The day she appeared out of thin air was the day Sirius Black's destiny was derailed.
Or maybe destiny was correcting itself on his behalf, because how else could it be explained that he, of all people, came across her in the abandoned corridor on the 7th floor? Not that he would know that. Regardless, her appearance was so gruesome that Sirius was shocked still at the sight of her. She was laying spread out on the stone floor, thinner than her body suggested was healthy, blood covering her from head to foot, her thick hair so was soaked through that neither the color nor the texture could be distinguished. She was pale and painfully still and it wasn't until she took a great, heaving gasp of air did he move.
Sirius rushed to her side, panic flooding his brain and making his heart pound against his chest painfully. The fabric of his trousers steeped in her blood, and his hands hovered around her as he tried to decide what he needed to do. He glanced at her face right when her eyes opened.
They were the color of cherry wood in the dimness of the corridor. Her pupils were blown wide and as he was about to say something she spoke in a quavering, hoarse voice.
"Sirius?" He didn't have time to be shocked because she started spasming violently, her eyes rolling back and closing.
"Hey!" he whisper-shouted as he took her shoulders in his hand and pressed her into the floor to hold her still. To his horror she started coughing out blood, the awful choking sound would later invade his nightmares. He turned her on her side as gently as he could and tried not to think about the growing puddle that slipped around his shins. He waited for what felt like days for the spasms to stop, trying to soothe her with feather light touches along the back of her shoulder. Once the seizure stopped her eyes opened again. Her gaze was manic darting this way and that until they landed on his face.
"Sirius?" she asked again, sounding like she was speaking through torn vocal cords.
"Yes, Love?" his voice was soft, attempting not to add any stress to her. He chose not to ask how she knew his name right then, the curiosity that he supposed should be burning a hole in his gut was absent for the moment. Although, he knew that once the shock wore off he wouldn't rest until he had answers.
"I..." she started, but her eyes slipped closed and Sirius, panicking that she was going into another seizure, lifted her into his arms. As he stood with her, her eyes opened again. "We…the Veil...We thought... you died… where did you... go?" her words were broken, gasping and confusing.
"What do you mean, Love? I'm right here," he glanced down at her pale face, nearly translucent, and held her closer. He feared he might hear her last gasping breath in his arms and tried to keep her talking. His feet landed on the last staircase before the corridor that reached the Hospital Wing, and he prayed that the staircase wouldn't move. He wasn't sure she would last the detour.
"I...we don't have it….Sirius...I keep telling her...we don't have it..." her voice started to dim, and his heartbeat redoubled as he started to move faster. Her eyes rolled back and tremors started right as he shoved his way into the Hospital Wing doors.
"Poppy!" He screamed, ignoring that it was well past 3 in the morning. He set the girl on the nearest bed and rolled her onto her side, shuddering at the harsh, guttural, wheezing breaths escaped her. Her eyes didn't close this time, instead they were open so wide that he worried they might pop out of her head. "POPPY!" his scream this time was so loud that the word broke at the end.
The matron came running out in a dressing gown, anger freezing on her face at the sight before her. She ran up to them and waved her wand over the girl and if Sirius could have diverted his attention he would have seen the nurse go a nauseous green.
"Do something!" He yelled, and though he would deny it later, tears started to pool around his lower lashes.
"I can't, not until the seizure stops. Her jaw is locked so I can't use potions and any spell I could use would probably cause her further harm," Madam Pomfrey said after collecting herself. She instructed the young man to continue as he was, and informed him that the blood she was coughing on was mostly from biting her tongue.
When the seizure stopped he watched as Madam Pomfrey started working on the girl, before she snapped at him to get the Headmaster, as he rose from his seat the girl's hand grasped his own with a strength that belied her current state. Terror filled her face, she shook her head. Her mouth opened, bloodied and raw, but she said nothing.
He sat next to her in the chair by the bed. He glanced up at Madam Pomfrey as she summoned a quill and parchment and a white dove. After writing a hurried message she sent the dove off.
"Well, you might as well help if you are going to be here." She gave him instructions on how to clean the girl's arms and to bandage them, summoning the supplies.
He wondered why she wasn't using magic to just heal the superficial wounds that she tasked him with but didn't mention it. The thought didn't last long. As he carefully dabbed her skin clean with warm water, the cuts on her forearm started to become visible. He didn't think he could have ever expected what he saw. It turned some of the panic into a complex emotion somewhere between rage, sorrow, and a fierce compulsion to protect her that had only ever surfaced for his brothers, in blood and in everything but blood.
He stared at the letters, stunned.
Jagged and blocky, they started at the wrist and were carved almost all the way to the crook of her elbow. Something rose in his throat, bile, rage filled curses, turned into a sob. The tears that previously gathered in the corners of his eyes spilled down his cheeks.
"Poppy," he croaked. She looked up at him from where she was slipping the contents of a phial down the girl's throat. "Can you fix this?" His pleading voice softened her face as she glanced down at the arm he was holding.
Her own tears gathered in her eyes. She shook her head. "No, it's from a cursed blade. Very little can heal wounds like that."
The doors opened again and a man with silver white hair and beard and deep purple robes entered with long, purposeful strides. He didn't question the tears in Madam Pomfrey's or Sirius' eyes, and glanced down at the patient lying in the hospital bed, his bright blue eyes raked over the figure pausing for a moment at the arm currently being tended to by the boy.
"Dumbledore…" Madame Pomfrey started, but she was interrupted by the Headmaster.
"Can you wake her for me, Poppy?" At this both Madame Pomfrey and Sirius bristled and Dumbledore had to raise a hand to stop Sirius as he rose from his seat.
"Dumbledore! She's barely stable, I just had to give her three blood replenishing potions, a coagulation potion, and a anti-epileptic! I haven't even begun the actual healing she needs let alone pain management!" She was aghast, and Sirius, for once, appreciated her seemingly indignant nature. He fought the urge to take out his wand and snarl at the Headmaster. He knew Dumbledore was a good man, but at that moment he didn't care.
"I understand that at the moment this young lady is gravely injured, but she is a stranger and these are unprecedented times. I have a castle full of students that take priority over this one individual," his voice brokered no argument, and Pomfrey grumbled as she took out a phail and tipped it down the girls throat. "I think it would be best if Mr. Black, went back up to Griffyndor tower for the night."
Sirius glared at Dumbledore and scooted himself closer to the girl's side. "Sorry Professor, even if I could, I wouldn't." He gripped her hand tighter.
Before Dumbledore could protest, the girl stirred. Her face pinched and her eyes welled with tears as they opened, unfocused and wild. She was babbling; "It wasn't us! We didn't take it! Please! Please!" some of the words were an unintelligible, sobbing mess.
Sirius squeezed her hand and spoke softly, getting closer to her face, trying to catch her eye. "Hey there, Love. Shh. We aren't going to hurt you," he used his gentlest voice, using his other hand to stroke her still blood drenched hair away from her forehead. At his voice the girl's eyes shot to his. He was struck that by the candle light in the Hospital Wing her eyes glowed an amber, whiskey color, rather than the cherry wood color they had appeared in the dark corridor.
"Sirius? You're still here?" her words slurred in obvious pain. Dumbledore looked curiously at this.
"'Course I'm still here, Love. Where else would I be?"
"Give her this, Sirius. It'll help with the pain for a moment and make her a little more coherent," cut in Pomfrey, tightly as she handed him a phial of sky blue liquid. Still shooting pointed looks at Dumbledore, she tightened her burgundy dressing gown primly.
"Drink this, Love. It'll help, I promise," he lifted the phial to her lips and as she stared at him. A flicker of doubt crossed her face before she let the potion slide into her mouth. The look bothered Sirius for a moment, but a shudder went through the girl and he was shot with worry that she was going into another seizure, but she seemed to relax after. Her gaze wandered from his, widening as she looked around the room and paused on the Headmaster and froze. She didn't blink, and when he looked, Sirius saw that neither did the Headmaster.
It wasn't until she cried out in pain that he did something. Not knowing exactly why, he rose from his seat and blocked her from the gaze of Dumbledore. He stood, her hand still gripping his, and leveled his eyes directly at the Headmaster.
Before he could direct a scathing comment the Headmaster's way, he was interrupted by the man. "You're a long way from home, my dear. Perhaps we can talk. Privately." Her hand gripped his like a vice.
"You're not...you can't be him. He died," she shuddered and lifting her eyes back to Sirius, she cringed back, letting go of his hand as if burned. "You're both dead! You won't trick me with their faces!" Tears carved through the blood and dirt smeared skin on her face.
"We are very much alive, my dear," Dumbledore said with a kind voice. Sirius wanted to turn to face the girl and offer comfort but, between her fear and his own distrust of Dumbledore's current line of action, he kept himself still. "Is there a way we can prove it to you?"
She was quiet for a moment. Sirius took a moment to glance behind him at the cowering figure. She caught his eye for a moment before looking down quickly. The words carved into her arm still bleed freely, although everything else had more or less ebbed. Despite that she didn't look any better, still covered in drying blood, eyes haunted and frightened and not quite lucid, too thin and frail. She looked like she had one leg in the grave. He had to stop himself from reaching for her hand.
"In your 5th year did you light your bed-curtains on fire?" she asked slowly, not looking up.
"I believe I did that in my 4th year," said Dumbledore with a surprised lift of an eyebrow. He transfigured an armchair for himself and sat, seemingly resigned to the fact that Sirius was not going anywhere. Sirius himself raised an eyebrow at the Headmaster in an impressed sort of shock, but let it slide when the girl addressed him. He turned fully to face her.
"What did you hide behind the loose floorboard in your room at Grimmauld?" she said carefully.
Sirius thought he was beyond shocked at the point, but was proven wrong. He swallowed thickly, completely confused at how this stranger could know anything about him. His name? Sure, there could be a normal explanation for that, and given her state it could be reasonable that she was addled enough to think he had died, but this? This could only be explained by her knowing him. Actually knowing him.
He stared at her for a moment before making his reply. The curiosity that had been on hold started to make an appearance.
"Muggle vinyls, and some muggle cash."
At this the girl let out a croaking sob and reached around his middle and held him to her. He was surprised, and a little relieved that she was no longer frightened of him, even though he was a little frightened of her. In the back of his mind he also wondered if the house elves would be able to wash out his school uniform after all the blood he was soaking up.
"Where did you go? Why didn't you come back? Harry never really recovered, he still checks his mirror every chance he gets, and...and…" she started coughing, and he could feel warm wet blood through his shirt. She shoved away from him and turned to cough and heave over the side of the hospital bed.
Madame Pomfrey having had enough of waiting, figuring if the girl had two out of three she was cleared of suspicion as well. She rushed to her side and started waving her wand and pushing phials to her lips. Once she stopped coughing, Dumbledore spoke once again.
"I'm afraid you have all of us at a disadvantage Miss…?"
"Sir? It's me, Hermione..." The fear was back in her eyes as she glanced at the three individuals confused. Then something seemed to click in her brain, her hands shooting to cover her mouth and eyes widening in horror. Frantically she reached into her shirt and yanked a chain out violently. A small pendant in the shape of two interconnected rings, runes etched around the circumferences, and a small partially shattered hourglass rested between her hands.
Sirius felt his insides freeze. Although he had never seen one in person, he thought knew what that was.
"What year is it?" The girl whispered. Eyes glued to the broken time turner in her hands.
"It's currently September 2nd, 1976."