Chapter 8 : Rivers of Time
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While Sirius slept Hermione set about trying to finish her essay but concentration seemed to escape her when her brain kept reminding her that there was an injured and very handsome boy asleep in her bed. In spite of the fact that there were rules against boys being in the girls dormitories. And there was a part of her that still felt very strongly about the need to uphold rules. At least that was the reason Hermione told herself that she was distracted, refusing to admit to herself that she had woken up feeling all snuggly and warm and special to have Sirius playing with her hair.
In the hopes of distracting herself, Hermione put down her quill and walked to the bed, testing Sirius’s temperature with the back of her hand against his forehead. When she’d satisfied herself that he wasn’t in any immediate danger in spite of his fitful sleeping, Hermione dressed herself for the day and left the room.
Keeping her eyes peeled as she descended the stairs Hermione began to wonder if someone else had cleaned up the trail of blood because she couldn’t see even a spot of it. Of course when she reached the common room Hermione couldn’t see anything at all because she was immediately pounced on by something. Something with big strong hands and black hair that apparently felt the need to try dragging her off her feet in an attempt to get her to the armchairs by the fire of the common room.
“Where is he?” the voice of James Potter demanded of Hermione as he pushed her down into a chair and loomed over her. “Is he ok? He made it back to you right?”
“James would you calm down?” Hermione said sternly, not at all pleased about being manhandled. “Sirius is in my room, in bed resting, as he has been all night. I patched him up as best as I could, and I think he’ll be ok, except for massive amounts of scarring. But he’s ok. Really. Just tired from the healing his body is doing and the blood loss.”
James crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at Hermione for a moment longer.
“He’s ok? You fixed him?” He asked her.
“I tried to. I mean, he showed up at my door sitting in a pool of his own blood, with a bag of medical stuff in his mouth. I let him in and he transformed and I used the stuff he brought to fix him up as best I could, given the circumstances and the fact that he’d been savagely attacked by a werewolf. He’ll be fine. He woke up this morning and he’s seen the damage. I put some more dittany and Murtlap essence on him and wrapped him in bandages again and gave him some pepper up potion and then put him back to bed. He was sleeping when I came down here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m supposed to meet Professor Dumbledore for lunch and I don’t want to be late.” Hermione said, before pushing past James and escaping out the portrait hole.
It would be a truly inconvenient time to try and explain to the Marauders how it was that she knew Remus was a werewolf, and how she knew that the three others had become animagi to help him with his condition, and that she knew exactly what their animal forms were. Last night she had managed to avoid explaining to Sirius by urging him to hurry to help their friend, and then by the fact that he had practically passed out from blood loss and pain. James was a different story, because Hermione really didn’t have a legitimate lie to tell her new friends how it was that she knew things they hadn’t shared with anyone but each other.
What she really needed was a long discussion with Professor Dumbledore about everything. Especially about whether or not she truly was to be stuck in this time for the rest of her life. Because if that was the case then she really needed answers to the way her choices here would affect the future she had known.
When she reached the entrance to Professor Dumbledore’s office Hermione stopped and straightened her skirt. Beneath it she wore several layers of stockings and tights to fight off the chill of the castle as winter settled upon the grounds of Hogwarts. It was almost Christmas time, so the snow was heavy on the ground and the winds that howled through the castle corridors stole one’s breath with their cold bite. Her black school cloak hung around her shoulders, settled neatly over her pink woollen sweater.
Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves and to control the slight increase in her heart rate from the brisk walk Hermione exhaled slowly before knocking politely on the door.
“Come in?” Professor Dumbledore’s voice called.
Moving quickly Hermione turned the brass door knob to enter the office.
“Ah, Hermione my dear. Good afternoon.” Professor Dumbledore said. Hermione’s eyes searched the office until they landed on the professor where he sat at his desk.
He hadn’t looked up from the letter he was writing, and Hermione smiled to know that the professor had always been as magnificent in his magical abilities as he was in the time that she had known him.
“Good afternoon Professor.” Hermione greeted him warmly “I’m not early am I?”
“Not at all. I merely became so engrossed in my letter that I have lost track of the time. Have a seat my dear, and by all means pour some tea. I’ll be with you in just a moment.”
Hermione did as she was asked, sitting in one of the squashy purple chairs at the small table. A large red teapot sat on top of the table, and Hermione lifted the lid to find it was filled with cold water. Tapping it with her wand, Hermione boiled the water before adding tealeaves to the pot to steep. She arranged the matching crockery accordingly while she waited quietly for Dumbledore to finish his letter.
“Now then” Dumbledore said, turning to Hermione with a smile as he tapped the parchment and it rolled up and tied a neat ribbon around itself. “You’re letter last night was a small surprise my dear. Is everything alright?” he asked as he shuffled over to the table with her and waved his wand to pour them both some tea.
“Yes. I just had some questions about everything.” Hermione said, smiling gently as she sipped her tea. “I was wondering if you had any more news about whether or not I will ever be able to return to my own time?”
Dumbledore watched Hermione over the top of his half-moon spectacles for several long moments as he too sipped from his tea cup.
“I’m afraid not my dear. At least not at this stage. You mentioned that you had some type of time meddling device that you had used in your own time. I can only assume based on that, that at some stage during the next twenty years a way might become available for you to be able to return to your own time. However, I’m sure you’re aware that meddling with time is a very dangerous business. Not just in instances where one might find themselves foisted into the past or the future like you were, but also other problems, like spotting another you in the same room with you and possibly going mad from it. A very dangerous business indeed. I’m afraid, my dear, that you will probably reach adulthood before such a device is invented that could carry you back to your own time. And I suspect that even when that happens, it would be unwise for you to return to your time, as the years you will have spent here may suddenly heap upon you and cause you unthinkable health issues.”
Hermione nodded slowly. She had expected such an answer and she had considered that even if there were a way to send her home, it may very well kill her to even try it.
“Professor…” Hermione began, uncertain how much information she should share of the future. “My presence here in this time, how might this affect the future I knew?”
“Well no one can really say, Hermione. Every decision any of us makes affects the future and the paths we take into that future. For example, let’s say that the version of me you knew from the future was an eccentric old fool with a long white beard. At the present time I have been steadily growing my beard and have intended to continue doing so. However, if I choose today to cut it off and return to the arms my old enemy -the razor- then obviously I might not have such a long beard or even a beard at all in the future.”
“Professor, the time I knew was fraught with peril from a threat I know we face here in this time. Many of my peers and my friends in this time played important roles in the shaping of the future I knew. How will my presence here and my interference with the lives they lead affect the future? Or more importantly, can I shape my decisions and my interference here to achieve a better outcome for the future than the one I knew?”
Dumbledore smiled as Hermione spoke.
“I must admit my dear, I’m very curious about the future you knew. But yes, any decision any person makes can affect the way the future turns out.”
Hermione thought for a moment as she glanced at Fawkes the phoenix on his perch where he watched the conversation intelligently.
“It’s just that…. Well, there are many things in the future that I know of that may still come to be, unless I interfere with them sir. And it’s undeniably tempting to meddle with that future. I suppose I’m looking for your permission to meddle” Hermione said, smiling self-deprecatingly.
“Well, Hermione. In that regard it’s not really my place to provide you permission, or to deny it. It seems to me that you are incredibly smart and level-headed. You think things through before you act. If there are indeed circumstances that you can change for the better, especially if they affect the greater good, then you ought to proceed with caution, but proceed nonetheless. Keep in mind Hermione, every decision we make will set into motion certain circumstances and events as a direct result of the choices each of us make.
For example, if I were to stand in the forest and idly toss a rock, it might inadvertently strike a centaur foal. That in turn might be harmful enough for the foal to die from the injury. The death of the centaur foal may then antagonize the centaur herds within the Forbidden forest and they might rise up and storm the castle grounds in retaliation, possibly harming or killing a student. As a result the herd of centaur would probably be hunted down by the Ministry of Magic because the incident had occurred on school grounds, which could spark a full blown war between wizards and Centaurs.”
Hermione closed her eyes as she pictured such a horrific outcome from just the tiny moment of poor decision making.
“I understand Professor. Even the tiniest of actions can have catastrophic repercussions. Professor, I have more questions. And I understand that some of them might make you uncomfortable to be discussing such topics with a student, but you must understand that in my own time these topics practically ruled my life. Also, I feel I must divulge some of the information I know from the future I lived in. Do you mind if I proceed?”
Professor Dumbledore’s eyes seemed to twinkle even brighter at the prospect of learning secrets from a possible future.
“Within my time, the threat of Lord Voldemort hangs heavily over the wizarding community.” Hermione said softly.
For just a moment shock registered on Professor Dumbledore’s face before he concealed it.
“I see. In this time I’m sure you are aware from your history that Tom is still gathering his evil forces. As of yet his power is not at its full potential. I had hoped that the brand new order I have formed to combat that darkness would succeed in putting an end to the violence and destruction.”
Hermione watched her professor intently. In her own time she had held her headmaster in the highest regard because of his incredible achievements and because Albus Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever feared, but as she watched him now Hermione suddenly realised that Dumbledore wasn’t the only one You-Know-Who feared. While he may have always written it off as anger and hatred and scorn, Voldemort feared Harry Potter to an extent.
“Professor, the work of the Order of the Phoenix is beyond measure. I myself was a member, though I’m still at school. So were Harry and Ron, mostly due to the circumstances surrounding Harry… But somehow it seemed no matter how many times we beat him back, Voldemort just kept on coming.” Hermione paused at Dumbledore’s expression. “I suppose I should start at the beginning. You see, a woman named Sybil Trelawney will one day recite a prophecy that will claim a child to be born who will have to the power to end Voldemort. He will be a child born in July, and both his parents will suffer greatly at the hands of Voldemort, thrice defying Him. This prophecy will get back to the dark side and Voldemort will realise there will be two choices. Both boys, my age. And it will be Voldemort who chooses of the two which might be the one, marking him as an equal. One of whom will be a boy named Harry Potter.”
Hermione paused to allow the professor a moment to soak in the information.
“Harry will be the son of James Potter and Lily Evans. And they will both die at Voldemort’s hand as they try to protect Harry, after the location of their hideout is revealed by a traitor. One I hope I can fix. However, should the day ever come when James and Lily must go into hiding, no matter the arguments presented to you, please never ever allow Peter Pettigrew to become the Potter’s Secret Keeper. Do it yourself professor. Or if I’m here, place that trust in me. Because Pettigrew will betray James to save his own worthless hide.”
Hermione said, her eyes flaring with anger. She had always felt anger and hatred of the man who could do such a thing, leaving Harry orphaned. But now she knew James and Lily and Sirius and Remus, and she felt even more anger that he would betray people they both loved.
“Hermione?” Professor Dumbledore’s voice prodded softly and Hermione refocused her eyes on his face “I give you my word I will not allow him the chance.”
Hermione nodded. She was stuck in this time now. As she took another sip of her tea Hermione squared her shoulders. This was her time now. This was where her life would unfold. And Hermione would see to it that the people she loved so dearly from her original time would never know suffering as they had. Even if she had to die in the attempt, Hermione would not allow that future to unfold again.
“Professor, the most important thing I learned in my time, from you, was that love is the strongest and oldest form of magic in the world. The future I knew held some promise. Voldemort was destroyed when Lily Potter sacrificed herself to save her only son. Her sacrifice allowed the Killing Curse Voldemort aimed at Harry Potter to backfire. Killing him and ending his reign of darkness for more than a decade.”
Dumbledore looked pleased.
“However, Voldemort’s evil can’t be erased so easily. His thirst for immortality is the true evil within him and the evil he commits to achieve it is beyond imagining. Somehow, he didn’t simply die when his curse backfired. He returned in my first year of Hogwarts, possessing, or sharing a body with a young wizard Quirinus Quirrell who was a professor here. That year he drank unicorn blood to sustain himself as he searched for the Philosophers Stone. In second year he once again returned, in spite of being killed by Harry Potter again, this time possessing a young witch, Ginny Weasley through the use of an old diary. That year he opened the Chamber of Secrets again and many students were petrified by the Basilisk that lives within the Chamber. But Harry stabbed the diary with a fang from the Basilisk and Voldemort once again seemed to die.”
Dumbledore frowned now. Clearly uncertain that he believed Hermione’s tale since in this time there was doubt the Chamber even existed.
“I know it sounds unbelievable sir, but it’s the truth. And there’s more.” Hermione paused for breath. “In our fourth year Voldemort regains a human body of his own without the need to possess anyone. I don’t understand the magic behind it, though Harry told me something about ‘bone of the father, flesh of the servant and blood of the enemy’ from there his reign takes hold again as he tries time and again to murder Harry Potter. Hundreds were dying by the time I was shot back in time to here. And the Dementors of Azkaban are on his side. Perhaps you can think of how he managed to return after being killed three or four times by Harry, but I don’t understand it.”
Hermione concluded, slumping back in her squashy purple chair.
“I fear I know not the reasons for such things either my dear, but there are magic’s far darker than I have delved into. I will research how this is achieved. Because I will end Tom’s foolish quest for power” Dumbledore vowed sinisterly. Hermione glanced at the professor and found him brimming with anger.
“Albus…”Hermione began tentatively, testing the name. He had always been her professor and her elder and a man who deserved her respect but right now she hoped for him to view her as an equal. “I will do whatever I have to in order to keep the future I just described from becoming a reality. I may not have the same protection as Harry had in his blood, but I have the courage to save the people I love. And if I can save Harry from being orphaned, save James and Lily and Sirius from the fates that befall them at the hands of evil, I will do it. I will do anything.” Hermione vowed.
“Anything Hermione?” Dumbledore clarified softly, watching her with what seemed an almost saddened expression in his blue eyes.
“I understand that the story of the Hero within literature demands that the Hero can only be such if he retains his humanity and his compassion and respect for all life. I’m no hero professor. If it comes to it that I myself must be the one to wield the Killing Curse at this monster, for the good of the many, I have no qualms about it. And I assure you professor, if and when I utter the words of an Unforgivable, I will mean it” Hermione told him sternly.
Dumbledore looked sombre.
“It would seem that you’re mishap with time is of importance my dear. It is true that a hero ought to remain compassionate and true to his soul by not killing, but it always baffled me that Good tries to win the battle against Bad without playing by Evil’s rules. Stunning can only last so long and yet Death is permanent. I read somewhere that bad will always triumph over good because Bad has the advantage of not caring for the lives it costs to win. The trouble with the good side is we seem to believe that we can still win without making certain sacrifices.”
Dumbledore mused softly.
“When I was young and foolish I believed such things as well, that the greater good must be sacrificed to, but sometimes my dear, the sacrifice asked of us is too great. Make sure you realise that while a sacrifice of the soul might seem easy, often the sacrifice is demanded of you through someone you love.”
Hermione thought for a moment on his proclamation. It was true that if she had to she would sacrifice her own life, her own soul, to end the evil of Voldemort before it could really start. But for just a moment the faces of the people she loved flashed in her mind and Hermione was surprised to learn that the film roll of faces had grown in length as faces of James and Lily and Remus and Sirius rolled by along with Ron and Harry and Ginny and the Weasley’s and her parents and Crookshanks.
“You see my dear, sometimes it might not be so easy to win against evil through sacrifice. Because the good people of the world are often blessed with that ever powerful magic of knowing love and of caring for others beyond ourselves.”
Hermione nodded slowly.
“Do you have any other questions Hermione? Perhaps of a lighter nature. I feel that for now the heavy topics have taken up enough of our time together” Dumbledore said as he waved his wand lazily over their plates and several warm fresh cinnamon rolls appeared from the kitchens.
“Actually I do. I understand that you’re primary subject is Transfiguration. I was wondering if you could teach me about Animagi” Hermione said before picking up a cinnamon roll and taking a bite, enjoying the way the sugar coated her fingers and the warm sweet scent filled her nostrils while the taste exploded on her tongue.
“Ah I see. You truly are a student after my own heart Hermione Granger.” Dumbledore told her, his eyes twinkling happily over his half-moon spectacles. “Are you merely interested in the form of magic or do you wish to achieve your own Animagus form my dear?”
“Well, I hope to one day achieve animagi. In my own time I often day dreamed of it, but being part of the Order and constantly working by Harry’s side meant I never really had the time. But I live in this time now. Where I can only live the life of a regular Hogwarts student, albeit one from the 90s and with far more knowledge about the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters than a sixteen year old should ever have. I would like to study the things I never seemed to have time for in my old life” Hermione said, for once allowing herself to dream about all the things she might achieve in a life where she didn’t have to be Harry Potter’s smart friend, where her life wasn’t about saving the world.
“Well, I’m sure you’re aware that if you want to become an Animagus you must register with the Ministry of Magic, but I think first you ought to try out the magic and study the form before we rush into registering you. There are some witches and wizards who simply can’t achieve the magic and you are still young.” Dumbledore said
“Now let me see, yes I think this will be useful to you, oh and this text has lots of information too. And these you will have to borrow from the library, I’ll sign this piece of paper for you so that Madame Pince won’t stop you. These books belong in the restricted section after all.”
Hermione took the books and paper Dumbledore handed her, smiling that her professor seemed so enthusiastic about her choice.
Almost immediately she opened one and began to read, before remembering that she was still in Dumbledore’s office. Blushing, Hermione closed the book gently and found Dumbledore had retaken his seat and watched her with an amused and pleased expression on his face.
“It heartens me to meet students like you Hermione. Many times when I used to teach my classes I feared that the student mind is too preoccupied with raging teenage hormones and issues and general boredom as far as learning is concerned. But every time I begin to think that perhaps students aren’t as interested in education or as dedicated to the absorption of knowledge, a student like you will come along. One who is brave and strong and incredibly smart and seems to thirst for knowledge with a vengeance and passion that I haven’t seen since my own school days.”
Hermione smiled gently even as she blushed.
“I’m not the only one professor. In my year here there are many of us, many of whom are incredibly clever yet manage to make it look effortless, James and Sirius are prime examples.” She told him.
Dumbledore beamed. “I’m pleased you seem to have settled in over this week my dear, in spite of the shock and loss you must feel. You’ve made some friends here?” he asked softly.
For just a moment Hermione felt her heart squeeze a little at the pain of missing Harry and Ron and Ginny, and Dumbledore, who had been her only lifeline here and had somehow managed to make her feel like they really were family.
“I have, James and Sirius and Remus have been just wonderful, and James looks so much like Harry that at times it’s almost like being home. And Lily is warming up to me a little now that she has realised I’m not trying to steal James’s affection away. I think we might even become better friends over the next week or so because she’s incredibly confused about James now that he’s stopped fixating on her so intensely.” Hermione said happily.
“And what of Christmas my dear, it’s just three weeks away. Do you have any plans with your new friends or will you be remaining here for the holidays, the school is open of course and many of the teachers remain over the break, you are of course welcome to share Christmas morning with me. After all, what else are Godfather’s for?”
“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I don’t really have any plans at this stage, I suppose I’ll just be staying here unless one of my friends asks me to visit, since I have nowhere else to go” Hermione said “Thank you for making sure I had everything I need, and for letting me stay here and for giving me money and everything. I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise.”
“Oh now my dear, don’t mention it. I always wondered what it would be like to have children and grandchildren and God-children of my own. Sadly I never managed them. I feel blessed that you trusted me so much in your own time that you sought me out upon your arrival. Having you in my life is like having the daughter I always wanted. So you ought to stop thanking me so much, you’ve changed my life incredibly and I’m very happy about it. Also, I have some things for you.”
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears at Dumbledore’s words and as he got to his feet and strode across the room she felt them spill over onto her cheeks. In her own time Hermione had always felt a little cut off from her family because she was a witch while her parents were muggles. They didn’t understand her magical life, and while the Weasley’s welcomed her, she had always felt more like a guest than anything else. Dumbledore’s words made her feel like he really was family, like he truly cared for her and was happy to have her as a part of his life.
“Oh my dear please don’t cry” He said shocked when he turned back to her carrying several large wrapped packages. “Oh I do hope you’re the type who cheers up when given gifts” He fussed as he sat the packages on the table and pulled Hermione to her feet, pulling her into a gentle embrace.
“I’m… I’m Sorry” she hiccupped as she tried to pull her emotions back in. “I just never had anyone who made me feel like I was really family other than Harry, and then I was more like a sister than anything else. It’s nice to be cared about and worried about and to know that someone more mature and responsible and grown-up than me is looking after me” Hermione sobbed softly as Albus rubbed her back gently, comforting her in the way Hermione remembered her grandfather doing when she was a small child.
When she finally pulled her emotions back in Hermione stepped back from professor Dumbledore.
“Thank you again” She whispered “But I should be going I suppose. I have an essay to finish.”
“It’s always refreshing to find a student who does their homework on the weekends before Sunday midnight. But before you go, I got these things for you.”
Dumbledore waved his hand towards the three packages on the table.
“I know you said you only wanted to get the few things that you needed while we were in London last week, but the few things you bought for yourself simply aren’t enough to make up a life, even a life spent at a boarding school. You said yourself that this was the time you dwell in now, and I truthfully believe you will probably spend the rest of your life in this time, rather than leaping back to your own. I ordered you a few things that every young witch should have in her possession” Dumbledore said.
Hermione smiled at him. It was very kind of him to once again spend money on her.
As he handed her the first package Hermione pulled off the brown paper packaging.
Inside was a rectangular white box. Hermione held her breath as she lifted the lid on it. As she gasped in shock when she saw what was inside it.
“Now I know I’m just an old man. But the witch at the shop assured me this would fit you.”
Hermione sighed happily as she lifted the heavy black material. It was a thick Suede fur coat. A long one. If she were to put it on, the tail would hang almost to her knees. The thick black faux fur on the inside lined the entire coat and the high collar would keep her ears warm.
“It’s been charmed to repel almost everything, so you can wear it in harsh weather and should you ever end up in a duel, which given your friendships here is likely, it won’t be damaged by spells.”
“Oh it’s beautiful” Hermione breathed. “Thank you so much.” She moved to hug him but Dumbledore held out another package for her to open.
Quickly unwrapping the brown paper Hermione found another box inside, this one was brown and wooden. Inside it lay one leather bound photo album and a small wizarding camera that would allow her to fill the album.
“Thank you” She whispered as she held them gently.
“One more my dear” Dumbledore said, smiling happily now.
The third package was another clothing box and when Hermione opened it she simply stared. Inside was a formal dress. Pale pink in colour and floor length, slim fitting, cinched at the waist with a sweetheart neckline. Hermione lifted it out and held it up in front of herself in awe.
“Your friendship with James Potter will most likely result in you attending the New Year’s Eve Ball the Potter Family hold at their Manor every year. I thought you should have something nice to wear to a ball. Just in case.”
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