Chapter 1: Chapter 1
The old-fashioned bell above the door of Flourish & Blotts jingled distinctly when Hermione Granger left the shop with the newest edition of A History of Magic under her arm. In less than four weeks the NEWTs would begin, and she still had tons of things to learn before she could sit for the exam halfway confidently. Not that Hermione hadn’t already been excellently prepared, but in her opinion there still was much to do.
The search for the horcruxes and the fight against Voldemort had cost Hermione an entire school year and she missed Harry and Ron terribly. Both of them had decided not to return to Hogwarts, and Harry wrote her enthusiastic letters about his Auror training. Ron seemed to be happy about the end of the schooldays as well, but he didn’t seem to like the work at the Ministry of Magic too much and already dreamed about running Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with his brother, George, someday.
Unlike her two friends, Hermione was quite concerned about the upcoming farewell from Hogwarts. The school had become her home long ago and the future lay ahead of her like a scary, inscrutable lake. She would have to make decisions, set priorities, and she didn’t feel ready for that. And as if that wasn’t enough, Ron had asked her to marry him and had been waiting for her answer for months.
They’d been together for almost a year now and Ron really tried to be a good boyfriend to Hermione. She liked to spend time with him, especially because he was able to pull her out of her melancholia with his frank and forthright nature. As opposed to Ron, Hermione still dreamed about the horrors of the war and about the people who hadn’t survived; of Albus Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, Remus Lupin, Mad Eye Moody, Cedric Diggory, and about the house elf Dobby.
Sometimes, the images were so overwhelming that they prevented Hermione from learning, and even her books couldn’t give her comfort then. At least Ginny was her classmate now, and Neville, Luna and other friends had also decided to repeat the seventh school year. So she wasn’t alone, but compared to the others, it was significantly harder for Hermione to deal with the past.
Her schoolmates hadn’t feared for their lives for an entire year, they hadn’t almost died fighting Voldemort’s snake, nor had Bellatrix Lestrange fired a Cruciatus curse on them. Only Harry seemed to be lost in the past as well sometimes, but his Auror training helped him to focus on the present. He devoted all his energy to becoming an Auror, which claimed him so much that he hardly had time to think.
After Hogwarts had been rebuilt last summer, all the teachers and students had been determined to leave the horrible past behind. The running of the school had continued, and after a few months, things had been back to normal. Only Hermione’s former professor for Transfiguration, Minerva McGonagall, seemed to notice that she often wasn’t well. Occasionally, the professor darted a concerned glance at her, but as Headmistress she barely had any personal contact with the students anymore. So Hermione hadn’t talked to her for months.
Things had been different during the rebuilding of Hogwarts, though. Back then, the professor and Hermione had often worked side by side, they had removed the debris together and had restored the old walls. Sometimes Professor McGonagall had used magic Hermione had never heard about, and the teacher had patiently taught her some spells so that Hermione could lighten her workload.
It had been a strange feeling working so closely with the teacher, whom Hermione had always deeply admired from afar. It had turned out that even Minerva McGonagall couldn’t maintain the façade of the strict head teacher of Gryffindor 24 hours a day. Many a time Hermione had seen her railing, doubting, cursing and groaning, and sometimes she had just sat somewhere on the debris, staring into space.
Nevertheless, the time of Hogwarts’ rebuilding had only intensified Hermione’s admiration for the teacher. She had seen Professor McGonagall fighting for the welfare of the school and its students, giving her best every day and making surprising decisions, which had turned out to be the correct choices later on. More than anyone else Professor McGonagall put her own horror and moaning aside to do justice to her duty as the new Headmistress.
Not once had Hermione and Professor McGonagall talked about the events of the past; nonetheless, an invisible bond had grown between them. Working together towards the same goal had led to a closeness that would have been impossible and inappropriate under different circumstances. But when the lessons had restarted again in September 1998, by some unspoken agreement it seemed the teachers as well as the students fell back into their usual roles at Hogwarts.
Like the others, Hermione took her old role as a student without hesitation, but a quiet wistfulness remained inside of her. She missed the closeness that had developed between her and the Headmistress, who now took care of the school operation again, strict and unapproachable. Only the concerned glances Professor McGonagall cast at her every now and then showed that she understood Hermione better than a lot of her friends and classmates.
Hermione glanced at the new cover of A History of Magic before she put the book into her handbag. As she knew all too well, the original author, Bathilda Bagshot, hadn’t been able to finish the new edition, so a nephew had done it for her. Harry, Ron and Hermione were repeatedly mentioned in the last chapter, and there was even a big picture of the three of them on one of the last pages.
The chapter Bathilda Bagshot’s nephew had added was thoroughly researched and well written, but Hermione knew from her own experience that some events had been different from the description in the book. But that was how they would go down into history, and generations after Hermione would learn by heart what she, Harry, and Ron had allegedly done when they were searching for the horcruxes.
The sun had set down already when Hermione apparated to the front of the grounds of Hogwarts. It was still bright enough to get to the castle without additional light, and Hermione decided to make a small detour because the air was still so mild. The narrow paths were soon illuminated with torches and the silhouette of the castle looked from the distance like a medieval fortress.
A dull sound suddenly made Hermione jump aside and she sneaked, wand pulled out, through the bushes near the Forbidden Forest where the noise had come from. It had sounded like a body had fallen on the ground from some height, but Hermione couldn’t see enough in the twilight. ”Lumos”, she whispered, searching for an animal on the ground.
When her foot hit an obstacle she recognized the silhouette of a child lying on the ground. It was a young girl, maybe about twelve years old. When Hermione held her wand closer to her face she noticed that the girl was unconscious. Judging by the girl’s Gryffindor uniform, she had to be a Hogwarts student, but Hermione had never seen her before.
Cautiously, Hermione touched the girl’s neck with her fingers and realized her pulse was barely noticeable. The child had to be brought to the hospital wing right away, or she wouldn’t survive the night. ”Wingardium Leviosa”, Hermione whispered and guided the hovering body of the girl to the castle as quickly as possible. She couldn’t see any exterior injuries, but only a thorough examination would reveal the girl’s actual condition.
Madam Pomfrey hurried to Hermione’s side as soon as she had entered the hospital wing. “What happened, Miss Granger?” She immediately took the young patient’s pulse.
“I found the girl in the bushes,” Hermione explained, helping Madam Pomfrey lay down the limp body on one of the beds. Since the other beds were empty, they decided to take the one furthest from the door. “I heard something like a dull thump,” Hermione added while taking off the girl’s shoes. “As if she had fallen from a great height.”
“That’s not very likely,“ Madam Pomfrey said thoughtfully, examining the child. “She doesn’t seem to have any broken bones or bruises.” She carefully pulled up one of the girl’s eyelids. “Obviously she’s in a kind of coma.”
“In a coma?” Hermione shook her head in confusion. Why should somebody so young fall into a coma all of a sudden? That didn’t make any sense.
Madam Pomfrey made some preparations to make sure the girl's basal brain functions like breathing and heartbeat were working. Then she took off the Gryffindor uniform and put pajamas on the girl. “I’m going to inform the Headmistress,” she announced, already on the way out of the room. “You’d better stay here just in case something unexpected happens.”
Hermione put down her handbag with a sigh and cautiously sat down on the edge of the bed. Though she was sure she had never seen the girl before, she felt vaguely familiar. Maybe it was because the shape of her face and her slender frame reminded her of Professor McGonagall.
Hermione shook her head to banish the confusing thoughts from her head. It was more than ridiculous that random things constantly reminded her of the Headmistress. Sometimes it was a gesture, sometimes a remark, sometimes the verse of a song. And now a twelve-year-old girl, who was, moreover, unconscious.
Still, Hermione’s hand involuntarily moved to the child’s face, carefully pulling up an eyelid, like Madam Pomfrey had done just minutes before. The girl’s eyes were the same green as Professor McGonagall’s.
Hermione flinched in surprise and took a closer look at the sleeping child. The girl’s slender hands were similar to the Headmistress’s, too, but before Hermione could think about it any further, she heard footsteps on the corridor.
Shortly afterwards, the door of the hospital wing was pushed open and Professor McGonagall headed for the child’s bed. “You found the girl, Miss Granger?” she asked, followed quickly by Madam Pomfrey.
“Yes, she lay in the bushes near the Forbidden Forest,” Hermione answered, but paused when she noticed the deep line on Professor McGonagall’s forehead.
“That’s not one of our students,” Professor McGonagall said thoughtfully. “I know all of Hogwarts’ students, and I’ve never seen this girl before.”
“Maybe she’s from the neighborhood and somebody put that uniform on her?” Hermione suggested.
“In that case somebody would miss it and nobody reported anything like that,” Professor McGonagall objected, frowning. “We will check that anyway,” she added and turned to Madam Pomfrey. “Do you have any idea what could have caused the coma, Poppy?”
“I need to examine the girl more thoroughly,” Madam Pomfrey explained unusually cautiously. Obviously she sensed that Professor McGonagall wasn’t in the best mood. “But I’d assume it’s a magical cause. The girl definitely hasn’t any exterior wounds.”
Professor McGonagall nodded wordlessly. “She looks like you, Miss Granger,” she said suddenly.
“What?” Hermione was sure she must have misunderstood the Headmistress. “Like me?”
“Yes, you,” Professor McGonagall repeated brusquely, as if Hermione had given her a wrong answer in class.
“I have to agree with Professor McGonagall,” Madam Pomfrey confirmed, trying to sound more gentle. “Look at her, Miss Granger.” She pointed at the child’s bushy brown hair. “And also the eyebrows and the forehead… and the mouth…”
Hermione reluctantly followed Madam Pomfrey’s gaze. “I would rather say she looks like… Professor McGonagall…”
There was a long silence.
None of the three women moved, then Madam Pomfrey stepped closer to the bed and pulled the blanket over the girl’s shoulders. “I’m afraid I have to agree with you, too, Miss Granger,” she said quietly.
Professor McGonagall stared at the young patient. “Nonsense,” she muttered and turned to go. “I’m going to find out whether any Gryffindor uniforms are missing,” she said, already at the door. “I think I can trust you not to tell anyone about the girl’s presence at Hogwarts.”
Without another word she was gone, leaving a confused Hermione behind. Why didn’t Professor McGonagall want to make an official announcement? Wouldn’t an owl to the ministry increase the chances that the girl’s parents would get in touch with the school?
Madam Pomfrey also seemed surprised about Professor McGonagall’s decision. “Don’t worry, my dear,” she assured Hermione, patting her shoulder. “I’m sure things will clear up soon.”
Hermione nodded absentmindedly. “Did the girl have a wand with her?” she asked, though not sure whether she really wanted to know the answer.
Madam Pomfrey picked up the Gryffindor uniform from the ground and frisked the black cloak. After a while she pulled out a dark brown wand. “The wood seems to be of fir,” she murmured. “Or maybe spruce?”
Hermione barely listened to her. She had spent enough time in the company of Garrick Ollivander to recognize that the core of this wand was of Dragon Heartstring – the same core that held Hermione’s and Professor McGonagall’s wands together.
“I need to give a first-year-student his potion,” Madam Pomfrey informed her. “You can stay if you like, but not too long. What the child needs most now, is rest.”
Hermione nodded, feeling strangely numb as she sat down on the edge of the young patient’s bed again. She looked so peacefully, as if she was just sleeping. Her features were relaxed and it almost seemed as if she was smiling. Hermione felt a wave of affection for this vulnerable being, and she softly stroked the girl’s cheek before pulling herself together and leaving the hospital wing.
Ten minutes later Hermione sat in the library in front of her a pile of books about pedigrees and genetics. Maybe Professor McGonagall was related to her in some crazy way? In one of the books the author had listed more than a hundred wizarding families back to the Middle Ages.
When Hermione looked more thoroughly at the chronologies, she was surprised to read that Professor McGonagall’s father had been a muggle. Maybe that was reason, why her former Head of House had always understood so well that Hermione so often felt different, having grown up among muggles.
Professor McGonagall had never talked about her personal life, and the fact that one of the most powerful witches on earth was also muggle-born, felt strangely comforting. Hermione had never believed Voldemort’s lunatic ideas about pureblooded wizards, but she often felt foreign and inadequate among people who came from wizarding families for generations.
After two hours Hermione put the books away with a frustrated sigh. She hadn’t found the slightest hint of a close or remote relationship between her and the Headmistress. What else could be the reason for the young patient’s similarity with them? Hermione didn’t know any incantation that was able to make a person look like someone else for such a long time. Not even a polyjuice potion was able to do that. Besides, a polyjuice potion just copied the appearance of another person and couldn’t mix the features of two people with each other.
And even if it was possible to do that, the person would look like the perfect mixture of Professor McGonagall and Hermione, and not like a little girl, who looked similar to them in several ways. Maybe the girl was a Metamorphmagus? Only a Metamorphagus could change their appearance for such a long time. But their changes would fade in a coma, so there was no doubt the girl’s look had to be her normal look, not the result of some kind of metamorphosis.
Determined, Hermione took a book with the title Progress in Genetics from the bookshelf and fought her way through a large amount of scientific formulas and studies. The book’s author, Oliver Peakes, had worked at a muggle laboratory at a young age, where he and other scientists had done research on manipulation of genetic material. Already years ago, the muggles had started to manipulate the DNA of mammals in order to increase the benefit of farm animals.
Oliver Peakes was convinced that it was possible to manipulate even human DNA. That way, two or more wizards or witches would be able to produce descendants without the necessity of sexual intercourse. Hermione wasn’t surprised that the Ministry of Magic had strictly forbidden any kind of further research on this theory. The ministry didn’t deny that Peakes’ theory could be true and his methods successful, but it had applied severe ethical concerns for the procedure could be abused too easily.
But what if Oliver Peakes, or somebody else, still secretly performed experiments about the manipulation of genetic material? What if the DNA of Minerva McGonagall and Hermione had been used for such an experiment without their knowledge? But why them of all people? And when could it have happened? If the girl was about twelve years old, she had to have been born at a time when Hermione and Professor McGonagall hadn’t even known each other yet. Or was the girl younger than she looked? Her medical data had been completely normal, and there was no indication that anything could be wrong or unusual about her.
The high voice of Irma Pince interrupted Hermione’s thoughts. “The Headmistress wishes to speak to you,” the librarian informed her while trying to get a discrete glimpse at Hermione’s pile of books.
“I’m on my way.” With a hastily produced Hover Charm, Hermione returned all the books back to their original places on the shelves in order to erase all traces of her research. She then hurried to the old gargoyle.
She was just wondering how on earth she was supposed to pass the stony guard, when the gargoyle made room without demanding a password. Amazed, Hermione climbed on the spiral staircase that carried her above to the Headmistress’s office. Like a miracle, the spiral staircase had survived the war, even though it made a lot more grinding noises than it used to.
Professor McGonagall’s office door was ajar, but Hermione didn’t find her behind her desk. “Professor?” Hermione exhaled when she spotted the Headmistress in front the window. She seemed to be deep in thought and Hermione almost didn’t dare to interrupt her. “You’ve sent for me?”
“Miss Granger.” Professor McGonagall turned towards her and asked her to take a seat next to the fireplace. In spite of the sunny weather in the daytime, the evenings were still cold in the castle. “I take it you’ve already started to do some research?” she asked, taking a seat in the armchair next to Hermione’s.
Hermione’s face turned beet-red. “I thought I might be able to help…” she said sheepishly. Professor McGonagall surely found it uttermost ridiculous that she took the child’s alleged similarity with them seriously.
“Do you have a sister or a brother we aren’t aware of at Hogwarts, Miss Granger?” Professor McGonagall asked, ignoring Hermione’s response.
She shook her head. ”My mother had one sister, who unfortunately died when she was eight years old. My father was the only child in his family.”
“Maybe a lost cousin? Or a secret second cousin?”
Again Hermione shook her head and there was a long pause. Eventually, Hermione, who already felt dizzy from all the theories in her head, couldn’t take it anymore. “I’ve taken the liberty to do some pedigree research on both of our families,” she explained hesitatingly. “And I didn’t find any indication that the blood of your and my relatives had mingled at any point of history. I’d rather think that our DNA was deliberately mixed up…”
“You believe the girl is a genetic experiment?” Professor McGonagall interrupted her, shaking her head in disbelief. “Even though Oliver Peakes seems to have great plans in this field, which I find by the way morally quite questionable, we were a long way from influencing human genetic material twelve years ago, not to mention from mixing up the DNA of two women.”
“Maybe it was an unofficial experiment?” Hermione didn’t find it unlikely that studies and experiments had been carried out without any knowledge of the ministry. “I don’t see a motive, though,” she admitted.
“Well, there might be one.” Professor McGonagall thoughtfully looked at the flickering flames in the fireplace. “Maybe somebody tried to mingle the abilities of two of the greatest witches alive? However, twelve years ago nobody knew you were a witch, not even you.”
Hermione stared at her in amazement. Was Professor McGonagall serious? Did she really think Hermione was a great witch? Even gifted enough to mingle their genes with each other?
Professor McGonagall smiled when she noticed Hermione’s blushing. “Don’t be so modest, Miss Granger. We both know that I’m right. You have a great future ahead of you.“
Hermione failed to reciprocate the Headmistress’s smile. Professor McGonagall couldn’t know how much Hermione’s thoughts about her future troubled her. Possibly, she’d never get anywhere because she couldn’t decide what to do.
“Are you all right, Miss Granger?” Professor McGonagall asked with concern.
“Yes, of course.” Hermione straightened her back. “I examined the girl’s wand, by the way. Its core is of Dragon Heartstring.”
“Hmm.” The deep line on Professor McGonagall’s forehead came back. “Maybe we should just wait until the girl wakes from her coma,” she said eventually. “Speculations won’t get us anywhere.”
“Yes, you’re right, Professor.” Hermione couldn’t help but admire Professor McGonagall’s calmness while they were talking about something that could be of prime importance for both of them. How could the Headmistress keep such a clear head considering all those unanswered questions?
Surprisingly, the silence between them wasn’t uncomfortable, maybe because they had removed the debris of the castle side by side for weeks, talking only if necessary. Professor McGonagall sat motionlessly in her armchair, still staring into the fire. Her face looked worried, almost frightened now, and Hermione wondered what she was thinking about. Maybe it had something to do with an idea that secretly worried Hermione as well. So much so, actually, that she hadn’t even dared to really think it through yet.
“You’re probably aware that there could be an entirely different explanation,” Hermione started so timidly that she feared the pounding of her heart would drown her words.
“Of course.” Professor McGonagall nodded without looking up.
“And?” Hermione asked when the Headmistress didn’t elaborate her words.
“And what?” Professor McGonagall abruptly raised her head. “That’s nonsense, of course.“
“Why?“ It hurt Hermione that Professor McGonagall dismissed the idea with such certainty. All of her school years she had been sure that her affection for her Transfiguration teacher had been nothing but a simple crush, but what if it developed into something more? What if her feelings endured beyond her school time, what if they thrived and grew? And what… what if they weren’t as one-sided as she had always believed?
“You’re seriously asking me that?“ Professor McGonagall looked at Hermione as if she had lost her mind. “You’re one of my students, Miss Granger!”
“I won’t be your student for the rest of my life, Professor.“ Hermione unsuccessfully tried not to get hurt by the harsh words. “I will leave Hogwarts in six weeks.”
“Then you will be my former student,“ Professor McGonagall replied angrily. “I won’t discuss this with you.”
Hermione could barely suppress her disappointment, but it was more than obvious that she couldn’t talk about any of her theories with Professor McGonagall. The more she thought about it, the more likely it seemed that the girl had come from the future. Maybe things would be possible in a decade or two that still seemed utopistic now. It wasn’t utterly impossible that the child was some kind of a daughter of them, who had traveled to the past with a time turner. That theory would at least explain the ominous coma of the young patient, and it would also explain why she seemed to be a real Gryffindor student, although she didn’t go to school here.
“I think it’s time to end this conversation, Miss Granger.“ Professor McGonagall made a vague gesture. “I’ll keep you informed about the girl’s healing process.”
Hermione dejectedly rose from her armchair. Even though she understood the professor’s request not to get lost in speculations, she had hoped to be able to talk to her about her ideas. This issue concerned the both of them after all. “Good night, Professor McGonagall,“ she said formally and walked towards the door without turning around again.
“Good night, Miss Granger,“ she heard the professor’s muffled voice when she was already on the spiral staircase, getting downstairs.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Many thanks to my wonderful beta readers HeySlopoke and Ronam!
There was no way Hermione could sleep that night. Instead, she constantly saw the little girl’s face before her eyes, wondering how she was doing. Why did she look so much like her and the Headmistress? Hermione had thought her theories through and through, but none of them actually seemed to fit. The only theory she couldn’t dismiss right away was the idea that the girl was indeed some kind of a descendant of Professor McGonagall and her. Maybe she was indeed the result of a genetic experiment. Or even the result of a planned, conscious decision of two lovers.
But what did this say about her relationship with Ron? Would it be wise to marry him if she knew that her marriage would fail sooner or later? Or was she about to make the biggest mistake of her life, just because a girl had appeared at Hogwarts, who accidentally looked a lot like her and the Headmistress?
Hermione groaned as she rolled over in her bed. That was exactly the reason why there were strict rules for the use of time turners. Not by chance, it was a severe crime to make oneself noticeable during a time travel - Hermione, Harry and Ron had experienced that first hand. However, one could hardly blame the girl for lying unconsciously in the bushes.
How was the child doing by now? Did Madam Pomfrey find a way to bring her out of her coma? Or was her condition worsening? What if her pulse was getting weaker and weaker and nobody was there to notice? Hermione pushed away the blanket with a determined move, fumbling for her dressing gown. She wouldn’t get a wink of sleep tonight anyway, so she could just as well look after the young patient. Didn’t they say that people in a coma would often register what was going on around them even though they couldn’t react? Surely, the girl would like to have a nice person around her, no matter if that person was her mother or not.
Hermione quietly slipped into her slippers, throwing a quick glance at the sleeping Ginny. Her friend didn’t even stir when Hermione cautiously opened the door and sneaked out.
In moments like this, Hermione wished for Harry’s invisibility cloak back. With her best friend she hadn’t been in danger of getting caught by Mrs. Norris, or worse, bumping into Mr. Filch himself.
Luckily, everything went well and Hermione arrived at the hospital wing without any problems. There was no sound from the hospital room but a glimmer of light spread from under the door into the corridor. Had an emergency chased Madam Pomfrey out of bed?
Soundlessly, Hermione pushed down the door handle and opened the door just enough to peek into the room without getting caught. Somebody sat on the bed of the young patient, but it wasn’t Madam Pomfrey, it was Professor McGonagall. Obviously she couldn’t sleep either and had had the same idea as Hermione. The wand in her hand shed a pale light on the face of the unconscious girl while her other hand cupped the much smaller one of the girl.
Hermione was overwhelmed by such a feeling of tenderness that she quickly closed the door again and took a deep breath. A strange longing she couldn’t describe had lain heavily on her chest and she sneaked back to her dorm, feeling numb and confused.
With a sigh, she slipped back under the blanket, but as soon as she closed her eyes the frame of Professor McGonagall emerged before her eyes again, sitting on the bed of the unconscious girl. Watching the scene, Hermione couldn’t say for whom she felt more love, for the girl or for the Headmistress. Something had happened inside of her that couldn‘t be changed back.
* * *
Before she went to breakfast Hermione sent two owls to Harry and Ron, hoping they would be able to come by in the afternoon. She could have talked to Ginny of course, but she didn’t consider it wise sharing the news with another Hogwarts student. After all, Professor McGonagall had sworn her to utmost secrecy.
The Headmistress looked pale and tired as she appeared, unusually late by her standards, at breakfast. But neither her expression nor her conversations with the staff indicated that something unusual had happened. She didn’t look even once in Hermione’s direction, who eventually decided to visit her in her office during the first break. Professor McGonagall couldn’t just dismiss her like a silly schoolgirl, since they both had a common problem.
The first two lessons dragged on like Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, but eventually Professor Flitwick called an end to class. Ginny raised an eyebrow when her friend hastily packed her stuff without any explanation and ran from the classroom as if a Dementor was after her. Strangely enough, the gargoyle let Hermione pass again without demanding a password from her.
“Miss Granger.“ Professor McGonagall was already standing in the door of her office, sending her a formal smile. “I’ve been expecting you.”
“Really?” Hermione stopped, uncertain what to make of her remark. “Have I done anything wrong?“
“Not at all.“ Professor McGonagall put an assuring hand on her shoulder. “I just assumed you want to know how the young patient is doing.”
“I do." Hermione nodded gratefully. “Has she woken up yet?“
“No, but Madam Pomfrey is confident that she will, sooner or later.” Professor McGonagall offered Hermione a seat in front of her desk. “Poppy Pomfrey witnessed some spontaneous movements, and sometimes the girl seemed to respond to her touches.”
“That’s good to hear.“ Hermione didn’t try to hide her relief. “So she’s getting better?”
Professor McGonagall nodded approvingly. “I just wanted to let you know that, Miss Granger,” she said, walking towards the door. “You can go back to class now.”
But Hermione hesitated. “There’s something else, Professor…”
Professor McGonagall let go of the door handle, her face showing a hint of anger. “Is this about the nightly incident?”
Hermione raised her head with a start. “How…?”
“Miss Granger, I may be an old woman, but my ears still work pretty well.” Professor McGonagall sighed and went back to her desk. “If I’m not mistaken, it was you, who opened the door to the hospital wing last night,” she said, sitting down behind her desk.
“Yes, I…” Hermione blushed under the stern look of the Headmistress. “I thought she might need some company,” she said hesitatingly. “The girl is so alone… And who knows… maybe I’m…”
“… her mother?”
“Yes.” Hermione cast down her eyes.
“Miss Granger.” Professor McGonagall’s voice had regained a strict tone again. “I’ve already told you that I won’t participate in your speculations…”
”Why were you there then?“ Hermione asked more fiercely than she had intended. “Why didn’t you stay in bed like everybody else?”
Professor McGonagall hesitated before she got up and walked to the window. “As Headmistress of Hogwarts…,” she started, but Hermione interrupted her impatiently.
“Why do you deny that possibility?“ she asked angrily. “If you’re so convinced that it is just nonsense, please tell me another theory I can believe! Why don’t you admit that you’re thinking about it too and…”
“Miss Granger,“ Professor McGonagall said sharply. “I will not have you speaking to me in that tone of voice.”
Hermione fell silent. Eventually she stood up and walked to the Headmistress at the window. “I’m sorry, Professor,” she said contritely. “I know it’s not my place to say something like that…”
“But?“ Professor McGonagall eyed her skeptically.
Hermione ran her fingers through her bushy hair, trying to find the right words. “Is it such a repulsive idea for you to be together with me someday in a distant future?” she asked quietly. “It isn’t for me, you know. I think you’re amazing. I think you’re beautiful. I know I have it in me to love you. Maybe I already do… And if someday… in a few years… the time is ripe and you might reciprocate my feelings a little bit… Would that be so horrible? And would it be so horrible, if a daughter we both love results from it?”
Professor McGonagall looked at her like she had seven heads and Hermione didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. With an abrupt move, she turned around and hurried out of the office without another word. Secretly, she hoped Professor McGonagall would call her back, but she didn’t. Even when Hermione stood on the spiral staircase, panting heavily, no sound came from the Headmistress’s office.
* * *
“What happened?“ Harry asked eagerly when he sat down next to Hermione on a dusty box in the Shrieking Shack. “Your letter sounded pretty urgent.“
“We apparated to Hogwarts right after work,” Ron added. “Is it about Hagrid?”
“No.” Hermione stared down at the wooden floor of the Shrieking Shack. All of a sudden she felt ashamed that she had asked them to come. Perhaps Professor McGonagall was right and she was just imagining things. “I just wanted to talk to you,” she said eventually.
“About what?” Harry put his arm around her with a concerned look. “Did you have a fight with your parents about your future again?”
“No.” Hermione shook her head. “It’s about something I’m actually not allowed to talk about. That’s why I couldn’t share it with Ginny.”
Ron leant forward curiously. “What is it?“
Hermione was aware that Ron might not be the best person for this conversation, but he wasn’t only her partner but one of her best friends, too. “Two days ago I found a girl near the Forbidden Forest,” she explained reluctantly. “The girl was unconscious and I brought her to the hospital wing immediately. She seems to be in a magically caused coma or something.”
“Do we know her?” Ron asked all ears.
“No.” Hermione shook her head again. “The weird thing is that she wore a Gryffindor uniform, but she is not a student at Hogwarts. And then there’s the other problem…” She crossed her arms over her chest. “For some odd reason she looks a lot like me. And also a lot like … Professor McGonagall.”
Harry’s eyes widened in disbelief, while Ron’s narrowed. “A distant relative maybe?“ Ron asked skeptically.
“Or a Metamorphagus?” Harry offered. “But in that case she would have changed back to her old self as soon as she got unconscious, wouldn’t she?“
“Exactly,” Hermione nodded. “I’ve done a lot of research, and there’s only one logical explanation left.”
“Which is?” Ron unwrapped his sandwich and took a lusty bite. “Couldn’t it just be a coincidence?“
Hermione shrugged. “You’d drop that theory if you had seen the girl.”
“So what is the only logical explanation?” Harry urged. “Tell us, Hermione.”
Hermione cleared her throat. “I guess the girl is the result of a magical manipulation of genetic material.” She looked up but Harry and Ron just stared at her uncomprehendingly. “However, according to my inquiries, nobody on earth is able to make these complex kinds of manipulations…”
“You believe…” Harry wiped a small heap of dust from his sleeve. “The girl might come from the future?“
“It makes sense, don’t you think?” Hermione nodded, relieved that the truth was out now.
“And why does the girl have the genes of McGonagall and you of all people?” Ron put away the rest of his sandwich and made it magically vanish. “Who would come up with something like that?”
“I know it sounds weird.” Hermione shrugged. “It could be a scientist, or a fraud…”
“But why would they do that?” Harry shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Well, there’s one other option…“ Hermione didn’t finish the sentence, but her blushing told them all the more.
“Oh, I see.“ Harry sympathetically looked over at Hermione.
“Merlin’s beard,” Ron murmured. “That's just wild speculations, Hermione. What we need are facts.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Hermione jumped up from her box. “But how can we find out the truth when the girl lies in a coma?”
“What does McGonagall say?” Harry enquired. “Does she have a different theory?“
Hermione averted her gaze. If she was honest with herself, she had deliberately avoided meeting the Headmistress. After all, she had kind of declared her love to her a few hours ago. Luckily, Harry and Ron’s visit had been a welcome excuse to skip dinner, but of course Hermione couldn’t avoid Professor McGonagall for the rest of the term. “McGonagall agrees with Ron,” she said reluctantly. “She doesn’t want to participate in any speculations.”
Ron sent her a crooked grin. “That’s probably the first and last time the old witch and I agree on something.”
Harry ignored his joke. “If Hermione’s theory is correct and the girl actually comes from the future,” he pondered. “Then why didn’t you find a time turner next to her?”
Hermione had of course thought about that too, but she didn’t find it unlikely that the device had gotten lost. The girl hadn’t had anything else with her, except for her wand, so maybe she lost her bag or something.
“We should scan the grounds of Hogwarts,” Harry decided and Ron nodded approvingly. “It’s too dark now, but we’ll come back tomorrow afternoon and set to work.”
“I’ll help you,” Hermione offered immediately. “I don’t have any classes tomorrow afternoon, so I can show you the spot where I found the girl.”
“Don’t you have to study for the NEWTs?” Harry seemed to find it quite concerning that Hermione didn’t prefer brooding over her books.
“The sooner we solve the issue, the sooner I can focus on the NEWTs again,” Hermione confessed.
“Do you really think you have a daughter with Old McGonagall?” Ron whispered to Hermione as they crawled through the narrow tunnel back to the Whomping Willow. “You’re not… well… you’re not into women, are you?”
Hermione increased her speed, acting as if she hadn’t heard his question. She would have agreed with him two days ago, but now she didn’t know what to think anymore. She had always been so certain that her feelings for Professor McGonagall had been nothing more but a student’s crush for her teacher. But since there was a slight possibility that she would be together with Professor McGonagall somewhere in the future, her feelings were out of joint.
She saw the Headmistress differently now. She had realized that she loved to look at her and that her voice caused a strange tingle inside of her. That something in the gaze of her green eyes made her shiver, and that her faint scent of rose oil made her inhale deeply. None of these things were new, but Hermione hadn’t really realized them before.
“You do want to marry me, don’t you?” Ron’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Ron…” Hermione cast a pleading glance at him. ”Can we please focus on the search of the time turner now, and talk about everything else later?”
“Maybe I will die early and McGonagall will be so kind to help you getting a child anyway,” Ron muttered, and Hermione could hear the fear in his voice. “There must be a reasonable explanation for this.”
“Let’s stop speculating,” Hermione pleaded, blinking against the sunlight. “Can you push the spot on the Whomping Willow’s root? Otherwise all three of us will die an early death.”
Hermione said goodbye to her friends as soon as they were out of reach of the Whomping Willow and then hurried back to the castle. On the way to her dorm she could already hear the Headmistress’s characteristic steps echoing through the corridor from afar. Hermione threw a hectic glance at the wooden door to her left, but it was already too late to hide. Professor McGonagall carried a pile of parchments in her arms and waved at her as she recognized her.
“Miss Granger, there you are,” she said, obviously pleased to see her, and pushed her gently into the room where Hermione just had considered hiding. They stood in a storage room now, where lots of chairs were stacked. Various kinds of brooms hung on the walls and several garden tools were spread on the ground. “I have some news about our little patient,” Professor McGonagall explained in a hushed voice.
Hermione’s heart leaped. “Did she wake up?“ she asked excitedly.
”No, but Poppy told me she showed more and more signs of life.” Professor McGonagall seemed to be at least as relieved about the girl’s progress as Hermione. “It must be assumed that she will wake up in the next two or three days.”
“That’s wonderful!“ Hermione whispered happily. She would have loved to hug Professor McGonagall, but considering their last conversation in her office, she rather didn’t follow that impulse.
“Soon we will know if she’s well and healthy, or if there’s any damage left from the coma.” The Headmistress couldn’t suppress a sigh.
Hermione’s joy came to an abrupt end. “I really hope she will be well,” she said in a strained voice. “And that we can send her back where she belongs.”
“Don’t lose your courage, Miss Granger.” Professor McGonagall patted her arm comfortingly. “Everything will be fine.”
“I hope so.“ Hermione bumped against a shovel as she took a step backwards. “Good night, Professor McGonagall. And thank you for the good news.“
“Good night, Miss Granger.“
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Again, many thanks to my wonderful beta readers HeySlowpoke and Ronam!
Again, Hermione was unable to sleep that night. Countless thoughts and feelings were buzzing like busy bees inside her head, and shortly after midnight she found herself once more in the corridor to the hospital wing. Unlike the night before, there was no light shining from the hospital room and Hermione pushed down the door handle in relief.
Without making a sound, she entered the room and came to an abrupt halt when her eyes spotted the silhouette of a person at the girl’s bed again. Like the previous night, Professor McGonagall sat at the bed of the unconscious girl, holding her small hand in hers. She seemed to be in a light slumber and Hermione hesitated, wondering if she should go back to her dorm. But she wouldn’t get a wink of sleep anyway, so she could just as well spend the night here. Nobody could say when the young patient would wake, and Hermione wanted to be there for her when she did.
“Miss Granger?“ Professor McGonagall murmured as Hermione cautiously sat down on the other side of the bed.
“Good evening, Professor,” Hermione whispered, reaching for the girl’s other hand. “Please don’t let me disturb you.”
“You don’t disturb me,” Professor replied quietly.
These were the last words spoken between them for the next three hours. Both women sat silently on the girl’s bed; every now and then one of them dozed off, while the other one remained awake in case the girl showed any unexpected signs of rousing.
“You should go back to your dorm, Miss Granger,” Professor McGonagall whispered when dawn started to break outside. “You need to prepare yourself for the NEWTs.”
“I’m afraid she’ll wake up, and I won’t be here,” Hermione confessed, softly squeezing the girl’s delicate hand. She felt quite ridiculous; she hadn’t even known the girl before yesterday after all.
“I will be here, and I can call you when she wakes up,” Professor McGonagall assured her.
But Hermione shook her head. “You need some sleep as well, Professor. Maybe you better go back to your quarters, and I’ll send you a Patronus if she wakes up?”
Professor McGonagall declined, and so both of them continued sitting at the girl’s bed, until the morning sun shone into their faces.
“I have an appointment at the ministry in the afternoon that I cannot postpone.” Professor McGonagall carefully stretched her limbs. “Do you think you could…”
“Of course,” Hermione agreed quickly. “I will be here until you’re back.“
* * *
Much to Hermione’s regret, her promise to Professor McGonagall collided with her plan to help Harry and Ron searching a time turner on Hogwarts’s grounds. She had no other choice but to tell them where exactly she had found the girl and holding the fort at the child’s bed, while her friends searched the area.
Hermione had taken a pile of textbooks and notes to the hospital room and learned magic potion recipes while her left hand rested on the girl’s arm. It calmed her, being here on-site in case the girl’s condition changed. Even though Hermione still felt tired after staying awake all night, learning for her exam was surprisingly easy here, and she considered in earnest, whether she should transfer her workplace completely to the hospital wing for the next days.
However, it was all over with Hermione’s concentration when she suddenly noticed a movement from the child. First, a foot twitched, then an arm. “Madam Pomfrey!” Hermione called as loud as she could, and the healer hurried to her immediately.
“Did anything happen, Miss Granger?”
“Her limbs twitched”, Hermione reported excitedly. “First her foot, then her arm.”
“Oh, that’s quite normal,” Madam Pomfrey explained after she had recovered her breath. “Involuntarily twitches happen sometimes, but if I’m not mistaken they’ve appeared more often lately and…” Madam Pomfrey fell silent as the girl turned her head from one side to the other, muttering something incomprehensible.
“What does that mean?” Hermione had heard the sound, too.
“I’m not sure.” Madam Pomfrey held her wand over the sleeping girl and listened. “She’s still in a coma,” she stated. “But it won’t be long until she wakes up. All we can do is wait.”
Hermione’s motivation to study had sunk to zero, and she started to put her notes back into her bag. She couldn’t wait for Professor McGonagall to come back to Hogwarts so that she could tell her the news.
Indeed, only half an hour later, Professor McGonagall’s tall frame appeared in the hospital wing. She looked exhausted, but her step was still forceful. “Any news?” she asked, taking off her travelling coat.
“She turned her head and muttered something,“ Hermione sputtered. “And her foot and her arm twitched.”
“Really?” Professor McGonagall’s eyes shone, as she sat down on the chair next to the bed. “That’s good news,” she said, visibly relieved.
Both women jerked when the door to the hospital room was suddenly pushed open and Harry and Ron stormed in. “Hermione!” Ron shouted, but stopped short when he saw the Headmistress. “Oh, I’m sorry, Professor…“
“Mr. Weasley and Mr. Potter?“ Professor McGonagall looked back and forth between the two young men. “What are you doing here?” Her gaze turned to Hermione, who stared at the blanket with embarrassment.
“Hermione let us in on the girl,” Harry explained superfluously.
“I can see that,” Professor McGonagall responded dryly. “But that doesn’t explain why you came into the hospital wing without permission.”
“We were searching the grounds of Hogwarts,” Ron reported. “And we actually found something.”
“You did?” Professor McGonagall regarded the small object Harry gave her. It looked like a necklace with a golden, circular stone. “What’s that supposed to be?”
“It could be a time turner, Professor.“ Harry turned the stone in McGonagall’s palm on the other side. Small stars were embossed into the stone, arranged in a circle around their center.
“Where did you find it?” Professor McGonagall examined the object from all sides. “I’ve never seen something like that.”
“Near the front gate of the castle,” Ron responded. “At first, we searched the area where Hermione had found the girl, but we didn’t find anything there.”
“Maybe an animal carried it to the gate,” Hermione reasoned.
“Or it fell out of the girl’s robe when you carried her to the castle,” Harry suggested.
“Or it doesn’t have anything to do with the girl,” Professor McGonagall stopped their considerations. “Maybe it’s just simple muggle jewelry.”
“I don’t think so, Professor.” Harry pointed at the stars in the center of the stone. “I guess the stars will start to rotate, if one activates the time turner,” he explained. “We had a class in our Auror training where we heard a speech of a French wizard, who was an expert in the field of developing time turners. Paul Foucault told us about the development of new kinds of time turners in France that will be able to travel greater distances. The typical form of an hourglass you usually find in our current devices seems to limit the distance one can travel on the time continuum.
“I see.” Professor McGonagall examined the object in her hand with even greater interest. “But how do you activate it?”
“I don’t know, but I assume there’s a lock included somewhere. Our time turners can be accidentally activated, if you turn their center around. So maybe the creator of this thing implemented something to prevent that.”
“Can you find out how to contact Paul Foucault?” Hermione asked, who had already lots of questions in mind. “He might be able to help us.”
“I will.” Harry put the alleged time turner back into his pocket. “I think I’ve written down his address somewhere in my notes.”
“As soon as you’ve found it, I’ll apparate to France and talk to Monsieur Foucault,” Hermione decided, but Professor McGonagall held her back.
“I’d prefer you stay here, Miss Granger,” she said quietly, turning her head to the still unconscious patient.
“Oh, of course.” Hermione looked over at her friends, smiling apologetically. She was used to take matters in her own hands and she didn’t like to leave Harry and Ron alone with their task. But of course it was more important that she was here when the girl woke up.
Rod took a step towards the bed to take a look at the patient, but he stopped when Professor McGonagall raised her hand. “Don’t worry, Hermione, we’ll take care of this,” he promised awkwardly. “We let you know if we find out anything.”
“Thank you.” Hermione stood up and went to him. “You guys are great.“
Ron smiled and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You hold the fort, okay?”
“Okay.” Hermione gratefully hugged both of her friends. “Take good care, you two. It’s dangerous to apparate over great distances.”
“You don’t need to tell me that.” Harry patted her shoulder. “You’ll hear from us soon, Hermione.“
Dusk was already falling and tonight Hermione didn’t even try to sleep in her dorm. Instead, she took several more papers and books with her and told Ginny she would be taking care of somebody at the hospital wing. She then brushed her teeth, took a shower, and put on fresh clothes. When she came back into the hospital room, she clearly felt fresher and more awake.
Professor McGonagall had changed clothes, too, and she carried a big book with her, apparently a historical novel she intended to read during their waiting. Pope Joan stood on its spine in large letters, and Professor McGonagall smiled as she caught Hermione’s gaze at the book title. “Even a Headmistress needs to bury herself in a good book every now and then,” she declared.
“It will hopefully carry you well through the night, Professor,” Hermione smiled back.
“And you got yourself more study material?” Professor McGonagall pointed at the large stack of books Hermione had piled up next to the hospital bed.
“It’s actually easier for me to study when I’m here,” Hermione confessed, somewhat embarrassed.
“I understand.” The Headmistress cast an encouraging glance at her. “Just do what you need to do and don’t let me disturb you.”
“You don’t disturb me,” Hermione repeated Professor McGonagall’s words from the previous night, receiving an amused headshake.
For a long time they just sat there, not saying anything. Professor McGonagall had pulled a chair next to the bed again and was reading her book, while covering the girl’s fingers with her right hand. Hermione sat on the floor cross-legged, surrounded by several books, and eagerly taking notes.
Learning wasn’t half as easy now as it had been in the afternoon, for Professor McGonagall’s attendance distracted her more than she cared for. Though the older witch just sat in her chair, reading quietly, Hermione constantly felt her presence. In only a few hours they might know whether the girl was just the result of a genetic experiment, or if she was their prospective biological daughter.
While the idea of a relationship with Professor McGonagall had shocked her at first, Hermione now felt a strange hope that this theory would actually turn out to be true. The idea of living her life in the presence of this special person, whom she had always admired and loved so much, was wonderful and breathtaking, and the thought of maybe becoming even intimate with her, caused hot waves in Hermione’s abdomen.
“Mr. Weasley is your fiancé, isn’t he?” Professor McGonagall asked suddenly from the other side of the bed.
Hermione startled, wondering not for the first time if the Headmistress was actually able to do Legilimency. “Yes, he is.” Hermione thought of the talk she had with the professor in her office. Somehow the words Hermione had said to her felt like cheating on Ron now. If only things weren’t so confusing.
“You aren’t sure anymore?” Professor McGonagall said so matter-of-factly as if she had stated that it was raining outside.
“To be honest, I’ve never been really sure.” Hermione rose from the floor and sat down on her side of the girl’s bed.
Professor McGonagall nodded and turned another side of her book.
“You don’t think we suit each other, do you?” Hermione noticed very well that the Headmistress didn’t make a move to reassure her.
“It’s not my place to judge that,” Professor McGonagall responded without looking up from her book.
“And if I explicitly ask for your opinion?”
“Even then I won’t answer your question.” Professor McGonagall snapped her book shut and looked directly at Hermione. “These are matters of the heart, my dear. Nobody else than yourself shall be the judge of that.”
“Still you allowed yourself to judge that you and I don’t suit each other,” slipped out of Hermione’s mouth, and she regretted her inappropriate remark immediately.
“No, I didn’t do that,” Professor McGonagall objected calmly. “I merely pointed out that our roles didn’t permit what your theory implied.”
Hermione ran her fingers over the blanket, pondering over Professor McGonagall’s words. “But we won’t stay in these roles forever,” she said quietly.
“You’re right.” Professor McGonagall cleared her throat. “I overreacted the other day and I apologize for that, Miss Granger.”
“No, I was too forceful,” Hermione said quickly. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it was my fault.” Professor McGonagall shook her head. “It’s just… the idea that a student… or a former student…”
“And a woman at that,” Hermione added.
“Yes, that too.“ Professor McGonagall tiredly touched her forehead. “In my whole life I’ve never…“
“Me neither,“ Hermione agreed hastily. She actually had no idea why she could imagine being with another woman all of a sudden. Was it just Minerva McGonagall? Or was she really into women, as Ron had called it, and just hadn’t realized it before?
Hermione professed herself unable to answer that question right now. All she knew was that she couldn’t think of anything more marvelous than sharing her future with Minerva McGonagall. Even though she was so much older and had already been over-the-hill for some time, Hermione found her breathtaking in every way. The fact alone that they were sitting in the same room made it very hard to focus on anything reasonable.
Professor McGonagall was silent for a while and thoughtfully looked at the girl’s face that bore so much resemblance with theirs. “You realize that decades separate us…”
“Yes, I know.” Hermione wondered if the Headmistress was aware that something inside her had always stayed young, even though she had the advantage of so much more life experience. When the two of them had taken a walk by the lake during the breaks at Hogwarts’s rebuilding, passionately discussing interesting questions, external factors like age and roles had faded into the background. Why couldn’t it be like that in the future? “But yet…” Hermione said softly. “Yet…“
“Yes.“ Professor McGonagall delved into her book again.
Hermione peeked over at her. What did she mean by yes? But the Headmistress made no move to look up from her book again, and so Hermione sat back down on the floor again, continuing her study. It was already dark now and both witches had to use their wands in order to get enough light.
“Miss Granger!” Professor McGonagall whispered suddenly, and Hermione jumped from the floor immediately.
“What is it?”
“She just opened her eyes for a second.”
Instantly, Hermione sat down on the edge of the bed and reached for the girl’s cold hand.
But nothing happened. Over an hour, Hermione and Professor McGonagall waited for another sign, but the child continued sleeping as if nothing had happened.
Hermione tenderly stroke the pale cheek of the child. “She’s a beautiful girl, don’t you think?”
“Yes.” Professor McGonagall smiled. “She looks a lot like you after all.”
“And you.” Hermione was glad Professor McGonagall couldn’t see her blushing in the darkness.
Professor McGonagall leaned forward, gently brushing a brown strand of hair from the girl’s face. The bushy hair looked so much like Hermione’s that she couldn’t help but imagine it was her who the professor was caressing. The image made her shudder and she wondered how she was supposed to marry Ron now. Even if it turned out that this girl hadn’t anything to do with her, Hermione’s feelings for Ron felt suddenly feeble and colorless compared to the waves the woman next to her was able to trigger in her.
“I’m afraid it was false alarm,” Professor McGonagall sighed. “I’m sorry I kept you from studying.”
Hermione was suddenly afraid that they would spend many more nights at this bed without anything happening. Maybe Madam Pomfrey was wrong and it would take months until the child woke up. Or maybe she wouldn’t wake up at all. The last thought cut through Hermione’s guts like a sharp sword. The girl just had to wake up. She still had her whole life before her after all.
Hermione’s gaze wandered over to the small table next to the bed where the girl’s Gryffindor uniform lay, carefully folded by Madam Pomfrey, and all of a sudden Hermione had an idea. Usually there weren’t any nametags in the robes of Hogwarts students, but would that also be the case in the future? What if there was a hidden hint to their owner somewhere in the robes?
Hermione stood up quietly, trying not to disturb the reading Headmistress, and reached for the uniform on the table. At first sight, it didn’t look any different from Hermione’s uniform, but when she spread the black gown in front of her on the floor Hermione discovered a small spot on the inside that seemed to be a little bit rougher than the rest of the fabric. ”Aparecium” she whispered, tapping her wand three times against the spot. And indeed the spot started to brighten.
“What are you doing, Miss Granger?” Professor McGonagall looked up from her book in surprise.
“There seems to be a name inside of the girl’s gown.” Hermione walked over to the professor and showed her the uniform. “Look for yourself, Professor.”
Together they watched the golden letters contrasting more and more with the black background. Eventually three words were clearly readable. “Jaqueline Mary Peasegood,” Hermione read aloud. That didn’t sound at all as if one of them was related to her.
A painful lump grew in Hermione’s throat and she took a quick glance at Professor McGonagall who had delved into her book again. Hermione could have sworn she had seen a hint of disappointment on the Headmistress’s features but wasn’t this what her former teacher had wanted all the time?
Hermione sat back on the floor, fighting back her tears while she tried to read her notes. So the girl wasn’t her prospective daughter. And she might not even come from the future either. But why did Hermione feel such a strong bond towards her? And what was she supposed to do with her confession to Professor McGonagall now? How could she have been so arrogant to imagine a great witch like the Headmistress would be even remotely interested in her? All these feelings that had budded inside of her over the last days wouldn’t lead to anything but pain and disappointment.
“What are you studying, Miss Granger?” Professor McGonagall asked, obviously trying to ease the tension in the air.
“Transfiguration,” Hermione responded without her usual enthusiasm for the subject.
“How do you like the classes with Professor Montgomery?”
Hermione wasn’t sure whether it was wise to answer that question. “It’s not very easy for him, after all he follows in the footprints of an excellent teacher,” she said cautiously. “It’s difficult to be your replacement, Professor.”
The Headmistress smiled. “That’s nice of you to say, Miss Granger. But Hogwarts could use some fresh air.“
Hermione decided not to respond to that remark. Even if she ignored the fact that nobody on earth could teach the subject as well as Professor McGonagall, she considered Professor Montgomery a huge disappointment. He often appeared erratic and inattentive, and his didactic skills also left much to be desired.
“Am I correct to assume that you’re not very happy with Professor Montgomery?” Professor McGonagall probed. “I’m honestly interested in your opinion, Miss Granger. The term is almost over, and I have to decide who of the new teachers will get a contract extension and who won’t. Since I’m not present in class, a student’s opinion is quite helpful.”
Hermione frowned. In her head she had long since labeled Professor Montgomery as a failure, but she didn’t want to be responsible for his dismissal. “Maybe a talk with him would help to improve his teaching,” she said carefully. “I sometimes got the impression that he wasn’t very prepared, but especially Transfiguration needs great precision.” She pointed at the open book in front of her. “We have to learn this incantation for the NEWTs, for instance, but it’s wrong.”
“It’s wrong?” Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows. ”Maybe you’ve overlooked something?” She put her book aside and went around the bed to Hermione. “Which incantation are you talking about?”
“This one.” Hermione handed her the book. “If I performed the spell the way it is written here, the transfigured object would appear a few inches next to the original object. The author miscalculated the gravitational force.”
Professor McGonagall sat down next to Hermione and attentively read the page of the textbook. “You’re right, Miss Granger,” she said, shaking her head. “This edition was released only last year and I haven’t worked it through as thoroughly as you have yet.” She conjured up a quill and a piece of parchment and wrote down the number of the page. “A teacher should notice such a mistake, though,” she muttered while the parchment disappeared under her robes. “I’m sure you would be an excellent Transfiguration teacher,” she stated with a smile.
Hermione felt her face heating up. Did Professor McGonagall just imply that she could imagine Hermione as a professor at Hogwarts? Only a few days ago she would have been overjoyed to hear that, but things were different now, and Hermione was sure she would certainly not stay at this school and face the pain of unreciprocated feelings every single day. “Thank you, but I think it’s better if I do something entirely different…,” she said quietly, putting the textbook back on the floor.
“I see.” Professor McGonagall’s expression indicated indeed that she had understood exactly what Hermione had said. “That’s very unfortunate.”
Hermione looked into the green eyes, suddenly so close to her, and was unable to move. If Professor McGonagall hadn’t been her Headmistress, she would have kissed her right away.
A quiet whimper snapped both women back to reality, and in seconds they were back at the bed of the young patient. The girl had opened her eyes and gazed numbly into space. Professor McGonagall reached for the small hand and Hermione patted the girl’s shoulder. But she didn’t react to the touch and closed her eyes again. Then there was silence again.
“Oh, Merlin,” Professor McGonagall whispered and Hermione knew that they shared the same horrible fear. What if the girl’s brain was irreparably damaged? What if a paralysis or a mental handicap remained?
Tears welled up in the Headmistress’s eyes and Hermione mutely squeezed her hand, which lay uselessly on the blanket now. Professor McGonagall cast a grateful glance at her, straightening herself. The third sleepless night was taking its toll, and Hermione felt absolutely whacked by now. But more than ever she had to stay awake now, she didn’t even dare to blink in case the girl started to stir again.
For another hour nothing happened, but when they had almost given up, the small body started to move again. “Shall we wake Madam Pomfrey?” Hermione asked in a whisper.
“No.” Professor McGonagall shook her head. “It’s enough that you and I don’t get any sleep tonight…” She fell silent when the girl cast up her eyes again. This time her gaze was clearer and her eyes wandered restlessly around the room, trying to absorb the surrounding.
“Hello, and welcome to Hogwarts,” Hermione greeted her with a smile, gently stroking her arm.
The girl looked at her bewildered. “Th… Thirst…” She had to cough a few times to clear her voice. “I’m thirsty.”
“Oh, of course.” Professor McGonagall grabbed a glass of water out of thin air and handed it to the child.
Without looking up, the girl drank the water sip by sip. Gradually, she seemed to get more orientated.
“You can give me your glass, Jaqueline,” Hermione said, taking the empty glass from her. “Are you hungry, too?”
The girl shook her head. “Who is Jaqueline?“
Hermione exchanged a startled look with Professor McGonagall. At least the girl could speak normally, but obviously she didn’t know who she was. Did she loose her memory? Was her brain actually damaged? Or had somebody cast a memory spell on her?
Professor McGonagall caressed the girl’s hand. “That’s not important now,” she said gently. “You’re safe here, and the most important thing is that you’ll rest now.”
The girl looked at her uncomprehendingly, and suddenly started to giggle. “You’re both so young!” she said with her clear, bright voice. “That’s really funny.”
“It’s been a while that somebody called me young,” Professor McGonagall said dryly. “Miss Granger however…”
“Miss Granger?” The girl giggled again. “I really travelled through time, didn’t I? Where did I go?“
Hermione threw an inquiring glance at the Headmistress. So the girl seemed to know that she had travelled through time, then why didn’t she remember her name? “It’s May 1999”, she responded after Professor McGonagall had nodded.
“Cool.” A broad smile spread over the girl’s face that reminded Hermione a lot of herself.
“Can you tell us your name, little one?” Professor McGonagall asked, obviously changing her tactics.
The girl looked at her puzzled, but then her face brightened. “Oh, you don’t know me yet, of course,” she said with a grin. “I’m Jean.”
“Jean?” Hermione’s heart started to beat so fast that she was afraid it would jump out of her chest. Next to her Professor McGonagall inhaled sharply. Of course she had noticed as well that the girl bore Hermione’s middle name.
“Exactly.” The girl nodded, looking curiously from one witch to the other. “Jean Ginevra McGonagall.”
“Oh my God.” Professor McGonagall sank back into her chair.
Hermione felt suddenly dizzy and she tightly clung to the edge of the bed. “Who is Jacqueline Mary Peasegood then?” she asked tonelessly.
“No idea.” Jean shrugged. “Why do you think that would be my name?“
“It’s written on your robe.” Hermione pointed with her thump at the Gryffindor uniform she had carefully folded again.
“Oh, that’s not my uniform.” Jean tentatively moved her arms and legs. “Mine was torn by the Whomping Willow last week, but Mum lent me a used costume from Hogwarts’s stock for the time being.” She pointed with her head at Professor McGonagall, who seemed to have turned into a pillar of salt. “Next week Mummy and I will buy new robes, but she’s always so busy, so we haven’t been to Diagon Alley yet.” She pointed with her finger at Hermione. “You travel a lot abroad, you know.”
Hermione tried in vain to get a clear head again. A thousand questions were running through her head, one more confusing than the other. The girl seemed to feel so familiar with them that a genetic experiment could definitely be excluded. The girl’s name also left no doubt they were a family in the future. But from what year had Jean come to them? Obviously from a time, in which Professor McGonagall was still Headmistress of Hogwarts. But what did Hermione do for a living? Why was she travelling so much? And when would it be possible for the wizarding world to produce a child from the genes of two women?
Hermione was just about to ask a question, when she felt Professor McGonagall’s hand on her arm. The silent look of the still pale looking Headmistress showed clearly that she intended to change the topic as quickly as possible. They already knew much too much about their future and every single word from Jean would cause even more confusion.
“As you probably know, Jean, time travelers are not allowed to give information about the future,” Professor McGonagall explained softly. “We have a lot of questions, and you have probably a lot to tell us, but it would be wrong, and furthermore against the law.” She tenderly caressed Jean’s cheek when the girl made a disappointed grimace. “We should rather focus on your recovery, and then we’ll send you back to the time where you belong. I’m sure your mothers are really worried about you by now.”
“Your Mum is right,” Hermione confirmed. “You’ve been in a coma for several days, and even though our healer Madam Pomfrey took care that your body got enough fluids and nutrients, you need to regain your strength again.”
“But I’m feeling good,” Jean objected. Apparently, time travelling was only half as fun when it wasn’t allowed to supply the relatives with striking information. “And I need to go to the loo.” She started to get out of bed.
“Stay here, little lady!” Hermione gently pushed her prospective daughter back into her cushions. “First, Madam Pomfrey needs to examine you. Although you’re feeling good, you are more weakened than you think.” She ran her fingers through the bushy hair. “We’ll visit you as often as possible,” she assured the girl and Professor McGonagall nodded affirmatively.
“Are you studying for the NEWTs?” Jean asked, looking with wide eyes at the arrangement of books and notes spread on the floor next to her bed.
Hermione nodded nervously. “They start in a few weeks.”
“Cool!” Jean seemed to find that funny. “If you knew, Mummy…. If you only knew…“
“Don’t forget what I said, Jean,” Professor McGonagall reminded her strictly. “I know it’s disappointing not being allowed to tell us anything, but at least you can tell your mothers all about your journey as soon as you’re back.”
The idea seemed to please Jean and she snuggled back under her blanket while Professor McGonagall called for Madam Pomfrey.
Hogwarts’s healer made no secret of her displeasure that the Headmistress hadn’t woken her sooner, but she took care of the young patient as professionally as always.
“I don’t want you to leave,” Jean protested with a yawn when Hermione picked up her textbooks from the floor. “I’m scared here, all alone.”
Without hesitation, Hermione transformed the small table next to Jean’s bed into a comfortable bed. “I will stay with you, and you can wake me anytime you want.” She started to pile her books next to the bed.
“Oh, no, Miss Granger, that’s out of the question”, Professor McGonagall objected, appreciatively examining Hermione’s bed. “You need some sleep and rest for your exam.” She sat down on the bed possessively. “Hereby I excuse you from your first two classes and expect you in my office tomorrow afternoon.”
Hermione stood indecisively next to her books, but Professor McGonagall’s stern look made it clear that she wouldn’t give in. So Hermione gave her prospective daughter a loving hug and kissed her on the cheek. “Sleep well, Jean, and have a quick recovery,” she said tenderly. “I’m incredibly happy to have you as a daughter one day.” She winked at Jean and turned to Professor McGonagall.
The Headmistress was visibly touched by the scene she had just witnessed, but her posture stiffened as Hermione turned to her. No etiquette guide on earth would tell them what to do in a situation like this, and so Hermione did just what her heart told her. She pulled Professor McGonagall in a firm hug that the other woman eventually reciprocated. “Good night, Professor.”
“Good night, Miss Granger.“
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
So here's the last chapter. I'm sorry that it took longer than I expected. Thank you all for taking the time to read this little story, and a thousand thanks to my two amazing beta readers HeySlowpoke and Ronam!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hermione had barely dozed off, when a blazing light made her start from her sleep. With great reluctance she opened her eyes and saw a silver stag elegantly galloping through the dorm.
“What’s going on?” she heard Ginny’s voice next to her, drugged with sleep. “Is Harry here?”
The silver stag stopped in front of Hermione’s bed and started to speak in Harry’s voice: “We found Monsieur Foucault and brought him with us. Meet us in the Shrieking Shack.”
“Why is Harry sending you a Patronus?” Unlike Hermione, Ginny was wide-awake now. “What’s this all about?”
“It’s about the girl in the hospital wing,” Hermione mumbled, still dazed. She felt like the Hogwarts Express had run over her, but there was no time to complain. Harry and Ron were waiting for her in the Shrieking Shack, probably with some news about the time turner.
“Where are you going?” Ginny asked suspiciously when Hermione started to dress in slow motion. “To the Shrieking Shack?”
“I’m not allowed to tell you.“ Hermione looked desperately for her hairbrush. Usually she didn’t need to search for her stuff but a lot of things weren’t as usual these days. “It’s a secret, you know.”
“Which makes it even more important that I come with you.” Ginny had dressed as quickly as lightning, waiting impatiently for Hermione to get ready. “Accio Hermione’s hairbrush!” She threw the brush to Hermione.
“Please, Ginny…” Hermione felt too tired to have a discussion with her. All she needed was a snatch of sleep to process all the things that had happened over the last days. “We’ll break the law, if…”
“Then why are you allowed to know about it and I’m not?” Ginny stood with her hands on her hips. “All these years the three of you had these huge, exciting adventures while I was just the ‘little one’. But that’s over now. I’m of age and I’m coming with you.”
“Listen to me, Hermione.“ Ginny was already at the door. “You’re my best friend and soon I will marry Harry. I don’t like it at all when my husband keeps secrets from me, not to mention my best friend.”
Hermione gave up fighting against Ginny’s determination, and Harry’s and Ron’s eyes widened in surprise as Hermione appeared in the Shrieking Shack with Ron’s sister.
“I couldn’t get rid of her,” Hermione informed them, walking towards the man she had identified as Monsieur Foucault. He was about thirty years old, had a circular bald spot on his head and a remarkably big beer belly, considering his relatively young age. “Bonjour, Monsieur Foucault.” She politely shook hands with the scientist. “How kind of you to come here.“
“Hello, Miss Granger,“ he responded in almost accent-free English. “It’s an honor to help Harry Potter and you.”
Harry greeted Ginny with a kiss. “Hermione found an unconscious girl on Hogwarts’s grounds,” he explained. “And we think we found her time turner.” He pulled the small device out of his pocket and showed it to Ginny. “Since this thing seems to be from the future we have no idea how it works and asked Monsieur Foucault for help. He’s a proven expert on the development of time turners.”
“Has the girl woken up yet?” Ron turned to Hermione, whose face reddened immediately.
“What’s the matter with the girl?” Ginny asked curiously, looking back and forth between Hermione and Ron. “Is she your daughter from the future?”
Ron puffed scornfully, ignoring Hermione’s soothing hand on his shoulder. “Yes, she’s awake now,” she answered his question. “But we can talk about that later.” If possible, she wanted to spare Ron the humiliation of telling him in front of everybody that his fiancé would have a child from somebody else in the future.
But Ron pushed Hermione’s hand away. “Did you find out anything?”
Hermione hesitated. “It’s… like I assumed,“ she said vaguely.
Ginny looked at Hermione uncomprehendingly. “Why doesn’t the ministry take care of this? It’s required to notify them of time travellers right away, isn’t it?”
Harry shrugged and Ron averted his eyes as well.
“So Professor McGonagall didn’t report the incidence?” Ginny dropped on a dusty box. “What’s the matter with her? She’s the one, who always insists on rules and principles.”
Harry leant into Ginny and whispered something into her ear. “Oh, Merlin!” she muttered, staring at Hermione with wide eyes.
“Well...“ Hermione turned quickly away from her. “We don’t want to waste your time, Sir.” She took the time turner from Harry’s hand and gave it to Monsieur Foucault. “We definitely know now that the girl has come from the future, and we want to send her back where she belongs as quickly as possible.”
“I’ve already had a closer look at this device, and I think I’ll be able to help you.” Monsieur Foucault stepped closer to the dusty window of the Shrieking Shack. “This device is a lot more advanced than the models we currently work with,” he said appreciatively. “Too bad you have to erase my memory after our little adventure,” he added with a smile. “It’s such a shame, because this model would bring our studies forward for many years.”
“How do you activate the device?“ Ron stepped next to Monsieur Foucault. “Is there actually a special barrier or something?”
“Yes, I think there is.“ Monsieur Foucault waved the others over to him as well. “Have a look at the 12th link of the chain,” he asked them, pulling a magnifier out of his pocket. Indeed, a tiny hourglass was carved into the chain that Monsieur Foucault now touched with his tongue. Immediately, the device started to buzz, and the stars on the golden stone started to revolve around each other while the stone slowly extended. When it had reached the size of a snitch, several rows of numbers appeared. “Now I can enter a certain year, month, day, hour and minute, and then touch the small spot beneath the numbers,” Monsieur Foucault explained. “But I won’t do that because in that case I wouldn’t be with you anymore,” he joked.
“Can time travelling cause a coma?” Hermione asked. She had already read about this in her research but found it safer to ask an expert in person.
“Yes, Miss Granger. We do have to deal with comatose states occasionally in our experiments. So I would guess that the child lost consciousness without external forceful impact.”
“That would explain why you didn’t find any external injuries on the girl,” Ron mused. “Everything fits, doesn’t it?”
“Has there ever been brain damage after such a coma?” Even though Jean didn’t seem to be physically or mentally harmed in any way, Hermione needed to have this question answered.
“I’ve never heard of that, Miss Granger.” Monsieur Foucault brushed over his bald head. “But I wouldn’t exclude it, especially if somebody travelled a long distance on the time continuum.”
“Thank you.” Hermione exhaled, relieved. She was sure Jean hadn’t travelled more than two decades, considering that Professor McGonagall was still Headmistress at Hogwarts in her time.
“But why is the girl here anyway?” Ginny asked.
“Time turners are usually stored in high-security wings,” Harry agreed with her. “That won’t be different in the future.”
Monsieur Foucault took up the time turner again. “I can’t answer your question, but if you take a closer look at the device you will notice that on this model you can adjust the time, but not the place. So the place would stay the same.”
“Are you saying the girl must have taken the time turner here at Hogwarts?” Harry asked in surprise.
“It could have happened at a demonstration in class,” Hermione pondered aloud. “Maybe an accident?”
“We can go on speculating about these issues, of course,” Monsieur Foucault remarked with a smile. “But it wouldn’t be very productive. You’re certainly aware that all of the people in this room have to forget this conversation very soon.”
The four friends nodded gloomily. Especially Hermione didn’t like the idea of forgetting everything she had learned in the last few days at all. But of course she knew they had played with time more than enough.
They left the Shrieking Shack together and the four friends accompanied Monsieur Foucault to the exit of Hogwarts’s grounds. On the way through the hilly area Ron suddenly grabbed Hermione’s arm, intentionally walking slower to get some distance between them and the others. “Even though we won’t remember anything, it might be better to break our engagement,” he said in a strained voice. “Since you’ve told me about the girl I thought a lot about us. I was wondering if we are really a match...” He cleared his throat. “I mean… you know… forever…”
“I know what you mean.” Hermione cast a grateful glance at him. “Forever is a pretty long time, don’t you think?”
“Maybe we’re better as friends,” Ron suggested, but Hermione could see that he didn’t agree with his own words. It wasn’t what he wanted.
“How about we decide today that we’ll let each other free?” Hermione suggested cautiously. “And if we come to the conclusion in a couple of years that we are made for each other we’ll get married, time turners notwithstanding.”
“If you haven’t married Old McGonagall by then,” he said bitterly.
“Or you Fleur’s little sister.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek. “No matter what happens, I will always love you, Ron. But maybe in a different way.”
“Gabrielle isn’t so little anymore. She’s fourteen now,” Ron objected and reciprocated Hermione’s kiss. “Let’s go, the others are almost there.“
“No, wait.“ Hermione pulled out a parchment from her inner robes and started to write a few lines. Then she took her wand. “Geminio!“
“What are you doing?“ Ron watched suspiciously as Hermione put the copy of the parchment in a pocket under her robe and handed him the original.
“I just wrote down some notes about our talk,” Hermione explained while trying to keep pace with his long steps. “Soon, we both will have forgotten our conversation.”
Ron skimmed the document and put it in his pocket with an affirmative nod. He didn’t seem to be eager to have this conversation a second time either.
When they had left Hogwarts’s grounds behind, Hermione shook Monsieur Foucault’s hand so affectionately that the French scientist looked at her with surprise. “I can’t thank you enough, Monsieur Foucault.”
“You’re very welcome, Miss Granger”, he responded good-naturedly. “Like I said, it’s an honor for me being able to help you. Scarcely anybody has done so much for the wizarding world like you three. I’m very sorry to not remember our encounter in a bit.”
Harry turned to Hermione. “You should be the one to cast the memory charm on us,” he said matter-of-factly. “You’re the only one, who still needs to remember everything. At least for now.”
Ginny discretely tugged at Hermione’s sleeve. “I just wanted to let you know that I like the idea of you and McGonagall being a couple in the future. Ron and you… you don’t really match, and I always thought both of you would be happier with somebody else,” she whispered into Hermione’s ear. “I’m sure I will be equally happy in the future when I’ll hear the news.”
“That’s really nice of you, Ginny.” Hermione gave her a firm hug. “You’re a great friend.”
“Will you tell me the name of your daughter?” Ginny whispered. “I won’t remember it anyway.”
“Jean Ginevra McGonagall,” Hermione whispered in her ear.
“Really?” Ginny leaped on the grass for joy. “That’s so sweet of you!”
“Can we get to business now?” Ron asked, irritated. “I don’t want to stand around here forever, and Monsieur Foucault surely wants to go home, too.”
“Okay, okay.” Ginny was all smiles when she obediently walked to the others.
Hermione stopped in front of Ginny, raising her wand. ”Obliviate”, she said distinctly. Monsieur Foucault was next, then Ron, and eventually Harry.
“You can’t know, why we’re standing here right now,” she explained to her four companions when they looked at her quizzically. “We just finished a mission. Since it had to do with a time turner, I had to delete certain parts of your memory.”
After they had said their farewell, Hermione and Ginny walked back to the castle. Unlike the others, Ginny wasn’t quite satisfied with Hermione’s brief explanation. The entire walk, she drilled her with questions, but Hermione remained steadfast. However, every now and then her hand wandered to the small golden device under her robes to make sure it was still there. Soon, she would have to say good-bye to her prospective daughter, and nobody would be able to tell her whether she had arrived in the future safely.
* * *
Jean’s recovery progressed quickly over the following days. Hermione spent as much time as possible with her, even though she fell hopelessly behind with her plans for the exam preparation. At least she slept better now, and to her surprise she hadn’t had any more nightmares. The recent events seemed to have the power to chase away the horror of the past, and the prospect of a nice future made her heavy heart feel a lot lighter.
Professor McGonagall visited Jean as often as she could too, and sometimes the three of them just sat together, chatting about everything and nothing. With every minute they spent with the girl, Hermione found it harder that she would have to send her away again, and the idea of always having her around in the future was only a small comfort. But time progressed mercilessly, and finally the day came when Hermione was interrupted in her class and summoned to Professor McGonagall’s office. She knew exactly what would come next.
“Madam Pomfrey gave Jean the green light,” Professor McGonagall informed her, as soon as she had poured Hermione a cup of tea. “It’s time we let her go.” The Headmistress looked pale and exhausted. The prospect of sending the child on an unknown journey seemed to take all energy from her.
“I know.” Hermione nodded bravely.
Professor McGonagall poured herself a cup of tea as well and Hermione noticed that her hands were trembling. “To be honest, I’ve already delayed the time two days,” she confessed. “But Jean has to go back. There's probably a time window and her parents certainly will be worried about her.”
“We don’t know whether time passes for her mothers in the same way ours does,” Hermione pointed out. “Perhaps only a few minutes have past for them.”
“Yes, that’s possible.” Professor McGonagall nodded absent-mindedly. “I…” She put her teacup down and drummed nervously on the armrest with her fingers.
Hermione had rarely seen the Headmistress so down and started to get seriously worried. Involuntarily, she pushed her armchair closer to Professor McGonagall’s, silently asking her to continue. The Headmistress was obviously fighting with herself and Hermione tried to give her the time she needed.
“I have a request of you, Miss Granger,” Professor McGonagall said eventually, and the way she spoke the sentence told Hermione how much it had cost her.
“Of course.” Hermione leant slightly forward. “What can I do?”
Professor McGonagall covered her face with her hands for a moment, then she folded her fingers and looked at the ground. “I can’t let the child go,” she said so quietly Hermione could hardly understand her. “I can’t.”
Hermione ignored the heavy lump in her throat, gently reaching for Minerva McGonagall’s cold hand. “It’s difficult, isn’t it?” she said softly, stroking over the cool back of her hand with her thumb.
“Would you do this?” Professor McGonagall slowly raised her head, tears in her eyes.
“Of course.” Hermione had no idea herself how to manage this task but she sensed that she had to be strong for both of them. “Wouldn’t it be better for the peace of your soul if you said good-bye to her, Professor?” Hermione said carefully.
Professor McGonagall shook her head. “I won’t remember.“
Hermione looked horrified into her watery eyes. ”You really want us to erase our memories?”
“There can be no talk of wanting.” Professor McGonagall sighed heavily. “But we have to do it. We already know much too much about the future, and that’s never a good thing.”
Hermione’s chest convulsed painfully. “But I don’t want to forget that I will love you,” she objected quietly. “That I love you,” she corrected herself.
“You shouldn’t have broken your engagement with Ron Weasley.” Professor McGonagall looked past Hermione out of the window. “You’ve already taken action because of a knowledge you shouldn’t have.”
“Sooner or later I would have done it anyway,” Hermione justified her decision. “The last days were just some kind of a… catalyst.”
A small smile washed over Professor McGonagall’s face at Hermione’s words. “It’s strange to imagine that…” She fell silent and blushed. “Well… that…”
“… we will be a couple?”
“Yes.“ Professor McGonagall turned her face towards Hermione and the tenderness in her eyes took Hermione’s breath away.
“I think it’s the most wonderful image I can picture for myself.” Hermione looked down at the older hand that was still resting in hers. “And if I could keep this vision, it would give me strength for the next years.”
“I know what you mean, Hermione.” It was the first time Professor McGonagall had addressed her with her forename. “I never expected I would…” Her fingers absent-mindedly brushed over the sensitive skin of Hermione’s palm. “I’d closed that chapter long ago… The idea of…”
Hermione nodded wordlessly. It wasn’t necessary to say it. The idea of loving somebody again, even start a family, gave Professor McGonagall strength and security as well. “I would love to know how long it will take, until I will find you,” Hermione said with wistfulness in her voice. “How long will it take me to finally understand?”
“It will be sooner for you than for me, for sure,” Professor McGonagall remarked dryly. “You’ve seen how stubborn I can be.”
“I knew that already,” Hermione smiled and took a deep breath. “I have a request of you, too, Professor.”
The Headmistress lifted her head in surprise. “Which is?”
“I want a kiss.”
“Miss Granger!” Professor McGonagall immediately let go of Hermione’s hand, pulling away, appalled. “You’re still my student!”
“Please, Professor. Consider we’ll have forgotten everything in less than an hour.“
But Professor McGonagall didn’t seem to find that a sound argument. “That’s absolutely out of the question!”
But Hermione wasn’t ready to give up so easily. She had read in the previous edition of the Journal of Charms that a memory charm only deleted the memory of what had happened, but it didn’t delete the affections and sensations memorized by the body. Hermione was convinced that a kiss would give her strength for the future, even if she didn’t remember it. It would make her cells happy, and maybe it would even accelerate that she and Minerva McGonagall found each other one day.
“We have to abide by the rules like everybody else,” Professor McGonagall added, pushing herself up from the armchair.
“I do understand that, Professor.” Hermione stood up as well and walked next to her. “But I ask you to take the following into consideration.” She pulled the time turner from her robes. “Shortly, I will go to our daughter and help her to travel back to her own time. I would have liked to do this with you, because I don’t know from where to take the strength to do this. But I will accomplish it, because one of us has to do it. And then I will go back to your office and we will cast a mutual memory charm … And then everything will be over.” Hermione brushed an annoying tear from her face with her sleeve. “These are very, very bleak prospects, and it would give me the strength I need for all of this if you agreed to grant me one single kiss. I don’t think the stakes are too high. You don’t need to be afraid, I will take care that it will be quick.”
Professor McGonagall looked at her in such bewilderment that Hermione had to smile. “These are the facts, aren’t they?” she added sheepishly.
“You are incredible, Miss Granger.“ Professor McGonagall looked up at the sky as if some kind of deities could save her. “One kiss,” she said strictly. “That’s all.”
“Yes, Professor.” Before the Headmistress could change her mind, Hermione pulled her away from the window. Her heart was beating out of her chest and her knees were so weak she was afraid she wouldn’t make it to the middle of the room. But like a miracle, they suddenly stood next to the massive desk and Hermione shyly put her hands around Professor McGonagall’s waist. Someday in the future her hands would be allowed to slip under these green robes. Her fingers would run endlessly over the soft skin and her lips would touch the long neck. She would bury her face into the dark hair, deeply inhaling its sweet scent. She would kiss the red lips and hear Minerva McGonagall’s quiet moaning.
But not today.
Hermione wiped a tear away from her cheek. All of a sudden she felt Professor McGonagall’s comforting arms around her, and immediately she felt her spirits lighten. She closed her eyes, breathing in the faint scent of rose oil and snuggled deeper into the tender embrace. She wanted to live in this moment for eternity.
But time marched on and Hermione’s left hand wandered to Professor McGonagall’s hair and her right hand to her neck. Slowly she inched forward to the red lips, so soft she could have never imagined. Instinctively, her mouth opened, intensifying the delicate touch of their lips. Minerva McGonagall moaned softly as Hermione increased the pressure, and the sound raised a storm inside of her. Once again Hermione’s mouth brushed over the full lips, felt them answer, then she pulled back.
Professor McGonagall still kept her eyes closed and Hermione saw a faint blush had covered her face. She looked so beautiful that Hermione would have loved to pull her back into her arms. But she had made a promise that she needed to keep. “Thank you,” she whispered, brushing Professor McGonagall’s cheek with her fingertips.
At the tender touch Professor McGonagall opened her eyes that looked so similar to Jean’s. They were dark and full of longing, and Hermione was on the verge of chucking the whole plan.
But it wouldn’t have been the right thing. “I’ll go to Jean now,” she said reluctantly and took the time turner in her hands. “Is there anything you want me to tell her?”
Professor McGonagall nodded, her voice failing. “Please give my regards to her,” she said finally. “And tell her that… that I love her.”
“I will.” Hermione bravely fought back her tears when she headed for the door with shaky knees. “Let’s get it over with,” she muttered and left the office without looking at Professor McGonagall again.
* * *
“Where’s Mum?“ Jean asked immediately when she saw Hermione coming to her with the time turner.
“As Headmistress she often has very important appointments she can’t cancel.” Hermione hadn’t thought it would be so difficult to lie to her daughter. “But we can’t postpone your journey any longer, Jean.” She sat down on the chair next to Jean’s bed. “You urgently have to travel back to your own time, and I’m sure your mothers are already awaiting you longingly.”
“But I like it here,” Jean protested. “Can’t I stay just a little bit longer?”
“That could be very dangerous,” Hermione explained patiently. “We don’t know enough about time yet.”
Jean looked up at her with wide green eyes. “I want to go back, Mummy, but right now it’s so interesting here. You’re more like a big sister, and it’s funny that Mum treats you like you hardly know each other, though she loves you like crazy.”
“Really?” Hermione’s heart took such a leap that she forgot to rebuke her daughter for her loose tongue. “And both of your mothers love you like crazy, too,” she said, pressing a kiss on Jean’s forehead. “That’s why it is so important that you go back to them quickly.”
“But I’m scared.” Jean snuggled into Hermione’s arms. “Time travelling feels a bit unpleasant, you know…“
“Yes, I know.” Hermione patted her daughter’s head. She remembered the side effects all too well when she had constantly travelled back and forth through time in order to attend as many classes as possible in her third year at Hogwarts. She had felt like she had jetlag for almost a year, and Jean had to cross at least twelve years.
“Can’t you come with me, Mummy?”
“I would love to, but it’s too dangerous, my dear.” Hermione pulled a small flask out of her robes. “At least Professor Slughorn brew a special potion for you, which will prevent you from getting unconscious at your arrival.”
Jean shuddered with disgust when she saw the brown juice. “I’m sure it tastes horrible,” she complained.
“I’m afraid it does, but it’s very important that you drink it anyway.” Hermione put the time turner into Jean’s hands. “Do you know how it works?”
Jean shook her head, which confirmed Hermione’s assumption that the girl had only travelled through time by accident.
“Then let me show you.” Hermione showed Jean the different symbols on the device and explained their meanings. “You didn’t intend to travel through time, did you?”
“No.” Jean seemed to be a bit embarrassed about the accident. “We had a visitor from France in Charms who showed us several new time turners…”
“In the second year?” Hermione interrupted her disapprovingly. “That’s pretty early for a matter like that.”
“Mum had arranged that Monsieur Foucault would visit all classes,” Jean countered, noticeably proud of her mother. “He only didn’t visit the First Years.”
Hermione shook her head, trying to hide her smile. It was rather ironic that Monsieur Focault had tried to understand his own time turner from the future a few days ago. “And you’ve touched one of these devices?”
“We all touched them, we were allowed to. But I don’t think anything happened to the others.” Jean’s eyes started to beam when she suddenly had an idea. “I probably activated the time turner when I touched the chain with my tongue,” she said excitedly. “And when I tried to stop the stars from rotating, I accidentally hit the spot beneath the numbers and was catapulted here, right Mummy?”
“That’s possible.” Hermione nodded, impressed by her daughter’s quick mind. “But why did you touch the chain with your tongue?”
“Because Lily Luna claimed the chain would be of brass, but I was sure it was of pure gold,” Jean explained as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “So I licked it to taste it.”
“Lily Luna?“ Hermione asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Oh, oh, oh!” Jean covered her mouth with her hand, startled. “I’m talking too much, aren’t I?“
“Well, I will have forgotten it anyway in less than an hour,” Hermione smiled indulgently and kissed the girl’s cheek. “But we should focus on your journey now,” she said, serious again. “Obviously the time turner doesn’t work very precisely when it comes to physical distance. After all, I found you in the bushes near the Forbidden Forest and not in a classroom. So it’s possible that you won’t return into your classroom, but somewhere nearby.”
“Don’t worry, Mummy.” Jean patted her mother’s arm. ”James has this special map. It helps you to see where everybody is in the castle. So if I get lost somewhere at Hogwarts, I’m sure he will find me.”
“Well, that’s good to hear.” Hermione tried to hide her chuckle in vain. Being at Hogwarts in the future didn’t seem to be very different from her own schoolyears.
“Mon Dieu, I can’t believe the girl is still here!” Madam Pomfrey ranted, as she brought an injured Forth Year to the hospital wing. “Professor McGonagall promised me she would travel back today.”
“We’re working on it,” Hermione calmed the enraged healer, pulling Jean from her bed. “Please put on your school uniform, darling.“
Jean nodded sadly and started to put on her Gryffindor uniform. She also drank the potion obediently, although she made a face as if Hermione had tried to poison her.
There wasn’t anything left to do now that could have given her an excuse to postpone their farewell, as much as Hermione wanted it to. “Your Mum wishes you all the best and asked me to tell you that she loves you very, very much,” she told Jean as the girl stood in front of her, ready to go. “And I love you very, very much, too,” she added, enfolding her prospective daughter in her arms one last time. “I can’t tell you how glad I am that you exist,” she whispered in a shaky voice.
Jean wiped a tear from Hermione’s cheek with her small fingers. “When I’ll be finally born, you won’t forget me anymore, Mummy,” she said soothingly, looking so much like her older mother that it almost hurt.
“That’s a nice prospect, at least.” Hermione smiled bravely and averted her gaze so that Jean could adjust the day, hour and estimated minute of her accidental leave. But she wouldn’t have been Hermione Granger if her curiosity hadn’t won in the last moment, making her take a quick glance at the numbers on the stone. The time turner showed the year 2019, so Jean would probably be born in 2007.
Would it take this long, until her and Minerva McGonagall would become a couple? Hermione didn’t think she could wait eight more years, even though she wouldn’t remember anything that had happened over the last days. At least, there was a chance that they would already be together for several years by then, but in the year 2007 somebody would find a magical way that would make it possible for two witches to get children. This thought was somewhat comforting.
“I’ve done everything you told me, Mummy,” Jean reported, and Hermione realized that she wouldn’t hear her silvery voice for many years.
“Very good, my darling.” Only with great difficulty Hermione resisted her impulse to spontaneously elope with the girl. “Do you want me to watch?”
“Yes.“ Jean tried to be brave, but it was clear that she was really frightened. All of a sudden she threw herself back into Hermione’s arms, begging her that she could stay.
Hermione had to gather all her strength not to give in. “I’m sure everything will be fine,” she assured Jean, tenderly stroking her cheek. “Monsieur Foucault wouldn’t have showed you the time turner if he hadn’t been convinced by its reliability. And as soon as you arrive home, you’ll be glad to see everybody again.” Against her own instincts Hermione gently pushed the child away. “Good luck, my darling.”
Jean nodded bravely, touched the spot beneath the numbers with her index finger, and suddenly disappeared.
Hermione stared at the spot where Jean had just stood for several more minutes. Then she pulled herself together, and with mechanical moves she removed all traces of Jean in the hospital room.
Afterwards, she cast a memory spell on Madam Pomfrey and walked back to Professor McGonagall’s office. Inside of her everything felt empty, numb and bleak.
Professor McGonagall was still standing at the window, as if she hadn’t moved from there at all. She turned around when she heard Hermione entering her office and took a deep breath after her silent question had been answered with a nod. “It’s time then,” Professor McGonagall whispered, stepping towards Hermione.
Hermione thought of the way her slender hands had felt on her back and the soft lips on her mouth. Without thinking, she wrapped her arms around the older woman, never wanting to let her go.
Professor McGonagall gently ran her fingers over her back, and for a while they just stood there without moving. “Thank you for everything,” Professor McGonagall said softly. “I’m really looking forward to a future with you.”
Eventually, the two women loosened their embrace and stood opposite to another like in a duel. The younger one with tears on her cheeks and a determined expression on her face, the older one with a dignified posture and quivering lips. At the same time and with the same sweeping move, as if connected by an invisible bond, they both raised her wands, pointing at each other:
I couldn’t write this at the beginning because it would have given too much away: The idea of a future daughter for HGMM isn’t mine. It was mentioned in a nice story named “A Paradox named Siobhan” by tanithw. This story is very different though. Thank you very much for the inspiration, tanithw, whoever and wherever you are.