II: Lagom

Meaning something like "just right;" this is what you feel when something is not too hot, not too cold, but just right

Notes: I haven't skied in about fifteen years, so much of the description here is probably not just out of date, but poorly written due to my faulty memory. As a reminder, the prompt for this story involves taking the "Petunia as a bitter, older Muggle sister to the perfect Lily-the-witch" storyline and flipping it with Hermione as the bitter witch to her perfect Muggle sister, and what the result would be for her to either explain canon or subvert canon.

Except, on March 15, 1988 - Cordelia did not receive a Hogwarts letter.

But on September 19, 1990 - Hermione did.

But during the ten years that occurred before those dates…

Hermione, as a baby, didn't do much, so Cordelia received the bulk of her parents' pleasure and attention, most likely to make up for what she was going to lose once Hermione began to walk and talk.

Having come to the terrifying conclusion that there was no way for her to return to her original self as Clara, the girl from the prime universe where her little sister was nothing more than a reflection of her author-creator, Cordelia decided to whole-heartedly embrace the Grangers as her family.

It wasn't hard; both Alfred and Helen Granger were warm, loving parents that alternated off when working to provide excellent one-on-one care for their children at home. In her previous life as Clara, the poor graduate student, she distinctly had little to no family. Clara's mother was in and out of jail while her father had dumped her on his great-aunt's doorstep in rural Michigan and then took off, never to be seen again except for the random birthday card at the wrong month.

At eighteen, Clara was shipped out of her ailing great-aunt's and clawed her way through a mediocre college to obtain a degree, and it was only through the kind words of a high school guidance teacher and a beloved professor that she applied to graduate school, several years later after working numerous menial jobs to afford her apartment and to scrap together the savings for graduate tuition.

The thought of having a parent - or even a set of them - take interest in her was novel.

She ate it up.

The Grangers were firmly middle-class, but that didn't stop them from spoiling Cordelia to the degree of enrolling her in ballet. They attempted to sign her up for piano, but the sharp memories of the Steinway crushing her to death remained and the epic temper tantrum that followed that led to the Grangers succumbing to their eldest daughter's demands. She ended up learning the violin instead.

Knowing that Hermione was a near-genius, Cordelia knew she would have to remain on top of her academic game. In her previous life, she was no slouch, having gone into graduate school, but a second chance at life gave her the opportunity to expand her knowledge gaps - particularly in the STEM field, as what good was her Masters in literature going to do for her now?

However, the consequences of having an almost-thirty-year-old brain in the body of a two-and-a-half-year-old was… migraine-inducing.

Her little toddler brain couldn't handle the development and excessive range of memory and emotion that Cordelia's adult self accumulated over her years. There was just too much to maintain for a tiny, still-developing brain, and the endless headaches (which resulted in her squinting so much, her Granger parents were making appointments for her to see an optometrist) was enough for Cordelia to realize she had to annex part of her adult memory to maintain her sanity.

So, every time she was set down for a nap or bedtime, Cordelia would dutifully follow her parents' advice, laying in her crib with the soft sounds of Hermione's baby breaths opposite her, and catalog her memories, which soon turned into a game.

Do I keep the memory of that severe hangover from my twenty-first birthday, or get rid of it?

Do I keep the knowledge of long division, or get rid of the memory of calculus?

Do I remove the knowledge of sex or keep the emotional attachment toward my first clownfish?

Some decisions were easy to make - what to "delete" from her adult brain to make room for Cordelia's memories. Others, like the memory of her post-secondary graduation and the pleasurable thrill of achieving something no one had expected of her, was harder.

But day by day, memory by memory, Cordelia purged what she could, while keeping things that would give her an edge; with Hermione's intelligence, Cordelia would need to cultivate a similar image. It would do no good for one sister to be exceptional while the other wasn't, especially if she was going to Hogwarts, too!

Ultimately, as Cordelia grew older, the memories she removed from her past self as Clara was tied to the memories of her old family and inconsequential things like song lyrics or movie plots (yet, when she began to study French and Spanish, somehow, to her chagrin, the lyrics to Justin Bieber's Despacito remained). She kept what she could regarding literature, history, math - or, maths as they called it in Britain - and science.

Her advanced skills and knowledge guaranteed she was the exceptional older child, and her diligent nature in being known as Hermione Granger's older sister defined her. Everything she did, every hobby, every language she learned, every piece of information she kept and test she passed in school with perfect grades, was for Hermione's benefit later.

Cordelia would be the one to blaze a path for Hermione, so it was easier for her.

Cordelia would take the brunt of the Slytherin's mocks and insults so that Hermione and her abilities would be chalked up as Granger blood.

Cordelia's knowledge would give Hermione a much better foundation against magic, and hopefully, allow her to think outside the box in ways canon Hermione didn't.

Of course, Cordelia was so focused on the freedom of being the recipient to two loving adults and a supportive family, that she failed to consider how her advance knowledge and confidence would appear for everyone else.

But, being an only child in her previous life, she had no way of considering this… and how it might appear for her younger sister, following in Cordelia's shadow.

December 1984:

Fanfiction never prepared Cordelia for this.

She was seven, Hermione was five; it was December 27th, and the Grangers had taken a week off from their dentistry practice to visit their favourite ski chalet in France with their daughters. It was Cordelia's third visit to Morzine and Hermione's first, and Cordelia was regretting not saying "yes" to visiting Geneva with her grandparents now.

"Hermione," the elder Granger said slowly, staring down at the familiar brown corkscrews that she shared, while the other girl bowed her head furiously and stared at the tips of her crossed skis, "It's just a bunny hill."

The younger girls' jaw jutted out and her eyes flashed up - a light brown that bordered on whiskey, the same as Cordelia's - and then the five-year-old opened her mouth. "I can do the intermediate trail. The slope isn't much - I read about it in the brochure in the chalet - and it's where you're going, after all."

"I've also had more time on skis," replied Cordelia shortly. "You're five and this is your first-time skiing-"

"It's not that hard, I read all about it in The Beginner's Guide to Skiing-" interrupted Hermione, crossly.

"You can't just read about how to do something, Hermione!" retorted an exasperated Cordelia with a sigh. She resisted the urge to reach up and rub on her forehead to stave off a headache. It wouldn't work with her mitts, anyway. "Sure, a book can give you the facts, but it does nothing when it comes to experience!"

"A book wouldn't lie." Hermione's jaw inched out a little more in defiance. "'Sides, if you can do it, why can't I?"

Cordelia stared at her little sister. Jesus, was Hermione always this stubborn, even in canon? I can barely remember now. Or maybe my memory was compromised by way too much fanfiction. Shit.

"Hermione. We're not arguing about this," she finally said, carefully, slowly. A few paces away, the French ski instructor was carefully not watching their fight, despite the red tinge to her cheeks that had nothing to do with the cold mountain air. "You have never skied before. You need to learn the basics, get a feel for it on the bunny hill first. If after three days' worth of lessons, you pass and your instructor says you're good to move on, I'll do a few trails with you and we'll go from there. But I'm not chucking you on the Zore trail without any experience!"

When Hermione opened her tiny mouth to argue, Cordelia cut a mitten-clad hand through the air. "Don't! I'm your big sister and I'm supposed to look out for you! If you keep this up, I'll get mum and dad, and they'll agree with me."

Hermione scowled, deeply unimpressed with having the opportunity to attempt an intermediate trail squandered. She knew she could ski it! Why would the instructions from a book lie to her? That was their point, right? To teach?

Cordelia exchanged a quick look with the instructor, who carefully inched forward and said, her voice accented, "Your sister is correct, 'ermione. Let us go o'er the different parts of the equipment and do some runs before you attempt somethin' 'arder."

Hermione's scowl deepened, and she mulishly muttered, "I already know the equipment - base, heel cup, toe housing, heel leaver…"

But her voice trailed off as the instructor led her away with a firm hand on her puffy neon pink jacket, with only the tiniest, wide-eyed expression tossed over her shoulder at Cordelia.

Once Hermione had joined the other young children to begin her introduction to skiing class on the bunny hill, did Cordelia let out a long breath of relieved air.

Then, she turned with the help of her ski poles and pushed off, sliding across the packed snow toward the ski lifts, her hips and legs and arms doing most of the work. Once, in high school, her great-aunt had shown some interest and helped fund a winter trip in her senior year to Colorado and as Clara, she learned to ski. With three other trips under her belt as a Granger - including an entire season dedicated to the bunny hill, she wasn't stupid to think one week-long trip from another life was lesson enough - Cordelia felt comfortable enough to attempt an intermediate trail on her own.

Normally, the idea of a seven-year-old on an intermediate trail would be enough to raise eyebrows, but Cordelia's adult-reflexes and maturity, as well as pure determination, was on her side.

No one stopped her as she got on the lift alone, and she allowed the edge of the seat to gently nudge her forward on her skips as she slipped off it, turning with her hips to move in a large semi-circle until she was lined up with several others at the top of the slope.

From there, she sucked in a deep breath, swallowing thickly but feeling the dry air stick in her throat. This is… a lot higher than I thought it would be.

But the view was beautiful. The sky was blue, the sun was shining brightly, and the air was crisp and clean. The thick snow glittered like diamonds wherever the sun hit, and the glare bit into her eyes despite the thick goggles she wore.

Her hands shook a bit as she edged forward to the edge of the slope, peering down at the clean path. There were other skiers, moving in zigzag lines back and forth across the path; they were elegant and graceful in their motions, kicking up soft clouds of powder in their wake at each sharp turn to drag them back across the slope.

"Little Miss, are you alright?"

Cordelia turned to look at the tall man in a sleek black jacket and matching goggles as he bent down to speak to her. He had fluffy brown hair speckled with snowflakes, and his stylish clothing - the trousers and matching gloves and high-end ski boots and skis - indicated he was a dedicated skier. Potentially even a professional.

"Should you even be up here? How old are you?" he continued to speak; his English only slightly accented.

"I'm seven," Cordelia found herself admitting. "And I've skied before. Just…" she peered back at the trail. "I thought I was ready for this trail."

The man paused, tilting his head a bit as he regarded her. "Where are your parents, miss?"

"On the other trails," she admitted slowly. "My sister is at the bunny hill, but I did that several years ago and was on the green trails all last year and the year before."

"You thought you were ready for something more?" the man chuckled. "That's very brave for a seven-year-old."

Brave, like a Gryffindor. Like Simba - I laugh in the face of danger! thought Cordelia with a tiny smile. "I can do it. It's just… getting over that first hump."

"It's okay to be scared," the man admitted, crouching down as best as he could with his ski boots biting into the back of his calves. "Come - follow me. We will go down together. You do what I do, and I will keep an eye on you. I am scared to do this trail, too. It's my first time on it."

Cordelia shot the man such a disgruntled look he stifled a poorly hidden chuckle behind his glove.

"Fine," she sniffed, tilting her chin up in a move reminiscent to Hermione's earlier, although she didn't make the connection. "Together."

The man went first, Cordelia following just moments behind and mimicking him as he turned sharply to the left and went to the furthest part of the trail before making a hairpin turn on his ski to turn in the other direction.

The man glanced back, smiling from underneath his goggles as Cordelia followed him, copied his movements with an exact perfection that she cultivated over the years to prepare her for Hogwarts and to match Hermione's own abilities.

They took the top third of the slope slowly, with shallow lines that crossed from one end of the trail to the other, crossing in front and behind other skiers who called out greetings or support for the tiny girl on the intermediate trail. It was only after a few practice turns that the man realized Cordelia could keep up; when they reached the edge of the trail, he stopped as he completed his turn to watch her approach.

Cordelia tilted the front of her skis inward to form a V and slowed her approach by sticking her poles into the fluffy snow. She came to a rest a foot or so away from the man, who beamed down at her.

"You are quite talented," he said, admiringly.

Cordelia beamed up at him. "Thank you."

He eyed her, and asked, "Are you ready to try to go faster down the hill? Not so shallow anymore?"

Cordelia nodded. She got a feel for the trail at this point, and with someone spotting her, she felt comfortable to increase her pace.

"Very good," the man said, nodding. "Again: follow me!"

This time, instead of a shallow line across to the other side of the trail, the man pushed off harder than he had previously and cut a bit more diagonally down the slope. Cordelia copied him, pushing hard with her poles before tucking them against her side and under her elbows as she leaned forward, moving quicker than she had previously.

She felt breathless with happiness as the cold air bit against her bare cheeks, turning them rosy and the tip of her nose red. Previously, there had been a mild breeze at the top of the mountain trail, but now, gaining speed, the air took on a biting quality, cutting against her cheeks and jacket as it whipped her loose curls back and froze ear bare ears.

Someone laughed joyously, and it took Cordelia a moment to realize it was her as she copied a sharp turn by the man as they reached the edge of the trail on the furthest right. She lifted her right ski and twisted a bit, and then brought it back down; with the help of her poles, she shifted and was then heading in the opposite direction.

The man glanced back at her, a wide smile on his face as she executed the move perfectly, some thanks to muscle memory and the rest from previous experience.

The man slowed the tiniest until Cordelia caught up with him and glanced down at her. "Stay with me?" he instructed.

She nodded, and then, somehow, it was like they were in sync and took the next turn together, her just a bit more on the inside with a sharper turn to compensate for the lack of space. This time, the man left more space in his turn, heading further down than cross, and Cordelia took the challenge he offered, picking up more speed.

If she had the ability to see what they looked like from above, or from an outsider's perspective, she would've been floored at the synchronization they presented as they cut across the trail, kicking up the snow behind them at each sharp turn. Their bodies were mirrors of one another, their ski poles tucked high along their bodies and their knees bent at the same angle as they leaned forward for balance.

Several other skiers watched as they made their way to the busier bottom of the trail, where many others were watching their approach or stood in clumps, some holding mugs of mulled, hot wine. They were opposite the bunny hill, in a different valley, but closer to the chalet and Cordelia spotted her parents in her mother's vibrant green jacket standing by her father, noticeable by the two hanging pom poms on his ski cap.

Cordelia and the man slowed their approach at the bottom of the hill, their skis in the V shape before he glanced at her, caught her eye, and nodded, cutting the edge of his ski hard into the snow to an abrupt stop that kicked up a mound of flakes that glittered in the sunlight as they descended.

The eldest Granger copied him, finishing just mere feet from her parents, who were gaping at her. She pushed back her goggles with a wide grin, enjoying the freedom of the goggles no longer biting into her skin.

"Mum! Dad! Did you see?" she asked breathlessly, grinning widely.

"Cordelia!" exclaimed Helen, mouth open in shock while Alfred whistled low and appreciatively.

The other man, the one who helped her down the slope, slid over, pulling his goggles down from his face to hang around his neck.

"Madam, Monsieur," he began, and Cordelia could finally see more of his face: tanned, with some lines around his grey eyes and a genial smile on his lips as he held out a glove. "Your daughter is - quite possibly - the best seven-year-old skier I have ever seen."

"Ah, thank you," replied Alfred, a bit dumbfounded as he reached forward automatically to shake the man's hand. "Cordie does tend to exceed any and all expectations people have on her."

"Cordelia was it?" the man continued, glancing at her. She nodded. "I would be honoured if she remained my ski partner for however long you are here."

Both Alfred and Helen hesitated here, Helen going so far to raise both her eyebrows and look the stylish man up and down.

He flushed, correctly reading the skepticism and wariness in her face. "My apologies - I should introduce myself. I am Marco Nilsson-"

Helen's hand reached out and clenched her husband's arm as she inhaled sharply. "The Marco Nilsson? The Olympic alpine skier?"

The man - Nilsson - flushed again, even as both Alfred and Cordelia gaped up at him. "Ah, yes, although I am not doing much Olympic training anymore." He glanced between the family of three, landing back on Cordelia. "But I do recognize talent when I see it, and your Cordelia has the potential to be great."

"Goodness! Our Cordie?" Alfred chuckled weakly. "Who'd have thought?" He glanced down at his daughter with the same whiskey eyes that he shared with both. "What do you think, princess? Do you want to ski with Mr. Nilsson for the rest of the week? You won't find a better tutor than an Olympian!"

Cordelia, absolutely floored, stared between her parents (and who mother who was nodding), to the man himself, smiling down at her. "Only if Mr. Nilsson is fine with it. I don't want to interrupt his vacation."

"Introducing a novice to the joys of skiing is far more rewarding than a weeklong vacation of throwing myself down the same slopes," the man replied gently.

Cordelia nodded slowly. "Alright then. Thank you, Mr. Nilsson! I hope I don't disappoint you."

"With how you came down this slope? I doubt you could," the man rejoined and turned back to her parents to make arrangements of where to meet in the morning, and where they could meet up in the chalet for him to drop Cordelia off when they were done with their runs.

Later, over dinner, when Nilsson came by their table at the chalet restaurant, drawing the attention of everyone nearby and proudly presenting Cordelia with her own, high-end grade skis and poles, eager to see how "his newest apprentice" would take to them, everyone missed the flush of annoyance that crossed Hermione's face.

"Mummy, daddy," she piped up, after Nilsson left, "Can't I join Cordelia and Mr. Nilsson? I did very well on the bunny hill, even though I told Cordie I could do the intermediate slope, too!"

Alfred chuckled and Helen shook her head. "Now, pumpkin, I'm sure you did very well on the bunny hill today-"

Hermione opened her mouth to add more, but Alfred's sharp look cut her off as he continued.

"-but Cordelia was singled out by Mr. Nilsson and he's going to help cultivate her talents," he continued. "Let's see what happens after this season, if he keeps in contact, and how well you ski when you're seven. Maybe he will decide to tutor you as well! But that's not for some time yet."

Hermione flushed a horrible red under the chastisement. Cordelia's heart clenched. She reached forward to take Hermione's hand, causing the younger Granger to look at her in surprise. "We can still practice together, Hermione-"

Scowling, Hermione yanked her hand back. "It's not the same! I'm just as good!"

"Cordelia spent her first-year skiing on the bunny hill, Hermione," soothed Helen, reaching out and pushing some of Hermione's curls off her forehead, despite the heavy frown on the five-year-old's face. "You need to learn to walk before you run."

The conversation moved on from that, but Cordelia kept an eye on Hermione for a moment or two longer, lingering as her sister's frown faded and her eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled.

Cordelia leaned forward, whispering, "I'm not leaving you behind."

Hermione's whiskey eyes shot to her sister's, the tears swimming in them threatening to spill over but not there yet.

"I'll never leave you behind, Hermione," whispered Cordelia fiercely, reaching forward. This time, Hermione allowed her hand to stay in hers.

"Promise?" the younger Granger sniffed.

"I promise."

"But… you're still going to go skiing with Mr. Nilsson?"

Cordelia rolled her lower lip into her mouth to chew nervously. "It's a tremendous honour." Hermione's tears did spill over, hastening Cordelia to add, "Perfect the bunny hill this year, Hermione. And then let's see what next year brings. I bet you'll make it to the intermediate slope a whole year before me!"

"A whole year?" repeated Hermione, her voice shaking on the tiniest. Then, she nodded. "I'll do better than you, Cordelia."

"That's the spirit!" Cordelia grinned. She handed Hermione a paper napkin and discreetly helped her sister clean her cheeks while their parents spoke to one another on the other side of the table, ignoring them for now.

Cordelia turned back to her meal and missed Hermione's whispered promise to herself as she repeated, "I'll do better. I will."