Title: Carpe Diem
Fandom(s): Harry Potter
Categories: AU, gen, het, time travel, drama, romance
Summary: A story delving into an alternative history of canon. An accident sends Hermione Granger to the past, the Marauder's time. She refuses to obey conventional wisdom and chooses to shape the future… To follow her own heart and Live. She has succeeded, breaking the rules to Change events and Rabastan Lestrange loves her. What could have happened next, for canon events to occur? What would happen if she were torn from him and returned to her time? What would happen when they are finally reunited?
Characters/Pairing: Hermione Granger/Rabastan Lestrange, Minerva McGonagall, Poppy Pomfrey, Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort, Death Eaters, Harry Potter
Warnings: graphic intimate scenes, violence
Spoilers: Deathly Hallows/Epilogue: EWE
Beta: Jo aka black_coffee13. Thanks so much for the rush job.
For: LJ Community hgbigbang – Hermione Granger Big Bang 2011/2
AN: Part I was written for LJ Community hermione-smut Round 4. Part II was inspired by a prompt I received for that exchange as well.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and co. J.K. Rowling and various other companies do. I'm not making any money off my fanfic writing.
For: Part I for LJ Community hermione-smut Round 4. Lestrange_love Prompt 4&5
4) When an accident sends Hermione back in time, she ends up falling in love with someone she's not supposed to.
5) Hermione has a secret admirer who has been sending her gifts. What will happen when she finds out who he is?
For: Part II for LJ Community hgbigbang – Hermione Granger Big Bang 2011
1) Five years after leaving England, Hermione returns with her child, and no one is more surprised than the father.
Summary: Hermione is in the past and decides to make her own choices. This puts her on cross-paths with Albus Dumbledore. Along the way she makes some unexpected allies and discovers she has a Secret Admirer.
AN: An accident sent her to the past where she was found by Unspeakables (Dept of Mysteries). They helped her set up a cover story and fake background.
~ooO Carpe Diem I – Varied Decisions Ooo~
"And I want two feet of parchment on a complete analysis of one specific curse from the list of Class B wasting curses we have been discussing this week! If you wish to write about a curse we have not touched on in class please stop by during my office hours!"
"Sure thing, Professor Grangston!"
Hermione Granger sighed and watched her students stampede out of the DADA classroom. The more mannerly ones were gathering up their belongings in a more leisurely fashion.
Her eyes narrowed as she studied two particularly bratty students who were still hanging around one slender green-eyed red-head witch. Trying to impress her enough to agree with them on some point.
James Potter and Sirius Black. She bit back the urge to take off points and assign detention for 'harassing a fellow student.' She had a reputation for being a strict but fair DADA instructor. Taking off points in a fit of temper would not serve anyone. Besides those two idiots would not learn anything. They would not until someone died or came real close to it.
Full lips pressed into a thin line as brown eyes turned towards a different part of the classroom and a sullen, not very attractive, sallow, Slytherin teen hurriedly packing up his book bag before scurrying out. Severus Snape. It broke all the rules of not contaminating the timeline but Hermione was determined to protect her once teacher the best she could. And if that meant going against popular opinion then so be it!
Absently she began gathering her teaching materials and class tools and putting them away in the cupboards she had added to her classroom. Usually one of the students would volunteer to stay and help her but there was a Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch game scheduled after tea. Even the more studious would be in attendance.
"Miss Grangston." A familiar soothing voice interrupted her reverie.
Hermione turned to face the owner of the voice and felt a small shock.
Albus Dumbledore was dead. She had seen his body herself. Attended his funeral. Fought a war and survived despite his very unhelpful advice. And yet, here he was standing before her alive and well. Still poking his nose where it was not wanted, wanting to know yet unwilling to share.
By second nature she reinforced her Occlumency barriers. She doubted she could hold off a wizard as powerful and skilled as Dumbledore but she had a few tricks and techniques she had developed using Muggle theories and science.
"Professor Dumbledore." Her voice was cordial, her tone even and pleasant giving away nothing of her personal feelings.
He would not approve of her plan but it was Her Choice to make… Not His. Besides she was not playing God by manipulating others into specific paths. That was His thing; not hers. She was simply setting the situation so others would have options they never had before, options he never gave them… the broken, the discarded, the spoiled, the scorned, the fearful, the abused, ignorant and the ignored.
Steel stiffened her spine at the memories of those same fallen souls. Dumbledore never gave them a chance before they Fell and after he only made half-hearted attempts at trying to redeem them. And he had never apologized for his bad decisions. To the bitter end he stayed his course and nearly wrecked everything.
Pale gold shards glinted in light hazel brown eyes and full lips curved into a faint dismissive smile. No, Hermione was not going to share her information with the Headmaster. And she was not going to even try influencing the Order of the Phoenix in this time. She had far more dependable allies in the Department of Mysteries.
"Will you be attending today's Quidditch match Hermia?"
Hermione Granger, also known as Hermia Grangston, shook her head.
"I'm afraid not Professor Dumbledore. I have a pile of Fifth year essays to mark and I'm trying to keep this weekend clear."
"That is a disappointment. Surely you can spare the time…"
"I'm afraid not. I'm meeting a few friends in London, Saturday morning."
"That is a disappointment. Quidditch does help the students and staff bond over a shared interest."
Albus Dumbledore smiled kindly, genially, but Hermione was not fooled. She merely smiled politely and nodded.
"Quite true Professor. But I tend to bond over other, mainly intellectual, interests."
"Please Hermia, call me Albus."
"Albus. Excuse me but I must get going now."
She picked up her Muggle-style briefcase and walked away without a second glance.
Albus Dumbledore, Holder of the Order of Merlin First Class, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, was concerned by the latest Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor.
True she had the best qualifications of all the applicants but she was so difficult to deal with! Oh she was polite and well-mannered. She attended all the staff meetings and listened. But then she opened her mouth and argued her own view points. And acted on them! She was quickly becoming a polarizing point that was dividing the staff, weakening their trust and obedience to Him! Him! The Headmaster of Hogwarts and the Defeater of Grindelwald!
He watched her walk away with troubled blue eyes studying her over the tops of his half-moon spectacles. The problem was Hermia Grangston was not in awe of him. She was not a Hogwarts alumni. She had been home-schooled by an elderly aunt and taught to question and examine everything. She most likely would have been sorted into Ravenclaw, or even Slytherin given her skill in gathering allies and shaping views. Even Minerva –one of his staunchest supporters– was questioning him more and more on his decisions and actions.
Absently he stroked his beard. In peaceful times such views and opinions would be welcome. But these were not peaceful times. It was the calm before the storm. Her actions were causing divisions in his base of supporters. He could not force her to submit and obey, he was a Light Wizard. He could not afford to fire her; she had allies in the Department of Mysteries who could be useful and necessary in the upcoming war. All he could do was wait and watch.
He sighed softly and began walking away. He hoped the Quidditch game would be interesting enough to engage his attention. He really needed a distraction from the enigma wrapped in thorns that was Hermia Grangston.
Lucius Malfoy stiffened his spine as he entered the Audience Chamber. There were several fellow Death Eaters in attendance. This could end very badly or very favourably. He pushed the thoughts of failure away as he approached the dais, bowed low and waited to be acknowledged.
"Your report, Malfoy."
A shiver went up the Malfoy's spine at the cool entrancing baritone. His Lord held power in his voice alone! His tongue and wits were uncanny. He had the ability to see what most others didn't. This trait had allowed him to leverage a small cadre of followers into a fighting force that were feared and spoken of in whispers! Soon his name would be on the lips of every witch and wizard in Wizarding Britain! And then Europe and the world!
Lucius started his report on Albus Dumbledore and Hogwarts. As a member of the Board of Governors he had an excuse to visit the school and observe. All throughout, His Lord listened without any visible reaction. At the end of it His Lord spoke.
"And what of the new DADA instructor, Hermia Grangston?"
Lucius hesitated a fractional second before speaking. "My Lord, may I speak candidly?"
Reddish eyes widened a fraction before the handsome head nodded. "You may."
"She is good. Probably much better than the average Auror." He hesitated. "She may even be a match for one of us. Not you or Dumbledore but myself or McNair and Yaxley. She is powerful, intelligent, and creative."
Voldemort frowned slightly. "Grangston is not a wizarding family."
"She is a Half-Blood. A descendant from the squib branch of the Dagworth-Granger potioneers who emigrated to the colonies. Her mother was a near Squib who married a Canadian Mudblood wizard. They were killed in a Muggle train mishap. A spinster aunt from the Dagworth family took her in and home schooled her."
Voldemort blinked surprised. "Home schooled?"
"Yes. The aunt was a contemporary of Dumbledores. Helena Dagworth."
That sent a small ripple of surprise throughout the Audience Chamber.
Each and every single one of the more intellectual Death Eaters knew who Helena Dagworth was. A highly respected protagonist of Albus Dumbledore. She had been a very vocal critic on the falling standards of education and inadequate schooling provided on Pureblooded culture and traditions for Hogwarts students. Since her death eight years ago the faction of moderates, those in the Ministry and Wizengamot who had actively supported Pureblooded culture, had fractured and fallen apart.
"I didn't know Madame Dagworth had a niece," Bellatrix Lestrange commented softly.
"Neither did I," Lucius confessed. "A few of my contacts in the Ministry reported something even more interesting. She has been seen in the Department of Mysteries." Voldemort leaned forward suddenly interested in what he was hearing. Encouraged Lucius continued. "At least once a fortnight she makes a day trip to London usually on the weekend. She spends most of her time in the Department of Mysteries or in Gringotts. The Goblins refused to share any information on her activities. Some call her a Special Client or Goblin-friend. Occasionally she makes side trips to Knockturn Alley. Mainly for artifacts and samples she uses in demonstrations. Sometimes she sells rare potions ingredients. Basilisk venom and blood. Manticore bile and blood. Acromantula venom. Sea Serpent scale. Dragonsbane. No one has been able to determine her sources but she is licensed as a Procurer and Hunter with the ICW."
McNair sputtered. "That's impossible! All Hunters need a license from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. And we have not issued one to a British witch in twenty years."
"She would not need one if she is working for the Department of Mysteries." Lucius pointed out bluntly. "She probably keeps a percentage of her kills as her fee."
"But we haven't received any reports of any of those creatures!" McNair pointed out. "Those beasts are dangerous! Even Hunters go in teams and request back-up from my Department for Class X creatures."
Lucius shrugged and turned to his pensive lord. "I don't know if she is hunting alone or with a team. But either way she has access to resources that could only benefit us. The rarity of those ingredients alone could easily finance a great deal of our expenses. And she does not support Dumbledore. In fact she has clashed with him on several instances. All my observations and spies agree on that point."
Voldemort considered the information before making a decision.
"Despite her unfortunate lineage she does have some potential. She will need to be coaxed into seeing our views and supporting our cause." He looked around at his followers. "Any volunteers?"
There were many.
An auburn haired male with pale skin and dark brown eyes dressed in chocolate brown robes made a soft disgusted sound that drew Voldemort's attention.
Evan Rosier stiffened. "My lord may I speak freely?"
"Regarding Hermia Grangston, yes."
"The likes of Yaxley and McNair will never persuade her."
"And why do you say this Rosier?" Voldemort asked mildly.
"My niece is in Slytherin and she has written letters describing her DADA instructor. Hermia Grangston is an intellectual. She does not attend every single Quidditch match and takes pleasure in assigning detention to the Gryffindor Quidditch players during their practice sessions. She enjoys causing chaos by ignoring convention and creating dissent and polarizing factions. Some of her debates cause witches to argue against wizards, and even Slytherins and Gryffindors to unite. She destroys the underpinnings of faulty logic and forces them to start anew. She freely admits she disagrees with the Ministry on the classifications of Magicks, especially Blood, Dark and Void Magic. She bends most rules and ignores the rest."
A golden-haired blonde in navy blue robes, Peter Greengrass, nodded in agreement. "One of the challenges she created for the older students is to break into a specially warded chamber and to navigate the labyrinth to the center. The students who complete it before the end of the year would get hundred points for their House. So far none have succeeded but she does give five points for each layer penetrated. She also selects two sixth year students as aides each term, and gives them extra lessons as rewards. So far she has only selected Slytherins and Hufflepuffs and my cousin Anastasia hopes she will be selected for the next term."
A darkly-complexioned, dark-eyed stocky wizard nodded and added his two cents. "My youngest brother Braddock was her aide last year. She taught him how to use Runes and Arithmancy in dueling, to prepare a dueling field in advance and on the spot. His marks have improved enough for a Gringotts apprenticeship in curse breaking or warding. I owe her for taking the extra time and effort. Most of the instructors ignore Braddock because he is a Flint and isn't as quick as the other students." Thaddeus Flint grumbled in gravelly tones.
"She does not tolerate stupidity, infidelity or sloth." Narcissa Black murmured softly. She glanced at her fiancé before speaking more loudly. "I spoke with her briefly while waiting for Lucius. She made a comment about the common masculine tendency to falter in the face of temptation or adversity. After watching her maneuver Dumbledore into admitting an additional unit on Pureblood dueling and parley etiquette would be educational I had to agree." She looked around with a sly knowing look that caused the males in the room to stiffen.
Bellatrix crowed. "Sweet Nimue! Wish I could have seen That!"
A slight smile curved Voldemort's lips. He too was imagining the picture of Dumbledore, the master manipulator being manipulated.
"Does anyone have any suggestions on a suitable male who can convert her to our side?"
Bellatrix glanced at the man standing next to her. Rodolphus Lestrange cleared his throat.
"My Lord, I would suggest my younger brother Rabastan. He is currently in Moscow completing his Mastery in Arithmancy but he is definitely supportive of our cause. In his last letter he said he will be finished with his Mastery before the end of the month. Afterwards he will return to Britain and take your Mark. He is reasonably attractive and not betrothed or in a relationship. He is an intellectual and not one to concede in any battle. He is more likely to commit infidelity with books than another witch."
Voldemort nodded slowly. "I will meet with your brother when he returns to England. I may delay giving him the Mark if he is the best wizard to convert Hermia Grangston to our cause. It would not do to give her a reason to refuse him."
Hermione made swift notes, her mind half focused on what the Headmaster was droning about, the other half intent on potential modifications for next terms lesson plans. She wanted to include a component on other magical areas of study than the conventional Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, and Potions. Most of the students did not have the correct background to grasp Runes or Arithmancy but perhaps history, recreating a battleground or war games…
"And we will be having an esteemed guest staying with us for the remainder of the year."
Esteemed guest? Pale brown eyes focused sharply. "Guest?"
The Headmaster nodded slightly. "A visiting scholar who has completed his second Mastery in Arithmancy. He wishes to use the Hogwarts Library for private research. In return he is offering advanced attendance-optional lectures on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes."
"Does this scholar have a name Albus?" Edwina Glyphsfee, the Arithmancy instructor, murmured softly but distinctly. She was not the sort to welcome unexpected change.
"Yes. Rabastan Lestrange."
That set off a stir of mixed responses -interest and dismay- from the Hogwarts staff.
Hermione ignored them and sat up straighter. "Lestrange? Rabastan Lestrange? I thought access to the Hogwarts library was restricted to Hogwarts alumni and Ministry employees."
Her shields tightened when Dumbledore looked in her direction. "Yes. He is not a Hogwarts alumni but his elder brother Rodolphus is married to one, Bellatrix Lestrange nee Black. She is Lucius Malfoy's sister-in-law and as we all know Lord Malfoy is on the Board of Governors. They were quite insistent on granting access to a notable Master."
Rabastan Lestrange was an Arithmancy and Runes Master? She had never seen or heard of anything remotely intellectual concerning the younger Lestrange brother. In the time she came from he was just another front line fighter, part of Voldemorts Inner Circle. And a torture specialist who participated in many atrocities, including driving Neville's parents insane.
Surely her presence here had not caused so much change! She had not even met him in this time! In her time, the first time she met him was after the Azkaban breakout. And all three Lestranges had been quite manic and unhinged from exposure to the Dark Arts and the years in Azkaban. She bit her full lower lip thoughtfully.
"Do you know where Master Lestrange studied?" She inquired neutrally.
Dumbledore nodded shallowly. "Both he had his brother are Beaubaxton graduates. He completed his Runes Mastery in Athena Academy for Symbologic Magicks. His Arithmancy Mastery was completed at the Romanov Magical Institute." Both were exclusive advanced learning institutions who only accepted the best of the best. No one could buy an acceptance letter into either one. Dumbledore's expression turned a fraction graver. "But I must caution all of you to be careful in your dealings with him. The Lestranges are allied with the Malfoys and Blacks. Respected, powerful, wealthy families that support the Pureblood cause. Lucius Malfoy has been pushing for a great deal of undesirable changes in Hogwarts and the Ministry. But on the other hand, we must make him welcome. He will be living in Hogwarts and interacting with us formally and informally."
There was a murmur of agreement from everyone seated around the table. Hermione made a soft humming sound but said nothing. Dumbledore sighed softly and continued.
"He will be arriving on New Years Day, two days before the students return."
And then the conversation turned to other matters. Hermione tried to focus on the topics at hand but her attention was divided.
Rabastan Lestrange was coming to Hogwarts. Had he taken the Mark already? Was there a possibility of diverting him from his path? Did she dare take such a risk?
Her eyes and thoughts were troubled. This would require a great deal of thought. But first she had to see and speak to him herself. In person.
Despite the potential for disaster Hermione found herself looking forward to the upcoming meeting with the Lestrange scion.
Hermione smiled gently as she shook out the skirts of her eggplant robes. The action caused the heavy material to shimmer as light reflected on the black silk embroidery and jet beadwork. A tad elaborate but well suited for a first meeting with a Pureblood scion and Master.
She watched from a distance as Albus introduced Rabastan Lestrange to the staff in order of seniority. As one of the newer instructors she was down the line. She did not mind. It gave her the chance to study him.
He looked young; too young for a double Mastery. Hermione knew few witches or wizards ever managed to achieve even one Mastery. Most were content with NEWTs or Apprenticeships that netted a Journeyman status.
They were standing before her now. Hermione focused on examining Lestrange. Brown hair so dark it was almost black restrained in a queue. Blue eyes so dark they were almost black, cobalt blue shot with silver striations in the iris. Sharp, defined features, a narrow aquiline nose over thin lips separated by a deep indent. A strong, square chin with a deep cleft with faint lines bracketing his mouth.
He looked similar to the Rabastan Lestrange she knew but Not.
"Mr Lestrange, Miss Hermia Grangston, our DADA instructor. Hermia, Master Rabastan Lestrange."
Gracefully she held out her hand palm down, fingers arranged in a gesture indicating interest in Pureblood etiquette.
Cobalt blue eyes narrowed as he observed her opening gambit. If he bowed over her hand he was neutral. If he took her hand and bowed he was open to start an interaction. If he kissed the back of her hand he was romantically interested in her. If he nodded with no other action he considered her an inferior, unworthy of the protection rules of Pureblooded etiquette.
He took her hand and bowed over it keeping the minimum distance required between his lips and her skin. And she felt the warmth of his fingertips brushing against her inner wrist, against her pulse.
She smiled faintly. How intriguing.
"Master Lestrange." Her voice was low and throaty.
"Miss Grangston." His voice was deep and rich. Reserved yet intriguing. Quite a welcome change from the cracking adolescent voices and boyish tenors of the students and the whispery or high-pitched voice of the male staff. "Please accept my belated condolences for your late aunt. Her passing was a great loss."
Gold eyes widened in shock. Her aunt? Oh! Helena Dagworth. She bowed her head shallowly. "Thank you for your kind words Master Lestrange."
And then Dumbledore moved to the next person in line; Ignatius Wagsworth, the Muggle Studies instructor.
She was very aware of his interest, of cobalt blue eyes studying her discreetly, but she carefully kept her eyes away from the new addition to Hogwarts. There would be time to plan and execute her decisions later on. Now was the time for observation.
Minerva McGonagall watched the delicate dance, bemused and slightly worried for her friend. Rabastan Lestrange was a young attractive wizard who was clearly interested in the young DADA instructor. He was also a member of a clan of strong Pureblooded traditionalists. Hermia was a Half-Blood at best, a step above a Muggleborn but not a suitable association for a Pureblood Traditionalist. Rabastan Lestrange might not be as fanatic as the others but he was bound to obey Family Rules.
Light brown eyes turned towards the Gryffindor Head of House. "Yes Minerva?"
"Do you understand what you are doing?" Minerva waved at Rabastan Lestrange who was deep in a discussion with Edwina Glyphsfee and Horace Slughorn. Oddly, the Potions instructor was not an active participant but a clearly engrossed listener. The subject topic had to be fascinating to silence Horace who was one who would rather toot his own horn than listen. "Lestrange is a Pureblood."
"His is a younger son and subject to the Head and Heir."
"His sister-in-law is a well-known Pureblooded fanatic. Bellatrix Black skirted the borderline when she was a student and I have no doubt she freely crossed the line since her graduation."
"I can't dissuade you, can I?" It was more of a statement than a question.
Hermia smiled clearly amused. "There is nothing to dissuade me From. I have not made any decisions as yet."
Minerva made a scoffing sound. "But you are clearly leaning towards him." She jerked her chin towards the young Arithmancy Master.
Hermia laughed softly. "He intrigues me but you know me Minerva… if he does not engage my interest after five long interactions I know he is not for me."
Minerva huffed. "So far the only one who has intrigued you is a ghost. A nom de plume!"
Hermia grinned. "Oh, so you're not impressed by my secret admirer?" She teased the older witch gently.
Minerva smiled. "Oh I am! I am definitely impressed by this wizard who has actually managed to successfully hide his identity despite your attempts to unmask him." She smiled slyly. "Are you sure it is not a student?"
The younger witch laughed out loud. "Definitely. His gifts and writing style are much too mature for a callow adolescent." Her look turned thoughtful. "He has a broad range of knowledge in so many different fields. A true Renaissance wizard." She bit her lower lip. "I think he is one much older than me."
"Would it make a difference?" Minerva asked seriously.
Hermia thought hard and shook her head. "Not really. But it does make me curious to know just how he knows so much of me." She smiled sheepishly. "It would be embarrassing if he turns out to be a student's father. Or grandfather!"
Minerva blinked at that scenario and shook her head slightly. "Don't go borrowing trouble. You do not know anything and are proceeding in good faith, trusting he is honourable." Her eyes narrowed. "But promise me you will not go and meet him."
The younger witch nodded vigorously. "Of course! If he wishes to meet me he can come to Hogwarts and seek a proper introduction!"
"Minerva, do you mind if I speak to Hermia?"
The two witches turned to the Headmaster.
The Transfiguration instructor blinked taken aback by the interruption. "Of course Albus." She smiled at the younger witch. "Do stop by my quarters when you have a free moment Hermia." And then she gracefully retreated.
Hermione marshalled her defences. She was irked at the interruption. It was such a joy to see Minerva look so young and relaxed, unwearied by the burdens of war and loss. Hermione hated anything that ended such moments but it was not a good time to make a scene. "What do you wish to discuss with me Headmaster?"
Pale blue eyes studied her intently. Almost boring into her brain. But Hermione had survived six years under Potions Master Severus Snape and a war against Death Eaters. Dumbledore was an amateur in intimidation.
"I want you to cease and desist in whatever plans you have involving Rabastan Lestrange."
Hermione blinked, taken aback by that blunt order.
A slender eyebrow rose archly and a firm dimpled chin lowered even as dark lashes lowered to block her vision of the Old Fool. It would not help her plans if she lost control. Once the initial heated reaction had cooled she looked straight at Dumbledore.
"Would you care to explain why you are making such demands?"
"Rabastan Lestrange is a serpent. He has been sent to sway you to his cause, the Pureblooded traditionalist factions."
Hermione made a soft scoffing sound. "You make him sound like the serpent in Biblical Eden. And I definitely don't see myself as a foolish and trusting Eve. I think I am more like one of Lilith's daughters."
The wizard blinked clearly taken aback by her counter. "You prefer to be a hell spawn?"
Hermione scoffed. "The Lilith of Muggle Biblical tradition was a strong woman who refused to be subjected to rules. And she accepted the cost to stand alone and apart even as she fought it in any way she could." Her eyes met his squarely. "I am not weak Albus. And I am definitely not prejudiced like you. I do not judge based on hearsay and family relations. If he wishes to change my mind I will listen to his argument and make my own points. If he impresses me enough I may or may not adjust my views to include his." She cocked her head to one side. "You know Albus, you might be a Light Wizard but you are just as controlling as any Dark Lord." Albus recoiled and Hermione took advantage to press her point. "You refuse to accept any other view or truth but your own. You force your own beliefs down the throats of others. Most accept it but some don't. And you condemn them for that. By your own actions you are simply driving them to other factions that allow them to practice their own beliefs, to exercise their free will."
"I'm not Dark." He whispered in a strangled voice.
She looked at him with knowing eyes. "Of course Albus. I'm sure Gellert and Ariana would agree that you are a perfect man who never made bad choices."
He froze. "You know."
"I know a lot Albus. You know of my association with the Department of Mysteries." She inhaled deeply, nostrils flaring wide. "Look. Just leave me alone. Do not try to control me. Do not try to guilt me. You will not like the results."
He did not respond.
Satisfied she had made her point she walked away. She really wanted to know what Lestrange was discussing with Edwina and Horace.
Rabastan retreated gracefully keeping out of sight of both Hermia Grangston and Albus Dumbledore. How intriguing! Albus Dumbledore had skeletons and Hermia Grangston knew just where they were buried! What a positively intriguing witch! To make such an openly challenging statement regarding the Light Lord! To call him a Dark Lord!
Perhaps this would not be an odorous duty as he had first believed. She might not have had the fortune to be born Pureblood but she definitely was no weak-willed witch to follow Dumbledore like the rest of the sheep.
Minerva McGonagall had to restrain a smile as she watched the youngest staff member remove a small package and letter from a post owl.
"Well? Is it from Him?"
It had become an expected routine. For the past few months every Saturday morning the DADA instructor would receive a package and letter from her unknown suitor. Each package had contained a small bejewelled square charm made of silver and a variety of green and blue gemstones set in abstract patterns. Minerva suspected there was some hidden message or meaning in the gifts but for the life of her she could not determine it.
A small knowing smile curved the younger witch's lips as she lifted out a silver square set with tiny emerald chips and held it out for Minerva to examine. Past pendants had been set with sapphires, aquamarines, blue topazes, turquoise, peridot and jade.
"Emeralds." Pomona Sprout sighed softly. She too had been intrigued by Hermia's secret admirer. But despite efforts from the staff and some students the identity of the wizard remained unknown.
"Yes." Hermia murmured as she touched the bejewelled surface before running her finger around the edges. Then she smiled more broadly.
If Minerva were in her Animagus form her ears would have perked.
"You know something!" She accused in a light-hearted tone.
Hermia looked up and grinned. "Of course I know something," she teased the older witch.
"Well?" Poppy Pomfrey leaned forward, eager to know as well.
Hermia just laughed. "I'm not saying Poppy." Then she smirked naughtily. "That's for me to know and you to figure out."
"You can't leave us hanging like this!" Pomona protested.
Hermia shook her head. "Oh yes I can. I like this one. He interests me. Besides, I'm not ready for the game to end too quickly."
"So you don't know who he is?" Poppy wanted to know.
Hermia shrugged slightly. "I have speculations. Nothing absolute."
And nothing could persuade her to loosen her tongue. As Minerva listened to her female colleagues bicker and chatter she dwelled upon her relationship with the youngest staff member.
When Albus had first brought the unknown young witch in as the DADA instructor she had believed him mad. It had taken only two weeks for Minerva to realize Hermia Grangston was one of the best (if not the best) DADA instructors in all the years Minerva had taught at Hogwarts. It wasn't like they were the same. Yes, Hermia Grangston was powerful, knowledgeable, skilled, brave, forthright… But she was also had an enduring core of pure steel that refused to bow or follow conventional wisdom. She would walk her own path, create her own faction, lead by example not just words. This often put her on cross-paths with Albus but Minerva had to respect a witch who followed her beliefs without compromise.
Once the other witches drifted away from the Head Table Minerva spoke softly.
"Hermia, have you really tried to find out who your Secret Admirer is? I mean, you had lots of other owls delivering gifts. You've always figured out the one responsible and returned the gift within a few hours."
The DADA instructor stroked the square silver charm lightly as she answered.
"Students are easy to backtrack. He is not. His gifts and letters are treated with special spells that remove magical traces. An unconventional obscure spell. It requires a great deal of control and patience to remove all traces without damaging enchantments."
Minerva was troubled. "He sounds like a criminal. Who else has reason to learn and use such a spell?"
"It is one of the first spells taught to Unspeakables and Hitwizards." Hermia pointed out mildly.
Minerva blushed at the unspoken rebuke but she pressed on. "But still…"
Hermia smiled brilliantly as she tucked the charm into the velvet pouch it came in and slipped it and the letter into her robe pocket. "Don't worry about me Minerva. I'm not going to run off and meet a total stranger simply because he intrigues me." She stood up and picked up her half-finished bran muffin. "By the way, I have plans for the rest of the day Minerva. Don't be surprised if I don't show up for lunch or dinner. I'll probably ask the house-elves for a tray of sandwiches or soup."
Minerva watched the younger witch walk out of the Great Hall with some concern that she pushed away. Hermia was too sensible to act in a rash manner and risk her safety. She would not do anything foolish.
Rabastan Lestrange resisted the urge to fidget under dark blue eyes that were a near perfect colour match for his. Except these eyes were cloudy with age and filled with a knowing light tinted with a hint of disgust.
"So you have found yourself in over your head Rabastan. And now like a frightened child you seek the protection of your elders."
The younger wizard resisted the urge to flinch. Why did great-uncle Sebastian have to be such a prick? Why did he have to make it so hard? Rabastan was doing the best he could!
Then –as though reading his mind– Sebastian Lestrange, Head of the Lestrange Clan, spoke answering Rabastan's unvoiced question.
"I want you to examine and catalogue all the facts and factors that influenced your initial decision. And your current attempts to unmake it." The grey streaked head of brown-black hair tilted to one side. "It is the only way to learn and remember so you do not repeat it."
Rabastan bowed his head shallowly and breathed deeply as he lifted his head. Then he looked away, focusing on a stained glass window depicting abstract designs between two columns of book shelves.
"I am a younger son and a disappointment to my parents. Rodolphus was the only one who cared when I was younger. He protected me, defended me, and supported my desire to study. Mother and Father said it was not 'suitable' for a Pureblood wizard to do so. They wanted me to marry some Pureblood witch to make alliances and enrich the family vaults." Blue eyes met blue. "Rodolphus shielded me from that. He married Bellatrix Black even though he was not really interested in marrying her. I feel like I owe him."
"According to my reports he seems quite happy with her."
Rabastan shrugged. "I don't know. He's changed. She changed him. Uncle Sebastian, I don't know, or what happened. His letters made perfect sense to me. I support the cause, Muggleborns are diluting our culture. There is too much potential danger from exposure. Muggle radios and telephones… they all send information very quickly. If the wrong information gets out to the wrong people… there is a huge risk for a breach in the Statute of Secrecy.
"It makes sense to gather as much support as possible to make sure it doesn't happen. Helena Dagworth supported Pureblood traditions. Her niece was not a Dumbledore supporter so it didn't seem like a big deal. Just persuade her to openly support her aunt's cause. She was already doing it half-way."
"But it didn't work out the way you thought it would." Sebastian murmured softly.
"It didn't. I started by sending anonymous letters to develop a rapport, an understanding that I could use. Most women like secret admirers and it couldn't hurt."
"She broke the anti-tracking charms and managed to create a reverse portkey on my post owl. It activated after Fidelius crossed my wards. It was quite a shock when he returned with a letter from her critiquing my technique in layering and anchoring."
Sebastian Lestrange smiled faintly at the bemusement and pride in his great-nephew's voice.
"What happened next?"
"She challenged me. The next letter had more advanced protections. She broke them too. It turned into a game; using different variations and techniques to trick her. Some worked, most didn't. It was quite fascinating reading her letters, her critiques. She made a few references to Muggle math and physics that intrigued me so much I went to a Muggle library to figure it out. I never realized how much outdated and irrelevant information was being taught in Muggle Studies. Muggles can do so much it terrifies me. When I pointed this out to her she was very calm in her counterpoints. Knowledge is Power. Ignorance is not Bliss. And the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions."
"Why did you change your mind?"
"Oh I haven't. I still believe Muggles are a real threat. But I strongly disagree with the methods Rabastan's friends are using." Sebastian noted the expression of faint disgust that was quickly brought under control. "Hermia Grangston is brilliant. I have never met another with a mind as precise yet broad as hers. She has the knack to put seemingly unrelated bits together and make a completely different whole. The way her mind works… It's pure magic."
"You respect her. A halfblood."
Rabastan looked slightly concerned but he answered honestly. "Yes."
"And you trust her judgment. The basis for her decisions."
The younger wizards inhaled deeply. "Yes."
"And what of her views on Muggles?"
Now he was faintly troubled but he struggled to answer honestly. "She has a great deal of respect and wariness regarding Muggle ingenuity. She would prefer to work with them than to stand against them and to be honest I do see her point. There are too many Muggles and not enough of Us."
"And what about your current… associates?" Sebastian inquired delicately. And he was pleased by the expression of discontent and disillusionment on his great-nephew's face. Good. The boy was learning. He was not a lost cause.
Rabastan swallowed hard. "Voldemort makes promises but I do not see him don't anything to bring them about. The only activities his followers engage in are… brutal and very illegal." Blue eyes were very serious. "Uncle Sebastian… Rodolphus wasn't like this… so vicious. Ever since he married Bellatrix Black he's turned into this sadistic stranger who enjoys inflicting pain." He looked away briefly. "It is not good Uncle. Sooner or later he is going to get caught and bring scandal and shame upon the Clan. I tried talking to Father but he has refused to listen to me."
Sebastian Lestrange nodded slowly. "Pierre was always the short-sighted type. So is Rodolphus." Cloudy dark blue eyes were unexpectedly sharp and observant. "But it seems as though those traits have by-passed you. Quite fortunate." He thought hard for a few seconds before coming to a decision. "Have you taken the Dark Lord's Mark?"
This confused Rabastan. "Uncle?"
"No. He said it would interfere in my…" He swallowed hard. "Courtship of Hermia Grangston."
"Good. Don't take it. Stall as long as possible. Claim to have started an intimate relationship with Grangston." Sebastian's expression turned grim. "Most of the British branch might be a loss but you are not Rabastan. With a lot of planning and a little bit of luck we might be able to salvage something of this mess."
Hermione resisted the urge to retreat to her suite right after breakfast, to examine her latest gift in more detail. It was after teatime when she wrapped up the last of the extra sessions she ran for her special students. She had to resist the urge to run. It wouldn't do for the students to see a teacher running in the corridors!
She closed the door behind her and cast advanced alarm and privacy wards. She walked to her bedroom and stripped out of her heavy robes and sat on her bed cross-legged. Impatiently she loosened the knots of the red velvet pouch she held and emptied the contents on her bed.
Small squares of silvery metal set with blue and green chips of varying hues fell on the flannel bedspread under her. Her fingers trembled as she pulled a flat shallow wooden box close; the dimensions were approximately the same as a thick paperback. It was one of the first gifts that had indicated her Admirer had a strong personal interest in her.
Rune Puzzle Boxes were expensive hand-crafted masterpieces. Given that this one had no makers mark indicated her Admirer or someone very close to him had made it just for her. Her fingers trembled slightly as she moved the silvery squares around on the carved lid of the box, shifting pieces carefully feeling for just the right 'click'. The bejewelled design was deceptive. Someone solving a Muggle jigsaw puzzle worked to fit the pieces against each other using colour and shape to create a whole picture. Hermione's secret admirer had carved tiny runes on the sides of each piece. They had to Arithmatically Balance and Match against each other, on all four sides.
The last square fell into place. A soft glow covered the palm-sized bejewelled surface as it began to swirl in abstract designs. The glow spread to envelop the whole box. When it finally faded the jewelled chips had shifted and rearranged to create a very familiar crest. The square charms were also solidly embedded in the top of the box.
Hesitantly she reached out and tried open it. The lid came away easily to reveal a hollow cavity filled with a swatch of emerald green silk underneath a folded letter. Her breath caught in her throat. This would be an irrevocable step; she knew it in her heart of hearts.
Her common sense reminded her to check for curses and hexes and she did.
Her heart was torn between the desire to protect herself and the yearning to charge ahead.
Her Gryffindor courage did not let her down.
She reached out and removed the letter, carefully breaking the wax seal with the edge of one nail.
Slim fingers unfolded the parchment, flattening the creases as she began to read.
Don't you think it is time we stop dancing around the issue and hiding behind veils. Society and Convention might hinder us in public but what happens between the two of us, in private, does not concern others. We have learned a great deal about each other through our correspondence but most of what we have discussed is intellectual with only the vaguest hints of something more. Your letters have enthralled and frustrated me. Written words are a good way to communicate but they lack the depths of verbal interaction.
When you are ready to take the next step use my gift. I will be available and waiting most nights after ten. My name is the activation word.
Do you know my name Dearest?
Hermione placed the letter aside and carefully lifted the mass of green silk from the box and tugged the edges aside revealing an oval-ish mirror suspended in a silver frame etched with runes and symbols. The length and width of the mirror fit snugly against the inner walls of the runic puzzle box and had to be lifted straight up by fingers tucked against the curved edges.
She knew what it was. A communication mirror similar to what Sirius had given Harry in their Fifth year. Only the other mirror linked to this one was being held by her Secret Admirer.
She examined her reflection in the polished metal and glass. She was no longer the teenager who had believed in the Light as wholly right and the Dark as irredeemable. Carefully she put the mirror down and stood up.
She had essays to mark.
After completing her marking for both classes of Fourth-Year DADA, finishing off a meal of sandwiches and soup, and having a long hot bath she felt more calm and certain. She debated over her wardrobe before settling on a Japanese style kimono-robe. She sat on a comfortable overstuffed chair with the mirror in her lap. After some thought, she conjured a stand that usually held decorative plates in a Muggle home. With some experimentation she decided on the best angle and height for the stand. She placed the mirror on it and composed herself.
A faint enigmatic smile curved her lips as she spoke the name of her Secret Admirer, the wizard whose Clan crest decorated the lid of her runic puzzle box.
"Lestrange. Rabastan Lestrange."
It was time to up the ante.
Rabastan barely controlled the groan that nearly escaped him upon seeing her.
She was determined to drive him insane with lust.
He had to sit on his hands to resist the urge to reach out and touch her. Well, try and touch her.
"Mia, you're killing me."
Hermia Grangston rolled on top of her queen-sized claret silk bedspread. She was dressed in just a matching set of cream silk and lace panties and bra that cupped and framed her generous curves. Her mane of sun-streaked brown curls flowed over her shoulder and back. A small toss of her head made her curves jiggle in a most enticing fashion.
A naughty smile curved glossy lips as she raised one knee casting a most interesting shadow between her legs. He could almost see her curls behind the thin cream silk from this angle.
He inhaled sharply as she rolled fluidly coming up on her knees before sitting on her heels, leaning forward slightly. The action caused her breasts to sway and her cleavage to deepen.
Her voice was low and throaty. "The mirrors were your idea Rab. To improve our relationship." She teased the wizard.
He cleared his throat. "I didn't plan on this." She raised an arch brow. "Okay I hoped for it. Never thought you'd be agreeable."
She cocked her head to one side. "Why wouldn't I be? I enjoy your company. I like your attention and interest. It excites me to know you desire me so much. I want you to know that."
He blinked taken aback by her blunt words. There had been a stilted hesitancy when they had first started using the mirrors. It had taken a very bad day and Mia losing enough control for the veneer of social polish to slip. She called his brother's cousin-in-law an overgrown horn dog that had to be neutered in order to protect future generations.
Rabastan had to agree given his observations of Sirius Black.
After that they felt sufficiently relaxed to verbally tease and flirt with each other. Words turned into truth-dare games that evolved into strip teases and hot-heavy seductions. And one night her voice was enough to break his control. He came apart like an untried teenager.
Mia called it mirror-sex, the magical equivalent of phone sex.
After that it became a challenge, to see who could make the other cum first, who would obey as dared without deviation. So far she was winning. There was nothing she was not willing to try. Rabastan wondered if she would be as willing in the flesh.
"Do you see the cabinet in your room?"
Rabastan blinked taken aback by the abrupt change in topic. He looked over at the cabinet in question. It was an old-fashioned piece of furniture that blended in the shadows easily. He had never used it. The wardrobe and dresser was sufficient for his needs.
"It is not the cabinet you had before." Time froze for an instant before she continued. "I have the matching one in my room."
Hope and lust surged, nearly breaking his control. "Mia?"
She looked away for an instant before meeting his eyes in the mirror. "The House Elves helped me locate a pair of Vanishing Cabinets. They've been glamoured and warded so no one but us can use them. If you want," She held out a hand before drawing it back suddenly shy. "I would like," Then she corrected herself a third time. "Please join me." She smiled hesitantly. "If you wish to that is."
He did not think twice about her invitation. He rose up quickly tightening the belt keeping his robe closed.
"Mia, ask the House Elves for a finger food tray. I'll be with you in five minutes."
Several hours later Hermione Granger woke in the arms of a man who would have been a Death Eater in another lifetime. Her fingers absently stroked the smooth unmarked skin of his left forearm.
"What is it?" His voice was deep and faintly rusty sounding from sleep.
"About what?" He shifted so he could see her face easily.
"You're not Marked."
Rabastan stiffened. "Excuse me?"
"Voldemort has not Marked you."
Swiftly he pushed himself into a sitting position. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Oh hush up Rab." She leveraged herself up, drawing the sheets to cover her breasts. Her expression was faintly wistful. "I was just surprised. I thought you would have been Marked like your brother."
He hesitated, clearly uncertain of what to say. She touched his cheek and smiled before she leaned forward to kiss him slowly and thoroughly.
"I don't know why you are not, but I am proud of you. For not following the herd."
He was quiet for a while.
"Dolph is my brother."
"He's becoming a monster."
She hesitated before agreeing. "Yes."
"I don't know what to do." He confessed. "My British relatives are pressuring me to join."
She honed in on the qualifier. "British? What of your other relatives?"
"The French branch of the Clan does not like the Dark Lord's methods."
"If you ask for help will they provide it?"
"Yes. Within limits."
She nodded firmly. "Good." Then she eyed him sharply. "Have you made a choice?"
"I do not want to join him." He confessed softly.
"Then you do not have to. I will help you Rab. I swear it. But you have to promise me something Rab."
"Promise me you'll hold your ground. No matter what happens you'll live each day as it comes with no regrets."
His voice was low and hoarse as he complied. "I swear it. Upon my magic I so swear."
Hermione Granger smiled brilliantly. Rabastan Lestrange would not become a Death Eater. She hoped this change –one of many if she were lucky– would help set off a cascade effect; butterfly wings to fuel a storm system on the other side of the world.
She refused to believe the future was set in stone. The future was what one made of it.
Seize the Day.
AN: Continued in Part II.
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