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don’t you ever tame your demons (but always keep them on a leash)

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Hermione is eight years old and she’s sitting in the backyard. It’s a rather large yard compared to the modest house, and she leans against an old oak tree. If she closes her eyes, she can almost ignore the angry voices inside. She knows she isn’t supposed to listen, but her Dad’s voice rings out loud and clear.

"I can’t live like this! It was your idea to get the practice even though- look, we need to cut our losses if things don’t get better. I’ll walk if you won’t."

Hermione knows she doesn’t fully understand the words, an itchy terrible sensation that she hates- but she understands enough of them. Can draw the conclusion easily: Lisa’s father left their family and her Dad is thinking the same. (Lisa’s really mean though, Hermione still thinks that was part of it.)

A door slams, their blue car leaving, and the arguing stops. Hermione doesn’t get up, doesn’t go inside. There isn’t much daylight left, and inside only has completed summer homework and read books. She looks up at the green leaves and a streak of yellow zips down, landing in her lap just as she recognizes the blur as a bird.

Summer bird, she thinks dazedly, a trembling finger petting the bright yellow belly. Her mother’s favorites since they meant the warm weather had returned. The bird squawks but doesn’t fly away, rolling over. Hermione’s stomach rolls with it, as she sees the bird’s wing is broken, blood splattered over it.

“It’s okay little birdie,” she lies, “you’ll fly again.”

And Hermione wishes her words were true, wishes so very hard- and then everything goes fuzzy, yellow darting away. It doesn’t make any sense, but she doesn’t doubt it. She sleeps with a smile, knowing somehow she helped the bird.

This is the first time Hermione remembers doing magic.

.

“I healed the birdie,” Hermione insists at breakfast a week later. This is the fourteenth time she’s told her parents.

“Sure you did honey, finish your grapes.”

It isn’t going any better than the previous thirteen times. It leaves Hermione with the idea that she needs to show her parents how she healed the bird, then they’ll have to believe her. Unfortunately- for her, not the birds of Great Britain- broken birds don’t fall out of trees everyday. She can’t hurt one just to prove her parents wrong; and what if it doesn’t work again? (The thought of it being a fluke, or a vision somehow, haunts her nights.)

She tries cutting herself open, an accidentally on-purpose paper cut that sharply stings. The healing doesn’t come back. Maybe because it only works on others, maybe because it isn’t necessary, maybe because she didn’t-

And then her mother’s reminding her to be careful with the new books and carefully pressing a purple plaster with silver stars around her finger.

She is.

(If only because she can’t take that kind of absolute failure again.)

.

Summer ends, the yellow birds fly south, and Hermione goes back to school. Being back at school means less time at home, and far less time outside. (The easiest place at break time is always the library, and she’s long learned the proper argument if any adult tries to convince her otherwise.)

There are less fights about the practice, or they happen when she isn’t at home. Lisa is practically in mourning for her runaway father, her bright pink clothing traded for blacks. She’s no longer one of the popular kids, and they all whisper about her father running away with another man. Instead Lisa is found hanging out with the older kids or hiding in the bathroom with a wet face.

Hermione remembers the time Lisa dumped all of her books- including her own copy of Harriet the Spy because the library version was always loaned out- into the school fountain. Remembers the cruel smirk on her face as she did it.

And with that in mind, Hermione does not care that Lisa cries.

.

On a cool November day, Hermione’s world shifts again.

She’s walking home from school when she sees her father crossing the road in front of their house. A blur of metal, a crash, and then time seems to slow as his body is tossed onto their sidewalk. Hermione’s running, screaming, somehow has gotten to him and there’s blood and bones and-

Tears are dripping down her face, and she thinks of the summer bird, wants him to be whole again.

“I-it’s okay, you can- you can get up.”

Nothing happens.

Hermione screams again, louder, and then her mother is there and so many people that she can’t process. There’s only one thought, on repeat, increasingly dire.

He isn’t getting up.

.

The funeral is horrible, full of relatives she barely remembers and strangers insisting on hugging her and wishing her the best. She just wants it all to be over, to stop standing beside the casket.

The rest of being a nine-year-old goes fast, ten even faster. School is disappointingly easy, even when she doesn’t try. Her mother’s always busy now, the practice gone and her mum working nearly every hour. She doesn’t want to blame her for never being there, especially when she prefers to be alone.

It’s her Dad’s fault anyways.

He’s the one that died. He’s the one that was ready to leave. He’s dead so it doesn’t matter if she hates him, if she’s angry at him.

.

Hermione is walking home, backpack heavy under the afternoon sun. She’s gotten away with avoiding her eleventh birthday so far. She doesn’t like when classmates sing to her- they aren’t her friends- nor the attention of an entire restaurant on her. Her mum agreed to a quiet pizza night at home, all of the unhealthy and delicious greasy food with none of the strangers. It’s a few hours away, and her stomach is already grumbling at the idea.

There’s an odd woman on the doorstep. Dressed in a pointy hat and robe, the old woman looks mad rather than dangerous. A few streets over is a nursing home, St. Agatha’s, and Hermione decides the woman must be from there.

“Excuse me, are you lost?”

The woman turns, and Hermione sees that she’s holding a stick- definitely mad. “Miss Granger?”

And Hermione’s already nodding before she thinks better of it, can drop her bag and run if need be. “Who are you?”

“Professor McGonagall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Will your parents be home soon?”

Hermione doesn’t know if she’s more amused or angry, if the woman’s truly mad or some elaborate joke. “My mum,” she corrects, brain kicking in enough to lie, “dunno.”

The woman sniffs, and anger overtakes amusement. Hermione recognizes that sound too well. Often from older adults who see her in the library alone or when she does errands with her mum. Or visiting her mum’s side of the family, skin too dark and hair too curly to not stand out.

“I shall wait until she returns then. Are you often left alone?”

Hermione’s eyes narrow. “You can leave a number, I’m not inviting a stranger inside.”

The woman sighs, muttering something under her breath and producing a business card out of thin air. “Here you are. We’ll speak more once your mother’s home.”

Once she’s a few steps away, Hermione darts inside and locks the door. Peeping through the curtains, the mad woman is gone, and she relaxes, dropping the card on the counter.

Hermione doesn’t notice a tabby cat take up residence at the house across the road, sitting primly on their porch.

.

It takes two spells for Professor McGonagall to convince the pair of Grangers that magic is indeed real. One to turn their teakettle into a piglet, and one to turn it back.

Hermione is brimming with questions, and doesn’t hold them back. “Did the teakettle gain a mind when it became a piglet? Do you do that with real animals too? If a piglet became a teakettle could it still think? Does it hurt?”

“Hermione,” her mother interrupts softly. She forces herself not to frown- if she was alone with the teacher, she’d insist on getting answers.

“You’ll learn all of that in your Transfiguration classes,” she says, handing them both leaflets. Hermione gets one about different houses and classes at the school, and her mother gets one titled, Keeping the Magical Secret.

“Why can’t everyone know about magic?” Hermione asks.

The professor sighs, “The wizarding population is not very large. I’m afraid if all muggles- people without magic- knew about us, it wouldn’t end well.”

She frowns, “So out of fear you don’t help billions of people?”

“Hermione!” Her mother exclaims, “Please excuse her, she doesn’t know what she says sometimes.”

The girl in question scowls, she knows very well what she just accused the witch’s community of. Hiding away magic seems unnaturally cruel. She watches the news- knows it isn’t good outside of their suburban bubble.

Professor McGonagall nods, “It’s a big political question these days. Take famine, muggles have their own resources to fix it, but choose not to. Should wizards then be responsible for fixing it? I’m sure you’ll do excellently in Ravenclaw.”

Hermione doesn’t have a reply. Not yet. But there’s something about that argument that she doesn’t like, and she’ll figure it out. Ravenclaw she reads from the leaflet, is all about intellectual curiosity and cleverness. She likes the sound of that- then again, most people probably do, for who doesn’t want to be smart?

The professor brings them school shopping, a place called diagonally, and Hermione doesn’t care how ridiculous the name is- the whole place is marvelous. The book shop alone is full of fascinating tomes like Bewitch or Bewilder: A Charm for Every Occasion, and Cassandra Collapsed: The Ethical Ramifications of the Sight, and Modern History of Magic. The last one she does grab, reading the back blurb before returning it to the stacks.

She knows they’re only buying exactly what’s on the list, instead asking the Professor if there’s a nearby public library.

“I’m not aware of one. Hogwarts has quite the extensive selection,” the professor answers.

Rich people, Hermione can’t help but think derisively, placing her books on the counter.

If nothing else, the professor is an efficient shopping companion, sometimes summoning the necessary items the moment they walk in. It’s passing supper time when they enter the last shop, the one Hermione was second-most excited for after seeing how magic worked. It was time to get a wand of her own.

It takes three wands before Ollivander offers the right one; there’s a walnut, a willow, and a vine. While all of them react- a puff of smoke, a blue fizzle, and a flame that flickers out- he takes them all back, muttering about inconsistencies. Hermione doesn’t pay it much mind, would happily leave with any of the wands.

“Elm, eleven inches, dragon heartstring.”

Hermione takes the wand, can feel it hesitate as she waves it. Rude, she thinks, flicking it once more. A large plume of purple and blue fog is created, fills up the entire shop.

“Excellent,” Ollivander declares, dispelling the fog. “That’ll be seven galleons.”

.

Hermione doesn’t pay attention in any of her lessons the following day. She tries to- she intends to- but it all feels so boring. There’s a whole new world of possibilities out there- how can she be expected to be occupied by simple maths? She’s never been one to ignore a teacher, but it isn’t as if they’re teaching her anything new. (And if any of her classmates bothered to do their homework and read ahead, they’d have far more intelligent answers when the teacher calls on them.)

After school, Hermione walks straight to the library. Tuesday means her mother won’t be home until eight at the absolute earliest, and while Hermione is supposed to walk home in the daylight, what her mum doesn’t know can’t hurt her. (And if all goes well, she won’t even need to break her word.)

Hermione likes to think that she knows her local library better than the average visitor. She knows where all of the sections are, even those she isn’t interested in, like the cds and vhs tapes. She knows the three regular workers- Mrs. Flems, Ms. Bettencort, Mr. Leptor- and the university intern, Ms. Hughes. She’s fairly certain that the magic section is full of books about card tricks and sleight of hand.

Hermione’s never wished so hard to be wrong.

She isn’t wrong.

She goes through the disappointing selection four times over, book by book, as if there might be a hidden button somewhere that reveals a better shelf.

If it weren’t for the location, Hermione would scream. She doesn’t have enough money to return to diagonally and question shop keepers until she finds one that knows of a library, and her mum took one look at an owl’s price tag before saying she was too young for a pet. She could continue reading her school books, nearly finished their first go last night under the covers. Reading and rereading until she knows every single detail of them. Wouldn’t be caught up with any of the kids raised by magical parents, but there’s no helping that-

“Hermione are you okay?”

Ms. Hughes snuck up on her, and she hurriedly pastes a smile on her face. “Yes, thank you.”

“Tell the sparks in your hair that.”

Hermione laughs weakly, “Static electricity right?”

“Sure. What book are you looking for? This isn’t one of your usual sections.”

“A history of magic,” Hermione tries, can’t think of a believable lie. Besides regular magic tricks must have a history of their own, mustn’t they?

Ms. Hughes’ smile brightens, “Your eleventh just passed didn’t it?”

Hermione nods, and the librarian continues, “A new school possibility pop up then?”

“Hogwarts,” Hermione replies before wondering if she shouldn’t.

But Ms. Hughes isn’t confused at the odd name, “There’s another library, three blocks down and four left. On Whimsic Alley, you’ll want to be dressed proper- some right snobs work there.”

Hermione thanks her, and heads in that direction. It’s a longer walk than she expects, her feet aching as she stands before the last turn. There’s a sparkling sign for Whimsic Alley, a giant white marble building on it- must take up the entire block. Everyone on the alley is dressed in robes, and the ordinary people on her side walk by the alley without noticing a thing. It’s already six somehow, and she resolves to come back earlier tomorrow with her witch clothes.

(Hermione does not make it home before dusk- but she does beat her mother.)

.

The magical library is only a half-hour walk from school, and Hermione doesn’t even feel yesterday’s blisters- far too excited. It’s the biggest library she’s ever seen, and upon entering it appears even more grand.

There are high domed ceilings, animated paintings of regular and magical animals frolicking in each circle. The entryway dome is full of dragons, the next has winged horses, the next an assortment of fish. There must be dozens of them, but Hermione is far more interested in the bookcases lining the rooms. There are two stories of them, spinning spiral staircases every thirty meters or so, with balconies connecting them all.

The nearest shelf has books on goblin history, dark arts, reading tea leaves, dog transfiguration, and household charms- all mixed together. She’s lamenting that there aren’t any call numbers on the books either- how vexing- when she spots an information desk a few bookcases down, off to the side.

A man is reading the paper behind the desk, a black and white image of people flying on broomsticks whizzing by.

“Have you tried summoning it?” he asks when she approaches.

“Er, I’m looking for Modern History of Magic?”

He sighs, face coming into view as he puts the paper down. “I said have you tried- oh. Very well then.” Pulling out a short mahogany wand, he murmurs something too soft for her to hear and a roll of his wrist, and the book is flying off a nearby shelf and onto the desk.

“It appears we do not carry the latest edition yet. If you require the sixth, you will need to purchase it.”

“This works, thank you.”

“Mhmm, no under seventeen borrowing without a parent or guardian’s wand signature on file.”

Hermione bites her lip, “My mother’s rather… busy. I’ll just read it here then?”

“Return it to a shelving cart when you’re done,” he says, newspaper snapping open and blocking her view of him once more.

The fifth edition is much larger and heavier than the one she saw at the shop, presumably the sixth. She lugs it over to a nearby table, setting her notebook and a new quill to the side. So far, quill-writing hasn’t gone particularly well- far less wieldy than a pen or pencil. She has a little under a year to master it- she won’t be losing points for poor penmanship, or worse- not even getting her work graded. (Suzy, the American exchange student had an essay returned to her without a grade because of that- the horror.)

By nightfall, Hermione has new blisters on her fingers to match her feet, but nothing can diminish the joy of learning brand new material.

.

Hermione intends to read through all pertinent history books first. After all, the best way to discover a new culture should be through its past. But then she hears some other children giggling about her second-hand robes, and magic school can’t be like her regular school- it just can’t.

So instead, Hermione asks about books on tailoring, taking notes on every spell she can find. She can’t try any of them yet- more nonsense about needing a magical guardian, and Hermione doesn’t much care to test the ministry on how well they track that sort of thing. (Misuse of underaged magic can lead to expulsion, and she can’t imagine a worse punishment.)

She spends all of her time in the magical library, focusing on charms and transfiguration. They both seem to be the most immediately useful sort. There’s a running list on her notebook’s inside corner of the first spells she wants to try on the train. It’s tempting to skip school- it isn’t as if she’s learning anything new there, spending more time than not thinking about magic. But Hermione doesn’t want anything to draw her Mum’s attention, and several unexplained absences would do just that.

None of the authors agree on the best way to perform magic- it seems to be dependent on the discipline and intentions, and then still may change by preference. Hermione’s outlined the main ways that have been described so far, curious to see which one works best with her.

There’s visualization, the most common- to firmly imagine what you wish to happen and make it so. On the simpler side this seems to work well with easy charms, and with the more in-depth imagery, there’s transfiguration. Second most common doesn’t seem to have a name, but Hermione thinks of it as little rituals. As long as you follow each of the steps correctly, the magic will happen. Most applicable to potions, and Hermione can’t help but compare it to cooking- as long as the recipe is followed exactly, Bob’s your uncle. Then there’s using emotion to guide your magic, and this comes up most with combative magics- offensive or defensive. While it makes sense, Hermione instinctively doesn’t like it as much; it’s far too temperamental for her tastes. Then there’s belief, which reads as religious. For divination, that one must truly believe in the methods to receive a sensible result. (And that seems like a catch twenty-two: she isn’t going to believe the methods without proof, but she can’t observe any proof without believing in the methods.) Finally there’s sacrifice, and Hermione will not be using that magic for anything. Reading about it is one thing, but she isn’t about to murder a rabbit for good luck or sprinkle a regular person’s blood over her garden so it grows faster. (Perhaps if she was using her own blood, it might be worth doing a test on a plant. But there’s no reason to endanger others to sate her curiosity.)

Charms, transfiguration, and potions: these are the three subjects Hermione expects to excel at.

.

By August, Hermione is counting down the days until Hogwarts. The summer was a mixed blessing: plenty more time to spend at the library, but also plenty more time to learn about magic without getting to do it. It’s borderline painful to watch other library-goers summon their own books. (She can’t help wondering if this is the real reason regular people aren’t supposed to know about magic- for all the envy and spite.)

“I need that book.”

Hermione looks up from Stirring with Steel: How the First Light Metal Changed Modern Healing. The girl before her looks about her age, if dressed well enough to appear older.

“I’ll be done with it in an hour,” Hermione says. There’s fifty pages left, and she wants to go over her notes before relinquishing the book. (That someone can take out a book for six months boggles her mind, and she’s still bitter about losing her place in Herbologist’s Companion – A Review of Britain’s Flora.)

The girl sniffs, sitting across from her. Hermione elects to ignore her, reading the next page about interactive potions. It sounds like madness, to depend on the exact amount of steel melting into the potion while-

“I’m Daphne Greengrass. You are?”

“Granger, Hermione,” she answers, rereading the last line.

Daphne clears her throat, and Hermione presses too hard on the quill, making a splotch. “Perhaps you could have the librarian copy the last pages for you? I really cannot stay.”

At a knut per page, it’d be nearly two sickles and even if Hermione had that kind of spare change, she wouldn’t waste it on a temporary copy.

“I’ll be done in an hour.”

“Keep it, stupid wannabe Ravenclaw,” the girl snaps, standing abruptly and leaving.

Hermione’s cheeks burn as other readers glare in her direction, and she gets back to the book. While she tries to push the unpleasantness from her mind, it takes nearly twice as long as normal to finish the pages.

.

Hermione picks a compartment at the very back of the train. She doesn’t want to be interrupted while attempting magic- and she certainly doesn’t want an audience if she fails. With that in mind, the first spell she attempts is a locking spell: colloportus.

Following the drawing, moving her wand like a key, she tries it. Nothing happens, and she tries again, holding the image in mind firmly of a locked compartment door. This time she can hear a locking mechanism spring into being and lock, and Hermione’s rather pleased, pulling out her list.

She lights and dims her wand, she softens the seats even more, she severs the opposite seat open and mends it. She floats her book, and summons a small ball of fire in her palm. They’re all easy- as long as she keeps the end result in mind and follows the diagrams and pronunciations to the letter.

Making her secondhand robes look brand new is a different story.

She can’t get any of the tailoring charms to work. Not when she follows them precisely and imagines her robes looking brand new, not when she thinks of how very urgently she needs to look like the others. Not even when she tricks herself into believing it will absolutely work this time- but then again, perhaps she didn’t completely believe it. She even tries casting the mending charm at her robes, but it makes it worse, a navy thread now sewn into the sleeve.

Hermione sighs, turning back to her notes. At least the important magic was castable, she was right that the visualization method would work well for her. It’s a pity about the robes, but she’s going to Ravenclaw anyways- even the rude girl from the library knew that. She can’t imagine the house dedicated to pursing knowledge would give a lick how she dresses. (And even if they do, who cares? She’s going to be learning magic.)

.

Abbott, Hannah is sorted first into Hufflepuff.

The enchanted hat can obviously read minds- Hannah’s mouth moving quickly- and Hermione wonders what such a hat does during the school year. It’d be far too distracting to walk around wearing it. Far too- how sentient exactly is the hat? Was it a person before or did it come into being through magic? Or is it more mechanical in nature; albeit in a magical way? Does the hat take all thoughts as input and plop out a result? Some people it sorts far faster than others; some the hat doesn’t even seem to touch a hair on before declaring a house.

Cheers distract her, and Goldstein is joining Ravenclaw, Hermione’s toes tingling. There can only be so many more students with G last names, another Slytherin, and then finally- “Granger, Hermione!”

She walks up briskly to the hat, expecting to get this over with quickly. (The sooner she’s sorted, the sooner she can visit the famed library. And she’ll be able to take out books here, she thinks with no small amount of giddiness.)

Hello there.

Hermione presses her lips closed, won’t be one of those that muttered to themselves. ‘Greetings.’

A very fine mind you have. But don’t you want friends? Life long friends perhaps?

Her mind instantly flickers to the boisterous red and gold table, can’t imagine getting any work done with that lot. (Even if Dumbledore himself was a Gryffindor.)

‘My studies matter more.’

Oh? And why is that?

Hermione’s nose crinkles at the foolish question, cheeks burning as she tries not to think that bit. ‘I need to learn everything possible here. To become the best witch and make the world a better place.’

She can’t think of regular people’s wide scale problems the same way any more. They’re all fixable. It doesn’t matter if magic needs to remain concealed, they have an obligation for the betterment of humankind-

There’s only one place for you my dear, it’ll be- “SLYTHERIN!”

As Hermione walks over to the far table, her robes now boasting a snake, she notices there isn’t much clapping compared to other sorts. Straightening her back, she sits in an empty cluster of seats. It’s fine that they don’t want her- they will in the end. (Or she’ll change the world without them.)

The sorting continues on, and Hermione can’t help but mentally flip through everything she’s learned about Slytherin. Admittedly, most of her house research was focused on Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, the two houses she viewed as most probable. Britain’s last Dark Lord was in Slytherin, he hated muggles and muggleborns, and honestly didn’t do nearly as much damage as the other Dark Lords. Not even as much as muggle despots- not that she wanted such a horrific figure to do well. But it is… curious. Armed with magic, there should have been far more casualties. Something to research at a later date.

On the more positive side of things, the most noteworthy wizard in all of history- Merlin himself- was a Slytherin. It’s a comforting thought, while logically she knows the entire house can’t be full of bigoted to-be murderers, it helps to think of Merlin.

Daphne Greengrass joins the table, along with Draco Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Pansy Parkinson, and finally Blaise Zabini. Hermione missed the names of her classmates sorted before her, will have to pay attention. It’d do no good to alienate a housemate over something so trivial.

Dumbledore’s finishing up his welcoming speech with nonsense words, and Hermione doesn’t know how to reconcile this man with the one she’s read about. The one that discovered the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, that worked on alchemy with Flamel, that defeated Grindelwald. The same man she is to believe, is currently slathering gravy and jam over his biscuits.

“Mad old coot,” the girl with short hair says, Pansy she remembers.

“My father says it’s only a matter of time before the board of governors removes him. Such a shame how senile he’s grown,” the blond one says. She can’t recall if he’s Draco or Theodore-

“Really Malfoy, last summer you said your father was going to be the headmaster.” Zabini, he’s easy- the last one sorted- and the only person at the table besides herself with skin darker than tan.

Two spots of dark red appear in Malfoy’s pale cheeks, “Whatever. I just hope he’s gone before next year.”

Hermione frowns, pulling some kidney pie onto her plate. Perhaps the headmaster is only pretending to be mad? But surely, that could have disastrous effects. There must be something she isn’t thinking of- this is Albus Dumbledore- the man is an absolute genius. (Her stomach turns when she sees he’s eating the overladen biscuit, and she reaches for her goblet.)

.

Their first class is Transfiguration with Hufflepuffs. Hermione changes her match into a needle first, the visualization method continuing to serve her well. She earns two points to Slytherin, along with a raised eyebrow from her tablemate, Bulstrode.

“Granger eh? You related to the Dagworth-Grangers?”

“...I’m not sure. My father died when I was young, and my mother avoids that side of the family.”

Millicent nods, jabbing with her wand, “That’s rough.”

The match doesn’t so much as twitch, and Hermione corrects her wand handling.

(Her fellow student does not appreciate the help.)

.

There’s almost an understanding reached after that first lesson. Hermione’s lumped in with Bulstrode and Davis, and it doesn’t rankle the way it should. Blood supremacy is revolting, not to mention ridiculous given the pitfalls of inbreeding.

That being said, she hasn’t corrected them. Not yet.

She sees how they treat Justin Finch-Fletchley, even older muggleborn students like Clearwater. There’s a time and place for every argument her mother always says, and she has to live with these people for seven more years. (Hermione knows none of them are really her friends, but it’s nice having classmates to eat and chat with, to discuss homework with.)

.

The peace lasts for four days. Four days, and Parkinson gets a piece of mail that has her smirking with vindictive glee.

“My mother says the Dagworth-Grangers didn’t claim you, mudblood.”

“We’re in the Great Hall,” Nott murmurs quietly, and it’s the most she’s ever heard him say.

“What? It’s what it is,” Pansy says.

Her face burns, “I don’t see how it matters, you couldn’t even make lumos work. What kind of witch does that make you?”

Tracey coughs suddenly, and Pansy’s face goes scarlet. “Look at the stupid muggle she couldn’t even tie her tie properly.”

Hermione looks down in confusion, “What are you-”

“Restricktus!”

Her green and silver tie constricts rapidly, dark spots swimming in her vision. Her wand is up her sleeve, if she can only get it out and cast the severing charm- but the black spots are growing, everything’s going-

Finite. Subtlety is a Slytherin trait you are both in dire need of, detention at seven o’clock.”

Professor Snape stalks away, robes flaring dramatically as Hermione takes a deep breath. Neither Bulstrode nor Davis will meet her eyes, and darn it all- she has enough time before History of Magic to warrant a trip to the library. (Especially because there’s a new spell she needs to know.)

Finite, or Finite Incantatem, is a counter-spell to most minor charms, jinxes, and curses. It’s a second year charm, and while Hermione doesn’t have the time to master it before class, she does finish taking descriptive notes.

Professor Snape’s detention isn’t that bad. He lectures for a bit about murder having lots of paperwork and avoiding witnesses and not making a spectacle of one’s self. The remainder of the detention is spent sitting in silence, and Hermione loathes wasting the time. She tries reviewing the day’s classes, but needs to refer to her notes for tiny details, doesn’t want to accidentally memorize the wrong thing.

She does decide something: one day she’s getting Parkinson back for wasting her evening.

.

Ever since she became the Slytherin Mudblood- and maybe if she thinks it enough times the title will lose power, after all, there are far worse words she’s been called- life at Hogwarts is more hostile. No one wants to pair with her in classes- which is fine, none of them can keep up with her anyways- and there’s always empty seats around her at mealtimes- which is childish, it isn’t as if a blood status is catching.

No matter how many points she earns for Slytherin it doesn’t matter, and it isn’t like she can get any in Professor Snape’s class. He refuses to grant her points, and she refuses to give him a reason to take any away.

After a week Hermione stops raising her hand in all her classes. It isn’t as if they have participation grades anyways, she looked into it. (Even if the prefects don’t like her, they are obligated to answer her questions if asked in public spaces. Specifically, around other students that would love to take their badge given probable cause.)

Instead she focuses on perfecting her classwork and homework assignments, and studying useful spells on the side. When it became obvious to her dormmates that she could fix simple hexes with a finite they became more creative. Hermione’s positive they’re getting help from the older students, she’s never seen Parkinson in the library before.

Madam Pomfrey’s far too inquisitive about how she sliced her arm open (‘I tripped on the moving staircases, I’m not used to them moving you see...’) and Hermione doesn’t want to return to her. She hasn’t forgotten Professor Snape’s inaction in the face of Parkinson’s first bullying- and that wasn’t exactly private. Reading through the last half-century of Hogwarts’ disciplinary logs only solidifies the picture: if she wants to complain, she can leave the school like other tormented muggleborns (Sellers ‘54, Torri ‘62, Gru ‘83).

There isn’t going to be a Granger ‘91 marked, and she isn’t going to let anyone get in the way of her learning magic. Hermione starts spending her free time researching healing magic. (It’s on her list anyways, it just got bumped up a few years.)

.

Professor Snape pairs her with Longbottom, and she’s sure it’s a punishment. It’s unclear what for, but it’s certainly the cruelest thing he could devise. Rather than calmly making her potion to perfection, she has to multitask and keep an eye on everything Longbottom does- lest his potion explodes into hers.

As she unfortunately discovers one afternoon, he can’t even be trusted to continue stirring for thirty seconds while she gets an additional pinch of dried pixie droppings. There’s an explosion, two cauldrons worth of potions on the ceiling and Hermione is livid.

“You complete imbecile! Not even a minute alone and you ruin everything!”

Longbottom’s face is bright red, and Hermione ignores the idiot’s stuttering, carrying her cauldron over to the sink to clean it out and start over. There’s just enough time that she might get an acceptable, heat building up in her ears.

The redhead that’s always with Potter not-whispers, “See? Told you, all the snakes are bloody evil.”

“Five points Mr. Weasley, and it’ll be ten more if you don’t finish your potion.”

It isn’t until dinner that Hermione realizes Professor Snape didn’t dock points for her language.

.

Malfoy and Parkinson don’t take well to her healing or ending their- little pranks. It diminishes them to think of such attempts as pointless pranks. They don’t like when she gets the tar out of her hair within a night, nor how she continues to beat all of their grades. (Defense Against the Dark Arts is the only class she doesn’t excel at, a worrying similarity she holds with many of her housemates.)

She grows confident, cocky even with the knowledge that they can’t beat her.

Then Halloween happens.

The day itself was unremarkable, until dinner the most noteworthy thing being Malfoy throwing dirt in her hair in Herbology. (A creative mind he is not, and really, Hermione is thankful for that.) She was halfway through her slice of pumpkin pie, debating if she should read up on shields or curses next, when Professor Quirrell burst into the Great Hall shouting about a troll before fainting.

“Our stalwart professor,” Zabini said, guffaws circling the table.

None of the Slytherins really believe there is a troll in the castle- least of all Hermione, who has read about some fully grown trolls being over four meters tall.

Then there’s a brief morning announcement about Sally-Anne Perks, clubbed to death by the troll. A chill darts down her spine, and Hermione knows nothing else will be done. A student- a muggleborn student- was killed and all it merits is a morning mention. (There isn’t anything in the Prophet either.)

Malfoy smiles grimly at her, mouthing the words, ‘one down’.

.

Hermione doesn’t start learning about defensive or offensive spells. She goes deeper into healing instead, fills an entire notebook with only healing magic. (There’s a darker form hinted at in one of the books, and she misses the London library, no restrictions to her consumption.)

The biggest problem with learning healing magic is it isn’t easy to test. She isn’t about to hurt another to learn, and hurting herself throws off her concentration. Which would be closer to real world use- but it makes the learning that much slower.

Her housemates are happy to facilitate this, haven’t given up on ‘putting her in her place’ yet. The biggest problem she finds is how very exhausting fixing herself is. Healing is a slow and arduous process, and nothing like the books describe. She suspects it has something to do with using the magic on herself, but there aren’t any relevant books in the library. (Each day the famed Hogwarts library feels more and more like a cruel trick.)

.

As the weeks pass, Hermione keeps a list of subjects to study once she has access to the more expansive library. She’s tempted to make a second list, of those that have actively and passively watched her be bullied and mocked. But she’s heard all about how lone killers are formed, won’t grant them such an easy revenge. (The best revenge is severe and everlasting.)

She’s only had to go back to Madam Pomfrey thrice: first for a dark hex that tangled up her vocal chords (‘the older kids were dueling in the common room and two spells combined before they hit me’), second because Professor Flitwick saw her heading to the bathroom with greatly engorged teeth (she didn’t even have a counter in mind for once she was out of public view), and a third time because she got her period and was positive there would be a superior magical way of dealing with it (there is, charmed panty liners that soothe cramps as well).

Which isn’t to say she’s been able to counter all spells or heal all injuries since. The good thing she’s learned about young magic is that it doesn’t stick. A tickling hex won’t last more than an hour out of range, and a toe-nipping curse will ease out of her shoes in a day. Of course, those times lengthen when the older students are directly involved, but most of them have better things to do than taunt the first year muggleborn.

There’s still speculation that she isn’t. Between being a Slytherin, the top of her class, and carrying an elm wand: apparently it isn’t hard to believe she’s adopted. One day, she’ll be able to correct them. One day, she’ll be quicker with her wand than all of them combined.

.

Hermione’s practically skipping back from dinner. Tomorrow morning is the start of winter break. She’ll get to dig into all the subjects that are restricted or simply not in the Hogwarts library, see her mum again, and maybe look up a few effective jinxes. Something that’ll make Parkinson’s hair look even worse than normal.

The rest of her dormmates are still in the Great Hall, and Hermione launches herself on her bed with a giggle-

An angry hiss erupts from beneath her, Hermione screeching, twisting away. There’s a slim scaled body undulating beneath hers, and she jumps out of bed. She isn’t fast enough, the snake striking at her wrist, fangs sinking into the underside.

She stares down at the snake, a meter long, delirious with pain. It doesn’t feel real, more of a cartoonish nightmare. It’s a boomslang, a male at that- a pretty bright green with black edging his scales. How utterly Slytherin looking.

Pulling her wand out- and really, the poison must be hitting her already, thinking about how pretty the snake is rather than trying to solve the problem- the snake sees it, dropping her wrist and retreating to her bed. Blood spurts from her wrist with the fangs gone, wrapping her sleeve around it.

“Okay… okay. I need an antivenom. Which would take too long to create. Or a bezoar!” Hermione tries summoning her potions kit, the irritating charm still refusing to work. Moving very slowly, Hermione pulls her kit from under the bed, keeping her wand trained at the snake. (He clearly has been around magic before, hisses at the wand but doesn’t come any closer.)

Her bezoar is gone.

Whoever left the snake took it and- Hermione blinks quickly, can’t become frazzled. She only has so much time before the venom kicks in. Unless it was a dry bite. She should feel worse right? Then again, that is a common reaction with slow moving poisons. She’ll find a bezoar to be safe, Professor Snape must have one, is hopefully still at dinner.

New plan in mind, Hermione tightens her robe sleeve against the bite, hadn’t even noticed that she was still bleeding, dripping on the floor. She walks through the common room quickly, isn’t stopped for once. Hermione makes it all the way to Professor Snape’s door, and then everything goes black.

.

“Miss Granger, who is harboring the pet boomslang?”

Hermione blinks, the white walls of the hospital wing firming before her. It’s odd: it doesn’t feel as though she’s just woken, more like after a dental procedure, coming back to consciousness while having been awake.

“What?”

“Whose pet bit you? Snakes are not approved student pets, and it will need to be put down.”

“No!” Hermione blurts out.

Professor Snape raises an eyebrow, “Answer the question.”

“He’s mine. I was um, practicing a silly spell and it frightened him. It’s my fault- I left his antivenom in the wrong suitcase.”

“Miss Granger, do you take me for a fool?”

Her lips thin, chin jutting up, “Dai is coming home with me today.”

It’s a terribly ironic first name to come to mind- and Hermione only hopes her Professor doesn’t connect it to the St. Mungo’s Ward. (She can’t imagine him pouring over healing tomes deep into the night.)

“Children can be cruel to one another. As your head of house, you can always come to me.”

Torri ‘62 was a Slytherin. Torri was too old to have had Professor Snape as their head, but she imagines another head giving the same speech to a young student in green robes. And that one broke, Hermione won’t do such a thing.

“If that’s all, I really must be getting- did the train already leave?”

“This morning. Is your house connected to the floo network?”

Hermione hesitates a beat, isn’t sure if it’s a trap or an honest question. “No, we use the Knight Bus.”

Hermione would swear his eye twitched at that, an odd reaction. “Very well. Once you have packed, I will chaperone you to the gates.”

“You mean once I have checked on my patient! Really Severus, you know you’re supposed to get me before interrogating your students,” Madam Pomfrey says, her wand rapidly casting diagnostic spells.

.

Dai turns out to be rather like a cat, easily bribed and prideful- only less cuddly and even more temperamental. He lounges about in her room’s sun spots most hours of the day, sleeping. It’s a near miracle that her mum hasn’t spotted him yet. (Not that her mother’s bone spur preventing her from going up to the second floor is a miracle per ce, more of an unfortunate gift.)

She sets the rat trap box outside, it mostly collects small rodents, and a few frogs. Dai eats them all, and her first order of business is to do some research on the care of a boomslang. If it has a nearby habitat, even better, but Hermione has a feeling she isn’t that lucky. (It’s true: the boomslang is native to sub-Saharan Africa.) The better news is that it isn’t a particularly aggressive species- Dai hasn’t gone to strike her since she accidentally sat on him- and there’s the workings of an argument to keep him in her head.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s no easy way to export an animal, especially a venomous one.

She can’t leave him with her mother though, which leads Hermione to studying familiars over the break rather than shields. They had fallen out of fashion due to blood magic largely being classified as Dark Arts and the Detection Charm being discovered. (Hermione isn’t surprised that witches and wizards once used familiars as poison testers, but it’s still horrific.)

As the blood used would be her own, it is technically legal to do a familiar binding, though such things aren’t advertised anymore. She will need to create an antivenom- which she doesn’t have the proper equipment to do so the muggle way, nor can she use her wand at home to do it the magical way. If Professor Snape discovers Dai, she’s positive those would be his grounds to try and execute him again.

Hermione settles for buying a new bezoar to carry, rather than asking for any Christmas gifts. (She tells her mother the bezoar is to help her at school, and it technically isn’t a lie.) Christmas itself is a quiet affair, and perhaps Hermione should feel guilty about not wanting to make gingerbread houses (to look at not to eat) nor sip eggnog in front of a roaring fire. But magic positively devours her attention, and whenever she tries explaining a spell to her mum, her eyes glaze over like they do when she talks about math. (It isn’t that her mum’s stupid, far from it, and Hermione imagines her eyes would do a similar thing if Goyle tried to explain reading to her.)

.

The same train compartment at the very end is empty once again, and Hermione takes it, locking the door behind her. Magic tingles at her first spell after the break, and she’s missed it. (She was half-afraid it’d be like healing the bird all over again, magic inexplicably leaving her once more.)

Placing Dai’s basket on the opposite seat, she removes the top revealing a thoroughly unamused snake.

“Quit pouting, you’re lucky Mum didn’t discover you sooner.”

The day before Hermione was to return to Hogwarts Dai decided to finally brave the stairs, was nearly skewered for it by a screaming Mrs. Granger. After a very long, and tedious, argument where Hermione claimed he was a gift from a classmate, Dai was allowed to stay under the condition that he remained in his basket while in the house.

Wand in one hand and knife in the other, Hermione crosses her legs under her and begins the spell.

“Amicus Relligot,” she says, slicing her palm open and dripping blood in a circle, her wand following the movement. A circle of white mist appears, and she floats it over to Dai, settling around his neck before dissipating.

That was easier than she thought it’d-

.

Hermione wakes up to a dark compartment, and a heavy weight in her lap. Looking down she snorts, carefully petting the top of Dai’s head.

“You really are a scaly fat cat.” They’ve stopped moving, and she can hear the other students getting off the train.

“C’mon scoot. I’ll see you after dinner.”

Dai hisses- at her words or movements is unclear- but Hermione’s feeling rather confident that the bond worked, as he goes back to the basket.

That and the fact that she doesn’t have a new bite anywhere. The scar tissue of her old bite has gone from pink to silver, a pretty change if entirely too noticeable. The familiar books implied there would be a new mark on her, but the magic must have collected there since Dai had already broken skin.

They take the carriages rather than the boats back, Hermione picking one with a few quiet Hufflepuffs. None of them remark on the creepy looking horses pulling the carriages, and she figures it’s another wizarding species. (One of these days, when she’s completed all the important stuff, she wants to look into muggle versus magical animal species.)

.

Hermione spends the welcome back dinner reading Savage Hexes: Not Your Momma’s Spellbook! Despite the atrocious title, there are some hexes her fingers are itching to learn. She found it half-hidden in the public library’s bushes, and while she’s fairly certain it was never a library book, she’ll be donating it once she’s done with it. (For now, the book is borrowing her history book’s cover slip as they share a size.)

Malfoy’s loudly bragging about the ball his parents hosted, Parkinson and Greengrass tittering beside him. He’s going on about how nice it is to be around family, and bloody hell is he obsessed with Potter. (Potter’s like Dumbledore on paper all over again: the boy who allegedly defeated a Dark Lord as a baby isn’t anything special in classes. Unless he’s trying to lull everyone into a false sense of security, even Malfoy- and she hates thinking of him favorably for anything- tends to do better.)

She fills her pockets with chunks of roast beef, leaving dinner with the other early risers. Dai is probably hungry by now. Hermione is grateful they don’t seem to have a more intense bond- Monifa Albronda wrote of knowing exactly when her familiar, a pygmy hippopotamus, was hungry or thirsty or tired or bored or lonely or happy. It sounds exhausting to constantly share another set of feelings, and in most cases it only works given a sense of urgency. (On the opposite side of the spectrum, Vinay Jain bonded to a civet, never felt her emotions once, not even when she died.)

Dai perks up when she enters the dorm, got out of his basket and climbed up onto her bed. “Yes, yes, I brought you dinner.”

Sitting beside the snake, she feeds him the clumps of meat one by one until they’re all gone. Which happens to coincide with her roommates’ loud return.

“-I told Mother platinum was the only acceptable-SNAKE!” Parkinson shrieks.

“You’ve noticed my holiday present,” Hermione says calmly. “Everyone, this is Dai. He doesn’t much like cages, you understand.”

Davis snickers into her hand, and Greengrass rolls her eyes. “Really Pansy, it’s our house emblem.”

The girl’s face turns an ugly shade of puce, “No! That’s not even her snake, it’s-”

Parkinson stops herself, and Hermione cocks her head, “Yes?”

She stomps her foot, “I’m telling Snape, and he’ll banish it back to wherever it came from.”

Hermione stands up, extending her hand to Dai. He follows the hint, gliding up her arm and over her shoulders, a living mantle. Her lips curl up into a smile, knows she must resemble Morgana.

“Let’s go.”

Bulstrode’s taken a half step back, and there’s an odd tension in the dorm. Perhaps they don’t know their history? But Morgan le Fay is in muggle stories as well; how could they not?

“There’s no need to trouble Snape the first night back-” Davis starts.

“I’m not sleeping with that thing in the same room!” Parkinson screeches.

“Pans take a-”

“Don’t you ‘Pans’ me Daphne! The mudblood will set that venomous beast on us in our sleep!”

Hermione scratches under his jaw, and Dai yawns big, showing off his fangs. They quiet, and she leaves saying, “I’ll be visiting Professor Snape before curfew.”

The girls follow at what they deem a safe distance, exchanging hurried whispers. Davis and Greengrass didn’t come, she notes, pleased. (While Hermione would never condone violence, the threat of it is… efficient.)

The common room is packed, and Hermione doesn’t allow herself to look at any of them, keeping her gaze fixed on the exit wall. There’s a brief quiet, then a wave of noise as she hears random snippets.

“-told you she was a halfblood at least-”
“-Appleby Arrows bit it this week-”
“-there were those rumors about Bellatrix-”
“-stop complaining about the bint. Grades, honestly-”
“-a dark mark-”
“-know what they say about snake slags-”
“-a parselmouth, a hag, and a goblin walk into a bar-”
“-take care of this?”
Parkinson’s whiny pitch cuts over the others, “I don’t care Bulstrode! Snape isn’t gonna let her keep her pet here.”

Hermione smiles, leaving the common room.

They’ll see about that.

.

“Ickle firsties out of bed- oooooh! Wittle Granger got a snake, it might fight, it might bite, let’s toss it in the lake!”

One day, Hermione is going to learn a jinx that can be used on spirits. For now, she has more pressing matters: like the fact that Professor Snape isn’t in his classroom. And in a few minutes they will be out of bed past-

“Who would care to enlighten me as to why you three are about to break curfew?”

They turn around, Professor Snape’s eyes landing on Dai.

“I need a private room,” Hermione says quickly. “Poor Pansy is deathly afraid of snakes.”

Parkinson squawks indignantly, and Professor Snape crosses his arms. “Miss Granger, perhaps the snake venom affected your already addled mind. Serpents are not on the approved pet list, and if he isn’t gone by tomorrow morning, you won’t have a pet snake.”

Dai hisses at him, and she shushes him, as if she’d let that happen. Professor Snape looks even more sallow than normal in the dim light, adding on, “I will accompany you to the owlery.”

“There’s no need professor, Dai isn’t my pet.”

“Semantics and sentiment won’t aid you,” he says.

Hermione is careful not to smile, “Dai is my familiar.”

“What,” Professor Snape hisses softly, Bulstrode gasping behind her.

“Given the precedent of Wilton-”

“There’s no need to lecture me on school rules Miss Granger,” he interrupts. “Very well. As I’m sure you’re aware, you are responsible for any action taken by your snake.”

“That’s not fair!” Parkinson bursts out. “How can we be expected to sleep with that in the room?”

“Of all students Miss Parkinson, you are the last I would expect to complain about upholding traditional rules.”

Snape raises an eyebrow, and curiously, Parkinson flushes.

“To bed with you three,” he says, eyes lingering on the snake. “Miss Granger, I’d remind you that boomslang skin is a very reactive potion ingredient and caution you not to bring him to my class.”

“Yes professor,” she answers, and the three head back to their dorm.

Once they’re out of Snape’s sight, Hermione finally allows herself to grin, laughing when Parkinson starts demanding to know how a muggle like her found the right spells to gain a familiar.

(Again, Hermione’s stuck by how little logic pureblood witches and wizards seem to have.)

.

School with Dai is exceedingly superior to school before-Dai. While the other students still sometimes curse her, it’s no where near as ubiquitous as before. Weasley makes a stupid comment about her scar, comparing it to a dark mark, and Hermione might earn a detention for punching him. (It was worth it.) She doesn’t bring Dai to her classes- though she is allowed to- doesn’t need the distraction for no reason. She brings him to mealtimes, and he stays perched on her shoulders, mostly hidden by her hair and robes.

Hermione brings him out to the lake, charming a rock warm for him to lay on while she does her homework. She starts explaining magical concepts to him, not because he might understand- the most popular view is that familiars have a sensitivity for tone more than regular animals- but because it helps get her thoughts in order. So she talks to him about anything nagging at her mind, from the trivial of Parkinson cursing her hairbrush to catch fire whenever she uses it to the grand, of how to make the wizarding and muggle worlds better places.

As long as Dai is warm and well-fed, he doesn’t mind her rambling. It’s almost like having a friend.

.

In March, Professor Quirrell disappears. He’s swiftly replaced by a dull Professor Seward- who is an improvement at least in that she speaks clearly. No one knows where Quirrell has gone, wild rumors circulating. Some people say he’s living with trolls in the wilderness, others that the vampires finally hunted him down and turned him. A fifth year swears that a hag ate him, and a sixth year that the zombies he killed were reanimated and came back for vengeance. Someone even says that he’s working with the Dark Lord- that he isn’t really dead- and Hermione doesn’t like how few laughs that theory gets, more thoughtful consideration.

All of the rumors agree on one fact though: Quirrell let the troll in, allowing for the murder of Sally-Anne Perks.

A Hogwarts professor killed a student, and Dumbledore says nothing.

(A tiny voice in the back of her head insists that he must have his reasons. Perhaps it hasn’t been confirmed that he let the troll in, perhaps there’s something more. But the rest of her looks at the twinkling headmaster buttering his breakfast roll and thinks, he doesn’t care.)

.

Hermione spends the last month of school studying for exams. No more side research binges, no more trying to get those irritating tailoring spells to work. (She has a newfound appreciation for magical seamsters, really thought she’d get it this year.) It’s just revision after revision, and even Dai is bored with the new daily pattern.

In the end, Hermione gets O’s across the board and is at the top of her year.

.

Summer passes by in a humid haze, most of it in the backyard. Dai hates the library, finding it cold and boring. Her mum says the snake isn’t allowed to roam the house free unless she’s with him, which brings her back to the lopsided hammock.

Rather than any of her usual research haunts, Hermione found a book on wandless magic. It’s one of the few she can practice out of school, took excessive notes for two days in the library. (She bribed Dai with an entire chicken to make up for leaving him locked in her room alone.)

She’s trying to summon a flame, one of the easiest first charms she ever did. She visualizes a little orange flicker dancing on her palm, pushes some need into the feeling-

Nothing happens.

Hermione groans, glaring up at the sky. She doesn’t know what she’s doing wrong, but it’s obviously something, hasn’t gotten a single wandless spell to work.

There’s no improvement by the end of the summer, and a frustrated Hermione packs her trunk for school.

.

Dumbledore is mad.

While there are many professors at Hogwarts Hermione would not have employed- see: a ghost that can put even a Hufflepuff to sleep, an angry man that prefers to torment rather than teach, not to mention the stuttering murderer- the latest defense teacher is the worst. (That’s probably a disrespectful thought in Perks’ memory, but she means as teachers not as people.)

Lockhart is an absolute fraud. There isn’t one real spell in any of his books, and they all read like exaggerated bedtime stories. Hermione’s sure a dedicated duck could defeat him.

The ponce is going on about his blasted award winning smile, rather than teaching them, and Hermione isn’t dealing with this all year. Her new goal is to expose Lockhart as a fraud and get a real professor. (As dull as Professor Seward is, at least there would be learning involved.)

He assigns them eleven inches on their ‘favorite thing about the new defense professor’ and Hermione can feel the steam pouring out of her ears like a cartoon. (She goes with his creativity. While an ordinary wizard might use stupefy to stun a bear, he used ‘bearoose vamoose’.)

.

“There’s a swarm of saltwater plimpies in your hair,” an airy voice says.

Hermione pats down her hair, feeling nothing out of the ordinary. “I don’t know what you mean.”

The girl sighs, “No, I suppose not.”

Hermione bristles as the blonde skips away, certain she was just insulted about… something.

“Don’t mind her,” a new voice says, and she’s startled to see Davis walking beside her. “Lovegood’s absolutely mad.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

Davis offers an awkward smile, and then walks faster to catch up with the other Slytherin girls.

.

Lockhart’s fans have invaded the library, and won’t stop with their incessant giggling. It’s only been getting worse as the days go on, their numbers steadily increasing. She goes back to the dungeons with a scowl, even if her jerk housemates are in a cursing mood that’s better than overhearing another simpering line about how brave Lockhart is or how very white his teeth are.

Taking the corner table, Hermione goes through Lockhart’s books chronologically. There are very few dates given, though he’s happy to brag about burning a yule log with other famous people, and she makes a rough timeline. Rereading the books is painful work, somehow even worse the second time around. She keeps at it, bolstered by each terrible defense lesson and the idea of him staying until her OWL year if she fails.

In early December she’s finally finished- a long potions paper and transfiguration project delaying her results. The timeline did match up with the Daily Prophet’s version of events, only small differences too minute to make a difference. While the Hogwarts library doesn’t keep other newspapers on file, a sixth year is doing an extensive project on media in Tibet, and there Hermione finds her smoking gun.

Chun Yu claims to have defeated the Yeti in question four years before Lockhart’s Year with the Yeti.

She did it. All that’s left is to give her research to an adult who can fix things. Dumbledore’s out, he must know he hired an impostor. While Professor Snape’s hatred of the man is well known, she doesn’t think he could do much besides go to the Headmaster. She’s read about the board of governors, but she doesn’t know how likely they are to act. (After all, they didn’t do anything to increase security after the troll killed Perks.)

There’s one obvious option, and it seems fitting given the Professor’s love of the media.

.

Lockhart refuses to go quietly in the night, holding a mandatory dueling club meeting. At the very least, she does get to watch Professor Snape dispatch of him in seconds, sending Lockhart flying backwards. That alone makes it worth it. Then they’re pairing up students to do practice duels, and she doesn’t much care until she hears her name.

“Next up, Weasley and Granger!”

Weasley doesn’t bow, and on three exactly, she hurls a spell at him.

He dodges her stunner and summons a snake. He blanches, and before Hermione can consider why or how he did it, she casts a spell at the snake, indocere.

Admittedly, she hasn’t used the spell before, found it while researching how to care of Dai. Feeling no small amount of satisfaction when it settles on the snake’s mind, the snake abruptly changes direction, heading back towards Weasley.

“I said disarming spells only!” Lockhart yells, going to vanish the snake.

Something goes horribly wrong, the snake is cut in half instead, blood and guts and bones exposed, nearby students screaming. It’s gory and smells horrible, and the snake doesn’t die immediately, both ends writhing.

Professor Snape vanishes the whole thing, but not before one of the Hufflepuffs is sick. Needless to say, there aren’t any more dueling club meetings after that.

(That night Hermione doesn’t sleep much, Dai on her chest as she pets his scales over and over. He’s okay, it’s okay.)

.

The holidays are louder than last year’s, her mum and aunt and uncle in a fight over their grandmother’s car. Something about getting a deduction from the will and healthcare and hospice, and Hermione tunes it out. Her cousins are all talking about their friends and school, and she doesn’t want to join that conversation either. She picks at her plate instead, mostly moving around the corn and mashed.

Hermione feels guilty over how much she already misses Hogwarts. She sees her extended family once a year if that, and her mum summers and a week. Worse, how much she misses magic, and it feels like a validation of everything Malfoy and his cronies like to say, disgust thickening in her throat. She’s a terrible daughter, maybe it’s a good thing she’s never home.

.

First week back and she’s working on an essay for Binns in the common room. Dai lays in her lap, scales extra shiny as he shed his skin that very morning. Her housemates are largely ignoring her. Perhaps because they’re still in a holiday mood, or perhaps due to the venomous reptile with her.

It’s unexpected when Blaise Zabini sits across from her, tossing a newspaper that lands squarely on her homework.

“Congratulations on getting rid of Lockhart.”

She can’t help her eyes flicking over the first few sentences the ‘worried witch of two’ wrote, but she can keep her expression neutral. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Blaise raises an eyebrow, “I’m not an idiot. You take notes on all of Lockhart’s books like a mad scholar, and then a week later Skeeter is demanding his wand.”

While Hermione doesn’t like the woman’s methods, they are extremely effective. Skeeter had far better resources as well, debunked each of his books. In the end her article called for two things: higher penalties for illegally using mind magics and a criminal investigation into Lockhart’s past and present. (Think of the children indeed, and no one dared to go against that rising tide.) A ministry Auror had taken over defense classes in the mean time, Professor Shacklebolt.

Hermione, and many others, hoped the new professor would stay beyond the year. Besides having universal appeal- a pureblood Ravenclaw and a sharp dresser- he taught mostly practical classes. The mock duels meant her classmates were less likely to curse her after class, preferred to have an audience anyways.

“You know,” Blaise drawls when it must become obvious she isn’t going to answer. “if you took credit, you could sit with us.”

She entertains the fantasy for a moment: Draco sputtering and pale face going dark red with rage, Parkinson probably following his lead, and her laughing with Davis and Greengrass. Studying with Nott and Zabini, not being the odd one out in class projects or-

“There’s nothing to take credit for,” Hermione says, handing the paper back and returning to her essay. She isn’t going to be chummy with a bunch of people that would happily wish her mother dead.

.

The letter and Daily Prophet come mid-April.

Dear Worried Witch of Two,

I must thank you again for your diligence and brilliance in seeing through that charlatan’s ruse. Your notes were an excellent apparition point for our team’s research, and we truly could not have done it without you. I’ve enclosed a copy of today’s prophet as Lockhart’s trial finally concluded. Unfortunately, he was tried under the old laws- as the addendum is still being debated on the floor- and received five years in Azkaban. Good riddance!

Also enclosed is a small token of our gratitude, I do hope you write to us first about any irregularities you may find in the future.

Yours,
Rita
Queen of the Quills

Her fingers twitch to burn it, but Skeeter’s a decent contact to have. Maybe she’ll be able to get rid of Professor Binns too. With wide eyes Hermione counts out sixteen galleons in the pouch, tucking the money away. Next year, she’ll be able to properly replace her robes. (Greengrass loves bragging about her custom made robes, with how many enchantments are stitched into them. There’s only one she’s interested in though- a lengthening charm that can last up to six inches in height.)

.

Hermione spends the summer much as she did the previous one: laying about and vainly trying to get wandless magic to work. She ends up watching some of the neighbors’ pets to build up some spare change. That and because it makes her mum quit commenting about her ‘lazing about in the sun all day’.

It’s an even hotter summer than usual, and Hermione feels all motivation to do anything drip away. Even laying in the hammock has her sweaty and irritable. Only Dai enjoys the weather, the smug brat.

.

As the sorting comes to a close, chatter picks up, as usual about the latest staff. This Professor Lupin doesn’t look too promising, though it’s interesting to note that Professor Snape obviously knows him- isn’t subtle about his glares.

Davis nods to the new defense teacher with a frown, “How long do you think this one will stay?”

“Not past yule,” Bulstrode says. Greengrass doesn’t bother answering, sniffing daintily and looking away from the teachers’ table.

Admittedly, with the tattered robes and many scars, Hermione doesn’t think he’ll last long either. She was rather hoping for Auror Shacklebolt to return, liked his methods.

.

Professor Lupin is… decent. If it weren’t for her house, Hermione is sure she would like him more. But she’s been viewing defense as a class to help her evade her fellow Slytherins, and learning how to defeat various creatures doesn’t help with that.

Whatever muddled peace there was last year is gone, and worse, Dai goes missing. She doesn’t think he’s in danger- he has been good about showing up once bullies are gone and she’s bleeding in some hallway in a manner that must be due to their familiar bond. She’d feel it if he was lost or afraid. She’d have to.

.

Professor Binns starts up with goblin rebellions again, since apparently the summer homework of witch burnings is all they needed to do there. Hermione raises her hand, gaining several curious stares.

The professor hesitates before calling on her, saying, “Does this pertain to the goblin rebellions?”

“Course aim sir.”

“Very well Miss Grant, what is your question?”

There’s a few snickers at the name, and cheeks burning she asks, “When will we study modern history?”

“Excuse me?”

“First year we did up to 1912-”

“You don’t need to remind me!” Professor Binns interrupts, and Hermione must have touched a nerve, has never heard the ghost so emotive before. “Ahem, over the next three years we will be focusing exclusively on the goblin rebellions and giant wars. They are, you understand, very important historical events.”

Hermione doesn’t bother raising her hand, knee jittering. “So we never study anything within the last eighty years- like why different Dark Lords rose to power? Or even the effects of the goblin rebellions on modern wizard-goblin relations?”

There’s an echo of gasps around the room, and Binns doesn’t answer, going back to describing the 1612 rebellion. Hermione fumes, for once not taking notes on the class material. She is writing though, a new scathing letter for Skeeter. (Unfortunately it does not result in Professor Binns being fired nor forced to alter his curriculum.)

.

It’s a cold day in February when Hermione makes the mistake of studying in the common room. This year the library’s been quieter, devoid of Lockhart’s fools, and for the most part she’s been working there. But tonight she wanted a mug of hot chocolate with her reading, which meant common room or dorm, and Parkinson’s voice is even more grating in enclosed spaces.

“-it howls every time it eats a Hogsmeade resident! The beast scatters the bones and-”

“Oh honestly!” Hermione can’t help interrupting, Malfoy’s ridiculous speciest rant edging on thirty minutes. “You’d think having a werewolf as a professor going on six months would have changed your mind about such ridiculous myths. Wolfsbane is perfectly safe, has been thoroughly tested and obviously he’s on it.”

The common room goes eerily quiet, and Malfoy doesn’t snap like she expects. “…what?”

“You have a professor that appears ill every full moon, taking potions daily the week before, surely you’ve realized that?”

Zabini chokes on something, and a slick smile is spreading over Malfoy’s face in a way that unnerves her. A prefect leaves, and a pit falls in her stomach. That maybe- maybe it wasn’t obvious.

“Mudblood expels werewolf, knew you got in Slytherin for a reason,” Nott says, guffawing loudly as the common room joins him.

Hermione’s face burns, and she gathers her things quickly.

.

Nott’s right, like the bookish bastard is with all things he dares to claim out loud. A parliament of owls- really a parliament and the royal court’s worth- descend on the headmaster in the morning, and Professor Lupin is gone before noon.

Hermione’s guiltily grateful that they don’t have a last class with him, can’t meet his eyes knowing she destroyed his career. In mock penance she spends a week researching werewolves, feels worse with every word. The tattered clothes and the scars all make sense now, and after being publicly outed, she doubts he’ll easily find new employment, if at all. Worse, the Wolfsbane Potion isn’t cheap, and without a job he’ll likely be going without. Which means a higher chance to hurt someone and be killed for it and-

Hermione takes a deep breath, flipping the page. She needs to know about inequalities like this, needs to document everything broken before bringing about a fix.

Professor Swiblie is brought in rather than Shacklebolt, and tragically, she’s as ridiculous as her name suggests. Hermione doesn’t know how the woman got the required ‘O’ to teach the subject, is thoroughly unimpressed with her. While they do practice in class, all the learning is through the book, as if Swiblie can’t give a proper lecture.

.

There’s an odd feeling in her gut, as if her magic is pulling her up to the second floor. Hand on her wand, Hermione goes, wary of walking into a trap. There’s two Gryffindor boys, and she pays them no mind- lions attack blatantly, don’t bother with subterfuge.

She spots familiar green scales, joy bubbling up as she runs over. “Dai! Oh I’ve missed you boy, were you in the kitchens again?”

“That’s your snake?” one of the boys growls, and looking at them again she recognizes them. The famous Harry Potter and his Weasley sidekick.

Weasley yells, “YOUR BLOODY SNAKE ATE MY RAT!”

She spots a rat-sized lump in the middle of his belly, and all amusement is drained by the dread that floods her veins.

“Don’t you have anything to say for yourself, you slimy Slytherin?”

“Ron, maybe we should-”

The lump rapidly expands, too rapidly, Dai exploding, scales and guts everywhere, a human corpse where the snake once was.

Hermione screams.

It feels like her body was ripped in half, like her insides were scooped out and haphazardly put back in- only they’re not all there, and not in their proper places. She doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel complete. Darkness overtakes her, consciousness mercifully fleeing.

.

Hermione wakes up to white walls. There’s a pain in her chest, Dai’s demise coming back quick, and she blinks away tears.

“A familiar bond! Miss Granger,” Madam Pomfrey rounds on her realizing she’s awake. “which of your parents was foolish enough to allow such a thing? This is precisely why minors aren’t to have them. I’ll need to give them a talking to once we have you set to rights.”

“They didn’t,” Hermione says blearily, remembering the Albronda journal. She thought the description of her familiar’s death was magnified- either through having such a close bond or nostalgia. If anything, the descriptions feel inadequate. There isn’t a hole, but a schism- not loss, but despair.

Madam Pomfrey harrumphs and gives her a mustard yellow potion to drink. It tastes like nothing, which is odd in itself.

“Your parents did not perform the ritual Miss Granger?” a sharp voice asks, and oh, Professor Snape is here too. Her observational skills are really below par, it must be another-

“Miss Granger.”

She swallows, “No. I did it alone with Dai.”

He’s tisking, “Underage magic out of bounds.”

She’s fairly certain he doesn’t mean it as a threat, but it makes her happy to correct him, recalling the moment they became one. “No, magic is permitted on the Hogwarts Express.”

The potion hits her then and Hermione passes out once more. This time she dreams, of snake bites and smooth scales.

.

Hermione misses a week of school. She hates to even think it, but it’s for the best. Her moods are all over the place, manic in how quickly they change. One moment she’s weeping and writing a letter to her mother, the next she’s reminiscing about the time Dai sat in her lap for an entire evening while she rewrote a transfiguration essay, then she’s cold as ice, numb to everything.

Where Dai bit her has gone from silver to bone white, stark against her skin. It turns out the rat-person he ate was an illegal animagus that did some horrid thing a decade ago. And now the latest story in the Prophet is how someone innocent was imprisoned.

One day, Hermione will care. May even be glad the rat bastard was discovered. But she’ll never be okay with the price, not ever.

.

Voldemort is alive. Maybe if the news had come a month ago, she’d be reacting properly.

“Time to stop lying about your father Granger,” Malfoy declares with a smirk. “The Dark Lord walks again.”

Hermione doesn’t know what the most disturbing thing is: that this isn’t even the third time she’s heard someone in their common room talking about his return today, that her housemates are still deluded into thinking she isn’t muggleborn, or how fucking happy he looks about a mass murderer returning from the grave.

(It’s none of those of course. It’s the fact that he-who-is-supposed-to-be-dead is very much alive by all accounts. If Potter were older, she’d be tempted to write a letter of complaint about his vanquishing methods.)

“Oi, quit being a wanker Malfoy,” one of the older Slytherins says, Pucey she’s pretty sure. “It’s join or die, let’s go play quidditch.”

A shiver drags down her spine at Pucey’s matter of fact words. Somehow it’s more effective than Parkinson’s gruesome details of how her Daddy likes to torture muggles or Nott’s statistics. Most of the common room clears out, the quidditch team to practice and their many fans to watch.

Zabini pauses by her side, “Seriously Granger, no one’s found anything out about your Dad. If he isn’t muggle…”

Hermione rolls up her homework, lips thin. “That’s because he’s a dead immigrant. Not because he’s a wizard.”

He shrugs, “Might wanna rethink that.”

She hates that she understands his pragmatism. It’d be so much easier if she didn’t. (That doesn’t mean she’s taking the coward’s way out. She won’t lie about who she is or what she cares about.)

.

Britain’s latest Dark Lord failed because he was an idiot. Hermione only hopes this is still the case.

A few weeks of research solely devoted to said Dark Lord, and the library Hufflepuffs are avoiding her. More importantly though, she has a clearer idea of V. (Voldemort seems wrong to think fully, she trips over it every time, he-who-must-not-be-named ridiculous, and the Dark Lord undeserving- thus the initial.)

V’s last descent from power showed he was deeply paranoid as the end drew closer. Hermione hasn’t decided yet if that points more towards his mental facilities failing and inevitably crashing, or having a spy on the inside leading him astray. For someone who made endless speeches about cleansing the world of filth- he really didn’t do that much of it. Sure, there were horrific murders and revels- but there was nothing on a grand scale.

If Hermione wanted to ruin the muggle world, as a witch- all she’d need to do is ignite enough wars between major powers. It’d be disturbingly easy to make foreign dignitaries turn on each other with magic- there’s a potion that even lets you become someone’s duplicate for a short time, the havoc that alone could wreck. You could even start old with the spare Tsar Bomba and-

Hermione rushes to the nearest sink, puking up her lunch.

(She’s vaguely grateful the Hogwarts curriculum for muggle studies is a joke.)

.

Dear Miss Granger,

My godson has told me the role you played in my emancipation, and I am deeply in your debt. I have never had a familiar, so I cannot presume the gravity nor depth of your loss. At your earliest convenience I would like to meet in person to discuss compensation.

Please owl back your thoughts.

Sincerely,
Sirius Black of House Black
(penned by Atrius Tange, Esq.)

Hermione reads the letter four times over before getting Blaise alone and handing it to him.

“Explain what this is please.”

He whistles low, “Damn Granger.”

She rolls her eyes, “I got that from the lawyer writing it. What else?”

He grins, all shiny white teeth, “They’re worried a wizard’s debt formed. Very possible with the familiar bond-”

Hermione shakes her head, “But the compensation part?”

“Marry him.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’m serious Granger. Black is the heir to his entire house now, he’s the richest bachelor in Britain. It’d be within your rights to ask for marriage to him or his godson. Who is his godson?”

“I don’t know.” Hermione tugs a hand through her curls, “I’m not- that’s ridiculous, I’m not getting married.”

Blaise shrugs, handing the parchment back to her. “Then decide what you do want.”

It’s easier said than done. A few days later Hermione replies, asking to meet over the summer break. She has end of the year exams to study for, and she still doesn’t know what to ask for. It isn’t as if Dai could be replaced- she wouldn’t even want it if it were possible. She rubs the cold scar and rereads the goblin rebellion dates.

.

For someone who must be in his early thirties, Sirius Black looks old. She quashes the Zabini voice in her head suggesting it could be a quick marriage, tragic how those ex-Azkaban prisoners never last long. After casual introductions, he suggested lunch at Zara’s- some hole in the wall that she went along with. He clearly isn’t comfortable in crowds, and she bites back the brimming questions about Azkaban.

Once they’re settled, orders in, water and breadbasket before them, do they return to the main subject.

“Your parents didn’t want to come?”

Hermione rips a bread roll in half, “Mum. She isn’t magical.”

Sirius swears, then looks at her and swears again. “Fuck sorry, we could go to a muggle place?”

Hermione smiles, he isn’t anything like she expected. “It’s fine.”

“Right,” he says, scratching his jaw. “Well, there’s money if you name a figure. Do you like history? I have a bunch of Black artifacts that are collecting dust.”

Her lips quirk, “I like history, not trinkets.”

He barks out a laugh, “There’s a library. Mostly dark stuff, honestly I never spent much time in there.”

“I’d like to see that.”

After that, lunch is an easy affair. He asks lots of questions about Hogwarts, but she gets the feeling he isn’t really listening to her replies. Which suits her just fine. Malfoy and Greengrass were always bellyaching about the Hogwarts library and how their family libraries were so much better. And Hermione’s positive the Black library will be unfettered as well, knowledge just waiting to be consumed.

Thirty minutes later, they’re both before the Black library, and Hermione tries not to let greed overtake her features.

“I’ll take it.”

“The entire library?”

She blinks, slowly looking over at him. “You admitted yourself that you never spent much time in here. Is it really a great loss?”

He laughs bitterly, “You don’t understand, this is an ancestral library. The rare books in here alone- even Dumbledore sometimes comes here for them.”

Hermione cocks her head, “That’s why it’s worth a life debt.”

He sucks in a breath through his teeth, muttering, “Merlin you sound just like him.” Louder he says, “Fine. Tange will be in touch.”

.

Esquire Tange is good at his job, within the week all the paperwork is settled and she has the books. Rather than new robes, Hermione invests her entire budget into a new trunk. It has enough compartments to hold the Black library and her school things, not to mention upgraded security features.

The new defense teacher is another Auror- this one retired- Moody. He was obviously good at his job, all Slytherins with darker families knowing of him. The Triwizard Tournament steals his thunder though and Hermione is less than impressed with the whole thing. International cooperation could have taken shape in a debate or dueling championship or a manner of other things that wouldn’t have a death toll. (Then again, perhaps the revamped tournament won’t have one.)

She still wakes up in the middle of the night, a phantom weight on her stomach and her wrist aching with coldness. She still feels incomplete.

Hermione works through her new library with an efficiency that would be worrying if she cared for such things. She isn’t sleeping much anyways, she mine as well do something with all that time. What becomes clear rather quickly, is that Dark Arts are often categorized based on means rather than outcome. She hadn’t picked up on it before, then again, she’s never read so many dark texts in a row.

The Guttinae Potion is diffindo in a bottle. Not quite as precise due to the liquid nature, but otherwise the same. The potion requires the blood of a living murderer, rendering it impractical and dark. There’s a curse to raise a person’s internal temperature until death, requiring immense concentration and the non-wand hand to be dipped in a widow’s tears. Alternatively, there’s the simple water heating charm that Flitwick taught them last week that does in fact work on people.

The more she reads, the more absurd practicing the Dark Arts exclusively seems. Besides the obvious emotional effects, most of the time you’re doing five times the work for no reason. (There are of course exceptions, but those exceptions are the only spells that seem to be worth the extra energy.)

.

Professor Moody is three parts yelling and one part screaming. While Hermione can’t deny his methods are effective, they are also irritating and causing more headaches than they’re worth. She must be glaring at her defense homework too hard, because Blaise plops down next to her with a grin.

“You’ve been going two for two on defense teachers, any hints on when this one will go? There’s a betting pool.”

Hermione rolls her eyes, “Professor Moody is adequate.”

Blaise laughs, “Yeah sure, and Quirrell was adequate too. He never showed up again either- were you involved in that too?”

Hermione can’t remember what Perks looked like, swallowing down bile. “I need to- I’ll talk to you later Blaise.”

Hours later Hermione’s studying in the library when she hears a whimper, and then spots Parkinson quickly leaving the library. Rolling her eyes at the girl’s poor aim, Hermione goes around the corner to find the unfortunate collateral damage.

There’s a pretty French girl, scratches rapidly opening and closing on her inner arms. She’s unfortunately familiar with the curse, though it’ll be much easier to counter on another person.

“Excuse me, I can fix that.”

Big blue eyes blink down at her, and Hermione takes that as silent consent, murmuring the counter.

“How did you know it?” the girl asks with a thick accent, and Hermione would usually applaud someone’s suspicious nature, but there’s only a few more minutes before the library closes and she ought to get one more source for Binns.

“Because I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve used it on me.”

The girl gives her a blank expression, looking at her green tie.

“I’m muggleborn,” Hermione adds flatly.

“Oh.”

And that’s the last Hermione expects to hear from the pretty exchange student.

.

Her name, it turns out, is Fleur Delacour and she is one of the champions. The other two are Viktor Krum and Cedric Diggory. While she knows she’s supposed to be supporting Diggory, the feminist in her wants Delacour to win.

The library is almost like her second year again- whispers and giggles whenever one of the champions is there. Which tends to be rather often between the three of them. Hermione notices Delacour the most, but that’s due to her shiny blonde hair.

The Beauxbatons champion hasn’t said anything to her since learning her blood status, and Hermione isn’t surprised or disappointed. (Okay fine. Maybe she is the tiniest bit sad. But only because she knows the girl has some creature blood in her and she foolishly thought she might be different.)

Delacour glances over at her, looking away immediately when Hermione notices and all the kids are tittering. Cheeks burning, she gathers her books, would rather deal with idiots in the common room tonight.

Hermione’s reassessing that statement as Blaise claims the chair across from her with a grin. He’s been irritatingly cordial recently, and she has a nasty feeling it’s why most the bullying has cooled off. Not that she doesn’t appreciate the peace of mind, she’d rather gain it because her housemates realize they’re bigoted idiots.

“What do you want?”

“Oh you wound me,” Zabini says, dramatically clutching his chest.

Hermione simply raises an eyebrow, eyes flicking down to her books.

“There’s a Hogsmeade trip coming up, I was hoping you’d accompany me.”

“Why would you want that?” she can’t help but ask, no obvious answer coming to mind.

He smirks, “The Patil twins are curious but hesitant and-”

“I really don’t need to know,” she interrupts quickly. Hormones seem to have descended on their entire year at the same time; Malfoy and Parkinson are the worst of them, often necking in the common room. It’s gross and unsanitary, and so unnecessarily public. (There’s a little curiosity, she can admit that, but it can wait. Indefinitely.)

Zabini grins, “I’ll meet you here Saturday around ten.”

.

Hermione’s gone to Hogsmeade twice before. Once, the first time she was allowed as a third year out of curiosity, and the second as part of a herbology group project. It’s a quaint town to visit, but nearly everything is overpriced, and it isn’t as if she has pocket money. But Zabini has been a good friendly acquaintance, or is it casual friend now, so she’s willing to forego an afternoon in the library.

“I haven’t seen an announcement in the paper, so I’m assuming you aren’t becoming the next Lady Black.”

Hermione snorts, “No, Sirius-”

“Oooh first name basis are we?”

“-Black is far too old for me. And I’m pretty sure he’s bent.”

Blaise shrugs, “Step-daddy number three was like that. He didn’t last very long.”

“There’s this thing called plausible deniability, maybe you’ve heard of it-”

His laugh echoes around the entry hall as they enter a stationary shop. “If you didn’t take his name, did you at least take half his gold?”

Hermione isn’t too keen on anyone knowing the goldmine of information stored in her trunk, pulling out a hollow truth. “Family heirlooms.”

“Damn Granger,” he says, whistles low. “Didn’t know you had it in you. To ask for what can’t be replaced? Cold.”

Pride heats up her chest, it had been a rather Slytherin move of her. Had she ended up where she was expected in Ravenclaw, she doesn’t think that Hermione would have demanded such a thing. Probably mere access or some such nonsense. She turns down the next aisle, a large glass display cabinet of the novelty quills. There’s over a dozen of them in deep jewel shades and metallics, they’re all stunning- and all probably cost more than the quills and parchment she bought for the entire school year.

“Which one do you like best?”

Hermione distantly recalls Blaise snapping a quill of his recently while Malfoy was mouthing off about something or other.

“The white gold,” she says, it has a simple elegance that reminds her of a string of pearls. “You?”

“Green obviously,” Blaise teases, “house pride first.”

Hermione giggles as the shop keeper appears. She’s an older woman with spectacles nearly as large as Trelawney’s, only the frames are a heavy silver, sapphires at the corners. “Excellent choices Monsieur Zabini and friend, feathers of a thunderbird and a harpy.”

“One of each if you please.”

“The thunderbird can be enchanted to explode any parchment if another’s hand were to steal it. Guaranteed for up to a year.”

Blaise turns to her, “What do you think?”

Hermione’s eyebrows come together, “Nott helps you with arithmancy all the time, your homework would be destroyed.”

“No charm then, I’ll take two matching cases instead,” he says as they walk up to the register.

Hermione eyes the price tags on the generic cases they pass, coming to a total that’s frankly ridiculous for replacing one measly quill. She’ll never understand rich people.

Some of it must show on her face because Blaise is looking far too amused. “Supporting local businesses is important.”

Supporting local businesses it turns out is a rather extravagant and expensive affair. Blaise doesn’t bother with the popular shops- Zonko’s or Honeydukes or Gladrags- instead taking her to a cheese shop and a rare books shop and an odds and ends shop. None of which she even knew existed prior to today, not that she’s their target market. It’s fun shopping with Blaise, as long as she can keep her thoughts in order and quiet about the myriad of ways his money could be spent better.

It is supporting local businesses. Maybe if she repeats that a few dozen more times, she’ll stop feeling so off about it.

After a pair of butterbeers Blaise declares their shopping spree complete, and they take a carriage back to the castle. His purchases take up two seats and it’s a lucky thing no one else is returning at the same time as them.

“This is for you,” Blaise says, handing her the mahogany case lined with gold.

Hermione flips it open, and sure enough the beautiful thunderbird golden quill is inside. “I couldn’t possibly-”

“You could,” he interrupts softly.

She isn’t thick- she knows what accepting the quill will look like to their classmates. But she’s also covetous, already can’t stand the idea of parting with the glorious implement. It isn’t like they’ll be saying anything new anyways, and the assumption that they’re having relations has made her life easier.

“Thank you Blaise, it’s marvelous.” She swallows, has to ask and feels horrid for voicing it, “The others, they all think um-”

He laughs easy, leaning back, “Don’t worry, you’re not my type.”

“What is? Skinny and blonde?” the question comes out sharper than she intends, but Blaise’s smile doesn’t dim.

“I simply prefer my partners to be rapturous at the thought of bedding me.”

Hermione’s face is on fire, and she has a nasty suspicion that he could seduce nearly anyone he wished to. “Oh.”

He winks, “I’m sure you could get there-”

Hermione huffs out a laugh, tension snapped and everything returning to normal. “Save your charm for the Patils.”

“Fine, if you ever get into politics, you’ll have my support.”

Hermione nearly gets whiplash at how quickly her head jerks back to him, “What?”

He grins, “I keep forgetting to offer. You’re very… uncompromising. Righteous. Ruthless. I think it’d be interesting.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she mutters, head swimming.

Hogwarts comes into view, and Hermione places the new quill in her bag. She doesn’t like lying, but really- she’s just letting her classmates make the wrong assumptions.

.

Dragons.

The champions are facing off against dragons.

It isn’t as bad as Hermione first thought- they aren’t fighting but evading. There’s a dozen dragon handlers with their wands ready if anything goes lopsided. While logically she knows it’s extremely improbable for one of the champions to die off the bat, she’s still at the edge of her seat the entire time, heart pounding in her throat.

All three make it out, alive and at least half smiling. Diggory gets the worst of it, a burn over half his face. It’s chilling how dismissive of it everyone is; Hermione can’t imagine ever being used to magic enough to write off injuries like that.

.

“Do you have a partner to the ball yet?”

“Why?” Hermione asks, doesn’t bother looking up from her revision. There’s a herbology test coming up, and she’s been feeling weak on her fanged ferns.

“I’m taking Padma.”

She looks up, Blaise looking smug beyond belief. “That poor bird. I thought you were going after the other one? House rivalry or some nonsense.”

He nods, “It was nonsense. When I saw Padma in the owlery this morning, all immaculate and gorgeous, I knew-”

Hermione gasps, “You didn’t! You thought she was her sister.”

Blaise winces, “She wasn’t wearing anything house related and she was so happy to see me- yeah.”

She slaps a hand over her mouth, can’t help the giggles bursting through. “What-what was it you said last week?”

He looks away, “Doesn’t matter-”

“That you could tell them apart by their auras?”

“Laugh it up. If you don’t have a date, all of the third years are on their best behavior.”

Hermione snorts, has noticed that herself. The younger Bulstrode had offered to carry her books with a hopeful smile.

“I’m good.”

.

It takes the better part of an afternoon to get ready for the Yule Ball. Every minute is a reminder why she doesn’t regularly doll herself up like Davis or Greengrass. Her hair alone takes the majority of the time, and a whole bottle of Sleekeazy’s. (Recommended two drops, as if.)

The silver ball gown is ridiculously stunning, crystals sewn into the bodice, and silver silk smooth like moonlight. Her date insisted on matching, and Hermione couldn’t turn down the dress after seeing it. Her roommates have already left when she adds the final touches, a spritz of perfume and looks at the clock. She’s late- oh crap- Hermione walks as quickly as she can downstairs, thankful for the modest heels hidden by the gown. She nearly runs all the way to the Great Hall, only slowing when she spots the pristine white dress robes with silver accents.

“Fleur you look incredible,” she greets, and Fleur kisses her cheeks.

“As do you, tres magnifique.”

“Excellent, we have all our champions,” Professor McGonagall says.

Hermione looks to the others- Krum’s brought a ravenclaw girl and Diggory brought Potter.

“Nervous?” Fleur asks softly.

Hermione smiles up at her, “Non.”

There’s nothing to be nervous about, the whole evening passes like a dream. There’s drinking (sparkling pumpkin juice) and dancing and laughter, and for once, Hermione feels like a regular kid.

Fleur kisses her at the end of the night, and Hermione dreams of pale flowers and rivers.

.

In the morning there’s a five page story on Diggory and Potter’s relationship, from the beginning of the Triwizard Tournament to last night’s Yule Ball. Skeeter somehow manages to imply that both are using the other for more money and fame, some choice quotes from ‘undisclosed sources’. Hermione would bet her left foot Parkinson had a hand in the mess.

Luckily for herself, the foreign champions only merit a sentence at the end, stating they both chose to take dates from Hogwarts. There is a picture from the opening dance, all six of them twirling. Her and Fleur look smoother than she remembers, look positively ethereal. (Then again, she doesn’t remember anyone taking pictures, her attention rather occupied.)

.

Fleur wins the cup. Blaise ribs her about giving the enemies secret study guides, not that Fleur accepted help even when she offered. (‘I need to win this on my own. To know I am capable.’) Fleur makes her promise to write before she goes, and it’ll be nice to have a female friend. Her french needs work too, she’ll lose it soon if she doesn’t practice.

The first library she visits during her summer break is surprisingly the muggle library. Her mum has a few overdue books, and Hermione never got around to telling her about the magical library she goes to. (Her mum already thinks she’s letting magic take over her life, no need for her to know how true it really is.)

Hermione’s counting out the change for late fees when she recognizes the girl behind the counter, “Ms. Hughes! I didn’t know you still work here.”

The returning smile is stilted, “Granger, how are you enjoying the boarding school?”

“Good, but why are you here? Not… in the other place.”

“The pay is better,” Ms. Hughes says bluntly. Her voice drops as she continues, “It’s easier to ignore sexism from muggles than constantly hearing about my blood status. Maybe it’s letting them win, but I just want to be happy and fed.”

Hermione doesn’t have a response to that. Can’t imagine anything short of death stopping her from living as a witch.

She tries looking into the issue- to see how common it is, but there aren’t any statistics. It’s probably a good thing there isn’t a list of all muggleborns, but it means there’s no easy way to compile the data. Ministry records state how many employed witches and wizards various businesses claim, but they don’t list any blood status. There isn’t even a breakdown of the population to know how many purebloods vs halfbloods vs muggleborn witches there are. (Hermione has a few hypotheses about that, and there’s plenty of cases of inbreeding to point to in the regular world that back up her claims.)

.

Professor Umbridge is their latest defense teacher, and doubtless the least qualified. Her speech is all about the ministry and Hogwarts coming together. Hermione doesn’t get it- the ignorance grating in her brain.

While the ministry hasn’t made any public statements about V, the random acts of violence against muggles aren’t subtle. Most of them occur within the London area, the casualties printed on the Prophet’s last page. Perhaps the ministry wants to keep a closer eye on the Boy Who Lived? Hermione dearly hopes that isn’t their strategy if so.

Professor Snape holds a house speech that night, after the usual first year introductions.

“Professor Umbridge is here as a ministry representative. I trust none of you will be so foolish to draw her eye, or engage in Gryffindorish hysterics over her methods.”

He meets her gaze for the last bit, and Hermione is down right offended. Malfoy’s the moron without an ounce of cunning, the one who was once mauled by a hippogriff because he couldn’t be bothered to listen. How him and Parkinson became prefects is such a shallow mystery.

Fucking purebloods, they can be such gits.

.

Studying for the OWLs is rather lackluster. Ms. Hughes’ words are still echoing around the back of her head, along with the thought that it might not even matter if she gets Os across the board, she’ll still be-

Hermione tries not to listen to those voices. She throws herself into revisions, reading and rereading her notes until she can confidently answer questions about the most minute of details. Parkinson tries to hex her once while she’s in the common room, and Hermione doesn’t even look up, flicking her wrist and setting the girl’s hair on fire.

She’s in detention for a week, but Professor Snape lets her study. If it was supposed to be a deterrent, it fails utterly. Not that it matters much- other than Parkinson, the bullying has pretty much stopped. The much older kids with clever hexes have graduated, and Zabini occasionally sits with her at meal times.

It’s during one of those breakfasts that Blaise proposes the idea.

“You should offer tutoring services.”

Hermione snorts derisively, “For who? Hufflepuffs help each other, Ravenclaws won’t need it, and Gryffindors are afraid of the color green.”

“It’s those deductive skills that’ll suit you well,” Blaise says with a grin.

She laughs, “No one would show up.”

“Charge ten galleons per session.”

“You’re mad.” Her eyes narrow, “Is this some scheme to get closer to your latest crush?”

“Theo.” Blaise lets out a gutsy sigh, “I can dream.”

Her eyebrows come together, “But you’re friends.”

“So?”

“Doesn’t that um, make it easier?”

“No. Think about it would you? At the very least, it never hurts to have a bit of pocket money.”

Blaise would consider thirty pounds spare change. “I’ll consider it,” she concedes. Technically she already has.

.

Zabini doesn’t let up and the common room’s been louder than usual- some ridiculousness about quidditch- so Hermione finds herself in a deserted classroom with a sign on the door. There’s a matching notice in their common room, not that Hermione expects anyone to join her. It’ll probably be three hours of OWL revision, and she can admit she’s long past bored of it, itching to get back into the Black library books. (She doesn’t want to think about anything else though, can’t risk dislodging any of the information.)

Bulstrode strides in, slams her galleons on the table and says, “The herbology project makes no sense.”

It takes an hour and a half, but soil preparation and maintenance finally gets through the girl’s thick skull. The gold keeps her tone in check. By the end she’s beginning to think her fee is a bargain, that this will be a very short-lived venture if there are more students like Bulstrode.

(There aren’t luckily. She’s pretty sure only Crabbe or Goyle could give the girl a run for her money, and neither of them show up for help.)

.

Hermione sits out by the lake, her white gold quill moving rapidly over the parchment. Her monthly letter to Fleur is late, and she’s hoping the length will make up for it. She writes about tutoring and Umbridge’s refusal to actually teach. Before the letter can become a massive rant, she asks after Fleur’s health and her family’s. Fleur mentioned an interesting paper she’s working on regarding the goblins’ monopoly on gold and banking, and she asks for a copy if it’s complete, rather curious what conclusions came about.

She watches the sun set over the lake, grabbing another piece of parchment. Starting a letter to her mum, she writes until the air has cooled and her stomach grumbles.

.

Hermione turns a tidy profit, there’s even enough demand to start scheduling. She has quite a few repeat customers, mostly among the younger years. There is one standing appointment- Thursdays at eight with Tracey Davis. She thought Davis was one of her more intelligent classmates, but like clockwork, she has a new problem every week she needs help with.

Thankfully, Davis catches on easy. She spends nearly half her time simply talking with Hermione, and the girl must be lonely. (Not that Hermione starts hanging out with her outside of tutoring sessions, she’s rather enjoying building up her small fortune.)

There’s a wave of panicked fifth years for defense tutoring when they realize Professor Umbridge isn’t having them practice any spells until their OWLs. Even a group of Hufflepuffs show up, saying Zabini referred them.

“Don’t invite the other two houses,” Hermione informs him at the next dinner he sits across from her.

“Hm?”

She rolls her eyes, “You know what I’m talking about.”

“What’s that I hear? Roaring success?”

“Unless you’re joining, there’s no more open time blocks.”

“Nah I’m happy with my Es. Not worth the extra effort for that O,” he says with a smirk.

“You’re such a juvenile.”

Blaise winks, standing up, “A juvenile that’s about to charm the pants off of Spinnet.”

.

St. Agatha’s is burnt to a crisp, and Hermione tries to keep her face neutral as she reads the casualties. One jumps out, a Mrs. Matthews who was a neighbor before being placed in the nursing home, had a rude cat Hermione used to watch on her bingo nights. Sixty-eight people murdered, a stone’s throw away from her home.

She writes a letter to her mum, urging her to relocate. It isn’t the first time she’s asked, and she’s tempted to weave a compulsion charm into the parchment. She’ll just have to argue better over the summer. Lay out all the facts and murders, and surely, her mum will change her mind.

(She doesn’t.)

.

V is busy over the summer, and it shows in the drop off of tutorees Hermione has. More Slytherins are afraid to be associated with her, but her small group of Hufflepuffs stays, along with Davis, and Zabini still randomly eats with her. (Bulstrode complains about failing Transfiguration in their dorm, and there’s a vicious, petty sort of joy in hearing it.)

More importantly, she finishes reading all of her books. She finally discovers a theory of healing that explains why it exhausts her so easily. That some healing requires an exchange, or a sacrifice, to function properly. Otherwise it’s overstretching magic and pulling from physical reserves- can even result in death as it happened with Healer Kulmala. (And it explains far more about potions and their ingredients than Professor Snape ever bothered to say.)

She learns a nasty tongue trap hex, one that is cured by seventeen minutes of not talking nor trying to. Technically there is a potion that can heal it, but it takes a week to brew and is only usable for two hours. There’s a sudden wave of underclassmen doing stupid shit- slicing open her bookbag, cutting her hair, summoning bugs into her food, and more tripping jinxes than she can count.

The most irritating thing is that she knows someone must be orchestrating the whole thing. And if Malfoy’s smirk is anything to judge by, it’s the pale bastard. He’s probably letting the little brats come in after curfew or something idiotic.

She becomes quite adept at the tongue trap hex, employing it whenever one of the little brats tries something. That they’re still trying mid-November has her tempted to pull out something more severe. But she’s fairly certain Malfoy’s paying the cretins, and there’s no point in permanently disfiguring a child over that. It doesn’t escape her notice that the bullies are made up almost entirely of halfblood Slytherins.

She’ll get Malfoy back, eventually. Something subtle and effective. Like cursing his purse so he always counts less than there is (a favorite of magical pickpockets), or his hair gel to always come out of the tube too quickly (a favorite of beauty stores that want to move more inventory). Maybe she’ll keep piling up the small things until he quits sending minions after her, and she can read in peace.

It’s a nice idea. It doesn’t happen.

Instead, on a cold December morning, Malfoy sits in an armchair, reading the Prophet. Hermione doesn’t pay him much mind, he isn’t one to rise early but perhaps the duties of being a prefect have finally worn off on him.

Granger. Such a common last name, so very plebeian.”

Hermione rolls her eyes, it’s too early to deal with this bullshit. And the common room being devoid of anyone else is feeling more like a set up rather than chance. “Alright bad faith.”

Malfoy’s smile doesn’t dim though, and Hermione begins to feel wary. “I have my father’s investigators looking into it. It’s only a matter of time before they find your family, and the Dark Lord wants the Slytherin mudblood gone. Maybe he’ll bring some werewolves to piss on your family’s corpses after they-”

Anger burns hot in her veins, a spell already past her lips before she can think of the ramifications. “Frangio!”

There’s a loud crack and scream, Malfoy’s femur broken, bone shards sticking out. Blood splashes over his pristine robes, won’t be cleaned easily.

“Brackium emendo,” Hermione whispers, and his leg is good as new again.

“You mudblood who-”

“Frangio,” she repeats, another crack, a whimper this time, tears streaming down his face. “Do you know how many seconds your leg can stay broken before magic can’t line everything up perfectly? I do. You wouldn’t fly the same, not that it matters. From what I hear, you can’t catch a snitch if it’s in front of your face.”

He fumbles with his wand, and Hermione heals the leg again.

“Cruc-” “Frangio!”

His grip tightens on his wand, clearly still trying to cast. She breaks and mends his leg over and over, until he doesn’t have the voice to scream.

“I could do this all day. Are you done?”

He nods frantic, and Hermione heals the leg one last time. “Good.”

She turns away, doesn’t duck in time, the unforgivable hitting her. She’s impressed by the speed if not his execution. Pain wracks through her body, but she’s had worse.

It’s bearable enough that she’s able to turn back to Malfoy and raise an eyebrow. “There’s two hundred and six bones in the human body. Would you like to know how each and every one feels broken?”

The spell breaks, and Hermione smiles. “See? You can be reasonable.”

Hermione leaves, doesn’t let herself fall apart until she’s in the bathroom no one uses, haunted by a crying girl. Tremors wrack through her, her mind helpfully reminding her that they’re the most common side effect of the cruciatus curse.

A hysterical giggle bubbles up to her lips- really she ought to be thankful for the curse. Without it, Hermione would probably be expelled right about now for endangering a fellow student. Laughter turns to tears, and fuck- how is she supposed to endure another year and a half in the same house with that asshole? She didn’t even realize how mad she was until she was looking at his exposed bone, that she liked causing him pain-

Hermione barely makes it into a stall before she’s throwing up.

.

Hermione waits to have the conversation until the day after Christmas. She’s greedy, she knows that, already knows how the argument will likely end. But she wanted one more happy memory in this house, one last holiday. She already feels guilty enough over not spending time with her mum wiser, but there’s nothing for it.

She waits in the living room, Daily Prophets spread out all over the coffee table painting a harrowing tale for muggles in Britain.

“Honey, what’s all- is this about America again?”

A smile ghosts over her lips, never let it be said that her mother isn’t a bright one. “It doesn’t have to be America. It can be anywhere in the world. I earned some extra money this year-”

“Hermione, it isn’t about money- you know that. I’m not leaving my home.”

“They will kill you.”

“I’ve never been one to run. This is- your Dad made this house you know. Nearly broke his ankle falling off a ladder, I won’t leave this place Hermione. I won’t.”

She fingers her wand, has always known where she gets her stubbornness from. “Okay.”

Her mum looks startled at the concession, and Hermione adds, “Obliviate.”

In a matter of minutes Jean Granger is no more, and Monica Wilkins comes into being. Monica is a widower, was married long ago. She retains fond memories of her husband Wendell but is moving on with her life, wants to go to Australia to rediscover herself.

Hermione packs away every item that betrays her existence, goes out to the backyard to check for miscellaneous items. There’s only dried out grass and a lopsided hammock. The feeder is empty, not a single bird in the area. It always seemed so much larger before back here.

She catches the Knight Bus to Hogsmeade, walks up to the castle.

.

After the break Malfoy doesn’t speak or look at her, and the irritating children have ceased being nuisances. Once she hated the idea of using force to bend people to your will, she still does. But damned be if it isn’t effective.

Blaise asks her what happened, and she shrugs it off. “Perhaps he learnt manners over the holiday.”

He lets it go, regaling her with tales of his winter holiday in Milan.

.

Davis shows up to her Thursday night slot with a picnic basket and red cheeks.

“I was thinking we could study under the stars? If you want to.”

Hermione’s eyes go wide, and she feels like a colossal moron for not noticing before. (Fleur would be laughing her butt off if she were here.)

“Yeah, that sounds really nice.”

.

The apparation lessons are easy, and Hermione’s grateful for a free mode of transportation. She finds herself reading more philosophy books, but they don’t really help with her problems.

She wants to fix the world- but what is the best way to go about doing so? Philanthropy is a plaster solution, unless it’s set up to be regulated and reoccurring. In which case, she really doesn’t trust wizards to not under report (or fail to understand) what muggles need. It almost sounds like a philosopher king set up, which she despises the theory of. So it all comes back to breaking the statue of secrecy, and allowing the world to know of magic.

…without the rosy glasses of her youth, Hermione can admit the idea gives her pause.

She laughs to herself, rubbing her temples. She really thought by now she’d have a plan to save the world. How very much an eleven year old Hermione would be disappointed in her.

Maybe it’s just start simple and then expand. Surely people would bring their problems forward? But if all base necessities were covered- health, food and water, shelter, and education- surely it would be a better world.

.

Thursdays at eight pm has become their date night, and Hermione likes the regularity of it. Tracey adores being out by the lake, and Hermione can admit fresh air is a good thing, even if she doesn’t usually seek it out.

Tracey’s head is in her lap, eyes closed, and Hermione’s fingers thread through her hair. Her girlfriend, she thinks with a grin, the title still so novel. She refreshes the warming charm, it must be getting late with how nippy it is- but she doesn’t want to leave this moment.

“M’Dad’s an immigrant too,” Tracey murmurs.

“From the Philippines?” Hermione verifies, fairy certain her mother’s a national.

“Yeah. When he came to London the old family name had to go, Dayanghirang to Davis. Only works on the wizards though,” she adds bitterly.

Hermione blinks, the uncomfortable realization hitting her that she isn’t sure if her father’s surname changed when he immigrated. (And wouldn’t that have been the unknowing trick on all the Slytherins that tried to pin her family tree down all these years?) …and there’s no one to ask. Her mum- how many things did she forget to ask- Hermione swallows, can’t be thinking about it.

“It sucks.”

“Yeah,” Tracey’s eyes flutter open. “But I meant, I want to visit Caloocan one day. I’d like you to come too.”

The offer takes her breath away, first words out, “Let’s graduate first.” She exhales a small delirious laugh, and Tracey grins up at her. “That sounds wonderful.”

“You’re wonderful, so sensible,” Tracey finishes in a lighter tone, pulling her down to kiss her.

.

There’s a revolution and she hasn’t been invited.

The rational side of her brain argues that she’s still a child- seventeen or not. That the only notable figure their age is Potter, and he’s obviously a mascot for morale. That her skills align with books over fighting anyways.

The rest of her screams that it’s her blood and house, and a hex on the lot of them. She doesn’t need them anyways, she’ll tear the ministry to pieces herself and carefully build it back up.

(It’s probably that red-headed twat’s fault. Cowardly fucking lion.)

.

Somehow it doesn’t hit Hermione until a week before summer break- she doesn’t have a home. She’s been avoiding thinking about it so much that she didn’t plan out the future practicalities.

That one of the Carrows is selling their used tent is a very lucky thing. It has two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living room. It’s far larger than any apartment she could get for the summer, and Diagon’s rent should be criminal. The twins used it for slumber parties, and there are some nail polish stains that won’t come out no matter the cleaning spell she tries, but really, it’s insignificant.

Hermione apparates to the French countryside, thinking of where she and her parents went camping once. She sets a few temporary wards to hide the tent, before launching herself on the couch. There’s a bookshelf nearby, though she doesn’t feel like reading just yet, building a fire instead. With the crackling logs the room becomes much cozier, almost a real home.

The Black library was a steal, but she still feels Dai’s scales under her fingertips. Like muscle memory that refuses to fade, and her wrist is still cold, her soul still incomplete.

She casts, and casts, and casts, until her entire arm is sore.

.

Seventh year is an absolute mess. (Her younger self would be so appalled at the conditions of her NEWT year.) Tensions are running high as the war outside escalates, barbed insults drawing wands more often than not. Professor Seward returns to teach defense, who is unfortunately, just as dull as memory serves.

After she wakes up to Parkinson standing over her bed at midnight, having bypassed her alarm spell with a wand in hand, Hermione finds a room on the seventh floor that becomes her new dorm. Tracey pretty much moves in with her, and Snape doesn’t say anything about it. It’s the best sleep she’s ever gotten at Hogwarts; the world might be going to hell, but she’s waking up refreshed for once.

The headmaster spends more time outside the school than in it, not that Hermione blames him given everything that’s going on. (She wonders if Professor McGonagall does, forced to stand in as headmistress and teach her classes.)

.

They’re calling it the Final Battle. Dumbledore and Voldemort’s last fight in some muggle village, ending with both of them dead. Potter was there allegedly, doesn’t answer any questions or speculation.

Professor McGonagall officially becomes headmistress, pushes exams out two weeks given the circumstances. Once, Hermione would have been delighted by the extra study time. Instead she lays in the sun with Tracey, revising together in between kisses. (‘Positive reinforcement, very necessary,’ she teases.)

The NEWTs, much like the OWLs, if properly prepared for are a breeze.

She reads about Skeeter getting obliviated in the Prophet. Scandal it may be, there’s got to be hundreds of people relieved that her memories are gone, even more with decent motive. There’s an article mentioning Lockhart’s five years are up on the next page, and that’s where Hermione would place her bets.

There aren’t any mortalities listed in the Prophet, the first time since V tried and lost his war.

.

Hermione orders a plate of orange-cranberry scones, Blaise’s favorites. Sipping green tea while she waits, she watches Diagon Alley. It’s built up again after the war, shops open again. There’s even happy crowds, so incongruous with the last time she visited the nearly empty street.

“Hold up with the- oho, finally decided to seduce me Granger? Theo doesn’t like sharing, but I bet we could persuade him.”

She sniffs, “As if I’d leave Tracey for you.”

“Oof my heart,” he says dramatically before grinning. “She could join of course-”

“Anyways!” Hermione interrupts before Blaise can really get going. “A while ago you said you’d be willing to help me with something.”

He nods grabbing a scone, and she swallows, says it out loud for the first time, “I’m going to become the next minister of magic.”

A wide grin spreads across his face, “Yes ma’am.”