A/N: Um… a short to break up the evil care plans

Beta Love: HALP! I'm publishing unsupervised. Nope… The Dragon and the Rose caught me. BUSTED!

Summary: [HG/SS] Underestimated ever since she was a child, no one believed in Hermione Granger. [NC/AU/EWE]

Hearing the Loss

An (actually) Short Story by CorvusDraconis

Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people - Helen Keller

She felt their eyes upon her, and she turned to see the ginger-haired boy snickering from the seat behind her. He nudged the boy beside him. She couldn't actually hear them, but then, it wasn't like she missed it. She'd never known what it was like to hear. She'd never known what it was like to be not ridiculed. It was par for the course.

Her parents, she thought, were hoping that the "magical" world would somehow be better for her— away from the children that isolated her, laughed behind her back like she couldn't feel their laughter— their scornful stares boring right through her.

When she sat on the chair and felt the hat on top of her head— she felt a strange movement in her head. It was a tingle, a warmth, and colour.

People were staring at her. Mainly all the children. They were whispering to each other, ribbing each other with their elbows. Laughing with their faces, hands, and bodies. Magic didn't make such things vanish. No, people were people. Most people tended to shun what they didn't understand—

When many minutes passed, and all eyes bored into her as they thought angrily of the dinner the were missing because of her, a hand lay on her shoulder. The wizened woman, whom she thought had the name Minerva like the goddess, looked at her with a familiar stab of pity. She gestured for her to take a seat next to a man who looked like he'd been sleeping in a box under a bridge.

His hair was raggedy and clothes were the working man's sort— used to working outside, rugged, and not about style. The man had a giant red-eyed cat nestled in his arms, and she eyed the cat curiously. The beast put a paw on her, sniffing, whiskers twitching. The man stared at her, saying something.

Hermione shook her head, pointing to her ears.

He mouthed slower. Maybe he was speaking out loud, but she couldn't tell.


Argus was his name.

He pointed to the cat, but either the cat had some long name or he was mumbling with his lips. Miss? Nowiss? She frowned, signing to him in finger=spellings.

Argus shook his head sadly.

Hermione slumped. She looked up, putting out her hand. She took one finger and traced a letter on her palm then took his hand and folded his fingers to expose his index finger and drew it across her hand.

Argus seemed to get the idea. M-R-S N-O-R-R-I-S.

Oh! Mrs Norris.

Hi Mrs Norris, she signed with a smile. Hello, Mr Argus.

Argus seemed to get the idea, but Mrs Norris decided to explore Hermione's lap, making sure to rub her furry self all over her robes. Hermione frowned. She'd never been allowed to have a pet at home. Her mother had white furniture. White furniture and cat fur did not equate as far as her mother was concerned.

As the other children went and had the hat Sort them to their Houses, the elderly man with a beard that seemed long enough to get lost in waved his hands around, his lips moving.

Welcome. Eat. Enjoy… something. She frowned. She felt her stomach growl. She put her hand on her stomach and looked wistfully at the food the other students were eating.

The elder man, whom she presumed was the Headmaster— Dumbledore, if she remembered correctly— was leaning in to listen to something the witch— Minerva was it?—was telling him. He nodded, his lips pursed slightly, and then he looked up her. His eyes had this strange twinkle to them. He gestured to her in a beckon. Hermione had to evict Mrs Norris from her lap, and the cat gave her feline pout, trying to snag her tie with her claws.

She walked over to the Headmaster. Hello, Headmaster, she signed, spelling out Dumbledore with her fingers. She wished he had a sign-name. Dumbledore was going to be a chore to keep signing over and over.

Dumbledore gave her a look and then gestured to the empty chair that had— well, magically— appeared by the Minerva's chair.

At the High Table?

Hermione swallowed hard, panic on her face.

The Headmaster smiled at her, gesturing again, and Hermione nervously sat down in the chair, feeling the glare of many, many eyes upon her.

A man dressed like a priest— so much black— looked down his nose at her, his black eyes like the onyx statues her father had on his desk. Her eyes widened as she stared up at him.

Hello, Professor, she signed shyly. I'm sorry, I don't know your name. I'm Hermione. She spelled her name out carefully, then used her sign-name was which an H next to her head spun like she was tracing her curls.

The stoic man stared at her, and had she not been used to staring at people just to see the slightest tell, she would have missed the twitch of curiosity as his eyebrow lifted at her.

Suddenly, she saw it!

His hand, concealed by the hand in front to all others, very quickly spelled for her. S-E-V-E-R-U-S S-N-A-P-E. He made an S with his fingers and drew it down the side of his head in gestured that traced his long, straight hair that framed his face. It looked like he was scratching his head, but she knew better.

She smiled at him, but his expression did not change. She looked out and saw eyes— always eyes— glaring at her.

Hello Professor Snape, she signed, making it look like she was crossing herself for the meal and saying grace.

She looked at him slightly as she drank her pumpkin juice. His face was inscrutable, but— she thought he saw the slightest tug of his lips into something less dour.

She decided to focus on her food, trying not to wonder what was going to become of her. Four sections of tables, one for each house, just like she'd read in Hogwarts: A History— but all the students had their house colours on their robes.

Everyone but her.

She'd almost walked right into a troll.

A real troll.

She was so embarrassed and scared— the looks she had been given when she'd made that feather float up into the air using her wand and fingerspelling the words.

How else was she supposed to say anything?

She should have felt the vibrations of the troll's feet. She should have SMELLED it coming. But no. Her stupid emotions had her sniffling and looking for a place to hide. That mean, obnoxious carrot-head— his stupid glare. His stupid face. His stupid sniggering and whispering to the mop-head boy like she couldn't understand his insults.




Warm hands had covered her mouth as a seeming force of nature yanked her back into an alcove as the troll had sauntered past, dragging his club with him. The moment it walked by, she froze, slumping as her body realised that someone had just saved her from a very painful fate.

As she looked up, she saw her saviour.


His pale face was covered with his long, black hair, framing it as if he habitually tried to hide it. He was slumped against the wall, even as his arms loosened around her. Her heart was pounding, and she could feel his as well. She felt the rise and fall of his chest as he caught his breath, even as his dark eyes locked with hers. There was so much emotion there in his eyes. Those dark, onyx pools that he practically hid behind a physical curtain of hair—

Thank you, she signed, pressing her fingers to her lips and moving her hand outward.

You're welcome, he said, using his open hands to bend slightly in the welcoming sign. He frowned at her. Why were you here?

Hermione flushed. I was crying.

He frowned even harder. Why?

Hermione hung her head. I thought— magic world would be better. She gestured jerkily, her face twisted in pain. Accepting. Magical. Same as out there. She gestured angrily. Mean. spiteful. Whispers always whispers. Think I don't see. Think I'm stupid.

They're idiots, he replied. Dunderheads, he spelled with a flash of fingers. She stared at him, how smooth the movement was. Practiced.

How? she signed. No one else signs. Just look at me. Think I'm stupid. Pity me.

He shook his head, his lips curved into a snarl. Never think stupid, he signed angrily. You signed spells. Heard from Flitwick. Brilliant.

Hermione perked. The first praise she had gotten on her own terms. Flitwick had been happy, and his expression had told her that. But, he hadn't said it to her in signs. She had to read his expressions and his speedy, twitching lips. It was hard— it was like trying to read a child's lips before they really could speak.

Her nose wrinkled and she smelled blood. You're hurt. She eyed the blood on his leg.

Snape winced. Is nothing, he replied.

Looks painful. She eyed, lifting her head in defiance of his rationale.

He gave her a shake of his head. He gestured with his chin down the corridor. Dangerous there. Do not go there.

Why? She asked.

His face hardened. Then we will have matching scars.

Hermione's eyes widened. Okay, she gestured. Curiosity built up inside her, but he saw the look her gave her. Concern but not pity. He never pitied. Trust you.

His eyes flashed with something— there it was again. Emotion moving just under his umbral gaze. Good, he signed. You should go back to your room with Minerva.

Her hand clutched his tightly as she shook her head back and forth adamantly.

He sighed, blowing his hair out from his face. I'll take you.

Hermione nodded in agreement, but her hand didn't leave his for the entire walk back.

When Minerva came back to their shared quarters, she rushed up to give Hermione a hug. "Are you okay?" the witch said.

Hermione eyed the witch's lips. She nodded.

Minerva sighed with relief.

Professor Snape walked me here, she signed. When Minerva couldn't follow her signs, Hermione got frustrated, automatically trying to spell it out in finger spelling, but that just made the witch's confusion greater.

Hermione slumped and started to pantomime. Tall. Thin. She drew her finger down her hair in a straight line with hair covering the face. She pointed to the white of Minerva's tea table and then pinched her cheek, running her hand down the side. She pinched her robes, pointing at the color and gesture in a waving motion, like the flutter of fabric. She stared at Minerva meaningfully.

"Oh!" the elder witch said, seemingly understanding. "Severus."

Hermione watched the woman's lips and nodded. She gestured, using the sign Snape had taught her: his name. Severus, she signed, spelling it out and adding professor to it.

Comprehension seemed to dawn on Minerva and she repeated it.

Finally, Hermione thought. It was a start.

Fortunately, reading was her favourite past-time, and Minerva gave her an all you read pass to the library, including the restricted section, where books on silent and wandless magic lay nestled like golden eggs waiting for Hermione's eager mind to latch onto.

She read everything like it was the last thing she had to do on earth— multiple times. Madam Pince seemed to like her. She was quiet. She touched her books with respect. She seemed to like that, and Hermione had no problems being respectful to books. They were her best friends, after all. Madam Pince even let her take some of the books with her outside the library, and she would sit in her bedroom, reading even more.

She started to experiment, using abbreviated signs for words as she pointed her wand.

One blown up tea service, a broken chair, and rug that animated itself and followed her around later, Minerva gave her a special room in which to practice her signing magic— one free of any breakables. The rug was fun though. She could sit on it and it would float in the air and zoom her around wherever she wanted. Silent, like her. Fast, unlike her. So much faster than her feet.

She'd accidentally run into the Headmaster while flying around on her flying rug. His eyes had widened and he smiled at her.

He pointed at the rug.

Hermione signed, "Oops. Sorry."

Dumbledore seemed to understand and shook his head. "Brilliant," he said admiringly. "Be careful not to fall and have fun."

Hermione blinked. Did he just give his blessing to ride around on a flying rug?

He held out a tin with lemon sherbets in it, her dad's favourite anti-dentist sweet. Guilty pleasure, it was. She took one, signing her thanks.

He signed back, Welcome. He gave her flying rug an affectionate pat like it was a cat and then wandered off, unhurried.

Hermione's eyes lit up with happiness. Things were starting to get better.

Slowly, her teachers all learned how to sign. It was such a profound relief that she didn't care that sometimes they told her odd things that made no sense or that Professor Sprout had accidentally told her to go sit on the roof.

She'd been on that roof for hours before Snape had found her, giving her that look that told her she'd taken something with too much faith. Again. He must have read the witch the riot act, because the next time she saw Professor Sprout she gave her copies of instructions on paper. She didn't mind. She collected paper, after all. Lots of papers made books, and books were the best.

Professor Flitwick created a magical slate and then taught her how to transfer words to it using magic. She could sign, and her words would show up on the slate— if she remembered to use it. He tweaked it a little each time he saw her until she realised she could focus it and read what people were saying around as well. The battle against mumbling lazy lips was finally over. Her teachers seemed relieved that they only had to explain things once, and Hermione wasn't complaining. She could sit in class now like an almost-normal student.

They seemed a little confused as what to do when she got things right. She didn't belong to a house. Who could they give points to? Hermione didn't really care about points, though. Smiles were enough. They would hold up their hands and shake them back in forth. Congratulations. Hirray.

It was all she needed. It was all she had ever wanted was to feel like she could do things other people could.

It was almost spring when she started to suspect that walking on the ground was dangerous. It seemed like every time she tried to walk somewhere like a normal person, trouble found her.

This time, it was in the form of a screaming carrot and mop head, who bowled her over as they ran screaming down the moving staircases, into her, and then down the hallway. She couldn't hear them, and she was glad of it. Their faces, however, were frozen in an expression a lot like the screaming man a painting she'd seen at the art museum.

What the—

As she looked back the direction they came, she saw a blond wizard dangling from the moving staircases, his fear so clearly etched into his face. But, it wasn't the staircase that was truly bothering him. No—

A huge three-headed dog was snarling from the upper corridor, a long length of chain dangling from his collar. The dog was foaming at the mouth in a very literal sense, the only thing keeping him from getting to the student being the chain being caught on a torch sconce.

She summoned her rug and and sent it flying upward. She floated there, holding her hand out to him. The blond wizard's eyes locked on hers, and he took her hand, allowing her to pull him to the rug. He held onto her waist tightly, having never flown on a flying rug before. What was there to hold onto, his face seemed to ask.

She flew him down to the lower levels, setting the rug down on the ground so it was easier to get off. His touch lingered on the magic rug, his expression of wonder plastered on his face.


She felt it. A deep thrum of something—

Oh no, the dog was free, and it was coming towards them from above, having found a focus for its ire. The boy was frozen in terror, legs turned to jelly in his overwhelming fear. She tried to push him on the rug, but he wouldn't move. She tried to slam into him, but he only stood them, dumbly, waiting for the jaws to reach him.

She wondered if there was something he heard that she could not. Was the dog magical? Was it like a siren?

A little girl came out of the hallway just as the dog was coming down, and she wet herself in fear, trying to run.

The dog's heads snapped up, having found a new target.

Lips pulled back from its teeth in a snarl.

Hermione, desperate, pulled out her wand and send a spell out, her fingers working frantically as she channeled her need into her gestures. Magic blew out of her wand in a powerful blast, and it surrounded the girl in a bubble and pulled her down to Hermione in a fast SNAP of magical power.

But now she had a bigger problem.

Now she had two petrified people with her that couldn't use the legs that life had given them, and they had a three headed dog barrelling down the stairs in its eagerness to do unspeakable things to them.


She would not be bullied by anything else.

She would not let her fear rule her.

She would not like two innocents get torn to pieces as they stood frozen in their own fear.

She stood in the hallway, summoning objects from all around to make a barrier between dog and people. Candlesticks, armor, disgruntled portraits, bricks— everything came to her call, blocking the way to the other students.

But she had miscalculated. She had protected them, but not herself.

Claws and teeth.

She stood her ground, her body shaking with the exertion it had taken to block the corridor. She lifted her chin defiantly and looked the three-headed dog in the eyes.

Wrath was her cloak.

Rage was her power.

STOP, she signed, her body jerking with the molten fury of her refusal to lay down and die like a "normal" person. She flung the command out, and it translated to a spell.




Will made unto form.

Her hair rose from head like nest of serpents.

YOU, she focused her wrath like the magnifying glass did for sunlight. STOP. She held her hands out in the sign for stop. Power crackled between her fingers. The wave of power pushed outward and slammed into the rampaging cerberus.

Eldritch vapour shot out with her will and wrapped around the dog's multiple heads and slammed his heads down to the ground with a shaking thud that went up from her feet to her head even as its body skidded to a halt only a few feet in front of her.

The dog's expression was utterly gobsmacked, perhaps having never had someone assert their dominance against him in such a way. Such fury. Such will. Such… clarity. Its entire body went limp even as his tail beat the ground in appeasement. It looked at her— all three heads staring into her face with complete and utter devotion as a jolt of primal magic wove around them and snapped tightly between them.

Hermione's eyes glowed gold, her whisky brown eyes filling with light, and then her body went limp as she sagged to the floor.

The cerberus, confused as to why his mistress would wish to take a nap in such an odd place, pulled her between his legs and lay his head over her, panting happily, happy to finally have a person that spoke his language.

Albus Dumbledore was trying really hard not to laugh, but it wasn't quite working. He tried to look attentive at Hagrid's whinging that someone had stolen his dog, as if someone could truly steal anything as monstrous as a cerberus unless that cerberus was a willing convert— like a certain Elder Wand that switched allegiance.

Hagrid had tried to get the huge animal back into its "guarding area" but he'd gotten nothing but a face full of growling, snarling, snapping dog when he'd gotten too close to one Hermione Granger— the witch who refused to be defined by her lack of hearing.

Already she had enchanted a loyal flying rug, saved two fellow students and perhaps more she hadn't seen, and tamed a Cerberus— and all in her first year. She successfully cast spells without her voice, channeling her will into her gestures, barely even needing a wand. She learned things from books like she absorbed their inner magic and made it part of her very blood.

Which was absolutely unheard of.

Every witch and wizard needed a wand until, perhaps, they were much older and already extensively schooled in magical theory. Except, she defied that.

Dumbledore had to laugh. It was ludicrous. It was brilliant.

Now, Dumbledore had finally found the perfect place for the Granger girl to live, crafting her her own quarters above the very thing he was hiding. He connected it to Minerva's quarters, endlessly entertained by the witch's most amusing look of pure disbelief when she'd heard the news.

Now… there was only the matter to deal with the aftermath of a certain Professor Quirrell, who had been mauled by the cerberus when breaking into Miss Granger's chambers thinking it was the entrance to the Philosopher's Stone's hideaway. The dog had not appreciated him breaking in and interrupting Miss Granger's nap— something Poppy said was due to her using so much of her magic in such a short time.

Quirrell had literally taken it direct to the face— mind you, it was the back of his head. His second face. Tom's face attached to Quirrell's head in some kind of disturbingly parasitic relationship.

Moody and a virtual squadron of Aurors had descended upon the Hogwarts infirmary where they remained, collecting evidence as well as Quirrell himself, making sure he was layered with so many restraining spells, the man— if he was still in there— probably couldn't even breathe without permission being given.

The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures had come long before Hagrid had gone to whinge to the Headmaster. Familiar bond. Extremely aggressive, territorial, loyal beast. They had, of course, asked why the dog hadn't been properly bonded to an owner before it went on a rampage in a school before giving the dog a familiar license. That conversation had been interesting to navigate without revealing the exact nature of what he was trying to protect. Fortunately, Veritaserum and Quirrell had cleared Headmaster Dumbledore of harbouring a XXXXX magical animal in unsafe conditions without regard to the safety of the children in his care, due to Quirinus Quirrell's multiple attempts to drug, charm, ensorcell, and finally break the chain on the beast in the hopes to slip in after the cerberus had gone off on a rampage.

So, by no fault of her own, a deaf Muggleborn first-year student Hermione Granger, had captured Tom Riddle. Despite the hat's inability to place her in a house— something it still couldn't do, which was giving the old hat quite a complex— Hermione was carving her own path through Hogwarts whether her fellow students liked her or not.

Perhaps, he mused, she would be the founding member of Cerberus House. Sounded better than House Fluffy—

Thank Merlin, Miss Granger had considerately named the dog Édouard , which apparently meant "prosperous guardian" and "perfect companion" according to some name book in the library. Of course she'd know the perfect name off the top of her head.

Édouard seemed to approve, at least. Hagrid, of course, was still pouting and acting like someone had heedlessly run over his new puppy with a hippogriff.

The half-giant needed to find some much safer hobbies, preferably far away from Hermione Granger, charmer of wild Cerebi and random enchanter of rugs.

And so ended the first year of Hermione Granger— the witch who simply refused to lie down and let anyone define what she could or couldn't do.

Sybill Trelawney had a problem.

The deaf girl was distracting her beloved Severus from paying attention to her attempts to gain his attention. Every teacher, save for Professor Cuthbert Binns, who was a ghost, and herself were making every effort to learn how to more effectively communicate with the girl. Even her Severus.

It just wasn't fair.

Worse, the man seemed to have picked up all of those strange hand gestures that she did really fast. The chit would gesture really fast, and he would cock his head as if he was listening to her then do that strange gesticulating right back to her.

Worse, the girl was even given special consideration to live at Hogwarts all year round— and unlike Sybill, the board actually approved it as well as the girl's new "job" to train and tend to the school's very first official guard cerberus and keep him socialised. She couldn't even get close when the girl was around because when she was around, so was that enormous smelly dog from the very fires of Hades.

Even worse than that, the greatest prophecy she had ever made was being questioned now that the Dark Lord had indeed "approached" and the Potter boy had done nothing except flee down the hallways screaming for his life alongside his carrot-haired prat of a best mate.

Her position at Hogwarts, which had once been a sure thing, was being undermined by a mere slip of a girl who barely had enough age in her to— aarghhh, it was so frustrating!

The black beast from the fires of the underworld was watching her intently, unnerving Sybill no end. He growled lowly, alerting both girl and Severus.

"What is it you want, Trelawney?" he droned to her, but he was gesturing at the same time. Why? Why did he want HER to see what he was saying?

She wanted to give him a piece of her mind. Wanted to give that deaf and dumb girl an even bigger piece of her mind. How dare she presume to take up so much of Severus' valuable time?

But when she tried to say something, she ended up frantically chirping and foaming at the mouth like a rabid chipmunk.

One elegantly sharp brow arched at her, cutting her as cleanly as a scalpel.

Sybill turned bright red before turning tail and fleeing back to her tower in total embarrassment.

Hermione patted Severus on the arm to get his attention. What did she say?

Snape sniffed. Nothing remotely human. He made the sign for chipmunk and then made a quacking gesture with his hand.

Hermione's eyes went very wide. You did that?

Snape's lips curved into a wicked smile. Let's just keep that between us, shall we?

Hermione beamed, saluting him. Okay!

Meanwhile, further down the hall, Albus Dumbledore was run over by a frantically chirping and foaming Sybill Trelawney.

"Might want to see Poppy about that, Sybill," he said, getting to his feet, dusting off his pointed lavender hat. Peering after the Divination teacher, Albus shook his head and walked on, cheerfully whistling Crazy Mama by the Rolling Stones

Minerva watched as the visiting Draco Malfoy and Daphne Greengrass took turns trying to get the flying rug to do what they wanted while Édouard watched over them. The green was empty, save for them, thanks to school being closed for the summer holiday, but those two had hardly left Hermione's side since the day she'd saved their lives.

The Cerberus was strangely mellow, almost as if he had no worries. Her father had once said that dogs who didn't have an alpha worked extra hard to be one, and it made them mean and hard to handle. Perhaps there was something to it, as Édouard seemed to have no problem sprawling on the green and letting the three children scale over him, rub his belly, scratch his ears, and teach him tricks using very, very large dog biscuits that the castle elves had made just for him.

Even more shocking had been when Lucius Abraxas Malfoy had knelt to the little witch and swore the kind of Oath that she hadn't heard in ages— basically adopting Hermione in all but blood to his family for having saved his beloved son. Then, Lord Greengrass had come and done exactly the same, prostrating himself before the little witch.

The poor girl's eyes had grown so wide as she didn't believe what she was lip-reading. She checked her enchanting slate a few times to be sure. She looked frantically at Minerva for guidance, and Minerva had gently guided her charge in what to do and what to say.

And so, Hermione Granger had, in essence, become Hermione Granger Greengrass Malfoy— her magic forever joined with that of two wealthy and influential pureblood families of the highest order. Not that she really understood the significance of such a thing at her age. Muggleborns couldn't have known what it meant to have two pureblood families bind her to their family magic and swear Oaths to her.

Hell, most magical families probably didn't even realise just what that meant for the little witch. Hurt her. Insult her… and it was a direct attack on two powerful Wizarding families as a debt of honour. That was something in which a family was perfectly justified in whipping out wands out any time to lay the offender low with no repercussions whatsoever. If said offender was foolish enough to threaten her life, they could respond in kind on her behalf, and no one worth their salt would ever even dream attempting to duel Lord Malfoy or Lord Greengrass to the death.

Unless, of course, they were completely mental.

Now, the three stalwart friends visited often, and they even included Argus Filch in on their games when Hermione "yelled" at them to treat him nice. He'd been the first person to attempt to speak to her for longer than a moment and she truly valued him.

And just like that, the winds changed. Argus was accepted because she had accepted him, and because she accepted him, Draco and Daphne accepted him. And well— since Draco and Daphne accepted him— all of Slytherin had to accept him too. It was such a strange and beautiful dynamic when it worked out in such a positive way.

And since Hermione was important to the Malfoys, Lucius happily paid to bring in a teacher specifically to instruct whoever wished to learn sign language. And since it was important to Lord Malfoy, of course every Slytherin child wanted in when term restarted. And every Ravenclaw. Gryffindor cubs, however, seemed more violently opposed to more classes, and Hufflepuffs didn't seem to have much of a drive to learn either.


Minerva had to chuckle at it. There was peer pressure and there was pureblood social pressure, and for once the later of those was working in the school's favour to help this unheard of minority no one had even realised existed until Hermione Granger had arrived at Hogwarts.

There was a high-pitched scream down from below, and she snapped to attention only to see Daphne had been flung into the lake by the giant squid. Édouard was paddling around in the water, chasing a large ball. Draco was laughing so hard, he clutched his sides and bent over.

"I hate you, Draco Malfoy!" Daphne yelled, signing at him at the same time. But the sign came out slightly different due to her emotions and attempting to crawl out of the lake at the same time.

Hermione gestured back at her. You desire Draco?

Daphne, like any young witch who still believed all boys had Wizarding cooties, gestured back adamantly. No! NO!

Hermione looked at her with no little disbelief. Well if you say so.

Daphne favoured her with a mild glare, but Hermione's shoulders shook with silent laughter as she she signed, Sorry. Kidding. Forgive?

Daphne wrung out her sopping robes. I forgive, she signed. If you dump Draco in lake.

"What?!" Draco yelped, just before a certain mischievous animated rug wrapped itself around him, flew up over Black Lake and dumped him in with a resounding sploosh.

Daphne laughed uproariously as she wrapped her arm around Hermione's shoulder. Let's get lunch. Severus making— she gestured her arms wide and expansive, "Scotch egg pasties and there's even clotted cream ice cream and strawberries for afters!"

Hermione watched Daphne's lips carefully, trying to decipher her excitable mixture of sign and spoken word. Then, having figured it out, she beamed and they mounted the rug, hovering over the lake to pick Draco up before zooming off to find the Potions Master. Édouard barked in triplicate, running after them, not wishing to be left behind.

The Scottish witch smiled as she watched them scamper back into the school to find Severus, having stopped along the way to pick up Argus and take him with— by using the hyper Édouard to pick him up and carry him at breakneck speed though the halls.

She couldn't help but think that it was exactly what Severus needed to mend a broken heart that had never healed.

Hermione's second year had been torn between her old love of books and a newfound fascination with thinking outside of the box. Her friendship with Draco and Daphne had opened the doors of Slytherin to her, but it had also seemed to slam the doors of Gryffindor tower with a distinct earth-shaking slam and the click of a gargantuan lock that she could practically feel snapping into place.

Transfiguration class went by very quickly, and she started to refine her use of abbreviated signage to do what the rest of the class did. It took a little time, making her appear a bit slow, but she had to decipher the Latin first, concentrate really hard on what it was meant to do, and then slide her fingers through the air in an abbreviated sigil.

She'd accidentally turned Draco into a ferret, and the mischievous young wizard had promptly used the opportunity to scamper around the Gryffindor side of the room and freak out all the girls into thinking the Gryffindor boys were getting fresh with them. He then sat on the top of Hermione's table and waited "innocently" for the Scottish witch to reverse the "oops."

On another day, she accidentally turned the desks into miniature elephants, much to her mortification as most of the class botched their spells to turn their familiars into goblets and instead turned them into goblins.

The goblins were not amused.

Yet, it wasn't all failure. Hermione refined her signs, evolving it into something uniquely her own, harnessing intent into a powerful force made into form.

Charms had her accidentally causing the carrothead boy to dance wildly around the room like a possessed marionette. He stared at her hatefully even more so than before, calling her a bloody Slytherin chit. Professor Flitwick then docked points for his profanity and general disrespect, giving him detention with Professor Snape, which went about as well as Fiendfyre in a library. His subsequent cast of the severing charm at Hermione's head chopped off half of her hair, making her bald on top of her head, and she gave a silent screech as her hands clutched her head and she went tearing out the door in tears.

"You're a horrible git, Weasley!" one of the Slytherin girls yelled after Hermione fled the classroom.

"Better that than a stupid Slytherin," Ron hissed as a furious Flitwick used his magic to yank him by his ear and drag him off to the Headmaster's office.

Professor Vector, as Hermione soon found out, was an excellent distraction from the glares of Gryffindor. It seemed no one willing went to Vector outside of class. Hermione, however, found Arithmancy absolutely fascinating, and it seemed Professor Vector found great pleasure in a student that actually wanted to be there. So, despite her not being third year, Septima began to teach her Arithmancy. Hermione dove into it like a duck to water, absorbing the maths and the nuances of numbers and predictability of future events to the point where the elder witch started to hint at wanting to Apprentice Hermione starting with her third year.

The deal was sealed when Hermione had found one of the O.W.L. tests and took it, thinking Vector had left it for her to practice on. It had come back with an O.

So, Hermione Granger Greengrass Malfoy became Apprentice Granger Greengrass Malfoy.

Lucius Malfoy had shown his approval by buying new brooms for the entire Slytherin Quidditch team, while Lord Greengrass had challenged Ronald Weasley to a debt of honour for insulting his "daughter" and "casting fatal magic at her" offering him a choice between a duel to the death as tradition demanded or the less traditional duel until submission.

It took all of thirty seconds after news of that proclamation hit the papers for a madly screeching Howler to show up and try to take off Ronald's face in front of the entire Great Hall, demanding that Ron speak the traditional words in response to Lord Greengrass so her that her errant youngest son would not be "murdered in front of Merlin and everyone."

The entire school was subsequently "treated" to the unwelcome sight of Ronald Bilius Weasley being forced to prostrate himself in abject apology before Hermione's shoes every single day until Lord Greengrass was satisfied.

As Hermione attempted in vain to bury herself under the High Table, mortified that someone had so quickly stepped up to defend her honour, Professor Snape signed to her, Congratulations. Then he added, I will get you a new pair of dragonhide boots. There is no telling where Mr Weasley has been.

The custom-made pair of form-fitting boots arrived from McAlister and Brooke, owled from Romania, the very next day. Included with the boots was a hand-quilled note thanking her for her most respectable business, requesting that she please consider them for any of her future dragonhide needs, and in return, they would gladly come to take orders from her— in person.

What on earth had Professor Snape said to them, she wondered, to warrant such a respectful plea for her continued patronage?

Second year ended with Mophead falling down a secret passage in the girls' lavatory to the legendary Chamber of Secrets, when Professor Lockhart had apparently forced him and Ronald to go and "make him famous." Unfortunately for Lockhart, all he managed to do was successfully paralyze himself from the waist down when both Mophead and Carrot-boy had shot through the long passage only to land on the older wizard's back, severing his lumbar spinal cord.

And so the fabled Chamber of Secrets was found and promptly attracted Unspeakables from the depths of the Department of Mysteries to lock it down and ensure the students were safe.

Lockhart, however, had to be transferred to a Muggle hospital due to his non-magical malady and was promptly admitted to a mental hospital to treat his "paranoid delusions involving a living mop, screaming carrots, giant snakes trying to eat him and Cornish blue pixies flying off with his wand and hair care products."

Third Year came with the bitter cold of hovering Dementors and a hundred horrible headlines about a criminal escaping a magical prison that was supposedly escape-proof.

Hermione spent most of her time at Septima's side, learning everything under her auspice. The elder witch took her role as master very seriously, teaching her everything she would have normally learned in the normal classes save for Potions, which she was not as familiar with. That, she still sat with Professor Snape, not that she minded that at all. She also sat in on Professor Lupin's Defence Against Dark Arts class, as Septima believed she should get as much cross-education in that area as possible.

"There are many kinds of people, Hermione," Septima had explained. "With Dark Arts, the more you know the better. I will teach you what I can, but you should never shy away from other lessons."

Hermione had agreed, eagerly gobbling up as much as she could about grindylows and Dementors.

The Boggart lesson had irritated her, however, as the entire class got great enjoyment when Neville turned his "Snape" boggart into a double of their Potions professor sporting an old witch's robes, swinging a huge red bag and with a perfectly hideous buzzard hat perched on his head. When the Boggart had come after her, Édouard had burst through the classroom doors barking furiously and torn into the Boggart, ripping the foul creature to pieces before it screamed off into cabinet. The irritated Cerberus licked his mistress before unceremoniously lifting his rear leg and peeing on the cabinet.

"Well, that's definitely one method I hadn't thought to teach you," Lupin said rather sheepishly. "Of course most magical creatures can affect another magical creature— but just in case you don't have a Cerberus in your pocket, I'd highly recommend you sticking with Riddikulus."

The rest of the time, she sat in all of Septima's classes, both learning the Arithmancy and her teaching style.

Édouard, stuck pretty close to Hermione after that, not wanting his beloved Mistress to be taken off guard without him there to protect her again, and that gave quite a few people pause. The cerberus eyed the DADA professor suspiciously every time he went by, a low triple-growl shaking the floor.

On one afternoon, Professor Lupin passed her in the hallway, and Édouard went absolutely berserk, growling and snarling at him. He calmed when Hermione touched him, but he kept his huge body between them and his eyes unswervingly fixed on the DADA professor, not allowing the wizard to approach her. Lupin, however, seemed in quite a hurry to be somewhere else and disappeared down the hallway.

What was that about?" Hermione signed to the dog.

Édouard wagged his tail at her.

The harmony of Gryffindor was completely shattered one night by an irate Carrot-top accusing Mophead of eating his rat. Well, his owl eating his rat, that is.. Hermione, Draco, and Daphne sat in the courtyard studying as Carrot-top yelled at the top of his lungs, his face turning red as he gestured around wildly.

Hermione frowned. What's going on?, she signed.

Daphne looked, cocking her head. Gryffindor fight. Ron Weasley thinks Potter's owl ate his rat.

Why rat? Is that even allowed? she signed back.

Draco nudged her. Weasleys very poor. Everything second hand. Even that dirty rat of Weasel's.

Oh, she replied. Édouard watched the "discussion" with little interest, saving for flattening his ears to his head when it was obviously a bit too loud for comfort. Hermione was glad she couldn't hear it.

A silver tabby trotted by, taking a moment to rub up against Hermione as she sat there. She seemed to be on a mission, and she trotted off in the direction of Hagrid's hut.

The trio exchanged glances, baffled, but then they saw it. A plump dark brown shape almost-slithering across the ground instead of running. A rat. The tabby was in hot pursuit, her tail down, her ears perked forward.

Animagi have instincts, Draco told her in sign. Just like their animal.

Oh? Hermione signed back. I wonder what I could be? Most animals, she signed, aren't deaf.

Doesn't mean they can't be, Daphne gestured. Some dogs are deaf, but not all dogs are.

Hermione tilted her head and tapped her nose at Daphne. Good point.

Édouard growled lowly, facing towards the forest, his three heads obviously tracking something the children couldn't see.

Come on, Draco signed with a beckoning wave. Time to go back in. Dark soon.

The trio moved to go in, but Hermione cast one last worried look to the forest before Édouard pushed her firmly along with one of his heads.

Peter Pettigrew Found Alive

Potter Family Friend Revealed as Secret Death Eater

We all hear stories about how magicals rarely attempt Animagus studies due to how much intense effort and focus goes into it, but we rarely hear about how their instincts cross over to the human mind.

Professor Minerva McGonagall was going for an evening stroll in her tabby form, when something caught her attention: a rat. Being a feline, of course, make one's instincts far too tempting to ignore, and she proceeded to hunt, stalk, and pounce on the rodent in question. But, as her jaws clamped around the vermin's neck, it turned back into Peter Pettigrew, a wizard supposedly murdered along with multiple Muggles over decade ago by the notorious Azkaban escapee, Sirius Black.

Pettigrew, who was captured by Professor McGonagall and then treated at the schools' infirmary, was found to have the Dark Mark branded on his left forearm. When it was discovered, Pettigrew attempted to attack Madam Poppy Pomfrey, the school's head Mediwitch. Fortunately, Pettigrew didn't realise that the Unspeakables guarding the Chamber of Secrets were still being hosted at Hogwarts, and they immediately dealt with him, having heard the frantic witch's cries for help.

Pettigrew has been put under multiple magical suppression spells to prevent him from escaping in his rat Animagus form, including the infamous castration jinx that will activate the moment he attempts to pass through the cell boundaries without prior authorisation and accompaniment.

Peter Pettigrew awaits his trial before the full Wizengamot, which is slated to take place within the week.

Hermione didn't hear the screaming, but she felt the trampling of many feet coming from the direction of Hagrid's hut. Now, trampling feet she was used to, especially around Hagrid's hut. He always had a hundred and one different things mulling about his place, some of them she felt instead of saw. Yet, when she closed her eyes, she felt them them in a literal sense. She couldn't hear them, so she had no idea if she was feeling something that could whirl around and take off her head, but Édouard didn't seem to mind, and when he was calm, she was too. One of those invisible things had stolen her Italian roast beef sandwich and Draco's hamburger.

Yet— this situation did not seem like a stampede of sandwich-thieving invisible things. People didn't tend to run away from invisible things in such a one directional mass exodus.

When she saw the beams of green and red mixed with flashes of other colours, she summoned her flying rug with a silent call, and she jumped onto it. Édouard ran along beside her, his great paws thumping against the ground causing tremors that she could feel even when flying on her rug. She hovered next to the cerebus, unsure what she was looking for. She quickly sent out a chain of Arithmancy equations, the golden numbers swirling around her and the outward in a spiral like a galaxy.

Children were screaming, running toward the school, but in the thick of it— there!

Professor Snape was fighting a thing that looked like a huge hairy spider with five legs, only the legs ended in clubbed feet, crouching protectively in front of an injured Professor Sprout. Professor Flitwick was dangling from the eave of Hagrid's hut by his trousers, seemingly unconscious. The Headmaster was concentrating the most on protecting the chain of screaming students running for the safety of the castle, putting up a great, warded magical wall that the creatures kept bouncing off of in an attempt to get at them. She saw flashes of light at the front of the school, and she realised Professor McGonagall and a few other staff members were combatting the scaling creatures, who were using all five legs and dogged determination to scale the wall and attack anyone they could find.

Protect, Hermione signalled to Édouard.

The great beast snarled and tore off after one of creatures, his middle head snapping around its body as the other two ripped off the legs one by one. The dog shook the carcass violently and flung it. It smashed into the Whomping Willow, which eagerly punted the remains into the lake.

More adults came spilling out from inside Hogwarts— Unspeakables and Aurors, but they were obviously upset about something. It was kind of hard to tell what, save about the creatures themselves, but she started to think that they were trying to bring in reinforcements but couldn't for some reason.

No Apparitions into and out of Hogwarts, she suddenly recalled from Hogwarts: A History. No one was manning the floos either. The Headmaster was busy up to his pointed hat in gigantic, vicious… things.

Somewhat embarrassed by her inability to recognise what they were, she zoomed over to a trapped crowd of children on the other side of Hagrid's hut. They were huddled together, very scared, and the Forbidden Forest was not exactly a better option. Her rug wooshed over quickly, and she beckoned to them, gesturing wildly with her hands.

Please understand.

Please understand.

Surely that sign was universal. Come here. Get on. Right?

She spotted a Slytherin girl in the group, Astoria Greengrass, Daphne's little sister, and she immediately got the message, yelling at the others and pushing them forward. The other children tried to pile on the rug, but there was only so much rug. Hermione hopped off and let another student get on.

Hold on, she signalled, also pantomining holding herself tight. They did, and the rug zoomed off to Hogwarts, carrying them to somewhere safer, which she hoped was well behind the lines the teachers had made up high.

The rug disappeared, and the children behind her shivered together, looking terrified. One of the beasts pounced, coming towards them.

Fire and flames stopped the creature in its tracks as a large flaming bird slammed into it, sharp talons sinking deep as it carried the flaming thing very high before letting it drop to a very messy end.

Some of the older students were throwing spells, rocks, furniture, pumpkins, and whatever else they could at the five-legged creatures, anything to keep them away from the younger ones. Édouard was plowing through them at top speed, rending, biting, and destroying anything that wasn't distinctly "belonging" and Hermione felt the canine's mind filtering through her mind for her will, her need, and her idea of who belonged where.

A pained cry came from beside her— and she wasn't sure what it was. She FELT it rather than hearing it. The agony— the desperation.

Professor Snape had taken a heavy blow by one stray clubbed foot and was clearly injured. His shoulder looked like it was dislocated. His arm hung beside him, limp and unuseable. The rug zoomed by here again, picking up more and taking the last few students away. It was packed to the full capacity of one loyal rug, and she sent it off again, saying a silent prayer that no one got hurt falling off her dutiful rug.

She turned to see if Professor Snape was still trying to fight only to see him go down, sagging to his knees before falling sideways, agony written across every limb of his body.


Not him.

Not him!

She ran to him, even as another one of the clubbed creatures leapt, but now her entire body was singing with her magic, her will, her rage. She signed, jerking her hand in sharp movements.

Pain. Eternal.

The spell streaked out of her body and slammed into the creature, and it screamed, its mouth open in a silent, agonising scream.

Another came, and she whirled. Her hand jerked up, f ingers moving rapidly, and then she shoved her arm down like she was wielding a fire hose.

Fire. Envelop.

The thing instantly burst into flames.

There was a movement deep inside her as she tapped into the vast ocean of anger she had collected over the years.



Snickering and cruel whispers behind her back. Her eyes filled with the blackness of the vast regions of space, swallowing both eyes until they were fully black. Golden numbers flowed across the surface of her eyes like grains of shimmering sand. She saw them, these five-legged things, and she saw through them. Their bodies nothing but numbers. Their thoughts nothing to her. Nothing but dust to be banished.

They surrounded her. Circling, teeth grating as they eagerly prepared to swarm her and destroy her by sheer numbers.

Her anger swelled as she took in every one of them, dissecting them with her vision in space and numbers. Waves of them were coming, having realised that she was the weakest link in the fight— the smallest, the most foolish to be where no larger member of her species could help.

Hermione's hair seemed to be on fire, writhing around her head like a crown of flames. They leapt, and she threw herself over her teacher, doing her best to protect him with her own body.

Her body was on fire.

Her body WAS fire.

The pits of her rage burned inside, engulfing the core of her body.

Suddenly, she felt the scream around her as wings and fire landed on her—

The bird of fire, orange and red, blue, and white— combined into the colours of flames The orange bathed her in a kind of strange coolness, and she realised that orange was the coolest part of the fire. The white, the blue, the almost purple— that was the true colour of rage.

Feathers crafted in white and blue and that purple that was almost a cloud— they burst from her body into fiery wings as she fanned them out, covering her teacher in an umbrella of fire.

And they all burned the very instant that they landed upon her, consumed by her, wrath incarnate.

She screamed silently, but her magic exploded outward in a rush as a ring of blue, violet, and white. The white chased the other colors as the nova created by her power rushed over every surface and the five-legged beasts were consumed.

She looked below her, her breathing heavy. Uncertain. Her heart beat wildly inside her chest, and she folded those alien wings. Her face felt funny. Elongated. She tried to move her arms, but her wings moved instead. Instinct both alien and human warred with each other, but she saw the wizard beneath her, his breaths coming in short, pained gasps. His shoulder seemed to be back where it should be, but his robes were torn and bloody. His arm was jagged where the teeth of those beasts had ribbed into him. Some strange blackness moved under his torn skin like ink.

Cool liquid ran down her face across her strange, alien nose— no it wasn't a nose. It was a beak. Where the liquid ran, the whiteness of her body cooled, becoming more orange and red. Tears.

Tears flowed down her beak and onto her teacher's savaged arm, his face, his torn, bloody hands.

The other— the bird of flames that had helped her— dropped his tears on him as well. The skin seemed to shudder and move like a gopher under the grass. It knit together and pulled tight, smooth.

Her mind filled with the alien thoughts of bird. They brushed across the surface of her own thoughts and seemed to sink in, become one with them.

You're free.

She stared. The bird stared back.

Your rage was your anchor. When you let go, your body became the flame. Your will made form. This is how we all begin. We are born, die, and are reborn into flames. But is it time for you to return.


Let go.

Of what?

The bird seemed to chuckle. Let go of who you think you are and what others think you are, then become what you truly are.

She would recall, years later, that phoenixes made the most impossible things seem so ridiculously easy.

And so ended Hermione's third year— the year of the Quintaped— also known as the year the Mr Hagrid totally mucked up his life and almost killed people again. Hermione wasn't sure what they meant by again, but the headmaster seemed to think Hagrid had been given enough rope to hang himself and didn't have enough common sense to step out of the noose.

Professor Remus Lupin left behind the DADA position to accept the role of Hogwarts' new gamekeeper, grounds keeper and the Keeper of the Keys-That-No-One-Knew-Where-They-Actually-Went in one fell swoop in the wake of Hagrid's disgrace. Hermione still wasn't too sure about the man, but Carrot-top seemed to think he was the the bee's knees. Hermione really wasn't sure if that was a good thing or bad. He seemed more relaxed out on the grounds, and he did immediately renovate Mr Hagrid's hut to be more liveable to normal folk— or at least more normal.

Hagrid's involvement with the keeping of quintapeds on the school grounds until he was able to breed them— something the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures very much frowned upon— was the last straw in a series of serious mistakes that had apparently been piling up. None of the staff seemed overly surprised, even if the students were. Rumour had it, Hagrid had moved to Romania to work with dragons.

Hermione wasn't sure if that was a good idea either. If the man couldn't keep dangerous creatures like a five-legged human-eating un-spider from attacking Hogwarts en masse, what exactly was he going to do around dragons?

As for Hermione— her emotionally-charged accidental magic, or at least what they called it anyway was seen as "extreme, but entirely understandable quintapedicide" and she was registered as a phoenix Animagus within two shakes of a lamb's tail after Minerva practically hugged the stuffing out of her.

Apparently there was some discussion on if she could even be phoenix Animagus, but as Minerva said to them, as she signed the entire time for Hermione's benefit, "Well, she obviously is one, so I don't see why you're yammering on about whether it's even possible."

The Headmaster kept giving his familiar odd looks, like the phoenix had kept some major secret from him and he was now offended. Hermione wasn't sure. The bird gave the Headmaster strange looks, often turning his head upside down to peer at him. She couldn't hear him sing, but she felt the song in her heart— emotions just as clear as a cloudless summer day woven into every note.

Draco and Daphne debated on studying to be Animagi, and then decided that it was too much like work. They were still hoping Hermione could remember what she did to make a flying rug, but Hermione wasn't telling. She couldn't remember since that entire thing had been a lucky accident.

As for Professor Snape, something significant had happened, but she wasn't sure what. The Potions teacher would often be the focus of many odd looks from the Headmaster, and he would respond with that sharp scalpel of an eyebrow. People thought him a hero now, and he seemed rather exasperated by it. He'd almost died to save the students. That alone had seemed to change many opinions about him. What those old opinions were, she wasn't quite sure. She just knew that before, he had as many whispers and eyes on his back as she had.

He would still take time from his day to sit with her by the lake and "listen" to her signs as she vented about her days, what people said thinking she couldn't hear, and her frustrations with how rumour turned her into everything from hero to monster at the drop of a hat. The time they spent together was very precious, because most of her day was spent working with her Master. Septima Vector was never one to not give Hermione enough to do. Yet, she found herself looking forward to their chats, falling into the ease of talking with someone who seemed to understand not only her language but her.

She wondered, however, how he had come to know sign language so fluently. Did he have a non-hearing relative, perhaps? Were his parents deaf? Her parents had to learn along with her— but how he'd come to learn sign in the first place fascinated her. She wanted to know, if anything, how to be more grateful that he had.

Peter Pettigrew Found Guilty of 12 Counts of Murder,

Multiple Other Criminal Charges

Peter Pettigrew, long believed to be a dead man, today was sentenced to the Kiss by Dementor by the Wizengamot after having been found guilty of the murders of twelve innocent Muggles, and complicit in the murders of James and Lily Potter and the attempted murder of their infant son by leading his master to their door, but also being an unregistered Animagus, masquerading as a magical family's familiar, criminal espionage, framing once Auror Sirius Black for murder, and multiple counts of war crimes against Wizarding Britain.

Veritaserum was administered as well as multiple Legilimens in order to piece together the vast multitude of serious crimes that Mr Pettigrew had committed. Murdering Mr and Mrs Potter and framing his best mate, however, pales in comparison to Pettigrew's most recent plan: a plot to resurrect his late master, the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The wizard Sirius Black has been fully exonerated for the murders of twelve Muggles, and his late friends, James and Lily Potter. After many profuse apologies from the Ministry for the lack of due process that had led to Black's incarceration in Azkaban in the first place, he was also pardoned for his "escape" which wouldn't have happened had he not been sent there without a trial to begin with.

Sirius Black stated that he planned to pick up the pieces of his family home, clean up his stained history, and make good on a promise made to his best mate to be active in the life of Harry Potter as his godfather.

When asked if he held any grudges, Sirius Black frowned at our reporters and told us, "The reason it took me so long for me to 'escape' wasn't because it was so difficult but because a part of me believed I deserved to be in there. I've done many things I'm not proud of, and I think I finally realised that I had no one to blame for it but myself."

Fourth year came in with a roar of excitement as two other Wizarding schools flew and sailed in to complete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Tables bustled with excitement as the beautiful Beauxbatons and martial Durmstrang introduced themselves with a show of magic.

As the goblet of fire was set in the center of the Great Hall— the new DADA professor, Alastor Moody, hobbled up to the High Table after dispelling the storm on the Hogwarts' ceiling. The commotion seemed to alert Édouard, and he rose up from his spot behind the High Table, having been hidden as he snoozed while waiting for Hermione to tell him he could eat.

He rose up like Godzilla out of the ocean, all three heads startling the guests who had just arrived. Lips pulled back from his teeth as thick drool dripped from his jaws. He towered over Moody, growling lowly, his legs stiff and tail erect. Moody turned around slowly and even more slowly looked up.


Édouard had seized the man by his leather coat and shook, shook, shook him violently, growling loudly.

Édouard! Hermione signed quickly. Pin him down. Do not let him escape. She felt the dog's senses— the smells were all wrong. The man felt wrong.

Édouard did as he was told and— sat on Moody.

The High Table was a flurry with action, but Minerva lead the way, shifting into tabby form to check out Moody, having sensed that whatever the cerberus was sensing was something animal senses were better able to discern.

Most of the students were chattering in horror, wondering if the dog had gone completely mental. The Durmstrang, however, seemed to be very interested in not only the outcome but more about the fascinating cerberus controlled by a small wisp of a witch who didn't speak.

Hermione stood by Édouard, gently keeping one hand on him behind one of the middle head's ears, the traditional sign for "This familiar is under control" that had been drilled into her by Lord Malfoy's tutors.

Minerva rose up from her tabby form. "I smell Polyjuice on him," she said to Albus, automatically signing as she spoke, habitually including Hermione in the conversation.

Hermione smiled a little. Polyjuice wasn't exactly a standard word in British Sign Language. She basically smooshed two similar words together in her hurry. Many-juice.

Hermione appreciated the effort.

The High Table was a hornet's nest as the Aurors who had been "permanently guested" and hidden in the Great Hall, swarmed on the scene as well. They tried to cast spells on Moody, but Édouard was dutifully following directions and hadn't budged.

Hermione patted him. Up.

Édouard stood up, exposing the rather smooshed Alastor Moody— only it wasn't Alastor Moody at all. He wore the same clothes, but some sort of spell had worn off him. The madly twitching eye had rolled away along with a unneeded wooden leg. A younger, less wrinkly but no less scary-looking wizard, licked his lips with a wild tic. He twitched and glared at them all. RAAAAAHHH!" he roared, looking like he was going to get up. There was a wand in his hand.


The un-Moody screamed, and Hermione's eyes widened as his face twisted and flecks of spittle flew in all directions. Édouard had crushed his wand hand, wand, bones, and all.

Hermione winced. Drop that! She signed. Please, she added.

Édouard dropped the man with a thud as his crushed wand went spinning off somewhere. Un-Moody found himself being jabbed by a number of wands from each member of the faculty. Dumbledore nodded to Snape, and the Potions Master grabbed a handful of his hair, yanked his head back and poured a clear liquid into the man's throat.

Was that… Veritaserum? Hermione blinked. So much for due process. Then again… who was this person? Maybe he deserved it.

"Who are you?" Dumbledore demanded.

"B-B-Bart-Barty Crouch, Junior!" he man finally snarled.

Gasps went through the older staff.

"Where is the real Alastor Moody?" demanded one of the Aurors.

Crouch went into convulsions, foaming at the mouth. "T-T-Tch-Trunk," he said. A pair of bunny ears sprouted up out of his head.

Albus stared rather suspiciously at Severus.

"Don't look at me. I'm not responsible for any random allergic reactions that might be caused by fighting the Veritaserum." He signed it, spelling out Veritaserum with such fluidity that Hermione had to smile. She wondered idly what sarcasm sounded like. Did he have a voice to match that pitch to his eyebrow and the twitch at the corner of his mouth?

"AAAAAAKKKKKK!" Crouch yelled.

"Why are you here?" Dumbledore demanded.

"F-Fu-fuck—to put Harry Potter's name in the goblet so the Dark Lord can be resurrected."

Crouch sprouted a ridiculously fluffy bunny tail out of his rear end to match his fine set of ears.

"How were you going to accomplish this task?" the Auror said, ignoring the shocked whispers of the assembled children.

Crouch hissed, struggling as he cradled his bitten hand. "Put all the itty bitty Horcruxes together with unicorn blood, my blood, and the blood of the Potter whelp."

Harry, having heard the confession, turned pale as milk.

Hermione frowned, having read Crouch's lips, but one word was odd. Oarcrutches? Or cusses. That couldn't be it. Itty bitty SOMETHING sounded really bad when mixed with blood. Must be some kind of Dark magic.

Hermione shivered.

Seeming to realise that the children were missing out on the welcome back feast as well as getting a horrible dose of how to catch a Dark Wizard and sic a giant three headed dog on your hidden enemies, Dumbledore signalled for the Aurors to take care of Crouch and drag him away. A flick of a wand and the floor was spotlessly clean once more.

"My apologies for this unwelcome interruption, my young friends," ALbus apologised. "I can assure you that you are indeed safe here thanks to Hogwarts' faithful cerberus. Please, feel free to mingle with our new guests and enjoy your dinner. We will discuss the upcoming Goblet of Fire tournament tomorrow morning at breakfast."

Hermione's eyes grew very wide as one of the older Durmstrang marched right up to her and gently took her hand, pressing a kiss just above her knuckles.

"I am Viktor," he said, eyes meeting hers as he fluently signed to her. He made a V with his fingers and made the sweeping motion that meant broom along with the small flapping that meant fly.

Hermione's heart leapt out of her chest and threatened to give Viktor a hug and the prescribed two kisses on the cheek out of principle. He had a sign name! Hermione, she spelled with her hands. She made the sign for H, twirling it by her head to sign hair.

He looked right into her soul. I wish to get to know you, he signed.

Hermione's eyes grew wide. Okay, she signed back. Curiosity ate her alive. How do you know sign?

Viktor smiled, his face so expressive. All Bulgarian Quidditch players known sign to signal each other in air. We use British signs in non-English countries. Bulgarian in English countries. American Sign Language to confuse everyone else.

Hermione bounced. The whole team?

Viktor smiled wickedly. Want to learn Bulgarian?

Hermione grinned from ear-to-ear. Yes!

The Tri-Wizard tournament year was a whirlwind of showmanship even while classes went on as usual. Hermione found she rather liked the scruffy old Auror Moody, and he would often sit in his classroom after class to teach her, fascinated by her magic slate, her gesture magic, and her power of observation.

Constant vigilance.

See what they aren't saying.

It was odd. The wizard seemed gruff and, well, moody. Yet, she seemed to realise that he, like Professor Snape, had much more to him than his face let on. She smelled that the "whisky" in his flask was actually pumpkin juice. And the most important deciding factor in whether she wanted to trust him was that when Édouard and Professor Snape greeted each other when he came to escort the young witch back to the faculty lounge to her Master, Moody stared.

Anger was there… barely controlled, but he did manage to control himself.

He seemed to be evaluating Snape with some strange scale. He bit his lip, grit his teeth, and then re-evaluated again.

And again.

"Snape," he said curtly, his lips forming a strange line that made it hard to see what he was saying.

"Professor Moody," Snape said, signing at the same time.

Moody looked at Hermione and back to Snape.

"Cerebi do not like Dark wizards," he said.

"So I've been told," he replied, signing simultaneously.

"You're a Dark wizard."

"So I've been told," he said. The scalpel eyebrow was back.

Moody seemed to ponder something very hard. He watched as Édouard panted and nudged Snape, begging for scritches and pets. The pale wizard sighed tolerantly and did as he was asked, reaching up to scratch and pet the cerberus. He got a good slurp upside both sides of his face for his efforts, and Snape sighed.

"You're disgusting," Snape said, signing to the dog.

Édouard whined and panted, tail wagging.

Moody twitched. "I have one question for you, and if you answer the way I think you will, then we'll speak no more of it."

"As you wish," Severus answered.

"Will you show me your bare left arm?"

Hermione cocked her head as her professor undid button after button after button by hand and no magic.

It took a few minutes.

Moody was twitching.

Then, like pulling back a curtain, Severus pulled back his sleeve completely, exposing his arm.

Moody stared.

There, emblazoned on his pale skin, was a full sleeve white phoenix with its wings wrapped around his arm. The "ink" shimmered like water in a stream.

Living. Breathing. The phoenix moved on his skin as if rustled by a breeze.

Moody stood abruptly, storming over to Snape and putting his face into his. "Snape."

"Professor Moody," Severus replied.

Moody held out his hand. "Let's have a good year then."

The eyebrow raised from the other side to match the other on Snape's face. Slowly, his hand clasped Moody's.

Hermione and Édouard exchanged glances. She spread her hands and shook them. Yay!

Snape gave her a look and signed, Shouldn't you be somewhere?

Yes, she replied with a grin. But someone forgot they had to escort me.

Snape looked skyward. "Come, then," he said, sweeping from the room in a flurry of black cloth.

Alastor rubbed his ear. "Well, at least that didn't change. I don't think I could take warm smiles and angel food cake."

"I heard that, Professor Moody," Snape's voice came back at through the doorway.

What? Hermione signed to him.

Nothing, Snape replied. He just wants me to smile and serve him angel food cake.

Hermione's eyes widened. I didn't think you liked angel food cake. More like devil's food.

Severus gave her a look.

She gave him a perfectly sharp scalpel eyebrow.

Stop that, Hermione, he signed her name with a stern look. People will think I've corrupted you.

Too late, she said, smiling cheekily.

Viktor won the Tri-Wizarding tournament by leaps and bounds, and he had gaggles of girls following him. His fellows joked that he had gaggles of wizards following him in equal measure. Viktor just shrugged, showing no inclination to take them up on it. His eyes were for Hermione alone, and his free time was spent watching her sign as she read a book as if her threatening it with gestures would somehow give her a different answer.

The time for the other schools to leave and the term's end were both close. Crouch's not-so-little stash of Horcruxes had, much to everyone's surprise, spontaneously combusted when put in close proximity with each other— and so the resurrection of the Dark Lord What's-In-A-Name-Anyway fell flat on its face.

Even if it had put Mophead in the infirmary with a severe headache the approximate size of Great Britain, causing him to miss the leaving feast.

Viktor had thanked her for her companionship, promising to write, even though she knew he'd be suffering through the formalities of a betrothal that had been arranged by his parents from a very early age. Now that he was going to sit Bulgaria's version of the N.E.W.T.s, the time for responsibility lay in his lap, whether he desired it or not.

You care for her? Hermione had asked.

Known her a long time, he replied sadly.

Why are you sad?

Is not you, he signed. Last year, very special.

They spent the night before he left together, and in the end, he pressed a sweet kiss on her forehead. Will remember you. Thank you. He looked out across the lake. For seeing me as I really am.

Hermione smiled warmly at him.

Take care of yourself, Viktor, she signed.

During the summer, Hermione enjoyed spending time with both the Malfoy and Greengrass families. She, Daphne, and Draco managed not to burn the estates down with their mischief. Daphne's sister, Astoria, wanted to be included in said mischief, and mischief seemed to come regardless of what they were doing.

Lucius seemed terribly paranoid, withdrawn, and then extremely protective, and his wave of conflicting emotions was written all over his face. When Hermione gave him a hug, she could feel his slight tremble and his worry.

What's wrong, she signed.

Lucius, looking haunted, stared off into his garden full of peafowl. They had chicks following them around as light brown to darker brown fluffballs. They busily followed the hens around, pecking at bugs of all sorts. One grasshopper would send the chicks on a mad rampage of competition as they all tried to get a piece of it— if only they could catch it.

Lucius looked down and winced. Old deeds left with me with more than memories, he signed. Some were very bad choices.

Hermione stared at how his hands seemed to tremble a little, not understanding how such a strong wizard would be so afflicted. He had always been a rock for his family, and both he and Lord Greengrass were always attentive parents to both their birth children and to her.

I once broke my father's models, Hermione confessed. He was very angry.

Lucius looked down at her. He chuckled. I can only wish it was something like that.

Hermione looked up at him, and she reached out to trace his face with her fingers. His eyes had dark circles around them, and she couldn't help but think he'd been very ill lately or perhaps sleeping very little.

When I was young, perhaps your age, a woman named Bellatrix Lestrange introduced me to a man who would change many of our lives. He was young, charismatic, charming to the extreme.

Lucius sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He promised us a future where no one ever would forget the Old Ways of magic. A world where our families would not be forgotten. We were so taken by him. We flocked to him. But, after we devoted ourselves to him, he made us prove ourselves.

At first, Lucius signed, it was small things. Small things became much bigger things. He gave us a Mark to prove our loyalty. But after we did—

Lucius trembled.

Things changed. Tasks to prove ourselves became awful, terrible things. We weren't just recruiting others. We performed the most horrific acts at his behest, and because of it— we couldn't stop, lest his ire focus on that which we cared about about the most. Our families. There are still those that carry this Mark. And we are all paying the price for that.

Hermione watched Lucius's hands tremble as he signed, and couldn't help but notice that his once elegant signs had turned shaky and slow.

We all pay prices for our mistakes, Lucius signed. I had just hoped that mine was already paid.

Hermione frowned. She hated how very fragile the man seemed. He was always so strong, a pillar of his family and those around him. She touched him, her small hand curving around his fingers.

"Show her, Lucius."

Lucius' head jerked up, and Hermione startled, realising Professor Snape had materialised like a spectre. Hermione smiled at him, and he looked at her, a slight curve about his lips that to him was a grand smile. She saw his concern written all over his face, and it worried her. While she and her Potions professor were not quite close as she was with Septima, he had always been there when she needed to vent or just share in company that seemed to drive away the judging eyes of those who lived in a hearing world and were jealously protective of it.

Lucius looked at Hermione and then Snape. With slow, almost painful movements, he undid his cufflink and pulled up his sleeve.

Hermione gasped as his arm was covered in black veins that sprawled outwards from an ugly, black and writhing tattoo of a skull and serpent.

"You're not allowed to have a real tattoo," her father had told her, signing it at the same time for added emphasis. "There is never anything so enduring as branding something onto your skin that you think is nice now only to wake up tomorrow and realise you really hate yourself for it."

Hermione had once wanted a unicorn tattoo, and she had gotten one. Thankfully, it was the kind that was applied with water and wore off after a week, which was fine because she didn't like it after then anyway. She'd only been five, after all.

Hermione reached out and touched Lucius' arm, her face twisting with her horror at how bad it looked. His skin seemed to be to be caving in as the twisted, writhing Mark was trying to pull his very life into itself for some Dark, sinister purpose. She looked to her Potions teacher and tried to read his face for any clue on what he wished her to do, then she looked at Lucius Malfoy, desperately trying to decipher what she could do.

Lucius held her in an embrace, pulling away to sign to her.. "My child, it is done. It cannot be undone. But I— will regret not being here to protect my family."

No! Hermione said, her hands moving crazily with her strenuous refusal to accept his words as the cold realisation set in.

You can't!

Lucius pale blond hair seemed oddly thin and fragile, framing his tired face like brittle straw. The most powerful figure of the Malfoy family was being laid low by some magic he could not escape. Hermione's body trembled as she realised Lucius had been hiding his terrible condition from his family— his wife, his son, and even her until that very moment. Yet, when she stared at Severus, she knew the truth. The pair had been branded together, only something had happened recently that had affected Lucius, yet somehow not Severus.

The Horcruxes.

The one who branded these followers put something foul into their very skin that rooted and spread— dormant for a while until the Horcruxes were destroyed. The not-Moody— Barty Crouch— he had tried to resurrect a Dark Lord and had instead gathered all his lord's Horcruxes, not knowing they would destroy each other.

That left the man himself alive, wherever or whatever he was, desperately pulling on the life from his chosen minions via the Mark that they had taken so many years ago. Their life for his life.

She just couldn't let Lucius die. There must be something—

Forgive me, she signed, her hand gently touching Lucius' face. I love you, she signed, as she looked into his blue-grey eyes.

Lucius' face went slack as her eyes burned pure gold before going completely black. Her hand clamped around his, digging into his disfigured arm with a vice-like grip.

The corruption, vile and hungry, eagerly infested itself into her hand, traveling up her arm, moving from him into her.


He gestured frantically, trying to shake her off. Trying to get her to let go.

But her eyes were black as onyx. Her grip was like the jaws of a trap, and for moment, Lucius was the wolf contemplating gnawing off his own arm to free himself and thus her.

Severus seemed to realise something more was going on than what had happened to him. The Mark was feeding off Hermione's life, making her skin so pale and withered. It spread through her system like a cancer.

"Hermione, let go!" Severus yelled, gesturing as he tried to pry her off, but the Mark surged out and slapped him away, sending him tumbling arse over teakettle into the garden tree.

The Mark was spreading all over her body— a writhing mass of tentacles as Riddle's glowing red eyes seem to take over her body.

"Yessss," his voice hissed. It poured out of Lucius and into her, sending the wizard flying into the peacock enclosure with a crack as his body broke the fence.

Hermione stood slouched over, her body jerking as the taint took over every part of her body.

Lucius tried to run in, but Severus caught him. "No, Lucius!"

"No, not her! Not HER!" Lucius screamed, struggling in vain against his friend's arms.

Hermione stood straight, red glowing pits for eyes as they filled with hate.

Lucius sobbed, struggling still, even as Snape's pale face was strewn with his own tears.

Hermione's body jerked sharply. Her hands jerked, and suddenly they signed.

Hello. Thank you for the emotion.

Riddle-Hermione stared down at his small, slender hands, obviously not understanding his own actions.


"NO!" Lucius cried.

Pure white feathers spread outwards from the darkened, twisted body, and they set themselves on fire. Blue flames licked across her body, chased by the much hotter white fires. The feathers spread over every inch of her body as she let out a silent scream as all the gathered hate Riddle had pooled for her and let it feed the fires of her power. Impossibly white wings rose up from her back and spread as if to encompass the sky.

Her body shifted completely over as the darkness reformed into the shape of a fiery bird with her—

A steady beat like the sound of a great drum.

Another, like the pulse of an ancient god stirring beneath the earth.

And Hermione's body was consumed in flames as the thwarted, agonised scream of Tom Riddle rang out over Wiltshire.

Hermione's body was a pillar of flame, burning so bright and white hot that Severus and Lucius fell to the ground, covering their faces to shield themselves from the searing, almost painful brilliance.

As the heat faded, they dared to look up again, and smoke slowly rose from a large pile of ash on the ground. A lone figure, half transparent, stood in the middle of the swirling ash. The black smoke seemed to swirl in the very opposite direction of the breeze, jerking, twirling, and condensing. Long, bony fingers stretched out as robes formed and a sun-bleached white skull formed.

Bone fingers reached to the shade's form and clenched tight. The shadow gasped as it was violently wrenched backwards with a cruel jerk. Deep, black pits seemed to move within the skull's empty sockets. The jaws parted, exposing g listening, ivory teeth.

Hello, Tom, the bony fingers signed. The figure was completely silent— silent as the grave.

The ghost's eyes widened in shock and terror. "No! You're not real!"

The jaws of the skull creaked as an eerie green glow came from within.

You have avoided me for long enough, Tom, the entity signed.

It was clear the shade had no idea what was being said to him or even that he was being communicated to. Tom Riddle's terror and loathing of the forbidding apparition before him, however, was crystal clear.

For moment, the entity released the shade, and it looked as though he would flee to somewhere, anywhere away from the other entity.

Now I become Death, destroyer of— you.

A shiny, long-bladed scythe formed in the air, and the bony hands grasped it tightly.


The glint of unnatural silvery metal sliced through the shade, and the terrified shade shrieked as the blade swept through his "body".

Suddenly, countless shades, spirits, and things from beyond the grave materialised, each wearing the scowls of the wronged— the damned— and the restless dead. They each grabbed a "piece"of Tom Riddle's shade and tore him to shrieking pieces as they screamed their retribution from the Twisted Nether.

For a moment, two familiar figures materialised amongst the writhing mass of shades, their hands wrapped around Tom Riddle's "head".

"Lily," Severus whispered.

The witch stepped forward, her haunting green eyes shining from the otherworld.

I'm sorry, Severus, she signed, and it was clear that the shade of James Potter did not understand her gestures. I forgot the young boy who learned how to sign with me so he could talk with my grandparents too. I forgot years of kindness over a single word said in the heat of anger. Can you forgive me?

Snape, his face haunted with past pain, blinked back tears.

I forgive you, Lily, he signed.

Lily's shade floated over to him and placed a kiss upon his forehead. Then I am at peace. Please be at peace too, Sev. She looked back at James and then back to Severus.

Will you tell my son that I love him? she signed with a smile. Her expression hardened. And that if he doesn't shape up soon, I swear to Merlin that will rise from the grave and strangle him.

Her smile was wide as she floated back to James. She placed her hands on Riddle's head once more—

And they ripped it in half. Each clung to the severed headpieces as they sank into the ground.

Death knelt, scooping the ashes up into a cupped hand. His jaws parted, and he blew the ash away from his hands. There, nestled in his bones, was a fluffy white chick that stared up at him in wonder.

Death leaned in and gave the tiny chick a kiss upon the head, the left side, the right, and then the end of the beak.

Now you are to me and I am to you, little one. May you always rise up again from the ashes. *See I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life.

Death then raised his hand and the tiny bird took wing, flying over to an awestruck Lucius, where it lit upon his shoulder..

Death's skeletal hands folded as he bowed to them. May none be the Master of Death, for my heart of rage has been cooled and relit but for a tiny creature of fire and ash.

One skeletal finger drew lightly across Lucius' forearm where the Mark had once been. In its place was a swirling ink of feathers and fire that covered the pale skin like a sleeve.

Death's skull seemed to smile. She will have a very long name, he signed as he faded into nothingness. But one of them shall also be mine.

Lucius and Severus exchanged looks as Draco and Narcissa ran in.

"Father, I heard screams!"

"Lucius, what on earth happened in here?"

The little chick on Lucius shoulder suddenly pecked his ear.

Lucius gave his wife a gallant shrug and his best disarming smile. "My love, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

Fifth Year came in with a wave of horrid, insufferable pink, and the unwelcome arrival of one Dolores Jane Umbridge to evaluate all the teachers at Hogwarts for being against the Ministry, specifically the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. They had not taken Tom Riddle's "supposed" death at the bony hands of Death Himself for anything but a very elaborate fabricated memory.

Between her trying to find any fault she could with the way Remus Lupin herded his thestrals, how Severus Snape taught potions, Minerva transfiguration, or even how Sybill Trelawney could give a prophecy on demand, Hermione found wanting to figure out if she could set someone on fire with Arithmancy.

In her head, it was almost possible. All she had to do is have the right combination of numbers in the right equation set against the matrix of another—

Hermione, Septima signed. She's a horrible woman, but that doesn't mean we should kill her with intricate maths.

Hermione sulked. The staff had, finally, after five years of dealing with signing, figured out how to communicate on more casual level that went beyond things like "Hello" "Where is the bathroom" and "Please park your cerebus in the hallway."

Oddly, the last one was the thing many of them wanted to use but ended up signing things like "Please flatten your cherub bus in the wayside" or "Pardon shove your cheeky buns in the boot." That one had her laughing for a solid week, even if it was silently and totally at Dumbledore's clueless back. Did the Headmaster even have a car in which to have a boot? Or did he perhaps mean the footwear instead?

Still, compared to her first year when they kept trying to hand spell Miss Granger and forgetting name signs were made for a reason, well, they had come quite a long way. Still, Severus talked to her the most with that fluid conversation she craved, yet even he was a bit of a mystery, often far more guarded than any other professor in the school.

The entire memory collection had been extracted in front of the Wizengamot, so it wasn't like they even had time to make anything up. However, Madam Secretary Umbridge was determined to find fault in it due to her being embarrassed by not recognising Hermione Granger Greengrass Malfoy at the proceedings.

To be fair, she had been a half-regrown phoenix chick at the time. Thank Merlin that only took a few days— it had been excruciatingly hard to write down Arithmancy equations on a board with the chalk gripped in her beak.

Ironically, signs became the new way to talk freely when Dolores Umbridge was out and about, and students in Slytherin found new freedom in saying whatever they pleased when Umbridge was looking while the other houses started to wonder if perhaps there was something to this signing thing and they really should have accepted the offer to learn when it was offered.

Umbridge, the odious creature, seemed to hate everything around her. Teachers, students, familiars— she even hated on Mrs Norris, which made Argus downright irritable. Even more irritable, that is.

Peeves took a liking to making Umbridge's life miserable with a capital M, and even the Bloody Baron himself seemed to approve of Peeves causing mayhem especially for Dolores.

Hermione found it rather strange that this Umbridge person didn't believe in the Dark Lord when Professor Quirrell and his extra parasitic face had still been rotting somewhere in stasis within the bowels of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement up until he'd poured himself into her and she set herself on fire.

Well, okay, Hermione thought. Denial was more than a river in Africa, as her father said.

Mophead had finally been surgically removed from Carrot-top's insidious influence with the release of Sirius Black, and the boy seemed a bit less, erm… irritating? Stupid? Person with exceedingly bad personal choices? She supposed even with all the ridicule the boy had put her through, even he deserved a proper chance. He was still Mophead, though.

Professor Snape had delivered his mother's message to Mophead, and that had shaken the boy up quite a bit. One, knowing his mother used to be best friends with "evil Snape" and two, realising his less-than-stellar behaviour had not gone unnoticed by his dead parents— it was enough to give the boy something to chew on, stew over, and eventually swallow. Hermione imagined that was a pretty hard thing to come to terms with.

Carrot-top was still grovelling daily at her boots to prevent Lord Greengrass from rearranging his internal organs without ever having touched him… at least physically. She wondered when the elder Greengrass would be satisfied because never seemed like a pretty good bet to her.

Lord Greengrass had not, she found out, worn one of Riddle's foul tattoos, and Hermione was glad to know that enlightening little tidbit. Lucius and Severus had admitted, after all was said, done, testified to, recorded, and buried under a pile of scrolls in the Ministry that Lord Greengrass had been an exceptionally stubborn sod back in the day and it had literally saved his life.

Umbridge started off on the worst wrong foot times two by accusing Minerva of being "a dirty, stupid, flea-bitten familiar" in front of the first full faculty and staff meeting of the full year. Hermione had been there watching it all unfold, clinging to Septima's side like a burdock burr, carefully trying to school her expression so she wouldn't get in trouble.

Then, she accused Dumbledore of allowing mere students into the staff meetings, then accused him of taking on unsanctioned apprentices, underage, blah blah something about Section something paragraph whatever. Hermione had stopped listening when Dumbledore had erupted in laughter, cackling like a lunatic hyena and then schooled his face into complete dispassion at the drop of a hat.

Fawkes started singing something that sounded suspiciously like Pink Floyd's Brain Damage , and Hermione had to bite the inside of her cheek to fight off an attack of the giggles. It hadn't been a very nice song at all, and then she could swear Fawkes winked at her when Dolores was busy berating Argus for bringing his cat to the staff meeting. It was odd that she could hear his song in her head without hearing— but she was starting to suspect that Fawkes was exceptionally talented at getting his point across when he really wanted to.

Then, one day, Umbridge insulted Hermione while she was signing to Professor Snape about her day. She hadn't seen her when she did it, but from the filthy look Snape gave the horrid witch as the temperature dropped to absolute zero in seconds, she knew Umbridge had said something cruel behind her. She knew because everyone else had the courtesy to sign at the High Table.

Everyone but Umbridge herself.

A flurry of owls left the Great Hall, all sent by the students who were all too happy to taddle to Lord Greengrass about the "unforgivable insult to his daughter."

The Daily Prophet had been only too pleased detail exactly how Dolores Umbridge had been fired, dragged across the coals, and then blamed for all the pureblood families immediately pulling their money and support from all of Minister Fudge's projects that very night. It was said the Howler demanding Umbridge show up for a duel in the Ministry atrium the next day may have sent her fleeing off to Madagascar to hide amongst a particularly large lemur colony.

The very moment the foul pink toad-woman left the premises, her hideously-decorated DADA classroom spontaneously went up in flames, and Dumbledore had stood in the ashes of the classroom and signed, "Well, so much for that Defence jinx, and I thought all this time that Tom was the one behind it."

Moody, happily, joyfully even, returned to fill the spot, taking the excuse to rebuild the classroom as an excuse to turn it properly Scottish. Hermione found it quite interesting, but Professor Snape just rolled his eyes. A lot.

Headmaster Dumbledore seemed oddly… even more odd than usual. He practically skipped down the hallways and muttered both out loud and with his hands while Fawkes sang sweetly from his shoulder. Even Hogwarts itself seemed more relaxed as if the removal of both Umbridge and the infamous jinx had cleaned out everything that needed cleaning out. The Auror department now had a permanent office in Hogwarts to break up and prevent fights, and they took care of the evening patrols to give the busy teachers a much-welcome breather.

When Hermione looked back upon her 5th year, she was happy to report that, short of the first half, it was actually quite… normal. She wasn't really sure what normal would be for her, but if she were to guess what it would be like, the second half of this school year would be a pretty fair example of that lofty goal.

Sixth year came in with the unfortunate looming doom of sitting her N.E.W.T.s one year early so she could sit her mastery exam in Arithmancy in her seventh and final year.

The moral of her sixth year was that exam stress literally could kill her, and she had burst into flames, turned to ash, and then rose up from them again to prove it.

She sat her N.E.W.T.s as a phoenix chick, a miniature quill grasped in her beak and her little golden feet scrambling across the desk.

She resolved to find more stress relieving ventures to keep that from happening again. Tests were awful. Tests taken as a small bird with no hands— that was bloody murder.

She got Os in everything except Divination.

Lucius had sent enough butterbeer, gourmet treats, and party supplies to bury all of Slytherin house on the day she got her grades.

Seventh year was the year of Dante's Inferno, as far as Hermione was concerned. She had to present her mastery project involving the use of complex maths in Arithmancy to cast using finger gestures on one hand.

Hermione thought that was kind of silly, all and all. Of course she would be casting magic with abbreviated signs on one hand. How else was she supposed to hold the wand in her other hand? Idiots.

Calling the Board of Mastery idiots, however, was generally frowned upon, so she branched off and did two masteries: Abbreviated Gesture Casting fell under Transfiguration and Arithmancy in Gesture under Arithmancy.

It was because she was so tired that she ended up not paying sufficient attention while walking and got smacked in the head by a flying book via a spell miscast by a very contrite first year. She woke up, some time later in the infirmary.


Hermione, Madam Pomfrey signed. We really need to talk about your Burning days.

Hermione cocked her head. What is it?

Pomfrey sat next to her on the bed and sighed. I think they're prematurely aging you.

Aging me? Hermione stared at the medi-witch, her hands twitching nervously in her lap. What do you mean aging me?

I think whenever you burn, you get closer to some age that is preset somewhere within your very magic. But I don't know what age that is.

Hermione promptly burst into flames for the third time, leaving a pile of ash on the bed with two tiny black eyes staring up out of the pile.

Poppy scooped up the little chick in her hands and held her close.

Well, at least now they don't look at me like I'm such a young freak taking her Mastery Exams now, Hermione signed to Severus. Poppy thinks I'm maybe around twenty-seven? Thirty? Do I look terrible?

Don't be absurd, Severus signed back. If thirty means looking terrible, what does that say about me? He gave her that eyebrow again. Sharp as a scalpel and just as pointy.

Hermione grinned. I think you're quite the majestic Roman Emperor.

He eyed her. What, exactly, does that mean? There have been a great many Roman emperors.

I'd keep a statue of you in my room, maybe my library to watch over my books, she signed. Though, Roman statues do tend to be half-starkers. You never know quite what they'll be.

Severus seemed to flush at that, waving her off. What is it you wanted to talk to me about?

Arithmancy used to enhance the potency and efficacy of medicinal potions, she signed.

Scapel-brow rose up its head again. It was like the crest of a cockatiel that rose with interest and fell with scorn. What type of potion?

Could we start with something fairly simple?

Not wishing to make Polyjuice your first attempt?

Hermione looked at him with puckered lips. Too many variables in Polyjuice that could go wonky.

Snape snorted, wrinkling his nose. Pepper-up then?

Hermione nodded, pleased by his choice. Okay!

The weeks went by very quickly, and Hermione found herself spending all of her free time with Severus, working out complex equations or tweaking potions or simply reading together. They still made time for walks along the lake, signing as they always did. She loved how his fingers created abbreviations, even when he imitated her "cursive" spell glyphs. She taught him all of her signs, marveling at the feel of his fingers as she molded them into the right shape under her own touch. And then he would repeat them, making it look as simple as if he'd been doing it for years.

His mind was as sharp as a tack, and she found herself drawn to it more now that she wasn't his student anymore.

One epically botched potion had her sitting in damp ash, her thoroughly disgruntled expression of scorn written on her beak. Severus had found her, picked her up, washed her off, and then lay her to dry upon his chest as he read to her from his latest potions journal.

Look at the bright side, he signed later. You didn't age any further. So all of your nightmares of being a wizened old crone with fifty Kneazles can now rest in peace.

Hermione sighed, puffing out her down and sulking.

Rest a few days as you grow up again, he suggested. You've been working too hard anyway. I'll tell Septima she needs to give you a rest before you set Hogwarts on fire.

Hermione marched under a gap in his robes and hid, nestled within a choice pocket of his comforting warmth and scent. Within seconds she was fast asleep.

Little did she realise, so was he, his book slipping off his chest as he, too, fell into sleep.

Antivenin and Dark Magic Healing Potion Released to Public

St Mungos is bustling with celebrations as Masters Severus Snape and Hermione Granger Greengrass Malfoy teamed up to bring you two potions you may be seeing a lot of if you're an Auror or a cursebreaker working in the field.

The two potions, which have been crafted using a mixture of masterful potion-craft and Arithmancy are super effective counters to envenomation and for healing wounds caused by Dark magic.

Magical hospitals around the world are begging St Mungo's for access to the potions, but they are all personally hand-crafted by the pair. While they do make large batches, their very unique and precise calculations, movements, and crafting recipes are not only far more complex than even most masters are capable of but they must also be done completely silently.

I don't know about you folks, but the last time I tried to brew something highly complex, it was definitely not a silent experience. I'm quite sure the more experienced potioneers amongst you know exactly what I mean.

As of now, St Mungos and Gringotts are the only organizations getting regular supplies by contract for the benefit of St Mungo's patients and the Gringotts team of cursebreakers.

Rumour has it when then-apprentice Granger Greengrass Malfoy first brought up the idea to the Mastery Board she was laughed out of the proposal room, yet was offered a challenge of sorts: they told her if she could prove them wrong, she would be pinned with her mastery laurels on the spot.

Well, whether they were serious or not, my friends, I think she laughed her way straight into Gringotts.

When asked what she planned to do now that she's attained her mastery, she stated in sign via a translator, "I train massive three-headed dogs not to eat people, to play fetch, and guard a school filled with thousands of young students. I quite love my job."

"So you just brew globally coveted potions in your spare time?"

"Don't be absurd. Master Snape brews the potions. I just handle the Arithmancy calculations and charmwork. Oh, and I transfigure the bottles to look like cute Kneazle figurines doing hear, see, and speak no evil poses."

"That's all?"

At this point, Master Granger Greengrass Malfoy signed something so rapidly that our translator couldn't keep up. She then looped her arm around her partner's and Disapparated.

There was not a sound at all.

I must do something about this horrendously long name of mine, Hermione signed. I am not ashamed of it, but spelling gives my hand cramps. It's been what, five years now, and I'm very tired of having to sign my exceedingly long name on every single order, document, request, bank cheque, and whatever else I have to sign.

Snape sighed dramatically, slumping his shoulders a bit to punctuate. I suppose there is one escape from that tedious chore that you could take.

He idly patted Édouard on the nearest ear and gave him a tasty biscuit. The huge canine was sprawled on his side, enjoying the sun and having both his beloved mistress and Severus leaning up against his belly.

Hermione eyed him. Curiosity and suspicion warred across her face for dominance, and it seemed like one side was about to go for weapons to beat the other side into submission.

And that would be? she signed.

He brushed his hand over his cheek in a sign and pointed to her, bringing his hands together in a twirl, cupping them and then pointing to himself.

Hermione's eyes grew as wide as a startled Kneazle's.

He pulled out a ring set with a stunning deep blue diamond , his face utterly stoic. Or I could give this back to my mother. He paused. In her grave.

Hermione shoved him, her face twisting in disbelief as her mouth opened in a giant O. She flipped her fingers against his chest with a swat.

That a no, Miss Granger? he signed deliberately using finger spelling to elongate her name.

No! She signed adamantly.

Severus shrugged. I suppose it was a long shot that a beautiful young witch would ever want me. He pocketed the ring into his robes. I will pretend that I never asked so you can pretend this never happened.

Hermione answered him by pouncing on him until he was flat on his back and snogged him soundly until they were both breathless.

Édouard let out a happy howl that rang out across the lake.

Far up on the ramparts of Hogwarts, Dumbledore and McGonagall looked over the lake as the ecstatic howl went out.

"About time," Dumbledore said with a wistful sigh.

"You're such a shameless matchmaker, Albus," Minerva chuckled.

"What, it worked," Albus defended himself.

"You just don't want to admit that Fawkes put you up to it," Minerva tutted.

Dumbledore's head snapped up as Fawkes had his beak up the eyes into his jar of lemon sherbets. "Fawkes!"

The phoenix let out a startled squawk and flew off, jar and all, with Dumbledore shouting and chasing after him.

Septima walked over and leaned over the ledge with Minerva. "They finally give in to the fate that was written in the numbers?"

"Not you too, Septima," Minerva chuckled.

"Unlike Sybill Trelawney, Deputy Headmistress," Septima said. "I do not lie."

Minerva snorted as she signed, Sybill can go drown herself, thank you very much.

Septima laughed out loud. "You don't want to know what the numbers have in store for her?"

Minerva eyed the Arithmancy teacher with suspicion.

"She gets to go to sleep thinking about Severus making lovely babies with someone other than her."

Minerva choked on air and busted out laughing. "Come on, let's go get some tea."

As the two walked down towards Minerva's quarters, they ran into Sybill Trelawney smelling strongly of sherry and muttering to herself.

"Oh! Minerva, have you sheeen my lurvely Sheverus? I think today is the day he will finally realise his undeniable attraction to me."

Minerva puckered her lips and Septima's wand slipped down her sleeve into her palm.

A sudden hot wave of magic blew through Hogwarts as small fire-feathers danced in the air.

"Mmm, marriage bond," Pomona said as she walked by. "About time. Coming Filius?"

"Of course, we can plan the baby shower," he squeaked happily, nodding his head in fervent approval.

Minerva's lips twisted upwards in a wicked smile. "I think you'll find he's quite taken, Sybill."

"Well, of course he's taken by me!" Trelawney gushed. "Have you seen him! I'm certain today is my lucky day!"

Dumbledore wandered by muttering to himself as he clutched his half-eaten jar of lemon sherbets. "Damn, now I'm going to have to hide these with Severus. I'm so glad he's secretly a giant squid Animagus."

Sybill gave a drunken squeal of delight and promptly dashed off to the lake.

"What?" Septima signed.

Minerva smiled. "Severus isn't a giant squid Animagus, Septima. He's a black kirin."

Septima stared at Minerva for a long moment and then started laughing. "How long do you think it will take for her to figure that out?"

The feline Animagus wiggled her eyebrows. "About the time she runs into them on her way to go snog the giant squid. Though, I'm guessing since the two of them just got themselves magically wed, they probably went off to celebrate. Pity."

You're evil, Minerva. Septima signed with puckered lips.

I've been hanging around too many Slytherins.

I was Slytherin, Septima said, quite indignant.

Point made, Minerva signed. Tea. Before silly Sybill comes back.

Vector gave her friend a smile as they frolicked down the hall together.

First Ever Inexplicable Magical Marriage

We've all grown up knowing all about how magical marriages happen, save for the few Muggleborns out there that call it love-at-first-sight, which was never quite an accurate descriptor.

Well, the Ministry is now attempting to digest the strange circumstances that befell former Hogwarts professor Sybill Trelawney on the night she apparently kissed the Hogwarts' giant squid and got herself magically married to the creature.

"I didn't think that was even possible," Ministry marriage registrar, Marigold Finklestein-Epps told this reporter as she showed us a copy of the magical contract that turned up in the magical marriage office sometime yesterday afternoon. "As you can see, it's all here. It's impossible to fake these things. Magic itself sees to that."

All I can say is good luck, Madam Sybill Trelawney-Squid!

Their copy of the Daily Prophet fell on the floor as Hermione snuggled up next to her new husband. His arms wrapped around her and sucked her under the blankets like the tentacles of a certain cephalopod.

You are a giant squid! Hermione signed as Severus' mouth attached to her neck.

As Hermione succumbed the seductive suctioned embrace of her husband, she didn't sign any complaints.

A ginger-furred half-Kneazle jumped up onto the hearth, knocking over a number of congratulatory cards, gifts, baskets, and other happy messages so he could curl up in the best (warmest) spot by the crackling fire. He yawned widely, the firelight shining on the gold name tag that hung from his collar:


Love, Draco and Daphne

And all was right with the world.


A/N: Hope you enjoyed the story! Muah. (19k still qualifies as a short story, damnit!)

Praise be to The Dragon and the Rose, who tolerates my inability to sleep at a regular time in order to beta this story.