Returning to the grounds of Hogwarts didn’t help clear Hermione’s mind. Her normal urge after experiencing a new type of magic would be to run off to the library and learn everything she could. But somehow her hands randomly glowing with magic seemed rather low on her priority list. Maybe this is why purebloods are so high and mighty she thought to herself, smiling at her own sarcastic tendencies. If their hands glow maybe they have the right to gloat a bit, but it does seem as though it would create some… awkward situations. Imagining the wealthiest students she knows trying to do normal tasks with glowing hands caused a giggle at her own silliness to bubble up. Her laughter died as she realized she was using the wrong pronoun. She was one of them now, well, always had been. Merlin, this was getting confusing fast.
She broke with her normal routine, opting just to return to her room instead of burying herself in books. After a quick bath, she got into bed hoping that a decent night of rest would help. As though self-identity during adolescence wasn’t complex enough, but having two polar opposites AND being required to formally choose between the two with only a few days to decide made it that much worse. Hermione loved the Grangers without any question. They had been extremely supportive and loving through discovering she was a witch. Over the past few years they’d become more distant, which saddened Hermione. It was hard to go home and not really be able to talk about all of the things she was learning. And in the last year, when her parents were forced to close their private practice and join a chain dentistry company, finances had become strained. The Grangers were unwilling to compromise about her education, even if they didn’t understand everything she was doing they knew it was the best available. And so as a family they had decided that Hermione would not return home during breaks. Hermione felt relieved and guilty about being relieved. She’d rather spend her free time in the library and in the place she was most comfortable. Not wanting to go home wasn’t exactly the same as claiming the Gangers were not her parents. And it would pain her to make that decision.
But the MacCarthy name was not without its benefits. Actually the benefits were astounding. Dumbledore had given her some of the legal documents earlier in his office. From what she had read, she was the only surviving heir. There would be no awkward family reunions in her future with relatives she didn’t know. She probably had cousins, but no one closer. And the money and property was overwhelming. She would never have to work a day if she didn’t want to and still have anything she could dream up, much less want. Most terrifyingly, her social options were nearly as unlimited as her funds. From the little she read in the book Madame Malfoy gifted her, the MacCarthy family was one of the oldest and royal pureblood families in Ireland. Even in Great Britain, the MacCarthy name would carry power. Many would fear and respect her automatically.
There would be no simple solution and only 3 days to decide.
Hermione’s thoughts kept her up much of the night, which made for a painful Tuesday. She usually enjoyed History of Magic. She didn’t mind that a ghost was teaching it. He was a bit monotone, but he did have an incredible depth of knowledge. But today she was having a remarkably hard time keeping her eyes open. Rubbing her eyes, she allowed herself a few moments with them closed and attempted to find the motivation to lift her head again. Before she managed to commit to the momentous task, class ended and she found herself floating along among her classmates to the potions classroom. She drug her body to her station where Draco was already settled and working.
“Hermione, you look knackered.”
“I know,” Hermione trailed off. She almost wanted to say more. Maybe Draco would understand. He’d been kind to her without cause before her identity was revealed. He couldn’t have much to gain from her. From what she observed over the years, he appeared to have everything he could ever want from family to friends to wealth. She hadn’t even considered trusting someone in so long, she wasn’t sure how it would feel. But it was so tempting. She was tired and her thoughts were going in circles. It seemed like she might never reach a conclusion on her own.
“Take a walk with me after class,” Draco whispered as Professor Snape walked to the front of the classroom. “You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, but the fresh air might help with your sleeplessness.” Snape looked over at the two whispering, but said nothing only raised an eyebrow in warning. Hermione nodded to Draco, accepting his offer and not wanting to further tempt the understanding of the stern professor.
The sun felt wonderful on her skin. There weren’t many sunny days in November, but there were few words to express the beauty of the lake behind the castle. Draco walked quietly at her side. Good to his word, he hadn’t pressed for any information whatsoever. Able to finally breathe, Hermione weighed her options. If she were to even consider being a part of the pureblood world, it would be much easier with an ally or friend at her side. Taking a deep breath she decided to take a risk. Maybe she was ready to live more fully or at least to consider doing so with less fear.
“Draco, I don’t know what to do.”
“I figured that much from the dark circles under your eyes,” he teased good-naturedly. “But what changed? You seemed well enough on Saturday.”
“Nothing changed, only the timeline. I have to choose my last name by the end of the week.”
“And I take our dear headmaster chose to spring this on you.”
Hermione nodded as she started to tell Draco everything she’d been thinking over the last two days. He listened quietly, nodding sympathetically to her reasoning. Eventually she fell quiet, waiting anxiously to see if she would be rejected.
“It’s a complicated situation, to be sure, Hermione. But I think it would be unwise for you to deny your identity. You are a MacCarthy and in some ways people will regard you as such no matter what you decide. The MacCarthy name can offer you protection and my family will stand behind you. There is a war coming and the Order would likely have doubts about you even if you attempted to join. Joining with the other pureblooded families wouldn’t be without sacrifice, but you are about to be one of the wealthiest witches to have ever walked the earth. You would be surprised at how much you can get away with because of it. You can still be yourself.”
“You think I can find a middle ground?”
“I think you can do more than that. I think you can dictate how this is all going to go. Don’t ask permission, Hermione. You are the heir of one of the most powerful Irish families. You don’t have to play by the rules. You get to make them”
“Thank you, Draco. I don’t make friends easily, so I do appreciate your council.”
“I hope it won’t be the last time. After all, someday you will have to tell me how you managed to get the Golden Trio to leave you alone. Everyone knows Ron fancies you,” Draco drawls winking salaciously.
“You are going to have to earn that, Malfoy,” Hermione replied playfully as they turned back towards the castle.
The rest of the week passed quickly as Hermione weighed her options. The talk with Draco had made her feel more in control of her decision and he reminded her that with wealth and power came the privilege to overrule others. She noted to herself that she would have to contemplate her stance on the morality of using her influence in such a way, because it was altogether tempting to run through life as a spoiled child. She didn’t want to grow to be that kind of person.
She walked confidently towards the headmaster’s office, again following Umbridge and attempting to avoid conversation. She was attempting to emulate the behavior of her pureblooded classmates who always seemed to get whatever it was they wanted. She stood straighter and walked with clear purpose. While she was confident in the decision she had reached, she was still nervous about the turn her life was already taking. She was in uncharted waters and though not totally alone anymore, she wasn’t sure where she was headed.
“Ah, Hermione, welcome. Forgive the informality, but it seems inappropriate to call you by the incorrect name again.”
“Thank you, Headmaster. I have reached a decision. I wish to legally add MacCarthy to the end of my name, but I do not wish to remove the Granger. I will always be their daughter too. I presume you have the papers for me to sign.”
“I do, Miss MacCarthy. These are magically binding contracts. Both your estates and your fortune will be available immediately. We can help make arrangements for you to access your vaults for the upcoming winter break.”
“That would be ideal, Professor,” Hermione said, taking the quill and signing her new legal name to the documents in front of her.
“It was a wise decision, Miss MacCarthy. Not everyone will understand you keeping the Granger’s name, but you are a courageous young woman. I am certain you will be capable of silencing any objections.”
Hermione nodded and allowed herself to be led out of the office again. The odd pink teacher hugged her warmly, which made Hermione’s skin crawl. And she found herself on her way to dinner proud of her compromise. She would lay claim to her fortune and her biological family’s name, which would open a variety of possibilities for her as she entered the wizarding world. But she would keep the love, however distant, of the family that raised her as their own. She had a lot of questions about how she came to be in their care, but no one could have loved her more. And with her new fortune she could remove the financial burden of her schooling and living expenses from them. She would wait until summer to talk with them about it, though she would start paying her own way immediately. Knowing whom her family was and how she came to be adopted was important before she sat down to talk with the Grangers.
Waiting on Hermione’s pillow for her to return to her room for the evening was a letter with beautiful cursive script on the outside. As she sat to open the letter, she wondered who could have possibly placed it there as it was addressed by her new last name. Inside it simply said, “Tá tú mo ghrá. Ní bheidh ort a bheith ina n-aonar.”
Perplexed by a language she didn’t know, Hermione knew she would be up early in the morning to consult a book in the library. As unusual as the note’s appearance was, she couldn’t help but feel drawn to it. The beautiful script and the minimalistic signature seemed familiar though she knew she hadn’t seen it before. As she set the letter on the nightstand beside her bed she gently traced the calligraphy letter B, with which the author signed the note, wondering the identity of the author.