Once upon a time, in one particular universe or dimension or whatever you choose to call it, Hermione Jane Granger was not born an only child, but in fact had an older sister.
Clytemnestra Jill Granger was nine years older then Hermione, but just as quiet and bookish and clever. The two girls were remarkably similar in appearance, with the same untameable hair and slightly too-long front teeth, though Ness– as Clytemnestra preferred to be called, having being saddled with an even more obscure, unpronounceable Greek name then her younger sister– had their father's darker hair, closer to mahogany then Hermione's chestnut curls.
Despite the age difference between the girls, Ness loved her baby sister (as she persistently called Hermione, despite the maturity the younger girl's extremely high IQ lent her) and Hermione practically worshipped her sister. Hermione was a lonely child; she had no friends and she was bullied almost relentlessly by her peers. Ness was everything to her– absolutely everything.
But if Hermione was bullied by her schoolmates, then Ness could be considered downright tortured by hers. She was a gentle, soft-spoken girl by nature who'd had the misfortune of developing earlier then her classmates, leaving her with the sort of eye-catching curves that most teenage girls would literally sell their souls for. And she was tormented for it by her peers, with boys constantly making lewd comments and gestures. And the girls were even worse, as hard as that could be to believe– her homework, lunch and belongings would be stolen and thrown into dumpsters or flushed in the loos, the locker-room was hellish as her bra would be ripped from her hands, and sometimes the girls would even go so far as to gang up on her and physically hit, scratch and kick her. More then once she'd had to hide in the bathrooms for hours on end.
Ness was so isolated and so tormented that when she reached her breaking point, intellectually Hermione couldn't even be surprised. A terrible 'prank' had gone horrifically wrong. Ness had been cornered by a group of bullies after school, forcibly stripped bare and tied to one of the football poles. One of the bullies had then rung Richard and Helen Granger and told them that Ness was spending the night at her place. When a hysterical Hermione had tried to convince her parents otherwise, knowing deep down that her sister wasn't safe, Richard and Helen had been too excited about their eldest finally making friends to see Hermione's desperate pleas as anything other then a little girl being afraid to lose her sister as her best friend.
Hermione didn't sleep a wink and Ness spent the entire night tied to that pole, as bare as the day she'd been born. It was a freezing London night and Ness almost died. She was unconscious when the school's groundskeeper had arrived and found her, a small mercy. The school nurse rang an ambulance and Ness was treated in hospital for severe hypothermia. She was discharged after only a few days with a clean bill of health, but something had been damaged irreparably inside her. She never named the bullies responsible for her ordeal, never fully disclosed to anyone the horrors she had suffered that night, and instead seemed to fade into herself more and more every day, until the horrific evening when Hermione was seized with the sudden, paralysing knowledge that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Determined not to fail her beloved sister again, Hermione followed the pull in her chest to the upstairs bathroom. She banged her small fists desperately against the locked door until something inside her seemed to explode out, reducing part of the door to splinters. But even as she half-fell inside the bathroom, it was already clear that she was too late.
The water of the bath was a deep, murky red and Ness was as white as the crimson-splattered tiles on the floor, the kitchen knife she'd used to carve into her own wrists dropped on the floor beside the tub.
Hermione's memory of what happened next was blurred. The only thing that really stuck out was when she'd fallen into the tub while desperately trying to pull Ness out and, in the confusion of Richard trying to get both girls out of the bath, she ended up getting her head pushed under.
The lukewarm bathwater tasted of rust and copper and death, and no amount of brushing her teeth or chugging mouthwash would rinse it away.
After the funeral, Helen and Richard decide to move away from the area. It was while helping to pack Ness's room into boxes that Hermione came across Ness's collection of Ancient Greek legends. Ness had loved those old legends– both sisters had been named after characters from them, after all; Hermione for the daughter of Helen of Troy, and Ness for Clytemnestra, sister of Helen of Troy. After a moment of hesitation, Hermione decided to pack the books in her own bag, instead of boxing them away with the rest of things to be kept in storage.
Hermione wasn't expected to start attending her new school straight away after the move, and instead she sat down with Ness's books and devoured them with a single-minded focus that frightened her parents, but she didn't even notice. Once she finished the ones she already had, she started collecting more, reading every single story or poem or play related to Ancient Greek legends that she could get her hands on.
Out of all of them, the story of Clytemnestra would always be her favourite. Maybe (most definitely) she was biased, but Hermione couldn't help but adore the legend of the Queen from Ancient Greece. When Clytemnestra's husband Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter in order to get a fair wind to Troy, did she sit quietly by? No, of course she didn't! She took over his throne, found herself a new lover and when the scum finally returned home a decade later, she murdered him in his bathtub with an axe.
The thought of blood diluted water made her feel sick, made her eyes sting with tears, but Hermione decided then and there that she would be as clever, determined, tough as nails and ruthless as the tragic heroine Clytemnestra was– both the one from Ancient Greek legend and her own dearly beloved sister.
Eventually, for she wouldn't be Hermione if she didn't, she got curious about the mythology behind the characters and started researching Ancient Greek mythology in the local library. The Olympian gods and goddesses were, of course, a huge part of the Ancient Greek mythology and when she stumbled upon Hermes, well, he was instantly one of her favorites. At first because of his name (she was only seven) but the more she read about him, the more interested she became. Because it was reading about Hermes that Hermione first came across the term 'Trickster God'.
Hermes was labeled as a Trickster in several myths and Trickster gods were, in her humble opinion, simply brilliant.
There was a part of Hermione, a part she tried to muffle with the literature she immersed herself in every waking hour of the day (much to the ongoing concern of her parents) that was stuck in an unending scream of rage and loss that echoed around in the back of her skull, half-ignored and half-drowned out by the knowledge she desperately consumed to make it stop hurting please stop hurting.
Her sorrow was a flayed wound to her heart, to her very soul, that had yet to stop bleeding. And when she was forced to bed by her mother or father each evening, left without any way to distract herself, she was so angry, filled with such a helpless, raging hatred, that she felt paralyzed, her bitter, grief-filled tears soaking her pillow right through, night after night.
She knew, deep in her heart, that she would never fully get over the loss of her sister. It would always hurt, always, but one day she would at least find a measure of peace with the fact Ness was gone and she wasn't ever coming back. What Hermione could never get over, that had her rage burning just as hot and bright inside her as the day she'd broken a door and found her sister dead in their bathroom, was the fact that the awful, horrible, wretched filth of the earth that hurt her sister so badly, that drove her to the point where she took her own life to escape them and the suffering they'd caused her, were never punished.
Tricksters, according to all the mythology she had uncovered about them, punished those who had done wrong– usually with a certain sense of humor about it, like deadly pranks.
Pranks... that word stoked the rage inside her like nothing else. People had called tying her sister to that football pole a prank. Ness had almost died. Those bullies had almost killed her. And even though it had been Ness's own hand that took her life, Hermione knew exactly who was really responsible. Ness had never gotten her justice, never, and it was killing Hermione inside.
Hermione spent three weeks barely sleeping, barely eating, devouring every single book she could find that even so much as mentioned tricksters, not limiting herself to just Greek mythology. She found the name of every trickster even so much as vaguely alluded to in a text, then researched everything about them possible. She actually passed out three times from a combination of lack of food, water and sleep, and her parents start whispering to each other about sending her to live with relatives, or perhaps scheduling a visit to a child psychologist. Hermione ignored all of that, though, because she'd finally found her candidate.
Because the thing was, Hermione believed. She knew Santa wasn't real, nor the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny or any of those silly, childish traditions her parents had never participated in. But Hermione believed in something that science couldn't explain, because the tug in her chest that had warned her when Ness was in danger, that rush of something that had flooded her body that horrible night had let her reduce part of the door blocking her from Ness to splinters, and that? That couldn't be explained by the laws of science. And if that was true, then why couldn't Tricksters exist, when there was such a rich history, such a wealth of information going back over a thousand years, on them?
And maybe (very, very likely) a large portion of her belief came from her sheer, utter desperation to right the terrible wrong that had been delivered upon her sister. It was also very possible her belief was contributed to by her young age and the turmoil of both her discovery of science defying abilities and the death of the person closest to her in the entire world, but belief born from desperation, from the innocence of youth and from despair, was still belief. Hermione believed and belief had power.
Out of all the beings she had researched for this, the Trickster Hermione had chosen to petition to was Loki. Not only was he one of the most interesting, but he also seemed to be one of the most powerful and one that was (hopefully) less likely to turn on her afterward.
By this point she could recite several different rituals entreating to Tricksters by heart in several different languages, she knew how to create an altar (in theory, at least) and how to supply an offering. Hermione was ready to put her knowledge to action.
She found a candle in a drawer in the kitchen cabinet, a big, fat white one that she thought might have been a present to her mother at some point. She emptied her moneybox and spent all thirty-two pounds buying the most expensive chocolate she could. She laid a lock of her sister's hair and a photograph of Ness next to the candle, beside the offering. There'd been a small obituary for Ness in the local paper and she'd carefully cut out a copy of it to lay with the photograph, as well as the neatly folded nightie she'd been wearing that horrid night. Hermione had hidden it from her parents as it was stained by the now-dried blood that had soaked through the material to her skin when she had fallen into the bath on top of Ness as she desperately tried to get her big sister to please wake up please don't leave me please be okay don't die don't die please I love you don't leave me alone–
Hermione was seven years old and it had been two months since her sister had died when she lit the candle on her homemade altar, knelt down in front of it, bowed her head and prayed to Loki.
And he heard.