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Chapter 16 : Dear Hermione,
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-Sir Winston Churchill
Chapter Sixteen: Dear Hermione,
All right, I had to get that out. I woke up so early this morning that the sun was just barely rising, but even so, I don’t think I’d rested that well since I got here. I woke up hugging my pillow, if you can believe it! I’m going to assume that was a result of some dream I was having rather than the coverlet on the pillow being of certain colors.
When Lily got back from her meeting, she was very pleased to see the boys and I sitting together quietly studying. Well all right…-I- was quietly studying, -they- were loudly studying (at least, I think they were studying). The point is, we got along, and she couldn’t have been more happy! It won’t take me long to adjust back to having company with me in the evenings and at mealtimes, that’s for certain. The reverse was true in First Year; after spending so much time by myself I had a hard time adjusting to the fact that there were actually people who wanted to sit with me. I don’t even want to think about how many times I yelled at Harry and Ron once we’d become closer—it seemed like they would argue just so I would put down whatever book I had at the time to glare at them. Come to think of it, they probably did.
The Marauders have a different kind of camaraderie; rather than argue, they trade witty retorts and reference the many private jokes they have. It places Lily on a different plane of periphery (and now myself as well, though not quite the same one, as I –know- quite a bit of what they’re joking about), but Lily doesn’t really mind. She can join in with the best of them, but seems usually content to observe and intervene when necessary.
Ohh, I just had a nice little conversation with one of my new Housemates (she just woke up), Steffie Kirke. I wonder if she is related to Andrew Kirke who played Quidditch with Harry? Anyway, she has the most gorgeous long brown hair (she can sit on it!) but I can’t see if it’s curly yet, because it’s in a braid. She was very nice and told me she doesn’t care a whit whether or not I was in Slytherin at first. She also said she was glad to have another person in the dormitory; I guess since Lily moved to the Head Girl’s private room the extra empty bed had seemed sort of sad to her. She seems very witty and smart—she’s in Charms with me but says I wouldn’t recognize her with her face scrunched up from having been asleep.
Meeting Steffie makes me wonder how many other possible relatives of students (like Eunae Zabini) I might meet here. In a way it’s making me feel a –lot- better about my time in the past. In fact I wonder if this is exactly what Professor Dumbledore was thinking of when he told me I could take classes with the other students… I mean, if I took Eunae back with me (as delightful as that sounds) to attend Hogwarts in 1997, almost everyone there besides Blaise would assume they were siblings, instead of aunt (I think, anyway) and nephew.
The British wizarding community is rather small, with all of its members (well, -most- of its members) having attended Hogwarts in their youth. Discounting couples like the Potters—who Lily told me had James very late in life—most generations seem to have children around the same time. Harry and I are the same age, and Ron—good lord, right this moment Molly Weasley is pregnant with the twins!
I’m back again. Apparently my gasp of realization about Fred and George woke Juli Warbeck, whose bed is right next to mine. I suspect that she might have already been awake though, from my quill scratching, but she promised me in a shy voice that she was about to get up anyway. I didn’t get to say much to her (I think she’s –really- shy!) but she seems very nice, and has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen—they’re a sort of sea green that reminds me of the time I visited Ireland with my family the year before I got my Hogwarts letter.
Where was I? (I think Professor Dumbledore has turned me into a diarist—this is so much nicer than writing notes on scraps of paper and then losing them and losing my train of thought as a result!) Oh! I know where I was—and why did I write that down? Or this?
I think what I’m trying to say is that if I’m careful to limit how much contact I have with people whose futures I don’t know, I may be able to appear to them (should they ever encounter me in the future) as nothing more than Hermia James’ daughter. I’m almost too excited to write properly, hoping that I’m not turning this into an oversimplification—how I wish for some Muggle ink pens right now! I know that I’m probably just trying to make myself feel better, knowing that no matter what I do or say I’m changing –something- by being here—even if it’s only providing Steffie Kirke with the comfort of knowing that the empty bed isn’t empty anymore. I have no way of knowing how that may effect anything (or nothing) about the way she makes decisions from now on; she may turn out to sleep better and then do better on her exams, thus providing her with a better resume to get a better job, and—
If I keep going like this I’m going to go mental, and I still don’t know what I’ll have to do to get back home. Professor Dumbledore wouldn’t tell me, and it might involve some spell casting—and I don’t know if that would work well if I’m too mad to know what a wand is!
Instead of worrying about what I may or may not be changing, I’ll focus on this new idea of mine. The rationale seems sound—after all, Harry does look remarkably like his father, and parents have named their children after themselves or similarly for centuries.
Though why someone named Hermia would choose to inflict any variation of it on a future generation, I wouldn’t know.
“Are ye hopin’ that if ye stay in bed long enough, ye won’ have ta speak ta anyone?” The rich Irish brogue cut into her concentration like a knife, and Hermione was thankful that she’d just lifted her quill from the book, or there’d have been physical proof of her alarm. She looked up to see the bright blue eyes of the person who’d spoken, the girl’s auburn curls obscuring nearly half of her face.
“Good morning,” Hermione said politely, adding, “No, I didn’t want to disturb anyone as I woke very early this morning.”
“Ye did a good job of that,” the newcomer said, ruthlessly restraining her hair with a hair tie. “I nearly slept in,” she explained. “Fiona McCready,” she said, in what Hermione was beginning to understand to be Fiona’s typical manner of speech. “I’ll pass on shakin’ yer hand, as I’m no a fan of that ink,” McCready said, pointing at the smudges on Hermione’s fingers.
“That’s understandable,” Hermione said agreeably, rising from the bed and putting away her things as the other girl disappeared behind her bedcurtains to dress. Hermione did the same, making sure to lock her diary with its keyword and stoppering her ink bottle tightly before placing it in her bag. Fiona had a point about the ink, after all. As if Hermione’s thoughts could conjure her, the Irishwoman reappeared nearby and waited for her to finish with her book bag.
“I’m also no a big fan of Slytherin,” she said bluntly. “Seein’ as yer a transfer an’ no been with ‘em fer long, though, I don’ see how I can hold it against ye.”
“Thank you, Miss McCready,” Hermione said, accepting the girl’s statement in the spirit with which it was given.
“Call me Fiona,” the other girl said, her bright eyes flashing with mirth. “Callin’ me ‘McCready’ makes me feel like me mam.”
Hermione had never met anyone like Fiona, and she found herself being bustled off down the stairs and through the portrait hole on the way to breakfast. She supposed it was a good idea, considering she would have had a hard time explaining how as an ex-Slytherin she would unerringly know the way from the Gryffindor tower to the Great Hall.
The next few days were strange; though the classes were all the same, her profile in them had heightened considerably. By Thursday Hermione was despairing of all the attention, and had even started to regret her move—it may have made her feel better, but she didn’t think it was worth the cost of being known on sight by so many of the students in the past! Lily was aware of her stress, and assumed that it was all because of a desire for anonymity. Which, in a way, it was. She had spent the past couple of days trying to make Hermione as comfortable as she could be, showing her around the Gryffindor tower (there was a well-concealed room that had once been a House library that Hermione couldn’t wait to go back and explore further) to show her around Hogsmeade in a week when the next school outing was.
The highlight of her school week, however, came on Thursday in Defense Against the Dark Arts. The professor here in 1977 was a really interesting woman named Vera Sapiens, and her upfront approach to the class reminded Hermione greatly of Professor Lupin. She was certain after only a few classes with the woman that she had to have been a driving force behind Remus’ teaching style and obvious love of the material. Professor Sapiens liked to stalk through the room, her long golden braid tapping against the back of her robes as she challenged everyone in their N.E.W.T.-level course to ask questions and pose solutions.
Thursday’s lesson began in a way much the same as one of her Third Year DADA classes had—they walked into the room to find their desks had been moved into a semi-circle around a large wardrobe in the center of the room. Hermione, Remus, James, and Severus among others came through the door cautiously, but remained in a clump at the back—their first lesson had taught them that Professor Sapiens liked to ‘think outside the box.’ She also had absolutely no patience for inter-house rivalries, so as the dozen or so students decided what to do, they disregarded the fact that quite a few of them were from Gryffindor and Slytherin.
After conferring with one another in their huddle against the wall—the professor was nowhere to be found, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t see them—they decided to take turns casting detecting charms on every desk before allowing anyone to sit. The first few proved to be harmless, but when James cast his charm, the desk he’d pointed to revealed that it had been enchanted with a Buzzing Jinx. Anyone sitting there would have begun to hear and feel as though he were surrounded by a cloud of bees. A few minutes later, Snape also unveiled a jinxed desk, this one looked to be fitted with a typical Encasing Jinx, trapping the hapless victim in place for an indeterminate period of time. The sound of clapping and an opening door caused quite a few of the class to crouch down in anticipation of…something.
“Well done—oh, Merlin, I’m sorry,” apologized Professor Sapiens. “I sometimes forget that fostering awareness and heightened senses can make ordinary things seem threatening.”
“You have a high opinion of us if you think we receive applause on a regular basis,” quipped Constance Lewis, a clever Ravenclaw.
“I know I do!” retorted James. The class laughed.
“Quidditch on the brain,” sighed Remus.
“Well, on with the lesson, shall we?” As she spoke, Vera Sapiens disabled the jinxes she’d placed on their seats, and gestured that they take them. “No more tricks, I promise you—I want you to pay attention, now.” This seemed sufficient evidence to the class that she was telling the truth. “Before I forget—five points each to Gryffindor and Slytherin for your successful discovery of the effected chairs, and a point to everyone’s House for not simply trouping in and sitting. I’m very proud of all of you.” She beamed.
“I know I’ve taught you that knowing your enemy’s weakness is an advantage, and so with this lesson I hope I have already established myself as a friend—because you’re about to learn one of mine,” Professor Sapiens said with a smile. This piqued everyone’s curiosity, particularly because of the large wardrobe that still stood waiting in the center of the room. It looked as though the mystery was about to be revealed, however. “There’s a boggart in there,” Sapiens said, gently touching the side of the wardrobe with her hand. It rattled, ominously. “I trust you’ve studied them in a previous year?”
Hermione couldn’t resist a glance at Lupin, as she had fond memories of his lesson on boggarts. She didn’t dare look at Snape, however. Remus looked a little upset, and she thought she might know why—she’d learned during that Third Year class that his boggart was the full moon. Even in 1993 he’d seemed fairly unnerved by it, and that was after the invention of the Wolfsbane potion…Remus seemed to sense that someone was looking at him, and he turned in her direction, smiling a little when he saw who it was. She smiled back, hoping to alleviate some of his anxiety about the boggart.
“The truth is,” Professor Sapiens was saying, “my boggart is a Dementor.” Suddenly, Hermione had an idea of what they might be learning that day, and she turned out to be right: “I told the Headmaster that the first boggart discovered this year should be used not only for the younger students to learn about boggarts, but to teach you Seventh Years about the Patronus Charm.” A hushed sort of excitement hung over the room—this was an unexpected treat. “Now I don’t expect that any of you will have to experience the effects of a Dementor,” she said with a shake of her head, “but it never hurts to know the incantation. It is a particularly difficult incantation, as well—please repeat after me: ‘Expecto Patronum.’”
The class dutifully spoke the words, Hermione with mixed feelings. The professor’s statement stung her, as she tried with difficulty to forget the fact that not only would one of their number be in the presence of Dementors, but he would be forced to do so for many years. On the other hand, she was quite proud of her ability to produce a corporeal Patronus, and though she would never admit it to anyone, she liked to be able to show her skill in magic.
Professor Sapiens explained that it would be understandably more difficult for them to produce a Patronus (she explained the difference between corporeal and wisp-like) when they weren’t being directly threatened, but that it was much easier to do so with something, rather than just thin air. Hermione expressed concern for her, as she would be experiencing a fair representation of the effects of a Dementor, but Vera Sapiens assured her that if the experience became too much for her, she would simply cast her own Patronus and force the boggart back into the wardrobe.
To Hermione’s embarrassment, the teacher then suggested that she be the first to attempt the charm. Hermione was torn—she didn’t want to explain where she’d learned the spell, but neither did she wish to do a poor job on purpose. When the professor opened the wardrobe door decisively and the black-clad Dementor moved menacingly from behind the clothes inside, however, she was out of other options.
“’Expecto Patronum!’” she cried, flinging her wand hand in the direction of the horrible creature. As she had known it would, the mist that started to flow from the tip of the wand coalesced into the form of an otter, which then charged directly at the hovering Dementor, forcing it back into the wardrobe.
The class erupted in a cacophony of cheers, applause, and exclamations. Hermione turned scarlet as she turned to face the rest of the room; she hadn’t expected such a response! The sounds turned to mostly admiration as her otter returned to nuzzle her hand before fading away, no longer required for its positive presence.
“What an outstanding performance!” Professor Sapiens came over to stand next to her. “Twenty points to Gryffindor,” she said firmly, against Hermione’s objections. “Even if you have practiced that before, my dear,” the blonde teacher said in a voice that brooked no argument, “it is very difficult to do that in front of a room of your peers. Now,” she addressed the room, “does anyone else feel they can produce a corporeal Patronus? If not, I’m willing to submit myself to a collective try.”
“I’ll sit that one out,” offered Hermione with a sheepish grin. The remaining hour was spent with varying degrees of success from the students in the class. James Potter managed to launch what looked an awful lot like a stag, which charged the boggart-Dementor and dissolved into a mist that dragged the thing into the wardrobe nonetheless. From her vantage point in the back of the room, Hermione also spied Severus Snape waving his hands in the air in a completely absurd fashion, as though he were trying to get rid of whatever it was he’d conjured. If she hadn’t thought it was a little farfetched, she’d have sworn the silvery substance was in the shape of an octopus. If it was, that might explain why Snape was in such a hurry to dissipate it—something as gangly as an octopus would probably be the antithesis of what he expected others to see as his protector. She didn’t have time to contemplate the meaning of both of them having sea creatures as their guardians as it was time to wrap things up.
Hermione had a pleasant walk down to the Potions classroom with Remus, after which she spent a few moments musing on the merits of an octopus Patronus for Snape (effectively creates a potion within itself—ink—that it uses for defense, very clever at problem solving…) before she finally focused on the lesson for that day. A beaming wink from Slughorn as class adjourned let her know that he’d gotten her letter, and the reaction itself told her how it had been received.
At dinner she had quite a few people catch her eye and raise their glasses to her—word had gotten out about her earning twenty points for Gryffindor on the second day of being one. By the time she entered the common room that night, the looks she received from the majority of the students there were approving. It looked like the best thing she could have done for her reputation in Gryffindor was prove her loyalty by earning a substantial chunk of House points. She spent the rest of the evening with her Charms book, calmed by the knowledge that it was much easier for people to forget someone that did a good thing than it was to forget someone they disliked.
I saw the moon tonight—it will be full tomorrow.
I find I cannot sleep, knowing that tomorrow night one of the kindest, most gentle men I have ever known will be transformed against his will into a monster. Even knowing that he will be surrounded by friends doesn’t help, because I know for a fact that one friendship is tainted. WILL BE tainted, all right, then—my internal sense of right and wrong won’t even let me WRITE that without bothering me.
Maybe I am going about this whole thing the wrong way. I am so worried about changing the future, but what I think about when I worry is seeing myself marching up to James or Sirius and saying ‘Peter will betray you.’
But…even if I did that and they stopped him, they would still feel betrayed. Even if Harry got to have parents and Sirius lived a full and happy life without ever seeing the inside of Azkaban, they would still have that black mark on their hearts from losing a friend—and in –that- kind of way.
I wrote earlier about the endless second-guessing that comes with time travel theory. Maybe I can use the ‘fluttering butterfly’ effect in a completely different way altogether—if I could extrapolate that Steffie could end up with a better job simply from having someone sleeping in a formerly empty bed, what would being nice to Peter Pettigrew do to our future?
Of course, this all falls apart the second I write it. Aren’t James, Remus, Lily, and Sirius nice to Peter? Maybe it’s not being –nice- as much as it is nice in a particular –way-.
What made (MAKES!) Peter turn his back on the others? What kind of inadequacies that couldn’t be solved by becoming an animagus with James and Sirius does he feel?
Could it be as simple as a false step he feels he can’t turn back from?
All I know is, I can still hear Sirius’ adult voice saying that he would die rather than betray his friends. If I have to be nice to Peter, if I have to try to figure him out and in so doing save the lives of my friends, I will.
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