Chapter 1: Flashback to Maturity
When Professor McGonagall left the Gryffindor Common Room with Harry's Firebolt, Ron rounded on Hermione, livid. "What did you go running to McGonagall for?!" he said.
Hermione threw her book aside. She was pink in the face, but stood up and faced Ron defiantly.
"Because I thought — and Professor McGonagall agrees with me — that the broom was probably sent to Harry by Sirius Black."
Ron said, "Why the bloody hell would he do that?!"
"He probably jinxed it to kill Harry."
"How did he get a Firebolt? With what money? It's not as if he could walk into a shop and buy a broom!"
Hermione said, "He escaped Azkaban, and he's escaped capture for months. He's very resourceful."
Ron said, "They're stripping it down. A Firebolt. Because you're paranoid and went running to the Professors at the drop of a hat! And now what's Harry going to fly? Do you want Gryffindor to win the Quidditch Cup or not!"
"Quidditch isn't really important, Ron!"
Ron gaped, shocked by such sacrilege, and Harry opened his mouth to tell her off.
And he remembered the end of his first year, when Hermione and Ron had been saying that if he went out of bounds again, he'd be expelled, and he had said that that didn't really matter. What mattered was stopping Voldemort from getting the stone.
And Sirius Black wasn't Voldemort, but someone dying, even if it was him, compared to a Quidditch match... What would he think if it were Hermione? The Quidditch match hardly mattered at all, next to that.
Harry said, "Ron, let me talk to her."
"Ron. My broom. My conversation. Hermione, why do you think Sirius Black jinxed the broom?"
She raised her chin. "You said yourself you have no idea who sent it. And trying to kill you while you're on a broomstick wouldn't exactly be original. First year, Quirrell tried to kill you while you were playing Quidditch. Second year, Dobby jinxed a bludger to break your arm, and already this year, you nearly died playing Quidditch when the Dementors attacked. Almost dying is a regular part of Quidditch for you."
Harry wanted to disagree with that. Wanted to dismiss it. Because he was sure the broom was fine. He felt the broom was fine. But then, his first year, he'd been sure Snape was after the stone, and second year, he'd been sure Malfoy was the Heir of Slytherin. His feelings had been wrong plenty before. And this was Hermione, who'd been with him in the Forbidden Corridor, who'd figured out before anyone else that Slytherin's monster was a basilisk.
Harry grabbed her by the shoulders and sat on a sofa, pulling her onto the sofa next to him.
Harry's voice was tense and clipped as he tried to sound calmer than he was. "I don't like this. I don't like this at all. For a few hours, I owned a Firebolt. Best broom in the world. Now it's been taken. I don't like that. But you're right. Black might've sent it. I think he didn't, but it makes some sense, and I'd rather not fall a hundred feet and die, so it's good it's being checked. I should've thought of that. I'm glad you thought of that. Thank you for worrying about me."
Harry let her hear a little of how upset he was, resisting the urge to shake her. "What I'm angry about is that you didn't tell me. If you'd told me you thought Black had sent it, I might've needed a few hours to come around to the idea, but I hope I would've agreed that we should have the Professors check it over. And if I'd been too foolish for that, you could've said, 'Sorry Harry. I don't have any choice, this is for your own good, I have to tell a Professor.'
"Instead, you ran off to Professor McGonagall without talking to me first. It's like you don't trust me." He took a deep breath. "Why did you do that? What were you thinking when you decided to treat me like a little kid?"
Harry had expected her to give reasons. He'd been preparing himself for the sort of screaming row she had with Ron once or twice a month. He hadn't expected her to burst into tears and hug him.
She said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking, I was only..." A sob broke her sentence apart, and she wiped from for nose with her sleeve, stared at sleeve for a horrified moment, and continued. "I wasn't thinking. I mean I was, but not about that. I just wanted you be safe, and I was so sure I was right, and that when I came here with Professor McGonagall and revealed it all, you'd be impressed."
She wanted to impress him? Her? What?
Eyes and nose red, more snot running out her nose, Hermione sobbed, "We're still friends, aren't we?"
Harry patted her awkwardly. "Of course we're still friends. You've apologized. Just promise me that next time you'll talk to me first if it has to do with me."
As they spoke, Ron turned white in the cheeks and red in the ears, expression twisting between fear and anger.
"I promise," said Hermione. She wiped her face with a handkerchief, then buried her head in his chest. He felt the wetness of more tears on his shirt, and heard her sniffling to keep what snot remained in her sinuses, in her sinuses.
Though a little unsure, Harry brought his arms around her back, holding her loosely.
Ron said, "Are you serious? That's it? She gets your Firebolt confiscated and all she has to do is cry and say she's sorry?"
Harry said, "I'm still upset, but she had a good reason. She made a mistake, but it's not as if I'm going to stop being her friend over it."
Ron said, "You're just being soft on her because she's getting tits."
Harry froze, and Hermione looked up red-eyed from the hug. "Excuse me?" she said.
"You heard me. Harry, she's crying on purpose. Girls do that. She's the one who betrayed you, and five minutes later you're the one comforting her."
Harry said. "Ron, don't be stupid."
"You're the one who's being stupid," said Ron. "I'm just telling you the truth, and she's trying to make you side with her. Charlie told me this would happen as we got older. But blokes before birds. She betrays us, and it's fine?"
Hermione said, "I didn't betray you! I was trying to keep Harry safe. So what, you want me to do penance? Okay. How about I help you both with your homework? Oh, wait, I already do that."
Ron said, "You mean you like lording it over us what a good student you are!"
Harry said, "Can you both just calm down?"
Ron said, "Siding with her, are you?"
Harry said, "I'm not siding with anyone. I'm waiting for you to calm down."
Ron snorted and stalked out the portrait hole. Harry wondered if he should chase after him, but Ron had his moods. It was best to let him cool down on his own. They'd be back to normal by the end of the night, no doubt.
That night, in their dorm, as they changed into their pajamas, Ron said, "Still getting on with Hermione?"
Harry said, "Sure. I'm a little worried about her. Taking all those classes. It's too much."
"Not worried about Scabbers though, are you? What, with the way Hermione's little monster keeps trying to kill him. She ought to get rid of it."
Harry said, "You're still on about that? If it worries you so much, we'll all get together in the library and work out a way to keep Scabbers safe. There must be a charm for it."
Ron said, "Back to the library, and let Hermione tell me what to do? You might be happy letting her order you around, but I'm not. She's always telling us what to do, she betrayed us to a Professor and got your Firebolt stripped down, and she doesn't care that her cat is trying to eat my rat. So. Her or me."
"Did you hit your head?"
"You're choosing her?"
Harry said, "I'm not choosing her. I'm waiting for you to stop being a stupid git."
"Stupid, am I?"
"You're acting like it."
"And you're acting like a ball-less pansy." With that, Ron slipped into bed, rolled away from Harry, and studiously ignored Harry's attempts to re-start the conversation.
Eventually, Harry fell silent, and hours later, despite his racing mind, fell asleep.
The next day, with Ron still in a huff, Harry went with Hermione to the library, still trying to figure out why one friend wouldn't forgive him for forgiving the other. It wasn't even Ron's broom.
He shook the musings from his head and took out his holiday homework. He had a fair bit left, and Hermione had loads left despite her having worked on it a lot more than he had.
Harry said, "I still don't understand how you're getting to all those classes."
"I have a way."
"I promised Professor McGonagall I wouldn't tell anyone."
"Well, if you promised Professor McGonagall..." He let the thought hang, letting it ask for him who she was more loyal too, letting it imply she owed the truth to him after running to McGonagall about his Firebolt.
Hermione groaned and looked around, checking to be sure no one was near. She leaned forward and whispered, "I have a Time Turner. It lets me go back in time a few hours, so I can be in two classes at once."
Harry digested that. His voice was thick. "You have a time machine and you're using it for classes. What about my parents, or-"
"It doesn't work like that. A day is a single unit of time. It's a work in progress until it's over, but then it's saved. And even within a day, you can't change what's already happened. Say I go to Arithmancy, and when Arithmancy is out, I use my Time Turner to go back two hours and go to Care. But when I'm in Arithmancy, I'm already in Care. I've already done what I've yet to do."
Hermione explained it further, and Harry started to get it. There were moments where it seemed very clear, and then the clarity would pop, like a soap bubble, but even then, he had the idea. Time travel couldn't the change the past, but it could change the present, which could be very useful.
Harry said, "I still think it's odd you're using it to take extra classes. Why not drop one?"
"I couldn't do that!" said Hermione.
"What about Divination? Useless class. I wish I'd signed up for anything else. I'll drop it with you."
"You can't drop it. You have to carry at least two electives into your OWL year. That's why even if you only wanted two, you should've signed up for three, and then after a few weeks dropped the one you liked least. I would've told you that last year if I hadn't been petrified."
Harry said, "Do you think I could switch to a different class?" He'd been toying with the idea, but not seriously. Ron would flip if he 'abandoned him,' but Ron had already flipped.
Hermione said, "You can only switch classes in the first two weeks. So no. I suppose you could switch next year, but you'd be in a younger year class."
In a class with students a year younger, none of whom he'd know, probably. It sounded horrible. But the thought of spending another two years in Professor Trelawney's stuffy tower, listening to her predict his death, sounded worse. Harry said, "Tell me about these other classes."
"Well, Arithmancy is my favorite. It's predicting the future with numbers. A lot of it's like muggle mathematics. In a way, predicting the future is mostly what muggles use math for too. 'If 'If I sell this many cars for this much and each car costs this much to sell, how much money will I make? What will the tensile strength of the steel bar be if it's made this thick? When will this bridge get old and fall down?' But with magic, there's other maths too, like numerology. There's a very famous result saying that You-Know-Who will probably come back one day. It was too complicated for me, but Professor Vector says it's sound, though not certain."
"Arithmancy says Voldemort will come back?"
"It says he'll probably come back. Unlike Divination, Arithmancy is logical and verifiable, even if lacking in details in some cases. And Professor Vector is great."
Hermione continued, "Muggle Studies is good too. Professor Burbage is a pureblood or near enough, but she's lived as a muggle in different countries, and she's been to muggle Universities for politics and engineering, so, in a lot of ways, she knows more than we do about the muggle world, and she has such an interesting perspective on it. I'd never realized how strange and horrible the muggle food supply is.
Hermione said, "Ancient Runes with Professor Babbling is a lot of memorization. The first two years, it's mostly just memorizing different rune systems. But eventually you get to use it for magic. Mainly for making charms last, but for all sort of other things too you that you wouldn't think of. The theory is very interesting.
Hermione said,"Divination is useless, and I love Hagrid, but you have to admit he's having trouble his first year on the job, so it's ended up that you're taking the two worst electives."
Hermione gave him a look as if to say that was his fault for not looking into them properly, and returned to her charms essay.
Harry pulled over her books for her electives, and skimmed them. After an hour during which Hermione quietly worked, Harry said, "I'll tell Professor McGonagall I'd like to take Runes next year instead of Divination if you'll come with me and tell her you'd like to drop Divination."
"That's playing dirty," said Hermione.
"You shouldn't be taking so many classes. The bags under your eyes were getting deeper and deeper before the break. And doesn't using the time turner make you get older quicker?"
"I lost a month last year to being petrified by the basilisk, and I only add a few hours a week, so even by the end of the year I won't be back to my actual age. Besides, Professor McGonagall gave this to me because she believed I could take extra classes. I don't want to disappoint her." But he could tell she was tempted, and if she was tempted, she'd already been thinking about it.
Harry said, "So apologize a lot and say I bullied you into it. And won't you still need the Time-Turner, so it won't be for nothing? Come on. You know you want to. All we've learned in Divination is that it's a bloody waste of time."
"Language," said Hermione, but she bit her lip, mulling it over. She said, "I did last a whole term at least. If I did drop it, Christmas vacation would be the perfect time."
Professor McGonagall looked at the two of them. She said, "No, I quite understand. Far be it from me to speak ill of a fellow Professor, but her class may not be the most productive use of your time, Miss Granger. I was wondering if you might do this."
Hermione said, "I feel horrible because you went to all that trouble to get me that..." she stopped, paling.
"You told me Mr. Potter about it?"
Hermione nodded, looking apologetic. "He kept asking me about how I was getting to classes."
"Have you told anyone else? Perhaps Mr. Weasley?"
"No. Just Harry."
Professor McGonagall pointed a finger at Harry. "If you use it to get in trouble, it will be Miss Granger and I who are punished for it more than you."
"I won't," said Harry. "And even if I wanted to, Hermione wouldn't let me. It took months for her to even tell me about it."
"I'll hold you both to it. Miss Granger, I'll put your drop notice through today." Professor McGonagall looked at them expectantly, waiting for them to leave, and Hermione nudged Harry.
Harry said, "Er, Professor. I was thinking. I don't like Divination very much. I know it's too late to switch classes, but I was wondering if next year I could take third-year Runes instead."
Professor McGonagall said, "Why Ancient Runes?"
Harry said, "It might be nice to learn more about the muggle world, but I know enough about it already. I looked over Hermione's Arithmancy book, and it made my head hurt." He'd imagined long nights in the common room, banging his head on the table as he tried to figure out what in the devil 'X' was. "Runes had a lot of memorization, but memorizing is simple, even if it is hard, and the introduction to the theory was interesting." Not an equation in sight.
Professor McGonagall said, "Mr. Potter, we would not normally allows transfers at this late date. But I perhaps I should've told you earlier that the student whose death she predicts at the beginning of the year transfers or drops almost invariably. That you did not was something of a curiosity."
With a rush of horror, Harry realized Professor McGonagall was about to make another exception for him.
Professor McGonagall said, "I can well understand that the Divination classroom might be a substandard environment for you. If you're willing to put in the work to catch up, I would be willing to speak to Professor Babbling and allow you to transfer now, at the start of spring term."
Harry did not like that idea. Having to study desperately to catch up on what others had had months to learn. He'd rather stick it out in Divination. But Professor McGonagall was offering to bend over backward for him, and he didn't feel comfortable saying no, so he said, "That would be great."
When they were back at the common room, Harry said, "Merlin. What have I gotten myself into?" He stared at the Runes book in his hands. He'd been instructed to purchase his own by owl order, but for now he was being allowed to use one of the school's spares, which were kept in the Deputy Headmistress's office.
Hermione said, "I'll help you."
That sounded wonderful. Hermione would help him. She'd pound it all into his head while he sat there like a great unresisting sponge. But she still looked tired, blue half-circle under her eyes, even during Christmas vacation.
Harry said, "No. You have four electives. I want you to sleep and relax more, not replace your fifth elective with helping me. What chapter did the first term take you up through?"
"Chapter 12," Hermione said, "Plus most of the glossary and appendix."
"First I'll read up through chapter 12, then the glossary and appendix, then I'll borrow your notes, and when I've copied them, maybe I'll ask you for help."
He opened to the introduction and sat down to maul his way through it, already regretting speaking to McGonagall.
This story is complete on my hard drive. I had a scene from third-year of Mentordora that, as I thought about second year, I realized didn't fit. So I thought I'd expand it into a 2 or 3k oneshot.
It's ended up being about 30k words. I'll publish a chapter most days until it's all published.
PoA is my favorite Harry Potter book, but I've always hated how Hermione is frozen out for two months in it. Fourth year is not the first time Ron abandons a friend over something stupid, and in third-year Harry goes along with it.
I don't much like Ron, but I don't hate him. He has good traits. This will not end up being as much of a Ron bash as it at first appears to be.
I read a lot of Harry/Hermione fics, but I'm not committed to the pairing. In my mind, 5th-7th year Harry and Hermione have a comparability score of about 65-70%, whereas as Hermione and Ron have a comparability score of about 30%. Draco's a git, Sirius and Lupin are too old, and I can't tell the twins apart. I love Hermione, and want the best for her, so I end up not knowing who, other than Harry, to put her with.
This is a Harry/Hermione story.