Author's Note: (2012) There comes a point in the life of every fanfiction author where the time between the first and most recently updated chapter is so great that the difference in writing causes intense cringing and he or she cannot take it any longer. For me, that point is now. I'm editing this chapter so it better represents the story as a whole, and will hopefully be able to do the same to some of the next few chapters, as well.
I'd also like to post fair warning—I got a few reviews about this a while ago, but for those of you starting this story now: it is basically as if I lifted the entire Harry Potter situation and dropped it in around the year 2010/2011. There are references to books, music, and technology that either did not exist or was not used as much in the 90s, when the Harry Potter books are actually set.
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter
Hermione watched as Hogwarts became a small speck in the distance and then settled back against her seat in their compartment of the Hogwarts Express. Their sixth year had just ended and Harry, Ron, and Hermione were heading back to London and, for her, the muggle world. This was her first summer that she could legally cast spells and she was both excited and nervous to show her parents some of the things she could do.
She turned back to her two best friends, just catching the last bit of Ron's chatter about being able to get back at his brothers now that he could use magic, too. Harry laughed half-heartedly, staring out the window, and Hermione vowed to talk to Ron about how quickly he could be moved to The Burrow.
"Ron," she frowned at him. "You're allowed to do magic because they think you're mature enough, not so you can settle your childhood scores."
Ron shrugged. "I'm only saying, now I can do what the twins did and bug the hell out of them. Just wait Harry, there's not that long until your birthday!"
"I suppose so," Harry said with a shrug. "Time in the summer passes so much slower. At least I know Malfoy is in the same boat as me. Can't go around wreaking havoc on innocent people."
"Same goes for Neville," Ron said with a snicker, "Although for different reasons."
Hermione frowned again, "Neville has come a long way this year! He's much less clumsy than he used to be. He's really come into his own, and you know he may challenge you two next year."
"Hermione, we were just teasing. You know, that thing normal people like to do instead of read big books and learn new spells?" Ron rolled his eyes at her, shooting a pleased grin in Harry's direction when he laughed. "Hey, Harry did you hear about the last Cannons' game? It wasn't their best but—"
"I hate to break it to you, Ron, but I don't think the Cannons have a best." Harry said with a straight face, ducking to avoid the licorice wand thrown his way.
"It's a good thing you're not playing a real Quidditch position, Weasley." Draco Malfoy shouldered into their compartment, a smirk gracing his pale lips. Behind him in the hall stood Crabbe and Blaise Zabini, his bored eyes flicking between them all like they were two very boring paintings on an otherwise blank wall. "Your aim is terrible."
"Keeper is a real position, Malfoy." Harry said hotly, glaring. "Not that you'd know much about real playing, since it can't be bought with daddy's money."
"At least my family's got some money," he snapped, turning his eyes back to Ron. "Hey, Weasley, are you going to fix up that crackpot house of yours now that you can do magic?"
Ron's ears reddened. "Sod off, Malfoy."
Draco chuckled softly. "Oh, right. I forgot that you're too stupid to do real magic anyway."
Harry's eyes narrowed dangerously, and his hand clenched his wand tightly. "If you're here to insult us, you can leave."
"Why else would I be here, to have a tea party?" Draco snickered, and then his eyes scanned the compartment once more, trying to find something to insult. His eyes fixed on Hermione. "I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think I enjoy the mudblood's company."
"Take it back." Harry's voice had gotten quiet and he stood, his wand clenched in his hand and raised slightly from his body.
"Harry, Ron, leave it. It's only a word." Hermione said, not sure if she should keep an eye on her friends and make sure they didn't do anything rash or on Malfoy to anticipate how far he was trying to push them. "Malfoy, you can leave. You're not going to get anything worthwhile from here, except maybe a case of purple warts."
Draco's grey eyes surveyed her and he drew his lips back in a sneer. "Probably. Good thing being a blood traitor isn't contagious, or our entire year would be doomed."
"Malfoy!" Ron's face was flushed a deep crimson and his wand whipped up to point straight at Draco's face. "I'm feeling generous, so I'm going to give you five seconds to get out of here before I curse you into oblivion!"
"If I suspended disbelief for a few seconds and actually believed that you're capable of magic beyond the level of first year I still wouldn't be threatened by you, Weasley." Draco said coolly, but he was eyeing the wand pointed at his face and had edged back to the door, bringing himself closer to Crabbe. "Nevertheless, I must be off. Unlike you sorry lot, I actually have people who want to see me."
"Mudblood." He nodded over his shoulder in her direction just after he'd stepped through the door and disappeared down the corridor. For a moment she thought Ron was going to chase after him but, after letting out a long, deep huff of air he simply sat down.
"One day I'm going to kill him." Ron muttered and, after noticing Hermione open her mouth to say something, went on. "No, it would be worth it. He's a dumb prick, Hermione, and you know it."
"Ron, please. We're adults now, you can't just go around spouting off statements about killing people. You know how tense people are, someone someday will take it the wrong way," she shrugged and lifted her hands when he opened his mouth to say something. "I'm just saying. Watch what you say."
"I'm not sure being an adult is all it's cracked up to be. Hermione." Something in Harry's voice made them look over quickly. A tawny owl flew through the open window and landed in Harry's lap. It had a letter with the initials WWNC, representing the wizarding world's leading channel, emblazoned on the top.
The first letter he'd gotten from them had asked if they could interview him. He'd refused. The next one had suggested a documentary called, 'A Day in The Life of Harry Potter.' He'd also refused that. Then they'd asked about a movie that he could star in and would feature all his adventures. Ron and Hermione would be replaced by more suitable and aesthetically pleasing candidates, of course. Once again he'd refused.
Harry's face went red and he started to crumple up the letter, ignoring the way the owl had started to bounce around on his lap. Hermione grabbed it from his hand and smoothed it out, skimming it quickly while Ron read over her shoulder and Harry silently stewed in the corner. The first few paragraphs were full of compliments and so closely resembled some of the more childish fan-mail Harry had received that Hermione snorted. The very last requested that he allowed them to make a reality television show and follow him around everywhere because they were getting so many questions about him and 'the viewers are desperate to know more about the life of a teen hero.'
They obviously didn't know anything about Harry and made the same judgment others often did when confronted by his huge fame—assumed he loved it. In addition to their aggressive compliments and attempts at stroking an unwilling ego they'd made it all too clear that they wanted to pry deeply into his life. When they were both done Hermione flicked her wand and burned the letter into a crisp.
"Damn, I hate when people write to me to tell me how amazing I am." Ron said, trying to lighten the now very damp mood that had settled over them.
"I don't understand why people enjoy prying into the lives of others so much. Do they have nothing better to do? Are they that bored all the time?" Harry opened the window a little wider and nudged the owl towards it.
"Harry," Hermione said as gently as possible, "It's natural for people to want to know about you. You've already accomplished so much, and loads of people really respect you. I'm sure the WWNC is being so insistent because they've been getting a lot of demands."
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "I'd rather live with Malfoy then be on a reality show."
"Be careful," Hermione warned, "They might make that happen."
Ron snorted. "And who's going to tell them, the owl?"
"Remember Rita? People have a way of getting what they want." Hermione shrugged as Harry lifted the owl, frowning at its reluctance to leave.
Their conversation was pulled to a close when Harry cursed loudly. The owl wouldn't let go of his finger and the pressure punctured his skin and a drop of blood formed around the owl's talons. It screeched and took off out the window.
"Bloody owl!" Harry muttered as he nursed his finger. Their conversation gradually turned to their expected reunion at the Burrow, which would likely happen earlier than usual because Hermione's family wasn't traveling this summer. By the time they reached the station, all thoughts about the letter and the owl were gone.
"So, did anything interesting happen this year?" Hermione's mother, Jane, asked as their car drove down the road. Hermione could tell that she was looking for a specific type of answer that involved boys, but pretended to be ignorant of it.
"I can do magic all the time, now." She replied brightly, gazing as familiar houses zipped by in blurs of red brick and gravel drives.
"Oh, right! How lovely," Jane said, smiling over her shoulder. "Actually, could you maybe fix the petunias, they're looking a little dreary this summer. So are the tulips, they could use some-"
"Mom," Hermione said disapprovingly, "Magic is a science, not used to fix flowers. Besides there are too many muggl- I mean, non-magic folk around."
Chris chuckled, his eyes meeting hers in the mirror, and Jane looked disappointed. "What about in the dark? Everyone would be asleep, and it would be so nice to have them bloom so nicely like they used to!"
"If the neighbours woke up and saw a dark figure hanging around our lawn, they would probably call the police," Hermione said with the shake of her head. "Besides, I don't know many household charms anyway."
"I suppose that's true. So, is there anything else we should know about?" Jane asked, obviously not referring to anything magical.
"I can apparate, as well." Hermione said, although she'd already owled her parents to tell them when she'd passed her test. Jane's face fell slightly, and Hermione hoped she wouldn't start asking about Viktor again to try and segue into a conversation about other eligible boys, including ones 'a little closer to home and ready to settle down.'
"Sounds like you had a good year," Chris said, reaching out to pat his wife's hand. He wasn't bothered at all by Hermione's reluctance to date, and probably wouldn't be if it continued for another decade.
There was a short silence, and then—"Harry's a nice boy, isn't he?"
"Mum, Harry and I are friends." Hermione said as her dad pulled into their driveway. She opened the car door and Crookshanks shot out in a streak of ginger, disappearing into the back garden.
"I was just inquiring after him!" Jane said, opening the hatch and pulling out Hermione's trunk.
"Of course you were," Hermione hefted her purse over her shoulder. "It's a miracle I grew up independent from boys at all, with the way you're so preoccupied."
They dragged her luggage into the house, accidentally crushing a small bed of daffodils when one of the trunks went rogue. "You know I just worry about you sacrificing typical teenage experiences—"
"I go to a co-ed boarding school. If anything, that should worry you." Hermione informed her, hugging her parents once more when they'd brought everything in. Chris put on the kettle and Hermione disappeared upstairs, using the one hour time her parents usually gave her to get used to the idea of being home before they started insisting on really catching up. Too often this included detailed accounts about the lives of their patients and who was now going to university and who'd gotten pregnant and moved in with their boyfriend, so Hermione was somewhat eager to put it off.
Hermione's bedroom looked the same as it always had. Baby pink walls that hadn't been repainted since she'd been born, a queen sixed bed, an oak dresser and a few bookshelves crammed from top to bottom. A desk was in the corner with a computer and phone on it, and their living room's old television was perched atop a table so it rested parallel to her bed. Her walk in closet, which her mother was ridiculously enthused about, was used mostly as extra storage for her books.
With the help of her wand she had everything unpacked and put away in record time. Her old teddy bear lay atop her bed and she gazed at it fondly as she turned the computer, deciding not to delay in her usual just-returned-home tasks. She had a few emails from her only childhood friend who, for some reason, had refused to give up keeping in contact with Hermione even though she barely got to see her. Although she'd told her several times that she couldn't access email during her academic year, Andrea still sent her the occasional email with news from home so when she returned home she could read it.
Dinner with her parents was a deliciously home cooked meal and, while the House Elves did excellent jobs and insisted it was done willingly and with joy, eating food her own father had prepared never failed to fill her with the warmth of home. They chatted about her classes and whether or not she had any idea what she wanted to do after school—a few, none concrete—and then drank tea.
She retired to her room a short while later and set about emailing back Andrea, jumping when the doorbell rang. No one usually came to their house on the day Hermione came home because they usually assumed it was 'family time,' and because their entire street communicated a lot they always knew when she was returning. Jane's voice floated up the stairs, followed by another that belonged to a man she didn't know, and the door closed.
Hermione glanced outside, shrugging inwardly when she couldn't see the car, and went back writing out a return email. She was interrupted by the appearance of a chat window.
Andrea: hi sweets. welcome home xoxo
Andrea: feel weird to be away from dorm?
Hermione: So weird. But we should talk more in person, msn is so impersonal.
Andrea: ur the only one who thinks that, just fyi. do u have a bf yet?
Hermione rolled her eyes. Andrea literally asked her that question every single break she came home, and the answer was always the same.
Hermione: No, it's not exactly my first priority. You?
Andrea: yea! remember todd scott? he's so gorgeous now, wait until you see him.
Andrea added Todd to their conversation and Hermione tensed. He'd always teased Hermione and, although it had never been very malicious, he came from a very privileged background and wasn't afraid to shove it in other peoples' faces. He reminded her a lot of Draco Malfoy, except as a muggle, and with their latest encounter still under her skin she wasn't feeling all that great about reacquainting over a silly chat service.
Andrea: hey bb, its hermione! remember her?
Todd: duh! could never forget that bushy hair and shit lol
Andrea: todd, plz don't be rude to her.
Hermione: It's alright, Andrea. I have to go anyway, I'm really tired.
Todd: u c! all good. she knows ppl don't like her cuz she's not pretty. no offence lol
Hermione: Todd you haven't seen or talked to me in years, so you're not really qualified to make that decision. If we're going on our last impressions of each other, yours is not so favorable either, so at the very least don't be so hypocritical.
The only reply she got back from Todd was so jumbled and full of swear words she didn't try to decode it, instead reading Andrea's invitation to her annual summer party with a grimace and quickly made up an excuse to leave the conversation. As much as she liked Andrea, she wasn't the kind of girl who Hermione imagined as her lifelong friend and when she was around boys she liked she tended to act less than intelligent, which Hermione thought was rather an insult to herself and other girls.
Clearing her throat Hermione stood and headed downstairs to get a drink, only to be intercepted by her mother as she descended the stairs. "Hermione? I thought you were in bed."
She smiled, feeling a stab of longing for the Gryffindor Common Room. "Just getting a drink."
"I can get it for you!" Jane said with a smile, stepping up a stair to pat Hermione's arm and try to turn her around. "I've missed taking care of you!"
"Er,right." Hermione said slowly as she climbed, her mind instantly flashing back to the mysterious guest who'd come inside. She wasn't sure if her parents just didn't want her to meet them, or if her mother was just being her usual self.
A few minutes later Jane was carrying a mug into her room and set it down on her desk, pressing a kiss to the top of Hermione's head. "Here you go. Goodnight!"
Hermione was reading a book so she didn't look up when she got the tea, only brought it towards her to take a sip through practice. When the liquid touched her mouth she realized Jane had forgotten to add a teabag and she was drinking hot water and milk. That definitely surpasses my mother's flake quota of the day. Hermione stood up and crept to the stairwell, trying to get a good look at their visitor. It was obvious now that the man was supposed to be kept a secret, but she honestly hadn't even recognized the voice so she wasn't sure what the danger of letting her see him was.
When she finally got a good enough look she realized that there were two strangers, a man and woman, both about the same age and in their late 20s. The woman was tan and slim, with midnight black hair, high cheekbones and full lips. The man was very bronzy, with blond highlights and pearly white teeth that seemed to flash under the light. He had a large nose and crinkly brown eyes that were warm. They were dressed alike in rich reds and gold. Something about them was familiar, but she couldn't figure out what it was.
"Well, yes of course we understand your concerns, and we have a list of rules that are enforced strongly." This was the man speaking, his voice smooth and calming like honey.
Hermione heard Jane excuse herself and dashed into the bathroom to avoid being seen, trying not to laugh at the situation she was in. Hogwarts was generally where all her creeping around was supposed to take place. The sound of a coffeepot being taken from the stand floated to her ears and her mother breezed back into the living room.
"Oh no, I'm fine."
A minute and her mother was back in the kitchen. A clink, the sound of a spoon stirring, then Jane walked by again.
"We'll leave the proposal here for you to review, and we would appreciate an answer as early as you can give us. Your full cooperation is much appreciated." The woman was speaking in an airy voice and flicked her hair over her shoulder. They stood and Hermione crept back up the stairs, laying down on her bed as she heard them leaving.
Who were these people?
A few days later nothing had been explained and any attempts she'd made at questioning her parents had received a few vague deflections and a muttering about patients. One week after she'd arrived home her mother insisted on taking her out shopping and, shaking off the feeling that she was in some kind of teen cliché novel, she got dressed and followed her out the door.
Breakfast had been a modest affair, the only thing out of the ordinary was when Hermione had spilled cheerios and used magic to clean it up. Witnessing a muggle reaction to magic was quite fascinating, because they were both intrigued and mildly in awe of it.
Jane had a selection of stores in an upper class mall that had all kinds of overpriced and unnecessary clothes in it that she liked to take Hermione to. Although she had plenty of clothes Hermione went along with it, both because it made her mother happy and because occasionally she found something she genuinely liked. So really, it was a win-win situation.
They began at a store called Tres Chic and the sales attendants, who by now were accustomed to Jane at least, flitted around in tight fitted black clothing and attempted to offer unneeded assistance every few minutes.
"How about this?" Jane pulled out a little black skirt and a billowing blue blouse, both of which likely costed the same amount as Hermione's entire outfit.
"Or this?" Hermione held up a knee length jean skirt and a navy blue t-shirt.
"But this is so much cuter." Jane put her selection over her arm and gestured for Hermione to put hers down. They went around the store, occasionally Jane snatching things and adding them to the growing pile in her arm, and dismissing most of the things Hermione picked out. Then she pushed her into a changing room and Jane surveyed her critically in every single item of clothing, before they chose the best ones based on what Hermione was willing to wear and what Jane wanted her to be willing to wear, and moved on to the next store.
"You do realize I have plenty of clothes?" Hermione asked as she stared at the workers folding the clothes up and sliding them into cream coloured bags with blue handles.
"Darling you sound like a broken record." Jane took out her money and paid for it. "You and your father do plenty of activities together. It's only fair that you'll shop with me. Besides, you must to be tired of those school uniforms you have to wear."
They left and Jane steered her to the next store. As a child, Jane had never had much money so she always insisted on giving Hermione the things she hadn't been able to have. It was one of the reasons Hermione suffered through playing muggle dress-up—she knew her mother truly enjoyed it and really wanted her daughter to experience being a typical girl.
"Which one?" Jane held up two pairs of shorts-very short shorts that were almost identical.
"I already have shorts." Hermione said flatly. And they aren't that short.
"Both, then." Jane said smiling. Hermione made a mental note to hide them in the back of her drawers "Hermione, why do you insist on being so negative?"
"I'm not trying, I just can't see myself wearing some of the things you've picked out."
Jane placed her pile of clothes on the counter. "I just want to spend some quality time with you, besides, it's more reassuring to go out with you and pick out your clothes. Then I know what you're wearing."
"I'm not going anywhere, mum. We have all summer." Hermione said with a frown and Jane flushed, avoiding her eyes.
"Well Martha's daughter, Sally, just moved out a couple weeks ago and she was seventeen."
Hermione almost laughed at the fumbled response, but couldn't tell exactly how serious she was and didn't push it. "Fine, but let's just keep the purchases reasonable. You know the saying 'every girl should have a little black dress?' Well I have about twelve already."
Jane smiled. "Sounds like a good compromise to me!"
By the time they were in the last shop, one that Hermione and Jane usually never went in because the clothes were all bright colors and extravagant patterns, it was 5:30. Hermione had all their shopping bags shrunk in her pocket for the sake of space and wandered curiously around the store. It was obviously owned by a safety freak as there were literally cameras poised everywhere.
Jane held up the ugliest, brightest, and most outrageous flowery dress she could have imagined. Hermione shook her head quickly and her mother turned to put it back on the shelf.
A hand fell on her shoulder. Before Hermione could react another was over her mouth and someone was dragging her backwards. Her hands were pinned to her sides and she couldn't move or even scream.
Jane was walking slowly away in the opposite direction. She turned and walked quickly to the change rooms, not noticing there was no Hermione to try any clothes on. A black truck (even in the dangerous, not to mention alarming, situation her first thought was how cliché of them) was waiting outside and Hermione was shoved into it roughly. Utter darkness closed around her and the engine started up. With a jolt she felt it move and began to fumble to find her wand, which had fallen from her pocket and rolled away.
"Hermione? Don't be afraid, you'll have fun. I know it." A picture of Jane flashed up on the wall and Hermione stared at it, squinting against the suddenly aggressive light.
She sucked in a few deep breaths, using the light of the screen to locate her wand. As soon as it was in her hand she felt instantly better. "How do I know you're my real mother?"
Jane smiled weakly. "They told me you might be like this. Hm. Your favourite colour is green. In grade two you saved the class hamster by telling everyone that he wasn't really vicious, he bit people because he was scared and misunderstood. Then you got really embarrassed about it and pretended you had amnesia. You got your first period on December 27th, six years ago."
Hermione nodded, momentarily reassured, and sat against the wall on the inside of the truck. "What's going on? Why am I in this truck and did you plan this?"
Her mother nodded sympathetically, a smug smile coming over her face. "I can't tell you where you're going because its all part of the plan. Bit dramatic, in my opinion. But I think you'll have lots of fun, so just go along with what they do!" The image disappeared and any light it had given off was gone.
"Mum?" She whispered. There was no answer. If her mother knew where she was going things would be okay, but the more pressing matter was where was she going, and why would her mother want her to go there? The Order didn't resort to such unconventional methods of transportation.
The truck stopped. A man was opening the door and helping her out before she could even begin questions she had in her mind. She staggered drunkenly under the light and he held onto her arm, but shook him off and straightened a moment later. Turning to look at him more closely, her mouth fell open.
It was the man she'd seen in her living room.
"Before you say anything I have to tell you that I can't tell you anything. Hello and please follow me, don't try any magic either, I'm quite gifted with a wand myself." He took out a wand and fingered it, all the while smiling. Somehow, Hermione was seriously doubting it. Then his smile disappeared and the hurriedly polite tone of his voice disappeared. "Let's go."
He turned to the door leading into the house and Hermione followed him warily. It was very clear now that there was nothing of malicious intent going on-her mother wouldn't condone it, and he'd obviously consulted her first. The man was leading her to a large two story white brick house. Lush green grass covered the lawn and perfectly shaped trees provided shade from the sun.
"Coming?" The man asked, and instead of opening the neon green door he waited until she reached out to grab it. When she touched it the color changed to white.
He smiled. "This way." He led her through a long hallway and into another door.
"Here we are." She heard a female voice from across the room and turned her head towards it. She came face to face with Blaise Zabini, whose clothes were rumpled and was holding his wand in his hand at his side. Their eyes met and his widened.
"Welcome to the House of Hell."
Author's Note: Review review review!