Chapter 1 : In Her Hands She Held The Whole World
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Though none should save me,
Desperation keeps me here,
My need for innocence,
The place where I began.
-VNV Nation, Genesis
The thing I had never before considered about Muggles is that there are, and always have been, so very many of them. It seems ironic that I would have missed such a discernable fact. Had I ever stumbled across it written in a book I would have merely shaken my head at the thought that someone felt the need to write down something so elementary. I may even have been mildly outraged at the wasting of perfectly good time and parchment. Even then, however, I would not have considered the implications of what it could mean. Not that I think I could have understood then what I know so well now. I was only eleven when I effectively left the Muggle world, and what is the world to an eleven year old? The concept of such a thing existing beyond your town, beyond your very street, is almost too huge to comprehend. The facts never changed though, only my perception of them; that there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, for each individual witch or wizard.
It has been three years since Harry Potter defeated the Dark Lord. It has been a little more than two since the very fabric of wizarding society crumbled into nothing. Not that your common bystander would notice, but as I believe my previous comment shows, your common bystander is, in fact, Muggle.
I never thought I could hate that word so much.
In all my years at Hogwarts I always considered it was part of what I was; Muggleborn Hermione Granger, eleven years of my life spent without the conscious knowledge of magic. But for all the propaganda, for all the outraged arguments, for all the damn deaths the title has earned over the years, it is a fallacy. No more than an erroneous belief. I am Muggleborn, yes, but above and beyond that I am magical. The Muggle world lost its claim over me the day my Hogwarts letter arrived. The only difference that remains between myself and, say, Draco Malfoy, is that I at least know what a light switch is for. It doesnít mean that, faced with one, I do not reach for my wand.
Or should I say Ďdid notí reach for my wand. Now I have no choice but to favour the switch. A lot has changed in these few years, you see. So much so that sometimes I cannot stop myself from coming up to this small attic room and tempting fate, common sense be damned. I have to remind myself that it wasnít all a dream. Not that any sane person would have dreamt some of the horrors I have lived through, but nevertheless. I need to know it all actually happened; that Hogwarts once stood tall and proud; that Diagon Alley once bustled with life; even that the isolated countryside once echoed with the laughter, quiet words and heated arguments of three reckless teenagers. Consider it homage, of a sort, to the thousands who died. Not at the hands of Voldemort though, no. We discovered a much greater threat to him.
The Muggles found out.
It was, looking back, hardly surprising that they discovered that magic exists. It is more surprising that it remained hidden for as long as it managed. Voldemort never exactly tried to keep it a secret. He was powerful, yes, and fearsome, but not especially covert. Nor was it surprising that the knowledge, having been garnered in those dark times, was accompanied with a healthy dose of fear. Why wouldnít it have been? The Dark Lord didnít want to rule them, he wanted to destroy them. Exterminate them, even, as the filth he so avidly believed them to be. Whether they knew it as such at the time, for most Muggles their introduction to the wizarding world involved blood and death.
So, I shall start at the beginning; or a beginning, at least. Had any one of a hundred things been different it might not have been as such, but it is as good a starting point as any and, as with most things, it started with a bad decision. Not that it wasnít a justified decision; times were desperate, good people were dying and sometimes it seemed that everything was just stretched so damn thin. The Dark Mark had glittered in the air above the small Muggle street in sharp contrast to the flames that danced beneath, but it hadnít been the only scene of such in the country. Elsewhere, though, Muggles were screaming and sirens were roaring through the night and this particular street was so quiet in comparison it seemed dead, almost literally.
Which was why the Ministry, or what little of it hadnít been dirtied and twisted into enforcing the ideals of a madman, surveyed their over-worked and always diminishing ranks of Obliviators, sighed, and sent them elsewhere, mistaking silence for peace, taking the deathly quiet for death itself. It was the first time they would do such a thing, the first time they would be forced into such a choice, but it was not the last. And by the time the Aurors reached the neglected scene the survivors had fled, taking with them tales of white masks and green light. Even if we had had the people with which to do so, tracking them down would have been long and arduous. And whilst there was a time, when secrecy manifested itself as paranoia, when we would have spared no expense to ensure those memories were removed, that time was not now. When paranoia became arrogance I could not say, but the latter is just as devastating. We comforted ourselves with the thought that such tales would be met only with incredulity, the stories dismissed as flights of fancy or delusions. We justified ourselves with the knowledge that such a search could only cost more lives.
Hindsight can be bitter.
You see, and it may be a cold way to view it, but at the end of the day it didnít matter how many Muggles the Dark Lord mercilessly slaughtered in the name of his perfect world. There were always more. The problem was that we were rapidly discovering there were not always more Aurors; there was not always another Obliviator ready to fill the place of his fallen comrade.
And so, slowly but surely, the knowledge leaked out. And at first the rumours were indeed treated with the scepticism we had hoped. But as the ranks of the Dark Lord swelled, so did the fuel that fed the hushed conversations and unsure whispers. Hundreds more died, and each time we were forced to choose we allowed another whisper to add itself to the throng, convincing ourselves they would falter and die away when instead they were coalescing into a single roar. We did not want to see it though, and who can blame us in the face of all that was happening? It spread before our very eyes, paraded in front of our blindness. We never even noticed when the panic and hysteria the Death Eaterís caused amongst the non-magical lost the edge of disbelief. We never noticed the Muggles were no longer asking why.
And when it seemed we had reached the lowest point we could reach, when Voldemortís fingers closed possessively round the few remaining shreds of freedom we clung too, Harry Potter did the unimaginable and defeated the Dark Lord in what would later be described as a glorious fight. At the time it had seemed less glorious and more frantic, desperate and altogether hopeless. Now it is merely another memory.
The wizarding world had celebrated. For a day and a night the skies rang not with the glittering frame of a hideous skull, but with the whistles and explosions of brightly coloured fireworks. Yellows and blues marched across the crisp night air. Flashes of purple and red danced in peopleís eyes. People laughed and rejoiced in a moment of sheer joy before the mourning we all knew would come. In that moment we knew a peace that had been too long in coming.
It was a peace that was shattered in an instant.
Rumours were flying around the remnants of the corrupted Ministry within a matter of days, and I was not the only one to have heard them. I was one of the only ones to dismiss the inane chatter with disinterest and move on though. We had a leadership to salvage, and to me they were no more than a distraction. It started as a whisper in the portraits, never much known for their discretion, and spread from there; through the ranks of the gossiping assistants and eager new apprentices always looking for opportunities as we rebuilt. Unlike most rumours that insinuated their way through the building, however, this one always remained the same. There were no embellishments as it journeyed from person to person. There were no flourishes of imagination that plague most accounts passed on in this manner. It did not fascinate me the way it did so many others, the news that the Muggle Prime Minister had summoned the Minister of Magic for himself and demanded his presence
Instead of being fascinated, I scoffed. Stupidly I admit, but sometimes my own naivety astounds even me. I scoffed not at the rumour itself though, for I had no doubt of its truth, but at the disbelieving comments it had earned itself, the awed bewilderment with which it was treated. Scrimgeour had summoned the Prime Minister himself a number of times in the course of the war. If not summoned, then at the very least demanded to be seen without invitation. That we effectively had no Minister to be summoned in return gave me cause to worry.
A small part of me, born from a knowledge of everything we had suffered at the hands of an incompetent Ministry, wondered briefly if we had even bothered to inform the Muggles that Voldemort had been defeated, or if we had been so caught up in our own relief we had forgotten about those who had suffered the most at the hands of the late Dark Lord. At first glance it seemed not, since they were demanding the presence of a dead man. We hadnít exactly been in any rush to inform even the most important of them that an insanely powerful madman was determined to crush their way of life into slavery or extinction. Would we have felt any more harried into assuaging their fears now it was over?
War was once again declared not three days later, effectively answering my doubt.
Most people were incredulous, treating the news with much the same mild, condescending amusement that the original summons had become, looking down on the Muggles with pity for their ignorance. They all but patted them on the head like the good little non-magical folk they were supposed to be. It wasnít just the Purebloods either, those that had sat on the sidelines of the war and escaped the looming menace of Azkaban that threatened so many. Half-bloods, even Muggleborns all but laughed amongst themselves at the notion that Muggles could do a single, solitary thing against the magical world. After all, what did Muggles have? Yes, they got by, with their electricity and their science. But they didnít have magic.
Besides, wizards didnít declare war. The first thrown Unforgivable tended to make the point quite nicely. It all fairly stank of melodramatic posturing. Pointlessly pre-emptive, that was what the Daily Prophet announced in its headlines. The Muggles were understandably afraid of what they couldnít comprehend and could never have for themselves. Who could blame them in the wake of the recent upheavals? But, the paper had continued to argue, since when had Voldemort, or Grindelwald for that matter, calmly summoned the Minister to declare his intentions of violence? They hadnít. Those who could do, did. The Muggles were merely doing what little they could given that, when it came to magic, they could not. They could not hurt us, so we were to allow them their big words if it made them feel better, if it gave them a feeling of control. Apparently we had greater worries in the wake of Voldemortís fall anyway; the Death Eaters that were still running lose, hiding in corners, waiting for their revenge. The fact that our entire society stood poised on the edge of a cliff we were desperately struggling not to fall from.
We stopped laughing soon after. It was around the time we learnt that at the end of the day all wizards really had were their wands. Those forced to live without magic had created a whole range of inventive alternatives in its stead.
And we hadnít realised, none of us, exactly how much our protections relied on ignorance. An ignorance we had sacrificed. It was a necessary and unavoidable sacrifice, but a sacrifice none the less. Muggle repelling wards, at the end of the day, were all well and good, but once they knew what we were hiding, no trivial urge or momentary bout of forgetfulness was going to deter them. The Muggles proved this during the celebratory Quidditch match, held in honour of the death of Voldemort, when several hundred of them found their way onto the pitch. They did nothing more than stare in disbelief and we did nothing more than stare back in stunned silence. That they left peacefully did no less harm than had they stormed those present in outrage.
They took with them the last of the doubt.
The attacks began in earnest, and we were unprepared. The numbers on their own might have been conquerable, but we were a world in name only. In practise we were a minority so completely scattered that the fact that there was only one all magical town in the damn country became significant for wholly different reasons. We were on the defensive with nothing to defend. All we had were questions.
A shield charm was a magical construct designed to stop magical attacks, and it could save you from any number of unfriendly curses, but could it stop a bullet? A house protected by the Fidelius Charm did not exist any less than its neighbours, so did it make a difference when the entire street was razed to the ground? Non-verbal spells meant we could stun or bind with a thought, but how long could someone survive alone when they were cornered and the enemy numbers did not have anything near the same limits? So many questions that had not been asked before, yet quickly seemed as though they should have been the most important thing the whole time. So many questions I wished I had seen earlier.
Unsurprisingly the Purebloods fell first. What else, beyond magic, did they know? Their ignorance had hampered them no less than their pride; their arrogance had made them easy targets. They had listened to the Ministerís words and believed every one, trusting in their own superiority. In reward they were dragged from their beds, forced from their homes and fed to the flames. For all they had claimed to despise the Muggle world, you see, they had never separated themselves from it as completely as they claimed. Their homes and manors sat on large rolling hills or country sides littered with Muggle outcroppings. Not that they lowered themselves to visiting or even acknowledging their neighbours, but nevertheless they took great pride in ensuring the reverse was not true. They relished in the feeling of superiority their mystery gave them, and this arrogance killed them.
It was more than a month before the Ministry turned to the Muggleborns, or those of them that were left and hadnít faded into obscurity, for help. We were their only real link to the Muggle world, their only hope of understanding. My laughter at this was hysterical, but the tears that accompanied it were despairing as I realised I knew nothing. Since starting Hogwarts I had spent less than six months in the Muggle world. Christmas holidays spent at the school, summers spent with the Weasleys. I saw my parents smiling faces as time and time again I chose magic before anything else, and all of a sudden I had never felt so ashamed or so guilty. My parents had missed all but a few months of their only daughter growing up.
How many other Muggles had suffered this exact same thing?
Lucius Malfoy fell in his own manor, though exactly how it was breached no one was sure. Laws forbidding the use of potentially dangerous or life-threatening wards had been all but repealed, and the man was certainly capable of ensuring that no Muggle who took a step onto his property lived to take a second. Perhaps Azkaban had affected him more than he let on. Perhaps he had feared drawing the attention of the Ministry that had granted his continued freedom. Perhaps the Muggles simply found their own way through. Either way the man died protecting his wife and son with his last breath. Either way I was left with the feeling that I had, in some unfathomable way, failed them. They had the pleasure, at least, of knowing they had taken a large portion of their enemies with them. Our enemies, that is, and I still have to correct myself here; Muggles donít bother to distinguish between blood.
It is odd that they realised the most important thing before we wizards had ever managed: that magic was all that mattered.
A tentative truce was attempted, for the sake of wizardkind, exonerating those in hiding, and even those in Azkaban, if they would help to protect the world from total destruction. After all, the crimes for which they were imprisoned embodied what was needed. But fighting amongst ourselves had become almost second nature by this time. I donít know if they refused out of spite, or if they saw it as an opportunity to cleanse the world as they had long hoped, allowing us all to perish in the knowledge that they were right before claiming what was left for themselves. It makes no difference, I suppose, and we made no fuss when they returned anyway, haughty and smug. They did not stay so for long.
Even the kindhearted Weasleyís hadnít been spared. Surprisingly it had been George who escaped though, sliding into the Muggle world as one of its own with a relative ease Ron had never managed to emulate. Perhaps Georgeís magic had been easier to disregard in the wake of his lost twin. Ron had never been able to separate himself from his own, it had been too deeply ingrained and he did not have the cunning of his brother. They cornered him eventually, as they did Harry.
Harry, who of all of us deserved this fate the least, and who sank into the obscurity he had so longed for. The Dursleyís sheltered him, not out of love but selfishness. After all, he was their wizard to torment. Fear was their true motivator though, not wanting to risk exposing their relationship to something so unnatural. It was his temper that betrayed him in the end, a fit of rage and a shattered window he could not have hoped to explain. Had it been anyone else they might have stood a chance, but not Harry. After all, he had spent a lifetime fighting in the name of the Muggleborn and the Muggles, protecting them from a threat they once hadnít even know existed. He had been raised to it, trained to it, and it left him with a deep-seeded aversion to ever raise his wand to one, even in self-defence. I couldnít blame him; it was months before I could bring myself to it. He died, wand in hand, never having cast a hex, still trying to appeal to them, to convince them that the magical world was no threat.
They knew better.
Often I thank whatever deity has taken pity on me for my own life. My parents wanted to hide me, but I refused. I had seen what happened to others in similar such failed attempts, and I would not cause them further grief. History had taught us of flame freezing charms, but without a wand we burn the same as any other. And the Muggles had learnt quickly. They snapped our wands, and when our wands would not snap they broke our arms instead before leaving us to burn, along with any who would try to save us. Were it not for blind luck and a desperate, wandless obliviate, it would have been my fate some time ago.
So now I hide amongst them, trying to rekindle something I have never really been and sacrificed so readily at the promise of what they hate. I cannot deny that they have a point either. What has wizardkind ever done for them? We steal their children with pretty colours and flashy words. We create monsters that terrorise and feed upon them. We try to hide from them something that could never be hidden, something that always leaked out to them in pranks, humiliation and even in murder.
But even now, even knowing this, there is a small, traitorous part of my mind that giggles at the fact that Voldemort may have, perhaps, in his own twisted way, been right.
And so I balance the wand on my palm. It is the most I dare do, lest my fingers work of their own accord to clench round the long neglected handle. Not that the Muggles would ever know. They never found a way to track magic, which is probably one of the only reasons, combined with a healthy amount of luck, that I am alive today. If I pick it up now though it wonít be for a mere charm. If I pick it up now I will curse, and I will not stop cursing, not until they stop me. And there is only one thing that could ever make me stop. Magic is not the same as a wish, you see; it cannot do anything, cannot shape the world into the way I wish it to be.
It is the world, my world, and the whole of it: sitting in the palm of my hand.