The Boy on the Corner
Hermione felt like hot pokers were pinning her at every side, blinding light invading her vision. She was falling down rapidly, as if somebody had pushed her off a cliff thousands of feet above the ground. She was too mortified to scream, too terrified to breathe, until her body crashed into dirt.
When she finally was able to breathe again, she blinked rapidly and spluttered the dirt from her mouth. Panting, she tried to adjust her eyes to her new surroundings, afraid of what era she may have ended up in.
Hermione found herself in a long stretch of dirt and cobblestone, where hardly any sunlight came through the dreary, narrow walkway. She struggled to her feet and leaned heavily against a black, brick wall, hidden among the shadows. Though as she looked around, the place seemed vaguely familiar…
She stepped away from the wall and took a tentative step down the path, and the more her vision cleared the more she recognized. The oddly shaped buildings, the dark, dreary alleys…
"Knockturn Alley," she breathed, and a rush of relief flooded inside of her. At least she didn't end up amongst cavemen or dinosaurs.
Her eyes immediately found the path that led back to Diagon Alley, and strode towards it. She still had her purse clutched in her hand, which she was eternally grateful for. All she needed was to know the date in order to turn the Time-Turner in the right decade. Sadly, it would be her last time-turning opportunity, as she only had two tries and she'd already buggered up the first one.
Hermione breathed in deeply when she walked up the steps and emerged into Diagon Alley. There were no witches or wizards currently walking around, though she did hear a soft rumble of voices not far from her.
Anxiety crept up in her. What was she to do next? Knock on Ollivander's door and politely ask what year it was? She began breathing rapidly as indecision and fear invaded her mind.
"Are you having a heart-attack?" a small voice said. She gasped and turned around wildly, shocked that somebody had found her already, but more shocked that she hadn't detected anyone watching her. It wasn't until her eyes fell on the corner the entrance to Knockturn Alley that she spotted the owner of the voice.
It was a boy, probably no more than eleven or twelve years old. He was sitting down on the corner of the Knockturn Alley entrance with a stiffness that she could only translate as annoyance or anger, and his hair was long and coming in his eyes. She thought him almost adorable, but more prominently a threat at the moment.
"Are you?" he asked again. There was no malice in his voice, just curiosity.
Hermione didn't know what else to do, so she went with her instinct and shook her head. "I'm alright," she assured him softly.
"Are you sure, because you looked like just you saw a troll," he continued, and Hermione's lips quirked up unwittingly at the boy's imagination.
"Do you know many people who've seen trolls?"
The boy smiled.
Suddenly, she realized that it would be much easier finding out the date from a little boy than from skeptical adults. Smiling still, she approached him slowly.
"I'm quite alright, but thank you for your concern," Hermione said kindly. She kneeled slightly so he wouldn't be intimidated by her height. "Are you lost? Do you need help finding your mother?"
"Why on earth would I go looking for her," the boy said in disgust that was plainly written on his face. Hermione suppressed a grin.
"You don't like her?"
"Never! And you're probably just like her too, so bugger off."
Despite having a good five years on the boy, she found herself frowning.
"Why do you say that?"
"You just came from Knockturn Alley," he said plainly, as if it were obvious. "Everybody knows the people who go down there are nothing but blood lovers," the boy hissed, eyeing her as if she were one herself. "And my mother is down there, and you two are probably the best of friends."
Her eyes softened a little but she said to him in a very stern voice, "I am not a blood lover, and I certainly did not go to Knockturn Alley to chat up with that sort of crowd. In fact," Hermione dropped her voice a little as if she were telling him a secret. And it worked, because the boy's attention piqued as he stared at her interestedly. "I'm not even pureblood. I'm a muggleborn."
"Really?" the boy smiled slightly, but still wary of her.
"Cross my heart," she replied with a grin.
"So then how did you end up in there?" the boy asked again, glancing at the direction of Knockturn Alley. Hermione paused in thought.
"Well, I've never been on this side of Diagon Alley before. I got lost."
The boy laughed and shook his head in disbelief, but he no longer regarded her as cautiously. He even leaned his arms against the cement and stretched his legs.
"I could help you around, if you like," he said good-naturedly. "I don't know why I'm even still sitting here waiting for my mum. I'd love to see the look on her face when she finds out I've run amok. It'll take her ages to find me."
Hermione smiled. He glanced at her and looked down shyly before sticking out his hand to her.
"I'm Sirius Black, by the way," he grinned.
It took a lot of self-control to keep her jaw from dropping to the ground. This was Sirius? Hermione thought incredulously. And as a child, no less! Almost immediately, though, her heart began to pang as she remembered his fate in her lifetime. How this little boy would grow up finding himself wrongfully imprisoned in Azkaban, lose all the people that he loved, and then have his life ripped away from him when he disappeared behind the veil in the Ministry of Magic.
No, Hermione thought. She wouldn't let that happen. Things would change this time around. She'd make sure of it.
Hermione steeled herself from her sad thoughts concerning Sirius and quickly raised her arm to take his proffered hand, shaking it firmly. He seemed surprised and satisfied at her firm grip, and smiled even wider.
"It's very nice to meet you," she managed to say, still smiling winningly. Inside, her mind was working fast. This time-turning blip could work in her advantage, but she had to move quickly. "Tell me, Sirius, are you going to start school very soon?"
"I'm starting at Hogwarts next week," Sirius said smugly. But then his smile faded as he got lost in thought. "Though I'm not really looking forward to the first day."
Hermione frowned. "Why is that?"
He seemed hesitant to reply, but begrudgingly answered her. "Well, everyone is expecting me to be someone I'm not. They…my family…my brother..." he trailed, and then sighed. "I think I'll have to be Slytherin."
"You don't have to be anything."
"What would you know?" Sirius scowled. "You don't know me or my family. We're high status, we have responsibilities." The words sounded so rehearsed that Hermione wondered how many times Sirius had been told it before.
"You're right; I don't know you. I would've thought you to be brave and do what your heart desires, not what others desire from you."
Sirius looked away stubbornly.
Changing tactics, Hermione said, "When I was at Hogwarts, there was a boy in my year who thought he'd end up in Slytherin, but what he really wanted to be was a Gryffindor."
Sirius's eyes widened. "What happened?"
Hermione shrugged. "He believed in himself, and swore he would get in Gryffindor no matter what. And you know what happened? The sorting hat listened to him, and he ended up in Gryffindor just as he had set out to be in."
Sirius let these words sink in for a moment as his eyes had a distant look. "Do…do you think-hypothetically, of course-someone might be able to get the hat to listen to him this year?"
"Well, hypothetically, yes," Hermione said confidently. "You are your own person, Sirius. You are not your family's name. You can, and will, be who you want to be. You never have to do something or be someone just because others tell you to be that way."
Sirius face erupted in an ear-splitting grin and said, "You're absolutely right! I can do whatever the bloody hell I want!"
"Hey!" Hermione admonished, but he only laughed and stood up. Hermione rose as well, and realized she still had a mission to complete. He stared at her distractedly.
"What?" she said, gazing down at where he was looking.
He pointed at her knee. "Did someone hurt you too?"
She glanced down at the now-healed scar on her knee, but it was not the scar that caught her attention-but the soft choice of word: too.
Never had she felt such a sudden surge of sympathy and fury.
"No, it was an accident," she confirmed, and he looked up at her skeptically, debating whether she was telling her the truth. She decided to change the subject. "Sirius, could you do something for me?"
His eyes lit. "What?"
"Could…could you tell me what date it is?"
"It's the twenty-fifth of August," he replied. Hermione bit her lip.
"Yes, yes, but…could you tell me the whole date?"
He stared at her with a puzzled expression. Slowly he replied, "August twenty-fifth, 1971."
Nodding slowly, she fiddled with the Time-Turner in her pocket. She wasn't too far off from when she wanted to travel to. But when she glanced down at the young Sirius before her, dread filled Hermione's mind.
She had already changed the course of history by meeting Sirius Black too early, somebody she was definitely going to encounter when she turned the knob ahead a few years. This was not the plan Dumbledore had meant for her. She was not supposed to be in 1971 meeting anybody she'd see at Hogwarts in 1975.
Hopefully, she thought, Sirius's memory of her would be gone when she arrived as a fifth-year Hogwarts student.
Yet how she was going to manage pulling that off, she had no clue. Though Dumbledore had spent a considerable amount of time explaining things to her, he had been remarkably vague.
"I hear my mum coming! You'd better leave!" Sirius suddenly whispered. Hermione nodded and began walking away, trying to find a good, secluded area where she would not get startled and could peacefully travel time. Unlike the previous situation.
"Will you go out with me?" Sirius shouted suddenly, knocking her from her thoughts, and Hermione's jaw dropped as a strangled laugh erupted from her throat.
"I think I'm a bit too old for you," was all she managed to say, but Sirius persisted.
"Would you like to have butterbeer with me and my uncle this evening, then? He'd love to meet you," Sirius said encouragingly, and as much as Hermione would've liked to say yes, she knew it would harm the outcome of the destination she was headed to.
"Sorry," was all Hermione could muster up to say, and without another word she quickly sped up her pace and left Sirius far behind.
"Oi! What's your name, at least!" Sirius persisted, but Hermione smiled and shook her head, then turned a corner and disappeared from sight. She heard a female voice speaking soon, and knew he would not be able to follow her. Her heart was still tugging sadly after she'd ignored his request. He'd find out her name soon enough though.
She breathed in deeply as she retrieved the Time-Turner from her pocket. Looking around and making absolutely sure nobody was in sight, she grasped a knob and turned it four times.
She felt the familiar hot-poker suffocation from earlier that indicated that she would be time-travelling in a matter of seconds. Her eyes focused on the pendant, where the red rubies were swirling inside the little hourglass as she'd never seen happen before.
There really was no going back.
As she began to fade, amidst the blast of white light, she saw the figure of a boy appear at the entrance of the alleyway.
Sirius stared in confusion as he caught only the briefest glimpse of her eyes, and she disappeared.
Inside, Hermione cursed the world and wondered what damage she'd done this time, especially upon the eleven-year-old Sirius Black.
As she spiraled in the free-fall that the cursed Time-Turner induced, she prayed silently that she would end up in the right time upon the right circumstances. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and awaited the crash landing.
However, it never came. Hermione landed on the softest of plains, and she faintly caught the scent of lavender and fabric. Taking a breath, she cautiously opened her eyes.
Streaks of the evening sunlight were hitting her face through a window on the far side of the room she was in, and she realized she was lying on a bed. She shifted slightly and blinked. The bedroom was large and modestly decorated, much as her own bedroom back in her time had been. Sitting up quietly, she gazed around.
There were shelves filled with books, which she noted were mostly written by muggles; there was a writing desk located in front of the window, with bits of paper and pens littered on top, but a distinct, parchment letter was sitting in the center. There was an ensuite bathroom and, much to her amusement, posters of The Beatles were elegantly hung on the walls.
If that wasn't proof enough, as Hermione wandered over to her wardrobe, she saw muggle clothes that were decades out of fashion. Yes, she was definitely in 1975.
Hermione took a deep breath and contemplated the circumstances. Was this her new life now? Was this the one she'd be leading until the first Wizarding War? Until Lily and James Potter's son was kept safe from Voldemort? Until the horcruxes he'd already made were destroyed at Hermione's hands?
Was she even Hermione Granger anymore in this life?
Hermione distinctly recalled Dumbledore mentioning that the moment she knew her objective and turned back time, history would rewrite itself to fit her inside of it correctly. She wondered faintly if that had been done when she arrived in 1971 by accident, but disregarded it. Whatever the case, she was living here now, as it should have been.
Hermione walked briskly to the desk and searched the papers on it. Most were random writings about muggle historians, but soon wizard historians surfaced, such as Bathilda Bagshot. There were no letters, increasing her frustration. She needed to know her identity in this life!
Then the parchment letter caught her eye, and she held her breath. It had the Hogwarts emblem stamped into the wax. Slowly, she turned the letter over to read who it was addressed to.
Miss H. Granger
Furthest Room on the Left
12 Godric's Hollow
West Country, England
Her mind flitted nervously. So she was still a Granger. How could she possibly still be a Granger? And she was living in Godric's Hollow? With trembling fingers she opened the letter, and read carefully.
Dear Miss Granger,
Your transfer to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been filed and completed. You will be starting your fifth year on September 1st. The list of requirements and rules have been enclosed as well.
As your new Headmaster, I gladly await your arrival. Do not hesitate to ask for guidance, especially in dire times as these, for which you have most unfortunately faced this past month.
Hermione took a steadying breath and dropped the letter back on the desk. She was starting her fifth year, just as planned, and was living in a house with the same name as her identity. She shook her head numbly. How had any of this happened? Who was she staying with, and what tragedy had fallen on her this month that enabled Dumbledore himself to write to her?
Hermione started with a jump when she heard a small knock on the door.
"Hermione, dear?" a kind voice said through the door. Licking her dry lips and clearing her throat, Hermione answered, "Y-yes?"
"Dinner is ready, come on down to have a bite to eat with the family."
She felt her heart beating quickly. "I'll be down in a minute….Thank you," she added nervously, unsure of what to do next.
"Alright dear, don't be too long."
Soft footsteps faded, indicating that the woman who had been at the door was gone. Hermione's shoulders slumped, and she resumed her post on the bed. Her eyes wandered to the purse that was lying on it, and the golden Time-Turner with its red grains of sand now barely visible. To the left of it was her wand.
Sadness crept up inside Hermione as she hadn't allowed since she had left Dumbledore's office, something that she felt like happened days ago, when in reality it was only a few hours. This was it. This was her life. Never again would she see Ron's ginger tufts of hair, nor Harry's forest green eyes. At least, not the same way she had. If all went well in this time, they would be born in due time, but she wouldn't be their best friend as she had been. They wouldn't meet on Hogwarts Express, they wouldn't go to the Quidditch World Cup together, wouldn't stay up all night writing Potions essays. Everything would change. They would never know Hermione Granger the best friend, but Hermione Granger the adult, who may or may not still be alive by the time they grew up.
Unknowingly, tears sprung from her eyes and they fell silently on her lap. She had lost everything, all to change the fate of the world.
In her solitude she did not notice the door open, or the tall figure hovering above her. It wasn't until a shadow fell over her eyes that she jumped, realizing someone else was in the room with her.
"Whoa, sorry," the boy said, and looked embarrassed to have caught her so off guard. He saw her wet eyes and he shifted, unsure of what to do.
Hermione, however, was dumbstruck. "Harry?" she blurted in disbelief. It was unmistakable. The same jet-black hair that stuck out at every end, the glasses, the same physique—
"James, actually," the boy corrected brightly, while gazing at her unsurely. "Sorry to catch you at a bad time; I was, ah, just thinking we could head down together…"
Hermione blinked in surprise.
…James Potter? She was living with the Potters?
Quickly, she dried her eyes and stood up. "Of course," she said breathlessly, though she couldn't help but stare at him. He looked so much like Harry, it almost hurt to look at him. And it was true what everyone had told Harry—he looked exactly like his father, except for his eyes. They were brown, not the familiar green that Harry had possessed.
James raked a hand through his hair and shrugged. "Let's go, then," and he led her out of her room.
They walked quietly down the steps until James perked up and asked, "So, er, how do you like it here so far? I mean, I know you only just moved in last night…"
"It's been very well," Hermione answered with a smile. "Thank you for letting me stay here."
He shook his head and shrugged it off. "Don't even worry about it."
When she arrived at the Potters' dining room, she nearly gaped in awe at the enormous table that stretched endlessly. The dining room itself was impressive; a glittering chandelier was perched just above the center of the table, and fine oak and mahogany cabinets with delicate silverware and china lined the ends of the room. Crystalline glasses and goblin-made goblets were placed at the table, and the room was lined with plush carpeting and perhaps the most comfortable chairs she'd ever sat on. She was slightly chagrined at James's spoiled lifestyle, for he did not hide his arrogance at the luxuries that surrounded him.
Hermione got the sense that James and the rest of his family did not know her well, as was expected. They would glance at her nervously, and the man whom she presumed was James's father cleared his throat.
"So, Hermione," he said with a kind smile, "are you looking forward to starting Hogwarts tomorrow?"
She fought off a double take. Was it August 31st already? Panic settled in her. Did she even have her school things? Her robes, requirements, textbooks—technically she had books stored in her purse but they were all from her sixth year—
"Yes," she answered, fighting of the hysteria bubbling inside of her. She gave a forced smile. "I can't wait to start afresh, Mr…?"
"You can call me Charlus," he finished. "You must've been really tired when you arrived at our house last night, to forget our names already!" Hermione froze, but saw only mirth in his face as he laughed.
"Oh, don't tease the poor girl," the woman sitting across from her reprimanded lightly. She settled her gaze on Hermione and her eyes softened. "You can call me Dorea, dear. Charlus has zero comprehension of other people's feelings," she explained while shooting a dirty look at Charlus, who frowned sadly. Hermione couldn't help but laugh.
Everyone stared at her in surprise, and she sobered.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly, and lowered her eyes to her plate. James nudged her lightly on her shoulder, a grin on his face.
"Hey, don't let us stop you from having a laugh. I know I never do," James said good-naturedly, and a flicker of Harry came to her mind. Hermione smiled and nodded, resuming her dinner.
"You better watch yourself this year, James," Dorea warned darkly. "Having a laugh with your friends will not get you an 'Outstanding' on your OWLs." Hermione nodded to herself, remembering the trouble Harry and Ron had as they skived off in their fifth year instead of studying for the OWLs. They sobered somewhere nearly two weeks before the exam, but unfortunately for Ron, who did not receive a single 'Outstanding', it was not enough.
"Speaking of troublemaking friends," Charlus intervened with a mischievous smile. "Where's the motley crew, then? I thought they would be joining us for dinner tonight?"
James shrugged. "They needed to finish packing for tomorrow. Lazy bums, should've done it earlier."
"Says the one who's not even halfway done!" Dorea exclaimed, and Charlus chuckled as Hermione found herself smiling again. The love this family had was something she didn't get to see too often. Her thoughts drifted to her own family. Her parents were probably around here somewhere, though still unmarried most likely. She frowned. She could probably never meet them again.
It didn't matter, though. She was in this time to fix the damages of the future, not to faff about and cry for what she lost. She had told Dumbledore that she'd do anything to save the people that she loved. And this was how she was going to do it.
Hermione began to pace in her mind. She was a fifth year again, so that gave until the end of year seven to not only make sure she found the Horcruxes, but destroy them as well. And, if she could somehow prevent a few future Death Eaters from joining Voldemort…
Peter Pettigrew was the greatest one. Because of that vile man, Lily and James Potter were killed and Harry was left orphaned. Not only that, but Sirius Black spent twelve years in Azkaban for a crime he did not commit. Hermione closed her eyes. Yes, he would have to be changed first…or worse…
"Hermione, dear, are you alright?"
Hermione snapped out of her reverie and looked at Dorea, who was gazing at her with concern. She fidgeted nervously in her seat and nodded, noticing the rest of the Potters' eyes were trained on her carefully.
"Still a bit tired," she managed a small smile. Dorea nodded gently and continued to eat, looking up at her once in a while with concern still etched on her face. Hermione quietly pushed her plate away from her. "Do you…do you think I can go get some rest? I'm quite exhausted. May I be excused?"
"Of course, of course!" Charlus said quickly, motioning for her to leave. "This is your house now, dearie, you can do as you please."
"I certainly do," James piped in, earning him a fierce glare from his mother. Hermione thanked them and began to pick up her plate to take to the kitchen.
"Oh no, no, dear, the house-elves will deal with that," Dorea intervened, and Hermione hesitated.
"It's no trouble, Mrs. Pott—ah—Dorea," Hermione smiled politely, picking up her plate. "I did this all the time at home." She left the Potters staring at her in shock, as if she were Voldemort doing the Macarena in a bubble bath.
Finding the kitchen was a difficult task, but after a few moments she pushed open an oaken door and found herself in a kitchen the size of a classroom at Hogwarts. Her breath sucked in, and she took a step inside.
There were perhaps a dozen house-elves doing various tasks around the kitchen. Some were scrubbing dishes rigorously, others were dusting the shelves, and a good amount were cooking over stoves and putting things inside an oven. It was bustling with activity, and they seemed so excited with their work, that Hermione felt like she was crashing a party with her plate of half-eaten dinner.
She cleared her throat and the house-elves ceased to see who made the noise.
"Hello, miss!" the nearest house-elf squeaked.
"I brought a plate," she explained somewhat awkwardly, as they all seemed surprised that she'd done such a task.
"You shouldn't have, miss!" the elf exclaimed. "I is at your service, it is Mipsy's job to serve the noble guests of my masters."
"Thank you, but it was no problem," Hermione stammered as the plate was snatched from her by another house-elf and was being scrubbed clean immediately. She looked back at Mipsy and held out her hand. "I'm Hermione."
Mipsy looked like she would have rolled to the ground had a nearby house-elf not squealed and grabbed Mipsy's hand, pushing it to Hermione for her to shake. The other house-elves were awed, and began to gather around her as if she were an angel.
"You is too kind," Mipsy said breathlessly as Hermione retracted her hand. All the other house-elves agreed fervently, and suddenly all of them wanted to meet her and shake her hand, which Hermione obliged with a soft laugh.
"You all are so wonderful, how could I not be?" Hermione answered. She was satisfied that these house-elves were clothed and managed properly, unlike many others she'd seen back in her time. The Potters were good masters, but clearly having a stranger treat them so justly was not common at all.
"You is kind and noble," a smaller house-elf sighed, and the others nodded rigorously.
"Shall we get you anything else, Miss Hermione?" Mipsy asked, and the other house-elves joined in trying to serve her.
"Some ice-cold water?"
"A pillow for Miss Hermione's comfort?"
"A plate of fresh cookies for Miss's long journey to Hogwarts tomorrow?"
"A bath before Miss retires to bed—"
Hermione quickly grew overwhelmed by the eager responses from the house-elves and had to interrupt them to get them to listen.
"Thank you so much, but I'm just going to go to sleep right now," Hermione interjected loudly, but with a smile nonetheless. "The food was delicious."
A unanimous squeal of glee erupted and Hermione stepped out of the kitchens and waved goodbye, then closed the door behind her.
She breathed in deeply. It would be long night, and she needed to start preparing immediately.
As Hermione approached the winding staircase that led to her bedroom, she noticed the Potters were still seated at the dinner table and were speaking in hushed voices.
"She's a bit of a nutter—"
"What, you saw her, all dazed and jumpy—"
"You tell me how you'd act if a group of Death Eaters tortured and killed us and almost killed you!"
"Yeah, I suppose, sorry 'bout that…"
She heard Charlus's voice lower. "Dorea, dear, how do we know the Grangers again? I know the Ministry said she had no family left and we were the immediate contacts…"
A loud smack was heard and Charlus groaned. "Shame on you, Charlus Potter! They're old family friends! Just because we may not have seen the Grangers in a little over twenty years—"
"—Or a hundred—" she heard James add.
"—Doesn't mean we don't help someone in need!"
There was a long silence. Then, "…We have close muggle family friends?"
Another loud smack was heard, and Charlus yelped. "Clearly they weren't just any muggles," Dorea Potter's voice dropped dangerously. "The girl is special, I can tell. She was reportedly tortured by the Cruciatus Curse for an hour, and I'm surprised she's holding conversation as well as she was. Her parents…"
Hermione had heard enough. Quietly she turned back to the winding staircase and made her way up another flight before reaching her room.
So that was what had happened. It was too bad that Hermione had no knowledge of how she came about to such a horrid disposition, but Dumbledore had mentioned that history would rewrite itself to place her accordingly in it.
So if Hermione wanted to be a Hogwarts fifth year in 1975, she would have to live as an orphaned girl living with the Potters.
The reality of her permanent stay in 1975 was confirmed with the massacre of the Granger family. That meant her father, whoever he was in this time, was gone, and the Granger line ended indefinitely. She would not be "born" in 1979 as she was supposed to.
Hermione closed the door behind her softly, and stared around at the large room that was her bedroom. For having arrived only just last night, it was already very personalized to Hermione's tastes. The posters, the plain writing desk, the sheets…
Her eyes wandered to a Hogwarts trunk that lay underneath her bed, and Hermione knelt down to the floor. She yanked it out and carefully opened it, and found all her textbooks had been bought for her already as well as her supplies.
Her eyes wandered to the purse lying on the bed, which was filled with everything she felt she needed before her time-turning journey. Suddenly she realized how reckless she'd been—if anyone were to find the books in there, or worse, the photograph album…
A knock on the door halted her thoughts, and she replied a soft, "come in".
James's head popped in the doorway, and he grinned. "Ready for tomorrow?"
"Yeah, looks like I've already packed," Hermione nodded, and couldn't help but smile at the crooked grin that was plastered on James's face. "What is it?"
"Well, I was hoping—if you're done with your packing, of course—if you'd like to, ah…"
"Help you pack?" Hermione finished his sentence, and rolled her eyes when James nodded sheepishly, hope lighting his eyes.
"I just thought, you know, it'd go by much faster if the two of us did it together, and it'd definitely give us a chance to know each other bit."
Hermione accepted and headed with James to his room, which was directly across from hers. His room was surprisingly well-kept, but she supposed she'd have to give the house-elves credit for that. He really didn't have much left to pack, just a bunch clothes that needed to be folded and placed inside his trunk.
"So, what's your story? What school did you used to go to?"
Hermione froze for the millionth time that night. What the hell was she supposed to say here? She didn't bloody well know, and if she answered incorrectly and if James were to find out about it, she'd look suspicious.
She shrugged and replied, "I..well, just a school. I was homeschooled a lot too. Nothing like Hogwarts, I'm sure, but it was very good."
James nodded and continued with his questions. "So did you like it there? What stuff have you learned already?"
"I think it's my turn to ask questions," Hermione said playfully, and James laughed but nodded. "Do you like it at Hogwarts?"
He rolled his eyes. "Are you kidding me? If I were to have a second home, Hogwarts is it. I love it there—getting to spend an entire year learning spells and hanging with my mates? I couldn't ask for more."
Hermione grinned at his enthusiasm and secretly agreed. It was exactly why she loved going to Hogwarts, as well. It felt like…home.
They spent the rest of the night conversing and getting to know each other while packing. At the end, when Hermione was about to leave his room, James stared at her intently.
"You're alright, Granger."
Hermione smiled in confusion. "Thanks, I suppose. I'd say the same, but I'd be lying."
He laughed. "Oh yeah, my friends will definitely like you."
Hermione's grin froze temporarily before she gathered herself and nodded in agreement, bidding James goodnight.
As Hermione lay in bed, she fought down the anxiety of meeting the rest of James's friends, whom she knew very well were going to be Remus, Sirius, and Peter.
Dread gripped her stomach. She prayed Sirius wouldn't recognize her as the girl he'd met by Knockturn Alley four years ago.
"This way," James ushered her quickly as Hermione struggled to keep up with him. They were already boarded on the train and had said their goodbyes to the Potters. He helped put her trunk up with the others and she muttered a grateful thank you, before having herself lurched forward when he grabbed her hand and led her through the compartments.
"Don't you think—we should—slow down?" Hermione panted as she squeezed through a crowd of students.
"Tighten up, Granger! If you stay this wishy-washy, you'll end up in Hufflepuff!"
Hermione huffed and wished he knew just how much of a Gryffindor she was, but kept her lips tightly closed. Her heart thudded when she saw a familiar head poke out of a compartment four doors down.
"Oi, James! Over here, you lazy arse!" the young man said, and Hermione felt herself go warm.
"Shove off, Sirius!" James hollered back, and gripped her hand tightly as Sirius disappeared behind the compartment door. She suddenly dug her heels in the ground, and James looked back at her when she stopped moving.
"What is it?" he asked.
Hermione swallowed. "Are—are you sure you want me to sit with you guys? I could find another—"
"Don't be silly," James said impatiently and yanked her forward, eliciting a cry of surprise from her. "My friends are your friends. Stop worrying so much."
They paused in front of the compartment, and Hermione took a deep, steadying breath as James slid the door open.
She scanned the three inhabitants carefully. She recognized Remus Lupin first. Even as an adolescent he had a pale appearance, but his face was much younger and, she dared to think, much more handsome than she ever saw. He had soft brown hair and was already in his Hogwarts robes. Sitting opposite him was a boy she knew to be Peter Pettigrew. He was young and small, very different from the decrepit traitor he was when Hermione met him. She couldn't stop a deep feeling of hatred and loathing immediately shoot inside of her, but she squashed it down. He wasn't a murderous traitor yet. Hermione had the chance now to change that.
Peter was currently giggling excitedly at something Remus had said, and her eyes travelled to the young man sitting to his left.
Hermione's conscious kicked her as she tried to stop herself from staring at him, but was difficult. He had dark hair that fell around his face and eyes, which were a deep, silvery grey. His jaw was angled, as were the sharp edges of his high cheekbones. He had the air of aristocratic elegance without even trying, and an unmistakable air about him that made him feel almost unapproachable. This was not the young boy she met in 1971, nor the tired man with sunken eyes and hollowed cheeks that she met after his escape from Azkaban. This was a Sirius she had never known.
James cleared his throat as he entered, and the laughter died a little. "Everyone," he said proudly, "This is Hermione Granger, the new addition to my—and our—family."
Remus smiled good-heartedly at her and held out his hand, introducing himself. Peter did the same, but very shyly, and Hermione shook his kindly, knowing that if she wanted to get close to the future Death-Eater, she'd have to be extremely nice to him from the start.
Sirius was staring at her silently, his eyes slightly wide.
Hermione grew uncomfortable as he continued to look at her without saying a word. She cleared her throat and fought off the blush that threatened to creep up her cheeks, and took a few steps towards Sirius.
"Hermione Granger," she smiled pleasantly and held out her hand.
He glanced at her outstretched hand and then back at her. After a moment James piped in, "For Merlin's sake, Sirius, don't be a prat and shake the girl's hand." Remus and Peter chuckled, but even Hermione heard the faintest edge in James's voice. Sirius blinked and raised his hand, shaking hers, and she smiled as she shook it firmly. Sirius's eyes widened further and nearly tore his hand away from hers. Hermione frowned, but Sirius muttered, "Sirius Black. Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," she answered, before turning to take a seat directly across from him.
"So you're a transfer student?" Remus asked genially, the first to strike a conversation with her. Hermione nodded with a small smile.
"Why'd you transfer?" Peter asked but immediately looked sorry; James had kicked him hard in the shins and Remus glared. Even Sirius appeared annoyed but said nothing. "I-I mean, you don't have to answer, it was my mistake, honestly-"
"Really, it's okay. Not like all of Hogwarts won't find out by the time I step off the train anyway." She turned to Peter and took a breath, but Remus cut in.
"It's alright," he said kindly. "You don't have to tell us anything if you don't want to." Hermione looked at him in surprise, and fell silent.
Peter, hoping to amend his earlier mistake, tried to change topic. "What house do you think you'll end up in?"
"I'm hoping for Gryffindor," Hermione answered honestly.
"And why is that?"
It was Sirius who asked the question. He was looking at her intently, and Hermione lifted her chin.
"Because it's the best."
Sirius's lips quirked into a faint smile, and her eyes trained on them for a moment, noticing how soft they looked. She quickly averted her gaze and saw Sirius looking at her with slight amusement. He still remained unusually silent, as if contemplating her deeply.
Trying to remember her.
Gratefully, the compartment door opened and an elderly woman appeared. "Anything from the trolley, dears?"
"Yes, I'm starved," Hermione jumped up, wishing to escape the strange atmosphere in the compartment. She closed the door behind her and reached down her pocket to take out some of the money the Potters had most graciously given her. She bought Two Chocolate Frogs, a licorice wand, a handful of pumpkin pasties, and a single box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. She almost wanted to keep buying things just to prolong her return to the compartment.
James, Peter, and Remus weren't really disturbing her as much as Sirius was. It was bad enough that he'd caught a glimpse of her time-travelling, nonetheless trying to remember her now that she appeared back in his life. But she was just as guilty, for she couldn't seem to help from straying her eyes to meet his, which disturbed her immensely.
There was definitely something wrong with her.
Hermione reached the handle to the compartment when she overheard a bit of the conversation inside.
"—told me she was a nutter!" Remus exclaimed incredulously.
"And she was! Until she actually started talking, she's quite alright now—"
"She seems nice," Peter added quietly.
"Very," Remus agreed. "Pity about what happened to her—"
"I've met her before," Sirius said in a low voice.
Hermione dared not breathe as a silence fell in the compartment.
"You're barking," James smirked.
"He's just pulling your leg," Remus chuckled, but Sirius said no more. The conversation drifted from topic to topic, and it seemed Sirius had foregone his silence and was laughing merrily with the others.
Hermione swung open the door and marched in, throwing some of her sweets to the boys as she walked by.
"Aw, you didn't have to, Herms," James grinned while taking a hefty bite out of a pumpkin pasty, and Hermione's eye twitched at the nickname. "But I'm glad you did."
"I agree," Remus said as he opened the Bertie Botts box.
"Thank you," Peter squeaked in a high-pitched voice, and the others sniggered. Hermione sat in front of Sirius with two chocolate frogs and a licorice wand.
"Take one," she said with a smile, holding out her hands encouragingly. Sirius gazed at her for a moment and ran a hand through his hair before carefully taking a chocolate frog.
Hermione smiled. "Good choice. They're my favorite," she said, and Sirius grinned. "And it's Hermione, if you don't mind." Hermione looked pointedly at James.
Sirius stretched lazily in his seat, biting the head off the frog.
"So, Herms," Sirius said with his mouth full of chocolate and Hermione narrowed her eyes. It was such a Ron thing to do that it was uncanny. "Figure you'll do alright here?"
"It's Hermione, and I don't see why not," she replied loftily, unwrapping her chocolate frog.
"You better watch out for the Slytherins," James warned darkly, but the Marauders all laughed.
"Especially old Snivelly, he'll grease up your clothes just by looking at him," Sirius added with a chuckle.
Hermione's brows knitted, frowning. They were referring to Snape. She remembered what Dumbledore had told her about him in his office.
"I don't think that's very nice, talking about people like that," Hermione said quietly.
James snorted. "You say that now, Hermione. Just wait until you meet the bloke."
Hermione said nothing, and noticed Sirius was looking at her again.
"Sirius, remember what happened with Snivelly and the giant squid?"
He erupted in a massive grin. "Oh, those were the good old days," he laughed, shaking his shaggy hair away from his eyes. "Think we can top that one this year?"
"We better, or I might actually start doing my own homework."
The compartment exploded in laughter and Hermione's lips twitched. At least she was fortunate enough to land herself among people with a sense of humor, even if it was grinding her insides.
"We're almost there," Remus noted as he looked out the window. "You all better change."
They all pulled on their Hogwarts robes as the train slowed to a stop and steam burst from the engine one last time. James led her through the train. She began taking her trunk but a pair of hands grabbed the handle and effortlessly picked it up. She looked up to find Sirius hauling it away.
"Thanks," she murmured.
"No problem," he answered easily, and the two stepped off the train. He began gazing at her again, his brows furrowing.
"Hermione," he said suddenly, and Hermione glanced up with her heart pounding.
"Have we met before?" His eyes were searching hers, as if demandingly saying, tell me the truth, or I'll find out anyway.
But it was not this day.
Firmly, she shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I'd remember someone like you."
He seemed surprised, and had a curious half-smile on his lips as they walked ahead to the carriages.
Sirius suddenly whistled low and shook his head. Hermione glanced up at him. "What?" she inquired, but he merely pointed ahead.
Hermione groaned inwardly.
"Let me get those for you," she heard James say to a girl with long, red hair, and he pointed his wand at her things. "Locomotor trunks!"
A loud groan resounded as the girl kicked him hard in the shins, the spell ending quickly. "I don't need your sodding help, Potter! Stay away from me!"
Sirius and Hermione hissed in a breath when the girl grabbed the trunk and shoved it violently so the end James in the leg as well, and he hobbled over towards the pair with a wince.
"Honestly, what is this new trend of hitting the shins?" James grumbled, pushing his unkempt hair back.
"I think it's just you, mate," Sirius said, attempting to stifle a laugh. Hermione turned away to hide her grin. Sirius watched her with amusement before his eyes glazed, and he turned sharply away from her.
Yes, he definitely remembered something.
Suddenly a sharp pain gripped her body and all the air escaped from her lips. She doubled over and her hands curled into fists, her nails digging fiercely into her palms and drawing spots of blood. Her spine straightened and Hermione's head shot up in the air as painful spasms coursed through her body.
"What's happening?" she heard Peter exclaim in fright, and she felt a pair of strong arms holding her tightly as her muscles spasmed uncontrollably.
"Is she okay?"
"Shush—I think it's—it's the aftereffects of the curse…"
She felt a hand stroking her back gently, until finally her muscles relaxed. After a long while she opened her streaming eyes. She was panting, and someone was still holding her softly.
James's face came into vision. "Are you alright, Hermione?" She licked her dry lips and nodded slowly, taking steady breaths of air. Slowly the arms that were holding her loosened, and she looked up and saw it was Sirius. His expression was unfathomable as he shifted back to where he had been sitting.
"That looks painful," Remus noted, looking at her palms. She looked down and saw the crescent shapes that her nails had cut into her skin.
"I'll be fine," she muttered, but inside she was frantic. What the hell? Was she really having side effects from the Cruciatus Curse? But…but that hadn't really happened to her, it was just a story been created by…by…
Horror dawned upon her. Though she may not have experienced what had happened to her, it was the story that history had written for her in this decade. And now she was truly living it.
In her distress she took out her wand and quickly did a healing charm on both palms. It was only when she sighed and looked around that she saw all four friends staring at her incredulously.
"You already know how to do nonverbal spells?" Remus said in disbelief. She felt her throat constrict.
"Well, yes, I…I mean, my old school…"
"Every body off the carriages!" a loud voice boomed, and she sprung out as quickly as possible, shivering against the chill night air. Nobody questioned her again, but decided to ignore everything that had happened in the carriages for the sake of not making Hermione uncomfortable.
Professor McGonagall came into view right in front of her. "Hermione Granger?" she asked briskly, and Hermione nodded. "Come with me please."
She followed behind the quickly moving Professor, and turned to have one last look at the Marauders, but Sirius was the only one who watched her leave into the Hogwarts entrance.