Falling, and the Other 11,001 Things to Be Miserable About
A Fanfiction by Heist
Three: Not Knowing How to Proceed
Hermione's parents were lovely people. Really, they were. But in the twelve years of her adult life that she hadn't lived with them, she'd somehow managed to forget that they could take on Professor Binns in the Olympics of the Terminally Dull. When parted, either by a distance of two streets or two continents, her mother and father were engaging, witty, vivacious and otherwise excellent conversationalists.
They were inseparable.
Hermione had always assumed that prior to her birth, but after their wedding, her parents had amiably agreed to discard their divergent personalities and interests for the sake of marital felicity. There was no other explanation for why the majority of her life they had functioned as the same person in different bodies. Field observation led her to understand the phenomenon only occurred when they were in the same building, so as a child she had striven for ways to separate them and log the results.
At the grocery, Hermione had seen her staid mother pick up new issues of the glossies and flip straight to the sex tips. (She'd been mortified then, but the lecture her mother gave her on puberty had been positively inspired.) Once, when her father had gone to New York for a conference on cosmetic molar reconstruction, her mother had actually taken a two-week-long class on Indian culture, including cooking, belly dancing and the Seventeen Forbidden Positions of the Kama Sutra.
Her father also became exponentially more interesting when parted from her mother. She'd been twelve before she learned that before dental school, he had been a flight instructor on HMS Ark Royal, the last fleet carrier of the Royal Navy. A flight instructor. As in, an individual who instructed others on how to properly pilot flying death machines across the sky at immense velocities. Who knew? Other covert spying revealed that her father was not interested in maintaining his immaculate crew-cut so much as reading imported American motorcycle magazines at the barber's every two weeks, whether he needed the trim or not.
The collective Granger Parental Unit had twenty (twenty-one if she counted the lifetime subscription to the Bulgarian-language edition of Dentus Quarterly Viktor had gotten them) subscriptions to dentistry magazines. Hermione knew this because in the three weeks since she'd moved back in with her parents, not two days had passed when a magazine had not arrived in the post, which was another torturous two days in which she had no contact with the wizarding world.
She sighed, and Crookshanks batted half-heartedly at her newest hair-concealing hat from his post on the back of the sofa. Harry had decided the best thing she could do was to drop out of view of the wizarding world for a while. She had disagreed, vehemently, even attended the International Season opener of the Quidditch season, and awkward hat aside it had been nice to watch Draco Malfoy repeatedly plow face-first into the muddy turf. But afterwards, there had been reporters...
In her absence, the English tabloids had gone to print, and not even the American reporters were unaware of the giant photographs of her hanging over the railing outside that muggle bar like someone's bag of dirty laundry emblazoned everywhere. At first, mortification paralyzed her brain, and after she was carefully extricated from the match it took Harry's cooler head to remind her that in not a single photograph did her unconscious form move enough for the camera to expose her face.
Harry had bought her time and given her an alibi, and after she sent out scores of falsely indignant howlers, she returned to her parents' home like a wanted fugitive. It was all terribly embarrassing, and she sighed again.
"Is everything all right dear?" her mother asked pleasantly.
"Quite," Hermione replied.
Silence circled the room, sniffed about the corners, scratched its bum and settled in again. Hermione flicked her eyes to the clock (digital, and therefore silent) and clenched her knuckles so tightly that the joints popped in in gristly symphony. Her father glanced up from the magazine article he was reading, and she momentarily wondered if he'd been able to hear her grinding her teeth as well.
She should have left them in Australia, she decided. She should have left them in beautiful sunny Brisbane, amicably divorced Wendell and Monica Wilkins. When she came back for them, they'd been dating, and thinking about giving the marriage thing another go after they retired from their respective and much loved 'careers.' She had done a grave disservice, ending their social windsurfing and weekend nights out with friends, to bring them back to this.
She was going to go mad if nothing happened soon. Fifteen seconds passed. Her father turned another page in his magazine. Her mother rocked in her chair twice. Perhaps she had already gone mad. And then the post dropped through the slot to save her life. "I'll get it!" she blurted, and threw herself from the sofa. Oh sweet Morgana's pantyhose, please let there be something to read. She'd settle for a planter catalog, anything.
Two new dental magazines. The electric bill. A platinum credit card offer for her father. An advertisement for a travel agency featuring Lovely New Zealand. (That one she decided not to share with her parents.) A letter in a lavender envelope flamboyantly addressed to Helen Courtenay-Carlisle, which she assumed was meant for her mother, who hadn't been a Courtenay-Carlisle for thirty-five years. And curiously, a small package addressed to her, and stamped with American postage.
She stared at the last in disbelief, and tore open the heavy brown paper wrapping. It was a book, of all things, small, black with a glossy cover and an ominous title: 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About. Hermione blinked, and tugged at a bit of paper folded into the front cover. The paper at first was reluctant to be removed, and she noticed the edges of the book's pages were shaded dark grey to highlight the image of an anti-smiley face on the side.
"What the bloody...?"
At last the paper was freed, and it revealed itself to be a form letter from some bizarre little American book club. HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY HERIMONE, the header began in garish red letters. How in the blazing bloody hell did they know that if they couldn't get her name right? She certainly hadn't gone about advertising it hither and yon. For certain, she'd never have joined a muggle book club and had the books posted to her parents' home, and she hadn't. It didn't make sense. Her mother joined her at the door as she skimmed the rest of the contents.
"Oh, I see another of your books has come in. Why don't we go out to tea and talk about it?" Her mother was smooth, and earnest, and the lie was so convincing Hermione almost believed she had joined a book club, just because the possibility of her mother, lying, was unfathomable. "It can be just us girls."
"Yes," Hermione said. "Let's do exactly that."
Helen Granger had an unseemly love for the artificial sweetener served at the Herring Bone and Stormkettle Tea Shop. Hermione stared as her mother poured no fewer than five of the little blue packets into her tea. The perfectly innocent breakfast blend went slightly cloudy, and Hermione wasn't altogether certain that she didn't see a miniature Dark Mark hovering over the cup.
"So what you're telling me," she said as she dropped two honest sugar cubes into her blackberry tea, "is that you took out a subscription to an American fiction book club under my name, so Dad wouldn't know about your frivolous recreational reading."
"In essentials, yes." Her mother took a sip of the death-tea as Hermione watched in perverse fascination. "What you have to understand, Hermione, is that your father can be an unbelievable bore."
Hermione was too preoccupied wondering how her mother hadn't choked on her cancer-inducing concoction to realize at first just what she had said. "I... Beg your pardon?"
Her mother laughed. "I'm hardly a paragon of excitement, but ever since Australia I've wanted something more in life. I think it might be nice to go out with friends that aren't colleagues, and talk about something not related to more effective whitening techniques."
Hermione shifted guiltily in her seat and stirred her tea. Part of the reason she'd transferred to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in the first place had been to cover her tracks regarding the Australia Affair. Not content merely to make her parents believe they were childless divorcees, after lifting the initial memory charms, Hermione had modified their memories again. As far as her parents knew (she hoped), she had taken them to Australia and helped them start a new dental practice geared toward a skeptical wizarding public. She'd taken pains to ensure they wouldn't remember ever being the Wilkinses for fear of their resentment, but in her haste to apply the new charm before the old one was off perhaps she might have made an error.
Oops. Time for a decisive Change of Topic. "Who was your letter from, then? An old admirer?" She had watched her mother surreptitiously glance at it on the drive over, and she made certain to lay on as much lascivious innuendo into her voice as possible.
"Actually, it's from my great-uncle Howell, on the Jenkins side of the family." Ah, the infamous Jenkins Side. It was as if to speak of them was to invoke Voldemort's name, but it was an open secret in Hermione's family that the Jenkinses had not approved of Hermione's great-grandmother's marriage, and so had chosen to completely cut off contact. Semi-legendary Uncle Howell had been different, but no one could or would explain why, and besides, the man had been missing for seventy years.
"You mean he's still alive?"
Her mother smiled and pulled the letter from her purse. "For a man nearing a hundred, he seems to be quite spry. According to this he just married a 'charming young woman' from somewhere called Ingary, and he's decided to settle down there."
Hermione had never heard of any such place, and she wasn't entirely sure her mother wasn't misreading potentially difficult handwriting. The quill-produced flourishes on the envelope had given even her trouble. "So why write to you? He's never even met you."
"That's the strangest part. My mother, God rest her soul, was his favorite niece, so he's bequeathed me his house in Wales. Except..." Hermione's mother frowned at the paper. "There doesn't seem to be an address, and there's something about how the last place he saw it was just north of Cardiff."
She handed the letter over, and Hermione skimmed the opening. Energetic salutation after salutation assailed her sensibilities, and it was a long paragraph and a half before he even got to the point of the letter. 'Apparently a bit more time has passed than I anticipated, and it is imperative that you find the house before my cousin does. The last time I was in the house, it seemed to be headed toward Swansea, but should still be reachable by the Network. Fl. Howl's Meandering House and that should do nicely. You might also take pains to secure the attic before waking Hugo—he's prone to talking to anyone and I can't have him spilling the location of my shares of the CCs.'
Hermione pressed the letter to the table and seized the envelope. More the fool her, she hadn't bothered to check the mailing address or the postage at the first. There was no postage, or at least none she could see, and the address was irritatingly... familiar in mode and form.
Mr. H Jenkins
The Moving Castle
Presently Market Chipping, Ingary
Somewhere Far, Far Away
Hermione flooed into Minerva McGonagall's office with a binder of genealogy notes, the Granger family bible and a furious mission. As it was a Quidditch Saturday, the Headmistress wasn't in her office, but Hermione had a standing invitation to drop by any time, and she had every intention of using that privilege to its utmost. She stormed through the hallways to the library, and ignored the new librarian's censuring look when she dropped her books to a table with a resounding bang. Madam Pince had been retired for two years, and with no other students in the library she was hardly going to respect the Rules on some twenty-four-year-old bimbo's say-so.
Besides, what had following the Rules done for her? Studying relentlessly had given her top marks and access to the highest positions in the Ministry, but hadn't enabled her to keep them. Yet. Staying faithful to her childhood sweetheart had worked out for so many other people, but she was thirty now, unmarried, and he was probably off shagging Pansy Parkinson. Good God.
Likewise, she had crusaded for muggle and muggle-born rights, made an easy target of herself before and after the war, and done immeasurable good for future generations of bright wizards and witches she would never meet. And how did the universe repay her? It gave her a wizard-born, possibly pureblooded great-grandmother and made her a hypocrite. She wasn't a muggle-born, not really, and she did not want any other nasty surprises creeping in to ruin her week.
Getting a real and proper haircut had already done that.
She cracked open her notes and resisted the urge to itch under her cap. Fortunately for her, one of her father's sisters was determined to prove the Grangers were related to Someone Important, even if only by marriage, and she had obsessively detailed documentation for the Courtenay-Carlisles. Hermione glared at the question marks surrounding "The Jenkins Side—IMPORTANT???" and accio'd all the Hogwarts yearbooks from 1910 to 1930, as well as a copy of Nature's Nobility and several years of back issues of the Daily Prophet.
Howell Jenkins disappeared in 1937. Hermione didn't know how old he'd been, but if the Jenkines were important in the wizarding world at all, it would have made the papers. "Oh bugger."
He... definitely made the papers. CANNONS CHASER "HOWL" JENKINS DISAPPEARS; CANNONS FORFEIT FINAL MATCH. WHERE IS HOWL? FAMOUS QUIDDITCH CHASER STILL MISSING. ENGLAND REQUESTS CANCELLATION OF WORLD CUP. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JENKINS?
For six months, not a single issue of the Prophet missed an article about Howell Jenkins, and it was months afterwards before the speculative articles ended. It seemed he'd made quite an impression on the wizarding world. A 'one-year-later' memorial mentioned his underappreciated work in Charms and Transfiguration, and his sudden career change to play Quidditch for the Chudley Cannons and break legions of girlish hearts. There was even a short bit on his surviving family (purebloods, of course), but no mention of his sister. Interesting.
She had the dates of his Hogwarts years, though, and she skimmed the 1920s for mention of other Jenkins activities. Hermione was gratified to discover her great-grandmother had sorted into Ravenclaw and graduated with enough honors not to be overshadowed by her flamboyantly brilliant younger brother. Howell was the Quidditch hero-scholar, but Meghan was a first-class arithmancer, and by the looks of it their cousins were quite clever as well.
It could have been worse. She wasn't quite sure which cousin Howell didn't want finding the house, but it probably wasn't a problem. She turned the page, and HOLY MANKY TOENAIL CLIPPINGS, he was talking about Armand Rosier. Who was... She scrabbled through her notes and dropped her forehead to the table.
Armand Rosier was Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa Black's grandfather. Near as she could figure it, she was a cousin by marriage(s, several of them) to the Malfoys. She tore off her cap and ran her fingers over the frizzy mess of her greatly shortened hair. She could only imagine how many people would take one look at her newly discovered lineage and point that out as the reason for her success in the wizarding world. She would simply have to hide it. No one had found it out yet, so as long as she continued on as usual there wouldn't be any problems.
She was Hermione Granger, after all. Granger was a muggle name, and everyone in that family was as muggle as muggle could be. No secrets there, deep, dark or otherwise. She was just packing to leave when she saw it, sitting smugly near the top of the tree on the page of the Granger family bible.
"Oh, like hell!"
Hermione tucked and rolled as she launched herself into the drawing room of number twelve Grimmauld Place, not even bothering to dust the soot from her shoulders. She doubted much anyone would notice or care for quite some time, and trooped out into the hall. Harry and Ginny had lived in the place for a few years and made it almost homey, but then came along baby James, and they still weren't able to get Walburga's portrait off the wall. Mostly it was a guest house for whenever their charming little cottage in Exmoor couldn't expand quickly enough for holidays and reunions, so no one was there to complain if she tramped ash up and down the stairs except for Walburga.
She was surprised that her steps didn't rouse the vicious portrait, and she added some choice curses as she made her way up to the attic. "Where did you put it?" she asked the air as she sifted through the musty relics Harry hadn't been able to discard. Hopefully, he hadn't listened to her in the last ten years, or she'd have to consult another source, and then her stygian awful black secret would be out.
Hermione discovered the tapestry by accident, and she unrolled it without delicacy. She couldn't decide whether to be disappointed in Harry for hanging onto the arrogantly ridiculous Black family tree, but she put her feelings aside and dropped it to the floor to consult. "Hmm. All right then."
She stomped down the stairs, banging her fist against the wall as she went. "Wake up, you vile old bitch! You're going to answer some questions!"
The former Mrs. Black (nee Black, oh God the inbreeding) roused with a shrieking fury, but she barely made it through a few ironic aspersions on the probable parentage of her father before Hermione threw off a few amplified silencios. Walburga glared her displeasure and mouthed several creative slurs.
"Look here, you vicious decaying harpy," Hermione said. "I am having a wretched week, and to top it all off I might very well be related to you. Now, I have some questions, which you will answer. If you don't, I will set you on fire. You don't want to catch fire, now, do you?"
A staring match commenced, and only when the animated portrait looked away did Hermione let the silencing charms down.
Hermione was Drunk. Oh so very drunk. The kind of drunk where it ceased to be just one syllable and encompassed all the merry sorrows and melancholies of the human race. She considered her state of intoxication, and decided she was Not Drunk Enough, as she could still remember that she was a blood descendant of Phineas Nigellus through a squib grandson.
It was a good thing that she had decided not to get Drunk anywhere the tabloid photographers might see her, or her present state would be quite embarrassing. One did not, after all, drink Goblin ale in public.
"It's like this," she slurred to a pained-looking Goblin Queen. "Way I put it, I'm really really really... something. I'm my own sixth, seventh-maybe cousin, thrice removed, unless I look over the Jenkins side again, which is all stupidnesses." She mouthed the word over again, convinced she'd added a syllable too many, and giggled when she saw the shape of her pursed lips below her nose.
Sarah Williams, Goblin Queen, Coffee Drinker and human beloved of the delightfully sardonic (and not-remotely-a-Goblin) King, bounced the giggling toddler on her knee and conjured some Bailey's for her coffee. "You don't say."
"It is!" Hermione insisted. "Just when everything's all swimming and perfect, he forgets your birthday and you get the boot at work and find out you're the inbred descendant of squibs. It's all shite, that's what."
"Shite!" the Goblin Prince agreed. The Goblin Queen sighed, and took a long swallow of her improved coffee.
Hermione might have been okay if, after the uncomfortable revelation at Grimmauld Place, she had just gone home, had a quiet tipple and a good cry and moped in bed. She'd had the drink, she'd cried, but that wretched little muggle book had been watching her, and damn all if she hadn't picked it up and the first two things she saw on the random page she turned to were dental magazines and chopping off all your hair after a breakup.
If a little book from another country agreed she should be miserable, she could hardly argue otherwise, right? The resulting fit of pique sent her round the corner to the drugstore, where she purchased a box of respectable brown dye to cover the canary-colored horror on her head. And now her hair was tiger-streaked auburn and fire orange, which was not acceptable at all.
Hermione drained her mug and emphatically ripped her hat off her head to tangle her fingers in her much-shorter hair. "Everything is all ruined now!"
The Goblin Prince took his gummy fingers out of his mouth and pointed at her hair with a cheery peal of laughter. Hermione dropped her head to the tabletop in abject despair.
"It could be worse," the Goblin Queen said.
"How?" she groaned, forehead still firmly planted against the table. (It was a nice table, glorious mahogany that managed not to be smudged or dusty or torn to shreds and splinters. She wondered how the Goblin Queen managed to keep it that way in this particularly mad kingdom, and decided to inquire at a later time.)
"You could have psychotic singing birds rearranging your coworkers bodyparts because certain people are poor losers and don't properly know how to get a girl's attention."
"Ron is one of my coworkers."
"Oh. I'll have Hoggle bring you a refill then."
Notes: I did say this was a smidgeon of a crossover, didn't I? All the same, I shan't be filing it over in the crossover section, because even though I am importing characters from other fine works and mediums of fiction, HP is the native universe for this fic. That means that we're working with the rules and established boundaries Rowling gave us to play with, rather than some of the nonsensical happenings of Labyrinth or HMC.
I just wanted to put that out there, in case of confusion later on. If you'd like a lovely example of other authors doing this, and in a fashion far superior to the one herein, search for Vathara and lembas7. They are gods of the crossover, and I believe in pointing out Mad Skills when I see them.
Enjoy, my ficsy podlings. Much love.