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Note: In MY stories, McGonagall and Tom Riddle went to school with James and Lily and the gang. Also, McGonagall is blond, because that’s just how I picture her. I KNOW this is not accurate, but it’s fanfiction, so I can make up whatever I want. I do not need a million letters telling me so! Thanks.

Hermione and the Secret Plan

By Mena Baines

Hermione Granger was glad the holidays were over. Her Christmas had been confusing, her vacation had been stressful, and most of all she was eager to get back to Hogwarts and ask Professor McGonagall what on Earth was going on with Harry.

Of course he wouldn’t be there—Hermione sighed. She stared out the window of the Hogwarts Express, feeling lonely. Ron was already back at school, and she was riding all by herself in their usual compartment.

She pulled boredly on the necklace Harry had given her for her birthday. Harry. Where was he? Hermione had never really wanted anyone to be with her the way she wanted Harry. It was embarrassing, really, the way she thought about him sometimes. But after seven years of always having him there with her, his absence was killing her

Just when she thought she couldn’t feel any worse, she was joined by her three most mortal enemies. Cho Chang slid into her compartment with Parvartti and Lavender, looking particularly sly. Hermione frowned.

“ Hello, Cho,” she said, nervous. For some reason Cho Chang had always intimidated her. Mostly because she knew that she hated her, and that she had blamed Hermione when Harry had broken up with her in their 5th year.

“ Hermione,” she said, raising an eyebrow and offering a false smile. Lavender and Parvartti hung near the doorway like security guards. Or thugs. “ I heard you and Harry were…dating.” She said the word “dating” like she might choke on it.

“ Well, we’re not,” Hermione said quickly, secretly glad that Cho had heard about she and Harry—most likely from Rosa. “ I think Harry Potter is a tad too busy for dating, Cho—you know, saving the world and all.” Cho glared at her. Hermione was proud of herself.

“ Aren’t we the wise little bugger?” Cho shot back, “ And I don’t suppose you know where our dear Harry IS this morning?”

“ Actually, no,” Hermione said, “ As far away from me as he can get, I’m sure,” she said, knowing Cho wouldn’t understand. She raised her perfect black eyebrows again.

“ Huh—he’s cross with you or something?” Cho asked with a wicked grin. “ Oh, I can’t IMAGINE why…”

“ Just forget about it, Cho,” Hermione said, “ It’s none of your business.”

Cho snorted. But to Hermione’s absolute delight, she gave up her act and slunk out of the room. Lavender followed wordlessly, looking tired, and Pavartti turned to Hermione before she left.

“ You know it’s a shame really,” she said with phony pity, and then a shrug. “ But I always thought you’d end up with Ron anyway.”

“ A lot of people did,” Hermione muttered. Pavartti gave her an evil smile and slid out the door.

Hermione sighed heavily. She shut her eyes and rested her head on the back of her seat. I have to stop thinking about him, she told herself, it’s not right. But she was worried. Before he’d left her Harry had mentioned something about a plan—something that the faculty at Hogwarts wouldn’t be very pleased about. Hermione wondered if they even had any idea what he was up to. And besides that she missed the physical aspect of Harry. She hated to admit it, even to herself—especially to herself—but she had become one of those people who craved a close kiss, a warm touch, or just a re-assuring glance from the person she loved. She felt like she was addicted to him now, and she was going through withdrawal. Hermione chuckled at her own stupid metaphor.

“ Herm-oine!” came a loud voice with a suddenly very obvious New York accent. Rosa burst into her compartment with Draco in tow, grinning from ear to ear. “ There you are!” she exclaimed, wrapping Hermione in a hug, “ I was looking all over for you!”

“ Hey,” Hermione said, mustering up a friendly smile. Draco fell down onto one of the seats across from her, looking aggravated. Rosa sat down next to him and started going through her bags.

“ I got you something!” Rosa said with a grin, handing Hermione a tee-shirt that had been rolled into a coil. Hermione took it and unrolled it to reveal a message written in thick, black letters: I LUV NYC.

“ You like it?” Rosa asked, sinking into Draco’s arms. “ I got him one too but he won’t wear it.” She elbowed Draco in the stomach and he coughed. Hermione saw him tighten his grip on her shoulder and her heart turned over awkwardly. Harry should be here, she thought sadly.

“ I love it Rosa, thanks,” Hermione said, “ But isn’t it a bit inaccurate? I mean, I’ve never been to New York—how do I know that I love it?”

Rosa laughed, “ You’re a riot, Herm-oine.” She said, “ You’ll just have to come with me sometime! I’d love for you to meet Nail!”

Draco scoffed, “ Who is this Nail?” he asked with a sneer, “ What kind of name is that?”

“ What kind of name is Drai-co?” she asked, kissing him on the chin. Hermione saw Draco try to hide a smile. Thankfully, the train arrived at Hogwarts before she could be sick from all their sweet-ness.

_______________________________

Hermione spent most of the rest of the day in her room with Rosa. She told Hermione all about her big New Year’s Eve bash in Times Square.

“ We waited for 19 hours!” Rosa said, pulling a strand of her hair into a braid, “ I had to pee so bad!” Hermione laughed.

“ We were in London, near the Thames, when they had the big firework show” Hermione said, “ Me and my aunt, and my cousin Buddy. Gosh, I’ve never seen so many drunk people!” she said, rolling her eyes. They both giggled.

“ Well I guess you have never been to any of my family reunions!” Rosa said, and Hermione burst into laughter again.

“ Gosh, I’ve actually missed you!” Hermione said, “ I have SO much to tell you…”

“ Yeah?” Rosa asked with a grin, “ Who’d you kiss on New Year’s Eve, Herm-oine? And where is your leading man, anyway? I haven’t seen Harry since we got back.”

Hermione frowned, “ I know…that’s what I have to tell you about. He’s…he’s…gone off to fight an unspeakable evil, I think.” Rosa snickered.

“ Huh?” she asked, with a half-smile, “ What do you mean?”

Hermione sighed, “ I don’t know. He was very vague. But he, um, we—er…” She trailed off, embarrassed. “ Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing to you but he finally KISSED me!”

“ What?!!” Rosa squealed, grinning, “ Hermione you’re so LUCKY! Harry Potter—what a catch! I knew you could do it!” Hermione tried to join in her happiness, but she couldn’t forget the reality of what had happened next.

“ Yes…well…” she said, with a sigh, “ I couldn’t…really. He’s left me.” She felt her eyes stinging with tears. “ He’s not coming back to Hogwarts, Rosa. Not ever.”

Rosa frowned and shook her head. “ You’re kidding? Harry? But…why?”

Hermione sighed heavily and beat back tears with her eyelashes. “ I…don’t…know.” She said slowly, “ He thinks…he’s going to… well anyway, he doesn’t want to put us all in danger…”

“ In danger?” Rosa was confused, “ Herm-oine, what—“

“ Um, sorry, but—Hermione?” she heard someone correctly pronounce her name from the doorway and turned. It was Ron, standing awkwardly at the entrance to their room.

“ Oh, Ron,” Hermione said, clearing her throat. “ Hey—what’s wrong?” she asked. He had a terrified sort of expression on his face, and she guessed that it wasn’t just being in the girls dorms that had him so scared.

“ May I speak to you?” he asked, his voice sounding strained. Hermione felt a strange fear growing in her stomach—had something happened…to Harry?

“ Hey, it’s okay,” Rosa said, jumping up, “ I’ll just go…have a smoke or something. You okay?” she asked Hermione. She didn’t respond. Rosa walked out, and Ron shut the door behind her.

“ What’s going on?” Hermione asked, getting up. Her heart rate climbed when Ron gave her a somber look, “ It’s Harry, isn’t it?” she asked, grabbing her amethyst necklace. Ron nodded.

“ He’s…” he broke off and seemed to search for the right words. “ …Up to no good.” He finally finished. Hermione frowned. She felt her heart grow heavy and sink in her chest.

“ Even McGonagall says I’ll have to use the dark arts to defeat Voldemort.”

She remembered the chilling way he’d unleashed some unseen power on his uncle Vernon and shivered.

“ What…” she was almost afraid to ask, “ Has he done?” Ron shook his head.

“ I don’t know—but Dumbledore is having a FIT,” he said, with a wearied sigh, “ All week he and McGonagall have been waiting for you to get back.”

“ Me?” Hermione squeaked, “ Why?” Ron shrugged.

“ They won’t tell me anything. They just said to send for you immediately.” He looked at her, worried and scared. “ What’s he doing, Hermione? What’s going on? No one seems to know anything—and the teachers won’t speak a word.”

“ It’s Voldemort, Ron—do you think he’d let Harry graduate Hogwarts in one piece?” she said coldly, trembling. “ That’s why he left—where’s McGonagall? I’ve got to see her.” Ron nodded. He looked sort of dejected and hurt, but Hermione didn’t have time for him anymore. He was so apart from she and Harry, after all. Though they loved him, he could never understand.

“ She’s in Dumbledore’s office,” Ron said, “ They’re waiting for you.” Hermione nodded, and breezed out of the room, leaving Ron standing alone.

____________________________________

Hermione walked into Dumbledore’s office, almost afraid to face the wizened old wizard. His office was rather intimidating, and Hermione held her breath as she pushed her way inside it’s great doors. She heard the call of his golden Phoenix as soon as she stepped inside.

“ There she is,” McGonagall said with a sigh when she spotted her. Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, looking somber.

“ Young lady,” he said, nodding to her. He looked terrible. Hermione knew he’d had problems with illness in his old age. He looked to McGonagall. “ Has Remus arrived?” he asked her. McGonagall frowned.

“ I don’t see why we must involve HIM in this,” she said coolly. Dumbledore raised a fuzzy white eyebrow.

“ We need all the help we can get,” he said, looking at Hermione. She shrank—for some reason she felt like she’d done something wrong.

“ What is…happening?” she asked in the smallest voice she could manage. McGonagall sighed.

“ So Harry didn’t tell you what he was planning to do?” she asked. Hermione shook her head.

“ Is he alright?” she asked automatically. Dumbledore and McGonagall looked at each other.

“ We don’t…know.” McGonagall answered, and Hermione’s knees wavered. “ He isn’t…here.” Dumbledore squinted.

“ Where?” It was all Hermione could manage to say.

“ Hermione,” McGonagall said, walking to the window, “ I imagine you know that Harry has withdrawn from Hogwarts?” Hermione nodded, “ Well naturally we suspected he was up to something—he said he’d take care of Voldemort, but he wouldn’t accept our help any longer. And…before he left the school—someone broke into my office…” she trailed off.

“ I’m sure you remember the time turner,” Dumbledore said, and Hermione couldn’t remember ever having heard him speak so seriously. She nodded. He smiled in a strange, sad way.

“ Ohh…” Hermione said, feeling sick to her stomach, “ Harry…oh, he didn’t!” Her voice broke—how could he be so foolish?

“ We imagine he’s gone back to the time of his parents death.” McGonagall said. “ But obviously he hasn’t acted yet—or everything would be…well…changed.”

“ It’s very dangerous to travel back so far into the past,” Dumbledore said, stopping to cough. “ Especially with the intention of changing the events that had previously transpired.”

“ Hermione,” McGonagall said, “ He’ll die. And he’ll change the course of time for the worse in the meantime.”

“ Voldemort was extremely powerful at that time.” Dumbledore said. “ And young Harry will be alone and uneasy in the past—there is no way he could save his parents—he’ll most likely get himself killed in the process.”

“ But—but…he stopped him as a baby!” Hermione said, falling to her knees. He’ll die…the words echoed like evil laughter through her brain.

“ Hermione, that is a very complicated issue,” McGonagall said, “ We don’t know how he did it then—and neither does he. For all we know it could have been luck.”

“ Well what do I do?” Hermione shouted desperately. “ You have to let me help him!” The two professors looked at each other.

“ I know, Hermione,” McGonagall said, “ We think…you’re the only one he’d listen to. And what’s more—you have experience with time travel.”

“ But we don’t want to put you in danger,” Dumbledore added quickly. “ This is…a very difficult situation.”

“ No,” Hermione said, “ Not for me—not difficult at all. Let me go—as soon as possible—now, even.”

“ You can’t be rash about this, Hermione,” McGonagall said, “ You have to think about what you may have to face…”

Hermione shook her head. “ I don’t have anything to think about. I can bring him home—I know I can.” She looked at Professor McGonagall, “ You know I can.” She said somberly. McGonagall sighed, and motioned to Dumbledore.

“ Give her the turner,” she said, “ She’s never going to be more ready than she is now.” Dumbledore nodded and reached into his desk.

“ I’m borrowing this from a friend,” he told Hermione as he handed it to her. “ Take care of it.”

“ Of course,” she said, taking it from him. She was suddenly nervous as she slipped the little hour glass around her neck. I think I remember how to do this…her hands were shaking. Harry might hate her for coming after him…it didn’t matter. She wouldn’t let him die—not for his parent’s lives, not for anything.

“ Here,” McGonagall said, shoving a piece of paper into her hand. “ Go to this address—my friend…she’ll help you. She’s a good person.” McGonagall gave her a strange look, “ But don’t tell her too much…don’t do too much of anything. Just bring him home.” Hermione nodded.

“ What about the amulet?” Dumbledore asked McGonagall quietly. She shook her head.

“ I have something else planned for that—and there’s no reason to get it now.” she answered quickly. Dumbledore looked to Hermione.

“ Come back as quickly as you can—“ he glanced at McGonagall, “ With or without him.”

“ What?” Hermione asked, “ Why would I come back without him—what would be the point?”

“ We don’t quite know what Harry’s…mind set is,” Dumbledore says, “ For all we know he’s as dangerous as Tom was—“

“ No!” Hermione shouted, “ Harry would never hurt me! I know it!”

“ Don’t get overconfident,” Dumbledore said, “ Good luck, anyhow.” He tossed her a little bag of Floo powder. “ I’m sure you’ll know what to do with that.” He said.

“ Whatever,” Hermione mumbled, turning from the old man. She faced the window, and took the time turner in her hands. McGonagall was watching her with intent—she looked jealous. She wants to go back and see James again, Hermione realized sadly. She almost wished she could take her Professor with her as she turned the hour glass over in her hands. One…two…three…

Hermione was flying backwards—more quickly and longer than she ever had in any of her previous time travels. She thought she was going to be sick—everything was an insane blur around her. I’m out of practice, she realized, and then she fell out of the vortex, hitting the ground hard.

She was standing in Dumbledore’s office, only everything looked newer, the air seemed vaguely sharper, and some of the furniture was different. The room was empty at the moment, but Hermione knew she had to move quickly. She took the bag of Floo powder Dumbledore had given her and strode to the fireplace.

Take me to Harry, she thought, and then she remembered the address McGonagall had given her. It was probably a safer route—who knew whether or not Harry was in the proximity of a fireplace. So she concentrated on the address: 2490 Arbor Pass, in Cambridge. Hermione tossed the powder, watched the flames take on their oddly Floo-ish appearance, and jumped, praying she’d end up somewhere safe.

_________________________________

Minerva McGonagall was hiding under her covers. It was the 4th of January, 1986. Her 21st birthday. While most people her age would be toasting huge mugs of mead all night at the pub with their friends, she was hiding. This was it—the big one. Something truly dreadful was going to happen. She could feel it.

Lord Voldemort was all over the news—Minerva shivered under her lacy white sheets. I’m doomed, she thought, what a horrible time to have a birthday. Voldemort had been spotted all throughout London, and recently in Cambridge. He was after something.

“ James,” Minerva whispered, shivering. James with his little wife and his new baby—Tom would never leave them alone. It had been to no avail—keeping herself from him for the sake of his safety. Tom didn’t care anymore who James’ baby’s mother was—any slight threat to the Rise of the Dark Arts would be squashed in his path.

Thankfully, Minerva had the day off from work. Not that she didn’t want to be at Hogwarts—in fact, she wished she was. But she didn’t want to put any of her students or colleagues in danger. Today, she was better off alone.

She heard the doorbell ring and tensed under the blankets. Great Wizards, she thought miserably—it’s him. Minerva groaned and tightened her grip on the sheets. Maybe, she thought desperately, if I just ignore him he’ll go away. She knew, however, that this was unlikely.

The doorbell rang again. She was surprised that he hadn’t just burst in the door. Minerva pushed her covers off, and climbed out of bed. She might as well face him. She walked to the front door, and opened it, bracing herself. And sure enough, there he was: Remus Lupin. He would never leave her alone. Minerva groaned.

“ Where’ve you been?” he asked, pushing his way inside, “ I haven’t heard from you in a few days. You know it’s awfully impolite not to call—with everything that’s going on.” Remus frowned. “ What’s the matter with you? You look awful.”

“ Thanks,” she muttered sarcastically, “ Look, Remus, now is not the time…” she just groaned, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to get rid of him for the rest of the day.

“ Look, I know it’s your birthday—but I’m telling you, it’s just silly to want to be by yourself like this. Not now, Minerva. It’s dangerous.” Remus insisted. She frowned.

“ I KNOW it’s dangerous.” She said, angry, “ But not for ME, stupid, it’s James that he’s after.”

Remus sighed. “ You’re right—although I don’t want to admit it, you’re right. Peter’s taken off, Minerva. No one has seen him for days.”

“ Great Wizards,” she whispered. “ He was their…” Remus nodded.

“ Sirius is flipping out—but what can any of us do?” he sighed. “ I just wanted to make sure you were safe.” Minerva rolled her eyes.

“ I’m fine. And there’s got to be something—“

There was a knock at the door, and they both jumped. Minerva’s eyes widened.

“ Who is it?” she whispered, as Remus peered out the side window. He frowned.

“ Some girl—I don’t know. Never seen her before.” He looked at Minerva and shrugged, “ She’s just a kid—probably selling cards for Unicef or something.”

“ Alright,” Minerva said, getting up, “ Let me answer it.” But Remus had already pulled open the door. Minerva scowled at him.

“ Can we help you?” he asked the girl, still a bit suspicious of her. They had to be wary of everyone these days.

The girl gasped when she saw Remus—her eyes wide like flying saucers, and then gasped again when her eyes fell on Minerva. She wasn’t familiar at all—small, 18 years old at the most, with thick brown hair and cinnamon-colored eyes. Minerva had never seen her in her life—but she almost remembered her, somehow. It was like a ghost of a memory that she couldn’t put her finger on.

Meanwhile, the young girl kept looking back and forth from she to Remus, her pretty face frozen in shock.

“ Great Wizards,” she finally whispered.

“ Don’t I know you from somewhere?” Remus asked her with a frown, and Minerva realized he must have the same odd, familiar feeling about her. But the girl just shook her head, slowly.

“ I…I…I…,” she stuttered, “ I need your help.”

“ Our help? Oh, well we’re very busy—“ Remus began to dismiss her.

“ Come in,” Minerva said, annoyed with him. For some reason, she trusted this girl—knew she needed something from her. She took her arm carefully and led her inside.

“ Minerva,” Remus hissed, “ I DON’T know if this is such a good idea…on a day like this…”

“ Nonsense, Remus!” Minerva chirped, leading the girl into the living room, “ She needs our help, don’t you see?”

“ I—er—go to Hogwarts,” the young girl said quickly, “ That is…I…”

“ Hogwarts?” Remus said, “ Oh, then she’s one of your students, Minny.”

“ Don’t call me that!” Minerva hissed quickly. “ What’s your name?” she asked the girl, “ I think I would recognize you…but I do teach very many children…”

______________________________

“ Caroline Manning,” Hermione spat out her mother’s maiden name without thinking. She hoped neither McGonagall or Lupin would ever go to her mother for dentistry work.

“ Caroline…,” McGonagall said thoughtfully, “ It almost sounds familiar….”

Hermione just stared. And stared. She couldn’t take her eyes off them—couldn’t even get a word out. They were so young, it was so eerie! Lupin was leaning on the mantel, looking her over suspiciously. He was very handsome, if not bit chubbier than he was as an older man. His light brown hair was devoid of the gray she remembered from the future, and his pretty green eyes were still sharp with youth. Hermione wanted to hug him and tell him how good he looked.

McGonagall didn’t look very different—Hermione had always thought she was beautiful. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, and she was missing some of the lines that years of teaching had brought to her face. Her blond hair was messy and pulled into a sloppy ponytail.

“ What do you need us to help you with?” she asked Hermione kindly.

“ Oh…” Hermione moaned, “ This is so difficult…” She wished so badly that she could tell them what was going to happen to their friends later that night. She began thinking like Harry. Why shouldn’t they try and save his parents? What harm would it do? But Hermione shook those thoughts out of her head—Voldemort would only find them again later. What’s done is done, Hermione thought sadly, I’m in the past, and I have to think of it that way.

“ I just…need you to help me find my friend.” Hermione said, formulating a plan. “ All I know is that he was looking for a young couple…James and Lily Potter?”

Lupin and McGonagall exchanged a look, “ Your friend didn’t happen to go by the name of TOM did he?” Lupin asked, walking toward her.

“ Oh, no, no!” Hermione said quickly. Her two future Professors looked at each other again.

“ But you know about him?” McGonagall asked, raising an eyebrow.

“ Well…no.” Hermione sighed. “ Look—all I want to do is find my friend. He’s going to do something foolish—“

“ This friend of yours is a wizard?” Lupin asked, clenching his fist.

“ Um, well, yes…” she looked at McGonagall desperately, “ You just have to trust me…I, I don’t know anything, just that I have to bring him home safely.”

McGonagall looked up at Lupin. “ I don’t know where they are…” she said quietly.

“ Sirius may have mentioned something,” Lupin muttered, “ But I don’t like this at all…”

“ Remus—look at her, what could she possibly do?” McGonagall insisted. She knows me, Hermione thought, it must be because we’re so close in the future…Hermione wanted very badly to tell her Professor—her friend—who she really was, what she was doing. “ I’m not sensing that she’s dangerous…not at all.”

“ Well you were never one for Divination.” Lupin stated, “ Perhaps we should call on Sibyll….”

McGonagall snorted, “ I think a sewer rat could give us a more accurate prediction than Sibyll Trelawny.” She said, rolling her eyes. Hermione grinned.

“ Well, I don’t have much time,” Hermione said, getting up, “ I have to find him before sundown…” she bit her tongue.

“ Why before sundown?” Lupin asked with interest.

“ I promised my Mum I’d be back in time for dinner.” Hermione lied like a pro. McGonagall grinned, almost as if she got the joke.

“ Alright, then,” Lupin said, grabbing his coat, “ Come on, Minny, if you think this is the right thing to do…”

“ Oh, no, I can’t go.” McGonagall said, squeezing her knees. “ It…it would be too dangerous.”

“ Too dangerous!” Lupin said, kneeling in front of her, “ And you expect me to leave you here alone on a night like this? Talk about dangerous! You’re coming.”

“ No.” McGonagall said decisively. “ I can’t. My…birthday…James…”

“ Oh…” Lupin said slowly, and his face fell. “ Right…well, I thought…okay.” He stood up, and then turned back to her, “ Why don’t you go to Arthur’s house or something?”

McGonagall shook her head, “ I just want to be alone, Remus.” She said, letting her head fall into her lap.

“ Right.” Lupin said gravely. He turned to Hermione, “ Let’s go,” he said, and she nodded. Her heart was breaking for Professor McGonagall. I’m so sorry, she thought, I can’t do anything… She sighed as they walked out the door. James Potter must have died for a reason, but she couldn’t imagine why. Just to have Harry live for 18 years before being destroyed or corrupted? It didn’t make sense.

“ Take care of yourselves,” McGonagall called before they shut the door. “ Remus. And you too, Caroline.” Their eyes met briefly as Remus pulled the door closed. It’s not right…Hermione thought, all those years she lost with him…for nothing.

________________________________

Hermione took a bus with Remus to the south side of town. They got off at a large, shady apartment complex. The sky was beginning to darken in the background, and Hermione wished Harry would hurry and appear. She glanced around the apartments as they climbed the stairs, but he was no where to be found.

“ Where are we?” she asked quietly as they moved through the empty courtyard toward an open door at the back of the building.

“ I can’t take you to them on my broom,” Lupin said, “ But I have a friend who has some transportation,”

Oh no, Hermione thought, as they wandered into a garage near the back, this is getting out of hand. Her breath caught in her throat when an attractive young man slid out from underneath a car. It was Sirius Black, wand in one hand and wrench in another.

Great Wizards, Hermione thought, trying not to sink to her knees. Tonight is the night he’ll go after Pettigrew…tonight is the night he’ll be sentenced to Azkaban. She wanted to throw her arms around Sirius and save him from everything he was about to go through. He was very beautiful and intense looking, the way he’d appeared in the picture she’d seen of Harry’s parent’s wedding.

“ Remus,” he said, scratching his head, “ I didn’t know you were in town.” He looked at Hermione, “ I little young for you, don’t you think?” he asked with a smirk. Hermione’s cheeks reddened and she stepped away from Lupin.

“ This is Caroline,” Lupin said with a sigh. “ She needs you to take her to James and Lily. Her friend is in some kind of trouble…he’s looking for them.”

Sirius frowned, “ Strange timing,” he muttered. “ I don’t know about that, Remus.”

“ Please, Sirius,” Hermione pleaded, her voice cracking, “ You have to take me to them…he’ll die.”

“ How did you know his name?” Remus asked with a frown.

Sirius wiped a grease smudge off his tan cheek. “ This is about Tom, isn’t it?” he asked. Hermione realized he was speaking to her, not to Lupin. She nodded slowly.

“ Tom—Vol—You-know-who…he’s after my friend in a big way. I have to…find him…bring him home.” She tried to explain.

“ What does this have to do with James and Lily?” Sirius asked, “ What does he want with them?”

“ I don’t know…all I know is that when I find them, I’ll find him, too.” Hermione said. Sirius stared at her for a long time.

“ Haven’t I seen you before?” he asked.

“ That’s precisely what I said!” Lupin exclaimed.

“ What did you say your name was?” Sirius asked.

“ Caroline Manning, and no, you haven’t.” Hermione said with a sigh. “ Are you going to help me or aren’t you?”

They heard someone approaching and looked to the doorway. A pretty girl with long blond hair knocked on the door frame.

“ Hey, Siri,” she called, smaking her gum. “ What’s up? Are we going out or what?”

“ A little young for you, isn’t she?” Lupin muttered with a wicked grin. Sirius looked at Hermione. Please, please believe me, she willed him, begging with her eyes. He chewed on his lip for a few seconds.

“ Not tonight, Rosi,” Sirius finally called to the girl. “ Something came up.” The girl rolled her eyes and walked off. Hermione thought she recognized her from somewhere—didn’t she wait tables at the Three Broomsticks?

“ Alright,” he said to Hermione once she’d gone. “ Let’s go. My bike is out back.” He looked at Lupin. “ You coming?”

Lupin shook his head. “ I’m going back to Minny,” he said.

“ Minerva?” Sirius said, “ She okay?”

Lupin shrugged. “ Pretty torn up, I guess. Worried about…James. You know.” He sighed heavily. Sirius gave him a sympathetic glance.

“ We all are, buddy,” he said, patting Lupin on the shoulder as he walked out. Hermione stopped in front on her future Professor before she left. She knew she couldn’t make too much of an impact on him—if he remembered her in the future it could cause problems. But she still wrapped him in a hug before she left. Lupin stiffened, surprised.

“ Thanks,” she whispered, and quickly walked out.

___________________________

Hermione held on tight to Sirius as they rode toward James and Lily’s secret home on the English countryside. The sun was just beginning to set. Hermione was glad when they finally began to descend—she didn’t have much time. Sirius landed the flying motorbike safely and Hermione stepped off.

“ You want me to stay?” he asked her over the roar of the enchanted engine. She shook her head.

“ I’ll be okay,” she said, fingering the time turner. Sirius eyed it for a moment and nodded. Then their eyes met, and Hermione almost melted in her place—he was so handsome. She had almost felt like she was cheating on Harry as she held onto him on his bike. Cheating on him with his Godfather—now that was really something.

“ I hope your friend is alright,” Sirius said, “ You think he’s around?” Hermione nodded. She could feel it—Harry wasn’t very far from where they had landed. In the distance she could see a charming little country house, and hear the happy laughter of a small child. Harry…she hoped it wasn’t just his childhood self that she sensed—either way, she couldn’t get Sirius involved.

“ I’ll find him,” she said. He nodded, and sighed.

“ Good luck with everything,” he said, revving the engine.

“ To you too!” Hermione called as he took off, though she knew any well-wishes on Sirius’s part were useless. She fought back tears for a moment when she thought about how Peter would betray him, and about how horrible the rest of his life would be. I hate knowing the future, she thought sadly. No wonder Professor Trelawny is such a crack-pot.

She finally turned toward the country house, longing to be with Harry after everything she’d been through that day.

Hermione stopped in her tracks when she spotted them. James and Lily Potter. They were sitting on the grass in their front yard, lazily playing with baby Harry. James would lie on his back and toss Harry up in the air, and then hold him there with magic, making the baby giggle wildly. Lily scolded him for playing too rough, but laughed along with them. Hermione was frozen. Harry’s parents, there in front of her—real, and alive…for the moment. She felt a rush of tears, but stopped herself.

He could have been so happy.

“ Strange to see yourself as an infant,” came a voice behind her, and Hermione gasped and whirled around. Harry was standing there, a strange smile on his face.

“ Harry…” Hermione said, a foreign, terrified feeling rising in her stomach. “ You frightened me…”

Harry looked past her, at his young parents. “ I knew you’d come,” he said evenly.

“ Harry,” Hermione said again, her voice trembling, “ I know this must be very hard—“

“ You know, Hermione, you really don’t,” he said, narrowing his eyes, “ You’re not standing here watching your dead parents on the last night of their lives, are you?”

“ Harry—“

“ Don’t you dare pretend you know how I feel,” he said coldly. Hermione felt chills creep down her spine, and she wished she’d asked Sirius to stay. “ And don’t try to stop me either,” added flatly.

“ And what will you do if do try?” Hermione asked, furious, her eyes filling with tears. “ Kill me? Throw me backwards with dark magic like you did your uncle?”

Harry looked away from her, and didn’t answer.

“ You’re not fooling me, you stupid boy,” Hermione cried, keeping her voice low so that his parents wouldn’t hear. They were hidden behind a grove of trees, but they weren’t very far from the cottage.

“ What are you talking about?” Harry asked, still not facing her.

“ Stop trying to act like you’ve become some dark wizard within the span of three days,” she hissed, “ It must be easy to think only of yourself and what you want when you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve turned to the Dark Arts.”

Harry turned to her with a spiteful glare that could have rivaled Draco Malfoy’s and raised his hand as if he were going to hit her. Hermione knew better. She stood her ground, and looked into his eyes. There was no evil there. Even Harry himself couldn’t make her think that.

Harry’s gaze slowly softened, and he choked out a painful sob and crumbled into her arms. Hermione held him against her and sank to the ground behind the trees, pulling him into her lap. He was shaking all over, and he pinched his eyes shut tight against her chest and covered his face with his hands.

“ Hermione,” he said in a whimper, “ They’re….right…there….” He gave up trying to be strong, and cried, hard, his whole body shaking with sobs. Hermione squeezed him tighter to her and let her own tears spill out of the corner of her eyes.

“ I know, I know, I know,” she whispered, “ I’m so sorry.”

Harry cried quietly for a few minutes in Hermione’s arms. Hermione didn’t know what to say to him that would make him feel any better, so she just held him and stroked his hair, trying to be of some small comfort.

Finally, he sat up, his breath choppy and his eyes bloodshot. He looked at Hermione for a long time, sniffling.

“ I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“ It doesn’t matter,” she said, shaking her head. “ We can be as sorry as we want, but it’s not going to change anything,” she said sadly, “ That’s what I realized today.”

“ But,” Harry said, standing, “ I…I…just want to…warn them.”

“ I know, sweetheart,” Hermione said, swallowing tears and touching his arm, “ You can’t.”

Harry shook his head. “ I can’t save them,” he said, his voice full of suffering, “ I can’t. I can’t stop Voldemort. I’m…not strong enough.”

“ Not yet,” Hermione said, “ And even if you were—this is not the place to do it. Your battle is in the future, not here.”

“ Some future,” Harry said with a scoff. “ I just want to…” He took a step toward the clearing past the grove of trees. Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist and held him where he stood.

“ It won’t turn out like you want it to, Harry,” Hermione whispered against his back. He smelled so good. She had missed him so much.

Harry pulled against her, but she only tightened her grip on him.

“ Hermione,” he whispered, “ It’s not right.”

She sighed. “ Somehow, though, it is. They gave their lives for you. Respect their sacrifice, Harry. They knew what they were doing.” She gave his waist a squeeze, “ You have a bad habit of not listening to the people who love you,” she said.

“ Look at them,” he whispered, “ They were so happy—right up until the… last… day.”

“ Come on,” Hermione said, reaching up and sliding the long chain of the time turner around him, “ Let’s go…” she watched as the last of the orange sun dipped beneath the western landscape, and her heart rate increased. Voldemort. He was coming here—maybe not soon, but in this night… And in all of his original power.

“ Just a little longer,” Harry whispered, watching his parents gather up his toys from the lawn and prepare to go inside for dinner. Hermione knew he would never want to leave. She picked up the little hour glass and turned it. Once…twice…

_____________________________

When they returned to 2004, everything was changed. The charming countryside had become a sprawling suburb. The little cottage where Harry had lived as a baby was gone—replaced with a large brick Tudor that was identical to the rest of the houses in the neighborhood.

“ Great Wizards,” Hermione whispered, the sudden change giving her goosebumps.

Harry sank to his knees, “ It’s all gone…” he whispered. The street lamps began coming on against the darkening sky. Hermione reached down and pulled him to his feet.

“ Come on,” she said, “ You’ve been through a lot. We don’t have to go back to Hogwarts right away…” she trailed off.

“ Hogwarts,” Harry said, looking at his feet. “ They’ll kill me.”

“ They’ll understand.” She insisted, although she wasn’t so sure. Even Dumbledore had looked ready to put Harry on the Most Wanted list. She squeezed Harry’s arm. “ You must be exhausted…” she said.

“ I am,” he moaned, “ Where are we?”

“ I don’t know…” she said, glancing around. “ Not far from Cambridge, I think. It didn’t take us very long to get here on the motorcycle…”

“ The motorcycle?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. Hermione grinned.

“ I have a lot to tell you,” she said. Harry smiled weakly, and bent his head to kiss her lightly on her lips. He sighed against her cheek.

“ I’m so sorry—god, how you must hate me,” he said. Hermione grinned.

“ I don’t hate you,” she said, planting soft kisses all along his jaw line, so happy to have him back that she forgot they were standing in the middle of street in some neighborhood.

“ After everything I’ve put you through?” he said, “ You should.”

“ Don’t try too hard to convince me,” she said with a smile. She linked arms with him and they began to walk towards town.

“ So…we’re not going back to school?” Harry said.

“ Nope.”

“ Hmm,” Harry said, chewing his lip and suppressing a grin.

“ Hmm, indeed.”

THE END (ha!)