I'm not a Muggleborn?
Hermione felt an odd, drifting sensation after she stepped into the void. When it stopped, she opened her eyes. It was as though the world had been enveloped in a white mist. Her feet were on solid ground, well, not ground exactly; she could feel the firm surface under her feet, but all she could see was white. It had no creases, no edges. It stretched on forever and seemed to deceive her eyes. She couldn't tell if there was a wall of mist in front of her or if that was just the white in the distance.
She looked for the rope that had been around her waist, but it had vanished as expected. She pulled the compass out of her pocket and saw it was pointing straight to her left. She turned the face of the compass so that, had the needle stayed stationary, it would have pointed forward. The needle swung as she turned it so that when she stopped, it still pointed left. She was overjoyed that it worked for it would be very helpful.
Next, she checked the pedometer. She took a single step forward and looked at its screen. The readout showed a 1. 'Yes!' she cheered mentally. She was ready.
Hermione started walking straight forward, checking the compass every once in while to make sure she was still going in the right direction.
Though she had walked for hours, Hermione didn't feel the least bit tired, hungry, or thirsty. This did not surprise her. She had had a feeling that time would not pass inside the veil though days would continue to pass outside.
The girl continued walking with far more stamina than she would have had had she still been in reality. She walked for what she guessed was close to a day and then checked her pedometer. She memorized the number on its display and then decided to turn in the direction the compass had been pointing along her journey. After all, it was hardly likely that he had only walked straight. She realized that it was also unlikely that she would find him any time soon, but she held up hope.
After walking for another estimated day, Hermione saw a dark blur in the distance. She fought the urge to break into a run, continuing to walk at the same steady pace. Running would cause the pedometer reading to be incorrect if she walked back.
She felt like this walking without running was the hardest thing she had ever done, harder, even, than telling Harry to go on alone to face someone trying to kill him in first year, or standing up against an accused murderer, or facing down death eaters in the Department of Mysteries last year. She managed to reign herself in, however, because of her strong desire to get both herself and her newfound father out alive.
As she got closer, the blur became more and more defined, and Hermione felt her heart drop. The shape was far too short to be Sirius. She continued to walk forward though, thinking maybe she could rescue someone else, a child, guessing by the size.
When she got close enough to really tell, she felt her hope rise again. It was a man, but he was sitting on the 'ground' with his arms wrapped around his knees, staring into the distance. She approached silently, her footfalls making no noise in this seemingly endless void.
She walked up behind him and asked quietly, "Dad?"
He jumped up, then whirled about in surprise. "Hermione?!?" he asked in amazement after studying her face for but an instant. She smiled.
"You know then?" he asked. She nodded, still smiling. He took a hesitant step forward, and she threw her arms around him. He grinned so widely his face almost split and squeezed her tightly. They stayed like that for a moment, but when his grip loosened suddenly, she nearly fell.
"Why are you here? You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be dead," he said.
"I'm not. You aren't either. This place isn't like that; it's more of an in-between state. I don't know the details, but we're not dead. We can get back," she said. He stared at her in disbelief.
"I'm not dead? But-" he faltered.
"Let's talk while we walk," she suggested. She checked the compass and pedometer, made a turn of exactly 180 degrees, and started walking. He followed her.
"What do you want to talk about?" he asked her.
She thought for a moment, then asked, "Who was my mother? How did you meet?" Sirius smiled with a faraway look in his eye, obviously remembering her, and then began to speak.
"I first met your mother as Cassie (Cass-E not Case-E) Mason. We were in the same year at Hogwarts. She had the longest blonde hair, and the prettiest blue-grey eyes, always lit with emotion. They blazed with fire when she was angry and sparkled with merriment when she was amused. She had a really long sorting— I didn't understand why until later. James told me it was even longer than mine, and I had to argue with the hat to get it to not put me in Slytherin just because of my family.
"The sorting hat is prejudiced. Anyway, we became fast friends. Both of us felt an inexplicable connection to the other as if we were drawn together. We stayed close friends until sixth year when she found out about the prank I had played on Snape. She was furious. Didn't speak to me for weeks, but then again, no one who knew did. Even some of the people who didn't know avoided me, knowing something was up.
"I went to her three months later because I couldn't stand being away any longer. She was so stubborn. That was the only time in my life I've ever begged except for the time I begged Reg. to stay." Hermione almost asked who 'Reg.' was but thought better of interrupting.
"She didn't want to forgive me, but she did eventually. About a year later, we started dating. Not many people were surprised. Two years later, she told me the truth about who she was. Her birth name was Cassiopeia Malfoy, sister to Lucius Malfoy. I was angry for a short bit, but then I understood. I would have done the same if I had had the chance.
"She told me her mother had premonitions of a sort, but wasn't exactly a seer. When she had been born, her mother had had one of her premonitions that told her that her daughter would not be like the rest of her family, which was a dishonor in their opinion. Her parents hid her existence, but she had a home. They all loved her regardless, except for Lucius. He was cold and distant to her, and it tore her apart because she loved him anyway. A lot like the way I loved Reg. — inexplicably, but totally.
"She had her mother place a small glamour on her so she wouldn't be recognizable as a Malfoy while she learned to do it herself. She changed her name and became a normal muggle-born girl.
"We married soon after. It was a small ceremony, unlike James and Lily's extravagant wedding. It was just James, Lily, Remus, and us. Peter couldn't be there; he'd said his mother was sick. It was more likely that he had been called." Hermione understood what he hadn't said.
"On September 19, a beautiful baby girl was born. On November 21, just two months later, Cass was out in Diagon Alley getting something she needed when the Alley was attacked. She was killed. It was obvious she had been the target because she was the only one harmed. I had to make a difficult decision. I could keep you and put you in danger, or I could give you up and learn to live without you until it was safe again. No one aside from James, Lily, and I knew of your existence. I chose what I thought was right.
"Lily had been friends with Jean Granger—although she had then been 'Jean Barkley' from Primary School— and they had stayed in contact. She had been trying to have a baby with her husband for a while, but they had not succeeded. It seemed fate was on my side. The Grangers were briefed on our world so they would not freak out when you started showing examples of accidental magic, and I left you with them. I worried for so long whether I had made the right decision or not.
"What if I ruined your life by making that decision?" Hermione had to interrupt now.
"How could that decision have ruined my life? Had you kept me, I would have ended up with no parents after you went to Azakaban, and possibly no one even knowing of my existence because the only other people who did are dead.
He had no answer for that. "Guilt isn't always reasonable," he responded.
"You can say that again!" she exploded. "Harry's been feeling guilty for years, first for Cedric's death, then yours! Guilt can, however, be conquered by reason."
He looked at her in astonishment. "Why would Harry be guilty for my falling through the veil?" he asked.
"Ask him that!" she yelled, her pent up frustrations from the past six years of her life coming out all at once. She hadn't thrown a temper tantrum since coming to Hogwarts. "He seems to think he forced you to go to the Ministry! And he thinks he's at fault for Cedric's death because he convinced him to take the cup with him when he DIDN'T KNOW!!! MUST YOU MEN BE SO STUBBORN WITH THE STUPIDEST THINGS?" she screeched. "IT'S LIKE RON ARGUING OVER EVERY PETTY LITTLE THING AND NOT SEEING WHAT'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM AND HARRY WITH HIS STUPID NOBILITY COMPLEX AND REMUS WITH HIS REFUSAL TO BELIEVE ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT HIMSELF AND DUMBLEDORE WITH HIS STUPID FOR THE GREATER GOOD THING AND VOLDEMORT WITH INSISTING HE'S BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE! YOU DON'T SEE VERY MANY GIRLS OR WOMEN LIKE THAT DO YOU? NO, OF COURSE YOU DON'T!" The pair had stopped walking at the beginning of her rant . Sirius was merely looking on in approval.
"Get all that anger out, girl," he told her. She flushed, but smiled.
"Thanks," she said.
"For what?" he asked.
"Listening. Now come on, I want to get out of here. This stupid endless white is blinding me."
"White?" he asked, a puzzled tone in his voice. She was confused.
"What do you mean, white? We're surrounded by white."
"You see white?" he asked, "Interesting. I see black. 'Cept you, you shine like you're illuminated from within."
"Hmm," she said. Inside, her brain was whirring at 1,000 miles per hour. She checked her compass and pedometer again, as she had been doing frequently doing during their discussion. For the rest of the days of walking, they talked without another incident. They turned at the right spot, the right number of degrees.
Hermione knew it had been at least three days since she had entered, yet the portal was not where it should have been. She looked all around her, but she could not spot even the slightest smudge on the, could you call it a horizon? She reset the pedometer, and paced a few paces in each direction, looking around always for a tell-tale blur in the distance. She paced further out, eyes peeled. Finally, she saw it.
She grabbed Sirius's hand and ran toward the blur, no regard for even steps any longer. She hated the insubstantial feeling being in that place gave her. She approached the veil and on this side it looked like a brick wall, but Hermione did not stop. She lunged at the wall, got closer and closer and then…
SMACK. The pair hit the very, very solid wall.
"Ow," Hermione groaned. Sirius hadn't fared much better.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly.
"S'aright," he mumbled, still a little disoriented. Hermione frowned at the brick wall, inspecting it. She walked around it, pondering. 'What on earth is this?' she wondered. She checked around her, seeing nothing but white. She sank to her knees, back against the wall. Despair was starting to seep in.
"We'll never find the way out!" she moaned. A single tear fell from the corner of her eye. Sirius knelt in front of her and wiped it away with his thumb.
"There now," he comforted her, putting one arm around her shoulders. He was utterly lost as for what else to do. He had no experience with this. He had never dealt with an emotional teenage daughter before. This place was obviously making her more emotional than usual as well.
"We'll get out soon. We got this far, didn't we?" She couldn't hear a word he said, but was comforted just by having him there. Eventually the tears dried up, and the flow stopped. She wiped her eye, her cheeks nearly matching her red-rimmed eyes in color. She got up, and they started moving. Hermione expected her father to remove his hand as soon as she rose, but he left it there. She was pleased.
They began their pacing in various directions again, this time going far further than ever before. Even so, it was a long time before they saw another smudge in the distance. Hermione had tried to give up hope multiple times so far, but he kept her going.
This time, rather than full out running toward it, she checked her compass and saw the smudge was in a north-northwest direction. She checked the pedometer as well then adjusted her path toward the blur. Sirius just watched her do this, amazed at the efficiency with which she performed her movements.
"This isn't your first time, is it?" he asked. "Using a compass, I mean."
"No." She smiled, pleased that he had noticed. "My parents…" she paused, a slightly sad, slightly happy look in her eyes, "my other parents, that is, took me camping a few times. My dad was hopeless with a compass, and mom wasn't working hard enough trying to hike that far, so I navigated."
While they walked toward the blob, Hermione tried to tell herself not to get her hopes up, she'd only be disappointed, but her heart wouldn't listen. She could feel her hopes rising, her longing to see her friends once again surfacing.
She tried to tell how long she had been in this desolate wasteland. Her estimate was approximately five days at the most. It was really hard to tell though. Without the sun rising and falling, without the darkness alternating with the endless light, it was very hard to tell when one day ended and the next began.
They kept their even pace so it seemed like forever until the blur began to become more defined. Hermione felt her hopes soar against her will as she saw the shape was that of an archway.
It took all of her willpower to not start sprinting toward it. She was surprised Sirius didn't either. He had been stuck in this place for far longer than she.
They got closer and closer. This time, Hermione approached it at a sedate pace. She hesitated at the threshold and then stepped through. She felt an odd, drifting, weightless sensation for the second time in her life.
When she felt solid ground under her feet again, she could feel the exhaustion hit. She had expected that. Walking that far without consequence would catch up to her eventually.
She was afraid to open her eyes. For the first time in her life, her Gryffindor courage was failing her. She felt Sirius's hand in her own, and it gave her strength. She peeled her eyes open, welcoming the colors back into the visible spectrum. It was a relief to be able to see the grays, greens, and blacks again. It took a moment for her to register her surroundings. She saw the gray walls of the veil room, the steps, the black of the rippling curtain, the green of her own shirt, the black of Sirius's robes. She felt something was missing however.
She finally realized what it was. Where were the people? Shouldn't there have been people on this side, waiting for her to return? Had they given up hope so quickly?
She pushed these thoughts away and led Sirius up the stairs and out into the corridors containing the old courtrooms. Before she got to the corridor, however, she was stopped by a man in a purple robe. His hood was up, so they couldn't see his face.
He asked in a hoarse voice that obviously wasn't his regular one, "What are you doing here?" Hermione was puzzled. Hadn't they gotten clearance from the Unspeakables? She knew they had. So why didn't this man know who they were?
Sirius had no such qualms. "I'm Sirius Black, and this is my daughter Hermione," he said without hesitation. "We just got back."
"Come with me," the man said in the same odd voice. He beckoned to them with a finger. Hermione was getting a creepy vibe, but she wanted answers so she followed him anyway. Sirius followed at her side. He led them through into a series of offices. He said not another word but pointed to a large office to the right.
They entered, finding a tall man who was also in a purple cloak with its hood up. He didn't say a word either but instead took some floo powder and kneeled near the fire. He stuck his head in the fire so neither could hear what he said, but he came back in a moment. Hermione was glad it hadn't been long, it was a rather unsettling experience seeing someone's body without a head on it.
Moments after he'd come back through, Kingsley followed although he came through all the way.
"Welcome back! We thought our findings had been wrong and you guys were both goners!" he exclaimed with relief.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. "I can't have been gone longer than a week."
"A week! Miss Granger, you were gone for over six months!"
"I knew it!" exclaimed Sirius suddenly. "I knew time had to run differently in there. Dumbledore couldn't have told you before you turned seventeen and that wouldn't have been until five months after I fell in, not five days!"
"Five days! You were only in there for five days before I came!" Hermione exclaimed.
"I did wonder how you got there so fast," he commented.
Hermione sank to the floor, having to come to terms, for the second time in her life, with the fact that she had just lost half a year that she could never get back.
"Six months. Not again," she mumbled, unable to form a full coherent thought. She put her head in her hands and started rocking back and forth. She was lost inside her own mind.
A warm arm on her shoulder was the first thing outside her internal turmoil that registered. The second thing was the voice, constant in her ear. It was very soothing, she decided. The last thing to be returned to her was visual. She was in the hospital wing at Hogwarts.
'How did I end up here?' she wondered. She scanned her memories. Finally, she found what she was looking for. She had found Sirius (her father!) and brought him back from the 'beyond' (Harry would be so pleased!) and then she had had a panic attack when she'd realized she had lost another half a year of her life. She wouldn't dwell on that anymore.
She looked to the source of the voice and found, as she had expected, her father.
"Hey, Dad," she said weakly. "Sorry about that. How long have I been out?"
"I'm just glad you're awake. Not too long, just five or six hours."
"Harry and Ron come by?"
"No. They don't even know we're here. We showed up at midnight."
"Can I see them?"
"We'll ask Madam Pomfrey about that." He called the brisk mediwitch into the room. She bustled around Hermione, casting diagnostic spells as fast as she could execute the movements.
"You'll be fine, Miss Black," was her diagnosis. Hermione smiled. That was the first time she had been called that. She didn't mind. She knew the Grangers were still her family, too, she was just lucky enough to have two fathers. For the first time in her life, everything seemed like it would work out. Voldemort would be defeated, the people she loved would make it out of this war alive, and she would be happy. She didn't question the feeling, she just knew. Everything would work out.
Oh, she wasn't deluding herself. She knew the path out of this war wouldn't be easy, but she wouldn't be walking it alone.
Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.
(Yes, I know this quote only fits the ending, and not very well. I couldn't find a better one. If you know one, please put it in a review or PM me.)
Please review! I will return the favor if you've written anything.
I also want to put in one very big thanks to my wonderful beta, Lady Knight Keladry, who caught things I wouldn't have caught even if you had told me there was a mistake in that sentence.