“We just ran for our lives through a tunnel filled with men with faces like pigs, our only clue being this glowing green lump of what my preliminary scans read as flesh and that my friend here put in his pocket — which is absolutely disgusting by the way, Doctor, make sure you wash your coat thoroughly — and the tunnel full of the creatures that just dragged off one of our friends to gods knows where leads directly to this room, so if anything, we should be asking the questions. Especially since I don’t know who Laszlo is.”
Disclaimer: Bolded text is taken directly from the episode Daleks in Manhattan from Doctor Who 2005 Series 3. I do not own Harry Potter or Doctor Who. There’s way too much racism, sexism, queerphobia, and discriminatory behavior up the wazoo for me to claim the original content for my own. I’ll stick to fanfiction thanks.
Author’s Note: This chapter took me a long time to write. This story takes place in 1930, during the heart of the Great depression. Right now, we are facing a global pandemic, and an economic downturn that made writing this chapter and this fic very difficult, especially since I’m still struggling with how Doctor Who portrayed Martha as a character and the things I want to change about her representation, particularly during her trips to the past. Since I’m not an economist or a historian, but I do take all my writing seriously — yes, even fanfiction — I wanted to do this justice, which is part of why this has taken so long. In the end, I stuck fairly close to the episode in terms of history, dubiously trusting that the historiographers of the show did at least a passable job of getting their facts right. Also, warning to Fantastic Beasts fans: sorry, but it ain’t gonna happen. I’m stating here and now that as much as I think the niffler is cute and Newt is a good example of non-toxic masculinity, those movies are a hot mess that I will not touch with a twenty foot pole, so we’re just gonna pretend none of it happened. Not my suitcase, not my demiguise.
Also, please check out the new fic in this series An Unconventional Family Structure, which takes place in the far future relative to here. It was a lot of fun to write. It’s also a Torchwood fix-it, so if that’s your jam, you’ll like.
NEW YORK, 1930
“Ah, will you smell that Atlantic breeze? Nice and cold. Martha , Harry, Luna, Hermione; Have you met my friend?” the Doctor asked cheerfully, pointing upward.
Martha gasped. “Is that — oh my God, that’s the Statue of Liberty!”
Distracted by Martha’s delight, the Doctor missed the unease that briefly crossed the faces of the trio as they looked up at the statue, imobile, for at least the present moment.
“Gateway to the New World. Give me you tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the Doctor recited cheerfully. The trio, particularly Hermione, did their best not to roll their eyes at this description. This Doctor was far too optimistic, in her opinion.
“Brilliant, I’ve always wanted to come to New York. The real one, I mean, the original,” Martha grinned. “Rather than —”
“The new new new new —” Harry began slyly.
“Yes, Harry, we get the point.” Hermione interjected, “The three of us have been to this New York before, but this is a newer New York than we’re used to. Because look at that —” she pointed, and in the distance they saw the Empire State building, still under construction.
“Well, from the looks of this newspaper, sometime after November 1st 1930, depending on how old it is, though it can’t be more than a few days,” Luna replied serenely, holding up a paper she had found on a nearby bench.
“Eighty years ago. It’s funny, because you see all those old newsreels all in black and white like it’s so far away, but here we are. It’s real. It’s now. Come on then. Where do we want to go first?” Martha asked, rubbing her hands together in excitement.
Harry looked over Luna’s shoulder and tugged the paper out of her hand.
“I think we’ll have to stick around a bit, make this more than a scenic detour” he frowned.
“Oh?” Martha asked, concerned at his tone.
“Look at the headline,” Harry showed the paper to Hermione, Martha and the Doctor.
“Hooverville Mystery Deepens,” the Doctor read out, his brow furrowed.
“What’s Hooverville?” Martha asked.
“It’s where we’re going next, back in the TARDIS everyone!” the Doctor gestured for them to follow, and they all piled in.
“Herbert Hoover, he was the… thirty-first? President of the United States?” Hermione proposed.
“Yes, came to power a year ago, up till then, New York was a boom town, the Roaring Twenties and then—”
“The Wall Street Crash, yeah? When was that, 1929?” Martha supplied.
“Yeah. Whole economy wiped out overnight. Thousands of people unemployed. All of a sudden, the huddled masses doubled in number with nowhere to go. So, they ended up here,” the TARDIS landed with a thud, “in Central Park.”
“They actually live in the park? In the middle of the city?” Martha was shocked. “They were allowed to do that, no police chasing them out or anything?”
“Where would they chase them to?” Hermione asked with a tone of dismay. “I’m not sure the prison-industrial complex was quite that built up yet, to hold this many people.”
They walked out of the TARDIS and through the park to see a shanty town, overlooked by dozens of Manhattan skyscrapers. The Doctor was talking to Harry and Luna.
“Ordinary people lost their jobs. Couldn’t pay the rent and they lost everything. There are places like this all over America. No one’s helping them. You only come to Hooverville when there’s nowhere else to go.”
The five of them watched as two men fought, one accusing the other over stealing his bread. Martha’s breath was caught in her throat, as she had a rough expectation of what would happen to a black man who threatened a white man, or worse, went through with that threat, in the 1930s.
Another black man came out of a nearby tent, speaking with authority and breaking up the fight,
“Cut that out! Cut that out right now!”
“He stole my bread!”
“That’s enough! Did you take it?” the leader snapped.
“I don’t know what happened. He just went crazy.” the white man insisted
Hermione’s jaw clenched as she itched to say something, but held her tongue.
“I said that’s enough! Now, think real careful before you lie to me.”
“I’m starving, Solomon,” the white man said dismally.
Soloman held out his hand patiently, and the white man reluctantly took the bread out from inside his coat.
“We all starving. We all got families somewhere.” Solomon broke the bread, performing a judgement of Solomon in giving each man half the loaf.
“No stealing and no fighting. You know the rules. Thirteen years ago I fought in the Great War. A lot of us did. And the only reason we got through was because we stuck together. No matter how bad things get, we still act like human beings. It’s all we got.”
The two fighters walked away, in separate directions. Hermione and Martha both blinked in surprise that the white man submitted to Solomon’s authority so quickly. This was certainly a different 1930 than they were expecting. Harry and Luna also looked confused, but the Doctor was focused.
“Come along.” said the Doctor, before speaking to Solomon. “I suppose that makes you the boss around here.”
“And, er, who might you be?” Solomon asked, looking over the group carefully.
“He’s the Doctor. I’m Martha. They’re Harry, Hermione, and Luna.”
“A doctor. Huh. Well, we got stockbrokers, we got a lawyer, but you’re the first doctor. Neighborhood gets classier by the day.” He looked curiously at Luna, who was seemingly staring off into space in the distracted way that she did, and Hermione, who was still tense. Harry, meanwhile, had been surreptitiously scanning the perimeter for magical signatures or anomalies, and had come up frustratingly short.
“How many people live here?” Martha asked.
“At any one time, hundreds. No place else to go. But I will say this about Hooverville. We are a truly equal society. Black, white, all the same .” He paused. “ All starving. So you’re welcome, all of you. ” He paused again, before turning to the Doctor. “ But tell me. Doctor, you’re a man of learning, right? Explain this to me. That there’s going to be the tallest building in the world ,” he pointed to the as-of-yet-to-be-completed Empire State Building. “ How come they can do that, when we got people starving in the heart of Manhattan?” He spread his arms wide to survey the assembly of tents and structures that the people had made for themselves.
“It’s not right,” Hermione massaged the base of her neck in anxiety as she murmured to herself. “Every time I see it I know it isn’t right and there’s nothing —”
“Hey, Hermione,” Harry pulled her aside and held onto her arms gently. “Love, what’s going on?”
“How can you stand it? I’d almost forgotten, it’s been so long, but how can you stand — all these people, all this suffering? And for what? Sure we can stop the Carrionites, or the Cybermen, or the Daleks, or the Angels, or whatever monster of the week, but poverty? Can we stop humanity?”
“I —” Harry faltered. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from traveling with the Doctor, it’s that, throughout time, humanity is as amazing as it is terrible. Right now, humanity is showing how terrible it can be. But these people, here, who have built this community, that man, Solomon? I have a feeling he’s one of the amazing ones. So let’s see what he has to say. I get the feeling this is going to be another one of those adventures where we save the world,” Harry said with a wry smile.
Hermione smiled ruefully in return. “We’ve been saving the world since we were kids. Might as well continue the trend.”
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While Harry and Hermione were having their private conversation, Luna gravitated closer to Solomon, who tried his best to not show his discomfort at the invasion of his personal space.
“So it’s true, what they say in the paper, people are going missing?” Martha asked.
“It’s true alright,” Solomon confirmed gravely, beginning to walk toward a particular tent, still a little uncomfortable at how close Luna was to him.
“But what does missing mean, exactly? People must come and go all the time, it’s not like you’re keeping a register,” the Doctor scratched his head.
“Come on in, ” Solomon waved them into his tent. It was cramped, but the three of them were touched at his hospitality. Though the truth was, he also probably didn’t want to alarm anyone else in the camp more than they already had been. “ This is different.”
“In what way?” Martha asked as she sat gently on Solomon’s cot. The Doctor sat down next to her, still keen to hear what Solomon had to say.
Solomon settled into his chair and leaned forward. “Someone takes them, at night. We hear something, someone calls out for help. By the time we get there, they’re gone like they vanished into thin air.” Luna was sitting on the ground, staring intently at something just above Solomon’s left shoulder. But, focused as he was on his conversation with the Doctor, he was at last able to ignore her.
“And you’re sure someone’s taking them?” the Doctor suggested, though Martha could tell that the Doctor didn’t buy his own suggestion. Solomon didn’t either, but he justified his position anyway, playing along.
“Doctor, when you got next to nothing, you hold on to the little you got. Your knife, blanket, you take it with you. You don’t leave bread uneaten, fire still burning.”
“So the question is, who’s taking them and what for?” the Doctor mused.
Before anyone could say anything else Luna stood up suddenly, still staring at Solomon. “Time beats around you like a heart.” She cocked her head to the side. “I wonder why you are at the center of everything?”
“Luna,” Hermione hissed, coming into the tent. “What are you doing? Leave the poor man alone.”
“I think I saw her eating those psychic gummy worms from Delphi IV last night,” Harry admitted guiltily “I thought she had slept them off but…” considering Luna was now swaying to a music only she could hear while holding a bewildered Martha, he was now doubting that assessment.
Just then, a young man they did not know burst into the tent. “Solomon! Mister Diagoras is here.”
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Mister Diagoras was a smarmy looking fellow, and everyone in their group took an instant disliking to him. Nevertheless, everyone in the group, save Luna, who was most definitely high as a kite, and Harry, who felt responsible for her given that he neglected to tell anyone else about her indulgence, went with Frank (the man who had informed them of Mr. Diagoras’ arrival) and Solomon on the adventure that definitely wasn’t sketchy at all what are you talking about this is 110% safe don’t you trust the guy with the slicked back hair in an all black suit who walks around with henchmen and gives off the vibe that he would sell out his own mother for a quick buck?
While the Doctor, Martha, Hermione, Frank, and Solomon went to clear out the tunnel for Diagoras, Harry took Luna back to the TARDIS. She wasn’t at all steady on her feet, and Harry was starting to worry that this was something more serious than simply psychic gummy worms, for surely they wouldn’t have affected her quite this badly, and with such a time delay too.
Finally, they got back to the TARDIS and Harry got Luna settled on the seat. Taking out his wand, he did a vitals check, noting with no small amount of relief that everything seemed to be in order, her heartsbeats regular, her temperature normal, her breathing steady. When he checked her brain activity it showed she was awake and that all sorts of neurons were firing and nothing seemed particularly out of order, but honestly he wasn’t a healer and had never really understood the advanced parts of that scan. He was mostly checking to make sure that she wasn’t dying, though considering the circumstances that would be highly unlikely. He was fairly certain that the only problem was the gummy worms. He frowned and did another spell to check her magic levels, and his eyes widened as he registered how much artron energy she was excreting.
“Oh no, not again, not again. Every time this happens, and I’m never ready. At least the Doctor isn’t here. He didn’t know last time, so he can’t know this time.” Harry pulled out his sonic screwdriver — a gift this Doctor hadn’t given him yet — and locked the TARDIS doors. Realizing that at this point Luna wouldn’t be able to walk at all, he simply picked her up and carried her deeper into the TARDIS, not to their room but to another. It was described by the Doctor once as a “regeneration sauna” if there was such a thing.
It was a place for one to safely release large amounts of energy without damaging the systems of the ship or building around them. The way the Doctor spoke of it, Harry got the sense that he had destroyed one or two many places via regeneration, and could use a place like this. It was also where Harry had been bringing Luna whenever she had one of her artron flashes. He just hoped that whatever trouble the others were in, it wasn’t something they would need his and Luna’s help for.
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Hermione closed her eyes, counted to ten, and tried not to swear because this is a situation where she really could have used the help of her partners, who were unfortunately not here . Instead she was stuck with a Doctor who she was steadily coming to realize was not her Doctor, not yet, and this whole different man was a completely different creature from the person she expected him to be. If these ridiculous men had just trusted her to handle the situation, and stun the pig men, they wouldn’t have had to run, and they wouldn’t have had to leave Frank behind. And now a man had died, or at the very least had been captured by creatures of an unknown species and alliance, all because they didn’t trust her to handle the situation. If they’d had three wands they could have handled the situation with ease, but with nothing but running companions at her back, Hermione had no choice but to run also. What a waste.
And now they were being held at gunpoint. Great.
“We just ran for our lives through a tunnel filled with men with faces like pigs, our only clue being this glowing green lump of what my preliminary scans read as flesh and that my friend here put in his pocket—which is absolutely disgusting by the way, Doctor, make sure you wash your coat thoroughly—and the tunnel full of the creatures that just dragged off one of our friends to gods knows where leads directly to this room, so if anything, we should be asking the questions. Especially since I don’t know who Laszlo is,” Hermione snapped. Perhaps she was just a little short on patience today, but she really, really didn’t like being held at gunpoint, fake gun or no.
“Laszlo’s my boyfriend,” the woman said defensively, somewhat intimidated by Hermione’s glare, but trying not to show it. “Or was my boyfriend until he disappeared two weeks ago,” she frowned. “No letter, no goodbye, no nothing. And I’m not stupid. I know some guys are just pigs but not my Laszlo. I mean, what kind of guy asks you to meet his mother before he vamooses?” The woman was waving the revolver around in a casual manner such that everyone else was wincing, and Hermione rolled her eyes at the rest of the cohort, who had yet to cotton on to the fact that it was a fake.
“Yeah. It might, might just help if you put that down,” the Doctor said gently.
“Huh? Oh, sure. Oh, come on. It’s not real. It’s just a prop. It was either that or a spear.”
“Called it,” Hermione coughed. Solomon looked at her strangely, but she said nothing further.
“What is your name?” Martha asked not unkindly.
“Tallulah—” the Doctor started.
“With three Ls and an H,” she nodded firmly.
“Right, got it, listen, Tallulah, Laszlo’s not the only one who’s gone missing—people are disappearing every night.”
“And those creatures…” Solomon murmured. Hermione looked at him sympathetically. She was perhaps being harsh in her earlier frustration. The man was scared, unused to aliens or any kind of creature outside of the normal muggle experience, especially in 1930. And he had just lost someone who was, if not a friend, at least a familiar acquaintance.
“What do you mean, creatures?” Tallulah asked, curious. “The same ones that took your friend? You think they took Laszlo?”
“We’re going to find out,” Martha told her reassuringly.
“Look, everyone is in danger right now. We’re going to sort it out, but first I need to figure out what this is,” the Doctor took the jellyfishlike object out of his pocket and Tallulah startled back with a look of revulsion.
“Yuck! And you really were keeping that in your coat?”
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The Doctor and Hermione start to work on building a DNA scanner for the piece of flesh they found in the underground tunnel. While Hermione was able to verify that it was artificial, though in a way that was nearly imperceptible from organic, flesh, that it was nonliving, and nonmagical in nature, that was about the sum of what they could determine via magic alone. What they needed was to rig up a DNA scan, and crude as it may be, to get a chromosomal reading and find out where it was from. With the various props in the area, in combination with Hermione’s transfiguration skills, they had one up in running easily. The last part they needed came from Solomon, who was able to track them down a small Art Nouveau radio from backstage.
“This is perfect for the capacitors we need, and once we compare the results of this scan against the readings Hermione took we’ll know where this is from, and we’ll be one step closer to stopping whoever is controlling those creatures and causing the disappearances,” the Doctor said distractedly as he began to take apart the radio, passing bits and pieces to Hermione, who was integrating them into the mechanism they had created.
“How about you, Doctor? Where are you from? I’ve been all over. I never heard anybody talk like you. Just exactly who are you?”
“Oh, I’m just sort of passing by,” the Doctor said offhandedly, and Hermione rolled her eyes at the standard reply.
“I’m not a fool, Doctor,” Solomon replied shortly, and Hermione cheered internally. She loved the Doctor, she really did, but sometimes he needed to be put in place, and remember that not all people were as small as he treated them.
“No. Sorry,” the Doctor redoubled his efforts to complete working on the device, but he still continued to pay attention to Solomon, who had gone over to the Sewer entrance and was staring at the cover that he had closed over Frank.
“I was so scared ,” Solomon said in almost a whisper. “ I let them take Frank because I was just so scared ” Louder, he said “I got to get back to Hooverville. With these creatures on the loose, we got to protect ourselves. Ain’t no one else going to help us.”
“Good luck,” the Doctor and Hermione both chorused, before appearing to go back to work.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for, for all our sakes.”
Once he was gone, the Doctor turned to Hermione. “Have you heard from Harry and Luna? They could help the people in Hooverville. Or they could help us. This will work, but if they could pilot the TARDIS here that would be better.” He asked in a low voice.
“I haven’t no, but that isn’t something to worry about overmuch. They would have called in a true emergency, or I would have felt a disturbance in this,” Hermione held up her hand, which featured a set of rings. “Each of these rings is attuned to one of them, and we can connect to each other through them. Not telepathically, but I can sense emotional, psychic, and physical health for the Harry and Luna aligned with my timestream through these.”
“Those are handy. Where’d you get them?” the Doctor asked offhandedly.
Hermione paused before answering. “Spoilers.” she coughed. “Anyway, Doctor, I think we’re ready to find out where this beastie is from, don’t you?”
“Right!” the Doctor turned back to the mechanism they had created and the glowing piece of flesh they had wired into it. “What are you?”
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Harry stroked Luna’s hair gently as she slept. He had taken her back to their room in the TARDIS, once she had exuded the excess energy. She wouldn’t be up to any adventuring for a while though, and he didn’t really want to leave her when he didn’t know what had triggered the reaction this time. The Doctor had explained, in the brief moments they had with her, that the artron flashes were completely natural reactions to certain events, and that they would go away with time as Luna learned to control them, but that the knowledge of them had to be kept from her past selves at all cost.
“Easier said than done Doctor,” Harry muttered to himself. “Easier said than done.”
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“This is artificial,” the Doctor murmured.
“Yes, we knew that,” Hermione sighed. “It came up in my original scan.”
“Yes, but you also thought it might be organic, this genetical engineering—it’s brilliant. Marvelous work. Hold on. Oh whoever made this is clever.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. The Doctor was doing his… Doctor-thing. She needed to just let him at this point.
“Fundamental DNA type four six seven dash nine eight nine. Nine eight nine. Hold on, that means planet of origin. Skaro.”
Hermione froze. “Did you just say —”
“Where’s Martha?” the Doctor jumped up.
“She was with Tallulah in her dressing room, but now they’re performing onstage —”
“Martha—MARTHA!” The Doctor’s shouts became frantic as they heard shouts from the stage.
“Tallulah, where’s Martha?” Hermione asked as they got to where Tallulah and the other performers were clustered around the edge of the stage, clearly comforting each other.
“I don’t know, she ran off the stage.”
There was another scream, recognizably Martha this time, and they all ran back to the source of the noise, the props room, where the sewer grate was now open again.
“Doctor, they must have taken Martha too,” Hermione said in a low voice and she shoved the grate aside quickly, lowering herself down the ladder, the Doctor following quickly. It was as they were looking around, trying to decide which way Martha could have been taken, that they realized Tallulah had followed them.
“No, no, no, no, no way. You’re not coming.”
“Tell me what’s going on,” Tallulah demanded.
“There’s nothing you can do, go back.”
“Look, whoever’s taken Martha, they could’ve taken Laszlo, couldn’t they?”
“Tallulah, you’re not safe down here.”
“Then that’s my problem. Come on, which way?” Tallulah snapped.
“This way,” Hermione directed, before the Doctor could get a word in. “I used Point Me to track Martha’s location. And stop patronizing us at every turn Doctor. It doesn’t become you, you are not a god,” Hermione snarled before stalking forward. The Doctor took a step back, startled. “I never said I wanted to be.” Frowning, and rather confused, he followed Hermione and Tallulah.
“Look, I don’t want to get in the middle of a lover’s spat—” Tallulah started.
“We are not lovers,” Hermione said hotly, before putting up a hand to signal silence and then rapidly stepping backwards, pushing both Tallulah and the Doctor into the wall and flicking up her wand to create a barrier between them and the thing that was approaching. The Doctor pulled them back further and they hid in a service alcove until it was safely past.
“What was that metal?” Tallulah asked. Meanwhile, the Doctor was pulling at his hair, nearly tearing it out of his scalp.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no! They survived. They always survive while I lose everything!”
“That, Tallulah,” said Hermione in a tight, clipped, tone, “was a Dalek. It is a creature, encased in a metal shell, who was born to hate and whose purpose is to see everything that is not a Dalek destroyed. It will not stop until every human being on this earth is dead. You, me, and this entire world must end, and even then it will never be satisfied because the Dalek knows not satisfaction, only hatred.”
“But if it’s not a human being, that kind of implies it’s from outer space. OK, that’s a no with the kidding. Boy. Well, what’s it doing here, in New York?”
“That’s it, you’re in far too much danger here, Hermione, can you apparate her back to her dressing room?” the Doctor asked.
“Of course I can. I’m all for autonomy, but Daleks in play changes the game entirely. Tallulah, I’d advise not holding your breath. And I hope you didn’t have a big lunch.” Before Hermione could take Tallulah’s arm however, she screamed, and it was easy to see why. There was a pig man right in front of them, who was able to see them thanks to Hermione dropping her shield in preparation to apparate. Rookie move, she should have checked before dropping defenses.
That said, luck seemed to be on their side, because as it turned out it wasn’t just any particular pig man — it was Laszlo.
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From what Laszlo told them, they were able to determine that those taken were sorted into “high intelligence” and “low intelligence.” Low intelligence were transformed into “pig slaves” while high intelligence were taken to a mysterious laboratory. Since Laszlo had escaped part of the way through his transformation, he wasn’t completely in the know about what went on in the laboratory, but with his help, the Doctor was able to meet up with a freshly reunited Martha and Frank, who were recently sorted into the “high intelligence” bracket.
Meanwhile, Tallulah had reluctantly agreed to go back to the theatre, and so Hermione apparated her back to her dressing room, before returning, using a disillusionment charm and Harry’s invisibility cloak, to provide back up for Martha, the Doctor, and Frank. She also sent a message to Harry to be on alert, and received a message in return that Luna was safe but out of commission for the time being, but Harry was monitoring the situation from the TARDIS console room. She slipped on a pair of spectacles that would provide feedback to the TARDIS console monitor, slipped on a back up communicator just in case
As Hermione was entering the room she saw Martha stand apart from the line — probably because the Doctor couldn’t afford to be noticed and thus someone else had to do the work for him, as usual, and demand to be told the nature of the “Final Experiment.”
“Since when do Daleks have a concept of the need to bear witness?” she heard Harry murmur in her ear, a response to the Dalek’s non-answer to Martha’s question.
Given that she was invisible, no one could see the revulsion on Hermione’s face as Dalek Sec said that the “Children of Skaro” would walk again, and a bipedal creature crawled out of Dalek casing, wearing Mr. Diagoras’s suit, with but a single eye and a Dalek body for a face. As smoke billowed out from around them the creature spoke.
“I am a human Dalek. I am your future.”
A/N 2: I have a bit of personal beef with the Doctor and his actions in this episode, and the particular way that Hermione is characterized in this fic + the fact that this is a Harry & Luna lite chapter means that this chapter is a bit darker than some of the others. Sorry about that! The Shenanigans will be back in FULL FORCE once we get to the Lazarus Experiment.
Minor edits 10/21/2020