"And when I felt myself slipping too far, I held on to the one thing I'm always sure of—
The fact that Simon Snow is the most powerful magician alive. That nothing can hurt him, not even me.
That Simon Snow is alive.
And I'm hopelessly in love with him."
— Basildon Pitch, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Harry Potter pushed open the door to the girls' lavatory.
Seemingly unaware anyone had entered, Malfoy stood in front of one of the lavatory mirrors, gripping the sink to steady himself.
"Don't. Don't . . . Tell me what's wrong . . . I can help you . . ."
Moaning Myrtle? Though she was out of Harry's view, he heard her voice gently drifting through one of the stalls.
Malfoy shook his head. "No one can help me. I can't do it. I can't. It won't work . . . and unless I do it soon . . . he says he'll kill me . . ."
Shock cut through Harry. Malfoy was crying—actually crying—tears streaming down his face into the sink. It wasn't for show, it was different from what he'd seen before. So the boy Myrtle mentioned she had been talking to must have meant . . . As though the realization struck him too, Malfoy took a shuddering breath, then looked up into the splintered mirror to see Harry staring at him.
Malfoy spun around, drawing his wand. Instinctively, Harry pulled out his own. Malfoy's hex missed Harry by a hair, shattering the lamp on the wall beside him. Harry lurched sideways, thought Levicorpus! and flicked his wand, but Malfoy blocked the jinx and raised his wand to cast another—
"No! No! Stop it!" Moaning Myrtle's pleas echoed loudly around the tiled room. "Stop! Stop!"
There was a loud bang and the bin behind Harry exploded. Harry preferred not to injure Malfoy if he could help it; he attempted a Leg-Locker Curse that backfired off the wall behind Malfoy's ear, shattering the cistern beneath Moaning Myrtle, who screamed loudly. Water poured everywhere, causing Harry to slip and fall to the floor as Malfoy, face contorted, cried, "Cruci—"
"SECTUMSEMPRA!" bellowed Harry from the floor.
Blood spurted from Malfoy's face and chest as though Harry had slashed him with a sword. He staggered backward, collapsing onto the waterlogged floor with a splash that nearly concealed a sickening thud, his wand falling from his limp right hand.
"No—" gasped Harry. Struggling to keep his balance on the slick tile, he got to his feet and rushed to Malfoy, whose hands reached clumsily toward the gashes through his shirt, face shining as red as the blood that streamed from his chest. "No—I didn't—" Harry's mouth went numb, a high-pitched sound filled his ears, and he fell to his knees beside Malfoy, who shook uncontrollably as the blood spread through the water around them like flames. Remorse was instantaneous, and all Harry could think was: I didn't mean to. I never wanted this to happen. How could the Prince . . . Why would he . . . Why would I . . . ?
Moaning Myrtle let out a deafening scream. "MURDER! MURDER IN THE BATHROOM! MURDER!"
The door burst open behind Harry and he looked up, terrified. Snape, his face livid, had run into the room. Pushing Harry roughly aside, he knelt over Malfoy, then drew his wand and traced it over the deep cuts in Malfoy's flesh, muttering an incantation that sounded almost like song. The flow of blood eased; Snape wiped the residue from Malfoy's face and repeated his spell, closing the wounds.
Harry couldn't tear his eyes away, horrified by what he had done, barely aware of Moaning Myrtle's wails above them, nor the blood and water that had soaked through his clothes.
Once Snape had performed his countercurse for the third time, he helped Malfoy into a standing position, though the boy was barely conscious. "You need the hospital wing. There may be a certain amount of scarring, but if you take dittany immediately we might avoid even that. Come . . ." He supported Malfoy across the bathroom, turning at the door to say, icy rage barely contained, "And you, Potter—you wait here for me."
Harry obeyed; it took all of this mental capacity to process his surroundings, much less consider leaving. He stood up slowly, trembling, and looked down at the wet floor. Although the blood had diluted in the water, the room seemed to glow with the intensity of the original deep red of the wounds in Malfoy's skin. Everything faded together: the white of the tile and the red flood, the white of Malfoy's skin and the garish cuts. Myrtle's moaning was reduced to a hum, insignificant in comparison to what Harry failed to process.
Snape returned ten minutes later. "Go," he said to Myrtle, and she closed her mouth, finally, and swooped back into her toilet, leaving a gaping silence behind her.
Harry gripped his arm to keep it from shaking. "I didn't mean it to happen. I didn't know what that spell did."
Snape ignored this. "Apparently I underestimated you, Potter. Who would have thought you knew such Dark Magic? Who taught you that spell?"
"I—read about it somewhere."
"It was—a library book. I can't remember what it was called—"
"Liar," said Snape through his teeth.
Harry's mouth went dry. He knew what Snape was about to do and he was no more successful than usual at preventing it. The bathroom seemed to shimmer before his eyes, and as hard as he tried to stop it, the Half-Blood Prince's copy of Advanced Potion-Making floated hazily to the forefront of his mind.
And then he was staring at Snape again, in the midst of the wrecked, soaked bathroom. He stared into Snape's black eyes, praying that Snape had not seen what he feared, but—
"Bring me your schoolbag and all of your schoolbooks. All of them. Bring them to me here. Now!"
There was no use arguing. Harry turned at once and splashed out of the bathroom. Once in the corridor, he broke into a run toward Gryffindor Tower. Most people were walking the other way; they gawked at the sight of him, drenched in water and blood, and he ignored the questions they fired at him as he ran past.
Harry felt stunned; it was as though a beloved pet had become rabid. Why in Merlin's name had the Prince copied such a spell into his book? And what would happen when Snape saw it? Would he tell Slughorn how Harry had been achieving such good marks in Potions all year? Would he confiscate or destroy the book that had taught Harry so much—the book that had become a sort of guide and friend? Harry could not let that happen . . .
"Where've you—? Why are you soaking—? Is that blood?" Ron stood at the top of the stairs, looking bewildered at the sight of Harry.
"I need your book," panted Harry. "Your Potions book. Quick, give it to me—"
"But what about the Half-Blood—"
"I'll explain later!"
Ron pulled his copy of Advanced Potion Making out of his bag and handed it over; Harry sprinted off past him and back to the common room. He grabbed his schoolbag, ignoring the stunned looks of several people who had already finished their dinner, threw himself back out of the portrait hole, and hurtled down the seventh floor corridor.
He skidded to a halt beside the tapestry of dancing trolls, closed his eyes, and began to walk. I need a place to hide my book . . . I need a place to hide my book . . . I need a place to hide my book . . .
After walking three times up and down in front of the stretch of blank wall, the door to the Room of Requirement finally appeared. Harry flung it open, hurried inside, and slammed it shut.
He gasped. Despite his haste, his panic, and his fear of what awaited him back in the bathroom, he could not help but stand frozen in awe.
The Room of Requirement had grown to the size of a large cathedral, high windows sending shafts of light down on what looked like a small city. The stacked "buildings" were composed of what Harry knew must be objects hidden by generations of Hogwarts students. There were skinny alleys and wide roads bordered by teetering piles of broken and damaged furniture, perhaps stowed away to hide the evidence of mishandled magic. There were thousands upon thousands of books, undoubtedly banned, graffitied, or stolen, flanked by winged catapults and Fanged Frisbees, some with enough life still in them to hover halfheartedly over the mountains of other forbidden items; there were chipped bottles of congealed potions, hats, jewels, cloaks; there were what looked like dragon eggshells, corked bottles whose contents still shimmered, several rusting swords, and a bloody axe.
Harry ducked into one of the many alleyways, turned right past an enormous stuffed troll, ran a short way, took a left past the broken Vanishing Cabinet, pausing at last beside a large cupboard that seemed to have had acid thrown at its blistered surface. He pried open one of the cupboard's creaking doors—it had already been used as a hiding place for a long-dead caged creature, a skeleton with five legs.
Harry stuffed the Half-Blood Prince's book behind the cage and shut the door. He hesitated, heart racing, scanning the clutter. Would he be able to find this spot again among all this junk? Did it even matter, if Snape read his mind again? Grabbing the chipped bust of an ugly warlock from on top of a nearby crate, Harry stood it on top of the cupboard where the book was now hidden. He perched a dusty wig and a tarnished tiara on the statue's head to ensure it would be recognizable, then sprinted back through the alleyways of discarded objects as fast as he could manage, back to the door, back out into the corridor, slamming the door behind him.
Trading in his copy of Potion-Making didn't fool Snape. He could barely voice a proper defense before Snape was telling him, "I think that you are a liar and a cheat and that you deserve detention with me every Saturday until the end of term. What do you think, Potter?"
"I-I don't agree, sir," said Harry, refusing to look into Snape's eyes.
"Well, we shall see how you feel after your detentions. Ten o'clock Saturday morning, Potter. My office."
On top of single-handedly dooming the Gryffindor Quidditch team, he was chewed out by McGonagall, had lost the one thing keeping him afloat in Potions, and was haunted by the image of Malfoy, blood-stained and nearly dead.
That night, Harry turned over in his bed, stomach growling. He had skipped dinner and the lack of food had caught up with him, making his thoughts even more miserable and foggy. Eventually, he fell asleep, wishing with every inch of himself that he had not used the Prince's curse . . .
For a brief moment upon waking the next morning, Harry forgot the events of the previous day. Just as quickly, the lead-weight guilt hit him. He forced himself out of bed only because the brightness of the room indicated he didn't have much time left before breakfast. Normally, he was able to wake up when the others did, but his vivid dreams had forced him to sleep longer.
Dean, Seamus, and Neville had already left, but Ron's school bag still sat next to his bed.
Just as Harry latched on to the faint hope that Ron would be able to make him feel better, seeing as he had waited for him, the door opened. Sure enough, Ron was able to act as though nothing had changed.
"Morning. I grabbed you some toast and a banana, since you missed breakfast. Hermione's waiting downstairs," he said, and Harry smiled despite himself; at least he could rely on Ron to act as though he hadn't spoiled everything.
Despite Ron and Hermione's pleasant attitude, Harry lost himself in swirling dread about his situation. Because of this, it took him several minutes to notice they were walking in the wrong direction. "Hang on, where are we going? The greenhouses are the other way."
He had stopped, so Ron and Hermione slowed their pace. "We have Charms."
"No, we had Charms yesterday."
"Harry, it's Thursday."
"No, yesterday was Thursday."
Hermione blinked at him, concerned. "Are you ill? Has someone Confunded you?"
"I'm fine, I suppose things could get worse."
"What do you mean?"
Harry scowled. "I'm no closer to finding out what Malfoy's up to, I'm banned from Quidditch—"
"You're what?" Ron seemed more shocked than upset.
"How could you forget?" Harry knew he had been waiting for an outlet to his frustration, and Ron's gaping expression nearly set him off. "Ron, quit acting like you don't know. Hermione, you were furious about it just last night!"
Hermione shook her head, eyes narrowing slightly. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Harry. Look, maybe if you finish eating, that will set your head straight. Breakfast is the worst meal to skip, you know. If someone Confunded you, it would be best to wait it out . . ."
Now thoroughly annoyed, Harry let them lead the way to Charms, imagining how good it would feel to be right about something and not wallow in his mistake.
But when they walked into Charms, sure enough, the class was there as it had been the day before.
Harry froze in his tracks. Had he imagined the previous day? Was he dreaming now? Were they playing a practical joke? Perhaps he was wrong about the date, and yesterday was Wednesday, and the trauma had him mixed up about class . . . But then, why would Ron and Hermione forget the day before? Stiffly, he walked to their usual table and sat down. He waited until Flitwick finished speaking before casting a Muffling Charm around them.
He swallowed, trying to stay calm. "Today already happened."
Ron, who had abandoned his work to listen, met Flitwick's eye and picked up his wand. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, yesterday was Thursday, too. But only I seem to know."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "How is that possible? Are you sure it wasn't a dream, or a vision, or something?" Clearly, it was something she had not heard of before.
"I don't know. It didn't feel like a dream. This doesn't feel like a dream, either." Harry looked around the room for something he could use to prove his point. "Oh! In a few minutes, Seamus will blow something up."
They waited—Harry could feel Ron and Hermione's disbelief radiating on either side of him—but nothing happened. Impatient, Harry thought of something else to prove he was right. "Flitwick sneezes. And it's very loud."
As though on cue, Professor Flitwick let out a bellowing sneeze, causing several students to leap in their seats and Seamus to implode the ball he'd been attempting to wandlessly levitate.
Harry's skin went clammy. It had not seemed like a complete reality before, but now, meeting the shocked expressions of Ron and Hermione, he felt the beginning signs of panic. He explained everything that had happened the previous day, but hid the Prince's involvement by saying he repeated one of Malfoy's own curses.
". . . What should I do? What if I'm stuck like this forever?"
Hermione glanced at Ron, then said, "You won't be, Harry. There isn't magic powerful enough for that. Besides, I assume this is a chance for you to not hurt Malfoy. Maybe once the day ends things will go back to normal."
Harry shrugged. If he was stuck, was it even worth it that he no longer casted Sectumsempra? He'd rather face the consequences of that than be forced to live out the same day over and over again.
As they packed up their things, Hermione said, "We should head to the library to see what we can find."
Ron groaned. "Maybe we should just talk to Dumbledore. He'd know what's going on. For all we know he could've done something."
Hermione was about to agree when Harry cut in, "If I tell him, then I'll have to explain what I did to Malfoy. And if he can fix time right away, then he'll remember. Although . . . if we can't find anything, I won't have a choice." He knew he would not be able to avoid telling Dumbledore about the curse, and would have to include the book. The longer he could postpone that conversation, the better.
Since using a Time-Turner in third year, Hermione was familiar with where to find mentions of time travel in the library. She pulled books off the shelves and delegated several large texts to each of them, saving the largest stack for herself.
The trio was mostly silent as they flipped through pages upon pages of text, only occasionally finding connections to time travel. Every now and then, one of them would open their mouth to say something, then sigh as they realized the information wasn't useful. After an hour, as they were nearly about to give up, Ron said, "How about this? It says every Time-Turner uses an Hour-Reversal Charm, which is 'highly unstable.'"
"Can I see?" Hermione took the book from him and scanned the passage. "Ah, of course!" She turned the page, quickly looked through a few more, then handed it back to Ron. "When I used the Time-Turner, I learned that there is an Hour-Reversal Charm contained in the device. That book says that before a device was invented to control time travel, it was rare that anyone succeeded in going back in time, and when they did, it was . . . messy. My thought is, if it wasn't contained properly, maybe something like this could happen. Unfortunately—and I know this from third year—the vast majority of information about Time-Turners is protected by the Ministry. It's highly classified, and the charm is likely beyond difficult to replicate, even if we found the instructions."
"So . . . what does that have to do with me?" Harry knew it wasn't a good sign that he was already confused.
"Maybe the spell that's affecting you is similar to the Hour-Reversal Charm. As far as we know, you're the only one who's aware that we've traveled back in time. Also, although you went back more hours than I was allowed to travel, it's still only a day."
"How can I change things, then? With the Time-Turner, it didn't matter what we changed, it was how it always happened."
Hermione chewed her lip. "It must be much more powerful. From what I've read, if you go back a short time, you are in a . . . a sort of fixed loop. You can't change anything, like you said. But longer than a few hours, and you affect the future. Depending on when the day started over for you, it might be twenty-four hours. I suppose it could be worse, because you don't know what would have happened the next day if you had hurt Malfoy using Dark Magic. And that could be what's responsible for time resetting: Dark Magic, or something about the castle." She glanced at the pile of books, and Harry could tell she doubted the likelihood of figuring it out solely with research.
Ron sighed. "Maybe someone messed up, and things will be back to normal soon."
A thought struck Harry. "What if it was Voldemort?"
"He would have to be in Hogwarts, I assume."
"But he's got Malfoy, hasn't he?" The more the idea settled in Harry's mind, the more certain he was.
"What reason would he have to cast such a spell?"
"There's a lot about his plans we don't know. It could have to do with his Horcruxes, or killing me."
Hermione looked doubtful, but there was little else to guess. She wanted to turn back to the books—surely one of them had an answer—but Ron was growing impatient and Harry had all but given up. She sighed. "If you're not going to do research, are you going to talk to Dumbledore tomorrow?"
"Fine. Yes, I will."
That night, Harry lay back in his bed, nerves washing over him in waves. If nothing else, he had managed to avoid confrontation with Malfoy. The best he could do was hope everything would go back to normal.
When Harry awoke the next morning, Ron was shuffling loudly out of bed. "Hey, Ron, what day is it?"
"Hm? Wha—? S'Thursday."
Harry's heart skipped a beat. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah? Wait, or is it Friday already?"
Seamus thew his covers aside and pushed past them. "It's Thursday." His tone was steely, likely a combination of being woken up and lingering bitterness over Harry's decision about the Quidditch team.
Harry glared at his retreating figure, then looked back at Ron. "I've got something to tell you."
After Charms and once more explaining everything to a bewildered Ron and Hermione, Harry consulted the Marauder's Map, saw that Dumbledore was in his office, then set off for the Headmaster's Tower.
In other years, other months, even, Harry may have been more reluctant to come to Dumbledore for help or advice. But he was propelled by three things: he had spoken with Dumbledore only a few days before, this seemed beyond something he could figure out by himself, and he was already growing impatient with the repetition of daily events.
The Headmaster, who had been at the Pensieve, sat down at his desk. "Harry, how are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Harry could not conceal his worry, and upon Dumbledore's piqued attention, began to explain. "Sir, something's happened. And I don't know how. I woke up this morning, and the morning before that, and—it's been the same day. Yesterday was Thursday, and the day before that as well. What I mean is, I'm stuck in time. And only I seem to have noticed."
Wordlessly, Dumbledore waved his good hand, and a cabinet to his right opened. Harry watched as a small wooden box levitated to rest gently on the Headmaster's desk.
"What is that?" As he asked, Dumbledore opened the box and pulled out a familiar gold-plated device.
This Time-Turner had six rings—more than Hermione's Time-Turner—and its center rings spun very quickly, making a soft whirring sound.
"This is an ability I did not know the Time-Turner had; it seems to be detecting that time is no longer functioning as it normally should."
"Is it causing time to repeat itself?" Harry sat down and peered at the device.
"I do not believe so. In fact, I imagine it and any other surviving Time-Turner is entirely unusable during the loop. The Time-Turner I invented is a complex instrument, but a situation of this nature . . . It would take me weeks to test if it is responsible."
"So what, then?"
"The Time-Turner is likely only an indicator that time has been disturbed. I believe the true cause could be a jinx, or a curse." Dumbledore paused. "Similar to the jinx on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position."
"Hang on . . ." Harry thought back to the memory he saw of Voldemort's visit to Hogwarts. "So Voldemort jinxed the—?"
"I believe he did. Perhaps he was not in control and it was caused by an emotional reaction, perhaps it was fully intentional. Until he dies, the jinx will persist."
"So . . . did Voldemort do this, too?"
"I cannot be certain. I have never known time to repeat itself in the castle in all the years since he was last at Hogwarts, though it is possible it evaded my detection. There have also been numerous students powerful enough to cast such a jinx since Tom Riddle left school, or students who were capable of bringing such magic into Hogwarts." Dumbledore paused, gaze magnetized toward the consistent spinning of the Time-Turner's rings. "I think you should investigate who created this time loop, assuming it continues. That will be the key to uncovering how it was created, and ending it, if necessary."
"How long will that take?"
"A few weeks, perhaps, at the most."
"What if it takes longer? What if I'm stuck like this?"
Dumbledore looked to the Pensieve, then back to Harry. "Focus on ending the loop, for now. Feel free to return to my office in the future. If you must prove to me the time loop exists, simply tell me to look at my Time-Turner."
Harry left Dumbledore's office feeling deeply discouraged. With his initial efforts to figure out the time loop through research proving unsuccessful, he couldn't see how he would fix things on his own.
Hermione and Ron tried their best to reassure him.
"It could sort itself on its own," said Ron, a placating suggestion that already seemed familiar.
"Ronald, really. We have to try something." Hermione did her best to look confident. "If nothing we do is permanent, then it won't affect us to spend time researching rather than doing homework." This was apparently more to convince herself than the boys.
"Yeah. And at least I can remember whatever we find out. If I forgot everything each morning, I'd be stuck like this for sure."
Ron's eyes grew wide. "What if time is always repeating and no one knows?"
Hermione almost began a retort, but instead stopped to consider it. "Well . . . with the Time-Turners affected, I hope there'd be some kind of sign. Instead, what about this: what if time repeats constantly and always only one person ever knows? That's the motivation to use magic, people constantly fixing their mistakes, trying to change things . . ."
They were silent, thinking.
Harry ventured an idea. "Dumbledore said 'numerous' students could've created the loop at some point in Hogwarts."
Ron frowned. "And how many thousands of students has this school had?"
"Under five hundred thousand. That's only an estimation, no one really knows because records were destroyed in the sixteenth century." Sensing their lack of interest, Hermione continued, "Anyhow, we could start with that. Is there anyone at school right now who could've done it?" She fished in her bag for a piece of parchment and dipped her quill in ink, apparently unconcerned what she wrote would disappear the next day.
"Draco Malfoy." Harry waited to see if Hermione's reaction would be better than the day before and was pleased when she wrote it down. When he added, "Or anyone in Slytherin," she set her quill on the table and looked at him, stern.
"We don't know if this loop is malicious, or even if it was created on purpose."
"But Dumbledore brought up Voldemort." Harry looked to Ron for support.
"Harry's got a point." Ron glanced at Hermione, apologetic.
"More than just Slytherins cast jinxes, if that's what this is. And there are more powerful students than Draco Malfoy. A few, at least." Hermione listed off a number of students at Hogwarts she knew were smart, or had once made a show of their magical abilities. Her impression of them seemed to revolve around how their talent compared to hers.
Harry read and re-read the list while she wrote, mentally crossing out the names he thought were unlikely. When Hermione wrote her own name, he scoffed.
"What? I could've done it by accident! And as far as we know, I'm the only one who's time-traveled inside Hogwarts in recent history."
"Then why would it affect me?"
"I don't know. Someone else could be reliving their day, too. If they are, you have to find them."
Once complete, Harry couldn't help but see the list in order of likelihood, with Malfoy's name at the top spot. "I'll use the Marauder's Map, see if there's any unusual behavior." He bit back what he nearly added—See what Malfoy's been doing in the Room of Requirement.
Exhausted by the amount of information he had to process, and anxious to fall asleep sooner to see if time had resumed normally, Harry retired to bed early. Restless, he fought for a comfortable position, finally ending up on his side, facing his nightstand. His wire-framed glasses, blurred into a reflective smudge by his eyesight, were placed next to his Charms textbook, and the familiarity of this arrangement sparked an idea. He placed his glasses on top of the book; that way, when he woke up, he would immediately know if time had reset.
The door to the room opened, and Ron (Harry could make out a smudge of orange) entered, abandoning his effort to be quiet once he saw Harry was awake.
"We'll figure it out," said Ron, crossing to his dresser. "You figured out how to get Slughorn's memory, and at one point that seemed impossible, right?"
Harry nodded vaguely, closing his eyes again. The situation seemed more nebulous than impossible, where possibility and impossibility were distant considerations in the wake of what had yet to be determined.
The next morning, Harry's glasses were in their usual place.
When Ron prodded him to wake up and get ready or they'd be late, Harry mumbled something about not feeling well, and Ron could go on without him. Dean, Seamus, and Neville had already left, so no one saw when he retrieved the Marauder's Map and spread it out on his bed.
He felt a bit godlike with this ability to see everyone at once. Like turning over a large rock, Hogwarts opened up to him, revealing the writhing, unknowable life underneath. Tiny dots scurried across the parchment, attached to names he could have heard once or a thousand times, some clumped in pairs or groups, others alone.
As his eyes began to drift with boredom, he was struck with an expected albeit all-consuming loneliness. His father's fingers had surely traced the same sprawling lines as his had, mind racing with possibilities. The map symbolized a simpler time for both of them, when James' biggest worry was getting away with a prank rather than getting away with defying Voldemort, and Harry's biggest worry was whether his life was threatened by an escaped convict rather than a resurrected, genocidal wizard.
What would his father do with the map and the freedom to explore without consequences? Harry's attention wandered to the Slytherin dungeon. Surely some Slytherin in the castle was up to no good, or he could find evidence of Snape's true loyalty . . .
By ten, Harry finally put the map aside. Over an hour of studying the pages, and his eyes'd had enough. He glanced around the room for an idea of what to do, but felt restless just from the idea of reading. Instead, he got ready for the day so he could join Ron and Hermione for lunch before Transfiguration. It was unusual for him to miss class for being sick, especially for a morning class where sleeping in was an impossible luxury.
"Should you see Madame Pomfrey?" asked Hermione for the fifth time.
"I'm fine. I had a headache—not my scar hurting, mind—and it's gone now."
They took his word for it. Going to class seemed pointless, as did explaining his situation to Ron and Hermione over and over again, unless he had new information to run by them. He could tail Draco, or ask Myrtle if she'd seen anything, possibly follow the students Hermione had listed as possible culprits.
For the time being, he pretended to work on homework in the common room while actually thinking about how best to approach fixing time.
"Ah, finally." Ginny collapsed on the couch next to them, sighing.
Harry's nerves jumped in surprise. "Long day?" She had tied her hair back, and over the course of the day, little wisps had escaped, remainders of whatever whirlwind she'd been caught up in. Of everyone he had no longer disappointed since time repeated, he was happiest about Ginny.
"It's been a long week, and I have to study for the O.W.L.s next month on top of essays . . . Fortunately, I saw Dean on my way here, and he looked way better, so that cheered me up. I was tired of seeing him moping around."
"That was rather sudden," said Ron, scoffing. "Yesterday I heard him tell Seamus it'd take months to get over you."
"Maybe he rebounded. That's what it takes, in the end."
Harry stared down at his hands, wondering if dating Ginny after Dean would only be temporary so she could get over him. By her cheeriness after the breakup, though, it was unlikely she needed a someone to revive her spirits.
"What about Lavender?" Ginny considered Ron, who was sharing a textbook with Hermione—their knees nearly touched as they propped the book open between them.
"She's not over it, if that's what you're asking," he said, with a level of indifference that was almost cruel.
"If I know you at all, Ron, she'll get over you before you know it. Not that Hogwarts is overflowing with eligible bachelors."
Harry hoped she couldn't see the heat rising to his face—thankfully, Ron's indignation served as a distraction.
"Aren't there other people you can annoy?" grumbled Ron, blocking the pillow she attempted to kindly return to him. Harry imagined their summers must be like this, Ginny chucking Quaffles at Ron as he did his best to guard the goalposts.
"Why, and miss out on annoying my favorite brother?" She stood and ruffled his hair before looking back at Harry. "Talk to you lot later, then? I'm off to bed, I'm going to finish my essay in the morning."
"Yeah, talk—see you soon," replied Harry, stumbling over the words, too aware of Hermione's barely contained smirk in the corner of his eye.
"Drop it," he said once Ginny was out of earshot.
Hermione blinked at him, feigning innocence. "I didn't say anything!"
Harry raised an eyebrow, then busied himself in his textbook, which he realized had been open to the same page for the past hour. He looked over at Ginny, who stood at the foot of the staircase, laughing with some of the girls from her year. Maybe living the same day over again for a couple weeks wouldn't be so terrible after all.