By Rurouni Star
Part II in what I've come to call the Twisted Timeline series. The first was "Out of Time". I hope this one has a few surprises in it and that everyone enjoys it at least as much as the last. Because this is where the meat of the story is, now that we've gotten past the preliminaries… get ready for your obligatory dark, angst-ridden RS fic. Yay.
Also, I realize that I made a lot of people wait a very, very long time for this, and I am very sorry. School was, simply put, hell this year. Luckily, next year is going to be almost laughably easy because of it. I'm probably overly pleased with myself (and overly optimistic) but there you are. I hope everyone enjoys this one, because now that I reread it, I actually did myself. Thanks for all the reviews and even the bugging to get the sequel done. I did sort of need it. P
"Nothing, of course, begins at the time you think it did."
"Hermione, dear! You've got a letter from one of your friends!"
The so-named girl groaned, blinking awake blearily and rubbing at her eyes. She looked about in the dark room for her lamp, flailing about a bit and managing to knock a glass of water to the floor in her movements. Crookshanks, asleep on top of her, yowled unhappily as he was displaced in her efforts. Hermione gritted her teeth as she found the switch and ran her fingers through her hair. Ron or Harry – whoever it was – was going to be very sorry indeed for sending an owl at this time of night…
If her mother weren't a night owl (pardoning the pun, of course) she'd probably have been in a great deal of trouble.
She stumbled down the stairs, blinking in the sudden light and trying to focus her vision on her mother. She was holding something in her hands, cupped-
Something that resembled a little tennis ball with feathers glued on dive-bombed her. Hermione screeched while her mother looked on with amusement.
"It seems fond of you," the older woman remarked. Hermione managed to catch the excited owl with effort, and turned to frown at her mother.
"You could've warned me," she said sourly – then yipped in surprise as the owl in her hands nipped at a finger, hooting happily. She looked down at it frustratedly. "I'm getting to you!" she told it crossly.
When she looked up again, her mother was smiling gently, hands in the pockets of her cotton robe. "It's cute, isn't it?" the woman said.
Hermione snorted - the mottle-feathered bird struggled in her grasp as she endeavored to untie a letter from its leg. "I'd use a different word, but sure."
Her mother was still staring at it with a kind of wistful expression on her face. "Do you think we ought to get you an owl, Hermione?"
The girl blinked, pausing in her efforts, and looked up in surprise. "Whyever should you want to do that?" she asked, confused and slightly defensive. "I have Crookshanks, you know."
The brown-haired woman held up her hands in a conciliatory manner, mouth curled upward in a strangely mischievous smile that Hermione couldn't help but think looked wrong on a parent figure. "Nothing against your cat, of course," she said. "I do love him, you know that. It's just that owls seem so useful – and I can't help but think you could find a rather pretty one…"
Hermione inwardly groaned. The woman she was supposed to see as a mother (but usually ended up treating like an older best friend) loved animals of all kinds – but when it came down to it, she always ended up taking care of them while her mother monopolized their affections in her uncanny way.
Crookshanks unwittingly proved her right as he slunk out from the door sourly, moving toward her mother. The woman knelt down and let him into her lap right in the middle of the hallway, cooing as he turned over to let her rub his stomach.
"Oh be that way then," Hermione muttered to the ungrateful cat. Crookshanks ignored her as she went back into her room with the owl tightly in hand.
She closed the door behind her with her foot, ignoring tiredly the mess of water on the floor and sitting down on her bed to pull the letter free. This was probably Ron's new familiar – he'd been talking about getting a one, after 'Scabbers' had disappeared…
Hermione froze as she saw the handwriting on the outside – the tight, curled letters that said "Hermione".
The thought hit her belatedly that Harry and Ron had both already written at least once – and that she'd already sent Harry his cake and present.
A giddy kind of relief took her as she hurriedly unfurled the scroll (ignoring the bird, who was now bouncing about her room like a tiny tornado). She'd been so worried when Sirius hadn't sent anything, though she had tried to convince herself there were reasons. In truth, she'd half feared he'd forgotten about her (unlikely) or brushed her off as a minor concern (all too likely). But here – here was the evidence that she'd not been forgotten or pushed aside. She scanned the letters eagerly, looking for news on the man she'd helped hide at Hogwarts the year before.
I'm sorry I haven't been able to write before now. Things were rather hectic while I was trying to find a hiding place – luckily, I don't think anyone's spotted me so far. Naturally, I can't tell you where I am, though I will say I'd come here for vacation any day.
You'll be happy to know that Buckbeak's been changed back and settled into a forest somewhere on the continent. Incidentally, I wouldn't worry about his hunting instincts. He seemed to adjust just like you suspected – immediately took off after some rodent or other when we set down. I wish him all the luck in the world.
I hope your summer is going well – have Harry and Ron been writing regularly? I wish I could get Harry a birthday present, but I'm somewhat badly placed to do so. You'll have to get him something very good for me, and let me repay you when I get back.
There was a brushed surface, where she could barely make out that something had been written, then sanded over (unsuccessfully) then scratched out altogether. Hermione blinked, but moved her gaze farther down to where the writing continued.
What kind of schedule have you made yourself for next year? I hope you're not taking twelve classes again – there's only so many times I can bail you out on principle. Hopefully, you won't be needing that timeturner again. In fact, I would really advise you to drop some classes if you still require it – Moony told me before I left that no student has ever used one for two years running.
I'm afraid I have to go now, but write back if you can. The owl knows the way back – you can go ahead and name it if you want, as I haven't bothered to yet.
Hermione bit her lip, rereading the letter more closely this time. He'd purposefully included the last part about the timeturner, of that she had no doubt. But why he would bother to worm it in so casually, she couldn't determine. Perhaps he really was just worried about her dropping dead from the strain.
She shook her head, too tired to think seriously about it on any level. The girl stowed the letter in the drawer next to her bed, then eyed the still jittery owl warily as it settled on her lap, looking at her with wide, unblinking eyes.
"You mind staying here for the night?" she asked it.
It hopped once, hooting happily and going to nip her finger – she drew it back hurriedly, and smiled in a forced way. "That's okay," she told it. "Let's just settle you in for the night. If you go back to Mum, I'm sure she'll give you something to eat."
She probably shouldn't foist the energetic thing off on her mother, but the woman was usually all-too-willing when it came to animals – except when it came to the dirty jobs.
Hermione opened the door for it to fly out, then picked up the glass on the floor and set it, empty, onto her bedside table. The spill would need a towel, obviously, but she was really feeling very tired…
Biting guiltily at her lip, Hermione wiped the water up with her spare blanket, inwardly vowing to put it in the wash in the morning.
She crawled into bed, then, and turned out the light, drifting into a restless kind of sleep…
The golden timeturner glimmered, untouched, on her dresser.