Pre-note: So I'm basically stealing from myself here. Two characters are coming from a different story I wrote, but I'll reveal the specifics at the end. Let's just say in the very unlikely event you've read all of my HP fanfics, you'll know immediately what I'm referring to. Otherwise...
The First Jump
They sat in the room of love and pain, and their pain was love. Harry had died, but he had died well, and the threat of Voldemort was no more.
And yet it was bittersweet, for their love was gone. The two friends and murderers had shared a lover in Harry, and without him, they were lost. Never the smartest or bravest, they still had indomitable wills and furious rage and overwhelming sadness. The ritual was bizarre and sickening in many ways, but they had little choice; every other option they found to travel through time was unfeasible or outside their capabilities.
But a ritual of love and lust? That was possible. It was easy enough to convince people to join their ritualistic orgy, but that's only because they were hiding the truth: they were all about to die. The small death and the large. Energies coursed and flipped and crossed again and again, until their love broke the barrier between future and past.
Their deaths powered the break, and their minds were free, finally free. To meet Harry again, even if they could not save him, at least they would see him once more.
The Second Jump
She pretended for as long as she had to pretend. Fooling the thief of her life and murderer of her soul. The Horcrux had been made whole years ago and darkness had swept the land. She played the unwitting servant for a long time, for that is what she was, until she could play the willing servant, which Riddle was only too quick to believe. His own arrogance and confidence in his abilities of seduction, his fears that only she knew that he would find the same fate as the original version.
For years she waited for the opportunity, although it was harder and harder as the years fled. She grew stronger and darker, absorbing all the lessons she was given and the ones they didn't realize they were giving her. When her parents were killed, she swallowed her fear and kept going, for the time was not yet there.
But when Harry was captured, his execution planned, she knew she was out of any time at all. And it was indeed the perfect opportunity, for Riddle had finally left himself vulnerable. He had never destroyed the diary, for he was worried it could kill him instead. Instead he left it whole, keeping himself weak. He told no one, of course.
But she knew. She always knew. And the spell to turn it back, to steal life and time, was never considered wrong, but necessary. As Riddle died again, he cursed her as a traitor, without knowing what she was truly doing. But it was simple enough, for the Horcrux dug a furrow through time. She stole his life as he had stolen hers, but her plan was simple enough.
Stop it all from happening in the first place.
The Third Jump
The Unspeakables came to her with a mission of paramount importance, and she was the only one who could pull it off.
In a way, she was flattered, but in another, she was annoyed. They were leaving her alone to dive back in time because she could change her appearance.
"We don't know who the other traveler is," her supervisor told her. "A man or a woman or an elf or goblin, we don't know. We do know that this traveler has gone back to find and kill key members of the government, stealing precious artifacts and ensuring a future of terror. The only consolation is that Harry Potter is probably not a target. Probably."
She rolled her eyes at that. "He's always been a target. We've had to stop at least two hundred time travelers from killing him in the last five years alone."
Her supervisor handed her a folded parchment. "Here is what we know for certain about the traveler's plans. Stay out of the way and don't reveal yourself to anyone. But once you find the traveler, kill them. The Unspeakables then will be able to throw you forward in the timeline if that is what you wish, although I'd expect you wouldn't want that any longer. Our parallel friends have concurred on this point: You are the witch for the job."
She grimaced but agreed. After all, she hadn't failed yet.
"What if there are other time travelers?" She asked. "There has been some unusual activity around the conflux leylines."
But her supervisor just laughed. "Come now," he said. "What are the odds of that?"
The Fourth Jump
And then there was the other one.
Chapter 6 - Time Boils Over
(The Fourth Conflux)
Harry sighed as he looked at the entrance to Platform 9 and 3/4. Without any exaggeration, it had been the greatest summer of his entire life. He knew the friendships he had made, with the ridiculously competent Neville, the enthusiastic Parvati, and even the nerdy, standoffish Padma would last a lifetime.
It felt good. But as wondrous as the holidays had been, the mysterious draw of Hogwarts pulled at him, and Harry felt anxious like he was a first year all over again.
"Merlin's balls, Harry," said Parvati, using a favorite expression of Neville's. "Would you stop standing there like a lump and go to the Platform already? It's getting late and Padma is getting tetchy."
"Shut up, Parvati," Padma snapped. "Although she's quite right, Harry. Get a move on, won't you?"
Harry laughed. "Okay, let's go." But there was something odd going on on the other side. People were queuing up just outside the entrance, and Aurors were doing some sort of check before they let anyone pass to the Express.
"What do you suppose this is all about?" Parvati asked. "Say, look!" She pointed to the side, inside a roped off enclosure.
It was three girls Harry knew to varying levels of familiarity; he recognized Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott as Hufflepuffs from his year, and the other girl looked like a Weasley. Harry felt he had seen her before, but couldn't quite recall her name.
"Hey, guys!" Ron shouted at them. "Come over when you finish getting checked."
"Oh dear," said Parvati quietly. "I have quite a bad feeling about this."
"I think they're checking to see who's a time traveler," said Padma. "You two aren't, right?"
Parvati sniffed and looked down her nose at her twin. "Don't be absurd, Padma. Do I seem like a different, madder version of myself?
Padma shook her head. "No. But who can really predict madness? So do you think I'm right?"
"Who's the redhead?" Harry asked. "I think she's a Weasley."
"She is," said Parvati as they moved forward on the queue. "Ginny, I think is her name. We've seen her before, you know, wizarding stuff."
Harry nodded. "Right. So those three... man, if another Weasley is a time traveler, I can't imagine the rest would be too pleased."
Parvati made a pained face. "Too right, Harry."
"Alright, Harry," said one of the Aurors, a tall, white haired man. "Step forward please."
Naturally, Harry didn't ask how the Auror knew his name or got mad that he called him by his first name. He just wanted to get things over with. He stood next to the Aurors and waited for them to finish their spells.
"He's clean," the Auror said. "You can move along. Next, then!"
Harry waited, slightly nervous, for the Patil twins to pass through. But thankfully it seemed neither one was anything but what they had been, which was quite a relief.
"So let me clue you in," said Ron, who was already next to them, startling Harry a bit. "Dumbledore and the Ministry set up a bunch of things to check for time travelers here and at the Ministry. As you probably figured out, it's Susan, Hannah, and my sister Ginny. Don't think you've met her yet, right?"
Harry shook his head. "No, but are you okay with it? I mean that she's not the same Ginny?"
"Honestly, Harry?" Ron sighed. "It's kinda a relief. Fred and I are kinda on the outs with Mum and Dad, they're not too happy about it all. Mum tries to hide it, but I can tell. I mean it's still us, but it's not us, you know?"
"Yes, Ron, I get it. What about George?"
"He was alright, at least getting there, until Ginny suddenly became one too," said Ron and he frowned. "Then he stormed off to sit by himself, told Fred that he needs to pick a side. I think Fred was a bit happy at first at the idea of being asked, but now he's muddled up. Can't blame him for that."
"I should say not!" Parvati said indignantly. "It's a right proper mess, isn't it? Three more time travelers? Merlin's balls, have they even explained why they came?"
Suddenly Neville appeared next to them and Ron jumped in surprise. Harry and the Patils, however, were used to this sort of thing.
"I talked to them and the Aurors," said Neville. "They ain't telling everything, but it's the same sort of nonsense. 'Saving Harry' and all that rot. Ginny's timeline was utter hell, and apparently the 'Puffs had it not so bad, but pretty bad."
"All that rot, is it?" Harry asked and he laughed. "Neville, you're an arse."
"Finally he gets it!" Neville said with a grin. "Anyway, I'm a bit worried about them all. Ginny has a feeling around her, something... disturbing."
Parvati looked over at the travelers. "Hmm, there is something there, Neville. Hard to figure it out."
"You'll get there," said Neville, smiling proudly. "You've already gotten pretty good at that sort of thing."
She gave him a big smile.
"What about Susan and Hannah?" Harry asked. "They don't seem off, at least to me."
"From over here you wouldn't be able to tell," said Neville and he shook his head. "But they've done some awful things, I can tell you that. Hannah in particular, kind of a surprise to me. I always remembered her as a quiet sort. But they are quite obsessed with you, Harry, so... let's all stick together on the ride over, shall we? Just in case."
"In case of what?" Harry asked in alarm.
"Just so we're all in the same place," Neville said. "Parv and Pad should come too."
Padma glared at him. "You know how much I hate that name, Nev."
Neville laughed. "Yes, but I don't hate that nickname at all. Besides, didn't you hear Harry earlier? I'm an arse, remember?"
Ron and Parvati both laughed, then looked at each other in surprise.
"Sorry," said Ron, and he walked away. Harry started to feel a bit bad.
"Neville, Ron can sit with us, right?"
Neville gave Ron a hard look. "Eh." He shrugged. "Why the hell not? You can catch us up on all the news, right?"
Ron nodded and grinned. "Yeah, actually I have a few things."
After they had all settled in a cabin, Ron sighed and leaned back. "You remember Scrimgeour right?"
Neville nodded. "Of course."
"He's Head of the Aurors," said Harry quickly, trying to show off some of the trivia he had learned over the summer.
"Right," said Ron. "He got attacked over the holidays, but he's being real tightlipped about it. Doesn't want to admit weakness, that's my wager. But his house was wrecked something fierce."
"Hmm," said Neville and he scratched his chin. "Dumbledore asked me to keep an eye on things at the Platform and Harry too. He said he had given you guys stuff to do also."
"Yeah, a few things," said Ron. "Hermione got all the cool missions though. Me, I mainly just did some grunt work for him. But I did hear a few things, here and there. Like Malfoy, he's missing!"
"Missing?" Neville sat up. "That's alarming. What about Quirrell? Is he secure?"
Ron nodded. "Dumbledore hasn't even left Hogwarts while Quirrell's there and out of it. Just to be sure, you know? But apparently Malfoy never showed up at his parents, and he hasn't been seen on the Platform either."
"Well, that's bloody fantastic," grumbled Neville. "I don't like not knowing where he is. He could cause a lot of damage."
"Merlin's balls," exclaimed Parvati, although she seemed to be pushing hard to say it.
Padma rolled her eyes. "Parvati, would you stop trying to im-" But before she could finish, Parvati smacked her hand over her twin's mouth.
"Padma," she said warningly. "Remember our discussion. Some things are just between us."
"Neville," said Harry quickly. "I don't think you've told Parvati and Padma your story from the future."
Neville frowned. "It's not a nice story, Harry. You know that."
"Well, yeah, but you already told me. Don't you think they can handle it?"
"Yes, don't you?" Parvati pouted at Neville.
"Acting childish doesn't exactly make me want to change my mind," Neville said. "But as I know that's just your personality, maybe Harry has a point. Besides, I can always filter out the really graphic bits. Ron, do you remember my story?"
Ron nodded. "Yeah, sure. The beheadings and the bombings and everything. It was intense."
"Right," said Neville. "Well, I didn't tell you quite everything last time. So it all started at the end of things, when Harry was killed by Riddle."
"Go on," said Padma, sounding very interested.
Neville gave Harry an apologetic look. "So that was the breaking point. A bunch of us fled Hogwarts, but that was hardly the end of it. Soon we'd come back."
Parvati sighed and shook her head as they walked up to Hogwarts from the carriage. "I can't believe you did that to Bellatrix Lestrange. Not that she didn't deserve it, but... wow!"
Neville looked at his wand intently. "Yeah, well, I haven't decided what to do about her yet this time around. I'm a bit worried about a version of her time travelling from the future, but breaking into Azkaban is tricky, even for me."
They split up when they reached the Hall, Padma heading for the Ravenclaw table and the rest going to Gryffindor. Hermione was sitting at the table already, looking very exhausted.
"Oh, hello there," she said when she noticed them. "Harry, Neville, etc."
Parvati wrinkled her nose and gave Hermione a cross look.
"Nice to see you too," said Ron with a laugh. "Did you do everything you needed to do this summer?"
"I'll fill you in later," Hermione said and yawned. "Too many people around for that now. There's a lot to tell, in point of fact. And wait until you hear the new rules, Neville, you won't be happy."
Neville grimaced. "Dumbledore said that there'd be a few changes, but I didn't hear any specifics."
"So then," said Hermione, turning to Harry and gave him a tired smile. "How was your summer off adventuring with Neville and the Patils?"
"Pretty awesome," Harry replied with a grin. "We learned a lot of cool magic and traveled to some interesting places."
"Secret places," Parvati put in. "The sort we can't really talk about in public either."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Oh dear me, what was I thinking?"
Neville laughed. "Calm down you two. No need to start off that bad the first day, eh?"
"Shh," said Ron as he hushed them. "The firsties are about to get Sorted. Wonder how Ginny'll get in, since she's a traveler like us."
Each student put on the Hat and went to their House, as to be expected, with each table cheering every new entry. Finally they came to the last in the alphabet, coincidentally also Ginny Weasley.
The small redheaded girl walked up and put on the Hat, a look of mild fear clear on her face. It took a few minutes, but finally the Hat called out "Gryffindor!" Ginny was so relieved, she stumbled a bit running over to the Gryffindor table.
Fred grabbed her in a big hug and she burst into tears.
"Stop all that then," said Fred, although he seemed a bit red eyed himself.
"Welcome back," Ron told her and he smiled.
Ginny made a coughing sort of laugh. "Yeah, thanks Ron. Guess you all already did this sort of horrid thing last year, huh?"
"Not at all of us," grumbled George.
Fred clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Chin up, George. Now you're the youngest Weasley in actual years of experience. The baby of the family!"
George chuckled, and then shook his head. "So that means I need to be spoiled like little Ginny used to be? Fair enough, I guess that means I get my own room now?"
Ginny winced. "That's okay with me, George. You can have mine."
"Our brother is just being a pain," said Fred, rolling his eyes. "But he has a point. Maybe Ronnie and I should share a room so George doesn't have to look at me as much."
"Alright, that's enough," said George and he started to get up, until he saw Harry give him a look.
George mumbled something and sat back down. "Never mind, I'm not full yet," he said and bent over his food.
"You're too nice to them," Parvati whispered in Harry's ear.
"I disagree," whispered Neville in his other one, causing Harry to jump back a bit without helping it.
Parvati glared at Neville, clearly hearing what he had said. "Don't encourage them," she hissed.
"And you need to cut them a bit of slack," he said quietly. "You know how hard it's been for them. Folks like Wood excepted, of course."
After they had eaten dessert, the Headmaster stood and made a loud noise, getting everyone's attention.
"Well, now that all you have been fed and watered," he said. "It is time to welcome all of you to Hogwarts. This year is a bit unusual. We have our returning students, of course, as well as our wonderful first years. But as most of you are aware, we have a few students that have returned in a different sort of manner. Professor McGonagall has already explained the relevant details to our first years, so I won't bore everyone with what you already know."
He smiled. "We have three new young time travelers this year, but I won't divulge their names; I am sure you will all know soon enough if you do not already. The important thing is to go over a few important details. First, we will be having a new Defense instructor this year. However, as he is not here yet, I will hold back on that little surprise for now."
"Albus." Professor McGonagall gave the Headmaster a weary look. "No need for the theatrics, he'll be here in short time."
"True enough," Dumbledore said with a chuckle. "Very well. Our new teacher is someone a bit infamous, but I can assure you he has been recently cleared of all charges."
Neville laughed quietly. "Ah ha, I figured as much," he said.
Hermione gave him a curious look. "Who is it?"
"His name is Sirius Black," continued Dumbledore and there was a sudden reaction of whispers and a few gasps.
Dumbledore held up his wand and another loud bang echoed through the Hall. "As I said, Mister Black has been cleared of all charges and has been working with us and the Ministry to become healthy for a few months. This appointment was made with the full support of the Hogwarts Board of Governors and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. If you have additional concerns, bring them up with your Head of House."
At this, there was an interesting reaction at the Head Table, with McGonagall looking a bit proud while Snape looked to be trying not to seem angry, but not quite pulling it off.
"Now for some new rules," said Professor Dumbledore. "Specifically about our time traveling friends. As they are technically underage, the Board of Governors has decided to allow their presence for the time being. Of course, there are rules they must follow, and we will be going over them carefully with each of them. But we have a few things all of you should be aware of.
"First, there are to be no undue fraternization with any traveler and any student, or any other inappropriate sort of relationship. Second, no fighting, duels, or similar chicanery. Third, all travelers will be living in a separate hall, created by our team of skilled Hogwarts Professors." He gave a proud nod at the Head Table.
"As a corollary to that, no traveler may be in a regular student's hall at all. They will also not be sharing classes, but not to worry! We have a few excellent alternatives, chiefly to help them pass their O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. equivalencies. It will be an odd time, that much is certain, but I believe it will be a fascinating one. There has never been a time such as this in the unsealed history of Hogwarts, but I for one am quite excited for the possibilities."
He nodded at the Hall. "Professor McGonagall will go over the remainder of the rules for the rest of you." Dumbledore sat back down and began writing on some parchment while McGonagall explained the typical sort of business.
As they got up to leave, Neville said, "Harry, you've been given a free pass to the time traveler's hall. Right, Hermione?"
Hermione nodded. "That's right. I suppose it only seemed fair."
"What about me?" Parvati asked in near a whine.
"Or your sister?" Harry added and he grinned at her.
Parvati pouted. "Fine, whatever. But seriously, why not?"
"I'll have to clear it with Albus," said Neville, scratching his chin. "He'll probably okay it, but let's just be safe about it. Besides, Harry can always fill you in on anything you missed."
Parvati poked Harry in the shoulder. "He'd better," she said with a laugh.
Harry nodded. "Of course, Parvati. But I want to hear about what happened with Hermione. I'll tell you what I know when it's private later. And we're certain nobody is listening in."
"There's a spell for that," said Hermione. "It's called-"
"Muffliato, we know," Parvati told her quickly with a bit of heat. "Neville taught us this summer. It's right useful."
"Yup," said Neville. "Now, I was thinking... yes?" He said this last part to Ginny Weasley, who was coming over to them.
"Are you guys headed to the traveler's dorm?" She asked. "I don't know the way yet."
"That's right," Ron said and he put an arm around his sister. "Come on, Gin, we weren't going to abandon you, were we?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Not gonna assume anything, Ron. It's been hard for me for a while, and being back here has been both brilliant and terrifying all in one."
"That's a great way to put in," said Ron with a sigh.
"So what happened to you in your future?" Harry asked. "You don't have to explain if you don't want to, but I'm curious."
Ginny gave him a smile, although there was a look of uncertainty in her eyes. "Harry, of course I'll tell you. It's pretty simple. Do you know anything about what happened in your original second year?"
"I told him the basics," said Neville. "Chamber of Secrets. Basilisk. That sort of thing."
"I assume it went pretty well for him, right?"
"Naturally," said Ron and he grinned at Harry. "Our boy here, scarcely more than he is now, killed a basilisk, defeated Riddle's Horcrux, and saved Ginny here."
Harry shivered. Although he had heard a bit of the story from Neville already, the idea of him defeating a great monster was simultaneously thrilling and unnerving.
"That's wonderful to hear," said Ginny sadly. "But in my world, it was not nearly so grand. I was possessed by Riddle's Horcrux through the diary. He was originally going to steal my lifeforce but instead he decided to keep using me as his conduit to the rest of the world. Eventually, he used a different sacrifice of... someone to bring himself into a physical form. It was awful."
She sniffed and rubbed her eyes. "Long story short, I was eventually in my right mind again, but by then Riddle had taken over Hogwarts. He thought my spirit was broken, and he was mostly right. But there was a different reason he kept me around; he was afraid that some of his memories had bled into my mind, or perhaps his magic. He thought that killing me might hurt him in some way, so he kept me alive."
And then Ginny smiled. "Until he screwed up and I killed him. Used his death to travel back in time. And here I am! Replacing my older self, I know, but it was... truly awful where I was. I felt I had no choice."
"We get that," said Ron. "Really. Neville should relate to the whole time traveling after killing Riddle thing. You two are the only ones who've done it."
"Really?" Ginny asked in surprise. "Hermione, you didn't?"
Hermione scowled. "No. Well, I tried. But he kept coming back to life. It was..." She took a deep breath in. "Frustrating."
"Hello there!" It was Hannah Abbott, walking over with Susan Bones. "We just got a bit of a list of rules from Sprout, so we were going to the hall. I'm really curious to talk to other time travelers."
Neville moved slightly in front of Harry and he smiled at Hannah. "Nice to see you, Hannah," he said. "We were good friends in my first time through."
"Yes, in ours too," said Hannah.
"So... both of you came together?" Hermione asked. "How did you manage that?"
Susan turned bright red and Hannah laughed.
"Oh, that's not important," she said. "But we couldn't have expected all of this! More people just like us, coming back to change the past for the better?" She looked over at Harry. "To save those we loved."
Harry raised an eyebrow at that.
"I think it is rather important," said Ginny, her eyes narrowed. "And why both of you, anyway? It's a bit... unusual."
Hannah's face fell, and for a moment, the pleasant smile dropped to show a look of pure hatred. Then she was smiling again. "You know, Weasley, some of these people I'm happy to see again. You, that's a different matter. I'm actually suspicious of you. What lies did you tell them about why you came back?"
Neville put his hand on his wand and moved to block Harry a bit more obviously from where Ginny and Hannah were now standing, each girl glaring at the other.
"I know what you are," said Hannah, her lip curled into a snarl. "A rampant slut of a whore, enthralled to whatever monstrous Dark wizard is whispering in your ear."
"Back off," said Ginny in a growl, her teeth gnashed against each other. "You have no idea what I've been through. What I had to do to survive. Don't assume my bloody world was the same as yours."
Hannah made a scoffing sound. "Once a whore, always a whore."
"Abbott, you're way out of line!" Ron shouted at her. "Back off!"
"Stay out of this, Won-Won," spat Hannah and she pulled out her wand. "I won't warn you again!"
If Harry was asked later about exactly who hexed whom first, he would not really remember. But he would recall exactly what happened next.
Each girl spat angry curses at the other, occasionally hitting, sometimes deflected. Ginny got tagged by something that twisted one leg backwards, but she retaliated with a wave of something that sheared off half of Hannah's hair and left her with half a bruised face.
Ron tried to step in three times, but Ginny gave him glaring, significant looks and he seemed to keep losing his nerve. After nearly three minutes of back and forth, the duel seemed close to a stalemate, when Ginny hissed something that sounded... odd.
Suddenly Neville jumped in front of Hannah and conjured a mirrored shield, causing whatever Ginny had done to harmlessly smash into the floor.
"Ginny!" Neville had a look of actual anger on his face, and Ginny suddenly seemed more than a little nervous. "I don't know the specifics of your future, but do you know what curse you just used?"
"Um." Ginny bit her lip. "Maybe."
"I don't," said Hannah. "But then again, I'm not a Dark witch."
"Enough, Hannah," Neville snapped at the Hufflepuff. "You may not be the only culprit here, but you certainly made things a lot worse." He turned back to Ginny and sighed. "The Dark Bite curse may not be the worst of the lot, that's true, but it's pretty awful, Ginny. How could you think that was okay?"
Ginny looked down at her wand and began to shake. "I... I don't know, Neville!" The redheaded girl began to cry. "I guess I wasn't in my right mind, like I was back with Riddle and all those Death Eaters again."
Ron quickly grabbed his sister in a hug and glared at Neville. "She hasn't had the time to adjust like we have," he said. "All this is new to her. To Hannah and Susan too, I'd wager."
"Um, if I could say something," Susan said softly. "In our world, Ginny was pretty terrible. I think Hannah was just, well, confused, if that makes sense."
Hannah made a disgusted face, but she nodded.
And then Professor McGonagall was there, looking absolutely furious.
"Did you think you'd get away with it?" She asked, seeming like she was barely keeping her temper in check. "You all know the rules!"
"It was me," said Ginny quickly. "Me, Professor. And Hannah, too, I suppose."
"Oh, I am quite aware who was duelling," said McGonagall in a huff. "Do you think we wouldn't think to monitor such behavior in our halls? I think you two had better come with me to the Headmaster's office. We need to decide what to do with you."
Ginny wiped her eyes and gave a nod to Ron, who released her. Hannah seemed unhappy about it, but she nodded.
"Oh, uh, what about me?" Susan asked in a plaintive voice.
"Miss Bones, you are to proceed straight to the travelers' hall," said McGonagall with a stern look. "And stay out of trouble. I'm keeping my eye on you, young lady. In fact, Neville, if you don't mind?"
Neville nodded and grinned. "You can count on me, Professor."
McGonagall nodded. "Finally, something I can legitimately agree with. Come you two, the Headmaster's waiting!"
In silence, the five of them walked to what seemed like just a random hallway on the fourth floor until they reached a small portrait of a very tiny man. Neville tapped on the man's left ear, then his right, then his nose, and then the wall opened.
Susan ran in and looked around, then she fled up a flight of stairs.
"She'll be fine," said Neville, settling into one of the chairs in what was clearly meant to be the common area. "Those stairs lead to a few private rooms."
"I know that," Ron said with annoyance. "I've been staying here, remember?"
Neville raised an eyebrow. "Not everyone has, remember?"
"Ah," Ron nodded and sat down himself. "Fair point. Is Fred here?"
"He said something about talking to George about something," said Hermione and she lit a fire in the nearby fireplace. She sighed and turned back to them.
"Well," said Hermione. "Now that that ugly business is done with, let me tell you what I've been up to this summer holiday. First, of course, I retrieved the Diadem, easy enough as it was here. Next, Sirius and I went out and took care of the Ring. Professor Dumbledore thought it'd help him out to get something useful done, and I quite agree. And if you ask me, it certainly did help him."
Ron laughed. "Okay, Hermione, now take a breath."
"Now we did a bit of reconnaissance," Hermione continued, ignoring the remark. "But unfortunately we couldn't figure out a way to get into the Malfoy manor or Gringotts. As for the diary, we're not entirely sure where it is. I was planning on keeping an eye on Lucius when he went to Diagon Alley with Draco, but they never went there! And Gringotts, well..." She turned to Neville. "I think I may need your help with that part."
Neville grimaced. "I can break into Gringotts, but it'll be hard to do it without causing a lot of damage. In my future, that wasn't exactly a concern, but here? We don't really need to antagonize the goblins if we don't have to."
"But you can do it?" Hermione leaned forward. "I can help with whatever you need."
"That's good," said Neville. "I think between you, me, Albus, Sirius, and maybe Ron, we can grab the Cup from the right vault. Although Ron might be better suited sticking around here to keep an eye on things."
Ron grunted. "Yeah, could be you're right on that, Neville."
"What about me?" Harry asked.
"I think you're not quite ready for Gringotts yet," said Neville after a moment of thinking about it. "Maybe after a few months, but I'm not comfortable yet. Remember the chamber of the lost yeti?"
Harry frowned. "Yeah, okay."
"That sounds intriguing," said Hermione. "Something you all did over the summer?"
"Hadn't you heard?" Ron asked with a big grin on his face. "Neville took Harry and the Patils on a trip 'round the world doing awesome things and just generally being awesome."
"I had heard, well, something like that. But no details."
"And you won't," said Neville with a laugh. "We made a pact, the girls and us. Plus there's still next summer."
"You know," said Ron with a thoughtful look. "If Sirius is really doing better, we should introduce him to Fred and George. I think that might help them, you know, connect better."
Hermione smiled at him. "That's a wonderful idea, Ron!"
"Snape'll hate it," said Neville. "So don't be too obvious about it."
Harry laughed. "Was Professor Snape okay to you two over the holidays?"
Ron shrugged. "He basically didn't interact with me, just kinda ignored me. Fine with me, of course, he's a berk and a git. Clever git though, he did some interesting things to set up the hall here."
"Okay, shall we talk to Professor Dumbledore then?" Hermione asked eagerly.
Neville shook his head. "We'd better wait until at least tomorrow, give them a chance to figure out what to do with Ginny and Hannah."
"Merlin, I hope they don't kick them out," said Ron with a frown. "Ginny really doesn't need it, especially after what she's clearly been though."
Harry yawned. "Well, this has been fun," he said. "But I think I'm going to head back to my own room. Parvati's probably staying up to bug me about what we talked about."
Ron smirked and said, "Good on you, Harry. Planting the seeds."
"Huh?" Harry blinked, confused by the odd statement.
"Oh, honestly," said Hermione with a dramatic rolling of her eyes. "Ron, you are simply awful."
Ron gave a little bow and grinned at her. "Sounds like you know me quite well."
"Ignore them," said Neville. "They just don't understand the concept of friendship between a boy and a girl without constant arguing."
Ron and Hermione glared at him and Neville laughed.
"Right," said Harry. "Night then."
Parvati was delightfully scandalized about the duel between Ginny and Hannah, and she was even more delighted when the two were suspended the next morning at breakfast. Consequences for actions, Professor McGonagall explained.
For his part, Harry was still a bit worried about Neville's earlier comment that Hannah and Susan were "obsessed" with him, but Neville didn't seem to want to explain it.
"I don't know the specifics," said Neville while he was spooning porridge into his mouth. "Just a general feeling from them based on what they said during the interrogations back at King's Cross. I'll try to find out more later, okay?"
Ginny and Hannah were of course, nowhere to be found, but Susan was sitting at the Hufflepuff table. Although she was surrounded by others from her house, it was clear that she was quite alone, just by the look on her face.
"So Neville," said Hermione with an intense expression. "When can we speak to the Headmaster?"
Neville groaned. "I'm still eating, Hermione. I do need nutrients to, you know, live and all."
Ron laughed. "You're alright, Longbottom."
Parvati muttered something under her breath.
But Harry was just looking forward to his first Defense class with his godfather. Apparently he wasn't the only one, as he got an owl asking him to come a bit early to the class, signed by Sirius Black.
Neville looked it over and gave Harry a dramatic thumbs up. "Looks fine to me," he said. "Why doesn't Ron walk over with you while Hermione and I deal with our little fun."
"Don't embarrass him," said Parvati to Ron with a hiss. "Stay out of sight."
Ron rolled his eyes but nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
Hermione grinned and rubbed her hands together. "Neville, wait until you hear my idea! All I need is a simple convex obfuscation array and then if you can knock out the primary notification standpoints, Gringotts won't even see us enter!"
"The standpoints?" Neville paused eating and rubbed his chin. "Oh, you mean the things that watch for intruders? The omnipresent eyes and the circling fire of angered imp projections? That's doable. Oh but wait." He frowned. "You just want me to disable them temporarily, not destroy them?"
"Well, if you don't, they'll know," said Hermione with a touch of exasperation.
Neville sighed. "Yeah, okay. Let me think about that then. Maybe Dumbledore will know a way. See you later Harry and Parvati!"
Parvati beamed at him and waved.
"And...?" Ron leaned forward.
"And you can finish my food," said Neville as he got up to leave.
Ron started to say something, and then he shrugged and took Neville's plate.
"Oh, that's vile," whispered Parvati with a disgusted face.
Hermione nodded. "Yes, quite. Well, later all!"
Harry wasn't sure what he expected from his godfather, but Sirius Black seemed far more nervous than even Harry. Sirius was thin, but seemed reasonably healthy; it was clear he had once been a decent looking chap and might someday be one again.
He gave Harry a huge grin and gestured to a chair. "Please, Harry, sit! I just wanted a chance to talk with you before the class starts." He shook his head and sighed. "Gotta tell you, Harry, all this time travel stuff is really insane. There was this girl in my year that claimed her grandmother was a time traveler, but nobody was sure how to take that."
"It's been a bit mad, yes," said Harry with a small smile. "But I've had a decent time of it. Apparently my original time through was a lot more stressful, if you can believe that. You didn't even get freed until my third year."
Sirius shuddered. "I had heard something like that from Dumbledore. It was bad enough, you know, Dementors and all." He looked at Harry. "Do you know?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, Neville taught me the Patronus charm this summer, although I'm a bit pants at it so far. Just the mist part, not the animal thing."
"That's - well, that's quite impressive, Harry. Most adults can't handle that, let alone a second year. I mean, no offense!"
"Well, Neville explained that I'm a bit sensitive to Dementors," said Harry. "So it was a good idea to get a head start on protecting myself. Parvati and Padma practiced too, although neither quite got it either."
Sirius grinned. "My godson, travelling the world with twin girls. And only twelve years old! James would be proud."
Harry felt a sudden hitch in his throat at that, and he nodded. "And Mum?"
"Well," said Sirius and he paused. Then he laughed. "She'd pretend to be mad, but she'd secretly be proud, that's my guess."
"Can you tell me a bit more about them?" Harry asked, almost casually. "This is something the time travelers don't really know about. They were all only babies or kids when my parents were killed. None knew them as kids. I mean, Snape did, but he seems a bit... biased, I guess."
Sirius frowned. "Snape and James never liked each other. He was suspiciously decent during my recovery, although not that decent. Always rubbing my face in his superior potion making or whatever." He shook his head. "Never mind that. Dumbledore said it wasn't good to be negative, bad for the health, eh?"
But then he smiled. "But of course I'll tell you about your parents. It'll have to wait until after class, I think I see some students gathered outside the door trying not to obvious." Sirius then looked away, and then back. "Before I forget, I wanted to ask you something. I'm still a bit addled at times, although I'm doing pretty okay. Do you have your dad's cloak?"
Harry scratched his head. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"I don't like the sound of that," said Sirius with a grumble. "I'll speak to Dumbledore about it."
"Oh, I had something too, before I forget," Harry said and he grinned at his godfather. "Have you met either of the Weasley twins? Fred's the time traveler, George isn't?"
"I haven't," said Sirius and then his eyes widened. "One of them is a traveler and the other isn't? Bloody hell, that can't be easy for them." And then he looked back at Harry. "Hold on, why should I meet them in particular? I'll be teaching the non-traveler anyhow."
"Oh, just a feeling," said Harry. "But actually..." He paused. "I'm not entirely sure why. Ron would know. Can I ask him? I think he's still waiting outside."
Sirius checked the time with his wand and then sighed. "Alright, but let's be quick about it. Minerva would be cross if I didn't teach in my first class."
Harry laughed. "That's true. Hold a moment." He quickly opened the door and gestured to Ron.
"Harry, what's going on?" Parvati said, pushing forward to the front of the crowd of waiting students. "Class should've started already!"
"Parvati, I'll tell you about it in a minute," Harry said. "Ron just needs to explain something to Sirius. Then we can start class."
Parvati glared at Ron, who smiled back and waved.
"Don't be such a prat," whispered Harry to Ron as they walked into the classroom.
"Can't stop being me," said Ron with a shrug. "Hullo, Sirius, nice to see you again."
"Oh you guys met?" Harry asked.
"A bit," said Sirius. "Here and there over the summer. He didn't know I'd be teaching though."
"I had an inkling," said Ron with a grin. "So what do you want to know? A secret from the future?"
"The twins," said Harry. "Why should Sirius meet them again?"
Ron began to laugh. "Why, merely because they are the Marauders' biggest fans!"
Sirius instantly perked up. "Well, these sound like gentlemen of true taste and vigour! I will indeed speak to them as soon as circumstances permit!"
"I don't know what the Marauders are," said Harry. "Sounds vaguely familiar though."
"Don't know?" Sirius said with an exaggerated gasp. "Well, there's no time for it now, Harry. I'll explain later. Maybe with the twins too if we can arrange it. Anyway, let your friends in, we should get started." He grinned. "I have a few decent ideas for the day, I think."
The class ended up being quite fun. Although Sirius had a few nerves at first, he quickly got past that with an impression of Snape that had most of the room laughing. Sirius explained a bit about his plan for the year and even demonstrated a few interesting defensive charms.
"I think Professor Black was brilliant!" Parvati said as they left the classroom. "A bit handsome too, although he's on the skinny side." She grinned widely..
"You thought so too?" Lavender Brown asked, and the two girls giggled.
"Had a good time, did you?" Ron asked as he joined them. "It was boring waiting for you so I took a nap."
"In the hall?" Parvati made a face.
Ron shrugged. "I've slept on worse loads of times. Truth is, ol' Hoggy here is the next best place to home." He patted the wall with a warm smile on his face. "Got through some tough times sleeping on floors here."
Harry suspected he knew how bad it was for Ron based on his tales of the future, but he didn't really want to hear the specifics. "Do you suppose Neville and Hermione spoke to the Headmaster yet?"
"Probably," said Ron with a shrug. "We'll ask at lunch."
As it turned out, Harry's time traveling friends had indeed spoken to Dumbledore, although they wouldn't tell him the specifics until that evening. He waited impatiently throughout the day, barely paying attention in the other classes, until lunch finally arrived.
But as Harry raced to the Hall, he grew concerned when he didn't see Neville or Hermione at the table. "Where are they?" Harry asked himself.
"Is something wrong?" Ron walked up behind Harry, having taken a slower pace to the Hall. "What's going on?"
"Hermione isn't here. Neither is Neville. Wait!" Harry looked over at the Head Table in sudden alarm. "The Headmaster isn't either! Ron, where are they?"
"Calm down, Harry," said Ron. "I'm sure they're fine. Probably still talking or whatever."
"Yeah." Harry felt his heartbeat slowly fall back to normal. "Yeah, you're probably right."
It was a bit torturous for Harry to continue waiting, even though he knew there was no point in whinging about it further. But finally, as he was walking to his last class of the day, Neville appeared suddenly nearby.
"Hey," said Neville quietly, and Ron whirled in alarm, wand in his hand.
"Gotta stop doing that mate," Ron said with a frown, putting away his wand. "Disturbing."
"Good instincts, Ron," said Neville and he grinned. "I'll need you to keep an eye on things around here while we're gone. A few of us are heading out to town, if you know what I mean. I expect we'll be back a bit late tonight, but hey, Harry, maybe you should stay in the time travelers' hall this evening just in case?"
"Just in case?" Harry thought that sounded a bit alarming. "So you're going to -"
"Hold it!" Neville put up a hand. "Don't talk about it in public. I'll explain it all tonight when we get back. I already told Fred to hang around with you two also, and to look out for weirdness, like from Susan Bones. Hannah and Ginny are locked up, so no worries there." He paused. "Oh, and I asked, Parvati can be there tonight so you don't get too bored, but she can't be there overnight. Okay?"
Harry nodded. "She'll like that. What about Sirius?"
"He'll be busy," said Neville. "But good thinking." He rubbed his hands together and seemed a bit excited. "It's going to real fun, guys, real fun. See you tonight!"
Of course, Parvati was indeed ecstatic to join in at the Hall, but after the first few minutes of peppering Fred with questions he didn't really answer seriously, she grew bored and started working on homework. That was good for Harry, as he had been having some problems completing his Charms homework.
But after a few hours, despite his efforts, soon Harry felt his eyes start to close. He looked over to see Parvati already asleep and Fred absentmindedly scribbling on some parchment. Ron was nearly falling asleep himself, his head bobbing back up every few seconds.
"What time is it?" Harry asked with a yawn.
"A bit after midnight or so," said Fred with a grunt. "Surprised you're still awake. You can rest, probably a good idea."
"Oh, fine," said Harry, a bit annoyed, but tired enough to agree. He closed his eyes for just a moment, and then he was shaken awake by Ron.
"Harry, they're back," said Ron, and his voice was a bit slurred. "And they brought some fan-bloody-tastic firewhiskey!"
"Bleh?" Harry rubbed his eyes and sat up. Fred and Hermione were each holding a mug of something, and Neville stood nearby not holding anything at all.
Ron took a big sip of his drink and then coughed out a puff of smoke. "Whew, I can't handle this stuff as well as a kid, Harry. You want some?"
"Um, I dunno."
"Ron, he certainly does not!" Hermione said indignantly, although her eyes were slightly glazed. "Don't set such a poor example."
"Oh, piddle," said Ron and he waved his hand dismissively.
Hermione grimaced. "Ron, that's unnecessarily vulgar, even for you."
"I think I meant to say 'piffle'," said Ron after a moment of thought.
"Oh." Hermione laughed. "Well that's not so bad."
"So how did it go?" Harry asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Should we wake up Parvati?"
"If she doesn't sleep through this commotion, I say go for it!" Fred said and drank more from his mug.
"Mixed results, Harry," said Neville and he looked a bit annoyed. "Really, we only have half a reason to celebrate."
"That's why we're drinking just half the bottle," said Hermione and she giggled.
"Hermione, you continue to impress," said Fred and he smacked Ron hard on the back. "Couldn't have said it better myself."
"I had a drink," said Neville. "But just one."
"And then you used a sobering potion," said Hermione with a frown. "Defeats the purpose, doesn't it?"
"I had forty seconds of drunkenness," Neville said and then he laughed. "That's quite enough until Voldemort is dead for good. Anyway, Harry, we had some success but not one hundred percent."
"Uh huh," said Harry and he forced himself to wake up more.
"We did get the Horcrux from Gringotts," Neville said with a sigh. "Set off the alarms a bit when we left because of something we missed."
"Sirius said it would be fine," Hermione said and frowned. "Since he's the effective heir of the vault, he'd be the one hearing about the robbery. Something along the lines of a 'begrudgingly polite but still angry apology' from the goblins without any offer of restitution."
Ron snorted. "Hermione, don't act like you don't perfectly remember what he said."
Hermione's face coloured slightly. "Well."
"So that was a success," Neville continued, not looking at the others but just at Harry. "Unfortunately it wasn't such great news at the Malfoys. The place had been ransacked, and everything was gone. We couldn't figure out if it was someone legitimately robbing them or just trying to make it look like it. It had been that way for weeks though, we know that much."
"And worse," said Hermione suddenly and then stopped talking. She shook her head. "Oh, I can't, Neville tell him!"
"It's bad news," said Neville and he had a very serious look on his face. "All of the Malfoy house elves were killed. Even Dobby."
"What?" Ron sat up. "You didn't tell me that part! Not Dobby!" He sniffed. "I loved that little guy."
"Oh," Harry felt horribly embarrassed. "I, um, don't know who that is."
"Bloody hell," said Neville and he winced. "That was insensitive of me, of course you're right. He was a good bloke in our futures, even saved our lives a few times."
"Saved yours before he bit it," Ron told Harry almost inaudibly, his face in his hands.
"Sorry," said Harry. "It sounds a horrid thing to do. Do you have any idea who did it?"
Neville growled and made a fist. "I wish we did, Harry! So many questions! Where are the Malfoys? Did they run? Were they killed? Who ransacked the estate? We know Riddle is trapped with Quirrell, but it could be..." He swallowed. "Another time traveler. One we don't even know about."
"I doubt it's a student," said Hermione. "But it could be an adult. I mean, there's no real reason why not."
"Hmm," said Harry, thinking about it. His mind went back over the stories Neville had told him and the Patils over the summer, trying to come up with an idea. "Maybe that horrible woman? Umbugle?"
Ron laughed, and wiped his now red eyes. "Thanks Harry, I needed that. And maybe I could use more of this." He took another swig of his drink.
Neville shook his head. "It's possible Umbridge did something, she's certainly awful enough. But this doesn't seem like her sort of move. And nobody's broken out of Azkaban, I checked with a Ministry contact that doesn't realize I'm just a kid."
"Well, maybe it's that guy that switched bodies with his mum," said Harry. "Something Crouch, I think."
There was silence for a few seconds, and then Neville cursed.
"I can't believe I didn't think of that!" He said and pulled out his wand.
Hermione's eyes goggled and she made a horrible noise. "Damn it, Harry, I knew I shouldn't have gotten drunk. Who has the hangover potion?"
"I've got one more," said Neville and he reached into a pouch, pulling out a small vial. He tossed it to Hermione. "Let me get rid of the drunkenness first." He waved his wand and then Hermione closed her eyes in pain.
"That always hurts," she groaned and then drank the potion. Immediately her eyes cleared and her face seemed to lack any pain. "That was fast. You two, get in touch with Snape, he should have more hangover cures. Neville and I will take point and hit the Crouch estate while you two guard things here."
"As usual," Ron said with a bit of a sneer.
"I'm not interested in Harry getting hurt," said Neville. "Are you?"
"No," grumbled Ron. "I'll send a Patronus to bloody Snape for his damned cure."
Neville nodded, and he and Hermione quickly ran from the hall. With an exaggerated sigh, Ron summon a Patronus, what appeared to be a small dog.
"Emergency, Snape, we need hangover cures, two at least," he said, and then the dog ran off through the wall.
Harry shook his head. "I can't wait until I can do that," he said. "It's not an easy spell."
"You're the one that taught me," said Ron with a yawn and he sat up straight. "Bloody good teacher too. But you may just need a bit more experience with spells in general before you get. Hell, you mastered it in third year, which isn't much time from now, relatively speaking."
Fred rolled his eyes. "Ron the great jokester."
His brother looked at him with puzzlement.
"Never mind," grumbled Fred.
The door slammed open, and the two Weasleys winced. Parvati looked up, completely bleary eyed. "Wha?" she mumbled.
"Well?" Professor Snape said, looking decidedly unhappy. "What is this great emergency you woke me up for?"
Ron pointed a wand at his head and muttered something. "Damn," he said, holding his head suddenly. "Sobering charm always hurts. So then." He looked up at Snape. "Let me tell you a little story about a guy named Barty Crouch Jr."
Okay, that's all for chapter 6!
Here is the question for next chapter, what would you prefer to see?
OPTION A) "The Death of Continuity" - this is just the next chapter chronologically from Harry's POV, as per usual.
OPTION B) "Snape, Simply Scowling" - this is another interlude from Snape's POV, covering the last interlude to the end of this chapter. If done, this would explain such things as what happened to Sirius to get him to be a Professor, how the time traveler rules came into being, and what the other time travelers were up to (Ron, Hermione, Oliver, Fred, Malfoy - there is another one, of course, but nobody knows about him).
OPTION C) "Parvati Perseveres" - this is, as it sounds, a Parvati POV interlude, specifically about her summer with Neville, Harry, and her sister.
OPTION D) "Longbottom's Last" - this is flashback to Neville's story, which would be a sad sort of thing. Probably not as much fun as the others.
There will be nothing from Dumbledore's POV at this time.
Oh, and the Susan/Hannah is based on a story I wrote called Who's Polyjuicing Whom, also available on my profile. I'll add an epilogue tomorrow.