WITCH IN EXILE
Disclaimer: All the characters and places that appear in the Harry Potter books are the invention and property of J.K. Rowling. Any that are not are my own creation.
Chapter One: In Which Some Things Become Apparent
Saturday 2nd August, the outskirts of Muggle London.
There had always been something missing about the summer holidays, Hermione thought idly. Before she went off to school, she'd barely noticed the difference, but it had become more pained with every year. As if the way she spent the rest of the year was just something her subconscious had dreamt up to amuse her.
That was always how her parents treated it, as a deluded fantasy that they played along with under sufferance. Amused sufferance, but sufferance none the less. The disbelief on their faces was easily seen when she accidentally let something slip about school. You'd think I'd be getting fairly good at keeping things to myself now, she thought, flicking through the magazine in front of her. Though I suppose I am, because I've never mentioned trolls, dragons or werewolves, but sometimes I forget that my parents have never even seen a game of quidditch – which seems pretty normal to me after five years at school.
Until I came along, they never saw an owl deliver a letter either. Now they suspend belief just far enough to let one deliver theirs to me during the school year.
The magazine joined the others on the rejected pile on the floor. Nothing in there she liked.
But the summer holidays had always been a time for muggles and all that went with them. Television, jeans, shopping centres and movie cinemas; learning to drive her Dad's old chevy, and going to a hairdresser with Mum.
And speaking of hairdressers ---
"No. I refuse to get blonde highlights!"
Susan Granger sighed and regarded her only daughter fondly. "Hermione, dear, they would look lovely with your hair colour. Very Adult, in fact."
Hermione stifled a laugh. 'Very Adult' had always been her mother's phrase for persuading her to do things she wasn't very keen on. At one time, it had worked very well.
"Sorry," she said, shaking her head. "I'll settle for red though, just enough to be noticeable."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." Rolled eyes.
"Well, if you really want, but I still think blonde would look nicer…"
"My mind's made up. Really."
Half an hour later, Hermione left the hairdresser's with Weasley coloured streaks through her auburn hair. She liked the way they looked, but had only agreed to have them done to placate Susan. As a dentist, the woman wasn't too fussy about her own appearance, but as a mother, she was a demon about Hermione's.
Another great mother-daughter bonding session, Hermione thought to herself. We do this every year, both my parents trying to show me how wonderful life without magic can be. They're not obvious enough to say it outright, but the feeling's always there. Like they're longing to ask me to stay home next time, and go to the local comprehensive as they'd planned all along.
Then I can eventually train up to be a doctor. She grinned to herself. Last Christmas she'd overheard her father proudly informing her uncle that his little girl had her heart set on being a doctor. Top marks in maths and English, he'd said, and enough determination to pass her GCSE at the top of her year. Can't wait to get to uni to study medicine.
It made her laugh, but it also made her a little sad. Because for all the support he showed her, she knew that he didn't really want her to be a witch. And since her parents never seemed to disagree on anything, that meant her mother had to feel the same. She'd wondered a lot since then that if she could show them what it was like to have magic, they might change their minds.
"Want a pastry?" Her mother's voice brought her back to the present.
"Yeah, sure…just not anything with icing," she replied quickly, taking in the bakery they'd stopped in front of. Susan sniffed. "Do you really think I'd buy you anything that had it?"
"Well, not really." Hermione smiled. Her mother's inner-dentist controlled all her shopping habits.
"Come on, then." She felt a hand in the middle of her back, propelling her into the store. "What'll you have? I have to get some rolls and a couple loaves of bread," she said, digging in her purse for change.
"Chocolate!" Hermione said instantly, eyes alighting on that section.
"No," said Susan flatly. "Have you any idea what chocolate does to your teeth?"
"Mum, if I get any holes I can always fix them with my wand. Please?"
That was the wrong thing to say, and she'd known it really before she said it. But she'd said it anyway. That famed Gryffindor tact, coming through once again.
Her mother drew herself up coldly. Still, she was an inch or so too short for it to have any effect. "Don't mention that here! What will people think?"
"I didn't know that bothered you."
"We're in public, Hermione. Honestly. Some of these people will probably think you're very strange if you start babbling on about wands and witchcraft."
Hermione's mouth fell open. She wasn't babbling! There wasn't that many people around either. "Mum! I---"
"That's enough, young lady. I don't want a scene, and I don't want an argument either." Susan turned away and collected her bread, paying the girl at the counter. Hermione watched, numbly. She couldn't even remember her mother ordering.
That crack about witchcraft sounded just like Harry's relatives, the thought penetrated her brain. They're muggles, and they hate witchcraft because they don't understand it. But my parents are better than that, because they're far more tolerant, and they want to learn about magic! They're proud of having a witch in the family. Aren't they?
"Let's go." Hermione stayed where she was, thinking furiously.
"Hermione, now! Need I remind you that you are seventeen years of age? Please behave like it!"
"I'm not seventeen, I'm eighteen!" she snapped.
Her mother fixed her with a cold stare. Funny, how I've never seen her look like that before, mused Hermione. She was mentally kicking herself for the slip.
"Your seventeenth birthday was in September. You were born seventeen years ago. There's nothing that could make you any older. Why--" she laughed. "You'd have to have gone back in time or something."
Hermione felt suddenly very, very cold. Don't ask, she prayed. Please, just don't ask.
Susan didn't, but the looks she kept giving her all the way to the car and all the way
home were very strange indeed.
Both her parents were unusually silent at dinner, which was normally a bad sign. Hermione ate quickly in the hope she could get away before the storm broke, but just as she was getting up to put her plate on the sink, her father stopped her.
She turned back, summoning all the cool she could into her voice. "Yes?"
He flexed his hands, awkwardly. "Your mother and I – well, we've been thinking."
"And we decided that it might be best if you didn't go back to that school of yours. I mean – magic, well, how on earth could that help you get a good job? You're not learning any skills that prepare you for anything. Just a whole lot of new age nonsense, if you ask me."
Hermione felt her mouth drop open. If it wasn't a complete shock, it still wasn't particularly nice to hear. All along, she'd felt so proud that *her* parents, unlike Harry's muggle relatives, could accept if not understand the world she was a part of. Hearing the reverse made her feel small and miserable.
"I'm sorry, Mum, Dad," she said finally, inwardly amazed at how calm she sounded. "This is a part of my life, which I cannot – and will not – ever give up. Hogwarts is everything to me; magic is a part of me – to throw it away would be the worst mistake that I could ever make."
Two blank faces stared back at her.
Hermione said "I'm sorry if I'm hurting you, because I know I haven't seen very much of you since I went off to school, and I miss that closeness, but quitting Hogwarts isn't going to make anything better. Anyway, you ought to know me well enough to realise that I would never give up something as important to me as my school, my life…I've worked so hard at this, harder than anyone else in my year. Partly because I'm muggleborn, I suppose; I've needed to prove myself to everyone who's always had magic as a part of their lives, needed to prove that I was just as good as them. I think I have."
Her father drew a long, ragged breath. His eyes were inscrutable, shiny, sad. "I guess quitting that school of yours is out of the question, then," he said quietly, and Hermione nodded.
"We've just wanted to be a proper family again, you and us, together like we used to be…"
"I'm sorry," she replied sadly.
He sighed. "I always thought you were going to be a doctor and carry on the Granger family medical tradition, not some…some…"
"…unusual member of the community." Did his voice just break? She thought it might have, but couldn't be sure.
"Witch, dad, witch. Cauldrons, robes, pointy hats and broomsticks, witch! I wish that you'd just accept what I am. I always thought you did, that you were proud of me for doing so well."
He flinched a little. But his voice was bitter. "At what? At something I can't see or understand, at something I have a hard time believing in! You're my daughter, 'Mione, but this whole magic thing is just nonsense. I wish--" He chuckled. There was something so sad, so mirthless, in the small noise that Hermione wanted to run to him and throw her arms around him like she had as a little girl. "Dad…"
"Please, Hermione." His eyes met hers, and they seemed to be searching her face for…something. She was struck by how tired he looked all of a sudden. The powerful man she was so used to seeing was completely gone, undermined by the weathered and exhausted stranger who now stared out at her from her father's face. Idly she twirled a finger in her newly red-streaked hair. Now she wished she hadn't had it done, even if her mother had all but insisted. It made her feel even more of a stranger before her parents than she did already.
"This is just so hard to get used to."
"What, after six years of me being a witch, and you're not used to it yet!?" The words slipped out before she could stop them, and she wasn't proud of the bitter arrogance they stung with.
Both her parents met her gaze, and oddly enough, it was her mother who answered. "No. We're simple folk, 'Mione. We like simple things that we can understand."
She bit her lip, shifting uncomfortably in her chair, and continued "This whole magic thing has made me feel like a kid in a candy store without permission. I'm amazed at the things you people can do--"
'You people.' Again the distancing between them.
"—but it does really make me feel uncomfortable…It's not my world. I don't understand it, and I'm even a bit frightened of it." She steadied herself. "Sorry, love."
Hermione nodded, trembling a little herself. A new emotion was trickling down her conscience. Guilt. But maybe it was better to have these things out in the open?
"I wish I could show you what it's like for me, but I doubt it's even possible. I'd love to have you at Hogwarts--"
Even if I'd die of embarrassment. The thought of what Malfoy would say made her shudder.
"—so that you could see everything…I'd love you to be magical; you don't know how many nights I've dreamt of having a proper magic family--"
"I think we do," said her father. "Probably as much as we've dreamt of having a proper, normal, non-magical daughter, who goes to a proper school, has proper friends who don't save the universe as we know it every year, and can't make things happen that are totally against the laws of physics!"
Her lips trembled. "How DARE you say I'm not normal!"
"Well, you could hardly call being magical 'normal' love, could you?" The conciliatory, placatory tone of her mother's voice made Hermione's cheeks flame in anger. "Yes, I bloody well could! It's not my bloody fault that you're only muggles!"
At the sudden silence, she knew she'd gone too far, and waited quietly for what would happen next. Dad and Mum shared a long glance, before they both nodded, and turned back towards her.
"As only a muggle, Hermione, I'd like to advise you that your period of residence in this abode has abruptly terminated." Dad was on his feet, breathing heavily, and glaring at her. The authority had returned to his figure, but it brought with it fury, a far less pleasant visitor. "Get out. Get your things, and leave. Go to a proper magic family then; let them take you in. You'll have your lovely little magic world, without muggle relatives to be ashamed of, and we'll have our nice normal existence restored, without a walking, breathing impossibility floating around the house and talking about things that do-just-not-happen!"
"Right." She lifted her chin. "I'll go to the Weasleys' then. Goodbye." Turned on her heel and swept up the stairs. Packed her trunk and a couple of bags, and flounced downstairs again, Crookshanks in a carrier on top of the pile.
She made it outside to the end of the street before she remembered that the Weasleys had gone to Romania to visit Charlie, and they'd taken Harry with them.