IMPORTANT: If you filtered for COMPLETED fics then each finished book in this fic is a 'complete' story, so just read those. If you wait for the whole 8 books to be finished then you may wait years and it might never be finished! Your choice. This fic will only be showed 'Complete' for a couple of weeks as each book is finished.
At the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter finally defeated Voldemort, but magical society was still influenced by pure-blood beliefs, and through the following years, most of those who had resisted the Dark Lord paid the price – Harry most of all. But worse was to come; Muggles had their own conflicts resulting in world catastrophe. Only one person remained who understood all sides of the tragedy. Now read on...
Book 0: Hermione Granger and The New Beginning
From The Ashes
~~~ Accepting Death ~~~
Darkness shrouds us in an oppressive, deathlike mystery. Nothing is certain. The mind plays tricks. It reaches out to perceive what truly is... but grasps only emptiness.
An old woman lay gasping for breath in the dead of night, praying for release from her distress. Drained of hope and purpose in the present, she drew meaning from memories of friends long gone. How exquisite the recollection of their voices now! Their mannerisms! Their most casual touch! What vivid delights she recalled even in their drabbest daily routines. Her wasted facial muscles could no longer smile, but within this pitiful figure endured a remembrance of joy and warmth in youthful companionship.
The direction of her thoughts came to an abrupt halt. From high on the wall opposite her bed, a frosty iron window had suddenly admitted enough moonlight to reveal a Victorian wheelchair that stood in the middle of the room, and the invalid's attention was drawn to it. The strange, cold, lunar radiance was dancing silent, feathery shadows across the framework, almost as if, outside in the wintry air, delicate silver aspens were stirring and whispering to themselves. But trees no longer softened the stark, stony outline of Rathgate Asylum, and within, not one caring soul swung a cheery lamp along its drab corridors.
Despite the entrancing puzzle of the flickering luminescence, the misery and fear of suffocation still murked the old lady's mind. Was this how her life was to end? The memories in which she had lived the last few decades were becoming confused now, yet their impact remained as strong as ever: schooldays blighted by dangers and worry, a husband drowned in self-doubt a century ago, a dear friend traumatised and broken at last by repeated sacrifice, and the life of every good friend taken early. All she had known had been lost, while her own varied careers had also failed the aspirations of the poor woman's great heart.
After dwelling too long on those grim feelings, an awful loneliness hauled her mind beyond the threshold of reason. Pangs of longing and regret tormented her soul. She sobbed softly – even that effort racked the pathetic cripple's feeble frame.
Had she been wrong to renounce magic a second time, and struggle by in the Muggle world? Being one of Hogwarts' finest students followed by ten decades of perfecting many skills had placed her above other witches – but for what? Dark thinking had swayed Ministry decisions down the slippery slope to its demise, and the Statute of Secrecy prevented any help being offered to relieve the plights of the Muggle world: a runaway climate, the over-dominance of commerce, economic collapse; a sickening health service; out-of-control poverty, famine, crime, and finally, global civilisation felled by thermonuclear terrorism – not the vision of 2110 she had ever imagined back in the innocent expectations of her youth, well over a century before.
The magical community, knowing nothing of radiation sickness, had perished along with the rest. A small number of surviving Muggle-borns had understood enough to create enchanted oases, protected from the deadly dust, but the more numerous and desperate Muggles in those areas had taken control, driving the few magicals out, underground, or to their deaths.
The same pattern was repeated around the world until almost no magic remained. But science and technology had diminished and stagnated too. These isolated village-states cannibalised and modified what little remained of use from different eras: a few land vehicles, firearms, farm tools, power generators – whatever could be found. These Muggle tribes were only kept from fragmenting into chaos by harsh regimes – but for how long with neither magic nor science?
With an effort, the ancient witch swung her scrawny legs out from the bedclothes and sat herself upright, coughing and wheezing her distress, eyes on the chair's vague shape. Three steps. Surely she could manage three steps – she who had once helped raise again the cracked stone blocks of Hogwarts School? For naught, of course, the castle had long since been lost beneath the scattered dunes of Europe's fallout desert. Were its dead ghosts condemned to wander forever those dark, buried passageways in sombre silence where lively students once clamoured?
Let me die outside, away from this dread place. Let me breathe the clear fresh air once more before the end.
Fear of falling held her there, deep in thought. She pulled a fleecy shawl around her shoulders to keep out the cold, and a fond remembrance warmed her heart too. Her closest friend had bequeathed this garment – his mother's inheritance – to the old woman long ago. She managed an inner smile and spared a little breath to fluff along the plush, magical garment. To Muggles, she knew the fabric appeared a dull fawn, but to her witch's eyes, the fuzzy threads quivered sideways under the flimsy exhalation, presenting new colours and patterns in the faint moonglow.
All those many decades ago their eyes had met briefly and they realised too late that they had both made wrong choices. If only–
"Weasley! What are you doing, sitting up!"
A large flashlight shone blindingly from the direction of the ward keeper's angry bellow, then the harsh room light blazed on with a loud click.
"Get back into bed this instant!"
Strong arms forced the feeble old woman down. "How dare you defy my orders!"
She shouted over her shoulder, "Thompson! Get the jacket!"
"Yes, Sister Daunt."
"Please, n-no," whimpered the old woman. "Can't ... b-breathe ... on ... m-my ... b-back."
"Help me get it on her. And pull the straps extra tight – she needs to be taught a lesson!"
Terrifying adversity often brings out a surprising stance.
The delicate inmate's cry had been a mere gasp but it carried with it decades of pent-up magical authority. An icy windowpane cracked and spat glass overhead, while the bare light bulb perished with a surprising, tinkling bang. Daunt's glaring torch expired too and fell to the tile floor which was already buckling underfoot and heaving against walls which sparked and crackled with a grim new light – bewitchment!
"Wh-what? What did you say?" stuttered the matriarch, blinking to recover her composure.
The response she received was to be flung back against her assistant in a tangle of elbows and leather straps; they dropped in a heap of confusion. Instantly, the straitjacket they held unfurled itself and wrapped across the pair, netting them down into an undignified horizontal wriggle.
Heaps of sympathetic bedding gently swathed the old woman and moved her across to the welcoming arms of the wheelchair which then curled away out of the open door. Its hard rubber tyres hummed and spun – yet who would notice that they were ... not ... quite ... touching the floor?
The Asylum's reception sentry looked up from an ancient biker gazette to glimpse a grey-haired old lady on wheels whizzing out through the front door. He rubbed his eyes and gawped. Shouts from down the corridor were quickly drowned out as several old wirephones began gonging at once, together with the lockdown bellows squawker. But too late, for the extraordinary witch named Hermione Weasley had already fled.
~~~ The Gods Fear Them ~~~
The night air's icy bite was choking Hermione in the frozen driveway down which she sped. No trail was left in yesterday's snow, but she dare not tarry. Silently and wandlessly she cast a warm Bubble-Head Charm which relieved the worst of her coughing fit. With a new, determined light in eyes that had long been dimmed of hope, she headed out into the parkland remnants that bordered the asylum on its west side.
There was no question as to her intended destination. A few years before, while still able to hobble about with the aid of a crutch, she had sometimes slipped out to sit in the forsaken gardens beside an overgrown lake and dream away the summery hours. But tonight, framed by beautiful, white-laced branches, the large pool was black against the snowy banks, while the central island, like a Christmas cake topped by...
Hermione stared at an amazing scene.
Larger or smaller than life she could not tell, but three ash-robed witches, luminous as the moon, produced the threads for a colourful tapestry there on the glistening isle. One spun, one measured each thread, and ... the third held long sharp scissors...
Too entranced to stop, Hermione floated her chair over the dark water towards them.
"So, you come at last," murmured the spinner. "I have grown weary of the long emptiness of your life." The one with the measuring rod nodded her agreement but did not look unkindly upon Hermione.
"I ... I think I ... know ... you..." Hermione panted weakly, in a daze of wonder. "You're ...The Parcae ... aren't you? The Fates? Why have you ... called me here? Do you plan to ... cut my thread this night?"
"Your thread, you say?" cried the grim old crone with the flashing, snipping blades. "See how grey it has turned alongside the colours woven round it!"
"Might one be undone?" whimpered Hermione.
"No thread can e'er be unpicked once it has stitched itself into the fabric of life," said the spinner, solemnly.
"Why be so cruel? You wh-whom even the g-gods f-fear!" gasped out Hermione near-inaudibly, for she was nearing her last.
"You chose your path," the measurer said firmly.
"Not f-for me!" – her exclamation left her coughing again – "Leave m-mine be – else cast ... out completely ... if you will. I beg you... might not Harry Potter's thread be reworked? His burden ... too terrible to bear."
"We spin, we measure, we cut – that is all; see how the threads weave themselves," said the third witch, watching Hermione's expression closely.
A strange thought entered Hermione's head. "Then blow upon ... his strand that..." – She gasped in more air with an effort – "that it m-might blend differently, as..." – she sobbed and gasped for many moments, summoning the final dregs of her life – "as ... does ... his m-mother's ... shawl." She gestured weakly to the garment draped over her shoulders.
Hermione was scarcely heard, for she had nothing left – yet it was enough.
"Deathless, we are above the gods, we do not breathe," said the spinner.
All three stared at Hermione who was now urging her wheelchair onward, but all magic spent, she collapsed from it down onto the frozen ground.
Inch by inch she crawled in tortured misery directly towards the fabric where it snaked along the hardened snow and up to the heavenly spinner – yet too late! Her eyes grew dim; Harry's thread was too high to reach and could scarce be seen because of the one black, slimy thread that slithered through and choked so many others.
With her last breath she strained upwards and blew all her hope and her love and... the end of her life. Alas! another thread, not Harry's, but the grim, dark thread, wafted slightly, then it lay still... as motionless as her corpse.
~~~ The Flutter By Effect ~~~
The summer of 1941 was a hot, sultry one, lasting long into September and scarcely relenting in its fiery grip even as far north as Hogwarts Castle. A small butterfly, weakened by the sizzling temperatures, expended the last of its energy attempting – but failing – to gain the shade of a casement window from which emanated the soft murmurs of children at their studies. The creature could not possibly comprehend the significance of the aircraft growling overhead, nor the hushed cry of "Fighter!" that came from within the building whose sanctuary it sought, yet – miraculously – a sudden, isolated breath of air lifted the butterfly a few more inches, where it collapsed gratefully into the shadow on the cool sill.
"Not a Spitfire! – it's a Hurricane!" came the excited whisper from one of the girls.
"Oh, Myrtle!" whispered her companion, patiently, "there's precious little wind today."
A tiny giggle was suppressed. "It's a Muggle fighter plane, silly! Listen to the engine roar, Irma!"
"A what?" murmured a third girl.
The librarian – the only adult in the library at the time – called out from the farthest shelves where she was stacking books, "Warren! Crump! Hornby! Would one of you please close that window for I cannot hear myself think."
"Yes, Miss Dodderidge." Little Irma, always obliging, was the first on her feet but she had to stand on a chair to reach out for the window handle which had been swung out wide to catch the slightest breeze. What she then saw surprised and delighted her.
Myrtle nibbled at her quill as she watched her friend return. "What have you found, Irma? A brooch?"
"Oh, do clean your spectacles for once, Myrtle!" Olive Hornby chortled softly, framing her own eyes humorously with her fingers. "Can't you see it's–"
"A butterfly," Irma finished for her, "isn't she beautiful? The colours on her wings are like stained glass in miniature. I must look it up to be sure, but I think it's a Pearl Fritillary." She held out her hand which gently supported the creature.
Myrtle gasped. "It's exquisite. Imagine walking into Hogsmeade with a robe pin as beautiful as that? All the girls would envy me."
"Well then," said Irma, taking a Sickle from her pocket, "I might be able to transform one for you if I concentrate on how it looks..."
Myrtle's eyes widened as the silver coin changed into a delicate replica of the insect. She received it with shaking fingers and shining eyes. "Oh, Irma, you're the very best of friends! What would I do without you?"
"You'd have me!" pouted Olive.
"But you're such a tease," replied Myrtle.
"She means no harm," Irma smiled, "and you'll make more chums, Myrtle, you'll see."
"Not as kind-hearted as you though. Thank you, Irma." She held the decorative pin against her collar to see the effect. "And to think you're worried about your OWLs – you'll be straight Outstandings in all of them, you just wait; same with NEWTs."
"Never count your canaries until they are conjured," smiled Irma, but inside she was heartened by her companion's encouragement.
"Myrtle's right – of course you will do well," said Olive, agreeably, "Flitwick says you're the best Ravenclaw we've had. He's confident you'll be Minister for Magic one day. You have a wonderful future ahead of you."
"Oh, 'tish-poo..." Irma's cheeks pinked a little, but her fervent hope was that their head of house was right; all her dreams were of helping to make the world a happier place and she could not wait until she was of magical age when she could venture forth to... Her eye was distracted by the inactivity of the butterfly.
"Oh! I think it might be exhausted," she said, studying the insect which was resting on the table. "Do you suppose it's hungry? Have you got any of that sugar quill left, Myrtle?"
Irma conjured a few drops of water onto the polished surface in front of the butterfly and teased them together with the tip of the quill, waiting a while for the candy to dissolve a little. Perhaps the tiny insect smelt the welcome sweetness, for it crept forward and unfurled its proboscis to drink. After a while it recovered somewhat, but barely enough to flutter up onto a pile of books on the adjacent table – there it remained quite still.
"Dad says they only live a short while. It's waiting to die," said Olive.
"I know, it's so sad." Irma paused. "Do you suppose they suffer?"
"You've a good heart, Irma, but nature can be very cruel – it's the survival of the fittest."
"I can't bear to think it's distressed during its last few moments..." Irma kept watch for several minutes, biting at her lower lip and gnawing at the back of her fingers. Finally, she could endure it no longer; her wand hand crept close to the butterfly. "Peace, my little one. ... Evanesco."
A startled gasp followed by the scrape of a chair came from her left, then soon after by an angry hiss, "You stupid drab! You've vanished Tom's books!"
"Now, now, Avery. I'm sure Miss Crump meant only good," said a quiet voice.
"I'm so sorry, Tom," said Irma in a shaky voice, "I didn't intend– I was only–"
"–only killing a harmless insect." The youth's voice was as sickly-sweet as a dozen sugar-quills, and just as unpleasant to digest. "Curiously, the damage to one's soul from such an act is what I was hoping to study, but those were the only available books, carefully selected from the Restricted Section – they are irreplaceable." The boy paused, examining Irma's frightened expression as if she were a specimen awaiting his collection. "Now we shall never know what happens to your soul when you commit murder, shall we, Miss Crump?"
"But, I... I... hadn't thought..." wailed Irma, horrified, but softening her lament with a hand clamped over her mouth.
"Leave her alone," said Olive, "It was clearly an accident."
Avery scowled. "The filthy Mudblood-lover deserves to be punished! All three of them! Something appropriate, Tom! Something hot!"
"Hush... They simply need more time to think on it," smiled Tom, "a lot more time..."
He performed only the lightest of motions with his hand but, despite the heat, Irma felt a cold chill clutch at her heart. It spread out along her limbs then upwards until her throat began to tighten horribly, her mind shrivelled into bitter contemplations, and her soul lost its way. Irma Crump would never be the same again, and nor would her friends.
~~~ Broken Lives ~~~
Seasons came and went. The boy called Tom sought elsewhere for the information he wanted, but without success. By the time he was ready to leave Hogwarts, he had long since abandoned that quest. Nor was he the only student whose ambitious dreams had been ruined...
Armando Dippet leaned back in his chair, glanced at Professor Flitwick on his right, then sighed. "Irma Crump, two years ago, you were one of the most accomplished students ever to grace the school of Hogwarts – yet you produced the worst OWL results of anyone in recent times, and here you are now, having failed to qualify to even sit any NEWTs at all. Do you still grieve? Have you still not recovered from the loss of your friends? You have become resentful, sour, and neglected your studies. Is it not time you–?"
"They were no loss." Ignoring the gasps of Flitwick and Dippet, Irma continued, " After I told Myrtle to leave me alone, she was always moaning about something or other – I couldn't concentrate, Headmaster." She paused, tilting her head in puzzlement for a few moments, then grumbled, "and I can barely remember the one who used to tease her." She looked up hopefully. "But I thought perhaps, because of my previous record, a teaching post might provide me with a stepping stone into Ministry work, so all need not be lost?"
The Headmaster was frowning, so Irma hurriedly added, "Or perhaps I could stop back one more year? Study for my OWLs again? I've always longed for a Ministry post."
He shook his head. "In deference to your earlier achievements... the best I can offer you is assistant to the librarian – sorting books, that sort of thing."
Irma Crump's mouth gaped wide in horror. "But I hate the library! All those noisy children and the mess they make! It would be a torment for me to have to spend my life–"
"One has to make do," said Dippet flatly. "With a lot of effort and a little luck you might even become chief librarian when Miss Dodderidge retires in forty years time."
Irma Crump seemed to slump lower than Flitwick's disappointed expression, but her prospects without any magical qualifications were very poor. "Very well, Headmaster, I ... I accept."
~~~ First Word ~~~
Decades passed during which Irma married – but was soon divorced by – a Muggle named Alfred Pince. There were other changes during these years too: Armando Dippet was succeeded as headmaster by Albus Dumbledore; Miss Dodderidge did indeed retire enabling Irma Pince to replace her as head librarian; and Tom Riddle, taking the name Lord Voldemort, had gathered increasingly darker forces around him. But not all was doom and gloom...
Mrs Anne Granger stared hard at her baby laying on the soft, warm rug before the cosy fireplace. "Edward, I think..."
"What, dear?" murmured her husband from the nearest armchair. He did not look up from the business papers he was studying.
A few seconds passed. Edward did raise his head then. "Sorry, dear, what did you say?" He watched his wife draw a big breath of air.
"I think she's–"
Edward glanced towards the baby who was comfortably lying on her tummy gazing at the newspaper spread out before her.
"Think she's what?" One of Edward's eyebrows arched in mild concern.
"I think she's ... uh ... reading." When Edward's other eyebrow shot up, she hastily added in a lighthearted tone that was oddly off-key, "Not actually reading of course, I meant pretending to – imitating what she's seen you do so often."
"But you said 'reading'; you meant 'reading' didn't you?"
"Anne, she's not yet eleven months old – she's scribbling on the pictures with her crayons."
Anne hesitated. "It's your... Financial Times, dear."
Edward rolled his eyes. "Ha! Well that explains it. It's the 1st of August tomorrow when I'll be reviewing my share investments and no doubt our baby will be advising me." He fluffed up his sheaf of notes grouchily then placed his attention firmly back on them. A mumbled "reading!" and "p'uh!" could be faintly heard from time to time.
Several minutes passed.
Edward's notes rustled irritably.
He lowered them, frowned, and glanced over at his child. Her tiny fingers were slowly moving down the page and her interest had not wavered.
"Hermione, darling, want to play with Hunny Bunny?" he said, glancing wildly left and right, looking for the cuddly toy.
The baby rolled over on her side to look at her parents quizzically. "Hawwy? Where Hawwy?"
Edward's mouth dropped open. Wide. He looked back and forth between his baby and his wife, a shocked expression on his face. "Did she baby-babble or were those her first real words? Two together! She made a sentence!"
Anne was nodding and beaming and dashed over to scoop up Hermione in her arms. "There's a clever girl! Daddy will find Hunny – won't you, Daddy?"
'Daddy' rushed off to the bedroom – the most likely location for the missing toy – and returned triumphantly, wiggling it in his hands. "Here he is! Hunny Bunny!"
The child's face fell. "Hawwy?"
The proud father held out the soft toy. "Hunny. Say, 'Hunny'."
"Waaaahhh!" wailed Hermione, burying her face in her mother's neck. "Wan' Hawwy!"
~~~ Reading Between the Lines ~~~
It took an hour to settle Hermione into her cot that evening.
"What on Earth got into her?" said Edward, as he watched his wife through the open kitchen doorway making them both a cup of tea. "Has she ever done anything like this before, Anne?"
She shook her head but the teapot came down rather heavily on the counter.
"What?" he said.
"It's probably just an imaginary friend. Lots of kids have them," said Anne. She sprinkled a few oatmeal biscuits onto a plate then carried the tea tray through to the living room where she placed it on the coffee table.
Edward sank into his chair again. "Then why can't she imagine Hewie-whatever-his-name-was is still here?" He paused. "Anne, it wasn't just a tantrum – she was crying real tears!"
His wife stifled a sob with the back of her fist. "She sometimes..."
"Anne?" he said softly.
"Sometimes... well, it's almost as if she... remembered something. She'd babble and gurgle as normal but there'd be... a faraway... look in her eyes. An intelligent – no, no! I can't explain it better. A few minutes later she's forgotten all about it. This is the longest she's–"
She had been pouring out the tea. There were tiny amber globules of the brew splashed on the polished teak surface of the tray.
"What is it, dear?" said Edward.
Anne put down the teapot and went over to the hearthrug where she picked up the newspaper and studied it for a while, then held it up.
Edward came over. "See what? She's scrawled some crooked lines down the page."
"So? Seven – eleven – what's it matter?"
"Look more closely. See how that one angles between those two? They could be a capital 'N'."
Edward stared at his wife in disbelief, but she continued, "And those three tiny marks could make an 'E' on the side of that one. This other one might be a 'T'. Her little fingers have struggled with the horizontals."
A cynical smile began to form at the corner of Mr Granger's mouth but he thought better of it. "Darling, they're just scrawls."
"I think she's been trying to copy some of the letters from the FINANCIAL TIMES header," persisted Anne, more firmly.
Edward frowned. "So, you're saying it's, let's see... a capital 'I', then your wobbly 'N', then T... uh... E ... L – just meaningless scribble."
He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece and swore. "Come on, we're missing Emmerdale." He switched on the television and dived for the oatmeal cookies.
This is the beginning of a planned eight books comprising one long story without Voldemort (I became tired of rewrites of 'troll-in-dungeon', 'Ginny-in-CoS', and 'Harry-in-Tournament' episodes. All is new. All eight books will be within this one giant story. However, although I can't guarantee I'll finish all eight books, I do commit to each one once started, and hopefully each will have a satisfying end.
Many thanks to menm for beta-reading and helping me polish and strengthen the presentation and flow. This Book 0 will cover Hermione's new life up to starting Hogwarts at age eleven. I promise it will be nothing like you expect!
Many thanks for all comments and reviews. These are most welcome and very encouraging. Let me know of any weaknesses or faults — I'm always trying to improve my writing so feedback is really useful. :)