The Forsaken Child
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Hermione had only been walking along the corridors of the train for a few minutes when one compartment door flew open. A young girl stepped out. Hermione almost barreled right into her, but she managed to dig her shoes in just in time.
"Oh!" The girl gasped. At first glance, Hermione learned a little. She was clearly a first year as well in that she didn't have an insignia on her robes like the other students. She had seen several in the hall here. An older boy—that was kind enough to help her with her trunk getting on the train—had, had a yellow crest with a badger on it embroidered into his robes. Clearly, he was a Hufflepuff. On this girl, it was simply the standard black like hers.
"I'm sorry," Hermione apologized automatically. "I wasn't watching where I was going." The brown headed girl smiled.
"It's quite alright. You lookin' for a place to sit?" Hermione nodded. "All the compartments back that way are full, but you're more than welcome to sit with me." She offered. Hermione smiled in relief.
"Thanks so much!" She sighed, "my trunk was getting pretty heavy."
"Here, let me help you with that," the kind girl offered as she reached out. Together, both girl tugged Hermione's trunk into the compartment. Both of them collapsed against the seat when it was in completely. Hermione gave a quiet groan.
After a few minutes of catching her breathe, she looked over at the young girl who had helped her. "Thanks for the help; I'm Hermione."
"Katie Bell," she panted, extending her hand. "Nice to meet you, Hermione."
"Likewise," Hermione happily agreed as reached out and grasped the girl's hand. She wasn't lying. Katie was so nice. She had half expected the girl to bark at her for almost knocking her down.
"So, what house do you think you'll be sorted in?" Katie asked. Hermione shrugged.
"I don't really know. No one's made up of just one trait. For instance, Hufflepuff house is said to be loyal and kind. Gryffindor is said to be the house of the brave; Slytherin: the house of the cunning and ambitious; Ravenclaw: the brain. People are made up of more than one facet." Katie blinked at Hermione's thought process. "But…" Hermione stuttered at the girl's dumbfounded look, "I want to be in Gryffindor, but Ravenclaw would be fine too."
"I want Gryffindor too," Katie agreed. She smiled at her, "I hope that you are in Gryffindor, but you would be good in Ravenclaw." Hermione flushed.
From there, their conversations turned to other light things. Each time Katie would mention her family, Hermione would gently steer the conversation away with something that would distract her. Hermione found Quidditch worked best.
She would have send Harry an entire plate of chocolate frogs for talking her ear off about it. One mention of Quidditch and Katie dominated the conversation for the rest of the train ride.
Bellatrix was in a rare contemplative mood. She had hidden herself away in her bedroom, locked the door, and barred her husband entrance. She would talk to no one and see no one until she could figure out what it was that had upset her so. She knew what it was: that little girl in the Leaky Cauldron. Something about her—her hair, her eyes, the set of her jaw, and the turn of her lips—was so familiar, but Bella just couldn't put her finger on it. She furrowed her eyebrows and spun her wand as she searched her memory. It was too bad that she had set the entire Black tapestry on fire in a fit of rage; maybe it could have been some help to her. Maybe the child was another of her dear blood-traitor sister's. She snarled her nose up in disgust at the thought of another blood-traitor smearing their family name.
A newborn baby with hazel eyes barely a few hours old flashed into her mind. She stopped spinning her wand and gripped it hard. The girl's wild, messy curls, her elegant jaw set, the familiar turn of her lips…Bellatrix paled. It was her: the baby she had cast away from her.
"Why didn't I just kill that little shit?!" she growled quietly. She had kept this secret for eleven years: the child of Potter's that she hadn't been able to bring herself to kill. Some motherly instinct she hadn't thought she possessed had protected the girl from that. Her wand whined as her fingers gripped it tighter. Because she had been weak, her secret was going to be walking the halls of Hogwarts—entirely too close to that meddlesome bastard, Snape. She shuddered to think how quickly he would figure it out if she were sorted into Slytherin. For the first time in her life, she prayed for a Black heir to be sorted into Gryffindor.
And Merlin knows how the Dark Lord would react to her indiscretion, her secrecy. A flush of fear stole down her spine. The fear fled as a delicious thought arose into her mind. 'At least, until then, I have something to torture the Potters with.' Her lips curved into an evil smile.
The Potter family had been a thorn in her master's side for a long while. Her master had never been the same since that night in Godric's Hollow when that little rat turned on them at the last possible minute. Lord Voldemort was a shell of the man he used to be. The combined attack of five spells—all of different powers, but the same spell—had weakened him to the point of death. Even for one as powerful as her lord, it would take some time for him to recover. Even now, ten years later, he was still so weak.
So, Bellatrix would enjoy torturing the Potters with her knowledge. It was the least she could do, after all.
It pleased her even more to know that—intentionally or not—last night she had put her plan into action by destroying the room she knew dear daughter had stayed in. It had been rather easy to get the young servant girl to talk.
James ran a hand through his hair as he read the letter in front of him. It was from one of the other Auror members. Despite the constant watch on the Leaky Cauldron, the Death Eaters had still attacked it; but, on the other side of that, because of the constant watch, they could only do a little bit of damage. The first floor had suffered, but it was the second floor—specifically Hermione's room—that had suffered the most. From what Tom had shown them, the entire room had been demolished. It was that little fact that worried him most.
'Why would Death Eaters go out of their way to kill an innocent little girl?' The moment he wondered it another thought arose. 'They're Death Eaters. When has anything they've ever done needed to make sense?' Still, it made his stomach churn uncomfortably. Once more, he ran his hand through his hair. He snagged the hair at the back and ruffled it before sliding his hand back across the top of his head. He gave a deep sigh and slumped back in his chair.
"James?" Lily called curiously as she stepped into his study. At seeing him behind the desk, she put her hands on her hips and scolded, "You told me you took the day off."
"I did," he huffed. Something in his tone caused her to worry. Lily's hands fell from her hips; she stepped further into the room and lit the lamp above his head with a flick of her wand. Her lips bowed as she took in his position. He was leaned forward against his desk. His elbows were perched close to the edge. One hand was on his head, at his full hairline; while the other was holding a piece of parchment. She rolled her lips together and focused her gaze on his hazel eyes now.
"What's happened?" She asked, staring at the note with a deeply concerned and fearful expression. "Are they alright?" She questioned fearfully, "Sirius? Remus? Peter?" James nodded.
"They're fine," he quickly reassured her, "but the Leaky Cauldron was attacked last night. Tom was knocked unconscious on the first floor while a young maid was attacked on the second…by Bellatrix," he sighed. Lily's frown deepened. "The only real damage to the second floor is a demolished room." He looked up at his wife now. His hazel eyes were intense with his emotion. Lily licked her lips. "The room Tom reported Hermione had been sleeping in."
Horror swamped through Lily. She sank down into the chair across from his desk. She ignored the long fart the chair made as she sat down; so did James. While the prankster in him loved his son's tricks, now wasn't the time for laughter. Now was the time for brainstorming and planning.
"Kingsley believes it was Bellatrix alone that destroyed Hermione's room and the story the maid tells confirms it."
"But to try and kill a child?" She grieved.
"It isn't past them, Lily." James reminded her softly. "If Peter hadn't been planning along to betray Voldemort as he had, we nor Harry would be here now." Lily swallowed.
"I know," she whispered. "It's just…"
"In Bellatrix's mind, Hermione's taunting of her husband's name would be enough…but I doubt Hermione did herself any favors by stopping her from killing her cousin."
"I know you aren't trying to blame this all on Hermione!" Lily flushed; her temper rising. James blinked.
"No," he defended himself, "I'm not. It's my job, Lily, to understand how these bastards think. And while Bellatrix might be the hardest to pinpoint, I can tell what was likely going through her head right then."
"Do…do you think she'll keep trying to hurt Hermione?" Lily asked.
"It's extremely likely," James sighed as he took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Lily sighed and chewed her bottom lip. "The question is…what do we do?"
"What do you mean?" Lily asked. "What can we do?"
"You've already offered her the chance to spend holidays and summers here, which I approve of by the way, but that's just a temporary thing. She's still technically up for adoption…."
"What if Bellatrix finds out she's an orphan…" Lily finished. James nodded.
"It would be easy for her to get her hands on Hermione then…" He sighed. Lily stared at her husband and watched the wheels turn in his head. She chewed her bottom lip as she thought of her decision last night.
In a little under twelve hours, Hermione had grown on everyone in the house. Harry was clearly attached to her; and Tinky adored the little girl and doted on her as if she were one of the Potters already. Lily could see her fitting in nicely with their family. It might cause a scandal, but when had the Potters not? She sighed.
Still, no matter how much she liked the girl, such a decision as this couldn't be made in one day. This was big and it would affect more than just them. Still, she wouldn't feel right not pitching the idea out to her husband. She looked back up at him to find his eyes on her. Before she could open her mouth, he opened his.
"We could adopt her," he said just what she was thinking. She smiled.
"I was thinking the same thing." She agreed. Despite the heaviness of the conversation, they shared a small amused smile. "But…" She sighed, letting her smile fall, "we can't make such a decision like this so quickly…We need to get to know her better."
"Let's hope we have that kind of time," James sighed.
Hermione climbed off of the train with Katie. In all hustle and bustle of the busy strip, they stuck close together. They weren't keen on getting separated from one another. Katie held onto Hermione's hand as they were pushed along. A booming voice made them both jump.
"FIRS' YEARS! FIRS' YEARS!" They both looked over, only half frightened, to see a large man towering over all of the crowd. He looked, to Hermione at least, like a young St. Nick (in that he was black haired instead of white). He was incredibly hairy with his long beard and even longer hair. After all of the first year students had gathered around him, he smiled.
Hermione found something warm in his crinkled brown eyes that made her smile back. While most of the children around her seemed frightened of him, Hermione could see something friendly in his eyes. Then again, Hermione acknowledged, the orphanage had helped her to develop a good judge of character. She could sort out the bad apples from the good just as easy as an orchid worker could the actual fruits. She could spot its bruised and rotten parts without being up close. So, while the other children shied away, Hermione smiled.
"C'mon, follow me! Any more firs' years?" He called again to gather up any stragglers. "Mind yer step! Firs' years, follow me!" Hermione looked down at her feet at his warning and gingerly followed the large man. It would have been difficult to lose him. She could feel Katie's hand tightening and loosening over her hand as she tried to not to slip. A few times, her new friend almost pulled her to the ground with her; but Katie managed to save herself just in time. Each time her hand was tugged, Hermione would look over just to make sure Katie was still alright. Each time, the girls would share a small, friendly smile. The other children ignored them for the most part. No one snickered over their joined hands; no one rudely pointed it out because they were all trying to avoid falling or losing sight of their guide in the darkness.
The narrow pathway opened suddenly onto the edge of an even darker lake.
"Oh…" She heard Katie gasp. "I hope we don't fall in!" But Hermione wasn't concerned with the lake. Her eyes were locked on what perched atop the mountain. She drank the large castle in; it's sparkling windows, all of the turrets she could see, and the high reaching towers. She smiled in delight as her heart leapt in wonder.
"No more'n four to a boat!" The large man brought Hermione back to the large lake in front of them. She followed the man's finger to a line of little boats. Katie gave her hand a small tug before letting go. Together, they moved toward the boat closest to them. They were promptly followed into it by a blonde headed girl and a dark headed boy. "Everyone in?" Hagrid boomed from his own boat. "Right then—FORWARD!"
Hermione's stomach jerked into a little flip as all of the boats moved forward. The children that had followed them into the boat found now to be a good time to introduce themselves.
"I'm Evelyn Greene," the blonde leaned forward as she gave them her name. Her voice was thick with a Scottish accent.
"I'm Drew Greene," the dark headed boy introduced himself. Hermione blinked. His voice was also thick with the Scotland sound. "We're cousins," he explained before anyone could ask. Before Hermione or Katie could introduce themselves, Hagrid's voice echoed across the lake again:
"Duck unless ye all fancy a swim!" Drew and Evelyn ducked without turning to look what it was they were ducking, but Hermione and Katie looked up even as they ducked down. There was a curtain of ivy surrounding the cliff that Hermione had somehow missed their approach too. She could have sworn the vines were moving, almost as if the vines itself were welcoming the new students. While Hermione was looking up-still ducked down, she could partially make out the faint imprint of rocks and could hear the faint drip, drip of condensation from the ceiling of the tunnel. Hermione straightened up and instantly blinked. She couldn't see Katie—who was sitting next to her—anymore. Even by the dim moonlight, Hermione had been able to see her. Hearing was the only sense she could rely completely on; and she implemented it heavily in the darkness. She could hear Drew's nervous breathing; the slight slide of denim jeans as Evelyn nervously crossed and uncrossed her legs; and the impatient tapping of Katie's fingers against the edge of the boat. The water lapped gently against the side of the boat as it magically pushed toward the shore. Hermione tried to listen for the scrape of the wood against the rough sand that she thought would be at the bottom of the black lake or at least feel the jar of the boat hitting the shore; but strain her ears as she might, she couldn't find it. It made her more nervous than she thought possible.
The boats came to a gentle stop. She could hear the other children filing out of the boats; the slip of their feet on the wet rocks and pebbles. Almost immediately, Evelyn and Drew scrambled out of the boat. Katie and Hermione followed at a more subdued pace. Neither girls were eager to slip. Hermione felt Katie grab her hand again to keep from falling. She slipped too, but miraculously Katie saved them both. Though Hermione's eyes were locked on the faint light she could see Hagrid carrying, she giggled and said:
"I think you should try out for Quidditch as soon as you can." She heard Katie's quiet giggle as they fell in behind the row of students. For the rest of the walk, they said nothing to one another. The damp, slippery passageway opened out into equally damp grass. They were close to the castle now.
Hermione felt a sigh of relief escape her as they walked up the stone stairs to the castle. Her feet cried out for rest. Surely, they would be in the building soon. She felt that Katie agreed because she let go of her hand. There was no chance of them getting lost now. The buddy system wasn't necessary anymore.
The large doors opened and finally granted them access. All Hermione could see over the mass of heads was the top of the woman's hair; but just that glance had told her all she needed to know. It was Professor McGonagall. Hermione smiled. She could faintly hear her voice; but since Katie and she were so far in the back, she couldn't make it out. McGonagall's next action however spoke volumes and gave Hermione some clue as to what the woman had said.
She threw the doors open wide and welcomed them inside. Dutifully, Hermione followed the students into the hall. Hermione looked over her shoulder as the doors closed behind them. The large giant stood at the door. He smiled reassuringly at her once he caught her looking. Hermione smiled timidly back before turning toward the front.