THE FIRST JUMP
In the days of Hogwarts she had been known for little other than heartbreak and poor romantic choices, but even for that she was not nearly known at all. All the while her more gregarious and charismatic sibling charmed the world and even the legendary Saviour Potter. At first it seemed a future of endless drudgery in meaningless research in a pointless Ministry department was her entire destiny.
But it was less than a month into her new dull vocation that she recalled a few positive memories in a moment of apathetic sighing. When they had all been in the "DA" and studied spells, charms, hexes and defensive spells, she had actually felt some semblance of being alive. Of being happy.
She had fought against You-Know-Who and his minions in the Battle for Hogwarts, but the idea of fighting for a living had never occurred to her. After all, she was hardly a Gryffindor by any measure of the idea. But her decent skills learned through clandestine clubs and actual life and death fighting gave her a fair chance above many other candidates.
She eschewed the particular idea of the Aurors, as it felt too boring, although she could not say why. Instead, she was top of her incoming class of Hit Wizards and Witches, and in her spare time, she pursued what she realized was her true passion: Duelling. She lost her first tournament, and quite badly, but it gave her something that was new and thrilling: A drive to win.
The next tournament she came in second in the European finals, and then the next year she had won the whole thing. By the age of twenty-nine, she was the top duellist in the world - but when you have achieved such heights, what else is there to win?
She had gotten exposure to many of the shadier parts of the wizarding world during her tournament adventures, including more than one case of violently defending herself in dark corners of ramshackle cities and forgotten towns. The idea came to her almost by accident, and it was so perfect that she was furious with herself for missing it so far.
By the time she had turned thirty-five, the former Hit Witch was the most well-known bounty hunter and mercenary in the world, and widely considered to be the most dangerous woman alive. For a while, the challenge and the chase was sufficient to keep her interest. Until she turned fifty.
Not any less dangerous nor any less powerful, she had been forced to lower her prices because her reputation had otherwise made her too expensive to hire by that point. She had teamed occasionally with other mercenaries, police, and armies throughout the years, and had even worked with some of the Ministry Aurors (including Saviour Potter himself). But she preferred to be alone, to trust only herself as the one who could defeat anyone.
In a future of peace and prosperity, a bounty hunter nearing wizarding middle age wasn't in quite the estimable place she had once been. She craved a new challenge, a new idea, a new world of enemies. At times she scanned the night sky, wondering if there was another world out there with new foes to defeat. For a few years, she studied odder and more obscure magics than she had ever bothered with as she searched for the possibility of life elsewhere.
But as it happens, plans change. For in her study of the higher astromantic mysteries, she found something else - an anomaly perhaps, or perhaps the nature of space and time as it had always existed. In the higher dimensions it was said that time was bent by great forces, but there was no greater force than magic.
Suddenly a new challenge came to the bounty hunter's mind - the war of the past, the one she had barely survived as a schoolgirl. Going back would be a great challenge, even for one of her mental gifts, but winning the day might be even more so. Alone for so long, she barely considered that she might be missed by her surviving family, none of whom she had seen for a decade.
It was considered, briefly, and then discarded of little importance. After all in the past, she could reconnect with her family and become the new Saviour of the world. Nothing against Potter who had done alright, all things considered, but even he'd agree that far too many people had died along the way. It was a challenge she made to herself, and one that she accepted.
So she passed through the anomaly as space and time bent, wondering about her future and feeling happy for the first time in years.
THE SECOND JUMP
Voldemort was on the run.
Harry Potter and his allies had done a very good job in fighting the war against the Death Eaters - too good, almost supernaturally so. It might have been suspicious if Riddle had the time to think about it further. The Dark Lord fled with his most loyal followers, as they slipped between places and hid in shadows.
Some of those followers dropped during the flight, some due to their own loss of loyalty, some due to death (both untimely and timely). And others that were caught by authorities along the way. A year later, and the Dark Lord had a small, viciously loyal cadre of followers that he had overwhelmed with mental intrusions and psychological attacks - mostly the children of the Death Eaters that he had discarded along the way, as he had discovered the youthful could be far more potent than the adults that often lost their nerve.
Although he never said this to his followers, the Dark Lord knew his days were truly numbered, but that was no reason to give up, not exactly. He had long suspected that the luck of Potter and his foes had been due to some trickery outside his understanding, with knowledge they should never have known and predictive capabilities that ought to have been impossible. Eventually an idea came to him, at first seeming out of the realm of thought, but he became more and more certain over time - and it was that, in fact, time. He was certain that Potter (or perhaps Dumbledore or one of his cronies) had travelled through time. It was impossible, therefore, to overwrite that which had already been overwritten, unless you could go back further still.
At first, he plotted to send himself back through time, until he realized that his soul could not withstand it - his tactic to gain immortality had rendered his soul too unstable to suffer the travails of temporal travel. So he came up with a different tactic, a competition among his followers to prevent the cheating that Potter had done, to reaffirm fairness.
His thralls fought horribly with each other for the honour, which pleased Riddle greatly. But even he was surprised when the unassuming daughter of one his own lesser followers won out, ecstatic in her bloody triumph to serve her perfect leader. He threw secrets in her mind, plots and spells she would never understand, but his past self would find it with ease.
His patsy and minion did not know the precise techniques used to return through time, nor did she need to know. Although the Dark Lord knew that perhaps his future would be gone when the girl disappeared back into the past, he took comfort and solace that the world would become a better place, where he was in charge. Without any pesky Potters to plague him any longer.
A STUTTER IN THE FABRIC... THE THIRD JUMP
Volotredi was on the run.
Harriet Potter and her allies had done a very good job in fighting the war against the Death Eaters - too good, almost supernaturally so. It might have been suspicious if Riddle had the time to think about it further. The Dark Lady fled with her most loyal followers, as they slipped between places and hid in shadows.
Eventually she plotted, in an idea that seemed to come from magic itself, to change the past, with trickery most horrid and terror most foul. The Dark Lady initially planned to send just one of her followers back, but after an all-out fight for the honour of service, two had remained standing. Two dear friends, loyal to the House of Slytherin and the Heir - they were about to nearly kill each other when Riddle interrupted them, delighting in the knowledge that they would've managed it otherwise.
It was enough to know that their loyalty was still with the Dark Lady. A plan to grant her past self unlimited power was forged, with alliances too terrible to be spoken aloud. And the two girls were sent back into a past that may never have been, to create a future that ought to be, paradoxes be damned.
The Department was in an uproar. The impossibility-absorbing crumple zones had nearly failed, and a dozen paradox alarms had been heard simultaneously in multiple instances at once. The parallel Branch Leaders met in the space between spaces to plan for what must come next to save reality itself.
Far Too Many Time Travelers
Chapter 9: They Called it The Future
"C'mon you kids, stop lollygagging and get your bits up!"
Harry glared at his godfather. "Sirius, I'm not even entirely sure how that's inappropriate but I know it is." They continued the walk from the Forbidden Forest to Hogsmeade, as they finished off their final day of the summer "training".
Sirius laughed and then he shrugged comically. "Perhaps you have a dirty mind, kid. Not that I have a problem with that."
Parvati giggled and then pinched Harry in the arm.
"Parvati, I'm trying to be... well, you know." Harry frowned and looked over at Sirius who was grinning widely.
"Were you preparing for another name pun, Mister Black?" Padma asked. "I do quite enjoy them."
"You're the only one," said Sirius with a laugh. "Other than me, anyway. Suppose that's why you're my favourite, Padma."
Harry rolled his eyes very obviously and Parvati pouted.
"Don't let him get under your skin," Harry said to Parvati. "You know how Sirius is. Never serious."
Padma looked at Harry with surprise. "That was unusually well done, Potter."
"Thanks, I think," said Harry and then he sighed. "I can't believe the summer is already over. Hogwarts is in just a fortnight and then what? More people time traveling to ruin things."
Both of the Patil twins scowled identically, a mirroring that was quite unusual for them.
"Thanks for reminding us of that," said Parvati and she looked over at Sirius. "Sirius, isn't there anything we can do to protect ourselves?"
Sirius' face fell and he shook his head. "Nothing that we know of, at least not now. I know several of our brainy types have been considering the problem, but my latest correspondence with Dumbledore was not too promising. They have improved detection spells all over Britain, and in particular Hogwarts and King's Cross. Albus is certain that no one will be able to time travel without being noticed in this country at least, and at Hogwarts or King's Cross they'll be able to identify any travellers immediately."
"But the next conflux is coming, isn't it?" Harry asked with concern. "It always happens on the first day of term, right?"
"I believe that's how it works," agreed Sirius. "Although admittedly much of that particular magic is over my head. If... well..." Sirius swallowed and looked over his charges. "If I do lose myself to a future version and lose my memories of our time together, just know how proud I am of the three of you."
Harry smiled, feeling a bit of moisture in his eyes which he blinked away.
Parvati sniffed and seemed about to cry and Padma nodded gravely.
"I have greatly appreciated your tutelage," the Ravenclaw girl said. "I also hope none of us lose ourselves in the upcoming troubles, but I have also gained so much." She looked over at Harry. "I believe I have even made friends."
Harry laughed and wiped his nose. "Yes, you have Padma, at least on my part. Sometimes you can drive me a bit spare, but only in a good way, like Sirius and his terrible puns."
Parvati made an odd squeaking giggle, and then she rubbed her eyes. "Merlin, this is way more serious - don't, Professor - a conversation than we usually have. You know, I've been worried about losing someone to a future time traveller for a long time now." She smiled at the others with watery eyes. "And as wonderful a time I've had with you all this year, and with Neville last summer, I'm more worried than ever."
"If it happens, the rest of us will do our best to fill in the blanks for the traveller," said Sirius. "We all know we can trust each other, don't we? Unless there's a very good reason otherwise, I think we really ought to try. Even if it's me." And then he smiled, although his eyes didn't quite match it. "I'm sure if I did travel back through time, it'd only be to help out Harry or take revenge on Pettigrew."
"So half a good reason then," said Harry with a bit of snark.
"I'm sure Padma or I would have a similar reason," said Parvati with a smile at Harry. "You heard Neville telling the story about us, we were in your Defence Club and fought against Riddle."
"I honestly have no idea why I might try to travel back in time," said Padma with a frown. "But if I do, I ask that you also give me the benefit of the doubt."
"Right." Harry summoned some strength and grinned in a way that showed his teeth. "As for me, I can't even fathom why I might screw with time and change things, there's too many possibilities. But as long as the future me isn't a prat or something, give him a chance too, please."
"You won't be replaced, Harry," said Parvati with a serious tone. "I won't allow it."
Although he knew this was pure bluster, it still made Harry feel better to hear it.
"Will we see you at Diagon next week?" Padma asked Harry. "We still need to make our purchases for the year, and our parents will want to accompany us on that task."
Harry looked over at Sirius who shrugged.
"Up to you, Harry. Someone will be going with you for security, and likely some other people you don't see too. That first chap might as well be me, and maybe I can spoil you a touch."
"That'd be quite a new experience," Harry said in a teasing tone. "I can't even imagine what that's like."
"Our parents won't spoil us at all," said Parvati with a frown. "It's really quite awful of them. I suppose we'll have to make due with whatever you manage, Professor."
"Will you be returning this year as an instructor?" Padma asked before Sirius could respond to that. "I worry about another subpar Defence teacher."
"As far as I know, I ought to be," said Sirius with a grin. "Since our future friends were able to break the Defence curse, nothing's stopping me. Although maybe I shouldn't talk too much on it out loud, just in case they muffed up."
"Have you prepared a curriculum?" Padma had an almost worried look on her face. "I have not seen you do so over the summer."
Sirius chuckled. "I really can do things much the same as last year," he said. "Remus helped me put together a pretty good one back then, and Hermione offered all sorts of 'suggestions', some of which I actually used. After our little adventures this past summer, I have a few more ideas to include in the lessons, at least for the older students. But c'mon, Padma, are you really concerned about Defence classes anymore?"
"Well, I suppose not," she said after a pause. "And I imagine I'll pass any exam with relative ease. Hopefully that is true for you too Parvati."
Parvati rolled her eyes. "The practical, anyway. One thing over summer I didn't miss is writing long essays."
"Although I did enjoy the madcap nature of the summer," said Harry and he stretched with a yawn. "There's something a bit relaxing about a normal set of classes and homework. Revising up late with the fire in the Common Room or the echoes in the Library stacks. What I'm not looking forward is the inevitable new drama when new stupid time people show up."
"I know that Hagrid just went back to his normal job," said Parvati and she yawned in response to Harry's yawn. "Have we heard anything about those two brothers?"
"The Creeveys?" Sirius asked and he shrugged. "I think they just took their O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s over the summer, but unlike our other future friends, I don't think they're really going to be much involved in anything."
"Probably a relief to them," said Harry in a mutter. "Wish I could do that."
Sirius winked at him. "Now, Harry," he said in a teasing tone. "Wouldn't that be a boring life?"
"I could do with a touch of boring," Harry retorted.
"As could I," said Padma. "More than a touch on my part."
"Hmm." Parvati made a thoughtful noise and seemed to be conflicted about it. "Well, I like the adventure around the world part and all that. But all this time travel is honestly just annoying."
"You know Sirius, if this was the original version of events," said Harry with a grin. "You'd be on the run from Azkaban, half-starved, mostly mad, and with an awful beard. So small favours, eh?"
"I don't mind that change, Harry, not at all," said Sirius with a big smile. "And considering that bloody rat is still stuck with the Dementors, I say so much the better. We still have enough to deal with as it is."
Harry sighed. "Yeah, that's true. I don't suppose Neville's told you something he hasn't told me?"
Sirius shook his head. "I think he might be telling you more, to be honest. I think, although he hasn't outright said it, that he's on a merry chase but his target is staying one step ahead. At least we got to see him last month in Norway."
"He looked great," said Parvati with enthusiasm. "Didn't he look great Padma?"
"Yes," said Padma without any enthusiasm at all. "Far more handsome than he used to be."
Sirius laughed. "Padma, I think you really are my favourite." He poked Harry in the shoulder. "Why aren't they calling you handsome, Harry?"
Harry's face flushed and he scowled at his godfather. He suspected Sirius was more aware than he let on about some of the supposedly secret conversations he'd had with the girls over the summer. "What happens in Olympus stays in Olympus, remember?"
"Ouch," said Sirius, holding a hand to his heart. "Don't let Snape hear you say that, he'll know you learned it from me."
Harry laughed. "That's fair."
Parvati winked at Harry. "I thought you didn't want to talk about Olympus."
"I don't, and Padma, that includes you!" Harry said this quickly as he saw her about to interject.
Padma closed her mouth and then nodded. "Very well, I can keep our secrets. Although I suspect Professor Black knows more than he pretends to."
Sirius laughed and then his expression hardened suddenly. He held up a hand and instantly the three of them snapped to attention with their wands out.
"Ah, never mind, it's just a student I recognize," he said, and then Harry saw Cedric Diggory walk towards them from Hogsmeade.
"Hey, you lot!" The Hufflepuff boy waved at them with a big smile on his face. "What are you doing all the way out here? Everyone assumed that you were off learning 'important' magic, Harry."
Parvati bristled and glared at him. "Harry's not the only one learning important magic, Diggory."
Cedric held up a hand. "Apologies, Patil. Naturally everyone knows that you and Harry are friends, I shouldn't be surprised you're learning with him."
Padma gave Diggory an odd look and then she whispered something to Parvati, who actually giggled.
"Padma, I'm glad you didn't ask that out loud," Parvati said with a saucy grin. "Anyway, nice to see you Mister Diggory. But Padma and I are about to head home, so maybe you can walk us to the Hogsmeade Floo?"
"Um, of course I can," said Cedric, an uncertain look on his face. He looked over at Harry and Sirius. "If that's not a problem."
"Actually that'd be helpful," said Sirius. "Harry and I have to take care of a few things. And if it turns out you're a Death Eater in disguise, the twins will probably just kill you."
Cedric almost laughed, but then he saw Parvati nodding with a huge grin and Padma nodding exactly once with a very cool face.
"Okay, well, I'm not afraid of a powerful woman - or two for that matter," said Cedric with a chuckle. "I'm a Hufflepuff after all, we're sort of known for them. Maybe you can tell me about some of these important magics along the way?"
"No we won't," said Parvati sunnily and she and Padma walked next to Cedric. "But I think Padma has some embarrassing questions for you."
Cedric glanced back at Harry who just grinned back. Then the Hufflepuff boy shrugged and said, "Perhaps I'll have some embarrassing answers, then. Harry, Professor Black, good day to you both."
After he and the twins were out of sight, Harry and Sirius exchanged glances and started to laugh.
"I'm surprised you let your girlfriends off with such a handsome young lad," said Sirius with a teasing tone. "Not that you seem worried."
"I think you know exactly why I'm laughing," said Harry with a bit of a chuckle. "But if you don't hear it from me explicitly, no one can accuse you of anything."
Sirius pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. "You've matured into such a wonderful little scamp, Harry," he said. "I know I said that Padma was my favourite, but you're really my favourite."
"Yeah, yeah, of course I am," said Harry dismissively. "Now that the twins will have their parents handled, let's go check in at Hogwarts."
The castle had a surprisingly energetic feeling as they moved closer, besides the few random Aurors walking about, all giving the same sort of respectful nods to Harry and Sirius. They passed near Hagrid, who gave them a bellowing shout of welcome, which caused Harry's wand hand to twitch a little reflexively.
"Great summer, weren't it?" Hagrid as he walked over to greet them "Sirius, Harry, yeh two heard about the great news?"
"There's great news?" Harry looked over at Sirius who grinned.
"News to me, Harry."
Hagrid chuckled and he looked happier than Harry had ever seen him, which admittedly wasn't a vast amount of time. "Yeh two remember lil' Luna Lovegood, right? Well, she plumb went and impressed the smart blokes at the Board and she's gonna be teachin' me fav'rit subject!"
"Oh, you mean Magical Creatures?" Harry blinked a bit in surprise. "I thought for some reason you wanted to do that."
"Yeah, Harry, I did for a while," said Hagrid with a smile. "But Luna said she'd need me help with the class, her 'assistant' professor, can you imagine?" He shook his head. "Me first time around, I did try teachin', but it's a bit tricky without a wand. Got into some trouble, have to admit. Luna knows her work, in 'er mind she's as old as I am and she was all o'er the world with her husband. It was Rolf Scamander, did yeh know that? Grandson of ol' Newt himself."
"Uh, I didn't," said Harry. "But I know who Newt Scamander is, and his book was quite helpful when we travelled with Neville and Sirius."
"Luna is pretty young," said Sirius with a thoughtful tone. "Physically, anyway. But since she's got her adult mind and skill with a wand, her and you, Hagrid, that's probably the best bet at keeping everyone's limbs still on."
Hagrid laughed loudly. "Yeh still got that great sense o' humour, Sirius. Yeah, me and Luna been talkin' about our..." He then frowned. "Can't quite recall the word."
"It's 'curriculum', Assistant Professor Hagrid," came the voice of Luna, who was still quite short, although her hair was up in a very compact, adult like bun. "Harry, Mister Black, how nice to see you both. Can you believe I'm the only time traveller who came by accident? Perhaps that's why I prefer to work as a professor instead of worrying about saving everyone from Voldemort."
Hagrid winced and he shook his head. "Sorry, shouldn' still be scared o' that word, but I lived through some bad times with spells on that bugger's fake name."
"You could call him Tom or Riddle, if you prefer," said Harry. "Since that's his real name."
"Tom weren't much better when I knew 'im," Hagrid said with a sigh. "But I know he'd hate me sayin' that Muggle name, so maybe I ought to try it just to stick it in his ugly face."
"Speaking of which," said Sirius. "Is Quirrell still under protection?"
Luna nodded. "Yes, he is. The Headmaster has been quite careful about it, I believe he is under a Fidelius although I don't know who the Secret Keeper is. Harry, you do know about that Charm, correct?"
"Yes, yes," said Harry with a bit of exasperation. "For a while now."
Luna gave him a beaming smile. "It's so wonderful to see you happy and well-informed, Harry. I'm sure Professor Snape wouldn't like to hear it, but it looks like Mister Black has been a good influence on you."
Sirius laughed and said, "Severus certainly won't agree."
"It's a mixed influence," said Harry with a kind of teasing look at his godfather. "But that's all good to hear, Luna, thanks. Although I suppose I should be calling you Professor Lovegood now?"
"That can wait until the start of the term," Luna said pleasantly. "That's why I haven't called Mister Black a professor yet either."
"This is all good news, as it turns out," said Sirius. "But we have to check in with some folk in the castle, so we'll see you later."
When Sirius and Harry arrived in the Hall, they saw Flitwick waving his wand as he moved about the room, while Ron sat alone on a bench with a mug in his hand.
"Ah, hello you two," Flitwick said with a smile. "Don't mind me, I'm just reinforcing a few key charms to handle some of our expected temporal invaders. I've attempted to set things up so that it will at least become immediately apparent if I'm one of those who is affected."
"Hope it's not you," said Harry with a sigh. "Rather it not be anyone, honestly. No offense, Ron."
Ron laughed, although it was a harsh sound. Then he took a sip of his drink and grimaced. "This isn't really working to improve my mood."
"Depressants are called such for a reason, Mister Weasley," said Flitwick in a chiding tone.
"Oh, is that some sort of fancy alcohol?" Sirius asked with a grin. "I may have introduced Harry and the girls-"
Flitwick cleared his throat loudly and made a sort of humming sound. "Ah, apologies," he then said. "I didn't hear whatever you might've said about taking some underage students unrelated to you around the world and giving them exotic alcoholic drinks."
Sirius laughed. "Right you are, Filius, didn't say anything of the sort. What I was going to say is that I introduced Harry to some interesting girls and gents, including a few brewer types."
Ron snorted. "Sure, Sirius. Whatever you say." Then he sighed and Harry noticed that Ron looked far older than he should've.
"You okay Ron?" Harry asked.
"Honestly? Not really," said Ron and he waved at Flitwick's frown. "Don't try to change my mind Professor. It's not been great for me, I feel utterly useless."
"You are hardly that," said Flitwick with a concerned look on his face.
"I'm not a genius like Hermione or even Fred for that matter. I can't even kick arse as good as Neville, and it's not like I can even be a new professor like Luna. She was always smarter than me anyhow. So what am I even good for?"
"Kid, you're selling yourself short," said Sirius firmly. "You came back to help Harry, through awful times - I remember the story you told me."
"It was even worse than what I let on," said Ron sadly. "But I didn't even want to think about all of the specifics. Been mostly alone this summer, a lot of time to think by myself. Don't much care for what I've thinking about."
"Ron, have you tried seeing one of those Mind Healers?" Harry asked carefully. "They were great for Sirius, even he'd admit that."
"I would," said Sirius with a nod. "And I was in a much worse state than you, Ron, let's be honest."
"I thought about it," said Ron in a mutter. "But I don't think there's any point. Sorry, I'm being a real downer, aren't I? I'm sure you two have better things to do then listen to me go on, so I'll find somewhere else to mope about. Hope you had a good summer, Harry."
"I did, thanks," said Harry. "Ron..."
"I'll see you at the Express," said Ron with a wave of his hand. "Or when you're back here. Depends if I'm sober or not." And without waiting for a response, he walked out of the Hall.
Flitwick sighed. "I believe all of our time traveling friends have suffered in one way or another, but Mister Weasley has had one of the worst times, in my opinion. Albus does not believe we should force them to see Mind Healers now that we know their intentions, but I'm at a loss about what else we might do to help him."
"Filius, I don't think you need to be putting all that on Harry," said Sirius with a frown. "He's been a great friend to Ron, as best as any of us can in this mad situation."
"I'm happy to help him, Sirius," said Harry, glaring at his godfather. "He came back to make things better and save people's lives, including mine. And he had to do some truly awful things to get here, as you well know."
Sirius' face darkened. "I know better than you, kid. Honestly, Ron really does need some professional help or things are going to go badly for him. Don't stress yourself out about it, okay Harry?"
Harry shrugged, but he couldn't help but still feel a bit guilty for Ron's deterioration since so much of the time traveling was about saving Harry.
"We actually need to check in with a few people," said Sirius. "Dumbledore, of course. But we also have a few things to discuss with Hermione and McGonagall. Are they all here?"
Flitwick nodded. "Yes, indeed. McGonagall is in her office, as per usual, and I believe Miss Granger is there as well. As for the Headmaster, I assume he is also in his own office, although it is difficult to keep track of that man sometimes."
"Got it," said Sirius with a nod. "In that case, Filius, we'll see you later."
"Of course," said Flitwick and he nodded to Harry. "Have a good day, Mister Potter, and stay safe. You look well."
"Thanks," said Harry with a grin and he nodded back. When they arrived at McGonagall's office, Hermione was indeed there along with Professor Snape.
When Snape spotted Sirius, he instantly sneered. "I am frankly shocked you didn't accidentally die or lose Harry this summer," he said with an acid tone, although Harry thought there was a touch of relief there too.
"I didn't lose the twins either," said Sirius with a laugh. "We sent them off with Cedric Diggory to be escorted back to their home Floo."
McGonagall cleared her throat loudly. "Mister Black, might I remind you that it is assuredly not permitted for a standing Hogwarts professor to take two underage girls on a trip around the world?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Professor, honestly, do you think you'll be dosed with Veritaserum or interrogated? I suspect the Patils' parents are aware that they weren't present."
"I would prefer not to be forced to lie to a parent," said McGonagall with a harsh tone. "Unlike some people in this room."
"The right sort of lies are simply an alternate form of truth," said Snape with a smirk. "Any self-respecting Slytherin parent would understand that, unlike your guileless Gryffindors."
Sirius laughed. "You know, I actually think similarly on that particular subject." He grinned at Snape. "Although I know you don't care for me agreeing with you."
"Endeavour not to in the future, Black," said Snape in a cool voice. Harry suspected that he was probably laughing on the inside, since he never laughed on the outside.
"Why was Cedric nearby?" Hermione asked with a frown. "He doesn't live anywhere near here."
"I know he's a handsome lad, Hermione, but I think you're a bit old for him, aren't you?" Sirius winked at her and tapped his temple. "At least up here, eh? Robbing the cradle."
Hermione's face reddened a bit and she crossed her arms, looking at Sirius with an annoyed expression. "I don't fancy Cedric, alright? He's not even of age, and anyhow romance is pointless until we figure out this time travel nonsense."
"It is always pointless," said Snape with a snort.
McGonagall rolled her eyes and took in a deep breath. "With the way you three go back and forth, it's a wonder Harry has turned out reasonable at all."
Harry laughed. "Thanks, Professor," he said. "I actually do consider myself the reasonable one among certain groups. Usually I just try to think of what you'd do."
McGonagall smiled at him but Sirius elbowed Harry and whispered loudly, "Kiss-arse."
"Oh, that is enough already, Sirius," said McGonagall in an annoyed tone. "I assume you two aren't here simply to irritate me?"
"No, sorry, Minerva," said Sirius, not looking even remotely sorry. "Actually I was hoping you could tell us if there was anything new to know about the upcoming troubles. I know we need to have a meeting about the upcoming year, and Harry will need someone around for protection."
"I believe Severus will be free enough," said McGonagall with a glance over at the Potions Professor. "And if Harry is staying here until the term begins, we should be able to keep things sufficiently safe."
Snape grimaced. "If I must," he said.
"Look at it this way, Professor," said Harry with a grin. "It'll give you the time to reverse any damage done by Sirius to me over the summer holiday."
"An impossible task," said Snape with a sneer although Harry could tell he was already planning how to manage it.
"Well, good," said McGonagall with a nod. "Or perhaps Mister Potter will lend some of his maturity to the rest of you miscreants. In any event, to answer your first question Sirius, we do not have any solid predictions about the upcoming potential time travellers. The Department of Mysteries has put their Divinators on it, but that's already such a woolly magic, I'm not surprised they barely learned anything."
"All we know is that we expect 'one and one, one over one, one once begun'," said Hermione with a frown. "My interpretation of that is we'll have at least two people, likely some sort of linked pair, plus one other, also part of a different sort of linked pair. The other part I think is a bit more shaky, but it might have to do with a different sort of alternate worlds theory altogether. Professor Dumbledore says that it may be difficult to truly know for certain until it's too late, but that's Divination for you."
McGonagall grimaced. "Precisely so."
"Miss Granger, you and the Headmaster are the only ones capable of parsing such nonsense," said Snape with a frown. "Something wrong with your heads, I suppose, but they do say genius and insanity are close pairs after all."
"Hey, Hermione, did you hear that?" Sirius said to Hermione in a teasing tone. "Snape called you a genius. Couldn't have been easy for him."
"He also called me insane, so maybe we can move on," said Hermione with a roll of her eyes.
"Are you all quite done?" McGonagall said, her voice starting to rise in volume. "Sirius, we do have to have our meeting."
"Alright, yes," said Sirius. "Harry and I just need to check in with Dumbledore, and then I can get him settled here in his room. Snape, are you handling that preparation?"
"I will do it myself, of course," said Snape coldly. "Since no one else would manage it as well."
"Wonderful," said McGonagall. "Then you three, please leave, I have work to do. Not you, Miss Granger, we still have a few things to review."
"Yes, ma'am," said Hermione and she conjured a chair and sat down with a sigh.
When the three of them walked out of the office, Snape turned to Harry with a frown.
"Potter, once you are finally free of any unnecessary hangers-on, have yourself brought to my office. I am certain that by then I will have your living arrangements resolved entirely."
"So is it a room in Hogwarts or something? Or in Hogsmeade or somewhere else?"
Snape glanced quickly at Black and then back to Harry. "It is not prudent to mention the specifics aloud, I am afraid, not with those around that are quite... untrustworthy."
Sirius made a loud snorted sound. "Why, Snape, I do ever so wonder what you might be talking about."
Harry restrained himself from rolling his eyes and nodded. "Very well, Professor. I'll have Sirius walk me to your office once he has to get ready for his meeting."
"I am pleased you are not complaining about the needed security precautions," said Snape, although his voice did not sound any more pleased than normal. "Most children your age would protest the lack of 'freedom'." At this last word Snape sneered.
"I had plenty of that over the summer holiday," said Harry. "Even if it was still under relatively safe conditions. I don't know why, but I actually feel less safe at Hogwarts then away from it. Can't entirely explain it."
"I think I understand," said Snape in a grumble. "Too well. Do not tarry long, I will see you later." And he walked off with his voluminous robes billowing behind him.
"What a ridiculous berk," Sirius said while not hiding his own eye roll. "At least he's on our side, or yours anyway."
Harry bit his lip to stop from laughing. He wasn't used to holding back his responses around Sirius, but with Snape around it wouldn't do to antagonize him. "Let's go see the Headmaster, Sirius, before Snape gets a chance to overhear you."
They found Dumbledore in his office, where he was writing furiously on a parchment. A pile of ink-stained parchments were stacked next to him on his desk, and then he finally looked up at them.
"Ah, you are returned! Excellent, excellent, please have a seat. I am sure you two will need it after your travels." He waved his wand and two comfortable chairs blipped into existence.
"What are you writing, Albus?" Sirius asked, and Harry gave his godfather a thankful look for asking the question he was too polite to ask himself.
"Oh, nothing too serious," said Dumbledore with a smile. "I have been collecting the assembled tales of our various time travellers and attempting to combine them in some semblance of the original story of our timeline. Most of the stories have had great similarities, although some diverge significantly."
"Yeah, well we knew that much," said Sirius with a sigh. "Some in pretty mad ways, like old Neville."
Dumbledore shook his head and looked sad. "Yes, that is one of the more distressing ones of the future possible timelines. It is also troubling that I can easily see how it might come to pass if things go terribly wrong."
"But no reason to get all depressed, right?" Sirius said, forcing a grin on his face. "I mean, I'm sure what you've written is an interesting story. Planning on publishing it?"
The Headmaster gave Sirius a surprised look and then stroked his beard thoughtfully. "That is quite an intriguing notion, Sirius, I must say. If we all survive the next few years, perhaps it might be useful to publish the story as a book, or a few of them if the material warrants it."
"What would you call it though?" Sirius nudged Harry with his elbow. "Probably something like 'Harry Potter and his Various Misadventures' or 'The Adventures of the Amazing Hero Harry Potter'." At Harry's glare, Sirius burst into laughter.
"I don't care for that book title, Sirius," said Harry in annoyance. "Maybe leave me out of it."
"Well, we certainly will not publish anything with your gainsay," said Dumbledore in a calming tone. "I would not wish to impose on your wishes for privacy."
Harry paused and thought for a moment. "You could call it 'The Hogwarts Adventures' instead," he said. "And just change the names of me and the other students to something else."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Not to worry, Mister Potter. These scribblings are barely in any semblance of a logical story, they are far distant from any legitimate published work." He leaned forward and steepled his fingers together. "Now then, I suppose we ought to catch up before the start of the term, shall we?"
"Yes, sir," said Harry. "You probably knew that we met with Neville when we were visiting Trollheiman, since he said no wizard or witch in their right mind would go there intentionally."
"I did," said Dumbledore. "And you do not need to add in any additional details of that meeting, I believe Mister Longbottom shared everything relevant to me already. I believe the more useful question is about the upcoming temporal conflux, is it not? I assume we are all worried about the possibility of losing ourselves to a future person."
Sirius scowled. "Albus, isn't there some way to block it? Maybe old Croaker or somebody from the Department of Mysteries has an idea."
Dumbledore looked over at Sirius and then at Harry. "I will answer, but you must both promise never to share this information with anyone. Not any friend, nor relative, nor even myself if I am changed by a future Albus Dumbledore."
"It's that serious?" Sirius asked with his face paling. Then he shook his head and said, "I mean it's that me?"
Harry laughed. "That was bloody awful, Sirius. Oh, sorry, forgive the language Professor."
"Nothing to forgive, my boy," said the Headmaster. "But I would like to ask you both for your solemn word that you will not tell another soul. You have taught Harry basic Occlumency, correct?"
Sirius nodded. "It might not be good enough for someone like Riddle, but otherwise he can hide in his mind."
"I give my word," said Harry quickly. "I won't even tell the twins." He felt slightly guilty about the idea, but he also felt excited about the idea of a secret all his own.
"I suppose I do as well," said Sirius. "Yes, I give my word I won't tell anyone else, not even Remus or Minerva. Do either of them know?"
"No, no one in Hogwarts besides myself knows," said Dumbledore with a shake of his head. "Not even the ever surprising Miss Granger. For you see, there is a secret group within the Ministry that specifically works with time travel and keeping the timeline consistent. They have a way to protect themselves from such interference as we have faced, but it requires a sacrifice of their own - they must remove themselves from the normal flow of time."
The Headmaster shrugged. "So for cases of absolute catastrophe, such a situation is helpful, but for normal men such as us three, it is sadly useless. After all, we still live with a future that we can affect, and they cannot."
"Grouping anyone as 'normal' with you is a bit ridiculous, Albus," said Sirius with a snort. "I feel like I mostly understand what you're getting at, I think. So the simple answer is that there's no way to protect ourselves from people time traveling over us unless we are not in the normal flow of time, whatever that means."
"I suppose that is mostly true," said Dumbledore and he tapped his desk with his right hand. "But it is theoretically possible to block some of the rituals that have been already used. I am certain I could prevent another from utilizing Ronald Weasley's horrible method, for example, but then there are others we barely understand."
He looked over at them. "Mister Longbottom used an artefact he lifted from Riddle, so he has no idea of how it worked. And even if we completely understood the rest of them, which is unfortunately not the case, have you not noticed that each time traveling instance is entirely unique?"
"Um, are they?" Sirius turned to Harry. "Kid, you've been dealing with this from the start, are they all different."
Harry frowned. "Um, let me think. Ron, Hermione, Neville, yeah those were all different. I don't know what Malfoy did, nor what Wood did. I guess that at least from the people I heard about it's all different. I mean it got pretty absurd, Hagrid punched his way through time!"
Sirius laughed. "Right, Hermione was ranting about that to us Professors. So what does it all mean, Albus? I mean, I do understand that if you can't predict how they're time traveling, you can't block it, but why are they all unique?"
"Ah, and here we have come to another limit of my understanding, I am afraid," said Dumbledore, holding out his hands. "None of my research has been helpful, not even the research I cannot talk about. There are secrets I cannot speak of, naturally, and even those that I can, but I can tell you that nothing quite explained it all."
"Well, that's bloody great," said Sirius and he slumped in his chair. "Albus, if Harry gets replaced I'm blaming you. And Harry, if the Headmaster gets replaced I'm also blaming him."
Harry laughed. "And who will you blame if you get replaced?"
"Snape," said Sirius immediately. "And naturally you can blame me if he gets replaced. I won't have meant to do it, but you never know."
"Speaking of Slytherins," said Harry. "Anything new about Malfoy? Draco, I mean, not either of his parents. Um." Harry paused, unable to recall their names
"Lucius and Narcissa," added Sirius with a wink. "I expect something nefarious from one or both of them since we never found any hide or hair of them out there. My suspicion is that either one of them is dead or both or perhaps Imperiused or maybe..." Then he frowned. "Well, honestly there are too many possibilities to settle on just one. Albus, heard anything?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "I am afraid not. If it is any consolation, I have not heard of any activity that might be related to Tom Riddle either. That said, the diary is the sole Horcrux we have yet to account for, which is still troublesome indeed. I would not think that it would be able to create another one, but alas, this delves into far more Dark magic then I am familiar with."
Sirius grimaced. "Meaning maybe I am more cause of the whole Black family reputation? Wish I knew about them, which is the first time I've ever said such a thing, but I suspect I know even less about Horcruxes than you. I don't suppose there are any experts out there you could ask?"
A pause, and the Headmaster sighed. "There is one, but I dread the notion. And it would be very unsafe to leave Hogwarts while students are here, so my time is short if I wish to ask before they arrive. Ah, well, no time like the present, is there?" He stood up and nodded once to Sirius and Harry.
"Wait, are you leaving already?" Sirius asked. "Who is it?"
"If I find my answers, I will tell you," said Dumbledore. "I admit, I am not looking forward to it. And I do not care for the idea of bringing along anyone else that might become at risk. If something truly becomes amiss, Fawkes will know what to do."
"Not very satisfying an answer, Albus," Sirius said with a bit of a chiding tone. "Aren't you supposed to be setting a better example for young Harry?"
"If you ask Snape, I've already been corrupted by you, Sirius," said Harry teasingly. "I think Professor Dumbledore is a fine example."
Sirius chuckled. "I admire your ability to balance your inner Marauder with your impressive sycophancy. Meaning you both kick and kiss arse to dumb it down for you."
"Well, Harry, I appreciate your words in any event," said Dumbledore kindly. "But now I must ask you to carry on with the rest of your schedule as I hope to return before tomorrow."
"Good luck, Professor," said Harry as they walked out of the office. He caught a glimpse of a thankful nod before Sirius elbowed him in the side.
"You really are like James and Lily at the same time," said Sirius with a huge grin. "I never would've thought it possible. Harry, you'll bury us all."
"I'd rather not bury any of you," said Harry in annoyance. "Let's go find Snape before he tracks you down. Or McGonagall, I don't want to see that fight either. Would hurt my impression of you to see you with your arse kicked."
Sirius laughed and ruffled Harry's hair, which he knew Harry hated. "Good luck with Snape," Sirius said. "You'll need it."
But as it turned out, Harry quite enjoyed his time with Snape, who mostly spent their time together working quietly. The change in pace from the hectic summer was quite pleasant, and Harry found himself reading a bit for actual pleasure. Occasionally Snape would quiz Harry about something in Defence, and every afternoon he drilled him in more advanced Potions techniques.
Snape was a harsh taskmaster in many ways, but his knowledge of Potions was second to none. The only issue was Snape's overly frequent insults at Sirius' expense. Harry was hardly offended by the jibes, his problem was suppressing his laughter which he doubted Snape would've appreciated. Snape probably didn't realize how often Harry and the twins had teased Sirius in far harsher ways over the summer.
While he prepared for the new term, Sirius made sure to spend each meal with Harry, as he was too busy otherwise (although this was also a time for him and Snape to practice innovative new insults at each other while McGonagall glared at them). Occasionally he'd talk with one of the various time travellers that showed up, although Ron continued to avoid everyone. And the Headmaster was still absent doing whatever he was doing, so it was entirely a mystery how well that was going.
The only break in routine was the excursion to Diagon Alley, which was absurdly quick due to security concerns, although Harry at the least did manage to exchange a few pleasantries with his friends. And before Harry knew it, the start of the new school year had arrived.
And with it some highly annoying news from Sirius while they ate lunch near the Lake.
"Kid, I know you won't want to hear this," said Sirius the day before the Express was set to depart from King's Cross. He had brought Harry a very expensive set of quills as an obvious bribe, but on seeing them Harry was immediately suspicious so Sirius had come clean. "But I'm afraid we're gonna have to hold up here. It's simply too risky for you to be on the train the whole time, what with the potential new time travellers. At least here in Hogwarts any new arrival, short of Dumbledore himself I suppose, will be contained."
Harry scowled but he couldn't really think of a valid counterargument. "I'm not happy about missing time with my friends," he said. "But I suppose McGonagall won't accept that as a good excuse. Or was it Dumbledore's orders? I still don't know what happened to him."
"An excellent question, my boy," said the voice of the Headmaster, and both Harry and Sirius jumped up in surprise.
"Albus, were you hiding somewhere waiting for one of us to mention your name?" Sirius asked with a suspicious look in his eyes.
Dumbledore chuckled and shrugged. "Why, who can say? The good news is that I have learned a great deal more about our little problem with the missing piece of Tom. I spent some time with an old acquaintance, which was quite trying, I do not mind admitting. But I have a few new notions to try, and I suspect Severus will be interested in some of them."
"He does have a solid grasp of the Dark Arts," said Sirius in a mutter. "Creepy bugger. So who was this mysterious friend of yours?"
"I had better not utter the name aloud," said Dumbledore with a frown. "There are some potential dangers if I do. But instead, might I suggest you each enjoy a delightful Chocolate Frog? Did you know that I'm on one of those wonderful cards? Although I do wonder how out of date it is these days. Well then, gentlemen, enjoy your last free day." He nodded once to each of them and walked towards the castle.
"I don't really remember what's on his card," said Harry with a frown. "I think there was something about it with Nicolas Flamel in the original timeline from what Neville told me, but he didn't mention any specifics on the card itself." Then he looked up at his godfather. "Wait, is that it? Is it Flamel?"
"It's not a bad guess," said Sirius and he looked a bit worried. "But there's another bloke mentioned on that card, Harry. The man that Dumbledore once considered a friend before he became an enemy."
"Oh," said Harry as he began to feel a little worried himself. "Um, is there any way to confirm that Grindelwald is still locked up?"
"I'll make inquiries," said Sirius with a nod. "But in the meantime, let's plan something fun for tomorrow while we deal with the expected horror of new time travellers. Something to distract us. Maybe some duelling practice?"
Harry grumbled to himself but then nodded. "Alright, Sirius, I guess that does sound fun. And don't just let me win this time."
"No promises, Harry," said Sirius with a laugh but his face looked relieved. "But at least we'll all be together again tomorrow, eh?"
But for some reason that word 'tomorrow' lingered on the air ominously, and Harry couldn't shake the feeling that it was all about to go terribly.
The next day Harry awoke in a start and checked himself repeatedly to verify he was still himself. Then he remembered that many of the time travellers were more likely to arrive when the Express was bound to leave for some overly complicated reason Hermione had not been able to adequately explain to him.
So up until they received word that the Express had left, just after eleven, Harry kept his eyes on the Hogwarts professors (Hermione and Fred were at the Express to escort the students safely back) as they all waited in the Great Hall. After the clock had ticked forward after eleven, Harry let out a breath of relief.
"We're all ourselves, right?" He asked the remaining people.
"Thank Merlin, I am," said Sirius. "I didn't hear any alarms, right?"
"Indeed not," said Dumbledore. "But I am afraid I must Floo the Ministry to discover if any of the students was affected. Minerva, can you attend with me?"
McGonagall nodded, but before she walked off, she stopped at Harry and patted him on the shoulder. "It'll be alright, Harry," she said in a hair above a whisper. "Even if things go wrong, we'll get through it, you mark my words." Then she gave him a smile and walked off.
"You know, Sev," said Sirius with a very annoying grin. "I think I'm actually pleased you're still you. Dare I hold my breath that you feel the same way?"
"The devil I know, is it?" Snape said with a mutter. "I suppose you could be even worse, although it is difficult to fathom."
Harry couldn't help it and laughed. "Sorry," he said, quickly calming down. He almost said something about the two of them being more alike than they realized, but thought better of it quickly. "For my part," he said instead. "I'm just beyond relieved that you two are the same great professors I already know."
Snape's lip quirked up and he rolled his eyes.
"You're a good egg, Harry," said Sirius and he punched Harry mildly in the shoulder. "I think your parents would be proud of you. Certainly Lily would approve of your polite attitude, I'm sure you can agree with at least Severus?"
Snape grimaced, as clearly the idea of agreeing with Sirius in any way deeply pained him. "Yes, in this one, tiny, miniscule way you are correct," he said finally. "Lily would be proud, rightfully so, and her..." Then he stopped talking and shook his head. "I am not letting you start another argument with me, Black, much as you would enjoy it. We have too much to do before the students arrive."
Sirius smirked but nodded. "Fair enough, Snape. Harry and I will keep an eye on things in here until you get back."
After Snape had left and Harry and Sirius were alone in the suddenly very empty Hall, Harry sighed deeply. "I'm really worried, Sirius. What if... what if...?"
Sirius squeezed Harry's arm and then gave him half a hug on his side. "If they are, we'll deal with it. I'm here, you're here, we've got that at least don't we?"
Harry nodded, blinking away moisture from his eyes. He was being ridiculous, Harry thought, he had no reason to suspect anything bad yet. But he couldn't shake the stress in his soul.
Finally, after far too long a wait, and neither McGonagall nor Dumbledore saying anything about any possible time travellers, it was time for the students to arrive. The Hall's giant doors swung open as the students streamed in, almost as if everything was normal. Sirius squeezed Harry's shoulder and went to his place at the Head Table.
Harry strained to look over the crowd for a familiar face, and he spotted Ron slowly through the students, a melancholy expression on his face. He walked over to Harry and sighed. "I'm here for you, Harry," he said and a chill ran down Harry's spine.
"Harry!" A figure ran out of the dispersing group, and Harry rapidly felt two things in quick succession - first, absolute, wondrous, and magnificent relief at Parvati's familiar face running towards him. But then, when he noticed her tears, the relief was replaced by a chattering, maddening horror.
He ran to meet her and grabbed her in a hug, and Parvati instantly started sobbing into his robes. He patted her on the back and made soothing noises, trying to calm himself down as well. "What happened, Parv?"
Parvati took a gulping swallow that seemed loud enough to break the sky, and she moved back a little to look Harry in the face, although she didn't let go of him. "Well, first, three Slytherins apparently came back. When they tried to interrogate them, one of them booked it before anyone could stop her. It was that stupid bint, Pansy Parkinson, except worse than normal because why would she run if she wasn't up to no good?"
"And the other two?"
"Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis," said Parvati and she made a face. "The Aurors said they had some Dark magic on them, or at least that's what Fred told me. Oh, there he is. And..." Parvati stopped talking and held Harry's robes tighter.
Fred walked towards them, escorting a very stricken Padma Patil. Her face was so completely expressive, with an emotional fear that Harry had never seen, that it deeply unsettled him.
"Um, hello," said Padma. "So, uh, Harry, I have heard that we were apparently quite close in this timeline, is that so?'
Suddenly Harry thought of the nerdy, off-putting, but oddly kind Padma he had grown so close with over the summer and his sadness was quickly overrun with anger. "Yes, the Padma you bloody overwrote and practically murdered was a brilliant friend, thank you very much."
"Harry, don't!" Parvati said in a shriek. "I can't take it."
Padma winced. "I, well, I admit that perhaps I didn't fully consider the full implications of traveling back in time. But in fairness, I thought I would only be overwriting the version of myself I knew, a friendless, mostly alone outcast that nobody would care if she changed suddenly."
"I'd care!" Parvati spat, her face now as raging as Harry's. "And I refuse to imagine for even a moment the future version of me didn't care either. Well? Did she?"
Padma made a strained face and sighed. "She did. You are right. I... I am sorry."
After that, Parvati started crying again and turned back to Harry.
"So what's the great reason, anyway?" Harry asked, unable to hide the fury in his voice. "Coming to stop Riddle or something like that? Or something far less noble?"
"It was that, but not truly noble, not really," said Padma and she hung her head, an expression on her face that Harry recognized as embarrassment, despite how she tried to hide it. Oddly enough, this attempt to hold back her emotions made her seem a bit more like the Padma he knew. "Harry, do you think we can talk about it?"
"Padma, we're going to need some time, okay?"
Padma nodded, looking very uncomfortable. "Of course, I will..." Her voice trailed off as she noticed Ron standing nearby. "Ronald? Are you a time traveller also? Your face is oddly old."
Ron snorted. "Yeah, thanks Padma, like I hadn't noticed already. But right, I'm a bloody time traveller too. My past timeline was more like yours, most likely, based on how you described yourself."
"Oh was it?" Padma's eyes flashed and she stalked over to Ron, and despite how Ron had more than a foot on her, Padma was coming off far more dangerous. "You hurt me at the Ball, Ronald, was that you in your timeline too?"
"Um, yes, it was," said Ron as he ducked his head.
Then Padma slapped him hard enough that the entire Hall stopped talking and stared at them.
"Oi, Patil, watch it," said Fred. "Not to say Ronnie didn't entirely deserve it, but he's also been through a lot. And you're both adults mentally, remember? So try to act mature, okay?"
"I did deserve it," said Ron with a chuckle as he rubbed his cheek. "I was an utter prat back then, Padma, I can guarantee you've remembered it just fine. During my timeline, things went quite bad, so I had a lot of time to hole up here and think about all my mistakes. And I made a lot of them, and I always thought that the worst, besides the ones that directly led to my friends getting killed, was mistreating you at the Ball. I was a stupid teenager overflowing with hormones and I never apologized. So here I am, saying that I'm sorry about it."
He sighed. "Of course, I don't expect you to just forgive me for anything, I'm not-" And then Padma kissed him.
Parvati made a gagging sound. "Padma, gross! He's an adult in his head! Wait, you both are!"
And suddenly a spell sped out of nowhere and struck Padma on the cheek, causing her to fall back from her sudden snogging. "What the... who did that?"
"You heard your far more reasonable twin," said Hermione, emerging from nowhere with a very unpleasant look on her face. "Don't cross a line you shouldn't cross."
Padma's eyes narrowed. "Watch the jealousy, Granger. You're just the same as the Granger I remember, I saw you lording over people on the Express."
"Jealousy?" Hermione growled out. "Lording over? You're nothing like the Padma I knew, not at all, she would never stoop to paedophilia."
"Don't you bloody call me that!" Padma hissed, her wand out and pointed back at Hermione. "You don't want to try me, Granger, I've cleaned my wand with better than you."
Hermione's face settled into an eerie, hard expression that seemed as if she was about to hurt someone.
"We need to get everyone out of there," said Harry in a whisper to Parvati, who was looking at Hermione and Padma in confusion. "Parv! Quickly, we need to evacuate the Hall now."
Parvati glanced back at her sister and seemed to realize the same thing Harry had. She looked over to catch Cedric Diggory's eye who immediately also clearly understood the situation.
"Harry, why are you saying that?" Fred asked with an odd note of fear.
And then the first spell went off, Padma trying to finish it early with a silent knockout spell, but Hermione batted it aside without a moment's thought. She returned fire back with a burst of air that knocked everyone back a few paces, except for Padma, who had quickly thrown up a wall of the stone from the floor, then banished it back against Hermione.
After that, they both stopped playing around. As the spell volleys began to knock chairs into knots and set fire to the walls, Fred pushed Harry behind him. Ron seemed to try to intercede, but a dodged spell by Padma hit him instead and he fell back unconscious, hitting the ground with a thud.
Harry looked around to see that the students were rushing to flee the Hall - thankfully the first years hadn't yet shown up, as they'd have no notion where to go. The idea of fleeing didn't seem like such a bad idea, but both of the combatants were now moving about so quickly, in ways both recognizable (Hermione using an image duplication spell to throw up different versions of herself) and unexpected (Padma turning herself into smoke and then reincorporating nearby) that Harry couldn't spot any easy place to move to safely, being so close to the two of them.
Hermione seemed to have entirely lost her capability to notice collateral damage and one of her spells was a bolt of lightning that arced across Padma's hastily raised shield and sliced into the ceiling, causing stones to fall to the ground.
This seemed finally time enough to get help, as Flitwick was back in the Hall and tried to disarm both witches at the same time. But there was something off about both of them, they had entered some sort of traumatic fugue state and instead both focused their attacks on Flitwick. Perhaps he could've managed against one of them (it was well known of his duelling skill after all), but he was quickly overwhelmed by a barrage from multiple angles until an electrical shock of something knocked him down.
Then it was Snape's turn to reappear in the Hall, and Harry took this opportunity to pull at Fred's arm, who seemed to be frozen in place.
"Oh -' Fred turned and cursed loudly. "Right, Harry, let's get out of here." They started to run away from the sounds of the duel until a loud explosion above them knocked both of them down. Harry saw a piece of the ceiling come towards them and frantically waved his wand at it, thankfully causing it to banish aside. But then he saw an oddness as the illusion of the Hogwarts ceiling seemed to mix with the curses flung from both combatants and deep cracks began to appear in the illusion, green and blue and glowing with something Harry couldn't identify.
Another shaking of the floor, and Harry spared a glance to see that Snape had been knocked into a wall. He was clearly still conscious but he had lost his wand and was visibly wounded.
"Harry, look out!" Fred shouted out and Harry pulled out his wand to see a large stone plummeting towards them, crackling with the glowing cracks of energy. He tried to Banish it at the same time Fred did the same, but it seemed to have no effect.
But before the stone could hit them, something jumped into the air in front of them and Harry saw Neville swing his sword - but somehow this worked, as the stone immediately broke into mist and smoke. Neville then landed on the ground with a sound that was so loud it must've been intentional - and indeed, it worked, as both Padma and Hermione now looked towards him with their manic faces aglow in their battle fugue.
Harry was terrified and unable to move, his breathing coming faster and faster still as his heart pounded against his chest. But Neville seemed to have a plan in mind, focusing solely on Padma, coming straight towards her, somehow catching and absorbing every curse, every hex, every spell from her with the Sword. Her eyes widened as he was right next to her, and she threw up another shield - but for naught, as the Sword burst through it and he simply tapped her on the head. Without another sound, she fell stunned to the ground.
Then Neville quickly looked over Harry and he glanced down, then threw himself on the floor. They had drilled this so many times, Harry barely had to think it through, and he grabbed Fred and forced them both onto the broken stones of the floor.
Half a second later it happened, and Harry would never forget it, even if he could never understand it. It was a syllable that seemed more than sound, scraping the inside of his head and knocking his mind for a loop, a word from Beyond everything reasonable and decipherable. Whatever it was, it was gone after a moment, lingering in the air like the screams of a thousand tortured souls that had lost their tongues.
But it had also knocked Hermione unconscious and the cause then became apparent as Dumbledore walked past them, with an air of power about him unlike Harry had ever seen before. Fred gasped so Harry suspected he felt the same way.
"Ah, Mister Longbottom, are you uninjured?"
Neville got to his feet and nodded. "Yes, but Flitwick and Snape are hurt. Ron seems okay, just Stunned. I think everyone got out of the Hall okay. I was outside with the two Slytherin girls, but I had to leave them with the Aurors when I noticed what was happening. I had Hagrid and Luna keep the first years moving back towards Hogsmeade before I sent you the Patronus."
Dumbledore gave Neville a solemn nod back. "It was a fair plan, Mister Longbottom. I do not suppose you recognized the manner of spell I used?"
Neville made a sort of harsh laughing sound. "The manner, yeah, although not the specifics. I had to... handle something that spoke the Unlearned language once. Had some people helping me out on the mumbo jumbo side of things, naturally."
"Neville, when did you get back?" Harry managed to ask, feeling his pulse start to come back to normal.
"When Albus sent me a message about Parkinson running away, I realized I had to be here to keep an eye on things. Of course I never thought about Padma going off like that - I mean I could tell her future version was a hardened sort but she didn't seem about to explode. Unlike, unfortunately, Hermione where I've worried she might lose it for years."
He sighed deeply. "Harry, I'm really glad you and Parvati are still the same, but I feel awfully that we lost our Padma. Are you holding up okay about it?"
"Yes," said Harry in a complete lie, but he was also trying not to think about it. "So did Parvati get the students out okay?"
"Yes, she did, Mister Potter," said McGonagall, who was gingerly making her way over to them. "I was quite impressed by her quick thinking, actually. Oh dear, Severus, can you hear me?"
Snape grunted and glared at her, his eyes bloodshot as he held an injured arm in his other one. "Minerva, spare me your tender platitudes and get me some help. And check on Filius, I only saw him get knocked out when I was coming back to the Hall."
"And check on Padma," said Harry quickly. "Even if she went mad, I wouldn't want... I mean..."
"Don't worry, Harry," said Neville with a sad smile. "She's just knocked out. Naturally I knew she wasn't our Padma, because ours would never have fallen for my little trick. I just utilized the Sword of Gryffindor's penchant for absorbing any magic thrown at it, then I glazed it at the end with a bit of a Stunning spell to make sure that was the only thing that hit her."
"Oh okay," said Harry, sort of remembering this little detail about the Sword. "And Hermione, what happened to her? What was the spell you used, sir?"
"Kid!" Sirius ran over to Harry and grabbed him in a hug. "I couldn't get to you, too many people were in the way. Students, if you can imagine it. Parv is okay, don't worry about it. She's helping people around, a born leader that one."
Harry breathed out. "Right, right, good. Professor McGonagall implied that too, but I'm glad to hear it verified. Neville was able to knock out Padma and Professor Dumbledore used a forbidden spell to do the same thing to Hermione."
Neville laughed and Dumbledore chuckled.
"What? A forbidden... Mister Potter, what on Earth are you talking about?"
Snape smirked at her. "He's simply paying attention, Minerva."
McGonagall looked in frustration over at Dumbledore, who just smiled and inclined his head.
"I am afraid Harry is quite right, Minerva," said Dumbledore pleasantly before adjusting the glasses that had slid down his nose. "And naturally, as the spell is Forbidden, I am afraid I cannot speak further on it."
"I can," said Neville with a grin towards McGonagall. "If you'd like to hear a bit about it in private later, ma'am."
McGonagall gave Neville a stern look for a few moments before nodding. "Very good, I accept. It is good to see an actual mature person back here for a change, normally Harry and I are the only ones."
Sirius laughed, a bit manically. "Minnie, why I do believe that was an actual joke! I didn't think you had it in you."
She whirled to face him, fury in her eyes. "Sirius Arcturus Orion Black, you are never to use that... that nickname ever again, do you understand me?"
Sirius held up his hands. "Right, right, sorry, just caught up in the moment, stress and all that. I know we have a lot of work and clean-up to do. Shall we collect the two duellists' wands and revive them?"
"Let me revive Filius first," said Dumbledore. "He does not appear to be wounded in any significant fashion." He waved his wand and Flitwick instantly began to stir.
Flitwick got to his feet slowly and looked around. "Oh my, this is quite bad. But is... oh, Severus, are you terribly wounded?"
"I cannot stand at the moment, so I suppose it depends on how you define it," replied Snape with an acid tone.
"Right, can someone help the Professor please?" Harry asked in an impatient tone. "I'd do it, but I really only learned field Healing magic." Snape gave him an angry nod that would have looked grateful from anyone else.
"I'll take a look," said Flitwick, and he walked stiffly over to the Potions Professor.
"Mister Longbottom, do you have their wands?" The Headmaster asked and Neville nodded.
Dumbledore walked over to where Hermione had dropped and looked down at her with a careful look in his eyes. "In that case, would you please carefully revive Miss Patil? Once we can be assured she is stable, I will do the same for Miss Granger."
Padma slowly got to her feet and looked around the room. "Oh dear," she said softly and then looked at Neville. "You defeated me, Longbottom."
Neville rolled his eyes. "Yah hear that, Harry? Patil here calls me 'Longbottom' like we're bloody strangers."
"I heard," said Harry, trying to keep his temper in check. "But the real Padma did ask that if she gets replaced, we give her the benefit of the doubt."
Padma looked surprised at that, as did Neville, but Sirius nodded.
"Yeah, that's what we all said," said Sirius and he looked carefully at Padma. "So then, shall we still bother or is it too late after you've wrecked the Great Hall?"
Padma winced and looked to the ground. "It was... not my intention to hurt anyone, not really. I suppose I was not quite in my right mind."
"I wonder if there's something inherently traumatic about the act of time travel itself," said Neville with a thoughtful expression. "I mean Ginny and Hannah were at wands too, neither were in their right minds either."
"I thank you for that consideration," said Padma with a sort of intense look at Neville. "I can call you 'Neville' if you would prefer that."
Neville shrugged and grinned. "I suppose I would at that. But that won't be enough to get your wand back, Padma, at least until we can be sure you can be trusted with it."
Padma sighed and nodded. "A fair conclusion, I cannot argue against it."
"She does still seem a lot like our Padma," muttered Harry to Sirius. "I suppose some things are just part of her personality."
Sirius gripped Harry's shoulder and gave him a sad smile.
Professor Flitwick walked over to Padma, while behind him Snape leaned against the wall while glaring balefully at the Ravenclaw girl.
"I don't suppose you came from a particularly awful future, Miss Patil?" Flitwick adjusted his spectacles, which had somehow remained intact. "I only am familiar with the version we had here, where you were quite a talented student, much of it due to Professor Black and Mister Longbottom's instructions during the... off-hours, if you will."
Padma looked over at Sirius with a sharp look. "Professor Black? You are a professor at Hogwarts? Of what, the Dark Arts?"
"Um, Defence Against them, rather," said Sirius with a chuckle. "I'm not quite as well versed with the actual Dark Arts as my mate Sevvie over there."
Snape rolled his eyes so hard it looked painful.
Padma looked between them in confusion. "Was that a jest? It is difficult to tell."
"I can't believe I have to retrain Padma in my sense of humour," said Sirius in an exaggerated whining tone.
"Or lack thereof," said Harry teasingly and nodded to Professor Snape. "Right, sir?"
Snape snorted but he appeared slightly less annoyed.
Sirius clucked his tongue. "It took ages, Harry. I don't think I have the patience to try again."
"Typical for you to run out of patience," said Harry and he elbowed Sirius. "Eh?"
"Are you simply attempting to curry favour with Severus with those mild jibes?" Professor McGonagall asked with a small smile. "I thought you better than that, Mister Potter."
"Normally I would be, ma'am, but I thought maybe he deserved to hear someone else insult Sirius while he recovers."
Sirius laughed. "You're too much kid."
Harry grinned at Sirius but he felt immediately sad when he noticed Padma looking at him. Her face had shockingly turned morose and strained, almost as if she had become as expressive as her twin.
"I am very sorry, Harry," she said. "And I would wish to express such to Parvati, but I cannot imagine my sister will wish to see me anytime soon given my actions, so please, if you will, tell her I am forever sorry for my failures."
Harry made a face at this little speech. This future version of Padma seemed fairly decent at expressing herself, although it didn't make Harry feel much better about losing his version of her.
He then saw Hermione sit up, blinking blearily as she looked around the room and then she grimaced. "Oh dear, I think I've made a terrible mess of things." She closed her eyes and pinched her brow, her face tightened for a moment before she opened them again. "I am very sorry, I don't quite know what came over me."
"I must also apologize to you too, Granger," said Padma. "I know exactly what came over me, a battle fugue state that has saved my life a thousand times and more, but it was wholly inappropriate in these circumstances. Perhaps you had your own similar state?"
Hermione seemed to be surprised at this comment. "I don't know about that," she said. "I mean... maybe." Then she turned to Professor Dumbledore. "Sir, what was that spell you used on me? I didn't recognize it."
"It's a sub-utterance, one of the old Forbidden expressions," said Neville. "I only tell you instead of him because Albus isn't going to be able to tell you anything better than that. Restrictions of his job as the Headmaster."
"I didn't realize anyone alive knew any of them," said Hermione and she gave Dumbledore a worried look. "But everything I found out about them was that they should never be said aloud."
"It was a small sacrifice," said Dumbledore with a sharp look down from his glasses. "One I was willing to make as it only affected me and no others. And it was such a small expression, as Neville put it cleverly, that the aftermath was quite contained. I am afraid I felt the need to immediately pierce any shielding or trickery you possessed due to the destruction you were causing to the school."
Hermione scowled. "You're really putting that on me, losing control on a duel? After your own history?"
A gasp came from the ground, where Ron had clearly managed to awaken. "Hermione, that's a terrible thing to say, you know what happened to him!"
Dumbledore shook his head and looked sad. "Ah, I am unsurprised you know of my greatest failure, but I supposed I had hoped you would've used such foreknowledge to prevent a similar tragedy at your own hands."
Hermione looked down and gave a sharp, ugly laugh. "Of course, well said, Headmaster. Naturally you also win in this little war of words too."
"Not my intention, not at all, Miss Granger," said Dumbledore with a sigh. "We have enough battles left to fight with foes that none should be between friends, physical, verbal, or otherwise. But we still have much to do to recover from this terrible mess."
The door to the Hall swung open, and Harry saw Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis being escorted at wandpoint from two Aurors, one on the younger side, but the other heavily scarred and with an obviously magical false eye.
"Sirius," Harry whispered to his godfather. "Is that the famous Auror you told me about?"
Sirius grinned and nodded. "Oi there, Mad-Eye Moody, glad you could make it to the party."
Moody grunted. "We only just got word about things settling down in here. I need to get Snape's help in interrogating these two."
"You're being ridiculous," said Tracey angrily. "We aren't dangerous or anything, we're here for the same reason as the other time travellers, to help!"
"How were we supposed to know a million fools had managed already?" Daphne said with a scoff, her eyes cold. "You don't need to keep us like prisoners."
"And what about your little Slytherin friend Parkinson?" Moody asked acerbically. "She ran off on us, aren't you furious at her betrayal?"
"She didn't come back with us," said Tracey with gritted teeth. "Obviously she's the one you really ought to be worrying about. Why would she have fled otherwise?"
"Hah!" Moody barked out an angry laugh. "Maybe so, maybe you just couldn't manage it yourselves. We'll see. Where is Severus anyway?"
"I am here," said Snape with a cold tone, and he had finally managed to come to his feet. "But I am in no state to manage any interrogations at the moment. Take these two to a secure location in the meantime and keep their wands elsewhere."
"Professor," said Tracey with a gasp. "You can't really think we're not trustworthy, not to you."
"As Moody said, we will see," said Snape evenly. "The marks of Dark magic are evident on you, and such must be explained thoroughly."
"Whatever," said Daphne with crossed arms. "Let's get it over with already."
After they had left, Harry asked, "What now? Should I be helping with anything?"
"No, you've done more than enough, Mister Potter," said Professor McGonagall. "It is more important that you stay safe for the moment. Neville, Sirius, by your leave?"
"Of course, ma'am," said Neville with a nod of his head. "And we'll talk later about that Forbidden stuff. Come on, Harry, I think we both could use a good sit, and those chairs in the time traveller's common room are quite comfortable."
"They are," said Sirius with a laugh. "Let's go then, we can catch you up on everything."
Later, Parvati joined them briefly. "Harry, for now, I can't really be around Padma," she said. "But... if you want to try, I won't be cross or anything. Actually, I think it's not a bad idea to try if you want to, I just can't right now."
"Yeah, I'll try," said Harry. "But I can't imagine I'll have much to say either."
Parvati smiled sadly and gave Harry a hug before leaving the room.
"Kid, sorry about your girlfriend," said Sirius. "Now you're left with just one, James would be furious I let it happen."
Neville laughed. "Maybe so, but probably Harry's mum wouldn't be too annoyed that he's down to just one."
Harry rolled his eyes, but he also considered the thought that perhaps they were both right.
The two Slytherin girls were not seen as the term began in earnest, although Padma had been cleared to be trustworthy fairly quickly. Although she had explicitly agreed to the same rules the other time travellers had agreed to, Parvati still avoided her twin, the heartbreak too much for her.
Harry was hurting from it too, even though he didn't really want to admit it, but he was willing to at the very least be in the same room as Padma. Even if he didn't want to engage her in any conversation of any kind. But it turned out that it wouldn't really be necessary.
The first time Padma showed up in the time traveller's hall, Harry was simply reading and working on his homework. Ron and Fred had taken up playing chess and trying to trick each other into losing, which was Fred's way of being more likely to win, although Ginny would occasionally try playing (even if she would always inevitably and angrily lose). But the three of the Weasleys, even Ron, were in far better moods than they had been even a month earlier.
The Hufflepuff girls, Susan and Hannah, had seemed to be in far more reasonable spirits too.
"It was a really healing summer holiday," Hannah told Harry when he mentioned it. "Those Mind Healers are honestly life savers. Did you know that Ginny took a short holiday with us to the continent? She'd never been."
"These two murderin' crazies are actually a lot of fun," Ginny added with a sort of savage smirk on her face. "We didn't kill anyone on our trip, Harry, don't worry."
"Neither did we," said Harry with a grin. "Except maybe Padma, but since she doesn't remember, I can just say she did all the bad things Parvati and I avoided."
The three girls laughed at that, even Susan in her more muted manner.
"You've changed, Harry," Susan said softly and then she smiled. "But in a wonderful way, you're even cooler than the Harry I knew."
Harry felt a bit embarrassed at the compliment, so he just ducked his head and returned to work.
But he didn't really feel like even mentioning Padma while she was in the room, so when she did finally show up, he kept silent.
Thankfully, Padma only spared him with a short, polite nod before confronting the ever vigilant Neville, who had suspended his investigations while there was still immediate danger at Hogwarts.
"Neville, you defeated me when my mind was lost," she said to him with a bit of a fiery look in her eyes. "And I was the most dangerous person in my timeline. We are the same physical age here, so I can ignore that sort of difference. Was it that difficult in your own future?"
Neville gave her an even look before nodding. "It was worse than most, Padma. And you shouldn't discount physical differences at all. I've had more than a year to get used to and slightly improve this past physical version of me, but you were stepping into someone that wasn't even your own past."
"I don't really understand how that makes logical sense," Padma admitted. "Even if the timelines were mutually divergent, as Granger told me, wouldn't my past memory be consistent with others of the same pre-temporal shift?"
Neville shrugged. "Don't ask me, I don't really understand it myself. I'm not sure Hermione or even Albus completely get it either."
"If they do not, what hope do I have?" Padma asked in a mutter. Then she looked up and met Neville's eyes. "Perhaps I cannot learn or master such esoterica, but I can still learn from you. Are you willing to train me?"
"Hmm." Neville rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well, it's actually not the worst idea. We could use all the help we can get, now that we know for sure the baddies are also coming back in time. I mean, I need to keep an eye on things for now, but when I have more freedom I think it's not a bad notion. In the meantime, why don't we talk about some of your history? I'll hide the sound so we can't be overheard."
Padma looked around the room. "Do you not trust the others?"
"I trust them fine," said Neville. "But Harry's studying and we've bothered him enough already."
Harry made an amused snorting sound while he continued to look down at his half-written homework. Neville really did understand him.
And so it went for a little while, and things were fairly normal, as normal as anything could be at Hogwarts. Harry split his time between the time traveller's common room and the Gryffindor one, since Parvati only stayed there to avoid her sister. Even though, as he told her, Padma was entirely too busy with Neville to even notice them.
Unreasonably, things went shockingly well for a while, even if Daphne and Tracey were still not permitted to go anywhere. They had requested something called "Slytherin sanctuary" which Snape was forced to provide them - they could stay in the castle even if they didn't have access to their wands.
The entire situation had Neville barely sleeping, and he constantly followed Harry everywhere, even (unfortunately) to the washroom.
"Basilisk came from the pipes, Harry," the bleary eyed Neville said, refusing to back down. "Can't take any chances."
But despite the annoyance, several things were going fairly decently. The pair of Professors Luna Lovegood and Hagrid proved to be extremely successful, and popular enough that students began dropping other electives to switch over. It didn't hurt when Hagrid accidentally slipped that the future Luna had been married to Newt Scamander's grandson, leading to the elderly man himself showing up and telling a series of improbable tales of his own adventures.
Naturally Harry knew it could never last, and waited with horrible worry for Halloween where he knew he would be replaced. But shockingly again, the day came and went without any new travellers noted.
The day after Halloween seemed to be going alright, when Sirius appeared at lunch suddenly.
"Neville, something's gone wrong," he said. "I need to take Harry to the Headmaster's office."
"Is it really you?" Neville asked with narrowed eyes.
Sirius rolled his eyes. He leaned over and whispered something to Neville who nodded.
"Yeah, only you would say something that stupid," said Neville. "I suppose you want me to stay here to keep an eye on things?"
"Yes, thank you, Neville," said Sirius. "You can't be everywhere at once, and Harry will be safe with me."
Neville's fingers shifted on his wand for a few moments but then he sighed. "Alright then, let me know when you know something."
"I don't know what exactly happened," said Sirius as he hurried with Harry through the hallways of Hogwarts. "But Moody is in a real state and Albus insisted we gather in his office."
When they arrived, it was a worrying collection of people, Moody, Hermione, and Professor Dumbledore - mainly it was worrying for all the people that weren't there.
"Ah, very good," said Dumbledore with a nod at them. "Now that they are here, what have you discovered about the incident?"
"The sanctuary room was broken," said Moody in a growl. "It knocked Snape out completely, classic Slytherin nonsense. I expect old Salazar himself put that little spell into place, did you even know about it Albus?"
"I knew of it, of course," said Dumbledore in a calming tone. "But I also knew it has not been invoked in over seven hundred years. Is that not so, Phineas?"
The portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black made a snorting sound but then said, "Yes, Albus, it was never meant for the modern era. A relic of darker times long past."
"Maybe instead of complaining about Snape, which I know Sirius adores hearing," said Hermione angrily. "You tell us what happened?"
Moody rolled his eyes and turned to face Dumbledore directly.
"Those two Slytherins are gone, Albus, I've told you a thousand times that the Fidelius is flawed," said Moody with a glare at the Headmaster.
"That is assuredly not good news," said Dumbledore. "But what does that... oh, dear me, Alastor, are you saying that one of the Secrets has been breached?"
"Not directly, but someone knew how to chip away at it," said Moody and he then shifted his glare to Hermione. "I suspect it was your time traveling girl here who destabilized the castle grounds enough during her temper tantrum."
Hermione's face reddened and she clenched her fists.
"Enough, Moody," said Sirius sharply. "That's not helping anything. So what did we lose? The wand or the man?"
"It's Quirrell," said Moody and his face was furious. "He's gone." And then he sighed. "But at least the wand is still secure. For now."
"Now what?" Harry asked, feeling a chill go down his spine. "Don't we need to-?"
But he was interrupted by Madam Pomfrey appearing suddenly in the Floo. "Albus, come quickly!"
"My dear Madam Pomfrey, we have quite an emergency on our hands already," said Dumbledore. "What could possibly be the matter?"
"It's Miss Chang," said Madam Pomfrey and she seemed quite alarmed. "She's woken up and-" And then her face vanished from the flames. Which was honestly even more alarming.
Sirius clapped Harry on the shoulder. "Well, kid, when it rains it pours, right? Don't worry, somehow we'll figure it all out."
"Damn it," said Harry to himself in a grumble. "This has been the worst year yet. And it's only bloody November."
-End of Chapter 9
Hey so it's been a while, but that's because this story is very difficult to write. After writing a few chapters at a somewhat reasonable (debatable of course) pace of Mysterious Girl chapters last year, I promised myself that after the big scene in the most recent Girl chapter I would finally update this bear of a tale. And now I have.
Next Time, "Tentatively Tonks" as we follow our favourite intrepid Metamorphmagus as she deals with an adventure of her own that not so coincidentally is happening at the same time as Harry's.
After that, back to the Harry POV and my planned chapter title is "Your Plan is Pointless" which should cover the conflagration and the confrontation, up to the end of fourth year. Finally after that should be the final chapter of the story titled "The Last Time Traveller" where Harry finally will figure everything out and we find out what happens next to everyone (there is a sequel planned, of a sort, and I really hope no one sees it coming).