A/N: AU/AO: Rated M for safety, but I'm pants at lemons, so it's definitely not for THAT reason.
Eventually [HG/SS] This story is a what-if story (and definitely alternate outcome story - think a ripple in the pond) that throws our dear post-war Hermione Granger back in time due to very badly made wish.
It was something rolling around in my head while trying to figure out how to proceed with Looks Can Be Deceiving.
*Warning*: Time will be confusing in this story. The futures are not set in stone. Sometimes you will see futures that will come to pass. Sometimes you will not. What you see is not always going to be what you get. It helps to remember that once she's back in the "past" that is the only thing that isn't changing anymore. The future, however, could flux the moment Hermione turns left instead of right one day.
Relationships will also be in flux until Hermione settles on the one. Try to remember that none of the future has happened. This is not going to be canon. Lucius Malfoy was not born a Death Eater with sins painting him black at birth.
Disclaimer: I am not JKR. All the characters you recognise from her novels are hers. I'm just using them in my sandbox. Those you don't recognise are probably mine, and I do have a habit of making them up as I go along, as those of you who read my other stories can attest to.
As usual, no beta as of the beginning of 2015, so forgive the sleepy brain mistakes that come with 0200 chapter writing and posting.
Update for 2016: Whoa! I have a beta! I may have 2 betas! HUZZAH! Much love to fluffpanda (who joined me around chapter 22) and the Dragon and the Rose who have joined forces starting at chapter 33.
Also thanks to Dutchgirl01 for being the support she's always been and Sehanine who reminds me that cookies are biscuits, trousers should never be considered pants, and if Sirius wakes up with knickers on his canine head, he is definitely in more trouble than if he had pants on his head.
That being said. Onward and enjoy!
One Step Forward, Two Decades Back
Chapter One: The Wish
Hermione woke in the darkness of the room with a pounding headache and a feeling of dread. It wasn't anything new, truth be told, but she was pretty sure she was quite tired of it. She reached out into the darkness for her wand and groaned as her hand fumbled in the dark and knocked something off of the bedside table.
Hermione sighed and rolled her eyes and flung her hand out and silently conjured a mage light wandlessly. Personal klutziness aside, wandless and silent magic did have its uses.
She stared blearily into the dim room and blinked.
She couldn't remember falling asleep in this particular room, but there were plenty of empty rooms at Grimmauld Place after the war. Harry and her had shared the place to stay away from the post-war "fame" that chased them. Ron never had that issue, she noted. He loved the fame. Harry and Hermione, however, did not.
The only time Harry left Grimmauld place was to go to work and visit Ginny. The only time Hermione left Grimmauld place was… well when she wasn't working at Hogwarts, she didn't leave Grimmauld Place.
Working for the Ministry was one disappointment after another. She didn't like politics, and politics was everything at the Ministry. Nothing seemed to make it any better. Promotions only made it worse, so when Minerva McGonagall had offered her an Apprenticeship in Transfiguration as her Apprentice, Hermione had taken the bait—hook, line, and sinker.
Her baptism by fire, so to speak, as Minerva's Apprentice, had been to help transfigure building supplies for the multiple wings and rooms that had not been completed yet. The innate magic of Hogwarts was exceedingly complex, and while some of it was written in Hogwarts: a History, alas, Hermione finally admitted that there were some things books could not provide. It only took eleven plus years to finally admit that to herself. Some lessons, apparently, took a bit longer to sink in.
The outside of Hogwarts had been rebuilt quite quickly, but the inside along with the complex magics required to animate the stairwells and reweave the delicate and almost sentient awareness of the building had taken much longer.
The rebuilding of Minerva McGonagall had taken even longer. The elder witch was quite relieved to have Hermione at her side, Hermione sensed. She was a piece of her past that had not perished in the wars. She taught her so many intricate things as they walked together around Black Lake with almost religious fervour. One of the games they would play was who could silently and wandlessly trip the other up in the most subtle way possible. It was a terribly Slytherin sort of game, but neither Gryffindor graduates wanted to confess to that particular detail in the slightest.
If anything, Hermione's work with the Ministry had turned her into a career Slytherin. She knew the ups and downs of the Ministry, how to work people, and how to get exactly what she wanted while rubbing the least amount of backs and oiling the least amount of gears. She had become ruthless while she worked the Ministry, and she had a feeling that when she took the job at Hogwarts, many of the politicians of the Ministry breathed out a huge sigh of relief.
Her mind, however, never lost her very Slytherin re-programming. Despite whatever bravery and Gryffindor traits she may have had while travelling through the life of Harry Potter's adventures against Voldemort, her post graduate war mentality had become undeniably ruthless, cunning, and tenacious. Save for a handful of people who knew her from her "previous life" as she considered it, she kept a very distant and almost emotionless mask upon her face. Emotions, after all, tipped off your rivals in the Ministry as to how you would vote, and she had become very skilled at the Wizarding version of the Muggle poker face.
Hermione found, years later, that she understood her old Potion Master's mask so much better. While they never had a chance to become colleagues, thanks to his unpleasant death to Nagini, she had a feeling of loss that she could never truly explain. It wasn't like she missed him calling her insufferable and a know-it-all. After learning about his true allegiance from Harry, though, she felt like she had been deprived of learning the true face of her potions professor. He was the one professor she had never truly gotten to know, and for a witch who prided herself on wanting to as much as possible, that fact alone was bothersome. While talking to his portrait in the Headmistress' office from time to time had proven quite educational, she knew it would never be the same.
Hermione self-declared Minerva's mental healing much improved the morning that Hermione had completed her animagus meditations under Minerva's watchful eye.
"No Apprentice of mine is going to work so hard in transfiguration and not be able to obtain an animagus form," Minerva had scoffed.
And so it was, Hermione drilled, learning, studied, meditated, and practically breathed animagus studies while she learned everything else. The morning she finally felt herself ready, Minerva accompanied her to the shore of Black Lake, and Hermione Granger literally gained her wings.
Minerva had tilted back her head and laughed. It was a genuine laugh of warmth that healed something in Hermione as much, perhaps, as it healed the old tabby animagus. McGonagall had held out her arm and Hermione crashed into it, clinging to her arm awkwardly as her first flight came to a somewhat undignified halt.
Hermione, who had never once enjoyed flight on a broom, realised that something else had changed inside her mind. Flying was… beyond spectacular. It filled her with something that was beyond joy—a feeling she did not think she would find herself in again after the war. As she clung to Minerva's arm and settled, her broad wings fanned out like a thunderbird atop the totem pole, she let out a long string of notes that filled the air with an echo of her joyous flight. She talon walked up Minerva's arm and placed her head over the Headmistress' silver hair in a birdish version of a hug.
McGonagall had tears in her eyes. "I never thought to see a phoenix again after Fawkes," she said with warmth.
Hermione had chirped and nuzzled Minerva, sensing her sadness even as she felt her warmth. Albus' death still haunted the Headmistress. Finding out that Snape had not murdered Albus for the Dark Lord had helped her deal better with his death, but the fact that he had not informed her about his cursed hand personally had given her one more thing to brood over. Minerva had truly thought their relationship to be trusting enough that he could have told her. The fact he hadn't made her consider what her friendship with Albus Dumbledore had truly been.
Hermione, in her animagus form, was a darker version of Fawkes. While Fawkes had been brilliant in colour and remnant of blazing flames, Hermione's feathers were a combination of dark siennas and earthen tones. Hermione pondered if that was normal, and Minerva seemed to think that females of the bird species tended to prefer blending in if they were going to sit a nest of eggs, so earth tones seemed logical to her. It made sense on paper, so Hermione didn't argue. Minerva sent in Hermione's registration in with her seal and signature of approval, and her animagus form was all official and legal. A pin was sent to her by owl to commemorate her registration, and Hermione noted with pleasure that the pin was quite subtle rather than gaudy, so it would not advertise her status as an animagus unnecessarily.
Hermione spent much of her time riding on Minerva's shoulder as she flitted around Hogwarts attending to her duties. She quite enjoyed acting like the elder witch's familiar, and in many ways, she sensed that Minerva didn't mind at all. It was yet one more bit of healing between the two war veterans.
Speaking of healing, Hermione's mind came back to her situation at hand. Why was she back at Grimmauld Place? She had been preparing the lesson plans for the next wave of first year students for Minerva the last she could remember.
Her pounding headache started to remind her against better judgement. Ron. It had been something about Ron.
Her relationship with Ron had soured after the war. Their heated kiss had turned out to be something fleeting and hormonal rather than based on mutual affection and maturity. Her career at the Ministry had made her elusive, emotionally well-guarded, and even more emotionally distant. Occlumency had driven the rest from her expression and her posture. The emotions she had were hidden away, making an emotionally charged relationship with Ron utterly impossible.
His desire for a passionate lover and warm relationship collided with her professionalism, and nae the two did meet. Or rather, when they did meet, it was almost cataclysmic in nature.
Hermione had, in all actuality, wished Ron well in his life and finding someone that was better suited for his needs, but Ron's needs seemed to centre on her being in it, only, not the Hermione she was post-war. He wanted the same Hermione he'd grown up with, perhaps the emotionally charged sixteen year old version of Hermione Granger rather than the twenty-some year old Professor Granger with mental guardedness of someone still in the trenches of said war.
Hermione remembered, as she sat in the dimness of her room at Grimmauld Place, that Harry had invited her over to reminisce over the death of his godfather. They had looked over the picture books he had found buried in the various rooms as well as the few albums he had created while Sirius had been alive and in his life.
Hundreds of old photos had scattered the room with the Black family tree. Harry, Hermione, and copious amounts of various alcohol had been involved. Hermione had stuck with tea, knowing her tolerance for alcohol was untested. The last thing she wanted to do is get drunk for the first time, if ever, while Harry needed her to be strong for him while he fell to pieces.
Ron had, unfortunately, come to visit, completely oblivious as to the date. He had come to see Harry, but Hermione had already been there, and like fire and Muggle gasoline, the moment his eyes fell upon Hermione surrounded by pictures of the Black Family, the argument was on.
Hermione couldn't even remember all the insults that Ron had thrown at her. They had just erupted from his mouth like the proverbial sailor's potty verbiage, and the more Hermione tried to exit the "conversation" the angrier Ron got. Somehow, and she wasn't sure how, Ron seemed to think that Harry and Hermione were "having a thing" together. He called Harry a bunch of names for cheating on Ginny and then called her many things that were not repeatable in polite company… or anyone's company for that matter.
Harry and Ron got into a physical altercation all over the Black Family photos, including the precious album Harry had of his godfather. The moment Ron's foot kicked the album out of the way, Hermione watched in horror as it landed in the lit fireplace.
Two things came to mind as she saw the arching photo book going through the air. One, she had no idea which album it was to use accio, and two, at least her other form was fireproof. Hermione dove towards the fireplace, flames bursting from her form as she shifted shapes, her phoenix form diving in the flames of the fireplace. She flapped her wings out and did a powerful kick to punt the precious album out of the fireplace.
She flew out of the fireplace and dropped onto the smoldering album, shifting into her human form to douse the flames with her hands and her robes, sighing with relief as the photo book seemed charred on the outside and the edges, but not enough to ruin all the photos within.
Hermione started to gather up the photos and photo books, trying to get them to safety as Harry and Ron literally tried to beat the everliving daylights out of each other.
She had just gotten her arms around most of the books and stood up to get them out of room and out of harm's way when Ron managed to get a good punch in on Harry, knocking him backwards into Hermione.
Hermione slammed into the wall, cracking her head against the Black Family Tree.
She was seeing constellations in the haze as Harry's weight kept her pinned down.
Ron was towering over them, radiating his anger. "You make me sick, Hermione," Ron snarled at her. "You want to be in Harry's life so bad? Fine. I wish Hermione Granger never existed." Green rays had come from Ron's wand as her vision went black.
Hermione groaned at the memory. How did she get into the bed? Harry must have helped her into bed, bless him. Considering the fight he'd had with Ron, he was probably passed out somewhere nursing his wounds too. Part of Hermione wondered if this was a situation where telling Ginny what had happened should be done sooner rather than later. Maybe she would do that, when she could figure out what exactly had happened. If her head stopped feeling like a herd of hippogriffs were stampeding on her grey matter. She might have to send Minerva an owl requesting a day off to get herself sorted out. Her head felt like it was going to explode.
She looked over onto the floor to find her wand, and saw nothing. Damnation. Where was the bloody thing. She silently held out her hand, willing it to her palm, but nothing happened. Frowning even harder, she did the same with an added, "Accio, my wand."
Hermione slumped. So this was what kind of day it was going to be. Had she lost her wand in the altercation? Was it pinned under two hundred Black Family photo albums? Was Harry sleeping on it?
Hermione threw the covers off the bed and walked towards the kitchen. Tea was required before panic over her wand set in. She didn't need the wand for most of her spells she used, but she didn't want to be casting a bunch of spells with a migraine without of a wand, thank you very much.
Hermione looked around her and noticed that the house was much cleaner than she remembered it. The portraits were all polished and dust free. The tables and cloths were clean, and the hallway actually had a carpet. Kreacher must have been working overtime. Maybe Harry's being nice to Kreacher really was having a better effect on the bitter old house-elf.
She shambled into the kitchen with a yawn. "I could really use a nice cup of tea right about know."
There was a soft pop, and Kreacher appeared on the counter with a tea service. "Kreacher bring tea for young Mistress," he said in the closest things to politeness Hermione had ever heard from him. Normally the customary greeting was "filthy mudblood" and came accompanied by gritted teeth from both parties.
"Thank you… Kreacher," Hermione said with a yawn. She took the teacup and poured herself some tea, drinking it without sugar or milk in her hasted to get it into her stomach as fast as possible.
"This tea is wonderful," Hermione said after a moment. "I didn't know we even had this kind of tea here."
The house-elf looked at her with some concern. "Kreacher makes young Mistress same tea every morning," he said, but again, his voice was not twisted into the bitter tone she normally expected from him.
Every morning? Maybe Kreacher was getting addled in his old age. She'd been at Hogwarts more than Grimmauld for the past few years now.
"Young Mistress be wanting breakfast now or with family?" Kreacher asked.
Hermione pondered waiting for Harry. "Just tea for now, Kreacher. I'll have breakfast when Harry wakes up. Thank you."
The house elf looked at her oddly. "Yes, Mistress," he said disappeared with a pop.
Minutes past as her head tried to recover from her headache, but the tea was only marginally helping, despite how good it tasted.
Hermione yawned again, placing her forehead against the counter top. Maybe she should crawl back into bed.
Footsteps in the hallway caught her attention, but she didn't even bother to raise her head. There was only one other person that lived in Grimmauld with her, save Kreacher, and it had to be Harry Potter.
"Up with the dawn, as usual, sis," a warm and familiar voice greeted her. Hermione's mental ears twitched. At that moment, Harry sounded like a younger version of his godfather. "You ready for Hogwarts?" A warm arm wrapped around her shoulders and gave her a hug.
Hermione grunted into the kitchen counter.
"That's a vote of enthusiasm," he told her. "You must have excited yourself long into the night. You're going to fall asleep on the Hogwart's Express."
Hermione mumbled into the counter that she was perfectly capable of apparating to Hogwarts now that Minerva adjusted the non-apparition jinx for her.
"What's that?" he replied to her. "I can't hear you through all that mumble. Hope you don't mumble the floo to Diagon Alley. You'll end up showing up in Borgin and Burkes or something and somehow it will be my fault."
Hermione groaned into the counter as she sound of someone rattling the tea service and pouring tea into a cup rattled her ears. "Mmph," she managed to say.
A hand ruffled her hair, and he muttered into her arms, rolling her head from side to side.
"Hermione Ankaa Black," came a familiar stern voice of Walburga Black. The screaming portrait had conditioned Hermione into instant recognition. "What have I told you about laying your head on the kitchen counters? That is not proper lady-like behaviour. Come here and give your mother a hug."
Hermione's head shot straight up, and she heard her voice say "Yes, mother," instantly. She was up and out of her chair and her arms were around Walburga's waist instantly as though it were the most natural thing to do in the world.
The elder matron of the House of Black curved her arms around Hermione briefly and released her. "I hope you do not forget your manners when you go off to school, child. We have taught you better."
Hermione stood, stone-faced as her mind tried to process exactly what had just happened and why she had done it. Finally her mind focused on the name Walburga had called that had caused Hermione to automatically leap to obey.
Hermione Ankaa Black.
Bloody hell and Merlin's boxers… Ron had wished her out of existence as Hermione Granger and thrust her into the Ancient and Noble House of Black.
She turned around and saw young Sirius Black stuffing his face with eggs and toast. He made a funny face at her, sticking his tongue out at her, only to have Walburga dress him down for bad table manners.
"I'm so jealous of you two," a voice called from the door. A young black-haired boy bounced into the kitchen. "You guys get to goto Hogwarts and I have to wait another year."
"It's only one more year, Regulus," Sirius said, drinking his tea in between bites of toast.
"Hermione," Regulus whined. "Let me hide away in your travelling trunk!"
"Oh no you don't, Regulus Arcturus Black," Walburga scolded. "You will wait patiently for your own time to come."
Regulus made a face as he drew Hermione into a hug. "But, I'm going to miss them."
"They will see you on the holidays, child," Walburga scolded. "See to your breakfast, now."
"Yes, mother," Regulus pouted, releasing Hermione from his death-grip hug.
Hermione stood frozen in place as people moved around her, desperately trying to process the situation she was in. Part of her brain was screaming that everything had gone pear-shaped, while the rest of her brain seemed to think it was perfectly normal to be in the kitchen with brothers before heading off to Diagon Alley and then Hogwarts.
Brothers? Diagon Alley? Hogwarts for the first time with Sirius?
Merlin. It was 1971.
That was the last thing her brain allowed her to realise before promptly shunting all the precious oxygen giving blood to her extremities. Hermione fainted and fell like a sack of potatoes to the kitchen floor.
She vaguely heard Walburga yelling at her that her actions were not proper lady-like behaviour as the world went black.
A/N: Ankaa, btw, is the phoenix constellation. Intentional? Oh, yes.