Harry and Hermione crept up the stairs in the Shrieking Shack to reach the room in which they heard Ron moaning. The dog must still be in there if the footprints in the dust were any indication. They readied themselves to fight, and Harry kicked in the door.
Ron sat on the floor clutching what looked to be a broken leg. Crookshanks was sitting on a large bed, purring as if nothing were wrong. There was a distinct lack of a giant, vicious dog, Grim or otherwise. The pair rushed to help their friend.
“Ron, are you okay?” Hermione said.
Harry scanned the room. “Where’s the dog?”
“Harry, it’s a trap!” Ron yelped, pointing towards the door.
Harry spun around, too late. An arm reached out from the shadows and shut the door behind them.
“He’s the dog,” Ron whimpered. “He’s an Animagus.”
The man, if you could call him that, stepped out of the shadows. He almost might have been a zombie. His eyes glimmered in sunken sockets, and his face was waxen and hollow. His hair was matted and dark, but was nearly as long as Dumbledore’s. He stared at the three of them with rabid intensity.
Black pointed Ron’s wand at them, but in a feat of lightning-fast reactions Harry had never seen from her before, Hermione was already in motion. She tackled Harry with one arm, and Black’s Disarming Charm sailed over her shoulder as they fell onto the bed. Her other hand was fishing in her robes for something, and she pulled out some sort of necklace, throwing the chain around both of their necks.
“What?” the sound came from Ron and Black at the same time.
“Hermione, what are you—?” Harry started.
She twirled some kind of pendant on her necklace, and the room started spinning.
“No!” Black roared and lunged toward them, but suddenly, he froze. The world blurred, and Harry thought he imagined more than saw Black, Ron, and Crookshanks vanishing through the door. The rest of the room didn’t seem blurry so much as just a bit fuzzy, but it felt like they were in a whirlwind, and Harry saw the fading evening light turn into sloping rays of sunlight through the windows. He tried to yell, but he couldn’t hear his own voice over the wind.
And then, everything came to a stop. They were in the dusty Shrieking Shack again, but now, they were alone.
“Hermione?” he said. “What was that?”
9 Months Earlier
When Professor McGonagall called Hermione aside as she, Harry, and Ron reached the castle, she expected to be told about the accommodations that had been made for her class schedule. She did not expect Professor Dumbledore to take over the conversation while McGonagall took Harry to the Hospital Wing.
“Professor McGonagall told you that we might need to make special accommodations for you to take as many classes as you’ve chosen for this year, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said. “We have now made the proper arrangements, but they may be a bit more unusual than you thought. And I apologise for the delay, but we had to obtain permission from several people at the Ministry of Magic to give you this.”
“Professor, what’s this about?” Hermione said. Permission from the Ministry? This was going a lot further than she’d expected.
Dumbledore held up a pendant of some kind. It looked like a small hourglass embedded in a golden disk. “This is a Time Turner, Miss Granger, on loan from the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic.”
“A what, sir?” she said.
“A most ingenious magical device that will allow you to go backwards in time to repeat the hours in which your classes conflict.”
Hermione wasn’t sure how long she stared at Dumbledore and the hourglass pendant. She knew what those words meant, but somehow, she couldn’t make her brain process them. Finally, she said, “…You’re giving me a time machine so I can take extra classes?”
“I suspect it will sound excessive to you,” Dumbledore said, as patient as ever. “Ordinarily, this would not be an issue. However, there were some unique scheduling issues this year, and we were unable to schedule the electives so that they do not conflict. You will need to repeat some hours to be able to reach all of your classes.”
However much Hermione wanted to take all the courses she could, she needed some convincing to take the Time Turner. “Excessive” didn’t begin to cover it. Adding classes outside normal hours would be excessive. Hiring two new teachers just for her would be excessive. Giving her a bloody time machine sounded like a bad joke, not to mention dangerous, depending how it worked. But Dumbledore insisted it was the best option, and he had already gone to the trouble to testify to the Ministry of Magic as to her character and trustworthiness to convince them to loan her one, so she didn’t want to disappoint him. She took the Time Turner, and he explained to her how to keep it clean and how to operate it.
“I think you will find this experience a rewarding one, Miss Granger,” he told her with a smile. “Now, there are a few things you should know—rules of time travel, if you will.” She nodded. That was only to be expected. “First, you cannot change the past. That is not a rule, but a property of time itself. If you are familiar with time travel in muggle literature, you probably understand the concept.”
She nodded. She’d read a few stories of that kind. “Yes, Professor. That’s rather a relief, honestly.”
“Good, although if you need later clarification feel free to ask me about it. Second, you cannot repeat more than six hours in any twenty-four hour period, as measured by the clock. To put it in muggle terms, the Time Turner must ‘recharge’ after use, and if you use up the six hours, it will not work at all until you are twenty-four hours past the first one. If you need that much time, be sure to schedule it so that you do not find yourself short an hour when you come to your morning class.
“Also, do remember that use of the Time Turner does count toward your age, although since you unfortunately lost three weeks this past spring, that will be less of a concern.”
Hermione nodded again. If she had to repeat twelve hours per week, she’d probably gain about that much time by the end of the year. No big deal.
“Finally, you must follow the Ministry’s restrictions,” he said. “The existence of time travel is strictly classified by the Department of Mysteries, Miss Granger. You must not be seen using it. You must take care that no one sees two of you walking around the school. You are not to tell anyone about it, not even your friends. The teachers have been told not to question your movements, and the elective teachers will tolerate minor tardiness if it is necessary to stay hidden.”
“What about meeting myself, Professor?” she asked.
“Oh, I expect you’ll be doing a fair bit of that. After all, the best way to avoid being seen would be to scout out places and times to which you can come back for yourself.”
Hermione flushed a little. That was fairly obvious when she thought about it.
“If, despite your best efforts, you are found out by anyone,” he continued, “you should warn them to keep your secret and then inform myself, Professor McGonagall, or Professor Snape as soon as possible.”
Hermione couldn’t help raising her eyebrows a bit. Snape was in on this? But she nodded her agreement. “I will, sir.”
She thought that would be the end, but Dumbledore still had something more to say. “However, there is one other reason I recommended to Minister Fudge to loan you a Time Turner,” he said solemnly. “One that supersedes these rules of secrecy. You have no doubt heard that Sirius Black is at large.”
Hermione’s eyes grew very wide. She didn’t like where this was going at all.
“I wish I did not need to trouble you with such things, but as you are close friends with Harry Potter, you should know that Black is believed to be specifically looking for Harry.”
“I know, Professor,” she said shakily. “Harry—er, he found out last night.”
“Oh, good. Then that makes this much simpler. I suggested the Time Turner for you because you spend a lot of time in Harry’s presence. And to that point, I must urge you personally not to go looking for Black, nor to allow Harry to do so if at all possible. However, I want to ask you as an added measure of security, if you should ever find yourself with Harry in the presence of Sirius Black, grab hold of Harry and turn yourselves back an hour or two; then warn anyone who is available at once where and when he will be. And in fact, if Harry is not with you, you should still do the same. Do you think you can do all of that, Miss Granger?”
Hermione was trembling. This was way deeper than she’d wanted to be, but she told herself if she was going to be friends with Harry, whatever was going to happen would happen anyway. “Yes, Professor,” she said.
“Very good.” Dumbledore rose to his feet.
That was right, she thought. They still needed to get to dinner. She checked her watch and stumbled in surprise. “Professor, haven’t we missed the Sorting?” she said.
Dumbledore gave her a knowing smile: “On the contrary, I suspect we were there the entire time.” She gasped and looked down at where she’d hidden the Time Turner in her robes. “If you could perhaps lend a hand?” he said.
The first thing Hermione did was check her watch. “Nine fifty-seven,” she muttered.
“What?” Harry said as he pushed himself up from the bed.
“So, eight fifty-seven, then. What is that? About the time we went down to Hagrid’s, do you think?”
“Hermione, what just happened?” he demanded. “Where’s Ron?”
“With us, going to Hagrid’s. He’ll be fine—”
Harry’s voice started to rise. “Hermione, what are you talking about? He was right here!”
Hermione held up her pendant for him to see. Now, he saw that there was a small hourglass in it. “We’ve come back in time, Harry,” she said. “Ron will be here in fifty-nine minutes. That means we’ve got that long to get back to the castle, warn Dumbledore that Black is here, and for him to come here and catch him.”
“Hermione, you’re not making any sense! Where did you even get that thing?”
“It’s called is a Time Turner. Professor Dumbledore gave it to me the first day of term. It’s how I’ve been getting to my classes all year. There was a problem with the class schedules. All those times Ron said I had to be in two places at once, I was. I’d go back in time so I could do two lessons at once.” Privately, she now guessed that Professor Lupin’s need to avoid classes after sunset during winter was the reason for those schedule changes. “Only Dumbledore made me promise not to tell anyone about it unless it was an emergency.”
“Like Black,” Harry caught on.
“But we left Ron behind!” he shouted.
“No, we didn’t! He’s still back at the castle with the past us.”
“But he was with Black—”
She grabbed him by the shoulder and held the hourglass up in his face. “Time travel, Harry!” she said. “Didn’t you ever watch Back to the Future?”
“My relatives didn’t let me watch the telly very much.”
“But…” She paused. “Not even Doctor Who?”
“Hermione, you have no idea how dull and closed-minded my relatives are.”
“Oh…Look. We should get moving. I’ll explain on the way. I can use another hour if we need it, but that makes it three times as complicated.” And without another word, she left the room and walked down the stairs back to the tunnel.
“What?” Harry said. Then he ran after her. He caught up with her by the time she reached the final landing. “Okay, now tell me what’s going on. Now,” he ordered.
“You need to think fourth-dimensionally,” she said. “It’s just about nine o’clock right now. Black dragged Ron in here a little before ten. That means it hasn’t happened yet, and we’ve got time to find help by the time it does.”
He thought about this a little more. “Time travel,” he muttered. “Okay…Okay, I think I get it. So, we can go and stop Black from grabbing Ron—”
“No, we can’t.”
“We can’t change the past.”
“Says who? I don’t care if it’s against the rules—”
“It’s not against the rules,” she said. “It’s against the laws of physics. You can’t change the past because it’s already happened.”
“You just said it hasn’t!”
“But it has for us. Listen, I know it’s complicated, but I’ve had all year to think about this. Mind, Dumbledore told me at the start of term, but I’ve had long enough to make sense of it. I even had my parents owl me some science fiction stories. The past can’t be changed because it wouldn’t—couldn’t produce us, otherwise. Couldn’t produce the situation where we’re right here, right now, talking about it, unless events happened exactly they way they have. If something changed them, we wouldn’t have come back in the time in the first place. And then of course they wouldn’t have been changed. It’s a paradox, and paradoxes can’t happen any more than black is white.”
Harry struggled to process this. He definiately hadn’t thought about this sort of thing before. “But if we changed it in a way where we still came back?” he suggested.
“We’d remember it differently. We would’ve lived through different events and made different memories before we got to the point of coming back. I—I tried it. Even though I wasn’t really supposed to. I wanted to see what would happen. Whenever I tried to change something, something else would always happen to prevent it. Someone showing up and interrupting me. Messing up my spellwork when I almost never do. One time, I even slipped on a wet floor when there was nowhere I could see the water could’ve come from, so I decided not to push it by cutting off the likelier coincidences. We can’t change anything by going back to what’s already happened. We can only change the future going forward.”
“But in the future, Ron—”
“Harry, if we do this right, in the future, Dumbledore will come through the door of that room less than a minute after we left. But we can’t lose too much time. We need to hurry if we don’t want to meet ourselves coming out.”
“What happens if we meet ourselves coming out.”
“That’s the problem. We can’t because we didn’t meet ourselves going back in,” Hermione said. Unfortunately, Ron would still be in a bit of danger this way, she thought. But it would also have complicated things to bring him back with them. He’d had a broken leg, so he’d slow them down, and he was probably even less familiar with time travel than Harry was.
Hermione had been on tenterhooks half the year, wondering if she’d have to do something like this. When Sirius Black had slashed the Fat Lady’s portrait on Halloween, she’d looked to Dumbledore, but he’d subtly shaken his head. She’d asked again after Black had broken into Harry’s dorm and had got the same response. Both times, there had been witnesses to him getting away, so a Time-Turner wouldn’t help them find him.
Not so, now. They knew exactly where Black would be and when he would be there, and it wasn’t in their past this time, so there was nothing to interfere. All they had to do was make sure Dumbledore got there in time to save Ron, and if all else failed (and if they were careful about the timeline), then she had extra hours in reserve to do it.
They climbed back up the tunnel to the Whomping Willow, and Harry pressed the knot on the trunk to still it as they emerged. The sun was low on the horizon. They didn’t have much time.
“This way, Harry,” she said, pointing down the path that led to the Black Lake. “I expect we’ll be coming back up from Hagrid’s soon. We’ll need to take the long way around.”
“You mean past us will be coming from Hagrid’s?” Harry clarified.
“Yes. Now, hurry.” They walked down the path and then came up towards Hagrid’s hut from the Lake.
“Hermione,” Harry said, “if we’re at Hagrid’s at sunset, then Buckbeak…”
“I know,” she said grimly.
They kept walking.
In fact, they made better time than she’d expected. They came around the back of Hagrid’s hut just as they saw Fudge and Dumbledore and that awful executioner coming up the path.
“Quick, behind the pumpkins,” she said. “We have to make sure we aren’t seen.”
“Why?” said Harry.
“Beside the fact that we didn’t see ourselves when we came out? Time Turners are classified by the Ministry. It would be like breaking the Official Secrets Act. I only brought you back because it was an emergency, and Dumbledore told me to.”
They hid, watching the hut, and moments later, Harry had one of the most surreal experiences of his life as he saw himself emerging from Hagrid’s back door, flanked by another Hermione and a perfectly uninjured Ron. He wanted to do something. But his Hermione—future Hermione? —She kept a tight hold on his robes so he couldn’t interfere. But as they watched their own retreating backs, her grip loosened.
They could hear Dumbledore’s and Hagrid’s voices in the hut, now, but he noticed that Hermione had gone very still. He looked and saw she was staring at Buckbeak, still tied up in the garden. A determined look settled on her face. She crept forward.
“What are you doing?” Harry hissed.
“Setting him free.”
Harry crept forward to join her. “What about ‘we can’t change the past’?”
Hermione bowed, and Buckbeak dipped his head in return. “None of us actually saw the axe fall,” she said. “We were distracted by Scabbers.”
“We heard it, though.” he said.
She untied the ropes from the hippogriff’s neck. “We heard something.”
“Yeah, an axe.”
“Look, if it had really happened, it would be physically impossible for us to do this right now. Something would stop us.” At her beckon, Buckbeak started to follow them to the trees.
Harry wasn’t sure how they did it, but they managed to move Buckbeak into the Forbidden Forest and convince him to run off far enough that he wouldn’t be seen from the grounds.
“Should we go in there?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Hermione whispered.
“We’re running out of time.”
“I know. I’m banking on the fact that Dumbledore doesn’t need to walk there. I know I said we didn’t see it, but we still need to wait to hear the axe. Otherwise, past-us could see or at least hear us.”
“But what if we—?”
“No. Something will stop us, Harry.”
“But what? There’s nothing there!”
“I don’t know. Whatever the most likely event is that stops the timeline from changing, and the harder you push that, the weirder and riskier than thing will be. So just wait another minute.” Was she being hypocritical? Maybe a bit. But she was fed up with Malfoy and the whole business with his father targeting an innocent creature. Besides, it had worked, hadn’t it?
After another minute or so they heard shouting from the grounds, and then, they heard the axe fall.
“That’s our cue,” she whispered, and she ran out from behind the far side of Hagrid’s Hut. “Professor Dumbledore!” she called as soon as she saw him at the front door, and the Headmaster turned around in surprise. A little farther away, so did Minister Fudge. They barely had time to register the executioner grumbling in the garden, having apparently chopped through part of the fence in anger.
“Professor Dumbledore!” Hermione said breathlessly.
“Miss Granger?” he said.
“Sirius Black is going to be in the Shrieking Shack in—” She checked her watch. “—twenty-one minutes.”
The old wizard’s eyes widened, and a look of frightening intensity came upon his face.
“What? You saw him?” Fudge said in shock.
Dumbledore waved his wand at the executioner and then Hagrid. “So we aren’t overheard, Minister,” he said, although he had in fact Confunded Walden Macnair. No need to give an ex-Death Eater any hints about time travel. “Tell us,” he ordered.
“Black’s an Animagus, sir,” Hermione said. “A big, black dog.”
“Goodness!” Fudge exclaimed.
“He attacked Ron,” Harry said.
“Just about now, actually,” Hermione added.
“He dragged Ron into the tunnel below the Whomping Willow. We followed him in there. We didn’t know who he was, and we followed them. The tunnel came out in the Shrieking Shack.”
“They were both in the upper room of the Shack,” Hermione took over. “We caught up and followed them in there. Black had turned back to human. When we saw him, I Time-Turned us back directly from the room.”
“Ron was still with him,” Harry said. “I think his leg was broken, and Black had his wand.”
“What time?” Dumbledore asked.
“Nine fifty-seven,” said Hermione.
Fudge was watching the exchange in amazement. “Well,” he said, “it’s a good thing you recruited Miss Granger for extra security, Albus. You must—”
“I will see to it personally, Cornelius. I must go now.” He took a couple of long strides up the path, then stopped and turning, pointing one finger in Fudge’s face. “Do not allow the dementors into the grounds,” he warned. “My order there still stands.” And he rushed off without another word.
Sirius stared in shock as Harry and the Granger girl vanished before his eyes. It wasn’t Apparition—not at their age. Maybe it was a Portkey, but it didn’t look like it. They sort of blurred and faded away.
He looked down at the Weasley boy. He looked just as shocked.
“What? What happened? Where’d they go?” he whimpered.
“You don’t know?” Sirius croaked.
The boy looked up at him in horror. He seemed unable to speak, although Wormtail was still squeaking madly. They stared at each other in silence, and then—
The door slammed open, and Albus Dumbledore stepped into the room, his wand raised and his eyes flashing with anger. He didn’t speak the Disarming Charm, but it struck home all the same. Ron’s wand flew into his hand.
A dozen plans flitted through Sirius’s head at once. Run? Fight? Surrender? But before he had a chance to think about it, his mouth decided the best option was “Talk.”
“Albus, it was Peter! Peter was the Secret Keeper!” he said frantically, pointing at the Weasley boy. “He’s right there. He’s a rat Animagus. We all learnt it to help Remus. He killed those muggles, too! He blew up the street and turned into a rat to get away—”
Several things happened at once. Sirius wasn’t sure if Dumbledore cast first, or it was Wormtail making a break for it, but by the time he knew which way was up again, Peter was in human form, both of them were tied up with living ropes, and the Weasley boy was gaping like a fish.
But Dumbledore’s attention was fixed on Peter. “Goodness. Peter Pettigrew,” he said. “I thought I knew exactly what I would find here, but I can say honestly I did not expect this. And neither of you should try to transform at the moment. You will not be fast enough to escape.”
Peter tried to force a smile, doing a decent job of looking like he was happy to see him. “Albus,” he said, “am I glad you’re here! Black’s crazy. I knew he’d be coming after me. I tried to get away, but he still found me—”
“Don’t listen to him, Albus!” Sirius roared. “He was lying to us for over a year! He had us all fooled—”
“Enough,” Dumbledore said, and as usual, his mere presence was enough to quiet them down without raising his voice.
Weasley was still dazed. “Bu-bu-but—Scabbers!” he stammered.
“I am afraid, Mr. Weasley, that your rat was never a rat,” Dumbledore said
“But…and Harry! Hermione! They were here—”
“They are safely back at the castle,” he assured him. “I had provided contingencies for just this situation, which regrettably did not account for your injury. Ordinarily, I would leave you to Madam Pomfrey’s care, but as this is a matter of urgency…” He waved his wand, and Ron yelped in pain ask his leg snapped back into place with a crack. But then, he was able to get up, wincing as he tested his weight on it, but able to stand.
“And I apologise for this, you two,” Dumbledore addressed Sirius and Peter, “but one of you is clearly a murderer, and it would not do to take chances. I will escort you both to the castle where you can be interrogated properly.”
Sirius smiled at this. He could tell Peter was starting to sweat, no doubt looking for an opportunity to escape, but Dumbledore wouldn’t be fooled now that he knew what to look for.
Dumbledore sent off a pair of Patronuses that flew in the direction of the castle—probably for McGonagall and Remus. “I shall have to bring you up through the tunnel, Sirius. The Minister for Magic is at Hogwarts at the moment, and I have no doubt he would have you Kissed on the spot if you attempted to cross the grounds where he can see it. Mr. Weasley, here is your wand. If either of them attacks or attempts to escape, you may use it in any way that occurs to you. Now, let us go.”
There was a fair bit of confusion when they returned to the castle. McGonagall and Snape met them at the door, along with Harry and Hermione and an irate Fudge. Sirius had forgotten that it was a full moon. They all started talking at once, including Ron demanding an explanation—not to mention that Snape clearly wanted to kill Sirius, but Dumbledore told him to stand down and soon received a much-needed update.
Dumbledore pieced together after the fact that Remus had spotted Sirius and Peter and the second Harry and Hermione on a certain map of his and started to follow, but he was detained when he ran into that same Harry and Hermione at the front doors and asked them to explain. While Hermione was trying to come up with a plausible story, Snape had come along and informed Remus that he’d forgotten his potion—a rather alarming oversight, but thankfully caught in time. In any case, he was safely ensconced in his office now, behind charms that no mere student could get through.
As he’d predicted, Fudge wanted Sirius to be Kissed at once and very nearly did call the dementors in, but with Peter standing there right beside him, with witnesses, he couldn’t deny that the official story didn’t look so open-and-shut anymore. Aurors were called, and interrogations were done, and that was how, by the time Remus stumbled out of his office the next morning, he found Sirius Bloody Black standing there as a free man.
“Peter was the Secret Keeper?” he said.
“Yes. I…I thought he would be the last one anyone would expect,” Sirius replied, looking downcast. “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you, Moony.”
Remus shook his head. “I know I didn’t seem like the most trustworthy person at the time…So you used yourself as bait to distract Voldemort from the real Secret Keeper?”
Sirius gave him an awkward smile: “Are you surprised?”
“When I put it that way? No. And Peter was hiding in Ronald Weasley’s pocket the whole time?”
“It figures he’d find a cushy spot as a pet. I saw him in the paper last summer.”
His questions answered, Remus leaned forward and hugged Sirius. “It’s good to have you back, Padfoot,” he said. Then, he turned around and walked back into his office.
“Moony, where are you going?” Sirius called.
“I’m going back to bed. Maybe when I wake up, things will make sense.”