Ritual of Summer Solstice
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter Series belongs to JK Rowling and thus she is the one that makes the big bucks from it. I am the one who makes very little (and none of it from this story) and likes to play with her toys... err characters.
Mere weeks after the final battle at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger vanishes, never to be seen again. Most speculate that the bright muggleborn witch merely went back to the muggle world, but her friend Harry would not give up looking even as months went by and the trail grew colder. Finally an unlikely ally in Draco Malfoy led him to the truth.
Hermione had disappeared on the night before the full moon, which happened to fall on Summer Solstice that year. The night after the full moon Augustus Rookwood was killed during capture. The Deatheater Unspeakable was more than a little mad and rambling before one of the aurors got in a lucky shot that took him down. Unfortunately interrogation became impossible at that point when Rookwood landed in a way that broke his neck, killing him instantly. Draco revealed his suspicions that Rookwood may have had something to do with her disappearance – he'd been obsessed with the brilliant schoolgirl despite her origins.
It would take a team of cursebreakers to break through the wards on Rookwood's estate, there finding evidence of... well they weren't sure. In the woods on the property there was certainly evidence of something, some sort of ritual. That it involved Hermione was certain at that point given they found traces of her blood, but not enough to suggest death. So where WAS the girl? No one knew except Rookwood and he was beyond telling. The Department of Mysteries sent some of their people to the Estate both to investigate the ritual and to remove several items that Rookwood had stolen over the years from the Department.
Harry was left with Hermione's cat (since Crookshanks never could stand Ron) and an unlikely new friend in Draco who now admitted that Granger wasn't that bad he just didn't like being beaten by her so often in school. While Harry still enjoyed hanging out with the Weasley twins, he and Ron didn't get on as well as they had in school and that didn't grow any easier since Ron still was adamant in his dislike of Slytherins (current or former didn't matter). He and Ginny never did get back together and he was currently seeing a nice girl he'd never really gotten to know in school that Draco had introduced him to, Daphne Greengrass. Draco confided that he was interested in Daphne's sister, and the four often double-dated.
So what did happen to Miss Hermione Granger?
On the night before the full moon, Hermione was attending a concert in Hyde Park. She'd thought about asking some of her friends if they wanted to join her, but concluded that she really didn't want the company as she'd have to spend most of the concert explaining things instead of listening to the music given that Harry was the only other that was familiar with muggle things. So she was returning home rather late at night to her parent's house, which remained empty as she hadn't had a real chance to relocate them from Australia. Later she would berate herself for just how easily she was kidnapped. She apparated into the backyard and was promptly hit with a stunner by Rookwood who had been patiently waiting for her return after ascertaining that his quarry was indeed staying at the house. The paltry wards were no challenge for the Unspeakable.
When she was ennervated she found herself bound and her wand was no longer in her possession.
"Welcome, my dear, to my home." Rookwood said. To be honest even if she hadn't recognized him as a Deatheater and he hadn't just kidnapped her she'd have found the man creepy.
"You won't get away with this," Hermione replied, upon finding that she could still speak.
Rookwood's eyes gleamed then and she began to realize that she was not dealing with a man who was sane. "Of course not my dear, but if I can't have you why should anyone else?"
It was then, Hermione reflected, that she began to truly fear that she wouldn't come out of the situation alive. No one knew where she was or who took her. That they were rounding up Deatheaters was a comfort, sure, but the likelihood that they would get this one in time for her did not seem good. "What are you going to do with me?" Her voice was still defiant. She was definitely creeped out when he came over and caressed her face, of all the possible fates if they got caught that she had feared over the years being a Deatheater's plaything had been one of the worst and she couldn't help shuddering in revulsion.
"Oh no, my dear, I wouldn't harm you. I will just be sending you to where you will have the chance to see things more clearly." There was something in how he said it that made her think that she really, really did not want what he said to happen. "But that is for tomorrow night, tonight you must sleep my dear. I wouldn't want you to worry about what is fated for you so here is some dreamless sleep. By the time you awaken it will be nearly time. Yes... nearly time."
She could not struggle as he forced her to drink the potion. As it began to take affect she felt the spell holding her motionless release and strong arms scooped her up. She was placed into a bed and the next thing she knew it was nearly evening. It occurred to her later that full moon fell on Summer Solstice that year, that if not for that he could not have done it, but it was small comfort.
When she woke, a house elf was waiting. "Please, miss musts be taking the bath, miss, and gettings dresseds." The little creature didn't seem particularly downtrodden, but rather insistent.
Hermione didn't see any way out of it and though relieved to have awakened alone in the bed she was afraid of what was in store for her. And so she bathed in the water, eyeing the herbs floating in it and trying to recognize them so she could ascertain their purpose. They smelled lovely, but was there more to it than that? Rosemary, Thyme, Rose petals, those were the mundane plants she recognized, but the others... was that murtlap and dittany? Mallowsweet, lovage... if it weren't for potions class she'd have a harder time recognizing them cut up and wet in the bathwater.
She wasn't given long to muse over the possibly sinister purposes behind the choices, however, as the elf hurried her through her bath and into what looked to Hermione to be very similar to a nightgown though the robes were not sheer. Had she been more familiar with such practices she would have recognized them as ritual robes. The little elf did not give her shoes and Hermione had to wonder what happened to her own clothes. Her hair was dried for her and somehow the elf managed to get it to fall in loose curls rather than an unruly mess, she then bound it back with a garland of dried flowers. Thoughts of escape were running through her mind, but without her wand and within the warded estate she was without much chance of success.
The elf delivered her to her master without divulging her name. Rookwood seemed very satisfied with her appearance. Oddly he didn't resort to Imperius to ensure her cooperation or even a compulsion charm. He merely bound her, this time with lightweight chain of what appeared to be silver, after immobilizing her and then swept her off her feet and carried her out a side door and into the woods behind the house. A perfectly circular clearing at the near center of the woods was the destination and it had obviously been prepared for whatever his purpose.
He released the immobulus, but not the chains upon reaching the circle and set her down gently at the very center upon a stone altar kissing her lightly on the cheek. It did nothing to relax Hermione's very real fears when she found that she could not move and was forcibly relaxing – perhaps something in the herbs from the bath after all?
The next hours began to blur as the full moon climbed higher in the sky. Chanting, blood-letting (both his blood and hers) and finally Rookwood stepping out of the circle after painting a series of runes in the combined blood upon her forehead. Hermione felt herself growing dizzy as the circle seemed to spin, the chanting no longer audible to her ears. Indeed the world seemed to be rushing by and then to vanish altogether. For a moment her heart stopped beating only to begin anew at a frantic pace.
She must have passed out, she concluded as she slowly opened her eyes only to find no trace of circle, Rookwood, or indeed the same forest. The only similarity between where she was then and where she was now was the full moon high in the sky and the ritual robes she still wore. Hermione raised a shaky hand to her forehead, but the runes too were gone, absorbed into her skin. As she did so she heard a sound that she'd heard once before at the full moon – the howl of a werewolf. She shivered.
The sound was distant but these woods, wherever they were, would not be safe tonight, especially without a wand. At that moment she spotted something lying beside her and frowned thoughtfully, it wasn't her wand but it was a wand. When she picked it up the wand proved otherwise, shooting a brilliant set of gold and silver sparks that ordinarily she'd have been delighted to see but at the moment would have had her cursing if Hermione were the sort to curse as she heard the howls grow closer. She looked around and, spotting a tree with a low enough branch, began awkwardly to climb. Climbing trees wasn't something she'd done in the past several years and climbing in robes was particularly not something she'd ever done but getting attacked by a werewolf certainly was not on her top ten list of things to do. It was right up there with getting used in rituals by crazy deatheaters who kidnapped her for reasons of their own.
As she scrambled higher in the tree she tried to figure out where she was. It wasn't until she was relatively high that she saw the castle in the distance and knew instantly that this was the Forbidden Forest.
"But... how is the castle in such good shape," she whispered, remembering the damage it had taken mere weeks ago. The howling grew closer and Hermione clung to the trunk of the tree as below her the powerful creature leaped against the tree. She looked down and blinked in disbelief as she saw not just the expected werewolf, but three other creatures as well looking up at her. She swallowed, blinked a few times and looked down again. A well formed stag that was all too familiar though she was used to seeing it as her best friend's patronus, a shaggy black dog equally familiar to her, and... the rat.
"Oh god. What did he do?" Hermione murmured softly. She now knew not just where she was, but rather when.
The Marauders, for that is indeed who they were, were surprised when they saw sparks while they were out running in the forest with Moony. "Oh shit," was the collective thought when the werewolf promptly took off in the direction of them and Prongs and Padfoot were hard pressed to keep up. It was some small relief to them that when they reached him they didn't find anyone on the ground, no his quarry was a small woman high in a tree. It was, however, something of a stalemate when they couldn't get him to leave despite the stag's attempts.
Perhaps it was her scent but Moony was having none of leaving. The boys were just hoping the woman would fall asleep so that they could get their friend back without her seeing just who he, and they were, since they hadn't been acting very naturally for animals. Unfortunately for them (or fortunately depending on your perspective) she already knew and she wasn't at all sleepy having slept the day away prior to the ritual.
Hermione had the rest of the night to think. One of the first things she noticed (not having a mirror) was that her hair was different. It was still curly, but not as unmanageably so, but the real difference was the color. The dark brown had changed to hold highlights of cinnamon and what appeared in the moonlight to be a sandy blond similar to the color of Rookwood's hair. She also finds herself to be shorter than she was previously which was really annoying given she wasn't all that tall to begin with. This makes her grumble,
"Great, just great, now how am I going to get down?" Getting up into the tree wasn't easy but getting down will be worse. The werewolf that she now knows to be Remus Lupin has stopped pawing the tree at least and has settled below it to wait, still staring up at her with uncannily intelligent eyes for all that they are wild. The dog whines and the stag tries to nudge the werewolf into budging again, but they have no luck.
If Hermione weren't stuck up a tree and in another time she might find it almost amusing but she knows the quirks of time travel from her year with the time turner and being stuck in the Marauders time means she truly IS stuck, you have to wait for time to catch up with you.
She's not sure that this is exactly what Rookwood had planned since he didn't exactly tell her his intentions. Nor did he seem particularly sane. Oddly these thoughts bring another that most definitely does not fit her perceptions of Rookwood, 'Dear Gus, I'm sure he meant well.' Dear Gus???????? What. The. Hell.
If Rookwood in this time had any idea what his elder self had done he'd be cursing because somewhere within the ritual he screwed up. He did send Hermione back in time. He did make it so that she could not help but care for him. However, it was NOT in the way he intended. The mingling of their blood had the effect of tying them, but in the transferring of Hermione to this time period where she herself did not yet exist the fabric of time was forced to create a place for her. That place, as she is finding, is as Rookwood's half-sister.
The knowledge and new memories mingle and intertwine with her own leaving her aware of a future that has not happened yet but with memories of a past that she did not have. In this world Hermione is a half blood, raised by her muggle mother and the result of an indiscretion by her wizard father, Orlandus Rookwood. Augustus is already working in the Department of Mysteries and is currently unaware of the girl. That will soon change as his father has died and he is about to find himself her guardian.
Hermione runs through the information in her head once more as the night grows old and the moon begins to set. It is something of a relief that she has a ready-made background, though not one she'd have chosen precisely. She has apparently returned younger than she was, which doesn't entirely please her either given that she'll have to repeat her OWLs and NEWTs. It should be her fifth year but she was apparently tutored rather than attending Hogwarts.
According to 'her' memories her 'father' came to get her last night for purposes she doesn't understand (which explains the ritual robes). The same ritual killed both of her parents and somehow she ended up here with no belongings save for her wand. She isn't sure how (which is very true). She wonders what her wand is made of as it isn't her original wand and the answer comes to her as though she knew all along, 9 inches rosewood and phoenix feather. Nibbling on her lower lip she wonders how on earth she's going to deal with the boys below her, especially the one she knows is currently on the path to become traitor to the others. If a prophecy has yet to be spoken must it actually be spoken? She can't help but wonder.
Down below the tree the stag looks up to the sky where the moon is setting. He nudges his sleeping friends gently with his horns to wake them. It's one last attempt to get Moony away from there before he changes back. James knows that Remus is going to be horrified when he comes back to himself as it is without the woman seeing him. It is, however, too late. Even as the werewolf finally seems willing to leave the treed prey, her scent having finally dissipated due to a shift in the wind, the moon finally sets and he begins to shift back.
Hermione conjures a robe and drops it down. Her aim is surprisingly good all things considered as it lands within reach, if not covering him and Remus grabs for it, groaning. He slips it on hurriedly and his hands come up to rub his face as much to hide his embarrassment and shame as he realizes that a robe floating down from the tree means someone IN the tree.
"Morning. Don't worry, I'm fine, and your friends can change back if they'd like. I won't tell anyone," the soft, musical voice floats down from the branch where Hermione is still sitting. She's a bit startled by her voice, it carries a lilt that reminds her of Seamus Finnegan. By now she really would like a mirror but it would look odd if she conjured one so she'll have to wait.
The other Marauders look a bit startled, then sheepish as they change back from their animagus forms. Remus finally looks up, "Are you sure you are well?" he asks, his voice soft and serious. His senses are still overly sensitive and her scent held traces of blood in it, no wonder he's still beneath the tree.
Hermione blushes, "I could use a little help getting down," she admits. "Where am I anyway?" She has sense enough to pretend not to know.
"Of course, m'lady," Sirius says in a courtly manner that startles a laugh out of her, though inwardly it is a bit painful remembering how much Harry missed his godfather. She holds her robes tightly against her legs, not wanting to give the boys below a show as she lets go of the tree trunk.
One levitation spell later and she's returned safely to the ground. She sways a bit when she lands on her bare feet and it is Remus who steadies her, despite being worn out himself.
"You're in the Forbidden Forest near Hogwarts. What are you doing out here and without shoes, no less?" James asks. The boys surround her like an honor guard.
Hermione looks around to locate something to transfigure into shoes. She picks two cornflowers and converts them into clogs. Not ideal for wandering through the woods, but certainly better than no shoes at all. "I'm not really sure. The last I remember was being in a circular clearing and now I'm here."
Sirius frowns and exchanges a look with James. Peter doesn't really get it and Remus is too worn out from the change to be doing his best thinking, but the pureblood pair recognize that the girl must have been used in a ritual somehow. Not wanting to frighten her they say nothing of that, however, figuring that if she's forgotten it may be for the best. "We'll take you to see Headmaster Dumbledore. He'll know what to do," James says.
Hermione sags with relief and Remus, thinking she might faint, puts an arm around the tiny young woman to support her. Hermione finds herself blushing again as she looks up at him, "I really am all right," she says softly, "just relieved that I'm somewhere safe."
Amber eyes look down at her and despite the tiredness in them, there is something more than just the kindness that she's used to seeing from Professor Lupin. The kindness is still there, but protectiveness and interest have joined it despite how tired and pained he is. "I'm glad," he says sincerely, "but you should still have Madame Pomfrey check on you after you see the Headmaster."
Sirius can't quite believe what he's hearing. There's something in the way Moony is talking to the strange girl that reminds Padfoot all too much of how Prongs goes on about "his" Lily. Needless to say the urge to tease the heck out of his friend is there even if he can't indulge it right now and his expression turns gleeful.
James sees the look on Sirius' face and smirks. That look never bodes well. Peter has been awfully quiet this whole time, but given the pudgy boy appears barely awake it isn't all that surprising. The quintet arrive at the edge of the forest and James looks over to Hermione with a serious, yet almost sheepish expression, "Erm, look... I know you said you wouldn't tell..."
"I won't. The Headmaster doesn't need to know that you boys were out here or that you were loose... no one got hurt. Why don't we just say that you," she points to James, "were up early and saw white in a tree and decided to investigate. I presume these two," she gestures to Peter and Sirius, "are friends of yours and you woke them up to come with." She smiles innocently up at Remus, "I'm sorry, but I don't think I saw you at all. Perhaps you'd better go so I can meet you at a more opportune time?"
The boys are rather impressed with how quickly the girl comes up with a plausible story. Even Remus agrees that it will probably work before splitting off from the group with Peter so that he can be back in the Shrieking Shack before Madame Pomfrey comes to get him. He looks almost regretful as he removes his arm from Hermione. "Petey has to help Remus get back but Sirius and I can pull off that story. Who'd believe that we managed to wake Petey up this early anyway?" James says with a grin.
"Hey!" Peter says in a mildly disgruntled manner even as he catches the words as they're leaving, "Just because I like sleeping until a civilized hour..."
Hermione chuckles even as Remus complains to Peter, "Not so loud..." James and Sirius continue to escort her towards the Castle. "So Remus and Pete just left us, and you, sir, are clearly Sirius," Hermione's lips twitch a little as she says that, glancing at the grinning boy, "So who might you be?" she asks James as if she didn't already know. It's all she can do to keep from snickering. She'd have known her best friend's father anywhere.
James puffs up a little, he's obviously got more ego than Harry, but Hermione is finding it kind of funny. "James Potter, at your service," he says giving her a bow that she does laugh at.
Sirius smirks, "No one else is Sirius around here that's for sure. Sirius Black, m'lady, also at your service," his eyes twinkle as he takes her hand and bows over it.
This has her even more amused in a flattered sort of way. In her own time she did not have guys falling over themselves to flirt with her and even if they aren't serious about it these two are treating her with a courtly sort of flirting manner that she can't help but enjoy. Thanks to her integrated memories she doesn't feel quite as awkward in responding to it and she pauses to give them a curtsey in return. "A pleasure I'm sure, gentleman. Hermione Rookwood."
The boys both look at her, then to each other, then back to her at her last name. They've never heard of her. They should have heard of her. Certainly they haven't seen her at any of the pureblood parties their parents have dragged them to in the past. She has a wand so she isn't a squib. Odd.
Hermione can well imagine what they're thinking given the looks that just passed. She glances down as though embarrassed though she isn't really given her "history" seems half dream and murmurs, "My father preferred his embarrassment to be home-schooled rather than let his indiscretion be known. He won't be best pleased that I ended up here even if it is his fault."
Her words lead Sirius to remember what his father used to say about Orlandus Rookwood and it becomes a bit clearer. He gives James a look that says he'll explain later and gallantly offers Hermione his arm. "Well I for one cannot possibly see how such a lovely lady could be an embarrassment and am delighted you ended up here. It is a waste to keep such a jewel hidden from the world," he says extravagantly.
Hermione can't help but give him a faintly disbelieving look though she does accept his arm. She turns to James and asks, "Is he always like this?"
Prongs laughs and nods agreeably, "Pretty much. Padfoot is definitely a ladies' man."
"Hey! I resemble that remark," Sirius quips unrepentantly.
Hermione just chuckles, looking around as they lead her through the hallways as much to see what may be different as because she's not supposed to have been here before and it is the thing to do.
When they reach the gargoyle that guards the Headmaster's office James instructs, "All right, time to start guessing candy." "Cockroach cluster. Toothflossing Stringmints. Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. Chocolate Frogs."
Hermione quirks an eyebrow and then joins in, "Lemon drops. Bridge mix." At her second guess the gargoyle steps aside, "Bridge mix? Really? Interesting," she says. She didn't know the Headmaster had ever had it, but given his sweet tooth she's not really surprised.
"What's bridge mix?" Sirius asks as they step onto the stairs as they begin to move. James looks interested in the answer too.
"Muggle sweets, its a chocolate mix with different fillings in the chocolates. Some are jellied, some are nuts, some are caramel, others raisins. All sorts of things really, its pretty good." Hermione replies, stepping off the stair as it reaches the top but waiting for the boys.
Before they can knock the Headmaster's familiar voice calls out, "Come in please." Hermione is hard pressed to blink back the tears that suddenly find their way into her eyes as the much beloved headmaster has been dead for nearly two years in her own time.
"Ah, Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, very good. And who is this young lady?" Albus Dumbledore looked at his guests with an expectant expression. He woke instantly when he felt the disturbance in the wards and has been waiting ever since. The magic involved in the disturbance was complex, wild and an odd combination of light and dark. Seeing the young woman with the two boys garbed in a ritual robe and garland, Albus can sense nothing of the dark in her even as he waits for explanation.
"Hermione Rookwood, Headmaster," she says in a soft, musical voice. "I'm afraid these boys found me in a bit of a jam." The phrase is muggle, but then even Hermione "Rookwood" had a muggle mother.
Sirius always loves telling a story and butts in, "She was stuck in a tree. We rescued her, of course, can't leave a lady up a tree."
James smacks his arm, "Shut up, Padfoot. I was up kind of early and saw something white in one of the trees. It looked too big to be a bird so Padfoot and I decided to see what it was." True enough it was VERY early when they found her and they did see white in a tree... it just wasn't a tree on the edge of the forest.
Hermione gives the headmaster a sheepish smile, "I climbed it when I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings at night like this," she says, gesturing down at the robes. "I didn't even have shoes and I could hear creatures. You never know what sort are roaming about, but I had hopes that at least they might not climb trees... but then I couldn't get down."
The headmaster smiles kindly, "I understand, my dear, but I'm afraid I don't know how you came to be in the forest. Could you tell me what happened?" He can't quite read her thoughts, catching glimpses but not entire memories as he tries to subtly probe the girl as she speaks.
Hermione says softly, "I'm not really sure myself, Headmaster. The last I remember is being in a circular clearing in a different wood entirely and that wasn't any too clear either because I got very dizzy. I don't really know what papa was doing or why... I remember being very frightened and then dizzy then nothing until I woke in your forest."
Since she is concentrating on the memory of the ritual, Albus gets a foggy impression of it overlaid by the ritual her "father" used in which a woman that has enough resemblance to Hermione to be her mother lies dead. He hmms thoughtfully, "You are safe here, my dear. I will put forth some inquiries and in the meantime you will be my ward. Let's see where the Sorting Hat wishes to put you and arrangements can be made for clothes and books tomorrow."
Hermione looks up at the blue eyes, twinkling despite their seriousness, and her own fill with tears as she realizes that she IS safe. It hasn't fully hit her yet that she won't see her friends again, not as a peer, but Dumbledore does mean safety to her. "Thank you, sir," she sniffs, and a handkerchief is pressed into her hand even as he gently pats her shoulder,
"Not at all, Miss Rookwood. You've had a trying night, but you are safe now." With that he walks over to the shelf where the Sorting Hat is kept and takes it down.
Fawkes trills sympathetically and Hermione's eyes are drawn over to the bird. "Beautiful," she breathes. She's seen him before of course, but not as close up as Harry has. Fawkes preens and gives her a knowing look that brings a ghost of a smile back to her lips.
"Fawkes does appreciate admiration. Wonderful creatures, the phoenix," Dumbledore says as he offers her the hat. "Just place it on your head and the hat will do the rest."
Sirius and James watch with interest wondering where the girl will be sorted. Hermione lifts the hat and sets it on her head hesitantly.
/Huh. You're different...interesting... I've sorted you before... and yet I haven't yet. Oh well, let's have a look again shall we? A well-rounded one, aren't you? Why you could do well almost anywhere. Hmm, perhaps not Slytherin, no as you say the current crop might well eat you alive. And while you are a loyal and faithful friend, you have other qualities that shine even brighter. Like that intellect, Rowena would have loved you... but oh my, you are a fierce one aren't you. No, you're absolutely right my dear. No question about it. Better be/
"GRYFFINDOR" the hat pronounces after an indeterminable wait.
Hermione barely keeps herself from sagging in relief as she slowly removes the hat and hands it back to the Headmaster. The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes seems to glow a little brighter at the hat's pronouncement.
"Perhaps you boys could introduce Miss Rookwood to Miss Evans and Miss Hartley. One of them might have something you can borrow until we can get you to the village to order some things," he says.
James gets a sappy look at the mere mention of Lily so it is Sirius that responds, "We'd be happy to show her the way to the tower and introduce her to her dorm mates."
"I leave you in very good hands then, my dear. Professor McGonagall is your head of house, you may confide in her as well and you should speak to her after lunch about your course schedule," Dumbledore adds.
Hermione nods, it would be even more overwhelming if she really were home-schooled. As it is she will have to do some research to make sure she doesn't perform spells that may not be around yet among other things. It is going to be very difficult, she reflects, to not do things far beyond her year. Thankfully given she's always been an overachiever that is likely just how she will come across and anything beyond her year will be chalked up to that. Certainly more training in defense won't hurt given they are still in the first war time period. "Thank you again, sir. I really appreciate it," she says softly before following after the two Marauders.