A Harry Potter Oneshot
Premise: After Harry nicks a Time-Turner in order to save Sirius, reality starts shifting around him. One day, he's not the Boy Who Lived, and the next, magic doesn't even exist. So Harry, being the only one aware of it, sets out to find out what went wrong
Author's notes: Rated-M
Harry Potter woke up that morning to the most wonderful feeling of a beautifully naked Cho Chang performing fellatio on him. His first assumption was that it was an incredibly realistic dream. It was an understandable assumption, since he was still groggy and half-asleep with one foot still in the doorway between reality and dreamland after all. Plus, there was also the fact that Cho barely even spoke to him after the fiasco with Marietta betraying the DA to Umbridge a couple months ago, so why would she be giving him the pleasure of oral sex? Clearly this had to be all a dream. Despite their falling out, however, a small part of him still longed for her; she was his first love after all, so it was a particularly nice dream.
Except it wasn't a dream. He realized that very fact when he involuntarily let out a groan of pleasure when Cho, seeing that he had woken up in more ways than one, smiled at him as she began riding him. The shock of velvety slick pleasure had rattled out any remaining cobwebs and vestiges of slumber from his brain as he stared, wide-eyed and fully awake, at the glorious image of Cho's breasts swaying with the rhythm of their lovemaking and the two matching patches of coarse black pubic hair converging as one with the grinding of her hips.
He heaved out a grunt as he clutched at her hips with his hands and exploded into her. Once the waves of pleasure had pulsed through him before subsiding, he blinked as his vision was splattered with blinking spots of light and his mind momentarily blanked out. "Bloody hell!"
"Morning, Harry," Cho purred, greatly pleased by his reaction. She then gave him a light kiss before getting up and wiping off the semen that was dribbling out of her. "I should go before your roommates wake up. I'll see you down at breakfast, okay? Love you."
And with that, she quickly got dressed, used a spell to get rid of the permeating smell of sex, and left before Harry could shake himself out of his post-orgasmic stupor.
"Did I just... lose my virginity?" He blinked rapidly while that thought fully registered in his mind. Then, in complete shock, he scrambled for his glasses before promptly falling through the privacy curtains and out of bed. "What the hell is going on? Shit! Shit! Shit!"
"Damn it, Harry, it's too bloody early," a voice groaned from across the room.
"Michael Corner?" Harry just then realized that he wasn't in the Gryffindor fifth-year boys' dormitory.
"Shite, Harry, put some clothes on! Anyone know a spell that can make me un-see things?" Michael moaned. "Someone obliviate me now, please!"
Harry reached for his robes and noticed that his necktie was blue. He was a bloody Ravenclaw. And, apparently, he was dating, and sleeping with, Cho Chang.
What the hell?
After taking a quick shower and getting dressed, Harry sprinted towards Gryffindor Tower for some semblance of familiarity. It was where he belonged. It was his home. But, when he got there, the portrait of the Fat Lady looked at him strangely with a quirked eyebrow.
"Good morning, Mister Potter. If Professor Flitwick has sent you to retrieve Miss Lovegood again, you will need to look elsewhere because she did not spend the night here," she stated.
"Luna? Why would Luna be... ugh, nevermind," he shook his head in frustration. "I know the password."
"You do?" she asked in surprise, adding more evidence to the fact that he was indeed a Ravenclaw.
How... ironic. And awkward. His cheeks flushed as the memory of Cho moaning his name in the heat of passion made his hairs stand on end.
"Hmm... very well," the Fat Lady nodded and begrudgingly let him through. And Harry was a little relieved that at least something was still the same.
He promptly ran up the spiral staircase to his dorm room and found that there were only four beds there rather than five. His bed was missing. It was only Neville, Seamus, Dean, and Ron now.
"Ron! Wake up!"
"Urgh... chocolate frog... jumped into Luna's bra... must catch it... delicious..." Ron mumbled sleepily as he rolled over and away from the disturbance to his sleep.
"Luna? Argh, now's not the time for that! Damn it, Ron, wake up!"
"Faked up? Luna's breasts aren't fake..." Ron mumbled.
"I said wake up! Not fake!" Harry growled in exasperation. "Aguamenti!"
"What the bloody hell!" Ron sputtered and coughed in shock. Then, looking at Harry, his eyes grew even wider. "I didn't shag Luna! I swear! See? She's not here! Please don't hurt me! Wait... how'd you get in here anyway?"
"Uh... Luna told me the password," Harry lied before dragging Ron out to the common room so as to not disturb the rest of the guys. "And I'm not going to hurt you, so calm down."
"So... you're okay with me dating Luna?" Ron asked hopefully.
Harry blinked for a moment. On top of being Cho's boyfriend, was he also Luna's overprotective older brother or something? Well, he was a Ravenclaw now, so he could sort of see how that could have happened. "Uh... yeah, sure, just don't hurt her, okay?"
"Oh, good..." Ron let out a sigh of relief.
"But that's not what I need to talk to you about," Harry said, turning serious. He then glanced at the stairs leading up to the girls' dorms. "Is Hermione...?"
Ron's eyes then narrowed as he too turned serious before grabbing Harry by his necktie. "With the way you're protective of Luna, I'm sure you can understand how protective I am of Hermione. I can accept the fact that you gave Hermione a fair shot, I can accept the fact that you still chose Cho Chang, but just because I accept it doesn't mean that I have to like it. You broke her heart. You hurt her. Leave her alone, give her some time."
"Don't act dumb," Ron scowled, letting go of Harry's necktie and shoving him back.
"But... argh, I don't have time for this!" Harry groaned, ruffling his hair in frustration at how he kept getting sidetracked by how different things were. "I need to talk to you about something else, Ron. It's important! It's going to sound crazy, but I need you to believe me!"
Ron gave him a sharp look before nodding begrudgingly. "The only reason I'm still talking to you is because Luna is so fond of you. Normally, I would prefer to kick your arse for what you did to Hermione."
"Okay... thanks... now where should I start," Harry sighed, trying to organize his thoughts. "When I woke up this morning... everything changed. I'm not supposed to be in Ravenclaw, I was supposed to be in Gryffindor. I was your roommate for the past five years!"
"What are you talking about? You've always been a Ravenclaw."
"No, seriously, I can list previous passwords to the Fat Lady portrait to prove it," Harry insisted. "Right now, it's abstinence. There were also... banana fritters, tapeworm, fairy lights, dilligrout, fortuna major, balderdash, mimbulus mimbletonia, pig snout..."
"Okay, okay, I get it, you somehow weaseled previous passwords from someone," Ron scowled.
"No! I'm serious! This isn't just one of Fred and George's elaborate pranks! There's no way the twins could talk Cho Chang into shagging me just for a prank! I must've... I don't know... slid into a parallel world or something! In my world, Cho Chang and I broke up after one date!"
"Whoa, calm down, Harry, shite," Ron put his hands on Harry's shoulders when it looked like Harry was starting to get frantic. "Fred... Fred's dead."
Harry froze as his blood turned cold. His shocked voice came out whisper quiet, "Fred... what?"
"I know you're still hurting, we all are, Harry. I know it hasn't been too long since you lost your godfather too, but this isn't how you should deal with it. And if you're regretting not choosing Hermione, this is definitely not how you should deal with it," Ron said. "Maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey... or Dumbledore."
"I'm not going crazy! I swear!"
"Harry, calm down!"
"I am calm!" Harry growled in exasperation.
He felt stupid for thinking that Ron would believe him. When did Ron ever believe him anyway? After that fiasco with the Goblet of Fire, Harry should've known better. Maybe Dumbledore would believe him.
No, not Dumbledore. Harry shook his head and frowned at the thought of the headmaster. It had taken the death of Sirius and the public return of Voldemort for the old man to finally reveal the prophecy to him after so many years of being kept in the dark. That had only been a week ago, so he hadn't had time to settle his feelings yet. He was still seething, angry, distrustful, all impetuous emotions that had yet to be swayed by any rational logic or thought.
But, if not Dumbledore, then who could he turn to?
"I... I'd like to talk to Hermione if she's up for it... can you pass along the message?" he asked with a sigh.
"If you hurt her more than you already have, I'll toss you off the Astronomy Tower," Ron glowered.
"I won't hurt her," Harry said before taking his leave.
Just as he left, however, he ran into the one person he did not want to see. "Professor Dumbledore..."
"Good morning, Mister Potter. I would love to chat, but there is something I need to attend to. Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak," Albus nodded, appearing a little surprised, before hurrying away.
Well, that was odd. Harry then shook his head and absentmindedly made his way back to Ravenclaw Tower. It wasn't until he found himself seated inside the airy common room that he realized that he had no problem locating the entrance to the tower and could answer the passkey question without even thinking about it. Five years of being a Ravenclaw would probably hammer the process down to muscle-memory, except, of course, for the fact that he had spent the last five years being a Gryffindor.
Taking a good look around the unfamiliar common room, which was lit by natural daylight filtering in through the many windows and had a high enough ceiling that he figured he could probably fly his broom indoors, his eyes grew wide when his eyes settled on the Ravenclaw ranking board in terms of grades.
Harry Potter was at the top of his year. Even more jaw-dropping was that he had been listed under the sixth-year rankings. In second place was someone named Eddie Carmichael, and in third was Cho Chang.
That got him wondering if he actually was a physically a year older or if he had somehow academically skipped a year ahead of his year-mates. He remembered waking up with the other fifth-year Ravenclaw boys though, like Michael Corner, and that Ron still slept in the usual fifth-year Gryffindor dorm, so he figured that he must be a fifth-year taking sixth-year curriculum.
'Huh, imagine that, I'm a genius,' Harry chuckled, more so at the absurdity of this entire situation than anything else.
He then remembered that he had cast the Aguamenti charm to wake Ron up. It was supposed to be a sixth year spell, so he was somehow retaining knowledge and skills from his five years as a Ravenclaw but not the memories.
'Look at that... I am a genius,' he quirked an eyebrow as he tested out a nonverbal casting of Aguamenti before just as easily drying off anything that he had soaked.
"Good morning, Potter."
"Luna? Hey, morning," he nodded, though he was wondering why she was referring to him as 'Potter' rather than 'Harry' like she usually did. According to Ron, wasn't he supposed to be overprotective of her or something?
"Wrackspurts," she stated while staring at his head, or, more specifically, his scar. "They're invisible. They float in through your ears and make your brain go fuzzy."
"Well, my brain definitely is fuzzy right now, though I doubt it's due to Wrackspurts," Harry sighed.
Luna tilted her head to one side. "Your scar... it's an anchor."
"An anchor?" Harry quirked an eyebrow. It was supposed to be a lightning bolt, not an anchor, so he reflexively used a spell that was definitely beyond a typical fifth-year Gryffindor's level to conjure a small hand mirror. His scar was still a lightning bolt. But, then again, Luna always was a little odd and saw the world differently.
"If you're waiting for Cho, she is taking a shower right now and will be down soon. And, just so you know, she's not pregnant," she remarked in her usual pleasant tone, causing Harry to fall into a coughing fit, before taking her leave.
Then, suddenly remembering Cho, he wasn't sure if he was ready to face her yet. As far as he could remember, he had one really wet kiss and one really disastrous date with her and, yet, now he was sleeping with her. It was just all too much, he couldn't handle it, so he quickly made his escape out of Ravenclaw Tower before Cho finished her shower.
Everything was so mind-bogglingly confusing, so he finally decided to swallow his pride and go see the one man who seemed to have all the answers, Albus Dumbledore. Luckily, the password to the stone gargoyle hadn't changed either.
"Mister Potter?" Albus was entirely surprised to find Harry hesitantly trudging up to his desk. "How did you know the password to my office?"
"Uh... you haven't changed it since last week, sir," Harry scratched the back of his head. "Kind of hard to forget something like chocolate sherbet lemon fizzy sugar frog pops."
"Ah, yes, I am quite proud of that password," Albus smiled absentmindedly as he stroked his beard. "But I do not ever recall you visiting my office last week."
Harry blinked in confusion. "I was here when you revealed the prophecy about Voldemort... sir."
Albus quirked an eyebrow as he looked down at Harry with a disapproving frown. "You used your father's invisibility cloak to sneak in here? Did Mister Longbottom ask you to do so?"
"Neville? What does Neville have to do with anything?"
"I believe that we are not on the same page, Mister Potter," Albus said with a good-natured chuckle.
"Clearly," Harry said dryly. Forget the same page; they weren't even reading from the same book. "I'm not really sure how to explain this without sounding crazy, but... hopefully you've seen some stranger things in your lifetime that it won't sound too crazy..."
"I would like to believe that I keep an open mind, Mister Potter."
"Well... when I woke up this morning, everything was... different. Right now, I'm a Ravenclaw and Cho Chang is my girlfriend, but my own memories tell a different story. I'm supposed to be in Gryffindor, have been for the past five years, but now..." Harry sighed, referring to his blue and bronze trimmed school robes.
"That is quite peculiar," Albus nodded. "And, in your memories, you are the one I told the prophecy to, I presume, and not Mister Longbottom?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said, sweeping his hair back to reveal his scar. "The one about Voldemort marking me as his equal."
The headmaster's eyes grew wide for a moment, but he schooled his features well. "Now that is quite peculiar."
"Wait..." Harry frowned. "Are you telling me that Neville is the Boy Who Lived?"
"He is... and so are you, apparently," Albus stroked his beard in thought. "It is possible that you may be from a parallel world. If that is the case, the question would be how you came upon this one... and what happened to this world's Harry Potter."
"You're taking this awfully well, professor," Harry raised an eyebrow as he remembered his own reaction when he had first woken up.
"I am the headmaster, my boy. It wouldn't do well for me to panic whenever a crisis falls upon the school; that would only cause the students to panic as well," Albus smiled. "Unfortunately, a crisis has indeed fallen upon this world with the Dark Lord recently returning to power, so I hope you understand that my time and resources are quite tied up at the moment. I will do what I can to help you though, Mister Potter."
"Um... I understand, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Now, do you remember doing or experiencing anything out of the ordinary before you came upon this world?" Albus asked.
Now that the initial shock of waking up in this alternate reality had worn off, now that he was actually thinking about it, he stiffened up when his hand subconsciously grasped his wristwatch as he finally remembered his ill-advised trip through time just several days ago. "I... I used a Time-Turner... but..."
"Time-Turners cannot change the past, Mister Potter," Albus interjected. "But if I may see yours..."
Harry paled, Dumbledore's words offering him no comfort, as he pulled off the wristwatch and handed it to the headmaster. He knew full well that Time-Turners couldn't alter events that had already happened; he had learned that from his adventure travelling through time with Hermione back in their third year and also from his more recent trip. But he did know that Time-Turners could still muck up the delicate fabric of the space-time continuum, so he began to worry that he had really mucked up.
"Curious... I have never seen one this versatile before," Albus murmured as he studied it. It was a fully mechanical wristwatch with a transparent dial that showed the complicated inner workings of the spring-driven series of gears.
Albus gave it a go and disappeared before promptly returning to his office through the gargoyle-guarded door and sitting back down. It was all quite bizarre to Harry since he had only ever seen a Time-Turner in action from the user's point of view.
"I went back an hour in time, and it doesn't seem all too different from any other Time-Turner," Albus noted before returning the watch and key necklace to Harry. "I ran into your past self outside Gryffindor Tower."
Harry blinked. So that odd encounter earlier that morning was actually a future Dumbledore having turned back time? The idiosyncrasies of time travel were starting to make his head hurt. "Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak... sir?"
Albus grinned. "Exactly, Mister Potter. Time-Turners cannot change the past, they can only allow for what was supposed to happen."
"I understand, sir."
"Now, can you tell me where you obtained it and why you needed it?"
"When we were in the Department of Mysteries, I noticed a room full of Time-Turners, so I nicked one... I figured it might come in handy, you know, just in case... and then Sirius died... and Hermione was hurt really badly... I already knew Time-Turners couldn't change the past, but I went back anyway... to save my godfather and protect Hermione..." Harry murmured dejectedly. "But I wasn't able to change anything... Sirius still died. If anything, I realized that I was supposed to have gone back. Kind of like back in third year when I was saved by an unknown Patronus only to later go back in time to cast that very same Patronus to save myself."
"Yes, the Novikov self-consistency principle... whatever happened, happened," Albus nodded. "Do not worry, my boy, I doubt that your little trip through time is the reason your reality has changed. It's not like you travelled back fourteen years to prevent Voldemort from marking you or anything, not that you could, mind you."
"Then how did I get here, sir?"
"I am afraid that I cannot give you a definite answer to that, but I will do some research on the matter. As I have stated before, however, I do have some more pressing matters to attend to, namely Voldemort," Albus stated.
"I understand, sir. I am not of this world, and you do have your own world to protect," Harry shrugged, figuring that he wasn't exactly the highest priority for this version of Dumbledore's greater good.
"In the meantime, perhaps you may discuss with Miss Granger about the discrepancies between this timeline and yours. Maybe you will be able to identify a point where the timelines converge," Albus suggested. "You only have a couple days before the Hogswarts Express will take you all home for the summer, so you may want to get to it."
"Uh... I think this Hermione doesn't really want to speak with me at the moment," Harry replied, remembering the anger in Ron's voice.
"I'm afraid the Harry Potter of this world was quite guarded with his personal life, and Miss Granger was the only person he really confided in, though he was recently opening up to Miss Chang as well. But if there is anybody who will be able to give you some insight on the other Harry Potter's life, it is Miss Granger," Albus explained.
"Seems a little selfish to force her to help me with this when the other me just recently broke her heart though," Harry sighed as he got up to leave. "And I guess it would be selfish of me to ask you to devote time to helping me when you should be preparing for the war against Voldemort, so don't worry about me too much, professor. I'll figure something out."
"Hmm, you are different from this world's Harry," Albus chuckled. "Harry was much more... stoic, apathetic, detached."
Harry raised an eyebrow but then shrugged before leaving. "Good day, professor."
"Where'd you go, Harry? Luna said that you were waiting for me in the common room," Cho said when Harry joined her at the Ravenclaw table for breakfast.
"Oh... uh... well..." Harry gulped nervously. The fact that he had sex with this girl brought back all of those fourth-year jitters. "IneededtogoseeDumbledore."
"Are you okay, Harry?" she asked worriedly at his jumpy behavior as she swept back both of their fringe and pressed her forehead against his to check his temperature. "You're a little warm..."
'Well, you'd be a little warm too if you had a liter of blood rushing to your face.' The close proximity of their faces, their lips, forced Harry to look into Cho's striking obsidian eyes as his heart started beating hard up against his esophagus, making it difficult to breathe. Despite already having taken his temperature, however, she still didn't pull back, and he could see the compassionate affection she was looking at him with.
This Cho Chang really did love him.
When his hand instinctively found her face to gently caress her cheek, he leaned in and tenderly captured her lips in a soft and chaste kiss. It wasn't long or heated or passionate... or wet, for that matter... but Cho was beaming brightly.
Then her smile immediately dropped, gasping, when she noticed the lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead. "Harry! What happened? How'd you get this scar?"
"Um... I'll... I'll tell you later, okay?" he grimaced. And he didn't know whether it was because it was just Cho's nature or if she was just used to this type of evasive behavior from her Harry, but she nodded and took it in stride.
"You are okay though, right?" she asked.
"Yeah, it's nothing life-threatening. Already healed," Harry assured with a smile.
"I trust you, but don't wait too long to tell me what happened... I do worry, you know," she remarked before giving him a quick peck on the lips.
He couldn't help but smile at her as a warm and fuzzy feeling quickly spread throughout his core. "Thanks, Cho."
"Well, you're full of smiles today, did something good happen when you visited the headmaster just now?" she asked playfully before leaning in to whisper in a more naughty tone, "Or are just happy about how I woke you up this morning?"
"The latter," he squeaked as his face flushed in embarrassment.
Cho laughed as she gave him an appraising look. "What is with you today? Why are you being so cute?"
"I'll... I'll tell you later, okay? When I tell you how I got this scar," he replied, wondering if the other Harry's influence was allowing him to speak more comfortably with Cho.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Ron, Neville, and Hermione enter the Great Hall and sit down at their usual spot at the Gryffindor table. Cho seemed to have noticed too because she subtly disengaged herself from him. Cho didn't seem antagonistic towards Hermione's presence, she seemed more to be worried for her, as a friend, and was being considerate of her by not being publicly affectionate with him. And Harry had to wonder how the other Harry had managed to snag such a wonderful girl.
"Cho... don't take this the wrong way or anything, but... I really need to talk to Hermione, so... if you see me with her later, I hope you won't... freak out or anything," he said.
She nodded with a comforting smile as she gave his hand a gently squeeze. "I know... I don't like seeing you two avoiding each other either."
Harry almost groaned at how unbelievably bloody lucky this other Harry was to have such a perfect girlfriend. This reality just couldn't be real if there was someone as faultless as this Cho Chang in existence.
Harry looked up to see Neville and was surprised that there was a cross-shaped scar on his forehead. This Neville wasn't as timid and bumbling as the Neville he knew, but he could still see traces of the hesitance and self-doubt that he was familiar with. "Hey, uh, Neville."
"If you have time later, I'd like to discuss some summer plans... about... you know... what to do about You-Know-Who," Neville said with a sigh of resignation. "I can't do this without you, Harry."
So it seemed like this Harry was still in the thick of things in terms of resisting Voldemort despite not being the Boy Who Lived. Must be the whole saving people thing. He could also guess what Neville was so distraught about; it was probably the same thing that had made him go into a destructive rage and trash the headmaster's office back in his old timeline. Now, without the pressure of his do-or-die destiny suffocating him and bearing down on his shoulders, he felt a refreshing sense of relief, but he also felt bad that now Neville had to bear fate's burden. "Neville... no matter what any prophecy says, you're not alone."
Neville's eyes widened. "You... you know?"
"I talked to Professor Dumbledore this morning," Harry shrugged. It was completely unrelated, but it wasn't a lie, at least.
Neville allowed himself a weak smile in relief. "Thanks... Harry. I have no idea where I'd be without you."
"Is this another secret that you can't tell me until later?" Cho giggled.
"Oh... uh... you can tell her, Harry, I don't want you to keep secrets from your girlfriend for my sake. I don't want to come between you two," Neville said quickly, looking a little worried that he had offended Cho.
"Harry has a lot of secrets, Neville, just one more isn't a big deal. He'll tell me everything eventually anyway, when he's ready," Cho assured with a gentle smile. "Anyway, Neville, how's Hermione doing?"
"Hermione..." Neville hesitated for a moment. "She's strong... she's hiding it pretty well, but I can tell that she's still hurting..."
"I really need to talk to her, Neville," Harry said.
"I think so too. I'll see what I can do," Neville nodded before returning to his friends at the Gryffindor table.
He pulled out of a perfect Wronski Feint and looked over at the bleachers to see Hermione looking deathly scared. He steered his broom and flew towards her. "Hey... Hermione."
"Were you trying to give me a heart attack?" she screamed, almost in tears when she had seen him plummeting towards the ground at breakneck speed. "Never do that ever again!"
"But it was just a textbook Wronski Feint. I've done in plenty of times before," he scratched the back of his head. It then dawned on him that maybe this other Harry didn't play Quidditch. Or maybe he played some other position and had no need for such death-defying stunts. Flying was supposed to be in his blood, so he just couldn't see this other Harry not being able to fly at all.
"Didn't know you could fly a broom so well," she said, seeming a little miffed that there was something about her best friend that she didn't know about. Then, after a short moment of hesitation, she asked, "Has Cho been teaching you?"
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe the reason I can fly so well is because I'm not Harry?" he sighed, raising an eyebrow.
Hermione's hand instantly reached for her wand. "Polyjuice? Who are you?"
Harry put his hands up in the air to show that he was unarmed and touched down on the bleachers next to her. "I mean you no harm."
"Who are you?"
"Hermione... this is going to sound really crazy, but hear me out, okay?" he begged. "I am Harry, but I'm not the Harry that you know. Professor Dumbledore thinks that I'm from some parallel world."
"You're right, it does sound crazy," she frowned, still aiming her wand at him. "If you're really Harry Potter, transform into your animagus form to prove it."
"I have an animagus form?" he asked in surprise, which was clearly the wrong thing to say because Hermione merely cocked her wand back to ready a stunning spell. "Wait, wait... I told you already that I'm from a parallel world... in my world, I never achieved an animagus transformation, but I'll see if I can try it anyway, okay? So don't go hexing me into next week if I can't get it right."
Harry closed his eyes and desperately tried to call upon that same instinct that allowed him to cast spells that he himself had never learned in his old timeline like the nonverbal Aguamenti. Then, much to his surprise, he found himself shrinking.
'This is bloody incredible!'
In his excitement, he spread his wings and soared high up into the sky. Far down below, Hermione seemed to be in shock to see the familiar scythe-shaped silhouette of Harry's peregrine falcon wings. Then, in typical peregrine falcon fashion, Harry went into a sudden Wronski Feint-like nose-dive, with his Seeker-honed recklessness driving him to reach speeds of over three hundred kilometers per hour.
"I thought told you to NEVER do that ever again!" Hermione screamed as Harry, laughing with exhilaration, transformed back.
"Now do you believe me?" he asked.
"Are you really from a parallel world?" she asked, still suspicious.
"In my world, I'm the Boy Who Lived," he said, pulling back his hair to reveal the lightning bolt-shaped scar, at which Hermione nearly dropped her wand in shock. "I really need your help, Hermione. You're always the one who helps me out with everything, you're always the one who figures everything out."
"H-how did this happen? And what happened to my Harry?"
"I don't know... but Professor Dumbledore suggested that you and I compare our two timelines to figure out where everything changed."
"Well, clearly we'd have to go back further than fifteen years for that, at which point neither of us were old enough to really remember anything for the sake of comparison," she frowned.
Harry groaned and buried his head in hands when he realized that she was right.
"But still... we should compare what we do know to bring you up to speed with what's happening in this world," she added quickly, not wanting to see him fall into despair. "And I am a little curious as to how your world turned out."
"Right... do you want me to start?" he asked.
"Yes," she nodded, pulling out a pen and notepad from her bag.
He then went on to give a brief overview of his life. He told her about what had happened between his parents and Voldemort, how he got his scar, his life with the Dursleys, the incident with the troll in the girls' bathroom, Professor Quirrell and the Philosopher's Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, Sirius and Peter, the Triwizard Tournament, Voldemort's return, Umbridge, the DA, and finally the battle at the Department of Mysteries. He then noted the differences he did know, like how he was now a Ravenclaw, studying sixth-year curriculum, Ron and Luna dating, and his relationship with Cho Chang.
That last one especially caught Hermione's attention. She knew it wasn't really important in the grand scheme of things, but her emotions got the better of her. "So... you're not with Cho? Who are you dating then?"
"Uh... no one?" he shrugged sheepishly. "Cho and I kissed once... and had one lousy date that my Hermione saved me from, but other than that..."
"Then... your Hermione... does she?" she trailed off, a little flustered, as she gestured with her hands.
"Not that I know of, no."
"Well... she probably does have feelings for you, you know," she said in a soft voice. "She's probably afraid of turning out like me... so she's hiding it..."
"If... if you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to," he offered gently.
"No, it's okay," she shook her head. "We need to get down to the bottom of this."
"Okay, in this world... your parents... Harry's parents... it was Bellatrix LeStrange who killed Harry's parents after Voldemort marked Neville," she explained hesitantly. "Harry didn't grow up with his uncle and aunt though. He grew up in an orphanage.
"I sat with him on the Hogwarts Express our first year, but we didn't become friends until later. He was more of a silent loner than you are; you're pretty open in comparison and wear your emotions on your sleeve. I was sort of a loner too, so I stuck with him. He didn't push me away like everyone else did, but he wasn't openly friendly with me either, though that was good enough for me. It was sort of a quiet companionship. I was really happy when he defended me when Malfoy called me a Mudblood whore..."
Harry smiled a little when he saw Hermione overcome with shyly blissful nostalgia. He could tell that this Hermione really loved the other Harry. He couldn't help but feel a little jealous.
"Then, on Halloween, it wasn't Ron specifically who made me cry. We didn't have charms class with the Ravenclaws, and I was feeling lonely without Harry around, so the teasing just got too much for me," she said, biting her lip as she rubbed her forearm. "Harry was the one who saved me from the troll... Harry was the only one who cared enough to come for me.
"So, despite his detached and aloof silent loner attitude, I could tell that Harry cared about me. We became friends. But he still kept me at a certain distance. I didn't find out until later about how driven he was to take revenge against Bellatrix and Sirius. You spent your childhood not knowing how your parents died, so I guess you never had that drive for revenge. He was always at the top of his class, but his thirst for knowledge and power was always fueled by revenge... and it sometimes scared me.
"We didn't become friends with Neville and Ron until it was clear that Voldemort wasn't as dead as everybody believed. When we found out about the Philosopher's Stone, Harry added Voldemort to his hit list, which made him allies of sort with the Boy Who Lived. Neville was sort of a lovably bumbling oaf back then though, he didn't really have the courage or confidence to protect the Philosopher's Stone, so it was Harry's burning desire for revenge that dragged us in. But, when we got to Snape's potion puzzle and only one person could proceed, he left it to Neville. Harry had gotten hurt badly getting the rest of us safely past the troll, which apparently you didn't have to fight, so he wasn't fit to go on. It was Harry's belief in Neville though... believe in me, who believes in you, or some silliness like that... which finally got Neville to take responsibility for himself.
"The events of second year did involve Ginny, the diary, and the Chamber of Secrets, but I wasn't petrified by the basilisk. Harry... Harry actually protected me... he was the one who was petrified. I think that was when I realized that I had fallen in love with him. But, since I wasn't petrified as you had described, I was able to warn the entire school about the basilisk, and we actually cleared up the matter fairly quickly with Professor Dumbledore and the other professors being able to go down to the Chamber of Secrets with Neville's parseltongue ability.
"Harry was angry though... angry that he had lost so much time being petrified. He could have used that time to gain power and knowledge. He wasn't angry with me though... he was just angry. It took a while for me to get him to talk to me again, and that was when I found out about what happened to his parents and his desire for revenge.
"Third year, with Sirius escaping from Azkaban and Harry losing so much time being petrified, Harry spiraled into sort of a maniacal obsession with gaining power. We both abused the Time-Turner a lot. I remember crying a lot that year too, trying to get him to see reason, trying to convince him that living for revenge would only leave him empty. He understood that in his head, but his heart was still set out on revenge. He told me that he had wanted to be in Slytherin, but the Sorting Hat had told him that he wasn't ambitious or cunning enough, because revenge was an empty ambition.
"Harry broke down when we found out the truth about Peter Pettigrew and Sirius. Sirius had been number two on his hit list, just below Bellatrix LeStrange, and he had worked his entire life planning a revenge that had been based on a lie. It was like someone took his reason for living away from him. That was when he finally experienced that emptiness that I had kept trying to tell him about.
"Harry spent that entire summer with me. It was a rehab of sort... teaching him how to live for himself and not for revenge. It was the first time that he had ever thanked me... he thanked me for saving him from himself. He told me that I was his light, that he'd still be lost in the darkness without him. I was actually so happy that I cried.
"He achieved the animagus transformation that summer too. Ever since he discovered that he could transform into a bird, he found brooms to be somewhat pedestrian, so his skills on a broom deteriorated from lack of practice. That was why I was surprised to see you pull off that Wonky-feint thing."
"Wronski Feint," Harry corrected with an amused grin.
"Whatever," she laughed a little, finding it a little odd for Harry to be so open with his amusement.
"Well, go on."
Hermione nodded as she continued her tale. "Fourth year was when Harry and I had both skipped ahead to fifth year curriculum, since we had abused the Time-Turner so much. And with Harry starting to open up, he made some friends with his fellow Ravenclaws. Luna was sort of a loner like I had been, so he kind of took her under his wing. With me being a Gryffindor, however, I really didn't know what went on in Ravenclaw Tower, so it wasn't until Cho Chang had already become completely smitten with him and was openly flirting with him that I realized what was going on.
"Cho didn't realize that I had feelings for him though, so she tried to be friends with me. She really liked Harry, so she wanted to be on good terms with his friends too. And I found that I liked her too. She was just too difficult to resent despite how much I wished I could show my feelings to Harry the way she could. And, before I knew it, Cho Chang became one of my closest friends.
"Harry didn't seem to take Cho up on her advances, however. I wasn't sure whether to feel relieved that Harry was still available or bad that Cho's feelings were unrequited. Cho always kept smiling though, she never pushed too hard, she was satisfied just being his friend and reminding him every now and then about her feelings, hoping that someday her feelings would reach him. I really admired her for that.
"The Triwizard Tournament then had Neville mysteriously entered, just as you had in your world. Ever since first year, with Harry's little speech about his belief in Neville, Neville had always looked up to Harry as sort of a mentor, so Harry helped him out with the tournament tasks whenever he could. Neville figured out the gillyweed on his own though, which did a lot for his self-confidence.
"We didn't attend the Yule Ball though. Harry was pretty popular with the girls, being sort of the romanticized cool and stoic hero with a tragic past. Even Fleur Delacour and Daphne Greengrass asked him to the ball, but he turned them down because it wouldn't be fair to Cho if he went with anyone else. He didn't want to give Cho the wrong idea either by asking her to be his date though, so he just didn't go. So Harry, Cho, Luna, Ron, Neville, Ginny, and I all just spent the evening having fun together. It was sort of a scandal when Neville never showed up to the ball, so we told everyone that Neville was just being humble, since he wasn't really supposed to be a Triwizard Champion anyway. Everyone seemed satisfied with that answer, and the press like an all-around nice guy just as much as they like slandering people.
"Voldemort's resurrection actually went pretty much the same way you described it, except it happened to Neville. Death Eaters rigged it so that Neville would win, the cup was still a portkey, Cedric still died. I think that was when Neville realized that Harry wouldn't always be able to hold his hand, and that he would have to learn to rely on himself more. He still looked up to Harry as a mentor though, more so than to Professor Dumbledore even.
"Fifth year also had Umbridge. We all wanted Harry to lead the DA, but he had passed it off to me. He told me that I'd make a much better teacher than he would, but I think he was just trying to avoid the spotlight. I did at least get him to be my assistant though, to help me keep some of the more disrespectful and rambunctious members in line.
"The battle at the Department of Mysteries actually occurred before Christmas though, more than six months ago, rather than a week ago as you claim. Fred and Sirius both lost their lives. George lost an ear. For you, Fred and George had already started their joke shop, so they hadn't been around for your battle, but they were for ours.
"I think the reality of death and war was what made me finally confess my feelings for Harry. I didn't want to lie to him or Cho anymore. I still love him..."
Harry smiled a little as he placed his hand over hers and gave it a comforting squeeze. "Hey... I'll bring him back for you... as soon as I can figure out how to get back to my world anyway."
She tilted her head to one side as she eyed him. She then gave him a kiss on the cheek, smiling. "I'll help you."
"Okay... from what you told me, the earliest point of divergence that we are aware of is Voldemort marking Neville rather than me," he noted.
"But that doesn't mean that there couldn't have been an even earlier point of divergence," she pointed out.
"But Time-Turners can't change the past... and, even if they could, there aren't any that can turn back fifteen years in time," he sighed.
"Then maybe it's not a divergence in time but, rather, a completely parallel world," she suggested.
"You said that your Harry... and you... used Time-Turners pretty liberally back in your third year, right? What do you know about the consequences of messing up while using one?" he asked.
"Are you saying that you messed up?" she quirked an eyebrow.
"No... well, Professor Dumbledore doesn't think so anyway... but I still sort of have a nagging feeling that I'm somehow responsible, since I am the only one who remembers the other timeline after all," he shrugged, handing her his wristwatch. "I used that Time-Turner about a week ago."
"Well... in my timeline, Sirius died about a week ago..."
"Oh... right..." She could understand what he was getting at without him having to explain. "Well, if you did somehow muck up the fabric of time... you could check by going back in time to before you mucked it up, and maybe everything will still be as you remember it. Heck, maybe if you go back in time to yesterday, your world might still be there, since you did say you've only been in this world since this morning."
"Doesn't that imply that this world is only a few hours old?" he raised an eyebrow.
"Well... yes, it could. All of my memories could just be a fabrication, all of the collective memories of this world could be a fabrication, and this world could have popped into existence only a few hours ago without anyone being the wiser," she explained. "Though, as a resident of this world, I'd like to believe that this one is the real one and yours is the fabrication... no offense."
"None taken," he grinned.
"So how far back can this Time-Turner go?"
"It maxes out at eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes," he answered. "The watch doesn't distinguish between AM and PM, so turning back twelve hours would only leave you in the present."
"Still, that's quite a lot. The most I've ever dared in one jump was three hours. I heard that most Time-Turners have trouble going past six hours," she remarked. "So when was the last time you remember being in your old world then?"
"Hmm... that would be before I went to sleep... at around one in the morning."
"Then shall we try turning back to about... half an hour past midnight? It's noon right now, so that would be nearly maxing out this Time-Turner's specs."
"Well, let's go back inside the castle first," he suggested with a chuckle. "Don't want to end up out on the Quidditch pitch past midnight."
After retrieving his invisibility cloak and the Marauder's Map, the two of them found an empty classroom away from prying eyes. "So... should we both go?"
"Well... if we go back and end up in your world... what would happen to me?" she wondered, slightly worried. "At least if you go back and it still is my world, nothing will happen to you because you're already here."
"Why would anything happen to you if it were my world?"
"Well... if, twelve hours ago, your world was still in existence, then that would mean that my world, this world, is less than twelve hours old. It's quite possible that I'm less than twelve hours old and any of my memories that are older than twelve hours are just mere fabrications," she explained, biting her lip. "So if I go back in time to a time where my reality didn't exist, would I disappear?"
"Should I not go back then? Ignorance is bliss and all that?"
"No, of course not. You still need to go back to your world," she scowled.
"But what if that erases this one?"
Hermione opened her mouth to reply but nothing came out.
"Well, it can't hurt just doing some reconnaissance. I'll be right back." He then gave her shoulder an assuring squeeze before dialing back to half past midnight.
From Hermione's point of view, he had disappeared and then promptly reentered the room via the door. "So? What happened?"
"It wasn't my world," he shook his head. "But you might still want to take a look for yourself."
"Why?" she asked quizzically as he handed her the wristwatch.
"Just go. You'll understand when you get there," he chuckled.
"Well... all right," she raised an eyebrow skeptically before dialing back about eleven and a half hours. She then found herself in the same classroom, but it was dark, nighttime. She was now eleven and a half hours in the past.
"Hermione? What are you doing here?"
Hermione panicked, afraid that she might have been caught. But then she realized that it was just Harry, the Harry that had used the Time-Turner before she had. So that was how he knew that she was supposed to use the Time-Turner; he had actually run into her while she had been using it. "You are such a prat, you know that?"
"Huh? What are you talking about?" he quirked an eyebrow in confusion.
"You told me to give the Time-Turner a go, saying that I'd understand why when I got there," she scowled. "And here I thought it was going to be for something important."
Harry gave her a blank look for a moment before realization dawned on him. "Oh, so when I go back into that empty classroom at noon, another you will be waiting for me, and I'll have to tell her to go back in time."
"If you didn't, I wouldn't be here," she sighed.
"If you weren't here, then I would have never told you to go back in time. Therefore, you're supposed to be here," he grinned smugly. He was entirely thankful to the other Harry for cultivating this Ravenclaw brain of his; a lot of things that he probably would have found confusing seemed to just click so much more easily now.
"I've forgotten how much the endlessly circular logic of time travel makes my head spin," she groaned, rubbing at her temples.
"Well, come on, let's go see if this is my world or your world," he said, holding the invisibility cloak open for her.
"It's mine, you told me already."
"I didn't tell you that. Future-me who already went through all this was the one who told you that," he pointed out, rolling his eyes.
"What difference does that make?" she frowned.
"Hermione, you got to keep in mind that from my point of view, you are from the future. According to you, when I return to my present, I will tell the Hermione who is waiting for me in the empty classroom that this is your world, but I would have to make some observations in order to come to such a conclusion, yes? I can't take your word for it and just not make any observations because then I would know that future-me didn't make any observations either and then I wouldn't be able to take your word for it. Therefore, I need to go make some observations regardless of what you tell me."
"Oh, god, you're right... taking separate overlapping trips through time definitely complicates things even more. From now on, let's just take all trips together rather than separately like this," she sighed, noticing that they were both wearing the identical Time-Turner wristwatch. It wasn't exactly a paradox though, since this Harry would give the one he was wearing to the Hermione who would be waiting for him in the classroom so that she could make this trip through time, so they would end up with just one Time-Turner in the end anyway.
"So probably the easiest way to tell which world we're in right now would be to check the Gryffindor dorms and see if my bed is there or not," he suggested.
"Ravenclaw Tower is closer," she shrugged. "You could check to see if your bed is there."
"Not a good idea."
"What does Cho have to do with... ohhhhh," Hermione's face scrunched up when she realized what he was implicating.
"Come on, let's go." Together, they made their way to Gryffindor Tower while hiding underneath the invisibility cloak. When they got up to the fifth-year boys' dorm, they found that Harry's bed was indeed missing. Another quite obvious clue was that Ron and Luna were snogging on his bed; that wouldn't have happened in his old world.
"So that means that either the two timelines diverged at some point further in the past or they were just completely separate and parallel to begin with," Hermione concluded as they left Gryffindor Tower for a more secluded spot.
"Do you think it would be helpful to keep watch on Harry while he's sleeping in order to pinpoint the moment where he became me?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, I woke up in this world, so the switch must've happened while Harry was asleep."
"That actually might be a good idea," she nodded.
"Well... just as a heads up, both Harry and Cho are probably naked, so..."
"Tuck them in and cover their bits then."
They then quickly snuck into Ravenclaw Tower and camped out next to the bed Harry and Cho were sleeping together in. Harry had done his best to use the blanket to cover Cho's breasts without waking either of them up, but he still sort of felt like a voyeur.
And even though she did her best to hide it, Harry could tell that it pained Hermione to see the boy she loved in the arms of another girl, even if said girl was her best friend. Just keeping an eye on the sleeping couple got incredibly dull pretty quickly for him though, so it gave him some time to think, and the fact that this Hermione was so madly in love with Harry Potter sort of made him wonder if his Hermione also loved him.
It had been around three o'clock in the morning when Hermione had started nodding off, so he let her rest her head on his shoulder and take a nap. They then took turns rotating naps every hour. They didn't notice anything out of the ordinary though. He had been half-expecting Harry's body to start glowing or something when the switch had been made, but nothing happened.
When the sun was starting to rise, he knew that Cho would wake him up soon in an incredibly intimate manner, so he pulled the privacy curtains around the bed back close and recasted the silencing charms before she woke up. "I don't think you want to stick around for what happens next."
"What happens next?"
He just dragged her out into the hall and they both sat down outside the door for the next fifteen minutes underneath the invisibility cloak. Cho then left and quickly made her way to the girls' dorms and Harry put his ear on the door to listen in on the conversation between his past self and Michael Corner. After confirming that it actually was his own past self in there and not the other Harry, they left Ravenclaw Tower and made their way to the Room of Requirement.
"So we do know the switch happened sometime between midnight and daybreak, but there was no visible indication of the switch happening until I woke up," he remarked as he plopped down on the bed that the Room had provided for him.
Hermione was silent as she contemplated what she had just seen. When she had first met this Harry, he had already had several hours to adjust to this new world. But now she had seen firsthand how panicked and frantic he had been when he had first woken up in such an unfamiliar situation. She couldn't imagine how scared he must have felt.
"Hermione? You okay?" he asked. "If you're tired, you can take a nap. We still have about six more hours until we're due back at the empty classroom."
"Y-yeah, I am pretty tired..." she sighed, nodding as she sat down at the edge of the bed. She then nervously fingered the hem of her skirt, looking as if there was something she wanted to say but wasn't sure if she should.
"You had sex with Cho," she blurted out. When she realized what she had just said, she guiltily averted her gaze as her cheeks flushed.
He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "When I woke up, I thought it was all a dream, and then I was in shock when I realized that it wasn't... I do plan on telling Cho the truth, but... do you think she'll feel violated since I'm not her Harry?"
"Cho is a very patient and understanding person... and it's not like you're a completely different person. You still are Harry Potter," she pointed out in a soft voice.
"But still..." he grimaced, still unconvinced.
"Well... think of it this way... if you... if you made love to me, I... I wouldn't be mad... so I don't think Cho would be either," she pointed out, trying to make him feel better but only succeeding in embarrassing herself when she realized what she was saying. "Ah, uh, I mean... never mind... forget I said that."
Harry just stared at her in disbelief as an awkward silence fell between the two of them.
"Do you regret having sex with Cho?" she finally asked, breaking the silence.
"I'm a guy, Hermione," he pointed out, trying to lighten the mood.
"Oh, right," she giggled nervously. Then in a shaky and quiet voice, she asked, "Then... would it be selfish and cowardly of me to ask you to take my virginity?"
"I'm not your Harry."
"But you are Harry."
Harry let out a long sigh. His Hermione had never openly been in love with anyone (well, not to his knowledge anyway), so this was a side to her that he had never seen before. He hadn't realized how being in love and being heartbroken could cause the logical, reasonable, and collected Hermione to become so irrational and vulnerable. "You're not thinking straight... the Hermione I knew could never think straight either when she was sleepy. You'll feel better after you take a nap."
Hermione blinked as she processed what he had just said, then seeing the same look of realization on his face as well, she pointed out, "So you're saying that your Hermione is fairly similar to me, right? When we compared our two timelines, we had assumed that any and all changes revolved around you and Neville and everyone else were only merely affected via the butterfly effect. But what if that isn't the case? What if your Hermione actually had changes of her own that were unrelated to you and Neville?"
"Are your parents dentists?"
"Sorry, that's about the extent of my knowledge of my Hermione's pre-Hogwarts life," he shrugged apologetically.
"Wait... really? There's nothing else that stands out at all?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow.
Afraid that he might have offended her, and ashamed by his own lack of knowledge about Hermione's life, he hung his head and apologized again. "Sorry."
"No, don't worry about it. It's the fact that she hasn't told you anything that is important," she said. "What's your Hermione's last name?"
"Same as yours... Granger."
"Then..." she hesitated as she bit her lip, "she was adopted... just like me."
Harry's eyes grew wide. "You were... what?"
"My birth name is Hermione Watson. I grew up in an orphanage in Little Esher until I was around five years old, then I was adopted by the Grangers. They do love me though, and I've lived an entirely ordinary life since then. I think that's why I never really tell anybody about it, because my life had been so ordinary... a little lonely, yes, but entirely ordinary," she shrugged. "Your Hermione may have been the same way... she didn't tell you anything because there was really nothing to tell."
"Well, I certainly don't think it's nothing," he snorted.
She gave him a kind smile as she unconsciously took his hand. "Well, anyway, can you recall anyone else's pre-Hogwarts histories?"
"Well... Ron lives in Ottery St. Catchpole... he's scared of spiders due to one of Fred and George's pranks... and he told me one time that he burnt a hole through his tongue eating an Acid Pop," he shrugged, realizing how little he knew of his friends' early childhoods.
"I never knew about the Acid Pop, but everything else seems to be in order," she nodded. "How about Luna? Did her mother still..."
"Passed away when Luna was nine."
After comparing the histories of a few more friends they had in common, they were starting to think that they had been correct in assuming that all of the differences between their two timelines originated mostly from Harry and Neville, and that everything else was just due to the butterfly effect.
"How does it feel to know that the world revolves around you?" she grinned.
"It revolves around Neville too," he rolled his eyes. "Or Voldemort... he's the one who chose to mark either me or Neville."
She then glanced at the time on her wristwatch Time-Turner and saw that they still had a few hours to go. "We should sleep a little... we did extend our day by nearly twelve hours after all."
Seeing the lingering loneliness and heartbreak in her eyes, however, he suddenly felt the urge to offer her some comfort. So he acted on that impulse by tentatively crawling into bed with her.
"Wake me up before noon. I need to give this Time-Turner to the other you back in the empty classroom," he said simply. "If I don't, then you won't be here. Don't want to mess up the space-time continuum and whatnot."
Hermione smiled a little as she timidly placed her arm around him and lay down at his side. "You won't mess it up. After all, I am here. I'm right here."
Looking into her eyes and seeing the intense longing and desire, he could tell how hard she was trying to restrain herself from kissing him and making him hers, and he found that he too felt the urge to capture her lips in his own.
"I'm not your Harry, but if you're okay with me..."
"He's a part of you, just as you are a part of him. You are Harry. Just Harry."
Just Harry. Wasn't that who he had always wanted to be? Just Harry?
With that, he nodded and tentatively caressed her cheek with his hand as he closed the distance between them. A tear of happiness rolled down her cheek and her body trembled in delight as he kissed her.
"I love you, Harry..."
I'm right here.
When the two of them had left the empty classroom after their little trip through time, they saw Neville and Ron jogging to catch up to them. Neville seemed happy to see Harry and Hermione together without any of the emotional drama, though he did find it a little odd that they sort of looked slightly disheveled, like they had both just woken up from a nap and then some. Ron looked surprised, perhaps not having expected Harry and Hermione to make up so quickly.
"Harry, are you free right now? We really should talk about what we're going to do about Voldemort," Neville said.
"Oh... right." Harry had completely forgotten that Neville had asked him about that at breakfast. Breakfast had only been three hours ago, but nearly fifteen hours had passed from his perspective.
"Sorry, Neville, but today's no good. How about... um... we all meet up with the Order when summer holidays start?" Hermione interjected quickly. Harry, after all, didn't know too much about the status of the war in this world, so he would have no idea what to talk about.
"Yeah, that works," Neville nodded.
"Well... I need to go talk to Cho, so I'll see you guys around?" Harry said.
"Harry, is it okay if I hold onto your watch? I'd like to take a better look at it," Hermione said. "Maybe try to figure out if it has any extra functions."
Harry quirked an eyebrow before nodding and handing her the Time-Turner. "I'll see you later then."
When he was gone, Ron slapped Hermione on the back approvingly. "Smart girl, taking his watch so that you have an excuse to meet up with him again in order to return it."
"I don't need an excuse to meet up with my best friend," Hermione scowled.
Ron rolled his eyes. "That's not what you said yesterday."
When Harry returned to his Ravenclaw dorm room to put away his invisibility cloak and the Marauder's Map, he was surprised to find Cho taking a catnap on his bed. The other Harry definitely was a lucky git. That made him wonder if it would be selfish and cowardly of him to want to stay in this world and never go back to his old one. He would have a wonderful girlfriend here, and no do-or-die destiny to defeat Voldemort here either.
"Oh, hey, sorry if I woke you."
"No worries," she smiled as she gently pulled him into bed. She was about to give him a kiss when he suddenly stopped her. A worried expression washed over her face as a million different things ran through her brilliant Ravenclaw mind. Did he talk to Hermione? Did he prefer Hermione after all? Or was it something more mundane like morning breath?
"I promised I'd tell you about my scar, right?"
Cho let out a sigh of relief and nodded.
"When I told Hermione my story, she held me at wand-point for a while, so I hope you won't hex me or anything," he chuckled nervously. "Though, if you did, I wouldn't blame you."
"What is it?" she asked worriedly.
"You know how Neville has a scar on his forehead from when Voldemort attacked him?" he asked as he swept back his hair to reveal his scar. "Well... I got my scar the exact same way when I was only one year old. I'm from a parallel world where I'm the Boy Who Lived. I'm not your Harry."
"You're... you're joking, right?" she asked, forcing a faltering smile.
"I was under the impression that your Harry doesn't joke?" he asked wryly. "Well, at least you're not pointing your wand at me, so I must be getting better at explaining myself. I've already told Professor Dumbledore and Hermione, they both believe me."
"So... you're really from a parallel world? Then... what happened to my Harry?" she asked shakily.
He guiltily avoided her gaze, feeling as if he had somehow murdered the other Harry. "I don't know."
"How long have you been here?"
"You woke me up this morning," he replied in a quiet voice, hoping she'd understand what he was talking about without him having to explain in detail.
A range of emotions passed over Cho's face, from shock to shame. "I... I'm sorry..."
"You're sorry?" he gaped.
"In your world... did your Cho do those kinds of things for you? I sort of feel like I've stolen from her by having sex with you..." she admitted in a soft voice.
That was what she was worried about? Harry groaned at how utterly perfect this Cho Chang was. Even his own imagination wouldn't have been able to come up with a more perfect girlfriend. "No, you don't have to worry about that... I didn't have a girlfriend back in my old world."
"Oh... okay..." she let out a sigh of relief.
"But... but I'm not your Harry. You don't feel... I dunno... violated by me or anything?" he asked. He had a feeling that this ideal goddess of a girlfriend would never blame him, so he felt responsible for pointing it out himself.
"Well... I am a little worried that my Harry will feel like I cheated on him," she bit her lip nervously.
Harry almost found it infuriating how impossibly selfless Cho Chang was. "Your Harry... if he's anything like me... he wouldn't blame you for anything. You didn't know. It wasn't your fault. It was mine for not stopping you."
Cho hesitated for a moment before nodding. "Thanks."
And that's when it hit him. This Cho was too perfect. He didn't know the Cho from his old world too well, but he knew well enough that she wasn't like this. This Cho was very different from the Cho he knew. Hermione was more or less the same, Ron was less of a git here but still mostly the same, Luna was still just as eccentric, Neville's and the other Harry's changes were within reason too considering the differences in circumstances. Cho was the only person who showed drastic changes.
He was hesitant to jump to such a conclusion though because, admittedly, he knew nothing about the Cho Chang from his original timeline. For all he knew, perhaps the other Cho Chang might have turned out this way too if she hadn't been in love with Cedric when he had died. He knew how much the death of loved one could change a person. As far as he knew, this Cho Chang had never had much interaction with Cedric.
"Cho... do you happen to know what a Time-Turner is?" he asked cautiously. "Have you ever used one?"
"I know what it is, but I've never seen one before," she shook her head. Then she realized why he was asking. "You think the reason you're here is because someone has been modifying the past?"
"It's a possibility... talking to Professor Dumbledore and Hermione haven't gotten me any closer to the answer though," he shrugged. Just because this Cho had never used a Time-Turner before didn't rule out the fact that the one from his world might have. After all, she would have had the same motivation that he had for using going back in time, to save a loved one.
"In this world, do you know who Cedric's closest friends were?" he asked.
"Cedric Diggory? I'm not really sure, I didn't know him too well," she shook her head sadly. "Were you close friends with him in your world?"
"Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved in the first place?"
She gave him an odd look but answered him anyway, "Loved and lost. Why?"
"To be completely honest... the Cho Chang from my world is one of my suspects..."
"That's a pretty nice watch, where'd Harry get it?"
"You know about watches?" Hermione quirked an eyebrow as Ron, glancing over her shoulder, was inspecting the Time-Turner.
"Not really, but you know how my dad is really into Muggle stuff. Mechanical timepieces are the one Muggle invention that wizards tend to respect. You know, the whole coming-of-age thing and whatnot," Ron shrugged. "That's a Vacheron Constantin watch from way back... maybe from the mid 1700's, if I recall correctly."
Hermione could only gape.
"Hey, my knowledge of the world does extend past Quidditch, you know," Ron huffed. "I can only tune out my dad's ramblings at dinner time for so long."
"Why do wizards respect Muggle timepieces then?" she wondered. "Using a wand to just magically display the time is simpler and more accurate."
"When was the last time you saw a Pure-blooded wizard use logic?" Ron laughed in a show of good-natured self-deprecation. "It's the same reason we wear a necktie... just for show, it's just part of being a man, girls just wouldn't understand."
Hermione still seemed unconvinced.
"There's also the fact that wizards hate manual labor or doing anything with their hands. The complexity of making a mechanical timepiece, however, requires so much precision that a wand could never replace a steady hand," he explained. "Do you really think any wizard would pay top galleon for a non-magical product that could easily be made using a wand? Handcrafted timepieces can be really expensive, which allows rich Pure-bloods to buy into the prestige.
"Wizards don't make watches, but they do customize them to suit their personalities and preferences by adding magical functions though. One of the more popular magical functions are self-winding charms on the spiral mainspring. Does that one have any magical functions?"
It's a bloody Time-Turner. How's that for a magical function?
"Um... no," she lied.
"That is a curious watch though. It looks like a wristwatch, but its internals are built more like a pocket watch," he noted. "Not really sure why the bloke who made it insisted on adding a crown though."
"How else would you adjust the time without a crown?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ron rolled his eyes. "You use a key of course. Look, flip open the caseback and you'll see a key slot over the winding wheel."
"The caseback opens?" Hermione, still skeptical, tried to open it, but it was stuck. So she transfigured a quill into a needle to try to pry it open. And, sure enough, the caseback popped open. Hermione's eyes grew wide when she saw that there indeed was a slot for a key to fit into.
"Then... where's the key?"
When Harry woke up the next morning, he couldn't exactly remember having gone to sleep in the first place but that was the furthest thing from his mind because he was surrounded by familiar red privacy curtains. He was a Gryffindor again.
'Shit. I'm back... I'm really back.'
He pulled back the curtains and swung his feet out of bed, taking in the familiarity of the Gryffindor fifth-year boys' dorm. There was Ron, Neville, Seamus, and Dean, exactly where they were supposed to be. He could almost cry.
"I'm back!" he shouted with excitement as he ran out to take in more of the familiarity of his own world.
But, when he reached the common room, his blood ran cold. Sitting along the adjacent wall from the large main fireplace was a big screen television. Harry's eyes grew wide as his mouth opened and closed in a way that seemed to read, 'What the fuck?' What was a bloody television doing in Hogwarts?
He cautiously reached out for the power button with a trembling finger. With a gulp, he pressed it and the television immediately turned on to a BBC news story about an IRA bombing attack in Manchester that had occurred about a week ago.
He turned around to see Hermione descending the stairs from the girls' side in her pajamas. When she saw the frightened and shocked expression on his face and the news story on the television, she quickly rushed to him and enveloped him in a warm embrace. "H-Hermione?"
"I know you miss Sirius, I do too... but he wouldn't want you to keep blaming yourself like this," she said, sounding distraught. "It wasn't your fault that he was in Manchester at the time. You're not the only one who wanted tickets to the UEFA semi-finals, we all did."
He stared at the gruesome scenes that were playing before him on the screen in horror. Was she saying what he thought she was saying? Sirius had died in a bombing attack in Manchester? What the hell was Sirius doing in Manchester anyway? The 1996 UEFA Euro football championships were being hosted in England. Germany and France, the favorites to win the tournament, both had matches at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester. Sirius had died because of a bloody football match?
He was near catatonic as he plopped limply down onto a couch. What the fuck was going on? Television? Electricity? Sirius dying in a terrorist attack? Did magic not exist? Was Hogwarts just a quirky yet entirely non-magical boarding school?
"Harry? Are you okay? Please talk to me," Hermione cried worriedly.
"Expecto Patronum," he said, gripping her shoulders tightly as a maniacal glint shown in his eyes. "Do those words mean anything to you?"
"What are you talking about, Harry? You're hurting me!"
"S-sorry..." He gasped when he realized that she was trembling in fear and tentatively let her go as he slowly backed away. He then plopped back down on the couch and buried his head in his hands. "Damn it..."
"I await a protector..."
It was whisper quiet, but Harry's ears still managed to catch it as his head shot up. "What?"
"Expecto patronum... it's Latin... it means I await a protector..." she explained softly, still trembling slightly.
Even when magic didn't exist, Hermione was still trying to help him, still trying to answer his questions. He managed a weak smile as he stood up and pulled her into a comforting embrace. "I'm sorry I hurt you... I didn't mean to..."
She just nodded shyly as she reveled in his warmth.
"I was wondering what all your shouting was about... can I assume that you two finally hooked up?" Ron asked with a yawn, interrupting the moment.
Hermione blushed scarlet as she quickly jumped backwards. "N-n-no, you've got the wrong idea... this was just... just..."
"You've got some nerve waking me up for nothing then, mate," Ron grumbled, slapping Harry on the back.
"Sorry," Harry sighed. "Hey, would either you happen to know if the headmaster is in his office right now? I need to talk to him."
"It is a bit early, but Professor Dumbledore is sort of an early-riser, so it wouldn't hurt to check," Ron shrugged.
"Okay, thanks." Harry found it a little odd that a non-magical man could actually be named Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. He quickly washed up and got dressed before rushing off to see the headmaster.
Along the way, he noticed that the entrance to Gryffindor Tower was just a regular door rather than a portrait and the lights in the corridors were all powered by electricity. There was also no stone gargoyle guarding the headmaster's office.
"Good morning, Mister Potter. What brings you to my office so early in the morning?" Albus asked, seeming surprised. Harry was actually more surprised to see him dressed in a normal suit.
Harry paused for a moment as he was having second thoughts about coming to the headmaster for help. The last time something like this had happened, Dumbledore had been the first person to believe him, so it had sort of been instinct to turn to him, but magic didn't exist this time. It was doubtful that this Dumbledore would believe him.
"Uh... are you a fan of science fiction or fantasy, sir?" Harry asked tentatively.
"Why, yes, I am," Albus chuckled.
"Do you believe in any of it, sir?"
"I would very much like to, but, alas, it is called fiction and fantasy for a reason, my boy," Albus smiled.
Harry couldn't help but let out a sigh. "Thank you, sir, sorry for bothering you. Good day."
After leaving the headmaster's office, it was then that he had noticed that he was wearing a wristwatch. It was the Time-Turner. But he clearly remembered giving it to Hermione. Regardless of how it had come into his possession, however, he was glad that he had it. In a world without magic, the Time-Turner was his last ditch resort, his only clue.
Looking around to make sure no one was looking, he slipped into an empty classroom. Taking a deep breath, he dialed back an hour just as a test run. Nothing happened. It wasn't a Time-Turner. It was just a regular wristwatch.
"Damn it... now what do I do? Fuck!"
In his rage, he flung the watch at the wall before slumping down into one of the desks. And he just sat there and stewed, not knowing what to do.
'Maybe living in a world without magic wouldn't be so bad... I could just be a regular kid...'
With a long sigh, he bitterly trudged over to where his watch was lying on the floor. But, when he picked it up, he noticed that the caseback had popped open. Hoping he didn't break anything, he briefly inspected the internals and was relieved that it was still running normally. He then closed it back shut, but not before noticing an odd key slot on one of the gears. As he was about to strap it back onto his wrist, however, he noticed something different about it. There was an inscription on the back.
'Unlock the past. Anchor the present. Unlock the future. I'll give you the key to my heart. - HJG'
"HJG... Hermione? Could this be a hint?" Completely stunned, he couldn't do much more than stare at Hermione's familiarly neat handwriting with such gratefulness.
Then, shaking himself out of it, he sprinted back to Gryffindor Tower. She wasn't in the common room. According to Parvati, she wasn't up in the dorms either. So he ran down to the library, but it wasn't even open yet, too early in the morning. So he tried the Great Hall. Not there either. Damn it, where was she?
He was about to run out to the Quidditch pitch, which he assumed would be a football pitch now, when a familiar voice called out to him.
He spun around to see Cho Chang's lovely smile. Cho Chang. Why was it always Cho Chang? Was she a part of all this somehow? It didn't seem like she was his girlfriend this time around though.
"Morning... uh... Cho," he greeted cautiously.
"Could you return this to Hermione for me? Tell her I said thanks, it was pretty interesting," she said cheerfully, handing him an incredibly familiar book.
Hogwarts, A History.
Bloody hell. Harry's eyes shot wide open as he stared at it dumbly.
Snapping out of it, he quickly flipped through it and found it to contain the familiar trivia that Hermione had always been spouting in his old world. Magic. The Founders. Ghosts. Talking portraits. It was all there. "Cho... is this... what is this?"
"Not really sure, but it is pretty funny, don't you think?" she laughed. "Whoever wrote that book was really clever using real facts about this school and putting a fantasy spin on them."
"Er... yeah... did you say that this was Hermione's?"
"Yeah, I was borrowing it because it looked interesting. You should try reading it," she suggested. "Well, I gotta go. See ya later, Harry."
"Uh, yeah... see ya."
He then continued his fruitless search all over the castle and the grounds but couldn't find her anywhere. It wasn't until he had dejectedly returned to his dorm room that he found her in the most unexpected place. She was gingerly making his bed and folding his clothes. Apparently this Hermione liked taking care of him or something.
"Oh, Harry, uh, sorry," she stammered shyly when she noticed him gaping at her. It was a little odd to see her acting so shy, but he did find it incredibly endearing at the same time. Perhaps, without a magical world being her last ditch effort to finally find a place where she actually fit in, this Hermione had steadily become more and more withdrawn and introverted.
"Hermione, Cho asked me to return this to you," he said, handing her the textbook the Hermione from his old world had loved so much. "She enjoyed it."
"Thanks," she smiled, happy that Cho had liked it.
"What do you think about what's written in that book?" he asked cautiously.
"Huh? Um... sometimes I'd like to believe it, but it's silly," she admitted nervously. "It's just nice to fantasize sometimes, that's all..."
"Where'd you get it?"
"Was it... something to do with the orphanage you grew up at?"
Seeing her eyes grow wide in shock, he knew that he had guessed correctly.
"Who gave it to you?"
"One of the older girls at the orphanage... she was only there for a few days, but she was really nice to me... she treated me like a sister... some people said that we looked like sisters," she explained in a quiet voice. "I was really sad when she had to go... but she gave me this book before she left... her name was Jane."
"Jane?" Hermione Jane Granger. So predictable, and he loved her for it. Had Hermione somehow figured out how to travel a decade into the past just to give the book to her younger self as a clue for him? He was so ecstatic about not being completely lost anymore that he couldn't help but hug her and spin her around. "Can I borrow this book?"
"Huh? Uh... sure..." she stammered in a daze as she blushed heavily.
"Okay, one more thing... what can you tell me about this watch?" he asked, taking it off his wrist and showing it to her.
"I think you told me that an older girl that you had a crush on gave it to you when you were ten years old... and you never saw her ever again..." she said softly. "Why?"
Had Hermione gone back in time to give him the wristwatch as well? His ten-year-old self had a crush on sixteen-year-old Hermione? Bizarre.
"How about the inscription on the back?" he asked, turning it over to show her. "Your initials, your handwriting."
"Unlock the past... anchor the present... unlock the future... I'll give you the key to my heart..." Her eyes seemed to widen in shock. "It is my handwriting... and my initials... but... I didn't write it... I've never seen this before... you've never mentioned it... what is this, Harry? What's going on?"
Seeing how scared she was starting to become, he wrapped her up in a comforting embrace and gently ran his hand through her hair. This must have all seemed a little like something out of the Twilight Zone, what with wristwatch inscriptions that she supposedly wrote yet had no recollection of writing suddenly popping up, so he didn't want to dump the truth on her just yet. "I'm still trying to figure that out, and I think this book is a clue... I'll let tell you when I know more about what's going on, okay?"
She just nodded, seeming to enjoy being in his arms too much to be bothered by anything anymore. Was this Hermione in love with him too?
Harry spent the next few hours skimming over Hogwarts, A History, but it seemed to be identical to the textbook he had seen a million times before. It was just a textbook, nothing more. But there had to be more to it than that. Surely there was something he was missing.
When he mulled over the inscription on the back of the wristwatch, he had assumed that the first line, 'unlock the past,' had been referring to the textbook. It was a history textbook after all.
'I'll give you the key to my heart...'
What was the key? Was it some sort of keyword hidden in the textbook? But it was Cho who had given him the book, so was the key somehow related to her? But, then, really thinking about it, he had given the book to Hermione, who had promptly given it back to him when he had asked to borrow it. So which was it? Cho or Hermione?
'Damn it, Hermione... why'd you have to give me such a confusing hint?'
Then something clicked in his brain. What if she didn't want him to figure it out? What if she was giving him this chance at a normal life? What if this was her way of giving him a choice? Unlike how Dumbledore and everyone else in his old world had tried to manipulate him, was Hermione actually giving him a choice? Either to just sit back and enjoy this new life or to try to figure out the clue to go back to his old one?
But then what happened to his old world? Did Harry just cease to exist? Without him to fulfill the prophecy, would Voldemort win? Damn his bloody saving people thing.
He looked up to see Hermione standing at the doorway of his dorm room.
"Are you going to go down for lunch?"
"I'm not really hungry," he shook his head. "Go on without me."
"I don't have much of an appetite either. Are you feeling okay?" she asked worriedly, sitting down at the edge of his bed.
He looked into her loving eyes and wondered if this was the normal life he wanted. In this world, Hermione's worries would only be about her grades and his wellbeing; she wouldn't have to worry about any ruddy dark lords.
But he worried. He worried that, somewhere out there, Voldemort might still exist and he wouldn't be there to stop him. But could this normality, this simple happiness, make him forget his worries?
"Hermione... are you happy?"
She seemed caught off guard by his question. She then shyly nodded. "I am... but... but I could be happier..."
Her words were enough to melt him into a puddle of mush as he, without even thinking about the consequences, pulled her into bed and took her lips with his own. She initially tensed up in shock but quickly melted into him with a moan of joy, pleasure, and elation.
"H-Harry?" she stammered, in a daze, as she found herself lying on his bed with the love of her life poised over her, his weight on top of her offering her a pleasant feeling of security.
"Hermione... are you happy?" he asked again.
She nodded, her eyes watering with tears. "Y-yes."
"Hey, mate, I heard Hermione finally managed to get through your thick skull," Ron chuckled.
"How about you? Anyone manage to get through your thick skull?" Harry countered. He did wonder if the Ron of this world was happy.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I think I may be spending the night with Luna Lovegood tonight," he replied smugly. "So, hey, I'll try to talk Seamus, Dean, and Neville into clearing out and sleeping elsewhere to give you and Hermione some privacy tonight. I mean, we are going home for the summer tomorrow, so you might not get a chance to spend the night with her until next year."
"B-but Hermione and I... we're not..." he stammered, blushing slightly.
"I'm not telling you to shag her, mate. Just thought you might want to spend as much time with her as possible before summer holidays," Ron rolled his eyes. "But if you do shag her, just let the good times roll, yeah?"
"Oh... um... okay, thanks."
"Whoa, you got your watch working? That's brilliant, mate. How'd you fix it?" Ron asked, grabbing his wrist and inspecting the wristwatch. "This original Vacheron Constantin has got to be worth a fortune now that you fixed it!"
"Was it ever broken?" Harry asked, confused.
"What are you going on about? It was broken when you got it; hasn't worked a tick in the past six years," Ron raised an eyebrow. "You only wear it because it was a gift from the first girl you ever fell in love with."
"Hey, do you think that the reason it's running again now is because you found love with Hermione?" Parvati asked, overhearing their conversation.
"That's so romantic!" Lavender squealed.
"Girls," Ron rolled his eyes. "Love can't power a wristwatch."
Wait a tick. Love. The power he knows not. Love. The key to my heart. Was love the key? Despite being in clear view of everyone, he spun the dial back one hour as a tentative test run.
'Oh well... it was worth a try.'
But the question that nagged at him, however, was why he was even bothering to try at all. Wasn't he happy here?
"Hermione... there's something I need to tell you."
"What is it?" she asked, tilting her head to one side. She really hoped that he wasn't regretting the love that they had shared earlier that day.
"Not out here... my roommates aren't around, so come up to my room," he said, taking her hand and leading her up to the boys' dorms.
Her eyes momentarily grew wide. Roommates aren't around? His room? She wondered if he was implying what she thought he was implying. She definitely wouldn't object to sex, she actually kind of wanted to do it with him, but she wasn't sure she was ready yet.
When he had locked the door, he led her over to his bed to sit down. Then, seeing her tremble slightly, he blinked in confusion until it dawned on him. "Hermione... did you think that I... er... I won't do anything you're not ready for, okay?"
"I know," she nodded, but still relieved to hear him say it.
"But there's something else I need to talk to you about," he said. "This is going to sound a little crazy, but please try to keep an open mind, okay?"
"Well... I'm a time traveler."
She blinked. It did sound crazy.
"So... you're from the future?" she asked cautiously, not wanting to offend her new boyfriend despite how crazy it did sound.
"Er... since you put it that way, I guess I'm more of a slider than a time traveler," he scratched the back of his head. He then held up Hogwarts, A History. "I've slid through other parallel worlds to get to this one... the one I'm originally from is the one described in this book, where magic exists. I only arrived here just this morning. The Harry you knew yesterday is not me."
"You're... you're not making fun of me... are you?" she asked, trying to hide the distress in her voice.
"No, I'm being very serious here, you've got to believe me, Hermione," he insisted, giving her a light kiss on the lips to reassure her. He then desperately tried to think of a way to prove it to her. "You never told anyone about you growing up in an orphanage, right? A Hermione from the previous world I visited told me about it."
She seemed a little startled at that. Indeed, not many people actually knew that she was adopted. But, still, it wasn't definite solid proof. Perhaps he had looked it up in public records.
Seeing that she was still unconvinced, he wondered if his magical core was still intact. He didn't have a wand though, so he tried to recall any spells that he had ever managed to successfully cast wandlessly. Perhaps the maniacally power-obsessed Ravenclaw Harry had some success in that area.
"Accio Ron's Sony Walkman!"
Her eyes flew wide open in shock when Ron's portable audio cassette player and headphones flew off his desk and into Harry's awaiting hands. "W-w-was that magic?"
"Y-yes..." Harry himself had seemed just as shocked to see that it had actually worked. The Ravenclaw Harry was a bloody genius, an obsessed maniac hell-bent on revenge, sure, but still a genius nonetheless. What else could he do wandlessly?
Hermione's eyes danced in wonderment as a flash of beautiful bluebell flames burst with life above Harry's open palm. "That's amazing!"
"Now do you believe me?" he asked with an amused smile.
She nodded her head like a bobblehead doll. "So then... what happened to the Harry from this world?"
"I actually still haven't figured that out yet... but one of my theories is that he's now a part of me. For example, as a wizard, I've never studied trigonometry, but now I somehow know it," he explained. He used a flagrate spell to draw out a fiery triangle in the air with his fingertip, just like how the diary-bound Tom Riddle had once before, and then solved for the length of one arm using the tangent of an angle.
"Then what are you doing in this world?" she asked.
"I actually don't know how I got here... I think it was because someone went back in time to change the past and thus changing reality, but now I don't think that's the case..."
"Because even a time traveler couldn't go back in time and erase magic, right?" she nodded.
"Right... but now... my Time-Turner seems to be out of commission, so I'm kind of stuck here," he shrugged with a sigh.
"So... you won't leave me... right?" she asked timidly, hopefully.
"I don't want to... I'm happy here with you," he admitted with a smile as he pulled her into a gentle kiss. "But..."
Her shoulders slumped. "But?"
"Back in my original world... there's a powerful dark lord named Voldemort bent on world domination, and I'm the only one with the power to stop him. But if I'm here, then... then I won't be able to protect Hermione... the Hermione from my original world... I'm the only one who can defeat Voldemort..."
"Why does it have to be you?" she asked sadly.
"There was a prophecy about me and Voldemort before I was even born... but... even so... I can't really do anything about it if I'm stuck here..."
"Then you can finally be happy here, right? No dark lords here. You'll stay, right?" she asked.
"I want to stay... but, regardless, I'm stuck here anyway..."
"I... I want to make you happy, Harry..."
He smiled, nodding, as he pulled her close and nuzzled her cheek. "You do, Hermione."
He then gently pushed her down on the bed and kissed her with an expertise that he could only tribute to the Ravenclaw Harry's experience with Cho. But he didn't want that. Hermione wasn't Cho. So he pushed Ravenclaw Harry out of his mind and set out to find out for himself what made Hermione happy.
He seemed to find it when she arched her back in pleasure and moaned his name when he nibbled and blew into her ear. So he whispered her name into her sensitive ear, causing her to shudder again in delight.
His hands also roamed her body, trying to find what else would cause her to call out for him, but he made sure to avoid any sensitive areas that she might not be ready for. So, when she softly whispered, "Touch me," he wasn't sure if he had just imagined it or not.
He allowed his hand to tentatively cup her left breast over her clothes, and when she didn't resist, he continued his ministrations. He then gradually proceeded at a slow pace by removing her bra but still remained on top of her clothing. He could feel the sensitive nub of her nipple over the fabric of her shirt, and even a light flick made her gasp in bliss.
Then, when he felt that she was comfortable enough for the next step, his hands snaked underneath her shirt to feel the smoothness of her skin. The warmth of her breasts felt wonderful in his hands.
"A-are they... too small?" she asked apprehensively in a whisper quiet voice.
He shook his head. "They're perfect."
He then gently rolled one of her nipples between his fingertips, causing her to shudder again in pleasure. "I want to make you feel good... these let me do just that... therefore, they're perfect."
She nodded in happiness and allowed him to continue pleasuring her.
When she finally gathered the courage to make some moves of her own by removing his top, he also reached for the bottom hem of her shirt. But she stopped him, shaking her head in embarrassment as she nodded at the light switch by the door.
"It's embarrassing... with the lights on..."
He nodded and, with a wandless gesture of his hand, the light switch flicked downwards, killing the lights. He then rolled over so that she was now on top of him, straddling his hips, to allow her to take off her shirt.
"Wh-what do you think?" she asked shyly.
"Beautiful," he replied with an honest smile as he gazed upon her pert breasts.
But, then, in the cleavage between her breasts, he noticed a glint of light. She was wearing a silver necklace with a pendant shaped like a key hanging from it. It was the key. The key to my heart.
"Hermione... that necklace..."
"This?" she asked, holding it up for him.
"Did... did Jane give it to you?" he gulped. "When you were at the orphanage... along with the book?"
"Yes, but..." Her eyes then grew wide as she realized why he was asking. "No, Harry, stay with me... please... you're happy here, aren't you? You can't go back!"
He grimaced slightly as he popped open the caseback of his watch and realized that the key around Hermione's neck was the perfect fit. "I am happy here, Hermione... but... I can't leave all those people back in my world to die at Voldemort's hands... if there's a chance to go back and I don't take it... I could never live with myself..."
"But you're not happy hunting down Voldemort! You deserve to be happy! You can be selfish just this once!" she insisted with tears in her eyes.
"I can be happy after I hunt down Voldemort," he said softly. "And you can be happy here... when I leave, tell the Harry here that you love him, okay? The Harry of this world deserves to be happy too."
Her shoulders slumped as she reached for her necklace with trembling hands. "I love you, Harry... you wouldn't be Harry if you didn't go..."
"I love you too, Hermione," he said softly, giving her a gentle kiss before accepting the key from her. He then put her shirt back on, giving her another kiss when it cleared her head, before wandlessly turning the light switch back on.
He then slowly inserted the key into the set-gear. Turning it, however, he found that now he could adjust the date as well as the time, which was something he could never do before. His first impulse was to set the date to October of 1981 to be able to see his parents, but he knew he had bigger priorities to attend to first.
"When did Jane give you the key?"
She hesitated in answering, still not wanting him to leave. "On my fifth birthday... September 19, 1984."
He nodded as he set the date. Then, before activating the Time-Turner, he gave Hermione one last kiss. "Goodbye, Hermione..."
"Goodbye, Harry... I love you."
The last thing he saw before getting sucked into a temporal vortex was Hermione's sad smile, tears freely streaming down her face, as she vigorously waved goodbye. And he realized that, no matter which world he visited, Hermione had always had his back, that she had always loved him.
"I love you too..."
This trip through time wasn't as instantaneous as all of his previous trips. Though, of course, the furthest he had ever traveled before had only been eleven and a half hours. This time he was traveling back nearly twelve years. It was like he was flying through a spiraling vortex and a mind-numbing speed.
And then he slammed into an invisible wall. Wham!
In a daze, all he could do before blacking out was check the Time-Turner's date display.
September 19, 1990, Hermione's eleventh birthday.
Harry woke up the next morning with his head throbbing. Wincing, he looked around and saw that he was in his bedroom at the Dursleys. Checking the calendar, he realized that it was still June of 1996.
He had once again travelled laterally in time to another world instead of back in time as he had wanted. 'Bloody fucking hell...'
He was grateful that the pain in his head was quickly subsiding as he got dressed. He was too distracted to notice that he actually had fashionable clothes for once. On his desk, he saw some of his old schoolwork from what was supposedly the previous term. A Chemistry assignment from Stonewall High. So in this world, Vernon had managed to get him to go to Stonewall after all. Did that mean that Hogwarts didn't exist in this world?
Then that got him wondering if this was the real world. No magic. No quirky boarding school called Hogwarts. Just entirely ordinary. He still seemed to retain his magical core though as he tested it out by conjuring some bluebell flames. He still had the wristwatch as well, but not the key. Perhaps the Hermione of this world had the key again.
He tentatively made his way downstairs and found his aunt making breakfast in the kitchen.
"Harry? Awake so early on your first day of summer holidays?" Petunia smiled cheerfully. "Would you like a spot of breakfast?"
"Uh... sure, Aunt Petunia," he replied, bewildered by her kindness. Then he realized that he wasn't a freak in this world.
"Do you have any plans for today, Harry?" she asked as she served him some pancakes and eggs.
"Well, if you don't mind, Mrs. Chang from next door was wondering if you could spend some time with Cho. Poor girl seems really lonely and could use a friend," Petunia said.
Harry almost choked on his orange juice. Cho? His neighbor? Why was it always Cho?
"Do you not want to?" she asked disapprovingly. "I know she's a very quiet girl, but she's just shy. You should try to get to know her. She is quite pretty, you know."
Lonely? Quiet girl? Shy? Cho? The only part that seemed even remotely accurate was that she was pretty. Harry blinked in confusion. "Uh, sure, Aunt Petunia."
"Good," she nodded in satisfaction.
"Hey, Aunt Petunia? Do the names Ron or Hermione ring any bells? Or Luna? Ginny? Seamus? Dean?" he asked cautiously in order to gather any kind of information on this world.
"Luna? You mean the sweet blonde girl who lives at the end of the block?" she asked.
So Luna and Cho live nearby. Was this some kind of Ravenclaw neighborhood or something? After finishing his breakfast, he went outside and his suspicions were confirmed when he saw Michael Corner and Roger Davies kicking a football back and forth a little ways down the street.
A little nervous, he made his way next door to what was supposedly the Chang residence. The door opened revealing a lady that must've been Cho's mother.
"Oh, good morning, Harry."
"Hello, Mrs. Chang. Is Cho available?"
"I'll go get her," Mrs. Chang smiled, heading back inside.
And when Cho came out to greet him, he was surprised that she was wearing glasses. Behind the lenses were the most emotionless and impassive eyes he had ever seen. "Hello."
Her voice was flat and blank as well.
"Uh... hello, Cho."
And with that, she grabbed his sleeve and dragged him down the street to the park where she sat down on an empty bench.
"Cho? What's going on? Is there something you need to talk to me about?"
"Yes," she replied in a soft monotone voice. "About Hermione Granger... and myself."
"Do you... know? About this?" he asked in surprise as he referred to the watch on his wrist. "What about you and Hermione?"
"I do know," she replied, still unperturbed despite Harry's increasing alarm. "Hermione Granger and I are not normal humans."
Harry blanked. 'What?'
He then shook his head as he gathered his bearings. "Are you the reason why I've been sliding around across multiple worlds? Who are you?"
"I am not responsible," she said. "And I am Cho Chang. You are aware of this."
"Then what are you?"
"I am a humanoid interface for the Integrated Data Entity."
"And all of the other Cho Changs that I've come across? They're also all humanoid interfaces or something?"
She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened her eyes again, they were sparkling brightly as she took off her glasses and smiled at him. "Hello, Harry."
"Cho?" he asked cautiously. "Which Cho are you?"
"All three of the previous ones you have encountered," she replied cheerfully.
"And what happened to those previous worlds?"
"They've been... overwritten... by this one."
"You mean... erased?" he gritted his teeth as his eyes narrowed.
"Your friend Ron is still the same Ron, just with a different set of experiences that were fabricated by the Reality Marble," she said in a placating tone. "Wizards never seem to hesitate using memory charms to obliviate Muggles and implant false memories. How is that any different?"
"I guess..." he admitted reluctantly. "Then why is this happening?"
"We are in what is called a Reality Marble, or an Innate Bounded Field. It came into existence approximately six years ago on September 19, 1990," she explained, placing a hand over his to calm him. "It is why you were unable to travel back in time any further than September 19, 1990."
"A Reality Marble? What does that mean?"
"It means that you have been living inside of a dream for the past six years of your life. And so has everyone who has been bound inside this Reality Marble," she explained. "Did you not find it odd to one day suddenly find that magic exists when you've lived an otherwise normal life for eleven years?"
"But... accidental magic," he pointed out.
"Possibly a fabrication of your memories, one result of the Reality Marble," she shook her head.
"So... you're saying, outside of this Reality Marble... out there in the real world, there is no magic? It's just Muggle life through and through?" he asked, still finding all of this hard to believe. Though, he had been jumping from world to world for the past few days, so he was open to anything at this point.
"I do not know. I have no data of anything that is beyond the Reality Marble. I have no data of anything previous to September 19, 1990. For all intents and purposes, this universe came into existence approximately six years ago."
"Cho, you're slipping into a monotone again."
She laughed as she gave him an affectionate kiss on the cheek, causing him to blush. "Sorry, this particular humanoid interface has been emotionless for the past six years."
"Then who made this Reality Marble? Why trap us inside of it?"
"Hermione Granger. As to why, I do not know. As I said, I have no data of what is beyond the Reality Marble."
"Hermione? Is she... is she also... like you?" he asked warily. "A humanoid interface or whatever? An Integrated Data Entity?"
"No, she is not."
"Is there any way we can leave the Reality Marble?"
"You cannot leave from the current time plane because you are not a true slider. You are, however, a time traveler, so you should be able to jump to September 20, 1990 using the key, and then double-jump back eleven hours from there using the Time-Turner's regular function."
"And that will take me outside of the Reality Marble?"
"No, it will take you to a time where it didn't exist. On September 19, 1990, the Reality Marble will be created though and you will be trapped inside of it once again."
"Then what's the point?" he sighed.
"You can prevent it from being created."
"You mean... change the past? I can't do that. You know that!" he insisted.
"You've only time-traveled within the Reality Marble," she pointed out with a chuckle. "You obey the Reality Marble's arbitrary rules. But, outside of the Reality Marble... who knows? I sure don't, but it's worth a try."
"But... is this Reality Marble... is it a bad thing?" he asked. "Why should I destroy it? We've all spent the last six years in here, haven't we? If Hermione created it, she must have created it for a reason, right?"
"Despite being its creator, she was unaware of its existence for the past six years," she replied. "Only recently has she become aware of it. That is why she is trying to modify it... she is trying to make you happy."
"She... what?" Harry stared at her wide-eyed in shock. "But then... why am I... and you... why are we the only ones aware of the modifications that have been going on for the past few days?"
"Because your scar is an anchor. There are six others like you, but only one of them is even sentient, most are inanimate objects," she explained. "As for me, I have told you, I am part of the Integrated Data Entity. It would be difficult to use words to describe what I am to you."
"Then what about Neville? He had a similar scar," he pointed out.
"But you were the original. Your reality was the original state of the Reality Marble. The reality in which Neville received the scar was merely an overwrite of your original reality," she said. "You are the Chosen One. You are Hermione's Chosen One."
Harry slumped back on the park bench, trying to take all this new information in. "But you still haven't answered my question... is this Reality Marble a bad thing? Why should I destroy it?"
Cho gave him a gentle smile. "Because Hermione does not exist here, not anymore. She can control the Reality Marble from the outside... give you a perfect life in a perfect world... Cho Chang can be your perfect girlfriend... your perfect wife... perfect happiness... but Hermione can't be a part of it."
Harry's blood turned cold. "But... she was there... Hermione was there in the previous world that I was in..."
"You kept fighting against the changes... you kept trying to figure things out... you kept fighting... the more you fought, the more control Hermione needed to create the perfect world for you... she only has subconscious control of the Reality Marble while she is inside of it, she is unaware of its existence and all changes are merely based upon her subconscious wishes... but once on the outside, she can exert conscious control over it... you are the reason she is not here... because you kept fighting it... she created Cho Chang to be the perfect girlfriend for you so that you'd be able to forget all about Hermione Granger..."
Harry found himself outside of an orphanage in Little Esher on September 19, 1984. His Time-Turner could travel through time either by hand-winding using the crown for a maximum jump of eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes or by key-winding for an indefinite jump. So, just as Cho had suggested, he had jumped to September 20, 1990 using the key, a few hours after the creation of the Reality Marble, and then made a subsequent jump from there using the crown. Once outside the Reality Marble, he had made a third jump using the key to 1984.
He knew that he was six years too early for the creation of the Reality Marble, but this point in time was the only time where he knew he would be able to catch a time-traveling Hermione.
So he waited for her to show up. And, in the meantime, he found little Hermione to be the cutest five-year-old he had ever seen.
Not wanting to be accused of being a stalker, however, he walked into the orphanage and had volunteered to help out for the day.
"Hey, kiddo, I heard it was your birthday today," he grinned as he sat down next to Hermione, who was reading by herself in a quiet corner. Then, playfully ruffling her hair, he handed her a teddy bear that he had bought on the way there. "Happy birthday."
"For me?" she asked, wide-eyed in shock.
"Of course, it is your birthday, right?" he chuckled.
"Is it really okay for me to have it?" she asked shyly.
"It's my present to you," he nodded.
"You can call me James," he laughed. "I'm only sixteen years old, not old enough for mister."
"Can I show my new teddy bear to my sister?" she asked hopefully. "She's the same age as you. I know you'll like her."
"I'm sure I will."
"Jane! Look! I got another birthday present!" she called out happily as she dragged Harry along by the sleeve. "James gave me a teddy bear!"
"Wow, that's a cute teddy bear!"
Harry smiled as the older Hermione pulled the younger Hermione into a hug before inspecting the teddy bear. Even if she was taking care of her younger self, it looked like she would make a great parent, or at least a great older sister. She was doting on the younger Hermione so much that she didn't even notice him.
"James gave it to me. He's really nice! He's cute too! You'll like him! C'mon, I want you to meet him!" the younger Hermione giggled as she pulled the older Hermione along. "Jane, this is James."
"Hello, Jane," Harry waved with a sheepish lopsided smile.
And when she finally saw him, she froze in shock. "H-Harry?"
"Nope, James," he grinned.
"Harry!" she cried flinging her arms around him. "What are you doing here?"
"Not here, too public," he shook his head.
Hermione nodded and then knelt down to little Hermione. "James is an old friend of mine, and I need to talk to him in private for a moment, okay, sweetie?"
"Okay," little Hermione nodded before heading off to read her book again with her new teddy bear in tow.
Once they were outside and a good distance from anyone else, he turned to her and took her hands into his own. "Hermione... why are you here?"
"I'm supposed to be here, Harry. After I found out how far back your Time-Turner could go... I realized that the Jane from my memories was actually me... I was supposed to have gone back, so I did," she shrugged. "I grew up reading Hogwarts, A History, thinking that it was just fantasy, only to realize that I was the one who had given it to my past self, so I will do just that later today."
"But you don't remember James, do you?"
She paused for a moment as that realization dawned on her. "You... you're mucking up the space-time continuum by being here!"
"No, I'm not," he assured, giving her hands a comforting squeeze. "All of those time travel rules... they don't apply here outside of the Reality Marble."
"The world you created... Hogwarts, magic, everything..."
Her shoulders slumped as a bitter smile fell upon her face. "A Reality Marble? Is that what they're calling it?"
"What do you call it?"
"My wish... my sanctuary..." she replied in a soft voice. "I was always so alone as a kid... after Jane left, I never had any friends. Books were my only friends... Hogwarts, A History was my favorite... I always dreamt of it being real, a place where I could finally belong... so every time I blew out my birthday candles, I'd wish for it..."
"And on you eleventh birthday... September 19, 1990... your wish came true... you created a Reality Marble... your sanctuary..."
"I know... that's why I'm here... to ensure that it happens... I need to give my past self Hogwarts, A History for that to happen..."
"And I'm telling you that I don't want you to."
"What? Why? I'll do it right this time! I'll fix it! I'll create one without Voldemort! You can be happy, Harry!" she insisted.
He chuckled a little as he pulled her into a hug. "Maybe it's because you're from a past time-frame... but in my time-frame, Hermione has already started making modifications. Several in fact. Hermione did her best to create the perfect reality for me."
"Was it... was it not good enough?" she asked dejectedly. "I have a bunch of ideas, you know. I wanted to make Cho Chang the perfect girlfriend for you. And, and, and I wanted to give you a break from the spotlight of being the Boy Who Lived! And if that wasn't enough, I was going to try just erasing Voldemort or erasing magic altogether!"
"Future-you has already done all of that. But you disappeared... you needed to be on the outside of the Reality Marble..."
"I was prepared for that possibility... that's why I wanted Cho Chang to be perfect for you... I was hoping you wouldn't give little ol' me a second thought with someone as perfect as Cho to be your girlfriend..."
"But I did give you a second thought... I'm here, aren't I?"
She laughed a little as she gave his hand an affectionate squeeze. "Did you really miss me that much?"
"Enough to be here, yes. I love you, Hermione."
She gaped at him in shock. "What? R-run that by me again?"
"How far back of a time-frame are you from?" he chuckled before he pulled her close and gave her a chaste kiss. "I love you, Hermione. Not that perfect Cho Chang you created for me."
"You... you love me?"
"You don't love me back?" he asked with mock hurt.
"N-no! I mean, y-yes! I mean, I do, I do love you, Harry," she sputtered. "That's why... that's why I wanted to create the perfect world for you... I wanted to make you happy... because I love you..."
"You make me happy, Hermione... I'm fine with an imperfect world as long as you're in it... I'm fine with any world as long as you're in it... okay?"
"You... you really mean that?" she asked, tears coming to her eyes as an unfamiliar warmth enveloped her heart.
"Yeah... so let's go home, okay? Even outside of the Reality Marble, I promise I'll find you, okay?"
She nodded. "Okay..."
"We need to destroy your copy of Hogwarts, A History and both of our Time-Turners... but first, let's go say goodbye to your younger self. She's getting adopted today by the Grangers, right? I don't think she'll be happy if Jane disappears without even saying goodbye."
When they made their way back inside the orphanage building, they found little Hermione waiting for them expectantly. "Jane! James!"
"Hey, kiddo," Harry grinned, ruffling her hair. "Today's a big day, huh?"
"Are you all packed? The Grangers are going to come pick you up soon," Hermione reminded.
"I am... but I'm going to miss you, Jane," little Hermione sniffled, trying to hold back her tears. "And I feel bad that I'll have a family but you won't... do you think my new mummy and daddy will adopt you too if I ask them?"
"I'll miss you too, Hermione, but I'll be okay... I have James," she said with a smile.
"Is he your boyfriend?" little Hermione asked excitedly. "Are you going to marry him?"
"Shh, that's supposed to be a secret, I was going to surprise her," Harry joked.
"I feel better now knowing that you won't be alone, Jane," little Hermione said, giving her a hug.
Hermione nodded, smiling. "James loves me too much to leave me alone."
"Do you think I'll find someone like James someday too?" little Hermione asked shyly.
Hermione couldn't help but laugh. "You will. I know you will. Or maybe he'll find you..."
"Excuse me? Do you mind? Everywhere else is full."
Hermione looked up from her novel to see a handsome raven-haired boy who was about her age with striking green eyes gesture towards the seat across from her in her train compartment.
"Oh, go ahead," she nodded, suddenly feeling a little shy.
"I'm Harry Potter, by the way," he said, giving her a lopsided grin as he took a seat across from her.
"I'm Hermione Granger," she smiled back at him and shook his hand. She then couldn't help but feel an odd sense of familiarity with this boy. She tilted her head to one side out of curiosity. "Have I... met you somewhere before?"
Harry's eyes twinkled as he broke out into another grin.
This imperfect world is worth living in as long as you're in it...
Author's notes: This fic borrows elements from Suzumiya Haruhi, Fate/stay night, Kingdom Hearts, and Naruto.