Hermione felt lucky to have been born with magical abilities, even if it meant that she came up against considerable prejudice everyday. There weren’t many muggleborns allowed the kind of education she received since the reign of the Dark Lord. Having just completed her 7th year at Hogwarts, Hermione was excited about her future even with her limited understanding about the magical world outside the gates of Hogwarts.
She walked quickly down the familiar corridor towards the Headmaster’s office. He had asked to see her, which wasn’t entirely unusual. Though Headmaster Snape could be incredibly stern, he had shown her kindness and interest over the years. She was one of only a handful of muggleborns in the school and for the duration of her education she was in his guardianship.
“Lily,” she muttered at the door and watched as the password swung the door wide. She walked up the spiral staircase wondering what she was walking into. With the Headmaster, she could never be entirely sure.
“Ah good, Miss Granger,” the dark clothed man said from behind his massive desk. “Won’t you please come sit down?”
“Thank you, Headmaster.”
Among her education at Hogwarts, she and the other muggleborns had been required to take a course on Magical Culture Studies. She had learned how to speak and behave as though she had been raised in a magical household. She took great pride in how well she had learned those lessons and how naturally she behaved now.
“I have received your final test results, they are the best we have seen at our great school in several decades.”
Hermione dipped her head as her cheeks heated up. “Thank you, Headmaster. I am pleased to have done so well.”
“I have great hopes for you, Hermione,” he continued. “But life for muggleborns like yourself outside of these walls is not easy.”
Hermione nodded. She had heard the horror stories for Hogwarts educated students relegated to mundane or physical tasks due to their blood status.
“There is an old tradition,” he said slowly as though he was considering whether or not to tell her about it, “that could provide you with a more advantageous than many believe you deserve.”
Hermione could scarcely believe what she was hearing. She had grown accustomed to a life with little hope. She had half thought that she might defect to America after she graduated, where she heard things were better for non-purebloods.
“In the old days, powerful families with limited heirs would adopt fully grown witches/wizards, not unlike in the Roman Empire. With such an adoption, bloodstatus and familial status are entirely changed. I suppose there could be the odd witch or wizard who would not understand, but it would give you more that you have any right to hope for otherwise.”
Hermione was speechless, which was good since she knew better than to interrupt her better.
“I have set up a number of meetings with eligible families who have shown interest. Your scores and social skills make you a most attractive potential adoptee. But you must be perfect. These families are in his inner circle. If you fail, you will need to go to America as you were fantasizing about.”
She tried to keep her reaction neutral. He was so skilled at entering her mind that she hadn’t felt it, as usual.
“I won’t let you down, Headmaster.”
He titled his head and looked at her critically.
“No, I don’t think you will. I have purchased for you appropriate attire. You have two days to prepare yourself. The families will come to the castle.”
“This is the greatest opportunity I have ever given a student,” he commented nearly to himself.
“I won’t forget your kindness, sir. I will forever be in your debt, no matter how it goes.”
“You will find success, Hermione. I will accept nothing less from you.”
Hermione knew she sounded confident, perhaps overly so for the situation she was in. No details about this process had been taught to her in her Magical Culture classes, as so many other details had been. At the time it hadn’t struck her as odd, but now it was highly inconvenient.
As with any other challenge, Hermione did the natural thing, she went to the library. It was empty save Madame Prince, who smiled but said nothing. Hermione went to what she thought was the most likely section and began digging in the stacks.
The two intervening days passed in a blur of preparation and practice in front of her mirror. Hermione had internalised the lessons about the importance of a first impression on how these families would see her. Her scores were good, but due to the way of the magical world, she would be constantly fighting an uphill battle to be accepted.
She rose early the day of the interviews, not that she had slept much. She wanted the extra time to prepare herself in the morning. She bathed when the bathrooms were still empty and the students were still sleeping. She took her time and attempted to settle her nerves. She dressed methodically. The dress that the Headmaster had provided was simple, but elegant. The outer robes were understated but beautifully embroidered. They were the nicest wizarding clothes she had ever touched. She very nearly felt like a different person in them.
Hermione didn’t bother going to breakfast. She didn’t want to risk getting anything on her clothes, nor did her stomach have any interest in food. She went to the Headmaster’s office as instructed and waited obediently outside as she had been told to. She stood straight and recited spells in her head to keep her body still and mind occupied.
She tensed slightly when the magical door and staircase activated from the inside, but she didn’t move and kept her face neutral, unsure of what would be coming next. She wanted to sigh in relief when the Headmaster appeared and looked her over slowly.
“Right this way, Miss Granger,” he drawled.
She followed at his heels reminding herself of how hard she had worked and how worthy she was of this opportunity. The Headmaster clearly believed she was, and so she must as well.
When he stepped out from in front of her, Hermione caught sight of her first interview of the day. The stately family was already seated comfortably in front of her and looked at her expectantly. She curtsied slowly, looking up only when the Headmaster spoke again.
“Lord and Lady McNair, this is Hermione Granger for your consideration.”
Hermione walked out of the first interview confident of how she had performed. She had been engaging, intelligent, and found the couple easy to connect with. They seemed kinder than she had been expecting out of the day. As instructed, Hermione walked to wait in the Transfiguration classroom in between interviews. She was grateful for tea and a snack to be waiting for her when she entered. She knew that there were still two families for her to meet with and she didn’t want hunger to dull her senses.
Just to be careful, she cast a protection spell over her clothes. She ate far more quickly than was polite, but drank the tea slowly savouring it. She replayed the first interview in her mind and practiced the parts that she believed that she could do better.
She jumped to her feet when the door creaked open and breathed a small sigh of relief when it was the Headmaster.
“You did well, Hermione. The McNair’s were suitably impressed. But you cannot afford to get lazy. These families will no doubt talk amongst themselves before any of them make a final decision.”
Hermione knew he was right. Their community was so close knit that there was no way that her candidacy was a secret. A misstep with any of the families could be very damaging to her ability to land a place in their line.
“You have 5 minutes. I must go greet the Carrows. Be ready girl.”
Hermione nodded frantically. She knew those names, they were notorious even within Hogwart’s walls. They were some of the Dark Lord’s most brutal followers. She found it curious that they would be interested in a mudblood heir, but quickly put the thought out of her head. It wasn’t her place to question their motivations.
She walked to the window attempting to take deep breaths. She was nervous at the potential cruelty. Realistically, she knew that she had faced prejudice just as cruel within the castle. Just because she was allowed to be at Hogwarts didn’t mean that the pure blooded students hadn’t made her life unbearably hard at times. But she had learned to trust in herself and put on an impassive face, even if it meant crying under the covers at night.
She walked head held high back into the Headmaster’s office. She would be perfect no matter what they threw at her. As she walked into the room, the evil smirk stretched across Amycus’ face told her everything she needed to know about how the interaction would go.
The second walk to the transfiguration classroom was nothing like the first. Hermione did her best to not sag against the wall under the weight of her disappointment. While she hadn’t made any specific mistakes, it was clear that the brother and sister hadn’t been pleased with her. She had done her best to remain neutral and provide easy answers and communication, but nothing she did seemed to resonate with them in the slightest.
She was grateful to be behind a closed door when she finally took a full breath. There was something about experiencing her future slowly slip from her grasp that made her want to give up on the final interview. She held back tears that desperately wanted to fall. She would no doubt cry later, but she wouldn't give them the satisfaction of ruining her make-up and hair before the final interview. Even if she was to fail the task, she would do her best to make the Headmaster proud.
Part of her hoped that there would be more tea or perhaps a kind word from the Headmaster to boost her confidence, but none was forthcoming. She did as she had always had to. She put on a brave face and followed the elf sent to fetch her to the large door.
Hermione whispered the password, allowing herself one last moment to mourn her future. When the door swung open, she had straightened her spine and put the pleasant but not overly eager look back on her face. Already this family was different. There were 4 of them all over the Headmaster’s office. The blonde woman, who was the most beautiful witch Hermione had ever seen, was sitting primly. She looked at Hermione with piercing blue eyes. Hermione felt a blush creep down her neck at the attention. One of her sisters, with curly hair and kind eyes, sat nearby. She almost looked sorry for Hermione. A thin man of a similar age, stood at the blonde’s elbow. He smiled openly at her. Then there was the most famous witch in modern Britain, leaning against the wall looking out a window.
While she might not have been able to identify every pure blooded family on sight, the unbelievably attractive Black family could not be mistaken for any other.
Hermione sunk into a curtsy that she held as she felt Bellatrix approach her. She kept as still as she possibly could as the witch walked slowly around her. She fixed her eyes on the ground even when black boots came into her view.
“She looks every bit as brainy as they suggested,” the rich voice said over the pounding of her heart in her ears.
“Merlin, Bella. Come sit. There is no need to terrify the poor girl,” the sympathetic looking curly headed witch interrupted.
“Come,” the blond cut in cooly.
Hermione’s feet moved towards her before she had even processed the command. While she knew there was no real magic at play, she felt the pull from the witch all the same.
“Sit,” the blonde commanded.
Hermione did so, politely taking the seat across from the blonde. Only then did she make eye contact with her. She was forced to suppress a gasp at the magic the blonde pushed towards her. It felt inquisitive, interested, and more than a little like innuendo.
“She can feel your magic,” the man said.
“Impressive,” the blonde replied.
“Do you know who we are, Hermione?”
The blonde’s question and the young witch’s name coming out of her mouth were so casual that Hermione didn’t hesitate answering.
“Yes, Madame Malfoy, Mister Black, Madames Black.”
Hermione bobbed her head towards each of them in turn.
“Severus has told us that you are the brightest witch of your age in spite of the unfortunate circumstances of your birth,” the blond carried on.
“The Headmaster has been generous to provide me with opportunity and the good sense to know that I must earn everything in this life.”
“Has he brainwashed you to the point that you believe parading yourself in front of pureblooded families like cattle to be bought is your lot in life?”
The question from the man was far more bitter than she expected. She saw Andromeda Black lean forward as if she might say something to rescue her from the comment.
“The Headmaster has ensured that I have had the opportunity to learn magic far beyond what most of my peers have learned. But through the course of my education, I have also been allowed to see the world as it is. I understand the world as the Dark Lord has constructed it and my place in it. It is an honor to meet with the Ancient and Nobel House of Black.”
Hermione could tell that she now had the undivided attention of Bellatrix Black. It was both nerve wracking and thrilling. She wondered if this was a fraction of what people felt like when they were being stalked by the witch.
“Now, now. Don’t be bitter little cousin. It appears the mudblood might have more brains than you do,” the dark witch hissed.
Hermione wanted to lean towards her to physically be closer to her, she was so magnetic.
“What aspirations do you have,” Andromeda interjected before what sounded like a well worn argument could begin.
“I hope to be able to contribute as a productive member of magical society. To bring pride to the house that adopts me, if one chooses to do so. I have a broad skill set in practical magics. Potions and charms have historically been my strongest subjects, but I also obtained Os in arithmancy and transfiguration.”
“And your duelling skills,” Bellatrix interjected.
“Due to my charm proficiencies, I am quicker to produce spells than most of those I have faced. However, my knowledge is limited to what has been taught to me at Hogwarts. I am aware that there is an offensive branch of the dark arts that I have not been trained in as I am not a member of an ancient family.”
“Draw your wand,” Bellatrix said, already palming her own.
“Really, Bella.” Narcissa sounded exasperated.
“What, Cissy? Do you really want to sit around asking mundane questions? If we are going to consider her, I want to know what her magic tastes and feels like. If you must, feel free to question her while I duel.”
Hermione stood unclasping her outer robes. They would restrict her and she was certain that this would be a significant magical workout.
“I prefer not to stand on traditions.”
Bellatrix casually tossed a reducto at her.
Hermione swept it away with her non-wand hand. Even so she felt the warmth and passion imbued in the witch’s magic. So very different from Madame Malfoy’s.
“Not bad,” Bellatrix said before sending another volley.
“Do you have any significant relationships in your life,” Narcissa asked as they fought.
“No, Madame Malfoy,” Hermione fought to keep her voice steady while executing escalating difficult magic. “I am closest to the Headmaster, but even that is only a student teacher relationship.”
“Have you not dated?”
The question from Andromeda almost broke her concentration. She was forced to use a traditional protego to keep from being knocked back by Bellatrix’s spell.
“No, not formally, Madame Black. I have had the odd association, but I have been singularly focused on my education. I have no significant attachments.”
Hermione started to get out of breath. It was apparent that Bellatrix was toying with her, but she wouldn’t give in until forced. She continued to push at the warrior with creative and unexpected spells. She thought she even caught a smile on her face a time or two at the spells she chose. She hadn’t noticed at first that the witch had been backing her against a wall until she was nearly touching it. When her back made contact with the solid surface, Bellatrix grinned and whispered expelliarmus. Hermione watched the witch inspect her wand carefully as she attempted to catch her breath.
“Its a powerful wand and you are very talented,” the dark witch said handing her wand back.
“Thank you, Madame Black.”
“Minister Black, if you please. It keeps everyone from confusing me with my baby sisters.”
“Of course, Minister Black,” Hermione said as they walked back to their seats.
“Has she sufficiently proven her duelling, sister?”
Narcissa sounded annoyed, which was nearly as concerning as the moment Bellatrix had drawn her wand.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes dramatically.
“Yes, I appreciated the practical application of her skills,” the witch drawled.
Hermione felt her magic again brush against her, it was less intent and more seductive. It made her wonder vaguely what she was getting into.
“Do you have any questions for us,” Andromeda asked, obviously attempting to redirect the conversation.
“Why is the Black Family seeking an heir in this manner?”
She felt the none of you are too old to bear heirs linger in the air.
“Any of my line will inherit the Malfoy name,” Narcissa said simply.
Hermione nodded. She knew Draco, the heir to the Malfoy name. He was popular and very intelligent. Narcissa smiled at her thought, and Hermione wondered if they were listening to her thoughts.
“And my sisters and cousin are not interested in children for a variety of reasons. Now that this ancient custom has been resurrected by our Lord, it seemed only appropriate that we at least perform interviews.”
“Thank you, Madame Malfoy.”
It was clear that the interview was over and Hermione stood to thank them. She wasn’t sure if it had gone well, though she couldn’t help but hope that it had.
Bellatrix was the last of the group to follow up.
“Don’t even think about accepting anyone else’s offer until you hear from us. Understood?”
“Yes, Minister Black.”
Hermione nearly choked on the words she was surprised at the comment. The half smirk she got in return was almost as thrilling as the duel from before.
When the door finally closed, Hermione sank back into her chair grateful that the day was over. Her rest was short as the door nearly immediately reopened. She jumped back to her feet at the entrance of the Headmaster.
Before she could formulate a question he said,
“I don’t know anything more than you do. We will hear by noon tomorrow. You may return to your dormitory.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Hermione said and hurried from the room.
She hurried down the corridor to spend what she knew would be a sleepless night from nerves and excitement.
Hermione did in fact watch the sunrise from the window of her dorm room. She slept perhaps a little, but gave up in the early hours of the morning. Whatever was going to happen would permanently alter the course of her life, but she couldn’t begin to predict in what ways. Within the walls of Hogwarts, she had been able to control nearly everything about her life within reason. She loved order and learning. She wondered if she would be able to retain either in her life.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a sharp rapping on the window. Hermione turned to see a large black bird looking intently at her. She moved to open the window to allow it in. While it wasn’t the traditional owl, the raven looked far too intelligent to be a random animal. Her suspension was confirmed when it held out a leg with a small piece of parchment attached. She carefully untied it and watched with fascination as it shook out its feathers.
“Thank you, pretty bird.”
The bird preened as though it understood the words she was saying. She looked down at the small parchment and carefully unfolded it.
Remember what I said.
PS Narcissa requests you wear the dress again. I would do as she says.
Hermione felt herself flush at the abbreviation of Minister Black’s name and the intimacy of the note. She traced her fingers over the hurried but still beautiful script.
While it felt odd to don the same clothes again, Hermione did so. Narcissa Black Malfoy was the most fashionable witch she had ever seen, if anyone knew what Hermione should wear today it would be her.
She walked stiffly to the headmaster’s office. There was nothing she could do to tamp down the nervous energy swirling around her. She looked down at her watch, waiting for the minute hand to finally hit the hour. The moment it did, she muttered the password before walking up the spiral stairs.
“Ah, Miss Granger. Perfectly punctual as usual. Please do sit down.”
Hermione was so anxious she could hardly sit, even though it was just the headmaster.
“I won’t keep you in suspense…”
Naturally he paused dramatically.
“You’ve again exceeded my expectations. Not one offer but two. Both the McNairs and the Blacks have made formal offers. They both have advantages. The choice is your’s.”
“Is the offer from the entire Black family or one of them in particular, sir?”
“In the ancient magic’s eyes they will all be equal once the agreement has been sealed. Even Madame Malfoy. But from what I understand, Andromeda will be training you day to day to begin with.”
“The McNairs are very kind, but the Blacks… I must choose the Blacks.”
“Very well. Go gather the last of your things. I am certain they will be here presently to collect you.”
“Yes, Headmaster. Thank you, Headmaster.”
“Do not disappoint me, Hermione.”
“I won’t, sir.”
She left not quite sure how to say goodbye to the only kindness she had known in the magical world.
Her things were truthfully already packed. She had hoped that she would need to leave quickly. It was hard to believe that the Black family would be coming for her, would be claiming her. Looking around her space, her few things were neatly packed and ready to go. While she was contemplating if she should sit on the bed and wait, an abrupt knock made her start.
Andromeda peeked inside the door before stepping in.
“Hello again, Hermione. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes, Madame Black. I’m quite honored…”
“I am certain you are. And please call me Andy. You will be family soon enough.”
“Is this all you have? Well, that is for the best. Cissy will want to purchase you all new things regardless.”
Andy snapped her fingers and a house elf appeared. Hermione watched quietly as she instructed the elf to transport the things back to Black Manor.
“Any last minute things before we go?”
Hermione looked around for a moment.
“No. I am quite happy to begin this new chapter.”