There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

Hermione stared at the door of her childhood home and reminded herself that she had happy memories of her home. Happy memories. Not horrible, angst-filled, death and mayhem type memories.

There was absolutely no reason for her to dread opening that door. Happy memories. And besides, they had already witnessed the truly horrific pasts of three men. Surely they were due some happy memories! Perhaps a childhood birthday party? Yes. She remembered a particularly fun birthday when she'd turned seven and her parents had allowed her to purchase as many books as she could carry. And then they'd returned home and her mother had revealed a cake that looked like a stack of books. Best. Birthday. Ever! It was entirely possible that they were here to witness that.

Or not.

The streetlights went out, one by one, and Hermione, Draco, Lucius, and Severus were left in the dark, standing on the front step of her childhood home.

"A Deluminator," Hermione whispered, recalling a story Harry had been told about the night he'd been delivered to the Dursleys. She'd seen Ron's Deluminator in action, of course, but seeing it here, on a deserted street, brought to mind Harry's story.

"Very good, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said. "Five points to—" He stopped abruptly and they all followed his train of sight. Walking toward them was Dumbledore as he would have looked perhaps ten years ago.

"When did you visit my parents?" Hermione wondered aloud, and then fell silent when the Dumbledore with the Deluminator paused and stared directly at them, a curious expression on his face.

"Can he see us?" she whispered, somehow feeling as if she ought to hide.

"I think not," Spectre Dumbledore mused. "I don't remember seeing a ghost of myself at any point in my life, although there were several times I felt… something. Well," he said, giving his head a shake. "No matter."

They watched as Dumbledore finished putting out the last of the lights and then stepped toward the house. He cast a spell on himself and seemed to melt even further into the darkness.

"A Concealment charm," Hermione guessed. "But why can we still see you?"

Severus crossed his arms over his chest. "I assumed it was because his loathsome visage has been permanently imprinted on my corneas." He raised his eyebrows. "No?"

"Ah, Severus," Dumbledore said cheerfully, his chains clanking as he attempted to place his arm around him. "Such a way with words you have. But I assume that you are able to see me because there would be little point to this memory if you could not."

Hermione watched as the younger Dumbledore waved his hand over the door and silently opened it, slipping inside the darkened house.

"What are you doing?" she asked, frowning. "If you came to talk to my parents, why would you Disillusion yourself and break in?" Her frown deepened. "And it was Professor McGonagall who came to explain to my parents about me being a witch and attending Hogwarts. I didn't realize that you had ever—"

Dumbledore swirled his robe and she found herself in her own bedroom, staring down at a much younger sleeping version of herself.

"I'm only about eight years old here!" she exclaimed. "Why would you—"

She gasped in horror when the younger Dumbledore raised his wand over the sleeping girl and whispered a spell.

"You bastard," she said, her eyes widening when she realized what he was doing. "How could you?"

"I didn't catch the spell," Lucius said, his brow furrowing. "What did he do, Miss Granger?"

But his question was answered as young Hermione shifted in her sleep. Even as they watched, her two front teeth slowly extended into the feature that Hermione had been known for until she'd managed to convince Madam Pomfrey to correct it.

"My parents were horrified," Hermione said slowly. "They're dentists, you know." In response to Lucius and Draco's blank expressions, she explained. "They heal teeth."

"Ah." Lucius nodded.

"They couldn't understand how it seemed to happen overnight." She cocked her head to the side and watched as younger Hermione twisted in her sleep, her long hair spreading over the pillow. "They took x-ray after x-ray. I slept with a mouth guard for years. They just couldn't understand how it had happened. I couldn't have cared less at first. They were only teeth, after all. I didn't even notice them unless someone mentioned them. At least until Spring Break was over."

She reached out a hand and attempted to smooth away the strands of hair on sleeping Hermione's face. Had she ever really been that young, Hermione wondered? That innocent?

"The children at my primary school apparently spent more time looking at other people than they did reading," she continued grimly. The memories were old, and she thought she'd dealt with them, but knowing that the teasing could have been avoided opened the old wounds again.

"Why?" she questioned, whirling to face Dumbledore. "What possible reason could you have had for—" She stopped abruptly, her jaw slack. "You know," she said, speaking through clenched teeth, "It's a good thing that I just saw Draco and Severus' messed up childhoods, because I know that mine was a piece of cake compared to theirs. But honestly! Did you really think that the only reason I'd be friends with Harry and Ron was if I had no self-confidence?"

Dumbledore glanced down at the sleeping Hermione. Younger Dumbledore was still there, studying the results of his spell. "I knew if I didn't, shall we say, do something to alter the course of your path, you would be placed in Ravenclaw," Dumbledore admitted. "As it was, I came very close to over-shooting the mark. The Sorting Hat never fails to remind me that both you and Harry would have been viable candidates for Slytherin, were it not for your bloodlines."

Hermione closed her eyes. She'd wanted him to deny it. He had been a headmaster, for heaven's sake! He'd been touted as one of the greatest champions of equal rights the Wizarding world had ever seen. And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was being unforgivably petty. After all, in the grand scheme of things, what were two buckteeth?

But it rankled.

She looked down at her sleeping self and her heart ached at the terrible teasing she knew was waiting for her.

Severus cleared his throat. "Do you remember what I said to you the day Draco cursed you?"

Hermione ground her teeth together as she recalled the horrible feeling of her teeth elongating even further, extending past her mouth and grazing her chin. Yes, she remembered. She remembered every cruel taunt of which she'd been the recipient over the years.

"I told you that I saw no difference," he continued. "At the time, I suspect that I rather made matters worse for you."

Her teeth clenched more tightly and she forced herself to relax. After all, her parents would hardly wish for her to inflict more dental problems on herself.

"It was, however, the truth," Severus continued, and Hermione rather wished that he would just shut up. She liked him now, had done ever since she realized he was just as invested as she was in restoring Hogwarts to its former glory. She'd forgiven him for the callous attitude he'd displayed during her school years, and she really didn't want to dredge up old wounds. Why was he insisting on it?

"What I should have specified," Severus continued, "is that you are so much more than your physical appearance that even two ridiculously huge front teeth could not detract from what makes you you." He shrugged. "It was a compliment."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "If that's your idea of compliment, Severus, I'd hate to be insulted by you," she retorted. Her words had lost their bite, however. Severus Snape might be a snarky git, but he rarely lied or placated people with meaningless compliments. The memory of the awful curse was still unpleasant, but it lost a little of its sting.

"You could grope my arse now if it would help," Draco offered, and turned to offer her his backside. Looking over his shoulder, he said, "I don't mind in the slightest."

"You wish," Hermione snorted, giving him a solid push away from her. Her eyes, however, had other ideas and lingered on the area in question. It was completely unfair, she thought, that even in a ridiculous nightshirt his rear was obscenely attractive. And it wasn't at all fair of him to bring up the arse-groping he'd originally offered after he'd unknowingly accosted her in his sleep.

"Maybe later," Draco compromised, looking far too amused, as if he knew that she was actually almost halfway tempted to take him up on his offer. In front of his father, no less! Obviously all the recent jumping through time and memory was addling her mind. Hermione forced herself to look away, returning her focus to her childhood bedroom. A wave of nostalgia washed over her—she'd loved her room with its overflowing bookcases and cheery yellow walls. It hadn't really mattered that she'd never had close friends, not when she was so perfectly content to stay home with her many books to keep her company.

And then it was too much, and she wasn't thinking about Draco's backside or her complete set of Sherlock Holmes.

"Can we leave?" she demanded, turning to face Dumbledore. "Please? I don't suppose that my teeth are going to grow any longer."

Lucius raised an eyebrow in response to her sharp tone, but she didn't look at him. She didn't look at anyone other than Dumbledore, because she couldn't. Their curiosity, or worse, their sympathy, was not something she wanted to face.

"But, Miss Granger," Dumbledore protested, unfazed by her request. "I thought that you would be pleased to have the opportunity to acquaint the Malfoys with such a charming Muggle home as your own."

Hermione considered mentioning that they'd already visited Severus' Muggle home, but she supposed that no one, especially not Severus, would categorize Spinner's End as charming.

"He's obviously not finished tormenting you here," Severus said, his eyes roaming over her bookcase and greedily taking in the titles. "I'm certain that with a little ingenuity we can find a way to read these books and—Miss Granger, really. Nancy Drew?"

"I was eight!" Hermione protested. "And I preferred Trixie Belden, but—" She stopped abruptly. Her mother hadn't allowed her to keep the original edition Trixie Belden books in her bedroom. They'd belonged to Hermione's great aunt and had been put back into storage when she had left to attend Hogwarts. And if they'd been put into storage then it was entirely possible that— No. She tamped down on the hope before it could take root. There was no guarantee. And even if she could locate them, what good would it do? It certainly wouldn't bring back—

"Oh, look!" Dumbledore said, hovering over Hermione's round-mirrored vanity. "A silver brush, comb and mirror! My mother had a set just like—"

"Don't," Hermione said sharply, crossing the room to stand between him and the dresser. She hadn't expected to feel such a strong reaction, but the very idea of him putting his spectral hands on the items, the heirlooms, made her head pound.

Dumbledore turned his attention away from the brush and toward her, his expression the picture of innocence. "Of course, Miss Granger."

"Hermione?" Draco asked, moving to join her in standing between the dresser and Dumbledore.

"Time to move along," Dumbledore interrupted cheerfully. He twitched his cloak, the chains around him grating ominously. Reluctant to touch any part of him, Hermione turned away, but not before she spotted a link of the chain that bore a curious resemblance to the dentistry implements that her parents had taught her about when she was only a toddler.

"For what it's worth," Draco whispered in her ear, "I think you have a lovely smile."

She looked up sharply, expecting him to be staring back at her. Instead, she followed his line of sight and saw that he was looking at the sleeping, eight-year-old Hermione who was, indeed, smiling, her two front teeth prominently displayed. And just like that, the tension she'd been carrying since she had seen the spell the younger Dumbledore had cast drained out of her. Yes, she thought, smiling herself as she looked down at the sleeping girl, she did have a lovely smile.

Before she could respond to Draco, the room began to swirl and Hermione realized that they were being swept away yet again. And since they weren't touching Dumbledore's robes, it was most likely to another room in the house. Which made no sense whatsoever. What else could he possibly want to show them here?

"Mind the couch," Lucius said lightly, and Hermione saw that, once again, Apparition had not agreed with Draco. Leaning over the back of the old and worn sofa that had been a part of the Granger's living room for as long as she could remember, he looked as if he was once again in danger of being sick.

"If I make it through this, I will never let anyone Side Along Apparate me again. Ever," he groaned.

"Is it just Side Along Apparition?" Hermione inquired, "or do you have trouble with regular Apparition as well? I don't recall you having a difficult time passing the Apparition test…"

"It's just Side Along. Well, that and Floo travel. And port key. I never did take to that very well, either." Still holding to the back of the couch, he straightened and ran his hand through his hair.

"I should think not," Lucius agreed. "Miss Granger, I can't even begin to tell you the number of times we had to clean Draco up and apologize to whomever we were visiting."

Draco flushed at the reminder. "It's better now," he insisted. "I just don't do well with multiple trips. I find that—" He stopped speaking abruptly, his attention fixed on a point behind Hermione. "Are those your—"

Hermione whipped around and saw her parents coming through the front door of their home.

"Mom?" she whispered, her eyes wide. "Dad?"

Her parents, of course, didn't respond.

Hermione stood, frozen, her hand over her mouth, and watched as they went about the daily business of coming home from work. It was a ritual she'd seen many times over the years, though she hadn't realized that she'd paid so much attention to the details. Somehow, though, she knew that her mother would kick off her shoes before doing anything else, and that her father would drop his keys in a glass bowl next to the coat rack. They'd bought the bowl at a glass factory in Italy, Hermione remembered, when on vacation when she was ten. Next, Mr Granger took Mrs Granger's coat, hanging it carefully in the closet and then tossing his own onto the coat rack.

"I thought we'd have the leftover soup for supper," Mrs Granger said. "And I picked up rolls at the bakery yesterday."

"Sounds wonderful," Mr Granger said, loosening his tie. "And maybe some wine with supper." Grinning, he put his arm around his wife and brushed his lips across hers.

"Definitely wine," Mrs Granger agreed, laughing and pushing him away so she could put the soup in the microwave. Draco and Lucius flinched at the piercing beeping of the machine, and then shrugged sheepishly when Hermione offered a distracted explanation, likening the device to a reheating charm.

"Ah, soup," Dumbledore said wistfully. "I do, upon occasion, miss taking meals in the Great Hall."

Before the Grangers had properly settled in to their meal, however, the companionable silence was broken by the sound of tapping on the window. It took the Grangers a moment to identify the source of the sound, and they shared a look of surprise before Mr Granger opened the window to admit a small, non-descript Owl.

"What's this?" he murmured, placing his hand on the Owl's head and smoothing his feathers in a practiced, comfortable manner that told Hermione he'd done this before. "Have you flown all the way from Scotland again?"

The Owl gave a muted hoot, as if it knew that it was in Muggle territory and needed to keep a low profile.

"Any bacon left over from breakfast?" he asked, handing the Owl a bit of his roll. "I imagine that he could use a bit of something before heading back out."

The Owl hooted substantially louder, and Hermione hid a smile. It seemed that her father and the Owl had similar tastes in food.

"Another letter from Hermione?" Mrs Granger asked, setting a slice of bacon on the table near the Owl and backing away quickly. Mrs Granger, it seemed, was not as comfortable with fowl in the house as her husband was.

"Mmmm," Mr Granger agreed, reading the parchment. "She says she's recovering nicely after that snake bite," he summarized.

Snake bite? Hermione mouthed, frowning. She'd never written to her parents about a snake bite; she was certain of it. Mostly because she'd never been bitten by a snake.

"Well, it has been a week," Mrs Granger reminded him. "I just can't get over how quickly magic can heal common ailments." Pointing with her spoon, she said, "And you worried about sending Hermione away to school! From what I can tell, she's safer there, with all those spells and whatnot, than she could ever be here."

"I wasn't the only one with misgivings," he retorted, but his tone was mild and his expression indulgent. "But I agree. We made the right decision allowing Hermione to go to Hogwarts. Now, where do you think we should take our little witch this summer? Switzerland?"

"No," she said, thoughtfully. "I was thinking Paris. Hermione's at the age now when I suspect she'll appreciate the romance of the city as much as she'll appreciate the museums."

Hermione's eyes widened. "We went to Paris after my second year." Her eyes grew even wider and she whirled to face Dumbledore. "You told them I was bitten by a snake?" she asked, and gave him a solid push to the chest. She couldn't budge him, of course, as her hands slipped through his ethereal form, but she didn't care. "I wasn't bitten by a snake! I was petrified! By a basilisk! I was in a coma for months, not a week! You must have written to them in my name! How could you!" With each emphasized word, she gave him another push.

"Now, Miss Granger," he said, holding up his hands and taking an unnecessary step backward with each shove.

"No!" she said. "No! I won't! You can't think that you'd get away with—"

Still moving backward, as if propelled by the force of her anger alone, Dumbledore stumbled. As he threw out his arms to steady himself, his robes swirled, and they all felt the tug of Apparition.



back    next


Author's Notes

Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling. They are used without permission and not for profit.

Thanks, as always, to The Above and Beyond Team of Miss M and Miss B.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional