Warning: If you hold strong religious beliefs that demons are both real and horrifically evil, you may not enjoy this fic and you should proceed at your own risk. In case the title and summary didn't warn you, please note that this story has a dark occult theme, specifically including demon summoning. It also includes a brief scene alluding to torture in one chapter.
This fic is complete and will update weekly with a new chapter every Tuesday morning. It will be eleven chapters (including the epilogue) when it's all uploaded, at approximately 43K words.
Hermione Granger had always known she was special, even from a very young age. Her parents told her she was, and so did all her teachers. She'd been formally pronounced as being "gifted" by a private psychologist after he'd administered a Wechsler test and a few other assessments, and told her parents she had an exceptional memory and highly advanced literacy and problem-solving skills. Her parents, ambitious on her behalf and not wanting her to be so bored in school all the time, pushed the school to bump her up a year. She'd been excited at first, eager to be in Year 2 with smarter kids, working at her level instead of trudging slowly through learning to read with kids her age. To her dismay she soon discovered that she was ahead of most of those kids too. They were also all a full head taller than her, and even less inclined than her old classmates to want to make friends with the gap-toothed little girl who was always waving her hand in the air, over-eager to be the teacher's pet.
She was lonely, and as the months and then years wore on, it only grew worse. Without a single friend to relieve the tedium of breaks and lunch times, she eventually gave up trying to find one, and spent almost every free moment of her school days reading. Anything good, anything long, not the "little kid" books full of pictures that she'd learned to scorn because her mother had pronounced them "beneath your abilities". She didn't want to let her parents down – she wanted to make them smile and be proud of her, and come home early from their dental practice instead of leaving her with the nanny again.
While Hermione wished her parents were around more, she really did love her nanny, Julia. She had cute glasses with purple rims, dark skin, lovely fluffy curly black hair even frizzier than Hermione's curly brown locks, and – most exciting of all – she was studying maths at university, which sounded much less icky than being a dentist. After school, Julia would walk Hermione home and make her snacks. She practiced times tables with her and gave her tricky maths puzzles to solve – like how to get a bunch of animals that would fight with each other across a river in a boat with limited capacity, and how to cut a cake into eight equal pieces with only three straight cuts. She clapped when Hermione's violin practice went well, and sang to her when she was sick. And then one day, she solemnly announced that she was leaving.
"Did I do something wrong?" Hermione asked anxiously. "I could practice violin more. I'll wipe the counters after snack time! Don't go, Julia! I'm sorry!"
Julia crouched down in front of her and held her hands tightly, "Oh no, sweetheart! It's got nothing to do with you. I love being your nanny, but I've got a scholarship offer for post-graduate study in another town, so I have to move."
"But I don't want you to go," said Hermione, her lip quivering.
Julia gave her lots of hugs, and promised to write, but she only ever sent three postcards.
Hermione hated the new nanny. Emily didn't clap for her when she played the violin like Julia used to and she never played maths games with her. She also made her eat carrots for afternoon tea as per her parents' instructions, instead of sneaking in a packet of chocolate biscuits to share like Julia used to.
One morning when she was whining to her parents for the fifth time over breakfast about how she wanted a new nanny, not Emily, and how she needed someone more fun like Julia, her father lost patience and snapped at her in exasperation. "Well, Julia's gone and she's not coming back, so you may as well get used to it! You should try being nice to Emily instead of being a whingy little brat all the time, and maybe then she'd-"
But Mr Granger didn't finish his sentence, because at that moment, filled with hurt feelings, rage, and the grief of loss all swirling together, something burst out of Hermione like a wave of warmth, and the cup of tea her father was holding suddenly shattered, spilling hot milky tea all over the breakfast table.
When Hermione sobbed her apologies, her father talked about hairline fractures and heat, and his irritation of a few minutes ago was quite forgotten in the muddle of trying to soothe his daughter's hysteria. She let herself be comforted by her parents' hugs and reassuring words that it wasn't her fault, but she thought she knew the truth – she'd made it happen somehow.
And it wasn't the last time it happened. When Edward at school tossed a bug on her to make her shriek and drop her book, it flew off her arm up into the air, and sailed right over the swing set.
"Dumb bug," Edward sulked. "It flew away. But at least I got a good scare out of you!"
But it didn't fly with wings… it didn't have wings. "It wasn't a 'bug', it was actually a woodlouse, a land-dwelling crustacean," she corrected crossly. "And you were rude to throw it at me."
"Whatever, weirdo," he said, and smirked as he walked off. "It's still a bug, and you're a big scaredy cat."
She didn't care what he thought. Or at least that's what she told herself. And it was kind of true – she cared more about the fact that she'd made the woodlouse fly straight up into the air. And not because she'd moved her arm – that had moved sideways. She didn't really understand physics very well, but she knew enough to understand that the woodlouse shouldn't have gone straight up. It was like… magic. Did she have magic powers? It sounded crazy, but it might be true.
That evening, she asked her Mummy what she thought. "Do you think I might have magic powers, Mummy?"
"Magic isn't real," her mother said distractedly, as she sorted through some paperwork. "Are you playing a game, darling? You should decide what kind of powers are the best powers to have, and think about how to practice using them. You don't accomplish anything without hard work. Determination, that's the key."
Hermione nodded – it was a refrain she'd heard often, even at the tender age of eight. "And research, right Mummy? If you don't understand something, look it up. Can we go to the library?"
"That's right, darling," her Mummy said with a quick smile, jotting down some numbers on a long and complicated looking form, "practice and research can take you anywhere. You can ask Emily to take you to the library tomorrow afternoon if you want to look things up, okay? It's almost dinner time, and I have a lot of work to do here – it's almost tax time."
"Should I tell her about my magic powers? I don't want her to know," sighed Hermione.
"That's alright, you can keep them a secret. It can be your special game," reassured her mother, who was pleased that her daughter had a game she wanted to play for a change, instead of reading non-stop. "You could invite some kids at school to join in if you wanted."
"I don't think any of them have magic powers," Hermione said, glancing to the side.
Her mother sighed in frustrated disappointment. "Well, maybe you can think of an imaginary friend to play with for now." It was a suggestion that would shape the course of her daughter's life forever.
"They wouldn't be real," her logical daughter objected.
"Magic can do anything, remember," Mrs Granger said with a smile, and with more truth than she realised.
Emily didn't mind taking Hermione to the library, but she wasn't very interested in following her around while she browsed the shelves for an hour, so she sat down on a comfy grey and blue sofa chair with a trashy magazine to read about the latest scandals of the royal family and assorted celebrities.
Hermione asked the librarian for help. She knew how to use the card catalogue all by herself, but asking Miss Lauren was always faster. She was a kind old lady with more grey hair than her mother who always wore a lovely perfume that smelt like roses. She didn't like being called old though, so Hermione had only ever done it the once. Miss Lauren had said she'd forgive anything from someone who loved to read as much as she did.
"And what are you researching today, Hermione?" she asked with a big smile that made creases appear at the corners of her soft blue eyes. "Insects or stars again? Something new like dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period? Or are you after fiction today?"
"Magic. I want to learn all about magic," she replied determinedly.
"I have a new fantasy series that's just come in all in about dragons," Miss Lauren suggested. "It's recommended for ten years and up, but I'm sure it would suit you just fine."
"No, not that kind of magic," Hermione said with a shake of her head. "I mean real magic. Not fiction."
"Oh! Well, that sounds fun. You want to teach yourself how to do magic?"
"Yes!" she said eagerly.
"Well, have a browse in non-fiction, 793.8, if my memory doesn't fail me, and it rarely does."
Hermione looked, but it wasn't what she was after. It was just… tricks. Sleight of hand with cards, and how to hide things in a hollow hat. She returned to Miss Lauren.
"How did you go?" the librarian asked with another smile as Hermione returned to the counter empty-handed. "No books that suited you? They might be out on loan, there aren't many in that section, I'm afraid."
"No, Miss Lauren, it wasn't the right kind of magic. I don't want to learn stage magic or card tricks. I want to learn about real magic. Like… people who believe you can actually make things fly in the air, or set things on fire without matches."
"Like parapsychology, or witchcraft?"
"Maybe not the first one," Hermione said dubiously. Psychology didn't sound like the right section. She didn't think it was all in her head. It wasn't a delusion, it was real. "But not fairytale witches! Only if it's people who are genuine witches with real powers. Are there some books like that in our library?"
"A whole little section of them! I understand what you're after now, and I think what you actually want is 133.4 – Demonology and Witchcraft."
"Some people believe in them, just like they believe magic spells and witches with special powers are real."
Hermione got a lot of books out that day. Books on witchcraft, sorcery, and witch hunts. Dictionaries full of demons and devils, and spellbooks with real magic spells.
"Are you certain you're happy for her to borrow all these?" Miss Lauren asked Emily, eyeing her charge's pile a little warily.
"Oh, sure," she said, only glancing briefly at the topmost book on the teetering pile Hermione had carried to the counter. "Her parents let her read whatever she wants. It's fine."
It wasn't really, of course. But then, Emily didn't know magic was real. And so were demons.
Thank you to Pom_Rania for being my inspiration to turn a silly idea into a full fic, and thanks to my daughter who nagged me for more until it was all finished. :)