“Aughhhhh!” Annie screamed as she dropped to the damp, mud-trodden ground in relief. Wait, damp? Aren’t we in a library in Southern California? She glanced to the left, seeing a small stone cottage with a red-tiled roof and a drift-wood fence. She looked up at the clouds overhead and then quickly jumped from her slumped position, searching for her mother. She found her staring out to sea, hands clasped in front of her as she turned slightly to acknowledge her daughter.
She sighed and began, “This is where I lived when I found out I was expecting. This was the house my dearest friend… brother, is really what he is… bought for me so that I could learn to be whole again. It is the only home I knew for so long. You were born here, you know, right down the road in the little town hospital. This is Oregon.” Annie knew, of course, that she was born in Oregon, she had seen her birth certificate – but wait! “HOW did we get here?! What’s going on, Mum? You’re scaring me,” Annie exclaimed.
“Come, sit down, dear. I think I have a lot of explaining to do, and it is finally time.” She gestured to a low stone bench several feet to the right and Annie followed her mother numbly and sat, knowing that whatever it was her mum had to tell her, it would likely be life-altering. “Okay, Mum. Please… just tell me how this is possible.” She looked at her mother expectantly.
The elder woman once again gazed at the vast grey sea. “It’s simple, really, Annie. We got here by a phenomenon known as Apparition, and, well, you see – I am a witch.” With that she glanced at her daughter, who was absentmindedly pulling on one of her honey-blonde curls. When Annie remained quiet, she went on, deciding to get it all out as quickly as possible. If Annie was anything like she was at her age, she would appreciate being able to sort through all of the facts at once.
“My name is – was, I suppose – Hermione Granger. I chose the name Hobart because that is the last city my parents – your grandparents – were ever seen in alive. They were hunted and presumably killed by what are known as rogue Death Eaters, a horrible group of terrorists out to destroy good people who stood against them. I grew up in the UK, as you are aware, and I actively participated in one of the worst wars in known history – the Great Wizarding War. After my best friend, Harry Potter, defeated an inhuman monster, a terrorist called Voldemort, our world was never the same. Fear had dissipated somewhat, but so many people had died! We were distraught. Harry collapsed into a deep depression, though he eventually found solace in the arms of his girlfriend, Ginny. I helped them for as long as I could, before I, too, could no longer take the pain. With the guidance of another dear friend, Ron Weasley, I slowly learned to live for myself again. I got a job at our school, Hogwarts, as the librarian’s assistant.” Hermione gave a small smile with a faraway look in her eyes, grasping her daughter’s hand before continuing.
“I worked, studied to complete my school exams, slept, ate… and before I knew it I had graduated from Hogwarts. Ron and I had tried to pursue a romantic relationship briefly, but when I could see that Ron – cared – more for me than I did for him, I gently broke it off. I threw myself into my work, leaving no time for life outside of the school grounds. Then the last thing I ever expected to happen did: I had, over quiet meals and conversations in the Great Hall, completely fallen in love with the assistant to the potion’s master. But you see, that is where the pain truly began. That is where my world, as I knew it, came to a bitter end.” Hermione took a deep breath and closed her eyes, momentarily forgetting that she was relaying this to her fifteen year old daughter, the story spilling from her lips as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“No one knew of our love, we made certain of it. In a world still plagued by prejudice, it was forbidden. We met in secret for a few brief months, each stolen moment more passionate than the last. We soon planned to brave the opposition, make our relationship known – he asked me to marry him once we were done with our apprenticeships. I could barely answer him, I was so happy! The night he proposed… well, we finally gave in to our desire and I truly knew love. The next morning, though, I awoke alone. I dressed quickly and ran to the Great Hall, expecting to see him. Instead, the staff table was in an uproar. I was given horrible news: He was gone, killed in his quarters as an act of revenge, they told me.” Hermione was sobbing now, tears streaming freely down her cheeks as they had in the library. She looked straight into her daughter’s silver eyes – so much like his!
“And that is why, Annie dear, I fled to America at age twenty, as far from the War and my past as I could get. Only Harry and Ron know I am here, though their knowledge is very limited. That was almost sixteen years ago,” she finished.
*** Meanwhile, Across the Pond ***
He walked the city streets with purpose, step after step taking him closer to the looming nondescript building before him. He gave an involuntary shudder as he thought of being made to use the visitor’s entrance. How quaint. A muggle phone booth, he mentally sneered. He stepped into the bright red box and dialed the proper code, m-a-g-i-c. At the prompt, he stated his name and told the tinny voice that he had an appointment with the Head Auror and the Minister.
As the booth descended, he stepped out and submitted his wand for inspection, being met with stares from several of the witches and security wizards behind the desk. He ignored them all, crumpling his visitor’s badge and tossing it over his shoulder, and walked crossly to the waiting lifts. When he stepped inside something crinkled beneath his highly-polished dragon-leather shoes.
He glanced down and was not surprised to see a copy of the Daily Prophet on the floor open to the centerfold. What was surprising was an article proclaiming the Minister’s plans to retire within the next 3 years. Old Shacklebolt finally ready to call it quits, I see. I suppose the job does age a person before their time.
He brought his attention to the voice that was announcing his floor. He stepped over the down-trodden newspaper and walked swiftly to the left, toward what he knew to be the reception area for the Head Auror’s office.
The plump raven-haired secretary looked up at the sound of his expensive shoes hitting the pavement with the rhythm of a metronome – clip-clop, clip-clop in perfect time. She got right to business and plastered a fake smile on her face, poorly hiding her look of unease. “Sir. I will let them know you have arrived.” He gave a curt nod and turned to the door, which swung ajar in mere seconds.
“Malfoy.” The greeting was forced, the once-familiar name foreign now to the lips which spoke it.
“Weasley. What are you doing here? I was told I was meeting with Shacklebolt and the Head Auror. If that is not the case, then I believe I was brought here under false pretenses and will take my leave.” He turned on his heal to head back down the hall, the disdain evident in his voice at the sight of his old enemy.
“Malfoy! Wait. They’re inside. We do not have all day. Come in.” Without waiting for an answer, the red-headed man disappeared into the office leaving the door open. Draco rolled his eyes and braced himself, surveying his surroundings as he entered the room he never thought he would be in again.
Behind a broad oak desk sat Harry Potter, Boy-Who-Lived-To-Annoy, running his hands through his hair and looking rather worse-for-wear. To his right stood Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, sipping a cup of something steaming, while extending his other hand to shake Draco’s. Weasley stood near the window, observing the magically-charmed view of downtown London.
Draco shook the Minister’s hand briefly, then took the battered seat proffered across the desk. He looked at Potter with indifference, leaning back in his chair in an effort to not seem too curious as to why he was summoned by owl at bloody 5 in the morning. Potter met his gaze, and with a sigh and nod of acceptance, hands fiddling with a muggle ball-point pen, began his explanation. “Draco, we need you back with the aurors. Your termination will be reversed and all record of negligence dropped immediately.”
Malfoy had always quietly appreciated how to-the-point Potter was. After years of being kept in the dark and given the run-around, the bespectacled man was determined to be as forthcoming as possible with those around him. Now, though, Draco found that the bluntness was unnerving. He breathed in deeply to calm himself and drawled, with as much dignity as the name Malfoy could muster, “And what makes you think, Potter, that I would ever want to work in this hell-hole again? It’s been the best 4 years of my life, being outside the Minstry’s employ.”
“Because, you absolute sodding ferret, someone is out to harm her. They’ve found her. And they know,” Weasley growled, turning sharply from the window and slamming his fist on Harry’s desk.
“Really, Weasley, calm yourself. That temper of yours will not help matters,” the Minister ordered as he paced the floor.
Draco stopped breathing, all pretense of pure-blooded dignity forgotten. He whispered one word as the world around him dimmed.
A/N: So? What do you think? I would love to know if anyone is reading this! Cheers! :)
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