A/N: This story is an AU that starts out in book 6 some time after Hermione and Ron took their apparition tests. That means we're up to the point where: Harry has taken Felix Felicis and taken Slughorn's memory, Dumbledore explains that Voldemort made six Horcruxes, Ron just broke up with Lavender and Ginny with Dean, and Harry used Sectumsempra on Malfoy in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. This takes place before Harry and Ginny's first kiss.
It's a time turner fic without a time turner. I'm trying to avoid as many clichés as possible, so: No, Hermione doesn't faint when she realizes she is in the past; no, she doesn't pretend to be an exchange student from Beauxbatons, etc… Eventually I think this is going to be Hermione/Lupin, but nothing is definite yet.
"I think he's going mental," Ron whispered. Hermione felt his breath stir up the fine hair on the back of her neck.
"Going? Try gone," she muttered. She felt Ron's chest against her back and the phantom pressure of his chin hovering just above her shoulder as he bowed his head to speak to her. She shifted to find a less awkward position under the cloak.
"Stop it," Ron hissed. "Someone will see." He put his arms around her, pressing her hands to her sides to stop her fidgeting. She unconsciously leaned back into him.
"How long has he been in there?" Ron whispered. Hermione thought for a moment.
"Ten minutes, maybe."
"Too long," Ron returned. Hermione shifted again, tugging at the cloak when it began to slip.
"Do you think he'll find anything?" Ron continued.
"No," Hermione said shortly. Hermione expected Ron to rush to Harry's defense, but when he didn't she turned a bit and continued. "It could be anything in that shop. Who knows if Harry can even afford to buy it if he finds it." She was too short to reach his ear and wound up saying this more or less to Ron's collarbone.
"What a waste of effort," Ron said glumly. "All that research on glamour charms for nothing."
Hermione turned away again and snorted. She could feel Ron tilt his face downward to glare at her. "Right, because you worked so hard researching, did you? I could tell. You were so exhausted by your efforts that I caught you fast asleep and drooling on page one of Glamour Charms for Undercover Wizards and the Fairly Unattractive.
"Hey, I helped plenty!" Ron's voice rose a little and Hermione elbowed him in the gut, causing him to gasp and start to shout louder. "What was that fo—"
"SHH!" Hermione hissed. "Keep your voice down, you dolt. Do you want people coming over to investigate why the streetlamp near Borgin & Burkes is bellowing?"
Ron reluctantly fell silent, and Hermione took the moment's repose to ruminate on the utter pointlessness of their outing. Harry was quite simply obsessed with Draco Malfoy. Every day the boy ran through a list of wild accusations against the blond Slytherin longer than Snape's nose. Even after sending the Slytherin to the hospital by using the Prince's spell, he wasn't satisfied. It was under this intense prodding and carrying on about the mysterious artifact that Malfoy seemed so interested in before the start of school that Ron and Hermione finally agreed to return to Borgin & Burkes under Harry's invisibility cloak.
It wasn't an easy trip. The trio had to sneak into Hogsmeade using the passageway behind the statue of the humpbacked witch on the third floor of Hogwarts, and then summon the Knight Bus for a stomach-churning ride to Diagon Alley.
So here they were, Harry fumbling about in Borgin & Burkes under two dozen different glamour charms, and Ron and Hermione huddled exasperatedly under a too-small invisibility cloak.
"Maybe Malfoy came back and purchased the whatever-it-is and then smuggled it into school," Ron murmured.
Hermione rolled her eyes, although Ron could not see her.
"Well, if he did then whatever-it-is isn't dark or dangerous. Filch is screening everything," Hermione reminded him.
"Well maybe Malfoy threw a few galleons his way to be sure he'd get it through. You know he can afford it," Ron said, not trying to hide his envy.
Hermione shook her head; her frizzy curls brushing Ron's arms.
"Filch would take more pleasure from punishing a student for bribery than he would from just accepting a bribe. And why are you starting with the conspiracy theories now too? It's bad enough with Harry harping on this without you joining in."
Her query was met with silence, and Hermione felt a lump of guilt in her stomach.
"I didn't mean to say that Harry is a burden," she added hastily. "I just… You know I worry about him… He's becoming obsessed."
"Becoming? Try become," Ron said. She couldn't see him, but she knew that the corners of his mouth were turned up into a small grin. She allowed herself the tiniest of smiles and leaned back into his chest even more than before. Ron had broken up with Lavender only a few days earlier, but already Hermione felt that she and Ron were on the verge of something both terrifying and exciting in their relationship. She allowed her head lull to the side and let herself enjoy his closeness.
"Here he comes!" Ron said in a sharp whisper. Hermione jolted upright.
Indeed it was Harry who came calmly out of Borgin & Burkes shop, but no one around would have known it was him. A combination of powerful appearance charms had changed his youthful face into a mask of scars and wrinkles. His black messy hair resembled a tawny mane that covered his scar (no amount of spellwork could hide it), and his emerald eyes were a dull brown. He was at least three inches taller and fifty pounds heavier. And of course, he'd let Hermione alter the shape of his glasses.
He started out toward Diagon Alley and jerked his head to indicate that Ron and Hermione should follow. Diagon Alley was still as empty and uninviting as it had been when the Hermione had gone with Harry, Hagrid and the Weasleys to get her school supplies in August, with the exception that now there were even more Ministry warnings and "Wanted" posters plastered on buildings and in windows. As the trio passed Ollivander's boarded up windows Hermione saw Bellatrix Lestrange's face sneering up at her from a fallen leaflet on the ground. She made sure to step on it as they continued to move. It was difficult to coordinate her movement with Ron's without bumping into him repeatedly, so Hermione was glad when Harry finally showed signs of slowing. They had reached Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
Hermione stared at the huge purple sign in the right-hand window. Its flashing yellow letters still advertised U-No-Poo. When they entered Hermione saw that the shop was not nearly as crowded as it had been over the summer. The children in the shop all looked very young, younger than eleven in any case. She surmised that with students in school they relied mainly on mail orders. It was then that she felt Ron tugging the cloak from them. There was a slight "whoosh" as the cloak came off, and a small blonde girl near a display of Reusable Hangmen gasped as she saw two teenagers appear out of thin air. The girl stared at them with wide eyes for a second before scurrying off to safer ground.
"Oh, very discreet," Hermione admonished, trying futilely to settle her hair.
"Never mind that," Ron said dismissively. "Harry, what did you find?"
Hermione turned to the strange-looking Harry. His mouth was screwed up in a tight line.
"Nothing," he muttered. "There's just too much in there. I kept asking Borgin about buying this or that and nothing seemed to trouble him."
Hermione opened her mouth to reply that maybe they would be better off trying to get an answer directly out of Malfoy rather than going on a wild goose chase, but before she could speak Harry continued.
"Don't!" he said sharply. "Just don't, Hermione. I'm not in the mood to be scolded."
Offended, a half-dozen defenses sprung to her tongue, but instead of giving any of them voice she snapped, "Finite incantatem."
Immediately Harry's sandy hair became an inky black and receded a few inches. His body shrunk and twisted until the Boy Who Lived stood before them once again. His clothes, which Hermione had enlarged slightly to fit his larger frame, now hung from his body. Out of spite she neglected to shrink the clothes back down to size.
"Ugh, that looked right uncomfortable, mate. What did it feel like?" Ron asked, trying to lighten the mood.
"Like I just got sucked inside a vacuum cleaner," Harry replied dazedly.
"A what?" Ron asked.
"Never mind," Harry muttered, touching his face with his hands as if making sure that he wasn't accidentally missing his nose. "Wouldn't want to be Tonks, although I'm sure she's used to it by now."
"Well, can we go back to school, then?" Hermione said impatiently.
The boys eyed the shelves of merchandise in the shop before giving Hermione a significant look. Hermione sighed, knowing that it would be pointless to argue with them. Besides, without a bit of a pick-me-up, Harry would be sulking and snappish for the remainder of the weekend. Rolling her eyes, she nodded, and her delighted friends quickly rushed to the nearest display of puking pastilles.
Hermione busied herself trying to shove the invisibility cloak into her backpack when somebody called her name.
"Miss Granger! To what do we owe this very pleasant surprise?" boomed an animated Fred Weasley. Before Hermione could answer, George spoke up.
"Oh, brought these two, did you?" he said, gesturing behind her. "Well, shouldn't judge a person by the company they keep I s'pose…" George with a deep sigh as Fred nodded grimly.
Ron rolled his eyes as he and Harry approached the twins.
"You guys are regular comedians," he said sarcastically. "Really, I think you're wasting your talent with this joke shop business. You two should go on the road together."
"Oh, your mum would really love that," Harry said.
Fred and George both made a show of considering this career opportunity, thoughtfully stroking imaginary beards.
"We are quite the entertainers, Fred," George mused.
"And just think of the groupies," added Fred wistfully.
Hermione cleared her throat to refocus the group's attention.
"Back to your question, we were in the Diagon Alley, so we thought we'd pop in," she said matter-of-factly.
"Do you mean to tell me that Hermione Granger snuck out of school to visit a joke shop?" George asked, astounded.
"I mean, we'd expect this sort of delinquent behavior from these seedy types," Fred joined in, gesturing toward Harry and Ron. "But not from you."
"It was my idea," Harry said quickly. "I wanted to get a book on defensive magic."
Trying to pass off a lie on Fred and George Weasley was like trying to best McGonagall at transfiguration, and the twins eyed Harry suspiciously.
"It's true. The appeal of books you know, Hermione couldn't say no, could she?" Ron added, helpfully. Hermione nodded in support. It was a bad lie, but all three felt that it was best to keep the truth quiet.
"A book that you couldn't find in the school library?" George prodded.
"I'm pretty sure those don't exist," said Fred.
Ron began muttering what Hermione was sure would be a faulty excuse when Fred continued.
"It's a bad lie, but we'll let it slide. Only because we can use your help," Fred said smoothly.
"We have some new products we've been itching to test—er show to someone!" George added.
Hermione eyed them skeptically, but Ron and Harry went along eagerly as the twins ushered them into the back room. They passed a group of giggly girls cooing at the bin of Pygmy Puffs by the register. Fred grabbed a purple one out of the bin as he strode along and tossed it carelessly back and forth between his hands. It gave out an occasional high-pitched squeal of terror, but Fred didn't seem to mind.
Once in the rear of the store, Hermione pulled off her cloak. It had been an uncommonly chilly day for late May, but the shop was warm and bustling. When Hermione turned her attention back to the twins, George was searching the cluttered shelf behind them. He pushed aside what appeared to be something moving and slimy to reveal a large hand mirror. As he pulled out the mirror, Hermione noticed a spindly protrusion on its side, like a thin golden handle.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"We present to you the Portable Pensieve!" George proudly announced. When all he received in return were puzzled expressions, Fred continued for him.
"You simply concentrate hard on a specific memory, touch your wand to your head, pull the memory out, and feed it to this part here," he tapped the spindly arm, "and then view in the mirror as you would with a regular Pensieve."
"The only difference is that you can't actually enter into the memory, the thing being so small and all," George supplied.
"Wicked," Ron whispered.
"It's portable, easy to use, and a bargain!" George added.
"What's the trick?" Hermione asked.
"No trick," Fred said, looking hurt that Hermione would suggest such a thing.
"Come off it. This is a joke shop. What's the joke?" Ron insisted.
"We'll have you know that we've been working on a more serious line of merchandise recently," George replied, giving Ron a nasty look.
"Who'd like to try it out?" Fred asked. Ron reached out and grabbed the mirror from George, but Fred, dropping his Pygmy Puff carelessly so that it landed with a squeak, reached out and snatched it back from him.
"Allow me to clarify," Fred resumed. "Who besides Ronniekins would like to try it?"
"Oh come on! I'm your brother! I've never even used a regular Pensieve before. I want to see" Ron whined, clawing at Fred's hands. Fred looked at George rather seriously for a moment before George gave a little nod.
"Okay, but only for a minute," Fred said, handing over the Portable Pensieve. Ron greedily pulled at the strange mirror and brought it close to his face. He screwed up his face in concentration did exactly as Fred had instructed. As soon as he touched his wand to the spindle, however, a forceful stream of water shot out of the face of the mirror and hit Ron square in the face. He coughed and sputtered in complete surprise for a moment before turning the mirror away from him and muttering a stream of curses.
"Oh, it does do that as well. I guess you could consider that a trick," George said thoughtfully.
"Oh yeah, I'd forgotten all about that. I guess it is a joke product after all," Fred added helpfully.
Ron huffed and glared at the twins. Fred took the mirror back and bent the spindly hand into a more upright position before passing it to Harry, who eyed it suspiciously.
"It's okay Harry. It only does that if you trip the spindle beforehand. See?" Fred gestured at the spindle. "It's in the correct position now. Go on."
Harry hesitated for a moment, then slowly touched his wand to the side of his head. A small strand of silvery stuff was pulled from his temple and Harry tugged it gently over to the spindle, which immediately sucked the strand up as if eating it. True to the twins' word, the mirror did not expel any water, but rather seemed the turn to water itself. The surface of the mirror rippled and swirled before gradually settling back to a glassy solid. Harry became engrossed in the image the mirror presented to him, although no one else was able to peek at what it was Harry had chosen to relive.
"What's this?" Ron asked, poking at a round ball of silver dangling from a plain looking chain suspended on from a wall tack. The ball was engraved with an imprint of a world map, giving it the appearance of a miniature globe. It had a strange golden knob at the top of it.
"This, my dearest ickle brother, is an Apparition-Aide!" Fred said happily, snatching it off the tack.
"What's an—" Ron started.
"The Weasley brother's newest invention, the Apparition-Aide, will help even the most dim-witted witch or wizard Apparate with ease!" George supplied. He sounded, Hermione thought, as though he was on a Muggle television commercial.
"The Apparition-Aide will have you to your destination in no time. You can Apparate farther and to less familiar locales with virtually no risk of splinching!" Fred continued.
"Virtually?" Hermione interrupted.
"We're still testing them, but they're nearly market ready. I mean, if you're a real dolt, there's always a danger," George said dismissively.
"Make it idiot proof, and they'll make a better idiot," Fred mused.
"So Ron, you might want to skip this one," George added.
"Funny," Ron muttered.
"I don't believe it," Hermione said, taking the Apparition-Aide from George and examining it skeptically.
"No, he really is a dolt, Hermione. You've known him for six years. You must've noticed—"
"I mean I don't believe your sales pitch," Hermione interrupted Fred brusquely. "Are you telling me that a complete novice could use this thing and Apparate a hundred miles away to a completely foreign location?"
"We've tested them out ourselves," George replied confidently.
"George popped over to Beijing yesterday afternoon with no trouble at all," Fred said.
"Heard the witches there outnumber the wizards eight to one," George explained, shrugging.
"Was it true?" Ron asked eagerly. Hermione shot him a disapproving look and he managed to stop grinning.
"Gross exaggeration, I'm afraid," George said wistfully.
"Anyway, I don't recommend using it in conjunction with other magical devices," said Fred. "Something funny happened the other day while I was using the Personal Pensieve. I tried Apparating to the front room while just after I'd finished re-watching the moment that we watched Krum catch the snitch at the Quidditch World Cup—Man could that bloke fly. Best seeker in a centur—"
"As much as we all love hearing about your fond memories, Fred, if there's a point…" Ron interrupted. He seemed particularly foul-tempered and Hermione couldn't help but speculate that it had something to do with the unexpected mention of Viktor Krum.
Fred scowled. "Long story short, I ended up in the Quidditch World Cup Stadium," he said perplexedly.
"Just thinking of the wrong destination, that's all. No real trouble though," George quickly amended. "He just Apparated right back, isn't that right dear brother?"
"Not a scratch on me," Fred said, pulling up the sleeves on his robe to prove this statement. "It was ruddy crowded in there, people going wild you know, but the important thing is, the Apparition-Aide worked, no problem. I mean, sure it got a little hot, and sure it exploded upon my arrival back at the shop, but—"
"Well, now I know you're having me on," Hermione chided. "The World Cup Stadium doesn't exist anymore. The Department of Magical Games and Sports always tears down the Cup stadiums two days after the tournaments end, of course. There certainly wouldn't still be people in it," Hermione said, rolling her eyes at the twins.
George shrugged. "Maybe you fell asleep with your face on the Portable Pensieve, mate," he teased Fred.
"Never mind that! I'm still stunned that she knew a Quidditch fact! Good show, Hermione!" Fred exclaimed, slapping Hermione on the back jovially.
Hermione swayed for a moment but managed to remain upright. She glared at Fred and shoved the Apparition-Aide into his hands.
"Well, in any case, it doesn't sound as though you've got all the kinks worked out," she said firmly.
"Oh, come on, Hermione, live a little," Fred prodded, sliding the chain over her head. "If you end up going wrong, you can just pop back."
"Go ahead, Hermione, give it a go," George said encouragingly. "You're the only one who can Apparate, what with Harry being too young and Ronniekins here being an embarrassing failure."
"HEY!" Ron bellowed. "It was half an eyebrow!"
"I'm really not comfortable with this," Hermione said nervously. "It's not fully tested yet…"
"Would we ever put you in danger?" Fred asked, feigning hurt.
Hermione shot him a pointed look that clearly implied she believed that they would do just that.
"Hermione, we might test out dangerous products on defenseless, trusting little first-years, but not on you," Fred amended.
"You're too clever. You'd hurt us," George said honestly.
"Just try someplace easy to start. How about you pop outside, right in front of our shop. It won't be dangerous at all," Fred pressed.
"Then what's the point of using the Aide?" Hermione asked.
"We promise you'll feel a difference. The ride will be smoother, quicker, and require less concentration," Fred said enthusiastically. "None of that horrible squeezing feeling."
Hermione paused and looked down again at the Apparition-Aide.
"And then I can just pop right back?" she asked tentatively.
"Absolutely," George said, grinning.
"Go on then, give it a go," Fred urged.
Hermione looked at Ron and he shrugged unhelpfully. He was still pouting at the twins' dig about his recent failure to pass his Apparition test and delicately rubbing his eyebrows. She turned to Harry, but he was still engaged in whatever memory he had chosen to relive. Hermione fastened her cloak around her shoulders to prepare herself for the chill outside the shop, and looked back at the twins.
"How does it work?" she sighed.
Fred and George beamed at each other before turning back to her.
"You just touch your wand to the golden knob at the top of the Aide," George explained, and Hermione cautiously complied, keeping her eyes on the twins the whole time.
"Excellent. Now you just think of your destination and take three confident steps forward, and you should just pop away on the third step. It's important that you take those steps confidently!" Fred supplied eagerly.
Hermione took a deep breath and tried to quell her swiftly beating heart. The twins know what they're doing, she reassured herself. They may be hopeless troublemakers, but they do have talent. They won't get you hurt.
"Stay confident!" George urged, which only made Hermione more nervous.
Throwing one last glance at Ron, who smiled weakly and shrugged, she strode forward slowly. One step. Two steps. As she was about to take her third step, however, she set into motion a chain of events that no one could have predicted.
Her foot landed on Fred's stray Pygmy Puff, which let out a high-pitched squeal and scurried off between Harry's feet. Shocked out of his memory, Harry glanced blurrily around the shop, but could not clear his vision in time to avoid colliding with Hermione, whose forward momentum had caused her to continue on to a fourth, far less confident step. As the two hurtled into each other, and Hermione suddenly felt a cold, wet sensation on her hands. She watched in surprise as her arms sunk right into the face of the mirror. Hermione got a flash of Harry's memory—She saw Harry at Hogwarts. He held his wand directed towards a skinny robed figure that appeared to be hanging upside down as if an invisible hand had yanked him up by his ankle. And suddenly, before Hermione could pull her arms out of the mirror, there was a loud CRACK, and she saw no more.