A/N: I'm walking a fine line here. I don't like it when Hermione's looks are completely changed in a story—and all the descriptions focus on how pretty she is *now*... as though she were some sort of unspeakable troll before. Therefore in this story her hair is black, and similar to Bellatrix's and Andromeda's hair (and even Sirius' and Regulus' hair, which is usually described in the books as curly) as described in the books, but her eyes, as I mention in this chapter, are brown and have stayed the same. This isn't to infer that the adoption didn't work properly, or that she isn't a true Black. I just wanted to keep Hermione as Hermione-like as possible.

Hermione's hair... I know all about Hermione's hair because I deal with it on a daily basis. No one understands what it's like to deal with naturally curly hair unless you have it. Everyone thinks it looks so pretty, but the reality is so much more than that. Humidity can make it frizz, the product you use can make it frizz. I swear to Merlin that waking up with somewhere important to be that day can make it frizz. Whether or not you can convince a stubborn 10 year-old to let you pick it out can make the difference between pretty, soft curls that fall into perfect corkscrews, and a bushy menace. Right now, my daughter is at the "I don't have time for this shit" phase of hair care, and she usually pulls it back into a thick ponytail and pulls a baseball cap over her head. (Needless to say that when that baseball cap comes off, her hair is pretty frizzy.)

I truly think that Hermione's original hair (pre-adoption) wasn't all that different from "Black family hair". How you take care of it is *everything* with naturally curly hair.

Arx Love: It's coming. I'm working on it. It's just a little tricky at the moment.

Beta Love: The beta for this chapter was Auntie_L. I love her so hard. :D

Falcon Love: For letting me bounce ideas off of them, which may or may not degenerate into really, really strange conversations about ancient penis sculptures and Home and Garden TV. Sometimes, I need these conversations to keep me sane.

Word of the Day: scruple—n. a unit of weight equal to 20 grains, used by apothecaries.


March 1988

Longbottom Estate

"Uncle Roderick, when do you think that we can begin dueling like Mother and Aunt Augusta?" Hermione asked curiously.

Roderick Longbottom smiled down at the serious-looking little girl in front of him. Cassiopeia Black and Augusta Bones had been friends since their school years. She had been Augusta's bridesmaid at their bonding ceremony. It had been natural for Cassiopeia to bring her daughter to the Longbottom Estate to play with their grandson Neville, and even more natural for Hermione to call them 'Uncle' and 'Aunt.' Neville had grown up calling Cassiopeia his aunt.

It comforted Roderick that Neville had an extended group of people that he could call family; it eased his guilt and grief that Frank and Alice couldn't be here. Augusta tried to make Frank and Alice the center of Neville's life—everything revolved around their memory. Roderick couldn't help but worry about whether or not his grandson would be smothered under the weight of his parents' memory. Would he ever be good enough, or smart enough, or anything enough to live up to people who were enshrined as heroes?

"Why do you need to duel, Hermione?" He asked.

Hermione scowled up at him. "Draco keeps calling Neville a Squib in dancing class, Uncle Roderick, but he's not! Neville can do magic, and he's going to get his Hogwarts letter just the same as the rest of us," she said fiercely, her hands fisted at her sides.

"So what you really want is to teach your cousin a lesson?" Roderick drawled with a smirk.

"Yes," Hermione agreed. "I want to teach Draco a lesson."

"You're too young for dueling just yet," Roderick told her. "Still, I don't see why we can't practice form. I know that your Aunt and your Mother are dueling champions, but I was no slouch myself." He turned toward the gardens and spotted Neville on his knees, weeding. "Neville, come here!"

"What is it, Granddad?" Neville asked as he dusted his hands off on his knees.

"Our Hermione wants to learn how to duel," Roderick said with a grin.

Neville's eyes widened and he looked from his grandfather to Hermione. "But... we don't even have wands yet."

"That's fine," Roderick said with a wave of his hand, dismissing Neville's worry. "All we're going to practice today is your form. You don't really need a wand for that. Just look around for a stick."

Both children raced off to find a stick that each might use to 'duel'. Hermione found a slender stick that looked perfect, and Neville found a larger one.

"These will do," she decided. "Come on, Nev, let's go."

"What's the point, Hermione?" Neville flushed and looked at his feet. "You know that I haven't really shown any magic. I know that Gran's talked to your Mum about it."

"You have magic," Hermione argued fiercely. "I know you do, Neville. You're going to get your letter to Hogwarts and you're going to become a dueling champion like Aunt Augusta and you're going to show Draco a thing or two."

Neville looked at the determination in Hermione's eyes. When Hermione spoke that way, he could almost believe her.

"If you say so, Hermione," he told her doubtfully.

Hermione tossed her head and tilted her chin arrogantly. "I do say so," she retorted.

Neville gave her one of his shy half-smiles. "You usually do get your way," he admitted as they walked back to Roderick.

"I do," Hermione agreed with a smirk.

For the next hour, Roderick showed the two children how to stand, how to hold their 'wands', and how to bow to one another. He had them practice the courtesies over and over until they were almost instinctual.

"Now remember, Neville, when you bow, don't look at the ground. You keep an eye on our Hermione the entire time. You never know what she might do," Roderick called to Neville.

Neville adjusted his stance. "Like this Granddad? Granddad?" Neville looked away from Hermione toward his grandfather.

"Neville! Help me," Hermione shrieked and she ran toward where Roderick lay on the grass.

Both children ran over to Roderick and carefully rolled him over.

"Granddad?" Neville whispered. He turned to Hermione, who had paled dramatically. "Go get Gran and your Mum," he ordered.

Hermione nodded silently and then turned on her heel and ran toward the manor.


August 1989

Malfoy Manor

"Now, Hermione, you will apologize to Draco," Cassiopeia prompted with a martial glint in her eye.


"Hermione Cybele Black," Cassiopeia snapped in a cold voice. "You will apologize to your cousin and you will do it now."

"But Mother, he–," Hermione began angrily, but her Mother held up a hand and she fell silent.

"I don't care what he did," Cassiopeia said, her voice growing even colder. "There is absolutely no excuse for stealing Narcissa's wand and using a sticking charm to stick your cousin to the ceiling. And in the attic of all places! It's a lucky thing that Narcissa sent a house-elf after the boy or they might not have found him for days."

Hermione scowled at her mother. Cassiopeia sighed and pulled her stiff, angry daughter in for a hug.

"Sweetheart, I know that Draco can be...," Cassiopeia trailed off and looked at her daughter helplessly.

"Impossible? Rude? Obnoxious?" Hermione suggested.

"Difficult," Cassiopeia said firmly. "But you must remember that family is family. No matter how much Draco drives you crazy, he is your family."

"Why can't Neville be family?" Hermione muttered rebelliously. "I'd much rather have him for a cousin."

"Neville is like family," Cassiopeia agreed. She sighed. "You know, when I was a child I used to fight with my siblings just like you fight with Draco. He drives you crazy, and you want to hex him until he's dizzy, but if anyone else ever tried to hurt Draco you would probably gut them."

"I doubt it," Hermione muttered.

Cassiopeia snorted. "Just wait and see," she told her daughter. Cassiopeia patted Hermione. "Now go apologize."

"Fine." Hermione stalked sullenly toward the door.

"Wait," Cassiopeia called to her daughter.

"Yes Mother?" Hermione paused with her hand on the doorknob.

"Smile," Cassiopeia ordered. "Even if it hurts, even if it's killing you, smile. Never let anyone know what you're really thinking. That's giving information away for free."

Hermione took a deep breath, threw her shoulders back, lifted her chin, and pasted a bright, happy smile on her face.

"Better?" She asked in a sweet, innocent-sounding voice.

Cassiopeia smirked at her daughter. "Better."

Head held high, Hermione stalked down the hall until she got to Narcissa's parlour. She opened the door and then turned to face an absolutely furious Lucius Malfoy and an equally furious-looking Draco. Narcissa sat next to them looking cool and composed—not giving any of her emotions away. Hermione eyed her thoughtfully for just a moment before gliding forward and curtseying deeply.

"I am very sorry, Cousin Draco," she told her shoes solemnly.

"As well you should be," Lucius growled. "Do you have any idea what could have happened to him? Do you? He could have died up there!"

"Oh no, Cousin Lucius," Hermione contradicted him, and shook her head. "I'm not strong enough yet to do really powerful sticking charms. It probably would have only lasted for a couple of hours."

Lucius breathed loudly in and out through his nostrils in an effort to calm himself. "Why on earth would you do such a thing?" He demanded.

"He called me a Mudblood and said that I wasn't really a Black," Hermione announced calmly.

"He did what?"

Everyone turned to the doorway where Cassiopeia stood, glaring at her great-great nephew. She marched over to him and leaned down so that she could look him in the eye.

"And why would you say such a thing, Draco?" Cassiopeia asked in a cold, quiet voice that dripped with menace.

"I heard Mr Crabbe talking to Father about it," Draco whispered, staring at his shoes all the while.

Narcissa and Cassiopeia both turned their head and narrowed their eyes at Lucius Malfoy, who had paled and held his hands up in front of himself defensively.

"Crabbe, not me," he protested. "I explained the true situation to him, but I shooed Draco and Vincent out of the room first. Narcissa doesn't want Draco around that kind of language."

"I want you to listen very carefully to me, Draco," Cassiopeia snapped. "This may be important for you later. You are the very last of your House. You may need this spell one day."

"Yes, Aunt Cassiopeia," Draco whispered.

"Now, there are several matters we need to clear up, especially since you'll both be going to Hogwarts in a few years, and if Hermione isn't Sorted into Slytherin I'll eat Augusta's god-awful vulture hat," the older witch continued. "Yes, Hermione was born a Muggleborn, but I performed a blood ritual called Sanguinem Familia. Magically, biologically, in every possible way that can count she is my daughter. Hermione is a pureblood, and she is a Black."

"But Mr Crabbe said-," Draco protested.

"Jasper Crabbe is lucky that he's able to dress himself," Cassiopeia retorted. "Anyone with half a brain knows what Sanguinem Familia does."

"But... she's got brown eyes," Draco protested. "All the Blacks have grey eyes. You do, and Mother does, and even Grandpa Pollux does."

"Not all of them," Cassiopeia corrected him with a shake of her head. "Your Aunt Bellatrix has dark eyes, and your cousin Regulus had dark eyes. Hermione's eyes are not quite as dark as Bellatrix's are, but they don't mean she isn't a Black."

"And this hair," Narcissa added with a fond smile for her young cousin. She reached out and gently tugged a braid. "Bella and Dromeda used to have the worst time with their hair. Mother kept them in braids until she found a shampoo that helped make it more manageable."

"I like it in braids," Hermione muttered defensively. "It's out of my way when I help Mother in her lab."

"But... how can she a Muggleborn and a pureblood," Draco protested. "That doesn't make any sense. She can't be both—it's impossible."

"Do Chimera exist?" Cassiopeia asked him with a pointed look.

"Of course they do," he burst out. Realization dawned in his eyes and he flushed. "So Hermione's a Chimera?"

"In a way, yes," Cassiopeia explained. "She may have been born to Muggle parents, but she is my daughter. Any curse that is meant to harm a Muggleborn won't affect her. Any of the cursed items that are meant to harm anyone who isn't of Black blood won't harm her."

"I think I understand," Draco replied slowly. He turned to Hermione. "I'm sorry," he said in the most humble voice she had ever heard him use.

"I think you've been punished for your ignorance," Cassiopeia drawled and smirked at the Malfoys. "If Hermione had been a Muggleborn, she probably would have just punched you in the nose. But instead, you were dealing with a furious little pureblood who managed to not only steal a wand, but cast a successful hex. The only failure on her part was getting caught." Cassiopeia chuckled to herself. "You're lucky she hasn't gone to Hogwarts yet, and had spent the day helping Narcissa just hang pictures. Otherwise, it might be a much worse situation."

The adults spoke together for a few more minutes before they all made polite goodbyes to one another, and then Cassiopeia took her daughter by the arm and marched her toward the Floo.

"I hope you've learned a lesson," Cassiopeia muttered under her breath.

"Don't get caught?" Hermione offered with an innocent smile.

Cassiopeia rolled her eyes at her daughter. "There is that," she admitted. "No, I meant about your status. You'll be going to Hogwarts, and I don't want to deal with this on a daily basis. Don't let ignorant people get to you. You are a pureblood, Hermione. It doesn't matter what anyone says. The truth is that you are my daughter."

"Yes Mother." Hermione paused in front of the Floo and looked up at Cassiopeia. "I'm glad, you know," she confessed. "That you chose me. I can't imagine anybody else ever being my mother."

Cassiopeia smiled fondly at her daughter. "I think we chose each other. As soon as I saw you, I knew you were mine."


October 31, 1989

Blackwell Manor

Samhain was always a solemn affair at Blackwell Manor. Cassiopeia was a firm believer in tradition, and she always spent the day honouring those who had died. Their pictures were set out on a table, and the house-elves set small offering trays in front of them. In the morning, Cassiopeia would light incense and spend a half an hour in quiet contemplation. Usually in the afternoon, she would take Hermione to the Black crypt in Godric's Hollow. Cassiopeia would also stop by the Potter crypt so that she could leave flowers for her sister and brother-in-law.

"We have to do Cousin James and Cousin Lily as well," Hermione reminded her mother. "For Harry's sake."

"He should be here, doing it himself," Cassiopeia muttered darkly. "But that idiot Dumbledore tried to tell me that Sirius's position as godfather was invalidated by his betrayal." She snorted indignantly. "As if I weren't the boy's great aunt anyway. I could certainly take better care of him than whomever Dumbledore dug up. They won't be teaching him any of the things that Dorea would have done."

"Where is Cousin Harry?" Hermione asked as she did every year.

"I don't know," Cassiopeia confessed. She sighed and put an arm around Hermione's shoulders. "No one knows. He's not in the wizarding world, I know that much."

Hermione thought about how lonely her cousin must be—to be kept separate from the wizarding world and all of his family. She shuddered and moved closer to her mother.

"Do you think that Cousin Sirius really betrayed Cousin James?" Hermione asked in a small voice. Cassiopeia rarely spoke of her great-nephew, and Hermione wasn't willing to turn down the opportunity for information.

"It doesn't feel right," Cassiopeia admitted quietly. "For all that he was a Gryffindor, Sirius was a Black. Family is family. I don't understand how he could turn his back on his family like that. And for the so-called Dark Lord?" She snorted derisively. "Sirius was never a Death Eater."

"Isn't there something we can do?" Hermione asked.

Cassiopeia snorted again. "I've tried. It's like yelling into a windstorm for all the good it does me. The Ministry says that all the evidence points to Sirius. He supposedly confessed in front of Aurors. It would help if Arcturus would reinstate Sirius, but the old fool refuses to do so. I think he's worried about the shame of having family in Azkaban; as if Bellatrix doesn't do that already."

"She's a Lestrange though," Hermione pointed out.

Cassiopeia shrugged. "I suppose, but only by marriage. It doesn't make me feel any better that her last name isn't Black. Everyone knows who she is... it's a stain on our family."


May 1990

Black Keep

"I can't believe he's gone," Irma Black murmured with a lost expression on her face.

Draco and Hermione milled about uncertainly, watching their parents try to comfort Irma and one another. Finally, Draco took Hermione by the hand and dragged her out of the room. Once they were out of the room, Hermione turned to him and raised an eyebrow.

"I couldn't stand being in there anymore," Draco confessed. "Everyone's just so sad. Mother keeps crying," he muttered in a horrified voice.

"I'm sad, too," Hermione admitted. "I liked Uncle Pollux. He always had Ice Mice in his pockets."

"You're not crying all over the place," Draco pointed out.

"I'm trying to be stoic," Hermione retorted. "Mother is very upset. Pollux was her older brother, you know. She is the last of all of her siblings."

Both Draco and Hermione were only children, and both of them fell silent at that. Hermione tried to imagine what it would be like to have brothers and sisters, and then have all of them taken from you. A wave of sadness swept over her.

"I suppose it would be like having you die," Draco said thoughtfully. He frowned at her. "I guess you're as close as I'm ever going to get to having a sister."

Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "Thanks Draco."

"You know what I mean," he protested.

Hermione sighed. She knew exactly what he meant. Both Neville and Draco were the closest things she had to actual brothers. If she ever lost Neville... she wasn't sure what she would do. She supposed that if Draco were to die she would probably miss him.

"Yes," she agreed.

"Do you want to fly for a bit?" Draco asked.

Hermione made a face. "I left my broom at home."

Draco's face fell. "I did, too, actually. What do you want to do then?" Draco sighed and slumped into a nearby chair.

"We could go to the kitchens," Hermione suggested.

Draco grinned at her. "Excellent choice," he told her.

"I know," Hermione drawled with a smirk.


August 1990

Diagon Alley

"Hold on, girls, we need to pop into the apothecary for just a moment." Cassiopeia turned and looked over her shoulder at the three girls trailing behind her.

Introducing Hermione to her cousin Millicent had been an excellent idea. Cassiopeia worried that her daughter was far too much like her; Hermione would much rather spend all day in the lab, or with her nose in a book, more than anything else. While Cassiopeia loved her daughter's quick mind, she was willing to admit that Hermione needed more than that.

"What's your mother working on this time?" Millicent asked curiously as she poked at an open bin of snake teeth.

"Nothing specific," Hermione murmured as she eyed a bin of powdered moonstone and tried to calculate whether or not she had enough allowance left to get a scruple's worth and still get a book at Flourish and Blott's.

"So she's just stocking up?" Millicent put a handful of snake teeth into a small paper bag.

"I think so." Hermione shrugged and looked over at Millicent. "Why?"

"Pansy wants to go to Madam Malkin's and when your mother has a specific experiment she starts questioning every single ingredient, where it came from, how it was harvested, you know how she gets," Millicent explained.

Hermione frowned slightly. "Those are perfectly valid questions. All of that can affect the outcome of a potion and its efficacy."

"That might be true, but who wants to spend four hours in an apothecary," Pansy added as she walked up to them.

"Yes, yes, I understand that it's powdered Asphodel. Anyone can tell that. What I'm asking is whether or not it was frozen before it was powdered or dried before it was powdered," Cassiopeia's voice drifted to them from the front of the store.

Both Millicent and Pansy turned to Hermione and just looked at her. Hermione sighed.

"Fine, I'll see if she'll let us walk to Madam Malkin's on our own," Hermione muttered, walking over to her mother.

The apothecary was in the middle of trying to explain just what region of Transylvania this particular batch of powdered Asphodel had come from when Hermione reached them. She stood to the side of her mother, clasped her hands in front of her, and patiently waited. Cassiopeia turned to her and raised her eyebrows.

"Mother, may Millicent, Pansy, and I go to Madam Malkin's? There's a particular set of robes that Pansy wants, and she's afraid someone else will buy them first," Hermione asked.

Cassiopeia nodded and waved a hand at her. "Go to Madam Malkin's with the other girls. I'll be there in just a moment."

Hermione nodded and then turned back to her friends. She walked sedately back to the two of them, and murmured, "we can go."

Pansy gave a partially muffled squeal that earned them dirty looks from the other patrons. With several muttered apologizes and a few curtsies they hurried from the apothecary and toward Madam Malkin's.

The wizarding dress shop was one of the few stores on Diagon Alley that Hermione had never been in, which was partly because all of her clothes had come from the attics in Blackwell Manor and were still perfectly serviceable, and partly because Cassiopeia had strong opinions about the current fashion trends for young witches.

Leisurely, the girls moved through the store, looking at different dresses. It was semi-crowded with shoppers looking to purchase school robes for Hogwarts. The three young witches weaved in and out of the crowd as politely as they could with Pansy keeping up a steady stream of chatter.

"Honestly, Hermione, I don't know how you stand it," Pansy complained. "I would just die if I had to wear some of the monstrosities your house-elf puts you in."

Hermione looked down at her black lawn summer robes trimmed in black eyelet and black ribbon.

"What's wrong with the way I dress?" Hermione demanded.

"That one's actually not too bad," Pansy admitted. "But a couple of them are positively ancient. And must you wear black all the time? It's positively dreary."

"Mother says that black is more practical," Hermione defended herself sullenly. "If I wore some of your outfits into her potions lab they'd be ruined in five minutes."

"Well that's just it," Pansy said and put her hands on her hips. "You don't have to be in the lab every single day. I mean, you aren't in the lab now, are you?"

Hermione's cheeks turned pink. "No," she admitted.

"Then for goodness' sake, wear some colour," Pansy huffed. She turned away and marched down the aisle toward the robes she'd been eyeing for months.

Millicent shot her a look of apology and hurried down the aisle after her friend. Hermione sighed and looked down at her dress; she had picked this one out herself. With the shorter sleeves and the full skirts, she had felt almost dainty.

"I like it," a quiet voice commented.

Hermione spun around to see a boy about her age with dark blond hair and clear green eyes. She blinked at him. He was a serious-looking boy, but handsome all the same. Hermione recognized him from dance class. Theodore Nott was one of the wizards who left Neville alone. He was friends with Blaise Zabini.

"I beg your pardon?" Hermione asked, uncertain if he had been speaking to her or muttering to himself.

"Your robes," he said, waving a hand at her outfit. "I think they suit you."

"Thank you," Hermione murmured, and her cheeks turned pink again.

"Nott," the boy said and held out his hand. "Theodore Nott."

"I know, from dance class," she replied, and placed her hand in his. "Hermione Black," she added.

He gave her a slight smile. "I know."

He bowed, just like they were taught in dance class, and kissed the back of her hand. Having someone do it outside of dance class was completely different. In class, all of the boys had put-upon, disgusted looks on their faces, and they did it as quickly as they could. Nott held her hand gently, his skin warm against hers. Hermione's cheeks turned pink, and she pulled her hand from his.

"It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Black," he said politely.

Hermione curtseyed as she had been taught. "And you, as well," she murmured.

"Teddy darling? Madam Malkin is ready for you," An older woman called to him.

Nott sighed. "I beg your pardon, Miss Black. Coming, Mother," he called back.

She nodded, and once he turned toward his mother, she turned and fled in the same direction as Pansy and Millicent. The two girls were arguing over whether or not a particular shade of blue was sapphire or royal blue. Hermione rolled her eyes and tuned them out.


December 1990

Malfoy Manor

"Where is Hermione?" Narcissa asked in surprise.

Cassiopeia gave her great-niece a tight-lipped smile. "Looking for Augusta and Neville."

Ever since Roderick had died, Augusta had secluded and isolated both herself and Neville. It had taken all the force of Hermione's formidable personality to bully her way into Longbottom Manor, and to convince Augusta to allow Neville to attend functions; slowly but surely, Augusta was coming back to herself, but Hermione wasn't willing to take chances, especially when it came to Neville.

The Winter Gala was held at Malfoy Manor every year, ostensibly as a fundraiser for St. Mungo's. It was one of the premier events of the social season, and tickets were highly coveted. Hermione had shamelessly begged Narcissa to invite the Longbottoms two years ago, and they had been included every year since.

"Do you think that they might make a good match?" Narcissa asked in a too-casual voice.

"No." Cassiopeia took a sip of her champagne and looked over the crowd gathered for the evening.

Narcissa shot her an irritated glance, and Cassiopeia smirked.

"Hermione is too much like me," she elaborated. "She needs a strong wizard—someone who will challenge her intellectually, magically, and romantically. Neville is a good boy, and I'm sure he'll grow into a good man, but Hermione doesn't need good."

"She needs power," Narcissa murmured, undertanding.

Cassiopeia inclined her head to Narcissa. "Exactly."

"What if she doesn't find the right wizard?" Narcissa worried aloud.

"We will find the right wizard," Cassiopeia said firmly.


"Hermione, what are you doing out here?" Draco asked with a frown. "The party is in the ballroom."

Hermione rolled her eyes at her cousin. "I know that Draco. I'm waiting for Aunt Augusta and Neville."

Draco's frown grew deeper. "Why does he have to come anyway? You know he's not going to be Slytherin."

Hermione counted to ten in her head before she turned to face her cousin. "It is useful to cultivate contacts in other Houses, Draco. Yes, even in Gryffindor."

"I'm your cousin," Draco muttered almost to himself.

"Yes, you are. What's your point, Draco?" Hermione asked.

"You always hang out with Neville, and talk to Neville, and ask Mother to invite Neville to any of our functions," Draco complained. "But you're my cousin. You should be hanging out with me, and talking to me, and getting people to invite me places."

Hermione blinked at her cousin. "Draco... are you jealous of Neville?"

"No," Draco growled.

"Draco...," Hermione sighed and moved closer to her cousin. She slipped her hand in his. "You are my cousin. We're family. I don't need to do any of those things because nothing will ever change that. Besides, you have a mother and a father that adore you and spoil you rotten. Neville has a grandmother who is still grieving the deaths of her husband, and still dealing with what happened to her son, and her daughter-in-law."

"I suppose that's true," Draco conceded, "but I still don't like it."

Hermione snorted. "Too bad."


February 1991

Ancestral Black Family Estate

"How's my favourite witch?" Arcturus asked with a chuckle.

"Very well, thank you, Uncle Arcturus," Hermione replied with a curtsey.

"Do you remember what we spoke about last time?" He asked.

Hermione nodded. "The family crest and motto."

"And?" Arcturus raised a brow at her.

"Sable, a chevron between two mullets in chief and a sword in base, argent," Hermione recited obediently. She frowned. "Wisdom… and protection, the duty to protect, granted to us by the gods."

"The honour to protect," Arcturus corrected her gently. He pointed to the crest and motto on the wall. "And how does that tie in to our motto?"

"Toujours Pur," she murmured and her frown grew deeper. This part of the lesson she had been expected to work out on her own. "Magic must be kept pure… it must be kept in balance… and it is our honour to protect our magic—to use our wisdom to keep it in balance."

A genuine smile broke out on Arcturus' face. "Very good, Hermione."

"How do we keep the balance, Uncle Arcturus?" She asked curiously.

"That is something that must be decided by each witch and wizard," Arcturus told her in a solemn voice. He grimaced slightly. "The Ancient and Noble House of Black has traditionally taken the hard line."

"They say we use Dark magic," Hermione murmured.

"Dark magic," Arcturus sneered. "There is no 'dark' or 'light'. Magic is; it is a part of us and a part of the world. Magic has cycles just as life does. The House of Black does not shirk away from doing what it must to keep the balance."

He paused to frown at his hands. Then he looked up and pinned her with the heat of his glare.

"Do not be afraid of your magic, Hermione," Arcturus urged her. "If your intent is pure, if your need is great enough, the magic will answer as it will."

Hermione nodded. "I promise, Uncle Arcturus."

"Good girl," he murmured. "I think you understand the crest and motto well enough. Cassiopeia said that you were studying the family grimoires. What have you learned?"

"We tie a lot of our spells to blood," Hermione replied promptly.

Arcturus nodded. "We do. That's one of the reasons they call us a 'Dark' family. Why would we do that?"

Hermione nibbled on her lower lip. "Because blood, our blood, has magic in it… it has power."

"Such a clever little witch," Arcturus praised her. "Did you choose a spell to practice?"

"I think so," Hermione admitted. "There's a spell that will shock anyone who tries to touch something that belongs to me. I thought that might be a good one for Hogwarts."

Arcturus smirked at her. "I used that one myself. Once they learn their lesson, no one will ever think to look through your things."

Hermione smirked back at him. "That's what Mother said."

"Cassiopeia is a smart witch," Arcturus drawled.

"The odd thing was that there were no wand movements listed," Hermione said with a small frown.

"Why do you suppose that would be?" Arcturus prompted her.

Hermione's brow wrinkled as she thought. "Because… it's a wandless spell? But doesn't that make it weaker?"

"Would it?" Arcturus just looked at her.

Realization dawned in Hermione's eyes. "The caster uses their blood as the focus so that you don't need a wand," she exclaimed.

Arcturus leaned forward and frowned at her. "And can you think of a reason that the Ministry might not like that? Can you think why they want it labeled as a 'dark' spell?"

"Oh! The Ministry controls the wand trade, and they place traces on underage wands." Hermione looked up at Arcturus and was rewarded with another nod.

"I want you to practice the spell you've chosen, and then I want you to show it to me during your next lesson," Arcturus informed her.

"Yes, sir," Hermione murmured.