"So we are agreed," Albus Dumbledore said. "We will stop sending Muggle-borns invitations to Hogwarts."
The war had continued to smolder and so that decision was made. It was just painting a target on their backs, people said, some in sorrow and some in concealed delight. It wasn't fair to them. It was better, after all, to live in ignorance of your magical birthright than to die because of it. Concerns about accidental magic and the dangers of untrained magicians were waved aside. How many children continued to show signs of accidental magic once they passed out of the uncontrolled emotional intensity of childhood? And had anyone – other, of course, than he-who-must-not-be-named – ever had the determination and cleverness to set himself a course of study and learn to control the mysterious powers for which they had no explanation without even a wand?
No one, everyone agreed, had ever managed that. There was no danger to the wizarding world in leaving these children untrained and, as they reiterated to one another, reassuring themselves this was the right decision, better ignorance than death.
And so Hermione Granger received no letter inviting her to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Narcissa Malfoy raised her brows in calculated disdain as the almost-man fell to her floor. She glanced at the spreading pool of blood soaking into the ancient hardwood and murmured a soft complaint that the elves would have to clean that now. She ignored the dying words about blood purity and other such rot, words intended to rouse the black-robed figures who stood in silence and watched him die.
Words that failed.
Blood was just blood.
Power was everything. Power and the willingness to seize it.
She was a strange child. An unlucky child.
People fell down the stairs near Hermione. One day a window had shattered in her classroom, which was peculiar enough, but to have every other window in the room break at even five minute intervals until they all needed replacement was just too strange to be accounted for. A boy who had turned down her invitation to a dance was subsequently attacked by crows.
It was all quite inexplicable. Not her fault. Just… bad luck. Weird, bad luck.
"Shall we go to Hogwarts?"
Draco Malfoy held a hand out to his bride. She didn't spare a glance to the body she'd left cooling on the floor. She sounded eager – hungry even – for the next battle and he let the tiniest of smiles play around his mouth.
"Your wish," he murmured.
Draco Malfoy, Marked Death Eater, recent Hogwarts graduate, and member of an elite so rarified it was amazing he could breath in the elevated regions of society where he lived, was having an utter shite day. His parents had brought up the desirability of a connection to the Greengrass family again, had, in fact, invited the younger girl to tea and neglected to inform him of that wee fact. He'd seen her, spotty and graceless, in the front hall and escaped out the back before anyone could trap him into obligations and courtesies he had no interest in offering. Now he was stalking about Muggle London where no interfering parents, over-eager flunkies, or syncophants could find him. This ridiculous girl was maybe all of fifteen, barely not a baby. The thought of kissing her was repugnant enough; the idea of wedding and bedding her made him want to retch.
He kicked at some clumps of dirt at the entrance to some pathetic excuse of a playground and then narrowed his eyes when the clumps rose up into a miniature whirlwind. He looked up, searching for who had found him, but the only person there was a brown-skinned girl with the most ridiculous set of curls he'd ever seen. She stood on a swing, dressed in what he assumed passed for clothing in the Muggle world, and had her head leaned up against the chain as she regarded the spiral of dust dancing in the late afternoon sunlight.
"You'll get in trouble if anyone sees you do that," he said.
She looked up at him, mostly indifferent to his presence but too polite to wholly ignore him. "Why?" she asked.
He rolled his eyes. "Statute of Secrecy, obviously," he said.
She shrugged and went back to watching her dust. Draco looked for her wand and didn't see one. Peculiar. "How are you hiding your wand?" he asked her.
"My what?" She looked at him again.
"Wand," he said. He pulled his out and waved it around as a visual aide for the obvious.
"I'm not five," she said. "I don't play with pretend toys anymore." She smirked a little. "No offense."
Draco put his wand back in its holster. "Right," he said. "So we're just playing pretend. Okay. I guess that's as good an excuse as any if someone sees you." He studied her. "I don't know you. Where did you go to school? Beauxbatons?"
"Is that some kind of fancy public school?" she asked with a laugh. "No." She jumped down and stepped over to him, letting her dirt cyclone fall. She stuck her hand out. "Hermione."
"Malfoy," he said and waited for the light of recognition in her eyes. It didn't appear. "Draco Malfoy."
"Like the constellation?" she asked.
Draco nodded but was caught up in the seemingly impossible moment of a witch not knowing who he was. "Who are you," he asked as he catalogued her Muggle clothing, her apparent lack of a wand, and that she didn't know who he was. It added up to something unbelievable and yet rather marvelous. "You aren't possible," he said.
"Are you touched?" she asked.
"You're a witch," he said.
"Yep, definitely touched," she said. "Or rude."
Draco shook his head and, lest she run off before he could figure her out, pulled his wand out again, using it to spin dirt the way she had. "I can do it too," he said. She looked from the dirt to him and back again and slowly backed away until the swing hit the back of her legs. She sat down on it, her eyes never leaving the whirlwind.
"Do something else," she ordered in a whisper. "I thought I was the only one. Do something else."
It was dark by the time she let him go, eliciting promises he'd return. He'd shown her charms and transfiguration and even risked a Dark curse or two. She didn't react to the still illegal spells any differently than she had to the sight of a floating leaf. He'd teased her until she'd shown him some of the wandless, voiceless magic she'd taught herself. She didn't know there were wands. She didn't know there were spells. All she knew was that she was different, she could do things.
She could do a lot of things.
"You can't tell Muggles," he ordered her. "No one who can't do magic can know about us."
She bristled a little at his tone but then sagged and said, "I know."
"What happened," he asked. They'd moved to a small copse of stunted trees at the edge of the playground and leaned up against one, their shoulders touching. Something, after all, had clearly happened.
"Drugged me," she said. "I was psychotic, you see. Delusional. I thought my toys could fly. I saw things no one else did." She smiled a bit bitterly. "Touched."
Draco felt a surge of rage that filthy, despicable Muggles had seen fit to try to do anything to this girl. She was a witch. She might not be a Malfoy (and good thing, too, a tiny voice in his head whispered, because that would be even more vile than marrying that little girl he'd abandoned with his mother) but she was still a witch.
"I'll come back," he promised.
"Tomorrow," she nearly ordered.
"Tomorrow," he agreed.
You go home, the pale boy with his absurd wand burning in your mind. You turn on your computer and then frown and push the keyboard away impatiently.
Whatever else you know or don't know, you would bet money that Draco Malfoy wouldn't show up on any search of any database to which you have access. He's part of some parallel world, one where what you can do is normal, one that doesn't exist to you and your computer.
Statute of Secrecy, he'd said.
There were laws, laws designed to keep non-magical people – Muggles – from finding out about them, about these magic users with their wands and their statutes. With their schools.
He asked what school you went to, meaning, you realize, that there are schools. More than one since he knew you hadn't gone to his. Meaning there are enough people – enough witches – to fill the halls of multiple schools.
You feel a slow rage building that this world was there, that you could have been normal. That you could have been something other than the outcast girl even the teachers didn't like despite your raised hand and brilliant mind. You aren't a freak, you think. No, you aren't a freak,you just aren't some worthless, filthy Muggle.
You're better than all these people who told you were seeing things, that things weren't happening. Better than the doctors who drugged you. Better than the teachers who dismissed you. Better than the children who wanted nothing to do with you because you were too different, too strange.
You think that if this Draco Malfoy doesn't return tomorrow you'll burn your own world down to find him and what he knows, what is ordinary to him.
They'd arranged themselves for battle in the Great Hall, gratifyingly astonished their foes had walked through the wards. The young Mrs. Malfoy had dropped them without even a theatrical wave of her hand and the followers she'd bought with a monster's blood followed her.
Power was everything.
"I should thank you," she said, her voice carrying. "Your destruction of the horcruxes was convenient. It almost makes up for the way you excluded me and mine. It almost makes up for growing up an outcast."
She looked at the ashen faces. "I am your chicken," she said, "and I've come home to roost."
Draco's mother was waiting for him when he returned. She'd arranged herself on a chaise in the library, a book in one hand and a glass of wine to hand. Narcissa Malfoy could command any room; her blonde prettiness and deceptive fragility had captivated Lucius Malfoy years ago and while Draco knew people whispered the marriage had been more in the way of a dynastic merger than a love match he also knew his parents adored one another. Narcissa lifted her wine glass to her lips with one dainty hand and regarded him long enough to make most people uncomfortable before she spoke.
"I made your apologies to little Miss Astoria," she said. "I assume you were called away on – "
"I'm not marrying that chit," Draco interrupted her. "She probably still sleeps with a stuffed animal for Salazar's sake."
"Naturally there would be a long – "
Mother and son smiled at one another with equally bland expressions until Narcissa waved her hand in the air. "You are young yet," she said as though she were expressing disapproval of the match with Astoria Greengrass rather than making a concession. "I'm sure the right girl will present herself in time."
"Mmm." Draco sat down on a stool that had been conveniently placed near his mother. "I met one today."
"Really?" Narcissa took a sip of her wine. "One you didn't know?"
"More interestingly," he said, "she didn't know me." He steepled his fingers and pressed them to his lips as he looked at his mother.
"You resemble your father more with each day."
"Would you mind explaining how a witch could not know what a wand is?" Draco asked the question idly but his eyes never wavered from his mother's face. "I suspect this is one of those gaps in my Hogwarts education."
"Their curriculum is shockingly lacking in some areas," Narcissa said. She took another sip of her wine before she said, "Especially history. It's obvious. She's Muggle-born."
"I beg your pardon?"
Narcissa cocked her head to the side and began to smile. "Oh yes, Muggles give birth to witches all the time. When I was a girl these children were educated alongside even pure bloods, much to my family's dismay."
"Muggles are filth," Draco said, repeating the propaganda he'd heard his whole life without thought. "This girl was… she was brilliant, mum."
"We used to call them mudbloods," Narcissa said musingly. "The term has fallen out of fashion. It's too rude for adults to use and, well, with none of them at Hogwarts, sullying the halls with their Muggle ideas and Muggle parents, none of you had cause to use it." She glanced out the window into the dark night. "If my mother knew you had skipped out on a tea with a perfectly nice girl – "
" – to dally with some bit of filth she'd tell me to take your wand and make you – "
"She could do wandless magic."
Narcissa stopped talking at that and glanced back at her son. "Not possible."
"Except I saw her do it. She did something as near to an Imperius as you could hope to see on a bird, made then thing sit on her finger and sing on command, all without a wand or any knowledge of spells."
"This war does drag on," Narcissa said. She leaned her head back against the arm of her chaise and closed her eyes, wearied beyond endurance, it would seem, by the war and her son's choice of afternoon companions. "So many think it's about such silly things. Pureblood supremacy. Traditionalism." She sighed. "Sometimes I think that old fool, Dumbledore might actually believe he's fighting for freedom and whathaveyou."
"Dumbledore," Draco said, "is an idiot."
"No, dear," Narcissa said, without opening her eyes. "He's a brilliant man seeking absolution." She sighed "We really must work on correcting the gaps in your knowledge of history."
"I beg your pardon?" Draco was far too used to his mother to do more than prompt her.
"I wonder," she said, "if that's why he keeps Binns on. Much safer to bore all the children with stories of goblin war packs of a thousand years ago than explore how we ended up fighting about Muggles, of all things." She opened one pale eye and watched Draco as she added, "Though, of course, it's really about power." She closed that eye again. "Tell your little friend it was Dumbledore's decision to keep her, and people like her, out of Hogwarts."
"And if she asks why?" Draco inquired.
"To protect her from the likes of you, of course."
"I would never hurt her," Draco objected and Narcissa's lips twitched in a smile.
"If she'd been just one of many filthy vermin?" she asked softly. He stiffened but didn't respond. "A powerful, beautiful – I assume – girl kept from her heritage is a powerful tool," Narcissa said. She stood and stretched and Draco rose as well. "She is presentable, I hope?"
Draco shrugged. "In those slovenly Muggle clothes how could one tell?" he said. When his mother waited expectantly he added, "but properly dressed she'd be… you would not be ashamed of her." His eyes almost glittered as he thought about the girl in the park. "Her hair's a bit like Auntie Bella's" he said. "More of a brown to her black, but quite dramatic."
Narcissa nodded and then tipped her head toward the library door and, obediently, he escorted her out of the room and down the hall toward the stairs that led up to her room where she would surely relate this conversation to Lucius. "Teach your little friend, Draco," she said. "Get her a wand and see just how powerful she is." She paused and, patting him on the cheek, added, "Treat her like the most untouchable of purebloods," she instructed. "Like Miss Greengrass." She made a face as she considered his abdication of his social chore just that day. "Or quite a bit better. Make her trust you above all others."
If Draco had any questions about her intensity he didn't let them show. He just bowed over his mother's hand. "When you order me to do what I planned anyway, how could I resist or deny you?"
"See that you don't," was all she said as she left him at the foot of the stairs.
"All I want is the decision-makers," she said. "I'm not here to wage a war on children." Across the hall her eyes met those of the venerable members of the Order of the Phoenix. "We'll be doing it my way from now on," she said.
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N - part 1 of 3