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Chapter 1: The letter
Hermione heard her mother call from the first floor of their home. ‘Hermione, you have a letter.’
She looked up from the parchment she was working on and looked over to the open window. Why hadn’t the owl just delivered the post directly to her like normal. ‘I will be right down, Mum.’ She called back through the open doorway. She placed the stopper back on the bottle of ink and set the quill onto the blotter as she stood up. Suddenly a strange feeling came over her. She had never been taken in by the idea of premonitions, but if she had, she would believe that she just felt a great feeling of dread cross over her.
She sat back down and called out, ‘Mum, whose it from.’
Before her mother could reply, Hermione recalled a memory of a gangly blond boy she used to know. It was before she knew that she was a witch. Before Hogwarts. Before Harry. Before Ron.
‘Its from the United States, Elroy Shepherds.’ Her mother paused. ‘Oh my.’ Hermione heard her mother exclaim.
She could tell her mother had not paid attention at first whom the letter had been from. She could picture her mother stopping what she was doing and walking over to a chair and sitting down. Maybe her hands would be trembling. Her mother’s eyes glazing over slightly as she remembered a cab driving away with good neighbors that she had not thought about for years.
All of the sudden Hermione was up from her own chair and heading down the steps two at a time. As she turned into the kitchen the back door was opening and her father was coming in from the garage.
He had been out for his Saturday morning jog. As he arrived home and was cooling down in the driveway he had heard the two woman calling to one another through the open windows of the house. He too had a surprized look on his face. He had not heard from his old friend or of his family for 8 years. As he stepped through the garage he had the feeling that there was something he should be remembering about this day.
July 18, 1991
The two children sat across from each other holding hands. Their parents were out in the driveway saying their good-byes. Tears were starting to stream down Hermione’s cheeks. ‘Elroy, I don’t want you to go. Everybody else in school hates me.’ she said, looking down at the paper between them.
The young man, just a few days older than she, was holding back his tears. He knew he had to be strong. Had to be strong for both of them for the next 8 years.
Last evening Elroy had his worst tantrum that his parents could remember him ever having. He was tall and skinny for 11 years old and had taken full advantage of his new found strength this year. Slamming doors, toppling boxes that his parents had previously packed for their move to America. But in the end his father had settled him down and explained about the new life they would be starting.
His father was no longer able to find work in England and his cousin had found him a good job in Michigan. Times were tough all over England and he had to do what was best for his family.
Elroy finally gave in and settled down. He helped put the boxes back together and went into his room and cried until he fell asleep. Some time after midnight he awoke with the idea. He grabbed his box of school books and tore it open. He found the dictionary and encyclopedias and started to read. By the time the sun was up he had a plan. He and Hermione were going to be together all day. The family’s had decided it was best for the children. The flight to America was not until later in the evening.
At breakfast he sat across from his father. His mother was busy finishing with breakfast and then she would box up the last of the kitchen. ‘Dad, I want to go see Hermione early today. Is that all right.’ Elroy had said, standing to carry his plate and cup to the sink.
‘Sure Elroy. after your boxes are all sealed up and ready for the movers.’ His father replied.
‘All done. I finished this morning before I came down. I didn’t sleep much last night.’ Elroy said.
His mother and father looked at each other and his mother started to apologize again for the move. But Elroy continued quickly. ‘ I want to spend the whole day with Hermione, shes having a really tough time. School will be starting soon. She doesn’t have many friends.’ He knew when he looked into his mother’s eyes he had said the right thing. So he ran upstairs grabbed the papers he had copied last night and headed out the door. He would get his parents to agree to his plan and sign the papers after they arrived in their new home.
Elroy tumbled out the side door and crossed over the driveway and grass with three long leaps. ‘Hermione look at this.’ Elroy handed over a sheet of paper.
Hermione had been waiting for him and stepped out of the house onto the porch when she saw him. Hermione sat down on the porch swing and read it and started to smile.
‘We can’t do this.’ She said. ‘We’re tool young.’
Elroy had been standing watching her for a reaction. He stepped over and as he sat next to her he said, ‘sure we can, I can get my parents sign it. All we have to do it get your parents to sign it. Then when we get old enough, we will be together forever.’
‘But that’s so far away.’ Hermione had said.
‘I know, but I read everything I could last night about ‘betrothals’ and this is the way to do it. Do you think your parents will sign it.’ She looked up and he thought that she was trying to figure out how to get them to sign it. He said, ‘it can’t be a trick. They have to know what they are signing.’ She smiled at him. She was sure her parents would sign it. They would do anything for her. Even if they didn’t think it would be for real.
‘Lets go. She grabbed his hand and the piece of paper and headed into the house. She found her parents in the dining room finishing their breakfast.
‘Daddy. Mom. We have to talk to you for a minute.’ Hermione said as she and Elroy came into the room together. ‘Elroy and I are going to get engaged, I need you to sign this paper before he leave’s today.’
Her mother and father looked at each other and her father said, ‘Are you sure this is what you to do?’
‘Yes, we have talked about it and decided. When we are old enough.’ She stepped over and handed her father the paper. He took his reading glasses out of his pocket and read through the document. ‘Looks like a simple ‘betrothal’ document dear. I think we can go ahead.’ He said to his wife and handed her the paper. She didn’t even take time to look at it, she pulled a pen out of her apron pocket and signed it above her printed name. She handed the pen and paper to her husband and he signed above his own name and handed it back to Hermione. ‘Here you go sweetie.’
‘Thanks daddy.’ Hermione turned and walked away pulling the stunned Elroy with her.
Her parents sat in the dining room and never expected to give a second thought to the paper they had just signed.
Hermione and Elroy spent the rest of the day together talking about their futures. Elroy told her as much as he had read about Michigan and that region of the United States. He had pictures of his new house and of his room. The school had a funny name. Loon Lake elementary. Where he would go for a year, then on to a secondary school.
Hermione tried her best to sound excited. She promised to make new friends after he was gone. He told her to try not to study too much and even get into trouble once in a while. They promised to write to each other all the time
The betrothel was lying on the ground between the two. Hermione looked down at it knowing that their time together was almost gone. From the front yard she could hear both their parents moving towards the cab that had arrived a few moments ago. The adults were loading bags and saying their own goodbyes, allowing the kids every last minute available.
She held Elroy’s hands in hers and said’ Promise me that you’ll remember me on this day in eight years.’ He was going to say ‘of course I will.’ She looked at him and he said ‘I promise.’ They each felt a twist of energy about their hands.
She said, ‘Promise me you will do everything you can to contact me, no matter what in eight years.’ He did not hesitate this time. ‘I promise’. The energy between them had grown. And Hermione held onto his hand tighter so he wouldn’t let go.
‘Promise me that we will be together in eight years and every year after that.’
He looked at the top of her head. She had looked down to focus all her energy on their hands. ‘I promise’, He said, he didn’t see the last binding of the promise strands go across their hand. He could only feel the energy from her, just like he had always felt when she had unknowingly performed magic.
‘Elroy’ he heard his monther calling. ‘its time to say good-bye. Come along.’
He released her hands and stood up. She stood with him and they both walked around to the front of the house.
The adults stood there. Each looking at the children hoping there would be no more trouble. The two children walked to the cab, they hugged each other and Elroy said, ‘Remember our promise’ he squeezed her one more time and let her go. She turned and walked into the house and he turned and climbed into the cab.
She didn’t watch for the cab to leave. She just sat in her room the entire evening staring out the window, trying to remember everything about their last day together.
Just before 8:00 a pair of barn owls flew into a tree in the lot behind her house. She stared at them for quite a while before one flew off. She looked at the remaining owl and noticed that its marking made it look like it was holding something under it wing. She turned away and headed down the stairs to tell her parents about the owls. But was distracted and forgot on the way down. Hermione sat up with her parents watching television and headed to bed when they did.