Chapter 11 : Introspections and a Revelation
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I knew the pathways like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
-Somewhere Only We Know, Keane
Chapter Eleven: Introspections and a Revelation
Saturday morning, Hermione had a package waiting at the end of her bed, with a card in Dumbledore’s handwriting. It read: ‘Secrets can be the most burdensome when there is no one to share them with. This book is enchanted to accept a password that only you know—you may store your secrets here, with no need to worry that they will be revealed to any but you. –Dumbledore’
The book looked ordinary enough; the first page contained an explanation of the safeguards placed upon it and an incantation to repeat along with whatever word she chose as a password. Hermione felt her eyes well up with tears. It had indeed gotten harder over the week to deal with the pressure of what she knew. She wouldn’t want to give up her new-found friendship with Lily Evans for anything, but knowing how long Lily had to live and just how she was going to die was an incredible burden; one that was becoming heavier day by day.
Hermione had never had a diary. She spent so much time on schoolwork—even in the summer holidays—that the thought of spending her leisure time writing seemed silly. Now, though, she couldn’t wait to begin. Dressing hurriedly, she grabbed a full inkpot, a couple of quills, and her bag of books; she planned to head for a quiet, shady spot by the lake. Hermione stopped quickly in the Great Hall and wrapped a few pieces of bread in a napkin to take with her. She wanted to spend the day alone, with just her thoughts and her studies to keep her company.
The weather was perfect—sunny and warm, a flat calm. She decided to treat the diary as if she were writing to herself, but an older herself—the age that Lupin would be, the age that Sirius would have been, in her time. She’d toyed with the idea of writing as if it were to Harry, but she knew that the longer she spent in this time, the more attached she would become to his parents—and how do you write someone about how much you love their family, at the same time refusing to do anything to save them? The thought of such a scenario spurred her on; the outpouring of her feelings was long, long overdue.
1977 is at the same time a mess and a grand adventure. Wish you were here…
Well, not really. An adult Hermione would be even more out of place than the young woman that is here now. The strange part is, I don’t feel out of place! I feel as though I just barely might perhaps belong here. Those are a lot of conditions—I know. The truth is, I want so much to throw my concerns to the wind and LIVE. Considering that this is the best advice I could give —and only advice I will allow myself to offer to—Lily, James, Remus, and Sirius, I could hardly be more of a hypocrite if I bottled up and refused to do it myself.
I’ve always seen the past as stagnant. Never realized that until I became a part of it, either. I didn’t really allow myself to think about the fact that people like Professor Lupin had lives, full lives, before I came to know them. That he had deep and lasting friendships with people who are now destroyed and gone. That Harry had parents, loving parents instead of those horrid Muggles—my parents are parents, even if they are non-magical, but Professor McGonagall really did say it: the Dursley’s are the worst sort of Muggles imaginable.
The truth is, these people are going to die.
I can’t stop it from happening.
The most horrible thing is, I CAN stop it. But…I really can’t. I have no right to make the future uncertain, no matter how awful, how truly ghastly that future will be.
Dare I confess that I don’t want to grow up?
How truly odd, that feeling. I’m doing it right now, growing up. That phrase brings to mind all the exciting and scary things that come with it—falling in love, getting a job, buying a house, raising a family. I feel as if I have the potential for all of that, living in me, right now. Of course, the only sensible one to do right now would be to buy property—do deeds remain in someone’s name even if they disappear for twenty years? I doubt it—but the only truly likely one would be the first option…
Wouldn’t THAT be a mess!
Hermione stopped writing to find that her entire body was shaking with emotion. She leaned back against a tree to let it stop, and when it subsided she felt the most extraordinary peace come over her. It was such an amazing feeling that she snatched up her new diary and held it to her ear as if she expected to hear Dumbledore’s voice casting some sort of serenity charm on her.
Was it really as simple as a need to release pent-up feelings? She supposed it was possible. Whatever the reason, it felt wonderful. She reread her entry, blushing slightly when she got to the last part. Hermione hadn’t ever really thought about falling in love, or even about dating much. Her relationship with Viktor Krum had been more about liking that someone wanted to be with her for her than anything else, really. She had enjoyed his attentions, but had to admit that she didn’t miss him as much as she would have expected had she truly cared for him.
Right now, the people she missed were Harry, Ginny, Ron, and a few other classmates. Hermione giggled—she usually missed Hogwarts and the faculty there when she was home for summer break, but she didn’t have to miss them now! Except Hagrid, of course… She didn’t feel like she needed anyone, however.
The subject of falling in love reminded her of class on Thursday, and she rummaged around in her bag until she’d found the parchment she’d been writing on in Potions class. Hermione blushed when she remembered why it was blank—she hadn’t expected to almost run bodily into Sirius like that! She still wanted to analyze the scents from the cauldron, though, and so she concentrated, trying to remember what they were.
Leather, evergreen, and… she couldn’t remember. The leather was puzzling—who did she know that wore leather? Bill Weasley? Hermione pictured Ron’s older brother, and shook her head emphatically—definitely not Bill.
The evergreen was a fluke, she was certain. After all, she’d smelled it on Sirius, which meant that he was likely the source for the aroma in the first place. She opened her Advanced Potion Making book, finding the descriptions of the Amortentia potion. The recipe itself was not included; the author explained that such a powerful potion was dangerous in anyone’s hands, much less a student’s. It interested her to know exactly how the potion managed to arouse each person’s senses differently, and how it chose the particular smells to stimulate.
Hermione settled herself against her tree and began to take notes, unconsciously humming to herself as she flipped through the pages of her textbook.
It was nearly sunset when she finally gathered her belongings and set off toward the castle again. The sky was simply gorgeous with the lake and the distant castle as it’s setting. She was just marveling on how peaceful she felt when she saw the unmistakable figure of Lucius Malfoy walking in her direction.
All good things must come to an end, I suppose, she thought to herself wryly.
“Where have you been?” he demanded brusquely. When she just looked at him blankly and shook her head, he continued, “There’s a meeting of Seventh Year Slytherins in the common room shortly.” Hermione just laughed and started walking in the direction of the library. Malfoy huffed a little and then followed her.
“In case you haven’t noticed—I’m not a Seventh Year Slytherin,” she said derisively, when she saw that he’d come up beside her. “I’m a First Year Slytherin. So you can keep your meeting.”
“I suppose you think you’re clever,” he said bitingly.
Hermione was confused—that was the second time he’d made a remark like that, and it struck her that he really seemed like he was hiding something. She decided to test him.
“Is there any particular reason why you’re so keen on pointing out my intelligence?” she interrupted whatever he was about to say. “Its almost as if you’re surprised I managed to be sorted into your house...” she dangled. If he didn’t catch the implied insult to Slytherin, it wasn’t her affair.
She must have touched a nerve, because the already pale-skinned Malfoy turned almost pure white, his eyes wide as saucers before narrowing to stare at her speculatively. Hermione was almost disappointed—what was it about 1977 Slytherins that made them so unequal to someone showing a little backbone? Hermione decided to turn the knife a little.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that your little ‘sorting system’ has quite a few flaws,” she said in a businesslike voice, trying to sound as if she didn’t love Hogwarts as a second home. “I think I’ll have a little chat with the Headmaster—”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort.”
Malfoy moved quickly, stepping in front of her and blocking her path with the confidence she had expected him to show five minutes before. Hermione reassessed her opinion of him—it was she who had underestimated. “Quite a few House Points you’ve gotten us today,” he continued in a casual voice, still presenting a threat but not one that would be visible to anyone walking by. Hermione was furious, and it showed in her voice.
“If think you need the contribution of one person in order to get—”
Lucius took a step forward. It was all she could do not to back up, but she held her ground.
“You are just fine, where you are,” he said, his gaze raking over her as though he’d meant her proximity to him instead of about the House she was sorted to. It was too much for her, and she took a faltering step away from him. Hermione’s acknowledgement of his strength over her seemed to be the reaction Malfoy was waiting for, and he turned on his heel and left her standing in the hallway, shaking. She closed her eyes for a long moment, finally moving off in the direction of the dungeons.
As she moved away, a figure wearing a red and gold scarf stepped out from behind a suit of armor and watched her travel out of sight, a concerned expression on his face.
She didn’t know what she’d do without magic. The sock she’d transfigured into a light source hovered near her Arithmancy book as her mind drifted, thinking about the past week.
Hermione had been right about the First Years not being allowed into the common room—instead, there was a small little space in their dormitory where the girls studied and relaxed. It amazed her how quickly the eleven year olds picked up the attitudes of those around them. Her second night as a ‘First Year,’ Hermione had offered to help any of them with their schoolwork, but every one of the new students had looked at her like she was soft in the head. She did admit that she’d forgotten a key component of being sorted to Slytherin—all of these girls had to have come from magical families, so it was entirely possible that they didn’t need her help. Still, it rankled, being treated as lesser from people more than five inches shorter than she was.
She wondered, briefly, what the special Seventh Year meeting was about. A terrible thought occurred to her, making her shiver even though her bed was closest to the fireplace.
What if it was about the Death Eaters?
Hermione had heard about the tradition in the days before Voldemort’s defeat, how Slytherin students were admitted into the inner circle after they reached their majority. She racked her brain, trying to remember Severus Snape’s birthday—until she realized something else. Not only had she made herself promise that she wouldn’t change history, but the intelligence that Snape had gathered over the course of his time as a spy was undoubtedly invaluable. She couldn’t stop him, even if she wanted to.
That thought was sobering. Right then, it seemed just as terrible to be unable to stop someone from making a mistake that haunted them for the rest of their life as it was to be unable to prevent the Potters’ murder. She’d seen how miserable Snape was during her years at Hogwarts, and while she often liked to think his personality was just inclined to unhappiness, his behavior in this time didn’t strike her as much about self-hatred as habitual grumpiness.
Hermione wondered if just by being nice to the man she could change the future irrevocably. That thought made her incredibly angry. What had she just written in her journal? That she felt like she was going to burst if she didn’t throw off her worries and truly live—not actively change anything, but also not hiding in a little ball in the corner, afraid to sneeze for fear of changing the future! Well, she decided, she would be damned if she was going to spend her four months taking crap from Lucius Malfoy or hiding from Peter Pettigrew as if he were the Muggle Boogeymonster.
Hermione Granger, a.k.a. Hermia James decided right then and there to live.
The first week of school hadn’t gone too badly, Sirius decided. A few of the Seventh Year girls had come back from summer hols looking quite a bit different from the year before. His group of friends was as tight as ever—though James’ happiness with Lily was almost disturbing. Sirius had never really thought about what it might be like to be exclusive. He’d always considered himself far too mercurial for that, and figured that he would probably get bored too fast to make it worthwhile anyway. James Potter didn’t seem bored, though. He seemed to be happier every day, and the most amazing part was he hadn’t lost any true part of his personality either. He was still Prongs, and would be Prongs in reality in a little less than two weeks.
Sirius looked forward to the full moon with excitement, the anticipation tempered only by the fact that Remus both dreaded and enjoyed their antics every month. He shuddered to think what Moony would have done if they hadn’t become friends—Remus Lupin was one of the best people he’d ever known, werewolf or not. The thought of what Lupin would do without the Marauders to support him was so horrible that it didn’t bear thinking about.
Even Peter seemed to be more confident lately, and Sirius thought that a lot of it had to do with the O.W.L.s—Wormtail had done quite well, surprising himself by turning out with nearly four. The short, pudgy boy had come very far since their first year at Hogwarts. It pleased Sirius to think that he’d helped his friend overcome his doubts to the extent of becoming an animagi with James and himself.
All in all, Sirius Black thought to himself, he was pleased with his education at Hogwarts, the most wonderful aspect of which was his unexpected sorting into Gryffindor. His entire family, extended family even, were Slytherin—and when the Sorting Hat had firmly declared that Sirius belonged in Gryffindor, he could almost hear the shocked gasps from that side of the Great Hall.
The truth was, he hadn’t even thought he would have a choice. His emotions during the train ride that first September night had been full of an odd mixture of joy and sheer dread. He’d run smack into Lupin, who as an eleven year old was about as thin as anyone could be without requiring medical attention. The two boys had recognized something in each other—a sort of terrified anticipation of what was in store for them. Of course, it had taken almost the entire school year to find out what Remus had been dreading, but for Sirius, his outlook on Hogwarts was not a happy one.
Looking back on it now, he was certain that Remus’ primary motivation in asking Sirius to tell him about himself was to avoid having to reciprocate. He hadn’t really needed to push; Sirius was almost completely miserable at the thought of having to spend seven years in the same sordid company that he experienced at home. The memory of a young, frightened Remus Lupin comforting him on the Hogwarts Express, when the other boy had so much more to be afraid of…Sirius had to blink his eyes quickly to prevent an outward display of his inward feelings.
What he really wondered was if the Sorting Hat gave everyone a choice, just some students a choice, or simply him. When he’d forced his leaden feet to take him to the stool, the thoughts running through his eleven year old brain were simple and repetitive. ‘Merlin, is there any way I can NOT be sorted to Slytherin? Not Slytherin…’ To his shock, when the Hat was placed on his head, it did not scream to the heavens. Instead, it whispered in his ear, asking him if he thought he was brave.
Sirius had just walked across the room to his doom in front of hundreds of strangers—he certainly felt brave. The Hat then asked him if he really wanted to be in Slytherin. Sirius had been adamant earlier, but he was wary of offending now, and he temporized. To his surprise, the Hat had interrupted his prevarication, asking him again if he felt brave. Sirius asserted again that he felt that he was.
‘What about Gryffindor, boy? I can see you doing great things in Gryffindor.’
It had been too good to be true. The young Sirius was certain that he had fallen asleep on the train, listening to the sounds of the newest Hogwarts students arguing which House they expected to be placed in.
‘Its no dream, unless you refuse to make it come true,’ said the Hat. Sirius could still remember his reaction, had dreamed about it many times since.
‘Yes! Yes—a thousand times, yes!’
The walk from that little stool to the Gryffindor table was about as different as it could have been from the walk he took to the Hat in the first place. That happiness was expounded when Remus Lupin was placed in Gryffindor as well. The sandy-haired boy introduced someone he’d been speaking with in line, a friendly boy with hazel eyes named James Potter. The three boys became inseparable, bringing the shy Peter Pettigrew into their group in the first months of that first year.
Gryffindor was, had been, and continued to be an exciting and mischievous place to be. It suited Sirius perfectly.
“Oi! Sirius?” James’ voice broke into his reverie, and instead of answering, Sirius positioned himself behind his bed with an arsenal of pillows. Sure enough, there was the sound of either a herd of elephants or Prongs coming up the stairs into their dormitory. He was rewarded with a faceful of soft projectiles.
“You are upstairs,” was the only reply to the barrage.
“Good evening, James,” Sirius said politely, returning the cushions to their proper beds with a soft word and a flick of his wand.
“Missed a great sunset, Padfoot.”
“Were you watching it with Lily?” Sirius asked slyly. James missed the innuendo and just nodded. “Surprised you saw any of it…”
“Jealous?” his friend shot back, settling himself on a chair at the end of the four-poster his friend lay on.
“Not at all,” Sirius replied, mostly sure that it was the truth.
“She told me Slughorn cooked up some Amortentia for your class.”
Sirius nodded, frowning. James picked up on that immediately.
“What’s wrong—did yours smell like Olive Prescott?” he asked, tossing a pillow in his friend’s direction. Sirius allowed it to hit his face as he shuddered. The mousy Slytherin Seventh Year hardly had any backbone or opinion of her own, the exact opposite of the kind of girl he liked.
“No, it didn’t smell like anything at all, actually,” he said casually.
“I don’t believe that,” James said animatedly. “That potion always smells like something.”
“Even for monks?” Black countered.
“I’d imagine it smells like incense to them, or something,” he said, playfully kicking at the other boy’s foot. “Come on, you can tell me!”
“It really didn’t—” Sirius protested, adding, “well, ok, I did smell something, but I’m pretty sure it was the new James girl’s hair…”
“So it’s you!” James crowed. The joke of ‘who has a crush on the new girl’ was starting to get old, Sirius thought.
“Oh, stuff it, Prongs—she was standing by the cauldron and her hair fell out of the knot it was in.”
The explanation had sounded perfectly rational in his head, but when he said it aloud, it sounded pretty flimsy. He could feel his face starting to flush a little, something he hoped his friend wouldn’t pick up on. And there was still that business about the wisteria he’d smelled when he was alone in the room… Sirius brushed it off, taking James by surprise with a pillow he’d enchanted to hit him from the empty side of the room.
“Oof!” Potter had almost fallen off of the chair. “We’re too old for this, Padfoot!” he said indignantly.
“You might be,” was the response, punctuated by the three small cushions that Peter kept on his bed when it was made.
“You’re older than me!” James said, giving up and lunging at his friend with a heavy feather pillow.
“Right!” Sirius said, muffled by the other boy’s handiwork. “That means you can’t be too old!”
“What on ear—” Remus Lupin had entered the room to find out where all the thumping sounds were coming from, and was rewarded by a massive array of pillows from his two best friends. Events went downhill from there, ending with a blanket of down on every surface of the room and three thoroughly exhausted Gryffindors.
“Have you gone out of your mind?”
The hissed words seemed to echo through the dark corridor, and the speaker stopped himself quickly, as though he did not wish to be overheard. The damage was done, however—a young man on his way back to his common room thought he recognized the voice, and quickly stepped into a nearby alcove to listen. He didn’t have long to wait.
“No, there’s no way she’ll find out!” snapped someone in a haughty voice.
“I just can’t believe you thought you’d get away with something like this,” the first person said angrily. It sounded like Severus Snape.
“The Sorting Hat only wakes up once a year,” the second boy said disdainfully, “and by then it’ll be too late!”
“And I’m sure you know that for certain,” Snape said, in mocking tones.
“Exactly. I suggest you speak up now, Lucius, before this becomes a bigger problem than a Welcoming Feast prank!” the black-haired boy said to his companion, passing quite close to their observer as they moved out of the shadows in the direction of the dungeons. “You may not have much respect for the idea of House pride, but I do!” Snape said as they passed out of earshot.
He couldn’t believe what he’d just witnessed. It sounded as if Lucius Malfoy had somehow tampered with the Sorting Hat… The young man adjusted his robes carefully as he walked purposefully toward Gryffindor tower. He had to tell the others about this.
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