Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Harry, Ron and Neville were sitting in their compartment on board the Hogwarts express. As they rode along they were discussing what had happened during the fight at the Department of Mysteries just that spring.
"I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am." Harry said, "You all got hurt and very nearly killed. It's all my fault I'm so sorry."
"Harry do me a favor and shut up." Ron said. Harry started to talk but Ron stopped him by holding up his hand, "I mean it. Not one more word. We all knew what could have happen when we started out."
"No buts." Ginny said, "We all make mistakes, even you. Do you blame me for the chamber?"
"Of course not. But…" he replied.
"But nothing." Neville said, "I got a new wand and the respect of my Gran. I'm glad we took the chance even if it didn't turn out so good. Sorry about your Godfather."
"Oh look it's the loser squad." Draco drawled as he pushed open the compartment door. As always he was flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. He leaned against the door watching the reactions to his presence. He always enjoyed getting a reaction out of people. Everyone but Harry pulled their wands.
"Take a hike Malfoy." Harry said and turned away like he didn't care what the other boy did. When in reality he was watching the reflection in the window. Draco straightened and put his hands in his pockets frowning at Harry.
"Why don't you." Draco grinned evilly as he pulled something out of his pocket and tossed it into the compartment. He slammed the door closed and turned away as several hexes were thrown at him.
Harry hadn't hexed him because he was looking frantically for the object Draco had thrown at them. His search was short lived as smoke filled the compartment. A small explosion knocked them around and they all blacked out. Sometime later Harry was the first to wake up and set about checking on the others. Once he made sure they were all alive he started to wake them up.
"Oh, my head." Ron grumbled as sat up.
"My foot hurts worse." Hermione growled from the ground, "Maybe it's because you're sitting on it."
"Sorry." Ron apologized and moved so she could pull it back, "Anyone hurt?"
"I'm fine." and "Me too." were the answers he received.
"Any idea what happened?" Luna asked as she stood up and looked around.
"No." Harry answered as he helped Ginny to her feet, "But he somehow booted us off the train."
"What?' Luna was the only one not to yell the question as she had already realized this. The others jumped to their feet and started looking around for the first time.
The scenery around them was quite beautiful. Long green grass about knee to waist high was all around as far as they could see. Dotted here and there on the vast prairie were the biggest trees any of them had ever seen. Off on the horizon one direction they could detect the movement of animals but they were too far to see what kind. Above them was the bluest blue sky scattered with big fluffy clouds.
"Where are we?" Ron asked the others.
"What do we do?" Neville chimed in.
"I don't know." Hermione supplied her answer for both questions.
"Look for shelter?" Luna suggested.
"Look for help?" was Ginny's idea.
"Both are good ideas." Harry agreed, "I think we definitely need to move away from here. He could have sent us to meet up with Death Eaters and the longer we sit here the more likely we are to be captured."
"Good point." Hermione agreed, "Which direction?"
"Point me." Harry said the spell with his wand in the palm of his hand. It moved to point north and he said, "I'm going to suggest north. I don't know what kind of animals those are, he indicated the southern horizon, but I get the feeling we don't want to find out."
The group set out and every once in a while Harry would redo his point me spell to keep them going north. It wasn't easy to walk through the tall grass and they didn't feel like they were making good progress. After several hours they had not ran across any sign of other humans. Since they were getting very tired they decided to stop and rest in the shade of one of the large trees. During this rest period Harry got an idea.
"Ron are you any good at climbing trees?"
"Sure, you want me to take a look around?" he asked.
"Yes do you mind?"
"No, but I'll need a boost to reach the bottom branches. They're at least fifteen feet of the ground." he replied. A short yell was his only response when Harry flicked his wand and hoisted him by the ankle up to the bottom limb. Once settled he yelled, "Next time a little warning please."
"Sorry." Harry chuckled, "Can you see anything?"
"Let me get a little higher. I don't see anything yet." after several minutes he climbed back to the bottom limb, "Nothing but grass and trees as far as I can see. Hermione would you get me down?"
"Don't trust Harry with this one?" Hermione giggled as she moved to levitate Ron to the ground. The others moved out from under the tree so they wouldn't be in the way.
Luna was standing in the sunlight looking up when Harry, Neville and Ginny approached her, "Curious."
"What is?" Ginny asked.
"The clouds." she replied as the other three looked up.
"There is something odd, but I'm not sure what." Harry agreed.
"Maybe we should keep moving." Hermione said as she and Ron approached. When the other four didn't move she asked, "Do we continue north?"
Ron shrugged while Ginny and Neville continued to watch Harry and Luna stare at the sky. Finally Ginny moved and touched Harry's arm.
"No trails." he mumbled.
"What?" Hermione asked.
Harry finally took his eyes off the clouds to look at Hermione, "No vapor trails."
"What are you talking about?" Hermione was confused and that, as normal, came out sounding angry.
"Look." Harry said looking at the sky again, "When have you ever seen the sky without airplane vapor trails?"
Hermione slowly turned her face to the sky. This was important, she was sure, but she couldn't figure out why.
"What does that mean?" Ron asked exasperated, he was starting to get grumpy because they hadn't eaten in hours and they had been trudging through the tall grass the whole time.
"Somehow Malfoy sent us to a place so remote that planes don't even fly over." Hermione gasped.
"I don't understand." Neville was whining ever so slightly.
"Look at the sky." Harry told him, "Normally you see a bunch of straight line clouds crisscrossing the sky. But there aren't any. Muggle airplanes make those straight clouds, we are so far out that there are no planes here to leave the trails."
"Maybe we're not here." Hermione said, the others looked confused so she explained her thought, "Maybe it's some kind of dream or illusion and we're still in our compartment on the train."
"If Malfoy was forcing us to have a dream I doubt it would be this pleasant." Ron commented to the general agreement of the others. Hermione reluctantly agreed too.
"I think he moved us farther than he intended." Luna stated in her normal dreamy voice.
"You think he meant to send us to the Death Eaters but we ended up here instead?" Harry asked.
"Yes, exactly." Luna said, "I don't think we're dreaming."
"I agree with Luna." Harry said.
"But…" Hermione started.
"It's not a dream." Harry stated emphatically. "I don't have nice dreams."
"Fine." Hermione gave in, "Which direction?"
"North?" Harry asked, the group nodded in agreement. Harry did the spell again and they all moved out.
As they continued their trek north Harry would repeat the spell to keep them going the right direction. After watching him do that spell over and over for hours Hermione stopped in her tracks.
"What?" Ron asked as the others stopped to look at their friend. She had a look of wonder with a touch of apprehension on her face.
"Harry's doing magic." she stated.
"Yes, he is a wizard, you do remember that don't you?" Ron asked worriedly thinking maybe she had hit her head in the compartment earlier.
"Harry's doing magic." she said more forcefully with the emphasis on Harry.
"He's been doing that all day." Ginny said not understanding the implications of Hermione's statement.
"Harry Potter, under aged wizard, has been doing magic all day." Hermione emphasized on under aged that time.
"So?" Ron was worrying that she was having serious trouble with her brain.
"No owls from the ministry." She pointed out.
"Maybe they think we're on the train?" Ron said.
"No it should already be at Hogwarts by now." Hermione pointed out.
"Maybe it means we're out of their reach too." Luna sighed, "It's almost dark we need to find shelter."
"Food too." Harry commented, "Ron up for another tree climbing adventure."
"Sure, but this time let Hermione do it. I don't fancy another upside down trip." Ron grumbled. After several minutes he was back on the ground, "There's a lake about a mile or so that way. The trees are a lot denser around it and on the other side all I can see are trees."
"Is there a castle over there?" Ginny asked hopefully.
"No." Ron sighed knowing it wasn't what they wanted to hear.
Just after a dark they reached the trees and a little later the lake. They all wanted to rest for a while but since it was already dark they needed to get a camp set up. Later they could rest and get the energy to figure out their next move.
"Ron and I will go find some fire wood or something to transfigure." Harry said, "Keep watch while we're gone and shoot red sparks if you need our help."
"I'll watch to see if you guys send up sparks." Luna volunteered.
As they started to leave Hermione grabbed a book out of her pocked she then lit her wand and sat to read. Seeing her Ron sighed and shook his head. Harry looked back and saw her. Giving a slight cough to get her attention he gave her a quizzical look.
"A book on wards." Hermione said sheepishly, "I've was going to read it on the train. I was thinking I might be able to set up some wards to help keep us safe overnight."
"Good idea." Harry replied and the two boys left to find wood.
"I'm going to see if I can find anything to eat." Neville said and took off after them.
Ginny in the meantime had been staring at the lake. She turned and used her wand to cut a branch that had a straight middle off a smaller tree. Then she started removing the small limbs attached to it. When finished she was left with a pole about four feet long. She conjured string and a hook and started searching for bait. Watching the water she had been reminded of the many lazy summer days at the Burrow. More than once she had followed her brothers to the river or ponds in the area. They had let her fish with them but she had to learn to bait her own hook and take off any fish she caught. By the time the others were back she had managed to catch four large fish.
Ron and Harry built a fire and had a large pile of wood set to the side to keep it going all night. Neville had found some edible bits to eat with the fish and Hermione worked on setting up the wards she had read about. After dinner they set up a watch schedule for the rest of the night. They decided to have two people on each watch so they could keep each other awake. They drew straws and Harry and Ginny ended up with the first watch. They sat quietly just staring at the fire for the first hour.
"Hermione didn't need to set up the animal repulsing wards." Ginny giggled quietly, "Ron's snores should scare them all off."
Harry grinned and tried to hide a yawn, "Or call to them. We need to talk or move or something, I'm getting sleepy."
"What should we talk about?" Ginny asked.
Harry thought for a moment then asked, "Why did you sit with us this time? I mean, I don't mind but, usually you're with your friends. I would have thought you would have sat with Dean having not seen him all summer."
"No thanks, I want to stay away from him. He broke up with me in a letter over the summer." Ginny frowned, "Evidentially he found his true love when he was visiting Seamus in July."
"Really? Who?" Harry was stumped.
"Really?" Harry was flabbergasted, "I can't believe he'd do that to you. And for Parvati? I mean, you're much prettier than she is. Nicer, smarter and funnier too. Overall you're a much better person to hang out with."
"Thanks." Ginny grinned, "Glad you think so. I was really feeling dreadful early on but I decided he's not worth it."
"Good for you." Harry responded the blush he had acquired during his previous statement was starting to leave.
"What about you? Is Cho still out of the picture?" Ginny asked.
"Yes! I'm so glad I got over that crush. I still wonder what I ever saw in her." Harry exclaimed then grumbled, "Maybe she's the only one in my league."
"Your what?" Ginny asked.
"League." Harry replied, when Ginny still looked confused he tried to explain, "You know how cool guys date cool girls. A mess like me could never get someone cool or beautiful."
Ginny laughed. She was laughing so hard Harry was afraid she was going to wake the others. It took a long time for her to get her laughter under control. She was still trying to stop the giggles when she said, "Harry, you know you could be with any girl you wanted no matter how cool or beautiful she is."
"Maybe." he replied, "I just don't see it happening to me."
"Well I'm awake now, no danger of slipping off to sleep after that laugh." Ginny was still giggling. After another bout of laughter she spit out, "Romilda Vane."
Harry sighed and turned to face her, "No they want to date the Boy-Who-Lived not me."
"True." Ginny conceded his point, "But that's because they're stupid. Anyone with half a brain could see you hate the fame. If they would just get to know you they'd see you were a great person and they'd like you for who you are."
After a while it was time to switch to Ron and Hermione. Harry stood and stretched before lending a hand to Ginny to help her up. As she stood she stumbled and fell into Harry. They froze, wide eyed faces just an inch apart.
"Sorry." Harry said after several seconds, "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine." Ginny answered then they pulled apart each waking one of the others for the next watch. Both of them laid awake for a while thinking about what had almost happened before they finally drifted off to sleep. The next thing Harry knew he was being nudged awake. He opened his eyes and looked up to find the sharp point of a centaurs staff not far from his chest.
"Sorry Harry. They snuck up on us." Neville sighed self incrimination evident in his voice.
"No worries Nev." he comforted his friend, "They know more about the forest than any other being in the world and they can move silently. Besides they're only dangerous if you try to hurt their herd. We have no intention of hurting anyone so we should be safe."
The staff was pulled away and a voice above him said, "You have met our kind before?"
"Yes and I consider them friends." Harry responded, "Is it ok if I stand?"
"Keep your hands where I can see them." the centaur replied, "I am curious, what manor of creature are you? I have never seen a centaur with only two legs and no tail."
"We are human." Harry supplied his answer and then asked a question of his own, "Can you tell me where we are?"
"Near my home." he answered, " In the forest of Wiernaut."
Hermione gasped and whispered, "Wiernaut is the ancient name for the forbidden forest. I read it in Hogwarts a history."
"Do you keep track of dates?" Harry asked.
"Of course, we cannot interpret the stars without a date." the centaur responded, "We are in the first cooling of the two hundredth season of the reign of Maridien."
"I've heard of Maridien." Luna said dreamily, "He was one of the great Centaur leaders for the giant herds that roamed the isles before humans arrived."
"Yes Maridien is a great leader." the Centaur replied, "We will take you to him and find out if you should live or die."
"Great." Ron whispered sarcastically, "We don't have to wait for Death Eaters to off us the centaurs will do it for them."
The group was blindfolded and forced to walk in the center of the group of centaurs. They stayed a little more than spear distance away as they moved the group giving verbal instructions of when to turn or step over a root. As they walked Harry whispered to Luna, "Are you thinking we may have been sent back in time?"
"Yes." Luna answered. She continued before Hermione could voice her objections, "I agree that it's not likely but it is possible. These centaurs are much bigger than ours. It's said that Maridien was the largest ever of his kind. They estimate he was almost as big as our smaller giants."
"How big is that?" Harry asked.
"About sixteen feet tall." Hermione answered, "That's about twice as big as our centaurs. If the leader is that big I'll concede that we've come to the past. But really it's not likely."
"Say's the girl who had a time turner third year." Ron stated sarcastically. Ginny giggled at Hermione's huff.
"Don't start fighting now." Harry commanded before they could start, "I don't think it would go well for us if you did. And girls not to be sexist or anything but you may want to stay quiet. If we are that far in the past it could be seen as disrespectful for you to speak in the presence of the males."
"I don't think I want to say anything anyway." Ginny shuddered and Luna agreed. Hermione wanted to argue but knowing history as she did she had to agree with Harry's point.
After walking for quite some time they were ushered into what felt like a building. Their blindfolds were removed and they found themselves in front of an enormous centaur stallion. He was taller than Hagrid's little brother Grawp. When Hermione whimpered involuntarily Harry knew she agreed that they were in the distant past. Well before Hogwarts had ever been built. Even before humans had reached the British Isles.