Introduction : p. 2 – 26
She wakes up at exactly midnight on the eve of her nineteenth birthday—
She is vaguely aware of Lavender and Parvati scrambling with their bed hangings, frantic voices calling out for Harry and Ron and Ginny and Professor McGonagall—oh, God, she’s scratched herself, look, look at all the blood—and she feels a hand on her forehead, registers the removal of her nightgown and the emergence of a fresh set of flannel sheets—impossibly high core temperature, Poppy, this is not a simple fever—but her teeth are chattering and her thoughts are spinning and she can’t quite speak, can’t quite explain that she is not ill, no, she is not in pain and she is not in danger, no—send an owl to her parents right away, Minerva, we may have missed something important in her ancestry—because she is disconnected, she is a trillion separate threads of magic being torn apart and rearranged, twined and twisted and tied tight, knots unraveled and body chemistry recalibrated—
She is burning from the inside out.
She is shedding her skin and losing her center of gravity.
She is changing.
(table of contents)
She spends three days behind a starched white curtain in the hospital wing. She isn’t allowed visitors, but a new stack of library books appears on her bedside table every few hours—they’re not textbooks, are completely unrelated to any of the classes she’s taking that year, and their subject matter varies from regional Bulgarian history to romantic fairytales, field guides on the mating habits of golden eagles and comically outdated treatises summarizing the finer points of muggle genetics research.
She writes Veela? on a spare scrap of parchment and tucks it into the front cover of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; she receives a compendium of Greek mythology later that day, two red satin bookmarks flagging the sections that focus on Sirens and Harpies.
She sighs, frustrated and frightened and off-balance, craves the grounded concrete stability of logic and reason, needs to fill in the blanks and reconcile who she had been with what she is now—
She holds up her hand.
She wonders how many other choices she won’t be allowed to make.
She watches as her fingernails lengthen and sharpen and curve down at the ends, like talons, wicked and deadly.
She is dangerous.
She is different.
“It’s strange,” Ginny remarks casually, the common room fire crackling behind her. “You look exactly the same. Aren’t Veela supposed to be all blonde and shiny and…tall?”
Hermione snorts, rolling up her essay on the reactive properties of crystallized water and mandrake root—she has exceeded the two-foot limit by four and a half inches, but she doesn’t think that Slughorn will notice once she accepts his invitation to his quarterly dinner party.
“I’m a hybrid,” she reminds Ginny. “Other than some interesting physiological responses to anger, nothing else is wrong with me.”
Ginny plucks at the ruffled feather end of her quill.
“I didn’t say anything was wrong with you, but yeah, Veela are kind of mysterious,” she muses, settling back against a pile of tartan crimson cushions. “Dad says there isn’t much published about them beyond the raging sex appeal and, you know, the actual rage. Is it true that you’ll have a mate?”
Hermione fumbles with the zipper of her herringbone satchel.
“Um, Dumbledore was rather vague about that,” she hedges. “All he told me was that there were a lot of misconceptions about Veela mating habits. I didn’t get the impression that I would be affected, though.”
“Pity,” she says, stretching out her legs. “Would’ve been an ace excuse to blow off McLaggen next Hogsmeade weekend.”
“Not really,” she says, fiddling with the rolled-up sleeves of her blouse. “My Veela mate could have been worse than him—it’s not like I would have had any control over it.”
Ginny pretends to shiver, scooting closer to the cast-iron grate of the fire.
“Lucky you, then,” she says, tucking a strand of red-gold hair behind her ear. “It’s bad enough that all of this latent magical creature nonsense had to manifest so weirdly—would’ve been triply awful to have to deal with a crap mate at the same time.”
Hermione manages a small smile.
“Yeah,” she murmurs. “Lucky me.”
The dreams start in late October.
The moon is full, a brilliant blue-silver circle in the sky, and the ghost stories are rampant—there are scores of dead leaves, yellow and brown and orange, wet and brittle as they stick to the bottom of her shoes, and there are a hundred floating pumpkins in the Great Hall, carved and glowing, macabre grins lit up with the flames of cinnamon-scented candles. Ron laughs too loudly at Seamus’s jokes, Harry blushes when Ginny leans across the table to kiss his cheek, and Lavender draws a cartoon skeleton on the back of Hermione’s hand with a tube of mascara and an ivory lip pencil.
Hermione goes to bed early.
She turns down her blankets while her body is still warm from a mug of spiced apple cider.
She yawns into her pillow.
She lets her eyelids flutter shut—
She is not prepared for what happens next.
“I need you to explain to me exactly what is going on,” she says, voice tremulous—and her heart is racing and her claws are peeking out and she knows, she knows, that her eyes are flashing that famous crystalline Veela blue—
Dumbledore studies her for a long moment, bony fingers laced together over the smooth mahogany surface of his desk. He looks sad.
“You’re a hybrid, Miss Granger,” he eventually replies. “Which is unusual on its own, of course, but your case is…particularly unique.”
She stares over his shoulder, counts the methodical drip drip drip of his antique bronze water clock.
“Because I have no recorded magical ancestry,” she says in a dull monotone. “And my heritage chose to present itself—late in life. Is that correct?”
He sniffs, adjusting the knot of his celestial blue dressing gown.
“Yes,” he says slowly, “it is. However, I did not anticipate—you see, Hermione, hybrids very rarely exhibit any true Veela characteristics. They may have an inherent affinity for music, or an uncommonly strong libido around times of peak fertility, but they generally are not able to shift into their true forms. Their access to those traits almost always remains genetically dormant. And they are therefore not vulnerable to the less well-known markers of the Veela species.”
She flinches at the reminder that she is no longer human—that she is isolated, separate, even more of an outlier.
“The dreams?” she prompts, swallowing.
“Describe them for me, please,” he says, clearing his throat. “What did you see? Where are you located? You’ve already mentioned that you cannot wake up on your own when you’re in the middle of one, but what does the tether feel like? Is it an emotional pull? Physical? Do you panic inside the dreamscape, or are you not affected until you return to consciousness?”
Her gut clenches—who did she see, not what—
“Blond hair,” she says, quiet and tense. “I see blond hair and grey eyes and—that’s it. Nothing is specific or all that distinct—I may be in a bed, I suppose, but the tether is…physical. Tangible. Like I’m tied down.”
He purses his lips.
“Blond hair and grey eyes,” he repeats. “Is there any…recognition? A face, perhaps?”
She grits her teeth, anxiety swelling. She hadn’t wanted to admit—hadn’t wanted to acknowledge—
“Draco Malfoy,” she says abruptly. “I see Draco Malfoy.”