A/N at end.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, the world, the characters, or even the Time-Turner idea. J.K. R,owling does. Also, I'm not making money from this in any way. Ameteur tribute, for fun, etc.
He was over a half hour late. Hermione cast a discreet Tempus, looked at her Muggle watch to confirm the results, and blew out a resigned breath. That cinched it, right there, she thought. She'd made a deal with herself when she'd floo called Ron yesterday: if he was late just one more time. . . it was arbitrary, an imaginary line in the sand she'd never thought he would cross.
Hermione was at a muggle restaurant, and she'd chosen the sort of place that she had imagined Ron would feel comfortable, instead of the kind she would have actually wanted to meet. It was typical, really, she reflected: As usual, she made too many accommodations, bent over backward, and he acted as if he had no idea. She looked at her watch again. Now he was forty minutes late. It was time to go.
She stood, gathering her expensive leather handbag, handbag, a deceptively small affair that served to replace her late great (and as it turned out, not machine washable) beaded bag. Of course just then—it never bloody fails, she thought-Ron breezed in, all red hair, long lean limbs, and falsely apologetic smile. He kissed her on the cheek, not making eye contact. "Whew, thought I would never get here," he said.
"That makes two of us," Hermione said, sitting back down.
Ron rubbed the back of his neck, a little uncomfortable. "Yeah, sorry about that, love. I just got caught up. You know how it is." He smiled again, a trifle forced, and looked around. "Or you used to, before you quit the Aurory."
I didn't quit, and you know it. I was twice the Auror you ever were. And some of us didn't need to rely on being passed through after quitting training and regretting our decision at the last possible moment. Not even Harry pulled that one.
But of course, she didn't say this, simply watched as Ron, feeling he had made his point, continued. "You picked a good one, this time. Not at all like that overly posh affair last week."
Hermione looked at him, looked around at the shabby surroundings. At the holes in the upholstery and the onviously dingy curtains. She thought of telling him that she had liked that place last week, a coffee bar-slash-rare and used bookshop. It hadn't been posh at all. She thought of telling him that she hated this place, and had chosen it just for him, and he had almost stood her up—again. Considered telling him that he would have never passed his O.W.L.s, much less get any further, without having shamelessly used her as a human reference manual-slash-house elf. She thought of pointing out that, in their years of off-and-on dating, he'd only shown up on time twice, and both of those times had been when they'd left together. She debated telling him that he was crap in bed, in a great deal of seriously emasculating detail.
She considered punching him in the face. Hard.
"Hermione?" Ron snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Mione? Are you all right?"
Hermione forced down her anger and drew back, still thinking. If she said what she wanted, they would argue. They always fought. It wouldn't work; it never did. He never got the point, never would. He would never see her the way she longed for, would never respect her the way she desired, never ever show her the consideration she so craved. The shouting would lead to tears, which would lead to pain, which would lead to him—or her—storming out, which would lead to her taking him back two days later. It was time, she knew. Past time to break the cycle.
With a shaking hand, Hermione took a deep gulp of her white wine spritzer. "I am glad you're here, Ron," she said.
At that, her companion's smile relaxed. He ran a hand through his shaggy red hair in obvious relief. "Are you? That's good. I figured we would get into a fight, what with me being so late and all. You know it goes, you take me to task because you can make it on time and you're a bloody Unspeakable, so why can't I manage to show up when we agree ever and how I don't appreciate you." He chuckled dismissively, and Hermione's stomach curled with the new, final knowledge that, in fact, he really did not appreciate her. Or love her, even.
"Anyway, you know how we are." He laughed again, this time nervously again. Something in her face must have given her away, she realized.
"Yes," Hermione said hollowly. "I know how we are." She took another sip of her wine, and continued. "And that's why I am glad you showed. Because you see, I'm breaking up with you."
The Department of Mysteries was quiet in the middle of the night, and that was as it should be, Hermione supposed. Even the Unspeakables had homes, lives, and families.
Most of them did, that was. Hermione walked into her office, the main chamber set in an alcove connected to the Time Room, and sat down. She'd thought of going home after talking to Ron, but she knew she wouldn't be able to sleep. Starting tonight, she would be getting floo calls, drop-in visits, and well-meaning owls from the Potter / Weasley family, all of whom would consider her breaking up with Ron simply the latest move in whatever dysfunctional chess match he and she were playing. Had been playing, truth be told, since the end of the war.
It had been ten years, she reflected. Ten wasted years waiting on him, hoping against hope that after he tried to find himself with different women, he would finally got around to her … that they would settle down. That she would make him happy. Well, it was clear he wasn't happy. He'd never wanted her, not really. She had always been the safety option. Too smart, too ambitious, too insecure when it came to him.
She flipped idly through her paperwork—mainly requests for short-term Time-Turners for various projects, some for students with transcripts attached, only a few genuinely interesting items—and sighed. It was strange. She had expected to feel sad when the break finally happened. But what she mainly felt was relief.
Hermione shook off her melancholy thoughts and buried herself in her work, walking through her door briskly to what she thought of as 'her' domain, her headquarters within the Department of Mysteries, the Time Room.
Not bothering to close the office door behind her at this late hour, Hermione took a moment to look around. The sight filled her with satisfaction, as it always did. Even now in the middle of the night, it was filled with a sparkling, golden light that never failed to cheer her up. Clkocks covered every surface, of course, on the walls, on the numberous bookcases that contained copies of all the known times on the subject of time, on desks strewn through the large, noisy chamber. And, of course, in one section there stood the passageway through which she and her friends had followed Harry into the Hall of Prophesy.
Looking around, she couldn't help but feel proud. All of it was because of her, really. When she had taken over, the room had been nearly bare, the clocks still. She had taken a bare, dismantled project and made it her own. Made it ever so much better, in fact.
To one side of the room were the experiments in time: The bell jar with the perpetual cycle of a hummingbird hatching out of an egg, growing, maturing, becoming younger, then hatching again. The reverse cycle: A small cat, appearing from nothing, thin and frail, slowing becoming fatter and healthier, its coat growing glossier, then steadily shrinking into a kitten, slicked with afterbirth, and finally disappearing again. Finally, in her opinion, the creepiest and the most fascinating experiment, the house elf that flickered continuously from child elf to ancient elf with no inbetween. That one, she had fought against, but it—she thought it was a 'he' but wasn't sure—had been a bequest to the Department from one of its employees, and according to Wizarding law, could not be changed, as elves were still considered property.
Hermione sighed and looked resolutely at the other side of the room. The Time-Turners. What had been destroyed, had been repaired, at great time and expense to the Ministry. The glass cases welcomed her. Gold, for those which could only go back a day. Silver, those that could go back a week, issued only to selected Unspeakables on missions deemed critical to security, and needing to be signed out by the Minister, and, finally, her very own invention. which no one was nor ever would be allowed: The emerald. There was only one of those, and it stood on a pedestal in the center of the room. It could go back years. It was easily the most dangerous otem in the entire building, capable of so much destruction that it pained her to consider it.
Hermione gazed at it, as she always did. The formula had come to her one day, like a bolt of lightening, and she could never say from where it had come. It simply had, and, although she had known better, like Oppenheimer she had been helpless to resist.
It gleamed at her as she regarded it, a dull green the color of an Avada, and she shuddered. It had been her, so familiar with a Time-Turner herself, that discovered that emerald combined with diamond, combined with a potion-infused silver alloy for the clockwork gears, had the properties needed, when used in a specific ritual manner, to go back so far into time. She who had presented her findings to a panel of had Unspeakables in an effort to get a spot in the prestigious Department of Mysteries.
Hermione snorted softly to herself, there alone in the Time Room, with the silently screaning elf and the ticking of the clocks and her oh-so-proud invention. What hubris she had back then.
No, being a simple, everyday Auror hadn't been enough for Hermione Granger. Having finished the training program at the top of her class (just below Harry, it had to be admitted, although unlike Ron, she'd at least completed the full course before declaring she was "too young" to be so tied down), she had ached for a challenge above and beyond what she had seen in her future. Something special. She had decided to try for the Unspeakables.
How she had shocked them all in that meeting; it went precisely as she had hoped, at first. Seeing their faces go blank, seeing that look in their eyes. Until the looks had turned calculating. How naïve she'd been. Yes, they had agreed to make her an Unspeakable, of course they had. Accepted her to the point that she hadn't been allowed to leave the building before they secured an Unbreakable Vow between her and the Head. Presto-chango, Hermione Granger, newly minted Auror, because Hermione Granger, Unspeakable, Time Mistress, a victim of her own success.
The Misress of the Time Room sighed and looked around her domain again. The joke's on you, Hermione,she thought.
There were worse places to be stuck, she supposed. Worse subjects on which to experiment. And that was fine, because she knew, she might as well be happy. Barring being moved up to lead Unspeakable, she would be stuck in the Time Room for the rest of her life.
A/N: This will be a HG / SS romance, of the pricky sort, and yes, it is a time travel story. Please let me know if you're reading it and think I should continue, despite the time-travel-ish nature of it. :)