Disclaimer: Sadly, after months of being in hiatus, Harry Potter and his gang aren't still mine. Oh, wait, what's this? Draco Malfoy's being auctioned for ownership? How much? How much? DAMN… I forgot I'm broke today.
Haha, but seriously, the last time I looked at myself in the mirror, I'm still me.
A/N: Yes, that's right, 2booklover4 is back and alive! Good lord, it's been what? Months? I've been in hiatus for an awfully long time because of multiple reasons and gah, they're all the same, anyway. I apologize; who knew junior high school here in our country would be frikin' exhausting? I haven't slept properly for days and all that shizz. ANYWAY, the good news is, it's our semestral break here! Woot!
Now, on with my new story. If you read the summary, you'll think that 'oh, it's PiD all over again'. But trust me, it isn't (except for the disguising and all). I've worked hard over this fic so there… I also know that stories of Hermione incognito are rampant all over this site but please, still give it a chance :D OH, and don't be wary if you think I will not be able to finish this fic because breaking news, I've finished typing ALL forty-one chapters! But if you think I'll be updating like crazy, then you are sorely wrong, my friend. I still have a lot of editing to do.
Anyway, I won't stop you from reading this fic now. Oh, the italicized parts are flashbacks, 'kay? Do enjoy, please!
Title: Only a Pretense
Author: Lovely 2booklover4
Rating: T, just to be safe
Warning/s: Cussing, some innuendos, and character death (don't fret! It won't be Draco or Hermione, I swear)
Summary: In order to save her parents, Hermione Granger had to give up everything, even her identity… and femininity. Dramione!
Only a Pretense by 2booklover4
Chapter One: Her Own Funeral
The weather was weird today.
The sun was shining too brightly for her own liking. It was neither too cold nor warm, yet, it still felt weird. The birds were awfully happy; chirping merrily while they greeted their other bird friends perched on tree branches. The flowers seemed to be in their fullest bloom, showing off their beauty to attract bees and spread their pollen.
Everything seemed alive and happy.
'Weird,' thought Hermione Granger, adjusting the scarf over her head to conceal her face. 'I actually thought the sky would be mourning on the day of my funeral.'
Sighing, she looked around to make sure no one was around before continuing her small journey.
Today… today, the whole Wizarding World mourned for the death of Hermione Granger, the Heroine and Brain of the Golden Trio. Her death had brought a huge impact to all those who hoped for freedom. Knowing that one of their heroes met her untimely death dampened their hopes of being freed from the vilest wizard ever known.
And so, her funeral happened on Hogwarts itself. Hermione had done so many things to Hogwarts… for Hogwarts. Therefore, her friends decided it would be best if she was buried in Hogwarts, too.
A while ago, her funeral took place near the Hogwarts' Great Lake. People all over the world, both who knew her personally and who knew her through newspapers and such, went to her funeral to pay their respects. Nobody was seen with dry eyes after Harry Potter and Ron Weasley delivered their tear-jerking eulogies for their beloved best friend.
'Ron,' she wistfully thought. He had been a very good friend to her despite their past misunderstandings. She softly smiled upon remembering the entertainment they brought to their spectators every time they shouted at the top of their lungs. Ron had temper problems and she was the less prideful of the two, and so, she was the first person to settle the argument (although, most of the time, Ron was at fault). They would then revert back to their old chummy-chummy self.
And then, there were the Weasleys. They came to her funeral and all nine of them had tears in their eyes, even Percy who was not really close to the deceased brunette. Mrs. Weasley was the distressed of all for she had lost one of her beloved daughters.
And Harry… thinking about him made Hermione laugh. Based on what he had shown awhile ago, Hermione concluded he was a very good actor. Even he had tears in his eyes as he delivered his eulogy, every once in a while shooting furtive looks at a distant yet visible maple tree. If anyone would have been sober enough and looked at the maple tree, there would be a possibility of seeing a pensive brunette hiding her curly brown tresses with a black scarf.
As Hermione continued her walk, she was sure that if someone would have seen her now, they would be running away in surprise and fright, thinking that they had seen the ghost of the girl who had been buried just now.
Gently smiling, Hermione removed the black scarf over her head. Instead, she settled it around her shoulders.
'Almost there,' she thought absentmindedly, avoiding low-hanging branches and protruding roots in the Forbidden Forest.
Many might be wondering why Hermione Granger was walking freely in the woods, alive and perfectly healthy. And only a few, specifically four people, would be able to answer correctly.
"Here," was her soft remark as she stopped and sighed at the sight of her tombstone.
(September 19, 1980 – August 5, 1997)
A true heroine of the Wizarding World.
Missed and will never be forgotten.
Gingerly, she sat down on the mossy ground and stared at her epitaph. She was sure Ginny was the one who made that simple, yet truthful epitaph. According to Harry, Ginny was quite adamant to be the one to make the engraving on her epitaph and he had no choice but to let her.
'Oh, Ginny,' she thought. 'I'm going to miss you so much.'
Ginny always had a special place in Hermione's heart. Having two male best friends exhausted her. After all, she was still a girl. And having Ginny by her side was a great relief. Times when both Harry and Ron boggled her to no end were times when she sought for her girl best friend. And then, both would just fall into 'sissy land', as what Ron would call their bonding moments.
The sudden voice surprised her greatly and the first thing that came into her mind was to hide. She hastily wrapped the black scarf over her head once again and was ready to make a mad dash away from the sudden intruder when she heard a familiar chuckle.
"Oh, Harry, really," was her welcoming greeting as she turned around to behold the sight of a smiling Harry Potter. "You scared me to death. Ever heard of the sentence 'be subtle'?"
"I'm sorry." Harry stooped down to remove the scarf covering his best friend's head. He then held her hand to pull her up and was soon thanked by the brunette with a small kiss on his cheek.
The-Boy-Who-Lived then surveyed Hermione from head-to-toe, a pensive look visible on his handsome face. "Are you all right?" he asked, a tinge of worry heard in the tone of his voice. She looked too weary and tired for his own liking.
"Well," she started, "what would you feel if you faked your own death and you just watched from afar as you broke the hearts of your loved ones?"
Hermione desperately tried to look strong in front of Harry but she couldn't help but spat a sarcastic reply to his question. After all, she had a long day and all she wanted to do was to crawl back to bed and 'weep a small weep'.
"I hate to say this but I told you this was a bad idea," Harry said, resuming his position as Hermione's 'older' brother. "Dumbledore's suggestion of taking you into hiding was the best idea, Hermione. Roaming around Hogwarts would be very dangerous for you, especially now that Voldemort and his Death Eaters are unusually stronger now."
The brunette released a soft sigh. "Harry, I've made a decision and nothing can change it now. I have to do this, please understand. I just cannot hide and be protected. I need to do something, Harry. I need to do something to save them from him."
The smoke was too thick. Suffocating even. But Harry must go on. Or else, he might lose one of the most important persons in his life.
"Hermione! HERMIONE!" he cried, again and again, shielding his head from the burning debris falling down from the roof. "Are you in here? Hermione? WHERE ARE YOU?"
Panic rose into his chest. A million possibilities rushed into his mind. Where was she? Was she all right? What if she's hurt? Or worse, what if she's…
"No," Harry firmly told himself, sidestepping a burnt cabinet.
And then, he heard coughing. Relief took over his heart as he rushed towards the direction of Hermione's faint, yet persistent coughs.
The smoke was thickening. The fire was spreading much too quickly for his own liking. The sound of sirens was heard while screams of frightened neighbors fueled his worry. He forced his aching legs to run faster until he arrived at the Granger's kitchen.
This was supposed to be a nice, happy dinner with the Grangers. Hermione had sent him a letter, asking if he was all right. After all, just a month before summer, Harry had started his grueling trainings with Albus Dumbledore, which Hermione suspected had bothered her best friend to no end. She knew of the impending war and Dumbledore had been doing everything to prepare Harry. And him? She assumed that the pressure of the prophecy on him had been driving him insane already and a simple dinner invitation would do him good.
As soon as he saw Hermione's letter, he immediately decided to ignore it. He understood his friends' concern but he needed some time alone.
He politely declined her dinner invitation, writing some lie which both knew was… well, a lie. But Hermione was a one, persistent girl and Harry had no choice but to accept her invitation, albeit reluctantly.
And so, that day came. Today. He had second thoughts at first then, reluctantly left the Dursleys' house, although ten minutes late.
And as soon as he arrived at the Grangers' residence, the green Dark Mark mockingly staring at him above the burning house, he fervently wished he had cast his selfishness aside and went to Hermione's house a tad bit earlier.
"Please, be all right, Hermione," he whispered, "Please, be all right."
He saw her, crumpled on the floor, as she desperately tried to fight away unconsciousness.
"Hermione," he whispered.
Coughs racked her body as she slowly looked at him, her eyes half-lidded. "Ha-Harry."
And then, she started to cry. From relief or fear, he did not know. All he knew was that he scooped her into his arms, his tears of relief mingling with Hermione's broken ones.
"They're gone," she sobbed. "They're gone. He got them. They're gone. Oh, Harry, they're gone."
"Shh…" he consoled. "You're all right now, Hermione. I'm here."
"They're gone," was the last words she uttered before she slipped into unconsciousness.
Harry closed his eyes and apparated to Merlin-knows-where.
He just wished it was someplace safe.
Albus Dumbledore stared at his office, a quite satisfied smile resting on his old, wrinkled face.
Looking at his collections calmed him down, especially after an exhausting day. A new school-year was approaching and as Headmaster, he had to make sure that Hogwarts would still be in good condition. Unfortunately, the Astronomy Tower was not.
According to a report from Argus Filch, Peeves had once again wrecked havoc. His victim? The Astronomy Tower. The poltergeist had broken into the Potions' classroom, gathered as many stored potions as possible, and flew back to the Astronomy Tower. He flung all of the potions simultaneously on the stone floor and had great delight watching as colorful fumes rose from the broken vials.
"Peeves had so much fun, ol' Dumby," he answered when inquired later on. "You should have been there to watch it with me."
Unfortunately, Peeves' shenanigan had caused a gaping hole on the floor of the Tower. It was enough for Professor Flitwick, who had a severe phobia of heights, to return to his room and refuse to fix the state of the Astronomy Tower.
Professor Dumbledore had to both restrain Filch ("He should be hanged, Professor! Hanged, I tell you! I should have done that years before if you had let me.") and Professor Snape ("Release me, Albus. That poltergeist should be taught a lesson for ruining my potions.") from killing poor Peeves... again.
With the help from a composed, yet amused Professor McGonagall and a boisterously laughing Hagrid, they were able to fix the Astronomy Tower back to its original state.
Truthfully, Dumbledore found these moments with his professors amusing. The Professors were always working hard, and to see them relaxed and smiling put the old man into ease.
Fawkes' pathetic screech cut him off his musings.
His twinkling eyes landed on his pet phoenix and sighed. Fawkes was nearing his death and it saddened the old professor. He was his only companion… he comforted him on exhausting nights. He knew Fawkes would resurrect from ashes a week from now but it still saddened him to witness him explode and die.
And as if on cue, Fawkes exploded into flames and turned into ashes.
"I'll be seeing you soon, my dear friend," was Professor Dumbledore's thoughtful answer before turning back to his work.
But then, his work was soon interrupted when a loud pop resounded in the whole Headmaster's Office. Looking up, he was surprised to see Harry Potter in the middle of his office, carrying an unconscious Hermione Granger. The fact that they smelled like smoke and had ashes smeared all over their body alarmed Dumbledore.
"Harry," was his surprised greeting as he stood up and unburdened him by gently placing the unconscious girl on the floor.
"Professor, I…" Harry gasped and ran a hand through his cheek, wiping his tears and smearing more ashes at the same time. "Is she all right?"
Dumbledore looked at Hermione, felt her pulse, and nodded. "She's alive, Mr. Potter," he assured him.
He looked back at the distressed Gryffindor and retrieved his wand. "Oculus Reparo," he said, fixing Harry's spectacles. Apparently, his glasses broke while searching for Hermione.
"Now, Harry," he started, "run along and summon Professor McGonagall and Poppy into my office."
Harry gave Hermione a worried glance. "She'll be all right," Dumbledore assured. "I'm going to take care of her."
He nodded before bolting out of Dumbledore's office, leaving the Headmaster and his unconscious best friend alone in the room.
Now, Dumbledore cast some temporary healing spells on Hermione. Her heart was beating, that was for sure, but it was faint – enough to make the old man more worried.
As he cast the last spell on her, Hermione stirred and came back into consciousness.
"Miss Granger," Dumbledore said, allowing his gladness to be heard. "How are you feeling?"
Hermione tried to sit up and with the help of the Headmaster, she was able to achieve that simple action. "Wh – Why am I here?" She sounded genuinely confused as she looked around, surprised to see that she was back in Hogwarts in the Headmaster's Office.
"I was hoping you'll be able to answer that, Miss Granger," was Dumbledore's reply.
Her eyebrows knitted together and thought for a moment, before remembering everything that had happened an hour or two ago. "Oh Merlin," she groaned, standing up so suddenly, which caused her to sway for a moment.
Dumbledore was fast enough to steady his staggering student. "Miss Granger, please, you are not well enough."
"No, I have to get out of here." She was frantic, and it alarmed her teacher. "My parents… He got them. They're gone."
"What do you mean?" he asked. He steered Hermione towards his desk and sat her on one of the chairs. He then sat on his own chair and looked expectantly at Hermione.
The brunette still looked shaken but she heaved a huge breath before telling him the whole story. "Voldemort and his Death Eaters barged into our house and kidnapped my parents."
"Go on, Miss Granger. I'm listening."
"He… he tortured them in front of me." She paused to calm herself down. "He made them… scream and I have no choice but to watch them. I couldn't move. He restrained me. And they… they only laughed."
She hastily wiped her tears away. "They left me behind… burnt our house down. They think I'm dead already."
More tears trailed down from her eyes and she did not make any move to wipe them away. "It's my fault. If I haven't agreed to make them Keepers of the Order's secrets..."
"Miss Granger - ."
Hermione shook her head. "They were the last person Voldemort would think of. And Merlin, I was so confident we would not be found out. If I were just careful before, this would not happen."
Dumbledore, for reassurance, held Hermione's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Miss Granger, do not blame yourself over this." He released a rueful sigh before continuing. "All of the members of the Order of the Phoenix knew the danger of being the Keeper of our Secrets. And we thank your parents for volunteering themselves. Yes, we all made a mistake. We thought that they were the last person Voldemort would think of. But this already happened."
Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding her head vigorously. "You're right, Professor," she said. "I have no time to feel guilty for my own actions."
She reverted back to silence. And then, with shining eyes, she looked back at the old Professor. "I have a plan, Professor."
Harry's voice snapped her back into the present. She slightly shook her head and blinked. "I zoned out, yeah?" she asked, followed by a small chuckle. "I'm sorry. I'm just thinking about… a lot of things."
His eyes scrutinized his best friend. She seemed… tired and it made him worry. Sighing, he cleaned his spectacles before wearing them once again.
It was unfair for them, some bunch of seventeen-year-olds, to experience things teenagers their age do not normally experience. Fate… these seemed like a sick joke from fate. And Harry blamed it for thrusting them into a world where they were expected to act maturely than their age for the sake of surviving this seemingly cruel world. If he was given a choice, he'd rather choose to live forever in the cupboard under the stairs of the Dursleys, oblivious to his true identity.
Everything that was happening to his best friends, he blamed them to himself.
Sometimes, just sometimes, he wished he was not The-Boy-Who-Lived.
Sometimes, he wished he was not Harry Potter at all.
"Harry," was Hermione's humorous distraction, waving a hand in front of Harry's eyes. "You're the one who zoned out this time. Are you all right?"
He just shrugged his shoulders and gave his usual boyish smile. "Anyway, I'm here because Dumbledore wants to see you."
Hermione sighed. "I'm assuming it will be about my plan," she said, running a hand through her tresses. "I can already imagine Dumbledore's reaction. I just hope that he'll hear me out. I mean… he almost did not agree of me
faking my own death."
"Hermione," Harry, the ever voice of reason, "you have to understand. You are in mortal danger."
"I under" –
"No, listen to me first," Harry interjected, his right hand raised to stop her from talking. "Hermione, you are the only key to unlock the secrets of the Order hidden in your parents. You should realize that if Voldemort and his bloody minions discovered that the person inside that casket six feet below the ground was just a charmed pillow to look exactly like you, then he would not hesitate but repeat the events that had happened a week before."
A look of pain crossed over Hermione's face. Anything that reminded her of the things that happened on the day her parents were kidnapped was still a touchy subject for her. Any reminder made her blame herself more and more for not saving them.
"Look, I'm sorry," Harry said, his voice softer. "I know what you are feeling right now and allow me to at least help you, Hermione. I just don't want you hurt. You understand me, right?"
"Of course," was her simple reply before pulling Harry into a tight hug. "But I've made a decision already, Harry. This might be… more dangerous than Dumbledore's but I can't just stand aside without doing everything I can to save my parents."
"All I'm asking is for you to trust me," she whispered. "Trust me, Harry. I need that right now."
Harry scowled and held the brunette tighter to himself. "I hate you for making me do this," he groaned, giving the top of her head a kiss. "You know that I will always trust you."
Hermione laughed at that and gave him a kiss on his cheek. Pulling away, she gave him a reminder. "Remember, console Ron and the others for me. I've seen what they looked like in my fake funeral a while ago and… just… just tell them I'm sorry without revealing that I'm alive, okay?"
"Okay," he said. "Now, run along before Dumbledore sends a band of Aurors and blow your secret. You know him…"
With another joyful laugh, Hermione walked inside Hogwarts.
"Are you sure about this, Miss Granger?" was Dumbledore's question, his blue eyes plain without their usual twinkling.
"Yes, Professor," Hermione answered with overflowing conviction. "It's the most logical idea."
"But you are treading on dangerous grounds," he reasoned out, folding his hands neatly on top of his desk. "I understand that you'll be giving up your identity… even your femininity but to plead the Sorting Hat to be sorted to Slytherin? I think that is too foolish for you, Miss Granger. You are quite aware that the Slytherins have a… reputation. And yes, I do realize that, too. And to be a Death Eater! Goodness, Miss Granger, I'm afraid to say that I refuse this plan of yours."
"But Professor!" she exclaimed, standing up to make her point. She leaned forward, nearing her determined face towards the Headmaster. "In order for me to save my parents, I have to be closer to my enemies. They are residing in the Death Eater Headquarters and I have to get in there. The only logical solution is for me to become one."
The Headmaster, pensive and quiet, suddenly looked older by a few years. He scrutinized Hermione, his lips tightening as minutes ticked by. Finally, he closed his eyes in exhaustion and sighed. "Miss Granger…"
"Professor," Hermione cut him off, walking around his desk to stand beside him. "Please… please, you have to trust me. I am willing to sacrifice everything for my parents' safety. I cannot bear to just sit around when Voldemort might be torturing them now."
Silence ensued. Hermione sat back down on her chair and looked expectantly at Dumbledore. And Dumbledore… his face was too unreadable for Hermione to know what was running inside his head.
Finally, the teacher broke the silence.
"Miss Granger," he said, a small smile growing on his wrinkled face, "your stubbornness astounds me."
Hermione beamed upon seeing the resigned look upon Dumbledore's face. "Please, trust me," she pleaded aloud, her eyes shining brightly with conviction Dumbledore was driven to smile back.
"Your welfare is the most important thing now…"
"The second most important," Hermione reminded. "Harry's welfare is always the first."
Dumbledore chuckled and continued. "Your welfare is the second most important thing now, Miss Granger," he said, "and as Headmaster of Hogwarts and leader of the Order of the Phoenix, I am obliged to take care of the students under my care."
"Mister Potter is safe here under my care. But you, Miss Granger, you have to sacrifice your safety just to save your parents. And so, I think that the right thing to do now is for me to… share to you some of my privileges."
Hermione carefully watched Dumbledore as he retrieved his wand. He pointed it at Hermione and performed a very complicated wand movement. White light glowed around the Gryffindor, which she thought felt warm and tingly.
The white light faded slowly until finally, everything was back to normal.
She looked at Dumbledore questioningly, expecting some answers from him.
"According to Hogwarts: A History, no one can apparate and disapparate in and out of the Hogwarts grounds," he started, pocketing his wand. "Unless, a certain privilege is bestowed by the Headmaster of the school."
Hermione looked delighted. One thing she loved about her magic was that she could 'apparate' or 'disapparate'. And knowing that she had the privilege of doing so in and out of the Hogwarts grounds made her feel special.
"Another," he said, cutting her off from her musings, "I gave you the privilege of roaming around the school grounds, even past curfew."
The brunette gasped. "You didn't," she exclaimed disbelievingly. "But… that's impossible. Even breaking a few rules!"
"Unless," Dumbledore continued, amused, "the student is in dire need of that specific privilege. By now, the Ministry of Magic might have detected that I have given a student that privilege. Do not worry, Miss Granger, I can handle them myself. As for you, you need that privilege for future events. I believe that… there are meetings happening outside Hogwarts without my knowledge."
Hermione nodded, understanding what the teacher was saying. Last school-year, she had heard from Harry that Voldemort had been summoning some of his Death Eaters in Hogwarts some nights for meetings.
But still, to have this privilege… now, she felt beyond special. She was so sure she would not land into detention for not being in bed after curfew. According to some of her researches, teachers and Heads would not be able to detect her; even if she was in the same corridor as the patrollers. 'Now, that is just so… wonderful,' she thought, bristling in excitement.
Not that she would take advantage of that privilege! She was, after all, Hermione Granger, and she hated breaking rules unless she was placed into a dire situation.
"I assume that you are tired already, Miss Granger, so I am putting this meeting into an end," Dumbledore suddenly said. "We will talk more about this plan of yours a few days before term begins. For now, go back to your room and rest."
Hermione smiled and stood up. "Thank you, Professor," she said. "These things mean a lot to me."
Dumbledore only smiled back. "Now, off you go."
The brunette nodded, turned around, and then reached for the door.
"Oh, and Miss Granger?"
Hermione swiveled around, a curious look seen on her face.
"I do trust in you. Remember that."
She couldn't help but to beam brightly. "Yes, thank you, Professor."
And with that, she walked out of the Headmaster's Office.
A/N: So, liking it so far? Please tell me in your reviews.
Anyway, quick announcements. I still have no idea when to post the next chapter. I need volunteers to be my awesome Beta Reader. My '11 Things' Beta Reader seemed busy and all. I do edit my work, thank you very much, although I lack the so-called Super Beta Reader Powers! I do not really have the keen eye in detecting my grammatical errors, so there.
As for my WIP fics, don't ask me, please. I'm experiencing a severe case of writer's block for Alphabet Love and although I've started letter 'K' already, I can't seem to finish it. As for PiD… err, don't kill me. I really have no idea if I'll finish it or not. But gosh, I know that some of you already have the urge to track me down, barge into my house, and tear my hair apart. I'm sorry, I just lost my… you know, interest, in this certain fic.
So, that's all. Remember, those who want to volunteer as my Beta Reader, please include it in your reviews.
Ciao for now. :D