You put me off with limber vows; but I,
Though you would seek to unsphere the
stars with oaths,
Should yet say 'Sir, no going.'
- William Shakespeare, A Winter's Tale
September 19th, 1999. Early evening.
Hermione Granger vanished from the sitting room of The Burrow during her twentieth birthday party leaving a pile of crumpled blue tissue paper and a note where her feet had been a fraction of a second before.
In the confusion and shouting that followed, Harry Potter picked up the slip of cream parchment. He read it, more bemused than worried.
With my most sincere and deepest apologies, and love,
Time, we must remember, is anything - everything - but linear.
Dumbledore! He might have been gone for more than two years but Harry didn't need the initialled signature to recognise his former headmaster's distinctive looping script. For a single, devastating moment he thought the great man might still be alive. Hope surged like nausea and then died.
Harry reread the note. It made absolutely no sense.
Where on earth had Hermione gone? Why would Dumbledore send her his love? Perhaps it was a prank or something? But that was the headmaster's writing. Ex-headmaster's. Had been.
"What is it, Harry?" Ginny asked, her clear voice cutting through the buzzing panic and confusion around her.
"I don't understand," he replied, still staring down at the strange note. "It's, well, it's from Dumbledore. Did anyone see what the present was?"
"It looked like a sort of globe to me." Arthur had had the most advantageous view. He continued, "With something in it - perhaps a house? And something that looked like snow. It glowed and then she was just… you know. Gone."
He sat down heavily on his chair, his face regaining some of the ageing grey pallor of the war years.
"Where is she?" Ron asked loudly. He would revert to yelling if Hermione's absence was not explained quickly, though no one could possibly know the answer.
"I don't know, Ron. But I think there's something we can ask."
"Oh. I see. Hogwarts, then?" Ron brightened at the thought of having something proactive to do. "She'll probably be back soon anyway. It'll be alright if it's Dumbledore."
"Hogwarts," Harry agreed heavily. It would be alright if were Dumbledore - but only eventually.
"Mister Potter! Welcome, welcome. Just let me - ahh there we go." The great gates swung open as the man continued, "Come in, and Mr Weasley too! What an honour it is. What an honour."
"Is the Headmistress in her office?" Harry asked him brusquely.
"Not at present but I will escort you up to her office. I am the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, Mr. Potter. Hengist Flume. At your service." The man practically bowed. It was very uncomfortable.
"Thank you, Professor Flume. Shall we…?"
"Yes, yes of course. This way Si- er, this way please."
Door to door from the Burrow, it was less than an hour until they were seated in McGonagall's office, although it did take a little longer to be rid of the tiresome new teacher. Harry found himself hoping the post was still cursed.
"Hello Professor," Harry said to Dumbledore's portrait once they were alone in the office. His erstwhile mentor woke with an unconvincing start.
"Hello dear boy, and hello there Mr Weasley. How very pleasant it is to see you both looking so well fed. And how is the world faring?" he smiled rather mistily at them, eyelids already beginning to droop again.
"Um, it's fine Professor but -"
"Hermione's gone missing!" Ron announced loudly before Harry could continue. "She's gone and it's all because of your present!"
"Dear me, dear me. No need to shout, Mr Weasley. Can it be that time already? My, time has flown so quickly. It feels like only yesterday she was here you know. Or perhaps it was only yesterday. Of course it has also been years..." he trailed off for a moment and then seemed to brighten. "Time, my dear boys! A very strange thing you know. It moves with such speed when it wishes, and when it does not it drags along more slowly than one can bear. Miss Granger gone already. Well, there we are. I daresay you'll see her soon enough."
"But WHERE IS SHE?" Ron roared.
"Well your Miss Granger may be in Hogwarts by now - time moves at such a different pace when it needs to you see, as I have already explained."
Dumbledore closed his eyes again and gave a single soft snore.
"Here? In the castle? Now?"
"Have you not been listening, Mr Weasley? You won't find her here. She has gone to do what she must. What she has always done."
"I don't understand," Harry interjected before Ron could go off again. "Please, Professor, could you explain a little more clearly perhaps?"
"Is it not obvious? I do apologise. The question you need to ask is not where is she, but when is she."
The portrait looked rather pleased when this managed to silence the two young men as they slowly worked out what he was saying. The moment was soon over, however, and the other portraits began to wake up from their own afternoon naps as Ron began to yell.
Dumbledore managed to wake himself up again before the end of this tirade. He did hope he hadn't given himself away. If only he still had those sherbet lemons to perk himself up. There was something that made one so drowsy when one sat in the warm office all day, and mustering the energy to visit his other portraits seemed less and less tempting when he could stay here in the room he had loved more than any other...
When Ron finally sat down, head in hands, Harry took over once more.
"So, let me get this straight, Sir. You're saying she's gone back in time? I don't understand. Will she change something? The war's over."
"Ah, Harry. I regret that the theories of time are not more widely studied. Surely you remember your own little dalliance with such things? Herm- ahem, Miss Granger has gone back because she always went back, if you wish to see it that way. I prefer to think that time is not linear but a coiled rope. But nothing will change unless it has already done so. I remember her arrival so well. She was such a brilliant, brave child. Still it is strange how one can forget things over the years is it not? I had not quite forgotten her strange appearance, of course, how could I? But she is someone quite different to me now. But time of course is nothing like a rope. You must remember that Harry."
"You just said it was," the reluctant saviour replied through gritted teeth. All the moments in Harry's life when he had felt most truly limited intellectually had taken place in his office.
"So I did, but it was a metaphor," Dumbledore pronounced cheerfully. "Time is like a tapestry, or a rope, and yet of course it is nothing at all like either of this things. However, if it helps you to imagine it we may say that Miss Granger has gone 'back'. But I digress. I do not know when she will choose to, er, return to your lives. She is very busy. You may find her quite changed, Harry, and you must allow her to share her story as she wishes."
"Please Professor - at least tell us when she's gone back to?" Ron asked, more reasonably than might be expected. He looked as though he was somewhere on the precipice between murder and tears.
"Well if you're sure you wish to know? There is nothing you can do at present but wait for her to find you."
"We're sure." Harry interjected, pushing down his rising panic. Hermione. The only person who had never left him.
Hermione stuck in the past.
"She has gone to arrive in my drawing room, at the end of July in 1944."
"1944? Why then?"
"Because that is when she arrived, dear boy, all those years ago! Haven't you been listening at all? Now, if you will excuse me, it is time for my nap…"
"But that's when -" But it was no use, the portrait was snoring gently. Harry recognised a dismissal when he saw one. He wanted to scream with frustration. The old coward. He knew who was still alive and well and lurking in the past.
Shortly before midnight, July 24th, 1944
Albus Dumbledore was enjoying a quiet evening at in his library at home with a rather large infernobrandy. Despite the temperate weather, he was wearing his favourite orange velvet slippers. They made a fine contrast with the forest-green silk of the pouffe he'd perched them on and a cooling charm made it quite comfortable. It was good to get them up these days.
Albus was listening to one of his favourite plays by the foremost Wizarding playwright of the day, Mungo Yllamastar. It was a splendid tale of the many amusing misunderstandings made by a set of characters who all fell in love with the wrong people after drinking muddled love potions. There was little room left in Dumbledore's heart for romance.
Three weeks previously he had defeated the only man he had ever loved in a vicious duel.
In fact it was the first time he had been able to truly relax for years. It was unusual and therefore especially pleasant to have an evening to himself. To be able to sit alone in his lovely, lonely, private home.
And then a young lady materialised in the middle of his drawing room. One moment he was alone, the next she was sprawled face-down on the rug by his unlit grate.
Magic swirled around her, glowing a strange colour. An ancient colour. No wonder the wards had not kept her out. Curiosity prevented violence.
"Good evening," he said quietly, gripping his newly acquired wand behind the fold of his robe as the girl stared at the room in surprise. "May I ask who you are and how you have come to be here?"
Her manner of dress was extremely strange: legs encased in some rough blue trousers, arms mostly bared by her tight red top.
"Professor Dumbledore!" the girl exclaimed as she scrambled up.
He was sure he had never seen the girl before in his life. But then he was rather famous. It was not improbable she would know him.
Especially if she had sought him out.
He looked directly into her brown eyes with all his power. But that way held no answers: just a room with no door and no windows and shelves and shelves of books locked tightly behind clear but impenetrable doors. He retreated back out the way he had come.
They stared at each other for a moment, and he had the strangest sense she knew what he had attempted.
"This might sound extremely unlikely sir, but I think you actually sent me here yourself. A few moments ago it was 1999, and I was celebrating my birthday. I opened a present – from you – and the next thing I knew I was here -"
He listened, fascinated to see she hardly took a breath as she rambled on through her outrageous tale.
" - however many years into what one might call the past, but it isn't really of course because it isn't my past, but it is your present, and I suppose it's now also my present…"
At this point he saw her eyes actually glaze over slightly, "but I don't know how else one would address it. I didn't even realise one could go so far through time, although presumably I've only been moved as far as the Weasleys' to here and time itself has – what – rearranged itself around me? But why did you send me here? The Dumbledore I knew must have known me before, which means I was here before, as he sent me - that is, that I must have always been here… Sir, what is the date?"
Albus Dumbledore was not often taken aback by the answers of those around him, but this young woman seemed to have a relatively good grasp of the theories of time (at least insofar as her understanding of time as outside ordinary dimensional qualifications) and she also appeared to be unusually, even unnaturally, calm for her situation.
How very interesting this was. If she was telling the truth then later in life he would possess such power and understanding. It was thrilling if it were true.
But it was something that was considered impossible by every theorist of magical time travel.
"Am I to truly believe that I sent you here myself? From 1999 to 1944? May I ask if you have any evidence?"
"The only proof I can offer is the object you gave me, which I believe brought me here. There was a note saying," and here she took on a tone of recital, which lead him to suspect that she was quoting verbatim, "Hermione, with my most sincere and deepest apologies and love, APWBD. Then you'd written:Time, we must remember, is anything, everything, but linear."
Her remarkable poise remained as she held the globe out to him. He gestured to the table next to his chair. One did not lightly handle objects of such power until their origins were certified.
"I will examine it later, Miss - Hermione... Hermione what, if I may ask?"
"Granger, but I suppose if I am to stay here for any extended period I should not use that name. I've already broken one of the fundamental laws of time travel by talking to you and letting you know I'm from the future. But you did send me here – is that alright do you think?" she asked anxiously but gave him no breathing room to respond.
"Or will I have changed things? But then of course I've already been here all this time. I've always been here. Perhaps anything I've done has already had its effect by my lifetime and I just didn't know. This really is very strange. I think I may be starting to panic."
Albus Dumbledore actually chuckled, for the first time in weeks. How very, very, very interesting she was. He yearned to ask her to tell him the future, assuming she was telling the truth, but could he bear the knowledge? The power it would give him?
No. He must restrain himself. Merlin knew the temptation to try to use his knowledge would be too overwhelming.
He waved a hand and a bottle of infernobrandy rose up and poured itself into a glass, which had only a few seconds previously existed as a pen. She did not seem surprised at this casual display of wandless magic.
One aspect of the note she claimed her had sent her did puzzle him. He had apparently sent her his love. For him to have expressed love to a twenty year old indicated a familial connection or a very long-standing friendship.
"What is our connection in my future and your past, Miss Granger?"
"You were my Headmaster. And, well, I can't really say much but there was a dark wizard. You stood against him and so did I. So we had some limited interaction away from Hogwarts." She paused and appeared to consider her next words carefully, before continuing, "If you are wondering why you might have sent me love, it isn't something you'd ever expressed before. I was a bit surprised really, but then perhaps we have spent more time together in this period. Will spend. You did explain to a friend of mine the very great power of love, which you believed would help us in the war."
If she were to be believed, there would be another dark wizard for him to stand against. Would it never end?
"I find myself inclined to believe your story at present, Miss Granger, but it is getting late. I think you should go to bed and we will talk further tomorrow when I have had a little more time to absorb this situation. Are you perhaps hungry?"
"A little actually. I feel as though I have come a very long way. Where should I sleep? Is there an inn close by that I could go to?"
"You may stay here for the night. If I did send you here I must have had a good reason. Until I have fathomed what that is you will reside with me. My house-elf will show you to a room and bring you food. Jingo."
"Thank you, that is very kind."
"I would appreciate if you would be kind enough to leave your wand with me. A small precaution, you understand."
She hesitated for only a moment before laying down her wand on the table next to him.
Alone once more, Dumbledore looked down at the globe, gleaming against the mahogany of the table. The magical snow within it had settled and he realised that the house within was his house. This house.
Now the girl was gone it seemed more likely to be some of weapon. It did not respond to any diagnostics for dark magic, so eventually he picked it up.
Once again the globe began to glow that strange colour, and within a blink he was sitting in the Head's office at Hogwarts. It was filled with furniture and possessions he recognised as his own and not Armando Dippet's.
Across from him, behind that great desk, was an older version of himself.
"Hello," he greeted himself politely. "Where are we?"
"We are simply within your mind. I have not pulled myself across space and time. I have… left an imprint on the globe, rather like a portrait. It will not last long and will fade when you are returned to yourself, so we must be succinct. I remember how bemused I was by Miss Granger's presence so allow me to explain. She is important, and you must trust her implicitly. She may at times appear to be… tempted, but have faith in her. In my own memory of the time you are now living, I adopted Miss Granger as a cousin in order to cover for her. She became the daughter of Cerdic Dearborn, who kindly agreed to the lie. You must help unlock her potential for greatness."
"Why this girl?"
"Simply because it has always been her. One of Time's great paradoxes. She came to me, sent by myself, and so I send her to you. She will go with you to Hogwarts, and you will tutor her as your personal apprentice. She will be the daughter we will never have. You need the companionship now more than you ever have before."
"To not look into her mind, to not see the future – it is too great a temptation. I cannot do this."
"If you give in, you will learn things you will not wish to learn now. You will be as Cassandra to yourself. Her mind has always been organised but the spell that sent her back has locked it tightly. You would have to cause great damage to see what is within. Take her to Hogwarts and she can be your eyes and ears in the student body, as well as worthy recipient of your knowledge. Make her your legacy to help keep our world safe even when we have moved on to the next great adventure. And, of course, she can aid you in this greatest and most secret of your discoveries: how to send her here."
The older Dumbledore's broke off and then his eyes twinkled mischievously. "You may also need to er, alter some birthing records. She will need relations after all. There are certain people, one student in particular, who might be made curious by her background if she sprang out of nowhere. He will be curious about her anyway, due to the favour you show her. Allow him this interest but he cannot know the truth. Now I have told you everything of import my dear self, so it is time to bid you good-bye and good luck."
Abruptly, the room swirled into mist and Albus found himself once more sitting by the fire, looking down at a now empty globe with much to ponder, several favours to call in from old friends, and a student to keep an even closer eye on.