A/N: Written for the Inspiring Lyrics challenge at the HPFC given: "Do you believe in magic?" ~ Do You Believe In Magic by Aly & AJ. Any feedback will be appreciated, read many times, printed out and hung on my wall, and otherwise completely and utterly adored.
Little Hermione, barely four months old, couldn't speak yet, not even a simple mama or dada. Neither could she walk, or properly crawl for that matter. Transporting herself across the floor involved some strategic rolling mixed in with her almost-crawl, using her arms to drag the rest of her body around like a dead weight.
What she could do, however, was scoot over to the little bookcase her parents had filled with fabric and cardboard books, randomly select one of them, and pull herself and the story back to wherever her mother was seated, demanding to be read to with lengthy spill of baby babble. Of course, her proud mum always complied.
"You want to read this one again, Hermione?" she would ask her little girl in that special high-pitched voice mummies always use, sweeping baby and book into her arms with a broad grin. "What excellent taste, my dear."
Occasionally, Richard Granger walk in on the scene of his wife reading books to their infant daughter and pause, all other thoughts or worries vanishing as a smile stole over his face at the sight. Sometimes he would kiss his wife on the cheek and sit down beside her. Other times he would chat with both of his special girls and ask about the book they were enjoying. If he could get away with it though, he preferred snatching Hermione and her book out of his wife's lap.
While delighted squeals echoed through the room, Natalie Granger would laugh at her family as her husband had the little bookworm soar around the room for a few moments. Then he would collapse back onto the spot next to his wife, looping an arm around her as he placed Hermione on his knee and continued reading the tale.
Still only four years old, Hermione could now speak rather well, using words that her mummy and daddy said while talking or reading books to her. Any new words she heard sparked sudden interest, and coming upon a word in a book that she didn't know called for the immediate pause of reading and explanation. Although she couldn't quite read by herself yet, her parents would always run a fingertip under the lines they read aloud so she could follow. Quickly catching on, she improved and learned at an astonishing rate. Quite often, the Grangers' pride in their little bookworm led to a shopping trip to the nearby bookstore, where she would pick out new books that met her fancy.
"What does 'desolation' mean?" she asked her mummy with interest, pointing to the word on the page of The Secret Garden, the book they had bought earlier that afternoon in celebration of Hermione's successful writing of a letter to her grandmum. That was another thing Hermione was learning to do. Every day she would practice her letters, penning the entire alphabet and her full name three times each day: once after breakfast, again after lunch, and a third time after dinner. According to daddy, practice made perfect, and perfect Hermione would be.
"It means 'sadness,'" Natalie Granger promptly responded kindly. This particular book would be a bit challenging for Hermione to understand at this age, but then again, that's what her husband had said of nearly every book Hermione had been returning from the bookstore within the past
Four days before her fifth Christmas, Richard Granger was holding his precious bookworm on his lap, reading her The Polar Express as a special treat before bedtime. Although she had heard the story before, this time when he closed the back binding, her little eyebrows were scrunched together, tips of her mouth curled down into a frown.
"What's wrong, Hermione?" he inquired, cupping her soft cheek to guide her eyes towards his. "Didn't you like the story?"
"Yes, Daddy," she replied. "Of course I liked the story."
"Then what's wrong?" he repeated, getting a bit worried.
"Nothing's wrong. But Daddy…" she began, biting her lip in that way she did when she got nervous and she was thinking really hard. "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
"Of course I believe in Santa Claus," he answered at once. He and his wife had discussed this a few years ago, when wondering at what age Hermione would start to question these sorts of things. Mutually, they decided to simply be completely honest with their little girl, but keep the magic alive as long as possible while still doing so.
"Mummy, too?" she asked pensively.
"Mummy, too," he assured her, giving her one last hug before tucking her in bed.
But the next night, all three of them were cuddled on the couch as Hermione – with the help of both parents – slowly read T'was the Night Before Christmas. Halfway through the book, Hermione squirmed in her daddy's lap and turned around. Both of her parents shot her concerned looks, so she let loose the inquiry that had been pressing on her mind for some time.
"Mummy, are you and Daddy Santa Claus?"
Thrown off guard, Richard and Natalie Granger exchanged glances before linking hands behind the couch as he replied, "Yes, Hermione. Yes, we are."
"I thought so," she remarked casually. As suddenly as before, she shifted her position again and picked up her reading where she had left off. So concentrated on figuring out the words, she didn't notice the tears streaking down her mother's face, lamenting the loss of that childhood innocence, mourning the expression on Hermione's face that she would never see again: that of a little one's delight on Christmas morning. How badly she had hoped to see it at least a few more times.
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night," Hermione finished proudly, gingerly flipping shut the book.
"The end," her daddy added solemnly, managing a smile for his five year old daughter. "You did a good job reading tonight, sweetie."
"Thank you, Daddy," she responded bashfully. "But I'm tired now."
"Yes, I think it's time for bed," he commented. "Give Mummy a hug and kiss goodnight."
Twisting around to do so, Hermione tilted her head to the side when she saw the streams of water coming from her mother's eyes.
"Mummy," she exclaimed, throwing her arms around her. "Don't cry just because the story's over. We'll read it again."
Letting out a sad laugh, Natalie ruffled her daughter's long, curly hair, promising to read the story as many times as Hermione wanted to.
"Let's go brush your teeth, young lady," her daddy suggested, embracing his wife and whispering in her ear as he brushed away the remnants of tears before following their little smartie. By this age, Hermione wanted to brush her teeth all by herself, with Daddy only checking how well she did and then flossing. She couldn't floss by herself yet; the string always got tangled up in a big mess.
"Daddy, why are you looking at me so funny?" she inquired, staring at him through the reflection of the mirror. Until she had mentioned it, he hadn't really noticed that he was forlornly studying his precious daughter who seemed almost too smart for her own good.
"Why did you ask about me and Mummy being Santa Claus?" he responded, voicing the question that had been sitting in the back of his mind ever since the words had escaped Hermione's mouth.
"Because I was wondering," she replied simply.
"But what made you think of that?" he pushed, not knowing if they had somehow slipped, let out the secret, done something to give it away.
"Santa Claus uses magic," Hermione declared nonchalantly with a shrug of her shoulders, eyes piercing his in the mirror. "Magic isn't real."
For her sixth birthday, her grandparents had decided to throw her a birthday party revolved around princesses and knights and dragons, thinking that the theme would go extremely well with their present: a collection of children's fairytales.
"Do you like the plates, Hermione?" her grandmother asked while holding up one of the triangular shield shaped plates, hoping to spark a sense of excitement into the birthday girl, who was gazing around the decorated room with interest.
"Yes," she answered honestly. "The design is very pretty."
"That's a crest," her mum informed her with a smile. "It symbolizes something special about the family of the knight that carries that shield."
Instantly Hermione was hooked, listening intently as the two women told her about knights and crests and the meanings behind some of the colors and shapes and animals.
"Why aren't you wearing your crown, Princess Hermione?" her grandpa inquired as he walked into the room.
"Because, grandpa, pretending to be a princess that would be rescued from the evil dragon by a brave and handsome prince is silly and unrealistic," Hermione responded in a matter-of-fact tone matured beyond her age.
"And who says you can't be silly and unrealistic sometimes?" he teasingly questioned back, scooping his granddaughter into his arms and spinning once before placing the tiara on her head. Almost immediately, the small piece of plastic fell to one side, nearly toppling to the floor. However, it got caught on the way down by the tangled mess of Hermione's long hair.
Because of this, she didn't hear her grandmum commenting to her mum, "Natalie, really. Must you spoil her childhood so early? Princesses being silly and unrealistic… she should be silly and unrealistic!"
"I know, mum," Natalie responded, a tint of worry and sadness in her voice. "It's not me, or Richard, putting those thoughts in her head. She comes up with them herself."
"Grandpa!" Hermione cried out in horror as the two women spoke. "Now it's stuck!"
"Nonsense," he replied, settling her on his knee so he could pick the prongs of the tiara out of her poufy hair without taking some strands along with him.
"It always gets stuck," Hermione informed him with a pout. "Daddy says he's going to need to use his dentist tools to get it out next time."
"Don't you worrying about that mean Daddy and his tools," her grandpa mock-commanded with a smile. "Old Grandpa can work some magic."
Sure enough, after a good minute tussle with Hermione's head of curls, the tiara was freed with a mighty exclamation of victory. Laughing at her silly grandpa, Hermione told him that she should just not wear the crown.
"What? No, you have to wear it!" he replied earnestly. "Wear it for Grandpa. I like seeing you all dressed up as the pretty princess you are."
"Why don't we braid your hair," her mum suggested, knowing that a braid would hold back the rebellious curls and keep hopefully Hermione's hair out of her face and food during the party.
With a shy smile, Hermione obediently sat still as her grandmum pulled at her hair. Then, when she finished, Hermione turned back to her grandpa and he placed the tiara on her head properly, tucking the prongs in between strands to make it stay.
"Beautiful," he announced once it was set.
"I wish my hair could be beautiful, too," Hermione lamented, looking down at single braid resting on her shoulder.
"What did you think I was talking about? Your hair is beautiful!" her grandpa exclaimed. "You have the most beautiful hair in the whole world, Hermione. And don't let any other not-pretty-haired person tell you otherwise."
Beaming, Hermione ducked her head and tried to act like he hadn't made her feel so special. "What about mummy and grandmummy? They have beautiful hair, too."
"You all tie for first," her grandpa declared authoritatively, grinning.
Shortly thereafter, Hermione's school and neighbor friends started to arrive and the real party began. They played games inside, then went outside for a while, returning to the house to hold a tea party before Hermione's daddy and grandpa brought out the dragon piñata. Not so secretly, Hermione enjoyed playing pretend and being silly and unrealistic.
Even more than the party itself, the birthday girl had grown flustered with excitement at the sight of the novels her grandparents had given her, longing to send all of her friends home that very minute so she could crack open the spines and go read on the couch with her mummy or daddy. Or grandmum or grandpa, she decided. They could probably read, too.
But they all insisted that she wait for a while and play with her friends some more before delving into her presents. Reluctantly, she complied.
Two nights after the party, Richard Granger strolled down the hallway and happened to peer into his daughter's room. Not believing what he saw, he froze for a moment before realizing that there really was a fire in the middle of her floor. Panicking, he immediately worked towards putting out the flames, which died down unusually fast.
"What happened, Hermione?!" he demanded, frantic gaze turning towards the little girl who was calmly sitting on her bed, frowning and glaring at the pile at his feet. Not understanding, he followed her gaze to where the fire had been burning to find many of the precious books her grandparents had given her.
What shocked him even more was that they were still in perfect condition. Not a scorch mark or black burn marred any of the books.
"Hermione!" he exclaimed, not able to utter much else.
"They have magic in them!" she proclaimed darkly, folding her arms in anger. "Why do they have magic in them?"
Only then did her dad realize that, indeed, all of the stories on the floor were those fairytales that included witches, magic spells, fairies, or other magical creatures.
"They're just stories, Hermione," her dad mumbled, still analyzing the obviously not burnt books on the ground. "Just books."
"I know," she responded, not relaxing the frustrated expression on her face or removing her glare from the pile on the floor. "They're still books. Just bad ones."
Nearly eight months later, Hermione's cousin held his seventh birthday party at a park. Every boy and girl had a fantastic time running around, climbing on the playground, and pleading for dog and flower shaped balloons from the clown, including Hermione. But then, after they had cake and ice cream, a magician arrived. All of the children gasped and squealed in joy and wonder as he pulled rabbits out of hats, snapped metal rings together, and turned a single handkerchief into a train of colored fabric.
That is, all of the children but one. With every magic trick the magician performed, Hermione grew more and more frustrated, crossing her arms, hardening her eyes, and turning her mouth down into a frown.
Finally, when one child shrieked about magic being the best thing in the world, Hermione snapped, loudly proclaiming, "He's not really a magician! Magic isn't real!"
All of the adults, including the mentioned magicians, froze in shock momentarily at the passion behind her announcement.
"Don't be silly," a little girl Hermione didn't know responded nastily. "How else could he do those things?"
"They're tricks!" Hermione exclaimed defensively, gesturing wildly as she stood. "He makes it look like magic, but he's lying! He hides the little breaks in the metal circles, and has the long set of handkerchiefs already up his sleeve!"
"You're just jealous because you can't use magic," another little boy decided snottily, also standing along with a few other kids, all who were glaring at her for interrupting the show.
"I am not!" Hermione retorted hotly. "He's a liar and a cheat and he's just deceiving you all!"
In response, the boy next to her shoved her hard, forcing her to take a few steps backward to hold onto her balance. Anger flowing through her body, she shoved back as hard as she could, sending the boy crashing into other children. Or, at least she must have done so, even though she didn't remember actually stretching out her arms or even touching him at all.
Out of nowhere, her dad appeared, gripping her arm and dragging her away from the party as she screamed about the magician's lying, deceptive ways. Her mum, apologizing profusely to her aunt and uncle, followed them shortly.
By the time they reached the car, Hermione had calmed down a bit. Not to a point when anyone would call her calm, but she wasn't kicking or screaming anymore – just sitting perfectly still in her seat, crossing her arms, scowling, and wrinkling her forehead as she glared at the floor.
"Hermione…" her mother began, rubbing her head slowly as if to sooth away the frustration building up inside. She hated losing her temper, especially with her Hermione, who was usually such a good child.
"What the hell was that, young lady?!" her dad yelled to the backseat. Natalie put a warning hand on her husband's shoulders and he took a deep breath, relaxing a bit.
"Hermione, you can't overreact like that," her mother scolded, a bit wearily.
"But Mum! He was lying to them! They deserve to know when they're being lied to," Hermione argued.
"For heaven's sake, it's just a bit of harmless magic tricks," her dad remarked.
"But magic isn't real, Daddy," she retorted.
"Yes, sweetie," her mum agreed, not bothering to venture into the discussion of how Hermione had come to this conclusion about something as wonderful and fantastic and dreamy as magic. "But just because you know the trick behind the magic doesn't mean that you should spoil the surprise for all the other kids."
Thinking about what her mother said, Hermione realized she was right and unfolded her arms, expression softening into a thoughtful and regretful frown.
"I suppose not," Hermione replied after a minute of contemplation.
Secretly, she still thought the other kids deserved the right to know the truth.
Following that escapade, her parents made every effort to cut anything related to fantasy or magic out of her life. Many of Hermione's friends that also enjoyed reading knew not to discuss some of their favorite books with her. Novels about Merlin and King Arthur hid in the back of her parents' closet. Video games and movies depicting the struggle of good versus evil fought by sorcerers, druids, wizards, elves, witches, or dwarves were only allowed when Hermione was out of the house.
These drastic tactics grew routine after a while, and they seemed to work. Hermione didn't freak out about magic for almost five years.
Then, the summer before she turned twelve years old, her carefully crafted bubble burst with a single letter.
"You have mail, sweetie," her mum informed her as she came into the kitchen for breakfast that summer morning.
"Oh, who is it from?" Hermione inquired with interest, plopping down into her chair as she put down her book and picked up the envelope.
"I don't know," her mother told her, still standing by the stove, stirring the eggs.
"It's very pretty," Hermione commented, admiring the beautiful penmanship and picture on the outside of the envelope for a good five minutes before actually opening it up and reading the message within.
"So who is it from?" her mum asked as she brought the eggs over to the table, scooping some onto everyone's plate. However, Hermione didn't respond. Instead, she just frowned at the letter in her hands. By the time she reached the second line, her smile had dropped into a scowl. Before even finishing the note, she threw the paper on the dining room table.
"What's the matter?" her dad inquired from across the table, peering over his morning's newspaper.
"Who thinks this is funny?!" Hermione demanded heatedly. "Because I don't!"
Without even eating her breakfast or remembering to grab her book, Hermione ran from the room to retreat to her bedroom.
Confused at her actions, her parents scooped up the letter and read it for themselves. Disbelief and denial entered their minds first, but while they were still debating how to talk to their daughter about this, a knock on their front door rang through the house.
"Yes?" Richard Granger asked the old man distractedly.
"Good morning, Mr. Granger," none other than Albus Dumbledore greeted. "I am the Headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. I do believe you received a letter concerning your daughter's eligibility for enrollment?"
Her mum almost fainted. Her dad blinked nearly fifty times, merely standing there and watching as the old man he didn't know made himself comfortable in his living room.
"And where is Miss Granger?" the stranger questioned.
"She's, er, in her room," Richard answered, still bewildered. Then he shook his head swiftly and called out, "Hermione! We have a visitor!"
"Um, yes," Natalie murmured, the word 'visitor' sparking life back into her and demanding her to play the role of host properly. "Would you care for some tea, Mr—"
"Dumbledore," the smiling man finished. "And that would be lovely."
As her mother went into the kitchen, Hermione emerged from her room, the remnants of tear tracks evident on her face.
"Who is—" she began to ask. Then, upon seeing the Headmaster, she froze.
"Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry," the man she didn't know informed her, standing and lifting a hand for her to shake. Completely taken off guard, her eyes widened and she took a step backwards.
"What?" she whispered, mostly to herself. "It's real?"
"Magic?" the wizard asked for clarification. "Yes, indeed, it is real. Very real."
Sensing that his daughter was about to collapse where she stood, Hermione's dad gently wrapped an arm around her shoulders and let her to the couch. Dumbledore followed and sat back down in the armchair he had occupied earlier. Before anyone could talk, Natalie came back into the room with a tray.
"Ah, thank you, Mrs. Granger," Dumbledore remarked while accepting a cup. "Delicious."
"Thank you," the lady replied automatically, brain still not quite working properly as it tried to understand what was going on. Seeking comfort and security, she sat next to her husband and sought out his hand with her own.
"While growing up, haven't you ever noticed little things happening around you?" the Headmaster asked Hermione with a twinkle in his eyes. "Perhaps something you wanted floating towards you, or something you didn't want disappearing completely?"
All at once, both of her parents recalled all the mysterious occurrences in the past years, ever since Hermione's birth. How her books would sometimes get across the room faster than she could possibly have crawled. How the copy of The Twenty-One Balloons that she had dropped into an extremely large puddle at age seven emerged without any water damage. How her fairy tale stories had lit on fire, the flames leaving no mark on either the books or the floor. So many times… they had just excused all of them, pushing them aside, assuming they were seeing things, imagining things…
"But… but, sir," Hermione protested. "Magic isn't actually real…"
"Lemon drop?" Dumbledore offered, pulling out his wand and conjuring his collection of the sweets. Hermione gasped, but the display did its job, and she began to accept the idea.
She still couldn't believe that magic was real, but it seemed that she didn't need to anymore. Belief isn't required when you know.
After learning the truth about the existence of magic, Hermione's opinions on the topic seemed to turn around completely. Suddenly she was reading every fictional tale that involved wizards, witches, dwarves, elves, goblins, unicorns, centaurs… She memorized the Greek gods, swept through the tales of Merlin and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, consumed the world of Middle Earth, learning everything she could about the creatures, actions, behaviors of the world she had ignored for so long.
She begged her parents to take her to Diagon Alley as soon as they could, so she could get proper materials and read the actual wizard books that would probably tell the true history much better than anything she could find in her own world. The… Muggle? Is that what he called it? The Muggle world.
As if to make up for her rejection of it, Hermione Granger became determined to know everything she possibly could about magic. During the little time she had left before leaving for her first year at Hogwarts, her days and nights were equally spent reading texts the size of her family dictionary, practicing spells under her breath in the safe protection among the top branches of her favorite tree in the park.
All of the other witches and wizards, she insisted, would have eleven years of knowledge and experience under their sleeves.
Not one of the Grangers ever mentioned the sobs that echoed throughout the house those first few nights after Albus Dumbledore had visited. After all, they died with the growth of her excitement for learning about magic. But for a while, those bitter tears of regret, confusion, and self-loathing had stained Hermione Granger's pillow – a reminder of how horribly she had been wrong.