A/N: This story is complete. All the chapters have been written. It is being reposted from FFnet.
Anti-Litigation Charm: I do not own, make money off of, or profit from this story in any way. Please do remember that. All characters you see belong to JKR, and any quotes that from directly from any of her books belong to her, as well.
Hermione Granger had never given up the Time-Turner she acquired in third-year. She'd handed it to Minerva and then gone to see the Headmaster to ask for it back. Her friends and teachers had no idea that she was still in possession of such an artifact. Professor Dumbledore had been more than happy to give it back to her, reminding her once more of the rules regarding its use, and then sent her on her way.
Thus, she'd kept it hidden on her person in fourth year. She'd used it sparingly, usually to get more studying time in, but for all of the school year of 1994, she had probably used less than twenty-four hours of time. When Harry returned from the maze, clutching Cedric Diggory's dead body and the Tri-Wizard Cup, Hermione had been prepared to go back in time to stop him from going into the maze, to alert the past Dumbledore that the cup was a portkey, to do something to prevent Voldemort's return.
It was the Headmaster who stayed her hand, in the middle of all the chaos and confusion, when he saw her slipping away from the crowd.
"You cannot use time to erase all evil," he told her gravely.
"We always knew Voldemort would return," Dumbledore told her seriously. He wasn't smiling, with either his expression or his eyes. They were hard, yet there was an edge of resigned sadness to them. "Harry is still alive, Miss Granger. He will need your help and that of Mister Weasley to defeat him, but if you prevent Voldemort's return, he will still find a way to come back— one in which the outcome is less favorable than is now." Seeing the look of disbelief, he reiterated firmly, "Harry is alive, Miss Granger."
It had taken a full minute for Hermione to absorb and accept these words, and then her hand, which had been grasped tightly around the little hourglass around her neck, preparing to fiddle with the dials, slowly lowered.
"I understand, sir," she said dully.
Thus, time was not altered the night of Voldemort's rebirth, and come fifth year, they were dealing with the Terror of the Wizarding World along with one of the most incompetent, foul beings Hermione had yet encountered. The presence of Dolores Umbridge drove Hermione to convince Harry, with Ron's help, to start Dumbledore's Army.
But they had been betrayed, though Hermione didn't know who. Upon receiving Dobby's warning, she had fled down the corridor, escaping the Inquisitorial Squad, but from the racket following her footsteps, she knew Harry had not. She was certain he would be expelled, and given the name of their club, Professor Dumbledore would likely be accused of nothing less than treason. This was one instance where she was certain she was supposed to use her Time-Turner. Where it was justified to do so, for the sake of altering the outcome of certain events. Dumbledore had to remain at Hogwarts!
This was why Hermione found herself hurtling down the corridor, intending to reach her dormitory, where she could go back in time long enough to warn her past self of the impending betrayal. They could avoid this disaster, if they only put the meeting off another day and managed to weed out the informant and Obliviate them—
Just as she was descending the stairs leading to the fourth floor, the hands fiddling with the dials of the Time-Turner got caught in the chain, upsetting her balance. She tripped, hitting the hard stone stairs with enough force that the knock to her head made her see white-hot stars, and as she heard a quiet, foreboding crack—
Time shattered around her.
To Hermione, it was like watching a kaleidoscope of colors. The red-orange-cream of the candlelight and the candlesticks on the wall mixed with the iron black of the holders; the grayish brown, illuminated stones of the wall, the faint blur of colors from the few portraits on the wall of this particular fourth-floor corridor, mixed with the searing pain in her forehead and the faint splotches of blood she was sure was coming from her nose from where she'd hit the stairs—
And then it thankfully stopped. Dizzy, Hermione brought a hand to her nose, trying to stem the trickle of blood and see straight, when it hurt her eyes just to look. She closed them and remained motionless for a moment, sprawled on the stairs as she was, and once she felt the majority of her dizziness subside, she slowly opened her eyes.
The corridor she was in was deserted. She slowly raised herself up on shaking elbows and brought her knees up, forcing herself on all fours. She closed her eyes as another wave of pain washed over her face, trickling through her bruised elbows, her knees, her ribs, and then realized a heavier, burning pain was searing through her hands and her chest—
She ripped the Time-Turner off her neck and dropped it to the ground before pressing a hand to her neck. It hurt, and badly. The place where the Time-Turner had rested against her had become charred, and sticky red blood was soaking through the crispy black skin. It was a small burn, but it was making breathing difficult, and it was all Hermione could do not to let out a little sob of pain. She scrambled for her wand, which was still in the pocket of her robes, and pulled it out with shaking fingers. She cast a trembling Cooling Charm on her chest, her hands, and the burning sensation slowly subsided, though the pain did not.
Her grip on the wand now sticky with blood that had welled up in her fingers, Hermione carefully turned it toward the Time-Turner, her expression fearful, as though afraid it might lash out at her. But the tiny hourglass lay on the ground, a white-hot luminous burn that instantly explained Hermione's injuries. The Time-Turner was burning up, and through the glare of its light, Hermione could see a faint crack along the glass.
Professor Dumbledore had told her that the reason one could not use a Time-Turner to safely go back in time by months or even years was because the farther in time you went, the more the hourglass would burn. It would take time for it to cool before it could be used again. As Hermione stared at the burning object lying on the ground, she realized that from the telltale burn, she must have gone back much, much farther than two hours. How far had she gone? Days? Weeks? Months?
She dared not even consider the idea that she might have gone back years. It was too incomprehensible.
She stood up slowly on shaky legs, and then pointed her wand at the burning hourglass on the ground. Focusing made her head throb, but she had to do it nonetheless.
"W-wingardium leviosa!" She gasped, and the Time-Turner slowly floated up off the ground. Staggering forward, Hermione stumbled through the empty, deserted corridors. It must be several hours past curfew, she thought, for there should have been students to run into by now. But thankfully, there were none. She didn't even see a single prefect doing rounds. And judging from the darkness outside, it must be very late indeed. The only risk she had was of running into patrolling teachers—
Hermione spun around in time to see a very pale Professor McGongall rushing toward her, wearing a look of absolute shock; Hermione's shaky concentration finally broke, the throbbing in her head increasing to dizzying proportions, and as she saw the stone floor rush up at her, she heard the distinct sound of the Time-Turner landing on the floor with a faint but audible crack.
Hermione opened her eyes. Her vision was fuzzy, but she was warm, and she felt safe. Something glinted in the peripheral of her vision, and she slowly lifted her head to look, her eyes widening in surprise as she took in the plain white curtains and sheets of the Hospital Wing. She tried to move, and in response to this tentative request, her body screamed in protest. Yet, Hermione could not help it; she had to sit up. She slowly leaned forward, pulling herself up with help from her elbows, until she was no longer flat on her back. She blinked a bit more as her eyes adjusted to the gentle orange light of the candles lit along the wall, and felt a wash of relief as she realized her head was no longer trying to kill her with sheer pain. Her eyes flickered down at the sheets—soft, but white—and glanced down at her hands.
They were wrapped in bandages, stained by the ointment wrapped underneath them, and as she cautiously flexed her fingers, she realized that they were no longer covered in blood. That prompted her to bring her hand back up to her chest, feeling carefully for the painful burn that had had her struggling to hold back wracking sobs—
Another set of bandages were wrapped around her chest, and Hermione's fingers tentatively ran over the textured fabric, feeling nothing. Her body was extremely sore, and her eyes felt tired, but she otherwise seemed alright. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, trying to think clearly now that she was no longer covered in blood and dealing with the pain of fresh third-degree burns.
She was in the Hospital Wing. She must have gone back in time, where Professor McGonagall had found her, and brought her here and alerted the Headmaster. She would have to explain herself to them both, but she was certain now that things would be alright.
She was about to lean back and rest some more when Madam Pomfrey exited her office and, seeing that her patient was awake, immediately bustled over.
"Oh, good," she said, sounding relieved. She pressed a hand to Hermione's head, as though checking for temperature, and then summoned some water and a tray of food. "You're awake." She tsked. "We weren't sure whether you would be all right—you looked quite a fright when you appeared out of nowhere, covered in blood—"
"Madam Pomfrey, I was wearing a hourglass-shaped object around my neck when I came here," Hermione said, reaching for the cup of water and bringing it to her mouth with shaking fingers. "Do you know what happened to it?"
Madam Pomfrey paused.
"How do you know my name, dear?"
Hermione pulled the cup from her lips to look up at the matron, now wearing the look of a timid animal caught at wandpoint. How far back had she gone?
"Could I…" Good gods, was Professor Dumbledore even still here? She was certain he was, but— "Is… if Professor Dumbledore is still here, could I please see him?"
"Of course," Madam Pomfrey said, stirring the bowl of oatmeal on the tray. "He said he would stop by to check on you regardless, but now that you're awake, there is no point in waiting. Eat up," she said firmly as she turned to leave. "Professor Dumbledore will be along shortly to sort out this mess."
"I would appreciate that," Hermione said politely as she reached to take a bite of the oatmeal. Having had nothing to eat for goodness knows how long, she was positively starved. "Thank you," she added.
Looking rather pleased that Hermione was being so cordial, compared to the usual complaints and grunts the matron usually had to endure from her unruly charges, Madam Pomfrey seemed content to let the mystery surrounding Hermione's knowledge of her name rest. She made to return to her office, no doubt to get some work done, to leave Hermione alone with her thoughts.
"Madam Pomfrey, wait!" she suddenly called. The matron paused. "Could you tell me what year it is?"
Madam Pomfrey turned to give her an odd look, but was kind enough to answer nevertheless.
"The first of April, 1977," the matron answered simply.
Hermione's eyes practically bugged out of her skull. 1977. She had been sent back in time by nearly twenty years! That shouldn't even be possible, unless it had something to do with the crack the Time-Turner had received when she'd fallen. Perhaps a few grains had moved out of place with the dials, a few years had been taken, and instead of going back two hours, two months, or even two years, she'd gone back by nearly two decades.
For a moment, she was hoping someone would jump out and shout, "April Fools!" but the stern, concerned expression on the matron's face remained unchanging. She was serious.
Madam Pomfrey was waiting for an answer, and Hermione managed to swallow down the scream that threatened to rise up in her throat, and merely croaked out, "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey."
Satisfied, the matron left, leaving Hermione to stew in a maelstrom of thoughts.
Was Professor Dumbledore still Headmaster then? She was certain he was— he'd been Headmaster of Hogwarts for at least forty years, if he started teaching in 1956. That was, if her recollection of Hogwarts, A History, was correct. Besides, Madam Pomfrey had already referred to him as the Headmaster…
She needed to find a way to fit into this time period until she had a solution to return to 1996. She needed to speak with Dumbledore, but not reveal the extent of her situation to anyone, not even the Headmaster. Chewing on her oatmeal, she considered the story she would come up with to convince the Headmaster to allow her to transfer in this late in the year, nevermind how she had arrived.
Decision made, she set aside her food and, wishing she had her wand so that she could summon a book to read, sat back and waited, fear roiling in her belly.
The Headmaster arrived two hours later.
He entered quietly, closing the door behind him, and as he turned around to face Hermione, the first thing she could think of was that he looked no different than she remembered. Madam Pomfrey—well, in the last two hours, it had finally dawned on Hermione that Madam Pomfrey's hair still had a great deal more brown to it than her older self did. The lines on her face were softer, too, as was the shape, and she looked only slightly less careworn now than she did in twenty years. If Hermione had not been convinced before, she was now.
The Headmaster, however, looked almost unchanged, and Hermione found it to be a surprising relief; to feel as though she were talking to a familiar face was greatly appreciated right now. Blue eyes looked at her benignly from half-moon spectacles, and as Hermione opened her mouth to speak, he raised up a hand to quiet her.
"Have no fear, Miss Granger." Hermione's mouth clicked shut at this, and she stared as he continued, "I have the Time-Turner you arrived with. Madam Pomfrey told me you were concerned about such an object earlier. Minerva was the one who brought it to me—I must say you certainly gave her quite a fright. She was quite concerned about you."
"May I see it, sir?" Hermione asked desperately.
"Unfortunately, it is too hot to be handled as of right now," Dumbledore continued, as he pulled out a chair for himself and took a seat, crossing one leg and folding his hands into his lap. "I have locked it away while it cools."
"Too hot…?" Hermione was disturbed by this news. "Sir? You can't cool it?"
"Not by any magical means I know of," Dumbledore responded, now twiddling his thumbs. "I do not know how long it will take for it to be cool enough to be repaired. And even then," he added calmly, "I am not certain if there is a way to send someone forward in time. That would take quite a bit of fiddling, I might add, and knowledge that I do not have."
"But you're Albus Dumbledore," Hermione could not help but hear herself utter, even as she felt a detached sense of horror at the implication of his words. If she didn't wake up from this nightmare soon, she was going to have a mental breakdown. She had been thrown back nearly twenty years in time, and was being told that there was no way to rectify it. "You're the greatest wizard of the century! There must be something you can do!"
"Am I?" Professor Dumbledore asked, now smiling. But behind the smile, his demeanor was still quite serious. "I am afraid, Hermione, that I am quite incapable of returning you to your time at this current point in—well—time. Quick fickle, isn't it?" he added, almost as an afterthought. Seeing the baffled look, he elaborated, "How fickle time is. You can only hope to get nowhere but backwards when you play with it, when all we ever do in life is to look forward."
Hermione buried her face in her hands and tried not to let out the strangled sob threatening to burst unbidden from her throat.
"Oh gods," she moaned. "What am I going to do now?"
"You will create a new life here," Dumbledore said cheerfully, sliding out his wand and flicking it once. A scroll of paper appeared in his hands, and he held it out to her. "I will speak to the teachers here—I'm certain you know them all already?" Hermione nodded, swallowing hard to keep from crying. "If your memory serves the both of us correctly, you were in the middle of your fifth year when you made your unfortunate—er—trip." Hermione gingerly took the scroll from him and unrolled it. It was a schedule, with the name Hermione Grangerprinted neatly at the top.
Hermione was wiping her eyes now, trying to erase all traces of the tears threatening to spill over. Her voice cracked slightly as she spoke. "Professor, I'll need an alias—I, I can't very well go by my real name—"
"It matters not in the long run, Hermione," Professor Dumbledore interrupted, his voice was firm. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Twenty years from now, it will make no difference. Either you will have returned to your time, where your name will have been long forgotten by the time you arrive as a first year, or you will have made a life here for yourself."
Hermione nodded, and couldn't help sniffling as she rolled up the scroll and tucked it under her arm. Well, at the very least, she would have the comfort of using her own name. "Thank you, sir," she said in a small voice. Sooner or later, she was going to break down in mass hysteria. This was too unreal. She was normally extremely calm and collected—she prided herself on it, in fact, that she could think rationally when all logic had fled the situation—but right now, very much like the time she'd been confronted with Devil's Snare and had wailed that there was no wood… she felt as though she had lost her tenuous grip on the situation.
"I do, however, recommend you not reveal the true nature of how you came to be here," Professor Dumbledore informed her as he pushed back his chair and stood up. "That would not be wise to bandy about."
"I understand, sir."
"Very well, then," Professor Dumbledore said, clasping his hands together the way he did when things appeared to be final. He reached into the left pocket of his star-spangled purple robes, and pulled out a chocolate frog and set it down on her nightstand. "I find sweets often help in cheering up, no matter how onerous the situation. You certainly look as though you could use it. And on a final note," he mused, "I believe you were sorted into Gryffindor. In that case, I believe this week's password is 'Chocolate Frog.' You know your way to the tower, I presume?"
Hermione nodded and glanced at the chocolate frog, hesitating only for a moment before she reached to unwrap it. She could certainly use something to cheer her up now.
"Thank you, Professor."
Hermione's first order of business, once she had been discharged by Madam Pomfrey, was to take inventory of herself, and realize that she had nothing. Nothing except for the book bag Professor McGonagall had found at the place where Hermione he first landed—which contained her name and the homework assignments and dated notes, which neatly explained in her mind how Professor Dumbledore had learned her name and origin—and her books. Or rather, she only had her planner, some ink bottles and quills, and the week's notes with her; her books were still on her nightstand in her dorm, left behind in 1996.
Professor McGongall was waiting for her the moment she left the Hospital Wing, and after nervously shaking her hand, found herself being marched down to her office. Once inside, she was invited to have a seat. The tea which Hermione was so used to being offered by her head of house back in her own time was noticeably absent. Instead, she felt once again like an errant first year, consumed with the feeling that she would somehow have to prove that she had a right to be here.
"Professor Dumbledore has informed me that you will be staying in Gryffindor," she said starchly, stirring herself a cup of tea. "He has also informed me that you are already aware of our point system and house rules— I trust that I need not repeat them for you?"
"No, Professor," Hermione said, trying not to wring her hands in her lap. She felt so out of place, and vaguely nauseous with homesickness. She was in the right place at the wrong time and it was disorienting, to say the least. She was used to a friendly face and an understanding mein from her head of house; yet, this McGonagall did not know her.
She must have looked like she was about to cry, for McGonagall's strict demeanor instantly softened just a fraction. It was enough to put Hermione faintly at ease. "Miss Granger, my understanding is that you will be here for a very long time—if not forever, at least until the Headmaster finds a suitable way to return you to your time. Until then, you will simply have to fit in."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, trying to stem the flow of snot that was threatening to drip from her nose, even though she'd managed to hold back the tears. "It's just—this is a lot to take in."
To her surprise, given how stiff McGonagall had been just moments ago, the Transfiguration Professor's next words were reassuring. "It's quite alright. I imagine you miss home terribly."
Hermione could only nod.
There was a pause, and then a weary sigh as McGonagall took a sip of her tea and then set it aside.
"Miss Granger, I don't know how well you've read up on history," she said briskly, "but we—that is to say, everyone at this school, staff and students alike—are all under an enormous amount of stress. We are on the brink of war, and there is a level of inter-house warfare right now that is eating away at the safety the school would otherwise offer." She looked at Hermione sternly. "I do not know what Hogwarts is like in your time—no, do not tell me!" she said, raising her hand to stop Hermione from speaking. "I do not want to know. But whatever Hogwarts is like in your time, Miss Granger, you must set that aside and be on your guard. Do you understand?"
Hermione nodded slowly.
"The students who are most likely to be targeted are the ones without friends," McGonagall said, stirring her tea slowly, the spoon clinking against the side of the mug. "And as of right now, you are alone and friendless, a new transferal near the end of the year." She looked up at Hermione now, locking eyes with her. "Do you understand what I am telling you, Miss Granger?"
Hermione swallowed; for some reason, she was unable to reply. Somehow, her nod was not sufficient enough for McGonagall, for she continued, "Frankly, Miss Granger, I believe that it will be a long time, if ever, before you are returned to your time. Until that happens, you cannot recluse yourself from the world."
Hermione felt as though she finally understood. "You don't think I'll ever get to go back," she whispered, more to herself than her audience, but McGonagall nodded briskly in reply. She hesitated, and then swallowed: "So I should just… make myself a part of this timeline?"
"That is correct."
Hermione closed her eyes.
I may never see Harry or Ron again.
Resigning herself to this possibility, she sat up straighter and ceased her fidgeting with her hands. "Very well, Professor."
"Good," McGonagall said, looking rather relieved that the conversation had finished with minimum hysteria. "And now, I believe, you are in need of supplies?"
On Monday morning, Hermione walked into Herbology and took an empty seat at the end of the table next to a girl she didn't know. They were all wearing dragon-hide gloves and warily eyeing the Fanged Geraniums waiting to be transplanted. Hermione tried to resist the urge to flex her gloves, but it was nearly impossible not to; the worn pair McGonagall had collected for her felt so stiff, it was a wonder it didn't classify as petrified. It made her feel clumsy, but there was no taking them off for this class. She would have to buy herself a new pair, next Hogsmeade visit permitting.
Normally, she would have found a seat between Harry and Ron. But as this was not the case, she found herself sitting beside a slight, plain girl with mousy looks and a demeanor that reminded her slightly of Neville Longbottom. The witch next to her was of the subdued sort, but Hermione nevertheless struggled to find the words to introduce herself.
She had finally resigned herself to the fact that she would probably never make it back to her own timeline. Upon coming to this realization, and internalizing McGonagall's words, she understood what she needed to do if she were to ever manage to fit in.
The girl next to her blinked in surprise, eyes widening when Hermione thrust her hand forward.
"I'm Hermione Granger," she said, smiling nervously. "I'm your new classmate."
The girl hesitated for all of one moment before grasping Hermione's hand and shaking it, though her grip was gentle. "I'm Mary MacDonald. It's nice to meet you. You're the new fifth-year Professor McGonagall told us about, right?" For the first time since Hermione had arrived, she was treated to a friendly, open smile. "Welcome to Hogwarts."
Professor Sprout's sharp, brisk voice broke through the greenhouse. "Partner up! Two to a plant, let's go!"
"Do you want to partner up with me?" Mary asked, sounding just a bit hopeful.
Hermione gratefully seized the invitation. "Yes, please."
They immediately set to work, Hermione holding the fanged flower's bud still between her fingers—which didn't require as much flexibility— as Mary set to work carefully uprooting it.
"Have you met the Gryffindor prefects yet?" Mary asked, wiping a streak of dirt from her cheek with her arm as she set the geranium down in the pot intended for its transferral. "I think you'd really like one of them— Lily, at least. She's quite kind, and really smart—she tutors the younger years in her free time. If you need any help catching up with classes, I think she'd be happy to help."
"I think I'd like that," Hermione responded honestly, wondering if she could ask the Head Girl for a copy of all her notes from fifth year and below. Her own notes were irretrievably stuck in her own timeline, and they would be starting OWL review soon. She needed those notes. "What did you say her name was?"
"Lily Evans," Mary replied, slicing a bag of soil open and helping Hermione to hoist it over the snarling and snapping flower.
The name was familiar to Hermione, and it took several minutes for it to finally hit her. And when it did, she nearly dropped the half-empty bag in her arms.
She had gone back almost twenty years in time—when Harry's parents were still in school.