A/N; I had forgotten how GOOD it felt not only to write, but receive reviews. I LOVE IT, THANK YOU!
I'm pleased with the reception of the OC Joséphine. I don't write OC's, this is the first time. She was just supposed to be a blip, an unmentionable, to introduce parkour to Hermione. However, she took on a life of her own and pushed her way into this story, which I guess is only natural as I essentially wrote my daughter Josephine- down to the wolf-eyes (yes she really has the ice-blue eyes with a starburst pattern and a dark grey ring around the irises, people always ask her if they are contacts), intelligence, and fun and confident attitude and all- only my Jo is 14 not late teens/early 20's.
RIP Mr. Crabtree. You were teacher, coach, and an inspiration to many taken too soon and so suddenly….
To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead. The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man.
"If she is as I suspect Albus, no one can know, you know that."
"I am well aware Minerva, but how do you expect to hide it? That she is a natural animagus is already no small secret within certain circles. There are many just waiting for her form to manifest."
"No one good."
"I can think of a couple, but no, not in the way you mean. We'll do all we can to protect her of course-"
Minerva narrowed her eyes at Albus and set her teacup in a small space on his desk that was cluttered with more whirling oddities than usual. "Like suggesting Severus train her as a spy? I'll not have it! I just got her-"
"And yet you've had her all her life." Hermione wasn't the only one trying to reconcile two lifetimes that seem to run in tandem, sometimes she felt like the victim of a time-turner accident. "I know she's your daughter Min, and that those outside of the coven will never even begin to understand your circumstances; however, we're in the midst of a very serious war, one in which we need our best and brightest in strategic locations."
Minerva shook her head, a sadness creeping over her face. "There are too many pawns on this chessboard Albus."
"Not a pawn Minerva, she is, perhaps, the queen... I still see her training with Severus as a benefit not only to our cause but to Hermione and even Severus."
Minerva scoffed and picked up her tea while Dumbledore unwrapped his tenth candy in as many minutes. "I'd bet my best bottle of scotch that Severus does not see training with a young Gryffindor as anything resembling a benefit."
"Too true Minerva, too true. Yet, the fact remains, Hermione will struggle with the dark due to the nature of her affinity and Severus is the best one to guide her. How he has managed to walk the line without falling victim astounds me. I can honestly say that the lure of the dark due to my own affinity was difficult enough- greater wizards than I have fallen prey due to their fire. I cannot say if St. Elmo's fire is as dark as feindfyre, or as light as bluebell; I am looking into it. Regardless, she will struggle; and having someone familiar with the struggle to mentor her surely cannot hurt."
"You're right on that account I suppose. I just don't like being reminded that with of all she has had to endure so far, she will endure far worse before it is all said and done."
Both Minerva and Albus took a long moment to be lost in their own thoughts before Dumbledore changed the subject. "So, tell me, do you think Joséphine Bojalian is ready to return to the wizarding world, and if so, what do you think she can bring to the order besides another wand?"
"I'd hate to bring another wand at all, but Merlin knows we'll need them." She drew a long breath then continued. "She's highly intelligent, and she hides an old soul under a façade of childish energy and humor. She is also versed in a very strange way of running to and fro that may be useful whilst dueling… If nothing else, she'll bring Hermione an outlet away from all of- this at the moment."
"Very well," Dumbledore said, dropping the subject for now. "Onto more mundane matters. We're still short a DADA professor and term starts in two weeks."
Minerva pinched the bridge of her nose while Dumbledore twinkled at the sight of one of his oldest friend's youthful face displaying mannerisms akin to his potions professor. He knew they had been spending a lot of time together this summer, and the evidence of that friendship amused him.
The screech of the train whistle woke her out of a deep sleep. Her newfound hobby blessedly wore her out whenever she practiced. As the days of summer raced on, she found herself practicing either at the gym or at the manner grounds more and more. She was both anxious and apprehensive about the start of the new school year. She had changed so much since she last rode the Hogwarts Express to platform 9 ¾. She had seen Ginny and Luna once since her burning day, at a coven meeting two of the young witches were barred from. Luna was the only adolescent allowed and she only smiled and told them that the nargles would infest their heads if she told. Her other friends (aside from Joséphine) she hadn't seen at all. Needless to say, the start of the train-ride was nothing short of overwhelming. Regarding the changes in her, Neville had been his quiet and slightly pensive self, Harry wanted to know how she was doing while blending her two halves and if she had any intel from order meetings (she hadn't been privy to any) or on Draco (she let that can of worms lie), Luna had commented on an article her father had written on wockets, sneeches, nizzards and biffer bum birds- and Ron… had been, well Ron. He was curious, skeptical, put his foot in it, turned red, and said something stupid out of embarrassment; Hermione threatened to hex him before surrounding herself with a silencing charm and falling asleep. Apparently, the charm had worn off.
The train rumbled to a stop at the Hogsmede station. The six somber teenagers grabbed their luggage and headed for the carriages. While Neville, Ron, and Ginny threw their luggage in the back and climbed in, Harry and Hermione stood in shock staring until Luna's lofty voice startled them. "You're not mad, I see them too." Harry and Hermione turned their heads toward her. "You can only see them if you've witnessed death. For me, it was my mum. She was a bright witch and loved to experiment- with potions mostly. Well, she made a mistake just as I was coming to call her for dinner. Her cauldron exploded and I woke up in St. Mungo's a week later." She turned her attention from Harry and Hermione to focus on the Thestrals. "I imagine Harry, it's because you saw Sirius die. And you Hermione, your parents." She walked forward and held out her hand to what Harry and Hermione could only call a Demon Steed. The animal pawed at the ground and whinnied, but allowed Luna's touch.
"Oi! What's the holdup!" Ron yelled.
"We best get to the carriage, they're starting to leave." Luna turned and skipped like a five-year-old to the door of their carriage and hopped in.
"Right. You're sure about this girl Hermione?"
"Ye-es" Hermione stuttered. She had known Luna from study groups with other Ravenclaw's for a couple of years, and Ginny had embraced her as a sister the night before the solstice, but right now, she wasn't so sure. "Maybe we should just go and look into this later," she offered.
Harry nodded and they took their seats next to their friends and pretended that the carriages were just pulling themselves as normal.
It wasn't long before they disembarked the carriages, and with one last look at the horse-like creatures, made their way up the path to the castle where they were met by Hagrid herding the first years into some semblance of order.
"Hey 'arry, nice to see ya. Looks like you've grown a wee bit- you too Ron. Neville, loosin' the baby weight I see. Ms. Lovegood." Hagrid acknowledged before turning to Hermione. "The're ya are 'ermione. Ya mum's lookin' fer ya. She'll be be'ind the teacher's entrance wait'in."
"Thanks, Hagrid." Hermione turned to her friends and said, "I best see what she wants. Save me a seat ok?"
"Sure thing 'Mione." Harry replied.
Dumbledore's voice roared out over the crowds of excited students silencing them almost immediately. "If I could have your attention? Thank you. Normally announcements are made to the whole of the student body after the first years have been sorted. However, this year there have been- events- that need to be relayed beforehand." He looked briefly at Harry before seemingly turning his attention to every student at once as the candles subtly dimmed and continued to dim for a dramatic effect as if to punctuate the severity of his words. "As many of you know, the events at the end of the last term yielded undeniable proof of Lord Voldemort's return." A few Slytherins squirmed a bit, but Dumbledore continued. "We have entered dark times I'm afraid. To that end, I have some sad news. One of our students and her family were attacked after the Hogwarts Expressed unloaded her precious cargo at King's Cross. While Hermione Granger survived, her family did not. She lost her parents, her home, and her familiar- along with all her belongings." Frantic whispering broke out while Dumbledore murmured, "Grave times indeed." But then the candles started to brighten ever so slowly as he continued. "However, Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." After a short dramatic pause, he continued, "This tragedy is not without somewhat of a happy ending. On the solstice, the longest and most illuminated day of the year, Hermione Granger was adopted by our very own Professor McGonagall. Through an ancient ritual thought forgotten by many, Hermione Granger underwent a blood adoption and was reborn into the House of McGonagall. It is my pleasure to introduce her to you now as Hermione McGonagall."
Hermione emerged from the professor's entrance to gasps, murmurs, and a few hesitant claps. A few random phrases floated up to the stage that housed the Professor's Table. "Are you sure that's her?" "Hair is still as bushy as ever- it's got to be her." "Look at her eyes though, are they sure she's human?" "Yes, you dimwit, Hooch has similar eyes." My point exactly-" followed by a few giggles.
"As you can see, she is still very much the Hermione we all know and love-" More snickers could be heard. "But you can also see that she has also changed- and she wasn't the only one. The ritual had a surprising- shall we say- side effect."
Minerva rolled her eyes at the old man's theatrics before marching primly on stage while steadfastly ignoring Severus's smirk. "Minerva McGonagall," Dumbledore finished moments before she reached Hermione. If there was murmuring when Hermione walked out, there was a truly excited frenzy now. Minerva had finally listened to Severus and backdated her style a bit. Though she wore emerald and black robes, the only tartan was a small sash tied at her waist that emphasized her figure some. She wore her witch's hat but had added an emerald feather as an accessory that accentuated her emerald eyes which lacked her characteristic glasses. Instead of a severe bun, she wore her ebony hair in a loose chignon at the nape of her neck. At the first wolf whistle, her eyes snapped to Gryffindor table. "Make no mistake Misters Weasley," she said correctly identifying one of the twins as the source. "I am still Minerva McGonagall, Mistress of Transfiguration and Head of your House. I'd hate to start off the year with a negative points balance. While it wouldn't be the first time," she eyed them pointedly, "It would be the first time those points were taken by me. I think you'll find I would be ever so cross if I had to deduct points from my own house for lack of respect." The twins just grinned roguishly and winked until she glared.
"Quite so," Dumbledore said to refocus the group. "Now, Hermione, you may join your house. Professor McGonagall, if you would please fetch the first years we'll get started with the sorting." At that, the sorting stool and hat appeared on stage.
As Minerva made her way to the stairs to fetch the first year's a voice rang out. "Wait a minute!" Lavender Brown stood up and demanded. "How can Hermione be the same yet changed?"
"Through the use of old magics, Ms. Brown," Dumbledore replied.
"That doesn't make any sense-" she was cut off by Trelwany as she scurried across the stage. Ms. Brown is right- has the gift you know- she senses what I do, many changes in her." She came close and stood nose to nose with Hermione as she grabbed her head to tilt her amber gaze into the Seer's coke-bottle glasses. Hermione couldn't help but think she looked like an overgrown bug wearing aviator's goggles. "Many changes, yes. I sense darkness in her, I see darkness, and struggle- DOOM!" By now she was shaking Hermione's head around and Hermione had given up all pretense of trying to gently swat the Divination professor away and was shoving her off amid a raucous of laughter from the students.
"Thank you Sibil, that's enough for now." Dumbledore guided the frenzied Seer back to her seat and wordlessly conjured her a glass of sherry. Minerva looked thoroughly frazzled and as mad as kejri-wasp. Snape just took a sip of wine to cover any sign of amusement that may have slipped his go-to feast expression of annoyed-boredom.
"No, wait!" Lavender yelled. "If she's changed, she might not be a Gryffindor. I demand she be resorted."
"Are you kidding me? That's just ridiculous." Hermione spat back and crossed her arms.
"No, think about it. I'm not the first person to question the Sorting Hat's choice for you. Honestly, I think you belong in Ravenclaw." There was a lot of quiet agreement with Lavender's statement, even Professor Flitwick moved forward to precariously perch on the edge of his seat.
Hermione stood on the stage slack-jawed for several breaths before responding, "Lavender, I pride myself on being a rational witch, but right now, I think you've gone mental and need a check-up. There can be no other explanation for such an unprovoked outburst."
Before Lavender could retort a Ravenclaw bravely jumped to his feet. "No, I agree with Lavender. We've all been saying for years that you should be in Ravenclaw. I mean, you've proven that you're brave- but so too are several Ravenclaws, Slytherins, and even a few Hufflepuffs… And let's face it, you have changed- your eyes are stunning, you've grown several inches, and with your hair half-tamed…" He gave her an obvious once-over. "Wow." Catching Minerva's glare, he hastily added, "I mean that with the utmost respect of course… Hermione…" He shot Minerva another furtive glance and quickly sat down with a hint of blush on the tips of his ears. Other's around the great hall started shouting their agreement for her re-sorting.
"Show us your patronus then!" Lavender yelled. "If it hasn't changed, fine, but if it has- re-sort."
"There is no need. I can assure you- "Minerva's protests were cut short by Hermione yelling, "Oh for the love of Nimue, FINE!"
She closed her eyes and thought of happy times from both of her childhoods. It took her several moments before she found the tranquil place that would allow her to produce her patronus, but when she did she let the words tumble out of her mouth as she opened her eyes and flicked her wand. "Expecto patronum!" A giant glowing cloud of silvery mist swirled as it made its way to the Gryffindor table. Just before reaching the table a shape emerged of a mangled mass of creatures for several moments before settling into a goat that leaped up on the table. Hermione wore a look of disbelief upon seeing the goat, then stunned as it morphed into a lioness that stalked down the table toward Lavender. The lioness roared in Lavender's face for a moment before melting into a small winged snake and slithering to a stop in front of Harry and hissing- "Please convince that stupid cow to sit down and shut up before I lose my temper and burst into flames."The patronus then broke apart into mist and disappeared.
"Ahhh, right. Lavender, you heard Hermione. Might be best to sit down."
Everyone seemed to start talking at once as Hermione's wand fell loosely between her fingers.
"YOU'RE ATTENTION PLEASE!" Dumbledore's voice roared over the din with the aid of a sonorous charm. After everyone had settled into an excited silence, he looked at his stunned professors, most notably Minerva and Severus and made a decision. "We all have more than one of the Founder's traits within us, which is why unity, not division, will see us through both light times and dark. Now, my dear," he said looking to Hermione. "If you would humor us," he gestured to the hat, "we can put this matter to rest and- as the muggles like to say- get this show on the road?"
Hermione locked eyes with Dumbledore for a short moment- something about all of this seemed peculiar, and she had a hard time not turning her awareness inward to her mindscape. Eventually, she walked over to the sorting stool and without waiting for her mother to do the honors, grabbed the hat and plopped it on her head.
"Hmmm yes. Hermione Granger. I know you well, tough one you were- brains of a Ravenclaw, ambition of a Slytherin, loyalty of a Hufflepuff, and brave when called for." "I put you where you needed to be last time.""Changed a bit I see, still the same qualities, different blood status. Pureblood and heir to the McGonagall clan you are now… I see." "Again, you find your way to my stool. Again, I must put you where you are needed…" "I know just where to put you… Slytherin!" The hat yelled. The entire hall went deathly quiet and not one person, neither student nor professor, moved for several heartbeats.
Hermione and Snape snapped out of it at nearly the same time- Hermione pulling the hat off her head in a fury, and Snape stepping out around the teacher's table, wand drawn as he heard the beginning of the tell-tale whine of Hermione losing control of her fire. Luckily Freyja alighted on Hermione's shoulder and dug her claws in until it was painful enough to draw Hermione's attention away from the hat and onto her impending explosion. As the whine rapidly died out, Severus covered his action with several quick flicks that changed her tie colors and robe emblem from those of Gryffindor to those of Slytherin. "Please join your table Ms. McGonagall," he said with a slight bow.
Hermione turned to him with a mixture of confusion, anger, and anguish on her face. Draco started to rise, but Pansy placed a hand on his shoulder and stood instead. She walked up onto the stage and took Hermione gently by the hand. Only the feel of a warm hand in hers broke her stupor and she walked dumbly with Pansy to the Slytherin table. Pansy sat protectively on one side and Draco on the other, both subduing any Slytherins with icy glares.
With the hall still silent, Dumbledore glanced from Severus to Minerva. "What an unexpected and pleasant surprise!" he said in an effort to reinforce his earlier comments on inter-house unity. Gesturing to Minerva he said, "Professor if you please." Minerva looked back at him in stunned silence before giving a small nod and proceeding through the silent halls to gather the first years. There was work to be done, and Hermione was safe, that's all that mattered for the moment. Later she would find out just what the hell was going on.
This year's sorting and feast as a mixture of gossip and a subdued sense of displacement. While Lavender gloated, a majority of the Gryffindor's were at a loss on how to feel about the night's developments- even Ron pushed his food around his plate and was the first to leave the table without even touching his dessert.