Disclaimer: All characters are property of J.K.Rowling. The Worst Witch is a novel by Jill Murphy that every 10 year old girl should read.
"Move it, geek!" The words were accompanied by a harsh shove and Hermione Granger felt herself stumble, her book falling from her arms and the brown envelope floated from her grip. The older student carried on, barely noticing the young girl bend down to pick up her things. The book – a weathered copy of 'The Worst Witch' – was splayed on the floor, pages bending back. Hermione picked it up carefully and placed it lovingly in her bag. Her teacher had wondered why she had chosen that to read when she had finished the far more challenging Lord of the Rings trilogy just a month previously. But the book was special.
Hermione walked down the street. Most of the children her age weren't allowed to walk home by themselves, but nobody thought twice about Hermione Granger doing it. After all, she was an exceptional student. The report in the brown envelope declared that. Not that Hermione had read it, but it had said the same thing since she had started school
"…exceptional maths skills, already completing long division without a calculator…"
"…exceptional use of grammar and her reading skills are far above her level…"
"…a responsible student, with exceptional manners…"
She paused at the crossing, waiting for the green man to appear. Her fingers tightened around the brown envelope, almost in anger. Of course she was exceptional! She had been reading short stories before she'd even started school! Even now, at just ten years of age, Hermione knew that she was different from the other students in her class. Two passed by now, with a woman, laughing and begging to go to the shop for sweets.
The traffic stopped and she crossed with a few other people, turning left and making her way to the Oakhill Dental Surgery. Her parents had promised to close early for the day so they could go for dinner somewhere nice, an end-of-year tradition in the Granger household. Sure enough, the large door to the surgery was closed, with a sign on it. She moved around the side of the house to the back door and let herself in.
"Hermione, is that you?" Elizabeth Granger appeared around the living room door. Hermione smiled.
"Hi Mum." She held out the report and bent to untie her shoelaces whilst her mother opened the envelope.
"How was the last day? Oh, you got an honourable mention in assembly? Darling, that's excellent!" Without a chance to answer either of the questions, her mother swooped down into a hug. Hermione grinned, trying not to remember the scathing looks of her classmates as her name had been mentioned that morning.
They went into the kitchen where her father was making cups of tea. He kissed his daughters head.
"Need I even read the report? Or shall I just read last years again?" He chortled. Hermione rolled her eyes and slid into her chair (hers had a yellow cushion with orange daisies).
"Where are we going tonight?" She asked. Daniel Granger looked at his wife.
"No, Italian." Elizabeth smiled back. They did it every year, pretending to argue before letting Hermione decide. After a few more suggestions they turned to their daughter.
"Tell him, Hermione, we want Italian."
"Chinese, sweetheart, we want Chinese!" Daniel gave her a thumbs up. Hermione pretended to deliberate.
"Actually… I'd like Indian."
"Ah, bonjour Monsieur Granger!" Sabine smiled brightly as the Grangers entered the café they had adopted for their usual two week holiday. It always happened like this; they found somewhere they liked and went there everyday for lunch before finding somewhere to visit in the afternoon. The pretty young waitress waved them to their usual table.
"The special today is champignons a la grecque. Shall I fetch your drinks?" She vanished. Hermione watched the gentleman at the next table, who had a small border terrier sat attentively at his feet, hoping for a scrap of food to fall from his fork. Elizabeth looked at her daughter and tutted.
"Hermione, put on some more sun lotion please. I don't want you burning."
Hermione glanced down at her arms. A pinkish tinge had appeared and she searched in her mother's bag for the bottle. The border terrier trotted over to their table and then moved on at seeing the empty plates. His owner, entirely involved with his newspaper, ignored him. No one seemed to mind so Hermione looked back at her menu.
"What would you like, darling?" Her mother asked absently.
"Blanquette, please." Hermione watched the little dog wander towards the kitchen and smiled as he sniffed at the corner of the counter. Sabine emerged from the kitchen, carrying a scalding cup of black coffee and pretended to scowl at the dog.
"Go on, back to your master, petit chien." He scampered back to his table and Hermione picked up the bottle of sun lotion. A drop of it squirted from the bottle, missing her arm and landing on the floor. Instantly the dog darted over to investigate, at the exact moment Sabine came over to place down the coffee on his owner's table. The dog slid under her feet and the waitress let out a squeal as she tripped. The coffee flew from her hand and landed on Hermione.
Screams emanated from both Elizabeth and Sabine as they dived towards Hermione. Daniel had seized a jug of cold water and was pouring it onto his cloth napkin, pressing it to Hermione's skin, wiping the coffee away. But he stopped suddenly.
There wasn't a mark on her. Her skin was perfectly clear, even the hint of sunburn had disappeared. The four of them stared at Hermione's arm and then down at the cup, which was still steaming from the spilt liquid, to the puddle of hot liquid on the floor. And yet Hermione's skin was cool to the touch, the drops of coffee as cold as the iced water Daniel had began to mop her with.
Sabine, Elizabeth and Daniel stared at Hermione.
Hermione stared at the floor.
"Have you finished unpacking yet?" Elizabeth called upstairs. Hermione called back that she had as she placed 'The Worst Witch' back in its place on the shelf. Pushing her suitcase under her bed, she ran down the stairs, jumping the last step to the bottom. Her dad was still at the surgery, but he'd be home soon and he'd promised her that they'd play a board game tonight. Hopefully scrabble; her parents were always amused by her extensive vocabulary.
The doorbell rang and Elizabeth laughed.
"He's forgotten his keys again! Let him in, Hermione." She smiled and darted to the front door. But it was not her father on the doorstep.
It was an elderly woman, with a severe bun and stern features. Hermione stared up and her, noticing with some curiosity that she was wearing a cape, before remembering her manners.
"Can I help you?"
"I certainly hope so. Are you Miss Hermione Granger?"
"Excellent." And before Hermione could say another word, the woman had stepped into the hallway and was peering about. Elizabeth stepped out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a tea towel. She stared at the woman in surprise.
"Can I help you?" She repeated her daughter's words. The woman held out a hand.
" Professor Minerva McGonagall. You are Miss Granger's mother?"
"Yes. I'm sorry, but if you're selling something-"
She cleared her throat and looked around again.
"I have something to discuss with you and your daughter. Is there somewhere we might sit and talk?"
"Of course, come through." Elizabeth said, gesturing towards the living room door. As Professor McGonagall passed, she glanced at Hermione, as if to say 'what did you do?'. The front door opened again and Daniel came in, looking exhausted.
"Dear, there's a woman here to talk to us about Hermione." His wife said before he could even greet them. Daniel's eyebrows lifted.
"Oh? What about?"
"We're just about to find out." She said grimly and pushed them both into the living room. Professor McGonagall was sat primly on the edge of a comfy chair and observed them as they entered, sitting on the sofa, Hermione in the middle with her parents on either side.
"You must be Mr Granger." She introduced herself again and then took a deep breath. "Do excuse my brusqueness, this is the eighth visit I've done today. We get terribly busy this time of year."
"And you are…?" Daniel prompted.
If possible Professor McGonagall sat up even straighter and rested her hands in her lap, looking at Hermione with piercing blue eyes that defied the aged lines around them.
"I am here on behalf of a school. We would like to offer Miss Granger a place at our school, starting this September." She gave them a few moments to take this in before continuing, "I have brought a letter from our Headmaster, explaining the details and a list of supplies you will need to bring with you."
"What is the name of this school? Is it local?" Elizabeth asked quickly.
"Before I say anything further I would like to ask Hermione a question." T he eyes went to Hermione again. "Tell me, Miss Granger… have you noticed anything odd about yourself?"
"What a question to ask a ten year old!" Elizabeth blustered but Daniel's eyebrows had come together as he watched his daughter.
Hermione looked down at her hands and then shrugged awkwardly.
"I… I don't know."
"I think you may have. Unusual incidents. Things happening that shouldn't. Things that happen when you are in the vicinity."
An apple tree in the back garden suddenly growing plums… being pushed by an older girl in the playground, only for the girl to slip in a muddy puddle that hadn't been there a moment before… a cup of coffee that should have blistered her skin…
Professor McGonagall had seen it a thousand times before. The frown, the desperate thinking and the slow, sudden realisation. Hermione lifted her head to stare at Professor McGonagall, confused by understanding the question perfectly. It was time to give the truth.
"I am here as a representative of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." She said the three of them. "It is an exclusive school for youths who display evidence of magical talent. Miss Granger is one such young lady. You may find this hard to believe, but I would ask that you take a moment to consider this possibility."
Elizabeth turned to her husband, ready to scoff but was shocked to see him looking almost… satisfied. As for Hermione, she was looking intently at Professor McGonagall.
"I'm a witch?"
"A real one?"
"Oh…" Hermione paused and then looked at her parents for guidance. Daniel squeezed her hand.
"What do you think, sweetheart?"
"I'm not sure. I know that sometimes things happen that aren't supposed to but… I didn't know it was magic." The word was foreign to her tongue, peculiar. She said it again. "Magic…"
Elizabeth was looking distinctly unconvinced on the verge of calling the police. McGonagall reached inside her cloak and pulled out an envelope of thick yellow parchment. She handed it to her Hermione who examined the emerald writing before carefully opening it. She could barely read the friendly words because her head was buzzing. Daniel touched her arm.
"Hermione, why don't you go upstairs for a moment so we can have a quick talk?"
She nodded silently and climbed the stairs slowly, going to sit on the edge of her bed. The letter was still clutched between her fingers and she put it down, drawing in a deep breath.
A witch. She was a witch.
Hermione stood and walked to her bookcase, pulling the black book from the shelf and stroking the embossed silver letters. 'The Worst Witch'. Well, hopefully she wouldn't be the worst!
Because she was going to that school. Hogwarts. Even now she could hear her mother's objections from downstairs. But she would go. She already knew that.
She carefully opened the book to the inside cover, the page she had read so many times before.
To My Dearest Hermione,
I hope this brings out a little bit of your own magic, my exceptional girl.
All of my love