AN: Some explanation due before the chapter… Hermione meeting Tom Riddle in his seventh year and Tom Riddle changing his plans from world domination to getting to his witch instead, have changed the canon timeline in a major way. Some of the exact facts that change would be revealed in this and subsequent chapters. One point that I should be talking about is the status of muggleborns in the timeline Hermione returns to. For years now, things have been underway to make muggleborns less than their pureblood peers, making them social pariahs and outliers at best. It is a scandal that will unfold as a new villain comes to picture. I had to make a choice between Tom Riddle the super villain or choosing another super baddie. I am going the path of keeping Tom dark and wild but getting other insane villains in picture.
I hope you enjoy the direction I am taking. Suggestions and critique are always welcome. Do review and let me know how it went.
PS: I try hard to cover everything, but I know there could be plot holes. This work is not beta’d and I can be a little bit of a scatter brain at times. It would help if readers point out if I leave anything out.
All was silent.
All was dark.
Inside the shell of a mind, memories were being tossed around, shifting for the new, blanking out the old and decrepit, fudging this, sharpening that. And in the middle of this turmoil, the witch remained suspended in the nothing. Some time passed as the universe and magic worked in a frenzy to bring Hermione’s world back to delicate balance again.
Then, trickle by trickle, a sense of being, the consciousness of living and knowledge of the self, started coming back.
It felt like her ears should pop from the deep silence of the vacuum she was in. If only her eyes would work, catch a stray spark somewhere in the dark.
Faint echoes of voices started filtering in, greying the black curtain of the nothing. The witch tried to turn towards the voices and follow them. The sounds lost the echoing quality,
“Mione? Can you hear me?”
“Hermione c’mon. Wake up.”
They were familiar. The witch kept following them and that finally brought her out of the terrifyingly empty fugue she’d been trapped in. She cracked her eyes open and blinked to clear them. Harry Potter sat on the side, staring at her. A set of trouser clad legs shifted behind Harry. The boy with the second voice.
“Thank Merlin she’s awake. We need to take her to her dorms. We cannot be found loitering in the halls. Help her up Harry.” The other boy whispered.
Why was it so familiar and yet Hermione couldn’t place a face on the voice? Something was wrong with her head. Hermione felt around for the pocket of her Yule dress robes and was mystified to find that she was in her school uniform instead, her wand stuck half out of a deep pocket.
When did she change out of her dress robes?
She tried to think but couldn’t remember anything past her meeting Tom in the room of requirement except the strange weightlessness that had come over her while everything else melted away.
“She doesn’t look so good. Someone must’ve cursed her again and left her here for a prefect or teacher to find.”
Harry got an arm under Hermione and pulled her to sitting position. Hermione’s head swam, shivers rocked her body and she clutched at her best friend in an effort to get ahold of herself and stand up. Her legs shook, barely supporting her weight. Harry propped her against him and gave her a worried look.
More fog cleared. Hermione’s thoughts went to the boy she met in the room of requirement. Tom Riddle. Hogwarts Head Boy. Was he real or had she just passed out from a curse and conjured a life changing dream with a fantasy guy? His bewitching scent was stamped on her brain. He couldn’t be that imaginary if Hermione could recall his scent, the feel of his arms, his lips on hers so clearly. He’d been pretty insistent about not being from her time and coming to find her again. Which meant she’d travelled-
How had she travelled through time?That too without a time turner. She needed to get to the bottom of this growing mystery. Maybe the room had some kind of portal. She needed to go back to the Room and start looking. Then perhaps, the library?
With difficulty she raised an arm to clutch at Harry’s robes and planted her feet where she was.
“I can’t leave. I need to find that room again. Help me Harry.”
“Huh? What room ‘Mione? We need to go see Pomfrey.” Harry replied, gently pulling her in the opposite direction.
The other boy turned to face them. It was Malfoy.
“Be serious.” Malfoy whisper yelled. “The dorms would be safest for her. What do you think Pomfrey would do when she sees her at this hour with some unknown malady?”
Malfoy was calling Harry with his first name. And it looked like the two wizards had been slinking around the castle after curfew.
“He called you Harry.” She said to Harry.
“That’s my name.” Harry grunted as he tried to propel her dead weight forward.
“And he is helping us?” She pressed.
“I am trying to. If only you two would listen and allow me to help you.” Malfoy grumbled, taking her other hand and putting it around his shoulders, partly to further support her and partly to get her moving.
“She needs to go to the infirmary.” Harry argued, “We don’t know how she got here and why she was unconscious. I didn’t see her at dinner. Someone could have cursed her hours ago. Clearly something is wrong.”
“Or maybe she passed out because she forwent dinner in her efforts to cram the entire Hogwarts library.”
“Look at her Draco. She is shivering. She can barely walk. Her head is literally wobbling.”
“That could just be the weight of things she stuffed in her head in one single evening.” Malfoy snipped.
Harry grinned at the exasperated blonde.
Hermione blinked, stupefied. First she needed to come to terms with the fact that Harry and Malfoy were closer than anyone knew. Then she needed to tell the two morons off for hiding whatever they had going on from her and Ron, and then, finally slap them upside the heads for discussing what to do with her like she wasn’t even there. She looked at the side at one and then the other. They had continued with the argument.
Well, at least some things were the same. Hermione needed to break this up or they’d be arguing to the ends of time.
“Hey, she is right here. She came to this floor on her own. And she doesn’t need to go to Pomfrey.” Hermione stated.
Malfoy huffed in irritation, glanced around and back to reassure that they were alone.
“The lady has spoken. Keep moving Harry.”
Hermione angled her pounding head to glance at Harry. His jaw was clenched. She knew her best friend was forming another argument in his head.
“What’s happening with the Tournament? Harry do you know anything about the next task?” Hermione asked in a bald attempt to redirect conversation.
“What tournament?” “What task ‘Mione?” Malfoy and Harry asked at the same time.
A figure jumped in front of them with a lit wand, blinding Hermione for a second. Malfoy let go her arm and took a hurried step to the side.
“Not this piece of…”
Going by her companions’ whispered curses, the trio had been caught, and by someone who was not a friend.
“Potty and Swotty engaging in afterhours perversions. Ughhh! Did you catch them in the act Draco?”
Hermione needed to rub her eyes to see what she was seeing to believe it.
“Move along Weasley. You’re breaking curfew too.” Growled Harry.
“Haven’t you heard then? I am part of Headmistress’s special Inquisitorial Squad!” Ronald Weasley smirked and pointed at the shiny medallion with a Ministry star on his dark robes. “I can go anywhere, anytime I damn well please.”
“Ron?” Hermione gasped at last. “What is wrong with you? Why are you acting this way?”
Ronald’s face contorted into an ugly sneer. It was a face Hermione had seen often, just not turned towards her.
“How dare you say my name with that filthy mouth? That’s it! You are doing detention. First with me and then with the Headmistress! You too Potter. I warned you before, playing the little hero to your stupid worthless followers is going to bite you in the arse one day.”
Hermione was stunned silent at the way Ron was acting and the things spewing out of his mouth. What the hell had happened to her friends while she floated in her strange fugue? And did he say Headmistress?
“Hold your horses Weasley!” Malfoy cut in, coming forward to stand casually in front of Harry and Hermione, facing the irate Ronald. “I am a prefect. I docked points already and was escorting these two to the dorms. There is no need for additional punishment.”
“Not fair Draco. Why should only you get to punish students and have all the fun?” Ron whined.
Malfoy folded his hands at his chest.
“Don’t call me Draco. Only my friends call me that. And find someone else to lord what little authority you have. These two are mine.”
Ronald went a little red and visibly bristled at being told off in company. He puffed up his chest and repainted the sneer on his face.
“Not for long. Headmistress said the Inquisitorial Squad has authority over prefects. She gave us the badges this afternoon, the missive has been nailed to the wall already. You are lower than me now. Careful about the sides you take Malfoy. Are you sure you want to stand against me for a mudblood and a halfy?”
Hermione pushed Draco Malfoy aside and slapped Ronald Weasley right across his stupid face. The sound travelled the empty stone corridor and echoed back. A drop of blood trickled down the side of the redhead’s lip.
“Bloody hell!” Harry and Draco whispered together.
“You…you…mudblood filth!” Ronald yelled and snapped his hand out to take hold of a clump of her hair. Then he started dragging the witch by her hair, down the corridor.
“Ronald Bilius Weasley! Unhand me right now.” Hermione screamed from her awkwardly bent position.
“Let the witch go Weasley!” Malfoy pulled at Ronald’s other arm, “What the fuck are you doing?”
At the turn of the corridor, Filch appeared followed by his cat, followed by Cormac Maclaggen and Anthony Goldstein, followed by Pansy Parkinson.
“Students outta bed! Students outta bed! Fightin’ in the ‘alls. Oooh we’re gonna whip the little shites tonight.” Filch cackled as he hobbled towards the miscreants.
At first sign of company, Ronald let go of Hermione’s hair and pulled out his wand to point towards her. Harry and Malfoy came to stand beside Hermione, Harry’s hand enveloping hers in support.
“What’s going on Ron?” Maclaggen asked as he pulled out his wand too.
Hermione noticed the gleaming silver medallion, same as the one Ron was showing off, on Cormac’s robes. Goldstein and Parkinson were wearing the standard Prefect badge, like Malfoy. She discreetly checked her robes and didn’t find a badge. With all the chaos of the night, this little fact of not being a prefect when Pansy, Malfoy and Goldstein clearly were, just added fuel to the already building ire in the witch. Not only was she missing memories, she had also missed her chance at becoming a prefect.
While Pansy stayed back and out of the way, Goldstein rushed to step in front of Maclaggen, trying to keep the other wizard in check.
“Keep your wand in your pocket Maclaggen. No one is starting a duel in the halls.”
Maclaggen flicked his wand, sending Harry’s glasses flying off his face to a dark corner of the hall. Harry yelped and ran after them.
“And who is going to duel me?” Maclaggen chuckled, looking at Hermione and Harry in derision. “Potter here can barely see and Granger barely has magic to hold a wand, let alone use it. Why the School Board continues inviting people like her to this school is beyond-”
For Hermione, the hits kept coming that night. First her mysterious time skip, then her friends gone crazy, then her not being a prefect and then, finally, her magic. Next they would start questioning her grades as well. Purebloods at Hogwarts had been horrid to her in the past, but tonight their words were off the charts derogatory. It was as if the universe was conspiring to get her to lose control and maim someone.
“Hey shut up mate!” Malfoy cut off the other boy’s rant, “No one wants to hear you pontificate over current politics. Salazar knows we hear enough of it as it is. Now I am asking you as the prefect on rounds, why don’t all of you go back to bed? Potter and Granger have already been disciplined for being out of bed after hours. Let’s break up this party now.”
“Like hell!” Ronald Weasley screeched, and raised a shaking hand to point in Hermione’s direction. “That stupid muggle bitch hit me. I am still bleeding from it. Someone needs to teach her a lesson! And Potter too for taking up with her.”
Hermione took a step towards Ronald. The redhead was going to get another tight one from her.
“Why Harry?” she seethed, “He didn’t hit you. I did. And if you don’t drop the name calling, I am going to hit you again. And then hex your balls off.”
“For Merlin’s sake, shut up Granger!” Malfoy bit out from behind her.
“Why should I shut up?” Hermione snapped at the blonde.
“See? Did you hear her Cormac? She threatened violence. Fucking again! She’s lost her bloody marbles!”
“She has.” Maclaggen pushed Goldstein off of him and came to stand with Ronald. “Let’s take her to the Headmistress. I was told to keep a special eye out for the likes of her. We can bring Potter too.”
Hermione looked around for Harry, who was bumbling around in the darkness, still looking for his glasses. She sighed and pulled her wand to incant an accio. Malfoy discreetly put a hand on her wand and swished his instead to wordlessly summon Harry’s glasses. He pulled at the boy’s collar to stop him from walking face first into the wall and thrust the glasses on his face. The two wizards exchanged a look. Hermione was the only one that saw it because the others were at the wrong angles and she was shocked as she registered the gravity of that look. They knew something that she didn’t and they were scared.
“Well come along then. Of to the Headmistress’s office all of you. Keep them in line Malfoy.” Maclaggen waved his wand towards the general direction of Harry, Draco and Hermione. “Don’t make me use a levicorpus. Merlin forbid Granger’s skirt flies for the occasion and we are all subjected to the nightmare sight of her stinking dirty arse.”
That did it for Hermione. The tension, the headache, the confused visions that kept forming, dissolving and reforming in her head, the acute sense of loss of her time with Tom and then finally the complete arse over heels behavior of everyone she knew, apart from Harry and Filch, sent the tired witch over her tipping point.
Hermione spun her wand above her head and yelled, “Avis oppugno!”
Little twittering birds burst out of her wand. The witch pointed her wand at Cormac Maclaggen and Ronald Weasley. The birds swooped in on the two and started viciously pecking at their faces. Weasley and Maclaggen banged into each other in a mad tizzy to get away from the pesky birds and fell over each other. The birds followed them down.
They were a mess of robes and shouts and twittering birds when Malfoy stepped out and shouted, “Finite Incantatem!”
The birds took no notice and kept attacking.
Harry gripped Hermione’s elbow and whispered in her ear to cancel the spell. Someone threw an Immobulus, that again had no slowing effect on the conjured birds.
A few drops of blood splattered on Hermione’s face as one of the birds flicked a wing with blood on it. That seemed to bring her out of her haze of anger. Hermione took a calming breath and turned her wand counterclockwise. The birds vanished with a last few bites at Ron Weasley’s bleeding cheeks.
Hermione glanced at the others to see if anyone else got sprayed. That was when she saw the sheer incredulity in all of their gazes, and the wands pointed in her direction. Only Harry hadn’t fished out his wand, though he too was looking at her as if she had suddenly sprouted two additional heads. Filch collected his cat in his arms and took a step back from her.
“Headmistress, there is a serious situation on the seventh-floor West corridor to the left.” Ron Weasley said, pressing his wand to the Inquisitor badge pinned to his robes.
“Now you’ve really done it Weasley! Would it have killed you to just dock points and let them go away?” Parkinson rolled her eyes, “You just had to show off and call the Headmistress. She will go on and on all night. Which means no beauty sleep for me. I hate mudbloods.”
“That’s what worries you? Beauty sleep?” Ron asked angrily, “A mudblood just conjured bloody birds. She set them upon Maclaggen and I. The birds weren’t affected by a finite or immobulus. This is seriously out of prefect hands now.”
“Stand back everyone. We don’t know what dark magic she has done to gain power. It is better for the professors to handle her now. You sure you want to stand with her Potter? She could be dangerous you know?” Cormac said and started herding everyone back, away from Harry and Hermione.
Malfoy walked towards Parkinson and Goldstein. He came to stand a little ahead of both prefects, gave Hermione a murderous look and fixed his eyes on Harry. Harry lifted his chin and stubbornly stood by Hermione.
Noting that the others had moved sufficiently back, Hermione leaned her head towards Harry and murmured under her breath, “Why is everyone staring at me?”
“You cast a powerful spell. How did you do it?” Harry murmured back.
“You’ve seen me do it before. What’s so surprising about me casting spells?”
“No. You couldn’t do it before. None of the muggleborns can cast a strong spell and aim it like that, barring involuntary bursts of magic. Something’s happened to you.”
Hermione’s stopped breathing. She couldn’t even begin to comprehend the implications of what Harry was saying about mugglenborns. Who said they couldn’t cast? Since when couldn’t they cast spells? Maybe someone had cursed her in some way. What other explanation was there to her world suddenly gone to hell?
Hermione Granger, for the first time in her life, couldn’t think. She was drawing blanks everywhere she looked. So, she decided to postpone the discussion on her magic, or lack thereof, to a time when they were not being held at wandpoint and instead inquired about the other jarring thing that kept bothering her.
“Who is this headmistress?”
“Dolores Umbridge. Nasty woman. Always out for muggleborn blood, especially you.”
“What happened to Professor Dumbledore?”
Harry gave her a quick searching glance before turning to look at the group of prefects and inquisitors again.
“He died Hermione. Last month. Minister Grindelwald appointed Umbridge soon after. What’s the matter with you? Why don’t you remember these things?”
“Grindelwald is alive?” Hermione’s voice shook, barely audible to the dark-haired bespectacled wizard standing with her.
“After his dear husband Dumbledore passed, one could say he is alive but no longer all there. He has been heard saying nasty shit about muggles and muggleborns while being clearly drunk, which he seems to be all the time now. And that hateful ranting has trickled down to everyone else. People are saying awful things to muggleborns and half-bloods, no longer concerned about political correctness or basic decency even. You heard Ron and Maclaggen. Worse still is the fact that no one could have dared say these things aloud when Dumbledore was alive, not even Grindelwald. We have lost a headmaster. We’re losing his legacy as well.”
Harry went silent and he and Hermione stared at the people staring at them.
Hermione gulped in mounting terror. Nothing was as it should have been. Dumbledore was dead. Grindelwald was alive and the Minister. There was no Triwizard Tournament, only hate and bigotry going around. Blood supremacy was common and thriving even within the halls of her beloved Hogwarts.
All of this led her to the most logical explanation and she couldn’t bury her head in the sand and refuse to look at what was right in front of her. She had traveled through time and changed something big, unwittingly screwing up events of her timeline. No wonder the universe was set to thwart her. She had messed up big time with the universe after all.
What else had changed?
Loud click clacking of heels preceded the appearance of a short toady women clad in a garish pink housecoat. The woman came to a stop by the side of the prefects, inquisitors and the Hogwarts Caretaker. She tapped her wand to her palm and giggled at Harry and Hermione, a sound that chilled Hermione to the bone.
“Hem hem. Naughty children. Who do I have to punish now?”