If Narcissa thought her sister’s pacing the night before was concerning, the state Bellatrix was in the night of the initial blood test was positively manic. She knew that there was more at stake for her sister than she could comprehend. Narcissa had been fortunate. Life had been fairly kind to her. She fell for her husband while still in school. He had been (and still was) the perfect match for her. He was cocky, arrogant and a pureblood. Those descriptors might have driven others away, but Lucius entertained her to no end. He gave her a son and as much freedom as a woman of her stature could possibly have. He never restricted her activities, not even who frequented her bed from time to time. Their arrangement wasn’t unusual among their peers, but it was the most amicable marriage of any she knew.
In every way Narcissa had been lucky, Bellatrix’s life had largely been disastrous. As the eldest the pressure of the family name weighed heavily on her shoulders in spite of her gender. She was forced to marry Rudolphus, who was as violent as he was unintelligent. He constricted her autonomy and even attempted to inhibit the growth of her considerable intelligence. As daily life grew more frustrating, so did her proclivity for violence. Her willingness to fight, in the end would be her saving grace. She fought fiercely without fear of death, for most days death would have been a kindness under the Lestrange crest. Meeting her Lord began the second phase of her life. His demands of her time and fidelity pulled her beyond her husband’s reach. Few knew the true story, but Bellatrix’s complete loyalty was to the man who saved her from the abuse and torture her parents had sold her into.
The anxiety rolling off Bellatrix in waves was the intersection of anxiety over having something precious of her own and the fear of losing something amazing before it had fully come into being. Her entire existence rested on if this barely legal schoolgirl was her sonuachar. Narcissa still had plenty of research to do, but on her first pass the prophecy seemed to reference the ancient Druid concept of sonuachar or soulmates. While the pureblooded families had been involved in many of the ancient magics, the Druid bloodlines of the Brigantes tribe flowed in the Blacks. This powerful ancient tribe was the original source of the Black power and wealth. From her youth she could remember a book in the Black family library containing the details and signs of the Brigantes sonuachar and had quickly sent an elf for it. The book had been delivered to her the same afternoon Draco was to be procuring blood from his unsuspecting classmate. She had yet to mention anything to her sister, in case the girl was the simple mudblood everyone believed her to be. There was no sense in disappointing Bellatrix any further. Ironic, she thought, it seems as though our roles have reversed and I have become my sister’s keeper and protector.
Bellatrix froze mid-step, gingerly touching the Dark Mark on her left arm. “He is summoning. Come, Cissy,” she said, reaching for her sister’s arm. Narcissa looked cautiously at her sister sensing that she was about to be pulled into a side along apparition regardless of any complaint she might launch. She chose instead to close her eyes and trust the return of her sister’s full magical abilities. They arrived unscathed in the throne room Bellatrix visited the day before. Together they deferentially approached the Dark Lord and Severus who stood beside him.
Bellatrix asked quietly, “News, my Lord?” In days gone by she would have never been so forward or lowered herself to seem eager. Today Voldemort couldn’t help but be indulgent of the witch in ways he was for few others. She was invaluable to his cause at her strongest and this might be the path to surpassing her abilities even at the height of her power. He smiled slowly before speaking,
“Yes, Bella. I have news, but perhaps it would be best coming from our dear Potion’s master.” Snape looked towards his Lord confirming permission had been granted.
“Miss Granger is not… Miss Granger. According to both of the blood tests, her family line is MacCarthy and it is pure.” Severus paused, allowing the sisters to absorb the information. Narcissa spoke first,
“And there is no mistaking?”
“No, I performed one of the tests myself,” Voldemort said, rising from his chair. “Walk with me Bella.” Narcissa stepped closer to Snape to read the information from the piece of parchment in his hand, as servant and master walked together the way they had many times before towards the windows that overlooked the gardens of the house.
“How could this have happened, my Lord? How could we have not known of her?”
“As you may have guessed from the name, the ancient Irish families have not been as in contact with the cause since the first incident with the Potter brat. According to the last records we have both her parents were actively engaged in the cause in Dublin, but were tragically killed in the riots that followed my disappearance. According to my sources in the Ministry, there are many things about her that the light does not yet know, many things that she doesn’t know about herself.” Bellatrix paused to look out over the reflecting pools in the garden, feeling overwhelmed and lost. Voldemort began again,
“We can use that to our advantage. The more we know and understand about her, the more we support her, the less likely she is to even consider the Order of the Phoenix a viable option. From Severus’ accounts of her from Hogwarts, none of the students in the growing rebellion have ever spared her any kindness. She’s been isolated and learning far beyond her years. There is much to discuss, but not tonight. Read this book,” he said, reaching into his robes to retrieve it.
“Learn everything you can about her, every detail will be important to winning her as your own.”
Knowing the conversation was over, Bellatrix reached for the book and cradled it to her chest while returning to her sister’s side. The conversation with the professor had just ended. Narcissa and Bellatrix thanked him warmly for his assistance and knowledge of the girl.
October turned to November and the atmosphere at Hogwarts was turning colder like the weather. Dolores Umbridge’s reign was becoming more apparent. The minister, who was clearly in the pocket of the Dark Lord, imbued her daily with more power and the pureblooded board of governors of the school did nothing to curb her authority. The only detractors were members of the Order and their supporters. Even with Dumbledore as headmaster, they had to exercise caution. Death Eaters were on the prowl once more and people were disappearing. The passing of Educational Decrees became commonplace, but concerned Hermione very little. Most dealt with issues outside of her daily routine, she followed rules as a means of camouflage. Her willingness to comply with the ministry caused her to have more in common with Draco and his housemates than she had anticipated. They remained paired in potions class. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that Draco was extremely talented in this area, even more so than she was. She was improving leaps and bounds just by sharing a station with him. If he ever noticed, he was too kind to mention her weakness at the subject. It was subtle but she found herself disliking the idea of friendship with him less with each passing day.
Draco had been quietly informed by his mother of Hermione’s background and given the task of gaining as much of her trust as possible. It was far easier said than done. He never pressed farther than she was willing to allow him, he was adept at reading body language, a skill he learned from his mother throughout his childhood. On the date of the release of the 31st Educational Decree, he wouldn’t have referred to himself as Hermione’s friend, but it he was as close as she had.
The 31st Educational Decree was a carefully crafted piece of legislation Umbridge created and enacted at the personal request of the Minister. It dictated that all of the students at magical schools submit themselves for blood testing. The Ministry claimed it was for magical sociology and protection of the vulnerable in society. The announcement threw the Gryffindors into an indignant rage drawing the ire and attention of Umbridge and her enforcers. Hermione had no misconceptions about her heritage or her place in the magical world. It was unfortunate for it to be brought to the forefront again, but then again there were few days she wasn’t reminded that she was below many of her classmates.
Hermione reported to the hospital wing with the rest of her house and waited patiently for Madam Pomfrey to draw a small amount of her blood in the presence of the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. She was cheerfully informed that the results would be waiting for her that evening when she returned to her dormitory. She paid it little thought as she made her way back to the library to continue studying for her upcoming Transfiguration test. When Madam Pince ejected her from the library that night, she trudged up to her room having forgotten all about the eventful afternoon. As promised, a formal envelope sat pristinely on her pillow. Hermione took it in her hands, hesitating before she opened it. She wasn’t sure if she had any desire to see the word muggle born or mudblood in print with her name. She knew it was true, but print made it so formal. Putting off her discomfort, she busied herself preparing for bed and laying out clothes for the next day. She was grateful it was a Saturday and she would be able to go to Hogsmeade. As always she was in constant need of a new book.
When the inevitable could be put off no longer, Hermione ran her fingers along the length of the seal gently separating the paper. She slowly withdrew the card enclosed and gasped. In formal ministry script it said,
“Through the confirmation of formal blood test by officials of the Ministry of Magic, Hermione MacCarthy (formerly Granger) has been confirmed to be of pure blood and entitled to all rights therein.”
The morning brought no clarity for Hermione. She found her sense of self to have been knocked off balance. If she didn’t even have her name, then really who was she. In the depths of her existential crisis, she still managed to get ready for the trip to Hogsmeade. Lost in her thoughts, she prepared herself much more quickly than usual and found herself in the Great Hall with time for breakfast. As she entered the room all conversations paused before they erupted in hurried whispers. Any hope she harbored that the change in her identity wouldn’t be made public for a while were immediately squashed. She froze in the light of the unexpected attention from what felt like the entire student body. A gentle hand on her arm pulled her out of her panic. She turned to meet bright blue eyes and blonde hair. She relaxed slightly at the appearance of the only friendly face she could think of. He held her by the elbow and guided her to sit with him at the Slytherin table. She knew that she was making a statement, but at that moment she needed the acceptance more than she was concerned with what political statement it might be making.
What she presumed were Draco’s closest friends went around the table introducing themselves and welcoming her. She was surrounded with more warmth in those few moments then she had known in a long time and chose to indulge in its presence. As breakfast ended, Draco insisted that she walk with him and his friends into the town. It was clear that he intended to act as watchdog. The children of the Order were clearly agitated and the purebloods were already protecting her as their own. She vaguely wondered if they would stop once she was no longer the new shiny toy. As they neared the town, Draco leaned into her and said quietly,
“Come have lunch with me. There is someone I would like you to meet.” Hermione searched his face for any trace of deceit or desire to embarrass her. Finding none, she agreed to meet him at the tavern at noon. They parted ways on the main street and Hermione returned once more to the familiar safety of the stacks of books.
As the clock in the town struck 12 times, Hermione crossed the threshold into the small tavern. She’d only been in once before. She easily spotted her blonde haired companion tucked away in a corner. As she rounded to the table she saw another equally blonde head sitting beside him. She schooled her face to keep her reactions at bay. Draco and Narcissa stood at her approach. Narcissa reached out her hand to greet the girl.
“Miss MacCarthy, it’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you these past few weeks from Draco.”
“Madam Malfoy, it’s my pleasure. And please, call me Hermione.”
“Yes, of course Hermione. My apologies, this must be quite an adjustment for you,” Narcissa drawled, releasing the girls hand.
The conversation at first was strained and awkward, but as Draco regaled his mother with stories of failed potions created by their classmates and other school mishaps, Hermione found herself relaxing. The playful banter of the mother and son in what she interpreted as a pureblood dialect was one of the most interesting things to have ever touched her ears. After their lunches were delivered and consumed, Draco briefly excused himself to allow Narcissa time to chat girl to girl.
“Miss…. Hermione, I know it must be shocking to have so many people now behaving as though they know something about you just because of your last name. There is far more to pureblood society than meets the eye. I hope you don’t find it overly presumptuous, but I stopped on my way to lunch to get you a book. I think you will find it most informative about the world you are being given access to. And know that Draco, Lucius and I would be honored to help guide you in any way you might need.”
At first Hermione was taken back by the familiar nature by which Narcissa addressed her, but recognized in her mannerisms what she had seen many times before at the Slytherin table. She noted to herself to ask Draco later what part of the culture she was clearly missing. She took the book from Narcissa’s hands when it was offered. As the older witch completed her short speech, Hermione turned the book to read the spine. The new copy of Erin’s Blood Royal: The Gaelic Nobel Dynasty of Ireland by Peter Berresford Ellis was bound in dark green leather and embossed with delicate gold script.
“Is… is my family in this?” Hermione asked in a quiet voice.
“It is. It isn’t an exhaustive history. I imagine that can be found in your family’s library, but this is at least a place to start.”
“Thank you, Madam Malfoy. I will enjoy reading it."
Hermione spent the remainder of her weekend reading her newly acquired book, studying and generally avoiding everyone as much as possible. She learned that the MacCarthys weren’t just purebloods, but they were the heads of the Royal house of Desmond. They ruled for hundreds of years in Ireland starting as early as the 12th century. She struggled to balance her fascination with the history of the family with the realization that she was their descendant. She felt no different than she had 3 days prior, but those around her seemed intent on making her believe that she was.
Throughout Monday’s classes Hermione struggled to focus on her courses. The classes were generally a bit slower than she would have liked and she worked hard to keep herself engaged. But her inner turmoil overruled her usual calculated approach. As most of the students were filing out of the DADA classroom, the last class on her schedule, Professor Umbridge asked her to stay behind for a moment. After the last of the other students left the room. Umbridge told Hermione that they needed to have a conversation with the Headmaster over her recent status change. The student tensed visibly and Umbridge attempted to sooth the girl by touching her arm.
The affection from the Deputy Undersecretary managed to make Hermione less comfortable than she was before. But the physical touch was enough to make Hermione force her body to relax. The knowledge of her blood status didn’t make Hermione think that Umbridge was anything less than a cruel and slightly insane bureaucrat. She followed the pink clad witch closely, hoping to not need to engage further in conversation. Her anticipation of what needed to be discussed was wreaking havoc on her already frayed nerves.
Dumbledore greeted Hermione warmly at the door to his office, ushering the two witches inside and into the waiting armchairs.
“Miss Granger or should I say MacCarthy,” he began carefully, “I’ve summoned you to inform you of your legal rights and a few decisions that need to be made soon. As I sense you have already discovered you are the last living heir of one of the oldest and wealthiest magical families in the British Isles. You have considerable holdings, which I have the paperwork for, here. With just a few signatures they will be moved formally into your name from the trust that held them until an heir 17 or older was identified.”
“Your name was not the only thing we’d all been misinformed about. You turned 17 in August. I cannot explain where in the adoption process so many details about your life were changed, but know it grieves me to see any young person so distraught.” He paused briefly to smile gently at the girl.
“I am sorry to be so blunt but there is a fairly urgent matter I need for you to consider. By the end of the week I must submit this paperwork on your behalf. A part of this is what your legal name will be. You must decide whether to be a Granger or a MacCarthy. Your inheritance will not change, but this decision will guide how you are seen in wizarding society. Well,” he concluded, “I suspect I have given you a great deal to think about. I suggest you take your time and consider the full breadth of your possibilities.”
“Thank you professor. I will,” Hermione said as she was escorted out of the office, leaving the two warring professors to whatever skirmish they wished to fight that day.
Instead of returning to the Ravenclaw dormitories or the Great Hall, she found her way outside the castle. Her feet led her, of their own volition, to the path in front of the Shrieking Shack. She reasoned that her subconscious seemed to pull her back to this location when she is most upset, remembering the afternoon in October she napped there. The fading light of dusk highlighted a major difference from her last visit. The house was positively not entirely uninhabited. A faint light shimmered from the back of the house. She strolled to the back to perhaps find a better view of whomever was there, hidden from view by the shadows of the trees. After a few moments a female silhouette appeared. Though she couldn’t make out the features of the woman’s face, her abundantly curly hair and curves were notably appealing. Watching the woman, Hermione found herself growing warm and as she glanced down she found that her hands were faintly glowing.
Unsure of whether she was more afraid of what was happening to her or of being caught by the alluring shadow she made her way quickly and quietly back to the castle to weigh her options and attempt to decide the course of her life.