Title: Living Amongst Ghosts
Summary: A 16-year-old girl travels back in time to Harry, Ron, and Hermione's seventh year at Hogwarts. She pretends to be a Weasley cousin, but her true identity is far more complicated. Over the course of the year, she will prove her usefulness time and time again, but what happens when a traveler from the future begins to get comfortable in a past that she cannot remain in?
Length: Barring any major revisions, this will eventually be 30 chapters and an epilogue.
Author's Notes: There are chapter-specific notes at the start of most chapters. Other than that, just review, please!
When the world stopped dissolving around my eyes, I found I was in Fred and George's old bedroom, just like we'd planned. I stuffed the Time Turner under the neckline of my dress robes and pulled the Invisibility Cloak over myself. I wasn't taking any chances.
It was a fairly simple matter to slip downstairs to a side room where Molly was fussing with Hermione's hair. "Just -- there's a dear -- just stay. STAY." She drew her wand and hastily performed a Setting Charm on the coiffe. Unseen, I gaped at the two of them -- Hermione was not much older than I, and Molly was still middle-aged.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley," said Hermione, timidly brushing a strand of hair from her forehead.
"You're more than welcome, dear. Now go find Ron." She smirked, and Hermione blushed.
"Um -- I'll -- I'll be back in time for the photographer," Hermione stuttered, then left.
Now was my chance. I swept the Invisibilty Cloak from my shoulders in full view of Molly, whose eyes widened alarmingly. Her wand was still drawn, and I could see dual instincts battling in her: to strike at me, and to protect me.
"Who -- what -- ?"
"Molly," I said. "I need you to help me."
"Who ARE you?" she gasped.
"Who do you think I am?" I asked kindly. She still hesitated, so I took my wand and laid it on an end table. "I'm not here to harm anyone. I need to help your family, and so I need your help."
Molly's face was frozen in an expression of disbelief. She walked over to where I stood as if in a dream, took my tomato-red hair between two fingers, and brought it to her eyes. Then she looked into my face, examining my emerald green eyes, ski-jump nose, and square jaw. "You . . . ." She was at a loss for words.
I looked at her and smiled.
She stumbled backwards. "You can't be."
She shook her head frantically. "No, no, it's impossible."
I pulled the Time Turner out from under my robes, showed it to her, and hid it again. "No, it's not. Look, you told me when I left that you wouldn't believe me, so you told me a story to tell you to make you believe."
Molly sat down heavily in an armchair. "A story?"
"About what you did the night Fabian and Gideon died."
All the color drained from her face. "What do you know about that?" she whispered.
"Mad-Eye Moody came to your house to tell your parents. It was late August, and Percy had just been born, so you'd herded Bill and Charlie through the Floo so Percy could meet his grandparents. The night was muggy, and Arthur was working late at the Ministry, but it felt like any other night. Your parents were cooing over the new baby, and Bill and Charlie were playing with your brothers' old toys."
Molly's face was waxen. "The toy broomsticks. They were playing with the toy broomsticks."
"Then there was a loud knock at the door. It was nearly the height of the war, so your parents had wards up. Your father checked through their peephole; it was Mad-Eye, and he was holding his hat in his hands. Your father called for your mother. They let him in, and he told them."
"Dead. Both of them, dead," she breathed. "He called them 'heroes.'"
"You were mad with grief. So you gave Percy to Bill and ran down into your parents' basement. Your father had worked with Magical Law Enforcement and had some confiscated materials -- rare books. He was a collector."
Molly was nearly hyperventilating at this point. "He didn't know I knew about them."
"You found what you were looking for: a grimoire. You paged through it till you found what you needed . . . a spell to summon the spirits of the dead. You tried Gideon first, because though you'd tried to love them equally, you secretly loved him better. He was closer to your age and had always been so sweet to you. So you used the Dark incantation and called his spirit." I paused. "Do you need me to tell you what happened?"
"Go on," she said, though she was shaking.
"He came. He looked like a ghost. He looked so sad. You were crying and said you were so happy to see him.
"But he was just sad. He told you that by summoning him, he'd missed his chance to enter the next life alongside Fabian, and that before he could get back to the gateway, he'd have to lay a curse on your family.
"You begged him not to. You asked him to remember how much you loved him. But Gideon was barely himself. He told you he was disappointed in you for using Dark magic when he'd given his life to end it, but he seemed unable to control himself.
"Finally, after you'd wept for a long time, he told you the curse: 'Bad luck will forever haunt your family,' he said. 'When you are young, money will slip through your fingers; when you are not young anymore, your children will scatter; when you are not old enough, you will bury a child.' Then he dissolved. And you went upstairs to play with your children as though nothing had happened."
Molly stood up suddenly. "Yes. Yes, that's what happened. And I never told a soul. Tell me -- what's your name?"
"Susan," I said. She looked so terrifying, her face all white and her lips so thin. "Grandma, you're not mad at me, are you?"
Her sobs were immediate and copious. She took me in her arms, and soon my left shoulder was sodden from all the tears she'd shed. I didn't feel the need to cry; after all, I'd just waved good-bye to her all of a half hour before.
In the midst of all this emotional upheaval, I still couldn't forget my mission. "Grandma, I need you to give me a cover story. I need to be a cousin that your kids have never met, or even heard of."
She straightened and wiped her eyes. In an instant, she turned from my grandmother to a full-fledged member of the Order of the Phoenix. "Right. Well, I have a second cousin, Timothy Hopkins, who's a Squib. He married a Muggle woman named Anna. You can be their daughter. Susan Hopkins -- is that all right?"
"Yes, thank you."
She narrowed her eyes. "What's your real last name?"
But before I could answer, the door to the room crashed open, and Ron tumbled in, dragging Hermione by her wrist. They both wore silver dress robes. "Mum, can we get these photos OVER with?? Miss Head Girl over here won't let me muss up her hair." Then he noticed me and stopped dead in his tracks. "Who's this?" he said defensively, clearly worried about his mother, who still looked upset.
"This is your cousin Susan," Molly said without missing a beat. "She's Timothy's girl -- you know, the accountant who married a Muggle. It turns out she's a witch!"
Hermione advanced and extended her hand. I tried not to smile as she introduced herself. "I'm Hermione Granger. I'm Muggleborn too. Why haven't you been attending Hogwarts with us?"
Thankfully, Hermione had prepared me for herself. "My parents moved to America when I was small. As soon as they realized I was a witch, actually. They knew from Dad's family how bad it was for Muggleborns in Britain."
"American? Not much of an accent," she said suspiciously.
"We didn't move till I was seven. My accent was pretty well set by then."
The troubled look on her face cleared, and her smile became less guarded. "Well, it's lovely of you to come all the way to England for a wedding."
"Actually," I said carefully, "I might start at Hogwarts. My parents have been talking to Molly and Arthur about letting me stay with them. Apparently the education at Hogwarts is unimpeachable."
Hermione's face lit up, just as she had told me it would. "Oh, it IS! It's the best school for magic in the world!"
Ron looked incredulous. "Mom, how is it possible for a Weasley to be so enthusiastic about school??"
"She's not a Weasley; she's a Hopkins," Molly said briskly. "And I'd appreciate it if you were a tad more enthusiastic about school yourself. Now, where IS everyone? We need to take these photographs!"
As if on cue, two figures walked into the room. One was that which I knew better than any other in the world, though she was younger than I'd ever seen her. Her red hair was pinned in elaborate braids and formed a crowd around her head, her silver dress robes matched Hermione's perfectly, and she looked as though she'd recently been crying.
The other was tallish and slouchy; his black hair stuck in all directions, and he wore another set of silver robes, though these, like Ron's, were more masculine than the girls'. His eyes, I noted, were exactly like everyone had said they would be -- that is to say, exactly like mine.
It was all I could do not to rush forward and embrace him. It was Harry Potter, and though he was my father, I'd never met him before this moment.