History never really says goodbye. History says, 'See you later.'
Cold, abrasive wind swept across a grassy plane nestled deep into the English countryside not far from York. Over the past several hours rain had fallen from dark thunder clouds and drenched the land, leaving the fresh scent of cleansed earth in it's wake. Jarring gusts made it over the tall foliage and stroked the small figure, unconscious and shivering under its uncaring ministrations. It was there in this field that Hermione Granger woke; a trembling, damp mess.
Groggily, she opened her eyes. A sharp pain shot through her temple and was mirrored in her lower back when she fell forward clutching her head. Only after having put herself through the unnecessary, additional pain of straining her back further did she register the ache that seemed to pulse through her entire body. A throbbing that felt as though she had just gone a few rounds with Gwamp and clearly hadn't been the victor.
The first thing she noticed was the darkness and if the moon was any indication it was nearing midnight. Wind ghosted around her and made her wet clothes stick to her clammy skin uncomfortably. She reached for her wand intent on remedying her predicament. She gripped the familiar wood in her right hand and spoke the incantation necessary to warm herself, and then cast a lumos allowing the light to illuminate her surroundings.
Hermione had no idea what had happened, or why she woke up where she did, she would never typically be this discombobulated or irresponsible. If she were to hypothesize, however, she assumed it was somehow connected to her twentieth birthday party this evening.
"Get up, Granger," she told herself before ignoring the pain and pushing herself up to her knees. She huffed a few breaths and stabilized herself as best as she could while trying to prepare herself mentally before going a step further by attempting to stand up. She was still wearing her party dress from the time she'd spent at Grimmauld Place. At the sight of her dress, a memory flashed to the forefront of her mind.
"HERMIONE! Happy Birthday!" Ginny squealed happily.
Hermione smiled genuinely at her friend, even though the air was tense between her and Ron as they stepped out of the floo. Ginny grabbed Hermione, pulling her into a tight hug which the brunette reciprocated eagerly while pretending not to notice how Ron silently walked out of the room before disappearing around the corner.
Pushing down the feelings of self-loathing and bitterness that threatened to assault her, Hermione kept her attention solely on Ginny and gushed, perhaps a bit overzealously, "I feel like I haven't spoken to you in ages! Harry told me you were getting ready to try out for the Harpies?"
The beautiful ginger grinned proudly, pulling Hermione by the arm towards the living room, "Next week! Can you imagine? I've been training outside the Burrow with the boys almost every night for a solid month."
"Ginny, you will do spectacularly," Hermione encouraged, despite her discomfort at being dragged into the party before she was ready.
Ginny beamed, winking at her friend as she spoke. "If Hermione Granger thinks I can do it."
The living room, once they entered it, was packed with friends from the Order and school. George was steadily waltzing Angelina around the room in the most awful Ballroom style dancing that Hermione had ever seen performed in her entire life. She hoped he was only joking, it was his forte, and although he was still mourning the loss of Fred, he seemed to have Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes’ revenue up and thriving.
Hermione spotted Harry, conversing with Minister Shacklebolt in the corner of the room. They seemed to be in a heated debate so she chose to keep away from her best friend for the moment. Instead, she noticed Neville by the drinks table and went over to catch up with him.
"Hi, Neville, how's apprenticing with Professor Sprout?"
She'd obviously asked the right question, because Neville turned to her with the largest grin on his face and a blush. He waxed poetic about plants and how wonderful Pomona had been, teaching him everything he needed to know about Herbology and grooming him to take over when she retires. He'd gone on for nearly twenty minutes before Minister Shacklebolt pulled her away, seemingly finished conversing with Harry, apologizing to Neville for stealing her. Neville had only laughed and headed over to where Hannah Abbot stood, speaking with Luna Lovegood.
Hermione was then pulled into a conversation about how utterly tedious being Minister truly was.
"Hermione, it's insanity! Now that most of the ramifications of the war have been straightened out and the Death Eaters are all in prison, it's all meetings with foreign dignitaries and fundraising dinners."
Biting her lip in an attempt to quell her rising anger, Hermione forced herself to smile sympathetically at the Minister. "After a few more years you'll be able to retire the position, perhaps even head back to the Auror department."
Kingsley looked as if that were highly unlikely, but chose not to respond.
Unable to repress her ire, and nursing her swollen lip from where she'd bitten down just a tad too hard, she decided to speak up. "Kingsley—off the record, I would sincerely appreciate it if you looked over that Azkaban renovation and parole proposal I've been working on."
It was a well-known fact in their group that Hermione Granger, of all people, opposed the post war treatment of the Death Eaters. Most had been given upwards of two life sentences in Azkaban. There was no parole option for good behavior—they were meant to sit there and drift further into insanity until they perished. A year after the end of the war, having finally graduated Hogwarts, she had pulled strings with Kingsley for a tour of Azkaban. The Death Eaters, though far from being her favorite people, were in chains; bloodied and mere shells of the men and women they had once been. Some, like Rabastan Lestrange for example, had regarded her with pure animalistic ferocity and had snarled (actually snarled !) at her as she passed. She would have attributed this to the fact that he was Rabastan Lestrange and hated her on principle for who she was, if she hadn’t witnessed an Auror zap the man with a wave of magically conjured electricity seconds later.
Nothing had sat right with her after that. Prison wasn't meant to be a permanent solution to a person's wrongdoings. It was supposed to be a punishment of confinement and loss of personal freedom until the lesson was learned. Always the 'bleeding heart' she'd taken up arms against the mistreatment of prisoners, called for repairs to Azkaban (proper ventilation and a full-time healer available at all hours), therapy, and parole for all prisoners who showed good behavior, by evaluating them every five years.
She had been laughed out of the Wizengamot the first time.
The second time she'd been thrown out.
This would make her third attempt.
"Hermione, no one is going to consider a parole plan for Death Eaters. They're undeserving of it, you should know that better than anyone," Kingsley scolded, bringing her out of her thoughts and back to the task at hand.
She did not back down, instead opting to look him straight in the eye. "Prison doesn't erase the problem, it only creates worse. Prison was supposed to be confinement; a punishment for bad behavior, to teach them a lesson before earning their freedom back. What can the Death Eaters take from this lesson? How can the learn from this? Reform because of it, if they get no chance to do so? The purpose of prison was rehabilitation, not permanent institutionalization."
Kingsley pinched the bridge of his nose - clearly exasperated with Hermione's persistence. "Some of your proposed legislation does make sense. Azkaban is in dire need of reparations, and there does need to be medical staff on hand. I will even put a personal stamp of recommendation on your proposals for employing mental health treatment staff at Azkaban." He looked at her unappeased, scowling face and sighed. "There is no way the Wizengamot will go for the parole option. Not yet. If you try again in five years they might be more open to it— that is, of course, if any prisoners have shown exceptional, amicable behavior."
Hermione wasn't satisfied, but she let it go for the moment, deciding that arguing with the Minister wouldn't get her anywhere tonight, birthday or not.
When she finally got a moment’s rest, it was already half past ten and she was growing tired. She'd been working double shifts in the office to pick up the slack of other employees for weeks and she had to be back at it once again tomorrow. It was past time for her to sleep.
Hermione suddenly recalled that she hadn't seen Ron since he had flooed in. She'd been vaguely aware of this all night, but hadn’t had the time or the desire to go looking for him.
The shock of her knees hitting the ground jarred Hermione out of her recollection. Coming back to the present, she was still no closer to discovering the truth of what had happened. The memories that had come to her hadn’t given her any useful information. They’d only alerted her to the question of Ron’s whereabouts.) She groaned as her muscles went from aching to being a jittery mess. She slapped her hand to the ground, sighing when mud caked through her spread fingers, and pushed herself into a standing position once again. Taking a tentative step forwards, she felt her legs give out, once again sending her to her knees.
Growling in frustration, Hermione slapped her hand against the hard ground once more and allowed a few silent tears to escape her. Irritation flooded her senses and, instead of panicking, she forced back the tears, pushed herself up to sit back on her calves and reached into her bra. She dug past the extra pocket she'd stitched into the side of the left cup, feeling around and then produced a miniaturized bag with a slight grin.
"Engorgio," she stated clearly, pointing her wand at the bag and watching as it swelled back to its natural size. She could almost kiss herself for the paranoia that had yet to leave her following the war. She never left home without her beaded bag.
"Accio tent. Accio Pepper-Up potion."
She waved her wand to erect the tent. Hoping to feel better quickly, Hermione pulled the stopper off the Pepper-Up potion and downed it in one greedy go. It wasn't the best tasting liquid and it emphasised just how parched she was that she enjoyed drinking the vile thing. She crawled into the tent as quickly as her aching body would allow before summoning a bottle of water from the bag.
Now that she was out of the frigid wind, Hermione could think more rationally. She pointed her wand at the door of the tent and summoned her patronus.
"Harry! I don't know what happened, but I'm lost somewhere I don’t recognise and my body is too weak to apparate."
The otter, despite having a recipient, did not move.
That was when Hermione realized she was in deep shit as another memory bombarded her.
After a few minutes of asking her friends if anyone had seen Ron, without results, Hermione began to do what Ron said she did best; worry. No one had seen him since the beginning of the party, not even Harry. Instead of kicking up a fuss and organizing a search party, she decided it was best to go looking for him herself first.
Walking along the familiar and yet so different halls of Grimmauld Place, Hermione opened each door as she went, in search for her boyfriend. Ron and she had been together since the end of the war— nearly four years at this point. It wasn't the easiest of relationships; they found that they were at each other's throats more often than not.
And things had been strained for the past year, ever since the miscarriage.
Ron blamed her for it. She'd spent too much time working for the Ministry and not enough time taking care of herself. Too much stress, his mother had said, and he'd mirrored the sentiment vehemently, throwing it back in her face when she'd come to him, a sobbing wreck, after being told she'd lost the child.
After twenty minutes of searching inside the house without luck, she decided to check if he'd escaped to the back patio. It was possible, he'd taken up smoking muggle fags when he'd seen her father do it three years ago after he'd gotten his memories back. Ron had been enthralled with how… settled ... Mr. Granger had become after a few puffs when he'd been raving angrily at Hermione not a minute prior.
Hermione made Ron smoke outside their house, unable to stand the smell.
She stepped out, jumping at a crack of thunder in the distance. Taking a step farther, she realized just how dark it had become. It was going on eleven in the evening now, and the dark clouds were obstructing the moon. There was no light outside and the stillness before the storm was eerie. Hermione remained there a few moments longer to admire the utter silence.
Just as Hermione decided to walk back inside, because Ron clearly wasn’t outside, she heard a faint noise coming from just around the corner where the yard and the house met. She quietly crept over the deck, casting a silencing charm on her feet, intent on finding out what the origin was.
As she got closer, she could make out low grunting. A timbre she knew well—from Quidditch practices she'd been forced to watch and hearing the same disgusting noise on top of her several times over the past two years. It was clearly Ron.
She wondered what on earth he could be doing in the dark. Practicing Quidditch was unlikely without any light to see what he was doing, and if he were playing when there was lightning, Hermione would plant a swift kick up his backside. Ron was daft, but he wasn't that foolish.
One word from his lips halted her approach.
The woman whose name had been groaned out in a voice that was meant only for bedrooms responded in a similar tone, breathily uttering his name in return.
The memory flooded Hermione's senses as Ron's betrayal hit her. It was jarring. She’d never thought Ron capable of such cruelty. They'd had their problems of course; their friendship hadn't been an easy one most of the time. Their romantic relationship only deviated from that by the addition of sex to ease the tension between them. And that was a whole other problem they hadn't addressed.
In short—they were not meant to be. Hermione had already known this. They had been steadily working on that and coming to terms with it. It came as no surprise that he'd found someone else. What hurt was that he thought so little of her, cared so little, that he could stomach betraying her by falling into the arms of another and not even having the decency to break up with her before that. She had fought the war with him, she'd stood by his side for years, loved him for a decade.
But she was not worth his respect, or deserving of dignity?
She pushed back the tears that had welled up once again, deciding she needed to focus on why her patronus had not gone to Harry.
Something was clearly wrong; things still weren't adding up. She mentally took stock of the things she’d learned so far. She was in a field, it was night, Ron was fucking Padma Patil, and she felt as though she'd been struck by li—wait. . . struck by lightning?
The force with which the memory hit her was staggering.
Silent tears slid down Hermione's freckled cheeks as her hand came shakily upwards and collided with her mouth before she could let out a noise. The two that were just yards away from her still hadn't noticed her presence and were romping like two sixth years testing the limits on how long it would take for Filch to make it down the corridor and spot them before they had to run.
Hermione didn't know what to do, so instead of confronting him in the act, she turned and calmly stepped back inside the house. She pressed her back against the door for a moment to catch her breath and file away what she'd seen long enough to make it home. She would confront him later—perhaps after calling in to work the next morning? Or tonight, when he finally made it home and tried to crawl into their bed and pull her against his naked torso.
How long had this been going on, she wondered.
Hermione took a deep breath and returned to the party to say her goodbyes. Harry seemed to pick up on her distress and pulled her aside just before she stepped into the floo.
"You're not alright, are you?" he asked, pulling her into a tight hug.
She shook her head. "No, but I'd rather not talk about it right now, Harry."
His bottle-green eyes appraised her wearily for a few moments, before he released a pent up breath and stepped away. "Alright—but I want to hear about it tomorrow. Meet me for lunch?"
Hermione had nodded her assent, offering a small smile to her best friend. He returned it, saying, "I love you, Mione, have a good night and happy birthday."
"I love you too, Harry." She smiled at him and stepped into the floo, calling out her home address and disappearing in a swirl of green fire.
In the end, her home had been filled with too many memories of her and Ron from the early stages of their relationship when things had still been decent. She hated that she could see his face everywhere she looked; at the dining room table, in the kitchen, in the bathroom.
She'd avoided the bedroom altogether and hadn't even bothered to go inside to change.
Hermione found herself walking out of her apartment around eleven thirty, deciding that the air of her home was much too stifling, and headed in the direction of the nearest children's park. The rain was pouring by the time she'd made it there, but she trudged on, ignoring it completely. Even though she noticed the flash of lightning and rumbling thunder in the distance.
The walk wasn't terribly long. When she'd made it Hermione sat down in one of the swings and contemplated her life. It wasn't what she wanted. Sure, she had a ministry job—mostly working as an intern until she could begin doing 'real' work. All her activism had thus far been for naught as every proposal she'd made continued to be squashed by unyielding bigotry. Her home life wasn't much better, nor was her sex life.
In short, she was not living up to her potential.
With bitter resolve to change things tomorrow, starting with the dumping of one Ronald Bilius Weasley, Hermione stood from her seat. Her feet landed in a large puddle of water that had coagulated underneath the swing where children dug their feet in to slow themselves down. Her hands wrapped around the metal chains to steady herself as her shoes seemed to sink into the wet ground.
A crack of lightning flashed and Hermione's head flew up just in time to see it strike the swing set she was touching.
And then the world went black.
She was going through electric shock, it was a wonder she hadn't been electrocuted! This explained why her body felt as it did and her slow stream of memories. Hermione groaned and took stock of her body, looking for red marks that would indicate the electric shock externally, but finding none. She realized the Pepper-Up hadn’t worked, because it was the wrong potion to take.
If this was how the Death Eaters felt when the guards of Azkaban zapped them with magic, then she would begin working twice as diligently to get that legislation passed.
But first, she had to get home. As informative as her last memory had been, it still offered no explanation for having woken in the middle of a field. She had been shocked in a children's park, not far from home. Her body wasn't yet up to the task of apparating.
Hermione realized she’d have to wait for her body to be ready before apparating home.
It had taken several hours for Hermione to feel like she could be certain she wouldn’t splinch herself in the process.
It was still dark, though she believed dawn to be fast approaching. Hermione materialized to a completely unfamiliar sight, and for a moment thought she may have envisioned the wrong place. Instead of her backyard, she landed in what looked like a farm yard to her. It was dark, so she was unable to be sure, but she thought she could hear cows, and saw a lantern moving in the distance, near the place where her small house was supposed to be. Looking out over the farmland, there was only one house and it most certainly wasn't hers.
"Who goes there?" called a gruff male voice from behind the lantern that was moving closer to where Hermione stood.
Quickly, Hermione disillusioned herself and stayed perfectly still.
The man strode across the land with heavy foot falls in the wet grass, every step accentuated by deep breathing, drawing closer as he walked. He stood before her, shining his lantern around the area where she stood, holding her breath so as not to alert him to her presence. Hermione noticed many things about this man right away. He was an older gentleman with a thick grey beard that was cut just to the top of his chest. His wrinkles made him appear stern. He was clearly a working man, but not one of her neighbors.
Observing him more closely, Hermione noticed he wore a linen tunic that was open at the neck, exposing a spattering of pepper-colored chest hair. She couldn't make out the type of trousers he wore, but found it odd that he wore a shirt resembling clothing from the turn of the twentieth century. He was clearly a muggle or he would have noticed that someone stood disillusioned before him. Or at least he would have known someone had apparated there, recognising the sound.
"Damn children, 's too early in the morning for the Taylor kids; need a good Batty-Fang those brats." His heavily accented voice spoke as he turned to move away from where Hermione stood, muttering to himself about 'teaching those children a lesson' as he went.
As soon as he was far enough away, she let out a shuddering breath, fighting to control her breathing from having held it in so long. She was certain she would have to breathe and then obliviate the man when he heard it. Once she had that back under control, she thought back on the detail that had struck her the most.
The lantern had been lit with a flame.
Taking a deep breath, Hermione began to run through her options in her mind.
She knew she hadn't misjudged where she had apparated to the moment the farmer's lantern ghosted across the house as he went back inside. She recalled that structure. She was able to see it from her backyard. The simple fact that the stone farmhouse was there and intact, instead of in ruins that hadn't been touched since the end of WWII was enough to convince Hermione that she was in the past. The man’s clothing and slang terms only solidified her assumption. Not even George Weasley could have set up a prank this elaborate.
How far in the past, though, she couldn't say. She'd gone far enough back that she was pre- WWII at least. Hermione shuddered to think she was in the war era, knowing that the Wizarding World had been in just as much turmoil as the muggle world during that time.
She tried not to hyperventilate at the thought of going through another war.
"First thing's first, Granger, pull yourself together; find the date," she scolded herself.
She was just about to apparate to the area around the nearest town and walk into whatever pub or inn was still open before she stopped and looked down.
"Shit," she said, staring down at her clothing. No matter what year she was in, this was not acceptable attire before at least 1980, and wearing it would surely draw unwanted attention to herself. Then she would have to use her wand and it may alert the Improper Use of Magic office. Alerting the Ministry to her, especially prior to finding out any information on her own, wouldn't be the best of ideas. Merlin, alerting the Ministry to her existence would be a threat to the future.
They might even kill her for being so far in the past, simply to protect the timeline.
Thinking quickly, Hermione pulled her bag out of the lining of her bra, restoring it to its original size and shoving her arm in, looking for her travel cloak. It would have to do until she could find something better. She had plenty of galleons on her, half of her Order of Merlin reward money.
The half that she hadn't used to buy her home. She cringed at the realization that it was gone.
She pulled the cloak tightly around herself and without further ado, Hermione apparated to the nearest town.
As she walked towards the lights of York, she wasn't overly shocked to see the streets lit up with oil lanterns. Clearly they did not have electricity in this village yet. Which meant she was at least prior to 1910. At this realization Hermione found herself on the verge of hyperventilating again as things just kept getting worse.
"Get the date, Granger, then hatch a plan." Hermione told herself, summoning every ounce of her Gryffindor bravery and looked around for an inn or a tavern.
Hermione strode through the streets, passed by a boy whose arms were loaded with papers, which he threw at each doorstep he came by. In the east, she could see the slow trickle of light rising above the horizon, casting a blue hue. It wasn't enough to illuminate the small village, but enough to know dawn was swiftly approaching. As soon as the boy was far enough away, Hermione turned towards one of the houses to snatch up the paper and moved into the candle light situated in the doorway to be able to read the print.
The headline read 'British Troops Leave Bombay for South Africa' September 19, 1899.
She'd gone back one hundred years.
"Wat's a pretty li'l fing like you doin' out this early in the mornin'?"
Hermione was jolted out of her thoughts before they spiraled by a thick Yorkshire accent. Looking up, she saw a clearly drunk man stumbling towards her, though she wasn’t sure whether it was from drinking all night or drinking this early in the day. She opted for the former as he began to move closer.
Instead of talking to him, Hermione bolted.
He was behind her in an instant, following her down the streets far less gracefully than Hermione. She ran behind the building and disillusioned herself before he had a chance to turn the corner with a racing heart.
"Now where could she ‘ave run off to?" The man questioned aloud, reaching up to scratch his filthy head.
He walked right past her and Hermione breathed a sigh of relief before apparating away.
Once again, Hermione Granger found herself in a tent in the Forest of Dean, hidden under thick layers of wards that would shield her from the world; muggles, wizards and animals alike. She sat on the bed she had shared countless nights with Harry, bundled up together for warmth during the winter months on the run, and cried.
She cried for her family, she cried for Harry, and for everyone who’d died in the war and everyone who’d survived it. Lastly, Hermione cried for her situation. For two years the war had been over, two whole years, and she’d accomplished none of the goals she'd aspired to. She had a shitty entry level job that took her for granted, a boyfriend who cheated on her, and now she was stranded one hundred years in the past with absolutely no one she loved by her side.
She was on her own.
Hermione pulled in a shuddering breath and felt her resolve harden.
She would not let this destroy her.
She would find a way home.
She grabbed her beaded bag from where she had left it beside the bed and pulled out a notebook and pen. She had found they were much easier to carry around in her bag and avoided ink spills. Besides, it was easier to write with a pen than with a quill anyway, if she was being completely honest.
Step One: Retrieve period clothing and get out of Britain.
Fluent languages; French, Spanish.
Passable knowledge; German.
Best destination, France.
Step Two: Create Alias, hide in the Muggle world.
Step Three: Find a way home.
Step Four: If no way home is found, assimilate.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Note: First of all, let me start by saying OHMYGOD you're all so lovely, I can't believe the response I had on chapter one. You are the greatest people, I swear. Thank you so much! There were a couple things I wanted to address before the chapter. First, I am not bending Tom's timeline to suit the time gap between them. I didn't want Hermione to just happen to land in 1945, because that's kind of a strange date to just bounce into, no? Not that I have anything against time travel fics that do that, magic is an anomaly in time travel FF. In future chapters I try to explain what happened and how she got thrust through time. I promise I have a reason. Second, I forgot to say in the note last chapter that this story is entirely written but as a draft. I have to go through and fix a lot of it, accommodate for plot changes and so on. It's 35 chapters, but more will likely be added to help flesh it out a bit. Third, Part One (or Part 'getting caught up to 1945 and fleshing out Hermione's character development') is 12 chapters as of now, I might add another.
Many thanks, and much love to CatherineMorgenstern for her Beta/Editor prowess, and helping me sound like I know what I'm doing.
"Bloody hell!" Hermione growled as she swiped her arm across the work bench in sudden anger, tossing all her research unceremoniously to the wooden floor.
Almost three months had passed in a blur while Hermione had been busy studying every text she could get her hands on in Paris’ magical community. She’d found no text that explained the effects lightning had on a magical being or how it could possibly send someone back a century. Hermione hadn’t found a shred of experimentation or theory that shed light on her situation. As truly remarkable as it was for her to have survived the electric shock, the lightning didn’t seem to be the cause of her getting sent back in time.
Following that thought, Hermione had poured over ancient tomes, essays and had even dipped into muggle science to look for any hint of information. She’d developed many theories, only to find each one lacking. Just one theory she’d come across had sounded remotely possible. But although it was a solid hypothesis, it wasn’t as if she could test it.
It had to be.
She'd began organizing her thoughts and delved further into research right away. Her hypothesis was that the electrical current had somehow affected a ley line, creating some sort of portal that sent her back in time. Of course, evidence was dubious and inconclusive.The only existing theories on ley lines wouldn’t be voiced until the twenties, if she remembered correctly, and those contained nothing of being pushed through time.
Unless, of course, there was information out there she was unaware of—research that hadn’t been done yet.
Hermione’s legs buckled, sending her crashing to the floor. Her body quaked as sorrow gripped her, the pain over everyone she’d lost surging into her chest. She curled in on herself, as the unrelenting tightness made her feel as though she was dying, causing her to hyperventilate.
At this rate she may never find a way home.
"Pull yourself together, Granger," she told herself, but made no move to get off the floor or dry her eyes.
It would be for naught anyways.
Hermione Granger woke to the sound of a rooster's high croaking from right outside her second story window. Sighing irritably, she opened her eyes, surprised to have slept in until dawn.
Hermione threw the covers back and stumbled over to the basin to wash her face. She'd been staying at an inn just off the English Channel in Normandy since the day she had arrived in France, going by an unassuming name and keeping to herself. She acted like an orphan of a well-off family from southern France. The cover story she’d constructed for herself was simple; her parents thought it best for her to get some northern air. The innkeeper didn’t believe it for a moment, but for the right price he’d agreed to keep quiet, allowing her to stay as long as she was no trouble and made sure her payment was made on the first of every month.
It had been a long year and a half, but Hermione was getting through it with little struggle. Exchanging her galleons for muggle currency in Paris had been easy enough.
"Mademoiselle?" a voice called from the opposite side of her bedroom door.
She heard the small voice of the girl on the other side ask her in French if she would like to help making bread this morning. Smiling, Hermione told her that she would be out momentarily.
Hermione and Cecile, the innkeeper’s daughter, had hit it off the moment she’d arrived and she’d assisted her every morning since the very first day. During the day, they walked the village together, collecting items for dinner and running errands for Cecile’s mother. Hermione found it was a simple way to spend her day, the routine relaxing her and for the first time since the war she felt a sort of peace settle over her. And after dinner, Hermione would excuse herself from Cecile's company and remove herself to her room to study whatever materials she'd found. Once every two weeks she apparated into the French wizarding quarter near Paris and searched for books on time travel, ley lines, and other natural phenomena.
After a year she had come to the conclusion that, with the lack of proper research materials, she was stuck in the past.
That discovery had been awful and Hermione had sunk into a depression that lasted the span of the winter of 1900 into the spring months of 1901. 1900 wasn't at all like her original timeline, learning to assimilate into French culture and the period had been a challenge. Although she spoke French fluently, learning the customs of this era had been a trying feat for Hermione, and often she found herself biting the inside of her cheek to cut off the flow of some scathing retort. Men were blatantly sexist, child abuse was rampant, and many other issues she was having trouble dealing with.
Realizing she might not see Harry and Ron ever again was heartbreaking. Out of everything she'd endured while adjusting to this time, understanding she had lost them forever tore her apart. Despite what she had discovered the night she'd been struck, Hermione still loved Ron. Now, she would never have a chance to confront him or gain closure. Harry, he was her brother—an extension of herself, without him she felt broken, as though trying to complete a puzzle without having all the pieces. She didn't know what to do with herself, so instead she'd focused on filling the void with more books. And hope.
By springtime, Hermione was ready to work on casting her depression aside and blend in completely. It was a slow process, dealing with her grief. One couldn't simply brush depression aside like it wasn't a real issue, because it was and she needed help. Without the proper resources, however, she realized she would have to deal with it on her own. She squared her shoulders and decided there was no use in wallowing. Careful but determined, Hermione decided she would move forward as best as she could, and continue to research.
She was under no illusions about just how long and strenuous the process was sure to be.
Hermione pulled her hood over her head and stalked quietly down the streets of Paris, intent on staying out of view but steadily making her way into the heart of the city where the wizarding section lay hidden. She was out of books on the indigenous foliage of France, for both magical and non-magical uses, and she’d read through all her other tomes in her leisure time, so she needed new material.
After her decision to move forward, Hermione had decided to look for an inn that would give her room and board for the exchange of labor—as the inn she'd stayed at previously hadn't offered that to her and she decided wasting her galleons would be a disservice to herself. She'd quickly found somewhere less favorable and lived there for the past few years. Some days, she missed Cecile dearly, but never seeing the girl again was for the best. Instead, she researched.
Moving through the streets, Hermione came to the door of an old, used bookstore in muggle Paris and stepped inside, nodding to the attendant when she locked eyes with him. He nodded in return, his face an impassive mask as she walked past him to the back of the stacks and into the ladies’ room.
Once inside, Hermione ensured the two wooden privacy stalls were empty before focusing on the rectangular painting adorning the wall. She strode forward, taking in the piece the way she had the first time she’d ever seen it; winged skeletal humans, standing over what Hermione could only interpret as gravestones resting upon rich earth. It seemed to her as though they were offering a sort of sanctuary to the fallen ones. The work was out of place in the peachy, immaculately decorated, lavatory.
Pulling her wand from its place stitched into her right sleeve, Hermione proceeded to tap the skull of the largest winged human. It’s eyes glowed a brilliant emerald and the wooden floor started to shift where it met the wall. A few seconds passed before the boards revealed a dark hole with stone steps leading down into its seemingly fathomless depths.
“Lumos,” Hermione whispered, descending the stairs with practiced ease. She didn’t flinch as the hole sealed shut above her with a resounding snap. Cold, stale air enveloped her as she continued downwards. The sounds of her footsteps echoed in the emptiness. Hermione cast a quick warming charm as a faint glow appeared just below her, the light growing larger as she drew nearer until she’d reached the bottom.
Extinguishing her wand light, Hermione strode confidently through the torch-lit chamber, ignoring the chill that swept down her spine as she kept her eyes focused on the tunnel. It wasn’t her first time in the catacombs of Paris, but seeing the dead stacked against the walls as if made of plaster never failed to make her shudder.
The further she went. the colder the catacombs seemed to become, until finally the murmuring sound of a distant ground could be heard resonating through the chamber. Hermione slowed her steps when she felt the tingle of magic sweep across her senses. As she came face to face with a dead end an infinite sea of eye sockets started to glow in the same emerald color of the painting in the bathroom. She shuddered as the bones began to realign, shifting away from the center and inward. The tunnel was suddenly illuminated by sunlight as the structure split, causing Hermione to flinch and shield her eyes.
The streets were rather packed, since September was only days away; students and parents were bustling around from shop to shop buying necessary items for their children to attend Beauxbatons. Hermione couldn't help but smile fondly at the memories brought to the forefront of her mind as she watched the excited children running to and fro.
She quickly dipped into a building to avoid the throng of what looked to be ten older students racing down the street, smiling softly as she smelt freshly baked bread and wandered farther inside.
The shop was practically deserted, save for a prickly looking middle-aged man that gave her a once over and a stink eye the moment she walked in. His face was set in a cantankerous expression, as if the mere sight of her had rubbed him the wrong way. His scowl deepened when she raised an eyebrow in silent challenge and turned away from him. She walked up to the counter without wasting another thought on the guy.
"Bonjour Mademoiselle," the shopkeeper greeted as she stepped up to the counter. "Puis-je vous aider?"
"Oui, un s'il vous plaît."
The shopkeeper grinned at the sale and fetched a fresh baguette, packaging it with the finesse of someone who’d been doing business for years.
"Merci Monsieur," she said as he handed her the wrapped bread in exchange for her money.
"De rien Madame!"
Hermione opened the package and tore a piece off the baguette, popping it into her mouth before she'd reached the door of the shop. The flavor was so delicious she nearly turned back around to purchase another for later. Catching a glimpse of the scowling man that occupied the shop and hadn't once let her out of his sight or changed his angry look, she stepped back out onto the busy streets, deciding not to dawdle. Looking both ways, she was content to continue her journey, now that the racing children were out of the street.
It didn’t take long for Hermione to enter the bookstore. She greeted the shop owner with a smile, stopping a moment to take a deep breath, inhaling the scent of freshly printed books. Hermione sauntered over to the Potions’ section, intent on finding more complex potions that focus on healing. She was of the mindset that if she were to suffer the loneliness of being back in time without a single person she'd once known then she could at least make something of herself while at it.
She could learn to heal, perhaps even go so far as to become a medi witch. Her career as an activist had been effectively squashed by the jump through time. If she were being honest with herself, Hermione no longer felt that her life from her own timeline was what she wanted for herself anymore. All she’d ever wanted was to do good in the world, and she’d only now realized that she could achieve that without going into politics.
"Madame, parlez-vous anglais?" A gruff voice from her left inquired, jarring her from her thoughts as she perused the old wooden stacks.
Startled, she turned to face the man who'd spoken, wondering who could possibly be asking her if she spoke English here in Paris. Her eyebrow arched when she realized it was the man who'd observed her earlier. "Yes?"
"Good. My French gets worse the older I get, but I've long since decided not to return to Britain," he responded as he shook her hand. “Name’s Casius, Casius Wright. I noticed your books earlier, are you an apprentice?"
Instead of responding right away, she gave the man a once-over. He seemed to be no more than fifty, which wasn't old by wizarding standards. Gone was the scowl, in its place rested a tired half-smile. He held himself with languor, as if he'd not had a moment to himself in days and he was liable to fall over any given moment. She wondered why he could possibly want to know that, but decided to indulge him.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Wright. I'm Vanessa Dubois. And to answer your question, sir: no, I’m merely curious about the subject," she responded.
He smiled then, revealing somewhat yellowing teeth. She thought one might have been decaying but his smile vanished before she could be certain.
"Curious to learn, perhaps?"
Hermione fought to keep from pinching the bridge of her nose in annoyance, hoping he would have gotten to the point without the added pleasantries. The more time she spent speaking to someone in the past, the more likely she would be recognized in the future. Her mind briefly flashed to the theory of the butterfly effect." I apologize, sir, I have a busy schedule this afternoon; what can I do for you?"
The man straightened, and looked her in the eye as if understanding she was growing weary of speaking with a stranger. "If you're curious to learn the art of Potion making, I know of a master in need of a student."
Now he had Hermione’s full attention. The thought of being accepted as an apprentice weighed heavily on her mind. It was an opportunity that could launch a career, and if she played her cards right, there were a plethora of options for a Potions Master. She was certain that Professor Snape could have disappeared for decades, conducting business from his home by way of owl if he’d wanted to. She nodded once, encouraging Mr. Wright to continue.
"My father," he began, "is a bitter, encrusted, and ancient man. He's brilliant at what he does and keeps to himself. I've been working with him for the past two decades, helping him run his apothecary and being his 'partner' of sorts. However, I have a family to attend to and my own vocation." Hermione was still waiting for the catch, and it came a few moments later. "I've finally convinced him to take an apprentice, though he’s denied every single student I brought to meet him from Beauxbatons."
"But you're under the impression he may accept me, should I decide to speak with him? Why?" she questioned.
He shrugged. "I'm not, really, I simply noticed your books and thought I would extend the offer." Mr. Wright pulled a slip of parchment from his breast pocket and handed it over to her. "Come to this address at noon tomorrow, if you decide to chance the interview. The worst he could say is no, Miss Dubois."
Later that night, Hermione was unable to concentrate on her books, and found her eyes wandering over to the small slip of parchment on her night table.
For the sake of alleviating her boredom with the life she was living, and a chance at a Mastery, she knew she was going to at least try.
"Miss Dubois, get the bloody beaker of murtlap off the burner and bring it to the study immediately!" an angry, grating voice demanded, making the paper-thin walls rattle.
Hermione instantly did as was asked of her. Hard work and persistence had won her an apprenticeship with the most reclusive and angry Potions Master in France; Casius Wright's father, Claudius Wright. He had been harsh when she'd come to him, and misogynistic. Having been a student of the Professor Severus Snape had taught her how to handle this man’s attitude. She’d begun wondering whether being in a perpetually foul mood was something all great potions masters had in common. He'd been a hard man to please, and he'd taken her on as a 'trial' apprentice after she had proven herself by brewing the most complex potion that had been developed in the last decade.
He'd agreed to teach her, albeit reluctantly.
Hermione had to keep her glamour up at all times. The one Casius had seen that first day in Paris to ensure that no one would recognize her when she left France and to stay under the radar as much as possible.She’d made her hair blonde; a color that had taken some time to get used to. It made her complexion look washed out and she didn't like the effect it had on her face but she'd had no choice. Vanity had never been a problem for Hermione Granger in the past, but the older she got, the more she seemed to care that she'd yet to outgrow certain features.
Her cheeks, while they had lost most of their baby fat over the years, still had a bit of a round quality to them. She couldn't help her bushy mop, evidently that would never go away, but mercifully she could tame it somewhat with a brew she'd devised that was stronger than the Sleakeazy potion from her time. Hermione wasn't prone to be vain, she never had been, but this period called for hair to be styled in certain ways. It had just been another check on the list she had devised for her assimilation process.
Hermione’s appearance was still very youthful, which made her wonder. She was meant to be twenty-eight, but she looked exactly the same as the day she’d discovered she’d been thrown into the past. She had been observing these small things about herself quite often, especially in the past few months. Pushing the thoughts from her mind to mull over later, Hermione focused on her task of chopping more murtlap for Mr. Wright.
She had now been studying under Master Wright for five years. In fact, she'd already earned her Mastery over a year ago and was now simply working for him out of comfort and habit. She knew his ways, knew how he worked and moved. She received room and board for her labors and was content to remain here. He'd often asked why she stayed, considering how easy it would be for her to become a Professor or go into research with any wizarding company of her choosing.
She told him it was because she'd miss his sunny disposition.
Hermione heard shuffling and didn't bother to look up from what she was doing, knowing it was the senior Master Wright even before she heard his rough voice sounding over her left shoulder. "Good. Now fetch a handful of elderberries from the garden."
She nodded and dropped what she was doing immediately. She'd learned in the first month to do as he said and only ever question him if she thought it was a matter of safety.
Walking out into the garden, Hermione was swallowed by a feeling of serenity. She often spent time sitting amongst the foliage; it had always managed to soothe her mental upheaval whenever she began to think about her past that was the future. As she grabbed the berries, Hermione considered, not for the first time, leaving the comfort of this quiet home in the French countryside. She knew she wouldn't be able to stay much longer.
"I saw your research the other day, girl, the stuff you've been hiding in your room that you’ve been pouring over ever since you got here all those years ago," Mr. Wright stated, shuffling into the small kitchen area of his home, observing her reaction with dark eyes. She looked up from the newspaper and eyed him carefully.
"You went through my things?" she asked calmly, though panic began to rush through her. Her right hand clenched on the edge of the wooden table as she realized the consequences of Mr. Wright’s knowledge of her research. Dozens of possibilities floated to the forefront of her mind as she waited for him to continue, her hand slowly reaching for her wand without alerting him.
He shook his head, salt and pepper hair that had become rather long swayed slightly at the movement. "No, you dropped some on your way to the floo yesterday." He pulled a folded parchment from his shirt pocket. "Seems you're having trouble with something called 'ley lines.' I should tell you, never heard of ley lines before but from what I read on this parchment, you're looking for Chinese dragon lines. Seems to me it's the same concept."
Hermione drummed her fingers against the wooden table she’d grabbed and bit the inside of her cheeks. Her brows snapped together and she turned on her heel, practically marching into her room. Chinese dragon lines , she hadn’t thought of referencing another culture! Mentally berating herself, Hermione summoned parchment and ink, and hunched over her desk making a note to begin research on this new lead.
The door to her room creaked open and Master Wright stopped on the threshold, glaring across the room at the small woman in the corner. Hermione hadn’t registered the change in the room until he said, “Happy Birthday. Anyways, I wanted to let you know I’ll be traveling to Belgium next week for a conference. You’re welcome to come.”
Hermione froze, her hand stopping mid stroke as her body tensed.
It was her thirtieth birthday today. For a decade she’d been stuck in the past, a decade since she’d been burdened with this delapitating hole in her chest, the hole that could only be filled by Harry and Ron. Her eyes slid closed. “Thank you, Master Wright,” she said quietly. When the door clicked shut, Hermione released a shaky breath and a tear slid down her cheek, landing on the parchment.
She couldn’t picture Harry’s face anymore. When she conjured the image of him in her mind, he was a blur of dark hair, bottle-green eyes, and a scar. Ron was a blur of red hair and freckles in her mind's eye. Neither had defined features. It was as though she’d only ever known the two of them in passing. She still felt the pain of their loss, still curled into herself at night to cry over the crippling feelings of loneliness that threatened to choke her, wrapping her in cold, dispassionate darkness.
Hermione looked up, and then to the right of her where her vanity was located, observing herself. Eyes puffy and bloodshot from the tears that flooded them, cheeks flushed, hair a mess of curls - those were mere passing qualities. The issue, one that had been a creeping realization over the past few years, was that she looked the same today as she had in 1999. Not a single change to her appearance; no laugh lines, wrinkles, no changes to her body shape, her face was structured the same exact way it had been ten years ago, her skin bright and vibrant. She looked twenty years old.
Hermione closed her eyes again, finally admitting the unthinkable to herself: she wasn’t ageing.
New York City was incredibly beautiful in the winter. The snow falling between the buildings, the rush of the people surrounding her on Broadway. Although she missed winters curled up by the fire in England, reading a book in the same room as her mother and father, Hermione loved everything about this city. She smiled to herself as she trudged down the street in her uniform.
"Adeline!" Hermione heard someone call over the roar of the crowd, she strained to look around for whomever called her name and smiled when she met the eyes of one of her classmates, Louisa.
"Good Morning, Louisa!" Hermione greeted her acquaintance once the blonde had caught up with her. "Are you ready for today?"
The blonde looked as though she were going to be sick. "I'm not sure, Addie, I've never seen a surgery before—what if I can't handle it?"
After realizing she wasn't ageing, well, having what she felt was confirmation based on her own observations, Hermione had taken a boat from France to America. She’d been hoping to take part in American’s advancing muggle medical prowess before heading to China to research ley lines. She needed time to learn Chinese, anyways. She'd sailed for Ellis Island with transfigured travel papers in hand and precious little muggle currency.
After weeks on the ship, as the technology of her era had yet to be developed to make the trip less than a week, New York had been a sight to behold. As the ship drew close enough to view the Statue of Liberty, the energy of the people on the ship manifested like an entity of its own. Men and Women were crying tears of joy, many were coming to America either to escape the rule of their country's political regime or earn enough money to return home and buy land. Hermione found herself crying along with them and hoping they achieved their dreams.
The processing on Ellis Island was tedious, medical testing afterwards was horrible and somewhat demeaning. After that she was finally allowed to step off the island and venture into New York City for the first time.
It had been love at first sight.
She'd decided to hide out in the muggle world when she'd passed through processing. The MCUSA was known for having backwards and strict laws, and Hermione knew from her own research that she wasn’t supposed to converse with muggles as a magical being, and she should have applied for entry to the country instead of just showing up. So, Hermione did her best to stay far away from other witches and wizards. Now, two years later, she had acquired a small loft in Brooklyn and was studying to become a nurse. It had been easy to falsify documentation that 'proved' she'd attended at least one year of high school and other prerequisites to be accepted into the school. Hers was a small class of thirteen women under a harsh middle aged Registered Nurse called Lucille Eberhart, and a young Doctor by the name of Silas Moore.
"Just remember that what Dr. Moore is doing is meant to save the patient or make the patient's life more comfortable."
Louisa groaned, the unladylike sound turning a couple heads that passed them by on the street. Hermione sent those who’d stared a testy glare and they'd continued on their way. Honestly, she still had trouble adjusting to this era.
"Easy for you to say, you're a natural. I've never known someone who actually attended these classes to make a career of it until you came along," Louisa stated, kind russet eyes looking up at Hermione in adoration. "It helps that Nurse Eberhart seems to be fond of you, she hates the rest of us."
Nurse Eberhart was a stern woman, she allowed for no 'funny business' among the ladies. Most of the women were young, over half of them thinking this to be a job that could help them find a doctor for a husband and well over half of them had dropped the classes once they’d realized it would be a demanding profession. Another handful had dropped out just weeks in after their advances on Doctor Moore hadn't led to anything meaningful.
Doctor Moore was a quiet man of only twenty-nine years. His sandy blonde hair made him look unassuming at first glance, but it was his eyes that told his story. Deep set and dark blue like glittering sapphires that spoke of dark promises. He caused her insides to tighten and her heart to clench when he was near, a reaction that she found she surprisingly didn't entirely dislike. Hermione had caught herself enraptured in his gaze more often than she’d care to admit, herself. But Hermione was a responsible woman. She was here to acquire this era’s muggle medical knowledge, not have a relationship or even so much as a fling with a man she couldn’t possibly have any kind of future with.
Hermione was content as Adeline Dubois, a second-generation French immigrant, and challenged by her peers in her medical classes. Of course, she was a step ahead of most of them, having come from the future where there had been nearly a century of medical advances and the knowledge gained from the many texts on muggle medicine she’d read in her own time due to her inquisitiveness.
If her situation were different, she decided, she would have pursued a career in medicinal research.
Unfortunately, life wasn't going to work out that way for her. If she wasn't ageing, it stood to reason that she would live longer than she was meant to.
That thought was terrifying.
Hermione was a small speck walking on the sidewalk of one of the largest cities in the world. No one cared about her past, not a single soul bothered to look at her as her heels clacked against the pavement, the noise blending in with everything else in the city on her way to the St. Mary's hospital in Brooklyn.
With a glowing recommendation from Nurse Eberhart, Hermione had gotten the position only days after applying, having received her license in the mail. Thankful to be away from waitressing in a local bar to pay her bills, Hermione was glad to be doing something of much more significance than retrieving drinks for and getting harassed by raucous men in the middle of the night. It wasn't a career meant for a lady in this era, and she'd suffered much grief from her peers in the nursing program because of it.
Hermione was certain she’d never get used to being treated like a second rate citizen based solely on her gender.
"Excuse me, sirs," she stated, weaving between men standing in line at a local diner. Hermione often came to a small teashop just a few blocks from her flat to meet with her friend, Isobel, before heading off to the hospital for what she knew would be an excruciatingly long shift.
"Adeline, darling, you made it!" A sharply dressed red-haired woman called, standing from her seat and grabbing Hermione's hands in hers. "After that call last night I thought you may have a bit of a lie in before work this morning."
Hermione smiled and gave the woman's dainty hand an apologetic squeeze. "I’m sorry, I should have reassured you, Izzy. No amount of misogyny would keep me from our breakfast date." She nearly shuddered thinking about her ‘gentleman caller’ the previous night had been.
He’d spoken excessively about his utter disgust over the idea of women's suffrage, and that there were women who dared to think they should have the right to vote. Then he, poor delusional man that he was, had the audacity to ask for a second date, she was an orphan, after all, and she should be securing a husband to take care of her. Hermione was not amused and found herself on her telephone with Izzy shortly afterwards, complaining about men and how she believed that in the future women would have the right to vote, could take care of themselves, and within a few decades would hold powerful positions in companies and government.
Izzy had laughed. "Of course, dear, and the world won't know what hit them."
They ate breakfast, chatting about Izzy's husband, a doctor who worked alongside Doctor Moore at the hospital, as Hermione grinned at her friend. That was how they had been introduced. Their friendship began strangely. Hermione had been staying late to read the extra medical texts the school offered, as she often did. One night she'd heard voices just outside the library, Doctor Malcolm's wife had pushed the door open and said, "Miss Dubois, you have been spending too much time buried amongst these books." The woman had scolded her with a stern frown that looked out of place on her face. Hermione had been shocked, to say the least, and before she could begin to formulate a coherent refusal Mrs. Malcolm had spoken in a tone not unlike Molly Weasley’s. "I insist you join me for dinner down the street."
It had been the start of their magnificent friendship.
Hermione ached knowing she only had a few years' time to spend with this spectacular woman. As a friend, Izzy had been the best she'd known since Harry and Ron, and yet not comparable in the slightest. The trials she faced with Harry and Ron made them irreplaceable in her heart. Still, Izzy was wonderful, and after she had moved on she planned to write to her for several years before her letters would slowly stop arriving, and Adeline Moore would ceased to exist. It was heartbreaking. Isobel was the best female friend Hermione had ever had.
"Oh, darling, you must come with William and I to the theater next weekend, they're performing 'All Aboard.’"
"Of course," Hermione agreed enthusiastically. It had been months since she had last seen a play and this one was said to be sensational.
With a small upturn of her lips, Isobel stated, "I will have Will find you a date."
Hermione's smile faltered.
"Oh stop it, Addie, William would not choose someone you would despise." Isobel cast a charming smile, one Hermione had seen used to both soften and intimidate the woman’s prey. "Allow us to set you up, just this this once."
Hermione doubted that. But be that as it may, she found herself at the theater the following weekend clothed in a beautiful silver evening gown borrowed from Isobel. Upon entering the theater, she was swept away by the romance of the atmosphere; a full orchestra at the front of the room played music of the renaissance while guests filed into the upper booths and the floor seats. When she finally made her way through the throng of impeccably dressed aristocracy, Hermione found Izzy and William standing enraptured in a conversation with none other than the illustrious Silas Moore.
She nearly stopped dead, her heart racing. She hadn’t seen Dr. Moore since graduating. The last time they had spoken, she had asked him whether he would return to the hospital to work after a few years of teaching and recalled clearly that he'd been adamant he would remain at school. It was his chosen profession, one he'd long since decided not to abandon in favor of the more demanding pace of the hospital. He had assured her he would be teaching for the remainder of his life. Keeping students knowledgeable in new medicines as they were discovered was something of a calling for him, he'd explained.
Hermione was under the impression she would never see Silas Moore again.
"Good Evening, Miss Dubois," Mr. Moore greeted, sweeping down to clasp her hand in his and briefly touch his lips to her knuckles.
She had been far too sensible since falling into the past and had, in the decade and a half of being back, not found a man to spend time with. She could continue telling herself it was out of hurt over Ron's betrayal, but if she were being honest with herself, she knew it wasn't that. It wasn't the fact that she was back in time that kept her away either, though it was a large factor in her decision.Rather, it was the fact that should she start anything with a man and grew to enjoy him, she knew she wouldn’t want to end it.
And she would have to.
Silas was charming, his work persona left far behind as his true personality began to shine through. He smiled, and laughed; a sound that brought life to their booth. He was knowledgeable about much more than just the medical profession. They debated politics and philosophy, and she delighted in conversing with him. Mr. Moore was a confident and charming man, despite what he seemed to project in his professional setting.
Considering Silas Moore's glittering sapphire orbs that night, as he sat beside her and mumbled intellectual comments about the play, she knew that she was in trouble.
That revelation should have been cause for Hermione to step back, to evaluate the situation and recognize that she couldn't allow this. There was no possible way she could afford to be with this man, no matter how badly she wanted to discuss topics from this so called 'Industrial Revolution,' to whatever else this man had an interest in.
She kept telling herself she shouldn't meet with him, but found herself going to dinner every Friday night anyways.
“Allow me to ensure I’ve understood you correctly, Miss Dubois,” a plump, elderly man ran his right index finger over his mustache, his sharp eyes observing her curiously. “You wish to invest your savings, over 300 dollars that will be split equally, in Ford and General Electric?” *
Hermione simply with her folded hands resting in her lap. “Yes, sir.”
The man leaned back in his chair, fiddling with a small ball that had been sitting on his desk, eyes never leaving Hermione’s. She refused to be intimidated by him. The backstory she’d given seemed almost too tragic; an orphan who had come to America with nothing but a dream and her parents’ life savings. Hermione made it known that America hadn’t disappointed - she’d been able to make something of herself in only a year. Now that she had a stable job and a home, the money left from her parents was hers to invest. Being an unmarried, adult woman and an orphan gave Hermione dominion over herself instead of having to rely on a man.
She was met with some resistance, since the patriarchy was still absolute in this era.
“With all due respect, Mr. Emerson, is there a reason you’re hesitating?” Hermione asked sweetly, hoping to move this along. She didn’t have all day to waste with this man; she was needed in the hospital.
Mr. Emerson was pulled out of his reverie and huffed. “No, Miss Dubois, I’ll fetch the necessary forms.”
“Nurse Dubois, the man in room 2B needs stitches, his injury is a lateral laceration to his right peroneal, and a young woman in 5A is ready to be released as soon as she’s been given her prescription. After that you’re off for the night.”
Hermione nodded at the head nurse and set off to work, grabbing release papers and the written prescription from the desk as she made her way from her station into Block A of the hospital. She entered room 5A with a swift knock and a call of greeting, explaining the process of release and the doctor’s orders before sweeping out of the room as quickly as she came. She moved swiftly through the halls with a small smile on her lips. Once in Block B, Hermione quickly entered a supply closet, grabbing the necessary items to stitch up the man in room 2B.
She loved her job and the sense of purpose that came with it. Not a day passed in St. Mary’s hospital that Hermione thought was wasted, and although she was exhausted and stressed at the end of each day, she was also proud to have spent her energy on saving or improving lives. Every nuisance she dealt with would wash away at the sight of a child’s smile after they’d been given stitches, or had had a bone reset.
Nothing could compare to the feeling of changing a child’s world, or being the reason for the smile to grace their small, innocent faces.
Hermione stepped out of the hospital, thirty minutes after her shift, wrapped in a thick winter coat as she turned towards home. The sun was beginning to rise, starting to trickle faintly through the gaps between the buildings and illuminating the streets of Brooklyn. The city was already alive in these early morning hours as people began their journey to work. Hermione hardly noticed she had worked through the night for the past two weeks, though the lack of sunlight in her life and the depression of the winter months were beginning to cause a certain lethargy to settle in her bones. She had another week of graveyard shifts before the regular night nurse was back from her ‘vacation’ and she’d be placed back on day work.
If the nurse returned at all, that is. There was speculation that the woman had eloped with a man her father disapproved of. If that were the case she probably wouldn’t be returning at all.
“Good morning, Adeline.” A voice coming from her left startled Hermione from her thoughts, making her jump, hand splayed across her chest as she whirled around to see who the culprit was.
Deep laughter soothed Hermione’s thrumming heart. She recognized that laugh and returned it good-naturedly. “Silas! Good heavens, don’t sneak up on me!”
Silas’ laughter slowly receded, his eyes still twinkling with mirth. A smile graced his aristocratic features and with the glow of the early morning enveloping him, he looked like a scene out of a romantic comedy. Hermione felt herself become rejuvenated, prior exhaustion seemingly falling away, at the sight of him standing there like a cosmic deity.
“I apologize, Miss Dubois, I had hoped to catch you at the end of your shift and invite you to dine with me this morning.”
He was so sincere, his eyes still holding the dark promises she’d seen in them when they’d first met. He stepped closer, and she knew it was dangerous for her to keep seeing him, knew it was wrong to encourage his behavior and his closeness, but, Merlin, it felt so right to be around him.
So instead of saying ‘No, thank you,’ Hermione wrapped a hand around his proffered arm and allowed herself to indulge in the presence of Silas Moore.
"Addie, would you accompany me tomorrow morning?" A pair of sinfully sapphire eyes gazed into her’s from above, glinting dangerously in the waning evening light.
She glanced over Silas' sharp features suspiciously. "Where to, may I ask?"
The correct term for what she had been doing with Silas, in her time, would have been dating. Silas spoke to her of properly courting, as this was his time and not hers. The rules of traditional courtship where Hermione was concerned were thrown into limbo - which was why instead of seeing men in her family's home parlor or porch, supervised by their parents, like most young women would do in this decade and prior, Hermione was able to ‘date.’
It couldn't last, however, she'd already been dating him for over a year and the longer she'd spent with him the deeper her feelings had run until she found herself nearly incapable of stopping herself from seeing him. It was a reckless impulse, and Hermione had been completely resolved to break ties with Silas countless times until she was in his presence and all thoughts of leaving went out the window.
She’d known he was trouble ever since she’d laid eyes on him that night in the theater.
Still, she was intrigued. There were many aspects of Silas Moore that remained a mystery to Hermione. She knew he spent time working for charities and nonprofit organizations in Harlem during the week. She knew his favorite foods, colors, his dreams and aspirations. But he'd never offered an explanation as to what he did with his Saturday mornings, and not for lack of trying on her part. She’d asked him for coffee every now and then,taking an initiative that few women would show in this era. His elusiveness had caught her attention, but she would never ask, as she, too, valued her privacy.
By extending this invitation it seemed as though he was finally ready to show her, even though it was in a roundabout sort of way.
He smiled, flashing two rows of impeccably white teeth, his eyes gleaming with an emotion Hermione couldn’t place. "I'd like to show you something, if you'll let me."
"Is there anything specific I need to wear?" she questioned from the steps of her building. She’d been fortunate enough to find a home with a landlord that didn’t mind renting to single women. It wasn’t unheard of, but it was still unusual for a young woman without family to live alone. Most, like Hermione, would reside in a group complex run by an older woman who ruled with an iron fist. No men allowed. Period. No alcohol, no smoking, absolutely no fun at all and the list would go on and on.
"Wear comfortable shoes," he advised, stepping closer to her.
He wrapped his right arm around her waist and pulled her into his body so that every part of their chests were touching. His left hand came up to brush away a stray curl, eyes searching hers. Their lips met, not for the first time, but Hermione felt her nerve endings tingle in response to his affections. When he released her, he took a step back, smiling devilishly and inclined his head to her. "I'll be here at seven thirty in the morning," he simply offered, and turned to saunter towards his own flat in Manhattan.
Hermione didn't know what to expect when Silas had come to pick her up that morning, but she had been thoroughly unprepared for what she saw after their twenty-minute walk to the pier and short trip across the river by ferry. Shortly after, they stood outside giant steel doors attached to richly colored red brick walls that surrounded a home straight out of the Edwardian era, waiting for the attendant to open them. Hermione fidgeted nervously as she read the name of the building shaped out in iron above the intricate gate; Blackwell Island Asylum.*
"Morning, Dr. Moore." A guard wearing a thick, black uniform stated after emerging from the nearest building.
The man looked over at Hermione, eyes scrutinizing her as he thrust his keys into the door and gave it a swift turn to open it. The iron groaned loudly in protest as it was pulled backwards to allow them entrance. Silas motioned for Hermione to enter first and then followed quickly after. She didn't look back as the gate closed, this time sounding like nails on a chalkboard.
She had heard about this place, read about it several times over the past few years. Inmates and the mentally ill squashed together in one overcrowded facility of depravity and moral ambiguity. Hermione knew this was how many asylums had been run for centuries, but standing at the gates of one was a whole new experience, making it more real than it ever could’ve been just reading about it in a book.
This was a whole new dose of the past’s deplorable reality.
Looking suspiciously at Silas, who gave her a grim smile before offering his arm, she took a deep breath and allowed him to lead her into the building. The guard accompanying them remained silent as they made their way inside. Hermione's eyes darted around, taking in the normalcy of the foyer and the winding staircase that seemed to lead several floors upwards.
Finally, after passing through several halls with their footsteps clacking on the stone floor being the only sound breaking the quiet, uproarious noise could be heard from somewhere ahead, muffled by the distance.
"Hmph, 's feedin' time," the guard grunted, pulling his keys off his belt loop and opened a door to their right. "Best get in there and talk to her now, Doctor, before she get's her breakfast."
His nonchalant comment didn't stun Hermione so much as it disgusted her. The fact that this guard would talk so condescendingly about these people , who were quite clearly suffering, made her sick. She began to prepare a biting rant that would effectively cure his indifferent attitude, she felt Silas' cool hand enter hers and pull her gently through the open door.
"Be back in a bit to see you out, Doctor," the man said before shutting them inside. Hermione was focused on the room she stood in. The only light source was a flickering bulb dangling from the ceiling that illuminated the pale walls. Registering the jingle of the keys outside the door, Hermione began to take stock of the things she had on her person, just in case sweet Silas turned out to be a psychopath. Her wand was up her sleeve, beaded bag in her bra, as usual. She could apparate out of here if need be.
Her thoughts came to a complete halt when she noticed something move in the darkened corner of the room.
"Addie, I'd like you to meet Mrs. Selma Moore, my mother." His blue eyes met hers in the dim light, as if searching for some hidden emotion in Hermione's eyes that wasn't apparent in her posture before he turned away and started speaking gently to the figure huddled in the corner. "Mother, it's good to see you, I’d like you to meet Miss Adeline Moore."
As the woman moved into the light, Hermione saw high cheekbones that would’ve made Narcissa Malfoy jealous and dark, lifeless eyes. Her hair was a lackluster mop of matted curls that sprung in every direction—a feat her own hair managed to accomplish quite often as well. The woman looked ragged; her dress was torn in odd places and as Hermione got a closer look she noticed scabs running across Mrs. Moore's arms and neck. Not deep enough to leave scars, but enough to have broken the skin and leave bloody marks.
It was then that she noticed the woman's nails; broken and ragged.
She'd been scratching herself.
It had been the way Silas had treated his mother that had invoked this feeling within Hermione. How he gently spoke to her, telling her of his day and how his work was going while acting as though he were completely oblivious to his mother’s unseeing eyes focused on him. He reminded her of Neville Longbottom so heart-wrenchingly that Hermione's emotions swelled to an almost unmanageable level as they took the ferry back to the city.
They'd walked, silently, hand in hand along the sidewalks. They'd gone for a quick meal, making small talk while they ate. The air between them was full of unspoken thoughts, and it seemed as though Silas was feeling out her reaction before he brought it up. She admired his patience.
When they’d finally reached her building at sundown, she realized why he never had time for coffee on Saturdays. He'd spent most of his day at the Asylum with his mother, talking to a hollow shell of the woman who had raised him.
"Thank you for taking me to meet your mother, Silas," she said softly, staring up at him from where they stood at the top of the stairs.” I enjoyed it. Truly."
He raised his right hand to her face, brushing gently along her jawline. "I wanted there to be no secrets between us, Adeline. My mother, she's been clinically insane for many years. My father had her committed after… well, after she stabbed him in the leg two years ago. I plead for her, but the courts overturned my appeals and called me foolish. Since then, I have been funding activists that are attempting to have legislation passed for the fair treatment of the mentally ill."
His normally jovial features were cast in shadow, burdened by misery and she realized the feeling she felt when she was with him was more than just fondness and loyalty. The aching of her heart, her inability to let him go, and the emotions that washed over her like a tidal wave weren’t something she’d ever felt before. Hermione pushed the thought down to be revisited later. Right now, Silas seemed heartbroken.
She should turn tail and run, he might have been giving her the opportunity to do so.
Hermione brought her left hand to rest on his right cheek and drew small circles with her thumb. "Come inside, I'll make tea."
He seemed to come to his senses because he took a step away from her then, eyes morphing from their previous glowing sentiment into a questioning glance. "Are you sure?"
There would be no taking it back. The question was universally acknowledged, asking a man inside was far out of the realm of propriety. Her mind was screaming that she shouldn't get more attached than she already was. That love was something she couldn't afford to feel when the endgame was guaranteed to break the hearts of both parties. It would be too cruel.
But selfishly, Hermione decided to take the chance. "Of course, Silas."
They hadn't fallen into bed right away. She'd truly tried, going so far as to brew the tea. But her efforts were in vain as the brew was left to cool after it had been made. As soon as she'd returned with the tray and set it down on her humble coffee table, Silas' arms had snaked around her from behind, his delightful lips attached to the dip between her neck and collarbone and his teeth dragging tantalizingly across her flesh.
Her arms raised, hands sliding back to bury into his soft hair. It had been years since she’d been touched like this and she relished in the feeling of his lips on her body, the warmth and pressure of his chest against her back. His hands worked their way up from her waist, dragging slowly along her ribs until they met her breasts and squeezed gently. She moaned softly, feeling his erection swell against her.
The sound seemed to light a fire in Silas, and he dropped his hands to her hips, spinning her around so she was facing him. Her eyes shot open, not realizing that she had closed them in the first place, just in time to see the hungry, dark look in his eyes as he captured her lips with his. The sensation was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. A tingling ran across her entire body, electrifying her and causing her to moan into his mouth which Silas used to deepen their kiss.
Hermione hadn't registered that he was backing her up until she was pushed against the wall of her living room; their lips separated long enough to draw in much needed breaths. When their eyes met the world seemed to spin around the two of them for just a moment. Hermione could see the unrestrained want in his features, undoubtedly mirroring her own.
"Bedroom?" she questioned through swollen lips, panting in tune with her wildly hammering heart.
He surprised her by making a deep, masculine, growl-like noise in response before wrapping one arm around her back. He lifted her easily, her legs automatically wrapping around his hips as he moved them to the back of the living room towards three doors.
"Last on the left," she whispered, her lips attached to his neck as he strode confidently through her flat and into her bedroom, flipping the light switch as he went.
"No," she said clearly, "I have scars, Silas, please no light."
He looked down at her quizzically. "I won't judge your scars, Adeline, but if you insist?" He looked to her for confirmation and she shook her head; no lights. His lips met hers once again, eyes closing as she heard the light being flipped off and he moved towards the bed.
He gently deposited her on the mattress and brushed a hand across her wry curls. Eyes not leaving hers as he removed himself from the position. He was gone for a few seconds longer than she expected and she raised onto her arms to question him, but paused when she noted what he was doing. She felt her left shoe slide off, followed by her right. Silas' hands smoothed up her leg and under her dress, tugging down her nylons and undergarments, nails lightly dragging across her skin as he removed them.
"You'll have to excuse my enthusiasm, sweetheart," she heard him say, his voice husky and thick with lust, "but I've wanted you this way since I first saw you in school. You were tantalizingly determined, undeterred, and unlike any woman I've ever met."
Her heart was hammering violently, as if trying to escape her chest, as Silas kneeled on the bed and spread her legs. Instead of removing her dress, he simply rolled the skirt up, his fingers gliding across her thighs. Unable to stand the amount of fabric between them, Hermione leaned up and pulled the offending garment over her body, and threw it onto the floor. He chuckled while taking off his own shirt and tossing it to tangle with hers on the floor, crawling on top of her to kiss her once again.
He worked his way across her jawline, down her throat, and then he was gone. Her eyes popped open, wondering what happened, before she saw him move down the bed to settle between her legs. His eye caught hers in the waning evening light. "As I said, you'll have to excuse my enthusiasm,” he said as his head dipped between her legs to slide his tongue over her wet folds and suck on her clit.
Her body betrayed her and she arched her back in response. She'd never done this before, two whole years with Ron hadn't been nearly this adventurous.
She'd been missing out if this was what oral sex felt like.
Pressure built within her as she writhed under his ministrations in wild abandon. Her climax wracked her body, legs shaking as though she'd just come off a broom and was frightfully aware of how close she'd come to dying. She met Silas' eyes as he wiped his mouth across his arm and kissed his way back up her body; attaching himself to her neck.
She was no inexperienced virgin, but Silas clearly knew what he was doing. A surge of power filled her and she wrapped her right leg around his hip and pushed him onto his back. He understood the move, because his arm connected with her side to sweep her up on top of him. The motion was fluid, as though both had practiced it and she began dropping kisses all over his chest, raking her nails across it. She gazed into his eyes and swirled her hips, grinding her center into him, making him hiss and groan at the feeling.
When she lined him up with her entrance, he impatiently bucked his hips and surged into her. "Silas!" she gasped at the feeling of being filled for the first time in a decade and a half.
Silas maneuvered them suddenly and Hermione’s back met with the mattress again. He gave her a moment to settle into their new position before he eased out of her with a soft groan, and surged forward. His vigorous thrusts stroking her sensitive flesh felt like absolute euphoria. She clasped his shoulders tightly with her fingers to steady herself as they fell into a quickened rhythm, spending no time on savoring the moment.
They were panting in tandem, puffs of hot breath mingled together as Silas’ thrusts became erratic. Unable to meet his pace, Hermione wrapped her right arm around his neck and dragged him down until their lips crashed together. She felt her body tense with the pleasure and cried out, their lips separating. Silas’ movements became impossibly quick, slamming into something deep within her until she came with a shattering moan, collapsing to the mattress as Silas growled his release.
“Fuck.” Silas mused, his arms seeming to give under his weight and fatigue. Dropping a chaste kiss to her lips he rolled away from her to keep from crushing her.
No words at all were needed that night. Hermione snuggled into Silas' left side with his arm wrapped around her shoulders as they fell asleep listening to each other's heart beats.
*300 dollars USD then is more like 8k now. Also, I looked into the stock market for this era and there was quite a bit of fluctuation, the DOW actually shut down for a few months following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo, but it seems Ford and General Electric did well - even through the Depression in the 30s. Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. I went off what I read on Forbes.
*Blackwell Island Asylum was a real place
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Updating a day early, because you're all amazing, and I'm completely shocked that so many people like Struck. Like, ya'll are blowin' my mind. As always, thank you to Catherine Morgenstern on FFN for being the greatest beta ever to live.
"The trick is not to fall, Addie," Silas teased in a matter of fact tone, skating circles around her, his face alight with mischief. He laughed unabashedly at her glare, throwing his arm out to catch her as she slipped once again.
"Really? What other excellent advice might I receive from you, Doctor Moore?"
"Use your center of gravity and glide, stop trying to walk on the ice." He ceased his joking after a few more laps and wrapped his arm around Hermione, keeping her upright by the waist. Children whirled past them, laughing and chasing each other across the ice. In Hermione’s opinion, this activity was unsafe, but looking at the parents, both on the ice and off, it didn't seem as though they shared her worry at all so she told herself to relax.
Seconds later, Hermione was caught off guard; three exuberant children came close to her, making her panic, which caused her to slip and fall. Since Silas was unfortunate enough to be close enough for her to grab, she brought him down with her and they collapsed into a tangled heap on the frozen floor.
"I am so sorry, Silas!" she apologized, wide-eyed, as she scrambled to stand again. Looking over at the man’s face, covered by his arm, she noticed him shaking and wondered if he was hurt. Hermione tried to regain her balance enough to pull herself to her feet but slipped again and fell on her stomach.
Silas burst with laughter, his arm falling away to reveal his mirth. The sound was contagious and she soon found herself laughing alongside him, neither attempting to stand while the cold from the ice penetrated their clothing.
Tears sprang to her eyes while she struggled to collect herself. It had been some time since Hermione had laughed so heartily.
She'd been doing that often since September. Silas' presence in her life was like a healing balm that gently smoothed over her broken and aching heart. Hermione found herself thinking less about the life she'd lost and focusing more on the present; her reality. They'd maintained a sexual relationship since that first night, opting deeper into the sexual spectrum.
She looked over him; eyes glinting as she recalled the position they had been in that morning.
Once they had calmed their laughter to a fit of giggles, Silas had easily gotten back to his feet and helped her stand with him. He pulled her close and began to brush snowflakes that had stuck to her clothing from her shoulders and arms. It was empowering to know this man intimately, to know that later when they fell into bed she would be at his complete mercy. Izzy would be scandalized to know what her two friends got up to in their spare time.
"Miss Adeline, I was wondering if you might accompany me to a ball on Christmas Eve?"
She grinned up at him. "Only if we can go find us some hot chocolate somewhere and then make our way to my apartment."
His eyes sparked with lust and he quickly helped her off the ice.
Christmas Eve came fast that year. Silas had promised to pick her up from her place in a carriage at seven that evening. She hadn't expected he would have rented the most beautiful white carriage and horses. The romantic gesture was stunning, and Hermione found herself almost in tears at the sight of him standing there when she stepped outside. His black tuxedo, fashionable in this era, was tailored to him, creating a look of regality that most men couldn’t dream of pulling off.
"My lady," he said softly, bowing to her with white roses in hand.
She nearly swooned.
The ball was quite lavishly decorated. Izzy was there and she swung by to excitedly regale her with details of the family that owned the upscale home they were all twirling in. William and Silas found themselves slinking away from the ladies and accompanying each other to the appetizer table. Hermione and Izzy acted like they hadn’t noticed, but laughed together once the men were out of earshot.
When the men came back, smelling of cigar smoke and brandy, they brought champagne and engaged in conversation about current politics and the war in Europe.
Keeping quiet because she didn’t want to reveal anything about the war, Hermione answered only when she felt her input was required. It was out of character, and Silas seemed to realize she was uncomfortable with the conversation, but it wasn’t possible to pull away from these people. For the most part she contemplated her relationship with Silas. She had grown to care for him, love him even, if she was completely honest with herself. It was a difficult revelation, one she wasn’t sure what she could do to remedy. They could not be together much longer, perhaps a couple years if she were so lucky.
After a few more topics had been breached, the gathered began to join new groups, or enter the dance floor. Hermione relaxed, and tried to banish her thoughts about leaving Silas while he led her out to the balcony. It was a beautiful night, though frigid, and she found herself delighted that she’d thought to bring a jacket. Her thoughts came to a screeching halt when Silas smiled shyly at her and dropped to one knee.
Hermione’s hands automatically went to cover her mouth, eyes widened in complete shock as Silas began his speech.
"Adeline, in this world there are few that have had the capacity to capture my mind, and even rarer still has it been to find someone who captivates my soul –" he swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing with the movement," ever since we became acquainted during your time in the school, I have been unable to banish you from my mind. When you graduated, I drank myself into a stupor at the thought of never seeing you again and tried to move on with my life.”
“I didn't know what I was getting myself into that night at the opera house. I told myself not to get too attached; a woman like Adeline Dubois comes through one's life like a hurricane and leaves your heart shattered, body worn, and mind lost. This past year, I fell in love with you. I don't care what worries I had previously harbored. I love you, and I would like to ask if you would do me the honor of your hand in marriage."
Hermione Granger, staring into Silas' sapphire orbs so full of hope and the light slowly dying each moment she waited to answer, made the most spontaneous, asinine, brash decision she had in her life.
Hermione sat in the kitchen, three months after having agreed to marry Silas Moore and two weeks after having gone through with it, staring at the glittering amethyst and silver ring that adorned her left had. She smiled into her cup of coffee, observing the way the light illuminated the stone. Her whole body deliciously sore from the night before.
They'd tested limits last night, each time they delved deeper into their sexuality. Silas had particular tastes in the bedroom. Hermione had never expected she'd like relinquishing control in any aspect of her life, but this was one reprieve she couldn't get enough of. After gently working up to darker appetites, she realized she wasn’t averse to a bit of pain in manageable doses; it heightened her senses and elicited the most exquisite feelings in her.
Arms wrapping around her from behind, and a face burying itself into her neck interrupted her thoughts as a rough voice whispered into her neck, "Good morning, Mrs. Moore." Her head fell back on his shoulder as he scraped his teeth down her throat before biting down on her exposed collarbone; not hard per se, but definitely far from gentle, causing Hermione to hiss in pleasure.
"Good morning," she moaned in response as she felt his arousal brushing her back while he pulled her even closer to him.
"Sorry if I bit too hard, sweetheart." He softly kissed the area his teeth had made impressions in. She spun around and draped her arms around his neck, meeting his eyes.
"It wasn't too hard, love, as long as it didn’t break the skin." She pressed her lips to his and pulled away. "I have a shift at the hospital in two hours, Izzy asked me to meet her for breakfast this morning."
For a man of the early twentieth century, Silas had been unbelievably supportive of Hermione’s career. In this generation, once married, women were meant to stay home with their husbands and have a plethora of children; spending the rest of their lives raising them. Silas had never once asked her to leave the hospital, he'd only asked her if working in the hospital was still something she'd wanted to do. When she had answered that she loved her career, he said no more of it. Hermione's heart had swelled. He understood, and she loved him even more for it, especially after the pressure he endured from his colleagues over his 'deviant' wife.
They weren't the most conventional of couples. Often they deviated from social norms, and Silas had always treated her as an equal. They split the bills, house chores, groceries, everything . If one of them couldn’t get to the chores that day, the other would pick up the slack. It was uncomplicated, and completely unheard of in this age where the woman stayed home to care for the estate. Hermione wholeheartedly believed that Silas was born in the wrong time and wondered how he would have been had he been born in her time.
Silas smacked her arse as she began walking towards their bedroom. "Tell Mrs. Malcolm I said hello."
Their life had thus far been wonderful. Of course, they hadn't been married long. The 'honeymoon stage' would surely end sometime soon and knock their blissful happiness from orbit. For now, Hermione was happy.
But there was still the gut-wrenching truth. She was not who he thought she was, and she hated lying to him. Lying by omission, granted, but it was still lying. She loved him, and he loved the carefully crafted persona she projected. It was cruel for both parties involved. At times she found herself unable to sleep with the disgust her nightmares brought her. Lately it was less about the war, of course those nightmares still came but they were few these days, and more about staring at herself in the mirror.
When she woke she'd feel the bitter reality of her life for what it was; a farce.
And even colder still; one day she would have to abandon Silas. Would it have been better to tell him no, to walk away and decide against marrying him for the sake of her honesty? Marrying him had been selfish, she’d known it at the time. But did she not deserve to be happy, or selfish, every now and then?
The answer was no, she did not deserve to be happy or selfish. Hermione was putting her feelings above Silas’ right to know the truth about her. Her thoughts drifted into dangerous territory as she walked down the street towards her regular diner, her meeting with Izzy the farthest from her mind as she operated on auto-pilot.
She wondered if she could tell him some truth. Not everything, because telling him she was a thirty-five year old time-traveling British witch from 1999 would surely get her placed in Blackwell alongside his mother. But perhaps she could ease her mind, and his, with the truth hidden in a lie? Expose the truth of her battle scars.
She perished the dangerous thoughts as she walked into the diner.
"Darling, what's the matter?" Izzy questioned the moment Hermione came into view, eyes narrowed and worry etched across her pristine features.
Izzy, of course, could spot Hermione's mood from a mile away. It was something the woman had been able to do from the start of their friendship, an inherent and uncanny ability that didn't only benefit the woman when Hermione was her focus. Izzy seemed to be able to pick up on people and immediately assess their moods correctly with only a look.
Hermione guessed Izzy might have some latent magic.
"It's nothing. I just feel like I've been staring myself in the mirror all day and the sight enhanced every imperfection I have." Hermione said, gliding into the seat across from her friend.
Izzy's kind eyes descended upon Hermione, her face contorting into disbelief so obvious, so pronounced, that Hermione flinched at the sight. "Do you know what I see when I look at you, Addie?"
Hermione shook her head, eyes wide as Izzy continued to speak, "I see a beautiful young woman who's dedicated her life to others. Who judges little, and uses tender disposition to calm patients who are dying or children who are in pain from broken bones or disease. Underneath even that, I see someone who is afraid—of what it took time to decipher, but I suppose that your past has burdened you heavily despite not knowing what you have been through. I've seen dark circles around your eyes from sleepless nights, watched you limp in here from legs still stiff after a twenty-hour shift, and the smile on your face when you tell me of patients from that shift."
Izzy's hand came across the table to take hers, "I've watched you begin to heal from whatever trauma you've been through. Silas, he brings out parts of you I'd never seen until you were together and the same with him. If something is bothering you, darling, put your faith in him, trust him. He's your husband after all."
Tears fell from Hermione’s eyes that she quickly wiped away. Izzy’s encouraging words reminded her of her mum’s speeches and it made her chest constrict in gratitude and melancholia. She’d never be able to properly thank her friend for this gift she’d unknowingly given her. She dabbed her napkin at her eyes but Izzy was not deterred. "We love you, William and I. You know that, don't you?"
Hermione nodded, responding, "I know, and I love you both too." Hermione gently squeezed Izzy's hand in assurance and with a smile the red-haired woman withdrew her hand.
Izzy smiled heartily at Hermione and sighed, "Well that was a bit heavy for breakfast—perhaps we shouldn't order the waffles this morning. Waiter, fruit bowls please!"
To keep their minds off the increasingly devastating conflicts brought on by the declaration of WWI and the spreading of gang violence in New York, Hermione and Silas had begun offering free medical attention to those in need after hours. Within a month, Hermione and Silas had set up an after-hours clinic, comprising of a collection of licensed colleagues with time to spare. Three days a week they would set up in a corner of the soup kitchen that was situated in the outskirts of Harlem.
Segregation, racism, and persecution were still highly prominent in the South and African American's were continuously migrating to the ‘tolerant north’ in hopes of creating a safe life where they could freely exercise civil liberties in peace. Hermione’s heart ached for those that were still living as glorified slaves or being murdered by the Klan, knowing that the civil rights movement was several decades away. Many were inhabiting New York City, and thus there were areas were less economically enriched than others, because, although the north was more tolerant, it didn’t mean they weren’t racist. In short, many people went without medical attention.
They had been reading the paper together one morning and Hermione had gone on a sputtering rampage, reminiscent of her S.P.E.W. days, about equality. When a stunned Silas had echoed her sentiment, they decided to do something about it.
It was a tentative business; the soup kitchen had already rented the building and all that was needed were a few permits and extra rent paid. Silas and Hermione couldn't think of anything more prudent to invest in, so they did so happily.
They quickly became neighborhood heroes.
A typical night consisted of the couple trying to help as many people lined up outside the door as they could. Hermione would help those with less fatal issues and direct anyone who needed more attention toward Silas, which turned out to be an effective system. Local hospitals had donated older equipment they could spare when they’d heard about the project and volunteers had been sent to help them out.
"Someone's been shot!" A cry came from the crowd of sniffling and moaning people and Hermione's head shot up. It wasn't the first time she'd seen a patient with a bullet wound, not with the gang violence running rampant, but this would be the first time someone with a bullet wound had come to them. They were hardly prepared for it, they were just a small clinic for Merlin's sake.
Silas came running out of his cubicle where he'd been tending to a young boy with a sprained wrist.
"Stay there, Mr. Isaacs, and don’t move your wrist. I'll have someone return to mend it.”
Another nurse rushed into the small, sectioned off area to watch the boy while Silas made his way to the front entrance where Hermione stood.The screaming man’s cries got louder, an entourage of men that looked nearly identical to him in all but facial structure was carrying him inside. He was large, not overweight but muscular. He wore a finely tailored suit, the undershirt tainted red.
"You better get this fuckin' thing outta me!" he bellowed, nearly black eyes meeting her's and she felt her magic stir in recognition of another magical being. His skin was a flushed olive color and his earthy brown hair was slicked back. She'd been here long enough to stereotype that he might be with the Italian-American gangs; Mobsters.
The man was a wizard. Despite his trauma, he seemed to realize that she was a witch and he looked her dead in the eye as he said in a deceptively calm tone, "Don’t let me fuckin' die amongst the No-Maj's, witch."
Hermione had little time to process his words, and even less time to comprehend the chill of fear that raced down her spine before the man was glaring at Silas. As Silas directed the man to a bed and began to shred the remains of the man's suit, Hermione saw the flash of metal and a gun pointed at the face of her husband. She didn't think. Her wand was never far from her, even when she was around Silas. She rarely used it, hoping to keep the MCUSA ignorant to her existence, however, the presence of other magical people made the MCUSA unable to trace the magic back to her. Realizing this, she dove her hand into her belt and turned her body so the wand would point at the man and sent a quick confundus charm.
"There's no need to threaten us, gentlemen, we're here to help," Hermione huffed darkly, eyes on the wizard that had been shot. He was clearly the leader.
The wizard on the table was doing his best to conceal his pain, she supposed a potion or two prior to entering the clinic were administered to help alleviate it. Silas began to work without bothering to think about what had just transpired, if he'd even seen it. Hermione was unsure. She stood on the other side of the man, passing tools to her husband as he asked for them and eyeing the men that stood off to the side, watching her closely.
One began to saunter their way as Silas stitched the man up after having removed the bullet and stopping the bleeding. The man, largest of them all, stopped and stood directly behind her with his warm breath sending chills down her spine; completely unlike the chills she felt when Silas did the same thing. "Obliviate the good doctor later, if you know what's good for you."
"There, you're patched up. You’re lucky the bullet didn’t puncture anything, sir. Keep it clean, an infection will make it worse. I've given you a small dose of morphine to help with the pain for now. You'll no doubt feel drowsy soon, I suggest you don't rely on pain relievers too heavily in the upcoming days. I also advise you to keep away from alcohol or drugs," Silas informed him, stepping away from the wizard that was now starting to push himself off the table.
"Thanks, doc," the man said sarcastically.
Silas' face visibly darkened and he took a brazen step towards the man. "And if you plan on coming here again; I suggest your men not point guns at me or anyone else in or around this clinic, sir."
The wizard looked positively amused, going so far as to chuckle before hissing as he swung his feet over the edge of the bed and planted them on the floor. He struggled to stand, but did so without the help of his men and turned to face Silas, towering over him. "Doc, I own this fucking clinic. If I'd like to walk in here and shoot every damned person in this building—I would. Now, run along and offer your services to the good people of this fine neighborhood, would ya?"
Hermione could see Silas gearing up to fight, and she placed a gentle hand on his forearm to stop him. He looked down into her eyes, the tension slowly leaving him. "Run along, Doc," the man stated again, giving Silas a condescending smile. Silas wrapped his hand gently around Hermione's upper arm and began to walk off when the man's voice cut him off again. "Leave the lady. I'd like to have a conversation with her, if you don't mind, ma'am."
"It's alright, I'll talk to him," she assured him soothingly, removing her arm from his grasp. His eyes were slightly widened, asking without verbalizing. "It's alright."
Hermione watched Silas go back to work, positioning himself so he could easily see her and the men. She turned and glared at the wizard, casting a notice-me-not charm to confuse her husband and healing the man's stitched wound without a second thought. She didn't know much about magical healing, but she knew enough to get by in a pinch. "Can I help you?"
His smirk widened. "Haven't seen you around before. I make it a business to know local magic folk. We aren't meant to be consorting with No-Maj's." His dark eyes roved over her. "I detect an accent."
She raised her eyebrows. "I don't believe you'd waste your time here if you worked for the MCUSA, so instead of tip-toeing around the subject why not get to the point? What is it you want?"
The men laughed, the sound a symphony of baritone before the leader responded, "The MCUSA, not quite. As for what we want— nothing. Well, aside from letting you know you might see more of us around here.”
Hermione feigned indifference. “We treat everyone, if you’re respectful while you’re here then I can’t see a problem.”
The man before her threw her a threatening smile. “Then we have no problems, witch. I’m Nicholas Marello,” he held out his hand for her to shake, “and it will be a pleasure doing business with you.”
Despite having worried ceaselessly over her impromptu decision, Hermione hadn't grown to regret it. Though, if she were being honest, she had been increasingly challenged by the men who had come into her clinic. Instead of treating diseases, colds, broken bones, and things of that nature, the men came in off the streets with stab wounds, bullet wounds, and lacerations for them to treat. Once she even treated a man with third degree burns.
It shouldn’t have been so rewarding, helping members of the Genovese crime family, but it was. She rarely had direct contact with Marello, as he only came in when he felt he needed to check in on one of his wounded guys. Instead, she went through one of his runners.
Hermione had been walking a very fine, balanced line with Silas. She said as little as possible, to avoid his questions, and he seemed to take the Mob moving in on their small clinic at face value— they did help fund them, and even had brought in better equipment under the express command to treat their men first and foremost. Ethically, it was a horrifying idea, but the longer this went on, the less Silas argued the case. He knew well enough not to fuck with the Mob.
“They did it, Addie!” Silas exclaimed, throwing the apartment door open and grinning broadly at her from the doorway.
He let the door shut behind him and raced to where she sat in the living room, eyeing him curiously. Sila’s picked her up and she lost her grip on the book she’d been reading. It fell to the floor and Hermione briefly wondered how long it would take to find her place again.
Silas seemed to be euphoric; he spun her around and kissed her hard with passion to rival that first night they had been together. Hermione pulled away to question what was happening.
“Who did what, darling?”
“The activists,” he grinned, “they’ve shut down Blackwell!”
Hermione’s jaw dropped and she hugged him around the neck. He squatted slightly, releasing her legs one at a time so she could walk again. “That’s fantastic, love! Is your mother going to be staying with us?”
He shook his head. “I’m not sure, there are going to be a slew of hearings that will determine the fate of each patient. Hopefully my lawyers can have her released to a private care facility nearby where she’ll be in better hands.”
Hermione didn’t like that, but didn’t know what to say. Silas’ eyes were shining so brightly she didn’t have the heart to begin discussing the specifics of what could go wrong and so she just wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Silas asked, closing his book and pulling a frowning Hermione onto his lap.
She’d been thinking about telling him some truth about herself for a while. For weeks she’d been in this position, opening and closing her mouth repeatedly like a fish, trying to work up the courage to spit out the ‘truth within a lie’ that she’d carefully constructed. Now, as she attempted to gather her courage because this time she would really tell him, she was finding herself about to chicken out once more.
“Adeline, it’s been weeks of this.” His left hand gently brushed down her wild curls as his kind eyes met hers. “Tell me. I love you. Whatever you have to tell me won't change that.”
Hermione took a deep breath and released it, repeating the process once… twice more before finally pushing the words past her lips, in her original British accent, “My name is Hermione, and I’m not from France.”
Silas’ hand stopped brushing down her hair. His eyes lost their kindness as his face portrayed a look of confusion. He didn’t bother to verbalize the question.
“I- I went through terrible things, unspeakable... I was tortured,” tears welled in her eyes as the crafted truth fell from her lips, “that’s where the scars are from.”
His hand resumed it’s ministrations though he kept silent. She was happy he didn’t, because the more words fell from her lips, the more the pressure that had weighed so heavily on her chest began to ease, and soon she was outlining her story for him.
“Things were bad. I was hunted because my people were heavily persecuted. On the run I was captured, tortured, eventually I was fortunate enough to get rescued. Soon after that I fled and was able to live in peace. Things were alright for a time, but the pain was still nestled deeply within everyone I knew, so I left. I went to France for a year and then came here to explore new opportunities. I hid who I really was, because I wanted no one to find me.”
His eyes were still on her, roaming over her face as she spoke, periodically meeting her gaze. He still said nothing. “I love you so much, Silas. I almost said no to marrying you because you didn’t know the truth about me.” She was crying now, the tears falling freely from her face as she realized, not for the first time, the magnitude of what she was saying. “I’m burdened with unbelievable sorrow that I’ve taken your choice from you, plagued with regret that I’ve married you without giving you the chance to understand who it was you were truly marrying. I’ve lied to you, I stole your choice, and it’s not fair to beg for your forgiveness.”
Silas merely pulled back the sleeve of her nightgown, lowered his head to her arm, and gently kissed the cursed scar that resided there, then leaning his forehead against the ruined flesh. Hermione continued to sob, and Silas didn’t raise his head from its position for quite some time. Not until she felt hot tears on her arm and saw his body begin to shake without making a sound. She tentatively ran her hand across his hair until he stilled, minutes later.
When he straightened up, he looked her squarely in the eyes. “Sweetheart,” he began, “I knew from the moment I met you something was different about you. There was such deep sadness in your eyes, it was unmistakeable. I knew that something awful had taken place in your past, I was aware there were things you weren’t telling me from the start. As I grew to know you, I fell in love with your character. With who you are today. You cannot convince me that you’re not the caring, sometimes controlling, ambitious nurse that I’ve gotten to know.” Silas’ hands cradled her face. “I love you. Scars, past, and all. Adeline. Hermione. It makes no difference to me.”
Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off when Silas began to cough rather violently. Her brows furrowed slightly, grabbing his handkerchief from his pocket and handing it to him. He quickly replaced the hand that was covering his mouth with the piece of fabric, and closed his palm.
It was too late. Hermione had already seen the blood.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
“Silas, love, you have to see another physician. You can’t self-diagnose, it’s dangerous.” Hermione pleaded.
He cast her a dark look from where he sat at the kitchen table on the morning after having learnt a small truth about his wife. He pulled the thin cloth drenched in blood away from his mouth. “Sweetheart, I’m telling you, it’s bronchitis.”
Hermione huffed and set their breakfast on the table. “And I’m telling you it’s clearly more than that. And you don’t seem to be too shocked by your hemoptysis, which leads me to believe this has been going on for some time. Love,” she looked at him imploringly, “at least talk to William. Get his opinion, I’ll go with you if you like.”
Silas slumped back in his chair and looked utterly resigned. “Alright, Addie... Hermione, if it means so much to you then I will call William.”
She swooped down to place a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, darling,” she said as she turned around and sat down opposite him at the table. “There’s no need to start calling me Hermione. I’m Mrs. Adeline Moore. I know that our talk trailed off last night and we decided to give it a rest.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Silas began, shining blue orbs glancing across the table, “you have nothing to apologize for, I knew you’d come to me with the truth as you trusted me more. I know that you gave me a vague rundown last night, and I have faith that one day you’ll trust me enough to tell me the truth in its entirety.”
She reached over the table and placed her hand on top of his left, her whiskey-colored eyes red with the makings of tears as pain tightened her throat. “Thank you, Silas.”
He smiled softly, before being wracked by another coughing fit.
There had been a series of tests over the past few weeks that Silas had endured with minimal argument. Hermione was proud of him, as she watched him go through every test at William’s request and her own insistence. No proverbial rock was left unturned, William and Hermione teamed up as the invincible duo of medical professionals intent on discovering just what was wrong with Silas, and how to treat whatever it was. The results were left for William alone to gather and report to the married couple, as he had believed it best to tell them together.
This was what found Silas and Hermione sitting in William’s office, staring at the familiar plaster walls decorated with the man’s hunting trophies. Taxidermy and sport hunting were one of William’s favorite indulgences, Hermione had always been uneasy being in here. It wasn’t just animals native to North America that were mounted on these walls, but some native to Africa, and South America as well. It was troubling how many there were, and she’d never stayed long enough to count them all but had estimated at least twenty five. His study at his home was worse, as was the den. She’d once had a conversation with Izzy about it, to learn her opinion, but Izzy couldn’t have been more proud of her husband's accomplishments.
Hermione and Silas were both rather disgusted by it, but otherwise kept their opinions on the matter to themselves. The doctor and his wife were dear friends, both together and separately. The two families were close, and the Moore’s were certain that there were aspects of their lives that Izzy and William didn’t particularly care for either.
Now, however, Hermione was only partially grateful to be staring into the glass eyes of a beaver while she attempted to avoid looking at William as he entered the room. Solemn silence followed him. When she finally did meet his eyes, she could see the deep sadness that nestled into his gaze as he looked over at his colleague and friend. Her heart sank and she began to fidget in her seat.
"Silas, Addie, there's no easy way..." William began, tears forming in his dark eyes. Hermione and Silas stared right back at him, holding hands tightly.
Dread filled Hermione as she realized what William was gearing up to say. They'd spent so much time helping those in need, even those with maladies that were airborne, and Silas hadn't always taken the best of precautionary measures; especially because he'd spent most of his career teaching rather than practicing medicine. He forgot his mask often.
She’d known, intellectually, that there was a chance. But she hadn’t prepared herself for it emotionally. She held Silas’ hand tightly in hers as William swallowed and began again.
"It's consumption," William said softly, a tear sliding out of his eye as he watched Hermione and Silas stiffen.
Tuberculosis. Hermione knew of it, of course, even without her medical knowledge she'd known of the respiratory disease from her own past studies and time spent in France with muggles. The vaccine wouldn't be produced for a few years yet, if she remembered correctly, but there were other options. Less preferable options, yes, but options nonetheless. Silas released her hand and went still, seemingly in shock. She tensed, and looked him over before biting her lip and looking to William for support.
"There are treatments..." she began, voice unwavering as she tried to be the pillar of strength for Silas.
". . . all of which require going under the knife, and you both know that you are in late-stage Tuberculosis, Silas." William affirmed tightly, addressing Silas directly.
Yes, that was a problem. Silas was terrified of surgery. Performing it was no problem, but being the one subjected to it? Unlikely. That wasn’t even taking into consideration the fact that Silas was late-stage and the surgery would likely fail, regardless.
She looked over to her husband and laid her hand over the one her other hand was gripping tightly, reassuringly. His face had been becoming more pale as the weeks wore on but right now he looked almost deathly white. She tried to convey all her love for him in the way her hand squeezed his but he wasn’t responding. He shocked her when he brushed her hand off, dropped her other one, and stood abruptly, turning to walk out of the door.
Hermione didn’t follow him, only looked helplessly at William, grappling for any possibility that Silas could be saved. “There has to be something that can be done.”
William shook his head and looked at her empathetically, “You know that there’s nothing that can be done, Adeline.”
"He said Gambino before he died, Mr. Morello, that's all." Hermione reported, blood and body matter still drying on what had once been a pristine nurses uniform.
Despite William’s harrowing prognosis that morning, and Silas' disappearance thereafter, Hermione was still required at the clinic even if the surgeon was not in attendance. It had become custom, over the past couple of weeks, to watch men die from this turf war in the Mafia-Camorra War. In confidence, one of the Genovese family had told her they came to the clinic instead of the hospitals because another family had control over them and therefore their guys couldn’t get proper medical attention.
As if she hadn't had seen enough war in the nineties.
This wasn’t the first time Morello had been back in the clinic since that first day, either. Morello came whenever one of his guys died, and like today Hermione would report whatever his man had said before that happened; anything at all she heard that seemed consequential, and sometimes things that might have looked inconsequential to the unlearned eye. Morello was there for the report, every time. It was strange, at first, to be around another magical being. She was so unaccustomed to the slight hum of magic that the tingle of it sometimes caught her off guard. He seemed to enjoy doing that to her, and she actually relished the feel of another so near.
Despite hating what she was doing, aiding and embedding organized crime could get her put away for life or sentenced to death, it wasn’t healthy for her to spend all of her time around No-Maj’s and forget her magical background completely. Hermione had been allowing her magic to build up, without any form of release for quite some time now. It was damaging, and before she had married Silas she often expelled her magic, apparating away into New Jersey.
Nick Morello inclined his head to show he'd heard and turned to one of his guys, breaking Hermione’s drifting thoughts. "Masseria, walk Mrs. Moore home safely."
Joe Masseria was a towering man, well over six foot and he looked like he could lift twice her weight without flinching. She knew he could easily kill a man, and the look in his eyes said that he probably had killed more than once. He held his arm out for her to take, which she took instantly, so as not to offend him.
“Mrs. Moore,” Morello said from her left and she turned her face to face him, “you’ve done well.”
“Thank you, Mr. Morello.”
Masseria tugged Hermione gently, prompting her silently to turn away from the boss and take his lead. She went willingly, knowing it was best not to argue. He lead her out of the clinic and into the streets of Harlem, making their way towards Manhattan where her apartment was. They walked slowly, as if they were simply two friends strolling through New York City, enjoying the early summer breeze.
They weren’t, and Hermione was on edge, thinking he might have been sent to kill her. Usually when Morello said something he would mean the opposite. Instructing his right hand guy to walk her home safely could have been code for ‘take her home and kill her there - make it look like an accident.’ His telling her she’d done well could have meant ‘you’ve wronged us.’ She couldn’t be sure; and that was terrifying.
“Relax, Mrs. Moore.” Masseria stated, deep baritone practically growling the words. “If I was meant to kill you I wouldn’t have bothered being seen with you.”
She nodded once, and tried to ease her tension.
“Anyway, the boss wasn’t lyin’, you’ve done well for us.”
Hermione wasn’t sure if that should be taken as a good or a bad thing, but was thankful enough that she hadn’t been considered an associate to the mob, that was a tree she had no interest of climbing.
Silas didn't come home until early the next morning. Hermione had made herself sick with worry, pacing their apartment in hopes she would hear his light steps and the jingling of keys. It wasn't until a quarter to five in the morning that those noises finally permeated the silence and Silas stepped inside the room, looking haggard. His eyes were bloodshot, the left sporting a bruise, lip busted.
Instead of saying anything, he looked at her in the light from the lamp she'd left on in the corner of the room.
And then he crossed the carpeted floor, standing right in front of her. She stood to meet him, hoping to wrap her arms around him in comfort. Instead, Silas fell to his knees and buried his face in her abdomen, sobbing.
No words were needed that night.
By late July Silas was beginning to have more bad days than good days. There were still days where he could get outside and walk down the sidewalk, go to a restaurant, or see his mother if he was careful to keep his mouth covered. Those days, however, would leave him haggard for the next three, sometimes five, days thereafter. It was those times when Hermione would see Silas’ spirit drain from his eyes. He’d resigned himself to death early on, but it had become no less painful in the time since his diagnosis.
She recalled the day clearly. She’d come home from work after having dealt with a particularly brutal patient she’d shockingly been able to save. When she opened the door she met chaos reminiscent of Diagon Alley after the Death Eater’s had attacked. The living room was trashed, a few glass vases that had held recently purchased flowers lay shattered on the floor with books scattered among them, and the couch looked as though someone had kicked it. Setting her purse down on the table, she went looking for Silas.
Her wand held at the ready, in case someone had burglarized, she turned a corner into the kitchen and hid the wand immediately when she noticed Silas, sitting on the tile floor with his back to the cupboards. There was blood down the front of his shirt and a half empty whiskey bottle in his hand. His eyes were closed, but tears were pouring down his cheeks.
“Silas, love?” she said softly, stepping around a pan that had made it to the floor in his rage.
His eyes popped open and she’d seen bitter resignation. “I’m going to die, Addie.” He lifted the whiskey to his lips and gulped down enough for her to be drunk in minutes. “I’m going to die, it won't be long now.”
“I know,” she responded gently, kneeling down in front of him between his outstretched legs. She moved forward so she could easily wrap her arms around his torso and bury her face in his neck. “I love you.”
He buried his face in her hair. “If only love was the currency in which life was traded for - we would live forever.”
Silas' condition worsened as the temperatures began to drop. He had refused treatment in every manner possible, knowing it would do them no good to waste the money on his condition. He’d decided that he had been exposed long before the clinic was formed, as it often took time for tuberculosis to enter into late stages, and couldn’t pinpoint where he’d picked it up, but assumed it must have been when he visited his mother at some point. He'd given up that day, when he’d trashed the living room of the apartment.
It was nights like these that Hermione found especially difficult now. She spent them with Silas' head, drenched in sweat from his fever, resting on her abdomen and his arms wrapped around her from his position.
"I love you, Addie," he murmured.
Smiling softly, Hermione ran her hand through his blond locks. "I love you too, Silas."
He’d begun to wheeze recently, and had been bedridden for the last several weeks when his condition worsened. Hermione hadn’t needed William to tell her so, but he had anyways, confirming that Silas had little time left in this world. Silas had called his solicitor, making arrangements and completing his will. He’d had a few meetings with William while she was off in the clinic, training someone to take over for her for the last couple weeks of Silas’ life.
She’d taken time away now, and had been home for two weeks straight, leaving only to purchase necessities. There was no place she’d rather be then where she was in this moment, curled up with Silas and rubbing his back softly when he began coughing. He would turn his head away from her long enough to keep the blood from staining her clothing, she didn’t tell him that he’d stained many of her outfits already and simply took care of it with magic when he was asleep.
Placing her hand on his damp forehead, Hermione frowned. He was sleeping now, his breathing shallow, and wheezing. She discreetly pulled her wand from the place she kept it when she was in bed, tucked away in a small incision she’d made in the side of the mattress, and whispered a cooling charm. The temperature of the room dropped considerably while she placed the wand back in its place. She gave it several minutes before she checked Silas’ fever again.
It was as though his body wasn’t registering the cooler air.
A few nights later Hermione found herself in the same position. Silas had become delirious over the past couple of days, addressing her as his mother. She knew it was the fever, and it broke her heart to see him this way.
“I grew up the farthest from normal as one could get,” she began one night while Silas lay there, eyes closed and breathing shallow once again. She let her fabricated French accent fall away so she could speak in her native one. “I could do things, you see, things others couldn’t. My Mum told me I was special.”
She’d been contemplating telling him the full truth for a while now, and realized she’d never get the chance to confess if she didn’t tell him now.
“I wasn’t special, not really.” She laughed softly, running her hand through Silas’ sandy blond hair. “I was Hermione Granger; book smart, insufferable know it all. But one day, when I was eleven, a woman came to see my family. She wore funny clothes and a pointed hat like a witch of legend. I was in awe of her. She informed me that I was a witch, and that she was there to invite me to join her and others like me at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Silas moved slightly, she lifted her hand momentarily to give him room to situate before she returned to her ministrations. “I accepted, of course, how could I not? I would finally meet people like me, I’d fit in somewhere. Perhaps I would even finally make friends.” Hermione’s voice quivered and tears formed in her eyes, but she pushed them back. “I had been wrong, I was as much of an outsider there as I had been back home. Mudblood, they called me. The term is particularly derogatory - it’s taken literally. I had non-magical parents, which made me a pariah to some.”
“I did, however, make two friends.” Now she was crying, her voice thick with emotion. “Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, they saved me from a Troll on Halloween. I would have died if it hadn’t been for them. It was the start of everything that swallowed my life thereafter. I was nothing special, but Harry was. He was Harry Potter - the boy who lived. The only known survivor of the killing curse. We went through hell and somehow made it back together, Harry and I. Ron too, for the majority of it. But it was always consistently Harry and I.”
She tried to push down the lump in her throat. “I haven’t spoken about them in years. We went through so much together. Battling creatures of myth, dark magic, fighting the epitome of evil himself - a dark wizard that had it out for Harry. We fought a war, Silas, and we were children when we did.”
“We survived, though sometimes I wonder how.” She laughed. “We fought a giant snake, and broke into a major government hub. We broke into what was supposed to be the most secure bank in our world and rode out on the back of a dragon. We weren’t even adults by muggle standards then, still seventeen years old.”
She could feel her lip quiver. “I miss them so much,” she whispered. “It’s like there’s the giant hole in my chest where they belong and all I have is memories to fill it. Their lack of presence in my life now is an everlasting pain that’s only dulled minimally over the years. I fell back in time - a hundred years. I’m not entirely sure how. I came to America to assimilate…”
Hermione trailed off as she tried to calm herself. She was getting worked up, her monologue was laced with the emotions of her past, the topic heavy with the thickness of her burden. After a few minutes she felt she’d composed herself enough to continue. “I came to America to assimilate. I’ve lived outside of my world since coming here. I learned amazing things about the muggle medicine of this era, I’ve seen history before it was written. But none of that can compare to falling in love with you. You filled a spot of that gaping hole inside of me, and it began to heal.”
“I’ll never forget it, Silas, I’ll never forget you. You changed my life, you brought happiness back to me where I was robotically going through the motions and trying to do some good in the world while I was at it. You showed me love, and passion, and life. You reminded me that I can’t fall into a grey zone of monotony. Most of all, you had the courage to love me, and gave me the courage to love you back.”
He began to cough, his eyes shooting open and covering his mouth with the cloth that was always clenched in his hands. She rubbed his back, only moving her hand off him long enough for him to situate himself against her in a new position. He was definitely awake now, though his wheezing had returned.
"I'm sorry," he spoke out some minutes later, Hermione had yet to speak again once he’d woken. She was unsure of if he’d heard her or not. She had moved his position so that he was laying back against her instead of face down, to help his breathing.
"You have nothing to be sorry for, love." The pain of what was to come settled in her heart. Tears pricked her eyes.
"I do, Addie, so many things I don’t have strength to speak them." He paused and began coughing violently, she held him tightly against her, her dress drenched with his sweat. After a few minutes his coughing died down and he began again. "I'm sorry for leaving you, now."
She dropped her face to the top of his head and continued to hold him, whispering of the times they spent together and how she fell in love with him. How much she loved him now, and always would.
It was in that position, not too long after his last words, that Silas Moore slipped from the world with a final, ragged breath.
Hermione had called for the coroner a few hours after Silas had died. She’d spent the hours waiting for them to arrive, holding onto her husband’s body as she wept for the loss of him, knowing she couldn’t keep him forever. Flashes of their times together ran through her mind like a film, and she knew she’d have to collect them for the pensieve, lest she forget the tender moments she’d spent with him.
When they’d shown up, she’d followed them out as they carried Silas away in the stretcher.
Hermione didn’t cry until she was back in their apartment.
It was with hot tears rolling down her face that Hermione withdrew her wand and cast a strong silencing charm on her apartment.
Then she proceeded to trash the place. She punched the mirror on the wall near the radio, shattering it, tossed every dish she had to the floor, overturned furniture, kicked the walls. It felt good to cause pain to her person and wreak destruction on the possessions of her life. It distracted her from the underlying issue; the pain of losing Silas.
Finally, she slumped to the tiles in the kitchen, where she’d found Silas not long ago. She pulled the whisky out of the cupboard behind her and took a hefty swing before throwing it against the wall across from her.
Regret and loss gripped her insides. She shouldn’t have thought she was allowed to be happy, she scolded herself.
“I never should have given up the ley lines research,” she whispered to herself, pulling her wand from its spot in her sleeve and summoning a bottle of wine from the icebox. She magically removed the cork and took a drink. “Fuck it,” she stated bitterly.
"You’re planning on leaving the country?" Nick Morello's eyebrows rose delicately from where he sat, leaned backwards with his left hand running over his chin. "We were sorry to hear of your loss, Mrs. Moore. I can understand and sympathize with your position."
"Thank you, sir."
He was silent for some time, staring at her. She met his eyes in quiet defiance. "You've served us well, without becoming one of our associates, Mrs. Moore. I appreciate your honesty with us, and your dedication to your practice. Coming here to inform us that you will be leaving shows me your respect. In consideration of this, I'm inclined to concede."
Hermione took a deep, steadying breath. She'd been hard at work with the funeral preparations, burying Silas, and wrapping up his affairs. Her will to remain in New York City had waned over the passing months when Silas' death became imminent. She decided after his death, while drinking her sorrow away in the kitchen, that it would be best to move on. There was, however, the small concerning factor of Marello and what he could do to her if she didn’t tell him of her plan to leave the States.
If they didn't want her to leave, she wouldn't have much of a choice but to stay.
"Conditions?" she asked, knowing there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that they'd just allow her to walk away. She wasn't family, and despite having gained favor with them she wasn’t even an associate of theirs. By all means, that should have made it possible for her to split without permission, but respect was crucial when dealing with the Mob.
A faint smile played on Morello's lips as he leaned forward in his chair. "I would obliviate you, Mrs. Moore, but I’ll take an unbreakable vow instead."
Isobel and William weren’t overly surprised that Hermione was leaving, but they were incredibly mournful that she would. They’d expressed their concern over her, and how she was doing. They, too, had lost Silas and she could see the pain in their eyes every time she saw them; a crippling sorrow that matched hers. Hermione found herself unable to breathe in their presence. They were living reminders of Silas, and his unwavering affection.
They enveloped her in a hug, one by one, as she sat with them the night before her boat left for France.
“Write to us, please. Don’t forget about us, Adeline.” Izzy looked at her sternly from where she sat across from her at their traditional diner. “I will hunt you to the ends of the earth if you don’t write.”
Hermione believed her. “Of course I’ll write, Izzy.”
They’d had breakfast that morning before her boat was supposed to leave, reminiscing about days past and the conversations they’d shared. The accomplishments and all of the good Hermione had done in the city while she was here. For an orphaned French girl in America, she’d surely made use of this land of opportunity.
As they stood outside of the restaurant hugging for the last time, Isobel’s eyes filled with tears. “I love you, girl. You know that?”
Hermione nodded. “I do, and I love you. I just...”
Izzy smiled. “I know, darling, I know.” Isobel placed a hand on Hermione’s face. “You’re going to do such amazing things, you know that? Your life’s going to be a long adventure, and you’ll be happy again one day. Just, darling, please remember what I’m about to say.”
Hermione nodded, tears welling in her eyes as Izzy continued. “In my short time knowing you, Adeline, you’ve never walked in the same direction as society.” Izzy took a breath and smiled. “In fact, I feel confident in my assumption that you’ve been that way your whole life. You’re not a conventional person, you see the world differently from its reality. You have a vision of what this world could become, and I think that you have the best chance of anyone I’ve ever met (and I’ve met quite a few politicians, doctors, and scholars) to make a real difference in this world. So, what I’m trying to say is; Adeline, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you in my life. I greatly admire your courage, strength, and fervor.”
Hermione was crying softly, Izzy wrapped her arms around her for the last time. Hermione was struck silent, and Isobel whispered into her ear, “Now go change the world.”
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
Hermione Granger had seen war. It was sickening, and otherwise difficult to describe. She’d watched her schoolmates fall, mutilated by dark curses. Few adults had come to Hogwarts to fight back against Voldemort, leaving children to defend to their last.
Magical war was vile .
Compared to what she saw every day in France, the Final Battle could be considered miniscule. A singular battle that ended it all, as compared to battles that went on for days and the constant flow of dying or dead men from the field.
Muggle war was brutal .
The trenches, one of History’s most devastating stalemates. Hermione knew what they were doing wrong, being from a time where both world wars were examined under a microscope and picked apart with fine tooth combs. She knew that the problem was their use of old battle tactics with new weaponry. The Generals told the men to push forward and the Germans would use guns to mow the men down.
The Frenchmen never stood a chance to make it more than a few yards before they collapsed, dead or dying. Some were able crawl back to the trench, few could make it at a dead run without being shot, but many died on the battlefield.
Hermione could hear their cries in the brief silences, the times when no bomb or gun shots pervaded the air; pleading calls for help from a medic that went unanswered.
A great moral conundrum wracked Hermione nightly. She had the ability to disillusion herself, make way to the battlefield, and levitate some of the dying men to treat them. But she couldn't risk exposure; nor could she risk messing with the time paradox. At night, when she could hear the cries of dying men and the sound of battle not far off in the distance. She often cried herself to sleep.
Taking a boat back to France instead of traveling across the United States to take a boat to China had been a decision Hermione had yet to regret. World War I had thus far been a welcome distraction from thoughts of Silas.
A healthy coping method, it was not.
Hermione had given herself a mission; learn more about Dragon Lines. In order to conduct herself efficiently she knew she needed time to teach herself passable Chinese. As soon as the ship she sailed on harbored in France she’d walked around to an alley and apparated to Paris, picking up as many books as she could. Hermione hadn’t originally thought to help with the war until she was already weeks into studying. Too many sleepless nights, a flood of nightmares in the wake of Silas’ death, and her own failure to cope gave her a crippling need for distraction.
She’d gone to offer her help to the front lines in a field hospital after the third week.
Most of her time was spent on one side of the brick building she slept in. She shared a room with three other nurses, though it was rare to spend any time in it together. There was too much work to be done to laze around in a cot, and although beyond exhausted they worked with fervor, saving few in a hundred men who were rushed through the doors of the building each day.
"Jane, we've got six men with multiple bullet wounds, two who have severed limbs, and at least three with concussions on the table."
Hearing statements like that at the door was normal. She didn’t hesitate to fly out of bed and toss her boots and medic coat on. She often slept in uniform, seconds counted when lives were in your hands.
Hermione raced to the hospital side of the building and jumped into the fray, rushing to a patient that was unattended; she began checking his vitals and running through his condition. Her focus was absolute, assessing whether saving each person she saw would be wasting her time.
She moved along each occupied bed of new patients, diagnosing and marking their foreheads with the nearest lump of coal, for they’d run out of marking instruments weeks ago. She gave the men morphine to help with the pain, even the dying ones despite the waste of resource.
Hermione moved to the next patient, noting that he suffered several gunshot wounds, one puncturing his liver. She knew it was too late for him.
“I don’t want to die,” he cried, clinging to her arm tightly. Blood that was spattered over his hand stained her uniform farther.
She swallowed and looked him directly in the eyes. “You won’t,” she lied, marking him with a black X, and dropping a kiss to his mud caked cheek before moving to the next man.
Choosing which soldier receives treatment in a detached way, to keep her sanity, Hermione wondered if she could live with it post war. That man would die, and it wasn’t worth expending effort to try and save him when he was unsaveable in this era. This war was brutal, so many were dying on a daily basis, the hospital turned out more dead young men then it did live ones.
And it was always the young men who fought the wars, soldiers defending their country while white haired politicians drank and discussed among themselves in warm, well lit, and safe rooms. Young men who carried the burden of the fight, of watching their comrades die and throwing their lives to the cause. It would always be that way, the young and the healthy dying for wars created by the old, manipulative, merciless men in government buildings.
It was in France that Hermione first felt the burn of unrestrained loathing pulsate deep in her core. It was as if the emotion a live and breathing entity hidden beneath her flesh. It seemed to growl and claw from the inside while she marked men for surgery and moved on to mark another for death. The feeling gave her more purpose than anything had ever before, and it fueled her to save as many men as she could.
Hermione moved on to the next victim of war. He was young, no more than twenty and that was stretching it. He wore no marriage band and looked at Hermione with the sorrow of a man marked for death. He gasped in pain and clenched his abdomen- for they always seemed to be shot in the abdomen. Hermione, for weeks now, had tried not to be moved by these dying men. It was in vain, always. There was little chance he would survive, but her mind zipped through the possibilities that he could have a chance. His eyes, they were so fearful. No more than any other in his position but there was something about him, something that told her to try.
"I need morphine, NOW." She called out to the other nurses. Not one questioned why she was playing doctor, at this point all nurses had become battlefield doctors and surgeons.
Hermione tried, for an hour. She’d managed to stop the bleeding and remove the bullet. Shockingly it hadn’t punctured any vital organs. She wrapped his abdomen, praying to whatever deity truly existed- if there even was one, because Hermione doubted so at this point. She moved on to other patients, did her best to help them as well as the night stretched and turned into dawn.
There was no change in his pattern, he still slept- tossing and turning in agony. They kept him on morphine to help with the pain because it seemed as though it were working. Hermione stopped by his bedside every few hours as the day began to slip away, fading back into night once more and she’d yet to catch sleep.
It was well into the night when another nurse, looking slightly more rested than Hermione, came to her. “Jane, get some sleep.”
Hermione began to walk the long stretch to her room in hopes she would have a chance at some rest. She paused by the man’s bed, hoping he would heal. She stood over him, a mournful look across her hardened features. To her surprise, his eyes shot open. He blinked several times, recognition dawning a few seconds later when he noticed the sounds of groaning men in the room and the stench of death that permeated the walls.
Bodies lined the outside for days before they were removed.
He seemed to finally see her and grasped her hand, tears in his eyes he drew a shaky hand into his pocket and spoke in a language she didn't know, but recognized vaguely. He placed a dirty, blood stained envelope into her hand and brushed her cheek with his blood caked palm.
It took three days for him to die, his suffering had been immense, and painful despite the morphine they pumped into his body. She was there when he died, the light fading from his eyes and a small, relieved smile stretched across his lips. She scolded herself for trying as his hand fell limp in her grip and Hermione pulled her hand away, moving onto the next patient dispassionately.
It wasn’t until over a week later Hermione gained the courage to read the envelope he’d given her. She didn’t open it, only read the print on the front. It was addressed to a Cara Piccoli, in Venice.
The war was declared over, and Hermione could almost feel the world take a collective breath of relief. She hadn’t stayed for the commemorations, the drinks, and the parties in France. Instead she’d opted to take the first train she could find that would take her near Italy. She had a letter to deliver.
Hermione had warred with herself since that man she’d tried to save had died. Part of her knew it was cruel to hold onto his letter as long as she had but she’d held back, hoping to give his family the evidence of his death from a physical being, instead of papers in the mail and a letter from the government, the same one every family of a killed in action soldier would get, expressing their loved ones noble sacrifice.
She growled at the thought, glorifying war. A wretched sentiment. It seemed a disservice to tell the family of a fallen soldier that they had died heroically in battle when in fact they took no more than ten steps above a trench in France and were gunned down. How revolting, to glorify systematic, government sanctioned, murder a ‘heroic deed’- patriotic even. War, killing thousands to millions of men, women, and children and for what? Politics? Power? Money?
Had it been worth it, all wars fought for these ends? Because they were always fought for these ends. In one hundred, perhaps two hundred years would these men be remembered as the brave and heroic souls who’d died to defend their country for the continuity of their descendants liberties? Or would the citizens of their countries become ungrateful, spiteful children spitting on the graves of men who had been long since dead for the hopes future prosperity?
Hermione was wrenched out of her thoughts when the train began to slow. She sighed from where she sat in the cramped compartment. Closing her book and tucking it away into her small bag, she noticed and flicked a piece of lint off her jacket and onto the tacky green floral patterned carpet. When the train came to a full stop she stood, smoothing her dress as she did before gathering her small bag and exiting her compartment.
The walkway was narrow, and bustling with people already. Hermione sucked in a breath as two young boys pushed rudely past her, knocking her into the closed door of another compartment. Her body was tensed, like she were a snake feeling threatened and ready to strike in the next second. Her breathing came in ragged gasps and time seemed to slow as she tried to handle the feeling of being smothered by the crowd around her. She’d never had this trouble before, and the crippling weight of the feeling crashed into her with fervor.
Hermione pushed into the closest empty compartment and collapsed to the floor, breath still coming in ragged gasps. Flashes of men ran through her mind in rapid succession, as if she were seeing it all through eyes that blinked too quickly to understand the whole picture.
Blink, a man crying for his mother and clutching her hand as blood seemed to ooze from his neck where a bullet had grazed him.
Blink, another dead man added to the pile of corpses outside the hospital walls.
Blink, a small child who got caught in a cross fire after another attack on a nearby town, covered in the blood of his dead mother and holding his sister closely- although the life had faded from her hours prior. He cried, loud wracking sobs that twisted Hermione’s heart so ferociously she’d been unable to sleep for two days after.
Blink. “I don’t want to die, momma. I don’t want to die.” A man’s voice whimpered pleadingly in the middle of the night, his mutilated face glowing in the candlelight.
The sound of bombs and gunfire in the distance were a constant presence in every one. Hermione gasped and slammed a fist into the tacky green carpeting as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Get up Granger,” she told herself. “Get up and move.”
Shakily, she grabbed the seat in front of her and pulled herself up. Her legs felt wobbly, and she caught herself just as she began to fall. She slapped a hand, frustrated, on the seat and pulled herself up and swung around to sit in the chair. Hermione closed her eyes when she noticed the compartment seemed to spin from her movements. She dropped her head into her hands and fought to get her breathing under control again.
A sharp knock came from the compartment door, along with a nasally male voice. “Signora?”
Well, she thought as she looked up at the olive skinned man to her right, at least she’d made it to Italy.
Just days later Hermione stood, fidgeting nervously on a stone doorstep in a residential area of Venice. It wasn’t far from the bustling metropolis, she could still hear the crowd that were several blocks away despite having deviated from them blocks away. She was looking directly at the door in front of her, hand poised to knock yet remaining in the position as time seemed to pass slowly. Taking a deep breath, she pooled together all of her nerve and slapped her knuckles against the hardwood three times.
The unmistakable sound of children’s feet racing down wooden stairs poured into Hermione’s ears. Little Italian she knew, and the little she knew of children was enough for her to piece together that they were bickering over who was going to make it to the door first. Sounds of complaints from the children came through, causing Hermione to smile slightly as the door was pulled open to reveal a young woman- looking no more than Hermione’s eternized age. She wondered if this was the recipient of the letter, Cara Piccoli.
No one made a move, or a sound. Not even the children budget. Hermione took a moment to detail the face of the young woman before her as she extended her arm to hand over the letter. High cheekbones, olive skin tone, dark hair and beautiful dark green eyes, her face became stern as the young woman took the letter gently from Hermione’s outstretched hand. The children looked quite like she did, the four of them were clearly varying in ages too old for this woman to have given birth to any of them but the youngest in the arms of one of the older children, a boy.
The woman gasped audibly and held her free hand chest when she read the handwriting on the front of the envelope. Slowly, she turned it over and began to carefully break the seal with trembling hands. As if this letter were an artifact as ancient as Italy itself the woman gently pulled the paper from its sheath and unfolded it. The children said nothing, but they began to shift around from foot to foot as time went on, childlike energy practically emanating from their pores.
Finally, the woman looked up at Hermione with the shimmering eyes of someone on the verge of tears. A few fell and she hastily wiped them away with her dress sleeves and spoke, “Grazie - parli italiano?”
Hermione shook her head. “Inglese e Francese.”
The young woman nodded her head, clutching the letter to her chest. “I know little English, thank you for bringing this to us. One year passed since we learned our brother died, no letter or belonging came from him. This… this is precious gift.”
The woman’s tears fell freely now, and she didn’t bother trying to cover them or wipe them away. Hermione watched the devastation creep into this woman's face, a look she’d seen so much in herself since the death of Silas that she knew exactly the feeling this woman was trying desperately to conceal. Without a single thought, Hermione took a step forward and wrapped her arms around the girl.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
The girls’ back straightened and Hermione released her.
“Per favore, come inside. Tell us how you found this letter.” The young woman stepped to the side and beckoned Hermione to come in.
Hermione hesitated, unsure if she should. She hadn’t had a pleasant reaction to children in the train the other day and, despite having had the same reaction in other situations since, she didn’t want a repeat performance if these children became rowdy. Hermione bit her lip and looked away, ready to decline when a small hand wrapped around her own. One of the children, a girl with hair not unlike Hermione’s own disastrous mop, looked up to the older woman with intelligent green eyes and pulled her gently inside. Hermione had no choice but to follow, though knowing she could easily break the grasp of a girl no older than four.
Momentarily stunned, Hermione shook out of it in time to observe her surroundings. The children were all standing in a half moon around the door, back to a staircase leading straight up to a second level. The house was covered in old grey wallpaper that was peeling off in large sections all over, and her nose caught a faint whiff of must where the bottom floor must have flooded over the years.
To her right was a small living area sparsely decorated with a few old frames that held black and white photos. There was a couch positioned facing a window, the ends completely shredded and Hermione recalled Crookshanks with fondness as she realized the tears were probably from the claws of a cat. Other than the couch a leather chair sat in the corner, angled towards the foyer, cracked and seemingly well used. The room was dark, and well used from the toys that seemed to litter the scuffed wood floors.
“I am Cara,” the young woman introduced once the door was closed- pulling Hermione from her observations, she placed a delicate hand on the boy next to her, the one who held a child less than two in his arms, “this is my brother Enzo, in his arms is our sister Sofia.” Cara ran her hand gently over the baby’s soft mop of dark hair before moving onto another boy who looked to be no more than seven, “This is Luca,” and finally she got to the young girl who’d dragged Hermione into the house, “and this is Elena.”
“Pleasure to meet you all, uhm, mi chiamo Hermione. Hermione Moore.”
Cara said something to the children in Italian, the words were so quick Hermione failed to recognize any. The children understood and each one began to walk away. The older boy, Enzo, stomped upstairs with the baby Sofia and the other two, Luca and Elena, darted towards what Hermione assumed to be a small kitchen.
“They will prepare tea, sit, please.” Cara looked over Hermione with kind eyes as the latter took a seat in a leather arm chair that sat in the corner of the room. Cara faced Hermione from her seat on the couch. “Hermione, from Shakespeare?”
Surprised, Hermione smiled. “Yes, not many are familiar with it.”
Cara laughed, the sound like bells echoing in the small room. “Our mother loved The Winter’s Tale, and Julius Caesar.”
The women shared a smile, the mood between them shifted as the tightness in Hermione’s chest at entering this unknown families home unclenched. Literature was a comfort, an unrelenting and unchanging force in her life that she could cling too while the world around her slowly molded into the world she had once known. Temporarily soothed, Hermione began to prod further into the topic of Shakespeare, keeping the conversation light.
When the children slowly trickled into the room, and the final two with the promised tea, Hermione resigned to the fact that she was required to give them whatever information they desired. She glanced over their faces, each one looking up at her expectantly. Hermione fidgeted from her seat, breathing becoming difficult as her chest constricted. She took a few deep breaths, centering herself to the living room, taking in the frayed wallpaper and the sparse decor.
Hermione briefly wondered where the parents of these children were. Surely Cara couldn’t be taking care of them all on her own. She banished the thought when she placed her tea on the table to the right of her chair and focused on the four expectant people in front of her. With each passing second the older boy’s eyes grew harder. Cara looked hopeful, the other two sat cross legged on the scuffed flooring, fidgeting and elbowing each other good naturedly. For a moment, time slowed.
She couldn’t tell these kids that their brother died on a cot in the aid station. She couldn’t tell them that she didn’t know if he fought bravely, or if he’d saved lives before he’d been shot. Hermione couldn’t stress the weight of senseless death and the gore of battle on these impressionable civilians. Hermione suddenly understood why commemorative letters decorated the dead soldiers in such a fashion. An involuntary shiver shot up Hermione spine, and she leaned forward to address the children in front of her.
“I don’t know the details of how your brother fought,” she began slowly, focusing on everyone while Cara translated what she said, equally as slow, back to her siblings, “I know little but what I saw when I met him in the aid station. He’d been shot in the abdomen and was bleeding at an alarming rate. I had no chance to speak with him, he was unconscious when I began to operate. He held on for several days, I tried to make him comfortable. In the end, he passed silently.”
Time seemed suspended as Cara slowly worked through the English. One by one the children looked back to her with wide grins. Confused, Hermione stared at Cara with her eyebrow raised.
The woman turned away, glancing over her siblings’ faces once more and speaking Italian. The three children rose, racing out of the room and chatting animatedly. Cara watched them go with vacant eyes, and once the thudding on the stairs ceased she turned to address Hermione.
“Thank you for your honesty, Hermione. The children, I told them Dante died a hero in battle.” Cara spoke in soft tones, as if the children could suddenly hear through walls and understand English.
Unable to contain her inquisitive nature, and feeling a bit out of sorts with the conversation, Hermione blurted; “Excuse me if this is too personal, Cara, why did your brother enter the war? How did he end up in France?”
Cara smiled meekly and shrugged. “He and a group of his friends volunteered, they believed it was the right thing to do. Dante, not so much.” Cara laughed, the sound forced. “He did not believe the way his friends did, but our parents had gone and we needed money.”
The young woman’s back straightened and she looked into Hermione’s eyes then, her face was hardened with strength and experience beyond her years. She stood, gathering the tea set and holding it steadily. “So I told the children our brother was a hero because it is the truth, perhaps not for fighting a war but he was to his family. His memory deserves to be... how you say… preserved.”
Cara motioned for Hermione to follow her into the kitchen. The room was small, the walls were barren of wallpaper or art, the plaster was greyed and peeling much like the rest of the house. Hermione briefly wondered if the place had once flooded. Cara began to fill a sink to the far end of the kitchen, feeling useless Hermione grabbed a dish rag from the stone countertop.
“Grazie,” Cara said, “are you staying in the region?”
“No, I’m leaving soon.”
Rinsing the suds off a teacup, Cara glanced over at Hermione, her voice betraying nothing as she questioned; “You came only to bring Dante’s letter?”
Hermione nodded once, taking the cup from the younger woman’s hand and drying it.
“Can we persuade you to stay a while?”
“Why would you want me to?” Hermione raised an eyebrow, taking the clean tray from Cara.
The younger woman shrugged, pulling the drain of the sink and wiped her wet hands on the front of her dress. “I do not know, but I do not believe you’ve come to simply deliver a letter. War is a terrible tragedy; I feel you’ve suffered as much as the rest of us, if not more. It is in your eyes.”
Hermione’s brow rose as she placed the dry tray on the counter. “My eyes?”
“Si,” she began, observing Hermione closely with a thoughtful expression, “eyes that have glared death in the face and told him, maybe more than one time, ‘not today’.”
Chuckling at the staggering truth to that statement, Hermione turned her body to face the younger woman and began to fold the wet dish towel. “Perhaps you’re right.”
There was a brief silence while the two women stood there staring at each other. Hermione could hear the muffled sounds of children playing above them. She marveled at what she’d learned about this family in the short time she’d spent here. Her chest swelled with sudden emotion as comprehension dawned; Cara had been raising these kids for some time. The younger woman had mentioned that Dante ran off to war for the salary he would earn because their parents had ‘gone.’
Hermione didn’t know what ‘gone’ ment. The parents could have died, or abandoned them, but it didn’t matter. The problem was that a woman no more than a child herself had been left to raise her young siblings while their adolescent brother had run off to join a war in hopes of supporting his family.
Her stomach and heart clenched.
“Scusate! I didn't mean to upset you,” Cara said suddenly, a blush forming across her cheeks, “You have gone out of your way and given my family a gift; closure. I wish to repay you.”
Banishing her emotion, Hermione took a few seconds to compose herself. If she stayed any longer she would be tempted to accept Cara’s mild offer and remain in Italy. As much as she felt this family needed help, Hermione couldn’t offer it. She needed to research Dragon Lines, she had to find a way back home.
“There’s no need to repay me.” Hermione stated kindly, turning away from the Italian. “Thank you for inviting me into your home, Miss Piccoli.”
Hermione was down the hall and out the front door before Cara could formulate another response.