Twelve-year-old Hermione Granger watched wistfully as her best friend trailed reluctantly after his corpulent relatives, though she was careful not to let the emotion show.
“Quit dawdling, girl. No time to waste.” Her father snapped from behind her, making her jump in surprise.
“Sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.” She said quickly, her heart beating fast as she darted around him to get into the backseat of the luxurious black sedan parked nearby.
Her mother, who had remained in the car, greeted her with a soft smile, briefly cupping her daughter’s face to hold her still.
“Hello, my love.” She said, dark brown eyes searching and troubled. “You haven’t been sleeping, Mia. And you’ve lost weight.”
The teen smiled at the affectionate gesture and greeting – the same one that Marigold Granger had given her since her return home from Hogwarts the first time, two years ago.
“Hi, Mum. I’m fine. Just already thinking about A-level exams, that’s all. I couldn’t exactly revise for them while at Hogwarts…” She trailed off hastily as her father scowled at her through the rear-view mirror.
The subject of her dual education was an ongoing battle between her parents. Mari, considered more of a Squib than a Muggle, at least had grown up with magical parents, so Hermione’s talents as a witch weren’t a surprise. Edward Granger however was a Muggle, through and through, and while he had grudgingly accepted his daughter’s uniqueness, still believed strongly in the value of a good, normal education to fall back on when tired of that hocus pocus nonsense.
So, they had compromised. Hermione was allowed to attend Hogwarts – as long as she also completed the exams necessary for her age in the Muggle world. Hermione knew that he expected her to attend Muggle university as well, regardless of what she wanted to do.
“Well, now you’re home and can focus on what really matters.” He stated darkly, as their driver moved them through city traffic. “No child of mine is going to swan through life without a proper education. I graduated Oxford, 2nd in my class, behind that snit Barbara Harris…”
Hermione relaxed slightly, resting her head on her mother’s shoulder as her father’s familiar litany washed over her. Her mother squeezed her fingers lightly with a wan smile, before returning her attention to her husband, answering his sharp query in a gentle tone. They arrived at a modest house in a rather upscale neighbourhood. The hedges and lawns were neatly trimmed, the cars sparkling in the sunlight. It didn’t have the cookie cutter, determinedly suburban feel to it that Privet Drive did – at least, according to Harry, since Hermione had never been to his aunt’s house – but rather reeked of ostentatious wealth and subtle snobbery.
“Well, get inside then; we don’t have all night.” Edward snapped, breaking her out of her thoughts.
“Yes father.” she replied quietly, watching as their butler, Stuart, removed her trunk with a grunt, letting it fall heavily to the ground.
Hermione winced, grateful for the built in cushioning and unbreakable charms that protected her potions ingredients and other materials from such harsh treatment. She turned her grimace into a weak smile for Stuart, who was old and sweet, and followed him inside.
“Dinner is in half an hour, Miss.” He called after her as she continued upstairs. She waved acknowledgement over her shoulder, continuing up the next flight of stairs to her bedroom.
“Home sweet home.” She sighed heavily, glancing around the room with a jaundiced eye, before collapsing on her bed. She missed the warmth of her dorm, with its lush red and gold trappings, and the little trinkets and baubles that Lavender and Parvati had added to make it their own.
Her bedroom was simple, functional, neat, efficient. More like a guest room than that of a nearly thirteen-year-old girl. No posters adorned her wall; there was no colour or anything to give insight to the person living there. The only thing of note, actually, was her desk, which dominated the room even more so than the bed. Behind the desk was a floor to ceiling bookshelf, filled with texts better suited to a college student rather than a barely teenage girl.
Hermione pulled herself up with a groan, and went to her closet. Her father expected her to dress for dinner, which meant that wizarding robes and her school uniform would not do. As she prepared, wrestling her wild curls into a neat French braid and smoothing everything with a liberal use of gel, her thoughts returned to the events of the past school year, and her best friend.
Harry was an enigma, even after nearly three years of friendship. Like Hermione, Harry had grown up in the Muggle world, but he hadn’t known that he was a wizard until his acceptance letter from Hogwarts had come, whereas Mari had recognized the signs in Hermione at an early age, and with help from her mother, was able to properly prepare and deal with her daughter’s new talent.
The past year had been exciting; time turners, werewolves for Defence Against the Dark Arts professors, an escaped convict who turned out to be Harry’s godfather, and the daring rescue she and Harry had implemented when it looked as though Sirius would be executed for his crimes, though he was framed.
“I have some news for you, girl.” Her father announced abruptly when they were alone; her mother had retreated upstairs after a pointed glare from him. “I have set up an internship for you at the hospital. After you complete your exams, you are to report there immediately. It will be for the entire summer.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “But sir!” She protested. “I’ve been invited to stay with the Weasleys next month – I thought perhaps – ”
She was cut off as he backhanded her, knocking her out of her chair and onto the cold marble floor of the formal dining room.
“You insolent little brat! How dare you question and interrupt me? You should be grateful.” He sneered. “Insufferable know it all and little snitch that you are, there’s no way anyone would willingly want you around, much less invite you to stay for the entire summer! Now, get up, and thank me properly.” He ordered coldly. “Young ladies don’t sprawl on the floor.”
She slowly rose, trembling, to stand up straight. Shoulders back, head up, feet spaced slightly apart, hands clasped neatly behind her, gaze set slightly to a point just over his left shoulder.
“I apologize for my behaviour, sir.” She said woodenly. “Thank you for the opportunity. I will endeavour to not be a disgrace to you or my mother.”
He scowled at her. “Very well. Go clean up, and then hit the books. Two hours, and then bed. Start with astrology.” He added, knowing it was her least favourite subject. “Dismissed.”
She inclined her head slightly and escaped, breaking into a run only after she was out of his sight and reach.