A/N: This is my first attempt at a Harry Potter fic, but I've been a longtime Dramione fan, so I hope I am sort of hitting it right with their characters! As a literature geek I am shamelessly using Shakespeare as an in, but wanted to have my favourite play be the focal point. None of that til the next chapter though! Here for you as a first little taste we have how-Hermione-went-to-Oxford, and also how I am going to dismiss any hint of a continuing relationship with Ron (still haven't forgiven you for tying her down like that, JK). Obviously all characters, Hogwarts, etc et al belong to JK Rowling, and you may not know this but Othello was written in 1603 by William Shakespeare. Who isn't me. So I don't own any of that either. But I will be sprinkling bits of it liberally throughout this fic. Which probably won't be very long. But please offer me some reviews and feedback anyway, I would love to know what you think! Anyway, now that the stage is (vaguely) set...
She considered her appearance in the tall mirror as she gathered her things from where they lay scattered across her desk. Keys, pens, purse. Her wand she had already slipped up her sleeve, the baggy knit ideal for concealing the holster. The books in her shoulder bag made her posture lopsided, but then she looked no different to any other student wandering around Oxford. It will be fine, she thought to herself. It always was.
The door made its usual too-loud slam as she headed down the corridor from her room, and she could imagine the others on the staircase waking up to it, heads fuzzy from too many beers the night before. The ghost of a smile hovered around her mouth, and she flicked her head to send an errant curl back behind her ear as she headed out into the January cold.
They had thought she was mad when she told them what she had planned, but McGonagall had already helped her fake the necessary certificates and marks. Homeschooling, as it turned out, made for quite the convenient lie. Ron had screwed up his face in confusion and Harry had just stared when she showed them the acceptance letter.
"But…" Ron had finally managed to say, "But they'll all be muggles."
Hermione had felt her left eyebrow raise a fraction with annoyance, and had seen Harry swallow nervously. "I'm quite aware that they'll be muggles, Ronald. But then, I thought I was a muggle until I was eleven."
Harry had frowned, looking as though he was at least trying to understand. "You really think that it will be useful? Literature I mean?"
She sighed, wondering how to explain the instinct that had led her to this, "Reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard led us to the answers about the Deathly Hallows didn't it? And I was re-reading the book this year, while we were revising for NEWTs-"
"How the bloody hell did you manage to read ANOTHER book with all the revision you did?!" Ron interrupted her with a splutter, but he shut up when Hermione shot him a look.
She inhaled deeply, "Anyway, it occurred to me that there is loads of folklore that wizards don't even pay attention to because it's all part of the muggle canon. Magic appears in literature again and again, and it's always interpreted as allegory or metaphor." She ignored Ron's pained expression, "But I started to wonder, what if some of it isn't just muggle allegory? What if it's about actual magic? There are hundreds of spells and objects that we've just assumed are lost, but what if they're actually hidden in plain sight?"
Harry was looking at her with the beginnings of a grin on his face, "That might just be one of the most brilliant things you've ever come up with, Hermione." She blushed slightly, unused to such effusiveness.
Ron however was still not quite on board: "But why would muggle authors hide magic in their books?"
She turned her gaze back to her other best friend, "Because there was no official muggle-born register until the late nineteenth-century. And we know from the East End gang records in the 1920s that there was a long history of local wizards recruiting muggleborns below the radar of the wizarding schools."
Ron nodded slowly, his expression still blank. "Soo…"
Hermione sighed. "So, lots of muggle authors up until the mid-nineteenth century could have actually been wizards. Look at the Bronte sisters, all three of them coming up with these wild stories that hover at the edge of the supernatural, living their strange, secluded lives up on the moors." Hermione felt herself drift for a moment, felt the fizzing excitement of discovery at her fingertips. "What if they were magical? What if there are secrets hiding in their novels just waiting for a wizard to recognise them?"
Ron's eyebrows quirked together, "But that would be like…loads of untapped knowledge."
Hermione smiled, her eyes glittering with anticipation, "Exactly." She looked at Harry again, whose grin looked like it might split his face in two.
"Brilliant" he repeated.
She had enjoyed the first term enormously, drinking in the rich texts, the knowledge of her tutors, the eager intelligence of her fellow students. During the whole Christmas holiday staying with Harry and Ron in what was now very much a joint bachelor pad in Grimmauld Place she had chattered about her studies, completing the required reading in the first ten days, and then spending plenty of time reading everything that she could around the texts. Hermione had forgotten the thrill she had felt when first discovering magical literature, and coming back to muggle English Lit held some of the same delight.
Her good mood had lasted right up until their impromptu New Year's Eve party. A whole host of former DA and Order members had descended on the house, bringing with them laughter and crass jokes, plenty of firewhiskey and spiked butterbeer, and a shouted countdown to midnight. When Big Ben's magically amplified chimes had rung through the flat many among their number had paired off, either for friendly kisses or more amorous ones, and Hermione had found herself on the receiving end of the latter type from Ron. As Dean Thomas produced a boombox from nowhere and started playing Prince (Luna asking wide-eyed, "But how did he know we'd be having a party?") Hermione had pushed Ron away with a laugh – "You know it's not like that anymore" – and wandered back to the kitchen for more firewhiskey.
Harry found her there two minutes later, his hair slightly mussed and a faint stain from Ginny's red lipstick smudged at the edge of his mouth. "It's really over for you, isn't it?" he'd asked, and she hadn't even needed to look at him to know what he was talking about.
Her shoulders drooped and she sighed, "I think it was all so tied up with our whole 'Saving the World' mission," she paused to give Harry a wry look, "If I'm honest, I'm surprised it even lasted as long as it did when we went back to Hogwarts." She'd finished with Ron about halfway through the Spring term of that final year, and had assumed by how well he'd taken it that he felt the same way. It hadn't occurred to her that he might have been waiting for her to come back around.
"Is there somebody else? Someone at Oxford maybe?"
She had looked up at Harry in shock, startled by the question. "N-no, of course not. You know I'd have told you." He nodded sadly, before pouring himself another butterbeer and leaving her alone in the kitchen, only Kreacher's quiet mutterings in the pantry and the distant strains of Prince to keep her company.
After that, the atmosphere at Grimmauld Place hadn't seemed the same. Harry was on edge, obviously feeling caught in the middle, and Ron kept casting her wounded looks. In the end, Hermione ended up packing up her things on the 3rd of January and, against the boys' half-hearted protests, making her way back to Oxford early.
A/N: Thank you for reading - please let me know what you think!