This story was written for GE's FuhQFest. Huge thanks to my alpha Quilter for her help and support. Thank you to my beta Dany. You guys rock!
Disclaimer: In its use of intellectual property and characters belonging to JK Rowling, Warner Bros, Bloomsbury Publishing, et cetera, this work is intended to be transformative commentary on the original. No profit is being made from this work.
My prompt was: Hermione's time turner gets broken and she goes back in time. Does she stay and try to change the future?
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
And I'm feeling good*
1. June 1999
A Little Café in Diagon Alley
Even though it was somewhere around lunchtime, the fairly new café wasn't especially crowded. It was, in fact, almost empty. Only three of its tables were occupied, with two young witches seated at one of them. One of them, a girl whose long, fiery red locks added a much-needed bright spot to the café, which was warmly decorated in subtle brown and terracotta, talked incessantly to her friend, who, by contrast, was mostly quiet and seemed somewhat despondent.
"So, is this it? Are you finally done with him?" asked Ginny, focusing her hazelnut eyes on her friend intently.
Hermione drew a heavy sigh and nodded. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Aaannnddd," enunciated the redhead. "You did want it, right?"
"Then why are you so blue all of a sudden? Blimey, Hermione, I just don't get you sometimes."
"It's just ... it's difficult, you know. We'd been through so much together. We won the war together. We lost so many, Gin. It's ... it's the end of an era for me," muttered the witch melancholically.
"Listen, stop torturing yourself. You both tried, and it didn't work. He is my brother, I know him. He doesn't hold a grudge for long: you'll still be friends, you'll see, just not lovers. Harry and I are still friends," babbled Ginny in one breath. "Are you going to finish this?" she added after her lungs got enough oxygen to continue. Not waiting for an answer, she swallowed the last of Hermione's Butterbeer in one gulp.
"Aha," muttered the curly-haired witch, again not specifying what exactly she was agreeing with. She took a last bite of her pastry and began to chew. Absentmindedly, she kept pushing the leftover crumbs around the saucer with her fingernail. She was an epitome of gloom, her shoulders slumped and her eyes teary.
Ginny slammed an empty Butterbeer bottle on the table, shook her head, and let out an exasperated humph. "Oh, for broomstick's sake, what are you moping around for, girl? Think about it: you are young, smart, sexy and free. You can do whatever you want. You can, I dunno, get drunk and take one of them home, for instance," and Ginny nodded toward four young and rather good-looking wizards who occupied the table in the far left corner. "Or, maybe, even more than one," she added, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Hermione abruptly snapped out of her melancholy, and, with a blush already blooming on her cheeks, hissed, "Ginny, are you mad? Keep your voice down, will you!" Though, the next second, she snorted and giggled.
"Why? I am a modern witch!" said Ginny, batting her eyelashes in mock innocence.
"Naughty is more like it," snickered Hermione at her friend's antics, clearly feeling at least a touch better.
Suddenly, Ginny's eyes became wide and she whispered, "Oops," staring somewhere over Hermione's head. Following the direction of her gaze, Hermione turned her head and froze. To her horror, it was obvious that Ginny's words had reached the wizards, because she was met with four pairs of smouldering eyes. The wizards were enthusiastically winking and flashing their crooked smiles at them.
"Oops, indeed!" she muttered. "I think we need to go. Now!"
Struggling to keep their giggles under control, the witches hastily stood up, threw a few coins on the table, and left, not responding to wolf-whistles from the men. Once outside and unable to contain themselves any longer, they laughed out loud, startling the passers-by. "I can't believe, you said that, Ginny!" mumbled Hermione breathlessly.
"Ha-ha, I know. Did you see their eyes? They were definitely ready to go with us anywhere. Phew." The redhead drew a calming breath. "Come on, let's go and do something crazy," she said, tugging her friend down the street.
"Define crazy, Ginny." Hermione's eyes narrowed with suspicion as she dragged her feet in a futile attempt to stop her over-determined friend.
"I haven't got any idea yet. We can go Hippogriff-riding, or to a karaoke bar, or we can get ourselves tattoos and insanely short haircuts. We'll see." Ginny took in Hermione's suspicious demeanour and added, "Oh, for Merlin's sake, Hermione, you're supposed to be the brave one!"
"Why do I have a nagging feeling that I am going to regret this?" muttered the curly-haired witch. "Ah, sod it! Let's go!"
The next morning, Hermione woke up in her tiny flat, which she had rented a month ago, with a radically short bob, a butterfly tattoo on her shoulder, and, fortunately, no recollection of karaoke or Hippogriff-riding: though a slight headache was present, probably due to a hangover.
Charity Ball at Malfoy Manor
Five days later, Hermione stood in front of her bedroom mirror and stared apathetically at her reflection. In an hour, she was expected at the Charity Ball at Malfoy Manor. Her dress lay on her bed, and her high-heeled, strapped sandals stood on the floor near the mirror, waiting for her. And yet she had still to find enough will-power to get dressed.
She knew that she had to attend the Ball. It was organized with a great cause in mind - all the donations would go to the War Orphans fund. Narcissa and Andromeda, who had reconnected after the war, had organised it, with Hermione's help, of course. Moreover, it had been her idea to begin with. However, the thought that today she would be the only member of the Golden Trio present, dispirited her greatly. Harry simply couldn't leave the Academy. And Ron had cancelled at the last moment, evidently still slightly peeved about their recent break-up.
Hermione sighed. So much had changed since the war. Nominally, they were friends. However, in the course of the last year, life had pushed and pulled them all in different directions. Harry had entered the Auror program, just as he wanted. Ron, on the other hand, had changed his mind and decided to work with George in Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. As for Hermione, she, as expected, had obtained her N.E.W.T.s, and was now due to start her career at the Ministry. The two romances that had budded during the war hadn't withstood the routine of peaceful life. Ginny and Harry had been first to call it quits, and, after numerous rows and a long, torturous talk, Hermione and Ron had gone their own ways as well.
Hermione's gaze slid over her reflection and focused on her newly acquired tattoo. The delicate butterfly that was now inked into her right shoulder would forever greet her with a slight fluttering of its fuchsia-coloured wings. The witch scoffed and shook her head. She still couldn't believe that she had done that; it was so unlike her. The fact that she had also chopped off her curls that day only confirmed that she had gone utterly mad.
Even so, Hermione couldn't deny that her fuchsia butterfly and her haircut looked nice together, very contemporary, so to speak. Plus, miraculously, the off-shoulder dress that she had bought specifically for the various public events which she now quite regularly attended, was sewn from bright, magenta silk georgette, and thus matched perfectly.
"All right, enough brooding, time to get dressed," she muttered to herself, and sprinted to the shower. Twenty minutes later, freshly buffed, bathed, and moisturised, with her face glowing and body glistening and scented with verbena, she emerged from the bathroom. She quickly threw on barely-there pink thongs, the dress, and sandals. Her curls, now shoulder-length, coiled freely around her face. Frankly, it was much easier to manage them now, and much quicker too. Oh, the perks of having short hair, she chuckled to herself.
Fully clothed, she span in front of the mirror one last time and, with a satisfied hum, walked to her toilet table, where she picked up her wand and tucked it into a special pocket, hidden in the fluid, silken folds of her sweeping skirt. Next, she opened her invitation-Portkey and disappeared with a swish in a bright magenta swirl.
After a few seconds of twirling in shimmering lucidity, she reappeared in Wiltshire. Carefully putting her invitation in the pocket, she glanced around. The Manor met her with a garden in full bloom and a gravelled pathway that wasn't at all kind to her stiletto heels. At first, she honestly tried to march down the lane, ignoring the small stones that determinedly assaulted her beloved Muggle sandals. But, after about ten steps, she took off the sandals and moved to the plush, freshly cut grass. "There, much better," she muttered.
It surprised her that from the point of her landing she couldn't even see the house, as it was hidden behind cherry trees, though she could hear the music and muffled voices. Why on Earth the Portkey hadn't brought her right to the grand entrance was beyond her. Probably it was supposed to be a pleasant stroll through the orchard or some other nonsense, she grumbled to herself, sprinting briskly towards the sounds. Soon, however, the feel of the warm, soft grass under her bare feet and the pinkish, blushing cherry blossoms around her soothed her unsettled mood. The witch slowed her pace and walked in a leisurely way, enjoying the beauty that surrounded her.
She could already distinguish the marble pillars of the Manor peering through the greenery, when she noticed a white, ornamented gazebo situated among the trees. She stopped, observing it with interest and contemplating the possibility of checking what was inside it. The light, airy structure, which was covered with scarlet rose-vines, looked wickedly inviting. She made an uncertain step toward it, and the air around her all of a sudden became still. The sounds of the Ball at the Manor faded, birds stopped singing, and an eerie silence cocooned the surroundings. She felt a sudden, wary feeling get a hold of her heart. And yet the white gazebo was calling her, luring her to it. Keeping her wand at the ready in one hand and her shoes in the other, the witch walked closer.
On the steps, she paused, though only for a second. Curiosity won over common sense quite quickly, and the witch stepped inside the gazebo, where, on the elegant mahogany table, stood a lacquered box. The moment her feet touched the floor, the box, as if it had been waiting for her, opened. Cautiously, she peeked into it and released the breath she was holding with relief. It was just a Time-Turner: an old Time-Turner, finely crafted in gold, with an elaborately designed letter 'M' engraved on it.
Tucking her wand in her pocket, Hermione carefully picked up the device from the box. "What are you doing here, beauty?" she said thoughtfully, caressing it with her fingertips. As if in answer, the Time-Turner began to rotate, increasing its speed with every passing moment. The horrified witch only managed to shout, "Oh, no, stop!" before everything around her began to spin as well. Somewhere during that wild spinning, she lost her footing, stumbled down the two steps, and knocked her head on the sharp corner of the stairs. After that, everything went black.
When an unknown amount of time had passed and she had managed to tear her eyes open, she saw an angel that looked at her with concerned grey eyes.
*Feelin' Good/ Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse
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