Hermione hadn't been able to help herself. She had introduced herself to the girl and her grandfather—Rosamund and Charles Davis—and talked with them, ensconced in a booth, until closing time. They invited her for tea the following afternoon, and she went.
Rosamund was a cute little girl, tall for her age. She was mostly knees and elbows, but she didn't seem to notice. Her hair was light brown that tended towards auburn when the sun hit it right; Hermione was jealous of the beautiful wavy curl to it. The girl and her grandfather had the same piercing blue eyes.
After tea, Charles (he'd insisted she call him Charles) had asked her to sit with him on their small patio while Rosamund sat out on the bench by the big oak, leafing eagerly through the copy of Hogwarts: A History Hermione had brought along.
The girl had been wide-eyed and giddy, eager for every scrap of knowledge about Hogwarts she could get her hands on. It wouldn't surprise Hermione if she finished Hogwarts: A History by the end of the day.
Charles just seemed to be relieved that it wasn't a hoax perpetrated by the dour man who had delivered the letter that afternoon—a story that had unfolded much like Hermione's own introduction to Hogwarts. The deputy head, who seemed, surprisingly, to be Professor Snape, had arrived in the early afternoon with the Hogwarts letter and the patience to explain things and answer questions. After a few hours, he had left. Of course, more questions sprung to mind the moment he had gone. Trying to keep hold on reality, the grandfather, much like her parents, had suggested they leave the house for a bit. They had come to Dee's Books because it was one of their favorite spots; Hermione's parents had taken her to the library, and then out for an ice cream (a very special treat).
Hermione had been surprised, at first, to hear that Snape was not only deputy, but that he was good at it. And then she was ashamed that she was surprised. With the Death Eaters gone, why couldn't he be patient with Muggle-born families? He was certainly a wealth of knowledge.
"Should I be nervous about this?" Charles asked bluntly, not bothering with small talk. Hermione took a moment to think through her answer before she spoke.
"No, I don't think so." She spoke slowly, thoughtfully staring out at the garden instead of at him as she spoke. She was trying to recall all the changes the Prophet had reported being made to Hogwarts and the Wizarding world at large since the war. "The Wizarding world and the Muggle world are very different, don't get me wrong. But it's not a bad thing. There are scary things in both worlds, but there are marvelous things, too."
She wanted to tell him about the war, about how, while there were still Death Eaters out there, and not even Death Eaters but just bigots, who would gladly see his granddaughter barred from Hogwarts, the world was changing. Everything she'd seen in the Prophet and down on Eleanor Boulevard suggested a world at peace. Now that people felt safe, business was flourishing and expanding. And Shacklebolt headed the Ministry, championing justice and whatnot. There was no good way to explain it all, especially not without him starting to get curious about how a nobody bookshop owner who chose to do most of her business in the Muggle world could know so much about the inner workings of Hogwarts and the Ministry.
"She's so excited about it all," Charles said, nodding in Rosamund's direction. She was curled up on the bench, body bowed over the book on her lap. Her eyes raced down the pages. She seemed to be trying to read the whole thing at once, flipping from chapter to chapter, referencing the table of contents, staring for long moments at the pages with pictures.
"I was, too," Hermione said, almost laughing. "I was the most unbelievable little know-it-all. I read almost of all my textbooks through before I even got on the train." She exchanged a happy look with the old man. "I couldn't get enough; I couldn't believe it."
"Neither can she, I think. Every morning since the letter came, the first thing she does is run out to the kitchen to read it again. We've put it up on the fridge with a magnet, so we don't lose it."
"My parents did that too," Hermione said. "They were so relieved, I think. I had started leaking magic all over the place the year before, just sending things going haywire." He looked interested, so Hermione kept talking. "I would levitate books across the room to myself, or, when I was mad, I would short out all the electronics in the house. Having an explanation for all of it other than my being some sort of living fairy tale put all of us at ease."
"Do your parents live in the city?" he asked. The question caught her off guard. She hadn't thought of her parents' whereabouts since she'd come back for her encore. She covered her startled moment by feigning an explosive sneeze. "Bless you."
"Thank you." She tried to gather her thoughts, but her mind was racing. Were they still in Australia? Did they remember her? Were her spells still holding? Had Harry or the Weasleys or somebody thought to retrieve them after she'd died? "No, they don't live in London. There was a war just a few years ago. A Dark wizard who… well, to put it simply, he thought anybody who wasn't a witch or wizard and didn't have a witch and wizard for their parents wasn't worth living. He tried to take over the Wizarding government, and almost succeeded. My parents were targets because their daughter," she gestured to herself, "was a witch closely involved with the resistance." She bit her lip and wished she had a mug of tea or something to occupy her hands. She needed to fidget. "They moved to Australia."
"Oh," he said, taken aback. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright," she said quickly. Maybe too quickly. It didn't matter. "They're safe, that's what counts." She smiled, too chipper, at him.
They sat quietly for a bit. Charles was obviously chewing on the new information. She wasn't familiar enough with his expressions to know how he was taking it. Again, Hermione wished she had tea or a quill or something to fiddle with.
"I should tell you, before you get a garbled and overblown tale passed down from the older students, that the conclusive battle of the war took place on school grounds," she said. "The school is an ancient and integral part of Wizarding culture in Britain."
"You're not making a very strong case in favor of this Hogwarts, Helena," Charles said, lifting his fuzzy white eyebrows in her direction. It made her smile.
"I'm afraid I'm biased. I think Hogwarts makes a case for itself." She shrugged. "It is wonderful and fascinating even before you take the classes into account. You are at a school learning how to do magic. Your homework is practicing wand movements for making buttons turn into bowls."
"The good with the bad," Charles said, mostly to himself.
Hermione replied anyway, "As with anything."
There was another pause. Almost awkward, but not quite.
"Are there any other hints of magic in members of your family?" Hermione asked conversationally. The question seemed to throw him as much as his innocuous question after her parents had.
"Not so far as I know," he said, his tone reserved. He glanced at her, sighed, then continued. "Rosie and I only have each other, you see. My son and his wife—her parents—and her brother, Pete, all died a few years ago."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"It was that terrorist attack on the bridge. The whole thing twisted around and blew up. They never found out how they did it." It was his turn to talk too fast now, babbling to fill an awkward topic.
"That was wizards," Hermione said quietly. His eyes, which had been avoiding her, snapped to her. She couldn't decide if he was upset she had spoken or if he was just desperate for information, for answers, for why. She took a breath before she continued, when she was sure he wasn't going to get angry. "The Dark wizard I told you about, who hated Muggles and Muggle-borns. His followers committed many… acts of terror."
She couldn't think of a thing to say after that.
Despite the awkwardness of their first encounter, Hermione got to be good friends with Rosamund and Charles. Rosamund reminded her of herself quite a bit; she loved the look the girl got in her eyes when she talked about Hogwarts or anything magical. Charles fit very quickly into the grandfather slot of her life; he had remarkable wisdom for the everyday. After Rosamund had left for Hogwarts, they began a tradition of tea together once a week to talk about the Wizarding world, and that particularly strange point where the Wizarding meets the Muggle.