Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I don't own it. This story is written for fun, not profit. The closest I've ever come to being J. K. Rowling was visiting the café where she used to write.

Chapter 1

In which Hermione writes a letter.

The flat was nothing special, a spartan bedroom/bathroom combination above a family-run Muggle grocery in London. The weak light coming through the tiny, dirty window, on the sill of which was perched a large owl, was the sole thing illuminating a bed with a threadbare blanket, a large wooden chest with no visible lock, a desk with a bit of cardboard put under one of its legs to keep it steady (a book would have been far more effective, but to the room's occupant, such usage of a text would be sacrilegious), and a chair. On this chair there sat a girl, wearing crimson robes to block out the autumn chill, legs crossed in a manner conveying elegance despite the girl's ripped, filthy jeans, visible only because her robes were too short for her, and sneakers. One leg jiggled reflexively, and the other was tapping on the floor as the girl wrote the close of a letter.

Dear Ron, Harry, et al.,

I am going to be gone by the time you receive this, so you needn't worry about them finding me by tracking the owl. And Gwen is smart. She'll find you unnoticed.

In third year, I used a time turner with great regularity. When giving me this, McGonagall told me that it was incapable of taking the wearer back any more than two weeks. Besides, that was confiscated. The time-turners at the ministry can take the bearer back over three hundred years. I don't need to go anywhere near that far back, but I need to go back further than two weeks.

Before he died, Dumbledore told me about the time-turners at the ministry, their rough location, and the wards surrounding them. He told me to make use of the information when the time was right. As you may have realised by this point, I stole one last year when we happened on the rest in the Department of Mysteries' Time Room and smashed them. I thought that the time was right. Having acquired it, I thought better of using it immediately.

I think that the right time to use the time-turner is now. We always suspected that Riddle had hidden the last horcrux somewhere in Hogwarts. I was flipping through the latest edition of Hogwarts: A History (the second volume of this tome was lying beside her, open to page 1013), which includes thirty pages detailing various notable inscriptions in the castle. It mentions one that was found on a stone snake near the Slytherin common room. The snake was smashed in May 1971 by a group of sixth year boys (such a surprise). Before that time, no one had noticed that there were words on the serpent's belly. Of course, most of the writing is now illegible, having been shattered into thousands of tiny fragments, and in any case the snake has long since been lost. What could be read says, "Seek… …soul… …Lord V…" Hogwarts: A History put forth the theory that this was a tribute to the Dark Lord, put there by one of his early followers. Knowing what we now know, however, it seems more likely that one of his enemies who knew about his horcruxes, perhaps Dumbledore, put it there in case of a situation like one we have now. Or Voldemort himself could have put it there, in case he fell and his followers needed to use the horcrux to revive him.

I believe that if I were set the time-turner for 27.5 years, to March 1971 (the most recent time possible if I were going to see the statue before it's broken), I could find the snake and read the writing there. It seems like a fairly simple task, but with any time travel there is risk, and especially when one goes back any more than a year or so. I cannot imagine that anything I do will affect the past, since I plan to be there for only a little while, and I will avoid being seen.

I should be safe in a different location in our own time by the time you get this owl. But if you do not hear from me soon, you understand why. Do not send anyone to find me. It would only endanger you, since if something happens, there is nothing you can do.

I will send an owl when I am safe and have the information we are looking for.

Love to all,

Hermione

It was reckless, she knew, sending them a letter in times like these. But the barn owl Gwen was nothing to attract special attention, and she had an uncanny ability to evade detection as she flew. Hermione tied the letter to the owl's leg and rummaged in her pocket for a treat.

"There you go. It's stale, but I can't go out for more. Take this to Harry, and he'll have something better for you."

The owl hooted and flapped her wings, ready to fly. Hermione reached around her and opened the window. The owl winged her way out of sight.

Hermione closed the window and turned back into the room, rubbing her eyes. She had strained her eyes writing in the gloom, but it would be suicidal to create a magical light. The puppet government of magical Britain, under Voldemort's control, could track her magical signature with ease, should they choose. And Hermione had no doubt that they were monitoring the web of magic closely, looking for a disturbance to tell them her location.

The brightest witch of her age (not vanity, just fact), that careless with her life and, by extension, her friends'? They wish. Then again, her current plan was probably not the brightest ever formed. But it could work. It had to work. It might be their last hope.

Wasn't that a cheery thought? The fate of the wizarding world has been placed on the shoulders of a widely-despised Muggle-born who can't even perform a simple spell using wandless magic, despite many attempts.

Hell, even Ron can do it. Why can't I? He never manages magic before I do. Until now. Despite the war, Hermione was still Hermione, and she had to drag her thoughts away from their neurotic tangent, back to the issue at hand.

In her letter, Hermione had downplayed the danger. There was a reason her time-turner only went back two weeks. The further back a wizard went, the more danger there was. The famous sorceress Saphilia Bibbit had tried to go back a mere five years, and she ended up a gibbering wreck. Time travel messes with one's mind.

Still, it should be easy. And it was, in theory. Get to Hogwarts, find the snake, copy the inscription, and go. Even if someone saw her, she'd be wearing robes that could very well conceal a uniform. The difference in style wouldn't be a problem. Robe fashions hadn't changed much, and no one would be getting a close look at the clothes underneath. She could transfigure Hogwarts-appropriate clothes for herself if she needed to. Like all transfigured objects (especially so with something that was used so often as to wear out the magic, like cloth), they would eventually return to their original state, but by that time she would be long gone.

Time to go. It wasn't likely that anyone had seen the owl, but if anyone had, government officials would be here in seconds. And Hermione wasn't entirely sure that they still needed her alive. Even if they did, nearly dead is still alive, and they certainly didn't need her to be in good condition.

She put Hogwarts: A History in her trunk, shrunk the whole thing, and put it in her pocket. Now, in the last few seconds before she left, could she use magic. What she was doing was technically illegal under any circumstances, since she didn't have a license for this next bit, but by the time anyone could get to her to tell her so, she'd be in 1971.

Hermione shut her eyes and wished for Hogsmeade. She shook off the absurd feeling that she should be wearing glittery shoes and clicking her heels together.

She heard a roaring in her ears and the world went black for a split second. Then she was standing in front of the Hog's Head. A girl who looked like a second-year gave her a quick look from under a Hufflepuff scarf, but no one else paid her any attention. Hogwarts students were milling all about.

Better than she had hoped; it was a Hogsmeade weekend. The gates to the castle would be open. She hurried through the streets. Soon now, I will have company… On cue, she heard a commotion behind her, but she didn't bother looking back. She knew what she would see if she did: a group of black-cloaked figures pushing their way impatiently through the throng. She just had to hope the crowds held them back for long enough.

She came in view of the gates and, now unhindered by masses of shoppers, broke into a run, limping slightly from her recent injury. No healing spell would fix that; it would have to go away by itself if it went away at all. Such is the way of dark magic.

She passed through the iron gates, brushing past a cluster of Slytherins who were on their way down to the village. They turned and gave her dirty looks, but she barely noticed.

Hermione pulled a long, silver chain from under her robes. The last one in existence. She grasped at the hourglass on the end and turned it, but there was no reaction. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that the familiar, silvery-blond head of Lucius Malfoy was drawing ever nearer. In a moment he would be able to reach out and grab her. She couldn't let that happen; taking a Death Eater back with her was the last thing she wanted.

Oh, hello, Lucius. Nice of you to join me twenty-eight years in the past. What am I doing? Trying to find the statue that could bring your master down forever. You don't want me to do that? Oh, dear, that does sound like a problem. Let's sit down and talk about our conflict of interest. In a civilised manner, of course. The ironic thing was, were she a pureblood, that might even be a possibility. Malfoy cared more about blood purity than he did about following Voldemort's instructions exactly, and the old wizarding families were dying out. He wouldn't kill a pureblood unless he had to.

But I'm a mudblood, so I'd better get out of here. She gave the time-turner another desperate wrench, and for a heart-stopping moment the world stood still around her. Then she was being drawn backwards, leaving Malfoy, who had lunged for her, lying in the dirt of the path. Her vision blurred and colors whirled past her, dizzying her. She fought the urge to vomit, although it might be interesting to find out what happened if she did.

The time-turner also twisted space a little bit during its use, if one desired. In third year, Hermione had been able to move from one room to another within Hogwarts grounds. As long as she was within the gates, she should be able to appear in the castle. Hermione was headed for the entrance hall, or she hoped she was.

She closed her eyes against the nausea, opening them just in time to see that she was falling towards a stone floor. Not good. She extended her hand to catch herself, but it folded under her. Then her head connected to the floor with a crunch, and she lost consciousness.

A/N: I'll put this up a few chapters at a time, depending on how much I get done in what expanse of time, and also depending on readers' reactions. So please review, even if you hated it.