THE FIRST JUMP
The man was bored and frustrated. He considered himself a handsome man, yet all of his dalliances and relationships had fizzled into nothingness like evaporated firewhiskey. For some reason, the world simply did not appreciate him or his worth.
The man was a Gryffindor, through and through, so he was brave, certainly, and capable, assuredly. Yet he knew he was smarter than average, so he put his great intellect to the task of solving this oddness, this mystery of his life of mundanity.
It was an easy solution, for the answer was there all along. Harry Potter had stolen his life. The kid, a year younger, had achieved fame and glory, using his stupid scar to trick his way into the hearts of a nation. The man knew Potter was a mediocre student at best and only a halfway decent athlete.
Why, if it hadn't been for Hermione bolstering him, Potter would likely not have survived his first year, much less graduated. So then the plan was clear: Take back the life Potter stole. But how, that was the trick. Potter was beloved and protected, taking him down would be nigh impossible. If only there was a way to change how it gotten so unfair.
And then it occurred to the man - change the past. It was an idea brilliant in its simplicity. Become the real Chosen One, get Hermione on his side, in more ways than one - it was a perfect plan. The only downside was that he had absolutely no idea how to manage it. After a few weeks of research attempts, he gave up and asked someone for help.
Unfortunately the only idea he got was "maybe the Muggles figured something out, they have movies on that sort of thing." Infiltrating the Muggle world was a bit tricky, but the Gryffindor hero persevered, and after a few false starts, he had an artifact of great power. Sure, it was marked as "unstable" and had no way of powering itself, but the man had an idea.
As more and more magical integration had occurred, the Weasleys had invented a new kind of magical battery, one that powered Muggle devices in a way that worked in Magical environments. So the solution was simple once again, especially for someone of his vim and vigour. Take off the 'Unstable' sign, slap in a Weasley battery, and turn it on.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
THE SECOND JUMP
They called it the Ship of Seams. It was called a ship that traveled through time, although it was not a ship, nor anything that could bear the weight of a passenger. Instead, it served as a way to send information, for it existed in a fluid timespace alongside the lifetime of itself.
"All aboard," called out the conductor, and the traveler came into the room.
"This is stupid," muttered the agent and he sighed. "Gert, this isn't a train. And I won't even be on the temporal conveyance."
Gert gave him a look. "Use the right name, Agent X."
The agent groaned. "Fine, although I hate that name too. I won't be on the Chrononox, you happy?"
The conductor nodded. "Quite. Can we finish loading all the infomancy aspects?" Gert grinned and finished it herself without waiting for a response, because she was insufferable like that, despite being unfairly competent.
Agent X had a name, but it was intentionally lost in the past for his own protection. His particular assignation wasn't really specific to him exactly, but the name given to each agent in his position. It would be confusing except that the name lasted until the agent was killed, gone, put out, clipped, retired, lost, or erased.
His past self would get the infomantic aspects needed to complete his mission, and then another Agent X would likely take his place in the new continuity. Or not, it was impossible to be certain on that sort of thing. But the agent wasn't an analyst, he was an actor of functionality, with a past to be voluntarily overwritten. It was his choice and his mission and his honour.
He stood with Gert as the countdown slowly reached ignition point. "You think we'll work again in the next space?" He asked the conductor.
Gert gave the agent a smirk or perhaps it was a grin or perhaps it was a snarl. Or perhaps it was no expression at all. Agent X worried that knowing that was an answer he would hate to hear.
And then the Chrononox set sail.
THE THIRD JUMP
The explorer wandered the empty plains and kept her Spotulaters at the ready. After a lifetime of excitement and adventure, she had decided to leave her husband and family (temporarily, she thought, unless she died, of course, which was also a strong possibility she knew, given her advanced age, but then again, she had been through worse, a lot worse in point of fact, and wasn't the fun in life the adventure of it all and really, the old ball and children had only themselves to blame for being on a different adventure while she had slept in and is that unfair considering how much she had had to drink the previous evening, the anniversary evening no less, and yet here she was, abandoned and abandoning, following in her father's footsteps and her mother's smaller footsteps, searching, pondering, hoping, for a sign of something grand, something secret, something hidden, and perhaps something not there at all).
The explorer spotted something out of the corner of existence, and leaned down to get a better look. She adjusted the Spotulaters to their most devious setting, and checked again. Huzzah! And good fortune!
It was indeed the legendary Chronophage, the thing that ate time. And by Merlin's pigtails, it was adorable. She watched, entranced, as the little chronophage gobbled away at the tendrils of time, entranced, she watched, as the little chronophage spat up the tendrils of time.
She felt happy and smiled happily (perhaps, she wondered, would it be so awful, so terrible, so heinous, so illegal to simply wish the little friend a nice hello, a sort of friendly pat on the head, a reminder that hey, some of us wizards and witches weren't the worst sort, that we liked odd things, and if something did happen, why, she had lived a long life after all and what was the worst that could-
Far Too Many Time Travelers
Chapter 7: The Death of Continuity
The next day, Harry found he had a very odd headache. But ignoring that and everything from the previous night seemed the prudent course of action, so Harry pretended it all was just fine and waited for the next terrible thing to happen.
At dinner, Neville walked over to Harry, looking surprisingly defeated. "When you're done, we're to have a meeting in the Headmaster's office, Harry." He sighed and then raised an eyebrow, looking Harry over carefully. "Burying all that unpleasantness, eh? I can relate, Harry, but it's not healthy, I know that much."
"I'm not burying anything," Harry retorted without thinking. "And who else will be at this so-called meeting?"
"Harry, really," said Parvati with a shake of her head. She looked completely exhausted, and Harry wondered if he looked the same way.
"Sorry, Parv," Neville told her with an apologetic shrug. "We'll catch you up later, but I need you to do something else for me."
"Oh?" Parvati perked up immediately. "What do you need, Nev?"
"Promise me you'll listen," said Neville in a very serious tone, and he leaned on the table. "Promise me?"
Parvati nodded quickly. "Yes, anything!"
"I need you to go get some sleep," he said and then grinned. "You're knackered."
She scowled and almost said something, before yawning suddenly. Parvati winced. "Bugger."
Harry laughed. "I'm pretty tired myself, Neville. Why not just use a Pepper-Up or something?"
"I think that's a bad idea to rely on, my Hermione used to tell me that. But anyway, Dumbledore will be fine with us telling you more later, I think. Snape will be there, and he's already annoyed I'm going to listen in."
Parvati seemed ready to argue, but then she nodded, conceding the point that she was too tired to stare down Professor Snape.
For his part, Snape didn't seem displeased to see Harry when they arrived in the Headmaster's office. "Potter, you look awful," he said. "I would hope you would get more rest tonight instead of allowing the others to keep you up."
"I don't suppose you'll let me turn in my homework late?" Harry asked with a small smile.
Snape raised an eyebrow and Harry laughed.
"Of course not, sir, I ought not to have assumed otherwise."
"You can turn in my homework late if you need it," said Professor Flitwick, who was in the room with Dumbledore. "After all, it's only fair."
"I am pleased to see such pleasantries," Dumbledore said from his chair in a pleasant voice, although he had a stern expression. "I am also pleased to see all of you here today. There is much I would like to discuss, although not everyone is present that I would prefer."
"If you mean Hermione or Ron, they're out investigating, as you instructed," said Neville. "But that's not what you meant, is it?"
Dumbledore favoured Neville with a small smile and nodded. "Full marks, Master Longbottom. But that is not so important at the moment. I am sure you have all wondered about some of the time travel techniques utilized by the various time travelers and why such magic has been unseen until now."
"Was it suppressed?" Flitwick asked. "Or hidden away?"
"I preface this discussion with an important fact. There is a sealed history of Hogwarts and of magic," the Headmaster said, steepling his hands together. "And there is an unsealed history. I am literally unable to discuss the sealed history, despite my own wishes. Otherwise, I hope to be at least a tad enlightening."
He peered over his glasses at them. "It it said in the old stories that there are only three ways to travel in time, backwards, forwards, and in place. But we modern wizards know this to be false. According to the scholarly literature, there are... How many would you say, Filius?"
Professor Flitwick seemed surprised to be asked, but he smiled as he considered the answer. "I believe the answer is six, Albus. Four known: Physical, metaphysical, mental, and metamental. And two theoretical: Conceptual and metaconceptual. The Time-Turners are used to facilitate physical time travel."
"But how is that possible?" Dumbledore asked. "According to the doublet paradox rule, only one of all things unique can exist in the same timeframe. Wouldn't that violate the paradox?"
Flitwick stroked his small, pointed beard and frowned. "Hmm, actually I'm not sure. Is it a fact that the doublet rule is always enforced or is that up for scholarly debate?"
"Evidence would argue against it, and in the context of what we know in the unsealed histories, the doublet rule seems to always be valid."
Snape made a huffing sound. "Meaning there is sealed history that proves it," he said. "But you cannot say anything to the particulars. Convenient, Albus."
"I know about the Time-Turners," Neville said and he leaned back in his chair. "And I know they work, so how do you explain it? Keep in mind I haven't followed everything you've said."
Harry nodded in agreement, glad that he wasn't the only one out of his depth.
The Headmaster chuckled. "It is actually a bit amusing, The Time-Turners utilize a sort of magical trick, a "prank" if you will on the timeline where it is activated. It generates a pseudo-temporal wrapper with extrapolated energy, originating from the spellwork on the Time-Turner, naturally. That wrapper lasts until the Time-Turner is reactivated, at which point the wrapper collapses, ended in a fully resolved, paradox-free timeline or, if luck isn't with them, utter catastrophe."
Flitwick blinked and then smiled widely. "How fascinating! I must admit, I never spent much time on researching temporal mechanics, so I had no idea that sort of timeline wrapping was even possible.
"Utter catastrophe," repeated Snape. "I note that you didn't mentioned your fascination with that aspect, Filius. Albus, what in the world did you just say? A 'pseudo-temporal wrapper'? I know the words individually, but it's meaningless."
"I believe I can explain," said Flitwick. "Albus is saying that Time-Turners create a sort of temporary artificial universe where you can physically travel to the past at the same time as other versions of yourself, which is otherwise impossible due to the doublet rule."
Snape tapped his chin. "I see. And the catastrophe?"
"I assume that when the time travel adventure is complete, if the temporary universe contains only one copy of everybody, the universe gets resolved, and no harm done. But if not..." Flitwick shrugged. "Actually I'm not sure on that point. If there's a paradox, that would seem to imply an impossibility."
"Magic and reality will do their best to keep the universe from collapsing on itself," explained the Headmaster. "But that could easily have negative side effects for those caught in the paradox. Effects such as complete erasure from existence, for example."
Neville laughed. "Well, that sounds bad, I get that much."
"Indeed," said Dumbledore with a hint of mirth. "Naturally you and the others have traveled using mental time traveling methods. A far safer way to avoid paradoxes. Metaphysical and metamental would avoid them in theory of course, but that would belie the point."
"What would be an example of those two?" Neville asked.
"Sending magic of some sort through time would be metaphysical," Flitwick answered. "Metamental is a bit trickier to explain, but I doubt we'll run into an example. As for the other two..." He shrugged. "They are theoretical for a reason. They are proven on parchment, but not yet in practice."
"So it is said in the unsealed histories of Hogwarts," intoned the Headmaster in an oddly dramatic tone.
"Sir, if I can ask something," Harry interjected, seeing that Snape was annoyed at this comment again. "I was wondering about the ways everyone traveled in time. Neville, Ron, Hermione, Draco, and um, oh right, Fred and Oliver Wood. Oh and Ginny! Oh, and those Hufflepuff girls too."
He frowned. "Sorry, I guess I hadn't even realized how many there were."
"As I recall, Ronald utilized a corruption of the Xo Xibalba ritual," said Dumbledore. "Severus, are you familiar with it?"
Snape grimaced and nodded. "I am. A transcendence ritual, a grim and filthy business. Murder and other atrocities to gain a temporary resistance to magic and infirmity. It was banned two hundred years ago by the IWC, but every so often, a desperate fool or monster attempts it. But I fail to see how it would let someone travel through time."
"Advanced aperture amplification theory, I'm not surprised you aren't familiar with the details," said Dumbledore and then he seemed almost lost in a memory for a moment. "Ah, well, histories are set as they are behind us. I spent some time in my middle years on the theory, but although I figured out how to use the Mayan death ritual to travel through time in theory, the cost was far too high."
He shook his head and then looked sadly at Harry. "Your friend Ronald suffered through some grave horrors if he followed my theoretical path."
Harry sighed and nodded. "He does seem sad much of the time."
Neville rubbed his chin and his eyes narrowed. "So is Ron far gone, sir? If you follow me?"
"I believe not, or at least I hope not. Does he seem as such to you?"
"Not really, sir," said Neville and he relaxed. "Just damaged."
"In what way?" asked Flitwick in a concerned voice.
Snape gave the other Professor a scathing look. "Traumatized, obviously, Filius. Hopefully not irreversibly damaged, naturally."
"What about Hermione?" Harry asked, trying to get past the uncomfortable subject. "Something about the moon?"
"The lunar compact, she said." Neville glanced at the Headmaster. "Never heard of it. Professor Snape? Professor Flitwick?"
After a moment, both teachers shook their heads.
"So don't leave us in suspense, Albus," Flitwick said eagerly. "What is the lunar compact?"
"It is old," the Headmaster replied. "That is all I will say on the matter. I am honestly still horrified at Miss Granger's actions, even a year past hearing on it. And I will hear no more on the matter." This last was said with such odd, sudden vehemence, that Flitwick could only mutely nod his head.
After a few moments, Harry cleared his throat. "Okay sir, that's... that's fine." He breathed in deeply and calmed his nerves. "What about Oliver and the rest?"
"After discussing with him, Mister Malfoy claimed to use chained Time-Turners to manipulate the Veil, but I do not quite believe he understands what he did."
Snape shook his head. "I don't think he does, Albus. He wasn't really able to explain it logically to me." He sighed. "Any word about him, now that we're discussing him?"
Dumbledore looked over at Neville who shook his head. "There is your answer, I am afraid. Now let me see here," he stroked his long beard and smiled. "Mister Wood found an obscure old legend that happened to be true. I had actually never heard of it, so that should tell you something."
"Something at Stonehenge," Flitwick said to Professor Snape. "It's a bit complicated, I'll explain to you later."
Snape nodded, looking unusually intrigued. "I am still shocked that dunderhead managed anything."
"As for the rest, we don't really know how Miss Chang traveled through time, as she is still quite insensatate. And I have looked at a memory of how Neville traveled here, but the artifact was also unfamiliar to me."
Neville grinned. "Glad to have something in common with you, sir."
"I would rather not discuss the specifics of how the other young ladies managed their travel, as it is all quite... disturbing. Perhaps allow me some time to consider the best way to explain, Harry?"
"Okay, sir. I just don't like not knowing what's going on when everyone else does."
Snape smirked. "Why Mister Potter, how positively reasonable of you."
"There is one other that we know of," continued the Headmaster. "Fred Weasley. He told me he used the Black Door to travel through time, but I thought that too was mere legend."
"I've heard of that one," said Flitwick suddenly. "Yes, it's a legend, but not that old. Only a thousand years or so, from around the time of Merlin. The Door that is all doors, the Door that must be never be opened. It was an old Slavic tale, I believe, conflated with the tale of the Starry Road. Or so I thought," he said in realization. "Like many of those old Slavic tales, it was muddled, bizarre, and without any point other than horror."
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I thought similarly. But the Black Door apparently opens to the worlds gone past, so Fred and his future version of Miss Granger figured out how to measure astral alignment to find the point of discovery." He shook his head. "That reminds me of an old story of my own. A relevant one to our current situation, so I hope you will not mind a small tale?"
Harry was ready to argue against anyone not interested, but thankfully it seemed the others were equally intrigued.
This was the story the Headmaster told:
In the old world, it was said, when people still roamed through the world unimpeded, there was one magic and it was all magic. But it was a simple magic, a magic built on music and will, one that that connected all possibilities at once.
Imagine if you will, the young children racing through the fields, a song of life and happiness on their lips. That magic of song and life and love was all the protection they could ever desire. Or imagine the young couple, together and in love, singing as they sailed on the mighty ocean. They would sing songs of the ocean, of the waters, and no storm could ever disturb them.
This magic was beautiful and simple, yet that simplicity was why it was so powerful. The magic of the people, of the land, was their music.
It was a simpler time, that time when all things were possible and the future unwritten. A time when magic itself was a force of creation and everything became what was possible by thought, if only you willed it strong enough.
But there were those who were not satisfied. They wanted more than the music they were born with, the music of the people around them. They wanted to shape their world, alter their surroundings, bring about change. Some wished to create things of beauty, sculptures that were alive in their own way. Still others imagined that all the people in all the land could have a better life by changing that very land. And then there were those who were selfish, who wanted power, who wanted pleasure, who wanted to control and alter their world.
And so these folk began to use their music to create a new kind of magic, a magic of change. And the land and the people were not pleased. But it was too late, things could never be the same as they were. The influence grew and grew until the magic of change was everywhere in the world.
One would think that with their control of the world around them, limited as it may have been, they would have been satisfied. But they were not. They wanted the magic of heaven... and hell.
Imagine if you will the following scene: Magic weavers stand around the mighty canyon, the Black Canyon, in the ancient swamplands. They weave a powerful magic, a powerful music. They use a different magic. Where they would once use the magic, the music, of themselves and of the land, they now use the magic of the Other realms. Can you imagine the songs of Lost Ones or the ones of time lost eternally?
Focus your thoughts on one man, perhaps a human, perhaps an old svarlf or gnome, perhaps even a shadowman. Call him the shepherd, or the seeker, if you prefer. Or call him the fallen. We call him this because his name is lost, lost in the time that all time became one time. In this other time, all possibilities were extant and equally in place, it was will that brought potentiality into reality.
The single wizard or sorcerer standing in the midst of all things at once, a mind focused on breaking apart from the rest of existence. He wanted to break free from the constraints of chaotic possibility to forge an existence of a timeline of purity, of continuity and congruence. This was the secret path that turned all into one.
He succeeded in that mysterious quest, perhaps seen as quixotic otherwise, and thus here we are. Time flows from the past to the future, with nothing in between but the will to change which way you turn.
It is said that the past is gone, and magic is gone, yet we know that much at least, is false. And what happened to that seeker that changed it all? Well, did he ever truly exist? After all this is but a simple story.
After Dumbledore finished his story, the room was very quiet. Flitwick seemed confused, as did Neville but Snape... the Slytherin Head of House had an expression that Harry could not decipher, but it seemed almost a combination of horror and disgust.
"I hope you three have a good night," said the Headmaster. "I foresee troubled times in our future, so we could all use the rest."
"I will escort you back to your hall," said Professor Snape, still holding that odd expression on his face. "Filius. Albus."
As they walked back, Harry finally worked up the courage to bring this up. "Sir, if I could ask..."
Snape held up a hand to interrupt. "About that story? And..." he paused and took a deep breath. "Perhaps my reaction to it?"
"Well Potter, what do you think that story was about?"
"Honestly sir, I don't really know," said Harry. "It's almost like one of those old myths about how the world was created, but it was told very oddly. I don't get the moral of it, if there is even one at all."
Snape made a huffing sound. "Oh, there is a message, Potter. The Headmaster was explaining in that way of his a secret about the history of time travel and its use in the Magical World. You heard naturally, that he is unable or unwilling to explain certain secrets he knows that would be helpful for us. And again, naturally, for such magic to work on him, it must be exceedingly powerful."
Harry thought about this for a moment. "Meaning that he needs something very convoluted to even hint about he wants us to know."
The Potions Professor nodded and gave Harry an exceedingly small smile. "Very good, Mister Potter. Now that you cottoned on to that insight, what do you think the story was telling us?"
Harry thought about it once it more and then it came to him. He couldn't help but gasp in shock.
"Yes," Snape grumbled. "Quite".
It was odd feeling walking to breakfast the next morning, Harry realized. For once he was the one with secret, advanced information that he likely would need to explain. He found that he was enjoying the feeling and thought, perhaps, that it wouldn't hurt anyone to keep the insights from Dumbledore's magical story to himself for a little while longer.
But he was greeted by an annoyingly familiar sight - dismayed people reading The Daily Prophet. "Oh, now what?" Harry grumphed as he looked over Hermione's shoulder.
MUGGLE PM FOUND DEAD
Aurors suspect magical foul play.
For a few seconds, Harry couldn't think of anything to say. "The Prime Minister's dead?" He finally managed to get out.
"It would appear so," said Hermione with a pinched expression. "Give me a minute to read through the whole paper." She quickly began scanning through the articles.
"Obviously I'm no expert on Muggle government," said Ron. "But this is bad news. Can the Muggles handle this sort of disruption?"
"There's some sort of plan I assume," said Harry, still feeling a bit in shock. "I don't recall the word for it, but they have replacements if needed."
"It's called a line of succession, and in point of fact, there is no formal way to do it," said Hermione as she continued to flip through the Prophet. "It's rare that a Prime Minister dies in office, but I believe the accepted practice is for the ruling party to work with the Queen on an interim level. So I assume it's our mysterious temporal interloper?"
Neville frowned. "First the Malfoys are mysteriously gone, their house destroyed, now this? Somebody's doing something, or maybe multiple somebodies. I'm worried there's something else coming up next."
"Is there something specific you're thinking of?" Harry asked.
Hermione scowled suddenly. "Bloody Rita Skeeter. I should be surprised, I really should."
Ron managed a small smile and asked her, "Something she wrote?"
"She is claiming, via her usual tactic of specious reasoning and allegation based gossip mongering, that our missing Draco is to blame for the attack on the PM."
"Well, is that so bad?" Ron shrugged. "Maybe it was him."
"It wasn't him," said Neville. "At least not by choice. I made sure of his intentions, like I did with you two."
"That's not the issue," said Hermione and she shoved the paper over to Ron. "Take a look for yourself. She uses the opportunity to lay the blame at Dumbledore's feet for allowing an 'obvious saboteur from the future' to abuse our trust. Thus making the whole thing about an attack on him yet again."
"But why attack him in the first place?" Harry asked. "If it doesn't really do much more than cause some chaos in the Muggle world, what's the point?"
"There are secrets I suspect the PM knows," said Hermione, scratching her chin. "Some, I believe, about the Magical world. I would wager the Headmaster knows more."
"Gotcha." Neville nodded at her. "I'll confer with him and get back to you all."
But whatever he found out, he didn't see fit to share the specifics with Harry, and despite a few more frantic opinion pieces from Rita Skeeter, it seemed that the Muggle world was convinced the PM was simply the victim of a death due to natural causes. Inside the castle, things were similarly quiet, relatively speaking.
Sirius quickly grew more comfortable with his role as Professor, and had gradually became one of the more popular teachers in the school. After asking Harry's permission, Sirius had spent some time with the various time travelers - to "get a sense of their heads and their bollocks, if you'll pardon my language" he said.
After class one day while Harry ate lunch with Sirius in his room, his godfather explained some of his feelings. "Neville is scary," he said. "But in a good way, reminds me of how James could get in his more brilliant moments."
Harry smiled at the mention of his father. "I know exactly what you mean. He's basically the only one of the lot completely trusted by the Headmaster and McGonagall."
"Yeah, that's not insignificant, either. Minerva especially, she's a hard one when it comes to adults. A soft spot for troublemakers with hearts of golds." He gestured to himself and grinned. "But otherwise it does take serious talent and character to gain her respect. I trust Neville too, he's a good egg."
"What about Ron and Hermione? They were the first ones I met, aside for Malfoy, but he's missing."
Sirius had a fork nearly to his mouth and he paused and put it back down. "Ron and Hermione both have some real mental damage. Recognize the sort, and I expect they don't want to seek help. I get that, naturally. Wouldn't have done it myself except I knew it was the only way to see you."
"I'm glad you did," said Harry. "And don't you feel better?"
Sirius nodded. "I do. But it was difficult work, many months worth. And those two... they know me from their future versions of the world, a guy mostly the same. Positively in both cases. So it's interesting to talk to them as adults in kid bodies, you know?"
"I guess." Harry shrugged. "I don't know them any other way."
"Yeah, that's true. Hermione's over the top smart, as I'm sure you know. Would've given me a flight for my Galleons if we were in the same year. Ron's not at her level, but he has this..." Sirius paused, looking to be struggling for the right words. "This core of strength and will. He pushed through horrible things, did horrible things, and came out of it without losing his mind. Hermione did bad things too, don't get me wrong, but a lot of her actions were more abstract, it seems."
"How do you mean?"
Sirius sighed. "I can't explain it all, made a Vow to keep some things secret. But the ritual Ron did involved very evil acts. Hermione probably killed a lot of people to complete her time traveling spell, but in a way that she'd never have to see. You get what I mean?"
"I think so," said Harry. "What about the others?"
"Susan and Hannah, they're odd ducks. Hannah has this low level of anger all the time, but she isn't opening up about it. It's worrisome, frankly. And Susan is just lost. She isn't enjoying being back in time, not what she expected I'm sure."
"Yeah, alright. What about Fred?"
Sirius gave Harry the biggest smile yet. "The Twins are great people, Harry. We spent hours talking about the mechanics of the Marauder's Map. I haven't forgotten my promise, I'll make you a copy."
Harry grinned at that reminder.
"Snape has not been quiet about how bad I am as an influence." Sirius laughed. "Although he also says that they're a bad influence on me. I will give the man this much, he does seem to care about you in his odd, weird, Snivellus way. Pretends not to, but I'd not believe it otherwise."
Harry rolled his eyes at the immature name but then he sighed. "Yeah, it's a complicated world we're in, Sirius. Time travelers everywhere. I'm worried about it now."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Why just now?"
"I have friends, non-travelers. You, the Patil twins. I wouldn't have minded if the Dursleys were replaced by future versions, but somebody I know? It's..." Harry couldn't finish and frowned.
"Scary?" Sirius offered. "I know what you mean. That's my biggest fear, aside from your safety - is losing you in a different way."
Harry looked up and almost said something, but found he couldn't find the words to speak. His godfather clapped him on the shoulder. "Finish your lunch, Harry. You still have your dessert left."
The week leading up to Halloween there was a minor commotion as Professor McGonagall announced that Ginny Weasley had completed her punishment in exile and was now free to mingle openly again. Ginny did indeed seem very contrite, but she was also relaxed and even smiled without pain in her eyes when Harry offered to pass her some pumpkin juice.
"Thanks, Harry," said Ginny and drank down her juice in a manner even Harry could recognize as unusually awkward, gulping like she was dying of thirst, barely two fingers on the mug. "I think the Healers have been pretty helpful," she said after finishing. "I never knew much for that sort of mind Healing business, but they helped Sirius and he insisted it would help me too."
"Sirius did?" Harry blinked in surprise and then he smiled. "Well now, that's good of him. It's really the kind of thing any of you travelers lot could benefit from."
Ron gave Harry a look that seemed to convey annoyance and sadness in equal measure. "I'm not interested in that right now. Got too much else to worry about."
"Agreed," said Hermione without looking up from a parchment she was writing on with her spare hand. "I am far too busy to worry about the fragile state of my mental health."
Parvati, who was sitting next to Harry, turned so that only he could see her face and very exaggeratedly rolled her eyes. Then she turned back around and said, "I'm sure you all know best." Perhaps she had meant this to sound sympathetic, but the notes of disdain and disbelief were easily apparent.
Hermione's face curled up and she took in a deep breath. "You're an adult," she whispered to herself. She looked up at Harry. "I think I need to work on a few things. Trying to work out some miscellanea. You understand."
"Sure," said Harry, assuming she simply was trying to stop herself from arguing with Parvati. It was a tactic Harry approved of. "Enjoy yourself. Parvati, pumpkin juice?"
Parvati gave Harry a confused look as Hermione smirked very slightly. After Hermione left the table, Ginny cleared her throat.
"Parvati, can I ask you a question?"
"Um, okay," said Parvati, seeming surprised at the question.
"I know that you and Harry have become pretty good friends, and you aren't one of the time travelers either."
"Certainly not!" Parvati then frowned and her eyes narrowed. "Why are you asking that?"
"The Healer said it would be a good idea to talk to someone with a more objective perspective, but someone I can still relate to. We're both Gryffindor ladies, even if my Hogwarts wasn't so good."
Parvati tapped her chin. "So... you just want to talk or something? About what?"
Ginny shrugged. "I'm not sure. What it's been like for people who aren't mixed up in the whole time travel mess, maybe? Or just more about you, I didn't really know much about you in my version of Hogwarts."
"What about friends your own age? There are certainly Gryffindor girls in your year, although I don't know them so well."
A haunted look came over Ginny's face and then she took a deep breath in and closed her eyes. "Sorry," she said and opened her eyes, looking better. "I didn't have friends my year, other than Luna Lovegood, but she was from before Hogwarts. It was really bad for me, you understand?"
Parvati nodded, a serious look on her face, and then she reached out to touch Ginny's hand. "You know, let me ask Neville if he's okay with it. Neville?"
Neville looked up briefly from the parchment he was scribbling on and took a look at Ginny, who attempted a weird, toothy smile. He made a sound of amusement and then sighed. "Yeah, that's fine. Just don't do anything that'll make me mad."
Ginny's face turned pale but Parvati laughed. "That's all I needed to hear, Nev," she said. "Ginny, let's talk after dinner, okay? I have a little time before I need to revise."
Harry looked over at Neville and raised an eyebrow.
"No need for the theatrics Harry," Neville said with a laugh. "Let Parv have some girl time."
The days before Halloween vanished as the tension began to rise, as somehow the news had gotten out that if time travelers were coming, it'd be then. It seemed to Harry that everyone in the school was keeping a close eye on their neighbor and perhaps, themselves, wondering if they would be the next to be replaced by their future selves.
But that was a notion Harry would not allow himself to consider.
Without asking permission, Harry spent the entire night in the traveler's common room, jittery on seventeen cups of some sort of magical variant on coffee that tasted completely like coffee. He kept looking at his watch and tried to be distracted by Fred and Ron's attempts at distracting him with inane conversations.
Until the sun rose and Harry was surprised.
"I'm still me!" Harry patted himself, the adrenaline shooting up and then fading away. Instantly a wave of exhaustion hit like the Express and he yawned mightily. "I'm tired."
"I figured that out, Harry," said Ron, who yawned in reply. "Oddly enough, I can relate."
Hermione walked into the room and looked at them with an expression that was equal parts frustration and worry. "You stayed up all night?"
"Harry needed the help," Fred told her. "It's called being a food grend." He blinked and shook his head. "Sorry, my tongue got loose there."
Hermione giggled. "Yes, well, alright then. Harry, don't overexert yourself. I'll find out if anyone showed up, okay?"
Harry managed the strength to nod.
"You're a food grend, Hermione," said Ron with a smile and Fred laughed.
Fred winked at his brother. "Good show, old bean."
After Hermione left the room, Harry decided to rest his eyes for a minute only to be shaken violently a second later. "Here now, what's all this then?" He asked angrily, wand already out.
Suddenly he realized his mistake and sighed. "Sorry, I think I was asleep."
Neville laughed. "No worries, Harry. Good reflexes, that's the important part." He stood in the room, with Ron dozing on a nearby chair and Hermione sitting primly on another.
"So Harry," she said. "There was one time traveler that showed up."
Harry took in a deep breath. "Who was it? Not Sirius, right. Or... not P..." He swallowed. "Or one of the people I'm friends with?"
"It was Cormac McLaggen," said Hermione and she rolled her eyes. "That idiot. I don't think you know him, Harry."
"I - um - no, I don't, actually. Wow, what a relief!" Harry actually laughed aloud and then he jumped up and gave Hermione a hug. Thinking on it, he then gave Neville a manly punch in the shoulder. "Good on you two, good on you."
Hermione's mouth perked up and she shook her head. "Among the bad choices, this really was the least bad. I didn't actually get a chance to talk to him yet, so I don't know why he's here. Neville?"
Neville rolled his eyes. "It's a stupid reason, Harry. I almost don't want to say it."
"You... interrogated him or something?"
"Didn't need to, McLaggen's simple to read. Trust me on this one, I know his sort and him specifically." He looked over at Hermione. "I'd tell you to watch out for him being stupid, but I have a feeling you can handle yourself."
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"Just... don't hurt him too much."
"What precisely do you think he's going to attempt?" Hermione asked with a note of amusement in her voice.
Neville simply smiled and said nothing more on it except: "Lunch, Harry?"
Apparently Harry had slept through breakfast. This was not so bad, but he did worry about Ron.
A grumpy Ron leaned over his lunch and hid his obvious food shoveling from onlookers, but the older boy that was clearly Cormac McSomething was all smiles, introducing himself to the table individual by individual.
"Neville Longbottom, pleasure to meet you," he said while offering a hand. Neville looked Cormac in the eye and then very slowly shook his hand with two hands.
Cormac seemed taken aback by this, but he said, "Right, I have a lot of respect for your work as a time traveler, paving the way for others."
He turned to Ginny, who had a look of such vicious disdain and vitriol that Cormac visibly swallowed. Instead of a handshake proffering, he nodded politely. "Miss Weasley, much respect for you as well." He then turned to Parvati, who was sitting next to Harry as per usual. "Miss Patil, rumours are clearly well founded about your loyalty and beauty."
Ron jerked up his head. "Oi! Cormac! She's a second year, in case you haven't remembered that little detail."
"Just being polite Weasley," said Cormac with a small hitch in his voice. "Nothing untoward here, don't you agree Parvati?" He smiled widely at the Patil twin.
A look of what Harry interpreted as what he been calling "Parv's face of social considerations" flashed on her face and then she smiled back. It appeared very sincere, and Cormac seemed appeased. But he clearly didn't see her hands, which were coiled into fists and holding tight on her wand. The juxtaposition made Harry grin.
"And, uh, Harry Potter, of course. Hope you're well."
"Oh, you know how it goes, Cormac. Life, time, Hogwarts. The usual."
Cormac didn't seem to know how to react to this response, so he moved on to Hermione, who had an expression that reminded Harry of a cat for some reason.
"Hermione Granger, pleasure to see you again. We were close friends in my time."
"Is that a fact?" Hermione asked this question quite pleasantly.
"Oh yes," said Cormac with a particularly wide smile. "And I must say how glad I am that you don't have the mind of a twelve year old."
Neville breathed in slightly too loudly, but this only seemed to be noticed by Harry and Parvati. Parvati gave Harry a worried look.
Hermione smiled. "And why is that?"
"Well, you know, I'm sure you know things only an adult woman would know, right?"
"Go on," said Hermione.
"After all," said Cormac, who leaned over Hermione. "I'm sure you..." and then he said something too quiet to hear. Whatever it was, it was bad, as Hermione then punched him so hard he dropped to the floor, completely unconscious.
"Miss Granger!" McGonagall swept over to the them, a familiar expression of fury in her eyes. "Explain yourself!"
Hermione gestured for the Professor to come closer. When McGonagall did, a careful look in her eyes, Hermione whispered something to her.
McGonagall straightened up and then sighed. "Oh, very well. I suppose I can't blame you for that one. But don't do it again, it's bad form."
"Fairly noted, Professor," said Hermione. "You are of course, entirely correct."
The Professor made a snorting sound but she had a small smirk. "Prefects! See to the wayward fool, won't you?"
But the rumour spread soon that Cormac had left the castle entirely after waking up.
"If he wasn't so incompetent, I'd be worried," Ron told Harry.
At supper, gossip was still circulating about the incident when Neville suddenly jumped up from his seat. He looked down at a bracelet on his wrist that was glowing a deep red.
"Someone's attacked my Grandmum's house," he said. "Sorry, Harry, I have to go. I'll explain to Dumbledore and he'll make sure it's safe here."
"I'm sorry," said Harry, unable to think of anything else to say.
Neville smiled at him, although he still seemed worried. "You're a good egg, Harry. I'll see you soon." But it wouldn't be soon, not at all.
Unfortunately it seemed that Neville's parents, who Harry knew were in a Hospital wing at St. Mungo's, had also suffered a break in although were ultimately safe and unharmed. His grandmother had been seriously hurt by her attacker, although not lethally. So Neville had a lot of figure it out, he told them in follow up owls.
While Neville was off on his investigation, the hours quickly became days and longer. A note from Neville asked Harry to work with the Patil twins on a few advanced pieces of Defense spellwork with Sirius Black, who was happy to help.
"I'm a bit intimidated by his suggestions," Sirius told Harry quietly as they set up the room for their practicing. "Have you lot really mastered the immature Shield Charm variant?"
"We have, actually. Came in handy during some tense times in Iceland."
"Ooh, Iceland!" Parvati ran over. "Remember the hot springs? They were so fun!"
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Hot springs, eh?"
Harry felt his face heat up. "Stop that, Sirius. It's not like that."
Parvati giggled. "Very believable, Harry."
"The hot springs were relaxing until we were attacked by the Ashwinders," said Padma matter-of-factly. "Of course, then they provided an excellent training exercise. That was a different sort of fun."
"Surprised Ashwinders attacked you," said Sirius, scratching his beard. "Usually they avoid people."
"Unless you're on their territory," Harry said with a laugh. "As we found out. Luckily we all had our wands, Neville always said-"
At this, both Patils said at the same time, "A wandless wizard is a headless wizard."
Sirius seemed shocked for a moment and then he began laughing. "That's memorable, I'll grant you that much."
Parvati frowned and sighed. "Hope he's okay. It's probably a trap."
"Of course it's a trap," said Padma. "But as Neville says, 'Being prepared is the best trap of all'."
"Not quite as snappy," said Sirius, shaking his head. "But I like the sentiment. Now then!" He clapped his hands together. "Shall we get started?"
A few weeks went by, and then a few more, until the year end holidays were nearly on them, including the one that gave Harry a new set of tension: the Winter Solstice. So far, nobody had figured out how to prevent any time travelers from showing up, and it seemed anyone could be the next target.
The Friday before the Solstice, an owl dropped off a note to Harry when he was walking outside nearly alone (Ron and Hermione were following him for "safety reasons"). The two ran over immediately.
"Hold it Harry, let's check the note for any bad magic." He said something and waved his wand over the note. Hermione did the same thing, and then she repeated the same motion another six times.
"Done yet?" Harry asked tiredly.
Hermione frowned, looking at the note like she didn't believe her eyes. "I don't trust it," she said finally. "But I think it's safe. Ron, you agree?"
Ron nodded. "Yeah, it's tinged with fear and anger, but nothing that seems Dark." He smiled at Harry. "Had to learn this sort of trick back in my future."
Harry unwrapped the note carefully.
It's me. I'm in serious trouble here, on the run. Not much time. Parents are not to be trusted. I'll try to be where Hermione hit me our third year on the third day of Yule, three past three in the morning, they should know what that means. If you don't manage, I understand.
It seemed that it was precisely the sort of thing that was useful to show the time travelers, so he hadn't it over to them. Ron laughed suddenly. "I forgot about that bit, when you hit him. I assume you know the precise location?"
Hermione nodded and she smiled a bit but then frowned again. "I do recall, and it's the sort of thing not many would know about. But it's not quite something only he would know for certain. Besides, it may not have been Draco at all. And that bit on his parents?"
"Worrisome." Ron said and he handed the note back to Harry. "Guess you can ask Dumbledore about it if you want. Maybe Sirius too."
"At the very least, the timing is interesting," said Hermione. "Tying into the Solstice and all. We'll have to keep our wits about us."
After more talking with a few others, which at this point included the Weasley twins, Sirius, Ginny, Parvati, and (when he could keep it quiet) Snape, a decision was made. Nobody seemed to particularly like the idea of meeting Draco in the middle of the night, but several protective precautions had been suggested and some planned to be implemented.
But all that had to wait anyway until the first day Solstice was there and gone.
Once more, Harry was stressed and worried, although this time he paced the traveler's common room and would not be distracted. Sirius and the Patil twins kept him company, although they fell asleep before Harry finally did, collapsing into the hard stone wall.
The next morning, Harry awoke suddenly with bleary eyes, the sun shining through a window in his face, and he had a simple question.
"Who was changed?"
"Not me," said Sirius as he stretched. He waved a wand at the twins, who both jumped awake, both with wands at the ready. Sirius shook his head. "What did Neville teach you lot?"
"Are you still both... you?"
"What?" Parvati blinked. "Oh, right. Yes, it's still me, thank Merlin. Padma?"
"I am myself still," said Padma and she put down her wand. "It is quite the relief."
The sole traveler in Hogwarts turned out to a young girl named Luna Lovegood. She had quickly started chatting with Ginny, who was surprised if clearly gratified at the attention.
Later on, she sat with a few of them during lunch.
"Luna, tell them how you ended up back here," said Ginny, who seemed to be holding back a grin.
"An accident, naturally," said Luna brightly. "My husband and children lost forever in the future, if it still exists. But I'm sure you all can relate to that, right?"
"Luna," said Ginny again.
"Right, it was an accident. Tactile contact with a temporally phasic XXXX creature. You know me, right?" Luna laughed loudly. "It feels good to laugh. I am still quite sad I'll never see my family again."
Ron quirked up his face at this remark. "Luna, I still don't know how to respond to anything you say."
"'Tactile contact'?" Hermione repeated. "You mean you touched something that had a sort of magical temporal energy? A creature?"
"The legendary Chronophage, of course."
Hermione's eyebrow twitched. "I suppose I should've guessed it was something like that."
"Well anyway, I'm no warrior like you two," she said. "Or Neville, from what I've heard. But I did get seventeen NEWTs and three special commendations from the International Magical Oversight Committee on Fantastic Beasts. I think I'll ask the Headmaster if I can apply for a job here." She turned to Harry. "And I must say Harry, it's quite nice to see you again. This may sound odd-" at this Hermione muffled a snort "-but I am actually glad you aren't a time traveler."
Harry said nothing for a moment, and then he looked around the room. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Parvati, Luna - only one who wasn't a traveler. In a way, it felt special to be different. He exchanged a look with Parvati, who smiled. Harry had the feeling she understood.
"No offense to you lot," said Harry. "But I feel exactly the same way."
He waited in the darkness for Malfoy to show up, confident in the knowledge that Ron and Hermione were visibly nearby and others too, not so visibly.
He kept an eye on his watch as the time slowly ticked down to three o'clock in the morning. No Draco. But then, he saw out of the corner of his eye an owl swoop down and drop a box on the ground.
Ron ran over to check the package, running his wand over it a few times. He stood back and nodded at Hermione, and they switched places, making sure to keep Harry between them. After Hermione finished her examination, she nodded over to Harry, who slowly walked over to the package.
Inside the box was a wand.
"I know this wand," said Snape, who had just banished his invisibility and he frowned. "It is the wand of the Dark Lord."
Ron winced and he gave Harry a worried look.
"Oh, bugger," Hermione said.
- End of Chapter 7
Just so people are aware, I know I'm the worst. Three years later? I'm surprised at myself. And a year after my last chapter period? At least I had that stupid short story earlier this year so it's not a complete loss. Apologies to those I've lost along the way. I don't know how other fanfic writers do it so consistently, but I have a lot going on outside of fanfiction. Trying to lose weight, trying to maintain a social life, trying to keep a job going well, trying to keep up with my other writing responsibilities, etc. I do my best, honestly. I do appreciate all those that have stuck with it. It's not an abandoned story, but this may shock people to learn: Some of these stories are difficult to write, and I am rarely pleased with how they come out. I'll keep at it until I'm out of life.