30 October 1981
There was a faint pull as the wards were passed followed by a heavy knocking on the door. Severus Snape was on his feet in an instant, wand in hand before the panicked voice of Bellatrix Lestrange pierced the thin door of 7 Spinner’s End.
“Severus, let me in!”
The knocking resumed as Severus carefully made his way over to the door, thanking Merlin, all the wards were still intact. “ Hostili Revelare, ” Severus intoned. “ Ordinem Insidiis Eu. ” Severus paused for a moment to peer through the peephole. One can never be too careful. “ Obice Carminibus. Hominium Revelo. ” Two lights glimmered through the door.
“What did Bellatrix Black tell Severus Snape during their first conversation at Hogwarts?”
“That a little runt like him knew far more about the Dark Arts than he had any business knowing as a First Year. Then I asked him to tutor me.”
“Who is with you?”
“Severus, I -”
“ Who is with you, Bella? You know very well that I will not let you in until you tell me,” Severus snapped. The other Death Eaters insisted he was paranoid, but then again, he was alive, which couldn’t be said for the elder Carrows.
Severus shivered involuntarily. The Aurors’ attack on Erinyes and Electra Carrow had left nothing to bury.
“It’s just me and Cassiopeia. Leo - they -” the witch’s voice broke. Bloody hell.
Severus threw the door open. “Come in. Quickly.” He shooed the witch inside and closed the door firmly behind her.
Bella propped the curly haired toddler higher on her hip. “Severus - they -”
“In the sitting room. The wards are stronger.”
“The Aurors - they - they killed Leo. Rodolphus and I-”
Severus’ stomach clenched. It was one thing for the Aurors to murder known Death Eaters, but quite another to murder a six-month-old child.
“What happened.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Rodolphus and I were summoned by the Dark Lord. Leo and Cassie were at home with Nippy. The wards had just been updated - we thought they were safe - when we got back, the wards were breached - Cassie’s accidental magic acted up, and we found her later in a cupboard in the kitchen - but Leo -” tears streamed freely and Bella made no effort to stop them “ - the nursery - it was destroyed - Leo - his head was smashed into the wall - there was blood everywhere - Severus, you have no idea - HE WAS SIX MONTHS OLD WHAT BLOODY QUARREL DID THE AURORS HAVE WITH AN INFANT?” Bella screamed. “THE BLOODY FUCKERS MURDERED MY SON!” Bella collapsed on the worn chesterfield, holding her daughter close as sobs wracked her body. “Severus - you have to help -”
Bella’s haunting grey eyes locked on his. “You don’t understand,” she hissed. “I need to vivisect the fuckers who murdered my son with my bare hands and watch them scream as they attempt to hold their innards in as they bleed out on their heirloom carpets. I need to make them regret the day they laid hands on my child.”
“Bella, I -” Severus’ mind was spinning. One did not refuse one of the Dark Lord’s top lieutenants and emerge in one piece. Any attack on the Aurors was a suicide mission, and Severus liked his soul where it was in his body. If Bella honestly thought he was going to accompany her -
“Severus, promise me -”
“Bella, I’m not putting myself in the face of danger for a harebrained revenge scheme!” Severus all but shouted. “The Aurors are going to eat you alive - the best case scenario is life in Azkaban!”
“I know.” The witch’s eyes burned.
“You know,” Severus repeated numbly.
“I don’t care what happens to me. I need to hurt the bastards that murdered my son.”
“I underst-” Severus began.
“No, you don’t. You don’t understand the need to rip these bastards limb from limb. You don’t understand what it’s like to come home with your child’s brains splattered against the nursery wall and the other, by fluke of the universe, crying in a kitchen cupboard. You have no bloody idea what it’s like, Severus Snape. No bloody idea. ” Bella took a breath. “I’m not asking you to get involved. I have to do this. Rodolphus, Rabastan and I need to do this. The Dark Lord wants to end this bloody war.” She grasped his arm fervently. “Rodolphus and I will do anything in our power to end the bastards that ended our son, and all I need is for you to help me.”
Severus opened his mouth to protest, but Bella cut him off.
“I’m not asking you to fight my battles for me. All I need is for you to protect my daughter.”
What in the name of Merlin? “I cannot possibly…”
“Who else would? Dolohov? The Carrows? Rosier?”
“You have to.”
“I cannot raise a child, Bella! I do not know the first thing about children! I never wanted children - I -”
“You’re my only option.” Bella’s eyes bored into him. “I don’t trust you. I just trust you more than the other Death Eaters.”
Severus was flabbergasted. She was not wrong, but -
“Here,” Bella said shortly, thrusting a sleepy toddler at him. “Take her. Protect her like she’s your own.”
Severus reflexively grabbed the girl, and was surprised she was not nearly as heavy as she looked. He balanced the girl awkwardly on his hip - he had never held a child before - and looked at Bella expectantly. Surely there was some sort of user manual she could loan him.
“What?” Severus was completely and utterly flummoxed.
“You heard me, Snape. Obliviate me.”
“Why in the name of Merlin..?”
“It’s need to know, Snape. Just fucking do it.”
“But you will not remember -”
“That’s the point of a bloody Obliviate, isn’t it?”
“How will you find-”
“Put a key in it. Or was the Dark Lord exaggerating your prowess with the magic of the mind?”
Severus bristled. “You dare question...of course I can bloody do that!”
“Then get on with it!”
Severus heaved a mental sigh and settled Cassiopeia - he’d never understand why the Blacks had a penchant for such ridiculous names - on the chesterfield.
“You’re truly certain?”
“Isn’t that what I just fucking said!?”
“You realize that if I die, it’s likely that no one will be able to guess the key and you will be left forever without memories of your daughter?”
Bella gritted her teeth. “It’s a risk I’m willing to take. If you ever have children of your own...you’ll understand that need to protect them with your life . I -- just get it over with. Before I lose my fucking nerve.”
“You don’t want to say good-bye?”
“It’ll just make it harder.”
Severus and Bella’s heads snapped to attention at the same moment. Cassiopeia was rubbing her eyes -- her disturbingly violet Lestrange eyes -- and staring at them in confusion.
“Do it, Snape.”
Severus took a deep breath. “ Legilimens. ”
Bella’s mind was filled with swirls of smokey pain, and Severus quickly plunged past the first layers into Bella’s memories of her daughter. Cassiopeia, chubby legs sticking out of her nappy, gamboled through Bella’s thoughts. Severus slowly began pulling the most recent ones together, tying strands, compacting the post-attack memories into a small and easily hideable package. After several long minutes, he withdrew from her mind.
“ Stupefy. ” Bella fell like a marionette with its strings cut. “ Obliviate .”
On the chesterfield, Cassiopeia began to cry. Severus hastily levitated Bella out of the living room and into the foyer before casting a strong Silencing Charm on the living room.
“ Ennerverate .”
Bella opened her eyes and looked at him in confusion. “Snape, why am I on the fucking floor?”
“You slipped and knocked your head,” Severus lied.
Bella was silent for a heartbeat. “I’m leaving,” she said abruptly. “I’ve got murders to plan.”
With that, she turned on the spot and vanished.
Fifteen years later...
16 April 1997
“Now today’s potion -” Professor Slughorn rapped the board smartly “-is Abstammung’s Ancestry Potion. Can anyone explain the reaction of the key ingredients?”
Hermione’s hand quickly shot into the air. This was an easy question, one she took special delight in answering given that it was not in their copy of Advanced Potion Making and had required several hours of extra reading in the library.
Slughorn looked hopefully around the room. “Miss Granger?”
“Jobberknoll feathers, which are commonly used in truth serums and memory potions, are one of the key ingredients in Abstammung’s Ancestry Potion,” Hermione quickly recited. “When combined with a solution of foxglove, neem oil, and horklump juice, the truth-seeking elements of the Jobberknoll feathers are free to interact with the user’s blood, which allows a detailed family tree to be formed when the potion is added to Pergament Vellum.”
“Perfectly stated - five points to Gryffindor. Could anyone explain the properties of Pergament Vellum?”
Hermione’s hand shot back into the air.
“Pergament Vellum is a vellum formed from the skin of a Moon Calf. It is then treated with an oil made from red myrrhe and rue so it can more effectively absorb the potion.”
“Once again, precisely correct. Take five more points for Gryffindor.”
“Now, there’s one key part of the potion that no one has touched upon yet. Can anyone spot it? Mr. Malfoy?”
“The family trees are constructed using our true wizarding names instead of our given names.”
“Excellent. For those of you who are muggleborn or muggle-raised, true wizarding names are the full version of our names used on official documents. First and middle names tend to be traditional family names and the surnames of both of the mother and father are used. My full wizarding name is Horatio Eugene Flaccus Slughorn. Both Horatio and Eugene are family names, and Flaccus is my mother’s surname while Slughorn is my father’s surname. Mr. Malfoy, if you could give us another example?”
“My true wizarding name is Draconis Lucius Black Malfoy. Draconis is the latinized version of my given first name, Lucius is my father’s first name, Black is my mother’s surname, and Malfoy is my father’s surname.”
“Excellent, excellent. Now, are there any questions? No? You may begin brewing.”
Hermione immediately set to work. The neem oil and horklump juice were quickly combined and gently heated as Hermione began shredding the lavender. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Harry flipping through his copy of Advanced Potion Making with a look of dismay.
“You know the potion isn’t in the book, right?”
Harry jumped. “What? Er, of course.”
“You didn’t research it at all, did you?”
“Er - ”
Hermione quashed down a brief feeling of smugness. “All the instructions are on the board. Didn’t you hear Professor Slughorn?”
“Er, of course I did. Erm, I’ll be getting started now.”
Hermione smirked and returned to shedding the lavender. Without the stupid Prince to help him, Harry was quite likely to fail.
Three-quarters of an hour later, Hermione’s potion was the precise shade of periwinkle detailed by Slughorn’s instructions. Ron and Harry, on the other hand, hadn’t been as successful. The sludge in Ron’s cauldron was a deep shade of forest green and while Harry had at least managed to make his potion blue, it was royal, not the specified periwinkle.
“For those of you who have finished or are finishing up, there are stock vials of potion for you to compare your sample to. If you have bungled up your potion, you may use some of the stock potion to create your family tree. If you are unsure if your potion is the appropriate color, please ask me. The Pergament Vellum can be found at the end of the front lab bench.”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione submitted their sample potions to Professor Slughorn, and Hermione was inordinately pleased that both boys would need to use stock potion to construct their family trees. Vellum in hand, the trio headed back to their seats.
“Remember, seven drops of blood, then seven swirls of the vial,” Hermione reminded them.
Ron rolled his eyes. “We know, Hermione. We’re not stupid.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. The contents of Ron’s cauldron indicated otherwise.
“Alright,” said Harry. “Here goes nothing.”
A drop of the now rich red potion was delivered to the center of the vellum, and Hermione watched in awe as spidery letters began to form.
“Bloody hell, mate, you’re related to everyone!” Ron exclaimed. “We’re even technically related, if you go back far enough. See, look, I’ve got a Black on my family tree too…”
Hermione stared at Ron’s family tree. “Your wizarding first name is Raghnall?” she asked in disbelief.
Ron nervously carded a hand through his hair. “Yeah. I mean, it’s not that odd, really. It’s the Gaelic form of Ronald - my older brothers were the ones who got family names - Fred and George are named for my mother’s brothers Fabian and Gideon. I’ve at least got a family middle name - Bilius was my great-uncle. A lot of the older names aren’t terribly uncommon. If you look at Harry’s, for example, you’ve got Hadrian Ignotius. Ignotius had been in their family for ages - the Potter line being descended from the Peverells and all, and Hadrian Potter, you can see, was his great-great-grandfather.
“Go on, Hermione, let’s see what you’ve got. Most muggleborns have some sort of wizarding family ties if you go far back enough.”
Hermione carefully dropped the potion onto the center of the vellum and waited with baited breath as the spidery lettering spread across the page. Then -
There was no way.
Something had gone terribly wrong.
It had to be wrong.
There was no way.
No possible way.
“Hermione? Why does it - ?”
“I don’t know. There - there has to be some mistake - I must have made some sort of error - I -”
“If this is a prank, it’s certainly not a funny one.”
Professor Slughorn bustled over. “Is everything alright with you three?”
“I - Professor, I think there was something wrong with my potion. I’m - I’m not her .” Hermione pointed a trembling finger at the name Cassiopeia Elladora Black Lestrange and the two lines connecting it to Rodolphus Casper Dolohov Lestrange and Bellatrix Anouk Rosier Black.
“Let me see your potion.”
Hermione wordlessly handed over her vial. Professor Slughorn looked at it, muttered something under his breath, and hurried to the front of the classroom.
Hermione watched him go, eyes wide, silently praying for it to be wrong.
“Professor? There is an inconsistency with my family tree.”
Professor Slughorn looked up from his inspection of Hermione’s potion. “What appears to be the problem?”
“There’s an inconsistency with the birth and death dates,” Malfoy began. Hermione felt her stomach drop. “Both of my cousins - the ones on the Lestrange side - were murdered by Aurors at the end of the last war. There’s a death date for one and not the other.”
Professor Slughorn froze. “Which of your cousins passed and which is allegedly still living?”
“Leo Rabastan Black Lestrange died on 30 October 1981. Our family believed my other cousin, Cassiopeia Elladora Black Lestrange, died on the same day. Only - only this says she is still alive.”
The color drained from Professor Slughorn’s face. He was saying something, but Hermione’s ears didn’t seem to be working. It couldn’t be. She refused to believe it. It wasn’t possible! She was the daughter of Jack and Helen Granger. She had her dad’s nose, and her mother’s hair. There was no way -- no way in hell she was related to Bellatrix Lestrange. It had to be a prank. It had to.
“Class, stay here,” Professor Slughorn said distractedly. “I must make a Floo call.” He bustled off.
“What’s wrong with your family tree?” Harry asked. “I didn’t get a look.”
“It’s nothing, Harry,” Hermione lied quickly, hastily shoving the scroll in her bag.
“Nothing at all.”
Ron gave her a funny look. “Hermione, didn’t your tree say…?”
“ Nothing is wrong with it.”
“If you say so.”
An awkward silence filled the air, broken only by Slughorn’s re-entry. The man had lost all color in his face. “Miss Granger? Professor Dumbledore would like to meet with you immediately. Bring all your things with you.”
“I haven’t cleaned my cauldron…”
“Someone else will do it. Go on.”
Hermione buttoned her book bag and slung it over her shoulder before hurrying out of the Potions classroom. Mutters filled the air, then the door slammed shut behind her, silencing them. Hermione climbed staircase after staircase, mind still numb. She’d seen the words. As much as she wanted to tell herself it was false, magic didn’t lie.
Somehow, she reached the gargoyle. She stared at it blankly. In her shock, she’d forgotten to ask Slughorn what the password was. Mentally berating her own stupidity, Hermione debated on whether it was better to wait outside the gargoyle or to go all the way back down to the dungeons to ask Slughorn how to get in.
“Blood Lolly,” drawled a voice behind her.
Hermione jumped. “Professor Snape!”
“If I am not mistaken, Professor Dumbledore wishes to speak with you,” Snape sneered. “You would be wise to expedite your progress up the stairs.”
“Yes, of course, thank you for opening the gargoyle, sir.”
Hermione set about climbing the stairs, and was surprised to hear another set of footsteps behind her.
“Professor Snape? Do you have a meeting with Professor Dumbledore as well?”
“Unfortunately,” the man quipped.
He offered no further information, leaving Hermione to trudge the rest of the way up the stairs in relative silence. At long last, she reached a small landing with a wooden door and a phoenix shaped knocker.
She raised her hand to knock.
“Come in, Miss Granger, Professor Snape.”
Feeling more confused -- surely, this meeting was about her potion, and why would Professor Snape even be involved -- Hermione pushed open the door and entered the room.
“Please, take a seat,” Dumbledore said, gesturing to a pair of squashy armchairs.
Hermione gratefully did.
“Severus, I assume you already know what this meeting is about?”
“Indeed. There was a good reason I took Abstammung’s Ancestry Potion off the curriculum. You would have been wise to heed my words.”
“In another life, perhaps I would have. Alas, each and every thing is fickle, and we cannot control all we touch, eh? Sherbet lemon, either of you?”
“No thank you,” Hermione said. Years of living with dentists had conditioned her to stay away from sugar.
“That would be excellent, thank you, Professor,” Hermione said.
Moments later a full tea service materialized on Dumbledore’s desk. “Sugar? Milk?”
“Just black, thank you.”
Dumbledore passed Hermione a steaming mug, and she immediately wrapped her hands around it, letting the warmth seep into her fingers.
“Now, to get on with business,” Dumbledore said merrily after pouring more than a healthy amount of sugar into his mug. “Miss Granger, if you could pull out your family tree?”
“Do I have to?” Hermione blurted out. “Sorry, sir. I just -- it’s incorrect, isn’t it?”
Dumbledore smiled gently. “I’m afraid it is correct.”
The floor seemed to drop out from beneath her feet. This had been her last hope. Her only hope. “What?”
“You are the daughter of Bellatrix and Rodolphus Lestrange,” Dumbledore said calmly. “If you could pull out the family tree?”
Reluctantly, Hermione reached into her bag, pulled out the vellum and handed it to Dumbledore. “Ah, yes, of course. Severus, if you could explain?”
The former potions master scowled. “Me, Albus?”
“You know the story best.”
Snape sighed. “Judging by your shock, Miss Granger, I assume your parents never told you you were adopted?”
Hermione mutely shook her head.
Hermione frowned. “Excellent, sir? I don’t see how --”
“It means the charms are still holding,” Snape said, cutting her off. “Which is excellent, unless, of course, you want the Dark Lord to find you immediately.”
Hermione paled. “N-no, not at all.”
“Then you will heed my next words with the utmost care. You are, without a doubt, the daughter of Bellatrix and Rodolphus Lestrange. For one, the magic governing the family tree is accurate. For a second reason, I am the one who hid you.”
Hermione opened her mouth to ask a question, but Snape stilled her with a hand.
“Questions can be asked when I am finished. It was late October,” he began tonelessly, “when Bellatrix Lestrange knocked on my front door. Aurors had just ransacked the ancestral manse, leaving your younger brother dead. You escaped by an extraordinary feat of accidental magic. She brought you to me, asking me to take care of you for the rest of the war and wipe you from her memory. She planned to take down the Aurors who killed her child, and knew it would be a suicide mission. Just a day later, Potter defeated the Dark Lord. I immediately started a contingency plan. The Ministry was rounding up Death Eaters, and Azkaban was the best case scenario. As the daughter of the Lestranges, your situation would have been dire.
“For once, luck was in my favor. I’d just made a major breakthrough in a long-term Polyjuice potion derivative. While it wasn’t as all encompassing as the original potion, it lasted for years, rather than hours, and the fewer features it altered, the longer it lasted. I found a convenient pair of muggles, extrapolated the formula through several Arithmancy matrices to determine the maximum efficacy, made the necessary changes, then left you with them after placing several false memories to ensure they believed you were their daughter.”
Hermione’s brain whirled. “What?”
“You were paying attention, I hope?”
“Yes, I was, it's just…” Hermione trailed off, desperately searching for words.
“It’s a lot of information to process,” Dumbledore said kindly.
Hermione nodded. “I don’t know what to even think…”
“Don’t,” Snape said sharply.
Hermione stared at him. “Excuse me, sir?”
“Don’t think, Miss Granger. It’s a dangerous pastime, afterall.”
“Severus!” Dumbledore chided. “Be charitable!”
Hermione wasn’t listening. “The potion…” she started, memories of brewing Polyjuice
running through her mind, “its effects will eventually reverse.”
Snape shrugged, somehow making the gesture deliberate. “It should have lasted until you were eighteen. Your activities with the time turner in third year, however, mean it will end sooner.”
Hermione swallowed. “How long will the transformation take?”
“Two weeks to a month. Unlike original Polyjuice, the change is slow at first, and quickens at the end.”
Hermione mentally counted the days. She’d spent third year judiciously using a Time Turner, which made her approximately two months older than she should be. “It’ll happen sometime over the summer..”
Hermione bit her lip. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like the answer to her next question. “What am I going to do? Is there any way to prevent the transformation?”
“The change cannot be prevented,” Snape said, avoiding her first question.
“What am I going to do? Sir?”
Dumbledore sighed. “Miss Granger, how much do you know about the current war effort?”
Hermione frowned. What in Merlin’s name did the war effort have to do with anything? “I think I know about as much as anyone else, sir. A bit more, perhaps. I know about the Order of the Phoenix, of course, but Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t let any of us sit in on the meetings, so I don’t know any specifics.”
“How much do you know about the Death Eaters?”
Hermione shivered at the name. “They serve You-Know-Who -- all the Lestranges are involved, the Malfoys, I believe, Dolohov, Yaxley -- I remember fighting them, back in the Department of Mysteries…”
“To put it bluntly, you can imagine what would happen if the Death Eaters found out that Hermione Granger’s true identity?”
Cold fingers ran their way down Hermione’s spine. She’d be kidnapped -- or worse, killed. She tried to speak but could only manage a nod.
“As I thought. We must work to ensure that the identities of Cassiopeia Lestrange and Hermione Granger remain separate.”
“How?” Hermione blurted, unable to stop herself.
Dumbledore tilted his head, sadness reflecting in his eyes. “Hermione Granger must die.”
Heat sparked through Hermione. “You’re going to kill me?” she demanded, formalities forgotten as adrenaline pumped through her, heart pounding.
“Forgive my phrasing. Hermione Granger must die, not Cassiopeia Lestrange.”
Hermione’s heart thudded. “I’m going to become her ,” she said blankly.
Hermione sank deeper into her chair as adrenaline left her. “I -- I don’t know if I can.”
“Are you familiar with Occlumency?”
Hermione nodded. She’d attempted to help Harry learn the art of shielding his mind back in fifth year, but he hadn’t wanted to listen. “I know the theory of it.”
“You will need to learn it, and learn it perfectly.”
Hermione nodded again, desperately grasping at straws. This was something she could learn. Something concrete she could study.
“This will be absolutely necessary if you are to continue with the plan I devised,” Dumbledore continued, suddenly stern. “Miss Granger, you are of age. Your true identity will afford you a spot high in Lord Voldemort’s ranks, and make you privy to otherwise classified information.” Dumbledore paused, either for dramatic effect or to merely gather his thoughts. Hermione couldn’t tell. “The intelligence you receive could be of the utmost importance to the Order...if you are willing to join.”
Hermione’s brain stuttered. “You want me to join the Order?”
Dumbledore twinkled. “If you wish.”
Something clicked in her head, and the analytical side of her mind whirred into action. It was quite plausible that Dumbledore was trying to manipulate her, to push her into agreeing with him. It wasn’t a secret that You-Know-Who was gaining ground far faster than the Order would have liked, and Dumbledore clearly wasn’t well -- the blackened hand could only be curse damage, and he’d had it since the beginning of the year. There was no way of knowing how fast it spread, or if Dumbledore was grievously ill or not. Regardless of Dumbledore’s health, the espionage business seemed rather dodgy at best.
Unfortunately, it seemed to be her only option.
Hermione chewed on the inside of her cheek, pretending to contemplate the situation. “Is there any other way?”
“I’m afraid this is the safest choice.”
“I’ll do it,” Hermione said, feigning confidence she didn’t feel.
The headmaster beamed. “Now, listen, Miss Granger, here’s what you’ll need to do…”