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Author Notes:

This is the first of the long chapters – it’s about twice as long as the last one.  And you get two flashbacks instead of one!

I’m also reintroducing the use of footnotes in the text, noting items that I want to make a comment about, but don’t want to interrupt the story for.  The comments will appear at the end of the chapter. 

Chapter 4, Dumbledore’s Army and the Mysterious Door

For the second morning in a row, Harry woke with a warm witch in his arms and his face buried in a head of soft, curly hair. He didn’t know how many different positions they’d adopted during the night, but at the moment he was on his back and Hermione was using his shoulder for a pillow, her arm draped across his chest. He had to agree with her assertion of the previous day that this was a much more comfortable position than falling asleep sitting up . I could get used to this, he found himself musing.

That thought made him tighten his arms around her for an instant, assuming she was still asleep. But that proved not to be the case, as she responded immediately with a squeeze of her own.

“Good morning,” she greeted him cheerfully, turning her face up to give him a satisfied smile.

“Good morning to you, too,” he returned. “Have you been awake long?”

She shrugged and snuggled her head into his shoulder again. “For a little while,” she admitted. “This feels so nice that I didn’t want to move until I had to.”

“Well, then I suppose we should do this again sometime,” he joked. He glanced down and noticed her smile grow larger.

“Perhaps,” she replied, playing along. “Will telling me about the rest of your years be as emotionally exhausting as last night’s was?”

He thought a moment. “Pretty much, yeah,” he allowed, smiling broadly.

“Then I suppose we’ll have to do this a few more times,” she declared impishly, grinning up at him as she pushed herself up off the transfigured bed. Both of them decided to leave it at that, still avoiding mentioning their growing physical attraction, at least for the time being.

As Hermione retrieved her dressing gown and her wand, Harry thought back to the tale he’d told the previous night. There were a few points he’d left out that would pop up in later years that he decided to clear up. While she restored the sofa to its original state he went into his kitchenette and poured them some juice.

“There were a couple other things I forgot to mention last night,” he called out as he gestured her to join him at the table. “One of them was about him using my blood in the ritual. He did it because he wanted to negate my mum’s blood protection. You remember what happened with Quirrell in first year when he tried to touch me.” Hermione nodded as she pulled out a chair and sat down. “Well, it worked, because he could touch me without any effect afterwards,” he continued. “But it may have backfired because it linked us somehow. Dumbledore thought it gave me some protection from him.

Hermione sipped her juice and pondered the significance of this revelation. “I was never sure if it meant anything,” Harry confessed. “But Dumbledore acted like it was a big deal. Of course, he never said anything to me about it at the time. He had a bad habit of that, keeping important stuff from me until … well, let’s not go into that now,” he shrugged with annoyance.

“The other thing was about the reporter who’d been causing so much trouble all year with her stories,” he revealed.

“Oh, who was that?” Hermione asked, putting aside her thoughts on Harry’s disenchantment with the old headmaster.

“Rita Skeeter,” he replied with a slight scowl. “Probably the nastiest writer you’d ever meet. She consistently distorted things and put the worst possible slant on everything she reported on. But she also kept coming up with stuff it didn’t seem that she could possibly have known about.” Hermione nodded as he paused to make them some toast.

“Well, it turned out she was an animagus,” he informed her. “And unregistered, to boot. Her form was a beetle.”

“I see,” Hermione murmured. “That would have made it easy for her to sneak up on people without being noticed.”

“Exactly,” Harry agreed. “But she tried it one too many times. Dobby actually caught her the night of the Third Task. He didn’t tell me about it until the next day, but somehow he managed to impress on her that she should, as he put it, ‘stop being so mean to the great Harry Potter.’ I think he kept her in a glass jar for a few weeks and threatened to use her to start a bug collection.” He grinned as he set out some jam and marmalade, and joined her at the table. “He finally took her to McGonagall and she worked out some sort of ‘arrangement’ with her.”

Hermione gasped, then put her hand to her mouth and snickered at the thought of the hyperactive little house elf that she remembered from her second year. “Whatever happened to Dobby?” she wondered. The mood in the room chilled as Harry went still.

“He didn’t make it,” he finally responded in a low voice. Hermione reached out and covered his hand with hers, rubbing her thumb over the back of it. “He was killed during the war.”

“I’m sorry,” she replied and he nodded, acknowledging her condolences.

“I’ll take you to show you his grave sometime,” he promised. “But that’s another story.” They sat and ate together in silence for a while.

“You know, I sent you a letter of congratulations at the end of the year after I read that you’d won the tournament,” Hermione told him. “I didn’t hear anything back from you so I wondered if you even got it.”

“Really?” Harry responded, surprised for a moment. Then he smiled. “Thanks. No, I didn’t get it. I didn’t get much mail at all that summer. I was pretty isolated that summer and my mail was restricted. I suppose it got filtered out because your name wasn’t recognized by whoever was sorting it out. I’m sorry.”

Hermione smiled back, glad that she’d managed to change the subject. “That’s OK.” She gestured at the empty goblets and plates on the table. “We should get going. Thanks for breakfast.”

-ooo-

Hermione was eager to see the Room of Requirement. After a quick explanation from Harry of how it was summoned, she experimented with creating muggle environments, as the two of them discussed how best to utilize this resource. She started with her own home, and he showed her Number 4 Privet Drive. They agreed that the kitchens were the most obvious rooms that would differ from those in the wizarding world. Her parents’ dental practice, as well as a regular doctor’s office, were also at the top of the list, given the vast difference between medical care in their original world and their adopted one.

They also debated what was the best way to introduce the significant ways in which the contrast between magic and technology permeated relations between the two societies. While electronic equipment did not work at Hogwarts, Harry pledged to help her charm whatever devices she wished to illustrate in her classes. They spent the afternoon discarding nearly the entire inventory of the Muggle Studies classroom, and made lists of new items to be purchased to restock their holdings.

As they worked, Harry began to bring her up to date on some of the students from their class, beginning, naturally, with the third member of their original trio. “Ron plays quidditch for the Chudley Cannons, which you may remember was the team he was so fanatical about,” he reported. “He’s their reserve keeper. He’s married to Lavender Brown.”

“Oh my, I never would have guessed that,” Hermione responded in surprise. “I have trouble picturing them together.”

“Well, Ron was always attracted to the more, erm, busty women,” Harry explained. “After you left, Lavender sorta … well, developed.” Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head at this news. “And they already have two kids,” he added with a grin.

“Let’s see, Neville is married to Hannah Abbott, and Seamus and Parvati are together," he continued. "They’ll probably get married one of these years. Seamus plans to open a bar as soon as he saves up enough money. One of the ones they considered is the Hogs Head Tavern in Hogsmeade. It’s owned by Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, but I don’t think he’s ready to sell yet. He and Seamus got to know each other during the war, when they were both involved in the resistance here at Hogwarts. Oh yeah, Neville is really talented at Herbology, and we’ll probably try to get him to join the staff here when Sprout retires.”

“What about Dean Thomas?” Hermione inquired.

Harry paused a moment, and Hermione immediately recognized the look on his face and knew what was coming. “He didn’t survive the war,” he replied quietly. “Not a lot of muggleborns did.”

Now Hermione hesitated before her next query. “And Melissa Roper and Elizabeth Rivers?” (1)

Harry shook his head. “I’m not sure. Melissa left Hogwarts after fourth year and Elizabeth after sixth. Melissa’s family was one of the ones who believed Dumbledore about Voldemort being back. Lots of students didn’t come back after sixth year. I know it was a close call for Parvati and Padma. For a while it looked like Lavender would be the only Gryffindor girl in our year to finish Hogwarts.” Hermione shook her head sadly.

“Back to the Weasleys, Ginny is still single and also plays quidditch, for the Holyhead Harpies. She’s a chaser.” Harry hesitated almost imperceptibly before continuing. “Percy works at the Ministry of Magic. Bill married Fleur and they have a daughter. And Charlie still works at the dragon preserve in Romania. Remember how we smuggled Norbert out of the castle in first year?”

Hermione smiled and nodded, wondering at the change of subject. She almost asked about Fred and George before she realized why Harry had omitted them. Not wanting to bring up any more painful memories she let it go.

-ooo-

That night, in what had seemingly already become their normal practice, Hermione came to Harry’s room in her pajamas and dressing gown. This time, her hair was also wet; the afternoon of clearing out shelves and cupboards had been dusty work, so she had showered and washed her hair. Harry noted that it was relatively straight when it was wet.

“Yes, it curls up as it dries,” Hermione confirmed. “While I was at Salem I found a potion that I can put on it to control the amount of curl. If I use a lot, I can even make it almost straight, with just a bit of a wave. I can show you what that looks like if you want.”

“No, I like it curly,” Harry told her as he beckoned her to join him on the sofa. “It seems strange to think of you with straight hair. I remember how bushy it was back when you first started, but the way you wear it now looks good.” Hermione beamed at him happily. She felt the same way, but it was nice to hear that he thought so too.

“So, fifth year, then?” she prompted.

Harry sighed. “That year was by far the worst year I ever spent at Hogwarts. It started with a miserable summer, and got worse. Lots worse. And it ended …” he shook his head glumly, “… in a total disaster.”

She took hold of his arm yet again and hugged herself to him. “Weren’t there any bright spots?”

Harry sighed and thought briefly. “Yeah, I guess. Two, actually. That was the year I found out I liked teaching and was actually pretty good at it. And …” His face reddened. “That year was the first time I kissed a girl,” he admitted with a shy grin.

“Oh? Ginny?” Hermione guessed. Harry shook his head vigorously.

“No, Cho … Cho Chang,” he corrected. “But it didn’t turn out well.”

Hermione looked like she really wanted to pursue that line of questioning, but refrained. After all, this was the second time he’d mentioned romantic feelings for Cho. McGonagall had said Harry was single and wasn’t seeing anyone, but she wondered if there were still some feelings there. Controlling her urge for the moment, she suggested, “Well, then tell me about the teaching part.”

Harry shook his head. “I need to lead into it, since it came about as a result of a series of events, none of which were good.”

He began by telling her about his isolation at the Dursleys, with no one to talk to and no information about what was happening in the wizarding world. About how he grew more and more frustrated, and angry with Sirius and the Weasleys for seemingly keeping him in the dark, on Dumbledore’s orders as he later learned. And about how he’d reached his breaking point when he and Dudley were attacked by two dementors on their way back from the park one evening.

“What! Dementors!” Hermione exclaimed. “At your aunt and uncle’s house?” Harry nodded grimly.

“I found out later that they were sent by a witch in the Ministry named Umbridge,” he spat out disgustedly. “They’d spent the whole summer going off on me, and Dumbledore too, for claiming that Voldemort had returned. Fudge absolutely wouldn’t hear of it. Umbridge was his lackey – think of a toad and you have a good picture of her. She decided that she had to shut me up.”

Hermione could only shake her head in disbelief as he related the fiasco involving the series of owls he’d received after casting his patronus to drive off the dementors, ending with his being escorted by broom to Grimmauld Place, Sirius’s ancestral home and the headquarters of Dumbledore’s anti-Voldemort resistance group called the Order of the Phoenix. Then he went on to describe his trial on charges of underaged magic, and Dumbledore’s successful defense of him.

“As you can imagine, I wasn’t in a very good mood for pretty much the entire summer. I was mad at the world and everyone in it, and my attitude reflected that. Even after I got to Sirius’s house, I was pretty short with everyone.” He shot her a rueful grin. “You might even say I was downright surly. And it didn’t improve when Ron was sent the Prefect’s badge.”

“Ron! Are you kidding me?” Hermione moaned. “I don’t believe it. How could they not have given it to you?”

Harry shook his head. “Dumbledore actually told me at the end of the year – he thought I already had enough things on my mind.”

“But that …” Hermione sat up and threw up her hands in disgust. “That would have been exactly the sort of support you needed, to show he had confidence in you. By passing you over he just made it look like the Prophet’s stories might have had some substance to them.”

Harry shrugged and put his arm around her shoulder again, pulling her back down against himself. “Yeah, but that was the way he was. Probably yet another test of my character or something.”

Hermione snorted in disgust. After taking a few seconds to settle down, she asked, “So who was the girls’ prefect for Gryffindor?”

“Lavender,” Harry replied.

“Lavender?” Hermione thought for a moment, then decided she didn’t have any strong feelings on which of her other four dorm mates deserved the honor. “So is that how she and Ron got together?”

“Well, not that year, but it might have had something to do with it eventually,” Harry allowed with a shrug. “So anyway, I started off the year with a pretty bad attitude, and it only got worse when we heard who the new Defense professor would be. It was Umbridge.”

Hermione had finally started to become accustomed to Harry’s little bombshells of bad news, so managed to hold back another exclamation of dismay. She did offer a sympathetic groan and grimace. However, when Harry told her that the toad-like witch had tortured him during detention with a blood quill, which carved letters into the back of his hand, she exploded again.

“That … that foul piece of vermin!” she snarled. “How could she possibly get away with that?”

“Well, she didn’t completely,” Harry explained. “McGonagall noticed my hand during our next tutoring session, and she had words with Umbridge. I’m not sure what she threatened her with, but she never used it again. She still had it out for me, though, and managed to find another way to make me miserable.” He went on to describe the events of the Gryffindor-Slytherinquidditch match, where Draco Malfoy’s postgame taunting ended with Fred, George, and himself receiving a ‘lifetime’ ban from quidditch (which actually only lasted for the rest of the year).

He sighed. “That was probably the most depressed I’ve ever been at Hogwarts. I really went into a funk. I felt so isolated. Ron was busy with prefect stuff and quidditch – he was our new keeper that year, and was pretty shaky at first, so he practiced a lot. Ginny had been hanging around with me, but she took my place as seeker, so it was especially bad during the times they had quidditch practice. I hung around with Fred and George sometimes, but they were busy getting their new business off the ground – oh, I forgot to tell you, I gave them my Triwizard prize of a thousand Galleons and told them to use it to start up their joke shop.”

Hermione smiled and shook her head. Only Harry would do something like that, and not think it was important enough to mention. Then she had another thought.

“When did Ron find time to do his homework?” she wondered. “As I recall, he wasn’t the most dedicated student.”

“He didn’t. He usually copied mine,” Harry shrugged. Anticipating her disapproval, he added, “Yeah, I know it didn’t help him in the long run but at the time I didn’t really care.”

“But wouldn’t it have caught up with him on his OWLs?” she persisted. Harry nodded.

“Yeah, it did. He barely scraped by with Acceptables or worse. Not a single O or E.” He grinned at her. “I bet if you’d been here you would have driven us crazy making up study schedules. He would have griped constantly, but he would probably have done a lot better. As it turned out, he lost his prefect badge after that year and they gave it to Neville. By that time I didn’t want it,” he added quickly, seeing her mouth open in preparation for another objection. “I had other things I needed to do. But that’s the next year’s story.”

“So anyway,” he continued, “by then Umbridge had been made High Inquisitor. It was a new title created by the Ministry that basically let her poke her nose into everything, evaluate professors, and make all kinds of rules. She called them Educational Decrees. Her position supposedly gave her the authority to overrule McGonagall and kick us off the quidditch team. But that was the last straw for McGonagall, and she came up with a way we could fight back …”

-oooOOOooo-

“Mr. Potter, please stay after class,” the Transfiguration professor informed him as he was packing up his books. Ron gave him a quick nod and indicated that he’d see him back in the common room. Once they were alone, she cast a privacy charm on the door and windows of the classroom, causing Harry to raise an eyebrow in surprise. This was evidently pretty serious.

“I suspect that you are as frustrated with the current state of affairs as I am, possibly even more so,” she began. “I have a proposition for you that I believe will address several of our problems.” Harry gave a tentative nod and waited. The stern professor permitted herself a small conspiratorial smile and he realized what she was saying. She had come up with something that would allow them some measure of revenge on their detestable nemesis from the Ministry.

“I would like you to consider leading a study group for Defense Against the Dark Arts,” she revealed. Harry’s mouth dropped open in shock, but he forced himself to swallow his initial protest and think through the implications. Umbridge was a terrible teacher; her students weren’t allowed to perform any spells and were likely to do badly on the practical portion of their exams. This would be a way to strike directly at her by showing her up as an incompetent instructor while at the same time undermining her authority. But …

“Do you really think I can teach?” he asked doubtfully.

“Yes, I do,” she assured him. “In the actual casting of defensive spells I am certain that you are the top student in your class, due to your extensive study last year for the tournament. I can provide you with the spells that you should cover, taken from the required list for OWLs and NEWTs, so you can prepare in advance.” She paused and gave him a long, meaningful look.

“This will not only give you something constructive to do with your time, but will benefit your classmates as well as counteracting the Ministry’s propaganda by putting you in a more positive light, thereby creating a more favorable impression of you among your peers. And last, but not least, we can show up that horrid woman for the fraud that she is by demonstrating how well students can succeed in a proper learning environment.”

Harry had not missed her disapproving allusion to the moping around he’d been doing for the past few weeks, feeling sorry for himself. She was offering him an alternative way to retaliate against the injustice he’d been subjected to.

“OK, I’ll do it,” he declared.

-oooOOOooo-

“That’s wonderful!” Hermione beamed at him. “What a great idea. So that’s how you got your start as a teacher. But it must have been tricky, since you needed to keep it a secret, and yet spread the word around,” she pointed out.

“Yeah, but McGonagall took care of most of that,” he told her. “She got together with Sprout and Flitwick, and they began with the prefects from those houses. They actually got all six of the fifth year prefects to buy into it, and they approached the other students. It was mostly Gryffindors at first, focusing on fifth and seventh years because of OWLs and NEWTs, although there were a few sixth years, like Katie Bell and Cho Chang, and some fourth years like Ginny, Colin Creevy, and Luna Lovegood, who just came along because they wanted to be a part of it.”

“Who’s Luna Lovegood?” Hermione inquired, having recognized all the other names. Once again Harry’s face adopted the now familiar pained expression before he answered.

“She was a rather unique individual, to say the least,” he responded after a short pause. “She was a friend of Ginny’s who I met on the Hogwarts Express that year. She just had a different way of looking at the world, which led to her being ostracized and picked on by the other students. But she never let it get to her; always had something cheerful to say.” He grinned. “Even if it was so completely off the wall that no one had a clue what she was talking about.”

“So anyway, they screened the students who were invited to join the group, and McGonagall arranged for us to meet during the next Hogsmeade weekend. She reserved us an upper room at the Hogs Head tavern. (2)  She chose that location because most students avoided it, since it had a pretty seedy reputation.” Hermione nodded at that reasoning.

“However, some of the students brought friends along, and I couldn’t be sure they were all necessarily trustworthy. So before I started I made them all take a secrecy oath that McGonagall had written out. That caused a bit of an uproar. At that point Cho stepped up and made quite a strong statement supporting me, which calmed things down.” Harry cocked his head in thought for a brief instant. “I smiled at her to show my thanks, but of course, that got Ginny miffed. The look she shot at Cho …” he shook his head in disgust. “The two of them were at each other like that all year.” Hermione nodded knowingly. Harry clearly fancied the Chinese girl, but Ginny had already ‘claimed’ him. There was bound to be friction between the two witches vying for his affection.

“Then Fred and George declared that they would take the oath, and anyone who didn’t was daft and ought to have their heads examined,” Harry continued. “That pretty much forced everyone to take it or leave. Then I explained what we had in mind, and most of them were happy with it. One or two had questions, which was understandable, and I answered them. Someone said we should have a name for the group, so the last thing we did that day was come up with possible names. Some of them were pretty funny. Like the Anti-Umbridge League, or my favorite, the Ministry of Magic are Morons Group. Finally Cho came up with the DA, for Defense Association, which got general agreement. But Ginny got in the last word by changing it to Dumbledore’s Army, and we all got a chuckle out of that – except for Cho. But mostly we called it the DA.”

He shrugged. “And that’s the way it started. We met once or twice every week in the Room of Requirement. I showed them how to do a spell, corrected what they were doing wrong, and when everybody had it down, moved on to another one. By the end of the year I even had some of them casting a Patronus,” he finished with a touch of pride.

Hermione wondered at what sort of teacher he was, in terms of his teaching style and classroom manner. Harry responded honestly that he felt he needed to establish his authority and so didn’t act like a fellow student. He remained somewhat aloof, but tried let them know he was there to help them when they needed it. He didn’t tolerate much joking or goofing around, keeping everyone on task. Essentially, he tried to pattern himself after McGonagall initially, though his goal was to become more like Flitwick once he’d established his authority. Although he was reluctant to boast, McGonagall would later confirm that he was an extremely effective teacher.

“OK, now tell me about the kiss,” Hermione prompted with a sly grin after they’d finished with the DA and his introduction to teaching.

Harry groaned, but complied. He told her how Dobby had decorated the Room of Requirement with mistletoe and Christmas ornaments for the last DA meeting before the holidays, and without going into the details, related how Cho had waited after everyone had left and maneuvered him under the mistletoe, while tearing up from thoughts of Cedric. He left the rest to her imagination. Hermione pouted and tried to get him to elaborate, but he resisted.

“So that’s the whole story?” she protested.

Harry shook his head. “Well, except for after I got back to the common room.”

Hermione immediately perked up and smiled at him expectantly, so he knew he had no choice but to continue.

“Ron and Ginny were waiting up for me. Ron asked what had kept me, since it was about a half an hour later.” Hermione smirked knowingly but Harry refused to satisfy her curiosity. “Ginny just glared at me. I was in something of a daze and just shrugged, since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell them. Ron next asked what Cho had wanted – he still hadn’t figured it out – and at that point Ginny couldn’t keep quiet any more. ‘Did you kiss?’ she hissed at me.”

Hermione nodded. She could already see where this was headed, and it wasn’t going to be pleasant. “I don’t imagine she took it very well,” she commented wryly.

Harry shook his head. “That’s an understatement. Ron practically fell out of his chair. First he was jealous and griped how lucky I was to get such a hot girl, but then when he saw how mad Ginny was he backtracked a bit. Then he started to accuse me of cheating on Ginny, but then realized that he didn’t want me kissing her either! So he settled for just being grumpy with me. But Ginny really let me have it. She went on and on about how Cho was just a slag who was only after my fame, or was just looking for a replacement for Cedric, or several other things that were even less complimentary. I pretty much tuned her out after a while. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and shouted that it was my life and stalked off to bed.”

Hermione shook her head. “That’s too bad. She turned something that should have been special – your first kiss – into an unpleasant memory.” Harry nodded his agreement.

After sitting in silence for a while, Hermione prompted him to move on to the disastrous ending of the year.

“Well, again, there was a series of events that lead up to it,” Harry explained. “But it started with me getting a vision during my History of Magic OWL exam, which was the last one of the year.”

“A vision?” Hermione asked in surprise.

“Yeah,” Harry responded. “See, I’d been getting these visions, mostly as dreams, all year long of a corridor in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. It turns out that Voldemort was sending them to me, but I didn’t realize that right away. We had a connection through my scar,” he informed her, tapping his forehead.

Hermione glanced up at the spot in question and tipped her head back in surprise. “Hey! I didn’t really pay it any mind before, but your scar’s almost gone! I can hardly see it now.”

Harry smiled broadly. “Hermione, I love you.”

Hermione’s eyes widened even more, not comprehending what had prompted that declaration.

“My scar has always been the first thing everyone looks at,” he explained. “It’s practically my whole identity to people. Harry Potter? – check the scar – yep, you’re Harry Potter. But you’ve been here for three days now and we’ve spent pretty much ever minute together, and this is the first time you’ve even noticed it! You have no idea how much I appreciate that!” He pulled her tightly against his side in a grateful hug.

It took Hermione a few seconds to regain her composure. “I … well, you’re welcome,” she finally managed. “And you’ll never have to worry about me. You’ll always be my friend Harry, not the Boy Who Lived.” She returned his hug with one of her own.

“Where was I?” Harry asked after their impromptu cuddle ended.

“Visions from Voldemort,” Hermione reminded him.

“Right,” he agreed. “They’d been happening all year long, but I didn’t realize that’s what they were. They started as dreams of a long corridor and an urge to see what was behind the door at the end. It turned out that the corridor was in the Department of Mysteries and the door led to the Hall of Prophecies.” With great effort, Hermione managed to hold her tongue and not ask why the dark lord was doing this, trusting that Harry would tell her eventually.

“On the last night before Christmas break we discovered that the dreams were real,” he went on. “That night I dreamed I was a giant snake, and was sneaking up on someone who was sitting there. Then I bit him.” Hermione’s face wrinkled up in revulsion, and Harry nodded.

“Yeah, it was disgusting, and I was really shook up about it for the next few days. But what made it really scary was that it was Mr. Weasley that I bit, and it turned out to be actually happening at the time. The guys in the dorm woke me up and I was moaning that Ron’s dad had been attacked. They got McGonagall and she took me to see Dumbledore. He checked and Mr. Weasley really was in the Department of Mysteries and was lying there bleeding to death. He sent someone to find him and they got him to St. Mungo’s just in time.

“Oh my!” Hermione gasped. “That’s just …”

“Unbelievable,” Harry finished for her. “Yeah. Like I said, I was shook up, since I first thought I’d somehow been the one to attack him, that I’d been possessed in some way. Anyway, Dumbledore sent me and all the Weasleys to stay at Sirius’s house over Christmas break. And the next semester he had me start Occlumency lessons with Snape to keep Voldemort out of my mind.”

Hermione nodded knowingly. “I see. That makes sense.” Harry managed a brief grin – of course she would have read about the obscure mind art.

“Except that it didn’t work,” Harry countered. “For one thing, it was Snape teaching it, which meant that he didn’t teach me anything at all – just shouted ‘Clear your mind!’ and then blasted his way in. I’m still convinced that what he did left it more open than it would have been otherwise. But even if he’d wanted me to learn it right, it wouldn’t have mattered. See, because of my scar, Voldemort had a direct connection into my head. He wasn’t reading my thoughts like in Legilimency, he was able to get directly into my mind. Of course, it went both ways. I frequently saw into his mind, too, especially when he was feeling strong emotions.”

“That couldn’t have been too pleasant!” Hermione observed with alarm.

“Absolutely,” Harry agreed. “And it wasn’t always intentional on his part. I actually got information he wouldn’t have wanted me to know, on occasion. Like with Mr. Weasley, for example.”

“How?” she wanted to know. “I mean, what was so special about your scar?”

Harry hesitated, then said in a low, solemn voice, “It had a piece of his soul in it.”

“What!” Hermione cried out. She pulled away to look at him, and he dropped his arm from her shoulder. Immediately she sensed his anxiety that she was repulsed by the thought, and she promptly threw her arms around him and buried her head into his chest to alleviate it. “Oh Harry, I’m so sorry! That must have been just awful for you.” Harry nodded, relieved at her acceptance, and concern for him.

“But the connection was broken when you killed him, right?” she surmised. “That’s why your scar has faded now.”

“Something like that,” Harry replied. “But all that happened later. The point right now is, when I got the vision at the end of the year during exams, I was convinced it was real, just like the one about Mr. Weasley was. But this time it was about Sirius, and he was being tortured by Voldemort. And they were in the Hall of Prophecies in the Department of Mysteries.”

“The same one you’d been having dreams about all year,” Hermione clarified. Harry nodded and continued.

“It seemed so real, and when I came to I was screaming. After telling the examiner I was OK, I ran out of the Great Hall, where the exams were held. Then I tried to figure out what to do. There was almost no one I could go to. Dumbledore had been forced out by Umbridge and Fudge – Umbridge had been named Headmistress, although the castle wouldn’t let her into Dumbledore’s office. And Hagrid and McGonagall were gone – they’d sent Aurors to arrest him the day before and she’d tried to stop them. He escaped but she got hit by a bunch of stunners and was taken to St. Mungo’s.”

Hermione listened in wide-eyed silence; only her tightened grip on him indicated her dismay at these revelations. But Harry disentangled himself from her and sat up, then rose to his feet, staring out the window at the Hogwarts grounds, as he relived the experience, still clearly etched into his mind, even seven years later.

“I was just so certain it was real!” he insisted, his hands clenching into tight fists at his sides. “It never occurred to me that it could have been a fake vision. I didn’t even know that was possible. If only they’d told me!”

Hermione leaned forward and reached out a hand to clasp one of his, squeezing gently in a show of support. He relaxed slightly and unclenched his fist, allowing her to stroke the back of his hand as a bit of his tension eased. He turned to her and continued.

“So, I figured I needed to get to London as quickly as I could. But how? All the floos in the castle were being monitored; I’d get caught before I even made it to London. Umbridge had confiscated my Firebolt, but even with that, it would take hours to fly there.” He began to pace back and forth as he went through his reasoning.

“I knew the Ministry would be busy at that time of day, and yet the vision showed the two of them alone, so they must have been in a deserted part of the building. I’d have to sneak up on them if I had any chance of rescuing Sirius. So I’d need my invisibility cloak. And I needed more time.”

“The time turner,” Hermione realized aloud. Harry nodded in confirmation.

“Once I worked that out I ran up to my room, which was empty since everyone else was still in the exam,” he told her. “I put on the cloak and then went back four hours, figuring that would be enough to get me there with time to spare. Then I went out to the quidditch locker room and borrowed a broom, the fastest one I could find, which was Katie Bell’s. It was a bit tricky to fly the broom and stay under the cloak, but I managed. The next problem was to work out how to get there.” He paused and stared out the window again.

“Hedwig helped me out with that,” he revealed. “She flew up along side of me as soon as I got out of Hogwarts. She knew I was there even though I was under the cloak, even though she couldn’t see me. The two of us flew to London together.” He took a deep breath and sighed, a response that Hermione had come to identify as his remembering yet another fallen comrade. She wondered when and how he had lost Hedwig, but knew better than to interrupt him to ask.

“During that time I had a chance to think about what I was going to do,” he explained. “I knew I should get help, and it occurred to me that it could be a trap – Sirius might have been captured somehow and was being used to get to me. That wasn’t going to stop me, of course, but I knew I had to be extra careful. As soon as I got to the Ministry I sent off Hedwig with a message to Remus. Then I checked to make sure the cloak was still in place, hid the broom, and went in through the visitor’s entrance, which is disguised as an old telephone box. At that point I checked my watch. It was still a half hour before I’d had the vision.”

He turned back to face her. “Do you know anything about the Department of Mysteries?” Hermione shook her head, and Harry explained. “Well, it’s on level nine, down at the bottom. Almost no one ever goes in there, only the Unspeakables, so it made sense that it seemed empty in my vision. But when I got there it was completely deserted, so someone must have done something to clear it out. It was eerie, believe me.”

He turned away again, and in a low, far-off voice, continued. “Once I got off the lift, there was a single corridor leading to a plain black door. It was the same one I’d been dreaming about for months. That led to a large, circular room, all in black, with about a dozen black doors. There was nothing to tell them apart. And as soon as the door closed, the room spun around so there was no way to even tell which one you’d just come through. It took me forever to figure out. I kept trying the same doors over and over again.”

“You should have just marked each door you tried,” Hermione blurted out. Harry shot a wry look at her. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly.

“No, you’re absolutely right,” he admitted. “That would have saved me a lot of time.” He grinned at her. “See, I told you I needed you with me. Probably just as well you weren’t though,” he mused. “I’d have really freaked out if you’d been killed, or injured, once the fighting started.” Hermione appeared torn, acknowledging his concern, but wishing she’d been able to help him.

“Anyway, after I finally found the right one – it turns out that you just ask the room for the door you want, by the way – I went through a room that was filled with time turners,” he informed her. “I didn’t stop to look at them because by this point I was behind schedule, but I grabbed a small one and took it with me. See, I had a plan where I could use one in a fight, jumping back in time whenever things got dangerous. The one I had turned back an hour minimum, and I wanted one that could go back a shorter amount of time.”

Harry paused and took a breath. “Then, through the next door, was the Hall of Prophecies …”

-oooOOOooo-

Harry whispered a silencing spell on his feet as he slipped through the door into a room filled with towering shelves containing rows of dusty glass orbs. He checked his watch again – according to when he’d had the vision, Voldemort should be torturing Sirius right now. Yet there was not a sound to be heard, nor any sign of movement anywhere in the cavernous space. Perhaps the dark lord also had a silencing spell in place.

Recalling that he’d ‘seen’ them in row 97, he crept quietly past the numbered aisles, working his way up from the 50’s through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Just as he reached the mid-90’s he heard voices.

“How long will we have to wait here?” a man grumbled impatiently.

“If he floos here, it could be within the next half hour,” another replied condescendingly. “If he flies, three hours or more. Just stay ready.” Harry shuddered as he recognized the arrogant drawl of Lucius Malfoy, and realized that these must be Death Eaters. As he cleared the last aisle, he peered down the row and spotted a dozen shadowy, hooded dark figures.

“Just remember, we do not reveal ourselves until after he picks up the prophecy,” Malfoy hissed. “And no spells are to be cast until we have safely secured it from him. Are we all clear on that?” He stared in particular at one of the masked figures until it nodded, albeit reluctantly. “And furthermore, he is not to be killed or even seriously injured – that is a pleasure the Dark Lord reserves for himself alone.”

Harry ducked back and retreated a few rows to think. They were obviously setting a trap for him. The smart thing to do would seem to be to leave immediately and get the hell out of there. But he could not be certain that they hadn’t moved Sirius somewhere else. And he was curious about the prophecy they mentioned. What was so important about it that they’d gone to all this trouble? Furthermore, Remus and the Order should be on their way. If Harry failed to alert them they could stumble into this trap. And he doubted that these Death Eaters would have any reluctance to use lethal curses on them. On the other hand, they were under orders not to harm him – so he had an advantage. That, combined with his cloak, and his time turner …

A plan began to take shape in his head. He took out his newly acquired time turner and examined it. If he used his original one right now he’d be sent back to sometime during his flight here – that wouldn’t do at all. He made his way back near the door, went down the first aisle, and briefly exposed his foot from under the cloak. Then he checked his watch and inverted his smaller time turner once.

He found himself back in the circular room. Swallowing his urge to offer advice to his other self, he waited motionless and in silence while the previous him tried several doors, including one that seemed to lead to a large amphitheater, before locating the correct one. With all the stealth he could manage, he followed through the door when it opened, and once more past the collection of time turners. He waited several minutes for the other him to clear the next door, then slipped through it and stepped aside into the first row, opposite of where he’d activated the time turner, and waited. After several long minutes passed he spotted the disembodied foot emerge and checked his watch again. Ten minutes. Good.

Now that there was once more only one of him present, he removed the cloak entirely and tucked it away inside his robes. Stepping out into the main aisle he gathered his courage and called out. “Sirius! Are you here?” As he expected, there was no answer. Slowly, taking his time to closely examine the row numbers, he repeated his previous trek past the shelves of globes – prophecies, he now realized, marveling at how many of them there were. Once he reached Row 97 he paused, and made a show of looking around in puzzlement. Once more he called out. “Sirius?”

Keeping one hand on his wand and the other on the time turner, he shrugged and made his way cautiously down the row, peering ahead and behind in evident confusion, searching for his captive godfather. At the other end he turned and retraced his steps, glancing at the dusty glass spheres and stopping to examine a few more closely. Then he spotted it.

S.P.T to A.P.W.B.D
Dark Lord
and (?) Harry Potter

After looking around once more, he took a deep breath and lifted the glowing sphere off the shelf. But nothing happened. Somewhat disappointed, he began to brush off some of the dust.

And then, from right behind him, a drawling voice said, “Very good, Potter. Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give that to me.”

Harry stiffened, but resisted the urge to whirl to confront this apparent new arrival to the scene. He had a problem – three things to hold but only two hands. He drew the prophecy against his chest with one hand, covering his other hand which was inside his robes, holding the time turner between his thumb and forefinger while the other three fingers grasped his wand. He wanted to flee immediately, but needed more information.

“Where’s Sirius?” he demanded as he turned around, his voice choking slightly with emotion. Fighting back his nerves he quickly added, more loudly, “I know you have him here somewhere!” By now more black shapes had emerged as disillusionment charms were cancelled, blocking both ends of the aisle and trapping him between them.

“I know you have him somewhere,” a high-pitched voice mocked, and the other Death Eaters laughed at his audacity and ignorance.

“Let him go if you want this,” he insisted, clutching the prophecy more securely. By now he was pretty sure that Sirius’s capture had been an illusion, and Malfoy’s next words confirmed it.

“It’s time you learned the difference between life and dreams, Potter,” he chided condescendingly. “Now give me the prophecy or we stop asking nicely and start using curses.”

Pretending to consider the offer, Harry raised up the grimy sphere to regard it more closely, while surreptitiously giving the smaller time turner inside his robes one twist.

He found himself back at the entry door again, further down the first aisle, as the time travel device returned him to a spot near his location of ten minutes previous. He quickly drew out his invisibility cloak and put it on before his previous self could turn around and catch a glimpse of him. Intellectually, he knew he wouldn’t, since he hadn’t, but moved with haste anyway. Now what to do?

He’d confirmed that his vision must have been a fake, but he had an urge to get some revenge on Voldemort and his Death Eaters for putting him through all this agony. And there was still the matter of the Order, who he’d hoped would be arriving soon. If they could manage to capture some of these evil wizards in the act, and expose them for what they really were, especially Malfoy …

He stole quietly back to the area where the confrontation would occur, this time positioning himself down the side of the aisle opposite where he’d found the prophecy, a safe distance behind where the Death Eaters would appear. Then came the hardest part – waiting out the next ten minutes.

After what seemed like it must be more than that length of time, the Death Eaters appeared, between him and the former him. Although he couldn’t see what was going on, he could hear it all, his demands and Malfoy’s patronizing responses. He knew the exact moment when his previous self activated the time turner, from the uproar he’d left behind. Shouts of ‘Where’d he go?’, ‘He must have apparated!’, ‘How could he, the boy’s only fifteen!’, and ‘Well he must have done something!’ mixed in with general exclamations of disbelief. It was a perfect cover for him to cast some spells. He removed the cloak again, to maintain the ruse that he’d apparated to his new position.

Stupefy! Stupefy! Stupefy!” he cast as quickly as he could. In the chaos, it took them several seconds to locate him, and just before one of them cast the first spell in his direction he activated the time turner again.

This led to a half hour game of cat and mouse, which actually consumed less than three minutes of real time. It resulted in little more than frustration on both sides. For the Death Eaters, Potter would seem to apparate a short distance away, fire a few spells at them, then repeat the process. For Harry, he was making no progress, since each time he stunned a few, their comrades would just revive them.

It didn’t take long to realize that the few spells he knew that were intended to be used against a human opponent – Stupefy, Expeliarmus, Petrificus Totalus, Impedimentia, and Incarcarus – were relatively benign, doing no lasting damage. He grimly resolved to learn more disabling spells, that would put an opponent out of action on a more permanent basis, or at least for a longer term. The reductor curse turned out to be useful for blowing up the shelves holding the prophecies, which injured some of his pursuers with flying debris. But he had no idea what effect, if any, it would have on a person, and he was reluctant to waste time and energy finding out.

On his last time around, he tried using the disarming spell followed with a summoning spell to get hold of their wands and break them. This met with some success, but there were just too many of them, and they were starting to figure out what he was doing. When a stunner flashed by his head, missing him by inches, he knew it was time to abandon this strategy. With his final turn of the miniature hour glass, he waited by the door rather than move closer to his foes.

When his penultimate self disappeared following the near miss of the stunning spell, he shouted out, “You’ll never get it from me!”, and bolted through the door. On the other side he paused to seal the access with a Colloportus, then took a second to consider his next move. It occurred to him that he should cover his theft of the additional time turner, as well as deny anyone else the opportunity to use his unique method of combat, so he destroyed the entire supply of time travel devices with a few well placed Reductos. Then he ran back into the circular black room and, once it stopped spinning, raced out again through another door that he hoped would provide him a place to hide until the Order arrived.

This time he found himself in the amphitheater with the stone benches. Down at the bottom was an ancient looking stone archway, with a tattered veil that fluttered slightly. Harry hurried down to the bottom and crouched behind the dais that supported the archway, out of sight of the doorway above.

With his invisibility cloak back over him he was certain he could stay undiscovered for at least ten minutes. Then, if they did get too close he could use his time turner to hop around the large open space, taking cover behind whichever bench he appeared at. In addition, there were multiple doors around the top of the room, giving him more options for escape. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it was the best he had at the moment.

While he waited, he enlarged a pocket in his robes so that the prophecy could fit inside, securing it and freeing up his hand so he could more easily use his wand and the time turner simultaneously. If he could hold out long enough, and the Death Eaters continued their frantic searching, the Order could take them by surprise, rather than the other way around. And he knew that there were at least two or three Aurors in the Order; this could turn out extremely well for their side if some of these Death Eaters could be exposed and captured.

Sooner than he would have liked, one of the doors above opened and a group of Death Eaters burst through. After glancing uneasily at each other and the archway at the bottom, they began searching. “Check under every bench,” a shrieking female voice called out from a different doorway. “He must be in one of these rooms!” Slowly but inexorably, the searchers began to make their way down toward his position. Harry tensed himself and got a firm grip on his wand and the time turner.

Suddenly, shouts came from outside the original entrance, and it blasted open. But these new arrivals were not wearing black cloaks and masks! The Order had arrived!

-oooOOOooo-

Hermione breathed a loud sigh of relief. The story had her on the edge of her seat with worry, even though she knew that Harry must have survived it. Her sigh abruptly broke off when Harry turned to face her with a look of anguish in his eyes.

“What happened?” she blurted out with a sinking feeling in her stomach.

“Sirius was killed,” he responded in a dull monotone. Hermione leapt to her feet and wrapped him in a consoling hug as he slumped against her. “Saving him was the reason I went there in the first place, and he ended up dying anyway,” he moaned.

“I sat there and watched while he taunted his opponent, acting like the whole thing was a great lark,” Harry continued morosely. “Then Bellatrix Lestrange killed him right before my eyes.” He turned in Hermione’s arms and stared out the window again.

“I tried to use the time turner to go back and save him, but it was no use,” he revealed. “I’d seen him die, so I couldn’t change it. Every time I tried to cast a spell, or throw something at her, or shove into her to knock her aim off, I was struck rigid. I couldn’t move or do anything that might reveal my presence as long as my original self was still there. I could go through the doors into other rooms, and attack any Death Eaters I found there, but I was helpless in that room. After three or four tries I gave up.”

Hermione tightened her arms around him again, trying to show as much support as she could. Harry shrugged and turned back to her. “Dumbledore had arrived during the battle and pretty much taken control, but not soon enough,” he informed her bitterly. “Bellatrix somehow escaped and ran out the door after she killed Sirius. So the last time I used the time turner, I left the room and went up to the Atrium to head her off. I was going to make her pay!”

He turned away from her again and was silent for several long seconds. “I hid myself right across from the lifts and waited. Oh, how I wanted her to suffer! As soon as the grills opened and she ran out, I cursed her … with the Cruciatus curse.”

Hermione’s eyes widened but she didn’t hesitate. She immediately realized that Harry needed to know that she didn’t think less of him for using an Unforgiveable Curse. She moved up next to him and laced her fingers into his and gave his hand a squeeze of understanding. He turned back to her with gratitude and relief in his eyes. She hugged him again for good measure.

“It didn’t work,” he informed her. “She taunted me then, telling me I didn’t have it in me to use that curse. You have to really enjoy causing pain for it to work properly. I’ve never even attempted one since, no matter how angry I got during a battle. I learned another lesson at that point – you only get one surprise shot in fight. You have to make it count.”

Hermione nodded solemnly. Several times now during this story Harry had described something as a learning experience. It was the teacher side of him showing itself.

His tale wasn’t finished yet. “She had the upper hand on me after that, and it was all I could do to dodge her curses, much less get one of my own off,” he recalled. “If she hadn’t been worried about hitting the prophecy, I never would have survived. Then Voldemort arrived and I knew I was dead, but right after that Dumbledore showed up. He immobilized Bellatrix without even batting an eye and then took on Voldemort. The two of them had the most amazing duel I’ve ever seen. But when Voldemort was about to lose he changed tactics. He took possession of me.”

Hermione gasped, not at all expecting that development!

“It was the most incredible pain I’ve ever experienced, including the Cruciatus curse he hit me with the year before,” Harry continued. “I truly wanted to die. I decided that death would be a relief at that point. And then I’d get to see Sirius, and my Mum and Dad.”

Tears formed in Hermione’s eyes at the thought of Harry wishing for death. She couldn’t imagine being in a situation where dying was her preferred alternative, and hoped neither of them would ever be in that position again.

“Suddenly, he was gone,” Harry revealed. “Dumbledore later explained that he couldn’t tolerate thoughts of love, and when I started thinking about my loved ones that drove him out. And all of a sudden it was all over. Aurors came pouring into the room, Voldemort took Bellatrix and disapparated, even Fudge showed up and had to admit that Dumbledore and I had been right all along. It was a pretty hollow victory, though.”

Hermione was about to suggest that they call it a night when Harry interrupted. “That’s not the end yet,” he told her. “Dumbledore made a portkey and sent me back to his office. While I was waiting there I remembered that I still had the prophecy in my pocket. I pulled it out and decided to hear what it had to say, since it had caused so much trouble. So I broke it open.”

Hermione swallowed hard. She had a bad feeling about this – it was almost certainly not going to be anything good. She was right, as Harry confirmed when he recited the fateful words.

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ...
Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ...
And the Dark Lord will mark him as equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ...
And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ...

“Oh no!” Hermione cried as all the implications sunk in. “So that’s … that was the reason for everything that happened to you. And … and those initials, those were Dumbledore’s, right?” Harry nodded.

“The S.P.T. on the Prophecy was Professor Trelawny, who taught Divination here. You’re lucky that you never had to take her class. You would have hated it,” he assured her.

“But he knew!” she protested furiously. “Dumbledore knew all along and never told you!”

Harry shook his head. “Nope. I was furious – screamed at him for half an hour when he got back. Trashed his office pretty good, too.”

“Justifiably so, I should say,” she huffed indignantly. This elicited a small smile from Harry.

Hermione stared at him for several moments, waiting to see if there was anything else. When Harry didn’t respond, she once again transfigured the sofa into a bed. This time she pushed him in first, then crawled in behind him, snuggling up and wrapping her arms around him.

-ooo-

As he allowed himself to relax and be enveloped in the softness of the young witch pressed up behind him, Harry marveled at how close, how connected he’d become to her in only three days since she’d re-entered his life. He’d never admitted that he’d used the Cruciatus against Bellatrix to anyone – not Luna, not Fleur, not even McGonagall. Never before in his life had he been so comfortable with another person, felt such acceptance, been shown so much … love.

Love? That did seem an apt description of what was growing between them; what had first begun all those years ago and was returning now, stronger than ever. But was it platonic love, sibling love, or romantic love? Well, he never had a sister, but he was fairly certain that the emotion welling up in him right now wasn’t something one felt towards his sister. Harry rolled to his back so that Hermione was now snuggling against his side, and put his arm around her. Whatever it was, it sure felt nice.

That night Hermione look longer than usual to get to sleep. Her heart had stopped when Harry said ‘I love you’. Neither of them could deny that they were growing more attracted to each other but so far both had been ignoring it. With a sigh, she closed her eyes and resolved that tomorrow she was going bring the issue out into the open.

xox-XOX-XOX-xox-

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Author Notes:

(1) There is compelling evidence to suggest that there were originally ten students in Gryffindor in Harry’s year, but JKR just never got around to identifying the last two. It looks like she intended that there be ten students in each of the four houses, possibly 5 male and 5 female. Several times in the initial books it mentions 20 sets of equipment for lessons involving two houses (e.g. – flying lessons and herbology). During third year DADA eight Gryffindor students faced the Boggart, not including Harry and Hermione.

JKR’s original class list shows 40 names, but some of them are only last names. Six names belong to students who are not otherwise identified as to house affiliation in the books, and in order to evenly balance out the houses, we need two female Gryffindors, two female Hufflepuffs, one male Ravenclaw, and one female Slytherin. I selected two of the six names (Rivers and Roper) and declared them to be the missing Gryffindor girls. See Secrets of the Classlist on the Harry Potter Lexicon website (hp-lexicon dot org) for an in-depth analysis.

BTW, there has been some suggestion that Dean Thomas is not actually a muggleborn, but only thinks he is. (I don’t keep up with all of JKR’s post-publication revisionism.) He doesn’t know his father, who might actually be a wizard. But for all practical purposes he is a muggleborn, and more importantly, the Ministry considers him a muggleborn.

(2) McGonagall would have had the resources to plan the meeting a little better than the Hermione from Book 5 could have, so she arranged a private room. Coincidentally, this just happened to be the same room in which Dumbledore interviewed Trelawny and heard the fateful prophecy!

 

When I originally posted this chapter, there were several issues raised by reviewers that I want to clarify here.

The first is the question of where you go when you use a time turner.  The GOF movie is different than the book on this point, and I suspect most people remember how it happened on screen.  I only accept the books as canon, since the movies are loaded with scenes that contradict the books; this is just one of those times.

In the book, the one and only time we see the time turner in use is in Chapter 21.  When Hermione activates the time turner they are in the hospital wing.  They reappear in the entrance hall and Hermione pulls them into a closet, just as their past selves walk through that exact same spot on their way to Hagrid’s.  In other words, they move in both time AND space, and the magic involved makes them appear NEAR where they had been, but just out of sight.  This is exactly the way I make it happen in my story.

The second is why Harry doesn’t know any lethal or seriously disabling hexes at the end of fifth year.  Some reviewers claimed that they would learn hexes like that for their OWL and NEWT exams.  I strongly disagree.  Given what we know of the Ministry of Magic and the general attitude in wizarding Britain, as well as Dumbledore’s views, I have no problem believing that the spells they’re taught at Hogwarts would be only defensive or restraining in nature.  There’s a reason they call it Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Harry was given a list of spells by McGonagall that students needed to know for their OWLs and NEWTs.  He naturally would focus on making sure his students mastered those (and throw in the Patronus for good measure, given his encounter with dementors the previous summer).  At that point he hadn’t actually faced any Death Eaters in combat – once he did in the Department of Mysteries, he promptly realized that he needed to expand his repertoire.  Finally, the use of Reducto to blow a hole in your opponent’s chest, or dismember or decapitate him is purely fanon.  We never see it used like that against a human in the books, that I can recall.  But if some readers think otherwise, that's OK.

The third issue is that there are not massive changes in the storyline as a result of Hermione’s absence.   But I maintain that, for example, none of Voldemort’s plots, such as his attempt to lure Harry to the Ministry by sending him visions, had anything to do with who Harry’s friends were.  And Sirius was killed because he goofed off and taunted Bellatrix during their duel, not because Hermione was or was not present in the building.

On the other hand, her absence did affect Harry’s study habits, his isolation during the Triwizard Tournament and in fifth year, his decision to go to the Ministry alone, etc.  As well as less significant things like McClaggen’s making the quidditch team in this chapter. 

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