Author note. I own nothing. Except my car. That is paid off. Most of these fine characters belong to J.K. Rowling. Now that the important stuff is over- on with the show. Thanks for reading.
In the days that followed, Hermione blamed everything on Rita Skeeter's lies. If Skeeter hadn't written her libelous article, none of Viktor's fans would have sent her cursed, booby trapped hate mail. She never would have been stranded in the Infirmary all day. Desperate boredom would never have driven her to read the abandoned French magazine. And she never would have recognized herself in the article about a missing baby. Or, rather, think she did.
Hermione admitted to herself that she could be imaging the entire thing. Just because she was the right age, and the last photograph of Celeste Olivia, the Eze Baby, looked identical to the earliest photo she could remember of herself could all mean nothing. After all, the magazine reproduced a somewhat fuzzy black and white photograph from the original newspaper printing. And the reddish tint of the sepia print her parents displayed on the staircase leeched details like hair and eye color. She could easily be completely off base. But still, the shape of the nose, the identical crook of the toothy baby grin, the curl of her wispy hair. The similarities kept nagging at her.
After Madame Pomfrey removed the medicated wrappings, Hermione picked the article back up. She read it again, contemplating her options. The story chronicled the family's last weekend together. The prominent British lord, in southern France for business, hesitant to leave his heavily pregnant wife and nine month old daughter at home. The couple employing a witch nanny instead of the customary house elf. The nanny taking the young girl for a walk to let the pregnant mother rest better. The young witch's attention wavering from the pram in favor of flirting with a local wizard. The frantic manhunt through the twisting cliff paths ending in mysterious tragedy. A squib took the baby to "save her from the evil that would eat her glittery soul." The aurors were unable to make any sense of chaos in his mind. They suspected the use of the Imperius curse along with a long term mental illness. The stress of everything caused the lady to go into labor two months early. The only good thing in the story was that her son was born healthy, abate on the small side. Four months after the kidnapping the search officially ended. The baby vanished without a trace. The article named it the most heartbreaking mystery of the Cote d'Azur. The story of the Eze Baby made international news for months as witches and wizards came forward with leads in an attempt to get the reward money.
Hermione worried her bottom lip between her teeth. Did she really want to know if she was? Could she stand the curiosity of not knowing? Her imagination could be running away with her. She leaned back on the pillow, sighing. Didn't she have enough on her plate all ready? With the second task finished, Harry needed to focus on training for the third task in May. With no clues to help, she created a broad study plan, spanning numerous subjects. And Ron was no help. Sure, he loved basking in the attention, but he always balked at doing the work. Did she really have time to look into this? Could she risk the distraction not knowing would be? There didn't seem to be an easy answer. Hermione slipped into a fretful slumber as she contemplated the ceiling.
Long shadows stretched across the floor when she woke. Her struggle to sit up alerted Madame Pomfrey that her charge was up. "Your hands look much better. You can be running along." She handed Hermione a jar. "Apply this ointment every morning and every night until it is gone." She shooed the girl out the doors.
Still debating her dilemma, Hermione let her feet take her as they willed. Her subconscious mind ended the internal debate by delivering her to the library's large double doors. Taking a deep breath, she marched forward and jerked the door open. Half an hour later she sat at her regular table, an open potions book in front of her. The potion described identified bloodlines. Most commonly used in an age when there were few ways to prove one's identity, the potion allowed the user to be sure they belonged to a certain family. And allowed families to be sure offspring belonged to the father the mother claimed it did. Hermione frowned at that bit.
The potion, itself, looked simple enough. Incredibly common ingredients, short brewing time, once she started she could know for sure in two hours. Even the hair from a family member could be easily obtained. When packing for school this year she accidentally grabbed her mother's hairbrush instead of her own. She could use one of those. Letting her Gryffindor boldness take over, Hermione copied the pages with a flick of her wand. Briefly, she considered brewing the potion in Myrtle's bathroom. But with Skeeter and numerous foreign students roaming the castle, she questioned the security of the room. Professor Snape was more likely to declare his undying love for all things red and gold then he was to help her. But Professor McGonagall might if she thought Hermione wanted it to help Harry.
Having formulated a plan, Hermione gathered her notes and shelved the book. Spinning around quickly, rushing for the rooms, Hermione slammed into another person. "Merlin, mudblood, slow down." Malfoy sneered. "The books aren't going anywhere, you know." Hermione grimaced at Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, and Vince Crabbe. Parkinson and Crabbe chortled at Malfoy's pathetic joke.
"Apologies, Malfoy. Obviously didn't see you there." She hugged her notes to her chest.
"Where's the fire? Hot date tonight, Granger?"
Pansy snorted, "As if. With who? Her hand? I mean, who else would want to date a swotty know-it-all?"
"Um, Viktor Krum. You know, the international quidditch star? The one who asked me to Yule Ball."
Parkinson's mouth opened and closed, searching for a retort. Hermione took advantage of her shock to brush past the Slytherins. Glancing at her watch she decided to approach Professor McGonagall before dinner. Perhaps hunger would dull her suspicious mind. Serendipitously, Hermione located her Head of House coming down the corridor towards her. She hurried forward, "Professor." The elderly woman stopped and watched her favorite student approach. "Good evening, Professor."
"Miss Granger," she nodded in greeting. "And how are you this fine evening?" She resumed walking, Hermione falling into step with her.
"Much better than I was this morning." She paused. "I wonder if I could ask a favor." McGonagall raised an eyebrow. "I found a potion recipe in an older book I wanted to try, but I doubt Professor Snape would be willing to allow me time in the potion lab. So, I was wondering..." she let the sentence trail off unvoiced.
"McGonagall stopped walking and gave Hermione a searching look. "And what exactly does this potion do?"
"It reveals the truth. I hope if it works it could help towards the third task." Since my mental health might not be up to helping Harry and stressing about all of this.
"I suppose there is no harm in that. You may set up in the empty classroom next to mine. I will ward it to only admit you and myself."
"Oh, thank you, professor."
The next morning Hermione asked Dobby to help her collect a short list of ingredients, the ones she couldn't collect herself. She repaid his assistance with an old sweater that shrank horribly in the dryer. He immediately put it on and hugged his arms around his torso. His eyes shone with unshed tears. "Missy Grangy is most welcomes. Dobby is always happys to help Harry Potter's Grangy."
She reviewed the instructions one last time before lighting the fire below her cauldron. Rose water, fairy wings, and powdered quartz, stir clockwise twenty-seven times. Then heather, spring grass, and milk of moon thistle, stir counter clockwise twenty-eight times. Last, let simmer for two hours. She set a timer and pulled out her Potions homework. She needed the distraction.
She finished proofreading her essay as the timer expired. A lavender liquid shimmered in the cauldron. Hermione decanted the cheerful looking potion, staring morosely at the vial in her hand.
If she belonged to the same bloodline as the donor hair her skin would glow with a violet light. "Bottoms up, Hermione. Time to find out you worked yourself up for nothing." She told herself before draining the potion in one swallow.
She turned to face the mirror she had Dobby place across the room. "Five, four, three, two, one." The longer there was no reaction, the farther her heart sunk into her stomach. Hermione stood. her mind racing. She roused herself with a violent shake. She needed a control. She needed to test the potion on two people she knew were related. Quickly she called for Dobby. "Dobby, could you get me a hair from Ron or Ginny?"
"Of course, anything for Harry Potter's Grangy." He popped off, quickly returning with a short orange hair. Two hours later she had another finished potion. All she needed was a Weasley victim that wouldn't ask too many questions. She left the classroom and headed towards Gryffindor Tower. Lady Luck smiled on her this time, only a handful of students lounged in the common room, a few first years and Fred and George Weasley. She smiled a wicked little smile. Those two often fed potions to the unsuspecting and naive, a little karmic tit for tat seemed in order.
"Gred, Forge, fancy meeting you here." They looked up from the letter they were writing, looking slightly guilty.
"Oh, Hermione, how are you?" asked one twin, shoving the letter under the table.
"What can we do for our favorite bookworm?"
She narrowed her eyes, "What are you to up to?"
"Nothing." they answered together.
"Uh huh. I don't believe that, but I tell you what, you do me a favor and I will forget I saw anything. Deal?"
"What's the favor?"
"Drink this." She held up the potion. Fred and George looked at one another, shrugged, then Fred grabbed the flask draining it. Hermione stared dumbfounded. "Are you not the slightest bit worried about what it will do?"
"Nope, we test most of our products on ourselves first. I doubt anything you came up with would be worse than our stuff. What's it do anyway?" Fred examined his arm as it began to glow. The positive reaction gave him a violet colored aura. "This is awesome. How does it work? Can you get us a copy?"
"Um, I'll see what I can do." Hermione swallowed her panic down. She needed to get away quickly. "I need to look it back up. I don't think it was suppose to do this." She fled up the stairs.
She sat on her bed breathing heavily. She wasn't the daughter of Wendell and Monica Granger. Her entire life was built on a lie. If she was the Eze Baby she wasn't even a muggleborn anymore. She was a pureblood. Then again, just because she wasn't a Granger didn't make her the missing baby. And so what? Just because she discovered this, didn't mean anyone else had to know. Nothing obligated her to tell anyone about this. She nodded at her reflection in the mirror. She headed back down to the common room. This would be her secret.
Yep, just my dirty little secret. She entered the common room as the irony of that thought hit her. Purebloods thought being born to muggles made her dirty, and she thought being a pureblood was the something to hide. She chuckled, the stress of the last five months churned inside her turning the chuckle into hysterical laughter. All the tension drained out of her as she laughed herself to tears. Hermione dropped into a nearby armchair, covering her face with her hands. She leaned forward resting her arms on her legs.
She felt Harry, Ron, and Neville staring at her. She sensed the twins confused concern moving closer from the other side. "Um, Hermione," Harry asked, "are you okay?"
"Did someone hex you?" questioned Neville.
"Did you drink something the twins gave you?" asked Ron.
Hermione shook, gulping in lungfuls of air to slow her hilarity. "No, no, and no." she answered without looking up. "I'm fine, really. I had a funny thought coming down the stairs and the stress of this year made it seem funnier than it really is. Just a stress induced mini mental break, happens all the time." She sat up primly. Harry raised an eyebrow. "Really, all better."
"Would you even tell me if you weren't?"
"If ever something is bothering me I will tell you. We agreed- no more secrets." She smiled. Except this one. You'd never believe me.
No one seemed to notice she spent more time staring blankly at the pages than she did reading them. None of her classmates mentioned she hadn't raised her hand to answer a question in days. She always worked so far ahead on homework that she easily stayed caught up. While she kept telling herself the matter was closed, her brain seemed to disagree. Currently, she sat with Viktor on a large rock on the shore of Black Lake. He interrupted the repeating litany of questions that lapped around her brain these days. Vaguely, she heard him ask a question.
"Hmm? What?" she asked distractedly.
"I ask if, perhaps, I take you up for broom flight?"
"Oh, yes. That would be lovely." She answered staring off at the other shore.
"Herminny!" Viktor snapped.
His sharp tone broke through the fog surrounding her. "What?"
"I ask to take on flight and you agree. What wrong, mila? Talk to me." Viktor took her hand and held it gently, brushing his thumb across her knuckles. She looked into his dark eyes, the concern there wearing her resolve down.
"Well, uh, you remember all the hate mail I got after that article?"
Viktor's expression darkened as he nodded. "Da, you have not had more, mila?"
"No, nothing like that. While I waited for my hands to heal I read a French magazine someone left behind. The theme was tragic mysteries. One of them was this missing baby from the Cote d'Azur, the Eze Baby." Viktor nodded his understanding. "The similarities between the newspaper reprint of the Eze Baby and the earliest photo my parents have of me is startling." Viktor started to interject, but Hermione held up her hand, if she let him interrupt she might lose her nerve and never be able to finish. "I found the instructions for a bloodline potion, and used it." The tears began to fall. "I'm not blood related to my parents. I didn't know I was adopted."
Viktor gathered the openly crying witch into his arms. "Shh, mila. It will be all right." He rubbed her back soothingly.
"How can it be? The people I called my parents lied to me. My mother tells stories about her pregnancy cravings! Dad has a funny story about leaving for the hospital without her! LIES!"
"Just because you are not Granger by blood does not mean you are Eze Baby. Could be anyone else."
"Possibly, but I'm still not their child. I feel so alone."
"Your friends will stand by you..." Viktor started, but Hermione broke in.
"You would think that, but Ron throws fits when the world doesn't go the way he wants. We've barely patched things up from Yule Ball. Somehow this will be an offense against him. And Harry has a tendency to take the path of least resistance until he needs something. He gets tunnel vision about his problems, which to be fair are usually larger than most people's. No, I'm on my own on this one."
"You have me, mila." Hermione leaned back to look up at him, surprise coloring her face. "I know, we agree to be friends. You have three years of school and an evil wizard to destroy. But even if you find new wizard tomorrow, I will always be there for you. Take your time. Maybe you forgive parents and forget purebloods, maybe you decided to know other family more. No hurry."
"Thank you, Viktor." She wiped the tears from her cheeks.
He kissed her forehead. "You are welcome." He flicked a bug as it climbed from the underside of the rock. "Come, is getting late."
Rita Skeeter danced around her office. That annoying little chit had handed her the story of the year, the decade, perhaps the century! She could feel the awards in her hands, the accolades. Giggling gleefully she spun around to face her editor when he entered, his frown freezing her mid spin. "What's wrong?"
"Can you prove any of this?"
Rita snorted, "When has that ever mattered?"
Milton Fawley sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Rita, I cannot print a story claiming the muggleborn best friend,"
"Ex-girlfriend." Rita corrected. The best way to keep people from seeing the lies was to keep repeating them until it was what people believed.
"Of Harry Potter," continued Milton, "is the missing Eze Baby without a shred of evidence."
"Oh, pooh." Rita swatted his arm. "They'll huff and puff and nothing changes."
"No, Rita." He grabbed her arm. "If we raised their hopes and she turns out not to be their missing daughter, but just plain Hermione Granger, he will kill us. No bodies ever found, no questions ever asked. Like we never existed. We can pass on your information to the aurors and they can look into it. But we do not print a word without confirmation. Do you understand?" Rita mumbled noncommittally. "I mean it, Rita. Print or mention a word of this anywhere and the Daily Prophet will not protect you."
She gulped nervously, "We could print that someone might know. Just not name who we think it is." Milton grinned, that sounded safe enough.
Darren Randall reread the memo. He picked up the Daily Prophet. An anonymous source insisted they knew where the Eze Baby was or, rather, who she was. He thought it rather presumptuous to print the article, but that was him. But since the Prophet had, the Minister and Head of the DMLE wanted it looked into immediately. The rookie auror shook his head. If the lead proved false and the family wanted blood it would be his head on the sacrificial chopping block. Randall picked up his hat and headed to the floos. The sooner he got started the sooner this would be over.
In Scotland an unsuspecting Hermione sat down to breakfast chatting with happily with Harry. Just talking about it with Viktor made her feel so much better. It was only March, if she stayed at the castle for Easter, it would be another three months before she faced her parents. The post owls swooped in dropping packages and letters throughout the room. Harry grabbed the Daily Prophet before she could. "My turn to break the new scandal gently." He glanced at the front page, "What do you know? Apparently it is someone else's turn to be center stage." He opened the paper to the sport section. "I wonder how the Cannons are doing."
Hermione read the headline several times. Her breathing became shallow and erratic. Her focus completely on the large bold letters.
Her brain barely registered an increase in the volume of conversation. It took Ron flopping down besides her to jar her from the building panic attack. "What's got everyone so stirred?"
Harry looked up from the paper, "Absolutely no clue. I try to avoid the gossip."
"True." Ron shrugged and reached for the bacon. He noticed the headline. "Oh, not that crap again."
"What crap?" Harry asked.
"The Eze baby. Pureblood princess snatched from her pram on vacation. Oh, boo hoo, so sad. Evil gits had it coming."
"How can you be so cold, Ron?" Lavender exclaimed. "It is only the biggest mystery ever. They caught the kidnapper, but he had no idea what he did with the baby. And with the village built into the cliff, it took forever to search even with magic."
A seventh year Hermione barely knew nodded, "In the early years people were constantly claiming they found the baby, but it was never her. Heartbreaking really."
Ron snorted, talking with his mouth full, "It's rich pureblood elitists, are we even sure they have hearts?" Several Gryffindors chuckled, while Lavender and Pavarti glared at him. He chewed and swallowed before attempting to continue. Professor Flitwick's approach stopped him.
"Excuse me, Miss Granger, the headmaster needs you in his office."
"Of course, professor, thank you." Hermione took a deep steadying breath. She smiled reassuringly at Harry and Ron's concerned faces. "If I somehow miss class try to take notes for me. Notes I would want." Harry nodded. She grabbed her bag and stood up and followed the professor.
The tiny teacher escorted her from the Great Hall. "The current password is Violet Crumble." Hermione nodded and hurried to the office. She smoothed her hair down and straightened her uniform. Schooling her expression into one of innocent confusion she gave the password and mounted the steps. To put off the inevitable, she allowed the staircase to carry her to the top.
Hermione knocked politely and entered when bade. Cautiously, she approached the desk. Professor Dumbledore sat behind his desk surrounded by whirling magical devices. Fawkes perched on a tree branch stand next to his nest. Professor McGonagall sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk. She sat down her teacup when Hermione arrived. The last occupant of the room rose when she entered. Young looking, he couldn't have been more than three or four years post Hogwarts. He appeared nervous and uncomfortable.
"Ah, Miss Granger, please be seated, lemon drop?"
"No, thank you. I just finished breakfast." She folded her hands in her lap, hoping to give the appearance of calm. Inside, her heart raced.
"Then onto business, may I introduce Darren Randall. Mr Randall is an auror with the Ministry. He is here on an inquiry." Dumbledore twinkled at her. She smiled back wanly and turned her attention to the auror.
"Uh, yes. Hello. I'm Darren Randall."
"Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise. I'm here in response to the Prophet article about the Eze Baby. You've heard of her?"
"Only what I've heard recently. I'm muggleborn, so not much."
Randall nodded, "Someone sent an anonymous tip to the Prophet claiming to know her identity. The editor graciously passed it onto us for investigation."
"So, they didn't give the tip to Rita Skeeter then? She'd have forged ahead consequences be damned."
Miss Granger, language." McGonagall admonished.
"No offense taken, your treatment by Miss Skeeter in the Prophet has hardly been kind."
"Why do you need me?"
"According to the tip, you are the Eze baby."
Her heart felt like it was about to beat out of her chest. She could feel the panic racing through her. "How..." she clamped her mouth shut. She barely stopped herself from asking 'how do you know.' The others assumed she meant to say 'how could that be.'
"Miss Granger, I have no idea why anyone would suspect this. But we have to investigate it."
"Shouldn't my parents be here?" Hermione scrambled for any reason to postpone testing.
"As muggles they have little to no legal standing. Your head of house is your in loco parentis in the magical world."
"What if I refuse?" She felt backed into a corner, the decision to reveal anything torn from her.
"If Professor McGonagall agreed to your refusal, I would have to return with a writ ordering you to comply." Randall narrowed his eyes, his face stern with annoyance.
Minerva McGonagall had been teaching for decades. She could read student body language half asleep and with double eye infections. She didn't know why, but she could tell there was something about all of this that terrified Hermione. "Darren, I'm sorry, Mr Randall, may I have a moment to talk to Hermione?" She looked at Dumbledore pointedly, "In private."
"Of course, professor. No need to hurry."
McGonagall lead her from Dumbledore's office to her own. Hermione took advantage of the walk to try to settle her nerves. She set a teapot to brewing and gestured to a soft blue fluffy armchair. "Sit," once they both settled she continued, "Hermione, what is the matter, child? You looked ready to climb the walls in there."
"I, I'm not sure about this."
"Hermione, I'm not sure how much that article shared, but do you know about the Lindbergh baby?"
"Yes, the son of the famous aviator was kidnapped for ransom. It turns out the kidnappers killed him not long after they took him, even though the money was paid. But, for years afterwards people claimed to have found him, or that they were him."
"That is exactly what happened with the Eze baby. Blessing is that we know Celeste Olivia was not killed out of hand. Fourteen years ago an insane person ripped away the most precious thing from her family. Going through with this test will grant them another piece of closure. The Prophet publishing that article did not even give the auror department enough time to notify the family privately. They learned of this from the paper, at the same time as everyone else. Once again they have submitted themselves to this test. Now, they sit at home telling each other not to hope, this is just another dead end." She brushed one of Hermione's curls behind her ear. "But until Mr Randall tells them it was another negative result they will hope and hurt. You are the only one that can help them to end that hurt."
Hermione sighed, "When you put it that way, what choice to do I have?"
"We could make Mr Randall return tomorrow, but that only delays it. Better to face this head on and get it over with."
"You're right. Thank you for being patient with me."
"You are most welcome, my cub. Shall we rejoin the others?" At Hermione's nod, McGonagall activated her personal floo, "Albus? We're coming through."
Hermione gave Randall a shy smile when she emerged from the floo. "How does this work?"
"Both the parents have already prepared the flasks by adding their blood. We add a drop or two of yours and if there is a reaction then we have a match. Then I take the negative results back to them. Case closed again."
"And if the results were somehow positive?" McGonagall raised an eyebrow, which Hermione ignored.
"If the results are positive, I inform the parents and come back tomorrow to escort you to the Ministry. There the test is repeated in person in front of witnesses."
Hermione nodded, "Let's get this over with." She held up her hand. Randall flicked his wand once and caused a small gash to open her palm. Hermione dripped two drops of blood into each flask. "How long until we know there isn't a reaction?"
"Takes about thirty seconds to be assured there was no reaction."
Dumbledore began a conversation about quidditch house cup standings, which Hermione blocked out. She watched the flasks nervously counting the seconds, at fifteen seconds both started to color. By twenty they resembled orange juice. Her heart sank, her arms felt numb, the air around her felt thick and heavy. Darren Randall stared dumbly at the flask. He never imagined this. He thought he would be the one forced to disappoint the Eze baby's parents once again. Instead he may have been the one who found her! He cleared his throat. "Apparently I will be seeing Professor McGonagall and Miss Granger in the morning."
Hermione looked at him blankly. McGonagall placed a hand on her shoulder. "Shall we meet at the Three Broomsticks around nine o'clock?"
"That sounds like a good plan. Tomorrow then. If you'll excuse me I have another stop before getting all of that set up."
"Yes, thank you." Dumbledore smiled at Randall.
Hermione sank into the chair. She stared staring at nothing. Fawkes left his perch to sit on her shoulder, trilling in her ear. "It seems Fawkes is not the only one to rise from the ashes of the past." Dumbledore twinkled. Hermione ignored him, lost in a loop of the last five minutes. She rubbed up and down her arms, rocking back and forth slightly.
McGonagall glared at Dumbledore, "Let's get you to Madame Pomfrey. You're in shock. I'll notify the other professors that you are to be excused from classes today." She gave Dumbledore a concerned look when the girl didn't even rouse enough to protest.
Madame Pomfrey treated Hermione for shock and let her rest. When her brain recovered enough from the fog she began planning. Briefly, she indulged herself with the idea of running to Bali and selling seashells. First, she needed to tell her friends. She promised no secrets, and they should hear about this from her. Nothing would change their reactions, but by telling them before the Prophet could, she could control where it occurred. She notified Madame Pomfrey that she was leaving and headed to dinner.
Quietly she sat down next to Harry, across from the twins. "Hey, Hermione, did you ever find the potion again?" Fred asked.
"We could do some really cool stuff with glowing auras." George told her.
"If I find it again I'll let you know." She tried to smile.
"Hey, where were you all day?" Ron asked with his mouth full of food.
"Gross, Ronald! With your mouth closed, please!" she snapped.
Ron swallowed hard, "Geez, relax. Bite my head off."
"Sorry, I just have a lot on my mind."
Harry's head whipped up, looking guilty. "Can we help?"
"Not really, but I need to tell you something, you and Viktor." She searched Slytherin table for Viktor. She held up one finger, he nodded in agreement. "Meet me by Black Lake in an hour." Deciding she wouldn't be able to eat, she pushed away from the table. She left behind four tables of student speculation about the identity of the Eze baby. Vultures all of them, and after tomorrow it would only get worse.
Hermione sat under a tree watching the giant squid wave his tentacles, rocking the Drumstang ship. Everywhere she looked reminded her of happy times with her friends. Times that might never occur again. She started feeling like someone had died. Perhaps in a way she had. After tomorrow her life would be forever changed, the Hermione Granger everyone knew would be gone. The sound of Harry's laughter caused her to look over her shoulder. Ron and Harry joked and roughhoused as they made their way over to her. Viktor followed behind them looking grim. She stood to greet them.
"What's the news, Mione?" Ron drawled.
"Well, the reason the Headmaster wanted to see me this morning is that someone reported I was the Eze baby."
Ron doubled over laughing, while Harry stared at her, "You're not joking."
"No. I saw a baby picture that looked just like me, so I found a potion that identified bloodlines. I was not a match for my mother. Someone leaked that to the Prophet."
"That doesn't mean anything." Harry frowned.
"No, but the potion the Ministry administered this morning does. It positively identified me as the Eze baby." Hermione smiled sadly.
"AND YOU'RE JUST NOW TELLING US! WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING?" Ron explode.
"I'm not hiding anything from anyone. Until that stupid article this morning I didn't know if I would ever investigate any further than I had. Viktor told me to take my time and think it over."
"YOU TOLD HIM?"
"I told Viktor because he noticed something was wrong. He noticed I stopped reading, or talking. Because he paid attention! To me! Not food, not imagined fame, me!" She seethed at him.
Ron sulked at her. "You should have told your best friends first."
"Some best friend you've been. You drop me every time things don't go according to how you planned it. And then you wander back, like nothing happened when you're ready."
"You all ready sound like a spoiled pureblood princess. You can't do anything wrong."
"How dare you? You conceited hypocrite! Get out of my sight!"
"There you go again. Going to tell Daddy on me?"
Hermione lunged at him, fist cocked. Viktor grabbed her by the waist. "You regret later, too angry now."
"Whatever," muttered Ron. Come on, Harry, the princess doesn't need us, she has her quidditch star." He stalked away without looking back.
Harry stood, rooted to the ground, shocked by the expiring events. He glanced at Ron's retreating form, then back to Hermione. She watched him warily, her chest heaving. "What happens now?"
"Tomorrow we confirm the results in person, meaning we meet face to face. Then anyone's guess."
"I, I," stuttered Harry, "I need to think about this."
Angry words swirling around her head like a tornado, fighting to get out. Suddenly, all the emotion drained out of her. "Good-bye, Harry."
"I know how this dance ends, we've done it before. I do nothing wrong, Ron gets angry. You side with him. You both freeze me out until you need my help. Then no apologies, just save us, Hermione." Harry held her sad gaze. "I won't make you choose sides. Just go after him." Harry slowly followed Ron, glancing back at the couple numerous times.
Viktor hugged her. "I know I was mean, but I don't have the energy to baby them through this." Hermione cried cuddled against his chest. Viktor stood silent until her tears ceased.
"Mean, possibly, but redhead more cruel. He change his whole thought of you because you change family name. This not make you less sweet, less smart, or less kind. Change nothing."
She shook her head. "It changes one thing. I'm a pureblood now, or rather, I always was, but no one knew." She snorted, "Puts paid to the idea of blood superiority, you can't even tell."
"Very true, mila." Viktor gently kissed her forehead. "We get you back to castle, tomorrow is long day again." She nodded, numbly allowing him to steer her back to the castle.
Back in the common room Ron glared at her, turning his back once he knew she saw him. Harry looked helplessly between them, but turned towards Ron when he said something. Heavy heavyhearted Hermione escaped to her bed, where curtains drawn she silently cried herself to sleep. Tomorrow would come too soon.
On a balcony overlooking immaculately cultivated lawns, another woman cried. Afraid to hope, too weak not to, she cried for the lost years. So many decisions in the past revolved around losing their Celeste. Oh, Merlin, she won't even think of that as her name. Tomorrow could not come soon enough.
After listening to Ron rant all evening, Harry lay in bed wide wake. He rolled from his side onto his back. After Ron walked away, Hermione looked so sad, and alone. And she expected it. She knew how they both would react. Ron insisted her new family would poison her against them. As pureblood elites they would look down on the blood traitor Weasleys, and half blooded Harry. She would drop them soon enough, better they cut her out now. Unbidden, a memory of Hermione laughing while she helped him prepare for the first task swam into the forefront of his mind. Rapidly every time she had been a true friend flashed through his mind, chasing away Ron's snarling. Harry sighed. Sitting up, he listened to Ron's snoring and Seamus mumbling in his sleep. He pulled out parchment and wrote Sirius about everything happening, mentioning briefly he sometimes wished he could talk his godfather directly. In the end he felt better, though no closer to a solution. He woke Hedwig and sent the letter before he could talk himself out of it.