IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the complete FIRST PART of a story that I expect to be approximately four to six parts. The story does not conclude at the end of this part, and there's not a lot of resolution. If that bothers you, go away and come back later. If you are okay with that, there is a note in the last "chapter" that will lead you to Part 2. Thanks!
Introduction: I always like to start by setting you up a bit for what you can expect of the following story. To that end, my introduction:
This is going to be slightly AU. For the purposes of this story, we'll assume that Dumbledore spent less time coddling Hermione, Harry, and Ron and more time preparing them to face what was going to come – I always found that extremely annoying in canon. It won't be anything too drastic – just think bi-weekly training sessions in the Room of Requirement from the beginning of the second year on and a few other such bits and pieces.
Disclaimer: I will say this only once, suffice it to say that it applies to all subsequent chapters. I am not J. K. Rowling and do not own Harry Potter, the universe, most of the backstory, or the canon characters. The way in which I manipulate them, is, however, mine.
I - Surviving
I wiped at my eyes again as I huddled on my bed in the girl's dormitory. I'd known that Dumbledore's funeral would be hard, but it had been much worse than I'd feared. It had made it so final. Dumbledore had always seemed so invincible. Of course, I knew that I wasn't alone in that opinion, but I hadn't realized how much it would hurt to see his body entombed – to finally accept that he wasn't going to show up at the head table one day with that twinkle in his eye and apologize for a late April fool's.
I'd cried so much since he'd died – so much today – that I was certain my eyes would be hideously red and puffy if I cared enough to look in a mirror. They were also sore from scrubbing the tears away with my sleeve. I'd cried so much that I wasn't sure if I'd ever cry again.
I'd told Harry after the funeral that I would join him in his search for horcruxes next year, and I would. The knowledge that I was at the end of what I was sure would be my last year at Hogwarts was only making me even more melancholy than I already had been. Hogwarts had been my second home for six years. Saying goodbye now was difficult.
A flash of red at the open window startled me and my eyes snapped up to settle on the bright red plumage of Dumbledore's familiar. Simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief and fighting a new gush of tears, I crawled off the bed to approach Fawkes. "I thought you left," I said quietly. When I extended my hand toward him slowly, unsure if he would appreciate my touch, he leaned into my hand, allowing me to stroke his soft feathers, almost hot with the heat of his body.
"I don't know what we're going to do without him, Fawkes," I sniffled. "He was the one with the plan."
Something wet and warm hit my hand and I was shocked to realize that Fawkes was crying. "I wish I could have saved him. I wish I could have done something," I apologized even though I couldn't imagine what I could have done.
The phoenix trilled a short collection of notes that settled over me with a deep sense of comfort.
"Thank you," I said quietly, feeling notably better, even if it was only a temporary respite.
Fawkes turned and leapt away from my window then and I watched him go. With his gift of some small bit of peace, I realized just how exhausted I was, physically and emotionally. I dragged myself into my pajamas and collapsed onto my bed. Sleep came before any further grief could subsume Fawkes' gift.
I woke feeling cold and reached blindly for my blanket. When my hand landed on moist grass instead of my warm bedding, my eyes snapped open and I lurched up to find myself lying on the ground in what seemed a park of some kind. The tint of the sky suggested predawn.
My heart leapt into my throat as I shoved myself to my feet, looking wildly around for my wand. Discovering it lying in the grass nearby came as a huge relief. I snatched it up and held it ready as I turned a slow circle, searching for a threat. I couldn't see any, so I cast a silent Homenum Revelio.
As soon as I cast the spell, I felt a heaviness bloom in my head, like the beginnings of a truly horrid headache, and tiny sparks of pain flashed through my body. I staggered, but forced myself to remain alert. Despite the physical discomfort, I was fairly certain that the spell had worked, and it revealed no one lying in wait.
I allowed myself to calm a bit, and tried not to overthink the pain. It must have been some sort of aftereffect of whatever had happened to bring me here from Hogwarts while I slept. I couldn't imagine what that could have been, but it did not appear that I was in any immediate danger.
Realizing that I was still in my pajamas, I quickly transfigured then into jeans and a light blue jumper to combat the early morning chill and the damp quality that suggested it may soon rain. I conjured a pair of trainers and slipped my feet into the gratefully. I'd always been talented in Transfiguration, but even so, domestic spells had not come easily to me. The ones I knew had mostly come from Molly Weasley when it had been her turn to train Ron, Harry, and me. We'd all balked at learning the relatively mundane spells rather than the things that Moody and Lupin taught. We'd been foolish then, of course. This wasn't the first time I'd made use of Mrs. Weasley's teachings.
With one last wary glance around, I slid my wand into the pocket in my sleeve where it always resided.
I was certain now that I wasn't on the grounds of Hogwarts. Had I perhaps sleep-walked out of the castle and then… Then what? Sleep-apparated? Was that even possible? Under any other circumstances, I'd have laughed at the very question. Right now, I wasn't ruling anything out.
Swallowing down my fear in favor of assessing my situation, I started walking. I soon found myself on a paved footpath and I followed that until I came to a street. Yes, I was definitely in a park. Muggle London, I thought, but I couldn't be completely sure. While the area looked familiar, everything seemed off just enough to make me second-guess myself.
It was with relief that I discovered a newspaper box. With a glance around, I unlocked it with a flick of my wand as I had no money. I noticed the sparks of pain again, but they were extremely minor, and radiated through my wand arm for only a moment. Confident that that oddity was passing, I ignored it and retrieved a paper from the box.
I was in Muggle London all right. I still couldn't imagine how I'd gotten here, but at least I knew where I was. I was supposed to take the train to meet my parents at King's Cross today. I realized that I should probably apparate back to Hogwarts and make sure that no one was worried about me and that all of my things were packed and sent back.
I was just about to put the paper back and do that very thing when the date on the paper caught my eye.
9 July 1977
My mind didn't want to process that information. I stared at it for a long time without fully comprehending what it meant. What was a twenty-year-old newspaper doing in that box? A pit of dread began to grow in my stomach as the truth that I was trying not to see began to fester.
Each breath coming heavier and more raggedly than the last, I spelled the box open again and rifled through the rest of the papers.
They were all the same.
Without bothering to right the mess, I ran down the block to the next box and searched that in the same way.
A different paper.
The same date.
After searching a third box, my knees refused to continue supporting me. I crumpled to the sidewalk in a daze.
Twenty years. Somehow, I'd gone back in time exactly twenty years while I slept. My mind did not want to process the information.
There weren't many people out and about so early, but when I noticed someone staring at me oddly, I forced myself to get up and move. I walked the familiar yet strangely different streets without paying any real attention to where I was going, my mind spinning in circles.
Everything that greeted my eyes seemed to laughingly confirm what I so wanted to deny. The cars, signs, clothing and other merchandise displayed in store windows, the hair and clothes of the people I passed on the street… It all told me the same thing. It really was 1977.
It wasn't until the sun had fallen below the horizon that I realized that I was starving and exhausted. My head was pounding acutely, but I hardly even noticed that. The pain seemed particularly inconsequential when compared to what had happened to me today.
I had no money and nowhere to go since I hadn't even been born yet. I'd obviously never met anyone in this time. With a twinge of guilt that my growling stomach overcame, I went into a diner, ordered a cheap but filling meal, and discreetly Confunded the poor waitress to convince her that I'd already paid before I left.
Once again on the darkened evening streets of London, I was faced with my next problem. I needed somewhere to sleep. After walking uncertainly for almost an hour, I snuck into an abandoned building that seemed to have been a restaurant at one point. I picked out a spot to sleep in a small room without any windows and only one door that looked like a storage room. I warded the door against intruders, then transfigured myself a cot, blanket, and pillow from the forgotten items strewn around the room, transfigured my clothes back into pajamas, and tried to think sleepy thoughts.
I was certain that I'd never be able to actually sleep, but my exhausting day soon proved me wrong. My last thought before falling asleep was to send out a fervent prayer that I might wake up back at Hogwarts in 1997.
It took me a long, unnerving moment after waking before I understood where I was. Once I had, I rather wished I'd remained frightened and ignorant a bit longer. It had been considerably better than the truth.
I sat in that little cot for a long time, running over my situation in my head and trying to figure out what to do next.
I knew a bit about time travel from when I'd been approved for a time turner in my third year. Most of what I knew was the rules and regulations for time traveling. That didn't seem to matter much, since I'd already done exactly what one was never supposed to do in traveling back so far. It wasn't as though I'd done it on purpose…
What I knew about the way that time travel worked from the recreational reading I'd done was acutely chilling. I knew that it was possible to go backwards through time with a time turner or like device. I knew that there was only one way to go forwards through time. That was the same way that everyone and everything moved forward through time. One could not move faster. I could not jump back to the time I had left behind. I wouldn't see that again for twenty years.
There were several schools of thought regarding the likely consequences of traveling back in time and changing things, particularly concerning travel further than 24 hours, which was the regulated legal limit and as much as one could access with a time turner. The one that I personally considered most likely was the alternate timeline theory. It was the only one that made sense as it eliminated the conundrum of time paradoxes. It stated that when a person traveled back through time, everything that occurred after that point ran along a different line from the time that had been left.
If I closeted myself away and tried to have absolutely no impact on the world, it was possible that, in twenty years I'd find myself in a world nearly identical to the one I had left. It was also possible that I'd changed everything simply by stopping at that diner to eat. Perhaps the waitress had been fired for being short on money at the end of the night, and because she'd been fired, she'd not been there to meet the man she was supposed to marry, and because of that maybe the man's life had turned out differently and he'd not become someone important, which would leave the position open to someone else, who may radically change everything. His changes would then impact dozens, hundreds, thousands of lives. Each impacted life would impact others until, after twenty years, the world was nearly unrecognizable.
Just thinking about it was making my head hurt again, but I couldn't see myself surviving twenty years as a hermit in the woods or something. I was going to have to interact with people, so I was going to change things.
I had to come to terms with the fact that the world I'd left behind was one that I would never see again – not as it had been. Maybe not even close.
Some part of me recognized the fact that I should have been a gibbering mess sobbing into my pillow or screaming and breaking things, but I just couldn't summon the will to bother. I was simply numb.
After spending a few hours letting my thoughts flit around randomly, I dozed for a while until my stomach finally woke me, protesting two days of so little food.
Dragging myself out of the cozy den that I'd created, I transfigured myself into a new set of unremarkable, but comfortable clothing, warded my room again behind me, then headed back out into the world in 1977. I took care to note where I was so that I could find my way back, and started toward a small restaurant that I remembered seeing during my wandering the previous day. I didn't want to go back to the same one, since the waitress may have discovered how she'd ended up short at the end of the night.
That made me realize that I was going to need to start making some money or I would shortly run out of places to eat. I thought about that while I walked, making silent lists in my head of what I was going to need. A name, for one thing, I realized. Hermione Granger didn't even exist yet, and when she did… Well, then there'd be two of me, wouldn't there?
I thought about it all through my meal and it remained on my mind when I was finished. I at last came to the conclusion that I didn't want to change my first name. Even when my younger self emerged, Hermione wasn't that odd a name. I just couldn't imagine myself by any other name. I'd have to change my last name, though.
Thanks to my skill in transfiguration, I didn't think it would be difficult to fabricate a birth record and identification card.
Feeling considerably lighter now that I had a plan, I set out for the library. The absence of computers was somewhat unnerving in a muggle library, but it didn't take me very long to find what I needed. Libraries, I decided, were something that I would understand in any time.
I woke the next morning without allowing my emotions to swallow me. I had goals now. I had something to do. There were steps to be taken, and that was enough to keep me distracted for the time.
With the documents I needed, I set out for a long day of dropping off resumes, apologizing for not having a telephone, and promising to return on Monday. Luckily, not having a telephone in 1977 was not as odd as the same in my time. I focused my attention on museums, since I had plenty of knowledge, if not experience, to work in such a place, and I thought I might not completely hate it.
When the hour grew too late to visit museums, I turned my focus toward jobs that I knew I would not enjoy, but would be much more likely to be able to begin immediately and work evenings. Only my third stop found me an offer to start work the very next day, for evenings and weekends when I didn't expect I'd be needed at a museum. Despite little interest in the work, I was delighted to know that I'd begin earning money right away, getting tips to take home each night, and perhaps best of all, one free meal per shift.
The job at the diner turned out to be the best thing that had happened to me since I'd found myself in 1977. It was busy enough that I rarely had free time for thinking about the future that I never got to live or speculating about whether my timeline would continue on without me and if Harry and Ron would survive. The immediate, if minimal, influx of money at least allowed me to make it through each day without needing to steal anything, and the free meal during each shift helped with that too.
When I wasn't working, I spent the weekend setting up a decent place to live. The abandoned restaurant that I'd found seemed as good a place as any. I didn't really need that much. I found myself infinitely grateful to Mrs. Weasley for all the domestic spells she had taught me, as I was making use of them all now. I chastised myself for ever being foolish enough to question the merits of such spells. Having lived in a muggle home with my family and been waited on by the house elves at Hogwarts, I'd never truly been able to grasp the value of such things until now.
The headaches and sparks of pain did not go away as the days passed. The headaches seemed to grow worse with each consecutive spell, forcing me to rest every few spells, but the tingling pains generally seemed mild, fading completely after just a few seconds. I wasn't exactly sure what to make of this, but I could only imagine that it had something to do with my traveling through time.
I warded the house with distraction spells to keep the muggles from paying any attention to it. It took me a few tries to get those working just right. The first time, I really overdid it and sent some poor people fleeing in terror. The next time I somehow managed to botch it to the point that instead of being distracted away from it they were distracted by it, coming closer to investigate. I breathed a lot easier when I finally got that sorted to a happy medium. I also developed a new appreciation for Lupin, who had taught us most of our wards. I'd picked up the defensive wards rather quickly, and even the obscuring wards. Ironically, those such as distraction that seemed less powerful, were much more difficult. Subtlety came at a price, it seemed.
Furniture I mostly transfigured from trash that I dug out of nearby dumpsters, or even the dumpsters themselves once they'd been thoroughly scourgified. While it gouged at my pride a bit to steal trash, I was comforted by the fact that I really had no choice, and that there was no one around to judge me for it.
There was no running water, but that didn't really pose a problem for a witch as I could conjure water very easily. There was no electricity, but witches and wizards didn't really use electricity anyway. I transfigured some candles, but found that I absolutely could not remember the charms for making ever-burning candles. Instead, I just let them burn down, then transfigured them whole again. Tedious, but I could work with it.
By Monday morning, I'd actually made that old abandoned restaurant into a pretty comfortable house. Despite that, however, I still needed money – for books, clothes, etc. I hadn't developed long term goals yet, but I wanted to save up some money for whatever I decided.
Monday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had two interviews – one for Thursday and the other for Friday. Determined to get one of those jobs, I went directly back to the muggle library. For the rest of the week, whenever I wasn't working, I was in the library studying everything that I could find about those two museums and all of their exhibits.
The interview on Thursday did not go so well. By the time it was over, I'd nearly snapped at the annoying woman and demanded to know why I'd been given an interview when it was so obvious that she wasn't going to consider anyone who didn't have previous experience.
With that irritating experience behind me, I arrived at the library as it was opening on Friday morning and stayed there until I had to leave for my interview, determined to be so knowledgeable that they would be forced to hire me.
I used a series of charms to tame my unruly hair until it was forced into a fairly presentable bun, then transfigured my clothes to match a really pretty business suit that I'd noticed in a shop window on my walk home one evening. I had to use charms for makeup as I hadn't bought any muggle makeup in this time, but I figured that might have been for the best. I'd never quite perfected the application of muggle makeup, so I was sure that even my basic charm had to be an improvement.
In the outer office of the museum curator, it took me a few moments to realize that I was being addressed when the secretary called for Miss Wilkins. Luckily, I didn't think that it was long enough to be suspicious. I'd probably just looked lost in thought. I took a deep breath, straightened my suit, and habitually touched my wand beneath my sleeve before stepping into the lavish office.
The short, chubby man behind the desk rose halfway out of his chair to grasp my hand in his overly warm one before settling himself back down and motioning me into a chair. I sat, posture impeccable, trying my best to convey confidence and professionalism.
The man, Mr. Rosewood, studied me for a moment before he turned his eyes to my resume on his desk. He looked it over, then looked at me again. "I see from your resume that you're interested in a position as a file clerk," he noted.
"Yes, sir," I smiled politely in response. "I'm very good with organization."
He nodded thoughtfully, "I've no doubt, but I see that you've cited a considerable amount of study and knowledge about art, and you've also stated that you are a fast learner. I wonder if you would be interested in a position as a docent."
I blinked in surprise. That was a considerably more prestigious position than I'd dared to hope for. "Yes, sir," I gulped as quickly as I could. "I would be very interested in that. I have no doubt that I could learn everything that I needed to very quickly, though I will admit that I don't have any practical experience-"
"Well, how are you going to get experience if you don't start somewhere?" he interrupted with a smile.
"Yes, sir," I concurred. "Thank you, sir."
"Right," he nodded. "Why don't we go upstairs and you can give me a quick tour. If you manage it well, you'll have a job."
"Absolutely," I grinned, rising immediately.
Incredibly thankful for all of my extra study, I led the curator around his own museum and had difficulty with only a handful of the pieces that were new enough to have not been listed in the dozens of books and papers that I'd studied. I promised quite fervently to become an expert on them all by Monday and was met with a pleased smile.
I left with a job, feeling incredibly proud of myself. The only thing to dampen my mood was the conclusion that I'd reached while leading the curator around. He'd spent a little too much time looking at me, leading me to the uncomfortable conclusion that I'd gotten the public job because I was pretty.
Well, I decided, pretty or not, I was going to prove that I deserved it.