Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of other characters in this story.
Part One: Selfish
James Potter would always remember the first time he saw Hermione Granger.
It was the third week of his fifth year. He and Sirius had created a slime that changed colors to blend in with whatever it touched, and came up with the idea of pouring the slime all through the dungeons in hopes that Snivellus (or any Slytherin really, he wasn't picky) would slip and take a tumble and hopefully ruin their books or summer work. James liked to think of it as a warm welcome for their cold-blooded friends. It was an excellent way to start the year.
Having convinced Remus and Peter to join them, they were huddled in one of the corridors, a bucket of slime in hand. They examined the Marauder's Map, carefully planning out their route so they wouldn't be caught in their own trap when they heard it.
The wind—they would later question how it was possible for there to be wind in the dungeons—howled furiously just around the corner. Gripping some of the more uneven stones in the wall, James and Sirius looked around the corner while Remus gathered their supplies and Peter cowered. There was a blinding light as a girl appeared. Then came a dreadful calm. The wind was gone, and the girl wilted, falling silently to the ground.
"Peter, go get Dumbledore," James commanded, taking charge. He approached the girl slowly, Sirius and Remus behind him while Peter scurried away. As he stepped closer, he could hear her muttering to herself.
"Get a grip, Granger," she mumbled. "He needs you. You got… to move." She groaned as she rolled onto her side. The girl managed to push herself up a little only for her hand to slip in what looked like blood, and crashed back on the stone floor.
"Hey there, take it easy," James said softly, gently lifting her up and pulling her against him. It was more serious than he had thought. This was no prank gone wrong. She was bleeding. She looked like she had been fighting for her life.
For the first time, their eyes met. Her glassy brown eyes stared into his blue. A small smile made its way onto her face. "Harry," she breathed. "I knew you'd come, I knew it."
Behind them Sirius whispered, "Harry? Who's that?"
"I'm so, so sorry Harry. I tried, but they… they…" She tried to lift her head. "I couldn't beat them. There were too many. I'm sorry." Her head fell back. "I'm sorry," she murmured again, eyes closing.
"Stay with me," James said quickly, lightly tapping her cheek. "Come on now, open those eyes. I'll have you know I'm exceedingly popular, and it would damage my reputation immensely if you just fell asleep on me. You need to stay awake, uh, Granger. You're name is Granger, right?"
He looked over her, trying to determine what he could do to help her. Not much. While he could transfigure various limbs into just about anything, healing had never been his forte. She was unnaturally thin, as if she had not had a decent meal in months. Her skin was terribly pale, accentuating the shadows under her eyes. Her robes were in bloody tatters, the backpack she wore in the same condition, and one hand tightly gripped a battered wand. Her other arm was set at an odd angle, probably broken. There was a deep, jagged gash that spliced her left eyebrow and ended dangerously close to her eye.
James grabbed his handkerchief and applied pressure to the wound, hoping to staunch the blood flow until help arrived. "Hey now, come on, I asked you a question. You're Granger, yeah?"
"I don't think she can hear you Prongs," Remus said softly. Sirius was unusually silent beside him.
"She'll be fine," James said. He'd never seen anyone die, and that wasn't going to change. He certainly wasn't going to let this witch slip into the afterlife on his watch. He looked back at her. Logically, he knew she was unconscious, but with her ashen face and the puddle of blood around her, she looked dead. "Remus, go get Madame Pomfrey. Sirius, you go find out what's taking Dumbledore and Peter so long." Neither moved, both still staring at the girl. "Now!" He snapped. Surprised, they took off.
"I'm going to move your arm, okay? I'm going to try and see if there is anything I can do for you." He was babbling, not that he would admit it. Privately, he was sure that moving her arm was something he should not do, but she was bleeding profusely, and he was equally sure that the blood was coming from her back. If he could just move the rucksack she wore, he could have a better look, and to do that, he needed to move her arm.
Then he saw it, a photograph, clutched desperately in hand as though it was her lifeline.
Slowly, carefully, James took the picture and slipped it into his pocket, intending to return it later. It was clearly precious to her, and he didn't want it to get lost during her inevitable trip to the Hospital Wing. She was sure to lose it—the arm was broken, and her grip was sure to loosen.
The thunderous sound of several people running drew his attention. Everyone, his friends, the headmaster, and Madame Pomfrey were all sprinting down the hall, Dumbledore ahead of them all. The old man descended on them with frightening speed, his wand deftly flicking and swishing.
"We need to get her to the Hospital Wing immediately," Dumbledore said firmly. Madame Pomfrey, still panting, conjured a stretcher on the spot.
"Thank you for your help, all of you," he said briskly, addressing his students. "I believe your quick thinking has earned you all fifty House points each. You may return to your common room for now, though I will likely speak with you on the matter later, when I am less pressed for time. If you please, Mr. Potter," he said, smoothly removing the strange witch from James' arms and placed her on the stretcher.
In moments, they were gone.
For several seconds, as Dumbledore, Pomfrey, and the girl disappeared down the hallways, James sat in a stunned silence. He looked at his hands. They were bloody. He knew that his friends were talking, but all he could hear was steady hum. Suddenly there were hands on his arms, pulling him to his feet. Sirius and Remus. Peter was holding their forgotten supplies.
They walked away, the other three talking to him, but James couldn't concentrate on their words. Who was that girl? What happened to her? How did she end up in the dungeons? Who was this Harry fellow? Was he responsible for her current state? James would give this Harry a good thrashing if he was—you don't hit a witch, his mother used to tell him. But no…she'd been relieved when she thought she was talking to Harry. Not him, then. So who?
"Here James, you look like you need it," Remus was saying. James looked up to find himself in front of the Prefects Bathroom. "We'll make sure no one bothers you while you, ah, clean up. Password is Fortuna." The door swung open and James stumbled in, leaving his friends behind. This was not the first time he had used the Prefects Bathroom, having convinced Moony to give him Best Mate's Privileges. This was, however, the first time he didn't revel in it.
Instead he absently washed his hands. Sitting heavily on the floor, he remembered the picture. He pulled it out of his pocket to see this treasure that the witch coveted so. If he were less manly, he might have fainted.
There were three teens, more children really. One was a redheaded boy with a wry smile. The second was the witch he'd found in the dungeons. She smiled widely, revealing large front teeth that he hadn't noticed when she was talking earlier. It was the third person, the boy in the middle that amazed him. The boy—grinning like he'd just been presented with the latest broom model—looked just like him save for two things; this boy had green eyes (Lily's eyes, he could tell) and a scar on his forehead. With shaking hands, James turned the picture over to see if there was anything written on the back. There was. In a neat script:
Hermione Jane Granger, Harry James Potter, and Ronald Bilius Weasley
Spring of '94, 3rd year
The boy was his son. And this girl, this Hermione, knew him. Knows him. She had called James by his son's name, having confused them. James grinned and felt more alive than he had in a long time. Not even the thought of making Snivellus slip in slime had made him so cheerful.
His son. Lily's son. His and Lily's son. He really was going to win the Lovely Lily. He was going to do more than that, he was going to have a family with her. A son. Maybe there were others, too, that didn't make it into the picture. Maybe he had a dozen kids. Well, not that many, James thought with a smile. He imagined a grandiose house, a pregnant Lily standing in the doorway, three or four children running around the yard, and dozens of fans following him, praising his awe-inspiring Quidditch skills.
Then he noticed the smear of blood on the corner, and again remembered Hermione Granger, the witch who knew his son from the future. The witch laying half-dead in the hospital wing. His smile vanished. James wiped the blood away with a single swipe of his thumb. He tucked the picture back into his pocket and stood to wash his hands again.
His thoughts were racing again. Should he tell his friends about the time traveler? His first instinct was run out there and wave the picture under there noses and tell them about the dozen kids he was going to have with Lily. His second instinct was to guard his little secret jealously. They'd only laugh, anyways. They always laughed when he talked about Lily anymore. Not to mention Hermione was in a precarious situation. Anyone could overhear them, and if word got back to Voldemort, the self-proclaimed Dark Lord, she would be in danger.
James was determined to be a good father and send Hermione back to his son. After all, if his son was popular with the ladies, that only reflected well on him, didn't it? He doubted she was his son's type though, if Harry was anything like him. She was nice, but she just wasn't pretty enough, not like Lily. Nothing against Hermione, he thought, but only the best for his son. Maybe she and the redhead could get together.
Drying his hands with a quick spell, James strolled casually into the corridor where his friends were waiting. They were shocked to see him, clearly expecting him to take a bath. He smiled and led the way back to the common room, and managed to slip in unnoticed by the other Gryffindors. They asked him about his sudden mood change when they were safely ensconced in their dorm, but he simply grinned in reply, and changed out of his ruined robes.
Later, when he was certain they were asleep, he took the photograph out of the pocket he had tucked it in earlier, and slid it under his pillow.
The following morning the Marauders were summoned to the Headmaster's office before breakfast, where they gave their account of what happened.
"Who is she, Professor?" Sirius asked when they finished.
"Her name is Hermione Granger," Dumbledore began. "I am afraid that hers is sad tale. It seems she is a victim of the escalating war. The Dark Lord Voldemort has left her without a home and she sought refuge here. Unfortunately, she made a few errors when enchanting her portkey, thus her unpleasant arrival.
"I trust that you will all be discrete. Miss Granger has suffered a terrible loss, and it would be most unseemly if anyone were to use this information against her. I am sure that you four will keep this to yourselves," he concluded.
The other three looked grim, but James felt the corner of his mouth twitch upwards. He lightly touched he picture he put in his pocket that morning. Voldemort, indeed! The git was probably long since dead in her time. Now he was merely a convenient excuse. He artfully ignored her condition when she arrived.
"Is there something you would like to add, Mr. Potter?" Dumbledore inquired, his blue eyes sharp.
"No Sir," James replied. "I just wanted to know when she'll be leaving the hospital wing." He congratulated himself on a nice cover-up.
"She will be well enough to join classes tomorrow morning, since most of her wounds were superficial. I will be announcing her arrival tonight at dinner—I trust you will keep your silence until then. You may go to your classes now."
They left, three whispering and James just following with his secretive smile.
True enough, at dinner that night Dumbledore announced a new student would be joining the seventh years the following day. James was a little sad that she was ahead of him, since they wouldn't be sharing classes, but he figured it was just as well. He didn't want to embarrass the poor girl by showing her up in every class.
He was dismayed to find his fears were unfounded. The next morning, Hermione slipped into the Great Hall, unnoticed for the most part. She sat in an unoccupied space at the Gryffindor table, book in hand. She looked fine, but for the scar just over her eye, splicing her eyebrow in two. By that evening, rumors of her genius were circulating. She had answered every question correctly and performed every spell perfectly on the first try. James was sure it was because she was from the future and thus had a more advanced schedule.
Subtlety was not something she was very good at, either. By the end of the week he heard she'd been invited to the Slug Club parties. She was Slughorn's pet and McGonagall's little darling. She had won nearly seventy points by herself for Gryffindor. Teachers praised her in-depth answers. Students exalted her prowess with a wand. With in a month, she had begun to 'Hold Court', as the younger students called it, in the library on Sundays. She freely offered her help to anyone who wanted to do better on an essay or couldn't quite master a spell. James usually charged at least a galleon to look over someone's work. Now she was making him look bad.
James heard from Sirius, who'd heard from his latest girlfriend, a sixth year, that she'd even cast a corporeal Patronus in a Defense class. The story was that the professor had a boggart for a pop quiz, which turned into a Lethifold. Hermione had walked in to deliver a message and produced a Patronus on the spot to 'protect' her fellow student. James was more inclined to believe she was just showing off. If she was hoping to blend in, she had failed miserably.
And not once had she even looked at him, let alone thanked him for saving her life. It was enough to make him sick. He didn't like her anymore, whether she was his son's friend or not. He'd even told his friends that she was just a stuck up snob who was ungrateful to the point of being rude.
A week later, he was eating his words. A package arrived for Remus one morning before breakfast in the dorms. Inside were seven small potion bottles and a short note.
I understand you have a furry little problem. Inside I have enclosed a potion that will relieve some of the more undesirable symptoms. One dose must be taken once a day for the next week. I have provided the exact amount needed.
James immediately recognized the handwriting as Hermione Granger's. It was on the back of the photo, which he looked at whenever he had a few private moments. He liked knowing his future.
"Go for it Moony! What's life without a little risk, eh? I think it will really help."
The others were more reluctant about this Custos, but James, knowing she was the time traveling Hermione Granger, was all for it. It took most of the day, but in the end he persuaded Remus to try the potion, though he complained about the taste. A week later, they were amazed at the results, when Remus the Werewolf scrawled a message on the floor of the Shrieking Shack that he was in control. The following morning, he reported that his body didn't ache as much as it usually did. Custos, the four decided, was a godsend.
Feeling more secure in his life than he ever had, he relaxed more. James even eased up on his pursuit of the Lovely Lily. Moony was in control in a way. Sirius was at his best, devising one genius prank after another. Peter was actually doing better in his classes, courtesy of a tutor he wouldn't name. And James, well, his life with Lily was set in stone, as evidenced by the photograph he carried with him everywhere. Everything was as it should be, and perfectly normal.
Not that Hermione Granger didn't do odd things, though. It was rumored that in fit of rage (he'd heard, but wasn't sure if he believed, that she had asked some Ravenclaw out and was turned down) that she had burned the old Vanishing Cabinet to a crisp. The damage was irreparable. People began to stay away from her after that.
It really bothered him that sometimes she disappeared. Completely. He couldn't even find her on the Map. More disturbingly, when she was gone, Dumbledore was sometimes gone too. One time he had been scanning the Map when she and Dumbledore appeared in the girls' bathroom on the second floor. When he'd asked Moaning Myrtle about it, she'd giggled, and said all she heard was Dumbledore hissing something. When she'd gone to see, they were gone. Myrtle had left, trying to find a few answers of her own. When she returned, the two were leaving her bathroom, both looking worse for the wear, and carrying what looked like tusks belonging to a small elephant.
Another time they both suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere on the seventh floor. Later, during his ongoing investigation, James asked the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy if he saw anything, but the man exclaimed that he was too busy trying to teach trolls ballet to pay attention to the goings on in the hallway.
She had unusual eating habits, too. She rarely ate breakfast, though she would occasionally sit at the table reading a book. Lunch was neglected altogether—she didn't even bother sitting in the hall. Dinner was interesting. She was there every night, but never ate very much as best he could tell (and he had developed the habit of watching her, so he would know). There were rumors that she had some sort of Muggle eating disorder, but from what James had seen, she ate whatever she wanted whenever she pleased, which just wasn't often. It was almost as if she were unused to eating.
It was a week before Christmas break before James actually spoke with Hermione Granger. She was sitting in a forgotten corner of the library, hunched over a roll of parchment. She wasn't working, however. She was sitting there, staring blankly at the parchment, her head in her hands. She looked miserable. It bothered James that one of his future son's hangers-on was so upset. He decided he would cheer her up.
"It's Granger, isn't it?" He asked casually, sauntering over to her table.
"As if you were not aware of that fact prior to this meeting," she said coldly, sitting up stiffly in her chair. James stood in shock. Shouldn't this girl be trying to get in his good graces? "What do you want?" She demanded, the chilly tone never leaving her voice.
He bit down on a sharp retort about showing a little gratitude to the one who saved her sorry life. He was really becoming frustrated with her. Surely, if she was one of his son's ladies in waiting, she would show him more respect! "I want to know why you look so sad. Is that bad of me?"
"You're a git," she replied calmly. "Of course it's bad. What ever reason you've come up with to explain your concern is entirely selfish, I'm sure. Please leave."
Who did this witch think she was, anyways? It wasn't like she was pretty, with that hideous bushy hair, and that horrible scar on her face, splitting her eyebrow in two. He thought she was supposed to be smart. Didn't she realize he was doing her a favor? He definitely wasn't going to put in a good word for her with Harry when the time came. Briefly, he wondered if his future counterpart had done something that would make her hate him so, but decided that it wasn't the time to be distracted. This was the first time he'd actually gotten to speak with her, and if he was going to learn more about his son, then he needed to be patient. "I am not a git," James said through gritted teeth.
"Yes, actually, you are. You purposely pull malicious pranks on people who have done nothing to you for the sole reason of your own entertainment. Those are not the acts of a good person, but rather, the acts of a contemptible person. Git, by definition, means a contemptible person. Using deductive reasoning, you are, therefore, a git."
James stared at her. For a moment, he wondered if she was right. Then his voice of reason kicked in and reminded him that this girl was nothing more than a walking, talking, futuristic encyclopedia. He sneered at her. "Merlin, no wonder you haven't got any friends. You're a nightmare!" Her response was most unexpected.
At first he'd thought she was crying, the way her shoulders were shaking, but then he heard her chuckling. The chuckling evolved into full-blown laughter and before he knew it, there were tears of mirth in her eyes. He'd just insulted her, and she was laughing. "I needed that," she gasped, still smiling widely. "You," she laughed again. "You sounded just like…" Harry, James wondered? "Ron!"
"Ron," he mumbled with a scowl. He didn't want to sound like Ron. He wanted her to say Harry. He wanted his son to be like him.
Hermione's expression lost some of its joy. "Yeah, Ron. He was a friend of mine."
"Your best friend?" James asked politely. Perhaps, if he could relax her, she'd start talking about Harry.
"No, a boy named Harry was my best friend," she replied softly. James looked up at her words. She was staring intently at the parchment in front of her.
"Tell me about him," James said. He congratulated himself on keeping his eagerness out of his voice.
"Tell me about this Harry of yours," James said, pulling out the chair across from her. "You obviously miss him, so talk. It might make you feel better. Tell me what you like most abut him." This was an excellent opportunity to learn about his future.
Hermione looked out of her depth for a moment before she dazedly replied, "I like Harry the most!" She flushed in embarrassment. "I mean, I just like who he is as a person. He's very considerate, in his own way. He's more a man of action, you see, and he doesn't express himself well with words. But he does things, nice things, so I know—" She frowned suddenly. "What do you care?" She demanded hotly.
James frowned in reply. "I'm trying to be nice," he ground out. She was making this much more difficult than it really needed to be.
"I've gathered that, but why are you being nice? What's in it for you?"
"Nothing," he lied easily. "I just want to help you, but you're being a ridiculously obstinate!"
Hermione leaned forward, her eyes intense. "Do you know what your problem is? You don't know whether you want to be a nice guy, or a prat. You can't be both. Your indecisiveness is most vexing. You need to choose whether you want to be the sort of man people can depend on, or the fellow people will go to for a laugh and nothing else. I can tell you that Lily deserves the former, not the latter.
"And do you know what else? You shouldn't expect people to just change to suit you. If you care for someone, if you truly love them, you should be willing to change for them." With a harsh flick of her wand, her books and other supplies flew into her school bag. "Ponder that."
He sat in stunned silence until she stood. "You never told me why you were sad," he said.
Hermione looked at him, her eyes empty. "I lost something very precious to me," she said softly. "A picture of me and my friends. It was a reminder of happier times. I think I lost it before I… left my old home." Without another word, she turned and left. James watched her go, unable to follow her. Eventually he pulled himself out of his reverie, and set off to the common room. He had some thinking to do, about Hermione Granger, Lily Evans, himself, and his future.
He felt a little guilty about the picture. Technically, he had stolen it from her. He knew he should give it back to her, but he couldn't bring himself to relinquish the photo. It was a link to his future. He needed it, he told himself, and she didn't. All it was to her was a reminder of an old life she couldn't get back. It would be painful for her to look at, he argued, never mind that she claimed the lost picture was the reason for her sadness.
Then there was Lily. James supposed Hermione was right about that. Lily wasn't just playing hard to get, she really didn't like some of the things he did. She didn't mind some of his pranks—she even said some of them were funny—but Lily didn't like it when people got hurt, and had told him there was a difference between embarrassment and humiliation.
Which brought him to himself. If Lily deserved better, he needed to be better. Hermione was quite hostile towards him. He wondered why. What happened in the future that made her dislike him so? He couldn't imagine he would ever hurt the Lovely Lily. James decided to worry about that later. He needed to concentrate on the present.
He needed to change. He needed to stop pulling so many pranks, especially when he knew they were going to end up hurting people. He needed to focus more on his studies. His dreams of becoming a Quidditch star were fine, but the odds were against him. He needed a fallback career, at the very least.
More, if he wanted his relationship with Lily to be as everlasting as he liked to dream it would be, he would have to learn more about her as a person. Sure, James knew she was beautiful and smart and, for some unfathomable reason actually defended Snivellus, but there was more to her than that. To be the man she deserved, he knew he was going to have to get to know her better so that he could be that man.
The following day, he nearly went up to Granger and thanked her for giving him the telling-off he needed, but his boyish pride wouldn't allow him.
A/N: This is part one of four. Yes, it is HHr, even if it doesn't look like it right now. The Harmony goodness is mostly subtext right now. Give it time, it will happen. This particular story was inspired by a comment I read a while ago that Lily would prefer Hermione for Harry and James would prefer Ginny. I wanted to write a story where James (unlikable as he is right now), grows into a man who values the mind and soul over the body and thus would prefer Hermione over Ginny for his son.
About Dumbledore, it is shown in the sixth book that he understands Parseltongue, and in the seventh book, that Ron could mimic it. Therefore, my Dumbledore can also mimic it. I don't think he would be able to communicate with snakes, but I believe he could open the Chamber.
Also, I know, I'm horrible. I should be working on Time, Interrupted, but I think I've got a bit of burnout on that story. I have everything planned out, but the words aren't flowing. I figured a short break to do this story, and I should be able to get back on track.
One final note: Hermione's scar means nothing. I just wanted a physical indication that she is not the same person as the Hermione who has yet to be born. This one is battle scarred, you could say. It's purely symbolic.
Custos—guardian, custodian, protector, etc.