AN: I really would like to thank you all for putting up with my abominable behavior. This chapter was extremely difficult for me to write for some reason. It got put together a few sentences at a time, growing a little each month, so I apologize if it's a little disjointed. I think I might have finally started to get an idea of how I want the story to go! So that's exciting. The insane exhaustion brought by Black Friday shopping (My God, those lines are nightmarish) was what prompted me to get my butt in gear and post this. I'm kind of disappointed with how short it turned out, but there's a lot of info packed into it, so pay attention! I hope it's satisfactory. Thanks again to all those who reviewed, they were street lights on the log dark road of writer's block.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, and my family is forever shamed because of it.
It's over. All over. As I lay here in a puddle of my own blood, screaming, that much is obvious. A sudden iron hot pain slices through my left forearm. Somewhere in the recesses of this hell I can hear a voice pleading for someone to wake up. Without warning the carving continues, Bellatrix humming a jaunty tune as she marks me. Another scream escapes my already raw throat. I can feel heat from the flames licking the grate of the fireplace behind me. Sweat and blood mingle at the nape of my neck and remind me of how hard my head had hit the ground when Bellatrix pinned me. The small corner of my mind that remained detached from the pain I was suffering hoped their carpet would be forever stained with the blood they thought so unworthy. As Bellatrix put the finishing touch on her work of art, the fire grew hotter behind me. After a few seconds it had developed to an almost unbearable temperature, and was driving out all other happenings. Had a spark landed on my scalp? Was my hair on fire? That would be impossible; I would know. At the very least I would be able to smell it. And yet the heat pursued what appeared to be a goal of consuming my entire being. No longer was the all-encompassing pain just felt on my head, but it was creeping its way across my chest and down my arms. I opened my mouth to scream and found my vocal chords had turned to ash. That detached part of my mind grew larger and allowed the rest of me to realize that I didn't even possess a mouth to open in the first place. The burning intensified, and from the sudden blackness that descended upon the world, I could no longer see, only feel, that it was racing toward the vile slur that had only just been carved into my bleeding flesh. A second later and waves of a gentler warmth washed over me. Only there wasn't exactly a "me" to soothe. I was nowhere and everywhere. I was nothing and everything. I was alone except for that warmth that was comfort personified.
Then I was returned to myself. My ears heard the pleading voice, rough and low and desperate. My eyes were screwed shut against the world. And for a moment, I felt the burning; just a trace- a reminder- that was quickly displaced by a chill that swept through me and washed me clean.
Hermione opened her eyes to an awed Mrs. Potter and a very worried James.
"Erm, Hermione? Are you alright? You were screaming and we couldn't wake you up." He asked worriedly. He went to reach out to her but second guessed himself and shoved his hands awkwardly in his pockets instead. Hermione tried to give him a reassuring smile but only succeeded in a grimace. Her entire body hurt.
"I," The word came out weak and raspy. She cleared her throat and tried again. "I'm okay. It was just a nightmare." The last sounded as if she were trying to persuade herself as well, so it wasn't a surprise when all he did was look at her in disbelief.
"I don't think so." he said quietly, and brushed a lock of hair from her face. She closed her eyes at the sensation. It was silent for a few seconds. Clearly neither had realized his hands had left his pockets.
"This can't happen. Everything will change." She murmurs, her words belied by her leaning into the callused hand still cupping her cheek. As soon as the words left her lips a searing pain burned across her scar. Hermione jumped and grabbed at the neck of her shirt. She yanked it aside to reveal the hourglass imprinted on her chest to be a dark red, like blood and the last coals of a fire. James's hand slid from her face limply. His eyes were wide with astonishment, his mouth hanging slightly agape. It wasn't until Hermione let out a quiet whimper that he sprang into action. His wand was pressed to the source of her pain almost instantaneously. Barely another second passed before it began releasing a gentle trickle of water. The cooling sensation that was meant to sooth her only seemed to incense the pain however. Hermione backed away from him, tears rolling slowly down her cheeks. This also turned out to be the wrong course of action. The burning started to spread out from it's previously localized point like it had in her dream. "Not again, not again, not again." She pleaded. Her mind was working a mile a minute, attempting to put together her scattered thoughts and figure out what was happening to her. It didn't help matters that all she manage to think of was how much she missed the blue. Scars could never just be normal, could they? Hers had to end up a disco ball.
A puzzle piece snapped into place in her mind. Disco ball...Muggles...Another piece. Opposites, a murderous flame and a cleansing rain. There had been a passage. A passage in a book she had read long ago, during one of her first years at Hogwarts. She had been curious about Harry's scar. So naturally, she was Hermione Granger after all, she had done some research concerning magical scars. The connection her current situation in the text was a tenuous one. A footnote at the bottom of the page...She shoved the pain to the very back of her brain in order to pour all of her focus into remembering the single sentence that could finally give her some answers. Try as she might though, Hermione's perfect recall failed her for the first time in her entire life. The possible enormity of the unknown she had been confronted with the minute she landed in the great hall caught up with the distressed young woman all at once. It hit her like a physical blow. She crumpled under the impact, sobs racking her body.
James caught her and pulled her close. It took her a few seconds, but she finally stopped fighting him. It was too exhausting when she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wasn't any type of enemy. With that thought the red slowly leached out of her skin, taking the pain with it. The blue took up in its place. The steadily rising amount of peace within her started to overtake her panic wave by wave. She mirrored his deep breathing and accepted this gift from him. For once, she wasn't the one who had to be strong. It allowed her to begin to sift through the mess in her head. For all the time traveling she had done, she still wasn't sure exactly what it did to change things. Was the future she had left one where she had also been in its past? Would the outcome be the same no matter what, because she had already been there? Or was she creating a paradox with every second she sat with James, changing what was meant to be? The entire situation gave her a headache.
How she could have missed it before she had no idea. Since even before her Hogwarts days reading was a large part of her life. She constantly sought out obscure texts, trying to unravel even a measure of the secrets the world held. Nearly twenty years ago to the day Dorea had been going through some old boxes left in the attic by Charlus's mother. One of them contained a very old book; a golden time-turner hand painted onto the cover. Opening it revealed that it was a diary that could not be called new under any circumstance. There were several blank pages at the beginning, half filled with lists of names. All were women, and though there were many different-and well established- surnames, the entire last page was exclusively Potters. After puzzling over the odd list, she continued to peruse the book. It soon became clear that it was charmed to add pages as needed, because there were probably twenty-five life-long accounts in there and it only ever appeared to house a hundred pages.
She devoured its pages for the better part of a month, absorbing each detail it had to offer. Some accounts involved trivial alterations, but more than a few were unthinkable. All of these women had been ripped from their lives and dropped into new ones without a moment's notice. Often without knowing it, they changed the entire course of history. They were the keys that relocked Pandora's box when it managed to get itself thrown open. Reality at times diverged from fate, and these women were what drew it back to the correct path. These women were born at a time or place other than where they were supposed to be. The situation orchestrated by universe that sends them back is a reset button, occurring to right those wrongs. It gives them, and the entire world, a second chance at fate.
Hermione's eyes were what gave it away. It usually was, according to the book. Everything that transpired afterward only served to confirm Dorea's suspicions. The scar was Hermione's compass, a thing to guide her through this new life. All Travelers had one, though they appeared to manifest differently each time. James clearly had a large part in all of it, and she wondered if Hermione had known him in her time. Her time. When had she traveled from? The past, future, or present? Was there another family at that moment that was missing Hermione Granger, her presence wiped from their minds? Were there only graves left of those she had loved? Or was she living history as she lay there, being hollowed out from the pain? She decided the girl's circumstance didn't matter. Hermione was meant to be family.
Dorea stood there for a minute or two longer, watching as James held held Hermione close and stroked her hair. She opened her mouth to bring up her discovery but stopped herself. Now wasn't the time. Instead she summoned a modified calming draught that also helped with muscle pain. Striding quietly over to the pair, Dorea softly squeezed Hermione's shoulder to alert her of her presence. The girl looked up at her from her place in James' arms with an embarrassed look on her face.
"Now Dear, don't you even think about it. This kind of thing happens sometimes. Make sure you take this calming draught before you retire, it will help you sleep." She turned to James. "And you, Jamie, better make sure she does not stay up much longer. Sleep well, darlings." Dorea said with a soft smile, then left the room with a swish of skirts.
For a few minutes they remained as they were, lost in their own thoughts. A quick tempus charm revealed that it was nearly midnight. Today had felt like a lifetime, and they were both completely drained.
"I still haven't packed." stated James. He ran his hand through his hair and sighed.
"Are you a wizard or not?" asked Hermione in a teasing tone. All she got in return was a glower. She rolled her eyes and began hauling herself to her feet in a most unladylike manner. James, now alert with curiosity, mirrored her- only with a tad bit more grace. Hermione sniffed snootily. "Well? Show me to your bloody bedroom, you tosser. Helping with a few packing spells is the least I can do." James looked ridiculous with that incredulous look on his face and she told him so, poking him in the side to get him moving. Not thirty minutes later they were both packed. It would've been twenty, Hermione thought, if James hadn't insisted on dumping out his entire trunk so he could see the spell re-pack and re-fold everything. It had been kind of cute though. You know, if she were into that sort of thing.
AN: Review, review! And please notify me kindly if you were at any time confused or didn't like it.