Almost four years after the defeat of Tom Riddle and Hermione still slept with her wand firmly strapped to her left forearm. As she quickly blinked away any threat of tears and she willed her lungs to return to a normal breathing rate, she unsheathed her wand and wordlessly cast a soft Lumos charm to survey her room.
Crookshanks laying undisturbed at the foot of her bed… Check. Her bookshelf remaining static, all books untouched from where she’d left them the day prior… Check. The window, still closed and locked giving no hint of the sunrise that was sure to soon come… Check. One by one Hermione went through the inventory of her little room, relaxing slowly with each item she catalogued until at last she reached the large cauldron on the desk that was still bubbling under an invisible fire. She turned off the soft light on her wand, sinking back down onto the pillow and fooled around with the idea of going back to sleep, even as she knew that the likelihood of that happening was as high as Kreature deciding to bring her a cup of tea to wake her up in the mornings. Instead, she sighed, rubbed her eyes and left the warmth of her bed to start the day.
Today was an important day. It was little Teddy’s birthday and there was to be a party in his honour. Quidditch themed, if Hermione remembered correctly… definitely Quidditch, she thought as she smacked her head against a toy snitch on the way out of her room. The smokeless candles lit up the corridor, revealing an explosion of sporting decoration. Harry must’ve stayed up late doing all this, she thought warmly to herself as she ducked under a slowly moving bludger that hurtled her way. Her quiet friend had obviously not wanted to interrupt her early night in and took it upon himself to convert the house into his godson’s fantasy, and the result, Hermione could not deny, was quite spectacular. The walls were now draped to the effect that each corridor seemed like a tunnel leading to a quidditch pitch. Toy brooms, bats and quaffle’s were scattered about while child-proof snitches and bludgers flew around the corridors. As endearing as this all was, Hermione hoped Harry didn’t keep the redecoration around for long after the party - those bludgers alone were a serious threat to health and safety.
“Bit much?” Harry asked as he stepped out of his room, still in pyjama’s.
“Not at all. Very subtle, Harry, as always,” Hermione replied, both of them grinning. “Breakfast?”
“Yeah, Ginny’s coming in a few hours with the cake.”
“Let me guess - a snitch?”
“I always knew you quitting Divination was a mistake,” he teased. Hermione lightly bumped against his shoulder in response, still too groggy to retaliate verbally. By the time they reached the bottom floor, dodging and jumping Harry’s obstacle course, the sun was slowly pouring through the little window in the kitchen, illuminating the large table that stood in the centre of the room. Half of it was covered under small piles of books, documents, parchments and ink pots; the other half had freshly cooked breakfast already waiting for them. Against Hermione’s wishes, Kreature insisted on being a house elf that lived up to the standard expected of such an ancient and revered house.
“I really think we should pay him,” she muttered as she sat down.
“He won’t take our money,” he replied absently, having had variants of this conversation almost every morning since they had moved in. Neither would ever admit how comforting those little exchanges felt, a minuscule ritual of reassurance after a night of bad dreams. After her NEWTs, Hermione had found herself with nowhere concrete to stay and Harry had offered her lodgings with him in Grimmauld Place - the house was far too big for him, he insisted, especially when Ginny was touring, she’d really be doing him a favour. Hermione had insisted in return that it would only be temporary, she didn’t want to intrude on his and Ginny’s life. A month turned into two, and two into a year, until finally she came to the unspoken acceptance that the proximity did them all good - they were all still too scared and too young and too used to each others company to really go off on their own.
“Is Fleur coming?” Hermione asked as she buttered her toast.
“Yeah, so are the Lovegood’s - it’s going to be a full house; especially as Teddy is quite popular at his nursery. I think he invited his whole class,” Harry took a sip of orange juice, “I think I remember Bill saying something about Fleur doing some research on blood magic…?”
“Oh, yes, Fleur mentioned some healing rituals they perform in Veela clans last time we saw each other - could you pass the eggs? - so I asked her if she could go into it a bit more detail for me; I’m starting a new project.”
“So soon? I thought you’d just wrapped up your last book,” he asked as he poured himself some tea and took a crumpet from the small pile Kreature had baked that morning.
“I know, I know, but it’s out of my hands now and I’ve had some ideas floating…” Hermione noticed Harry trying to hide an indulgent smile behind his mug. “Okay, maybe I can’t sit still for too long,” she admitted, handing Harry the sugar. “That being said, with the updated version of Hogwarts a History out of the way, I can concentrate on a proper research study instead of being limited to stand-alone essays in journals.”
“What do you want to focu-“ Harry stopped mid-sentence, his eyes flashing as he heard the door open. Hermione herself froze, wishing that the knife in her hand was her wand and not silverware. But then the voices of Ron and George filled the halls, allowing both wizards to start breathing again.
“Mate, blimey,” Ron offered as an opening, nabbing a crumpet from the pile. “You need to be careful there, don’t want to end up spoiling Teddy do you.” His grin widened as a rogue bludger zoomed in from the open door.
“I’m glad to see the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes’ trial of party decor has been a success,” George said with a smile. “Fair warning - the toilet in the shop refuses to give up its Valentine’s Day theme… but if I’m being honest, I’m not sure whether that has more to do with the toilet taking a fancy with being covered in heart-shaped confetti or my charm work.”
“George Weasley, you will have me to answer to if I have to dodge snitches every time I leave my room,” Hermione said curtly as she passed the boys the pot of tea.
George bowed his head dramatically, “Fear not, oh wise one, my presence is preventative.” He gave her a wink as he smacked a snitch out of his face. “There’s a charm or two I’ve calculated will help stop the bludgers from getting more aggressive and stop the walls merging with the drapery… I think.”
Hermione narrowed her eyes but bit her tongue. “No time to waste then.”
Three and a half hours later and the part was in full swing. Small children flew rampant on toy broomsticks, high on sugar and chocolate while adoring parents ran after them taking photos.
“So cute, and yet so messy,” Fleur commented with her head cocked to the side as a small, golden haired boy made a mess of himself trying to eat a feisty chocolate frog whilst navigating his toy broom.
“I don’t see the cute at all,” Hermione replied, handing Fleur a cold butterbeer.
“That’s what they all say,” Andromeda said, joining the conversation. “But I suppose if there’s anyone I know who would stick to their wand it’s you.”
Hermione chuckled, “I hope. I dread even the thought of frogspawn splattered all over my books.”
“Oh, there would definitely be frogspawn,” Andromeda replied fondly.
“Oh, by the way, about your books,” Fleur rummaged around her little satchel, “I have my notes for you. I hope they can be of help.”
“Kitchen?” Hermione suggested, anticipation colouring her voice with excitement. “I’ve just been dying to compare this blood ritual I found with basic compounds of theoretical magic. You see, I found these papers published a while ago -“
“Slow down, slow down, dear!” Andy said with a laugh. “You’re just as bad as the babes.”
“Fleur! This is fantastic!” Hermione exclaimed as her eyes ran down the neat handwriting. “The calculations are exactly what I needed, I would have had no idea where to start for predicting effectiveness and strength of the rituals.”
“It was no trouble, cherie,” Fleur said with a gentle smile. “Just send me a copy of your work once you finish.”
“You’ll have more than that,” she replied half absently, still scanning the pages. “You are definitely going in the credits.” Finally, she looked up and smiled with unabashed glee. “Have you by any chance heard of Hippocrates?” Andy snapped to attention. “I’m going to try starting by running some of his theories with these formulae.”
In a vague attempt at casual, Andy spoke lightly, “Did you just say Hippocrates?”
“Oh, yes, yes. Published very sporadically…” Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “You’re the first person who recognises the name.” Andy shrugged with an innocence that didn’t reach her eyes. “I can only find two papers under the name, both years apart but both absolutely extraordinary. The odd thing is they were both published in the most obscure Turkish journal I only happened to come across because someone had used copies of it to balance a nightstand that was rickety.” Hermione furrowed her brow, something akin to sadness seemed to be creeping into the older witch’s posture. “I’ve hit a dead end, though - the magazine has been discontinued for over a decade and one of the articles was ripped in half and I have no idea how to find the other half. I suppose the name was deliberately misleading as I can’t find anything but treaties on ancient greek medicine when I try to look for other works published under his name.”
Andy started counting candles for the birthday cake, intent on keeping her hands busy while she seemed to deliberate something painful in her head. Something gave out and she abandoned the task. “Well, you can start by referring to Hippocrates as a ‘her’,” she finally offered. Fleur’s eyes widened and Hermione dropped the notes on the table.
“Andy, wait… are - are you Hipp-“
This brought out a long deep laugh from the older witch, clearing her visible indecision with faint amusement. “No, no, no, dear child. I never had the patience nor the mind for theoretical magic.” She laughed quietly again, her hand reaching the spot on her chest where she could feel her heart hammering away with the nerves of betraying secrets. “My sister, Narcissa, on the hand… well, she certainly had both the patience and the mind.”
Hermione raised her hands in incredulity. “Are you seriously suggesting that Narcissa Malfoy, the Narcissa Malfoy, wrote… all that?”
Andy shrugged, not at all concerned by the young witch’s disbelief. “Father didn’t approve of the idea of women in academia - ‘not a woman’s place’, he always said whenever Cissy brought up her ideas. Malfoy was much the same, of course. Kept her busy with parties and petticoats.” Andy rubbed her eyes. “I’ve never read the papers, but I know the pseudonym. Silly children’s code names when we wanted to talk about things we weren’t allowed to do or think ourselves… When did you say they were published?”
Hermione flicked through her stacks of paper on the table and pulled the journals out for Andromeda. “Hmm, I’m not surprised… Look, that’s just after her official engagement with Malfoy, and that’s a few months after the first fall of Voldemort. Cissy did always prefer silent rebellions.”
“Well, I guess that’s a dead end.” The frustration was evident in Hermione’s voice.
“You could try reaching out,” Fleur suggested gently.
“I’m sure Narcissa Malfoy will bend over backwards to help the muggleborn,” she replied sarcastically.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Andy interjected. “You certainly should try at the very least. She’s… mellowed a lot since Lucius’ death and her son’s marriage. If you ask me she could use the company.” Andy smiled at Hermione’s unbelieving expression. “You’d be surprised by how reasonable Cissy can be whilst not under dark influences. I’ll be completely honest with you both, the only consolation from all the war took from me, is that it gave me my sister back in the end.”