A/N: Hello everyone, welcome to my Tomione fic :) Yes it has been a very long time I know, and I just recently (specifically yesterday) picked this chapter up again. I seems that I am rekindled in my Tomione spirit, haha.
WARNING: This story will be DARK and MANIPULATIVE. Yes, there will be hints of fluff once in a while, but do not expect it to be a merry-go-around. You will be kept in the dark sometimes about certain things, and there will be CHARACTER DEATHS.
Feel free to drop off a comment or two, and I'd love to hear how my writing could be improved if you think there could be adjustments made. Thank you so much to my followers who have waited for this chapter for close to a year: Anna-ava, Curse Weaver, Held Together With Tape, dancergal911, glow593, .already, padfoot123, and whitehoneybee. And a big hug to Avalon Core and Kiki for reviewing!
Avalon Core: Believe me, sadistic is what I'm aiming for haha ;) Expect more emotional upheavals throughout the fic. This is only the start. Thank you!
Kiki: Thank you so much for your advice! I'll definitely watch my wording as I plow through the scenes :)
Without further ado: 3, 2, 1, action!
~Chapter 1: Welcome Back~
It was like Alice in Wonderland all over again.
For how many years has it been already since she has first arrived at this school, a curious blundering child struck in awe by by the unfamiliar, daunting tower? For how many years has it been already since she has discovered her true nature and her affinity for the magic that for so long she did not understand? For how many years has it been already since she met her two greatest friends in a hectic girls' bathroom while fighting a blind, idiotic troll?
Seven years seemed one too many.
This time, however, instead of being here in order to find a purpose in her life, she was sent here to fulfill the most important purpose she has ever received in her life. That was the difference, a very important difference at that one. And yet another seemingly minute change was the fact that she didn't arrive by boat to the school as some would do; no, not at all the feeling of being welcomed back to your home, sweet home that would receive you with open arms.
Oh yes, did she mention that it was heading to a home sweet home in another time period?
The feeling that embraced her was the wretched pain of being dropped carelessly onto the damp, hard forest floor that knocked the wind out of her, leaving her gasping for silent breaths. The Forbidden Forest of Hogwarts.
When she opened her eyes, the stars seemed so bright.
Her chest constricted tightly, her face a frozen mask. The millions of thoughts that she so easily neglected during the frantic mindset of war came rushing back to her.
You're the bright light that could save us, Hermione.
We know you can, Hermione.
You're the trump card. Make this effort your last and your best.
Pressure, pressure squeezing from everywhere, suffocating her silently. For all her life it has been fulfilling expectations, expectations, expectations. Reaching the goals. Reaching the stars.
Even if she had no idea of what her limits were.
The stars high up there seem to be laughing at her, laughing at her weakness, laughing at her incompetence.
She pushed those starry thoughts away.
Her left hand stung, bringing her back to the cruel reality she is in now. Hermione weakly shifted her head to the right position, her eyes trailing the dark drops of blood oozing from the gash she saw on her hand. The dull color in the underlit setting brought back another round of unwelcoming memories, memories that she wish were just fragments of nightmares. Her foggy mind reasoned that she must have acquired the fresh wound (not that she didn't have numerous others) from one of the haphazard hexes flung around during the battle while she was busy tinkering with the Time Turner.
The Time Turner.
She immediately sat up despite the pounding inside her skull and the aching of her back. There was no time, ironically, for her to be sitting here dawdling around. She had a mission to complete.
Tom Riddle, her groggy mind voiced. Tom Riddle, Hogwarts, Dumbledore...retribution. Harry and Ron...somewhere around here. Trouble might come.
Then she remembered the tremendous explosion that dramatically announced their presence. Dear Merlin. It must have shook the whole school. Another thing to add to her list of troubles. Professors will come to investigate and question the heck out of us. How long the explanation would take even though I already prepared for it: indefinite.
Her poor frayed nerves.
On top of that, she hadn't even caught a glimpse of Harry and Ron every since...well, ever since they went spiraling down the swirling green time portal.
Darn this whole thing and this insufferable situation they are in now. This is only the beginning of the end, a tiny voice in her mind whispered.
Shut up, she told that voice.
She just could not ignore the obligations she made to the people around her in the Battle of Hogwarts who placed their trust and hope unto the Golden Trio, the people who sacrificed their lives to buy them time. Time to activate the Time Turner. The Time Turner that would give them a chance of starting anew...by fixing the problem from the root where it all originated from. They beseech them, especially her, to take on this huge burden by taking a gamble on destruction or salvation by altering with time, since they knew that she was the strategist of the three and she was the one who took on the plans. And the look in their eyes as they pleaded with her to take on this responsibility, just for once, once and no more - it was heartbreaking and desperate.
Hermione simply cannot refuse despite the risks she had calculated in the back of her mind. Any sensible person would have known not to meddle with time.
Yet was the given situation in any way sensible?
Ha, trying to get "The Thing" out of a young dark lord with unknown strength in another time period was the best decision, Hermione. Way to go.
She crouched to position and slowly stood up, pushing down the nausea. Ah, even standing seems to have large impact on her. Hermione wiggled her blood-and-dirt-caked fingers to get the numbness out and straightened her back. Her emerald robes whom she had taken from an unfortunate bystander were tattered and bloodied - not that she cared so much about its condition as to worry about how this is going to have an effect on the professors when she sees them. Briefly patting out its wrinkles, her alert eyes shifted to the maze of trees in front of her and traced over every inch of the forest around but found no sight of her two companions. Sighing, she reached for wand that was securely tucked into her robes near her chest and gave it a slight wave, activating the tracking charm she placed on her the two beforehand, just in case. And the decision apparently was wise. Gently, she placed her wand onto her palm and watched as it pointed straight ahead, indicating where a friend, not a foe, might be.
Suddenly, she felt an unnerving feeling, a queasy feeling of...a pair of eyes boring into the back of her skull, penetrating and corrosive. She whipped around with her wand gripped tightly in her hand and crouched to a fighting stance, though she heard her knee bone crack and feel the familiar flare of pain engulf her. She stumbled a bit in her pain but remained in her stance however, her body tense as her narrow eyes scanned the area.
Nothing. Nothing but the impenetrable dark of the woods. Could there have been people who followed them through the portal? But she made sure to take off at the last moment that the portal was open.
It was just her hypersensitive war instincts, then? Just this and nothing else? But how many times have she trusted her instincts to save her and many others' fragile, mortal life?
No time left. I must get out of her soon. Maybe...maybe the professors have already reached Harry or Ron?
She backed away cautiously, carefully, step by step, wand arm still outstretched. Then sensing no immediate danger, she dashed, limping, into the depths of the forest.
The first thing she immediately recognized when her eyes snapped open were the bright, bright, light that blinded her.
Then she saw the nurse beside her tending to her scratched, scathed arms that bore rings of white, healing scars, trophies of the war she would wear for a long time. The healer glanced at her and saw that she was wide awake and was staring at her with unabashed straightforwardness. The woman proceeded to add the last touch of magic upon her scars, then taking a glass of water that was resting upon the bedstand, she brought it close to Hermione's lips, a smile on her face despite the stare that the girl was giving her. Hermione, only just noticing her rudeness, seemed to snap back into consciousness and awkwardly shyed away, clearing her throat. "Um, no thank you," she said softly.
"I must say that I have never seen injuries that are quite like yours and your friends'," the brunette replied. She gently put the glass back to its original place. "Never knew what students would do get themselves into such danger."
Oh yes, Hermione thought in her subconsciousness despite the dizzy throbbing of her skull. You know, you should really go check out Tom Riddle.
In a flash, the words triggered a flashback of the forest scenes. Her eyes widened and a faint blush came over her cheeks as she recounted the hard, long, stumbling journey in a world of darkness she took to reach her friends, only to see them both sprawled across the ground and and she following suit, too exhausted to move even one more muscle. The last thing she remembered was a bright light flashing around them and hearing footsteps scurrying across the floor and the cracking of the pine needles under heavy feet.
Someone must have found them and brought them to the Hogwarts Infirmary.
Her eyes traveled sluggishly but urgently around the ward, trying to look for a sign of Harry and Ron. And voila, there Harry was, a peaceful content look on his face that she never would have imagined it to be, ever since the pursuit of Horcruxes and having the responsibility weigh down on him. On the bed beside him was Ron, sprawled across the bed in a twisted shape, snoring off without a care in the world. If she had not known him, she might have thought that he was seriously injured by messing with a Venomous Tentacula or something. Not that that has never happened before and could never happen again. He was always a candle that drew trouble. She chuckled under her breath and allowed her face to loosen up a bit, a small smile creeping up her lips.
But she was glad that her Ron was still himself and drew the slightest bit of comfort in seeing her friends still safe and well and content, even normal, in this alien environment they are in now.
The nurse shifted and turned her body in the chair, startling Hermione for a split second as the terror and insecurity washed over her again. The woman gave Hermione an intent look of curiosity present on her face. "Your friends are safe, no worries. You seem so...high strung. Are you too stressed about NEWTS or OWL's? Are you a student here though? The... robes that you came in with...were not exactly from Hogwarts."
Hermione looked blankly at her for a moment, then regained her composure and allowed a small reassuring smile. Her eyes flitted to the white hospital robes that she wore now. "Ah...I'm sure that we must have arose some suspicion around here. I apologize for the ruckus and inconvenience we have caused. We are not from Hogwarts, no..." She shifted uncomfortably and stopped hesitantly.
The older woman clapped her hands together. "Ah, I'm sure that the Headmaster has been waiting to get to know you three," she quite kindly replied. She flashed a warm, motherly look to the girl. Hermione accepted the transition gratefully and she unconsciously emitted a small sigh. It would not be wise for too many to know even their false "secret", and the nurse respected their privacy. "He actually requested me two days ago to tell you that he would like to meet you and your friends in his office only." A pretty frown marred her face. "Really, quite an absurd request, but considering Albus' personality I would say that the matter must be urgent for him to do so." A smile blossomed over her face once again, a smile of reassurance. "Don't worry though; I would say that our Headmaster is a very kind and understanding man. Would you like to explain your situation to him as soon as possible? Or would you like wait until your two friends" - she glanced pointedly at the two forms - "awake?"
Yes, Albus Dumbledore, the most kind and understanding man.
"If that is so, then I could see him - once I'm all cleared, of course," Hermione added quickly, Madame Pomfrey's ringing threats implemented into her long-term memory. Even if this healer seemed nice, she learned to never assume appearances. "Oh, and pardon my rudeness, I never asked for your name."
"So polite, my dear, it would be so much durable if all students had manners like you," the nurse replied sweetly, managing to pat Hermione's cheeks right before she flinched instinctively away her touch. The girl's eyes widened, mouth gaping open and closing in surprise.
Such an act of intimacy! Was this normal...or was her paranormal war mindset too deprived of love to appreciate such a simple gesture?
Is she so inhumane now?
Still in shock, the war survivor watched as the nurse bustled about, paying no heed to the affect that she had on the young woman. "You may call me Madame Bell. And you are certainly cleared my dear. In the duration of the two days you have slept, I have given you all medication and treatments possible to heal your wounds, though they might take a couple of days to heal completely," the nurse said with a slight tinge of pride in her voice. "If I were you, I'd be quite concerned of the obvious scars slashed across your body though; those were no ordinary curses that were inflicted upon you." She stopped in her motion of filling up a bottle of a strange purple potion - most likely for Harry - and glanced at her. "Are you feeling well?"
"I really slept for two days?" she wondered. The time is ticking and she can't wait to finish this impossible mission and go back. "I guess I feel alright now, it doesn't hurt so much anymore." Hermione shrugged. "I think I could go talk to Dumbledore now."
"Oh, so you have heard of our infamous Headmaster?"
Hermione felt her cheeks burning up. Stupid, stupid, though an insignificant slip yet still a slip! she reprimanded herself for letting her mouth become loose just because of the aftereffects of a coma. "Yes, I have. He is quite known these days," she managed to say airily. Sensor every word you say, don't reveal too much if not necessary.
"What is your name, honey?" trailed off the nurse. She sifted through some paperwork on a long counter that was piled head high with documents. "I need to document you first on my patients list before I let you go."
"I'm...um, uh, Hermione," she spoke with an unusual hesitation. Realizing her mistake, she tried to compensate it with a dashingly sweet smile. "Hermione...Brooke."
My first name must be alright to reveal, right? At least she wanted to do as much as she could to keep her own sanity in this forsaken time period. Her name is something that she adored, something that she could hold close to her identity beside her friends.
"Hermione Brooke, age...17, is that correct?" questioned Madame Bell as the quill flew across her medical clipboard.
Startled, she gave a nod. Did the healer take her cells into age sampling or what? How had she known? Did she treat so many patients that she became quite adept at guessing their backgrounds?
"Very well, I'm sure that the Headmaster would welcome your presence even without your friends, since it has been already two days since the incident and he must have gotten quite worried. All in the school...are very concerned," she said distractedly. "He told me to give this slip to you." Madame handed Hermione a small folded slip of parchment. The girl slowly unraveled it, revealing four words in green ink, written in the elegant cursive handwriting she has come to know of.
Acid Pop. Welcome back.
A/N: These scenes are rather long, since I really feel like expanding on the reader's first impression of the Hermione's personality in this fanfic. Feel free to leave me a comment :)