Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, never have and, unfortunately, I never will.

Playing God

Chapter 21

Hermione found herself an hour later pacing Natalia's apartment, running her hand almost frantically through her wild chaotic mane of curls, mumbling under her breath. The Auror's had been and gone, taken their statements and carted Jack off to St. Mungo's despite his refusals and now it was just Hermione and Natalia, trying to figure out where to go from here. Currently, Natalia was in the kitchen, searching her cupboards for her strongest drink while Hermione tried very hard not to freak out.

None of the other's had returned to the courtyard yet, and Hermione was very anxious to see Cal. How would anyone know about the mirror? Where it was?

Why would they target this apartment complex? Were they after Caitlyn specifically? Or the mirror and Caitlyn just happened to be a by-target? What did Jack mean when he said "they want her back"?

All of these questions, and more, where spinning in Hermione's mind and she didn't know how to deal with so many unanswered questions. Hermione wasn't very good at dealing with this situation – yes, she was logical and was good at finding the answers, but finding so many answers when there seemed to be more questions and they now had a human life in their hands was a little too much for her brain to handle.

Why would anyone want to take sweet, loving, hyper Caitlyn? It didn't make any sense.

She was brought out of her frantic thoughts by the sound of a bottle slamming down on the coffee table as Natalia sat astride a hard back chair having changed into jeans and a fuzzy white jumper, her arms balancing on the back as she poised a cigarette between her blood-red lips.

"I didn't know you smoked." She said softly, slowly sitting down on the edge of Natalia's white couch, her hands folded in her lap.

Natalia looked up at her sharply and Hermione had the vague sense that she'd done something horribly wrong, like Natalia thought that it was her fault that Caitlyn had been taken.

"Does it bother you?" She asked, taking the cigarette between two fingers and taking a swing of alcohol straight from the bottle without waiting for Hermione's answer.

She held the bottle out to her and Hermione shook her head. There was a tense moment and Hermione felt the air turn thick with apprehension before Natalia shrugged and took another drink before a drag of the cigarette. "Extreme circumstances and all that. She's my friend."

"Is she?" Hermione asked in slight surprise, having never seen the two girls together before. While they both were at her Moving In Party a few days ago, they weren't anywhere near each other.

"Damn right she is." Natalia said with a gleam of pride and the air of a challenge. "And now she's gone."

"She is." Hermione agreed, feeling very much like she was alone in the middle of the ocean, having no idea which direction to take whilst looking out at the vast void of nothingness that threatened to swallow her.

"We're gonna get her back."

Hermione blinked once, twice before the words sunk into her brain and registered with her. "Natalia, I would love to, but I don't –"

"Don't." Natalia cut her off, taking another drink, this one longer. "Don't pretend like you don't have anything to do with this."

"I don't –" Hermione went to retaliate, but she was cut off once again, this time by Natalia slamming the bottle down onto the coffee table, again.

"She knows your secret. We know your secret!" She almost yelled and Hermione stopped breathing. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't happening

"What secret?" Hermione asked around a dry mouth, remembering how two weeks ago, Cal had confessed to her that he knew her secret to, that he would help her…Now Natalia knew? How? Why?

This wasn't happening

"Hermione, you're an idiot." Natalia practically hissed, standing up from her chair abruptly and she began pacing around the couch, her fists clenched at her sides. "You travelled back in time twenty goddamn years. You used a relic so powerful that it sent a ripple of magic throughout time, did you really, truly think that no-one would notice?"

Hermione didn't know what to say; didn't know what to do; didn't know what to think.

"Trust me, plenty of people noticed and they're all gunning for you. Only problem is, they don't have your identity, don't have a goddamn clue who you are, and that is your only saving grace. Any great witch or wizard worth their name or friggin' chocolate frog card could feel the change in atmosphere practically the second you got here."

"How do you know about it? How do you know it's me?" Hermione asked, feeling Natalia's anger curl off her like smoke, curling around her body, making her just as angry. "I didn't ask for this! I didn't want this! I was given a mission, a choice and I took it, but that didn't mean that I wanted it." Hermione fought back, annoyed and angry at Natalia's hidden accusation that it was her fault that Caitlyn was taken.

She had nothing to do with this. She was getting tired of being pushed in one direction and then pulled in another, by having surprises thrown in her face and by being the last person to know anything. It was infuriating and she was fed-up. "I don't see how having Caitlyn kidnapped by Death Eaters correlates at all to my secret." She said stiffly, pulling down the long green sleeves of her blouse and she gasped in surprised when Natalia's hands were suddenly on her shoulders, pushing her down onto the sofa cushions, kneeling over her, her face close, threatening.

"Do you know what they'll do to her?" Natalia hissed, her eyes wide with pure anger, but Hermione could see the small glint of fear that resided there, pulling Natalia to the brink, almost ready to push her off.

"I have some idea." Hermione said quietly, reaching for her green sleeve and pushing it back up, exposing her marred forearm. Mudblood. No matter how many times she saw that word glaring up at her, she felt sick to her stomach.

Natalia sighed sadly when she saw it and slowly sat up, bringing Hermione up with her. "She's my partner." Natalia told her, wiping the sleeve of her jumper over her face, either wiping away tears or preparing for when the tears finally fell. Hermione felt sympathy and her own fear swirl up in her chest and she slipped her fingers between Natalia's. Natalia glanced down at them in shock before she gripped hard, needing the reassurance, the safety, the feeling that she wasn't alone. "We were in the TR in the ministry, the time room. It monitors people, students mostly, who have time turners. We were cataloguing the users and the times changed for them so that we could add on to their age – some fourteen year olds are actually sixteen now, and they have a right to know that, when…On New Year's Eve, it exploded." She sniffed and Hermione blinked in shock, her body going rigid. "That's what sent the magic through the air in the first place. Through time. Except it was different for me and Caitlyn. We could see you."

"How?"

"We can see the faces of everyone who has travelled through time, regardless of the lack of records on them. You just appeared. Right there in the open, that mirror crumbling to dust before everything went haywire."

Hermione sighed heavily, chastising herself for not thinking ahead. "It was you, wasn't it?"

"I don't think now is the time to point fingers." Natalia said sharply, pulling her hand roughly from Hermione's and reaching for the glass bottle, taking another drink.

"You're the Order Member who gave the Intel of me, aren't you? The Mysterious Girl who appeared as if by magic on January 1st, you told Cal about me…" Hermione said, speaking very fast as this revelation hit her, "I thought that it was an Auror, that only they could have had access to anything about me, but I was wrong, it wasn't an Auror it was…" Hermione turned to look at Natalia who had her head leant over the back of the couch, clutching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, her eyes closed.

"I'm an unspeakable, Hermy. And Caitlyn's my partner." Natalia told her dryly, not moving from her position.

"No. No, Caitlyn's the deputy head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefact's office – she just promoted Arthur Weasley!"

Natalia chuckled as she reached her arm up and over the back of the sofa to the table that ran along the back of it, her eyes still closed as she reached for a pack of cigarettes, her old one resigned to the ash tray, smoke still curling from the still burning tip. "By day." She rasped, opening her eyes to light her cigarette, using the very tip of her finger to do so. If Hermione weren't so confused by what was happening, she would have been very impressed by the use of wandless magic.

"Is everybody in this apartment block leading a double life?!" Hermione only just barely resisted the urge to yell as she pressed her hands to her thighs hard enough to hurt and stood up, feeling the intense need to hit something or kick something spring forward – she hadn't felt like this since she was fourteen and Draco had pressed her buttons just so (while he had since apologised for that and she had, subsequently forgiven him, she still remember the fury stretching and winding until it broke and she lashed out, wanting to hurt).

"Well, Remus is a Werewolf." Natalia said, taking a long drag from the cigarette, the paper curling and lighting a bright orange, burning away to reveal the tobacco inside it, which Natalia flicked off, uncaring of where it landed. "Although, I suspect you already knew that. Steven's gay. He's at his boyfriend's right now, although he's ashamed of it." Natalia rolled her eyes at Steven's logic and Hermione couldn't help but agree.

"No-one should be ashamed of who they love." Hermione said softly and Natalia nodded once, her eyes sliding closed.

"Jack's fine though. What you see is what you get with that doofus. I think that's why Caitlyn likes him so much."

"Does Jack know? About Caitlyn?" Hermione asked, feeling her restlessness dissipate slightly.

"Only two people are supposed to know. One," she held up the thumb on her free hand, her fingers curled towards her palm, "your boss. He gives you cases, pays you and partners you up. No more. I don't think he's ever seen my face, I've certainly never seen him…Or hers. Two," she held up her index finger, "your partner. No more."

"But you just told me."

"Technically you figured it out." Natalia shrugged, "I was just telling you what your brain already knew. And hey, I know your secret, so I thought Quid Pro friggin' Quo. You hold my entire career in your hands. One word to the wrong person and it'll spread like wildfire and my job is over. I'm giving you that."

"Why?" Hermione asked, needing to know the answer.

"Because I trust you." Those words hurt Hermione more than anything that Natalia could have said, in the best way. She was trusted in this time…Even if it was by one person, it was enough. For now. She was making a difference, she was doing something right. "And I need your help to save Caitlyn."

"I still don't see how Caitlyn being captured and me have any correlation." Hermione tentatively said, "if you only know my identity by a fluke, and no-one knows about Caitlyn's profession, then why take her? I don't understand."

It hurt her to admit that she didn't understand something…To not know something is easier, because she can learn it, but to not understand…that was a whole new level of failure for Hermione and she couldn't afford to fail. Not this time. Many things about Hermione had changed since she was a child, but her Boggart was not one of them.

"They want Caitlyn because she pissed them off."

"And how did Caitlyn manage that?" Hermione didn't even think that it was possible to hate Caitlyn, that it was just universally impossible.

Natalia sighed sadly, hanging her head, her shoulders hunched as she practically cradled the glass bottle. "Because she used to be one."

00000

"Well, well, well…Isn't this interesting?"

Caitlyn glared into the darkness, struggling against the bonds around her wrist and ankles, tilting the chair that she was tied to back onto two legs in an attempt to squirm free, her toes pressing against the stone floor, freezing cold.

"You know, we've been looking for you for a long time. You did a good job of running from us, went to live with a Mudblood…Pathetic." The figure spat and Caitlyn struggled even harder, feeling the ropes burn into her skin, leaving raw marks. "But that's okay. You made your choice on how you want to live your life, and I commend you for it."

Caitlyn tried to talk, to insult, to yell, but the rag that was shoved into her mouth and the gag that was tied around her jaw stopped her, just letting a few choice sounds escape. There was the tell-tale sound of shoes moving across the stone floor and Caitlyn felt the hairs on her body stand on end as the figure was stood behind her and Caitlyn's fight or flight response kicked in.

Except she couldn't do any of those things, being held immobile, tied to a chair in the middle of a dark, cold, stone room. "Now, I'm gonna say this once and I demand a straight answer. Someone has time jumped an exceeding amount of time. We went to your home for you, but luckily, one of my people found a mirror; one of legend that can grant any wish to the user and has ultimate power. And it was hidden in your floorboards." The words were cold, calculated and whispered into the room, seemingly sliding across Caitlyn's bare skin, making her muscles tense. "Do you know who it it?"

Caitlyn closed her eye and a single tear escaped, running down her cheek and stinging the cut that she had on her cheek before she shook her head as best she could, her blonde chaotic curls brushing her shoulders. "No?" The figure asked, and Caitlyn nodded. "I think that you're lying. I was originally just ordered to kill you for defying the Dark Lord, but I have a better idea."

Caitlyn felt her scalp tighten as goosebumps rippled across her skin and she repressed a sob, fear coiling tight in her stomach, making her dizzy and uneasy.

"I think that you either know someone who knows who it is, or you know who it will be, or even who it actually is."

She has never regretted anything more in her life than sneaking into Cal's apartment and finding that mirror. Never had she been so annoyed at herself for not thinking to hide that mirror better. If she could have found it in Cal's apartment easily enough, of course they'd be able to find it in her own home.

But she'd gotten to daring, had thought that she was safe, hidden. She had meant to give the mirror back, had only taken it to run some tests on, to assure herself that this was the mirror that she had seen briefly in the time capsule in the TR with Natalia, then she would confront Cal, tell him that she knew and they could all work together on protecting and helping Hermione.

She never meant for this to happen. She never meant for any of this to happen.

"Now, I could use Veritaserum. It's effective and useful…But it's not as much fun."

On the last word, a metallic clatter filled the room before a metal nail hovered over the back of her hand, the point pressing against her skin.

"I said I would ask once…But that was a lie. What do you know?"

With a rough, harsh blast of magic, the gag was ripped from her skin and Caitlyn spat the rag out onto the ground, panting harshly as she began to panic, struggling against the ropes harder and more desperately, her fingernails scrabbling to find purchase on the smooth wood. "I don't know anything!" She gasped out as the nail pressed more incessantly to her skin, leaving a little indent, before a small bead of red blood welled up and slid down her skin and her wrist, "I swear!"

I will take this to my grave. Mark my words; you'll know nothing from me…

With a soft chuckle a blast of magic sent the nail moving and Caitlyn let out a guttural scream as the nail slammed itself through her hand and into the wood below, impaling her flesh onto the pine.

"I can see that you're not laughing anymore." The voice said again as the nail was ripped from her skin to hover in front of her eye, dangerously close and nearly bursting a tear as it spilled over a tear duct, her pupils dilating in pure fear. "Good."

A/N: Ha! Friday! I promised and for the first time I actually managed to deliver! This hardly ever happens, I feel that I need to pat myself on the back for this :)

Okay, so Natalia and Caitlyn – that was the backstory that I had always intended for them, but I don't think it's played out right…That being said, I needed to get it out there because I want you guys to understand that now Hermione is under a threat – that she's in danger, so I explained this a few chapters earlier than I intended to. If something doesn't make sense (aside from the obvious – wait, what? That I'm sure many of you may be experiencing, PM me and I'll let you know if I've actually considered that, and if I haven't, then I'll definitely start thinking about it!)

Hope you like it!

Kelly

xxx