Author's note: Hi. I've just figured out all the difficulties with uploading documents etc., so I'm presenting my first fic ever. I'm trying to write in a way not too far removed from JKR's which is why there's less romance/angst than other fics which are for that purpose only. But rest assured! Love does figure in a complicated, mixed-up feelings, sort of way. The fic is also not only centred around two, or three characters, but hopefully a vast array. This is the first part of what is conceptualised to be a three part tale. My characters are drawn from the books, but Draco Malfoy is just a little more complicated. He is no doubt influenced by other excellent fics I have read on this site or others. Anyway, enjoy and comment … and be kind. Remember, I'm new!
By the way, I just realised that Draco Malfoy doesn't show up at all in this chapter. Don't be discouraged! Read on, and you'll find he figures in a large way.
Chapter 1 – Uninvited Visitors
Hermione Granger, fifteen year old Muggle-born witch, leaned against the window sill in her room, watching the tree of next-door, and listening to the sound of cars, talking people, and chirping birds from her home. She sighed a little, teddy bear (Sebastian) cuddled against her chest, her hand holding her place in the textbook she had been studying (Advanced Arithmancy Volume II), her mind amazingly distracted from her studies as she glanced outside.
The summer holidays had been nice. Hermione had visited Australia for a month, and had been home now for about three weeks. It was now starting to feel very quiet in the Muggle world – it was so very … mundane, compared to the fizzing, crackling energy that always occupied the wizarding world. She wondered if Harry felt the same way, since he did live in an extremely Muggle home, and pondered this thought for a while. Harry probably enjoyed the relative 'peace' at the Dursley's home, compared to the break-neck pace he had put in during their fourth year at Hogwarts. After all, it wasn't everyday that someone was constantly pursued by a raving, lunatic wizard who had managed to rise from the dead.
Hermione shuddered at the thought of Voldemort, more commonly known as 'He Who Must Not Be Named' or 'You Know Who.' Voldemort was a terror, a Dark Lord of a magnitude not seen in more than a hundred years in the Wizarding community. Previously, Hermione had never truly feared Voldemort – sure, she had 'oohed' and 'aahed' in shock and apparent fear at the tales of his cruelty, and had been fearful for Harry's safety, but it wasn't until May, when Cedric's cold, dead body had been brought back to Hogwarts that she actually realised exactly what Voldemort meant to wizards and witches, not to mention Muggles and Muggle-born wizards and witches.
Hermione was always nervous when thinking about Voldemort now, especially as she considered aspects of her relationship with the Harry Potter, the enemy of Voldemort. She was sure Ron had never really thought about what it meant to be a friend of Harry in his bouncing, optimistic way, but she most definitely had many times, especially since Cedric's death. One of the best ways to attack someone, such as Harry, was to kill off those that that someone loved for and cared for, and Hermione was fairly certain that her and Ron classified as friends Harry loved and cared for. They were both vulnerable, not fully trained wizards (or witches, in the case of Hermione), and surely possessed not the supernatural luck Harry seemed to have. Hermione found herself reading more and more about the Dark Arts nowadays, always fearful of the Dark Lord's next step. In other words, Voldemort's dramatically grand (yet unknown to most) re-entrance into the world of the living, was not a good thing at all.
Even now, Hermione reluctantly put aside her Arithmancy text book in favour of a heavier tome – covered with dark leather, its yellowy pages stained with something she didn't even want to know was, and opened it up at the page she had been reading earlier about a curse, and more importantly for her, how to deflect it. You wouldn't have supposed, Hermione thought, that these Dark Arts books would include information about defense against the Dark Arts, but they did. Well, maybe Dark Wizards constantly had little backstabs at each other and had to keep themselves alive to climb the power struggle.
A tap from the window disturbed her study, and Hermione looked outside, and grinned, pleased, to see the visitor – a snowy white owl. Hermione often wondered if her neighbours ever noticed the owls that streamed into her room (she had the Daily Prophet delivered every morning, to keep up with events with wizards, and to keep an eye on Rita Skeeter), and what their thoughts were, if they were aware.
'Hello, Hedwig,' Hermione smiled.
Hedwig hooted, and dropped three pieces of parchment that had been rolled together. Hermione picked it up gratefully. News from her friends!
She pulled the parchments apart, to see three letters, each folded, all looking remarkably different. Well, as different as letters can get. One was written on a piece of scrap parchment, with the tracings of scribbly handwriting visible from the back (from Ron, she automatically supposed). Another was written on a piece of girlish, flowery parchment (obviously from Ginny), and the last was on neat parchment folded precisely, rather like the sort used for doing school homework. She opened this first, and it was, as she had guessed, from Harry.
Thanks heaps for your postcard. It sounds like you had a great time in Australia. Are the bunyips friendly? Ron seems to think bunyips can only be scary. Well, you know Ron. I'm currently at the Burrow, I got there yesterday. I think Ron's letter will be inviting you to stay at the Burrow for the last week of the holidays.
My scar hasn't really hurt these holidays, maybe that's why Professor Dumbledore let me go to the Weasleys'. I suppose Voldemort must be gathering forces now, but he hasn't actually done anything evil … yet, and for some reason, that makes me really uncomfortable. I haven't heard anything from Snuffles. I think he's too busy running around for Dumbledore, and keeping undercover. Mr Weasley is doing a lot too, I think. He's almost never home, and when he is, he looks very tired and worn out. Mrs Weasley's getting quite worried about him, actually.
By the way, Ron wanted me to ask you if you'd heard from Viktor Krum. He's too embarrassed to ask, and I think he's still harbouring suspicions that you went to Bulgaria instead of Australia.
Hermione smiled at the last comment. Ron's suspicious behaviour about Viktor last year, while frustrating, had been amusing. But on a more serious note, she was relieved to read that Voldemort hadn't done anything … yet.
She opened Ron's letter eagerly, deciphering his scrawling hand quickly from four years of experience in helping him with his homework and essays.
Dear Hermione, Mum said you can come to the Burrow. It'll be great. If you're allowed, we'll come and pick you up tomorrow night after Dad gets home from work. Hope to see you then, Ron.
Hermione looked at the bottom, to see what looked like the beginning of a scrawled question – 'did you,' but hurriedly scratched out. Hermione had a feeling she knew what Ron wanted to ask about.
Last of all, Hermione picked up Ginny's letter, written in Ginny's curly handwriting, sprinkled with hearts, stars and flowers, as was typical of Ginny's correspondence.
Can you please tell Ron to stop shoving me off whenever he wants to talk to Harry? It's getting kind of annoying. Its like he's got some big secret, and he's refusing to talk to me about it. I'm glad you're coming. Bill, Charlie and Percy are great, but after a while, they're not much fun to talk to really – brothers!
Anyway, I thought you might like to get caught up on the state of affairs in the Weasley household before you arrive – I SAW Ron's little scrap, which couldn't possibly hold any sort of information whatsoever aside from 'hi, you're invited to the Burrow, pick you up tomorrow, bye.'
Here, Hermione gave a small smile, Ginny was fairly accurate in an analysis of her brother.
Fred and George have written about a million order forms, and have actually begun delivering them (borrowing Errol, Hermes and Pig without asking) to stacks of wizarding households. They keep claiming they have some investor, and wink an awful lot to each other when they say that. You wouldn't have any idea what that's all about, would you? Percy's taken Crouch's old job. Bill and Charlie have both quit their jobs in Egypt and Romania, and are also working at the Ministry. Dad's always at the Ministry. He's rarely home. And Mum's been acting very nervously. She's always telling Fred and George to do something serious 'in light of recent events,' but they keep insisting in this scarily serious voice that people need a laugh every now and then. Ron's being an annoying older brother. And I'm perfectly fine.
Harry arrived yesterday, and I get the feeling something's wrong, that he's not talking much about. Maybe you can talk to him when you get here. Obviously, Ron's not figured out anything in his usual thick-headed way.
By the way, Ron's REALLY curious about Viktor Krum. You know what, Hermione? I think he's got a major crush on you.
Hermione scanned Ginny's letter again, reading between the lines. Obviously, Professor Dumbledore was also rallying forces like Voldemort, but, forces of good instead of bad. She had to admit she was surprised Percy was now in charge of International Affairs, considering he only had one year's experience at the Ministry. Bill and Charlie were both competent wizards, and had now been hauled back from whatever they had previously been pursuing, to help. And Mr Weasley was evidently doing a lot. Whatever it was, Hermione was curious to know, and longed to be at the Weasley house right that moment.
The comment about Harry also raised concerns with Hermione. She had sensed he wasn't saying something in his letter, and this made Hermione worried. She could imagine Ginny's worries very easily, seeing as the younger girl had always admired Harry, and wondered how he was dealing with the events of May.
After thinking all these complex thoughts, her mind finally turned to the last comments about Ginny's brother, and felt herself wallowing in even more complex thoughts, though of a different kind. Hermione was fully aware of Ron's developing feelings for her, but she wasn't completely sure about her own feelings towards the red-haired boy. Her emotions would get especially mixed up, whenever she thought about her other best friend, the famous one with messy black hair and green eyes.
Hermione sighed – it was all so complicated – and grabbed a piece of parchment. She quickly wrote a message to tell the Weasleys she would go to the Burrow with them, and passed it to Hedwig, who took off at once. Then, Hermione headed downstairs to her parents, to talk about going to the Burrow tomorrow night.
Hermione spent the next day shopping with her parents – the two dentists, Timothy and Helen Granger, and after that, went to a pleasant family dinner with her grandparents on her mother's side. It had been an enjoyable meal, and they returned home at about half past eight, with ample time to meet Ron, Hermione thought.
She wasn't entirely sure how she would be picked up, last year they had used Floo, but Ron hadn't exactly specified. So, as her father drove them home, she kept an eye out for the Weasleys. None of the three Grangers noticed anything amiss as they drove into the driveway of their home – the doors were locked as usual. None of their eyes noticed that the window to Hermione's upper floor room was opened and flapped in the cool evening breeze.
They did notice though when they went into the home, and turned on the lights.
The shrill shriek of Dr Helen Granger could probably be heard neighbourhoods away.
The house had been completely ransacked. Chairs overturned, every single cabinet, shelf, wardrobe, door thrown open. Hermione's father's entire collection of the Dentist's Association magazines from 1976 had been scattered about, spines broken, pages torn, while her mother's collection of herbs had been thrown about the kitchen, making Hermione and her father sneeze, and her mother wail in despair. Helen Granger was an obsessive about organisation.
However, the place of worst damage seemed to have been Hermione's bedroom. Her bed had been slashed in two, feathers from her quilt and pillows still floating about. Her wardrobe had been thrown open, clothes strewn across the ground. Similarly, her desk had been completely trashed.
'What's happened, Tim?' Helen Granger asked tearfully. She was a short, pretty, and fairly curvaceous woman, with curling brown hair.
Timothy Granger looked about grimly. In complete contrast to his wife, he was tall and thin with fair hair. 'I'm calling the police,' he said, heading to the phone, whose line remarkably hadn't been cut.
The place looks like it's been searched, Hermione thought to herself. And the target was my room. But whatever for?
After about ten minutes, police, sirens wailing, drove crazily down the small street, and screeched to a halt in front of the Grangers' house. Hermione, coming quickly downstairs, watched as policemen jumped out.
'Stay out o' the way, lass,' one of them, a big burly man with an iron-grey beard, gestured at Hermione. Hermione frowned heavily. No way. She was beginning to have her suspicions about this whole business. It reeked fairly strongly of magic, and now, to confirm her feelings, she tore upstairs, and quietly uttered a word with her wand.
'Revealus,' she whispered. A faint shimmer came over her room, and she nodded, with some satisfaction. Someone magical had been searching her room and her house, but for what? She had no magical artefacts or items of importance in her house, but the wizards had even gone so far as to smash in the television (these wizards obviously did not realise that televisions were not just empty boxes).
Meanwhile, the police were combing the house. 'No jewellery missing, mam?' they asked Hermione's mother.
Helen Granger searched her jewellery case (for some unknown reason, the lock had failed without having broken or anything), but shook her head. 'No. Everything here.'
'Money?' the cop tried again.
Timothy Granger checked. 'It's all here.'
The police were getting frustrated. It seemed as if nothing had happened to the house, except for some pretty heavy damage. Crookshanks yowled loudly as one of the police stepped on his tail, and scratched his leg, making the policeman swear very loudly. Then, two of the policemen tripped over one of the chairs that lay on the ground, making them also swear rather vocally. Things were not going well, when even more drama was added to the Granger household which had begun to attract attention from neighbouring households.
The cold fireplace, in which the police had placed their notebooks where they had written down observations, suddenly flared up with green flames, and three people stumbled out onto the ashes, with bits of charred notebooks all over them.
'Harry? Ron?' Hermione ran towards them, and gave them both a hug, whereupon two of the policemen keeled over in a dead faint, while the other one just stood there opening and closing his mouth like a fish at the rather black-looking messy haired boy with glasses, tall, lanky red-headed boy, and the tall, thin balding red-haired man.
'Hello Tim, Helen,' the tall, thin balding red-haired man said to the two dentists, who smiled, before giving the still standing policeman a nervous glance.
Mr Weasley though had obviously picked up the problem. 'Er, what happened,' he asked a little weakly.
'The house was ransacked, Mr Weasley,' Hermione informed the older Weasley seriously. 'I think they were wizards, there were magical traces, but, I don't know why.'
That was it. The last policeman fainted dead away at the mention of the 'm' word.
'Oh dear,' Mr Weasley noted. He eyed the chaos. 'Were your things packed?' he asked Hermione.
Hermione nodded. 'It's been searched, but I can fix it, if I'm given permission to do magic.' She'd already done the Revelation charm, but that involved little magic and obviously hadn't been detected by the Ministry.
'Alright then. You do that quickly, and I'll summon a Muggle Task Force to clean up the mess here, and memory charm these – er, please-men and neighbours of yours,' Mr Weasley decided. He turned to Hermione's parents. 'If you'll bear with me –'
Hermione bolted upstairs with Harry and Ron fast at her heels.
'Wow, this is a mess,' Ron observed, looking around in amazement.
'Yes, but I don't know what they could have been after,' Hermione fretted. 'They were wizards, or witches, I did a Revelation charm, but what were they searching for? I don't have anything of magical value!'
Harry frowned. 'Nothing at all? Not even any rare books you might have borrowed from the library, or persuaded your parents to buy?' The last comment was spoken teasingly, and it made Hermione's heart jump just a bit as she shook her head.
They entered Hermione's room, and knelt down before her trunk, which had been slashed and opened. 'Reparo!' she flicked her wand-holding wrist.
Crookshanks had followed them now, and Ron stroked the cat on its squished head. 'Were you here, Crookshanks?' he asked. 'Could you tell us who did it?'
If possible, it seemed that Crookshanks shook his head with an irritated meow. Although the trio would never find out, Crookshanks was currently berating himself for having left the house to flirt with the new cat two streets down while Hermione had gone out.
'What actually happened?' Harry asked.
'We were out,' Hermione said, as she repaired each item in her trunk, 'shopping and then dinner, and when we got home, it just looked like this!'
Harry glanced around, spying the opened window that flapped in the small breeze. 'Did you open the window?'
Hermione looked startled, and shook her head. 'No! That's how they must have entered, on broom through the window in my room. And then they couldn't find whatever it was, and went around the rest of the house searching.'
'Er, right,' Harry nodded.
'Do you think it could have been You-Know-Who?' Ron asked vaguely as he surveyed the chaos.
Hermione swallowed nervously. 'Of course not,' she said, voice lacking conviction. 'No one's dead, there's no Dark Mark.'
'Yeah, but you weren't home,' Ron pointed out. 'There wasn't anyone to kill.'
Hermione ignored him, thinking very worriedly to herself. She had almost finished repairing everything, and she pointed her wand to a photoframe which had been smashed, a photograph inside torn up. 'Reparo,' she ordered.
The broken glass and pieces of photo flew together, blending themselves seamlessly together. Or should have. The photograph had a gaping hole at the side.
'There's a piece still missing!' a startled Hermione said.
'Your charm went wrong?' Harry asked, alarmed.
'No, no!' The idea, of course, was unthinkable. 'The piece mustn't be here. Reparo will only work if the pieces are still present.'
The photograph, she blinked sadly, happened to be a non-wizarding one – Colin Creevey hadn't developed it right – but she had still kept it, thinking it was rather nice. It had featured the three of them, standing together beside the lake – her, Harry and Ron.
Now, the photograph featured only Harry and Ron. A torn hole existed where she should have been.
'You're missing,' Ron said, inspecting the incomplete photograph.
'Yes,' Hermione said. 'But what does it mean?' Several possibilities were beginning to whir through her brain, and she began to feel extremely glad that she hadn't been at home. She wondered what her missing picture meant, and shuddered at the possibility that it had been meant as a threatening gesture. Her thoughts, the ones that had filled her mind during the holidays – that it was dangerous to be a friend of Harry Potter – recurred, and she visibly shivered as if with a sudden draught.
'Don't worry,' Harry comforted. 'Maybe the piece got caught up on somebody's shoe, or they picked it up by mistake.'
'Maybe,' Hermione said dubiously. She was glad of Harry's efforts to comfort her, but she was still terribly worried.
For some reason, Hermione took the torn photo, and put it in her pocket. She snapped shut her suitcase. 'Okay, let's go.'
They helped Hermione down the stairs, whereupon Mr Weasley handed them Floo powder. 'Leave now, you three, and get to the Burrow safely. I'm trying to clean up the mess here.'
'Alright, Mr Weasley,' Hermione nodded. She turned to her parents, who were watching with bemusement and relief as few wizards hurried about the place, using several reparing charms to restore the house to its previous state. Another wizard was currently aiming his wand at one of the policemen – 'obliviate!'
'Bye, mum, dad,' she hugged them both.
'Do look after yourself, Hermione,' her mother said, giving her only child a tight hug. 'I'll miss you, but keep yourself safe at Hogwarts.'
'Don't worry, mum,' Hermione smiled wryly. 'Where Professor Dumbledore is, is probably the safest place in all of England.'
'Look after yourself,' her father said, and Hermione hugged him. 'Don't go running off looking for trouble, and listen to what the teachers say.'
'I will,' Hermione promised.
She turned to the fireplace. Ron went first, and then she stood at the fireplace.
Green flames overtook her, and she disappeared from the Granger's household for a year.