.” Remus sighed. “I find myself needing you in quite the same way I need Sirius and James, in the same way I once needed Peter. You’re my friend, Hermione. I’m not sure that I’m yours, but you’re most certainly mine and what you’re doing, well, it’s not the sort of thing one should do on one’s own.” Remus scratched the back of his neck as a sliver of sunlight escaped through the canopy of trees, warming his back. 

“Did you really think you could just write a bloody note and we’d just nod our heads politely and murmur about the wisdom of Hermione Granger? You’re crazy, y’ know!” he suddenly accused, frustrated by his own rambling. “Completely out of your mind to think I wouldn’t come after you.” Green eyes looked up, searching. “Surely, little witch, you knew that wouldn’t work.”

 

oOo

 

Maybe she had known, maybe she’d been counting on it. 

Hermione could’ve obliviated Remus and Sirius, wiped their minds clean of her, but she hadn’t. Why hadn’t she? At the time Hermione had convinced herself it was for the greater good; that if she were to fail then someone needed to know the details, someone needed to continue her work. But had that really been all? Or had it been that perhaps she couldn’t bear it if more people she loved forgot about her? 

And Hermione did love Remus. She loved him as she loved Seamus and Dean, as she loved George and Ginny, and in time, she thought, she could grow to love him as she loved Harry. 

It was odd, this love that came upon her with little warning. In fact, she was rather startled by how natural Remus felt to her and wondered if this was some sort residual effect of the interdimensional travel. But why?

“I hope you can hear me,” Remus whispered and Hermione’s eyes snapped up, meeting his own across the ward. She shivered. Logically she knew he couldn’t see her, but his eyes bore into her with a magnetism that made the witch want to cry or scream or rush through the wards and careen into him with such a force that they were both sent hurtling through time or space or whatever the fuck was out there. 

But Hermione didn’t. She stayed on the ground, knees digging into the dirt as if she were praying. 

She didn’t move, hardly breathed even, as she watched Remus scrub his face with his hands, shoulders sagging.

“Sirius is in the hospital,” the wizard’s voice trembled as he spoke and Hermione could nearly feel the pain wash over him. “He was injured, goddamned crucio’ d by that bitch of a cousin of his.”

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat and escaped from her in a choked gasp. Bellatrix? Bellatrix hurt Sirius? And her mind was overrun by the sound of a manic laughter that lit a rage inside Hermione’s stomach, threatening to burn through her. 

She had left them so they would be safe! And of course Sirius goes charging into danger like some sort of foolhardy youth. That’s basically what he is though, Granger, a foolhardy youth. The witch did some instant math.

Hermione had celebrated her 23rd birthday a few weeks ago and if this was the spring of 1982 that would mean Sirius and Remus could be no older than her, in fact, depending on when their birthdays were, they might even be younger. 

And if they mature at the same rate as the blokes that I know, they may not even have mentally hit puberty yet. Hermione nearly rolled her amber eyes at the thought. 

“It’s been hours and he hasn’t woke up yet-”

Hermione had nearly missed that Remus was still speaking, so lost was she in her own thoughts, and turned her attention back to the wizard. 

“I-I just don’t know what to do.” From the defeated lilt in the Remus’ voice, Hermione gathered that this was something he’d been saying quite often and her heart broke just a little for him. “I haven’t seen Lily or James since- since it happened, they’ve been even deeper in hiding, and now Sirius is hurt and I’m-” he stopped, his voice quivering, and took a deep breath, “I’m alone, Hermione.”

 

oOo

 

Godric’s sake, could I sound any more pathetic? Yes, yes I probably could. 

Remus hadn’t realized how alone he felt until the words were slipping past his lips and he was now accosted by the full weight of them. James and Lily were in hiding, Sirius was laying in a bed in the Hospital Wing. Remus was alone. The last Marauder in the fight. 

Sirius is going to be fine. He pushed his palm into his forehead and took another deep breath, though it was not as calming as he would’ve hoped. Sirius is going to be fine.

Was he? Was he going to be fine? Was he ever going to wake up? Was this bloody war ever going to end? It should be over, Voldemort was gone! But if this last week had taught him anything it was foolishness of believing oneself safe. 

Remus pushed his other palm into his forehead as his body tremored from the effort of containing the maelstrom of emotion that threatened to overtake him.

Lily on the ground, her maroon hair sprawled around her like a halo.

James’s tortured scream at the sight of his wife.

Sirius collapsing on the dark forest floor.

Suddenly, and rather astonishingly, two dark hands appeared out of thin air and grabbed Remus on either side of his face. The wizard pulled back, startled by the sudden appearance of disembodied limbs, but the hands held firm and Remus was pulled forward.

Hermione hauled Remus through the wards, wrapping her arms around his neck, and when the wizard realized who it was holding him, he fell into her with the full force of his weight, sending them both backwards. 

Remus buried his face into Hermione’s mad curls and soaked up the power of them, the power of her. She was like a summer storm; appearing unexpectedly and with unimaginable force. Sweeping through the countryside, the harbinger of a cleansing rain, the necessary torrent.

He crashed into Hermione the way he’d dive into the ocean, prepared for the undertow to sweep him away.

And it did. The witch enveloped him in her arms and let him drown in her. 

 

oOo

 

Hermione was on her back with a leg casually slung over Remus’, her fingers tightly entwined within his own. Her amber eyes stared upwards at the blue sky peaking through the treetops, but she was not really seeing the fragments of blue. Her awareness was acutely tuned to the werewolf by her side. She could feel the rise and fall of his chest, she could hear the heavy sound of air moving through his lungs, she could practically taste the anticipation in the air as Remus silently waited for her to speak. 

Hermione realized then that she had lied to herself; she already loved this wizard like Harry. 

When the hell had that happened?

“Remus,” Hermione finally whispered, her voice hoarse from disuse, “Remus, I-” she floundered, searching her impressive lexicon for the proper words, but her astute brain failed her, “I’m sorry,” was all she had.

The werewolf said nothing and Hermione turned her head, pulling her gaze from the sky to him. Remus was on his back as well, but his eyes were closed, his face soft and relaxed, and Hermione wondered if maybe he’d fallen asleep. She shifted her body, laying on her side now, and she reached a hand out to push a lock of tawny hair from Remus’ forehead. 

“I forgive you,” he whispered and Hermione’s hand stopped, hovering just above Remus’ face; if she had flexed her fingers she could have touched him.

“You do?” she asked, her voice laced with shock. Hermione wasn't accustomed to wizards who forgave so easily. Ron held a grudge in the same way some people keep hobbies, as if it brought him joy, and Harry was stubborn to a fault. Understatement of the sodding year, Granger. 

Throughout the Golden Trio’s decade long friendship, Hermione had often found herself at odds with one or both of her boys. Always, even when she maintained that she had been correct in whatever choice or action had upset them, it had been Hermione’s responsibility to make amends. Sometimes it’d take weeks to get Ron- especially Ron- or even Harry to see reason. Remus acquiescing so quickly felt like a goddamned miracle. 

The wizard in question smiled and Hermione’s whole body relaxed, she finally brushed the noncompliant hair from his face, returning Remus’ smile. 

“Yes, I do,” he stated, opening his eyes and turning to Hermione. “You’re easy to forgive.”

Hermione guffawed. “I know a few folks who would definitely not agree with you on that.”

“They’re idiots,” Remus said firmly.

“Well, to be sure,” Hermione nodded, thinking mainly of dear ickle Ronniekins. The arsehole.

“I know why you did it, why you left, and though I find your logic incredibly daft,” Hermione glared and Remus chuckled, “ incredibly daft,” he repeated, “I know you thought you were doing the right thing.”

Hermione sighed, resting her elbow on the ground and her head in her hand. “Daft, eh?” She smiled more to herself than to him. “Y’know, I was once called the brightest witch of my age by someone I quite admired.”

“Brightest witch of your age?” Remus chortled. “What kind of sod did you bewitch to illicit a compliment like that?”

Hermione’s lips curled into a wicked grin. “A professor of mine, actually.”

“Oh a professor, yea?” Remus raised an eyebrow. “Sirius was right, you are a saucy little mix.”

Hermione gasped and punched Remus lightly in the side. “You awful man!” she accused. “I was a third year!”

“Must’ve been a fit third year to seduce a professor.” Remus nodded approvingly.

“You,” Hermione pointed a finger in his face, “have been spending far too much time with Sirius Black.”

You ,” Remus pointed his own finger right back, “left me alone with him, love. Who else did I have to speak with?” Hermione furrowed her dark brow into a frown and Remus reached up with his thumb, rubbing her forehead as if to smooth it back down. 

“No frowning, little witch, it’s not becoming of a young lady.” Hermione stuck her tongue out at the wizard and he laughed. “Tell me about this professor you were in love with.”

“I wasn’t in love with him!” Liar. Fiiine, but not romantically.

“Oh, you weren’t? My mistake, that dreamy look in your eye must be a byproduct of my presence.” Remus wiggled his eyebrows and Hermione laughed.

Oh you silly man, just you wait.

“Well,” Hermione began demurely, “he was quite handsome-”

“See, I knew you were in love. A schoolgirl crush, how adorable.”

“Shut it, you!” Hermione wiggled her finger in his face again before continuing. “He was handsome and brilliant and funny and one of the bravest wizards I ever met.”

“Yea?” Remus teased. “Sounds like a right proper sod if you ask me. Brilliant and handsome? How annoying. No one should ever be brilliant as well as good-looking, breeds arrogance, y’see. Just imagine if Sirius was as smart as he was fit, no one would be able to stand him.”

Hermione’s eyes lit up in amusement. “He wasn’t annoying, not at all, I quite admired him, but not romantically!” she suddenly clarified, seeing the look on Remus’ face. “It was all very platonic.”

“Ouch, platonic?” Remus shook his head and made a clucking noise. “Poor bloke, I’m sure he fancied you-”

“I was a third year!”

Remus motioned to all of her. “You obviously didn’t stay a third year-”

“And he didn’t fancy me, he was like an older brother or a-I don’t know, an uncle I suppose. And he was married!”

“So you knew him for awhile then?” Remus asked, tucking a curl behind Hermione’s ear.

“Yes,” the witch whispered, her heart aching. “I knew him until...until the end.”

Remus frowned, his eyes awash of sympathy. “Ah, my little witch, what did I say? A frown is most unbecoming on a lady.”

Hermione punched Remus again.

“So tell me, I must know, who was this dashing and brilliant professor who was only just a friend to the apparent brightest witch of her age?” Remus laughed and grabbed Hermione’s hand by the wrist before she could punch him again.

The witch grinned broadly. “His name was Professor Lupin,” she watched in satisfaction as her own Remus’s eyes grew wide. “Remus Lupin.”

Remus choked, coughing suddenly, and sat up, hand on his chest. “Gods, witch! I was your bloody professor! You didn’t mention that before! You told me I reminded you of a professor, not that I was the bloody professor.”

Hermione threw her head back and roared with laughter. “How was I supposed to know you wouldn’t put two and two together!”

“Your professor! Someone trusted me around children?” Remus shook his head. “Godric, that must’ve been awful.”

“Not at all,” Hermione reassured him. “You were the best defense teacher we ever had the whole time I was at Hogwarts.”

“I was the defense professor?” Remus exclaimed, running a hand through his hair. “Blimey.”

“The best defense professor,” Hermione corrected.

“You lot must have had some shite defense professors,” Remus chuckled, “for me to have seemed so brilliant.”

“You are brilliant, Remus,” Hermione insisted softly. 

Remus shifted uncomfortably and looked over Hermione’s head, not meeting her gaze. “I was thinking,” he began slowly, “after you left how odd this is.”

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek. “How odd what is? A witch stumbling through dimensions?”

“Well, yes that too,” Remus chuckled, “but specifically I meant you and me. I was thinking how odd it is that I feel so close to you, so comfortable. Do you…” he trailed off.

Hermione nodded vigorously. “I do! I really do,”  she reassured him quickly.

“It’s odd, right!”

“So odd.”

“I actually thought maybe, in your world, we could have possibly been,” Remus blushed and shrugged, “I don’t know, an item or something.”

Hermione giggled, “An item?”

“Or whatever you call it in the future! Going steady?” This only made Hermione laugh harder.

“Oh, shut it, witch!” Remus pushed lightly at her shoulder. 

“No,” Hermione shook her head, laughter still lacing her voice, “you- well the other you, were married, remember? And a professor when I was a third year! Quite the age gap.”

An even bigger age gap than yours, his? Whatever. Than HIS actual marriage. This Remus looked exactly as she imagined Professor Lupin would have looked in his youth, handsome and charming, but there was no denying the difference in the two. Hermione could have never imagined herself joking and laughing with the other Remus in this way.

The other Remus, because this was now most definitely her Remus.

“Yes, I know that now, but I didn’t know it before now!” Remus insisted.

“Got a bit of a crush on me, eh?” Hermione teased.

“Godric no,” Remus said quickly, shaking his head. “You’re a bloody handful, you are. I’d lose my damn mind.”

“Prat!” Hermione gasped in mock offense. “A wizard would be so lucky.”

“To be sure.” Remus winked and Hermione grinned at him.

A companionable silence settled upon the two and Hermione knew it couldn’t last, however much she would’ve liked to just lay there on the forest floor for the rest of eternity.

“How did you find me?” she asked finally, fiddling with a strand of her hair.

Remus frowned for a moment, considering, and then sighed. “Minerva has a tracker on your wand.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed and then widened. “That’s why she kept my wand, that old crone!”

“Ha!” Remus guffawed.

“I haven’t been on my game,” Hermione admonished herself. “I should’ve known she was up to something. Why would she have needed to keep my wand? I knew it wasn’t just that she was worried I’d hex Sirius.”

We were too trusting. This McGonagall doesn’t know us.

“To be fair, I certainly believed you were going to hex him at any moment in the beginning. But I don’t think she did it because she didn’t trust you, I think she knew you’d try to do this on your own.” Remus placed a comforting hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “And she was completely right y’know. If she hadn’t put a tracking charm on your wand then I never would have found you, you damn clever thing.”

“Brightest witch of my age,” Hermione reminded him.

“Well if I said it then it must be true.” Remus grinned.

Hermione sighed and pushed herself off the ground, offering a hand to help Remus up. “We have to go back.” It wasn’t a question.

Remus took her hand and nodded. “We have to go back.”

With a sigh and a flick of her wrist, Hermione's campsite was shrunk down and levitated into her leather bag. The witch had set up her make-shift headquarters with speed and efficiency in mind; ensuring that everything was prepared for a swift departure. Everything, that is, except for a small gilded box, which Hermione wandlessly floated into her open and waiting palm.

Hermione's magic released the box and the amber eyed witch felt the slight weight of the thing descend into her grip. She swallowed, furrowing her dark brow, her mind an impossible whirl of probabilities and possibilities.

With single-minded focus, Hermione used silent charms to probe the box as she moved her finger around the edge searchingly. She allowed her magic to explore the object with the type of reckless caution possessed only by the soldier who has faced death so many times fear has become as distant as security.

And still the witch felt nothing.

Nothing. Not the barest trace of magic even. How well hidden this possible horcrux was, how expertly disguised. Or, perhaps, it wasn't even-

No. This is something. 

Remus, who had watched the witch before him in mild admiration and just a hint of jealousy as she performed complex levitation and transmogrification with ease, now moved his gaze between Hermione and the leather bag, lips pursed in thought. "Undetectable extension charm?" he inquired, unaware of Hermione's inner unrest.

Hermione, startled for a moment from her own thoughts, followed her friend's gaze before nodding.

"Clever witch." The lycanthrope raised an eyebrow appraisingly, but then frowned as his eyes settled upon Hermione's hand. "What've you got there?" He tilted his head, motioning to the golden box.

The witch glanced at Remus moving just her eyes. What've I got here indeed...

With a shrug of her shoulder Hermione quietly admitted that she was not certain, noting Remus' deepening frown and the tense lift to his shoulders.

"Shall we open it?" Hermione asked, only half joking, as she held her palm flat to give Remus the best possible view of this thing that had nearly cost her life to retrieve.

Remus leaned back on his heels and folded his arms across his wide chest, eyes fixed on Hermione's face. "Is that," he began slowly, "why you were at that shack last night?"

"Clever, wolf." Hermione nodded, palm still outstretched, but offered no further explanation.

"So is it…" Emerald eyes searched through deep pools of amber. "Is it a horcrux?" 

The word swam around them like a fog.

Horcrux...

Hermione licked her drying lips, heart quickening, and declared with forced bravado, "Only one way to find out."

Inside that little box could be a ring or nothing or something else entirely and quite frankly Hermione wasn't sure which she'd prefer. She had dealt with horcruxes before and it was not an experience she was particularly fond of repeating. Horcruxes were pollutants, twisting the minds and souls of those near.

But no horcrux... no horcrux would mean beginning again with no clues, no plan...

Remus slid his wand from his sleeve, pointing it at the box, and Hermione struggled to keep her face from twisting at the sight of his naïveté.

Oh dear Remus, wands will be of no use to us against the Gaunt Ring. 

With surgeon's precision, Hermione lifted the small lid, her heart racing, sweat beading on the back of her neck, snaking its way down her spine until-

The witch gasped, nearly dropping the box and its contents.

"What, what is it?" Remus asked, craning his neck, defensive spells at the edge of his tongue, foot raised as if to take a step forward.

A hysterical giggle escaped from the wide eyed witch as, from out of the box, she slowly lifted a locket between her slender fingers.

Chapter Text

This was a bad idea. The worst idea. 

She had told Minerva this would be an awful, terrible, unimaginably wretched idea, but had she listened? No. No, she had not. Hermione was just a dimension hopping witch from the future, what did she know, anyway? 

Nothing, evidently. Either I don’t actually know anything or I’m lying about what I do claim to know, they can’t seem to come to a bloody agreement on which it is. 

Hermione clenched her fists in her lap under the table to keep from fidgeting, her breathing painfully controlled as the table of ghosts surrounding her debated her fate. 

“Veritaserum.”

Hermione’s head shot up, wild curls rustling from the movement, to meet the eyes - eye? - of Alastor Moody as he pointed a calloused finger down the table at her. Nearly a dozen heads turned to face Hermione, following Moody’s finger down the table. 

Composure, Granger, keep your goddamn composure. 

She took a deep, slow, calming breath.

“Sir, as Headmistress McGonagall already stated, I have previously submitted to questioning under veritaserum.” Composure, Granger. “May I also remind everyone that veritaserum can only compel one to speak that which one believes is the truth. If my memories have been altered-- as some of you suspect-- then the truth serum will give you no insight into the reality of the situation.” Hermione’s voice did not waver, her gaze did not flinch, she’d long ago lost her fear of this shade turned flesh; though his appearance, so young - ish- and fresh and alive, did unnerve her. 

Alive. 

Hermione was surrounded by ghosts and phantoms. Haunting her, staring her down with gazes so real Hermione wanted to scream at them to return to their graves. Witches and wizards who had been mourned and laid to rest, some by Hermione herself, now sat beside her at the magically extended Grimmauld Place table, like a scene from the macabre dreams that haunted her on dark nights. 

The Prewett twins, Moody, Emmeline Vance, Rosmerta -- that last one had been, admittedly,  somewhat of a shock.

Apparently in this reality Rosmerta and Minerva were quite the bosom buddies.

Shite, Granger, don’t look at Rosmerta’s bloody bosom at a time like this.  

“Alastor, please sit down.” Minerva’s voice cut through the intensity of Moody’s single-eyed gaze and Hermione quickly focused her attention away from Rosmerta’s considerable chest.

Goodness, do they weigh her down? They must right? How did I never notice before.

“I can assure you Miss Granger is not lying,” Minerva continued. 

“With all due respect, Minerva, there is no possible way to be certain,” Moody countered, briefly shifting his weight from foot to cane. “She may very well think she is telling the truth, but this smells all wrong.”

“Smells all wrong? Are you an animagus now, Moody?” Fabian Prewett chuckled from across the table eliciting an all but snarl from the seasoned Auror in question.

“You’d do well to keep comments like that to yourself, Prewett,” Moody sneered at the younger wizard. 

“Come now, we’re not going to get anywhere bickering with one another like this.” Arthur Weasley, the genial smile Hermione knew and loved painted across his freckled features, attempted to soothe his fellow Order member. “Sit back down, won’t you, Alastor?”

“Constant vigilance, Arthur!” Moody growled and Hermione was forced to bite back a laugh. At least she could take comfort in the sameness of this Moody. 

I wonder when he gets that bloody magical eye…

“We don’t know who or what she is,” a wisp of a witch with stick straight hair that fell like a veil on either side of her face drew her red lips into a thin line. Emmeline Vance had been casting odd glances at Hermione all night.  

I take offense to that, Vance. 

From beneath the table Hermione felt a hand gently clasp her own and she squeezed it, soaking up the comfort Remus was offering. Chancing a sideways glance to her left, Hermione frowned at the stony faced stare Remus was directing at Emmeline. 

Arthur’s right, this isn’t going to do any of us any good. Did the Order members argue this much during the second war? In fact, they had.   Young Harry had realized early on that the indecision of adults led to stagnation and that often one simply needed to act rather than debate. Though Hermione had argued with him at the time, she was growing to believe that perhaps her best friend had been correct. Adults can’t get anything done. 

Are we not an adult as well, Granger? Damnit. She supposed she was an adult, but being around all of these wizards and witches who should be much older than her was disconcerting. Her Moody would never have viewed Hermione, who he would have always seen as a child, as an equal, let alone a threat or a Death Eater.

No, don’t be daft. Moody could’ve believed everyone was a Death Eater in disguise. 

“She doesn’t look like a death eater to me,” Fabian laughed from across the table, shooting Hermione a brief wink when her eyes caught his. 

Fuck, did I say something out loud-- oh sweet Merlin, this prat is making it very difficult to forget I drunkenly flirted with him. Hermione’s stomach rolled in barely suppressed embarrassment. What a bloody rollercoaster of emotions this whole adventure turned out to be.  

Moody turned back to Fabian. “Listen, whelp-” 

“Whoa now, Alastor-” Fabian sighed, hands up in surrender.

“-I don’t need some ginger-”

“No need to bring hair color into this, Moody,” Arthur laughed meekly.

“-trying to tell me who is or is not a Death Eater-”

“You seem very tense, have you had anything to drink today?” Gideon, who’d barely spoken yet that night, piped in.

Oh, ohhhhhhhh what a sad time to join the conversation, Gideon. 

“Have I had anything to-to drink ?” Moody recoiled from the table, looking between the three smiling redheads. Hermione noticed him subtly push a flask deeper into his coat pocket. “Is this all a bloody joke to you? A fun game we can all have a laugh over later? I can’t for the life of me figure out how Kingsley let you two poor excuses for wizards into the Department.”

“You need to calm down, Alastor,” a disgusted- and extremely fit - Kingsley Shacklebolt voiced from across the table, as from the corner of Hermione’s vision she noticed Fabian and Gideon both move as if to stand-

You’ve got to be bloody kidding me.

“Enough!” Minerva was suddenly on her feet with a swiftness Hermione didn’t realize the older witch possessed and for a moment they all thought the witch had slammed her fist to enunciate her point, but no, the echo through the room had come straight from Minerva’s vocal cords. The table turned to the witch who had been professor to most of them in stunned silence. 

“That is quite enough,” looking over her glasses, Minerva motioned to the chair behind Moody, “from all of you.” 

The Auror slid down, eye on the head of the Order of the Cat as she pulled herself to her full height.

“Now I have heard your concerns and opinions and I have made note of them, but I’m afraid you are all under the misunderstanding that you were called here tonight for a debate.” Minerva swept her gaze across the table, meeting the eyes of each witch and wizard who sat before her. “You are not here to argue like children.”

“Aye, that’s my job.” From Hermione’s right Sirius leaned back into his chair, arms folded across his chest.

“Shut up, Sirius,” Remus mumbled between clenched teeth. 

Minerva ignored the Marauders. 

Best choice, really. 

“You are all the finest witches and wizards of our time,” Minerva continued, “and I have not asked you here tonight for a discussion, I have asked you here tonight to give you your orders.”

A silence fell upon the table, heavy and expectant. 

“I have told you he will return. This is not a matter of if, this is a matter of when. Already his followers who remain are setting things into motion-” 

“What things, Minerva?” Rosmerta fretted, the seriousness of Minerva’s words lost on none of them. 

“We can’t be entirely certain, Rosy, but we do know that they are up to something ,” Minerva admitted, taking her seat once again. “We should have realized right away that Riddle never would have allowed himself to die, not this first time at least.”

Emmeline shook her head. “This first time? Minerva, you’re not making sense? Riddle is gone-”

“No.” 

It took all the eyes snapping to Hermione for the witch to realize it was her voice that had interrupted. 

Crappity crap crap. 

“No,” the witch who Hermione was quickly growing to dislike -- was Emmeline this nasty in the 90s?-- drawled. “What do you mean, no?”

Hermione sighed. “No, exclamation, used to give a negative response.”

“Wha-what did you just say?” Emmeline’s face contorted.

Oh good job, Granger. 

“What I mean is,” Hermione began quickly, “Vold- Riddle, will come back. He’s not actually gone if I’m being specific. He’s left… pieces here.” Hermione glanced at Minerva, who nodded, and sighed before continuing.  “There is dark magic at work in this, ancient and arcane magic that splits the soul into um- pieces, pieces that- well, that exist without the body.”

Alastor gasped, a startling sound from the gruff wizard, “You don’t mean…”

“She does,” Remus confirmed gravely. “Horcruxes.” 

Moody removed the flask from his pocket and took a long swig.

Gideon snorted with disgust, “I knew you’d been-”

“What is a horcrux?” Fabian looked to Hermione, but it was Rosmerta who spoke.

“It is when a wizard sacrifices their humanity in exchange for eternity.” 

“Essentially, yes.” Hermione bit the inside of her cheek and glanced wearily at Rosmerta. “Riddle split pieces of his soul and hid them in objects, until those objects are found and destroyed, Riddle can be brought back. We believe that is what his followers are planning.”

“Merlin’s beard,” Kingsley breathed. 

“Merlin’s beard, indeed,” Minerva confirmed. “Now all of you listen, we’ve work to do.”

 

oOo

 

Hermione stared at the amber eyes that bore into her through the mirror and clenched her jaw. Dark fingers wrapped around the basin of the sink to steady her as Hermione leaned her weight into her palms, so close to the mirror her forehead nearly touched the glass.

“Minerva’s right, they all need to know,” she whispered to no one. “You can’t do this alone…”

Yes, we can.

“No. We can’t.”

The witch watched as she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and squeezed it until she could almost taste blood. 

“Gods, let them all live.”

Hermione released the sink from her grip and stood to her full height, but did not break eye contact with herself. Deep chestnut eyebrows pulled together, sending a crease line up her forehead that Ron had always complained about. Did she always look this tense? 

There’s always something to be tense about, she reminded herself. The war is never going to end. 

Not for us, not up here.

Hermione ran a hand through her tangle of curls.

Not up here. 

She turned from her reflection, rolling her shoulders before opening the bathroom door.

“So, not a Death Eater, eh?” Fabian asked from Hermione’s bed.

STUPEFY.” The spell was past Hermione’s lips and flowing from her wandless hand before she even had time to process what was going on. “Oh my gods, what are you doing in here, Fabian?”

Fabian didn’t move.

“Oh shite, right.” Hermione waved her hand and released the wizard. “Now, what the hell are you doing-”

“Did you just do that wandless?” Fabian asked, a hint of manic awe lacing his voice, as his rigid body loosened and flopped onto the bed.

“Well, I suppose I- no, I’m asking the questions here.” Tell him, Granger. “What the hell are you doing in my room? Everyone else is supposed to be downstairs.”

Fabian shrugged his large shoulders, “I followed you up, this room is concerningly poorly warded, I would’ve expected better from the Order’s secret weapon.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “I didn’t think I’d need to cast a ward whilst I used the loo.”

“Constant vigilance, Hermione.” The wizard smiled.

“Noted.” Hermione motioned to the bedroom door she noticed had been shut. “Well, shall we return then.”

Fabian was off the bed and by Hermione’s side with a speed that made the witch flinch, but her reflexes were quicker, honed by darker times than this wizard had yet to see. 

Fabian glanced down at the wand now held to his throat.

“A bit nervous, then?” He smiled again. “We’re on the same side, yea?”

“What do you want, Fabian?” Hermione asked, lowering her wand only slightly. Up until this moment she hadn’t felt any need to not trust the Prewetts, but Hermione was suddenly aware that this was an Auror who, in her reality, had taken half a dozen Death Eaters to kill. 

And he had snuck into her room. Bloody suspicious, that is. 

  “I want the truth.” Though Hermione had lowered her wand, Fabian had not moved. 

"You were given the truth.”

“Yes, part of it,” Fabian admitted with a nod. “I want the whole truth.”

“I can honestly tell you I have no clue what you mean.” 

“Well,” Fabian began, “you know about Riddle and the Death Eaters, and you know about horcruxes and how to find them, but how?”

“How?” Hermione frowned. “How which part?”

“How do you know how to find them?”

Hermione rolled her tongue across her teeth behind her lips and studied the sizable wizard before her. Not so good at taking orders, yea? Just like the twins. “McGonagall wants that information to stay classified.” 

“I don’t think that’s information that should stay classified.”

 

“Listen, Fabian, I don’t really care if you trust me,” Hermione sighed, feigning boredom. “But if you’d like to know more, you’d need to take that up with McGonagall, not me.”

Fabian’s eyes darkened as he lowered his face to meet hers. “I’m not sure who you are, Hermione Granger-”

“I’m Hermione Granger.” Her voice was hard. This bloody arsehole is trying to intimidate me. 

“But I’ve seen too many of my own friends, good witches and wizards, die and I’m not particularly interested in seeing anymore-” 

“I can assure you,” Hermione’s voice softened a touch, “I don’t want to see anyone else die either.”

Fabian raised a red eyebrow. “Else?”

“Else.” Hermione nodded. “We’re on the same side, Prewett.”

Tilting his head to the side, Fabian’s eyes bore into Hermione, their faces so close she felt the ghost of his breath on her skin. 

“We’ll see,” he whispered in a voice that made Hermione tighten the grip on her wand still raised, all traces of amiability gone. 

“Hermione?” a voice from the hallway called and Fabian moved from Hermione in one stride of his long legs just before Remus appeared in the doorway. 

“Hermione, is everything- oh,” Remus stopped, his eyes flicking between the witch and the smiling wizard her wand remained pointed at. “What’s uhhh, what’s going on, then?”

“Got a bit lost trying to find the loo myself.” Fabian laughed, stuffing his hands into his trouser pockets and Hermione briefly marveled at his ability to go from intimidating Auror to jovial wizard. 

Remus looked again at the wand in Hermione’s hand. “Right…” Their eyes met across the room and Hermione gave the barest shake of her head. “One more flight up.” Remus moved from the doorway and Fabian slid past him. 

“Of course,” Fabian shook his head, “too many floors in this house.”

Remus waited until they could hear Fabian’s footsteps ascend the stairs so heavily that Hermione could only assume he was intentionally letting them know he was gone. 

Perhaps they’re not quite so much like George and Fred as I thought…

“Are you alright?” Remus shut the door and quickly closed the distance between himself and Hermione. Putting his hands on her shoulder, he leaned down to look into her face. 

“Yes, I’m fine.” Hermione lowered her wand and fought a knot of tension she hadn’t realized was there to relax her shoulders. 

“What the hell was that about?” Remus asked. 

The witch sighed and squeezed the bridge of her small nose. “Fabian doesn’t trust me. None of them bloody trust me.”

Remus shrugged and cocked his head to the side, making a gesture as if to say that should be obvious.

Hermione groaned. “I know! I know they have no reason to trust me. I’m just…” the witch struggled for a moment before admitting, “I’m just not accustomed to this lack of trust, especially from most of those people downstairs.”

“Well, most of those people downstairs have all left anyway.” Remus squeezed her shoulders. “McGonagall took the time you were gone to reassure them again that you could be trusted and give them each their individual missions- hey, don’t sigh like that, it’ll all be alright.”

Remus pulled Hermione to his chest as the witch took a deep, sob repressing breath, exhaustion finally overcoming her.

“Oh, Remus I’m just,” she sighed into his shirt, “I’m just so worried that I’ve doomed you all.”

Remus chuckled and Hermione felt the sound well up deep within his chest. “Silly witch, you’re our only chance. Without you we definitely would’ve been doomed. Without you James and Lily and Harry may all be dead right now rather than in hiding.”

“I just-” Hermione began.

“Oh, do shut up, witch.” Remus rested his cheek on her head and Hermione gave him a gentle punch, but ultimately melted into his arms.

Chapter Text

The next morning Hermione swung the kitchen door open to find an empty room, which was both a relief and a vexation. She was growing accustomed to being around Remus, and occasionally Sirius, almost exclusively, a pattern of behavior she was self-aware enough to recognize, but one in which she had zero inclination to fight. Few people ever properly understood her to begin with. Why waste time becoming too familiar only for them to ultimately find her to be too swotty and stuck-up?

Or believe you to be a Death Eater. 

The witch scrunched her nose, glanced at the clock on the wall, and with a sigh, she turned from the kitchen to head back up the stairs. 

What is so difficult about waking up at a normal hour? Hermione wondered as she made her way to Remus’ door. Her two roommates had begrudgingly agreed that their particular mission from Minerva, the details of which they had not yet been made completely aware of, needed to begin as soon as possible, so Hermione wasn’t quite sure why she was the only up and ready. 

“Bloody Chamber won’t open itself,” Hermione muttered under her breath before lightly tapping her wand on Remus’ door. “Oh, sweet little wolfie,” she sang, her voice magically enhanced, “time to open thine eyes.”

When the door remained closed, Hermione placed her ear against it. Still unable to hear, she huffed and moved her mess of curls away from her face before trying again. 

All remained quiet. 

“Little wolfie,” she sang once more.

Silence.

“REMUS, GET UP!” her charmed voice boomed, rattling the door on its hinges. 

From somewhere inside there was a crash, and a masculine voice began yelling expletives. Hermione smiled. 

“Meeting in the kitchen, debriefing in ten,” she announced sweetly.

“Ten!” Remus called through the door. “Ten what- shite!”

Thump.

“Ten minutes, love,” Hermione called back and then hesitated. “You alright?”

“No! Not alright,” Remus’ mumble was barely audible through the door. 

Hermione frowned and put her hand on the knob, turning it slightly.

“Don’t you come in here! I am not decent!” the wizard called out.

Hermione rolled her eyes but didn’t open the door. “What’s going on?” she asked. “What’s happened in there?”

“What’s happened? I just tripped over my own bloody feet because the queen of the harpies woke me up with her terrifying screech at an absolutely ungodly hour and I’m completely disoriented, that’s what happened. I don’t even know what time- holy shite it’s seven in the morning . Hermione! It’s seven in the bloody morning!”

“I know, I thought you might like to sleep in.”

“Might like to- bloody hell. Bloody hell. Maybe this is a nightmare...Nope, pinched myself. Unfortunately, this is waking life.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Get dressed, sleeping beauty!” She laughed and started back towards the stairs. “See you in ten minutes!” she called over her shoulder as she headed up to Sirius’ room. 

Now to wake the beast. 

Save the psychological wounds Hermione knew from experience would not be healed anytime soon, Sirius had recovered from his fight with his cousin. Bellatrix Lestrange had an uncanny talent for unforgivable curses and an unquestionably astounding ability to inflict lasting pain. Hermione had merely added Sirius’s injuries to the list of grievances the mad woman would eventually pay for. A laundry list of debts owed. 

Hermione had left Sirius and Remus to keep them safe, but she should have known better than to trust Sirius Black, in any incarnation, to stay safe. Next time, she would keep a closer watch on both her wizards. 

Her wizards. 

Odd, that. Were these her wizards? Was she projecting? When Ron ended their engagement, even after months of growing apart, she had felt that abandonment with the same intensity she had felt it the night Ron had walked away from her and Harry. She was suddenly and acutely incomplete. Hermione had spent so much of her adolescence, and now the beginning of her adult life, keeping her best friends safe. Did she even know who she was anymore without two wizards to base her identity around? Yes, she was The Brightest Witch of Her Age, but first and foremost she was the Chosen One’s Best Friend and Ron Weasley’s fiance. 

Former fiance. 

Who was Hermione Granger without Harry Potter and Ron Weasley? Was she to be a new part of an old story? Hermione Granger, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black? Must she always have someone to look after?

Hermione stopped outside Sirius’ room and folded her arms across her chest almost defensively, pushing doubts and anxieties aside for more pressing concerns. After the meeting last night, Sirius had gone out on patrol and Hermione wasn’t sure when he had made it back in or even if he had made it back at all. 

Perhaps he does need some extra time to sleep , she conceded silently. Hermione leaned her ear against the door to hear if he was sleeping. Poor thing , barely recovered and he still has to go out-

A woman’s laugh seeped through the wood of the door into Hermione’s ear.

What the bloody sodding fuck!

The witch jerked from the door as if it were hot to the touch, her jaw nearly unhinging in disgust.

“Did he-” Hermione gasped as a high pitched giggle once again came through the door. “Did he go out and pull a bloody witch last night? Of all of the bloody Sirius Black things to do!”

Surely not, surely she was just-

Another giggle.

The witch aimed her wand at the door, filled all at once with rage and revulsion. She briefly admitted to herself that if Sirius had a witch in his bed, it was really none of her business anyway. But didn’t he understand the seriousness of their situation? None of them could just be letting strangers or anyone not part of the Order into Grimmauld Place.

Yes, that must be why she was so outrageously upset. 

 “ Open sesame!” Hermione yelled and watched in vindicated glee as Sirius’ door flew off the hinges and slammed into the wall. Suddenly the dark room was flooded with hallway light to reveal a rather stunned Sirius Black lying on his bed completely and unapologetically naked, with one hand wrapped firmly around his manhood. 

“OH MY GOD!” Hermione screamed while throwing her hands over her face at the sight of Sirius’ full… masculinity. 

“What the hell, witch!” Sirius screeched as he desperately grabbed a blanket to pull over himself, quickly using his wand to turn off a muggle television in the corner of the room.

“Is that-” Hermione looked at the television and then back at Sirius, her face nearly as red as her former fiance’s hair. “Why do you have a muggle television? Oh my god, what are you doing ?!”

“What the bloody hell does it look like I’m doing?!” Sirius demanded, waving at himself.

“Oh god, you’re- you’re-” Hermione threw her hands over her face once again. “You’re pleasuring yourself !”

“Oh for the love of Merlin, is this the bloody 17th century?” Sirius rolled his eyes. “Yes, I’m pleasuring myself. In my own bed! In my own room! Like a decent bloke! I’m covered, witch, take your hands down,” he mumbled pitifully. “This is not normally the reaction I get when a witch is blessed enough to see me in the nip.”

Hermione nearly screamed again. 

“Actually,” Sirius cooed, “if that’s what you wanted you only needed to ask. Blasting my door down was hardly necessary-”

“What the fuck is going on!” Remus called from the hallway, rushing into the room with his wand ready. “Is something- oh, ohhhhhh what is uhh, what’s this, then…?”

“Oh, I think you of all people know what this is, Moony.” Sirius wiggled his eyebrows. “You’ve seen first hand what a witch, in desperate need of Sirius Black, is capable of-” 

“That is not what this is!” Hermione cut in, peeking through her fingers at Remus. “Oh, Remus! It’s Sirius, he’s- he’s!” Hermione groaned and buried her hands in her face yet again.

“He’s…?” Remus raised an eyebrow and glanced at Sirius, who was on the bed still only partially covered. “Naked?” Remus offered.

“Yes! Naked!” Hermione agreed.

“And you’re terrified and covering your eyes because…” Remus looked to Sirius and then to Hermione frowning, “because that is a horrifying sight…”

“No!” Hermione reddened further and quickly added, “I mean, I mean yes!”

Sirius guffawed. “I’ll have you know that many witches and wizards do not find this to be anything less than godly!” Sirius declared indignantly, throwing the meager coverings off himself. 

Hermione screamed and grabbed Remus, burying her face in his shirt.

“Cover yourself up, Pads. Haven’t you traumatized the witch enough? There, there, he’s covered now,” Remus soothed Hermione.

Oh god, my face is practically on fire. When did I become a sodding school girl? I’ve seen penises before! Well… one penis!

“But you don’t understand!” Hermione looked up desperately. “He was, he was-” she made odd gesticulations towards her crotch that caused both wizards to frown deeply.

“I have no idea what you’re- oooooh. Oh, he was pleasuring himself,” Remus affirmed, and Hermione nodded vigorously.

“Oh Godric, can neither of you say ‘masturbation’?” Sirius sighed. 

“Sure I can,” Remus nodded. “Masturbation.”

Hermione groaned, and Remus chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. 

“I didn't realize you were such a prude, little witch,” he admitted with gentle mockery. 

Hermione glared at the werewolf. “I,” she began indignantly, “am not a prude! I simply did not expect Sirius to have his prick out first thing in the morning. I wasn't mentally prepared!”

“Well, what else did you expect? Barging in here and blowing the door off its bloody hinges.” Sirius motioned towards the door that had slammed into the wall next to his bed and was now on the floor. “You could have killed me!”

“Oh, you are fine!” Hermione shot back. “I thought you- well, that doesn't matter! I didn't realize you would be masturbating first thing in the morning! I mean, who does that?”

Remus and Sirius both looked genuinely taken aback, and Hermione eyed the two wizards suspiciously. 

This is the most embarrassing morning of my life bar none. 

“Are you serious?” Remus asked after a moment.

No, I’m Hermione, he’s-

“No, she’s Hermione, I’m-”

“Shut up, Pads. That joke is old, alright, it’s not even funny anymore. It was never funny.” Remus waved a silencing hand at Sirius, who pouted pathetically. “Hermione, you have to knock. Everyone has, well umm, needs that have to be met in the morning. Getting dressed, brushing one’s teeth-”

“Masturbating?!” Hermione was still as red as a tomato. “Every morning?!” 

“Well, yes of course. Don’t you,” Remus waved at Hermione and shrugged, “y’know…?”

“No!” 

I could die right here. Right now. Please, some divine being, just smite me. 

Remus frowned. “Really?” 

Hermione shook her head wildly.

“Oh dear girl,” the werewolf chuckled, “I didn't realize you were in such desperate need of a shag.”

“I-I-” the witch stuttered, “I am not in need of a shag!” Ehhhhh.... Let’s not kid ourselves, Granger.  

“Seems like you kind of are.” Sirius nodded. “Could be a self-shag,” he offered helpfully.

I’m done! DONE. 

Hermione threw her hands into the air and all but fled the room. “Meet me downstairs in ten minutes!”

“Ten minutes isn’t long enough!” Sirius called after her. “Light some candles, get a little lotion! You need to romance yourself!” 

Hermione screamed all the way back down the stairs.

 

oOo

 

When Remus and Sirius made their way into the kitchen exactly nine minutes later (they didn’t want to chance another door being blown off), they found Hermione with a cup of tea clutched in one hand and her wand laid on the table: a peace offering. She watched the two wizards as they pulled out chairs and sat down, narrowing her amber eyes.

“First,” she began evenly, “we will never speak of what just happened again.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Sirius leaned back in his chair grinning. “I’m thinking we really need to have a talk with you about a subject, I’m sorry to say, not many books in the Hogwarts’ library cover.”

Hermione’s eye twitched, and Remus groaned. 

“Sirius Black, I will end you,” Hermione fumed, white knuckles wrapped around her cup like an anchor lest she throttle the wizard across the table.

“I’m speaking, of course, about sexual education,” Sirius continued matter-of-factly. “You have, I assume, heard of ‘sex,’ yes?”

Hermione threw her cup, narrowly missing Sirius' head as he quickly dodged to the side.

“Feisty!” Sirius laughed, diving under the table as Hermione lunged across said table, hands wildly tearing towards him.

“You are insufferable!” the witch screamed. 

Remus sighed and with a flick of his wand sent Hermione and Sirius back into their chairs. 

“Godric, I could cut this fucking tension with a knife,” he mumbled.

Hermione turned. “What was that?”

“Nothing. Now, you,” Remus looked to Hermione, “make it far too easy for that one to rile you up. And you,” he turned to Sirius, “need to develop a little sense, so that we,” he gestured to all of them, “get done what needs to get done.”

Hermione grit her teeth and ignored the urge to continue her assault perhaps with her wand this time. She placed both hands flat on the table and took a deep breath, attempting to release the tension in her shoulders. 

“Yes, you’re right, this is not productive,” she agreed, looking up the find Sirius still grinning at her.

Composure, Granger! Self-control. Don’t let him win- did he just bat his fucking eyelashes at me?! Oh Godric, I’m seeing him naked. I’m imaging his naked body. I will never be able to not see him naked now! Somewhere deep inside, a part of Hermione shrugged and wondered if that was really the worst thing that could have happened, but the witch quickly buried that part of her deep down. Deep. Down. 

“You’re blushing, kitten,” Sirius giggled.

“Enough! I can’t handle you two until I’ve had some tea or coffee or something.” Remus scrubbed his face with his hands and moved to stand, but then suddenly hit Sirius on the back of the head. “Stop grinning at her!” 

“Ow, what the hell was that for!” Sirius demanded.

“You’re instigating!” Remus pointed at Sirius. 

“She’s instigating!” Sirius pointed at Hermione

Finally, Hermione decided this just needed to end.

“We need the map!” she announced with no preamble, and both wizards turned to her. 

“The map?” Sirius asked. “What map?”

The Map,” Hermione reiterated, “the map of Hogwarts.”

Sirius turned to his best friend who shrugged, before turning back to Hermione. “You know about that, too?” Sirius sighed. “What don’t you know about?”

“Very little,” Hermione admitted. “Now, is it here or does James have it?”

“No, Sirius’s got it.” Remus tapped his lip in thought. “But why do we need it? We have no trouble getting in or around Hogwarts. McGonagall would let us have the run of the castle if we need it.” 

“And I thought we were going monster hunting, what monsters are in Hogwarts?” Sirius asked.

“What monsters?” Hermione laughed. “Goodness, while I was at Hogwarts there was a new and exciting monster stalking the grounds practically every year. Three-headed dogs, basilisks, grims, dementors, you name it,” she mused absently. 

“Dementors?” the wizards exclaimed in tandem.

Hermione shook her head. “A story for another day, but I do need to see the map.”

“Alright, a minute, then.” Sirius disappeared briefly from the kitchen and reappeared moments later with a deceptively unassuming piece of parchment in hand. Carefully, as if he were holding the most valuable treasure in the world, Sirius placed the map on the table. Remus went for his wand, but Hermione reached out a hand to stop him.

“I solemnly swear,” Hermione grinned at the expressions on the wizards’ faces as she tapped her own wand on the map, “that I am up to no good.”

And the map unfurled itself.

Oh good, that would’ve been bloody embarrassing if it were a different phrase to open in this reality. 

“No, secrets from you then, eh?” Sirius chuckled.

“You don’t know the half of it.” Hermione ran her hand over the map, inspecting each room and corridor. “I just need to make sure everything is the same as it was before.” Her hand stopped just above the second-floor girls’ lavatory and frowned when she saw it was empty.

“Is Myrtle there?” she asked, looking up at Remus. “Does she haunt this bathroom?” Hermione tapped the map. 

“Umm, who’s Myrtle?” Remus asked, and Hermione’s heart stopped. 

“Well, this just got bloody complicated, then,” she whispered.

“What did?” Sirius asked, tilting his head to the side as he followed Hermione’s gaze around the map. 

“Finding the entrance.”

“To…”

Hermione glanced up to meet Sirius’s eyes. “To the Chamber of Secrets.” 




Chapter Text

“The Chamber of what?” Sirius asked, porcelain face askew with confusion.

“Secrets,” supplied Remus.

“What kind of secrets?”

The werewolf shrugged. “...Secrety secrets.” 

Sirius nodded knowingly, index finger rubbing his chin. “Ahh, but of course. I should have known.”

“How McGonagall hasn’t killed you both by now, I’m really not sure,” Hermione sighed, gathering the map in her hands. “Get ready; we’re floo’ing to Hogwarts in ten.”

“Ten what?”

Minutes, Sirius.”

 

oOo

 

A flick of her wrist closed and locked the door behind them, and the witch quickly cast a silent notice-me-not before eyes crafted of liquid amber turned to shrewdly examine the room before her. Little had apparently changed in the second-floor girls’ lavatory from the early 80’s into the 90’s. In fact, Hermione suspected little had changed in this particular room since Hogwarts had installed indoor plumbing if the art deco carvings were any indication. 

Hermione swept her gaze about, quickly locating the sinks, along with the toilets, tiled floors, mirrors, architecture-- everything was the same except for one extremely complicated difference: there was no wailing ghost.

“Myrtle?” Hermione called out hopefully, stepping towards the sink. “Moaning Myrtle?” she tried again.

Sirius frowned and turned to Remus, who shrugged. 

“Should we also be calling for this mystery person? This moaner?” Sirius practically drawled and then suddenly cocked his head. “ Moaning Myrtle? What an absolutely filthy name. Tell me, Hermione, do you know this Myrtle the Moaner due to business or pleasure?”

Hermione choked on her own breath and snapped around, sending the wizard one of the most wrathful glares she had ever mustered and Sirius, for his part, seemed wholly unperturbed. The wizard didn’t even acknowledge her. Instead he began wandering around calling out for “Myrtle the Moaner.”

Oh my gods, I’m going to kill him. Murder! Murder is on the agenda today! You won’t even make it to the Department of Mysteries, Sirius Black! I’ll send you across the Veil myself.  

  With a determined huff, Hermione furrowed her dark brow. She turned her thoughts inwards and away from obnoxious wizards.

Was Myrtle never killed? Or did her spirit simply move on? The witch wondered, stepping carefully around the sinks. Was the Chamber not opened in the 40s by Riddle? Or was it opened but the basilisk not released? That seems unlikely. Why wouldn’t Riddle want to be murdering the innocent at any given time? Wait. Hermione bit her bottom lip. Was Myrtle his first murder? She quickly but efficiently flipped through her mind like the pages of her beloved tomes, turning through everything she knew regarding Tom Riddle and all she could find under “First Murder” was Myrtle. Yes, because the diary was an accidental horcrux, he didn’t know what he was doing yet. Maybe there simply is no basilisk this time around, in which case, how the bloody fuck am I going to learn to control fiendfyre to destroy these horcruxes? Fuck, what if there isn’t even a Chamber? No no, you reread this universe’s Hogwarts a History, you know there’s a Chamber. 

“Y’know,” Sirius began, peeking into one of the stalls. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been in this lavatory before.”

“You’ve never been in- wait, how many of the girls’ lavatories have you been inside?” Remus asked incredulously, hands stuffed in his pockets as he gawked at the pureblood. 

Sirius opened his mouth, but Hermione hastily raised a hand. 

“I absolutely do not care to know,” the witch cut in, prompting an impish grin to crawl across Sirius’ pink lips. 

Ignoring the insufferable wizard, Hermione began reaching out her hand to inspect each tap carefully as in her head she continued to sort through years of information regarding the Dark Lord and the Chamber. Curiously, Remus followed behind the witch, bending over to watch her shrewd investigation. 

Hermione examined each tap, above and below, and then proceeded to turn each tap on. When water would run from the tap, Hermione would murmur under her breath, turn off the water, and move on to the next.  

Finally, after letting this go on for about five taps, Remus inquired, “Are we looking for something?” 

The witch muttered a low confirmation, only barely aware he had spoken. 

“And what, pray tell, would that be?” Sirius glided to where Hermione was hunched over a sink and dropped easily into a squat beside her. She was a petite witch and the act of bending to inspect the sinks stooped her even further down, way below the tall pureblood and even taller werewolf. 

Flanked now on either side by curious wizards, Hermione was forced to look up into baffled grey eyes. 

“I’ve told you,” the witch sighed, “the Chamber of Secrets.”

“You keep repeating that as if we should know what it is,” Sirius almost snapped, his own impatience growing. “But you’ve given us absolutely no indication of what a chamber-- that’s somehow full of secrets-- is and now you’re investigating the plumbing situation in a girls’ lavatory. Calling out to this Myrtle character. Explaining nothing to the poor sods who got dragged into all this. Is the “Chamber of Secrets” code for toilet? Is this some sort of alternate universe thing we don’t know about?”

“Yes,” Hermione deadpanned, her mouth as straight as a pole. “This has been an elaborate ruse to get you to come join me in a girls’ lavatory by way of special alternate universe code words. You’re brilliant.”

“Well, I have to admit, that doesn’t make any sense.” Sirius folded his arms across his slender chest. 

“Of course it doesn't.” Hermione rolled her eyes, but internally she conceded that Sirius’ point was valid: she had not let them in on what the Chamber was or why it was relevant to their mission. Harry would have understood. She thought with a brief pain in her chest. No, that’s not true, Harry didn’t know what the Chamber was second year either, he just knows now not to question you.  

 Hermione stood up and leaned against the sink. “Have either of you read Hogwarts a History ?” She asked, though the witch was sure she knew the answer. 

“Of course,” Sirius replied, “ at least once a year. Biggest swots in Britain, us two.” He motioned to himself and Remus.  

The witch pinched the bridge of her nose. “I am going to lose my mind completely one day because of you.” 

Sirius grinned. 

“Well,” Hermione continued, “if you had read the book, which I highly suggest, it is an informative and fascinating read-”

“-Oooh such glowing praise-” Sirius gushed. 

“-then you would know that Salazar Slytherin, founder of House Slytherin, before he left Hogwarts and subsequently disappeared into the annals of time-”

“Godric, he did what to time?”

“-STOP INTERRUPTING ME.” Hermione stomped her foot and then rushed on before Sirius could say anything more. “Salazar Slytherin built a chamber under Hogwarts where he kept his pet basilisk, a chamber that can only be opened by his heir in order for said basilisk to be let loose through these hallowed halls on a muggle-born killing rampage.” Hermione let out a breath as the words finally stopped tumbling out of her.

Remus and Sirius exchanged a wary glance before the werewolf spoke, “Sounds like a right tosser, this Salazar.”

“Indeed.” Hermione nodded. 

“Salazar Slytherin, biggest prick in Hogwarts history,” Sirius agreed, “but what does that have to do with the mission? Why do we need to find this chamber?” The wizard frowned and ran a hand through his ebony locks.

“For two reasons,” Hermione continued, holding up two fingers. “The first of which being that inside the Chamber is a basilisk” - Godric, I really hope- “and basilisk venom is one of the few things that can destroy a horcrux and second,” Hermione locked her eyes on Sirius’ own, watching them darken like clouds that herald a storm with understanding,  “Tom Riddle, who preferred to fancy himself the Dark Lord, is the last remaining direct descendent of Salazar and thus the Heir of Slytherin.” 

“Why,” Remus ran a hand down the side of his unshaven face, “do these things always seem to come back to Slytherin?”

“Because they’re all a bunch of gobshites,” Sirius all but spat, his wand hand twitching. 

“Ugh, alright,” the werewolf began, cutting off what he knew would be an inevitably long and fiercely worded Slytherin rant, “so we’re on a basilisk hunt- oh my gods I just realized how insane that sounds, you are absolutely the craziest witch I’ve ever met-”

“Thank you.” Hermione smiled with a nod.

Remus sighed. “So we’re going on a basilisk hunt in the Chamber of Secrets and I’m assuming this lavatory has something to do with the Chamber? How to get in I’m guessing?”

“Yes,” the witch agreed, “or at least, I hope. In my timeline the entrance to the Chamber is accessible via a hidden door in...here.” Hermione cast her arm in a sweeping motion. “One of these taps should be broken and it should have a snake engraved onto it, but thus far all of these taps seem to be in-”

“Found it,” Sirius called from the other side of the pillar of sinks. 

“Wha-what?” Hermione scuttled over to Sirius, eyes round, and watched as the wizard continuously turned one of the taps on and off again, but no water ran from the pipes.  “Does it have a snake engraving?” The witch rushed over to Sirius to get a better look. 

“Mmmhmm,” Sirius nodded, tracing a pale finger over a delicately carved snake’s head, so expertly rendered to blend with the ornate decorations on the taps, that a less keen eye would have surely missed the serpent. 

“You brilliant wizard,” Hermione whispered under her breath gleefully, prompting both the wizards in the room to shoot her startled glances; though admittedly Sirius’ expression quickly morphed into one of barely contained pleasure.

“Finally she begins to get it.” Sirius tapped on his chest. “Top notch Auror, right here.” 

Remus chuckled, “Alright, but now what?”

Hermione’s body stilled and she looked sideways at the wizards, particularly Sirius, understanding that what she was about to do would not go over well. “I have to open it,” she began, “but in order to do that I’ll have to… well, just watch me and withhold your judgements for later.”

“Our judgements…?” Sirius perked an ebony eyebrow, regarding the witch gingerly as she stood back from the sink and motioned for the wizards to do the same.

Hermione took a deep breath. Alright, Granger, just like we practiced it.

Parseltongue is an odd language not simply because it’s the language of snakes, but mainly because to speak it is almost to transform oneself. There is the brief loss of humanity in communicating with a beast. 

Hermione twisted her spine, unknowingly adopting a more serpentine stance, as she felt the cold whisper form in the back of her throat to slither up past her barely parted lips. 

Ssssshaheeeessss .”

Sirius opened his mouth to speak, eyes wide with something akin to horror, but before he could muster a sound the sink began to shake and then, sink down into the floor and out of sight, leaving a set of spiral stone stairs in its place. 

Stairs? What happened to the giant pipe? Though confused, Hermione smiled at her work all the same. She had been pouring over books from the Black Family library all night, combining that information with what she remembered from Harry and Ron, to piece together the command in parseltongue. If Ron could open the Chamber by just by listening to Harry talk in his sleep, then Hermione Granger was damn sure she could too. Still, the confirmation of her abilities was quite satisfying. 

Remus clucked appreciatively. “Interesting,” the werewolf breathed. 

“Was that- was it,” Sirius stuttered, “ parseltongue?” The last word more a curse than a name.

The witch’s smile dropped from her lips and she nodded, her back instinctively straightening. “Indeed it was.”

“You speak parseltongue?” Sirius asked, still in partial astonishment. “You’re a parselmouth. Y-You speak to snakes?”  

“Well no,” Hermione shook her head, chestnut curls bouncing. “I don’t speak to snakes, but that was parseltongue I used to open the first entrance.”

Remus bit his bottom lip. “First entrance?”

“Yes,” the witch agreed, quick to jump on a subject change, “this just leads to the passageway, there’s another door for the Chamber itself.”

We knew Sirius was going to be a complete arsehole about the parseltongue. Anything related to pureblood or Slytherin culture is completely taboo...

“Hold up,” Sirius interrupted, his voice stiff, “how do you know parseltongue if you don't in fact speak it yourself?”

Uuuuuugh.

“Because,” Hermione sighed, “I’m an unbelievable swot.”

Both wizards had to nod at that. Oh stop nodding your heads! Wankers. 

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek nearly hard enough to draw blood to keep the mental images the word “wankers” conjured from invading her thoughts. 

Pull it together, Granger!

“And,” Hermione turned from them, to hide the heat of a blush on her cheeks at her own reminder of the events from that morning, “Harry talks in his sleep.” The witch started down the staircase, thankful for the rush of cold air that cooled her heated face.

Because she now had her back to the wizards, Hermione missed the brief but intense look of shock that shot across Sirius’ pale face before the wizard quickly schooled his features, though Remus was instantly aware of the shift in Sirius’ mental state. The pureblood wore his emotions on his sleeve, or in his scent as the case was. 

“Wait, Harry?” Remus asked, quickly following after Hermione. “As in Harry Potter? The little infant we saved a few weeks ago? James and Lily’s Harry?”

“One and the same.” Hermione slid her wand from her sleeve and flicked it, casting a silent lumos. 

How odd that this is a staircase, I swear Harry and Ron had said it was a pipe they had to slide down. Has it always been stairs? A small little difference in realities? Or was the pipe transfigured into stairs? And if the pipe was transfigured, why would it have been-

“Harry is going to be a parselmouth, hmm?” Remus mused. “How odd, I didn’t think the Potters had any Slytherin blood in them, as pureblood as they are or were, I mean.”

“They don’t,” Hermione explained absently as the stairs gave way to a vaulted stone passage. “Harry wasn’t a parselmouth his whole life, just for the first eighteen years or so, it’s actually a very long story.”

“We’ve got time,” Sirius called from behind Remus. 

“I’m afraid we’ve got bigger snakes to fry as the case may be.” Hermione responded, holding her illuminated wand into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Harry talks in his sleep.

Those five words, innocuous as they seemed, settled into Sirius’ gut like a spoiled meal and, try as he might, the wizard could not fully digest them.

What the bloody fuck is that supposed to mean? How often has she been next to my godson when he sleeps? Or is it when he “sleeps”? She said best friend, right? I swear she called Harry her “best friend”. Or maybe, Remus told me she called him that? Best friend and boyfriend are two completely different terms, which I’m sure the little swot is well aware of. Hmph, what do I care? I don’t care. What does it matter to me who the little bird has slept next to?

But it did matter to Sirius, as evidenced by his inability to think about anything else. Despite the mission or the dangers Hermione had made clear resided within the Chamber of Secrets, Sirius Black could not keep his mind from what wizards-- or witches, hmm-- Hermione Granger had been sleeping near. The whole thing made his stomach churn and the Grim inside him growl, teeth bared. Sirius was not so emotionally stunted that he couldn’t discern exactly what was simmering through him. 

Jealousy. 

Sirius was jealous of his godson.

A bloody baby. 

But Harry wouldn’t always be a baby. He may grow up to be as handsome as his mother was gorgeous and meet an insufferable and condescending swot with giant hair and almond eyes and skin Sirius could almost taste-

Merlin’s beard, stop imagining her skin! He willed the canine inside him, but the dog had no use for human propriety.  

Sirius wanted Hermione, that was very clear to him. The ‘why’ of the situation was less transparent. He could have his pick of witch or wizard. One who wouldn’t relish in ignoring him. So why did this bloody witch get under his skin so effectively? The ‘why was she ignoring him?’ was also gnawing at Sirius’s bones. He had made it clear, hadn’t he? Sirius had flirted and teased, he had bantered and ogled, hell he’d practically propositioned, but Hermione had done little more than roll her eyes or occasionally blush. Sirius was beginning to live for those blushes. Even Remus had discerned Sirius’ intentions. 

To be fair, Remus can smell desire, so he has an unfair advantage in the situation. 

Desire. 

Hermione Granger was electrifying. Her aura filled a room; magic crackled around her like a primordial fire. She was powerful and beautiful and mysterious and so bloody smart that Sirius found her all at once insufferable and enticing. He had never met any witch or wizard who could compare to Hermione, and, honestly, that was pretty damn obnoxious considering the witch barely even looked at him. 

She’s sweeter on Remus than she is on me and what did I do! Except be unbearably charming. 

Somewhere in him a Grim snorted.

Shut it, you. 

“...they don’t.” 

Sirius slipped from his inner diatribe to hear the tail end of Hermione’s explanation regarding Harry’s parselmouth capabilities. 

“Harry wasn’t a parselmouth his whole life, just for the first eighteen years or so, it’s actually a very long story,” the witch clarified casually. 

“We’ve got time,” Sirius called from behind Remus. You’ve so many secrets, little witch, when will you fill us in on them all?

“I’m afraid we’ve got bigger snakes to fry at the moment,” Hermione responded, smirking to herself and holding her illuminated wand into the darkness.

Before the trio, the light from Hermione’s lumos revealed a great circular door forged from a metal Sirius could not identify, adorned with serpents as thick as his legs that seemed to wither and writhe even as they remained still. The door was at least twice as tall as Remus, the tallest of the group.

With delicate precision, Sirius slipped his wand from his sleeve and flicked the most unobtrusive reconnaissance spell he knew - thanks, Moody- towards the door. He felt as the magic, his magic, was simply absorbed into the door itself.

“Dark magic, that,” Remus breathed, his neck craned to take in its full breadth.

“Dark,” Sirius mused, taking a step forward to place his hand gingerly on the sculpted metal serpents, “dark may be an understatement.”

The wizard could feel the pulse of nearly a millennia of magic coursing through the door; wards that were centuries old and had been gathering power to them for all that time, buried beneath layers of stone and earth. 

Suddenly Sirius felt a hand upon his shoulder and was the tiniest bit surprised to turn and discover Hermione’s honey eyes upon him. This might have been the first time her touch had not been accompanied by physical abuse, something Sirius could get accustomed to. 

“Boys,” she began, placing her other hand on Remus’ shoulder. “Basilisks are dangerous-”

“What! No way! Ow!” Sirius yelped as Hermione pinched the muscle between his neck and shoulder. 

There you go, fucking shite up again. Being an absolute arse.

“They’re not just dangerous because they’re giant snakes,” Hermione continued after shooting Sirius a wicked glare, “they’re dangerous because if you look them directly in the eye, you will errr-die, so I brought us these.”

Giant snake?

The witch rummaged through the pocket of her jeans, pulling out three compact mirrors and handed one to each wizard, keeping the third for herself. 

“Will we need to be powdering our noses? Need to be looking our best for the wee snakey?” Sirius asked, flipping the compact open to examine himself. “Ah good, still gorgeous.”

Remus snorted. 

“‘Fraid it’ll take more than mere powder to make your face presentable, Sirius,” Hermione sighed.

Ouch, well that one did sting a little.

“The mirrors are to look around corners, better to stare indirectly into its eyes and be petrified than stare directly and be killed.” The witch slid her own compact back into her pocket.

Sirius looked down at his mirror, “Shite,” he whispered before pocketing the only thing separating him from death, apparently.  

“Basilisk venom is also extremely deadly and has only one known anti-venom, so do try not to get bit.” 

“Godric, so what does work on the beasts?” Remus asked, shifting his weight from foot to foot. 

“Well, for sure the Sword of Gryffindor,” Hermione admitted, prompting a harsh guffaw from Sirius.

“Just that hmm?” the wizard asked.

Hermione shrugged, “There’s little to no information regarding the killing or incapacitating of basilisks, as most non-parselmouths who meet one tend to end up deceased and the only instance one has been killed, that I’m aware of, it was by the Sword of Gryffindor.”

“Then what’s our plan?” Remus asked, scratching the underside of his chin thoughtfully.

“Incapacitate by any means necessary. Set your wands to stun.” 

“What?!” Both wizards cried in unison. 

“Bloody hell, Hermione,” Remus sighed, scrubbing his face with his hands.

“Incapacitate?” Sirius gawked. “Are you out of your bloody mind? How are we to incapacitate a bloody basilisk that can kill us just by looking at us and, as if that weren’t bad enough, is also highly venomous?”

The witch is insane. 

“Well...” Hermione’s dark features slipped into a frown, nearly Sirius over the edge.

“Oh good Godric, you don’t know , do you?” he accused. “What? We’re supposed to waltz in there to-to-” the wizard began gesticulating madly at the door, “what was it you said we needed?”

“The venom,” Remus supplied, “to destroy the horcruxes.”

“The-the-” Sirius sputtered still wildly waving his arms about, “the venom?! We have to incapacitate a snake that can kill us with a look to extract its highly deadly venom, and I get the feeling that this isn’t a little garden snake. I mean, how fucking big is this thing-”

“At least 15 meters,” Hermione mumbled, and Sirius could swear he saw the witch cringe a bit at the admission. 

“15 METERS!” Sirius roared, running his hands through already tousled ebony locks. “I just, I mean- I don’t even know how to respond to that. Moony,” Sirius suddenly turned his accusatory gaze to his best mate, “how are you so calm, right now?”

“I’ll be honest, Pads,” Remus sighed, meeting his friend’s eyes, “I’m terrified beyond the realm of rational thought.”

“By the gods,” Sirius threw his arms in the air.

“Now listen,” Hermione’s tone was firm. Sirius didn’t turn to look at her, he was too busy mentally composing his will.

Harry can have the motorcycle, that’ll really piss Evans off…

“I know this sounds dire, but I have a few ideas,” Hermione continued. “Honestly, summon up some Gryffindor bravery and don’t get your knickers in such a wad,” the witch huffed, placing both hands on her hips. 

“My-my knickers? You cheeky little thing...” Now Sirius did turn to her. “Bravery is one thing, pet, but I don’t have a death wish. There are still many witches to shag, many pints to drink, and many Death Eaters to hex.”

Hermione rolled her dark eyes. “And I guarantee you, Black, you will still have plenty of time left in your life for shagging and drinking.”

“That a promise?” Sirius wiggled his eyebrows. 

“Ugh,” Hermione rolled her eyes, “you're incorrigible.”

Oh, but that’s a blush, isn’t it?

“Oh, Merlin, someone hex me,” Remus grumbled. “Ouch! Oh fuck, Pads!” The werewolf shot a glare at his friend, rubbing the spot on his arm a small stinging hex had just hit. 

“But you said-”

“I hate you, I honestly can say that I fucking loathe you entirely.”

“Boys,” Hermione exhaled, “I’m about to open the door so get it the fuck together .”

The two Marauders exchanged a glance and Remus nodded. “Right.”

Sirius noted the way in which his friend gripped his wand just the tiniest fraction tighter. 

He’s never been in a battle before. 

Much to the disappointment of his parents, and thus Sirius’ eternal delight, the eldest male heir to the Black name - the only male heir left living, that is- had not only gotten into his fair share of duels at Hogwarts, but was an Auror trained in combat by none other than Alastor Moody himself.   Remus, Sirius realized, had most likely never seen more action than the night not long ago when they’d gone after Hermione and found themselves up against Bellatrix and Malfoy. 

Sirius reached out a hand to Remus’ shoulder and squeezed, flashing the werewolf what he hoped was a reassuring grin. “You ready, Moody-poo?”

“Loathe entirely,” Remus deadpanned. 

There’s the arsehole I know and love.

Hermione wrinkled her nose at the two, but remained silent before stepping towards the door. Sirius watched intently as the petite witch leaned close and whispered, 

Ssssshaheeeessss .”

The snakes that had once been unmoving now writhed and hissed and Hermione quickly stepped backward, stumbling over a rock in the process. 

Without thinking, Sirius reached out and caught the witch, fingers wrapped around her shoulders. She was lighter than he would’ve expected, her hair seemed to take up so much of a room Sirius had unconsciously assumed the witch was bigger than she was. In reality, Hermione had never been a physically imposing character. Except for her hair. 

The hair was always an imposing character. 

“Gotcha, Hermione.” Sirius smiled down at the witch now in his arms and the wizard did not miss the pink that rose to the surface of Hermione’s dark cheeks. 

The witch opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the sound of the chamber door swinging open.

Chapter Text

The whole of Hogwarts shook. A cacophony of spells and curses and hexes reverberated through the castle, sending ripples of power even deep underground. The whole of Hermione’s body shook. She was alive with adrenaline and magic and fear . She was acutely aware, in the deepest recesses of her heart, that above her people were dying- her friends, the only family she had left, lay strewn across the halls of this, her home. The witch swallowed a great breath and ground her teeth together. Ron’s sweaty hand gripped her own tighter and tighter as they ran through the Chamber, searching for the corpse. 

Hermione had only been in the Chamber of Secrets once before and she had to admit, returning was a more startling experience than she had expected. She had steeled herself to the inevitability of finding a basilisk, of risking her muggle-born life once again, but she had not been expecting the surge of adrenaline that had laced its way through her veins.

The Brightest Witch of Her Age was an Auror trained by war and nearly perfected by experience. The rush of anticipation she felt on the job was familiar and, at times, even welcomed. 

But this, this was different. 

This was not the thrill of capturing dark wizards. This was not the electrifying satisfaction of a mystery solved.

This was something else entirely.

The fang felt oddly mundane in her hand, it could’ve easily been a quill or even a stick, but the cup reverberated with energy, as if the soul inside knew its master was close.     

The Chamber was lit only by the three wands each of them carried, casting eery and unsettling shadows on the stone walls. Hermione shivered despite herself. As they approached the end of the long hallway, the witch stopped; she could hear the sounds of trickling water.

“Alright,” she whispered, turning to the wizards, “from here on out I’ll go first. No going down corners until I’ve looked around them with the mirror and signaled that the coast is clear.”

“What’s the signal?” Remus asked, glancing about nervously.

“Me not getting petrified,” Hermione chuckled.

“Fuck that,” Sirius breathed, the look of concern on his pale features unmistakeable. “No, then you can’t go first.”

“It was just a- what do you mean, of course I’m going first,” Hermione insisted, placing her empty hand on her hip, replacing the discomfort she felt at the wizard’s concern with icy exasperation. 

I’m not here for your heroics, Black. 

“No, not if the signal is you NOT getting petrified, what if you do get petrified?”

“It’s happened before, it’s really not a big deal, you’ll just-”

“Not a big deal!” Sirius interrupted. “How is you being petrified not a big bloody deal?” he demanded.

Why do you care? 

“If it happens,” Hermione explained matter-of-factly, “you two will simply have to quickly carry me back through the Chamber and take the appropriate countermeasures to unpetrify me.”

“What are the appropriate countermeasures?” Remus asked, brows furrowed.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ve written them down and charmed them to appear on my forehead should I be petrified.” Hermione smiled reassuringly, pointing at the aforementioned forehead. 

Both the wizards stared at her for a moment.

“Y’know, your forehead is quite dainty,” Remus commented.

“I considered that, but I figured this way you would have the instructions right here if you needed them. I didn’t want to risk putting them on a parchment one of you might lose.” 

“That is,” Sirius began, “the most absolutely absurd thing you’ve ever said.” Folding his arms across his chest, he looked at her forehead again. “Wouldn’t it make more sense, seeing as you’re the only one of the three of us who knows how to reverse a petrification, for you to not be the first line of defense looking around corners? Surely, it’s more logical for Remus or I to do it so you can unpetrify us and we won’t be squinting over your- as Moony put it- dainty forehead.”

  Oh good try, appealing to my logical side, you must think yourself quite clever, Sirius. Hermione nearly rolled her eyes.

“No,” the witch said firmly. “I’m the only one who has been in the Chamber before or has dealt with basilisks, it makes more sense for me to peak around the corners.”

Hermione opted not to mention that the only time she had dealt with a basilisk, she ended up petrified.

Best save that story for oh, let’s say never. 

Sirius visibly set his jaw. Remus looked between the other wizard and witch before sighing.

“Not that I’m interested in an argument right now,” the werewolf whispered, “but I have to agree with Sirius on this one.” 

Traitor!

Hermione opened her mouth but Remus continued quickly.

“He’s right”-- oh don’t look so bloody smug, Black!-- “the most logical thing would be for one of us to do the peaking and for you to be not petrified and thus capable of un petrifying us.”

“No,” Hermione said again. “I’m the only one-”

“I get it, love,” Remus placed a hand on her shoulder, “I get it, I really do, you’re protecting us, but you’re doing so at the expense of yourself and what makes the most sense for the mission.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” Hermione sighed.

But is he wrong, Granger? Shut the fuck up. 

“It’s not about protecting the two of you-” Hermione countered with more venom than she’d intended. Why could neither of them just listen to her? Why could no one listen to the Brightest fucking Witch of Her Age? Harry listened maybe half the time, Seamus didn’t listen, Ron sure as fuck didn’t listen. Hermione was surrounded by males who just couldn’t bloody listen.  “-so much as it is protecting the mission from his incompetence-” Hermione jabbed her wand towards Sirius.

“Hey now!” Sirius growled.

“-and your inexperience.” Hermione swung her wand back towards Remus.

“Listen,” Sirius bit back, “I know you think you’re the only one on this bloody planet that has any sense but I am also a sodding Auror and the both of us are Marauders and we got along just bloody fine before Hermione Granger popped out of my goddamn Floo.” 

Hermione leveled Sirius with a gaze that would have made weaker men tremble, but it wasn’t backed with her usual unwavering sense of self-righteousness. The witch knew she had cruelly misspoke, she knew Remus had been right, she knew Sirius was currently right, but she did not get flung through space and time to let two wizards she had already seen die once perish again on her watch. 

“I’m in charge,” Hermione whispered harshly.

Sirius guffawed. “By whose bloody authority?” 

The witch narrowed her amber eyes. “And I am ordering the two of you to stand down while I look around the corners.”

“Oh fuck it, you bloody sodding swot, I am done.” Sirius made a move towards Hermione. The witch quickly twisted out of his grasp, surprised by his sudden attack.

“What the hell, Black!” Hermione screeched, her voice and wand rising.

“Give me your fucking mirror, you can’t be trusted with it,” Sirius demanded, lunging at her again, this time going for the pocket where she’d placed the mirror. 

“If you put a hand in my pocket, I swear to every god, Sirius Black, you will lose that hand,” Hermione hissed, dodging him again.

“Guys,” Remus whispered nervously.

“I am so tired of your secrets and your swottiness and you thinking you’re the only one on the entire planet that has any goddamn sense!” Sirius grabbed Hermione around the waist and triumphantly cried out, “Got you!”

Until the back of Hermione’s head collided with his nose.

“OH MY GOD!” Sirius cried out as blood sprayed from his face. “YOU BROKE MY GODDAMN NOSE!”

“SERVES YOU RIGHT, SIRIUS FUCKING BLACK!” Hermione screamed, whipping around as of to smack him for good measure.

“YOU GODDAMN QUEEN OF THE HARPIES!”

“Guys,” Remus tried again with a bit more force. “Do you hear that?”

“I”ll fix it for you later once you have some fucking sense back in your pretty little head!”

“HOW ARE YOU SO SMALL BUT SO STRONG?” Sirius’ voice was muffled by his hands now clasping his face. 

“GUYS!” Remus yelled finally and, startled, both Hermione and Sirius turned to him. 

“Fucking listen,” The werewolf hissed. 

They both stopped, Hermione now with wand raised and Sirius with hands over his perhaps broken nose, both barely breathing, neither moving.

“I don’t-” Sirius began and then a rumble, low like thunder, traveled down the blackness of the hallway and behind it a sudden gust of warm, putrid air.

“Is that-” Remus coughed, waving his hand in front of his face, “-is that the basilisk?” He asked between coughs.

“I don’t recall the smell.” Hermione gagged on the stench, her mind a whirl of pages, flipping through books once read. 

The basilisk didn’t have a smell, did it? Did Harry ever mention a smell?

And then the sound again, rising this time, shaking their very bones as it echoed through what the trio could now see was no longer a hallway, but a giant chamber as suddenly unlit torches burst to life, illuminating the room around them.

And in the middle a creature Hermione quickly recognized.

“Oh shite,” she whispered, stunned.

“Don’t look in its eyes!” Remus yelled, closing his own.

“It’s not a basilisk!” Hermione screamed, grabbing the wizards and quickly pulling them behind one of the pillars that lined the perimeter of the giant room.

“What the hell is it?” Sirius demanded, twisting around the pillar for a better look. “Shite!”

Crapity crap crap !

“Too many heads! It’s got too many heads!” Remus gasped, his face glistening with sweat.

And indeed it did. 

Hermione could count five, possibly six heads springing from what was definitely a giant snake’s body. Two of the heads reared back suddenly and spit a green liquid towards the trio. The liquid hit the stone above them, causing the pillar to collapse as it quickly melted away.

Hermione and the wizards dove out of the way of the falling debris, each to different pillars as the hallway they had originally come through was now almost entirely sealed off by the fallen rock and stone.

“It’s a hydra!” Hermione yelled, the acid confirming what the heads had already told her.  The witch glanced at the blocked hallway and then back at the many headed serpent, biting the inside of her cheek.

“Can we look at it’s eyes?!” Sirius asked from behind a pillar to Hermione’s left, dried blood smeared across his face.

“Yes!” Hermione stuck her head out from behind her pillar to get a better look at the serpentine creature. “But avoid the acid! It’s spit is deadly!”

Hydra, hydra. She had not been expecting a fucking hydra. Think, Granger, think think think...

“The Twelve Trials of Hercules!” Hermione yelled, as three of the heads began spitting acid at them again. 

“What?!” Remus yelled, rushing from his collapsing pillar.

Are these pillars load bearing? Hermione briefly wondered. 

“A hydra was killed by Hercules!” the witch continued, running to a new pillar. “We have to cut off a head-”

“Excellent!” Sirius exclaimed, jumping out and sending a slicing hex at the head closest to him.

“NO!” Hermione screamed, but it was too late. The heads hissed in pain, unleashing a gust of acid laced breath that caused Hermione to erupt into a fit of coughs.  “We have-” she wheezed, gasping for a breath, “-we have to seal it-” she coughed “-we have to cauterize the wound!” she finally managed to get out. 

“Shite!” Remus gasped and Hermione’s eyes snapped up to the sickening sound of bones and flesh growing anew as two new bloody heads sprung forth from the stump where the old head had been. 

“Oh damn,” Sirius whispered before looking back at Hermione. “What do we do?”

“Incapacitate- shite look out!” The trio jumped away again, each finding new pillars for protection.

“You’re daft, witch!” Sirius growled, wiping his face with the back of his hand as blood continued to drip from his nose. 

Maybe, but we can’t just murder it. Hermione thought desperately, but even in all the vast amounts of reading she had done in her life, brushing up on hydra facts had never seemed a priority when you spend so much time trying to keep The Chosen One alive. 

“Gimme a moment!” she pleaded.

“We don’t have a moment!” Remus screamed and the trio began a dangerous dance, running for cover as the hydra continued it’s onslaught.

“I don’t know how much more the room can take of this!” Sirius called from behind a half melted pillar.

“I don’t know how much more I can take of this!” Remus screamed back.

“Granger!” The growl that escaped from Sirius then was low and more canine than Hermione had heard before.

Think, think, think, goddamnit. Hercules. Trials. The heads come back. More heads come back. Acid. Toxic breath. 

“Stupefy!”   Remus shot off a spell as he ran to a new pillar. The spell was laughably ineffective. The many heads turned towards Remus in the same manner Hermione was sure one would turn to swat an insect; with both mild amusement and utter annoyance.  

Remus, for his part, froze and continued to stand rooted in place as the heads unhinged their jaws and sprayed their venom.

VENTUS !” Hermione screamed, whipping her wand around her head in a half moon motion before sending a twister of wind from her wand toward the hydra, blowing the acid back at the serpentine beast.

“FUCKING SERIOUSLY!?” Hermione pulled Remus against the wall as the hydra shook its heads now covered in acid. 

“Worth a try?” The werewolf shrugged lamely. Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Well, what was your plan?” Sirius asked, running to them as the snake continued to struggle.

“Weasel odor,” Hermione stated matter-of-factly. “Basilisks are weak to weasel odor.” 

Sirius made a face. “The fuck?”

Hermione shrugged. “Magical creatures are bizarre, what can I say?”

“Fuck fuck fuck!” Remus yelled, scrambling to push his friends out of the way as acid was once again shot at them.

The trio spread out, but to no avail, each head picked one of them to spit at while the body remained in the middle of the room.

Think, think, think! But Hermione had nothing. 

Well, we can at least chop off these heads without killing it. Dealing with one acid spitting head will be much easier than dealing with seven sodding acid spitting heads.

“Ok!” Hermione thought out loud, yelling at the boys. “This is what we’ll do. Sirius! You’re going to chop off heads!”

“Y’sure?” he yelled frantically.

“Yes!” She turned to Remus. “And Remus, you’re going to cauterize the wound with Incendio.”

Remus nodded, his face pale. “W-what’re you going to do?” he asked shakily.

“Distraction,” Hermione breathed and then took off in a dead sprint across the chamber, drawing the attention of all seven heads.

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!” Remus exclaimed, his voice awash of panic.

“CUT OFF A HEAD!” Hermione screamed over her shoulder as she slid behind a pillar, her hip making painful contact with the ground.

From behind her, Hermione heard the unmistakable hiss of a slicing hex cutting through the air. She turned in time to watch one of the giant snake’s heads fall to the stone floor. Sirius she never doubted, but Remus, sweet Remus had never been in a battle before, had never stared into the face of someone who wanted him dead, had never felt that rise in his stomach that is the unmistakable fear of pain.

Or, at least, not this Remus.

The first corpse Hermione had seen was her paternal great-grandmother when she was nine years old. The funeral had been unremarkable and as Hermione had never spent much time with her great-grandmother, the entire affair was rather boring for the precocious child. Remus’ body was the first corpse had ever really seen. His face like it was in life, yet somehow not, somehow other. It was as if changelings had stolen her beloved professor and replaced him with a doll, a wax figure. She reached a shaking hand out to touch him, barely registering that besides him lay Tonks, just as pale and rigid, but Harry grabbed her hand and pulled her into a fierce hug, urging her to look away and it was only then she realized she was screaming. 

Panic rose in her. He can’t do it, she thought to herself over and over, scrambling to get up, scrambling for her wand, curses and hexes on her lips.

He can’t do it, he can’t-

And then,

“Incendio!”

“Yes!” Hermione, wide eyed, jumped and nearly clapped her hands with glee as the hydra’s wounded neck sealed shut. The remaining six heads turned to the wizards and that was when Hermione cast a light spell, like muggle fireworks, from her wand to draw the hydra’s attention back to her.

And so she ran from pillar to pillar, distracting the snake as the wizards did their own work,  until only two heads remained. As the giant serpent had not yet died, Hermione knew one of the remaining heads had to be the main head, immortal in the myths.

“Ok, ok! No more!” Hermione yelled as the hydra hissed in pain, thrashing its neck stumps. 

“Why?” Sirius demanded, wand raised.

“I want to incapacitate it, not kill it!”

“Well it sure as hell wants to kill us!”

“For all we know this could be the last hydra!” Hermione pointed out desperately. “In the Twelve Trials there was only one!”

Sirius visibly fumed. “I don’t give a flying fuck! We’re trapped in a room with a A GIANT MURDER SNAKE I DON’T CARE IF IT’S THE LAST GIANT MURDER SNAKE IT IS STILL A MURDER SNAKE.”

Circe, he’s right. In the myths the hydra stays alive even after the final head is severed, the head has to go under a rock. Fuck, Sirius is right. 

“Fuck, you’re right!” Hermione yelled and then ran across the chamber, lights erupting from her wand. 

“I-I’m right?” For a moment neither Sirius nor Remus moved, both taken aback by Hermione’s sudden admittance. 

“CUT OFF THE BLOODY HEADS, YOU WANKERS!” she screamed as the hydra darted towards her.

“Fuck!” She heard Remus exclaim before a head fell to the floor, but it was only then that Hermione realized she had let the snake get too close and as blood sprayed from the neck turned stump, the witch felt the spray of acid across her thigh and arm.

“Hermione!” One or both of the wizards called out.

The witch screamed and fell to the ground as the pain seared  through skin and muscle. Hermione screamed again as she frantically flicked her wand, using a silent accio to pull the poison from the wound. She wasn’t even sure that would work, but the pain was clouding her thoughts.

“Fuck you, murder snake!” Remus yelled as Sirius cast the final hex, slicing off the remaining head, which continued to wrythe on the stone floor. 

“Cover it-” Hermione grit her teeth through the flesh peeling agony in her leg and arm, “-cover it with stone.”

The wizards did not hesitate, both using magic to pile the stoney debri atop the still moving head.

“Someone-someone-” Hermione’s vision began to pool at the sides of her eyes as in the middle everything went black, “-someone tell Hagrid, he can-”

The blood, the blood!

“Hermione!” She felt hands on her face.

“Not my b-blood-” she stuttered, coughing, “the hydra, get the hydra blood-”

And then, darkness.

Chapter Text

The sky was stunning the evening Hermione Granger was laid to rest; a rich tapestry of brilliant violets and vermillions woven across the sky. A sea of tertiary colors. Harry Potter was insistent that the event be small, private and deceptively muggle to honor the memory of his best friend. 

Draco hated every moment of it. 

She’s not dead, you sodding idiots. The pureblood barely suppressed an exasperated sigh at the sight of Molly Weasley wailing in the middle of the muggle cemetery.

Or, at least, Draco was pretty bloody certain she wasn’t dead, seeing as the casket the Weasel Matriarch was weeping over was quite empty. 

What the hell is wrong with Potter? Draco wondered in annoyance as the Chosen One droned on in a eulogy praising the not actually departed Granger. Salazar’s sake, she isn’t that amazing. 

I mean, she is fascinatingly brilliant, but also the most unbearably obnoxious swot to ever live. And her skin is flawless, what moisturizer does she use? I wonder what her skin care routine comprises? She doesn’t wear much makeup, does she include sheet masks? Is it just the gift of genetics?

When the speeches had mercifully concluded (as her partner Seamus also had a few things to say and for some reason Lovegood had been given an opportunity) and the empty casket lowered into the ground, Draco clandestinely made his way over to Harry. Finding refuge under the shadow of a large oak tree, Draco waited for the other wizard to be momentarily alone. 

“That was quite a show,” Draco hissed from behind the Chosen One. 

Harry whipped around, eyes narrow.

“What the hell are you doing here, Malfoy?” He demanded, fist balled. “This is a family event.”

“Then why’s the Weasel here?” Draco asked, nodding his head in the direction of Ron Weasley, who had the absolute audacity to make an appearance with one of the Patil sisters on his arm. Draco never could tell them apart, this must’ve been whichever one wasn’t currently a werewolf. “Surely I was on better terms with Granger prior to her disappearance than that sorry excuse for a grieving fiance.”

“Ex,” Harry muttered almost inaudibly, his emerald orbs now locked on the freckle faced wizard huddled with the rest of the Weasley brood.

Probably for protection, Draco mused.

“What was that?” Draco raised an impeccably groomed eyebrow, knowing full well what Harry had said. 

“Ex-fiance,” Potter growled.

Hmm rumors are true then, Ron Weasley broke off his engagement with a witch who was quite frankly way too good for him to begin with. Draco’s lip curled into the slightest of sneers. “Oh really?”

“What do you want?” Harry growled, turning his attention back to Draco. “Funeral crashing is low even for you.”

“Bit of a morbid affair this,” Draco commented running a hand through his platinum locks, “a funeral for the not-actually-dead.”

Harry’s gaze turned vicious. “Is that why you’re here, to ramble on about some stupid conspiracy theories?”

“First off, they’re not stupid, they are quite well researched-”

“I don’t have time for this, Malfoy. Fairies and bullshite-” 

“I would have met with you prior to this, but you seem to not be getting my owls.”

“Ignoring. I’ve been ignoring your owls.”

“Well, thats quite rude.”

“I don’t care.”

“Tsk tsk, Potter, didn’t they teach you manners under that staircase?”

What was it about Harry Potter that always seemed to bring out the worst in Draco?

“I swear to every god, Malfoy, if you don’t get out of my sight in the next ten seconds I am going to end you right here, right now.”

“Hollow threat, Potter, we’re in a Muggle cemetery.”

“I don’t need a wand to kick your arse.”

“Good luck, I’m a black belt.” 

That slipped out before Draco could stop it.

Bollocks.

“You-you’re a what?” Harry frowned, adjusting his glasses.

“You heard me or are you having inner ear problems?” Draco sneered. “I’m a third degree Judo black belt.”

Harry’s frown deepened. “But, Malfoy, Judo is a muggle martial art.” 

“Oh my goodness what ?” Draco brought his hands up to the sides of his face in a wild exaggeration. “Oh deary me I had noooo idea! Good thing you told me, I was wondering why no one had a wand. You’re a real gift from the gods, Potter, always the sharp wit and dazzling intellect.”

Harry didn’t rise to the bait. “Why would you take muggle martial arts classes?”

Draco placed his hands in his pockets. “A suggestion from a friend,” he shrugged

“A friend?” Harry raised an eyebrow, “You don’t have any friends.”

“Salazar, I hate you,” Draco snarled. “I’m a Malfoy, of course I have friends.”

Harry made a face clearly indicating his disbelief. 

Fuck. I have no friends.

Purebloods wanted nothing to do with him and and the rest of the wizarding world wanted nothing to do with him and he worked in the sodding finance department, most reviled branch of the Ministry and, in fact, the only humans who had treated him with even the barest shred of decency since the Battle of Hogwarts were the sorry excuse for a wizard standing in front of him and the muggle-born swot who only Draco apparently had any interest in actually finding. 

“Y’know what, Potter,” Draco spat, turning away, “you’re right, Granger’s gone, I’m a fool for thinking otherwise et cetera et cetera enjoy the remaining funerary rights, cold comfort as they may be.”

Harry sighed and took a few steps towards Draco. “Malfoy, listen, you don’t have to leave, I know you and ‘Mione weren’t friends, but you can stay.”

“She hates that bloody nickname,” Draco said over his shoulder as he continued to power walk towards the nearest designated apparation point.

“Malfoy!” Potter called out, but Draco was gone.

 

oOo

 

Back at his flat, the Malfoy heir fell into a high back emerald green chair by the fireplace, a grimace painted across his ivory features.

“That went about as well as I expected,” he sighed, accio-ing a bottle of firewhiskey and a glass from the small bar in the corner with a wave of his wand. The floating bottle tipped to pour whiskey into the glass until Draco reached and plucked the glass from the air, bringing it to his lips for a languid sip.  

Suddenly the hairs on the back of his neck stood up in stark attention. Draco’s eyes wandered down the hall to meet the piercing yellow eyes staring back at him, the pureblood wrinkled his brow.

“I don’t know how I’m going to bloody do this,” he grumbled as the half-kneazle sauntered with an easy grace out of the shadows, jumping onto the ottoman Draco had his feet propped on. 

“Whoa now, off the furniture.” Draco gingerly tapped Crookshanks with his toe, but the feline leveled him with such a stare that Draco decided it was best if he simply moved his own feet, giving up the ottoman. 

“Hmph,” Draco took another sip of firewhiskey, “you’re just as unbearable as your witch.”

Crookshanks glanced up at Draco with what the wizard swore was a look of pleasure as if he had received a compliment.

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. “Potter wasn’t ready to listen. I know, I know, it was a bloody funeral, but Granger’s not actually dead and he was making it goddamn impossible to talk to him at any other time.”

The feline began grooming himself, bored by Draco’s excuses.

“Listen, you flea-bitten monstrocity, I am trying my sodding best.”

Crookshank looked up as if to ask, are you really?

Draco sighed and slumped further into his chair, continuing to nurse the glass in his hand. 

You should’ve gone to Potter himself or Finnigan or Lovegood or Longbottom or literally anyone besides me. No one is going to listen to me , you bloody beast.”

The cat continued his bath.

“Ugh!” Draco pushed himself out of the chair and stomped over to the far wall, waving his wand to illuminate the mad web of clues he had meticulously pinned up over the course of the last three months.

Draco, releasing his glass to float in the air besides him, folded his arms across his chest. Narrowing his silver eyes, the wizard frowned. 

First The Door had appeared. Potter had been initially fascinated, but after a week or so of being unable to open it and no one seeming to care how or why is was unopenable, Potter’s interest had waned. But not Draco’s. Why not Draco’s? No one else cared, but he knew deep in his core that The Door was not normal, this made all the more obvious by everyone else's disinterest. It was almost as if The Door wanted to go on being unnoticed.

I’ve lost my bloody mind. Doors appearing, no one else caring. This bloody cat. 

Then the dreams began. Horrific nightmares. Draco was not squeamish, he had seen and done his fare share of atrocities during the war and had suffered the mental repercussions as a result, but these dreams were so vivid, so real and so unimaginably awful Draco has started taking Dreamless Drought again. Each dream was different but ended the same way; with a dead baby that he stood over, but it wasn’t him. He was there, watching, but it was as if someone else carried out the act, someone whose cackling mania felt all too familiar.

But the drought hadn’t worked. In desperation Draco had stopped sleeping and slowly went insane as a result -- maybe I’m still insane-- until that bloody cat had showed up. Then the dreams had stopped. He could’ve written it off as a coincidence, but purebloods understand better than the rest of the wizarding community that coincidences are a muggle affair. Draco knew Hermione’s cat showing up at his flat, uninvited and somehow slipping past his wards, had stopped the nightmares. He just wasn’t sure how or why.

Draco shifted his weight between his feet while he ruminated. “You’re a bloody enigma, cat. This whole thing is a bloody enigma.”

Draco had followed countless leads. He’d tapped into Death Eater alliances across the continent and into the Americas, trying to rule out the most obvious conclusion: Hermione had been kidnapped. By now kidnappers would have made demands or sent back a finger or head or something

You don’t kidnap one of the most famous witches in history if not for the attention. 

The second most likely option was that Hermione wanted to be gone, that she disappeared of her own volition; which Drac would certainly not blame her for considering the daft company she kept. However, why would she do so and not tell Potter or find someone to watch her demon cat? Furthermore, why could patronuses not reach her? Rumors, as they’re want to do, spread quickly within the Ministry and it wasn’t long before even Draco was aware that Hermione’s friends and colleagues were sending desperate patronuses that simply refused to well, go anywhere. 

Granger was a talented witch, that could not be doubted, but was she talented enough to ward a patronus? Was anyone? Draco had rolled that possibility around for about a week, even going so far as to spend time at the Malfoy Mansion, using the library for research. His mother had been pleased. 

She’d be absolutely tickled pink if I told her I was moving back, reclaiming my heritage. I’m never moving back to that sodding place. 

And then one morning he had gone for a walk through the woods by his childhood home, a bit of fresh air to clear his senses after a particularly uncomfortable talk with his mother, when he had chanced upon a fairy ring. A few stones rolled into a circle, a few mushrooms here and there, to most muggles or even wizards the sight would have been unremarkable. Draco, who had been raised with magic permeating his entire life, could not help but notice it.

It was there, standing besides that fairy ring, understanding the importance of not stepping into it, that Draco was struck by a peculiar thought. Where do fairy rings go? He knew they were doors, every pureblood was raised with the stories of banshees and aos si and children disappearing-

Disappearing.

Doors.

Granger.

Fairies.

Fairies?

No, no probably not. But doors. 

Where do fairy rings go?

Draco traced his finger across a black and white newspaper clipping stuck to the wall. “Where do fairy rings go?” he asked aloud.

Crookshanks wandered over to rub against Draco’s legs and purred.  




Chapter Text

Hermione sat up with a gasp that quickly turned into a cry as pain shot through her back.

“Shite,” the witch groaned, reaching a hand to her shoulder. Had she been sleeping in an odd position? “What happen-”

And then, remembrance.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,” she panicked, throwing the blanket off her legs. Suddenly realizing she was wearing pajamas, Hermione’s voice shifted from alarm to confusion, “...what the fuck?”

Amber eyes flicked about what she now recognized was Regulus’ room, the room she had been occupying in Grimmauld Place. “How did I…” the witch trailed off as she spotted her wand placed neatly on the side table near the bed. She snatched it quickly, momentarily eased by its presence.

How did I get here and who the fuck put my pajamas on me? Hermione was more than 100% certain she had not been wearing pajamas during their trip to the Chamber and their fight with the-

“Hydra!” Hermione cried. “The hydra! The blood!” 

Unable to get her stiff legs under her as she scrambled out of bed, Hermione ended up cascading to the floor in a tangle of blankets and hair.

“Oh fuuuck,” she gasped as the leg that had been poisoned with venom now collided with the wood floor, sending ripples of pain up her side. 

There you go, Granger, war-trained Auror hmmm? Can’t even get the fuck out of bed.

With a grunt, Hermione pushed herself onto her hands and knees. Why are my muscles so stiff?

“Hermione!” The door burst open and the lanky form of Remus Lupin immediately filled the frame; his hair a mess atop his head while wearing, Hermione noted, pajamas as well. “Oh Godric, Hermione!”

Remus rushed to her side, pulling the witch from the floor and back into bed with ease. “You’re awake!”

“Yes, yes it seems I am,” Hermione confirmed, pulling her pant leg up her thigh to examine the wrapped wound. “What’s happened, how did I get here, what happened to the hydra, where’s the blood, did someone tell Hagrid, who put my pajamas on me?”

“Alright, slow down a moment, love,” Remus put up his hands, “one rambled question at a time.”

Hermione frowned, dark brow creasing. “What happened after I passed out?”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Remus asked, gingerly sitting beside Hermione on the bed.

“I-I remember,” Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose, wading through her foggy memories. “I remember you yelling ‘murder, snake’ and I remember being hit in the leg with poison and-and I remember telling you to collect the blood and then I woke up in bed.”

Remus nodded, a small smile had crept to his face at the mention of ‘murder snake.’ 

“Okay,” he began, “yes well after you fainted Sirius sent a patronus up to McGonogall, she was able to help us move the debris to unseal the entrance to the Chamber and move you to the hospital wing where Madame Pomfrey fixed you up.”

“This is decidedly not the hospital wing, Remus Lupin.” Hermione folded her arms across her chest.

“Obviously,” Remus chortled. “You were in and out of consciousness for about a day over there-”

“A DAY!” Hermione sputtered. “I-I’ve been out for a whole day?!”

Remus nodded. “Yes, as I was saying you were in the hospital wing for about a day and Madame Pomfrey agreed there wasn’t much left for your recovery than to sleep, so Sirius and I convinced her to let you do that here so we wouldn’t have to worry about being seen by the prying eyes of injured or sick students.”

“Most likely for the best,” Hermione agreed.

“So she knocked you out with some dreamless draught to make sure you did indeed rest and we brought you back, where you’ve been basically dead to the world for a day-”

“Wait, hold up, another day?” Hermione swore. “How much bloody time have I wasted being asleep? That’s two whole days! Do you know what we could’ve accomplished in two days! There’s so much to do, I need to-”

Remus grabbed Hermione, engulfing her petite wrist in his much larger hand, keeping her from leaping out of the bed as was her intent. 

“Remus, I-” The witch looked over at her friend and then stopped, taken off guard by the unexpectedly somber tilt to his head, eyes not meeting her own. “Remus?” she asked cautiously.

“Hermione, I-I’m just,” the wizard sighed and buried his face in his free hand, “I’m just searching for a way to explain to you how very very tired I am of sitting by my friends, bruised and bloodied, waiting anxiously for them to wake up. I can’t tell you how absolutely fucking sick of it I am so if you could, if you could…”

“Oh, Remus,” Hermione scooted herself beside her werewolf, resting her dark mane of curls against his shoulder.

Remus took a sharp breath, “If you could just not jump out of this bed intent on finding your way into the next dangerous situation, if you could just sit here and relax and be awake and alive and unharmed for maybe just twenty-four hours or something like that, I would be so bloody thrilled, I just-I just-”

“Okay,” Hermione cut him off.

“Okay?” Remus snapped his head up, eyes boring into the witch. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” she nodded, “twenty-four hours of relaxation.”

“I didn’t expect you to acquiesce so quickly, I had more speech planned out.”

“Oh, well, go on if you’d like, I’m all ears.”

“No,” Remus chuckled, releasing Hermione’s wrist, “no that’s alright.” The wizard brought his arm around Hermione’s shoulders and pulled her even closer to him. Hermione took a deep breath, soaking up his presence and she suddenly realized- this was her Remus. 

Her Remus.

The other Remus Lupin belonged somewhere else and even though he was her professor and mentor and perhaps like an uncle, he had never really been her Remus. But this wizard sitting next to her, large frame pressed so closely, melodic breathing harmonizing with her own, was her Remus. 

“I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen anymore,” she whispered into his oversized shirt.

“Hmm?” 

“I’ll make sure you don’t have to sit and wait for your friends to wake up, I’ll make sure you don’t have to anxiously watch over them I’ll make sure,” Hermione took another deep breath, “I’ll make sure to end this.”

“Y’know,” Hermione could hear the almost smile in his voice, “I think if anyone can, it’ll be you, love. It’ll be you.”

Hermione wrapped her own arms around Remus’ middle, hugging him fiercely, 

“Remus,” she began seriously.

“Yes?”

“Who the fuck put me in my pajamas?”

Remus gave a guffaw full of unexpected mirth. “Oh don’t fret about your virtue, McGonagall and Pomfrey handled that.”

“Oh, thank Godric.”

Hermione did as she promised and relaxed all day while Remus followed her around like a puppy to ensure her full cooperation. He followed her through the kitchen and fussed over her breakfast, he followed her up to the library where she insisted reading was relaxing, he followed her back down to the kitchen for lunch. Remus did have the good sense not to follow her into the bathroom while she showered, but he continued trailing after her when she went back to the library for more literary leisure. 

Circe, at least Sirius is sleeping after his shift last night, I’m not sure what I’d do if I had both of them nipping at my heels to relax. I am relaxing, goddamnit!

Remus wasn’t convinced.

“Don’t get up!” he chided as he accio’d her tea. 

“Which book do you want?” he demanded when she moved to pull another great tome off a shelf.

“I can carry you to the bathroom,” he insisted.

“Remus!” Hermione finally snapped and then, more controlled, “Remus, there is no need to carry me to the bathroom, I assure you, my leg only aches now, Pomfrey did a marvelous job, I’m right healed.”

Green eyes narrowed, lips drawn into a thin line, Remus regarded the witch discerningly. “I can levitate you if you’d rather.”

 

“Oh for Godric’s sake!” Hermione practically roared, throwing up her hands in disbelief until she saw the smallest smile tug at the corners of Remus’ mouth. “You,” she narrowed her own amber orbs, “you’ve been playing me this whole bloody day, haven’t you, you bloody wolf?”

Remus shrugged noncommittally. “I mean, you should be relaxing.”

“I’m going to throttle you.”

“I’m quite a bit bigger than you.”

“Oh, I’ve throttled bigger wizards than you, Remus Lupin.”

“Have you now?” A silky voice asked from behind her and Hermione turned to see Sirius casually leaning against a bookcase, three glasses and a bottle of Ogden’s in hand.

“Yes,” Hermione harrumphed, placing her hands on her hips, legs crossed in front of her, “I have. Bigger than both of you.”

With a casual grace Hermione suspected was more natural than practiced, Sirius sauntered over and slipped to the floor. He sat beside his friends, a wicked grin on his pale face. “Oh do tell, my little harpy.”

“I think I preferred ‘kitten,’” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“That’s fine, kitten, I’m easy,” Sirius chortled, placing the glasses in front of the trio before filling them liberally. 

“What’s this?” Remus asked, but took a glass all the same.

“A celebration!” Sirius declared, grabbing a glass for himself and placing the last in Hermione’s reluctant hand. 

“Of?” Remus took a sip. “Oh, it’s the good stuff even!”

“Of course it is, we are celebrating our little trio’s first triumph over the dark forces.”

“Seems a bit premature,” Hermione pointed out, eyeing her glass suspiciously; she wasn’t sure she trusted firewhiskey anymore. She’d never been much of a drinker anyway.

No, that’s Ron’s lot. Ugh, let’s not think about that sorry excuse for a ginger twat. 

“Excuse me?” Sirius asked with mock incredulity. “We defeated a hydra, Hermione, a feet that has not been done for hundreds of years! Not since our dear Hercules. I think that our survival allows for at least a certain amount of celebration.”

Hermione opened her mouth to protest and then stopped.

You’re such a bloody buzzkill. Ron’s voice echoed through her head and Hermione sneered into her glass.

“Y’know what, Sirius? You’re right.” Hermione tipped her head back and let the fiery liquid cascade down her throat before erupting into a sudden fit of coughing. “Oh gods, it’s awful!”

It took both wizards a moment to compose themselves enough to speak. Sirius was still fighting back tremors of laughter but managed to get out, “You’re supposed to sip, Hermione, not chug.”

Hermione glared. “Well you didn’t mentioned that.”

Sirius sighed, “Godric, you’ve never masturbated-”

“Oh fuck you, Sirius Black!” 

“-and now we see that you’ve never had a drink either? Goodness, what a sheltered life.” Sirius teased, grey eyes sparkling.

“I’ve had a drink before!” The witch defended herself haughtily. “I just don’t often have firewhisky.”

Because when I do Drunk Hermione comes out and no one needs to see Drunk Hermione ever again. 

“Well then, love,” Remus refilled Hermione’s glass, “no time like the present to grow accustomed.”

The wizards exchanged mischievous looks and Hermione briefly wondered if drinking in the company of two Marauders was wise and then she thought,

Fuck it. And took another drink. This time a much smaller drink. Cheers to you, Drunk Hermione.  

“That’s better!” Remus praised, taking another sip himself.  

“I’m a quick study.” 

Remus laughed and the sound was so pleasing Hermione couldn’t quite discern if it was his merriment or the firewhiskey that was beginning to warm her.

Sirius leaned in, “So, my little harpy kitten,” Hermione snorted at that, “pray tell who have you throttled that is apparently so much larger than our dear Moony here?”

Hermione considered for a moment and then smiled, “The name won’t mean anything to you.”

“So? Tell us anyway.” Remus insisted.

“Alright, Viktor Krum.”

“You’re right,” Sirius frowned, “it means nothing. But how big was the brute?”

“Actually, more of a will be rather than a was , I suppose,” Hermione mused. “Oh, but he wasn’t a brute, he was a Bulgarian Quidditch player. Quite a polite one if I’m being honest.”

“Bulgarian!” Remus nudged her with his foot. “Got a taste for the continent do you?”

“Ha! Hardly! He was my first, I guess you could say boyfriend,” the witch admitted, casting her eyes down to the wooden floor for a moment lost in the youthful memories of their brief little romance. She hadn’t thought about, let alone spoken of, Viktor Krum in years.

Should’ve kept in touch after the war, he was a good friend.

“Aaaaand you throttled him?” Sirius poured himself another glass. “You’re brutal, kitten. Dating you sounds dangerous.”

“Well, he deserved it!” Hermione countered. “We had,” she shrugged, “a disagreement on the best transfiguration texts.”

Sirius spit his drink. “Are you mad? Oh my gods!” he stammered between laughs. “Of course you throttled your boyfriend over a disagreement on books! I’m not shocked at all, but the poor bloke,” Sirius shook his head with dramatic sorrow, “did he even stand a chance?”

“Oh shut up,” Hermione lightly punched the wizard in the arm, “he was like twice my size, he was fine, I seem to remember a lot of laughter involved on his end. I hardly think it even bothered him.”

“He was probably into that sort of thing,” Remus mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“Actually, I have it on good authority that he was,” Hermione grinned wickedly. Imagining that look Viktor would give her if she punched him hard enough gave her a euphoric sense of satisfaction. Or maybe it was the alcohol?

Good snogger as well.

“MINX!” Sirius declared, pointing an accusatory finger towards Hermione who giggled fitfully. “And here we were thinking you’re so pure!”

“I am pure!” Hermione countered. “Pure as the driven snow!” But even she was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

“Alright, alright, I have the most brilliant idea,” Sirius leaned in conspiratorially, “I think it’s time for a little muggle game of truth or truth.”

“I believe it’s truth or dare, Pads,” Remus corrected, but Sirius waved him off.

“I’m not so cruel, our dear Hermione is in no physical condition for a round of Marauder truth or dare, but truth or truth, now that she is fully capable of.”

“Truth or truth is just, well, truth,” Hermione pointed out. “The premise of truth or dare gives a person options if they don’t want to answer a question, this game would give us no options.”

“Exactly!” Sirius declared with triumph. “You’ll simply have to answer whatever questions I ask.”

“And vice versa!” Hermione insisted, voice laced with firewhiskey boldness.

Sirius nodded his agreement, “And vice versa.”

“Maybe we should lay down a few rules,” Hermione suggested, “like questions must be-”

“Of a personal nature!” Sirius interjected. “Good idea, Hermione, we should make this very personal.”

“That’s not what I was going to-”

“Too late, that’s the rule!” Sirius turned to Remus, “You in, Moony?”

“This won’t end well,” Remus sighed under his breath, “but I’m in.”

“Of course you are,” Sirius laughed. “Who’s going first? I volunteer-”

“Me! I’m going first!” Hermione turned to Remus, a question that had been on her mind for awhile swimming to the surface. “What’s the deal with you and Gideon?”

Remus choked, his face growing red. “Pass.”

“No passing!” Hermione pushed the book that had remained balanced on her knees to the side and scooted closer to the werewolf. “You and Gideon, spill. You two have the most bizarre vibe going on every time you’re together.”

“We do not!” Remus glared, his eyes shifting to yellow so briefly Hermione didn’t notice.

“Liar,” Sirius took a drink, “you agreed to the game, truth or truth, no lies.”

Remus tightened the grip on his glass, shoulders tense. Sober Hermione would’ve given up at this point, noting her friend’s obvious discomfort, but Tipsy Hermione was tenacious and Drunk Hermione was ruthless.

The witch leaned forward, placing both her hands on Remus’ knees. “Tell me your secrets little wolf.”

Remus cocked a brow at that.

Oh crap, said that out loud.

But Hermione did not waver, she stared into his now red face until,

“Fiiiiine, we dated and it did not end well,” Remus admitted, looking down.

“I didn’t realize you batted for the other team, Remus,” Hermione leaned back thoughtfully, “I wonder if the Remus from my timeline was gay as well. Or no, he couldn’t be, because of Dora-”

“I bat for whichever team I choose,” Remus proclaimed cheekily.

Sirius frowned. “What do bats have to do with sexual preferences?”

Hermione’s face lit up. “I have my next question!”

“No!” Sirius interjected, “My turn.”

Hermione pouted, “Alright, I’ll save it for the next round.”

“Yes, you will, because my question is for you , Hermione.”

Hermione took a sip. “Shoot.”

“Why are you sometimes such a raging bitch to me?” Sirius asked with no preamble. 

Hermione stiffened, Am I a raging bitch? A bitch maybe. But a raging bitch?

I meeeean, yea sometimes. 

“Fuck, Pads, maybe that shouldn’t have been your first question straight out the gate,” Remus criticised, both eyebrows now raised in disbelief. “You could've reworded it at least.”

“Fair point,” Sirius said more to himself than his companions. “Sorry, Hermione, that was a little bit much, let’s do a different-”

“No, I’ll answer, I agreed to the terms.” Hermione began, words suddenly ready to pour out. “Y’know I hadn’t given it much thought, until just this moment and now I’m giving it too much thought perhaps, but honestly the you from my timeline was much older than me and he was honestly a bit of a jackass. It wasn’t entirely his fault, spent twelve or so years in Azkaban which would mess with even the most pleasant of wizards, but y’know he was a bit mad and a bit reckless and we disagreed and when we disagreed he wasn’t exactly kind . He was a good man who loved Harry, but-but I wouldn’t have exactly called him my friend.”

Sirius stared at the witch, grey eyes unreadable.

Oh, damnit, Granger, we said too much, you and your big mouth always have to just ramble on and on-

“Azakaban? Well, that was sobering,” Sirius said quietly, “welp, better drink more!”

He poured everyone another round.

“Your turn, Moony!”

Remus took his refilled glass. “My question is also for Hermione.”

Hermione shook her head, curls bouncing. “No fair! That’s two in a row for me!”

Sirius rubbed his chin dramatically. “No rules forbid it.”

“I move to add such a rule.” 

“Motion denied, Remus ask away.”

“Thank you, good Sir Pads.”

“Of course, good Sir Moony.”

“You two are ridiculous.”

“My question is!” Remus pointed a finger in the air. “Name every person you’ve ever kissed.”

Hermione laughed. “That’s not a question, that’s a request.”

“Fine, will you name every person you’ve ever kissed?” Remus rephrased.

“No, I won’t.” Hermione giggled. “There, answered your question.”

“You know what I mean, little witch,” Remus reached out and gently tugged a curl.

“Okay okay fine, I’ll answer even if you did phrase your question improperly.” 

“How good of you, m’lady.” Remus mock bowed at the hip.

“Yes, well, I’m incredibly kind like that,” Hermione winked.

Circe, did we just wink. Pull it together, Granger.

“Right well,” the witch straightened, a touch of awkwardness creeping into her motions. Prepare for the mocking, Granger. “Two,” she blurted, “I-I’ve kissed two people-ah wizards, I’ve kissed two wizards.”

Three. HARRY DOESN’T COUNT. 

“No shame in that number,” Sirius placed a reassuring hand on Hermione’s shoulder and the witch fought the urge to swat it away, though more in playfulness than actual annoyance. “Who are they? Obviously this Bulgarian fellow and then…?”

“I’d assume her ex-fiance,” Remus suggested and Hermione suddenly deeply regretted ever mentioning Ron.

“Oh, I just figured out all of my forthcoming questions!” Sirius declared happily raising his glass.

“Ugh!” Hermione buried her face in her hands. “No! That’s not fair, you two are going to gang up on me!”

“Yes,” the wizards said in tandem.

“Ugh!” 

And so they continued into the evening and finally the night, until many an embarrassing story had been told and the bottle of Ogden’s was all but empty. After Hermione had finished describing her first and very disastrous kiss with Viktor Krum, the witch wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and waved her hands in the air.

“Alright, alright!” She swayed back and forth, her face warm from the firewhiskey. “My turn! And my question, is for you Sirius Black.” Hermione attempted to level the wizard in question with a menacing stare but the effects of the alcohol rendered what normally would have been menacing into just plain ridiculous and Sirius burst out into laughter.

“Oh my gods, what’s wrong with your face?” Sirius leaned over and ran a hand down the side of Hermione’s face and despite the intoxication, Hermione did not miss the heat that blossomed from his touch and traveled down her body.

Oooooh what the fuck was that, Granger? Whaaaaat the fuuuuuuck we’re druuuuunk. 

“I’m drunk,” the witch giggled uncontrollably.

“Sloppily so,” Remus added filling their glasses with the last of the firewhiskey.

“Indeed! Alright,” Hermione steadied herself, absently placing a hand on Sirius’ knee before continuing, “my dear Sirius-”

“Oh, dear Sirius, I quite like the sound of that.” Sirius grinned.

“-my question is whyyyy do the witches like you so very much?”

“Oh Godric, Hermione, think of his ego,” Remus groaned, throwing his head back in exasperation.

Sirius’ face lit up with absolute pleasure. “You think they like me so very much, hmm?” he asked, scooting a bit closer to the witch.

“Well they must!” Hermione shifted to sit on her knees. “You bring witches over all the time, they apparently must love you!”

“His egooooo!” Remus ran both his hands down the sides of his face. “Hermione what have you done?”

“Remus, this is for science!” Hermione insisted. “Tell me, Sirius, what is it you do?”

“Oh I’ll tell you what I do , kitten,” Sirius purred.

“Is it your sexual prowess? Your confidence? Good looks? Do you find desperate women?”

“Hey now, that was below the belt.”

“I mean, what is it!” Hermione had been waving her hand in the air and now brought it to rest atop her curls. “How do you get so many women to bed you? I-I can’t even get the man who was supposed to marry me to tell me my eyeshadow looks nice, let alone pull blokes at the bar.”

“Oh, love,” it was Remus this time, “you would have no trouble pulling blokes, trust me on this one.”

“But I can’t!” Hermione insisted. “Wizards don’t look twice at me, nor witches, wipe that smirk off your face, Sirius! I-I mean I trryyyy to flirt, I do! Ginny and Luna took me out after Ron broke things off and they both got hit on and Ginny’s married ! But me! I couldn’t get a wizard to even look at me. Is it my hair?”

Oh pull it the fuck together, Granger, you’re fucking rambling, oh gods what a fucking embarrassment. 

“I just, I mean, I just,” Hermione stammered, spiraling now, “I just want to know why witches like you, what is it you’ve got and why-why don’t I have it? Why won’t anyone...like...me?”

Well, this is fucking depressing. 

It wasn’t until those words left Hermione’s mouth that the witch fully came to terms with the fact that she had even been feeling them, deep down in her core. She felt them.

Why won’t anyone like me?

The awkward pity that had settled onto the faces of the wizards around her made Hermione’s stomach churn and the witch stood up quickly, too quickly, and nearly fell back down in the process. 

“Well! I think that I have made a big enough fool of myself,” Hermione pulled at the bottom of her jumper, fiddling with a loose string, “so I’ll be headed off to uh- to bed now, where I sleep, y’know, over there,” she began backing up, “in the room on the next floor, so I’ll be going now.”

“Hermione,” Remus made like he was about to get up.

“Right! Off to bed!” Hermione turned and attempted to run, but couldn’t really get her legs to cooperate- damn alcohol!- and ended up doing some sort of odd shuffle out of the library which was still quick enough that she didn’t hear Remus lean over and say to Sirius,

“Well, you going to chase after her or what?”

Oh god, oh god, I’m a fucking idiot, I’m the biggest idiot this side of the Atlantic. Why would I ask that? Why would I say all that? Why am I so unlikeable? Big fat drunken tears welled at the corner of Hermione’s eyes. Oh fuck, stop thinking about Ron’s stupid face! The witch grabbed her hair and pulled uncomfortably. That stupid piece of shite awful fiance, I hate him, I hate him, I hate-

“Hermione!” She felt a tug at her jumper and swung around to see Sirius had caught up to her. “Oh, kitten,” he whispered wiping her cheek with his thumb, hand suddenly cupped around her face. “Why are you crying, love?”

“Because-because-” Hermione stammered, sucking in a deep breath to swallow the tears back down her throat. It wasn’t working. “Because you’re right! And I’m drunk! And I am a raging bitch!” Sirius started to apologize but Hermione cut him off, “I’m caustic and judgmental and I push away everyone and of course Ron broke things off, look at me I’m-I’m-”

“Fascinatingly beautiful.”

Hermione froze and for a moment thought maybe he was being honest, maybe he meant that, but why would he mean that? Why would he?

 And then, she growled, “And now you’re mocking me? I’m right here baring my soul, digging deep into myself and you’re mocking me? That’s low even for you-”

“Shut up, you stupid witch,” Sirius interrupted her, placing his free hand on the other side of Hermione’s face. “Why would I be mocking you right now? Don’t you think I’m telling the truth?”

“Well, I-I… no. I don’t…”

“Stupid witch,” Sirius sighed, pushing a few unruly curls out of Hermione’s face, “you are beautiful and let me just tell you, your ex-fiance sounds like a right piece of shite and I would absolutely love to just punch him right in the face because who could’ve ever let you go once they had you?”

Hermione’s heart was pounding in her chest and she couldn’t quite tell what was making her knees so very weak.

Firewhiskey, obviously it’s the firewhiskey…

Hermione, I-” Sirius’s eyes moved down to Hermione’s lips, glazing over for a moment, “I really want to kiss you right now,” he chuckled a little manically, “but, I know, because this is-this wouldn’t be right, we’re drunk, we’re both drunk, but I just want you to know that I-I-”

“You?” Hermione whispered, surprised she could even talk at this point. Sirius’ face was wearing an expression the witch hadn’t seen before, it didn’t even resemble the casually insufferable arrogance she’d come to associate with the wizard. In fact, it looked altogether vulnerable. 

“I think-” Sirius dropped his hands suddenly stuffing them into the pockets of his trousers, “I think you should get some rest.”

“O-oh,” Hermione stammered, taking a step back as the bubble around them burst. “Yes well- well I suppose you’re right, I suppose I should.”

Sirius took a few steps back, smiling weakly. “Good night, kitten.”

“Night, Sirius,” Hermione breathed before turning and shuffling back to her room. 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning Hermione remembered with biting clarity why she had never enjoyed drinking. Hangovers were Satan’s work. Fortunately, one thing the wizarding world certainly had over the muggle was the pepper up potion. It took her about an hour after crawling out of bed- literally crawling-to find all the ingredients and then concoct the brew, but she would not have been able to function that day without it. 

This is the second time I’ve gotten too drunk since arriving, maybe I need to just stay away from alcohol. Hermione sighed, burying her face in her hands, elbows resting on the rustic kitchen table. 

I really want to kiss you right now.” 

Hermione’s stomach churned, but she couldn’t blame it on the firewhiskey. 

Why the fuck would he say that? Hermione had been ruminating on that bizarre conversation with Sirius all morning. Why would he want to kiss me?

Because he was drunk, Granger. What’s the term? Drunk goggles? Yes, yes drunk goggles. He was wearing drunk goggles. 

What’s the other saying? Drunk man, sober thoughts?

“Ugh!” Hermione slammed both her hands on the table and stood up suddenly. Remus, who had been sitting across from her, looked up from his breakfast quizzically. 

“I-” Hermione began, not sure how to explain her behavior even to herself, “I’m going to the library!”

“Okay,” Remus leaned back in his chair, “at least that’s a little more normal, you’ve been acting weird all morning.”

“Weird? Who’s weird? I’m certainly not weird.”

Remus stared.

Hermione panicked. “You’re weird!”

“Who’s weird?” Sirius asked from the door, as if having materialized from thin air.

“Ah!” Hermione squeaked.

Where did he come from!

Ah, what? Wh-who, I mean, no one,” Hermione swallowed hard, willing the color to leave her cheeks, “no one’s weird.”

Sirius raised an ebony eyebrow. “Awfully jumpy this morning, kitten,” the wizard noted, heading towards the table. 

“She brewed a pepper up, evidently an exceptionally potent pepper up,” Remus informed him before turning his attention back to his breakfast.

Everything I brew is exceptionally potent,” Hermione boasted, her nerves calmed by the subject change. “Though a complete and total arse, I was in fact taught by one of the most gifted potion masters ever to grace the halls of Hogwarts; his recipes are second to none.”

“That so?” Sirius asked, sliding into a chair beside Remus. “Couldn’t have been our dear Slughorn then, the old git. Who taught at Hogwarts the years you attended?”

“Oh, actually,” Hermione began thoughtfully, “he was uh-hmm...”

Hermione had been meaning to find the right time to bring up Snape; thus far no one had mentioned him and if he was a spy for the Order, his involvement wasn’t a detail McGonagall had made her privy to. Her interest had been piqued when Sirius had failed to name Snape as one of the known Death Eaters that morning in this very kitchen after her drinking adventure with the Prewett twins - I really can’t go making a habit of this-  but Snape simply had yet to come up.

“Y’know, that doesn’t really matter actually,” Hermione said dismissively, having decided maybe this wasn’t the best time to walk into the landmine that was bringing up Severus Snape to Sirius Black. 

Or at least for the other Sirius it would’ve been a landmine. 

In fact, Hermione decided it wasn’t the best time to bring up anything to Sirius Black. His very presence was making her nauseated. 

“I’m off to the library,” she said gathering her mug and half-eaten toast.

“As I said,” Remus teased, “finally some normal behavior.”

“Shut it, you,” Hermione stuck her tongue out. “I’ve got research to do.”

“I’ll follow you there,” Sirius said, pushing himself up.

Hermione stiffened, “What? Why?”

My sanctuary! Not my sanctuary!

“I’ve actually got a spot of research to do myself,” Sirius shrugged.

Remus took a very long drink from his glass of water, but did not take his eyes off the scene unfolding before him.

“You hate the library,” Hermione accused almost desperately. 

Sirius snorted. “I’m not the biggest fan, no, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the merits when necessary.”

“What research do you have to do?” Hermione demanded. Oh gods, why is he doing this? Haven't we made big enough fools of ourselves? Can’t we just leave each other alone?

“It is my family’s library, y’know,” Sirius pointed out, “I’m allowed to go up there whenever I want. But if you must know, it’s for a case I’m working.”

“A case? What case?” Stall, Granger! Stall him and then, then- just run! Run to the library and shut the door!

Hermione had the sense, even hungover, to know that wasn’t actually an option.

“Confidential information, kitten, you know proper Auror procedure and all. C’mon,” Sirius linked his arm with Hermione’s and steered her through the door, “we can head up together.” 

Crappity crap crap. 

Despite Hermione’s fears, it appeared Sirius was being truthful and did have research to do. They’d barely spoken to each other in the last hour since making their way to the Black Family Library, which made things all the more awkward, or at least it did in Hermione’s mind.

What is he thinking? Why isn’t he talking? What book is he reading? Did he just look at me? Why is he looking at me? Why am I looking at him? Stop looking at him, Granger! Oh gods he smiled at me, why is he smiling at me? Don’t smile back! Glare! Glare back!

Why am I glaring at my friend? Pull yourself together, Granger. 

But that was just the problem then, wasn’t it? Sirius, despite Hermione’s initial resistance, had become her friend and seeing as currently she had a total of two friends, the witch wasn’t so keen on losing either of them. And that’s what happened when you kissed your friends- you lost them. Kisses led to feelings. Feelings led to romantic involvements and romantic involvements, inevitably, came to an end. 

And then, that was it. No more friend. 

Hermione never had many friends, she knew she could be a difficult pill to swallow, but the friends she had were as sacred to her as any ancient tome. Harry was her friend. Ginny was her friend. Luna was her friend. Neville was her friend. Seamus was her partner, maybe her friend? She’d saved his life enough times, she reckoned she’d earned the ‘friend’ title. 

But they weren’t here. Here she had two friends. Sirius and Remus. End of list. And if things became strained between her and Sirius well then, that list would become less a list and more of just a name. If things became strained between her and Sirius, beyond what Hermione considered mostly good natured rows, she was one step closer to being alone and she wasn’t sure she could handle alone right now. She had tried alone. It didn’t work. 

Hermione came as a set.

Growing up it had been Mom, Dad, Hermione.

Then it was Harry, Ron, Hermione.

Now it was Sirius, Remus, Hermione.

If she lost Sirius, would Remus go along with him? And then she would be alone. Truly, wholly alone. If Sirius pulled away that would be it.

Problem was, Sirius didn’t seem to be pulling away. 

Yet. We still have time to mess everything up. 

Hermione eyed the wizard, who was leaning against a bookshelf by the fireplace, suspiciously from over the top of her book. He was, she had to admit, unapologetically handsome. His skin was porcelain- not in the way of someone who’s sick, but like the crisp pages of a new book; smooth and unmarked. Unlike Hermione’s body that was full of scars and marks, profanities carved with cursed blades. When he pushed a pale hand through his hair, the ebony locks fell neatly like they’d been charmed into place. Unlike Hermione’s wild mane that refused to be tamed by even the most robust of spells. Sirius had edges where Hermione had curves, he was elegant where Hermione was unrefined, polished where she was coarse, confident where she was doubtful.  

Hermione Granger’s fingernails were stained with ink, her clothes a mess of wrinkles, her hands calloused, her eyebrows unplucked, her hair uncontrollable. 

Hermione Granger was not the kind of witch Sirius Black wanted to kiss.

He was drunk last night. So drunk. He must’ve been unimaginably drunk. Right? Right. He was drunk! He probably doesn’t even remember- 

THAT’S IT! HE DOESN’T REMEMBER. That’s why he’s been acting so normal, for him everything is normal! Everything is just-

“Like what you see, kitten?” Sirius purred, not looking up.

“What- I’m not, you’re not-I’m just,” Hermione bit down hard on her cheek to get herself to shut up. “What are you talking about?”

“The book, love, you’ve been staring at that page for the last ten minutes, are you going to share what’s so interesting?” he asked, idly turning the page of the book he’d been leafing through.

Oh crappity crap crap. What am I reading again? Hermione glanced down. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Right.

Hermione had been searching for Scamander's thoughts on hydras, but apparently the magizoologist hadn’t come across any in his travels. Which was odd; it seemed hydras were even more rare than basilisks, begging the question; how did Salazar Slytherin find one to begin with?

Shame we had to kill it, Hermione frowned. 

“I’m just looking for any information on hydra blood,” Hermione informed him, shutting the book, “but so far no one seems to know anything. The only references I can find to hydras at all are in writings on the Twelve Labours of Hercules, but even that’s all second hand.” 

Sirius placed his book back on a shelf and meandered over to the sofa Hermione was curled up in.

 “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that,” the wizard plopped himself beside her, soldily in her space but not so close that they were touching, arm casually sung over the back of the sofa, “why did you have us collect the blood?”

“Last ditch hunch, really,” Hermione responded, trying to inconspicuously squeeze herself as far into the corner and away from Sirius’ warm body as she could.

Don’t you come over here and sit next to me, Black!

“Care to explain?” Sirius asked.

At least this is a neutral topic. He hasn’t said something like, ‘Sorry about last night, Hermione, you know of course I’d never want to kiss you, that would be so weird and gross.’

“Well,” Hermione began, “one of the special things about the basilisk, I explained before, is that their venom can destroy horcruxes, it’s one of the few things known to do so. I’m hopeful that maybe a hydra’s blood can do the same thing.”

“Why the blood, why not it’s potent as fuck acid spit?”

“Good point, but when Hercules fought the Lernaean Hydra, he kept some of the blood and dipped his arrows in it. He used those arrows to kill some other chaps in his remaining trials. I was hoping I’d be able to find more information on hydras but so far the texts have been surprisingly scant. Like I said, the only thing I can find is information about Hercules’s Second Trial, but none of it is the original material anyway.”

“So that hydra was a rare beasty indeed.”

“Seems so, yes.”

Sirius sighed. “Shame we had to kill it then.”

Hermione glanced over at the wizard, she hadn’t been expecting any sort of remorse. “Yes,” she said softly, “it was.”

“Right so,” Sirius clapped his hands together, “when’re we going to destroy this horcrux, then?”

“I-I’m not so sure, honestly,” Hermione shifted uncomfortably, “I wanted to have some sort of background information before I tried, but it seems I might just have to go straight from hypothesis to experiment and just see what happens.”

“We.” 

“Hmm?” Hermione furrowed her brow.

We will have to go straight from hypothesis to experiment,” Sirius corrected her, “we’re in this together, kitten, you, me and lil’ Moony down there.”

“Yes, well,” Hermione wasn’t much in the mood for an argument, “what are you looking for?” she asked, changing the subject. “Anything I can help with?”

Sirius sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, his face clouding for a moment.

“Actually, maybe there is,” he replied slowly, “could I ask you something? I’m trying to-to get into someone’s head- a Death Eater- and I’m trying to figure out what she’s going to do next. Maybe if you could tell me what happened to her in your world, the trajectory she’s on, maybe that will make things a little bit clearer.”

Hermione nodded. “I can certainly try, who’s the Death Eater?

“My cousin, Bellatrix Black or-or Lestrange, maybe you’d know her as Bellatrix Lestrange.”

Hermione’s body became very still, like when a rabbit catches the scent of a fox, the type of stillness only the hunted are capable of. Slowly and deliberately, Hermione placed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on the small table beside the sofa, before turning her body towards Sirius.

Breath even.

Pulse slow.

Jaw set.

“What,” she began, her voice suddenly steeled, “would you like to know about Bellatrix?”

Hermione could see that Sirius noticed the change in her instantly, but this reaction was a practiced and calculated means of emotional self-preservation. It was Hermione’s only means of emotional self-preservation. 

Sirius frowned, cocking his head to the side discerningly. “Everything alright?” he asked with obvious worry.

“Mmhmm,” Hermione nodded. “Peachy keen. Talk to me about Bellatrix.”

Sirius’ frown deepened, but he continued, “I just want to know what happens to her where you’re from, was she a Death Eater? What did she do- what were her crimes, if any? I suppose I’m working under the assumption that Bella is the same or even-even that she exists at all-”

“She did,” Hermione cut in, “exist that is.”

“Did?”

“Yes. In my world, in my time, she’s dead.”

“Oh well that’s uh- good, I guess?”

Hermione nodded. “It is.”

Sirius sighed rubbing his forehead. “I take it she was batshit crazy in your world as well then?”

A hollow chuckle escaped from Hermione. “Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. Batshit crazy.” The witch took a deep breath. “She was Bellatrix Lestrange in my time as well. She was a Death Eater, one of his favorites, his most loyal soldier. After Voldemort was defeated the first time, she was arrested for torturing Alice and Frank Longbottom to madness and sent to Azkaban-”

“Godric,” Sirius ran a hand through his hair, “I was kind of hoping maybe in your world they’d gotten a happier ending.”

“No,” Hermione shook her head, ”no the Longbottoms are profoundly unlucky in both our timelines it seems.”

“But Bella was captured and sent to rot? At least there’s a spot of justice.”

Hermione shrugged. “Cold comfort that it was for Neville. And then when Voldemort came back he freed her and it’s my understanding that Azkaban took any semblance of humanity she had and twisted it into utter derangement. By the time I met her I’m not even sure you could call her human.”

A hand around her throat. Nails sharp as talons scraping her skin. The metallic tang of fresh blood in her mouth. The terrifying lilt to her voice when she whispered a crucio.

Hermione dug her own nails into her arm.

Breath even.

Pulse slow.

Jaw set.

A mantra for survival. 

“She wasn’t always this way, y’know,”  Hermione’s attention snapped back to Sirius’ soft voice, “growing up she was an absolute bitch but-but she wasn’t cruel, th-that came later after Andromeda was disowned and Cissy married Malfoy and she married Lestrange. They brought this out in her. Or maybe,” Sirius sighed, “maybe she was always like this and I was too busy, too wrapped in myself to notice. Godric knows I didn’t notice Regulus drowning in those Slytherin circles. Maybe Lestrange and Voldemort just finally gave her an outlet. I don’t know, my family is so fucked up,” Sirius was rambling now, “Andy is the only one who’s not awful but the rest of them, the Ancient and Noble House of Black is full arseholes and villains. They’ve done such terrible things, Hermione, my heritage, my ancestors, my family, my fucked up legacy. I-I just...”

Hermione had her arms wrapped around Sirius before she even knew what she was doing.  

“Oh Sirius,” she said into his hair, “you are so much more than your family’s legacy.”

“I know, I know,” Sirius breathed, burying his face into Hermione’s shoulder. “I know I am. It’s just- gods they’re all awful,” he laughed, “they’re just awful. I hate that I even have to be thinking about Bellatrix right now, but when she’s in Azkaban it’ll be worth it.”

Hermione nodded, pulling away from Sirius, but the wizard held tight. She turned her face to look up into his and her breath hitched. 

Breath even.

But she wasn’t breathing.

Pulse slow.

But her heart was attempting to pound its way through her ribcage.

Jaw set.

But how was she to expect herself to focus on anything except for the subtle curves of Sirius’ lips, the planes of his face, the feel of his hands on her waist?

How could she breathe when he was looking at her like this? No one had ever looked at her like this. Not Ron, not Viktor, no one had ever looked at Hermione like they weren’t looking at her at all. Like they were seeing her.

“S-Sirius,” she whispered, amber eyes locked with grey. 

“When I kiss you for the first time, little witch,” his voice was low and husky and Hermione’s insides twisted at the sound of it, “you are going to want to kiss me, you’re not going to hesitate, you’re going to be ready and I am not going to kiss you until then.”

Hermione’s mouth was dry, her limbs on fire, her face flushed. 

“But,” he continued, “I am going to kiss you, Hermione.” When did he learn to say her name like that? With a voice so full of power.

This is why they like him, Hermione thought to herself somehow through the murky cloud of her mind. Because when he looks at them he makes them believe he wants them, only them.  

Son of a bitch. 

“When you’re ready,” Sirius whispered, releasing the hold he had on her waist and moving away.

“When I’m-when I’m ready?” Hermione stuttered.

“When you’re ready,” he nodded.

“HEY WE HAVE A FLOO-” Remus burst through the library door and then stopped, staring at the two of them on the sofa. His green eyes narrowed a fraction. “I’ve interrupted something,” he said matter-of-factly.

“No-no!” Hermione jumped up, hands outstretched. “Nope! Nothing! Just-uh, just research!” Hermione looked down at Sirius pleadingly.

“So much research,” the wizard smirked.

Aaaaaand he’s back. 

Hermione shot Sirius a wicked glare which he ignored. 

“Right,” Remus drew out the word a bit, “well, Minerva’s got us on a floo call downstairs, so you two need to wrap up your ‘ research’ -”

“Don’t put ‘research’ in quotes!” Hermione demanded indignantly. 

“-and follow me downstairs. She’s sending Gideon and Fabian over so they’ll be here soon.”

“Why?” Sirius asked, getting up from the sofa.

“No clue,” Remus said over his shoulder, “come downstairs and hear for yourself.”

Chapter Text

“Fabian and Gideon are here,” Sirius announced when the trio had made their way downstairs, “I can feel them requesting access through the wards.”

Interesting bit of magic, that. 

“Excellent,” McGonagall’s green floating head spoke from the fireplace, “I’ll begin when you’re all here.”

A moment later the front door creaked open. 

“Honey, we’re home!” Hermione wasn’t completely sure whose voice that was, but based on her few experiences with the Prewett twins she assumed it was Fabian. 

The witch scowled at the memories of her last encounter with that particular twin. She wasn’t sure she trusted him and she had little doubt that he did not trust her. 

I mean, honestly, that's probably a mark of good sense, I’d have reservations about trusting me as well all things considered. 

The twins entered the front room and Hermione noted the small smile Gideon hesitantly flashed at Remus. Instinctively the witch moved closer to her friend, linking arms with him. During their rousing game of truth or truth the night before, Remus hadn’t admitted why things had ended poorly with him and Gideon, but Hermione didn’t need those details; knowing Gideon had hurt Remus was enough.

Stay away from my werewolf, you ginger bastard. 

Gideon looked down and moved to stand beside his brother, the five of them making a half moon around the fireplace. Hermione stood in the middle, Remus and Sirius to one side of her and Fabian then Gideon on the other.  

“Right, well,” Fabian clapped his hands together, “what’s this all about then?”

“Thank you for coming over on such short notice,” McGonagall began,”I didn’t want to waste time repeating myself. I’ve received information that indicates the item Gideon and Fabian have been tracking is being moved from the manor tonight.”

The twins exchanged glances. 

“Classic stake-out then, eh?” Fabian nodded. “We’re on it. Gideon and I will-”

“Yes, you will be on it,” Minerva’s green head nodded in the flames, “all four of you.”

“Four?” Gideon asked slowly, holding up as many fingers.

“Minerva,” Fabian frowned, “Gideon and I can handle this.”

“My decision has nothing to do with my confidence in your capabilities, gentlemen, rest assured I am very much aware of how suited for the task you are, but this is simply too important an opportunity to send just the two of you.”

“Wait,” Sirius cut in, looking around the green firelit faces, “Minerva, there’s five of us.”

“Astute observation, Mister Black,” McGonagall agreed, “ you won’t be going.”

“Thank the gods for small miracles,” Fabian muttered to himself so low Hermione barey heard him.

“What! Minerva, you can’t be serious?” Sirius almost growled. “If it’s so important why just send the four of them? Why not me as well?”

“I’m sorry, Sirius,” McGonagall apologized, “but you are working tonight and you cannot be spared from your Auror duties. Especially with Gideon and Fabian on an Order mission, Kingsley will need you.”

“But, Minerva, I-”

“I’m sorry, Sirius, but this is not up for debate,” McGonagall’s tone brokered no further argument. The wizard balled his fists and Hemrione could tell he was struggling to keep himself in check.  

The younger witch frowned, but she trusted McGonagall, if Sirius was needed elsewhere then he was needed elsewhere. 

“So Sirius you will go to work as normal,” McGonagall continued, “and the rest of you will be watching the manor. The information I obtained-”

From who? Hermione wondered, the imagine of a dour and hook nosed wizard crossing her mind. 

“- stated that it is to be either Corban Yaxley or Antonin Dolohov who comes to retrieve the item.”

Hermione’s torso burned at the sound of that name .

Dolohov. 

The witch tightened her grip on Remus’ arm. The werewolf looked down at her, confused. Hermione shook her head.

“Nothing,” she mouthed, attempting to turn her attention back to McGonagall.

Calm down, Granger, this Dolohov hasn’t maimed you or killed Remus. Hermione bit down on the inside of her cheek. But he’s done other things deserving of a trip to Azkaban no doubt. 

Hermione could hear the sound of her feet slamming against the polished Ministry floor. The feel of the silencio slip past her fingers and through her wand. The searing pain of Dolohov’s unnamed curse as it tore through her. 

Hermione could see Professor Lupin’s body on the broken ground of Hogwarts- pale and unmoving. The father Teddy would never know. The friend they all had lost.

I’m going to end you, Antonin Dolohov. 

“That’s why I need the four of you to intercept them after they’ve left Malfoy Manor,” McGonagall’s voice snapped Hermione back to the present, “If we don’t get the item tonight, rumor is they’ll be taking it out of the country. You must retrieve that book.”

The five of them nodded.

“We’re on it, Minerva,” Fabian confirmed, all traces of his usual convivial lilt gone. 

After McGonagall ended the call, a silence descended upon the four wizards and witch. Hermione felt Remus shift uncomfortably beside her.

“Well,” he said stiffly, “seeing as this is not my area of expertise, would one of the aurors in the room tell me exactly what the plan is?”

Gideon glanced down at his watch. “Sunset’s not for awhile, I doubt they’ll make any moves before then.”

“Yes,” Hermione agreed, “they do prefer the cover of darkness.”

“I can’t bloody believe I’m not going with you,” Sirius grumbled, arms folded stubbornly across his chest. “What time did you say it was, Gideon?”

“About half past noon,” Gideon responded.

“Right, what time should we reconvene then?” Hermione asked before Sirius had a chance to complain further. “Seven? I’m still in my pajamas and we’ve got to prepare.” Hermione motioned to her and Remus. 

The twins nodded. 

“That should give us plenty of time to get there and settle in before they make any moves,” Gideon acknowledged. 

The Prewetts agreed to return to Grimmauld Place later that evening, after which the four of them would apparate to Wiltshire, before traveling on foot to the edge of the Malfoy wards. Remus and Hermione spent the remainder of their day mostly in silent preparation, while Sirius mostly whinged. When the twins returned that evening, Hermione had her backpack slung across one shoulder and her wand in a holster around her thigh. 

“The bag necessary?” Fabian inquired, shaking floo dust off his black denim jacket. 

“Always,” Hermione replied

Sirius sighed with disgust. “I’ll be off to put my robes on then,” he turned to leave but then turned, suddenly grabbing Remus’ shoulder. “Don’t go until I’m done, I’ll be down in a moment.”

Remus and Hermione nodded.

“We’ll wait,” the witch replied. Sirius gave a tight smile and quickly hurried to the stairs.

“Don’t take your bloody time, Black!” Fabian called after him.

“Fuck you, Prewett!” Sirius yelled, already halfway up the stairs. 

With Sirius gone for the moment, the remaining four Order members shifted about, a stiff silence between them. 

This is going to be a long night. 

“Well, if I’m remembering correctly, Malfoy Manor is visible to the magical eye, but expertly warded,” Hermione commented and then turned to the twins, “have either of you been close enough to establish a safe spying distance or are we starting from scratch?”

The most peculiar expression crossed Fabian’s face and briefly Hermione wondered if she’d let too much of her own knowledge slip, explaining how she’d been close enough to Malfoy Manor to know about the wards would be difficult. But with equal speed, his features morphed back to what Hermione suspected was an amiable mask. 

How much of you is just a front, Fabian?

“We’ve been there,” Fabian confirmed with a shrug, “we’ve had to watch the manor a few times. Actually,” the red haired wizard looked at Gideon and then back at Hermione, “it’ll probably be best if we split up when we get there. Two in the front and two in the back.”

Hermione nodded. “Makes sense. You and Gideon pick which side you want and Remus and I’ll take the other.”

“I think, Gideon and I should split up, actually.”

What are you playing at Prewett? Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Why? You two are partners, right? You’ll work best together.”

“The two of us,” Fabian motioned between himself and his brother, “have done this many times before, it makes more sense for us, the aurors that we are, to partner up with the novices.”

Novices? Hermione snorted. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, Fabian, I can handle myself- Remus and I’ll be just fine.”

“Even if that’s so, Gideon and I are trained aurors and you two are not,” Fabian pointed out. “Hunting dark wizards isn’t a skill you’re born with, it’s learned.”

Really? Tell that to my obnoxiously stubborn best friend. 

Hermione bit back the caustic response that danced right at the edge of her tongue. It would do no good to inform Fabian that she was, in fact, an extremely well trained auror that had already survived this war once before. As far as the twins knew, Hermione was a well-informed and talented witch, but not one of the top aurors in her department. 

Their department. Well, eventually their department. 

Hermione clenched her jaw, but didn’t argue, “Fine, it’ll probably do well for Remus and I to be paired with one of you seeing as you also know where the Malfoy wards end,” Hermione turned to the quieter twin, “Gideon, should you and I take the back or front?”

Gideon opened his mouth to speak, but his brother beat him to it.

“You’ll be with me, Granger. Remus and Gideon can take the back, we’ll take the front.”

“What?” Remus and Gideon exclaimed.

“No, I’ll go with Hermione,” Gideon insisted, placing a hand on his twin’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Remus growled his agreement. “I think that’s best.”

 Fabian shook his head and the brothers exchanged looks that gave Hermione the impression they were somehow talking without talking. 

“Hermione’ll come with me,” Fabian finally said and after another long look, Gideon nodded.

“No, you don’t get to make a unilateral decision,” Hermione said, “McGonagall didn’t put you in charge.”

“What’s wrong, Granger?” Fabian smiled, taking a step towards the witch. “Don’t you want to spend an evening with me? Many witches would.” The wizard wiggled his ginger eyebrows.

“Oh for Circe’s sake,” Hermione rolled her eyes, “I’m sure any witch would be lucky to be paired with you ,” she drawled.

“Good, then it’s decided,” Fabian said, rubbing his hands together happily.

Hermione sneered. “No, it’s not-”

Remus placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “It’s fine, no use in arguing about it,” he said dryly.

Hermione frowned, searching her friend’s face. “Alright,” she said after a moment, “fine, Fabian and I will take the front.”

Just then Sirius came stampeding back down the stairs, clad in his maroon auror robes.

“Prewetts, in the hallway,” he snapped. “I need a moment with my friends.”

Fabian snorted but he and Gideon headed to the hallway all the same. 

“We leave in five minutes, be quick.”

“Yea yea, be gone,” Sirius waved them off and then turned to Hermione and Remus. He put a hand on each of their shoulders and pulled them into a small circle. “Be so safe tonight,” he almost whispered, “don’t do anything I would do.”

“Ha!” Remus scoffed. “Don’t worry, Pads, that’s basically how I live my entire life.”

“Hilarious,” Sirius deadpanned. “But I’m being serious, you two have got to have each other’s backs, I mean, I know you will. But really, you have to stay safe.”

Hermione looked at Remus, but the werewolf gave the barest shake of his head.

He’s right, best Sirius not know how we’ve been partnered up, he and the twins don’t seem to get along. Especially Fabian. 

“If-if anything happens to either of you, I will come immediately,” Sirius tightened his grip for a moment and then released them. “Also, be careful with those two prats- I mean, Prewetts of course.”

“We heard that, Black!” Fabian called from the hallway. “Are you two ready?”

“Yes, yes we’re ready,” Hermione answered, grabbing Remus’ hand and squeezing it reassuringly. “We’ve already beaten a hydra,” she said quietly to him, “what’s a few Death Eaters, hmm?”