Mr. and Mrs. Granger were both dentists. Both a bit quirky, Mrs. Granger already planning to make some sort of necklace out of her child’s baby teeth, but nothing more than that, really. Some activism in terms of race and gender politics, but nothing terribly high profile. Nothing strange, in any case. No enemies, no one with motive to kidnap their child.
It was near their daughter’s second birthday. Mr. Granger had only just returned to work, and there was a nanny watching over Hermione. She was an older woman, whose style of dress was dated enough to be called eccentric instead of off putting, but she was good at looking after the child, who genuinely seemed to like her, unlike the other nannies that the Grangers had tried to employ, who had been terrible enough that Mr. Granger had delayed his return to the shared dental practice by another six months.
The Grangers lived in a relatively modest flat, in an inexpensive but not particularly bad part of London. The nanny was in the kitchen, having just put Hermione to bed. She could talk now, just a few words but there was speech. Mostly “mommy,” babbled, over and over and over.
She reached into the cabinet over the sink and to the left, and grabbed a glass. Turning the faucet for the water, she filled it, and turned the water off. The day had been unusually long, both Grangers beginning their work at the dental office unusually early, some special client.
She crept into Hermione’s room, making sure not to wake the sleeping child. There was a chest of drawers with all her clothes in it, but more importantly it had a flat surface within arms reach. There was no bedside table, not yet.
The nanny rummaged through the pockets of her robes- it was chillier tonight, even with the heat on, and it would be too noticeable if she used magic, heating charms took time to wear off. She closed her fingers around a small box, a perfect cube. It looked like an unusually small music box. She placed it on the drawers, then removed a thin stick from her other pocket. Holding the stick in her right hand, she tapped the box once on the top.
Taking the box, she gently placed it into the child’s hands, and Hermione immediately curled around it.
The nanny padded out of the room, shutting the door with behind her. Hermione would be safe in the wizarding world, where she belonged, quite soon.
Mrs. Granger did not cry, and Mr. Granger only stared white faced in shock.
The nanny had called them in a panic- Hermione was gone.
The patient had understood the urgency and the two dentists rushed home, hoping that perhaps their child had only wandered off and hidden somewhere. Impossible considering she was in a crib but it was better than her disappearing into thin air.
They searched the flat, finding nothing, and eventually Mrs. Granger called the police.
A missing child case was opened, money donated by friends and vigils kept by candlelight in churches but the grim truth soon settled over the Grangers and their circle of friends and aquaintances. Hermione was gone.
If someone had looked harder they would have noticed that hers was not the first disappearance in this part of London, but the problem was no one was looking in the right places for connections. The police searching for her assumed it had something to do with the respective races of the parents, and acted accordingly.
The nanny had disappeared soon after the child but she had no known connections to any group considered willing to kidnap interracial children from their homes, and so that path had been quickly dropped.
The trail grew cold quickly, but the Grangers kept pleading publicly for someone to please bring their child home.
They were quite the picture of a couple mourning the loss of their young daughter.
They were both short. Mr. Granger had a slowly thinning head of hair, shot through with streaks of grey he thought made him look distinguished, while Mrs. Granger was younger by two years and had kinky hair. They both tended to have very large, sad eyes on camera, both on the older side. Mrs. Granger would cling to her husband, begging whoever had taken their daughter to please return her, she was just a little girl.
Even on an ancient black-and-white box television, their grief was apparent, and quite genuine.
Professor Minerva McGonagall, watching the news from an elderly faux leather couch, where an obvious hole from a cigarette burn causing the entire thing to sag, sighed.
It was never pleasant taking young children from their parents. The Grangers seemed nice enough when she was watching them, though they had the usual attitude of muggle city dwellers towards stray cats. But they were muggles, and therefore automatically not fit parents for the girl they had named Hermione.
She would be better off as a ward. Raising another child would not be so difficult for the Malfoys, and in any case there were worse punishments for aiding a rebel than fostering an orphan for a decade. But they were one of the oldest families in Wizarding Britain and there was no telling how public opinion would change if the Malfoys along with the other families that aided the Rebel Lord were killed.
Or so Albus explained to her. It was Minerva’s opinion that Hermione would be better off with the Weasleys. But despite being one of the staunchest families for the Light, they remained poor partially by choice and partially by nature of their already large family. Unlike the Malfoys they did not have the means to raise an extra child.
Minerva turned, wand held loosely in her hand hand as the doors to the sitting room opened. It was Albus, the deluminator in his non-wand hand. She lowered her wand and he smiled at her.
“My dear, had I been another under polyjuice, that would not have been very wise, do you think?” he said, coming to sit beside her on the couch.
“I hold the secret to this place, you could be no one else,” she said. “You will be far too much like Alastor if you keep that sort of questioning up,” she added, giving him a small smile.
On the television, Mrs. Granger finished speaking, and the news station changed to some sort of news about the Americas. Minerva got up and shut the television off.
“They suspect nothing, at least not publicly.”
“I could have told you as much without that device,” Albus said.
“It is very strange that they are so public about the child’s disappearance- when I was young there would have been a quiet funeral, and that would be all.” She kept the television in hidden house so she could watch these sorts of things. It was amusing, seeing what grief rang true and what grief rang hollow. “I still believe it would be better to place the child with the Weasleys, Albus.”
Her colleague shook his head, peering at her over half moon glasses with eyes that remained a startling blue despite the gloom, “I understand your objections, but consider. The Malfoys have only just declared that they are no longer allies with the insurgents, conveniently soon after Tom pulled that great trick with the Potter’s son. Yet we cannot post Aurors at their home without good reason- Rufus Scrimgeour remains stubbornly on neither side and is not loyal directly to me, unlike most of the Ministry. He at least insists I follow the letter of the law in this case, and having a mudblood ward at their home gives us that reason to have them under watch. There is no reason to watch the Weasleys, you know just as well as I do how devoted their matriarch is to our side.”
Minerva hesitated, then nodded. “As always, you seem to know best. I understand your reasoning,” she said, keeping her remaining doubts to herself. Albus was first and foremost Headmaster of Hogwarts. He always seemed to know what was best for muggleborns unlucky enough to have living muggle parents.
There was silence for a time. Hermione was the most recent muggleborn discovered, hopefully the last for this season. Minerva stood up. “I am returning to the school now, I trust you will be overseeing the placement of the child with the Malfoys?” she said. Albus nodded, still seated on the couch.
Minerva left the the house, taking only the necessary steps to get outside the anti-(dis)apparition wards she’d placed within the fabric of the fidelius charm. After the familiar compression of disapparation, and Minerva apparated in the front entryway of the Three Broomsticks in Hogmeade. Leaving the still busy restaurant, the transfiguration professor crouched, fluidly changing from human form to that of a grey-furred tabby with distinctive spectacle shaped markings around her eyes.
She padded off towards Hogwarts. It would take her less time in this form to get to Hogwarts, and like this she was not likely to be noticed by any odd staff member still roaming the grounds for a wayward student.
Unnoticed by the cat, a bird with amazingly bright plumage tracked her movements from its perch on the highest tower of the castle, unmoving.
Giving a soft trilling cry, Fawks took off to make his nightly loop of the school, to hunt and see that all was well.
The cat, now at the castle, returned to human form, and Minerva made the rest of the walk to her rooms in Gryffindor tower on two legs.
Lucius Malfoy did not like the world he was raised in. And so, he had turned to a man who had promised to make it all better.
Things went worse than expected.
It was strange to Narcissa, his wife of very few years, how passionate Lucius was about Tom’s cause, even nearly a year after he had supposedly abandoned it, “coming to his senses” after their leader’s death. Or hopefully not quite death, if only so that the horrors they had all to willingly chosen to enact would not be in vain.
It was Narcissa who first opened the notification that the Malfoys had been chosen to be the guardians of the most recent “rescued” Muggleborn.
That night was not the first night Lucius cried in her arms, and it would not be the last.
The letter had come with a very cleverly hidden threat to the well-being of their son, and what else could they do?
At least it seemed like they would be permanently the new parents of this child, which would mean not as much disruption for her as there could have been.
Draco slept on, having been put down for the night long before the phoenix carrying the letter arrived.
Molly Weasley held Hermione Granger gingerly in her arms, watching the stars appear. There was very little harm a two year old could do, but it was one of those children, if they could get magic somehow from muggle parents who knew what they would do to proper wizards.
She would not have minded raising the child as her own, though it would have required giving her both a new name and performing some tricky blood-binding and memory spells. It wouldn’t do for others to know that they had a child not her own, it would certainly have called Molly’s own ability to bear children into question and that would not have done at all.
Arthur on the other hand firmly agreed with Albus’ decision to place it with the Malfoys. “We can’t afford another child, dear,” he had said. Which in her mind was utter nonsense- they did well enough even with seven, though she supposed that Ginny’s recent birth would make the appearance of a two year old somewhat questionable. Oh well. In the end she had come around to her husband’s way of thinking, and had agreed to escort the muggleborn child from McGonagal’s safe house.
So here Molly was, making her way to the entrance of Malfoy Manor.
She was greeted by a tall figure in dark formal robes who was leaning on a silver tipped cane, standing before a shadowed wrought iron gate. The gate was shut, and the figure had long silver hair that looked better groomed than it ever had in the wanted images that once filled the front pages of the Daily Prophet , unmoving except the occasional blink. Now, the eyes were less sunken but they were still red-rimmed, tired.
It would have served him right for him to have gone to Azkaban, but Molly supposed that having to deal with the child would be some sort of replacement for prison. At least, it would have been for her.
Lucius Malfoy stared at the child in the Weasley woman’s arms.
She appeared nearly two, as healthy as Draco. He had assumed, when Dumbledore had “asked” him to take in the child that she was neglected by her muggle parents, that was the only reason he would take a child from her parents, muggle or magical alike.
Evidently he continued to overestimate the Headmaster’s sympathy for muggles. As far as Dumbledore was concerned this child’s natural parents were neglectful by definition.
It was a test. He knew it was a test, he should refuse the child, demand she be placed back with her parents who must be so worried at this point. Lucius would be.
But he had a child now, and even the pendants would not protect him and Narcissa forever. He had to accept this child and raise her, effectively endorsing her kidnapping, or else risk imprisonment for himself and his wife. Draco would be an orphan, and possibly raised to hate him.
“Will you allow me to enter your property, Lord Malfoy, or would you prefer I give you it here as though I were smuggling contraband,” the Weasley woman said, looking at the child in her arms with about as much affection and care as she would a particularly ugly garden gnome.
Lucius gestured with his free hand at the girl, or so he assumed from the pink blanket she was wrapped in. “Why do you even hold the child in your arms, if you hate her so much?” he asked.
“It is still a child, even if it is presumably quite dangerous,” Lucius studiously avoided commenting on that particular bit of nonsense. Weasley, unaware of the silver haired man’s thoughts, continued on. “Also, though I still do not understand why, your property is quite near a village that is almost entirely populated by muggles and thus I do not have permission to openly practice magic here. If I had, I assure you I would have carried the child using a levatating spell at the very least.” She glanced at his cane and frowned. The wizard winced, evidently she had assumed it only decoration, and now she had figured it out.
Warily, making sure to not take his eyes off her, he reached behind himself to place that same free hand on the bars of the gates. They opened with the groan of old metal and unlocking spells.
“Walk ahead of me- the path is winding but not long, you will not get lost nor miss the Manor,” he said. “And of course, as you must see I will walk slower than you.”
The woman huffed, and muttered something to the effect of former rebels projecting their own untrustworthiness but, though of course he didn’t say it, trust in people like the woman walking in front of him was what got him his limp in the first place.
He winced as he began to walk down the path, about four paces behind Molly Weasley. He still was not quite used to the gait required to walk with a minimum of pain, even with the cane. Leaning heavier on it, he continued on.
The grounds in the front of the manor were not as expansive as those behind it, of course, and the path was lit with werelights and the little light from the sun still filtering over the horizon. The walk took twenty minutes. Lucius did not say anything, and Weasley was concentrating on following the path and holding the child.
He could ask the child’s name inside, or Narcissa could. He had asked her to meet the Weasley woman. She had two good hands with which to take the child, meaning that there would be no time in which she spent time inside their home. But Narcissa had insisted, insisting that it would be more suspicious if they didn’t let the woman into their home to look around.
When they got to the front doors, large and made of hard wood, carved and inlaid with silver, that made Lucius feel tiny as he looked at them, he knocked on the left door w-ith his free hand three times.
“How does the mockingbird sing?” Narcissa asked through the pendant.
“In faith,” Lucius whispered in response. They would not be able to reuse this pass code, that was for certain, Weasley was glancing at him curiously.
The doors swung inwards, opening into an entry hall too plain for its doors.
“I expected more finery” Weasley said.
The hall led to another set of doors and a staircase. At the foot of the staircase stood Narcissa. Like Lucius she was wearing dark robes, unlike him she had her hair tied up. Unlike Lucius she wasn’t trying to hide how exhausted she was.
“Hello,” she said. “This is the child then?”
Weasley nodded. “I would like to give it to you now, and then leave. Neither of us want me to stay here any longer than I have to, I would think,” she said.
Narcissa walked over to her, and the child was mutely handed off.
“I assume you can walk yourself back down the path? I’ll set the wards to let you out,” Lucius said.
“What’s her name?” Narcissa asked.
“Hermione, apparently. Too pretty a name, if you ask me.” With that, Weasley left the hall and the Malfoys, the doors shutting behind her.
The two wixen watched her leave. “Is Draco asleep?” Lucius asked. Their son had been down when he’d gone out to wait for Weasley, but if he wasn’t anymore they could get introducing him to Hermione done tonight.
“Yes,” Narcissa said. “They can meet each other tomorrow.” She turned, making her way to the nursery.
Lucius followed her up the stairs.
Draco Malfoy was a little older than two, and already he could walk and speak with enough coherence to get what he wanted to communicate across a majority of the time. He did not sleep in a crib, instead he slept in a bed that had been shrunk, with barrier spells on either side to make sure he did not fall off.
His nursery was a large room on the third floor of the manor, by the wall facing the more expansive grounds behind the main house. There were three moderate sized windows on the outside wall, a fourth one near a corner long having been bricked over, presumably to cut down on the number of windows countable for taxation some centuries before.
The Malfoy heir’s eyes had settled on a silver much like his father’s, and the thin fuzz of hair on his head would very likely turn out a similar shade. He looked perfectly healthy, if a bit small for his age, his parents having done their best to shield him from the worst effects of the war.
In his bed there was a small stuffed dragon that occasionally puffed smoke from its nostrils, and would fly in circles over Draco’s head. It was in the silver and green colors of the Slytherin House at Hogwarts, the only real example of his parents’ house in the room.
Normally, Draco would wake up alone, cry possibly and then one of his parents would arrive, and eventually he would stop crying and be fed if it was the morning, or just put back to sleep if it was the night.
By some miracle he had slept through the night this time, clutching the little dragon to himself. When he woke up, his parents were already there, which was interesting but not entirely concerning. Still holding the stuffed dragon, he pulled himself up by himself and felt around to find a good place on the barrier spell to hold onto. Having accomplished this task, he let out a curious “What?” and pointed at his dad, who was standing over what looked like a second bed, just like his.
This was strange. He did not need a second bed, this one was fine and had the dragon in it, and it was close enough to a window that if he was awake when it was dark outside and was standing properly at the foot of it, holding onto the frame, he could see the bright lights in the sky that he had seen the patterns in.
Looking closer, he noticed that there was another person who was small like him, instead of tall like mommy and father. That was strange, usually if he saw another small person it was in the big rooms outside his room, and this one seemed to be sleeping.
“What?” he said again, this time pointing at the small person. “Small,” he added, and then pointed at himself.
“Her name is Hermione, she’s living with us, now,” his father said, walking over to Draco’s bed. “Up?” he asked, and the small boy nodded very seriously.
He was now being held, but in a way that meant he was facing his father, which was okay, but also meant he couldn’t see the new small person. He wiggled, “I want to see,” he said, and his father understood and turned him so he was being held facing out. The name that father used was a word that Draco had never heard before, so he tried to say it. “Her-mee-oh-ny?” he tried, frustrated that he couldn’t make the sounds. He tried a few more times, eventually getting the “Mione” part correct, and decided to stick with that. “Mione,” he said, pointing at her.
She was in pajama robes like his, and had hair that was darker than his or his father’s, and fuzzier looking. His mommy, who was standing closer to Mione’s bed than Draco’s, turned. She was smiling at him, and Draco smiled also, which also meant he could show off his teeth.
His mommy said, “She’s sleeping, so you have to bed quiet.”
Draco nodded very seriously, again. “I will be quiet,” he said.
“That’s good,” his father said. Draco wiggled, wanting down now. He knew about the bad leg his father had, and too much up, he’d noticed, made the leg hurt more. After being set down on his feet, and after making sure his father was using the balance stick, he immediately walked across the room to the other small bed, wanting to see if there were the same invisible walls as on his. He pushed his hands out in front of himself. There was a wall. He looked back at his parents and grinned. “No falling, then?”
His father smiled at him, “No falling.”
Draco had decided after some more looking at Hermione that he wanted to go back to sleep. His mommy had explained that Hermione had was very tired from how she got to the manor, and would probably be sleeping for a bit more time. So, he had decided to go to bed to, for reasons mysterious to his parents, though the decision itself was a relief to them.
It gave them time to talk, time they hadn’t really had since Weasley deposited the kidnapped muggleborn child in Narcissa’s arms. Narcissa gently laid Hermione in the bed she had prepared, a similarly shrunk bed with barrier spells on either side to Draco’s, and placed a small gryphon on the bed with her, this creature a uniform brown as opposed to the house colors of her son’s dragon.
She left the room first, and Lucius followed her at a slightly slower pace, the soft tapping of his cane added to his footsteps a bit heavier than usual. He had been standing for some time and had not slept, and that along with a curious Draco’s desire to be held had taxed his bad leg more than he would want to admit. Narcissa led him to their shared office, a smaller room connected to the master bedroom by a small hallway.
This room was more ornate than many of the other rooms in the house. Most of the objects in the office had belonged to Lucius’ father and so he had refused to sell them, even though he had been more than willing to sell most of his mother’s artwork in the name of the cause. Instead of sitting at the stiff backed chair behind the desk, which was across the room from the door, Lucius collapsed into one of the armchairs nearer to the doorway, putting his bad leg up on an ottoman placed there for that purpose.
“This isn’t okay,” he said.
Narcissa sat down on the chair next to his, reaching to grab his hand. “No, it’s not,” she said. “This is exactly the sort of thing we were fighting against.”
Lucius used his free hand to hold his head as his entire body seemed to sag on a particularly deep exhale. “We have no choice,” he said, “they might hurt Draco.”
“I know,” Narcissa almost sighed, gripping her husband’s hand even tighter. “We can take care of her, though, and try and shield her from some of the nonsense our world will throw at her.”
“I don’t know if we can,” Lucius said. “We need to sleep,” he added after a silence. Narcissa nodded.
“I love you,” she said. Lucius tried to respond, but a lump in his throat and impending tears silenced him. The corners of his eyes already wet, he slowly heaved himself up, the short distance to their bedroom far more daunting than it should have been.
The tears they both shed in the few hours of rest they got until both Hermione and Draco woke up at dawn were just as much from grief as they were from sheer exhaustion. Narcissa held Lucius, hoping that she would be able to at least drive his nightmares away.
The few hours of sleep they got before the child monitoring charms alerted them were not terribly restful, but they were better than nothing at all.