I.2 - Prologue

Still stunned from everything that had happened to her that day, Hermione lay on a small bed and stared at the ceiling. She was going to die, alone, without friends, not because of the war, but on the contrary, far away from it. She was trapped in the past, without any chance to contribute to the defeat of Voldemort.

Professor Dumbledore had looked sad as he explained the problems with her time travel, but soon after he regained composure and had suggested that she could sleep in one of the small guest rooms. The rest of the students would return back after summer only in two days, and apart from him and the headmaster, the school was empty. He would help her, he had promised, he would do whatever he could to find a way to go forward in time. For now, they would not tell anyone about her real background, so all the headmaster knew was that Dumbledore had a surprise guest. Obviously the trust Professor Dippet had in his transfiguration professor was big enough to not ask any further questions.

Annoyed by herself, Hermione sat up. She was not the type to lay down quietly and just accept fate. If Professor Dumbledore was trying to find a solution, she could at least help him. Determined she undressed and put on the pyjama that had been provided for her. She was not sure whether she would actually be able to sleep, but she knew she had to rest. Tomorrow would mark the beginning of her quest back to the future.

oOoOoOo

 

“Slytherin was not your house in your time?” a surprised looking Dumbledore asked. Hermione sat in his office, face red with excitement, and took a sip of hot tea. He had invited her over for breakfast and instantly noticed that she wanted to tell him something.

“Exactly! I was a Gryffindor,” Hermione emphasised, “but the painting showed me in a Slytherin uniform. I am absolutely certain that there has never been such a painting of me.”

Deep in thought, Dumbledore tracked the edge of his cup with one finger. Then, with a sigh, he put it back on the table and replied: “The way you described the painting, it seems to be part of our honorary gallery.”

“A gallery, sir? What do you mean?”

“That doesn’t exist in your time? The gallery for the best of the best of every year. If you would follow me, please, it is just around the corner.”

Puzzled, Hermione stood up and followed her professor down the hallway and just around one corner. There, covering almost the whole left side of the hallway, hung countless paintings of young wizards and witches.

“For eternities, we honour the best witch and the best wizard of every graduating year with a painting. After receiving their certificate, they get their painting done so that future generations of students have idols to look up to. These students represent our finest graduates, they represent Hogwarts in the whole wizarding world. Almost all of them have had a long, wonderful career and contributed immensely to magical theory and science.”

Unable to give any response, Hermione stared at the paintings. Obviously, as soon as she had thought about her Slytherin uniform this morning, she had sensed that it was somehow important. But to see that her painting would perfectly fit into this gallery, to see that every painting here was done in the exact same style as hers, that definitely exceeded her expectations.

“What is the meaning of this, professor? Why is there a painting of me that would fit here perfectly?”

“Perhaps because it belongs here?” Dumbledore simply replied.

Both lost in thought, they returned to his office.

“So, does that imply have been here before?” Hermione at last asked after they settled back at the breakfast table.

Her future headmaster scratched his long, brown beard: “It certainly is a possibility, yes. I indeed do believe it is the most probable explanation.”

“But … why was it in the Chamber of Secrets? How did it end up there? Why am I here again?”

“Not again, Miss Granger. You have never before been here. Not in this timeline.”

Confused, Hermione shook her head: “I don’t get it. What do you mean? Please, just tell me what you are thinking.”

“It appears,” Dumbledore murmured without actually addressing her, “that you indeed have done this time travel before. Furthermore, it appears that you yourself made sure you would repeat the time travel. The painting and the time turner both have been prepared in such a manner that it would interact with each other. Obviously, the painting would not activate the time turner on its own.”

“It was me? I sent myself back?” Hermione replied amazed. Dumbledores explanation was so stunning that she did not even feel any shock or anger, she was just perplexed. Desperately, she tried to make sense of all of this.

Her professor continued his explanation: “Only you and me know, or better: knew that you were here. That you are here. Of course there is the possibility that we tell someone else, but I don’t really believe that. Every confidant only increases the risk that something is changed that could affect the future. So, if we assume that only you and me knew about your time travel, only you or me could have planned it. Apart from you and me, no one could possibly have known that at that fateful day in 1998 you would wear a time turner while visiting the Chamber of Secrets.”

Instinctively, Hermione felt that Dumbledore’s words were rational, but she herself was just not able to fully grasp the meaning. Her head hurt while she tried to make sense of the concept of time travel.

“So, if it was actually me – why? Why did I sent myself back here again? On that day, to make it worse! We’re at war! They need me, I have to help, every hand that can hold a wand is important!”

Curiosity was visible in Dumbledore’s eyes: “Even yesterday you mentioned that war. Are wizards fighting each other?”

Hermione took a sharp breath. She was not allowed to tell anything, she could not risk Dumbledore changing the future because he had knowledge he should not have. Even though this was Dumbledore, the all-knowing professor who always seemed to do right, even he would not be able to resist using that forbidden knowledge.

“I am so sorry, sir, but I must not tell you anything about the future. Yes, there will be war in the wizarding world, but I cannot tell you more even if I wanted to.”

For a brief moment, she thought her professor looked impatient and angry, but if that emotion really had been there, it was just as quickly gone again. Instead, Dumbledore took a sip of tea before uttering his next thoughts: “That war obviously is important, something is at stake there. The other you that has sent you here certainly would have been in the exact same situation. There must have been a reason to do this even though you are so desperately needed in 1998. Can you imagine any reason that would justify this time travel?”

Confused, Hermione blinked a few times. It was not the question itself that bothered her, but the tone and way he had presented it. Just like a teacher would ask a student in a way that the student would find the right answers on his own. Suddenly, she started to understand why Harry had been so angry at Dumbledore during the lasts months of their cooperation in finding out more about horcruxes. This patronising tone Dumbledore had just used would annoy sooner rather than later. Determined, not to get lost in these negative thoughts, Hermione focused on the question he had asked.

“Perhaps something has happened here?” she mused, before she realized what exactly she had just said: “Of course! I must have done something during this time that affects the future!”

Hermione’s mind was racing – what did she know about Voldemort? When had he attended Hogwarts? Was it possible that in the year 1944 he was still a student? Of course she could simply ask Dumbledore whether there was a student with the name of Tom Riddle. But this question alone would tell this young version of Dumbledore already too much about the future. Desperately she tried to remember. If she was not mistaken, she had once read that Riddle graduated from Hogwarts in 1945. So he would start his seventh year at Hogwarts this summer, probably being seventeen years old.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, the boy that one day would turn into a monster, that would force her to erase her parent’s memory, the monster that would kill Harry’s parents and start all of these awful things, this boy would as soon as tomorrow step through the gates of Hogwarts. She was here. He was not as powerful yet as he later on would be. Would she be able to kill him? To end it before it even started?

“If…” Hermione started, but she had to clear her throat before being able to continue speaking, “if the person that is responsible for the war would die in this past…”

“Miss Granger!” Dumbledore harshly interrupted her: “Regardless of what I think about what you just insinuated – that is not the solution! If you kill him now, in the future there will be no need for you to undertake this time travel, so you would not travel to the past, thus not killing said person. In the end, that person would live on and again start the war. Whatever you once have done in this past, it did not change the fact that there will be war.”

Disappointed, Hermione sank back in her chair. Obviously Dumbledore was right. She could not possibly do anything that would change her need to travel back in time in the first place. But still, she was certain that she travelled back in time because of Voldemort. It just could not be a coincidence that she found herself at the start of Voldemort’s last year at Hogwarts. Thanks to Harry, she knew that Voldemort had opened the Chamber of Secrets during his fifth year, thus proving he was Slytherin’s heir to his most trusted followers. Would she be able to perhaps do something now while he was still recruiting future Death Eaters that would weaken him later on? That had to be the reason why she was here.

With new found determination she explained: “I will be able to do something here that will influence the war in the future, I am sure of it, sir. Here, in Hogwarts. I don’t know yet what that will be, just as I don’t know whether I will ever get back alive to see that influence, but I am here and I have to do it. If I have to pay with my life for the survival of everyone I love, if I thus can save the world from darkness, I am prepared to pay that price.”

This time she was sure that she had interpreted the quick flicker of emotion in Dumbledore’s face correctly: pleased, but cold calculation mixed with pride. Had not even Harry himself had to fight off the feeling of being used by Dumbledore? The feeling of just being a pawn in a game of chess he could not fully grasp? Did Dumbledore perhaps see exactly that in her, too: a pawn, an unexpected, interesting part of the big chess game, but in the end still just a pawn?

She shook her head at herself. It did not matter, because she knew more than him, she knew the future, thus it would be impossible for him to use her.

“So you want to attend school,” Dumbledore resumed the conversation, “what was your year at Hogwarts in 1998?”

“If it had not been for the war, I would have finished school this year. I missed the final year, though I am nearly nineteen now.”

“I understand. You will attend Hogwarts as a seventh year student, then. You have been a Gryffindor, if I understood correctly?”

Just as Hermione wanted to nod, she remembered something: “In 1998, I was a Gryffindor, yes, but the painting showed me in a Slytherin uniform. I guess I should be in Slytherin, then.”

Absentminded, Dumbledore nodded, obviously thinking about a different problem now. Patiently Hermione waited until he decided to share his thoughts.

“It is uncommon for students to switch schools in the middle of their career,” he told her, “so we would need to craft a good background story for you as to why you suddenly appear here. There are some very intelligent students here that would question everything about you.”

Hermione had a suspicious who exactly that intelligent student would be, but she did not comment on it. Her future headmaster was right, though, she needed a story.

“Perhaps … I could be the daughter of your brother, Aberforth Dumbledore?” she at last suggested. To disguise herself as a relative of Dumbledore would be the easiest solution to her problem.

If Dumbledore was surprised that she knew of his brother, he did not show it: “Regrettably, my brother does not have a wife and as far as I know there never has been any woman.”

Thinking, Hermione ran her fingers through her hair: “I could be the child of some love affair many years back. Nobody can prove that he never had any woman. Also, she could have died. That’s why I am here. Yes, exactly. I am American and I got here with a letter by my late mother so that my father can take care of me.”

“That is not very much” Dumbledore worried.

Hermione shook her head: “That’s exactly why it’s a good story. Lies tend to be complex while the truth oftentimes is very simple. It’s enough for a start, if I need more, I can add to it on the go.”

“You do not sound American, though.”

Hermione just laughed at that: “Yes, because my mother was British and insisted on teaching me the proper way to speak. At the same time, being American would excuse any lapse I have with adjusting to these very different times.”

At that, Dumbledore finally agreed: “Fine. I will talk to Professor Dippet, who is currently the headmaster of Hogwarts. Please just remember two things: We need to find a way to once again produce this strange connection between the time turner and the painting that brought you here in the first place. Furthermore, we should try and find a way back to the future for you.”

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