A/N: I've played with the idea of a Pureblood!Hermione for years. I've done one or two where she is pureblood, but still *our* Hermione who went through everything in the books, and had all of those memories, beliefs and opinions. She was still a Gryffindor, and she was still part of the Golden Trio in some way or another.

This is not that Hermione. Or, well, it kind of is, but she's been adopted and raised as a pureblood by Cassiopeia Black. She's still the brightest witch of her age—she's just been raised by a powerful, intelligent, opinionated Slytherin.

I chose Cassiopeia Black for several reasons. She's in the cadet branch of the Black family. She's the younger sister of Pollux Black, Draco's great-grandfather, and the older sister of Dorea Black, wife of Charlus Potter and possible (?) grandmother of Harry Potter.

Also… I found out that there's an asteroid in the Cybele grouping of the main asteroid belt named 121 Hermione and I knew that she just *had* to be a Black.

I really have no excuse for this… it just happened.

Beta Worship: A HUGE, HUGE thank you to my Beta, Auntie L, who does her very best to save me from myself. At the same time, she encourages me and inspires me to do even more. Thank you so much for listening to me—even when I sound crazy.


October 1979

Condolence letters had been pouring in all week. Several times, there had been some near collisions between all of the owls. Cassiopeia sighed at the pile on her desk, but she sat down and began to open them.

So sorry for your loss

Our thoughts are with your House

Such a tragedy

It was a tragedy. The Ancient and Noble House of Black was practically defunct, and once those doddering old fools in charge finally died, it would be official. Her idiot cousin Arcturus happened to be the paterfamilias, and for whatever reason, he refused to reinstate his grandson. Cassiopeia growled under her breath. It was ridiculous to stand around and pretend that the future of their House wasn't crumbling in front of them.


Cassiopeia turned to her house-elf. "Yes, Ajax?"

"Miss Grizzy and Miss Auggie are waiting," Ajax reported dutifully.

"Of course they are," Cassiopeia muttered. She sighed again. "Very well, I'll be right out."

"Yes Mistress." Ajax bobbed and then cracked out of the room.

With a measure of relief, Cassiopeia put the sympathy notes to the side. She rose and frowned down at her current outfit. Her serviceable witches' robes in black wool serge were stained, and there was a spot where something had eaten holes into the skirt. She'd been in her potions lab all day tinkering with her latest experiment. She took her wand and muttered a few cleaning charms. She knew that the faint odour of sulfur and dragon's blood clung to her skin, but it wasn't as though Griselda Marchbanks and Augusta Longbottom expected her to sweep in dressed in satin, dripping with jewels — like Druella or Irma. Cassiopeia knew who she was, and she made no pretensions to be anything else.

The Floo was located in a hallway fireplace, and Cassiopeia grabbed a handful of Floo powder with the ease of long practice.

"Marchbanks Abbey," Cassiopeia called out in clipped tones. As soon as the fireplace flared green, she stepped in.

"Cassiopeia," Griselda greeted her.

"Griselda," Cassiopeia leaned forward and gave her a brief hug. She turned to Augusta and hugged her as well. "Augusta."

"You look like you could use a drink," Griselda announced after she looked her up and down.

"You have no idea," Cassiopeia huffed. She followed Griselda and Augusta into Griselda's small parlour. A bottle of Ogden's Firewhiskey was already sitting out with three tumblers.

Griselda quickly poured out three measures and handed them out to everyone. She raised her glass.

"To Regulus and Orion," she offered.

Cassiopeia snorted and shook her head. "Idiots, the both of them. I can't believe that Walburga was stupid enough to encourage her only child to join that jumped-up wizard with delusions of grandeur."

"Well, how about we toast your House?" Augusta suggested.

"My House needs more than a toast, unless this is a wake," Cassiopeia snapped.

"Perhaps Arcturus might be persuaded…" Griselda faltered at the look on her friend's face. "Oh dear."

"Oh dear?" Cassiopeia's voice rose and she gave an hysterical laugh. "'Oh dear' is right, Griselda."

"Isn't there anything that can be done?" Augusta asked with a worried frown. The destruction of a House was a serious issue that affected everyone.

"I don't know… I guess I could adopt," Cassiopeia said with a tired sigh. She sat up at that and leaned forward toward Griselda and Augusta. "I've thought about it a lot lately."

"Adopting a child?" Griselda repeated. Her eyebrows rose in surprise and she stared at Cassiopeia for a moment. "But… where would you get one?"

"That's the problem, isn't it?" Cassiopeia threw her hands up in the air. "So few of the old families are able to produce even a single child; they would never part with one. Even the half-bloods are treasured these days because they mean the continuation of the blood and the line."

"What about a Muggleborn child?" Augusta asked, a thoughtful expression on her face. "If you did one of the traditional adoptions… it would be a Black."

"You mean a blood ritual." Cassiopeia sipped at her Firewhiskey. "I suppose that would work, but where on earth would I find a Muggleborn child?"

"Mum, I'm sorry interrupt, but I wanted to let you know that I'm leaving," Bertram Marchbanks poked his head into the small parlour. He nodded politely to Augusta and Cassiopeia. "Ladies, it's a pleasure, as always."

"Oh, Bertie," Griselda called to her son. "You be safe. Are you wearing the vest with the shield charms sewn in?"

"Yes, Mum," Bertram muttered as a dull flush rose up his neck. He was 60 years old, and a respected Senior Auror, but his mother still treated him as though he were in nappies.

"Well, run along dear. You don't want to be late." Griselda made shooing motions at her son.

"Yes, Mum," Bertram called as he turned and fled the parlour.

"That boy." Griselda shook his head. "He would be lost without me."

"Undoubtedly," Cassiopeia muttered and took another sip of her Firewhiskey.


"What on earth is that?" Cassiopeia demanded with a frown.

"Erm, it's the baby... the one you wanted." Bertram Marchbanks shifted on his feet nervously in Cassiopeia's parlour.

While working in her potions lab, Cassiopeia didn't exactly keep strict hours, but she knew it was past midnight when two excited house-elves had dared to break the sanctity of her work room. They had been almost incoherent, but they had insisted that there was someone to see her. Never had she expected that it would be 'young' Bertram Marchbanks, or that he would have apparently stolen a baby for her.

Cassiopeia stared at him in shock for several minutes, and then finally looked down at the baby that he was cradling carefully. She moved closer and studied its face. The child was awake, and staring at her with unblinking eyes. Cassiopeia stared back. The child seemed alert and intelligent. She tilted her head to the side in thought, and the child seemed to focus on her face. Definitely intelligent, she decided.

"Where did you get it?" She asked.

"There was a Death Eater attack," Bertram explained. He cleared his throat. "She, the baby, was frightened and she had a bout of accidental magic. Nobody else saw it but me. I figured... no one would miss her. The parents were both killed. If you don't take her, they'll just stick her in a Muggle orphanage."

"Her?" Cassiopeia's voice was harsh. She scowled at the baby. All of her plans and schemes had focused on making sure that her House continued. A girl child would not accomplish that. "I don't want a witch. I need a wizard who can become the paterfamilias for the House of Black."

"Well, she could demand a body heir in her marriage contract, couldn't she?" Bertram pointed out.

There was a precedent for the last female of a line either taking a half-blood wizard as a husband with the understanding that he would take her name, or, failing that, demanding an heir for her own House in a marriage contract. It hadn't been done in some time, but Cassiopeia was willing to wager that the old laws had never been disbanded. The Wizengamot was unlikely to throw out laws that were created to save a House from extinction.

Cassiopeia pursed her lips and then reluctantly nodded. "I suppose she could," she admitted.

"I have to go back or they'll know that I've done something," Bertram told her and then held out the baby.

Cassiopeia stared at the baby and then stared up at Bertram.

"Take her," he huffed and held the baby out again.

Carefully, as though she were handling a viper, Cassiopeia slid one hand under the baby's bum and the other under her head. She took the child in her arms and cradled her against her chest. The baby watched her with an intense focus. The small mouth seemed to pucker into a frown, and the baby scowled up at her. A smile tugged at Cassiopeia's lips. This strangely quiet baby with sharp intelligence in its eyes would be perfect. She didn't even hear Bertram Apparate out—she was too busy staring into the eyes of the future of her House.

"You'll need a celestial name like all of the Blacks," she murmured at the baby in her arms. She frowned slightly and sighed. "Andromeda was Cassiopeia's daughter, but that cow Druella made sure that we couldn't use that."


"Yes, Ajax?" Cassiopeia turned to her house-elf.

"The nursery is all ready for the Little Miss," Ajax informed her.

Cassiopeia smiled. Ajax was an excellent house-elf — he always anticipated her every need. He knew what she needed sometimes before she did.

"Thank you, Ajax." She frowned for a moment. "Make sure I'm not disturbed for the next hour. I'll need to complete that adoption so that the wards will accept her."

Ajax nodded eagerly and then cracked out of the room.

Magical adoption could take several different forms, but Cassiopeia needed the fullest form possible. She needed this baby to be her daughter. This child had to be a Black. There were several spells, but the one she had decided on weeks ago—when her idiot cousin and his idiot son had died—was actually illegal. She snorted under her breath. The stupidity of the Ministry never failed to drive her spare; as though magic could be labeled Light or Dark. Magic was magic; it was what people did with it that counted, but this spell—adopting a Muggleborn witch and making her a full member of a pureblood family, an Ancient and Noble House—how could that be anything other than a good thing?

Blood was the answer. It always came down to blood, in the end. Anything involving blood was automatically labeled Dark. They never labeled sex or fertility magic as Dark, and it had the same primal base as most blood magic. Sure, some of it was unpleasant, and it might or might not kill quite a few people, but so could a well-placed Wingardium Leviosa, and no one was running around shrieking about how that was a Dark spell. It was all about intent. Cassiopeia rolled her eyes at the baby and Transfigured a small chair into a bassinet.

"You, my child, will be raised properly," Cassiopeia muttered as she arranged ingredients on a nearby table. "None of that romantic drivel about the seduction of the Dark Arts," she grumbled.

The baby found one tiny fist and sucked on it thoughtfully. One might wish that there were another way, but there was not—not to do what Cassiopeia needed to do. She picked up her wand and numbed the baby's arm before she pricked it and allowed one small drop of blood to fall into a waiting chalice. She flinched, waiting for the baby to scream its head off, but the baby didn't even fuss, she just continued to suck on one fist. Cassiopeia relaxed and sighed.

"Such a good little witch," Cassiopeia praised her.

With the same implement, she pricked her index finger and allowed a single drop of her own blood to fall into the chalice. She added wine and the prescribed herbs and then picked up her wand. Chanting under her breath in Latin, she waved her wand in a complex series of motions. The chalice began to glow with a golden light, and Cassiopeia smirked.

Carefully, she poured some of the liquid into a small phial and then moved toward the baby. She had taken her small fist out of her mouth and was watching Cassiopeia. The older witch picked up the baby again and then took up the phial and held it to the baby's lips. Almost as if the baby knew what was happening, she opened her mouth. Cassiopeia was careful to pour the potion in only a drop at a time, and eventually the baby had taken it all. She then took up the chalice and drained it dry.

"My blood is your blood," she murmured to the baby in her arms. "You are flesh of my flesh, child of my heart. Be of my family and of my House. I recognize you, and I name you Hermione Cybele, and I claim you for the House of Black."

A golden glow surrounded the two of them, sinking into their skin. The baby made a burbling, cooing noise and waved a fist at Cassiopeia.

"Hello daughter," Cassiopeia whispered softly.


October 1980

Potter Manor

"Mum." Hermione tugged on her Mother's robes and scowled up at her.

"Don't pout, Hermione," Cassiopeia murmured absently and carefully pried small fingers off of her robes with one hand.

"Baby," Hermione announced and pointed accusingly at the baby in Cassiopeia's arms.

"This is your cousin Harry," Cassiopeia explained and she carefully tilted the baby so that Hermione could scowl at him. "Say hello to your cousin."

"No." Hermione's scowl deepened and she stomped her foot.

"Hermione, why don't you come see Uncle Charlus," Charlus cajoled, holding out his arms.

Hermione's eyes narrowed suspiciously on her uncle, and she scowled one last time in her mother's direction before sullenly moving toward Charlus. He picked her up and hugged her.

"She's getting to be such a big girl," Charlus praised. He pulled back to look at her and sent a sad smile toward Cassiopeia. "She looks like Dorea."

"That's the adoption spell," Cassiopeia explained with a shrug. She paused and then shook her head. "Then again, for all I know she would have had those wild curls anyway."

"Thank you, for letting me see her." Charlus cuddled his niece and watched his sister-in-law expertly jiggle her great-nephew.

"Of course," Cassiopeia replied stiffly. "Family is family. Hermione needs to learn that as early as possible." She paused and looked down at the baby in her arms. Dorea's grandson. Dorea had never gotten to hold him, but he was Dorea's all the same.

"I agree." Charlus lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "But with times being what they are... thank you all the same."

"Your son is my sister's only child," Cassiopeia told him with a roll of her eyes. "And this little wizard is her first grandchild."

Charlus nodded at her, conceding the point. He watched Cassiopeia with Harry for a few minutes.

"Would it be all right with you if I took a picture of Hermione and Harry together?" Charlus asked with a hopeful look in his hazel eyes.

"If you make a copy for me as well," Cassiopeia replied.

With the bribe of biscuits, Hermione was convinced to sit as still as she could on a settee with her cousin Harry cradled carefully in her lap. A pillow was propped under her arm to make sure that she supported his head properly while Charlus fiddled with the camera. Once the flash went off, Cassiopeia hurried forward to grab Harry before Hermione could push him off her lap. Her daughter had little interest in a baby who couldn't even play with her.

"Biscuit." Hermione demanded.

Charlus laughed. "She reminds me of James. Come along, little one. Let's see if there are any biscuits in the kitchen."


July 30, 1984

Longbottom Manor

"Good afternoon, Mrs Longbottom, Mr Longbottom. Happy Birthday, Neville." Hermione curtsied as her mother had taught her. Once the necessary greeting was out of the way, she held out the present that her hous-elf Beaker had helped her wrap.

The little boy that was mostly hiding behind Mr Longbottom shyly took the present from her and mumbled his thanks. His grandmother, Mrs Longbottom, huffed in irritation.

"Speak up, Neville," she commanded.

"Thank you," Neville whispered and then flushed.

"The boy is fine, Augusta," Mr Longbottom argued. He smiled at Hermione and Neville. "Why don't the two of you go play in the gardens? Cassiopeia, you're looking lovely as usual. How did that last batch of dittany work out?"

"The dittany was perfect as always, Roderick," Cassiopeia assured him. "You're lucky that Augusta snatched you up when she did, or I might have married you for the access to your gardens."

August snorted in amusement. "Until the first time he tried to put a fanged gerbil in your handbag," she retorted.

"Until then," Cassiopeia agreed with a chuckle.

The adult conversation drifted into a soft murmur as Hermione followed Neville. The gardens at Longbottom Manor were second to none, and Cassiopeia ordered all of her potion supplies from the Longbottom family. Neville relaxed once they were surrounded by green, growing things. He wandered through the garden, pulling a weed here, or clipping off a leaf there.

"Asphodel," he murmured and pointed to a slender plant with pretty, lily-like white flowers.

"Royal Staff," she replied and was rewarded with a shy smile and a nod.

Neville pointed to a shrub covered in small yellow flowers. "Rue."



"Yellow cockspur."

They moved around the garden like that—Neville pointing to a plant and naming it, and then waiting for Hermione to give the other names. It was a game to see who could stump whom. So far, Neville had always won. The first time that had happened, Hermione had been furious until Cassiopeia spoke to her later.

"A smart witch is not the one who knows everything, it is the witch who knows what she does not know, and knows where to go to find the information," Cassiopeia told her daughter with a steely glint in her grey eyes. "Do you understand?"

"Yes Mother," Hermione had replied sullenly.

Cassiopeia had sighed at that and had cupped her daughter's cheek in one hand, tilting her daughter's chin up so that she could look into the girl's stormy eyes.

"Everyone has their skill, their passion," Cassiopeia had said in a quiet voice. "Everyone excels in one area or another. No one can excel in all areas, Hermione."

"But, Mother-," Hermione had protested.

"I admire your desire to excel," Cassiopeia continued, ignoring the interruption. "However, it is… useful… to allow others the spotlight."

"It's better to work from the shadows?" Hermione suggested with a thoughtful look in her eyes.

A slow, proud smile spread across Cassiopeia's face. "Exactly."

"Hermione?" Neville prompted her and pointed to a plant with dark-blue, almost purple looking flowers. "Aconite."

Hermione bit her lip and stared at the plant. Finally, she shook her head. "I don't know," she admitted.

Neville grinned at her. "Monkshood." He paused and then added, "or Wolfsbane."

"Aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane," Hermione repeated under her breath. Neville nodded and gave her another smile.


June 1985

Malfoy Manor

"A broom, my very own broom," Draco Malfoy crowed, waving the broom above his head.

Lucius and Narcissa watched him with indulgent smiles, and they shared a fond smile as Draco proceeded to try and show everyone his new broom.

"There are more presents to open, little Dragon," Lucius prompted his son.

"But, I want to test it out now," Draco protested.

"Later, Draco," Narcissa murmured.

The rest of the presents were opened to all the appropriate 'oohs' and 'ahs.' The only hitch was when Draco opened a beginner's 'My First Potion Set' only to open the exact same thing not a minute later. Both Severus Snape, longtime friend of Lucius Malfoy and Potions Professor at Hogwarts, and Cassiopeia Black, renowned Potions Mistress, had gifted the young wizard with the same thing.

"It's wonderful to know that two such respected Potioneers are invested in our son's future," Lucius announced with a polite smile, and everyone chuckled and nodded in agreement. He bowed slightly to Cassiopeia and nodded to his friend. "Just wait twelve years when Draco needs an internship."

After the presents the party-goers were dispersed to the gardens for refreshments. Cassiopeia herded her daughter toward the other children.

"Why don't you go visit with Draco?" Cassiopeia suggested.

Hermione grimaced. "Must I, Mother?"

"What's wrong with your cousin Draco?" Cassiopeia asked with a lifted eyebrow.

"He's going to spend the entire time telling me that I'm not allowed to touch any of his things," Hermione complained with a heavy sigh.

"A healthy respect for other people's property is a virtue to be lauded," Cassiopeia reminded her.

Hermione sighed again and rolled her eyes at her mother. "I don't even want to touch his old broom," she muttered.

"Hermione," Cassiopeia warned and a steely glint entered her eyes.

"Fine," Hermione huffed. "I'll go talk to Draco about all his presents that I'm not allowed to touch."

Cassiopeia snorted. "It gets better, darling. Eventually, he'll grow up."

"I hope so." Hermione scowled in Draco's direction. "I don't know how much more of this I can take."

Cassiopeia used a sudden fit of coughing to cover the paroxysm of laughter that came over her. Hermione sighed once more before she squared her shoulders and marched off toward Draco.

"She's definitely a Black," Narcissa murmured as she watched her great-aunt's daughter striding across the lawn with her head held high.

Cassiopeia nodded. "She is that." Then she paused and bit her lip as she watched her daughter. "I've wondered sometimes what she might have been like if I hadn't adopted her."

Narcissa shuddered. "She would have been abandoned with no family and no one to look out for her," she pointed out. "She's far better off among her own kind with a family who loves her."

"I suppose so," Cassiopeia agreed reluctantly.

"Believe me, Aunt Cassiopeia, you did the right thing." Narcissa took her great-aunt's hand and looked into the other woman's eyes. "That little girl is a Black, and she belongs with us."

"I know she does." Cassiopeia watched her daughter talk to Draco and his friends. "I know she does."


August 1985

Blackwell Manor

"But you said that you were going to let me help you brew today," Hermione protested.

Cassiopeia sighed. "I know, poppet, but this is important."

"But you hated cousin Walburga. You told Mrs Marchbanks and Mrs Longbottom that she was an insane old bat and it would have been better off for our House if she'd been drowned as a child," Hermione reminded her mother.

Cassiopeia closed her eyes and counted to ten. Most days, she was as proud as she could be of her clever, beautiful, frighteningly intelligent daughter. Hermione was an absolute joy with her never-ending curiosity and her love of knowledge. Other days, however, her daughter's prodigious memory and stubbornness were a trial.

"Hermione," Cassiopeia managed to get out through gritted teeth. "My great-niece has died. It is my duty, as a member of the House of Black, to go to her funeral. As my daughter, it is your duty to come and pay your respects to your cousin."

"Yes Mother," Hermione muttered. She scowled at her shoes.

"We can always brew tomorrow," Cassiopeia reminded her daughter.

Hermione spontaneously hugged her mother tightly around her legs and then hurried off to her room to get ready.

"Beaker!" Hermione called.

"Little Miss called Beaker?" The house-elf cracked into Hermione's room.

"Mother says we have to go to cousin Walburga's funeral." Hermione made a face that expressed her opinion about that.

"Beaker has Little Miss's dress all laid out." Beaker hustled her small charge over to the bed.

It was a commonly accepted fact in Blackwell Manor that Hermione's hair was completely hopeless. It was a bushy mass of wild curls that seemed to crackle with power and refused to behave. Beaker braided her charge's hair into two thick, tight braids. It was the only way to make sure that Hermione's hair was semi-manageable.

Blackwell Manor had been in the Black family for centuries. Most of Hermione's clothes had been things that the house-elves had found in the attic packed in cedar chests filled with lavender and they had transfigured them to fit her. Even the current witch's robes that Beaker had laid out had belonged to Cassiopeia or her younger sister Dorea as a child. Austere black silk trimmed with black ribbon and black lace made Hermione's skin look even paler than normal.

"There," Beaker murmured, tugging on the robes to get them to lay straight. "Little Miss looks like a proper Black."

"Thank you, Beaker." Hermione leaned forward and hugged her house-elf.

"Of course," Beaker sniffed imperiously. "Little Miss is Beaker's responsibility."

The funeral was filled with people that Hermione knew; it was filled with members of the Black family and various cousins. She had never been in a gathering that was this large, though, and she stuck close to her mother's side. Cassiopeia led her to an area that had been cordoned off for a group of young witches and wizards. There was a table with food that was low enough for little hands to reach it, and a couple of older witches were sitting nearby watching over all of them.

"Cassiopeia," one of them called and rose to meet them.

"Aunt Alvina." Cassiopeia moved forward to kiss her aunt on both cheeks. "Hermione, this is Alvina Bulstrode. She is married to my mother's brother."

"Uncle Oswin," Hermione supplied.

Cassiopeia smiled at her daughter. "That's right, dear." It took time to memorize the tortuous branches of the family tree, but Hermione was trying.

"There are sandwiches and tea," Aunt Alvina pointed out helpfully. "My great-granddaughter is here somewhere... Millie? Millicent, where are you, child?"

A dark-haired girl about Hermione's age walked over to them and looked up at Aunt Alvina expectantly.

"Yes, Grandmama?" Millie asked.

"This is Hermione Black. She is the granddaughter of Violetta Bulstrode, and is your cousin. I want you to help her get some sandwiches and tea and then introduce her to some of the other children," Alvina instructed. She turned to smile at Hermione. "Hermione, this is Millicent Bulstrode."

"Yes Grandmama." Millie bobbed a curtsy and took Hermione's hand, dragging her off toward the sandwiches.

"Are you related to Walburga Black, too?" Hermione asked, after filling a plate with cucumber and chicken salad sandwiches.

Millie shook her head. "No, but Grandmama said that we have to come anyway to be polite."

"Oh." Hermione took a bite of a cucumber sandwich and chewed thoughtfully.

A young girl of about the same age as Millicent and Hermione marched over to them. She had straight, black hair that had been brushed until it shone in a neat bob. A huge navy blue bow had been affixed to the side of her head, and her nose was turned up like Delores, Mrs Marchbanks' pug.

"I'm Pansy Parkinson," the girl announced and tilted her nose in the air. "Who are you?"

Next to Hermione, Millicent rolled her eyes and sighed. "Pan-sy," she groaned drawing the other girl's name out. "You're supposed to let me introduce you."

Pansy crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot impatiently. "So do it, then."

Millicent sighed again and then stood up. "Hermione, this is my friend, Pansy Parkinson. Pansy, this is my cousin, Hermione Black."

Hermione bobbed a curtsy. "Pleased to meet you," she murmured.

Pansy sniffed as though she doubted this to be so. "Just remember, Millie was my friend first."

Hermione blinked. "I'll remember." She turned to Millie. "Should I go meet the others?"

"Eat your sandwiches," Millicent told her. "Grandmama always says that you should let others come to you."

Pansy nodded. "It places you in a position of power," she explained.

Hermione nibbled on a sandwich and considered that. She supposed that it was true. Mother spent her days in her Potions lab, and whenever anyone wanted to come and see Mother, they had to be willing to accept how much or how little attention Mother was willing to give. There were some days when Mother refused to see anyone at all. Hermione was the only exception to that rule. No matter what Mother was working on, she always made time to visit with Hermione, and she always took meal breaks with her.

"Mother does that," she admitted finally.

Pansy and Millicent nodded.

"Do you know everyone here?" Hermione asked as she watched the children mingling around her.

"Not yet," Millicent replied with a shrug. "But I will after the fall."

"What happens in the fall?" Hermione looked from Pansy to Millicent.

"Dancing lessons begin," Pansy explained. "Everyone goes. I'm sure you'll be there, too."


September 1985

Lucci School of Dance

Teaching a roomful of spoiled rich wizards and witches how to dance was not the most pleasant way to make money, but Andrea Lucci couldn't afford to be choosy. As a former dancer with the wizarding ballet, he had a certain cachet that he was able to trade with, and at least it put food on the table. He watched as the small group milled about uncertainly. His sharp eyes moved over them, trying to determine who would be his problem students for the next year.

"Squib," a small blond boy sneered at a pudgy little boy with dark hair.

The little boy flushed a dull red and his hands fisted at his sides. A little witch with two thick, black braids stepped up next to the dark haired boy and lifted her chin arrogantly.

"Just because Neville isn't flashy with his magic doesn't mean he's a Squib, Draco," the little witch countered. Her lip curled and she looked the blond up and down.

"What does it matter to you," Draco protested. "He's going to be a Gryffindor just like all of the other Longbottoms."

The little witch shook her head at him. "De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum," she snapped.

Andrea hid a smile. Twenty years in wizarding Britain had acquainted him with Hogwarts' peculiar House system, and the deep divisions between Houses. Many families were aligned with specific Houses, especially the older families. The little witch, from what Andrea Lucci understood, was most correct. It would do no good to argue about House colors or family alignments—they were what they were.

"Come on, boys and girls," Lucci called out. "Let us pair up."

The little dark-haired wizard, Neville, turned to the little witch who took his hand in hers. Lucci clapped his hands together and began to walk them through the basic steps.