Chapter 1 : Swept Away
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Miriam Zhou hummed tunelessly as she pointed her wand at the pile of sand, shattered glass, and twisted silver on the floor, sweeping it into a more manageable shape.
Last night, while Miriam had been sleeping soundly, You-Know-Who had returned. He had broken into and destroyed the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Mysteries: the Time Room, the Hall of Prophecy, the Brain Room, practically everything. Miriam had woken up thinking she’d be doing the same old routine cleaning and organising she always did, but today she was sweeping up the sad shards of someone’s research into a heap on the dusty floor. Every once in a while she’d see bloodstains on the tiles.
One hundred and three Time-Turners had previously been meticulously arranged on a big shelf. Someone had hit the shelf with a spell last night, and everything had collapsed. But, because these were Time-Turners, they had been repeating a three-second cycle all night, apparently, of crashing to the floor and then springing right back up into place on the shelf, all intact.
It was rather a difficult process to sweep up the mess. Firstly, she’d had to consolidate all the bits in one place – no easy task, because she couldn’t let anything touch her. She didn’t know yet what happened to crushed Time-Turners. Did they still work? Would they be even more powerful now that a hundred were all mixed together? It wasn’t something she particularly wanted to find out; at least not that way. Given that these Time-Turners had been turning over and over all night, she might be sent back to the Pleistocene if a speck of time dust got on her, and then she’d have to find a way to get back whilst avoiding being trampled or gored by woolly mammoths. No, that didn’t sound like a good idea.
Despite the thick doors into the Time Room, and Miriam’s humming, she could still hear shouting out in the corridors. It was understandable: the Ministry had been thrust into chaos. You-Know-Who himself had shown up and not one person from the Ministry had been there until afterwards, when it was all over. They all looked like fools in the eyes of the public. Or at least in the eyes of the Daily Prophet.
“Zhou, when you’ve finished, I need those files on my desk by half eleven!” Miriam could hear her supervisor Croaker’s anxious voice echoing in the corridor before he even opened the door. “Zhou?” The door opened swiftly, letting in a great rush of air that swirled the combined dust of over a hundred Time-Turners up into a cyclone around Miriam.
She panicked. “No! Close the door!” she shrieked, waving her hands at Croaker. But even then, she could see him starting to fade away. The Time Room began to vanish around her.
She took her hands away from her face and opened her eyes. Exhaling slowly, she realised she was still in the Time Room.
But it was different. There were too few Time-Turners, arranged on a shelf that was too small. Dripping candles floated in the air near the walls, casting a dingy glow on the room. The bell jar was missing. This was the Time Room of the past – and from the looks of it, quite a distant past.
After slowly turning around to take in her surroundings, she felt in her pocket for her wand. It wasn’t there. She remembered that she’d been holding it when Croaker had come in – maybe she’d dropped it as she arrived here? But it wasn’t on the floor either.
It must have fallen when she flailed her hands at Croaker, and now it lay in the Time Room of 1995 atop a pile of shattered Time-Turners. Miriam was stranded sometime in the past, without a wand. Her heart sank.
Wistfully, she turned her attention to the shelf of glass and silver. Time-Turners couldn’t go forward in time, only back. Rumour had it that once upon a time, they had used to be able to go into the future, but the people who came back from such adventures usually predicted awful things and sent the general public into a frenzy of worry.
The door opened suddenly, and a man walked in, dressed in fine dark blue robes with a high collar. No one wore those robes in the Ministry anymore. The man did a double take when he saw Miriam standing there lost, and asked, “Miss, who are you? How did you get in?”
“I…” Miriam began. She’d been about to say that she worked there, but it was possible she was far enough back in time that she hadn’t even been born yet. “What day is it?” she asked.
“Why, it’s the eighth of December,” replied the man. “This area is restricted to the public – I really must know how you got in – do you have a pass?”
“What year?” Miriam whispered nervously.
The man gave her an appraising look. “Could use a little hair of the dog, eh? It’s 1840, of course!”
“Oh Merlin,” she said to herself. Finding out that You-Know-Who had returned was enough of an adventure for one day; this was too much. At least, on the bright side, You-Know-Who didn’t exist in 1840. But she had gone back in time one hundred and fifty-five years; Time-Turners weren’t designed for such long periods of time. How would she ever get back?
“I’m lost,” Miriam said. “I used to work here – or, well, I suppose I will work here – help me! What do you know about time travel?”
“A great deal, actually,” said the man proudly. “I study time.” But his satisfied smile wavered when he added, “You still haven’t told me how you got in here. Did you travel through time, perhaps? That would certainly explain your attire. A lady shouldn’t be wearing trousers like that.”
Miriam sighed. According to the laws of using a Time-Turner, she should keep quiet about being from the future, but she was desperate. And maybe it was all right to make an exception for the man who studied Time-Turners in 1840. “I’m from the future,” she admitted. “Far in the future… many years. Do you know anyone who can help me get back? Or can your Time-Turners do it?”
Time-Turners had been able to go into the future a long time ago – maybe they still could in 1840! But she’d probably have to break all of them and swirl them together, and even then it might only get her to the 1940s. Then she’d have to live during Grindelwald’s reign of terror. Perhaps 1840 wasn’t too bad after all.
“Time-Turner?” he asked, puzzled, and then his eyes drifted to the shelf at which Miriam was staring. “Ah, yes! You have such odd names for things in the future; we just call them hourglasses.”
“They don’t… have special powers?” Miriam asked. “Don’t you study these?”
The man seemed to have forgotten all about his desire to shoo Miriam from the premises, and seemed rather excited now after learning she was from the future. “I do study them. Watch this.” He rotated the top of one of the hourglasses, slowing down the fall of sand inside them until it was completely still, each grain of sand rotating on an axis. It was beautiful, and Miriam watched transfixed for a moment before it dawned on her that this lovely display couldn’t actually help her.
“This is very charming, I can see the appeal of studying them,” said Miriam. Then she asked, as a last resort, “What about the South African shamans? Has the Ministry made connections with them yet?”
Time-Turners had been invented by an African wizard shaman sometime during the 1800s, she knew, so she might be able to Apparate there and get help from people who understood time forwards and backwards. The only drawbacks to this plan, of course, were her current lack of a wand, and the high probability of being Splinched between two continents.
“Shamans in Southern Africa?” he repeated energetically. “Shamans who understand time travel? Well, no, we’ve not made the connection yet. I’ve never been to Africa, myself. The whole country’s in a fuss right now, though, because of that Muggle who’s embarking today. David Livingstone.”
“Where?” Miriam asked, with a surge of confidence. “Could you take me to the port he’s leaving from?”
“Why?” asked the man, his voice tinged with suspicion again.
“I can’t tell you; it has to do with future events,” Miriam invented. “Your help would be so much appreciated. It’s Ministry business of the future.” She reached inside her robes and pulled out her name badge, which displayed the Ministry logo and her name and job title, but took it away from his view before he’d have the time to read it too closely and discover that she was only a janitor.
“Certainly, then.” The man led Miriam out of the Ministry into a rather different Whitehall than she remembered, and all the while he grinned proudly as if he were privy to a great secret. Miriam’s mind was racing as she carefully planned her next move, a way to get back home. She held the man’s arm as he Apparated the two of them to the port.
The port was a busy place this time of day. Muggles swarmed around one of the piers, while seagulls flew overhead or stood atop the wooden posts. A two-masted ship, the George, rocked gently with the waves in its berth at the pier. So that was the ship Miriam had to sneak onto in order to get to Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
“I lost my wand when I showed up here, in the Ministry,” Miriam told the man. “Is there any way you can help me get onto the ship without all these Muggles noticing?”
The man raised his eyebrows. “You’re going to get on board?” he asked. “But you don’t have permission… Take care they don’t throw you overboard when they find you.” And with that, he cast a Confundus Charm to cover Miriam’s tracks so she could get on board.
“Thanks,” said Miriam, and turned to go.
“Wait!” cried the man. “Tell me… how are the Cannons doing, in the future? They’re still top of the league, are they not?” He grinned widely.
Miriam bit her lip, realising that there had in fact been a time when the Chudley Cannons were considered a good Quidditch team. How much had changed. But she didn’t want to ruin it for him. “I can’t say,” she said with a small smile. “I’m an Arrows fan, anyway. It was lovely to meet you, Mr…”
“Hopkins,” supplied the man. “I wish you the best of luck in Africa.”
“Thanks, I’ll need it,” said Miriam. “I’m so grateful for your help today.”
Miriam did not normally consider herself an adventurous person. She’d never even travelled out of Europe before. But this time, adventure was the only way to go, she thought as she walked on board past the blank stares of Confunded Muggles, and found a hatch door under the floor of the galley. She had no idea what lay in store for her, but this trip would hopefully lead her home.
Huddled in the dark hold of the ship, between boxes of provisions that slid from side to side with the ship’s rocking in the waves, Miriam had lost her sense of time. It hadn’t been terrible so far, but her stomach was beginning to feel the effects of the rolling seas and the cramped hideout, and she longed to get up above deck. But then what would happen when the crew found her? Would they throw her overboard?
She could hear footsteps in the galley above her. Crew members were up there, doing hard work, while Miriam hid, an unfair free passage on the ship. It made her feel guilty, but she remained there. If they were still close to land, she could be sent back, and then she’d never get to Africa.
After what felt like hours more, but was in reality more likely several minutes, Miriam could take no more of her situation; she stood up, pushed the hatch open, and climbed out of the hold. Then she hurried aft, with some difficulty and wobbling, towards the stairs up to the deck, her palms pressed against the walls to keep her from falling sideways. Once she finally reached the steps, she grabbed the handrails with both hands and propelled herself up above deck. A blast of salt air greeted her as she surfaced, and luckily she managed to make it to the side of the ship before being sick.
“Where did you come from?” asked a voice as Miriam turned around. It was the second time today she’d heard this question, and really had no idea how to answer it. Six faces watched her as she stared back at the speaker of the question, still gripping the side of the ship with both hands. It felt as if she were on a very slow trampoline, moving her up and down rhythmically as the boat rocked.
If she’d had her wand, a simple Confundus Charm could clear all of this up. But now she had to live as a Muggle for a while. She’d forgotten how to do that. Granted, she’d never been in a situation quite like this before, even as a witch.
“I hid in the hold,” she said. “Please don’t throw me overboard. I only want to get to Africa, there’s someone I must see there. And I’ll help with anything you need, I’ll work as part of the crew if I have to. Just don’t throw me into the sea.”
“We’d never throw a lady overboard,” said one of the crew, and Miriam sighed with relief. “Now that you’re here, I guess you’re here to stay. Just don’t get in the way.”
But it didn’t seem fair to Miriam; after all, she wasn’t even supposed to be here, and thought she should earn her stay there. She would feel even more guilty if she continued to be a useless stowaway. “Please let me help. It’s only fair, since I’m burdening you with my unexpected arrival here. I can work hard, I promise.”
“I’ll go ask the captain,” said the first man uncertainly.
As it turned out, they did allow her to join the crew – but, understandably, no one seemed particularly glad to have her there. She was just the unwanted stowaway whom they now had to take care of. Miriam hoped they’d warm up to her eventually, or this would be a very lonely trip. The one person who took to her immediately was Mrs Ross, the wife of one of the missionaries; she seemed glad of the companionship of another woman on board. But Mrs Ross didn’t participate in the daily scrubbing of the deck, or the midnight watches, so Miriam saw her less frequently than she saw the crew.
Miriam worked hard to memorise all the ropes and lines used for hauling the various sails up and down, left no section of the quarterdeck unscrubbed, and learned quickly how to mend sails. If she put enough effort in, maybe the crew would come to respect her. Luckily, she had been a Hufflepuff at Hogwarts, so the hours of toil did not put her off.
The work was gruelling. Sometimes she’d have to wake up in the middle of the night to help haul the sails up while rain lashed at them, chilling her to the bone. By far the scariest task was climbing up the mast and out onto the yard to furl a sail, eighty feet up in the air, while the boat’s rocking motion intensified higher up on the mast. The men to her right and left on the yard did this without displaying any fear, but Miriam was terrified she’d fall. She imagined this was what Quidditch must be like (but she didn’t know for sure, because she’d never played it).
But the days turned to weeks, and Miriam grew accustomed to life at sea. Her former fear of heights abated; she could now watch the horizon from the crow’s nest at the top of the mainmast. The pitching and rolling of the ship in the waves no longer made her stumble sideways on deck. And she discovered that if she slept on her side and braced her leg against the side of her small bunk, she could sleep soundly without rolling over constantly as the ship moved – at least for a couple of hours, until she was needed for watch.
Miriam had become friends with the second mate, John, who had finally abandoned his initial dislike of her, and taught her how to navigate using the stars and the sun. She felt like an integral part of the crew now, she thought, as she lifted a sextant up to her eye to mark the star Aldebaran’s height above the horizon when it blinked into view in the twilight.
Sometimes, the feeling of sailing was absolutely thrilling. Her favourite part of it all was when she had to watch at the bow at night. With her with feet spread apart for balance, her hand on the jib line, she would stare off into the darkness before the bowsprit, watching the horizon move up and down in her vision as the ship bounced with the waves and the salt spray sprinkled her face. Hundreds of stars were visible in the sky, far from the lights of the city. On particularly special nights, she could lean over the edge and see small creatures glowing as they lapped against the hull, a haze of blue specks on the surface.
When Miriam was little, she’d dreamed of becoming a marine scientist. Then she’d discovered magic on her eleventh birthday, and that dream had vanished, replaced with a desire to study the mysteries of magic. Nothing had become of that yet, as she still only had a measly caretaking job, but it had to lead somewhere soon. Maybe, after this adventure, she could actually study the magic of time. Assuming, of course, that the Ministry would be able to acquire more Time-Turners.
But the journey wasn’t all easy. As they rounded the western edge of Africa, a couple of months into the journey, a great storm hit. Wind tore through the sails, whipping the sail ropes wildly until they whistled. Great swells of water, whose crests were several feet higher than Miriam’s eye level, crashed onto the deck. The ship plummeted into troughs, only to lift up again on the next large waves, while the masts creaked and groaned with the strain. Miriam’s seasickness returned, but leaning over the leeward side of the boat was a terrifying notion now, as the wind was strong enough to blow her into the water. Regardless of the slanted slope of the deck, she couldn’t even stand up straight in the wind as it was.
All the members of the ship, including Mrs Ross, helped to maintain the ship in the storm. But with a loud crack followed by a great jolt on deck, the mainmast split and part of it fell down, the furled topsail coming loose and tearing clean in half as the top of the mast fell.
The ship had been driven off course to the west during the storm, and the captain thought it would be best to get it repaired; the nearest place to do so was Rio de Janeiro, so the George changed course for South America.
“How long do you think it will take to fix the mast?” Miriam asked John as they scrubbed the deck together one sunny, calm day as they slowly drifted towards Rio de Janeiro, their one-and-a-half remaining masts boasting full sail.
“Shouldn’t take too long,” said John. “She’s a good ship, we’ll just fit her with a new mast and be off again. You think you’ll go ashore?”
It did sound interesting, but Miriam still had the sensation she might be left behind if she set foot on the continent. Even though most of the ship’s company were friendly with her now, she still had that latent worry. Besides, she didn’t speak Portuguese.
One day en route to Rio, Miriam encountered Dr Livingstone and Mr Ross sitting at a table in the galley. A book lay on the table between them, and they spoke in an unfamiliar language. It didn’t sound like Portuguese, so perhaps it was an African language. As she thought this, Miriam realised that she didn’t know the language of where she was going in South Africa, which would probably be an issue when they reached their destination. She’d find the group of shamans able to return her home, and then not be able to communicate with them because she didn’t speak their language.
Miriam was still somewhat intimidated by Dr Livingstone. After all, it was primarily his trip, and Miriam had laid his plans to waste by showing up uninvited on his travels, So plucking up her courage, Miriam approached the two men. “What language is that?” she inquired.
Livingstone smiled genially. “It’s Tswana,” he replied, “the language spoken in my mission site.”
“Could you teach me? I’d love to learn it as well. If you don’t mind, of course.”
But he didn’t mind, and from then on, Miriam spent the majority of her off-watch time learning Tswana. When the ship finally docked at Rio de Janeiro, Livingstone went ashore, and Miriam spent her extra time practising her language skills, often with Mr Ross. Mrs Ross would sit with them as well sometimes, informing them of her opinions of the city as viewed from the ship’s deck. She said she rather liked it, but had no desire to go ashore until Africa because she didn’t want to lose her sea legs, and Miriam privately agreed. The ship’s rocking was minimal at port, but it was familiar now.
All that remained was just to cross the Atlantic, and they’d be there. And luck was on their side, as fair winds blew them southeast, and no more severe storms halted their plans. The new mast held up beautifully, and before Miriam knew it, they were at port again, the end of her journey. After wishing the missionaries luck, and saying goodbye to the crew, Miriam started off for the tribe of shamans.
As it turned out, it wasn’t quite the end of her journey. The only way to go north to meet the shamans in 1841 was by ox-wagon, so Miriam reluctantly started off in this manner. She found that she infinitely preferred the gentle rolling of the sea to the jerky, bumpy feeling of riding in a wagon over rocky roads full of ruts. But, she told herself as she gritted her teeth, if she could overcome her fear of heights and stand at the top of a ship’s mast, waving side to side with the mast, she could do this.
Two days later Miriam was quite sore from being jostled around in the wagon over the terrible roads. Her knees and tailbone were bruised, her arms stiff from gripping the sides of the cart, but she had come to the place where the shamans resided – or at least, where they resided in the future. Or so she had been told by Croaker at the Ministry. There was nothing but a circle of five huts.
Suddenly a man poked his head out of a hut, his eyes alighting upon Miriam, and then stepped out, wearing a long red cloak. “I knew you were coming,” said the man in a soft voice. “My name is Kgosi. Come inside.”
“We always know what is to come. I have seen it.”
Miriam followed Kgosi into the hut, where with a great sigh of relief, she saw a wand lying on a colourful rug. At least she was in the company of wizards again.
“You are lost,” Kgosi prompted as he sat on the rug in front of the wand.
“Yes,” Miriam confirmed, sitting across from him. “I understand that you know the mysteries of time, and I’m looking for a way to travel into the future.”
Kgosi smiled. “I have been working on a device that should do that,” he said, and showed her a piece of warped wood in the shape of a Moebius strip, a twisting, never-ending loop. “What do you think?”
“Have you used it yet?” Miriam asked.
“Yes. I can’t control how far it goes, though. I’m still working on that. So you might go five years, you might go five minutes.”
“I need about a hundred and fifty-four years,” she admitted with a wry smile. “May I see this?” She reached out and took the circle of wood from Kgosi, tracing her finger along it and inspecting it closely. This could be the precursor to the Time-Turner, if they hadn’t made Time-Turners yet. But a Time-Turner had an ideal shape for determining the amount of time to be travelled. “Have you ever thought of changing the shape?” she asked, and proceeded to describe the hourglass shape of the modern Time-Turner, and how it afforded the ability to select the amount of time simply by flipping it over.
Kgosi tapped the wooden strip with his wand again, and the circle contracted into a figure-eight. Miriam, with a sudden inspiration, stood up, walked outside and gathered some dry dirt, carried it back inside and sprinkled it on either end of the wooden figure-eight, essentially filling the loops with sand. With another tap of the wand, the hourglass spun in the air, the wood twisting to contain the sand. Miriam’s jaw dropped. Was this now the first Time-Turner?
“One hundred fifty four years?” Kgosi clarified.
Miriam nodded. “And about three months.”
They watched the hourglass spin in the centre of the hut, whirling around so rapidly that Miriam could no longer see the intricate carvings in the wood. It flipped over and over for several minutes, and then gradually slowed to a stop.
“Your way home, miss,” said Kgosi.
“Thank you so much!” cried Miriam. “You have no idea how much it means to me.”
“I thank you as well,” said Kgosi. “Together we have just invented a very effective time-travel device.”
Assuming that it worked, of course, Miriam thought. But there was only one way to find out. “I’ll just touch it, and it should be left here with you,” said Miriam. “You should have it.”
She reached out and pressed her hand to the hourglass, and watched Kgosi and his hut fade away, as a more modern South Africa emerged in its place. The same circle of shamans’ huts stood directly in front of her, but she could see a city in the distance now. And cars were driving by.
A woman who had been washing laundry looked up at Miriam as she materialised out of thin air. “Another time traveller?” she asked, clearly used to this sort of occurrence.
“Please, what day is it today?” Miriam asked, crossing her fingers.
“It’s the nineteenth of June,” said the woman.
Miriam’s heart leapt. “1995?”
She was finally back, in 1995 where she belonged, and on the exact day she had left. But getting home from South Africa now would be simple, after 155 years of time travel, four months on a ship, and two days of travel by ox-wagon. So after an easy car ride to the airport, she got on a plane to London. As she settled back in her seat as the plane lifted off, she decided that since she’d just worked more than four straight months of overtime, the first thing she’d do when she returned was demand a raise in pay. After all, she’d just helped to invent the Time-Turner.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. (Well, I own a bicycle, some pencils, and even a laptop, but I don’t own Harry Potter.)
A/N: Yes, the ship Livingstone took on his first voyage to Africa was actually called George!