The Real World
For the first time ever, Hermione was riding the Hogwarts Express in a compartment she belonged in. Draco had been discussing the Quidditch World Cup Qualifiers as they walked down from the castle to Hogsmeade station. Hermione had gotten by on her passing knowledge of the World Cup format (the real one, not that she told Draco that) without adding much to the conversation. He could hold a one sided conversation for a while, she had noticed. Perhaps a drawback of hanging out with the lumbering oafs who followed behind them.
Draco didn't shut up about the infernal sport all the way onto the train. Hermione had been expecting that he would eventually drop her off somewhere, not wanting to be seen being friendly with a muggle-born. Studying was one thing. She was identifiably the best academic student in the year. Slytherin pragmatism meant that working with her could be allowed, grudgingly, but with classes over and no more studying to be done, the extension of civil relations would become anathema again. Or that's what Hermione thought. She had been expecting it since exams were cancelled, really. Steeling herself for the worst.
But it didn't come, and Hermione was beginning to think they were actually friends – a belief only bolstered when Draco pulled her into a compartment and began setting up shop with Crabbe and Goyle. Hermione claimed the seat nearest the window. She had never had a window seat before.
A minute later, Daphne showed up with Tracey, arm in arm as always, to take the seats opposite Hermione and Draco. He had to kick Crabbe and Goyle – who had sat down as well – to make them pick up and stash the girls' trunks. "A gentleman, as always," Daphne sniffed to Draco, eyeing Goyle as he placed her trunk in the storage above her head. Nott arrived soon after with Pansy in tow and their compartment was complete. No room for Millie or Zabini… Hermione noted. She would gladly take Millicent over either Crabbe or Goyle any day, but somehow she thought that wouldn't happen.
"What're you doing for the summer?"
Hermione took a second to realize Tracey was talking to her. "Summer? Oh, I think I'm travelling. To France."
The blonde girl's face lit up. "France is wonderful. The monuments in Paris are delightful, but don't forget to visit the countryside. Gorgeous. Especially in the summer. The golden fields, rolling hills," Tracey beamed. "Sometimes I wish I lived there."
"Beauxbatons would be so much more sophisticated than Hogwarts," Daphne commented quietly. "I hear they have silk uniforms."
"Isn't Beauxbatons in Southern France? They must get warmer seasons," said Hermione.
"And prettier girls," Daphne curled her lip. Hermione was about to be offended, but saw a faint flick of Daphne's eyes to Pansy, squeezed in on the other end of the compartment next to the door. She returned Daphne's sly grin.
"Theo, what d'you say? England to win the World Cup?"
"Never," Nott replied scornfully.
"C'mon. We've got a good team this time."
Nott only shook his head.
"Ireland," Daphne said softly, staring out the window as the train lurched forward.
"Ireland? You serious? With Lynch as seeker? They're hopeless."
"It's not all about the seeker," sighed Daphne.
"No, if it's not England it'll be Bulgaria," Draco scoffed.
"Bulgaria? Their chasers are trash," Nott frowned.
Draco grinned. "But they have a secret weapon."
"You'd be lucky to get a Bulgarian woman, Nott," hummed Daphne.
"What, a Veela?" laughed Tracey.
"That, too," Daphne giggled the most lady-like giggle Hermione had ever witnessed. The girl was a prodigy. She could be the Queen of England's granddaughter and no one would think twice.
"No, but I'm telling you, Theo, Bulgaria are going deep. Might even make it to the final, but England will take them down."
"Stop with this England crapalready. They're not going to make it," Nott shook his head.
"Then you'll make a bet?"
"We haven't even qualified yet," Nott snorted. "We're not even top of our qualifying group! Canada is going to get out on top."
Draco grinned. "Then you'll take the bet?"
"Taking your money won't be fun. It's too easy."
"How about… twenty galleons if England win?"
What's that, like, a hundred pounds?
"And if they don't?"
"You're not even taking odds?" Nott furrowed his eyebrows.
"Twenty galleons," Draco grinned, extending a hand.
"You're throwing money at me," Nott said, shaking Draco's hand.
Rich kids… Hermione sighed. Sometimes magic doesn't change a thing.
I-I. ⌡. Γ┐
The trip was enjoyable. Hermione was disappointed when the train started slowing down. It meant that the muggle world was fast approaching. France.
They all grabbed their trunks and began the slow march down the hall to get off the train. One by one, Hermione's companions split off to find their families, but she made steady progress towards the enchanted barrier. Soon it was only Draco and her left together.
"You going to have fun in muggle-land?" he grinned.
"Shut it," she smacked her shoulder into his.
"But really, though. Do you enjoy it?"
"Seeing my family will be nice."
"But it's no Hogwarts."
"It's no Hogwarts," she agreed.
Draco pulled to a stop. "Father's meeting me on this side of the wall. But listen, if you want to come by the Manor sometime this summer… see what a real wizard's home looks like, I'm sure my parents wouldn't mind."
Hermione smiled. "Really?"
Draco shrugged and scuffed his feet. "Yeah, probably."
"I – I'm in France for most of the summer, though…"
"Amongst the muggles?" he sneered.
"I would think."
"After that, then. I'll owl you, or something," he nodded to himself. "I'll owl you."
"Alright, Draco." They stood there hesitantly for a second.
Hermione put her trunk down and hugged him. "Have a good summer."
Draco patted her back. "You too." He disengaged tactfully. "I should go find Father. See you later."
Hermione waved goodbye, picked up her trunk and rolled it through the barrier. She didn't know if it was just her, but the air on the muggle side of the wall tasted… odd. Murky. Polluted.
She spotted a man in a tweed blazer standing awkwardly and watching the trains steam by. Hermione smiled. She only knew one man who wore tweed in summer. "Dad!" Hermione rushed into her father's arms.
"There you are!" he lifted her off her feet and swung her around. "I was wondering when you'd get here."
"It's five o'clock, dad. The train was right on time," Hermione giggled.
"But I didn't know if their time was different, so I arrived half an hour early."
"The train was on time last year, too, dad," Hermione smiled up at him.
"But I didn't want to miss you," her father kissed the top of her head.
Hermione looked around the platform. "Where's mum?"
"She had an appointment at the office she couldn't reschedule."
"Had a good year?"
Hermione frowned. Had no one written to her parents about the Chamber? A rabid bigot with aspirations of murder?
"I – it was okay."
"I made a friend…" she offered. Hermione didn't want to upset her parents. They might... overreact.
"Ahah!" he stooped to pick up her trunk. "So that's why you didn't write us. Your mother was beginning to get worried, but I told her you probably found something better to do."
"Something like that." They began walking out of the station. Hermione decided she wasn't too old to hold her father's hand. "I need to get new robes and a uniform from Diagon Alley this summer."
"I burned a set."
"Yeah. Magical mishap. Completely unavoidable."
"I see… So, what's with the hair?"
"Hmm?" Hermione pulled on her hair. Darker, longer, and just a bit more disciplined. "It's just… a new hairstyle." Her father harrumphed. "What?"
"I don't like seeing you grow up," he said with a wry smile. "Just remember, you're still my little girl." He squeezed her hand.
"Of course," she said, clinging to his arm and resting her head on his shoulder as they walked. "My friend invited me over for part of the summer. To see a real wizard's house."
"Oh? Well, your mother has been planning this trip to France for a while."
"I know. After the trip."
"Then I'm sure that'll be fine."
Her father loaded her trunk into the back of an old, powder blue sedan. Hermione smiled. Her mother had always told her father to sell it and buy a new car, but he never did. "So," he said as they closed the car doors, "Met any cute boys yet?"
Hermione wrinkled her nose at him. "Half the kids at school are boys, dad."
"Yeah, but are any of them cute?" he grinned.
"I don't know, dad. I don't watch them very much. They're usually idiots."
"Most are at that age. But if you talk to one, you might find you like him."
Hermione rolled her eyes. Was he really trying to have the talk right now? Or was he just trying to make her uncomfortable? "I can talk to boys, dad. My friend is a boy."
"Oh," he said, taken aback. "Wait. That friend who invited you over?"
"A boy invited you over to his house?" he frowned.
"Yes, dad. My friend."
"I don't think so. No," he stuck the keys in the ignition and the car rumbled to life.
"What do you mean, no?" Hermione crossed her arms.
"I don't want some wizard boy sniffing around you."
"Sniffing? What happened to 'you might like one'?"
"I was talking about down the road... You know, like in twenty years?"
"I'm almost fourteen, dad."
"Fine. In ten years. Tell him you can visit in ten years. And you'll be back by eight o'clock sharp."
"Dad, he's my friend."
"He's a boy."
"He's my friend."
Her father glared at her. "What happened to your teeth?"
Hermione put her fingers to her teeth self-consciously. "Nothing."
"So, what happened to them?"
"They – I fixed them."
"Fixed them?" He was jerking on the wheel every time an adjustment needed to be made.
"They were too big. You know that!"
"How did you fix them?"
"Magic, dad! Magic."
He growled. "Your mother and I were going to set you up with braces."
"Braces, dad? They'd take years."
"Yes – but, we'd know they'd work and wouldn't hurt you."
"Magic didn't hurt me. My teeth were shrunk in a second."
"But…" he trailed off. "You didn't do all this for that boy, did you?
"Your teeth. Your hair. You didn't do it to… didn't do it for the boy?"
"No, dad. I didn't do it for the boy. I wanted it."
"Was it magic, too? You're hair?" he asked accusingly.
Hermione breathed heavily through her nose.
"Yes. Yes, it was magic, dad!" Hermione snarled. "I'm a witch. Get it through your head. I use magic! Magic! I twirl my wand and cast spells and make potions and ride a broom! If I want to use magic to change how I look, that's my prerogative. If I want to go to my friend's house, you can't stop me. I'll just walk out. All I need is my wand."
"You can't use magic outside of school. And stop talking back to me or I'll ground you."
"Ground me?" she laughed. "All I do during summer is read! It's not like I have any neighborhood friends you can keep me from seeing."
"I don't think you'll need your wand for our trip to France."
Hermione hissed. "If you touch my wand, I swear I will raze Paris to the ground."
"Don't be difficult. Your mother is right. You need to keep your head in the real world."
"The real world? The real world? What the hell does that mean?"
"The real world? I'm living in the real world, father. Every day that I take out my wand and use magic I'm living in the real world."
"And what kind of careers are there in the magical world? Your school is in a castle. The entire banking system is operated by goblins in a building that is one earthquake away from a collapse – it's a fantasy land!"
"I don't know, but it'll be a hell of a lot better than living with muggles."
"Oh, so you're calling us muggles now, are you?"
"It's what you are. It's what everyone here is. I'm a witch. I'm different. It's that simple. I'll live in the magical world – the real world – and make my way as a witch."
"You're different, Hermione," her father said quietly after a few minutes silence. "What happened?"
Hermione pressed her forehead against the cold glass of the window and watched the buildings of London pass by.
Inside her pocket she felt the familiar touch of her aspen wand and felt safer.
"I grew up."
And there we have it: years one and two of Hermione's journey.
The final score is 23 chapters, 60,084 words.
Mudblood Mistress III chapter 1 has been posted.