June 25, 1992, 9:00 AM, Granger Residence
“What’s the matter, Hermione?” Her mother, Emma, said, breaking Hermione out of her funk. The young girl stared at her beautiful mother for a few moments, taking in her long, straight brown hair and her concerned, but warm brown eyes even as she continued to speak. “You’re not touching your breakfast.”
“I’m not very hungry.” Hermione ended up saying, her eyes gazing upon the rows of croissants before her.
“Honey…” Dan, her father, said, getting the girl’s attention. He pushed the plate a little closer to her. “You haven’t been eating much lately. What’s wrong?”
Hermione winced at the thought of even beginning to answer that question. She flinched when her mother placed her hand against the girl’s own.
“Hermione…” Emma said, giving Hermione’s hand a gentle squeeze. “We know you’ve been keeping secrets— things which you didn’t think important to tell us.”
Hermione turned to her parents with wide eyes. She hadn’t told them a thing, but it seemed that they had been informed of the events, anyway.
“Emma.” Dan said in a warning tone.
“Dan.” The woman returned with a glare Hermione was all too familiar with, and she felt her resistance begin to dwindle. “Your teachers informed us of everything. An attack at the end of the school year, and you were in the middle of it! They said you… ‘dueled’ with other students?”
“I—I…” Hermione said, not having expected to be found out like this, but the same anger her mother felt filled Hermione’s heart bolstering her. “Someone was plotting to steal something very important from the school; we couldn’t let that happen!”
“And you thought that only you had the power to put a stop to it all.” Emma said, her tone brooking no argument. “You went into a dangerous situation, risking your life— for what? To stop a thief?”
“It’s more than that, mum.” Hermione said, feeling like her parents didn’t get it.
“And when were you appointed to be the school’s police force?” Emma continued, her concerned look beginning to turn angry. “You should have sought out a teacher.”
“The teachers were there.” Hermione continued, her voice running hot as she felt her ears flame with shame which she tried to push away with little luck. “If we hadn’t gone after them, Professor McGonagall could’ve died!”
A heavy silence blanketed the three people sitting at breakfast. The two women in the family were busy locked in a glaring contest, prompting Dan to mediate.
“Love.” Dan broke through the tension with his warm voice, reaching out to take Hermione’s other hand, pulling her attention to him. “We aren’t saying that you haven’t done well. Yes; without your help, something much worse could have happened, and we’re so very proud of you for that.”
Hermione swallowed and felt herself tear up at that. Dan’s face shifted into one of sadness before he gestured for her to come. “Come here.”
Hermione didn’t need to be told twice. Feeling the dam on her emotions break, she burst forth from the chair and zoomed towards her father, burying herself deep into his arms. “Daddy!”
Dan held her close, wrapping his arms around Hermione as she began to sob into his shoulder, not even trying to fight against the torrent of emotions now leaking out of her body. He turned his calm gaze towards his wife, whose anger had been shattered by their daughter’s breakdown.
The married couple shared a look which relayed an ocean’s worth of feelings in a matter of moments, and Emma understood what she needed to do. She got off of the table and moved around it before hugging the both of them, making Hermione sob even more.
“I— I did my best.” Hermione said between sobs. “I just wanted to help.”
“It’s all right, love.” Dan said, rubbing his little girl’s back as she continued to cry.
“Please don’t be mad at me.” She said, her sobs turning to whimpers as she began to calm down in her parents’ arms. “I didn’t mean to hide it.”
“We know.” Emma said, and Hermione saw that her mother was also crying. “We know you were just trying to keep us safe— but we’re your parents, sweetie. We have to know these things.”
“And we’re both very happy that you’re not hurt, my love.” Dan added, continuing to rub Hermione’s back while he gave his wife a significant look.
“Yes.” Emma said, placing a kiss on the girl’s head. “We were just so very worried because we love you so much, Hermione.”
“I know.” Her sobs increased for a few moments as she felt her guilt intensify. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”
“There, there.” Her father continued to whisper soothing words in her ear until she began to calm down. “We’ll always be here for you, love. We’re just glad that you’re okay, and that everyone recovered well.”
“There…” Hermione said, sniffing as she thought of Adam. “Not everyone had a good recovery.”
The two parents shared a look before her father decided to ask the next question, keeping his tone reluctant and mournful. “Did someone… pass?”
“No!” Hermione said, the very thought of the boy’s death putting a deadly fear into her. She felt the beginnings of more tears come again. “But my friend— Adam… He was hurt very badly, and… And…!”
“Breathe, love.” Dan said, looking towards Emma.
She understood his look in an instant, moving towards the sink and filling up a cup of water before coming back and handing it to the girl. “Drink. You’ll feel better.”
Hermione sniffed and took the glass, lifting it to her lips and taking a small sip of the cold water. Her mother was right, the girl realized as the rush of cold, life-giving liquid went down her throat and eased the pathway so that she didn’t feel as if she was choking anymore.
She took a longer draught, set the cup on the table and was maneuvered to sit on her father’s lap.
“Tell us.” Dan said, wrapping his arms around the girl and making her feel safe.
“Adam, he…” Hermione said, stopping to get a hold of her emotions before speaking again. “He lied to me. He lied to all of us— me, Harry, Ron, Tony and Su.”
“Oh?” Her mother said, patting her daughter on the shoulder. “He did?”
“Yes, but…” Hermione bit her lip, much the same as she did when she found something that didn’t make sense to her. “I don’t know. He said that he was trying to keep us safe and he got hurt so bad, and I want to yell at him and—”
“Woah, woah.” Dan said, keeping his voice calming. “One thing at a time, sweetie. Can you do that for me?”
Hermione took a breath and nodded.
“What did he lie about?” Dan said.
“We, my friends and I, thought Professor Snape was the thief.” Hermione said, frowning at her own failure at noticing the real threat in the castle walls. “But Professor Snape wasn’t. The thief was another teacher, and Adam knew it all along— and he knew what was being stolen before we all did! He kept it from us!”
“Kept it from you?” Dan said, sharing a look with Emma again.
“He betrayed our trust—” Hermione said, before her eyes widened as she realized the irony of what she was saying. “I… I’m an idiot.”
Dan smiled at her. “No, you just wanted to… keep us safe, love.”
Hermione nodded dumbly as she went over all previous conversations she had with the boy. “He lied to us— and he said he would again, if it kept us… if it kept us safe.”
Hermione still remembered his words with a frown, as well as the boy’s resolute tone with which he spoke them. Even after he was beaten down into the dirt, almost half-blinded and disfigured for life, the boy still had not broken down from the pressure.
He had fought against almost insurmountable odds and beaten them— but not without having made sacrifice. Seeing his white eye for the first time had seized Hermione’s heart with an almost debilitating fear. She’d thought her friend had blinded himself by keeping them out of things.
If I were there, I could have saved him. Hermione didn’t care how ridiculous that thought was, logically speaking; she could not banish it from her psyche no matter how hard she tried.
Throughout her tumult, her parents carefully listened, not interrupting or judging her.
“It’s—” She hesitated, her frown deepening to the extreme, like she was trying to make sense of the boy again. “He didn’t care.”
“Didn’t care?” Her father gave her a light nudge, trying to get her to open up.
Hermione turned an imploring gaze up at her parents. “He didn’t care if it would hurt him. He wasn’t angry or upset about his injuries… I just don’t understand.”
Dan and Emma looked at each other, as if sharing a mental conversation before Emma began to speak. “This boy, Adam, is he the same one you’ve been telling us about?”
“Yes.” Hermione said, and her father gave a nod to that.
“Makes sense.” The man smiled at his wife before turning his attention to Hermione. “I won’t pretend to know Adam, personally, but from what you’ve told us over the course of the year, he seems to be a very studious boy who is solitary but also likes spending time with his friends.”
Hermione nodded, remembering the times she wrote to her parents about Adam always dropping things to help her and the others out, even to the detriment of himself. She had found it endearing, if a little strange.
She couldn’t fathom how Adam, who seemed to avoid and shy away from the very presence of others, could also be such an attentive friend who was helpful to the point of being servile.
“Hmm… How many friends did he have growing up?” Emma asked, and Hermione shook her head.
“He never talked about anyone he knew from the orphanage.” Hermione said, frowning at her mother’s shift in questioning.
“The orphanage?” Emma said, one delicate eyebrow rising.
“Yes.” Hermione said, remembering the first time she had met the boy; she had made such a fool of herself in front of him— a moment that would bring her embarrassment until the end of time. “I— he never really liked talking about it.”
Dan shared a look with Emma while their daughter continued to speak, seizing the thread of thought in her mind and pulling on it until she could reach her ultimate conclusion. “I… I don’t think he really had any friends. He never mentioned any to us.”
A moment passed before her expression fell. The boy had been like her, alone.
No. She thought. At least I could come home to my parents; he didn’t even have that.
Hermione knew what it was like to have no friends, but she did not know what it was like to have absolutely no one, and to know that your existence lied at the whim of underpaid workers who couldn’t wait to finish out their shift.
It must have been horrible.
“I won’t say that what the boy did was wrong.” Dan said, patting his girl on the head before she could argue. “I’m glad that you’re safe, love, and I am very grateful that he’s kept you out of harm’s way…”
“Yes.” Emma said, agreeing. “A solitary boy from an orphanage— orphanages have never had good track records with children. It’s no surprise that he puts others above himself; he might not think himself worth anything.”
Hermione’s eyes widened, finding the idea ridiculous. “But… He skipped grades! He’s so good at magic, far beyond anyone, that the entire Wizarding World has taken note! How would he think that?”
But Dan shook his head, giving his girl a little, sad smile. “Any person in this world, whether they’re a Minister, a trash man, or the Queen herself, can feel like an imposter, despite their mountain of achievements. It doesn’t matter how good they are, or how much others admire them. In the back of their minds, something keeps insisting that they’re frauds, undeserving of a shred of praise.”
Hermione once again saw flashes of the boy in her mind’s eye, looking conflicted and frustrated during spell practice, even if he was doing everything right.
“I…” She said. “I think I understand. I just don’t want him to do it again.”
“Have you told him?” Dan asked and Hermione nodded. “And what did he say?”
“He said he doesn’t care if… if I decide that we’re not friends anymore.” Hermione said, some tears coming again. “As long as… As long as I’m alive to make that choice.”
“Honey…” Emma said, rubbing the girl’s back. “We won’t tell you how to live your life, but…”
“You want me to stop talking to him?” Hermione looked up, her wide eyes red and still shining with more, unshed tears.
“No.” Emma said. “He’s your friend. You should try to find some common ground with him.”
“But how do I do that?” Hermione said, feeling helpless and like she was about to descend into sobs again.
“Well, he cares about your safety, right?” Dan said, seeing the girl nod before he smiled. “Then you’ll just have to convince him that you can take care of yourself.”
Hermione blinked in disbelief. It all sounded so straightforward and simple. “You think that’ll work, daddy? It can’t be that simple.”
“Of course it is.” He said and gulped as he saw his wife’s warning look. “Though, I don’t want you to think that you should be going out looking for trouble to prove that you can take care of yourself, young lady.”
Hermione gave a watery laugh. “Of course not! I want to be the best witch I can be, and getting in trouble would probably not be good for that.”
Dan laughed and gave his little girl a pat on her back. “That’s the spirit. Now, how about we all go out for some ice cream instead of having breakfast here?”
Hermione sniffed and wiped her eyes, feeling a million times better than she had twenty minutes earlier. “Yes.”
“Perfect.” Dan kissed her forehead and had Hermione standing again. “Let’s go get ready, then, love.”
Emma gave her a hug and kiss as well before following her husband, leaving Hermione alone in the kitchen. It had been a wild and tumultuous conversation, but finally, Hermione began feeling like herself again.
Adam. She thought as her long-untouched well of stubborn determination was brought back in working order. I’ll show you how good I can be— so I can stand by your side, an equal.
Same Time, Unknown Forest In Albania
He was growing stronger.
Lord Voldemort floated above his most recent kill— a large, mean rat that killed the snake he’d sent to fetch it. It had proved itself to be a most succulent meal for Voldemort, and he knew it would sustain him for a few days still, before he had to procure himself a new meal.
It’s quite a strange phenomenon. He thought as he watched his small den of snakes fighting each other over who would get to eat the dead rat.
Voldemort found himself surprised at how quickly he had rebounded from his defeat. He felt his ire rise at the thought of his first defeat.
Harry Potter. The spirit spat in his own mind, his agitation unconsciously leaking power into the material world and forcing his quarreling snakes to lay still. Ever the meddler. First defeated by his mother so long ago, and once again now.
True, the boy had not done it alone, and for his age, he seemed to be possessed of some talent in battle magic; but the boy was lazy, unworthy of consideration as a rival or threat.
No, the true threat was the other boy; Adam Clarke.
Even with his absence, Lord Voldemort was finding new reasons to feel wariness of the boy, and he hated that. He hated being wary; it made him furious at himself. He, who had conquered death and roamed the world in search of secrets most arcane, wary of mere schoolboys?
It was a humiliation he could not allow himself to tolerate. So long as either of those boys lived, Voldemort was shamed. They needed to be dealt with.
Realizing that his lapse in concentration had caused some of the power he leeched to leak out of his relatively weak form, Voldemort calmed what little remained of his spirit and cleared his mind as he had learned in his youth.
Voldemort let out a shuddering breath, regaining control of his senses and assessing the damage he had wrought himself with this little stunt.
He had lost a few hours’ worth of lifeforce, he realized. A setback, but not one overly damaging to his aims. Were it years ago, such a mistake would have set him back for at least a month or two, but he found that his existence had felt a little more… grounded, of late.
He could not explain it. Weak and measly as his form may be at the moment, the Dark Lord still felt far above and beyond any level he’d reached before he had possessed the foolish Quirrell.
Perhaps the foolish man’s life force has somewhat bolstered my own thanks to the potion I aided him in concocting? Voldemort thought, recalling the details of the life-extending Potion that they had both created in order to stave off the body’s natural rejection of his presence. Quirrell was certainly right about one thing; killing the unicorns would have likely led to far more severe consequences to my existence.
It was one of the few times in his life where he felt even a little humbled by others in the Wizarding World. Though Quirrell’s motivations behind the act were asinine and painted him as a weakling, Lord Voldemort could not deny the unexpected benefits gained from said actions.
He imagined that, had he sought the Unicorns for their blood, his existence would likely have been worse than the first time around.
Still, not going for the unicorns meant that his existence didn’t turn worse, not necessarily better. No, there had to be something else that has enriched his existence in such a way that he was able to leech and retain others’ life force in a much more controlled and efficient manner.
His likeness manifested for a few moments in the cloud of black vapor, shaking its head before disappearing again. Whatever this phenomenon was, he would soon divine its secrets and use them to his advantage.
No mystery was too hard to solve when he put his considerable mind to it, and, when he was done, he would be one step closer to his return, as well as his revenge against those who had wronged him.
“Master!” A small, black snake with red rings slithered into the small hole Voldemort was sequestered in. “Wizards! In the forest.”
Voldemort turned his attention away from his mystery and focused it on the snake, creating a mouth in the vapor with which to speak. “Wizards, you say, Kersil? What is their purpose?”
He listened as his faithful servant explained the situation. “I and Corsan listened to them speak; they seek the unknown treasure in these woods.”
Voldemort processed the words. Rumors of this forest being magical was what had brought Quirrell to him, in the first place. Was this a repeat of past events?
“Continue. What do they know?” He said, and the snake obliged.
“They don’t seem to know anything, Master.” Kersil the snake spoke, though a tinge of sadness entered her tone. “Corsan was found out and killed. I watched them… eat him!”
“Fear not, Kersil.” Voldemort said, affecting a kind voice. “We shall have revenge, soon enough. But, you must tell me more; why do they seek the treasure?”
In truth, Voldemort did not care for the lives of any of the snakes who had joined his cause, save as them being used to further his own ends, as Corsan was.
“I do not know, but I did hear a name mentioned several times.” Kersil said, doing her best to be brave in the wake of her master’s promise.
“A name, you say?” Voldemort said, his interest piqued. “Tell me the name, young Kersil. It may be important.”
Kersil tasted the air with her forked tongue and finally spoke the name. “Grindelwald.”
Voldemort didn’t react to the name immediately, instead keeping his mind calm and free of any distraction. He asked his first question. “How many wizards?”
“Two, master.” Kersil said. “Young ones, still hatchlings, almost.”
Voldemort felt his spiritual form writhe with anticipation as a new plan began to form in his mind. “Kersil.”
“Yes, master?” Kersil said, ever dutiful despite her anguish.
“You have done well.” Voldemort hissed. “But I must ask you to do more, if we are to achieve your revenge.”
“I will do anything, Master. Anything to avenge my friend.”
“It heartens me to hear this.” Lord Voldemort’s face twisted into his horrible smile as he regarded his subordinate without a single care for her life or the lives of those around her. “But watching them now will suffice— from afar. They are not to notice our presence until it is far too late for them to fight us.”
“Master!” Kersil hissed with happiness and left the confines of the dirt hole.
Voldemort turned his gaze to another snake and ordered it to fetch more creatures for him to feed on.
It seemed that he would need to speed his recovery up in time to enact a new plan.