A/N at end.
Four Months Earlier - London
Hermione watches as her possessions fly through the air and enter her backpack in accordance with the short, directed jerks of her wand. The flat around her is completely silent amid a whirl of visual chaos. The contrast between the two makes the scene, for Hermione, even more surreal.
Is she really going to do this?
Clenching her jaw, she looks around as the final book works itself into the opening of her bag. Her bookshelves are bare except for one book. Hermione Granger: Heroine of the Second Wizarding War. Let them make of that what they will, She doesn't want it.
She looks down at her checklist. Beside the book she's left, there are three letters. One to Harry, one to Amelia Bones, and a third to the Minister. The latter two contain hints that should lead the Ministry in a false direction. The former letter is just a farewell.
Everything is ready, and yet she hesitates. Hermione's stomach feels heavy. Her wand hand trembles, and there's a strange burning behind her eyes.
Why is she delaying?
Her logical mind supplies the unhelpful answer. Because, it says, you were supposed to win the war, get married to Ron and have a compromise number of children (he wanted at least five, you wanted one, the compromise would have been two). That done, you would parent said children while climbing the ladder of the new, enlightened Ministry. You would achieve a position from which you could make a real difference. Then, when you were old, you would tell your grandchildren about the bad old days, when wizards judged others based on how much Muggle blood ran in their veins.
Things were to be so different, her brain continues, that your grandchildren would have a hard time even believing your stories about the bad old days.
Those were the things that were supposed to happen. But this?
Sometimes Hermione hates having such an analytical mind. She wipes her wet face and takes a deep breath. Cold settles on her like the cloak she's about to use to escape.
Her pack is on her back when she notices the owl at the window. Because of her Silencio, she must have missed its tapping.
The grapevine travels fast, and since our conversation it seems like you are very unlucky, indeed. Forgive me for getting straight to the point. I don't believe that you killed that reporter. It is obvious to me that, like my people, you are being framed to serve a larger purpose.
The last time we spoke, you wanted information about the Volturi. You were then a Ministry employee. Now that your circumstances have changed, I believe the Volturi would agree giving you sanctuary would be allowable. Indeed, they appear to want to give you such quite directly.
I must, of course, recommend that you seek out the Volturi. However, should personal circumstances prevent you from this option, I do have a friend that lives in the United States, in Washington. He is an older vampire with exceptional control. Quite by coincidence, he lived in Volterra for a number of years and knows the Brothers well. Particularly Aro. He's a unique individual, even among the Cold Ones.
I have enclosed a letter of introduction that you may give to him. His name is Carlisle Cullen.
Best of fortune. Get out of Britain.
Hermione read about the magical community in Vancouver once. Her loyal brain supplied the details: It serves not only the Magical people of the city, but also an an ever-changing array of tourists and oddballs who live in Canada's frozen north and travel to shop for supplies only every few months.
As a wanted fugitive, this diversity suits Hermione's needs precisely.
She tries to plan well, but it's hard. Hermione is increasingly sleep deprived. She's had to use stimulant potions, the most minor of which is Pepper-up, to wake her up early the last three nights when her Occlumency shields crumbled. Each time, Hermione awoke ,blinking into the dark, with the strangest feeling, like she was just this close to seeing Aro again.
The most maddening thing about it is the feeling Hermione has of being conflicted. Like seeing him again wouldn't be terrible. Like maybe she should just ... let it happen.
What are you so afraid of, little witch? His voice whispers these nights, inside her head, and, staring into the blackness outside her window, Hermione shivers.
Maybe she's entering that stage of sleep deprivation where you begin hallucinating. Or maybe she's just lonely. It doesn't matter. Hermione hopes that her magical shopping trip will help change this.
There's a potion she's found. She shouldn't make it, but she already knows that she's going to, anyway.
Hermione chugs the vile Polyjuice just outside of the Vancouver Magical Market,, which is disguised inside a swanky hotel that caters to high-end Muggles. Once she feels the potion working, she ducks into the marble-and-gold-plated hotel bathroom and takes off the Invisibility cloak. She's disguised as Mrs. Newton, whose hairs were easy to obtain. Mrs. Newton tends to shed inside the Romance novels she borrows. The Rebel and the Redcoat, in particular, had been bristling with long, blonde hairs.
Hermione expects to find an indoor market claustrophobic, but she's pleasantly surprised. The hallways are charmed to look like a seaside open-air market. There's even the odd rush of cool salty air to completely the illusion.
With one exception, the apothecary has everything Hermione needs. It's a well-stocked store with extensive supplies and quite impressive. Hermione finds herself spending more time than she should browsing the , she remembers her other errand and gathers her purchases.
She thinks she has thirty minutes left when she goes to the newsstand, but she'd forgotten to set any sort of timer. Living Muggle has made her forget some of those little wand tricks. She has no choice, though, and has to risk it. Since magicals don't use electronic media, Hermione needs to obtain an anonymous Daily Prophet to find out just how interested the Ministry is in her.
If she had to guess, the answer would be, "very."
The newsstand has news from all over the globe. She buys eight papers, including the Prophet in order to not appear too interested in the one she actually wants.
"A reader?" The man asks, looking her over and smiling. "Lover of news, or gossip?"
And of course she had to get someone friendly. Hermione inwardly groans.
"Antiques dealer," she says shortly, hoping he'll stop talking if she's unfriendly. But she's unlucky, again because his face lights up at her voice.
"You're from Britain, then? My sister lives over in London now. Maybe you know her? Margarine Walpole?"
"Ah no," Hermione says. "Always travelling, I'm afraid. I don't get back home much." The man still looks too interested, so she adds, "We specialize in ceramic cats. Maybe you'd be interested. They make great presents."
"Oh." The man looks suitably horrified. Hermione spares a thought for Umbridge, and feels a small grin develop.
"Don't you just love cats? I recently obtained a pink and violet kitten ornament from the sixteenth century. So rare! It makes a darling hissing noise when you pet it."
"Dear Merlin." The man coughs and wraps up her papers hastily, almost yanking the money from her hand. "I mean" he adds hastily, "I likely couldn't afford it. This business, you understand." Then his gaze sharpens. "Hey-wait. There's something on your face. And your hair ..."
Hermione claps a hand on her cheek, momentarily puzzled, and sees a bubbling on her palm. How could she have forgotten? She mutters something about an allergic condition and hurries out, trying her best not to run.
Hermione is still trying to calm down when she gets home. It's not likely he saw very much, and so what if he did?
She goes to her kitchen and starts a pot of double-strength coffee. Her hands are shaking.
His sister lives in London, she thinks. You don't think he'll mention the woman with the melting face when he sees her?
Why would he? He sees tens of people every day from all over the world. He'll forget it by tomorrow.
Hermione grips the tiny kitchen's counter. She wants to believe it-what else can she do?
She can't move now-she needs to talk to the Cullens, and she needs to make the potion. She can't go without sleep for much longer. And if she meets Aro again, she has a strong suspicion that he'll find her.
There was something about the way that Aro touched her. It was seductive, yes, but more. A quality in his eyes, his expression. Like the vampire might be gleaning something from the very act, there inside her Occlumency walls.
He shouldn't be able to, but, then, he shouldn't have been able to connect with her dreaming mind, either. And yet, he was.
The potion, called simply Obice, was intended for those who knew they were to be interrogated. Spies, mostly, and those who faced regular and intense bouts with Legilimency. It would make Hermione's walls permanent rather than a continuously-erected mental construct. Obice might not stop Aro from linking to her mind, but mind reading should become impossible.
Oblice was the solution to her problems. There was only one problem: the cost.
The potion was Dark. It required a sacrifice.
Hermione pushed that out of her head. She only needs one more ingredient. Once she had that, she could consider the price she'd have to pay.
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed and is following along with this story. I know this chapter mainly sets things up, but hopefully it works anyway.
Some reviews had some questions. The first, how did Hermione know about the Cullens. Did she read it in an old tome? Did she do extensive research in some old, dusty, forgotten library on the mystical island of insert magical latin-ish name here? Um. I'm embarrassed to admit that, long story short, Sanguini giving her the info got deleted in one of my (sadly, many many OCD) chapter rewrites several sections agi. I always intended her to go to Forks at some point, for some reason, just because. So I needed to fix that here.
The second question, will Hermione see Aro in Volterra during New Moon. No, I plan for this fic to be set during Breaking Dawn, just after Eclipse … probably my very least favorite of the Twilight books (New Moon being my favorite because of the Volturi) , but there you have it.
Last thing … I could really use a beta. My proofreader doesn't really follow either fandom, which is fine, but if I had a beta it would REALLY help. It would also mean I could edit and repost some old stories I have on my hard drive.
Hopefully I didn't forget any other questions … onward. :)