Disclaimer: Just three words: Joanne Kathleen Rowling
LOVE ALWAYS FINDS A WAY
Chapter 1: Falling
It was the summer after seventh year, the summer of terror.
For the Golden Trio, Hogwarts was a done deal. Hermione Granger graduated Head Girl, with top marks and twelve N.E.W.T.s. She spoke at graduation, Harry and Ron beaming from the front row, and the rest of her professors hailed her the brightest witch of her age. But her parents were the proudest, wore the biggest smiles. (They were dentists, after all.)
But by July her parents were dead, and Hermione was living at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place with Harry, the Weasleys, and a few other Order members.
Were Mr. and Mrs. Granger tortured and murdered because of her connection to Harry Potter or simply because they were Muggles? No one knew the answer, and there was no time to find out. Casualties, of wizarding folk and Muggles alike, were mounting, and the Order was stretched to a breaking point.
Hermione had fought valiantly when they invaded her house in the dead of the night. She incapacitated two Death Eaters before she was cornered by none other than Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. Whether they were going simply to kill her or torture her for information about Harry, she never found out because the Order showed up then. The remaining Death Eaters put up a good fight, but it was they who Disapparated in defeat in the end. And, when they were gone, Hermione found herself standing in the ruins of her childhood home, all traces of her Muggle life destroyed forever.
So, Hermione went to live at Grimmauld Place, a shell of the girl she had once been. There had been no funeral for her parents. Their bodies had been burnt to ash along with the rest of her house and most of her belongings, and it would have been too dangerous to have a service anyway.
Only Harry could say he knew what she was feeling, and maybe that's why it fell to him to try to talk to her. She was tolerant of his attempts to draw her out, let him come into her room whenever he wanted. But instead of finding out what she was really feeling, he found himself unburdening his young yet tortured soul to her.
Maybe that is why he started to fall in love with her, or maybe it was just eventually bound to happen.
It was the one secret he kept from her, the one he kept from everyone. It was a tragic twist of fate that the only other person he could confide in was in love with her as well. Though Ron thought he hid his feelings for Hermione behind his rudeness and their endless arguments, Harry knew Ron had fallen for her. Ron was his best friend after all.
But that best friend thing works both ways, and Ron soon figured out Harry's secret. They grew distant from each other, started to see the differences they had had from day one, differences that seemed so trivial back then but were so obvious and irritating now.
They tried to hide the fact that the Golden Trio was breaking up, but Hermione knew she was the reason the strongest friendship in the world was slowly turning to bitterness, jealousy and hate.
Hermione withdrew even further and started to toy with a dangerous idea. Digging into her trunk, the only thing they had salvaged from the ruins of her home, she found something that began to tempt her with its possibilities: her old Time-Turner. She had never turned it in to Professor McGonagall at the end of their third year. She had kept it, had not used it or even touched it in four years, but she still had it all the same.
She took to twirling the chain around her finger, around and around, contemplating how many turns it would take to go back to the afternoon her parents died. Of course, she never got up the nerve to do it, so the number of turns just added up day after day. She knew how dangerous it was to mess with time, but anything would be better than this, right? She never would have come to Grimmauld Place. Harry never would have fallen in love with her. They would all still be friends. Nothing would have changed.
But even as she twirled the chain around her finger, which she could do for hours while lost in thought and dreaming of what-ifs, a small part of her knew she would never let the hourglass spin. She could just leave Grimmauld and go ... where? Anywhere. Maybe, without her there, Harry and Ron could mend their friendship.
Absently, she reached out to pick up her Head Girl badge, which lay on her bedside table, a memory of happier times.
The instant she reached out for the badge, she realized her mistake. Her fingers released the hourglass, and it started spinning, unraveling all the twists she had made in the chain. Her hands clenched convulsively around her badge and the Time-Turner, giving her the smallest grasp of something solid as she fell through time and space.
The last twirl on the chain unraveled, and the hourglass finally stopped spinning. Her surroundings solidified, and she saw a familiar marble staircase materialize before her. She was sprawled on the floor in the middle of the entrance hall at Hogwarts.
"Seriously, Padfoot, how many girls does that make this term?"
"Thirteen," another voice answered.
"You don't want to keep it at 13," said yet another voice.
"Well, it looks like it's about to be 14, boys."
She looked up and saw four boys coming down the staircase. Immediately, her brain registered what one of them had said: Padfoot.
She was looking at James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew, all 17 years old.
"Hello, what are you doing down there, love?"
Hermione stared up at Sirius, partly because it's a very strange thing to be confronted with the younger version of a man you would know in the future, and partly because he was so devastatingly handsome. Azkaban would drain away Sirius good looks in the future, but to see it in full force right in front of her took her breath away.
Sirius grinned at her speechlessness. "What did I say, boys? Every single time."
"Head Boy, coming through." James Potter not-so-subtly thrust himself in front of his best friend, and Hermione found herself face-to-face with an imperfect copy of Harry. Just the little details, like his eye color, were wrong.
His announcement was more joke than pompousness, and indeed the Head Boy badge pinned on his robes was upside down and in much need of a polish. Like Sirius, his robe was gaping open, revealing an untucked shirt and a loosened tie, but Hermione could see the sloppiness was intentional.
She regarded him in surprise as he smiled confidently down at her. She always thought James Potter to be like Harry, quiet and rather unsure of himself. There was a cockiness and swagger about himself and Sirius that reminded her more of Draco Malfoy than Harry.
"Where are your manners, guys?" A third student quietly sidestepped his friends and held out a hand to help up Hermione. She took it more out of habit than anything else. He didn't look much different from the professor she knew, younger and slighter but with the same quiet solidness and slight air of weariness. "I'm sorry about that. I'm Remus. These two idiots are Sirius and James. And that's Peter," he added, almost as an afterthought.
"What's going on here?" an imperious voice demanded. "Why aren't you lot in the Great Hall?"
A girl with long, dark red hair and startlingly green eyes—familiar eyes—descended the stairs and strode straight through the group of boys. She glided to a stop beside James, neatly elbowing Sirius out of the way. The Head Girl badge gleamed pristinely on the front of her robes.
"Hello, I'm Lily Evans, Head Girl," she said matter-of-factly, offering her hand. "And you are...?"
"Er..." She couldn't tell them her real name, not when Sirius, Remus and Peter would know her in the future. She cast her eyes around the hall for inspiration, feeling five pairs of eyes expectantly waiting for her answer—
"Rosemary," she blurted out, seeing a dried bunch of the flower in a nearby planter Filch had neglected to water. She regretted it immediately. All her life she'd dreamt of changing her name to a more conventional one, and now that she had the chance, she'd wasted it.
"You're not a student," Sirius said, looking her up and down. "I haven't seen you here before. And, believe me, I would have noticed."
"I..." Hermione despaired of finding further inspiration in the Great Hall for her excuse. "I need to see Professor Dumbledore!" she declared. Yes, Dumbledore would figure everything out and set everything right.
A crunching noise brought her out of her musings. They all turned to see Peter Pettigrew pick up something from the ground.
"I'm sorry," he said, holding up a long chain. "Was this yours?"
Hermione's eyes followed the length of the chain down to the floor. Near Peter's foot was the crushed hourglass, sand and broken glass sparkling on the marble.
She stared in horror at her broken Time-Turner. A powerful wizard like Dumbledore could have reversed the magic of the Time-Turner and sent her back to her time with no harm done, but now she was stuck here.
She clutched the marble banister for support as she realized she was never going back to her time, that she would never see Harry and Ron and the rest of the Weasleys and the Order ever again. She could hear them asking her what was wrong from far, far away. She felt her fingers slip from the banister, and she was falling to the ground, falling into unconsciousness, falling right into Remus Lupin's arms. And her Head Girl badge fell from her hand, unnoticed and unseen.