No house-elves, grumkins, or imaginations were harmed in the production of this chapter. All rights go to J.K. Rowling, as ever.
Image based from hesavampire on deviantArt.
Chapter 1: Old Beginnings
Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, June 1989
Action held panic at bay, Hermione told herself, and so did knowledge. In her head she repeated the things she knew. The grass she is walking through is probably Meadow Brome, with its tiny yellow and red flowers. The temperature can drop more than ten degrees centigrade after the sun goes down on the Plain. The Plain is nearly 800 square kilometers, or about 300 square miles, and sparsely populated. She is lost.
She'd fallen through that strange door and tumbled down a hill, and by the time she climbed back up there was no sign of the portal she'd come through. Dusk was coming on now, and she was only wearing a shirt and grey shift dress—wool, but rather thin. Her throat and eyes felt parched, her stomach was light, and her shoes were chafing. She squinted toward the horizon, but found no signs toward which to aim.
Again she wished she had not stopped to wonder at that door in the Potterne village pub. Driving back from a week's sightseeing in Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Marlborough, the Grangers had stopped for lunch at one "George and Dragon," a rosy old thatched brick building with cheery pots of flowers dangling from the beams. It was an odd but charming little place. The proprietor wouldn't stop mumbling strange words to himself as he walked about the main room. Hermione had a very large vocabulary for her age, eight going on nine, and even she had never met an adult who used so many words she didn't recognize.
On her way back from the loo, at the end of a curiously twisting hallway, she had noticed a little alcove with a black door and strange, gold, rune-like lettering, which through some trick of the light looked as if it were moving—though of course Hermione knew it could not. She felt her heart beat wildly as she stared at it. Forgetting everything else, she reached toward it, fascinated and apprehensive at the same time. Just one look, Hermione had told herself, for she didn't think she ought to make a habit of opening strange doors.
The knob was warm under her hand, she remembered, and next—she couldn't clearly recall anything else. There it was, her hand on the doorknob, then suddenly the world seemed to whoosh dizzily by. Finally she had tumbled out onto the heath. Perhaps she'd fainted, while falling through a tunneled passageway to the open countryside, beyond the village?
But where was the tunnel entrance? When Hermione had finally reached the top of the hill, she thought she must have had the wrong one; there was no passage was anywhere to be found. All around was only the gentle sloping of the chalk downs, veiled in a soft cover of grass and shrub and extending endlessly in every direction. She had scrambled up two more slopes nearby to check, fruitlessly; then for a half hour after, she had wandered purposeful but directionless. She needed—she must—find something, some landmark or indication of a path, no matter where so long as it took her somewhere warm and inhabited, where she could try to call an officer, or home.
In the sky, brilliant sunset colors were slowly washing out to the more sedate shades of early evening. The heads of the heather bowed slightly as a wind rippled across the plain in a trail of purple. It was desolate, beautiful.
"Hello?" she called out. The rising wind carried her voice from her. She tried again, downwind. "Hello? Is anyone there?" For a moment she thought she heard something, and then it was gone again. She had probably imagined it, she told herself.
Part of her wanted to cry, though she knew she was much too old for that. Nothing made sense. Logically—logically, even if the portal were hidden, she should have stayed put, not go farther from where she had first come out. And yet there was something wrong about logic now, she just felt it somehow. "Hello! I'm lost!" she tried again, as loudly as she could. "Hello, anyone?"
A rustle from behind made her heart leap into her throat. In an instant her wish to be found disappeared, replaced by all the warnings she'd heard before—so many things that could go wrong, when you met a stranger in a deserted place.
A shock of very blond hair popped up over the crest of the hill. It was a boy, about her age. She was taken aback.
"Merlin, where'd you come from?" he said, rather rudely.
She gaped for a moment. "Well, Merlin, yourself!" she recovered. What an odd thing to say! Was he role-playing? Was she to act the part of Merlin?
He was staring at her and it was making her uncomfortable. "So… I take it you like King Arthur, then?" she ventured after a moment. He was her age, so at least he didn't seem likely to kill her. Though you could never be sure, in a place like this.
He gave her a look. "Of course not. Arthur was nothing without Merlin. He's much better."
Hermione sighed in irritation. She had meant the King Arthur tales, of course, the whole magical lore of it—but he had evidently taken her literally, and panned her again. Clever.
The boy was about her size, with pale skin and very fine features, and eyes as grey as the color of her dress. His trousers, covered with bits of thistle and oat-grass, had a chalky stain on one side and a frayed gash, but Hermione could tell that they were rather nice—much too nice, in fact, for a boy to play around the heath in, she thought privately. He wore a plain buttoned shirt, slightly less dirty but no less fine.
He also had a rather superior air about him, which Hermione knew and appreciated. In school they may have called her a know-it-all and a snob, but that was just because she knew better than them all (and they refused to be educated). Still, the boy standing across from her knew a thing or two about the Round Table, which was more than she could say for most!
Suddenly she wanted very much to impress him.
"Well, that may be true. But I think Morgan le Fay was better than all of them," she said haughtily.
He nodded appreciatively. "That's a good one. Mother always preferred Morgana."
"Your parents talk about Merlin stories with you?" She couldn't keep the envy out of her voice.
He looked at her, perplexed as before. "Yes, of course. Why, don't yours?"
"No, they're not really interested," she said. "I suppose they think it's silly." She noticed his sudden frown with alarm, and hastily went on. "But of course that doesn't stop me; I've read all the books about them that I find at the library, and I think I know quite a lot now!"
He still looked suspicious.
"It's just—well, you know, we're sort of a rare breed these days, aren't we?" she said desperately. "Nobody's interested in the old myths and legends anymore, it's all modern this and new that," she said, babbling, "and meanwhile all the treasures of the past are being neglected and forgotten—like the Greek gods—"
"That's so true," the boy broke in suddenly, emphatic. The doubt had been replaced by frustration and relief. "Our kind have a rough time of it, don't we?" He sighed gustily and kicked a clump of grass. "Say, what were you doing out here, anyway?"
Hermione reddened. "Oh, nothing. I was just… Well, I... got lost. My parents and I—we had just been down to Stonehenge, you know, and that was fun—"
"Stonehenge is fantastic," broke in the boy. "Isn't it the best? You should see it at midsummer. We have to go under a charm then, of course, because all the stupid Muggles swarm around, gawking like they don't understand a thing—"
Hermione had never heard of a Muggle before. She was very good at guessing meanings from context, though, and was willing to bet that he meant those extra-irritating tourists—particularly the Americans, they were the worst—who stood around with their big shirts and grunted as they listened to their loud and poorly-informed tour guides, instead of just reading a book about it and enjoying in silence like any normal person would.
"Oh yes, they're just awful," she agreed quickly. "But it was very quiet when we were there, almost nobody else around. Well, and anyway, they were looking at summer homes in the area, and on the way back we stopped for a bite a pub in a village not far from here—Potterne, I think it was called—and I saw this little hallway with door at the end and then…" she trailed off, not knowing how to explain the rest of it
"Was it black, with gold lettering?" said the boy, keenly interested.
Hermione was surprised. "Well, yes," she said. "I was just going to take a single look," she said rather anxiously. "But then it just…something…pulledme, I suppose, and I then fell down a hill and now I can't get back." She bit her lip. "My parents will be so worried!"
"Oh, it will be all right," said the boy with a great deal of self-assurance. "Old Borkel at the George and Dragon will set them straight. Potterne's filled with these little secret passages, of course. You know, like a permanent Portkey. People disappear there all the time," he said, as if that made it all right. He gave her an appraising look. "Here, you'd better come with me. You can take our Floo back to the pub, all right? The door you came by only goes the one direction, sorry."
Portkey? And Hermione didn't know what a Floo was, either. She thought it sounded like a very fancy car. But either way, everything was going be all right, she gathered—that was the important bit. "Thank you," she said very sincerely.
It occurred to her she didn't know his name. "Oh—I'm Hermione, by the way," she said, blushing slightly and sticking out her hand. Any of the children in her primary school would have laughed at how formal and adult it seemed. But they were grown-ups, both she and the boy, weren't they?
"You're welcome," he said gallantly, a spot of pink rising on his cheeks as he puffed up with pride at her gratitude. As she'd expected, he shook her hand as if it were quite normal to do so. "I'm Draco. Draco Malfoy," he said significantly, watching her with an expectant look.
He seemed as though he expected her to be very impressed, Hermione realized. Surely he wasn't nobility or something? She didn't recognize the name from any of the great houses they had visited around the area. She tried to remember what to say in case of addressing gentry. "Um, it's a pleasure to meet you," she said, settling on something neutral and not over-the-top.
He gave her a confident nod, so it must have been all right. "And I you. Who are your people, by the way? You didn't say."
"Yes, your parents?" he said, impatient.
"Oh! Helen Elizabeth Grey and William Russell Watson Granger," she said quickly, including all their middle names lest their well-to-do, solidly middle class respectability didn't come through. Dentistry, though, she left out of it.
"Granger," he repeated, rolling the word on his tongue as if tasting it. "I hadn't heard of them before."
"They, um, keep mostly to themselves. We're not from around here, we live just outside London."
"Oh." He paused. "Well, I'm glad to meet you now," he said gallantly. "Malfoy Manor is that way." Draco pointed south. "We're not far, but it is a little walk. You're all right?"
"Thanks, I'll manage," she said.
He glanced at her again as they started down the hill. "If only my broom weren't broken," he said with a show of carelessness. "Father sent it away for repairs. I flew it into a tree last week."
Hermione gasped and giggled, stumbling over a rock. Flying brooms, indeed! Whatever Draco was, he was a master pretender. And for once, it was fun. Much better than make-believe House, or Doctors. "Oh, that's terrible! I'm so sorry. Was it a nice one?"
"Very," said Draco, "a Nimbus 1500, specially modified to suit junior flyers," he said smugly. "Father knows the company's President, you know."
That did it, this was definitely some aristocratic scion or other, thought Hermione, her heart rather racing a bit. His parents sounded extremely indulgent. She felt both embarrassed and glad around him—everyone at school was rather awful to her, when they noticed her at all, but he seemed to be both clever and of some importance, and theywere getting on all right! She'd guessed before that he was probably one of those people who had a "set," too, and who didn't fraternize with those who weren't rich or important—or intelligent—enough for it. It made her feel a little flattered that he'd decided she was okay, when usually that didn't happen—but also a bit uncomfortable and annoyed at the same time, that he might be such a snob. Well, she didn't care. It certainly didn't make him any better than her, and he'd better not think otherwise!
She had not replied to his statement about the broom company president, and it appeared to bother him. "What, so you don't like flying?" he said rather accusatorily.
"No—well, I've never been," she amended, as he grew more disbelieving every second, "I mean—I'm afraid of heights."
"Oh." That seemed to set him down again. "That's pretty inconvenient."
Was it? She wasn't usually bothered, unless she had to walk over suspension bridges or look off edges of tall buildings or something. "I guess I get by all right."
"I could teach you to fly," he said suddenly, leaning in conspiratorially. "I'm great at it. Father says I'll be a fantastic Quidditch player. He was a Chaser, but I'll be Seeker, see, because that's the most important role on the team. I'll play for the Slytherin team once we get to Hogwarts." He stopped. "Say, you are going to Hogwarts in a few years?"
"Come again?" Some sort of school, or camp? This was more than her contextual guessing could handle.
"Hogwarts," he said impatiently. "Where will you be starting your magical education, Hogwarts or another school? Don't say Beauxbatons, the food is good but I've heard the courseload is terrible."
"Oh! I—I'm not sure," she said. "Erm, I think there's a place in—Scotland, that my parents have been talking about, but I haven't been paying much attention, to be honest," she said hastily. Scotland seemed like an appropriately creepy-magicky place, with all those lochs and dour woods, she guessed.
"Oh, if it's in Scotland it's definitely Hogwarts," said Draco easily. "That's brilliant. I bet you'll be in my year, right? Can't vouch for it if you're Sorted into another house, but if you're in Slytherin, I'll make sure you're taken care of," he said grandly.
"Thanks," she said faintly. "Er, about Slytherin…" That was twice he'd mentioned the name. It sounded rather sinister.
"Yes, most of the pureblood families end up there," he said. "Of course, the best generally always do. We Malfoys have been Slytherin for as long as any can remember, for instance," he said proudly. "But I guess you could be a Ravenclaw, too; I could see that. I bet you think you're pretty clever," he said, grinning.
Hermione immediately bristled. "What do you mean by that? Just because I read books and—and admire Morgan le Fay—"
"Oh, don't get your knickers in a twist," he said, still smiling.
Hermione blushed. She'd heard and read worse before, but the line was still rather too mature for their age, wasn't it?
Draco seemed completely unperturbed. "Oh, I'm just teasing. Look, you're as clever as I am," he said. "I only meant it as a compliment. Most other purebloods our age are pretty boring, you know, dull, that lot. Crabbe, Goyle—solid blokes, good Quidditch beaters you know, but not too bright. Teddy Nott is better, but he doesn't have any imagination."
"I see," said Hermione, trying not be bothered by the onslaught of curious phrases—quidditch, pureblood, beaters. Was that how they called their set? But she could see how a lack of imagination would bother Draco—he did have so much of it. Well, she did too.
He mimed a fencer's lunge at her and she laughed, rolling her eyes and looking away, before she caught sight of something. "Wait! Draco, stop," she said, pointing to a cluster of posts in the distance. "We can't go this way, the signs—"
He looked where she pointed. They were a strangely-typeset cluster, proclaiming redundantly, "Warning, Keep Out, Dangerous, No Trespassing," and finally, at the bottom, "Military Exercise Zone—Exercise Caution—It May Explode." It appeared to bear the mark of the Ministry of Defence.
"Oh, that. That's just a sign we put up to keep Muggles out, in case any make it past the Disillusionment wards," he said. "The real Muggle military grounds begin quite a ways south of here." He gave the sign a flick and walked past it breezily.
"Oh," said Hermione, feeling rather foolish and off-balance. Draco's family seemed to have quite a problem with those fat American tourists, which she wouldn't have imagined being a problem out here. She changed the subject to cover up her discomfort.
"So have you been to Savernake Forest? It's rather close to where we are, isn't it?"
"Of course," Draco said. "We have a lodge there. Nice spot." He nodded sharply. "And the Muggles tend to avoid the area because they all think it's haunted."
Muggles again! She had to one-up him somehow."Well, when I was there I saw a unicorn," she said, totally serious. So he appreciated imagination—well, she had that one in the bag. "I don't suppose you've seen one yourself?"
He flushed. "Only girls see unicorns."
She could tell she had troubled him and she felt a rush of glee. It was impossible not to press the advantage. "That's not true and you know it! Any person of good intentions and pure of heart can find one," she said, "though it's true they might be more drawn to young maidens." That was how the old tales had it, right?
He scoffed. "All right, so you saw one. Then what?"
Hermione took a breath to buy time. What could she say? "Well, it was very gentle to me. It came quite close—it laid its horn on my shoulder—and I felt filled with a—a kind of light." She snuck a glance over at Draco. He had a rather sour expression on his face that she assumed was envy. "You should try it sometime. I bet they'd come right up to you if you went looking for them. I mean, you do own some of the forest, after all," she said, as a sort of peace offering.
"I guess they would," he said grudgingly. "I'll keep an eye out for them next time we're there." But he didn't speak much after that.
It was the price of her small moment of superiority, Hermione realized. So that was his flaw—he didn't very well take to being outshone. Still, she didn't mind the quiet too much. With Draco to lead her out, she would soon be back with her parents, a certainty finally let her enjoy the wild beauty of the heath, and the thought of the warm (and probably rather grand) Manor waiting for them not far ahead.
She looked over at the blond boy again. They had so much in common—she was sure they could be friends in spite of her little win. He had seemed too lonely for the kind of company she brought—flights of fancy, clever banter. In any case, it had done her confidence good to show up the boy—even just for a moment, even it had made him withdraw a bit.
She supposed he probably didn't have to put up with challenges from too many of his "pureblood" friends. It seemed like his family was the oldest and most powerful of their group, and that must have extended to how his fellows treated him, too. Well, Hermione didn't care. She was a challenge, no matter whom she was with, she thought smugly, whether she was of their set or not. And nobody, not even the son of an Earl, could be better than she at imagining fantastic stories and magical civilizations and creatures. Draco would grow to appreciate her for that, she felt sure.
He stopped walking suddenly and Hermione did too. Just over the crest of the hill lay a beautiful house, very large, and very grand, just as she'd guessed.
"Well, what do you think?" he said finally.
"It's incredible," said Hermione, completely sincere. Even from afar, the grass seemed greener, the water more jewel-like than any of the great houses she'd visited, and in the garden the colors of the flowers could still be seen because they were illuminated by a dancing, sparkling web of what looked like tiny floating lights. How had they done that? There were larger and grander estates, Hermione knew, but Draco's home put all the other great houses she had toured to shame. "Oh, you're so lucky! It's wonderful. I've never seen anything like it."
He seemed pleased at that, and the atmosphere between the two felt noticeably lighter as they continued down toward the Manor.
"It'll be time for supper soon," said Draco as they approached the house. They were passing through the vast, perfectly manicured gardens that opened onto the heath, approaching by the back way. "It'll be simple, of course, we're not expecting anyone. Perhaps you could join us," he said graciously.
"I would be delighted to," said Hermione. It was all she could do not to blush. "But my parents must be worried—"
"Well, they can join us too," said Draco dismissively. "I'm sure Mother and Father won't mind. They're always open to meeting intelligent, well-bred people. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they knew each other already, a little. The Pureblood circle isn't that large."
Pureblood again! Whatever she was, it was probably not that. Hermione stayed silent, abashed, and slightly worried. She would have to find some way to get back to her parents before he understood that she was not entirely what he assumed.
A shrill screech suddenly disturbed the calm of the garden, and Hermione looked around, startled.
"That's nothing, just the peacocks," said Draco.
Just then one stepped into the path before them. The bird was snowy white all over, with a silvery-blue crest and golden beak and feet. "Oh, it's lovely!" she said sincerely, but it opened its mouth and shrieked at her again, and Hermione took a step back. "Um, I don't think it likes me," she said, as it advanced on her, beak strained open.
"Nonsense. Don't be stupid," said Draco. Hermione wasn't sure whether it was addressed to the bird or to herself.
"Go on, shoo, you fat snowball," continued Draco, faking a kick in its direction so it fluffed its feathers in alarm. The bird, affronted, drew itself up and stalked off the path.
"Thanks," said Hermione.
"No problem," said Draco, puffing up a little again. "They're trained to ward against intruders so I guess they get a little cranky sometimes. Not bad once they get used to you."
Along the path a number of wrought iron gates had swung open as they passed, as if by magic. Well, Hermione didn't put it past these Malfoys to have the very latest in motion detection technology. She had felt a strange buzz as she passed through each portal—some sort of scanner, too? They passed another fountain pool, and stood before the house.
"Mother?" called Draco, his voice echoing down the long portico as he stepped off the grass. Hermione trailed cautiously behind him. He pushed open the doors at one end and entered, Hermione following closely. "I'm back, Mum. I found a witch my age lost on the heath," he said. "She says she'll stay for dinner."
Witch? Really, did he continue his role-playing with his parents, too? It was really getting a bit much.
Suddenly a soft snap came from behind her. Hermione whirled around almost screamed.
Draco felt her start and turned too. "Oh, hello, Nobby," he said. "Where's Mother?"
"Mistress Narcissa is to be finishing her toilette for supper," said the small, wrinkled creature who had given Hermione a fright. "She sends apologies for running late. Master Draco will be getting ready soon, too?" it said, wringing its long knobbly hands anxiously.
Of course, thought Hermione, old families still did things like dress for supper! She had forgotten. She looked down at her plain smock dress with a pang of worry. Well, she didn't plan to stay for that anyway.
"In a second, it can wait," Draco was saying to the small wrinkled creature, "can't you see I've got a guest, Nobby?"
"Oh, go on, Draco, I'll be fine," she said hurriedly. It wouldn't do to get Draco in trouble for tardiness. "I'll just, erm, wait. And it's so kind of you but I really don't think I should stay for supper—I just have to be getting back to my parents," she said. "Could I please just call the George and Dragon?"
"Well, all right, if you insist. Father does get irritated when I'm late," he said. "I'll just leave you in Mother's sitting room, then? She can sort you out with your parents, and all that."
Hermione felt a sudden apprehension. Another—probably odd—person she hadn't met, and without the one she came with to introduce her! "Thanks. That will be fine," she said again bravely. Draco gave her a dubious look, but left her.
She remained in the center of the hall, with the small creature beside her. It felt her gaze upon it and bowed deeply. "Nobby is Master Draco's house elf, Miss. Nobby may have honor of escorting Master Draco's guest to Mistress Narcissa's sitting room?" it said patiently, when she didn't budge.
"All right," said Hermione. She had given up on figuring out how any of this worked. She watched in fascination as the house elf stepped nimbly over to her despite its apparent age, seizing a fistful of her gown.
She heard a pop, felt a lurch—and she could only describe what happened next as a dark blur—as the room around her changed completely, to what was obviously a very ornate lady's sitting room. The creature (which, honest, really didn't look human, not even like a very short one) let go of Hermione's dress. "Nobby will be bringing a tray of tea for Miss," it said graciously. Then snapped its fingers and disappeared.
Hermione sat down heavily on one side of an extremely beautiful couch, bewildered. This was all far beyond eccentric. The "elf," the rooms, the disappearing! What could it all mean?
She was still working out ways to explain what had happened—hallucinatory drugs? drugs that knocked her out while she was transported from one place to the next, or while the elf disappeared, or—? when suddenly a high, gilded white door opened at the far side of the room and a woman who could only have been Draco's mother entered.
She was tall, with the same delicate features and fine blonde hair that Draco had, but she had an immediately intimidating presence about her that was utterly unlike anything Hermione had before experienced. Definitely related to royalty, Hermione thought apprehensively. There was fartoo much haughtiness for it to be anything but.
But the woman's expression softened a bit when she saw Hermione perched stiffly on the edge of the settee, and she smiled not unkindly.
"Well. Hello there," she said, crossing the room. She managed to sound kindly and bored all at once.
Hermione immediately rose to her feet. "Mrs. Malfoy," she managed, ducking her head. "I'm—I'm extremely sorry to intrude on you—"
The woman waited for her to finish but it became apparent that Hermione had just stopped in the middle of her sentence. "Nonsense, child. Nobby told me that Draco said you were a friend. He ran into you on the heath?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Hermione, resorting to formalities to hide her uncertainty—"But I didn't mean to—I mean, I was lost, and he was the only person I found—" Again she trailed off.
"Of course. It's a very quiet area," said the woman. "That is why we like it so much."
Nobby reappeared with a silver tea tray and set it down, making to pour the tea. Hermione watched nervously as Narcissa stopped the elf, reached over to pick up the delicate porcelain pot, and poured a cup of tea herself and handed it to the young girl.
Hermione accepted it gratefully, having never known that such a simple gesture could be so elegant. The house elf scurried over to offer cream and sugar, but Hermione was much too nervous to do anything but decline politely. She sipped urgently at the hot tea, inhaling the fragrance and thankful for some liquid, finally, to slake her rather awful thirst.
"Thank you, Nobby," said Narcissa, accepting her own cup of tea—one sugar, with lemon, Hermione noted, a combination which suddenly seemed impossibly sophisticated—from the house elf, rather than pouring her own. "Now, dear. Draco said you'll be staying for dinner."
Hermione lowered her cup so quickly it rattled in the saucer. "Oh! I, no, I mean—Draco offered," she said, blushing hotly; she may have fooled Draco but surely his mother saw right through her! "It's very kind of him, but I just couldn't impose. I mean I have already—"
"Oh, but not at all," replied Narcissa calmly. "Are you quite sure? We always enjoy Draco's friends…"
"It's just that my parents will be terribly worried," said Hermione, forgetting her manners and interrupting in her haste. "It's been hours, I'm sure, and they haven't any way to get in touch with me. Oh! Do you have a phone?" she burst out, suddenly remembering.
Narcissa gave her an odd look. "Excuse me?"
"A phone, to call the George and Dragon, over in Potterne," said Hermione desperately. "Oh, do you have their number? I knew I should have written it down…"
Narcissa was staring at her with what looked like total incomprehension. What, did the gentry not have phones? Surely not, all the stately houses had them! Albeit sometimes in the museum quarters.
"Calm down, child. We'll find your parents." Something flickered for a moment in Narcissa's eyes. "And what did you say your name was?"
"Hermione," she said, "and my parents are William and Helen Granger, address 19 Thurlowe Street, South Kensington, London, if that helps; we were in Potterne on holiday," she said, all in a rush.
"Potterne," said Narcissa after a moment, fixing on that. "The George and Dragon, you said. That's where your parents are?"
"It's where we stopped to have lunch," said Hermione miserably. "They were looking into buying a place in the village, we all liked it so much…"
"I see," said Narcissa. She set down her tea. "Well, Miss Granger, it has been a delight. I agree with you to worry about your parents, however. It seems to me that with the excitement of the day perhaps we would do better to send you home. Much as we would all rather have you stay."
Hermione nodded dumbly. She sensed that the woman had understood everything—of course. Well, it didn't matter now, even if she would probably never see Draco again. If she could just be returned home safely! After her deception of them, Hermione was not sure. The family was so very odd! And wasn't there a law against impersonation?
"Please excuse me, then," said Narcissa, rising gracefully, apparently immune to Hermione's increasingly panicked expression. "Miss Granger, Nobby will stay here with you in the meantime."
Out of a hidden pocket in her dress Narcissa drew out a long, finely carved piece of wood and raised it, stepping toward Hermione. "Now, there's just one thing. This won't hurt at all, I promise—just a moment—"
The teacups on the table all shattered as Hermione leaped up from the couch.
"Oh no, please, Mrs. Malfoy, I'm so sorry! I swear I didn't mean to deceive anyone," she said, almost in tears. "Only you were all so kind, and I didn't know how to get home—after I went through the door and it disappeared, I didn't know—"
For a moment the blonde woman stared open-mouthed at the scene before her. "Miss Granger!"
Hermione stopped talking and suddenly registered the porcelain shards scattered all around her. Oh, no, it had happened again… She thought it had gone away, it had been so long since the last time… But now—here—she could have wept.
As they both watched, another saucer wobbled on the table, lifted until it was level with Hermione's head, and neatly split into ten or twenty little pieces, all of them stopping in a contained sphere of suspended fragments about ten centimeters from where the saucer had originally lain. Hermione let out a sob.
"Oh my," said Narcissa again, eyeing the shards as they slowly sank back to the table. She raised her head and gave Hermione a hard look.
"Don't say a word. Don't feel bad. It is not your fault," Narcissa said crisply, not breaking eye contact.
"Now, Nobby, clean this up. Make sure nothing...untoward happens to Miss Granger." There was a loud crack, and then woman had disappeared from the room.
Hermione pressed herself into the corner of the settee, trying heroically not to give in to further tears.
"It's hopeless," she said miserably, when she was sure Narcissa had gone.
The grandest—and perhaps the most fascinatingly and charmingly eccentric—family she had ever met now thought she was a lunatic, too—a weird freak, just like everyone else. Well, just as long as they returned her to her parents, instead of institutionalizing her!
Nobby gazed at her compassionately, but seemed unruffled. "Not so, Miss Hermione. This sort of thing happens too to Master Draco. Happens often."
"What?" Hermione stopped.
"All the wizarding children," said the house elf complacently. "It is normal signs of magic."
"I don't understand," said Hermione, eyes wide.
"Miss Hermione must be patient," said the house elf, snapping her fingers and pointing at the neat circle of saucer shards. "Nobby cannot explain. Soon Miss Hermione will understand."
Hermione rubbed her eyes. No, it was still there—the saucer, with nary a mark to show for its recent excitement.
With growing amazement, she saw the two teacups restored as well.
What was in that tea?
Finished, Nobby turned toward the girl. "You must rest now, Miss Hermione," said the elf.
It had unbelievably large eyes, Hermione thought, but it wasn't nocturnal—what could possibly be the evolutionary rationale of that? Her mind felt like molasses.
She heard a soft snap, and then nothing.
She awoke with a start in an unfamiliar bed.
"Mum! Dad!" She sat straight up.
Both parents were in the room—her father in an overstuffed wingchair, lowering a newspaper, and her mother sitting beside her bed. "Oh good, she's awake," said her father, with a joking manner, but Hermione heard the relief beneath it.
"It's all right, dear," said her mother, bending over her and stroking back a wayward curl. "We've found you, now, all right? It's still early. Just rest."
But Hermione couldn't. "Where are we?" She twisted in bed, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings.
"We decided to stay the night at the George and Dragon," said her mother. "You were so tired when you came back, we had to—oh, Hermione, if you hadn't gone wandering off like that!"
"Indeed, Pumpkin," said her father gruffly. "We had half the village out searching for you."
"Which still wasn't very much," said her mother, laughingly, but with tears in her eyes that Hermione could see.
"I'm sorry… I promise I won't wander off again," said Hermione sincerely as her mother kissed her forehead. "But what happened?"
"Oh, dear, don't you remember any of it? They found you wandering alone outside the village, out in Salisbury Plains! God only knows how you got out there," her mother said finally.
"Oh," said Hermione, relieved and oddly disappointed all at once.
"It was a woman—she found you when she was out there walking her dog," said her father, coming to stand by the bed. "Noddy, I think its name was."
"Nobby," confirmed her mother. "Though, honestly, William, you don't really think she was walking her dog, do you? That dress she had on? It looked like an evening gown," she said.
"It was rather strange," admitted her father. "Still, there's odd folk around here. Country recluses and so on. Anyway, all that matters was that she was well-meaning. She contacted the proprietor here—"
"Borkel," broke in Hermione.
"Yes, Mr. Borkel. How did you know?" said her mother curiously. "Well anyway, she found you out on the heath and told Mr. Borkel to get us, and then he drove us out to get you—you were perilously close to the beginning of the military area, you know," she said reproachfully, "and you seemed half-asleep at the time. She was just standing out there, with you, that strange woman," said Helen, "with the evening about to fall. But it was very good of her to wait," she finished. "It must have been rather terrifying alone."
"We didn't catch her name," added Hermione's father, "so we can't even thank her. Imagine that!"
Imagine indeed, thought Hermione.
It would be the last time she let her dreams and her runaway imagination get the better of her, she decided, after they had finished breakfast and piled into the car for the drive home.
What a lot of very strange dreams she'd had after she was recovered last night. She was fairly certain the woman her parents spoke of was Narcissa—"evening gown" was a dead giveaway—but what could she make of the rest of it? The boy, the magic school, the house elf? The teacups? She remembered it all so clearly—too clearly—in her mind. It had just felt so very real.
Back home it was easier to forget about it. Occasionally Hermione would see it again in dreams—the boy, the heath, the sparkling gardens. But the difference was vast between the ages of eight-almost-nine, and ten-almost-eleven.
The world made a different kind of sense after just two years. Hermione switched to a new primary school, where she was moderately happier. The odd things had stopped happening.
And then, in August, she received the Hogwarts letter.
-end chapter 1-
Unlike all the later chapters, which pick right where Deathly Hallows left off, this chapter is set unusually far back in time-it's just meant to provide a backdrop to make the Dramione relationship in later events a little richer and more interesting. (Try revisiting the famous Draco Punch Scene with this in mind.) If you're confused about this chapter, read the Q&A explanations at magpiesmischief. tumblr 46807325343/ch1-what-really-happened-to-hermione (just add the HTTP-colon-slash-slash to the web address first, and remove the spaces; the password is MMWPP).
Dear reader, if you followed HAVEN back in the old days (under "trieste"), thanks to you for that, and glad to see you're still in the fandom. If not, thanks for giving this a shot now. I'd abandoned the original story for a number of reasons: life, losing my story notes, Deathly Hallows proving all my theories right. Epilogue. Less time, more responsibilities, the usual. I come back to it now for totally different reasons. It took six years, but I finally learned how to write—and how to do it without letting it overtake my IRL existence. Real life is pretty full and busy and takes a lot of energy. Especially once you've become an adult. But this story's still in my head, and the characters—to my surprise—still in my heart. With Pottermore around these days (and even summarized in archive for those, like me, who are too lazy to play), I struck an old vein of inspiration. Once I started researching—the Harry Potter world, but also our world, with its rich web of myth and mystery—it wouldn't let me go. I hope you'll find it compelling, too.
HAVEN has always been research- and character-driven, somewhere at the intersection of the real and imagined worlds. If you want to follow along, I keep a tumblr with all the cool background stuff I find. At anothermagpie dot tumblr dot com, click "Mischief" at the top-and you know what to do from there! (Password: MMWPP.) Password will change from time to time, so check my author page for the latest one if it's not working.) PM me if you still have problems.
If you liked this, please leave a note below! I'll write faster. :) Any and all corrections, suggestions, will be appreciated.