It was Hermione's favorite month, the autumn air like a fresh breath of the earth, the leaves dancing along the sidewalks. It was also her favorite part of the day. She would unlock her bookstore, inhale the scent of books and coffee. She flicked on the lights, and filled a mug with coffee and sat in her office. She placed her purse underneath her desk.
Within fifteen minutes her employees would come in and set up for the day. She went through the books while the distant talking outside became a lovely background noise.
When the books were done, she brought out the Daily Prophet from her purse, smoothing it over her newly cleared desk. It was an every day routine that she had from the day she bought the bookstore.
It was the first of its kind. It not only contained muggle books but wizarding books, as well. If she was not being humble, it was actually quite ingenious of her. All of the magical books were placed under a massive spell that caused every muggles gaze to pass over them. It was unfortunate that the shop didn't serve many wizard or witches, but it was a start for bringing the two world's together.
Hermione knew she was unlikely to see the day the Statue of Secrecy brought down. When she was a lawyer, she was unable to touch it. She took pride in what she was able to accomplish, creating a better world (one more equal for all creatures), but when that was done she stepped down. There was nothing else there for her and she decided that she wanted her quiet life, with her books, with her mornings of solitude.
Solitude. That was a good word for what her life had become. It was not as though it wasn't chosen, but she felt lonely. Incredibly lonely. She was surrounded with friends and her work, but there was something more that she was missing.
Three nights ago, she had stared up at the night sky, trying her best for sleep that had alluded her. It was a prayer for a love. She slept that night and dreamt of a man, his green eyes piercing and his gait long.
She had forgotten the prayer and went on with her peaceful mornings. Unfortunately, on that particular morning, it did not last long. Without knocking, a raven-haired man walked into her office, a thick package under his arm.
"Harry," she sighed happily. "Aren't you supposed to be at work?"
"I am. I'm on assignment." He shut the door behind him, securely locking it. That grabbed her attention, causing her to sit upright.
"This must be serious."
He set the brown wrapped package in front of her. "It is. I need you to look at this." He tapped it with his wand, and the wrappings fell away, revealing a velvet black box. He lifted the lid and inside was a smooth river stone.
Hermione leaned in closer to the unassuming object. It would have been unremarkable, if it weren't for the gold symbols circling its edges, glittering magnificently. She held her breath for three heart beats, before staring up at her old friend in wonderment.
"Wherever did you find this?"
"It was found in Norway by some British muggles there on holiday."
"Are the muggles okay? Did it have an effect on them?"
"No effect. They are postman friends of Mr. Weasley. He saw it and bought it off them. He didn't know what it was and didn't want it in the wrong hands. He was going to bring it to you, but I was there last night and I said I could give it to you."
She placed her hand on top of his. "Harry, I no longer work at the Ministry. Maybe this is best placed in the hands of someone with more experience with this."
"There is a backlog of unidentified magical objects at the Ministry, and Mr. Weasley wants to know."
"Fine," she agreed, "I'll do this for Mr. Weasley."
Despite the muggles handling it without obvious injury, Hermione was reluctant. She reached inside the lowest drawer of her desk, withdrawing a pair of white magical gloves. She kept them especially for wizarding books that were determined to misbehave.
As soon as they were on, she lifted the stone out of its case, the runes shimmering. They were very old - ancient, even. She turned it over in her hands, allowing the light the play off the gold. "Beautiful," she breathed.
"Can you read it," Harry asked.
"No... It's... Odd..." Could there be a written system older than runes? Was there a part of history that faded with time?
She flipped the stone over and there were more runes in the same glittering circle. They, too, were foreign to her. She set the rock back down, ripping off her gloves, and setting back into her chair, teeth worrying her bottom lip. "It could be anything, Harry. A prophecy, a spell..."
"Spell? It's not in Latin."
She smiled gently. "Not all spells were written in Latin, Harry. Spells can be written in any language. I would love to keep this here with me."
"Are you sure you should be so close to it?"
He was remembering when they were hunting with Horcruxes. They had a terrible effect on her, Harry and Ron. He had a very good point, but there was something about those runes... She couldn't keep her eyes off of them. They were always her first love in school, it was a fascinating subject, but more than that, the energy that radiated off of them was nothing like a Horcrux.
"I'll be fine. If I'm not, you'll be the first one to know."
Harry gave in and nodded. "Be careful."