For a moment, as Dobby relayed the news that Professor Umbridge was on her way to the Room of Requirement, the world seemed to stand still, as Harry and the other members of the DA struggled to process this fact.
In another universe, Harry told the others to run, and was caught by the Inquisitorial Squad; Umbridge conveyed him to the headmaster's office, and, with his dramatic exit, Dumbledore allowed the appointment of what would prove to be Hogwarts' most vilified and one of its most short-lived headmasters.
In this one, though, his panic led him to a different course of action, and he froze in shock and horror - as the hubbub of the DA grew in proportion with the increasing panic of its members. In the other universe, people had the goal of leaving the room, unsuccessful though most of them were. In this one, though, their panicked thoughts started to overlap: wishes to escape, to be anywhere but here, to go somewhere where Umbridge and her minions wouldn't be able to find them.
And, with all the intelligence that its limited sentience had imbued it with, the Room of Requirement did its best to oblige; there was a bright flash, a ringing thunderclap, and then - nothing.
Harry was pushed back into consciousness with a shudder, and his eyes flew open; he was outside, it was dark, and Hermione was peering down at him, worry writ large on her face.
"Oh, thank God, you're awake. I've never actually tried that spell before, and I had no idea if it was going to work!" Hermione was, Harry felt, even more nervous than she had been in the Room of Requirement.
Harry groaned, and groped for a moment, until he found his glasses. Pushing them on, he smiled weakly at Hermione - he had certainly felt better.
"Hermione - where are we, and what just happened?" He asked, peering around confusedly; she offered him a hand, and helped to pull him to his feet.
"I'm really, really not sure," she said, quaveringly, "but it's somewhere outside, dark, and in the middle of nowhere. We're certainly not in Hogwarts, any more."
She glanced around, before firming her resolve. "Anyway, I think that the rest of the DA are here as well, but I'm the only one who's come to, so far. Do you think you can pull off the reviving spell? We should get everyone up and about as quickly as possible; for all I know, we're in the middle of the Forbidden Forest!"
It was certainly gloomy enough to be the Forbidden Forest, although they were in a relatively large clearing; the gentle lapping of water a short distance away signalled a lake which Harry could barely make out by squinting in the moonlight.
Wherever they were, it didn't seem enormously friendly; Harry allowed Hermione to quickly teach him the reviving spell, and the two of them set about reviving the twenty-odd members of the DA that had made the trip with them - Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecombe not among them, Harry noted. Nobody appeared to have been hurt - by the time that they'd revived a few people, most had started to stir from whatever fugue they'd all been put into.
At length, the whole group gathered around a fire which Fred and George had conjured to deliberate on what to do. Wherever they were, they had arrived near to a lake, and some of the Room's contents appeared to have made the trip with them - a few old brooms, some worn crockery and clothing, a couple of bookshelves' worth of books, and a few peoples' bags.
"Okay." Harry began, once they'd all seated themselves comfortably. "We don't know where we are, and I'm not sure how to get back, but it's going to work out - for now, we should just work on transforming some beds, set up a shield for the night, and revisit things in the morning -"
From across the fire, though, Fred interrupted him before he could finish his thoughts.
"Harry, George and I - Lee, Alicia and Angelina too - we can all apparate. Why don't I try to apparate to my parents to get in touch?"
Harry slapped his head in exasperation. "Yeah, or we could do that. Sorry, everyone - it's been a pretty stressful evening, you'll all be not even slightly surprised to hear! Go ahead, Fred - good thinking."
The group giggled at his embarassment, and, grinning, Fred stood up, and apparated with a twist of his heel.
Or, at least, he tried to - he carried on spinning, and would have tumbled into the fire had his brother not caught him by the back of his robes. Fred stuttered in shock, and looked up at the rest of them, wide-eyed.
"I - I don't know what just happened, exactly." He said, shaken by his failure. "The technique was right - I mean, we've been apparating all bloody summer! - but it just didn't, uh, latch, I guess?"
Alicia stood up, and tried to apparate herself, only to encounter the exact same issue - as did George and Angelina in quick succession.
Seeing the looks of concern on the faces of the DA, Ron chose that moment to jump to his feet, grinning widely.
"Well, clearly a few people are out of practice!" He winked at his brothers. "I reckon we could all use a good night's sleep - let's transfigure ourselves some beds, and Harry, Hermione and I'll work with the seventh years to make sure we've got some proper protection up for the night, alright?"
Harry knew his friend well enough to recognise that Ron was going for enforced bonhomie, so he sprung to his feet, and set about co-ordinating the others to work out sleeping arrangements for the night. Once that was underway, though, he made his way back to join the older years, who were looking extremely uncomfortable with their failures.
"So, could there be some kind of anti-apparition ward?" Hermione was asking. "I've read that they could easily cause you all to fail -"
George cut her off, though, gesticulating agitatedly. "No, no - it's not that it didn't work, it's that -"
Fred finished his twin's sentence. "- the way it's failing is wrong. Once you have the knack of apparition, you either get there in one piece, or you splinch yourself, or - if there's an anti-apparition ward - you apparate, and then get dumped back where you started, painfully. It doesn't just - not happen. That's just not how apparition works."
"Well, at least nobody seems hurt, and the fact that it's not an anti-apparition ward at least means that we don't have any evidence of this being a trap." Harry said, offering the rest of them a smile. "I mean, for all we know, we're still stuck in the Room of Requirement, and it just went a bit batty when we all panicked? I haven't managed to call Dobby, but it could be for the same reason, I suppose."
"What, and the Room's just decided to give us a bit of that inside-outside feeling?" Angelina chuckled, casting her eyes up at the moon peeking out from the cloudy sky above them. "Whatever the case, it must be well past midnight for all of us now - I think we should sleep on this. I can manage the muggle-repelling charm, if you and the twins can set up a protective ward, Alicia?"
"And I'll start working on some buildings for the night - I'm sure a couple of Ravenclaws can be volunteered to lend a hand!" said Lee, who grinned at the rest of them before turning to search out his recruits.
The older students set off, leaving Harry, Ron and Hermione alone.
"This is all my fault." murmured Hermione. "If I hadn't tried to get the DA started in the first place, then maybe -"
Ron cut her off, frowning. "Hermione - that's bloody stupid. We all signed up for this - we all knew what we were getting into. I mean, I didn't think that meant waking up in the middle of nowhere, but you know what I'm getting at. This is *absolutely* not your fault."
Harry nodded in agreement, patting Hermione reassuringly on the shoulder.
"I'm sure this'll be easy enough to sort out, later," he said, "but it'll be a heck of a lot easier after a full night's sleep. Come on - let's go and give the younger years a hand with their beds - I'm sure they won't object to a few more cushioning charms for comfort's sake."
For all that Harry had suspected, in the back of his mind, that whatever the DA had been subjected to was in some way the work of Voldemort, his dreams that night were remarkably clear of the usual tension and nightmares which Voldemort's return had been subjecting him to for most of the previous year, and he slept quite peaceably. It had been immensely gratifying to see the DA working as a unit to set up accommodations for themselves (and, Hermione being Hermione, in conjuring sets of shelves to store the books which seemed to have followed them from the room to wherever they'd landed.
At dawn, though, he found himself shaken awake, and opened his eyes to see Luna peering down at him. He made to ask if everything was alright, before catching himself at the sight of her eyes - given that, in her own bizarre way, Luna was the most self-assured person that Harry knew, and he had never seen her look shaken in the way that she seemed at that moment.
"Harry, can you come outside?" She asked, falteringly. "Only, I woke at dawn, and - well."
Harry slid off his bed, confused, and padded past the other students sleeping around him to follow her outside the makeshift hut which they'd constructed the night before. The morning breeze was bitterly cold, the watery sunlight doing little to alleviate its bite. The lake they'd set up camp by stretched off towards the horizon, down the mountain valley they appeared to have landed in.
Luna turned to him, expectantly, and waited for him to see what she had.
"Luna, I don't understand - what are you seeing?" Harry asked, bewildered - all he could see was that they seemed to be somewhere similar to Scotland, although there was nary a sign of human habitation.
"Don't you see it?" She asked, frowning, before she started to point across the valley. "Up there, and there - those peaks are the watcher and the old gentleman, and then the crest in the valley where Hogsmeade should be, and the great lake, and the quidditch pitch that should be on the plains over there?"
Harry followed her gesticulations as best as he could, but it wasn't until she reached the quidditch pitch that he really understood her point, and he couldn't help the gasp of shock that escaped him. Luna nodded, her own face betraying a panic that entirely failed to suit her.
"Harry - I don't think that we've gone anywhere." She said. "I think that Hogwarts has."
After reassuring Luna that they'd find out what was going on, Harry - in the interests of avoiding widespread panic - decided to wake up only Hermione to break the news to her, in case she had any plans as to what they should do, which, of course, she did.
"You know," she said, as she sketched out a network of lines on the ground with her wand, "of all the stuff I've done in ancient runes, I never thought that I'd actually have a use for Gravidor's locating incantation - I found it when we were working on the third task, actually."
Hermione glanced up at Harry, and giggled at his nonplussed expression. "Don't worry - I'm not expecting you to remember it, I tossed it out pretty quickly and you had a lot on your plate back then."
She made a few more scratchings, and turned back, smiling victoriously. "Okay, I think I have it! This should, if my memory's working properly, give us a rough idea of where we are and the time of day - I mean, it'll actually give us a precise date, latitude, and longitude, and I have a vague idea of what Scotland is on that front, so we can extrapolate from there."
At the nods of the other two, she muttered a few words, and touched her wand to the earth in front of her, which lit up in red. She scanned the text, before paling in horror, and stumbling backwards onto her hands.
Harry peered over her, seeing the words that had burned themselves into the ground:
Harry didn't want to come to the conclusion he was dreading, and he turned to Hermione, who was still collapsed there, ashen-faced; beside him, Luna gasped, as she looked for herself.
"Does this mean -" he couldn't finish his question, but Hermione nodded anyway.
"I - I don't know how, or why - but we've been thrown nearly two thousand years into the past."
Thank you for reading! Aside from this shorter chapter, I hope to update with longer instalments weekly in November, and bi-weekly from December onwards. There'll be no bashing, just as a heads up; on the other hand, you can look forward to esoteric rituals, some literal world-building, and the Later Roman Empire. Fun times all around!