A/N: Please note that I will be calling Hermione 'Elisa' now. Some characters may still reference her as Hermione, but anyone going through a name change (particularly Hermione/Elisa) would still be called both names, at least for a given amount of time.
Also, is there anyone who speaks Italian who would like to help out? I don't know much, but if readers don't mind my non-existent Italian skills (except through Google Translate), then I'll just stick with a few words thrown in here and there to make it more believable.
Alas, I would have updated sooner, but after I typed up half of chapter 8 (I really did, it was almost 8 to 9 pages long!), my computer deleted the file. I have no idea how that happened, but I wasn't able to save it, either. Disheartened, I haven't been able to write it all over again, until now. My sincerest apologies!! :(
Chapter 8 – Enlightening
Harry was not exactly happy at the way things were turning out.
After returning to the room he was staying at in Gryffindor Tower during his duration at Hogwarts for the Reconstruction, he couldn't help but wonder what that was all about. At the moment, though, he was very curious as to why Ron felt so strongly about arranged marriages.
The pair had walked back in silence, but now they were in the Common Room, alone. Sitting on a couch, the two stared at the fireplace, watching the flames dance.
"Mum and Dad had an arranged marriage."
Shocked, Harry turned to Ron. "What?!"
Ron nodded, staring at the fire. "To everyone else, it may seem as if they were in love when they got married, but … their marriage was arranged. Even though the Weasleys were poor, the Prewitts – that's Mum's side of the family – thought it would be a good, safe match for their daughter."
"That's why you're okay. With this."
Ron nodded slowly. "At least she'll be safe."
The fire's crackling filled the silence.
After a couple moments, Harry stood up. "Let's go find Herm—er, Elisabetta."
Ron looked up at him this time, surprised. "What?"
"I still have the Marauder's Map. Let's find her. She'll be needing us right now."
Before Ron could say anything, Harry had already bounded up the stairs to his room, flicking his trunk open with a wave of his wand and searching for the Map.
Once found, he went back down the stairs to Ron and activated the Map.
"She's … not here?"
"Where the hell did that man and Snape take her?!" Harry burst out, incensed. "How could they just leave without telling us?!
"Let's go talk to Dumbledore again, mate. This doesn't look good – Snape's not on the Map, either."
Swearing, Harry grabbed the Map and Ron's wrist, running out of the Common Room as fast as he could to reach the Headmaster with the knowledge of Hermione – Elisabetta's – and Snape's absences.
A familiar murmur ran through Giorda, the main Wizarding village that lay on the outskirts of the Giordanos' home. In a manner similar to fiefdom of the past, villagers relied on the Giordanos for protection, and food and shelter during hard times.
"He's back," one woman whispered to another.
"He's gorgeous," another breathed.
"Mommy, he's saving us again!" a little boy yelled triumphantly.
The man smiled a kind smile outwardly, while inside he was jumping up and down in evil glee. "I'm back, everyone."
The villagers gathered in the town square, where this man, nicknamed the Black Hound, came to see them every so often. "What news do you bring of the Palazzo, signore?" the head of the villagers asked.
The one called the Black Hound shook his head. "I'm afraid she is back."
Children started wailing at the top of their lungs, while women turned to their husband in fright, trying to appease the scared children.
"The Heiress has finally returned to receive the Inheritance that will protect this village for the next hundred years … but I don't trust her." The Black Hound waited for his words to carry, and inwardly smirked at the outcome.
"Why should we trust someone who left us 19 years ago to fend for ourselves? We need no Heiress like that," one man in the crowd boldly declared.
"Sì, sì! What kind of Heiress just leaves her people like that?"
"L'ereditiera … sir, we wish you could be L'erede." [Heiress, Heir]
"As the liaison between il palazzo and us, we know you have the correct information. If L'ereditiera deserted us almost two decades ago, why is she back? I don't trust her either," another man announced, people nodding and murmuring their agreement. Why was she back? What did she want with them, anyway?
'Perfect,' he thought. 'They are doubting.'
"She did not have the food necessary to sustain the village during the cold winter years delivered, she did not care for our sick and young, and she cares not for the traditions of the villagers of Giorda … we cannot accept her as our Heiress!" a woman in the crowd yelled.
Other villagers yelled their agreement, raising fists into the air in defiance.
"We know the Inheritance is vital, and we have lived for so long without it. We need her in order for the Inheritance to work, but she refuses!" one inane villager deduced without any evidence.
But once uttered, the rest of the villagers grew angry. "She must not refuse! Or … we refuse her!"
"Is there any other way we can receive the Inheritance without it being from an untrustworthy witch?" another asked.
The head leader, quiet until now, spoke. "We do not know for certain if she truly is untrustworthy, or if she has truly refused the Inheritance until now, or if she had actually deserted us. There are rumors that Death Eaters"—here, the villagers all made the sign against Evil—"kidnapped her, and that she has only just returned.
But it was too late – the seeds of doubt had already been planted. "How do you know that? It's not what the Black Hound is saying! He always provided us with food whenever il palazzo didn't give it to us!"
"I say, refuse the Heiress! We should have a say in who receives in the Inheritance!"
The head leader watched sadly as his villagers were torn apart inside by the evil words of the Black Hound.
"We should subject her to the powers of La Verità! La Verità never lies!"
"We should! We as villagers have at least that right!"
La Verità, the Well of Truth that lay between the Giordano home and the village, produced water that was similar to Veritaserum – it made the speaker tell the truth, no matter what. Highly guarded and protected, it could only be used in times of dire emergency.
The Black Hound froze. If she drank that, then … "That is not a good—"
"It has been decided. We will request the Heiress drinks from La Verità, and we shall question her."
The Black Hound glared daggers at the leader of the village. 'That fool! He knows something … I must get rid of him, I must get him out of the way! She must never drink from that well!'
"I will go now. Arrivederci." [Goodbye]
As quickly as he had arrived, he disappeared.
One villager stood aside, quietly watching from his home close to the village. "Schifezza," he muttered. "Shit."
The only one besides the leader to remain impervious to the Black Hound's seductive words knew the true nature of the Heiress, and knew her heart was good and kind. He knew that she would successfully gain the Inheritance. But he stayed quiet, lest he cast suspicion on himself – the leader challenging the Black Hound was one thing, but a townsperson could not.
It was already hard enough to pretend to be someone he wasn't …
Quickly, he cast a silencing spell and a locking charm on his door, drew all his curtains, and made sure everything remained dark, before throwing Floo powder into the darkened fire and yelling, "Headmaster's Office!"
A chirping sound that Albus had installed on his fireplace to warn of Flooers chirped. He prepared himself – it was a friend, for sure, but who called at this time?
Albus stood up immediately from his desk, approaching the fireplace. "Emmett? What are you doing here? It is dangerous for you to keep coming here! You must be more careful, you cannot continue to risk the wrath of –"
"He is back," the man named Emmett interrupted. "He is ready to turn her into nothing. He is ready to take his rightful place, and he will do anything for it – even though it is not truly his."
The Headmaster paled. "Oh, dear."
Without further warning, Harry and Ron burst through the office without knocking. "Oops … sorry, Headmaster, I didn't know you had company …"
"Harry, if it is urgent, do not worry. This is …"
The Headmaster turned to Emmett, silently asking if he could do introductions.
"Emmett. Nice to meet you, Harry Potter. And Ronald Weasley."
The two boys looked at him, stunned momentarily that he knew their names, but brushed it off as another person knowing who the Boy-Who-Lived and his best friend were.
"Is this a bad time? I'm sorry to have interrupted your meeting, but the Map shows …"
"I will come back at a later time with further information, Headmaster," Emmett said, taking the cue from Harry that they needed privacy. He stood and Flooed away wordlessly.
Harry watched Emmett go – the strange man seemed familiar, but he couldn't exactly place where he had seen him before. His features had been ordinary, with mousy brown hair and hazel eyes, and he was of medium height. Nothing special. And then he remembered that he had to tell the Headmaster something urgent.
"Headmaster … Ron and I were looking at the Map, and we couldn't find Hermione – er, Elisabetta – or Snape!" Harry said, a bit of fear in his eyes.
The headmaster nodded. "Professor Snape, Harry. I knew when Antonio left with Elisabetta's body, they would leave the castle."
"But … how? I thought Apparition wasn't possible, and your Floo is the only one active …"
"There was a special Portkey made, I believe, ahead of time by Antonio and the one he answers to."
Ron frowned. "How? How could they have known that they would have to leave immediately, and couldn't return to use the Floo? That's probably why that old fart was waiting around, prolonging the inevitable."
The headmaster shook his head. "Right now, we can only wait for assurance that they are all right. And, in my heart, I believe that things will be fine."
Harry and Ron stared at each other, uncertain.
The First things (yes, the "F" had to be capitalized, for there were many things to notice in this room, but these, above all else, stood out as the First things she would ever notice about her room) that Elisa noticed were her walls.
They weren't walls, precisely, but rather wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-ceiling bookshelves, filled with every kind of book imaginable.
Jane Austen. Charlotte Bronte. Emily Bronte. Anne Bronte.
Oscar Wilde. T.S. Eliot. Thomas Hardy. Jonathan Swift. William Butler Yeats. William Blake. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary Shelley. Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Leo Tolstoy. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. James Joyce. Ernest Hemingway. Virginia Woolf.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Henry David Thoreau. William Henry Channing. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Edgar Allan Poe.
Elisa thought she would swoon. All her friends from childhood, and more, were all here.
The room also probably read the ever-practical side of her personality – there were some parts of the walls that weren't covered in bookshelves, left to make space for a large, four-poster bed with shimmering gossamer curtains, a lovely antique desk with a matching chair that looked perfect for doing research and homework, and two plush chairs that sat facing each other next to a fireplace, where a fire blazed cheerfully, throwing amusing shadows across the room.
Two doors, each next to the other with a mirror hanging on the wall between them, led to two different rooms. Elisa tried the door closest to her, and discovered her … bathroom, for lack of a better word.
A large bath stood in the middle of the room, with not as many taps as Hogwarts, but enough to make sure she would always be satisfied. Two walls were actually mirrors, and the sinks were plentiful.
'I could have a sleepover, and all the girls would never fight for a sink or mirror space,' she thought, bemused.
A shower with stone walls stood in one corner for more practical bathing purposes.
The bathroom was connected to her walk-in closet, which was what the other door outside led to. It was every girl's dream – mannequins in glass display cases displayed the latest fashions, particularly the fall line. She wasn't quite sure of all the brands displayed, but she definitely recognized Chanel, Bottega Veneta, and Carolina Herrera among all the clothes.
There were plain clothes as well, but even those looked expensive. Blouses and pants were pressed and ironed, all wrinkle free. Casual wear also looked expensive – how many pairs of jeans were there? And she knew each cost at least …
Bags were lined up alphabetically by brand. Tasteful, subtle perfumes that Elisa would love were arranged on a wide vanity table, along with several different brands of makeup.
Elisa gaped, and decided she would definitely have to learn how to wear makeup. Though none of these luxurious items were really on her "MUST HAVE IN MY ROOM!" list, she knew that there must be a good reason they were all displayed – particularly since she was, apparently, the daughter of an important, rich family.
Her fingertips brushed over an Oscar de la Renta evening gown that she had seen in one of the fashion magazines lying around.
"Merlin," she whispered. Never before had she seen such gorgeous items, never before had she seen such expensive items.
The reality hit her – if she really was who they said she was, she would never want for anything.
Elisa's mind rattled. For one, she was never one for fashion or glitz or paparazzi. She hated attention, she hated being stared at, she hated being talked about.
But as the missing daughter of the Giordano family, she would have all three in her face, constantly.
'How did Harry handle his stupid fame all these years?' she grumbled.
On top of that, her ties as Hermione Granger, one-third of the Golden Trio, recipient of the highest NEWT scores in the history of Hogwarts, and just all-around, academic genius …
She sighed. If she really was Elisabetta Giordano, life was never going to be normal again.
But then again, as the Boy-Who-Lived-Again's best friend, it never was…
At least she would still be able to study, she hoped. She could not not study or research or get a job.
She sighed again. Now people would want to hire her not only because of her grades, but also because of her name.
If she really was Elisabetta.
Suddenly, she remembered the betrothal promise with Professor Snape.
That struck her harder than anything else. If she really was Elisabetta, she would have to marry Professor Snape.
Biting her lip, Hermione walked out of the room, and headed towards the one thing that had almost always guaranteed an answer to her questions: her books. If the room knew what she wanted, the books had to have been arranged a certain way.
First by subject – fiction, classics, non-fiction, textbooks, etc. Then by year of publication. And then alphabetical by author.
She would need a genealogy or a book on the history of the Giordanos. She guessed the reason why she had never heard of this family before was that they were Italian –
She gasped. 'Wait.'
"I'M IN ITALY RIGHT NOW?!"
Her stunned realization filled the empty room.
"Oh, Merlin … how did I get to Italy from England?!"
After a few moments of pacing, she figured she either came by Portkey with Professor Snape and … Antonio, was that his name? Or by plane. She decided the former was more likely, but that means it would have to have been planned ahead of time … especially if they Portkeyed from Hogwarts directly, which was more likely since it did not seem plausible that they could have slipped out of the castle unnoticed …
Unless they were noticed? Had they wandered out of the castle, to where the Portkey and Apparition borders would not prevent them from leaving?
She sat on the bed, dazed. So who killed her parents – the Grangers? How did her identity come to be known to the Giordanos, when they didn't know about the deaths of the Grangers? How did Antonio come to Hogwarts, then?
And most importantly, what happened after she passed out?
Too many questions filled her mind. Suddenly hit with confusion and a barrage of questions her brain just could not answer because she did not know and books could not tell her, she sank back into the pillows, falling asleep almost immediately.
She did not hear the pop of a house elf come in; she did not feel the house elf changing her clothes with a couple whispered words, exchanging her hospital robes for something more comfortable and appropriate for bed.
She knew nothing as she slumbered, without dreams.
Severus was nervous, a rare occurrence for him. As the Baroness joined them, a house-elf popped up and served three plates of salad, accompanied by rolls.
"Is she asleep now?"
"Yes," the Baroness nodded, taking a seat next to her husband at the small, round table. "I watched her enter her rooms and close the door. I am sure she will be safe, especially with the house elf I posted at her door. If she does not change, the house elf has orders to change her."
Severus chuckled at the irony. "I am not so sure she will appreciate that," he said, mirth in his voice. "She was the creator of S.P.E.W., otherwise known as the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. She hated that the house elves were treated badly, and constantly tried to get people to support her in her campaign."
The Baron and Baroness were horrified. "What? My daughter, a promoter of elfish welfare?" the Baron repeated, in disbelief. "But … does she not know how the house elves came into creation as a consequence of the truce between the Malfoys and our family?"
Snape merely raised an eyebrow here.
The Baroness gave an amused sigh. "Darling, why would she know about that? Only our family members know that, and she's only recently found out (this morning, remember?) that she is, in fact, a Giordano."
"My dear, it is quite bizarre to even hear that," the Baron faintly protested. "What other crazy situations did my daughter get herself into? How do you know this?"
Severus waited a few moments, and then began talking. "I might as well start from the beginning. As you know, I am a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the first day of her first year, at her sorting, I noticed something different about her …"
The explanation continued well into the afternoon, the plates of salad and rolls nibbled at, many cups of tea (and brandy, in the case of the Baron) drank to calm nerves, a few crystal cases exploded due to the Baron's uncontrolled anger, especially at hearing about –
"VOLDEMORT?!" he roared, jumping out of his seat once more. "You knew, ALL THIS TIME, just who she was and HOW IMPORTANT she is, and yet you STILL let her befriend Harry Potter and walk a road of almost certain DEATH?! Severus, are you MAD?! What if she didn't survive? What if we never knew our little girl was alive, after all this time—"
"Please, dear, settle down," the Baroness pleaded, reaching out a calming hand. "I am not happy with this either, but I believe these events have lead to her coming home."
Severus nodded, still ever the spy with his mask firmly in place. He was not one to wear his heart on his sleeve, unlike Hermione – Elisabetta – who definitely received her temperament from her father.
Once the Baron sat back down, the Baroness turned to Severus. "So that is why you were quite sure that Hermione Granger was actually Elisabetta – the birthmark you saw once at her ceremony, her eyes, and the Giordano stubbornness."
"Yes. I have a very good memory, and the brimming intelligence that Hermione held was not normal for a regular Muggleborn witch. She was special, certainly. And her eye color – I have yet to see anyone else with the brilliant blue of the Giordano line in their eyes. I suspected that Hermione was Elisabetta at first, but it wasn't until recently, as I saw her grow and mature, that I knew for certain."
"Why?" the Baron said, finally bringing himself to ask a question after calming down.
"As the Heiress of the Inheritance, and my future wife, she would have the royal blood of the Giordanos flowing in her veins. That is not something that can be taken lightly, especially since it is innate. She became more regal, and students came to her and asked to help solve arguments, for she was just. She was a good Head Girl, handing out fair punishments and treating all Houses equally, which was rare for someone from Gryffindor."
The Baron frowned. "How interesting. Our daughter seems to have grown with the correct attitude, and yet … I am afraid we will have to teach her proper court etiquette to have her ready for your engagement ball."
Severus raised an eyebrow here. "Surely, you would give her some more time to get used to the idea of being an entirely different person before you urge her to marry me?"
"And why not?"
"Because I was her hated professor for years, Baron. She could not see me as anything more, especially right now. I believe she is having what some people call an identity crisis, and I do not think it is wise to have her marry her old professor in the midst of that," Severus explained.
"I know you have my daughter's best interests at heart, Severus, but it would help her more if you were married. The Inheritance must be established, and you must marry in order for that to occur."
Severus frowned at the mention of the Inheritance. "What is that? The Inheritance? I'm certain I've heard about it before …"
"We only tell the Heiress and her fiancé what it is the day of their wedding, so during the ceremony, they know what it is."
Severus nodded. "I see. And yet, I take it this … Inheritance … is extremely important?"
"Lord Severus Tobias Snape-Prince, you must be the one to marry our Elisabetta. There can be no other."
Severus was taken aback at the use of his full title, but was even more startled to see that the Baron, in what he said, was very, very serious.
Slowly, he asked, "Why?"
"Because," the Baron grimly stated, "if you don't, we shall all die."