All the Wonder That Would Be
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Harry Potter. This is an amateur, non-profit work.
Warnings: Violence, character death (both canon and non-canon, but not Bill or Hermione).
A/N: This is a birthday present for the lovely Callinectes. Her birthday isn't until next week, but I'm posting the first chapter of this early because she's awesome. And also because she broke her poor little foot. Surprise, m'dear! :D
For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.
Chapter One: The Gift
It wasn't the tapping that woke her, but the whispery tickle of feathers brushing against her arm.
Bewildered, Hermione stared at the raven that had perched itself on her pillow. It pecked the metal frame of the rollaway bed a few more times and stretched its wings, its beady eyes gleaming in the soft moonlight. At the raven's feet lay a tiny parcel.
The little box looked innocuous enough, wrapped in ordinary brown paper and twine, but when she held it in the palm of her hand, Hermione was reminded of the sensation of passing her fingers through the flame of a candle.
More than just warmth, she could feel magic pulsing out of it — pure and raw and powerful.
Its mission complete, the raven leapt from the bed and soared through the open window, into the dark summer sky. For her part, Ginny didn't stir at the rustling flap of the bird's wings. She slept the way she lived: with wild abandon, her arms and legs spread wide like a starfish and her riot of red hair tumbling over her pillows in a way that made her look as though she was in motion even as she lay still. Being raised with six noisy brothers — well, five, plus Percy — had inured her to things that went bump in the night. Anything quieter than a foghorn wouldn't disturb her dreams.
Even so, Hermione tiptoed around the squeaky floorboard as she slipped on her dressing gown and crept into the hall.
The Burrow was still and warm, the thick summer air humming with the sounds of sleep from its many occupants and the occasional clank from the ghoul in the attic. As she entered the kitchen, her bare feet padding on the cool tile floor, Hermione lit a single candle. With its wavering, feeble light to guide her, she cast a few spells on the parcel to detect the presence of curses before taking a deep breath and cutting the twine.
Inside, she found a midnight blue, wooden box that smelled as spicy and rich as a potions storeroom, but looked like it might contain something as everyday and harmless as a ring or a necklace. Attached to it was a note — unsigned, but she would have recognised that spidery handwriting everywhere. For five years it had appeared in the margins of her Potions essays, spelling out snarky, barbed comments and accusing her of regurgitating the textbook. More than that, those spiky d's and jagged t's had frustrated her for the majority of her sixth year as she struggled to work out the identity of the Half-Blood Prince.
She should have seen it immediately back then, and perhaps she would have, if Harry hadn't guarded his Potions textbook as though it was precious. No matter. She now knew Snape's handwriting as well as she knew Harry's or Ron's.
The note was composed of just five words, none of which offered any sort of explanation.
Use it wisely.
Hermione scoffed. He couldn't seriously believe that she would trust him — not after what he'd done.
The candle's flame flickered, highlighting the runes that were painted in silver on the lid of the curious box. One by one, she traced her fingers over them and recited their meanings in her mind.
Fehu — luck, abundance, foresight.
Ansuz — insight, true vision, a message.
Tiwaz — courage, justice, victory.
Positive messages, it would seem, but everything had a darker side. Just because something was painted with pretty, reassuring symbols, it didn't mean that it didn't have some sinister purpose. Hermione knew she should wake Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, gather the Order and show them what she'd received. She shouldn't deal with this alone; considering its source, it could very well contain things that were beyond her ken.
She should proceed with caution, heeding Mad-Eye's warning of constant vigilance every step of the way.
Instead, propelled by some heady combination of foolish rebellion and a thirst for knowledge, her thumb flicked the brass latch that held the box closed.
As she lifted the lid, Hermione had a vision of herself as Eve, plucking the forbidden fruit. She could be Pandora, unleashing a torrent of pestilence and evil.
Something deep within the box glowed, sending orange shadows dancing across her face. She leaned closer, squinting at the dim vision. Numbers and ancient runes swirled across an image that was, she realised with a gasp, a perfect copy of herself, huddled over the box in the Burrow's kitchen.
She could practically hear her mind whirring with the effort to keep up as the numbers moved faster and faster. From what she was able to translate as they flew by, the figures dealt with probabilities and potentials.
Potentials? Potential what? 79.9% blinked by in vibrant orange and yellow tones. As Hermione tried to focus on it, to get a better read of the runes that surrounded it, the numbers zoomed towards her. A door seemed to open within the box, showing another copy of the kitchen. Only, in this one, Bill Weasley had entered, shirtless and raking a nervous hand through his long, unbound ginger hair.
"Oh!" Hermione's vision-self said, shoving the box under the table, out of his line of sight. "Bill! You startled me."
He jumped at the sound of her voice, shooting her a grin as his gaze settled over her pyjama-clad form. "Hey, Hermione. Sorry about that. What are you doing sitting here in the dark?"
Hermione jerked back, closing the box with a decisive click. Footsteps sounded from the next room, heralding the arrival of none other than the other subject of the strange vision.
"Oh!" she said, copying her vision-self and hiding the box beneath the long, timeworn table. She bit back her next, instinctive words; they were exactly as they had been in the scene that had played out in the box.
"Hey, Hermione," Bill replied. "Sorry about that. What are you doing sitting here in the dark?" Pausing, he gestured towards her singular candle. "Well, near-dark, anyway."
"Um," she stammered. "Couldn't sleep."
"Yeah." He shook his head, seeming dazed. "Me either."
Bill paced back and forth across the kitchen. Now and then, he paused to rub a hand over his face or to stretch his arms over his head. His tense posture and anxious, pent-up energy reminded Hermione of a Quidditch player before an important game.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah. I'm fine, thanks."
He chuckled. "Maybe a little. I love Fleur, but this is...a big step."
"It's right, though," he said, a secret, affectionate smile creeping onto his face. "Pre-wedding jitters aside, I'm ready." Smiling, he straddled a chair next to Hermione and drummed his thumbs against the edge of the table. "What about you? Are you nervous?"
"About the wedding? Well, I will have to walk in heels, which is always dangerous—" she laughed as Bill snorted and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I'm nervous about my mission with Harry and Ron. Petrified would be a better word, actually." She sighed. "It's right, though. Pre-save-the-world-mission jitters aside, I'm ready."
With a comforting half-grin, he rested a large, calloused hand on her shoulder. "We're going to win this," he said.
Snape's gift warmed her fingertips, resonating with promise.
Yes. Yes, they were going to win.
A/N: According to my outline, this fic is going to be around eight chapters long. I'm going to do something with this story that I've been trying with a few of my other fics: I'm going to send out a tiny sneak peek of the next chapter in my review replies. Thanks for reading! :)