The next few weeks passed quickly and all too easily. Hermione's natural love of Harry made it a pleasure to be his surrogate mother and James Auror duties kept him busier then she expected. He left early after a quick breakfast and came home late to a hot cooked meal she always had made and waiting.
She told herself again and again that James' new mission was a good thing; after all it was much easier to play this role when she wasn't under the constant scrutiny of a husband, but really her relief at his schedule had a lot more to do with her own illogical attraction to him. He was a distraction that she did not need if she was to protect Harry.
Sirius had remained distant and spared her the barest pleasantry when they met. He'd thanked her when she managed to sort out the permissions for him to own and ride his flying motorcycle but had not appreciated her lecture on the importance of protecting their world and using magically charmed vehicles with care and common sense.
Some things never changed.
James arrived home late one night just as Hermione was putting Harry back to bed. She walked out and gasped at the sight that met her eyes.
There was blood running down the side of his face and a gash on his arm and it looked like a large nasty looking bruise was forming just under his eye.
Immediately her instincts kicked in and she ran to him, pulling James into a nearby chair. "Oh, James, what happened?"
"We ran into a group of Death Eaters playing living-dolls with a Muggle family just outside of London." He tentatively touched the gash on his arm and cringed. "I think we got them all but the fight was dirty. I was hoping you'd still be asleep."
Hermione tightened her lips and gave him a stern look. "Well I'm not."
She moved quickly and pulled out the first aid kit but it didn't have all that she needed. Racing out into the garden she gathered up a selection of herbs, pulled a few small bottles of various ingredients from the cupboards.
"What's all that?" He asked curiously and sniffed at a rather inky looking potion.
"Just brewing something for those cuts." She ground and chopped and whispered enchantments as she stirred. "Alright this is going to sting a bit but it will heal much faster."
As gently as she could Hermione cleaned the cuts and then dabbed at them with the healing potion. All the while James watched her. He drank the potion to stop the aches and pains and only cringed and grunted slightly when she worked on his cuts. But his eyes never left her face.
"I didn't know you could mix these kinds of potions," he seemed to be speaking more to break the silence and she smiled softly.
"I was paying attention at Hogwarts you know," she quipped and put away all the ingredients left over. "Here I'll heat up your dinner. You'll need food to help you recover."
He nodded and accepted the food without argument but his eyes never left her face. "Will you sit with me?"
The question struck her as odd. "Of course I will, silly."
Late into the night he talked and ate. Sometime after he finished eating they moved into the lounge and he lay down with his head on her lap and she absently stroked his messy black hair.
He told her about the mission and about how disappointed he was to see so many werewolves and other magical creatures shifting over to Voldermort's side. She responded showing her own frustration at the prejudice that was a rank in her time and here in his.
"Albus thinks there is a spy amongst us." He spoke the words as though they pained him. "One of our friends is feeding information to the dark army."
"Surely not," she replied fully aware of the truth in his suspicions.
"Voldermort has been one step ahead of us for weeks now. Every time we plan a strike against his army they are either ready for us or change their plans. I'm telling you Lils he knows our every movement." He sat up and turned to look at her. "I swear he's playing with us but soon he's going to begin the real attack and he'll come looking for us and the Longbottoms. He pretends that the prophesy doesn't bother him but it must - No wizard as powerful and egotistical as him could ignore a threat like that."
He laid back and gently caressed her arm while he thought out loud. "So far the spy has only been feeding him mission information, battle plans. But how long until he tells his secret master about our families and where to find us?"
"Do you have any idea who it could be?" Hermione asked and her heart ached when she felt him stiffen and nod.
"I don't want to think it. I hate myself for it but if it's true I hate him more." He shut his eyes tightly and sighed. "Things have always been difficult for Werewolves but lately with all the trouble it is getting harder for them to find work and they're not allowed to marry or have children. Part of me doesn't even blame him for his resentment."
"You think it's Remus?"
He nodded. "Voldermort has promised that werewolves and other magical creatures will have equal rights under his régime. It's all bollocks of course the first thing that bigoted snake will do if he wins is execute non-pureblood wizards, muggleborns and werewolves and enslave who they don't kill"
"Remus is no fool, James. He must know that Voldermort's words are nothing but lies."
He gripped her hand tightly. "I don't want to be right about this, Lily," he murmured then closed his eyes.
Hermione couldn't help but smile as she watched him fall asleep. He was so tired and carried so much on his shoulders right now. Gently she smoothed away the worry lines from his forehead and felt the stubble of his unshaven chin under the pads of her fingers. Watching him go from tense and worried and mournful to this perfectly calm sleeping form was something she knew she would never forget.
All the same she felt her thoughts coming together. This was the first critical moment in the Potters history and their downfall. They never suspected Peter Pettigrew was the spy and the belief that it could be Remus tore them apart, made them weak and vulnerable.
She was stepping into very dangerous waters now. Terrible things happen to wizards who mess with time. Her actions now could fix everything or make things so much worse. The history ahead was a blank page. Did she dare to rewrite?
She was different. James watched her playing with Harry in the garden and mused of exactly what it was that wasn't the same. She looked the same though she had started braiding her long red hair and he was sure she used to wear more makeup then she did now. Of course that wasn't so odd; women were prone to alter their appearance on a whim.
It was other things. She used to simply leave leftovers in the fridge for him and now she made sure that a hot meal was ready for him whether she waited up or not. She made sure he always had a full breakfast before he left the house; in fact she was bordering on militant on the point, when before she left him to a cup of coffee. Lily spoke more now, seemed more opinionate concerning the rights of magical creatures and Muggleborns when before she had obviously cared but rarely shared her thoughts on the matter.
And then there were his own reactions to her. He admitted at least to himself that he never loved Lily. He cared about her and while they were together in the early days he had enjoyed her company. But theirs was only an adolescent crush and was never meant to be more but of course when Harry came along they were forced to marry. He knew that they would both make the sacrifice of true love for their son a thousand times over, but still there was always that slice of resentment towards each other for not being the true lover they had both dreamed of.
But now something was very different. The way he felt about his wife had shifted dramatically. He looked forward to coming home to her. He felt freer to speak his mind and more and more often felt the need to share his feelings and fears when before he kept such things to himself.
It was something else too. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on. He felt calmer when they were together. When he walked into the house and saw her welcoming smile all his worries just flew away. Here in their home he was safe with his family. That's all he'd ever really wanted, what they both wanted. They laughed together and played silly games. She had become a wonder at chess and dealt cards like a shark…
James couldn't take his eyes off her. She looked the same but there was something different in her eyes. He looked into her eyes and his chest tightened, his body vibrated. He was both safe and calm and still but at the same time so excited and happy just being with her.
James wasn't sure but he suspected that he was falling in love with his own wife.
Next day Hermione opened the door to Sirius Black who walked straight into the kitchen, opened the cupboard and poured himself a glass of scotch.
"You said in your message that you wanted to speak to me." He was abrupt but the way he downed the drink showed that he was not as hard lined as he looked.
"Yes," Hermione answered and took a long sip from her coffee as she gathered her thoughts. "Things are about to get bad. The Order will make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks and the Dark Army is about to strike us at the heart."
"You can stop it and change all that though, right?"
"I don't know."
"What!" He slammed down his glass and glared at her. "You're from the future, impersonating my best friends wife and you're telling me that it's all for nothing!"
"No!" Hermione returned. "And I don't see why you're so angry with me. What happens is just as much your fault as it is the enemies. You with your reckless disregard for anyone, including yourself."
He huffed impatiently. "Hey I'm here living my life. I don't have the gift of foresight like you do." He poured himself another glad of scotch and downed it before meeting her eyes. "Is what's going to happen really my fault?"
Contrite, Hermione was quick to respond. "No, I said that wrong. When things got bad everything happened so fast I don't think anyone could have made any better decisions." She took a breath and sighed. "I can't just change things the way I think they should be. I'll end up making things worse, believe me these things have a way of escalating in directions I could never predict. And I'm pretty sure there's no reset button on this."
"So then what's the point?" Sirius asked and Hermione smiled sadly.
"Well Regulus said that fate isn't a single event but a path. I think that I have to be subtle, there is more then the lives of us to consider and the only way I can see is to let you all make your own choices but with maybe a little more information… A little push in a slightly altered direction" She shook her head then took the glass form Sirius' hand and downed the scotch herself. "Merlin I honestly don't know why they gave this stupid bloody mission to me anyway! Ooh…" She rocked on her feet and giggled when her head spun. "I don't usually drink."
A smile quirked Sirius' lips. "You're quite the lightweight."
"I'm eighteen, I'm allowed to be a lightweight," Hermione replied defensively. "Besides you live your life yanking the local super hero out of trouble and see how much drinking you get done."
He laughed at her pouting and delivered a playful punch to her shoulder. "You know you're cute."
She rolled her eyes and swallowed another scotch. "Sure I am, in this body."
Hermione did a little turn and pulled a lock of hair in front of her eyes. "And look at this hair! It's so silky and smooth and manageable. My real hair is insane and I could only ever dream of being as pretty as Lily."
"This conversation is getting pretty strange right now, just so you know." He arched a single eyebrow but smiled all the same. "Alright you called me here to tell me something, yeah?"
She nodded and giggled again then pouted when he pulled the scotch out of her hand and put it back into the cupboard. He pushed her coffee back into her hand and signaled for her to speak.
Hermione nodded and smiled before starting. "Sorry. Alright over the next few weeks I need you to back me up. I will be making some odd requests and suggestions at the next few Order meetings or to James and I need you to agree with me and make it sound like it makes sense to you even if it sounds nuts…"
"Darlin' everything you've said today sounds nuts."
"Well then it shouldn't be a problem for you then, should it?" She gave him a smug grin and swallowed the last of her coffee.