A/N: After waking up to some lovely reviews in my inbox, I decided to get on and post chapter two. Hope you all enjoy it, and I'm so glad so many of you are with me on this weird Hermione/Eleven thing that I'm embarking upon. I thought it might be one of those lonely places on the internet, but I was wrong! Let me know what you think!
"They think you're an alien you know."
"Who?" she asks, frowning and turning to look up at him. He has an odd face, but not ugly, not unkind. Just odd.
"UNIT," he says heavily, "The Unified Intelligence Taskforce."
Hermione continues to walk next to him, along a grassy riverbank strewn with empty non-brand vodka bottles and cigarette butts. The air is damp and refreshing on her skin
"When you say alien..."
"I mean outer space, different species, different planet, different everything. They traced some very curious energy signatures...caught you on CCTV a few times..."
Hermione doesn't know what to say. It feels like she's been caught red handed by a relenting parent, it's almost like the 'I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed' talk.
"I know what it's like, you know..." he says. "To be a survivor in a world of those who can't understand."
"But people do understand...my fiancé, he fought...but he's fine. My best friend, he lost more than anyone...but he's recovering...he's happy."
"And you're not. You're loved, clearly, and yet..."
"I know..." Hermione says quietly. Her eyes feel hot and prickly, because at last, someone is taking her to pieces, picking her apart, and laying her bare. It's almost a relief, to feel the heat in her chest, the discomfort that comes with talking about what's wrong with her. But the Doctor is doing most of the talking, and maybe, just maybe, he's the sort of doctor who can fix her.
"I've heard legends about your people. Heard a lot of stories...a lot of whispers..."
"Yeah, from a long long while ago. Thought you'd all died out to be honest."
Hermione laughs bitterly. "Nearly. Not quite."
"D'you ever wish you had?"
She stops walking, because the honest answer is she doesn't know, and that scares her. What she does know, is that if she could trade herself in, and they could have Lupin back, or Tonks, or Fred, or anyone, then she would do it. She knows she gave everything she had to that war, and those that gave their lives, well, they still had a lot more to give. They'd be using their time better than she is.
She looks up at the Doctor, and when she realises that there is a tear rolling down her cheek, she wipes at it quickly with the back of her hand and takes a deep breath, trying to compose herself. He steps forward and places his hands on her shoulders, bending his knees just a little so his eyes can look into her own.
"Come away with me," he says.
"What?" she splutters. "What d'you mean?"
"I mean what I said. Come away with me."
"But Ron - my job, I can't leave them."
"What if I could have you back to Ron and your job in time for breakfast?" he asks. "What if you could see a hundred worlds before the night is out?"
Something clicks in Hermione's brain. "When you told me they thought I was an alien..."
"You knew that I'm not."
"But not because the idea was ridiculous. Just because you knew."
The Doctor smiles. "Two hearts," he says. "Have a feel if you don't believe me."
She's tempted to, just for a second, her hands even twitch, ready to be raised and pressed to his chest, but she doesn't know if he's joking or not.
"I'm over a thousand years old."
"You don't look it," she mumbles.
He chuckles, and Hermione turns to look at him. There is something about the eyes, something that makes her believe him, even though he's impossible. Those eyes have seen a thousand years' worth of horrible things, and she knows that because it's what she sees in her own eyes every morning in the bathroom mirror. When he said he knew what it was like to be a survivor, he meant it. She knows that weight, knows how it rests at the forefront of the brain, a filter on every single thing you do. You cannot see the world without seeing those who are no longer in it.
"One trip," he says. "And I can have you back here five seconds after you left."
"The trip could last days, weeks, months, even years, and you'd still be back after five seconds."
Hermione's eyebrows draw a little closer together, and she opens her mouth, ready to say something, but then pauses. She has had trips like that before. She lived her third year twice, and arrived back in the hospital wing just as Dumbledore was about to lock her other self in.
"You have a time turner?" she asks.
"A time turner!"
"Not quite..." he says. "What is a time turner exactly?"
She explains them to him, tells him about her third year, and how Professor McGonagall had threatened her with expulsion if she dared change time. She's talking faster that she's talked for a long time, words falling from her mouth before she can stop them and when she realises, she halts abruptly, wondering why this stranger, this so called alien is so easy to talk to.
"So you have to turn it once for every hour?" he says in a mildly disgusted tone.
"Well that sounds exhausting! And you can't even go forwards?"
"Well what's the point of that? If you want to time travel properly, you'll come with me and I'll show you the universe."
"But I can't."
"Why not? Give me one good reason why you, can't come with me."
She thinks of Ron, sound asleep in bed, who won't wake before morning, who will not miss her, if it really is just five seconds.
"Back in five seconds?"
"Cross my hearts." He draws two crosses with his index fingers and Hermione can't help but smile. "We could go and sit at King Arthur's table, or we could dine with Julius Caesar. Or we could head into the future and have a hover car race, or witness America, growing up. And beyond that, there are a hundred thousand galaxies with a hundred million planets and a hundred billion people just waiting to meet you. And whenever you like, you just click your fingers and say 'Doctor, take me home', and I will."
They have come full circle, and Hermione realises it's no accident that they're standing in front of the kiosk with the light on its roof. Up close, she can see it's painted a strong blue, and is simply constructed of wood. If he expects her to believe that this is a time machine and a space ship all in one...
"Is it safe?" she asks, walking around it.
"The Tardis? Oh yes, she's quite safe." He clicks his fingers and the doors open. Light pours from the interior and Hermione's mouth forms a small 'o' of surprise. "Take a look inside."
She steps in, knowing full well that this isn't the most ridiculous thing she's done in her life, and smiles. "Undetectable extension charm?" she asks.
The Doctor opens and closes his mouth several times. "Well, first time for everything I suppose." He rushes past her, up to the console and the doors snap shut. Hermione follows him up the ramp and circles round the controls, hardly believing what she's seeing.
"This is wonderful," she tells him. He smiles, his eyes crinkling at the edges.
Hermione slides her wand into her pocket and leans over the controls to inspect them more closely, her hair brushing against the dials and switches and gears. There is a jolt as the Doctor slams a lever down, and the entire room shudders. Hermione grips to the edge of the console and braces herself.
"I thought you said safe?" she calls over the noise of the central column.
"Perfectly safe!" the Doctor yells back, sliding around the console and flipping switches. "Although!"
Hermione's eyes flash. "Although?"
"I have a habit of sometimes, not often, but sometimes, finding trouble. And then fixing said trouble. Mostly."
Hermione closes her eyes. "I have a friend who's a bit like that."
"Well, all I'm saying is, we might get into a few tight spots. Might have to do a bit of running. Might save a few lives."
"Might be dangerous, is what you're saying."
"Yeah. Might be!" The Doctor's grin is wider than ever, and Hermione's heart is beating furiously in her chest.
The Doctor grabs a lever and pulls it down, and as she is thrown sideways, Hermione feels like at last, she might be living again.