Time is running out as the battle with Voldemort approaches, but perhaps time is also the solution. Relationships are reconfigured in the final days. Written for the "Harmonian Wish Fulfilment Chal...
The Wizarding world, observers have noted, seems out of synch with the Muggle world. Oh, it's easy to pass back and forth between them, of course, and a day in one equals twenty-four hours in the other, and all that. But there are things in the Wizarding world that just don't match up with the current era of the Muggle world. The Wizarding world contains holdovers from other eras, as if something had snagged the passage of time in places. If time were a river, you'd say that there were eddies on the Wizard side.
The explanation is simple. Magic is an endotemporal reaction, and periods in which large amounts of magic have been expended have disrupted the smooth flow of time, bringing some events forward, causing some fashions to linger for wizards long beyond their passing on the Muggle side, and sending some things, and even occasionally people, hurtling back.
When Harry came back, an exhausted Hermione reported on her findings. "There is one spell, Tempore Reddere, that can defeat any evil "by returning it to its beginning"," she said.
"That's good, then," Ron said, brightening.
"Not all that good," she told him. "It takes three people to work it, and I couldn't find any record of anyone using it successfully."
Ron looked appalled. "That doesn't sound like much of a plan," he pointed out.
"It's all we've got," Harry said grimly. "Voldemort may be mortal now that the horcruxes have been destroyed, but he's still powerful. What do we have to do, Hermione?"
"If we're going to do this," Hermione said, looking up from the book she kept nervously re-checking, "we need people stationed at each end of the day. Well, I say stationed, but they'll have to be on brooms really, because they'll need to be moving."
"At each end of the day?" Ron repeated. "You mind telling us what that means, exactly?"
"Look, when the earth rotates," Hermione said, pulling a Muggle schoolbook out of her bag, and leafing through it until she'd found an illustration, "there's one line /here/, see, where there's sunlight on one side and the other side's dark. That's the terminus; it's still dusk on one side of it, but already night on the other."
Luna shivered. "The night moving in," she said, sounding scared.
"Well, yes, sort of," Hermione agreed. "To harness the amount of temporal energy we'll need for this spell to work, we need one person on either side of that line, working their bits of the spell--because they have to both do the spell simultaneously, but on different days. Do you see?"
"And they'll have to be flying, because the terminus line will keep moving the whole time they're working the spell," Neville said, sounding impressed. "I get it."
"So they'll redirect the temporal energy, and I'll use it against Voldemort," said Harry flatly, and Hermione nodded, unable to speak. It had looked simple on paper, but hearing Harry say that out loud filled her with dread. What if something went wrong?
"Luna said she needs to talk to you," Neville told Hermione one afternoon not long after that. "She's down by the lake." The days were ticking by at an impossible speed, now; there seemed to be so little time to prepare.
Hermione bit back an impatient reply. Harry was expecting Voldemort to attack any day, maybe any hour, now--he said he could feel him coming closer--and they were all supposed to be getting ready. She didn't have time to go running after Luna or to listen to Luna's wild theories about non-existent creatures, or whatever it was Luna wanted to discuss.
But she went anyway, because someone would have to fetch Luna back to the castle, and it might as well be her. Besides, Luna had been brave, and loyal, and all she ever asked in return was a little kindness. There was time enough for kindness, surely. Hermione promised herself she'd listen tolerantly to whatever it was that Luna wanted to share.
A thick, cold fog hung over Hogwarts constantly these days. In spite of this, Luna was barefoot, sitting peacefully by the lake with as much evident contentment as if it were brilliantly sunny out. She smiled dreamily as Hermione approached.
"Sometimes even really clever people don't see perfectly obvious things," Luna said, in place of a greeting.
"Like Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?" Hermione said, unable to suppress a smile.
"Yes," said Luna seriously, "or like how you aren't in love with Ron."
Hermione stared. "Luna, I...I love Ron," she said finally.
"Of course you do," Luna agreed, "but you aren't in love wth him. That's a different thing."
"That's also none of your business," Hermione said, slightly annoyed but still striving to be patient.
"True," Luna agreed cheerfully. "It just seems so inefficient for you to be with him, when you should have realized by now that just because you wanted him to see you were attractive, didn't mean you belonged together. People make mistakes like that all the time."
"Do they?" Hermione said faintly.
"Oh, yes," Luna assured her. "Don't worry. It will sort itself out."
"It will?" Hermione asked, bewildered.
"Time will tell," Luna said confidently. And standing up, she started towards the castle, not waiting to see if Hermione would follow.
Afterwards, Hermione asked Ron to walk with her, and she told him how she felt. It was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do, but how, she asked herself, could she shrink from being honest now, when they had so little time left to be honest in? We could die, she told herself, and I don't want to die with everything muddled.
Ron hugged her, gently. "I know," he told her, when she'd finished speaking. "I've known for a while now. It's all right. We'll always be friends, Hermione."
"I know," she said, gulping back tears.
When they got back to the castle, dusk had fallen. "He's coming," Harry told them. "Voldemort's coming. Ron, Ginny, go. Find the terminus. You know what to do."
"Ginny and...and Ron?" Hermione asked, her throat suddenly dry. It felt, for one almost unbearable moment, like a punishment for not loving Ron enough, for breaking up with him.
"They're the best flyers we have," Harry said simply, gazing after them as Ron and Ginny raced across the grounds.
"Except for you," she said, "and you can't, because..." Her voice trailed off.
"Because I have to be here, on the ground, dealing with Voldemort," he finished for her. "Yeah."
Hermione shivered, and fought off an urge to cling to him. Strange: once hugging Harry had been the easiest thing in the world, but now that she wanted to more than ever, she felt awkward.
"I need you and Neville and Luna to be ready for the Death Eaters," he told her, as the others joined them. "The rest of the Order will be doing their best to immobilize them, but we have to be prepared--Voldemort's not likely to travel alone.
"Of course we will, Harry," Hermione promised, her voice steady. "We'll be ready."
When it was over, Ron flew to where Harry was lying, dazed, with Hermione kneeling at his side. "That was incredible," Ron said, drunk on adrenalin, a grin of pure triumph crossing his face. "Amazing. You okay, Harry?"
Harry said that yes, he was, but something about his tone made Ron glance anxiously at Hermione, and then at Luna and Neville, who stood nearby. Neville was talking gently to a bereft-looking young woman, who clutched a dark-haired child in her arms.
"Where's Ginny?" Ron asked hollowly. The others exchanged looks.
"We don't know," said Hermione gently. "She didn't come back."
"She could just be flying somewhere else, then," Ron said, but his voice shook.
Neville held out a broom. Ginny's broom. "This fell," he said apologetically. "It just fell out of the sky, along with these two." He gestured at the woman and her child. Hermione's eyes shone with tears. Luna stepped closer to Ron, silently, and stood beside him, waiting for her chance to speak. In her pocket was a crumpled clipping from her father's newspaper, one of the last stories he'd edited. MUGGLE WORLD SAVED BY TIME TRAVELLER, the headline blared. PLUCKY WITCH MASTERED MUGGLE MACHINERY!
John Ashton didn't get a good look at where the girl came from, exactly. He'd been pacing back and forth, ranting about the shortage and quality of new cadets, ignoring offers of a place to sit, a cup of coffee, or a cigarette to calm his nerves, when suddenly there she was, sprawled on the grass practically under his feet.
"Watch out, it's raining redheads," Bill Smith said laconically, and it almost did seem as if she'd fallen from the sky. She sat blinking for a minute, looking dazed, and John felt equally dazed. She was young, whoever she was, but man: what a good-looking kid.
He liked that she stood up on her own feet before he had a chance to help her, and he liked the way she tossed that mass of red hair back over her shoulders. He liked the sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose, even if they were partially obscured by a smudge of dirt. She tucked some sort of stick safely away in a pocket of the bizarre costume she wore--something like academic robes, but torn in places, and soot-stained. She looked, he thought, as if she'd been in the wars herself, but she grinned at him cheerfully enough, so maybe she'd been on the winning side.
"You wouldn't happen to be a sort of junior Amy Johnson, would you?" he asked, grinning back. "You interested in learning to fly a Tiger-Moth at all?"
"My name is Ginny Weasley," she said, lifting her chin in a proud little gesture that made his heart skip a beat, "and there's nothing I can't fly."