Like with all things. Like with all people. With all times. They were changing, so quickly that any attempt to keep things the same would only change them more.
That was Hermione's current predicament. Every second she was stuck here in the past she was eroding the future she loved to hate so much. Every second goes farther from anyone she knew, who knew her. She had a backstory that was as close to her reality as possible, her mother was a dentist, she went to the same muggle primary school, she had two best friends at Illvormorny. She wrote this backstory, she practically lived the life of Hermione Graves— but it is where they're lives differed, that she paid attention to. Herbert Percival Graves, her father, was the pureblood scion of House Graves and a legendary curse-breaker. He died in 1968 due to complications with a potion, Hermione Graves would have been 7. Or Henry and Ronald Forman, her friends from Illvormorny— she had underlined their fate until the paper broken, a hidden message from the Hermione that wrote this— they died, they are not coming back. She tried to not to interpret the message as anything more than was on the page but almost couldn't ignore the voice yelling at her in her head, "Hermione Granger died, you are not going back." So much so that she wondered if she had charmed the words to remind her of that. Either way, it didn't stop her from looking for a way back, what did she know about Temporal Displacement anyway? (Quite a bit) Not enough. The research was even more difficult upon realizing she had read every book that she could that even mentioned Temporal Displacement, so she was now even more frustrated by the prospect of learning Ancient Greek in order to find out if Μυστικά που χάθηκαν στο χρόνο was about Time Travel or simply has the word for lost and time in the title.
And then there was Black, Regulus, who was now quite obviously following her making her research all the more difficult. She didn't think he had caught her going to the Room of Requirements yet, but she was beginning to think his sculking about was because she'd technically stolen a book from the Restricted Section. He had definitely seen her reading it. Not to mention his generally annoying persona and the subtle nagging he managed to do whenever they spoke. What annoys Hermione the most perhaps was that she would have appreciated his nagging if it came from Harry or Ron. He would wake her up if she was dozing in the Library or remind her that she had to eat or, the worst offense, sit next to her in every class. It wasn't even that he said anything, in fact, it was that he didn't say anything. He took notes. She had never had a friend that didn't ask to borrow her notes before, not that she minded sharing much, not that she considered Regulus a friend. He was almost like her own personal nurse, making sure she did all of the necessary tasks to stay alive.
"Graves," he whispered from across their study table. She looked up at him unsurprised at the name now, it had been a week since her last bout of memory loss and she was hoping she wouldn't have any more symptoms. "I think we missed dinner. Want me to show you where the kitchens are? You, of all people, will most definitely need that information."
She shrugged just barely looking up at him from her book, surprised at his offer. She knew where the kitchens were of course, but she hadn't really expected him, too. She considered him for a second, as she would have anyone else. Hermione was hungry, she had been in the library since the end of classes today and, now that she thought about it, she only had some bread at lunch because she didn't want to sit at the Slytherin table. But- because there was always a but- if she agreed to go to the kitchens with Regulus he'd probably offer to walk her back to the dorms, the snake pit. "Sorry I made you miss dinner. I'm not really hungry right now."
It was his turn to gap across the table in surprise, "You're kidding, right? I know I'm not your favorite person, Graves. But- you can't skip meals. I don't know you well enough to know if this is a problem with you or if you're just stressed but- you shouldn't be skipping meals."
Hermione's book snapped shut of its own accord. "Neither, I'm not skipping meals," she said but the words felt dry in her mouth, she could feel her heart in her ears. "I just wish you would leave me alone." Hermione suddenly couldn't tell whether the weight in her chest was guilt or an approaching panic attack.
"Fine!" He said he put his head down and started writing something down on a paper. "But eat something." his voice was tight and annoyed and she immediately felt guilty for telling him to leave. But he was already gone, the paper had quickly scribbled directions to the Hufflepuff common room and the phrase tickle the pear in barely legible script Hermione recognized from the note he would eventually write Voldemort. She stuffed it in her bag haphazardly, hoping it would disappear altogether.
She tried to go back to her reading but ultimately shoved that book into her bag as well. Hermione would like to say she was an emotionally aware person, she was, in fact, skipping meals, avoiding the common room and taking out her anxiety and hatred of her situation on the only person trying to help her. She wasn't really thinking about her surroundings as she made her way to the kitchens, if she had been she might have realized someone was following her. But as it was she hadn't noticed anyone or thing behind her.
Hermione tickled the pear in the absolute right spot, expertly jumped over trick stairs and had even taken a shortcut that Harry had told her about. She had been so caught up in her train of thought even as she waited for the elf, Pilly, to bring her some leftovers of some sort- that when a familiar voice called "Granger!" she almost fell out of her seat. It sounded like Harry; Harry had come for her, she could feel her cheeks becoming wet as she spun around. Only to find herself alone, her heart ached as she stared at the empty space in front of the kitchen entrance. Hermione tried to tell herself that feeling was relief, that Harry being here would only complicate matters. That was when a man appeared before her, much like Harry would in her own time from under the same Invisibility Cloak. But she knew it wasn't him, her momentary lapse and longing for her friend behind her, she stared at this man left her feeling just a bit empty.
It wasn't him of course, this man might have had some of the same characteristics but he wasn't the twin everyone had claimed he was. He and Harry had similar facial structures and if they were sitting next to each other perhaps she would have mistaken them for each other, but James Potter was no seeker. He loomed over her at least six feet tall and had a build more reminiscent of Oliver Wood. She stopped staring at him as Pilly came up to her with a large portion of brisket, "Here you are, Missy. Oh, Master James!" Pilly shot across the room and was now clinging tightly to his legs listing off different meals she could make him.
He made a request for some bread pudding and tea before watching her rushing off to gather up all the elves to cook the dish. "So, Granger," He smirked at her as he leaned on the table next to her. "what brings a snake like you to these parts?"
She just barely managed not to flinch at being called a snake. "It's Graves. And I missed dinner, so unlike you, I'm not here for a second dessert."
He pulled out the stool he was leaning over and sat next to her. "I see. Are you sure your name isn't Hermione Jean Granger?"
She paused, for a second at her real name, perhaps a second too long. "Absolutely Positive. Are you sure of your name?"
"James Fleamont Potter at your service."
"I wouldn't advertise your middle name, it's a bit weird." She chuckled despite herself, as she picked up her fork and stared at her meal.
He laughed, "How dared you? Fleamont is a family name. My father's name and it will name my son's name, too!"
She suffocated her own laugh as she thought of Harry being Fleamont. "What do you want?" she asked before taking a bite of her food.
"I want to know who Hermione Granger is. Because she isn't the new snake in the pit. She knows every trick step and passageways that I didn't find until I was a Fourth Year, and I don't think I've seen you talk to anyone outside of teachers and Regulus Black." He looked rather proud that he had come up with all of this evidence that she wasn't who she said she was. Hermione supposed she was moderately impressed- if not creeped out that he had obviously been following her. And that led her to one dangerous and needy thought: if he had already become so suspicious of her that he had taken to following her around and (most likely) checking the map for her... Would telling him really be that bad?
Yes, it would be terrible. And No, she shouldn't do it. But maybe it would somehow work itself out.
She bit her lip and grimaced slightly. "My name is Hermione. Not Hermione Granger- Hermione Graves. I am the 'new snake in the pit,'" she pulled out the crumpled piece of paper Regulus had given her. "My friends told me about the stairs and the passageway and the kitchens. And just because you don't see me talk to anyone other than Regulus doesn't mean I don't. We are in different houses and different years, you don't know me Potter." She tried not to feel guilty at her tone of voice. She did.
She wished he was Harry for a second as Pilly placed his tea and pudding in front of him. They ate in silence and both knew that they would likely never speak to each other again. She silently reminded herself there was no reason for her to feel guilty about James Potter. He wasn't Harry and with her luck, she was never going to see Harry again either.
Things were certainly changing.
Thank you to everyone that followed and thank you to Invader Johnny and FALLENANGELS24 for commenting. Thanks for reading, next chapter we see a bit of Regulus' "friends"